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SPECIAL EDITION! The Kildaran – FINAL CHAPTER

Yes, you read that correctly.

This is the FINAL CHAPTER of this novel!

Which means a few things.

First, it must be a Friday and I’ve decided to give you something to kick off your weekend right.

Second, there’s not going to be a new chapter up on Sunday for the first time this year. (But there will be something you’ll be interested in!)

Third, there are still a few more tales from The Kildaran which I plan to tell; these are the former ‘Interludes’ which Richard and I wrote to explain some of the more obscure references in the book. See, there’s another mission going on, parallel to this one, and these stories all apply to that. Now if we can just string them all together we’ll have another book (but my Muse is currently only listening to Kendra, and Richard’s Muse, well, that’s a mighty good question).

Fourth, it’s time for me to tell you what the background of the cover is. After all, I’ve been teasing you for seven months!

It’s a shot of the facade inside Fenway Park, taken from just behind the Pesky Pole on the first base side. I took it about 12 years ago and it was skillfully blurred into the cover you see.

Okay, so enough chatter. Cover, then final chapter, and don’t forget to come back on Sunday!

CHAPTER 55

The Caravanserai

May 4

Katrina left before dinner.

“Join me?” he asked, but she demurred.

“I must fast tonight.”

“Ah. Hope that just means food.”

She laughed.

“And I! Until tomorrow…”

With a kiss, she was gone, properly dressed again. She carried a bouquet of flowers he‘d gathered earlier on his run. It was quiet, now. At least until he heard a familiar knock, a pattern that announced, ‘Friend coming, not stopping’.

“Come.”

“Hey, Ass-Boy. Got something for you.” The Chief was carrying a pair of small packages. He was also carrying heavier than usual, especially for inside the serai.

“Oh? I think, I hope, I can guess what’s in one of them, but what’s the other?”

“Depends on what you think is in the first package,” he said, settling into a chair and dropping the packages on the desk.

“Open this first,” he continued, pushing one towards Mike.

He glanced at the writing. Georgian. “Where did you have to go to get these done? Tbilisi?”

“No. Tilaneti. Short hop in Valkyrie.”

“Valkyrie? Not Dragon?”

“No. Kacey’s not talking to me right now. I’m not sure why and not sure I care, honestly.”

Mike didn’t volunteer any information. Figuring out how he screwed up would be a good lesson for the Chief, and apologizing to the former Marine would do wonders for his social skills. Survival skills, too.

“Still a haul. Thanks.”

“Not going to open it?”

“Not now,” Mike answered, placing it in a lock box in his desk.

“Fine.”

“What’s this other one?”

“Just a little something I picked up for you. A little early wedding gift.”

“You really shouldn’t have,” said Mike, ripping at the paper, then bursting out laughing.

“No,” replied Adams. “I guess I shouldn’t have, but I did anyway.”

The two boxes of Viagra fell onto the desktop.

“I told you before, Chief,” Mike gasped between laughs. “Teenage virgins. Viagra not needed.”

“Yeah, well, I figured that since Katrina wasn’t a virgin any longer, you might just –”

“How the fuck do you know that?” asked Mike, all humor gone from his voice.

“The videos,” answered Adams.

“What videos?” Mike’s voice could have frozen helium.

The Chief began to realize how badly someone screwed the pooch, and he hoped to God it wasn’t him!

“The videos of you and Katrina? I got them in an email, thought you’d sent them, bragging.“ He backed his chair away subtly to give himself more room to move.

“You mean you didn’t know about them?”

“What. Videos?” There was barely suppressed rage in that voice now, rage that promised mayhem and bloodletting of epic proportions.

“Maybe I ought to leave?” suggested Adams, rising. “You know, places to do, things to see…”

Mike‘s hand flashed out and caught his wrist. He wasn‘t going anywhere.

“Not until you tell me about these videos.”

“Well, ah, there’s nothing much to tell.”

How the fuck do I minimize this?

“Just you and Katrina doing some, ah, calisthenics. Horizontally. And superimposed. A little captioning, some graphics added…”

“Motherfucking MICE!” Mike’s bellow shook the heavy door and rattled glasses. He’d had his suspicions, but the added details gave him the proof he needed.

“You want me to go get them? I’ll go get them. Right now. Won’t be a minute.”

And Master Chief Charles Adams, SEAL Team veteran of countless battles, skirmishes, and actions, fled.

*

While hunting Mice, Mike ran across Pierson.

“”Is the place in Greece ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Pierson. “Although why I’m buying real estate for you…”

“Because you owe me.”

“Whatever. In any case, with their economy in the toilet, the people were looking to sell quick. We got the whole cove for the original price of one of the houses.”

Mike paused before answering.

“Should do for now. I hope she remembers her lessons and what Mother Lenka says later.”

Looking askance at him, Pierson asked, “You know what you’re gonna use it for yet?”

“Not yet. Got to track down some Mice, first. You seen them?”

“Mice? No. Should I tell them –”

“Don’t say a fucking word. I want this to be a surprise.” Mike’s grin was evil.

*

“…every bit and byte, or I will turn you over to Katrina and let her decide your fate.”

The Mice had been there for fifteen full minutes.

Fifteen very uncomfortable minutes.

Fifteen minutes of total silence from all four.

Fifteen minutes of the most thorough and painful dressing-down they had ever endured.

God-Boy looked like someone shot his puppy. Catrina and Elena didn’t look anywhere but the floor, though unconsciously they’d moved closer together for comfort. Even Mouse was subdued. None looked particularly contrite, though. Sorry for having been caught so soon, perhaps.

He locked eyes with each one in turn, letting them see the fire gleaming within.

Once Mike, as Kildar, had finished speaking, Mouse spoke up.

“What about our last mission? Doesn’t that count for anything? Pierson told you about it, didn‘t he?”

“Your last mission? In Dubai? Yes. It counts for quite a lot.”

They relaxed slightly.

“It meant that you’re here, instead of on the practice range.”

“Practice range?” asked Evan. He swallowed.

“Live-fire range,” clarified Mike. “It helps if the targets are moving in an unpredictable manner. Improves real-world skills.”

“You’re joking!” said Evan. “You wouldn’t waste your best operatives this way!”

He noticed the panicked looks in the women’s’ eyes and rethought his assumption. “Would you?”

“Bet me,” replied Mike, frostily. “You invaded my privacy. Worse, you invaded that of my fiancée, who just happens to be the next Priestess.”

The women blanched.

“And worst of all, you made these videos available to others!”

“It was only a joke!” said Evan, desperately. “We were playing around with some new software! We didn’t mean any harm!”

“And the videos are only in-house! They’re not on a web-connected server!” added Elena. “Only the Chief and two of the Valkyries saw them!”

“That we know of,” added Catrina

“They’d better not be on the web,” growled Mike.

“Oh, we could design a worm that would seek and destroy any of the files that got out, not that any did, but it’s easy enough, any basic hacker could do it. If it happened.”

Evan shut up abruptly as Catrina and Elena kicked his shins from each side, staggering him but, more importantly, shutting his fucking mouth.

“There aren’t,” reassured Mouse. “Right, God-boy?”

Her right fist curled in a special way Evan was extremely familiar with. Mike noticed he seemed to be more afraid of her than him. Well, given the arsenal she carried and the tools at her disposal, he probably would be too.

“Right, none at all, nope, not on the web, never happened, I never put a hack up on my distributed network in town, ow!”

Glare.

Four of them.

Evan reacted very much like a mouse when facing three angry cats and a large tiger. He peed himself.

“Are we clear about this?” Mike’s voice was still Arctic. “You might think you’re the best, but there are others here who’ll give you a run for your money who’d just love to dig up some dirt on you. The Vanners, for example. And if they find anything, anything, then not only does Katrina get your sorry asses, but you’ll be detailing the Cave and any other grunt work Grez needs done. I’ll ask once again: are we clear on this?”

A chorus of meek “Yesses” met his ears.

“Good. Mouse, God-boy, you two take care of the files. Catrina, Elena, stay here. I want every bug out of my quarters, and I’m not leaving you two alone. You will remove them, and I will see you do it. Not just move them to new locations, like you‘ve apparently done before.”

“Furthermore. These rooms, my office, my apartments, are off-limits for-fucking-ever without my, or Kat’s, specific permission. You violate this rule and you will learn pain, much worse than anything you’ve ever known before. Trust me on this.”

“Yes, Kildar.” The younger two turned to go, but before they could get to the door, Mike stopped them.

“And Mouse?”

“Yes, Kildar?” she said warily.

“Thank you. That was good work in Dubai. I‘ll want to see the film when it‘s ready, with all the outtakes. We can enjoy the Mules‘ Traveling Comedy Show. But you have to remember about keeping on mission, and what your first fuck-up cost you.”

She lit up.

“You’re welcome, Kildar!”

Good mood restored, she practically skipped out the door, though her hands protectively covered her six.

Catrina and Elena were already moving purposely about the office.

“How many of those fucking things are there?” he asked.

“Total? Or in here?”

“Both.” He glared and was gruff, but not as severe as earlier. Let them think they were off the hook for now.

“Total audio, ten, video, thirteen. In here, one audio, one video.” Catrina reached behind his chair, pulled out a device, tossed it to Elena. “Of the video, three are HD and aimable, either guided or autonomous. Evan cobbled them together from the mobile sentry units so they react to body heat.”

“Only one of each here?”

“Not much of interest happened in here,” said Elena, smiling and grabbing a second device. “Most of the action was in your bedroom.”

Sigh.

“Lenochka, you and Catyenka will be the death of me, you know that?”

Hearing their pet names, Elena nearly purred. “Does this mean you forgive us?”

“Maybe. Later. If you get all the bugs and prove it to me, then I might possibly.”

Catrina pressed up against him.

“I know we’ve been very, very bad, Kildar. We deserve to be punished.”

Elena, pressed against his other side, said, “Severely.”

“Not right now,” he said, resisting their temptations. “Cameras and mikes first.”

“Yes, Kildar,” they chorused, and resumed working. They moved to the bedroom and busily began removing bugs.

“If we get them all, can we use the Dungeon? On God-boy? It really was all his idea, not ours. He said he’s getting bored with what he can find on the net.”

A giggle.

“He even wrote a script. We want to film it, but Mouse won’t let us find two volunteers for readings.”

“And practice.” Another giggle.

“Please?”

Mike buried his face in his palms. “I have to think about it,” he muttered.

And have a chat with the Chief, and a couple Valkyries. Wonder how many copies they made?

He shook his head, silently.

“I’ll be back shortly.” He visibly locked and alarmed his desk and went off to visit the Harem’s quarters. He’d need a few of their toys.

*

The Maypole was up, the Burakan taking their few hours of rest. Andrew and Jessia were in the courtyard of the serai, awaiting the beginning of their wedding ceremony. An arch of vines and flowers had been raised at the entrance.

Father Kulcyanov was presiding, with Mother Lenka assisting him. Younger acolytes of the Goddess had drawn a circle on the ground, and now four of them were placed at the four cardinal directions: Aiyana, Sephera, Illiana, and Alena. Father Kulcyanov occupied the center of the circle, clutching a rainbow of cords, and Mother Lenka stood at the south end with the couple, waiting.

Around the circle were the guests, including Mike, JP, Stasia, Jack, and even Bob Pierson. Most of the house staff had made it out, as well as men from Andrew’s platoon. Doctor Arensky managed to squeeze himself between the Valkyries, who were all dressed alike.

All in all, it would have been easier to move the ceremony down by the Tun and just reuse the same space for his own wedding. Mother Griffina had reached for her rolling pin when he’d brought it up at breakfast.

That was right out.

He’d taken his seat in a familiar throne to one side, surrounded by his harem and manservants. It was a crowded space. Every Family had sent at least one representative up, and it appeared that Jessia’s entire Family was present.

Mike internalized his sigh. He wouldn’t do anything to spoil this bride’s day. If only he could remember his lines.

At the appropriate time, and only Father Kulcyanov knew exactly when that was, for he didn’t seem to check any man-made timepiece, he raised his arms. Everyone fell silent.

“Father of All, we ask your blessing on this day and this couple as we join them in the ancient ritual.”

Mother Lenka turned to the couple.

“Before you go further, know that your lives, having crossed, have formed ties between each other. As you seek to enter this rite, these ties will be strengthened. With full awareness, therefore, know that within this circle you declare your intent to be handfasted, not only before your gathered families but before the All-Father and the Goddess as well. The promises you make today and the ties you make will greatly strengthen your union, cross the years and bind your lives together. Do you still seek to enter this rite?”

Together, they answered, “Yes. We seek to enter.”

Mother Lenka embraced them, then led them to Father Kulcyanov, where they knelt.

“Mother,” he said, his ancient voice strong today. “Do they know the full significance of what they seek?”

“They do, Father, for I have questioned them and can discover no deceit in them.”

“And do you still seek this handfasting?”

“Yes,” they answered.

“Then take them to the guardians to seek their consent.”

Lenka led them first to the East, Aiyana, who asked, “What seek you of the guardian of the East?”

“We seek your blessing on our union,” said Andrew.

“Blessed be this union with the gifts of Delling: communication of the heart, and body; fresh beginnings with the rising of each sun. The knowledge of growth found in the sharing of silence,” said Aiyana, wafting air over them with the waving of an ancient round shield. Lenka led them clockwise, to the South, where Sephera awaited.

“What seek you of the guardian of the South?”

“We seek your blessing on our union,” said Jessia this time.

“Blessed be this union with the gifts of Niord: warmth of the hearth and home, the heat of the heart’s passion and the light created by both to illuminate the darkest of times.” She sprinkled barley grains over them.

They were led to Illiana, standing as Guardian of the West.

“What seek you of the guardian of the West?” she said.

“We seek your blessing on our union,” they responded together.

“Blessed be this union with the gifts of Nerthus: the deep commitments of the lake, the swift excitement of the river, the refreshing cleansing of the rain, and the all-encompassing passion of the sea.” She sprinkled a few drops of water over them.

Finally, they approached Alena.

“What seek you of the guardian of the North?”

“We seek your blessing on our union,” they answered together again.

“Blessed be this union with the gifts of Skadi: a firm foundation on which to build, fertility of the fields to enrich your lives, a stable home to which you return.” Kneeling, she removed the shoes of both, getting an inadvertent giggle from Jessia as her foot was tickled.

Carrying their footwear, Lenka led them back to the center, and Kulcyanov. They knelt again.

“You have received tools from the guardians which will help you build a happy and successful union. Yet that is all they are: tools. Tools which you must wield in order to reap what you seek in this union. I bid you now, look into each other’s eyes.”