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Episode 9: Dark Latnok

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Jessi came into the kitchen while Nicole was cooking dinner and asked, "Can I help?"

Nicole looked around with a harried expression and said, "Thank you, I've gotten behind and could use the help. Could you watch the pork chops?"

"I could tell you were stressed," Jessi gave her a knowing smile. "What are we having?"

"Pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and a salad," Nicole said. "I still have to mash the potatoes and make the salad. The broccoli's cooking."

"I'll finish the pork chops and make the gravy," Jessi volunteered. "It's almost the same meal I made when Brian visited, except I made green beans."

"The broccoli looked good today," Nicole explained.

With the two of them working together, dinner was soon finished. In a short time they carried the food to the dining room table where they were joined by the rest of the Trager household. Everyone started filling their plates.

"This is great, Mom," Josh said.

"Jessi helped," Nicole glanced over at her in acknowledgement.

"I just finished the pork chops," Jessi said. "Nicole did all the work."

"Well, it felt like a rescue to me," Nicole said. "I'm not as good at multitasking as the two of you are."

Stephen asked, "So, how did your Latnok meeting go today?"

"You both looked like business executives this morning, going off in your suits, carrying a brief case." Nicole smiled momentarily at the memory then looked more serious, "Is Latnok going to do anything about the attack on Jessi?"

"Latnok has changed," Kyle assured her with a smile. "It won't be threatening anyone anymore. We're going to be what Adam Baylin wanted us to be: scientists, visionaries, and humanitarians."

"I know that's what you want them to be, Kyle," Nicole cautioned, "But are you sure you can trust them?"

"We can trust them," Jessi said with a big smile, "Kyle's in charge now, they made him chairman of the board."

"Are you serious?" Nicole tilted her head and raised her eyebrows.

"Kyle, what happened?" Stephen asked.

I described the board meeting. How we had presented information about Paul Milworth and his work on biological warfare, Robert Lukeson and his work with autonomous weapons and how they had been removed from Latnok. I told how Grace had resigned rather than have us go through all of her misdeeds. And finally I told how Jessi had been given her own seat on the board and I had been elected chairman.

"What about that Keels fellow," Stephen asked. "The one you said was working with mercenaries."

Kyle and Jessi glanced at each other. Kyle explained, "Brad Keels wasn't at the meeting. The insurgency collapsed and as the security forces were rounding up the mercenaries, Brad Keels was killed."

Nicole frowned in thought, "So the guy who sent the mercenary to kill Jessi is dead?"

"They think the mercenaries killed him when it all started to fall apart," Kyle explained.

"Well that's great news," Stephen nodded. "I was worried he might try it again."

"Good, he deserved it," Lori said, looking protectively at Jessi.

Nicole looked into her tea but didn't say anything.

Stephen said, "So three members were taken off the board. What about the remaining ones?"

Kyle said, "We've had dinner with all but one of the remaining members, and we're going to meet with her soon. We've gotten to know them. Most of them are good people and have wanted to do this for a long time."

"That's one of the reasons they made Kyle the chairman," Jessi explained. "He did it when no one else could."

"We did it," Kyle corrected. "There are a couple of members who were just interested in science and went along with the 'dark' members because they wanted to be left alone." He opened his hands in explanation and continued, "There were a lot of people afraid of Brad Keels. They'll be happy to go along with the rest of us."

"What about the 'dark' Latnok members," Stephen asked. "They're probably not happy about being thrown out of Latnok. Are they likely to be dangerous?"

"I don't think so," Kyle shook his head with a concerned look. "But we're going to have to watch them to make sure."

"We're also going to deal with Cassidy," Jessi said firmly. She looked at Kyle, "You promised.'

"I did," Kyle admitted. "I'm not sure what we are going to be able to do. We can't prove that he killed Sarah. We'll have to do the research and see what we can find out about him."

"We know he killed her," Jessi said. "We can't let him get away with it."

"We won't," Kyle promised.

"I still feel bad about encouraging you to be interested in him, Jessi," Lori said. "He seemed nice at the time."

"It's not your fault," Kyle said. "Cassidy could appear very friendly."

"We thought he was just my neighbor," Jessi added.

"How's Andy settling in, Josh?" Nicole changed the subject.

"She's caught up on her homework," Josh said. "It's really great to have her back."

From there, the conversation went on to the other normal talk of school and schedules and the myriad details and decisions that make up a family's life. It was pleasant to discuss less weighty things than the future of Latnok and bask in the pleasure of dinner with my family.

"Well, that's enough for me," Josh said. "I have homework to do."

"I'm glad to see you keeping up with your homework," Nicole said. "I was worried that Andy's coming back would distract you."

"She's a taskmaster," Josh smiled. "She says that just because the cancer is gone, I don't get to slack off, I still have to make something of myself."

"I like that girl," Stephen nodded.

Josh smiled, "I do too." He got up and headed up the stairs.

"I have homework to do too," Lori said. "I need to keep my grades up. I have my fingers crossed about UDub. I should find out in a couple of weeks." She got up and left the table.

Nicole looked at Kyle with a smile, "You and Jessi don't have homework, do you?"

Kyle smiled sheepishly and shrugged, "It doesn't take us much time to do the homework."

"We have to do research for RL Associates," Jessi said. "We told Ron Legge we would send him some more prospects next week."

"I guess we do have homework," Kyle said. At Nicole's raised eyebrow, he continued, "That's the place where Summer Jensen works. Kesdet has a consulting contract with them."

"How is that working out?" Nicole frowned slightly. "I know Josh and Andy are happy, was that really a wise investment, though?"

"It's working very well, Nicole," Jessi assured her. "With the leads from Kesdet, RL Associates is growing. Summer is going to have to hire two more artists to keep up with the work."

Kyle smiled, "Kesdet is getting consulting fees and Ron Legge is talking about repaying the money Jessi invested."

"You told me I couldn't spend a lot of money on presents," Jessi smiled, "We're making a profit, it's not costing me anything."

Nicole laughed and held up a hand, "All right, obviously you planned this out. I still think it would be a good idea if Summer Jensen doesn't know you arranged it all."

"We're being silent partners," Jessi assured her. She looked at Kyle, "Why don't I bring my laptop into your room and we can work on it there."