Ethan woke up when he felt Jill rise. The overhead showed the dawn just coming up, and while in days past he would have grumbled at the early hour, he now felt rested and ready to rise, and loved. What could be better than that? Jill had told him with the chits he needed less sleep than he used to need, and with the Gaian built bed, he needed even less sleep to be rested, but he still enjoyed his time in bed, and he might have lingered if Jill had not thrown clothes at him.
“Hey!” He shouted, but there was love in his voice.
“Up!” Jill shouted back, and her love sounded just as strong.
Ethan sat up and looked. Jill was dressed in a white linen mini-skirt and sandals. It suited her, and he got all sorts of thoughts just looking at her. They must have reflected in his eyes.
“No time,” Jill said, as if she read his mind. “I decided you need to meet my family as well, dysfunctional as they are.”
“What?” Ethan sat all the way up and saw that Jill had tossed him a kind of white mini-skirt of his own, and sandals that tied up to just below the knees. He dressed while she got breakfast from the ship’s system. It was bread and olive oil instead of butter, a kind of oatmeal mush with some unknown fruit, and milk for herself. She allowed him his coffee. He thought that this could not be the food of paradise, but she assured him that it was.
“Welcome to my Earth,” she said.
When they went to the control room, Ethan found Manomar tugging at his short skirt. He did not mind wearing a dress, so much. That would have not been too different from what he wore back home. In his case, it was the shortness of the dress that bothered him. Ethan was not sure about the dress itself, even if Jill said he had nice legs.
“So where are we?” Ethan asked generally as he looked out the screen. He saw pine trees and palm trees side by side, and just beyond those, he saw the ocean crash up against a bolder strewn shore. When he squinted, he imagined another landfall in the distance, but there had to be miles of ocean in between.
“Lyoness,” Jill said. “My private domain.” When Ethan and Manomar looked at her, she said more. “My father was tyrant, remember, and I was his eldest. My ex-husband is now tyrant, what most people call Emperor, and he has been for the past two hundred or so years, though his power is very limited.”
“Yes,” Ethan interrupted. “Aren’t you on the most wanted list? Isn’t your picture in the post office? I mean, is it safe to be here?”
Jill came to stand beside him. “Archon’s power is limited. We are a representative republic, very complicated, but there are certain things Archon would not dare on his own. He would not even be in his position if we had not married and if my baby brother Devon had not disappeared. Even now, he leans on the fact that we were married.” She took Ethan’s hand and spoke to Manomar. “I married him when I was a hundred years old, when the people were beginning to wonder if I was ever going to marry. We had a son, but by the time my son was twenty-one, I had long since realized what kind of man Archon really was. We were not together since then, and within days of my father’s death, Archon and I formally divorced, but by then he had already set himself up as Tyrant, and I was too busy with the guardian program to do anything about it. I guess I didn’t care, since he seemed to represent the feelings of most of the people, I thought it was only just to let him have most of the headaches.”
“So your private domain?” Ethan brought her back to the present.
Jill turned their view angle and they saw what could only be called a magnificent palace resting on a hill. The land fell away on both sides to the ocean’s waters. “We are at the tip of the peninsula,” she said. “And this is my home. Much of the guardian program was conceived and directed from this place.”
“And Archon did not shut it down?” Ethan asked. He knew the guardian program was technically illegal
“No,” Jill said. “I told you, there are certain things he would not dare do on his own.”
Ethan slipped his arm around Jill’s shoulder, and she responded with her arm around his waist. He spoke. “I am only sorry I did not have a chance to meet your mother and father,” he said.
“Me, too.” Jill sniffed back some tears. “They would have liked you.” She broke free and returned to the Main. In a second or two, their door rested in the front hallway of the palace.
“Manomar?” Jill turned to look. Manomar lifted Ethan’s briefcase without a word; but Ethan looked curious, so she spoke. “I thought we might find a display case of some kind. It was a remarkable feat to escape your world as we did.” She finally admitted it.
“So where is everyone?” Ethan asked. He changed the subject and looked at the emptiness of the hall.
“That’s what I was wondering,” Jill said. “They should have picked up our approach last night, and surely by now they should be filling the hall to see us and welcome us.”
“We employ servants. They are well paid and come and go as they please. Most don’t even need to be servants, but many choose that profession, often because their families have served the royal house for centuries.” Jill flipped the view to any number of places in the building, all empty, before she landed on a living room—a sort of lounge area with plenty of books in bookcase walls, soft and inviting furniture, a couple of desks, and a few trophy cases along with various works of art scattered about. Everything looked expensive, and the art, in particular, was no doubt priceless.
“I don’t like this,” Jill said. “The Guardian team ought to at least be on hand and watching. Come on.” She took Ethan’s hand again and they stepped out on to a luxurious rug, Manomar in their wake. Ethan took a moment to pinpoint the source of the lighting. There were windows, or parlor doors of some sort along the far wall, which led out to a patio, which overlooked one of the garden areas. They were well tinted to limit any possible glare from the sun. Instead, the light seemed to be diffused sunlight, and it came in through the ceiling tiles.
“I imagined your ultra-futuristic world would be white and sterile looking somehow,” Ethan said.
“Hollywood!” Jill scoffed. “And boring in the extreme.” She took him over to one of the desks. Manomar followed quietly and looked around at everything like his old Master Ali Pasha would have done.
“And so?” Ethan asked, after Jill touched the screen on the desk.
“I don’t understand.” She shook her head and dragged him to a couch where she plopped down and drew her legs up to her chin. “I thought the library annex would be a good place to rest for an hour. Our chits have been updated, but it will take a little time to integrate everything, like when we upgraded in Lela’s ship. We now have the most current information available.” She paused to think. “I see the exploration of the Horsehead Nebula is continuing, and one group plans to make the first venture to Andromeda.”
“That will be a long trip. Hope it is worth it,” Ethan said. He saw the same information in his mind, even as she mentioned it.
“But there is nothing on why this house is empty. Even the house banks have been cleaned, but.” She stopped and Ethan watched her face turn dark red. He almost backed away. “Why that Ass! That creep!” She jumped up and returned to the desk where she ran her hands with abandon across the screen. She paced and would not talk either to Ethan or Manomar until there was a shimmering beside the desk. A woman, a beautiful blond woman took form there, and Ethan immediately noticed the family resemblance.