The sonic boom was followed by the constant roar of a ramjet, indicating that the approaching craft had slowed to less than the speed of sound. It was circling high above his cabin in a tight arc, rapidly losing speed and altitude.
‘It might be Frank and Tanya coming to visit,’ he thought, smiling to himself.
Since he had retired and the company awarded him his own desert domicile, they had started coming by for a visit at least once a year (they’d been there twice). On their last visit, they had brought their oldest daughter Alicia and her middle-aged husband. The cabin had been full of excess motion and exuberant life for the two days they had stayed.
Jake wondered if they were bringing someone with them this time. To find out, he could activate the cabin console – the same system he was just looking at in the bathroom. He decided he’d rather be surprised.
It would be a few minutes before ‘whomever’ could bring their craft down from the altitude it was traveling. He leaned his face into the laser shaver, and pressed ‘one’. It flashed for a few seconds, erasing his month old whiskers. He still used a brush to clean his teeth. It was an old model with a built-in water jet and sonics to clean between his teeth as he brushed.
Finishing up, he combed his hair, pulling the comb slowly over his head as the tiny blades twirled, automatically untangling his hair, cutting off the split ends and providing just the right amount of moisturizing cream to keep it healthy.
Lastly, he stepped up to the deodorant dispenser, pressed ‘Upper’ and raised his arms. A spray of unscented crystal deodorant coated his armpits, then a short blast of dry air finished him off. Liquid crystal deodorant was the popular type in use now, rather than the myriad dozens of toxic, asthma-inducing deodorants available at the turn of the last century, whose main ingredient was coal tar, more commonly known at the time as ‘fragrance’.
Finding a clean pair of jeans and a comparatively unwrinkled shirt, he quickly put them on and went downstairs. Now, completely ready, at least physically, to socialize, he stepped outside and looked around.
A flitter was perched two hundred feet from the cabin. In the automatic floodlights that lit up the landing pad, Jake could see the big ‘F’, the ‘eye’ and the ‘T’ that made up the company logo of Frank and Tanya’s private investigations company. Their slogan was, ‘We f-eye-t for your right!' (‘to live’ is stenciled underneath the ‘eye’).
Yeah, it was tacky, but Jake smiled when he saw the emblem, knowing that Frank and Tanya did more ‘bounty hunting’ than investigating, these days. Hunting was a lot more adventurous than spying, and Tanya loved the thrill of the hunt.
Jake saw only one person climbing out. From the way the fireproof flight suit fit around the hips, he could tell the pilot was female. As she took off her helmet, a big pile of luscious blond hair fell around her shoulders. Jake felt disappointed, somehow. He didn’t really know whom he expected to see. The person he really wanted to see didn’t exist anymore, except in his dreams.
‘Well, It’s either Tanya or Alicia,’ he realized as he approached the curvy blonde.
As mother and daughter, Tanya and Alicia looked almost exactly alike. Although Alicia was eighty-six and her mother was a hundred and twenty-three, if they stood side by side, someone who didn't know them wouldn’t be able tell them apart. They both looked twenty.
When Alicia had actually been twenty, she’d had a crush on Jake a mile wide. While he had stayed at Frank and Tanya’s for awhile, Alicia would sneak into his room and make love to him. He woke up more than once to find Alicia perched on top of him, happily fucking him awake. She wanted to marry him, since he was the only long-lifer around except for her parents and siblings. She had it all figured out. She was going to create her own little dynasty of immortals (with his help, of course).
Alicia energetically pursued Jake until she realized that, while he was very fond of her, he wasn’t actually ‘in love’ with her. Then, unexpectedly, and uncharacteristically (for her), she accepted what he had been telling her all along, and let him go.
Socially, she made light of that adolescent period of her life. But, when she ‘coincidentally’ ran into Jake in the Aleutian Islands while traveling to forget the loss of her first husband, she resumed her torrid relationship with him while she was there. When she left to return to her life in the States, she begged Jake to come with her. He declined and she returned, alone once again, leaving Jake to continue his own travels.
Jake didn’t see Alicia again until just last year, when her parents had brought her and her middle-aged second husband along for Jake’s second annual celebration of his official retirement. After almost seventy years and two marriages, she still looked at Jake with the same longing in her eyes as she had…
Right now, as he watched her approach.
“Well hi, Sweetheart,” Jake said, hugging her.
Alicia didn’t say anything for a long moment. She just let him hold her while shegently leaned into his shoulder. Jake knew something was wrong. She was traveling alone. She didn’t like being alone at all, and would make friends with the strangest people, just to have someone to talk to when she traveled.
“Hi, yourself, Uncle Jake,” he heard her whisper.
The sadness in her voice confirmed to him that, once again, something catastrophic had happened in her self-absorbed world. With his hands on her shoulders, he looked into her face. Her face was always a beautiful surprise to look at. She was the only blonde he had ever seen with truly blond eyebrows and lashes. From personal observation, he knew she was blond all over, from her head right down to the hairs on her toes.
Her eyes were filling with tears. “I’m sorry, I thought I was through crying,” she explained, as tears began to travel down her cheeks.
She hugged Jake, letting him comfort her some more. That was what she had come for, after all – some serious comforting – and something else only Jake could provide.
Jake led her into the cabin, knowing she would tell him what had happened in her own time.
Jake and Alicia sat down on the sofa. Alicia ordered coffee from the kitchen. It was almost as if she knew that Jake hadn’t erased her voice recognition sequence from the console receptors in the year or so since she’d visited him last, even though she’d brought her aging husband with her and hadn’t once tried to accost him in the middle of the night for some mischievous sex play.
“I suppose you heard that my husband passed away,” Alicia said, her voice calm and sociable, now.
Frank shook his head. “No, I'm sorry. I didn't know. I haven’t turned on the telecaster for the last couple of weeks.”
He had set the telecaster to inform him of news concerning certain subjects, including the Tabors and their offspring. It had been blinking at him for over a week, he just now realized. He had set it on minimal notice so that it wouldn’t bother him with all the unimportant ‘news’ that normally bombarded him.
“I remember,” she said, “when you told us how long we could expect to live. I was so happy I was just floating on air for days afterward. But now the world has changed so much, and I’m still the same. Sometimes, I feel like time forgot about me.
“I have an older daughter you’ve never met,” she continued, looking at him. “She’ll be sixty-four next week. She looks exactly like me and Mom.” She laughed, sadly, as though she was reminded of a private joke. “We’re the family that exists outside of time.”
“You know, the only constants in my life besides my parents,” she said, her voice uneven with emotion, “is you. All my life, I’ve always known that, if something terrible happened, I could always find you. You would be there, waiting.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, Uncle Jake,” she added nervously, as Jake started to interrupt, “I know you’re not waiting for me. What I mean is, that you are a stable part of my life, and I depend on you, to some large degree. I mean, just knowing that you’re there helps keep me in balance.
“Wow, listening to myself say that,” she laughed, embarrassed, “that sounds really tacky.”
She sat primly on the sofa; her hands folded together in her lap, staring down at the robo table and the untouched steaming cups in front of her.
“Thank you,” Jake said, quietly, after a moment. “That means a lot to me.
“And, yes,” he laughed, softly, “it did sound tacky. But I liked hearing it, anyway.”
He reached down in front of Alicia and picked up the coffee she’d ordered for him. He took a sip. It was his own special blend. The automatic kitchen-mate had finally gotten his instructions right about the amount of alcohol to put in his coffee after sunset. The surprised look on Alicia’s face indicated that the kitchen had prepared both cups to his specifications.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Alicia stated, quickly exhaling and taking a fresh breath. She set the cup back down on the robo table.
“Ice, please,” she stated. A metal arm appeared on the side of the table and reached into a compartment underneath, producing a small cube of ice, which it plunked into her cup. She picked the cup back up and sat, letting the ice cool her coffee.
“I know it’s rude of me to drop in unannounced,” she said, apologetically, “and I just now noticed that you look like you’re expecting someone…”
“No,” Jake said, grinning at her embarrassment, “I heard you falling out of the sky like an angel. It only took a minute to clean up.”
Alicia smiled at him. She loved the whimsical, archaic way he talked. It reminded her of her childhood, before sad things began happening to her. “I hope you can forgive me,” Alicia said quietly, “for what I’ve done.”
Jake smiled at her. She was being enigmatic, again. She always had a dozen plots going on in her complex mind. He knew she would reveal whatever she wished when she was ready to. He also knew why she was here and believed he knew what she wanted from him.
He watched as she gazed into her coffee, checking on the progress of her melting ice cube. Then, putting the cup to her lips, she drained it, ice cube and all. He heard a small crunch announce its demise as she crushed the remnant of ice with her teeth.
Tonight, neither of them would be alone. Tonight, Jake knew he wouldn’t be dreaming of making love to a shadow from his past. Tonight, he had someone real who needed what he was able to offer; caring and warmth against unaccustomed loneliness. Tonight, they would protect each other from the ghosts of their pasts during the short time they would be together.
Alicia stretched out across the couch, laying her head against his chest, Jake heard her sigh, more contented now than she had been for awhile.
“He was dying, you know,” she said, sadly, “the last time we were here. Did you know, Uncle Jake, that vampire blood, twice removed, doesn’t heal anyone except the one carrying it?”
Jake could feel her head move as she talked, and it made him feel contented.
“You have to be a universal donor,” Jake told her, softly.
He had learned that from the police lieutenant who, all those years ago, had warned him bad things were about to happen. Béla’s blood type had been ‘O’ rh negative. That was probably why any host could accept her regenerative blood cells.
After a moment of silence, Jake noticed a change in Alicia’s breathing. She’d actually gone to sleep in his lap. For such a small amount of alcohol to do that, she must have been either physically or emotionally exhausted – probably both. He sat still for awhile, letting her sleep until she started to snore. Then he gently shook her awake and led her by the arm to his bed upstairs.
As she curled up on the covers and went back to sleep, Jake went back down and out into the frosty night air to the little ramjet parked in the bright moonlight and began unloading Alicia’s bags from the luggage compartment. She’d only brought three. She evidently wasn’t planning on staying long.
He stood for awhile, enjoying the clean, refreshing coldness of the night against he warm skin. He even enjoyed the shivers the night air was giving him as he stood there. The full moon was glowing brightly, lighting up the sparse, but beautiful landscape and dimming every star in the sky to where he could only see a few dozen. To his left, the Aurora Borealis danced on the horizon, hiding the North Star completely behind its eerie glow.
Bringing her bags upstairs to the master bedroom, Jake set them on the table he requested from the interior wall. Then, walking over to the transparent outside wall, he stood and gazed out across the moonlit desert, taking in the slowly dimming lights of the landing pad, Alicia’s flitter, and the vast moonlit spaces beyond.
Jake heard the exhaust fans in the bathroom shut down. He hadn’t noticed they were running when he’d carried Alicia’s luggage in, but they ran quietly, so it was easy to ignore them.
He looked over at Alicia lying on the bed. She was still where he had left her, but now, she was undressed and partially covered by a thin sheet she had evidently requested from the bed. Blankets weren’t needed, as the mattress maintained a comfortable temperature for sleeping.
Since she had evidently showered and cleaned up before returning to bed, Jake decided it would only be polite if he did the same. After all, he knew that Alicia would expect him to make love to her while she was here, alone and unattached. As he stood in the shower letting the twin showerheads twirl and massage their way up and down his body, he looked forward to morning and Alicia’s special wake-up call.
He didn’t have to wait until morning. Shortly after he went to sleep, he was awakened with the sensation of Alicia’s lips arousing him. Then she slipped him inside of her. Lying side by side, she quietly worked her pelvic muscles, massaging him gently until he came. He went to sleep breathing in the scent of her hair while she slept snuggled against him.