Cierra and Hallie sat down for several hours and discussed the village’s ideals so the lawyer would be able to represent them alone if needed. Hallie and Mary would be returning with Cierra the next day and checking the progress of the Embassy plans before Cierra returned. She would then return to the same spot every Monday at high noon to see if anyone was there with messages.
Kota finally returned to the village scene and suggested to Cierra that they continue her training. JP sent him a look that promised him a great deal of pain but remained silent. It was all she could do not to put her hands around his neck and choke him.
He sent her a smug look. “Don’t even think it she-bear. You couldn’t catch me if you tried,” he boasted.
JP’s voice hit a timbre so low that the Shaman almost didn’t hear her. “I wouldn’t count on it you arrogant bastard.”
But he indeed understood her and the wind suddenly whipped around the trio. JP didn’t blink as the man expected and felt time slow. She watched him move away from them, confident that his movement was unseen by mere humans. He was wrong. JP had traveled her own vision quest during the nightmarish time of her mate’s disappearance. Under the protection of the Raven and the Grizzly she had unknowingly gained access to her own talents. The Grizzly had recognized her own connection to the natural world and blessed her. JP rushed forward, anticipating his route and intercepted him.
Kota stopped with a sneer and looked back to the women only to see Cierra standing alone. He looked around in surprise then felt a hand thump him on the shoulder. He spun around and felt a blow to his face.
In shock, the man looked up and saw the she-bear standing over him. He had no idea how someone not a shaman could have bested him. He looked into her eyes and saw that her blue eyes had turned inky black. In those dark depths he could see eyes like that of the Great Mother Bear. He shivered instinctively and lowered his eyes in respect. When he looked up again her eyes had returned to normal. She walked away from him and returned to her mate.
Cierra hadn’t seen how the two of them had moved so quickly but had learned not to be surprised by the unexpected. All she had witnessed was the sound of Kota hitting the ground and spun in time to see JP walk away from the Whitefeather Shaman in anger.
· * * * *
Cierra returned Hallie and Mary to their world, accompanied by JP and Robbie. The Shaman knew JP wouldn’t let her out of her sight again for weeks and had thought she’d talk Robbie out of going along but had failed miserably.
They jumped back, hoping that a driver was waiting to collect the two women.
What they found was a huge collection of trucks, workers, and soldiers waiting for them. The five women looked at the once empty field and wondered how in the world the usually slow-as-cold-molasses powers that be actually got so much ready in a few days. Cierra hadn’t really expected them to begin building until spring when the weather warmed up.
“I think they’re really, really eager to start,” Robbie mumbled angrily. JP looked concerned as well. Cierra sensed their emotions and asked what was the matter.
“They are trying to rush things. I don’t trust them one iota.”
Cierra shrugged. “It’s just equipment and building materials Robbie.”
“Are you sure? I’m not. Cierra, I won’t let you transport so much as a stick without inspecting it first. If they refuse then they can forget about having an Embassy on Mother Earth. I also want you to personally shake hands with anyone going there. Something stinks and I won’t rest until I make sure things are okay.”
Mary cleared her throat. “I think you forgot I’m military too, Robbie.”
“No I didn’t. But Cierra has already touched you and cleared you. If she hadn’t…well, accidents have been known to happen.”
Cierra shivered. She was used to the friendly woman who partnered with Tracy and she had forgotten that Robbie had once belonged to the Secret Service.
Mary understood the implied threat. Either the U.S. dealt honorably with the colony or not at all. She didn’t blame Robbie for feeling they were given the rush play. She would speak with the officer in charge.
The Colonel faced Robbie and asked what she wanted done.
The blonde sighed. “First, I want empty containers and trucks brought in as well as a portable X-ray machine. Not one stick will be taken to Mother Earth unless my girls and me inspect it. Two, the workers have to remain on Mother Earth. They had better bring along tents and supplies because we aren’t gonna feed them from our limited stores. Three, not one person will get transported until they shake hands with Cierra. She’s a psychic and can tell creeps from the decent folks. None of my terms are negotiable. Understood?”
“Crystal clear. I’ll find the one in charge and get back to you. Meet me here tomorrow morning. There’s no way they can get everything you requested in one day anyway.”
“Sounds good. See you tomorrow morning.” With that, the three colonists vanished into thin air.
Colonel Webb found the CO of the operation. “Commander, let’s talk.” She led him out of hearing of the other people and told him the facts of life.
· * * * *
Cierra arrived the next day with Robbie, JP, Carey, Cyd, and Jonesy, the next most intimidating woman after Robbie from the colony.
They had guns and buck knives strapped to their hips along with work gloves for moving items. The first thing they inspected was the empty truck. They went over it with a fine toothed comb. They had contacted Jim the evening before and got hold of his buddy’s detection equipment and looked for anything unusual. Once satisfied, they had them bring the first truck over to them and inspected everything the men transported to the empty one.
It was a long process and Cierra jumped only two trucks the first day. The second day the CO had them inspect the materials and equipment they would need to begin the building and the camping equipment. Cierra transported some of the workers a few at a time and left them on Mother Earth. Two of the villagers were armed with rifles in case of wild animals and watched over the men. The camp needed to start fires and such to discourage the wild life from the area.
The camp and Embassy itself would be about a quarter mile away from the nearest outskirts of the village. It was downhill near the river and visible from the watchtower of the colony.
It took eight days to transport all the materials and men to the work site on Mother Earth. Mary, although a good and honest officer, knew in her heart that if Robbie hadn’t been determined to prevent unknown equipment from reaching Mother Earth then items would have been transported. The CO had been quite angry about the whole incident but had to follow orders. An Embassy would be built on the New World and good relations would be maintained.
The Colonel had also spoken with her superiors and requested that she be assigned on a permanent basis to the Embassy and as liaison to the colony. She told them that the Queen trusted her and it was in their best interests for her to continue dealing with them. They agreed. Her orders were changed and she packed her belongings and transported to the New World with the last of the crew. Since she was the only female in the group she was given guest quarters at the village and given a horse for traveling back and forth to the work site.
During her visits to the colony, she often spotted Sara and felt saddened by the fact that she was taken. She thought she had hidden her feelings but one person was aware of how she felt.
Ann saw the looks of longing on the officer’s face and wondered if she should say something. Well, she couldn’t tell the attractive Colonel anything about Ann without her permission but there wasn’t anything wrong with discussing herself.
Ann finished breakfast and asked the officer if she would help her up and to her home. Mary smiled and helped the overdue woman to her feet. Sharon shooed Ann away from the table and said she would take care of her dishes. Ann thanked her and she and Mary left the building.
For effect, Ann gave a little moan before she dropped her little bombshell on Mary. “Damn, remind me not to get drunk and screw the nearest good-looking man I see again, will ya?”
Mary did a double take. “I beg your pardon?”
Ann chuckled. “I’m the only straight woman who is single in the village. Last winter the Sky Dancer Clan stopped for a visit and me and this guy…well, just say we were all partying and drinking and I forgot I wasn’t on birth control anymore.”
“I think I’m confused. I thought you and Sara were a couple?”
“No, we’re just friends. She’s keeping an eye on me and the babies for now.” Ann didn’t mention that Sara had a thing for her. Mary wouldn’t even try to get closer to Sara unless she believed her unencumbered.
“Thanks for bringing me home. I can make it from here,” Ann told the Colonel. Mary mumbled something back and stared at the closed door.
* * * * *
Sara was carrying their laundry to the public baths when she met Mary on the path.
“Hello Sara,” the woman said softly.
Sara looked uncomfortable and shifted the laundry basket in her arms.
“Could I carry that for you?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
Mary begun wondering why the woman was so shy. Sara had to be in her late twenties and since she joined this adventure, couldn’t be all that timid. She decided she had better say something before the woman ran away from her.
“I was speaking with your friend, Ann. She tells me you’ve been a Godsend to her. Helping her during her pregnancy and such. You’re a kind woman, Sara.”
“She’s my friend,” the woman repeated sadly. Suddenly Mary understood.
“But you wish it was more,” Mary said gently. “I suppose I should have seen it instead of hoping you’d spend time with me. I guess I’ve spent so much time alone lately that I only saw what I wanted to see. It’s not everyday you meet someone with such heart-melting eyes as you have.”
Sara blushed, unaccustomed to such flattery. She didn’t know how to respond.
Mary saw the reddened cheeks and stepped in front of the young woman. She ran her fingertip along Sara’s cheek and smiled warmly at her. “If you ever decide to seek out love elsewhere, let me know.” With that, she stepped away and retraced the path back down to the footbridge and across the stream.
· * * *
Joseph Proctor wiped off his brow and looked around the village, hoping to spot the Colonel. The site manager had sent him to find the liaison officer and have her come to the work site.
He didn’t see her and decided to seek her first at the large building. It had to be the communal kitchen he had been told about. Even if she wasn’t there someone might be able to help him.
He was walking past some of the adobe homes when he heard a woman cry out. Joe looked around and determined it was from the building to his left. He stopped and listened, unsure if the sound was one of passion or pain.
He heard another agonized cry and decided it was of pain. He stepped around the building and knocked on the door.
“Ma’am? Are you all right?”
“No, I need help.” Came the muffled reply. Joseph lifted the door latch and opened it. Inside he saw a very pregnant woman struggling to get out of a chair. He rushed to her side and helped her stand.
“I’m glad someone heard me. I was wondering how in hell I was going to get to the doctor’s home without help.”
“In labor?” he asked, not in the least disturbed by the idea. He was the oldest of seven children and used to such circumstances.
She nodded and he placed an arm around the young woman. “Let’s get you to the doctor then. Where is she?”
“Four houses to the left but our hospital is the next one past it, near the stream.”
“Want me to take you there first then fetch the doctor?”
“You read my mind, Handsome,” Ann said between gasps.
Joseph grinned. “I guess they don’t have anyone here that makes eyeglasses if you think that of me,” he teased.
Ann sucked in her breath as the man smiled. She did her best not to blush and hoped he attributed her gasp to pain rather than a reaction to his sex appeal. The man had a smile that could destroy the self-restraint of a nun. The man might not be movie star handsome but he was well built, tanned, and had a chiseled face that said he spent lots of time outdoors. He had dark eyes and hair and the cutest cleft on his strong chin.
“And I guess you don’t spend much time in front of a mirror, mister,” she teased him back. In spite of her pain she felt comfortable with the man. He had the aura of calmness and steadiness around him.
“Oh dear. I hope your husband isn’t a big guy with a temper or he’ll punch my lights out when he sees me blushing like a schoolboy with his wife.”
“Not married. I was foolish and had too much to drink one night.” She suddenly felt her knees gave out as a labor pain doubled her over.
“Okay, end of the walk. Now you get a free ride.” The man easily lifted her up and carried her to the hospital building. He reached the door in seconds and managed to open it without putting her down. He used his foot to push open the door and carried her inside. Ann pointed to the delivery room and he gently placed her on the platform there.
“I’ll get the doctor and be right back,” he promised and left the room.
A few minutes he returned with Doctor Sanchez. “Hey there,” the woman said as she began washing her hands, “I take it the babies decided to make their appearance today.”
“Yes, and I hope they take it easy on me.”
“”We’ll see.” Sandra turned to the man who had fetched her. “You can go ahead and leave now. Patricia will be here in a minute and we can handle this.”
Joseph didn’t want to leave. He felt his place was here for some reason. “I would rather stay,” his eyes met Ann’s. “If you don’t mind?”
Ann felt the tension leave her at his words and took his hand. The man grinned and pulled a stool closer so he could sit next to her and began stroking her back.
Doctor Sanchez lifted an eyebrow and wondered when the two of them had met. She hadn’t heard any rumors about a romance between Ann and one of the construction workers.
Patricia walked in and stared at the man. “Who are you?” she asked without pause.
“Um, Joseph, ma’am.”
Pat looked at Sandra who shrugged. A moment later Sara walked into the room and saw a stranger with her friend. She saw the man holding her hand and running his hand along her back. She felt her heart breaking at the sight, knowing that instant that Ann would indeed find another to share her life with. Sara squared her shoulders and walked into the room.
“Hey, I heard you went into labor. It’s about time those babies popped out. Who’s your friend?”
“This is Joseph. I have no idea what his last name is,” she confessed. “He opened the door when I called for help.”
“Joseph Proctor, ma’am.” I was coming here to fetch—good Lord! I forgot to find Colonel Webb!” he suddenly exclaimed.
“Mary? Why did you need her?”
“The supervisor at the site needed her.” The man looked upset. He clearly didn’t want to leave Ann.
“I’ll find her and pass on the message, then come back. You go ahead and stay here,” Sara told him. She needed the time to get a hold of her emotions. She had seen the connection and chemistry between Ann and Joseph and knew her days as her friend’s roommate were nearing an end.
Continued in Part 12
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