December 4, 1993
... Report to the Principal's Office! ...
"You didn't really let them wear those things to school, did you?" asked Karen.
"Sure, why not?" I replied with a shrug. "What is it, some dress code violation?"
"Well, they don't have a dress code, but I can see all kinds of trouble coming from it."
"Relax, the weapons systems are disabled. None of the kids could light a barbeque."
* * *
"Mr. Kirkpatrick, perhaps you'd be so kind as to explain what it is you have on today?" asked the teacher. Mr. Missile ran a fairly sedate class, and somehow full battle armor had attracted his attention.
"S'a armor suit" replied Ficus cheerfully.
"Perhaps you could be persuaded to remove the garments during class?"
"I'm naked in here. I don't think I'd better."
"Perhaps you should find something else to do this period then."
"Why? I'm not hurting anything."
"Enough, Mr. Kirkpatrick. You'll leave the classroom now."
"No. I'm not going anywhere."
Mr. Missile strode quickly to Ficus and grabbed his shoulder. He wanted to give him a tug towards the door, but there was no way he could. The boy weighs in just over a hundred pounds, but with the high-density hull material, he weighed in close to 850 pounds. It's a wonder that the chair held him. After fruitlessly yanking at Ficus, Missile spoke.
"Is this some sort of trick? Get up."
"No. I'm not doing anything. I'm here for class, I'm not disturbing anybody, and I'm not going anywhere."
"Get up, Ficus."
Missile, true to his name, set off for the office at an angry pace. It took three minutes before the school's PA system was calling Ficus to the office. Ficus sat there a for another minute, then rose. "This is bullshit." he snapped, and walked to the fire door at the back of the class room. With a light kick, he tossed it off of it's hinges to the delight of his classmates. Words like 'cool' and 'excellent' were murmered by all. The class crowded up to the window to see where Ficus would go, and were stunned when ten steps out the door, he fired his sprint and flew off.
Twelve students were given detention for lying when Missile came back and asked what had happened.
* * *
"Aron, that's a very interesting get up!" said the smiling Mrs. Dalla. The teacher took great delight in the way they children expressed themselves, and clothing was no exception. "Did your parent's buy that here in Spokane, or did they have to send away for it?"
"Uh, my dad made this. But Kal and Jab helped."
"Wonderful! Are Kal and Jab your brothers or sisters?"
"Nuh-uh. Jab is my dad's cat, and Kal is my dad's friend Brian's wife. She's a dog."
"I see," said Mrs. Dalla. She was still smiling. "But isn't it a little rude to call Kal a dog?"
"You haven't seen her."
"But I don't need to, dear" she said. "One doesn't call anyone a name like that. It would hurt feelings." Aron's helmeted head cocked to the side.
"Uh, no. I mean, she IS a dog. Well, not dog, really. She comes from somewhere else and has lots of hair."
"Aron. I'm surprised at you." The smile diminished some. "Some people do have more hair on their bodies than others, but you shouldn't make fun of that. It's a condition set by genetics and hormones. Can everyone say hormones?" The class looked at her in silence.
"No, you don't understand. Kal is a Velan lady. She comes from somewhere else, but not here. She can do magic!"
The twinkle in Mrs. Dalla's eyes remained, but her brows furrowed and she spoke with mock firmness. "How naughty. I was taking you seriously there for a minute, and all this time you were playing a prank."
"I guess that means you don't want to hear about the cat then, right?"
"What about the cat?"
"He's a Meenzal" said Aron proudly. "He designed this armor I'm wearing."
"I see" said Mrs. Dalla, and she made a mental note to have the school psychologist visit with Aron on her next available day. "Well, thank you very much for sharing your story and suit with us, but it's time to take it off now."
*Tell her you're naked* came Ficus' voice over the comm link.
"I can't take it off. I'm naked under it."
"In this weather? My, whatever were your parent's thinking letting you go out in a metal suit with no clothes underneath. Well, let's get you to the office, and we'll see if we can borrow something for you."
"I'm not takin' this off" protested Aron.
"Yes, dear. I'm afraid you have to. Now come with me to the office." Aron stood obediently and clumped out of the classroom behind her. The rest of the class tittered at him as he went. When they got to the office, Mrs. Dalla went in, but Aron kept walking out the front door of the school.
* * *
The bus driver eyed Megan suspiciously. "And what's that supposed to be?" he asked acidly.
"It's what I'm wearing" replied Megan quietly. She stepped onto the bus but was stopped by the driver.
"Not on this bus, you aren't."
"But, how do I get to school?"
"Better get your mom or dad to drive you."
"But they aren't home!"
"Too bad. You aren't getting to school on this bus!" snapped the driver.
Megan stepped backwards and down onto the street. The bus doors slammed in her face and the driver began to pull away. The armored girl grabbed hold of the back of the bus and lifted. It's wheels came off the ground, stopping the bus from going anywhere.
Thirty wide eyes stared out the windows at Megan as she held the bus. Then the driver opened the doors and stepped out. He called to the other children to get off the bus and run for their lives. Megan dropped the bus and went to him.
"Why did you do that? Those were my friends!"
"Stay away from me, you freak!" bellowed the driver. He looked up and down the street, hoping to see a policeman, but saw none. "Just get away and you won't get hurt."
Megan started to laugh. "You aren't going to hurt anyone, you homo."
The driver ran.
* * *
I sat in front of the computer, looking over some of the plans that Jab had been drawing up. This time it was moisture extractor. If the specs were accurate, this thing would generate 10 gallons of water and hour in Death Valley with a humidity index in negative numbers. It was impressive.
My thinking was disturbed when Megan came in.
"Well hi. Weren't you supposed to be on a bus to school about now?"
"The stupid driver wouldn't let me get on."
"He didn't like my armor."
"Oh." I was embarrassed. Karen had told me it was a bad idea to let the kids wear their suits to school, but I'd figured 'what the hell,' it wasn't going to hurt anyone. I guess I was wrong. "Well, I'll run you over then. Get in the car and I'll be right out." As I was getting in the car, Ficus thumped down in the driveway.
"Damn, Ficus. I told you not to do that."
"I don't care. That school sucks."
"So does mine" said Aron a moment later.
"What's going on here? Each of you are supposed to be in school, and should have been there for twenty minutes by now."
None of the kids spoke. They just stood around and dug in the dirt with their toes. I was going to start yelling, but about then a cop car pulled up in front of the house, and a policeman got out.
He looked at the kids, shook his head, and then looked at me. "Are you the parent of these kids?"
"Uh, yeah officer. Why?"
School, the cops, AND the neighbors?
"Well, as Mrs. Minniver would say in the movies, this is quite a pickle." I looked at the kids, now sitting on the sofa and engaged deeply in the cartoon channel.
"I told you there'd be trouble if you let the kids try to wear their armor" Karen scolded.
"Yeah, I know" I sighed. "But even you have to admit that everyone is over reacting to this."
"Well, some. But what do you expect?"
Ficus' school had told me that the door he broke was going to cost some eight hundred dollars to fix. I figured that was outright bullshit and had no intention of paying. The school bus driver was pressing assault charges on my daughter, and Aron had flat been expelled. "Well, I sure as hell didn't expect this."
"I hate to tell you, but it gets worse."
"How? How in the hell can it be worse?"
"My brother is selling the house."
"What? His house? Why should I care about that?"
"He's selling this one. Actually, he's already got an offer."
I deflated visibly. This was entirely bad news. "Ok, so I know how it can be worse now."
"No, you don't."
"I don't" I echoed. "Great."
"The city left a notice in the mailbox. They say that our yard is a junk heap because of all that metal and stuff back there, and that the neighbors complained. The neighbors have also caught glimpses of the ships we've had here, and the Fire Department has had reports that we've burned things in an unapproved incinerator."
"What's the bottom line?"
"The city is charging us $10,000 for cleanup --they say that they're going to have to file and environmental impact statement because the materials may be leeching into the ground water."
I held my head in my hands. "God" I mumbled. "We don't have anything that can harm the environment. At least nothing we don't operate with a trigger."
"I know that, Sweetheart. I'm sorry."
"No need to apologize, you didn't do anything."
Karen sat down on the sofa with the kids, and Ficus looked over and asked why, if things were so crappy, didn't we move somewhere cool. I asked what he meant by that, and he suggested Portland. "We have to move out of here, and if we leave, Spokane can't do much to us."
I had to admire the logic of it but the fact was, we didn't have the money that the city wanted, we didn't have any. The bank account was as dry as a bone. "Maybe we ought to take over the mountain home Brian is closing up on Velar" I said. I was kidding.
"That might not be such a bad idea, Bob" said Karen. "I'm getting to hate the way things are. Nobody is safe, everything is too expensive..."
"So what? You want to go live on a planet where we don't speak the language, the air is kind of green, and our neighbors would all be magicians who don't trust us? You think you're unhappy here?"
"Will they have channel 13?" asked Brenna. "Can we watch Full House there?"
"No, Bren. I think it's a little far for the tv signal to go."
"Well, Bob. What are we going to do?" asked Karen.
"I guess it's time to be moving on."
"So, are we going to Velar, dad?" asked Megan. She wasn't too sure she was up for moving.
"No, Velar isn't a great idea. I think we need something private, and that's completely under our control."
We talked about a number of places, but after four hours of discussion, the family decided on it's own planet. After all, it wasn't like we had to buy property. There weren't any realtors where we were going. We didn't know exactly where that would be, though.
The cat and I decided that we'd do some research. I wanted to get a grasp of what might be available, would lend itself to domestication, and wouldn't be so far that a visit to Earth would be a hell of a commute. "We'll have to go see Brian for this" I told Jab. "Only Penny can process the amount of information we need in a reasonable period of time."
"She very fast. Know math good too." I shook my head and smiled at the Meenzal.
"That she is. Shall we go talk to her?"
"You won't have to go far, Bob" came Penny's voice from my computer.
"I thought your link was trashed" I said.
"Brian demanded that I restore it, so I did."
"Far out. You're just in time, we need you do do some reading for us."
"I know, I have the material you need."
"Huh? How long have you been monitoring?"
"A couple of hours. You all were talking so I didn't interrupt."
"You're always welcome here, Penny."
"Thanks, Bob. Here's what you wanted to know." For a half hour, Jab and I saw pictures and descriptions on the screen, and chatted about each of them with Penny. When we were done, we'd identified twelve contenders for our new home. While the kids were eating lunch, Jab and I climbed into the ship and started a tour of our possibilities.
And just LOOK at this view!
Jab and I spent nearly fifty hours over four days exploring the possible homesites Penny had on her list. All of them were a washout. Each one Penny found had the requirements we laid out, but there were off-the-list problems, and big ones. We were pretty discouraged after all of the probing and prodding we'd had to do. Having to explain that the valiant explorers had come up empty was an added embarrassment. We'd disappointed everybody.
"Don't feel bad, Honey" said Karen. "It's not your fault that nothing is working out."
"Yeah, well we have to do something fairly soon. The first hearing on the school's damage is in four days, and Megan is slated for trial in a week."
"Well, we could live on Mars, for all that goes. As long as we're together."
Jab and I looked at each other.
"You know what I mean. If we have ourselves, we have what we need."
"Mars?" I was still hung up in the concept. The kids looked at me and then at Karen.
"Are we going to be martians?" asked Aron.
"I don't know" I answered. Actually, I kind of liked the idea. Jab remained silent through the chatter that followed. Ficus mused that we could have a great time recarving the Mars Face, and Aron wanted to sail the canals. I didn't have the heart to tell him that they were simply dry rifts. Megan was thrilled that she might be a martian, and Brenna was wondering aloud what martians might look like. I thought back to a Bradbury story I read once, where kids asked their dad what martians looked like, and he had them see their reflections in a pool.
The excitement waned after a bit, and everyone wandered off, leaving Jab and I alone.
"What's no good, Nahn?"
"What's wrong with mars?"
"Human be visit soon."
"Yeah, that's true. But it may be years, too."
"Ok, cat-face. What aren't you telling me?"
"Is better idea than mars."
"And what's the better idea?"
"We look more."
I sighed and looked at him. He was right. If we started to build anything of note, every step would be watched closely by astronomers, both military and civillian. No doubt, we'd have visitors in a hurry and they wouldn't be there to share dinner. I leaned back and closed my eyes. This wasn't going well. No, it sure as hell wasn't.
The following morning, after a welcomed full night sleep, Jab and I were back in the saddle again with a new list from Penny in hand. The first rock we came to turned out to be the one we chose. It was a big bruiser, it had a girth of nearly five miles. The asteroid was roughly cylindrical and had a height --or width depending on your perspective-- of seven and a half miles. Penny scanned it and guess it's mass at around 1/20 of Earth. That seemed heavy, but she said it was pretty dense and solid all the way through. The body had no rotation quotient, and it's distance from Earth could be travelled in under forty minutes.
The cat and I put on our armor and took a look at it in person. We'd done that with all of the rocks we'd looked at, but unlike those trips, this one didn't reveal any nasty surprises. I left a homing bug on the asteroid and we sprinted for home. We had some planning to do.
* * *
"Bob wants some help."
"Building a house. He said."
"Building? What does he mean by that? I'm not really in the mood to swing a hammer."
"No, he wants to carve it out of rock, and since you've done that, he wanted to know how."
"Well, I used magic in the Velar mountaintop. Where is he building?"
"An asteroid about eight light minutes out."
"Interesting. I'll give it some thought."
I hereby declare this bridge open...
The way we figured it, we could hollow the inside of the asteroid so that it became like a thick walled pipe with the ends capped. When rotation was applied to the body, there'd be gravity. Well, centripidal force anyway. The next design aspect would be to maintain a mass balance with our internal structures. Cordon it off with with partition walls and light it from the center with a rod that ran along the axis. That would put or 'sun' some mile and three-quarters from the ground. Air would circulate from one end of the cylinder to the other.
We placed redundant power generators on each end of the sunrod which not only powered the light, but provided power to the entire habitat. We put in two half-million gallon water tanks, one at each 'end' of the station. With the general thumbsketch of the design, we set Penny to work at filling in the real detail for power, water, sewage, air motion and communications. When she was done, we had a fifty page set of blueprints and a forty page bill of materials. Just for the hell of it, I had Penny to a cost analysis on everything and it came to nearly forty billion dollars. Karen and I saw that on the screen, looked at each other, and started laughing.
"Is too much?" asked Jab innocently.
"Looks like I may end up with the record for theft" I laughed. "Oh well, if you're going to steal something, steal something big."
"Are you really going to steal all of this?" asked Karen. "You'll be caught and then what?"
"Actually, much of it will come from the asteroid itself. We're going to need Brian's Lunar Lab and a lot of Penny's help."
"Why, if what you need is in the asteroid..."
"That's just raw materials. We're going to need a way to smelt the metals out of the ores, then a way to form the metals --not to mention a way to machine metallic parts."
"Can no go like that."
"Huh? Why not?"
"Take hundred year make by selves."
"So what are you saying? Are we supposed to go conscript a labor force or something?"
"Can no do that. Need Mage."
"Yep. I agree. Not only that, but I'm hoping he'll make a gate for us."
Karen perked up. "A gate? You mean like the one that takes us to the lab on the moon? How neat!"
"It's the only thing that makes sense. Unless I wanted to actually have a house somewhere that just acts kind of like a front door to the asteroid. I don't like that idea though, because it gives too much access to us."
Ficus strolled in from his bedroom where he'd been playing video games with Aron. "What's everybody talking about?" We explined how the new home would be built and our concerns about the gate.
" Is that all you're worried about? Hell, ask mom if we can put the gate in her house. She isn't going anywhere." Karen and I looked at each other and both of us broke out laughing at the same time.
"Sure, your mom would love having the Earth gate at her house."
"She would if she thought that you were taking us where no law could catch us." The boy looked smug.
"I'll just wait here is you guys are going to go explain all of this to Sue" said Karen. "I think this ought to be a very intimate discussion between you two."
* * *
"I haven't got time for chatting" bristled Suzanne. "You said you had something important to talk about and I get a science fiction story?"
I'd just blurted out that I wanted to take the kids to live in an asteroid. It did lack tact, but at least it got the conversation started. I'll give her this; she listened as I gave the Reader's Digest Condensed version of what I'd been doing for the past couple of years. Some of the story amused her, and some of it made her shake her head in disbelief. But she did actually listen. In the end, the only thing to do was to show her, so I asked her to take a ride with me. I'm sure she assumed I meant in my dilapidated Honda.
She looked for my car as we stood in her driveway. Fifty feet above us, Jab was hovering in my little sprint ship. "Are you ready?" I asked her.
"Ready for what?" She looked a bit irritable, but that gave way to surprise as Jab engaged the small tractor beam and raised us up and into the ship. Suzanne stood frozen in the spot she'd arrived on. Her eyes, I thought, just couldn't get any wider.
"Hello used Bobwife" greeted Jab from his control station. Sue's eyes did get wider. A lot wider. But then they closed after her eyeballs rolled up and she dropped like a sanbag to the deck.
Her eyes fluttered a after a few seconds, and her eyes tentatively opened. Looking down at her was Jab and I. "For a minute there, I thought the cat said something" She giggled quietly. "I must not be getting enough sleep."
"Maybe want chocolate at bedtime" offered Jab, and Sue's face fell.
"Oh god. It did talk. This is your cat, right?"
"Why yes, as a matter of fact, this is my cat... actually, he's a Meenzal."
"I'm sure he is" she said staring at him. "What else would he be."
It got slightly better from there. She allowed herself to be restrained into the second seat, and didn't even scream when I went to full sprint and left the planet a receding globe behind us. Suzanne was facinated that she could see 'through' the walls, and Jab did a pretty good job of explaining ship's systems to her; given his trouble with speaking english clearly. I spent a half hour steering the ship around close in on the planet. At least close by my usual standards.
When we came back to rest in my backyard, she was even friendly. "This is just too cool, as the kids would say. Where do you go with it? What have you seen?" She fired off about a hundred questions, and I had to tell her to slow down. I added a little more detail to our encounter with the Guardian, but purposely neglected to tell her it damn near killed us. The truth of everything would have to unfold slowly, or she might get upset and screw things up. But I felt that she needed to know what I was doing, and what I had planned for the kids. So over a roast that Karen made, we all sat as a big family and talked bout the circumstances.
At the end, she not only accepted it all, but wanted to help. She'd love to have the gateway in her house, and said she wouldn't mind joining in on an exploration --if we'd have her. I got a look from Karen when I said I thought it would be fine.
"I don't know if I trust her" Karen confided after Suzanne had left. "You guys had some really bad times. Do you really think her house is a good place to have our front door?"
"Yes, actually I do" I answered. It was necessary that the kids had access to their friends and their mom. To just take them away would be pretty damn cold. I'd be pretty pissed if it was done to me. "This will give the kids a good grounding with their mom and I both."
"We'll see" she said. She sounded dubious.
"Then I guess we have this about ready to go. If Brian agrees to help us with construction and the gate, this might not take too long."
"When's he coming back?"
"When he's ready. Newlyweds you know."
"Yeah" she sighed. "Remember when we were newly married?"
"Of course I do. Five years ago yesterday."
Karen sighed again, this time more deeply. "I bet they're all cuddled up and just feeling so much in love."
"Make me puke, woman."
"Aw, don't be so cynical and macho. I bet they don't even have harse words with each other."
I said nothing.
Can it catch fire?
"Well, can it?" asked Suzanne. Her hands were on her hips, so she was skeptical.
"Uh, no. There is no way the gate can catch fire" I answered. It was hard to disguise the sigh in my voice.
"If you're sure then. Ok. Now how does it work again?"
I explained that it looked like a closet to anyone who might slide the doors open and peek. But anyone it's keyed to recognize could step into the closet, slide the door shut and step through the gate. "It doesn't work on technology. It's magic."
"And I can go through there?"
"Sure, try it out."
"You go first." Her eyes narrowed slightly.
I went into the closet, shut the door and then stepped to the side behind some coats. Sue called my name, knocked on the door, and then slid it open. She peeked inside, and then opened the door all the way. After hesitating a second, she stepped into the closet. She was about to step through the gate when I hopped out and yelled boo. Her reaction was swift. She screamed and came at me like a lioness. "Whoa! Whoa, hold on ---it was a joke!"
"Not very funny" she spit.
"Ok, ok. I'm sorry. I apologize. Come on, I'll step through with you."
Sue thought for a second then nodded. I laid a hand on her shoulder and stepped through the gate. At the other end of the step, we were on the planetoid. We stood in an airlock that was a cube some 15 feet on a side. To the right and left were large hatchways. One led to the hangar deck and the other into the habitat itself. Directly in front of us was a set of cubicles that contained lightweight armor. This is the type we'd wear for general purposes. There was also cabinets which contained a variety of emergency supplies and weapons. Suzanne was impressed. "That's space out there?" she asked. She pointed through the hangar to the exterior port. Jab had installed a magnetic seal on the opening, so it would maintain atmosphere while allowing things to pass through. Since it was a field, it was quite invisible, and we could look out into space.
"Yep, sure is."
Surveying the hangar deck: "That's your ship over there, right?" I nodded. "What are those little things?"
"Runabouts. Little sleds for light travel and stuff like that."
"Why so many?"
"One for each of the kids, one for each adult, and then..."
"Wait. You said the kids? You aren't really going to let them fly these are you?"
"Why not? It's a hell of a lot safer than driving a car. Plus, they're shielded against collision and impacts."
"You can crash it and it won't get hurt?"
"Well, there's limits. But for the most part, the use won't present any danger."
Her hands went to her hips again as she looked at the sleds. She was not real sure about any of this. I tapped her shoulder and got her attention. "Why don't you see for yourself? You have one too, you know."
"Sure." I led her out onto the deck and showed her a sled up close. Easy to operate, they look sort of like lounge chairs with canopies. She sat down and I showed her the controls. There was a control stick in the center, and a power attenuator slider on the left. Push the attenuator forward to go forward, backwards to go back. The stick controlled the three axis of the sleds movement. "You've flown with me, so you know how this works."
"That was a Luscombe" said said uncertainly. But she sat down and I had her engage the restraints. The sled's shields autoengaged with them.
"You're all ready" I said and dropped into the one next to hers. I hit the belts and gave forward stick and backwards power. The ship rose slightly aft high. Suzanne copied the movement and rose along with me. At five feet off the deck, I nudged power forward and started off through the hatchway into the main chamber with Sue right behind.
"This is pretty easy" said Sue through the comm link. To prove it, she rolled the sled.
"Please don't do that in here. I don't want the kids to see that and be doing that stuff inside."
"I thought you said they couldn't get hurt."
"I did. I neglected to mention that the kids can certainly damage things if they hit them."
We rose to about three hundred feet off of the 'ground' inside the main chamber. Brian had done a great job. There were areas of grass and trees, some areas of running creeks --even a pond. It was very much like daylight inside with the illumination rod. Since it was installed, I assumed that Brian probably helped Jab hang it before he left. But the cat had it all fired up and working, and it could have been Sol as seen from Earth if it wasn't for the fact that it wasn't spherical.
I turned after making a quick tour of the chamber, and zipped back out through the hangar and into space outside the planetoid. Again, Suzanne was right behind. She gasped when the station wasn't under her anymore, and she was just a tiny object in a big universe. "What happens if you get lost out here?" she asked.
"You can't really get lost, Sue. The sleds can home in on this place from across the solar system; twice the distance from here to the sun." She swung her sled around to face it. It was a whitish tiny ball, way off in the distance.
"Whew! That's a long way."
"Yep, now tell the sled to take you home."
"Sure." She did, and the tiny craft did a reverse gainer and sped back to the station. I did the same, and a few moments later was sliding to a stop on the hangar deck. "So, what do you think?"
"I think it'll take me a while to get used to that. I feel kinda ill."
I chuckled. "It does that to everyone."
We walked back to the gate and stepped through. This time Suzanne went first, and without a second thought. We stepped out of the closet and into the room. "That was amazing, alright."
"Well, I think it's a whole new ballgame. There's a lot of plusses to it."
"I suppose so. The kids are going to continue school, right?"
"Oh yeah. No sweat on that one. Each of us will have a turn at teaching one subject or another. We also have a hell of a computer on the way, and it'll be able to do some education tasks too."
It was time to go meet with Jab and Karen. They were at the lunar lab doing some work with the remotes. Karen was firm that what now were rectangular connecting caves needed to become comfortable homes before we did much else. So they'd assembled the necessary environmental machinery right after Brian had finished. So far there was power, air and light.
"Week will be bitch" mumbled the cat as I walked in.
"Lots to do" agreed Karen.
Indeed there was, so we got started.
With that done...
It took six days, but we did it. Karen, the kids, Jab and I worked steadily to get everything finished, and we did. On the planetoid was running water, available power, communications of just about every type, and the finishing touches to the living and working areas. We towed a second asteroid into a position close to K1, the name we gave our home. On it we installed the main power generation system. Our working lab was equivilent in many ways to the lunar lab Brian built. With help from Penny, we built remotes to help us do needed tasks and maintenance. With all of that done, everybody slept a full eighteen hours.
When we got up, it was moving day. The next day was the day that we had to go to court, so I wanted to be done long before we were due in the courtroom. Everyone was responsible to pack up what they wanted, and that took a few hours. Next there was the matter of getting it to K1. That proved fairly easy once we decided that we didn't care what the neighbors saw. The way it went, nobody saw anything. It was almost disappointing.
Jab and I built a cargo container that held everything. It was made to be attached to my ship, which my kids had decided was called 'Thug.' They said it was ugly, fast, stealthy and dangerous, like a thug. I centered over the container, attached to it, and we were off. The unloading went much faster, we just dropped the container in the hangar. It was time for a 180 back to Earth. After all, we had some cleaning up to do.
We set the Thug down on the back yard for the last time, and went around to collect all the garbage and other things we didn't want anymore. Piling it all behind the garage, we ended up with a stack nearly 12 feet tall. The kids had drawn straws, and Aron won.
"Man the weapons console please, Aron."
"Cool" he said sitting down.
"Targeting is at your discretion, aim carefully and don't hit anything besi..." The ship shuddered a little as Aron opened up on the pile with the plasma cannon, and half of the pile vaporized into quarks. The other half began to burn hotly and brightly. It was kind of striking in the evening dusk. Aron fired again, and the burning pyre disappeared too, following the first half into oblivion.
"Weapons off" said Aron.
"Dead guns. Let's head for home." I took the Thug up slowly in a spiral. We watched our old house get smaller as we pulled away. We could also see the neighbors running to the fence and peering at the property. I could hear their petty banter in my mind's ear. Wondering what we'd done now.
"Hot guns" I said and took weapons over on the main flight console. Aiming at the center of the back yard, I cut loose a two second burst from the rail guns, and then focused a photon plasma beam from the cannon at the impact point of the rails. It heated the Earth to the point that the rocks and dirt began to boil. "They'll be talking about that for a while" I said. Below us we could see the neighbors running back home, scattered like frightened hens. "Ok, now the guns are dead. Let's go home." Our house receded into a pinpoint and then was lost amidst the homogination of detail.
* * *
"You're supposed to be in court right now" said Karen.
"I don't think I'm going to make it" I replied. The family was on it's way to the lunar lab for a trip through the gate to Velar, and we were most of the way there.
"You're going to be a wanted man, you know."
"Yeah, but it's all civil. The way the courts go, they'll carry the case for a year and then dump it. It's all civil or juvie."
"I suppose that's right. I'll bet you can find ways to pass the time, too. Our whole world is your new toy." I chuckled in return, and set the Thug up for a vertical descent into the lab hangar bay. We unloaded and went single file through the gate. Forty minutes later, we were at Kal's home, and we gathered up on her porch.
I knocked on the door, and after a moment Kal poked her head out the door. On seeing us, she gasped and called Brian. He appeared almost immediately behind her and opened the door wide.
We stood there all dressed in black. We wore matching outfits of black T-shirts, black boots, black jeans and black leather belts. We all had a skull and crossbones in luminous white as an insignia on the right of their chests. Karen and I each wore the earrings we'd been given just a few days ago. "Hi Kal," I said loudly. "Welcome to the family" I handed her a rail road spike and Karen gave Brian a hammer.
Kal's eyes widened as she looked at the spike and then the hammer. "Now hold your foot out here, dear" said Karen. Kal screamed and tried to retreat. But Brian was behind her and was unyielding. She looked into his eyes, saw the twinkle of humor, and relaxed. She faced me. "Robert, what is the meaning of this?"
"Uh, hehheh. It's a joke."
"I understand" she said. It was clear she didn't understand at all. "Come inside. I cannot have my guests standing in the street."
"It's ok, we're family."
A hint of a smile appeared at the corners of her mouth. "Then there's food in the kitchen and I have things to do" she said, and went inside. Brian grinned and gave Karen a hug, then solemnly shook hands with all four kids. The Meenzal received an informal salute.
"Just think, cat. We're related" said Brian. Jab heaved up a furball.
"Do you have any babies?" asked Brenna. "Can I have one?"
Brian looked at me. "This is going to be a long damn day."
"I'm bored" said Ficus. Megan said she was too. Aron wanted to know if there was an arcade with Mortal Kombat nearby.
"Yeah, Brian. I think it just might be. By the way, I meant to ask. Is it just my imagination, or does my asteroid look a little feline in shape all of a sudden?"
"You noticed, then?"
"Like I could miss it. You carved it to look just like Jab."
"I thought you'd like that."
"Jab like just fine" purred the Meenzal.
"So, when are you and Kal going to make your quarters on K1?" asked karen.
"Maybe today would be good" replied Brian, looking at the kids. "I'll go see what Kal thinks."