Dedications to my friend Jess who told me to get up and to my beloved Bren who is the reason

Special Thanks to Jamieson who planted the first seeds of confidence in my ability to tell a story and to all those have encouraged me to continue to honor the muse.

 

 

Silver Journeys

by Dava Gamble

davagamble@gmail.com


 

this we were, this is how we tried to love,

and these are the forces they had ranged against us,

and these are the forces we had ranged within us,

within us and against us, against us and within us.

- Adrienne Rich

 

Part 1 - SILVER NOVA

Chapter 1

Lou sat next to a cold window pane to look out into the black night. Snow and rain wrapped her home in a shroud and even though she loved the silence therein she also found the repeated joy of the sound of a helicopter in the distance; she likened the sound to celebratory bells. She smiled while chiding herself as she felt the relief of a mother when her children return home. In this case, her children were grown women and she was not their biological mother. Indeed, she felt honored and proud to even be considered a friend to these remarkable women. As the sound grew closer, Lou moved to be near her friend Thea who was also rejoicing at the reunion about to happen. Her daughter Laura was home again, one more time from the dangers, one more time with bravery. Lindsay lived with them, with expertise, now with more supplies, and most of all more sisters who had survived the onslaught of violence and persecution. Women in the house gathered in the common rooms, gathering outwear for their new sisters, each one quietly reflecting on their own journeys to the compound. Each had been welcomed, hugged, sheltered, and nurtured by women who had come before. Each time more women arrived, there was a strengthening of their quiet resolve that they would survive, men and women together; there would be children, there would be a sane peaceful world in which to continue the journey. Pierre and Monique climbed down from the loft and prepared vehicles to meet the helicopter. Celeste and her daughter Tess with help from Gerda and Marla started preparation of food and healing tea for all. Tess gathered and dried herbs for this occasion when Laura departed in anticipation of the need for healing and nourishing. Nikita and Annabelle carried warming stones to the beds for the new arrivals and for Lindsay and Laura. Lou looked about her at the activity and smiled. It was the dance of reunion. Each woman had her own ballet and together the dance, which had taken place many glorious times in the past, moved across the stage of the compound and across the future.

Lou was a chronicler, a scribe who continued to record the history and the stories of all the people she knew who were fighting back and surviving the banality of The Decision. She often sat by the fire with sisters gathered round and told of the journeys of those people who had conceived the compound and whose lives had continued to grow it. With the arrival of new sisters, Lou ' s thoughts returned once again, over and through, to the histories of all these women she loved and of the men who still helped to make the journeys to Sanctuary possible.

The compound was started by Dorothea and her husband Tom many years previously. It was an escape from the brutality, poverty, and near human annihilation by a few power mongers who eventually divided the Northern continent into four separate walled cites. A few men were the rulers of all the people. Thea had been born to a family of privilege, of money, and therefore of protection. Her parents were both university professors and part of an elite class of thinkers. Thea was given the opportunity of a varied education. She had fallen in love with Tom, a northern native man who was working in the south as a laborer in order to support his starving disenfranchised family in the north. Their union immediately tore a rent through Thea ' s nuclear family and she had little contact with them. They bore a daughter, Laura, who had the best of her parents, a strong will, a very intelligent and quick thinking mind, an inherited knowledge of the laws of the natural world, and beauty from birth. When the cities were being formed, the governing men initially encouraged and eventually made mandatory vaccination to prolong life and with the hopes of producing disease free offspring. The experiment, however, had failed miserably. When populations were being purged with the onset of a catastrophic civil uprising, Thea and Tom travelled to the north of the continent, to live among Tom ' s family. As they had lived as commoners, both had eventually been subjected to vaccination. However, Laura was very young and the policy at the time was not to vaccinate humans until they were 12 years old. Thea ' s parents also escaped mandatory vaccination due to their elite status with the rulers. After much discussion, Thea and Tom made the heart wrenching decision to have Laura live with her grandparents until adulthood. She would enjoy a safe life of privilege and would be given the best education possible. Thea ' s mother was frail and believed Thea to be dead. As such Laura was sworn to secrecy, understanding at even a very young age why the lie had to be perpetuated.

Tom ' s family had endured near starvation and disease, the community almost extinct by the time Thea and Tom came to live among them in the north. Before The Decision made the four mega cities, governments subsidized native food sources and health care. Very few communities had their own healers or shamans. When the southern populations came under dictatorship and the northernmost wall excluded the arctic, native populations were abandoned and forgotten. Only the elders among them knew how to grow and harvest food, care for hunting grounds, and hunt animals as they needed for sustenance. Many children and youth died of disease before they could learn how to create and care for an independent community. Tom ' s grandfather and the elder Noshi had taught him as a child how to hunt and care for hunting grounds, his grandmother had shown him how to grow and harvest food in the very short sun season. Tom ' s younger brother Ben was crippled with disease but still retained the knowledge and was able to teach as was Tom. Thea helped care for and nurture the dwindling community; together they banded together for survival.

Tom took Thea to a large cave near a plain where caribou still roamed and were hunted. There was abundant fresh running water and a river within a half day ' s travel for fish. He had come here often as a child with his father and brother. He was given a vision that they were to move their families, to bring others there as they could, to start a new community of free people. He told his people that this was their legacy, their destiny.

Tom only survived for ten earth years as the community chief. This tiny group learned how to give back to the earth and to worship her. They also learned how to sustain themselves and a future for their people. When Tom died, Thea moved to the cave with his brother Ben and their families.

The first years were challenging as they struggled to make a home and to have stables and shelter for animals. Thea spoke only briefly to her family and not to Laura in over thirteen years, but there was a strong unspoken communication between them; Thea knew absolutely that Laura would come back to her family in the north to continue her father ' s legacy.

In the fall of the third year at the cave, Thea was sitting in the sun outside the cave with Pierette, Ben ' s infant granddaughter, and Maiara, the revered shaman among the people. A remotely familiar sound fell on Thea ' s ears and she quickly told everyone to run to the cave. As the sound grew stronger, her eyes searched the skies, finally seeing a helicopter in the distance. It circled closer but Thea did not fear. A parachute fell from the helicopter with a package attached. Ben had been watching from the entrance of the cave along with Martin, his son. When the helicopter could no longer be seen or heard, Thea asked Martin to take some help and to retrieve the package. In less than an hour they had returned with the package, it was from Laura. Once knowing her daughter to be safe, the anchor of survival and hope now firmly embedded permanently, Thea ' s thoughts took her back to her first knowledge and she was finally able to recount her journey to her people.

Chapter 2

Thea

She first remembered the garden, the smells and touch of the breeze, the wild eruption of greenery and blooms nurtured by her mother and Tika, her best friend at the time who had seemed ancient and was the family gardener. She could see the back garden from the window seat in her bedroom, after her parents had tucked her in time after time, she would leave her bed to watch the night. From a very young age, she was pulled to and was spoken to by the moon which Dorothea had likened to the great mother. Somewhere deep in Dorothea ' s soul, there was a command to get eyefuls and memories of the peace in the garden, somehow to sustain her through the years to come. As if wise beyond her five years on earth, she had listened to her own soul and to those souls who guided her. This communication was and would be the most enduring of her life.

Dorothea knew not of hunger, poverty, duress, fear, or wanting. She has been born to parents of distinction in the Great Northwestern City . She had the privilege of the best education and had travelled the planet by the time she reached fifteen earth years. She had been introduced to the arts and sciences early in her life by her parents, both university professors and members of an elite group of thinkers. Even with the tumultuous political atmosphere and the rumblings of violent revolution, Dorothea was expected to evolve to become a strong member of academia.

Her parents had believed that it was important that Dorothea know of the real world and the attendant problems. When she finished her university preparatory year, they encouraged her to spend her summer months to volunteer with impoverished peoples in the inner city, as part of an abiding education. Again guided by her soul group, she was drawn to and led to a working people ' s center in the heart of the inner city. She had read of and seen poverty in pictures and on trips with her parents through the inner city but the journey on her first day would change her life forever.

Dorothea insisted on travelling alone and publicly to her first day as a center assistant. Her mother did not understand why she had convinced Tika to purchase second hand clothing at a thrift store so she would have clothing to wear among the friends she was about to meet. Clad in only jeans and t-shirt, no jewelry or makeup, with her long red hair tied back in a handkerchief and with a respiratory mask tied around her neck, a mandatory condition made by her parents at Tika ' s persuasion, she emerged from the subway stop two blocks from her destination. The air was thick with pollution, the sun reddened and blurred in the morning sky. The sounds of vehicles, machinery, shouting people, and crying children nearly deafened her. Nothing in her beloved garden would have ever prepared her for this. When she could bear to look, she saw skeletal bodies trudging to public transit stops to take up another day ' s labor. Courage allowed her to look into the eyes of her brothers and sisters only to see blackened, deadened souls with only sparks of life, of commitment, in some. Anger boiled up in her with a fierce love for these her brothers and sisters, her children.

At the door of the workers center, she paused, reached down to her soul group for courage, removed her mask, and entered the building. As if the house had landed in Oz, the atmosphere inside was that of love and caring for each other, of movement, commitment, and coming together for a purpose. There were women feeding workers, caring for children, shoring up discouragement. Health care providers examined and treated the ill and, despite a protest, vaccinated adults in part at the government ' s suggestion and primarily in order to receive moneys for partial salaries and medical supplies.

Dorothea stood in the entranceway for what seemed like an eternity, adjusting to and drinking in an altered reality. An older woman made her way Dorothea, smiled, took her hands, and looked into her eyes. Dorothea met one of the many members of her soul group, her ancients, living here in the present existence. Ekaterina welcomed her, hugged her enveloping with warmth and courage. She took Dorothea ' s arm and led her to the counter where women were preparing and providing food; in a clear deep voice asked for momentary pause in the business at hand. She then introduced the newest member of their group as Thea, one Ekaterina knew would change the direction of the center and ultimately of many lives.

Thea settled in, working with the center ' s limited communication system, aiding workers to find work in outlying areas, helping to find transportation and shelter for them. From her first day, she knew this would be the beginning of a new life. Academia had been left far behind, although she had not found courage yet to discuss that with her parents. Ekaterina found time each day from the demands of her work to tell Thea of the history of the center and the workers who came there. She talked about a quiet, pending boisterous and potentially violent revolution rising from the minds and wills of the disenfranchised peoples here and in the Great Northeastern City . She understood about the governments ' need for workers to live for decades, those to provide services and goods to promote economy; that the vaccination program being strongly recommended for all adults would provide disease free survival for decades and would also provide for disease free offspring to provide ongoing labor. She learned of a people ' s developing protest and uprising in both cities; after a few days of explanation Ekaterina encouraged Thea to contact her dear friend who lived in the east and who was a worker ' s leader and a leader of political revolution. Ekaterina explained that Thea would immediately be drawn to this woman; Thea understood without words that this woman too was a part of the soul group. She found courage and time to contact Louiza utilizing a still free and less watched internet connection. There was an instant emergent connection between the two women, one that even Ekaterina had not anticipated. Each knew that they would never stop being an inherent part of the other ' s life. Thea talked via her personal and protected internet at home, one not watched by any government officials. She learned of the atrocities inflicted on peoples in the cities by the rulers with much more grave, malignant actions being planned. Thea did not want to believe that some of the people who were her family ' s friends were plotting to overtake the free peoples for the sake of power and greed, but beyond the idealism of her youth she understood both the reality and gravity of her future, as if by some empowered insight.

Week after week, Thea worked at the Centre, understanding the plight of the people there who she had grown to respect and love. She gained the trust of those who were organizing the rising up of the people in this city. She had managed to keep her true identity as one of the elite class hidden from them, although Ekaterina had known from the beginning, trust had bridged that immediately. Thea often stayed late into the evening to assist workers coming back from labor shifts for health care and food. Day by day, person by person, her rage and decided resolve strengthened as she witnessed and attempted to assuage the hunger, personal injury, destruction among those people she had come to love. Workers gathered, talked and plotted strategies over hot meals and common determination. She heard murmurs of a man who was leading groups to unite in order to have at least a stronger voice and ultimately to fight back with any means available, even violent. The thought frightened Thea but she also understood clearly that this was the destiny of these people.

One evening when she had finished her work in her own area of the Centre, she joined the women preparing and serving food to tired workers. As she glanced over the groups of people, her eyes found a tall man seated with his back to her. As he stood, his tall and still muscular frame supported a head with waist length curly dark hair streaked with silver grey. As he turned, she saw a handsome native face, piercing coal eyes with more determination and strength behind them than Thea thought humanly possible. Kat whispered to Thea, still staring at this man, that this was Tom Ravencouer, a leader among the people ' s growing uprising. Tom ' s eyes found Thea and in that moment time stopped. Each immediately knew of the soul group and indeed of a soul mate. The child in Thea left and a woman emerged. There was no need for decision; this man had been and would be her mate to infinity, her guide, her centering force, her inspiration, her most enduring best friend, her partner in leadership of revolution, her lover, and she to him in return. Kat stepped back and looked in awe at the reunion of these souls, of the souls she had known forever but had not understood to be mated. It seemed to Thea that she had been transported to another place in time, to an alternate universe, while Tom made his way across the room to speak to her. She feared no words were possible when he spoke until he gently took her arm, all and at once she felt more safety and solace that she had ever known in her brief existence. Voiced words seemed unnecessary, their eyes and souls did the communicating but they moved to a quieter corner of the room and were lost in conversation, unaware of the passing earth hours, until Kat quietly asked that they leave so she could close the center for a few hours. Thea was late to leave for her home now and notified her family that she would be staying with Ekaterina for the night. Tom lived in a loft above a storage building on the property shared by Ekaterina ' s extended family. Kat took him in just after he arrived from the north, bewildered, hungry, desperate to find shelter, food, and work to support a dying and disenfranchised native family back in his northern home. He was young and able to help with the tasks of maintaining the property and helping the elders in Kat ' s family in exchange for shelter and shared meals. Kat offered Thea lodging for the night knowing that it would be declined as Thea would stay in the loft where she always belonged.

The loft above the shed overlooked a large vegetable garden and fruit trees. There was a stable in the background that housed sheep, goats, and chickens. The rulers had yet to ban urban farming and as such Kat ' s family was able to remain self-sufficient and share much of their food with those who had little. The able men in Kat ' s family still labored as did most men; the elders cared for, children, animals and the garden. Mother Moon shone on the garden, on the loft that night. Thea once again looked out into the moonlight to a garden, never seeing one as beautiful as this. Tom stood with her for moments in silence only touching her gently. Thea turned to look at the man; bathed in the soft light, he was beautiful. His undressed muscular body framed with silver and black hair with coal eyes drawing her in. She had been taught modesty, to never show her undressed body to anyone. As she removed her clothes and the bandana on her head released long red hair, she wanted to dance naked with this man as if at Bealtaine, a long forgotten ritual rising forth from her soul. From first sight and first touch, she loved this man and he loved her. The overwhelming physical need, a wanton desire to join together physically, mentally, spiritually, overtook them and as Mother Moon waned in the sky and the first light of morning came to the horizon, Thea and Tom became lovers and loved.

The center was closed that day, being a day of rest for the workers. Thea and Tom knew that they would never part as long as they lived. Thea had to go home and tell her family that she would be moving to live with Ekaterina to be closer to the Centre; to the people she loved and helped. She knew there would be initial protest but that her father would secretly support her. Her mother would not, never understanding why she would abandon luxury for hardship. She would ask for her inheritance from her paternal grandmother to pay for her lodging; her family would suppose that she would return at summer ' s end to begin her university journey to academia. Thea would not say otherwise but that journey would never be taken.

There were tears, raised voices, and more tears as Thea packed what she could carry to move to her new home. She was able to take her portable computer and took her father ' s access and password, without his real knowledge, in case she needed secure unwatched communication as well as contact with her family regularly to assure them of her safety and happiness. She and Tom planned to marry immediately in order to spare Tom ' s life if anyone outside Kat ' s family knew of their lovership. Unmarried sex among the common people was punishable by immediate death for a man. Women were beaten but remained alive to provide support and sex for Military men or men of privilege.

Thea arrived back at the subway stop just after sunset, before Mother Moon shone her light on earth. Dusk was a very frightening part of the day in the inner city. Thea was never frightened among the people she knew there but remained extremely aware of her surroundings. As she stepped onto the sidewalk and her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw Tom walking toward her, beautiful in the coming moonlight and with the lovelights in their eyes. They carried Thea ' s belongings back to the Kat ' s garden and up the stairs to the loft. From Tom ' s first kiss, Thea knew she was home, home wherever with this man. She went to meet Kat ' s family and to pay for her lodging. Kat refused money but in return asked that Thea use what she could spare to help the protest and the coming uprising. Thea and Tom planned to help the elders with the harvest and preservation of food and more importantly they would become leaders that would change their worlds.

Kat arranged for a holy man to attend the Workers ' Centre the following evening and with the witness of their friends gathered Tom and Thea became legally married. A very small part of Thea ' s heart felt a twinge as she had always dreamed that her parents would attend and bless her marriage. Now, she could only hope that one day they would understand the reason for it. Kat also arranged for Tom to assist in the medical clinic at the Center. His grandfather had been the community shaman, teaching Tom about basic healing with herbs and plants. Kat planned to try to grow as many as possible with Tom ' s help in the garden at home. Tom was then able to be at the center all day to help, to talk to workers, to those suffering from poverty and injustice as he continued to plan the uprising. Because of his status as a Workers ' Centre employee, he was free to travel during the day to other centers to gather information and arrange meeting times when workers would return to those centers. Thea and Tom had a combined salary to send north to Tom ' s family. They had a safe and secure internet connection with which they could communicate with Louiza in the Great Northeastern City .

There was more and more pressure put on people to become vaccinated as The Decision to create four walled megacities grew closer and more real. Tom and Thea were now legally registered as a married couple and as such were getting great pressure to set an example to the workers they cared for at the Centre. Thea was able to infiltrate the medical files and move their names to the bottom of a list but was not successful in removing them entirely.

Tom was working furiously to unite sector after sector in the inner city; there were leaders in place to plan strategy and garner weapons of every description. It was not a question now of if a war would happen but only when. Thea had attended many evening gatherings and rallies with Tom, becoming a speaker as well. She was able to connect to the University ' s online library and all online newspapers to keep current information on the political will of the rulers. They learned that Europe had successfully become one large walled city. There had been a people ' s protest but many died and The Decision was carried out there. The survivors were subjected to abject cruelty, more poverty, and struggle for survival. Tom and Thea knew it was only a matter of time before the walls would be complete in the northern continent.

The time for Thea to return to her family was drawing nigh quickly and she wrote to her family, telling them of her marriage and her decision never to return to the life she had known. The letter was intercepted by Thea ' s father who arranged a meeting with Thea at a location close to the University. He knew there was no chance to change her mind. He wanted her to know that he would support whatever decision she made and that he would attempt to keep her and Tom as safe as possible. They agreed to tell Thea ' s mother that Thea had extended her time with the Worker ' s Centre and would return to school in a few months. She was frail and the truth would break her. Thea ' s father gave her a very large amount of cash that day and did not ask where it would be spent. Thea told him that Tom was her soul mate, her lover, her husband, and that she would remain with him as long as they lived. They did not speak of it but Thea ' s father knew that she was part of an impending Resistance. They made a pact to try to communicate as they could and that each loved the other forever. Thea left the caf é that day and would only see her father once more. In a few short months, she had grown from an adolescent to a grown woman with huge responsibility, courage, and resolve.

Within months of their marriage, Thea was pregnant. She and Tom were frightened for the wellbeing of this unborn child; Tom insisted that she stop her travel to the outlying centers with him to meet with other organizers. Thea spent many evenings in the company of Kat ' s family or getting to know Louiza and her family over the thousands of miles. The information that Lou was able to share with Thea over a secure connection was invaluable to the organization of the workers in this city. Lou was a labor and women ' s organizer in the Great Northeastern City . She had been able to develop a large network of support from the prairie border to the eastern ocean. She told Thea of a connection to a couple living in the eastern archipelago. This couple had close connections to workers in the European City . They were accomplished experts at communications and intelligence and were instrumental in developing plans for transport of workers to continue a revolution. Amelia had a razor sharp mind and will, acting as the main leader of the Intelligence sector of the eastern Resistance. Sterling possessed almost complete knowledge of data bases and had successfully infiltrated government sources on more than one occasion. He had been growing an espionage network for the revolution over the past few years. Lou planned introduction to both Thea and Tom online.

Thea learned that The Decision had torn apart Lou ' s family and she could well relate to Thea ' s sadness at the loss of contact with her family. Lou ' s lover, Maggie, had never been strong emotionally or spiritually. She not was able to withstand the pressures of the change in freedoms and the advent of poverty. She had feared for her child Trixie, and her grandchildren. She had not understood that no amount of interference on anyone ' s part would save them from poverty and decline. When Trixie ' s son Albert was conscripted to Military service and sent to the Far East to quell an uprising there, being subsequently murdered, Maggie could not bear it and took her own life. Lou ' s sons, Declan and Drew, lived in the same part of the inner city as Lou and were true revolutionaries almost since birth. Lou used to tease them and tell them the first word they were taught to speak was revolution. Both had wonderful partners and had recently married, not because of any belief in the institution but to save their own lives and the lives of the women they loved. Both had avoided conscription due to medical ailments, less real than described to the Military. Drew was a computer worker for The Decision, learning Espionage and Intelligence maneuvers quickly from Amelia and Sterling . His wife Annique was working for a survey department for The Decision and she too was using workers lists garnered from official files to learn Espionage and Intelligence work. Declan worked with Lou as scribes for medical institutions, recording data and histories, providing statistics for official agencies. Declan ' s wife Emme worked in a position of some importance in The Decision ' s department supervising global health. Declan had been an assistant to Lou for years of her work organizing workers and the Resistance. He had led groups of thinkers to strategy and helped educate leaders in the movement to plan insurrection. Drew used his computer knowledge and skill to communicate as best he could with the ever present, ever growing surveillance. Both were part of a huge network of like-minded workers of their generation.

Thea grew to know these people and to love them even though she had never met them human to human. She understood they were coming together, part of a soul group, partnered to survive beyond any evils in the wake. She told Lou of Tom ' s cousin, Stephan, who was living in the same part of the city as Lou. She said Tom would be most appreciative to know of his wellbeing. Lou immediately set forth a search for him.

As the time of Thea ' s childbirth grew close, Tom stopped his travels and they prepared for the arrival of this blessed child. Bathed in the same light of Mother Moon and blessed by her ancients, Thea gave birth to a beautiful woman child who they named Laura. Few babies were being born now and Thea, Tom, and all of Kat ' s family knew this child needed to be protected at all costs. Tom dedicated the child to the priests, priestesses, and to Mother Earth on the next rising of Mother Moon ' s fullness. Thea sent word to her father that Laura had been born and all were well. Her father replied that if at any time this child needed anything he would intervene with whatever he had to do.

The walls were being built to divide the northern continent into two megacities. . The northern borders excluded the native populations. Tom was relieved and at the same time extremely worried as his people would be forgotten, left alone. They had only survived barely on government subsidies, food, and medical supplies. He had no way of learning of their progress.

Emme had learned from confidential government memo ' s that the department of global health was concerned about the side effects of the vaccinations that were about to become mandatory for all common people. Several studies had confirmed that although the health of the common people was secured and they would live for decades, perhaps exceeding 200 years, the vaccine had not insured healthy offspring and in fact those who had received it were rendered sterile. This knowledge, however, would not cease the law to make vaccination mandatory. The people were not to be informed until entire vaccination had been successful. Those of the elite class and upper Military were to be informed only if absolutely necessary. Elders in the elite class and the Military would be exempted. They would be allowed to live out their normal human life span. Thea could only absorb this devastation in minimal amounts. She and Tom could no longer avoid vaccination as it had become mandatory. There would be no more children. She would not know again of the coming of a new soul growing in her body. Their daughter Laura now became the transcendent hope for her parents and for those who were destined to find survival.

Chapter 3

Tom wept for the first time in Thea ' s presence for the loss of life as they knew it, the knowledge that the fight now be violent with no real need for self-preservation. Thea introduced Tom to Lou and Lou subsequently introduced Tom to Declan, Drew, Amelia, and Sterling . The walls were complete, the Military prepared to quell any revolution at any cost. All social networks among workers would be stopped immediately. Declan and Sterling advised Tom about movement of weapons and militia groups. Drew, Declan, Amelia, and Sterling had the skeleton firmly in place for an underground railway to move survivors to safety, at least as a temporary measure.

Safe houses were designated along the escape route to the northern border. Rural workers garnered and hid food supplies, animals, fuel, fodder, all materials needed for imminent survival. Small airplanes were donated by farmers and ranchers. Outlying government airports had little or no supervision yet and larger transport planes and helicopters were removed from the permanent inventory. Workers and their leaders removed supplies and weapons from all government and Military institutions as readily as possible.

Hunger, poverty, and fear bore down on thousands and thousands of workers in the cities. Fear and anger grew to desperation and even strong leaders knew they would not be able to stop an inevitable Resistance. .

Members of Kat ' s family had fled to the rural lands to live in more peace and safety with extended families. Kat could not be convinced to leave her beloved workers and the Centre. She chose to wait for news of her sister ' s daughter. Little news was known of her, save for the fact that she had been sold to marriage at the age of eleven by desperate parents to feed their remaining children. Nikita had been sent out as a prostitute to earn money for her husband and when she tried to escape she was burned, almost to death. The Resistance in the European City had found her, Sterling Carland arranged for temporary medical care and transport to the Northeastern City . Thea had asked Lou to try to search the records for her but she also know that the

fight was also desperate and urgent in the Great Northeastern City as it was in the Northwestern City of Thea and Tom.

Thea and Tom and Laura continued to live with Kat but the food sources were dwindling quickly. The Decision had confiscated their produce several times and roaming street people had stolen and burned the remaining garden. Laura was now almost five earth years old and both Thea and Tom knew they would need to plan their own escape from the inner city very soon. They also both understood that the safest decision regarding Laura was to contact Thea ' s father and send Laura to live with them for her remaining childhood years. Thea ' s parents would be exempt from the destruction and would be protected by the rulers. Laura would have food, shelter, education; neither Thea nor Tom could guarantee that for her. Thea knew that Laura would return to her when directed by her ancients. Thea ' s father was part of the elite group but had secretly taken the vaccination in order to remain alive for several more decades, remaining in his late sixties. He would have privilege, safety, and protection for his precious granddaughter. He would feign aging with the present rulers and live at least long enough to know of his daughter ' s and his granddaughter ' s safety. Thea and Tom now loved him as an ally. Thea ' s mother had been told that Thea had died and that her child would come to live with them. Even at a young age, Laura understood that the myth must never be broken. Thea took Laura to a caf é near the University and introduced her to her grandfather. As if wise beyond her limited number of earth years, Laura looked into her mother ' s eyes and assured Thea that she would return to her one day. Laura only had tears when she asked Thea to love Tom enough for both of them. Thea turned and walked away. She would not see her child again for many years.

Constant violence had broken out in the streets as the workers were corralled into transport vehicles to be taken to labor camps. Tom and Thea gathered what they could carry and started a long journey to the northeastern border of the walled city. Both Tom and Thea despaired at leaving behind those friends and allies, those they had inspired to leadership, destined to certain misery and even perhaps merciful death.

Lou arranged new false documents for them, made by a master forger named Archie who would become an integral part of the Resistance and underground escape routes. They would go north, home to Tom ' s family ' s encampment, home to Tom ' s people. He knew their only hope for survival, for the survival of their child, for a future for all survivors, was rooted in their journey north free of the cities. The rulers had abandoned all lands outside the northern wall; the resources and inhabitants had already been forgotten.

Tom and Thea travelled through the skeleton of the inner city, past the heavily guarded University and lands owned by the elite class; in their wake remained the stench of burning chemicals, buildings, and human flesh, the acrid dense smoke of weapons mixed with polluted smog almost obliterating the light of the sun. They stopped only long enough to rest just to the brink of exertion and to take what food they had rationed for themselves. As they left the obvious massacre behind them and journeyed into the less densely populated sectors of the city, they found safe haven at the first way station long the underground escape route. Here they were given clothing to disguise them as traveling farmers and were provided with false identification. Thea left some of the money her father had provided with the guardians of the safe house to provide more shelter for those coming behind them. In the next light of day they journeyed on northward. Thea felt the warmth of the sun on her face for the first time in what seemed like months and months. She was able to remove a mask and breathe in lung after lung of cleaner air. There were vast expanses of open land, few settlements, and fewer evidence of the rulers. Tom was more silent than usual as they travelled on, his stature stooped with the weight of what they had left behind and what they would find at journey ' s end.

They found the second safe haven and rejoiced in the reunion with Kat ' s extended family. They did not know but were not surprised that this unit of people had established safe haven for themselves and others in need. With heart wrenching sadness, they were now certain of Kat ' s death. Tom and Thea stayed with Kat ' s family for several days and during that time Thea was able to contact Lou via her father ' s still safe internet connection. Sterling found Nikita; she was in a still safe health care facility. Her status was still not stable but Sterling did comment that she was being cared for by one of the brightest and most tenacious young female physicians, Dr. Lindsay Reynolds. Sterling tried to reassure Kat ' s family that if anyone could render treatment and implant the will to survive in Nikita it would be Lindsay. Kat's family introduced the young travelers to Lou ' s brother Ross and his wife Frida. Ross worked as a land transportation coordinator for a small government run airfield where the inventory had been depleted of equipment slowly but steadily over the past few years. Ross and Frida had left the more populated Northeastern City , making a homestead in the Great Northwestern City before the walls had been completed. Frida was the rural coordinator for Communications, one the senior partners in the fledgling Intelligence and Espionage network. Ross offered Tom and Thea easy travel to closer to the last outpost. They departed at first light, strengthened by the love of the family they had known for so long and by the resolve to insure that Ekaterina had not given up her life without reason.

A journey that would have taken several days on foot reached the transportation depot in only hours. Ross was able to give a firsthand description of life in the Great Northeastern City as The Decision gained momentum. Thea had a gnawing heartache for all those workers who were subjected to hunger and death, for those surviving women who struggled to feed themselves and shelter the children who were left. She had been only in her mid-twenty earth years when she was vaccinated and she would remain physically slow to age for decades and decades but her mind, heart, and soul were already that of a burdened ancient.

As if urged on by the knowledge of return to his home, Tom ' s spirit soared more than Thea had seen or felt. The torture and sadness in his coal colored eyes were momentarily replaced with glimpses of fire, of passion, of hope. Ross took them to the small depot hanger and invited them to dinner and rest until the next morning. Before dawn Tom and Thea were taken to the northernmost outpost. By full light, Tom and Thea were sitting in front of a wood fire in an old ranch house at an outpost that remained a working ranch but so remote that it had slipped under The Decisions ' s radar. There was still an ever present and understood caution but the inhabitants were able to continue to maintain the lands and animals without intervention. Almost all ranches had aircraft and airstrips. This safe house had outbuildings containing airplanes, fuel, and supplies. Men and women could and would transport supplies to the outposts and safe houses as need safely allowed. Thea left almost all the remaining funds her father had given her with the ranchers. This would help to perpetuate the flights.

Thea left one last message for her father to tell of their safe journey. She knew she would not be able to have further communication with him, perhaps never again, and at best only very sporadically. Tom and Thea gathered supplies, food stuffs, two sheep and two goats, minimal health supplies, seeds, a small generator, and fuel. The generator would allow communication with Frida who would then relay information and need to the ranchers. Tom and Mitchell, the senior member of the safe haven, developed a plan and time line for shipment with instructions for a wind power source. For ten days, Tom and Thea rested and planned for their arrival in the native encampment where Tom had left his remaining family members.

On the morning of their departure, Mother Moon was still shining her full blessing in the morning sky. An old land transport vehicle approached and all were greeted by Ross and Frida Shipman. They had a firm unspoken understanding that they might never meet again person to person. It was understood that this young couple about to depart for the supposed barren northlands was the future of human survival. Ross approached Tom and Thea with an uncharacteristic show of emotion, pressing a silver coin bored through with a leather thong into Thea ' s hands. This had been given to him by his father, Seymour, at the time of his choice to join the Resistance underground. He asked that Tom and Thea give this to the first child born of the Resistance in the north as a symbol of the continuation of universal human spirit. He then hugged and kissed both of them as did Frida and without further words they returned to their vehicle and their future.

The supplies had been loaded, the goodbyes and blessings exchanged. The pilot set course for the small native encampment hours to the north. Tom did not speak, as if now in a silent and soul-driven conversation with his ancestors. Thea drew down to herself the peace of her childhood garden, the joy of the birth of her beloved Laura, the sure and committed love for her partner, the assurance and guarantee of her future and the future of her race given to her by the ancients she had come to know.

The airplane approached the landing strip and the first glimpse from the windows brought tears rolling down Tom ' s cheeks. He was home. The small encampment was in stark disrepair. A stooped figure slowly approached the runway on foot showing no fear but also no sign of hope. He walked as if in a trance, marked only with a decided limp. Tom did not recognize this figure, until sobbing he embraced his brother Ben.

Chapter 4

Sanctuary

A small band of people slowly gathered and approached the runway, only moving more quickly as they recognized Tom. Thea and the pilot began to unload supplies and a youth approached them with some trepidation and mistrust but offered help. His mother Tamara chided him, spurred on by fear of these strangers, and called out harshly to her son Martin. As if suddenly jolted into his harsh reality, Tom turned to Thea, drew her near to him, and in a clear strong voice, the first in his role as chief of this small band, introduced Thea to his family as his wife. There was momentary shock and misunderstanding that his young native man, perhaps the only hope his people held, the one who had sent money back to help feed those family members who survived, had mated with a non-native woman. The group ' s most elderly male and the only remaining shaman made his way to Thea from the back row of his gathered people. Their eyes connected, their souls connected, they recognized in each an ancient. He took Thea ' s hands in his, reared his weary head back, and with a clear voice shouted a blessing to the arctic sky. His people and Tom were instantly hushed; Noshi had rarely given blessings and they had never heard his voice as strong or joyful. In an instant, Thea became mother, sister, and friend to every member of Tom ' s family. They all slowly and with shyness drew a circle around both Tom and Thea, one by one hugged greetings each with love and respect. A great struggle would continue but hope had been born.

The family gathered in one large dwelling. The transported supplies and animals were housed in the long abandoned government built administration sites. Winter approached quickly and ferociously in the north; the focus of Tom, Thea, and the band was of gathering food to sustain them through the winter. The pilot departed with a quickly written letter to Mitchell at the outpost including a list of critical supplies they would need when the next cargo flight was planned back to the north.

Separate living space was designated and planned for Tom and Thea as tradition dictated that the chief of a band and his family would not live communally. Until such time as a dwelling could be erected, their dwelling was an abandoned supply building. After feasting and celebrating late into the night, Tom and Thea returned to their quarters, exhausted, overwhelmed by the poverty, despair, and the enormity of the tasks set before them. Their greatest passion to date consumed them that night; a fierce, demanding, healing journey to the skies of Noshi ' s blessing. Thea met Tom ' s demand as new native chief, new native leader, new native centering with her own desire and understanding, as if their bodies, their beings were permanently and finally fused. A chasm had been crossed; the priests and priestesses of Noshi ' s blessing drew them both to the multiverse known only to infinite souls. The sanctuary they found that night and for all their nights together to their death was now dwelling within them. That sanctuary would be the goal, the purpose, the necessity for immediate survival and for survival for all free peoples forever in the future.

The weeks ahead were filled with hunting, fishing, food gathering; the band was led and drawn back to their tradition, the genetic knowledge within all of the family members. There was daily, systematic destruction of despair as this small band of people grew in their understanding that they were the fore-bearers of survival for all their brothers and sisters. As if living in a different lifetime, Thea learned her role as mate to the chief. Noshi and her native sisters taught of the healing spirits, healing rituals, healing preparations. Ben and Tom taught all the younger band members to hunt, to care for the hunting grounds, the streams, and rivers. They resorted back to traditional weapons, traps, and capture. Noshi and the elder women taught about honor and respect for all creatures who had given their lives for the sustenance of the people. No part of an animal or plant was wasted, each celebrated and thanked. In a few short weeks, this small band of people had gathered more food than they had in total in the past years. The former government subsidy had attempted to rob them of their identify, their self-reliance, their traditions, their dignity. With that interference abandoned, the ancient celebration of their identify as native peoples, came back initially due to necessity but ultimately and permanently because of pride.

Permanent weatherproof shelter for the animals was renovated in the former offices of the government administrator. A manure heap was started at the rear for fertilizer for next season ' s garden. The dogs were housed either outside or near the entrance of the new stables. Goats, sheep, poultry, and one elderly, noble work horse lived in harmony within. There would be new lambs and kids born hopefully in the late winter; with that there would be milk. Noshi had some knowledge of animal husbandry as did Tom and the small number of animals remained healthy. Glass windows from other abandoned buildings were harvested and stored for use as heat protection for new seeds in the spring.

Enough logs had been cut to build a small but functional cabin for Tom and Thea. The band knew there would be no more children for this union and as such only a small cabin was needed. Wood had been cut the winter before and stored for the rapidly approaching arctic fall and winter. As long as possible, the young men and women of the band cut trees as needed and used the horse to drag the wood to near the encampment. When weather and sunlight permitted, that wood would be prepared for the next winter ' s needs. Caribou, fox, and wolverine hides were used traditionally for clothing; the women in the family gave Thea outerwear for the upcoming winter months. Transport sleds for water and wood were repaired and readied. A small river lay just beyond the landing strip, a sustainable distance for fetching of water over the winter. The woodshed attached to the family dwelling provided space where caribou were hung once the temperatures remained below freezing. Dried wild grasses were used as bedding and warmth for the stable. Each family member worked all day, every day. This way of life now for all of them reinforced the hope of survival. Thea used a small amount of fuel for a generator to use the satellite link to ask that shears, carding equipment, a spinning wheel, hooks, and needles to be included in the next cargo shipment. As well, she asked for a small loom. The women told her that there was a tradition that some wild grasses could be woven into fabric for light weight clothing.

With the fall hunt completed and trap lines set constantly for hares and foxes, with fish dried in the fall sun and wind, the energy of the band became focused on building Tom and Thea ' s cabin, separate from the large family communal dwelling. There was a large fireplace and hearth for cooking and heat, an area for sleeping and an area for meeting with family members. On the first fullness of Mother Moon after the annual Festival of the Dead, Tom and Thea moved to their new home. Noshi blessed the threshold, Tamara who had come to love Thea as her own daughter, brought everlasting fire to light the logs. The entire band chanted blessings and the house was name Aiwok. When the family returned to their communal home, Thea sat by the hearth and wept for the loss of unborn children to bring to her only true home. She had strong visions of Laura and ached to have her close to them. Tom reassured Thea that Laura would know, she had been born to two ancient souls and she too lived among them. As she dried her tears, Tom took her to the open doorway, to see the snow garden lit by the fullness of Mother Moon. Millions of shards of ice diamonds glittered and danced; Thea was once again drawn to the voice of her beloved ancients.

The late fall winds would blow soon and fiercely. Two days after their move, Tom and Thea greeted the pilot once again with the band eagerly gathering to unload and store supplies. In just a few short months these peoples had become healthy, had healed their spirits, so much so that the pilot had to ask a couple of times if he was at the correct encampment. Mitchell made the flight with the pilot with hay and straw in the packed cargo hold of the plane. The women at the ranch sent all the supplies Thea has requested and instructions on how to use a simple loom. There were also barrels full of sheep yarn and alpaca yarn, enough to make warm clothing for every member of the tiny community. Thea remembered knitting skills and would learn rudimentary loom skills. The coming months would be spent teaching and working with her native sisters. Mitchell also brought two hunting rifles and a limited amount of ammunition. The most contraband of materials was acquired by ranchers through the underground network as needed. The family prepared a meal for all, including Mitchell and the pilot. They had been invited to spend the night with them but chose to return while the good weather held. Before leaving, Mitchell handed Thea a long written letter from Ross and Frida. This news would sustain her through the long dark cold months ahead. Tom sent Mitchell and the pilot home with another list of essential supplies when it was possible to make the next cargo flight.

As the daily hours of sunlight dwindled, Thea and her sisters set about making candles using caribou tallow and wicks made of sinew. There were old candle molds available and Ben was able to fabricate new ones from the models using scraps of tin left behind by the government officials. Many dozens of candles were produced over the next few weeks and before the advent of the Wintersday, the day when their earth was clothed in complete darkness; there were candles to sustain light until the sun returned among them during the days. Few seals were harvested as they are held in reverence by this band of people; those that did give their lives to sustain their human brothers and sisters were held in highest honor. Not one fiber of these majestic animals was wasted. The fat was rendered down and used for lantern light for any outdoor work that needed to be carried out, daily trips to the frozen river for water and gathering fish from nets, daily checking of the animals, daily gathering of wood for fuel.

The news sent by Ross and Frida gave Thea and Tom great fear but great joy. The violence had escalated rapidly and brutally. Unknown numbers of workers had died in the two northern walled cities. Food was very scarce, health care even more sparce. Frida only knew of one still operational health care center in the Northeastern City , funded by underground support. Almost no men were able to reach treatment and died of infection, wounds, brutality, or starvation. Ravaged women were crowding the facility but were still receiving treatment. A frantic appeal to open rural safe houses in both the east and west cities had gone out; Frida reported that the Intelligence and Espionage fronts were rapidly getting an underground route in place to transport the surviving women.

The Resistance continued however. Military encampments were ignited and exploded as often as possible. Traveling peasants and farmers were able to infiltrate quickly and for the most part unseen to set detonators and explosives. Although Ross was still listed as a Decision employee, the transportation depot where he worked had been abandoned by the government. It was too far afield to serve either the elite or the Military. All the employees there now were functional members of the Resistance with no interference. There were only two check points crossing the wall from the eastern city to the western city. Overland trucks were only checked briefly and if the drivers had valid identification often their loads were not inspected. The check point guards were demoralized and apathetic. They had escaped Military duty, feeling ease and safety without the need to interfere. Archie was the master counterfeiter, the truckers ' identifications and photographs were perfect. Supplies for the Resistance were moving across the borders without any difficulty.

Lou remained well and ever more involved with the Resistance. She had been accosted by the police sector of the Military on a few occasions but was able to negotiate herself away from them. She managed to avoid vaccination with intention to resist as long as possible. Both her sons and their wives had chosen vaccination in order to remain young and healthy in the fight for freedom. There would be no biological generations to follow Lou but they all held fast to the dream of raising a community of free children in the future. Lou had sent brief information about Nikita. At the time of the writing, she was still living, still in the infirmary, still burned and scarred, but her will to survive and her physician ' s will to spur her on meant a sure and happier future. Other young women were being taken to safe houses on the underground route with the hopes of transporting them to the north in the future.

The tiny family lived out the winter with a better quality of life than they had known for several years. There was food and warmth, work to occupy their hands, tales, conversation, games to spur on their minds and laughter, time for restful reflection, a deep and abiding connection to the spirits of the ancients guiding them as they had been for eons into the future. A people had been reborn.

The weight on Tom ' s spirit had shown in his eyes and on his face. Over the winter months, with growing faith in his own ability to lead and daily inspiration from his family who he loved, the lines of worry eased in his face, his stature grew more erect again. When alone on dark days or nights with only firelight to guide her, Thea would gather him in her arms under warm hides and coverlets, whisper of her dreams to him, touching the fire in his soul, hearing his shouts to Noshi ' s priests and priestesses. This journey to their ancient souls was the one that would sustain her forever.

The sun returned to the encampment, more each day. Brief touches of warming winds fell on the faces of the peoples of the north. About one full moon before Ostermonat, Thea and her sisters took containers washed and saved for years, once holding old food stuffs from the government help days. They filled the containers with dried moss gathered the fall previously, added some animal dung, and planted seeds for herbs and vegetables. The window panes that had been salvaged were placed at an angle in a corner of the communal living space where sunlight could be caught through a window uncovered from the winter cold. The animals had wintered over well, the ewe and nanny due to bear young. Noshi and young Martin slept in the stables for a few nights awaiting the arrival of the new life. Tamara kept stones warmed on the hearth to keep the bedding warm for the new babies. On the night of Mother Moon ' s arrival once again in the eastern sky, twin lambs and twin kids were born. There were tears on Noshi ' s cheeks as he cradled them all as Martin lay down fresh warmed bedding for mothers and babies. Four little animals, four affirmations of continuing life, of hope for survival for which the peoples of the north gave thanks and celebrated.

As the days warmed, the women preserved the rest of the caribou with salt. On cold nights, the men brought water as the day warmth made travel onto the ice too dangerous. The barrels that had once held the wool, now held water. Once the spring rains came, they held water as well to nourish the earth, the seedlings, and to clean from the overwintering. The little animals thrived as did their parents. There were now three ewes, three rams, three nannies, and three billy goats. Baby chickens were hatching and under the watchful eyes and wings of their mothers. The ground would not be thawed sufficiently for about six more weeks and as such Thea and her sisters transplanted the growing plants to larger containers, mainly used vehicle tires.

Each day, the sun blessed them with a longer visit and more warmth. The snow was slowly melting and the ice had left the river. Fresh fish once again became of their daily meals. There was great rejoicing and celebration at Ostermonat, the day when the sun and the darkness shared equal time in their sky.

Over the winter months, Thea taught her sisters how to make soap using caribou and fish fat with lye leeched through the wood ashes from the hearths. When the tempo of life quickened with the upcoming spring, all living spaces both for humans and animals were turned out and scrubbed thoroughly. Noshi understood the need for this, to prevent harbored diseases. Men and women set to the task. Tom and Ben took some of the youth to chalk cliffs a day ' s journey away and brought back enough to mix with water and leeched lime from stones to use as a cleansing whitewash, again to ward against disease. The lassitude and exhaustion seen less than twelve full moons previously had given way to energy and excitement.

Bealtaine approached and the tiny encampment wondered if other small tribes would venture to join them in the celebration as had happened many years before. Preparations were made for the great bonfires and crowns of antlers and early spring greenery fashioned. Two days before the festival, a lone canoe approached from down river. An older woman, a young woman, and a young man slowly walked toward the village. Noshi immediately recognized his youngest sister, Maiara, but she now looked decades older than him, almost skeletal and with no light shining from her dark eyes. The two youths were her grandchildren and the three were the only surviving members of a tribe to the west. Noshi wept tears of both joy and sadness, grateful for the life of his sister with her surviving family, mourning the loss of an entire village of native brothers and sisters. Their spirits, however, would join to guide all the survivors into the future.

The weary new members of the encampment were given food and clothing along with a chance to rest among brothers and sisters who offered solace, planting their own seeds of hope. Thea deferred to the ancient connection of these people with their solid determination to provide shelter for the present and the future.

Samuel and Meda had both shyness and suspicion of Thea; over the next few days the members of Tom ' s family and her family encouraged interaction. Thea was of fair skin and shocking red curly hair, a personage not seen before by these two young native northerners. When Sam came with Noshi and Thea to see the young animals and saw Thea ' s gentle but assured knowledge with them he began to understand that skin color did not interfere with communication with the ancients. Thea gave Meda a jeweled hair comb, one she had carried with her from her childhood, that simple gifting cemented a friendship that would cross the decades, here and in the spirit world.

Martin had been chosen to honor the priest at Bealtaine and Tamara ' s niece had been chosen to dance as the priestess. The night was cool and Mother Moon shone her newest crescent, the time to shelter new loves in the cradle of her arms in the sky. Several bonfires were set ablaze and the family approached in their festival attire. Noshi danced and chanted, the family sang and chanted in response. The priest and priestess danced the ritual call to mating. All those mated previously joined in response to the call, including Tom and Thea who both had passion and tears of joy at this renewal, to themselves, to their families, to the ancients. When the ritual had ended, the feasting began. Martin found Meda sitting arm in arm with her grandmother and shyly took her hand to join the feasting. Sam likewise found Catori, Tamara ' s orphaned niece. Tom glowed with happiness as he quickly understood that there would be mating soon. Noshi sat with Maiara; they both silently, peacefully, and joyfully gave thanks to Mother Moon and to the ancients.

The next weeks were a blur of work and activity. The frames for planting were built, soil taken from the river delta and mixed with dung; the seedlings were planted and the sun god shone warmth and growth on them. Mitchell and his two sons returned with the next cargo plane, bringing materials and knowledge of how to build and maintain a windmill for pumping water, providing power for batteries and generators. They also showed Martin, Sam, and Tom how to shear the sheep, then how to clean and card the wool. Maiara had faint recollection of spinning which she quickly remembered and took on that task as well as showing her sisters and daughters including Thea. There would be more orders for wool for the next few years until their flock was large enough to support the family ' s needs for warm clothing. Tom, Ben, Sam, and Martin went a day ' s travel away to inspect the harvest of wild grasses and quickly returned for implements for harvest. There would be more than two harvests this year. Meda, Catori, Tamara, and Thea accompanied them on the first harvest trek and were able to bring back food for the animals and the also for woven fabric, also shown to them by Maiara.

The Festival of Elterra was a glorious summer day when the sun god shone the longest in the universe. There was abundant food, vegetables and roots, fresh fish, geese and ducks. An even greater blessing was the mating ceremonies of both Martin and Meda, Sam and Catori. The family members, both male and female, wept openly with joy and celebration. New life would begin soon, new hope.

At the next fullness of Mother Moon, Tom and Thea journeyed beyond the harvest fields. Tom had been there as a child and had not returned since. He had a vision that his peoples and all the survivors from the south would come to this place to start anew. An elevated plain just beyond the harvest fields was ablaze with summer blossoms. When Thea first saw this, her breath was taken away. She did know previously of nature ' s artwork this brilliant and alive. She insisted that they take cutting and roots back to the village with them when they returned. Noshi and Maiara knew of their properties with benefit from the beauty year after year. As night fell, Tom and Thea sat in front a small fire, gazing at the sky. Mother Moon shone her full blessing and was joined by the stars of the multiverse. Love enveloped them as always, together finding solace and strength in each other and with the ancients. The next morning, they journeyed on a short distance and came upon a huge cave, surrounded by forest on three sides and the plain of grasses and blooms on the fourth. Just beyond the rocky verge and still in clear vision by the sunlight, Tom and Thea heard and then saw a waterfall, dancing, splashing, continuing on to the underground beyond the cave. Tom told Thea of the vision that their peoples, that her peoples, should come here and start a Sanctuary for survival, for all time as they knew it. In a silent and solid ritual they committed to the future of the peoples here at Sanctuary. When Tom and Thea returned, they held a meeting with all family members to discuss the vision and the plans. Work would begin after next year ' s Bealtaine and first harvest of grasses.

The Festival of Midsummer was again a celebration, a feast, a blessing by both Noshi and Maiara. Before the feasting started, in quiet humble voices as was the tradition of this family, both Martin and Sam announced that their partners were pregnant, with the blessings of the ancients new babies would be born near the next Ostermonat. There was a momentary hush as both tears and smiles erupted. There had not been new human babies in this village in 15 years and those children had not survived. Noshi cried blessings to the multiverse and the ancients smiled. Tom and Thea both wept, offering their own blessings.

Thea scarcely found time to continue her letter to Ross and Frida but needed to chronicle the progress, the lives, the joys and sorrows of her new family. Now, she could tell Ross that his silver coin, one she had named The Silver Nova, would be given to a new northerner, the first child of the Resistance in the North, the first child of hope.

Preparations for the Festival of the Great Harvest were upon them quickly. This would also be a festival of thanksgiving, honoring the ancients, the priests and priestesses, and each other. The summer ' s work had produced working wind energy, fish, wild and tame fowl, grains to mill over the autumn and winter months, fresh vegetables and roots to preserve, goats milk and cheese, warm wool and wild grasses to be woven over the days of cold and little light from the helix. This tiny band of survivors had not only survived but set in place long lasting plans and celebrations for all peoples yet to arrive.

Mitchell and the pilot arrived on the day of the Festival and were convinced to stay and participate in the celebrations. They brought wintering over supplies and a very special gift from another group of ranchers. Sam ' s eyes lit and glowed as two healthy colts, male and female draft horses of mixed Percheron and mustang genetics were led from the aircraft. Tom and Noshi smiled as an instant affinity and bond grew between equines and human. Sam was quickly becoming master of the stables, under the tutelage of Noshi, Martin, and Ben. Mitchell brought news of growing violence and death but also of growing safe houses and transport. Frida and Ross had written extensive letters and Thea returned her own chronicle with Mitchell and the pilot. She ached to know of news of Laura and of Lou. She knew that they were alive and surviving but she missed her own communication with them.

At the Festival of the Dead, Thea had a vision of her mother who she knew had passed on to the next step of her journey. She was able to see Kat and other members of Kat ' s family through visions. She knew and understood that Kat would come to her always as an ancient soul, would hold her when she needed solace as she had done since their first meeting. Kat knew that Nikita was living and would come to Sanctuary in the years to come.

On the first day of the fullness of Mother Moon, Catori gave birth to a daughter and asked Thea to bless the child with her human name. She was named Katherine. Two days later Meda bore a son who Tom named Pierre after his and Ben ' s father.

Over the next nine years, work on the cave continued. A safe and large communal home was planned. There were hunting grounds within a day ' s travel, a large river with abundant fish and seals within a day ' s travel, woodlands for harvest and renewal, grass plains, and fresh running water. The people planned on moving to the new home in the tenth summer. The cargo plane returned to the village several times each year, bringing supplies and information. The people of the village remained well. There were five new children born, all well, all celebrated, all loved.

Noshi grew tired and frail during the seventh winter. No-one knew his age in earth years but he was very old with his body was growing weak and used. Both Thea and Maiara along with Meda who had a gift of healing wisdom tried to urge Noshi ' s body to continue life but on the second new Mother Moon after the Wintersday, Noshi ' s spirit joined his ancients on the spiraling helix. A ceremony of safe travel was carried out by all members of the village, through tears but also through thanksgiving. This man, this soul, had taught and willed his people to survive in the face of almost certain death. His guidance had taught both Tom and Thea how to survive and how to lead. His sister, Maiara, and his great niece Meda would carry on the eternal magic and knowledge of the ancients. As Noshi ' s body was consumed by the fire of the ancient high priestess, Tom walked long into the ice and snow that night, gazing at the moon and the multiverse of stars. He had visions of Noshi, knowing that his ancients would intervene against the vaccine. He soon would join his spirit on the helix.

The circle of life evolved for these peoples. No other native northerners had joined them and Tom suspected that hunger and disease had claimed most of the settlements within hundreds of kilometers in the north. The small family had grown, had become almost self-sufficient, more so season by season. Their herds of animals grew; there were now four grown work horses and two colts. Thea and her sisters had learned how to harvest seeds to grow native plants and hybrids from the seeds brought from the south. Frida and Ross continued to tell of the progress of the Resistance, of the victories and losses, of the growing strength of the underground routes to safe houses. Frida managed to contact Thea ' s father only once but learned that Laura was preparing for university. The news of Lou was scarce, a worry for her brother Ross, but Thea knew that Lou would survive to would join Thea in the future.

Chapter 5

In the summer and autumn of the ninth summer, Tom ' s health and vigor began to fade. At first, Thea had suspected fatigue but as the weeks and months progressed he had lost weight, experiencing more pain with difficulty moving about. At the Festival of the Dead, Thea had a clear vision from Noshi with clear understanding that Tom ' s spirit would walk with him very soon. Maiara and Meda found native medicine to help ease Tom ' s pain, Thea attended to his every need. On the morning of Wintersday, Tom ' s spirit joined Noshi and the ancients. He told Thea repeatedly that she must continue to lead, that the destiny of all survivors rested with her now, that he would guide her forever from beyond. He reminded her that their souls had been forever joined and would be forever joined.

Thea walked among her brothers and sisters, young and old. All were humbled, hushed, and deeply saddened by the loss on the earth of their brother, their leader, their friend. There was a brief recognition of Wintersday as Tom had directed but it took great courage to find celebration. The day following, Tom ' s body was given up to the fire of the ancient priestess with his people celebrating his life, giving down thanks. Thea had never known an ache like this, never known the depths of this sadness. Howling tears did not ease the pain. She slept for weeks on the floor near the hearth as she could not bear to lie in the bed she had shared with her beloved, the bed where she held him in her arms night upon night. But as time passed, Tom ' s spirit drew her down to the joy they had known and she understood that this joy, this earth memory, would sustain her until her spirit joined him again to live eternally with the ancients. She knew he now walked with Noshi, Kat, and all those ancients she had yet to meet. There were many souls who had gone on before, those lives given up for the fight for freedom of all peoples. Thea used generator power to notify Mitchell, Ross, and Frida, of Tom ' s death, and asked Frida to pass along that news to those in the south who were fighting. Now the resolve must be that all common peoples would live on. With those words sent, Thea stood her full height, joined her family and accepted the role of new chief of the free peoples of the north. She could never deny the heartbreak she felt but she also could never deny the legacy this man had given to her and all his children.

At the advent of the tenth summer, just after Bealtaine, this village moved to the cave to the west, to the home Tom had envisioned, to Sanctuary. Ben, Martin, and Sam along with the other family members worked side by side to start the community there. They had done so in the face of much greater adversity when Tom and Thea first joined them; now they had knowledge, strength, and honor for a man whose legacy would live on in their souls.

The cycle of life encircled this small but ever-growing band of people. The children and elders thrived. Meda had shown herself to be a very strong ancient perhaps even with the potential to surpass the magic and the talent of her grandmother and great uncle. Thea was ever challenged and continually inspired to learn of the legends and traditions of her family, of their resilience, of their willingness to allow guidance from the ancients through their sister and chief.

Every material possible was salvaged and moved to their new home. The windmills were moved and the materials salvaged from unused old government buildings. All glass panes carefully removed and stored; Thea had visions of a greenhouse where food could be grown almost year round. The wind powered generators could supply light for wintering over. Logs were cut with the initial stable built during the first autumn. Food was harvested and preserved. Martin, Sam, Ben, young Pierre and young Katherine, went to the hunting grounds to bring back caribou and wolves to feed and clothe them over the following months. Thea and her sisters harvested three growths of wild grasses providing food for the animals and woven light weight clothing and bedding. The growing herd of sheep provided wool for weaving and knitting. Maiara taught her sisters and her daughters to take clay from the river delta for completed pots for cooking, growing and storage. During the winter, Ben taught his family how to carve utensils and containers for food. Marsh grasses were woven for storage baskets. Under Sam ' s direction by the ancients, the animals and fowl flourished. In the quiet of the night and early morning, Thea felt Tom ' s spirit join with hers, to make her smile, to continue the unspoken love for each other. This would sustain Thea for the rest of her earth days. She continued her chronicles and written instructions for future generations, an assured law of survival.

At the third Festival of the Great Harvest in their new home, Maiara and Meda had danced blessings to the gods and goddesses. Meda quietly took Thea aside to tell her of a vision of two young boys coming to them, part of their ancient family, part of their future. At the next fullness of Mother Moon, Mitchell and his sons Alex and Sean, arrived with a cargo plane full of supplies, Alex and Sean always excited to return to the north to see their friends and to carry back news of the village. Over two years all three helped their friends build a safer landing strip near their new home. As they approached the gathering of the family, Thea saw with them two young boys, obviously of native descent, and only able to walk beyond their fear with the encouragement of Mitchell. Alex led them to Thea and introduced her as the chief of this band. They eyes widened slightly as they had not known of a woman chief, especially a non-native chief. Thea gave the traditional blessings of hands and song, one that seemed universal. Mitchell introduced them as brothers, the elder as Achak and his younger brother as Takoda. Ross discovered them near death at the abandoned airstrip. He took them home to Frida; over the ensuing weeks fed them and laid a foundation of trust among non-native peoples. As soon as they were able to travel, Ross took them to Mitchell; both agreed that the young boys needed to go north to grow in their native culture. Achak told them he had lived fifteen earth years and Takoda had lived thirteen earth years. Both Katherine and Pierre approached them along with Sam, Catori, Martin, and Meda. They would be part of the larger family, home finally. Mitchell and his sons stayed among their friends for this night and in the morrow the horses and wagons returned with the supplies for overwintering. Meda walked outside with Thea, neither speaking but both understanding these new blessings given to them by the ancients. Over the new few weeks, as Achak and Takoda became trusting of their new family, their new brothers and sisters, they told of their struggle to survive. They were abandoned months prior to being found. Their parents could not support them, could barely support themselves. They had left in the night while they boys were asleep, leaving only a small food stuff and few essential supplies. Their grandfather had taught them much too early in their lives how to trap food and prepare it. Childhood memories and lack of skill proved these teachings of no benefits. They survived on what they could scrounge from the earth. They had found shelter and some old foodstuffs at the abandoned airstrip buildings but only enough for a few days. As near death from starvation hovered, Achak told of a clear vision he had, a waking vision and not a dream. Takoda confirmed he saw the same figures but was not able to communicate. Achak told of a tall native man with shining coal-colored eyes and long silver-streaked hair as well as an elder with him, who held them both, assuaged their hunger pain, kept them warm, and told of a white man who would take them to their true home. They were told not to cross to where these figures dwelled, that their time on earth was not over, they had very important roles to play. The boys were told not to fear the family they would join, that these men they envisioned were part of that family and would be forever. When Achak finished the story, there was a hush among all the peoples in the cave, then tears and reverence. Thea approached these boys and with a smile not seen since Tom ' s death hugged them, held them, welcomed them. With the arrival of these new native sons, the confirmation that Tom and Noshi had never left their peoples and would never leave Thea ' s life had come full circle within her. As she lay in her bed that night, Tom held her spirit once again as he had every night for eternity; the time of her grief had ended.

The clan grew and prospered over the next five years. At the fourth year after Achak and Takoda had become part of the family, at Bealtaine Achak joined with Katherine. She bore twin sons on the day of her cousin Pierre ' s birthday. Almost incredulously, Martin and Meda were grandparents and Ben was a great grandfather. The Silver Nova had now passed to three generations. Thea chronicled the events of their lives and paid special tribute to Ross ' s father who was like a guiding ancient to these children, to all the children born of hope.

New buildings were built, including a cabin big enough for Thea and women survivors brought through a developing safe house underground in the south. They built more outbuildings and stables. A large lodge was built, fashioned after the main dwelling in the original village. It was joined to the cave and would serve only as temporary lodging for the family until more secure and large dwelling could be built in the years to come. Thea had a rudimentary greenhouse built up against the outside rock face of the cave, enclosed with all the salvaged glass. She planned to build a larger greenhouse in time but for the present time Thea and her sisters were able to grow seedlings and plants for almost the full earth year cycle. Sanctuary now had twelve windmills which provided power to run generators and to pump water. Mitchell and his sons had helped to build a landing strip that could accommodate larger cargo planes and helicopters as needed. Small fruit trees grew under the tender love and guidance of Maiara with the warmth of the sun and heat from the generators as needed. The nutrition of this family was paramount to their survival and one of Thea ' s guiding forces.

Ben and Sam taught what knowledge they had to Achak about smithing. There were iron stores from the old village, recovered but not used. The horses needed shoeing; wagon wheels needed constructing and mending. Nothing was wasted and with the arrival of each cargo plane, cast off and used supplies were donated to grateful northerners. Mitchell was ever amazed at the determination for survival of these people; that determination sustained him as he learned of the constant atrocities in the south. His family, Ross, and Frida, were inspired and rededicated to the purpose of survival of all peoples needing freedom.

At the cargo flight after the following Bealtaine, two aircraft approached the airfield and then landed. As they came closer, they noticed that one young woman, almost six feet tall with long curly black hair with scattered streaks, dressed in a flight suit while carrying a helmet, strode towards them, with almost a light of her own. She was breathtakingly beautiful bearing the countenance and features of her ancestors. The elders immediately saw the resemblance; Thea stood weeping, arms outstretched to embrace and hold this young woman, always and forever. Tom ' s daughter, her daughter, Laura, had come to Sanctuary.

Chapter 5

Laura

Laura ' s first childhood memories were as those of her mother, gazing out into the garden bathed in the light of Mother Moon. She could clearly recall being held in her mother ' s arms, in her father ' s arms, hearing the soft sounds of the animals in a nearby stable. She had always known the calling of Mother Moon, although not understood at four earth years of age the song that the ancients sang to her soul. She was a precocious child with natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge fostered and fueled by her parents, by all her elders in Ekaterina ' s family. Laura had been born at time of great upheaval and insecurity. Even at her young age she understood that great change would happen before she reached adulthood. The garden memories of stillness and peace would hold her all her life, as if a readily available route to the ancients. Her first sharp and abrupt memory was of the night when her parents told her that she would go to live with her grandparents, her mother ' s parents Elgin and Anna Marie. Thea and Tom had taken Laura to the streets and to the Worker ' s Centre since birth; she had seen desperate poverty as part of daily life. As the tempo for Resistance quickened, she was sheltered more in the home of Ekaterina ' s family rather than join her parents as she had done previously. Tom and Thea explained to Laura why they had to leave, why the greatest chance for Laura ' s safety and education was to live among the elite class of her grandparents. Thea told that Laura that Anna Marie could not understand the life Thea lived, if she knew that her only daughter was leaving and would not return she would not be able to bear that. As such, Laura inherently understood that Anna Marie would think of Thea as dead, a more forgiving reason for never holding her child again.

There was a tug at Laura ' s young heart strings as she said hello to Elgin and goodbye to Thea. It was not safe for Tom to travel to the outskirts of the elite University and early that morning Laura had watched him walk away from her eyes forever but never from her heart. As Thea held her close to her, Laura asked that she love Tom enough for both of them. She also told Thea that they would reunite again in person and would never not be united in their hearts. Even at less than six earth years of age, Laura understood as her mother did not that all the people in her life were there because the ancients had sent them, that all these people were personification of ancient spirits who Laura had known for eternity. That knowledge would allow Laura to live her life somewhat vicariously but certainly courageously for all her days on earth.

Laura lived among adults; she had never known children as friends. All of her grandparent ' s peers had grown children and grandchildren but they were not involved with the circles of their parents ' friends. She was tutored at home by teachers and her grandparents, then at the University by graduate students. By the age of nine earth years, she readily and constantly won chess games against Elgin and some his professor colleagues. During Laura's childhood Anna Marie died and although Laura certainly missed her, she had never been close to her grandmother. She had always been close to Elgin ; he was her only true link to her mother. By the age of twelve earth years, she had done all the preparatory studies to enter university. In the early summer of her seventeenth year, she graduated from the University with degrees in Advanced Communications and Aeronautical Engineering.

By the age of thirteen earth years, Laura understood clearly the power of not only her mind but also her body and sexuality. She knew she was stunningly beautiful and knew exactly how to use that to her most definite advantage. She had never been physically attracted to the young wealthy men in her community and never really did understand the seemingly illogical thinking they perpetuated around sex and dominance. However, she knew that she could get what she needed from them simply by using her body as attraction and easy aggrandizing of egos. Laura was often cold and calculating in her mission to learn of the Resistance. She managed to infiltrate the University's secure library of old reports made independently before The Decision came to full power. The inner city where she had been born and raised as a young child had been obliterated; all the people there had either died in rebellion or had been moved to labor camps. She remembered her mother speaking a woman named Lou who lived in the Northeastern City , one who Laura instinctively knew was very involved in the Resistance and was still living. Laura also knew that Elgin had inconstant news of Thea and limited channels of communication. She had grown ever closer to Elgin as she matured; she trusted him and openly asked that he give her any help he could in contacting her mother. Elgin gave Laura a link to a woman named Frida, stating that Laura could send message to her with the messages would be forwarded to those she wanted to contact.

Laura was eventually able to use University archives to illegally retrieve maps and coordinates for the village where her father's family lived. She elicited help from one of the brilliant men working with archiving; together they completely and permanently erased that data from the old government and university files. Laura also made connections with young pilots who were part of The Decision youth brigade. With promise of sexual favors, she convinced one of them to make an undocumented practice flight beyond the northern wall and to drop a package at a set of coordinates. She told this young man that it was part of her own practice experiment to develop easy access air coordinates, a requirement for advanced studies in communications. Written contact with Thea was accomplished easily and without trauma save for a temporarily perceived broken heart of a young pilot when Laura simply left his life.

With some convincing, Elgin acquiesced to Laura ' s request to take flying lessons. Both of them understood that this would be in aid of Laura ' s future involvement in the Resistance, although it had been couched as Laura ' s potential involvement with University archeological research. One of Elgin ' s colleagues had a daughter in the Air Division of the Military, a high ranking officer and a pilot. In only a few weeks, Laura was off to the base Amanda Bennett commanded for private flying instruction and life lessons.

Amanda arranged transport by helicopter to the base she commanded. There was some resentment towards this young woman who had used power and influence to circumvent protocol for flight instruction. Amanda was raised with the same access to power and influence, using that to grow a Military career but from basic training onward. Laura and her flight lessons had already started to be thorn in Amanda ' s side.

With the arrival of the aircraft transporting the new student, Amanda anticipated a timid and slightly frumpy granddaughter of to be brought to her office for introduction. With the knock on her door, Amanda only raised her eyes slightly in greeting and then her head rose quickly as she caught her breath. Her assistant led a statuesque young woman into her office and introduced her as Laura Ravencouer. Amanda summoned the composure she needed and greeted Laura. Standing before her and extending her hand for greeting was a tall woman, over six feet with the aid of four inch heels, clothed in a black jacket, pencil skirt, and crisp white shirt edged with lace. She had groomed her hair to a demure chignon held in place by a pearl clip. Laura managed to hide a smile as she immediately knew that her choice of presentation had already started to wear down Amanda ' s reserve. At the end of their brief introductory meeting, Amanda instructed her assistant to take Laura to her quarters and to arrange for delivery of meals to Laura ' s suite. Laura was told she was to start classroom training the next day. As Laura left the room, she used a tiny camera in her watch to take photographs of the Colonel ' s office. She planned to take as many photographs as possible to aid her sisters and brothers plan permanent disruption of the base in the future.

Her quarters proved quite comfortable. She was housed in the end suite of building used for visiting dignitaries and officials. At the end of all the buildings was a small park with a grove of trees, a small pond and stream. She supposed this was for enjoyment of the staff. She saw the park from Amanda ' s office; the credenza was at the window looking out with a stationary chair placed at an angle for Amanda's gaze out on the peaceful oasis. Once Laura had settled into her quarters, she removed her jacket, loosened the chignon and let her dark curls flow down her back. She brought a shortened serape with her, hand woven from fine wool in jewel tones with beading. She saw it on a holographic tour she had taken of the southern continent. It had been made for a child to wear as the traditional cloaks were longer. She had been fascinated with it and the design by a native woman drew her once again to her roots. She told Elgin about it; for her next birthday, her seventeenth, she had been gifted with it. When she wore it, she felt an even deeper connection to her father, to all the ancients. As the afternoon was fading, she walked to the park, still clad in her heels and skirt but with her serape across her shoulders rather than a jacket and her soft long dark curls in contrast to the precious jewel tones of her wrap. She had checked to see if the window to Amanda ' s office was still undraped and that a light still shone through the other windows. She had only glanced up to that office window but long enough to see Amanda standing there looking out at the grove and this new visitor. Laura ' s every move, very gesture, every attire was calculated. She had done research on her new instructor, learning that Amanda was single, fifteen years Laura ' s senior, with an almost solitary focus on her career and the need to prove herself in the men ' s world of the Military. Amanda was intelligent and ambitious but lonely, angry, resentful. This was the crevice that Laura knew to be her avenue to this woman, to what Laura ultimately needed and wanted.

The next morning Laura arrived at the designated classroom only to find other students scheduled for learning as well. They were all young males; all eagerly ready to show prowess and knowledge. Amanda entered the room, everyone rose and saluted, save for Laura. She just rose. They were all given a preliminary test to assess their knowledge for placement in a specific group of classes. Laura ' s studies in Aeronautical Engineering led to easy completion of the test. Amanda then dismissed the group, asking that they return in one hour to allow Amanda and other instructor ' s time to determine the test scores and placement in classes. Routinely, Amanda did not conduct the testing and placement but she was intrigued with Laura since she had been very surprised the previous day by this woman ' s countenance leading to the decision to pursue testing personally. Laura strode from the classroom and after a polite but cool greeting with the other students chose to walk outside, near the classroom windows. She had chosen black trousers, white on white striped shirt, and black leather combat boots as her classroom attire. She had tied her hair back to a bun at the nape of her neck. She always wore only minimal makeup, only enough to allow her flashing hazel eyes to shine above majestic facial features. She adorned her long slender fingers with only one platinum and opal ring, a gift from Elgin when she graduated from university. It was to be given to Thea upon a graduation that never occurred.

As the students gathered to enter the classroom again, Amanda approached Laura, stating that she had scored a perfect mark on the test, that her classroom instructions would be brief, that Amanda would tutor her personally, as a personal favor to her father and Laura ' s grandfather; already Laura knew differently. The lessons were take place over the next few days in a room just outside Amanda ' s office.

Over the next four days, Laura studied and learned while Amanda arranged for a preliminary exam for the beginning of the next week, administered by the Lieutenant Colonel at the base. This exam result would determine when Laura could actually start learning how to fly aircraft. At the end of the fourth day of classes, Amanda invited Laura to dine with her in the officer ' s dining room and Laura graciously accepted. She knew that attire would be dress uniforms for dinner; as such she chose to arrive in a simple black sleeveless dress, her four inch heels, hair upswept, and a diamond necklace showing a feather within a circle. Laura assumed a demure pose as she crossed the threshold of the officers ' dining room. Conversation stopped and all eyes were on her. Amanda walked to her and for the first time Laura saw a glimmer of a slight smile as she ushered Laura to meet those gathered. She carried her serape as she hoped to take a walk in the starlight after dinner and the evenings wrapped cooler temperatures. This confident young woman could command rapt attention with every word but instead she chose to enter into only polite conversations with those who approached her. She enjoyed her dinner with Amanda. Laura rarely consumed alcohol; she disliked any loss of control it could lend. She did accept a glass of wine occasionally sipping it out of politeness and decorum. As the officers started to leave the dining room to the attached lounge, Laura thanked Amanda for her gesture of congratulations for her studies, and then turned to leave for a solitary walk through the grove and back to her quarters. Amanda offered to accompany her; Laura politely declined, stating that she just wanted quiet reflection. Amanda did tell her she would be at the base over the weekend, working part of the days in order to take time away the following weekend at her cabin in the northern part of the walled city, at the coast. Laura already knew of this cabin as part of her research prior to meeting Amanda but did feign polite interest in a brief after dinner conversation. Laura walked away from Amanda knowing that this woman ' s eyes followed her every move.

Laura studied for part of the weekend and went for runs each early morning. There was a gym at the base where found Amanda on the second weekend day. They exchanged polite and brief conversation, Laura continued exercising and then returned to her quarters to study and relax. She had taken hundreds of photos already and spent some of the time uploading them to a portable drive for her computer. When she returned home she forwarded them on to Lou. Laura already knew she needed close contact with her mother ' s friend, a sister at heart.

At the beginning of the next week, Laura sat for the preliminary examination. Amanda was nowhere in sight while the Lieutenant Colonel kept a very watchful eye. Laura finished the examination and returned to her quarters. Since it was not a formal class day, she chose to wear blue jeans, a black silk shirt, and combat boots. Her hair was loosely tied back. As she was leaving the building, Amanda caught up with her and eagerly asked how she thought she had done on the examination. Laura did not want to seem pretentious and although she knew she had done well she chose to tell Amanda that she was not sure. Amanda knew her student well enough by this point to know that Laura had done well. In the morning of the second day after the examination, Amanda ' s assistant notified Laura that Amanda wanted to see her in her office immediately. Again, Laura chose very casual attire but arrived as soon as possible. When she entered the room, both Amanda and her Lieutenant Colonel rose to greet her. Amanda could no longer hide a bright smile. Laura had not only passed the examination, she was the first time a student in the history of the base to achieve a perfect score; necessitating only a cursory secondary examination that afternoon. Amanda continued that she would arrange for Laura to start parachute lessons early the next week with Laura replying that she actually was a parachute instructor since the allowable legal age of sixteen years. She knew well how to jump out of aircraft; she just didn ' t know yet how to fly them. Amanda only saw the determination of this woman to reach a goal, blind to the underlying motivation. The following afternoon, Amanda came to Laura ' s quarters to inform her oh the exam results, again a perfect score, and a schedule for flight training. As well, as she had mentioned at the dinner a week previously Amanda was leaving in the morning for her cabin; she shyly asked if Laura would like to join her for the weekend. If not, perhaps Amanda offered to fly Laura home to visit her grandfather for the weekend. There was no doubt in Laura ' s decision; she would not be visiting Elgin this weekend and only occasionally over the next months. They planned to leave after the next morning meal. Laura hugged Amanda briefly as a thank you and to show her somewhat genuine excitement of the days ahead. That evening, Laura disabled her computer and locked it in the safe in her room. She packed carefully for the weather and her intentions. They planned to leave tomorrow and return later on the fourth day. Either they would return hating each other or, as both suspected, a different course for the rest of the lives was about to be set.

Chapter 6

Immediately following her morning meal, Laura was greeted by cadets to transport her to Amanda ' s private helicopter. Laura had only ever seen Amanda in uniform and as she saw this handsome woman approach her, clad in her own blue jeans with a T-shirt, she was taken aback only momentarily. She surmised that her planned intentions would not be as much of a hardship as she was prepared to endure. Amanda tossed a leather jacket to Laura, one of her own. Amanda asked Laura to climb into the cockpit first as Amanda completed a pilot's pre-flight check list. With luggage and supplies for the weekend stowed, shortly thereafter they were airborne. They flew over the base towards the more populated portion of the Northwestern City and then changed course to northwest. Amanda ' s cabin was near the ocean close to the northern wall of the city. It has been built as a wedding gift for her parents but they hated it. Amanda and her brother were only there on occasion as children. As they grew to adulthood, Amanda and her brother were given the cabin but her brother did not want to visit or own the cabin. Amanda always loved the solitude, a place where she could just be her own woman. She purchased the cabin outright from her brother when she graduated from university just prior to joining the Military. That cabin was the reason why Amanda chose to be a pilot and to eventually command the Air Command distinction of the Military. Laura had never experienced the coastal mountain range from the air previously. Amanda flew low into the fjords and valleys, partly so that Laura could see even more of her journey and partly to show Laura that she was indeed an accomplished pilot herself.

The flight took about two and one-half hours in total. They landed near the beach and as they disembarked Laura ' s breath was taken away at the sheer beauty of the forests, the ocean, the mountains. She readily understood why this was Amanda ' s most favorite place. Two men greeted Amanda to assist with packing the stowed supplies in the back of an overland vehicle. These men and their wives looked after the cabin for Amanda when she could not be there. After about ten minutes of driving on a winding dirt road though the forest, around the bend came into view their dwelling for the next four days and many months. It was not a huge cabin but a post and beam construction, logs harvested from the very forest surrounding them. There was only one large living space and a bathroom. Generators were employed for power to heat water, for food cooled storage, and for cooking in inclement weather. A huge deck overlooked the beach and the vast endless expanse of the western ocean. After unloading the vehicle, Amanda set a fire as it was early autumn and cooler days in the more northern part of the city. The fireplace was huge, made of roughhewn stones gathered from nearby remnants of rock slides. The wide raised hearth held. Stands for tools and racks to hold clothes for warming perched at each end. A huge wood box on casters allowed easy transport of wood from the enclosure at the back of the cabin. Amanda stored food while asking Laura to remove duvets from a storage closet and place them on the warming rack on the hearth. One end of the open room held a bed, still close enough to the fire for warmth. There was a worn and exceedingly comfortable sofa and chair positioned to take the greatest warmth from the fire. The kitchen end of the cabin was small but very functional with a door opening out onto the deck fire pit and a gas grill. Amanda asked that the kitchen at the base prepare a lunch for them after their arrival and settling in. She prepared coffee in a pot probably as old as Elgin if not older. It was simply coffee, the shells of two eggs, and water. Amanda placed the pot on a grill on the fire and watched it occasionally. When the pot boiled the first time, she removed it from the heat, and then returned it to the fire for a second boil. After the second boil, she returned the pot to the kitchen, removed the egg shells that had filtered the grounds, and poured Laura the most delicious cup of coffee she had ever consumed. They were both hungry from the trip and the work of settling in. Both women devoured soup, bread, and cheeses. One of the women who looked after the cabin for Amanda left homemade cookies in the refrigerator. Laura sank back into the cushions of the sofa, sipped her coffee and munched on cookies. Amanda occupied the other end of the couch and did the same. Laura smiled to herself as she thought that this endeavor might not be a hardship whatsoever. Amanda saw that smile but interpreted it with a slightly different connotation. There were no computers, no movie players, no sources of current news. A bookshelf persuaded Laura the luxury of tucking into a mystery. Amanda rummaged through her pack to retrieve her knitting. Again, Laura was charmed by the incongruity of seeing this high ranking Military pilot and Colonel sitting curled up in front of a fire knitting. A music player accommodated an assortment of Amanda's music to play in the background. Laura knew obviously that Amanda was female but was just learning she was a woman. They spent hours that afternoon talking about their childhood, their careers, their hopes for the future. Laura chose not to tell Amanda of her parents, stating that she was born to an unwed mother, Elgin ' s daughter, with Laura being by her grandparents. She told of her university life and of her plans to pursue archeological studies, hence the need for the ability to pilot aircraft. They talked of history, archeology, and literature, interests for both. Laura did mention her disdain for young men of her age in her community and Amanda stated her absolute disdain for men in any community. Laura helped Amanda bring in more wood for the overnight. She had her first lessons on how to split kindling and how to keep a good warm fire going. For the moments when let her guard down, Laura was very much enjoyed her day with Amanda. As the sun started to fade over the ocean, Amanda started the grill. She poured one glass of red wine for herself and one-half glass of white wine and topped it with club soda for Laura as she had noticed that she did not consume much alcohol. When Amanda came in from checking the grill, she took her friend's hands and urged her off the couch. She handed her the leather jacket, the wine, took her hand again and led her to the deck. The sun was setting over the ocean; she wanted to share a new experience with the beautiful young woman. They stood leaning on the railing of the desk, close to each other, hips touching, sipping wine, drinking in the glory of Mother Nature and the vastness of the ocean. As the twilight enveloped them, they dined once again in front of the fire. There was no coffee with this meal but indeed more wine. Darkness cloaked the mountainside and in between the tree tops millions of stars shone from beyond the multiverse. A quick clean up followed dinner after which candles were lit. Amanda added wood to the fire and soon the room was softened by the flame lights. She put soft cushions on the floor in front of the fire with an invitation for Laura to join her near the hearth. She showed Laura how to warm smooth stones that would be used to warm bedding later in the evening. Soft jazz played in the background, music Laura had not heard previously but music that drew her in. Amanda took Laura ' s hand once again and Laura did not pull away. There was silent connection of eyes and then lips. Laura knew brief sexual encounters with young men at the University but she had never been held in the arms of a woman. It felt like coming home to her, a response never contrived. She wanted this woman with an urgency she had not known in her young life. Amanda directed the tempo of this initiation. Laura planned for these events but could have never anticipated the passion, the heat, the absolute wanton desire. They held each other for what seemed like hours, enjoying each exploration, each touch. Laura felt inebriated but not from the wine. She would not allow herself to fall in love but she would welcome and encourage falling in absolute lust. As the fire died down and before Amanda banked it again for the night, she laughed telling Laura that she then supposed there would not be an issue with them sharing the one bed. Laura smiled with a reply that she understood that was the plan from the outset. Amanda started the bathroom heaters so that they could shower in relative comfort. Laura wrapped the warming stones in their cases and placed them in between the sheets of the bed along with warmed duvets, then found her sleeping shirt. Amanda led Laura to the shower. As she undressed Laura, smiled when she saw that Laura had chosen a chocolate-colored camisole and dance briefs edged with ecru lace under her outer clothing. Laura shyly undressed her teacher, trembling as she felt skin upon skin. The shower was warm, the air was cool, and they danced under the water until warmth started to dwindle. Quickly dried bodies climbed into sleeping shirts and moccasins. Both women embraced as they snuffed candle flames before leading each other to the warmed bed. Laura knew then that she would always love women, their hearts, their souls, their minds, and their bodies. There was silent darkness save for firelight and the voices of love raising to the multiverse and down to the ancients; as Laura held a sleeping Amanda in her arms she had tears and took photographs.

Laura awoke to find Amanda up and moving about, building up a fire and making coffee. She had taken the cold stones from the bed and replaced them. Laura sleepily said good morning and started to rise from bed. Amanda handed her a warmed robe, Laura made a hurried visit to a cool bathroom, quickly took her clothing for the day to place them on the warming racks on the hearth. She brought her hairbrush back to the duvets and brushed out love tangled curls. Amanda brought coffee for her and Laura to enjoy in the warm bedding, The day was dark and damp, a steady rain fell in the morning silence it drumming a life sustaining rhythm on the deck, the window panes, and the roof.

Amanda wore a long, obviously old but soft woolen shirt under her robe. Laura had removed her robe as she crawled under the duvets and Amanda stroked her long curls and her naked trembling body. She asked Laura if she was cold, knowing that was not the reason. The perception of a shy young woman who had come to her bed the night before was now her lover, one who listened to the urging of her own body and the demands of Amanda ' s. Earth time later, once back to the reality of the cabin Amanda asked if Laura was hungry with the immediate response of a starving young woman. When Amanda asked her what she wanted to eat, she immediately knew that was a very poor choice of words. With a decidedly wicked grin, Laura drew Amanda to her, only with empty growls did she let Amanda leave the bed to prepare sustenance for both of them. There was heated water for a brief morning shower in a cold bathroom. Laura did not linger and climbed into her warmed clothing before of the fire. They enjoyed coffee and a huge breakfast while sitting on the sofa near the hearth. Amanda used the last of the heated water to clean up after their breakfast while Laura once again took the duvets to the warming rack on the hearth. Amanda told her where to find clean sheets for the bed and where to place any household laundry to be cleaned after they left. With the household chores behind them, Laura learned to chop wood with both women replenishing the wood box quickly. Amanda made a second pot of coffee while Laura stood at the window looking out to the ocean through the rain streaked windows. She was drawn down to her ancients for minutes; Amanda had to speak twice to her to raise her back to reality. Laura simply explained it as a lovely daydream. Laura knew she could never lose the connection to the ancients, that connection would guide her with and without Amanda.

With a second cup of coffee in hand, they settled into the sofa to bask in the warmth of the fire and their newly discovered lovership. Amanda spoke to the ease women loved each other physically with no direction needed. Laura retorted that it was a possible lazy way out but she was all for the path of least resistance. It simply saved mental energy for the hard work, they both giggled as they simultaneously commented on how much fun it was. Amanda knew of Laura ' s young earth age but from their first meeting never thought of her as giddy school girl. She was very much a woman at presentation into Amanda ' s life. They were lost in quiet musings, Laura knowing that as much as she liked this woman she first and foremost needed her to fulfill a plan. Amanda accepted that she would not be the love of Laura ' s life, that they would have they days together but that Laura would leave and take part of Amanda ' s heart with her. They both resolved within themselves that they would enjoy what days they could, giving to and taking from each other.

With Laura's help, Amanda dragged an old clean rug made from wolf skins to the hearth. They moved the old table to one side, creating a warm place to sit and lie before the fire. An old hand made blanket was placed on the hearth for a few minutes for warming. Before settling in to her knitting and her lover, she fueled a second and third generator to provide more warm water as well as energy to warm and cook food. Laura watched and learned about this process, both women knowing this would be their hideaway home whenever possible; Laura wanted to know how to help her friend. Just as they finished the chores, Harry arrived to make sure all was well, to bring Dungeness crabs captured early that morning, and the question of dinner was instantly solved. There were gales of laughter as Harry drove away from the cabin; he visited as he was nosey as hell about the newcomer to the usually alone Amanda ' s stay. Amanda giggled that there was likely no need for the aphrodisiac properties of the crabs but that it was a neighborly act all the same. With the laughter, Laura took photographs.

The rain and fog placed a shroud around the cabin. The lovers sat in front of the fire, legs entwined on the sofa under a warm blanket. Laura tried to become immersed in her book but with a read need to be immersed in Amanda. She smiled to herself that the priests and priestesses had opened a floodgate in her. Amanda looked soft, lovely, and decidedly female nestled among the cushions of the sofa, and the blanket over her legs, lost in the music and her craft. After as much self-discipline as was womanly possible, Laura put her book down, moved close enough to Amanda to take the knitting out of her hands, and took her lover in her arms. The wolf skin rug found them naked moments later and as the fire warmed their physical bodies, the rhythm of love warmed their souls. When somewhat satiated, Amanda held Laura in her arms, singing softly along with the music in the background; as she sang and stroked her lover ' s curls, Laura took photographs.

The afternoon hours drifted by for these women. The cool air coaxed both women to dress with return to the comfort of the sofa. Laura banked the fire while Amanda warmed the left over soup for their midday meal. Amanda talked of her early years, of her unreported rape as a young woman, of her anger and determination not to play the traditional woman ' s role as dictated by her family traditions. Her parents were true academics with really little interest in their children once they were able to exist without parental help. She excelled at university with her plan to become a woman in a man ' s world, to be better than all of them. As she talked, Laura saw tears just behind her eyes. When encouragement allowed Amanda to accept a hug, torrent of raw emotion opened. There were racking sobs, those of a lifetime of disappointment and hurt. When Amanda eventually calmed her tears, she was suddenly embarrassed by her lack of control and Laura ' s ability to take down years of wall building within. As the tears continued to softly trickle down Amanda ' s cheeks, Laura took photographs.

Evening came upon them early in the fog. They enjoyed a feast of steamed crabs, this time at a tiny table. They sat in silence at the table, sipped wine and drank of each other ' s eyes. The veiled shyness of all new lovers, was long gone. In just a few hours, a perhaps maligned trust had been built. Laura drew to the ancients to help her focus now on that need. She also knew as at least part of her heart had already been given to Amanda that her long term assignment would not come without a price.

A large tank of hot water was ready for washing up and for showers. As Amanda washed up after dinner, Laura banked the fire, then slipped away to the shower. With her famous wicked grin she emerged to join Amanda, wearing the little black dress, the four inch heels, her curls fastened by a pearl clip, and with music to dance by. Amanda laughed long and hard but allowed herself to be gathered in Laura ' s arms while they moved to the sensual rhythms of South American and African beats. As they danced, Amanda realized that it has been years since abandon permitted such pleasure in the company of another woman. She asked Laura to pause the music long enough for her have a quick shower; she emerged minutes later clad only in the white shirt edged with lace left for her in the bathroom along with Laura ' s perfume. A small side table held two pewter goblets filled with Courvoisier. Amanda realized that although Laura was young in earth years, she was already extremely adept at seduction. Laura knew from research that Amanda enjoyed dancing for many years having been an instructor of many of her parents ' friends when she was at university. Laura took dance instruction as a younger woman as part of her initiation to the adulthood of her peers; due to her height she often assumed the lead with women friends smaller of stature. The cabin became an intimate salon for the lovers. As they danced and drank cognac, Laura took photographs.

The duvets made their way to the bed, the warming stones made their way to in between the sheets, the candle snuffs made their way to the flickering flames, the little black dress made its way to the floor. Amanda removed the clip in Laura ' s hair and the great mantle of curls fell on shoulders, back, and breasts covered by the finest European lace lingerie. The white shirt edged with lace found its way to the floor. A shouldering rumba laid a trail of European lace and four inch heels to the bedside, passion claimed the lovers and the night.

Laura awoke to the dawn ' s promise of sun. The room was cold prompting hurried restoration of a warm fire with placement of a robe on the hearth. She hurriedly dressed, made her first pot of passable coffee, and grabbed a leather jacket before going out in the frosty morning. The view from the deck revealed the pink rising in the eastern sky. Her mind was clear, her heart less so. She did love Amanda, how quickly and carelessly that had happened. In her inexperience, she had not bargained for the repercussions of seduction. She remembered a conversation when Ekaterina told Thea that if you loved you got hurt, it was part of the equation. She had been too young to understand what she knew as true now. A voice from the ancients told her that she could love, that she should love. With no loss of focus of the future or her destiny, she would learn of the capacity of her heart. She returned to the warmth of the cabin as the sun rose up in the sky painting the waves on the ocean to the west with tips of gold. Amanda slowly sat up as the invitation of coffee wafted from the pot. New warming stones were placed in between the sheets and a steaming cup of coffee placed on the stand beside the bed. Laura climbed onto the bed with her own cup of coffee. Amanda spoke for the first time, awarding the coffee a passing grade, smiling with eyes shining with love. She shifted to lean on Laura ' s breasts; they enjoyed the sunlight starting to steam in through the eastern windows as the coffee warmed their bodies and tenderness warmed their hearts.

Hunger negated lust and Laura rose to start to prepare food. She placed Amanda ' s clothing near the fire to warm, telling told her stay tucked in until breakfast was ready. Amanda had no idea this child could cook but cook she did. Amanda dressed and curled up on the couch as she watched her lover cook. As they waited for a second pot of coffee to brew, Amanda suggested that after the morning chores they take a short drive to the beach and then perhaps a hike farther up the mountain side. Laura was excited to be out in the day to explore the new world around her. As Amanda brought in the daily wood, changed linens, placed duvets for warming on the racks on the hearth, and started a fire in the pit outside, Laura made muffins from rolled oats and dried fruit she had found in the pantry. Amanda planned for coals hot in the pit in order to prepare a beef roast for their dinner; by the time they returned from the beach she could place the meat on the grill above the coals. Laura filled a large thermos bottle with coffee and packed the muffins for their morning walk. Amanda found hand knit sweaters for them packed in the storage bins, ones she had made at her alone visits over the years. Laura pulled on thick socks and her combat boots. She had braided her hair that morning to try to tame it temporarily, Amanda loved the opportunity to nuzzle that lovely neck as she felt the need. The fire was banked for their return; backpacks, headbands, and mittens joined the women in the vehicle for a short drive to the beach.

Laura walked on the stones amid driftwood, silenced by the sheer wild beauty of her surroundings and the endless vastness of the western ocean. She had only seen photographs and holograms of the seashore but had never physically stood with the shock to her senses and mind. Amanda realized that Laura was overwhelmed and placed a strong reassuring arm around her lover ' s waist to draw her close. They walked closer to water ' s edge and found a piece of driftwood on which to perch . As they sat in silence drinking in the peace, suddenly Amanda ' s helicopter flew overhead. Laura leaped up with shock and turned quickly to see amusement on Amanda ' s face. The pilot was Jeannie, Harry ' s wife. She had taken the aircraft to a nearby air base for fueling. Amanda taught Jeannie how to fly years before, much to her husband ' s disapproval. Jeannie loved the craft, loved the freedom of flying. She often went shopping for supplies as she made these missions, alone, without Harry. Amanda had nicknamed the copter Bella; Jeannie ' s trips for fuel left more time for Amanda to enjoy her time at the cabin knowing that Bella was in very capable hands. The women returned to the sit on the vehicle tailgate to enjoy their coffee and muffins. Before they left, Amanda took a solitary walk back to the water ' s edge, she said for an eyeful to sustain her until she could return. As she did, Laura took photographs.

On their return to the cabin, Amanda prepared the meat for the coals. They banked the fire once more before embarking on their hike, knowing that if they did not leave immediately the desire to find the wonders of each other ' s body would overtake them. After Amanda grabbed a blanket and a tarp for her backpack, they set out for a rock ridge within their immediate vision. Again, Laura had not seen huge fir trees with her own eyes that skyward as she tried to take in the majesty of the forest. Amanda took her hand as they walked along the road upward. She told her of the natural history of the area, of the people who still hunted and harvested in the forest. Laura was oddly not surprised at the passion Amanda held for this land and her need to protect it as long as she possibly could. She had seen glimpses of this woman ' s true soul, the one loosed from the chains of repression. Laura knew that part of Amanda would be the most dangerous, the one that stepped outside the should to the could. With the roof of the cabin still in sight, Amanda led Laura from the road along a small path to a clearing, a flat table of rock. Amanda explained this was her secret place, one where she and her brother had played in as children. They pretended there were warriors staving off pirates, using rolled up bark as glasses to see the faraway ships. They were spies, thus they called this special place Spy Rock. Laura gazed out on the vista, lost in her own childhood years and the fact that she only had her imagination as a play friend. Until she heard Amanda talk happily about playing with her brother, she really did not know how much has missed. Each woman stood entirely alone, lost in their own memories, their own souls. Amanda took the tarp and blanket from her backpack placing them on a portion of the table rock covered by soft moss. She took the thermos with the remaining coffee from Laura ' s pack with an invitation to join her seated for a cup. They sat, still not really talking, still gazing out at the Great Mother ' s world. Amanda caressed this young woman gently and kissed her hairline and neck, sensing her sadness and her need of comfort. Kisses and touching led to kisses and touching as love found them naked in the cool air on Spy Rock with only uncomfortable cool air forcing donning of clothing. Amanda led Laura back to the mountain road, arm and arm they walked back to the cabin. Although only midafternoon, Laura wanted a shower. She heated the air in the bathroom and Amanda joined her for a dance in the water drops. Clean warm clothing found Laura tucked in her corner of the sofa, eyes closed, and mind drifting to nap. Amanda checked the roast for dinner, banked the fire and then laying her head in Laura ' s lap, her mind too drifted to sleep. As the long shadows of impending sunset woke the women, Amanda poured glasses of wine. They donned leather jackets and stood on the desk to watch the colors not ever produced by humankind as the sun tucked his head beneath the pall of the ocean. This would be the last sunset at the cabin this weekend and they both needed to keep an eye ' s long memory to sustain them.

After dinner and lingering as long as practicality allowed, Laura cleared and cleaned the dishes. Amanda checked the state of the coals in the fire pit and then started making a list for Jeannie to help procure supplies for their next stay, if possible in four weeks. She consulted Laura about what foodstuffs they would need for another four day weekend; they then stopped with breathtaking laughter about how quickly they had become domesticated. They packed up what they could for the morrow ' s departure.

Laura lit candles and the lovers sat on the rug with pillows at their backs against the sofa. Amanda told Laura she was delighted as she sensed she loved this cabin as much as she did with her hopes that they spend much time together. Fire and lovelights shone in Laura ' s eyes; there was no real need for confirmation. Laura asked Amanda to talk more of the adventures, of the play that she had as a child as if by the telling Laura could try to experience the delight. Amanda suddenly understood Laura ' s sadness at a loss of that childhood she knew, that this young lover had always known old, surrounded by only old; Amanda would make plans for play for both of them.

A relieved twilight welcomed the blue velvet night sky adorned by millions of the universe ' s jewels. Before preparing the bed for early retiring, Amanda asked Laura to help her take the wolf skin rug to the deck. Laura supposed this to be a part of the packing up but Amanda then handed Laura a leather jacket, grabbed two pillows from the sofa, and led Laura to the deck. They lay down on the rug and gazed skyward, completely drunk by the majesty of Mother ' s sky. Laura had only seen the stars from the city and she was silently mesmerized by this gift shown to her by her lover. She felt a tug all and at once to the multiverse and the ancients, their approval to her discoveries, to her loving. Indeed, Laura ' s journey was unfolding as it should.

The rug was returned to its place accompanying the hearth. The bed was readied and the fire banked for the night. Laura stood gazing at the flames, not wanting to leave them. Amanda hugged her with reassurance that there would be as many nights here at the cabin as they could arrange and as Laura wanted. The lovers lay in each other ' s arms warmed by the stones and duvets. Amanda loosened Laura ' s braid to caress the long silky curls. There was love in the cabin, more than that driven by lust. The urgency of previous nights gave way to soft tempered rhythms, building as crescendo upon crescendo, a circle harmony, a lovers' symphony. The crashing arrivals changed to orchestrated and patient descent and ascent. Amanda had no need to direct the tempo, they both found their soul ' s batons. There was an unique arrangement, the notes and music of their love written on the pages of their hearts forever and for always.

Amanda arose first in the morning, made coffee, and prepared a large breakfast. She fell to the routine of departure. Laura joined her in the cool cabin, only enough wood was placed on the fire to maintain comfort until they departed. Laura washed up after a second lingering cup of coffee. Amanda split kindling and loaded up the wood box for the next fire. Lists were finalized for Jeannie to purchase many candles along with other supplies needed for the next visit as in four weeks they would be into the late autumn and much fewer daylight hours. As Amanda completed chores for closing up, Laura stopped her to hug her. She knew that when they arrived back at the base they would be teacher, student, and casual friends. She understood Amanda ' s need to make the transition back to Colonel but for the last minutes before they left Laura wanted her lover in her arms just a bit longer. With the vehicle packed and one last inspection before locking the door, the women silently said goodbye and Laura took photographs.

With all the instructions discussed, payment for labor and supplies made, Laura and Amanda were airborne in less than an hour. There were clear skies and the air command base reported calm weather, insuring a safe flight home. Both women were silent for the first minutes of the trip, reflecting on the past four days and their hopes for the future. Finally, Amanda spoke of how they must lead separate lives as only friends on the base, Laura reassured her that was anticipated. They would spend time together as teacher and student with occasional time for off base entertainment but there must be absolutely no suspicion of their true union among the officers or cadets at the base. Laura placed her hand on Amanda ' s thigh briefly, stating that a deep ache had already begun. Amanda smiled and quickly removed her lover ' s hand. For the rest of their journey, Amanda taught Laura about rudimentary skills and instrumentation. Laura was told to pick up her flight suits and helmet at the cadet center and to meet Amanda at 1400 hours the following day. Laura understood the discipline but she would not stop pursuing the woman.

Both women went to their separate quarters. Laura was tired and hungry; after unpacking her bags and a hot shower, she enabled her computer once again and uploaded the photographs. She could not bear to look at them, saving them to a separate drive secured in the lining of her large duffle bag. She did send Elgin a quick email telling him of her exam results and the plan for actual flight training to start the next day. She mentioned that she would try to visit soon but her training would take precedence for the coming weeks. She needed a minimum of one hundred instruction and flight hours before she would be eligible for a solo pilot license. Laura also connected to her favorite online florist, owned and operated on the University campus. She ordered one single yellow rose to be delivered daily to Colonel Amanda Bennett at Air Command Base 12. There would be no card with Laura insisting on no trace of who ordered and paid for the flowers. The owner knew Laura well and was very familiar with discrete requests in her business, honoring them always. Amanda was well respected by all the staff and cadets on the base but Laura suspected that none of them ever supposed that she was human beyond the uniform.

Sleep came slowly for Amanda and Laura that night; both ached for the other. Laura awoke to a bright morning and the excitement of her first flight lesson, albeit with the restraint needed not to ravage her instructor. After breakfast, she donned jeans and a long sleeved sweater, boots, and her serape to walk to the grove with a second cup of coffee, not nearly as delicious as the brews to which she had quickly become accustomed. She stopped at the cadet ' s center to pick up her flight suits and helmet. The name Ravencouer was stitched on the upper left pocket. Naofa saw the ancient brother Tom smile with pride in his beautiful brilliant child.

Laura met Amanda on the tarmac at exactly 1400 hours. She was stunning in her uniform and erect in her stature as base commander. All other staff saluted as they met Amanda, Laura did not. She was not and would never be a part of the Military; she found the entire gesture of mandatory saluting degrading. Amanda did not insist, she knew there was no point. They climbed into the cockpit of the training helicopter and the lesson began. Without missing a beat, Amanda dropped a yellow petal on the seat beside Laura with only briefly smiling eyes. Both women were lost in concentration and the two hours passed quickly. They arranged to meet at 1100 hours the next day and then parted company. Laura returned to her quarters, made extensive notes of her instructions that day and studied them repeatedly with no future need to repeat the lessons. The instructor at the cadet center told Laura to return her flight suit at the end of each day for laundering. After a shower, Laura changed into running clothes and on her way dropped off her flight suit.

The rest of the week followed much the same routine including one daily yellow petal. Amanda did mention that she would work all weekend with an invitation to Laura to join her for brunch at a caf é nearby. Laura gladly accepted the invitation and met Amanda, still in uniform, at 1100 hours on the second weekend day. They were shown a window table at the caf é as it had been reserved and on the table in a crystal vase was one deep purple iris. Tears welled up on Laura ' s eyes but she kept composure after a stern glance from Amanda. They lingered over brunch, coffee, and conversation, mostly about the day- to- day news at the base. Amanda drove back to the base and escorted Laura back to the door of her quarters. They planned to meet at 1400 hours for the next five days. Amanda asked Laura if she was interested in part-time weekend employment, mostly entry of data into the base computerized records. She stated that it was time consuming work for Amanda, she was looking to hire someone to help with that. There would be use of her assistant ' s computer and could set her own hours for a maximum of ten for the entire weekend. The payment would be according to any student wage paid at the base. Amanda explained that working the next two weekends allowed her to take four more days off on the third weekend in advance, continuing that if Laura was interested perhaps she would like to join her once again at the cabin. Laura readily accepted the offer of work and with slightly upturned lips graciously accepted the invitation to return to the cabin.

Laura ' s flight lessons went well without error during the next week and on the weekend she reported to Amanda ' s office at 1000 hours on the first weekend day. Her degree in Advanced Communications made the data entry work gnawingly boring but she was quickly able to break the secure codes to the entire date base and using matchstick sized drives started downloading information. On the second weekend day, about twenty minutes after Laura reported for work a worker from the kitchen delivered coffee, cookies, and a crystal vase with one purple iris. Amanda walked by; with a brief and wicked grin she greeted Laura for the day.

During the third week of flight instruction, Laura took the controls and started to fly the helicopter with Amanda watching. There was an exhilarating rush of adrenalin as Laura took control of the craft unaided, Amanda briefly smiled as she witnessed Laura's reaction. Amanda mentioned again that she needed to work over the weekend but perhaps they could make a trip to a small town near the base for dinner on the first weekend day. Laura was delighted to join Amanda who then told her lover that jeans would be in order for that dinner. The women arrived early for work on the first weekend day. Laura was able to complete the copy of base data and erase any memory of the breach. Before she did, she accessed Amanda ' s email addresses long enough to obtain contact information for Jeannie; Laura Jeannie to request a favor to be kept a secret. She asked Jeannie to buy a dozen yellow roses in a crystal vase and have them waiting for them at week ' s end at the cabin. Jeannie confirmed the email quickly, stating. she would be glad to help.

Chapter 7

Amanda met Laura at her quarters at the end of the afternoon. She wore fatigues; Laura was entirely charmed when she saw her lover. They travelled to a small town ' s fairgrounds hosting a harvest festival and accompanying carnival. Laura almost leapt out of the vehicle as she saw the sights in front of her. She could not stop grinning with eyes shining with love for Amanda who returned the same. Laura had only seen photographs of merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, carnival games, and food booths. She felt like she was eight years old again as she and Amanda rode on the rides, mostly accompanied by children and adolescents who occasionally snickered at the grown women having too much fun for adults. Amanda won stuffed animals for Laura who hugged and cuddled each one. Amanda led Laura to a food tent run by a local farm women ' s group. They were shown to a table as if it had been reserved where on the table rested a crystal vase with one deep purple iris. In the dark tent only lit by festival lanterns, Laura did let tears fall; Amanda only smiled and handed her a lace-edged handkerchief. The home cooked dinner was the best food Laura had tasted away from the cabin. When they were finished, they took the toys, the flower, and vase to the vehicle; then leaned against it to watch a short amateur fireworks show, the first Laura had ever seen. She had a childhood memory, perhaps one of many, to now cherish.

On the return to the base, they talked about the Wintersday break coming in the third week of the twelfth month and lasting until the end of the second week of the new year ' s first month. There would be no instruction at the flight school as many cadets and staff returned to their homes for at least part of the four weeks. Amanda had always kept command so that her Lieutenant Colonel could have the entire time away. She announced that she was taking leave for the entire four weeks. There would be the necessary family obligatory visit and the University soiree at the beginning of the break but after that Amanda intended to spend most of the leave at the cabin. Her parents had invited Elgin to join them for any festivities, anticipating that they would all be alone for most of the celebrations. She invited Laura to join her for the four weeks away and the anticipation of four weeks alone with her lover completed the magical night. Amanda continued that they could travel by vehicle to her parents ' home for the day prior to the soiree and the morning after the party return to the base to fly north. There would be snow in the mountains; they would need to plan for weeks of mainly indoor activities as the climate could be quite unforgiving. It had been years since Amanda had spent the Wintersday break at the cabin, a story and reason would be told to Laura in time. Laura commented that she was quite sure they would find activities to occupy them indoors, that it had not been a problem at the last visit. It would take some planning and a meeting with Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary. Laura asked for time away during the coming week to travel home to gather her clothing for the upcoming winter months and the visit to the cabin. Amanda arranged for a cadet to drive her to Elgin ' s home and back on the day she chose, that being the third day of the week which would work best for both their schedules for a break in instruction.

Laura finished her data entry by noon the following day with return to her quarters to rest and prepare for her exchange of clothing. She emailed Elgin to tell him she would try to stop to see him but if not she would see him for the Wintersday soiree. She told him of her flight training and her ability to fly the helicopter by herself with only Amanda ' s verbal guidance. She had almost one third of the required flight hours done. She cuddled her stuffed animals often, a tactile reminder of her childhood date with Amanda.

The next two days flew by with instructions and studying. Early on the third day, a cadet came to her door. He started to salute Laura who immediately stopped him. She was younger than him, not Military, only a student, and casual friend of the Colonel. As they drove back to the elite section of the city, they chatted about the air base and their goals. He waited patiently while she packed clothing and found more carrying satchels; he then helped to carry them back to the vehicle. She needed to go to the University computer store to pick up flash drives and batteries for her watch.

She offered to buy the cadet lunch for the road; he was not sure it would be correct but agreed. They stopped for cheeseburgers and fries, staples of adolescent diets not easily found on an air base. She needed to make one more stop, to a dress designer friend who had a shop in the elite neighborhood. She did not take long, having ordered a gown for the Wintersday soiree. This designer has dressed Laura for many years and knew exactly how to fit her tall slender body; however she was somewhat surprised at Laura ' s current choice of design. Laura would not be able to return for a fitting but was not concerned. She asked that the gown be delivered to her name at the home of Amanda ' s family. She decided to email Elgin with a request to borrow Anna Marie ' s jewelry. By shortly after midday they were back on the road again and returned to the base by midafternoon. Laura thanked the cadet for his kindness and help, she wished him well in his studies. She then spent the rest of the day putting clothing away and packing for the upcoming weekend.

The fourth weekday seemed to drag by even with the same activities as all the other weekdays. Both Amanda and Laura were so eager to leave the next morning, to be back at the cabin, to be back in each other ' s arms. Laura met Amanda on the tarmac at 0900 hours as she and ground crew readied Bella. Laura had her own leather jacket this time and would keep it at the base all year. She helped load supplies and baggage, donned her helmet; her lover requested that fly Bella to the cabin, with only one set of controls and watchful but confident surveillance of her instructor. This was not illegal but highly unusual for a young pilot with only slightly less than 40 hours of in-air instruction. There were updrafts over the coastal range; Amanda talked Laura though controlling the aircraft as she had done with Jeannie years before. Two and one-half hours later, without incident Laura landed Bella with greetings for Mary and Jeannie. Once the vehicle had been packed, Laura and Amanda drove the winding road to the cabin and as they turned the final corner they saw smoke smoking from the chimney. Harry and Luther arrived earlier and set a fire to warm the cabin as the temperature hovered near zero. They carried all the supplies and baggage into the cabin before departing. As the lovers entered the cabin, on the table in front of the fireplace was one crystal vase holding one dozen yellow roses and another crystal vase holding one dozen deep purple irises. Both women stopped in their tracks, closed the door, turned to each other and simply grinned wickedly. Amanda did not ask how, she just glowed in the romance of the moment. The cabin was warm and fire inviting. There were two more generators and enough fuel for twenty. Neither Harry nor Luther did anything by halves. The food was stored, duvets retrieved for warming. Once again, Amanda made the coffee with Laura agreeing that she still needed much more practice to get it that good. There was a picnic lunch packed as before and cookies in the refrigerator. This picnic lunch needed warming in a toaster oven, cheeseburgers. The cadet had confessed apparently about breaking potential rules and Amanda immediately asked the kitchen to prepare them for the picnic lunch the first day at the cabin. There were potato crisps and condiments; the hungry women devoured them and then devoured each other. The pot of coffee, as good as it was, had to wait. Finally, Laura rose to get cups, cream, and cookies. Amanda found more warming racks in the back enclosure and brought them in for cleaning for use later. They would need to warm clothing all the time this weekend. Laura donated two hand-made woolen throws to the cabin; Anna Marie had made them years before and they had never been used. They would be warmed along with blankets already at the cabin to cover the women as they sat in front of the fire. Laura also packed a teddy bear that Amanda had won for her at the carnival. She would take a place of honor in the easy chair also facing the hearth. With lunch finally completed and need satiated temporarily, both women finished unpacking supplies and settling in for the next few days. Jeannie purchased hundreds of pillar candles and Harry brought along some hurricane lanterns in case they were needed. As well, there was a new soft bearskin rug in front of the fire, one ordered by Amanda at the last visit. Jeannie had also informed Harry that both were two very capable women, one a Colonel in the Military, he did not need to interfere with their time at the cabin. Jeannie understood the situation perfectly, being secretly intensely happy for her friend Amanda. It had been a long tong time since lovelights shone in her eyes. Harry remained oblivious and the women all intended to keep him that way. Amanda unpacked bottles of wine and cider. The Courvoisier was still intact as were the pewter goblets. Laura stretched her long legs to the floor from the couch as she sipped her coffee and Amanda lay with her head in her lap. They both had brought music this trip. Amanda shyly handed Laura a gift; Laura caught her breath as she unwrapped a hand knit deep copper-colored sweater with metallic threads running through it, made from fine wool and silk. Amanda put on a matching one in dark green. She made these for them once they returned home from the last visit. Laura put on the sweater and let loose her curls. The sweater was beautiful, Amanda was beautiful, and Laura felt more beautiful than she had ever known. She returned to the couch to take Amanda in her arms. There was a great need to compensate for four weeks of missed hugs, kisses, touching, and passion. Laura loved the woman, more than she thought possible. She had not bargained for this and she knew at some point in her life she would hurt more than she thought possible as she left her life. But for the present, the months, and perhaps years ahead, she would love to the depths of her capacity to discover the real Laura Ravencouer. She would have lost control from the first day, the first touch, had it not been for her connection and absolute obedience to the ancients. Amanda had to keep reminding herself that this breathtakingly beautiful woman was only eighteen years old and knew more passion than all of her past lovers combined. There was a sharp edge to her, a brilliant mind, and a connection to a place Amanda could not and access. But in contrast, there was a vast soul, a willingness to take Amanda there and allow her dwell there for as long she could tolerate.

The busy week and the flight had tired both women, leading them to cuddle and drift into naps in front of the fire. As night started to fall, Laura eased her lover onto the sofa, covered her with a woolen throw. She went to add logs to the fire, as she did Amanda took her hand and held her and kissed her. Amanda tended to the fire and Laura set the table with candles and a small vase she found in the pantry, big enough to hold one yellow rose and one deep purple iris. She handed Amanda her wine, brought her own to the table, and dinner was served. Amanda also cleaned the second warming rack, placing robes and sleep shirts there as well to warm. Laura cleaned up from dinner and helped Amanda fill the wood box for the night.

Twilight claimed the sky in late afternoon and by early evening darkness had fallen. Both women wanted the warmth of shower, the bed with the heat of their growing passion. Quick showers found trembling skin touching skin as the water danced about them. Amanda banked the fire one more time for the night, Laura placed two pillar candles on the bedside table, Warmed sheets and duvets welcomed them. The cabin was bathed in the soft firelight, their bodies and souls bathed entirely in lovelights. The night, the ancients, the multiverse claimed them.

Amanda rose just as dawn won a battle with darkness. The cabin was cold and she hurried to dress in warmed clothing at the hearth. She banked a fire once again; as she made the day ' s first pot of coffee Teddy joined her on the hearth for warming. Filled steaming cups, a bear, and Amanda made their way back to the bed. Teddy nestled herself at Laura ' s neck with the help of her rescuer, as Laura made her way through the space between sleep and awakening she opened her eyes first to see Teddy, then her lover. In all her young days, this was the first morning she had been greeted by a bear ' s love; all the love surrounding her welled up. She and Teddy nestled in against Amanda ' s breast as a kiss adorned Laura ' s brow. Hunger and empty coffee cups chased both women out of bed finally with Laura dressing quickly at the hearth. The warmth of the fire and the sun had aided Mother to paint frost originals on the window panes. Both women lingered over the second cup of coffee and then rose to the morning chores. Amanda refilled fuel for the generators and Laura cleaned up after the morning meal. Both women chopped wood and replenished the wood box for the day. Laura grabbed her jacket and cabin mittens to go out into the morning air to watch the ocean, grey in color and mood, riotous in activity, constantly warding off white crowns of insanity. She needed reassurance of her ancients, reassurance that her course was set and correct. Amanda sensed Laura ' s need for solitude and busied herself with a preliminary list needed of supplies for the Wintersday ' s four week break that would find them next at the cabin. Reassurance, calm, and chills returned Laura to the warmth of the cabin just as Amanda was finding music in her pack. Amanda seemed lost in the music calling her soul and danced with herself, leaving Laura completely enchanted. When the trance broke, Amanda blushed and then smiled. She had not danced much in the last few years, save for the last weekend at the cabin, and not with herself since she was a child. How bewitching the young woman was, how easily spells of release had been cast. Had Amanda not loved her already so deeply, she would be frightened by the magic this woman possessed. She joined Laura on the sofa and spoke of the ease of their lives together at the cabin, how passing hugs with kisses were the norm, how conservation was needed or not, how they both loved the solitude and intimacy here. There was a newly seen fragility about Amanda and Laura placed an arm around her to draw her close. They were in love with each other at least in part forever. Laura finally spoke and shyly asked if at the Wintersday ' s break Amanda would teach her how to knit; remarking that it would seem that she had excellent teaching skills in many areas of life. That remark was rewarded by a long and almost inviting kiss. Amanda grinned while she rose to return moments later with a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn. Laura started to learn a new craft in front of the morning fire. Over lunch, Amanda suggested that if the weather held that perhaps the next day they could drive to a small fishing hamlet just up the coast for lunch and to buy prawns for dinner. There was a general store there, filled with treasures; Amanda secretly thought that Laura would find the eight year old in her again when she saw the old but still usable wind-up tin toys there. Laura did not immediately answer but instead took Amanda by the hand to lead her to the rug in front of the fire and lust overtook sensibility once again. As they dressed yet again and tidied up after lunch, Laura finally responded that if Amanda thought they could manage to actually get out of the cabin for that length of time that she would be happy to join her for lunch. Amanda rummaged around for minutes in the back of the pantry; just as Laura was coming to see what she was doing, she emerged with an old tin Chinese Checkers board and a box of marbles that had lived at the cabin since Amanda and her brother were children. Laura had no idea what they were, in a few minutes they were cleaned and set up on the table in front of the fire. Laura learned the game of strategy quickly with the laughing banter of insults as mind met intelligent mind. She was fascinated by the process and the enjoyment. Amanda delighted in helping her lover find the child within, it made Laura so much more dear and tender; Amanda loved her more with each passing minute. When final victory could not be claimed by either, they put the game away for another tournament later in the weekend. Amanda returned to her knitting. Laura sat and watched her, lost in her own thoughts of her childhood with no longer anger at what she missed but longing to find her mother. The ancients had told her that it would happen in due time but Thea, Tom, and all her family knew that she was safe and happy. As darkness fell, the women tucked into a simple and delicious repast. Laura had placed sleep shirts and robes on the warming racks, a necessary part of the routine now until the summer came again. Laura slipped in for a shower and the most alluring warm long night shirt she could find. She left a wrapped gift on the vanity for Amanda after which she invited her lover to take her own shower while the room and water stayed warm.

They sat cuddled in each other arms. Laura had banked up a fire that left the space in front very warm. She slowly stroked her lover and loosed the ties on her night shirt, revealing lingerie edged with fine European lace, the first that Amanda had ever worn. Military attire did not often lend itself to feminine underclothing. Laura knew Amanda loved what she had seen her wear, as such Laura intended to change that notion permanently. Laura held her lover clad only in antique lace and for the first time in weeks, she took photographs.

Amanda covered with a robe after which the bed was readied and warmed. Candles were extinguished and music changed to blues sung by women artists. In the soft light, Laura removed her night shirt revealing her own lace. She took Amanda, minus the robe, into her arms and they danced to the songs sung to them about them. The fire was quickly banked for the night. Sheets knew lace but not for long. Time had stopped once again as love claimed Amanda and Laura, once again stamped to the multiverse and the ancients.

The sun rose on a quiet and cold cabin, its occupants still asleep in each other ' s arms. Both awoke as need for warmth overtook them They set about their routine morning chores and ate a less hearty breakfast as they would lunch in a couple of hours in Eaglesdown. Both women wanted clean bodies and clean clothes for their sojourn; after refueling the generators to warm water and the bathroom air, each showered quickly and changed into warm clothing. Laura braided her still wet hair for control and because Amanda loved it that way. The washing up was done, the wood box replenished, and cabin tidied. Each was grateful for the other ' s need for order. Laura made an improved effort at the second pot of coffee to drink in front of the fire and learned of how Amanda had learned that skill as a young woman when out fishing on a lake farther up in the mountain with a guide who was often more of a father figure to her than her biological parent. Peter treated Amanda as a strong intelligent young woman who was capable of knowing what she wanted, the first person in her life to give her courage to set her own course. Illness had claimed him young in his life and Amanda still missed him. Every pot of coffee on every visit to the cabin since had been a homage to a dear friend.

They finished the coffee and banked up the fire for their return. Each wore leather jackets, boots, and grabbed mittens as they left for the vehicle. The day had not warmed even in the vapid sunlight. The autumn sadness drove the ocean as if in effort to escape. Eaglesdown was about thirty kilometers from the landing pad. Jeannie had just returned from fueling Bella and she waved as the women drove by. Amanda knew she would have to restrain Harry from either following them or checking the cabin in their absence. The drive to the hamlet followed the shore with the road sandwiched between wild beaches and cliffs. Laura drank in the raw power of her surroundings, again overwhelmed by a world she had never seen. She thought of Tom and wondered if this power of nature was at the center of him as it seemed to be at the center of Laura. Amanda allowed Laura her reflections, she enjoyed her own. She had made few trips back to Eaglesdown in the past twelve years; Laura finally gave her courage to return once again.

A tiny hamlet hugged the seashore, perhaps fifty dwellings in total. There were fishing boats in the harbor and Amanda parked the vehicle near a cluster of buildings close to steps leading to the wharf. A group of residents were seated at few tables in the diner, eyes raised only briefly as Amanda and Laura entered the little diner. An older woman behind the counter came forward and grasped Amanda ' s hands in hers to welcome her back. Amanda smiled in return and asked her friend for two bowls of chowder with a plate of biscuits. The diner had one back window table looking out to the ocean, unoccupied as neither were a novelty to the locals gathered. A china pot of tea joined them soon after they sat down while Laura gazed out at the wharf and water. Not long afterwards, two huge steaming bowls of fish chowder and warm biscuits arrived. Laura had never tasted fish this fresh or this good, even at her grandparent ' s dinners in establishments in the elite neighborhood. Amanda smiled as this woman, her lover, ate her food with the appetite of the adolescent she was. They drank their tea while Amanda told Laura about the area and the populace. This was Peter ' s home and the woman who greeted them was Peter ' s widow. As Amanda paid for their food at the counter, she asked her friend Judith if the Smithers still sold prawns and Judith said yes but it was their children who ran the business now. In the second building from the diner door, there was a larger building with a few people entering and exiting through the doors. To the side was a door where Amanda entered to greet the Smithers offspring, now just past adolescence and happy to see Amanda again. She ordered prawns for dinner, paid for them with return to pick them up a bit later in the afternoon. As they entered the second door to the building Laura ' s eyes widened in delight. This was a market with everything, what the locals called a general store. There was no rhyme or reason to the organization of the goods therein but everyone knew where everything was. There were tinned vegetables next to boots, next to slickers, next to bread, next to fish netting. Laura did not talk, just looked. They made their way to a second room when Mr. Smithers spotted Amanda, hugged his greeting, and called for his wife who also hugged her greeting. Amanda introduced Laura to them and they graciously welcomed the newcomer to their village. They asked if either woman was looking for anything in particular, inquiring if they could be of assistance. Amanda thanked them, stating they were just poking about. They left the lovers to their adventure; soon after Amanda spotted warm woolen socks and gathered the remaining ten pairs. Laura had wandered away a bit and Amanda heard her squeal with delight. She discovered the toys. Amanda told her that it was perfectly acceptable to pick them up, touch them, and even play with them if she wished. There were wind-up animals, vehicles, toy trains, and then her eyes fixed on a small wind-up helicopter. She held it as if was made of precious stones. She could not take her eyes from it. Amanda ' s eyes almost filled with tears as she saw the child emerge. She gently took the toy from Laura ' s hands and they walked to the counter. There were penny candies in glass jars at the cash, Amanda asked for some humbugs and home-made salt water toffee Mrs. Smithers smiled as she said that Amanda finally planned to take the helicopter home, it had waited years for her to rescue it. Their purchases were placed in a paper sack, the first that Laura had ever seen. They left the store with promises to return later in the year. Amanda picked up the prawns and they returned to the vehicle. She told Laura that she wanted some peppermints; she would just run back in and return quickly. Laura sat and held her toy copter while Amanda ran back in to order every wind-up toy in the general store, asking Mrs. Smithers to wrap them for a child, and paid generously. Jeannie could pick them up prior to the Wintersday break. Once back in the vehicle, Amanda leaned over and kissed her lover, she did not care now if anyone saw her. She loved this woman and would through eternity. She forgot the peppermints and told Laura the Smithers did not have any at this time. It was only midafternoon when they returned to the still warm cabin. Laura helped carry in the packages but still held the helicopter. She was still young enough not to be self-conscious about finding the child within. She sat on the sofa to fly takeoff and landing patterns repeatedly as Amanda looked on and smiled. The copter would find a home on the mantle when not put to work or practice. Amanda had taken up her knitting once again; Laura sat and watched her for a long time before Amanda felt her lover ' s eyes on her. She put down her knitting as love called her to Laura ' s arms. She held this woman child, kissing away tears of loss and joy.

Laura suggested a Chinese Checkers rematch after dinner and the gauntlet had been tossed. They ate their dinner by candlelight once again and as Laura cleaned up, Amanda started making lists in detail about what supplies they would need for at least the first week or so at the Wintersday ' s break. There would be a need to fly to the closest town to replenish supplies a few times but Amanda wanted the actual Wintersday to be celebrated without the need to leave the cabin. Laura made a mental note to research the traditions of Wintersday, Anna Marie and Elgin quietly ignored it during Laura ' s childhood.

This would be their last night together for another three weeks. They decided to take showers first before the tournament and took the checkerboard with marbles to the bedside. There would be no music this night, only fierce competition and passion. They drank hot chocolate and played a well fought checker tournament but in the end Amanda was victorious. Laura said it was only because she had the advantage of childhood practice and many years since. Amanda retorted that they would see how harmful those years had been when the checkers were put away. Laura wrapped up the game and put it back in the pantry while Amanda banked the fire for the night. Laura once again did not want to leave but this time she knew she would return.

Laura had wanted to stay awake with her lover for hours but the day ' s excitement and endorphins lulled her to sleep too soon. Amanda woke her at 0400 hours to keep her awake until dawn crept in. She let Laura sleep for a couple of hours as she packed up for their return home and made lists for Jeannie and Harry. She sat on the sofa watching the fire and cuddling the bear. For the first time, she found a love greater than her career and she had moments when she just wanted to run from it. Laura finally awoke and dressed in front of the fire. The day was clear insuring a safe flight back. Harry and Luther loaded the car and Laura helped take baggage to Bella. Amanda looked at the checklist for flight and did not repeat it. She climbed in the copilot ' s seat and Laura took the pilot ' s controls. Jeannie smiled her approval, Harry just shrugged. They waved their goodbye and were airborne in early afternoon. There was more conversation on this return trip to the base than the last one. Amanda asked if Laura was still interested in part time work at the base, helping out Amanda on the weekends until after the Winterday ' s break. The job could be long term but in the new year they would be hiring a new sky diving instructor as the woman who had been teaching it was moving to another part of the city. Amanda knew Laura ' s credentials and she was more than qualified if she was interested in applying. By doing so, she would be a staff person with her own permanent quarters, remaining on base after her flight instruction was finished. Amanda said she was not sure of her future plans but that the offer would stand and that Laura could consider it. The data entry work was a great help to Amanda and if Laura became part of the base staff she could do that when she chose during the week from any computer on the base. Laura replied that she would apply the following day. She had no immediate plans and she wanted to stay with Amanda. Elgin had been talking about archeological digs for years, she confessed she just used that as an excuse to learn how to fly aircraft.

Darkness was falling as they approached the base and Laura was about to make her first night-time landing. She listened carefully to her instructor and landed the craft without incident. Amanda smiled and congratulated her. This would be recorded on her training check list along with the flight to the coast and back with the updrafts. One of the crew took Laura ' s baggage to a vehicle and drove her to her quarters, after agreeing to meet her instructor at 1100 hours the next day.

Laura was tired as usual and after a shower, unpacking, and a small dinner, she enabled her computer and downloaded the one photo she had taken to the small flash drive, again not being able to look. She made a cup of herbal tea and hugged her stuffed animals as she thought of how she loved Amanda and how she would not leave for a while yet. If she did secure the job as sky diving instructor, she would be able to send private emails to Elgin unwatched and have him forward them on to Frida and then to Lou. She emailed Elgin to tell of her enjoyable weekend away. She asked him if she could borrow Anna Marie ' s jewelry for the Winterday ' s soiree. She also reiterated that she and Amanda would be away for the Winterday ' s break and how nice it was to have such a good friend. Elgin was pleased.

The weekdays fell into the routine of flight and study. The air was almost too cool now for morning runs and Laura spent more time in the base indoor pool for early morning laps. Each day brought home one yellow petal. Laura worked a full day on the first weekend day, completing almost all of the data entry that day. The next morning, she slept in and Amanda was already in her office when she arrived at the desk of her assistant. A few minutes later, a kitchen assistant brought coffee, cookies, and a crystal vase filled with one yellow rose and one purple iris. She poked her head into the doorway of Amanda ' s office, smiling. Laura planned on updating her own files of the base on a bimonthly basis. She applied for the sky diving instructor position with an interview on the second weekday of the coming week. If the interview was successful, she would have to take an in-flight test and she actually hoped that would happen; it had been months since she had felt that freedom. She had requested that they cancel the flight instruction for that day; Amanda agreed as she would be one of the interviewers.

On the second weekday, Laura arrived at the foyer outside Amanda ' s office, dressed in a black pant suit, four inch heels, and hair pulled into a bun at the nape of The Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and two other base cadet instructors made up the panel to interview. She was self-assured during the interview, answering their questions easily. She was asked to wait in the foyer while the group deliberated. In less than ten minutes, Laura was shown back into the office with the request to complete an in-flight test after the noon meal. Laura replied that she would be ready on the tarmac at the hour they chose. She returned to her quarters, changed into appropriate clothing, and ate a very light lunch. She arrived at the tarmac early; as the ground crew and pilot went through the preflight check list, Laura removed the chutes, packed them again properly, then tested harnesses and clips as she routinely taught. One of the crew was actually a civilian instructor who had been watching her closely and could find nothing to fault. At the scheduled hour, the pilot and crew were ready for takeoff and Laura climbed into the small aircraft. The civilian instructor would jump with her tandem to test her ability to jump with a student and then land both of them safely. Laura completed this hundreds of times as part of her training and then as an instructor; she automatically went through her routine for preparing for the jump, what she expected of the student, what the student should expect, and most of all not to panic because she could insure his safety. The pilot signaled that the target for landing was approaching and without hesitation she clipped the student ' s harness to hers, stood with him, and alerted him of the jump at the correct moment. The exhilaration of the jump never failed to excite Laura but she was ever aware of her position and her student. The chute opened without incident, she pushed her legs into a crouch position, and they landed exactly on target with no need to roll. She immediately unclipped the harness joining them, shook the student ' s hand, and thanked him for a great jump. The Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and instructor stood at the edge of the landing field to witness the jump and landing. The civilian instructor who played the part of the student conferred with them for a few minutes, then he returned to ask Laura to join them as she finished repacking the chutes. Colonel Bennett offered Laura Ravencouer the position of air base skydiving instructor to which Laura accepted. Laura returned to her quarters; Amanda ' s assistant delivered a note of congratulations and an invitation to dinner in the officer ' s mess. Laura replied her delight. She arrived for dinner dressed in the same black pant suit, four inch heels, white on white striped shirt, and black woolen coat. She chatted with those officers, graciously accepting their congratulations. She joked that she had known how to jump out of aircraft for some time, she needed to fly them to which the Colonel remarked that her student was doing very well with her instructions with only a small flash of smiling eyes accompanying that remark. Laura thanked her hostess, the Colonel accompanied her across the promenade to her quarters. Amanda offered her congratulations once again with her particular delight that they would be able to live at least in close proximity. She also invited Laura to dinner in the same small town where they had enjoyed the carnival on Saturday night. It would be early and not formal but there was an event Amanda thought Laura would enjoy; Laura happily accepted. When back at her quarters, Laura emailed Elgin to tell him of her pleasure in her new employment.

The rest of the weekdays spent out in the routine of instruction and study. Laura arrived at work on the first weekend day before Amanda, completing most of the data entry before midafternoon. Amanda planned to depart at 1600 hours, she reminded Laura to dress for outdoor activity. A curious Laura was waiting when the Colonel arrived, once again in fatigues with only a hint of lace peeking out from the top open button of her shirt. They talked excitedly about their upcoming holiday at the cabin. They planned to travel by vehicle to Amanda ' s parents on the fifth coming weekday with return the second weekend day. They would both attend the University Wintersday soiree. Amanda said that Laura would have a chance to be introduced to her boss, General Downs. As they arrived at the small town, lamp posts decorated with white lights and hanging baskets of green boughs greeted them. They parked the vehicle and walked to the curb, joining families and elders. Very soon, marching bands, jesters, clowns tossing candy, and riders on horses decked with sparking ribbons in their manes walked by. Laura was as delighted as any child watching the parade. At the end of the parade, there was a great wagon pulled by huge horses carrying the Wintersday Wizard and Witches, tossing small gifts to the curb. An elderly gentleman handed Laura a small wrapped packet containing chocolate. She thanked him, clutching it in her hand, an eight year old once more. As the crowd broke up, Amanda and Laura walked back to the vehicle to drive to a local diner for cheeseburger and fries. On the return trip to the base, Laura took Amanda ' s hand as she drove, thanking her for the gift of a childhood finally to remember. Amanda only smiled as she anticipated Wintersday at the cabin.

The second weekend day found Laura at work early and leaving early. She had many emails to send and receive. She asked her dress designer to order boxes of sexy lingerie and night wear. She also ordered silk shirts and dress pants, all in Amanda ' s size. She asked that they be wrapped festively and separately. Laura also requested skeins of hand carded and spun yarn from the Andes , asking her friend to also wrap those festively. Laura planned also to give Amanda the scent she had mentioned she loved, fine French make-up, pewter wine goblets. She asked Jeannie by email to purchase a case of the best champagne she could find. Laura paid well for the gifts and her friend assured her that they would be delivered in cartons for their flight north on the second day of the upcoming weekend. Laura made music playlists of women artists that Amanda did not know as yet. The florist was notified to stop the daily yellow roses until the first day after the Winterday ' s break.

The weekdays were filled with instruction and study, Laura now had half of her instruction hours behind her. Amanda arranged to have Laura ' s personal belongings moved to her new quarters in the staff building, near Amanda ' s suite, while they were away. Laura asked if she could lock her computer in the safe in Amanda ' s suite to which Amanda readily agreed. Both women spent the week packing, getting ready for the weekend party, the four weeks away and alone together. Laura packed two large duffel bags for the cabin as well as backpacks. She planned to take a small bag to the Bennett home for two nights and the day of the party. She did tell Amanda that Bella would be a tad stuffed; Amanda reassured her that Bella liked life like that. Laura dropped off Wintersday gifts for Amanda ' s assistant, the staff at the cadet center, and cases of wine for the kitchen staff.

Chapter 8

Friday finally arrived. Amanda arrived for Laura at mid-morning; with coffee and music they were off to the old neighborhood. Amanda was curious at the lack of large luggage that Laura had packed but did not ask. They stopped for cheeseburgers and fries on the outskirts of the more densely populated city. They could dine in or out for dinner as the Bennett ' s would be at a cocktail party at the University. Laura grinned, stating maybe they could just have sandwiches in Amanda ' s room. The women arrived to be greeted by the household staff along with Amanda ' s mother. She was amazed at how Laura had grown into such a beauty. Amanda stood behind her mother and rolled her eyes. She said that the staff had opened Amanda ' s room and the adjoining room for Laura. The housekeeper had placed the gown and shoes in the closet in Laura ' s room as per instructions and Elgin had dropped off the jewelry to the housekeeper as per instructions. Amanda introduced Laura to the household staff, showing her the kitchen and where to raid when hungry. She made a pot of coffee, not as good as that of the cabin, but drinkable; they took the cups to Amanda ' s room and locked the door, feigning fatigue. Laura laughed that some kind of record had been broken for speed of clothed to naked. They laughed, loved, then napped. They were in the study when Amanda ' s father arrived to greet them both with a welcome for Laura to their home. He had not seen Laura since she had left university and commented that flight instruction by his capable but sometimes surly daughter seemed to be agreeing with her. It took a great deal of control not to burst into gales of laughter but both women maintained polite laughter. He left to dress for the cocktail party while Amanda ' s mother joined them, lovely in evening attire. She made sure that they were comfortable with plans for dinner; soon after the Bennetts left for the University. The lovers had soup, sandwiches, and each other for dinner. They disturbed the linens on the bed in Laura ' s room but Laura did not leave her lover for the night. They showered together, then found love repeatedly throughout the night.

The women slept in and Amanda asked that they have breakfast in her room. Minutes later, one of the kitchen staff delivered breakfast with a pot of coffee to Amanda ' s room; the women ate, talked, laughed, and loved. Once again, Laura asked if Amanda thought they could possibly make it off the second floor of the house before they had to return to base to which Amanda replied by action rather than words. They were expected to depart for the University ballroom no later than 1800 hours. Amanda had to present well to her superior. Laura showered and started the arduous task of taming her curls in the mid afternoon. She told Amanda she did not want to see her until it was time to leave, explaining that she wanted to anticipate seeing her lover in her formal dress uniform. Laura finally tamed her hair and held it in place with the diamond clip. She carefully applied evening makeup. She did want to surprise Amanda. At just after 1700 hours, Amanda knocked on her door to tell her she would be in the study or foyer and that Elgin had arrived. Laura acknowledged this , replying she would be down shortly. She slid into a wine-colored silk strapless gown that hugged every curve of her body and draped beautifully. She slipped on matching silk-covered four inch heels and clasped a diamond choker around her neck. Earrings, a small dinner ring, and a diamond edged clutch completed the ensemble. She looked in the full length mirror in her room, surprising herself. She had grown to a stunningly beautiful woman, Thea and Tom would be proud. She sprayed her fine French perfume and left her room. The Bennett home had a wide staircase with a landing half way down. She descended to the landing before being noticed, then all eyes were on her. Conversation was hushed. Elgin glowed with pride as he made his way to the bottom of the staircase. Amanda could hardly breathe, just able to stare. Laura smiled and hugged her grandfather. Mr. Bennett stated that his staircase had never transported a greater beauty. She smiled at him and then at Amanda, her eyes asked if she was suitable. As she made her way on Elgin ' s arm to speak to Amanda, she noticed that under the white dress shirt of her uniform there was discrete European lace. As Laura requested, Elgin draped one of Anna Marie ' s black silk wraps over her shoulders. Limousines lined up as the guests were leaving. Amanda travelled with her parents, Elgin , and Laura. Amanda just kept staring as discretely as possible. This breathtaking woman, the most beautiful she had ever seen, was in love with her, she what she had done to deserve her. They arrived quickly at the ballroom, as they entered heads turned. Many of Elgin ' s colleagues did not recognize Laura immediately and sons of those colleagues suffered spasms of drop jaw. Elgin politely accompanied Laura though groups of his friends and then as he got lost in academic conversation, Laura slipped to stand beside Amanda. General Downs and his wife made their way to speak to both women. Amanda immediately snapped to attention and saluted her superior, Laura did not. Amanda introduced Laura to the couple, the General congratulated Laura on her new appointment as instructor at the airbase. Laura graciously accepted, standing her full height and countenance. Amanda glowered slightly as her boss silently gazed at the full length of her lover ' s body. Laura noticed and steel shone from the hazel eyes. After brief polite conversation, the General and his wife wandered off for further conversation with peers. Amanda and Laura circulated through the room until they reached Elgin and Amanda ' s parents. Dinner would not be served until 2200 hours; both women already alerted their families that they would leave the soiree before dinner as they had a noon flight from the base the following day with the need to leave at 0800 hours. Laura thanked Amanda ' s parents for their hospitality and hugged her grandfather. She stated she would have the housekeeper return the jewels to Elgin, instead Elgin told Laura that they were his and Anna Marie ' s Wintersday gift to her; that Anna Marie and Dorothea would be very proud of this young beauty. Tears welled in Laura ' s eyes at the mention of her mother, Amanda quietly touched her arm very briefly. Amanda arranged for a car to be waiting for the women as they quietly left the gathered throng. Amanda drove to an abandoned side street on campus, stopped the vehicle, finally thoroughly kissing the beauty seated beside her. Her eyes spoke more from her heart than any words could ever express. With a giggle, Amanda drove to the burger joint they haunted previously. They strode in, both commanding attention and getting it from all within. Cheeseburgers and fries, this food was finer than any prepared for the hungry masses at the soiree.

They fell asleep not long after returning home, taking time only to pack as much as possible including the diamonds, for the return trip to the base in the morning. Laura ' s valuables and computer would be locked in Amanda ' s personal safe in her quarters.

Just before 0800 hours the following morning, Amanda wrote a brief note to her family, both women left Wintersday gifts for the Bennett ' s and Elgin . They were both giddy with excitement as their real vacation was about to begin. They were back at the base by 0930 hours with the crew had already packing cartons and supplies in Bella. Amanda asked Laura to join her in her quarters for lunch before takeoff. Laura walked about the suite, noticing small details about the woman she loved. Lunch arrived promptly and they ate quickly. Amanda had changed from her uniform on arrival to warm casual clothing. As they returned to the tarmac, Laura noticed that her possessions were being moved to the staff quarters. Amanda completed the checklist with the crew, telling Laura she would fly this trip. Bella was heavier with there was a wicked cross wind going north.

It was a rougher flight than previously but Amanda was a very experienced pilot; Bella landed her humans and cargo without difficulty. They were greeted by Jeannie and Mary, Harry and Luther. All helped transfer cargo to their own vehicle and Amanda ' s vehicle. The men went on ahead to unload supplies and the travelers followed shortly thereafter. On the flight to the coast, Amanda mentioned that they would need to take Bella to the nearby air base and town several times over the next four weeks. Their first such trip would be on Wintersday Eve for last minute supplies and a visit to Amanda ' s friend Lydia, a Captain at the airbase. Lydia was Amanda ' s flight instructor, both women had remained friends. Amanda said with a grin that Laura should be reassured that instructors and students could reach beyond the confines of a teaching/learning dynamic, Laura replied by placing her hand on the pilot ' s thigh briefly. Amanda reiterated to Jeannie that unless she needed Bella before that, they would fly her to the base on Wintersday Eve morning, stay for lunch, get last minute supplies and likely return before dark that day. Amanda offered to pick up any last minute supplies for Jeannie or Mary. There was snow on the ground necessitating Luther to plow the road up the mountain and the driveway to the cabin. As they started to carry supplies from their vehicle to the cabin, Luther and Harry lent assistance.

The cabin was warm and a roaring fire greeted them. The men built a shelter for a generator on the deck, one that would provide power for space heaters inside. Food and supplies had been stowed away, the bed readied, warming racks covered with duvets, night shirts and robes. A slow cooker held Judith ' s delicious fish chowder and biscuits ready for quick heating. It was perfect; Laura told Amanda that she had thought of everything. The helpers left stating that they would return mid-week to check for fuel supplies. Laura asked Amanda to make a pot of coffee. Before Amanda set to the task, she wrapped her arms around her beautiful lover with a welcome to Wintersday on the coast.

Twilight had few defenses on cloudy days, night fell like a pall. Both women were happier than they ever had been, neither wanted the spell to be broken but deep in Laura ' s soul the ancients told her that at the given time it would be. Showers were taken, bodies were held, the bed readied, the fire banked for the night. Teddy was sitting on Laura ' s pillow, her own warm nightshirt and robe donned. Amanda politely asked her if she would mind sleeping in her chair before the fire for the night as she needed Laura more than Teddy did. Laura giggled, hugging Teddy as she left. A deep abiding love overtook these women, they were home at the cabin, home in each other.

Amanda awoke before the light of dawn, rose to bank the fire and turn on space heaters. The cleaned, hand-knit sweaters stored long at the cabin were stored in the linen cupboard. Amanda dressed in jeans, flannel shirt, warm sweater, after placing clothing on the rack for Laura. The invitation of coffee woke Laura; Amanda handed her a warmed robe, while warming stones were replaced with Teddy joining her friends in bed, cups of steaming coffee welcoming morning. As the sky allowed light of day, Laura dressed and stood at the door looking out at banked snow with soft flakes falling. As a child, in the southern part of the walled city she rarely saw snow, never white, white snow had only existed in paintings and holograms. Amanda joined her at the windows, silently placing her arm around Laura ' s waist, knowing that by daylight's end snow would know play.

Laura prepared breakfast while Amanda made another pot of coffee; more chopped wood replenished the wood box. The quiet domestic dance of chores accented by touches and kisses took them to mid-morning to enjoy another cup of coffee. Laura prepared a stew in the slow cooker for dinner. She asked Amanda if they could get baking supplies when they went into Carriere on the fifth weekday. Amanda heartily agreed, she was surprised and then not when Laura told her she could bake, thoroughly enjoying it. The snow had ceased with a wan sun peeking through the clouds. Amanda found boots, a parka, mittens, the shovel, old broom, placing them at their resting place near the main door on the deck. Laura eagerly joined her to help and to play in the snow. The shovel and broom made short work of clearing. Then Amanda stepped down to the ground between the cabin and the driveway. She started rolling a ball of snow; Laura watched and then helped. They laughed, played, building a snow woman complete with huge breasts. Amanda retrieved an old sun hat from the wood storage behind the cabin. Stones made eyes, nose, and mouth. She was then formally named Ethel. As Laura laughed as she returned to the deck, the back of her head was greeted with a snowball and a battle ensued. When the women became wet from war and tired from laughter, they returned to the cabin, changed into dry clothing, then heated the remaining chowder and biscuits for lunch. Amanda found an heavy old pot with hanging handle and after a thorough scrubbing hung the pot from the fireplace trammel, filling it with apple cider, mulling spices, and orange slices. Before returning to Laura, she banked the fire once more, placed cushions with warmed throws on the rug abutting the hearth. She sat on the floor leaning against the couch and within minutes time stopped once again for the lovers.

When voices returned, they talked about the soiree and the people they saw there. The both understood that their families were long past breaking with tradition. Amanda ventured out as far as anyone of her peer group. She had not married, would not marry, and equaled or bettered male colleagues in the Military. Her parents did not care about her personal life, they only cared about their own. Laura stated that Elgin loved his granddaughter and if he perceived the love in Laura ' s eyes at Amanda ' s presence, he would only give his approval. Amanda asked Laura to tell her about her mother Dorothea. She was only a few years older than Amanda; although they were not friends they were acquaintances while sharing classes for university preparation. Dorothea simply did not return to the University and no-one knew of her fate. Laura told the story of her mother going to the inner city for a summer ' s work at the suggestion of her parents. She never returned back to their home. She fell in love with a native man, a suspected rebel. Laura told Amanda she did not know her father or her mother, that her only childhood recollections were of life with Elgin and Anna Marie. She continued that she told that her mother had gone, Laura was led to believe she had died. She inherited her mother ' s hazel eyes, intelligence, and according to Elgin her father ' s stature, his hair color and curls, his intelligence, his determination, compassion from both parents. Elgin told Laura that he never met her father but that Dorothea insisted that she carry his name. Tears spilled from four eyes to wash away Laura ' s ache and longing.

The remainder of the afternoon was occupied with knitting lessons. Laura was sure before retirement she would have a wearable scarf, Amanda agreed. Laura learned the tempo of knitting as she learned of the tempo of flight and study, as she knew of the tempo of seduction and love. As the sunlight gave control to twilight and darkness, Laura set dinner at the small table. The women ate, talked, enjoyed the night and the fire.

Firelight and candle light held reverence to the crescent of Mother Moon and both women stood at the window to the her sky. The ocean splashed up occasional kisses tinged with silver. Soft jazz played in the background and the lovers danced.

Night-time lovers, daytime lovers, routines found their rhythms. The second weekday found them at the beach looking at the ocean and sipping cider. The third weekday was wet and cold. Chinese checkers, knitting needles, practice takeoffs and landing with the toy copter, naps and cuddles filled the day. Luther replenished fuel for the generators with more wood piled at the back of the cabin. As Wintersday approached Amanda became more and more excited, Laura was charmed. They decided to invite Harry and Jeannie, Luther and Mary for a New Year's feast with hopes to invite them on Wintersday. When Amanda was a younger woman she always prepared a feast for them at her winter holiday, not alone. Laura listened as Amanda drew to her memories of a young woman who visited with Amanda several years ago. She met Miriam as a young pilot, falling in love quickly and foolishly. Miriam did not really like the solitary life at the cabin but humored Amanda as she liked the luxury Amanda ' s money could afford. Jeannie had loved Amanda and although she was happy her friend was in love she knew that Miriam would break her heart which she did. Miriam eloped at the end of the last Wintersday break that Amanda spent at the cabin. She was hurt, embarrassed, felt foolish and even though Jeannie told her it made no difference to their friendship it was a long time before Amanda would find courage to return to what would become solace for her. At the end of this story, Laura drew to the ancients, pleading, but already knew their response. She could, she would love this woman but she could and would leave her life. She walked to her friend, her lover, her sister, to hold her for a very long time.

The fourth weekday was spent doing chores and as much preparation as possible for the Wintersday celebration. They made detailed shopping lists with Amanda warning Laura the stores would likely be crowded. Laura then confessed she had never been in a grocery store before, really didn ' t know about them, there had never been a need. Amanda only smiled, reassuring her that if she could live at the cabin with her Colonel and fly a copter as well as she did at her young age, she could manage a grocery store. They tucked in early that night to ready for an upcoming busy day.

After a second cup of coffee and the morning chores done, both women quickly showered and dressed for the day. The temperatures were milder; Laura chose skin tight jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, and a vest with black boots. She braided her hair and grabbed a pack. She was to meet Amanda ' s friend Lydia and wanted to make a good impression. She did not often wear makeup at the cabin but she chose both makeup and perfume for this day. The day was calm and as they approached Bella, Amanda asked her if she wanted to fly. Amanda quickly ran into the house to talk to Jeannie and Mary as Laura did the pre-flight check list, in short order they were airborne. The airbase was about twenty minutes away and Laura landed Bella easily. When she finished her log she joined Amanda on the tarmac, drawing stares and shy salutes from the young men on the crew. Laura smiled, stating very firmly told them she was not Military and there would be no salutes. As she walked away from them, she knew every eye was on her; Amanda lovingly referred to her as a fallen woman. Upon entering Lydia 's office, Amanda and the Captain followed protocol with salutes, then hugged. Amanda introduced Laura to her friend; there was instant understanding and approval on Lydia ' s face. Amanda inquired about her family and her plans. After a brief visit, Amanda asked to borrow a land vehicle for a trip into town, Lydia immediately phoned for a crew member to bring one to the door. They departed, stopped at Bella to pick up the laundry, and drove into Carriere. They found a diner to enjoy cheeseburgers and fries. They then braved the grocery store, list in hand. Laura commanded instant attention; youth, beauty, and skin tight jeans were always a deterrent. She was intent on purchasing her supplies, almost oblivious to a grinning partner. It was midafternoon when the returned the vehicle to the base and loaded supplies in Bella. Laura also flew back to the cabin with time was logged towards her upcoming solo flight and examination. Jeannie and Mary were just returning themselves when Laura landed. Amanda and Laura handed them envelops with Wintersday gifts and extended invitations to both couples for a New Year ' s feast. Both women were beaming and happily accepted. They lingered just until twilight kissed the sky, then bade their friends blessings for Wintersday, and left for the cabin.

Laura could see smoke rising from the chimney as they drove up to the cabin and wondered for a moment if Harry had come to bank the fire while they were gone. There was odd light coming from through the steamed windows and door. Amanda unlocked the door, crossed the threshold, then turned to see Laura ' s face. The cabin had been transformed. Amanda gave Jeannie and Mary carte blanche for d é cor. There was a beautiful spruce Wintersday tree adorned with hundreds of tiny white lights with red and gold ornaments. Spruce bows rested on the mantle and across the transom of each window. Candles burned in crystal holders. The bed had been placed at an angle in the corner to better see both the tree and fireplace; lace trimmed bedding with pillows piled high. The tables were covered with embroidered runners and lace. Judith ' s fish chowder was warming in the crock pot. Under the tree and spilling out to the rug and floor were huge piles of wrapped gifts. A tiny tin train ran on an oval track on the hearth. Teddy wore her gold wizard cloak and crown with pride. Laura did not move, she did not speak a word. She simply stood to take in what she could iota by iota as tears rolled down her cheeks. This was her very first Wintersday Eve, at the place she loved the most, with the woman she adored. Mother Moon broke the horizon; as Laura turned to look at her, four friends stood in the driveway, smiled, waved, and drove away. Laura simply walked all around the cabin to look at every decoration with awe. Amanda put the food away, and poured glasses of wine for them both. She placed the wine on the mantle to watch Laura turn from a sexy wanton woman to her beautiful child within, a vision that brought Amanda also to tears. Finally, Laura walked to Amanda, held both her hands, looked at her and through sobs said thank you; Amanda thought that the experience to hold for a lifetime of memories was all the thanks she would ever need. Then, Laura giggled with delight as she saw her toy copter, now painted with the name Bella. She finally took off her boots and vest to sit sat snuggled beside Amanda, enjoying her wine. Amanda served bowls of steaming chowder as Laura's laughter erupted on her entry to the bathroom. The back of the toilet held a tiny spruce tree decorated with crystals that caught the light from the candles burning there. She literally ran to grab Amanda and hold her high; Amanda could simply laugh in return.

After dinner, Laura washed up and prepared for a Wintersday breakfast with cinnamon rolls. She set the dough to rise up on the hearth, then joined Amanda to sip her wine. As blues played in the background, Laura swayed and danced at the tree. She was entranced, moving with only rhythms of a loving woman ' s soul. She grinned as Amanda joined her in their choreographed pas de deux. In less than an hour the bread dough was ready, it was rolled, filled, and baked. The kitchen was darkened now and few candles burned. Laura had a shower and dressed in her sleep shirt, Amanda did the same. The bed was warmed and the fire banked for the night. They lay in bed in each other ' s arms to watch the dancing firelight and the twinkling lights on the tree. Amanda left only long enough to switch off the tree lights, then returned to her own special Wintersday magical gift, that of the most beautiful woman on the planet.

Laura woke before dawn on Wintersday and quietly crept out of bed. The fire was banked, she turned on the space heaters, then wrapped herself in one of Anna Marie ' s throws. She went to the window to gaze up to the multiverse and drew down to the ancients. This was a day of celebration, the sun was born one more time to all living things. She was saddened knowing that as every day passed she loved Amanda more, as each day passed she was closer to leaving her. She could not bargain, it was her destiny to follow the ancients. Her soul wept; suddenly a shaman came to her, a grandfather, one of her own people here on earth as well as forever in the helix of time. He chastised her briefly, then tenderly asked her if she did not know that Amanda was sent to her, that Amanda had known her forever, that Amanda was an ancient, always was, always would be. She had not chosen to know of that in her current life. He explained to Laura that all peoples leave the existence where she lived but ancients never leave each other for eternity. Amanda would always be with Laura, presently and apart. He reminded her to remember the love, to mark the passion on her heart, for when they were apart that would sustain her until they met again. He also told Laura that there were others she would meet to take with her. She closed her eyes, drawing down the comfort of those who walked with her forever. As she opened her eyes, the morning star caught her eye; there was Wintersday magic. She returned the throw to the warming rack and climbed back to the arms of her lover. Amanda was with her, always had been, always would be, and she wondered what she had done to deserve her. Amanda knew Laura was awake at the window but did not interrupt her thought. When she returned to Amanda, there was a quiet about her, a strength, a peace, a passion Amanda did not know possible in another human being. There was a spark found in Amanda ' s soul that morning, one not seen before, one welcomed by Wintersday morning enchantment.

As the light of day found beams though the window panes, both Amanda and Laura Rosetta dress in warm clothing. Amanda made coffee, Laura replaced duvets and warming stones. When the coffee was ready and the fire banked, the lovers exchanged blessings of the renewal of life, of the sun. The gifts under the tree found their rightful recipients, the next moments spent in wonder and delight. Laura was indeed eight years old again, squealing with delight as she unwrapped every tin toy she had seen previously at Smithers ' store. She was so indulged. Amanda had tears as she unwrapped a silver locket with a photo of Laura as a child and lock of her hair. Before half of their gifts had been unwrapped, Amanda rose to make more coffee and to put the roast in the slow cooker for their dinner. Laura laughed when she unwrapped her own complete set of knitting needles and brightly colored yarn.

The lovers were delighted in the other ' s reaction to gifts. They tidied the riot of papers and ribbons. All the gifts were piled back under the tree; Laura set about making breakfast complete with freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne. Amanda devoured two cinnamon buns with her first coffee that morning and she tucked into a third with her second cup of coffee. Both women enjoyed the feast and each other as the newborn sun shone in through the glass. Laura put a pie in the oven for dinner and set bread dough for dinner rolls. Amanda teased her for holding out on the baking skills with Laura's reply that seduction was multifaceted.

Both women refilled in the wood box for the day and banked the fire. Laura sat on the rug by the fire, lining up all her toys on the old table. She seemed completely fascinated by them as she wound them up and moved them about. Amanda marveled at how easily the child emerged, without effort or shame. But there was a new folding in of all of Laura, a new core, an unknown place; Amanda sensed the transformation. When she went checked on generators and fuel, she stepped out to the morning; at the rear of the cabin a raven soared in the sky, not common this late in the year. For an instant, Amanda was drawn up to the multiverse and closer to the ancients.

The rest of the day was lived with love and magic. Laura returned time and again to her toys, then to her knitting. Music filled the cabin and the lovers danced. Preparations for their evening feast continued. Amanda sorted her new yarns and was lost in books of patterns for new creations. Teddy gifted Laura with new playing cards, showing Rubensque women. In the days and weeks to come, long games of canasta would be played in front of the fire, Teddy acting as referee.

A tired sun gave up his sky to Mother Moon in late afternoon. Laura set a Wintersday table with wine in pewter goblets, crystal vase filled with holly and ivy. Amanda helped with the final preparation of dinner. Laura dressed in trousers with a silk shirt as did Amanda. They dined by the light of the fire, candles, tree lights, and the blessings of Mother Moon. Almost inert from dinner, wine, and early morning awakening, they languished before clearing and washing up from dinner. Amanda remarked that she noticed that Laura was had not worn her watch since their arrival at the cabin earlier in the week. Laura replied that she wanted her life here to be timeless, her watch was tucked with her pack. A tiny ancient mantle clock kept the tenure of earth hours for them. The night routines readied bed and wood box for the night and space heaters turned on to keep the lovers warm as they danced, silk touching silk, lace touching lace, skin touching skin.

The next two days allowed the rage of north winds to blow snow and ice at the windows of the cabin. Luther refilled fuel for generators on the first weekday of the second week of their stay at the cabin. When the north had spent her wrath, Luther plowed the road and driveway, then helped the women clear the vehicle. The women decided on a menu for the new year feast with Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary. A long-running canasta game occupied the table in front of the fire and Laura ' s toys took play on the hearth or the rug. Amanda had found a pattern for a serape, Laura insisted that she use her new yarn to knit for herself. Since her communion with the ancients on Wintersday morn, Laura was more child and certainly more woman than she had ever been; Amanda had moments of almost shatter with the passion within her beautiful lover as if a great spirit had been released. Laura watched the winds and snow, finding a new reverence for the Great Mother, a pull to her not quite explained; all the connections to her, the multiverse and ancients etched permanently with glimpses of the reasoning for such. Her destiny was far lived, she knew she would eventually take vaccination to allow years for evolution. Amanda saw this woman find trance and access to power in herself, deepening and spiraling to new horizons in her own soul. Amanda had always only allowed pragmatic thought, had seen no need of any waste of energy to consider mystics. She could not be part of Laura ' s life without exploring the power of the creature to whom she had been drawn.

Cold fury without held warm love within. The third weekday found a bright dawn with a rejoicing sun. It was bone chilling cold, new to Laura. The fire was banked for their return. Jeannie greeted them as she descended from Bella ' s cockpit, having warmed her for flight. Laura recorded coordinates, easily landed at the Carriere base, taking photographs as they walked to a waiting vehicle. Neither woman wanted to linger in the town this day, their warm home beckoned. The laundry was exchanged and supplies were garnered. Bella landed home again in less than three earth hours, Jeannie and Mary agreed upon a time for the new year ' s feast.

A warm fire welcomed them back. Laura settled the kitchen and Amanda turned on generators. Both women filled the wood box. Hot soup warmed their bodies; when the fire blazed full again passion warmed their souls long and again. Amanda laughingly told Laura that between chopping wood for weeks and keeping up with an eighteen year old lover, she would resume command in the best physical shape of her life; that remark read like an invitation to Laura. They awoke curled under throws lying on the rug before the fire as the sun ' s final fire tipped the ocean ' s waves. They had hand fashioned cheeseburgers and crisps for dinner with warm mulled cider. A snowshoe hike to Spy Rock for the morrow was discussed, this time with coffee but no tarp or blanket. Each new adventure shone in Laura ' s eyes, that light would charm Amanda forever; she knew not why but she had started to eternally catalogue all the memories as if to sustain her for lifetimes to come. After night chores, they sat cuddled in front of the fire. They talked of the beauty of this land in the winter, of the power and solace found here. Amanda told Laura that she had forgotten to tell her about her rare sighting of a soaring raven on Wintersday morning. Laura saw her ancient grandfather in the flames of the fire and her soul acknowledged the power of her legacy; her journey was unfolding as it should.

They did go to Spy Rock the following day, the day cold and clear with frost sparkling in the air. Amanda had walked with snow shoes as a younger woman and soon found the rhythm again. Laura ' s long legs seemed awkward at the beginning but soon matched Amanda step for step. Again, a deep stirring in her arose slightly as if she had been here before. Although still surprised by such stirrings, she was no longer frightened of them; she understood the path of the ancients and would follow. When they returned to the cabin, they were cold and hot barley soup warmed them. After resting, they chose to clean the cabin in preparation for the eve of the new year and the new year feast with their friends. Laura cleaned crystal and set out new pillar candles. They decided to use the kitchen island as a buffet and their guests could gather around the fire for dining and company. As young adolescent, Laura had acted as hostess for dinner parties for Elgin , she took to the role effortlessly.

Both were physically tired and aching after their winter walk early in the day; after a simple dinner, they took long showers and changed into warm night clothes. Amanda found Laura sitting on the floor in front of the fire, hugging Teddy, and lost in thought. This woman was old beyond her years and at the same time finding the child within. Almost each day, Amanda saw more power, more resolve, more magic rise forth in her; if she believed in such she would picture a priestess. The fire was banked for the night in a warmed room, passion rumbled and then exploded again like an eruption from the multiverse.

The day of New Year's Eve greeted the lovers with sleep and lying about late into the morning. Each took turns making pots of coffee and warming stones for the bed. Laura finally claimed the kitchen for a greater part of the day, baking savories and sweets for their guests the next day. Amanda loved to lean against the side of the fireplace and watch her lover, hearing her hum softly to herself. She had hair tied up for her chores; Amanda only maintained a certain composure about nuzzling that neck. Later in the afternoon, Jeannie brought Dungeness crabs caught that day, thinking it would be an easy later dinner for them. The night had drawn in clear and cold, Mother Moon so bright she cast shadows on the snow. Amanda warmed the vehicle, grabbed blankets from the warming rack, pulled Laura from the couch, handed her a parka, boots, and mittens. They drove the short distance to the beach and sat on the tailgate warmed by the blankets and watched Mother conduct the dance of the waves. Amanda said this was her favorite kind of New Year's Eve fireworks. When cold overtook them, they returned to the cabin, Amanda steamed the crabs for their quiet New Year's Eve celebration. A warmed shower caressed them, they found their way back to the sofa and the fire. Laura ' s watch was packed away once more, the ancient time piece on the mantle ticked down the minutes to midnight. Flutes of champagne were held as lips met lips at the stroke of midnight. There was no need for words, there had not been that need since they met. Gentle movement only held back wild abandon for a short period of time, long enough to carry out the night routine, and once more passion claimed them.

The new year ' s first day was soft and rhythmic, routine and chores, dancing and love. Their feast was almost ready, needing only baking or heating. They drank pots of coffee and the morning routine found itself complete once again. An almost antique iron was resurrected from the storage cabinet along with a pressing board. Amanda pressed raw silk steel gray dress pants with a pin-tucked pale gray silk shirt, both gifts from her lover. She asked Laura is she needed the iron, Laura declined. She teased Amanda, stating she was just going to wear her jeans for the dinner, no-one would notice when they tasted her food. The wine was chilled, the island set for a buffet. Their guests were invited to arrive by early evening. Amanda showered first to give up occupation of the bathroom so that Laura could tame her hair. She applied her new French make up and perfume; then dressed in black lace and satin lingerie, trousers with the silk shirt. She wore the silver locket she had been given at Wintersday and chose large silver ear hoops. She then stepped into her own heels, not four inches but high enough to garner attention. She put out food on the island while she waited Laura's emergence from the bathroom. She was lost in thought and music when she looked up to see Laura standing by the tree, wearing her black pencil skirt, a wine colored strapless top made in the exact pattern as her soiree gown, and the matching wine colored four inch heels. Her hair was held up with the diamond clip and around her neck was the diamond choker, matching her ear jewels. She had applied moderate evening make up, French perfume and was breathtakingly beautiful once more. She clapped with delight when she saw her beautiful lover standing before her, made-up, wearing heels, the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. The finest couturiers could not have ever captured the beauty of these women that night, it was designed solely for them by their hearts. Amanda giggled, stating that Harry might just have himself a lecherous moment. They finished preparing the buffet, soon afterwards they guests arrived. Jeannie ' s eyes filled with tears when she saw Amanda, she had never looked as beautiful; indeed Harry had several lecherous moments as he stared at Laura. She enjoyed the response of an innocent vixen to which Amanda had to walk away to suppress laughter. Mary and Luther arrived within minutes, all their guests were offered wine or champagne before the fire. Both women were gracious hostesses being very attentive to their dinner companions. Laura lit many pillars on the back of the island and invited their guests to dine. They were entertained by stories of Amanda and her brother as children, by stories of their own grown children, When they had their fill of the main course, Jeannie and Mary started to clear and clean up. Laura gently chided them, guiding them effortlessly to join their partners. Amanda made a pot of her best coffee, wine glasses were refilled. Harry tried to pry information about Laura from her, knowing better than to try with Amanda. Everyone was secretly amused that either he just had not noticed or did not want to admit that these beautiful, very feminine women were lovers. Laura slipped to the kitchen to prepare a tray of ice cream with cherries, then bringing all with a bottle of brandy to the table by the fire. Amanda turned off the tree lights and extinguished all the candles temporarily. Laura poured the brandy on the cherries and with the utmost demure aplomb struck a match. Amanda later chuckled that Harry was instantly forever smitten at that moment, a beautiful woman who could handle a fire. Lively conversation ensued, as the evening turned to the night, their guests prepared to return home. Harry and Luther brought in wood and banked the fire; Jeannie and Mary insisted on helping with tidying, stating that it would be expected when they returned the invitation to their homes. Laura thanked them both for her Wintersday surprise, stating that it was her best year ever. Jeannie drew her aside with the pretense of looking at the tree, telling her that no matter what happened in their future, Amanda was happier than she thought possible, Jeannie thanked Laura sincerely. Laura looked into her eyes to see the ancients; a flash from both knew the connection. Silently, Laura pleaded with Jeannie to always take care of the woman she would love forever. As they were leaving, both Mary and Jeannie promised to return the next afternoon to help take down and store the decorations for the next many Wintersdays. When their vehicles drove out of sight, Amanda gathered this woman child in her arms to thank her for the best celebration she had ever had. Laura knew that these people were more her family than the Bennett ' s and she was glad that they had approved, even glad that Harry was lecherously smitten. She told Amanda that they were becoming her family too if Amanda was willing to share them. Routine, night, and love then claimed them.

Morning waking was quiet. The kitchen was tidied from the previous night ' s dinner. There was food left over for their dinner. By nightfall, the cabin gave up the fa ç ade of magic but never the essence. Amanda put another pot of mulled cider over the coals for themselves and their friends. Shortly after the mid-day hour, both Jeannie and Mary arrived with cartons as well as a vacuum cleaner. The cabin was transformed again but without sadness. When the women started to turn the bed back to the wall, Laura asked if it could be left as is, that she liked to wake to see the fire. It was also much easier to rise in the middle of the night rather than having to climb over the person who hogged blankets and bed space. A few spontaneous but surprised giggles led to howls of laughter from all four. As they sat to rest and drink cider, they again laughed about the bed hog which then led to stories about the husbands and more howling laughter. Jeannie said she never ceased to be amazed by Harry ' s reluctance to accept that women crawled out of the cave a few years back at least. She simply could not believe that he had not noticed the great love between Amanda and Laura but also admitted he might not know what that looked like anywhere. She grinned, however, admitting that she did care for him.

With the tree and boughs taken outside and the floors cleaned, Jeannie and Mary left. Amanda thanked them; Laura hugged them, her way of saying special thanks, requesting membership in that family. Laura watched them drive off and then stood at the door for a long time. Amanda tucked her arm around her waist, reminding her that it would be a celebration every day they were together. The Chinese Checkerboard was resurrected with laughter and insults filling the cabin. Teddy sat in the rocker and, as always, marveled at the degree of human silliness.

Over a small dinner, they made plans to fly to Carriere on the second weekday. When Luther came by with generator fuel the next day, they asked that Bella be warmed. Amanda wanted to investigate possible wind power with the hope of eventually not needing fuel but rather just batteries. Luther previously mentioned the name of a company that had successfully installed them for mountain properties. If they could find suitable contractors, she would book for installation once the ground thawed in the spring with the aim of having warmth and light for the next autumn and winter. She said she needed to book Laura for the next year ' s Wintersday if she had no plans and wanted to join her. The response left the dinner and night chores late to task. There was a hurried replenishing of the wood box and night chores as the mantle clock showed 2300 hours. With the fire banked, the lovers resumed the answer to Amanda ' s request with no difficulty.

On the second weekday morning with chores done and fire banked, Amanda and Laura went to Carriere base, Laura as pilot and logging hours. They stopped in briefly to see Lydia and wish her New Year blessings. Amanda asked for directions to the contractor Luther had mentioned, Lydia remarked that it sounded to her as if Amanda intended on more residence at her beloved cabin, surmising it would not be alone. They dropped off and picked up laundry, then found the contractor ' s business easily. The next hours were spent in gathering information and negotiating installation. Laura was intensely interested about materials needed, engineering, and batteries, again directed vaguely from the ancients. Amanda was no longer surprised or bemused by Laura ' s exceptionally inquisitive intelligent mind, taking the questioning as normal. They finalized the plans, stopped for more food and supplies, returning to the landing pad by midafternoon. Laura talked about driving to see the Smithers before they left for the base at the end of the Wintersday break if the weather cooperated. Jeannie met them as Laura filled out the post flight log, inviting them to dinner with Harry, Luther, and Mary on the upcoming second weekend day. Both women were delighted to accept.

The rest of the week ' s days were filled with day and night routines, games, dancing, good food, and long hours of loving. Both women privately often reminded themselves to etch the memories, to burn the passion to sustain them, both knowing they would need that in the times to come. Laura spent some of the days baking bread, filling the cabin with invitation. She planned to take a braided load for their dinner on the second weekend day along with bottles of wine and champagne. Amanda asked just once if she found the time long at the cabin, if she was bored or restless as she was still an active adolescent. Laura slowly removed her clothing in front of the fire and then removed Amanda ' s; there was no more consideration of possible boredom. When Luther arrived next to refill fuel for the generators, they all discussed the planned installation of wind power in the spring and summer. Luther was excited and pleased about the prospect of perhaps learning about that work, stating that he felt that in the years to come the people on the coast would need to rely more on the resources they had at hand. Laura was instantly drawn to the ancients with that remark as a shadow briefly crept across her eyes.

On the first weekend day, the women packed coffee, soup, with warm bread into thermoses for a snowshoe trek to Spy Rock to watch the winter ocean once again. Laura loved the perch, loved the forest. She told Amanda she wanted to see the entire mountainside; Amanda replied that when the spring came with passable roads they would go to lake where she fished with Peter. She had not been there since Peter had died, suddenly feeling him in her soul, chiding her for not continuing to love herself. They sat quietly on snow banks, keeping warm with hot fluids and overwhelming emotion from their hearts. On the walk back to the cabin, Laura remarked that she hoped that indeed the people who owned the land on the mountain knew their treasure, that they had committed themselves to stewardship. Laura caught her breath as Amanda stopped, quietly stating she did know, she had committed even before she purchased the land. When the lovers returned to the cabin, they built up the fire and napped. Laura awoke first, and then prepared a fondue for their dinner. The sun and the fresh air stirred lust in this healthy young woman, she planned seduction this night. She warmed the room with space heaters and brought in the night-needed wood by herself as Amanda slept. She found satin and lace for Amanda, placing them with a fine silk tunic, leggings, and perfume on the small table outside the bathroom. She then showered and changed herself into her own clothing. She donned the skin tight jeans, four inch heels, a lace and satin camisole; returning to the fire to set the small table for dinner. Amanda woke, laughing as she found the bathroom bathed in the light of several pillar candles and showing her chosen wardrobe. When she returned, fondue, wine, and the most delicious woman presented themselves in front of the fire. Laura leaned against the side mantle, handed her lover a glass of wine and a wicked grin. Amanda readily admitted that she did enjoy seduction planned and played out.

Somehow, the night routine was accomplished. The lovers spent hours of love with the blessings of a waning Mother Moon and the firelight in the cabin in the woods in the year ' s cold first month. Morning was long upon them when they urged their bodies from sleep and the bed. Amanda built up the fire and made coffee; Laura cleaned the kitchen from the night before and made breakfast. Plans were made for one last trip to Carriere on the second weekday. They needed to return to the base on the first weekend day. Laura anticipated starting her new position of instructor on the first weekday of the following week, both women needed to be back at the base for a full day of reorientation. They talked briefly about scheduling the final weeks of flight instruction for Laura as she had students every weekday, also n offering to continue to help Amanda with the data entry. Laura reiterated that she wanted to pursue more lessons with larger craft and in more ominous conditions, paying for the lessons, understanding if Amanda did not have the time to further Laura ' s flying studies. Amanda replied that Elgin had paid very well indeed for her first lessons, still in practice. Amanda also told Laura, sheepishly, that she had not wanted to teach her, that she resented the fact that her father had agreed to it before asking her. Amanda agreed to continue Laura ' s lessons and would have the finance department at the base decide on a price. They also made tentative plans to return to the cabin four weeks after they left but Amanda did state that the weather in the second and third New Year months could be treacherous on the coast. If they could not get to the cabin, they would get somewhere alone and away. The inner city unrest and violence was spreading; areas where it was safe for travel and leisure were growing fewer. The small towns near the airbase were not affected as much as the inner city but there was growing unrest everywhere.

Laura made her braided bread after morning chores. Amanda hauled out the antique iron to ready dress trousers and shirts for both of them to attend dinner with their friends. They resisted love in the afternoon as Laura was afraid they would never leave the cabin, therefore insulting their hosts. As the last light of day left the sky, two beautiful women drove to join their friends with gifts in hand.

Harry and Jeannie lived in a modest comfortable home, originally built by Harry ' s grandparents as the area was being settled. Amanda was delighted to return to their home, she had spent time there as a younger woman and it felt like an old welcoming friend to her. Mary and Luther had arrived and also greeted the women, glad to see them. Amanda and Laura offered their gifts of bread and wine, both couples were charmed. They enjoyed a delicious dinner, wine, and conversation. Mary remembered that Amanda particularly loved pecan pie; there were huge slices with ice cream and coffee in front of the small fire place in the common room. Laura felt so at ease with these friends, becoming more like family as well. There were no pretense, no insincerity, no unwritten agenda; just people caring about each other and loving themselves in their own skin. Both Laura and Amanda did help with clearing and cleaning up after dinner, not listening to protests from their hosts. A clear sky greeted them as they left the home of their friends and returned to their own. When the women were in the kitchen after dinner, Harry and Luther slipped out to bank the fire at the cabin, to fill the wood box, and start heaters... When Laura stepped onto the deck she looked to the sky where galaxies of diamonds twinkled. She knew she would never lose her wonder or tire of looking up at them. The lovers found a warm bed and warmer souls. They had five more nights alone together before they had to return to the base, neither wanted to share the other with the world for very long in the time remaining.

In late morning after the routine chores, they decided to drive to Eaglesdown for lunch and a short visit. Laura had found an intact basket in the pantry, cleaned it filled it with home-made bread, muffins, cookies, two bottles of wine as a thank you gift to the Smithers for all the toys, and being a part of her best Wintersday ever. Salt spray and mist buffeted the vehicle as they drove along the winter coast to Eaglesdown. They enjoyed bowls of homemade soup and tea while they chatted with Judith. They hurried in the bone-chilling dampness to the warmth of the Smithers ' store. Both older friends were delighted to see them again and humbled with the gift basket. Amanda found two heavy flannel hunting shirts to take home for warmth. They hugged their friends, promised visits as soon as they could, and left for the solace of their cabin.

A simple repast, night routine, and a banked fire tucked the women between sheets; ever growing and deepening love lulled them to sleep. The morning dawned cold and windy. They chose to have an early and full breakfast to hold them until they returned from Carriere. While new to heavy seas and winds, with some concentration and support from Amanda she landed Bella safely at Carriere. They stopped to see Lydia briefly; she extended a later winter invitation to her ranch in the more northeastern part of the walled city, both women thanked her. On the drive into town, Amanda asked that if they could not get back to the cabin in four weeks, perhaps they could visit Lydia ' s home away from the base. The last of the laundry was retrieved, supplies purchased, and the women returned to the cabin. After dinner and chores, they sat before a warm fire, talking of how the last three and half weeks were life changing for both of them, that their lovership had grown beyond what either could have anticipated. There were no verbalized words of promises but each knew that they were committed in love for their remaining days, no matter where those days led them. Amanda spoke of the difference in their earth ages and experience that in no way hindered how she felt about Laura. Laura replied that she had never felt intimated by that difference, that she understood them to be peers in their hearts. She did not speak of how ancient both were in their souls. Their arms found each other; the bed and night drew them again to the ancients and the multiverse.

The next three days were lost to day and night routines, games, and love. On the day before they planned to leave most of the packing was completed. Night chores were easily accomplished and after shower they held each for long hours in the bed. They would be living in the same building when they returned but only as coworkers and casual friends. Amanda teased Laura that for her own sake she should stay in out of the sun and fresh air. At least, some of the time they could dine together in the staff dining room and find quiet conversation.

The first weekend day, their last at the cabin for Wintersday, was cold and bright. The cabin was prepared for closure and the vehicle readied for departure. Laura planned to fly Bella back to the base, logging in more hours in preparation of her final examination and solo flight. They had Bella loaded before midday and after a short visit with their friends they were airborne. Laura flew briefly over the cabin before turning south as if to take in a sustaining eyeful. The women flew for long distances in silence, each savoring the last four weeks and anticipating the time to come. Amanda had months of annual leave banked saved but with the growing unrest in the city, more recruits assigned to the base, she knew she would not take many. Laura thought that she would need to contact Lou soon and send what information she had but still was hesitant to make that contact at the base. She would need to make a secure, unseen connection with the base computer system. The flight was uneventful; Laura brought Bella back to a warm hanger and rest with the winter sun still in the sky. A ground crew helped to unload the baggage and transport it to the women ' s quarters. They agreed to meet in the staff dining room at 1800 hours, and then set about unpacking and orienting themselves once again to the disciplines the base commanded.

Chapter 9

Laura ' s new quarters were more spacious than her suite in the visitor ' s building. She now lived in a single apartment with a bedroom, sitting room, small kitchen, and bathroom. There was comfortable furniture and spacious storage but bare walls. There were Military issue linens and dishes; she would collect her own over time to make this her own home. She asked Amanda if she could pick up her computer but continuing to store her jewelry in Amanda ' s private safe. She walked to the end of the hallway to knock on Amanda ' s door with the request for her computer. They chatted briefly at the door ' s threshold before Laura returned to her settling in. She showered, and then dressed in jeans and the bronze sweater before joining others in the staff dining room. Some of the building ' s inhabitants had not yet returned from the Winterday ' s break but those who did extended congratulations with a warm welcome to Laura. Over dinner, Laura asked for the loan of a vehicle for the fifth weekday coming. She had no scheduled instruction for that day and also asked her teacher if she could miss that day ' s flight lessons. Laura wanted to see Elgin at the University for lunch as well as retrieving additional personal items, clothing, and some artwork for her new quarters. Amanda offered to send a driver with Laura but she declined, stating that she wanted to see her grandfather and did not want to impose on one of the cadets again. Amanda promised to contact the land quartermaster to place Laura ' s name on the list of staff permitted to take vehicles off base; by doing that Laura could leave as she wished without having to ask permission each time. Each woman lingered slightly after dinner but then returned to their own suites, alone and lonely. The following morning Laura was in the pool swimming laps, afterwards returning to Amanda ' s office to do any small amount of data entry pending from the four week break. There was a yellow rose on Amanda ' s desk and with coffee a purple iris on the desk Laura used. During the week, a new base computer was sent to Laura ' s quarters for her work as instructor and as a date entry clerk.

The first weekday, Laura arrived at her classroom to greet ten cadets who would accomplish skydiving over the next few weeks. She found herself easily back in the roll of instructor although still had to break saluting habits and the odd stare from young men not prepared to have a beautiful young woman teaching them. At the end of her first teaching day, she changed into her flight suit meeting Amanda on the target for 1500 hours for two hours of flight instructions. She had twenty-two hours left before she would qualify to write the first of what she hoped were many examinations and licenses. She and Amanda completed six more hours this week with plans to book the written examination were made for the end of the third week. There had been initial resentment that this civilian woman was being taught by the base Colonel but it became quickly understood that this was a response to a personal family favor; early in her instruction it was evident that she was a bright, very capable young woman. On the third weekday, Laura arrived back at her quarters to find a brand new computer sitting at her door. She spent the rest of the evening setting it up, after classes and flight instructions on the fourth weekday she completed any data entry work Amanda needed. Amanda and Laura had dinner together in the staff dining room on the fourth weekday evening with Laura asking if she wanted or needed anything from the city. Amanda smiled and declined. A few short months ago, this woman child knew not of shopping and now appeared most adept at it.

Laura left immediately after breakfast for her trip to her former home. She took her personal computer with her and the flash drives holding data, choosing not share photographs of Amanda unless absolutely necessary. She arrived at Elgin ' s home by mid-morning and spent the next two hours packing the vehicle with her personal items, clothing, and artwork. She also packed an easel, paints, and brushes. She had not painted for months but the long nights being alone would at least partly be filled with brushstrokes driven by the ancients. She found Elgin in his office and they drove to a small dining room not far off campus. They made small talk, Laura talking of her new role as instructor and the end of her first set of flying lessons. Laura inquired about her personal finances; Elgin had always dealt with the advisors and accountants in that regard. Laura was a wealthy woman, with inherited money from her mother ' s grandparents, aunts, and Anna Marie. Some of the monies were held in trust until Laura reached the age of twenty-one earth years but at least half of over eight million dollars was available to Laura to use as she saw fit. She was quiet with shock, she had no idea there was that amount. She continued to feign shock when Elgin hinted that perhaps some of that could be gifted to the University. Laura knew in a few short years, the University would not need money; starving workers would need to feed themselves and their dwindling families. Over after dinner coffee, Elgin took Laura ' s hand and asked if he could change the subject of conversation to which Laura readily agreed. Elgin quietly stated that he had never seen his granddaughter look as happy or as beautiful, as elderly as he seemed he could still see lovelights in eyes. He also said that he knew who Laura loved, that he could finally rest in the knowledge that she was happy and would be well loved for her life. Laura ' s hazel eyes filled with tears as she leaned over to kiss and hug her grandfather. She told him that she was very much in love and happier than she knew possible.

Elgin had a pending class, Laura drove them both back to the University. She drove to the library; for the next hour wrote to Lou and sent data using Elgin ' s access and addressed to Frida, a woman who she instinctively knew she would grow to know well with respect. She arranged for more yellow roses, then purchased computer supplies and drives. She indulged in a trip to the art store to buy many tubes of paints and many canvasses. She remembered to bring a warming container for hot food for her return trip back to the base, stopping for cheeseburgers and fries. She was back at the base by late afternoon, with the help of cadets moved all her personal things into her new home. Amanda was still in her office, Laura was placed her cheeseburger and fries in the warming container in front of Amanda ' s door.

The night was cold and clear allowing Laura to walk to the grove to sit quietly, gaze at the galaxies, to connect to the ancients. Since Wintersday, she had a more keen awareness of her ancients on the helix, a more strengthened resolve, the absolute knowledge that she was being given power beyond what she thought possible, and love to sustain that for eternity. When she unlocked the door to her rooms, there was a note on the floor, and unfolded let loose a yellow petal with thanks. Laura was tired and chose not to unpack, taking time over the next two weekend days to do so.

Both Laura and Amanda worked on the first weekend day. Laura was able to complete the data entry, breach, and copy additional files from the base. She had accessed coordinates for other bases and ammunitions stores. She would find a day to send those on to Lou as soon as she could. On the second weekend day, Laura unpacked her personal items and hung her artwork. She also stored canvasses and paints and set up the easel at one end of her sitting room. She moved a music player with music to soothe her soul and inspire the brushes. In the afternoon of the second weekend day, she had started preparation work of a canvass and kept her smock on while she took her trash to the receptacle. On her returning, she met Amanda in the hallway. Amanda grinned as she saw her lover with an old ripped smock and paint smudges on her face, hair tied back in a handkerchief. She stated she not surprised of Laura ' s need to paint. Laura invited her in to see some of her originals now hung on her walls. Amanda ' s breath was shortened as she gazed at abstract paintings bold with color and energy. Laura showed Amanda the rest of her apartment, with a very brief viewing of the bedroom. It was not decorated yet and would be in the months to come but for this moment it was not advisable for either woman to venture past the threshold. A small antique child ' s rocker sat by the window and held two dolls; they had been Thea ' s. Laura ' s rooms faced the corner of the grove and so she had chosen opaque blinds for her windows just to hold back a blinding sun but to allow the day ' s and moon ' s light. One corner of the sitting room was the office space although Laura ' s personal computer was locked in her bedroom until she could secure her own safe for her quarters. In the weeks to come, as she could she wanted to add plants and lace to her home. Amanda asked if she would dine in the staff room that evening, Laura replied she would join her at 1730 hours.

The next weekdays were filled with more classroom work for the instructor Laura and more in-flight hours for the student Laura. She took a full ten hours of weighted take-off and landing practice in an older cumbersome helicopter, working hard to accomplish this. She did not make any errors a second time. Twice during the week, she did data entry work for Amanda. On the fifth weekday, Amanda invited her for dinner off base on the first weekend evening, was excited to accept. She did not need dress attire but Amanda would be in uniform, as such Laura chose a calf length skirt, long sleeved T-shirt, boots, and hair in a single braid. She wore minimal make-up and perfume for her evening. She giggled to herself that finally at the end of her adolescent years she could get excited about dressing for a date. Both women enjoyed the time away from the monotony of the base routine, the dinner, and each other ' s company. They still had long weeks before they could take four days away, still not certain where those days would be spent.

On the second weekend day, Laura studied for her examination. She knew her data thoroughly; Amanda had quizzed her constantly while in the air, partly for embedding of data and partly to teach Laura to concentrate primarily on flight. After a late lunch, Laura went for a quick set of laps in the pool and then returned to her painting, a gift for Amanda for Candlemas, a celebration of love and life. They might still be on base and would have to celebrate in spirit only but Laura wanted to give her lover something she hoped she would hang in her own rooms. She laughed when she thought that what she really wanted to paint was a nude self-portrait but that would be inappropriate to hang in a base commander ' s suite, no matter how private.

Her classroom work soon changed to hanger work as she first needed to assess and then teach any fitness skills necessary before the cadets started actual parachute jumps. Laura had three days in the third week of intense physical testing and exercise for the cadets, secretly thanking the wood pile and four weeks of unadulterated sex for the conditioning. She had six more hours of in-flight instructions with Amanda with plans to write her examination on the fifth weekday. She was excited but not apprehensive. When Laura submitted her last log as a student pilot, Amanda congratulated her student and shook her hand. If she scored a passing grade on the written examination, the senior flight instructor would score her final solo flight. Laura easily bested her male students, left them gasping, throwing up, commanding a much higher level of respect from the cadets and instructors; when Amanda learned of this she had to turn and walk away to suppress laughter. She instructed them to practice over the following days and she would re-test their skills a final time on the following first weekday. On the fourth weekday evening, Laura stayed in her quarters, did the data entry work for Amanda, and did one more brief reading of all her notes. She knew she would achieve a passing grade on the morrow ' s examination. The base senior flight instructor supervised the written examination on a room just away from Amanda ' s office. Laura handed back the written answers and then went to the pool for laps. When she returned, there was a package waiting at her door, a crystal vase with one purple iris.

Laura allowed herself of a lying in on the first weekend day and prepared breakfast in her small kitchen. She completed her household chores; by early afternoon she was sitting at her easel with music filling her soul and guiding the paint onto the canvass. As if lost in time, it was evening long before she realized she was spent and famished. Amanda knocked at the door, smiling, with an invitation to a simple dinner in her apartment. Laura asked if that was appropriate; Amanda replied that she was the boss lady and if she said it was appropriate it was appropriate. Laura asked for ten minutes to tidy herself. She gently closed the door; she did not want Amanda to see the painting not quite finished. She reminded herself to move the easel to her bedroom when she was not working on it, just in case her curious lover breached the doorway one more time. She changed quickly into skin tight jeans and a T-shirt, unloosed the curls from the bandana, grabbed socks, keys and hurried down the hall to her lover ' s door.

Amanda had steaks ready for grilling and a salad prepared when Laura entered her apartment. Amanda had a raised terrace with an outdoor grill; the steaks were ready in minutes. They dined at a small table in the sitting room, enjoying the meal and the company. This was the celebratory dinner for completing her one hundred flight hours. Laura did not want to leave this woman but knew too many eyes might notice a late hour for her return to her own suite. She hugged thanks to Amanda but could not risk a kiss. She did tell Amanda about the conversation she had with Elgin when they had lunch to which Amanda grinned and suggested that perhaps they had been slightly obvious.

The second weekend day meant work for both women with data entry again for Laura and a trip to the hanger to inspect the parachutes she to teach her students to pack. In the afternoon, she finished the painting and assembled a simple frame. She knew Amanda had studied Latin as had Laura and she would name the painting in Latin before she left it outside Amanda ' s door.

Laura had an early class instruction in the hanger on the first weekday. The male cadets were dressed in fatigues and ready to work, other observing instructors grinning. After an hour of intense work out with no throwing up, Laura declared that she was very proud of them, all now fit to start the instruction of jumping out of moving aircraft unharmed. They spent the next two days at the hanger learning of the engineering of parachutes and the beginning instruction on how to pack them. Laura unequivocally insisted that each jumper pack his own parachute to her absolute satisfaction. When the class had been dismissed and while she was chatting with the other instructors, the senior flight instructor stood in the entrance of the hanger, motioning to Laura that he needed to speak with her. He informed her that she would take the solo flight examination on the third weekday and then handed her the examination results, a perfect score. He had not seen that in his career and had asked two other instructors to review the examination to grad as well; had all concurred. Laura smiled and took his hand offered in congratulations. She then ran across the tarmac laughing and at the end completed a perfect cartwheel to which cadets and ground crew applauded.

Laura returned to her quarters and sent an immediate urgent email to Elgin , telling him she was almost a pilot. She ran to the pool to swim laps, to burn energy, and to refocus. She could not lose sight of what she was doing and why. As she lost herself in the stroking rhythm, she was drawn down to the ancients, to the grandfather. He reiterated to her that she must learn all that she can for the years to come and that she would be guided to when a change would come; Laura had matured enough to accept that guidance. She stopped back at her quarters to drop off wet gear and to prepare a small lunch for herself. On the floor in front of her door sat Teddy holding a balloon. She was wearing her own flight suit, helmet, and goggles and even with repeated hugging would never reveal how she travelled to the base. Laura spent the rest of the afternoon building the frame for Amanda ' s painting and preparing a canvas for a second painting. She did some chores and dressed in casual clothing to join others in the staff dining. When she opened the door, the room was silent; and amidst only laughing protest all members jumped up, snapped to attention, saluted at the Colonel ' s command, followed by resounding applause. She joined Amanda at her table where several senior officers came by to offer congratulations, chiding that she would have to stop making the Colonel look so good or there would be no living or working with her. The women returned to their suites and retired for the night.

For the next two mornings, Laura taught engineering and materials of parachutes and on the third weekday she packed a parachute with cadets watching intently. They packed their own parachutes on the next instruction day and she sent them off with strict instructions to practice. After a brief lunch in the staff dining room, Laura met her flight examiner on the tarmac. The day was wet with mist and a north wind. Laura carefully went over the preflight test as Amanda had insisted. The helicopter for the examination was as large and heavy as that of her last practice weeks. She flew over the lake and then descended through crosswinds to then ascend again, repeating that exercise three times at the instruction of the examiner. On return to the base, Laura easily completed several take-off and landing drills. The instructor had tried to distract her with conversation or pointing out landmarks but as Amanda had strictly instructed she focused solely on her task of piloting the helicopter. When the examiner told Laura that the examination was over, she filled in the log data and post flight check list with the ground crew, knowing that this was the final step of the examination. After a very short time, the instructor came forward shook her hand, and provided her with a pilot ' s license. For one brief instant, she wanted to cry but would not embarrass herself; she simply thanked her examiner.

She returned to her quarters where she did break down crying. She had set out to become a pilot for reasons only the ancients understood. She had accomplished that, now on her way to greater skills. As part of the bargain, she found her heart and the depths of love of which she was capable, all before her nineteenth birthday. She telephoned the kitchen to request a small dinner delivered to her apartment as she was exhausted from a very busy day. Amanda was still in conference, not yet knowing of the examiner ' s scores. Laura had a long hot shower, braided her hair to dry it, then dressing in a satin sleep shirt with matching robe. She was in the bedroom when there was a knock on the door, she had left instructions with the kitchen staff to enter and place her dinner on her kitchen counter. She did not investigate immediately but finished with grooming in the bedroom. As she did emerge to sit to her dinner, she found instead that Amanda had arrived with a fifth of champagne and a smile. It appeared that the boss lady was in her apartment for dinner and bubbly with a young beautiful instructor in satin and lace. They ate a small dinner, each with a flute of champagne. Amanda could easily see that as excited as Laura was she was very tired and after a brief hug Amanda returned the dishes to the dining room kitchen. Laura was sound asleep in less than fifteen minutes.

They checked weather reports, deeming a flight to the cabin might be possible although it would depend on the weather prediction on the fifth weekday. Amanda talked to Jeannie late in the evening on the fourth weekday; the skies were clear, winds calm, and the base at Carriere saw no inclement weather for the next five days. As such, Amanda asked Jeannie to ready the cabin as they would arrive the following afternoon. Laura packed warm clothing for four days; the kitchen packed them food for lunch on the day of the flight with a thermos of coffee. Teddy insisted on a return flight to her place by the fire. Candlemas was on the first weekend day but Laura did not want to take the painting with her so on the eve of their departure, Laura knocked on Amanda ' s door, a package leaning against the wall. The Colonel unwrapped a painting, called Explorator, and signed Amo Te. It was the twilight ocean as seen from Spy Rock, sunset just burning the tips of waves and Mother Moon in the distant sky. In the foreground was a small piece of bark rolled tightly into a spyglass lying on a bed of moss. Amanda was not often taken to tears, but the scene and the love from it caused her to weep. There was another quiet knock at her door, when she opened it through tears she saw Laura smiling.

The fifth weekday dawned cold and bright. The ground crew readied Bella as Amanda did the preflight check list. Laura arranged with the other flight instructors to switch days for skydiving instruction to later in the week as she did not plan to return until the afternoon of the next first weekday. They were airborne by 1000 hours; a smooth flight landed Bella before 1300 hours. They were greeted by Jeannie and Mary. Harry and Luther were at the cabin bringing wood and fueling generators. Luther had plowed the roads and shoveled a path to the waiting warmth of their true home. They set to storing food and making coffee. Either Jeannie or Mary had made the bed, warmed linens, and a pot of Judith ' s chowder was in the slow cooker. With the tree gone, one of the chests was again placed near the hearth and the women stored clothing there to keep it warm for their stay. Teddy, dressed in a sweater, found her comfortable warm chair by the fire. It seemed like hours before Luther and Harry drove away. It was Candlemas Eve, the celebration of love and renewal. They were alone and in love, the coffee would just have to wait. They gasped with laughter at the urgent, unabashed desire. Re-clothed, they enjoyed steaming bowls of chowder, then cookies and coffee. The lunch packed by the kitchen at the base would feed them later. After the necessary chores, Laura just wanted her lover. When satiated temporarily, Laura leaned back and stretched her long legs in front of the fire; Amanda laid the full length of the couch with her head in Laura ' s lap. Laura stroked soft dark blonde silk framing a lovely face, one glowing with love and love lights; Amanda returned with kisses to the hands of her lover. She spoke of the painting she had been given the previous night. She wanted to know how long Laura had been painting and where she was instructed. Laura replied that she had instruction as a child by tutors and continued in university with no further formal instruction but among friends who were much more accomplished artists. She described that the paintings directed her hands, her brush, and the paints. She was simply the vessel. She was so drawn to the ocean from her first sight of it and she started to reclaim her own child within with the story of Amanda and her brother at Spy Rock. The painting directed that story onto the canvas. The experience was calming and meditative for Laura; she said she likened it to Amanda ' s knitting. She saw the same seeing within when Amanda was lost in knitting. They talked about the past four weeks, of the events, of Laura ' s new role as instructor. Amanda teased her about making Military cadets throw up; Laura responded that if the Military wanted good pilots they had to have discipline and bodies at least slightly firmer than marshmallows. Laura said she very much enjoyed being back to teaching again, eagerly anticipating and was looking forward to skydiving while she taught others to jump. She had taught a seventy-five year old woman to independently skydive so she was quite sure she would teach these young, slightly arrogant young males. Of course, Laura was beyond delighted that she had become a pilot, very sincerely thanking Amanda for her patience and instruction to which Amanda replied with a wicked grin that once she laid eyes on that beautiful student it was not much of a hardship. As the afternoon sun found the western horizon, Laura let her lover stay reclined on the couch, rising to prepare dinner. She took Amanda ' s wine to her, and then stood at the window to watch the ocean take kisses from the sun, thinking there was no artist on earth who could really produce what her eyes and her soul saw. Amanda arose and banked the fire and started the generator to heat water for showers, repeating the anticipated improvement with constant power generated by the wind. Laura chuckled that when she had to show off to the cadets she gave up thanks for chopping wood and four weeks of at least daily sex to account for her fitness. Amanda replied that she felt it absolutely necessary to keep at least one of her instructors in the best physical shape possible.

Warm water brought trembling and love under the caressing shower. Amanda banked the fire for the night; Laura readied the bed, extinguished all but a few candles, and turned off space heaters. Teddy sighed that she was entirely more comfortable in her chair than her humans who could not seem to stay still and quiet for quite some time. Night claimed the cabin in the second month of the New Year.

A cold clear sun greeted lovers who lingered in the warmth of the bed and each other. Hunger bade Laura to the kitchen to make breakfast as Amanda did morning chores. They ate their morning meal with coffee in front of the newly fed fire. Laura had set dough to rise on the hearth; Amanda leadingly asked her young lover what she would like to do for this day. Yeast and warmth had worked magic with time long passed as Laura finally put bread loves in the oven to bake. Routines, play with tin toys, knitting, reflection many times interrupted with touches and kisses, were kept in Teddy ' supervision with help from the old mantle clock. Amanda mentioned that she would really like to visit Lydia at their next four day break away from base; Laura was happy to join her although she would miss her time safe with her same sex lover. The schedule coincided with Ostermonat, the festival of planting and thanking the new sun for warmth; Lydia would be glad of their visit after a long winter of remaining at the Carriere base. The third winter month in a new year was the least inviting on the coast with ice rains and days of freezing fogs; Amanda wanted to have firm plans for their break away. She told Laura about increasing concerns as her superiors has plans for increased maneuvers to quell the unrest; she did so to warn Laura of potentially more students for instruction in the months to come. She spoke frankly about her complete disrespect for the decisions of The Decision, the impact that it had brought to date and would surely in the future. She was born to the elite class with privileges and security; however, she saw no need for abject greed among a few male rulers at the colossal expense of workers who were really her brothers and sisters. She did state that she would stay committed to her work in the Military as it was the path she had chosen, no matter the politics directing it. Laura could not look at her as the ancients sternly guided her to silence; if she had not previously loved this woman to a point beyond possible, she loved her now and would forever.

The fading sun and hunger brought the lovers to dinner and mulled cider. Night routines were followed by showers and then dancing to the background of South American music and the foreground of sultry passion. Amanda held this young beauty and thought that this was her first Candlemas acknowledging and a celebration true to the spirits of love. With a fire banked, love found the women awake and in another realm until the candles had burned to almost naught.

Coffee and muffins in bed encouraged laughter with the tickle of crumbs and fingers on the second weekend day morning. Amanda loved to hear the hearty laugh of a somewhat ethereal youth, just another dichotomy that fascinated her. They both found morning chores quickly done. They chose to drive to the beach with a thermos of coffee, both needing eyefuls to keep them until they could return. Amanda said that by the fourth month in the New Year, the ocean was calmer as if reluctantly giving up and giving in. Before cold drove them back to the warm fire and snuggles on the couch, they talked about plans for a trip to the top of the mountainside when they returned next. Amanda had unpacked her almost finished serape to bead the neckline. The warm reds and vibrant blues of the wool made her eyes dance when she modeled it for Laura. Laura actually finished a simple scarf and hung it on the coat tree by the door to be worn by either as necessary. She had not found the meditation with yarn as she did with paint but perhaps with time she would. Before dinner, they brought in more wood for the night fire and ate early in the evening. On the last night before return to the base, their need was great to enjoy each other long into the night, greedily, lovingly. Laura did not know how much alone or intimate time they would have when they visited with Lydia and her family; she wanted to remember a body ' s full of her handsome lover.

On the day of return to the base they left the landing pad in the early afternoon with Laura flying for the first time as a solo pilot, in the company of a beaming, loving copilot. Later afternoon landed Bella and the women returned to their quarters. They both always hated this first night back alone, bodies and souls aching for the other. Laura prepared for her next three days of teaching cadets how to pack parachutes. She no longer had daily flying instruction although Amanda had promised that in the coming weeks they would set about instruction on Search and Rescue craft. Over dinner in the staff dining room, Laura spoke with the instructor of senior cadets, asking if she could audit his next lecture series on military planning and tactics. She had a brief introduction as part of her Advanced Communications degree and couched her request with an interest in considering further studies in that field. Laura joined Amanda briefly for tea after dinner to tell her of her request, telling her that now that she did not have flight instructions she wanted exercise for her mind. Amanda was not at all convinced this was the real reason but her instincts told her there would be no harm by it. The next lessons would start after their next four week break, with Lydia and her family.

Laura taught overeager and clumsy cadets for the next three days, pursing her lips with impatience at times. Laps in the pool relieved her tension as did her painting and dinners in the staff dining room with Amanda. She completed her data entry chores and copied new files from the base computer to her own stick drives. She bravely contacted Frida using her personal access at the base, receiving a polite, cloaked reply, establishing a communication vital to lives now and in the future. Laura asked of news of her mother and her mother ' s friend; Frida replied they were well, and busy; she did promise that she would relay messages and details as received. Laura could only allow herself a brief luxury of missing her mother before she drew to the ancients for guidance and strength. She did know she would hug her mother once again in the future, enough to sustain her in the present.

On the fifth weekday, Laura did chores, swam laps, and haunted the kitchen for supplies to bake bread. Amanda looked tired and drawn at week ' s end; Laura ached to hold her, to soothe her but thought that perhaps cinnamon buns would temporarily suffice. Laura planned to take braided bread to Lydia as a thank you gift for her hospitality with hopes that her family would enjoy it. She taught landing and rolls during the next two weeks. She was thoroughly enjoying her role as instructor with a greater sense of purpose while she waited for the plans of the ancients. She baked cinnamon buns early in the morning on the first weekend day and then asked one of the cadets working in the kitchen to deliver coffee and buns to the Colonel ' s office. She swam laps again and again, tiring her body and easing her desire to hold her lover. After lunch and a nap curled up with stuffed animals, the paint found its way with passion to the canvas. She drifted down the staff dining room for dinner, not expecting company as many staff members left the base for the weekends. Amanda was just finishing her dinner and lingered over a cup of coffee as Laura joined her. There was a smile of welcoming, of thanks, of love. They were alone now save for the kitchen staff and simply sat in the quiet, enjoying brief and voiceless conversation. Laura ' s eyes saw disgust and fatigue; from her soul she gave back strength, courage, reassurance that Amanda ' s journey was unfolding as it should.

Mid-morning on the second weekend day, Amanda visited Laura ' s apartment to find music with a story driving her paint brush. She wanted to stay forever, to watch the message come forth on the canvas but instead invited Laura to join her for a brief drive off base, perhaps for coffee, stating that she needed to talk to her, needed a break away. Laura quickly cleaned paint from her skin surfaces, changed into warm clothes, and joined Amanda in a base vehicle. There was now a checkpoint at the gates of the base, both women had to show identification to new guards. They drove in silence to a small village where Laura purchased coffee for the drive. Amanda told her that she had learned earlier in the week that they would be receiving four hundred more new cadets over the next six months to be readied for possible entry to combat training. Laura drew in deep breaths as she struggled to assimilate this information. The base would not conduct combat preparation but would ready the cadets to basic training for battle. Amanda drove, stopped the vehicle, stood outside on a rural road to shout her anger at the senseless loss of life that would ensue for the cadets and innocent laborers just trying to fight for survival. She did not know the tempo of the unrest but the rulers wanted absolute preparation and destruction as needed. Laura knew that hugs would not quell this anger, instead choosing to take her lover ' s hand and listen. She could not offer up any solace or knowledge and drew long to the ancients for strength now; she was told that there was no urgency yet but that Amanda needed to be readied for the future as she would be. Tiny bands of steel found the eyes and heart of Laura Ravencouer on that rural road, not lasting but now accessible. When returned to the vehicle, the women sat in silence and drank coffee. Laura took Amanda ' s hand and a quiet message from her ancients found its way to Amanda ' s soul through her. Slowly, the tension in Amanda ' s face eased as if she understood at some level that peace would evolve, like the silver Mother Moon journeyed to hope night to night, season to season. Laura had glimpses of the power she held within herself, understanding that her destiny was to use it for this world, for all those she loved. The women then returned to the base; at the entry gate, Amanda exited the vehicle still in uniform and with just a stare gave firm understanding to all guards at the post that she would not be asked for identification again as would none of her staff instructors. Laura suppressed a smile with the knowledge that the Colonel had returned to her rightful place.

Laura's students used the trampoline to practice landing and rolling; when successful the following week the cadets and instructor went to the practice cage on the tarmac. The fifth weekday brought chores and data entry for Laura. She sent an email to Elgin telling of her teaching, teasing him about his influence. She did not see Amanda all week, missed her, missed the yellow petals. She arrived later than usual on the fifth weekday evening to the staff dining room to be greeted with a bright smile from the base Colonel. Laura spoke briefly with two other instructors about the success of her students during the week, then joined Amanda for dinner. There was the returned lightness of her soul now as if she had resolved the changes of her life within herself to Laura's delight. Amanda congratulated her on the success with her students, having been told by several instructors that she had made a wise choice in hiring this very accomplished, albeit young teacher. She also mentioned that she had contacted Lydia by email with a response of excitement. Amanda arranged that they would not return to base until the morning of the fifth day away. Lydia ' s ranch was just over one hour ' s flight from the base, an early departure returning them for part of a work day. Laura changed instruction days with another instructor as she had in the past. Laura asked if they should pack any differently; Amanda just smiled and told her that neither Lydia nor her family stood at all on pretense, that Lydia was even less military away from base than Amanda. Amanda took a pot of coffee from the dining room and invited Laura to join her in her suite. On entering, Laura saw the painting hanging as she entered the common room and smiled her delight that Amanda liked it that much. They enjoyed a quiet intimate conversation, leading Laura to return to her own suite, not trusting herself to stay any longer. Amanda mentioned that perhaps they could leave the base for lunch on the second weekend day, even take a drive into a small town not far from the base for cheeseburgers and fries. Laura simply grinned her acceptance. The first weekend day found Laura completing the data entry. Amanda worked early on the second weekend day; Laura readied herself for a date with her lover. She chose leggings and a long tunic that Amanda had not seen, braided her hair, applied light make up and perfume. She met Amanda just as she was leaving her apartment, seeing saw a look of profound lust in her blue eyes, her preparations had been effective. The women drove in silence to the nearby town and found the diner easily, feasting on cheeseburgers and fries, laughing at themselves and each other for this seeming addiction. This time together sustained them.

Laura spent the next four days teaching yet again clumsy students to land and roll on the trampoline, the last two days with the added weight of packed parachutes. Their bodies had to have this memory with by cemented was by repeated practice. The routine of Laura ' s life meant chores and data entry on the fifth weekday and then a quiet later dinner in the dining room and a pot of coffee with Amanda in one of their suites. On the first weekend day, Laura went to the practice cage on the tarmac, then packed her own parachute and landed some jumps effortlessly. She laid in late on the second weekend day anticipating that she would perhaps have some alone with her lover the following weekend. On the first three weekdays she worked with students as they practiced real jumps to teach timing along with rhythm of buckles and cords. The students were given two free days from instruction to prepare for written examination to determine suitability for actual jumping from aircraft the third weekday of the following week. Laura spent the morning of the fourth weekday with her chores, data entry, setting dough for a large braided loaf as a gift for Lydia and her family. She packed baggage for her trip north to the ranch with comfortable warm, casual clothing along with the most seductive lingerie in her repertoire in the event that there would be time to be alone. She asked the kitchen manager to purchase bottles of wine for her; she retrieved and paid for them in the late afternoon. She enjoyed a quiet dinner with Amanda who was clearly looking forward to her time away. They agreed to meet Bella at 0900 hours.

Bella was packed and airborne by just after 1000 hours the next morning. Amanda flew over the mountain range and through the pass to the northern high country. Laura was spellbound by the beauty of the wilderness, different from that of the coastal country. Amanda said that if they continued about one hour west they would find an old airbase, long abandoned by the rulers as it was not close to anything glamorous. By 1100 hours, they approached the landing pad at Lydia ' s ranch. There were snowcapped peaks in the distance with vast hectares of untouched wilderness, dotted only by bison and mountain sheep. Closer to the ranch buildings, there were fenced large corals containing beautiful horses enjoying the sunshine and early warming air. Amanda just grinned at the wonder on Laura ' s face. An overland vehicle drove to the landing pad; two women approached Bella wearing jeans, western boots, sheepskin jackets, and worn Stetsons. Lydia removed her hat, hugged Amanda, and kissed her full on the lips with a wonderful grin. She then hugged Laura tightly, a hug from a woman who loved women. Amanda then greeted the other woman with a similar hug and introduced Laura to Barbara , Lydia ' s longtime lover and family. Barbara welcomed both women to their home, telling them how they had looked forward to their visit. The luggage and gifts were unloaded with Bella secured for her stay at the ranch, following which all four women rode back to the main house. Slightly to the side and rear with windows facing to the back mountain range was a separate cabin; Barbara grabbed the luggage and carried them to the doorway. Laura ran to catch up with her to help as Amanda and Lydia walked arm in arm to the main cabin. Barbara showed Laura her sleeping quarters for the next four nights, smiling as she caught shining in the young woman ' s eyes. As she knew would happen, Amanda had not told Laura where she was going or with whom she would visit, wanting to further surprise her lover. When they returned to the main house, Lydia put a pot of coffee on the coals of a huge fireplace. Amanda was comfortably ensconced on a sofa in front of the hearth. Lydia took what would be her usual rocking chair and Barbara an armchair. Laura joined Amanda on the couch; Amanda immediately put her arm around her shoulders, smiled, and kissed her brow. They made small conversation until cups of steaming coffee, as good as any Amanda could make, were offered and enjoyed. Lydia teased Amanda about not telling the child who her hostesses really were, that a Captain ' s uniform and salutes were hardly evidence for the truth. Amanda offered no defense save for another kiss on Laura ' s brow. Barbara then remarked with a carefully guarded solemn face that Laura would learn quickly about really being second in line although she was sure it would have the same benefits as her own, followed by wink and grin at Lydia . For a moment, Laura was not certain about a proper response but as soon as she saw the wicked grin she quipped that she should be eternally grateful to Lydia for such thorough careful instruction, flying aircraft of course. In a second or two, both Lydia and Amanda howled with laughter, Barbara simply gave credit for the rite of passage well done. Laura had never enjoyed the company of other women with same sex partners, other than Amanda of course, and pure celebration rose up in her. Laura presented her gifts of wine and homemade loaf, with thanks returned. Lydia remarked that it was beyond her comprehension that Amanda could find gorgeous women with a body that would not quit who could cook and fly helicopters, all before the age of nineteen earth years. Amanda just shrugged but at the same time glowed when she looked at Laura, stating there were many talents with which she had been gifted. Barbara offered to show Laura about the main house while Lydia and Amanda set about preparing lunch. A staircase at the rear of the cabin led to a loft where she and Lydia slept, often looking at the fireplace below. Opposite the staircase, was a washroom, beyond that a workshop and garage. The room at the front of the house was open with a huge open kitchen raised by two steps on each side, one end of the common space held a huge table with a view of the fire. On either side of the fireplace occupying most of the remaining wall were windows looking out on mountains and open expanse of land. Barbara lived here all the time with the help of ranch hands with Lydia returning when she could escape the base at Carriere. Lydia inherited the ranch from her parents, a home she shared with Barbara for twelve years. They raised and sold cattle and horses, a passion for both of them. Barbara asked if Laura rode, the immediate light in her eyes was the answer she needed. Barbara used a portable phone to request readying of four horses for an afternoon trail ride. When Amanda learned of the afternoon she put her arm around Laura, inquiring if there would be jeopardy with sunshine and fresh air. Laura replied it was a chance she would have to endure. They all enjoyed a ride though the clear mountain air for over two hours. On return, Laura started to remove the horse ' s tack; Lydia assured her that she paid handsomely to have that work done but did thank her, telling Amanda on their walk back to the main house that Laura was a wonderful woman, she was absolutely delighted for her good friend, that it was time for Amanda to be as happy as Lydia. While they were riding, the foreman of the ranch, Jackson , had set a fire in the fireplace in the guest cabin. Lydia and Barbara set a romantic scene with candles, soft linens and towels, a music player, wine in the small refrigerator, and coffee with an old pot for early morning. Both Lydia and Barbara encouraged their guests to rest in their cabin with dinner would be at 1800 hours, extending an invitation to join them for before dinner drinks whenever they wished. Jackson set a fire in an outdoor pit in the morning to insured hot coals for steak at dinner. He had known Amanda for many years, remarking to Lydia in passing that this love thing looked way too fine on her friend. Any kind of remark from the usual reticent foreman was a compliment indeed.

Amanda and Laura walked hand in hand to the guest cabin; as soon as the door was closed, were locked in an embrace taking them to a shower immediately. This cabin had wind powered electricity; warm water was not at a premium as it was on the coast. The luxury of no responsibility along with the seduction of fresh air and sun orchestrated passionate love. They lay in each other ' s arms in front of the fire. Laura talked of how she was rejoicing in the company of other women loving women, her first and hopefully not last exposure. It was the best compensation for all the months of living pretense at the base. Amanda told her that was exactly why she wanted to bring Laura to the ranch. Laura asked about her affair with Lydia , Amanda told her honestly and happily. They had loved each other and parts of them still did, when women love women it never really stops, it changes. They had decided on careers that would keep them apart for many months at a time, agreeing to remain friends but to have other lovers if the opportunities arose. Lydia met the love of her life while Barbara was still an aircraft mechanic at the base; instantly, permanently, deeply falling in love. Amanda was only happy for her friend, when she met Barbara she heartily agreed and approved. Laura was quiet at the end of Amanda ' s answer about Lydia , finally asking if there were others as well. Amanda replied that other than Lydia and Miriam, there had only been brief sexual encounters with no real lasting emotion. She then said that she had not known at all of abiding love until Laura walked into her office that first day; after the first night at the cabin she would never love another, that Laura was the love of her life, some part of her felt like she had always been in a place in her and would always be there. Amanda told Laura she had never considered saying those words out loud previously, now they were at her waking each day. She continued that she was so proud of Laura, to be her friend, her teacher, her sister, her lover. She took Laura in her arms, kissing away tears, promising that whatever happened in their lives they would always love each other at least as much as they did that moment. As the sunlight fell behind mountains, they dressed to return to their friends. Amanda dressed in black trousers, a gray silk shirt with black lace beneath, make-up, and perfume. Laura chose leggings, the white on white shirt, her own French lace beneath, make-up, perfume, and wet curls corralled into a braid falling down her back. They grabbed parkas and hurried to join Lydia and Barbara. When they removed their outerwear, Lydia howled with laughter when she saw Amanda as beautiful as she had ever seen. Barbara whistled at both of them. Lydia unbuttoned Amanda ' s shirt just to confirm the woman was wearing lace and satin, then told Laura that in no uncertain terms she was good, probably way too good. Amanda retorted she could never be too good, Laura blushed. The great room was lit by firelight and many candles along with softened electric lamps. The table had been set with fine china, silver, and crystal. Lydia could pretend that she was rough and ready but the tale was told that she liked all the finer things as well. Amanda was offered red wine and Laura choose white wine and club soda, Amanda had already told Lydia by email that Laura did not consume much alcohol although she did like brandy, nudity, and firelight in that order. Their friends joined them for wine in the great room; Barbara excused herself to go grill steaks, grown on their ranch. Lydia returned to the kitchen for last minute preparations, both Amanda and Laura offering to help. Lydia chided them, stating that they were their guests and here to enjoy their lives as lovers without the pretense she fully understood. They were only allowed to thoroughly enjoy themselves for the time there were at the ranch. Laura was overwhelmed that other people understood exactly who they were and what they needed.

All four women dined together and lingered over wine at the table. When Jackson arrived with more wood, he was introduced to Laura and greeted by Amanda. He was a crusty old dear but she smiled when he stared briefly at this gorgeous eighteen- year-old. Mother Moon has surmounted the mountain peaks to shine silver on the ice tips. The entire plain was bathed in enough light to produce shadows with Mother ' s huge girth. Laura stood drinking it in, then joined by Amanda who put an arm around her waist and nuzzled that beautiful neck. Barbara and Lydia watched for a moment from the kitchen, both understanding that Amanda had been gifted with her everlasting love. Neither had seen her soul as unfettered, eyes shining deep with a power never seen before. Amanda and Lydia spoke of the frantic changes from their superiors, both obviously disgusted and prepared to ignore most of the directives with resolve to use their own woman ' s common sense as long as often as they could. There would then be no more talk of their occupations for the remaining weekend hours. Barbara talked of the day to day life at the ranch, of new foals born and expected. Their cattle were kept close to the ranch for the colder months; in the spring she, Jackson, and two other hands drove them farther north to summer ground, rich with prairie wild grasses. The ranch was entirely dependent on reliable aircraft as the closest settlement was three hours by very primitive roads to the south. Laura had noticed hangers close to the landing pad when they arrived earlier that day. Bella found some shelter in one of them for her visit as well. Barbara offered to show their aircraft to Laura the following morning and she was eager to accept. Lydia joined Barbara perching across the arm of the large armchair, just brushing her lover ' s brow with a kiss. Laura knew in an instant that the painting of fiery female figures that had been pushed from her would be a gift to these new friends, that they were the fiery figures, women she already loved and would love for all her days. The flames of their hearth drew Laura quickly to the ancient grandfather who told her they were given to Laura for her journey.

Lydia invited her friends to an Ostermonat feast the following evening, complete with vegetables coaxed to young maturity in their small greenhouse. Because supplies were farther afield, they grew fresh food as they could with large freezers and cold storage to feed those living at the ranch. Their way of life was the norm with those who chose ranching; Laura knew that it would be those skills that would teach peoples to survive in the years to come. She also knew that the ancients were directing the dance for Laura; she had growing understanding with trust as her journey unfolded. Amanda told her friends of their plans to install wind power at the cabin and that they had started to also consider solar power. Barbara and Lydia had no grid to live from and as such had developed a system approved by their Great Mother.

The women chose to retire early for the night, Barbara and Lydia as was their routine, Amanda and Laura as was their need. Lydia asked Laura if she could be persuaded to bake again to show Barbara her skills, Laura blushed with pleasure as she accepted. They agreed on an hour for the breakfast meal, hugs and kisses blessed the friends goodnight. Lydia watched her forever great friend walk arm in arm with the love of her life back to the guest cabin, no doubt for a night of passion; this filled Lydia with joy and a secret gratitude to the ancients. Smiling, Barbara led the love of her life to the loft above for their night of magic.

Amanda and Laura held each other long in the warm bed watching the moon shadows dance across the plains. Amanda mused that she had visited Lydia and Barbara many times over the past years, seeing the moon in the high country but none of those memories held any credence now as she held Laura, feeling the caress of her hair and skin. She was delighted that Laura liked her friends and felt as comfortable as she did with her own real identification as a woman loving women. Laura transported to the ancients and was lost in a dance with the moon shadows to eternal music, it holding her up weightless in joy and love; as moonlight bathed her face Amanda saw the transcended beauty she had not seen until now and tears fell from her eyes. Laura ' s release from the harmonies found Amanda herself being taken into this magic woman ' s soul once again where she wanted to remain powerless forever to the command of the loving dance within.

Laura woke to the sunlight warming the mountain tops and plain. Amanda made coffee, after a shower she climbed back into bed resting her head on silken curls and breast. It was still early. Laura sipped her coffee, telling her lover of the conscious memory she had of what she described as a dream, that of dancing to the most beautiful rhythms she had ever heard. She reluctantly left Amanda ' s arms, showered and dressed in warm clothing as she would visit the hangers with Barbara later on that morning. Amanda had changed the bed linens and placed back the duvet. Both women took mugs of steaming coffee to return to the main house with greetings by their friends before tucking into a real ranch breakfast. Barbara made a second pot of coffee, filled a thermos, and then tossed Laura a pair of coveralls, standard issue apparently at any ranch. They donned parkas, boots, gloves, grabbed a tool box, and drove off to the hangers. When their lovers did not return later in the morning, Lydia and Amanda took a second vehicle to the hangers, not all surprised to find Barbara lost in teaching Laura how to do routine maintenance on helicopter engines. Laura looked up with a grin, face smeared with grease, riotous curls tried up and held with a fine screwdriver. Amanda just shook her head, smiled, stating her suspicion that yet another monster had been created. She was certain that Laura would be snooping around the maintenance hangers when they returned to the base. For now, she was just charmed and happy that her beautiful lover was enjoying life with their friends. All four women returned to the main house, Laura ran to the guest house for a quick shower after her morning adventure. Lydia and Amanda prepared lunch for all four friends to enjoy in front of the fire. Laura then went to the kitchen to set bread dough to rise, teaching both Lydia and Barbara. Once again, Amanda just leaned against the wall and watched this beautiful creature dance her journey in the kitchen. As at the cabin, she set the dough to rise on the hearth and joined Amanda on the couch, smiling as she thought that this was usually the time they got naked in front of the fire. Amanda caught the grin and kissed her, Lydia remarking that perhaps they should get a room. Laura giggled at Amanda's blush. A second pot of coffee found cups; in an hour Laura and her hosts were back in the kitchen, making braided loaves and cinnamon buns for the next breakfast, adding that that would only happen if they hid them from Amanda. With the bread baked, Lydia showed Amanda and Laura their small but efficient greenhouse with lovely green shoots rising for the sun ' s kisses. They harvested vegetables for salad to accompany the roast on the rotisserie at the back. By midafternoon, they had visited the stables and welcomed all the young animals born this early spring. Jackson caught, killed, and cleaned a huge turkey for the next day ' s main meal and subsequent soup. Amanda and Laura were shown the common room of the staff quarters, a huge, comfortable abode. They were greeted by Jackson ' s two daughters who cooked for the hands and helped at the main house from time to time. Upon return from their tour, Amanda and Laura made way to the guest cabin with plans to join their friends for wine before dinner around 1800 hours. Lazy hugs led to the usual urgent passion driven love in the shower and then in front of a fire Jackson had banked early in the afternoon. Lydia remarked that they would dine and then dance for celebration of Ostermonat. Laura chose to wear the skin tight jeans with the wine colored strapless top and matching four inch heels, hair clipped up with a simple diamond clip, diamond pendant and earrings. Amanda grabbed her as she walked by and said that if kept it up they might just be hungry by missing dinner. Laura just grinned with a shrug, telling her lover to show some discipline of which she was surely capable. Amanda dressed in leggings and a silk tunic, her own heels, slight make-up and the silver locket she had been given for Wintersday.

They found Lydia and Barbara snuggled near the hearth and hesitated to interrupt their obvious peace. Lydia glanced up, and then stood up quickly, drawing a breath. Both women were stunning, Laura was every bit of drop dead gorgeous. Amanda pretended to crack a whip, firmly telling her friend to back off, a command of sorts. The room was then filled with gales of laughter. Wine was offered and accepted. Dinner was prepared, soon after their arrival the four friends sat down to an elegant table for the feast of Ostermonat. The friends found seating in front of the fire for coffee and brandy, with the obligatory warning from Barbara that they would be no nudity immediately following such. Laura jokingly glowered at Amanda who returned laughter.

With dinner and clean up completed, the dining table was moved slightly to allow room for dancing. Amanda and Lydia danced elegantly with sure remembrances. Lydia and Barbara loved to dance, very accomplished at intricate steps; it was apparent that this was a part of a certain seduction for this couple as it was for Laura and Amanda. Hours passed with music and laughter; Amanda and Laura bade their friends goodnight to return to a warmed cabin with many pillar candles lit by one of Jackson ' s daughters when they left the main house. The skin tight jeans did not remain on their person for more than a minute after the door was closed; voices of laughter and love rose to Mother Moon shining her blessings on the ranch.

Laura woke before dawn to the sounds of a screaming wind rattling the window panes, crying like a banshee. She sat up quickly, suddenly frightened. Amanda woke at the same time to gather her young lover in her arms for warm reassurance. A northern squall blowing through vented anger in the skies that Laura had not known. Amanda increased the heat in the room and banked the fire. She handed Laura her warm woolen shirt, then found an extra coverlet for the bed until the room warmed. Laura allowed herself to be held as a child frightened by a bad dream as both women drifted back to dozing. Laura awoke next to the smell of coffee and a ringing handset. Amanda spoke briefly, then brought cups of coffee back to bed. Lydia had called to alert her when they wanted to come to the main house as Jackson would take the crawler to their door for transport. Even though a short distance, the journey on foot would be arduous at best. Wet spring snow was driven constantly, glued to the glass. The plain outside was barely visible as if in a fog. Amanda explained that this was a typical spring squall blown in from the north, by nightfall the skies would most likely be clear again. Laura was concerned for the ranch animals stranded out of the barns; Amanda reassured her that they were bred by the Great Mother and stewardship of their owners to withstand the elements. When the room had warmed, Amanda urged Laura to shower so her hair would not be very wet when they stepped outside; both women showered together, loving the warm water and their warm passion. Laura dried her curls from soaking water and braided it in front of the fire. They enjoyed a second cup of coffee, completed their brief morning chores, dressed in warm comfortable clothing. Amanda contacted Lydia and shortly thereafter Jackson had the warm crawler within two or three steps of the doorway to the guest house. He took Laura ' s arm and guided her into the crawler, then did the same for Amanda. The swirls of snow were violently blinding. It only took minutes to arrive at the main house, this time under protection of a doorway overhead port. Barbara greeted them with a grin, welcoming them to the real life of ranching in the elements. There was a roaring fire in the great room with coffee ready for them. Amanda and Laura sat on pillows on a wolf skin rug leaning up against the couch, warmed now by food, the fire, and the company of their friends. Lydia explained to Laura that these storms were common in the spring in the high country, rarely lasting long; it was a part of their cadence of life. Laura offered to make rolls for dinner with no objections. Again, both Lydia and Barbara watched, helping with the preparation with the dough set to rise on the hearth. Amanda continued to lean against the kitchen wall watching; as Laura turned to her from placing the dough to rise she told her it was her turn to get the blanket and winked. Amanda laughed out loud as did their friends; her woman child lover was growing up quickly. Barbara moved the common room furniture slightly and set up a small table and four comfortable chairs for a day of card playing. Laura was still noticing their gestures of love, the looks of tenderness from one to the other. She knew her own, rejoicing to see it in other women. They had the same dance of touches and kisses in their home as did Amanda and Laura in theirs. Laura could be drawn to sadness if she realized that she would not know that life with Amanda for permanence but instead chose to rejoice that they had days when they could fill their hearts and souls.

Jackson stopped long enough for the last of the coffee and the last two of Laura ' s cinnamon buns. He declared that young woman could return any time she wanted. Barbara had mulled some wine warming on the coals to sustain the card tournament. Laura went to the window to look at the storm beyond; Amanda gathered her in her arms to kiss her, long, hard, this time with no care that eyes were on them. Jackson grinned, shrugged, and returned to the barns.

The women settled in to a raucous card game, each strongly competitive and very bright. The cards were decorated by naked women; Laura took to naming them all which brought gales of laughter. There were breaks for baking of rolls, serving soup, braided loaf, another pot of coffee. Laughter rang out, drowning out the nearly spent banshee winds. Laura already loved these women, feeling no pangs of jealousy of the love forever cemented between Lydia and Amanda. She understood that it made Amanda happy; she could want nothing more for her lover.

Late afternoon ended the tournament. The storm had blown itself inside out and dead by the dinner hour. The table was set and a full turkey dinner served to four hungry women. Mulled wine before the fire completed their meal, each woman basking in the company. With ease, Amanda declared that although she loved the company of her friends she loved the company and body of Laura more; as such they would return to the guest cabin with that intent. There were no objections from Barbara or Lydia , suggesting that perhaps they had their own same plans. Jackson had cleared a path to the guest cabin and the friends parted for the night. On entering the cabin, firelight and candle light greeted them as did goblets and brandy. Both showered quickly, in lace and satin drank brandy, and danced, quelling passion until it no longer allowed, giving up the night to the multiverse and to the ancients with cries of love that could hold no competition for the banshees, Lydia watched the cabin lights be extinguished slowly from Barbara ' s arms, again giving her gratitude to the ancients.

Morning found lovers in bedrooms awake, reluctant to leave. Lydia and Barbara understood that the following day their friends would leave to the pretense of a Military base, both understanding those confines personally. Laura and Amanda were oblivious to the earth rotating beyond each other ' s arms. As hunger called them, they reluctantly showered, dressed, with plans to join their friends for breakfast. Laura reminded Amanda that they needed to apologize for the later hour; Amanda knew that her friends would understand, encourage their time alone together. She teased Laura stating that while not youths they shared their own definite passion to which Amanda could personally attest. As they entered the foyer, they found Lydia wrapped in her handsome lover ' s arms, oblivious to the rotation of the planet. Amanda smiled her confirmation to Laura. The women enjoyed a hearty breakfast with plans for a quiet day of conversation and music in front of the fire. The snow had blown drifts impeding another trail ride but there were promises of those to come again in the future. Laura took eyeful after eyeful of her surroundings, soulful after soulful to sustain her, to guide paint and brushes in the weeks to come. They chose to dine early in the evening, retiring shortly afterward. Amanda and Laura needed to leave just after dawn the next day in order to return to their day ' s work at the base. Before leaving for the night, they all agreed to meet at the Carriere base in the sixth month of the New Year to enjoy at least a day together; Amanda and Laura promised a return to the high country.

The lovers packed as much as they could when they returned to the guest cabin in preparation for a very early morning. Their bodies told them that the dance could take long into the night but their minds drove to responsibility of early sleep. They would miss the touches, the kisses, the passion, but they held the love deep within themselves and each other now. Very early morning readying was greeted Barbara's arrival with breakfast. As was their usual habit, the lovers held each other long at the door before departing for the pretense. Lydia helped with baggage and drove them to the waiting Bella. Amanda did a preflight check list before the sun made his appearance on the plain. All four friends embraced warmly. As the sun tipped the snow caps, Bella was airborne flying southwest.

At 0810 hours, Amanda touched down; each woman took luggage to their separate quarters. As they were entering the building, Laura asked if she could help Amanda through the day as she had only to set an examination for the next day for her cadets. Amanda handed her a key to her suite, asking her to unpack her luggage if she had time. As she pressed the key into her lover ' s hand, she told her to keep it. The morning hours were filled with the finalization of the examination to be given on the third weekday as well as catching up on data entry work. She sent a quick email to Frida to tell of the abandoned air base's approximate location. Frida responded quickly that the old base was well known, that her husband Ross was still an employee on paper receiving payment as such, that most of the inventory had been expropriated and moved to a more secure location of their knowing. She also sent greetings from both Thea and Lou with a brief introduction to Declan and Drew, Lou ' s sons. Laura audited her first class in Military tactics, lost in concentration for the ninety minutes. Before her noon meal, Laura swam laps to diffuse longing, and then went to Amanda ' s suite to unpack. The pack was sitting on the floor by the dining table; above it was a crystal vase with one purple iris. There was also an envelope containing an instruction schedule to start at the week after Bealtaine, paid in full, an early birthday greeting. Laura smiled as she had never mentioned the date of the anniversary of her birth, at the end of the first week of the fifth month of the New Year. When she had tidied Amanda ' s quarters and arranged for laundry for both, she returned to her quarters to email Jeannie to inquire of the date of the anniversary of Amanda ' s birth with a quick reply that it was the day of Bealtaine, the last day of the fourth month of the New Year. Laura searched out a ring depicting the ancient fires. She emailed her designer friend for lists of the best jewelers; soon after Laura was ordering a platinum ring with an endless circle of rubies and diamonds. Amanda ' s birthday fell on a first weekend day; Laura emailed Lydia about fetching them to a visit at the ranch for two days to celebrate her lover ' s birth anniversary. Lydia ' s reply was almost instant; she and Barbara would both arrive at 0800 hours on that weekend day. Laura would come to some contrivance about Amanda not working those weekend days.

The next weekdays were spent teaching cadets, auditing classes, taking notes and reading to understand. Laura would not have to prepare papers or write examination but she needed to understand what she was being taught. Much of the technical details had been covered in her university degree but the Military purpose and design was new to her with her brilliant young mind quickly grasping the information. She helped Amanda with data entry as well as arranging with the flight instructors to have planes available to take students for their first of many jumps from the air. She managed to have dinner with Amanda on the fifth weekday, chatting about the progress of their weeks. Amanda told Laura of likely doubling of her class size after the summer break in the seventh month of the New Year. Laura would take that in stride; she learned about teaching with her first class, how to best manage the time. Her students would start jumping with her by the end of the following week. She had pushed them hard physically, knowing it necessary if she was to prepare even more at a time. She smiled at Amanda over after dinner coffee in Amanda ' s suite that she would have to either continue or increase Laura ' s physical conditioning.

The first weekend day devoted itself to chores and delivering laundry for both women. Laura was glad to be able to help with these small chores, thereby freeing up some rest time for her lover. Amanda invited her to dinner in her quarters on the second weekend day, Laura was glad to accept. She emailed Elgin asking for a favor to aid with a surprise for Amanda ' s birth anniversary. She wanted Elgin to email Amanda requesting that she attend a dinner in honor of her parents on that day. Amanda would not want to accept but she would not want to disappoint Laura ' s grandfather. By doing this, Amanda would not plan to work either weekend day. Elgin was happy to be in on this contrivance, adding he would ask that she arrive early in the day to assist him. He asked that Laura hand deliver flowers from Elgin on the morning of the surprise with a note stating how happy he was to be in on the celebration of her special day. Laura laid in late on the second weekend day, then painted with her music driving the fiery female dancers from moon-lit plains. She smiled satisfaction with the finished results. She enjoyed a quiet dinner with Amanda, and then brought her back to see the finished canvas.

The next five weekdays found Laura jumping from aircraft repeatedly, loving each reaction of her students. They had all done very well with more than half the time for practice jumps completed by week ' s end. She audited her classes, made her notes, reading in the evening. She recorded lectures on her computer as it was easier to concentrate on points of initial confusion in the classroom. She managed to do the data entry for Amanda on the third weekend afternoon after her last jump. She met Amanda again for their usual Friday evening dinner date in the staff dining room. She had returned late from swimming laps to ease tensions in her body and reconnect to the rhythm of the ancients. She was famished, tucking into institutional food with gusto which made Amanda smile. She easily forgot that this beauty was not nineteen earth years old with the body of an adolescent. They talked of their activities during the week. Amanda told Laura of an email from Elgin , she would likely have to attend some mind numbingly boring stuffy University party honoring her parents on the first day of the last weekend of the fourth month of the New Year. She loved Elgin , she would attend. She shyly asked if Laura would have time to help her and attend with her. It would likely mean that they would need to stay in the city with return back to base on the second weekend day. Elgin has asked that Amanda try to meet him early in the morning of that first weekend day, no later than 0900 hours. Laura replied she would help, also aiding Amanda in any way she could to clear her work calendar for that weekend as well. Amanda grumbled she was glad these things did not happen often in her parents ' lives, the boredom was overwhelming.

The lovers settled into a busy routine of work at the base. The third week had finished the cadets ' practice jumps and the following ten class days were planned solo jumps with Laura jumping with them and then they would jump solo without the instructor. Laura would be away from base on the fifth weekday of the first week of solo jumps as well as the first day of the second week of solo jumps. She was very sure they would all graduate; she had made it very clear early on that she would not accept otherwise, telling them of the seventy-five year old woman she had taught to jump independently from aircraft. She had three more weeks of lectures to audit with a break in classes before she made a decision to continue with the next semester. She was not certain that she would as she felt she could access what she needed by the base ' s computer system, most likely in greater detail. Laura completed the data entry work easily twice during the week, also continuing with chores on the first weekend day, freeing Amanda ' s time slightly. She invited Amanda for dinner at her suite on the second weekend evening of the third week back from the ranch. She told Amanda that when her students had graduated and her instruction hours were less she would make another trip to visit Elgin ' s home to bring back linens and china to decorate her home. She inquired as to whether Amanda had spoken to Lydia or Jeannie; Amanda replied that she had brief emails from both. Jeannie had mentioned that the snow was melting with warming air but the spring rains were upon them now. Amanda told Laura they would likely have to postpone their trip up the mountainside until their second visit, they would likely be cabin bound for most of their upcoming weekend. Laura grinned wickedly, stating perhaps she could suffer through that endurance. Laura hugged Amanda as she left her suite, soliciting a sigh and a slight groan.

Laura spent five hours a day for the next four weekdays jumping out of moving aircraft, loving every moment. Her students jumped in rain and sun, the Military could not insure balmy days for battle. At the end of the last class for the fourth day, she told them to train hard all weekend as she didn ' t want any soft muscles when she returned on the next second weekday. She completed data entry, audited her lectures with study in the evenings. She packed for the cabin on the fourth weekday evening after asking if she could help to prepare for the flight north the next morning. They planned to arrive at the cabin for a midday meal. Amanda ' s smiling eyes told of anticipated loving for the next days.

Laura piloted Bella north through rain the following morning. She had become an adept pilot, landing Bella easily to be greeted by their friends. Luther excitedly told them that the contractors had delivered materials for the wind towers with expectations to start digging in about two weeks. Jeannie warned that they might be in a bit of mess at their next visit; to expect laborers on the fifth weekday when they arrived and the first weekday when the departed.

The women found a fire in the fireplace, linens on the bed and warming, a full wood box, Teddy and wee Bella waiting for their humans. The base staff had sent a thermos of soup with bread and cheeses for their noon meal. Laura stored food as Amanda made a pot of coffee and unpacked clothing to be warmed by the fire. It was not as cold as the previous months but still cold and damp. As Laura was finishing up preparation for their dinner meal, Amanda folded Laura in her arms and time stopped this time in a somewhat cool kitchen. Laura playfully scolded her lover but responded quickly, urgently leading Amanda quickly to the skin rug in front of the fire. Both women enjoyed each other, then lunch and coffee, then each other, deeming each other incorrigible. Teddy blushed. Both women sank into the luxury of no demands on their time save for each other, spending the afternoon dozing and waking to passion in front of the fire. The longer days allowed dinner before the night was black. The generators had warmed water for washing up and showers; the bed welcomed the lovers early in a rainy night in the fourth month of the New Year.

Laura awoke first in the morning, allowing a tired Amanda sleep. She banked the fire, made a now acceptable pot of coffee with muffins for their breakfast. She gathered her sweet woman in her arms to kiss morning into her. Laura was perched on the bed as Amanda crawled back to the sheets to take in her first cup of coffee. The day was still dull and wet but the room was warm with the enticing smells of fresh muffins and almost baked bread coaxing both women to the fire and a second cup of coffee. Laura retrieved the loaves from the oven, then served muffins and fruit to her lover. She was overwhelmed by how much she loved this woman, just when she thought she had reached the full of her soul, another door opened and flooded forth with feelings she had never imagined. She was beautiful in her morning waking, quiet, gentle, soft. She was so in contrast to the woman who wore the uniform bore the command. Amanda smiled at her young lover whose eyes glistened with tears of joy. They were both out in uncharted waters now, both being guided by love and the ancients.

Laura kissed Amanda with a request for a decent pot of coffee while Laura finished the morning chores. Both women filled the wood box for the day, choosing to keep the space heaters to ward off the dampness of the day. With the morning routines done, both women took their corners of the sofa to enjoy the quiet solitude. Laura joined her sketch pad to spend her morning hours drawing her lover as Amanda finished the beading on her serape, each drawn to the place within themselves that led to the other. A gentle rain shrouded the cabin that day, pushing cold from the ground in preparation for the riot of new growth that the Great Mother always promised. Jeannie stopped by with fresh fish for their dinner with a quick visit, stating that she was just plain lonesome. The lovers were always glad of her company. Amanda said that if she could arrange it they would be at the cabin for a week at the beginning of the seventh month of the New Year, the time when the graduating cadets were leaving and before the arrival of new cadets, more now at the insistence of the rulers. They spoke of their visit with Lydia and Barbara as well as the promise of a future visit. Laura told Jeannie how well her cadets had done, of her upcoming lessons for Search and Rescue. Jeannie declined the offer of coffee, stating that she did not want to interrupt any more of their time alone, then hugging them both goodbye.

After Jeannie ' s departure, Laura warmed soup for lunch and then with total loss of control warmed her lover. Amanda laughed out loud at the absolute debauchery that possessed this young woman which Laura never denied. Later afternoon found a canasta game being played in front of the fire, with careful supervision by Teddy. When hunger bade, Amanda prepared dinner with the fish Jeannie had gifted them. Night routines were easily completed, both women eager to join the other for showers and another night of being lost in each other. If the bear had not been insanely happy for her humans, she would have been embarrassed.

The second weekend day continued with rain warming the earth. The canasta game continued; the lovers laughed, bantering loving insults back and forth, whiling the afternoon hours. They needed to leave early the next day as Amanda wanted to be back to base by mid-day. Dinner was early and the night routines followed. Night claimed love again and the lovers found sleep easily.

They awoke early on the day to return to the base. The closing up was part of an automatic dance now for the lovers, again with the lingering embrace before locking the door. Laura ran the preflight check list as Amanda spoke with Jeannie. Before becoming airborne, Amanda kissed her pilot full and long on the mouth; Harry had eyes as large as any had ever seen them.

Once back at the base, the weekly routines took control. Laura would continue supervising her cadets. On Friday evening, she dined with Amanda and stated that she was going to drive into the city again the following day to retrieve some more of her personal items still stored with her grandfather, finishing her chores when she returned. Amanda whined again about having to work extra hours over this coming weekend and during the next weekdays in order to assist with Elgin ' s party for her parents, stating the only saving point was that she would be able to be alone with her lover albeit briefly.

Laura was in the city by 1000 hours on the first weekend day, visiting her designer and choosing attire for Amanda ' s birth anniversary party with Lydia . She also purchased more casual clothes, several more bathing suits, and some lingerie for Amanda that bordered on brazen. She stopped to see her grandfather, retrieving more linens, artwork, and clothing. She reminded herself that she would need to order china and lace when she returned to the base. She purchased more art supplies, then returned to the base by midafternoon, spending the next hours unpacking and hanging artwork. She swam laps after a light evening meal to quell desire and sleep found her early. She stopped by to see Amanda, agreeing to meet for a quiet dinner in the staff dining room.

The following weekdays were filled with cadet examination and Laura ' s great satisfaction that all successfully completed their sky diving education. Colonel Bennett sent letters of commendation to all and to their instructor. Laura ' s data entry work was kept current and lectures were audited. She spoke with Lydia and Barbara by email to confirm their arrival at 0800 hours on the first weekend day. Laura had purchased a case of champagne when she was in the city on the last weekend for their celebration. Amanda did manage to get all the necessary work completed so as to take the weekend days off. She and Laura swam laps together after an early dinner on the fifth weekday evening. While Amanda had worked during the day, Laura packed a bag for her to take to the ranch. Amanda had stated that she would wear casual clothes and take a uniform to wear at Elgin ' s party. Flowers had arrived late in the day to deliver with a congratulatory letter by Elgin .

Chapter 10

Amanda was ready when Laura joined her at her suite at 0745 hours. Amanda saw a helicopter landing but only was briefly curious as she was still whining about having to drive to the city for the weekend. Laura excused herself to return to her apartment for Elgin ' s flowers, then waited to greet Lydia and Barbara. Lydia marched to Amanda ' s door and knocked loudly with a command to attention. Amanda quickly opened the door to wide smiles from her friends and her lover. She accepted the bouquet from Elgin , laughing at the note. The packed uniform was left behind; all four women loaded luggage, flowers, and champagne into Lydia ' s helicopter, airborne by 0830 hours. As soon as out of eyesight of the ground crew, Amanda leaned to kiss Laura repeatedly, smiling through tears once more. Lydia ' s craft was on the landing pad by 0950 hours, the luggage stored and coffee made by 1015. Amanda kept laughing out loud every time she thought of how well she had been surprised. The women took a light lunch on a trail ride at midday and then returned to rest in preparation for a dinner celebration for Amanda ' s birth anniversary. When Amanda and Laura returned to the guest cabin, passion claimed them as it always did after which Laura gave Amanda her gift. Opening and first sight found Amanda speechless. Laura took her hand and slipped a platinum ring with continuous circle of diamonds and rubies on her Amanda ' s fourth left finger, explaining that it symbolized the fires of Bealtaine, of passion, of love, of commitment. Amanda stared at her hand, then at her lover, still verbally speechless, but her heart and soul spoke volumes through tears. When words finally came, Amanda thanked Laura for the gift and for her presence in her life, stating that she finally knew feeling alive. Laura would have stayed in Amanda ' s arms for days but knew that they needed to dress for dinner. Amanda giggled when she saw the clothing Laura had packed for her including lingerie with no real structural purpose whatsoever. Laura escaped to the bathroom to dress and emerged in a very short, backless silver dress, hair upswept, make up applied, minimal jewelry, six inch clear heels. Again Amanda stared, shaking her head. As Amanda and Laura approached the main house they heard music with the sound of women ' s voices. Amanda entered the foyer to shouts of greeting from friends she had not seen for years, women she knew with Lydia . She was very happily overwhelmed see everyone. Laura stayed back near the door for a few minutes, then Lydia spotted her and howled which, of course, silenced the crowd of their friends. Amanda turned and held her hand out to Laura who stepped forward to take breaths away from the other women. Amanda kissed her, introducing this lovely creature as her partner, the one she loved, the one to whom she had been promised since before her birth. Laura smiled, looking into her lover ' s eyes, for that moment oblivious to the world around them. Amanda held out her left hand to show her new ring, one of eternal homage to the fires of Bealtaine, the day of her birth. Lydia wanted to find a smart remark but simply hugged her friend, her sister, with tears in her eyes. Barbara brought champagne for everyone. The dining table had been transformed to a buffet with contributions from everyone. Jackson shyly left a gift for Amanda in the kitchen, a hand carved soap stone foal to act as a paper weight for her desk. She hugged him, managing to get a smile and a blush from her crusty, dear old friend; he stared at Laura for a few moments which Amanda allowed with pride. The great room furniture had been moved to allow room for dancing and seating to eat. When the music started, many wanted to initially ask Amanda to dance for her birthday but saw that she was gathered in Laura ' s arms for a very intimate rumba with applause at the end, leading both lovers to laugh. All of Amanda ' s friends had greeted Laura, chatting with her throughout the evening, forgetting mentally at least that this was a woman just beyond childhood. At 2300 hours, Jackson and other hands lit fireworks seen from the great room windows. The party then found the women tiring, ready to retire for the night. There were spare rooms in the staff house which housed the guests other than Amanda and Laura. Plans were made to meet in mid-morning to dine together before all had to leave for home. Lydia said the hour would be a bit later to accommodate her aging friend who would, at least she hoped, be kept awake for hours. A kiss full on Lydia ' s lips was Amanda ' s response, verbally stating that age just meant that she could handle the good life, causing Laura to shake her head.

Indeed the pink light of dawn was touching the snow caps when Laura finally let her lover ' s body acquiesce to sleep. They awoke to sun full on the plain, showered quickly, dressed in clothing appropriate to return to the base after their breakfast meal, and took their baggage to the main house. Laura had arranged for a vehicle to take Amanda for a quiet dinner off the base later in the day, again a surprise. Amanda glowed as she looked at her ring and her lover, youth rather than age claiming her on the day following the anniversary of her birth. Their friends ate and bade them goodbye, Jackson transported them to the landing pad and airstrip for flights to their homes. Lydia and Barbara accompanied Laura and Amanda back to the base, Lydia planned to return to Carriere on the second weekday. Laura thanked her friends for their help in the weekend surprise with the reply that it was more fun than they had experienced in a while. By early afternoon Amanda and Laura were back at the base with strict instructions to Amanda that no more work would be done until the morning of the first weekday. When Amanda asked if she needed to dress for their dinner date, Laura smiled, stating that jeans and a T-shirt would suffice. Laura drove this time to outskirts of the city to a bowling alley with a diner. She and Amanda howled with laughter as neither bowled very well but they enjoyed good honest diner food with good honest fun. Amanda invited Laura to her suite for a few minutes when they returned, holding and kissing her lover. She thanked her for her best birth anniversary, thanked her for finding her.

Laura started her next set of flight instructions on the third weekday. She was excited to have daily instructions with Amanda and the opportunity to fly bigger more powerful helicopters. Amanda expected her to complete the necessary preparatory reading. She had ten more cadets to train starting the first week day of the following week with a pared down, more efficient curriculum. Her next class of students was expected to complete independent study as well as classroom and physical training. Laura was able to do chores, catch up any data entry as well as copy files from the base. She met with the flight instructors on the second weekday to coordinate physical training for the new skydiving cadets. Amanda left a message to meet her on the tarmac at 1400 hours on the third weekday. She retrieved her flight suits once again; at 1350 hours the following day she met her instructor completing the preflight check list for flying the Peregrine Amanda was soberly intent on her role as instructor. There were fewer hours in which to complete details about flying this craft. Laura memorized the instrument panels, the engineering, capacity, fuel requirements, etc. This craft was at least one and one-half times the size of the largest heaviest craft she had flown to date. The first day was the only day that she would function as copilot as Amanda easily took off, flew a mock mission, and returned to the base effortlessly. They agreed to meet again at the same time the following day, Laura was told to prepare herself to pilot. The late afternoons were warm enough once again to allow for an evening run and after dropping off a flight suit to be laundered she ran until exhausted. She did not study that evening but fell to sleep early. The following two days were filled with flight instruction, auditing a class, and preparing for new cadets the following week. She received flowers from Elgin on the fifth weekday, only then remembering it was the anniversary of her own birth. She reached nineteen earth years. She met Amanda in the staff dining room for their usual fifth weekday dinner. Amanda did know it was her birthday but did not mention it, Laura felt no slight. They chatted about plans to return to the cabin the following fifth weekday with Laura arranging her class schedule for the new trainees. The first weekend day found routine chores, data entry and Laura was preparation of another canvas. Laura planned to take a smaller easel to the cabin along with a few canvasses and paint. As the weather warmed she wanted to sit on the deck to be inspired by her senses. She returned to the city on the second weekend day for more art supplies along with her remaining clothing and effects still stored at her grandfather ' s home. Amanda continued to work all day on the first weekend day and part of the second weekend day while Laura visited Elgin . When Laura returned, they dined together in Amanda ' s suite with the surprise of Amanda successfully scheduling one full week and two four day weekends away in the seventh month of the New Year, time to be spent at the cabin.

On the next first weekday, Laura greeted new next group of cadets in skydiving training. She had set a busy curriculum for them, making it very clear that they had seven weeks in order to be fully able to jump from moving aircraft. The four weekday afternoons were spent with two hour Search and Rescue flights including landing on bodies of water and hovering over capsized vessels in the large inland lake close by. Laura ran, swam laps, weight trained each evening and completed the necessary data entry for Amanda. In the evening of the fourth weekday, she met Amanda for dinner in the staff dining room and arranged to meet her on the tarmac at 0900 hours the following morning. Jeannie had emailed to let them know the workers were in full force now but that the wind towers were erected and functional although still not fitted with equipment to store energy as of yet.

Laura flew Bella to the cabin, laughing at the ease of her handling in comparison to the larger craft she had been flying every day. Amanda replied that getting to the air every day was better than any rest she could try to achieve on land, her lover completely understood. She also told Laura that she was doing exceptionally well; she would to write her examination and do a solo test flight by end of the next third week. Jeannie met them as Laura landed Bella with ease. She told her friends, with a giggle, that Harry talked almost nonstop for two days after they left the last time, about that kiss he saw, stating he was shocked, just plain shocked. Jeannie told her friends that she had sat the old dear down to explain what she could about he needed to know and that put his mind at ease somewhat although the mechanics of such an exercise still escaped him. Laura and Amanda grinned. As they drove to the cabin, wind towers were rising up from behind the cabin, happily less obtrusive than either woman had imagined. The foreman met them, explaining that within the next ten days they would have the capability to generate electricity and store such in batteries. Both women toured the tower sites with review of the physical requirements and maintenance of the towers. Luther showed great interest with instruction on how to stop the turbines when not needed as well as to store for when it was needed. The foreman expected they would not want the turbines when they were there, that they were loud with interruption of a peaceful stay. The work crew left as did the foreman; when the women entered the cabin, there was a small fire blazing and vases full of deep purple irises. Teddy proudly sat in her armchair holding fast to birthday balloons. Amanda made coffee and Laura stored food. As was the norm now it seemed, the food and coffee waited while Teddy blushed and love stopped time. When reoriented to reality, the lovers ate, drank coffee, and cuddled on the sofa before a small fire. The air was certainly warmer now but the fire was not imposing and simply comforting. Amanda told Laura that she had a surprise for the next day, they would take Bella into Carriere to dine outside of the town up the mountainside in a lovely quaint inn; she already asked Lydia for the loan of a vehicle in preparation. Laura could coerce no further information from Amanda, even using seduction as she knew it. She knew in her forever place that she would never tire of holding this beautiful woman with whom she would walk always. With bread for the weekend baking in the oven, Laura unpacked the easel she had chosen to live permanently at the cabin along with canvasses and supplies. Amanda was delighted that Laura would paint at the cabin now, selfishly as she could watch the stories within make their way to the permanence. Each woman found their muse; time took them quietly peacefully to the dinner hour. When the sun tipped his head below the ocean ' s arm, the air had cooled; the lovers brought in wood for the night and banked the fire. The night routines were now like a familiar dance, one anticipated and enjoyed. Generators warmed water for showers, skin found caressing of lips and water drops to be followed by dancing in satin in the firelight. Laura talked of how she loved how they danced, loving also to see Lydia and Barbara dance as if they bodies knew the same core rhythms of women in love. Amanda smiled, kissed her lover ' s eyes, whispering that all women had those core rhythms, cycles drawing in and giving out, the essence of being female, the part that Amanda loved most. She explained it was the route to her eternal strength. She had not known of that until a special sweet woman came to her life, took her soul to walk with her deeper within herself. A smiling ancient grandfather floated in Laura for a moment causing warm smiles. The fire was quickly attended. Neither woman knew that night when dancing stopped and passion started but when night chose dawn a trail of satin led to the bed. Amanda woke with early morning sun streaming into the cabin. She made coffee and took a warm Teddy back to bed with Laura. She gently eased herself between the sheets to drink her coffee as Laura slowly found the place between sleep and waking. Every morning together, when those beautiful hazel eyes found hers, Amanda had to force a breath. Laura was more beautiful with each day, as the young girl changed to the woman with the magic she cast out to the world. Amanda told Laura that they would be meeting someone, a stranger, with no other information was given. The dining room was not formal but did not welcome jeans. A second pot of coffee was consumed in front of the fire and the morning routine danced. Laura took a cup of coffee to the deck to watch her beloved ocean with the newborn waves. There was a calmer stead, a happier mood as the winds did not torture now. Laura showered and dressed in linen trousers, shirt, boots, minimal makeup, minimal jewelry, and her serape. Amanda emerged from the bathroom in a calf length skirt, cotton lace shirt, boots, and a blazer. Other than her military dress uniform, Laura had not seen her in a skirt and clapped her delight. Amanda smiled her thanks. The women arrived at the landing pad to greet Jeannie and a somewhat uncomfortable, shy Harry. Amanda hugged him, asking that he be happy for his old friend, for she was more in love than she ever known as Laura was the love of her life; he replied with a grin. On arrival at the base, Amanda drove to the offices of Samantha Morgan, architect. Laura was intensely curious as Samantha retrieved plans to show them, those for enlarging the bathroom, kitchen, pantry, and building a bedroom onto the cabin. The post and beam integrity would not be breached with the main living space remaining the same. The kitchen could be enlarged to the back as well as the bathroom in the same orientation, the back wall could be opened up, a bedroom with small bathroom with shower could be added with losing little space for wood storage. Both women liked the plans very much; Laura chose to defer to her lover's decision. However, Amanda sensed some unsettling thoughts and asked if they could have some few minutes to discuss the changes. When alone, Laura said that she loved the idea of expanding the bathroom, kitchen and pantry but she loved the bed in front of the fire. Amanda reassured her lover that the bed would remain in front of the fire but a second bedroom meant that Lydia and Barbara could join them for overnight visits when they were at the cabin. Laura loved the plans with her full agreement. She asked if Amanda wanted financial help with the construction. Amanda replied that she was a wealthy woman with no need for any assistance; she loved the woman for the offer. Amanda called Samantha back to the office and they agreed to the plans, with the possible addition of solar panels. The architect agreed to hire contractors and supervise construction. She was hopeful that it could be completed by end of the tenth month of the New Year. Amanda and Laura walked to a small shop for a light lunch, excited about the plans. Amanda took out a notebook from a small case to start organizing lists; Laura smiled as she realized that if her Colonel could command an air base, she could run an addition to the home she loved. The newly enlarged main bathroom would have electric lights to be used as necessary, a large bathtub for soaking, and a shower big enough for any imagined antics. Laura asked when she had first thought of the plans to enlarge the cabin, Amanda replied she had thought of it occasionally over the years but when Laura visited loved Lydia and Barbara at the Ostermonat weekend she knew she wanted to extend an invitation to their home. Laura was given full reign for organizing the kitchen that was quickly becoming her territory. They both trusted Samantha, knowing she would design the space they wanted. Amanda hinted that if there were paintings to come forth they could be hung at the cabin as they both knew this was their true home. As it was still only midafternoon, the lovers strolled and window shopped in Carriere. Laura spoke of the designer she used almost exclusively, explaining that helped to dress Amanda as well. Amanda freely admitted that she had hidden in uniforms for years with had a wardrobe of jeans and sweaters for the cabin. She blushed that when she first saw Laura in that incredible pencil skirt and four inch heels she realized she needed to have a metamorphosis quickly if the beauty was to be hers, then realized she had no idea how. Laura realized that early on in their friendship with much pleasure choosing clothes for her lover. They strolled along watching people when suddenly Laura stopped, faced Amanda, taking her hands. She was suddenly concerned that with the increased electric power and greater space that Amanda would bring work to the cabin. Laura sternly stated that she did not want to but could share her lover with the world for the time at the base; she could not at the cabin. Amanda hugged her gently, telling that she would never have her work at the cabin; the cabin was for their time together without the outside world. Laura smiled her relief as they strolled once more. They looked in toy shop windows but Laura stated none could compare to her treasures at the cabin. As the sun started to tip goodnight, they walked back to the vehicle to drive up the mountain road to the little inn. Laura was completely charmed with this large old home, perfectly preserved with gardens showing spring flowers. When the women went inside and their eyes adjusted to the dimmed light, Laura saw vases holding purple irises on every table and across the bar. She was beaming as they were led to the rear of the room to a table facing the fireplace. Laura turned to see Lydia and Barbara walking towards her smiling broadly. She ran to hug them, then turned with tears in her eyes to kiss Amanda, not caring if the wait staff noticed or not. Flutes of champagne arrived for a toast to Laura ' s birth anniversary. Just as they were about to partake, a soft hug found Laura who turned to see Jeannie and a very handsome Harry dressed in a suit and immediately behind them Mary and an equally handsome Luther in his suit. She just smiled as tears rolled down her very beautiful glowing cheeks. Jeannie told her friends to imbibe if they chose, that she would fly Bella home if needed. Laura thanked her but said she rarely drank alcohol to which Lydia quipped except brandy, nudity, and firelight in that order. Laura had a delightful blush, almost as great as Harry ' s. Amanda had paid the inn to close for the evening allowing their private dining. The food was delicious; the lovers excitedly told of the plans to put an extension onto the cabin. Harry still fished and had a small engine repair business but Luther only worked seasonally; Amanda asked if she could hire him as her full time caretaker as she knew he had already learned about the wind towers. She added that Harry, Jeannie, and Mary would also remain in her employ if they chose. Luther was momentarily stunned, then beamed, stating he would accept the offer and would be pleased to take good care of their home. The others applauded and all agreed to keep the roles they had known for years. As coffee was being served, Amanda reached into her case to pullout a small packed wrapped in silver and tied with bow. She handed it to Laura who protested that the flying lessons were her gift. When she opened the tiny package she wept. Amanda took her left hand, placing a platinum ring encircled with rubies and diamonds on the ring finger, covering it with her own. Time stopped as the ancients found both their souls and blessed them; Amanda tenderly kissed her lover ' s lips, with not a dry eye in the place, including Luther, Harry, and the wait staff. Harry drove Amanda and Laura back to the Carriere base where Laura prepared to fly Bella back to the cabin. She hugged Lydia and Barbara with thanks for a wonderful surprise. She knew they would now be able spend many days together. Amanda hugged Barbara, then kissed Lydia full on the lips which did nothing to alleviate Harry ' s confusion. Barbara flew Jeannie, Mary, and Luther home before returning to the Carriere base. Laura did a preflight check and in short order Bella touched down. Shortly thereafter they kissed their friends goodnight with thanks to Luther again for accepting his new role. Mother Moon guided the lovers home and to each other ' s arms in the cool night of the fifth month of the New Year.

The remaining time at the cabin was filled with love, muses, and the dance of routines. Laura was lost with a story pushing forth to the canvas; when Amanda looked up from her yarn she was enchanted by the trance where her lover had travelled. Laura slipped back to reality when the sunlight caught the diamonds and rubies on her left hand, each journey back led to tenderness with Amanda. They arrived back at the base by early afternoon on the first weekday to the routine of their lives. Laura audited one more week of lectures as she could although she had retained much of what she needed already and knew how to garner additional information as she needed. She was a taskmistress with her cadets, pushing them to the excellence she expected and they would require. She had four days of flight instructions with Amanda, including rough water landing and take-off. Her work to help Amanda was completed as usual and chores and laundry details completed on the first weekend day. Samantha emailed more details about the contractor, initiation of the renovations with early questions about specific details they would want for the interior of the rooms. Over dinner on the first weekend evening, Amanda told Laura that she had confirmed with Samantha that the work would not start until after their extended week away in the seventh month of the new year she guaranteed completion by the end of the tenth month of the year. Solar panels were possible, easily installed to face south, unobtrusive to views. Laura confessed that she had looked at kitchen equipment already; both women were excited that they would have the home they wanted.

The following weekdays were filled with physical training for the cadets and flight training, more rigorous now. Two senior cadets and their instructor agreed to fly with Laura and Amanda on the last two weekdays to practice release to the water, rescue of injured persons in the water, then retrieval of all back to the Peregrine. Laura did not notice Amanda barking orders, she simply heard instruction. Laura spent her weekend days with chores, data entry, readying the next week ' s instruction of the cadets, running, weight lifting, and sleeping as much as she could. Amanda had been working later in the evenings and had her dinner delivered to her office on several days. Laura did invite her for homemade pizza on the second weekday evening to enjoy her company. It was incongruous that they lived in the same building, on the same floor, doors down the hall from the other, yet they had spent six earth days without seeing each other or speaking a word. Laura decided in herself that it was in preparation for the time when she would walk out of Amanda ' s life, when she would only journey with her memories.

Laura ' s students progressed through their instruction and Laura progressed through hers. She finished instructions with Amanda on the fifth weekday. If successful in written testing, the base senior flight instructor and senior medic would conduct her in air solo examination. She did manage to meet Amanda for dinner in the staff dining room on the fifth weekday evening. They chatted about their week and made plans to go back to the cabin the following weekend. Laura talked about the progress of her students; Amanda was delighted to see how much her young lover enjoyed the instruction with the physical activity it involved. They decided to defer the trip up the mountainside until the extended week away that was coming up in the seventh month of the New Year, when most cadets would either graduate, return home, or go on to more military training. Laura studied extensively over the weekend, taking time only for chores and data entry. Her exam was scheduled for 0900 hours on the first weekday of the following week and by midday she was in the air once again jumping with her students. The senior flight instructor met her on the tarmac at the end of the second weekday ' s jumping lessons as she was packing her parachute, grinning as he handed her perfect examination scores. She would be tested in the Peregrine the following day at sunset with a mock Search and Rescue drill involving other pilots and helicopters. She thanked him, returned to her quarters before swimming laps and then running to focus her mind, drawing down to the ancients once more to ask for continued guidance. She jumped for the morning hours with her students and then returned to her quarters to rest and prepare for her sunset flight. She did not know that Amanda would be in one of the other helicopters, watching, secretly cheering her on in this difficult examination. At 1830 hours, she completed a preflight test as she always did and piloted the Peregrine in pattern with four other aircraft to the lake; for the remainder of the examination, she participated in the sequence of events as volunteers were rescued. All passengers were transported back to the base in the darkness of nightfall; Laura then filled her log thanking her examiner and the others who had helped with her testing. She was asked to meet the instructor in the hanger in thirty minutes. She was not certain but thought she saw Amanda climb down from one of the other aircraft in full rescue gear. Thirty minutes later, both the flight instructor and the Colonel offered congratulations, Laura Ravencouer was handed a Search and Rescue pilot ' s license. She returned to her apartment with tears leading to sleep. The fourth weekday was full of instructing cadets and supervising solo jumps, a task never a hardship for their young instructor. Laura managed to complete data entry and pack for the cabin in the fourth weekday evening, after emailing Elgin that she had a SAR license. Amanda left a message that she would meet her on the tarmac at 1000 hours the following morning.

Amanda flew Bella to the coast. They talked of the examination, Amanda offered sincere congratulations. She was a member of a crew in another aircraft as she was too curious to leave the events to the telling secondhand. As Bella landed quietly, her friends met her and offered up more congratulations. A very proud Amanda had emailed the evening previously. Luther asked if he might meet with them at some point over the weekend to discuss the upcoming renovations and the now operational wind towers. They chose to meet late morning the following day and then drove to the cabin. When Laura entered the cabin, there was a huge bouquet of flowers, a card of congratulations from Lydia and Barbara; Teddy proudly sported a brand new flight suit and goggles. Amanda was very proud indeed. The fireplace was prepared for a fire in the evening and newly charged batteries warmed new larger tanks of water. Amanda built an outdoor fire in the pit and started a pot of coffee while Laura put food away. She could almost not stay inside the cabin as the hills and mountains screamed with the green of new growth. Even her ocean seemed to be laughing at the time of the year. The following day would celebrate Midsummer, the day when the sun would hold the final longest dominance of the sky.

Luther purchased comfortable seating for the deck with the necessary nighttime protection against flying bugs that were big enough to carry off small children. As was the usual, love stopped time before lunch or coffee, this time in the warm air of the deck. Amanda quelled Laura ' s concerns that Luther would find them by stating that if he did it would only be once and he would never speak of it to them or anyone else. Laura reluctantly left Amanda to choose cutoff jeans and a loose tunic for the rest of the day. The lovers enjoyed coffee and lunch on the deck, hearing the silence, watching the sun shine jewels on the ocean waves. A fire now blazed in the outdoor pit rather than in the fireplace. Amanda brought a satchel full of wood; the women took turns tending to the pit over the next few days. On one trip, Amanda removed Teddy ' s flight suite to dress her in shorts with a halter top, brining brought her outside to join her humans, taking a comfortable armchair near the fire on the deck. The fresh air and sun caused almost continuous wicked grins on Laura ' s face, time stopped often that afternoon. They dined outdoors and stayed watching the fire until cool air with too many flying and biting creatures drove them inside. The cabin was cool and Amanda set a fire for the night. A shower led to touches and kisses leading to trembles; love took them once again to the multiverse and to the ancients.

Morning routines and a large breakfast settled both on the deck once again. The fire in the pit was banked once again and only smoldering coals remained in the fireplace. Amanda made more coffee in anticipation of Luther ' s meeting with them, both women showered quickly and dressed for the day. At Luther ' s arrival, both women learned how to prepare batteries, to change them to warm water and space heaters. Amanda instructed Luther to arrange for whatever maintenance would be required. They learned that there was much unused capacity; Luther anticipated that most of the energy required in the future would be supplied by the wind. They discussed the upcoming renovations and scheduling of such. Luther was delighted with the inclusion of solar panels, again very eager to learn as much as he could about them. Amanda insisted that they purchase a new overland vehicle suitable for all seasons as Luther ' s old truck was falling apart, she did not want him using that for any work he might do for her. She told him to choose what he anticipated he would need and to have the invoice sent to her. When he found what he thought appropriate, he could then find a second vehicle for Amanda and Laura to use when there, Jeannie and Mary could have the current vehicle for any work they did for the cabin. The women told Luther that they would be arriving back at the cabin in two weeks to stay for eleven days and return to the base in the morning of the twelfth. Luther shyly suggested that perhaps they should purchase a second set of larger batteries so that the women would never have to wait for warm water as they needed, both women readily agreed. They asked for his input about the renovations, Amanda stating that he would be the overseer on site when she was not there. Samantha Morgan was very reputable, assuring both Amanda and Laura that she only employed master craftsmen for her building sites but Amanda still wanted Luther to oversee the entire work. When he happily agreed, she said she would notify Samantha when they returned to the base. Then a somewhat heated discussion ensued about pay rates and schedules. Luther had always worked at service work, initially stating he could not accept the large amount the women offered. Amanda finally told him that it was no longer negotiable, either he took what she wanted to pay him or they would find someone else. Both women stated very sincerely that they were very appreciative, reassured that they now had someone who loved the cabin and land as they did, who they trusted would care for it to the best of his ability. Luther blushed but was obviously very happy. The very last request that both women had was that Luther address them both by their given names. Amanda said she heard Ma ' am way too often and Laura stated she would never be that old to which Amanda gently cuffed the back of her curls; Luther laughed and agreed.

Warm sun and muses found both women for the afternoon. Jeannie dropped by with some fish for their dinner but did not stay. In the late evening twilight, on the night of Midsummer, Laura lit many candles as Amanda set a small fire to warm cool air overnight, love again took them to the night in the sixth month of the New Year.

Lazy lovers greeted the morn not wanting to leave their bed. They chose to take a picnic lunch, this time with a tarp and a blanket, to Spy Rock. Laura laughed as she asked Amanda if they would ever get enough of loving each other to which Amanda expressed her most sincere hope that would never happen. In one year, if anything Laura wanted her lover more as she discovered the magic of Amanda ' s body and her own, surmising rightly so that this was true for her lover as well. She had seen the comfortable desire in Lydia and Barbara, wanting that for years with Amanda but knew it was not to be. It seemed that they had been together forever, Laura knew they had been. Laura chose short shorts with a tiny halter top to tease on their trek to Spy Rock. She giggled to herself that slightly more than one year ago, she cared only about being properly groomed but could have never imagined how delighted she was to dress for a lover. Although less confident so far, Amanda was showing prowess as well at that skill. There was always lace under her uniform shirts how, the sight of which always made Laura smile.

The ocean looked particularly lovely from Spy Rock which was gently caressed by her breezes. The lovers had lunch, speaking of plans for the coming fall and winter at the cabin. Amanda asked shyly if Laura would consider inviting Lydia and Barbara to spend the next Wintersday week with them, from the eve to the new year; also stating that she would be perfectly fine just being alone with her lover. Laura was very excited, stating it would be wonderful to be with their friends but that they should be prepared for some early nights. Amanda replied that their guests might want some early nights of their own. The woman found skin on skin; the warm sun gave blessing to love on Spy Rock.

On the walk back to the cabin, they made some plans for some of the time they would be at the cabin next, in two weeks. They hoped to arrange a day at the mountain lake with both Lydia and Barbara. At the cabin, Amanda dozed in the sun as Laura became lost in her painting. They dined on the deck once more and after showers danced in the moonlight.

They prepared the cabin for their departure in the morning, ready to say goodbye to their friends by midday. They invited their friends to an evening barbeque to which all were happy to accept. The lovers returned to the base by midafternoon and spent the rest of their day organizing the coming weeks. Laura had no work now save for pushing her students to competence. They took the next two days for final supervised practice and then the fourth and fifth day they took a final test from aircraft to landing target. By week ' s end, Laura Ravencouer ' s second class of cadet ' s had graduated from skydiving lessons. Again, Colonel Bennett sent personal letters of congratulation to the cadets and their instructor. Laura completed data entry, also sending updated data about the base to Frida. She travelled to the city on the first weekend day for more supplies for her own apartment and the cabin. She had signed out a vehicle for both weekend days and invited Amanda to dinner off base on the second weekend day. Amanda was happy to have a chance to be away from her office if only for a few hours. Laura left the base early in the day to shop and have lunch with Elgin . She visited her designer friend and purchased summer clothes for both Amanda and herself including a pair of four inch heels for her lover. Her designer friend noticed Laura ' s ring and asked if she had decided to keep it for herself. Laura blushed slightly, telling her friend that Amanda had given it to her, having matched the one she had given to her two weeks prior. Her friend smiled, hugged Laura, and said if it was at all possible she was even more beautiful than she had ever seen. She purchased many canvases and cases of paints and brushes so that some could just stay at the cabin, albeit with Jeannie or Luther in the cold months. She visited with Elgin , treating him to lunch at his favorite haunt. He beamed at his granddaughter and then saw the ring on her finger. She told him the story of Amanda ' s ring and then her matching ring. He knew that their love must be kept quiet on the base and expressed his gratitude that they had a home to return to even it was only once a month. Laura told him of the renovations including the wind and solar power. Laura asked Elgin if he thought that the Bennett ' s knew of their daughter ' s love; Elgin laughed and said that it simply would never occur to either of them. As they departed, he handed Laura a wrapped gift her birthday and one as well for Amanda. She loved the old man, hugging him closely before she drove back to the base. She stopped for cheeseburgers and fries on her way back to the base, storing them in a warming container. She arrived back at the base by midafternoon, unpacked her purchases, repacking them again for the trip to the cabin. She rang Amanda ' s office with an invitation for her weary lover to stop by for dinner. Amanda arrived minutes later, shutting the door taking her lover into her arms. They dined on cheeseburgers and fries, then unwrapped Elgin ' s gifts together. Both had been gifted with photographs of Amanda and Laura taken at the Wintersday ' s soiree, both radiantly in love. Amanda commented on the quality of the photograph, prompting Laura to ask if she liked the art form. Amanda replied she had taken photographs as a young woman but had put the cameras away when she put Miriam away. Laura quietly stated that she hoped one day that she could inspire Amanda to take photographs once again. Amanda mentioned that she had spoken to Lydia about the renovations; they had been invited to spend weekends at the ranch with them at any time and especially when the cabin was occupied with workers running around. Laura asked if Amanda had invited them for Wintersday, Amanda replied that she wished for both of them to do that in person.

Laura did chores and data entry on the second weekend day. Amanda returned to her apartment in early afternoon, napped, and then dressed for her dinner date with her lover, donning a calf length linen skirt, sleeveless tank with sandals, she carried her serape. Laura knocked on her door shortly before 1700 hours, beaming when she saw her lover out of uniform. Laura saw a couple of double takes from officers on their way to the staff dining room confirming her suspicions that nobody knew that Colonel Bennett was indeed a lovely woman. Laura drove to a dining room in a small town nearby where she and her Colonel were shown to a reserved table on the terrace with a vase containing yellow roses and purple irises. The lovers enjoyed a quiet dinner and conversation. Amanda spoke of going to the ranch in the eighth and ninth months of the New Year while the cabin was in turmoil. She shyly asked if Laura thought that perhaps they could spend a day or two skydiving, it had been a long time since Amanda experienced the freedom and had been secretly envious when she thought of Laura jumping often in her work. Laura ' s face lit up. She had supposed that Amanda had been instructed as part of her training but had no idea she liked it. Lydia , Barbara, or both could pilot the plane or helicopter as they chose. They made further plans for the cabin on their return to the base, this time being prepared to show identification outside the uniform but none was solicited. Laura returned the base vehicle to the garage, both women walked back to the staff quarters in the summer evening air. They stopped at Laura ' s door where Amanda sincerely thanked her for a wonderful date.

The next four weekdays were busy. Laura worked on a permanent curriculum for the cadets needing skydiving instruction. She met with the senior flight instructor to ask his opinion and for advice regarding any areas that he felt needed improvement. He could not see any need for improvement, happy that she had consulted him as they would be better able to coordinate flights. When the curriculum was finalized, she submitted it to the Deputy Colonel who acted in the capacity of Dean of Studies. She was summoned to his office the following day, the school was happy to accept her suggested curriculum. Laura then asked for funds to order more books and parachutes as her class size would double when the next semester started again. The Deputy Colonel then teased her slightly that the Military really needed another fine mind such as hers; she graciously declined the offer, stating that she was more of an academic than a soldier with question of recruitment never raised again.

Laura asked Amanda if there was help she could offer for their upcoming time away. Amanda asked her to email Luther regarding supplies needed. She also arranged for a dinner date at the little inn once again with Lydia and Barbara as a surprise for Amanda. She looked forward to the day at the mountain lake with their friends. There was a suitable space to land two helicopters at Bella ' s usual rest. She packed the clothing she had purchased for Amanda as well as herself and giggled when she packed bikinis for both of them, thinking that Harry might just have a lecherous stroke if he happened along. She had supplies and luggage ready on the tarmac when Amanda joined her at 0900 hours on the fifth weekday. There was a large thermos of coffee on board Bella, Laura did the preflight check list, by 0945 Bella was airborne.

Chapter 11

Lydia and Barbara confirmed meeting at the landing pad on the second weekday morning. Amanda was eager to show Barbara the cabin, she had never visited. Bella landed her humans with ease at just midday. Harry, Jeannie, and Mary helped to load the supplies in a brand new overland vehicle. Mary thanked her friends repeatedly for Luther ' s new vehicle and the used one she and Jeannie now as it made a great impact in their lives. Luther was at the cabin as he wanted to have water tanks heated. . Jeannie previously shopped and Luther had already stored those items. The friends agreed on a date for the barbecue, the lovers left for their true home for the next eleven days together. Luther set a fire in the outdoor pit and laid a fire in the fireplace if needed. Large hot water tanks were ready and extra batteries charged. There was now no need to worry about food storage and cooking in inclement weather. The wind turbines were quiet and would stay so except for the times the lovers were away from the cabin. When Amanda drove up to the cabin, she noticed a side parking spot newly created and another new vehicle, larger than theirs. Luther came from the back of the cabin to greet them; both women congratulated him on his choice of vehicles. The grass around the cabin had been groomed, Amanda was delighted. Luther suggested that perhaps for the next spring and summer they could have containers of plants. He had taken the liberty of hanging some plants for this summer although was uncertain how well they would survive the workers. Both women knew they had made the right choice of caretaker; Luther understood this was their home and took pride in keeping it the way he knew they would want. He asked if he could take his old plow and fit it to his new vehicle for the winter months. Amanda told him to just get a new plow that would fit properly as he would use it for access to the cabin as well as his own home as well as that of Jeannie and Harry. A quiet, confident man had emerged from behind the disguise of a poor laborer. He met Samantha when she dropped off working plans to the cabin the week previously; he stated that he was sure they could work well together. Before leaving, he told the women there was fresh fish in the refrigerator for their dinner; he and Mary had a fishing date at dawn that day.

Amanda prepared coffee and Laura prepared lunch but a hunger for each other overtook them. Coffee with lunch was finally consumed, clothing unpacked and stored for the next eleven days. Laura presented Amanda with her new summer clothing and her bikinis. She tried one on immediately, stating that she had not worn a bikini since she was an adolescent. Laura murmured she was breathtaking; it was not long before the bikini was no longer worn. Laura found time to set bread for their weekend and guests. The air was very warm now but the ocean blessed them with constant breezes making the deck and the cabin comfortable. Laura brought her easel out to the deck and perched on a stool as she let a story be told on canvas. Amanda quietly slipped into the cabin and returned a few minutes later without Laura really noticing. When Laura finally did look up, she saw her lover with camera in hand taking photograph after photograph of the woman she loved. It seemed that Amanda had transformed one more time, speaking to her newest muse for the rest of the afternoon. At sunset, Laura opened a fifth of champagne and brought the flutes to the deck. Dinner was prepared, the lovers dined at twilight kissed by ocean breezes. There was no need for a fire in the cabin this night and space heaters could take the damp morning chill if needed. Love found the women in the shower and then on the deck until midnight. As Amanda held her lover and looked up at the galaxies of the multiverse, another closed door in her opened, she wept as Laura kissed her tears.

The following day, Amanda and Laura prepared a portable feast to take to the mountain lake. They planned to meet Lydia and Barbara at mid-morning on the second weekend day and drive directly up the mountain to the lake to return to the cabin for dinner after which their friends planned a return to the base at Carriere. Routines, muses, and sun- blessed love filled the remaining hours of the first weekend day, both women surrendered to sleep early.

Both woke early on the second weekend day morning, excited for the day ahead. After breakfast and morning chores, they prepared what they could for dinner and packed a feast for the mid-day meal. Laura filled two large thermos bottles with hot coffee for their drive among the firs. The wrapped painting for a wall at the ranch waited for their return to the cabin for dinner. They drove to the landing pad, arriving just as Barbara touched down. Within minutes, Amanda was renewing her love of her land as they drove among a forest of huge fir trees. The vistas were breathtaking as they changed directions often on the curving road to the summit. To scholars, this would not be considered a mountain but to the women who were allowed in her presence Mother Earth reigned with her majesty here no matter the definition. Some twenty minutes into the drive, they came to a cleared section and Amanda stopped the vehicle. The women were silent at a breathtaking view of the ocean, now farther in the distance and cloaked on one side with an almost continuous cape of green. Amanda explained that earlier inhabitants cleared the land but then abandoned it. She remarked that she often thought of making a second landing pad here, one that would indeed be very private and only accessible with coordinates. Saying that however, she then remarked that the current arrangement worked very well. They were reluctant to return to the vehicle but Amanda just told them that the vistas would become even more breathtaking. Conversation was minimal as each friend was drawn to the beauty of Amanda ' s mountain. Amanda chose to drive to the summit with return to the lake for their lunch and afternoon. The dense forest had given way to more open land encrusted with rocks. As the vehicle road the last curve and came to a stop, her three passengers were silent, spellbound. She opened her vehicle door, grabbed her camera to shoot photographs of the mountains surrounding and the ocean far below. The air was cool and crisp. Laura simply walked in circles as if to try to assimilate the entire vista all at once. She then joined Amanda with a look of awe on her face, asking why she had never shown her this. Amanda quietly responded that she had to get past a hurdle in herself, that a door had to be opened, that Laura had helped her surpass both. Lydia and Barbara were used to mountain views at the ranch but captivated by the difference of land and the ocean. Lydia took Amanda ' s camera for moments to capture photos of her friends entranced in their love and the majesty of Mother Earth. Conversation remained at a minimum as there were no human words invented yet to speak of impression here. When the high clear air had chilled them, they drove back down from the summit to the lake. Amanda and Laura smiled when they saw that Luther built a wooden table and benches for them along with a safe fire pit with split logs piled for burning. He had stored a pack with coffee pot, coffee and eggs shells on the table. The mid-day had warmed the air and Laura and Amanda set out a feast. They enjoyed delicious food with wonderful friendship blessed again by Mother Earth in her present vista of clear blue-green water with a foreground of huge fir trees against a background of endless mountain peaks. Lydia quietly remarked how glad she was that Amanda had found her camera again and remembered how to use it. After recovering from the stupor of warm sun and too much food, Laura walked to the water ' s edge to test the temperature of the lake water. It was cool but not unbearable; she then removed her outer clothing to reveal a very tiny black bikini. Lydia remarked that she would need to teach her beating heart how to slow down when that gorgeous creature did that; Amanda and Barbara both laughed out loud, once again Amanda barked the command to back off. Laura was in the water and swimming when the others decided to join her. Amanda shyly removed her outer clothing to reveal her own bikini, Lydia grinned remarking that she was just as beautiful as she always was. All three of Laura ' s friends joined her in the clear clean mountain lake, laughing, playing, and swimming to idle away the afternoon hours. Later afternoon found them back on the road back to the cabin, again silent for most of the journey as to not interrupt the vista with words. On arrival at the cabin, Barbara gasped at the beauty of that view with Lydia ' s arm encircling her lover ' s waist. Amanda welcomed her friends with a tour of the cabin, surrounding lands, and keeping of the plans for the expansion and renovations. When they were seated on the deck enjoying a glass of wine waiting for the grill to cook dinner, Laura handed both women the wrapped painting, explaining they might want it for a wall at the ranch. They both grasped when the saw the canvas with fiery female figures dancing against a backdrop of mountain peaks and Mother Moon shining blessings. They immediately inquired about the name of the artist as they both stated that they must find more of the work. Amanda smiled, stating the artist had, in fact, handed them the painting. Barbara simply grinned and shook her head; Lydia stared first at Amanda, then at Laura. They hugged Laura with thank stating they would be happy to purchase any future paintings. Laura reassured them that she would not take money for her paintings; she was pleased they liked what they saw. Amanda told them of the painting that Laura had given her for Candlemas, the next time they visited the base they must see both her painting as well as those hung already in Laura ' s apartment. Over dinner on the deck, Amanda and Laura talked with excitement about the addition and renovations planned for their home. Amanda took Laura ' s hand, then invited Lydia and Barbara to join them at their renovated home for the Wintersday break, from the eve to the New Year celebration. Both their friends just beamed, accepting the invitation with pleasure. Laura did mention, however, that they might be forced to endure some early nights; Barbara quipped with a wicked grin directed at Lydia that she did not imagine that would be a problem. Lydia and Barbara departed for the Carriere base as night fell on the second weekend day. Night chores were brief as were showers, sleep rewarded the lovers after a happy day.

Days filled with love and muses continued at the cabin for the following days. The days were very warm; Laura reveled in being able wear nothing but a bikini for most of the time as she watched the ocean or allowed her stories to guide her paints and brushes. With some distraction, Amanda continued to hundreds of photographs again lost to her muse. Laura invited Amanda on a date for the third weekday, saying no more than she could not wear her bikini or jeans. They needed to fly to Carriere on that day as well for supplies for the barbecue with Jeannie, Harry, Luther, and Mary the following day. Jeannie told Amanda previously that Luther was quite adept with a computer but that he needed to use hers to communicate with Amanda and Laura. As such, the women chose to purchase a portable computer for Luther as they would need to communicate often with him especially during the renovations and addition to the cabin. Both women rose early on the third weekday, wanting time to linger in the morning breezes before encountering the heat built up in the town of Carriere . Laura set out a package for Amanda as she finished her shower. She emerged to a delighted lover, wearing emerald green short skirt, a matching top and her very first pair of four inch heels. She felt and indeed was beautiful. They drove into the town, purchased a computer for Luther and then necessary food and stored it in a cooler. Just before 1700 hours, Laura ushered Amanda back to the vehicle, told her to replace her flat shoes with the ones stating come hither, then drove her love out of the town and up to the tiny inn where they had dined previously. When they entered the dining room this time, each table held vases of yellow roses; the lovers were shown a reserved table on the terrace, soon to be joined by Barbara and a very handsome Lydia now in uniform. Amanda was delighted with her date and the friends parted company at the air base just before 2100 hours. Laura flew Bella back to her home pad, the lovers returned to their cabin. They planned a short lunch trip to Eaglesdown before their return to their own base but otherwise they would choose not to leave their beloved home again for their time away.

The women and their friends enjoyed a huge barbecue feast with great company. Luther was again overwhelmed initially with the generosity of his employers as they gave him his new computer, stating that it would be a necessity for communication. Amanda took many photographs of the evening festivities; Jeannie beamed when she saw the camera in her dear friend ' s hands once again. At dinner ' s end, Harry and Luther replaced batteries for power while Jeannie and Mary insisted on after dinner chores. When alone once again, passion found the women

The fifth weekday greeted the lovers with a soft, gentle, steady rain, inviting sleep, then passion late into the morning. Amanda set a small fire in the fireplace to make coffee and to take the dampness from the air. Amanda renewed her friendship with her needles and yarn, Laura sat with her toys and then with her easel. They agreed on plans to visit the ranch on their next four day break in the eighth month of the New Year, with future visit to the cabin if the renovations allowed, otherwise a return to the ranch for the four day break in the ninth month of the New Year. Dinner night routines were danced; Laura suggested that Amanda shower to then meet her at the fire, again with her famous wicked grin. Laura then took over the shower, then presenting dressed in her black suit, white shirt with the lace trim, hair in a demure chignon held with a pearl clip, and those wonderful four inch heels. Amanda laughed out loud as Laura mentioned they should celebrate the one year anniversary of their meeting; inviting Amanda to undress her for real instead of just with her eyes. Amanda did just that, love led them long into the night of soft rains with blessings from the multiverse and the ancients.

The first weekend day was bright with cleaned air. The lovers drove to Eaglesdown, taking lunch to the wharf to watch the ocean and the busy activity of the workers during fishing season. They browsed at the general store, purchasing heavy socks, shirts, fleece sweaters and slickers to keep at the cabin. After excitedly telling their friends about their addition and renovations at the cabin, Mrs. Smithers left returned with a huge hand-made quilt to give to Amanda, stating it was a housewarming gift for their new bedroom. It was beautiful and intricately stitched. Amanda had tears in her eyes as she hugged her friend, both their partners beamed. They told their friends they would not return until the tenth month of the New Year but would try hard to visit them at that time.

Luther had set a fire in the pit for their arrival and brought more wood to bank it. The ocean had finished her story directed to the canvas and Laura stood back to read it over and over. Amanda had been careful not to look at the evolution of the story as she really only wanted to see it at its ending. Amanda asked if they could hang it near the windows overlooking the subject matter, Laura agreed but after the renovations. They spent some time making lists of items to ask Luther, Harry, Jeannie, and Mary to pack up as protection with the upcoming work.

For their last full day at the cabin, Laura arose early, packed a huge picnic lunch to take with them to the summit and also included the tarp and a blanket. She took her sketch pad to aid her eye ' s memories as she was certain there were stories to put on canvas. Amanda filled a thermos with hot coffee, by mid-morning they are driving among the fir trees and past the lake. When they arrived, silence overtook them once more; Mother ' s majesty drowned out any human effort of praise. Laura sat on the tailgate of the vehicle, lost in sketching while Amanda photographed the beauty of their surroundings. Amanda suddenly Laura's grabbed her hand to show her a raven soaring below. Laura smiled as she connected to the grandfather, then to Tom. She whispered to Amanda that the bird was the spirit of her father; Amanda stood in awe. She knew day by day and event by event that this beautiful woman was more than mere mortal; she was indeed a holy one. As paint colors could not replicate Mother ' s, a camera could not replicate the vision of the ancients she saw on her lover ' s face. They ate their lunch, taking in eyefuls and filled souls of the beauty of Amanda ' s mountain. When the air chilled chill them with the sun hiding behind clouds, they returned to the cabin, spending the rest of their day packing items for storage and preparations to return to the base early the next day.

Luther arrived just as the women were preparing to lock the cabin; he discretely busied himself for a few minutes to allow for the final routine kiss at the threshold. Amanda told him of the items they had packed and to use his discretion about. Luther expected the workers later on in the week to start preliminary work for the addition. Amanda readied Bella for flight and flew back to the air base to resume the routine of their lives lived separately.

Laura downloaded hundreds of Amanda's photographs onto flash drives for retrieval when needed. Laura then prepared for the arrival of new cadets. Her class size would double but her curriculum had been written to accommodate the increased numbers. She asked the senior flight instructor if it was possible for her to fly Search and Rescue drills as part of training for his cadets; he was happy to have a volunteer rather than having to command other instructors to do so. They needed the permission of the Colonel who was not likely to object. She arranged to meet Amanda for dinner in the staff dining room on the day of their return to the base, after which she wrote a long email to her mother ' s friend Lou as she had now understood she must establish her own relationship with this woman who was instrumental to leading the Resistance in the cities. Over dinner, Amanda had told her of the escalating violence in the cities now, inner communities and populated water front properties destroyed. She said that she had been notified that the unrest was escalating even more so in the Northeastern City . Again, there was a quiet and almost deadly rage within this woman as she spoke of the rulers ' complete obsession with taking rights away from people who only wanted to live their lives to survive. The University and elite neighborhoods were still safe but Amanda felt it was only a matter of time before they too became threatened. She warned Laura about travel now alone to the city, asking that she take a guard to accompany here in the future. Laura did not like the idea but she agreed to reassure the woman she loved.

Laura completed the data entry work during the week with repeated chores on the first weekend day. She searched for items for the cabin on the second weekend day, swam laps, ran to decrease longing, painted, and fed Amanda homemade pizza for dinner on the second weekend day. The following week was filled with the return of cadets with orientation of new cadets, many more now than previously. The Military had sent new flight instructors for senior cadets as they prepared to go on to basic field training on their graduation. Laura knew she would teach cadets who potentially could harm those who she would eventually protect but this was the plan of the ancients and she would not veer from that. She received noticed that the Colonel had approved her proposal to help with Search and Rescue training missions. Laura arranged to visit her classroom in preparation for the next cadets she would train. The books and materials had been delivered to the school room and extra seating secured. The Lieutenant Colonel had notified her that the parachutes were all stored in the teaching hanger. When she arrived at her classroom, on the desk was a crystal vase with one deep purple iris. After swimming laps and a run before dinner, she took delivery of a new printer she had ordered so that she could print the quality of photographs her lover ' s work deserved. Evening music accompanied preparation of another canvas as a story was pushing its way to the surface. She dined with Amanda on the fifth weekday evening in the staff dining room. There would be a weekend reception on the first evening of the first weekend day, to greet new cadets and reassure parents. Laura would be expected to attend with introduction to nervous mothers who could not fathom their offspring being pushed out of flying aircraft.

The first weekend day was filled with chores, data entry work, an email to Elgin , and preparation for the evening reception. She wore a calf length pale copper linen and silk suit with a crisp shirt showing just a hint of lace underneath, hair in a chignon clipped with pearls, pearl earrings, and brown leather four inch heels. She met Amanda for an early dinner in the staff room, then returned to dress and meet nervous parents. She entered the reception room and heads turned. The Lieutenant Colonel greeted her, introduced her to new flight instructors, parents of senior cadets and the nervous mothers. Laura was confident but quiet spoken as befitted her status at the base. She was able to speak of her many years of sky diving, recounting her story of teaching a seventy-five year old woman to successfully jump to several mollified mothers and fathers. Amanda was in conversation with a group of cadets and parents as the Lieutenant Colonel guided Laura to meet with that group. She was introduced, greeting Amanda as Colonel Bennett. One of the members of this group was the father of a senior cadet, also a personal friend of the senior flight instructor. When Laura ' s name was mentioned, he immediately shook her hand with congratulations her on her perfect examination scores for pilot licenses. Laura graciously thanked him, stating it was only because she had received such beneficial instruction, all said with a serious face. As she walked away from the group, all eyes were on her including Amanda ' s as the four inch heels wove their magic once again.

The parents finally left their offspring permanently at the base, Amanda and Laura returned to their quarters. Amanda invited Laura to her suite for a few minutes to which Laura was happy to comply. Once the door was locked, Amanda wrapped her lover in arms, admonishing her for being so drop dead gorgeous, distracting to the Colonel at the base. Laura replied with a smile, a shrug, permitting herself to be thoroughly properly kissed. The second weekend day lent its way to swimming laps, running, final preparations of class notes for the next day, music, and a story being told on canvas. Laura painted vibrant circles of silver hollowed by shimmering jewel tones, set against a fluid black and gray background. Only hands coming from beneath the canvas reached up to carry the silver circles. The very top of the canvas showed shining white licks of flames. She dined again with Amanda in the staff dining room late in the day of the second weekend. On return home, she read Lou ' s reply thanking Laura for all the information she had sent and reassured her that the same ancients guiding Laura were guiding Lou. She knew that in the years to come they would meet and become forever friends.

The weekdays were busy with new cadets, teaching, data entry, swimming laps and running. She met with Amanda for dinner on the fifth weekday, inviting her to dine on the second weekend day. The weekend days were occupied with chores, organizing laundry, printing some photographs for Lydia and Barbara, checking equipment in the hanger for the following four days of lessons. Laura was able to find time for the story on canvas on the second weekend day afternoon. Amanda arrived early to enjoy a glass of wine with her lover, choosing photographs she wanted printed. She spied the finished canvas and stopped in her tracks. There was almost tangible energy coming from the painting; passion, anger, fear, and hope all wrapped into one space. Amanda was silent for several minutes, Laura was not entirely certain of her reaction. When Amanda did finally speak, it was with an embrace rather than words, one that held this beautiful young woman in her arms, in her soul. Amanda asked if they could hang that painting as well as the cabin, near their bed. The chatted over dinner, finalizing plans to leave for the ranch early on the fifth weekday.

The next four weekdays kept both women busy mercifully. Laura ' s cadets passed the first written test and successfully packed parachutes. Laura packed parachutes carefully for herself, for Amanda, and readied them for Bella. She made braided loaves for their hostesses in the evening of the fourth weekday, then packed for a weekend with her lover and friends.

Bella was airborne by 0900 hours on the fifth weekday. Laura flew though the pass, then northward. They arrived to be greeted by both Lydia and Barbara. They stored baggage with an invitation to meet in the main house for coffee; Amanda warned her that coffee might have to be delayed slightly, Lydia smiled agreement. They did return for coffee just before lunch along with braided loaves and photographs from their visit to the cabin. Barbara took Laura ' s hand and Amanda followed up the stairs to the loft where they had hung the fiery dancing women on the wall facing their bed. Laura smiled as both women thanked her again stating it was perfect where it hung. Lydia had already made arrangements to take time away from the Carriere base for the ten days of their visit at Wintersday. They enjoyed lunch and the company of friends before taking a trail ride in the summer sun. Amanda has asked if either woman would pilot for skydiving tomorrow; both would accompany them in a small air plane rather than a helicopter. Amanda and Laura returned to the guest cabin before dinner, agreeing to meet Lydia and Barbara for a steak dinner at 1830 hours. Lydia and Barbara set a table on the patio looking out on the plain and mountains. The sun dipped early behind mountain tops to the west filling the sky with brilliant pinks and reds waiting for Mother Moon. When darkness cloaked them, Laura was mesmerized at the vast northern sky, even more visible than at the cabin. Amanda stood with her, silent, each woman speaking volumes of love without words. Lydia and Barbara had left them as they cleared and cleaned up after dinner. Lydia continued to be filled with gratitude to the ancients for bringing these women to each other. She knew that Amanda had chosen not to know her ancients yet but she also knew that she would know them truly forever before her time in this existence was complete. When Laura and Amanda did not return, they went back to the patio to find both women in each other ' s arms as Mother Moon shone silver blessings on all.

Laura woke early the next morning and met Jackson who let her into the main house as even her hostesses slept. Jackson made a huge pot of coffee on an outdoor pit and brought a steaming cup to Laura as she set dough on the stones of the pit in the morning sun. In less than an hour, cinnamon buns woke her hostesses as she took coffee back to her just waking lover. She led Amanda to the shower, passion and water brought her to the day. They joined Lydia and Barbara at the agreed time, tucking into a huge breakfast including cinnamon buns with two kept for Jackson . They planned for two jumps for Amanda and Laura to allow time for repacking of parachutes. Barbara went on ahead to prepare the plane, Laura and Amanda changed into flight suits, Lydia for a ride to the tarmac. Once there, Amanda and Laura repacked their own parachutes, each checking to insure their safety. For their first jump, Amanda chose to jump tandem with Laura as she wanted to learn how to land without having to roll. Lydia and Barbara flew their friends to a suitable altitude with a five minute warning to the jump. Laura was every bit the instructor as she connected her student ' s harness and pushed her to the open door of the aircraft; the lovers were free falling at Lydia ' s command. Laura opened her parachute and in preparation for landing, pushed Amanda ' s body with her own to teach the proper alignment for a soft landing with no need to roll which they completed easily. She released her lover ' s harness to see the brightest smile she had seen on Amanda ' s face. Laura repacked her parachute as Jackson arrived to take them back to the tarmac for a second jump. Once again, the four friends were airborne; at Lydia ' s command Amanda and Laura were free falling, this time hand in hand. Amanda successfully landed without a needed roll and turned to see applause and a grin from her jump mate. They both repacked their parachutes and Amanda stated that she would now jump at least once with every one of Laura ' s classes of cadets, just for the shear freedom of it. They met Lydia and Barbara back on the tarmac, returning to the main house famished. Lunch was served quickly, the friends sitting on the patio, laughing about the jumps, about Lydia barking orders, about Barbara tipping a wing as they flew off. Lydia explained it was a trademark of Barbara, she knew of no other pilot in all her years of being a teacher who could also tip a greeting from a helicopter. The sun was very warm; Barbara suggested they take a vehicle to small river farther uphill for a swim, stating it was a favorite haunt of theirs. Neither Amanda nor Laura had packed swimwear; Barbara shrugged stating they wore skin when they swam there. Lydia gathered towels, blankets, and a cooler for cold drinks. In less than thirty minutes all four friends were cooling in a small river fed by glaciers. Fresh air and sunlight worked the usual magic for both couples who found alone time before clothing and return to the main house. Another dinner on the patio welcomed Mother Moon once again and portable music lent its way to dancing under the stars. Something in Laura told her to remember this night for always, that it would sustain her for years to come.

The couples met for a late morning meal after laying in on the second weekend day. It would seem that no-one wanted to leave arms wrapped about them, kisses, or love found in a shower. After card games on the patio there was an early dinner as Lydia prepared to fly back to the Carriere base very early the next morning. Before they returned to the guest cabin, both Amanda and Laura hugged goodbye to their good friend with a promise to see her either back at the ranch or Carriere in four weeks. Amanda teased Laura that indeed her fantasies about sex in the out-of-doors seemed have been readily and easily fulfilled to which Laura replied that so far she had heard no voiced complaints. Amanda pulled her close and told she would not likely ever hear any.

Lydia had kissed her lover goodbye and was airborne at 0500 hours for arrival at the Carriere base at 0800 hours. Barbara ' s life with Lydia followed its own routine as did the lives of Amanda and Laura; Laura found comfort in that. Amanda spent time taking more photographs of her lover and of the ranch. They all prepared a very simple lunch after which Amanda and Laura gathered packs for return to the base. Bella touched down at her home base at 1430 hours on the first weekday, both Amanda and Laura fell to the routines of their lives as easily as Lydia and Barbara.

The next four weekdays found Laura pushing her cadets to physical limits they did not know they had. Both she and Amanda spoke by email with Luther who was reporting smooth transition with the addition and renovations. He would not know for about three more weeks if the cabin would be ready for their visit in the ninth month of the New Year. Laura chose appliances for the kitchen; Samantha confirmed their order with delivery date. The bathroom orders were complete as well. Amanda and Laura chose furniture for Samantha to order. Luther reported that the solar panels were in place and ready to be operational as soon as the other renovations were complete. The weekend days were filled with chores, data entry, preparation for teaching. Laura swam laps and ran in order to dismiss longing for her lover ' s arms. Amanda invited her for dinner in her suite on the second weekend day before she could make final decisions for ordering with Samantha. Laura told Amanda she needed to go to the city the following weekend and promised to take a guard with her for lover ' s peace of mind.

Laura arranged for a vehicle and a guard for the next first weekend day. As they drove into the elite neighborhood and to the University, smoke clouds dotted the skies from fires of destruction of much of the old part of the populated areas. The docks were now heavily guarded along with the airports and Military landing strips. With every image, small shards of steel wrapped around Laura ' s hazel eyes with an ancient driven resolve to eventually stop the massacre. She trusted now that her life was directed to fulfill her destiny. She realized on their last visit that Lydia and Barbara were sisters with the ancients as well. Laura understood there were no coincidences. Elgin was at a conference all weekend and as such she did not see him. She ordered camera equipment and accessories to be delivered in her name at the base, these for Wintersday gifts for Amanda. She ordered dozens of leather bound albums and dozens of frames of different sizes for the photographs by her lover. She returned the vehicle and the guard back at the base by midafternoon, then spent the remaining day unpacking, data entry, and preparing her classes for the following week. She dined with Amanda on the second weekend evening.

The class now jumped in a cage and at week ' s end from aircraft with their instructor, using senior cadets as student pilots with their instructor. Laura was asked to fly a Search and Rescue testing mission on the fifth weekday afternoon. She had a copilot, another student who would learn just how efficient this beautiful woman was after she reminded him sternly to keep his eyes on the instruments and off her breasts. In the years to come, this pilot would laugh often about that remark. Amanda left a message inviting Laura to join her for dinner in the staff dining room on the first weekend day. Luther contacted her stating that although the renovations were not finished the cabin was habitable for the four days over the next weekend. The workers finished at 1200 hours on the fifth weekday with return at 1200 hours on the first weekday of the following week. Laura beamed when she learned they go could go home for the weekend. When Amanda returned to her suite, she emailed Luther asking him to ready the cabin for the fifth weekday coming. Laura informed Amanda that her class was now jumping from aircraft; the coming week and the week following would finish this group ' s classes and examinations. Amanda arranged for a jump with one group on the last practice day before the examination. Laura contacted Lydia to see if perhaps both she and Barbara could have dinner with them in Carriere on the next first weekend evening.

Chapter 12

Both women tempered excitement about returning to the cabin for the next four weekdays. Amanda arranged a meeting with Samantha prior to meeting Lydia and Barbara for dinner in Carriere. Bella was airborne by 1000 hours on the fifth weekday morning and landed her humans on the coast two and one half hours later. With supplies and baggage loaded, they drove with some trepidation to see the see the state of their home. Luther arrived previously, starting a blaze in the fireplace. The cabin was clean; their living space was not interrupted. The newly renovated bathroom was functional with a new and larger shower. Luther explained that the tub was unfortunately still not connected but would be by their visit in the tenth month of the New Year. The new bedroom and expanded kitchen were still incomplete but Amanda and Laura would see how what the addition would look like, they were both delighted. Jeannie left enough linens and necessities for the kitchen. Luther was very proud to show them the solar panels facing south and ready to provide energy as soon as the other renovations were complete. The deck furniture had been packed away for the winter as Luther surmised that the air was too cool now even during the day for enjoying the outdoors for any length of inactivity. They informed Luther they planned to fly to Carriere the following afternoon to meet with Samantha with an expected return in the early evening. The coffee almost did not have time to be prepared as Laura took her lover to the rug in front a new fire and the hearth. Even with the excitement of the renovations to their home, there was no room for other than passion. When lunch had been consumed and the coffee enjoyed, both women then took a slow detailed tour of their soon to be completed, expanded home. They could now visually place all the new furniture they had ordered with Samantha. The main bathroom was now huge in comparison with the option of electric lights. The shower included a reclining bench in a corner; both women had the same wonderfully wicked thoughts with grins simultaneously. The new bedroom was spacious, comfortable for guests including a private en suite bathroom with an identical shower. All three had skylights, one directly above a huge soaking bathtub. Both women loved what would be their new kitchen. With the additional space, the island could be moved to allow for a proper trestle dining table abutting it and with a view of the fireplace. The child in Laura ran about giggling as she envisioned another place for creation, that child so charmed her lover that the tour was decidedly interrupted. Jeannie moved easel, new canvas, and paints back to the cabin for the weekend; Laura found her perch later in the afternoon as Amanda took photographs, then lost herself with her needles. The sun was now giving in to the darkness earlier as the lovers enjoyed a sunset standing on the deck with wine before their dinner. Earlier, Jeannie placed duvets on the warming racks with stones on the hearth to warm their bed. The night routines were danced as usual and by early evening both women were playing in the new shower. With a banked fire, a warmed bed found lovers with eventual tears, moved by the depth of an ever-growing love, one that which neither could ever have anticipated.

Once awake, Amanda banked a fire, made coffee, and then breakfast. Laura enjoyed the luxury of enough hot water now for a waking shower, then dressed for her day in Carriere. They planned to dine early in the town this night with Lydia and perhaps Barbara. They had arranged to meet with Samantha at 1400 hours so were able to linger over a second pot of coffee. The morning air was cooler now; Laura commented that they would have one more lunch date on Spy Rock before the weather claimed it for another year, with plans made for the next day. Amanda flew Bella to the Carriere base where a vehicle awaited them. Lydia had met them on the tarmac, stating that Barbara was in the air and expected within the hour. They chose a time and place to meet for an early dinner. Amanda and Laura then met with Samantha, expressing delight with the renovations to date. They were reassured that the appliances and furniture had been ordered, they would be delivered in time for their four day stay in the tenth month in the New Year. She did recommend shops in Carriere where they might find linens and accessories if they wished. Laura and Amanda did shop, ordering linens, accessories, new chests to store clothing permanently at the cabin, china, crystal, stemware, utensils, a huge assortment of bake ware and cooking pots for the kitchen; before leaving Laura paid for the order much to Amanda ' s protest. As they walked back to the vehicle, Laura took her arm, explaining that she could be a kept woman all the time. They arrived at a bar as Lydia and Barbara arrived. The entered and found a table near the back with a good view as Lydia had requested. They chatted and ordered dinner. Amanda and Laura talked about how pleased they were with the renovations. Several women smiled as they walked past the table. When the parade became more than Amanda wanted to tolerate, she stood, pulled Laura from her chair, kissed her long, hard, and full on the lips; then returned them both to the dinner table, Lydia laughed out loud and Barbara applauded. When it appeared that Laura did not really understand what had just transpired, Amanda quietly explained that this was a lesbian bar and she was a drop dead gorgeous gay woman. Instant understanding flashed a decidedly wicked grin on Laura ' s face, she rose from her chair to walk to the bar, leaned as far over as womanly possible, ordered a soda, turned to blow a sultry kiss to the silenced admirers, then returned to her table. All three of her friends stood and applauded.

Amanda and Laura returned to the cabin by 2100 hours. Luther had banked a fire and brought in wood for the night along with charging batteries while they were out. Amanda was still chuckling about Laura ' s theatrics in the bar. She loved the young woman but forgot that she had not been exposed to much real life having been raised by older academic grandparents. Play in a shower and love in a warmed bed claimed the lovers on a cool night in the ninth month of the New Year.

Late breakfast, a hike, passion and lunch at Spy Rock filled many hours on the second weekend day. The call of Amanda ' s arms was louder than the call of the canvas, as such a story did not get told that weekend. As they lay in each other ' s arms before sleep that night, they both talked about the upcoming four weeks away at Wintersday, both stating that the time with each other in their home here was what kept them sane. With Amanda asleep, Laura cried tears again as she knew she would leave some day, almost more than she could bear.

Amanda was piloting Bella back to the base by 1100 hours on the first weekday. She returned to her office and her life as Colonel, Laura returned to her quarters for chores, data entry, emails, preparation for the next weeks with her cadets as they readied themselves for examination. Laura swam laps and ran to ward off loneliness with an ever-deepening ache for the woman she loved. On the third weekday evening, she received a long, more disturbing email from Lou. The unrest had now turned to violence in the inner cities in the east and west. The workers knew now that the vaccinations they had been forced to receive had rendered them sterile, few children would survive now. Many people now had nothing to survive for; as such they were willing to die in order to stop The Decision. Die they had and would. Lou ' s son, Declan, chose to guide worker leaders in the Northwestern City and it was Lou ' s hope that they would meet one day. Women were being abandoned and injured; there were few safe health facilities at present although the underground, aptly led by Amelia, Sterling, Lou ' s son Drew, Ross, and Frida was establishing safe havens as quickly as humanly possible. Laura did not respond immediately to Lou ' s email but instead grabbed outer clothing and late in the evening went out to the grove to scream at her ancients, asking for guidance now more than ever. Amanda saw her, wanting more than ever to go to her, to hold her, to reassure her but did not, could not. Amanda knew that Laura went to a place she only glimpsed, understanding at her very core that she would need to journey there herself one day. In the months to come, Amanda would see the shards of steel flash and occasionally imprison Laura ' s hazel eyes; only deep abiding promises of love forever would lose them.

Laura returned to her apartment to respond to Lou ' s email, stating that she would continue to send as much information as she could. She had not told her yet that she was in love with a Colonel in the Military, she would in due time. She drew far down to solace, finding faith and trust that her journey was unfolding as it should. The grandfather told her that she had to grow to her own ability, that she would be given the strength and power as she needed it. When she awoke, peace was restored in her but she was grateful for the next two days of jumping to freedom. She met with Amanda for dinner on the fifth weekday evening where for the first time Amanda saw the tiny shards of steel in her lover ' s eyes. They talked about Amanda ' s time for a jump on the third weekday and about the success of another class of students, this time much larger. Laura had no break between classes in order to have another class graduated by the Wintersday ' s break. Amanda ' s parents had once again invited her to the University soiree; she and Laura discussed the required attendance once again. Both women returned to Amanda ' s apartment for a glass of wine after dinner with Amanda talking of her great reluctance to attend, that it was expected of her more as a status symbol to her parents to show off their high ranked Military daughter to their peers than because then truly would enjoy her presence. She spoke with bitterness about having to encounter Anthony Downs, her boss, a man she detested. Laura was silent while Amanda talked, then hugged her telling her they would go to the soiree together briefly, then have four wonderful weeks alone at the cabin to share Wintersday with those people who really did love them.

The weekend days were filled with routines, work, and Laura swimming laps and running while the cooler air would still permit. Laura started a large canvas with a story to be told. A raven haired beauty came to it from the ancients, one who would walk with her, one who would teach her about survival, sacrifice, and the absolute love of the living. That brief introduction brought an almost tangible peace to Laura.

The next weekdays were filled with jump after freeing jump. The base Colonel entered the aircraft to the widened eyes of the cadets on board and a slight smile from the instructor. All would jump simultaneously so that Laura could supervise one last jump before their examination. All were successful including the Colonel who packed her own parachute before jumping and again landing without a roll. When Laura finally returned to her apartment, before her door was a crystal vase and one purple iris attached to a note that said Thanks and Amo Te .

The weekend days were filled with usual routines; Laura inspected the classroom to welcome the next group of cadets. She stopped by Amanda ' s office to invite her for dinner at her apartment on the second weekend evening. Luther reported that work at the cabin was entirely on schedule, he expected furniture deliveries early in the next week. He continued that Jeannie and Mary were as excited as it had been their own home, both Amanda and Laura suspected the same held true for Luther. Amanda arrived by midafternoon to visit with Laura. She saw the beginning story on the huge canvas including the raven haired beauty. Her eyes questioned Laura about that woman; Laura explained that the story had pushed her there; she really had no idea who she was. Laura stepped to the bedroom momentarily and as she turned she saw Amanda in the doorway, smiling as she saw a very decidedly feminine bedroom with lace everywhere. Again, Laura just shrugged, blushing slightly. Amanda silently promised herself that someday, whenever that someday would be, her beloved Laura would have as many bedrooms as she wanted covered in as much lace as she wanted. Neither woman wanted to leave the other but knew if parting was not early it would not be at all.

Work and instruction of a new group of cadets filled the next five weekdays. Weekend routines followed with the lovers finding time for dinner in the staff dining room on the first weekend evening. They made plans to go to the cabin as early as possible on the fifth weekday morning. Both were very anxious to discover their almost completely renovated home. Laura gave her usual warning to her cadets that on the second weekday of the next week they would be expected to show some sure physical endurance with strength, suggesting that they eat well and party less. Laura now had a reputation as being as tough as she was beautiful, her cadets understanding to pay attention or suffer the consequences. Laura had sent a brief email to Lydia and Barbara to tell them of their excitement to see their almost completed home.

Both women were asleep early and on the tarmac at 0800 hours the following morning. Laura arrived before Amanda, automatically completing the preflight check list, meaning that she would pilot that day. Amanda looked at this beautiful, exceeding capable pilot readying for takeoff with the yearning to hold her forever being almost palpable. They were met by a very excited Jeannie and Mary as Bella deposited her humans on terra firma once again. Luther and Harry were at the cabin already; all four women loaded the vehicle to drive to the cabin. There were still materials neatly piled about the property but very few now. They were greeted on the deck by Luther, Harry, and Samantha. The entered a warm, very inviting, much larger space with a blazing fire, Teddy back in her rightful place in a new arm chair by the hearth. Both women were speechless as the surveyed their new home. An oak trestle table backed on the kitchen island, surrounded on three sides with matching chairs, and holding a huge bouquet of yellow roses and purple irises with a card saying Welcome Home , signed by their friends. There were new appliances, all the kitchen orders put away. The pantry to the rear held huge storage surfaces and containers. There was a comfortable sofa to match Teddy ' s armchair and wee Bella held a place of honor on the mantle. Samantha had the original floor refinished; it shone in the firelight and sunbeams. With the larger bathroom there was wall space to hold new chests for clothing and linens. The bathroom was breathtaking, trimmed with oak and a skylight over a very operational soaking tub. As they walked through the hallway to the new bedroom, Amanda spotted Mrs. Smithers ' quilt on a new bed, again oak to match throughout. There were thick rugs on the floor with a chest and closet to serve as storage as needed by guests. The guest en suite was now operational and both new rooms had skylights. Luther was beaming as he showed them the operational solar panels and briefly spoke as to their operation. On the way back to the common room, the women spotted Laura ' s painting of the ocean hanging above a chest near the doorway. Neither woman had spoken many words as if overcome with too many feelings flooding all at once. Amanda turned to take Laura in her arms, kissing her, welcoming her home, taking all those gathered to tears of happiness. Samantha poured champagne and toasted the inhabitants of a lovely new home. Their friends stayed only long enough to finish the champagne, the lovers were then finally alone. Amanda started a pot of coffee but it did not make it to the fire. There was a new urgency in Laura that took Amanda ' s breath as she struggled to withstand near shatter with passion. Whatever had transpired on the night of her screaming at the pond had brought more of the priestess within to the surface. Amanda knew she must go with her; there would be no turning away. The lovers had no chores save for serving Judith ' s chowder, then taking coffee with Mary ' s home-made cookies. Laura explored every cabinet and surface of the new kitchen, making friends immediately with a dual oven and range. Samantha found an antique pine box to hold the tin toys; Laura spent time on the floor removing her beloved friends, the beautiful child within captured by Amanda ' s lens.

Autumn clouds pushed the sun behind them, by midafternoon rain was falling on the roof and panes. Amanda found the corner of the new sofa while Laura claimed the other end. Each woman was lost in themselves as the fire lulled them. Laura took Amanda ' s hand and then eased her head into her lap. She knew there were words that needed to come out; Amanda was struggling to hold them back. When she leaned down to kiss her brow, Amanda ' s tears found her cheeks. She paced the floor of the cabin as she talked about the news of the vaccinations, how the working people had been lied to, used, with now no reason to live, choosing to die in order to fight back. She cried, yelled, and damned her bosses. She said she was ashamed to be associated with them now. She still loved her job at the base and enjoyed leading young people to maturity and careers but now knew she would help to send some of the to their death needlessly. The ancients silenced Laura and greeted Amanda for the first time. She stood at the window looking out on an angry autumn ocean, sobbing. Then peace cloaked her soul, holding her tight. She felt the presence of those that she had always known welcoming her home. She turned to see Laura holding out her arms to her as she understood what had transpired. Laura led her to the sofa again to hold her in silence. Finally, Amanda spoke of her hatred for Anthony Downs, her boss, a man she had known since secondary school. He was the son of friends of the Bennett ' s, a brilliant young man with an assured career of greatness in the Military. Amanda ' s parents pushed her into a friendship with him with the hopes of a marriage, a fine catch for any young woman. She was fifteen years old, not interested in marrying anyone. He supposed that with enough attention, Amanda would become his lover, then his wife when she was old enough. Amanda made is as clear as any fifteen year old could that she was not interested, he should look elsewhere for wife material. Her parents insisted that they attend a dinner dance at the University to which she attended under duress. Anthony offered to drive Amanda home, her parents encouraged him. They did not go home. Anthony drove to a secluded area of campus and raped the fifteen year old repeatedly with threats to her reputation if she spoke a word of it. When she finally found the solace of her bedroom, she decided she would be as good as Anthony or any other man but she would never be a lover of one. Laura led Amanda to the shower to let the water, healing water, fall over her. As the water fell and she comforted her lover, she knew then exactly how she would proceed. When the time was right, General Anthony Downs would be taken down well and permanently.

The emotion and the shower had tired Amanda; Laura tucked her on the sofa for a nap while she prepared dinner. She found a new place in her that afternoon as did Amanda. There were real reasons now to continue the journey, to meet her destiny head on. She kissed Amanda awake, handing her a glass of wine. There was now a depth in those beautiful blue eyes, one that had taken Amanda to her ancients. Amanda spoke to Laura without words as they ate their dinner before the fire.

Night routines were danced and the lovers cuddled before the fire. There was a new depth to the love they shared with a new tempo to their passion. Laura ' s usually aggressive youth was replaced by a gentle tender woman who let her body direct Amanda ' s to new rhythms, new trust. Laura took Amanda on their journeys to the ancients throughout the night as the gentle autumn rains fell.

Mid-morning sun greeted the lovers as they woke slowly still wrapped in each other ' s arms. Amanda rose to make coffee with Laura teasing that they likely could purchase a coffee pot that would have it waiting for them in the morning to which Amanda only replied with a look. They took a second pot of coffee in a thermos to the beach as the ocean was quickly becoming too angry to abide guests. Laura asked Amanda to teach her how to take photographs as she would like some of her lover. Amanda showed her easily, knowing that her artist ' s eye would be a photographer ' s eye. Laura was enthralled; Amanda made a mental note for Wintersday gifting. They sat on the tailgate, chatting about the visit with Lydia and Barbara. Laura asked for suggestions for gifts to which Amanda suggested anything save for lingerie as there would be no living with Lydia otherwise. Cool winds drove the women back to the fire at the cabin. Amanda was able to finally find the muse of her needles; Laura perched on a stool at the painting, a story about to unfold. Naked women dancing while holding flowing sheets of satin under a starry sky filled the canvas. As Laura was lost in the process of letting the story come from her through the paint, Amanda took photographs hoping to capture the magic that came forth. The story had been told in time for dinner as Laura slowly drifted back to reality. The ocean allowed tips of gold to caress her just slightly before the sun found sleep beneath the horizon; the lovers stood on the deck with glasses of wine to encompass the brief reverence.

With night routines done, both women showered and had entirely too much fun doing so. Laura found satin and lace for them both along with new crystal goblets with brandy. They danced in firelight, candlelight and lovelights, lost in the music, in the cadence of their love. Laura seemed entranced in movement; her lover quickly found her camera to take perhaps the most beautiful photographs she had ever seen. Laura smiled, stating that they should take boudoir shots of each other as gifts for Lydia for Wintersday, just to silence her momentarily. Amanda laughed out loud and agreed. Plans were made for the most outrageous lingerie they owned and photos on the hearth at their next cabin visit. They decided to drive to the summit one more time in the morrow while the weather held.

The firs had taken on the quiet of the autumn, the mountain lake looked forlorn and devoid of the green madness of summer. Laura remarked that although the summer was easier to tolerate in terms of work at the cabin she much preferred autumn and winter on the mountain, feeling held and hugged by it more then. Amanda smiled her agreement. They did reach the summit, only briefly leaving the vehicle as the winds were fiercely bitter. Some part of Laura felt a deep kinship here, with the wild power, limitless, giving her courage and hope. The women were silent on their return to the cabin, each lost in their own conversations with their ancients.

On their return to the cabin, Jeannie dropped off Dungeness crabs for their dinner. They offered her coffee but she declined. Amanda also asked her if she would take photographs of both women, boudoir shots, as a joke Wintersday gift to Lydia . Jeannie laughed out loud, stating delight, then wickedly said she would not tell Harry about the shoot until afterwards. The afternoon found the women cuddled in front of the fire. Laura asked Amanda about what courses she studied as preparation for her rise in the military. She had studied Education and Communications at the University, then joined the Combined Forces and specialized in the Air Command. After her pilot training, she became an instructor but quickly became interested in administration. She took part time university courses and took a Master ' s degree at the Staff College for the Air Command. She was promoted to Captain immediately thereafter, a year later she was Lieutenant Colonel at Air Command Base 12. At the age of thirty earth years she was promoted again to the rank of Colonel and chief administrator. She shyly admitted that she was the youngest person in the history of Air Command to reach the rank of Colonel at only thirty years of age. Amanda had planned to continue her education with possible promotion in the future but she lost her desire of it. She continued that in a saner world she would be a good General but not in the present lifetime. She found what she needed in her life, holding fast to that. Laura then asked about what studies she needed to learn tactics; Amanda replied only the basics, those taught at the base. Laura explained she was trying to decide to continue to audit the classes. Amanda told her she could read what she needed, probably learning more quickly than in a class environment. Laura admitted the challenges of teaching were keeping her mind busy; Amanda was keeping her body, heart, and soul busy so perhaps she would not pursue further studies at the moment. Dinner was early as both women were hungry from the fresh air; the bed greeted them as a cool, starlit night blanketed the new cabin in the tenth month of the New Year.

They were awake for coffee and breakfast early the next day, the workers would return in the afternoon to finish minor jobs. There were heavy seas with strong winds; Laura flew Bella well and safely back to the base by 1400 hours. Amanda told her she had become an excellent pilot and could consider teaching at some point. Laura wanted lessons on how to fly the huge Raptor crafts but would wait to ask for those. She was happy to pilot Bella and volunteer for Search and Rescue examination missions. Both women were absorbed with work for the remainder of the day. Laura ordered more Wintersdays gifts and decided her attire already for the Wintersday soiree at the University.

The lovers met for dinner on the fifth weekday in the staff dining room. The weekend days claimed routines of chores, data entry, swimming laps, emails, and ordering of more Wintersday gifts. The painting of the dark raven hair beauty unfolded on the canvas, showing spirits leaping forth from explosions, underneath rainbows cradling children. Laura had not painted such movement before, surprising even herself. Amanda invited her lover for a steak dinner in her apartment on the second weekend day; Laura looked forward to being alone with her best friend even for just a few hours. The laughed as they choose lingerie for Amanda to wear for the boudoir shots including the four inch heels. Her Lieutenant Colonel had noticed the delivery on one yellow rose for one and one-half years, finally finding enough courage to inquire about them. Amanda smiled, stating she had a secret admirer.

The routines of their lives marked time for them as they waited to be together again. Packages of wrapped gifts had already arrived at the base for Laura. She planned to take what she could on the next trip to the cabin as Bella would be stuffed on their trip for their four week break over Wintersday. The weekend days found chores, data entry, swimming laps, and painting. The huge painting was finished, Laura was not sure where it would end up living but thought maybe in her bedroom. She had started a painting of the mountainside lake perhaps as an Amo Te gift for Amanda.

The following week fell to teaching, administration, and Laura's emails to Frida to forward to her mother. Declan sent a small note to introduce himself, also informing Laura that Lou had been incarcerated briefly as she had refused vaccination, he conjectured simply to annoy her enemy. Laura responded with hopes that when he was in the Northwestern City she would try to meet him. She did tell him she lived on a Military base, was a skydiving instructor, and was madly in love with the base Colonel. Declan responded back quickly that he knew that, they all knew that, that it was directed by the ancients, to trust that. Laura ' s students had test jumps in the cage and she was finally jumping out of aircraft again, albeit with still nervous cadets. The weekend days followed their usual routine and the growing excitement that at the next week ' s end they would be at the cabin again. Amanda and Laura met in the staff dining room on both weekend evenings for dinner. Laura printed the photographs of her dancing almost naked in lace and satin but chose to take them with her to entice her lover at the cabin as that seemed more merciful in this upcoming last weekend of isolation. Amanda arranged to jump again on the last day of supervised jumps. Laura planned to fly a Search and Rescue examination mission the fifth weekday after they returned from the cabin as she always looked forward to them.

The late autumn winds were less forgiving for her cadets and the student pilots; she simply reminded all of them that the Military could not always insure balmy skies for an invasion. She made several jumps each day preparing her students for examination at the end of the next week. On the fourth weekday late afternoon, she did data entry and packed her sexiest lingerie, the most appealing to Amanda and so most likely most attractive to Lydia . She decided to give both Lydia and Barbara silk night clothes as in Laura ' s opinion other than another woman silk felt wonderful on a naked body. She had ordered several pairs of lovely alluring sleepwear for both women.

Amanda had left a message to meet her on the tarmac at 0900 hours the following morning. The cartons of already wrapped gifts and luggage were on the tarmac for loading while Laura ran to the dining room for a thermos of coffee and the kitchen ' s packed lunch. When she returned, Amanda was running the preflight check list, grinning when she saw Laura. The flight northwest was rough through snow squalls but Bella landed without problems at midday. Jeannie left a message with Harry about her visit the next day for their project which he delivered as he helped to load their vehicle before they drove to meet Luther at the cabin. There was a warm welcoming fire and a pot of coffee placed on the coals as the vehicle arrived. All three carried packages and luggage to the rightful places. The renovations were now complete, all purchases delivered and stored. The new arm chair that Amanda had ordered had been placed by the hearth facing Teddy in hers. Laura warmed soup from the packed lunch as Luther and Amanda talked about wood storage for the upcoming months. Both women learned how to charge batteries from the solar panels to augment those from the wind towers. There was heat now sufficient to keep water pipes from not freezing over the winter months. Luther showed Laura her painting, admitting he had taken the liberty of making a simple oak frame for it; she was delighted, hugging him to a blush.

The lovers giggled that Luther was likely not off the mountain before they were naked in front of the fire, attesting to the old adage that absence makes the heart and obviously other body parts grow fonder. After love, lunch, and coffee, Laura worked at reorganizing the kitchen to her liking; Amanda took photographs. Laura joined Amanda on the sofa, handing her the photographs of Laura dancing at their last cabin visit. Amanda planned to ask Jeannie to have the series framed to hang in the hallway in their new home. The women made further plans for the Wintersday break, including those to attend the University soiree. Laura suggested that they arrange for a guard driver to take them directly to the ballroom on the evening of the gathering, make a perfunctory attendance including showing off for her parents with the obligatory greeting of General Downs, then return to the base. Laura argued that there was no need to take further time, no need for flashy presentations as all those gathered knew now that they were both gorgeous, they did not need to turn any more heads. They could be back to the base by midnight and in the air the next morning by no later than 1100 hours, having prepared items needed to be loaded in Bella the day before. Amanda laughed, wholeheartedly agreeing with that plan. Laura also asked if she could help transform the cabin this year for Wintersday to which Amanda also agreed. She would ask Luther to cut boughs and trees, would ask Jeannie and Mary to purchase more decorations to transform their newly appointed home. They both wanted to have a special celebration with Lydia and Barbara, one they could all hold in hearts' memories for the rest of their lives. They hoped to repeat their New Year ' s feast with Jeannie, Harry, Mary, Luther , Lydia , and Barbara. They spent time making lists for Jeannie, Mary, and Luther as well to garner supplies before their return, They realized that they really did enjoy these acts of domesticity, that their lovership was now that of a couple comfortably sharing their lives. Amanda did ask if her young lover felt confined so early in her years by the dynamic now to which Laura replied that she finally had a family, a home, happier than she could have ever imagined. Daylight left early, the women dined in darkness as would be the case now until the next fourth month of the New Year. Night routines included filling of the tub with the lovers finding new play to occupy them for some time before a warmed bed called them to comfort and sleep.

Sunlight lacking authority now greeted the lovers; the air was still cool in the morning cabin but much more comfortable with the addition of permanent heaters. Both showered and robed before Jeannie ' s arrival soon after the midday. They had applied evening make-up with gems touching skin. Laura chose to keep her curls flowing on her back and breasts rather than restraining them in clips. They laughed out loud at the prospect of their own theatre, Amanda stating that Laura was definitely a bad influence on her. Laura wore lace, satin, garter belt, silk stockings, with the ubiquitous four inch heels; Amanda wore black lace and satin of no structural integrity with her own four inch heels. Jeannie shouted approval as her friends de-robed to pose using a chair and a stool as props. When the shoot was done, both women dressed in warm clothing, and then joined Jeannie who continued to giggle about how absolutely miffed Harry would be when she told him about the shoot. Both women instantly thought to themselves that a selection of a tamer photo from the shoot would be framed to be given to Harry for Wintersday. They made further plans for Wintersday d é cor before Jeannie left the cabin. Amanda mused to Laura that she had started out to teach her how to play, to reclaim her childhood; now Laura has taught her to play and reclaim her womanhood. The remaining afternoon hours Amanda with her needles, Laura with her brushes. Dinner and night routines completed, showers taken, were followed by retrieval of the checkerboard, marbles, with a rousing game of friendly competition and laughter in the bed. Laura took photographs of her lover propped up in bed, competing fiercely, laughing, looking fetchingly beautiful.

The second weekend day was whiled away with love and muses, bringing needed solace to souls. A story of the summit in autumn raw, rough, and powerful, unfolded on the canvas. Amanda was learning how to capture the priestess within the painter with her lens. Laura decided to give this painting to Lydia and Barbara as an additional Wintersday gift, asking Luther to frame it with oak to match the ranch d é cor with wrapping their return. The day closed to the voices of love rising to the multiverse and down to the ancients from the cabin in the eleventh month of the New Year.

Bella and her humans were back at the base by 1400 hours and weekday routines. Laura downloaded the photographs of the boudoir shoot and of Amanda ' s attempt at checkers victory. She emailed the photos of Amanda on to Jeannie and asked her have those framed as well to hang in the hallway with the photos of Laura dancing. She received a short email from Declan stating that Lou remained reasonably quiescent with decided supervision by all those who loved her. He continued that he was planning to be in the Northwestern City at the end of the second month of the upcoming New Year with hopes that perhaps they could meet. Laura replied that she would attempt to arrange that. She sat in the evening with the painting of the raven haired woman, choosing to hang it in her bedroom. She made a rush order to her designer friend to find something alluring for her to wear for the upcoming New Year ' s Eve.

All Laura's students were examined and graduated by week ' s end. Laura flew a Search and Rescue exam mission in the dark on the fifth weekday. Amanda emailed her parents and Laura emailed Elgin to tell them of their plans for the University soiree. Elgin replied that he would be happy to see both women, wishing them happiness for their upcoming Wintersday ' s break. The Bennett ' s did not reply. Weekend days were filled with chores, data entry, and organizing of packages shipped to Laura. Amanda joined Laura for dinner in the staff dining room on the first weekend day and then returned to Laura ' s apartment to choose boudoir shots to be printed. Both women loved all the shots, had difficulty choosing only a few for gifting; Jeannie had captured one very intimate moment and Laura had already printed that as a Amo Te Wintersday gift for her lover.

The following weekdays were quiet for Laura with no new cadets until arriving back from the Wintersday break. She spent time packing for the four weeks at the cabin as well as helping Amanda as she could. A story of the mountain lake was told on canvas with a simple frame. It found its way to Amanda ' s suite on the fifth weekday afternoon signed simply as Amo Te . Laura prepared a new canvas as a story of plains of yellow roses and purple irises came to her, set on a background of flames with spirits rising. On the first weekend day, a kitchen staff member delivered a tray of coffee, a muffin, and a crystal vase with one purple iris to Laura ' s apartment with a sealed note inviting her for dinner that evening in Amanda ' s suite, signed with thanks and AT. After chores and data entry, Laura swam laps in the later afternoon before she met her lover for dinner. They only had to wait a few more days to be together for four weeks. Laura marveled at how slowly and how quickly time passed. She took the photos of the boudoir shots for gifts to show Amanda over dinner. Soon after a knock at Amanda ' s door, Laura found herself leaned up against the locked door, being held and kissed. Amanda showed her the painting hung in her bedroom, now having its own accents of lace. On perusing the photographs, Amanda said jokingly with a twinkle in her blue eyes that they had better shut Lydia up for a while, both knowing that would not be the response whatsoever. They remembered to warn Jeannie about the gift for Harry just in case resuscitation was required. Laura returned to her own apartment, reluctantly.

The four following weekdays found Laura swimming many laps to defer longing and tire herself. She received the rush order from her designer, heartily approving of the New Year ' s attire. She arranged for a locked safe to be installed in her apartment over the Wintersday break. Most cadets had left the base by mid-week, by week ' s end, very few staff remained. The Lieutenant Colonel planned to spend his holiday on the base with his wife and occasionally with his adult children. Laura delivered Wintersday gifts to Amanda ' s assistant and the dining room staff. Amanda had arranged for a guard and driver to accompany them to the soiree and then return to escort them to a waiting vehicle at 1700 hours on the first weekend day. Both women dined met in the staff dining room on the fifth day, having the space to themselves. All four eyes shone with excitement anticipating four weeks together living no pretense. They arranged to have cartons and luggage ready for the ground crew to load in Bella early in the morning of the second weekend day. Laura shipped their gifts to Amanda ' s family and Elgin earlier in the week. Both women slept late on the first weekend day, then dressed for the soiree. Laura arrived at Amanda ' s apartment at 1645 hours, greeting her lover wearing the very short backless silver dress, six inch heels, diamond earrings, with dark curls tumbling and swaying as she walked. Amanda was momentarily breathless at the sight of this beauty but gained composure. Laura told her she was exceedingly beautiful in her dress uniform, definite lace underneath a crisp white shirt, and heels. Laura chose a woolen wrap over her bared shoulders; their driver nearly choked as he accompanied his Colonel and the goddess to the waiting vehicle.

Elgin greeted his granddaughter and her lover as they entered the ballroom. Turned heads did not faze either woman. They found Amanda ' s family with greetings was exchanged. Both women circulated, Amanda struggling to suppress constant smiles as the six inch heels worked their magic. Less than hour later, General and Mrs. Downs found the Colonel and Laura. Small talk barely masked Anthony ' s stares at this beauty, Laura ' s flashing steel-wrapped hazel eyes responded with seconds of seduction which temporarily rendered the General speechless. She then smiled demurely as Amanda saluted, turned, and walked away with legs that went on forever. They then found their families, said their goodbyes, were back in the vehicle, stopping for cheese burgers and fries for all by 2200 hours. They were both back in their apartments by 2330 hours after thanking their driver and gifting him for Wintersday.

Both women slept well with the ordeal behind them. Amanda completed a preflight check list and flew to the cabin. Bella greeted friends at 1330 hours; the lovers leaving her and kissing each other on the tarmac. Luther loaded his larger vehicle and the smaller one driven by Laura with all the cartons and baggage for a short drive to the cabin. A blazing fire at their home was ready to welcome them. Luther built new larger warming racks for the hearth, Teddy was happy tucked in the corner of her armchair, a pot of coffee was ready, and homemade soup was waiting in the slow cooker. Luther directed them to the guest bedroom which they were delighted to find ready to receive their guests by week ' s end. Lydia sent a message to Jeannie to expect their aircraft in the evening of the fifth weekday. The day before Wintersday ' s Eve, Amanda and Laura planned to fly to the Carriere base and the town on the fourth weekday morning for last minute supplies although neither could image that the burgeoning cabinets and refrigerator would necessitate any more. Luther stated he would return in three weekdays to move charged batteries and bring in more wood to the covered shed. While he and Amanda spoke of wood requirements, Laura slipped out to leave a very generous thank you gift in his vehicle. As he drove away from the cabin, Amanda took Laura in her arms and danced her to the rug in front of the fire, love claiming the women before coffee or soup. Amanda served lunch and coffee after which Laura took her hand and led her to the hallway to the new guest room, showing her the framed collections of photographs of both women. Jeannie hung hand woven tapestries on the walls in the guest room, adding welcome and color. Luther ordered a small bar refrigerator as well for their guests. Amanda smiled as she realized that the humble cabin she had purchased fifteen years ago was now a lovely home, made so primarily by the love held within its walls. Laura made bread for the upcoming days with Amanda asking her if she would teach her how to make the dough. Lessons were arranged for later that week. Both women napped by the fire, recovering from the busy preceding weeks, a late night, and relief at being together again. Jeannie and Mary planned an early arrival on the fifth weekday to transform the cabin to Wintersday magic and to greet their guests. Luther already reassured them that he and Harry would bring trees and boughs late in the day on the fourth weekday as well as helping his friends on the day of transformation.

Dinner and night routines done, a long warm shower called the lovers ' names to play and passion. A warmed bed in firelight invited journeys to the ancients and multiverse, then sleep in each other ' s arms. Over warmed cinnamon buns and coffee the next morning, Amanda asked Laura about the theatre with Anthony. Laura replied that she wanted his wife to know what he really wanted what he would never have, that misery had many names. Laura ' s razor sharp mind and diamond hard will showed themselves again briefly to her lover, leaving her in awe for moments.

The next weekdays were filled with warm fires, inspection of toys, muses, showers, soaks in the tub, and passion whenever it called. Amanda was finishing a hand knit blanket for the sofa at the ranch, a last minute Wintersdays gift to her friends. Laura confessed that she did order silk for both Lydia and Barbara, but not entirely risqu é . Amanda smiled, saying that Lydia used to love satin and silk but that was in another lifetime. On the third weekday, Laura taught Amanda how to make her first bread dough which brought fits of giggles and often suggestive comments. However, the finished product was just fine. On the fourth weekday morning, Laura flew Bella to the Carriere base for fuel; both women drove into the town for last minute supplies, to drop off laundry and a Wintersday gift for Samantha. Fresh produce, fruit, holly, and ivy were bullied from the thoughts of other shoppers at the grocery store before the women returned to the base to retrieve Bella and fly back home. Laura suggested that perhaps they could have an evening at the bar when they next needed to get supplies, she would not drink and would be fit to fly Bella home. She thought she might enjoy an evening of being an outrageous gay woman, Amanda replied that they indeed had created a monster but readily agreed with the plan as she was sure their friends would.

The lovers were awake with day routines done early on the fifth weekday. A second pot of coffee was ready for their friends. Luther and Harry arrived with spruce trees and boughs, one large tree and three small ones. The boughs were hung over the window transoms and laid across the mantle. Jeannie and Mary arrived shortly thereafter with many cartons filled with decoration as well as dozens and dozens of new pillar candles. The first order was to dress Teddy in her Wintersday wizardry with crown. The large tree was placed to the side of the fireplace, the small trees in the bathroom, the guest bedroom, and an end of the kitchen island. Hundreds of lights found all trees; crystals were hung on the small trees and on the mantle boughs. Amanda photographed the fun, especially the emerged child in Laura as she delighted in the transformation. This was her first experience decorating for Wintersday, Amanda guided her lens to capture the magic. With the lights and crystals hung, Harry and Luther brought in more wood before joining the others for coffee. Luther beamed now in his role of caretaker; even the usually gruff Harry smiled at Laura ' s wonder. After the men had left, Laura brought out the framed boudoir shot they would wrap to send home with Jeannie for Harry. All four women were almost paralyzed with laughter when Jeannie said she would get out the smelling salts just in case. Laura copied the photographs to a drive for Jeannie to see after Harry had recovered; both women thanked her with compliments on her photography skills. They set about placing decorations on the trees and about the cabin. Amanda proudly told her friends that she had made her first batch of bread; a usually quiet Mary stated that Laura must be really good because not one person had managed to domesticate Amanda in all the years she had known her. Laura blushed; Amanda confirmed she was good indeed.

All four women had a glass of wine as they sat by the fire and then inspected their handiwork. The cabin had been transformed yet again and looked even more magical than the previous year. Both women gave them their Wintersday gifts including the framed photo for Harry. Harry and Luther planned to meet Lydia ' s helicopter and drive their friends to the cabin in the evening and they would be given their gifts then. Warm embraces of love and friendship were shared as their friends departed. Amanda hung a pot of wine and mulling spices on the fireplace trammel and Laura walked around her home to take in the transformation through the eyes of the child within. She and Amanda readied the bed in the guest room with wine, champagne, juice, and water in the small refrigerator in the guest room. Many pillar candles were placed in both the guest room and the en suite along with scented soaps and thick towels. The wanted their friends to enjoy a time away from any of their cares and worries, a retuned gesture for their kindness. They ate cheeseburgers and crisps in front of the fire. Night routines were done including warming duvets and stones for two beds. Amanda took photographs of her lover in front of the tree. At shortly after 2000 hours Luther and Harry arrived with Lydia and Barbara and luggage. Both women went to the deck to welcome them to their home. When their friends walked through the door to see the fire and the magic of Wintersday, they stopped in their tracks, temporarily speechless. Laura turned off all electric light as both women still preferred firelight, candlelight, now the lights from the trees. Luther and Harry grinned from ear to ear as they saw transformation in the darkened sky. They brought in the luggage and placed it in the guest room. Amanda gave them both their Wintersday gifts; both Laura and Amanda hugged and kissed their friends, causing pleased blushes. Luther told them he would return at midday the following day to help unpack the many cartons of gifts stored in the pantry. Lydia and Barbara thanked them as they departed. Then Amanda and Laura gave their friends a tour of their new home. They were amazed, jealous of the soaking tub and the shower with the reclining bench. Their friends noticed the photographs in the hallway. There were wide smiles and then hugs as they were led into the guest bedroom and en suite with a shower with reclining bench. Two pairs of moccasins were on the rug by the bed to keep feet warm for their stay. A usually smart-mouthed Lydia softly told her dear Amanda she was so glad that she had found a home with love to last a lifetime. Laura served mulled wine as her friends met Teddy, wee Bella, and settled comfortably on the sofa in front of the fire. Amanda took an armchair with Laura nestled on the rug leaning onto the lover ' s legs. Lydia and Barbara brought greetings from Jackson and his family. Amanda informed their friends that Laura thought she might enjoy an evening of being an outrageous gay woman at the bar, wondering if Lydia and Barbara wanted to join them later in the week. Both women grinned, simultaneously stating they might have created a monster. Amanda spoke of their obligatory appearance at the University soiree, Lydia asked if Anthony the Jerk was in attendance. Amanda confirmed his attendance, telling of Laura ' s brief, stunning theatrics to which Lydia smiled knowingly. Amanda also bragged that she had made her first batch of palatable bread. Both Barbara and Lydia reiterated Mary ' s sentiments that Laura must indeed be good, to which Amanda reiterated she was very good with Laura producing a lovely blush. Everyone was yawning from the later hour, busy day, warm wine; at 2200 hours they found their beds. Laura was a bit shy about voices of love rising up. Amanda hushed her, replying that if she listened carefully she would hear others. She led her lover to bed; each woman at the cabin that night would be taken on journeys to the ancients and the multiverse.

Wintersday Eve dawned with weak sunlight streaming in. As Amanda returned to her chair before fire Lydia and Barbara joined their friends. With coffee in hand, Lydia declared they had both decided a new shower was in order for the ranch, priestesses willing one for their guest cabin as well. Both Amanda and Laura grinned agreement. A pot of vegetable barley soup was simmering on the stove for their lunch. Barbara wandered into the kitchen; Laura happily gave her a tour of all that was new. Amanda and Laura had talked very briefly about future plans for a greenhouse, knowing they would consult both their friends often as that project approached. With morning chores done, the friends settled in for a day of visiting and a card game after lunch. Luther arrived later in the morning and everyone unpacked cartons, carrying armloads of wrapped gifts place beneath the tree, spilling out onto the floor. He shyly pulled his employers aside, thanking them for their very generous Wintersday gift, for all their generosity over the past six months. He received a new plough for his vehicle, again paid for by Amanda and Laura. He would be able to keep the mountain road and driveway cleared for their visit and also for his home, his friends ' home, and the landing pad. They invited him to join them for coffee and the last two cinnamon buns to which he happily accepted. He asked if Lydia and Barbara were happy with their friends ' new home. Both assured him it was lovely and that he had played a large part in making it happen. Lydia and Barbara wandered about looking at Laura ' s paintings and the photographs in the hallway. Before he left, Amanda asked Luther to bring in the small table to tuck in a space near the windows to serve as a place for an ongoing card game for the remaining week. As Luther was leaving, Harry arrived with a large number of Dungeness crabs as well as to thank Amanda and Laura for their very generous Wintersday gift. Jeannie had warned him not to linger and he did not, offering his own wishes for Wintersday blessings as he left.

Lunch was served in front of the fire, then an intensely fought card game played out. Barbara had brought her cards just to see if Laura could remember the names of the naked women which she could, bringing more gales of laughter. At midafternoon, Laura excused herself to return to the kitchen to prepare pastry for the morrow ' s dinner. Amanda grabbed her camera and took photographs of her sweet woman in one of her many elements. Lydia and Barbara wandered off to the guest room for some alone time, Amanda gathered Laura in her arms once more as love found them this time in the kitchen, then before the fire. Dusk and then darkness cloaked the cabin and the women therein leading Amanda to light several pillar candles in crystal holders. Mother Moon blessed the lovers this night amid galaxies of sky diamonds. Lydia and Barbara joined their friends as Amanda prepared bowls of fresh caught crabs, salad, and fresh bread, all enjoyed by four hungry women. Fresh fish of any kind was a treat for all but especially for Lydia and Barbara who only could enjoy fresh water catches in the spring and summer at the ranch. After lingering over wine, Laura bought a tray with bowls of ice cream covered by cooked sweetened cherries and a bottle of brandy. Amanda extinguished candles and tree lights temporarily, after pouring brandy in the bowls Laura lit a match. Their guests applauded after which Amanda relit candles and the tree light. After tidying from dessert, Lydia and Amanda brought in wood for the night. Laura pulled on boots and leather jacket to step out to the deck, gazing upwards. She was soon joined by her lover who held her in silence. The night was cold and they did not linger long but Laura just needed the blessings of the multiverse and Mother Moon. When they returned to the warmth of the cabin, they found Lydia and Barbara dancing in their own love trance. Amanda grabbed the camera to capture love yet again in this magic place. Laura marveled at the love her friends shared, how they were able to be as intimate as clothing would allow, even in the presence of others. Amanda caught her watching her friends with awe, breaking the spell with a long loving kiss. She thought of how this young woman had grown in the last twelve months, no longer a woman child but a lovely grown woman who knew the sheer joy of loving other women. Amanda now knew her ancients who she thanked always for bringing Laura to her. As the old mantle clock told of 2100 hours, their friends said goodnight. Laura chilled two bottles of champagne for morning. Both women found shower, satin, lace, and each other on their second Wintersday ' s Eve night at the cabin.

Laura woke Amanda early and kept her awake until dawn broke the horizon. . As they prepared breakfast buffet, Lydia and Barbara greeted them both with hugs and blessings of Wintersday. Flutes of champagne and orange juice opened for a feast of savory and sweet tarts baked earlier in the week as well as fresh fruit, cheeses, and cinnamon buns. Wintersday coffee was carried to the fire where gifts found their rightful recipients. Both Lydia and Barbara showed their friends matching silver engraved rings exchanged earlier that morning. Amanda laughed as she opened a new camera and equipment just as Laura opened hers as well. Lydia and Barbara loved the painting of the autumn summit and also the hand knit blanket for the ranch. Jackson had carved stunning pendants for all four women, all from teak. Everyone loved the clothing they were gifted, Lydia particularly smiled at the silk pajamas given to both her and her lover. Finally, as both Lydia and Barbara sat settled on the sofa, Amanda handed Lydia her last gift, stating it was from both of them. Lydia was very curious as she uncovered a leather bound album and suspected photographs. When she opened to the first page, she was silenced for a moment before howling with laughter. Barbara chuckled as Lydia turned each page, uttering howls at each shot. When Lydia had looked at the last shot for the first time, she went to Amanda to kiss her full on the mouth; then brought Laura to her feet to kiss her as well. Laura was momentarily stunned, then quipped to Amanda that she has been taught very well. Amanda explained that Jeannie had taken the photographs; they had way too much fun posing for them. They also told their friends that as Jeannie said Harry would be very miffed that he missed that shoot, they had decided to give him a framed shot, one of the tamer, as a Wintersday gift. Amanda said that at the last New Year ' s celebration he almost drooled over Laura in skin tight jeans and the wine silk strapless top. They finally decided to let Harry in on the secret when Amanda kissed Laura passionately before take-off in Bella one day. Harry was very shocked, uncertain of how to react until Amanda talked to her old friend. Lydia recalled a similar experience with Jackson when Barbara first came to the ranch. Jackson ' s wife was still living; he ran home to her one day in shock after he had walked in without a knock to find the lovers naked and very distracted in front of the fire. His wife sat him down, telling him to open his eyes to the world around him, that love was love, no matter what its direction. Jackson had known Lydia most of her life; it never occurred to him that she could love anyone, especially another woman. Now he and Barbara worked together day by day like brother and sister. The riot of wrapping papers was burned with the gifts stacked as neatly as possible back under the tree, all except of the album. Lydia viewed it repeatedly during the day. She looked at Amanda ' s photos, seeing the beautiful woman she had enticed to love many years ago. A part of her had always held her as if she would break but now she knew Laura would do that holding so she could let her go but never to stop loving her. Amanda hoped for that very reaction, seeing it in her former lover ' s eyes and smile. Barbara had claimed the corner of the sofa and Lydia laid full length of the couch with her head in Barbara ' s lap. Amanda was showing Laura about her new camera and then exploring her own new equipment. Laura gave her a wrapped frame with the most intimate photo of Jeannie ' s shoot, one not even in the album, suggesting that perhaps Amanda should not keep that on her desk. Amanda returned that it would live in the bathroom at the cabin. Teddy gave Amanda new glass candy jars with many bags of her favorite sweets, all retrieved from the Smithers store. Amanda lined them all up on the island and filled each as Teddy grinned her approval. Teddy had found wonderful baker ' s aprons for Laura, again at Smithers ' store; Luther had helped her put hooks in the kitchen walls on which to hang them. She was a good bear indeed. Laura found Teddy her own satin and lace which made her blush as she modeled it. Amanda had found her a friend; they would get to know each other better when the humans all went to sleep. Laura took her own boudoir shots of the bear, her first with her new camera. Lydia and Barbara watched great affection as their friends played and laughed. Amanda took many shots of Lydia , Barbara, and her lover. Laura then opened her antique chest to introduce Lydia and Barbara to her tin toys. She lined them up on the hearth, taking photos of them as well. Amanda took photos of Laura taking photos. The child within Laura tugged at the heartstrings of both Lydia and Barbara; they loved Amanda even more as she had helped Laura claim her.

Amanda donned boots and a jacket to check batteries, standing on the deck taking shots. She looked up as her Wintersday ' s raven circled above. She was certain he even tipped a wing to her. She thanked the ancient named Tom for the gift of his daughter on earth. She turned to see Laura standing behind here smiling though tears, as she gave blessings back to their ancients. Lydia and Barbara watched that magic, both knew that Laura Ravencouer was indeed a very old, very powerful spirit, a great priestess. Amanda clearly saw her ancients touch her friends, she no longer believed in coincidence. They were all here to fill destinies and how she loved them all.

Laura found china and crystal to set an elegant Wintersday table for their dinner. Barbara asked to help, Laura was happy to accept. Laura talked of how she had acted as hostess for her grandfather as even a young adolescent after her grandmother died; as such dinner parties no longer intimidated her. She knew she was very fortunate to have never really wanted for material things but would have traded all of that for a normal family life like others her age. Amanda ' s parents were distant but she at least had a childhood to remember. She told Barbara about the carnival, the Wintersday parade, the toys at the Smithers ' store gifted to her at last Wintersday, the cabin transformed when they were out, all those given to her by the woman she loved. She now had some of her own childhood memories even if they did happen a bit late. Laura talked about transforming the cabin this year, the very first time she had ever done that. She said that Amanda fretted from time to time that a woman of her only nineteen years was already in a coupled lovership, worrying that she would be confined by that. Laura now had a real family, a real home, with absolutely nothing confining about that final arrival in her life. Barbara replied she totally understood that. She had been born to very poor working parents; there was often no money for any Wintersday celebrations. She joined the Military the day after her sixteenth birth anniversary, training as an aircraft mechanic, loving it from the very first day. She needed the security of the Military as well as a warm bed, a roof over her head, regular meals, and a pay cheque part of which she was able to send back to her family to feed her family. She had been born in the east, joining the Military there. She transferred to the Northwestern City when the workers started to rebel some fifteen years ago. She was a master mechanic, sent to the Carriere base just as a new Captain was taking command, relieving the former Colonel who was reposted to a more central command. Barbara always knew she was a lesbian but had only brief sexual encounters before her transfer to Carriere. Lieutenant Amanda Bennett was a young officer who was being taught to fly aircraft by the new Captain Stenns. She immediately knew that they were both gay women, suspecting they were lovers but really none of her concern. She was just glad of a job and the security of the Military. After Lieutenant Bennett graduated and earned her wings, she visited Carriere rarely, then not at all for close to two years. The now Captain Bennett visited her old friend again but just once. In the interim, Captain Lydia Stenns had introduced herself personally to Master Corporal Barbara Maclippe; they had dined off base a few times. After Captain Bennett visited the last time, Captain Stenns asked Master Corporal Maclippe if she thought she might like to visit her ranch for the weekend over Wintersday; since she found the Captain quite captivating the Master Corporal accepted the invitation. A somewhat handsome Barbara had easily seduced a breathtakingly beautiful Lydia with the spell being cast for the rest of their lives. They fell instantly forever in love. That was thirteen years ago, the silver rings exchanged earlier this morning marked that anniversary. Barbara and Laura were perched on stools in the kitchen sipping mulled cider with Laura was lost in the story. As she looked to the island, Lydia and Amanda were walking to their lovers with smiles. Laura felt arms of love wrapped around her and Barbara felt hers. She loved these women; she and Barbara had just become lifelong sisters.

Amanda and Laura served a huge, delicious Wintersday feast, elegantly in candlelight and firelight with holly and ivy festooning the new dining table, then found themselves nestled before the fire in candlelight, tree light, and lovelights. All thought to themselves that this was the most magical Wintersday, one to hold forever in their memories. Barbara and Amanda filled the wood box for the night. Laura found music for dancing and led a lovely Lydia in her own waltz. Lydia stopped long enough to tell Laura quietly that she knew her ancients, knew their destinies, promised Laura that she would take care of her beloved when she had to leave her, telling her to never ever forget the love she knew. The clatter of the wood box took the friends back to the waltz as their lovers then joined them. Lydia finally admitted that Amanda had been the one to teach her dance as a young woman. Barbara learned years later at the constant provocation of her fetchingly beautiful partner. But Lydia wanted to reiterate that was the only thing Amanda had to teach her. Laughter, celebration, and then love rang out from the cabin on the coast in the twelfth month of the New Year.

Laura woke before the next dawn to find Amanda holding her, gazing upon her with tears rolling down her beautiful cheeks. Laura kissed away her tears; hours of passion and finally more sleep followed. They awoke a second time as robes landed in their faces with Lydia barking orders to stop being entirely lecherous and get their lazy asses out of bed. Amanda and Laura quickly showered, dressed, and joined their friends. Laura was taken to fits of laughter when she finally noticed Teddy and her new friend Primrose both in satin, lace, and both in a rather compromising orientation in the armchair by the fire. Amanda spoke sternly to them about decorum as she dressed them in bear robes. A very lazy metronome directed the dance of this morning ' s routines. A new pot of mulled cider was placed on the trammel. Lydia looked at the album for about the thirtieth time. Barbara had tucked into one of the many books Lydia had given her. Amanda investigated all her new camera equipment and lenses. Laura dragged the easel to the window and perched on a stool to prepare a canvas for yet another story, this time of four fluid dancing spirits entwined and spiraling upwards and downwards. Amanda offered her friends a warm bubble bath in the soaking tub, running one for them. A newborn sun shone blessings on them through the skylight. Laura finished the canvas preparation; while waiting for it to day she stood at the window watching the ocean begrudgingly allowing the sun ' s kisses on waves but only briefly. The ancients gave the ocean to Laura to teach her constant strength in light of constant change, to teach her resilience when anger would temporarily overtake her, to teach her permanence and eternity. Laura silently recognized the gift. Amanda came to stand with her, encircling her waist with a strong loving arm; both women continued to offer down thanks.

Gales of laughter coming from the bathroom led Amanda to express regret for the lock on that door as the photographs would have been priceless. Laura quietly remarked that she was now seeing the Lydia that Amanda and Barbara had fallen in love with. Amanda acknowledged that with an admonishment that Laura not fall in love with her as well. A long and inviting kiss was the response to that warning. Two clean, very preoccupied women finally emerged from the bathroom and scooted down the hall to the guest room. Laura and Amanda refilled the tub to enjoy their own blessings of the new sun. Afternoon hours later before losing the entire sun ' s light, spirits started to find their way to Laura ' s canvas through brushes and paints. Her lover and her friends were fascinated by the transformation visible on Laura ' s face as the story was told. When the light no longer allowed continuing, Laura slowly returned to the reality of the cabin and the love of the women therein.

Dinner was enjoyed in front of the fire; after night routines danced, the women drove to the beach to convene with a huge Mother Moon blessing her earth and her firmament. The silence of wonder enveloped except for the soft clicking of a camera. Lydia led Barbara closer to the water, holding her long in her arms. Laura continued to be overwhelmed by the depth of love her friends shared, not really recognizing the same in her own life. Finally a cold night drove the women back to the fire and warmed cider. There were snickers as their guests had to remove Teddy and Primrose from between the sheets in their bed. Lydia suggested in the morning that perhaps they should have built the bear her own room.

Despite passion at morning, Laura and Amanda managed prepare food fir the other lovers. Later in the day, all four friends planned to fly to the Carriere base, then drive into town to retrieve to drop off laundry and then perhaps raise a bit of a ruckus at the bar. Breakfast and morning routines led to more laughter and conversation in front of the fire. Luther arrived before lunch to change batteries and charge more by solar power. He planned return when his friends flew to Carriere to tend to a fire and generate wind powered energy while they were gone. Over another pot of coffee, all spoke of the greenhouse at the ranch and how it had progressed from its infancy. Lydia recommended types energy saving freezers. There was room at the rear of the cabin to erect a small greenhouse which could be expanded if the need arose. Luther was once again excited about the prospect of more self-sufficiency, committing the rest of the winter months researching and learning about building such a structure. Amanda could not resist asking if Luther had spoken to Harry since Wintersday; Luther laughed aloud as he told of Harry showing him his framed gift. Luther was convinced his friend would never be quite the same. The early afternoon light allowed the completion of the story on the canvas, colors vibrant with spirits spiraling in dance upwards and downwards in an almost iridescent sky, one black raven tipping his wing in celebration. Every time Laura ' s soul gave birth to a new visual representation, she was sure it was her best. She asked Luther to frame it and then hang it in the guest bedroom. Amanda spoke about the large work with the raven haired beauty, of its haunting and violence; a shadow crossed both Laura ' s face and Lydia ' s. Lydia knew of the raven haired beauty, Laura knew of the violence.

Later afternoon was reserved for showers in preparation for their evening sojourn. Each woman dressed for her lover and a night among other women loving women. Laura was once again stunning in a very short, very tight brown leather skirt with matching knee length boots with four inch heels, a sheer long sleeve shirt showing brown satin with ecru lace underneath. She applied come-hither make up and tied her hair in a ponytail such that her long curls would move with each step. All her friends simply shook their heads when she emerged from the bathroom, smiling wickedly. If the bar needed ruckus, it could be arranged. Amanda was beautiful in trousers, black silk shirt, and her own four inch heels. Barbara wore a tank top under a blazer and trousers, with the blazer removed beautiful strong muscled rancher ' s arms impressed. Lydia cleaned up very well, wearing skin tight jeans, white on white striped shirt with lace showing beneath, and her own boots with heels. Amanda grinned widely when she saw the lace for the first time in years. Before they left, Amanda set her camera on a tripod and clicked several shots remotely of these gorgeous women about to be out on the town.

The women arrived at the bar for dinners at about 1930 hours, as they found a table other women were silenced. Amanda had not seen this look of mischief on Laura ' s face previously. She knew she would enjoy and remember this evening for a very long time. They ordered dinner and all but Laura ordered beer. She drank soda for the evening in order to return to the cabin. By 2100 hours the bar was almost full with music bringing dancers to the floor. Laura smiled, pulled Barbara to her feet, removed her blazer, leading her to the dance floor. Every available eye watched them, including the bartenders. Laura led her friend in a sultry dance, making sure that the four inch heels and ponytail worked their magic, kissing Barbara full on the mouth when the music stopped. Lydia leaned over mentioning to Amanda that the kid had learned quickly and learned well. After another dance they returned to the table, again with eyes glued to them. They sat out a few songs and then Lydia led her beautiful lover to the floor with their own sultry dance ended by a passionate kiss on the lips, almost plain seduction on the dance floor. Barbara was fighting to control laughter but played well. Amanda leaned close to Laura, kissed her, undoing two buttons on her shirt revealing definite satin and lace. Amanda followed her gorgeous lover to the dance floor, letting herself be led in dance, making sure that every possible part of Laura ' s body was touched at least once. Now both Lydia and Barbara were fighting for control of laughter; many other patrons were simply fighting for control. When the friends chose to return to their table, Laura stopped at the bar, leaned over as far as womanly possible to ask for another soda; there were audible moans coming from tables in the room. She then returned to her friends, taking full advantage of every step and every eye glued on her. Laura leaned over to ask Amanda if she was behaving properly to which Amanda replied that it was any more proper there would be brawl. A few minutes later, an older woman approached the table and pulled up a chair to sit down. Amanda introduced Laura to Sally, the bar owner. They all chatted for a few minutes and then as Sally was leaving she told Amanda that she was not sure how she pulled this one off but that Laura was probably the most gorgeous creature she had ever laid eyes on. Laura smiled, blushing slightly. The friends were thinking about returning home when Samantha and other women arrived at the bar. She spotted Amanda and Laura, tossed her head back in laughter, then walked to greet them accompanied by her friend. Samantha introduced her partner to Amanda and Laura; Amanda introduced them then to Lydia and Barbara. They invited Samantha and Carrie to join them but they graciously declined, stating that they were meeting friends. As they left, however, Samantha remarked that both her former clients were drop dead gorgeous as were their friends.

Laura landed Bella back at her pad at 0100 hours and drove back to a warmed cabin. She thanked everyone for a wonderful evening, her first real knowing gay bar experience, she had entirely too much fun. Tired women found warmed duvets, warming stones, and beds. Amanda asked to be undressed to which Laura complied eagerly. Amanda then undressed her lover slowly with passion finding them before they reached the sheets. Dawn finally lulled the lovers to sleep. At mid-morning, Lydia brought coffee and Barbara ' s cinnamon buns on a breakfast tray to their hostesses, after picking up a trail of boots, leather, satin, and lace. The late morning for Amanda and Laura allowed passion for their guests before the fire on the rug. Barbara handed her friends night shirts, then both she and Lydia climbed on to the bottom of the bed. Lydia remarked that Harry and probably Jackson would have fits if they walked in on this. Teddy and Primrose had been dressed in nightshirts and tucked in the hostesses ' bed for a rest, still surviving what was supposed to be the initial period of lust but little did they know.

Jeannie stopped by after in the early afternoon hours to bring fresh fish for their dinner and because she was beyond curious about how the foray to the bar had gone. She was invited to a chair by the fire and given a mug of mulled cider. Lydia recounted the stories of the bar, commented that the child had learned quickly and learned well; then Barbara quietly mentioned the late rising and trail of boots, leather, lace, and satin. Jeannie said there were times when she wished she had made another choice in her youth but instead chose Harry, motherhood, still caring for him. Lydia complimented Jeannie on the boudoir shots. Jeannie replied that Harry choked and could not talk for hours after opening his, stating that it was close to priceless. Jeannie had to whisper to him later that it was she who took the shots. Barbara said they were looking forward to the New Year ' s feast with their new friends to Jeannie's delight.

The women talked about plans for a greenhouse in the spring with Jeannie confirming that Luther was already beyond excited about the prospect. Laura asked to have Bella warmed for a fifth day trip for supplies and laundry exchange to which Jeannie replied that if they wanted she would make the trip for them so that they could have more time with their friends. She also said she was just anxious to get some flying of her own done. Amanda and Laura graciously accepted her offer. Jeannie gasped when she saw Laura ' s latest painting, eyes misting over. Amanda just hugged her friend, telling her she now understood which then induced tears. The circles were growing, the destinies more sure.

The next two days and nights were filled with good food, good wine, good conversation, good fun at card games, and great passion. Day and night routines were danced readily and shared. Amanda had asked Barbara to work her magic with steak for New Year ' s Eve if the weather held. The friends planned a trip to Eaglesdown for lunch on the fifth weekday, again if the weather held. Neither Lydia nor Barbara had experienced the Smithers ' store or Judith ' s chowder and biscuits. The time away would allow Luther to charge batteries using the wind towers and solar power. Luther stopped by in the early evening of the fourth weekday to retrieve a shopping list for Jeannie and to arrange for a time for battery charging the next day. Laura asked him to frame the latest painting and to hang it in the guest room. He stated the road to Eaglesdown was clear; the base at Carriere predicted clear skies with cold temperatures for the next several days. Lydia walked to the wood shed with Luther to set a time for the fireworks she had brought as a surprise for New Year ' s Eve, asking Luther to set them off at the beach for everyone to enjoy. They agreed on 2200 hours. Luther left with a list and the laundry for exchange. Barbara and her sweet woman enjoyed a warm bath; Amanda and Laura shared goblets of brandy, dancing in firelight to soft Latin beats while the tub was being enjoyed. Laura spoke softly of how much she loved Amanda; how she did not know it would ever be possible to love as she did. For the first time, Amanda whispered she knew her lover was a priestess and capable of depths no-one would really understand. Amanda told her she knew she was being taught what she needed to know by the ancients. Amanda also told Laura that she knew they would not be together in the future but the love they knew now would sustain them forever if needed. That was the reason they loved as they did, in preparation for the time when only souls ' memories would hold them. With the dance, the ancients drew them down together through eyes deepened to eternity. Lydia and Barbara left the bath, standing in awe of what they witnessed.

All four friends were awake early; Teddy and Primrose were finally clothed properly, back in their armchair once again. Laura planned a buffet for the New Year ' s feast as they had the year previously with the tradition had been established for Laura ' s cherries and brandy. Luther arrived just as the four friends were entering their vehicle to drive to Eaglesdown. Wild ocean spray with winds buffeted the vehicle and the wrath silenced all the women. Eaglesdown was quiescent, wharf empty, boats idle. There were few locals in the diner when Laura and Amanda hugged Judith, introducing their friends to her. They found their usual table at the rear with a view of the ocean and forlorn wharf. Judith brought a pot of tea, four bowls of steaming chowder, and biscuits. Lydia and Barbara were silent as the pleasure of fresh caught fish and fresh baked biscuits warmed them. Amanda asked if there was extra for take away; Judith replied that she could fill several from a huge pot on the stove. Then the women walked to the General Store. Laura shared one of her favorite shops. Mr. Smithers hurried to greet his friends, calling his wife to join them. Amanda hugged her old friend as did Laura; both the elders were introduced to Lydia and Barbara. The women all wandered past tinned vegetables, fishing nets, nuts and bolts. Lydia and Barbara both found warm lined slickers. Laura told her elder friends that the aprons were wonderful, thanking them for helping Teddy choose them. While Lydia and Barbara continued to wander, Laura and Amanda told their friends of their newly renovated home, including a photograph of the quilt on the new bed. Mr. Smithers shyly asked about Laura ' s toys, she told him of the antique pine chest where they lived when she was not playing with them or lining them up on the hearth. He said those toys had waited a very long time to find their home; he was so glad it was with Laura.

Amanda stopped back at the diner, returning to their vehicle with four filled containers of chowder for Barbara to take back to the ranch. The return to the cabin was wind buffeted, all four women were glad to be back in the comfort of a warm fire. The next few hours were filled with preparation of savories and sweets for the New Year ' s feast. Luther delivered their laundry and groceries by midafternoon. He said he would bring Dungeness crabs the following late morning. Barbara offered to cook a roast on the pit for the New Year ' s feast as she would for the steaks for the New Year ' s Eve dinner for her three friends; all were very accepting as the woman worked magic with anything bovine. Dinner and night routines were shared early followed by dancing by firelight

New Year ' s Eve in the cabin was steeped in excitement although no one woman would know why. Luther dropped off a huge catch of Dungeness crabs. He and Lydia filled the wood box and finalized the plans for fireworks at 2200 hours. Luther brought wood to the deck for the fire in the pit; Barbara started a fire in early afternoon in order have hot coals in time for a steak dinner. She conferred with Luther about a log to burn overnight to keep the fire going for a roast the following day; he returned with a huge hard wood log that would burn well into the morning of the following day. The morning routines were danced easily and quickly. Laura set an elegant table for their dinner later that day. There were many bottles of champagne chilling as well as red wine to be opened later and white wine to be chilled. Barbara and Lydia prepared the steak and a huge roast for the morrow. After a light lunch, Laura excused herself to the shower as she would need to tame the curls which always took some time. Amanda joined her for some play but only promises of passion. Within an hour, Laura ' s curls were carefully corralled and pinned. She would add a clip when she dressed. Luther dropped off a clothing bag when he returned the laundry, Amanda knew better than to ask. Everyone decided on a midafternoon nap so that they would be wide awake to greet the New Year. Laura woke first and prepared fruit for the chocolate fondue for their dessert before the fire in the evening. Amanda came to the kitchen, holding her in her arms for a long hug, kissing that beautiful neck. She had opened up a new ironing board and used a new iron to press her trousers for the evening and offered to do the same for Lydia and Barbara, only Lydia accepted the offer. When dinner preparations were done, Barbara returned to her room to change into dinner clothes and Laura locked herself in the bathroom. Barbara emerged elegant in a calf length silk skirt and matching sleeveless top, make up, heels and silver ear loops. Both Amanda and Lydia caught their breath as she smiled. Lydia walked slowly to her with love shining in her eyes. Minutes later, Laura emerged from the bathroom in a black silk low cut halter top with matching silk wide leg trousers, red metallic six inch heels, rubies at her neck, dangling from her earlobes, and sparkling at her crown. She walked slowly past Lydia and Barbara into the waiting arms of her lover with the look asking if this was suitable. With a wicked grin, Laura loosed two buttons on Amanda ' s black shirt to reveal not a lot of lace underneath. Laura took to the role of gracious hostess pouring wine for her guests and her lover. Amanda started the water to steam the crabs and the chocolate was put to melt for fondue. Both Lydia and Barbara prepared the steaks. Amanda had not said many words since she saw Laura dressed in the silk but as she was coming from the kitchen she took her in her arms, kissing her until neither could breathe. Time stopped as they went to the multiverse with their eyes and then their lips again. Lydia was forced to remind them that dinner was waiting. The crabs were served as were the steaks, the lovers all dined by candlelight, firelight, and tree lights. The clearing and cleaning up was done quickly and effortlessly. Crabs were tucked into the refrigerator for the feast in the morrow. The women met again in front of the fire, a pot of melted chocolate and a tray of fresh fruits for dipping was served along with more wine. Lydia helped with the huge log that Luther had prepared for the pit. While they were on the deck, Laura asked Amanda if they could just make the Wintersday celebration a recurring invitation to their friends if they wanted to join them year after year. Amanda smiled as she wanted to ask the same of Laura. When the overnight fire in the pit was banked and secured, Lydia and Barbara returned to the fire and flutes of champagne. Laura was sitting on Amanda ' s lap leaned back in an armchair, she took her lover ' s hand and quietly invited their friends for a recurring Wintersday week invitation at the cabin at the coast, if they chose. Both Lydia and Barbara simultaneously accepted. They could not think of a better way to celebrate their anniversary, there was magic in this home. The old mantle clock slid quickly to 2200 hours. Lydia invited her lover and her friends to come to the window; soon the sky over the ocean was filled with bursts of color. Laura was initially thrilled, and then trembled with a vision of explosions sent by the ancients. Amanda held her close as she knew the reaction was not to the fireworks but to the future.

The stroke of midnight and the greeting of another new year led lovers to each other ' s arms and hearts. Each knew that the night would be held in them forever, giving them courage to live the assured destiny to be played out. The couples found warm beds awaiting lips on lips, skin on skin, soul to soul, as the New Year blessed the cabin with the magic within in the first day of the New Year. The first dawn of the New Year shone pink allowing the new sun to rise, growing in his strength each new day. Amanda and Laura reluctantly left the other ' s arms and rose to the early morning routine. Since the fright of the previous night, Laura seemed fragile; Amanda wanted to do nothing else but to hold her, to protect her until she found her strength again. She did know, however, that Laura would find her own way; all the events in her life here were in preparation for the plans she had set out as a priestess. Lydia and Barbara joined their friends with hugs and blessings shared for the New Year. The morning routines were subdued after which both Lydia and Barbara readied the fire in the pit for the roast. They then packed what they could for their trip back to the base the next day. They made tentative plans to welcome their friends to the ranch in the third month of this New Year. Lydia found dance music and danced with Amanda and Laura, stating that she wanted some memories to hold her for a few months. The day hours were whiled away with conversation and timed preparations for the arrival of their guests. . Laura showered and then dressed in the short leather skirt, the matching boots with the four inch heels, a satin camisole, the infamous come-hither make up, and curls tumbling from her head. It was understood that Harry would officially lose his mind. All four women greeted their guests with blessings for the New Year and flutes of champagne. Luther grinned as he saw Laura, now part of the conspiracy. Laura walked back to the kitchen, boots working their magic with Harry openly remarking that no woman as smart as Laura should have that kind of a backside. Breathless laughter erupted immediately as Amanda hugged her dear friend. Laura and Barbara had set an elegant table while Lydia and Luther rescued the meat from the pit. Barbara captured Harry ' s heart as well over dinner as they were in deep conversation about the mechanics and repair of engines, a subject dear to both. Lydia , Mary, and Luther were lost in conversation about energy conservation. Jeannie, Amanda, and Laura sat in their circle and that of the ancients as greater connection was created. Primrose was formally introduced to her new friends as she sat with Teddy on the hearth, each elegant in evening attire. Laura served flaming cherries elegantly presented in front of the fire. A pot of Lydia ' s fine coffee finished the meal along with shared conversation and laughter. Late in the evening, the friends thanked all their friends, old and new, for another fine New Year ' s feast and celebration. Laura put her arms Harry ' s neck and hugged him a child would hug a father causing him to beam. The lovers found warmed beds shortly thereafter.

Laura work early, made pans of cinnamon buns, packets of cold roast and crab to accompany her friends to the base. Barbara planned to stay the night at Carriere and then fly east to the ranch the next day. As they were driving back to their helicopter, Barbara just told them to watch the skies the following morning. Their cartons and luggage were loaded aboard the ranch helicopter as Lydia ran a preflight check list. Harry was standing in the doorway to wave goodbye. Both Amanda and Laura kissed both Lydia and Barbara full on the mouths in a loving thank you and goodbye; Harry shook his head, thinking he might never really understand. Laura watched until her friends had flown out of sight. Amanda understood then that her young lover held her new family close and did not quite trust yet that they would never really leave her heart. The lovers returned to the cabin; one more, Amanda thought she would break into galaxies of pieces with Laura ' s urgent, pristine journey to the multiverse, to the ancients repeatedly. Early evening woke the lovers lying in front of the fire. Dinner and night routines were danced. Amanda ran a tub for them for a long soak by candlelight. Jeannie, Mary, and Luther planned arrival in the morning to remove the Wintersday decorations, trees, and boughs.

Amanda was propped up in bed as Laura crawled into her arms to rest her head on shoulder and breast. She sat up to face Amanda and told her she needed to tell her of a planned visit she would make at the end of the second month of the New Year. She explained that a child of her mother ' s friend had contacted her through Elgin . She knew she could not tell Amanda about Lou and the part she played in Thea ' s life and would play in her own. She told Amanda that she had agreed to meet this man as he would visit the Northwestern City although they had not agreed on a place or specific day. Amanda was silent and had moved away from her lover. Laura tried to explain now to somewhat deafened ears that she needed to keep whatever connection she could with her mother, even if it was just through the child of a friend. Amanda said she knew Laura would do as she chose but that she had hoped she would have conferred with her first before agreeing. Anger flashed across hazel eyes as Laura quietly retorted that she did not realize there were ownership papers issued at any time. Amanda turned her back and did not speak again. A full light of morning woke Amanda who turned to find the bed empty. The room was cool; she rose to quickly bank a fire and make a pot of coffee. She went to the guest room to wake Laura to try to talk through what had happened the night before; she opened the door to an empty room and an undisturbed bed. Amanda could not breathe as she ran to the window to see the vehicle gone from the driveway. Laura had left, her beloved Laura was gone. A cup of hot coffee found her; Jeannie then found her two hours later still holding a cold cup of coffee. She gathered her friend in her arms, found warm clothing for her, quietly telling her friend that Laura was at the beach. Mary made a fresh pot of coffee and filled a thermos bottle. Luther placed blankets with the coffee in his vehicle; Jeannie forced Amanda step by step to join Luther. She stood arm in arm with Mary at the window, both crying and both smiling. The first lover ' s quarrel was always the most brutal; with these women it was huge. Luther handed the blankets and the coffee to Amanda, then pointed to the driftwood and rocks. As Amanda walked to the only woman she would ever love, Luther returned to the cabin; all their friends packed the Wintersdays decorations. She placed warm blankets around her almost frozen lover and handed her a cup of steaming hot liquid. She then tentatively took a mitten covered, spray soaked hand, telling Laura she was sorry. She told her that she loved her beyond what she had ever understood possible, that she could hardly bear the knowledge that they would be apart someday as she had been told by the grandfather. She knew that Laura had much she could not share; she would learn to accept and trust that. She continued that she was not ready yet to lose a love that sustained her, filled her, lifted her up. She spoke of her voyage to almost shatter and then to the universe by the priestess who shared her life. Laura ' s eyes were on fire but never left Amanda ' s as she spoke; her only reply Take me home." Amanda drove the vehicle back to the cabin; as they were walking to the deck, they looked up to see a helicopter fly low past them heading east with the pilot tipping the tail as a greeting. Laura finally smiled, understanding that they would always all love each other even beyond misunderstanding. Jeannie, Mary, and Luther departed earlier with a note stating they would return the next day to finish packing and removing cartons. Soft cotton night shirts were warmed by the fire as were towels placed over warming stones outside the bathroom door. The lovers found a warming shower with an afternoon lying in each other arms in their warm bed, crying, laughing, crying, talking, crying, and loving. They arose to warm soup and cider for dinner. Amanda lay on the sofa with her head in Laura ' s lap as they watched the fire. She suggested that Laura fly Bella to meet her friend. Laura had a look of questioning surprise on her face. Amanda quietly told her that she was an accomplished pilot, able to fly Bella to the coast and the ranch without effort though challenging winds. She was a civilian helicopter, no Military markings, and as such Laura would be safe from pockets of Resistance fighters who were becoming more dangerously prevalent. She said it would be safer than taking a Military vehicle off base especially alone. She asked if she had told her friend where she lived, Laura said she had; Laura knew that she must connect with this man; it had been directed by her ancients, by the grandfather. Laura was an ancient priestess but she was a young woman of few earth years, still struggling to understand Amanda ' s reaction. She did trust, however, that she would understand as she needed to. When she returned to the base, she planned to email Barbara and talk to her about it.

Love found Amanda and Laura repeatedly in the coming days but it would take months for the hurt and scars from their first quarrel to dissipate. The ancients told both to remember the cause and effect for a long time, a lifetime. Their friends arrived the next day before mid-day to finish the packing, share a pot of coffee, and implement more damage control if needed. Jeannie saw the scars but in her wisdom and experience knew that the powerful love these women had for each other would eventually heal. They planned a flight to Carriere the next day for supplies and to exchange laundry. The talked to Luther about an energy saving freezer that Lydia had recommended with enough energy sustained to maintain one. He reassured both women that the existing power sources were more than sufficient to provide power for several more usages if needed. He did suggest that more batteries would be a sensible idea as he would store energy on a regular basis even when the women were not at their home. Both women told Luther to order what he needed and arrange for delivery when the weather allowed. Laura put bread dough to rise on the hearth, almost therapeutic for her now. After their friends left as she was putting loaves to cool, Amanda asked her where learned to cook, if she had taken classes as she doubted that Anna Marie would have taught her. Laura smiled and said that she was not sure if Anna Marie knew what pots were or where they were kept at her home. They had household staff who was Laura ' s only real friends and the cook, Maisie, had never minded Laura ' s chatter in her kitchen as she prepared food. They traded talents and instruction. Laura read newspapers and books to Maisie, teaching her basic reading skills. Maisie taught Laura how to cook and she had become proficient at it. She supposed now that there was some return of almost being loved when she was in the kitchen. Amanda told Laura that she took on a look of particular softness as she hummed through recipes. Laura told her lover that when she prepared food for them it made her feel as she had a real family, a real life. Amanda took her in her arms once more to tell her that despite misunderstanding and human insecurities she would always have a real family, a real life, with the woman who loved her more than life itself.

Amanda tucked in a corner of the sofa, lost to her knitting. Laura asked her where she had learned to knit. Amanda replied that her father ' s sister had stayed with them regularly when she was a child. She acted as a nanny much of the time, teaching Amanda and her brother how to knit when they were quite young. Her brother did not pursue it one he found out it was not considered a manly art but Amanda always loved it, conjecturing that perhaps it took her back to her own childhood just as cooking did for Laura. Amanda quietly asked Laura if she had considered bearing children, she was still a very young woman. Laura was quite emphatic in her answer that she would not carry or bear a child, children needed parents in their lives forever, and she knew she would not be able to make that commitment. She chose medical intervention early in her adolescence to avoid a female cycle. She said she assumed that Amanda had chosen the same which she had. They both admitted that they had considered the vaccination now mandatory among the workers, not for sterility but for health and youth; neither had made a definite decision.

After dinner and night chores, the lovers showered, found satin, lace, brandy, and seduction, followed by peaceful restful sleep. The following morning they flew to the Carriere base and to town to exchange laundry, pick up supplies with return home by just past midday. Luther was just turning off wind towers as they arrived back at the cabin. He had readied coffee for brewing and as he was leaving he told the women about fresh fish in the refrigerator. By nightfall, crowded snowflakes fell to Mother Earth and all of her surfaces, the ocean quieted in welcome. Laura stood at the window and watched for many earth minutes as she was taken to her ancients, to those who she loved, to those who guided her, to those she had understood for the infinite rolling of the helix. She was gathering their power, her power, for the coming earth years. Amanda came to her but stood apart watching the transformation from human to priestess and return, awed that she had been chosen to share the journey. Morning was still cloaked in dense a snow storm; the lovers quietly danced the morning routines as if in harmony with Mother ' s gentle sighs. They planned to join Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary for dinner on the second weekend evening. Laura joined Amanda in front of the fire and the quiet solitude did not preclude passion. With each journey to her ancients and each instillation of power, Laura felt more urgency to make memories of the earth love she shared with Amanda. With the loosening of boundaries placed on her by earth rules she discovered previously unknown pleasures taught from within and without; those that her older, more experienced lover never imagined. When close to consciousness again, Amanda quietly murmured that if one had to fall in love one might as well with a priestess; Laura quietly replied that she was just learning that herself.

The next dawn permitted the new humbled sun to bow to the Mother now painted with the ermine white and diamond sparkles of newly fallen snow. Luther arrived to plough, shovel, and share a cup of warming coffee with his friends. In the afternoon, Laura and Amanda walked on the mountain road that Luther had ploughed, enjoyed the air, the sun, and peace Mother was giving; and on return to a warm fire the air and sun had their usual effect. They feasted with their good friends and enjoyed an evening of great company. Laura did not torture Harry, on purpose at least. She did spend time with him telling of being an orphan and being raised by her grandparents. Jeannie took Bella to Carriere one last time before the woman had to return to the base, allowing them an entire week of sharing the cabin alone.

Laura had not returned to the easel and Amanda asked why. Laura replied that she could not put the remaining scars there yet but that it would come in due time. The weekdays were filled with love and intimacy, more than they had experienced in the past, as if the turmoil of the last week ' s misunderstanding had cleared a great space in them for sharing, even if some of it was hurt. Laura asked Amanda to try to arrange teaching of Basic Mechanics for her, her argument being that if one was to fly aircraft, jump out of aircraft, one should also know how to repair aircraft engines at least. She planned payment as a private student as always if she did get a chance to be a student, insisting that Amanda not gift her. Amanda teased that the lovely Barbara had bewitched her to which Laura readily agreed. They planned return to the base on the upcoming second weekend day to give one day ' s re-orientation to the lives of pretense and to prepare for new classes. Each woman already was remembering the ache they face on return. Luther had been very careful to speak of any pending arrival at the cabin for chores, both lovers were very grateful for the man ' s sensitivity as the remaining weekdays were mostly occupied with play and passion. The first weekend day was filled with packing to return to the base, save for the new satin and lace from Wintersday, needed for one more night of brandy and dancing before return to the base.

Chapter 13

Bella was packed and airborne before midday on the second weekend day after the friends had all hugged goodbyes to their friends with a very special thank you to Jeannie for her wisdom. The women spent the remainder of the day once at the base storing items returned from the cabin. Laura locked her drives into her new safe. Laura prepared for the next class to start on the second weekday. Amanda returned to work on the first weekday and summoned Instructor Laura Ravencouer to her office. Laura ' s instincts told her to dress appropriately for such a request; she chose the black suit and four inch heels. Amanda ' s assistant showed her into Amanda ' s office to see the Lieutenant Colonel, a very solemn Colonel Bennett, and a smiling General Anthony Downs. He had made a special trip to the base to present Laura Ravencouer with her wings after graduating as a helicopter pilot mow licensed for Search and Rescue missions. She did allow him to pin the silver wings on her lapel with steel flashing from the hazel eyes with just a slight second of seduction. She did not salute but quietly and graciously thanked the General for taking time from his very busy schedule aiding The Decision to congratulate a young civilian pilot. She then breached all protocol, asking to be dismissed as she had a week ' s classroom studies to prepare. She looked very briefly at Amanda who very briefly shone a loving smile from her ice blue eyes. A base photographer had captured the pinning moment for posterity, sending an email copy to Laura that afternoon. Upon its receipt, she forwarded it on to Lydia and Barbara with a very unladylike caption. She called her florist friend at the University to send an emergency delivery of as many yellow roses as she could find to the base, hopefully before 1800 hours that day. At 1700 hours, Laura met Amanda for dinner, then saying goodnight as Amanda arrived at the door of her suite. Laura was unlocking her own door when she heard the sound of weeping; she returned to Amanda ' s suite to join the dozens of yellow roses she had put there before dinner. Amanda began to realize that in due time General Anthony Downs would go down, well and permanently.

Laura emailed Elgin , telling him she had been presented with her wings. The following evening, Laura contacted Declan to make plans to meet him in the last week of the second week of the New Year. Amanda arranged for Laura to start the Basic Mechanics Course the following week. Her classes would be at 0800 hours each weekday which did allow for her own teaching duties. Laura enlarged photographs for the four women preparing for the sojourn to the bar with a copy for Jeannie. She planned to give one to Amanda for Candlemas, one to Lydia and Barbara when she visited for the celebration of Ostermonat. The lovers met for dinners on the fifth weekday evenings in the staff dining room. The Mechanics instructor was initially resentful of both Laura ' s civilian inclusion in his class; however, Laura ' s intelligence, dedication to learning, and her usual habit to excel in any endeavor did change his opinion over time. Laura prepared a canvas on the weekend with a story painfully told, one of an earth woman giving up a child to the earth, to the ancients, pain and joy flashing from her face. The background was a steel grey and angry ocean. The story was told quickly, urgently, in a day, with tears in the painter ' s eyes.

The second weekday of the next week was Candlemas, a day of new beginnings. Laura left wrapped silver framed photographs on Amanda ' s bed pillows, one of the four women about to raise a ruckus, the other of Teddy and Primrose in satin and lace in the armchair at the cabin. When Laura returned from her daily laps in the pool and dinner alone in the staff dining room, there was a wrapped gift at her door, along with a crystal vase holding one purple iris. Laura opened her door and as she shook out two new mechanics coveralls with Ravencouer on the breast hundreds of yellow petals showered her room. She laughed out loud for a long time. A single white sheet of paper slid under her door with the only message of AT. Laura received an email from Lou with news of workers resisting and moving underground to fight back. She told Laura she was so glad that she would finally meet Declan, that they two of them would need to work closely together of the next years. She also said that with the blessings of the ancients, she would meet Laura in person herself in due time. Declan communicated that they could meet at an abandoned air field approximately two hours northeast from the base; Laura could no longer be surprised. Over dinner on the fifth weekday evening, Laura told Amanda of the date of the meeting with her mother ' s friend ' s son, Amanda accepted now as part of the destinies. They made plans to go to the cabin on the following fifth weekday. Laura rearranged class time for her students and notified her Mechanics instructor that she would miss two days of classes. Laura had systemically routinely breached the base data base with copied information sent to Frida. She now was able to garner data about all the other Military bases in the Northwestern City . Frida replied that the directors of Intelligence and Espionage had successfully breached the same information in the Northeastern City . Every time Laura corresponded and received information in return, she wanted to go to Amanda to hold her forever as every iota of information led her closer to leaving.

The four weekdays progressed as quickly as they could when lovers waited to be in each other ' s arms. Luther had a warm home and fire waiting for the lovers. Luther said he would return on the second weekend day to talk about new generators and glass for a new greenhouse. Coffee was made and waited as would be the routine for all their arrivals home. The Colonel reluctantly let Laura rise to try to serve soup but it too would have to wait. She loved this woman, her roses, her coveralls, her curls, her body that would just not quit. Teddy and Primrose were finally able to say hello to their humans, Teddy sported a new flight suit and a tiny set of wings. Laura laughed and hugged both her bears friends in returned greeting; as she turned around Amanda handed her a new leather bomber jacket with a new set of wings to replace the besmirched ones she received in the Colonel ' s office initially. Laura rarely showed overt pride but this day she did as Amanda took many photographs of the beautiful young pilot. Amanda asked to make the bread for the weekend, stating it was one of those skills she really needed to perfect; gales of laughter rang out from the cabin kitchen as the lovers played with bread dough. Before dinner, Laura brought the easel to the window, preparing a canvas for a story to be told the following weekend days. Cycles of tender and then fiery passion led the lovers late into the night in the second month of the New Year.

A story of mythical white and silver feline beasts spreading their movements bleeding to rainbow colors on a foreground of deep green and a background of a quiescent pale grey ocean found its way to the canvas. The painter did not notice dozens of photographs being taken. With the story told, Laura transported back to the reality of the cabin, standing at the window for several minutes looking at her beloved ocean. Amanda let her stand in fetching beauty as long as womanly possible, then journeyed with her lover back to the ancients and to the multiverse as Mother Moon rose in the sky. After dinner, night chores, and along soaking bath, a not too seriously fought Chinese checkers tournament was played in bed causing both Teddy and Primrose to once again question the sanity of the human race.

Laura made a pan of cinnamon buns as Amanda did morning chores and made another pot of coffee in anticipation of Luther ' s late morning visit. Laura planned to ask him to frame the latest painting to with the others by the bed. She told Amanda she wanted to do a series of somewhat erotic fruit and flowers for the kitchen; it was after all a cabin mostly filled with women who appreciated anything female. Luther arrived in the late morning with a wrapped gift for both women, received with surprise and delight. Laura unwrapped a small hand-fashioned rocker with pillows and a throw to match those in the cabin, big enough for two bears comfortably. Amanda grinned from ear to ear, taking photographs of Laura hugging and kissing their good friend. Luther purchased a dozen large batteries for energy storage with delivery when the weather permitted overland vehicles. He also ordered a large energy efficient freezer to be delivered at the same time. He had plans drafted for a new greenhouse to be built facing east and south abutting the new guest room. He and Harry would be able to build the greenhouse themselves with some assistance from local help but did not want to proceed without permission as materials and labor needed to be paid for. He and Mary had studied about how to grow plants in a greenhouse environment, as the women would not use all that they could plant he offered to pay for any food they used. Neither Amanda nor Laura would ever accept any monies from them, being happy to share. The women were amazed at how well Luther planned in only four weeks. They instructed him to go ahead with any plans he had, to purchase the best material he could find, and to forward invoices to Amanda. They did not plan a return to the cabin until the fourth month of the New Year which would give him time to get some of the deliveries and building underway. Amanda asked him about his opinion as to an energy saving washer and dryer which would alleviate the need to fly to Carriere often for longer stays at their home, also saving energy for Jeannie and Mary at their own homes after weekend stays. Laura told Luther that Lydia and Barbara were off the grid entirely with laundry facilities for themselves and the ranch hands. Luther replied he would email Barbara to learn specifications. Amanda grinned, stating that she was beginning to realize how much she really liked mechanics to which both Laura and Luther blushed. Laura told Luther she had five more weeks of instruction left in the Basic Mechanics Course, actually liking the work. She did complain about how difficult it had been to get grease from under manicured fingernails. Both women thanked their friend, hugging him goodbye.

Amanda found her needles and yarn, Laura found her tin toys. Teddy and Primrose napped by the fire in their new chair, enjoying a rock when one of the humans remembered to start the motion. Some part of Laura understood that the joy of childhood she had found, albeit later than most, would soon be lost once she met with Declan. She sat for a long time with her toy friends as if to burn the memory on her heart for the rest of her days.

Dinner and night routines were danced. Amanda placed the music player in the bathroom, lit many candles while there, and handed Laura a snifter of brandy when she returned. She slowly undressed her lover and then was undressed herself. Candlelight and warm water in the shower set the mood for dance to sultry Latin beats. On this night, Amanda Bennett would take Laura Ravencouer to her own near shatter. Love sounds of women ' s voices rang among the mountains. Another part of the journey had begun.

The lovers returned to the base the following day to resume routine and pretense. Both were humbled by the magic the night before, neither able to find words yet. Each had tears just behind eyes when they realized the power they had been shown, had been given; each wondered if they could survive on earth without the other. Laura confirmed coordinates with Declan for their meeting the following weekend. She prepared a canvas for the story of winged horses bearing naked female forms and spirits to the helix below. Amanda stopped by on the second weekend day afternoon, Laura showed her the painting of the horses, gift for Lydia and Barbara. Amanda stood silent for a long time, staring at the painting of the woman giving a child to the earth, to the ancients, and then eyes searched those of her lover. She told Laura she knew this was the hurt coming forth, Laura did not disagree. Amanda then held Laura for another very long time as both women wept.

Laura attended and excelled at the Mechanics Course, impressing her instructor. She continued to jump with students and then supervise them for the last two weekdays. Colonel Bennett jumped with students on the last practice day. She had dinner with Amanda on the fifth weekday, making final plans to take Bella the following morning to meet Declan. Amanda asked that her lover take lessons at a firing range as she would need to make more trips alone, she needed to be able to protect herself. Laura was initially repulsed at the thought of carrying a firearm but knew it would become necessary. There was a range on the base, Amanda set up instruction when the returned from the ranch. There was no longer any hesitation in Amanda. She understood completely that she must aid her lover, the priestess, to fulfill their destinies. Amanda asked Laura to join her for a glass of wine after dinner. Laura did not have wine but wanted the time with Amanda. As she rose to return to her apartment, Amanda took her in her arms, kissed her lover, told her to be safe, told her to come home to her, and handed her a separate set of keys for Bella.

The next morning, Amanda watched Laura run a preflight check list, put a briefcase in Bella and rise into the morning sky. Laura found the landing strip easily and after filling out her log, left the helicopter to be greeted by two men. The younger man introduced himself as Declan McDaniels, a great hulk of a man with red hair and red beard, attesting to assured highland genetics. He then introduced his uncle, Lou ' s brother, as Ross Shipman. She shook hands after which they walked across the tarmac to a warmed building. She instantly knew that this would be her home in the years to come, as did Declan and Ross. Declan and Ross both had news of Thea. She had built a home for women running from the horrors in the city, Sanctuary. There was a growing underground network of overland vehicles with a few aircraft flying north. Thea was safe and strong, a chief of her native family. Both men spoke openly of the ancients with their plan to live out their destinies. There was death and destruction at the hands of greed which would get worse. Every child who had not been vaccinated had been taken to safe houses to be taken north when possible. Children born in the north might be the only hope for survival of all people. Ross spoke of aircraft being stolen and taken to the abandoned base. He also spoke of rural peoples growing food and hiding it from the Decision in order to feed those who might escape. Workers in the camps were kept alive only enough to provide constant work, providing wealth among a very few. Both Declan, Ross and all those they knew, save for Lou as of yet, had been vaccinated, preserving health and age but also blighting with sterility. Ross and his wife Frida had now grown children, a son in the Far East and a daughter working with the underground in the inner Northeastern City . Frida was instrumental in Intelligence and Espionage work with the leaders of the Resistance. Ross was still an employee of The Decision on paper but they had long forgotten about the abandoned base. He was acting in the capacity of organizing the underground in the rural areas. Declan planned travel to the Northwestern City to meet with those leaders Laura ' s parents had initiated years before for continued organization in both cities. All three understood that when the time became necessary Laura Ravencouer would teach and prepare survivors to bomb Military encampments, repeatedly if necessary. She would teach many pilots to fly missions, including Ross. They knew she would take a huge helicopter to initially start the offensive, then they would all steal what they needed. She spoke of Military planning and it would be challenging to stop the organization. Declan quietly remarked that they would not have a choice, it was either stop The Decision or die. Laura provided information from her computer, too sensitive to send by email, which would be the pattern in the coming months. They had a brief lunch and a tour of the air base as it existed now. Laura spoke of needing tarmac and more buildings; she gave Declan a certificate for one million dollars to secure what they would need. Ross was momentarily dumbfounded but then expressed thanks with guarantees that the changes would happen. She told him she would send reading material he would need to memorize before he learned how to fly helicopters. He started a mental argument but then knew better. This woman, this priestess, this ancient would lead them; he would do what she required as would Declan. By 1400 hours, Bella was refueled for return to Air Command Base 12. Before she left, she quietly reiterated with determination that she was madly in love with the base commander and would remain with her until the ancients directed her to leave. She asked Declan to send word to her mother that she was fine and to his mother that they would meet one day. She smiled, thanked both men, ran a preflight check list, and was airborne. Both men watched her fade into the sky; each looked at the other, shaking their heads. Neither had ever met a nineteen year old as strong, as smart, as gifted, or as drop dead gorgeous.

Bella landed on the tarmac at 1615 hours, Laura filled out the log, took her briefcase, and walked to her apartment. Amanda watched a strong, grown woman walk with confidence and purpose. Amanda wanted to go her immediately but would not, knowing that Laura needed to assimilate whatever information she had been given, whatever emotions she carried. She was only nineteen earth years old, a time when she should have been dating, enjoying her money, her beauty, her freedom. Instead she was readying herself to change her world. She was orphaned and alone except for a loving but elderly academic grandfather. Her family now consisted of friends who loved and revered her. Amanda did not know the name of persons she had met today but she did know they were part of the ancients and certainly part of both their destinies.

Laura slept later in the morning, waking to a knock on her door with delivery of coffee, breakfast, and a crystal vase with one purple iris. Laura wrote a long email to Barbara, talking about her enjoyment of the Mechanics Course, then wrote of Amanda ' s reaction, of how much Laura had hurt, how much she did not really understand. She wrote to Lou to tell her she had met her son and her brother. She continued she knew she would meet her entire family one day. She phoned Amanda ' s office to ask to meet her for dinner in the staff dining room. She still felt very fragile, knowing she had to learn how to return from the Resistance to her lover with the lessons starting now. She met Amanda showing concern in her eyes to which Laura smiled reassurance. She did not state names but said that her mother ' s friend living in the Northeastern City . She contacted Elgin , having remembered that Thea ' s father was an academic. She told Amanda that it was important to her to establish any contact she could with her mother's history. Amanda did not press for any further information, knowing that it would not be forthcoming.

The following week, cadets would successfully complete the course; Laura would ready herself for another group to start on the following first weekday. The weekend found usual routines. Laura packed the framed photo of the four women before the bar ruckus. She framed the canvas of the winged horses, packing for their visit to the ranch. On the first weekday, another group of cadets met a beautiful young woman who quickly made it understood that she would expect nothing short of their best. Laura had two more weeks to finish the Basic Mechanics Course, with application for the next set of classes pending her successful examination. Amanda arranged for her start instruction in small firearms in the week following their return to the ranch, insisting that she attend. She met Amanda on the fourth weekday for dinner with the ache to hold her almost overtaking them both.

Bella was in the air by 0930 hours on the fifth weekday morning, being greeted by Lydia and Barbara an hour later. Laura was of few words for the trip. Her soul journeyed between the majesty of the earth she saw with her eyes and the absolute knowledge of the ultimate ugliness The Decision was leaving with Mother. When Amanda had finished the log and stepped from Bella, Laura kissed her before even greeting their friends, both Lydia and Barbara understood the need. Barbara hugged her sister friend, commenting on her new wings, in no comparison whatsoever to whatever Tony the Jerk could give. Both Lydia and Barbara accompanied their guests to their cabin; upon entering the suite Amanda and Laura found new boots, sheepskin coats, and Stetsons with a note stating that if they were going to be ranchers, even part time, they needed to look the part. There was a pot of coffee on their hearth; Lydia suggested that they return to the main house at the noon hour for lunch. Lydia and Barbara quietly left them alone. The lovers took to the shower and if passion had its own Richter scale the ranch lands would no longer exist. Both had found the radiant in the other, neither could ever return the lover they had known previously. Amanda dressed in new skin tight jeans with a plain white shirt soliciting a groan from her lover and wicked grin from herself. Both women were finally ready to meet their friends in the main house, looking beyond fetching in their new ranch outwear. Jackson grinned, shaking his head when he saw them walking toward him. Before they joined their friends, Amanda handed Jackson an envelope with a bill of sale for official ownership of a foal he had seen at a sale before Wintersday and coveted. There was a small card saying Thank you, signed by Amanda and Laura. His eyes misted as he hugged both women, an act of gratitude with affection even his employers had rarely seen. Laura went to the kitchen to place braided loaves in their rightful resting place, then joined her lover on the sofa in front of the fire. Amanda presented her friends with the framed photograph of the women arranging potential ruckus, both Lydia and Barbara laughed out loud. Laura returned to the foyer to retrieve the wrapped, framed painting of the winged horses. Even Lydia was at a loss for words as they both hugged Laura, kissing her full on the mouth, an act to which she said she could become readily accustomed.

The day was blustery and not inviting to humans to be out of doors. As such, the friends enjoyed lunch and conversation by the fire. Laura excitedly told Barbara of the skills she had learned to date in the Mechanics Course, mentioning that she had applied for the next course, pending her successful examination and approval from the base Colonel, who immediately nuzzled her lovely neck. Barbara and Laura made a date to work on engines in the hanger the following morning. Both women told Lydia and Barbara of the plans for the cabin with the purchase of and larger batteries and a freezer. Barbara replied that she had received an email from Luther initially asking about specifications for their greenhouse with subsequent conversations about planting. Laura told her friends about meeting the son of her mother ' s friend, again not naming names. Lydia wanted to tell her that she knew but did not. In her own due time, Laura would know that Lydia was a beldame, an ancient of almost the same age of Laura, one who had lived among earthlings since their beginning of time. Laura sat very closely beside Amanda as if afraid to lose contact. With knowing glances, Barbara and Lydia both stated that although it would seem rude they were tired, needed naps, alone time, quite certain that Amanda and Laura would understand. They invited their friends to return for wine before a steak dinner at 1800 hours. Both Laura and Amanda knew exactly of the real motivation for their friends ' request, loving them for it.

Deep, tender, and then almost violent passion found the lovers once again. When their voices returned, they spoke quietly about how the dynamic of their lovership kept changing, becoming in its own right helical. Both understood the strength and fragility, the compassion and need of the other. They marveled at how one was always ready to contrast the other. Both women humbly gave thanks to the wisdom of their ancients who were guiding them more now. Over dinner, Laura talked about her upcoming firearms instructions with her initial repulsion. Lydia and Barbara explained that neither woman travelled without firearms. Lydia continued that it was easy to become complacent when living surrounded by soldiers but that the reality of their world was violence, spurned on mostly by the greed of those who had forced it on others and would on themselves. After dinner, Lydia surprised her friends with news that the extended group of friends would fly in tomorrow if the weather held for an Ostermonat celebration. Laura was delighted; she felt a definite need to play again for a while, understanding why Barbara had sent her quick email.

The women met early for a huge breakfast the next morning. Barbara and Laura left for the hangers, aircraft maintenance, and the talk of sisters. The wind had settled, the air was cold but clear. Lydia and Amanda took mounts on a short trail ride and the talk of sisters. When they were out of earshot of the ranch hands, Lydia stopped her horse, looked directly at Amanda with no smile on her face, asking her what they had fought about. Amanda knew she was about to receive a tongue lashing that only Lydia could deliver. Before Amanda could start the tale, Lydia told her that the hurt was not only visible it was almost palpable in that young woman; she would not stand by, allowing that to continue. When Amanda ' s eyes filled with her own tears, Lydia firmly barked for her to stop. She reminded Amanda that she knew of the love she shared with the priestess and that she would leave her when she was needed. Amanda dismounted, walking away for composure; Lydia caught up to her, caught her in her arms, and then allowed Amanda to howl her cry to the ancients. Lydia told her also that she knew that her Laura would follow the call of the ancients that directed them all. Amanda smiled admitting her agreement; then laughed as she told her old friend, her former lover, that no-one she knew could lay down hell like her beloved Lydia, and kissed her friend full on the lips. They then decided to ride to the hanger because if they did not they would see or hear from their respective lovers again in this lifetime, having to take second place always to anything mechanical. Barbara and Laura were lost in conversation, welding when they arrived. Both Amanda and Lydia marveled out loud how persons clad in greasy baggy coveralls, hair under a cotton cap and welding hood could look this beautiful; Lydia did remark that perhaps they were both a tad blinded.

When they returned starved by exertion and fresh air, there was a pot of Judith ' s chowder warming on the stove along with Laura ' s braided loaves for this lunch. Jackson entered the kitchen to tell Lydia that the friends had radioed with planned arrival at about 1700 hours. He also stated the empty rooms at the staff house were ready, knowing he might just have his hands full with a ranch full of these women. Laura wanted to shower by midafternoon to remove grease and grime, tame her curls, and try to tame Amanda. Jackson ' s daughters prepared a buffet dinner large enough to feed an air base to place on the dining table moved to the end of the common room in the main house. Amanda and Laura arrived back at the main house just before 1800 hours, Laura apologizing that she had to get dressed twice. Someone murmured that was completely understandable. Barbara had asked her to bring the leather skirt and boots with which she wore only the matching camisole, the now famous come-hither make up, and the curls tied into the ponytail. The bar owner, Sally, told Amanda she felt very sorry for her, such a hardship she had to bear. The friends ate, chatted, and Laura did the leaning over the bar routine at Sally ' s request, again to audible moans. When dance music started, Laura led Barbara to the floor, lovely in trousers and a sleeveless top showing gorgeous arms. They danced and chatted, at the end Laura kissed her full on the mouth to gales of laughter from the women gathered. Laura danced with many friends that night, tossing her head back in laughter throughout the night. Amanda gave down thanks that the burden seemed to have been lifted from her lover at least temporarily. When she could no longer practice restraint, Amanda asked Laura for the rest of the dances. Her lips and hands were touching every moving part of the beauty as they swayed to their own rhythms. Midnight released all the women to their beds bathed in the silver of Mother Moon. Once again, Laura was asked to undress her lover, then was slowly relieved of her leather skirt and camisole herself; the lovers submitted to the urgent calls of their bodies and to the love in their souls until the pink of dawn tipped the mountain peaks.

Brunch in the main house preceded goodbye to their friends who had gathered, all of whom would fly back to the Carriere base. The afternoon hours were whiled away with a card game and mulled wine. Barbara barbecued steaks for dinner and the friends cuddled before the fire. Amanda and Laura invited their friends to spend time with them at the cabin in the seventh month of the New Year. Lydia did not have cadets at Carriere but would try to take days away, depending on the activity of an ever increasing threat from the Resistance, a statement bringing eye and soul contact between Lydia and Laura. Amanda wanted to return to the base in the morning; as such the friends founds beds and lovers early in the evening. Laura asked to lay in Amanda ' s arms long into the evening, without passion but for comfort. She talked of making the decision to take the vaccination in the coming months; Amanda replied she had decided the same. It could be arranged at the base without conflict, several members of the Military had requested vaccination earlier. Neither Amanda nor Laura would bear children; both had chosen longevity and health. Laura decided to take hers when her present class graduated and before the last class of the school year started. Amanda planned to receive hers within the next two weeks. Laura stated she wanted to go into the city to see Elgin again. She decided to arrange for a vehicle and guard for the following weekend. With her instructions in the use of firearms, she needed to order ones for herself; Amanda offered to do that for her. Firelight, moonlight, and love lights worked their magic again with the lovers before being lulled to sleep, still in each other ' s arms.

They said goodbye to their friends by 1000 hours the following morning and Bella was on the tarmac at the base by 1100 hours. Laura spent the day with chores, data entry, emails and class preparation. She finished her week with her Basic Mechanics examination, one more practical than written. She reviewed the data she had been given, grateful for the practice morning with Barbara. The next four weekdays were filled with teaching cadets, being taught herself, and mastering her examination easily. When she finished, her instructor told her to make plans to attend the next course in one week ' s time, even before her final marks, explaining that the Colonel had approved her attendance in that course. Laura started her firearms instruction reluctantly, proceeding well to the firing range. Laura planned a trip to the city to visit with Elgin the following day, telling Amanda she planned return to the base by midafternoon. Amanda chose to work all weekend and two late days in order to take the fifth weekday off after her vaccination the preceding afternoon. Both Lydia and Barbara had been vaccinated with no difficulties. Laura stopped on her visit to the city to find some soft, warm lounge clothes for her lover for the weekend with plans to cook for her. Laura contacted Luther several times about her plans for a computer to allow Amanda to download, manipulate, and print photographs at the cabin, her birthday gift to her sweet woman. She ordered the necessary supplies while in the city to have them shipped to Luther on the coast. It was both their hopes that it would arrive for when they would go home in the fourth month of the New Year.

Laura ' s trip to visit her grandfather and to shop went well. The guard was not conversant so Laura used the time on the road to read for the Intermediate Mechanics Course to start the following week. She found Elgin as charmingly absent-minded as ever. She took him to lunch at his favorite dining room and asked the driver to return to pick her up at a given time. She told him about her Mechanics Courses as well as her Firearms Course at Amanda ' s insistence. There would be no surprises this year for Amanda ' s birthday but Elgin said he would still send flowers as he was very fond of the woman who brought lovelights to his granddaughter ' s eyes. She told him the adventure of the bar at Carriere and showed him the photograph of all four women; Elgin blushed but he laughed out loud for a long time. She gave him the news she had of Thea which bought tears of pride to the old man ' s eyes. The driver and Laura escorted Elgin back to his home. She promised she would come again to visit when she could. Laura stopped at her designer ' s shop to purchase lounge wear for Amanda. She visited the camera shop to purchase the computer equipment for Amanda ' s gift. She arrived back at the base at 1500 hours after having stopped for cheeseburgers and fries stored in a warming container.

She called Amanda from her own apartment at 1700 hours to tell her dinner was waiting. Amanda arrived at her suite to find a wrapped gift, one of her favorite meals, and her beautiful lover. Laura poured Amanda a glass of wine, then took her to her shower and her bed. The Colonel was seduced in her own room at her own base that night and did not resist. Laura dressed, kissed her sleeping lover ' s brow to return to her own apartment before 2200 hours. They would not be able to live together openly at the base with continued pretense but there would be less longing. Laura understood that Amanda no longer could have her absolute commitment to a Military whose rulers she despised. The time the women could find together was greater than any risk. . Laura started her new Mechanics Course and continued instruction with her cadets. She had four days of firearms instruction. Her classes passed painfully slow on the fifth weekday before she hurried back to Amanda ' s quarters to find her napping. Laura returned with dinner from the staff dining room, both women ate together in Amanda ' s suite. Amanda said she felt tired and drained of energy from the vaccination but otherwise was fine. The medics told her that she could expect to return to feeling normal after forty-eight hours. She mumbled words about returning to work on the weekend days to which Laura glared, telling her not to even think about it.

Laura ' s weekend days were filled with chores, data entry, swimming laps, and cooking dinners for her lover. Amanda napped while Laura studied for the firearms examination for licensing scheduled on the fourth weekday of the next week. Laura returned to her own quarters in the early evenings of each weekend day after tucking Amanda into a warmed bed. The following weekdays were filled with routines and Laura ' s examination. Amanda returned to her usual state of energy and health. Amanda invited Laura for dinner on the next first weekend evening; the steaks waited to be grilled as passion overtook the lovers upon Laura ' s arrival. They giggled when they considered that maybe they would actually be able to drink a cup a coffee immediately after it was made when they first arrived home from now on but neither woman was very hopeful. Weekend routines were lived and the next four weekdays filled as usual.

The lovers were airborne early and flying northwest on the fifth weekday. Spring had claimed the coast with small patches of snow reluctantly giving their space to new green growth. The ocean had vented the last anger with an undulating rhythm now speaking of rebirth. Luther was at the cabin; he walked to meet them, assisting with baggage. Deck boxes full of spring blooms greeted the delighted women; Laura ran to hug Luther. They entered the cabin to a small fire and pot of coffee ready to place on the coals. Luther led them through the enclosure for wood storage at the rear and to their framed greenhouse with glass panels intact. When they entered, there was the drawing, centering smell of Mother's new plantings. The women could not speak, grinning as they walked about to look at the handiwork of their friends. Luther beamed as he told them he expected greens by their next cabin visit with vegetables for year round. There was a small caf é table with two matching chairs at one end; Luther stated he liked to have his lunch there to sit among the plants. Amanda and Laura knew they would enjoy breakfast for many mornings there in the months to come. The women returned to the common room, hugged Luther again before saying goodbye. Laura poured coffee and put out cheese with fruit for their lunch by the fire. She asked Amanda if she would put the duvets on the racks for warming as Luther had left them at the end of the bed. Laura stood in the kitchen to watch her lover find a wrapped gift on the bed addressed to her, signed Amo Te . For the first time, she saw Amanda giggle, jump up and down clapping her hands with excitement as would a child. Laura quickly concluded that all humans like toys, regardless of age. Amanda sat right down on the floor by the bed to play with her new equipment. Laura joined her on the floor to also look at the new equipment. She suggested that Amanda could take photos and mount them for the cabin walls without having to wait for prints back at the base. Amanda put down the equipment, kissed her lover, stating that she could also take many nudes of the planet ' s most beautiful creature to which Laura replied that was her real motivation for the birth anniversary gift. The new toys and the coffee would have to wait yet again as passion found the lovers.

The easel was resting by the window as if a hint by Luther or the ancients. Laura prepared a canvas, watching Amanda stroll about inside and outside the cabin taking shots. She found her in the greenhouse taking close-ups of new tender green shoots born by Mother. The shots were printed by morning. They decided to ask Luther frame them as he so expertly did with the paintings. The twilight has shared more time with the sun in the spring, Amanda and Laura were able to stand on the deck to watch a setting sun clearly being seduced and laid down by the ocean. In the morning, after routines danced and coffee Amanda scrambled over rocks below the step of land holding the cabin, an occasionally steep descent, in order to take shots of the cabin and background. Laura took photographs of Amanda among rocks tumbled there when Mother was young and excitable. They chose to drive to the beach after lunch for more photographs and conversation with the waves. When they returned, Amanda looked at all the shots she had taken and chose those to go to print, many of them breathtaking. Laura painted a riot of spring flowers being swallowed by a corridor to light and darkness. After dinner and night routines, Laura took Amanda to the shower; passion found them urgently, almost violently. There was some uncertain sense of foreboding in Laura, one that directed her to run to her lover to hide in her while she could. Amanda planned to take photographs of her sweet woman that night but opted to hold her in her soul as Laura urgently demanded.

Before dawn, Laura awoke screaming from a vision. For moments, she did not know where she was; only after being held tightly by Amanda did she return to the reality and comfort of the cabin. In her waking state, she could not remember what she had seen but only that it was of horror. When Laura permitted, Amanda rose to bank the fire and make coffee just as the pink of day found them. Amanda took Laura to the shower, helped her to be soothed by warm water before dressing her in a warm night shirt and taking her back to a re-warmed bed. Amanda had not known war, had not known destruction with needless death but she knew that Laura had seen that, knew she would as well in due time. After hot coffee, Amanda rocked her lover back to a peaceful sleep. She would not wake her until mid-morning; Laura did not speak again of the vision and her horror. The second weekend day at the cabin welcomed rain in the late forenoon Laura and Amanda took lunch to the greenhouse to enjoy the rain on the glass roof and sides. Teddy and Primrose rocked quietly on the hearth trying to insure safe haven for their humans. Laura deemed that the painting was complete and set it aside, unable to communicate any further with it or through it.

After dinner, night routines, shower, and brandy, silk and satin found silk and satin, skin found skin dancing to the sultry beats of Latin music. Amanda did take photographs of a beautiful woman ' s body caught in dance above a beautiful priestess caught in human passion, magic directing the lens. The following morning, the lovers would return to the base, both still overwhelmed by the power in Laura and the horror she endured, thankfully only briefly.

Chapter 14

The weekdays followed their usual routines as did the weekend. Laura wrote and successfully qualified for a firearm license. Amanda ordered handguns small enough for Laura to conceal on her person but powerful enough to subdue an attacker. Both women were proficient in martial arts but chose to enroll in classes to start in the eighth month of the New Year. Laura ' s students completed tandem jumps with her and then supervision by her in the following seven class days, the base Colonel joining somewhat nervous cadets for a jump with them on the last supervised jump before examination. Laura would not fly with the students for these examination days as she had scheduled her vaccination for the afternoon of the fourth weekday and the first day of examinations. She planned to judge landing skills from the ground. She attended the clinic, was vaccinated, and was given a list of symptoms she could expect over the next forty-eight hours. By early evening, she was very tired, had a splitting headache; after a light meal she showered as she was very cold and curled up under as many blankets as she could find. She planned to wake in time to join her colleagues on the tarmac the following morning.

Laura did not join the group for examination and did not respond to telephone calls. This was the first time she had ever missed an appointment or scheduled class; after waiting as long as possible the pilot contacted the Lieutenant Colonel expressing concern with annoyance at the delay. The Colonel was notified; she immediately went to Instructor Ravencouer ' s quarters. She asked the building cleaner to unlock the door; when entering Laura ' s bedroom she found a very cold, very still body, still breathing but barely. She called the medics immediately, then the Lieutenant Colonel who joined her in minutes. Laura did not move, did not respond to voices or touch. The Colonel summoned all that was human in her to remain composed as the medics arrived to care for a very ill patient. She was too ill to be moved initially, Amanda would not have allowed it. After an eternity of minutes, Laura stirred slightly with response to painful stimuli. A young medic grinned, telling the Colonel that the patient was on her way back. Amanda fought as hard as she ever had to hold back tears. The Lieutenant Colonel finally knew Amanda ' s secret admirer. He and the Colonel had been associates for years and although not close they were friends. He had seen a metamorphosis in Amanda, one that made her happier than he had ever thought possible in a formerly cold, distant personality. They were both in uniform, both on duty, and it would be inappropriate to hug the Colonel but he did place a steadying hand on her shoulder, briefly but long enough to let her know he understood and cared. More medical personnel arrived with warming blankets, more intravenous fluids, and more medicine. The senior medic stated that Ms. Ravencouer was now stable enough to be transported to the infirmary but the Colonel ordered that she would remain where she was with services brought to her as needed. Laura regained consciousness slowly but by midafternoon she was fully aware of her surroundings, able to take sustenance. The Lieutenant Colonel returned to the offices, assuring Amanda that he would cover command as long as she needed. There would be around the clock medical care with an attendant for the next twenty-four hours at least, perhaps longer if needed. The attending senior medic advised the Colonel of a probable very severe reaction to the vaccination, not likely to cause any permanent damage but if Ms. Ravencouer had not been found when she had been she would not have survived. He told Amanda that in the first minutes she had ceased to breathe or show a measurable heartbeat on a few occasions but as he had seen before in his career the will to live kept the young woman alive. By late afternoon, Laura was calling for food and her hair brush, both good signs to Amanda. The medic called to the dining room for food to be delivered to her patient, then started to brush Laura ' s curls. Laura grabbed the brush from the medic ' s hand to brush her own curls, something she had done since she was a very young child. Before dinner arrived, Amanda went to her own quarters, changed into fatigues, found night clothes if she needed them, and returned to Laura ' s bedroom. When dinner arrived, the Colonel told the medic to take her break for her own dinner as that she would stay with the patient, calling immediately for help if needed. The medic was not about to disobey the base commander so she left the women alone for an hour. After ordering her own meal from the kitchen, Amanda sat on Laura ' s bed, took her lover's hands, telling her she loved her, and to absolutely never do that to her again. She also said that in a very short number of hours, it was be the celebration of Bealtaine, the thirty-fifth anniversary of Amanda ' s birth. She continued that she had been given the best gift of all, the return from certain death of her lover, her priestess. Laura ate everything she had been given, stating she really could eat more if it was there and as such the kitchen was called for a second serving. When the medic returned and checked vital parameters, she called for the senior medic to attend the patient which he did. Ms. Ravencouer had an anaphylactic reaction that almost killed her, less than twelve hours after initiation of treatment her parameters were entirely normal. It was attributed to her age and physical fitness, both Laura and Amanda understood the real reason. The Colonel asked if it was necessary to continue the constant medical care. The senior medic could find no good reason, as such both medics left.

After the personnel left, Laura asked Amanda to help her to a shower, to clean clothing, and to help her find clean bedding. Laura got out of bed while the Colonel changed her bed linens; they both then went to the shower. Amanda stood with her just for protection, safety, and because she still could not bear to leave her lover. Laura crawled back into her bed, dressed in clean clothing, propped up against Amanda ' s breast. In the quiet soft light, Laura told of her journey.

She crawled under blankets as she had been freezing cold. She had not been aware of falling asleep but suddenly was walking through a dark cold portal, down a corridor to a door bathed in bronze light. She was met at the door by her ancients in human form. The grandfather, Noshi, greeted her as did her father Tom. She so wanted to hug him with his arms around her for warmth, for love. She wanted to walk through the door with all of them. Many in the crowd bowed to her as she walked among them. She felt light, transparent, lifted up by the raven. There were colors she had never seen on earth but remembered readily when she saw them. The sounds around her were full and melodic, again not heard on earth save for perhaps the endless ocean waves lapping to the shore. She was approached by the raven-haired beauty who carried a child. Without spoken words, she told Laura they would meet on earth, to wait for her to arrive. Laura wanted to protest, to tell her she would not go back to earth, but Noshi stopped her before unspoken words could be communicated. She was more powerful than all of them; she could have negated any command by the grandfather if she had chosen but she did not. She stopped recounting the tale for a moment to see tears shining on Amanda ' s cheeks. Amanda explained she was okay, just overwhelmed by how much she loved Laura. Laura remained quiet for another short passage of time, then rose up to face Amanda. She said with tremor in her voice that she had been turned around by a beautiful ageless woman, one who floated and flowed, one who was ethereal, transparent in shades of gold tones and at the same time harder than all the diamonds found on earth. She quietly told Amanda that it had been Lydia . She described Lydia touching her, telling her with love and urging that she must return to earth, to all those who still needed her help. She told Laura that she would always return to the ancients as she always had but for this passage of time measured on earth she must return. She explained to Laura that she would take her to the doorway to help her cross back again as they had done for each other since the helix began. Laura whispered that the walk back to the portal had been arduous; she needed Lydia ' s help with every step, her urging with every hesitation. She told her lover that the crossing over was violently jarring; she likened it to being born of an earth mother. Laura settled back to her lover ' s breast and protective arms. Amanda stroked her curls, kissing her brow. She told Laura that Lydia told her she was a seer. Amanda also told Laura that Deputy Colonel Charles Smithson discovered who sent the roses, her secret admirer; he had stood beside her as they watched Laura struggle to cross over. Amanda reassured her lover that Charlie was a good friend. She promised Laura that all that mattered to her now was to stay with her on earth for as long as she could.

Amanda cradled Laura to sleep and stayed until she woke in the morning. Laura woke famished, tired, but alive, if anything more beautiful than ever. Amanda showered, dressed in her fatigues, returning from the dining room with breakfast when she met Charlie Smithson on his way to Laura ' s door. He started to salute his commanding officer; she told him they would be friends first and associates next. He stopped for a minute to inquire as to Laura ' s state, telling Amanda he would continue command over the weekend if she needed. She thanked him, replying that she would return to the office later on in the morning as well as the next day. Lieutenant Colonel Smithson departed, this time with a salute. Laura suddenly remembered she had missed the examination the previous day, apologizing repeatedly to Amanda. She also missed her Mechanics classes and wanted to contact her instructor even on this first weekend morning. Amanda said that by now the news of Laura ' s illness would be recounted over three bases at least, she was quite certain a day's absence with perhaps more if needed would be excused. Before Amanda left for her office, the phone rang and she spoke to Barbara who was extremely concerned. One of their medic friends at Air Command Base 12 contacted Captain Stenns at the Carriere base to tell of the Colonel ' s good friend almost dying. Of course, Lydia had contacted Barbara; as soon as she thought a decent hour for a phone call she had called. Lydia had also contacted Jeannie. Amanda told the story, then Laura spoke for a short period of time, telling her she loved them all with thanks for the concern. Barbara replied she would contact Lydia and the friends at the coast to relay the joyous new that their beloved Laura was very much alive. Laura was still tired, wanting to stay in bed longer. Amanda opened her curtains to the view of the grove, opening the window for some fresh air. She brought Laura ' s computer to the bedside, telling her she would have the dining room send lunch with her return in the later afternoon for dinner. As Amanda left Laura ' s room, a medic was arriving to check on the patient's parameters. The Colonel ordered any abnormalities be reported to her, if there were none to leave the patient to rest for the day. When Amanda arrived at her office, she phoned Laura ' s designer friend to put in a rush order for stunning evening wear for both of them to be delivered on the upcoming fifth weekday. She then ordered Laura ' s driver from the previous trip to the city to retrieve cheeseburgers and fries. Finally, she phoned the florist for dozens of purple irises to be delivered to Ms. Laura Ravencouer by the end of the day. She discovered that Charlie had already completed the work she needed to do for the day as well as part of the following day. She decided to walk to the grove, as she did she met her friend Charlie Smithson. They sat on the bench looking at the new green of the spring. He told Amanda that he was very happy that she had found love as she looked wonderful in its light; despite what the Military preached, honest love was honest love, it was no concern of a state. He met Amanda because he wanted her to know that he would never breach the trust she had in him nor would he ever reveal her relationship with Laura to anyone, including his family. Amanda told him very honestly that her once marriage to the Military had ended, that she would continue to enjoy her work but that her life with Laura was at her center now. Charlie replied that it was the true way life,

She returned to her apartment, changed from fatigues and telephoned Jeannie who was almost frantic by the time she did call. She recounted what had happened. She said that they would fly to the Carriere base on Saturday if Laura was well with plans to attend dinner and overnight at the inn. She told Jeannie of her birthday gift to Laura, Jeannie sobbed her approval. She arrived in early afternoon to dozens and dozens of purple irises on almost every possible surface in Laura ' s apartment. Laura was napping as Amanda gently lay down on the bed beside her. Laura grinned on waking to find her sweet woman, asking if she thought there were enough flowers in her suite. Laura really wanted to get out of her bed for a while; Amanda helped her walk to the sitting room sofa. Laura did say that she felt much better, quite certain she could start her new class of students on the first weekday. As much as Amanda wanted to protest, she acquiesced to Laura ' s own sense of wellbeing. Amanda told her that she must be entirely well for the weekend as there was a surprise coming. The child in Laura perked up, starting the attempt to learn of the surprise. All that Amanda told her was that she would need to dress casually but without jeans.

The guard knocked at Laura ' s door as commanded at 1700 hours to deliver cheeseburgers and fries. Laura declared they were the most delicious she had ever tasted. A medic returned to check parameters; as they were read as perfectly normal stated that Laura needed to check once more mid-week at the clinic. Amanda After dinner, Laura and Amanda showered together again and then changed bed linens. Laura managed to get the data entry for the week done in between naps during the day. She quietly asked if Amanda would stay with her again that night with a kiss as the answer.

The women awoke on the second weekend day and chose to go to the staff dining room for breakfast, albeit a bit more slowly than usually. Everyone was delightfully surprised to see Laura; all came to speak to her briefly. She still tired easily and returned to her apartment for another nap. Amanda then returned to her office and finished some work so she could take time away the following weekend. She returned to Laura moving around with much more strength. She also found a cake marking her birth anniversary, laughing when Laura apologized for it being baked in the base kitchen and was a day late. She decided to miss one more day of her Mechanics training but would meet with her new class of cadets. Amanda slept in her own apartment that night, after a torrent of tears alone in her own shower.

Laura ' s strength and health recovered quickly over the next five weekdays. She reported to the clinic once more and was released as healthy. She returned to her Mechanics class and readily caught up with the instruction she had missed. Amanda received shipment of gorgeous evening wear for both of them which was stored in sheaths in Bella. She packed new satin and lace for Laura and herself with day wear for the second weekend day ' s return to the base. She contacted Lydia to confirm that a limousine would meet them at the Carriere base on the afternoon of the upcoming first weekend day and return to the inn to take them back to Bella on the following day. The lovers dined together as was their norm on the fifth weekday evening. Laura was very excited now as the weekend approached but Amanda gave no hints. She told Laura to be ready in casual clothing by the noon hour the following day and expect a rather late evening.

Amanda met Laura outside her door at 1200 hours the following day. They walked to the tarmac. Amanda had already loaded baggage, run the preflight check list and Bella was airborne before 1230 hours. Laura quickly saw that they were flying northwest and surmised a surprise visit to the cabin to celebrate her birth anniversary, a date Amanda had not mentioned but perhaps had not forgotten after all. As they were close to approach Amanda then flew on to the Carriere base which did surprise Laura. A limousine was waiting and Laura was escorted before the baggage to maintain the surprise. Amanda was smiling but still did not tell her lover where they would go. The car finally stopped outside the inn on the mountainside where staff escorted them to a suite of rooms overlooking the lake while other staff attended to the baggage. It was then that Laura saw the sleeves holding evening wear. She had no idea how Amanda found her evening dresses or which one she chose but it did not matter. The surprise was already wonderful. The inn staff confirmed their dinner reservation for 1830 hours. Amanda would still not let Laura see what was in the luggage but did suggest that she might start to tame her curls, then handed her a case with her make-up and a new diamond clip for her hair. Laura ' s eyes grew large when she looked at her gift and went to kiss her lover with thanks, to which Amanda asked her to just wait. Amanda showered first and then retreated to the bedroom and a closed door to dress for dinner. When Laura was in the shower, the garment bag was hung on the door along with jewels to match the hair clip. Amanda dressed first looking breathtakingly beautiful in a strapless iridescent green gown and matching heels. She wore emeralds and pearls at her neck and earlobes. A few minutes later, Laura emerged and caught her breath when she saw her lover as did her lover in return. The designer had chosen a black chiffon gown cinched at the waist with more diamonds and silk-covered four inch heels. Amanda gave her a diamond and black obsidian necklace with matching earrings. Laura was sure that Amanda had never looked as beautiful; Amanda felt the same about her lover. Amanda brought her camera, asking the inn staff to take photographs throughout the evening. Laura kept telling Amanda that this was a wonderful birth anniversary gift. The lovers entered an empty dining room and were seated by a window overlooking the lake. Amanda arranged to keep the inn closed overnight including the dining room.

Champagne arrived at their table. A waiter handed Laura a gift wrapped and tied with silver. There was a separate envelope engraved with her name. She looked at Amanda as she slowly unwrapped a photograph of the cabin, taken from down the mountainside. She smiled and thanked her lover, stating that she loved their home and always would. Then Amanda told her to open the envelope. Laura opened a greeting card along with a deed to the mountain and their home. An older gentleman then joined them, dressed elegantly. Laura was completely stunned, not really comprehending entirely what was transpiring. Amanda introduced Mr. Bond, a lawyer from Carriere. He extended his hand and remarked that he was seated with his two most beautiful clients. He quietly explained that he needed Laura to sign papers so that she would now legally be co-owner of the cabin and the mountain as directed by Colonel Amanda Bennett. Laura continued to stare at him and then at Amanda; tears started as she was handed a pen for signature. Mr. Bond congratulated her, extended his best wishes for her birth anniversary, shook the hands of both his clients, and then departed. Both women had tears on their cheeks as Amanda told her that she wanted to share her home with the woman she loved, with the love of her life. She wanted Laura to have a home to return to from wherever whenever. She said she knew Laura loved it as much as she did and would continue stewardship even if Amanda could not. Amanda whispered that she had never known happy until she met Laura and from their first night together alone at the cabin she knew she would want no other in her life. An inn staff member had been discretely taking photographs of the events as they transpired and even he had to stop to wipe tears from his eyes. No-one in the room had ever seen a love such as this. After dinner, Amanda and Laura returned to the inn suite, then danced until passion would no longer allow.

The limousine arrived to transport the lovers to the Carriere base and a waiting Bella by midday the second weekend day. When they boarded, there was a small bouquet of yellow roses and purple irises and a card extending birth anniversary blessings with congratulations signed by Lydia and Barbara. Upon return to the base, Laura emailed Elgin to tell him of Amanda ' s birth anniversary gift and to thank him for his. They planned a return to the coast on the upcoming fifth weekday. Both women danced the routines of their lives and readied themselves to go home on the morning of the fifth weekday. Lydia confirmed that she and Barbara could join them for an extended weekend in the beginning of the seventh month of the New Year. Bella had barely landed when Jeannie almost pulled Laura to the ground, hugging her longer and harder than she ever had, then admonished her lovingly that she was never to frighten any of them again by almost dying. Laura quietly told her of seeing Lydia . Then with huge grins, Harry, Jeannie, and Mary congratulated Laura on her birth anniversary gift and Laura glowed. Luther was at the cabin to help with retrieval of any baggage. When they drove up to the cabin, Luther had wrapped the entire front of the building in a huge ribbon and bow. He walked to the car smiling. Laura was laughing hard enough to find speech difficult as she hugged her dear friend. In the ground at the deck were yellow rose bushes and purple irises in bloom. The deck boxes held new summer plants still growing. He excitedly took them to the greenhouse where they were astonished to find the rapidity of growth. He took them to the pantry to show them a new, huge, energy efficient freezer, one that Barbara and Lydia highly recommended. With solar panels and wind towers generating power to be stored in large batteries, this home would now support any requirements including winter lighting for the greenhouse. With some minor plumbing changes that Luther arranged for laundry equipment to be installed by the autumn. As he was leaving, he mentioned that there was coffee ready to brew but would leave that to Amanda ' s discretion, said with a rather sly smile. Suddenly but assuredly, Laura knew Luther was an ancient sent to care for them. When the passion of greeting subsided briefly, the women took their lunch with coffee to the greenhouse. Luther retrieved furniture for the deck and months of living part of their lives in the out-of-doors began. Laura asked Amanda to take close up photographs of flowers and fruit that she had requested Luther to purchase and then print them. She was very eager to start paintings for the kitchen space, wanting the photographs as inspiration. The almost overwhelming sense of foreboding had dissipated with Laura ' s journey to and return from the ancients. There was lightness and joy in her soul for now, Amanda could not stop capturing that with lenses. When the want of her lover ' s body allowed in the afternoon hours, Laura prepared canvases with a list to order more for delivery to Luther. Her opportunities to travel to the city were fewer; she now sought to stockpile art supplies while she still could. Their home was now warm, could stay that way all year, and as such it was safe to store them.

As the sun was setting, Amanda poured wine and led her lover to the deck to watch the majesty being painted in shining reds and gold over the ocean ' s gray. Wine touched lips, lips touched lips, skin touched skin, and the sun set with only Mother watching as passion was all that watched the earthlings. Laura laughed while stating that she had adopted the known philosophy that lust was not initiated until one ' s twenties, she had finally arrived. Taking a chance of consuming cold steak, Amanda held her lover to tell her in reply that lust only started in one ' s twenties but improved as the number of a woman ' s years grew. With a mouthful of delicious fresh greens grown at their home, Laura wondered out loud if the vaccination would affect that with Amanda replying that it would only mean that they just had longer to enjoy their lives together.

Night routines and showers were played as Mother Moon was in her full girth, lighting a night of magic at the cabin. Amanda took photographs of her beautiful lover ' s unclothed silhouette against an ink blue sky, bathed in the silver glitter of Mother. Laura danced to a music heard from within, the cycle of the tides, the ancient carol, the timeless worship. That night, in the moonlight, Amanda understood that her body and her life, the cabin and the mountain, had been forever chosen as the high priestess ' sanctuary on earth; this would be the conduit to Laura ' s below and above. Amanda found herself taken to her knees. Amanda remained awed at her own journey over two years, traveling from cold, calculating, lonely, and frightened to lifted up, filled up with more love than she ever knew possible with the knowledge that she and Laura had been together since the beginning of time. She was humbled to the core that she had been chosen as earth sanctuary to the high priestess. Laura returned to the reality of the cabin, took her lover ' s hands, lifted to her feet, and with ancient prowess carried her lover to their bed for the journeys therein.

Morning welcomed sun wrapped arms around the cabin and the women who loved there. Laura took a steaming cup to Amanda, beautiful and still glowing from the stirring of her soul over the past hours. Laura sat at the end of the bed cross-legged, marveling at her lover, her friend, her solace. She crawled forward to kiss her waking eyes and lips, then returned to her perch on the bed while she brushed love tangled curls. Before lunch, the women walked along the mountainside road, welcomed once again by the firs and the undergrowth. Laura understood that this was her land now, shared with promise of stewardship and protection, shared with promise of eternity. Laura and Amanda talked of plans to have another day at the lake with Lydia and Barbara. Luther briefly mentioned to his employers that there might be a reason to clear the landing site up the mountain and construct a proper landing pad. He continued that would serve as a permanent delivery site in the future. Amanda also talked to Laura about teaching Luther how to fly a helicopter, eventually purchasing one for his use at the coast. Laura had no objections, stating the only challenge would be to convince Luther that he had none of his own. Amanda also suggested that perhaps Luther could be Laura ' s first student; Laura responded with widened eyes. Amanda told her that she had the skills and could easily train as an instructor. They could email Lydia when they returned to the base on the upcoming first weekday. If possible, Laura could train with Lydia at the Carriere base during the seventh month of the New Year before cadets returned at their own base. Amanda explained that Laura was licensed now as a pilot and flew Search and Rescue training missions. She was an instructor already with the skills to teach well. Lydia could train her quickly for any further information she would need; Lydia had trained Amanda as an instructor and as well all the instructors at Air Command Base 12. Laura could stay at the Carriere base and have a certain Colonel come to visit on a weekend if necessary or desired. Once again, both women understood this was the plan of the ancients although neither consciously understood why.

After returning to the cabin and after lunch, Laura took the easel to the deck to paint the decidedly female close-up of two irises, both deep purple/black and tipped to soft velvet-like rose pink. Amanda rarely interrupted the artist but when she saw the erotic image emerging from the canvas, a neck and breast needed kissing, nuzzling; the painting had to wait for completion until late afternoon. Amanda printed the silhouette shots of Laura from the night before and mounted them for hanging in the hallway to the guest room. Laura smiled at the images and saw the priestess dancing.

Over dinner, the women made plans to drive up the mountainside in the morrow, perhaps to the summit although the wrath would still be present and not likely to allow humans in the presence for long. A long warm soaking bath then tucked tired, lazy lovers between sheets into each other ' s arms before being lulled to sleep. The morning greeted them with a reddened sky promising rain before the end of the day. The made a second pot of coffee, filled a thermos, choosing to take the morning drive. Amanda drove without stopping to the summit; still strong cold winds would not permit humans out of protection for many minutes. She then drove back to the mountainside lake, stopping for a second cup of coffee in warmer climes. They did stop at the clearing and surveyed what would become a second landing pad for the cabin. The descent by road from that point down the mountain was not steep or dangerous; small overland vehicles even loaded would negotiate it easily. They returned to the cabin by early afternoon just as rain drops started to fall, both persuaded to naps. Even Teddy and Primrose were sleepy that day with naps in the rocker on the hearth as well. Night cloaked them early in the rain after showers they decided to crawl between warmed sheets to enjoy their shared company with Laura ' s newly claimed lust.

They met Luther just as they had loaded the vehicle prior to their return to the base, both insisting that he and Mary harvest what food they could use and to share with Harry and Jeannie. They confirmed that they would return in four weeks, then for eleven days at the beginning of the seventh month of the New Year. Upon return to the base, both women fell to their usual routines. Amanda immediately emailed Lydia about instructor lessons for Laura in the seventh month of the new year, e receiving an immediate reply that she would be delighted to teach that lovely young woman, keeping her at Carriere for a couple of weeks. The Colonel replied to the Captain to expect an extended official visit. She printed the exchange, showing it with giggles to Laura over dinner in the staff dining room that evening. Laura invited Amanda for dinner on the first weekend day, greeting the Colonel in skin tight jeans, satin camisole, four inch heels, wine, and a delayed dinner of homemade pizza. Amanda stayed until early morning, then joined Laura for breakfast in the staff dining room. Laura received emails from Ross and Declan reporting that new insulated buildings had been ordered and were being delivered. Several local men had pledged to help expand the tarmac; permanently borrowed materials had been secured and were on route. Declan send briefings on the organization carried out in the Northwestern City . He also told Laura that Lou had been arrested and detained again, this time being tortured. She was able to survive but he feared for her safety as she would not stop her constant urging of workers with insults to the rulers. Laura replied that they all had to trust the decisions of the ancients with the understanding that Lou ' s destiny was being played out for a very definite reason. Declan wanted a tentative meeting again in the ninth month of the new year at the same air base; Laura agreed asking for dates as soon as available.

Laura received a shoulder harness and a leg holster for her handguns, modeling them for Amanda with no other attire. Both women booked space in the martial arts classes to start in the eighth month of the New Year, both grateful for an evening schedule. Amanda emailed Luther to ask for a meeting on the day of their next return, to start the convincing about a pilot ' s license and the purchase of a helicopter for the cabin. Neither woman had discussed personal finances with the other, it was just understood they were both wealthy. Over dinner on that weekend, Laura finally asked Amanda if she was able to purchase another helicopter, if she wanted some financial assistance with that. Amanda replied that at last reporting by her accountant advisor, she had accumulated a wealth over three hundred million dollars which was more than enough to pay for one more helicopter. She had inherited a great deal of money from her family, making made some very wise investment choices in her younger years. Laura felt like a virtual pauper in comparison with her only now seven million. Both women spent very little of that money, living primarily on the money they earned working at the base. Amanda added that she had already paid for Laura's instructor lessons with Lydia , an anniversary gift of sorts.

Laura told Amanda that she would meet with her mother ' s friend ' s son again tentatively in the ninth month of the New Year, rather dreading the reaction. Amanda responded quickly, without trepidation, that if needed she could use Bella for transportation, agreeing the meeting was directed by the ancients and she would never stand in her way again.

Both women were excited to return to their home; Bella was packed and airborne by 0900 hours on the fifth weekday of the fourth week. On the flight, they talked of the plans for Laura ' s stay at Carriere; as there would be few cadets on base Amanda and Charlie had worked out a schedule to allow Amanda to visit for the interval four day weekend. She had told Charlie the reason; he was delighted that the school would have a back-up instructor in case of an emergent need. Luther met their vehicle as they stopped in the driveway, then helped with luggage and supplies. He had made a pot of coffee and they met on the deck. Luther seemed somewhat concerned as if he was unsure of his performance as caretaker. Amanda took his hand, strongly reassuring him that they were so pleased that he loved their home almost as much as they did; he had taken a huge part in insuring their comfort and safety. They did, however, have more plans involving decisions he had to make. Amanda spoke of their decision to build a second landing pad in the cleaning up the mountain, that they had inspected it at the last visit to the coast. She asked that he start the plans for that. Then Laura spoke of their decision to purchase a helicopter for transportation of supplies and materials as a permanent purchase for the cabin. At that point in the conversation, Luther walked away for a few moments, knowing the next part of the conversation. When he returned, Amanda asked him to become a pilot, that it would be eventually necessary for the quality of all their lives. Luther remained silent as Laura continued that she would teach him how to fly the helicopter. She reminded him that she was an eighteen year old child when she became a pilot, since learning to fly Search and Rescue missions. Again, Luther remained silent, all remained silent. He finally spoke, stating that he was so flattered that they thought him capable of becoming a pilot. Then with a very slight smile he admitted that it was something he had wanted to do since childhood. Finally, he shook Amanda ' s hand, then Laura ' s hand, and agreed for instruction whenever they were ready. A few minutes later, with very uncharacteristic abandon he ran up and down the driveway shouting his glee. Laura and Amanda laughed out loud applauding. He had to go home to tell Mary but he would return. Laura and Amanda were somewhat stunned at how easy that had been.

The stay at the cabin in the sixth month of the New Year was quiet and refilling as it always was. Laura painted another painting for the kitchen, this time of fern fronds opening, wrapping crosiers to themselves and others close to them, as if to undulate forth from the canvas. They returned to the base on the following first weekday to attend to routines and prepare for an eleven day visit in two weeks. Laura received and printed written material from Lydia in order to prepare for her upcoming lessons. She sent instructions to Ross. Laura ' s last class of cadets was examined and all were successful. Laura wrote a midterm examination to determine her eligibility to continue with the second half of the Intermediate Mechanics Course, qualifying easily.

Chapter 15

They chose to fly to the cabin in the evening of the fourth weekday rather than wait for the next morning as they wanted to welcome Lydia and Barbara to their home at midday on the fifth weekday. Luther had a small fire burning; their home invited them in the darkened summer sky. The lovers slept quickly that night, waking early to passion the next sun-welcomed morning. Luther arranged to meet the ranch helicopter and transport their friends to the cabin by midday. Laura checked to make sure all was ready in the guest room and was stopped suddenly with her breathing shortened as she saw an enlarged photograph of the naked priestess ' s silhouette hung to be seen by the occupants of the bed. Amanda had joined her, asking Laura it is was suitable; Laura had to restrain her desired response. Amanda took her hand and led her to the guest en suite where there were hung a series of the priestess photographs, stating she thought it appropriate for the ancients who visited there.

A honking vehicle horn shattered the silence as both Amanda and Laura moved to the deck to welcome their friends. Laura was always surprised when she saw how beautiful Lydia was out of uniform; she almost wished she had met her in circumstances other than at the base initially. Once again, there were kisses full on the mouth for all four friends, an act that did not confuse Luther as it did his friend Harry. Lydia and Barbara were delighted with the ground plantings and blooms as well as the deck boxes, making Luther beam with pride. Laura took them immediately to the greenhouse; all women were taken aback at the lush growth therein. Barbara so liked the caf é table and chairs she told Lydia they would have their own at the ranch greenhouse. They returned to the cabin space to survey the new paintings and photographs. Laura held her distance as her friends entered the guest bedroom, silent when they saw the photograph of the naked priestess dancing. There would be occasions when Lydia had hilarious, very suggestive comments about nudity but in this instance there was only reverence. She walked past Barbara and Amanda to take Laura ' s hand to draw her to the room with them. Laura told her friends that she was mostly moved by Amanda ' s talent that which could capture the magic they all saw. Over the next few days, Laura would tell Lydia of the portal and the return to earth from the ancients of which Lydia was already aware.

The friends enjoyed sun, fresh air, and each other ' s company on the deck for the remaining afternoon hours. Over dinner, the women made plans for the following day to travel to the summit, then the lake for a midday picnic, swim, and love in the afternoon. Both talked of the new landing pad up the mountain, the purchase of a transport helicopter, and Luther ' s decision to become a pilot. He would be Laura ' s first student but all understood not her last. Lydia finally said that she needed to seduce her lover, asking to be excused with a response of laugh-filled approval. Amanda took Laura to the shower and then to their many journeys to the multiverse and the ancients.

A waltz of sunbeams and breezes woke Amanda in the morning; Laura rose to complete morning chores, prepare breakfast and a picnic lunch for their trip to the lake. Lydia and Barbara joined them to enjoy the first pot of coffee. They chose to take breakfast and a second pot of coffee to the table in the greenhouse, where Luther had placed two additional chairs in anticipation. By midmorning, the friends were traveling to the summit, quiet again in the journey as they marveled at and gave thanks down to Mother for her majesty, her countenance. The summit did permit humans to walk on her but not for an excessive number of minutes. This was always Mother ' s indulgence in temper and abandon. Laura took photographs, perhaps for painting, perhaps to sustain her when she would think she could not continue the tasks set by her ancients. Laura drove the vehicle in descent along narrow and winding cliffs; this was her mountain now and she needed to master travel there. Luther cleared ground cover for parking and also hauled a couple of cubic yards of sand for a better beach for swimming. The four friends feasted and then lay in the sun. Laura suddenly stood up, completely de-robed and ran splashing into the water, Amanda very closely behind her. Minutes later, four very naked and very gorgeous women were frolicking in a mountain lake in the summer sun in the seventh month of the New Year.

Naps followed and then descent to the cabin, stopping to inspect again location of the new cabin landing pad. Lydia suggested there would be room for a pre-constructed steel building that could serve as a hanger if necessary which Luther could order. Barbara worked her magic with steaks brought from the ranch, many of which would be stored in the freezer. Latin beats spoke sultry dance steps to the lovers gathered with each couple drifting to their own seductions. The next day ' s sun on the deck was intoxicating for four women who bathed in the warmth. Laura painted two more canvases for the kitchen, a close up of a calla lily and one of an orchid. Amanda was lost in her photography; Lydia and Barbara were just lost in each other ' s company. Lydia needed to return to the Carriere base on the second upcoming weekday with Barbara planning to fly east to the ranch on the same day. The friends made plans to meet at the base on the weekend in between Laura ' s two weeks of instructions later on in the month. This would be Amanda ' s first return to her base alone since she met Laura. She was not looking forward to it but also knew it was the work of the ancients. The friends all bade each other farewell blessings in the morning of the second weekday.

Laura spent the next days studying the written material Lydia has sent. She enjoyed the sun, the ocean, especially her lover, but she had the discipline to focus as well as a razor sharp intellect. The lovers slept late into the morning on the second weekend day as they had found passion until dawn the night before. Amanda kissed her sweet woman long and hard after boarding Bella, and then flew the priestess to her instructor at Carriere. She hugged her goodbye on the tarmac and then flew back to the cabin alone. Lydia met Laura, taking her to the visitor ' s quarters at the base with agreement for both women to meet in the main building classroom the following day at 0900 hours. There were flight suits with the name Ravencouer on the breast pocket waiting for Laura, she was told she would wear those while among the staff at the base. There was an edge to Captain Stenns now, necessary for concentration and also as example to Laura for what she would endure in the years to come. The following day, Captain Stenns quizzed her student on the written material, finding no incorrect responses. They met again in the afternoon on the tarmac as the Captain taught her student how to teach. The two women met twice a day for the remaining weekdays. Laura was tired but excited to be learning more skills, knowing that she would need to use them countless times in the future. Colonel Amanda Bennett landed an Air Command Base 12 helicopter at 1900 hours on the fifth weekday, dressed in full uniform. Captain Stenns met her on the tarmac with a crisp salute and then walked with her to the visitor ' s quarters, asking her friend if this brought back any endearing memories which, of course, it did. Lydia returned to the tarmac to await the anticipated soon arrival of a ranch helicopter. The Colonel was relieved of her uniform before the Captain had reached the tarmac again. In two years, this was the longest that the lovers had spent apart; both were overtaken by passion many times that night. They met Captain Stenns and her friend in the staff dining room the following morning. Laura wore her wings proudly now; Lydia told her friends that her newest student was brilliant, assuredly finishing lessons by the upcoming next weekend. Laura and Lydia planned to fly back to her base on the first upcoming weekend day, in time for Instructor Ravencouer to soothe mothers who were not at all keen their offspring would be jumping out of aircraft in flight. The friends chose to drive into the mountains with t return to the bar for dinner and an early night. Before departure, Lydia forewarned Amanda that Charlie had emailed her urgently, asking that Amanda be told that General Anthony Downs would attend the welcoming reception the following first weekend evening. Both knew this was directed by the ancients but neither would rejoice. Laura's icy reply indicated that the General would be met as would all the others who attended.

The friends drove along mountain roads to tiny hamlets dotted among them and vistas defying human words. They returned to dinner at the bar with Laura far too interested in her lover to flirt or antagonize. Lydia realized that her student wanted alone time with her Colonel only, as such they left for the Carriere base before light left the sky. Amanda departed in early afternoon the following day to return to her base. The weekdays were filled with Laura instructing Lydia on all aspects of flying a helicopter. On the fifth weekday the Carriere base senior instructor tested Laura, happily presenting her with a certificate qualifying her to teach new pilots. Lydia flew her back to Air Command Base 12 early the following morning and the Colonel greeted them both as they landed. Lieutenant Colonel Smithson ran interference for Amanda and Laura when General Downs arrived; he had no respect whatsoever for the Commander-In-Chief, suspecting he was only at the base to attempt infidelity once more. Laura dressed very professionally but chose a camisole only underneath a buttoned suit jacket with the ubiquitous four inch heels. She joined the base senior pilot instructor who congratulated her on a successful qualification. They circulated, spoke to nervous parents, and alleviated fears as much as possible. Laura proudly wore her wings, the set from the Colonel, with the bar now attached indicating her qualification to teach as well. Lieutenant Colonel Smithson made his way with the General to speak to Laura. She was very collected in her presentation, meeting the General ' s visual attempt to undress her with steel flashing hazel eyes. However, she did manage to unbutton her suit jacket briefly to reveal satin and French lace before demurely fastening her jacket once more. She very graciously said goodbye to the Commander-in-Chief, walking away slowly allowing the four inch heels to work their maximum magic. Anthony Downs would go down well and permanently. Shortly thereafter, the general departed and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. Laura returned to her own quarters, exchanged emails and then fell asleep, alone, aching for the Colonel.

The second weekend day welcomed all cadets back to the base. Laura and Amanda ate dinner together in the staff dining room. The next weekdays and weekend days were filled with new students, new classes for Laura in the second part of the Intermediate Mechanics Course. On the third weekday evening of the first week of the eighth month Amanda and Laura started a refresher course in martial arts as they would once a week for the next twelve weeks. The women started research on their choice for a cabin helicopter, deciding on a small cargo craft, bigger and heavier than Bella, large enough to transport materials as they needed, similar to those used at the base for Search and Rescue missions. Delivery could take months after order which allowed completion of the new landing pad on the mountain. Amanda, Laura, and Luther made tentative plans for his instruction to begin in the next spring and summer months. Luther said that he had already ordered a pre-made steel building and had hired some local workers to clear a greater area for expansion of a landing pad, stating that the wood cut could be used as fuel at the cabin.

Laura had extensive conversations with Ross and Frida about the expanded air base and Ross ' pilot lessons. Most ranchers and farmers had personal aircraft in that part of the Northwestern City . He would receive instruction from the locals. She also was encouraged to learn that those ranchers were also very capable of maintenance and repair as necessary. Laura communicated with Declan to choose a date for another meeting at the end of the ninth month of the New Year. As The Decision had their main operations base in the Northeastern City , it would be harder to initiate resistance there. Laura and Declan discussed offensives that might need to start in the west and then move east. She knew that for the next months they would need to expropriate materials and stockpile as well as to train their greatest human resource. Slowly but very assuredly, the young woman born to the elite class was becoming a leader, one with a mind, heart, and body capable of steel hardening.

Laura flew Bella to the cabin on the fourth weekday of the fourth week since they last departure. She landed in darkness but was very capable of landing using coordinates; both women wanted as much time together at their home as they could arrange. Jeannie and Harry greeted them as Bella landed her humans safely, helping to load luggage into the overland vehicle. Luther was at the cabin when they arrived with a welcoming fire warming their home as the night air was now robbed of the sun ' s more distant warmth. He stated he would return the following day before midday to discuss any plans or necessities. Both Laura and Amanda were tired from their weeks at the base and after a warming shower welcomed sleep. Both women awoke refreshed the following morning and after morning chores took a second cup of coffee to the greenhouse, still warm and verdant from the sun ' s blessings. Both wondered at the cornucopia of food at their disposal. When Luther arrived, he found both women still enjoying the peace of the greenhouse. Laura asked that he teach her proper harvesting and preservation for freezing as he was pleased to do. He told his friends that both he and Mary had grown up in homes with poor working parents, all fishermen; he had always known of food storage and preservation. He stated he firmly believed that in the years to come people would have to return to strict recycling and reduction of waste as well as learning self-reliance. With that statement, Laura knew why Luther had been sent. With Luther ' s departure, Laura prepared canvasses in preparation of more paintings in the kitchen series. When ready she painted close-ups of cross sections of pears and apples for one painting, a second painting showing cross sections of avocados and figs. She asked Amanda to accompany her for a visit to the beach. Both women grabbed sweaters and cameras. There was a brewing rage inside the ocean to which Laura was constantly drawn with identity. Despite the emotion, there was also comfort for her with the continuation and infinity of the waves on the shore. Amanda had become keenly sensitive to the transformations of her lover, teaching her lens to attempt their capture. The ocean Laura would be printed and hung in the hallway, another space allowing a story to come forth. Cool air and fading sun drove the women back to the warm cabin and each other ' s arms. Night routines were danced at completion of dinner and the shower found the lovers before dance found them in the firelight. Love and passion that refused to ebb led beautiful female bodies and souls to the night, to the multiverse, to the ancients. A continuation after rest breached the morning hours until hunger forced release. Amanda laughed, still almost overwhelmed and certainly overjoyed at the depth of her love for Laura, returned. She had known lovers in her past but had not known that the passion need not fade, that familiarities only guided greater expression and not the contrary. Laura crawled into Amanda ' s arms on the sofa still dressed in her robe. She smiled and inquired as to how many of Amanda ' s bruises were from her martial arts course a few days previously and how many were love induced to which her lover replied that it was of no matter as they were both passion driven. Breakfast and subsequent morning routines were late this first weekend day as both women wanted the warmth of coffee and of holding each other in silence of words. They decided to take a lunch and a hike to Spy Rock. Amanda took many photographs while Laura sketched to hold her images longer. Mother suddenly whipped up a boisterous wind with huge rain drops causing both women to run to the dryness of the cabin and fire. Mary visited in the afternoon with fish for their dinner and a short visit. She told the women of fruit trees they had found that would not grow to heights beyond the greenhouse, tolerating the environment. Amanda immediately told her to order apple and pear trees, heeding some call from deep within from her ancients. They asked Mary to purchase any supplies they would need for preservation of food and made tentative plans for her instruction to do so on their next return home Amanda thought of how the helix was turning here on earth as well, two very rich, indulged women learning the basis of food growth with preservation by a somewhat poor woman who was rich in knowledge and experience. Dinner, night routines, a warm soaking bath, and game of Chinese checkers in bed then said goodnight to Amanda and Laura on the eve of their return to the base the following morning.

On the flight back to the base, Laura told Amanda she had confirmed work of the ancients for first day of the last weekend of the ninth month of the New Year. Again, Amanda insisted she fly Bella as it would be safest for her to travel, Laura again agreed. On return to her apartment, Laura read emails from Declan and Ross and replied. Declan told Laura about a distant family member of hers, her father ' s younger cousin Stephan. Thea asked Lou to find this young man. Since that time, he had become instrumental in establishing routes out of the city for the underground safe houses. He was an employee of The Decision, able to move about easily in the more populated, poorer sections of the Northeastern City . He had joined the Resistance almost as soon as he known Lou as did his wife Tess. His father-in-law, Roy, became the leader of overland transportation for goods and hidden survivors, able to cross checkpoints with fake identification and passes made by Archie. Tess ' mother, Celeste, worked as the main cook for the health care facility in the Northeastern City . Laura replied to Declan to update organizational charts with copy for Ross at all times.

The following weekday and weekend days were filled with classes, instruction, administration, and chores. Over one of their Friday night dinners in the staff dining room, Amanda told Laura of conversation she had with her financial advisor. He forewarned of a plan by The Decision to take money from the elite to finance the quelling of the Resistance. He suggested that she start removing funds as discretely as she could to keep elsewhere rather than in institutions The Decision knew. Both Amanda and Laura decided to withdraw funds as they could and keep as much as possible at the cabin. Amanda stated bitterly that the only task she would agree to fund was the demise of General Anthony Downs. Laura knew in her heart it would not be necessary.

Both women quickly regained skill and proficiency in the martial arts classes. Amanda flew Bella in darkness to the northwest on the four weekday evening of the fourth week since their departure. Once again, Luther had fire blazing and helped his friends with luggage and supplies. The air was much cooler now with the cabin being prepared for another winter. Luther and Mary planned to return at midday the following day to help with harvesting with instructions on food preparations. Before he left for the night, he did tell his friends that the steel building for the new landing pads would be delivered and erected before their next visit. Both women were tired from a busy week but not enough to forego a shower and the finding of passion once again. By the following evening vegetables had been harvested, prepared, frozen, and preserved. Amanda and Laura were slow as these were new skills but they would perfect them as practice allowed. The child in Laura was thoroughly delighted to learn new tasks; Amanda learned new tasks as she had been called to do so. Cooler temperatures and shorter days kept the lovers indoors more on the two weekend days. Laura finished paintings for the kitchen series as Amanda tucked into her knitting projects. Night skies were brilliant with galaxies of stars with a widely-girthed Mother Moon. Laura asked Amanda for a dancing date, pouring brandy after her shower; sultry Latin beats and then beats only from the ancients drove the women to journeys beyond themselves in the cabin in the ninth month of the new year. The following afternoon, Luther joined his friends at the new landing pad up the mountainside. The clear cutting and removal had been done and layers of tarmac applied. Amanda would ascertain the exact coordinates; she and Laura planned an attempt a landing there in the upcoming months, before the winter snows.

The lovers returned to the base on the first weekday morning and resumed the routines of their lives away from home. Laura breached the data base, now learning coordinates and specifications for all active Military bases in both cities, information for Declan and Ross at their upcoming meeting. Laura wrote the final examination for her Intermediate Mechanics Course, passing readily. She and Amanda finished the martial arts refresher course happily without broken bones and fewer bruises. At 0700 hours on the first weekend day of the second week, Laura was airborne in Bella to the transportation depot; one she knew would become her command base in the years to come. Laura landed Bella at 0845, greeted once again by Declan and Ross. Laura immediately noticed new buildings and major repairs on the ones that had existed previously. The landing pads had been refurbished; a new air strip had been built and covered with many layers of tarmac. Ross led Laura on a tour of new hangers and administration buildings. Laura told him to now arrange for living quarters for staff as this would her base of operations when the time became necessary. On return to Ross ' office, she downloaded all the data she had gathered to both Ross ' computer and to Declan ' s. Declan spoke of meetings with group leaders in both cities. There had been and would be covert operations to interrupt Military transports with interception of materials and supplies. The three leaders spent the next hours establishing locations for eventual raids on bases. Laura told Declan and Ross that Resistance members needed to be taught how to be dropped behind enemy walls to place bombs and explosives and then to be brought back to bases of operations. They set out a plan to train pilots and other Resistance fighters to skydive, place detonators, and explosives. Ross reported that many men died since their forced evacuation to labor camps. The underground was now working at continued rescues of some remaining. Laura spoke of The Decision ' s plans to take large sums of monies from those who still had some, she would be removing hers as quickly as she could without notice and much of it would be stored with Declan and Ross. They set in a place the plan to escalate infiltration of Military bases by rural travelers, especially so in the winter months. Ross was now flying with supervision and by the time of the snow fall he would be a pilot on his own. Laura asked Ross to procure parachutes by any means possible. She would attempt to learn of overland shipment routes with manifests for the military in order to facilitate raids of materials they needed. Declan stated that rural workers with established safe houses were organizing growth of food for all survivors. All three understood that many fighters in the inner cities would die of starvation with the only way to support those left was safe haven for them. Declan reported that Thea ' s Sanctuary in the north was growing, surviving women and children were being taken there as was possible. Laura stated that this would be the place for instruction for skydiving and other skills necessary for victory, for cessation of the madness called The Decision.

Declan, Ross, and Laura chose a date to meet next and Laura departed their company at 1400 hours. Bella was back at Air Command Base 12 by late afternoon. Laura wanted to return to Amanda ' s arms with that passion negating all the reality of her life to come. However, she returned to her own quarters to start the breach of the data base for transportation routes and manifests. The Decision already made the gravest error, that of deciding that a small band of badly educated, easily expendable workers and peasants would ever be able to stop them. Laura sat grounded with her ancients, with Noshi and Tom, as small chains of silver were being wrapped around her heart. Laura sat lost in thought, struggling to keep perspective the growing rage within her and its cause. Arrogance and greed would take her from Amanda and all others she loved, would give her no other choice but to destroy part of Mother ' s earth, would direct her to take the lives of other humans, asking others to lay down theirs. She understood that this was her only choice, her only purpose for this present journey here on earth. She asked her ancients to guide her until her sisters and brothers could be free once again.

Laura slept later on the second weekend day, then swam laps and ran for hours. Chores and weekend routines were completed. Her resolve was much greater with each day. She needed Amanda ' s arms around her but knew she had to train herself to keep strength and perspective alone. There was a knock at her door in the mid afternoon of the second weekend day; upon it opening Laura found a crystal vase containing one purple iris with a written invitation for dinner with Amanda in her suite. She showered and braided her curls and then dressed in her favorite satin and lace, calf length skirt, and camisole. At the appropriate hour, she arrived to Amanda ' s door and her waiting arms. Amanda knew of her need and of the urgency. Passion would find them until hunger insisted on food. After dinner, passion reappeared with Laura sleeping in the Colonel ' s arms until early morning. The weekdays and weekend days followed only routines. Amanda flew Bella northwest in the dark in the evening of the four weekday of the fourth week since their last departure. She had asked Luther to meet Bella at the new landing pad to allow Amanda to start remotely lighting on her approach. The landing was easily completed. The tarmac was large enough to accommodate the larger craft Amanda had ordered which Luther would learn to pilot. All four of their friends were there to greet them and witness their landing. The air was very cool so they did not linger but set a time the following day to meet with Luther. They planned to have Jeannie take Bella as usual to the Carriere base for refueling over their stay at their home.

A blazing fire and a warm home greeted the lovers; after Luther helped to carry in baggage and supplies, he departed to leave Amanda and Laura alone, happily at last. A brief shower, a warmed bed welcomed them, lulling them to sleep. Amanda woke at dawn to Laura's waiting, wanting arms. Amanda had been apprehensive that as Laura became more and more involved with the work of the ancients that the stress and energy needed because of that would lessen her ardor but in fact the opposite was reality. Amanda did sense that the child rarely came to the surface now. It had been replaced by mature determination. But, her beautiful Laura was more in love than ever with more fire within than Amanda thought possible; she did trust that she would never be consumed by that fire but constantly awed by it. Passion and desire could have led them to the morning in bed but hunger and Luther ' s pending visit forced quick showers, breakfast, and morning routines. The lovers started their plans for the Wintersday break, sharing part with Lydia and Barbara. Soon after the preparation of a second pot of coffee, Luther arrived for conversation and planning with his friends, showing them the changes in the plumbing to accommodate new machines for laundry in a sectioned portion of the pantry. He had taken the liberty of building new shelving in the wood storage enclosure and had fashioned a part of it as a workshop. He was using one of the former space heaters for warmth and Amanda told him to permanently install it for his comfort. He had installed lightening to simulate sunlight in the greenhouse so that plants could thrive or lay dormant was Mother ' s plan over the winter. Laura and Amanda both spoke of needing safe storage of monies they would start to leave at the cabin. Luther replied he would make sure that was in place hidden in his work shop for their next return to their home. They showed Luther pictures and specifications of the helicopter that had been ordered for use at the cabin as his eyes brightened with excitement. He told his friends that over the winter months he was planning to research rechargeable fuel cells for the vehicles at the cabin. They told Luther of the upcoming Wintersday break and of the visit of their friends once again for the upcoming celebration. Luther told them that because of the construction of the greenhouse it would be possible to install a second small fireplace in the corner of the guest room if Laura and Amanda wished, they immediately agreed. Laura apologized for short notice but asked if Luther could construct a second support easel so that a huge canvas could be painted and he started on that immediately. Amanda took photographs all morning of their friend and of Laura dancing in the kitchen. Luther constructed a second support easel which he and Laura placed at the window for optimum light. He then found the large canvas that had been shipped previously, as Laura started to prepare it Luther said goodbye. Laura had asked Amanda to print the shots they took at the summit at their visit last autumn to use as reference. While she waited for the canvas preparation to dry, Laura tucked herself in a corner of the sofa, inviting Amanda to lay her head in her lap. The lovers watched the fire and made more preparations for their winter stay at their home. They could order all the supplies to be shipped to Luther now. They had both acknowledged that they would need to make the obligatory appearance at the University soiree but would follow the same schedule as the previous year with plans to leave the base the next day for home on the coast. They planned to visit Eaglesdown the following day to visit the Smithers and purchase prawns for their dinner with as much of Judith ' s chowder as she would sell them. Soft caresses with kisses reminded the lovers that they had not met on the rug before the fire in some time; the cool autumn day was just as good a time as any before. Teddy and Primrose blushed but were exceedingly happy for their humans. The night sky now robbed the sky of a tiring sun earlier in the days as the lovers dined by candlelight and firelight. Amanda saw mischief in her lover ' s eyes, hearing her humming with giggles overnight routines. Laura then led Amanda to the shower for long play and passion. She claimed to blame the lust of a twenty year old but the depth for her lover was the reason for her urgency. There was an abandon in her now as if to experience as much as she could in what she knew would be a short period of time. Amanda had the same understanding, continuing to be just on the border of shatter when she found passion with her lover. Laura left a breathless lover to bank the fire once again for the night with return to take Amanda in arms full of wanting once more.

The first weekend day was bright with the cold bite of a coming winter. They met Luther on the mountain road as they were off to Eaglesdown for shopping and visiting; he would use wind power while they were away to generate and then store more energy. Judith ' s diner was empty when they arrived to order their lunches with a request to purchase as much chowder as Judith would sell. They then walked to the Smithers ' store after Amanda stopped to order prawns for their dinner. As ever, when they entered the store they were greeted warmly by the elder friends. Laura purchased all the preserving jars they would sell her. They found warm lined knit trousers, purchasing many pairs for them and friends. Mrs. Smithers showed Amanda skeins of wool with not all the lanolin removed, telling her it made wonderful outer mittens. Amanda bought all the yarn with patterns to make mittens for all her friends and herself. Laura purchased all the hard candy available for her lover ' s sweet tooth, suggesting they would return during the Wintersday break to purchase more if possible. Laura inquired about the soap to remove grease from her hands and Mrs. Smithers found their last available supply. After return home to a welcoming, blazing fire, Laura became lost in the painting for the rest of the daylight. Undulating ocean waves gave up figures of children walking with adults through fields of green and blooms towards distant mountain peaks, looking up to see many ravens circling above. Amanda again took photographs as the priestess told a story from within her. As it dried and as Laura returned to the reality of the cabin, Amanda commented that it was beautiful, Laura stated it would only be finished in the morrow. She then asked if it could be hung above the mantle, that it spoke of hope to her and she said that humans can never have enough hope. Amanda replied with tears in her eyes and a gentle kiss on her lover ' s lips that their home would display that hope proudly forever. Laura was quiet during a delicious dinner as Amanda sensed fatigue with some distant sorrow. She then joined her lover in a candlelit, scented bath. Amanda had warmed soft night shirts for both of them and they then joined each other in a warmed bed. Laura sat up in bed, turning her back to her lover after handing Amanda her hair brush. No-one had brushed Laura ' s hair since her childhood; she had asked the one she loved and trusted the most to do that for her. Amanda understood as she brushed long silken locks with tears running down her cheeks. Depths of ancient love found the women in the night in the cabin in the tenth month of the New Year.

Both women awoke after the sun has spread beams through the cabin windows and doors. Breakfast and morning routines followed. A red sky threatened dull light with rain later in the day; Laura wanted to finish the painting. She mixed iridescent paint with small amounts of jewel tones to paint flowing spirit figures swirling above the humans on earth underneath with arms all touching the ravens circling above. Laura left the image, seeing that it was complete. She asked Amanda not to look until was complete. When invited, Amanda did not speak for many minutes as she was drawn into the message from the ancients, the hope. She was told now that no matter what would transpire in the years to come there would be hope always. She stood with Laura for a long time in silence, each understanding more of the destiny they shared. Amanda left a note asking Luther to build a simple frame and then hang the painting above the mantle. Autumn rains did fall by midday. The lovers curled before the fire. Amanda was knitting gifts for Lydia and Barbara. Laura was lost in her own thoughts. She did ask Amanda if they could have a bar date with their friends; Amanda laughed, replying it was an expected event. Laura made lists of items that would need to be shipped to the coast. With greater food storage and laundry facilities at home, they would not need to make as many trips to Carriere over their Wintersday break. Dinner and night routines were completed and the lovers found the shower and then passion in a warmed bed. Laura flew Bella back to the base the following morning taking off from the new landing pad. Her training and missions for Search and Rescue examinations had prepared her well for taking off in more enclosed conditions.

When back at the base, Laura ordered supplies, food, new linens, candles, and more art and photography supplies all to be delivered to Luther on the coast. She contacted her designer friend, asking that she find more wool from the Andes for Amanda for Wintersday. She contacted Elgin to request that he contact her financial institution to withdraw as much of her money as he could as she wanted to move it closer to her at the base and at the coast. She did not tell him the truth as she did not want to concern or frighten him. She ordered leather bound albums for photographs for the cabin. She asked her designer friend to find the most lovely satin and lace for Amanda and herself as well as new casual and dress clothes.

The weekdays and weekend days were filled with instruction and administration. Laura was not taking any courses now and would not until after the Wintersday break, that of Advanced Mechanics. She found information on the large Raptor craft that she needed to learn to pilot .She had asked Amanda to teach her and Amanda had not replied yet. Laura suspected it was because she knew that with that knowledge Laura would be able to leave the base and her lover. Declan and Ross both reported on the progress they were making as well as news of the Resistance fighters. Ross was now a solo pilot and after many hours in the air he too would learn to instruct others. She had sent the data about transportation routes with manifests to Frida which had been successfully received and decoded. Declan told Laura they now had all the routes for both northern cities with an almost complete list of all Military bases. They would need to establish a safe command post in the Northeastern City for Resistance aircraft and training; both Declan and Ross worked on confirmation of plans they already had started to put in place.

Elgin replied to Laura that he had taken certificates for her monies with little conflict at the financial institution. Laura sent back notice to him that she planned to return to the city on the upcoming first weekend day, to retrieve the money and take her grandfather to lunch; she reserved a vehicle and a guard. She invited Amanda to dinner on the first weekend day evening after her return from the city.

Laura enjoyed a lingering lunch with her grandfather, knowing that the time for her visits was becoming shorter. The insurrection was coming closer to the University, her old elite neighborhood; she worried for Elgin and Amanda ' s parents. Elgin did not seem dismayed but did state that the board at the University had warned that this may be the last year for the Wintersday soiree. Laura immediately thought that she knew of at least one person who would not be saddened by that news. Laura secured her money certificates, escorting Elgin back to his home. She stopped at her designer ' s shop to choose gifts for Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara, asking that they be shipped to Luther at the coast as would be for those she had ordered online. She asked that her friend find a jeweler to fashion a labrys to be made of silver with a diamond center as a gift for Amanda. With that request, her designer friend opened a button on her shirt to show Laura her own labrys, stating that she would have no problem getting another fashioned. Laura asked the driver to stop on the way back to the base so she could purchase dinner before returning to her apartment. After dressing in the most appealing satin and lace she could find, she greeted her lover at the door. They dined on cheeseburgers and fries with champagne. Laura excused herself after dinner to light pillar candles in her bedroom, then taking the Colonel by the hand. The lovers greeted the night in candlelit passion until sleep claimed them. The Colonel kissed her sleeping lover with return to her own suite as dawn was breaking the following morning.

Luther confirmed delivery of all of Laura ' s and Amanda ' s orders. Jeannie reported that the weather was clear for the fourth weekday of the fourth week since their departure, on that evening Laura flew Bella to the new landing pad, securing a perfect landing. Jeannie and Harry met them to transfer supplies to their waiting vehicle. They met Luther at the cabin. There was a welcoming blazing fire; when the women entered the cabin from the deck they stood in silence when looking upon the painting of hope above the mantle. Luther had also framed and hung all the paintings in the kitchen series. Luther planned return the following day for a meeting with his friends but before he left he insisted on showing them the guest room now with a corner fireplace. Both Laura and Amanda were surprised, delighted with the quality of work. They simultaneously hugged Luther which caused lovely blushes on his part. As he drove away, Amanda stated that the growth of this friend right before their eyes was a joy to watch; Laura simply stated that it would be expected from an ancient among them, Amanda agreed. Sleep found two tired friends soon after that conversation.

A weakened sun shone the best welcome possible the following morning. Neither woman wanted to leave the arms of the other but hunger and a meeting with Luther reluctantly dragged them out of bed. Laura wanted to spend as much of the fifth weekday in the kitchen, preserving food from the harvest of the greenhouse, freezing food for the Wintersday break. Amanda grabbed her camera as Laura ' s dance in the kitchen began, even before Luther ' s arrival. She made a mental note to herself to find cookbooks for a Wintersday gift for her lover. Amanda made a second pot of coffee to share with their friend who arrived shortly thereafter. He showed them the secure safe in his workshop, well concealed, both Amanda and Laura deposited certificates there. He permanently installed space heaters with insulated walls separating that space from the enclosure to store wood. He and Harry cut and stored wood for the upcoming winter, continuing to do so as long as the weather permitted. He ordered utensils for the second fireplace with a wood box for the guest room. He took the liberty of placing some of the tin toys on the new mantle, stating that he hoped Laura would not mind sharing them. They talked about the wintering-over of the plants in the greenhouse. He and Harry stayed to help Laura and Amanda harvest vegetables for preservation and freezing that day. They did return to the fireplace for coffee, he shyly remarked that he had cried when he hung the painting of hope over the mantle. He quietly said that no matter what atrocities might occur in the coming years he would always come here to find his hope renewed in that painting. Amanda ordered silver frames for two photographs she printed, each of Lydia and Barbara, placing one on the common room mantle, the other on the new mantle in the guest room. Laura suggested that they also give one as an anniversary gift to them over the Wintersday break.

Dinner and night routines then found the lovers in front of the fire. Amanda was reduced to tears when gazing at her beautiful young lover. Laura smiled as she asked Teddy and Primrose if they would mind sharing the sofa instead of the bed for the nigh, no-one objected.

Pouring late autumn rain denuded the remaining dying green of Mother, bringing initial sadness but late, deepened respectful love of her endless cycle. Neither woman had an agenda for the day as love kept them in bed till hunger at midmorning forced them to breakfast in front of the fire. Amanda finally finished her knitted gifts for Lydia and Barbara. The child in Laura emerged long enough to giggle and clap as she cuddled two hand knitted bears that would now live in the guest room bed or mantle, depending, of course, on circumstance. They remained nameless until christening by their friends. Laura did not know yet that there would be hand-knitted dolls under the Wintersday tree for her this year named Amo and Te. Laura sorted old linens to start tearing fabric strips from the old bed linens. Mary mentioned in conversation that as a child she had learned to braid rugs from old rags with Laura's request to instruct her at the Wintersday break. There was a deep stirring in Laura to learn as much about survival as she could, knowing she would need that in her own life to teach to others in their quest to stop The Decision. The lovers were lost in muses in front of the fire for the afternoon; Laura preparing fabric for braiding, Amanda finishing serapes as gifts for Lydia and Barbara. Night routines were danced quickly after dinner; passion found the lovers taking them to the ancients and the multiverse.

The second weekend day dawned gray but without rain. Laura and Amanda drove to the beach for one last visit before the winter snows. The ocean has whipped up growing anger once again with the force of waves on the rocks beating the rhythms of purpose and insurrection into both women. Both remained silent while finding their ancients, the message of courage, the future. Before driving back to the cabin, they held each other tightly in the cold spray, digging down to find the other ' s strength. A warm fire welcomed them back to their own sanctuary and solace. Laura took Amanda from the sofa to the rug before the hearth. An even greater urgency and passion drove both to the closest they had been to shatter. Even after recovery and warm soup before the fire, neither was able to speak many words verbally. Amanda looked to the hearth, certain she saw bears ' eyes misted. There never was notice in her life that would have made her a believer of this depth of love; hers was a gift of a high priestess, her existence on earth was blessed. Laura had now finally crossed the bridge of trust of her ancients; even with a broken heart in the years to come would follow their plan, her plan.

The lovers returned to the base the following morning, back to routines and tasks, but even more in love and determination. Both women confirmed with their families that they would attend the University Wintersday soiree with arrival and return to the base the same day. Laura repeated Elgin ' s news that this may be the last soiree the board felt safe at the University, Amanda was not at all saddened. She did say that this would be the last year she would attend in uniform, if they did need to return she would attend as a civilian. She was quickly tiring of being a symbol of status for parents who would never understand the woman they knew as their child; she was even more sickened of public subservience to General Anthony Downs. She firmly declared this would be the last year. Weekdays and weekends followed routines. Laura pushed her last class before the Wintersday break to graduation from skydiving, flying two Search and Rescue examination missions. The senior flight instructor tried hard to convince Ms. Ravencouer to join his team of instructors, even putting in a request for same to Lieutenant Colonel Smithson in his capacity as dean. Both were denied. Laura and Amanda made lists for supplies, ordered them, and had them shipped to Luther. They did manage to spend two weekend nights together until dawn, by far not enough time but four weeks together was pending. Lydia confirmed that they planned arrival on the second weekend day of the week prior to Wintersday, the same day as Laura ' s and Amanda ' s arrival earlier that day. Charlie Smithson ' s family arrived on the fifth weekday of the last week of classes before the break. Amanda knew them previously; Laura was gracious in her introduction. She thanked the Lieutenant Colonel quietly, answered only with a fatherly smile.

A vehicle with guard picked up the Colonel and Ms. Ravencouer at 1700 hours on the first weekend day. The Colonel wore her dress uniform, Laura wore the gown with jewels that Amanda had given her for her birth anniversary, applied the come-hither make up, all part of her plan. Elgin greeted them as they arrived, hugging both of them. He led them to the Bennett ' s who were lost in conversation with other peers with almost no conversation with either woman. Laura spotted the General, taking Amanda ' s arm to lead her to the undesirable task of saluting and small talk. Laura allowed the General ' s eyes to briefly undress her, smiling demurely as she held his hand slightly longer than a handshake. Amanda noticed but now did not question Laura ' s motives; she did not understand the details but she know that General Downs would go down well and permanently at the hands of the priestess. The lovers said goodbye to their families, escorted to the vehicle by the guard to sounds of sporadic gunfire in the distance with an occasional whiff of acrid smoke from burning buildings and bodies. Decidedly, assuredly more silver chains wrapped themselves around Laura ' s heart. After thanking the guard and rewarding him for his efforts, the women returned to their apartments.

Chapter 16

Bella was loaded and she was airborne by 0900 hours the following morning. Amanda landed Bella at the pad at Harry and Jeannie ' s home as she was not sure of the state of the roads beyond the cabin up the mountainside. There was snow on the ground now and she had not inquired of the road conditions. Luther reassured them that the roads would be kept clear in the future. He helped transfer baggage and cartons to his vehicle and theirs. Amanda and Laura lingered to chat briefly with Jeannie and Mary, giving them their Wintersday gifts with much gratitude. They arrived at the cabin, met by Harry and Luther who helped to carry in baggage. A blazing fire greeted them, as they crossed the threshold of the door both caught their breaths as the spotted a new handmade sway back rocker beside the hearth, holding a simple ribbon and card from Luther. Amanda had tears as did Laura; he then beckoned them to the guest room to see a similar chair with a miniature model for that hearth. Both women grabbed Luther, hugged him, and then kissed him full on the mouth, an act which made Harry almost faint. Luther was so caught by surprise and delight that he winked at Harry, laughing out loud. The men left as Lydia and Barbara planned arrival in late afternoon. They would bring trees and cut boughs for decorating later in the week, this year with all eight friends participating. Amanda arranged for a flight to the Carriere base on the fourth weekday to the ubiquitous bar evening. Jeannie offered to do the last minute Wintersday shopping for fresh produce with her friends readily accepting. Lydia and Barbara were not able to stay for the feast at New Year ' s Day this time, still be able to visit with their friends for twelve days. Amanda made a pot of coffee and they actually drank a cup immediately, to grins and gales of laughter. The new rocker was large enough to hold one woman with another on her lap as was the one in the guest room. Amanda tucked the new bears in between the sheets of the guest room bed, with tiny tags as gifts to their friends and a request for naming. Luther had left a note in the kitchen to direct Laura to the greenhouse, when she opened the door there were pots of blooming paper whites and Wintersday cacti. There were also pots holding holly and ivy, kept alive for their celebration. Laura cried as she called for Amanda to help her. They placed the pots of flowers throughout their home including the guest room and en suite.

The lovers spend the remaining afternoon before the arrival of their friends rocking in front of fire, holding each other, laughing as Amanda told of past ruckuses of which she had been a part with Lydia back in the day. Just at twilight, Luther drove into the driveway, honking the horn long and loud. He and Harry carried baggage and cartons to the cabin as Amanda and Laura went to the deck to greet their friends, hug them, and kiss them full on the mouth. Luther grinned as Harry shook his head one more time. Amanda led them over the threshold as each caught their breath when they saw the painting of hope over the mantle. There was silence with misted eyes as all four friends stood with arms around each other. Lydia murmured blessings to the priestess among them. With the reverence broken, Amanda took them to the guest room where a blazing fire welcomed them. Then gales of laughter broke out as the new bears were greeted and hugged. Laura left her friends to set a simple dinner on the table. She heard exclamations as Lydia and Barbara discovered the new rocker with the miniature one for their new bear friends; Laura giggled as she heard that wonderful wickedly lewd laugh that only Lydia could possess. Laura returned to the hallway to invite her friends to dinner and wine, knowing they were hungry and tired. Amanda made a pot of coffee for after dinner before the fire. Barbara suggested that they name their two new bear friends as Anna and Versarie. All approved, even Teddy and Primrose. Laura loved her home all the time but even more so when it was filled by the strength and love of all the women gathered there. Everyone agreed on ruckus raising at the bar for the upcoming fourth weekday and then cabin decorating the first weekend day. The rest of the time shared at their home would be filled with good food, good wine, good card tournaments, great friendship, and indescribable passion. Barbara handed Laura a small carton before they retired for the evening; as curious as Amanda was she knew better than to ask. Lydia carried glasses of wine to their room as she wished their friends night blessings. There were few night chores; Laura and Amanda found the shower early in their evening followed by their own passion, over and again, into the night, journeys to the ancients and the multiverse.

Amanda and Laura were enjoying cups of coffee after morning chores when Lydia and Barbara joined them, both glowing from passion and ever deepening love. Laura wondered if she and Amanda looked that beautiful to their friends. They both found breakfast, coffee, and joined their friends in front of the fire, stopping again to gaze at the painting of hope. They caught up on news at the ranch. Not only would they have more baby animals in the spring but Jenny, Jackson ' s eldest daughter, was pregnant, due to give birth at the end of the third month of the new year. The ranch hands were not counted peoples of The Decision and vaccination had not been mandatory. As such, new human life would live at the ranch. Laura simply murmured Hope." The wives of other ranch hands were learned in midwifery with few concerns for Jenny ' s health or that of her newborn. Amanda immediately rose, went to her supply of yarn and patterns, before another pot of coffee was needed a wee sweater was on the needles. Lydia returned from her room with her own wee sweater on needles. Laura smiled as she just saw yet another part of Captain Lydia Stenns, loving her even more for it. Barbara quipped that she really didn ' t understand why when human babies were expected that women felt the need to knit. She expected baby horses and cattle every year with not one urge to knit a thing, but with that she kissed her lover, smiling with great love. Barbara and Laura escaped the knitting bee to find their own muses in the kitchen. Laura showed Barbara the food preservation they had done with the food frozen for their enjoyment. She gave her a tour of Luther ' s new workshop and the greenhouse, now tucked in for the winter. There were still greens for salads with hope that they would continue all year. Laura was particularly proud of their new miniature fruit frees and Barbara stated that she would ask Luther where he had found them as she would like them for the ranch as well. Amanda and Lydia were deep in conversation about removing monies from financial institutions. Lydia stated that she and Barbara had done that some time ago. Barbara mulled a pot of cider and hung it on the fireplace trammel. Lydia stood at the mantle, looking at the photograph of her and her lover, telling Amanda that she might just be getting good at this photography thing. Amanda smiled her thanks as put down her knitting to allow Laura to join her lap in the rocker. In the afternoon, Harry and Luther brought another load of wood to the enclosure. Laura met with Luther, asking that he remove some of her certificates in the safe to put with her pack when he had an uninterrupted moment. She told him it was for the work of the ancients, he flashed instant understanding. While Harry was out of ear shot, Laura also told Luther that she would eventually leave; she needed his promise to take care of their home and her lover. He replied that was the reason he had been sent. It was a great honor to serve his high priestess again.

The friends started a card tournament that would continue for days in later afternoon, then enjoyed dinner and each other ' s company. After wine before the fire, later evening called both couples to showers and passion. With the positive, loving energy in the room with Lydia and Barbara at the cabin, Laura was led to occasionally wonder why all women would not enjoy this but at the same time knew that it was chosen for them but not for all women.

The next two weekdays were filled with the rhythms of the lives of friends and lovers. On the fourth weekday, the women slept later in anticipation of dinner and a bit of ruckus raising at the bar. All women were dressed, ready, and waiting to be delighted once again by the beautiful child about to emerge from the bathroom; she did not disappoint. This year, Amanda and Lydia were ready with cameras. Laura braided her hair in two braids, applied the come-hither make up, dressed in the six inch heels, skin tight faded blue jeans, a matching vest over a sheer silk camisole edged with French lace. The ensemble was made perfect with her Stetson, the one that Barbara had brought from the ranch. She walked from the bathroom door with her famous wicked grin to whistles and shouts from all her friends. Amanda managed to take photographs in between fighting back laughter and unadulterated lust. Amanda posed for her with the vest unbuttoned leaving not much to the viewer ' s imagination. She grabbed her leather bomber jacket and the women were leaving just as Luther arrived to store energy while they were out. The usually quiet man was given to whistles himself when he saw Laura. Laura piloted Bella and her friends to the Carriere base and a waiting vehicle. Lydia laughed as her ground crew nearly fell down when Laura climbed down from Bella with her jacket open, walking away on the six inch heels. Laura drove to the bar with that lovely look of mischief in her eyes. Sally was behind the bar when her friends entered, shook her head, and then hollered. Amanda just grinned as Sally whispered somewhat obscene words when the four women passed the bar. The other patrons in the bar were just silenced. By now, Laura had a reputation for leaning over the bar as Sally had told almost everyone who ever entered her establishment. As they waited for dinner, the parade by the table had to be stopped by Amanda kissing her lover long and hard full on the lips. Lydia and Barbara laughed out loud as did Laura when she came up for air. Amanda was certain that Sally put the word out as the bar was full unusually early for a few days before Wintersday. After dinner and by 2100 hours dance music started for few empty tables. Laura took Barbara ' s hand, leading her to the dance floor as was her habit now; each danced a sultry dance ending with a kiss full on the mouth. Barbara fought hard to hold back laughter; there was not a straight face in the place. The friends turned to head back to the table; once again Laura stopped at the bar to get a soda and do the dance of leaning over. Amanda anticipated this, snapping two discrete photographs of her lover. A few minutes later, Lydia and Barbara returned to the dance floor where real passion had to be quelled. Amanda unbuttoned Laura ' s vest, leading her to the dance floor as audible groans were heard from every direction. Laura took her lover in her arms for dance steps looking a lot like seduction. The lovers were lost in their own world, when the music stopped they looked around to find everyone watching them. Both tossed their heads back to laugh as did all other patrons. Amanda whispered that she intended to love that Stetson off Laura ' s braids; Laura replied with her the look to bring it . Despite valiant efforts, the hat remained on Laura ' s head at the bar. The friends left the bar at 2300 hours to return to the Carriere base where Laura flew her friends back to their home. Lydia and Barbara hugged their friends goodnight and thanked them both for another memorable night of ruckus raising. Amanda warmed the bed, then she undressed Laura saving the Stetson for last. After kisses and touches took Laura close to delirium the hat fell to the floor.

The following morning, Lydia and Barbara picked up a trail of clothes and a hat near their friends ' bed. Lydia stood very close to the bed to bark Attention to her friends to which she got pelted with pillows. Barbara laughed out loud, bringing robes and cups of steaming coffee. When Laura and Amanda joined them in front of the fire, Barbara told them that despite Lydia ' s tales, their own Stetsons did not get worn entirely from ranch work. When Laura had emailed her and told her what she was thinking of wearing to the bar, Barbara had immediately replied that she would bring her hat, knowing how hard it is to resist a naked lover wearing nothing but a Stetson. Laura quipped that all this time she thought Lydia was the lecherous one, causing her friends to roar with laughter. Lydia admitted with seriousness that it was Barbara who did the initial seduction but of course she did not resist all that much. The afternoon hours were filled with great card competition and laughter. Luther and Harry stopped in the late afternoon with trees and boughs for tomorrow ' s decorating, bringing Dungeness crabs for their dinner. Luther could not resist asking Laura to model the hat for Harry, grinning from ear to ear. Instead, Amanda showed Harry the photograph with the vest buttoned, he nearly fainted. Laura needed to walk to the kitchen to hold back giggles. If they ever told Harry what really eventually happened with the hat they would need to start resuscitation. Barbara just remarked with a very serious face that there was really nothing that beat a Stetson. Luther had to join Laura in the kitchen. Barbara and Laura giggled almost continuously while steaming crabs for dinner. They chatted about the Mechanics Course that Laura completed. Laura told her she would start the Master Class when they returned after the Wintersday break. Barbara warned her to be prepared to study hard as there was a great amount of data to learn, the examination would be on actual aircraft engines that needed real repair before going back to flight. Laura would have to get it right or endanger pilots and crew. The course was in three parts, each part had an examination to determine if students would move on to the next lessons. However, Barbara told Laura that when she graduated she would probably be able to fix a tank. Laura asked Barbara to send a list of basic tools she would need for her own use.

The women feasted on crab, fresh salad from the greenhouse, and bottles of wine. The friends danced blessed by the silver light of Mother Moon, firelight, and warmed by snifters of brandy. Passion was impending along with an early morning call, both couples retired to showers and bed early in the evening.

Freshly baked cinnamon buns greeted Lydia and Barbara. Shortly thereafter, two vehicles arrived, both carrying decorations for the cabin. Harry, Luther, and Barbara built tree stands and moved trees to their various positions. Boughs were draped over mantles and transoms of windows. It seemed like hundreds of tiny white lights adorned the larger trees and mantle with crystals alone on all the other greenery. Luther found another tiny train set for the second hearth Red and gold ornaments adorned all the trees and boughs. Laura had made a huge pot of vegetable and barley soup, all the friends broke for lunch. Jeannie and Mary sat on the sofa, giggling at the bar photos, laughing out loud at the tales told, including the now famous leaning over the bar routine. Luther had already told Mary about Barbara ' s Stetson comment and she told her friend Jeannie. Clearly, Harry would never understand. The Wintersday magic was completed by midafternoon. All four bears proudly wore new wizard capes and crowns. Lydia showed Jeannie and Mary her wee sweater on the needles, both stated they would start knitting right away. Barbara just shrugged and shook her head with a grin. After dinner, all four women dressed to stand on the deck, watching the galaxies, taking the blessings of Mother Moon. Even the ocean, continually angry, acquiesced to silver kisses on occasion. When the chill brought them back inside, Amanda offered a long soaking bath to her friends. She took a second glass of wine with one for Laura, cuddling with her sweet woman on the rug in front of the fire while their friends enjoyed a candlelit bath. Laura was a bit apprehensive as she told Amanda that she was removing some of her certificates as part of the work of the ancients. Amanda replied that when the ancients asked her she too would help as needed. Tears of gratitude for understanding shone in Laura ' s eyes as she kissed her lover repeatedly. Lydia and Barbara sought to say goodnight but thought better of it and retired to their own room.

Wintersday Eve dawned as bright as the weakened sun could muster. Laura woke first, re-warming stones for the bed, a robe for Amanda, and when ready brought two steaming cups of coffee back to bed. Amanda wakened to watch her lover move about quietly, still filled with wonder at how much she loved this woman. Laura had made muffins; they were cooling as she sat on the sofa, turning her back to Amanda after handing her the hair brush, stating that since she tangled her curls she could untangle them. Amanda loved touching the silk on her lover ' s head. No-one except for Thea had brushed Laura ' s hair; Laura had done this task alone since the age of five, not allowing Anna Marie to touch them. While they sat together sipping coffee, Laura braided her hair mostly because Amanda liked it best that way. When finished she laid her head on Amanda ' s shoulder and they quietly watched the morning fire. Lydia and Barbara joined them shortly thereafter, this time taking the rocking chair. Lydia mentioned that she would ask Luther to make one for the ranch or at least send plans, not knowing there was one already in the ranch helicopter. There was a card with a photo of the chair in the chopper under the Wintersday tree for tomorrow morning. The remaining morning routines were completed just as Luther arrived to fill wood boxes and to help bring many cartons of gifts from storage and to help with placing them under the tree. Amanda took him aside to ask that he reserve two small similarly wrapped boxes and place them in the bedside table. Barbara and Laura spent much time in the kitchen making preparation for the Wintersday feast in the morrow. For this Eve there were fish caught earlier this morning and oysters that Jeannie intended to purchase in Carriere on her shopping trip. They made a rum soaked Wintersday cake as their lovers teased that they would get too inebriated to finish the preparation. Harry and Jeannie arrived with the last minute food that they had purchased in Carriere. Laura and Amanda gave Harry his Wintersday gift with hugs of thanks. As Luther was preparing to leave, both his employers took him aside to hand him his Wintersday gift with hugs and kisses of special thanks. On the enclosed card, they told him he was indeed their blessing, a very important, dear part of their lives. They gifted him with fifty thousand dollars with strict instructions to treat himself and his family, not the cabin. He did not open the card until he was home and then wept like a child. Laura and Barbara set a festive table for dinner including holly and ivy, paper whites, and Wintersday cacti. The women enjoyed champagne before dinner, good wine with and after dinner. Laura excused herself, discretely placing an ice bucket and a bottle of champagne to the bedside table in the guest room along with a bouquet of roses Jeannie placed there when she arrived with the food. Anna and Versarie wore new satin and lace that closely matched that placed on the bed for their humans. After night routines easily completed, the friends sat in front of the fire with only firelight, tree lights and Mother Moon lightening the inside of the cabin. Each couple wanted to be alone and together, each understood. Laura and Amanda had a quick shower together. Laura handed Amanda a new silk and lace sleep shirt that matched her own. Laura lit pillar candles beside the bed; as she reached for her lover, Amanda stopped reached into bedside table to remove the two small wrapped gifts. Laura immediately knew what each contained and would eventually learn of how the similarities happened. Amanda did not know what was inside but she had ordered a similar gift to the one Laura had ordered from her designer friend. Amanda gasped when she opened an intricately engraved silver labrys with a diamond in the center. Laura closed the clasp of the chain around her neck. Laura expected to see the same gift but she too was surprised to see a similarly engraved silver labrys but with an obsidian in the center. Amanda closed the clasp of the chain around her lover ' s neck. Neither woman would remove the gifts again in their time on earth. Laura quietly told Amanda that she knew she was also a priestess, that they had known each other since the beginning of the helix, that they had journeyed together before, and would again. She continued that they were warriors each in their own way. She asked her to never remove the ax, to hold it close to her heart all the time, to remember the love that she had known as its depth was a gift from the ancients, one that most earthlings would never experience until they too joined the ancients. Laura told Amanda she was the high priestess, very very old; Lydia was almost as old, a magic woman, and a special priestess. Barbara, Jeannie, Luther, and Charlie were all ancients as well, all given to earth to help the humans survive the evil that had brewed which would grow unless it was stopped. She told Amanda about Declan, Ross, and Lou, using their names. She also told Amanda that Thea had not died but was running a sanctuary in the north. She apologized for not telling her lover all the truth until she knew she could trust that Amanda would not stand in her way. Amanda remained silent as Laura continued. She confessed that she had initially planned to seduce the Colonel, take photos, and then blackmail her in order to take a Raptor. She told Amanda she had taken photographs with her watch but had since destroyed all the photographs. The plans of an innocent eighteen year old were thwarted when she fell madly and deeply in love with Amanda. She continued that she begged the ancients not to have that happen but she was told it was destined, that Amanda had much to teach this young woman. She said that it was three years ago on the upcoming dawn that she met Noshi who told her that she would love Amanda, that she had loved her and would love her through eternity. The grandfather told Laura to give all that she could to Amanda, to learn her capacity for love as she did not know yet. It was on that morning that Laura accepted her destiny, rejoicing in the knowledge that she and Amanda would never really be parted, not the souls that loved each other forever. She leaned forward to kiss Amanda hoping for forgiveness. Amanda was weeping; priestess met priestess on earth on this Wintersday Eve. Through sobs, she told Laura that she too knew that they had loved and would love through eternity. She knew they were gifts to each other on earth, that is was their destiny and their privilege to help their brothers and sisters here. Both looked to the fire, seeing Noshi and Tom smiling blessings on the members of their soul group. With the exchange of an ancient labrys, Wintersday Eve marked the anniversary of their joining in eternity. Many cries of lovers reaching the ancients and the multiverse rose from the cabin that night, on Wintersday Eve in the twelfth month of the New Year.

The new sun rose above the horizon at Wintersday dawn. Laura woke, loving morning into Amanda, no longer concerned about the depth of their passion. Each woman rose, dressed, and smiled at the quiet cries of love heard elsewhere among them. As the ocean allowed occasional caresses from a newborn sun, Amanda and Laura both stood at the window, watching several ravens circling above, offering down their own blessings in return. The lovers settled in the rocker before the hearth to enjoy coffee. Amanda groaned as she dressed the naked bears, sitting them in a decent orientation in their rocker. Laura admonished Amanda that even bears could be blessed by love as it was a magic day in the cabin; she did tell her to look at how wonderful they looked with their lovelights shining. Before a second cup of coffee, they were joined by Lydia and Barbara, even more lovely than the bears with their lovelights showing. All friends hugged each other and offered Wintersday blessings. Amanda and Laura wished them anniversary blessings as well. Lydia quietly smiled; returning them, stating it was a magic Wintersday Eve. She said that Noshi and Tom came to them in the flames to tell of the joining of two more priestesses in the cabin that night. Both Lydia and Barbara both simultaneously showed their friends their own anniversary gifts, identical labryses with jeweled centers hanging on silver chains. There were no coincidences or pretenses among the women. All were powerful priestesses sent to aid their earth brothers and sisters defeat the growing evil. They had done so together many times in the past and would again as they were needed. Barbara spoke quietly of her gratitude of mutual understanding and final revelation. Then Lydia grinned, telling Amanda that even though everybody was on the same page finally she was not going to apologize for giving her hell at the ranch that day; Amanda replied that it was a given that Lydia rarely apologized for anything. Laura gave gifts to their rightful recipients. Lydia and Barbara were very delightfully surprised with Luther ' s gift. Jackson sent hand carved teak frames for photographs. Amanda and Laura understood now that he too was an ancient sent to protect Lydia but aiding both women. Laura cried as she unwrapped Amo and Te, hugging them close to her, and then hugging their maker close to her. Teddy and Primrose gave their humans candy as well as new, even more lewd playing cards. They gifted Anna and Versarie with some new robes and warm clothes for when they were not allowed to stay beneath the covers. There was joyful peace in the cabin that day, not seen previously. Barbara and Laura prepared the fowl for dinner which started the roasting by noon and then set an elegant table for their dinner. Lunch was again buffet savories and sweets set on the island for nibbling as desired. Luther and Mary drove into the driveway. Laura greeted them both at the door with hugs and blessings for Wintersday. They were invited for a cup of mulled cider, both agreeing to a short visit. They both wanted to extend very special thanks for their gifts, beyond what each thought appropriate. Their friends took their hands, telling them it could never be enough to express love and gratitude for making their home so comfortable, safe, welcoming. They stopped by as they wanted to tell their friends that they had decided to purchase a bigger, safer boat with their Wintersday gifts. They would be able to fish farther out on the ocean with a new boat with more harvest to share. He said he would be happy to take all his friends on a fishing expedition when the ocean got over the tantrums of winter. With their cider consumed, they wished their friends Wintersday blessings before departing. Lydia and Barbara asked their friends to inquire as to what new fishing equipment Mary and Luther would like, they would purchase that as a thank you gift for the rocker. Lydia offered as well to train Luther when Laura could not in order to get his license more quickly, making Laura was very happy with that arrangement. They expected delivery of the new helicopter by the end of the third month of the New Year; with both women training Luther could have his wings by mid-summer.

The friends enjoyed conversation and cuddles before the fire followed by a delicious Wintersday feast. In the early evening, Lydia took Barbara ' s hand leading her to the guest room, saying goodnight to her friends. Amanda and Laura were both tired, choosing an early night for sleep as well, wrapped in each other ' s arms. A very cold and snowy next morning greeted the cabin. Time stood still for these women as journeys took them again to the ancients and to the multiverse. Lydia and Barbara found them still lying in each other ' s arms at mid-morning. Both women arose, dressed, and joined their friends for what would now be brunch. The snowstorm was very dense, almost obliterating vision of the ocean and only flakes filled the sky. Luther arrived in early afternoon to plough and shovel pathways. He brought in extra wood for both fireplaces, making certain new batteries would provide energy for heaters and hot water. He told his friends that the weather service was predicting a blizzard for the next forty-eight hours, not common this early in the winter. This was not new weather for Lydia and Barbara; the ranch took the brunt of many winter storms every year. Luther put a portable heater in the greenhouse to prevent freezing of plants. Barbara told him she would watch the temperature there to add another heater if needed. While Luther warmed with a cup of hot cider, Laura and Lydia spoke of their plans to train him in the spring if he had no objections. They would approach Jeannie to ask her to supervise hours of flight in preparation for examination and licensing. Luther told them he would be happy to be trained by both women. He had already almost memorized the manuals that Laura had given him. Before he left he reassured his friends that he would return several times over the next forty eight hours to clear snow and make sure they were warm, sensing Laura ' s apprehension in the face of Mother ' s wrath. Laura remained at the window watching the storm as Barbara came to stand beside her, placing her arm about her waist. She quietly told Laura that the ancients would direct as was necessary, she need not be frightened. Laura replied she was not frightened for her own safety but rather for her brothers and sisters not well protected. Barbara then told her that many would die, that even the ancients and the priestesses could not interfere with the spiraling of the helix. To ease Laura ' s tears, both Lydia and Amanda had joined their lovers, all drawing down a circle to the ancients. Amanda carried Laura to their bed; Lydia and Barbara returned to their own fireplace. Laura was an extremely old ancient, wiser than all, but here on earth she was only twenty years old; none could question her feelings of being overwhelmed. Amanda held her lover in the quiet cabin, hoping to instill peace and strength in Laura. Neither woman spoke as Laura lay in Amanda ' s arms tightly grasping her labrys. From a nearby room, the priestess Lydia drew to her ancients, asking for blessings for their young friend. As happened only rarely, the magic woman cast a spell of peace on their priestess to linger always. Laura drifted off to sleep in Amanda ' s arms. Amanda gently covered her with warmed blankets before Lydia and Barbara joined her at the hearth. Lydia held her old friend, feeling the rent within Amanda with the love of eternity that would have to be given to the earth. With no spoken words, Amanda understood that her old, ancient friend would walk with her.

As Laura stirred, Amanda kissed her awake. An almost tangible love enveloped the cabin in that late afternoon, all priestesses knowing that they were walking the path of intention. Over dinner, Lydia suggested that there would be dancing that evening, everyone agreed. Laura asked if they could dress for the dance and everyone also agreed. Amanda chose grey raw silk trousers and a matching camisole and four inch heels. Lydia and Barbara dressed in matching trousers and white shirt for Lydia and black camisole for Barbara. Laura pinned her curls in a chignon, donned the little black dress and four inch heels. Amanda poured Courvoisier in pewter goblets while Lydia found music by which to dance and love. The couples danced, laughed, for hours, and then loved long in the snowy winter night.

While Amanda was preparing a pot of coffee, a horn honked; she looked out to the driveway with over four feet of snow. She quickly woke Laura as Harry and Luther were about to join them. Several minutes later, both men shoveled a path to the door and were warming in front of the fire. Lydia and Barbara joined the friends in front of the fire. Barbara checked the greenhouse, asking Luther to replace the battery for the heaters. Lydia and Laura prepared a huge breakfast, insisting that the men join them before they all went to bring in wood. It was still snowing and everyone worked to pile wood in the enclosure. Harry followed Luther ' s vehicle in a snow machine with a sled and that was used to carry wood from the piles outside to the enclosure inside. Harry could no longer argue about a weaker sex as all four women easily, readily, and continually tossed small cut logs to the enclosure. Luther did start the wind turbines while they were working so as to capture as much energy as possible. They were indeed noisy but necessary on the very wintery day. . Luther stated they would return in late afternoon or early evening to clear snow again.

The friends played in the ongoing card tournament throughout the day until dinner. Luther and Harry returned to shovel and clear snow once again. Luther suggested that the worst was over; he expected a clear day on the morrow. Lydia was glad of the news as she and Barbara had to return to the Carriere base on the fifth weekday. Amanda reminded Luther that they would need to take Bella to the Carriere base on the first weekend day if he and Harry could dig her out by then and also reminded Harry and Luther about their upcoming New Year ' s feast on the upcoming first weekday.

The fourth weekday did dawn bright and glistening on almost one hundred and fifty centimeters of snow. Mother constantly tossed diamond shards in the air to be caught by the rays of a new sun. Lydia and Amanda brought in more wood for both fireplaces as Barbara and Laura made another huge breakfast, fuel for more shoveling and wood gathering. All women were outside working when Harry and Luther arrived and the snow was conquered. Luther told Lydia that their helicopter was cleared as was Bella. Lydia and Barbara agreed on 1500 hours on the fifth weekday for their return to the Carriere base. The friends spent all afternoon together as if to hold on to each memory of each other ' s company. After dinner, Amanda offered a long bath for her friends. When they disappeared into the bathroom, both Laura and Amanda readied their room for their last night together with champagne, a blazing fire, dozens of pillar candles, and music for dancing. The sky had allowed return of galaxies seen from the skylight above the bed. Laura and Amanda then returned to the rocker near the fire, lost in the hypnosis of the flames. Their robed, very much in love friends said goodnight, retreating for their own journeys behind the guest room door.

All four friends packed cartons; Lydia and Barbara readied baggage for Luther to transport to the ranch helicopter. Amanda and Laura followed in their own vehicle to say final goodbyes to their friends with thanks for another special Wintersday celebration. There were lingering hugs and kisses before the ranch helicopter was airborne, disappearing into the sky. Jeannie made final plans for their New Year ' s feast, also them Bella would be warmed by 1100 hours in the morrow as they had requested. Amanda and Laura returned to their home alone for the first time since they first arrived. There was a pot of coffee ready for brewing and Amanda giggled that it would just have to wait and Laura readily agreed. When passion would allow, Amanda brewed the coffee while Laura checked the guest room intending to change linens and store duvets which had been done. Anna and Versarie were tucked in between newly laundered sheets. Mrs. Smithers ' quilt was now covering the bed once again, as if a testament to permanency. Laura felt comfort and ache all at the same time as she missed her friends already but felt enveloped by their love. Right after dinner, Laura stated she felt an attack of the state of a twenty year old coming on, thinking out loud and wickedly that she should forewarn her lover. She was replied with the bring it look, bring it she did.

Both women stood at the window the next morning sipping coffee to see a helicopter flying relatively low, heading east, with a tip of the tail as it passed overhead. Again, Amanda stated she had no idea how Barbara did that; no other pilot she knew could. The women flew Bella to the Carriere base and drove into town for lunch at the bar, shopping for supplies before return home by midafternoon. Luther had generated wind energy while they were out and changed batteries throughout the cabin. The plants had survived the storm with only one heater needed until such time as Mother whipped up another wind. The following day was New Years ' Eve; the lovers stayed in bed long into the morning. Laura spent much of the remainder of the day preparing food for the next day ' s feast with their friends. In the late afternoon, she invited her lover for champagne in the bath, then fondue before the fire. She emerged from dressing in the six inch heels, skin tight faded jeans, matching vest never buttoned, sheer camisole, hair tamed in a single braid, come-hither make up, and the Stetson. She grinned wickedly, telling Amanda that she chose to wear this that night rather than the next day for Harry. Amanda herself looked decidedly appealing in jeans, a black lace camisole with four inch heels. After night routines quickly completed, the lovers sat before the fire sipping champagne as the firelight caught their eyes and the jewels of each labrys. Laura took Amanda ' s hand, led her to dance with a very seductive removal of her clothing. Amanda grinned wickedly, promising her lover that teasing would take on an entirely new definition before the hat left her head; it seemed like hours left Laura begging before the Stetson found the floor. Amanda murmured to never mention bring it unless she meant it.

The New Year dawned bright as the new sun gained strength every day. The lovers lingered long in bed over coffee. Laura asked where Amanda had learned how to tease a lover like that; Amanda replied, smiling from Lydia . Laura was not at all surprised, stating she was exceedingly happy for her friend Barbara. Amanda reminded her that now Laura knew herself, offering to be the object of practice whenever Laura needed. Laura made a mental note to thank Lydia ; it would surely cause a giggle at the Carriere base.

The morning routines were easily finished and both women prepared the feast for their friends. Laura set another elegant table with candles, crystal, china, silver, paper whites, and Wintersday cacti. Both women chose to dress for dinner, Amanda in a shortened dress that she wore for Laura ' s birth anniversary, Laura in her bronze suit skirt with lace camisole. She wore her hair pinned with her diamond and obsidian clip to match the jewel in her labrys. They greeted their friends just after twilight set, offering crystal flutes of champagne. Laura gave Harry a very special hug, like daughter to parent, telling him he was her adopted father here on earth which made Harry beam. The friends chose food from the island buffet, sitting at the table for conversation in great company. Amanda made coffee and refilled wine glasses while Jeannie, Mary, and Laura cleared and cleaned. Laura presented the required dessert of flaming cherries and ice cream. This year, she asked Harry to light the matches. He grinned, completing the task without flaw. Their friends left by 2200 hours with a promise to return the next day to take down the decorations for another year. Mary and Laura chose a time later in the week to start lessons on braided rugs.

Just past the following midday, everyone took to the task of removing and packing decorations, taking trees and boughs to the woodpile for future fuel. Jeannie remembered the last time they helped their friends with the lovers ' quarrel. The priestesses were so much more united which gave her hope and trepidation at the same time.

The cabin was cleaned and decorations stored for another year. Laura insisted that both Mary and Jeannie take some of the paper whites and Wintersday cacti to their own homes. They confirmed plans for dinner with their friends at Luther ' s and Mary ' s home for the upcoming first weekend evening. Jeannie planned to take Bella to Carriere to shop, asking if she could get supplies for her friends at the same time which Laura and Amanda graciously accepted.

The following days were filled with quiet, conversation, muses, and passion. Mary taught Laura how to braid and weave fabric, then coil and sew for rugs. Laura learned quickly, spending many hours in front of the fire lost in journeys to her ancients. Amanda took many photographs, printed, mounted, hanging some in the hallway. Laura danced in the kitchen part of the time with baking for her friends ' dinner as well as for the freezer. Laura sent a note with Luther to have Jeannie drop at the Carriere base when she landed next, addressed to Captain Lydia Stenns with text that read Learned the real definition of the word tease ' . Thanks!! Barbara is a very lucky woman Amanda laughed out loud, sure that they should listen on the day of Jeannie ' s landing to hear the howl in return. They dined with their friends on the first weekend evening, enjoying an evening of excellent food and company. Jeannie reported she hand delivered the note to Lydia , swearing she was still laughing when she returned to fly Bella home.

The women packed to return to the base on the next first weekend day. They both resolved to spend nights together often when they returned. Both could respect Amanda ' s position but not her employers. The love they had and the strength they received from each other was far more important than a regime dominated by the religious right and greed. Amanda landed Bella back at the base at 1500 hours on the first weekend day. The base was quiet as many cadets and teaching staff would not return until the following day. Both women unpacked cartons and baggage and dined together in the staff dining room. Amanda returned to Laura's apartment for the night. Amanda always returned to her quarters at dawn but it did not really matter to her if she was found out.

The next four weeks were filled with new classes of students for Laura, new classes in Mechanics, and administration of an Air Command base. Laura did email Declan and Ross, told them that Amanda now knew who they all were. They decided upon a time for meeting again, the first weekend of the fourth month of the New Year as the weather prior to that time was not dependable and likely not to be cooperative. She emailed her financial institution to alert them that she would remove her monies to be deposited at the base or in Carriere. She was told she would need to sign papers; she replied that they could be sent by courier to Colonel Amanda Bennett at Air Command Base 12. She expected this to be done quickly, without argument as it was. Elgin still held her money in trust to be released to her at her next birth anniversary; she emailed him to send those certificates by courier as well to Colonel Amanda Bennett which he did. Amanda had likewise removed her certificates, storing them in her safe in her quarters. She had a very surprising visit from her father, his first to the base. He learned of her financial decisions including deeding half of the coastal properties to Laura. He questioned the wisdom of this; without flinching Amanda told him that Laura was the love of her life, the person with whom she intended to live and die, her partner, her lover. She owned her property outright with had legal documents for proof. She could do with it what she wanted. She told him that while she respected him and his position, she was no longer really a part of the family. She could no longer continue to be the status symbol to their friends including General Downs and his parents. She closed by saying that she hoped that he and her mother would be happy that she had found love for eternity but if not it would be their loss. He did not respond but left the base and would not return again. Days later, she received a handwritten note from her mother telling her of how pleased she was that she had found a mate. She hoped that Amanda and Laura would be happy together to enjoy combined wealth. Amanda showed Laura the letter and then burned it. Laura held her friend, her partner, her lover, speaking of her sorrow at for Amanda ' s hurt. She told her that she would be her family now as would Lydia , Barbara, their friends at the coast. She continued that she had hundreds of ancients blessing her daily, loving her more than possible by an earthling. Laura stayed with Amanda all that night, both rising early to resume their daily routines.

Ross wrote stating that raids had now started on some bases in the east and there had been breaches of warehouses where possible for procurement of supplies. Laura insisted that she be apprised of the schedule of the raids as she wanted to gauge the tempo initially. He also stated that Declan had been called back to the east as Lou had been arrested and injured; they were not sure of her survival. Laura replied that Lou would survive. She unequivocally stated that if she was to command this so far ragtag Resistance she needed information and some semblance of organization. Ross replied only with Roger that."

The Advanced Mechanics Course was a challenge, taking a great deal of studying for comprehension. Laura ' s first examination was scheduled for the end of the fifth month of the next year.

Laura wrote to her designer friend to thank her for the work with the individual labryses. Laura told Barbara of her gift to Amanda; Barbara told Amanda to order what Laura had ordered as she knew Laura would love it. Then Barbara contacted the designer to order two for her and Lydia . Her designer friend laughed that it was a good year for them obviously. Laura ordered new satin and lace to be delivered to the base in time for Candlemas. She ordered baby clothes as well to be delivered to the base, stating firmly there were gifts for a friend.

Laura prepared a candlelit dinner to celebrate Candlemas. She changed bed linens to reflect the most amount of lace she could purchase. She ordered champagne with delivery to her suite for this celebration as well as the ranch for the Ostermonat visit. She left new clothing, lace, and satin in Amanda ' s suite in preparation for the dinner. Laura practiced her first attempt at the new definition of tease; it went very well, literally causing the Colonel ' s knees to buckle. Later Amanda would remark that this child was a very quick study indeed.

On the fourth weekday of the fourth week since their last departure, Amanda checked with Luther for weather conditions with a reply of clear skies prompting an evening flight to the coastal home. The mountain was now cloaked and sedated by deep snow; the ocean still spitting wrath. Harry and Jeannie helped their friends move luggage to their vehicle before saying goodnight. Jeannie and Luther planned to take Bella to the Carriere base before she was needed to return to the base. On their drive to the cabin, Amanda told Laura that neither she nor Lydia would have much teaching to do with Luther as she was convinced Jeannie would teach him all he needed to know. A blazing fire could be seen through partly frosted windows and doors as the lovers entered their home. Luther helped with luggage and had their home readied for sleep. Amanda confirmed that the new cabin helicopter would be delivered to Luther by the end of the third month of the New Year. Laura planned to tentatively start Luther ' s flight lessons when they returned home in the fourth month of the New Year. Both women were tired but passion could not be denied before they fell asleep. Their stay at their home was quiet and restful. Amanda ' s needles finished two tiny sweaters to accompany those finished by Jeannie and Mary. They planned to visit their friends at the ranch at their next four day weekend, in celebration of Ostermonat. Laura braided fabric as Amanda began to sew strips together for a new rug. Both women practiced the exercise of tease several times over their days alone, each convinced it was now perfect. Laura broached the subject of lessons to fly the big helicopters, in particular a Raptor. Amanda smiled, stating she had been waiting for that request. She told Laura that they could start when they returned to the base, that there would be many hours of instruction and then flight. Laura told Amanda that she would need to know how to fly the big craft alone. That was not a usual practice as the Military always had a pilot with a copilot but Amanda stated it was technically feasible. Laura wanted to pay for the lessons; Amanda replied that it would be one of her many contributions to the ancients. Over their four day weekend, Laura studied for her Mechanics Course. Luther met with his friends for coffee, discussing updates they might want for their home. They told him to order plants for the spring as he saw fit and confirmed that they would return until the fourth month of the New Year when Luther should be prepared to start flight lessons. Laura told him that she and Lydia would send a schedule to him once she talked to her in person over the Ostermonat weekend.

Chapter 17

The lovers returned to the base by midafternoon on the following first week to resume the routines of their lives there. They spent many nights with each other now as neither cared if they were discovered. Laura arranged her classes to be finished by 1400 hours each day to meet the Colonel on the tarmac for instruction. Laura spent most evenings studying Mechanics or the aviation and engineering of the Raptor craft. She did take weekend evenings away from studies to devote entirely to the Colonel. Early in the morning of the fifth weekday of the upcoming Ostermonat celebration, Bella was loaded and flying northeast to the ranch. As the approached the landing pad, a vehicle approached driven by a ranch hand. He ran to Bella ' s door, yelling for them to hurry, to join him, to hurry. Laura looked at Amanda and simply said The child." They arrived at the staff house to be greeted by Barbara who ran them to Jenny ' s room. In less than five minutes all four priestesses witnessed the birth of a child, not the first time for any of them, but still miraculous. There was reverent silence as a soul was given up by the ancients to this new earth body. All four women sang the song of welcome with voices never heard before by earthlings. Jackson held his new grandson and gave him to Laura ' s waiting arms, then knelt at her feet as did all others who saw the high priestess emerge, glowing with shimmering white and then jewel tone auras around Laura ' s body. With a voice more beautiful than any music composed on earth, the high priestess blessed the child, naming him Spero Jackson. She then carried the infant to his mother, kissed both their brows and turned to walk from the room as the high priestess left once again. Jackson and the other priestesses wept openly. Amanda walked to find Laura kneeling on the ground, weeping herself. When she could find her earth voice again, she told Amanda that none should ever doubt why they had been called to earth again, why they would endure what they were given, why they must insure victory. After retrieving luggage, Barbara was waiting to help carry luggage to the guest cabin. Both Barbara and Amanda noticed remnants of the aura surrounding Laura. They all met Lydia back at the main house for coffee before the fire. She too saw the remaining aura, taking both of Laura ' s hands, hugging her friend, her priestess. When Amanda held Laura very gently on sitting on the sofa, Laura told her she would not break, if anything she found strength one hundred fold when she held the infant. Then she laughed, telling her lover that this had better not continue as she had done all that hard practice to learn teasing, to which all the friends roared with laughter. The women gathered all the gifts for the newborn. Barbara still shook her head but very lovingly. They asked to visit Spero again after he and his mother became better acquainted, each having rest and nourishment. Lydia and Barbara both said that they had not planned a group party as for other years because they did not want to have to burden Jenny or Jackson. Luther ' s new rocker replaced the predecessor in front of the hearth. Amanda and Laura had decided to give Jackson ' s grandchild a trust fund as thank you for Jackson ' s generosity at Wintersday. After a somewhat late lunch and all the morning ' s excitement, Laura and Amanda returned to the guest cabin for rest. Once alone, Amanda wept in the arms of her lover. She searched for words among the sobs, overwhelmed by her experience of watching the high priestess emerge among them. Laura reassured her that she had experienced that several times in their pasts. Laura kissed away the tears, stating that if Amanda was overwhelmed at the site of the priestess in Laura that she should see the view from inside her which made Amanda smile. Then, with a decidedly wicked grin she said that Amanda should have a greater appreciation for her now ancient lust; Amanda did indeed. They joined their friends for dinner and quiet conversation before the fire before retiring to their beds in the early night, galaxies shining with exceeding brightness before Mother Moon.

The friends visited Jenny and Spero the following day. As they walked back to the main house, Laura realized that her days of innocence on earth were coming to a close quickly. She knew she would be loved greatly by her friends but now that the high priestess had emerged she would never been seen the same way again. The young earth woman wanted to run far away from the reality of her destiny, one decided upon before she arrived by the oldest ancient high priestess who walked in her body on earth. Laura then loosed Amanda ' s hand and turned to walk away from her friends, out to the plain. Amanda went to follow her before Lydia took her friend ' s arm telling her to let her go, that there was a battle taking place which Laura had to fight alone. The three women returned to the main house. Amanda did not speak but stood at the window to watch her lover. Hours passed before Laura returned to the guest cabin alone. Her three friends dined without her that evening; Amanda took food to her when she returned to the cabin at dinner ' s end.

Amanda opened the door to a dark cool cabin and her lover sitting in the rocker before the fire. Amanda banked up the fire and lit candles to softly dismiss the darkness. She did not speak but put the food before Laura. When Laura finished her dinner, Amanda took her to a warming shower before helping her into a warmed night shirt. Laura finally spoke when both women sat on the rug near the hearth. She told Amanda about the battle she had undertaken hours before, a battle with Noshi, Tom, and all the ancients. Lydia stood to confront her and with no soothing words told the ancient priestess Lohrissa that if she did not fulfill her destiny earthlings would not survive. Her ancients told her she had the power to return if she chose but that the destiny of earthlings was death if she did not lead them to survival. The ancients showed Lohrissa the atrocities that would take place, destruction and death of human life and Mother leaving only evil remaining, an evil Lohrissa had led them to battle before and would again until the spiraling helix was quieted. Lydia commanded Lohrissa to look beyond to see the humans who she had loved since the initial spiral of the helix. She commanded her to love earthlings again, all her brothers and sisters. The ancients would hold and wrap her heart, her soul, when pain might overtake; her earthlings would love and protect her as she led them back to the life they had almost chosen to abandon. Lydia insisted that Laura be allowed to love as she had and to learn all she could as all the ancients were the sum totals of all human experiences.

The lovers joined their friends in the main house at mid-morning. There would be no delicate hugging or soothing words. Laura and Lydia stood face to face, eye to eye, soul to soul. Laura silently thanked the magic woman. Over a huge brunch, Barbara and Laura talked mechanics; Lydia and Amanda talked yarns and patterns. Laura and Lydia decided on a training schedule for Luther wherein he would receive instruction several times each week. Lydia planned to fly to the cabin and train in the new helicopter. Once Jeannie was familiar, she would then fly Luther to the base for instruction. Laura could teach when she was at the cabin every four weeks. Jenny and Spero stopped by for a short visit late in the second weekend day afternoon. After dinner, with a wink Laura explained that as this was a practice night she and Amanda would have to be excused. Lydia and Barbara gave blessings; Lydia said that she was always available for consultation if it were to become necessary. Laura demurely thanked her, stating she was quite certain she knew the basics at least. There were hugs of goodnight, as Barbara and Lydia watched their friends walk back to the cabin, both giving down thanks for Laura ' s and Lohrissa ' s unity.

Bella landed back at the base the following morning and the lovers returned to routines. Laura was very busy now with her instructor ' s work, her Mechanics Course, and learning to fly the Raptor. She completed the data entry and updated her data to return to Ross and perhaps Declan. She had not heard from him since the news of Lou ' s incarceration and injury. Ross did not know if Declan would attend but if he didn ' t Frida would be available for any transfer of data and recording of plans. On the first weekend day of the first weekend of the fourth month of the New Year, Laura flew to the command post and met with Ross, Frida, and a woman named Amelia who headed the department of Intelligence for the Resistance. She immediately respected both women, both extremely intelligent with the philosophy of brevity and clarity that Laura would absolutely require when she took command. Ross provided her with a schedule of warehouse raids and transport interceptions. Laura asked about underground tanks for gasoline capacity. Ross gave her that data, also providing the schedule for interception of The Decision ' s fuel and subsequent transportation to the bases being established throughout the rural and suburban areas of both great cities. She asked about instructors for skydiving; Ross and Declan had found instructors who could start instruction at several bases when Laura deemed initiation which she directed to start immediately. They needed to spend hours on the plans to systematically destroy Military bases from within. Ross was given a list of supplies for explosives and detonators, some of which were in use already. Amelia and her partner Sterling had organizational charts almost completed about The Decision which she would relay through Frida. Laura was not comfortable with the continued lack of organization in the field and lack of control of some pockets of Resistance fighters. She told Ross that either Declan rectify that immediately or they would need to find someone who could. Commander Ravencouer departed for Air Command Base 12 at 1400 hours with plans for her return in seven weeks.

When Laura returned, Amanda was waiting for her on the tarmac, bags packed. Charlie would cover for the next full day and part of the first weekday of the next week. Bella was refueled and the preflight check list done by Amanda. Bella was airborne once again as Amanda flew her to the coast. The new helicopter had arrived; she was beyond excited to see her and take her for her maiden flight. Laura laughed out loud as if Amanda was this excited then Luther was likely in another sphere. Bella landed beside the ranch helicopter and Laura drove to the cabin to be welcomed by Lydia and Barbara. Luther set fires and opened their home in the afternoon when Amanda notified Jeannie, telling them to expect all four women before the end of the day. Laura was delighted with the surprise as it was exactly what she needed after the meeting with her Resistance command. Barbara had steaks on the grill before their friends tucked away luggage.

Everyone retired very early that evening for passion and company. Amanda and Laura showered quickly before climbing into bed. Laura wanted to rest her head on her lover ' s breast to talk of her day. She told Amanda that she had been a proper bitch for most of the day, barking out orders, taking no excuses. She said that she was now called Commander Ravencouer as she rolled her eyes. Amanda wanted to know if she needed to salute before she seduced her who produced a withering look and then a definite invitation.

Everyone was awake and dressed very early the next day as it was understood that Luther did not need to see naked women when he arrived to show off the latest toy. He had already named the helicopter Huguette, stating that Bella readily agreed. They drove to the landing pad on the mountainside and saw a larger transport craft, stately in shiny black paint. Laura brought a fifth of champagne for Lydia to christen their new friend and Huguette was born. Amanda was like an excited child at Wintersday as all climbed aboard and after a check list, they were airborne to fly out over the ocean and to greet Bella, Harry, Jeannie, and Mary. Amanda returned to land so that Lydia , Laura, and finally Barbara could take turns piloting Huguette. Barbara flew straight up, then out over the ocean, on her return tipped the tail in greeting. No-one knew how she did that. After lunch, everyone returned to their respective bases with a promise to Luther that they would return in two more weeks when he could start his friendship with Huguette in earnest.

On the evening of the fourth weekday in the second week since their departure, Laura and Amanda returned to their home. Amanda accompanied Jeannie as she flew Huguette for the first time with no problems. Laura met with Luther in the afternoon of the fifth weekday to supervise his examination before qualifying to start in flight lessons. Amanda graded it before congratulating him on commendable completion. The examination scores were flown to Lydia at Carriere later that day for her final perusal. Laura and Luther flew Huguette to Carriere before Luther piloted her on the return to the cabin, logging his first student pilot hours. Amanda was waiting at the new landing pad as he gently set his new friend back on terra firma. His instructor insisted that he complete the flight log before he greeted Amanda who was grinning from ear to ear. They agreed on times for two lessons the following day and if weather permitted the day after as well. Lydia had arranged to teach Luther on the following three weekends. When cuddled before the fire, Laura told Amanda that she actually really enjoyed teaching, knowing that she would be called to teach many students in the years to come. Laura placed the easel before the window, preparing a canvas as a story called to be told. She found little time at the base to paint, almost mourning the lack of opportunity to journey peacefully. Laura studied as her canvas dried; when Amanda could no longer keep control she took her lover in her arms for their own story before the fire.

Laura giggled the next morning as Luther arrived sharply at 1000 hours to drive his instructor to the landing pad. He was able to log two more hours of student flight with little intervention from Laura. They agreed to meet again at 1500 hours for another lesson. After lunch, Laura sat perched in front of her canvas where the story was told. Four women with glowing auras held infants, children, and adults in their spiraling arms against a background of fire, smoke, blackened and scarred Mother but with a faint glimmer of green at feet. Luther arrived to break the spell; he and his teacher took to the sky once again for another two hours. They agreed to meet the following day just past midday to fly to Carriere and return, planning on a three hour flight lesson that day with take offs and landings as well. Amanda greeted her lover at the door with a hug, a kiss, and a glass of wine. They dined in front of the fire. Neither was happy with the imposed widowhood of flight instruction but they both realized that by the time they returned to their home in four weeks Luther would be logging hours with Jeannie when they could have time to be in love once again. Night routines were danced and then play in the shower for the lovers who found passion well into the night at the cabin in the fourth month of the New Year.

The following morning after breakfast, morning routines, and a second cup of coffee, Laura mixed a faint silver wash to apply to the canvas permitting the newly strong sun ' s beams to catch and shimmer at will. Amanda captured the magic as Laura returned from her own reverie. She stated that this painting would live at the ranch as it told the story of renewed hope there. Luther arrived at the scheduled hour and they departed for the landing pad. Amanda followed in her own vehicle with camera in hand for concrete record for the cabin diaries. Luther perfected short take-offs and landings in less than five practice attempts. He and Laura then flew to the Carriere base where he would learn how to fuel Huguette himself. Lydia met them on the tarmac and instructed Luther carefully about the only safe way to transfer fuel. She commended him on his landing to which he beamed. Huguette flew her humans out to the ocean beyond sight of land as Laura taught Luther how to return using coordinates only, a skill he would need many times in the years to come. Lydia planned to fly to the cabin on the third weekday afternoon to fly with Luther for two hours and then they planned to log ten additional hours over the next weekend. Her friends offered the use of their home to Lydia over the weekend night but she declined as she needed to check command at the base.

Amanda and Laura flew back to their own base the following morning and Bella was safely on the tarmac in the early afternoon. Laura prepared a canvas as a story for Amanda ' s birth anniversary needed to be told. The women ' s lives revolved around their routines. Laura heard from Ross that Declan had found his mother who was gravely ill but was expected to survive. Declan left a message that he would return for organization of the Resistance cells within the week. Laura contacted Amelia to secure as much information about General Anthony Downs as possible, including family ties, financial situations, and vices. Amanda and Laura continued instruction in the Raptor logging hours towards the final goal of examination and licensing. Over the weekend days, after chores, data entry, and studying, Laura told the story on canvas, that of two women, naked in dance surrounded by shimmering auras, bodies intertwined, on a background of an ocean with waves kissed by the silver light of Mother Moon. When finished, Laura signed it with Amo Te and then wrapped it for Amanda ' s birth anniversary dinner.

Laura invited Amanda for dinner on the following first weekend evening for a celebration of Bealtaine and of Amanda ' s birth anniversary. She baked Amanda ' s favorite ginger cake. She paid a guard to drive to pick up cheeseburgers and fries. Champagne was on ice and wine breathing when Amanda arrived at Laura ' s door, looking absolutely fetching in tights, a silk tunic, and the now ubiquitous four inch heels. The guard delivered their dinner to Amanda ' s delight and the lovers celebrated complete with sparklers festooning the ginger cake. Laura brought flutes of champagne to Amanda seated on her sofa and then gave her a wrapped gift. Laura stood slightly distant from her lover as she opened her gift, staring, smiling and crying all the same time. Laura gathered her in arms, telling her to always remember the power she saw there, to hold on to the love when living did not seem to matter any longer. Earth hours cradled them, dancing, teasing, crying, laughing, wanting with more desire than they had known yet, as priestess loved priestess. Laura awoke just past dawn and went to Amanda ' s suite to return with fatigues. She kissed her lover to morning and passion found them again as warm water enveloped them in the shower. Amanda reluctantly returned to her office, Laura reluctantly returned to chores, data entry, studying, and communication as Resistance commander. Her first examination for her Advanced Mechanics Course was scheduled for the last week of the fifth month of the New Year whereby students would qualify for the second portion of the instruction. Lydia had corresponded with both Amanda and Laura telling that Luther was advancing remarkably well with his lessons and twenty-five hours logged as a student pilot. She planned to have one more flying lesson with him before he needed to log hours with Jeannie who they all knew would be as suitable an instructor as any of them.

One the next first weekend day, Laura was surprised by the early afternoon arrival of the ranch helicopter and greetings from Barbara. Amanda handed her two small pieces of luggage, a small carton, and ushered Laura on board. There was an ice bucket filled with a fifth of champagne for the lovers ' flight to the guest cabin for the night. When they arrived, Barbara drove them to the cabin that was lit by candles and firelight. Barbara returned less than an hour later with her own version of ranch cheeseburgers and fries before leaving friends alone. Amanda and Laura dined by candlelight. There were wrapped gifts for Laura to open to celebrate her birth anniversary, her twenty-first. There was a simple silver name tag reading Commander Laura Ravencouer. There were flight suits and fatigues, not standard armed forces issue, but military in their own right. There were pairs of leather combat boots and kit bags. There was a tiny silver framed photograph small enough for one of the pockets in the fatigues, showing Amanda and Laura on the deck at the cabin, in the sun with bikinis and bright smiles. Amanda told Laura to remove the name tag from the box and look beneath it. Laura found a silver key chain holding a set of keys engraved with LR. Barbara knocked on the door before Amanda took Laura ' s hand to the waiting vehicle. Barbara drove them back to the landing pad where there was a small helicopter, identical to Bella but smaller. Laura was still confused until Amanda took her hand, led her to the door, placing the silver keychain in her hand. Laura could not talk. Barbara told her she was a little used thing but good as new with brand new engine and mechanics. Amanda kissed her, explaining that she would need to travel often now on her own and she needed her own craft. Barbara quietly told Laura that this was a gift from all her friends, there and at the coast. Tears streamed down Laura ' s cheeks, glowing slightly as Lohrissa's aura softly emerged. Laura opened the door of her new helicopter and quietly welcomed Amo Te. Night was falling on the plain as Barbara drove her friends back to the guest cabin. Passion found them before, during, and after a shower. Laura whispered to her lover to trust and to hold fast as Amanda would be loved by Lohrissa before she returned to the ancients. Priests and priestesses on earth as well as the spiraling helix heard the cries of one being mated with their beloved ancient high priestess. Some long time later, Amanda returned to reality being held by Laura. She did not speak as Laura led her back to the shower once again. Barbara quickly changed linens while the lovers were soothed by warm waters. When Amanda and Laura finally returned to their bed once more, Amanda finally asked if her journey had really happened. She was just on the brink of not believing it could be possible. Laura kissed her, reassuring her it was very real. When Amanda realized there were new linens on the bed, she asked how Laura had changed them. Laura told her that Barbara had done so. She continued that all priests and priestesses had known of Lohrissa ' s mating; Barbara had heard in Amanda ' s cries in her soul. Amanda trembled which led Laura to ask if she was frightened. Amanda was not frightened but would be awed for the rest of her days on earth by the journey she had taken.

Amanda and Laura took a morning meal with Barbara before flying Amo Te back to the base. Amanda was slightly shy because of Barbara ' s knowledge of her experience the night before. Barbara hugged her as she told her that all of her sisters and brothers rejoiced and gave down thanks. The high priestess had spiraled for eons alone; she was home among the ancients now knowing a sacred connection to a new mate. Barbara told her that Lohrissa would know her mate until the helix released them. Laura did not speak but only held Amanda ' s hand during her conversation with Barbara; she knew that her lover had never looked as beautiful as she did in the morning light. At Carriere , Lydia thought of her friends, her high priestess and her new mate. She smiled at the helix of the most ancient among them who was also the youngest that they knew on earth.

Laura ran the check list. With their baggage was stowed, Amo Te was airborne on route back to the base. Amanda was quite certain that Laura did not stop smiling for the entire flight. On landing, Amanda directed the ground crew to take the new helicopter to the hanger with Bella. The lovers returned to their suites with plans to dine together in the staff dining room that evening. Laura studied, did chores, completed data entry, copied computer files, and replied to emails. She thanked Elgin for his gift. Declan wrote that he had met with all the cell leaders in the Northwestern City . He would have an organizational chart when they met in two weeks. Declan mentioned that Lou was in the largest remaining health care facility in the inner Northeastern City under the care of a brilliant young physician, Dr. Lindsay Reynolds. As soon as Laura read that name, there was tug at her soul as if to remind her that they had met and would meet again. Lou had been savagely beaten, tortured, maimed and all were certain she would not walk again. Amanda returned to her own suite after dinner, asking Laura to stay with her until morning; she was still shaken by the experience the night before. Laura reassured her that Lohrissa did not come to them often, the passion they always felt would return. After showers, Laura held her lover as Amanda tried to talk about her experience. She said that she felt as if her entire core was laid open and was raw. She did not feel pain but did feel completely submitted to a will and a passion she could only barely see or match. She said she was taken to almost pinnacles repeatedly, each more demanding, each more fulfilling, each more joyful. She said she heard a voice crying out but did not realize it was hers. She said when Lohrissa took her within she felt herself melt to naught. Amanda looked with wonder at Laura, realizing that it was her lover who took her there. Laura kissed her tenderly, reminding her that it was Lohrissa in her body who took her there. Then Laura smiled her wicked grin, quipping that she knew she was good but not that good. She did say lovingly that she could understand if Amanda had some reservations now about Laura as a lover. Amanda smiled, kissed her lover long and hard, saying she was rightfully amazed but never ever reserved.

Weekday routines returned to the women ' s lives. On the fourth weekday evening, Amo Te was packed before Laura asked Amanda to pilot her new friend to the coast. She landed and was greeted with excitement by Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she hugged each friend to thank them for their wonderful gift. Luther quietly replied that it was for the work of the ancients. Laura said she wanted to go to Carriere the following day to thank Lydia in person, asking Luther, Jeannie, and Amanda to join her. She asked Luther if he would like to pilot her new friend on the trip to see Lydia and then Jeannie if she would like to fly her return. Everyone beamed their answer. Luther took their baggage in his vehicle and the lovers followed to their home. Luther had a small fire burning, more to keep coals for morning coffee and to take the chill from the air. Both women were tired, retiring soon after their arrival.

Both woke to a lovely spring dawn the following morning starving. Laura made a huge breakfast while Amanda did morning chores. They took a second cup of coffee to the greenhouse, thrilled at the new growth and fruit blossoms. Luther had filled the deck boxes with spring flowers, the irises and roses were in bloom. The women left to meet Jeannie and Luther at 1000 hours and with Luther logging flight hours Amo Te was airborne on her way to the Carriere base. Once landed while Luther was filling in the log, Laura ran to Lydia and hugged the Captain right there tarmac. Lydia had actually been the person to find Amo Te and spoke to everyone else. She said as soon as Barbara laid eyes on her it was love at first sight, stating it was almost impossible to compete with aircraft engines and mechanics in terms of interest. While Jeannie, Laura, and Luther looked at their new friend from all sides Lydia took Amanda ' s hands to inquire if she was alright. Amanda assured her dear friend that perhaps one day she could tell Lydia of her journey, that she was more loved that any earthling or priestess had right to even imagine, she was very blessed. She said she was still a bit uncomfortable that all the priests and priestesses knew what had transpired, Lydia reiterated Barbara ' s sentiments, and they were all very joyful. Before they departed for the cabin, Laura and Amanda confirmed plans to have Lydia and Barbara join them for the first extended weekend of the seventh month of the New Year.

Jeannie landed Amo Te expertly. She and Luther flew training hours almost every day now, Luther had over forty hours logged. They both expected that he would be ready for final examination by the end of the sixth month of the New Year. They planned to fly to Air Command Base 12 so that Luther would be examined by the senior flight instructor there. Before Laura and Amanda left for their home, they congratulated Luther on the state of the greenhouse and the flower gardens. He invited his friends to his home on the second weekend day afternoon to see the new fishing boat he and Mary had purchased. Amanda replied that they might take him up on his offer to go fishing when Lydia and Barbara visited in the first week of the seventh month of the New Year. Amanda and Laura returned home to each other ' s arms. After Amanda had assimilated her experience with Lohrissa she realized that she was the mate of the priestess with her need to express passion finding new levels, much to Laura ' s delight. She informed Amanda that the lust she had as a twenty year old held no comparison to that of a twenty-one year old. When recovered, the lovers napped, then prepared dinner and ate on the deck with a setting sun. After night routines and showers, Laura went to the deck to gaze at the multiverse of galaxies, feeling the soft night breezes on her naked body. Amanda joined her as they danced in the light of Mother Moon before she directed them to a night of passion in the cabin in the fifth month of the New Year.

The following day Laura studied and baked for the freezer. Jeannie flew Amo Te to Carriere for more fuel, flying low past the cabin to say hello. Amanda asked Laura if she wanted to take a picnic dinner to the beach, Laura could never deny her ocean. They lingered on the rocks until the cool night air drove them back to a fire and warm soaking bath. The lovers lingered late in bed the following morning until hunger won over passion by mid-morning. After lunch they drove to inspect Luther ' s and Mary ' s new vessel. They were so pleased, naming her Yule. In casual conversation Amanda asked if there were some extras they hoped to eventually buy for her. Luther replied that if he could save enough they would like a global positioning system so that they could find coordinates easily in case of sudden storms or fog. Amanda asked where he would hope to buy that. Luther replied at a marine supply business in Carriere. Amanda made a mental note to email Lydia as soon as they returned to the base. Both Mary and Luther said they hoped to have a day expedition with their four friends when they returned for their break in the first week of the seventh month of the New Year. They would supply all the necessary equipment and bait; the women just had to bring themselves with their cameras. He followed their vehicle back to the mountainside, stating he had to give Huguette her bath. Amanda repeated she was probably the cleanest aircraft on the continent.

Amanda and Laura returned to the base by early afternoon on the first weekday to routines, chores, data entry, and administration. Laura confirmed her meeting with Declan and Ross for the following first weekend day. She ordered new computer equipment for her Resistance command post to be delivered to her at Air Command Base 12. Declan reported that Amelia and Sterling had established a cloaked satellite link for communications. Ross reported that there would be need for more fuel tanks as storage for expropriated supplies from The Decision. Laura packed a certificate for one million dollars with her gear to take to her command post. Laura and Amanda continued in flight lessons in the Raptor with night lessons to start the following week. Laura successfully learned how to pilot the large craft without a copilot with Amanda only observing and making suggestions. Laura ' s cadets continued to meet her very high standards of skydiving. She continued her Mechanics Course, studying each evening for the first examination on the fifth weekday of the second week after their arrival back to base. She dined with Amanda on the fifth weekday in the staff dining room but asked to spend the night by herself with a promise to return to her lover ' s bed the following night.

Laura loaded her gear, ran her preflight check list, and Amo Te was airborne heading northeast by 0800 hours the following morning. Ross and Declan greeted their commander in her new aircraft at 0915 hours, assisting with storage of Laura ' s gear in what would be her quarters. The leaders reviewed the organization charts, finalizing plans for continued raids on warehouses and interception of Military transport of supplies. She gave Ross the certificate for the money to be used for purchase of storage tanks as well as all other necessary equipment and supplies. Laura downloaded Military data including bomb manufacturing. She suggested that the Resistance establish an outpost for that manufacture. She talked of her plan to take a Raptor initially and then plan raids to take other helicopters. Amelia and Sterling had reported growing decline of an already poor organization with The Decision ' s Military high command; Laura replied that when she was done there would be no high command left. Neither man would ever consider a doubt of that. Before Commander Ravencouer departed she insisted that she be kept apprised of all the schedules for raids on warehouses and Military transports. When she was running her check list for departure, Ross made comment about her new helicopter. Laura told him it was a gift from her friends, including the priestesses as Ross nodded his head in knowledge. They agreed to meet again in the first weekend of the eighth month.

Laura returned Amo Te to Air Command Base 12 by 1630 hours. Amanda watched her finish her log, walking to her apartment with the confidence of a seasoned military commander. Amanda was proud but saddened all the same time as with each trip to her new command post and with each more confident return, the time was growing ever nearer that one day she would not come back to Amanda ' s arms. While in a quick shower, Laura realized that her transition back to her life at the base was becoming easier with each trip. She smiled as she found her most seductive clothing to wear in greeting of the Colonel across the hall with whom she would dine, dance, find passion, and sleep until dawn. Laura ' s second weekend day fell to the routines of chores, data entry, and many hours studying.

The weekday evenings were given to nighttime flying with Laura learning to pilot a large craft by instruments only. She had almost half her hours logged with examination for licensing in the eighth month of the New Year. On the fifth weekday morning Laura completed her examination for the Advanced Mechanics Course with the results by the next third weekday. As was their usual routine now, Amanda and Laura dined together in the staff dining room on the fifth weekend evening and spent nights of passion together until the following first weekday. Laura answered emails from Declan and Ross and as well from Amelia to tell her that coded information about General Downs would be ready for her next visit to the command post. Amelia was not usually given to personal comments about any of the Intelligence work she had completed but she did comment that this was a very disgusting human being. Laura ' s reply was she was very aware; he would go down well and permanently. Ross had confirmed an expropriated shipment of storage tanks, fuel, and purchase of supplies needed for skydiving instruction at several outpost bases. The rural pilots, farmers, and ranchers were able to legally procure explosives and detonators as often as legally possible. When regular shipments were determined, they would then be expropriated as well. Declan mentioned that The Decision was still not aware that their materials were not always reaching their appointed destinations.

Laura received notice to attend Colonel Bennett ' s office after her skydiving instructions on the next third weekday. She was greeted by a somewhat somber Lieutenant Colonel and ushered into the Colonel ' s office where she also greeted her Mechanics Course instructor. He stepped forward to shake her hand, stating that she had not only passed her examination but had achieved the highest score at the base with only one small error; the second highest in the history of formal Air Command Mechanics instruction with the only perfect score by one Master Corporal Barbara Maclippe some years earlier in the Northeastern City. He formally invited her to attend next set of classes, then grinned informing her he would surely find her if she did not. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smithson invited Laura to attend a formal dinner in the officer ' s club on the following first weekend night which she very graciously accepted. Laura then asked to be excused as she had flight lessons scheduled within the next one-half hour and wanted to be prepared. She and Amanda flew her lesson in the Raptor, then she agreed to meet the Colonel for a celebratory dinner in her apartment. Laura returned to her own suite to find a bouquet of roses with a card reading I did not raise me up any dumb little sisters. Congratulations kid and was signed by Master Corporal (Retired) Barbara Maclippe. Amanda stood at Laura ' s open apartment door grinning as Laura read the card; Amanda just had to let them know. The lovers dined with celebratory champagne followed by long hours of passion before Laura returned to her own apartment before dawn. Lessons would be taught and taken for the next two weekdays. Laura slept late on the first weekend day and then followed her usual morning routine of chores and data entry. She showered early so as to tame curls in preparation for the formal dinner at 1900 hours in the Officer ' s Club. Amanda arranged for a driver as she needed to attend earlier. Laura applied the come-hither make-up and then slipped into the strapless wine silk gown with matching heels she had worn to the University soiree. She wore her gifted diamond and obsidian hair clip and matching earrings. The only adornment at her neck was a silver chain holding her labrys. When she crossed the threshold of the dining room, all eyes turned as conversation stopped. For the first time in the history of Air Command Base 12, its Colonel walked to greet their guest and took her hand to escort her to the waiting group of officers. Charlie Smithson beamed a smile of approval, taking Laura ' s other hand, telling her she was definitely the most beautiful attendee this Club had ever known, to which all others agreed with applause. The Colonel continued to hold Laura ' s hand until they were seated for dinner. At dinner ' s end, Amanda and Laura were invited to join the gentleman in the lounge but both declined. The Colonel stated that she would escort her beautiful friend back to her quarters, offering no more information. Charlie had never been as proud of his old friend as he was that evening; if the officers attending disapproved of the obvious none showed it. Laura ' s hand would not leave Amanda ' s until they were safe behind the door of Laura ' s apartment. The Colonel did not attend her office early the following day as she was still occupied with her beautiful friend; when she did arrive in the early afternoon Charlie greeted her standing in the doorway, smiling and shaking his head. Amanda returned the smile and shrugged. He told his friend he was very proud of both of them, never seeing Amanda look as beautiful.

The next four weekdays were filled once again with teaching, learning, flying, and administration. In the late afternoon of the fourth weekday, Bella headed northwest. Amanda and Laura planned on visiting Lydia the following day for lunch in Carriere with a lesson in a Raptor by Captain Lydia Stenns, Jeannie and Luther would fly Huguette there and Laura would fly the Raptor back to the cabin landing pad, the most complicated landing Laura would attempt thus far. Both women were tired and sleeping shortly after their arrival. Dawn and immediate passion greeted the lovers before hunger drove them out of bed to ready for the day. Laura showered, then donning a flight suit for their meeting with Lydia and her lesson. Lydia met them on the tarmac with a waiting car for their trip to the bar for lunch. Sally was happy to see Amanda and Laura again but clearly disappointed that there was no short shirt with a need for a lean over the bar. Laura was still very beautiful but no-one could argue the lack of appeal of an Armed Forces flight suit. The pilots all returned to the Carriere base; a Raptor was airborne and flying out over the ocean quickly losing visuals of the base. Lydia taught Laura how to fly low, hovering over the ocean with a take off quickly. She said this tactic was used in combat to drop troops over land and water and then retrieve them. She reminded Laura that this craft was large, heavy, but with power necessary for any clandestine operation. Laura also flew to and landed on beaches in fiords along the more northern coast with off in a very enclosed orientation. Amanda was seated behind Lydia , not participating in the lesson but smiled as Laura completed all the tasks her instructor demanded well. They then flew to the mountains beyond the town of Carriere , flying low to valleys with a quick ascent and then decent repeatedly, again to teach Laura how to drop troops and supplies with retrieval as quickly as needed. She told Laura to fly back to the outer Carriere base and be prepared to drop blank bombs onto targets she had her ground crews place earlier that day. This was a new exercise for Laura; she used intense concentration to drop bombs and hit targets as seen only with her instruments. After two and one half hours in the air, Lydia commanded Laura to fly the craft to the cabin landing in a closed environment orientation beside Huguette. As they approached, Luther and Jeannie were waiting on the tarmac. Laura set her craft down gently on the landing pad to accompany Huguette. She filled out her log and as she descended from the craft, she turned and was saluted by both Captain Stenns and Colonel Bennett. Lydia then stated Well done Commander Ravencouer, well done." Lydia then boarded the Raptor and returned to the Carriere base. Jeannie hugged Laura before Luther shook her hand, still standing in slight awe. Amanda had not stopped grinning since Lydia departed; as soon as they were back in the cabin she took her very lovely pilot lover in her arms while the flight suit found the floor. Over wine before dinner, Laura talked about the rush she had behind the controls of that aircraft, how she had planned to learn to fly as part of a plan but had grown to addiction of it. She then smiled, stating it was similar application to meeting the base Colonel. Dinner was late.

The two weekend days were spent with rest, conversation, and passion. The women planned return in two weeks for eleven days as part of the break at the end of the academic year. Lydia and Barbara planned to join them for five days. They had the fishing trip planned with Mary and Luther. Lydia had the global position system shipped to Luther with a message of thanks from Barbara and herself. The base senior instructor agreed to examine Luther for licensing. Laura received wings for her friend as she was very certain he would succeed with his examination.

The women returned to the base by midafternoon on the first weekday to their routines. Laura ' s last class of this academic year were examined, all graduated as she accepted no less. Amanda and Laura logged hours in the Raptor. Laura attended the second session of classes for the Advanced Mechanics Course. The weekend days found their own routines. Laura updated her copy of the data base and did data entry. Amanda worked late into the afternoon on the second weekend day with both women aching for each other by the time they met in Amanda ' s apartment after dinner in the staff dining room. Lydia confirmed their arrival for the morning of the following fifth weekday with plans to leave on the third weekday of the following week. Both women would forego flight lessons on the upcoming third weekday in order to keep Jeannie company while Luther completed his examination.

Huguette landed her humans on the tarmac at 1000 hours on the third weekday, met by Colonel Bennett and Lieutenant Colonel Smithson who escorted Luther to the room where he would take the written part of the examination. As Jeannie and Amanda were returning to Amanda ' s apartment, Laura joined them in her coveralls with grease on her face. She ran for a quick shower, then joined her friends in Amanda ' s apartment after which Amanda returned to work for the morning. Laura and Jeannie met at Amanda ' s office just as Luther was exiting the examination room. They ate lunch and then Amanda escorted him to the tarmac to join the senior pilot examiner for his flight examination. While at lunch, Luther ' s examination results were reviewed prior to the second part of his testing. At 1430 hours, Luther did a preflight check list and was airborne in Huguette, still the cleanest aircraft on the continent. Less than an hour later, Luther softly landed the craft, completing his log while the instructor stood apart from Luther and his friends to grade his practical test. In a very few minutes, he motioned to Laura who accompanied him as he greeted Luther again, shook his hand, handed him a pilot ' s license and Laura pinned his wings on his flight suit. Colonel Bennett took several photographs and then hugged her good friend as did Jeannie. Huguette was refueled before Luther proudly flew her back to the coast. Amanda and Laura had dinner in the staff dining room before retiring alone. Bella was loaded, her preflight check list completed and she was flying northwest by 1200 hours on the fourth weekday. All cadets and almost all staff members departed for a break at the end of the academic year. Charlie surprised Amanda the previous day by telling her that he would take command at the base for the next two weeks and would only expect her return from her home on the first weekday of the third week of the seventh month of the New Year. Laura was delighted with the prospect of seventeen days at her home with her lover. The women were sitting on the deck enjoying a glass of wine at 1700 hours that afternoon. They expected Lydia and Barbara early by noon the next day. Luther told them of his receipt of the global positioning system as gifted by Lydia and Barbara. He took Yule to Eaglesdown with friend helping with the installation. An after dinner shower only increased the ache shared by both women as passion found them before twilight. They laughed later in bed at how much they both wanted each other; it was not waning in the least. Laura suggested it was the fault of the priestesses to which Amanda replied they should always offer down blessings.

Both women greeted morning early. Laura completed the morning routines and checked to make sure the guestroom was in order. Anna and Versarie remained locked in a passionate embrace on the pillows in bed. Amanda was absolutely convinced all the bears had orgies when the humans were not in residence. Laura placed champagne and wine in the small refrigerator in that room with flutes and wine glasses on a small table. She placed a vase of fresh cut flowers in the en suite bathroom. Both women took second cups of coffee to the deck to wait for their friends who arrived before the noonday. Luther stored luggage and some supplies while all the friends greeted each other. Laura thanked Barbara for the bouquet of flowers with a kiss full on the mouth. Lydia said there were rumors all over the Northwestern Command of how the Colonel ' s date for the dinner at the Officer ' s Club at Air Command Base 12 was absolutely ravishing. Laura grinned, stating they were not rumors, she was ravishing. Luther was returning to his vehicle when Amanda quietly mentioned that Luther had his wings now, that he had passed his examination with a license to fly helicopters. Lydia let out a shout, then ran to hug and then kiss her friend, her former student, as did Barbara. The priestess Lemanychia quietly gave down thanks that the plan of the ancients was unfolding as it should. Laura left the wrapped painting of the priestesses and children on the guest room bed with a note stating it needed to live at the ranch. After its discovery Lydia came down the hallway to hug her friend for a long time. Laura said that the hours available for painting were few now with her job, her course, learning to fly the Raptor plus the need to tame the Colonel several times a week. Barbara clapped, rejoicing out loud that her friends finally got their priorities correct, adding that it took a special kind of woman to tame the Colonel well taught by the Captain. All four women laughed until they hurt. By midafternoon, Barbara declared that the Captain needed taming and asked to be excused. They met again for dinner on the desk at sunset. Laura danced in the kitchen in late afternoon, preparing dinner in very short shorts and a bikini top; Amanda took photographs. She tortured her lover ' s lens on purpose; dinner almost didn ' t happen save for the greeting of two hungry house guests. Lydia shook her head with her ubiquitous howl. The child was indeed ravishing. While Amanda finished dinner, Laura found a less distracting shirt. The friends lingered on the deck until well past dark and the greetings of the galaxies. They decided to take a drive to the summit with a picnic at the mountainside lake the following day. Night routines were completed easily and both couples said goodnight. Amanda and Laura took tear-inducing slow gentle journeys to the ancients and to the multiverse as Mother Moon blessed all the priestesses in the cabin that night.

Morning found the friends driving to the summit by 1100 hours. Mother ' s majesty never ceased to humble all those who dared to step out among the mountain peaks. Both Laura and Amanda took many photographs. Lydia and Barbara stood away from them arms about the other attempting to understand the depth and breadth of what they eyes could almost not contain. Amanda then drove to the mountainside lake where they were all delighted to find a new dock and raft as well as a hand-made table and chairs for dining. The women feasted in the fresh air and sunshine. After small naps of digestion, Laura removed clothing to reveal a very tiny bikini as did Amanda; both women ran laughing along the dock and then dove into the water. They swam to the raft and climbed aboard for warm sunning. Lydia and Barbara were less brave but did eventually dive off the dock as well to join their friends for sun and laughter in the water. Everyone was tired by midafternoon and decided to return to the cabin for naps before dinner. They planned meet Luther and Mary early the next morning for a day of fishing with the need of a restful remainder of the day. The child in Laura was very excited about a new adventure in the morrow. She had not fished in her life and as always welcomed newness with particular anticipation. Amanda held her lover in her arms as both women gave in to the fatigue of too much sun and fresh air.

Everyone was awake, showered, and dressed early the next morning. Mary insisted that no food would be needed for their day. They met their friends at their dock by 0900 hours and were aboard Yule shortly thereafter. She was a fine vessel; both Mary and Luther were very proud to show her off to their friends. Laura had not been on boat in her life and followed Luther around like a small child asking dozens of questions. They travelled beyond a coastal archipelago to more open seas and dropped anchor in a fishing ground well suited for the friends to catch. Lydia and Barbara were primarily fly fisherwomen in the mountain streams at the ranch but could handle bait casting rods and reels as could Amanda. Laura needed a few lessons before she mastered a cast without tangled line. Lydia caught the first sea bass much to Laura ' s excited delight. It was not long before Laura had her sea bass on the line. With coaching and some help from Mary she held her very first fish, beaming as camera lenses took many photographs. She was so excited that Luther laughed out loud. The friends, except for the youngest, all stopped for coffee at mid-morning. Laura had too many fish to catch. Luther raised anchor and headed for an old dock on one of the islands in the archipelago where he tied Yule after which his mates all carried baskets of food ashore. There was an old fire pit and an old shed covering wood. Mary soon set a blazing fire with a pot of coffee being brewed. Luther put potatoes on an old pot directly over the fire, then used flour and the eggs from the shells in the coffee pot to make batter for fish he had caught very early that morning. Mary brought a salad from some of the cabin greens. Luther fried bacon, using the fat to cook the battered fish and then browned the boiled potatoes. It seemed like an enormous amount of food for the six friends but they were all starved from the morning sun and sea air. They sat to a bare wooden table and Mary served salad on old worn dishes. Then Luther put plates of fish, bacon, and potatoes on the table. Laura said she had never tasted food this good, her friends heartily agreed. Two of Mary's pies were consumed. Luther boiled water for clean up while they enjoyed mugs of coffee and soon after the baskets were stored back on Yule as were her passengers. Mary then drove the boat to another more sheltered fishing ground closer to the shore of one of the islands and dropped anchor. There were now many fish in the on-board cooled wells. Luther pulled anchor at 1600 hours and Yule headed back to her dock. As Mary drove, Lydia and Luther were lost in conversation about the global positioning system. She asked if it could detect personal GPS as well. Luther replied it could with a fairly wide range. He said he would now be able to help the fishermen at Eaglesdown when a boat was stranded in a storm with thanks to his friends again.

Amanda smiled with tenderness as she had to almost carry Laura to their bed; she was asleep before Amanda returned with an extra blanket for the morning chill. Before dawn, however, Laura was awake and Amanda would get little more sleep that morning but could not complain as passion with the most beautiful woman on the planet was not a bad way to start a day. Laura and Amanda fell back to sleep and were dozing when they were awakened by a purposefully noisy Lydia complaining about having to make the coffee that morning. Laura arose, naked and beautiful with decidedly tangled curls, strode to Lydia , grabbed her by the shoulders, and kissed her long and hard full on the mouth. Then with the most beguiling smile, she told her to shut up. She then returned to her lover in bed who was laughing so hard she was not capable of speech. Barbara laughed as tears rolled down her cheeks; after Lydia was able to breathe again she announced that the kid had learned well, well indeed.

A lazy morning breakfast and routines followed with second cups of coffee in the greenhouse. Luther brought clean, packed fish the freezer. They all thanked him again for a wonderful day on Yule. Barbara and Laura textbooks to the deck easily lost now in conversation about aircraft engines. Barbara talked to Laura how easy it is to hot wire an ignition, adding that if needed she could also hot wire a tank. Lydia took Amanda ' s arm to stroll onto the mountainside road. Laura knew that Amanda needed to talk to her dear friend about her mating with Lohrissa. Barbara hugged her friend as she watched Amanda walking away, reassuring Laura that they would care for Amanda when Laura needed to go. Laura replied her awareness but it still was going to break her earthling heart. When Lydia and Amanda returned everyone stretched on the deck to enjoy summer sun and ocean breezes. After dinner routines, showers returned the friends to dance on the deck in the light of the galaxies and Mother Moon.

The following day the four friends lunched in Eaglesdown and visited with the Smithers once again. Amanda showed them photographs of the cabin, Huguette and Amo Te. Before leaving the store, Amanda asked to take photographs of their dear elderly friends. The women picked up many containers of Judith ' s chowder and returned to the cabin. Amanda printed two copies of the photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Smithers, mounted both, Laura and Barbara made simple frames for both. One photograph would adorn a mantle at the ranch and one at the cabin. Lydia and Barbara asked for alone time in the afternoon as they would need to return to the Carriere base and then Barbara to the ranch the following morning. Amanda grilled sea bass for dinner and the women lingered on the deck long past nightfall. The next morning after breakfast, Amanda and Laura took their friends to the ranch helicopter, then hugged and kissed goodbyes. On their return, they drove to the beach to sit with the Mother ' s majesty and the centering ocean waves.

Amanda and Laura whiled away the days of the next days at their home with routines, some studying, and much passion. They had insisted that Barbara take all the containers of chowder back to the ranch; as such they returned to Eaglesdown for lunch on the first weekend day to retrieve more for the cabin freezer. Amanda printed and mounted another copy of the photograph of the Smithers, framing it in one of Jackson ' s teak frames gifted at Wintersday past. Both their dear friends were delighted with the gift. Mrs. Smithers said it would hold a proud home near the cash register at the store. Laura purchased many more containers and jars for preserving harvests from the greenhouse as well as several old cookbooks covered with thick dust, containing recipes tested true over the past decades. On their return home, Laura became lost in recipes while she lounged on the deck. Amanda took many more photographs, some for the hallway wall. When overwhelming emotion overtook her, she took the cookbooks from her lover ' s hands and led her to hours of passion. Before dinner, the skies darkened as the ocean was whipped to a tantrum. A drenching rain fell to the beats of Mother ' s growling thunder and flashes of her anger. Amanda banked an only smoldering fire and the lovers dined before the hearth. Teddy and Primrose held onto each other for comfort in the storm, Anna and Versarie were oblivious as usual. Night routines and showers were completed; Laura cuddled in Amanda ' s arms in bed as they were enveloped by the now peaceful rhythm of Mother ' s rain on the roof. She asked Amanda if she had told Lydia of her mating with Lohrissa, Amanda replied she had. She said that Lydia seemed to almost understand; Laura said that of all the ancients Lydia would as she was almost as old as Lohrissa, they had known each other for almost every spiral of the helix. Laura kissed Amanda and told her she understood her feelings of vulnerability but she would evolve to simply celebrating the eternal connection. Once again the helix spiraled, the youngest comforting her senior, the oldest priestess comforting her much younger mate.

Mother continued to bless with gentle rain the following morning allowing the lovers to linger long in bed before rising on their last full day at their home before returning to the base. The return to the base was less traumatic now that both women had chosen to give no more credence to pretense. The only person who could give them grief was Tony Downs; that would become the most minimal of his worries. Night routines welcomed a warm soaking bath and love in the cabin that night.

The following day, Bella flew her humans back to the base in early afternoon. The women followed routines for their day of return and met for dinner in an abandoned staff dining room. Cadets and most staff had not returned to the base yet. Laura communicated with Ross, Declan, and Amelia. Declan reported that there were a few cells of Resistance fighters who had not reported for communication and he would rectify that as soon as possible. The interception of Military transports had escalated; storage sheds and barns were being filled. Frida had contacted Thea who reported that there were woman at Sanctuary who would return south for training. Young men were being rescued as possible from the labor camps and taken to safe houses along the underground routes. Laura ' s only reply was to Declan with her insistence that he find and communicate with all Resistance fighters and cells as she would accept no insurrection on any part. Amanda and Laura spent all nights together and dined together all nights. Laura was able to devote hours each day to studying Mechanics. She and the Colonel logged extra hours in the Raptor. She planned examination by the senior flight instructor at the end of the eighth month of the next year. While holding Laura in her arms in bed one night, Amanda mentioned that there had been some unconfirmed reports of Military transports being raided and supplies taken. She grinned congratulations to the Commander, stating that it was correct to remove the limbs before striking the heart and head. Laura could not reply but she did notify Ross and Declan that the Military was finally unofficially noticing some materials were missing.

Chapter 18

On the first evening of the last weekend of the seventh month of the New Year, they attended the routine reception for cadets and parents, this year without General Downs. Laura soothed anxious mothers as best she could and welcomed her teaching colleagues back to base. The following first weekday, the routines of the academic year began again. Laura ' s Mechanics course was back to classes in early mornings followed by skydiving student cadets, and then logging hours in the Raptor. Amanda and Laura returned to their routine of dining together and staying nights with each other on weekends. Laura rose early on the first weekend morning and Amo Te was airborne at 0800 hours flying northeast to the command post. Declan, Ross, and Frida met to confirm plans and orders. Laura was still not happy about the lack of communication with a few remaining cells of Resistance fighters, asking Declan if he needed help to accomplish that. Declan bristled at that question and assured that by the time they met next he would have that accomplished. Frida suggested that they establish a skydiving center at Sanctuary as well and had confirmed instructors if all agreed which they did. Laura planned to visit a remote base in the Northeastern City before the winter ' s snows, Ross finalized those plans. They made plans to meet next on the first weekend of the tenth month of the New Year and the commander returned to Air Command Base 12 by 1500 hours. Amanda was still working in her office when Laura returned to her apartment for a shower and data entry before dinner with her lover. Amanda did not ask for details but inquired if her day had gone well and Laura did reply that she was happy with the progress that had been made. The next weekend day and the following four weekdays passed quickly with routines. Bella was airborne and flying northwest on the fourth weekday late afternoon.

The lovers spent four peaceful and restful days at their home before returning to base on the following first weekday to routines. Laura logged her final hours in the Raptor before examination by the end of the first week. Examination was scheduled for the second upcoming weekday. She studied for the written examination as well as for the Mechanics course over the two weekend days, still finding time for chores, data entry, dinner, and passion with her lover. She did not attend her Mechanics course on the next second weekday and taught her cadets at an earlier hour. She reported to the examination room by 1100 hours with supervision by Lieutenant Colonel Smithson as she completed the written part of the examination. She met with the senior flight instructor at 1500 hours and after a preflight check list she was airborne with her examiner. She flew the Raptor as a solo pilot without a copilot ' s assistance through all the maneuvers that Lydia and Amanda had taught her. She landed the craft in one and one-half hours, thanked her examiner, and filled out the post flight log. Colonel Bennett and Lieutenant Colonel Smithson were waiting on the tarmac as the examiner graded the practical examination. He then walked back to Laura, shook her hand, and handed her a license to fly large helicopters. Laura could not hide her smile this time and thanked her examiner once again. Charlie Smithson shook her hand as did the Colonel as both offered congratulations. Laura returned to her quarters and emailed Elgin to tell him she had become a senior pilot, able to fly large helicopters. She emailed Lydia to offer her most sincere thanks. She also emailed Luther to tell him of her exam results, asking him to pass along the news to her friends at the coast. Within an hour, there was a knock at the door with the delivery of one crystal vase with one purple iris. Amanda called and asked her to meet her for dinner in the staff dining room at 1800 hours. As Laura entered the room all her colleagues including the Colonel stood, saluted, and then applauded. Laura blushed but was obviously very pleased. The lovers walked back to Amanda ' s door with Amanda's invitation for a celebratory brandy. Laura accepted and did not return to her own quarters until dawn. The remaining weekdays and weekend days were filled with routines. On the following second weekday, a messenger interrupted Laura ' s instruction of cadets with a note to attend Colonel Bennett ' s office immediately. She dismissed her class, running with the messenger to meet Amanda who bore a shocked, grave expression on her face. She closed her office door and then told Laura that there had been an attack on the Carriere base. The Captain had been injured although not seriously with only minor scrapes, burns, and a broken leg. However, two ground crewmen were critically injured and were not expected to survive. Amanda then told Laura with tears in her eyes that a botched bombing attempt had hit houses on the edge of Eaglesdown, Mr. and Mrs. Smithers were dead. Laura did not speak but took the phone, called the hanger crew to order that Amo Te be fueled and on the tarmac ready for flight in thirty minutes. She then turned to tell Amanda she would return. As she strode away, Amanda saw the faint glimmer of a white aura surrounding her lover. Laura returned to her quarters, dressed in fatigues with both weapons in holsters and a leather jacket. Amanda watched as Amo Te was airborne carrying Laura and Lohrissa to the command post. At landing an hour later, the high priestess stepped down to the tarmac with shimmering white and jewel tone auras. Declan and Ross were frozen in step as were all others on the tarmac. She walked towards them with fire in her eyes, then stopped. From her left hand there were streams of white flames that burned the tarmac where they landed. The earthlings moved away as she walked past them and into the command post headquarters. They were commanded to follow her. As Laura found her voice, Lohrissa ' s auras faded slightly. She spoke quietly with the most anger either man had ever heard. She told them that it was apparent that she was expected to lead incompetent, irresponsible idiots. She had commanded control of all Resistance fighters, that command had been ignored. A priestess was injured and earthlings were dead, those who they had been called to protect. She told them that she could return to the ancients and their lot would perish at the hands of evil without her help. She continued that this would be the last time she would be disobeyed. Neither man spoke. She expected a detailed account of exactly what happened when and by whom. She told Declan and Ross to find those responsible, detain them, and then return them to the command post. They would not carry out any more harm anywhere if they were allowed to survive. Laura and the high priestess then moved above the tarmac back to Amo Te and after a preflight check list Amo Te was airborne, leaving those on the tarmac kneeling with heads bowed. Neither Ross nor Declan would ever choose to have that experience again.

Laura landed Amo Te back on the tarmac an hour later, returning to her quarters to rid herself of weapons and fatigues. She still bore a slight shimmering white aura as she returned to the Colonel ' s office. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smithson was en route to the Carriere base to take command until Captain Stenns had recovered sufficiently. Both ground crewmen had not survived. There had been destruction of three houses at Eaglesdown with the loss of seven lives. Laura did not speak but kept a steady gaze at the Colonel ' s eyes. Lydia was being cared for at the base infirmary; Barbara was in flight to join her. The small hamlet of Eaglesdown would care for each other as was the practice of earthlings in all small communities. Laura still had not spoken, as she turned to leave Amanda took her arm to tell her she was not to blame, that evil was to blame. Laura quietly replied that she might not be to blame but she was responsible for those she commanded. Amanda saw the steel shards around the hazel eyes that would remain and felt the silver chains wrapping themselves around Laura ' s heart. Laura returned to her quarters as the Colonel closed her to door so as to not have to hide tears. She had lost dear friends and the one she loved the most would carry the burden of that for the rest of her earth days. Laura walked to the grove, standing by the water until the sun started to set. She returned to the staff dining room for dinner alone. Amanda came to her door to tell her that Barbara called to tell them that Lydia was mad as hell meaning she was on her way to recovery. The medics expected that she would be fit to fly home to the ranch by the weekend. There would be a Military ceremony of honor for those ground crewmen who had died scheduled for the fifth weekday which Amanda planned to attend. The base would be commanded temporarily by the senior flight instructor. Both women agreed to send funds to the small hamlet of Eaglesdown to help with any expenses the families would incur as well as to rebuild homes that had been destroyed. Laura understood that she could not ease the pain of all those who would fall at the hands of the Resistance but these were her friends and she would help now as she could. Amanda still saw Lohrissa present in Laura as she reached to take her lover in her arms. Both women sobbed for their loss and Lohrissa soothed with ancient blessings. Amanda returned to her own quarters as Laura was eased to peace by the priestess.

The next weekdays were filled with routines hard fought. Amanda left very early on the fifth weekday in a Raptor for the Carriere base. She returned by midafternoon with news that Lydia had also attended. Barbara planned to take her home to the ranch the following day where she would rest for two weeks before assuming command again. Lydia had asked immediately about Laura, Amanda replied she would bear this as they would expect. Laura brought dinner from the dining room to Amanda ' s apartment and they dined together. Amanda told Laura that she would not be able to leave the base for what would be their routine visit home. Laura replied she had expected that. Amanda knew that Lohrissa had returned to the ancients as Laura was now more at peace. Amanda asked her to stay with her this night, Laura did. There would be the same passion and love but Laura ' s heart had been partially chained by her ancients in protection. Amanda worked the following weekend days as Laura followed her weekend routines. On the second weekend day, Huguette landed on the tarmac. Amanda walked to greet Luther who had flown to see Laura. Amanda walked with him to her door, and then left before he knocked and Laura answered. She was very surprised to see her dear friend, breaking down in tears as he hugged her. He had never talked of his priesthood but she had known for a long time that the ancients had sent him to protect them. He was a very wise ancient man. He explained that he had walked with the high priestess many times before; it was his honor to do so again. He spoke of understanding the burden Laura was carrying at the death of the crewmen and their friends. He gently reminded her that all earthlings ' bodies died but many of their souls were eternal as many more would be. He told her that he was a senior scribe among the ancients, knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Smithers were now among the ancients for eternity. He talked of the battle they continued to fight, the one she had chosen to lead when she returned to live among her beloved earthlings. They had fought the Evil Ones since the universes were cast from each other by an explosion of rage. The Evil Ones had tried many times since then to destroy life on earth so as to claim Mother and bring her to their fold. The ancients had not permitted them to win and would not until the helix stopped the spiral. All battles came with great sacrifice but victory came with great joy and hope. He quietly told Laura that Lohrissa had given her that in the story hung above the mantle at the cabin. The ancients walked with her every second of her life on earth and for eternity on the helix. They would protect and care for her in the years to come. She asked then why Lydia had to be hurt; Luther laughed with the explanation to make sure she got mad and stayed that way. He explained that Lydia was the second eldest ancient and a strong magic priestess. Lydia was a seer, a healer, one who guided almost all the others. She had returned to earth as many times as Lohrissa, walking with her always as would many other holy ones. He explained to Laura that it was a complete waste of her energy to try to interrupt the fates of earthlings, the directions of Lohrissa, and all ancients. He implored her to hold the love of all of them close to her always, even within the chains that they would wrap around her heart as protection. He told her he would care for Amanda and their home when Lohrissa directed Laura to launch the battle. Luther rose, holding his high priestess in a long hug and then gently kissed her brow before he left to fly Huguette back to the coast. Laura ' s journey was unfolding exactly as it should.

Amanda brought dinner from the staff dining room to Laura ' s apartment. Laura told her lover the words of the wise ancient priest who had visited that afternoon. Laura felt that all the forces within her were now lined up and grounded. There was a huge battle coming which she would lead, she would fight, and they would win. Amanda led her to a shower and in soft candlelight for a brief passage of earth time Lohrissa returned to love her mate.

The following weekdays followed routines of work and studying. On the fifth weekday evening, Amanda asked Laura if she would like to fly to the ranch to visit Lydia for the following day. The administration work was done and the senior pilot instructor could take temporary command for a few hours. Laura ' s eyes lit up which was all the answer Amanda needed. Bella was airborne by 1000 hours the following morning with Jackson meeting them an hour later. Lydia slept in a temporary bed in the common room and when they arrived Jenny was in the kitchen preparing some meals ahead for her friends. Spero was sitting on Lydia ' s lap, both having a marvelous time with great giggles. Lydia did not notice their arrival immediately; both Amanda and Laura watched with smiles. Barbara walked to hug both of them as then Lydia spotted them. She did not know they would arrive and was howling her usual delight which made Spero cry. Jenny took her son, returning to their home to allow the friends to visit. Amanda kissed Lydia full on the mouth, teasing that it might be fun to take advantage of her temporary slowed speed. Laura walked to hug Lydia with the beginning of tears to which Lydia told her sternly to cease and desist. She was fine, mad as hell, and that was the direction necessary. Barbara made coffee as Lydia told Laura she had a vision of Lohrissa at the command post, stating she believed she might have secured the attention of those gathered. At seeing Amanda ' s face of questions, Lydia simply stated that Laura and Lohrissa had kicked some serious ass. Laura told Lydia of Luther ' s visit; with a smile Lydia spoke of how that dear soul had visited Lohrissa many times in the past always with gentle perspective, words of guidance, and wisdom. Lydia stated she was much better; all scrapes and superficial burns were healed. Lydia planned to return to the Carriere base in one week; Barbara chose to return with her for a couple of weeks to help. The break in Lydia ' s leg was clean and would heal well. She expected to be able to weight bear when she returned to the medics next on her return to base. Jenny returned with Spero with Lydia 's promises not to frighten her friend again. When Spero saw Laura, he nearly jumped out of Jenny ' s grip, raising his arms to be held by Laura. She took the child, radiant in her smile as he giggled and tugged at her long curls. Barbara took photographs as Lydia quietly told her that this is why they had fought and why they would continue. Laura and Amanda hugged and kissed their friends goodbye with the promise of visiting Lydia at Carriere when they returned home in the tenth month of the New Year. Lydia had already arranged time away for Wintersday at the cabin. Bella was back at the base by 1700 hours. Laura thanked her lover for the visit, that it had done much to soothe her soul. The dined together in the dining room, Laura stayed with her lover until morning. The next weekend day was lost to chores, work, studying, and emails. Declan wrote that all perpetrators were apprehended and in fact were not members of any recognized cells but youths who called themselves freedom fighters, thinking themselves to be hero material. They were incarcerated at the command post, now frightened youths especially after some of the workers at the post told them of Lohrissa's visit. Declan said there was no excuse for the loss of life; he would carry that rest of his earth days as would they all. Declan, Ross, Frida, and Amelia had set in place a continuous systematic review of all Resistance fighter cells, making those individual leaders responsible for containing their own small neighborhoods. Drew and his wife Annique breached confidential files, learning of plans where more labor camps to be established. This information had been passed on to Amelia and Sterling with plans to systematically destroy them as they were being built. The census numbers for the existing camps were tampered with in order to deflate the numbers, allowing more male workers to be rescued without notice by The Decision. Archie, a master forger, made excellent replicas of bank notes to be deposited in accounts controlled by The Decision, lulling them into the false security of overspending. There would be difficulty in paying creditors overseas in the years to come with their disinclination to supply further materials, aircraft, and weapons. Laura replied that good work had been done by all. She planned to meet with them on the first weekend day of the tenth month of the New Year. The next weeks and weekends followed routines as usual. Lydia returned to Carriere as planned and Charlie Smithson returned to his base. Laura committed to plans to visit the eastern rural command post on the last weekend of the tenth month

Laura studied extensively and was prepared for the second examination for her Advanced Mechanics Course in the last week of the ninth month of the New Year. She once again passed with only one small error, allowing her to proceed to the final four months of that course.

On the first weekend day of the tenth month of the New Year, Laura flew Amo Te to the command outpost and greeted Declan, Ross, and Frida. Frida completed maps showing all warehouse raids, all known overland Military routes, and all Resistance cells for the Northwestern City , Drew had sent similar for the Northeastern City . These maps were hung on the walls of what would eventually be Laura ' s office. Declan was reluctantly learning to fly, not one of his most favorite exercises but one he knew was necessary. Drew was an accomplished pilot but could not be spared to fly his brother all over the northern cities. Frida had just earned her wings; Ross was close to logging enough hours to start teaching other pilots. There was still not have a person in the same position as Ross in the northeastern command post; Ross suggested his friend Sean who was a very knowledgeable pilot. Laura wanted to meet him when they flew to that command post at the end of the tenth month of the New Year. As Commander Ravencouer prepared to depart she told her crew that she sensed a greater sense of purpose and professionalism; she was very proud now to be associated with this group. Declan promised her that it would continue to beyond victory. Amo Te landed back at the base by late afternoon. After a shower, Laura met Amanda for dinner in her apartment, stating with her lover until morning. Laura alerted Amanda that she would be gone overnight on the last weekend of the current month, telling her the truth that she would visit another command post and hire another staff person. Amanda went to the safe in her apartment, returning to hand Laura certificates for ten million dollars, stating that she would need to feed and pay her fighters. Amanda smiled as she told Laura she had been directed by the ancients, specifically Lydia . Laura did not protest but kissed thanks into her lover. When tears misted Laura ' s eyes, Amanda told her she would be fine and she would never really be without her, ever.

The next weekdays and weekend days went by entirely too slowly as the lovers waited to go home again. Finally, Bella was heading home to the coast in darkened skies. Jeannie, Harry, and Mary were waiting on the tarmac as Bella landed. Luther was at the cabin and hugged them both before he carried luggage to their home. Both women held each other, kissing long once inside causing broad grins on Luther ' s face who then said goodnight; not long afterwards both women were in bed fast asleep.

Laura awoke first, crawling back to the arms of her lover. She was convinced that this was the best place on the planet to which Amanda growled and reminded her about the real best place. They had made plans to fly to Carriere the following day to take Lydia to lunch. They also decided to visit Judith and the Smithers ' family. The ocean seemed angry earlier this year. Amanda explained that was likely indicative of an early winter and to expect snow before Wintersday. They drove to Eaglesdown mostly in silence, then stopped for a visit with Judith. The Smithers store was open; both women stood and took in tear-breaking breaths before entering. They were greeted by the Smithers ' children who were genuinely glad to see them. There were a few inescapable tears as the women wandered about the store, still unchanged. The children thanked both women for their generous gift that helped two families rebuild homes that had been destroyed. The Smithers home would not be rebuilt as all their children had homes of their own. The land would be used for gardens to help feed the people of the little hamlet as well as for a park to relax and remember. The photograph that Amanda had taken was on the counter by the ancient cash register, to remain there. Before they left, Amanda told them that she knew her dear friends would be proud and happy that the store would stay open. The children replied that the tiny hamlet depended on them so they would continue. Both Laura and Amanda hugged them all as they left and returned to pick up chowder from Judith. Both women sat in the vehicle for a few minutes to gain composure before their return to the cabin in early afternoon. Luther ' s words came back to Laura repeatedly as she remembered that she would know her friends for eternity now. After lunch and while cuddled in front of the fire, Amanda asked about Lohrissa's visit to the command post. Laura told her of the fire in her eyes, the auras, the white flames, the changed voice, the very harsh words, and the walking above the ground back to the helicopter. Amanda was quiet for a few minutes, then told Laura to remind her to never annoy her. Laura's reply was that she had once seen the fire from her eyes. Night blessed the sky early now; dinner was served by candlelight and firelight. Laura invited Amanda to the shower; as Amanda banked the fire Laura filled goblets with brandy and slow sultry Latin music started the tease. Laura was relentless in kissing and touching, kissing and touching until Amanda cried pleas to the ancients and the multiverse. Then and only then was she carried to a warmed bed in the arms of a beautiful lover.

Morning shone with a weakening sun. Amanda woke Laura the best way she knew how. Laura kissed tears from her lover ' s cheeks after a welcoming journey to the ancients. She whispered that it was perfectly acceptable to love as much as she did; it was a gift from all the ancients. Both women would have been happy to stay in each other ' s arms for the remainder of the day but they had a lunch date with Lydia and both were eager to see their friend again. After breakfast and showers, both women readied themselves to fly Huguette to the Carriere base. When they returned they planned to meet with Luther to make plans for overwintering storage and supplies needed for the upcoming Wintersday break. At Carrier, they met by a waiting Lydia , now walking with just the assistance of a cane which she would only need for another two or three weeks. The friends drove to the bar for a visit over lunch. Lydia smiled lovingly that both her dear friends looked especially beautiful to which Amanda simply stated that the child had learned well, well indeed. Laura quietly told Lydia that she planned to fly to the new northeastern command post at the end of the tenth month of the New Year and hire a counterpart for Ross there. She also thanked Lydia for the gift of Amanda ' s money. Lydia stated the mood at the base was slowly improving after the attack. There had been no official report of the perpetrators being apprehended; Laura told her they were incarcerated and would remain so. Sally stopped by their table to greet her friends. She asked if they could anticipate another ruckus at Wintersday; Laura reassured her that this one would be the best yet. Amanda shrugged and grinned; they had indeed created a monster, a very lovely monster. They drove back to the base, hugging goodbye to their friend, telling her they were both very pleased to see that she had healed well and back to her usual somewhat irascible self. Laura flew Huguette back to the cabin to meet Luther at 1500 hours. Mary preserved and prepared some harvested food from the greenhouse in their absence; both women insisted that she and Luther take that. There was more ready for harvest which Laura planned to preserve and freeze in the morrow. Luther had purchased two more dwarf fruit trees, explaining he expected the first trees to bear fruit the next autumn. He wanted to purchase a ready-made storage shed of much same model as at the landing pad to store off deck and mountainside lake furniture and Amanda readily agreed. The women inquired as to whether they would need more power generated and Luther stated that if they wanted to convert the vehicles to energy use other than fossil fuel that they should perhaps think about two more wind towers which could be erected in a clearing across from the cabin landing pad. They could be used to charge often as the noise would not interfere with anyone staying at the cabin. Amanda and Laura also approved of that project and told Luther to contact those he needed to plan for that in the spring. They told him that Lydia and Barbara would join them again for the Wintersday celebration and that he could expect delivery of many cartons which he could now pick up himself at the depot In Carriere with Huguette. Jeannie had already agreed to fly with him in the first snows until he understood compensation for the winds. With the meeting completed, Luther said goodbye after bringing in wood for the night. The next day Amanda and Laura harvested autumn vegetables to prepare for the freezer. They started making lists of supplies they would need for the next visit and the Wintersday visit. They hiked to Spy Rock in the afternoon but stayed only for a short time as Mother ' s cool air and winds drove them back to the warmth of the fire. Amanda said she would not be surprised if they encountered snow at their visit in the eleventh month of the New Year. Laura packed warm clothing to take back to the base for her overnight trip to the northeastern command post. They women returned to the base by early afternoon on the following first weekday

Laura ordered gifts for all her friends from her Karina, her designer friend, as well as jewelry and perfume. She ordered two gifts of wool from the Andes , with all these gifts to be shipped to Luther at the coast. She asked her friend to send something very alluring with matching six inch heels for a soiree of sorts, with a need to impress, and send it to her at the base. She also asked if she could find a dominatrix costume with stilettos and mask. She indicated it was not needed until after Wintersday and trusted the continued discretion of her friend. She ordered many more photography and art supplies to be shipped to the coast. She emailed Elgin explaining she would try to get to the city for a visit in the eleventh month of the New Year; she booked a driver and vehicle for the first day of the second weekend. She did data entry and updated her computer files to send encoded to Frida. She had dinner with Amanda that night, staying with her until dawn.

The next weekday and weekend days followed routines. Laura had dinner with Amanda on the fifth weekday of the last week of the tenth month of the New Year. She planned return to base on the second weekend day late in the afternoon, having already asked her lover for dinner and a date. Amanda hated to see her leave her for a weekend, but knew the ancients were in control. Laura and Amo Te were airborne the following morning at 0900 hours and landed at the command post at 1015 hours. She met with Ross and Declan in the remaining morning hours, then asked to meet the perpetrators. She walked to the concrete building, an original on the base; on entering she noticed it was very cool and damp. She told Ross to move these youths to a warmer space and make sure they had warm winter clothing. She asked them to join her at a small table in the room. She asked them if they knew who she was, they said they did. She asked if they understood what they had done and all replied with tears in their eyes. Declan and Ross saw the faint aura of Lohrissa emerge as Laura stood. She quietly told the prisoners that they would live and would work at the command post for the Resistance. She asked if they had families that needed to be notified, none replied. She then looked at them with fire in her eyes as an outstretched arm shot white flames that scorched the concrete wall of the building. Lohrissa ' s voice told them that they would respect life with the rest of their days on earth preserving it, protecting it, or they would meet a fate worse than any death they could imagine. All three of them fell to the ground as Lohrissa left immediately and Laura walked out of the building. Ross stayed behind to help the prisoners recover with immediate arrangements for their move to warm quarters. Back in the commander ' s office, Laura gave Ross Amanda ' s certificates, telling him the money was to be used specifically to pay staff and feed them all. Ross was taken aback with the amount. Laura told him they had many friends that would support victory as they could. Sean Taylor landed the transport plane on the tarmac at 1400 hours and stepped forward to meet Thea ' s daughter Laura. He thought that Thea would be immensely proud of this confident beautiful young woman; it was his hope that he could accompany her home to Sanctuary someday to meet her mother again. Ross introduced everyone, after a preflight check list everyone boarded the aircraft and flew east. He asked Laura if she would like to copilot and she was delighted to help. She had not flown an airplane; Sean explained they were not nearly as agile as helicopters but had been flying since he was ten years old so they were like old friends to him. He explained that children of ranchers learned early in their lives to take to the skies as this was survival on the northern plains. He told her that aircraft such as this one were the work horses of rural survival. He explained that his family compound was the last safe house on the underground route to Sanctuary in the north. His mother and father, his brother and his wife, his sister and her husband, Sean and his wife all lived there on a working ranch. There was a fairly extensive workshop where aircraft repair and repainting was done. All the craft that had been expropriated from the northwestern command post had been repaired, repainted, and were now at other outposts waiting for direction. He talked about Archie and his wife Lilly who lived at the compound. Archie had been taken from the Northeastern City early on as he was a master forger, photographer, and counterfeiter. He provided false identification for all overland truckers as well as any males rescued from labor camps. Sean lived the life of Resistance since he was old enough to understand as had all his family and he quietly stated that until victory he would continue to live that life or die trying. Before they landed, Laura knew he would be her second-in-command at the northeastern command post. The post was smaller and had fewer buildings but the tarmac was in good shape, sufficient for Sean to land. There were permanent Resistance members working and living there. Laura was introduced to everyone as they gathered in the building used as an office. The leaders met after dinner and Laura offered Sean the position of her second-in-command at the northeastern command post which he accepted. He asked if his wife could live at the post with him with Laura's complete agreement. She told Ross to help build new buildings and renovate those already in existence. She directed Sean to lengthen the runway in the spring and build landing pads for helicopters. He was told to secure more storage tanks for fuel; both Ross and Sean were told to erect wind towers and solar panels for energy production, not new on the plains. There were towers are the northwestern command post but few batteries, Laura directed both of them to order as many as they could and steal the rest from The Decision. Sean loved this woman already as they had just started a lifelong abiding friendship. They all retired to the common dormitory with a partial wall for the women on staff, three including Laura. That would change very soon. Laura changed into warm clothing for sleep with no shyness in front of the other women. She was their commander but she was another women sleeping in the dormitory for this night. Laura missed Amanda but fell asleep quickly from exhaustion.

After a hearty breakfast the following morning, Sean flew his passengers and his new boss back to the northwestern command post. Laura wanted extensive reports kept for each expenditure, as such she asked Sean to ask his wife Olivia if she would consider keeping books and records at the northeastern command post. For now, Frida could handle the work at the northwestern post but they would need to hire another person once the battles began. Laura shook Sean ' s hand as he prepared for take-off. She told him that she would order a computer system and transport it to her command post at her next visit. Sean replied that in the meantime he would continue to use his own to communicate with Ross and Frida. After he left, Laura told Ross that it was an excellent suggestion, Declan agreed. Declan and his wife Emme planned a move to the land near Ross and Frida. He planned to return to the Northeastern City and would communicate from there in another few weeks. His wife Emme was missing him and his mother was still very ill although he said with a smile that she was just miserable enough to survive to finish the job she started years ago. Laura left the command post at noon with Amo Te landing back at the base at 1315 hours. She was very tired and very dirty. She chided herself that a life of combat at a command post would not have the creature comforts. Nevertheless, she would have a shower installed there and headed for one at her apartment. She had a date with Amanda for dinner, hopefully a lot of passion, and met her at her apartment at 1700 hours. Amanda closed and locked her apartment door, then took Laura in her arms for a very long welcoming kiss. She said she missed her so much she had a hard time sleeping. Laura said that she missed her lover as well but slept due to cold and exhaustion. She told Amanda that she had hired a new second-in- command for the northeastern command post, a young man she immediately respected and liked. She said with a grin that he won her over by letting her copilot the transport airplane. Laura said it was a great moose of a thing, very cumbersome but it held enough fuel to fly long distances and carry heavy loads of supplies. She told Amanda that he had been flying since the age of ten as was the custom for children born to ranchers. Amanda said that she would not be surprised if Lydia had Spero up in a helicopter before he reached the age of three. Laura was starved and Amanda cooked huge steaks on the terrace. Laura consumed all of hers along with salad and wine. At dinner ' s end, Amanda led Laura to her bed now dressed with as much lace as could be purchased to Laura ' s delight. Pure unadulterated passion drove them for hours. Laura kissed her sleeping lover, returning to her apartment in time to dress for her Mechanics Course and then a day of teaching. The next weekdays followed routines. Laura went to visit Elgin on the first weekend day. She did love her grandfather but her life was so far from his now. They chatted about her new pilot ' s license. She told him about losing their friends near the cabin and Elgin expressed his sincere sympathy. She asked if he remained happy at the University; he said yes but that the restrictions were becoming tiresome. Laura and her driver dropped Elgin at the University library and then returned to the base, picking up cheeseburgers and fries to be kept warm until dinner with her lover.

Amanda checked with Luther on the fourth weekday of their planned trip back to the coast. They did have snow on the ground with a snow storm coming in. Laura flew Bella northwest in the dark and in a snowstorm, her first experience but one she excelled at. Luther was at the cabin and greeted his friends as he carried in luggage. The cabin was warm and welcoming with a fire blazing, duvets warming, and warm stones ready for the bed. He had not made coffee but there was hot chocolate waiting for them in a thermos bottle. He said he would return in late morning to shovel and plough. Both women were very tired and climbed into a warmed bed just minutes after Luther left, each with a cup of hot chocolate to warm them.

The snow continued to fall overnight and into the morning. The cabin was warm with the heaters and the lovers slept late, not wanting to leave the other. Finally hunger drove Laura to the kitchen and Amanda to the fire and coffee pot. Laura made a huge breakfast that would serve as an early lunch as well. Both women ate, and then shared the morning routine, and Amanda made a second pot of coffee as she knew both Harry and Luther would need warming when they arrived for shoveling and plowing. Laura made muffins to serve with the coffee when the men stopped for a break. She stood at the window and peered to see a faint and very angry ocean through the snow flakes. Harry and Luther did arrive by late morning. Luther checked the generators for the heaters in the greenhouse and changed one to provide continued energy and warmth. Harry shoveled the deck and pathways while Luther ploughed the driveway. They used Harry ' s snow machine to transport wood to the enclosure and then filled the wood box. Both men agreed to a cup of hot coffee and warm muffins before they left. Laura thanked Luther for the hot chocolate left the night before, asking if he made it. He blushed his confirmation. Harry stated that in fact Luther was a very good cook and an excellent baker, a fact that even Amanda did not know about her old friend. Both men left stating that would return in late afternoon to clear snow again.

Amanda had settled into the sofa and her needles as Laura danced in the kitchen, baking for the freezer. Amanda stopped and grabbed the camera. She could not resist watching her beautiful lover as she was lost to another muse. Laura swept by to kiss Amanda and then return to her baking. Luther and Harry returned in late afternoon to clear snow once again. Luther brought another thermos of hot chocolate with the recipe for it. All the necessary ingredients were in the cabin as he often made it when he was working in the workshop. The friends left stating that the snow seemed to be letting up and perhaps would blow itself out by morning. They planned to return again in late morning to clear snow again.

After dinner and quick night routines, Amanda ran a hot soaking bath for them and lit many pillar candles. Laura loved bubble baths, another childhood experience not found until later in her life. As she lay soaking in scented bubbles being touched and caressed by her lover in a softly lit bathroom, she told her mind to remember this as for perhaps the rest of her life upcoming she would be lucky to shower every few days. When the water cooled and skin started to wrinkle, both women climbed into warmed robes and then to a warmed bed. The night was cloaked in the stillness of a snowstorm with its only interruption of soft cries of love offered down to the ancients and up to the multiverse.

By morning, the snow stopped finally. The sun still refused to make an appearance but Laura could at least see the ocean clearly now. The women made coffee with breakfast and finished morning routines before Harry and Luther arrived to one more snow clearing.

Peace found the lovers in the next two days at their home. They returned to the base on the first weekday and back to the routines of their lives. Amanda received an invitation to a soiree held at her parents ' home to celebrate Wintersday at the University with a return note that she would not attend. Elgin emailed Laura to inquire if she would attend the Bennett ' s ' party, she replied that they would not. Laura continued her classes for her Mechanics course and continued to teach her cadets. She planned a Search and Rescue mission as part of an examination for senior cadets with the Colonel on board as one of the examiners. She did like to work with Amanda. She smiled and thought that perhaps in another lifetime they had worked together rather than just loving each to distraction. Luther confirmed receipt of many shipments which he picked up in Carriere. Lydia and Barbara confirmed that they would arrived the on the second weekend day of the Wintersday break. Amanda and Laura planned to fly home on the fourth weekday before the Wintersday break rather than having to attend a party in the city and then return to the base. Laura asked twice if Amanda was sure she did not want to see her family at Wintersday, Amanda was very clear that she did not. She stated emphatically that she would spend Wintersday with her real family and not just those who had conceived and bore her.

Laura was in contact several times with Ross, Declan, and Sean. Sean reported that Olivia would be happy to be in the employ of the Resistance. He and Ross managed to secure new buildings that could be insulated readily, providing more working space with staff quarters for the northeastern command post. Olivia and Sean did not plan to move to the base permanently until the spring with Sean returning when the weather permitted. Declan and Emme moved west; Declan returned often to the east to organize further the cells of Resistance, lines of communication, and command. Laura told them that she would be away until the last weekend of the first month of the New Year, stating this would likely be the last Wintersday she would spend away from the command post. She asked Amelia to track the activity of The Decision with respect to the universities and elite neighborhoods. Laura ordered new computer equipment for the northeastern command post with transport to her command post when she returned next planned for the first weekend of the second month of the New Year, blizzards permitting.

Chapter 19

The women were finally away from the base for their break on the fourth weekday before the Wintersday break began. Bella had been packed in the morning save for perishables and by midafternoon she was airborne taking them all home. Mary, Jeannie, and Harry met them at the landing pad to help transfer baggage, supplies, and cartons to their vehicle. They made plans to decorate the cabin on the first upcoming weekday which would be three days before Wintersday. Luther was waiting at the cabin when they arrived, helping unload their vehicle. They put away any food necessary and then tucked into their dinner. Luther said goodnight, stating he would see them again in two days ' time. Laura held Amanda for a long time in front of the fire as if to have her arms remember that feeling. She could not deny the ache she felt already knowing that there would be a time when she would rely on that memory alone. The lovers found a warm shower, a warm bed, and extremely warm passion for this night at the cabin. The following two days followed routines and preparations for their friends ' visit. Luther filled the guest room wood box; someone had put lace trimmed linens on the bed. Laura and Amanda both cried when they removed Mrs. Smithers ' quilt from the bed to warm with the duvets on the hearth. Laura said she felt her hand on her shoulder, hearing her words from the ancients to comfort them. Amanda smiled, stating that whoever slept beneath that quilt would always be kept warm with love from its maker. Anna and Versarie had new lace, satin, and robes for the holiday celebration. They were allowed to stay on the pillows until the humans needed to move them. Laura placed dozens of pillar candles about the guest room and en suite bathroom in preparation of the celebration of their friends ' fifteenth anniversary on Wintersday. Luther returned on the first weekend day to charge batteries from the solar panels and to check the heaters in the greenhouse. He did ask if his employers could make the last minute shopping trip to Carriere on Wintersday Eve as he had made previous plans for that day, Amanda said they would be happy to do so. Laura always looked forward to forays to the grocery store.

Lydia and Barbara arrived before lunch on the second weekend day. Luther and Barbara tried to be protective of Lydia walking on the snow but she had none of it. She had recovered well, fully capable of motion on her own. Amanda smiled as she shook her head, knowing her friend was fine and was back. All friends hugged, kissed hellos and welcome. Luther stored baggage in the guest room and cartons in the pantry. The women brought a huge quantity of ranch grown beef for the freezers of all their friends, then stated they would stay for celebrations for the next fifteen days, much to everyone ' s delight. Luther banked fires and filled wood boxes, stating he would return the following morning with Harry, Jeannie, and Mary to transform the cabin once again. After lunch, Laura and Barbara made their way to their own dances in the kitchen in preparation for dinner and then lunch to offer their friends for the morrow. Amanda sat with her friend Lydia on the sofa, arms about the other ' s shoulders, both silently giving down thanks for Lydia ' s survival and recovery. Lydia wanted to know about when the ruckus raising would occur with a decision on the upcoming first weekend evening. Barbara and Laura remained lost in conversation about aircraft engines for hours. Laura told her about copiloting a transport airplane, a great behemoth of a thing in comparison to helicopters but almost necessary for life in the rural plains. Barbara then explained the basic engineering and mechanical differences, explaining that once one compensated for those flying the big beasts was no more difficult than a Raptor. Once everyone was seated in front of the fire with mulled cider on the hearth, Laura told them of her trip to the northeastern command post with hiring Sean and Olivia. Lydia smiled, telling her that she had kicked sufficient ass at the command post with the youths and suspected that they had still not spoken to each other about that to this day. When Laura started to question Lydia , she was told that Lydia was sent her to keep a very reign on Lohrissa or at least an attempt. With her best lascivious grin, Lydia stated that fortunately that was not much of a hardship. Indeed their friend had recovered and was back.

Everyone retired early that evening in anticipation of an early and busy following day. Amanda and Laura rose early, prepared breakfast, and finished morning routines before Lydia and Barbara joined them, beautiful with lovelights glowing. Barbara mulled another pot of cider as Amanda made a second pot of coffee just in time to hear vehicle horns honking heralding the arrival of their friends. Spruce trees, large and small, and boughs were brought into the cabin along with cartons of decorations. Over the next hours with a break for lunch at Laura ' s insistence, the cabin was transformed to Wintersday magic. The child in Laura emerged with delight as she danced from room to room to see the transformation as it took place. Luther and Harry brought refilled wood boxes just before they departed for the day after hugs from all the women remaining at the cabin. The friends dined and then sat before the fire with glasses of wine before both the Colonel and the Captain needed taming with the couples wishing each other goodnight.

The next day was one of lazy morning routines. Laura and Barbara danced in the kitchen with preparations for the Wintersday ' s feast. Amanda busied herself with her camera lens and Lydia with her needles. It was decided that Lydia and Barbara would not accompany their friends the following day to Carriere as neither had any great love of grocery shopping, especially the day prior to Wintersday. Barbara mentioned that they could probably find amusement for themselves while their friends were gone. The following day, Amanda and Laura flew Bella to Carriere for Laura ' s adventure with the shoppers. She giggled to Amanda that if it got too crowded she would just invite Lohrissa for a few minutes which most likely would resolve the situation fairly quickly. Laura also visited a florist for red roses for her friends to celebrate their anniversary and yellow roses because she was madly in love with her sweet woman. When the returned back to the landing pad, they stopped to visit with Harry, Jeannie, and Mary, to wish them Wintersday ' s blessings and to give them gifts. They left Luther ' s gift with Mary as he was absent when they landed. They loaded all their supplies in their vehicle and returned to their home. Barbara helped carry in all the supplies, hurrying ahead of both women to enter the cabin. Amanda and Laura entered the doorway as their friends arrived. Luther was standing in the kitchen, grinning. Amanda turned slightly, gasped, as she took Laura ' s hand. Luther and their friends had carried in and set up a new intricately hand carved oak bed, new mattress, covered with more linen and lace than either woman had seen in one place at one time. A myriad of new pillows rested against the headboard. The carvings were of roses, irises, ravens, and labryses. Both women touched the carvings and delicate lace with tears streaming down their cheeks, which caused even Harry to cry. On one of two new matching night tables, Teddy and Primrose sat bear arms around each other and holding a card that read With Love to My Priestesses. Luther . By this time, both women were sobbing, struggling to find composure before they walked to and hugged their dear friend, still not able to find voices but with no need. Laura bore a slight shimmering aura as she took Luther ' s hands and in the voice of the high priestess gave down thanks for the love and protection of her old and dear friend. Harry and Mary could not see the aura but heard the voice of music and instantly understood that this was a sacred moment. Lohrissa did not stay among the earthlings but long enough for her blessings to be given. Amanda glowed now with more love than she had ever shown; even Lydia and Barbara were taken aback slightly as they understood the magic among them. Barbara then passed around flutes of champagne and wished all Wintersday ' s blessings. Their friends hugged goodbyes after champagne. Lydia and Barbara put away the supplies as Amanda and Laura returned to look at their new bed. When Laura wondered out loud where Luther could have found the beautiful linens, Barbara cleared her throat slightly and confessed that she had passed along Karina ' s name. With all the excitement, Laura had forgotten the bouquets but Lydia had already put both in vases and one was in the guest room waiting for her and her sweet women. The other yellow roses were in an elegant vase that Lydia placed on one of the new bedside tables. There were dozens and dozens of wrapped gifts under the tree, much good food, good wine, the overwhelming love of women in the cabin and the magic of Wintersday as the ancients prepared to celebrate the birth of the life-sustaining sun for one more cycle of their beloved earth. The afternoon air had become colder before twilight shone galaxies though clear air. The women dined and enjoyed the peace as Mother Moon rose to bless all her earthlings. Lydia and Barbara became more and most lost in each other, then quietly said goodnight to their friends after shared night routines. Amanda met Laura at the window as she gazed to the multiverse. The fire had been banked with candles lit in the bathroom and bedside. Amanda turned off tree and mantle lights, then led her lover to the shower, overwhelmed by love and tenderness for her priestess. Soft music and gentle laughter from the guest room were soon softened to murmurs followed by cries of love offered to the ancients and the multiverse. Laura whispered of that most beautiful music. New duvets warmed their new bed as Amanda invited Laura to make her own beautiful music. Laura brought her lover to Lohrissa who had once loved Amanda with urgency and the hunger of eons, now loving her with the greatest tenderness with gentle journeys to her pinnacles, over and again, yet and again. Amanda wept with joy she had not known until this early Wintersday morning as Lohrissa gave thanks to the ancients for the birth of life yet again. Amanda could not see but she bore her own aura, shining silver in the firelight in the mountainside cabin. Laura took Amanda in her arms, telling her of her new aura and how breathtakingly beautiful she was. Laura extinguished candles and the priestesses fell asleep in each other ' s arms in their new bed.

Amanda woke just as dawn crested the dark eastern sky, resting in the arms of her lover. She watched this beautiful woman sleep finally understanding that even though there was a great ache coming she had been loved more than any earthling or priestess had known; she would have that in her soul beyond any obstacles the Evil Ones could attempt. And with final victory she would return to her beloved Lohrissa for an eternal spiral of the helix. Laura did not open her eyes but smiled, seducing Amanda to find passion at this Wintersday dawn. Both women woke to full sunlight streaming in and warming frost on the windows. Laura rose, dressed, and prepared the breakfast buffet. Amanda banked the fire, turned up the heat, dressed two naked bears on the hearth having kissed them both and placed them rocking together. She made a pot of coffee and then went to the window to hold her priestess as they watched the ravens circling in the cold morning air. Laura thought in years to come when she would almost lose track of months she hoped that her ancients would circle ravens to remind her at least of Wintersday morning. Both women returned to the sofa and wished each other Wintersday blessings with Laura giggling that she was certain that had already occurred the previous evening and earlier morning. There was silence in the cabin except for soft cries of joy from the guest room and the crackling of a blazing fire. Laura and Amanda moved to the rocker when they heard the guest room door open. They rose to hug and kiss Wintersday blessings to their friends and then to wish each other happy anniversary. Both women now wore platinum rings with continuous circles of diamonds and sapphires. She and Barbara both spoke of the anniversary gifts of Laura and Amanda, those faint white and silver auras remaining. Amanda looked at Lydia with misted eyes; Lydia quietly replied that she knew as blessed them both. The previous night of wild abandon had left everyone famished; breakfast was offered and consumed along with champagne.

Gifts found their rightful owners. Laura received a filled portable tool box from Amanda, tools all suggested by Barbara and the basics needed for any aircraft repair, maintenance, and as Barbara quipped Also to hot wire a tank if needed." Lydia gave Laura a small framed photograph, small enough to carry in the pocket of her fatigues, one of Laura holding Spero taken at their last visit to the ranch. Laura smiled through tears as she had given both Barbara and Lydia photographs of her with the Stetson learning over the bar at the last year ' s ruckus, again small enough to carry in pockets or kit bags. There were the usual extravagances of clothing, jewelry, and perfume. Karina had outdone herself as usual. Teddy, Primrose, Anna, and Versarie all now had their own Stetsons for those times when the humans were not present. Teddy and Primrose gave Laura many cookbooks as they loved to watch her dance in the kitchen. Luther and Mary had given the cabin a collection of their favorite recipes, noting that even Amanda could make them. Laura gave Amanda an old photograph, one that Jeannie had found in her collection, one of Mr. and Mrs. Smithers standing in front of their store, framed in silver. Amanda ' s eyes filled again as Laura kissed her which allowed her faint silver aura to shine more brightly for seconds. A new sun shone brightly as all ancients gave down thanks for the renewal of life as well as the blessings of their most beloved high priestess and her mate. There were gales of laughter as Barbara and Lydia opened a combined gift from Anna and Versarie, playing cards made with photographs of their humans in a bubble bath, slightly distracted, taken and produced with the assistance of their friend Amanda.

Wintersday magic continued to beyond a feast at an elegant table and wine before the fire. After nightfall, the women dressed to stand on the deck to gaze at the galaxies with the shadows on the snow produced by Mother Moon; blessings from the ancients held all women as they found sleep in the cabin.

The following day the women walked along the snowy mountain road and marveled at the artwork of Mother among the sleeping firs. Amanda and Laura took many photographs; Laura stopped often as if to get heartfulls of the majesty to sustain her in the months and years to come. On return to a warm cabin, Barbara and Laura got lost looking at new tools with explanations and stories. By midafternoon, Lydia stated she was certain the Colonel needed taming and that they would certain leave Laura to it as she and Barbara giggled their way down the hallway to the guest room. What the Colonel really needed was a cuddle and a nap with her priestess in front of the fire. She fell asleep with her head in Laura ' s lap and both women shared dreams in the late afternoon sunlight. They woke to the sounds of Lydia and Barbara setting out dinner on the island and watched their own dance of love in the kitchen. Night and Mother blessed the cabin as night enrobed those within.

Luther arrived in the following late morning to change batteries and accepted help to bring in wood to the enclosure. Lydia protested when she was commanded to stay in out of the cold and help to pile wood inside. Luther accepted a lunch invitation of homemade soup and coffee. Laura showed him all hew new tools; soon she, Barbara, and Luther were once again deep in conversation. Amanda smiled, shook her head, took photographs, as Lydia reiterated it was impossible to complete with aircraft engines and mechanics. Laura promised to share books and diagrams with Luther at their next visit home. Amanda reminded Luther that they would fly to Carriere the following late afternoon for dinner and general hell raising at the bar, just in case he might want to see the child before they left and, of course, generate power from wind towers while they were gone. He grinned, stating he would be certain to ready Bella.

Amanda ran a bubble bath for her guests after dinner, and then returned to the sofa and Laura before the fire. Laura found the jazz that Amanda had played on their first night at the cabin and asked her lover to dance in the light of Mother Moon. The room was only alight with fire and moon; the priestesses were only alight with each other. Barbara and Lydia stood to watch and wonder at the great love before their eyes.

Everyone slept late in the morning with Lydia was rattling dishes and coffee pot when Amanda and Laura kissed morning into each other. Laura questioned Amanda if she thought Laura would need to shut the woman up again. Amanda laughed out loud, suggesting that maybe Laura could just wait until they were departing for the bar later on that day. A very lazy morning, brunch, and afternoon followed. Laura laid last claim to the shower and bathroom to prepare for their evening out. Amanda almost paced as she anticipated seeing her lover emerge from the bathroom, emerge she did. She had tied her curls loosely at her crown with the diamond and obsidian clip to still allow the cascade down her back. She glowed with the come-hither make up and stepped forth in six inch heels and a calf length stretch lace scooped neck and backless sheath, solid lace strategically placed over only lovely priestess skin. Her jewelry was simple ear diamond ear studs, a diamond ankle bracelet, and her labrys. She strode to Lydia , grabbed her by the shoulders, kissed her long and hard full on the mouth, and then with no innocence in her smile told that was shut up from earlier this morning. Lydia ' s knees almost buckled to which Barbara laughed and applauded. Amanda had managed to snap a photograph, then grabbed her lover, moving solid lace ever so slightly with a low growl. Luther arrived, stared, laughed out loud, and shook his head. He said they should maybe put the military police on standby as there might just be a brawl at the bar that night. Laura grabbed boots to get to Bella, her black bomber jacket and beckoned her sisters to join her. Amanda would remark later that Laura was the only pilot she had ever known who could climb in and out of a helicopter in six inch heels, a skin tight see-through lace dress, and make it look professional. The ground crew at Carriere almost forgot to salute their Captain as Laura walked to the waiting vehicle casting back demure smiles at them. Jeannie made a table reservation at Amanda ' s request. Lydia and Barbara entered the bar first and then were followed by Amanda holding Laura ' s hand; once inside she helped to remove her lover ' s black leather jacket. Sally ' s knees almost buckled. Laura smiled wickedly and after saying hello stated to Sally that she hoped this had not disappointed. Sally was speechless. Amanda continued to hold Laura ' s hand as they moved to their usual table at the back. After dinner and with a full bar by 2100 hours, women began to dance; Laura broke with tradition, took the lace with the six inch heels to Sally behind the bar and asked her to dance. Amanda clapped and clapped. Almost no-one had seen Sally dance as it had been years since she had been widowed. Many were surprised that she could and did dance extremely well, led elegantly by Laura. At the end of the dance and after a brief kiss on the lips, both women were applauded. Laura returned to a standing ovation at her own table with a loving hug and kiss from Amanda. Barbara and Lydia had taken to the floor themselves and Laura led Amanda there as well. The strategically placed lace got moved as the lovers danced, lost in time with themselves. The mischief seen in Laura ' s eyes previously had been placed with magic. Women in the bar could not take their eyes off them; none had seen love like this on earth. Some earth time later, Barbara gently nudged them, handed both jackets, stating it was time to go home. On their way out, Laura walked behind the bar and kissed Sally again wishing her New Year ' s blessings. The women flew home and were in the cabin early before midnight. Luther left a fire banked and batteries had been charged. Barbara and Lydia unplugged tree and mantle lights, lit pillar candles, placed warmed duvets on the new bed, whispered goodnight and closed the door to the guest room. Lohrissa and her mate danced in the moonlight, feet no longer touching the floor, arms and bodies intertwined, spiraling. Amanda was clothed and then naked, as was Laura ' s body. Amanda questioned in a whisper if Laura knew, she replied confirmation with a radiant smile. Nothing in earthly knowledge could have ever prepared Amanda for the lessons she was learning. Both earth bodies found the warmed bed, cries of joy offered up to the multiverse with adoration by the ancients. From the guest room, two women cried with them, overwhelmed, giving down thanks. Amanda rose before dawn to bring cool water for her lover and more warmed stones to the sheets. Before submitting to sleep, Laura asked if Amanda had been disappointed by the decided lack of mischief at the bar, Amanda teasingly replied that indeed she had been. Lydia and Barbara made breakfast in mid-morning after finding Laura fast sleep in Amanda ' s arms. Barbara warmed robes for them and covered them well with the duvets before she joined her lover in front of the fire. A gentle snow was falling as if Mother and the ancients were sending peaceful blessings after the night journeys. When she heard stirring, Barbara took warmed robes to her friends as Lydia brought a tray of coffee and muffins. Barbara grabbed Anna, Versarie, Teddy, and Primose; everyone climbed onto the new bed. Laura sat full up leaning against the headboard and Amanda crawled into her shoulder and robed breast. With a fake pout, Laura said that Amanda stated she was disappointed by the lack of mischief at the bar. Barbara wholeheartedly agreed just before she got a kiss full on the mouth by Lydia who was not disappointed. By noon, everyone was out of bed, showered, dressed, and very late morning routines complete. A card tournament was started using the new gifted playing cards as well as others from previous year. Jeannie arrived in midafternoon with Dungeness crabs and to inquire about the ruckus. Amanda quipped she was very disappointed as a very faint silver aura shone about her. Jeannie ' s eyes widened but only momentarily as she kissed her friend. Amanda showed her the photographs. Amanda and Laura wanted to make sure that their friends would attend their annual New Year ' s feast. Lydia and Barbara needed to leave for the Carriere base the day following and they hoped to have all together to celebrate. Laura promised to wear her new black lace dress but she would put satin and lace beneath to save Harry ' s cardiac stability. Amanda wanted photographs for the cabin ' s photograph diaries. Jeannie confirmed that she and Harry would be happy to join them. Amanda said she would remind Luther when he joined them next.

The snow continued for the next two days. Laura was no longer frightened by the majesty of Mother. Luther and Harry, shoveled, ploughed, and brought in wood with Barbara and Amanda ' s help. By mid-week, the newly born sun was permitted to take his rightful place in the sky with diamond shards sparkling in the air. The card tournament continued as did Lydia ' s and Amanda ' s musing with the needles. Barbara and Laura prepared food for the New Year ' s feast.

The friends chose quiet days leading up to the New Year ' s feast and the following day with their friends from the coast. Everyone slept late and napped so as to greet the New Year at midnight with champagne. Laura and Amanda loved the New Year, their fourth together, into each until just before dawn. As promised, Laura did wear the back lace and six inch heels but this time with satin beneath, mostly for Harry ' s sake. The friends all enjoyed good food and great company, including the ubiquitous flamed cherries for the feast to celebrate the new year.

Before noon on the first weekday all friends kissed and hugged their goodbyes with the promise to meet again at the ranch in the third month of the New Year. Jeannie, Harry, Mary, and Luther returned with their friends to pack away the Wintersday magic again for another year. By dinner, the cabin was transformed and quiet again.

Laura and Amanda spent many hours, night and day, in their new bed over the next two weeks, as if not able to satiate their need to be as one. Passion did not always drive them as often times it was just to be in each other ' s arms, soft voices, and caresses. Both women took photographs of each other for those two weeks, again in an attempt to hold memories forever. On the first weekend day of the last week of Wintersday break, Bella flew her humans back to the base and their lives there.

Weekdays and weekend days followed routines. Laura completed her final examination for the Advanced Mechanics Course and was successful once again. On the first weekend day of the second month of the New Year, that celebrating Candlemas, Laura returned to the command post to meet with her colleagues and to deliver computer equipment for Sean. The quarters at the northeastern command post had been renovated and improved. Sean and Olivia as well as more staff moved there permanently. Women from Sanctuary had been trained and volunteered to return to work in both command posts. More women were being rescued, taken north for recovery and peace. Declan reported that Lou was recovering as well along with a close friend there named Nikita, a woman known to Thea. Amelia, Sterling , Drew, and Annique had reported rumored plans for The Decision to occupy more elite neighborhoods for housing, for prestige for senior officers and members of the lower echelons of the ruler ' s organization. There had already been some occupation of some businesses with theft of both money and possessions. The Decision was steadily escalating oppression which drove the Resistance to every greater organization, planning, and determination of victory. Laura planned return for another meeting at the end of the third month of the New Year unless needed sooner. She told Ross to ready quarters for her at the northwestern command post, as within the next year she knew she would be living there permanently. She told him she would start moving clothing and personal items at her next visit. On her flight back to the base, she fought back tears as the time was approaching quickly when she would leave her beloved Amanda.

Karina had found the costume that Laura had requested; it had been shipped to the base. Laura had known Karina for many years and after seeing her labrys in her shop that day finally asked if there was a special woman in her life. Karina replied that she had loved and lived with Susan for over ten years, secretly of course as in the neighborhood they would have been spurned or even punished. Laura became acutely aware that her life with Amanda was protected only because of Amanda ' s position and their discretion.

Laura and Amanda spent many nights together now as there was urgency that both of them understood. The flew to their home again in the middle of the second month of the new year, only two weeks after they had departed. This was their sanctuary, even more now as the world around them because less settled as the Evil Ones tried to exert more pressure to destroy Mother and her children. Both women feared more for their old neighborhood, although Amanda was forsaken her family she did not wish them harm. So far, The Decision had left the University and its staff alone with no rumors to alter that in the immediate future. Elgin had taken all his financial records to his home, understanding that ultimately that would likely make a great difference. He did send much of his wealth to Laura, asking that if possible she give some to her mother. She took those certificates to the command post when she returned next and asked Sean to take them to her mother in the north. The northern coast of the Northwestern City had been ignored by The Decision; its inhabitants hoped to keep life that way. There was nothing glamorous here and life meant hard work, something not very attractive to those who had never known it and expected their wealth to come from the work of others and not themselves. The population had been counted and vaccinated but then ignored. Laura and Amanda gave down thanks to the ancients as it would seem that their friends there were relatively safe. Laura told Amanda about her conversation with Karina, stating that she would be eternally grateful for the lives they had been able to live together without persecution. Amanda ranted about the politics of exclusion, telling her that many gay people had been incarcerated and killed over the years since The Decision and their fanatic religious doctrines had taken power. Their lives, the lives of Barbara and Lydia , and indeed the lives of many of the women they had seen over the years at the bar were more the exception than the rule. In the more densely populated areas of both cities, gay people lived in fear and in secret. Laura quietly stated that it would need to change and change it would.

When the women returned to the base, there was an email from Karina stating that she was sending as many items as she could from her shop to Laura and Amanda, her gifts for their loyalty. She would not allow The Decision to take what did not belong any of them and was not earned. She did not know when but she did know that that looting was inevitable. Cartons of clothing and jewelry arrived at the base as well as at Carriere for Lydia and Barbara. She wanted her sisters to remember her work and her friendship. Laura sorted and repacked items to take to the command post at the end of the third month of the New Year. Amanda did not question but knew it was happening.

Both Amanda and Laura were excited to join their friends at the ranch for Spero ' s first birth anniversary celebration and the celebration of Ostermonat. As Amanda had predicted, Lydia had taken Spero and his grandfather for his first flight in a helicopter. He would be taught to fly early in his life as most of the ranch hands. He was toddling about now and as soon as he saw Laura once again he stumbled to hurry to her to be picked up. Amanda took many more photographs. There was a planned celebration at the ranch this weekend of many of their friends from the base and Carriere if the weather permitted. Both Barbara and Lydia noticed the drawing back in Laura; both knew the time for her to leave was approaching quickly. Laura and Amanda talked of the activity of The Decision in their old elite neighborhood. Both women knew as Karina had sent cartons of gifts to Barbara and Lydia as well. All four women chose to keep most of the clothing to help women survivors who needed it much more than they did. Amanda surprised Laura by telling her that she had arranged to have Charlie take command at the base for the last week of the fourth month and the first week of the fifth month of the New Year so that they could go home to celebrate their birth anniversaries there. Both women feared in their hearts that it would their last celebration together. Lydia told them that General Downs had moved his parents, his wife, and children to newly built elegant homes very near the Combined Command Base so as to avoid any unpleasantness in the their existing elite neighborhood. Laura bristled slightly but made mental note of the changes. Soon, General Downs would go down well and permanently.

The weather did cooperate and many old friends gathered at the ranch for dinner and dancing to celebrate Ostermonat. Jackson pretended to complain about having all these woman running about but he was secretly happy to see his friends happy and safe. Laura only danced with Amanda for the entire celebration and none gathered objected. Lydia and Laura walked together the following day, out to the plain. Laura told her she would go soon, that the ancients were readying her. Laura said that Amanda knew as well but they had not talked about it openly; Laura would not. Lydia reassured her again that she, Barbara, and their friends at the coast would take care of Amanda and their home there. Lydia reminded her that the earthlings had to battle, to ultimately understand the darkness that innocents could not see. Both women knew that battles with the Evil Ones had been fought many times since the beginning; they could decide the outcome easily among themselves but that earthlings would not learn the values they needed for survival of their race, of the majesty and power of Mother. There would be no other option save for victory, the ancients and their high priestess had chosen Laura to lead them. Amanda watched from a distance as she saw Lydia hug her lover and then bow on one knee at her feet.

On their return flight to the base, Laura told Amanda she would be at the command post for the next first weekend day and then two weeks following that. The ache was now in both women continuously, each day teaching them how to carry that and live their lives. Laura loaded Amo Te with new computer equipment, cartons of clothing, and certificates for the command post and for her mother Thea. She landed at the command post by mid-morning. Sean arrived before noon and agreed to take the certificates to transport further. They talked of a special operation that both Ross and Sean would assist with which Laura directed to be ready at relatively short notice. Sean had traded the transport airplane for a helicopter that could be used for moderate loads to transport. All aircraft used by the Resistance now had fake identifications, researched and supplied by Drew and good enough that the Military would not question their passage to secure areas. The leaders talked extensively about The Decision ' s escalated theft of the elite neighborhoods. Declan stated that very few people in those areas were supportive of the Resistance, as such help would be harder to deliver and survivors harder to rescue until definite destruction had occurred. More wind towers were being erected at the northwestern command post, Sean had taken a contingent of ranchers to the northeastern command post; in short order they had erected wind towers and solar panels there along with teaching staff there how to erect more when necessary. Ross had qualified to become a pilot instructor; Sean would finish his qualifications before the end of the month. Declan was scheduled to test soon for a pilot ' s license, still not eager but understood the necessity of doing so. Ross showed Laura what would be her living quarters, walled off from a part of the large office they used now, including a rudimentary bathroom facilities and shower. A transport load of Military issue storage lockers and trunks had been expropriated, shared among all outposts that were in need of such. The rural farmers and ranchers received fully subsided fuel from The Decision and would until the subsidies stopped. Declan and Drew had taken courses many years earlier in Civil Disobedience and Drew was now teaching other Resistance fighters the fine art of using explosives and building bombs. Laura stored her personal items she had brought this trip and returned to the base by late afternoon. She stated with would return the following weekend. Laura showered quickly, the spent the night with her beloved Amanda. The lovers would not sleep apart in their futures together.

Weekdays followed the usual routines and Laura packed more personal items to return to the command post. She arrived back there in mid-morning on the following first weekend day. Sean transported two women from Sanctuary who would teach skydiving to Resistance fighters. Neither woman was older than Laura but this battle would be fought by all earthlings of all ages. She welcomed and thanked them. Sean said that he would teach fighters to jump at his command post who could then teach others. Laura insured that both Ross and Sean knew how to hot wire ignitions. Both did, Declan laughed as he told her that those did not know would be taught by the best he knew, that of his brother Drew. Declan reported that The Decision had taken over universities in the Northeastern City telling the populations that there was great insurrection being fostered there that needed to be stopped for their safety. The Military had set up a permanent encampment in all the eastern schools. Amelia, Sterling , Drew, and Annique had archived all the information previously; the drives were on their way by underground to Sanctuary in the north. They were in the process of archiving data from the Northwestern City schools, that data would go north as well. Laura told her colleagues to be prepared to battle in the near future. She would not return to the command post until after the second week of the fifth month of the new year but knew she would live among them very soon indeed. Ross and Declan were on standby for the special operation being planned. Laura returned to base again by late afternoon and after a quick shower she also returned to the arms of her lover.

Laura and Amanda waited one more weekend before they returned home for a two week break. Weekday and weekend routines followed. Data bases were breached and the encoded information sent on now to Amelia, Sterling , Drew, and Frida. Drew was able to copy the rights to access that Laura used and they would then be able to breach on a continued basis. On the fourth weekday evening of the following week, Bella was flying her lovers home.

Chapter 20

For the following two weeks, Amanda and Laura rarely left each other ' s arms, both certain at some point in their souls that their time here together was short. There was no need to speak verbally about the future; it had been decided before either priestess walked among the earthlings one more time. The ancients indulged them both and allowed Lohrissa to emerge often with Amanda in their home as once the battle started Lohrissa would need to stay among her ancients to use her strength for direction and strength for her beloved earthlings. The only gifts that the lovers exchanged for their birth anniversaries were themselves. Bella took her humans back to the base on the second weekend day of their last week at home. Jeannie and Luther fought tears as both knew of the upcoming battle and the consequences it would bring.

On return to the base, Charlie briefed Amanda and Laura on the escalation of the elite neighborhood take over by The Decision. Troops were being moved to the University and students were told to return to their homes permanently. General Downs had personally supervised this take-over and assured the population that the staff would not harmed and would be allowed to live in peace at their homes. Laura hurried home to read emails, one from Elgin reassuring her that he was safe at home, out of harm ' s way for now. The following morning early, Laura received her last email from Karina, giving her blessings and love. The troops had taken over her business now. Her home with Susan had been invaded when both were there. Karina had been forced to watch a repeated rape of her lover until she died. General Anthony Downs had arrived to speak with Karina, one who he had wanted for many years. He dismissed his troops, then raped and beat her several times. She had been injured and was not sure she would live but she wanted Laura and her friends to know that she loved them and that she would see them on the helix. Laura notified Ross and Sean that the special operation would take place that night and to be prepared for her arrival by early afternoon. Laura sent photographs and an email. She then took her computer, her last remaining personal items that she needed, and her bears Amo and Te. She ordered that her helicopter be ready for flight by 1200 hours, and as the ancients finished wrapping her heart in silver chains Commander Laura Ravencouer left the tarmac at Air Command Base 12 for the last time.

Amo Te arrived at the command post in early afternoon. Laura stowed her gear and connected her personal computer via satellite. She received an urgent reply to her email and responded. Declan was in the east but knew that the Commander was now at the northwestern command post and would remain there. Sean arrived and necessary supplies were loaded aboard Amo Te. At 1700 hours, Amo Te was airborne with Laura, Sean, and Ross on board and headed to Central Command Base. They landed safely without question as had been directed. Laura stepped to the tarmac wearing a mask across her eyes, stilettos and an ankle length cape covering a very revealing dominatrix costume. Sean and Ross remained on board Amo Te until Lohrissa had rendered guards surrounding the building unconscious for an extended time. Sean then took his supplies and equipment to his appointed duties and Ross flew Amo Te back to the command post. Laura knocked on the door which was answered by General Anthony Downs. She smiled seductively as he removed her cape. He had poured glasses of wine and when he went to turn down lights and lock his door, Laura drugged Tony ' s drink. She set her large tote bag with her cape and took the General by the hand and led him to an attached bedroom, one he used for all his sexual conquests. She had taken leather ties from her bag and after undressing him she tied his arms and legs to bedposts. Laura then took several explicit photographs of the General in much compromised poses with his domineering partner. She then gagged and blindfolded her drunken captive and Lohrissa emerged to break his knees. She singed every hair from his head, then removed the blindfold. Laura had changed to her flight suit and as a wounded general looked at her she said that her visit was for all those he had hurt, for all those his greed would hurt, and as Lohrissa emerged to full aura she said her final act was for the rapes of Karina and her beloved Amanda. Lohrissa then stretched out her arm and with white flames she burned, scarred and emasculated Tony Downs. She took more photographs, strode to the computer in his outer office, breached it easily, uploaded the photographs, and sent them to General Downs ' wife, all the members of the inner circle of The Decision, the media, and to all base commanders with a simple caption that read well and permanently .

Laura met Sean on the tarmac outside the building and they hurried to the compound holding the Raptor helicopters. Both readily hot-wired ignitions and just before takeoff Laura sent a message via the on board computer to Lydia that read Go to her." As they prepared to for takeoff, Sean removed a remote detonating device accompanied seconds later by a loud explosion. Anthony Downs ' s home was incinerated. Both Raptor crafts flew on to the command post.

Lydia had seen what had transpired long before she received the emails from Laura. She called Charlie Smithson, telling him to go to Amanda, stay with her, and not leave her until help arrived. She phoned Barbara, telling told her take the larger helicopter at the ranch to Amanda ' s base, pack as many of her effects as she could, and to bring Amanda to the coast. Lydia phoned Luther. He and Jeannie were airborne within in minutes to fly to the base to pack as many of the Amanda ' s effects that Barbara would have to leave behind and to return with Bella.

Charlie found Amanda sitting at her computer in her office, not in uniform. She told him that the command was his now if he had the stomach for it. She was done, she could never return to this life. She could never support one more heartless, mindless action at the expense of anyone. She showed Charlie the images of General Downs that had been sent from his office computer, both knew by whom. Barbara arrived within the hour; she and Charlie took Amanda to her apartment and helped her pack her personal things. Barbara told Amanda she was taking her to the coast, to Lydia , to her friends. No-one spoke of Laura. Charlie hugged his dear friend as she boarded Barbara ' s helicopter and left Air Command Base 12. Luther and Jeannie arrived, met by Charlie Smithson. He helped them remove remaining personal items and Jeannie took every painting. Seeing them would hurt but would also comfort. Within an hour, Bella and Huguette were flying northwest to the coast.

By the time Barbara landed at Carriere, the news of the explosions was known. As soon as Amanda saw Lydia , she screamed repeatedly, sobbed until no tears remained, and fell face down to the tarmac. Barbara went to help her and Lydia stopped her, telling her quietly this was Amanda ' s fight. Lydia could not leave the base as there would be chaos for a few hours; she needed to pay lip service to useless directives. Barbara flew Amanda back to the cabin to be met by her friends there. No-one left Amanda alone for the next days. She would not look at or sleep in her bed but slept on the sofa before the fire.

There was only minor generalized chaos as The Decision started damage control over the scandal with General Anthony Downs. He was in hospital and expected to survive although he would never be allowed close to a Military base again. He had not led well; there was no-one readily available to take command. At one time, there might have been women who could have filled the position but with the fanatical religious right in power women would never hold positions of authority, only to be used as workers or as concubines. No-one was effectively making Military decisions but those made in the past had not been much more effective.

Lydia flew to the cabin two days after Amanda had arrived. She met with Barbara, Jeannie, Luther, and Amanda. She commanded attention, accepting nothing less. They would fight back. Their mandate was to help all their beloved earthlings survive and earn a world of peace again. The following day, Bella did fly into the side of a mountain after a salute from her friend. As commander of the Carriere base, Captain Lydia Stenns made the official announcement complete with radar shots and overhead photographs taken of a flaming Bella.

Laura and Sean arrived at the command post long before dawn. Ross had ground crews waiting to repaint the Raptors before they flew again. He congratulated them both on a mission carried out well. Frida received the official government announcements of the fate of General Anthony Downs. Laura sent the actual photographs on to her own computer and showed both Ross and Sean after sleep. The ancients wrapped silver chains around Laura ' s heart as she prepared for the battle of her young life. Ross and Sean both suggested that Laura finally fly to Sanctuary before she had to return to the command post; Laura did believe it was time to finally see her mother again. On the third day, she flew a Raptor, which would become her personal aircraft, to the last outpost and then accompanied the cargo plane north to Sanctuary and to her mother.

While on approach to the landing pad, Laura saw the vast expanse of untouched beautiful Mother. She wondered at how humans had lived here in harmony for centuries, how the remaining group had built shelters and a thriving community in this environment. After the post flight log, Laura strode towards a group of people waiting to greet them. She saw Thea standing just apart from the others; as Laura approached her outstretched arms, both women sobbed. In another time, both women would have indulged in months of reunion but there was a huge battle looming and no-one could afford any unneeded expenditure of energy or confusion by emotion. Sean accompanied Laura, introducing the group to Commander Laura Ravencouer, leader of the unified Resistance. Laura told them that she would stay with them part of her time and train those who could help but that she would be needed in the south at the command posts there. She quietly told all of the inhabitants of Sanctuary that if they chose survival then they also chose to fight as one would not happen without the other. She did not have to tell many of the escalating horrors in the cities behind the walls. As Tom and Thea had planned, this would be a community to heal, strengthen, and grow hope. She then asked to be excused as she wanted to speak with her mother for the first time in seventeen years.

Thea was awed by Laura ' s beauty, intelligence, strength, and magic. She toured Laura though all their buildings with Laura ' s amazement of all that had been accomplished by necessity. Laura was struck by the quiet and peaceful strength of these people, not now encumbered with the stresses of life being ruled by evil. Over pots of tea, Thea told of her journey north with Tom, of building a life among his family who had almost not survived. She spoke of the love of his people and what she had learned from them. Thea told Laura she and Tom had come from the ancients and Tom had returned there. He had a vision and a purpose to build a home for those who would need peace and solace, a Sanctuary. Thea had introduced Meda to Laura as a dear friend and a magic woman. Meda immediately knelt at Laura ' s feet; slowly but assuredly Thea understood. Laura quietly told her mother that she had come from the ancients to help her beloved earthlings as had Thea, Tom, and Noshi. She continued she had spoken to both in their world and they walked with her every day. With a voice filled with reverence, Meda told Thea that Laura was the earth body of Lohrissa, the most high ancient priestess, older than even Noshi and much more powerful. Laura then drew out her labrys to fall on her clothing; it would not hide beneath cloth again.

After a complete tour of all of Sanctuary, meeting as many of her sisters and brothers as was possible, Laura was shown to a small suite which she would call home for the rest of her days when staying at Sanctuary. Before Sean left, she asked him to order or expropriate a computer system for Sanctuary as they would have satellite access and she would need to communicate often when she was here. Sean already brought an upgraded system to Thea once the satellite link had become operational. Laura told Thea that she would return here as often as she could and would assist in moving women north as part of the underground but that she would be needed in the south often. They did discuss the training of skydivers at Sanctuary which would be an integral part of the fight. Thea understood the need but was not resigned to it yet. Laura told her that in a wonderful world, they could continue their idyllic way of life but there was a war about to be fought and if they lost they all died, the Evil Ones would take Mother for eternity. Thea smiled when she realized this was her father ' s child. The following morning, Thea called Laura to her room and to a media story on the computer. She thought perhaps that Laura would be interested as her daughter had mentioned working at Air Command Base 12. The news story told of a fiery helicopter crash into a mountain very near the northern wall of the Northwestern City . There was a solitary pilot and no known survivors. The officials had told of the apparent suicide of former Colonel Amanda Bennett. Laura said no words, took her jacket and strode out to the tundra walking in the northern morning sun. She screamed, raged, and fell prostrate onto the ground. Meda quietly told Thea that Amanda Bennett had been Laura ' s lover for the last four years. Meda also said that was herself a priestess, having been mated with Lohrissa. Thea wept as she watched her broken hearted child scream out her rage and grief, still carrying that pain within her own soul. Meda reassured Thea that when the time came Lohrissa and her mate would meet again for eternity.

Laura eventually returned, telling her mother and new friends that she would return to the command post. Thea asked her to inquire about Lou ' s progress. Laura told Thea that she was working very closely with Lou ' s sons, Declan and Drew. She said that Lou had fought back hard, had been beaten and maimed but was recovering and would survive. Thea said that perhaps when the time was right Laura could bring her friend Lou home to Sanctuary. Laura hugged her mother goodbye with a promise to return as soon as she could. They could now communicate using the satellite link and they could tell each of their progress. Laura returned to the command post by late afternoon.

Declan had returned to the west and the three leaders planned escalated raids on Military encampments. There were enough skydivers trained now to be dropped behind the fences of the camps at night, have the operatives place explosives, then be rescued by helicopters. Destructive explosions would give enough distraction to an already significantly disorganized Military to allow that rescue. Laura planned to fly missions, jump on some and fly helicopters off those bases. Ross, Declan, and Sean were not in favor of their commander being this close to the front lines but knew better than to question her decision. Laura spoke with Ross and Declan about establishing larger hangers and housing at Sanctuary. She said she doubted that she could convince Thea but that they could fly there to meet with her and plan that part of their offense. Declan said that soon there would be no safe health facilities in either city, survivors needing to be taken north quickly for care and healing. Laura needed to meet with Sean, asking that Drew and Annique meet her there. Laura told her mother that she would return to Sanctuary after she met her second-in-command at the northeastern command post.

Laura was very pleased to see all the improvements at the northeastern command post and to meet Olivia in person. Drew and Annique arrived shortly after Laura and introductions were made. Laura said that she was very grateful for all their work, depending on them until after victory. She needed persons to administrate an internal Communications network for the Resistance, their command posts and outposts. They needed a network whereby plans for raids could be communicated out to cells of Resistance fights as help was needed. Drew and Annique lived in the inner Northeastern City which was becoming increasingly unstable and unsafe. She asked them if they would establish a communications network at the northeastern command post and move to live there. She stated with a grin that the creature comforts were not great but the company and employer were awesome. There was money still for wages, their home and food would be included. Both Drew and Annique agreed immediately. Drew would continue to coordinate with Amelia, Sterling , and Frida who did continued work for Intelligence and Espionage. Laura also said that from time to time she would call on his pilot skills, Drew ' s face lit up with that prospect. Laura stayed the night, and then flew to the northernmost outpost for supplies and women to fly north to Sanctuary.

She was sustained by the peace with her mother and her family. Several uncles and cousins remarked about how she was like her father but much prettier which made her laugh out loud. It was here that Laura could go down to her ancients for renewal. She looked many times for the Amanda but she could not be found. Laura thought that perhaps she was now always with Lohrissa. Noshi had told Laura she would need her human strength for the battles, as such Lohrissa would not come to her. It was their task to only teach and assist their brothers and sisters on earth to choose their own survival, the magic could not interfere. Tom did come to Laura, asking her to tell Thea of his continued love and his patient waiting for their reunion on the helix. Noshi had been right when he told her again that the love she had with Amanda would sustain her and it had. Laura informed Thea that she would return next with Ross and Declan as they all had to meet to discuss greater plans for Sanctuary. She told her mother of Tom ' s message which bought smiles and tears to Thea ' s lovely face.

On her return to the northwestern command post, Drew confirmed the initial phase of their Communications network. He was not certain but thought that perhaps there were attempts at breach although he was very sure that it was not from The Decision as they did not have the ability in the past or the computing power. The ancient in Drew did not fear a breach if that was the case; it would be a friend and not an enemy. Laura told Sean that she was going to fly north with Ross and Declan to meet with Thea to start plans for expansion of the Sanctuary outpost. Sean replied to be ready for some argument, that Thea was one strong and decidedly stubborn woman at times. Declan and Ross helped load supplies at the northernmost outpost, greeted more women, all flew north. The four met around the huge dining table. There was no option to the suggestions made and Thea did not argue. The people she and Tom had fought to protect needed a home, health care, sustenance, an education, and strength to take back their lives. Winter winds and snow would arrive in less than three months and there would be no time to start log shelters until the spring. Ross suggested that they could take sleds, horses, and find loggers for the upcoming months. If the logs were harvested and stacked, Sean could take the Raptor to move them to the new sites for construction. After planting and before harvest, workers from the ranches could be taken north to help women at Sanctuary to erect log buildings. If there was one built closer to the areas of wood harvest for the next winter, then workers could live there and harvest more easily. The compound could be expanded in that matter. The first project should be expansion to include facilities for health care. Declan knew a brilliant young physician who was struggling to keep a poorly funded facility running in the Northeastern City . Within months that facility would be reduced to rubble as the Military used the only means it knew to stop the Resistance. Laura wanted large steel buildings moved to be used as aircraft hangers as well as indoor training facilities. Ross said they would be easily expropriated and constructed with help from the ranchers after harvest. Laura made plans to go the inner Northeastern City to meet this Dr. Lindsay Reynolds to start to understand what would be needed to insure at least rudimentary health care for survivors. The vaccinations had helped to reduce illness; injuries and shock were the most significant health issues needing attention. Declan planned to work with Thea on the logistics, ordering, and expropriation of materials for the new changes needed at Sanctuary. Thea asked Laura to try to find Nikita, her friend ' s niece, and bring her to Sanctuary if she could. Laura promised she would if she was at the heath care facility.

Chapter 21

Laura flew to the northeastern command post and Drew flew with her to the inner city health care facility. Laura had forgotten the appearance of abject poverty and destruction. Drew roamed around in the facility until he found Lindsay Reynolds bringing her to meet Laura. As soon as Laura saw her, she knew she was the raven haired beauty in the painting. Lindsay was a tiny woman of obvious Gallic descent. She had black hair and shining dark eyes, beautiful still in wrinkled scrubs and a lab coat. Lindsay was obviously very busy, not amused she had been interrupted to meet some Resistance commander. When she was introduced, she stated that she was surprised that it was that Laura Ravencouer . Laura did not question her comment but detected certain resentment in Lindsay ' s voice. Laura stated that she was here to learn of what basic materials and supplies Lindsay would need when the health care facility was moved north to Sanctuary. Lindsay handed Laura a list as Declan had notified her that it would be requested. Laura then asked of a woman named Nikita, a friend of her mother. She asked that Nikita be released to be taken north to Sanctuary and Thea. Lindsay said she could not release Nikita unless Lou could go as well. The two women had kept each other alive through the worst of their struggles; one would not thrive without the other. Lindsay said she would not take that risk when she had fought so hard to keep them both alive. Laura bristled as she was not accustomed to being told what to do, certainly in light of her role as commander, and said so. Lindsay was walking back to her office as Laura followed her. Lindsay told Laura that she did not care if she was the goddess incarnate; in her health care facility she made the decisions and the decision was to take both women or take neither. Laura shut the door behind her and took this beautiful woman in her arms, kissed her long and hard on the mouth, removed her scrubs, to find passion quickly and urgently. The almost violence surprised even Laura who had never reacted like that, not feeling the need to hold another woman since Amanda had been gone. Lindsay said that she could have anticipated that this would be the manipulative tactic by the great Laura Ravencouer, the one who used a certain Air Command Colonel and then caused her to kill herself. She told Laura there was no fear though, that Lindsay would never kill herself for the likes of her. Lindsay said that The Decision and then the Resistance had taken any joy of life from her and that she would die for no-one. She had fought beyond what was thought possible to keep woman alive, willing them to keep breathing if necessary. With an icy voice, she told Laura that The Decision had taken her beloved Candace with the child she was carrying, their child to raise. She said when those lives were taken, Lindsay found out about tough. She only cared now about those women whose bodies, minds, and souls had been broken. She would go north to Sanctuary where the bombs might not fall and threaten them every night. Then she went to Laura and returned the violent passion. As she was dressing yet again, Laura told her that she would take Lou and Nikita north this day. She needed to know of any care they might need. Lindsay told her that Nikita had cared for Lou for months, knowing her exact needs. Drew returned as both women walked down the corridor to speak to Nikita and Lou and prepare for their departure. He saw the tension between these two women, two ancients, and reminded himself to just stay out of the way. He reminded Laura that they would need to leave soon. Drew introduced his mother to Laura. Lou introduced Nikita to everyone. Lindsay quickly gathered medicines that both women needed and then with tears in her eyes said goodbye to both her patients. Lou told her quit bawling, that they would meet again in a few months in the north. Drew just shook his head. He did love his crusty old mother. At the northeastern command post Laura thanked Drew as her passengers were then moved to a Raptor for a night flight to Sanctuary. Laura asked Drew to notify her mother that two passengers would arrive. The helicopter was met by Thea, Meda, and helpers to transport Lou and Nikita home to Sanctuary. Both women would share a large room with two beds, one large enough to accommodate Lou ' s mobility device. Everyone was tired, Laura said goodnight as she would leave at dawn the following day to return south. She had few further thoughts about her experience with Dr. Reynolds but somewhere in her soul she knew they would find each other again.

The winter months were harsh for everyone. Raids were harder but still took place. Transport home to Sanctuary was very difficult. Declan, Sean, and Ross had found all the medical supplies that Lindsay Reynolds had requested. The steel hangers were erected before the dense snow and cold hit. Ross had found loggers who went north and harvested wood all winter. On one of her few trips to the north, Thea told Laura of a vision that Elgin was now with the ancients. Laura did not doubt that as the reports of violence and destruction in all city neighborhoods were confirming. Soon, The Decision would have no resources, human or otherwise, and then victory would be secured.

The winter solstice shown bright and Laura rose to coffee with the staff at the command post. When she walked back to her quarters, she looked up to see ravens circling above. Ross commented that he had never seen that before in all his years on the plains. Laura smiled and told him that if he stuck with her he should get used to it.

In the early spring, a new building was erected at Sanctuary, attached to Thea ' s home, one that would house more rooms for women and health care. The medical supplies were stored and a massive effort by many pilots moved the remaining survivors from the health care facility to the north. Dr. Lindsay Reynolds was on the last flight out before a final bombing destroyed the facility in the inner city. With the transfer of her patients to safety, Lindsay softened considerably. She loved her new home, loved the peace, loved the tundra, and the vast pristine land. She flew on rescue missions with Sean and with Laura; the former tension between them dissipated and great friendship took its place. Laura made as many trips north as she could, over the next years leading her brothers and sisters in their continued fight for freedom.

The former chief cook at the health care facility, Celeste, continued at Sanctuary. Her husband Roy was the manager of the Resistance overland trucking route. Celeste ' s daughter Tess, a friend of Lou ' s, came north to safety, to work as a botanist and herbalist. She was instrumental in having a huge greenhouse built. She worked with Meda to learn about ancient native medicines and cures.

Thea told of the legacy of the Silver Nova and how it continued to pass to all generations of new children born of the Resistance. Laura had occasional flashbacks of Spero ' s birth as the ancients reassured her he was alive and thriving happily. There was no mention from the ancients, however, any of the priestesses.

 

PART 2 - SILVER CHAINS

 

Chapter 2-1

 

The northern half of the continent had been blessed abundantly by Mother and the multiverse. Even with the initial division into two megacities, the beauty and natural richness was never doubted. Economics had driven larger and very densely populated areas but even those still held vistas. The Great Northeastern City had a slightly longer history of human population or at least those who came from other areas of the globe. The continental native populations had been earth stewards for thousands of years before. As was human nature, original buildings were conserved as if to pay homage to those who had erected them and the histories held within, perhaps some feeble attempt to attest to superior values honed and then lost. With such vast expanses of open land without the damage of human touch, there had not been a concerted effort to preserve those lands as there was no deemed need. There were many more hectares of pristine land and waters than any holding human populations. Resources of wood, minerals, and clean water were thought to be endless. The Great Northeastern City was bordered by a vast river emptying into the eastern ocean. Farther into that eastern ocean was an archipelago of rugged islands, never densely populated, but one that sustained their inhabitants for centuries. Many claimed that these islands had been visited by humans long before the rest of the continent had been discovered. Multitudes of lakes, some very large, occupied vast amounts of the Great Northeastern City . Early settlers gathered on the banks of the great river and the largest lakes that fed it. This city as well as the Great Northwestern City was seen as a salvation of sorts for starving masses elsewhere on the globe. The rulers at the time of settlement, often originally monarchs, took land from the native population and gave it to the settlers without any regard for the aboriginal lives they initially interrupted and eventually almost decimated. Centuries of stewardship and living with Mother and giving down praise to their ancients were negated by a few men who determined that their doctrines and their idolatries were more correct. Ultimately, the arguments were decided by violence and weaponry. Those settlers who received the land only saw a chance to start a new life away from the oppression of hunger, not seeing beyond that to realize that by their actions with lack of thought were driving those who had lived on their land to the very oppression they sought to escape. Empty promises and segregation drove the dwindling native populations to the northern lands to exist with less interference but also with much greater hardship.

Original settlements, often rural, grew to small villages, then towns, and then even larger areas of more dense populations to include fledgling industries and factories. The quality of lives improved from generation to generation as humans learned to take from Mother for their own benefit. In the first one hundred years population by immigrants, both northern cities grew to be seen as very successful in the eyes of the globe. Greed for power and decided avarice led to segments of the global populations to murder each other under the guise of a perceived threat to freedom. As was the case in all the histories of the human race, those skirmishes served to augment economies when they weakened and to lessen any given overcrowding of populations. In those one-hundred years, both cities grew from a few thousand inhabitants to many millions and still Mother had resources to sustain all. There remained segments of Mother ' s land that had not been traversed by human feet; it would be many more decades, if ever, that humans would touch or ruin at the hand they thought as their own.

Both cities grew to house huge populations in relatively small spaces. Fossil fuel dependent combustion engines became a perceived necessity for all humans resulting in global rape of Mother to harvest an ever growing need. Very little thought was given to the byproducts of burning fossil fuel and the air given down by the multiverse and up by Mother became smudged, then filthy. A circle of assault on Mother and the subsequent assault on the viability of all living things was not noticed until it could not be stopped without drastic measures; even then humans who benefitted financially refused to allow any attempt at reversal. Structures made of concrete and glass continued to crowd out open green spaces in both the inner Great Northwestern and Great Northeastern Cities . Those humans who had the financial security were able to escape to the less densely populated areas of both cities for respite but the great population inhabiting both cities were born, lived, and died with the same space without ever really knowing any other reality.

The Great Northwestern City had an entire coast of ocean access as well as a vast interior of mountains and rivers. Small pockets of human settlements arose among the mountains but the greatest expanse was untouched due mostly to very arduous accessibility. Overwhelming greed did lead to huge tracts of dense forests removed due to a clear cutting practice leaving ugly, often suppurating scars to replace Mother ' s once green beauty. The largest number of humans lived in a sector abutting the ocean with mountains on the three other sides. Inside that sector, an elite academic neighborhood bordered a natural harbor and a large expanse of untouched parkland. Before the perfect imbalance of the economy forced abject poverty on most workers in either city, humans retreated to the parkland and to the mountains for leisure, in a time when chosen rulers still believed that their greatest resource was their human resource and as such should be valued.

Rural portions of both cities occupied the greatest percentage of the land. The great plains with thousands of hectares of grasslands provided vast amounts of food for inhabitants in both cities. Huge ranches provided cattle with smaller farms supporting ancillary livestock. Massive dairy farms in both the Northwestern and Northeastern Cities continued to feed hundreds of thousands of people as did huge tracts growing produce. Before the age of complete industrialization, most families had private gardens even in the more populated sectors, producing much of their own foodstuffs.

Both the Great Northwestern and the Great Northeastern cities grew to only bleakness despite rich, abundant gifts originally given by Mother. A huge compound in the Great Northeastern City surrounded by walls and protected by the Military contained the lavish lifestyles of the rulers. The Central Command of the Combined Armed Forces occupied a large sector of the Great Northwestern City . Both cities had protected elite neighborhoods and universities. As greed and destruction grew, the abundant gifts of Mother died in most of the densely populated areas save for those sectors destined for the privileged. Once beautiful vistas became stark, dirty, and barren.

Chapter 2-2

The Decision had risen to govern quickly and easily to rule with combined power over both northern cities. Similar political ideologies had swept the globe over the preceding ten years. Initially, a few good men saw themselves as human saviors of the ignorant, apathetic, wayward masses. Those men reconciled that only a certain number of individuals could be responsible for gaining and maintaining wealth and power; there was great danger if the populations at large attempted to emulate them. It had become globally accepted that all natural resources, including the massive human resource, had the sole purpose of providing comfort for a few and in return those few would in turn make the correct and safe decisions about how the human resource should conduct their lives. Achieving that had been made easy by using a tactic of divide and conquer. The working class had been kept inundated by the messages to consume, increasing debt and therefore dependence. They were told that those segregated groups, those who would be different, were at the core of the problem and attention had been turned to brothers and sisters by brothers and sisters. When blame was being placed, those with wealth and therefore power told the masses that original thought was not necessary being easily dismissed. Without original thought, it was then easy to tell confused, desperate working classes how to live, what to think, and to whom they should pledge their allegiance. Like young children, the masses needed discipline for security and discipline was indoctrinated. Few very conservative rules were the easiest to follow and to enforce. Greed was couched easily in religious morality. People were told who to worship and how. The fear of not belonging was reinforced by real punishment, initially with public embarrassment, then with torture and eventual death if no acquiescence. Those seen in the greatest favor were those who genuinely sacrificed as much as possible in order to please those who made the correct decisions for their lives. When people sought sacrifice and therefore favor, they did not need to concern themselves with careers or gaining material wealth, needing only enough to sustain life. Choices were not made about specific mates as long as they were those from the opposite sex. Religious doctrines dictated that sex should only occur in a sanctioned marriage; however, those who made decisions believed it led to farther fewer complications when an official promise was made to the state before any unions continued. Those who chose otherwise faced perilous repercussions. Men indulging in unmarried sex were shot immediately upon discovery, a lesson for others. Women, thought to be less responsible in light of less ability to make good choices, were allowed to live but would become concubines for those in the Military or higher echelons of The Decision not living with their mates. The main purpose of any mating was to produce the next generation of workers who would provide further wealth of those who made the correct decisions for all workers. As such, there was no reason or sense for coupling of same sex partners and this was easily labeled as entirely not acceptable to the masses that learned to segregate those who attempted that choice. It was also easy to segregate and blame humans who were born with physical or mental handicaps or disabilities and the masses were quickly convinced that they were robbing them of potential favor and should be eliminated; they were on discovery.

In the vein of sacrifice and therefore potential eternal favor, working classes earned lessened wages as material wealth was not necessary, leading to making choices which was a dangerous threat. Workers were told that a certain degree of hunger kept them sharp and eager to garner more favor. Obesity was seen as a weakness and undesirable; a lack of nutrition was the most obvious remedy and was encouraged. Similarly, anything beyond stark housing was considered excessive, not necessary, not indicative of those who wanted to make the greatest possible sacrifice.

Workers were encouraged to praise those who made decisions about employment. They were told that time away from work was not seen as beneficial to sacrifice and work every day would certainly garner more favor. Those who made the decisions glorified the notion of fatigue as a tangible sign of dedication and belief.

Fear, disempowerment, and disenfranchisement were well ensconced, despite warnings by those who saw the real reasons for the decisions made, and allowed a few wealthy men to take control of hundreds of thousands of workers, being freely elected and praised for the rape of the land and the human condition.

Louiza Shipman had been a community leader and political activist all her adult life and especially now as the oppression of The Decision closed in all of them, believing since youth that if one was not part of the solution, one was then part of the problem. She had been working almost frantically to organize and build an army of common workers who would fight to take back their world. She could find anger about the apathy that had led them here but she too had a myriad of other issues to occupy and spur on her anger and her resolve. Over the past few years, workers had been robbed of more and more wages and had working conditions returned to less than human. Aside from a very few days as year, workers worked every day and over two-thirds of their wages were taken by The Decision to support their own extravagant lifestyles, under the guise of benefitting those who provided goods and services. Lou and all workers like her believed that their only hope for survival ultimately would be to organize and fight back. Lou, her sons, and many others had been sent to earth yet again by the ancients to help protect Mother and their beloved humans. Even on a day of total frustration and fatigue, Lou was grateful that she had no memory of the past battles, knowing the current one would suffice.

Louiza Shipman was currently in the fifth decade of earth years. She bore two sons early in her adulthood and then went on to raise them independently of their birth father. She was of large stature with a huge spirit and an attitude to match. Lou had never had a lot of time for selfishness or greed with little or no patience. On balance, Lou had huge compassion and generosity of spirit. She had been accused of loving only for approval and she could admit that some of that might be true. But, as with all human traits, often the worst were also the best and many people had been on receiving end of Lou ' s love and commitment to their happiness, whatever the motive. Her life and the lives of all those around her had been changed drastically in a short period of time. The Decision had encouraged and then made mandatory receipt of a vaccine that would eliminate disease and prolong life so as to guarantee a stable work force to provide materials, goods, and money for a few greedy men. Both her sons, Declan and Drew, had been vaccinated as had their wives Emme and Annique. Lou had refused and continued to refuse, more on principle than otherwise.

As with all her brothers and sisters, Lou lived in poverty alone in the inner city only a small distance from her sons. Her partner Maggie had died previously at her own hand. Maggie refused to believe that her freedom would be breached, that she would not have material things about her as her wages decreased drastically. She had a growing and almost paralyzing fear that her partnership with Lou would be found out. Lou remembered her always as beautiful and loving as she could but she had lived her days on earth almost paralyzed by fear of the woman she really was. Maggie had one grandson who she adored. Albert had been conscripted to the Military and was sent to quell insurrection in the Far East . He had died there at the age of eighteen years, his body never returned to his family. The reality of growing horror around her already unstable mental state drove Maggie to suicide. Lou had been angry, had grieved at the loss of a lover of twenty-five years, but she also believed that Maggie was finally at peace, probably for the first time since her birth. Lou understood that theirs was a relationship among earthlings, one that brought happiness for Lou and refuge for her lover. Similar stories were told daily now as the lives of her friends and of all workers disintegrated around them. She, her sons, and colleagues were working frantically to organize cells of Resistance fighters, to develop a definite plan to take back their freedom.

Lou was living still in the Great Northeastern City . She had contacts with many Resistance fighters in the east and in the west. Emails were still somewhat secure and she was able to send messages, exclusive of specific plans, to many contacts. She had been corresponding for some months with a woman named Ekaterina who lived and worked in the inner Great Northwestern City . They were similar in age, political ideations, and practicalities. Kat had come to the Great Northwestern City as a very young woman, having been born in the now eastern European City . Her family had immigrated attempting to escape growing oppression by the religious right wing thinkers in their city with hopes to improve the quality of their lives and those of their unborn children. Kat worked in a workers center in the inner city, one where workers could get transportation to employment, the basics of free heath care, and one hot meal a day if needed. Lou and Kat shared as much information as was safe.

As hunger and desperation escalated, so too did violence and death at the hands of Military patrols sent to stop any uprising. Men were being forced to labor camps where living conditions where even more grave than in the inner cities. Declan and Lou both understood that the time for reason with workers and therefore anarchy in the face of desperation was coming ever closer unless short term and long term plans for solutions, taking back their lives, and creating a safe sane world for their children were developed and implemented. Tom Ravencouer developed brilliant organization grids of workers in the Great Northwestern city; Declan and cell leaders used Tom ' s model to organize workers in the east.

Lou had a long-term friendship and working relationship with Amelia Carland who along with her husband Sterling evolved to be the leaders of Intelligence and Espionage for the Resistance movement. They lived in the far Northeastern archipelago, away from prying eyes with little interference in the lives of those who lived simple existences on the islands. It was the perfect environment in which to function. Both had exceptional computer skills and a loathing of The Decision. Amelia was not too familiar with the concept of no, for the most part refusing to accept it. Sterling was a native of the northern European islands, able to establish connections with counterparts in the European Resistance campaign with exchange information vital to the northwestern and northeastern development of strategies. He was a quiet and rather gruff man, one of few words and even less patience for despotism than his wife. Both Lou and Declan carried identification of their employment as scribes for The Decision ' s quickly disintegrating health care data base, no longer receiving wages but it did afford them relatively safe movement around the inner city. Drew and Annique worked for The Decision maintaining a data base of the population, a connection that would prove vital in the months and years to come.

Declan McDaniels was a huge hulk of a man, in stature, in intelligence, and in compassion. He was of fair skin with a riot of red hair and a long red beard. He had extensive martial arts training; those who thought that a man of his size would not move with speed and accuracy only made that mistake in judgment once. From childhood, he had little regard for useless rules and had lived many clashes with the policing sectors of the Military in his youth. Those around him finally convinced him that his mind was needed too urgently to keep a high profile with those he wished to defeat. He had grown to inherit his mother ' s lack of patience but far surpassed others in his foresight and ability to analyze the reality of the present. He had been sent by his ancients to lead earthlings through their battles and then to their futures. He fell in love with Emme while still a young man. She was a beautiful, gentle, compassionate woman who matched his intelligence and could almost tame the wild side of his spirit. She was a young soul on earth who had not been sent by ancients but would return to them when they called her. She did understand, however, that Declan, Drew, Lou, as well as many others in her life had been sent to earth to help her brothers and sisters survive the greater evil approaching them quickly. Declan was an old ancient as was his mother and his uncle. All had been sent to earth for many spirals of the helix, having battled the Evil Ones many times in the past. Lou and Ross had no recall but occasionally Declan would have visions of past battles, enough to spur him on and scare the hell out of him all at the same time.

The leaders of Resistance cells organized what voluntary health care and support they could, much of the knowledge coming from Tess Redhawk. There remained one large health care facility in the Great Northeastern City , one still funded by donations from sympathetic members of the elite class. A brilliant young physician, Dr. Lindsay Reynolds, rose quickly to administrator. She almost single-handedly cared for all the female patients who came through the doors of her institution, broken physically, mentally, and spiritually. Since the early years of The Decision ' s power, no men were brought to Dr. Reynolds for care. They were either dead or moved to labor camps beyond any help there. Lindsay willed healing into her patients and if they recovered they stayed on to care for others as she taught them. Dr. Reynolds was a tough minded human being although not born to that personality. Under an earned, very tough exterior, lived a huge soul and loving heart. She had been born in the European City , moving to the Great Northeastern City as a child. She was able to train as a physician while education was still available to children of the working classes. By the age of thirty, she had specialties in four disciplines of Medicine and extensive knowledge through need in others.

Lindsay Reynolds was a tiny beautiful woman with long dark hair and flashing dark eyes. She fell in love while still in medical school with a detective in the policing department of the Military. At that time, it became less easy for same sex couples to cohabit but she and Candace did, each the great love of the other ' s life. As Candace was exempt from mandatory vaccination and subsequent sterility due to her employment in the Military, both women chose to raise a child together; Candace became pregnant by artificial means. There was almost constant civil violent unrest in the inner city. Candace worked almost daily due to the need for some attempt at peace, working while she was carrying an already loved, anticipated unborn child. While on duty on the streets one night in her sixth month of pregnancy, Candace was fatally shot. Her child did not survive. Lindsay pulled up every ounce of strength she could muster to find the armor she put around her heart. She became then singly focused on gaining knowledge to save as many other women as she could. At her young age, she believed there would never be love in her life again. After Candace and their child died, Lindsay lived at the health care facility as the only life she chose.

The overland transportation system grew quickly and efficiently under the guidance of Roy Crosby. Ross, Declan, and Lou secured a route of safe houses for those would survive and escape. Drew and Annique breached The Decision ' s computer files, as well as finding maps and locations of the labor camps. Declan and other leaders led raids to free as many males from those camps as was possible and take them to safe houses. Women and children were taken north to safety, to Sanctuary.

The cycle did not relent. The Decision ' s greed and oppression grew, the Resistance s resolved escalated. Lou Shipman openly defied the rulers whenever she could, incurring arrest and confinement only to repeat and escalate her constant spurring on of those would could fight or would die. All leaders understood that very soon, there would be need to battle; the ancients told them all that a priestess would lead them.

Chapter 2-3

Over the following years, plans to fight back continued to escalate. Amelia and Sterling Carland had brilliantly breached an active satellite link which made secure communications much easier. The Decision decided to close academic institutions as they were thought to be breeding grounds for insurrection and original thought. Financial institutions were forced to donate their stored funds to The Decision. A handful of people, including Laura Ravencouer, took all their money from the institutions before that implementation. Many private businesses were closed or robbed by members of the lower echelon of The Decision. The inner cities were skeletonized including office compounds run by The Decision. When there were no more safe havens in the inner cities the remainder of people fled or died in that attempt.

Drew and Annique McDaniels moved to the northeastern command post where they developed and maintained a Communications network with all the safe houses, outposts, and Amelia and Sterling Carland. Life at the northeastern command post was very different from what either Drew or Annique had known in the inner city. Every person had to work daily to insure the survival of the group. Drew was initially concerned that Annique would find adapting difficult as she had been born to middle class parents, was well educated, and was not very familiar with the basics of survival. She took to her new life as if she had always known it and seemed to thrive with a new sense of ownership of her future. She was brilliant, assisting Drew greatly in the development of a secure Communications system. Annique was an ancient sent as was Drew. Neither knew of their past lives on earth but knew that they had battled evil before and would again until the helix has stopped the spiral. Drew McDaniels had the same heart and spirit as his mother, his brother, and his uncle Ross. He was a more quiet spoken man, smaller in stature than his brother Declan, but had the fire of his mother ' s soul and the absolute commitment to victory for his beloved earthlings. He too had been too familiar with the security forces of the Military in his youth having attained some expertise in expropriation of goods before it became an absolute necessity. In his youth, he had met and befriended Archie Granger who proved an invaluable asset as a forger and counterfeiter.

As with all ancients, Andrew McDaniels had almost superhuman commitment to his work for the Resistance, working long hours every day to maintain and further develop a communications system that would prove a lifeline for the upcoming battles. He was also an accomplished pilot and grew to be instrumental in teaching others as well as flying difficult missions of battles. As part of his work as a pilot, Drew taught anyone who needed to know how to hot-wire any ignition, a skill he developed in his youth. His brother Declan always declared that his brother Drew was the best in that business.

Drew had some minor concerns about a potential breach of their communications system but knew it was not likely to be that of The Decision. From his experience with communications staff while still the employ of The Decision, he knew it was unlikely that anyone there would have knowledge or equipment to find a breach and then maintain it.

The coastal ports to both cities were the first attacked by Resistance fighters. Laura Ravencouer flew fighters to the west, Sean flew to the east. Inflatable watercraft were dropped with the skydiving personnel. Drew and Annique communicated with both pilots for a coordinated and simultaneous attack. Fighters jumped in darkness to poorly guarded docks on each coast. Those who attempted attack were shot and killed. Large explosives were placed on docks, ships, and Military buildings as had been practiced dozens of times with Laura, Sean, Declan, and Ross at the command posts. Fighters did lose their lives but before dawn survivors were retrieved in the harbors by Laura and Sean and immediately after retrieval detonators set the docks ablaze, killing personnel, disrupting an already ineffective Military, and destroying property of The Decision. By midday, both Raptors were back at the command posts and debriefing carried out. As would happen with ever attack, Laura saw a vision of all those had died needlessly. Amelia and Sterling breached Military communications which were confused and erratic. The Decision rulers made a very brief statement stating that it seemed the work of isolated workers, they expected no further attacks. In seven days ' time, Combined Command Base 10 in the west and Base 20 in the east experience similar attacks along with removal of ten helicopters in total from both bases. Ross and Drew flew the Raptor ' s while Laura, Sean, and eight other pilots placed bombs and then flew all the fighters away from the bases under the noses over overwhelmed Military personnel. Several pilots reported sudden sightings of aircraft flying in from the west at both sites, flying low to drop bombs to cover retrieval of Resistance fighters although none could be absolutely certain. When Drew returned to the northeastern outpost, Annique told him that she had suspected a slight breach of tactical plans but it was very brief and as such she had not chosen to notify to abort the plans. Both Drew and Annique were quite certain it could not be carried out by either the Military or The Decision and suspected friendly support from wherever it was coming.

The next raids were on supply routes, warehouses, and Military stockpiles as had been carried out for the past many months. Laura and her leaders knew the only way to defeat a much larger force was with surprise, speed, and depletion of their resources. With no Command Base raids planned for two weeks, Laura flew women and supplies to Sanctuary for rest and reunion with Thea and now Lou. She met Lindsay Reynolds again several months after their first unnerving introduction. Lindsay was calmer and while not happy she seemed at least more content in her new and safe home. Dr. Reynolds did thank the Commander for her help in building a health care facility and securing supplies. Laura told her that it was the work of Resistance fighters who found the supplies. Lindsay trained women at Sanctuary to help care for those new arrivals. Tess Redhawk designed nutritional standards for all the patients at the health facility; her mother, Celeste Crosby, taught women permanently living at Sanctuary how to prepare food for all inhabitants. Nikita had been a strong source of information and guidance for all those who wanted or needed help. Before Laura left again for the south, she spoke briefly with Lindsay about perhaps visiting outposts where she might help Resistance fighters care for injured workers on their way north from the cities. Lindsay said she would consider travel south and would communicate with Laura by computer with her decision.

Chapter 2-4

The survivors at all rural outposts had always known conservation and protection of Mother. No food was wasted, all was preserved and much of it hidden for those Resistance fighters who were not able to provide for themselves. As animals were raised and then slaughtered, honor and thanks were given down for their sacrifice, for the sustenance and protection their lives provided. All the meat was preserved and consumed, much of it shared. Bones were used for small tools; others ground and returned to Mother to aid in further growth. Fat was rendered and used to produce soap by leaching lye through wood ashes; them mixed with that fat, then allowed to solidify. Hides were used for clothing, harnesses, ropes and tethers, and insulation. Dairy animals, cows and goats, provided daily nutrition before they too were sacrificed and their bodies honored. Sheep were sheared for wool to provide clothing. Elder women taught their younger sisters how to card, spin, weave, felt, and make flannel. Male elder craftsmen made and taught the making of looms for any outpost that requested them. All the harvest, both animal and vegetable, was shared freely with any in the Resistance who had the need. Emme McDaniels and Frida Shipman were true pioneers in the development of new strains of hardy vegetable, fruit, and grass crops with much advice from Tess Redhawk at Sanctuary. These women produced and shared kits for planting and then harvesting healing plants for every outpost. Tess and Lou Shipman chronicled all data for future use by those who might survive to reclaim their world.

Military troops did invade outposts but only for the food already promised to The Decision, never knowing that it was only a small percentage of that produced and never the best quality of any. It was rumored early in the battles that The Decision had years of stored food but as destruction escalated few were sure that much of those stores would survive to feed anyone. There were few in labor camps who could harvest food or take to boats to fish; none of those left in the elite neighborhoods would have any skills or knowledge outside of academics about how to provide for themselves.

As the raids to outposts became less frequent, some hearts would go out to those young men, barely beyond childhood, who were more frightened than those they invaded and were certainly hungrier. It would always go beyond the female natures not to feed those young boys but fighting back had many faces and took far reaching tolls.

Winter soon arrived on the plains. Laura knew this would be the greatest challenge so far with any attempts on raids. All leaders knew they could not stop as the Military would then have time to reorganize. They chose one more raid on the docks, this time with more fighters, as well as plans to destroy the Military bases nearby. Eight senior pilots flew eighty fighters to jump to both the docks and the Military bases simultaneously. Drew coordinated communication and Ross readied transport to Sanctuary for those injured. Laura briefly drew to her ancients as she gave commands to coordinate take-off and then coordinated jumps. Explosives were placed by fighters who met this time with resistance by Military personnel on the bases. The pilots were able to retrieve fighters in the harbor and from the bases but many did not return. Again, as the retrieval was taking place unmarked aircraft from the west flew support bombing to allow extra time for escape. On return to the command posts, injured fighters were taken to Sanctuary, many souls returned to the ancients. Amelia and Sterling reported that both harbors were not functional and both bases destroyed. In three days ' time, raids on Combined Command Bases 6 and 13 in the west and Bases 22 and 29 in the east were carried out, again with loss of life and destruction, again with unknown bombing support from the west, and again with further undermining of control by The Decision. The Resistance sent souls to the ancients as well as many injured fighters to Sanctuary and outposts farther south. Many others in the Military and innocent civilians had also died in the attacks. Laura flew back to Sanctuary with supplies and more survivors from the inner cities. Lindsay emailed her previously to agree to fly south with her when she was needed. Thea saw fatigue in the eyes of her child, a weariness that only heartache could bring. She told her mother that many people had died already and the fight had just begun. Her mother and Lou reminded her that it was the work of her ancients, the work to free the beloved earthlings. Laura was told that her ancients would never give her more than she could bear, that the ultimate victory would outweigh immediate sorrow. Laura and Lindsay flew back to the command post; for the next several days Lindsay visited outposts and cared for injured workers. Ross procured another shipment of medicine and supplies, Laura and Lindsay returned to Sanctuary one week later. Lindsay had been humbled by the living conditions of the workers and of those at the command post including Commander Ravencouer. In just a few short weeks, Lindsay and Laura had become good friends; each knew the blessing of that friendship.

Chapter 2-5

Geoffrey, the most senior pilot and acting commander at the Combined Command Base 12 in the west was still under thirty earth years old. He rarely missed the dull routines of teaching young men to fly aircraft and much preferred the prestige of his own office with private quarters at the former staff house. There were few men his age at the base now, most having left for other bases and missions. Communications from Central Command were very poor now in light of at least rumored attacks by the group of obviously misguided workers who called themselves the Resistance. Again, he did not really miss being told what to do as often the directives made no practical sense. Before older officers left, they told him that in their careers directives from Central Command had never made sense. When he was still a senior cadet and then after his graduation, the base had been commanded by Colonel Amanda Bennett and although he strongly agreed that women had no place commanding anything he did admit that the base was run well and smoothly. He also had to admit that the Colonel was a brilliant pilot, having heard stories of what she was capable of at the helm of either the huge Raptor crafts or on Search and Rescue teaching missions. The base had a civilian instructor, young women, who taught skydiving and had qualified to fly both Search and Rescue missions. She became a senior pilot for the large helicopters at the base at the time. He often told the story in the mess over drinks with his few friends of a mission he had flown as a senior cadet with the gorgeous Laura Ravencouer. He always had lewd, lascivious descriptions of this woman ' s body, one that would just not quit. He always said that the bitch always knew she was beautiful with no fear to show it or use it in his opinion. When he was in the cockpit with her on a mission for Search and Rescue training, he was exercising his given right to visually enjoy her body. She told him firmly to keep his eyes on the instruments, off her breasts, and they would fly the mission with no difficulties. He often laughed about the nerve of that woman as did his chums.

General Anthony Downs was still the commander-in-chief when he graduated. Shortly thereafter, there was rumor of a great scandal with a woman who had apparently emasculated the man and left him permanently disabled. The rumors had it that he was removed from command immediately due to very incriminating photographs sent to his wife, his bosses at The Decision, and the media. Some of the now retired civilians who worked at the base at that time said that they had seen pictures of the General naked in the very intimate company of a young women with long raven curls, a mask, and a dominatrix costume. General Downs had a reputation for sexual misconduct and even murders were rumored but at an official level he had been highly respected by the religious right, his community in the elite neighborhood of the Northwestern City , and the higher echelon of The Decision. Everyone understood that The Decision had no other recourse but to remove him from office when discretion of that magnitude became public. No-one had heard of his death but they had also not heard of his whereabouts. Geoffrey occasionally had nagging questions about the identity of the woman who had taken the commander-in-chief down, obviously well and permanently. He had not seen pictures but the nerve and the raven-colored curls always tweaked his suspicions. At any rate, Laura Ravencouer had disappeared and had not been heard of since. Within days of General Downs drastic demotion, Colonel Amanda Bennett killed herself. There had been jokes for years when he was a student that she was the lover of Laura Ravencouer but the timing of her death and Laura ' s obviously permanent disappearance more strongly supported rumors that Amanda and Anthony Downs were involved, if one fell the other would be sure to follow.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smithson assumed command at what would become Combined Forces Command Base 12 upon Amanda Bennett's reported death. Her personal helicopter had crashed in the far northwest of the city with only fiery remnants of the wreckage with no identifiable survivors. Central Command had been even more chaotic than normal when the commander-in-chief had been removed from his position. There had never been anyone well trained to assume command, although the more senior pilots at the time quietly admitted that there would have been a couple of women who would have done well if they had been given a chance. Of course, other than the commander at a small and basically unused airbase at Carriere in the far northwest section of the Northwestern City , no other women had risen or would rise to positions of power in the new Military of The Decision. It was a doctrine now that women were not capable of making strong, sensible decisions and any positions of authority were to be left in the hands of men. Charles Smithson was the Dean of Cadet Studies for much of his previous career at the base. He had served for many years, soon after taking command he took retirement. He told his senior pilots at the time that he and his wife planned to retire to the northwestern coast of the city to be close to family and friends. From that time onwards, several senior pilots acted as commander before they were transferred to other posts or missions. As such Geoffrey found himself in the position with no wish to move elsewhere. He planned to wait out the unpleasantness of the annoying attempts at disruption by the Resistance, then return to the peace of a training school and he hoped a permanent position of command.

Combined Command Base 12 in the west and its counterpart Base 18 in the east were training bases, needing to be disabled permanently. Laura knew that there would be less resistance in the western base; Drew was able to confirm a similar setting in the east. Before the heavy snows of winter made attacks from either command post more difficult, each command post was raided. Laura and Sean flew fighters and pilots to jump and place explosives, all were retrieved, all helicopters were flown off base before each was leveled, again with bombing support from unknown aircraft. There were no survivors at either base. Drew was now watching carefully for a pattern of breaches to their communications around raids; although there were no definite timed patterns established yet there were incidents with each raid that raised his suspicion. He did not have evidence to support his case and until he did he would not report to the other leaders. He did know, however, that it was from supporters whoever they were.

Over the winter months, the Resistance attacks concentrated on supply routes taking shipment of supplies for new construction of bases and labor camps. The next major raids would be on supply airfields. This needed coordination and was planned for the end of the third month of the next New Year. Laura was at the command post for Wintersday; as she walked back from breakfast with her colleagues she looked up to see ravens circling above. Declan and Ross joined her, both stating they had never seen ravens in this part of the land or this time of year. Laura claimed that if they were with her they were likely to with no further explanation. She drew to her ancients, giving thanks for the new sun with returning life in the face of all those who had been lost to battle, to starvation, to injury, to despair. The silver chains around her heart did not let her mourn for her past life or Amanda but she did think of her, wondering if she was happy now, perhaps forever with Lohrissa. She did remember the love; as Luther had told her it did sustain her when she felt like her burdened soul might not survive. In less than one year she had grown from a somewhat indulged twenty-two year old to a hardened, seasoned commander of people who had no choice but to win.

As the winter snows descended, pilots and overland Resistance fighters continued raids on transportation routes with near complete expropriation of goods. At some point, they knew they would encounter Military resistance as escorts for transportation but until then constant raids continued to slowly cripple The Decision.

Laura flew several missions to the north with supplies and survivors. She was able to spend days with both Thea and Lou and as well with her now best friend Lindsay. The determination to keep women alive, to help them survive, to try to insure a future was the root of a great, lasting friendship. Each began to see beyond the facades of professional lives to the women beneath, a growing comfort to each. Laura talked of her anger and despair, of not being able to allow grief for even one life lost as there would be so many more. She talked of all those Military personnel that she had been responsible for killing, brothers and sisters just doing a job as was she. She told Lindsay that she had previously had many friends in the Military, understanding that most of them loathed The Decision as fiercely as the Resistance. Lindsay talked of Candace, her work with the Military, how she had loved it, even the times when she knew she caused unhappiness to others. Neither woman talked of their deep love for partners lost but each understood without words. Both knew the grief and ache as did many of their sisters here at Sanctuary and still south in the cities. Lindsay had tantrums about the sterility imposed on her and all woman at the hands of only power and greed. It was the passion closest to her soul, one she would not lose. At the height of one tantrum, she told Laura that one day she would learn how to reverse it so Laura had best just put down the bastards who had caused it in the first place. Laura replied that she had no intention otherwise. Thea and Lou both watched the friendship between these two very strong women grow with hopes for love beyond friendship to find them as well.

At Sanctuary and the command posts, fighters were practicing jumps for the largest mission planned so far. Supply airfields had to be crippled, not easy missions. There was little cover for fighters who would jump and few places to hide if they survived. Commander Ravencouer stated that there would be needed air bombing for these missions. She taught Sean how to use instruments to hit targets as she had been taught by Captain Stenns in the past. They practiced out over the tundra in the north as well as on windswept plains in the south. Senior pilots would fly the missions to drop jumpers, retrieving them with bomb support from Laura and Sean. One hundred fighters were readied for the attack. The first would be easier as there would the element of complete surprise but all those subsequent missions would be the more arduous and deadly of their careers. Drew had watched weather satellite reports from The Decision, determining a window of time in the last week of the third month of the new year for the coordinated attacks. Once again, he acted as coordinator of communications between pilots and leaders of each raid. At 1800 hours in near darkness, the Resistance aircrafts and fighters departed from the command posts with a call to the ancients from all. Drew, Ross, and Declan watched coordinates; when on target Sean and Laura began their first bombing raids followed closely by fighters jumping and setting explosives. The Raptors flew low to support ground cover while pilots started the retrieval of surviving fighters. Both Laura and Sean saw unmarked aircraft again flying from the west. All remaining aircraft continued bombing the airfields until the pilots signaled that all surviving fighters had been retrieved. Laura and Sean followed as detonators set explosions and the unknown aircraft flew one last deadly bombing pass over the airfields before disappearing into the night. Destruction was complete but at huge cost. Many fighters and all Military personnel died in the first airfield attack. There were debriefing meetings and then much needed sleep for those who did return. Commander Ravencouer stood on the tarmac at dawn, drawing down to her ancients with hurt that she had not known to date. Noshi came to her, gently telling her that her journey was unfolding as it should, that with each returned soul to the ancients the joy of victory over the Evil Ones was closer. Then as if a silent spell had been cast, Laura found peaceful sleep for the next twelve hours.

Chapter 2-6

Rachel, the daughter of Ross and Frida Shipman, was still surviving in the inner northeastern city, still working to gather survivors and take them to safety. She worked closely with Stephan Redhawk in coordinated efforts to get those last survivors to safety before total destruction of their homes occurred. Declan had contacted her several times with a request to work with him at the command post. Declan was still leading the cells of Resistance fighters in both cities as well as planning for evolution after victory. Rachel Shipman was brilliant, beautiful, and well-schooled in public administration. She also had an inherent understanding of the practicalities of organization. She was Declan ' s cousin, another strong, opinionated, intelligent Shipman woman, exactly what their new world needed. She and Stephan were among the last survivors running by underground to the first safe house and then beyond. Stephan moved on to the northeastern command post, continuing to coordinate the travel of survivors to the north or to outposts farther south. Rachel was taken by overland transportation to unite with her family and to start her work on organizing the post battle strategies for reclamation of their cities and their lives moving forward.

Stephan Redhawk was a beautiful man, having eyes, body, lust, and passion only for his wife Tess much to the regret of most women who laid eyes on him. Even greater than his physical attributes was a razor sharp mind that suffered no fools. He was a man of few words; if people did not at least attempt original thought they became almost invisible to him. He worked tirelessly for months to rescue those remaining in the inner Northeastern City, constantly amazed with some people believed that the problems with resolve themselves if they just waited. Stephan quietly reminded them only once that their only personal resolution was death and it was entirely their choice. He portrayed a gentle and quiet countenance but those who took the time to understand saw his huge native spirit. As with many of his brothers and sisters in the north, Stephan had been sent by the ancients to protect his beloved Mother and her children. He was led daily by his cousin Tom and his elder Noshi, ancients he had known for many spirals of the helix. He understood that his mission was to survive, leading his brothers and sisters beyond the evil surrounding them all. There was a decided practicality about the man as carried out raid after raid on labor camps to free his brothers, taking them to health and hope. As did many, he had tears for every life he could not save and they remained etched on his heart for his time with the earthlings.

The census numbers for the existing labor camps were tampered with in order to deflate the numbers to allow for more male workers to be rescued without notice on the part of The Decision. Archie, a master forger, made excellent replicas of bank notes to be deposited in accounts controlled by The Decision lulling them into the false security of overspending. There would be difficulty in paying creditors overseas in the months to come with their disinclination to supply further materials, aircraft, and weapons.

The second attack on supply air fields occurred ten days after the first, this time with one hundred and fifty fighters jumping with explosives supported by twelve pilots for retrieval, Sean and Laura flying low bombing support. As soon as both Sean and Laura made the first pass, they were joined by unmarked aircraft, again from the west, three at each site. Laura had no idea who these pilots were but she gave down thanks quickly to the ancients who had sent them. There was increased Military resistance as was expected making bombing flights very challenging. Sean was heard on the radio damning The Decision with every pass. One Resistance helicopter and pilot were lost in that battle as were many other lives. Laura and Sean flew one last pass accompanied by their ancient angels and then flew back to the command posts. Once again, the air fields had been destroyed. There were eight more to contain.

Sterling Carland finally ascertained the exact locations for supposedly secret fuel storage depots in both cities. Drew and Amelia used satellite photographs to establish overland and air routes used by the Military. The Resistance leaders started plans to strategically destroy the fuel storage depots. These attacks would be all by air as the locations were too difficult for jumpers. The main eastern depot was at the gulf of the mighty river bordering the city. The main western depot was in a mountainside. There was still the planned third airfield attack looming after which overland raids would be escalated once again and plans to destroy fuel depots would be made.

The third planned attack on airfields occurred in the last week of the fourth month of the new year. Both air fields were smaller as the four previously hit were the largest in each city. The same plans were used with ten pilots, one hundred jumpers with explosives, Sean and Laura flying bombing support. By this time, Drew knew that the breaches of his communication system were linked to those aircraft that appeared from and returned to the west. The missions went down as before, more precision with each one, more daring with each one, more determination with each one. There was continued loss of life and grieving of that but Laura held fast to Noshi ' s encouragement. With each soul returned to the ancients, the joy of victory was closer. As always, Laura and her colleagues gave down thanks to their ancients for sending those expert pilots from the west. When Laura returned to the command post, Lindsay Reynolds was waiting for her. Mitchell Taylor flew supplies to Sanctuary, Lindsay had returned with him. She knew there would be injured and was there to help at outposts. Laura was almost overcome by how much she wanted this woman immediately. She had known lust in her past youth but the silver chains around her heart kept those memories locked away. Because there was no privacy at the command post and because of the need for help, Laura hugged her gratitude, asking Ross to fly Lindsay to where she was needed. Laura was exhausted and needed to gather energy for the upcoming attacks on the fuel depots. There were now hundreds of Resistance fighters, uncounted thousands from the Military, and civilians who had died in attempts to stop The Decision. With every lost heartbeat, there was a deeper and stronger resolve in Commander Ravencouer to insure victory for those who survived and to honor those who had not; with that resolve there was also cumulative horrors as she had seen repeatedly. She spoke to Lou by email almost daily. Lou was once again her element, spurring on survivors at Sanctuary and by email to outposts. Declan and Stephan carried out raids on labor camps as well as helping to destroy those in construction. Roy Crosby provided overland transport support for workers they freed, workers taken to Sanctuary or to outposts for rest and training to fight back.

Lindsay Reynolds returned briefly to the northwestern command post to spend a few hours visiting with her friend Laura. Laura could laugh with Lindsay, a gift as she laughed rarely, finding no humor in her life or surroundings. Both were still young women with the same irreverent sense of humor plus an ability to be just plain silly. Declan heard them as he entered the command post office, thinking that it was the best music gracing his ears in months. Ross had found another shipment of medical supplies and building supplies; Mitchell Taylor planned to deliver them and would take Lindsay back to Sanctuary. Lindsay saw the worry and fatigue on Laura ' s face, hugged her friend, urging her to come home to Sanctuary as soon as she could. Laura told Lindsay that she should no longer come south as the risk would get too great very soon. She was needed permanently at the only reliable health care facility. Laura reassured her that she would come north as soon as she could.

After much deliberation, it was decided by all Resistance leaders that the raids on the fuel depots would not happen simultaneously. Each site would be destroyed by all fighters. There would be no jumpers with only air to ground bombing. The huge air transport would be used as well as both Raptor crafts and the Peregrines. The time and date were chosen. Annique coordinated communications as Drew was chosen to pilot one of the Raptor craft. Laura had taught easily him in very few lessons. The air transport was loaded with as many bombs as it could carry and fighters to launch them from the cargo bay. The Peregrines were also loaded with bombs and fighters to launch them. Laura and Drew had Raptor full of bombs. As the approached the main eastern fuel depot, six helicopters flew in quickly from the west and flew low bombing passes on the ground installations below. If they had not been intent on their own missions, every Resistance pilot would have been in awe at the precision of those passes. All Resistance crafts launched bombs and as they rose quickly to the west a massive explosion annihilated most of the Military ' s eastern fuel supplies. The supportive helicopters flew in precision above the Resistance craft and then disappeared into the western sky. The pilots returned to the command posts to celebrate a job well done. Laura quietly mourned the loss of the lives she had been responsible for taking. As always, she saw visions of those deaths that would haunt her for all her days on earth. The raid on the western depot was planned for three days ' time with again communications solidified and coordinated by Annique. As Laura rested at the command post, she suddenly realized she had passed the date of her twenty-third birth anniversary. She was too tired now and too intent on her missions to dwell on her past celebrations. Two years ago, she had been gifted with Amo Te. Only her mind ' s eyes remembered the celebration with Amanda as her heart was well cloaked in the silver chains placed there by her ancients to protect her. Her thoughts then returned to the pilots who continued to support their missions. Of course, she did not know every Military pilot but she was convinced that all were Military trained. She was not surprised that Military personnel would support the Resistance, certain that they had been guided by the ancients. She continued to give down thanks as did all the leaders.

Laura led her fighters once again with a successful demolition of the main western fuel depot with no loss of lives of Resistance fighters and again with the support of six pilots from the west. The attack caused massive fires on mountainsides with loss of Mother ' s greenery and life. The fires burned until the Autumn rains gave up smoke as the ugly scars of greed crossed many of the mountains in the west.

Chapter 2-7

Roy Crosby was seen as every bit of only pragmatic but all those who spent any time with him quickly understood a huge compassion with a spirit that served to surpass the very real human fear that almost constantly plagued him. Given any provocation, Roy could rant for hours about the absolutely senseless need for any of the greed. He glowed with love for his wife and best friend Celeste, one who he had not seen, touched, or kissed in months as he fought in the south on the road and she fought in a kitchen in the north. Similarly his baby girl Tess, now very much a grown woman, still had him permanently tied to her heart. He was very proud that she had found courage and conviction to fight back with passion as well as the skills she had earned. Roy and Celeste ' s son, Peter, had not been rescued yet from a labor camp although they still held out hope for his survival. Roy often and lovingly spoke of the day he had been damned into meeting Louiza Shipman; in the same breath gave thanks for her and all his brothers and sisters who would insure a future for all of them.

The leaders met with Roy Crosby and senior drivers at one of the more southern outposts. They organized designated crews to continually interrupt the shipments of fuel overland to then expropriate and move that fuel to Resistance storage areas. There would be constant surveillance of all those raids with ground and air support as needed. It was expected that the Military would escalate their attempts to move supplies and fuel to the remaining bases, likely also to offer more resistance to any attempts to thwart that. Ross and Sean designated crews of fighters and pilots to support that ongoing mission.

Laura met with her senior leaders to plan the ongoing raids of Combined Forces Bases in both the western and eastern cities. Six bases had been permanently disabled along with six major airfields. The harbors remained barely functional and without permanent Military support. Cells of Resistance fighters continued destruction of any attempts to rebuild at either harbor. The Central Command for the Military was in the west and the compound housing all of the leaders of The Decision was in the east. When the time was right, the Central Command would be disabled and then the compound would fall. There had not been successful installation of any new labor camps as Resistance fighters continued to destroy construction. Declan and Stephan continued to lead raids on the existing labor camps and free workers with each raid. Sterling and Amelia reported that the European Resistance was close to overturning the rulers there. Declan and Rachel requested any known information about the post battle plans for survival from their European counterparts.

Over the Summer and Autumn months, Laura and her leaders led attacks on eight more Combined Armed Forces bases. On four raids, the Resistance took more aircraft. Again, all raids were supported by the pilots from the west. By the end of the tenth month of the new year, over two thirds of the trained fighters for the Resistance had lost their lives. Declan, Ross, and Sean escalated training for the survivors still moving north and for those men who had been rescued from the labor camps. Stephan Redhawk still coordinated escape to safety for pockets of survivors from the outlying parts of both cities, still in wonder at the resilience of the human spirit intent on life. All rural families grew and stored food to feed themselves and all others fighting back. The Taylor family at the northernmost outpost taught skills for food growth and production as well as energy conservation and production to all those who requested. Survivors living in the far northwestern coast and at the island archipelago in the far northeastern coast provided massive foodstuffs and harvests from their sister oceans to outposts and safe houses throughout the Resistance network. Emme McDaniels sent instructions to all those who asked about growth of food using greenhouses along with information from Tess Redhawk in the north about natural medicines and nutrition. Exact records were kept as there would be a need when the battles ended and the survivors learned to live with Mother again.

Laura commanded two attacks on airfields before the winter snows. The Decision ' s access to supplies had to be crippled before they too endured the wrath of winter. Both targeted airfields were smaller, more isolated, and according to Intelligence and Espionage information there was only a small Military presence at both. No-one believed the missions would occur without loss of life. There were fewer trained Resistance fighters but as her ancients directed the attacks were planned, this time not simultaneously so as to provide maximum support for each. Sean and Laura once again flew bombing passes on the ground installations and once again supported by the pilots from the west. Eight pilots dropped fighters who set explosives and were then retrieved to further support from the bombing passes. The attack on the eastern airfield resulted in total destruction of the entire installation with Resistance and Military lives lost. Two days, later the western airfield was attacked with the same formation, the same support, the same complete destruction, and the loss of more lives. After debriefing at the northwestern command post, Laura pondered the last attack. She was now convinced that these pilots who had helped with every raid save for the first one were Military trained. She now was quite certain that they were raiding using bombs from the Military. These were not crude homemade explosives that the Resistance fighters were forced to use, these were sophisticated, deadly manufactured devices, designed specifically for death and destruction. As a sickness came to her soul, Noshi and Tom reminded her that if she did not use them they would be used on her. Now, even the silver chains wrapped around her heart could not stop the absolute grief at the loss of human life, both her sisters and brothers from the Resistance and those she had attacked. She knew that save for a few morally corrupt, greedy, and depraved humans from The Decision, all other humans were victims of murder by that design. Ross found Laura deep in thought and grief. He knew his priestess had strength and wisdom to continue the fight but he was very concerned for his friend Laura. He suggested that she take some time now before the depths of winter to fly back to Sanctuary for rest. She did not argue.

Chapter 2-8

Lindsay waited at the threshold of the hanger, searching the skies and then silently rejoicing that the Raptor came into view. It had been a long flight for Laura through darkness and snow. They were always long flights, perilous after continued battles, vital information and life sustaining supplies, and the most precious cargo of women rescued and coming home to Sanctuary. For months and months, Lindsay had waited for Laura with her own convinced pretense that she needed medical supplies. And every time Laura stepped down onto the ground, breathtaking in a rumpled flight suit, and every time she removed her helmet and a cascade of waist length curls tumbled from her head, Lindsay ' s pulse quickened and for a split second she could not breathe. She had always been able to either ignore that or explain it away with fatigue or gratitude. As soon as Laura smiled and as soon as Lindsay looked into those hazel eyes, neither strategy was successful.

Laura ' s flight had left the snow behind and in the dark November arctic sky, Mother Moon shone with all her fullness. A hug behind their routine greeting, Lindsay and Laura walked towards the compound, neither speaking as if afraid to for fear of months of words spewing forth. The sound of women ' s voices chanting, singing, and drawing down energy with blessings from Mother Moon enveloped them, setting them apart in their own place in time. Laura stopped to see Thea and Lou, her most beloved elders. A circle of women gathered to greet Laura and celebrate her courage yet again. Lindsay quietly slipped away to prepare a hot bath with soothing herbs to ease Laura ' s fatigue. She placed warming stones between the sheets of Laura ' s bed. She had dreamed of performing all these acts of friendship every time Laura had returned home but until this night and the calling of Mother Moon she had dismissed them as only a fantasy.

Lindsay and Laura had known each other for months and months; early in their meeting they had been lovers, more out of competition and greed of power than of exchanging feelings or intimacy. It was a short-lived experience, both left it bruised and battered, both feeling themselves to be victorious. The passage of time and the fight for their own survival and of all subjected to the horrors of The Decision led them to a partnership of minds, wills, and purpose. They professed great friendship and respect for each other, often referring to the other as their best friend. But until this night, the barrier against a meeting of bodies and souls had been kept intact. From the exchange of energy in the hanger that night, both knew that the barrier was about to be breached.

Laura opened the door of her suite, eyes clouded with fatigue; she did not immediately see Lindsay standing in the window, shining in the light of Mother Moon and the knowledge of her love and desire to hold this woman in her arms. As if guided by only their spirits, Lindsay took Laura to the bath, undressed her weary body, and immersed her in the warm water bathed only in the light of Mother Moon. All the sounds were silenced; all the work and worry of the compound had ceased to exist in this moment in time. There were only two souls connecting, omnipotent, helical, drawing each other down to the unknown depths, empowered by the universe.

Surroundings were not seen, words could not be spoken. All they knew was sight and touch and taste, and the unrelenting rhythm of love. They were in their own time, mirror unto mirror, heart unto heart, soul unto soul. Each cried tears of joy, of discovery, and of finding themselves in the depths of the other. Lindsay knew of the intricacy of her own body and of the bodies of all women; she had willed and witnessed healing thousands of times in women. But the wonders of the body of this woman who she did not want to leave, whose soul had drawn her in to a place in herself she had not known of, caused her to force a breath with every touch, every look, every taste, every smile. Laura ' s voice of love made all other music, all other sound, pale in comparison.

Earth hours passed as their souls journeyed and their bodies found the dance of intimacy. The delight of falling asleep in each other ' s arms only to be awakened by movement and desire, caused smiles and sporadic gales of laughter. Nikita brought warmed stones for Laura ' s bed but only glowed with her blessing as she quickly left the room again.

With the brief arrival of the sun, Nikita returned with fuel for the stove as well as warmed robes and nightshirts. Marla brought a tray of tea with morning breads, a calla lily from the greenhouse, and a note stating Blessings!! Finally!! signed by Thea and Lou. There would be a hot bath when requested and nourishment when needed but for the next passage of earth time, Laura and Lindsay would lie in each other arms, laugh and cry, play and dance, and color their dreams.

Laura stayed at Sanctuary for the next two weeks, finding rest and solace with her new lover. They spent hours lying in each other arms, laughing and enjoying each other ' s very female body. Laura was very selfish in her need for long warm baths as well as long showers with passion and Lindsay. She gave down thanks to her ancients for allowing her find that place in her soul again as she was certain it was lost forever. There were still silver chains encasing her heart; she knew they would stay until her ancients knew that protection was no longer needed. She did not have a deep and abiding love for Lindsay and knew there would never be that returned but Laura was grateful for the comfort of another woman ' s arms and the soft glow of lovelights once again. Lindsay did speak of Candace, trying to be as clear as possible about the depth of her current feelings in comparison. Lindsay still harbored great anger and grief at the loss of her lover and her unborn child. If she knew, she did not speak of her ancients or of knowing that Laura was her priestess. She did not speak of knowing Laura on the helix, Laura did not pursue that. Lindsay told Laura she knew of Amanda, apologizing for the hurtful remark she had made about her death at their first meeting. Laura briefly acknowledged Amanda ' s presence in her life but the silver chains around her heart blocked all the feelings. She only had memories of love that she did she did not want to share with anyone. Lindsay never pursued those memories further. Each had been given to the other for comfort and solace; each found simple joy in the times they shared together. There was no thought of the future for Laura or Lindsay or indeed for any who pushed on to survive. The single focus for all was victory over evil, the only option. Laura briefly thought back to a time when she would have had judgment about anyone who entered into a physical relationship simply to fulfill a need as if an answer to fear, sorrow, or loss. But these were desperate times for all, Laura Ravencouer included. She understood now that love was love, given and taken for any reason, for however long it lasted. She learned to give down thanks for that knowledge and that solace.

When Nikita had been rescued and smuggled aboard a freighter from the European City , the child was near death. She could understand and converse in the language of the Great Northeastern City but after her torture she had very little trust, choosing not to communicate often with anyone other than Dr. Reynolds. She had been vaccinated at the age of sixteen earth years, which combined with her will and the will of her physician she survived. Her body had been horribly burned and disfigured; she had been very self-conscious of that until others who cared for her, teaching her that her spirit, her ever present love of others, and need to care for them compensated tenfold for any superficial imperfections. She learned how to read and write quickly while still at the health care facility in the Great Northeastern City . Nikita absorbed lessons with remarkable speed as Dr. Lindsay Reynolds continued to teach her how to care for others. Nikita read as many of Lindsay ' s medical books as she could, becoming exceedingly skilled in giving reliable care to those who came to their door. Lindsay believed that in a different place and time Nikita Cee would have made a brilliant physician as she almost unexplainable talents and gifts for Medicine. In her very quiet manner, Nikita assisted Dr. Reynolds in almost all her work at the former health care facility in the Great Northeastern City and at Sanctuary.

Nikita had been given the name Cee as she could not write her name when she first arrived for care in the Great Northeastern City and nobody could spell the name she spoke. She was of eastern European descent and her name sounded as it started with the letter Cee. By the time she was rescued her Aunt Ekaterina had died and Lou had very sporadic contact with Thea. So Lindsay wrote her name as Nikita Cee, she became known as that. Those who became very close to her, including Lou, called her Niki; she usually smiled when addressed as such.

Lou and Niki had a friendship that could almost be called symbiotic. Niki cared for Lou even before she regained consciousness. Dr. Reynolds often said that it was not her will alone that forced Louiza Shipman to choose life as she could almost touch Niki ' s constant urging to Lou to keep taking breaths, to keep her heart beating, to keep her brain on this side of life. When Lou had recovered enough to realize that she would never walk again due to crush fractures of her pelvis and both legs, Niki sat with her as she raged, cried, screamed, and briefly chose to accept defeat. It was then that Niki showed how much she loved her friend, telling her firmly with no gentle words that the time for self-pity had gone. She reminded Lou that she was here to serve her brothers and sisters; she would not stop, not while Niki was watching. No-one could better understand the anger and the rage; nobody understood the depth of strength that had to be tapped and taken to the surface every day for the rest of her life. Niki had lived her own life with those rules since Lindsay Reynolds willed life back into her; Niki Cee loved Louiza Shipman and would not allow her to choose defeat, not in the present, not ever. Niki taught Lou how to use her limbs to assist with her mobility. Niki berated, begged, and bullied physical fitness into her friend, understanding that Lou ' s growing strength would lead to increased independence as an avenue back to where she could lead her brothers and sisters again. Niki reminded they had damaged skin and bones, but they would never ever take one single piece of their souls.

Niki rarely left her friend ' s room while still at the health care facility in the Great Northeastern City . Dr. Reynolds knew that one of these women would not thrive without the other; as such she would not allow transfer of one to Sanctuary without the other. At Sanctuary, both women shared a suite of rooms with one large bath facility. Each had a private space but Niki only slept alone in her room. The rest of her days were spent caring for Lou as well as caring for many other women who brought broken lives to Sanctuary. When Niki smiled, the space around her lit up with a glow not unlike the sun. She had what many would call a magic touch, only Niki and her ancients knew that it was given to others by their direction. Lou had grown to independence of her daily living activities needing only Niki ' s assistance for bathing in a shower. Most nights after Lou had retired to her bed, Niki would join her at her bedside and they would catch up on the stories of their individual days. Lou spent many hours each day with Thea, also writing to the outposts by email. She was the scribe for Sanctuary, keeping all archives, the work was one she knew and loved. Her greatest passion and her purpose from her ancients to her beloved earthlings were to encourage, push, cajole, and lead to fighting the evil among them. Niki worked with Dr. Lindsay Reynolds and Tess Redhawk assisting in delivering health care to those who were brought from the south to Sanctuary. At her very young age, she was like a mother to many, a role she fulfilled with easy, happy purpose. She took pride in doing random acts of kindness for many although most understood quickly who the perpetrator was. When she entered Laura Ravencouer ' s suite on the night of her last arrival to deliver more fuel to find her being much loved by Lindsay, she was overjoyed, somewhat surprised, and just a little bit embarrassed. She returned to the suite she shared with Lou and as her friend was awake she told her about her discovery. Lou smiled, taking her young friend ' s hands to tell her that love between two women was not uncommon, was joyful, a refuge and solace for many. She told Niki to be happy that Lindsay would be filled up in another part of her soul at least for the next few days and she would be happier now than she had been since Niki knew her. Niki had been forced to prostitution and rape as a young child, only seeing sex between two people in that light. Lou and Lindsay had talked to her extensively in the past to explain that rape was not an act of sex but an act of violence. She had been told that when two people love each other, a physical expression of that was joyful and wondrous. She trusted both her friends but still personally could not relate to their words. She did trust, however, that if Lou felt that the new lovership between Laura and Lindsay was one to celebrate then she would be happy for them.

Lou loved Niki, initially as a friend, sometimes as a parent, sometimes as a peer, always as a very close friend She did have thoughts of passion with the young woman but saw that as almost incestuous as Niki was years younger than either Declan or Drew. But, Lou also knew at her center that the only aspect of their relationship that had not been traversed was the physical one. Lou and Tess Redhawk had been sister friends for many years with not many secrets held from the other. Lou had broached the subject of her feelings for Niki with Tess whose reaction was less than positive. Tess had known Maggie, had walked with Lou through the grief and anger when Maggie died. Lou understood that Tess was being understandably cautious for her friend. Lou also suspected that Tess still had some insecurity about having to share yet another person with the war about them; if Lou remained without a romantic connection then Tess felt that there was more room in her for her long term friendships. Lou knew that this was only conclusion of someone who had not lived as many earth years as she and even though she loved Tess, respecting her opinion greatly, Lou knew to trust her own choices.

It had been years since Louiza Shipman had seduced anyone and certainly never one younger than her sons. She chided herself ever so slightly when she saw only the challenge of that with not much else. She helped herself to some pillar candles from the Sanctuary storeroom, and then stopped to visit her friend Thea telling her she was hoping to be occupied later on that evening. Thea shook her head, smiled, hugged her dear friend, telling her to be very careful what she asked for as she just might get it. Nikita came back to the suite just as Lou was changing linens and admonished her for not waiting for her help. Lou chose not to explain as she hoped at some point it would become obvious to the young woman. She did ask Niki to join her for dinner, then to help with a shower before bed; Niki was happy to comply.

Lou found a private stash of bubble bath, one that Thea had given her when they had moved to Sanctuary. At the time, Lou laughed at the sheer frivolity of that but kept it; she was now congratulating herself on that isolated wisdom. She ran a bubble bath and was just climbing to her bath bench when Niki joined her. Niki had never had a bubble bath in her young life, only seeing photographs of them in old books. She broke into a beautiful grin as she reached over to scoop up a handful and blow the bubbles gently and then giggled. Lou had lit many pillar candles so there was only soft flame light in the room. She then quietly asked Niki to join her in the tub. A very odd look crossed her young friend ' s face as she undressed and climbed into the warm bubbles. Lou had never seen that look before, not certain of its meaning, but would not have to wait long to understand. Niki took Lou ' s hand, reached forward, shyly kissed her lips, and then again not so shyly. This was not the kiss of an innocent child or a platonic friendship. Lou ' s breath was taken away momentarily as she came up for air to look at her soon to be lover ' s beautiful face. Niki still had not spoken a word but smiled as helped her friend finish her bath, this time with very seductive touches mixed with soft kisses. Very old familiar electric currents started their courses though Lou ' s body; she smiled that if she had ever doubted their existence at this point in her life she was very foolish. Niki finished her own bathing and then helped Lou to dry, both women moved to Lou ' s bedroom. Niki brought lit candles, placing them about the room, then locked the door to their suite. Lou had not transferred to her bed as yet; Niki sat on the bed before her, unclipping and loosing braids to let waist length blonde hair tumble down. Lou had never seen Niki with her hair flowing freely as was the case for everyone at Sanctuary. Niki was still very self-conscious about her disfigured body but on this night sitting before Lou it was not of consequence. Again, Niki leaned forward and with hands holding Lou ' s face she began a torrent of kisses that would have taken Lou to her knees if that had been physically possible. She only moved away long enough to let Lou get into her bed and then lay at her side quickly. Before her seduction of Lou continued in earnest now, Niki smiled, asking Lou whatever had taken her so long. Lou laughed out loud for minutes and would laugh often in the future when she thought of those words. She also laughed at herself for being so preoccupied with her own prowess. The age old passion found between two women loving each other found the couple repeatedly before sleep claimed them as the eastern sky chose dawn over darkness. Niki ' s friend Marla had knocked on their door several times in the evening, going to Thea to express concern that there might be trouble there that might need intervention. Thea reassured Marla that there was no trouble of any sort behind that door, after a certain look Marla blushed as she finally understood why her presence was not needed with her friend or with Lou.

At almost the end of the morning meal time, Niki emerged from their suite, still with her hair loosed, dressed only in night clothes. She retrieved a breakfast tray for both Lou and herself with very definite stares from all those who still remained in the kitchen. She said not a word but with first raised eyebrows and then a radiant smile she returned to her lover. As she was closing the door, there was applause from all their friends which caused fits of giggles from both Lou and Niki. Lindsay made her usual morning rounds at the heath care facility at Sanctuary and while she was greeted by the usual helpers and by Tess Redhawk, she had not seen Niki which concerned her slightly as she had never seen a morning where Niki was not at work, not with her to visit each patient. Marla quietly whispered a message to Lindsay at the end of the rounds which brought a broad grin to the physician ' s face. Tess asked Lindsay several minutes later if what she was suspecting was true, Lindsay confirmed. Tess was not sure if she was happy or angry but it did not matter as Lou ' s journey was obviously unfolding as it should.

Nikita and Lou ate breakfast in bed that morning, both feeling entirely decadent as this was a luxury that even Thea did not allow herself. Neither woman was ready to leave the other for hours yet, many words needed to be spoken along with many kisses and touches needing to be given. Lou talked of being afraid to frighten Niki as her only experience with sex was with prostitution and violence. She spoke of wanting Niki ' s first passionate experience to be that of joy and pleasure. Lou said that in no way was she hoping to negate any of Nikita ' s experiences as it was her firm belief that every person was the sum total of all that had happened to them in the past. She also spoke openly and as candidly as she could about Niki being younger than her children as Lou was not a young woman. She had always been concerned that Niki find a lover closer to her age, one with whom she would have a close life time knowledge. Niki hushed her with kisses, telling her that none of that should concern Lou. She continued that she had been frightened for a long time about the prospect of having sex again with anyone because of her past. She said that she had learned not to be a victim to any other circumstances in her life, as such she found the courage she needed to pursue Lou even though she was not obviously certain about now that should happen. She said that since they had arrived at Sanctuary, since their lives were safe and peaceful that she had wanted to lie in her lover ' s arms as they did this morning. She realized that she loved Louiza as a friend, loved her mind, loved her spirit, loved her soul, loved her humor and compassion. She then also realized that the wanted to love Lou ' s body as well as if to complete the picture. She told Lou that she had no need to think about forever as forever was a concept that none could afford. Nikita Cee understood loss, she had seen far too much in her few years on earth. She wanted to love Lou for as long as that would happen; she wanted to enjoy her company and her body as often as the ancients deemed possible. She was an ancient; she knew that she had known Lou on the helix for many spirals. Without complication of ego, she understood she had been sent to make the lives of her brothers and sisters more complete in the way the ancients and the high priestess had chosen. Lou held her and looked at with eyes of wonder. She had always known this was a strong special young woman but was almost dumbfounded by her wisdom earned in so few years here on earth.

Before the midday meal, Niki and Lou were back in the bath, then back to clean linens and each other ' s arms and bodies. Lindsay visited with Thea as both women rejoiced for their friends. Lindsay reiterated what many had said before and as Thea had always known. Sanctuary was a magic home for all those arrived there.

Sanctuary grew and those who lived there thrived. Thea ' s native family had grown, now living in separate community homes close to the compound. With their stewardship, herds of domestic animals flourished. Tess Redhawk continued to develop new strains of hardy vegetables, fruits, grasses, and young trees to sustain a future at Sanctuary and in the south if the battles were won.

Tess Crosby Redhawk had evolved from a youth who had great fears of commitment and lack of acceptance to a grown woman, beautiful, Rubensque, quick thinking and frighteningly analytical. She had an extensive knowledge of botany and of nutrition using those gifts given by Mother. She felt strongly that earthlings should be able to be sustained by those elements of nature with an almost uncanny mistrust of organized Medicine. She always drew back to the argument of the vaccine given to prolong life when it, in fact, resulted in no further life. She and Lindsay had great respect for each other with genuine affection but they could go nose to nose and did often about the correct course of care for many fighters who came to Sanctuary for healing and respite.

Tess was madly in love with and madly loved by Stephan Redhawk, they both had been since first meeting. As with her mother and father, she had not held, hugged, or kissed her beloved Stephan in months, even more angry with The Decision for taking her man and his passion from her. She missed his quiet, deadly humor as well as many physical attributes. She kept fighting for all her sisters, her brothers, and mostly her lover. Tess had many sister friends among the native women in the north. She had always had a great interest in their history and now an affinity with their lives. She spent hours in conversation with Thea learning about her early days in the north and that very great fight to keep Tom ' s family alive and together. As with most, Tess was in awe of the resilience of these people with a very deep respect for the centuries of knowledge stored in their minds and souls. Meda and her daughters taught Tess healing and midwifery skills that she practiced often with great joy as each new child was born.

Both the northwestern and northeastern outposts had large greenhouses as did several smaller outposts. The generations of the Taylor family as well as other ranch families taught their brothers and sisters how to harvest and preserve food, to be stewards to land and animals. Roy and Declan and those they led made continuous heroic transport runs to those Resistance fighters still surviving in small cells in the former inner cities. Food, clothing, medical supplies, and news of the victories sustained those who stayed to resist and fight back. Declan returned from each trip with photographs and stories of the complete destruction of what were their homes and their beloved Mother. With each trip, Laura sat alone in her quarters, holding two very tattered hand knit bears with names no longer visible, weeping at the sights before her eyes and in her heart.

Chapter 2-9

Commander Ravencouer returned to the northwestern command post for Wintersday. She brought blessings from Sanctuary with a renewed sense of peace and courage to continue. Declan and Ross were able to spend the Eve with Frida. Rachel, and Emme, then returned to the troops and their Commander on Wintersday morning just as she was walking back to her quarters. She looked up to see ravens circling above as she smiled through tears, giving down thanks for the renewed life of the sun and in her. Neither of her friends spoke but now understood that the ravens were from their ancients as they too gave down thanks. More and more, both men understood that this was a very magic woman. They had led battles that should have been lost but were not; the will of their Commander held fast around every heart and soul. Ross felt as a father to the young Laura, she and Rachel were the same age. Laura had told him often that she had already lived too many lifetimes, that she lived one each time she asked her brothers and sisters to give up their lives to defeat evil they did not deserve. Ross was Laura ' s friend who loved her and more so as his priestess. She understood that connection with had great affection and trust for the man as well. As she sat in their office shortly after her return, Laura ' s thoughts went back to Lindsay as Ross saw a new look of softness about his Commander. They had never talked of Laura ' s personal life and would not although Ross knew of the news of Amanda ' s death as did Declan. She looked up to see him watching her. She smiled, telling him softly that she and Lindsay were lovers, she was very grateful for that solace and comfort. Ross grinned back, simply replying Roger that .

Over the winter months, overland transport and fighters continued raids on Military supply routes. Fuel had been successfully expropriated and taken to needed supplies for the Resistance. Laura and her leaders began planning the raids to come when the weather would permit again. Before further attacks could take place on air fields or fuel depots, the Resistance needed more Raptor craft. Sean and Laura jumped to behind walls at Central Command in a blinding snow storm with Drew as pilot. Raptor crafts were hotwired, flown out before guards noticed the invasion. Laura smiled as she remembered she had been told she would know how to hot wire a tank if need be. Two nights later, two more helicopters were expropriated from the same command post under the noses of the same guards. Nobody liked the fact that their Commander was in the field at great risk but none could argue that she was as good as or better than Drew at illegally starting an ignition. Declan emailed his mother at Sanctuary, mentioning that Laura was every bit as good as Drew; Lou was not sure she should be happy or sad about that but she did tell Thea and Lindsay of Laura ' s accomplishments.

There were four more airfields to be destroyed; two would be the focus of the early spring attacks. Survivors had been trained at every outpost and at Sanctuary over the months leading to the attacks. Amelia and Sterling intercepted communications from the Military commanders to The Decision that supplies were becoming short such that the remaining airstrips would be defended at all costs. The leaders planned for attacks in the east and then the west for the last week of the third month of the new year, one where snow would still be on the ground but was not likely to interfere with flight. Sean and Laura taught senior pilots how to fly the Raptors. All had grown up flying cargo planes, adapting easily and with much delight to the new, more easily controlled aircraft. There were now six Raptor craft slated to fly bombing passes to cover jumping and retrieval of fighters who would set explosives. Laura did not need to state the fact to anyone that there were their most dangerous missions to date, that lives would be lost, that nothing short of absolute destruction was acceptable. Under cover of night and snow, six Raptors began bombing passes as fighters jumped. There was much greater Military resistance than on any other mission previously as they had all expected. Jumping fighters were shot in the air and dead before they hit the ground. Laura saw many of them die before her eyes as she quietly commanded pass after pass over the radio with a voice of steel few had heard in the past. There was ground to air attacks by the Military that was quickly thwarted by low flying pilots, again from the west, dropping bombs and missiles on the ground installations. Explosives were set and fighters retrieved by pilots who flew under conditions of attack none had experienced previously. Laura led the Raptor pilots on pass after pass until there was radio notice that the fighters had been retrieved. She then signaled for one last deadly pass by all her remaining pilots with exacting support from the pilots from the west. She commanded to return to the eastern command post as detonators started fireballs reaching into the skies. She looked to see the pilots sent by the ancients fly to the blackened western sky. Two nights later the airfield in the west was attacked with the same precision, the same determination, the same absolute command to victory, and the support of the pilots from the west. No aircraft had been lost in either raid; the battles had sent many more souls to peace on the helix. The leaders planned then attacks on six more command posts over the following six weeks. On the last day of the fourth month of the new year, fires burned in the eastern and western cities, not from celebration of Bealtaine but from the will of the ancients.

Laura flew back to Sanctuary in the second week of the fifth month for rest as well as to deliver survivors and supplies. She had passed the twenty-fourth anniversary of her birth. With every attack and every death of those she knew and those she did not, Laura became increasingly fatigued and weary. Lindsay gathered her into waiting arms to love away what hurt she could. Laura allowed herself to be lost in the solace of her lover ' s soul, a decided but necessary indulgence. It was spring in the north, Laura and Lindsay took horses out to the tundra and to the river to see all the new life Mother had given as blessings. Laura knew that there was new life in the south as well but when she returned she could only see the destruction. Sanctuary was a place of hope to those who lived there, those who recovered and trained there. It was the home of children born to the Resistance, those of Lou ' s father ' s Silver Nova. Laura did not speak of the planned destruction that was inevitable in the coming months. She did tell Lindsay that they were close to the final battles, those that would determine the fate of them all.

Laura was constantly surprised at the urgency of the passion she found with Lindsay. Neither seemed prepared to linger with romantic ideations as if there was no time for that luxury. The need for each other was great and almost totally consuming. Both knew that in a different place and time, when surviving was not at the center of each, that there would be romance but there was no place for it on a battleground. Laura did ask Lindsay if she felt robbed of that; Lindsay replied she did not. She understood theirs was not a romantic love but one of need and desire, one that fulfilled what the other needed. She said that she had known great and abiding romantic love once in her life, enough to sustain her when she would allow it. She said there were times when she felt like she should apologize to Laura for not allowing that connection in herself again; Laura replied that no apology for any love was ever necessary. Laura said that every time she held Lindsay and found passion with escape to her soul that was a gift, a memory, a joy never to be forgotten. She said that whatever did happen in their lives in the coming months they would remember the love they felt and kept for the other. That would sustain them as those from the past did now.

Thea told her daughter of the love now shared between Lou and Nikita. Lou had not been able to share that news with her brother or her sons although Thea was not sure why. Lou had told Thea early in their friendship that neither Declan nor Drew had been very fond of Maggie; there were often at least strained conversations with them about their mother ' s partner. Lou and Ross were close but had never talked about their personal relationships beyond Lou knowing that Ross was absolutely smitten with Frida and would be forever on the spirals of the helix. Laura responded that if Lou and Nikita were happy together then it was not of any concern of anyone else as long as no harm was done. However, on her return to the northwestern command post she had a frank discussion about how Lou was indeed a mother and a sister but also a lovely woman with the same needs in her life as anyone else.

Lindsay told Laura of meeting Amelia ' s and Sterling ' s daughter Justine. She had worked at one of the universities in the Northeastern City . She and Lindsay had known each other briefly and professionally before The Decision has escalated control. Justine had escaped back to the far eastern archipelago of the Northeastern City to safety with her family. Lindsay continued that she was brilliant, a molecular chemist, who understood more about compounds than most humans knew of their collective histories. She said she was bright, funny, and took no nonsense for anyone, traits that made her loved by most who knew her. The Decision had tried to court her to work for them and she refused, wanting no part of the politics of exclusion and stating so. Lindsay was no chemist and understood biology only as it applied to Medicine but she told Laura that if anyone could break the code of composition of the compounds used in the vaccines it would be Justine Carland. Lindsay said she needed to work with this woman, to work to reverse the effects of greed that robbed women of children. Laura understood that the reversal of that plight would be the only thing that would finally ease Lindsay ' s torment.

Lindsay and Laura took horses to the tundra on several days before Laura returned to the south. They rode to visit some of the native women living in homes separate from the main compound. These women now all understood from Thea and from Meda that Laura was Thea ' s daughter; they greeted both women with much affection. Laura and Lindsay planned a visit to the river ' s edge and as such declined the invitation to dine with their new friends. Two of the women were obviously pregnant and children of various ages ran about in the warmth of an early summer day. Lindsay stopped to talk to each child, holding many for hugs, kisses, and cuddles, as if transformed temporarily to her true happy state. Suddenly, the ancients revealed to Laura that Lindsay was the women in the painting. She would lead her sisters and brothers to their destinies of future generations. Laura had recognized the raven haired beauty from their first meeting but only now did she see the woman she had met when she walked among her ancients. All the silver chains that could ever be wrapped around her heart for her own protection could not stop the love she now felt for this woman, her sister, her lover, the one who would help lead them to their futures. When they left the native houses, Laura asked Lindsay if they could just go back to the compound as she had a very definite need to hold her in her arms and in her soul. Lou smiled as she saw the young women almost run to Lindsay ' s suite and lock the door. She quietly told Nikita to make sure the good doctor was not disturbed for many hours. Laura took Lindsay to the shower as they danced to the rhythms of passion. Somewhere in Laura ' s memory, there were lessons of teasing a lover and tease she did. Lindsay often was the aggressor, taunting Laura with eyes that beckoned to come hither. This afternoon and well into evening, Lindsay would find hours of begging to reach pinnacles she had never known; only to be teased repeatedly. A voice in Laura then whispered to Lindsay to never beckon unless she meant it. Kisses and touches led to more kisses and touches until her knees buckled; Dr. Lindsay Reynolds would just see fleeting glimpses that day of a magic Laura Ravencouer. Noshi and the ancients gave thanks to the ancient priestess that Laura ' s journey was unfolding as it should.

Laura returned to the northwestern command post in the first week of the sixth month of the new year. Before any meetings for future plans, she summoned Ross and Declan and had an online meeting with Drew. She firmly but lovingly told them that Louiza Shipman had a lover, was glowing and more lovely than ever. She reminded them that all of them at the meeting understood the need for love in their lives, their sister and mother was no different. She stated that she felt rather foolish being the messenger but for whatever reason Lou could not impart her very new, happy personal information. She suggested, as only a commander could suggest, that they all contact her to offer their blessings. Amelia and Sterling reported final victory of the Resistance in the European City . Amelia was gathering information of the fledging organization of survivors, plans for rebuilding and for eventual self-government; as these data were received Amelia forwarded them to Declan, Rachel, and to the archives at Sanctuary. The news of the European victory brought joy and hope to the Resistance in the great northern cities but Laura and the leaders also understood that it would mean much greater desperation on the part of The Decision here. Everyone understood that the final battles would loom in the next months.

Chapter 2-10

The news of the victory of their brothers and sisters in the European city drove down even greater determination in the fighters remaining in the northern Resistance. Every survivor now trained for battle. Declan, Drew, Ross, Sean, and Stephan freed hundreds of men from the labor camps. The northernmost outpost, larger southern outposts and Sanctuary healed and fed broken bodies and souls, readying them to fight to take back their lives. Laura and all leaders understood clearly from the ancients that one Military base, one not functional from the Military point of view; one on the northwestern coast would not be attacked. Laura did not question the wisdom of her ancients as did no others. She did understand that their future would be played out in part at that base. Her memory told her of Carriere but the silver chains holding fast to her heart allowed no emotion. There were five remaining Combined Command bases, the Central Command post, and the compound housing the elite of The Decision. There were also only two remaining airfields left for delivery of supplies and two remaining fuel depots. Both fuel depots were in the central part of the inner cities and their destruction would surely lead to loss of the lives of Resistance fighters still remaining small cells. The risk of their rescue was too great for the overland transports. If The Decision was to be stopped, the fuel depots had to be destroyed. The need to sacrifice those Resistance fighters was the hardest choice that Commander Ravencouer had yet to make. The raids were planned for the first week of the ninth month of the new year, the east first and then the west. No fighters would jump for these missions. Two transport planes filled with bombs and fighters to launch them from cargo bays, six Raptor ' s, and four Peregrines flew to attack under darkness and as the attack began, six pilots from the west flew low passes dropping bombs and missiles on ground installations. They flew with great speed with even greater precision, none of the bombs and missiles dropped missed targets. Commander Ravencouer then commanded her pilots to destroy the remaining eastern fuel depot and as explosions rocked the city around them, all aircraft flew west in to the darkness. Two days later, the remaining western fuel depot was destroyed. There were no survivors left in the inner cities. After debriefing, Laura walked to the edge of the tarmac seeing only the flames and faces of those she had killed. There was no voice to scream or tears to cry but her soul bled for each of them. Ross wanted to go to her but the grandfather knew that this was Laura ' s battle, one she must fight alone. Her razor sharp mind understood the logic of every move she had made and every decision she had made. Her brothers and sisters were fighting, were claiming their lives and their futures. She understood this was her destiny, their destiny. She knew from her ancients that this battle had been fought repeatedly since the beginning spiral of the helix. Her heart remained wrapped with silver chains in order to protect it from breaking. The ancients who loved her and protected her would hold and shore up her soul. Laura could not allow the luxury of doubt, she returned in her fatigue to return to her quarters as Declan and Ross watched. Laura stopped and looked up to ravens circling above her. As if by some infusion of life, she straightened her shoulders and raised her weary head, returning to rest and the remaining battles.

Fighters were readied for attacks on the five remaining Combined Forces command posts. Four were in the Northeastern City and all but the one at The Decision compound were small and remote. Amelia and Sterling sent current photographs and information about approximate numbers of ground troops at each. Two raids on two nights were planned and then carried out. Laura, Sean, Drew, and Sean ' s brother Alex Taylor flew Raptor bombing support while eight pilots dropped and then retrieved fighters who set explosives. As retrieval of fighters began, six pilots from the west flew low bombing passes. As the Resistance fighters flew to the west, the six pilots flew one last pass, their missiles and explosives completely destroyed the four remaining Northeastern bases. One week later the remaining Combined Forces command post in the Northwestern City was destroyed, again with help from the six pilots from the west, again many more lives being sacrificed.

Laura and her leaders then planned for the destruction of the final air fields. All understood this would be the hardest battle they had faced and would only be in preparation for the final assault. They planned to carry out night raids in the second week of the tenth month of the new year. Ross urged Laura to fly to Sanctuary with women and supplies as well as returning with as many fighters as were ready there. He also wanted her to spend some hours with Lindsay before they all faced the final battles of their fate. Laura did fly to her lover ' s arms. She rarely spoke of plans to Lindsay as she did not want to cause alarm or fright but did speak and cried in another woman ' s arms. Lindsay met her demands with passion over and again; in the morning told her that all those unborn loved her and needed her now as none had ever in the past. Neither woman left the other for the remainder of Laura ' s stay at Sanctuary. There was no teasing and no need for it. Laura needed and wanted her lover, asking for her body and her passion. For the remaining day and night, Commander Laura Ravencouer saw fleeting glimpses of the magic of Lindsay Reynolds. The fighters at Sanctuary boarded the Raptor; before Laura climbed in to the cockpit she saw all those remaining at Sanctuary on the tarmac with bended knees as ravens circled above. The journey of the priestess was unfolding as it should.

Laura contacted Amelia and Sterling to inquire about their daughter Justine. Amelia replied that the young woman was beyond bored and decidedly difficult to live with. Laura then commanded that Justine Carland be taken to Sanctuary to assist with medical research there; Justine was not happy at being directed to do anything but was on the next Resistance flight to the northeastern command post and then north to Sanctuary.

Justine Carland was like a breath of very fresh air. She was brash, brilliant, and very opinionated. She was glad to see Lindsay but was not happy to have been commanded to be in the north, although she did admit that it might be marginally less boring that where she had lived for the past few years. She told Lindsay that this Ravencouer woman had better be good as so far nobody had ever told her what to do and lived to tell about it. Lindsay smiled, quietly telling Justine that she was very good indeed. Justine knew that she was the commander, her mother and father worked often with her and spoke very highly of her. Justine chose to ignore Lindsay ' s comments as it was information she just did not want to know. In the days to come, she would tell Lindsay that she really didn ' t care as she didn ' t like men or women.

Justine was a young, wiry, energetic, and very pretty woman. She had many tattoos and piercings all over her body, very dynamic, very visible. Body art or adornment was thought to be very bold and not at all feminine by The Decision and had been discouraged early in their campaigns for control. Justine did not care. She liked them and she had them. She had no patience with some group of old men who had nothing better to worry about than what women should look like. She was a brilliant student and had graduated with a doctorate degree is Molecular Chemistry and was given permanent tenure as a professor at the University in the Northeastern City by the time she was twenty-eight earth years old. She had participated in projects for research for private enterprises and for The Decision. Justine had worked briefly on development of the vaccine in the early days before she understood the motive for its use. It was clearly and quickly understood by both women that they held the futures of all humans in their collective knowledge.

Lindsay had set up a simple but working lab at the health care facility in the north. After a day of introduction and understanding the minds of the other, Lindsay and Justine started the work of the future. Lindsay had taken the last supplies of vaccines from the health care facility in the Northeastern City before she fled to Sanctuary. Justine transformed from an angry young woman with an attitude to a brilliant warrior challenged with unlocking the maniacal efforts of what she would call mad scientists. It only took days to see the chemical structure of the vaccine and now Justine was driven by forces she could not explain to find the reversal. Thea and Lou understood the ancients were preparing the future.

Chapter 2-11

The remaining northeastern airfield was located close to and guarded by the last Military post protecting The Decision compound. There were ships in the river delta bordering the compound, again serving now as protection. Laura understood that absolute precision and timing would decide victory in this upcoming fight. It was decided that they would take all available aircraft and every able fighter. There were four battles left between freedom and defeat. Laura trusted her crews, her knowledge, and her ancients; her Resistance trusted their Commander. All bombing pilots would provide cover for all those who would jump and be retrieved after placing explosives. Sean and his brother Alex would fly the air transport planes with fighters aboard to launch bombs from the cargo bays. Drew, Sean, and another Raptor pilot would target the ships in the river. All other bombing pilots would target the air field and support for fighters jumping. Annique and Ross would coordinate communications and every remaining survivor in the all the outposts and Sanctuary would offer pleas to the ancients as Commander Ravencouer gave the command to initiate the attack. As they approached the airfield and the ships in the harbor, six pilots from the west flew in quickly and low over the ships to drop missiles with absolute precision, literally seconds before the Resistance pilots dropped bombs. At the same time the remaining bomber Resistance pilots started pass after pass on the airfield as jumpers left aircraft. The six pilots made another missile run over the ships in the harbor and then flew low to bomb ground installations on the air field as the Resistance bombers continued the passes. As never before, Laura heard Captain Stenns and Colonel Bennett instructions repeatedly in her memory. Commander Ravencouer calmly and with more strength in her voice than had ever been heard in the past directed her fighters to remain focused, to listen to their memories, to remember why they were where they were. One last missile pass disabled the ships in the harbor. The six pilots from the west flew in close formation weaving in and out among the quickly disabled Military ground to air missile launches. Laura kept commanding pass after pass of Resistance pilots as fighters were retrieved. Two Resistance helicopters about to retrieve fighters were shot out of the air and crashed. Two of the six pilots from the west then completely destroyed those Military installations responsible for those attacks. When notice that all surviving fighters had been retrieved, Commander Ravencouer commanded return to the northeastern command post as she and the Resistance bombing craft made one last pass. As they turned to return to the command post, the six pilots from the west dropped the last deadly missiles as the airfield was completely engulfed in flames. Hundreds of Resistance fighters did not return to the command post along with the two lost aircraft, many more hundreds lay dead supporting a Military and The Decision who did not even know they had existed once to die.

The remaining western airfield was attacked in two nights ' time. There were no ships to attack as it was inland but there was the expected heavy Military defense. Using communications to all craft and fighters as directed by Ross and Annique, Commander Ravencouer gave down blessings to the ancients and to all those who chose life over The Evil Ones minutes before giving the command to start the attack. They were met at this attack by an initial attack by ground to air missiles by the Military but only one as those installations were completely destroyed by only one pass of deadly bombs and missiles from the six pilots from the west. Laura and the Resistance bomber pilots flew pass after pass over the ground installation as did the six pilots from the west while fighters jumped and set explosives. Every ear from the Resistance attacks heard every word from their Commander and those words defeated fear in the hearts of those who chose to fight back rather than be imprisoned by evil for the rest of their eternities. When the Commander received notice that all surviving fighters were aboard aircraft once again, she gave the order to return to the northwestern command post. She then commanded her bomber pilots to make once last pass before they too returned to camp. As she turned to fly east, she saw a final assault by the six pilots from the west after which there were huge balls of fire rising into the night sky. The Decision ' s last airfield was completely annihilated. The ancients received hundreds more souls to bless on the helix.

Justine Carland woke Dr. Lindsay Reyolds at 0200 hours on a third weekday. She had handed her a robe, a cup of coffee, and a sheet of paper with a chemical equation. Even the seemingly tough and crusty Justine had tears in her eyes as told her new friend that it had been reversed. She said that The Bastards were clever indeed but not quite clever enough for a bunch of women on a mission. Lindsay screamed, cried, screamed, ran first to Lou ' s suite and then to Thea. Both elders initially thought that the good doctor had finally snapped until they saw the glow from the ancients, understanding the great joy, the great victory, the great hope. Thea wanted to tell Laura immediately but Lindsay asked that they wait until Laura had fought the battles she was planning. Thea and Lou both knew that somewhat in Laura ' s soul, the ancients would tell her when she needed to know.

Thea then quietly told her beloved friend Louiza, her beloved friend Lindsay, and the brilliant young Justine who had been sent by her ancients that she wanted to be the first to receive a drug to reverse the vaccine harbored in her body. They would need to test the drug before it was safe to give to others; Thea insisted that she be that person for testing. Before any could protest, Thea said that she had lived a full life, had known the great love of her people and her child, when it was time she would return to the love of her eternity, Tom Ravencouer. Justine told her it would be days before they built the drug but it would be possible and soon. Thea also insisted that nobody outside the room that night would know of the plans until they knew of the results and the safety of the new drug.

Lou returned to her suite and to waken a worried Niki. She welcomed Niki to her arms and quietly sobbed. Niki did not ask questions but knew Lou's tears were of joy and hope. Niki had already given down thanks many times, repeatedly, that she had been given the gift of Louiza Shipman, one who was so hardened and toughened on the exterior, one had the most loving and compassionate spirit. Niki kissed away the tears from Lou ' s cheeks and kissed sleep into her. Lou stayed in Niki ' arms until morning when Niki gently left Lou ' s bed and moved to her day. She found Dr. Reynolds at the health care facility, now lighter of spirit than Niki had ever seen. She was not certain of details but knew that there was great magic present now at Sanctuary.

Over the next weeks both Justine and Lindsay worked almost around the clock to perfect the drug to reverse the effects of the vaccine. There were unknown variables, both agreed to use the standard formula for determining dose based on age and size of the person receiving the drug. They were not entirely certain that it would be effective on a vaccine given years previously; Thea was right when she insisted that she was a perfect person for trial. Lindsay knew there were out in uncharted waters with a huge responsibility to eventually perfect a drug never developed previously. She and Justine knew that in a perfect world, there would be clinical trials and years of opportunities to test the validity but they did not have the circumstances or facilities. Lindsay did not know of her ancients nor did Justine but Noshi and his most ancient high priestess were guiding the minds and spirits of both women. Lindsay told Justine on several occasions that she knew she should be frightened beyond possible, yet she was not as if somewhere in her very core she knew that the process was unfolding as it was destined.

Declan wrote to Lou, admitting his shame for not recognizing her need for the comfort of another ' s arms. He had met Nikita as part of the group at the health care facility in the north and although he did not know her well he did know she was an ancient sent with them. He gave his mother blessings, speaking of his genuine joy for his mother. Similarly, Drew wrote to his mother, offering his blessings for her and Niki. He did risk telling her that forever was not a concept that none could trust but he wanted happiness for however many days it could be and said so. Ross was a man of much few words but did email his sister to tell her that Laura had ratted her out about her love affair and signed it Roger that dear heart, Roger that!

Chapter 2-12

There were two more attacks before the earthlings could reclaim their cities and the futures. Commander Ravencouer and her leaders knew that they must attack before the winter snows. The first assault would be on the Central Combined Forces Command post in the west. Laura wanted to remove the remaining Raptor craft before the attack as they would be needed by the Resistance and would be sorely missed by the Military. Three days after the attack on the western airfield, under cover of confusion and night rains, Laura, Sean, and Drew jumped and hot-wired three more Raptor helicopters, then flew back to the northwestern command post. The remaining three craft would leave the following night. Drew would tell others for years to come that it was an honor to work in the presence of those gifted fingers. The Resistance now had twelve Raptor helicopters for the final two battles; none remained at the Central Combined Forces Command post. The attack was planned for the second week of the eleventh month of the new year. The overland transport crews brought every available fighter to the northwestern and northeastern command posts. Mitchell Taylor flew supplies to Sanctuary, returning with all available fighters there in two separate flights. Laura flew to Sanctuary for twenty-four hours to the arms of her mother and her lover. She met Justine Carland briefly, even Justine knew to be kind in the face of her commander ' s grief. None spoke of the progress of their work, only mentioning that research was underway. Laura knew she would survive as was the destiny decided by her ancients but the burden of all the lost lives threatened to crush her soul. Thea held her daughter and Laura was sure she heard Lydia ' s voice as she was told that she had no time or energy left for burdens. It was her destiny and the absolute need of her beloved earthlings that she led now to final victory. Laura then went to Lindsay ' s bed, crawled into arms that held her, loving passion and strength back to her soul. The Commander saw light and hope in her lover, such as she had not seen before and knew that Justine Carland had brought happiness in whatever capacity to Lindsay. Two days before battle, Commander Ravencouer returned to the northwestern command post with steel shards flashing from hazel eyes and fleeting glimpses of a shimmering white aura, As always, Laura knew her journey was walked with her ancients and now she was also aware of the ancient high priestess within.

Ross and Declan immediately saw the changes in their commander, their sister, their friend. They understood that the ancients would direct Laura to her destiny and all their destinies in the next few weeks. Laura chose Wintersday Eve as the date of the final assault on the compound in the east housing the remaining elite members of The Decision.

The Resistance was readied for the attack on the remaining western Central Command post. Amelia and Sterling provided the latest photographs of the command post showing almost complete coverage by ground to air missiles. Therefore, the attack would be all bombing. Every available aircraft was loaded with bombs and fighters to launch them. There was no need to remind anyone of the only possible outcome of this upcoming battle. Laura commanded that there would be no loss of Resistance life or aircraft. This battle and then the last would determine if they lived or if they died and she did tell all those who heard over the communication system that she would be damned if any would die.

At dusk the first Resistance aircraft dropped the first pass of bombs and the last without ground to air volleys. As Commander Ravencouer was about to give the command for the second pass, out of the west flew the six pilots followed by an entire squadron of unmarked bombers. Their first pass of missiles and bombs were led with brilliance and precision followed by the second and third passes by the Resistance crafts. The Military ' s ground installations were crippled after three more passes by both the unmarked squadron and the Resistance. The unmarked squadron then flew into the western sky as the six pilots continued to drop missiles and bombs followed by the Resistance craft. As Laura gave the command to return to the northwestern command post amid shouts of victory from all radios, she thought she heard a voice saying Well done Commander Ravencouer, well done .

After debriefing, Laura walked alone to the plains beyond the tarmac. For those who would see there was still a faint white aura about her. She gave down thanks to the ancients for their victory, for the six pilots and the accompanying squadron from the west. She could not see clearly yet but the voice she had heard rang in her ears, one she had heard in her soul but could not yet identify. Laura was exhausted and her spirit bled now for every life lost. Her ancients would guide her and her earthlings would give her strength to lead them past the last battle. The ancient high priestess reassured her that their beloved earthlings now loved life enough to survive and continue to their futures. Laura was promised that in due time she would understand and remember.

Justine and Lindsay took the new compound to the point where all was known save for those individual variables that would only be determined by giving Thea the drug. They also discussed that once effects and results were known; if sterility was reversed then a pregnancy would be attempted in the hopes of a live birth or at least knowledge to insure many in the future. Words were not spoken but both women knew who would be the woman to attempt that pregnancy. Thea, Lou, Lindsay, and Justine agreed that they would wait for the outcome of the final battles before Thea would take the drug. As excited and focused as Lindsay had been, her heart still went to Laura. She could only barely understand the weight on her lover ' s soul. Lindsay knew that Laura would never live her life entirely in Lindsay ' s soul but she loved the woman and always would. A very small part of Lindsay could not identify but understood entirely that there was something very different and magical about Laura; she also understood that at some point she would know who that beautiful woman really was.

Ross asked Laura if she wanted to return to Sanctuary before Wintersday and she declined. She told him that she needed to reserve every ounce of her energy and her focus for their final battle as did they all. The Military had few resources left from which to draw but they now had nothing left to lose as well. She told Ross that she mourned for all those lives lost as well as those of their own fighters. Ross reminded her gently that the ancients would welcome those souls. He had to remind himself often that this young woman, under twenty-five years of age, had the weight of all of their past and their destinies on one set of shoulders. He understood that their ancients protected her and would not let her spirit waiver when needed but he could also feel her fatigue and a quiet depth of grief that he was certain she would carry the rest of her days among them. He and Declan had already discussed the eventual need to find a replacement to assume the position of chief commander in the new military of the free peoples; filling Laura ' s shoes would be almost impossible but no-one could or would expect her to continue past what they knew as humanly possible.

Sterling and Amelia had sent current photographs of the Military command post surrounding the compound of the remaining elite members of The Decision. There were ships in the river delta as had been at the airfield. The defense of the Military command post was entirely made up of ground to air missiles. As at the last battle, Commander Ravencouer and her leaders planned an aerial assault only. Every available fighter would be aboard all available aircraft to launch the remaining bombs and explosives. This would be their last battle; there was no need to conserve beyond now. The overland transport teams fought bad weather and lack of sleep to bring supplies and the fuel to support the attack.

Declan came to speak with his friend Laura on the night before the final battle. She had not spoken many words to anyone in the last few days, drawing down almost constantly to her ancients as if to rely totally on their strength and the shoring of her spirit. He found her sitting in her quarters on her bed hugging two very tattered bears, softly rocking, lost in her soul. He handed her a cup of coffee, then sat down beside her. They had to find their way beyond strong wills and personalities when they first met and started to work together but they had grown to great respect, friendship, and love for each other. For all his gruff mannerisms and razor sharp mind, Declan McDaniels was an extremely compassionate man, one certainly born of his mother Louiza. His great heart ached for his priestess as he saw profound fatigue and wearing of spirit. He had known since before they had met that their journeys were unfolding as they should, as their destinies had been decided. He told Laura he came to say thank you for her great sacrifice. He told her that in no way could he ever begin to understand the degree of hurt she carried. They both understood that absolute necessity of the outcome of the battle. He promised that he would lead their beloved earthlings back from their hour of decision to futures full of hope. As she looked into his eyes, he told her that he and Ross would find a replacement for the position of commander for the Armed Forces organized for help of the newly freed people. He promised he would take her where she could live in peace beyond that. As he left and as never done before in the northwestern command post, he hugged his friend Laura and kissed her cheek.

On the morning of the planned final battle, Commander Ravencouer rose early, showered in nearly cold water, then braided her curls to tame them. She wore a rumpled but clean flight suit and pulled her labrys to the fore of her uniform. When she looked down at it, for just seconds she saw the labryses of all her sisters and brothers. Lohrissa came to her to guide her for the duration of the battle. When she stepped out to the tarmac before climbing into the cockpit, all those who saw her were on bended knee in the white and jewel toned aura. There was no fire from her eyes, replaced now by great love for all her earthlings. She spoke to every surviving heart without words, blessing them for their love of Mother and their lives with her. All survivors were silenced at her message. She reminded them to never again become complacent, to never again submit to greed above love for themselves and for each other. She told them that the Evil Ones would take any chance to claim their world as they had attempted many times in the past, it was their choice and only theirs to allow or deny them that. Then Commander Laura Ravencouer climbed into the cockpit of her Raptor craft and led her fighters into battle in the east.

 

 

PART 3 - SILVER CIRCLES

 

Chapter 3-1

 

This was Wintersday Eve, a day held in anticipation of the arrival of the new sun to bless earthlings with warmth and the repeated cycle of life. This was also the day that Commander Ravencouer had chosen for the final assault on the remaining compound housing the members of The Decision. This day, this upcoming battle, would determine if her beloved earthlings lived or died, whether there would a world to hold or if the Evil Ones would take it and Mother back to their lair. Hundreds of thousands of earthlings had died at the hands of The Decision and in the fight to stop them. Laura had heard Declan and Lou rant about how apathy and irresponsibility had led them here. Laura thought it had always been a moot point. They were here now and they had to claim victory or they would never be here again.

The most ancient high priestess, Lohrissa, walked in Laura ' s body when she returned to her beloved earthlings. She had agreed to every single moment of history as it had unfolded for Laura and the earthlings, long before Laura came to earth for this battle. She and all her ancients had battled the Evil Ones since the grave moment when anger and greed divided the multiverse. The helical history had always concluded that earthlings had to commit to their changes and the absolute need to conquer with only leadership and guidance from the ancients. Lohrissa, the grandfather Noshi, and all ancients on the helix and on earth finally agreed that earthlings had surpassed their errors, now truly choosing life over destruction and death.

The Resistance fighters were as prepared as they ever had been or would be for the battle to take the compound housing the remaining members of The Decision. Laura understood that their oppressors had seen defeat with not much else to lose; as such she and all her leaders expected a fight to the death from either opponent. Every available fighter and aircraft had been readied, all those not on the mission would be sending down continued pleas for their survival to the ancients. Laura had seen visions of all the destruction and death over the last few years; she also had seen visions of the battle they were about to undertake. Some small part of her soul spoke of a new and unidentified hope, one from Sanctuary. Commander Ravencouer could not allow her the luxury of that consideration in the face of leading some of her brothers and sisters to death and implementing the certain death of those who had been misguided and used by the Evil Ones to carry out their malevolence.

Aircraft and pilots at the northwestern and the northeastern command posts were ready and then in the air when Laura gave the command. Ross and Annique coordinated communications with every pilot and every fighter. As they approached the compound, Laura barked orders for formations, then with a steady voice full of resolve and hope she commanded that the assault would begin. The compound and Military installation was the largest they had encountered with more weapons ready for a counterattack. Laura told her Resistance fighters that there was no room for fear but only for logic and purpose, that fear would lead to their defeat and they would not accept defeat in any definition. As the pilots readied for their first bombing pass, from the west and flying low and with breathtaking precision appeared the six pilots accompanied by an entire squadron of unmarked bombers. They attacked in an almost three dimensional plane, upper and lower and from all points on the compass. The momentary confusion they had caused for the ground to air personnel allowed the Resistance to fly the first pass of bombs. They were followed immediately with a second and then third attack by the pilots and bombers from the west. Two pilots flew to ships in the harbor followed by Sean in an air transport. Missiles found the targets expertly as did the bombs dropped by the Resistance. The ships had little defense and after another pass by the two pilots and two more passes by Sean and the Resistance fighters, the ships were ablaze, soon to see the bottom of the river. Laura continued to command each pass, telling her Resistance sisters and brothers, both in the air and at every outpost, that she would not accept the death of any of them. She told them that the Evil Ones had expected their death and there would be no more. She continued that they had the forces and resolve within themselves to continue the battle until victory and that was her only expectation. The Military did resist with increasing futility until no personnel were living, then Commander Laura Ravencouer and her Resistance fighters bombed the compound housing the remaining members of The Decision. She commanded that there would be no mercy shown with no life remaining before they were to return to the outposts. Then squadron of unmarked bombers made two almost fatal passes with missiles followed by the pilots from the west. Laura then led her pilots on a second last pass and dropped bombs with complete accuracy. The last pass left only flames, smoke, and rubble. As she flew past the destruction for one last time, this time without bombing, there was complete radio silence. Then quietly and very joyfully, Laura Ravencouer claimed victory. There was deafening cheering over the radios as Sean and Drew and several others flew past to get one final look before returning to the outposts. Above the cheering, there was a very loud voice yelling repeatedly ROGER THAT!!!!!!! The squadron of unmarked bombers then flew high and to the west. Laura wondered if she would ever know who they were, trusting that the ancients would convey everlasting thanks. Commander Ravencouer was the last pilot to leave the destruction and to fly back to the northwestern command post. The six pilots from the west did not leave quickly, flying above, below, and on each side of her Raptor. She could not see the pilots but again gave down thanks to her ancients for their courage, for their steadfast support of the ragtag legions, for the new hope they had helped to insure. As she approached the northwestern command post, the six pilots changed direction and set course for the northwest and as the last pilot flew just slightly ahead of the commander the pilot tipped the tail of the craft and then joined the others. For a very fleeting second Laura knew she knew who the pilot was, that she knew of only one other who could do that, but the silver chains around her heart would not be loosed long enough for her to remember.

Laura was numb with fatigue and overwhelmed with the fate of those she had attacked. She completed her post flight log and stepped down to the tarmac to deafening cheers from every Resistance fighter from both command posts. Ross would say in the future that he was sure he heard the cheers from Sanctuary as the old and tired sun bade them farewell one last time. Sterling and Amelia Carland had already sent news of the victory to the European City ; messages of congratulations and praise to the ancients with accolades for their young commander filled email replies. Ross Shipman went to the Commander, shook her hand and then hugged her, out of love and concern. Laura, Ross, Declan, Drew, and Sean met in the command post for a debriefing session. Laura recounted the battle and also the tip of the helicopter tail as the last pilot from the west flew away. She did mention that she thought she had only known of one pilot who could do that but could not remember the name. Drew was an experienced pilot, stating the law of physics would make that almost impossible but Laura was certain she had seen what she had seen. At the end of the session, Drew and Sean led pilots and aircraft back to the northeastern command post. Laura said that in the coming days she would go to Sanctuary to see her beloved friends there and to find the arms of her lover. Nobody could argue the need for that. Declan and Rachel had already set down plans for immediate recovery, in the weeks to come they all would work to make plans more final. Stephan Redhawk, Drew McDaniels, and Roy Crosby freed those left imprisoned the following day. Laura insisted that the guards be treated well, offered food and shelter along with those they had guarded. Their hell had ended as well, they had as great a need to survive as any.

At Sanctuary, Thea and Lou wept then told all those living among them that the battles were over and they were free peoples again. Dr. Lindsay Reynolds understood now the rhythm of events, that Laura had directed Justine to Sanctuary as she was needed to fit another piece of the puzzle of survival. Lindsay and Nikita met with Thea and Lou back in Thea ' s suite and after some questioning Thea told Lindsay that there were directions from the most ancient high priestess and the grandfather Noshi as well as Tom Ravencouer, an old ancient who had come to earth to help his brothers and sisters start their journey to hope. Thea explained that Noshi had lived among them and was another very old ancient who had been standing side by side with his high priestess almost since the beginning spiral of the helix. Then Thea took Lindsay ' s hands, quietly, gently telling her that Lohrissa, the most ancient high priestess, walked in Laura ' s body here on earth. Lou explained that she was a very powerful, magic woman who had battled the Evil Ones many times in the past and would always come to guide her beloved earthlings. They continued that Laura knew what would happen, had seen the visions of all the death and destruction, and she continued to lead past that. Lindsay Reynolds was not a woman taken to tears often but this early Wintersday morning she wept as she slowly comprehended the true identity of her lover with the burden she had carried here on earth since the beginning of time. The good doctor ' s arms physically ached to hold Laura and love away some of the hurt. Thea then directed Lindsay and Justine to bring the drug to reverse the vaccine; she was ready for the experiment to begin. As if directed by Laura ' s ancients, Lindsay administered the drug to her friend just before the newborn sun rose in the east.

Chapter 3-2

Laura woke early on Wintersday morning and made her way to the dining area where she was greeted with love and affection by her brothers and sisters. She smiled her gratitude but told them that they should praise their ancients, each other, and themselves as they had secured the victory. Both Declan and Ross arrived within minutes and joined their leader, their priestess. Both were taken aback by the hollow depths of Laura ' s eyes, both knowing she needed to go to Sanctuary soon. Declan suggested that if she was rested enough that perhaps she could go to see her mother and her lover later on that day. Laura did not argue. She did admit her exhaustion and her need for quiet and rest. Both men told Laura to take some weeks away. There were solid plans to initiate recovery and many people to assist with implementation. Again, she did not argue. She decided to take coffee back to her quarters and then to gather civilian clothes to wear to visit her mother, her friends, and Lindsay. She could not remember the last time she had worn satin, lace, or anything other than fatigues or flight suits. Declan and Ross accompanied her back to her quarters and upon looking up there were hundreds of circling ravens, ebony black with wings tipped in gold blessings from the newborn sun. She had temporarily forgotten it was Wintersday, a day of renewal for all living things, and for the first time in many months even the silver chains around the Commander ' s heart could not stop sobs. Both her friends wrapped strong arms about their sister, giving down thanks for her and for the hope she had secured for all of them.

Before her friends departed, she asked for a favor, a rare request from the Commander. She asked if they could insure she had enough hot water for one shower, Ross laughed his reply of Roger that! Laura found satin, lace, blue jeans, soft woolen sweaters, and pairs of four inch heels. She laughed as she packed them in a kit bag to prepare for her return to Sanctuary. She always knew she was a woman but had really not remembered how to look one for many months. She also found some make up, still somewhat serviceable despite months of being ignored. She retrieved a pearl clip for her hair and she packed that as she thought maybe Lindsay would like to see her hair upswept rather than simply tucked into a helmet or under a cap. She used the only large window in the hut that served as her quarters and the command post to see her reflection, deciding she still cleaned up well. By early afternoon, she was ready to return to her lover ' s arms. She walked into the command post portion of the building; Ross looked at her, grinned, and replied with another Roger that! , Declan drew in a breath as a lovely, full grown woman emerged, smiling with a look that asked if that it was suitable. She said she would return to climb back into her Commander suit but for the coming days she was only Laura Ravencouer, period. She threw boots with a parka in the Raptor but kept the four inch heels and her leather jacket as she climbed into the cockpit, to the very definite stares of everyone on the tarmac. She smiled as she remembered it had once been said that she was the only known pilot who could climb into a cockpit in skin tight jeans, four inch heels, and still look professional. She was marginally happy she had not lost that skill amid all the chaos over the last years.

By midday, Thea was violently ill with a significant fever. Lindsay and Tess took her to the health care facility to treat her symptoms. Thankfully, by evening she had recovered, returning to her own suite. Tess prepared herbal teas to quiet her stomach, ease her fever and aches. Justine took extensive notes in great detail, also taking many vials of blood at intervals to check for chemical levels. Lou and Niki took turns watching her; Meda had not left her friend since the onset of her illness. Laura had notified Sanctuary that she would arrive by 2000 hours, Thea insisted that she be well enough to see her daughter, congratulate her, and perhaps assuage some hurt; without much intervention Thea was actually recovered from the early side effects of the drug and was ready to greet her child. Laura arrived on the tarmac and asked one of the workers in the hangers to move the Raptor once she had completed the post flight log. Laura strode to the building and then to her mother ' s room. She was surprised to find Thea in bed at this early hour; after many hugs and some tears Thea said she was very tired and would talk tomorrow of the news of great hope. Laura knew that there was magic about but also knew better to push her mother as she would be told when the ancients deemed and by whom. Before Laura left her mother ' s suite, Thea told her daughter that she was a breathtakingly beautiful woman, that her father would be very proud. Laura told Thea about the hundreds of ravens at the northwestern command post earlier that morning which brought tears to both women ' s eyes. Laura then took her skin tight jeans with the four inch heels to Dr. Lindsay Reynolds ' suite and knocked on the door. Lindsay opened the door, smiled, and could not talk to which Laura quipped that either a welcome or Wintersday blessings might be appropriate. Neither woman was certain if the door was entirely closed before Laura Ravencouer was entirely naked in Lindsay ' s arms. Voices of love found the ancients and the multiverse on this Wintersday before midnight. As both women stepped from a shower and gazed to the skies both clearly saw silver circles of stars shining their blessings in return. Neither had seen this phenomenon previously but knowing that Laura was a high priestess neither was surprised either. Desire, passion, and the joy of peace played the rhythm of love for both women throughout the night. Nikita and Marta brought wood for the stove with breakfast trays to allow Lindsay and Laura to remain with each other until they chose more company. Lindsay drew in a great breath as she started to tell her lover, the Commander, that Justine had found the reversal for the vaccine, that she and the chemist had developed a drug for its implementation. Laura saw hope shining in her friend ' s eyes as she had never seen previously. She wanted to take Lindsay her arms again and celebrate the next step in this ancient ' s journey but Lindsay stopped her. She said that what she was about to tell her might change her mind forever about their friendship. Laura already knew. She had seen a change in Thea the night before but did not know what it was or why; now she did. Lindsay explained that Thea had insisted that she take the first dose of the drug so that both Justine and Lindsay could make detailed notes on the progression of side effects and the drug ' s efficacy. She told Laura that they did not know absolute doses or if the drug could reverse the vaccine that had been harbored in a body for many years. Lindsay spoke of Thea ' s immediate violent reaction, that now the initial side effects seemed to have been ameliorated. Lindsay also told Laura that she knew about Lohrissa. She then asked for forgiveness for listening to her very strong mother. Laura replied that there was not a priest or priestess alive or spiraling on the helix that could argue with Dorothea Ravencouer. Laura stated that Thea ' s journey was unfolding as it should; it had been her destiny since long before she came back to earth. Laura then dressed and went to visit her mother.

Thea seemed to have recovered almost completely from the initial effects of the drug. She was up and moving about as usual. Laura brought coffee and sat with her mother. They laughed and cried together. As with most warriors who have seen the absolute worst ugliness of battle, Laura did not talk of specific details but instead talked about the overwhelming bravery of every Resistance fighter, that they owed their lives and their futures to all of them. She told her mother about the six pilots from the west who had accompanied them for every raid save for the initial one; she also talked about the squadron of unmarked aircraft who assisted with the final battles. As if thinking out loud, Laura continued to muse about the helicopter pilot who tipped the tail as the craft flew to the northwest. She told her mother that somewhere in her mind she knew of that pilot but could not bring that recollection any farther forward in her memory. Thea hugged her, reassuring her child her that they were all sent by the ancients. When it was time, Laura would remember. Thea then asked her daughter to fulfill a task for her. She knew that Stephan Redhawk was still at the northeastern command post and that he had been instrumental in freeing hundreds of men in the labor camps. Thea asked if Stephan could be brought to Sanctuary. Thea wanted to meet him, telling Laura that she would tell her native family that he should be their next chief. He was Tom ' s younger cousin, earning the great respect of all his family who now knew of his repeated determined bravery. Thea told Laura that the drug in her body now would reverse the vaccine; as such she would now age as the ancients had decreed. She wanted the younger man to come home to take over the work she would leave behind. Laura had tears rolling down her cheeks as Thea gently told her that she had lived a wonderful life; she had the love of her native family, of all her sisters and brothers from the south, from her most precious child, and when the time came she would journey through the eternal spirals of the helix with her beloved Tom. She asked Laura to never deny her that, to only give thanks for a life full of blessings.

Lindsay filled her usually busy days with care of those in the health facility, work with Justine on perfecting the drug to reverse the vaccine, and plans still in infancy to complete the training of student physicians who had been captured and taken to labor camps. Voices from deep within told Lindsay that new physicians were needed, she was one of the few physicians surviving to teach them. There were physicians who had been captured and had cared for workers in the labor camps as they could. These men were now at outposts recovering from tortuous ordeals. Declan communicated to her that in the coming months they would need to set definite training schemes. Somewhere in Lindsay, there was a growing urgency to complete this training as soon as possible.

Laura communicated daily with Ross, Declan, Sean, and Drew. Justine told Lindsay and then Laura that her parents, Amelia and Sterling , reported that every human on all the islands in the archipelago was celebrating as only islanders knew how. Along with the celebration was the readying of every ocean going vessel with all equipment to start a controlled, sustainable harvest of Mother ' s wealth from the ocean. Amelia did send word of communications with survivors on the far northwest coast who were making the same preparations but sadly could not celebrate in any way close to comparison with their east coast brothers and sisters. Laura asked Sean and Drew to talk to Stephan Redhawk and if he agreed to arrange for his immediate move to Sanctuary. Sean replied within hours to report that he would personally bring Stephan to Thea, his family, and Tess. Upon receipt of the news, Laura told Thea that Stephan would be at Sanctuary by the morrow; she then sought out Tess Redhawk in the greenhouse, telling her that her husband would be in arms by the next night. Tess had no words but only tears with a hug for Thea ' s daughter.

Laura went to her father ' s tundra as she could in the cold winter days. This was an easy avenue to find the peace of her ancients, to talk to Noshi and Tom. She knew of her true identity as an ancient but only knew of heritage from Elgin and Anna Marie, her grandparents. She gave thanks for finally being able to know her mother now as a grown woman, to share thoughts and experiences with her; she would always know her father and her mother for the eternal spirals of the helix. Tom gently prepared Laura for Thea ' s journey back to her ancients, much sooner now than had been anticipated after the initial delivery of the vaccine. Laura still saw the visions of the torture and death of her brothers and sisters with the exquisite pain took her always to the brink of bearable. She had long since ceased questioning why she carried these burdens in her soul as Noshi had told her it was destined by the ancient high priestess before she came to Laura. Laura did wonder, however, if she would ever find the peace of her soul she only vaguely and momentarily remembered was hers in her past. There was solace and comfort with Lindsay; she gave thanks daily for her presence in her life. But as great as their friendship had been, theirs was not a romantic lasting love; both women understood that and had since they first met. They did laugh and play together, for moments of time away they found passion and travel to beyond themselves and to the multiverse. However, Laura saw a new hope in Lindsay, wisdom in her speaking to Lindsay ' s focus, passion to change in the near future; a change for which Laura could only ultimately rejoice.

Lou and Laura finally had time to spend hours together in person. Laura talked of Lou ' s wonderful sons and how proud she must be. Lou laughed; telling her friend that there had been many days in their youth when proud was never an adjective Lou had used. Laura returned the laugh, recounting that both Declan and Drew spoke of Declan ' s refusal at authority and Drew ' s magic fingers to which Lou retorted that she had heard those traits in Laura were just as good. All teasing aside, Laura said that they had been at the center of the fight as well as being strong supports for her as had Ross; Laura said that the ancients had chosen well. Nikita returned to Lou ' s side with affection often during the hours that Laura and Lou spend together; their love seen by Laura brought comfort to her as she understood one more reason why freedom was the only real choice. Thea had told Laura of Maggie ' s death years before with the reasons why. Laura wondered if there were any survivors who had not known loss of some description. It was her hope that the remembrances of those losses would continue to motivate her beloved earthlings to make the right choices for their lives and for Mother. Declan had already started making plans with Lou to have her return to the former Northeastern City to help survivors rebuild homes and futures. Lou told Laura that there would be children born to survivors, it was only a matter of time before Justine and Lindsay would perfect a drug to reverse the vaccine and sterility.

Laura saw almost daily changes in her mother. Her former shock of red hair was now streaked with gray, her face now showing wrinkles and the signs of aging. Justine and Lindsay continued to assess daily blood work, keeping detailed records of all the changes in Thea ' s body. She had been twenty-five earth years when she received the vaccine and was now forty-three earth years old. Until the time of the drug to reverse the vaccine her body had only aged slightly, Lindsay estimated her metabolic age at the time of injection to be approximately thirty earth years. With the dose Thea had received, the aging of her body was occurring very rapidly and much more quickly than the natural course should have been. Justine had already calculated the amount of her overdose to establish new doses for future recipients. Lindsay and Justine both concurred that metabolically Thea now had the body of approximately sixty earth years and she continued to age rapidly. Thea fully understood that her body would die likely within weeks; she had no sorrow or grief about that. She was very firm with those who considered those feelings, telling them that they would only rejoice for her life here as well as for the information gained for safer delivery of the drug to her sisters and brothers who wished. If they were to rebuild their world, they needed to so without interference in Mother ' s cycles of life and death, humans included.

Lindsay talked often to Laura about her mother; listening as Laura told her the grief she already felt, the lingering anger with those who had almost killed the human race. Lindsay admonished her friend firmly. She said that there was no room left for negativity or anger, those days were over. She reminded Laura of her words heard by all survivors on the day of the last battle when the Commander insisted that there would be no fear. Those words had spurred fighters to superhuman bravery and victory. There would not be room in any of their futures for negativity. All who knew her, before and now, held Thea as their blessed chief and their friend. Nobody would forget her sacrifice or her love for all those present and those yet to be born. Lindsay told Laura to only give thanks and to love her mother to her very core. Through tears, Laura smiled, and then kissed her lover long and hard.

Stephan Redhawk returned to his family and the waiting arms of his beloved Tess. After time allowed for reunion, Thea asked that both meet with her. She introduced Stephan to those he had not met. He was greeted with love by his native family and all those survivors. By now, all survivors knew that Thea had received a drug to reverse the effects of the vaccine; they also knew that she was aging rapidly and her body would die within weeks. Thea asked Stephan to become the new chief of the native band in the north, at Sanctuary. She spoke bluntly to Tess, stating that in no uncertain teams could she stop her fight now that Stephan had returned to her. The future for her family and for all survivors was still perilous at best; they would all need to work together with even more commitment than that of the battles. There would be many changes in the immediate future at Sanctuary. Tess would need to lead with her husband as she had with Tom many years before. Stephan was not shocked or surprised as his ancients had directed him to this eventuality, he accepted with humility. Thea said she would meet with the elders of the band to speak of her will and his acceptance. Tess was not sent by the ancients but she would never again once doubt their existence or wisdom.

Thea did meet with her elders and although none wanted to accept her fate they also rejoiced that she would return to Tom, Noshi, her earth parents, all those who had gone on before. They readily accepted Stephan Redhawk as their new chief and plans were made to erect a private dwelling, a new Aiwok, for them as was the custom through the centuries. Tom ' s brother Ben was now an old man but would teach Stephan and Tess the oral history of the band while many of the younger family members would teach the customs. The future of Sanctuary would unfold as it should.

Chapter 3-3

Commander Ravencouer needed to return to the northwestern command post. She wanted to help Declan, Ross, Sean, Drew, and Rachel with the almost overwhelming task of directing survivors to their given paths. The very human part of her did not want to leave her mother but the ancients had directed her path thus far and she trusted their guidance now. There were many people including Lindsay and Lou who loved Thea, insuring her very best care. Laura planned to return to Sanctuary again but knew her mother ' s journey on earth was almost over. She gave down great thanks for the time that they had shared together and for the destinies their ancients had chosen. Tom told her often that he would take his beloved Thea in his arms to hold her there for every future spiral of the helix.

Laura returned to the south in the first week of the second month of the new year. The command post office had been transformed to a hub of constant activity. One of the dormitories holding private rooms for fighters had been changed to office space as fighters returned to outposts and closer to families. Organizational charts wallpapered the walls of Laura ' s former office. She smiled as she entered the room and workers froze in mid motion. She greeted them all and moved to her quarters. She would need a wall and a door now, she asked Ross as he almost flew by her if that would be arranged quickly. He stopped when he realized that it was Laura talking, then replied with a huge smile and Roger that! She said she wanted her work space back so they would need to section off that space from the planning departments. Declan entered the room and almost ran to hug Laura. There was a glow about the man now mixed with fatigue. He was his mother ' s son indeed, now in his true element. Laura suggested that they meet in the dining area for coffee and a progress report. Before they left the room, workers were already erecting a frame for a wall and a door to insure the Commander ' s privacy.

Over cups of coffee, Declan briefed Laura on the progress of the future settlements thus far. Ross organized crews of ranchers and women from Sanctuary to teach permanent crews of survivors to harvest wood and build log buildings. Preliminary lessons had started; continuing in more depth once planting had been finished. Sean and Drew organized crews of pilots for air transport of supplies and settlers to new settlements. The four main areas for initial communities would be the more southern coast of the former Northwestern City , the river delta and mouth of the former Northeastern City and settlements along the former suburban borders of the former cities. Ross also organized crews of workers and pilots to remove the northern wall along with the wall dividing the eastern and western plains. Early in the plans with all the leaders, before the battles had been fought, there was agreement that the southern wall would remain as no-one knew of the activity to the south of the continent; for the very immediate future they would keep fighters and aircraft prepared for any attacks. Commander Ravencouer stated that she did not anticipate any immediate attack as the rulers there now understood the freedom of the European City , and the former cities of the northern part of the continent. She suspected that their own Resistance fighters would be keeping any efforts to expand in definite check. There was housing for all survivors temporarily at the outposts and at Sanctuary with plans for any permanent housing scheduled for the next twelve months.

Laura then told Declan and Ross that the vaccine had been reversed, both men cried. She continued that Justine Carland and Dr. Lindsay Reynolds had developed a drug to reverse the effects, that Thea had insisted that she be the first recipient. Laura smiled wistfully, remarking that they all knew the futility of trying to stop Dorothea Ravencouer when she made her own decisions. She explained that neither Justine nor Lindsay knew of the correct doses before Thea was given the drug and that she had been overdosed which led to very rapid aging. Because of Thea ' s sacrifice and constant monitoring of her metabolism, Justine had been able to perfect the correct formula for establishing doses. She gently told her friends through her own tears that Thea would die within weeks. Before they could demonstrate any condolences, she said that because of Thea the future of the survivors would be guaranteed, That was what they needed to constantly celebrate along with all those gifts Thea had given to her family in the north and in the south.

Drew, Annique, Sterling , and Amelia were busy establishing permanent communication sectors using the satellite link they had expropriated months previously from The Decision. There were communication crews to establish permanent sites before any permanent buildings were erected at any of the initial proposed settlements. Sterling continued to track resistance all over the globe and in particular in the continent below the southern wall. That was his greatest challenge as the rulers there were vicious; even with combined efforts by his counterparts in the former European City there was little information forthcoming. There would be as Sterling Carland was adverse to the notion of no as his wife Amelia. Amelia worked with her European counterparts to establish permanent, reliable communications between both continents.

Thea continued to decline as her body rapidly aged. She was more confined to bed; the inability to move about was her greatest complaint. Lou insisted that Niki take Thea to the common rooms using her mobility device when she was able. Tess augmented her nourishment to provide the best quality of life for her remaining days among them. Justine and Lindsay continued to titrate the drugs for the optimal safe dose. Because Thea had aged very rapidly there was no opportunity to properly assess the status of her fertility before the aging process naturally negated that. They needed to research that quickly but would need another volunteer; Justine refused to let Lindsay be that woman for the immediate future at least. They discussed the situation with Thea, Lou and Lindsay promised she would talk to Laura by email. That night, Niki came to Lou ' s bed as she did most nights now with Lou telling her of the discussion with Lindsay and Justine. Nikita gathered Lou in her arms, quietly telling her lover that she wanted to be the one to have the fertility tested. She understood fully that she would live a normal earthling lifespan, perhaps more rapidly than others although Justine was certain she had calculated the correct titration for the drug. Niki had been vaccinated at the age of sixteen, Lindsay had told her in the past that she thought her earth age might be twenty now with the slight aging process allowed despite the vaccine. Nikita knew that she would never carry or bear children as a result of the torture inflicted upon her at the age of eleven by her husband and other men who used her body. But she also knew that there was no reason why she would not be capable of conceiving if the effects of the vaccine were reversed. Lou protested, weeping as she said she selfishly did not want to lose another lover to death. Niki gently told her that there had never been any guarantees for them since they had become lovers, that if the Evil Ones had prevailed they both would have been lost to each other. Niki reassured Lou that her future would be assisting Declan with the organization of new settlements, her destiny from the ancients. She also told Lou to accept that this was Niki ' s destiny as there was no doubt in her mind. She anticipated that the aging process would be much less rapid than that of Thea; she and Lou would hold each other for many years to come if that was the will of the ancients. In the morning, Niki asked Lou to call Justine and Lindsay to Thea ' s suite where she announced her decision. Thea wept while Niki spoke as did Lindsay. She knew why this young woman had been sent to them; her journey would be honored forever here on earth and on the eternal spiral of the helix. Lindsay still did not know her ancients but gave down thanks to those who brought magic to her life. Lindsay returned to the health care facility to email Laura of the news. Two days later, Nikita Cee became the second person to receive the drug to reverse the side effects of the vaccine.

In the first week of the third month of the new year, Sean flew Declan and Laura over the remaining but destroyed formerly densely populated areas of the Northwestern City . There were no structures left standing but there were materials to be harvested and recycled. Declan planned to notify Roy Crosby to organize teams for transport of materials with workers to harvest them. Laura was very quiet through the trip as she tried to take in the complete destruction of what was her childhood home. Declan firmly told her on their return to the command post that the time for grief was past. They had a much greater mission now, that of guiding their beloved earthlings to permanent homes and lives beyond the battles. This was their task, their destiny. Laura ' s brain understood that logic perfectly but her soul was still burdened as it continued to bleed for the lives lost. Declan did state that there were thriving communities at the far northwest coast and once plans for reclamation were made they would then visit. The following week, they visited the former northeastern city to see the same destruction with Declan stating once again of the same destiny. Laura continued to internalize the burden and the pain.

Lindsay had emailed Laura every day to tell her of Thea ' s journey as well as Nikita ' s subsequent progress. She had not been ill from the initial side effects of the injection as Thea had been. She submitted to daily blood work. Justine had asked several native women of the same age as Niki to provide blood samples as a control for comparison of Niki ' s blood levels. Within weeks of receiving the drug, Niki ' s monthly cycles returned, she danced with joy. The native women were rather surprised as none of them had ever danced with their cycles. By the middle of the fourth month of the new year, Niki