Zeroes Chapter 2 - Coming Home

Zeroes Chapter 1 – Faith

COMING HOME

Sometimes I feel I’m going nowhere
I’m moving but I just can’t find the way
Surrounded by a million faces
They all say, they might be friends

Enrique Iglesias

COMING HOME

As Ben walked out of the Oasis with Nikki on his shoulder being followed Cassandra and Veronica he noticed a group of four men near Faith. Ben wasn’t sure what their affiliation was, but was pretty certain they were gang members. Veronica said, “Maybe you should have kept your police chaperon.”

The blonde man in a white trenchcoat seemed to be in charge and was armed with a Wartech battle glove. He started towards the trio leaving the bar and said, “Hey, if it isn’t mister fancy pants and a couple bimbos. Let’s say we relieve mister big shot of his money and show these hoes how to really have a good time.”

The one in purple pulled two Duty forty-five and moved around to the leader’s right side while one in a snakeskin shirt unslung a Remington five hundred shotgun while moving up on the leader’s left side. The final one wearing a grey suit walked up from the back carrying a Wartech Sniper Cannon and laughed, “Maybe I should splatter him first, make sure the other rich pricks know better than to park their fancy cars in our territory.”

As Cassandra and Veronica started to step back to the door hoping to get Marakau’s attention they heard a rapid burst of gunfire. There was a startled silence and then some screams of pain afterwards as the man with the cannon dropped in a heap onto the street and the men on either side stumbled back from their wounds leaving the man in the trenchcoat unharmed but staring into the barrel of a guass pistol that had been under Ben’s coat until a moment before. There was an uncomfortable pause as the men on the ground moaned and then Ben said, “Your heavy might live if you get him some medical help.”

The two on the ground were done, but there was a twitch and the battle glove tightened as the leader calculated what it would take to reach Ben before he could fire again. Ben shook his head, but the man in the trenchcoat decided there was an opening and broke into a run. Two more shots rang out and the man fell to the ground howling grasping where his genitals used to be. The door burst open and Marakau stepped out holding a katana instead of his usual club and looked at the scene before saying, “Fuck, you are trouble. You know that?”

Ben holstered the guass pistol as the man with the pistols and the man with the shotgun ran away, “Yeah, they’ll all live with some medical care.”

Marakau shook his head and asked, “You two still riding home with this maniac?”

Cassandra nodded, “It’s okay Mack, he was defending us; I think.”

Marakau sighed and said, “Okay, get out of here and we can say this gang warfare.”

Ben nodded and said, “Thanks. That helps a lot.”

Grumbling under his breath Marakau walked out to look at the unconscious and booted the wailing one to make him quiet down. Walking over to Faith with a smirk Cassandra said, “You didn’t tell us you could shoot.”

Nodding Ben said, “I did a little time in the marines and they insist you learn to shoot even you’re going to be cleaning toilets.”

Snickering Veronica asked, “You were a marine toilet cleaner?”

Shrugging Ben said, “My working title was closer to bus driver, but I spent more than a few nights scrubbing toilets and showers.”

Cassandra walked to the driver door and said, “You’ve had a bit to drink and don’t know where we’re going, plus I’ve never driven a meteor before, so you should probably let me drive.”

Pulling out his keys slowly Ben said, “I’m pretty partial to her, not sure how I feel about letting someone else drive.”

With a smile Veronica said, “It means I ride in your lap on the way home.”

Tossing the keys to Cassandra across Faith’s roof Ben said, “They used tales of succubi in the old days to scare boys away from girls like you two.”

Cassandra opened the door and got in, “That’s rich coming from you, wasn’t the incubus your side of the coin?”

Ben got into the passenger seat and Nikki climbed behind the seats as he helped Veronica squeeze in on his lap, “It is. Gonna be a little tight.”

Veronica managed to get in and close the door as she asked, “You bragging or just hopeful?”

Firing up the engine and pulling out on the street Cassandra said, I figured you for the I never brag comeback."

As Veronica continued to shift trying to get comfortable Ben leaned and put a hand on her inner thigh to puller her over more. Veronica let out a gasp and then Ben replied to Cassandra saying, “Bragging isn’t bad, you just need to know how much is appropriate for your audience.”

Accelerating onto one of the main bypass roads Cassandra asked, “So you view everything like putting on a show? Does that work for you?”

Veronica put her hand over Ben’s and guided him to rub her inner thigh as he said, “Mostly, I mean if I put a little extra effort in then I usually get a little extra back and when things go right everybody walks away happy.”

Cassandra turned to watch Veronica for a moment who seemed to be enjoying herself far too much for a ride in such a small car and then turned her attention back to the road as she asked, “What about when it doesn’t work?”

Moving his hand further up Veronica’s thigh and rubbing more aggressively Ben got her to let out a soft moan as he answered, “Then I get a dishonorable discharge, or fired, or someone tries to kill me.”

Faith swerved as Veronica reached around the seat grabbing Cassandra’s shoulder and then Cassandra corrected, “Shit! Okay, okay, so all good, or oh fuck can’t you wait.”

Veronica was panting and her moans were more intense as she reached back pulling Ben’s neck and digging her other hand into Cassandra’s shoulder while Ben said, “Yes, really good or really bad.”

Cassandra leaned forward so Veronica would be grabbing the back of the seat and tried to focus intently on the road but assumed more than a leg was being touched by then. Cassandra continued along stopping all attempts at conversation and faith became filled with the sounds and smells of sexual pleasure until Veronica climaxed shortly before they exited the bypass in Eseron. Cassandra was breathing heavy herself and the little exclamations from Veronica suggested Ben was still keeping her pleasured. As Cassandra parked she shuddered and looked over at the other two saying, “My god is it hard to drive with you two going at it.”

Veronica let out a few long pants and said, “I’ll drive next time, oh my God that was better than playing with myself. Thank you.”

Ben smiled as he adjusted the front of her shorts and said, “My pleasure.”

As Veronica got out she said, “Oh no, I assure you it was mine, but I have some plans to make it up to you.”

Cassandra shook her head as she got out, “Wow, it’s like being back in college.”

As Ben stepped out Nikki climbed from behind the seats and jumped up flapping her wings just enough to perch back in shoulder. As they walked up to the apartment Veronica hushed her voice to ask Cassandra, “You wanna? I’m good for a while now.”

Cassandra stopped to open the door and said, “No, I’m all sweaty and dirty from work and don’t think anybody wants that.”

Ben smirked and said, “There’s nothing about you that could possibly offend me regardless of your condition, but when you’re not ready your not ready.”

Cassandra nodded, “Okay, not ready then.”

Ben nodded and Veronica smiled as she took hold of his waistband and pulled him towards her room, “Don’t worry soldier, we can think of lots of fun things for just the two of us to do.”

Nikki hopped off and glided to the coffee table as the door closed and Cassandra looked at her saying, “I wouldn’t go in there either, her room should have a biohazard warning.”

Pointing at Nikki as she headed to the bathroom for a shower Cassandra said, “You keep watch, I’m counting on you.”

Nikki turned and looked at the bedroom door as the moans of passion started. Cassandra shook her head and started back towards the shower saying, “I don’t think you want to know Nikki.”

~

Fizzer had gone back to the station, showered, and put a different shirt on that read, There’s a special place in Hell for me, it’s called the throne. Walking down the hall she ran into Dover and stopped saying, “So, anything new and exciting?”

Dover shook her head, “Not so much. Looks like everyone forgot about that guy Salvatore was after once you went there. I heard they found another Headhunter victim, but they haven’t confirmed with the hospital if it’s the real thing or just a normal beheading.”

Shaking her head Fizzer said, “Just as well. Seems he doesn’t know squat about Salvatore, Antonio’s just holding a grudge about the kid banging one of his bimbos.”

Dover smirked, “So did you?”

Scoffing Fizzer said, “No, too much of a pansy for my taste, why, you thinking about it?”

Shrugging Dover said, “No, just he’s cute and obviously knows something. Figured you of all people would have the inclination.”

Turning to walk away Fizzer said, “My only inclination is to find some fucker with decent insurance and beat his ass to death.”

~

Cassandra was sitting in her bath robe on the couch sharing popcorn with Nikki when Ben walked out of Veronica’s room. Cassandra looked up with a smirk and said, “That’s the second time to night I’ve heard you having tearing the walls down sex and you come out looking all primped and proper without so much as your tie out of place.”

Ben smiled as he said, “My mother once said it doesn’t matter what suit you wear, what matters is how you wear it. I think she actually meant you should do a good job at whatever profession you find yourself in, but I like the literal meaning too.”

Offering a glass of red wine Cassandra asked, “So was it everything you imagined?”

Taking a sip of the wine Ben answered, “Of course not, you weren’t there. She’s great though and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise.”

Cassandra took a sip of wine and tossed a piece of popcorn for Nikki to catch as she said, “You know most guys try to get a steady relationship with one of us before trying to cheat with the other one or try for a threesome.”

Setting the wine glass down Ben asked, “And how does it work out?”

Shrugging and setting her glass down Cassandra said, “Depends on the guy. Why? You decide you are the lying cheating kind?”

Ben smiled, “Well it depends on your definitions. I won’t get into a serious relationship, so from a point of view that favors my lifestyle I can’t cheat but from the point of view that my lifestyle is wrong I’m cheating by design. As for lying I won’t say something false to you, but by withholding information I can allow assumptions that aren’t true which is still a form of deceit.”

Taking another sip of wine and then holding her finger up to give her time to process and respond Cassandra mulled a thought and then said, “You’ve put a lot of thought into this haven’t you?”

Nodding Ben said, “Not everyone I talk to is as open minded as the two of you. I don’t like being on the defensive so I need to understand something about the views opposed to my own.”

Setting the glass down again and leaning back Cassandra asked, “And your views are?”

Ben knelt down at the end of the couch and said, “My views are people should hurt each other and everyone should try to be happy. I’ve been enough women to know that whatever the hair color, skin color, skin texture, nationality, religion, or even magic ability they have I’m always happy with them and there aren’t any I wouldn’t be happy to spend more time with and wanting to spend more time with all of them makes spending all my time with one of them a decision I’m quite wary of since any variation from that decision would hurtful to the person who was relying on me to be exclusive to them.”

Cassandra leaned forward bringing her face close to Ben’s and said, “Okay, tell me a truth that you’ve omitted details from and let me come to the wrong conclusion.”

Looking into Cassandra’s eyes Ben admitted, “I’m not financially stable. While I walked away from my last place of employment with plenty of loose cash I haven’t secured another steady source of income yet.”

Smiling Cassandra said, “I had my suspicions about that already. How about something more juicy like why the Metro police would want to protect you from Salvatore and why he really wants you dead.”

Ben took a deep breath and confessed, “I really don’t know why the police would want to help me or if they really do. Antonio Salvatore was my first employer and his third wife was my first lover. She planned to move away and take me with her and I was completely love struck and ready to go anywhere she asked. She died waiting for me at a rendezvous and he blames me for her death and even more so needs me to suffer to show he can’t be disrespected.”

Cassandra placed her hands on Ben’s cheeks and shook her head slowly saying, “Wow, when you spill it, you really spill it. My first lover was a pitcher at the local high school, but I was still in middle school and would sneak out to see him. Turned out he was seeing five other girls and once he had taken my virginity he didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. Seems I was always a sucker.”

Ben smiled, “You have a good job, you’re able to live with someone and remain best friends, seems to me like you’ve worked things out better than most.”

Smiling Cassandra said, “I’m starting to feel your just buttering me up to see if you can hit three women in one night.”

Letting himself down onto both knees Ben said, “I would never use women to tally a score, but all this talk about first times and being close does make me wonder if you’re feeling clean enough now.”

Cassandra gave a single nod as she leaned in and kissed Ben. After the kiss she started to move forward to get up, but he moved in front of her pulling her hips to the edge of the couch and lowering his head between her legs as she leaned back giving a slight gasp followed by a moan of pleasure.

~

Marakau set out for a jog in the early morning. It was a good way to keep in shape and keep an eye on the neighborhood. The Silkworm neighborhood was in Triad territory and while everyone paid protection money there wasn’t much protection. The gangs were rampant and while they weren’t a threat to someone like Marakau they were a nuisance and if left completely unchecked would drive away potential customers.

Two blocks down from The Oasis there was a large market called Wai Yee Hong, and Marakau stopped as usual to pick up a half dozen eggs, a chicken, and a bundle of lemongrass with some Chinese spices before making the last two blocks of his jog back. Bimini was a Triad enforcer whom Marakau knew to be a dragon in human guise and he preferred not to deal with her, but she seemed to like talking to him. She looked like a Chinese woman with straight red hair and wore a set of metallic red smartshades with no helmet while riding a Mars assault cycle.

Bimini pulled up and stopped just a few feet away from Marakau and asked, “Don’t you ever get anything new?”

Marakau came back with, “Isn’t there someone you should be eating?”

Lowering her sunglasses Bimini said, “All the pigeons are paid up, but I could raise the rates on The Oasis if you don’t like me being bored.”

Tightening his fist Marakau asked, “Couldn’t you go be bored with someone else?”

Running her hands up the sides of her tight skirt she said, “Oh, come on baby, don’t make me feel bad.”

Shaking his head Marakau said, “Even if you looked like a murau you couldn’t interest me.”

Tilting her head Bimini said, “Well maybe I’ll drop by the club and check on you later.”

As she rode off Marakau said, “Don’t bother.”

~

Cassandra woke with a groan and then smiled as she moaned softly, “I can’t get up.”

Turning her head she realized she was alone in her room and muttered, “Shit.”

Lying in bed for a few minutes more Cassandra heard Nikki let out a squawk as she flew into her room and landed on the dresser. Cassandra opened her eyes and said, “Tell me you brought coffee.”

Ben walked in and handed Cassandra a travel cup saying, “It’s black, but I have cream and sugar if you want it.”

Leaning up on one elbow Cassandra smelled the coffee and said, “Don’t need them, this is perfect.”

Ben turned to walk out, but Cassandra pulled him down for a kiss and then he said, “I picked up some scones too if you feel like eating.”

Stretching with another groan Cassandra said, “I’m still not sure I can walk again. How did you get back in?”

As Ben walked out the door he said, “The woman in one fourteen let me in.”

Cassandra called after him, “Hey! You didn’t, you know?”

Ben stopped at her door with a chuckle and said, “No, maybe later.”

Flopping back on the bed Cassandra yelled, “That wasn’t a request. God you’re a whore.”

Veronica stepped into the door and said, “Look who’s talking.”

Cassandra turned her head and said, “What? You fucked him first, bitch.”

Crossing her arms Veronica said, “At least I kept in the bedroom, where the fuck am I supposed to sit? You guys soaked the whole fucking couch.”

Cassandra laughed as she let her head back again, “We did, didn’t we?”

Veronica turned to walk back into the living room and said, “Bitch.”

~

The Salvatore estate was quiet as Antonio settled in for breakfast. Antonio sat at the head of a long table that would seat twenty two when filled. Like most mornings Lana brought out a covered tray with a single egg over easy, two strips of bacon, and a single toasted slice of bread with a cup of coffee and a glass of milk. Antonio asked Lana, “Is Rowena up?”

Lana nodded, “Yes sir, she was up early and said she had to go to school early and study for an exam.”

Nodding Antonio asked, “And Micah?”

Lana shook her head, “No sir, she was still asleep when I checked.”

Taking a deep breath Antonio said, “Just as well. Is Al here?”

Nodding Lana said, “Yes, I’ll go get him sir.”

After Lana hurried out of the room Antonio cut his toast and dipped it into the egg beginning to eat slowly. A few minutes later Albert walked in and said, “Morning Tony.”

Antonio gave a nod and said, “Al, anything from Tortoni yet?”

Albert looked down and said, “He said that Murasaki took Bloomberg and has set his sights on Glendale. It’s all gone to shit down there and it would take a miracle to reclaim our territory without starting a war.”

Shaking his head Antonio said, “Fucking bastards, it’s those damn Murau fanatics, just can’t compete with that. I think we need to send them a stronger message and be damned if it starts a war.”

Nodding Albert said, “I wish we could afford it, but the damn triads are pushing into Navilla and the psycho bastards over in Carnival will take any excuse to jump our guys once they move out the safe areas.”

Antonio pushed his plate away and said, “What about getting someone from the outside? scrovians or ieyasani maybe.”

Taking a deep breath Albert said, “We can try, but they’re not reliable. I have some other news, but don’t want to get you too worked up.”

Shaking his head again Antonio said, “I don’t know what could get me more worked up than this.”

Clearing his throat Albert said, “I’ve had a report that Wiser’s back in the area.”

Albert could see Antonio’s face becoming flush as his nostrils flared as he asked, “Where is he?”

With a troubled sigh Albert said, “Hiding out in Triad territory so far, but we should be able to pick him up once he comes south.”

Antonio’s fists were clenched as he said, “I’ve waited twelve years to get my hands on that little prick, you make sure they get him this time.”

~

After Cassandra and Veronica had eaten Ben told them, “I need to go down and check on the house. You want to go along, or want me to bring something back.”

Cassandra stretched and said, “I’m going back to bed. I have to work tonight and need to be in better shape than this. If you want to bring something for dinner around five and get me up that would be nice.”

Veronica nodded, “I agree, maybe without the two of you pounding the shit out of every surface in the apartment I can get some sleep.”

Ben smirked, “Okay, I’ll be back around five.”

~

Faith blew through the streets of Eseron and Norgrad nimbly dodging traffic taking the emergency bypasses on the bridges. Powering down the back roads of Navilla she slid sideways up to the long driveway of the cabin and then raced down towards the building. Just before coming out of the trees Ben spotted a black Cadillac sitting near the house and Faith spun around doing a bootlegger reverse and shot back out the drive.

Jack and Stan were sitting in the Cadillac and noticed the little sportscar race in spin around and shoot back out. Jack started the car saying, “Shit! That’s him.”

Stan dialed Albert and then pulled the Hunter pistol out of the holster as Jack drove to the end of the driveway. When Albert answered Stan said, “We spotted him, Wiser came to the cabin.”

Jack stopped at the end of the driveway, the tracks went both directions and the little car was nowhere in sight. Albert asked, “Do you have him?”

Jack turned towards Stan’s phone and said, “No, I think he’s headed south, but we lost him. Maybe Charlie could catch up to him in the Lumiere.”

There was an audible sigh as Albert said, “Okay, I’ll call Charles. You two get some rest and go help Tortoni. He’s get ate up by those Yak bastards.”

~

Faith dashed across the bridge into Valence and circled around to the coast road. Ben knew better, but he kept feeling drawn to the Bright Water Bridge. A little later Faith was parked along the coast side of the park and Ben had walked up to the wide footbridge again. His mind wandered back and he smiled with a happy memory and sang She Will Be Loved as he tossed flowers into the canal and watched them float away. Seeing a reflection in the water he stopped singing and said, “Ro?”

The reflection turned and he heard a woman’s voice answer, “Yes.”

With his heart pounding and feeling wetness blurring his vision he turned to look where a person should be standing to cast the reflection. The woman was real and Ben coughed, but managed to take a breath and say, “Sorry, um, I just thought I saw a ghost.”

The young woman smiled and looked even more like Ben’s memory as he said, “I’m Ben, uh, Ben Wiser. Sorry, I don’t mean to stare but you look just like someone I used to know.”

She took a breath herself and said, “Maybe I’m somebody you do know. Don’t you recognize me?”

Closing his hands to try to stop them from shaking Ben said, “No, did you ever have a twin sister?”

Shaking her head she said, “No, think a little harder.”

Wiping his sleeve over his eyes Ben said, “Sorry, I don’t think I can do that. Are you a singer or an actress? I’ve been away a long time and haven’t kept up with current events.”

Crossing her arms she said, “No, I’m a lawyer but I’m in love with you if that helps.”

Ben managed to smile and said, “I’m afraid the type of trouble I’m in will take more than a lawyer to get me out of. You’re beautiful in a way I can’t even describe, but I’m not the kind of person you want to be in love with.”

Motioning to the other end of the bridge she said, “It’s too late, I’ve waited my whole life for you. Now it’s time for you to step up and take me away from here before the ogre catches up.”

Ben looked past to where she had motioned and there was a very large goran, looking like something that escaped from a nightmare with a giant maw full of sharp teeth like the murau, but bigger and able to regenerate from anything short of total destruction in addition to having enough of an armored hide to make Ben’s guass pistol nearly ineffective. Looking at him and the Altamira Lumiere parked nearby Ben asked, “So you want me to kidnap you from that thing? In a car a half the speed of his without the ability to fly?”

With a sigh she said, “You better get in the game quick, your true love is standing right in front of you and you’re quibbling over the details.”

Looking over his shoulder and back to her Ben said, “Even if you were the real Roselina I don’t know I could do it.”

She looked down, “Not Roselina, just Ro.”

The Goran had noticed them talking and was walking fast towards them as Ben said, “Okay, Ro, let’s get out of here.”

Ro looked up with a big smile and they took off to Faith. Charles reached the middle of the bridge and spotted the Meteor speeding out of sight with a cloud of tire smoke behind it and cursed, “Shit!”

Running as fast as he could back to the Lumiere he called Albert, “I spotted Wiser, he has Rowena.”

Faith barely stayed on pavement as her tires smoked around the corners, Nikki hissed with displeasure while Rowena laughed and told Ben to go faster.

Charles took off still cursing as the Lumiere climbed and he looked for the Meteor. The Lumiere was faster, but the car had a head start and he wasn’t sure how to stop a car doing four hundred kilometers an hour on the ground without hurting the passenger. Albert said, “We’ve alerted everyone, just don’t lose them. He’ll have to stop for fuel and we can send everyone in.”

A few seconds later Charles spotted the Meteor and called it in, even in a faster vehicle that didn’t rely on roads he had to travel faster than he was comfortable to keep up. Down below Rowena looked out the back window and said, “He’s still back there, You sure you can lose him?”

Ben swerved between cars and could see the smoke rising off the tires as he slid around a corner and said, “No, I’m sure I can’t out here in the open. We need a place with cover.”

Dropping back in the passenger seat Rowena asked, “What are you going to do?”

Shaking his head with a grin Ben said, “I’ll make a run for The Carnival and try to disappear into the Ferris Wheel neighborhood.”

Smiling big again Rowena said, “I love the Ferris wheels.”

Racing across the Valence-Rolatia bridge Ben could see The Lumiere over the channel and said, “This wasn’t a well thought out plan.”

Rowena cocked her head, “Problem?”

Sliding in sideways and then quickly reversing to miss another set of cars at the intersection of the bypass road Ben said, “Yeah, he has full hover capability and will be able to drop into any tunnel we go into.”

Nodding her head Rowena said, “Maybe we could shoot him down.”

Continuing through Rolatia on the main road Ben said, “Not likely, the Lumiere has shields and a decent armor package, so my pistol has almost no chance of punching through. I wouldn’t want to see what happens to us if he shoots back either.”

Leaning back Rowena said, “I hope he doesn’t think of that.”

Ben glanced over, “What?”

Shrugging Rowena said, “If they kill me then I end up back with them because of my clone.”

Dodging between a pair of trucks Ben said, “Maybe, that’s what somebody thought about the original Roselina and my understanding is it didn’t work out.”

Rowena looked out the passenger window feeling like time had just slowed to a crawl even though cars and buildings were going past as a blur and said, “They did, didn’t they?”

Ben started to look over, but then had to dodge a car changing lanes and went back into just driving. Looking back over to Ben again Rowena said, “Whatever happens, I love you and it was worth it for whatever time we had.”

Spotting another blue Meteor with white stripes on the road Ben smiled and said, “Don’t lose hope yet. We can’t outrun him or out shoot him, but if we get lucky we might just outfox him.”

Rowena looked over at Ben as he slowed down and tried to time passing a truck just right, moving in next to it and then braking to match speeds as the other Meteor passed. Rowena looked at the truck and then at Ben, “So we just slow down and hope he goes away?”

Nodding and slowing down more to move behind the truck as the back of the Lumiere came into view, “It was the best plan I could come up with on short notice.”

Laughing Rowena said, “Is he following someone else?”

With a smirk Ben said, “Probably not for long, so we better find a place to disappear for real now.”

Turning off onto the surface streets Ben said, “We should be safe if we stick to only a couple blocks from the bypass.”

Rowena asked, “Are we still going to the Ferris wheel?”

Pulling into The Linnet Service Station Ben said, “Probably not, how would you feel about a museum?”

A rolatian with grey green skin and the usual mousy features with big floppy ears came out, “What’ll it be?”

Ben said, “Fill her up with premium. Any chance Zoloft still lives here?”

The Rolatian looked suspiciously at Ben for a few moments and then smiled with recognition, “Ben! I thought you were dead. Um, no, Zoloft still works out there at Merlin Tower. Wow, I really didn’t think you’d ever be back around. How’s it going?”

Ben smiled, “Still in a world of trouble Parana. You have anything going up North?”

Parana shook his head, “No, not at the moment.”

Ben pulled out a couple hundreds and said, “How about shipping a little car up to Eseron, Norgrad, or Logoma? I could even drop a sweet tip on the deal.”

Parana smiled as he took the money, “Okay, I’ll have Thalamus drive, I need to watch the shop.”

Ben agreed, “Good enough for me.”

Faith was driven into the back of a moving truck and Ben and Rowena sat inside not being able to see while the truck drove. Nikki climbed up into Ben’s lap and Rowena asked, “Where do we go from here?”

Ben leaned back, “I have no idea. There are people that want to kill me already and now I’ve effectively kidnapped someone from their chaperon and I don’t even know who you are. You look so much like my ex girlfriend I’d guess someone bewitched me with some sort of curse. I don’t know why you think you love me, but you are beautiful and I’m not sure why you were being pursued by that goran but I’m glad you’re free for the moment. Mostly I’m just confused and should probably get some sleep.”

Rowena leaned over placing her head on Ben’s shoulder and Nikki hissed, but a glare from Rowena sent back behind the seat. As Rowena held Ben she asked, “Isn’t it enough that I love you?”

Ben ran his hand through her hair and said, “I’ve always enjoyed every aspect of love, sex, and romance but I’ve never met someone who was already seduced before I arrived and I’m out of my element here.”

Rowena chuckled and kissed him then asked, “Better?”

Running his finger over her cheek Ben nodded, “Yes, there’s a beautiful woman with me who says she loves me, why would I argue?”

Leaning in and kissing him again Rowena said, “You wouldn’t.”

~

There was a knock at the door and Cassandra and Veronica looked at each other and Cassandra stood up saying, “He must figure we’re up.”

At the door she found Ben with Nikki on his shoulder, and armload of pizza boxes, and Rowena trailing behind. Ben said, “I brought some pizza, and this is Ro. Ro, this is Cassandra and that’s Veronica back there.”

Rowena looked troubled and said, “When you said a couple of friends this isn’t what I was thinking.”

Cassandra nodded, “I bet not. You didn’t say you were bringing company back either. How did things go at the cabin?”

Ben set the pizzas on the counter and said, “I got meat, cheese, and vegetarian. Ro has two bottles of Nora red. Um, the cabin was a bit of an issue. I guess you could say that’s how Ro and I came together. There were people waiting at the cabin and after I lost them I found myself at an old hangout and Ro needed to make a fast exit. So, the cabin isn’t fixed yet, but there’s still hope.”

Veronica looked at one of the wine bottles and then opened a pizza box as she asked, “So you figured on her staying here tonight?”

Ben shook his head, “I hadn’t thought that far ahead, but I’ve still got a little over twenty grand so we could all stay somewhere else tonight if we want.”

Rowena grabbed Ben’s arm pulling him around and spoke in a lowered but forceful voice, “What? You didn’t say anything about this?”

Ben nodded, “I didn’t, but you hardly gave me the chance. I promised them to take them in once I get my place fixed up. You’re welcome too, but I made a promise to them before I even met you.”

Rowena shook, turning her head but her whole body shaking as she said, “No you didn’t. You promised me first, you said you would love me forever and never leave me, but you did leave, don’t break your promise to me again.”

Ben shook his head, “You’re not Roselina. I don’t know who you are and I’ll do whatever I can for you, but don’t.”

Rowena pulled at her hair yelling, “I’m her daughter!”

Taking a step back and hitting the counter Ben said, “No, she only had one daughter and Rowena’s.”

Rowena glared at Ben, “What, Rowena’s what?”

Ben shook his head, “Little, like twelve.”

Rowena shook her head and let out a distressed laugh, “Really? How old was I when Mom died? I was nine math wizard. I waited twelve fucking years for you to come back and get me on that fucking bridge, so how old am I?”

Ben swallowed hard and asked, “Why?”

Rowena wiped away tears that were forming in her eyes now, “Why? You said you loved me, you’d never leave me, you sang to me. There was never anyone else, what was I supposed to do?”

Ben walked over to the sink and ran a glass of water and then Rowena asked, “You remember now?”

Ben nodded and drank the glass of water as Rowena looked at the smeared mascara on her hands and asked Cassandra, “Can I use the powder room, I’m not used to showing my emotions.”

Cassandra nodded and pointed to it, “Help yourself.”

Cassandra walked over to Ben who was still shaking a little and said, “So?”

Ben nodded and took another drink, “Yeah.”

Shaking her head Cassandra asked, “Trouble?”

Nodding again Ben said, “Lots.”

Cassandra nodded, “Okay, what do you need?”

Letting out a long breath Ben said, “This is too much. I think I need to leave the planet again if I can get away. How old did she say she is?”

Cassandra thought back to what was said and shook her head, “Twenty one I think.”

Letting out a sigh Ben said, “Okay, that’s okay.”

Cassandra snickered, “You didn’t?”

Ben nodded, “Oh yeah, and she wasn’t lying about waiting.”

Cassandra coughed and cleared her throat, “Oh my. A she’s Antonio Salvatore’s?”

Ben continued nodding, “Daughter.”

Snickering as she asked, “And the other was?”

Ben stopped nodding and looked at the floor, “Her mother.”

Cassandra patted Ben on the shoulder asking, “And you are?”

Ben smirked as he looked back up at Cassandra, “Dead.”

When Rowena came back out she was cleaned up and even had convincing smile as she asked, “So what are we doing?”

Ben cleared his throat and stood up straighter seeming to regain some confidence as he said, “Having dinner and then we need to take these two lovely ladies to work.”

Cassandra walked over looking at the pizza and said, “I better drive again. I think Rowena would rather I didn’t ride on your lap and the two of us aren’t quite that close yet.”

Rowena shook her head with a smirk and Ben asked, “What about Veronica?”

Veronica glared at Cassandra and Cassandra asked, “Well how else are we going to fit everyone?”

Veronica sighed, “Well if Nikki tries to eat me I’m regrowing right in your face.”

Rowena looked inquiringly at Veronica and Veronica finally said, “Yes, I’m etiwan.”

Rowena smiled and asked, “What’s your other form?”

With an even more exaggerated sigh Veronica answered, “A yellow canary.”

Snickering Rowena said, “I’ve never even hear of a canary etiwan. They always use wolves and eagles for movies.”

Nodding Veronica said, “Yep, that’s why I’m a waitress and not an actress.”

Cassandra shrugged and said, “Well that and not having any talent.”

Veronica flipped her off and said, “Laugh it up bartender of the magical realm.”

Rowena laughed and said, “Now I know why you’re friends with them.”

Veronica pointed at Ben, “Him, the reason he’s friends with us is because he was hoping for a three way. maybe he would have even got there, but when we learned he had you waiting on him for twelve years that kind of threw a wrench in things. Shame on you Ben.”

Ben smirked but had no response and Rowena said, “I don’t have to worry, we made love in the car all the way here from Rolatia.”

Veronica and Cassandra looked at Ben and he put his hand to his chest as he said, “I would have made it more romantic if I’d known it was her first time. She came on strong so I thought she was like us.”

Cassandra held her hands out, “Whoa! I may be a little loose, but I am not a slut like you.”

Rowena looked at Cassandra and said, “Hey, that’s my boyfriend.”

Nodding Cassandra said, “Yeah, but the last time I slept with three guys in one night was right out of high school and I was so drunk I couldn’t remember who the last one was. He does three girls and still runs out for coffee.”

Cocking her head to one side Rowena said, “And you were one of them?”

Holding up one finger and then pointing at the pizza box Cassandra said, “Weren’t we about to eat? What type of pizza do you want?”

Zeroes

Zeroes Chapter 3 – This is Home

The Story

Zeroes Chapter 2 - Coming Home

Maltese RPG Conklingc