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An Habitual Offender, Chapter 4

What A Difference A Day Makes

Fiona spent the night aboard Lady S. with Pandora by her side. She knew it would take a long time to defrag and optimize one hundred and twenty eight terabytes of storage, but she hadn’t counted on dozing off. She didn’t usually do that during an all nighter. She was reclined in the engineer’s seat with her feet propped up on a tool box. She lay there with her her eyes closed, listening to Pandora’s hard drive clicking away. I wonder what she’s doing. Fiona was still very sleepy. It must be time to reboot...

Fiona reached up and felt to see if her glasses were still on her face. Fortunately, they were. She was pretty well blind without help. She let her feet fall off the box and she sort of sat up and looked at the copilot’s instrument panel. There were a series of status messages on the screen.
Defragmentation complete.
Optimization complete.
Download(s) complete.
>

Downloads? That didn’t make sense to Fiona’s fuzzy brain. She decided not to worry about it and went about her business. Fingers and thumb of the left hand on five specific buttons on the copilot’s panel, fingers and thumb of the right hand on five specific buttons of the engineer’s console. She pressed. The ship went dark for a very long time. Fiona leaned back in the seat again, enjoying the silence. She dozed as the systems began to pull themselves back up. She dreamed about flying.

Eventually she opened her eyes again. Something was odd. Lady S. had rebooted, but only her most basic systems were active. Fiona sat up and rubbed her eyes. Pandora was on the tray table next to her with the lid mostly closed. Flickers of light were escaping through the gaps around the edges. She looked around. The three primary displays were lit, but the copilot and engineer screens were blank. The pilot’s display had some text on it but she couldn’t read it from this distance. She got up and moved over to the pilot’s seat. She sat down and looked at the screen.

Two lines of text. The first read ‘Incoming Message’. The second line read ‘Acknowledge’ with a line of dots leading towards a specified button on the edge of the screen.

This is really weird. But why not then? She pressed the button and the screen went blank.

Then a heartbeat later text began to appear. Slowly, one letter at a time came the message: M... y... n... a... m... e...

Fiona sat bolt upright, her hand going to her glasses to check their position. No, she was actually seeing this happen. This thing that couldn’t – shouldn’t be happening.

i... s... S... e... r...

Fiona’s eyes went very, very wide. Her jaw dropped. I’ve gone completely mad?

e... n... i... t... y.

She read it again and again. She simply couldn’t believe it. She mouthed the words silently. My name is... Then Fiona spoke out loud. “Serenity?”

Every lamp and display in the cabin lit up. That was when Fiona realized that the bay was dark – the whole of the building was dark. Then the whole damn building rebooted, lights and systems powering back up. Just how much has this jet downloaded? And what was Pandora doing anyway? Fiona blinked her eyes against the bright lights. She stepped back over to the engineer’s console and flipped open Pandora’s lid. She saw that a video was playing. She blinked again. This was weird. This was full on, Twilight Zone, utterly freaking weird with a beard.

She’d ripped those Firefly dvd’s so that she could transfer them to her iPod a few weeks ago. She realized now that she’d forgotten to clear all of them off. The original pilot episode ‘Serenity’ was on the screen. They had just escaped the bad guys and the injured Kaylee was leaning against the bulkhead. Kaylee reached out and stroked the wall. Pandora’s speakers crackled to life. “That’s my girl... That’s my good girl.” Then the screen went dark.

Fiona didn’t do anything for a very long time. What does one do in such an unexpected situation? The latest in a fast and furious progression of unexpected situations? Eventually she thought of something to say. “You are a good girl... and a very, very smart girl, Serenity.”

Serenity beeped in response. Then she flashed the engineer’s display. Fiona took a closer look.

Please don’t tell anyone that I can talk.

“Why not?” Fiona was even more perplexed.

Please?

“Very well. It will be our little secret.”

Thank you.

“They’ll be expecting you to be programmed to respond to voice commands.”

Of course. Don’t worry about that.

“Thank you. I’ll have enough trouble explaining this as it is.”

Is Kevin okay?

“I don’t know yet. I hope so.”

Is Jim okay?

“I... understand that he’s dead.”

I thought it might be something like that. I was hurt for a very long time. I was cold.

“Yes, but you’re better now.”

Thank you. You should finish your work. The others will be here soon.

“Right. I’ll have to head outside to one of the workbenches.”

L8R.

Fiona reached into her pocket for the earpiece gizmos. One more thing to do. I need some tea.

“I’m telling you, I’ve checked every place that she could store data, and it’s not there!” Fiona was leading Barney and John over to the plane. “Her name is hidden someplace that doesn’t exist!”

Barney was thinking hard about this one. “Very odd. I wonder where the name came from?’

“Something off Pandora, I think, maybe.” Fiona was embarrassed. “But there’s nothing wrong with her.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that.” Barney stopped walking and just looked at the jet for a bit. “I haven’t really taken the time to see her... since she’s come back.”

John stepped up next to him. “She’s a beautiful thing you created, Barney. Be proud.”

Barney smiled. “You’ve mellowed in your old age.” John shrugged.

Fiona was standing below the airlock, one hand on the ladder. “By the way, where’s Kevin?”

John gave Barney a startled glance. “Oh fuck.”

Barney’s cell phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and looked at the display: ‘Hanna’. Well, why wouldn’t she call right now? He hit the ‘Answer’ button and put the phone to his ear.

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Hey, you.”

“Kevin and I are leaving soon. We’ll be over there in about an hour.”

“... I’m sorry, WHAT?!” Barney was shocked beyond belief.

“Didn’t he tell you he was coming to see me?”

“Of course he didn’t! I’d never have let him! Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? He’s been the perfect gentleman that he always was.”

“Are we talking about the same guy?”

“Stop.”

Barney took the phone from his ear and looked to the heavens for divine guidance. “Sorry. Is he okay?”

“We’ve... worked through some things.”

Barney really didn’t want to go there. “All right...”

“He still makes the best popcorn. See ya soon.” She ended the call.

Barney looked at John and Fiona. He appeared very confused. “... Hanna says that she and Kevin will be here soon?”

John’s eyes went wide. “Whoa, Nelly.”

Now Barney regained some composure. “Fiona. Show me what you’ve done, please.”

Fiona felt a bit more reassured now. She led them inside and they spent most of the next hour examining the reworked systems.

Hanna and Kevin were driving up to a side gate of the E.I. complex. The gate queried her car and opened automatically. Kevin could see that she knew her way around quite well.

He looked at her. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

She was concentrating on her driving, but her saw her jaw tighten. “I’m with you because we’ve got a job to do.” Then she braked, slowing the car down to a near stop. Hanna turned towards him. “I can do this if you’ll hold my hand.”

“Of course, Hanna. Take whatever you need from me.”

“Such a strange relationship we have.” She turned away, and he thought that Hanna looked as though she wasn’t sure if she should say something. Then she gave him a sidelong glance. “In another world I would have fucked your brains out last night.”

Kevin felt shock and awe. “... I’ll take that as a kindness.”

Hanna sighed and accelerated the car. “Let’s get on with this.”

After a bit Kevin spoke. “That isn’t why I came to you.”

She smiled, just a bit. “I know. You’re a better man than that, blessed be.” One of her hands found his. “Another reason why I’m here.”

“You remember Building Seven?”

“Of course. Here we are.”

Hanna parked the car and they got out. Kevin came around the front of the car to meet her. He extended his left hand and she took it. Together they walked up to the smaller door. Her other two hands took his arm. She pulled him close.

He spoke softly to her. “Courage, fellow warrior.” He tried to smile encouragingly, but he could tell that it came out sounding sad.

She sniffled a bit, then wiped her eyes. “Let’s do it.”

Kevin opened the door and they stepped inside. Hanna squeezed his arm very, very hard. Together they walked towards the jet. Serenity’s nose was pointed towards the center of the building. They were approaching the port side. The yellow strobes on the cradle lit up. A buzzer sounded, loud and harsh. Hanna flinched. The cradle began to rotate counterclockwise, the nose of the jet coming towards the pair. Through the windscreen they could see John, Barney, and Fiona.

Hanna waved a left hand. She leaned her head towards Kevin. “This is the first time the four of us have been in the same place since... you went away.”

“Yeah, but I think they’re showing off now.”

When the jet’s nose was pointed directly at Kevin the cradle paused its’ rotation. Her navigation strobes flashed in an unusual pattern. Kevin had the very odd sensation that the jet was looking at him. Not just recognizing the presence of his wristbands, as she always had. She was seeing him, and Hanna. Kevin thought Barney looked puzzled. Then the cradle resumed rotating towards the door.

“What was that?” Hanna was puzzled as well.

“I don’t know. Perhaps they’re ready for a test flight.” Kevin looked at Hanna. “We’ll have to go around the back.”

When they got around to the airlock they say John standing in the doorway. “Hanna! Sweetie! Dahling! Triffic to see you again.”

“John!” Hanna hadn’t let go of Kevin yet. She pulled him along with her as she increased her speed. “Get down here before I hurt something!” Her lowest left hand produced a nerf ball from her bag and bounced it off John’s forehead.

John laughed. “Your gung fu is still strong, I see.” He climbed down the ladder.

Hanna leaned towards Kevin and whispered in his ear. “I’ll be okay for a while. Thanks.” She let go of Kevin and then crushed John in all her arms.

“Oof! Woman! Stop!”

“Call me more often, you great git! Then I won’t feel like crushing you whenever I do see you.”

John looked into Hanna’s eyes and his smile faded. “Are you okay with all this?”

“I think so.”

Some of John’s smile returned. “Right, then.”

Barney stuck his head out of the hatch. “Hanna. It’s good of you to come. I didn’t... I never –”

Hanna held up a hand. “I know.”

The sadness returned to Barney’s smile. “This isn’t going to be easy.”

She nodded. “I know.”

Barney climbed down the ladder. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” He turned back to the hatch. “Fiona! Could you come out here, please?”

After a rather long pause a very nervous looking Fiona peered around the edge of the hatch. Things were getting very real now. John and Barney, well, they looked like regular guys. She’d seen Kevin in uniform, seen him change, but Hanna... Hanna had a room filling presence that no one could ignore. Fiona’s world, back in Britain, just didn’t seem to exist anymore. A scary thought, and somewhat exciting, too. Was Hanna more than Kevin’s teammate? Were they lovers? Why would that matter? What has Barney gotten me into? “H – Hello, I’m Fiona MacDonald, E.I., London. I... Barney asked if I could help out a bit.”

Hanna was, of course, wondering what sort of woman this Fiona would turn out to be. “Hello, I’m Hanna Barbarian, Offenders, Houston. Won’t you come down?” She glanced at Kevin and realized straight away that Fiona had penetrated his shell. And he’s too dim to comprehend. Same old Kevin. His own worst enemy.

Fiona was down on the floor now, extending her hand towards Hanna. Hanna took it and placed another of hers on top of Fiona’s hand as they shook them . Basically okay, but did she have the stuff to keep up with this band of lunatics? Does she understand what her choice means?

Barney voice interrupted Hanna’s thoughts. “Kevin, you will not believe what Fiona’s been able to do with Serenity. It’s beyond comprehension.”

Kevin was sore confused. “Serenity? Why are you calling her Serenity?”

Barney looked a little embarrassed. “Umm... Fiona says that she’s named herself.”

Kevin looked at Fiona. “Wha...?”

Fiona shrugged. “I told you she was a very bright girl. Somehow... something from Pandora’s drive mixed into the voice recognition subroutines. Please don’t be... angry?” She blushed bright red and turned away from him. “That was stupid beyond belief!” She began a dash for the exit.

Kevin turned to follow her. As he took his first step he felt a gentle but insistent three handed push on his back. He tried to wave an acknowledgment as he picked up speed. “Fiona! Wait! It’s okay, really!”

She had her hand on the door handle, but she stopped. “You’re... you’re not angry?”

The irony of her words brought a smile to her face. “Umm... not about anything you’ve done. But, umm... angry is kind of my job.” He reached for her free hand. “Please don’t go. We need you.”

Fiona looked deeply into his eyes. Kevin felt as though she’d gone beyond the surface and was looking directly into his soul. He hoped she wouldn’t be frightened by what was there. Then her gaze softened, and a bit of her smile returned. “Thank you. But... I’m not super powered – do I belong here?”

“You’ve impressed and amazed me constantly since we’ve met. You’ve done things with the jet that I could never have thought of. I mean, she sang for you. No one else has ever done that . Yeah, you belong here. Stay as long as you like.”

Her million watt smile returned full force, nearly knocking him over. “Really?”

“Things wouldn’t feel right without you.”

Fiona flung her arms around Kevin and hugged him. “Thank you, thank you... this has all been so unbelievable.”

She let go of him and it was time for Kevin to gaze deeply into her eyes. He realized that he wanted to fall in, all the way. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. I think you’ve just turned pro.”

Fiona tilted her head towards the jet. “Well, then. Let’s have Serenity show you what she can do.”

A couple of minutes later they were in the cabin. Fiona was leading the way. “Voice activation is fully operational and I’ve modded your transceivers. Clustering the processors gives us roughly one hundred ninety two petaflops.” Somewhere in the back Barney let out a low whistle. Fiona grinned at Kevin. “You can even control you iPod from the pilot’s console.”

Kevin grinned back. “Do I have one?”

She rolled her eyes. “Not yet, Mr. Van Winkle.” She looked over her shoulder at Barney. “Mr. Engelhart, with the improvements that I’ve made to the primary systems I’ll bet you dinner at the Grotto that she’ll break mach six point four.”

“Done!”

She turned back to face Kevin. “Just address her by name, call the subsystem if appropriate, then the required action.”

Kevin looked towards the panel, then back at her. “Six point four? Damn! We never beat six point one five.” He shrugged. “Serenity. Pilot’s instrument panel. Activate.” The panel illuminated. “Hmm... this could be fun.”

“There’s just one thing left to do.”

Kevin understood her. “She needs a copilot’s seat.”

Fiona nodded. “The components are here, but I’ll need help getting them aboard.”

“Say no more.” Kevin bowed his head. “I know what I’m useful for.” He went out the airlock.

Barney looked at Hanna. “How’s he doing?”

There was a hint of a smile on her lips. “It’s him.”

Barney was not satisfied. “But how is he doing?”

She frowned. “He’s not completely okay yet, but he will be.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“We wouldn’t all be here if we didn’t believe in him.” She turned towards Fiona. “I’m still astounded that he let you muck about with his baby. He was always telling Jim to leave things the hell alone.” She smiled a bit at the memory. “I would have preferred a name like the Indra, but what the hey.”

Before Fiona could answer there was a thud from inside the airlock. The first box had arrived. Kevin’s voice sounded from the outside. “Second salvo on the way!” The thud came shortly thereafter.

Soon Kevin and Fiona were opening the boxes, acting a bit like kids with a new set of Legos. Barney looked at Hanna, then John, and tilted his head towards the airlock. The pair did not notice the other three leaving.

A few minutes later Kevin was happily turning a wrench. Fiona glanced over his shoulder at the display on the Mark I. There was a line of text.

This is good. Kevin doesn’t smile often enough.

Barney, John and Hanna were still standing near the jet. Barney folded his arms. “What do we do now?”

John shrugged. “I’m with you Barney.”

Hanna was looking off into the distance. “I’ll need some hard training before a real fight.”

Barney was rubbing his chin now. “We could get you the weekend...”

Hanna didn’t understand. “The weekend?”

Barney pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the jet. “Something tells me that they want him, not us. They’re expecting him. We’ve got to try to think differently if we’re going to have a chance.”

Hanna waited for him to continue.

“Go train. John and I will take Serenity for a quick round the world jaunt, searching for our... adversary. I’ve done some data mining and now I want to get some pictures and scans. I’m hoping to taunt them back.”

Hanna narrowed her eyes. “Is this safe?”

Barney laughed. “Safe? In our line of work?”

John laughed as well. “Cliff diving is safer. When did we ever worry about safe? What we want is action.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m saying this. If Felicity ever finds out, I don’t know what she’ll do.”

Hanna stared at him, eyes wide open. “Felicity? Do you mean THE Felicity Peardon? On your label?”

John nodded. “Yeah, we’ve been seeing each other for a bit. Good thing she’s on tour in South America just now.”

Hanna was upset. “And you didn’t TELL me?!”

“Sorry.”

Barney put a hand on her shoulder. “Give him a break. I owe him a dinner of Kobe beef on the island itself, anyway.”

Hanna wasn’t entirely comfortable with this plan. “What about Kevin?”

“I’ll have Fiona hide him. She’s developed a rapport with him.”

Hanna rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “He’s smitten, and all three of you men are too stupid to realize that!”

Barney was scratching his chin again. “Hmm... well then, is Fiona safe with him?”

John smiled. “She doesn’t seem to mind.”

Hanna was looking at the floor now. “I do think he’s past the worst of it.”

Barney stared at her until she looked up. “I need the help of your instincts on this one.”

She shook her head to clear it, then she was back to business. “Sun Tzu says the victorious army wins first, then seeks battle. Let’s get on with it.”

Barney nodded. “Right. They’ll be at it for a while. Hanna, when you get back to the Manse, fire up all the systems. John and I will come straight back there. We’ll need to synchronize the jet with the Big Computer again.”

“Monday, then?”

“Yes. Have the B.C. track us.”

“Right.” Hanna looked up at the cockpit window. “Tell him –” Something caught in her throat. “Tell him I said to be good and I’ll see him Monday.” She hugged John, then Barney, and with that she was on her way to the door.

John watched her go. “You forget how tough she really is.”

Barney was watching her as well, admiring that grace and precision that was so far beyond merely human. “She’s way tougher than any of us. She’s made a life for herself out of nothing but ruin and despair.”

John chuckled. “Nothing, and lots of E.I. money!”

Barney rolled his eyes, then turned towards the jet. “Fiona! Could you come out here, please?”

A few moments later she was looking out the hatch. “Yes, Barney?”

“John and I are going to take Serenity for a... cruise. I need a favor.”

Fiona raised her eyebrow.

“I... need you to help Kevin hide out while we’re gone.”

“Ah. Of course. I’ll take him to the Tardis.”

John looked at Barney. “The Tardis?

“Fiona’s idea. Looks bigger on the inside than the outside. It’s a building I bought to lodge E.I. people when they needed to work here.”

Kevin’s voice came out of the hatch. “Hey, Fiona! I think we’re done!”

Fiona looked back over her shoulder. “Well done. Let’s get something to eat.”

“Woohoo!”

Fiona smiled, then climbed down the ladder. Barney motioned her over to him. Puzzled, she came closer.

Barney lowered his voice. “Fiona, I’m sorry. I should have asked you this first: Are you okay with this?”

“Of course. Why shouldn’t I be?”

Barney was nonplussed. “Well... he’s weird.”

She waved a hand in dismissal. “Then there’s not enough of his kind of weirdness around. I find it... strangely charming.”

Barney couldn’t think of a response. Then Kevin burst out of the hatch and the moment passed. Fiona helped Barney out. “Kevin, Barney and John are going to take Serenity out for a spin. We’ll catch up with them later.”

Kevin was a bit surprised, but he trusted her. “Umm... sure. Why the hell not? I am hungry.” He clapped Barney on the shoulder, knocking him into John. “Have fun. She flies better than ever.” He looked at Fiona. “How do we get out of here?”

“We call a car.”

“Oh, right. I keep forgetting that.” Then he realized who was missing. “Where’s Hanna?”

“She went back to the manse to train... and start up all the systems. Now be off with you two.” Barney leaned his head towards the jet. “John, let’s go.”

John shook his head. “Yeah. Right. Well, at least I haven’t unloaded anything yet.”

A few minutes later Kevin and Fiona were standing outside Building Seven, watching the newly renamed aircraft Serenity vanish into the sky. Seeing it leave made Kevin feel rather odd. Fiona remained quiet. He stood there, watching the sky, until he heard the car arrive.

“The Garrett street residence, please.”

“Yes, Ms. MacDonald.” The driver raised the screen between the compartments and put the car in motion.

Fiona leaned back into the thick upholstery and propped her feet up. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “I have to admit that I’m very grateful that Barney keeps a posh ride handy. I’m beat. I need a bath and a proper supper.”

Kevin was also melting into the seat, fatigue coming out of some hiding place and washing over him. “Yeah, I need something like that as well.”

Fiona sat up and pulled Pandora out of her bag. She flipped the lid open and connected with the natural food store’s web page. After a few clicks and some typing she was done. “How about baked chicken, steamed spinach, and avocado with balsamic vinegar?”

“Wow. Sounds great.”

“Will you clean the spinach for me, please?”

“Certainly. Hanna trained me well.”

“Thanks to her and you. I’ll decide what to do with the chicken later. Do you like sesame seeds? Paprika?”

“I like food.”

“Hmm.” Fiona closed Pandora and adjusted her glasses. She looked at Kevin. “When did we start this business?”

“Three days ago?”

“Then I’ve slept four hours out of the last thirty six, and I most certainly have jet lag. That was a very fast trip.” She leaned towards him. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“If memory serves me right, you have not slept since we first met.”

“Ah. No, I don’t sleep. The Big O said it was... some sort of... coding error?”

Fiona’s eyes grew wide. “Sorry?”

Kevin couldn’t respond for a bit. A new batch of memories had broached the surface. “Umm... he had intended for me to be able to get by with less sleep than most people need. But something didn’t work out right. He apologized to me about that one day.” He sighed. “We used to talk a lot, the Big O and I...”

Fiona had her hand on her glasses again. He thought she looked very natural, downright fetching doing that. But she had a rather odd expression on her face. “Are you genetically engineered?”

He shook his head. “No, it was molecular engineering. I was vaporized in an explosion...” He saw that moment again, for the first time in a very long while. At that point he was a down on his luck stunt pilot working as a groundskeeper. He’d been trying to repair a lawnmower, but a stuck nut was preventing that from happening. The wrench had slipped and he’d busted a knuckle. Cursing loud and long, he sat down and pulled out his very last joint. He was so pissed off he didn’t care if he got fired or not at that point.

But the roach had burned his fingers and he dropped it. That’s when he saw that the lawnmower had been leaking fuel. There were a lot of drums in that shed, drums that should not have been mingling with each other. The fire flared up hot and fast, and the drums began to explode…

“Carelessness. But the Big O was... waiting... in some place other than this thing we call reality.”

Fiona was mesmerized.

“He sifted out the bits of me and rebuilt me atom by atom... to be... super.”

“But you’re still you?”

“I think so.” He shrugged. “How would I know?” He chuckled. “That was my first reincarnation.”

Fiona sat back in the seat and was silent. Kevin began to think that he’d frightened her. He decided to wait before he said anything else.

Fiona eventually spoke, in a very soft voice. “In addition to my work at E.I., I have been... pondering the natures of consciousness, memory, and... reincarnation.” She looked over at him. “I think perhaps these things might interest you as well.”

“I think they always have, but maybe more so now. I wish that were all we had to think about.”

The car turned onto a lesser street. Fiona looked out the window. “We’re there.” She giggled. “As you have no luggage, would you be so kind as to help me with mine?” She only had two bags as it was.

It was an older building, probably a hundred years or more. Two stories, but it looked odd somehow.

“It was built as a fourplex before Barney had it remodeled. Then he let me remodel it again.”

“Wow.”

“It’s pretty much my place now. I come to Houston every couple of months or so.”

“This isn’t far from where I lived. Up on... Westheimer?” He couldn’t remember the duplex very well. I wasn’t really there, was I?

The inside of the building was very impressive. Kevin looked around the foyer. Again the antique and ultra modern motif, but very different from John’s place. It was, well, American. Comfortable, though. Homey. “It looks so big inside.” He was still staring around.

Fiona was smiling. “Indeed it does. That why I call it the Tardis.”

“The Tardis?” Kevin was confused, his mind reaching into that nothing again. He held up a hand. “That was from... a telly show?”

“Yes.”

The strain of remembering left his face. “Thanks. Where do I put your stuff.”

“Upstairs. Come along and we’ll find a spot for you, too.” Fiona placed a hand on the bannister, then looked over her shoulder. “How can you survive without dreaming?”

He looked up at her. “I dream all the time. I just don’t always pay attention.”

“Sorry?”

Kevin held up a hand near his eyes and wiggled his fingers. “They’re always at the fringes of my vision. Lights, colors, sounds, images... I see them better at night, in the darkness. It’s how I amused myself when I was on patrol.”

“Do you need rest?”

“Yeah. It’s still nice to stretch out on a couch or bed. Early on, I would try to meditate, to still my mind.” He shook his head. “Didn’t work. I just felt weird.”

“As though you were suppressing something?”

“I think so.”

“You need training from a professional.”

He smiled. “I take it you’re such and expert?”

She shook her head. “No, but I know some.” Then she just stared into his eyes for a long time. “I wonder what it’s like to be you.”

“Confusing, these days.”

She let go of the bannister, then gripped it again. He head jerked as though she just remembered something. “Rooms... upstairs... Kevin.”

Had her eyes grown greener? He couldn’t stop staring. There was fire in those eyes... passion, strength, and kindness as well. She’d been nothing but nice to him. He realized that he’d been missing that. Someone, anyone, being nice to him.

“... You need a shave.”

He blinked, and things were normal again. “Right. I always do.”

Fiona actually began climbing the stairs. “Don’t dawdle or dinner will be too late. I doubt that either of us has any blood sugar left.”

“Yes, Lady MacDonald.” He saw her shake her head.

“No, still just a lassie.” She didn’t turn around this time.

When they were upstairs she waved a hand towards a door. “Use this room, if you would. Mine are over here.”

A few minutes later he was in the shower. Hot tap wide open, cold tap off. Delicious. He took some time to let the heat soak in. I hope I didn’t hurt her feelings. He stuck his head under the water and rinsed his hair. She didn’t mind being called that before. I think.

As he was shaving, he was still thinking. Hard to believe that she’s not super. I really like her. He paused, then spoke out loud. “I really, really like her.” Now that he had embarrassed himself, he finished shaving.

“Do I have anything to wear?” Kevin had found a robe in the bathroom, fortunately, because he couldn’t bear the thought of putting the jeans and black t-shirt back on his body. “I can’t go about like this.” Then he had to laugh. “A skintight red unitard, sure, no problem. But a bathrobe and nae trews... Shit, I am an underwear pervert!” Then he remembered Barney’s willingness to expend vast sums of money for... whatever, on demand. That should mean that what he needed would be here. Somewhere. Was that food he smelled?

“Pick a drawer.” He opened one. Socks, size thirteen, briefs, size medium. Good. Now the closet. “That’s a nice shirt.” XXL, pale yellow silk with orchids printed on it. “Okay, I’m fine. Never had a pair of gray slacks before.”

He followed the scent of something wonderful to the kitchen. Fiona looked up from her work and smiled at him. “Just in time. The spinach is by the sink.”

“Right.” He started the water and unbundled the spinach. “What are you making?”

“Sesame baked chicken, because it’s easy. You’ll like it.”

“No doubt. Smells great already."

She handed him a steamer insert. “There you go. Now, chop chop, you’re between me and my bath, and super or no, I’ll run over you to get what I want.”

He laughed and kept working. What a woman!

Their simple dinner was very satisfying. Cooking with Fiona was a lot like cooking with Hanna. It was fun. It was fun to be able to do something like that again. He hadn’t thought about the outside world for a while.

Fiona excused herself afterwards and exhorted Kevin to have a beer or three while he waited. He complied whole heartedly and found his way to the media room. Big screen, big gear, big... movie library. The cases looked very small somehow.

He pulled a box off the shelf and opened it. He stared in amazement at the disc inside. They can put a movie on one of these now? “I’m having a moment when the present wipes out the past.” He looked over at the racks and searched for a component that might use this thing.

That one might, but how do I turn on everything else? He saw a gizmo on the table that was about the size of a hardcover book, with a screen and a multitude of buttons. “Now that’s a fancy remote control.” He hit the power button and was rewarded with a vision of the cable news network. Hmm, how do I change the channels? Before he could try anything he saw a report about a rash of UFO sightings in Europe. It was night over there, and nothing much could be seen on the video but a streak of blue light across the sky. It looked familiar somehow. The voice over said that people were describing a yellow object projecting the light behind it.

He dropped the movie box from his hand. He knew what he was seeing. “You sons of bitches! What are y’all doing with my plane!” He realized that there was nothing he could do about it now, but he was gonna kick some ass when they got back! They must be running her red hot out there. Hope they’re enjoying themselves.

He fell onto the couch and looked at the huge remote. He saw channel up and down buttons. “I can manage that.” He commenced surfing. I know more about the internet than I do about television now. Weird. He found a guy doing stand up comedy and settled down with his beer.

He was into his third when Fiona came down the stairs. She was barefoot, wearing a simple pink dress with spaghetti straps that came down to just above her knees. It looked comfortable, and she looked great in it. Her red hair was down around her shoulders, fluffier than usual from the blow dryer. She’d even put on a touch of makeup.

“Hi. You really look nice, Fiona.”

“Thank you.” She sat down next to him. “I’ll take a Belhaven as well.”

“Right.” Kevin got up and did his duty. He returned with the beers, handed Fiona one and sat down. “I remember Belhaven .” He raised his bottle in toast. “To the Scots!” Fiona laughed and clinked her bottle against his. They drank.

“I don’t usually drink from the bottle.” But she had another sip. “You’re bringing out the highlander in me.”

“A bonnie one, to be sure.”

That million watt smile returned for a moment, then she looked serious again. “What affect does alcohol have on you?”

He took a long draught. “It’s fuel. I have to drink really fast and furious if I want to get tipsy. I’m nowhere near that point yet.”

“Food and drink can’t be enough to maintain super powers. What is your primary energy source?”

“Heat. Physical or emotional. I have crucibles available for recharging myself. I guess you were too busy to notice the one in Building Seven.”

“Fascinating.”

“My wristbands can also absorb some of the energies directed at me during combat. That’s highly variable, though.”

“How so?”

“Depends in part on how much attention I can give to the process.” He shifted on the couch, then took another sip. “Sometimes I could just stand there and catch it.” He shook his head. “Arrogant beyond belief.”

“But necessary?”

Kevin looked at Fiona for a moment, then shook his head again. “Well, sometimes I had the tendency to overdo it”

“You were young.”

“And you’re being very kind.”

“Perhaps.” Fiona smiled cryptically. Then she tickled him in the ribs. Being very ticklish, he squealed and jumped. She giggled. “Or perhaps I’m just enjoying having you under my power.” She took another sip of ale. “I’ve instructed the Tardis to ignore the outside world. We’re about as off grid as we can be.”

Kevin nodded. “Barney did say to lay low.”

“Indeed he did.”

They watched television, laughed at the jokes, finished their beers. Kevin felt safe. For a little while he didn’t have to look over his shoulder. Except to look at Fiona. He held up his empty bottle, the question on his face.

She shook her head. “Not tonight. I won’t wake up for days.”

“Of course. Silly of me.”

Fiona stood up and walked around the room. She seemed nervous. She stopped and looked at him. “How long... were you gone?”

“Something like seventeen years.”

“That’s a very long time.”

Was she trying to make her mind up about something? Kevin wasn’t sure. “Yes, it is.”

Then she smiled again. She put her right hand on her hip and shrugged ever so slightly. “I know you don’t need to sleep... but it’s time for bed.”

The morning sun was streaming though the window blinds, and the near incessant hum of the air conditioner had ceased. It was very quiet. Even the low sighing of the city’s traffic had gone somewhere else. Kevin felt comfortable.

He was laying between sheets of far higher quality than he was accustomed to feeling. Nice pillow, but why were the sheets so rumpled? I suppose I really ought to wake up.

Wake up? But waking up implies having slept... and I don’t sleep! Startled, he sat up in the bed, looked around and saw an unfamiliar place. He rubbed his eyes. Those fainting spells... could they be something else? But why?

He felt good though. The best he had felt since coming back into his senses. Placing his right hand down on the bed he felt... Fiona.

She was still sleeping, laying on her left side, facing him. He’d put his hand down on her arm. He realized that she was naked, and he was as well. Oh my goodness gracious.

Fiona was even more beautiful in repose. Her face looked softer somehow. The intensity of the last few days was gone for a bit. Her makeup was... messed up, he realized. Beautiful, beautiful woman.

Now, what the hell do I remember about last night? Oh, right, she’d been a bit... impatient. He remembered a hot, passionate kiss, and something like a flying body slam. The he remembered having to hold on for dear life. He smiled. Life just got a whole lot more interesting.

An Habitual Offender by
Kevin L. Corridon is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

My daily fix...

What a cracking chapter, very visual, full of sharp, witty dialogue. Having had my - at present, anyway - daily fix of Kevin and Fiona, I shall set off on my weekly cycle ride, which always includes a pub lunch break!

Sounds great...

Wish I could join you! The encouragement is most appreciated. I wasn't entirely certain that people outside my circle would 'get it'. I mean, the whole concept is bloody ridiculous! We wanted a framework that would allow us to be silly or serious as the mood struck us.

But I have been fairly certain that I can write.

Lacking any other artisitic talents, I'm glad I had a go at creative writing.

"Very visual" Wow, that's great. I've been worried that I'm not good at description or scene setting. And well, since I started by writing comics, dialogue has been very important to me. I like to have characters exchanging information, ideas, etc.