The Elect 8, part 4 of 4: Sisters

“Sisters. Sisters, please pay attention.” The gray haired, somewhat plump woman at the podium had to be well beyond retirement age. “Ladies.” She pulled out a long, stiletto knife and banged the pommel on the podium. “I hate public speaking, but since I am the eldest, I got elected, again. That was a joke.” The room quieted slowly and the woman returned the knife and pulled out a flask. She sipped before she put it away. A few of the sisters giggled. “Truth is, I don’t get much practice public speaking in the nursing home.” That got the room dead quiet. “But that don’t make no never mind. My name is Libby Carter. You got nametags by the door?” Several women nodded.

There were in fact twenty-four visitors in the room, and with Lisa, Latasha and Emily, that made twenty-seven elect in one place at one time. Libby took note. “There have never been so many ac libby 3sisters gathered together before. I have met a few of you. Yes, hello Mildred.” The two old ladies waved to each other. “But there will be time for meet and greet after the meeting. The motel has catered lunch, sweets and coffee set up in the next room.”

“Decaf?”

“If you go that way, and hot water for tea if you have a mind.” Libby did not sound sure. She glanced at Lisa who simply nodded. “Yes, I see some of you have already found the coffee. Very good. But now we need to turn to what we are all doing here. Please pay attention.” Libby coughed, but only once. “First, let me ask how many of you have ever worked with a sister before?” Only four of the hands in the room went up. “Yes, hands up please.” A couple more hands went up. “All right. Hands down. Now the important question. How many of you have fought the undead before?”

“Undead?”

“Like zombies, vampires, Frankenstein type monsters.” Emily was surprised to see almost half of the hands go up. “Good, good. So we have some experience here. Now, I believe what we are dealing with is more the Frankenstein type. They have been revived?” It was a question directed at Lisa who stood. The old woman nodded and turned again to the group. “It would be best if Detective Schromer explained. Most of you have been in touch with Lisa over the past few years. I understand some of you are friends of friends, but here.” The old woman stepped aside, walked carefully down the two steps as if afraid she might break some bone on the way. She sat in the front row where a seat had been saved for her.

ac lisa 3Lisa took the podium and glanced once at Emily and Latasha. They were seated, but on the platform where they could see all the faces in that room, and be seen. Latasha was still and quiet, sitting on her hands. She was not wiggling at all and that was very unusual. Emily was slouching a bit, fingering the sword in her lap.

“Thank you Libby. It is good to meet you all at last,” Lisa began. “I have corresponded with so many of you over the years. In many cases, one of you leading to another sister. I feel I know some of you well already.” She smiled and most of her audience returned the smile. A few looked like they were still considering the word, “undead” and did not like the sound of it. “Yes Libby,” Lisa nodded to the old woman now that she was seated. “This is the Frankenstein type, with a fluid reviving their system, an artificial heart pump and electrodes in the brain to stimulate certain synaptic pathways.”

“That sounds pretty sophisticated,” One woman spoke up. Another stood up.

“Ellen Martin, physics department, University of Toronto.” She introduced herself and waved the little sheet of information that had been provided. “I have seen no academic papers or anything else concerning anyone working on any such neural implants. Are we sure this technology is of earthly origin?”

“Katie?” Lisa looked to the back of the room.

“Katherine Lockhart, Washington. No indication yet that it is not.” The word came from a woman who was about thirty. Emily saw something military in the woman’s bearing despite the civilian clothes. It also appeared as if the woman might be pregnant.

A hand went up near the front, but the woman did not wait to speak. “Miriam, FBI,” That was her ab women meet 1whole introduction. “Homeland Security is investigating certain national and international businesses that may be working on related projects, but you know how closed mouthed some business people are. Also certain governments.”

“Sisters.” Lisa spoke up so the room stilled. She then related their encounters thus far with the zombies, and she put some pictures from her laptop up on the screen. She praised Emily several times in the process, much to Emily’s embarrassment. She was very clear about the suspected military involvement, and she paused for a minute so their representative from the pentagon could update with, “No definitive evidence, yet.” By the time Lisa finished, a number of the women were looking at Emily and Latasha. Ashish appeared at the door but Lisa waved him off twice to get through her information. “The semester will be finished for Christmas in ten days. If an attack is going to happen, and given all we know we expect a major attack of some kind, it will likely be within the week.”

One mumbled she only had a week’s vacation. Lisa waved to Ashish, and spoke over the group, “Yes, detective?”

Ashish stuck his head in and smiled for the group. “Sorry to interrupt. You told me to tell you when that gentleman showed up. He is here.” Ashish left.ab women meet 4

Lisa gripped the podium hard enough to break off two chunks of wood. Then she had to explain about the council. Most had never heard of such a thing. She had to tell them what Heinrich Schultz represented. Some looked nervous, but Emily stood and spoke for the first time. She had been thinking about it a lot over the past day.

“He is a nice man. As long as we are doing our job, he won’t interfere, and he may even help us.” That quieted the crowd, but then one woman had to stand up, as if something had been bothering her for some time. She spoke first to Emily who was still on her feet.

“I accept the good work you have reportedly done. I imagine your military training has helped a great deal. My concern is for the one beside you. How old are you, dear?”

“Sixteen.” That was not quite true. Latasha’s birthday was not until January. Latasha stood beside Emily and was actually an inch taller but looked terribly skinny and mostly like legs at the moment.

The woman turned to Lisa. “She is too young and should not be allowed to participate.”

“I can take care of myself,” Latasha shouted and made little fists.

ab women meet 2The woman looked again at Latasha. “I am sure you can, but that isn’t the point, little firebrand.”

A rather small Asian woman in her forties stood and countered. “Anna, from New York. I say she needs to make her own decision. The sisters have never gathered like this before. In the old days it might have been her on her own facing this crisis alone.”

By the time Anna finished, Libby had stood and people got respectfully quiet. “Some of us could use a little firebrand,” she said with a broad smile for Latasha.

A woman in the middle who had her hand up the whole time finally spoke. “Do we need to talk to her parents and get a permission slip signed or something?”

“No,” Lisa shook her head in disbelief, but before she could say more, the first woman spoke again.

“Can we vote?” Lisa could hardly say no to that. To be fair, six of the women agreed that Latasha was too young, but the rest all decided that Latasha needed to make her own decision. Then there was the sound of cracking wood and the creak of nails pulled up as Lisa ripped the lid off the crate that had sat on the stage the whole time. When she pulled out a fire-red ax with a long curved blade, the room fell silent again.

“I see many of you brought your own weapons, but some arrived without for unavoidable airline reasons. We have ten of these. I understand Gertrude Pennyfeather of Boston has more money than she knows what to do with. She could not be here today, but she had these made some years ago when she was facing her own situation. She over-nighted them to us a week ago. Fortunately, her situation was resolved in another way, and these sat unused for all that time.” Lisa paused and touched a button on the inside of the handle. A spike sprang out of the bottom of the axe and it had a long, sharp wooden end. She pushed the button again and the spike withdrew. “Please pass this ab boston axearound and take one when we are done if you need it, but pay attention. Everyone needs to have her weapons at hand at all times from now on. You need to eat with it, sleep with it, and always have it on your person. We do not know when or where the attack may come even if we strongly assume somewhere on the university campus. The call will be short notice, and there is this. Some of you have not had to act in years, even decades. You are all elect, but even you can get rusty. I recommend you work out and hone your skills as much as you can before the time comes.”

That was all she could say apart from “Meeting dismissed.” Some of the women had already gotten up to examine the axes. Others had devolved into small group discussions. A few headed straight for the luncheon, or the women’s room. Latasha got an axe and cradled it like a baby.

“Come on,” Emily encouraged her and jumped off the platform to get to the door. Once in the main room where the motel had their luncheon laid out, buffet style, she went straight for Henry Schultz.

He saw her and smiled, and poked his finger toward Officer Rob Parker who stood beside him. “My guard,” he said when she got near. “To make sure I don’t cause any trouble.”

“You? Trouble?” She returned his smile.

Officer Parker was giggling about something. “Emily.” He acknowledged her, and it was not as Miss Hudson. “Henry, tell her the one about Napoleon.” He giggled again.

ac rob parker 1“Not for such company,” he started to shake his head before he changed his mind. “Well, the times.” He got no more out as Rob started to tell the story.

“He had to go all day in the middle of a battle. When he finally found an outhouse, the person who just left threw a bomb with a long fuse down the hole. I can just picture that.” Rob started to laugh quietly again.

“The muck probably saved his life.” Henry got another word in.

“He got his butt burned and his whole general staff was covered with the shit.” Rob pulled himself together. Emily smiled at the thought, because she knew something Rob Parker did not know—and Heinrich confirmed it.

“You had to be there.” Then he changed the subject. “Latasha. That is a fine looking weapon.” He held out his hand. Latasha was keeping one-step back behind Emily. She felt reluctant to give up the ax, but did so on Emily’s urging. He simply looked at it, touched his finger to the blade, found the spring-loaded spike right away and handed it back as he received it. “A bit too much machine work for my tastes, but it should serve you well if you take care of it.”

Latasha cradled it again, and smiled at the man for the first time.

Meanwhile, Emily spent the time attaching her sword to her belt so itac emily 1a could hang at her side. She found she had to move it a bit to the front because her hip made it stick out a little. When she finished, she surprised everyone. She stepped up and took Heinrich by the arm the way a granddaughter might take her grandfather by the arm. His smile broadened a bit, and it looked genuine. Lisa still felt very wary and concerned about the man as witnessed by the two blocks of wood ripped off the podium. Maybe Emily was ignorant, but she had decided she liked him and that his only intention was good.

The Elect 4, part 2 of 4: Saturday Night

Saturday night, they put Emily in a dress and made her wear more make-up than she wanted. They even made her remove her black nail polish, though she refused to paint her nails pink. The one-inch heels and clutch felt like too much, but in a moment of weakness, she bought them to go together and thought that now she might as well get some use out of them. When she felt ready, they said she looked beautiful. Emily preferred not to believe them.

“No, it’s true. When I met you I remember thinking here is a roommate that could give me competition if she ever started dressing.” Emily imagined Jessica was being kind.

They walked to the Hive, a university party spot since the beginning of time. Just off campus, it sat ina n campus 7 the once plush commercial neighborhood, which was not the best now, being full of alleys and old run-down warehouses. Still, a fast food place had opened up two doors down the main road, and a gas station with an all night mini-mart sat beyond that, so times were changing, again.

The boys promised to be there at six-thirty, and though the girls got ready in time, Jessica said it would not do to be less than fifteen minutes late. They walked slowly, and talked.

“Where is Amina?” Karyn wondered.

“She doesn’t date,” Maria answered. “Her family is very strict in that way.”

“That’s unnatural.” Jessica spoke to the wind

“So how was lunch?” Maria asked.

“Latasha is a nice person,” Emily responded, thinking that was a miracle given her home and upbringing and some of the things she mentioned suffering through as a child. “She is going to be a good sister.” Maria and Karyn looked at her so she explained. “Well, it is better than saying she is part of the club—the secret club.” Emily smiled at her own thought. No sorority wanted her, but she did not need them and never expected to join one. She had a sorority of her own now and the Greeks were not invited to hers, either. “Mostly I think Lisa wanted to tell us she is making some calls to some other women she knows. She said zombies tend to run in a crowd.”

“I still can’t believe that,” Jessica interrupted and got loud. “Dead people walking around? No, I will ac girls night 1have to see that for myself.”

Maria spoke up. “Julie said the pacemaker they inserted to animate the zombies worked like an artificial heart pump. They were all recently dead so not much decay, and the heart easily pumped that green liquid around their systems. That liquid is still defying analysis, by the way.”

“Not much synaptic activity,” Emily added. “The brain implants gave instructions and otherwise I suppose the dead people did not need much.”

Maria tapped Jessica on the shoulder. “That means not much brain activity.”

“I know that,” Jessica said, sharply.

“But why did they show up at the firing range?” Karyn wondered.

Silence followed, for a minute. Maria had heard some possible answers from Julie but she waited for Emily to speak. “Test case,” Emily began. “Some of the ROTC staff and soldiers shot them, but that did not stop them. Lisa figured someone was showing them off.”

“Like someone is making a product that someone else wants to buy,” Jessica said. They had long since learned that Jessica was majoring in business, not the most taxing major, but Jessica certainly knew something about buying and selling, or at least the buying part.

Emily nodded and shared a thought she had intended to keep to herself. “Lisa thinks they also wanted to go after me, like maybe that was part of the test.”

“Being around you is dangerous,” Karyn admitted. “But exciting.”

“I’m learning a lot more from you and Julie than from class,” Maria added her thought.

“Please! I have to room with her.” Jessica turned her head and looked straight at Emily.ab hive 5

“You’re just so lucky,” Emily responded and the girls smiled

Carl and Tom waited by the door. Pierce and Owen held the table. Carl came in his dress uniform since it was the only fancy clothes he had. Tom and Owen dressed down, but the dress shirts were clean and they had on khakis in place of jeans. Pierce stood in a black suit, tie and all. Emily caught her breath when she saw him. She thought he looked like James Bond for sure. In fact, all of the women thought he looked dreamy, but to be fair, Pierce’s eyes got a little bigger when he saw Emily all cleaned up.

“Would you like me to order a bottle of wine?” Pierce asked, but Emily said no. Pierce and Carl were the only two who were technically old enough to drink. She imagined she and Pierce could get away with it, but Emily thought it best to stay un-juiced. She looked briefly at Owen and wondered again about the fraternity house, which happened just last Monday. She knew Karyn still had some red spots and a couple of scabs from that juicing.

“Best not,” she said.

They had dinner and talked plenty about school, but nothing about the murders and all of the mystery that swirled around them. They had a pleasant evening. When Emily and Pierce held hands under the table and did a little knee rubbing, Emily felt very comfortable. She could not do much more than smile. At one point, she felt she was surely having another moment of weakness, but that quickly got followed by the thought, who cares? She did not mind feeling a little weak with Pierce.

The music started at eight and the volume made it much harder to talk. The band, called The Undead, a hard rock band played extra loud. They sang about death and destruction a lot, but it had a steady beat so people could dance.

Pierce shouted to explain how Doctor Zimmer gave him a terribly hard time when he asked to borrow the car.

“Just like a dad,” Emily suggested.

“Just like,” Pierce agreed when his phone went off. He had to turn to the side and stick a finger in his ear to hear. Emily opened her clutch and checked her own phone. It occurred to her that something might be happening and she would never hear it ring, but there had been no calls

“I’m sorry.” Pierce put his hand to her upper arm to get her attention. She reached for his other hand, held it, and smiled. She did not mind his touch one bit. “I’m sorry,” he repeated himself. “I have to go.”

“Go?”

“Emergency,” he said and stood. She stood with him as Tom and Jessica came laughing their way back from the dance floor. The others were still missing in action.

“Serious?” Emily asked.

“What?” Pierce seemed preoccupied for a second. Then he warmed to her, smiled, and touched her upper arm again. “No, nothing like that. It is just some department stuff that can’t wait until morning.” Pierce handed Tom a wad of money and turned toward the door. Emily followed and caught him before he went out.

“I’m not letting you go that easily,” she said and she put her arms around his waist for a hug. Pierce smiled again and slipped his arms behind her back. They pulled together, squeezed gently against one another and Emily tried some ESP. It worked. He kissed her and she held nothing back. She felt his heat rise and her heat began to radiate around the little entranceway. When they separated, Emily tasted her lips. He was not the best kisser in the world, like maybe he had not done it very much. He would improve. Her grin felt genuine enough.

“I have to go,” he said again and the two reluctantly let go. “I’ll call you.”

When Emily got back to the table, everyone stared at her. “He had something come up.” She grabbed her clutch. “I’ll be back, I need some air.”

“Do you want company?” Maria asked.

Emily shook her head. “I’ll be back,” she repeated and left before they asked any more questions.

Emily felt the urge to walk, and it was a strong urge. She started toward the fast food place but then she felt the need to get out of the light. She walked back in among the warehouse alleys where the night could surround her. She felt the fall chill in the air. Her short dress, though not Jessica short, felt a bit thin in the chill air, though it flattered her. Of course, the idea that a good-looking eighteen-year-old dressed like that might not be safe walking around back alleys in the dark never occurred to her. She kind of blanked out on her thoughts. She had too many feelings to sort aa warehouse dock 2through.

Emily only paused when her eye caught some activity up ahead. Lights glared outside a warehouse dock and men stood around, gabbing. A car, not running, but with the lights on parked beside the dock. The car lights pointed away from her toward an exit that emptied on to one of the back, residential roads. Emily stayed hidden by the dark, but she could see perfectly well what happened in the light.

Two men loaded a big box into the trunk of the car. Another two men stood up on the dock, and they had guns. No, Emily thought, they had rifles, and she knew they were military issue. The men stood in plain clothes, but after all that ROTC, she recognized the attitude of attention very well. But what would the military be doing putting something in a civilian car in the dark of night?

She saw something then that startled her. Doctor Zimmer climbed out of the car, and Pierce in his suit stepped out of the warehouse shadows. They talked quietly until the trunk lid slammed shut. Then they got in the car, started it up, and drove away, while the military went back into the warehouse and put out the lights.

Emily spun and headed back the way she came. She bit her finger and fought every tear duct she had. She did not know what they were doing, exactly, but it looked way beyond suspicious. She wanted to scream that it felt so unfair. Something inside her made her walk in that exact direction where she could see. That intuition that Lisa said she had to listen to betrayed her. She almost cursed and said again to herself that maybe she did not want to be elected.

aa alleyway dumpster“Hey, baby. Slow down. Why do you got to be moving so fast?”

Emily stopped suddenly. Two young men in front of her blocked her way. She judged them to be high school age, or just after high school, or dropouts, or drug dealers. She really did not care. They stood blocking her way. She shoved the first hard into the nearby dumpster. His head rang the metal when he hit. She grabbed the other by his shirt and belt and literally lifted him off the ground. She tossed him to crash into the first and started her rapid walking again without another thought.

On the street, she turned toward the Hive, but then turned toward the university across the street. She got halfway to her dorm before her phone rang. She pulled it out and did not want to answer it, but at the last she said, “Hello?” It was Jessica, but she did not let the girl get a word in. “I’m going back to the room. Have fun. See you later,” and she hung up. She did get back to the room and flopped on her bed before she finally let her tears flow.

By the time the others got back, Emily had already slipped under the covers and nearly fell asleep.a n campus 5 By then she had convinced herself that it was not what it seemed. Zimmer taught bioengineering. Pierce had to go because Zimmer needed the car. The box was full of specimens, mutated carrots or something that had to be kept frozen to stay fresh. They just arrived from Washington or some such place for study. Maybe they came though Fort Dix. The army kept odd hours. The guards might just be army overkill. Emily grasped at straws, but at the moment, she needed that comfort, even if it was just a straw house likely to be blown down with the first wind.

The Elect 4, The Hive: part 1 of 4

A van parked in the alley. Several grubby, long dark haired, unshaven young men in torn jeans and shirts unloaded the equipment to take it inside the back door.

“E flat,” one said, and he showed the chord on his air guitar.

“Your E is flat,” the other responded.ac undead 1

A third stepped from the back of the van with a bass drum in his hand. The name on the drum said, “Undead.” The young man looked at the two dueling air guitarists and said, “Morons” He went inside while a fourth, a blonde, stuck his head into the alley.

“Come on. We need to get the equipment in before the sun breaks into the alley.”

The drummer set the bass on the floor of the back room, started out for another piece of equipment but stopped at a door in the hall. The door had a padlock on it.

“Hey Timmy,” the drummer spoke to the blonde. “Ever wonder what is actually down in the basement?”

“Unfinished. Too full of water. Too close to the Delaware River,” Timmy responded. “I swear, you ask Mr. Perkins every time we play here.”

ac undead 2The drummer shivered. “That Perkins creeps me out. I keep thinking he is hiding some deep, dark secret down there.”

“As long as he pays.”

The drummer nodded and went out to get another drum. The blonde stepped into the room to make sure the six-year-old remained well tied and the gag stayed tight across the mouth.

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Don’t miss chapter (episode) 4, to be published today, T, W, and Th of this weekac emily 3

The Elect, Freshman Year is a serialized novel, neatly divided into chapters or episodes like a television show. It is jam packed and fast paced. The emphasis is on mystery, intrigue, and trouble. Quite a number of characters interact. I encourage you to imagine them on film where they would be easier to remember by matching a face with a name. As a reader, all you really need to remember are the three elect, Emily, Detective Lisa, and the local girl, Latasha. Everyone else is either familyac lisa 2, friends, co-workers or antagonist of some sort. Oh, and then there is Heinrich…

The elect are one in a million, maybe one in ten million—women chosen at birth and empowered from ancient days by the goddesses of old, originally, to protect and defend the home and community when the men went away to hunt or to war. Emily Hudson is an elect who has no idea how gifted she is until she arrives at New Jersey ac latasha 3State University, in Trenton, and meets another elect—a police Detective, Lisa. Together they find a third, Latasha, a local high school freshman, and realize that three elect in the same community, maybe even three in the same state, defies all the odds, but maybe there is a reason all three are needed.ab war wo 1

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