Fair Winds and Following Seas

Part 21

Dar walked down the hallway, carefully unrolling a lurid orange extension cord along the inside wall, giving the cord a twist as she released it so it would lie evenly and straight on the newly sanded floor. 

It was dark, and quiet now outside.  Chino was walking alongside her, idly sniffing at the cable in her role as canine escort. Her dark toenails made soft clackety sounds on the wood and as usual her tail was gently waving back and forth.

On the other side of the floor, the techs were squirreled into their space, and the varied temporary residents were bunking down outside in trucks and tents and for some, pallets in the outside by choice. 

Carlos and Mayte were still out and about, and Dar and Kerry had helped Zoe settle her things and Mayte’s into the second of the two RV’s after spending some time resisting Zoe’s effort to turn the RV over to them.

The third RV now housed Pete and Randy, and they’d reserved space for Carlos when he got back, and Pete had moved the RV to block access to the front of the office and had named the vehicle “Outpost West.” He and Randy had moved long canvas covered cases and other various paramilitary gear into the rig, and were rummaging around it in thinly veiled delight.

She ran the cable under the door to Zoe’s area, and patiently continued along the wall towards her office door, her bare feet making almost no noise.

Inside the office, the mellow glow of candlelight was showing, and as she approached the inner door, Kerry stuck her head out and smiled at her. “Hey.”

“There you are.” Kerry stepped back to let her inside. “it’s really not too bad in here.”

“Gets a breeze off the water.” Dar finished her obsessively neat laying of cable down and coiled the remainder of the hundred foot length in a perfect circle next to the small box fan near the couch.   She knelt and plugged the fan in, and it started obligingly turning.

“Nice.” Kerry complimented her.  “I had fun tonight.”

“Me too.” Dar stood up and dusted her hands off. “Kinda thinking that Carlos and Mayte should be back though.” She frowned. “Or at least called if they were going to hang out near the hospital.”

“Well.” Kerry took a seat behind Dar’s desk and picked up the mug of hot chocolate that had been sitting, steaming gently on it.  She took a sip. “I tried calling their cells, but naturally it just fast busied.”


Chino had gone over and curled up in her bed. Mocha was already in his, sitting up, watching them, a tiny tip of his pink tongue showing between his teeth.

Outside, on the back side of the office towards the water where the windows faced it was very dark and very silent.  There was a decent breeze blowing, and they could hear the rustle of leaves, and at the back of that the faint wash of small waves hitting the seawall that protected the edge of the bay.

It was an onshore wind, and there was salt on it. Dar went over to the window and sat down on the built in seat under it, leaning back against the edge of the sill and looking out over the neighborhood.  “We are the only thing with any life around here.”

“We are.” Kerry rolled the desk chair over next to her. “I’m glad we stayed.”

Dar smiled, reaching out to pat her on the leg without looking. “Damn good ribs.” She commented. “That’s a pretty broad minded group out there. Some of them surprised me.”

“That one ex marine in the back, what is his name, Buddy?” Kerry said. “He has a degree in microbiology.” She agreed. “Has no interest in using it. He likes just doing odd jobs.”

Dar’s face quirked into thoughtfulness.  “Might be more interesting. Different things every day.”

Kerry moved her hand to cover Dar’s and folded her fingers around hers. “They’re good people out there. I’m glad they showed up. Even that veteran who was messing with Scott. He turned out okay.”

“He did.” Dar exhaled.  “While I was sitting out there listening to that band play, I was thinking about all the cool stuff we could do with this building. How cool it could look. We never really thought about changing it.”

“Wasn’t ours to change. I was going to work some reno into our rental contract but..” She lifted her hands with a little laugh. “But now we have to pay for everything.”

“We would have ended up paying for it one way or another anyway.”  Dar let her head rest against the wall. “Maybe I should think about going back to that guy from the state and taking that contract. Numbers he was talking about could cover all of this.”

Kerry regarded her thoughtfully. “Instead of going after more new accounts?”

Dar nodded. “Until we get this all back together.” She turned her head and looked at Kerry.  “If he’s still interested. They need the help. You heard them on the news. It’ll give us the capital to make things bulletproof so we don’t have to be stressed like this again.”

She watched Kerry think, her brows contracted just a little. She reached out and tweaked her nose. “Think about it. Who even knows if it’s still an option. 

“I will think about it.” Kerry said. “That’s an interesting thought because it’s a no cost contract for us.  They’re just buying your brain.”

Dar regarded her with a slight grin. “Isn’t that what you said you’d do? Sell my brain?” She stood up and held her hand out. “Lets get some rest. It’s been a long ass day.” 

Kerry got up, rolling the chair back behind Dar’s desk.  She paused with her hands on the back of the seat, her fingertips pressing a little into the sturdy webbing that it was made of.  

She watched Dar walk over to the side table where she’d put their go bag, her tall form outlined in the golden candlelight.  “Not sure we can do that and the game thing at the same time, hon.” Kerry remarked, leaning on the chair. “They kinda both need your focus.”

Dar unzipped the bag, and removed their bathroom kit.  “They do.” She tucked the kit under one arm and turned to face Kerry, leaning back against the table.  “I’d rather go for the sure thing. The gaming rig has too many questions around it.” She said, matter of factly. “We can still open up a small office there, to deliver the military contract.”

It made absolute logical sense.


“That game console has bigger potential.” Kerry said. “That could really be a breakthrough.”  

She understood at a root level how much more exciting it would be to see that come to fruition, and to be honest, how much more interesting it would be for her partner to do.

Dar’s eyes, a colorless tan in the light, met hers. “I realize that.”

“Not only that, you could lose those kids.” Kerry said. “They’re so excited about this.”

“Then we find more kids.” Dar responded calmly. “Bottom line, Ker, we have to do what makes sense in order to deal with the cards we got right now.”

Kerry walked around the desk and went over to her, feeling the distance between them like sandpaper on the skin. As she closed she saw Dar’s head tilt, and the faint smile appear on her lips and she bumped up against her in gentle affection.

The warm candlelight brought an intimacy with it, and Dar lifted her hand and gently cupped Kerry’s face, acknowledging the moment. “If its meant to be, it’ll happen.” She remarked, with a simple certainty.  “But it’s not going to happen tonight.”

“No.” Kerry leaned into the touch. “Lets wait for tomorrow. No telling what that’s going to bring to the table with our usual luck.”

Dar chuckled, a low, musical sound. “No kidding.”  She patted Kerry’s check gently. “Anything could happen with us here. Lets get some rest before it does.”



Dar wasn’t sure what had woken her up.  She just went from full asleep to full awake in a breath, her eyes opening into the darkness of her office.  She blinked a few times to focus and quietly lay there, just breathing as she tried to figure out what was going on.

It was dead quiet. Next to her on the wide couch Kerry was still deeply asleep, curled on her left side, her left arm draped over Dar’s body.  

They were using the go bag as a pillow, with half of it’s contents removed it was soft and comfortable, and as she lay there, she could smell the rich scent of the leather.

Nearby, the dogs were asleep in their beds, undisturbed.

She stretched her hearing outward, detecting a few faint creaks of the building, and the soft whirring of the fan, wafting room temperature air over her.

Past that, she could hear the generator outside with it’s incessant rumble.

All seemed peaceful. Dar let her body relax, and decided it was just the strange location that maybe had stirred her awake, and with a brief twist of her lips she closed her eyes and tried to compose herself back to sleep.

The couch was reasonably comfortable, and after all when Kerry had chosen it for her, it had been with the odd nap in mind to begin with so the furniture was more than long enough for Dar’s height, and wide enough to really be more of a daybed than a couch.

With thick pillows in place, you could sit on it, but with the pillows tossed aside it provided a nice resting place, even without air conditioning to relieve the muggy heat.

Dar felt her body relax, and she started to drift off again, when from outside the window, on the water side of the building she heard the sound of a branch breaking.

Her eyes opened again.  Quietly, she rolled off the couch and stood up, moving over to the window on noiseless bare feet as she leaned against the built in seat and peered outside.

It was very dark, there were some clouds overhead covering the half moon but after a moment her eyes adjusted to the shadows and she could make out the shapes of the bushes and trees at the back of the building and the wall that enclosed the property.

Between the wall and the building she could see something moving, something the size of a person and in a stealthy kind of way that made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle.  She watched for a moment more to make sure she wasn’t imagining it, then she turned and walked swiftly back across the office and out the front door.

She was dressed in a ratty long t-shirt and cotton shorts to sleep in, and she could feel the breeze coming in from the front door that was standing open, as the door to the courtyard on the inside was open and it occurred to her that this probably wasn’t the smartest thing they could have done.

Water under the bridge.  Dar moved across the porch, and down the steps, sweeping her eyes to either side as she crossed to the RV that Pete had parked nearby.

She wondered what time it was.

The inky darkness around her lightened a bit, as the moon came out from behind the clouds, but with the guard gone, everything past it, everything towards the road and as far as she could see was blank and dead and as she took a breath of the warm night air some internal instinct warned her of something just not right.

She got to the RV, but before she knocked on the door, she went around the front of it and looked past into the parking lot, seeing that the second RV had been pulled up close to the first, and the third, that Carlos and Mayte had gone off in, was still missing.

The parking lot though, save the front line of it where her truck was parked, was empty.

She turned and looked back at the office.  Through the open windows on the lower level she could see some faint glimmers of light, flickers that indicated candles to make the load on the generator as minimal as possible to save on the troublesome to get gasoline.

The top level on this side was all dark.

She looked at the edges of the building on either side, but it was full of foliage and bushes, the tough scrubby plants that had protected the building from the wind in the storm.

Was she just being goofy?

Had she really seen someone in the back or just imagined it?

She stood by the RV, one hand on it’s side, for a long moment indecisive.  Then caution took precedence and she moved over and was raising her hand to knock on the door when very unexpectedly it opened outward, and from the dark interior, Pete appeared.

He was fully dressed in dark camouflage and had a dark cap on his head, covering his silvery hair and he was carrying a semi automatic in one hand.  “Hi there.” He said. “I heard you were an early riser, but this is what we used to call o dark whatthehell..

Dar smiled briefly. “I heard something.” She said. “And I think I saw someone in the back.”

 Pete reached behind him and rapped softly on the inside panel of the RV, and a moment later Randy slunk down the steps, carrying a shotgun.  “You were righty tighty Whitey.”  He told him. “I was having a cuppa at that nice little table inside watching out when you came out the door.” He addressed Dar.  “Randy thought he saw someone go down that side street.”

Randy nodded, a short, thickset man with caramel colored skin and somewhat jerky, nervous movements. “Lets go see.”

“Right. Since we have boots and guns, lets do that, and you go back inside?” Pete told Dar. “Might just be a vagrant, smelling that barbeque smoke we painted the area with.”

Dar eyed him thoughtfully.

“Please?” Pete went on. “If something happened to you while your daddy was gone it’d kill me before he did.”

“I’ll go get dressed.” Dar compromised. “Go on, I’ll check out the inside and make sure nothing more than that damn cat got in.”

She turned and went back towards the building.

Pete sniffed reflectively. “Apple didn’t fall very far from that tree.”  He cocked his handgun and turned his cap around. “C’mon. Lets go scare the crap outta whatever dipshit’s wandering.”

“Hope it’s a dipshit.” Randy fell in behind him. “Not some fuckin yahoo.”

They got to the edge of the building and Pete pointed right and tapped his chest, then pointed left and pointed at Randy, and they split up and started around both sides.

Dar re-entered the building and was about to mount the stairs, then she paused and diverted over to the inner door. She walked through it, and out onto the concrete pad that had become their outdoor cookpit.

Across the space, she could see the area where the hibachi was, in it’s circle of oddly assorted found rocks, parts of parking lot stops and pieces of limestone gotten from the edge of the bay. 

There were four people curled up in bedrolls near it, and past that she could see the tents where others were sheltering,  with flaps open and in front of each one a cable snaking inside that was, she supposed, connected to a small fan.

Or perhaps maybe a little digital television.

The concrete pad had given up its heat and the surface felt cool against her bare feet. Dar flexed her toes against the slightly rough material and looked around the internal space, which was utterly quiet and still.  Not a thing stirred, and as she tilted her head back and looked up at the sky, she got a sense that it was not that far from being dawn.

There was no sleep left in her. With a sigh, she turned and went back inside the building, halting as she spotted Mocha and Chino coming down the steps towards her, their toenails echoing softly on the wood.  Behind them at the top of the steps Kerry was standing, scrubbing a hand through her hair as she looked down at Dar.

Silently, she spread her hands out in question.

Dar motioned her down, resigned to an early start to their day, hoping like hell that was all it was going to be.


Kerry got to the bottom of the steps. “What’s going on?” She whispered. “What’s wrong?”

Dar put her hands on the bannister. “Not sure. I thought I… no, I did see someone in the back. Pete’s checking it out.”

“Well, at 5am it probably should be checked out.” Kerry answered. “Should we get dressed in case we’re about to be under assault?”

Dar glanced down. “Probably. I should put some shoes on at least.”  

They both trotted back up the steps and went into the office, and as Dar went to the table they’d piled their gear on to grab a pair of jeans Kerry stepped over to the window to look out.

“Maybe not stand in the open window Ker?” Dar said, fastening the buttons on her pants. “No idea who has guns out there and at least our guys do.”

“Mm.” Kerry retreated. “Can’t see anything anyway.” She came over to claim and pull on her clothes.  “Yeesh what a way to wake up.”

Dar took her boots over to her desk chair and sat down in it to put them on. “Where’d the dogs go?”

“They stayed downstairs.”  Kerry perched on the couch arm to pull on her sneakers. “Okay. Lets go see what the hell is going on.”  She stood up and paused. “Should I go get the shotgun from the truck?”

Dar looked up. “Is it in there?”


“I’ll go.” Dar got up and headed for the door.  “Probably be more useful than the pocketknife I’m carrying.”

Kerry followed her. “I don’t know, hon. That was pretty useful against that mountain lion.”

“He didn’t have a rifle.”

They clattered down the steps, and now there were two more people coming in from the courtyard,  one of Carlo’s lifting buddies and Hank. “Hey early risers.. what’s the rush?”  Hank addressed them, stifling a yawn. “This how you big time corporate raiders operate?”

“Dar saw someone sneaking around the back.” Kerry said. “Soo….”

“Got it.” Hank whirled and started back towards his truck.

The lifter nodded. “Guys were saying maybe there’d be trouble. Lemme go get a bat r something.” He retreated, and as he did they heard the murmur of voices outside as the campers stirred.

“Maybe we should shut the door.” Kerry suggested, as Dar started for it.  “Don’t dawdle.”

In response Dar broke into a run as she jumped off the porch and landed on the ground, launching herself forward towards the edge of the parking lot.

Kerry watched her, then she remembered the other RV, and looked around for it, spotting it pulled up near the building. She had started out towards it when she saw motion in her peripheral vision and she stopped, turning to see shadows heading towards them from the road. “DAR!”

Dar had reached the truck and she heard her name, hauling up and spinning, then turning and yanking the truck door open and diving under the back seat.

Kerry stood still for an instant, then she turned and bolted back into the office, letting out a yell as she reached the inner door. “Everybody look out!”

Hank was already barreling towards her, his gun cradled in his arms and a sidearm strapped to his chest. “Move out the way, shortie!” He dodged past her and was out the door and down off the porch in a rapid thunder of boots on wood.

It was far too dark to see much. Kerry hesitated, trying to peer through the shadows. Then she cursed and ran back into the building and into the conference room to grab a large flashlight off the table.

Bodies rushed past the door on the way to the front, and she let them pass then ran after them, going to the edge of the porch and turning the light on to beam it across the yard and towards the parking lot.


Dar got her hands on the shotgun and pulled it out from under the seat, more concerned with someone else grabbing it than intending on using it herself.  She slid out of the truck and slammed the door behind her with one elbow, holding the gun in front of her.

She turned to find a melee in the yard, yells and grunts and silence as men came pouring out of the office to engage with the line of figures dressed in dark clothing, their faces and heads covered and obscured.

Dar paused for a moment, then she ran along the edge of the lot and across the grass and through the bushes, to where Kerry was standing with her flashlight illuminating the fight. “Get inside.”

“I want to see who these assholes are.” Kerry objected. “Tell you what, you take the light and I’ll take the gun.” She suggested calmly, as she reached out one hand for the weapon. “They’re not interested in us, they’re busy Dar.”

They were behind the makeshift guard post and Dar had to agree  that no one seemed to be paying them any attention. She handed over the gun and took the flashlight, twisting it to it’s brightest setting and aiming it into the eyes of the hooded attackers.  “This is nuts.”

“This is nuts.” Kerry confirmed, as she inspected the gun and then chambered a round, turning and letting the muzzle rest on the shelf in the shack built apparently for just that purpose, providing a slot to aim out of.  “You figure these are those guard guys?”

“No idea.” Dar said, busy with her light based assault, which was having some good effect as the attackers threw up arms to  block the beam. “No one’s shooting.”

The scuffle in front of them was surprisingly quiet, but already it was obvious the attackers were being overwhelmed by the locals. 

Pete applied a short  bat to the head of the figure he was opposing and he went down, then he scrambled and rolled away and let out a shout, getting to his knees and then to his feet and then breaking into a run towards the lot.

He was followed by a flood of other dark clad bodies, apparently obeying an order to retreat.  The men from the office let out yells of derision, and Hank stooped to pick up a piece of rock from the ground and threw it after them, hitting one of them on the back.

Dar tipped the flashlight up as their crowd started to return from the fight. “That was idiotic.”

Their team was laughing and visibly exultant as they came back over, obviously pleased with the result of the fight.

“Morons!” Pete said, as he dusted his hands off, examining a scrape along his wrist bone.   “What a bunch of dipshits. Nice work with the light, junior.”

Hank was taking a nose count. “All good here.” He announced, as Kerry unchambered the round she’d gotten ready in her shotgun. “What’n’hell was that?”  He asked as they gathered at the porch. “Guess they figgered they’d catch us sleepin.”

“Well.” Pete scratched his eyebrow. “Almost did.” He indicated the guard shack. “Front door was wide open. They’d have gotten inside more than likely if junior here hadn’t come flying out to go hunt em barefoot in her underwear.”

“You were out here.” Someone pointed out. “What the hell, Pete?”

“They came in the back.” Dar spoke up, in a quiet, even tone. “I saw them between the back wall and the building.” She paused briefly.  “I heard them through the open window in my office.”

Everyone fell silent, and looked at Dar, who was standing there, with the flashlight clasped in her hands, pointing at the ceiling of the porch, a splash of the light outlining her face.  

So we probably should make sure that doesn’t happen again.” She concluded. “I’m not sure what their thought was coming in here, whether they wanted to do mischief or if we were in real trouble.”  She handed off the light to Pete. “I’m going to go pull my truck into the middle there. Someone open the gate for me.”

“I’ll check to make sure Zoe’s okay.” Kerry concluded. “It’s almost dawn.”

Sobered, the dozen men who had run out meekly went back inside. 

Hank settled behind the guard post. “I’ll hang out here.”

“You two, come with me.” Pete said. “Let’s take a look around the back, make sure no one’s lingerin round.” He took the light in one hand and started off, with the other two at his heels.

Kerry watched them go, as Dar stepped off the porch and headed towards the truck.  She exchanged glances with Hank. “Creepy.”

‘Dipshits.” Hank replied. “All them were just messin, Kerry.  Weren’t serious to fight, you saw em.” He sniffed reflectively. “I figure they were just sent over here to scare us. Didn’t even have no long guns or nothin with em.” His evaluation was calm and professional.  “Lucky for em Andy wasn’t round here. He’d have broken them in parts.”

“Mm.” Kerry tucked her shotgun under one arm and walked down the steps. “Lets hope you’re right.”


Dar angled towards the truck, it’s outline easily visible to her in the darkness as she reached the sidewalk and started around to the driver’s side as she dug the keys to the vehicle out of her front pocket.  The incursion of the attackers concerned her, and she went over the events in her head as she walked.

She rounded the front of the truck and then halted, as she found two men crouched behind it, dressed in the same nondescript dark clothing as the others had been, staring up at her from behind their face masks, hands clasped around black batons.

Dar felt her body react in utter instinct, and she shoved the keys back into her pocket and moved into a defensive posture, spreading her hands apart and leaning forward above her center of balance as the two men started to move to stand up.

One raised the baton he was carrying and without much thinking, Dar shifted and kicked it out of his hand, glad she had her boots on and hadn’t tried that barefoot.  The baton went flying and now full of adrenaline she kicked out again and caught the man in the chest, sending him sprawling backwards on the tarmac.

The other one scrambled up and reached for her and Dar caught his hands in her own and then let her hold slip down to his wrists as she lunged forward, crashing into him and slamming him against the truck, allowing a low growl to escape.

She was taller than he was, and about the same weight and the energy that was coursing through her was ferocious and aggressive as she slammed against him again as he tried to yank his hands loose and kicked out with one boot that just missed her shin.

Behind her, she heard footsteps running and the scramble of dog toenails coming in her direction but she took advantage of the position she was in and brought one knee up to nail the man she had a grip on in the groin.

He squealed like a pig and sagged in her grip and she released him and turned, hearing the sound of motion behind her just in time to see two large animals rush up in the darkness and issue hideous sounding growls, bustling to get between the remaining man and Dar.

The man threw his hands up and stumbled back. “Hey! Don’t hurt me! C’mon! Got mah hands up!”

Dar could see his eyes, in the shadows, wide and fearful.  “Chino! Mocha! C’mere!”  She ordered, as Hank, Kerry, and one of the weightlifters came barrelling around the front of the truck. 

Hank threw his gun up to his eyeline and threw the safety off. “Fuck’errrrrrrz!” He let out a yell, then paused, as they took in the one man with his hands up, and the other curled in a fetal position on the ground. “Well, now hell, Dar.”

Chino and Mocha came over to Dar, tails wagging, and tongues lolling in the pre-dawn humid air.

“What happened?” Kerry was a little out of breath. “Holy crap, Dar!”

“They were hiding behind my truck.” Dar said. “I think I surprised them. They sure as hell surprised me.” She went over to the truck and opened the driver’s side door. “Bring them inside. Maybe we can find out what the hell this was all about.”

Two more veterans showed up behind Hank, weapons drawn.

“We got it, junior.” Hank flipped the safety back on his gun. “C’mon dipshits.” He went over to the one still standing and grabbed him by the bicep. “You heard the lady. G’wan get moving before she just decides to keep on keepin on with your dumb ass selves.”

The weightlifter and one of the veterans each grabbed an arm of the man on the ground and lifted him up, half carrying them between them as they marched back towards the office.

Kerry went around and got into the passenger seat of the truck, letting out a squawk as Mocha jumped up into her lap. “Mocha!”

Dar regarded the scene, then she opened the back door to the truck to allow Chino to, with far more decorum, jump in.  Then she got in herself and started up the vehicle. “It’s almost dawn. I probably should have just left it here.” 

“Gives us a minute to stop freaking out.” Kerry had her arms around Mocha and now she exhaled. “Because I will not mind telling you I am freaked out.”

Dar chuckled, backing the truck out of it’s spot. “Zoe okay?”

“Slept all through it.” Kerry murmured. “Though I might have slammed that RV door on her hand when I realized you were over here fighting with something.”

Dar chuckled again. “Lets see what those guys say.”  She drove along the side road towards the back entrance to the building, turning on the truck’s lights to show the makeshift gates in the process of being pushed open to let them inside.

“Did you get hurt?” Kerry asked, suddenly.

“No.” Dar guided the truck through the gates towards the area where Hank’s Humvee and Pete’s Jeep were parked. “Hank was right. Those guys weren’t really serious.”

“Then what the hell?”

“That’s what I want to ask them.” Dar pulled in behind Scott’s RV and parked. “Was it just something stupid, in which case since we have a lot of people here with weapons and they knew that, it was really stupid, or … “ She turned the engine off and regarded Kerry. “Or what?”

Kerry eyed her back, from behind Mocha’s head. “With us? They could be extraterrestrial cat people, Dar.” She said. “They seemed really scared of our Labradors.”

“Well, they were growling.” Dar looked from Mocha, to Chino who was sticking her head between the front seats and drooling on the console. “And they are pretty big.” She opened her door. “Lets go see what we can find out.”

Kerry sighed, but opened her own door and urged Mocha to get off her legs.  “Do I want to find out? I mean.. it’s Monday.  Could that mean it’s anything not horrible?”


Kerry got out of the truck and closed the door behind her, as the eastern sky morphed into pinks the sun peeked past the buildings between them and the water and sent a few errant spears of light through the windows on the far side of the courtyard.

Everyone was astir in the yard, the construction workers around the cooking pit where one of them was pouring out a pot of coffee.

Sasha came out of her odd, circular tent with it’s platform that lifted it a foot above the ground, braiding her thick, black hair into a plait as she walked across to join them. “Good morning! Good morning!”

On the far side of the yard, two of the weightlifters were emerging from the sun showers they’d set up, towels around their waists, their bare skin glistening with droplets of water as they walked through the morning light.

Mocha and Chino shook themselves, and then they trotted across the grass to greet everyone, and Dar and Kerry followed them, stepping through the beams of rising sunlight as they came in over the roof, and the sound of rising voices echoed.


“Okay.” Kerry picked up two of the breakfast sandwiches, fluffy eggs inside pieces of baguette with some lettuce, grilled tomato and swiss cheese tucked inside. “Lets go see what our unexpected visitors have to say for themselves.” 

She put the two sandwiches on a plate and navigated her way through the inner entrance to the office, where the construction workers were setting up their tools and sawhorses and the smell of plaster wafted. 

She walked past the reception desk and into the left side conference room, where Pete and one of the weightlifters were keeping watch on their two attackers, who were seated at the table with their head coverings removed, nervously waiting. Dar was just sitting down in her preferred seat, and Kerry took a chair next to her, passing over a sandwich.

The two were young.  They were both sandy haired and freckled, with a splash of sunburn across their cheeks. One was still bent over, with his elbows on his knees and periodically he stared across at Dar with a look of suffering.  Kerry thought they were perhaps in their early twenties.


“So.” She set her plate down with it’s edible burden. “Can I ask what the hell you people were doing here?”

Dar was contented to let her talk, using the time to take a bite of her sandwich after carefully removing the lettuce from it and depositing it on Kerry’s plate.

The other boy, who was sitting straight up in his seat, cleared his throat. “We were told to come here, ma’am.” He admitted. “We was told, we left something back here, and we were supposed to try and get it back.”

“In the middle of the night?” Kerry asked, in a mild tone.

“Figured it was safer.” The boy replied. “Just to check the grounds, like.”

Kerry had finished a mouthful of breakfast as he spoke, and now she swallowed and wiped her lips with the paper napkin she’d set next to the plate. “So let me get this straight.” She said. “You got sent here, to some place that your people in charge knew had armed military veterans inside it, to search the grounds in the middle of the night and they thought it was a good idea?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The boy acknowledged, in a somewhat mournful tone. “That’s what we was  told to do.”

“Dumbass.” Pete said, from next to the doorway. “Coulda got your ass shot.”

Probly hurt less.” The second kid said, in a strained voice.

“I been shot. Woulda hurt more.” Pete told him. “Lasts longer, that’s for sure than a set of bruised balls.”

Kerry dusted her fingers off. “Are you seriously telling me that no one thought just coming over here and knocking on the door in daylight wouldn’t be a better idea? Just asking if you left something?” She leaned on her elbows, studying the two kids. “C’mon.”

“What was it?” Dar finally spoke up, staring at the two of them. “What were you all supposedly looking for?” She got to her feet and both of them flinched, and that made Pete smile.  “Cough it up, because we need to tell the police I’m about to call what you were after.”

The kids exchanged looks. “Ma’am, we don’t know.” The one she hadn’t kicked said. “They just told us to go with the older guys, and help.” He said, in an earnest tone. “S’why we were hidin there, behind that there truck. We were waitin for everybody to settle down then we were gonna run off.”

The other nodded. “We didn’t want to be part of nothing.” He muttered. “Whole thing here’s been just garbage for us.” He looked up. “Don’t call the cops on us huh? We didn’t do nothin. We just want to get out of here and go home.”

Dar studied them with narrowed eyes, ones they refused to meet. She glanced over at Kerry, who was observing in silence, her fingertips steepled and touching her lips.  Then she looked over at Pete and the weightlifter guard, also silent.

Dar’s lips quirked. “Get them some breakfast.” She finally said. “Let me go think about what to do with them.”  She turned and walked out, and after a moment, Kerry followed.


“Not a good way to start the morning.”

Kerry accepted the cup Dar was holding out to her and they settled together side by side in camp chairs under a tree in the courtyard lawn.

“No.” Dar extended her long legs out and braced her elbows on the camp chair arms. “Stupid kids.”

“Mm. They’re lucky it was you that found them.” Kerry mused. “All the rest of us had guns and knives and baseball bats and teeth and I don’t know what else.” She shook herself briefly.  “Damn lucky.”

Dar smiled briefly. “Guessing that kid I kneed doesn’t agree with you.” She demurred. “You buy the story they ‘forgot’ something?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“No, me either.”

“In that.. “ Kerry continued. “I don’t believe that’s the reason that whole gang was here. It might have been what they told those kids though.” She said, in a reasonable tone. “Let me talk to them. See if I can find out a little more.”

“Mm.” Dar grunted softly.

“We’re not going to turn them over to the cops, are we?”

Dar made a face, her nose wrinkling up.

“Should we even report this to the cops?” Kerry wondered. “I mean, they have so much crap going on would they even come over here and talk to us about it?” She gazed across the courtyards. “Ugh.”

“Depends if we offered them barbeque.” Dar responded dryly.  She studied the open space, where people were starting to work on construction tasks and the veterans were gathered in one corner, perhaps discussing the morning’s attack.

Sasha was busy at the cookpit, wrapping and assembling sandwiches which she was stacking efficiently into a steel warmer on wheels in preparation for taking them out and selling them on the street.  Lets not call the cops. I’m not in the mood for them.”  Dar concluded. “Only damage wasn’t to us anyway.”

“True. Let me go talk to those kids.” Kerry decided. “Then let me get to my inbox. Are you going to call the Pharma guy?” She asked, looking sideways at her. “We’ve pushed him off long as we can I think.”

Dar sighed. “Yeah.” She said. “And I better call that VC. Tell him.. I don’t know. Push him off too.”

Kerry reached out and patted her on the arm. “I’d offer to do that for you hon, but they’re just going to want to talk to you anyway.”  She took her coffee and stood up. “Let me go find out where the heck Mayte is, what’s going on with Maria, what our people upstate are doing, and take a damn shower.”

“Be right behind ya.” Dar finished up her coffee as Kerry threaded her way along the concrete pad, pausing a moment to speak to Sasha before she moved on into the building. “Damn I wish this whole mess was over.”

With a sigh, she pushed herself to her feet, pausing to watch sunlight turn the courtyard gold, and beams showed dust and gnats in equal portion. “Monday.” She added, aloud. “Yuck.”

Zoe came out carrying a pot of water, which she set down near one of the grills, pausing to wave at her and smile.

Dar waved back, before she headed towards the building, and her stuffy, dusty office, and her phone calls.


Kerry took the time after her shower to replenish her coffee, stirring a bit of the powdered creamer into it as she stood near the window and pondered her strategy.

The shower, the water lukewarm from its transit through pipes near ground level retaining the heat from the previous day had at least been wet, and she felt somewhat ready to face the day despite it’s nerve wracking start. 

She was dressed in a company polo shirt with it’s sleeves neatly rolled up and khaki carpenter shorts, as close to business casual as she could cope with given the lack of AC.

She picked up the cup and went down the hall, turning and moving into the conference room where the two guardsmen were just finishing up the two large breakfast sandwiches they’d been given, along with a dish of tater tots and cups of coffee.

They paused in mid chew as she entered, looking alarmed.

Kerry smiled at them, taking a seat with her coffee. “Keep on.” She waved casually at them. “I just want to have a chat.”

Pete and the weightlifter, who had remained near the door, kept up a casual stance leaning against the wall. The weightlifter had a huge breakfast shake container clasped in one big hand, and he was drinking from it, while Pete was just finishing up one of Sasha’s beef sandwiches.

“Thanks for the chow, ma’am.” One of the two, the chest patch on his chest saying ‘Boone’. “It’s real nice of you given all what happened.”

“Well.” Kerry answered slowly, leaning back in her chair with her coffee cup. “I have to say that we normally have a great relationship with the military, you know?” She indicated Pete with one thumb. “So it’s really kind of sad to have what happened this morning happen, because I don’t really understand why.”

The two just chewed and looked at her in silence.

“I mean – you all couldn’t really have been here to find something you left behind, could you?”

The two exchanged quick looks.

“That was awfully dangerous.” Kerry concluded. “For everyone.”

Boone, who was the luckier of the two and only had a bruise on his wrist to show for his efforts, eyed her and licked his lips. “Didn’t mean no one to get hurt, ma’am.”  He said. “We got moved out, you know? We got sent to a real bad place.”

Kerry rocked forward and put her cup down. “Now, you can believe this or not believe it. But we had nothing to do with that.” She said. “I know people were saying Dar called someone but she didn’t.”

“Somebody done.” The other guardsman said. His patch was blank, and he was still hunched over a little, leaning his elbows on his knees. “We were just here, doin what we were told to do, is all.”

Boone nodded.  “All them folks got hot up before, wasn’t our fault.”

“Like we couldn’t go off and do nothing.” The other man said. “And man, we didn’t want to, all them people so nasty and rude and yelling at us.”

Kerry thought about that, considering it from the soldier’s perspective.  “They were upset and angry.” She conceded.

“Not even talking like us.” Boone said. “Couldn’t even understand what we was saying, and its in our country, you know?” He looked up at Kerry. “Why’d they want us to go do for them, they aint even take the time to learn English?”

“You all are from a part of the country where people speaking more than one language is not that common, I guess.” Kerry regarded them gravely.  “Here, a lot of people do, so it’s not as critical, I guess, for people who come here to learn English.”

“That aint’ right.” Boone said, in a heartfelt, sincere tone. “You all come here, want stuff from us, you should learn to talk to us. Not the other way round.”

The other man nodded in agreement. “So yeah.” He said. “Cap’n said we could come back ovah here, give you all a scare like.” He looked across the table at her. “Just a payback, you know? Cause we were done dirty.”

Kerry was aware, in her peripheral vision, of Pete rolling his eyes, and though he didn’t say it, she could imagine him thinking the words ‘grow the f- up.’ In his head, because she, herself was listening to that same internal echo. But the young men’s resentment was real, and sincerely felt.

It was not by any stretch of the imagination an isolated viewpoint.  She’d heard those same words growing up from her father on many occasions and viewed through the eyes of these young people she felt it was an unfortunate, but valid internal outrage.

“I understand what you’re saying.” She finally said. “When I moved here it was a big adjustment for me. I wasn’t used to having to deal with a large number of people around me that I couldn’t communicate with.  It was hard.”  She saw them both nod, just a little, and their body tension changed, and relaxed a bit, their shoulders under the dark fatigues dropping. “And I chose to stay. You didn’t have a choice.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Boone agreed. “We’re just here cause we were asked to help, and we got screwed.”

Kerry nodded, and put her cup down, resting her hands on the table and lacing her fingers together. “Okay, I get it.” She said. “So, since we’re here talking, and you seem like reasonable gentlemen, let me share some thoughts with you. “

“Ma’am, you all always been nice to us.” Boone said. “You seem like a straight up lady.”

“We can debate that because a lot of people would tell you I’m not a straight anything.” Kerry said, dryly.  “But here’s the deal. The reason you all think we called someone on you is because Dar told your commander she might have to after he threatened to tell everyone who her grandfather was.”

“Say what?” Pete said, starting to laugh. “Oh my god. Did you tell Andy?”

The two guardsmen looked puzzled. “Sorry, ma’am?” Boone said. “What does that got to do with nothin?”

“No.” Kerry said to Pete. “Andy’s father, Dar’s grandfather, is Duke Roberts, from Alabama. You might have heard of him.” She swung around to focus on the guardsmen.  “I think you all do come from around there.”

The two guardsmen were staring at her over the table, eyes wide, mouths open in perfect little O’s of astonishment.  “For real?” Boone finally said, in a tone of amazement.

Fo real.” Pete interjected.  “Andrew B Roberts, Duke’s oldest boy.”

Boone let out a low, breathy whistle. “Do say.” He murmured.  Oh.. now hold on ah did hear bout one of them..

“Going for the Navy.” Pete concluded the statement. “Andy did, cause he hated that man, and son, if I were you I wouldn’t mention that old jackass to him if you want to stay upright.” He crossed his booted feet and cradled his gun comfortably. “He does not mess around.”

Boone looked at him seriously. “Ah won’t hear bad stuff against Cap’n Duke, sir.” He said. “Wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for him. He paid out for my mama to get a doctor when me and my sister was being born and it was a rough time for her.”

The other man nodded. “Gave his shirt off his back for folks.” He said. “Don’t’ know what argument his boy had with him, but he done a lot for a lot of people round our parts.” He said. “Drove em down to nothin, really, though lately now they got their old house fixed up some.”

“Yeah, he took care of folks. Long as they were his kind.” Pete said, implacably. “I heard.”

“Sure.” Boone looked over at him. “Don’t know what’s wrong with that? Took care of his own. Least somebody did.” He said.  “Don’t know why you all think e’vrybody’s due everything just cause. What did them people the other night do to help themselves? Just gimme all.”

“You all are here to help them.” Pete said. “The hell you all are thinking.”

“Well then, sir, them should talk nice to us, and use our language.” Boone said. “This place ain’t right.”

The conundrum gave Kerry a headache. Mostly because there was internal logic to it from these kid’s perspective and she could, save the difference in the language and the idiom, hear most of her family saying just the same thing. 

Sad, and not a little exhausting. “I guess, I just feel like if you can help people, you do, like us giving you guys a ride, and a meal, even though you tried to hurt us.” She concluded. “it’s just the right thing to do.”

“Well.” The other guardsman said. “I guess we all just think different, ma’am.”

Kerry propped her chin up on her fist. “I guess we do.” She concluded.  She glanced at Pete.

“C’mon, kiddos.” Pete straightened up. “Lets go for a ride.” He gestured towards them with the rifle. “I gotta go pick up some barb wire now in case any more critters get ideas to come mess around with us.”

The two guardsman got up obediently and walked out, ducking past Pete with little nods of acknowledgement. He rolled his eyes behind their backs and followed.

“Thanks Pete.” Kerry called after him.

The weightlifter came over and sat down in one of the seats the men vacated. “That was some crazy talk.” He told her.  He was tall, and had beautifully creamy brown skin with a slightly overgrown but closely cropped tightly curled dark hair. “Was I hearing that? They’re just right out racists? They said all that out loud?”

Kerry sighed. “You know, Larry, I think it’s more complicated than that.” She said. “When you live inside a culture where everyone around you looks, and acts, and believes like you do, it’s really easy to assume, to really believe inside your mind, that it’s right and natural.”

“Hey no, they got brains in their heads. They got the internet. They don’t live inside a plastic bag, Kerry. C’mon now.” Larry shook his head. “I seen people like that all my damn life, looking down on me and treating me like a lower life form cause I ain’t white.”

“You know, it’s easy for me to agree with that.” Kerry said. “Because I grew up inside a society where that ideology, though not said quite that openly, was the norm.” She pondered. “Still is, and I obviously made other choices.”

“And you all are gay.” Larry said, casually.

“Yes, so that’s a part of it right? When you’re not quite in the group there’s more reason to think outside it.” Kerry agreed. “Its easier to put yourself in someone else’s place when you’ve had to deal with that in your life I guess.” She paused. “The one who really just walked out of the box just because he decided to was Andy, Dar’s dad.  He had every reason to let that be his pattern and he just didn’t.”

Larry nodded a little bit. “He’s a different kind of guy.”

.” She shook her head a little. “He just said, nope. Not gonna do that. Not me.” She mused. “In fact, I’m going to find me a pagan, vegetarian witch and get us hitched just to extra special drive everybody out of their ever loving minds.”

Larry smiled. “I really like Mrs. R.” He said. “He’s a lucky man.”

“He is.” Kerry looked past him out the window, where she saw Pete trundling out along the road in his Jeep, the two guardsmen along with him. “Wish there were more like him. He’s the right kind of different.”

Y’know.” Larry smiled a trifle. “One of the reasons I started lifting, aside from liking how I looked and what it felt like was because it gave me something to have people stare at past my color.”  He paused, considering that. “And I get pulled over less.”

“Ah.” Kerry murmured.

“Least now, if they see me driving my nice car around, they all assume I’m some rich guy’s bodyguard.” He concluded. “So I kinda wish there were more folks out there like him too.”

They sat their briefly, in silence. “We kinda live in a messed up world.” Kerry finally said.

“We kinda do.” Larry agreed. “But right now, I got a nice place to lift, and some cool folks to talk to, so today… today’s a good day.” He winked at her and stood up. “Even if it started out whacked.”

He sauntered out, twisting his broad shoulders so they would clear the doorjam.

Kerry stood up and looked around the boxes surrounding her, and the wide open windows letting in the warm, moist air, and shook her head.


Dar made sure all the jalousy windows in her office were propped wide open, and the shutters were out of the way to allow whatever breeze there was a chance to come in.   She sat down behind the desk in her web weaved chair and pulled out her cell phone.

From where she was sitting, the construction in progress wasn’t overwhelmingly loud, she could hear the baseboards being cut downstairs, but upstairs the plastering was going on quietly, just the brush sounds and the clang of the bucket the man was using audible.

Outside she could hear faintly the sound of chopping, and the drone of a bulldozer. A bare snatch of radio music blared briefly, but as it disappeared at once it was from a car rolling by.

Dar opened her desk and took out a contact book, opening it up and flipping the pages until she found the one she was looking for.  She glanced at her watch, then she typed the number into the phone and started it dialing, holding it up to her ear to listen.

Should she have checked in with Arthur and Elvis first?  She was just wondering, but the line was picked up and it was too late to worry about it.

Dect Pharma, George Macklingburg speaking.”

Dar took a breath. “Hello George.  Dar Roberts here. Emerging from hell.”

A momentary silence. “Oh damn! I wasn’t expecting a call from you.” George then spluttered. “Been watching the news, figured it was miracle you all got done what you did, last week seeing all those floods and blackouts and everything!”

Dar felt her internal tension relax, just a trifle.  George’s voice didn’t sound angry or agitated as it had the last time she’d spoken to him. “Well, there’s a story around how that got done, but you said to call, so here I am.” She said. “How’s it going?”   She added, trying to keep the tone casual.

“Really good, Dar. I have to admit to you, I never thought we’d get here, but that last submission really seemed to pull things together.” George said readily.  “We’ve be testing since we got it.  My guys have a bunch of things they want as enhancements, but so far, so good.”

Dar felt herself to be somewhat nonplussed. “So the integration’s giving you back the answers you’re looking for?” She asked, after a slight pause.

“The test ones? Sure are.” George replied in a satisfied tone. “Listen Dar, I’m sorry I was pressing you so hard about it – it’s just been so tough for us this year. This is really looking like it’s going to let us move ahead a little bit. Charlie said he took a copy of our real database and put the program against it, and it found a few things  already we’re looking at.” He paused. “Can’t say more than that. IP you know.”

Dar chuckled a little. “George, I wouldn’t know a word about what you all are doing anyway. Not my gig. Hope it works out the way you want it to.  Give us a list of the enhancements you want. I’ll get the guys to work up a quote for you on them.”

“Don’t worry we will!” He responded. “But.. I saw video of that area by you, Dar. Are you all floating on the tops of your roofs working off cell phones or something? How in the hell? Or did you move folks out of the area like you said you might.”

“We sent our support folks up north.” Dar now relaxed into her chair. “I had the server stack moved to the island I live on, and we set something up there with a satellite rig. We’ve got generator power out there.”

“Oh! Huh. Sounds easy.”  George said. “Well, great to hear from you Dar, and thanks again for making that date for us. I knew we could depend on you.”  He said. “I’ll let you go now, I got Charlie in my doorway and he looks excited.”

“Talk to you later, George. Tell him hello.”  Dar hung up the phone and let it drop to her leg, as she looked around her office in bemused surprise. “Son of a bitch.”

Mocha lifted his head from the couch they’d slept on, his tail thumping gently against the leather.

She picked up the phone and dug the card out of her slim wallet, typing it in. “Lets see if our luck holds, Moch. Maybe it’ll be an okay Monday after all.”


Kerry had one hand on the stairwell railing about to go up when she heard, through the open front door, the sound of a large vehicle approaching, it’s tires crunching on the dead leaves in the parking lot, engine rumbling.  She paused and went to the door, peering out.

“Ah.” She made a relieved sound. “About fricken time.”

“What’s up?” Hank appeared literally from nowhere at her side. “Oh, the last bus is back.”  He watched it approach. “Wasn’t that supposed to stay with somebody?”

“It was, but after they left it occurred to me they probably didn’t have a way back.” Kerry acknowledged. “I mentioned that to Dar, because we also realized they probably didn’t have a way to call us because Carlos and Mayte left their sat phones here.”

“Sweet planning.”

“Well. You know how it is.” Kerry walked out onto the porch. “C’mon, lets see what the deal is. Hopefully they have Maria and Tomas in there and we all get to say hello.”

“Right behind ya.”  Hank ambled after her willingly, and they walked together down the sidewalk towards where the big RV was now coming to rest in the lot where previously Dar’s truck had been parked.

Behind the wheel, Kerry could see Carlos driving and he waved as he put the brakes on.  The RV rocked to a halt and the door popped open, with Mayte right behind it coming down the steps closely followed by her mother, who let out a squeal.

Aiiee! Kerrisita!” Maria was dressed in a University of Miami sweatshirt and jeans, and was in high spirits.

Kerry smiled in reaction and waved. “Hey!”

They met near the RV and Maria threw her arms around Kerry. “I have been telling everyone how you are amazing!”

Carlos was climbing down out of the RV. “Hey Boss!” He greeted Kerry.  “Sorry we took so long! We had some adventures. Hey Hank.”

“Us too.” Hank grinned briefly at him. “Hello ma’am, I’m Henry.” He addressed Maria, who had turned to look at him in question.  “I’m a friend of her dad’s.”

“Yes, Mayte has told us everything and how all the people have come here.” Maria released Kerry. “Tomas is resting in the so nice bedroom. Dios Mio, Kerrisita, this is an amazing thing.” She took Kerry’s hands. “Please you come and see him.”

Of course.  Kerry willingly followed Maria into the RV, glancing around as they came up into the living area of it.  There was a scattering of supplies on the sideways mounted table and the inside smelled strongly of Cuban coffee, which made her smile.

“I was amazed.” Maria told her, as she led the way back past the divider and through the kitchenette. “I could not imagine there was so much inside when Mayte told me about this.”

“Yeah, we got lucky.” Kerry agreed. “I see you got the important stuff.” She grinned as they passed the small hot plate, with a silver, black handled coffeepot on it.

“The people at the hotel were so nice.”  Maria said. “One of the people there, they went out and found a little bodega and brought us back some things for us, for this.”

They moved back into the bedroom, where Tomas was laying on one of the lower bunks, his leg propped up on pillows, reading a Spanish language book.  He looked up as they entered and then smiled. “Ah!” He put the book down. “The Angel is here!”

Kerry held a hand out. “Hello Tomas! How’s the leg?”

The bedroom was neat and tidy, the lower bunk opposite had a bag and some folded shirts on it and on the small table at the very back of the RV there was a stack of folders and paperwork from the hospital.

Tomas himself was dressed in a tshirt and shorts, and was freshly shaved. Nearby, a basic with a washcloth and shaving supplies was sitting on a built in bench.

“It is okay.” Tomas indicated the limb, encased in fiberglass, which extended from his foot up to just over his knee. “The doctors put some things inside of it.”

“Metal things.” Maria confirmed, standing behind Kerry. “Some things, I think, that Dar’s papa also has.”

“Ah.” Kerry nodded. “Plates.” She agreed. “You look a heck of a lot better than the last time I saw you.”  At the side of the bed was a wooden box, and on top of that was the utter normality of a styrofoam cup, with a coffee stained plastic cover and a small stack of tiny plastic thimble sized containers.

“I will go find Dar.” Maria said, patting Kerry on the back. “Sit down, Kerrisita. I will soon return.” She indicated the other bed, then trotted back out, leaving them alone.

Kerry felt this was likely by design.  She sat down and rested her elbows on her knees.

“Would you like a cafecita?” Tomas offered. “I am so glad we came here to see you. I have been thinking in my head what I would say to you when we met again.”

Kerry knew better than to refuse. “Sure.” She agreed. “I never turn down a good cup of Cuban coffee.”

Tomas twisted his upper body and poured out the small cup, handing it over to her.  “I know you will say this was nothing for you to do.” He said, after she took it. “I have spoken to Maria, and she has said this, that it does not seem amazing to you what you did.”

Kerry sipped the inky, pungent, strongly scented beverage. “You mean, maybe I think renting an airboat to come find you and all that is not a big deal?  No, it really doesn’t seem like it to me.” She said, after a quite moment of silence.  “After living with Dar, and doing the things that we do for all this time, that didn’t seem amazing. In fact, it didn’t even really seem unusual.” She paused again, and then smiled. “Your wife knows that. She knows us.”

“Si.” Tomas also smiled. “She said to me, when we were at the hospital, that everything was not surprising to her. The doctors, and the nurses, I would tell them this and it was surprising to them to hear that. Because you know, Kerry, many people are not like that.”

“But a lot of people are.” Kerry said.  And.. you know… I like being able to look in the mirror, and believe it when I say to myself, I did the right thing.” 

“You are an angel.”

Kerry shook her head. “No.” She responded. “I’m not, but I like to think I work to stay on the side of the angels. I make those choices.” She regarded the small cup, then glanced over it at Tomas, who was just sitting quietly watching her. “And you know, I have to live up to Dar, right?”

Tomas laughed.  “When Maria first was going to work for Dar she came home and said to me, Tomas, I have a job with a very unusual person.” He said. “She said, many of the others there told her Dar was a demon, a devil, you know?”

“Oh, I know. They told me the same thing.” Kerry’s eyes twinkled. “But I’d already fallen for her so it really didn’t matter at all.”

“But Maria said, no no, she saw God in this person.” Tomas finished, making Kerry’s jaw drop, just a little bit. “So like you, yes? She knows every day she is on the right side.”

The RV rocked a little bit, and Kerry glanced through the door to see Maria returning, with Dar’s tall form behind her. “Speaking of.” She said. “Anyway, I’m really glad you’re feeling better, Tomas. I just wish your house had fared as well as you did.”

“We are here.” Maria moved all the way into the little sleeping area and cleared the way for Dar to come in behind her.  “Isn’t this nice Dar? The men who helped us go from the hospital liked it very much.”

Dar ducked her head a little bit to enter. “Hey Tomas.” She greeted the man casually, then set her hands on her hips as she looked around the small sleeping room. “It aint’ the Hilton, but it’s all right.”  She agreed. “Probably better not to have a lot of space to cover right now.”

Kerry patted her knee. “Sit, hon. Before you hit your head.”

Amiably, Dar took a seat next to her.

“So now.” Maria took a seat on the tiny stool at the very back of the RV. “What has been happening? Mayte has told us some few things, but I am sure there is more.”

Dar chuckled.

Kerry cleared her throat. “Where do I start.”


So Fifty fifty.” Dar concluded. 


They were upstairs in Dar’s office, alone.  “Remind me to send a kudos to the kids.” Dar added. “That update they sent, it did what it needed to.”

“Without you inspecting it?” Kerry was seated near the window, hands braced on the bench seat, her back to the warm breeze coming in off the water. “Nice.”

“But no answer from the VC.” Dar said. “Hey, I said I would call. I called. I left a message.” She shrugged faintly. “I’m not going to worry about it. Maybe he’s kiteboarding or something he said he was into that.”

“You were going to push him off anyway.”

“I was. It’s not good timing. We can’t focus on that, and it needs focus.” Dar said. “We need to get this back online first, and make sure we’re not going to have to deal with another one of these.”

Kerry nodded. “You’re right.” She said. “I mean.. Dar, you’re always right.”

“I am not or we wouldn’t be sitting here sweating.” Her partner reminded her drily. “And that reminds me, we have to go home tonight.”

Kerry blinked at the seeming subject change. “Um… okay?”

“Or we’re going to be fighting with everyone not to take one of those RV’s.”


“Besides, we need to check on what’s going on over there.” Dar rocked back in her chair. “Just because Pharma worked out, doesn’t mean the rest of the plates I was juggling haven’t broken.” She rested her elbow on her desk and her head against her hand. “Glad Tomas feels better.”

“Me too.” Kerry smiled. “I know they’re worried about their house though. Maria’s been trying to get through to her insurance company, but its been nothing but busy signals.”

“Not surprised.” Dar remarked.  “Maybe some of the guys can ride down there tomorrow with them and see if they can get near it.” She watched Kerry nod in agreement.  “Where’d we end up with the Brazilians?”

Kerry snapped her fingers. “I knew there was something I was forgetting to call Mark about.”  She got up. “Thanks hon, let me go check.” She headed for her office. “I kinda think if he didn’t call it’s not great news.” She said, over her shoulder as she walked through the door that linked the two rooms.

Dar remained where she was, the room mostly cast into shadow as the sun was starting to trend to the west, sending spears of warm, rich sunlight through the windows across the hall. 

 In the outer room, Zoe was busy with messages and the LAN techs had run a cable down into her office for a phone, and Dar could hear her speaking softly into it, the light scratch of a pen against paper going as an undertone.

The construction was going on, the sound of drills and saws, driven by the battery powered UPS in the hallway interrupted the relative quiet at unexpected intervals, and the smell of plaster and paint came and went.

She wished the whole damn thing was over already.

It was so damned inconvenient and uncomfortable.

“Dar.” Maria came into the office, holding her cell phone.  “A very strange thing has just happened.”

Dar regarded her. “Like what?”  She asked.  “Pretty much everything’s been strange for the last week, so this should be a doozy.. you finally get hold of your agent?”

Maria sat down in the visitor chair across from Dar’s desk.  “He has not called.” She frowned. “But a person just did make a call to our number, and they said they were from the government.” She paused. “Do you think this is a scam thing, that we heard on the news about?”

“Maybe. What did he say?”

“Something about a program, and he needs to talk to us about it.” Maria said. “I don’t know about any program. Tomas says, he doesn’t know either. Could it be something to help because of the flooding? They want to send some papers. I gave them the fax thing Mayte set up for us.”

“Sure.” Dar agreed. “Might be some FEMA help or something.”

“But we did not ask for this.” Maria said, in a puzzled tone. “How did they know to call me on this phone?” She held up her cell phone.  “It is my phone from the office.” She explained. “I did not take the one from our house, it was not working and there was no battery anyway.”

Dar’s lips twitched, just a little bit. “Don’t look a gift horse in the ass?” She suggested. “Hey, if the government wants to help ya, let them.” She rocked forward and leaned her forearms on the desk. “Maybe your insurance agent went on the lam, and handed over their list of customers to FEMA?”

Maria considered that.  “It is possible.” She finally agreed. “Anyway I will look at the papers and see what it is.” She paused. “So many people are here. They are making the office look so nice.” She changed the subject. “if the power comes, it will be almost better.”

“Not quite.” Dar sighed. “We need comms. More than a tin can and string back to a half assed satellite sitting on that damn island.”

“You are worried.” Maria said, quietly. “Kerrisita is worried.”

Dar regarded her. “I’m more pissed off than worried. Pissed off that we let ourselves get into a mess like this.” She responded honestly. “I feel like an idiot. I know what these things can do.”

For a long moment, Maria just remained silent because there was really nothing to be said to that, and both she and Dar knew that.  Finally, she sighed. “Dar, you cannot think of everything.” She said. “I think no one considered that we would have so much business so quickly.”

“Yeah, that’s what Kerry said, and I know it’s true, but I still feel like an idiot.” Dar sighed. “I told her we need to slow down and get our act together.” She paused. “And who knows how long it’ll take for the power to come back..” She paused again, thoughtfully. “Huh.”

“You are thinking of something.” Maria said, confidently.

Dar blinked a few times. “Yeah, maybe.” She murmured. “Maybe.”

Kerry re-entered the room, carrying her cell phone. “Well.” She said. “I’m not really sure it was how you or I would have done it, but we still have Brazilian clients.”

Both Dar and Maria turned their heads to look at her.

“It involves a posse of out of work Brazilian steakhouse waiters from West Palm Beach translating for LAN technicians from Smyrna Georgia.” Kerry told them. “So…”

Dar’s brows shot straight up to her hairline. “What?”

“Dios mio.” Maria murmured.


It was so nice, and so wonderful to be cool and comfortable, surrounded by the conveniences they were used to around them.  Kerry picked up a tray with some hot chocolate on it and went back into the living room where Dar was laying on the couch, dressed in a pair of cotton shorts and a t-shirt, her newly showered hair still damp around her shoulders.

Spread out across their coffee table near the couch were diagrams, brown and dark blue lines that looked a little dusty and had carefully spaced and written letters in blocks on the bottom right hand side.

There was a triangular shaped ruler laying on top of them and a drafting pencil, and Dar had several pages of dense notation in her hands that she was studying.

Chino and Mocha were curled up on the loveseat together, looking very content to be back in their home. 

“Dar, was Richard right about us getting into trouble for doing things to this place?” Kerry handed her a cup of the cocoa.  “He sounded pretty sure it was going to be a problem.”

“Probably.” Dar sat up and put the cup down, setting the papers onto the tabletop without mussing them or spilling a drop onto the rest of the pages in a nonchalant display of perfect coordination.  “But I don’t care. This is the one way we can get this all done, Ker.”

“I like it.” Kerry sipped her chocolate.  “Of course, we’re dependent on that telecom to get done what they need to do, but if we have power and comms, and space… hell, why not? Half those guys are living in tents anyway, or underneath desks. We could do it.”

“We could do it.” Dar agreed. “Bring those RV’s in there, and get that electrician in to run us feeds. Hell we don’t even need to trench if that’s going to be a hassle just run the cables over the ground there. You gave me the idea – we can light the place up with wifi.”

“We need aircon for the servers.” Kerry said. “And for us, hon, it’s August. We have what, three more months of summer left? Where are we going to put that kind of hardware? I agree on the people. Get them out of that office and over there and we have a wall and gates and plenty, plenty of space to work with.”

“We can run the cables into the house and into those internal offices. One of them.” Dar  pointed at a line in the drawings. “Just air condition with spot coolers in those two. One for the servers, one for the people.”

Kerry studied the drawing. “Better to do the downstairs. That area near the kitchen and the storage rooms back there. We can use this one for the servers.” She leaned over and pointed at one of the large walk in spaces. “We can work on that kitchen table, and use the appliances in there if we power that space.”

Dar tapped her pencil on the paper. “We could do it.” She said. “Drain the spot coolers out the sinks there. Move the office refrigerators.”  She looked at Kerry. “Run everything temporary, in case we do get our asses nailed for it, and we can pull it all out.”

Kerry thought about it again for a long moment, and then she smiled. “This could work, Dar.”

“It could.”

“Let’s do it.”

Dar sat back and picked up her cocoa. “Hell, if Mark could wrangle bus boys to support an AWS migration, we can sure as hell make this house a nerd camp.”

Kerry lifted her cup in a toast. “To nerd camp!”


Concluded in Part 22