By Kalindra nal Kan
December 31, 1995
By the way the day had started, you'd never have guessed that it was going to be one of the most important days in history of my family. Everything looked pretty much the same as it had every morning for the last few years. Lythandi and Naldantis were upstairs argueing over what to fix for breakfast, my mate was in the bathroom grousing about finding yet another grey hair in his now waist-length pelt and my son was sitting with his nose in a portable datapad ignoring the world around him.
<sigh> "Once again, I find myself waking up to an empty bed..."
Lan Louis at least had the good manners to pretend he hadn't heard his mother say anything, my silly mate was another story.
"If you would bother to bathe at least once a week, we wouldn't be so anxious to get away from you in the morning," came his almost humorous comment as he walked back into the room.
The look in his eyes said he expected to get a reaction from me, so naturally I ignored him and grabbed my grooming brush to begin working on the tangles in my tail. "Lan Louis, would you please ask Lythandi if she might make waffles for breakfast today." My son looked up at me with a grin and was running through the door before I could ask him to invite Tanindra to join us for breakfast.
"I think our son has developed a sweet tooth," I said with a chuckle.
"Given who his mother is, I'm surprised he even has any teeth left. I think that ..." and my mate became mercifully quiet as I pounced on him and began beating on him with the closest pillow I could find ...
* * *
After breakfast, and before he could find an excuse, I took my mate by the arm and escorted him outside where we could go for a walk and talk without worry. What I wanted to discuss with him though was not what he had expected to hear me ask.
"Brian, have you thought about Bob and Karen lately?" As strong as I am, he still managed to stop cold and not let me drag him further down the road.
"Yes, and why do you ask?"
After a low growl and a swipe at his rear, I convinced him to at least sit down beside the road while we talked. "Robert and Karen are family, and it has been entirely too long since we last saw either of them. Since we are going to be so close to them this afternoon, I want you to consider going to visit them. On this day of all others, Robert and you might try to set aside painful memories and remember the good ones."
"That's easier said then done," came the reply after he had thought about it for awhile. "You aren't the one that Bob wanted dead."
"Neither are you," I reminded him. "He wanted Penny dead, he only wanted you rendered harmless. I believe he said he wanted to, 'Beat some sense into that thick skull of yours', or something to that effect."
"I don't recall him being that diplomatic actually," said my mate with a chuckle. I didn't answer, so he sat and looked at me quietly while I felt him thinking it over. "You really want this?" he asked a few moments later.
"Yes, a part of my family has been too long abandoned, I wish to correct this loss of honor." He didn't say yes, but he did agree to think about it, which I counted as a yes given how well I knew him. As we walked back towards our home though, I did my best to make sure he didn't pick up any of the other thoughts that continued to run through my mind. You see, it hadn't been just my idea, Penny had mentioned it to me a few weeks earlier and telling my mate that would have ended the conversation before it started. Penny, Earth, and Bob were still a combination that generated irrational anger instead of reasoned thought ...
* * *
We'd been fussing over each other for an hour, and neither of us felt we looked our best as my mate picked a few of my hairs from his cloak and muttered about living with someone who shed. Standing before the mirror though, I thought our appearance was at least adequate for what figured to be the most important appearance of both our lives. My mate, his black silk shirt and pants spotless, and the cloak I'd had made for him all those years ago flowing behind him. Myself, wearing my best green dress and a cloak of my own, standing at his side.
"Milady," and Brian held out my staff for me to take.
"Milord," I said in thanks as I took it from him and then watched as he tucked his own symbol of office into a pocket of his cloak. Then, with one final hug, we stepped from the bedroom and joined the rest of the family, who had been patiently waiting by the door for us. And waiting right out side that door, waiting to escort us to the gate, was Tanindra ne Sasl ...
"Hello old friend. Are you ready for an evening of excitement?"
Tanindra looked at me for a moment before he broke into a grin. "Always, though I believe I agree with your mate. Tonights excitement will consist of your family and I trying to explain to young males that you are not to be bothered."
"You do not believe I am capable of explaining that to them myself any longer?" and I swatted Brian with my tail on general principles. "Am I so old and decrepit now that I need others to defend me?" Tanindra's only response was to cower before me and try to look pitiful as he muffled a laugh against his arm.
It was the start of a running joke also as we all walked along the road to the meadow gate. Every small noise in the forest around us would generate a flurry of activity from either Tanindra, Brian or Naldantis as they leapt between the imagined threat and me. Then they would scream and cower behind me as they discovered what ever the real source of the noise was. I had to admit, even as a joke, I enjoyed it.
When we stepped through the gate and onto the lunaformed area of the Terran moon, all the joking vanished as we were swarmed over by the hundred or so guests that had all accepted our invitation ...
* * *
Of all the races we've come to know in the last six years, the people of my mate's homeworld still manage to throw the best parties. Jean, Dave and the rest of the rather odd crew that had been close to us the last few years had arranged for a feast that we would remember for years. Not everyone understood all the various reasons for the party, most thought that it was the official celebration of Terra's becoming part of the Trade Alliance we'd built the last six years.
The Terrans though were also celebrating their worlds passing into their Twenty First Century, and were doing their best to spread their enthusiasm to the rest of the crowd. Even the stoic Pell Warrior's that stood beside the Master Worldgate managed to enjoy themselves with a little help. So, the party of the century, in the middle of a 100 square mile of green in the middle of the crater called Tycho, got louder by the moment as I quietly tried to find a place to ride out the evening and not go deaf.
"Kalindra, have you seen Brian?" asked Dave after he managed to get my attention.
"He was over by the gate, trying to get one of the guards to try a glass of eggnog the last I saw him," I told Dave between giggles. I watched as he probably tried to picture something that looked like a twelve foot Terran bear, in full armor and weapons, drinking something as silly as eggnog.
"That sounds like something Brian would do..." said Dave between laughs. With a quick kiss on my cheek, and a quicker dodge of my tail as I tried to swat him, he wandered off in the direction of the gate. Knowing what was to happen, I was pretty sure I knew exactly what they would be talking about, so I stayed right where I was. I'd heard it all before, more times then I wanted to.
Terra didn't know yet what had been going on around it, but tonight would change much of that. At midnight, January 1st, 2001, the Master Worldgate and the computer complex it contained was going to change the world that hung in the lunar sky above us in more ways then we could even guess.
From a thousand different parts of the Terran computer network, files were going to be transmitted from hidden sites, that documented the Trade Alliance and its members. Other files would contain the plans for one of the simpler forms of the Momentum Wave Drive that would allow Terra to join that Alliance as an equal partner. WWW-VR sites, which had simply been transmitting test patterns for weeks, would switch to full hyperlinked feeds of the party. Anyone who watched those was going to have a hard time believing any attempt to write the whole thing off as a hoax.
And with the help of Dave and his friends, even the country of my mate's birth would be included. All the censor nodes created to control the flow of information were going to be helpless, when knowledge backed by a little magic flowed through the optical links.
Between avoiding the loudest areas of the party, and making sure none of my family or friends snuck up on me, I almost missed the deep gong of the Worldgate as it announced the approach of midnight on the world above us. There was no way I could afford to miss that event, both my mate and I had something to do shortly afterwards that would complete the path we had first walked down so many years ago. I wasn't the only one that remembered though, and even as I got to my feet, Brian was holding out his hand to help me.
"Are you ready?" he asked with an undertone of sadness in his voice.
"As ready as I can be ..." and the two of us walked arm in arm to the Worldgate and the crowd that waited for us.
The Terran's in the crowd were all gathered around the gate, watching the time display as it crept its way towards midnight. Those of us who knew about the information dispersal were paying more attention to the hologram display in front of the gate then the clock. When someone started shouting out the countdown though, the entire crowd soon joined in and began counting with them and the air was filled with the voices, blinks and signs of eight different races counting down to zero. When the clock signaled midnight, the screams and laughter roared back louder then ever.
And as the hologram display began to track the awakening network links, the touch of a mind I knew so well, got me to turn around so the owner could pull me into his arms and kiss me...
When I let him release me, we were both short of breath, but grinning like fools. It was with that grin on our faces that we turned back to the crowd and got their attention. The fact that the gate echoed our summons just served to get everyone else's interest as well.
"Friends, my mate and I have one other thing to do tonight, that I suspect will come as a surprise to the people involved."
"It better be a surprise or I'm turning Penny into a table ornament," muttered Brian from beside me.
"We owe more then we can ever say to all of you, but to two special people here tonight we owe a debt that we will be paying on the rest of our lives. We'd like to thank them now, and we'd like to do it in the company of those who will understand what it means to us." I caught Tanindra's eye as he stood at the edge of the crowd, while Brian signalled to Jean to come forward. When the crowd around us noticed whom we were looking at, they began to cheer them on as they opened a path to let them step forward. To my great pleasure, both of them look about ready to turn and run for cover as they finally stood before us.
"Jean, you have been more help to me the last few years then I can ever make clear I suspect," came the soft voice of my mate beside me. "I couldn't have asked for a better friend or student. Tonight, when so much of our world is beginning to change below us, I want to change one other thing." While Jean stood there with a mixture of curiosity and fear on her face, my mate reached into his cloak and pulled out the Book of Mages and handed it to her. "The years ahead are going to be crazy and wonderful I hope, and my home world needs someone young to watch over it during that time. So, with that in mind, I now transfer the title of ArchMage to the person I believe will serve our world best."
I'm not sure what she felt, but her first reaction was to start to cry. Having just watched my mate retire, Tanindra looked about ready to cry also, as I turned back and looked at him. "My mate is as wordy as ever, but he has the right idea," and while Tan stood there in shock I handed him the staff I'd carried since the day I'd been made ArchMage of my world. When he tried to hand it back, I shook my head, took my mate by the arm, and the two of us walked into the now silent crowd behind us...
* * *
It was several hours later before the party and the people who wanted to talk to us finally began to quiet down. Several times in the previous few hours, either Tanindra or Jean had approached us and tried to get us to reconsider. I had simply shaken my head each time, but Brian had finally taken to throwing food at Jean every time she got close. I'd have expected one of our famous food fights to develop, but I think the rest of the family was watching out for us as Brian and I sat on the side of one of the closer hills and listened to the music in the distance.
"Brian, it's about that time..." I mentioned as I tickled him with my tail. With a grin and a small belch, he got to his feet and pulled me to mine.
"I wonder if Bob or Jab was watching the network tonight?" he mentioned as we walked down the hill towards the gate. "They've had about eight hours to have noticed something going on, since we triggered things at 12:00 GMT time."
"If they have, we'd have heard I suspect. Robert is a fair enough telepath that I'd have heard his scream when he noticed what we'd done." I had to guide my mate towards the gate as we talked, since he'd been sipping on eggnog plus most of the evening. "He knew it was coming though, since you'd talked about it around him."
"He might not have been sure when though ..."
"Then we might have more then one surprise for him," I said with a laugh. "Robert always did enjoy my surprises." With one slightly wobbling human beside me, and the family making sure we were left undisturbed for a few minutes, I got to play what the Terrans call 'Twenty Questions' as I tried to get Brian to tell me where Bob and Karen were living now. It didn't take long to figure out he'd been hiding something, the unpleasant surprise was what he'd been hiding ...
"Karen doesn't live with Bob anymore," he finally admitted, "They split up a few years ago." The argument that followed as not especially pleasant either. "You can complain all you want, but it won't help," he told me with finality in his voice. "I'm not even sure where Karen lives now, but I do remember Bob's home. If you insist on seeing her, we'll still have to see Bob first."
"Then give the coordinates to the gate, and I'll think of what I want to say to my 'husband'..." and while I worked it out in my head, Brian described the place to the gate computer system. When it had a lock on the place, my mate and I said our good-byes to our closest friends and got ready to step through. "Brian, this does not look like a house," I asked in puzzlement as the gate resolved the target.
"We're going to visit Bob on New Years night, we need some champagne or something to celebrate with. I picked a store I remembered on the edge of Couer D'Alene where we can get something, then I'll teleport us to his house."
"You might have warned me so I could have built up my disguise." I was surprised to see a familiar glint of humor in his eyes as he grinned at me.
"My world is getting the surprise of the century tonight, one more surprise for a convenience store clerk won't hurt," and he took my arm in his and pulled me through the open gate. As it turned out, the clerk wasn't the only one surprised. There was a small crowd in the store as we entered, and the conversations all died away as they saw me gliding through the door beside Brian.
"Uh, good evening... folks" stammered the clerk as I stepped out of the way of some people who felt the need to leave quickly. "Can I h-help you?"
"Where do you keep the champagne," asked Brian, and then he headed off in the direction the clerk pointed.
Me? I just stood there beside the counter and tried to keep from laughing as the clerk tried to figure out what I was without staring at me. "Is something wrong?" I finally asked when I decided he might actually die of curiosity. Unfortunately, I couldn't suppress the giggle I felt when I saw him react to my voice and the way I spoke his language.
"Uh, that's a costume, right?" he finally managed to stammer.
"Not that I'm aware of ..." and his eyes got even wider as I licked my muzzle and smiled at him. Fortunately for him, Brian returned with a large ornate bottle under his arm about the time I was going to growl and watch his reaction.
"Here you go," and Brian placed a pile of Terran money on the counter, which the clerk paid no attention to. "Uh, hello in there..." and I watched as Brian tried to get the clerks attention by waving his hand in front of his face. "Kalindra, I think you've stuned him..."
"I believe so my mate, your race seems to stun easy." With a smile I knew showed all of my teeth, I leaned closer to the clerk and growled softly. That was all it took, he turned and ran towards the back of the shop like he'd just seen an alien, which of course he had.
"You actually enjoyed that," laughed Brian as he double checked the money he'd left on the counter.
"Yes, I'm afraid I did," I answered with a laugh as he escorted me out of the shop.
"Gods help us ..." was all I heard as he wrapped his arm around me and concentrated for the 'port to Robert's home. He was still chuckling to himself as we vanished and re-appeared on a small dock that was almost completely dark. Only the moon lit the area as we got our bearings and walked towards the shape of the house we could see in the distance. "That's odd, I'd have expected Bob and the kids to have been out here ready to light off enough fireworks to have lit up the entire lake."
"Maybe you brought us to the wrong house?"
"No, this is the right place ..."
The house was much as I'd imagined it, from the descriptions Brian had given me earlier. A small home built into the hillside and surrounded by trees for privacy. It wasn't as private as K1 had been, but perhaps Robert had found he needed the company of his own kind more then he knew.
"I'd have at least thought he'd have left the porch light on," muttered Brian from beside me as he shifted the bottle in his arms and knocked on the door. It took several knocks, and a small amount of profanity before we both heard someone approach the door in front of us. Then things happened all at the same time ...
"Hello Bob, Happy New Year!" yelled Brian as he held the bottle of champagne high.
"Jesus H. Christ, what the hell are you doing here!" yelled Bob even louder as he saw us standing in his doorway.
"Hello Robert, it has been ..."
It felt like somebody had kicked me in the back as I flew forward into Robert's arms, and I heard a sharp cracking sound from behind me. The last thing I remember was wondering why Robert was wearing a bloody shirt to ...