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Loose Threads

Eight

Iain appeared with Canaan. Vanessa arrived a heartbeat later. Kerrik was sitting on a small boulder or large rock depending on your viewpoint. He nodded to Iain and glanced at Vanessa. “Why is she here?”

Iain’s voice was light and yet more than a little formal in tone. “There’s something you need to know about Vanessa and I’m asking that this be held in the strictest confidence. As for our meeting, she doesn’t know what we’re going to be talking about but since I will have to brief my command staff afterwards, her being here isn’t a problem.”

Kerrik’s ears were still. “And if I decided I have to have retribution on those who know today, is she willing to pay that price as well as you and Canaan?”

“You won’t,” Canaan said. “And to be honest while I know why I’m here, that’s all I could tell you about the issue.” Her mouth tightened. “And I understand that’s one of the reasons you’re not going to ask for retribution today but I don’t know the fuck why.”

Kerrik’s ears twitched. “Why is that?”

“Has the meeting started,” Iain asked. “If not, I’d like a privacy shield before we go any further or we can move this meeting someplace else.”

Kerrik jerked his head towards a table and some chairs that had been set up nearby. “I don’t have a chair for Vanessa.”

“I’m all right standing,” she said with a smile.

After Iain, Canaan and Kerrik were seated, with Vanessa standing beside Iain, the air began to shimmer around them. Kerrik looked evenly at Iain. “I accuse you of theft.”

“I deny your accusation,” Iain replied calmly. “And if we cannot work this out between our two sides I ask that Tanika be the judge. In the interest of expediency, I ask that you summon her now.”

Kerrik looked surprised but nodded and waved a hand. “She’s on her way.”

Half a minute later a red haired feline eared woman appeared outside the privacy shield. She strode through it and looked around. Her ears flicked and two chairs appeared. “Sit down, please,” she said to Vanessa as she settled down in one of the chairs. After Vanessa had sat, she looked at Iain. “You requested me? Why not Magdalene? Don’t you trust her impartiality?”

“I do,” Iain said. “I trust her to be impartial just as much as I trust you.”

Tanika’s ears flicked and she looked at Kerrik for a second before returning to Iain. “You don’t think he’d trust her to be impartial?”

“I think Kerrik’s feelings about me and my friendship with Magdalene would color his otherwise accurate opinion of her ability to be impartial in a possible disagreement between him and me. This way it’s not an issue.”

“Why me? I’m supposed to be flighty and air headed in comparison to many of Kerrik’s wives.”

“You are neither. You chose to live a more carefree life than many of them do, but you once sat judgment as part of your noble duties when you held land for your father’s aunt and you were fair and just. You are just as smart as any of Kerrik’s other wives and smarter than a decent percentage of them.”

She looked into his eyes, her eyes searching them. Then she nodded. “So I am something else that you know about.”

“Your father’s family is part of my writing,” Iain replied. “And so you are somebody that I know some things about. You are not a thing to me.”

“Will you answer my questions later about what you know about me and my family?”

“Within certain limits and as payment for you doing this for me, I will cheerfully do so.”

She nodded. “I will sit judgment over this issue. Kerrik, you or your agent shall begin.”

Kerrik looked at Iain. “I accuse Iain Grey of theft of personal property.”

Tanika waited a moment before her ears flicked. “And you, Iain?”

“I have an agent to speak for me and she advised me to say pretty much only this.”

Tanika smiled. “She’s smart. Is she here?”

“Yes. Theodora will speak for me.”

Theodora’s image appeared. “Iain Grey stole no personal property. Instead he collected an abandoned item for his own use.”

“He took a chunk of my brains,” Kerrik snapped. “How can my brains be abandoned?”

Tanika frowned. “That is an excellent question. Theodora?”

“Are you aware that a week ago Iain and Kerrik worked together to return Kerrik’s full powers to him?”

Tanika nodded. “Yes and we’re grateful for it.”

“Are you aware of how this was done? Not just in broad, but have you seen the entire incident?”

Tanika shook her head. “I have not.”

Theodora nodded. “Do you wish to review the memories of one of the witnesses, specifically a member of Grey Clan named Zareen which has been released for clan viewing, the memories of Kerrik, the memories of Iain, the video taken by my shuttle or a combination of any of these?”

Tanika frowned for a second. “I do not need the memories of Zareen as they will duplicate the shuttle’s video. I will take the rest for reviewing.”

Iain and Kerrik pulled softly glowing globes of gold light out of their temples while Theodora smiled. “I will need access to your computer or you can borrow Iain’s.”

“I don’t carry one,” Tanika said. “I’ll borrow Iain’s.” She took the globe from Kerrik and pushed it into her forehead, blinked and repeated the action with the one Iain held out for her. Then she took the computer Iain offered her and began reviewing the video.

Theodora cleared her throat gently and Tanika looked up, pausing the video as she did. She smiled. “That was very well done, if I didn’t know you were a hologram I’d have never guessed it. What do you want?”

“Please watch the entire video. The end, after Iain is already in the medic and Kerrik has recovered his full abilities, is very important. Iain’s memories will not cover that as, at the time, I had already sedated him.”

Tanika finished the video. “Very well, Iain deliberately took a piece of Kerrik’s brain and gave it to Canaan for consumption. I would like Canaan’s memories of the event.”

“She cannot provide them,” Theodora said.

Tanika’s ears perked and Kerrik looked curious. “Why not?” Tanika gave her husband a stern look and he grimaced. “Sorry, I spoke out of turn.”

Tanika turned to Theodora. “Why can she not provide memories of this event?”

“Canaan has no memories of the abandoned brains that she consumed other than of actually eating them. I removed all other memories of the event as per Iain’s instructions. Once in my possession they were stripped of all personal knowledge and emotional loading as per clan law for collecting knowledge, which I have stored appropriately. The personal memories and emotional loading were wiped from my memory.”

“They were not abandoned.” Kerrik snapped.

Tanika looked at him and back to Theodora. “Why do you say that the brains were abandoned on the battlefield? Kerrik destroyed them to keep them from falling into your hands as well as the hands of others.

“The fact that he destroyed Iain’s blood and tissue when he did so suggests that he was merely cleaning up a mess on his property and he didn’t say anything to change that suggestion. Also, if you will review the new highlighted portions of the video that I have uploaded to Iain’s computer you will see that Whisper also appropriated a piece of Kerrik’s tissue, and my tracking of the various pieces as they left Kerrik’s head suggests it too was brain while Misery took some of Iain’s material. Since the brains in her possession were not consumed by Canaan until after Kerrik destroyed the abandoned tissue and were not also destroyed, it suggests they were abandoned and his women had some of them too that were possibly not destroyed.”

“Fuck,” Kerrik snarled. “If they ate that it could eventually kill them.”

“That is not the issue before me,” Tanika said. “But if you need to see to them immediately I will issue my judgment now.”

Kerrik gritted his teeth. “Please, although Theodora is right and I can guess how you will rule thanks to my behavior. I screwed up and didn’t extend my destruction spell over my entire property, much less through the rest of Texas.”

“Precisely, but this is an official proceeding and I must issue my judgment. The material meets the criteria for being abandoned. While Iain’s acquisition of your knowledge was irregular, it is not unprecedented and, in point of fact, you have used the same process for knowledge you have acquired. No theft has occurred.” Tanika waited patiently until the shimmer faded before she grinned. “And Iain, I’d love to bargain with you for some of what you got from my husband.”

Kerrik shook his head. “Fuck me. Iain, don’t go anywhere; I still need to talk to you about some things. Theodora, I thank you for telling me that they might have done something fatal.”

Tanika looked at Canaan as Kerrik jogged into the building. “How do you feel about your role in this?”

“I’m pissed.” Tanika looked surprised and Canaan shrugged. “I have enough memory of the event to know that there were really awesome things in Kerrik’s memories, things I’d love to still have.” Her face contorted into a snarl. “And that is all I fucking know about them.”

Tanika nodded. “I understand.” She looked at Iain. “Thank you for removing my husband’s private memories from this.”

“I had no choice. First it was clan law and second there’s too much that I would have wanted access to and should never have. Things that I would have eventually wanted so badly that I’d have gotten them even while knowing that having them would only frustrate me more. Then I’d have been no better than some of the weenies in the Dark Covenant.”

Tanika’s eyes twinkled. “Would that include private memories of time spent with Magdalene?”

“She’s not the only one. You too, among others.”

“Me? I never expected me.”

“He truly wants to have sex with every woman,” Vanessa sounded amused.

Tanika’s ears flicked. “Does this not bother you?”

“What Iain wants and what Iain is willing to do are two very different things.” Theodora said. “Those memories would have given him an unfair edge in trying to seduce you. Without them he will not make the attempt unless one of you attempts to seduce him first.”

“Or just shows interest,” Vanessa said with a smirk.

Iain got up. “By the way,” he said to Tanika as he bowed. “I’m Iain. I don’t think we’ve formally met since this is the first time we’ve been face to face.”

Tanika bounced to her feet, grabbed Iain and kissed him firmly on the lips. “I’m Tanika,” she said as she let him go. ‘And I want to thank you.”

Iain licked his lips once. “What for?”

“You have caused more uproar in my family than anyone has in a long time. Some of my sisters as well as some of our children who are the supposedly best mages after Kerrik are all cursing your name and beating their heads against the nearest wall about your idea about how we can get twees. And the fact that you’re not even fifty yet just has them more flummoxed. Watching them run around in a dumbfounded haze is a lot of amusement; especially if they’re near something they can smack into or trip over.”

Iain was just watching her as she almost vibrated with excitement. “Yeah, those memories would have been bad for me.”

Tanika’s head cocked. “I just held your life in my hands and you’re horny for me?”

Iain dropped back into the chair he’d vacated. “Just waiting for Kerrik now. Just sitting and being good. Not answering questions I shouldn’t think about.”

Tanika laughed musically. “Oh, you’re going to be fun.”

“Not misinterpreting what the pretty tailed girl with the cat ears is saying into anything suggestive,” Iain muttered to himself. “Not listening to her at all.”

Tanika grinned and turned to Vanessa. “Since he’s rudely ignoring me, can I come and visit your home?”

“Magdalene has an open invitation and so I think you should too,” Vanessa replied.

“Thank you! Now if you’ll excuse me, since I’m on this world I’m going to go spend some time with my son Faelan, his women and my grandchildren.” She vanished.

Vanessa leaned over to Canaan. “Are you going to be surly for a while yet?”

“Why do you care,” the Splice said grumpily.

“There’s a pool. I'd like to have an idea of where to put my bet.”

Canaan scowled. “Of course there is. And no, I probably won’t. I was trying very hard not to smile at Iain as he was busy charming Tanika.”

“Good to know. I won’t bother placing a bet then.” She looked at Iain. “What do you think Kerrik wants us to stay here for?”

He shrugged. “While Tanika said what we did wasn’t a crime, that doesn’t mean my teacher isn’t going to want to grind off some of my skin for it.”

“That’s not what I intended to do,” Kerrik said as he appeared. “Oh, and Whisper had done what you thought.” He sat down, rubbing an ear. “But it’s taken care of.” He leaned back in his chair, folding his arms. “Outsmarting your teacher is not something that most people are willing to try. You know there will be a price for what you did.”

“I know.”

“So,” Kerrik said, ignoring Iain’s interruption, “from now on you’ll be here Tuesday and Thursday from 0600 until 1000. I’ll provide your first uniform and I expect you can copy it before it starts to get damaged. I expect you to be wearing it when you arrive and it had better look sharp or I will know why.”

Iain was frowning. “Uniform?”

“You have my knowledge. While I could get really unhappy about several different sections of it, I just think I’ll use one part of it to make you earn the rest. You see,” his smile made Canaan sit upright, “you have the martial arts school I founded in that information. Load it before Tuesday because I’m going to teach it to you properly so you do not try to use some of it and shame me. And since you’re a truewizard I expect you to achieve full mastery of it eventually.”

Iain was staring at him. “Full mastery will take decades,” he choked out.

“I suspect your opinion of the speed of your progress is probably a little over inflated, but you are correct in that it will take at least decades.”

Iain nodded. “I’ll be here Tuesday.”

“Good. Now why is Vanessa here?”

“I need the privacy shield put back up, please.”

The air around them began shimmering again. “You do realize that I will probably share whatever it is with Raven and the others.”

“It could be bad if you do. They’d likely want to try their luck with Vanessa and eventually her patience will run out.”

Kerrik glanced at the copper tressed woman sitting next to Iain and his eyes widened. “What the fuck? Your power level is incredible.”

“Vanessa came over with me and the rest of my family, but she’s a legendary pokegirl,” Iain said calmly. “And now that you can sense her power level it was decided that you need to know about her. She is Evangelion.”

Kerrik frowned. “That explains why Poppet is so frustrated about the other legendaries from this world not knowing much about Evangelion. They can’t since they haven’t encountered her. She hasn’t arrived on this world yet, if ever.” His ears flattened. “You have children. That’s supposed to be impossible.”

Vanessa nodded. “I do, thanks to a fortuitous accident with Iain.”

Kerrik looked at Iain. “That wasn’t a ‘the condom broke’ kind of accident, was it?”

“Considering we hadn’t even been considering adding intimacy into our relationship at that point, no, it wasn’t. I’m still not sure exactly what I did, but I do know that I don’t want any of the legendaries even thinking I could do anything like that with anyone else.”

“If they try anything with my family,” Vanessa said grimly, “I will exterminate them.”

Kerrik smiled. “I like that word. It sounds so final. Exterminate. Of course I haven’t been on the receiving end of it from a Dalek yet, but in the fullness of time all things are possible.” He grunted sourly. “You’re right about Raven and the others trying to pick a,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, “friendly fight with Vanessa. Telling them about her would be a monumental catastrophe.” He cocked his head. “I saw the video of the making of the Louisiana Canal. It was recorded from orbit and so didn’t have sound and the detail was a bit sparse. How did you do it?”

“Iain showed me how I could learn Typhonna’s ebony void technique and we modified it so it sealed the ground as it cut. She could launch the original version, so I learned how to do that too.” She smiled. “It makes a dandy excavation tool.”

“That it does,” Kerrik shook his head slowly. “Well, thank you for sharing this information with me.” He grinned suddenly. “And nobody else knows?”

“Not outside of our family. And neither Ygerna nor Monica and their people know it either.”

“Excellent. Now I can needle Poppet with it without her ever knowing what I’m doing, although eventually I need to move past what never really happened.” Kerrik sighed. “Frankly, I’m glad Tanika ruled in your favor. I like you and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with you about this. Now I just get to abuse you regularly for years to come.” He smiled. “Awesome.” He glanced at Iain. “Any other secrets you’d care to share?”

“What, and waste their potential impact by frontloading them all at once? Nope.”

Kerrik nodded. “I would like to caution you that there are a lot of things you may be able to glean from the information I,” he paused, “abandoned by accident that it would not be wise to share.”

“I understand. A lot of it would be useless too, without the context that your memories provide. I have no intention of sharing most of it outside the clan and I’ll be bargaining very carefully with the stuff I might be willing to share.”

“Good. Honestly I’d be careful who I shared some of it with inside your clan.”

“I intend to. I prefer everyone with their brains inside their skulls.”

Kerrik nodded and got up. He paused. “I just realized something. A lot of what I know about truewizardry doesn’t need my memories to understand.” He smiled widely enough that the points of his fangs showed. “I expect sudden leaps in your abilities under my tutelage.”

Iain held up his hands defensively. “Now don’t go wanting too much from me too quickly.”

“It’s ok,” Kerrik reassured him. “If your progress isn’t satisfactory then I figure some rounds of Chase Iain with an Axe should help you to focus. And you definitely don’t get to carry your new pistol during it either.”

“Oh, fuck.”

“Yeah, pretty much.” His ears flicked. “You might want to also consider that the people on Haven will find out about what happened, especially since Tanika will probably share with Faelan. That’s important because Helen tried to get the stories from me and I told her to talk to you about them. We also discussed the fact that pokegirls are attracted to strong potential partners and that you’d defeated Shikarou every time you faced him, thus proving you are stronger than he is and therefore making yourself more valuable as a potential partner.”

“I did not face Shikarou in combat,” Iain protested. “And most of what was going on involved Ygerna’s issues with them and not mine.”

“Iain, if you think about it you’ll realize that neither of those things matter. Appearances are what matter and it appears that Ygerna brought you to help her because she couldn’t succeed without your help and then you took the lead and you were the one who stymied their attempt, whether intentional or not, to keep her from regaining her possessions. It was on a battlefield, just not one of claws and swords, and you kicked his ass.” Kerrik’s ears flicked. “And now, with that same skewed sense of perception that pokegirls have, you just kicked my ass in full bore combat during which I did, for all purposes die and you almost died. And to top all of that off, Shikarou has never beaten me in a fight, either fair or not.”

Canaan blinked and her lips bared her teeth in a silent snarl. “He just became one of the most eligible males on this planet.”

“For the people who know about what happened here last week, he most definitely did. Fortunately, few people know who I am and fewer people know what took place here. Unfortunately, of those that will, none of them will care that you were helping me to get my powers restored and that I worked as hard as I could not to attack you back until I couldn’t help myself.” Amber eyes solemnly regarded Iain’s blue and green ones. “And the fact that if we reenacted that today with me at my full strength I would turn you into a ball of plasma before you could blow off my second knee means nothing either. The price you are going to pay for helping me is why I’m not seeking more payment for the acquisition of my knowledge and why I just didn’t erase the fact that it happened from the universe.”

“What do you think the worst case could be,” Vanessa asked worriedly.

“Tanika has our memories of the fight. She will, at the very least, tell Faelan what happened here. She might actually share some of them if asked. Either way, it means word will get around the island. Poppet has a habit of sharing things like that and so she might tell Poppet Harris, who is the conduit that she used to ask the legendary pokegirls about Evangelion. Some of them are lonely too.”

Vanessa’s eyes narrowed. “And we come full circle back to the word exterminate.”

Iain shook his head. “Most of the pokegirls who could manage to reach me are already in relationships and seem to be happy in them, which means that while they might fantasize about sex with me with their partners; that should be all that their involvement with me will be. And if Sekhmet and Bastet show up for some freaky reason, we’ll figure something out.”

Canaan snorted. “Yes, and it’ll involve lots of duct tape, ball gags, hot wax and the largest butt plugs I can find.”

“From what I remember about those two, you may have not yet mentioned an item that they might not enjoy having used on them,” Vanessa said nastily.

“Really?” Canaan grinned slowly. “I accept that challenge.”

Iain smiled thinly. “We have already killed Genova once. I can do it again and this time I can start a collection of heads. I’ve never had a cabinet of curiosities and the heads of legendary pokegirls would make a nice centerpiece to one.”

“Preserve them in clear sealed boxes filled with pure nitrogen gas,” Kerrik said. “Theodora can make some practically unbreakable cases for you from asteroid material. And dry the heads beforehand in a purge of the nitrogen gas to remove the moisture from them without any decay taking place. They’ll be easily recognizable afterwards. Sometimes you can even preserve the color of their eyes.”

“And it sounds like we have the start of a plan,” Iain said cheerfully. “See you, Kerrik.”

“Bye.”

“Remind me to keep you two from talking shop too much,” Vanessa said. “Or I may have to go all Celestial on Iain one of these days.”

Canaan laughed and took Iain’s hand. “Does going Celestial on Iain require a rumpus or harem master sized bed?” She vanished.

Vanessa caught herself as she started to say something and just shook her head. “Children,” she muttered. “Good bye, Kerrik.”

Kerrik held up one hand in farewell. “May the universe find Iain and you too uninteresting to play with.”

“Too late,” she muttered and was gone.

***

Canaan appeared with Iain and let him go. “Welcome back,” Ninhursag said. Iain turned around as Vanessa arrived, but with his perception he could already see that his so-called command staff was waiting in a not so subtle ambush.

He held up a hand. “Before someone pushes me into the comfy chair, I really need to pee and I want to get something to drink.”

Allison pointed to the right. “The closest bathroom is over there in the brewery and Joyce has thoughtfully already provided you a case of beer. Someone will have to fetch this comfy chair you mentioned, though.”

“It’s a bad joke,” Eve said.

“Well, at least Joyce still likes me.” Iain chuckled. ‘Considering the way all of you are watching me, I’ll forgo the joke about someone holding my dick for me while I pee so I can’t disappear because I’m starting to think it would be treated seriously.”

“No it wouldn’t,” Dominique said. “We all know that if we hold your cock you’ll never be able to pee. April will stand outside to make sure you don’t escape.”

“Try for a little humor,” Iain muttered and headed for the brewery.

A short time later he was settled under a tree with a beer in his hand while everyone else was seated in a semicircle in front of him. He wasted no time getting to the point. “Kerrik insisted in meeting with me and Canaan because he wanted to accuse me of stealing his memories and knowledge. I denied stealing anything and asked for Tanika to sit in judgment over the case. She did and decided in my favor. Then I told Kerrik about Vanessa and what other names she went by. Finally, Kerrik announced my punishment and warned me about some unanticipated aftereffects of our work in bringing back his powers.”

“Well, thank you for explaining that,” Ninhursag said. “Now try again and this time let’s hear some details.” Iain gave her a grim look that she met with a disarming smile. “Please.”

He sighed. “Kerrik said I stole his memories and knowledge after I gave Canaan a piece of his brains to eat.”

Allison’s ears went flat. “What the hell does that mean?”

As per Canaan’s request, Theodora has never disseminated the information on the Hunter breed, his twee told him.

Canaan looked at Iain and seemed to shrug before she spoke. “You wouldn’t have heard of it, but towards the end of the war James created some rather specialized pokegirls as a subspecies of already existing breeds. Among our other abilities, we can consume the brains of someone and know everything they do, including things like passwords, how to deal with people we might run across during a mission, whatever they know becomes ours. It’s a lethal variant of the Snugglebunny’s touch telepathy; although in theory if I’m fast enough I can slice open a skull, eat some brains and heal the victim before they die. I’ve never successfully tried that technique. Many of us have eidetic memories and never forget what we learn. I’m one of those.”

“Did he do that on this world,” Silver asked. She looked a little nauseous.

“He did. Raven, Misery and Whisper are all examples of that subspecies. They tend to be extremely aggressive and very lethal as a group.”

“Did you eat Kerrik’s brains?’

The Splice nodded. “I did. They were rather tasty.”

“So you have Kerrik’s memories.”

“I did. I do not any longer.”

April frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“Theodora removed all of the memories that came from Kerrik’s brain along with almost all of my memories of knowing what was in his memories.” Her eyes glared at Iain for a second. “I remember knowing and that it was incredible and that’s it.”

Theodora appeared. “You asked to remember that much, Canaan, although you don’t remember making the request.”

Lucifer took a sip of her beer. “I wasn’t aware you could do that.”

“It’s not an ability I use often. Tirsuli law is very definite on when someone’s memories can be wiped. Even prisoners are executed instead of wiped. The process is much more advanced and more complete than that found in a Level 5 conditioning cycle and during the removal the memories can be stored. They can also be stored without being erased and family members often leave specific memories as messages for loved ones. But memories that are obtained through salvage have rules too and in that case the memories must be purged of their emotions and turned into strictly data formatted knowledge. That is what happened to Kerrik’s memories, as he didn’t give them to Iain with the intent that they be preserved in toto. There was a lot of data and I will be reformatting it into a useful system for at least the rest of the month.”

Allison looked curiously at Iain. “How did you move so quickly and why don’t you do that all of the time?”

“All of us, whether designed or not, have physical limitations,” Iain began. “And all of us can exceed those limitations in a limited way. It is how we end up with broken bones and pulled or torn muscles during training. To keep that from happening our bodies have safeguards in place, including pain and knowledge of when injuries occurred from exceeding those limits. I removed those safeguards, knowing it would let me be a lot stronger and faster in the short term and also knowing the price that I would have to pay for doing so. It almost backfired on me.”

“What do you mean?”

Theodora smiled at her. “Iain tore the quadriceps muscles in both legs and completely ripped the one in his right thigh loose during that charge. That’s why he fell. At that point if he’d been any distance from Kerrik he would have had to crawl the rest of his way on his hands at a snail’s pace and it is unlikely that we would be here today having this conversation.”

“She’s right, but at the time I was willing to take the chance. It also let me lift my hand and fire my pistol faster than I’ve ever done before.”

“As for the weapon he used,” Theodora said, “I custom built it for him and wanted its power to be a surprise so I didn’t tell anyone else and I asked him not to either.”

“That it was,” April said in a voice filled with satisfaction. “It took Kerrik apart.”
“Only because he stood there well aware that I was going to shoot him and worked really hard not to fight back until the very end, at which point three hits from him and I was as good as dead,” Iain pointed out quietly. “I hope I never have to do that again. As for my shooting, well I don’t expect I’ll be snap shooting ferals anytime soon even if you’d let me face a living one alone.”

Dominique was watching him curiously. “What do you think we got from Kerrik’s knowledge that was useful?”

“There should be lots of useful stuff in there,” Iain said. “Some of it will only be useful to certain people, like his truewizardry information will really only be useful to me and only some of it at this point in my advancement, but there should be a lot of regular magic spells too.”

“By direction, access to what I’m calling the Wolf database will be forbidden until I have vetted everything,” Theodora said firmly. “After that, Iain and I will review requests to determine if limited access will be granted for specific things. Right now, nobody is going on a browsing expedition through what we’ve acquired. And unless Iain specifically authorizes it to me, none of this is for trade of any kind. So if I give access to someone and that information appears elsewhere in the world, I am going to be angry and everyone with access to that information is going to be forbidden from anything else in the Wolf database until an investigation is completed.”

“Nobody here would do anything like that,” Dominique pointed out.

Theodora nodded to her. “I don’t think it would be done deliberately by clan members, but if Kasumi came to you and offered you access to something in the Caspa library in return for a spell or snippet from the Wolf database that you thought was harmless, you might consider it without this warning. We do not know what other people might know and so nothing in that database is harmless because we don’t know what puzzle a tiny piece of it might complete.”

Dominique blinked. “You’re right.”

“What I would really like to do is keep the existence of the database a secret from everyone not in the clan,” Theodora said, “but that’s not reasonably possible. Kerrik might mention it to someone or someone here might, either accidentally or deliberately. If nothing else, Circe or Stardust might pick up its existence from an unguarded thought.”

“So if asked directly about it,” Ninhursag said, “just say it exists and you can’t give them anything out of it. Immediately tell Theodora so she can let the rest of us know.”

“Let us know if you think someone is hinting about its existence,” Iain said. “I'd rather worry about nothing than blow off something critical. We can figure out which is which pretty quickly in any case.”

“Are we going to try to keep its existence a secret from the rest of the clan,” Allison asked.

“No, but don’t go proclaiming its existence either,” Lucifer said. “I see no reason to tell the rest of the Sisterhood about it. It is clan and their status within the clan’s structure is either satellite clan or outlander.” She looked at Iain. “We will have to settle that question soon.”

“Along with a whole host of other ones,” Iain replied, “which have waited way too long to be decided.”

Sofia cocked her head, her ears pointed alertly at him. “What was your punishment?”

“Kerrik founded a school of martial arts a long time ago called the Tsukkiken school. The knowledge of that school is in the Wolf database. My punishment is I’m to download that knowledge, become his student and pursue study in the school until I become a master. I’m also expected to begin advancing much more quickly in my magic studies with him or he’ll give me suitable encouragement to work harder in whichever he feels I’m not working hard enough in.”

April scowled. “Describe this encouragement.”

“He mentioned a game he called Chase Iain with an Axe. I think you remember that one.” April’s face became a study in anger. “Yeah, you do. I don’t get my new pistol either.”

“Set your undead on him,” Canaan said.

“We both know that’ll only work once. He’ll keep forbidding things until I have to fight back with magic, so I might as well start there.”

“It means,” Theodora said, “that it’s a good thing you already decided to make sure Iain has adequate study time. He’s going to need it unless he intends to get a new wardrobe every few months.”

“I’m more concerned about the whole Iain bleeding a lot issue,” Iain muttered. “I don’t give a shit about clothes compared to that.”

“Theodora was trying to lighten the mood,” Allison said to him gently. “She failed, but she gets points for the attempt.”

“I am well aware of gallows humor,” Iain replied with a smile. “It’s about the only humor I have these days.”

You don’t really feel that upset about your punishment, Canaan said to him through their bond. In fact I sense some odd amusement about it.

Yeah. Since I want to get better as a mage and since I never expected to be allowed to learn the Tsukkiken school’s style, my punishment is a lot like throwing the hare doe into thicket in the Cherokee “Tar Wolf” story. But I can never say that where Kerrik might eventually hear it even if he only thinks of this a putative punishment.

“You said there were unanticipated side effects of the events,” Lucifer asked curiously. “Can you elaborate? Are they hazardous?” Vanessa snickered and Lucy lifted an eyebrow. “What is so amusing?”

Vanessa grinned at Iain and he made a go ahead motion with one hand. She chuckled. “It is hazardous for one of us, but it’s also going to be very satisfying for all of you. I know it was for Canaan and me.” She took one of Iain’s beers and carefully twisted the cap off, having accidentally shattered more than one bottle in the past. “This is the continuation of the results of an earlier issue that we knew about but hadn’t considered in the right light. Everyone remembers that Iain got Ygerna’s library returned to her after it had been given to Master Caspa to protect and how much that pissed of the Haven members of the Wolf family.” She waited and smiled at the grins that swept around the group. “What we didn’t and should have immediately recognized is how it looks to people on the other side. Shikarou and Faelan did something that Iain didn’t like and Iain spanked them for it and got it fixed. He defeated Shikarou, their king, in battle, in front of his harem and other pokegirls.”

Eve and Lucy exchanged a looked and Eve shook her head. “No wonder the girls there have been so upset, especially his Elfqueen. Our male made theirs look like the idiots they sometimes are.”

“Ok, so a bunch of Haven’s elite get wet panties over Iain and it makes them grouchy because they can’t fuck him, the poor things,” Dominique said with a contented smile. “They’ll just have to fantasize about him while they’re with whoever is giving them dick that night. What did Iain helping Kerrik get back to full power do to make that worse?”

“April said it,” Vanessa replied. “She said that Iain took Kerrik apart. In a fight and in front of witnesses, Iain took down the man that Shikarou has never been able to defeat. Tanika was there for this discussion and she promptly left to go visit her son Faelan. Kerrik figures what happened will be common knowledge among the Haven Wolf family pretty quickly.”

Ninhursag smiled evilly. “Good. Let them hunger for our man. They can’t have him unless we let them.”

“Kerrik turned everything between my shoulders and my hips into hamburger in two strikes,” Iain protested. “Shikarou might take a couple of more hits to do it, but he can do the same thing if I face him on the battlefield. And he might not like his women thinking about me, even if they’re not going to leave him over it. And his brother isn’t any sort of a slouch either.”

“If he shows up here you can refuse his challenge,” Theodora said. “He is not clan and in any case has no right to challenge you over the fantasies of his women.”

“He might not give me the opportunity to say no before he starts slicing,” Iain pointed out. “He probably will let me talk because he’s that arrogant, but then he might ignore my refusal anyways. He made himself king so he probably believes that whole philosophy of the king is always right and all. I might be a more powerful necromancer than he is, but it won’t help me unless he brings ghosts to attack me.”

April’s head came around. “I thought you weren’t studying necromancy.” She folded her arms and glared.

“I am not focusing exclusively on necromancy or studying it as much as my books think I want to,” Iain said carefully. “If I ignore it entirely it’ll start activating on its own and dead animals may pop out of the ground to wander around causing trouble.”

Dominique put her hand on April’s leg, making the Duelist look angrily at her. “You can’t control what he studies,” she said. “He is a magic user just like I am or Eve is in that regard. Don’t make him start working out how to deceive us about his studies or he will. I did that to Scheherazade and would again if I had to.”

April took a deep breath. “It scares me.”

“It’ll scare you a lot more if he accidentally pulls a Zombabe out of the ground,” Dominique replied. “Just remember that Iain will never do anything to deliberately hurt anyone he cares for and hope you never meet a wizard who doesn’t so you can never discover just how lucky we are with him.”

“You’re right,” April said. “I’m sorry Iain.”

“Even though you tend to express it a little more aggressively than I’d sometimes like, I am appreciative of your concern for my wellbeing, April,” Iain said with a smile. “I love you too.”

“As far as Shikarou goes, I’m more concerned he might pop out of a dark alley and reprogram your soul,” Dominique said quietly.

Iain’s smile turned predatory. “That I’m already prepared for. He tries that shit he’ll be lucky if he pulls back a stump. If he’s not lucky I may end up owning his ass until Kerrik makes me let him go. Either way it's already arranged that he cannot reprogram me.”

My lord, if Shikarou attacks you we will defend you. Can he defeat us? Eirian’s voice whispered through his mind. She was currently on his right arm doing her turn in the guard rotation.

I don’t think he can but I am hoping to warn him off before it comes to that. He doesn’t know about your presence and I’d like to keep it that way, but not at the expense of crippling damage or death.

Iain sighed. “Let’s drop this. I can worry myself into a frazzle and it won’t change anything. If Shikarou or anyone else in that family attacks me without warning, we will do our best to kill them and take our chances with Kerrik afterwards. If someone challenges me for something stupid I’ll laugh at that person.”

“And if he comes up with some kind of a valid reason and challenges you,” Silver asked quietly.

“Then I’ll do what I always do and cheat my ass off to pull out the win,” Iain said grimly. “He’s never fought me and, while I haven’t fought him in real life, I’ve watched a whole bunch of his battles from inside his head and I know how he thinks and what he’s likely to do next. Using that, I can and will hurt him a lot, win or lose. But I think I can eke out a win.” He glanced around the group. “Understand that in this case a win would mean not dying.”

Canaan raised her hand and shared a high five with Dominique. “That’s our male!”

“I’d like to change part of that,” Ninhursag said to Iain. “If it’s one of the women from Haven who attacks, if we can without threat to ourselves, I’d like to take her prisoner. While Kasumi is unlikely to be convinced to change sides, a horny pokegirl just might be a little more amenable to the proper amount of persuasion.”

“No torture and no rape,” Iain said firmly. “And Theodora monitors all contact with any prisoner to make sure. And remember, deliberately letting them go feral is tantamount to torture, so none of that either.” He looked at the hologram. “Do prisoners under clan law have privacy rights?”

“Yes and no,” she replied. “I can monitor her full time and keep the recordings as well as sound any alerts and crush her like a bug if she tries to escape. However you can’t watch her do private things like masturbation or using the toilet.” She met his gaze. “There are certain situations where a prisoner has no rights at all, much less those of privacy, but I doubt you want to get into that kind of a situation with Shikarou.”

“Not if I can avoid it,” Iain said. “And he’d have to start that kind of war.” He looked around the group. “Does anyone have something to add to this discussion?” Everyone looked at each other. “Fine. I’ll call this closed for the moment and we can move on to something much more important.” Everyone rose as he turned to Lucifer. “I survived my meeting with Kerrik and I’m still alive.”

She smiled warmly. “And those facts mean that I have an errand to run. It will take a few minutes for me to pack their things.”

“Take as long as you need to,” Iain said. “Bring our children home.”

Lucifer’s eyes glittered suspiciously. “How is it that you can do this to me? Not even James could make me cry.”

Iain wrapped her up in his arms. “As long as those are tears of happiness, I don’t have a problem with it.”

She rested her head against his. “They are.” She slipped free of his arms. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Then she was gone.

Iain smiled at everyone remaining. “I guess that’s our cue to get back to work. Who has Iain duty today?”

“Raquel is your primary with Chuck with her in training. I’ll go get them.” Silver summoned her wings and vaulted into the air.

Iain gave Ninhursag a curious look. “Chuck is interested in guarding me?”

“Not really, but the decision was made that everyone gets trained to do it,” Ninhursag said. “She will only stand guard once a month as a refresher after that. The idea is that many of your regular guards have other duties and rotating everyone in once a month will free up some room in their schedules to let them pursue those responsibilities.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Iain admitted.

“The clan is expanding as we planned,” April said, “but while specialization is a good thing, Lucy brought up the fact that cross training in basic skills would make us a lot more flexible if someone is out pregnant or otherwise indisposed during a crisis.” She smiled broadly. “It also lets some of the mouthy ones understand that guarding you is a privilege and involves a lot more work than standing around and doing nothing. The stress involved sometimes makes it exhausting.” She fixed him with a look. “You could help to alleviate some of that by not being such a pain about it.”

“I could,” he admitted, “but I’m unlikely to do so for long. Being as free as I can be is not the same as being free. However, I’ve gotten a lot better about not actively fighting it most of the time.”

“I’m not sure I’d use the words ‘a lot’ for that, but you do seem to be trying to be less abrasive sometimes.” Her head turned when Raquel came racing up and skidded to a halt behind Iain. Chuck dropped from her back as the Rapitaur shifted to her bipedal form.

He was aware of the other people dispersing to their duties as Raquel looked at Iain with amusement. “Chuck is my trainee today. Anything you can do to make her believe you’re easy to guard will help to make sure she doesn’t fight her proficiency watches later on.”

Iain ignored her to take Chuck’s hands. “Thank you for doing this,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate you giving up some time to learn how to protect me. As much as I sometimes bitch about it, I do need protection away from home and I know you’ll do a great job.”

A blush spread over the Doggirl’s cheeks. “Thanks,” she said quietly. “I’ll do the best I can.”

“That’s all I can ask for.” She nodded and visibly hesitated, piquing his curiosity. “What is it?”

She took a deep breath and met his eyes searchingly. “Do you think I should evolve?”

“I think I will care for you just as much as I do now whatever body shape you have, Chuck,” he said gently. “And I think you’re fine as you are, but I also believe that if you do want to evolve I will do whatever it takes to help you get what you want. Are you considering something specific?”

Her gaze slipped down to his chest as her ears flicked nervously. Then her mouth firmed and she looked up again, nodding once as she looked into his eyes. “I do. I want to be a Wolf Queen, but I’m scared too. As one I could be a lot more useful around the ranch and also while guarding you but they can get really big in their combat form and I am afraid I’ll be so big that you won’t want me anymore.”

Iain cupped her cheeks in his hands and her eyes closed as she leaned into his touch. “I will always want you, Chuck. You are mine,” she shivered at the possessiveness in his tone, “and that will never change. If evolving makes you so tall that we have to make adjustments, then we will, but that won’t change anything between us.” He leaned forward and kissed her gently, her eyes popping open as their lips touched. “And,” he said in a whisper, “since you like being controlled and I like controlling you, introducing the restraints into our playtime on a regular basis won’t be a problem. I’ll even get you a set just for you.”

“I’d like that,” she whispered back. Then she stepped backwards. “But today I’m your guard.”

“Then I’ll get the moonstones we’ll need and we can evolve you through Lupina to Wolf Queen on the next full moon.”

Her ears came up eagerly. “Yes, sir!”

Raquel shook her head. “I should request a relief for both of us, thanks to you Iain. I can smell her from here and you made me horny too.”

Iain glanced at her. “I was going to visit Joyce and her girls in the brewery and check on the progress of her wine tests. If you will escort me there, I’ll stay put if you two want to go off and quickly scratch each other’s itches and then we can get on with my day.”

Raquel smiled at him. “I don’t have a problem with that. Chuck?”

“Me either.”

Iain headed for the brewery. “Just remember I said quickly, ladies. No more than an hour.”

Chuck batted her eyes at him. “You’re such a good master, master,” she said in a poor imitation of Siobhan’s Scottish accent.

“Stop that,” he groused. They laughed at him.

***

“Iain?”

He looked up from where he was studying his magic tome. “In here,” he called. He’d forgotten that Joyce had planned to take her daughters to the kid’s park for socializing that morning and so the brewery had been empty. However, he’d already let Raquel and Chuck leave and so he’d just settled down on the daybed they’d installed for the kits to nap on and taken the time to do some quick studying. He’d taken a quick look at the notebook she was using for her wine tests but he really needed Joyce to decipher her handwriting and she wouldn’t commit anything to the computer until her tests were complete since she didn’t like using a keyboard and only wanted to enter things once.

Lucifer came through the door, looking around curiously as she did. “Where is your guard?”

“It’s a long story, but I accidentally got them both hot and bothered and so they’re off having a quickie while I plant my butt here and wait for them. Since the agreement is that I don’t need guarded when I’m indoors and at home, nobody is in violation of any rule.”

She shook her head. “That’s thin, Iain.”

He shrugged. “Sometimes thin is all you have. Are the girls all packed?”

“Yes, and I’ve already put their belongings in my room. I wanted to bring them straight to you so you three could meet.” She smiled a mother’s contented smile. “They are very excited about meeting you.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting them too. If they’re anything like their mother my heart has no chance, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“That’s sweet, Iain, but you also need to be able to be firm with them when they need it or all of your children are going to walk all over you.”

“I can do that. I’ve done it with the other kids.”

“Good. I love you and I love them and I want them to love you as much as I do.” She blinked and reddened. “Well, not exactly like I love you.”

“It’s ok. I’ve never found children to be sexually interesting and I’d really like to never be in a situation where I have to contemplate keeping my daughters from going feral. And it doesn’t hurt that their mom is so hot.”

“That’s good to hear. A century ago there was this one man who was more interested in my daughters than he was in me. It turned out he had a magic item that kept me from divining his true intent.”

“You did kill him slowly, right?”

“I do not torture, Iain. I didn’t kill him at all.”

Iain scowled. “A man who isn’t allowed to abuse your kids will just move on to someone else’s.”

“I know. That’s why I gave him to Ninhursag and another woman I knew who had been similarly abused to deal with.” She looked into his eyes. “Do I need to ask you to forgive me for that decision?”

“You already know that answer to that is no.” He put his book away and got to his feet. “So go get them.”

“I’m not sure I should leave you alone.”

“I’m not.” He gestured around him. “Theodora built this so she is always here and, after the trouble I had in here before with Lara I’m sure that she has installed internal and external defenses she’s never bothered to mention.”

Of course I have, Theodora said in his mind.

“I’m sure she did,” Lucy eerily echoed the voice in Iain’s head. “So I’ll be right back.” She disappeared once more.

Iain went to the fridge and got himself a glass of cold water. He was draining it when Lucy reappeared, holding the hands of two identical girls. “Iain, this is Seraphina and Olivia. Girls, this is Iain Grey.”

Iain put the glass in the sink and took a couple of steps closer to Lucy, watching the children watch him. Their body language said they were cautious but unafraid. When he was a few meters away he slowly sat down on the floor. He kept his voice even and light. “Hi. I’m Iain. Your mother said she’s told you a little about me.” He smiled. “I hope she said good things.” They looked at each other and back at him before the one on the right nodded. Both had Lucifer’s hair, which was a dark brown that had red highlights in bright sunlight as opposed to April’s lighter brown that had blonde highlights when it bleached. Their eyes were a little darker brown than Lucy’s but eye color often changed as children aged. And, of course, they had their mother’s olive skin. “So, which of you is Olivia?”

The girls had let go of Lucifer but were still holding hands. “Are you going to be our daddy,” the leftmost girl asked.

“I want to be your daddy, but your mother loves you a lot and she wants the final decision to be yours. So you get to decide if I’m going to be your father or not.”

The girl on the right looked back at Lucifer, who nodded. “That’s right, Olivia. It’s your decision.”

The two girls looked at each other again and then at Iain. Their eyes began to glow and Iain felt the magic surround him although he wasn’t sure what it was doing except that it wasn’t harmful in any way. Then they were running towards him in faster than an adult human could move. “Daddy!”

Iain braced himself just before they impacted and managed to stay upright when the two girls burrowed into his arms, hugging him hard enough to drive the air from his lungs. He found himself face to face with one of them. “Hi,” she breathed.

“Hello.” It was the one who’d been on the right. “You’re Olivia, right?” She shook her head. “But your mother called you Olivia.”

She gave him an impish grin and whispered to him. “She was wrong. She can’t tell us apart and sometimes she guesses.”

“So you’re Seraphina.”

She nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you, Seraphina. I’m Iain.”

She shook her head. “You’re Daddy.”

“OK, I’m Daddy.” He pulled the other girl around so he could see her. She gave him a shy smile. “Olivia?” She nodded. “Am I your daddy too?”

“Yes,” she yelped happily.

“That’s awesome.” He hugged them both. “Want to know something?”

Lucifer had walked over to be near them as Olivia nodded. “Tell!”

“Tell, please,” Lucifer said gently.

“Please,” Olivia’s eyes were bright.

“You have sisters,” Iain said. They both froze, staring at him. “And I’m going to need your help with them because you’re the oldest. You’re the big sisters.”

Seraphina grinned at him. “I wanna help!”

“Me too!” Olivia bounced in his arms.

“Are you sure this is a good idea,” Lucy asked quietly.

“I am a big brother,” Iain said. “There were times that I couldn’t stand my sisters, but I loved them and I helped to take care of them. If Olivia and Seraphina want to help, well I’m just one man and I can use all of the help I can get.” He rocked forward and lunged to his feet, still holding two squealing girls in his arms. “And besides, not only are pokegirls precocious, these two won’t be six forever. Planting the idea of sibling responsibility right now will get them used to it as they get older.”

“I had never thought about it that way,” Lucy said. “I have spaced my litters out enough that the previous one was grown and gone by the time I had the next.”

“Well, if you‘re not a pokegirl, multiple births are the exception so we’ve had to evolve different strategies to get our older children to help ease some of the burden of raising the younger ones.” He chuckled and knelt, putting the two girls down. “It’s a lot like the fact that if you have a trained dog or horse it’s a lot easier to use it to help train the next one.” He looked into the faces of his two new daughters. “Now we’re going to go for a walk and you’re going to get to meet some of the people who live here too. I don’t know about where you lived before, but there will be a lot of names to remember. I don’t expect you to remember them all yet, so don’t worry about it too much. This is going to be your home now and so you’ll learn everyone in time.”

“Are we going to meet our new little sisters,” Seraphina asked.

“Maybe we will. It all depends. But if not now, then certainly you’ll meet them later. Just remember that they don’t know you’re their sisters yet and so you need to be careful not to scare them.” His smile faded into a serious expression. “Some of them will be stronger than you and you’ll be stronger than some of the others, so scaring them could get either you or them hurt. I know you don’t want to get anyone hurt, so just listen to me and your mother and everything should be fine.”

Olivia nodded solemnly. “We will, father, we promise.” Beside her Seraphina bobbed her head in agreement.

“I’ll hold you to that. You’ll find that as long as you tell me the truth, it’ll never, ever be as bad as if you lie to me.” He stood. “There are two ladies waiting outside that door. Their names are Raquel and Chuck, and they’re my bodyguards so they’re going to go for that walk too.”

Seraphina looked up at him. “Do you need a bodyguard, Daddy?”

“Well, there’s some disagreement on that but right now I’m letting them guard me because it makes them happy to do so.” He looked at Lucy. “Shall we, my lady?”

She laughed and took his arm. “Yes.”

***

Poppet appeared and looked around as she pulled two pokeballs from her pocket and activated them. A cloaked Elizabeth and then Bellona materialized. All three women looked around. Bellona spoke first. “If this is the Sabine Ranch, where is everyone?” She glanced at Poppet. “You made it sound like it was a lot busier here during your visit.”

“It was.”

They watched as a small sphere zipped into view and slowed to a hover a few meters away. Theodora appeared in front of them. “Good afternoon, ladies.” She bobbed her head in a bow. “I take it you didn’t have an appointment since I know almost nobody would be crazy enough to schedule your visit during a game.”

Poppet eyed her curiously. “Game?”

“There’s a rugby game today,” Theodora explained. “And the Survivors are playing against the Thorn Thrillers so everyone who can be is at the pitch.”

“Oh.” Poppet looked at the others. “Is Iain there?”

Theodora laughed. “Yes he is. There is almost no way he could get away from the first game for Olivia and Seraphina. They’ve never seen rugby before other than a practice here and they’re so excited they were vibrating with excitement so fast that you could almost see through them.”

“Are they a couple of the NurseJoys we gave him,” Bellona asked.

“No, Iain only kept Siobhan, the one who kicked him in the throat,” Theodora said. “The others have already found homes here in Texas. Right now we’re working our way through the Elfqueens.”

“How are they working out,” Elizabeth asked curiously.

“Oh, about a third of the ones Iain has awakened so far have elected to stay with us. The rest decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere.” Theodora shrugged. “Pokegirls and ambition often go hand in hand. Now the game isn’t going to be over for another forty minutes and then there’ll be the victory party, so do you want to wait or not?”

“Couldn’t we just attend the game,” Poppet asked.

“Well, it’s in Shield and I don’t think any of you have been there. All that’s here today is the security element, which is mostly Elf breeds. Nobody from the family stayed since the babies are all old enough to travel and Zareen hasn’t given birth yet and since the people here are on duty they can’t be released to take you to Shield, even by teleport.” There is no way I’m going to let you disturb Iain and try to talk business during this game. And I suspect there’s no way you wouldn’t try to do just that unless Canaan used one of the ball gags she’s keeping for Sekhmet on you.

Bellona frowned, “Theodora, if Iain hasn’t kept any of the other NurseJoys, who are Olivia and Seraphina?”

Theodora considered for a second and decided that they’d find out soon enough even if she didn’t tell them. “It turns out that Lucy has two kit daughters and she was nervous about their safety here. When she decided that this was where she was going to stay, she immediately brought them to meet us. It’s only been a few days and right now they’re glued to Iain because they’ve never had a daddy before and they really like him.” She smirked. “They’re so sweet that they’re giving some of the other women ideas about children of their own. It’s so wonderful to see my family grow in numbers and power.” Her smile faded and her tone became businesslike. “I take it from the composition of your group, Poppet, that you’re here to discuss the acquisition of the stories with Iain.” Poppet gave her a wary look and Theodora’s smile returned. “We know that Helen talked to Kerrik about the stories and he pointed her to us. And I calculated a probability of eighty percent that Kerrik would keep the spirit of our agreement and still decide to give the Haven Wolf family some suggestions as to who might have the best chance in speaking with Iain because he wouldn’t consider it a betrayal. All three of you would be on that list. However, I have a question, which is did he explain why he suggested the people he did?”

“No, he didn’t,” Elizabeth said, “which was more than a little annoying.”

“I didn’t think he would.” Theodora shook her head. “It must have been difficult for him to walk the line between not betraying our trust and helping some of the people he loves.” She shrugged. “Unfortunately, you decided to drop in and you found that nobody is going to be home for a while. Do you want to wait, actually schedule an appointment or drop in again and hope for the best? I’ll warn you that even when he’s home, Iain’s usually a busy man for most of the day, and it won’t help that I have a delivery tomorrow that will be an all hands evolution.”

“What kind of delivery is that,” Poppet asked.

“Twenty thousand geese,” Theodora said. “If they weren’t in stasis for the trip down I swear the only way to get the smell out would be to disassemble the transport to the molecular level and make a replacement.”

Poppet looked surprised. “There’s a market for that many geese in Texas?”

“No, these are wild Canada geese for the restoration project. They’re going to be released up on the north Texas border and hopefully most of them will survive to breed.” She grimaced. “Well hopefully for the geese. Those things are nasty. I’m just glad the passenger pigeon flocks don’t make it this far south yet. By the time they do we’ll have defenses in place to protect us from them.”

“What restoration project,” Bellona asked.

“I have a bunch of rapid growth tanks on my ship and more on the Luna refueling station. We’re using them to repopulate land animals in the US right now to keep the ferals busy while humanity rebuilds as much as it can. Right now we’re focused on single meal sized avian and mammalian animals such as these geese, turkeys, wild pigs, goats, small deer and such. We’re also producing some stocks of dogs and cats for sale here in Texas.” She smiled. “And Kerrik has asked for a couple of batches of Nipponese dogs for him to export for the Emperor. I’m just waiting on the bones and fur to be delivered so I can start DNA sequencing on them. I’m also cloning kattle for export to Texas, Great Britain, Ireland and Israel as well as releases here in Texas.” She shook her head. “Would you believe those blasted things can thrive in Israel’s deserts too? I swear if we stuck them in a lake long enough they’d turn aquatic.”

“You’re in contact with Israel,” Poppet asked incredulously. “Where else?”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have the security access to get that question answered.” She gave them apologetic look. “It is clan and limited Prometheus Society access only.”

“I thought the Middle East was a powder keg after the whole fiasco of the League attempt at takeover failed.” Apparently Bellona had been keeping somewhat abreast of things elsewhere in the world.

“It is,” Theodora said. “So we’re being careful about who we aid there.” And once Israel is ready, we intend to give each of the involved parties a box of matches, she thought to herself smugly. “So, will it be wait, appointment or spin the wheel again and hope for red to come up this time?”

“Iain gives you too much freedom of expression,” Poppet muttered. “You’re hard to understand.” She raised her voice.” I’m not sure when we’ll be able to return, so we’ll contact you and set up an appointment when we know.”

“Excellent,” Theodora replied politely. “I look forward to hearing from you.” She waited until they were gone before her drone returned to its charging station and she concentrated on more important matters. The Survivors were going to lose, but she’d cheer with the best of them since they were family.

She’d tell Iain about this intrusion in the morning when he arrived on board the Theodora for his studies.

Iain Grey

Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan - NurseJoy (Glasgow)

Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Heather - Elf

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

6 Wet Elves

Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Mother s & Children

Vanessa

Myrna

Saoirse

April

Dorothy: Duelist

Meara: Duelist

Regan: Duelist

Canaan

Hannah: Huntress

Rebecca: Huntress

Joyce

Lisa: Milktit

Sherrie: Milktit

Harriet: Milktit

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