02: A Pair of Surprises at the Beach
On the way to the airport, with Gail driving Alex’s car and Gini following on her motorcycle, Alex asked a series of questions, trying to ensure he actually knew everything he needed to about Gail’s heading back home to Carbondale. He’d been caught completely by surprise, and he wasn’t fond of having the rug pulled out from under him like that.
“So you’re flying directly to Carbondale?”
“Well technically, I’m heading home to St. Louis to spend the day with Melissa first. After that I’ll meet with some more applicants I have lined up. But after that I’m heading back to Carbondale.”
“So you’re doing more than just heading back to Carbondale to work out Gini’s paperwork?”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got a whole slew of things to do. On many of the stops we made on the way out here, the women wanted me to set up shop in their cities. Many of them with businesses want to hire security people who’ll understand the situation they’re in, and what to expect if the news ever leaks out.”
“So this is really a full time business?” Alex asked, surprised by her unexpected revelations.
Gail rolled her eyes at that response. “Alex, it’s always been a full time business. I make a decent amount of money protecting you, plus before I left I hired several other female ex-cops to guard both the co-op and the new sorority. Speaking of which, I’ll need to hire people for each chapter house they’re talking about setting up this coming year. For now, I’ll only need someone who can speak to the schools about what role we’ll play. Once the sororities get approved, I’ll have to hire full staffs, arrange housing for them, make business connections and hire a local business manager. This is a big deal.”
“So somehow I created two full time businesses completely by accident?”
“No, you didn’t create anything. Instead you appointed a couple of highly competent women to handle the task for you, and they ran with it, growing it into an ongoing enterprise. You don’t understand just how organized and committed these women of yours are. Not only are they driven and successful, but they’re working to make sure the others excel as well.”
“I’ll be damned.”
“You see, that’s why we don’t bother telling you about this type of thing,” she explained, motioning to include both Cate and herself, while intimating all of Alex’s other women. “It all goes right over your head. You simply have no idea of what goes into a project, or even notice when a particular project takes off. It’s easier for us to only tell you when it will impact you in some way. If I didn’t have to take off for so long, you’d still never know what was happening. What’s more, once I come back, you still won’t know anything has changed. Your job is to reach as many people as you can in the little amount of time you have left. You can’t afford to focus on every little detail. You have enough on your plate for a full time staff.
“Luckily for you, you’re a natural at delegation. You pick competent people to handle something, you provide them with the resources, and you link them to other competent people who can work together. You don’t need to sweat the details. Just like you didn’t need to know the details of our experiments about how you boost people. You just told us to go ahead, Cate and I got it started, everyone else took the ball and ran with it, and soon we had a whole list of answers for you.
“And it isn’t just Shanna and I either. You’re women are all pooling resources and requesting services from each other. Liv is working overtime, Hannah Lampre and your other gynecologist/ obstetrician contacts have seen their business booming, many of the girls at SIU already have their future jobs lined up and everyone is trading contacts and calling in favors. You sir, are an economic juggernaut who’s completely ignorant of all the work your creating for everyone.”
Gail’s object lesson was brought to a close as they arrived at the Los Angeles Airport. Gail pulled over, handed Alex his keys and they got out grabbing her luggage. Once she got it organized she turned to Alex.
“Well, Alex, it’s hard leaving you after all this time and everything we’ve been through.”
“You really don’t need to yet, so let’s put it off for a bit,” Cate suggested. “We can accompany you inside and see you off. It’s not a lot more time together, but it’s something.”
Gail grinned at her as if sharing an inside joke. “Sounds like a plan. As long as it’s not a problem.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not,” Cate assured her. “It’s only a little out of our way.”
That seemed to satisfy Gail, so she enveloped Alex in a hug, tearfully thanking him for everything he’d done for her, and then led them inside the departure terminal.
There was another goodbye once she’d checked in and they saw her off at the security checkpoint. She gave Alex, Cate and Gini fond farewell hugs before she set off into the TSA Neverland, and as Alex turned to head back out, Cate grabbed his arm and redirected him.
“Where are we going? The car is that way.”
“Don’t worry, we’re taking a slight detour,” she said.
“A detour? What could you possibly want here?”
“Hush up and just do as you’re told,” she teased, giving him no more information. She led him down the wide concourse with shops on both sides, until she stopped off at a florist shop. The light finally clicked on over Alex’s headand he stepped up.
“Any particular flowers you’d like?”
“Let’s go ahead and splurge. Buy nine roses, three red for love, three dark pink for your appreciation and thanks, and three yellow for joy and friendship.”
“Really? That many to say what you already know? Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy one of the brighter multicolored live bouquets which represents all that without having to cut the flowers so they’ll die a short time later?”
Cate smiled at his response, leaning in and kissing him. “Don’t worry, it’s the thought that counts, and this shows you’re committed to the concepts involved, whereas the prettier flowers are just nice to look at. I’m trying to teach you how to convey your emotions without having to blubber all the time. Girls love it,” she confided.
“OK, I’m glad you told me exactly what to buy you to convey the precise messages you want me to tell you,” he replied with a laugh.
“Just buy the damn flowers,” she said, slapping his arm.
“What about Gini? Shouldn’t I get her some too?”
“Yeah, get her one of the prettier ones you’d have bought on your own. Since it’s from you, it’ll mean more.”
“She’ll appreciate my honesty, while you’re still hoping to change me?” he asked, ducking just in time to avoid yet another slap, greeting the saleswoman with a smile as he ordered exactly what he’d been instructed to.
“Here, Gini, these are for you, they accentuate your beauty while disguising just how lethal you are,” Alex said, handing a small vase of mixed orchids to his new protection detail.
“Thanks,” she replied, blushing—which seemed strangely incongruous, given her tough, confident persona. “You know, I’ve never actually gotten flowers from a man before—well, aside from some my father bought after a play I was in during seventh grade—but you know what I mean. With my physique, no one ever thinks of me like they do most women.”
“Well, it’s their folly. As I said, it suits you.”
She leaned forward and gave him a gentle kiss, hesitating just before touching his lips. “Still, you realize these will only get in my way if I have to draw my gun to defend you.”
“You’re packing in an airport?” Alex whispered, shocked. He’d never have entered the airport if he’d known.
“I’m authorized as part of a security detail, and my job is to protect you. But if it makes you feel any better, I left my sidearm in my bike’s luggage bay. Given all my problems with PTSD, I’m a little nervous about carrying a weapon in crowded situations like this. I’ll do it when I think an attack is more likely, but given that few people flying carry weapons, I figured the risk to you was an acceptable one.”
“Good, that makes me feel better,” Alex replied before cocking his head. “But I thought you were doing better with the PTSD.”
“Forget that,” Cate interrupted, looking upset, “you mean you choose what’s an ‘acceptable risk’ for each place we visit? Sometimes carrying a gun and sometimes not?”
“Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that,” Gini replied, glancing around to ensure no one was paying too much attention before continuing. “It’s not like we’re protecting Alex from any threat. We’re mostly concerned with people who respond badly to his energy. The biggest risk to Alex is when someone with a longstanding grudge seeks him out. But frankly, there’s little chance of that here since no one knew we’d be here. Given my history with PTSD, I decided it was safer not risk it. If I thought there was a bigger chance of a confrontation then I’d carry it anyway.
“But don’t forget, Gail and I aren’t just your typical security guards. We can pick up on things no one else can. That’s why Gail’s business is increasing so much. Many of your communities are asking for her services for a variety of purposes. They want protection, not just for themselves, but for their businesses. They realize how much extra we bring to the table.
“We can both feel and see most trouble approaching. When someone gets angry at Alex, it screams at us. In a situation like this, that extra warning gives us plenty of time to deal with it ahead of time. What throws a monkey wrench into the works are the things we can’t control, like people lying in wait for you, someone hunting you down, or even worse, someone with a gun who we can act before we have a chance to respond. Since all three of those cases are minimized here, my added abilities mean there are few things I wouldn’t be able to handle.”
“Oh,” Cate responded, surprised she hadn’t considered all of that herself.
“OK, now that that’s settled, how do we get out of here?” Alex asked, ready to drop the subject now that he knew Gini had everything covered. He trusted Gini implicitly, but he just didn’t like unexpected surprises.
“This way,” Cate said, once again taking his arm and leading him to the escalator leading to the arrivals area.
“Uh, Cate, once again we’re heading the wrong way. This way is—”
“Don’t worry,” she insisted, patting his arm. “When are you going to learn I know what I’m doing?”
Alex quit arguing, intrigued where they might be headed. He couldn’t picture her wanting anything in an airport, but she clearly had something in mind, and now she’d shown what she’d intended with the flowers he was interested in what else she had planned. Once they got onto the escalator he noticed a couple of Arab tourists ahead of them. At least he thought they were tourists. The two men were dressed in white robes with red and white checkered headscarves—obviously regional attire—complete with black headbands, while the sole woman with them was completely covered in a light breezy attire, leaving nothing but her feet, hands and eyes exposed.
Alex didn’t think much about it. In a major international airport like this you were bound to get all sorts, but he found it intriguing as he’d never encountered anyone like that before. But as he watched, the women turned and glanced in his direction in mid-conversation, making eye contact. She reacted immediately, stumbling back into the two men who were surprised and looked up to see what had happened, only to catch Alex staring at her.
They didn’t do anything as they helped the woman get to her feet, but Alex knew he had a potential international incident on his hands. Once they reached the bottom of the escalator, they stood off to the side waiting until he reached them. Gini, sensing trouble, started to pass him, but he waved her off.
“This is something I need to deal with on my own. They’re unlikely to threaten me in a public place with everyone watching them, especially with the TSA nearby.”
She nodded she understood, and positioned herself by his side, a step behind him so she wouldn’t be the focus of their attention but would still be able to respond if anything happened.
Stepping off the last step, Alex walked directly up to them stopping several steps away.
“صباح الخير,” Alex said in greeting, bowing slightly. The two men looked at him oddly.
“أنتعربي؟,” they asked in Arabic.
“No, I’m just a fan of language,” Alex lied. “I need to explain a few things to your friend here. Things you might find a tad unusual.”
They glanced between Alex and the woman, and then one man stepped in front of her.
“If you know anything of our culture, you should know strange men do not speak to women they don’t know. Anything you can say to her you can say to us.”
Alex looked at the woman, seeing her trying to peer at him past the man standing between them.
‘I think it best if I step away,’ Alex told her telepathically, relying on Shanna Shenouda, his travel agent friend, to guide him through any cultural issues. Though she only spoke a Coptic variant of Arabic, she was familiar enough with the customs of the region. However, the woman was so surprised to hear Alex speaking in her head, she stumbled back and collapsed to her knees. With the two men were clearly concerned, Alex kept his distance and rushed to finish.
‘We can speak telepathically. Don’t tell anyone about this as it will only cause trouble, but I’ll continue talking to you after I leave.’
“Excuse me, it’s clear you have more important things to deal with here,” Alex told the trio. “I’ll leave you alone.” The two men paid him no mind, while the woman couldn’t take her eyes off of him.
“Uh, Alex?” Cate asked, nervously glancing over her shoulder as they moved away. However, Alex wasn’t ready to answer yet, simply steering her away while he gave Akilah Asghar a brief rundown on what she needed to know to get by without them. This was so much more satisfying than his lost girl from before. It seems she was the wife of a Saudi financier, here to discuss financing businesses in both LA and Silicon Valley. After Alex got her calmed down, he passed her off to Shanna, figuring she’d be more comfortable talking to another woman from a similar culture. Once she took over, he looked around and noticed they were heading even deeper into the bowels of the terminal.
“Wait a minute, this isn’t the right way. We’re heading away from the front of the airport. This is the way to—”
“Shh, just come along,” Cate told him patiently, still not revealing anything.
Shrugging, Alex merely tagged along, figuring she wanted to buy something else, spending much more than if they’d bought it on the way home. They were approaching one of the branch offs for the arrival gates when someone called out.
“Alex! Cate! Strange woman I’ve never seen before!”
Alex spun, recognizing a voice he never expected to hear. Looking down the arrival gate, he saw two beautiful young women, one a gorgeous chocolate mocha color in a flower patterned green dress, the other a light skinned girl with dark hair who looked like a twig compared to Gini.
“Kitty, Chalise!” Alex cried out, moving forward to greet them. Only Cate—still clutching his arm and refusing to release it—effectively stopped him. When he looked at her in confusion, she motioned to the flowers he was holding.
“One each?” he asked, realizing she’d had the entire thing planned all along. She nodded, so he handed her three single roses, then took off running to the two girls who were trying to drag their suitcases behind them on their way to him.
They met halfway, Chalice jumping into his arms, kissing him wildly before moving aside, allowing Kitty her opportunity to do the same. It was easy to see just how happy Alex was. Although he was frequently pleased, this was the first time Cate had seem him positively giddy in a long time.
“Uh, these are for you,” he said after letting them down. He pulled out his flowers, ignoring the one he’d accidently crushed. “Wait a second, one red, one yellow, and one dark pink. It represents—”
“Don’t worry, Alex, we know what they represent. After all, we’re girls, and since we were young their meanings were drilled into us,” Kitty responded as both girls kissed him simultaneously on each cheek. “Thank you, and you are going to be getting so lucky as soon as we get someplace we can take advantage of you.”
“Uh, that might be a—”
“What my brother is trying to tell you is that he has plans for you before you stop for the evening,” Cate said, jumping in to save Alex from saying something stupid before she turned to twist the hidden dagger. “Alex, what did you have planned for us?”
“Uh…,” Alex extemporized, however Cate once again rescued him, hugging and kissing each girl, distracting them and giving Alex time to make some last minute plans.
“It’s so good to see you both again. How was the flight? Did you get off OK? How are your mothers doing?” The girls related their news while each grasping one of Alex’s arms. Since his arms were occupied, Gini and Cate each grabbed a suitcase.
“So, did he have any clue?” Chalise asked with a playful jab in Alex’s side. “He certainly looked surprised.”
“Yeah, they could have landed the plane in his gaping jaw,” Kitty added.
“Nah, we like to keep him guessing,” Cate admitted. “He’s too easy to sidetrack with too much information that doesn’t immediately apply to him.”
“You mean like what flowers to buy?” Chalise guessed.
“Hey, those were supposed to convey specific meanings,” Alex playfully protested, hardly remembering what they were supposed to mean. “But I did pick out Gini’s.” That, of course, led off to a whole series of introductions. The girls were amazed at Gini’s size and physique. As a bodybuilder, she was an imposing figure!
“You’re the size of my brothers,” Chalise told her, feeling Gini’s bicep as Gini cheerfully flexed it for her, familiar with people’s fascination with her physique. “Although I’d bet you’re more graceful than they are, and not quite as murderous.”
“Alex was also distracted activating some Arabic princess,” Cate added, just for fun.
“Her name is Akilah and she’s a Saudi,” Alex explained, wanting to set the record straight. “She’s not a princess, but apparently her husband has a lot of money.”
“Man, you’re branching out now, going international?” Chalise asked, always amazed at Alex’s accomplishments. Although they’d been kept apprised of his activities, they were still eager to hear the details from him directly.
“I just deal with whoever I run into. We met on the escalator on the way here. Her husband and his friend weren’t overly friendly. So instead of trying to work out our cultural differences and justify why I should be talking to someone else’s wife when I don’t even speak their language, I put her in touch with someone who could tell her what she needed to know.”
“So,” Cate began, the fate of a woman she never even met no longer of much interest to her, “now that we’ve made our introductions, what’s first on the agenda, Alex?” Cate took great delight in twisting the knife she’d inserted in her brother’s back earlier a little deeper, smiling the whole time. However, she was interested in seeing just how quickly Alex could think on his feet. She knew he reacted best when he responded naturally and didn’t other think situations. He was fretting too much about the changes happening around him and she hoped applying a challenge would break through, forcing him to respond quickly without thinking.
“Sure, I was thinking the girls would love to see Disneyland.”
“Disneyland?” Kitty exclaimed excitedly. “Are you kidding me? I’ve always wanted to see it!”
“I’ve dreamed of going there since I was three years old!” Chalise agreed, dancing around in excitement.
“Uh, Alex,” Cate said, stepping in, “in case you’re forgetting, it’s almost lunchtime, we’re several hours away from Anaheim and it’s Sunday, meaning getting there in time to do anything is going to be difficult.”
“Forget that,” Gini said, her brows furrowing. “It’s a walking disaster zone for you,” she whispered emphatically. “Thousands of people, little kids, video cameras all over, and security people watching every step you make. You wouldn’t get ten feet into the place before you’d have people throwing themselves at your feet, attracting the Park Police who’d toss you out while everyone posts pictures of you to Facebook.”
The two girls, though, turned to Alex.
“Can’t we please go, Alex? We’ll be good,” Chalise pleaded.
“Yeah, we’ll cover for you. We’re familiar with how your process works.”
“It’s not just a matter of watching your step,” Gini stressed, not improving the girls’ impression of her by arguing against their pleas. “All it’ll take is one wrong move—and there’s bound to be a bunch of missteps—and your face is posted around the world in seconds.”
However, rather than letting the girls down easily, or casting Gini as the ‘bad guy’, Alex stepped forward, getting right into Gini’s face.
“Look, this might be hard to understand, since you’re tasked with keeping me safe, but I’m getting tired of being limited in what I can do. While this may seem like an unnecessary risk to you, it’s important to me,” he said, waving his arms around and standing toe-to-toe with the larger woman. “This is more than just a big park with a couple of rides; this is my last chance to be a kid. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been very mature about the tasks laid out for me, my impending death, and needing to sleep with a whole string of complete strangers, all while trying to connect to them on a personal level. I need this! Think of it as my “Make a Wish” opportunity,” he added, dropping his voice down to a near whisper. “If I’m going to die, and I’m going to have to slave my ass off trying to make a difference in thousands of people’s lives before I go, then I want—no, I need—to do this. Like Chalise said, it’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, and I’m not going to pass it up because it may prove difficult.
“Now, if you want, we can try to minimize it. We’ll go early, we’ll only stay for a short time, we’ll skip all the rides, just doing a quick running tour, but we each want to see this, and we’re all willing to face the risks involved, so we’re doing it. End of story.”
Gini just stared at him, her gaze softening as she tried to process what he said.
“OK. You’re the boss,” she answered with a shrug and a crooked smile. “If you want it, we’ll figure out a way to make it happen.”
“Fine,” Alex replied, surprised she’d back down so easily. “Cate, as far as your point is concerned, you’re right. Trying to go today would be a mistake. We’ll head out early tomorrow, arrive early, run through quickly and get out with a minimum of fuss.”
“That sounds like the best plan,” she agreed. “And for what it’s worth, although I know just how problematic it is, I’d also like to see it, and I think it would do you good to finally let off some steam.”
“So that leaves us with plans for today,” Alex said, addressing Kitty and Chalise, though he shot his sister a dirty look. “Since we’re on the coast, a place famous for its beaches, how about we try lying out on the beach with all the sun tanned California beauties? Hopefully the beach will be sparse enough I won’t run into trouble, and even if we do, it’s the beach, and no one is likely to respond to people acting goofy.”
“That sounds great,” Chalise replied, clapping her hands.
“Yeah, I’m so tired of the freezing cold lakes in Illinois,” Kitty agreed. “I’d love to visit the ocean and see some real waves.”
“OK, hold on a second…,” he said, holding a finger up for a moment. “OK, I’ve contacted someone who can set us up. She’ll meet us there and borrow at least one surfboard for us to try out. We can hardly visit a California beach without trying to surf, now can we?”
That excited the girls, including Cate, who danced around Alex, talking about what they’d wear and see, although Gini just shook her head. It was these kinds of last minute plans that always tended to go wrong. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen this time, but she’d have to keep a careful eye for potential troubles.
“Man, look at all that water!” Chalise exclaimed as they climbed out of Alex’s car, overlooking Santa Monica Pier and the nearby carousel. The beach was a marvel for them. There’s nothing which quite compares to seeing a body of water stretching beyond one’s vision when all one is used to are small lakes and ponds. Cate and Alex had at least seen the Gulf in Louisiana and Lake Michigan when they were young, but neither Kitty nor Chalise had ever seen anything like it. Even Alex was impressed, though it wasn’t just the vast ocean that was impressive.
The beach spread out in a great expanse of sand with beautiful people laid out everywhere on it, yet there still was plenty of space to call your own. The sidewalks led right up to the beach and were filled with joggers, strollers, rollerbladers and groups playing volleyball. They’d parked a ways from the pier, so although they could see it, the carousel and the aquarium, they weren’t close enough to be swarmed. The surf, while not huge by any measure, was certainly larger than anything they were used to.
“It’s beautiful,” Kitty said, hugging Alex in her enthusiasm as she stared out at the amazing scenery. “This really puts lying in the park to get a suntan to shame.”
They’d stopped off at the hotel so the girls could dump their luggage and change, and change they did. Kitty now wore a very tiny yellow and black bikini which managed to capture Alex’s attention, despite the fact his penis had been worn to a frazzle of late. Still, there’s a big difference between seeing a bunch of naked strangers and being with your girlfriends, even if there are three of them. Chalise wore a slightly more demure one-piece, though it too was colorful in bright green with a multicolored floral design along one side. Alex had asked her about her choice of attire.
“It’s a black thing, Alex,” she’d explained. “While I love the sun as much as anyone, we’re always concerned about our exposure. As soon as we get a tiny bit of a tan, someone’s likely to make ‘tar baby’ jokes. And it’s not just whites either. We blacks often judge each other based on our skin tones as well. Thus the more I cover up, the better I feel about it. I’ll risk getting darker arms and my face getting some more color, but I’m going to hide as much as I can. Besides, as a gorgeous black girl, I know I’ve got more to show off with this wonderful booty than with a temporary tan.”
Alex just shook his head at that. While he could see the sense in it, he had trouble agreeing with it. At least he’d gotten her here, in whatever she felt comfortable wearing. She looked wonderful in suit, so he wasn’t about to criticize her for it. But he couldn’t quite let the entire comment slip by.
“I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got about as much ass as my sister does, and while you’ve got more curves than Kitty, you don’t have a lot more. Face it, besides your skin tone and hair, you’re really more white than black anyway.”
“Well, I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult,” she replied as they grabbed their towels and began moving towards the beach, “but I’ll admit, being part of a nearly all white three… foursome, it’s really colored my thinking a bit. What’s more, your whole organization is pretty color blind. Everyone is so focused on other issues they really don’t have time to dwell on which group is getting which benefits. Instead everyone is working together to move the whole collection forward.”
“That’s the whole idea. Personally I—”
“Alex!” another bikini clad woman called from the beach.
Alex turned and waved. “That’s Emily McDonald,” Alex explained as he steered the others towards the large beach umbrella, blankets and folding chairs she’d organized for them. “She’s lives here in LA and works in ad sales. We met at the concert and I….”
“He means he activated her, which is why she could set this up and meet us here,” Cate said, stepping into the void to save her brother from stepping on his own tongue again. “She was at Patricia’s concert.”
“So how was the concert?” Kitty asked. “I’m sorry we never got to see any of them. I mean, the one for us and the one at school were amazing, but I’d love to see a whole stadium rocking to her, swinging to her beat as she reads their emotions.”
“I take it you’ve been talking to the other girls about how she handles the crowds?” Alex asked with a smile.
“Of course, you’re the main topic of conversation in Carbondale,” she said. “It’s either the girls talking about what you’ve just done, Becky talking about her research, Ryan talking about your medical advances, or the girls at the university talking about what they’re going to study to help you along. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there’s anyone in Carbondale who doesn’t know who you are by now.”
When they reached Emily, she jumped up and helped them with their stuff before giving Alex a big hug, after checking with the girls to make sure it was OK. Alex could tell Kitty was a bit leery of her, but figured that was simply because they’d been separated for so long and she wasn’t as sure of her place anymore. He figured she’d relax more once she got used to him again.
“Hey Alex, Cate,” Emily said, her long dark hair shining in the sunlight as she released Alex. She looked perfectly suited to the California beach, healthy, tanned, model-gorgeous looks and a beaming smile directed at Alex. “It’s great to see you again. The way Cate chased us out of there, I was sure you’d be leaving town right away. I take it these are your girlfriends, Kitty and … Chalise was it?”
“Very good,” Chalise told her, giving her a hug of her own. “I can tell you were well coached. Somehow I suspect you had plenty to talk about besides us when you were spending time with Alex.”
“Well,” Emily replied, blushing, “actually there is a lot to learn right off the bat. But when Alex arranged for me to meet you, he briefly told me who you were, and then I went ahead and checked in with Gail to find out what the proper protocol was. It’s not often you meet the girlfriends of an angel,” she finished with a smile, happy at having recovered nicely.
Emily was a thin twenty-something woman with light skin, long gently curling brunette hair which hung down almost to her breasts and a dazzling smile. What’s more, she had a way of looking directly at you that was matched only by Alex. Both Kitty and Chalise took to her at once, despite her looks—the fact she thought the world of their boyfriend was just a matter of course.
“I could only get one surfboard,” Emily explained with a frown. “Although I know several surfers, I don’t surf myself, so it was hard finding one available at the last minute.”
“That’s OK, I’ve got no plans on surfing myself,” Kitty told her. “As light as I am, I’m sure the rip tide would drag me clear to Tijuana. I plan on just lying out and soaking up some of this wonderful sun.”
“I’m with Kitty,” Chalise agreed. “While I love the ocean, I may just see if I can find something big to hide behind so I don’t get too much sun. Something huge, like maybe somebody’s bodyguard,” she teased. Gini merely smiled. She was busy scanning the crowd so wasn’t really paying much attention.
Alex turned to his sister. “How about you, Cate? Want to try this once in a lifetime opportunity?”
“Maybe later. Right now I want to spend time catching up with my two girlfriends. After all, I know I’ll hardly be able to get a word in edgewise tonight. You go ahead and have fun. I figure you’ve got your own reasons for running off anyway, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I figured that even if the beach is crowded, if I’m out in the water I won’t attract as much attention and I’ll have some warning before anyone can approach me.”
“Good thinking. Just be sure the lifeguard doesn’t come after you. Or someone drowns trying to reach you,” she advised. Gini just grunted, trying to imagine how she’d deal with that situation.
“What about you, Gini?” Emily asked. “Aren’t you at least going to strip down like the rest of us and get some sun? I can tell you’ve got the perfect build for this beach. You’re likely to have guys admiring your build soon.”
Gini just shrugged as Kitty and Chalise got Alex to slather them with suntan lotion. “Actually, I’d rather not attract attention. Besides, the shirt and pants cover up my holster. I may not need it here on the beach, but I like to be prepared for anything.” Emily took that comment in stride, figuring it was par for the course.
After Alex finished with the girls, he rubbed lotion on Cate as well. “So I take it that last night was…?” he asked, waiting for her to answer for herself.
“Yeah, it was my attempt to get you to myself before the girls got here. I knew after they did I wouldn’t be able to get any alone time with you. I mean, I love Kitty and Chalise, but it has been awhile, and if you have any spare time for the rest of the week, I want you to spend it with them, not me.”
“Hey, as they said, you’re officially one of my three girlfriends now, even if we can’t announce it to the world. But I can appreciate the thought. Given that, I’m glad you chased everyone out last night, though you may want to speak to Emily so she can talk to everyone else on your behalf.”
“Yeah, I plan to. I was kind of short with everyone,” Cate admitted.
When Alex finished with Cate, Emily took him aside and showed him what he needed to know about surfing, or at least as much as she could impart quickly.
“What about you? Are you going to come out?”
“I would, but I’m really dying to know what your girlfriends are like. Everyone is bugging me, asking about them. Plus, I want to ease their minds that I’m not a threat, and I’m not sure I can do that by running off with you.”
“That makes sense. Well, keep an eye on me in case I drown or get smacked in the head with my board, but somehow I suspect you’ll be talking about me anyway, so that shouldn’t be expecting too much.”
The girls cheered as Alex ran into the water, surfboard stowed under his arm. He kept glancing around to see if anyone was approaching, but seeing no one nearby he got into the water and started paddling.
Being unused to it, it took him a while to actually make any progress, during which time the waves battered him about a bit, and it took him a long time to paddle out as each wave which hit him washed him back several feet, but he finally figured out to duck under the waves. Making it out to where the other surfers were waiting, Alex took up a position at the outside end, out of the way of the more experienced surfers but in close enough it would be easier to catch the smaller waves that came his way. He really wasn’t expecting much, figuring all he’d do was surf the broken waves while trying to stand.
While waiting for a wave, he watched the better surfers, trying to imitate what they did. There was one who particularly caught his eye, a blonde female surfer with long hair streaked down her back and wearing a white bikini. She was good, doing things to the surfboard that Alex could hardly imagine; taking to the surf like a dancer takes over a dance floor. However, he noticed she kept glancing his way, but the distance between them and the unsteady waters kept them from making eye contact. After she finished one wave, which took her out of the way and into shore, she paddled towards him on her way back. Before she reached him he already knew what to expect, but he wasn’t sure whether she was a Seeker or a Seer. That question was answered as she drew near and their eyes finally met. Her head jerked slightly, and she stopped paddling for several moments, then resumed, moving steadily towards him while he waited patiently for her.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked, causing Alex to smile. There was just no way to avoid these encounters, but at least this one took place well away from any onlookers. Her non-reverential response was a welcome change of pace.
“My name is Alex, and we share some common genetic traits. I say common because we have two separate, very uncommon genetic traits that happen to play off each other. You’ve probably always been good at judging people. That’s because you’ve actually been reading the energy they give off. I’ve activated that ability, allowing you to actually see that energy.”
“That’s interesting, and I guess I have to believe it since I can see it with my own eyes, but it doesn’t answer my question. Who, or rather what, are you?”
“I’m just a typical guy, but with an unusual genetic trait. You’re part of a group with another longstanding trait which has never been documented because there’s never been a way of measuring it, until you met me. You’re what we call a ‘Seer’, for obvious reasons. You can literally ‘see’ this form of energy, which we call ‘BCM’, as an aura around people. By the way, may I ask your name as well?”
“Sure, I’m Debra Keer. I’m a professional surfer, so I’m usually either here or farther up the coast. You’re right, I could feel you as soon as you reached the beach, but I tried to ignore you until you finally entered the water. Then I couldn’t ignore you any longer.”
Alex explained the rest of the information that she needed to know while the other surfers rode or paddled around them, the two of them largely ignoring the waves. Finally, as Alex was discussing the associated organizations, he was interrupted.
‘Alex, we might have a problem,’ Gini informed him.
Alex held his hand up, pausing what Debra was saying as he opened Gini’s conversation to her so she’d be aware of what he was doing. He’d already told her about her new telepathic ability, so while she was surprised, she wasn’t shocked.
‘There’s a guy sitting behind you to the left that looks like he may be trouble,’ Gini warned him.
‘If he’s like the others, then how can he be reacting to my energy if he’s nowhere near me?’
‘He caught a wave that brought him past you a little while ago. I didn’t really pay him much mind, but ever since his aura has been getting brighter and brighter with anger. I’m guessing he’s getting fairly pissed at you, though he probably has no idea why.’
‘OK, I’m glad you told me. I should probably…,’ Alex said before Debra lay out on her surfboard, turned, and paddled off towards the very guy they were discussing.
‘Debra, what the hell are you doing?’
‘Relax, Alex, I’m going to work this out. You just stay where you are, since you’ll probably have more trouble on the beach than you will out here.’
Alex didn’t press her any more, but watched her anxiously as he expected things to go south. He asked Gini to keep an eye on them so he could warn her when he might strike out.
‘I would, but he’s a long ways out and he’s very hard to see. I only noticed him because his anger is burning so bright. I’ll let you know if his frustration spikes, which usually precedes an attack, but I can’t promise any more than that.’
They both watched Debra as she pulled up to the guy, sat up and began talking to him. Alex couldn’t see him that well, and frankly he couldn’t tell if he was Hispanic or Italian. He looked vaguely ethnic, but he just couldn’t tell which ethnicity. He had a thin mustache but had a nice surfer’s build which suggested he surfed fairly regularly. They seemed to argue briefly, then the guy finally lay on his board and began paddling to shore, glancing back repeatedly at Alex. After he was safely on his way, Debra paddled back.
“What the hell was that about?” Alex asked, clearly worried that someone else was fighting his battles for him, and at the risks she accepted by doing it.
“Nothing,” she answered with a simple shrug as she sat up on her board again, glancing back at the guy to be sure he was still heading in. When she saw he was, she turned back to Alex. “We just had a brief discussion. I explained that what he was feeling was an unusual allergic reaction to a chemical that you release, and that it would be safer if he sat out for the next hour or two. I told him I’d tell him when we were finished, and that I’d make it up to him, but that sitting out an hour of surf was better than spending the night in jail for assaulting someone in front of witnesses.”
“And he bought it?” Alex asked doubtfully.
“It looks like it,” she said, nodding towards the guy. “He’s already on shore, and it looks like he’s going in to get himself a snack. Have one of your people go buy him lunch, will you?”
“Sure, we can do that, but it might be problematic. Everyone who’s been around me will be saturated with my BCM, which will only set him off that much more.”
“Well, then have them get someone else to pass him the money. This shouldn’t really be that difficult,” Debra argued. Alex agreed, passing the suggestion along. He didn’t bother to check exactly what Emily was doing, simply assuming she could handle it for him.
“Well thanks for that. It could have been difficult. I’ve had a few upsetting encounters before and….”
“Yeah, Gini gave me a brief rundown on my way out to speak to him,” she explained.
They continued talking, with Debra taking the time to explain to Alex what he needed to do to manage to stand up on his surfboard. She finally got him up, which was a big moment for Alex—for the entire four seconds it took before the wave ended and he fell off again—after which they headed in.
When they neared the shore Alex found several women waiting for him, three separate girls: two teens and someone’s mother. He also noticed that Cate, Kitty and Chalise were standing with them, describing what they should expect. Climbing out of the surf, Alex met the women, introduced himself and talked briefly to them before sending them off with Cate again as he set off with Kitty, Chalise and Debra.
“Uh, Gini, you’re standing a bit close, aren’t you?” Alex asked his suddenly overprotective bodyguard.
“I’m not about to take another chance like that again,” she whispered in a steely voice, checking out everyone near them.
“Relax, I suspect you’re just defensive that you couldn’t protect me while I was out on the water. I felt the same way when Debra went off to meet with the guy. Just because we can’t protect those you feel obligated to watch over doesn’t mean that they can’t do the job just as effectively.”
“Yeah, tell me that the next time one of your girls gets between you and a fight,” Gini responded. “After all, I’ve heard more than enough stories about you when someone else stood up for you.”
Alex just grinned, remembering them himself, but he didn’t want to dwell on his past failings. When they reached their blankets he introduced the girls to each other and they were excited to meet their first professional female surfer, while she was impressed to hear all about Alex and what they knew of him. After they sat down, he noticed the surfer they’d encountered out in the water heading back into the surf, and moments later Emily returned.
“Thanks for taking care of that for me,” he told her, glancing meaningfully at Gini. Gini grumbled at that, but didn’t respond other than that.
“No problem, I was glad to help,” Emily replied with a happy grin, obviously pleased with herself. “That went better than it might have otherwise.”
“Yeah, Debra seems to have a knack for working things out,” he responded.
“It comes from trying to exist in a man’s world for so long,” she explained. “I’ve got to play in their sandbox without upsetting their egos while I beat them at their own game.”
“Again, I expect you’re so good at it because you’ve been able to pick up people’s emotions based on their energy.”
“Yeah, now that I can see what I’ve been feeling all these years, I can see how it works pretty clearly,” she responded, glancing out at the wide ocean with a thoughtful expression. “This should make doing what I do a lot easier.”
Now that they were on shore again, and Debra and he weren’t bobbing up and down in the surf, he took a moment to take in her appearance. She was a ‘natural’ blonde, her hair bleached by her prolonged exposure to the sun, which gave her more of a ‘California surfer girl’ vibe. Otherwise she was fit, confident and quick to take action, though usually in a very understated and underplayed manner. In short, she reminded Alex of those aspects he saw in himself. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he surveyed her. The white bikini with the distinctive black lined pattern certainly didn’t spoil the look.
“You know, I like your style. You have an easy approach, you project a strong competent image, and you find simple solutions to complex problems. I’d appreciate…, no…, correct that, I’d be honored if you’d join my organization and do some work for me,” Alex told her.
“I’d be honored, sir,” she answered immediately, not even asking what he was proposing.
“Please,” Alex responded, looking down as a slight blush flavored his cheeks, “it’s hardly fitting to be calling someone younger than you ‘sir’ while sitting on the beach. Just call me Alex. And this isn’t a full time job. Instead, I’d like you to be an ambassador for me, motivating the other girls, resolving issues between them or other issues that might pop up. What’s more, if you could keep your eyes out for anyone else who looks like a potential Seeker or Seer while you’re traveling to your competitions around the world, it would do a lot. Cate can describe what to look for, and I’ve already got several girls like Emily here in LA who can help you. I think you’ll be able to work together, each of you helping the others get ahead in your own endeavors.”
“That sounds great, but what do I have to do to get boosted?” Debra asked with a crooked smile.
“Gini! What have you been telling this girl?” Alex demanded, shooting a worried glance at Chalise and Kitty, who seemed to think the entire incident quite humorous.
“It wasn’t all her,” Emily admitted with a guilty look.
“Yeah, and who put the idea in your head?” Alex asked. Emily looked down at that point, before glancing up again.
“Actually Kitty told me to see if she could talk you into it.”
“I should have guessed. That’s the problem with dealing with an organization of women, everyone is busy trying to lead my life, getting me to do what they think is good for me. If it was an organization of guys, we’d drink, wrestle a little, settle the issue and get back to drinking. Instead I get a bunch of people wanting to talk to me about my ‘issues’,” Alex teased, only partially appeased. But then, he was a sucker for Kitty and Chalise when they smiled at him, so it wasn’t that hard to get him to play along.
“Hey, I don’t care what it takes; I just want to get boosted,” Debra said, trying unsuccessfully to glance at Alex with an honest, piercing look. “I like the idea of being able to gossip about you whenever I want. I also like the idea of not losing this telepathic connection if something happens to you.”
“We haven’t been able to determine what would happen in that case,” Alex cautioned. “It may or may not last in either case, but it makes sense to take the cautious approach. There’s one school of thought that suggests the link in your brain that provides this ability is to me, in which case you’d lose it, but if the link is to a common shared quantum mind, then it may or may not last after I die.”
“But as I said,” Alex continued, abandoning the scientific explanation assuming she could get more detail from Cate, “you take a subtle approach to otherwise delicate problems, and I like that. But, as far as getting boosted, you’ll have to talk to my girlfriends,” Alex responding with a pleading look at Kitty and Chalise, hoping they’d put the kibosh on the idea. “My time for the rest of the week is theirs.”
“Well?” she asked, turning to ask Kitty and Chalise face-to-face. “What’ll it take? I don’t mean to be demanding here or to impose, but the benefits are too substantial to ignore. I do girls too, by the way, if that helps sway the discussion.”
“Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt,” Kitty said with a grin, at least until Chalise elbowed her in her side, trying to get her to take it as seriously as it deserved.
“We don’t mind you getting boosted,” Chalise said, stepping in to set the record straight, “but it’ll have to wait. We both just got into town and haven’t been able to spend any personal time with Alex for the past five weeks, so we’d like to have him to ourselves for tonight. Especially considering he’s spent the past couple of nights boosting everyone else in LA,” she replied pointedly, glancing at Alex who looked down in embarrassment, causing her to laugh lightly.
“Seriously, though, we’ll try to work you into the schedule. We’re heading to Disneyland tomorrow,” she offered.
“Well, while I’ve visited there several times already, I’d be glad to tag along. I could even help guide you. From what everyone says, I suspect the more people we have there the better as we can run interference just like I did with that one guy.”
“See, that’s why I like you, you provide solutions rather than trying to talk me out of stuff.” Alex threw his arm around her shoulder, happy they’d worked out a solution, especially one that not only made his other tasks easier, but potentially got him out of a difficult situation.
“As for a romantic evening,” Debra continued, “most of the better restaurants in town have substantial waiting lists, and if you’re not famous it’s almost impossible to get in. But I may have a little in of my own. There’s this new place in town and they haven’t been ‘discovered’ yet. I know the son of the owner, so I should be able to get you in. Let me get my phone and I’ll try to hook you up.” She got to her feet, not waiting for a reply and jogging off to where she’d left her towel earlier.
“See what I said about her solving problems? She’s already proving my point in selecting her,” Alex said triumphantly. Just then Cate walked back up and instantly figured that something had happened.
“What’s he done now?” she asked, cocking her head while watching her brother.
“He just got us into a fancy restaurant for a romantic dinner,” Kitty replied with a sparkle in her eyes.
“Oh, do they have romantic tables for six, or should I try to take up with Debra for the night?” Cate asked with a leer of her own.
“How did you…?” Chalise asked, staring at Cate with a stunned look.
“Hey, I don’t know if she is or she isn’t, but she’s sexy as hell, and I wouldn’t mind giving it a try,” Cate responded, her grin widening. “Besides, she’s both Alex’s and my type in that she’s very similar to both of you.”
“Oh no, you’re one of us, the original Musketeers, or Musketeerettes, as it were,” Kitty responded. “You’ll be there with us. After all, if it weren’t for your machination, we wouldn’t be here. I don’t know about the rest of you, though,” she added, glancing at the other girls who’d followed Cate back to their little cabana. “I think you’d better make your own romantic dinner plans.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll find something to keep us entertained,” Emily replied. “After all, I’m sure the other girls will want all the dirt about what Alex has been up to.”
“Like you haven’t already told them,” Alex chided her.
“Hey, not the Seekers, and I want to watch their expressions when I see them, anyway. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine,” she assured the girls. “I figure a couple bottles of wine, a nice open patio listening to the surf in the distance and plenty for us to discuss,” she added with a grin already imagining the scene in her mind.
“By the way, what did you say to the guy?” Alex asked, genuinely curious about the surfer Debra had talked out of creating a scene.
“Oh, we talked, though I was sure to keep my distance. His name is Mikey Sole and he’s a local car salesman. I told him what he was experiencing was an unfortunate reaction to something you give off, and that while we were trying to identify what it was we didn’t understand it yet. Surprisingly, he seemed to accept that.”
“I guess since he experienced the results firsthand, he had a reason to accept it,” Cate offered as she settled onto a spare blanket.
“Anyway, we spoke briefly and he was intrigued by the whole concept.”
“Wait, didn’t he react to you?” Alex asked.
“No, I excused myself and took a quick shower by the pier. I was hoping to wash most of your BCM off of me—I scrubbed myself like a bitch—but I’m not sure if it works like that. However, he didn’t react too badly, so we discussed that topic. I could see him still responding to it as his nostrils flaired, but he said he noticed his response change before and after my shower. When I told him you were responsible for leading a women’s movement he was actually interested, suggesting that maybe his girlfriend would be interested in checking us out.”
“You realize that could be problematic, don’t you?”
“Not really. I figure it’s better knowing where he is and letting him know what to expect if he ever encounters you. Besides, once you’ve left town, how long can your BCM last on any of us? I think he’ll be fine, but just between us, I think you’d better leave his girlfriend alone. There’s no telling what’ll happen if you sweep her off her feet like you have the rest of us,” she teased.
“Thanks for that, and yeah, I think I can manage to leave her alone,” Alex replied. “So have you girls gotten enough sun yet? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m starving.”
“I think we’ll have to wait, at least until Debra arranges things,” Chalise replied. “Besides, we’re enjoying lying here watching all the cute young guys walk by,” she added, immediately glancing at a couple she’d noticed walking by earlier. Alex glanced at them as well, his lip curling slightly in an unintended but telling response.
“Yeah, especially all the guys without a string of girls trailing them,” Kitty added, just in case Alex didn’t get the dig.
“Hey, there’s no problem with looking,” Alex offered, suddenly expansive having gotten his facial tic under control. “Look all you want. Me, I’m tired of looking. Seems I spend enough time looking as it is. Frankly I’d rather just stare at the two most beautiful girls on the whole beach. Nope, scratch that, the two most beautiful girls in the whole country.”
“Hey, watch it!” Cate warned him. “Some of us might take offense at that remark.”
“Well, aside from my sister, that is,” Alex amended his prior statement.
“At least under my weight class,” Gini added, getting into the teasing. Still, she had yet to take her eyes off of Mikey, still out in the water not far away.
“OK, aside from my sister and under Gini’s weight class, but once you put on a few pounds and lose several cup sizes, you’ll both be perfect,” Alex replied with a smile.
“I think he’s already gotten too much sun,” Chalise replied, curling up against him despite her comment, “he’s starting to get carried away.”
“You’re right. He’s probably suffering from heat exhaustion,” Kitty replied as she curled up on his other side. “I think we should take him home and put him to bed. What do you think, Cate?”
Cate looked at her watch. “I think it’s been long enough. They always say, don’t go to bed until an hour after you’ve … anyway, it should have been enough time now.”
They all laughed at that, even Alex. They stayed at the beach for a while longer anyway.
A map of Alex’s travels in Los Angeles (ch. 2 – 3).