Ch 6 Family Meetings

LeeAnn and John Lawrence’s home
Carlisle, England
Tuesday May 18, 1999

Sir John Lawrence had flown back to Carlisle from London on a chartered plane after the meeting with Prime Minister Blake and the cabinet.  He had forgotten how much he hated commuting to London.  He suspected that his son John Harvey and daughter-in-law Marie had found their commutes to London and Edinburgh even more of a strain with both of them commuting.  Their interest in living on one of the new worlds must be partially driven by wanting to end the commuting.  Nannies and living on the Lawrence family farm with the other Lawrence family houses next door had only helped a little.  Now John Harvey understood why his father had been so willing to leave Parliament when his grandfather Smythe had died.  Sir John’s wife, LeeAnn, had asked for her husband’s help in running Smythe Industries.  They had soon found that they enjoyed working together.

John Harvey had run for and won his father’s former seat in Parliament.  Soon he and Marie had found that they had little time together.  John Harvey had been thinking of not standing for the seat at the next election when Alice had developed her adjacent world theory.  When Alice had talked about colonizing one of the new worlds, the idea had appealed to John Harvey and Marie.  Both the Maclaren and Lawrence families had realized that having John Harvey stay in Parliament would help them with working with the government when the time came to tell the Prime Minister about the other worlds.

The meeting with Charlie Blake and the cabinet had shown that that had been a wise decision.  Most of the decisions had been in line with the plans that Jess had outlined on Monday.  A few individuals had felt that they should work within the European Union and not the United States to explore and colonize.  They had been barely willing to work with Australia.  John Harvey had told them that working with Australia and the United States would allow for exploring and colonizing more land on the new worlds.  The exploring would be vertical from world to world.  Therefore, the Australian colonies would be just as far away on another world as Australia was from England on Earth.  Open land on another world next to a big city would be where a lot of the population would move.  The United States and Australia had a lot of land area.  They should have plenty of land on the other world to explore and colonize.  The British Isles were small by comparison.  Working with them would bring more benefits than obligations.  Well that would be John Harvey’s problem to solve.  His job would be to see that they had the people and equipment that they would be needed.

He turned into the driveway.  Marie and his two daughters, Barbara and Ann, were calling their children to come into the house.  They had been playing with the dogs.  It amazed him the control that ten-year-old KA had over her dogs.  With her and her dogs, there was no need to worry about the little ones.  Linda and Mark, who were only three, would have at least two dogs with them at all times.  KA was now sending the dogs off to patrol.  With no one but family around, she had not even bothered with verbally commands.  It was nice that all his children had homes together here.  Having all the family living together was probably the things that he liked best about Alice’s vision of their homes in the new worlds.

When the children had seen his car and started towards it, Marie had had to call them back.

As soon as he gotten out of the car, LeeAnn had been there to greet him.  After years of him living and working in London every week and many weekends, they had gotten used to working and living together with very little time apart.  They hugged and kissed.

“I am glad that you only had to go for the day.  John, I missed you.”

“And I you.”  They kissed again.

“Well the whole family except for John Harvey is here.  Larry had to cancel some appointments tomorrow but luckily he had no operations.”  LeeAnn said as she opened the door to the house for her husband.  He had a second briefcase which was chained to his wrist.”

He saw her glance at it.  “The military is insisting on secrecy.  They alternated between having a fit by what they feel is the lax way that we have been handling things and upset that they had had no hint at what we were doing.”  They entered the family room where everyone had gathered.  “I do not think family and loyalty are how they expect secrets to be kept.  Charlie told them that it has worked so far and that we would work to make the two systems work together.  John Harvey and I did not tell them that JJ was in charge of security.  When they find out that an eight year old has been telling us who we could trust and who we could not, I want to be there to watch JJ handle it.”  JJ was his grandson, John Jess Lawrence IV.

“Oh, I think that KA’s guards will also be fun to introduce them to.”  His son-in-law Larry said.

“Uncle Larry, they’ll only be learning about the dogs.  The cats and the birds will be our secret.”  KA remarked.  Sphinx, her favorite cat, rested in her arms.

Sir John thoughts were of the unusual abilities of his oldest grandchild, Karan Alice.  Sphinx could be unnerving the way she followed your conversation.  KA claimed that when they were together that Sphinx understood some simple things but that what she really understood was the emotional feelings of the people.  He had watched JJ, KA and Sphinx “interview” new employee candidates.  He had done an in depth investigation of the first half dozen that they had rejected.  Each had turned out to have problems that were not readily apparent.  It would be interesting when John Harvey had them interview the government scientist, engineers, and military that would be joining the project.

LeeAnn took control of getting the young ones away so they could begin their discussion.  “Linda, Mark, Steve, and Less.  Say hello to Grandpa.”  Sir John knelt down to get a hug and kiss from each of his youngest grandchildren.  “Steve, take Linda and Mark to the play room.  Less get cookies and milk for all of you.”  As the four little ones had headed out of the room, Less had glanced back at her sister and brother.  Both KA and JJ had smiled and shaken their heads.

The adults, KA, and JJ had then headed into the dining room and taken seats around the table.

Sir John and LeeAnn were seated at the head of the large country table.  To their right sat Sir John’s half brother Ed, his wife Sarah, and their children Nels and Sandy.  Next to Sandy was Alyca Maclaren, Marie’s cousin.  To their left were their oldest daughter Barb, her husband Sam, their youngest daughter Ann, and her husband Larry.  KA and JJ shared a chair with an extra pillow at the end of the table next to their mother Marie.  Sphinx laid across KA and JJ laps.  Everyone eagerly awaited his report on the meeting with the Cabinet.

John decided to start with the biggest news.  “John Harvey will be in London for the next couple of days.  The reason he had to stay was that the Prime Minister has appointed him to co-ordinate the governments work to explore and colonize the other worlds.  Charlie believes that with John Harvey’s understanding of the windows and what we have developed to explore the new worlds, he is in the best position to ensure that things go a smooth as possible.”  He saw that Marie was concerned.  “He will be working from here as soon as they can set up secure communication.  He expects that will be Thursday or Friday.”  Marie was smiling.  Even KA and JJ were smiling.  Both their parents would be working close to home.

John continued.  “When he returns, the firsts of the scientists, engineers, and military officers will start to show up.  There will also be an army platoon for security.  The military wanted to get people here sooner but we told them that we would not have the redesign ready for a couple of days and we would not be opening any gates for a while without the government present.  I am not sure if anyone but Charlie realized the loophole I gave us with John Harvey as the head of the government for all window related activities.”  There was laughter around the table.  “They will have an Army company available when we open the first window.  A special battle group is being assembled to do exploration.”

“Now we just have to determine where the good places to open the windows are.”  John looked at Marie, who smiled and pointed to Alyca.

“Your farm here is one of the best places that I found.  You have ground level access to the Earth, Water, and Fire worlds.  I think though that it would be less disruptive if we open the government windows somewhere else.  I drove around Carlisle and there are a number of locations that are almost as good.  We should probably start with your Kingmoor factory.  You have two locations in the yard that would be good.  One matches up with the Water world and the other with the Earth world.  Also, I didn’t find any volcanoes or lakes in the area that might prove dangerous.”  Alyca answered.

“How were you able to do that?”  Nels knew that they did not have any working windows.

“Monday, we found that some of us have the ability to sense the other worlds after being exposed to them.  I drove around and checked for good locations.  Others can only sense the window being opened or closed.  We want to keep this a family secret.  We will check whether each of you has these abilities.”

“What if we do or don’t?” asked Barb.

Marie answered, “It took me a while to find out that I could sense the other worlds.  Others did it faster and my cousin, Robert, was the fastest.  For all we know anyone could in time.  We need those who can sense the other worlds to select where we should open gates.  We also need to have some instrument or method to divert the attention from the fact that we can sense the other worlds.”

“Sandy and I have working on a small window generator mounted on one of the ATVs and powered by the ATVs generator.  The window will have a transparent glass or quartz cover with a video camera focused on the window.  The window will open, a few video frames will be recorded, and the window will close.  The settings for the different worlds will be hardwired with only the water world readily available.  I am trying to think of a way to have the other three setting available but not obvious.  Also, the method cannot be one that someone would do by mistake.”

“You are just grabbing a few frames of video to check out a world.”  Barb immediately had seen a solution.  As director of engineering at S-I, she was experienced in seeing alternate solutions to problems that the engineers were having.  “Why not run through all four worlds and put the images from each world in different folders.  Display the Water world automatically.  The others can be accessed by anyone that knows where to look.  Capturing all four should take less than a second.”

“That will be easy to implement.  It is all software.  We can make the same hardware available to the public but with different software.”  Alyca said with a big smile.

“KA, which of your friends would you place at Kingmoor for security.”  John asked his granddaughter.

“Regis, Tammy, and four from their first litter.  I will have to visit them daily or they might decide to come home.  Shepherds will look more like regular guard dogs.  Sphinx and I will work with the plant cats.”  KA replied.

John nodded his head.  Her command of animals was always amazing him.  Sphinx had climbed up on the table and then jumped on the floor.  KA had looked after her with a scow.  Well maybe a few had minds of their own.

“Barb, what is the status on the window redesigns?”  John asked his daughter.

“Alyca has given us all of the design changes.  The review package should be available now, but I have set the design review for 8 AM.  That will allow everyone the chance to arrive early and review the changes.  I expect that only minor changes will be necessary.  The machine shop and purchasing sat in on today’s meeting.  They were told to make sure we had whatever we need to get it done.  We will have something ready for Alyca to checkout early Thursday.”

“Oh, that reminds me.  There were a number of packages delivered to me at the airport.  They are in the trunk of my car.  They were all marked to your attention.”  John remarked.

“Yes, Walt had asked if you were coming back tonight.  When I had said yes, he had hurried off.  I guess he checked with Stirling Air and had the packages delivered to the plane.”  Barb explained.

John smiled.  They had some really, good people.  You just had to let them know what was needed and they found a way to get it done.  He expected many of them would be interesting in colonizing which is good since they would be even more valuable there.  He would have to have an all hands meeting tomorrow to explain to everyone what was going on.  “What is the count on the number of ATVs we can have operational by Friday?

Before she could reply, the dogs were heard barking in the yard.  It sounded like they had surprised some intruders and were herding them.  Everyone looked at KA.

“One intruder.  They are meeting resistance.  I need to go and take control.”  Alyca and Nelson were already headed for the back door.  KA started to get up but Marie put a hand on her daughters shoulder.

“Let them go first.”  Marie told her daughter.

John had then realized that Alyca and Nelson were not the only ones armed.  Barb, Sam, and Larry also started towards the door.  “Marie!  Ann!  Go stay with the young ones.”  John took control of KA and JJ.  He saw that his wife had taken up her cell phone.  “LeeAnn wait.  We need to keep this quiet.  Be ready to call but don’t call unless we lose control.”  She looked at him then nodded her head.

The sound of the dogs had changed.  They were having fun.

“KA and JJ.  Let us go see what they have found.”  John put a hand on each child’s shoulder and headed towards the back door.

Outside they found a stranger down on his knees with his hands behind his head.  All his clothes were dark but they were not out of the ordinary.  Just someone out for a stroll, but he had to have crossed their fields to get close to the houses.  Alyca and Nels stood apart with their pistols pointed at the ground.  With over a dozen dogs, there had been no need for them to do anything but watch.

One of the dogs approached KA carrying something in its mouth.  “Thank you Regis.”  KA said as she took what the dog offered her.

Barbara walked over to her niece.  “May I see that?”  KA handed the item over.  “Parabolic mike with a recorder.  Sam, get some tie wraps.  KA, have them check to see if he was alone.”

KA looked at Regis.  “Snow White and Happy guard.  Regis search.”  Regis turned and led all but two of the dogs away into the dark.  KA pointed to the all white dog and then to the left behind the man.  She then directed the other dog to the right side.  Both moved to their positions.  The man watched with surprise but not fear on his face.

Sam was back with the tie wraps and started towards the man.  “Hold up Sam.”  Alyca said.  Sam stopped.  She addressed the kneeling man.  “You know who I am.”  He nodded.  “I am better with a pistol that with a rifle.  I am also an assistant range master with the Lothian and Border Police.  For some reason they felt that meant that, I should be a reserve officer.  So just let Sam secure your hands and we can go inside and talk.”  They all had seen the man relax.

Sam went behind the man and secured his hands.  He then helped him up.

John put his hand on JJ’s shoulder.  He turned to Sam.  “Sam, you and KA should go and find Marie and Ann.  Take the young kids over to Marie’s house.  Marie should call her dad and give him a status report.  The rest of us will go and talk with our visitor.”  Sam and KA entered the house first and gathered up the others.  They exited by the front door.  John and JJ entered next followed by his brother Ed.  The visitor followed with Alyca close behind.  The rest followed without a backward look.  They returned to the dining room.

“No need to make that call my dear.”  John told his wife.  He returned to his seat at the head of the table.  He pointed to the visitor and then the seat where Marie had been seated.  The visitor sat down.  Nels pulled the seat that KA and JJ had been sitting in back and sat behind and to the side of the visitor.  Alyca and JJ took the two seats nearest to the visitor.  The man was looking at JJ.  He clearly did not know what a kid was doing sitting next to him.

“I imagine that it is not comfortable sitting with your hands tied behind you, so if we can reach an understanding we can remove them and continue with our discussion.”  John said.

Barb entered the room carrying the parabolic mike.  “He caught a little before the dogs distracted him.  It was just the design review.  There is nothing about our project.”  She reported.

“Good, well if you can tell us who you are working for we can decide if we should tell you anything.”  John said.

“I was just out bird watching.  That is just to hear bird calls.”  The man replied.

“Do you want to be tied up in the shed for a few days?  My sister can have some field mice or snakes keep you company.  They aren’t as smart as the dogs so what they do while they are there may not be as friendly as the dogs.”  JJ asked the man.

The man looked at the kid, then at the adults.  The kid had just threatened him and the adults were almost laughing at him.  Then what the kid said registered.  Days tied up with mice or snakes.  He shuddered.

JJ repeated his grandfather’s questions.  “For whom do you work?”

Without thinking, he had answered.  “CIA.”  He realized that he had answered with the truth.  What had happened to all the conditioning through which he had suffered?

JJ asked, “What is your name?”

Again, without thinking, he answered.  “Bruce Jenson.”  What is with answering this kid’s questions?

“Good.”  John said.  “Bruce, we have been looking to talk with the US.  You may be able to help us.  If you promise to hold off on reporting, we can give you some information about what is going on.  You would have to stay with us but that should be no more than three or four days.  If we cannot find a direct way to a higher level, we may have to work with you to get a meeting with the President.”

“Meet with the President?”  Bruce asked.

“Yes.  My son and I met with Prime Minister Blake and the Cabinet today.  Ian Macphater will be meeting with Prime Minister Hunt in a couple of hours.  We have no one that can call up and ask for a meeting with President Clarke.  We have some members of the Cabinet that would rather bring in the EU than the US.  We disagree, but I have to go with that until Charlie has time to clear that up.  It may take him a few days.  Then he would be able to just call and get us a meeting.”  He paused.  “Until then, I would like to give you the opportunity to learn more about what we are doing.  In return, I ask three things.  First is your promise to not report until we have been able to set up a meeting with the President.  Second is your promise to stay with us.  We will share some of what we are doing with you, but we will have to think about what we can and cannot share.  Third, we would like your suggestions about how to improve our security here.”

“I’ll have to think about it.”  Bruce replied.

“Why?”  JJ asked.  “Either you gather more than you came here after but report later.  Or you spend some uncomfortable time in the shed and someone else delivers the information to the President later than you would have.”

“You are only eight?”  Bruce asked.

“Last month.  But you are avoiding the question.”  JJ responded.

“Yes, it’s just a lot to take in at once.”  Bruce answered.

Nels had stood up.  “You’ll have to get use to that around here.  Bend forward and I’ll cut you lose.”  He cuts the tie wraps.

“That’s all.  You take my word.”  Bruce was confused at their willingness to trust him.

“My grandson would have known if you were lying.”  John replied.

“I think that we will soon be trusting Bruce like one of the family.  Don’t you agree Alyca?”  JJ looked at his cousin.

Alyca had been looking intently at Bruce since she had sat down.  There was a half smile on her face.  “Ah.”  She looked at JJ who was smiling at her.  “Yes, I do think so.”  Shut up and go away.

JJ stood up and yawned.  He saw Sandy looking at Alyca and a smile slowly spreading on her face.  “Aunt Sandy, can you walk me home.”

She turned and looked at JJ.  Walk him home?  He has all of KA’s dogs out there to look after him.  Oh.  He wants to get me out of here before I say something.  “Sure JJ.”  She replied.

JJ went and kissed his grandmother and grandfather good night.  When he was with his grandfather, he whispered.  “Give Alyca and Bruce some time alone.”  John looked at JJ.  He started to say something but instead gave his grandson another hug.

JJ and Sandy left.

John looked down at Alyca.  “Alyca, you do not have anything more to report.”

Alyca could tell that it was more of a statement than a question.  “Yes, sir.”  She replied.

John smiled at her.  “Will you take Bruce to the living room and explain what is going on.  You have the best overall knowledge.  We will just be discussing status and how to coordinate with the government.”

Alyca was surprised by the request.  She sat there a couple of seconds before she replied.  “Yes, sir.”  As they exited the room, she asked.  “Bruce would you like something to drink?  It’ll take a while to explain things.”

Bruce looked over at her.  He realized that she was only a couple of inches short of his six feet two inches.  He usually dated shorter women.  Why had he had never dated such a beautiful, athletic women?  He was going to enjoy talking with her.  “Yes, I would.”

Alyca led him to the kitchen.

“Well we wondered when Alyca would find someone.”  LeeAnn said.

Sarah, her sister-in-law said.  “I have never witnessed love at first sight.  You could tell that Alyca was taken with him.  Once John and JJ stopped questioning him, he had time to relax.  It looked like he was noticing that Alyca was more than someone with a gun.”

Larry laughed.  “It would be hard to think of Alyca as other than someone with a gun after she has pointed it at you, but I think Bruce has forgotten all about the guns.”

“Yes, Bruce is in good hands.  I think that we will be able to work well with him over the next few days.  With him hanging around with Alyca, no one will wonder why he is here.”  John said.

They all laughed.  Soon they were discussing the coming days.

Kim and Rob Reynolds home
Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA
Tuesday May 18, 1999
When Will returned downstairs, he found his daughters helping the Steele girls prepare dinner.  He could hear the discussion in the dining room.  “Linda, turn on the local news and see if there is anything that can give us an idea of what those men may be planning.”  He got a glass of water and went to the dining room.

Linda looked at the Maclaren girls.  She was trying to think how to ask a question.  Brenda nodded her head.  “Yes, Dad didn’t want you to hear some of the thinks that they will be discussing.  Let’s leave it for them to decide what to tell you.  Kim and Rob trust you but even Edna did not find out about the big secret until yesterday.  Did you ever get the feeling that Kim hired you for more than being nannies?”

Mary Steele answered.  “Last week, Kim suggested that I consider specializing in genetic research.  I told her that I was planning to be a pediatrician since I liked working with kids.  She said that there might be the possibility of doing both.  I explained that I had to start earning money as soon as possible.  She said that besides being the boys’ nannies that there was the opportunity to do real work related to our studies.  She said that when her parents were here that they would talk to us about this.  I had asked her ‘More interesting than her boys.’  She had smiled and said ‘Yes.’  She wouldn’t say anything else.”

Brenda looked at her twin for a couple of seconds.  “Well in that case, there’s no reason not to let you in on what Aunt Alice was doing when she died.”  The Steele girls looked at each other.  Brenda had taken only a couple of seconds to decide to tell them.  “Have you heard about Aunt Alice’s Theory of Adjacent Worlds?”

Linda replied.  “Yes, I remember how the press made her out to be a crackpot.  When I met her, I almost asked her about it.  I have never met a more solid person than her.  The love she showed for her family and the way she looked at life were amazing.  When she spoke to you, she gave you her whole attention.  I had several long talks with her as we watched the boys.”

Brenda smiled as she remembered long talks that she had had with her aunt.  “Yes, I will miss my talks with her.  Well, she was not a crackpot.  They planned the presentation of the Adjacent Worlds Theory so that it left everyone thinking that she was one.  She and Uncle Jess opened a window to another world yesterday.  The window opened into a lake and the water spilled over Aunt Alice and the equipment.  She was electrocuted.”

The Steele girls were stunned.  Brenda and Mary were standing there without a sign that they were teasing them.  It was not science fiction.  Linda was the one to break the silence.  “You are planning to go to this new world.”

“Yes.  However, it is not just us, we are looking for others to go there to explore and colonize.  For that, we need more than just our families.  We are looking for people to join us.  That is what my sister and I believe that Kim was talking to you about.  Are you interested?”

Mary Steele looked at her sister.  She smiled and shook her head yes.  Linda started to agree but realized that she had one problem with the offer.  They would be leaving their mother, Martha, behind.  She had raised them alone, working two jobs to help Mary go to college.  They could not abandon her.  “I cannot leave mom behind.  It’s a great offer, but I will have to turn it down.”

Her sister realized that in the excitement of the moment that she had forgotten their mother.  She was upset at both that lapse and the missed opportunity.  She changed her answer.  “I also cannot go.”

“Is your mother sick and cannot travel?”

Mary Steele replied, “No, she’s only forty-one.  Since Kim and Rob have been paying our schooling, she has quit her second job and has been doing a bunch of travel to visit relatives.”

“Well, would she want to do some off world traveling with her daughters?”  Mary Maclaren asked.

“She is just a bookkeeper.”  Mary Steele replied.

“A bookkeeper, who raised the two of you by herself.  I don’t think she is just anything.”  Mary Maclaren corrected her but with a smile on her face.

For the second time in minutes, Mary Steele was embarrassed about how she had treated her mother.  First, she forgotten her and now she had belittled her.  Linda hugged her sister.  “Mary, you were just surprised by the offers.  I didn’t think about mother at first, but then I realized we were leaving her behind.”

Brenda commented, “It is a lot to take in.  Even Aunt Alice and Uncle Jess were surprised yesterday.  We had never considered that we might open a window underwater.”

Linda asked, “Would you be opening up one of those windows here?”

Brenda and her sister look at one another for a few seconds as they scanned the four adjacent worlds.  Mary shook her head no.  Brenda turned to the Steele sisters.  “This is a crowded urban area.  We have thought over the problems we could encounter and it could have been worse than water coming through the window.  Inside a volcano, the lava is very hot and under high pressure.  If they had opened up a window into one, more than one life would have been lost yesterday.  We had planned to do private exploration but we are now looking to work with the governments to make things safer.”

“Governments?”  Linda asked.

Brenda explained.  “United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.  Kim’s brother-in-law John is a member of parliament.  He met with Prime Minister Blake today.  Grandpa Macphater will be meeting with Prime Minister Hunt in a little while.  You don’t happen to know the President?”  The last she asks jokingly.

“Yes” answers Linda.

Brenda and her sister are stunned.

Linda laughed.  These twins are not the spoiled rich girls that I expected.  Mary and I are enjoying talking to them.  When they learned that Marie and Rob were going to talk with us, they told Mary and me the big secret without asking.  Well just one little bit more.  “I last saw him at Easter.”  Linda paused.  That’s enough.  I think they can tell that I am teasing them.  “Of course that’s the first and only time.  I was helping Rob take the boys to the White House Easter egg hunt.  The twins used their skill to collect a lot of the eggs before we caught on.  Claire, the President daughter, had noticed what they had done and mentioned it to her father.  Rob talked our way out of it when the President and his daughter came over.  I think they were still suspicious.  We cannot call him up and say guess what else we can do.”  They all laughed.  “We need to prepare dinner but let us keep talking while we do it.”

When Will entered the dining room, Jess was finishing telling Kim, Rob, Beth, and Tom what had happened yesterday morning.  “Inspector Hayes agreed to keep our house under watch until the government could take control.  We should have PM Blake in the know about the worlds and that we were looking to explore them.  John was pitching that we have been preparing to explore these worlds and that we will be able to help the government get a fast start.  Since the three companies are family owned and controlled, our development effort has been faster than any government.  We’ll continue to develop the products we need but we are offering to work with the government to make modification or develop items that they needed.  Licenses will be granted for others to build products with high demand, but we’ll get a royalty or fee.  The terms will be identical for all three governments.  John and his father will work out an initial agreement with Prime Minister Blake.  That agreement will be the starting point for negotiations with Australia and hopefully the US.  Initially we hope to be working with our three home governments but that is only a matter of convenience.  We’ll work with anyone that will support a representative government, private enterprise, and personal freedom.  Essentially that’s what we had been planning but now the governments will be in at the beginning.  Our non-negotiable requirements remain exploration, colonization, and unrestricted access.  What we’re looking for from the government is help in mapping the water world so that we can give everyone the information that they will need to open a window safely to that world.  We’ll also work with them to check out the air, earth, and fire worlds.”

Kim had raised her hand.  Jess stopped talking and nodded to her.  “Dad, why are you calling the worlds water, air, earth, and fire?”

“When Marie was going over your mother’s notes, she found that she had placed the symbols for the four elements beside her initial settings for the four worlds.  We don’t think it was a conscious labeling.  It was in among the doodles that she did when she was thinking.  The air symbol marked the first world that we opened.  That is the world where the window was up in the air on the other side and where no land was visible.  The earth symbol marked the second world where the window was under ground.  The water symbol marked the world with the lake.  The fire symbol marked the world where we didn’t open a window.  We fixed up the equipment and added some safety features.  The main two were a timed opening and closing of the window and a dead man’s switch.  Everyone was present as we opened a window to the Air world.  We slowly increased the time the window was opened.  We came up with a good plan for initial opening of windows.”

“Then Robert said that he could sense the window opening and closing.  Later, he was able to sense the other world even when the window was not in use.  We found out that all but Marge, your grandparents, and Will’s parents could sense the window opening and closing.  Fewer of us could sense the world with no window open.  Edna suggested that Robert try the other two worlds with the settings off slightly from what would open a window.  After experimenting with the Air and Earth world settings, we tried the Water world.  Robert, Brenda, Mary, Alyca, and Marie were eventually able to detect the two worlds.  The Fire world was fire because there was a large volcano with molten lava flowing.  Robert had recognized it first.”

“Will took Brenda and Robert out and they mapped the four worlds for locations near the house by sensing the four worlds.  When Marie and Alyca drove down to Carlisle, they were to do more mapping.  Brenda, Mary, and Robert have given us more information on these worlds since we left Edinburgh.  We have a way to determine what is on the other side before we set up a window.”  When Jess finished, he waited to see if there were any questions.

Leslie took over, “We need to make sure that the transits to the other worlds are made as safe as possible, but we don’t want to let it be known that we can sense the other worlds without a window.  That means that we have to map the water world and we will need government help to do that.  We are offering access to our technology and three worlds that the general public will not know about.  I expect someone to leak news of the other worlds within a year.  Marie will have the documentation based on both one world and four worlds ready in a couple of days.”

Kim asked her father.  “How many worlds can we access?”

Jess looked at his daughter.  “Your mother said more.  Marie agreed but said that she wants to check the numbers out.  I expect that we’ll have to try the windows in a few locations before she’ll have the numbers she needs.  It’s definitely more than we want to explore from the start.  We don’t know what we will run into so we need to take small steps.”  Everyone expressed agreement with that statement.  “So let’s not even think about any more than the four and only talk about the one unless it is inner family.”  Again, everyone showed agreement.

Jess continued.  “Ian will be talking to PM Hunt in a while.  He’s using the rough contingency plans from when we met in December.  John will try to get a copy of the agreement with the UK sent to Canberra.  That just leaves the United States government.”

Will took a seat.  “We need to hear how John’s meeting went before we…”  He was cut off by the ring of the phone.

Before she picked it up, Kim said “Marie.”  She listened for a few seconds.  “Let me put you on speaker.”  She switched to speaker.

Marie was on the speakerphone.  “Hi everyone.  If you hear a lot of barking in the background, Karen has a bunch of her dogs in the house not just the usual four.  Sixteen dogs make a lot of noise, even for Karen.  I will have to check later to see if she did not sneak more into the house.”

She paused.

Jess commented.  “I think that we would all agree that four is as much as any of us would want to handle at a time.  Leave it to the younger generation on how to deal with more.”  So, Marie was sure of a total of sixteen worlds but still has more checking to do.

Marie continued with her report.  “Dad, the house will be taken care of while you are gone.  Things went better than expected at John’s meeting.  We’ll work together to see that there are no more deaths likes mom’s.  Alyca and I will be talking with some knowledgeable people to explain what we know.  Alyca said that here would be a good place for you to work.  Therefore, you should plan on staying with us when you get back.  We are good for earth, water and fire.  She has her tasks completed and we should have things ready in a couple of days.  Dad, the changes are being worked on.  It will take a little longer to implement in all sizes.  We are making sure that others don’t have the same problem.  John has been given a new assignment.  You would never believe what it is.”  She paused.

Jess looked at Kim, who shook her head yes.  “Marie, tell John congratulations.  I know he was looking forward to one day getting that type of position.  We are very happy for all of you.  You remember the surprises about which I was to tell Kim.  Well, she had some surprises of her own for us.  Not the same, but my grandchildren are full of surprises.  I will explain fully when I get back.  Jason, Eric, and Jerome like to do things together just like your three.  It’ll be interesting to see how their little sister fits in with them.  Rob has had to buy a gun safe with a combination lock.  The twins have no trouble finding the keys or anything else they go looking for.  Jason is more people oriented.  He has been telling us about the neighbors.  We are concerned about some things that they have found but Will is here to take care of it.”

Marie knew at what Uncle Will excelled.  “Does Uncle Will want John to see if he can find anyone to help?”

Will answered, “Some things are better left alone, but I am not sure if this is one of them or not.  Paul and I had some old friends over here that may be useful, see if he can have them contact me in the morning.”  Inspector Paul Hayes had been an SAS officer who had served with Will in the Falkland Islands.

Marie replied, “Yes, Paul has been helpful from time to time.  He has been a good neighbor.  I will give him a call in the morning.”

“Thanks, I do not want to cause a stir around here.  It might upset Alice.  She is all that we expected and more.”  Will added.

“More!”  Marie asked.

“Yes, our Alice is very alert and responsive for a new born.”  Kim told her sister.

“God Bless!  You knew something was different about her?”  Marie asked her sister.

“We have discussed our pregnancies a lot.  This was more than the others.”  Kim replied.

“I can’t wait to meet my niece.”  Marie paused.  “Leslie, John said that you dad will be getting some help besides the information S-I sent.  The phone call will be a few minutes after the meeting starts.  Additionally there will be packages delivered.  We like to work with other subjects of the Queen.  Older cousins are still being discussed.  John is running into some opposition.”

“Remind him that they have some important things to contribute.”  Jess said.  “It’ll make things easier to be working with them.  We’re working with so few even if we work with them.  Family ties will be more understandable if they are with us.

“Will do.  I have to go and put the kids to bed.  They have been in the middle of all that is happening.  Love to you all.”

“Tell them good night from me.  I love all of you.”  Jess said.  The others added their goodbyes.

Jess looked at the others.  “Marie did a good job of telling us what is happening.  There are at least sixteen worlds and maybe more.  It sounds like John was very successful.  She did not mention any issue other than some faction does not want to work with the United States.  It sounds like he is heading up the UK response to the situation.  I do not know if Blake realizes how good a choice he made.  John is not interested in bureaucratic empire building and he knows what we expect to find and what we have planned.  I hope he can hold out in the position for a year or so.  He and Marie are eager to migrate.  The discussion about the kids just added to this being a discussion of family.  I’m not sure if she understood what the boys could do but I will let her know when I get back.  Only the discussion of Ian’s meeting with Prime Minister Hunt is a little obvious that we are hiding something.”

“I am not sure if it is bad that it is obvious that we are hiding something.  MME has a lot of dealings that we do not want our competitors to learn.  MME, S-I, and TDI have been working together a lot lately.  Father’s meeting could be just related to that business.  He could be discussing ATVs based on Alyca’s designs.”  Leslie said.

“That makes sense.”  Jess said.  “Let’s see what we need to tell Ian.  John meeting was very successful.  That he will be in charge of exploring new opportunities.  I will be moving down with Marie and will work from there.  S-I will be sending the latest designs.  The ATVs are in demand and we will be working co-operatively on new products with the British government.  The British government is interested in working with the Australian government on new developments, but is reluctant to include the US in to the deal.”  Jess could see that no one liked how he is describing things.

“Jess, there is one thing you are not good at inventing and that is a story.”  Tom commented.

“Let me give it a try.”  Leslie volunteers.  “Dad, Marie has asked Jess to come and live with them.  She doesn’t want for him to be alone.  She knows that it’s the best place for him to continue his work.  Alyca is working to see that everything is ready for him once he gets back.  Marie will be taking over her mother’s work.  We know that Jess and Marie will be successful once they get everything set up.”

“Brenda will be staying in Texas to determine where opportunities might lie there.  Both the British and United States governments are interested in ATVs but the UK is the only one that we have been able to talk to about the full package.  John Harvey will be running the development work in the UK.  Don’t be surprised if there’s a call just after your meeting starts discussing co-operative development.  There should also be a package.  We may have trouble in getting TDI in on the deal.  We don’t have the contacts we need and are unsure on how to get the help that’s needed.”

“That is all he will need for the meeting.  Our other news can wait until we get home.”  Leslie finished her suggestions.

“I totally agree.  The less said the harder for someone outside the family to figure out.”  Beth said.

“OK, let us make the call and then get ready for dinner.”  Kim suggested.  “Uncle Will, I’ll be a lot more comfortable once you are able to check the other house out.”

He nodded his head.

Leslie took the phone and dialed her father’s cell phone number.


After dinner, Linda, Brenda and the two Marys had drifted into the living room to continue their discussion.  A while later Kim joined them.  She talked the Steele sisters into spending the night.  The four young women would be sharing a room.  The Steele’s were confused when they found themselves sharing the bed while the twins slept on the floor.  The twins had explained it as they camped out a lot.  Which was true, but the bigger reason was that the floor was a better position if something happened during the night and they had to exit the room.

Will and the three pilots spent the night in the room above the garage.  Rob had turned on the house security but not the circuit for the garage.  Will and Kevin scouted during the night, but found little additional information of interest.

Chapter 7


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