West Adams St. just outside the Berghoff restaurant
Lillith stepped through the shattered remains of the door to the famous restaurant to look quickly up and down the sidewalk for injured people. Surprisingly, the usually busy walkway had been empty when the immense explosion occurred. Behind her in the Berghoff, William and others tended to the injured. Suddenly, activity out in the wide boulevard caught Lillith's attention and ignited her volatile temper.
In the middle of West Adams St., at the center of a shallow crater, Kara was lying face down and unmoving. The top of her head was severely blackened and her hair frayed outward. The explosion had evidently been from a massive concussion-type shaped-charge explosive detonated directly on her head, stunning the powerful Velorian. Due to the shaped-charge, the main force of the explosive had been focused downward into Kara and the street. Three Kintzi were frantically putting pure gold restraints around her now pliant wrists as quickly as possible before Kara could recover. The sight of her sister being mistreated fired a white-hot flash of anger through Lillith that completely overwhelmed her better judgment!
With her jaw set indignantly and her fists straight down at her sides, Lillith stormed angrily out into the street, straight at the Kintzi. How dare these creatures do that to Kara! Don't they know who she is? Well, we'll just see about this!! Mumbling Velorian curses under her breath, Lillith's body began to grow more and more muscular as she stomped directly up behind the biggest Kintzi. Three quick, hard raps on his shoulder made the huge creature whip his head around to release a massive roar that blew Lillith's hair straight back and made her eyes flutter. Yet, instead of seeing the intruder flee in terror, all the now surprised Kintzi saw was Lillith's angry face and the blurred image of her fist rocketing directly at his face! The shock wave of her punch blew the other two Kintzi away from Kara as the one she hit exploded violently through the driver's door of a parked Lexus! The impact blew all the windows out of the vehicle just as the Kintzi blasted out through the passenger door and rammed head-first up to his knees into a concrete and earthen retaining wall across the street!
As the Lexus rocked unsteadily from side to side, the Kintzi in the wall no longer moved.
Shaken from the unexpected attack, the leader of the Kintzi unsteadily rose to his feet and angrily faced her. Nearby, a younger Kintzi did the same. The battle-ready Protector crouched into a fighting stance between the two snarling Kintzi and Kara's prone body, protecting her sister. Her deadly fists were closed tightly and raised before her, ready to smash any creature who dared try to touch her sister again. Lillith's entire body grew massively with stone-hard muscle fueled by her indignant anger, growth that strained her Terran clothing until seams and fabric stretched tightly to their limits before yielding into disintegration. The shreds now hung loosely from her potent form. She glared intently at the nearest Kintzi through cold-steel eyes that waited. Waited for him to be foolish enough to come at her.
The Kintzi was no fool, yet what was happening was almost unbelievable to him! "By the gods, another Velorian?" He now wasn't sure if they had the right Velorian or not as he glanced from the weakened Kara to the dangerous Lillith and back. One thing the Kintzi knew for sure: facing two Velorian Protectors was a losing proposition. He needed some insurance to keep the Velorians under control and possibly save his own skin. For that, he simply required a hostage. As if answering to his needs, a nearby Terran male wandered much too close to the street. In a flash, the Kintzi warrior was on him, gripping the hapless Terran in his claws! The Kintzi knew to weaken his hostage to prevent excessive struggling and possible escape. The trick was not to kill, but simply to maim. Instantly, the powerful jaws of the Kintzi closed down over the shoulder of the Terran and.....
Closed down again, shaking furiously and.......
For some reason the huge Kintzi warrior just couldn't break the skin of this Terran! Determination drove the angry Kintzi to jam his massive jaws down around the arm of his victim with all of his strength! What should have been shattered bone, shredded skin, and blood was only an expanding arm of steel that pulled the Kintzi forward! What kind of Terran was this!?!!
It was William.
In a trick he learned as a child to control animals, William severely pinched the nose of the surprised Kintzi with his free hand, forcing the Kintzi to involuntarily open his jaws. Stumbling back awkwardly, the confused creature sneezed, shook his snarling head once, and crouched to renew its attack just in time to feel William slam his fist into the side of the Kintzi's head! The creature was flung through a wide arc over West Adams Street to land with a hard, unconscious thud on the concrete in the same general area as his lifeless comrade.
Now only one Kintzi remained, a young, inexperienced cadet who only came along to observe and learn. He found himself terrifyingly alone and convinced that everyone on this strange planet was a Supremis!
Mac and Phil had watched everything from the entrance to the Berghoff. Lillith was protecting Kara, but no one had done anything about removing the gold from Kara's wrists. Phil saw an opportunity.
"Would you consider following me, sir?"
"Where? Out there?"
"Phil, there are bad'n'nasty folks out there. We could get seriously bent."
"We need to remove the gold from Mistress Kara, sir. She cannot recover until we do."
"It's up to us?"
"It would appear so, sir."
"Aw, shit." Mac looked left, then right, nervously. "Alright, let's do it."
The two moved quickly out into the street. The minute they moved, Lillith's eyes snapped in their direction, then back to the Kintzi instantly. She understood what they were up to and moved slowly toward the Kintzi, giving them more room, until the young cadet looked like he was about to panic. She then took one step back and held her ground. William kept his distance behind and to the left of the Kintzi, blocking his escape away from Lillith.
Behind Lillith, Mac and Phil reached Kara quickly. Phil spoke briefly to her, but only received a moan in response. Mac gripped the gold bonds and worked the crude latching mechanism. Phil thought it might be wise to inform Mac of an important safety tip.
"Sir, move back quickly when the restraints release."
The gold links separated, dropping to the street with a distinctive clink as Mac responded with a simple "Hm?".
The energy from the Matrix rushed into Kara like a tempest! Mac was knocked to the ground hard as her form surged suddenly up into the air, her body flexing massively as her awesome strength and incredible power was fully restored within only a brief moment. When the energy flow subsided, she settled easily back to the street and stretched as if she had only now awakened from a nap. Kara looked down at the amazed Terran, winked, and simply said "Thanks!" Mac could only nod with a silly grin on his face while he reassured Phil that he was alright.
The sight of Kara restoring herself like that was enough to make the young Kintzi give in to his growing fear! When he turned to run, there were instantly hundreds of uniformed Terrans positioned in the buildings, streets, and alleyways all around him with high-powered particle beam weapons, each aimed directly at his head! The sight immediately made him freeze in place! There was no easy way out and the inexperienced Kintzi now knew he was trapped! For a moment, the young warrior considered charging into the Terrans to take as many with him as possible in a glorious, bloody end! He was breathing rapidly, on the verge of a killing frenzy, when Kara stepped forward between the young Kintzi and Lillith to handle the situation.
"Lillith! Easy! I want you to settle. Easy, sister." Slowly, uneasily, Lillith lowered her fists as her body returned to its normal, slender appearance. Kara then turned to the Kintzi, speaking forcefully, but without a trace of threat.
"Your mission has failed. Why you attacked me, I do not know, but all of your comrades are down. You are in charge now. It is now your mission, young one. If you do not fight, we will not fight either. It is now your mission - they will rely on you now. Gather your dead and wounded, young one. It is what they would want you to do. Gather your people and withdraw from this planet."
He listened, listened intently to what Kara was saying. Her reasonable words seemed to make him think and thinking prevented him from doing anything that everyone might regret. Yet, the young Kintzi warrior still had a touch of adolescent bluster left in him as he snarled contemptuously at the blonde woman.
"And if I do not?"
Kara's eyes narrowed as her voice became cold. This point would be made clear.
"Then you will not leave that spot on which you stand.... alive."
For a moment, no one moved. Eyes searched eyes before one pair softened and lowered. The young Kintzi crossed his arms across his chest and bowed in a display of surrender and submission.
Kara let out a long breath of relief, quietly saying to herself, "Good kitty."
Retrieving a communication device from the unconscious body of the leader, the cadet signaled for the Kintzi shuttle to pick the team up. Kara demanded assurances that the shuttle was unarmed - something that the cadet quickly swore on his honor was so. As the crude shuttlecraft broke through the puffy, white, fair-weather clouds overhead, it pulled up and hesitated at the sight in the street below. But the cadet waved it down and it settled slowly onto West Adams.
Two nervous, snarling Kintzi peered out of the open hatch at Kara and Lillith before helping the cadet collect their comrades. They had some problems withdrawing the Kintzi from the concrete wall, but soon had everyone on board. The last to enter the drab craft was the cadet. Stopping momentarily in the hatchway, he turned to glare back at the two Velorian Protectors in the street. With a venomous sound to his voice, he snarled his threat as he snapped a clawed finger straight at Kara.
"I will return, female. You will see me again."
With that, he turned inside just as the hatch closed with a loud bang. The shuttle slowly rose into the air.
Over the rumble of the engines, Kara leaned a bit toward Lillith and yelled to be heard.
"Lillith, watch them closely. First sign of trouble, we tear that machine apart."
Lillith nodded rapidly and crouched, ready to leap into the air, but no counterattack came. The shuttle rotated to return from the direction it had first appeared. The Kintzi were indeed leaving.
Everyone on that street burst into cheering! The troops pumped their weapons up and down over their heads as they yelled themselves hoarse! Civilians were applauding wildly! In the middle of West Adams Street, two Velorian Protectors hugged each other and then waved to the crowds.
Circling above, a Bell UH-904 turbine VTOL velocijet circled. Looking out of the crew cabin window was a familiar old woman. Her smile showed how pleased she was with the outcome in the street below.
"Looks like everything is alright. What were the casualty figures, Bry?"
"Only six injured, mostly by flying glass. We were lucky to get here fast enough to block off the street access - thanks to you."
"What, Laurie? What is it?"
"I forgot to feed Dixie! Better get me home, Bry. I'm not doing any good here! You folks and the kids have everything under control."
Major Bryant smiled, shook his head slowly in amazement, and banked the sleek craft into a steep accelerating turn to the north.
Palmer House Hotel, Lillith's Suite, that afternoon
"I'm gonna miss my little Space-girl, Lilly." Cecil patted the tear-covered cheek of the beautiful blonde and smiled a toothless smile. Lillith quickly hugged the now weeping elderly gentleman.
"Ohhhhh, Cecil, I'm soooo sorry we weren't here more. I hope you understand." Cecil patted her back, fatherly.
"Oh, don't you worry about a thing, Lilly. As long as you had a good time, that's all I care about. Next time, you `n'me'll have a big party downstairs, just like that one time. Remember?"
Lillith nodded and smiled, taking a tissue from Cecil to dry her eyes. In addition, she blew her nose into it, loudly.
"That's my girl, Lilly!"
Ground level, the lobby of the Palmer House
"Sir, do you still intend to tell others of the Mistress?"
Mac was rapidly scribbling what Phil had just told him about the second war and responded absentmindedly. "Yeah, something like that."
Phil tapped his leg a moment in thought. Something, he felt, was not quite correct.
"There is a possibility that you may not express the experience with the appropriate detail, sir. There are many subtleties and emotions involved."
Mac was still scribbling. "Uh, yeah, well we'll just call it creative license, Phil. You know, I'll punch it up a bit where it needs it."
Phil sighed and moved closer to Mac. "I cannot permit inaccuracies and falsehoods, sir."
Just as Mac laughed at such a naive thought, Phil suddenly touched his leg lightly to Mac's arm. Mac immediately stopped writing, the pencil falling to the floor from his limp hand. A sudden warmth flowed through Mac's body as his mind instantly went blank. A rich amber glow grew in intensity as it surrounded him. His eyes slowly closed to witness a flood of images rapidly cascade into his mind. With the images came the emotions. He knew the horror, felt the tenderness, yearned like only a very young woman can yearn, felt the utter devastation of losing your deepest love, and was carried aloft by the exhilaration of reuniting with the same. All of it poured into his mind as if from a pitcher to a cup. Just when he thought he couldn't possibly take any more, Phil lifted his touch and the glow subsided. Mac immediately slumped into the chair, out of breath and sweating from the fast-forward experience.
"My.....my god, Phil. Was it all like that? Was it......was it all.....so..."
Phil's calm voice interrupted. "Yes, sir. That is why you must know, to make your information valid. The story of the Mistress must be appropriate."
Mac rubbed his tired eyes and nodded. "You sure have a way to make sure of..."
Just then Lillith stepped into the lobby from the elevators. At the sight of her, Mac sprang to his feet and stared with a newfound respect and admiration for her. Lillith was slowly scanning across the wide lobby, looking for Phil. Finally seeing him with Mac, Lillith waved and approached the unusual pair. Mac watched her walk toward them as if he were seeing an apparition. Without taking his eyes off of her, he spoke quietly to Phil.
"Phil, I understand now. She's a most unique woman."
"Yes, sir. The Mistress is truth. She would give herself completely for us. She is the Mother of Us All and we are for her. We love her."
"I can certainly understand that, Phil."
A brightly smiling Lillith, her eyes reflecting the golden lights of the lobby, tossed her luxuriant hair to the side with a simple movement of her head just before she spoke.
"Hi, Mac! Are you and Phil almost done?"
Without answering, Mac took Lillith's hand and raised it to his lips. Softly kissing the back of her slender hand, he looked up into the eyes of a somewhat confused, somewhat amused, and a somewhat curious Velorian beauty. He said nothing for a moment, but then tenderly spoke two words.
A smile of great warmth crossed Lillith's lips as her other hand joined the first to envelope his. She knew Phil had been sharing her story with this Terran. She stepped forward and kissed his cheek lightly before whispering into his ear.
"I am only one life."
Before Mac could ask her what she meant, Lillith called to Phil that they had to leave. Mac and Phil quickly said their goodbyes and, within an instant, Lillith and Phil were gone. It all happened much too quickly, yet perhaps it was best that it did.
Standing alone in the middle of the ornate lobby, Mac thought to himself a moment before turning toward the doors of the grand entrance. As he walked out into the sunlight of another Chicago afternoon, he looked around himself at the everyday activity. He looked at the traffic and the people and the buildings, as if it were the first time in his life that he had ever seen these things. It was in that instant that he suddenly understood what she had said to him.
Smiling to himself as he stuffed his hands into his pockets, Mac began to walk leisurely down the sidewalk. He briefly watched the city crews repairing a large crater down the way on West Adams just before he turned the next corner and quickly disappeared into the crowds of the city of Chicago.
127,000 miles beyond Earth's lunar orbit, inbound along home system interplanet shipping lane 27-342-D
Below the foredeck of the light cargo ship, the retired captain of the Valdosta Star nursed a gin-and-tonic, his third today. It was nice, he thought, not to have to deal with the odd problems that one finds out here. It was nice, he thought, to finally leave all the decisions up to someone else for a change. When you start seeing flaming Supergirls, it's time for a change!
He had stayed drunk all week out on that Europa moon, just waiting for this trip back to Earth. The Val-Star was still in spaceport at Europa, taking on provisions and cargo for the return trip, but who cared anymore about such things! He was retired and all he had to do right now was stay drunk and look at the stars. His cheek rested against the cool glass of the porthole as his eyes worked hard to focus on the distant stars. He closed his eyes for a moment to let them rest or perhaps simply to let himself rest. For whatever reason why he closed them, when he opened them he was looking right into the slowly rotating face of a large, inquisitive spider right outside his porthole! The damn thing was brown and furry, with black legs, and it was smiling at him! It's waving!
Outside the slow moving ship, William leaned back against the hull to hold the old Arion canister in place while Lillith tighten the straps a bit more. They didn't want those coming off during the passage! The huge ship had conveniently come along at just the right time to serve as a backstop for William. How convenient, they thought.
The drunk, retired captain closed his eyes and shook his head. Maybe the stress hadn't left him completely yet. Oh, why didn't he listen to his sister and retire early! No, no, that wasn't the problem now. He was just seeing things, harmless things, things that go away quickly and don't mean anything. He opened his eyes and, sure enough, the spider vision was gone. Fortunately or unfortunately, it was replaced by the most beautiful and voluptuous blonde woman that he had ever seen in his life! She was doing a striptease out there!
As William sat atop the hull of the ship, Lillith decided that this would be a good time to remove the last of her Terran clothing. It would only burn off during the passage anyway.
Floating weightlessly back from her lover, she had a coy, teasing look on her face as she slowly unbuttoned her shirt. When she saw a smiling William shake his head `no', she knew what he wanted her to do. Raising her arms and cradling them over the top of her head, Lillith pursed her lips as she arched her back to force her breasts outward while flexing her chest muscles. The remaining buttons shot away from the shirt like bullets from a gun as the immense pressure of her breasts burst the shirt as if it were paper! Reaching down with her hands, Lillith easily pulled away the remains of the shredded shirt, launching it with a quick flip of her hand toward an antenna array on the ship.
Both of her hands then slipped seductively between her own legs, her eyes watched closely how William enjoyed her private show in zero gravity. As if on cue, her hands moved slowly back up to the beltline of her jeans. Her slim hands gripped the material tightly just before she pulled relentlessly away from herself. Tiny teeth from the zipper sparkled as they flew in every direction from the shattered closure device. The heavy denim tore freely under the massive force of Lillith's pull. Within seconds, she was free of her clothing, running her hands smoothly over the nakedness of her incredibly powerful body without a care. The cold of space felt so good!
William was smiling broadly and clapping without a sound in the near-void of space. This show was almost as good as that time Lillith completely overwhelmed and destroyed a Lycra bodysuit simply by flexing her entire body!
At the porthole, the captain watched with his mouth agape. He couldn't believe what he had just seen! This quadrant is incredible! There's all kinds of stuff out there! These hallucinations are getting GOOD!
Taking another long drink from his nearly empty bottle, the captain watched to see what would happen next, but all the woman did was stare out into space. She seemed to be looking for something!
Lillith looked intently for the right wormhole. How she did it, William didn't know, but he could see that it took a great deal of concentration on her part as he sat on top of the ship waiting. Finally, her face brightened as she pointed to a seemingly empty point in space. When she moved toward William to pick him up, Lillith suddenly waved at a face peering out at her from the ship.
She's waving at me!! Jesus! My hallucination is totally interactive! Insanity is more fun than I thought! The retired captain of the Valdosta Star drew the last of the gin from the now empty bottle just before he flung it into a nearby corner. The glass shattered noisily.
Brown, fuzzy spiders and blondes doing stripteases in space! The psychiatrists would certainly get a grant to study that one! Staggering to stay on his feet, he quickly glanced back at the porthole only to see nothing but an empty quadrant of space. There, he thought, that's better. Hallucination complete. Nothing more to worry about!
His eyes immediately rolled back into his head as he fell to the floor and passed out cold.
On the planet Tetra, outside the habitat
Nearly every Tetrite on the planet had turned out for the safe return of William, Lillith, and Phil. They had gathered together here, on this cool evening under the bright moonslight of three Tetra moons, to listen to Phil tell them about the planet they knew as Terra. As Flare rested her contented head in William's lap, he stroked her huge head lovingly even after she had fallen into a happy sleep. Next to him, Lillith sat leaning against his shoulder, her hand stroking his forearm lightly as she listened to Phil's story. The only sound throughout the habitat area were the incessant crickets, but even they seemed to keep their constant chirping a little quieter tonight as if they too wanted to know. There was much to hear.
Phil told them about the wonders of the Terrans. How they created the most beautiful things, sometimes just to please themselves! How the Terrans came together to create vast, fantastic cities! He told them about waffles and chocolate and horse beings and beer and the beautiful jewels that could only come from a mine on some planet called New Zealand and so much more. The Tetrites listened to descriptions of wonderful music that had rhythms so strong that you couldn't keep from dancing to them! On and on Phil told them all about so many wonderful things, but it was when he told them about how the Terrans once were capable of the most nightmarish evils of genocide and war that the gathered Tetrites became totally silent. Phil paused momentarily, then continued.
"And yet, seeing themselves so clearly, they faced the terribleness of themselves to overcome it! There is strength in that; there is nobility in that. They are the noblest of creatures in all the Universe and are certainly, truly, the bravest! A creature is not brave simply because he faces another, for it is most likely that the other will not be as formidable as himself. But let him challenge himself, let him face himself, let him know that he may fail and you will see true courage! No one must ever doubt that the Terrans aspired to great things! They aspire and they do achieve! For every setback of their existence, their species grows ever greater and more profound. They are the most marvelous of species!"
Lillith whispered something to William that made him smile warmly. Looking down at her own belly, Lillith's eyes sparkled briefly as she peered at the Tachyon images through herself. There, in the very first stages of development, was a new life forming within her. A new life created with the sleepy man whom she now cuddled closer to, to rest her head on his broad shoulder. While Phil continued, Lillith slowly closed her eyes to drift away into a sleep of contentment in the arms of her lover.
A nearby Tetrite posed a question. "But what of information? Do they hold information in high regard?" Phil couldn't wait to answer.
"To them, information is as it is to us, perhaps more so. They have centers of information across the entire breadth of their planet where everyone has access to all of the information from everyone else. They refer to these places as libraries. They are linked together through computing machines that provide any additional information or guidance to new information requested. It is as if all of the Terrans were participating in one constant `Gathering' across their entire globe. Their printed word is a most pleasing method of disseminating information! It would be most welcome for us to consider printed material as well!"
There was some mumbling among the Tetrites. Some agreed, some did not. Books would certainly be untraditional for the Tetrites who always considered conversation and `Gatherings' to be appropriate methods. That point would require more discussion.
Interrupting the discussions, Phil raised a small, white tube high enough for everyone to see.
"This device was given to me by a most kind Terran female known as Carol Ann. Although without the benefit of sight in her eyes, she yet possessed a generous vision of the world around herself. She was accepting of me at a time when I experienced exclusion from Terran society. For her, I will always feel gratitude and the deepest friendship.
The device is called a kaleidoscope. If one were to gaze through this aperture while pointing the device at an illumination source, one would see a myriad display of colors and shapes. It may have been designed to be only a child's toy, but it is, to me, a reflection of the species that created it. They are, in the light you shine on them and in the manner you view them, always changing, yet always remarkably fascinating. I will treasure it as I will treasure the memory of the Terrans..... always."
A queue immediately formed to take turns looking through the remarkable kaleidoscope as William, Lillith, and Flare slumbered peacefully nearby.
Aunt Laurie's House, eleven months later
The sun had settled below the horizon, leaving the orange cast of twilight behind that melted smoothly into a clear starlit sky in the East. Aunt Laurie adjusted her glasses as she unfolded the letter that had just arrived from Lillith. Above the house, the interdimensional craft of a Velorian Messenger soared silently back into the evening sky to return to space, his mission completed.
Stepping closer to the brighter light of the paddock, Aunt Laurie attracted the attention of Dixie. The curious horse cantered over to the fence to investigate whether the old woman might be harboring anything of interest, such as a nice treat to eat. But Aunt Laurie's attention was focused on the crudely lettered, hand-written letter. At the moment, she had no time for treats.
DEAR ANT LARI,
I WITE THISS LETER TO YOU MISELF. I LERN TO WITE EGLISH NOW AND WILLAM SAY I DO GOOD SO FAR. HE ALWAS SAY SO FAR. I DONT NO WHY.
I WAN TO TELL YOU BOUT BABY GURL. SHE COME BORN TO US. SHE SO BEUTIFULL! HER NAME Mara'lyn Laurie. WILLAM WITE THAT PART. HE SAY I DON SPEL GOOD. DID YOU SEE YOU NAME TOO? THAT WAS WILLAM IDEA AND I LIKE TOO! WHEN SHE GRO SOME WE VISIT TOO AND YOU SEE HER TOO. SHE BEUTIFULL! I LUV MY BABY AND WILLAM AND YOU TOO! WILLAM SAY WE FIND KAMMRA TO MAKE PIKCHERS SOON. I DONT NO WAT THAT IS BUT HE SAY YOU TO SEE HER WITH THAT SO IT GOOD THING.
BIE BIE ANT LARI! LUV YOU!
Aunt Laurie carefully folded the paper and slipped it into her coat pocket. Nudging her shoulder, the long face of Dixie seemed to want to know why the old woman was crying.
"Oh, you silly horse, I'm fine. Looks like William and Lillith had a little baby girl, that's all."
Dixie's ears flicked straight up.
"Oh, don't look so surprised. Didn't you pay attention to what was happening down at the cottage when they were here?"
Dixie bolted playfully from the fence only to spin around once before stopping to look back at Laurie as if to say "Let's play!" But Aunt Laurie only waved her hand away.
"Agh, silly horse." Undaunted by the lack of enthusiasm from Aunt Laurie, Dixie trotted happily around the paddock anyway.
Aunt Laurie turned her face upward to the night sky. Out there somewhere was her grandniece. Out there. As if speaking to the Ancient Ones, Aunt Laurie murmured aloud.
"You guys did just fine."
A shooting star passed directly overhead, flared brightly, and disappeared.
Tetra, the following year
The news came to Tetra about a week after it happened. They had found Aunt Laurie alone in her study, surrounded by her pictures of the ones she loved so dearly. Her heart gave out, they said. But the people who said that didn't truly know her. A heart like hers could never just give out. She must have just decided that it was time to go. Besides, a heart so large would always go on inside the people it touched.
Across the table near her favorite chair were pictures of William, Lillith, Phil, and a place for a sparkling new picture of Lillith's daughter, Mara'Lyn. The last they took from her hand.
In Cheyenne Mountain, the entire base was mourning the loss of their finest, a true original. Major, now Colonel Bryant spoke at the wake that was attended by heads of state from all over Earth as well as a number of far flung planets, including the normally reclusive Velor. Laurie Vanderfelt, it appeared, had been to many places.
Robert saw to her will as executor. Her land was given over to the County Park District with the understanding that none of it ever be used for development. It all would remain open space. The house was so much better than their current quarters that the Park District moved their offices into it, thus securing the open land requirement.
The stable and paddock remained for as long as Dixie lived. Aunt Laurie had provided well for her and the playful horse would always be well cared for.
There was one exception to her gift. A small cottage down by a drifting stream was to remain on a few acres of surrounding land to separate it from the park. No one was to have access to it; it was to be sealed and left alone, never to be disturbed. A small fund was set up to maintain the little cottage forever. No one knew why.
To William was left a rather sizable sum and her old Arion Gar. She wrote in her will "may this old monster protect you as well as it has always protected me." William cherished it.
To Lillith, she left, among a number of things, her old waffle iron and the very old, handwritten Velorian book that contained vast amounts of detailed information about Velorian Protectors, none of which had ever been taught to Lillith. From the very first day the young, blue-eyed woman opened the musty cover, she was constantly amazed at what it told her about herself and her birthright. The knowledge she gained would one day change her universe forever.
For Phil, the remainder of her library was his. As it turned out, the collection was much larger than what appeared within the confines of the small study of her home. There were vaults below ground that were filled with thousands of books of all kinds. It took well over two years for Velorian Messengers to transport them all to Tetra. Once done, they formed the basis of a Terran-style library that became very popular with the Tetrites.
As per her request, some of her ashes were spread over Cheyenne Mountain, the rest were taken by Lillith back to Tetra. She spread some of them over the habitat area and the rest she buried on a hill overlooking the desert where Aunt Laurie's toddling namesake was growing up healthy and happily.
That night, Lillith couldn't find William or Phil anywhere around the habitat. They had simply vanished. She found them both, sitting side by side, right at the site of Aunt Laurie's grave. A single candle burned in front of the marker stone. Neither William nor Phil moved nor spoke when she joined them. She quietly rested her head on William's shoulder to try and comfort him. He took her into his arms and buried his face on her shoulder. Her arms closed around her heartbroken lover as he broke down to finally cry. William would miss his aunt terribly.
Phil tears made his eyes glisten as he looked up at the stars. His voice betrayed how deeply he felt her loss as his words drifted away into the night sky.
"The Universe seems so lonely a place now. It has lost some of its uniqueness."
The central hall of the community college, north of Chicago, two years later
The Maintenance man had finished mounting the large picture to the brick wall of the central hall and wiped away most of the mortar dust left behind. Arranged all around the large picture were sports trophies and scholastic awards of all kinds, but at the center was placed this new photograph. It wasn't a new picture. It was actually a few years old, but the news brought a recollection that it existed and it was retrieved for this occasion.
The College proudly had the photograph blown up to a larger size, framed, and attached a small brass plaque to the bottom of the frame. The picture was of a tall Terran male with long hair and a short Tetrite male with short fur. They were smiling pleasantly for the camera as they sat on the edge of a stage. In the background, hundreds of students gathered around them. The brass plaque read: "Dr. Andrew Pulaski and Phil, Co-recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics, awarded for their pioneering work in establishing interdimensional associations of temporal realities."
Dr. Pulaski always insisted that Phil's name be associated with all of his now corrected work. Phil's brief discussion with the Professor in the library of a small community college that sunny day a few years ago had resulted in a flood of new theories and concepts from Dr. Pulaski that triggered a profound and fundamental shift in the direction that all research in this area had taken.
Half of the monetary award and Phil's plaque were safely held in Stockholm, awaiting his return to the planet. For the rest of his life, Dr. Pulaski would refer to Phil as "that wonderful gentleman from Tetra".
Tetra, 24 Years later...
As the gleaming white shuttle settled to the ground, the thrusters shutdown to let the tan dust settle. Visitors from outside the planet had arrived. Visitors who had never paid such an official visit as this before to a place so far from home. For a few moments, there was only the stillness of the desert, but then a large hatch slowly swung open and latched into place.
A beautiful dark-haired woman, dressed in the uniform of the International Alliance for Exploration, the IAE, stepped out of the still smoldering shuttle and into the sunlight of a planet outside Earth's solar system for the first time in that planet's history. The woman looked around herself at the gathered Tetrites. In the far distance, standing on a large rock outcrop, she could see three humanoid figures, two blonde women and a single, very proud male. They were keeping their distance to allow this first contact between the native species without interference.
The intense green color of her artificial eyes glistened in the bright desert sun as she smiled. The joy she felt made her want to giggle like a schoolgirl. Looking at the scene before her, at the Tetrite young still at play and the older Tetrites who had come out to greet her, she nodded knowingly. Before her, a large, familiar Tetrite raised a leg in welcome. Captain Carol Ann Cummins, commander of the first starship from Earth to successfully navigate a wormhole and the leading scientist to develop the means to do so, extended her own hand with her palm up and touched Phil's leg in greeting. She spoke with all the depth of feeling her heart had kept all these long years.
"Hello, my dear friend. It's just as I remembered it."
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