By: Viola Grace

Chapter One

Beryl Wilkinson looked up from her homework as her brother came in. His uniform was rumpled and he looked frustrated. “Hiya, Jim.”

“Bebe, I have a puzzle for you.”

She perked up. “Really?

“Really. We are working on tracking some of the protest cells, but we have run up against a dead end. We can’t find out where they are organizing or where their money is coming from. If you solve it, it will have to be completely off the books.”

“Of course.” She rubbed her hands together. “Show me what you have.”

She sat still while he laid out the files on the table, each open to what he thought was the pertinent page. The Keepers were a pain in the ass, and if they were gathering en masse, the police needed all the help they could get.

As she worked Bebe didn’t know how much time passed, she never did. When she found the connections, she quickly moved to confirm and verify the data.

Jim was asleep on the couch, so she shook his shoulder. He blinked and rubbed at his eyes. “Did you find it?”

“No, you were snoring and it was wrecking my groove.”

“Funny. You don’t hear a thing while you are working on puzzles. What did you find?”

She sat with him and laid out the information and the locations where the Keepers were going to strike. All they could do was warn the recruitment centres and defend the ones that needed help.

Jim was on the phone in moments warning of the bomb threats. He worked through the night calling all the centres and the local law enforcement. When the explosion rang out and the news reported the devastation, the last number on the list went uncalled. They already knew.

Bebe handed Jim a thermos of high-octane coffee and sent him off to work while she returned to her web design course. There was nothing else to do.

Eighteen hours after he left their home, he returned and he was not alone. “Bebe, this is Recruiter Norz and he would like to make you an offer.”

Beryl looked at the small silver man with the huge black eyes, the bodyguards in the hall and the look of hope and sorrow in Jim’s eyes. “I am being recruited.”

Norz inclined his head. “It is not a matter of being ordered to do it, but Officer Wilkinson tells me that you will never be able to use your talent here for anything other than bookkeeping. I would offer you far more than that. There is a chance you can use your skills on a daily basis to save lives as you did today.”

“I didn’t save them all.”

“You didn’t have time. The information and connections your brother showed us prove that you have a knack for logic that goes beyond normal intuitive behaviour. With your permission, I would like to send you to the Nyal Imperium to work with the Guardians on worlds that are at risk and subject to destruction. Would you be interested?”

Bebe winced. “Didn’t Jim tell you? My work mode is akin to being in a working coma. I don’t hear or see anyone. I would be useless in a fight.”

Norz grinned and showed shark-like teeth. “We don’t want you in the fight; we want you telling us where to be.”

Bebe looked to James, looked around the main floor of their house and the emptiness that was their constant companion since their sister passed away. She would hate to leave James, but he had brought Norz here.

She looked at her brother and nodded. He smiled, but there were tears in his eyes.

“Fine. When do I leave?”

One month of basic training later and she was still homesick. It was time to head to her assignment, and she had one last direct call from the moon base to make.

“Hiya, Jim.”

“Hiya, Bebe. How are you doing?” He had a more relaxed look about him now that he had quit his job with the force and was working as the security coordinator for the Volunteer Centres.

“I am good. I ship out tomorrow, so you will be without my input for a few days.”

“Excellent. I like the hair.”

She patted her pink roots that faded into a pale blush at the ends of her hair. “I wanted to splurge for my birthday. The bots are actually in my scalp colouring it as I speak.”

“I don’t want the details, it just looks pretty. Did you get my present?”

“Yes, and I had to share with my instructors. Terran pastries haven’t been too thick on the ground up here, and my meditation instructor has a helluva sweet tooth.”

He laughed. “I am glad you have friends to share it with.”

“I have always made friends, until they learned what I can do. This is the first time it has been backward, and I sort of like it.”

“Good. Do you know where you are going?”

“Some world name W’lyn. They need an analyst in the worst way, so I am going in to help work on the petty crime and the not-so-petty crime.”

“Keep yourself safe.”

She snapped him a salute. “Yes, sir.”

She sobered. “I will miss you, Jim. Ask that nice girl at the pastry shop out.”

He blushed. “I already did. How do you think I got two dozen cupcakes wrapped and packed for space flight? It is a bit of a strange order.”

The image in her mind of him chatting frantically as the woman individually packed up the cupcakes before tucking them in the cargo container would keep her smiling for days.

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