Glad you’ve come back for another Chapter!
Last week you got to see the wedding-that-wasn’t; now, you get to learn how they almost got there.
Of course, you can skip all the serialization and just skip right to buying the book if you aren’t patient. Kindle, paperback, and audiobook, I have them all! And if you’re interested in an Autographed paperback, that’s a page on the site here!
Okay, okay, enough pitching. On with the chapter!
Chapter 2: Meet the Family
Her name was Aiyana Cassidy and she was thirty-two years old.
Half Irish and half Native American, her name meant ‘Eternal Bloom‘, though everyone called her Cass. Tall, at 190 centimeters, and slim, she had auburn hair that trailed down her back when it wasn’t pinned up for work. Her long, tanned legs led up to a slim waist and full breasts, and she had attracted more than her fair share of suitors over the years. But it was her eyes that were her most memorable feature – pale, ice-blue eyes that seemed to gaze deep into the soul of anyone she talked to.
She’d grown up in a small town in northern Minnesota, part of the Northern Imperium. She thought her childhood was uneventful, though outside observers might have disagreed. Science fair winner in sixth grade for her design of a hypersonic transport, she’d always shown a flair for design and engineering. So, it wasn’t a surprise when she announced, political differences be damned, she was going to attend MIT.
‘There’s no way I’m paying for my daughter to go to school in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts!’ declared her mother that night.
‘Fine! Don’t pay; they’ve offered me a scholarship!’ retorted the teenager.
‘But you’re going to be so far away!’ protested her father. ‘And we can’t get visas to travel outside the country, at least not to the PRM!’ The Northern Imperium had been ruled by the Daley dynasty since its establishment in 2040. Periodically, protests for a more democratic form of government would arise. The Imperial Internal Affairs Bureau would infiltrate the protests, gather the names and vital information, then systematically follow them for the rest of their lives and use their youthful misdeeds to suppress further demonstrations of ‘disloyalty’. Both her parents had been snared in the IAB’s net, and had discovered that their freedom to travel had been severely curtailed when they had planned a honeymoon to the Confederate States, only to have their visas denied; they were listed in the IAB’s database as ‘potential domestic terrorists’ and couldn’t get permission to leave.
‘I can,’ she said simply, in the cruel, unthinking way perfected by teenagers from time immemorial. ‘Besides, who said I wanted you to visit?’
Things degenerated from there, and she ended up spending the night – and, eventually, the rest of the year before heading east – at her best friend’s house. Kendra Foster-Briggs was certainly thrilled to have her stay. ‘I’m going west, you’re going east, it’s our last summer together!’
Seven years at MIT later, earned her a Master’s in Quantum Mechanics and a Doctorate in Optical Engineering. The Heavy Lift Corporation sponsored her internship, with a job promised on graduation, to help design the next generation of Photonic Laser Thrusters (PLT). Within days of her successfully defending her doctoral thesis she moved to New Mexico and the Los Alamos laboratories. Within months she had validated the faith HLC had in her and was given her own research team, budget, and allowed the freedom to work as she pleased. Higher-efficiency optics were a priority, allowing HLC to throw larger payloads for lower costs, but she tinkered with high-energy physics as well. She had examined the problem in her thesis: if the power from the lasers was able to penetrate the atmosphere more easily, or skip the atmosphere altogether, then larger payloads, larger ships, were well possible. If more materials were able to be put into orbit, then true deep space exploration ships could be built, ones which would never see atmosphere. She threw herself into her work.
Her professional life flourished, but her personal life floundered. There simply wasn’t time, what with her assigned work, and her side projects, and the classes she taught by remote. Until, that is, she forced herself to take an entire night off. A new movie was opening, and the system premiere was, for some reason, in Los Alamos.
The reason for her interest was simple: her old friend Kendra starred in the movie. More surprising, Kendra was the reason the premiere was in Los Alamos – unbeknownst to Aiyana, Kendra had made the metro area her home. On her way to the theatre, Aiyana thought about her high school friend.
Kendra had skipped college entirely, going directly to the San Fernando Valley and getting into the sensies. Shorter than Aiyana by several centimeters, she was blonde by birth, preferred what used to be called pixie cuts, carried true green eyes, and was fuller across the hips and bust than Aiyana, a legacy of her donor-mother. From her earliest years, she’d loved the pop culture of the twentieth century, throwing herself into the ‘television’ programs and ‘movies’ of the era. In many ways, they were substitutes for the family life she missed. She would often speak to Aiyana longingly of what she called ‘ohana’, the idea of a loving family. She had been entranced by the sensie industry for years, ever since seeing the classic, ‘Behind the Green Door’, and started her own home-based production company as soon as she hit the legal age of eighteen. Now, several years later, she had made enough money, and invested wisely enough, to be selective in her roles. Rare was her on-screen performance, and rarer still a public appearance.
She had purchased a large spread off the Jemez Mountain Trail, fifty klicks west of Los Alamos. The remote location was her attempt to ensure privacy, as much as was possible in an era of constant passive surveillance. When her studio wanted her to appear for a premiere, she had the clout to ensure that the event take place near her new home. That led to the encounter with Aiyana, and the renewal of their friendship.
Though never dormant, it had been purely remote as distance and demands of their jobs interfered. Given their sudden proximity, they were again inseparable, laughing and talking, staying out late and picking up where they’d left off before college. Never shy, a romantic relationship quickly re-blossomed. It wasn‘t long before Aiyana was more likely to be telecommuting to work, supervising her team through a holographic representation and spending most of her time with Kendra at what was now their home.
Derek James was a total shock to them both. He was the heir to a sizeable estate, which might better be described as outrageous. He’d never actually talked about his holdings, but money had never been an issue, no matter the scale, and he had never needed to work. Ten years older than either, he’d spent his life indulging in whatever struck his fancy, whether that was collecting antique internal combustion machines (he was especially proud of his Kuboda KX080 excavator), exploring the coral reefs around the nation of Hawa’ii, or spending weeks on end in orbit observing cloud formations. He’d divorced his husband of six years over a disagreement about children. Derek wanted them and was willing to have a fetus artificially implanted in a ManWomb ™, but Mark wouldn’t agree to provide any genetic material. Since Derek’s first wife, Amelie, had died before they could have children, he felt strongly enough about it to end the marriage.
So, he’d drifted south to the Mishizaki Artist’s Retreat. For the first time, he’d buried himself in a single occupation, and the results were extraordinary. His light sculptures were featured at several local galleries, and this is where he met Aiyana. She’d initially come out of professional interest in the mechanics of light sculptures, but was soon entranced by their subtle plays of colors. Initial, dry conversations soon turned personal, then casual dates, and finally bringing him home to meet Kendra. It was the most nerve-wracking day of her life.
She and Kendra had never been exclusive; they’d slept with, and dated, both men and women in the time they’d been together, but this was the first time she’d brought one of her partners home to her. The last time she’d felt like this was the night before her doctoral defense.
To her great relief, Kendra had accepted Derek easily. Although he didn’t officially move out of Mishizaki, quickly most of his belongings were at the ranch. Kendra gave him an entire wing of the sprawling house for his studio and a gallery, which soon became a focal point of the local art community.
This idyllic arrangement continued for several months, until Aiyana gathered her courage. On a cool ShakesDay evening in 2113, she made dinner for her two loves, an unusual event in itself. Then, getting on her knees, she asked both to marry her. To her joy, they both accepted instantly.
The wedding was planned, the invitations sent out, the guests invited. Vacations were arranged, honeymoon booked, paperwork completed.
So why did Reverend Farrell try to kill them?