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Wayfarer Resolve


Eileen Troemel

Wayfarer Resolve


© 2018 by Eileen Troemel


Published by Stone Publishing at Smashwords

A division of Stone Enterprises


Smashwords Edition, License Notes: This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.

Other books by this author:

Dragon Lord's Mate

Moon Affirmations Daily Meditations Using the Moon Phases to Focus Your Energy

Murder Next Door

Rise of the Ancients

Royal Undercover

Secret Past


Series

Moments in Nature

Moments in Spirit

Moments in Life


Wayfarer Aegis

Wayfarer

Wayfarer Clans

Wayfarer Immemorial

Wayfarer Negotiator

Wayfarer Wedding

Wayfarer Trials

Wayfarer Destruction

Wayfarer Freedom

Wayfarer Salvation

Wayfarer Expansion

Wayfarer Acceptance

Wayfarer Convictions

Wayfarer Limits

Wayfarer Contentious

Wayfarer Home

Wayfarer War

Wayfarer Evolution


Defenders of the People

Defenders of the Land

Defenders of Magic


Short Stories

A Journey Home

A Bright Future

The Creaky Old House

Death Waits

Incidental Characters

Witches Tower

Acknowledgement:

My family has supported me and encouraged me to write. They read my stuff. They are honest. They tell me when stuff isn’t great or is. I’m grateful to have their loving support through this process.


My readers are wonderful. I hear from them how much they love a book or multiple books. They also encourage me to write and publish more. I’m grateful to have them pushing me to write more.

Table of Contents

Independence Day 538

Independence Day 591

Independence Day 617

Independence Day 637

Epilogue 163 Years after Independence

Independence Day 538


“Look what we have here boys,” Deming sneered. “A little Wayfarer whore.”

Drake stiffened on hearing the words thrown at his maite saol, his wife as he stepped into the workout area. Alma put a hand on his arm and pulled him to the side of the room. “Watch,” she said quietly.

“Oh baby, let's have a good time,” Dyer said grabbing Mylin by the arm, pulling her close to him with her back to him. Mylin struggled against his strong arms. Stomping on his foot, she jabbed an elbow into his diaphragm. Air whooshed out of him as he bent over, releasing her. He ducked her elbow to his nose as she spun out and away from him.

Deming grabbed her. “You're not very friendly,” he growled twisting her arm behind her back as he dragged her close to his body. Face to face, he leered at her.

Drake started forward but Alma stopped him again. His face reddened with anger.

“You’re right,” Mylin said. She stepped into Deming. “Let me show you how friendly I can be.” She kneed him in the groin. As he went down, she slammed her forehead into his nose.

“Shit,” Deming said. “Shit.” He grabbed his bloody nose and his groin. He lay on the floor curled into a ball.

“Sorry,” Mylin said not knowing what to do.

“Don’t be sorry,” Owyn asked. “Your two attackers are down. What should you be doing?”

“Running,” Mylin said worrying her lower lips with her teeth as blood flowed from Deming’s nose.

“Kick ‘em in the balls again,” Alma said striding into the middle of the room. Her stomach tightened as she watched Deming writhe on the floor. “Really Dyer was down but not out. You gotta make sure they’re down and out.”

“Vicious much,” Dyer said squatting near Deming.

“What would you do,” Mylin asked turning to Alma.

“You got Dyer to let you go,” Alma said. “The next thing to do is run. Running takes you away from your attackers. You gotta be smart about your running. None of the girly running.”

“She did a better job on Deming,” Owyn said. “However, once free from him, she should have run because now his buddy is down and bloody, Dyer’s going to be pissed.”

“You’re confusing me,” Mylin said.

“Any chance you get to run,” Owyn said. “Get the hell away. You’ve got speed and endurance for running.”

“Yes,” Mylin said. “I like to run.”

“Don’t worry about the damage you do,” Owyn said. “Get free and get gone.”

“Alma,” Mylin asked.

“He’s right, mostly,” Alma conceded. “Both of them were down enough running might have done it. When you’re going up against a bigger opponent, escape is the best option. The problem with running is they have longer strides than you do. They may catch up to you.”

“May,” Owyn said. “If she’s sneaky, she can get away and look for other ways to protect herself.”

“We can use VR to work on some of those techniques,” Dyer said rubbing his stomach. “Except I think Deming and I are going to let some of the others work with her.”

“I’m sorry,” Mylin said.

Deming sat on the floor trying to staunch the flow of blood from his nose. “Why,” he said sounding muffled. “Hell, I knew what move you were going to do and still didn’t manage to avoid it.”

“Is it broken,” Mylin asked.

“Probably,” Deming said. “I’ll go see Cara when we’re done. In the scenario we worked, I’m not me but a bastard like those brothers. Don’t be sorry or think about the damage you do to your attacker. Think about you and your safety.”

“This was a good session,” Owyn said. “Drake, you’re going to have to watch out when you piss her off. She’s got skills.”

“Oh,” Mylin turned to see Drake standing there.

“She’s amazing,” Drake said. “Impressive.”

She launched herself at him. He caught her, surprised when her mouth took his. “Hi,” he said when she let him speak.

“Do you think so,” Mylin asked.

“Yes,” Drake said. “Alma didn’t let me rush in. I see you can take care of yourself.”

“I still want you to take care of other things,” she murmured.

“There's our cue for the training session to end,” Dyer said. “Tomorrow we work on fleeing. Come on Deming, time to go to the healing center.”

“Shit,” Deming said.

“Do you see how you put down these two huge guys,” Drake murmured. “You’re a little thing. It’s impressive.”

“Alma does it faster,” Mylin said.

“She’s been training a lot longer,” Drake said as he guided her out of the training room. Their detail surrounded them. “You’re a force to be reckoned with.”

“I need a shower,” Mylin said.

“After,” Drake said whispering it in her ear. “There are things I want you to do to me.”

“Drake,” she blushed but she walked faster towards their quarters.

***

“Did you have a chance to review the com intercept,” Galvin asked.

“Yes,” Adara said. “The Etienne world draws them. I’m not surprised they landed.”

“Do you get from the intercept they landed and experienced problems,” Galvin asked.

“Yes, but I’m not sure what sort of problems,” Adara said.

“Is it possible there are people alive down there,” Galvin said.

“No,” Adara said. “Do not land on the world.”

“Why not,” Galvin asked.

“Grandmother said to keep all the allies away from the home world,” Adara said. “We don’t know what they’re capable of. She said the world would be poison, maybe she meant literally.”

“Will you let the Allamakee know the Hettians have been on Etienne,” Galvin asked. “They need to fortify their defenses.”

“I planned on it,” Adara said. Cheri made note of it, adding them to Adara’s busy schedule. “Are we able to get more intercepts from their communications?”

“It depends on how close we can get,” Galvin said. “I think we have a somewhat accurate count of their ships. There are a couple of locations we haven’t been able to get to safely. The stalkers watch from the slips and wait.”

“It’s a game of patience,” Adara said.

“Like most of life,” Galvin said. “None of our ships have been detected including the base ships.”

“Good. Let’s try to keep them undetected,” Adara said. “Keelie’s working on translating and digging deeper into the intercepts.”

“You’ll let me know if there’s anything from them I need to know,” Galvin said.

“Yes. Have you seen any evidence of them starting to manufacture or mine,” Adara asked.

“No, in fact, they haven’t found the locations we were mining with Standish,” Galvin said smiling. “It’s high risk but if we needed those materials, we might be able to send a team in.”

“Not at this time,” Adara said. “It’s too high risk and we aren’t in need of it yet. However, put something there to let us know if they do go into the area?”

“Will do,” Galvin said. “Is it a matter of personnel?”

“Yes,” Adara said. “At least for now.”

“Unless something urgent comes up, I’ll check back in a week,” Galvin said.

“Galvin,” Adara said. “You be careful.”

“Yes, Mathair Naclan,” Galvin said touching his hand to his heart.

***

Covering her face, Keelie took off the headset. She couldn’t listen to it again. A gentle hand touched her shoulder. “You all right,” Dyer asked sitting next to her.

“No,” she whispered.

“Do you want to talk about it,” Dyer asked.

“Can’t,” Keelie said. “Sorry. I want to but I’m not allowed.”

Dyer put his arm around her, pulled her close to his chest. “You’re listening to something bad,” he said. “No, you don’t have to give me specifics.”

“Yes,” Keelie said. “I don’t understand some cultures. I know there are differences and we need to be respectful but I don’t understand some of them.”

He held her close to him. She leaned on him, relaxed against him. “I’m sorry,” she said suddenly aware she sat in a corner of the mess and there were a number of people in the room.

“I’m not,” Dyer said. “I mean, I’m sorry you’re upset but I’m not sorry you’re sitting close to me.”

“I’m not going to sleep with you,” Keelie said suddenly thinking of the trainees and how they harassed her.

Dyer’s arms stayed put and she didn’t try to get away. “I don’t figure we’re ready to be intimate,” he said. Unable to resist, he dipped his head and brushed her lips lightly. “Don’t get me wrong, I think sex with you will be wonderful but I figure dating first.”

“I have my brother to look after,” Keelie said even as she felt an excited jump in her stomach.

“I’ve trained with Kev. He’s a good young man,” Dyer said. “How about a walk? Want to take a walk and spend time in the observation room.”

“You don’t want to go to the lounge,” Keelie asked.

“I don’t want to share you,” Dyer said. “I want you to myself. We can talk. What do you say?”

“When,” Keelie asked.

“I’m off duty right now,” Dyer said. “But I’m betting you have to go report whatever this is.”

“I do,” Keelie said. “I have to report to Adara and Decker.”

“Can I walk you there,” Dyer asked.

“Why,” Keelie asked.

He said, “I like you.”

“Oh,” Keelie said surprised by his honesty. “You don’t… I don’t…”

“I want to get to know you better,” Dyer said. “I have the feeling it will lead to something more than like.” Before she objected, he brushed his lips across hers again. Her hands squeezed his shoulders and she sighed.

“Yes,” she said.

His wide grin flashed. “I can wait while you have your meeting,” he said as they stood.

“I don’t know how long it will take,” Keelie said.

“You’re worth the wait,” Dyer said.

“Oh… do you really think so,” Keelie asked.

“Definitely,” Dyer said. He took her hand in his, linked fingers with her. “What sorts of things do you like to do when you’re not working?”

“I’m learning to sew and crochet,” Keelie said. “Mylin is teaching me to sew.”

“Can I come when you go to her for training,” Dyer asked.

“Do you want to learn to sew,” Keelie asked.

“It seems a useful skill,” Dyer said. “I spend a lot of my time learning how to take people down. It might be nice to learn how to make something.”

“It is,” Keelie said.

“Who’s teaching you to crochet,” Dyer asked.

“Avin,” Keelie said. “He’s been helping me with languages. He usually crochets while we practice. I’ve picked it up from him.”

“Learning two things at once,” Dyer said. “Very talented.”

“Thank you,” Keelie said. “What do you like to do?”

“My focus has been on being a better fighter,” Dyer said. “I run, fight, and lift weights.”

“But what about outside of work,” Keelie asked.

“Until the war, it was all about partying,” Dyer said.

“Since the war,” Keelie asked.

“I’ve been looking for something else.” Dyer walked passed Don Edwards who kept a stony face. “I’ve been focusing on trying to get the attention of this one girl. She’s pretty shy, works a lot, and is kind of intimidating,” he admitted softly.

“Who,” Keelie asked, frowning.

Leaning down, he whispered, “You.”

“I’m not intimidating,” Keelie said her face pink.

“I couldn’t resist when I saw how upset you were,” Dyer said. “It was a risk. Riskier than most of my assignments but worth it.”

“You’re silly,” Keelie said but looked deep into his eyes. “You’re serious.”

“Yeah,” Dyer said.

“But I’ve seen you with a lot of other women,” Keelie said.

“Fighters,” Dyer said. “Fighters are easy to talk to. It’s all about work.”

“It’s hard to let go of work, isn’t it,” Keelie said squeezing his hand. “I get called all the time and I’m never sure whether I’m going to translate something easy like directions or trade negotiations. Or if it will be something much more complex.”

“It’s hard to let go,” Dyer said. “It’s the same for me. Are we going to rescue people or will there be a fight?”

“Your job seems much more dangerous,” Keelie said as they stood outside Adara’s quarters.

“Yet, your job is more important,” Dyer said. “I heard you were seeing Wallace Norville.”

“He’s a friend,” Keelie said. “We speak different languages to each other.”

“Nothing more,” Dyer said.

She pulled on him as she went on tiptoe. She kissed him, let her lips linger on his. “I like you,” Keelie whispered. She took a step back blushing. His grin flashed again, she found herself smiling too. “I have to go,” she said squeezing his hand again before stepping through the door.

“What are you doing,” Kev asked pausing on his way into Adara and Decker’s suite.

“Worshiping your sister,” Dyer said.

“If you mess with her,” Kev said. “I don’t care if you’re a fighter, I’ll find a way to hurt you.”

“Are you asking my intentions,” Dyer asked looking at Kev.

“Yes,” Kev said.

“My intentions are to get her to fall in love with me,” Dyer said.

“Do you love her,” Kev asked eyeing the man.

“Yeah,” Dyer said staring at the door she walked through. “I’d take on an entire ship of Hettians to protect her.”

“You’ve got it bad,” Kev said. He punched him in the arm. “I’m not listening to sex.”

“I’ve got my own space,” Dyer said. “I don’t have a family.”

“We don’t either,” Kev said. “You might be an all right brother.”

“Don’t tell her,” Dyer said. “She’s skittish.”

“Adam Riskas harassed her,” Kev said. “She’s been withdrawn since then.”

“Bastard,” Dyer said. “I’ll be good to her. You have my word.”

“She sheds one tear,” Kev said. “I’ll tell Alma, Adara and Mylin.”

“Fuck, your mean,” Dyer said but he grinned, surprised how much Kev’s approval meant to him.

***

"Martin, I have a possible child minder," Mechet said. "I know Hesti hasn't been with us long but the advisory council wanted more in place, didn't they?"

"Yes, they did," Martin said. "Who sent the lead on the child minder?"

"It looks like Phelan," Mechet said.

"Does it come directly from him," Martin asked.

"I'm not sure," Mechet said. "It looks like it. The minder is Gwin Allaz from his clan. She has a number of years of experience, comes with a number of strong recommendations." He skimmed down the documentation included with the contact.

"What is her location," Martin asked.

"She's going to be in the vicinity of Tom and Angeline's manufacturing operation," Mechet said.

"Check with a couple of her references," Martin said considering for a few moments. "If they are positive, go ahead and make arrangements for her to meet with Kev."

"I'll take care of it," Mechet said.

"Good, what's next," Martin asked.

***

“Here’s some tea,” Decker said handing Keelie a mug.

She wrapped her hands around the mug. “I know I shouldn’t let it get to me,” she said. “But when they reported those who were on Etienne became sick and they spaced them…” Her words caught in her throat.

“They have a harsh moral code,” Adara said. “It’s not unexpected from them but I’m sorry you’re upset by it.”

“I’m all right,” Keelie blushed. “John Dyer gave me … I mean he… I didn’t tell him anything.”

“There’s nothing wrong with getting comfort where you can,” Adara said patting her on the knee. “What can you tell me about the rest of the intercept?”

“It reads like a log,” Keelie said. “It’s a report of what they’ve accomplished. There was a lot on the condition of Etienne. It sounds bad.”

“Did they give symptoms,” Decker asked.

“Yes, I’ll translate it all,” Keelie said. “Tillie and I are working on a program to transcribe them faster.”

“Whose idea was it,” Adara asked.

“Mine,” Keelie admitted.

“Good for you,” Adara said. “Make sure the two of you get it patented.”

“Because other races may want a translation program,” Keelie said.

“Exactly,” Adara said. “How soon will we see the translation?”

“I’ll have it later today,” Keelie said.

“You’re taking some down time,” Adara said. Keelie started to object but Adara overruled her. “Don’t argue with me. You’ve been listening to this disturbing intercept. You need time to settle. Besides, John’s waiting for you, isn’t he?”

“He wants to take a walk,” Keelie said blushing.

“Take your walk, get some food, and whatever else you want to fit in,” Adara said. “I don’t need the translation right now.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Keelie said. “Thank you.”

“Stop ma’aming me,” Adara said. Keelie smiled and rose to leave.

“What are you seeing in their auras,” Decker said as she stepped out of their quarters. John Dyer waited leaning against the opposite wall.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Adara said. “When have I seen the two of them together?”

“Whenever they’re in the mess or he’s been in sightline of her,” Decker said. “Anyone can see he’s caught the bug.”

“What bug,” Adara asked pushing him back on the sofa and sitting on his lap. “If it’s contagious, Cara needs to find a cure.”

“I’m pretty sure those of us who have it don’t want a cure,” Decker said cupping her breasts.

“If you can see he’s got feelings for her, why are you asking me about their auras,” Adara said leaning over him, pressing her hips against his.

“Adara,” he growled.

“The next meeting isn’t for forty minutes,” Adara said. “The girls are in the crèche and the twins are sleeping.” She pulled off his shirt, rubbed her hands down the length of his chest, teasing his nipples, shifting her body to free him, stroke his long rigid member.

Pushing her underwear aside, he slid into her. She threw her head back, sighed. “Oh, Deck,” she said. “You always feel amazing.”

“Hmmm,” he said tugging her dress over her head. She wore his favorite yellow bra. He sucked in her nipple, leaving the bra in place. Slowly she slipped up and down, sensual shivers shuddered through them. Her slick channel welcomed him back, quivering with pleasure as she drove them slowly insane with her mating.

“Deck,” she murmured his name as his hands teased, aroused her. He rubbed where their bodies joined and she shuddered with delight as an orgasm gripped her body. He held on, barely. She continued to slide sensuously up and down his hard shaft. Breath caught, she cupped his face, caught his mouth and dipped her tongue into his mouth.

“Adara,” he murmured when she allowed him air. His hands caressed her breasts, her hips, her bottom. Slowly, sumptuously, she drove him to the edge of the cliff, and jumped over with him.

“You’re incredible,” he murmured against her hair as she rested against him. “You take my breath away.”

Catching her breath, she pressed her body against him. “You’ve gotten my bra wet,” she said. “Again.”

“You will wear the ones I like best,” he said. “Let’s grab a shower.”

“I’m going to boil you,” she threatened.

“I hope so,” he said chasing her to the bathroom.

***

“Why do you want to go,” Drake said.

“Are you telling me I can’t,” Mylin asked raising an eyebrow.

“As if I could,” Drake said. He pulled her onto his lap. “They upset you. I don’t want you upset.”

“I need to see them,” Mylin said. “I want to watch them leave the ship and know they’re going to be punished for what they did.”

“I’m coming with you,” Drake said.

“Good,” she said. “I’ll need you.”

He kissed her slowly, gently. “What do you think it will prove to see them off,” Drake said.

“It will prove to me I can face them,” Mylin said. “I think I need to prove it to myself.”

“All right,” Drake said. “How are you convincing Adara?”

“I’m not asking permission,” Mylin said.

“Your detail will need to know,” Drake said. “You weren’t thinking of going without them, were you?”

“How else will I go,” Mylin said. “If I tell them what I want, they won’t let me go.”

“I won’t let you go without your detail,” Drake said. “Ask Alma.”

“I … I don’t know,” Mylin said.

“She knows you,” Drake said.

“All right,” Mylin said. “I’ll ask her.”

***

“What the hell do you mean,” Paul growled.

“Alma asked us to meet her here,” Deming said.

“She’s on Mylin’s detail,” Paul said. “There’s no way we’re having her down here.”

Deming stood his ground. “Maybe she needs to be down here, sir” he said.

“Alma has orders,” Paul said. “Her orders do not include letting her protectee come to the holding area for the prisoners.”

“Can you stop Adara from going somewhere she wanted to go,” Deming asked.

Before Paul answered, the lift opened. Mylin and Drake stepped out followed by Alma who cringed on seeing Paul. “Get back on the lift,” Paul ordered.

“No,” Mylin said standing taller, straightening her shoulders. “I want to see them.”

“This is a restricted area, and you do not have clearance,” Paul said.

“I’m not leaving,” Mylin said. Her face lit with a determination Paul recognized.

“You don’t have to do this,” Paul growled wanting to pick her up and carry her away but admiring the determination she exhibited.

The doors to the three cells opened. Mylin watched as Daryl Evans, Fred and Vince Cladog stepped out of their cells. A group of fighters surrounded them, scanned them and led them towards the lift. Paul pushed Mylin and Drake back and away from the lift.

“Whore,” Fred muttered.

“Slut,” Vince said as he grabbed his crotch. A fighter shoved him along.

Mylin took the names and said nothing. She linked hands with Drake, leaned on him. Watched as the fighters loaded the prisoners into the lift to take them to the shuttle. They were assigned to Tom Riley’s manufacturing plants to work and earn money. The majority of the money earned would go to reparations for Mylin, Cheri, and Kev. “Pathetic,” Mylin said.

“Seen enough,” Drake asked feeling her shake.

“Yes,” Mylin said. “I have clothes to make. Uncle Paul.”

“What,” he growled at her.

“Alma’s not at fault for this,” Mylin said.

“I’m well aware of how stubborn the Stone women are,” he said. “Get off this level and stay off.”

“I don’t need to see the others,” Mylin said. “They don’t matter.”

***

Martin said, "I've sent your schedule to you. Kev will be here shortly to take you to meet the two older girls."

"Who is Kev," Gwin asked her tone haughty.

"He's in charge of the children's care," Martin said. "The girls are sensitive to new people. You will have to be calm around them."

"I've handled children for a long time, Mr. London," Gwin said. "There's a man in charge of the children?"

"Kev's sixteen," Mechet said. "He's been their main caregiver other than Adara and Decker. Hesti is new, she's been with us a few weeks."

"I'm to be third in line," Gwin said narrowing her eyes.

"There isn't seniority here," Martin said. "Adara and Decker work a lot of hours. We need people available around the clock."

"Of course, it's an honor to serve the Mathair Naclan," Gwin said with a twist to her lips.

"Kev will walk you through the children's routine," Mechet said. "You don't have security training, you'll have to get the minimum. Paul will arrange this for you."

"Security," Gwin said. "I'll be required to do security training?"

"And healing training," Mechet said. "Both Kev and Hesti have both."

"It's unusual for such a requirement," Gwin said. "However, I'm willing to do what is needed."

"Adara's schedule is flexible," Martin said watching his screen light up with messages he needed to prioritize. "You need to be flexible. She keeps Maggie and Joseph with her at all times but Addy and Zoe have more of a set schedule. However there are times they insist on being with their parents."

The chime on his office door rang, Martin looked up, saw Kev waiting. "Here he is," Martin said.

***

“They’ll be in lock down,” Tom said. He handed Angeline a glass of water before sitting next to her.

“Make sure your security is top notch,” Adara said thinking of Angeline.

“They will never be in the same facility as Angeline,” Tom said.

“I can still do my job,” Angeline said rolling her eyes.

“In the admin section far from these men,” Tom said.

“Seems reasonable,” Decker said.

“The tags will help,” Adara said. “You’ll be able to set your security so if they're in a place they aren't supposed to be, the place will go into lockdown.”

“Tillie’s helping with it,” Tom said. “You do know I have programmers.”

“Tillie’s familiar with the program,” Decker said. He lifted Joseph up from the floor as he started to fuss.

“How’s production coming,” Adara asked reaching for her son. Decker handed him to her along with a blanket to cover up. Adara settled him to her breast but he promptly pushed the blanket away.

Angeline laughed, “He knows what he likes.”

“Stubborn like his mother,” Decker said kissing Adara.

“We’ll be facing all of this soon,” Tom said.

“We? I don’t think you have the right equipment for feeding a baby,” Angeline said.

“No but diapers and all the rest,” Tom said.

“He hasn’t a clue,” Angeline said. “He can run seven production lines like clockwork but has never held a baby.”

Decker picked up Maggie from the floor and handed her to Tom. “Here you go,” he said. “Make sure you don’t drop her. They get cranky when you drop them.”

“Decker, don’t tease,” Adara said.

Tom held the little girl, looked down into her tri colored eyes. “Beautiful,” he murmured. Maggie smiled. “Oh my.”

“Yup, slave makers,” Decker said. “Wait until you can’t figure out what they want but they won’t stop crying. Rips you to pieces.”

“She’s wonderful,” Tom said pulling her in closer to him.

“Having a girl,” Decker asked.

“Don’t know,” Tom said. “Angeline said she wanted to be surprised.”

“I said I wasn’t sure I wanted to know,” Angeline said.

“Is everything all right,” Adara asked.

“It’s been a little rough,” Angeline said. “I don’t get morning sickness but 1300 rolls around and I’m headed for the bathroom.”

“Cara has some tea which might help,” Adara said. “Have you tried taking a nap instead of going back to work?”

“I mostly work through it,” Angeline said wrinkling her nose.

“Do you want to know,” Decker asked.

“I hear Adara’s never wrong,” Tom said. “Besides if we’re going to be in her clan, it seems only reasonable to have our clan leader tell us.”

“I do,” Angeline said making up her mind in the moment.

Adara put her hand on Angeline’s arm. “Twin girls,” she said.

“No,” Angeline said. “The med tech thought there were two but I spotted and then he said one.”

“Cara can check,” Adara said. “I see two auras for little girls.”

“Two,” Tom said almost dropping Maggie. “Two?”

“Breathe,” Decker said smiling at Tom’s shock. “Breathe. Nice and slow and deep.”

“We only have one crib,” Tom said. “We don’t have nearly enough of anything.”

“Tom,” Angeline said. She waited until he looked at her. “Daughters.”

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “We wanted a girl. Now we get two of them.”

“Let’s talk business, while we digest this,” Angeline said needing to think on something else while she let Adara’s words sink in.

“Apparently your production is doing fine,” Adara said not referring to the production of ships.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” Angeline said wrinkling her nose at Adara. “In all of our lines. The building components will be out of orders within a month.”

“No, it won’t,” Decker said. “Michaela Wing will have an order for you shortly. She’s doing a survey of a new planet with a large team. She’ll be onsite in four days.”

“Three,” Adara said. “They’re making good time.”

“All right,” Tom said. “We’ll keep the line up and running.”

“The ship components for the Wayfarers are ahead of schedule,” Angeline said. “If nothing goes wrong, we’ll make our next delivery ahead of schedule.”

“How are you on raw materials,” Adara asked.

“Standish is keeping up with us,” Tom said. “About the time I think we’re going to have to shut down, another shipment arrives.”

“What other orders have you gotten,” Adara asked.

“We’re negotiating with the Briskans, Allamakee, and Shelite for new contracts,” Tom said. “They’re looking to upgrade. I’m working with Sally for producing more of the bullets. I’ve got enough on order to keep us busy for nearly a year.”

“We’ve ordered some,” Decker said. “Who else?”

“It's easier to tell you who hasn’t,’ Angeline said.

“We’re fielding a number of orders,” Tom said.

“You’ve checked with Rugad on the friendly races,” Adara said.

“The Barions have not ordered anything. But I do check with Rugad about orders from any race,” Tom said.

“It’s Cara,” Adara said glancing at the door as the chime went off.

“You didn’t have to,” Angeline said suddenly nervous. Decker went to answer the door.

Adara took her hand. “We have to look out for one another,” she said.

“Hello,” Cara said. “There's been some confusion?”

“Yes,” Tom said. “Our med tech was unsure.”

“I see two auras,” Cara said. “Adara?”

“Same,” she said. “But Angeline experienced a few problems.” She explained what Angeline experienced.

“I’m seeing two strong auras,” Cara said. “Let me scan.” Using her handheld scanner, she scanned for quite some time.

“That isn’t the standard scanner” Tom said. “Have you adjusted it?”

“They did it for Adara,” Decker said.

“Tom,” Angeline growled at him, her nerves making her easily annoyed.

“Sorry,” he said pulling himself back from work to the personal.

“Can you turn,” Cara said. Angeline shifted. “Don’t move.”

“Is something wrong,” Angeline asked.

“May I use a screen,” Cara said.

“Of course,” Decker said and turned on the nearest one.

“The only thing I see wrong is this,” Cara said. “From this view, front straight on, I see one baby.”

“This is what our med tech showed us,” Tom said.

“However, when I do a side view, see what we get,” Cara said. On screen one baby spooned with a second baby.

“Oh,” Angeline said. “Oh. Look at them.”

“Two. We thought we lost one,” Tom said.

“When did you spot,” Cara asked.

“I was eight weeks along,” Angeline said. “It was a rough time.”

“It’s common in the first trimester to have small amounts of blood,” Cara said.

“What is your med tech’s training,” Adara asked.

“He’s a bandage and burn guy,” Tom said staring at the screen.

“More of a medic than a healer,” Angeline said. “He’s done his best but he’s not really trained to handle babies.”

“Contact Janet and ask for a doctor,” Decker said. “Janet and Libheanna are assigning doctors based on population and risk factors. Check with them on how many you need.”

“I’ve sent a message to Janet,” Adara said. Smiling at Tom and Angeline. “I think they’re a little involved.”

“Are you done with your meeting,” Cara asked.

“Yes,” Adara said. “Take them to the healing center.”

“Oh. Yes.” Tom said confused.

“Don’t worry,” Adara said. “We’ll talk more later.”

“Thank you,” Angeline leaned in to hug Adara around Joseph. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

***

"It's this way," Kev said showing Gwin back to Adara's quarters. "We're headed off to story time."

"What training do you have," Gwin asked looking down her narrow nose at Kev.

"I've been with the kids since before Adara declared independence," Kev said. "I was one of the first to hold Zoe, Maggie, and Joseph. Additionally, I've taken training with Cara and Paul. I thought Martin and Mechet went over this."

"Of course," Gwin said with a thin smile.

"You have to be calm around the children," Kev said pausing before taking her into the lounge of Adara and Decker's quarters. "If you aren’t, they pick up on it and react strongly."

"I'm sure they do," Gwin said. Her tone implied she didn't believe him.

Stepping into the lounge, he checked to make sure there wasn't a meeting going on. "This is their lounge," Kev said. Pointing to the table area, "Meals are usually family style there. The door there is Adara and Decker's bedroom. Do not enter without knocking. Generally we stay out of there unless the kids are in there or it's an emergency."

"How very impractical," Gwin said.

"Do not interrupt Adara and Decker's private time," Kev said putting force behind his words. "The kids’ bedrooms are these two doors and the playroom is this room." He stepped into the playroom.

“This is Gwin,” Kev said squatting in front of Addy. “She’s going to be with us today.”

“I’ve found it’s better not to cater to those under my care,” Gwin said.

“She doesn’t know you,” Kev said. “It takes time for both of them to trust.”

“You’re the lead,” Gwin said but her tone implied she knew better.

“Addy, are you ready to go to the crèche,” Kev asked.

Addy stared a long time at Gwin, said nothing but slowly she took Kev’s hand.

“Will we be taking the other one,” Gwin said.

“If you mean Zoe, no,” Kev said not liking how she didn't use the kids’ names. “She’s going to the bridge with Adara.”

“She’ll only get in the way,” Gwin said. “Do you want me to suggest we take her to the crèche?”

“No,” Kev said. “This is part of their routine.” He didn’t mention the girls’ skills but he didn’t like Gwin’s attitude. “You have to work with their schedule, not fit them into your idea of a schedule.”

“I’ve done this a long time,” Gwin said, her tone patronizing. “I’ve found children do better with a firm schedule no matter what the parents think.”

Kit stood, stretched and moved to stand next to Addy. “What is that,” Gwin said stepping back.

“This is Kit,” Kev said. “She goes everywhere with Addy.”

“A filthy wild animal,” Gwin asked.

“Good, Kit,” Addy said firmly. Her hand gripped Kit’s fur.

“You’ll get used to Kit,” Kev said. “She’s not to be left behind.”

“Ridiculous,” Gwin said but stepped away when Kit sniffed at her legs.

“No, Kit is key,” Kev said. “She goes where Addy goes.”

“Such animals should be restrained,” Gwin said but seeing Kev frown, she added. “If this is how they run things, I will accede to their wishes.” Her clipped words did little to reassure Kev but he needed to get Addy to the crèche.

“To the crèche,” Kev said. “Addy, who are you playing with today?”

Addy stared hard at the new person, shrugged and moved away from her. Kit walked closer to Addy. Her fur on end, she put herself between Addy and Gwin.

“Looks like someone’s upset Kit,” Allen said as they stepped into the corridor. “Good morning, Addy. Are you taking good care of Kit?”

Addy nodded but didn’t let go of Kit’s fur. “We’re taking the alternate route,” Kev said. “Gwin needs to learn our routines.”

“Ma’am,” Allen said. “Have you been briefed on security?”

“Her briefing is this afternoon,” Kev said. Gwin frowned at him answering for her.

“Very well,” Allen said. “You’ll have to get clearance from Paul before we can discuss any details with you.”

“This seems completely unnecessary,” Gwin said.

“Which is why you’ll be briefed,” Allen cut her off. “Moving out. We don’t want to be late for story time.”

***

“As you can see,” Tom said. “We’ve got several lines going.”

“How long does it take from start to finish,” Decker asked.

“We do a run of like components,” Tom said. “If we were to run one ship or house, it takes a few days. What you’re seeing is the components to make the kitchen for the basic house, meaning a three bedroom, two bathroom,” Tom said. “We do the specialty rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom. Then we do a run of the other rooms, bedrooms and offices.”

“Because those are basically the same,” Decker said. “It seems very efficient.”

“The other lines work the same way,” Tom said. “Production is up. Your mother is responsible for the increase in production. She’s incredible.”

“She sure is,” Decker said. “How many houses do you do at a time?”

“We’re trying to do a neighborhood at a time,” Tom said. “Initially, we wanted to do a settlement but the demand is too high right now.”

“Yeah, we’ve got a lot of people living in housing made from pieces of ships,” Decker said.

“This batch is almost done,” Tom said. “It’s due to be hauled to Dimitri in a few days.”

“What sort of security problems do you have,” Decker asked.

“Right now, we’re too busy to have a lot,” Tom said.

“We’re aware this won't last,” Angeline said from a comfortable chair in the office overlooking production.

“You're going to need an investigator and a squad of fighters,” Franklin said.

“How would we put them to use,” Tom said.

“They’re trained in a wide variety of situations,” Franklin said.

“Like what,” Angeline said. She started to get up but the men moved closer so she didn’t need to.

“They can help with accidents,” Franklin said. “Security with your prisoners.”

“All right,” Tom said. “I can see where we can use them. They can even help with evacuations and safety, right?”

“Yes, even safety drills,” Franklin said.

“What we really need is more crèche workers,” Angeline said. “As it is, anyone with kids has to work certain shifts because we don’t have enough workers to go round the clock.”

“How is this a problem,” Sadilla asked.

Angeline said, “There are women on all shifts. They don’t necessarily want to change their schedule or change the tasks they’re assigned to. Women tend to be the primary caregivers, particularly of the younger children.”

“You’re willing to accommodate them,” Sadilla asked.

“It’s how we keep our best workers,” Tom said.

“Will you take time off when your children arrive,” Sadilla asked.

“We’re working on a plan,” Tom said. “Like other key people in the Wayfarers, it will be difficult for us to take the time.”

“How will you bond with your children,” Sadilla asked.

“Angeline’s sister will be joining us,” Tom said.

“We’ll handle more remotely,” Angeline said. “The accounting part of our operations, I can manage in between feedings and other child care.”

“My parents are coming from the farming community,” Tom said. “At least for a few weeks. Once they go, we’ll hopefully be through the…”

“If you say worst of it again,” Angeline said raising her eyebrow. “I’m going to throw something at you.”

“The initial bonding period,” Tom said smiling at her. “We’re hoping for a routine.”

“Yeah, good luck,” Decker said.

“There’s an old human saying,” Franklin said. “It takes a village to raise a child.”

“Why a village,” Sadilla said.

“Parents, all parents regardless of their place in society, need help,” Decker said. “Adara’s and my family, along with Kev, Hesti or Cheri, help us raise our children. We use our friends by trading off minding each other’s’ kids.”

“Don’t forget the crèche,” Franklin said.

“Obviously the men cannot handle feeding at the initial stages,” Decker said nodding his agreement with Franklin. “The work of nursing falls to the woman but while they nurse the men can tend to the woman.”

“In what way is this helpful,” Sadilla said.

“We make sure they’re comfortable, get them food or drink,” Franklin said. “Rub their shoulders or feet or anywhere which helps.”

“We change diapers, burp the babies,” Decker said. “It’s about being present as much as we can.”

“I’ve got a lot to learn,” Tom said.

“Yeah and not a lot of time to learn it,” Franklin said.

***

“Martin,” Kev asked. “How did you come by Gwin?”

“Phelan sent her to us,” Martin said. “Is there a problem?”

“She seems very set in her ways,” Kev said. “I’m not sure she’s going to work for us.”

“Give her a day or two,” Martin said.

“Addy won't hold her hand,” Kev said. “She’s not normally shy.”

“But Gwin’s a complete stranger,” Martin said as he shifted files. “It may take her a little time to get used to a new person.”

“Does Adara have time to talk to her,” Kev asked.

“I can fit her in,” he paused as he looked at the schedule. “It will be a squeeze though.”

“Will it cause offense if we don’t use her,” Kev asked.

“I doubt it,” Martin said.

“Put her in as tentative,” Kev said. “I’ll see how she does through lunch. Zoe’s gotten troublesome around lunch. If she doesn’t handle her well, we may have to decline.”

“Is Hesti working out all right,” Martin asked.

“Kids love her,” Kev said. “She’s flexible but a little uncertain. When all of them are together, she gets a little rattled but eventually settles.”

“1600 for the meeting with Adara,” Martin said. “Message me if you don’t need it.”

“Thanks,” Kev said.

***

Cheri said, “Ma’am, you’re behind on your meetings.”

“I know,” Adara said. Maggie fussed as she nursed Joseph. “It can’t be helped.” She swayed her legs to sooth Maggie.

“Mama, fy,” Zoe said. Adara recognized the beginning of a meltdown.

“Not today,” Adara said. “Kev will read you a story.”

“No,” Zoe stomped her foot.

"Martin says he's got some priority communication to discuss with you," Cheri said checking her messages.

“Is Decker back yet,” Adara asked.

“He’s not,” Cheri said. “They’re running behind. Do you want me to start shuffling?”

“Yes,” Adara said. “Zoe, come sit with mommy.”

“No, fy,” Zoe said temper rising, reason fleeing.

“You can’t fly right now,” Adara said. “We’re at a station. We’re spending time with Tom and Angeline. We’ll fly again in a couple days.”

"Martin has upgraded some of those messages to urgent," Cheri said.

“Fy,” Zoe crossed her arms, tears ran down her cheeks.

Kev and Gwin walked in with Addy. “Flying,” Kev said coming to the rescue as he saw Zoe beginning to melt down. “Have you grown wings?” Addy avoided Gwin and stayed close to Kit.

“Fy,” Zoe said reaching for him.

“You’re a life saver,” Adara murmured.

“Are your wings strong enough to fly,” Kev asked as Kit settled on the floor next to Adara.

“Addy, can you get the book about birds,” Adara asked.

"Yes, mama," Addy said and skipped off to the bedroom, she avoided Gwin.

“I can fetch it, ma’am,” Gwin said.

“Addy knows where it is,” Adara said not liking the interruption. Kit snorted, watched Gwin and followed Addy.

Zoe giggled as Kev distracted her. “If you're flying, you need fuel. Let's have some lunch,” he said.

“Gwin,” Adara said remembering the woman’s name. “If you set up their chairs, their lunch will be here shortly.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Gwin said not impressed with the Mathair Naclan. Gwin walked over to the table and looked at the chairs. With no idea how to set up the chairs, she made no attempt to assemble one. Kev grabbed one, showed her by doing it one handed. She set up the other one.

“Where is the report from Lynet,” Adara asked.

“Isn't it in her folder,” Cheri said.

“No,” Adara said.

“Ma’am, I can take the baby,” Gwin offered to take Maggie from Adara’s lap.

“Not right now,” Adara said waving her away from her youngest daughter.

“It would allow you to address your duties,” Gwin said.

“No, she needs to be fed yet,” Adara said more firmly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Gwin said looking down her nose at Adara. She returned to the table, heard a chime but was clueless what it was.

“It’s the butler’s lift,” Kev said as he lifted Addy into her chair. “You two sit still.”

“I’ll watch them,” Gwin said. She stood over them. Addy patted Zoe’s hand. The two held hands and babbled. Gwin bent down to whisper to them. “You need to be quiet now.” Addy and Zoe leaned away from her, Kit stood up and hissed.

“Here we go,” Kev said.

“I’m sorry,” Cheri said. “It was in Frey’s folder. I think they came in together. I’ve moved it to the correct folder.”

“We found it,” Adara said. She pulled it up to read while Joseph slipped from urgent nursing to nibbling.

“Adara, do you want a plate,” Kev asked.

“No,” she said. “I’m already behind.”

“She’ll take a plate,” Cheri overruled her.

“I’m not pregnant. You don’t get to,” Adara growled at her.

“I do, because you’re nursing,” Cheri said. “You’ve got back to back meetings all afternoon. You need food.”

Kev smiled and set a plate near Adara. “She’s right,” he said.

“I can’t fight both of you,” Adara grumbled but picked up a strawberry from the plate.

“Gwin,” Cheri said. “You have your security meeting in ten minutes. You better head out or you won’t make it in time.”

“Of course,” Gwin said leaving the two girls at the table. Seeing yet another younger person ordering her around, she narrowed her eyes and clenched her hands in annoyance. She watched Adara switch one twin for the other and wrinkled her nose. She thought Mathair Naclan needed to focus on running the Wayfarers not putting a child to her breast.

***

Two days after leaving Tom and Angeline’s manufacturing facilities behind, Adara sat in the lounge while she met via vid with Hometown personnel. Cheri and Martin assisted. Cheri took notes while Martin brought up pertinent documentation for Adara on a separate screen.

“Dimitri, Hal, how goes the exodus,” Adara asked.

“We’ve got the first wave ready to go,” Dimitri said.

“All supplies are on the ships,” Hal said, looking at Dimitri.

“What’s the problem,” Adara asked.

“We’ve got some protestors,” Dimitri said. “There are a number of humans trying to block those who are supposed to be boarding.”

“Because,” Adara asked.

“They’ve filed,” Dimitri said.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Harry said. He sat next to Dimitri. “It took me some time to get Frey settled. I finally put all the little ones in bed with her.”

“You fight dirty,” Hal said.

“I have to do what I have to do,” Harry said. “We’ve received our first formal complaint against the government.”

“Let me guess,” Adara said. “The Humans only group wants the new planet for themselves.”

“Yes, they’re claiming minority status,” Harry said.

“Do any of them belong to a clan,” Adara asked.

“No,” Harry said. “Humans don’t join clans according to them.”

“They’re guests in our territory and if they don’t like the way the government is run, they are welcome to either join a clan to file a petition with their clan leader or leave,” Adara said. Martin brought up the complaint so Adara could scan it. Mechet brought in a tray of drinks.

“There are no ships available,” Dimitri said. “They’ve enquired about relocation.”

“Hal, what are the costs to set up a planet,” Adara asked.

“You want a breakdown of the costs or a total,” Hal asked.

“A total,” Adara said. “Don’t forget if they want a planet, they will need to pay for transportation.”

“I’ll have to check with Delilah for an overall total,” Hal said.

“Somewhere around ten million credits,” Dimitri said. “The services always told settlers, especially when they complained, it cost ten million credits. The further out, the more it cost.”

“Make it twelve,” Adara said. “We’re busy right now. Phelan has more contracts for shipping than he can fill so shipping is at a premium.”

“Are you saying if they want to settle a planet, they have to pay,” Harry said.

“Yes,” Adara said. “If I remember correctly, didn’t the services make the settlers have at least fifty percent of the money up front?”

“They’re going to have to outsource supplies,” Hal said. “We really don’t have anything to spare.”

“Farm production is higher than expected but it takes time to grow crops,” Dimitri said.

“All right,” Adara said. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Hal, you get with Delilah and get a breakdown of the costs. I want to see the numbers before you meet with the Humans only group. Harry, you’re going to write up whatever you want to call it and inform them of their guest status.”

“I’ve already got documentation for this,” Harry said. “Rhia sent us the general outline from your meetings. We got it written up and anyone who wasn’t in a clan got notification.”

“Good,” Adara said. “The three of you meet with the nice humans to let this group know what their options are.”

“And the protestors,” Dimitri asked.

“Get the fighters out,” Adara said.

“Crowd control can be tricky,” Hal said.

“Hang on,” she looked over her shoulder as Decker and Franklin stepped in to the lounge from their security meeting. “Perfect timing. I need you both.”

Decker said, “Where are the kids?”

“Sleeping,” Adara said. “Thankfully. We have a little problem on Hometown.”

After a quick update from Hal and Dimitri, Franklin asked, “Have we considered the protestors may be a distraction,” He reviewed information on his tablet.

“We pull the fighters to deal with the protestors and mischief or worse gets done elsewhere,” Decker said.

“Because the human government sent fighters in,” Adara said. “What about the neighborhood watches?”

“We have a number of trained personnel in them,” Decker said. “We can pull personnel from them without too much risk.”

“Order them to disperse,” Adara said. “If they don’t, bring in the people from the neighborhood watch.”

“There’s good intel there will be an incident elsewhere,” Franklin said looking up from his tablet. “Dimitri, they’re going to make a play for damaging the main power station.”

“What,” Dimitri said outraged.

“We have to get people there,” Hal said.

“Can’t,” Franklin said. “We have to maintain levels of personnel as they are.”

“You’ve got someone under,” Dimitri said.

“We don’t want the agent compromised,” Franklin said.

“If we pull from the neighborhood watches,” Adara said. “The fighters remain at their stations.”

“Which may deter them,” Franklin said.

“Why weren’t we informed,” Dimitri said.

“Lynet’s on her way to you now,” Franklin said. “It's new intel.”

“Keep us apprised of the situation,” Adara said.

***

Sitting on the floor with Zoe, Kev handed her blocks. Addy leaned on his shoulder. “Pretty,” Addy said. Kit rubbed against his back before laying behind him.

“Zoe’s doing another brilliant building,” Kev said. He looked up, kept his face bland as Gwin entered the bedroom.

“It’s time for them to be in bed,” Gwin said her words clipped, her hands clasped behind her back.

“We’re getting there,” Kev said. “Zoe has a few more blocks to finish this building. Then it’s story time. Addy’s already picked a book.”

“You’re spoiling them,” Gwin said. “They are both old enough to go to sleep without the nonsense of story time.”

“Addy is starting to read,” Kev said. “I read to them until Zoe goes to sleep then Addy spends a little time trying to sound out words in one of her books.”

“She’s far too young to be reading,” Gwin said. She looked down her nose at the three sitting on the floor. “They should be asleep.”

Addy stuck out her tongue at Gwin. “Be nice,” Kev scolded.

“Such rude behavior comes from over indulgence,” Gwin said.

“She understands what you say and your attitude,” Kev said. His neck and cheeks flushed red as he scolded her. “If you don’t treat her with respect how will she learn to treat you with respect?”

“You haven’t a clue how to handle children,” Gwin said.

“I’ll finish up with them, Gwin,” Kev said. “You can go off now.”

“Will I be allowed alone with them tomorrow,” Gwin asked. “It’s ridiculous for two of us to always be with them.”

“We’ll see how the day goes,” Kev said.

***

“It’s been two days,” Gwin said her voice a normal volume in the middle of the mess. People all around her turned to stare momentarily.

“You have to be patient,” Jean said.

“I’m telling you they are undisciplined and bratty,” Gwin said to her sister Jean on her tablet.

Jean said, “Are you being judgmental?”

“She’s ridiculous,” Gwin said. “She needs to stop breast feeding and do her job as a leader. I mean does she really think she can do it all? She’s quite rude.”

“I heard she gave birth on the bridge of the ship,” Jean said softly.

“She did. It’s scandalous,” Gwin said. “Obviously she has no clue how Wayfarers actually work.”

“There are four kids,” Jean asked.

“Twins. Stars in the universe I hate dealing with twins. They cater to them. They have no schedule,” Gwin said. “They’ve got a boy in charge of them.”

“A boy,” Jean said. “How old?”

“Does it matter,” Gwin said. “So inappropriate. They have a pet.” Gwin shuddered. “You know how I hate pets. This is a huge filthy cat.”

“Oh no,” Jean said soothingly. “I’m sure you’ll do your best.”

“They give the children their own security detail,” Gwin said. “I’ve attended a briefing on security. Wayfarers don't harm children. Why do her children need security? It's an insult to all true Wayfarers.”

“Perhaps because of her position,” Jean suggested trying to calm her sister.

“Oh, the oldest girl is petulant and snotty,” Gwin said plowed on ignoring her sister's logic. “She’s got the boy and security wrapped around her fingers. They have no skills at all. The girl will probably end up as a breeder.”

“You know three of her sisters were on the Dotean ships,” Jean said.

“With all my experience, I can tell this is going to be horrid getting them to behave,” Gwin said. “I’m probably going to exhaust myself.”

“Oh dear,” Jean said. “Will you stay?”

“Someone with more Wayfarer blood in them needs to be raising them with some sense of tradition,” Gwin said. “The boy is human and the other woman they’ve got is weak.”

“You’ve got your work cut out for you,” Jean said.

“I’ve got to go,” Gwin said. “I’m due back in the brats’ room. The boy told me I won’t be allowed alone with them until they get used to me.”

Jean said, “Do your best dear.”

Gwin rose and walked out of the mess dismissing the humans and other races around her.

Keelie and John Dyer watched Gwin walk by them. “I have to see Adara,” Keelie said rising from her seat and carrying her tray.

“Yes,” John said rose with her, followed her taking her tray and setting it on the return pile. “You’ve been around the kids. Is she anywhere near right?”

“Those kids are sweet,” Keelie said. “For her to sit here in the mess and make statements so anyone can here, it’s unconscionable.”

“Let’s find out where Adara and Decker are,” John said holding her hand.

***

“We’ve got a buildup of protestors,” Dimitri said. “Hal's working with Lynet and the investigators.” The meeting shifted to the small conference room next to Martin’s office in order to accommodate all the people in the room and not have the children present.

“What's the status of the people boarding,” Adara asked.

“At this point, they can’t get through safely,” Hal said. “We’ve got the neighborhood watch people out there but I don’t think it’s going to be enough.”

“Let’s pull twenty percent of the fighters,” Franklin said.

“What if this is a test,” Lena said. “What if they’re doing this to see how we’ll react in order to plan a better attack later.”

“It’s a possibility,” Decker said. “Can we get eyes on the protestors?”

“Sending it now,” Hal said. “Here’s Lynet.”

“There are about a hundred and fifty protestors,” Lynet said. “They’ve got kids with them.”

“How old,” Adara asked.

“Everything from infants up,” Lynet said.

“Are they trying to get negative PR,” Franklin asked.

“Unthinkable,” Lynet said. “But yes, we believe this is their strategy. We think they’re hoping to point to an injury incurred by a child and say look what the Wayfarers did to our baby or child.”

“The fighters know how to separate the non-combatants,” Lena said. “We’ve trained for it.”

“We’ve got more neighborhood watch people than fighters,” Lynet said.

“On purpose,” Decker said. “What will help?”

“Dimitri is out there talking to them,” Lynet said. “The gen pop are steering clear of them but when anyone comes near, the crowd gets riled up.”

“Let’s blockade off the area,” Franklin said. “No more people down there.”

“Already done,” Hal said. “Are we hoping they’ll get hungry and go home?”

“I think there’s too much intent for them to get tired and wander away,” Lynet said.

“Any additional information from your agent,” Adara asked.

“Out of touch,” Lynet said.

“Is this normal,” Decker asked.

“No,” Lynet said. “She’s missed her last two check ins but she thought she might have to. I’m giving her some leeway.”

“Send the fighters down there,” Franklin said. “Intermix them with the neighborhood watch people. Our neighborhood watch members need more training.”

***


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