Author's Note: It's *almost* non-erotic, but I didn't concentrate on the sex in this chapter, so it's not really something someone can get off on - ergo - the non-erotic category.
Elaine, Marla and Annalisa watched joyously as the inner doors to the gigantic vacuum chamber swung open to admit the very first spaceship ever to come from Earth. They had flown straight up for several miles in order to view this momentous first entry. It had been an easy flight in the null gravity above Northern Depot. Although the enormous space doors opened quite rapidly, the winged girls were so far away that the entrance seemed to be opening inch by laborious inch, creeping wider and wider.
As soon as the heaviest vapor had rushed into the opening, they darted forward on their fragile wings to see this sleek, magnificent teardrop of a ship that was bringing their sister Béla and her earth family home.
Elaine actually touched down on the wide, rounded nose of the craft as it slowly moved into the depths of the hollow moon.
“Wow! I can see inside! HELLO! Can you see me?”
“Yes, darling sister! I can see you!”
“Where’s the door? I want to come in!”
“There is none. You have to teleport!”
“No problem!” Elaine said as she suddenly stood next to her favorite sister in the whole, wide universe!
Then they were hugging and crying and laughing all at the same time, as the rest of the bridge crew (both of them) tried to act like everything was normal.
“Oh!” Béla said, laughing as she disengaged from her gorgeous, sweet-smelling blond sister. “Let me introduce you! This is Amber – Commander Cutberg. She's the bridge officer and this is Tony – he’s in security.”
“This,” Béla proudly indicated her blond sister, “is my sister, the Goddess Elaine.”
Amber smiled and held out her hand. Elaine reached out and hugged her.
‘You must be very trusted for my sister to permit you this honored station.’
Amber blinked, recognizing the respect that Elaine gave her by speaking mind to mind.
‘Thank you, Goddess,’ she replied in her mind, remembering the lessons in protocol that Béla had taught her, like, yesterday. (It really was just yesterday when Béla had taught her that!)
Annalisa and Marla appeared on the bridge. They were as naked as Elaine. The watch officer was beginning to get flustered.
“This is Annalisa and this is Marla,” Elaine introduced them to the others, knowing that Béla already knew who they were. “They are my current sparring partners.”
“I thought Dawn was one of your partners,” Béla mentioned.
“She got pregnant,” Elaine said, then laughed. “She had twins.”
“I’ll want to meet them!” Béla replied excitedly.
“And there’s someone I want to meet, too,” Elaine said, more solemnly now, knowing Béla would know who she meant.
“There’s a celebration going on in the Grotto,” Béla told all of her sisters. “We can join her there.”
Béla laughed, ‘I’ll explain later,’ and teleported the group down to Lisa’s Grotto.
There were only a few humans, there – entire families celebrating their last day aboard the Phoenix III. Most were in the cargo bay queued up to transport down to the surface. Elaine gazed around, her mind easily seeing every intention behind everything she saw – the lake, the waterfall, the wormholes that fed life-giving air, water and sunlight into the ship, the trees and the open, park-like appearance of the entire space.
“What’s that?” Elaine asked as she noticed the six refrigerator cars sitting on railroad tracks that ran around one side of the park.
“That’s our fruit storage,” Béla said brightly. “There’s enough left for us to have a really great celebration when we get back to the manor.”
“There’s plenty of fruit at the manor,” Elaine replied. “Didn’t I tell you about the greenhouse I had built for you?”
“Oh!” Béla replied, embarrassed that she hadn’t remembered. “You did. I remember.”
“So where is…”
“Elisabeth,” Béla said, supplying the name. “She calls herself ‘Lisa’, now, rather than ‘Beth’. She has a new body, as well, which is why she prefers her new name.”
“Yes, I remember,” Elaine replied, trying to ignore the decades that now separated them. “She's become your daughter. I’m glad she survived. It must have been a rough journey for her.”
“I recommend that you not mention that,” Béla warned, “unless you wish to incur her eternal wrath.”
“Has she changed that much?” Elaine needed to know.
“Yes, and more,” Béla replied, quietly, perhaps with some sadness. “She doesn’t trust. Anyone. And her powers are beyond comprehension. She provided the mind power to build this ship, and the energy that propels it. It was her mind that punched those wormholes through to the earth. If she did not wish to be controlled, no one would be able to control her.”
“But she hasn’t destroyed everything,” Elaine mentioned, still looking around with wonder, “so she’s basically civilized.”
“No, not really,” Béla admitted, “but sometimes I think that her fear of being alone is all that keeps her in line. She fears being alone more than she fears being betrayed.”
“Mother! What a horribly unfair thing to say!” a voice said from behind Elaine. “Are you really that afraid of me?”
Elaine turned and met Beth’s eyes. For an instant, those eyes smoldered, then became more peaceful.
“It’s not fear that rules your heart,” Elaine pronounced. “You love these people, even if you don’t completely trust them.”
“You. You sent me to my death,” Lisa mentioned, almost casually changing the subject, no noticeable venom in her voice.
“And yet, here you are,” Elaine replied, fearless in her knowledge, and standing as nakedly regal as she could, “more powerful than before.”
“Don’t you take credit for that!” Lisa snarled, her rage evident now. “You would have sacrificed me to save your sacred sister!”
“Yes,” Elaine admitted, “And I would do it again. I love Béla more than anyone except my lifemate. I would die for her, and I would let you die for her as well. But you didn’t die just for her. Everyone on this vessel is alive and here because of what you sacrificed.”
“You could have told me what would happen,” Lisa said accusingly. “I would have come, anyway. I would willingly die for she who is now my mother. I have always loved her at least that much, even when I was Beth.”
“I…” Elaine faltered now, not entirely willing to confess, but knowing the necessity for complete honesty, “I was weak, Beth. I was afraid and uncertain. I would not send you to die today without telling you.”
“No,” Lisa agreed, her ire easing as she recognized the truth of what this blond goddess was telling her. “I can see the changes in you. You are a hawk where, before, you were a weasel. We have both grown since that day. I will overlook your deceit.”
“Thank you, Goddess,” Elaine replied formally, respectfully bowing before her sister’s daughter.
Lisa looked at her mother, now. Sadness was in her eyes. “Surely you don’t really fear me.”
“You shut me out, Daughter,” Béla replied. “You spent hundreds of years away from us with your Lord Dracula. Then when you return, you begin teaching your blood-sisters the art of war – the art of throwing fire. New Eden is a peaceful world where there is no armed conflict. What am I to think? Is there to be conflict between us?”
“Never! I swear!” Lisa proclaimed with real emotion in her voice. “I wanted to pass on what I had learned. I wanted there to be others like me! I didn’t know you feared what I was doing. He told me I was being given a second chance!”
“Who told you, Child?” Elaine asked, flowing her love over her sister’s distraught daughter. “Who gave you this second chance?”
Lisa’s lips twisted in a half-snarl as she remembered. She would have never been able to return to the present without that special passageway provided by the vile Hurrahs. She knew full well that they had guided her back so she would return only a few days after she’d left. She didn’t have anything like that kind of power, nor was its application that precise.
“I see,” Elaine said quietly, the image clear in her mind.
“And I’ve killed thousands of them,” Lisa cried, tears glistening in her eyes. “Why would they help me when all I’ve ever done is slaughter them on sight?”
“Perhaps they realize that the power of a phoenix is needed here,” Elaine replied, hugging Lisa. “It may be that we’ll need several of you, and your return to New Eden is as vital to our survival as was my sending you away.”
“Am I going to die this time?” Lisa asked, her voice small and quiet in the Golden Goddess’ arms.
“Probably,” Elaine replied. “But you’ve died many times, my child. A phoenix requires death in order to live. Don’t tell me you don’t enjoy it.”
“Oh, I do,” Lisa replied, stepping away and standing on her own. “But I like to be in control of when I do it.”
“Don’t we all!” Elaine grinned. “But you’ll be fine. I’m glad to hear you’re training others to control the fire. It’s lonely being the only one of your kind.”
Béla and Lisa were hugging now, tears of regret in the mother’s eyes. “I believed ill of you, Lisa, and I’m deeply sorry. I put myself at your disposal, casting aside my status as Carte Blanche so that you may discipline me as you require.”
“Mother,” Lisa whined. “Don’t do that! I just want you to trust me. Jeez!”
“As you command,” Béla replied, dead serious. “I trust you. With all of our lives.”
“Praetor, record this judgement,” Elaine called into the air, hoping to end this sad soap opera and get on with the festivities.
‘This judgement is recorded in history,’ the Praetor replied in all their minds.
‘Just incidentally,’ Elaine privately asked the Praetor, ‘A ‘Carte Blanche’ has submitted herself to another for the sake of justice. What does that make Beth?’
‘The Second Phoenix is a unique being,’ the Praetor replied. ‘However, she has not been awarded the status of ‘Carte Blanche’, although that may only be a formality. Her power is of a magnitude that, if she did not wish to submit to justice, it could not be enforced on her.’
‘Interesting,’ Elaine thought, more to herself than to anyone else.
“So, tell me of your journey here,” Elaine said to Béla when they were alone again. “What did you find on father’s ship?”
“About what we expected,” Béla replied as they walked along the peaceful lakeshore. “Everyone was dead. We cremated the remains. The power cells and the gravity plating were all stripped and incorporated into our own ship. It was tiring work teleporting the old piece out and teleporting the gravity plating in, but it was well worth the effort. You can’t even feel the acceleration, even at maximum power.”
“And Raman’s Praetor?” Elaine asked.
“It wasn’t on the ship,” Béla replied. “We didn’t find it. It must have been in the blown out section when the ship exploded.”
“We received transmissions after the event,” Elaine replied. “It must have survived; probably expelled somewhere into deep space. I think we’ll make it our next task when my exercise group meets again. Don’t worry, we’ll get it back. We’re even learning to time-walk. Wouldn’t that be funny if you couldn’t find the Praetor because we went back and found it before you got there?”
“Ha, ha,” Béla replied, a sudden, unpleasant memory invading her mind. “Promise me you will never time walk!”
“What? Don’t get goofy on me,” Elaine laughed.
“I mean it!” Béla demanded. “I don’t want you to time-walk.”
“Sister,” Elaine said, stopping and taking hold of her arm. “If I time-walked into your past and something bad happened, that’s part of this reality. If you change that, we may never even have this conversation. You may never even come here.
“You have the right as Carte Blanche to order me not to time-walk,” Elaine continued. “But you will have to order me. I will not change simply because you request it. But please be careful of what you may be doing to all of us…”
Béla stared at her beautiful sister with tears in her eyes, knowing the truth of what Elaine was saying. Elaine could see her fiery death in her sister’s mind – Béla was unable to prevent herself from broadcasting it.
“Perhaps that was an alternate Elaine that died so that we all may live,” Elaine said, knowing she was lying. “Things like that are recorded in our history. In the meantime, I shall enjoy every moment with you that I can.”
They hugged for a moment, sharing their emotions, then continued to walk around to the waterfall, silent, for now.
The two sisters sat down in the grass, enjoying the natural sunlight and the mists created by the falls, Elaine looking up thoughtfully at the wormholes that made it all possible.
“You know,” Elaine mentioned, finally. “That new wormhole technology Beth developed would be really handy in some of the more arid areas of New Eden – the ones closest to the crystal suns. There’s still plenty of water on Earth. We could have her set up a few dozen of these things and be able to populate the entire inside instead of just the area around the equator.”
“If you and Lisa go back in time, and Lisa phoenixes you,” Béla said, suddenly animated and completely immersed in her own daydream, “it would look the same to me, and you’d still be alive in the future! I mean, you were completely vaporized! Lisa can do that and bring you back alive! You won’t need to die!”
“Oh, Sister,” Elaine cried softly, staring into Béla’s anxious eyes. “You know I can’t.”
“Damn you!” Béla fumed, upset to near crying. “Why not? I can order you to!”
“You won’t,” Elaine replied.
“When did you become so ‘all-knowing’ anyway?” Béla whimpered.
“I’m a seeker,” Elaine replied. “I’ve learned what that means. Although how I became one, I have no idea. I’m sure I didn’t want it – this gift from my past. But, I have it, and I’ve learned to live with it. You have to learn to live with your knowledge.”
Béla didn’t, couldn’t reply. The two of them lay in the grass for awhile, not knowing if this was the last time they would ever be this close. After a time, one sister reached for the other, each needing the other’s touch; a reassurance of the fact that she was really there beside her and not some dream like they’d lived with for too many years.
“Remember the time when we set up the monument in front of the temple?” Béla asked, taking a breath from their deep kisses.
“I remember being ripped the next morning and you and I raping Jeff,” Elaine sighed. “And after that, we made fierce, passionate love…”
Béla’s modest slacks and blouse had disappeared and two pairs of bare legs were wrapped around each other, each with her pelvis against her sister’s warm thigh, their breasts gently rubbing together, as were there lips as they embraced.
“And I remember Jeff being so upset because I wasn’t ready to go to the temple with him,” Béla replied, softly brushing her lips against her sister’s neck as she spoke.
They were nipping and gently biting each other now, and their fingersnails were starting to leave marks where they traveled over eager, sensitive skin.
“I remember the first time I saw you,” Elaine murmured into Béla’s neck and shoulder. “Those large eyes filled with such rapture gazing down at me. Gods, I wanted you so badly…”
“You have me now…” Béla whispered back, so aroused she could barely speak. “And forever if you want…”
Then they were feeding – each sister’s teeth buried in a sinewy, blood-filled neck, their thighs sliding against warm, damp, heated flesh, blood seeping from beneath fingers needing to hold onto each other too hard.
The ship was almost deserted now, as people were all lined up in the cargo area transporting down in groups to different areas on the inner surface. There were only a hundred or so left.
Jake went down to the Grotto for one last visit, remembering having seen Béla with her blond sister down here somewhere. When he found them, they were tightly embracing each other, catching up on too many lost years. Even with his undeveloped male mind, he could feel the emotions and the love they had for each other as it radiated out from them.
As he watched, his wondrous wife raised her head, displaying a blood-soaked face as she cried out her orgasm into the air. A few seconds later, Elaine cried out as well. They continued their lovemaking, their cries gradually weakening as they exhausted their passion into each other. Long before they were finished, Jake had traveled to the surface, using the transporter for the very first time.
Annalisa and Marla had been lying in the grass, enjoying the feel of natural sunlight, diluted though it was. Noticing Jake, Annalisa discretely followed him to where her sisters were making love, then followed him again when he left. Using the Focal Press to travel to the surface was a new sensation for her – not altogether pleasant for someone who was used to controlling her own teleportations.
The group Jake transported down with ended up in a farming community halfway around the world from Béla’s jurisdiction. Jake sought lodging at the Empty Keg and was surprised that the innkeeper didn’t take money.
“Have no use for Earth money, here,” the portly bartender told him. “Just go up and pick out a room. If you want, you can make yourself useful helping to clean up in the morning.”
Jake was lying on a primitive cotton cot when Annalisa slipped through the door. The two gazed at each other for a moment. For a very brief instant, he believed she was Béla. Her appearance was almost identical.
“You’re one of Béla’s sisters,” Jake guessed.
Annalisa nodded. “I know you’re feeling lost and a little confused right now. This is a different world than where you come from.”
“Why are you here?” Jake asked. “I saw you on the ship. Did you follow me?”
“Yes,” she admitted. “I was curious. You’re Béla’s lifemate – that’s like a god, here. Why didn’t you wait for her?”
“Oh, she's busy,” Jake replied, sounding more casual than he felt. “She has her own life here, and, right now it doesn’t seem to include me. I thought I’d find out how long it takes before she notices I’m not around.”
“Bitter words,” Annalisa replied. “I love Béla, and I won’t let you hurt her. But I know you love her, too. I can see it in your mind. You feel neglected. That’s so typically male of you. It’s important that Béla reestablishes her life, here. She’ll get around to you. But don’t take offense at the fact that she spreads herself thin. You’ve gotten more than your rightful share of her.”
“Now who’s bitter?” Jake asked, a slightly sarcastic tone to his voice. “This is your world. How will I fit in here? Is there even room for me?”
“Your thoughts are echoed by hundreds of people who are here for the very first time,” Annalisa replied, smiling, now. “Because of your association with my sister, your mind is sensitive enough to pick up your fellow humans’ distress. You are but one of many displaced people here today.
“I followed you,” Annalisa continued, “because I suspected you were being the effect of your fellow humans’ thoughts. And I was right. Also, Béla will need you soon. She will be at Southern Depot tomorrow. I will take you there so that you can reunite with her.”
“How do you know she’ll need me?” Jake asked, half-angry, now. “How do you even know where she’ll be?”
“Because,” Annalisa said, sitting down on the bed next to him. “Our father resides at Southern Depot. And Father is dying.”