tagSci-Fi & FantasyUnity and Destiny Pt. 06

Unity and Destiny Pt. 06


When Javier stretched and opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was a pair of bare feet. They belonged to Kat, who'd apparently rolled his direction overnight. Jacob only had one bedroom, and the visitors had insisted on sharing the living room floor.

Esther was still sitting in the same chair. Not asleep, but meditating. He hoped she'd gotten some sleep at least.

Jacob came in the door with some groceries, and Javier made himself useful getting breakfast going. Soon the bacon smell drew Kat and Grace, along with a very tired-looking Esther.

"I sent a text message last night to Selena," said Kat. "Just the code number we agreed on, saying we're safe. No reply, though. Probably no reception yet wherever they are."

"I sent Selena the same thing with our Morse code," said Esther. "They seem fine, though probably tired after skiing forty miles last night. They dug a snow shelter a few miles from one of the ski resorts north of Tahoe. Probably Selena's idea. There might be a working phone or cellular reception nearby, and supplies so they don't have to rely on Mark's hunting. She won't look out of place skiing over there during the day. I'm guessing they'll stay put unless we give them word to move."

"What about the search for us?" Javier asked.

"Moved on, it seems," said Esther. "They flew that surveillance plane over a few times during the night, checking to see if we stopped somewhere nearer the camp, but the storm's still going, and the trail we left may be difficult to find by the time they get a closer look. They left some cars stationed at the highway intersections, but as we hoped, they guessed we went west on 70, and the military types went that way. Before they left they did a more thorough search of the camp and took the computer, but that won't tell them anything. I'm pretty sure they installed some surveillance equipment as well."

Kat groaned. "Lovely."

"Well, I could identify it if we were closer, and then we could remove it. But I guess we can't go back there any time soon. I've tried to keep track of the people who seemed in charge. One of them seems to have come to Reno as well, but I think it's a coincidence. Merely the closest city with power and working phones."

"We should go find that asshole and kidnap the fuck out of him," grumbled Nicola as she came into the kitchen. "See how he likes it."

Esther frowned at Nicola, who shook her head as she looked for a coffee mug. "Joking, Esther. Really."

"One thing confuses me," said Grace. "Why did they try to get us at night, during that terrible weather? After all, they probably assumed Mark had good senses, so they'd be at a disadvantage. They should have just, I don't know, come with helicopters during the day or something. The whole thing seems really rushed."

"I was thinking about that," Javier said. "Maybe it's a clue. Mark and the others would barely have any of their abilities if it weren't for Esther's trick. I'm guessing they understand about how the vision incapacitated the Changed, and they tried to attack during the window where they thought Mark might be least dangerous."

Nicola nodded. "You're right. If not for Esther it would have worked perfectly. God, I hope they don't think it's extra-suspicious that we escaped."

Raj shook his head. "I think we might be in luck. They would have found the microwave receiver, and maybe they'll find a relay or the sensor on the road. It would take them a lot of effort to find all the little stations, so maybe they'll assume we had a better surveillance system than we did. That would be the simplest explanation for why we bolted. No one else has senses extending as far as Esther."

"No one they know of, we hope," amended Esther. "If they guess the fiery vision came from an individual, then they would understand how far our senses can reach. And I have news on that front as well. I was able to follow the trail of the vision a long way, though I couldn't sense a person at the other end. It was indeed from Japan. The person is concealing themselves well, but as long as the vision keeps going, I could likely find them if I went to Japan myself. I'm sure others could, as well."

"Let's assume they can take care of themselves," said Javier quickly. "We have enough trouble of our own. We need to get some new vehicles and find somewhere to stay for the long term."

"You're welcome here," said Jacob. "As long as you need."

"That's kind, Jacob," said Esther, yawning and moving to the couch. "But it's a tremendous imposition. And we might be safer farther away."

"I could steal a couple cars easily enough," said Nicola, looking pleased at the prospect.

"That would be risky," said Raj. "And we have our false identities, aside from Nicola. Why don't we just rent them?"

Nicola conceded the point, and they argued over who would be least suspicious. In the end they settled on Javier and Grace. Javier might be on someone's watch list, but his alter ego José lived in Reno already.

"And think how different he'll look once we buzz his hair!" Kat said. Javier rolled his eyes.

Twenty minutes later Javier felt awfully conspicuous and damn near bald, but Kat claimed he looked sexy as hell. He'd have preferred Esther's opinion, but she was finally asleep.

* * *

Esther woke up as Javier came back in. He'd shaved his head for some reason. Well, not quite shaved. It must be a disguise. She had horrible headache and still needed more sleep. But she should try to be cheerful.

"Oh, Javier. You look, uh, really good that way!"

He laughed. "You're a terrible liar, Esther, and I love you. It'll grow back anyway. We got cars! Looks like Grace made it back already. We went to separate places, just to be really sneaky. And on the way back, I scouted around for a car with California plates that looked like it had been parked on the street a long time. Tonight we're going to swap license plates with the truck."

"Oh," Esther said. "Won't that get the other people in trouble?"

"Not really," said Javier. "It's not their fault if someone does that to their car. And they may not notice for a long time."

Esther wasn't convinced, but she supposed it was better than risking the FBI snooping around Jacob's neighborhood.

Her head was pounding more, a result of too much work last night with her abilities. She needed a shower. And her clothes were a mess. She'd been too embarrassed to do as most of the others and borrow from Jacob while Kat did laundry this morning.

But mostly, she was so terribly angry at herself. She'd said to trust Myra Jackson, and everyone had trusted her the way they always did. She didn't understand the world as well as the others. Selena had been right to be suspicious.

Javier came over to kiss her, and she tried to be sweet to him, but he saw right through it.

"Go get a shower, Esther," he said. "Everyone else is done, so take your time. And then get some more sleep. We need you fresh to plan our next steps."

She bit back a sharp response. What was the matter with her, anyway? She should do as Javier said.

Once in the shower, Esther felt better, as Javier had known. She briefly considered using the sprayer on herself, if only to let off some stress—but that seemed totally wrong in Jacob's house. Instead she closed her eyes and meditated. Listening to everything would tire her out. But her subconscious had already alerted her to something going on with the government man here in Reno. He was barely four miles away, in a hotel. And he had a guest she hadn't seen in the raid.

The government man was pacing in his room. "What could that mean, Sebastian? They told us everyone was sharing intel now. We knew he was a high-value target, but why weren't we even told? It could have been a disaster if we'd run into the others."

"It almost was anyway," said the other man. "You let them slip away. No, I know, you don't have to tell me, James. It was a cock-up from the start."

"They didn't give us any time," James said. "I was still trying to plot out things on that fucking map at go time. Frankly I thought the men did damned well in that weather, and given everything else. But then the locals couldn't get a simple fucking blockade set up."

"Don't blame them," said Sebastian. "You know it was the rush. People upstairs, like always. Just take the win, and be glad we're done with it."

"I hate being in the dark," James said. "And what kind of elite team was so secret they couldn't tell me about it?"

"It's just the same old," said Sebastian. "Everyone protecting their own bureaucratic turf, even after what happened. Probably some bullshit CIA black ops team. Well, he's their problem now. I admit I did kind of want to see this supposed superhuman they're all in a tizzy about. Watch it be some poor asshole who had nothing to do with anything. People are losing their heads in Washington, I'm telling you."

Suddenly nervous, Esther checked on Mark and Selena. But they were fine, as she'd known. Selena was heading out for supplies. No commando teams converging on them.

"Probably taking him to Area 51," James said. "Wherever they keep the aliens."

"You know, I've actually been to Area 51," said Sebastian. "But I can't tell you about it. I'd have to kill you."

There was a pause and then both men laughed. Sebastian got up to shake hands, and then he left the other man alone in the room.

Esther turned off the shower, trying to understand what it meant, but she couldn't make it add up. They seemed to think they'd caught Mark, or at least that someone had. Could the other people be about to swoop in, and she just couldn't see it? The way she almost didn't see the attack on the camp?

She lay back in the tub and closed her eyes. Going deep into otherspace made her headache worse, but she could stand it for a while. She listened as best she could. No preconceptions. Just let her subconscious try to piece together the details into a larger picture. She wished she had Lukas's skill in doing so, but she supposed he'd been practicing for much longer. And as Javier had wisely said, her mind was built for the opposite direction: using deep abstractions to work out the details.

Eventually she gave up, opening her eyes and rubbing her forehead. There wasn't anything, not that she could see. And James and Sebastian had been talking as though everything had already happened. While she was meditating, James had set up his radio to make a call, telling someone their operation was over, and they could return to base.

Esther dried off and wrapped herself in a big towel. It left her decent enough, and she couldn't face putting on her dirty underwear again. She'd get it washed and then go buy some more.

The others were arguing over their next steps, but they broke off as soon as she approached. They didn't do that when it was someone else joining the discussion. It was because they assumed she had something to tell them, or some order to give. And annoyingly, they were right again. She relayed the conversation word for word.

"Holy cow," said Javier. "So they really did just want Mark, and they're calling off the search?"

"Are you positive he's safe?" Nicola asked.

"No, of course I'm not," Esther said. "I just spent a half hour trying to find some hypothetical team that was about to capture them, and I didn't find anything, but we all know how much that means."

There was a short silence.

"You OK, Esther?" Javier asked.

"No, I feel like shit," Esther said, blushing at the swear, and annoyed at her reaction. "Sorry, I should go lie down like you said."

* * *

Despite Jacob's urging, Esther refused to sleep in the bedroom, flopping on the couch instead. She didn't seem to notice how much she'd exposed herself in that towel, so Javier covered her with a blanket and kissed her on the head. She was obviously pissed off at herself, but she wasn't ready to talk either.

In the kitchen they discussed what her information could mean.

"Some kind of bureaucratic mistake?" Kat asked. "Or a political power struggle? Maybe someone hated the idea of that raid from the start, and they killed it off. Surely some people must feel the way Myra Jackson pretended to feel."

"Or maybe it even was Jackson," said Raj. "We still don't understand what game she's playing. Lukas seemed to trust her to some extent."

"Lukas," Nicola said slowly. "Of course. It was Lukas."

Everyone stared at her.

"This is exactly the way he would have done it," she clarified. "Lukas wouldn't have wanted us captured, or any other Changed for that matter. He might have wiped his computers, but the information was in his head anyway. If he hasn't let himself get brainwashed, if he's still playing the game from Europe, he'd have all sorts of ways to find out about this raid, and levers he could pull to confuse things. Doing it this particular way took all the pressure off of Mark. Efficient. Very Lukas."

"Why wouldn't he get in touch with us, then?" Kat said. "I was able to dial in to check messages this morning. The internet's still half broken, but surely Lukas could have found a way. And we'd be in his debt."

"He knows we'd figure it out eventually," said Nicola, "and that we'd realize we owed him. The danger is over, and whether we know it yet wouldn't be important from his perspective. Then he could reveal his role at some appropriate time, as though it was no big deal, or just leave it unsaid. That would be exactly his understated sort of theater. God, in a way I'm relieved. I was half sure he'd disappeared into some cell of Chosen and would become as dumb as I was getting."

Javier didn't think the Chosen were stupid. Rather, Nicola had been exhausted and confused from fighting against Unity. He wasn't about to bring that up, though.

"Maybe it was Lukas," said Javier. "Maybe it was something like what Kat said. In any case it looks like we really lucked out. But I don't think it's safe to return home yet. Our names are still on that FBI list, assuming we can trust Jackson about that, which we probably have to. We're just lower priority than capturing Mark. They're not going to send the military in against the rest of us."

"I'm almost insulted," said Kat.

* * *

Esther felt a lot better when she woke. As always, Javier had been right. She got up and headed straight for the kitchen before she realized two things: Grace was in the kitchen, and Esther had left behind her towel.

"Ack," she mumbled, or something close, turning quickly to retrieve the towel. Nicola was dead asleep on the floor, dressed properly again. In fact, someone had cleaned and dried Esther's clothes and left them for her. Everyone else was out, mostly shopping it seemed. Jacob was in a meeting at his church. Esther retreated into the bathroom and got dressed before returning to face Grace.

Grace had pulled out some snacks for Esther in the meantime, and was sitting nonchalantly at the table. Esther wasn't fooled. She'd seen the way Grace had stared a second, then blushed before turning away.

"I used to be really shy about my body," Esther said eventually. "I think being around Nicola largely beat it out of me. But maybe I'm a little too casual."

Grace smiled, looking embarrassed.

"I didn't mean to look," she said. "It's just, well,"

"I'm pretty different," Esther agreed.

"No!" Grace blurted. "I mean, yes, but I was going to say beautiful."

"You are, too," said Esther. "I'm sorry to say I don't always manage not to snoop."

Grace laughed. "Kat told me you could do that, but that you were incredibly good about avoiding it. Anyway, we don't mind." She stopped, looking horribly embarrassed. "That was more than I meant to say."

"I guess we're all recovering from the stress," Esther said. "Or maybe you've been around Kat too long."

Grace smiled. "You're right. I think I'm rubbing off on her as well. Eventually you won't be able to tell us apart except by the haircut."

Jacob eventually returned from parish duties, and soon afterwards the other three returned from their shopping.

"More radios," said Raj unnecessarily, spreading out the equipment on the table. "I'll have to do some tinkering."

"By which he means boosting their power illegally," said Kat. "And we got more clothes for everyone. Sparkly underwear all around."

The underwear was not in fact sparkly, and the clothes welcome. Still, now that the crisis seemed to have abated, the frictions of being squeezed so close began to grow. Esther's mood was sliding again, and Javier kept finding opportunities to ask if something was bothering her. But she didn't even know if it was anything specific.

Selena had managed to reach them from a pay phone that afternoon, and Kat had told her to sit tight. No one could agree on their next step. Probably they'd just accept what Esther picked, if she had any inclination herself. Jacob mentioned a vague suspicion that Abuela had owned more property than just the Sierra camp, and everyone liked the sound of that. But they needed to contact the lawyer to start digging any of that up, and his office was closed.

After dinner, Raj eventually gave in and moved his things to Jacob's bedroom floor. Esther listened a while to their interesting theological discussion before deciding it was still rude to eavesdrop.

Nicola claimed the couch again, and no one felt like fighting her for it. When Kat turned off the light, Esther spooned her back against Javier, hoping he would get the hint and rub her a bit. But he just snuggled against her shoulder and kissed her, settling into a contented half-sleep.

There was a tiny noise, and the little motions Esther had been trying to ignore popped into her head. Kat was spooned behind Grace, just like Javier and Esther. But Kat's fingers had been sliding slowly down the front of Grace's pajama top, until they slipped under the waistband. Under the panties, into the luscious hair around her vulva. Grace was already wetter than Esther ever got, and Kat slipped two fingers lower, silently touching her lover. No urgency, just an intimate caress that might go on for a long time. Esther shifted against Javier, rubbing her back against his slightly hard penis. He'd fallen asleep properly, but his body still responded. Maybe he was having a good dream.

The two women were practically silent, but Nicola knew what they were doing. And to Esther's surprise, Nicola joined them, masturbating even more quietly than the others. Nicola hadn't shown much interest in women aside from Esther. Maybe she was just lonely, or bored. Or horny, like Esther.

Grace eventually pulled Kat's hand away, entwining her fingers and squeezing. Kat moved on to touch herself for a while, but they both fell asleep shortly.

Nicola had her orgasm silently for once. Afterwards she watched Esther for a while, but Esther didn't know what Nicola wanted. Perhaps to watch Esther in return, but Esther knew now that wasn't going to happen tonight.

Finally it was only Esther awake in the house, her thoughts too busy and yet going nowhere. Strange fantasies cycled through her mind. Esther with all three other women, their limbs entwined, mouths finding breasts, freckles, three ordinary vulvas and one stranger, all to be explored with delight. Javier with a much smaller penis, finally managing to thrust inside her strangeness, but now it wasn't Javier. It was Raj, or someone even more inappropriate, and she wasn't Esther anymore, but just an ordinary, incredibly horny woman, surrounded by bodies, massaged and licked and penetrated, but now she was fading away into a troubled sleep.

* * *

The others were having breakfast already, Esther knew. She kept slipping in and out of unpleasant dreams, the details fuzzy as usual. Something else tugged at her attention, but it wasn't dangerous, so she stubbornly refused to notice it. All she wanted was some proper sleep. Her headache wasn't so bad as yesterday, but her mood was even more foul.

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