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"Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?..."
Edward Lorenz, 1972


Paris, France
Now


Once again, Alter got a close-up view of Yorick through the rifle sights that worked better than any binoculars she had tried. Well, this time the view was also through two hotel windows. Nudging the cross-hairs to the right to focus on the Culper Ring agent whispering in his ear, she settled on the woman's forehead. She tensed her finger on the trigger and tho--

<OOH, SHINY THING!>


"Wow, that's a disappointment."

"Like it's any more ridiculous than your name?"

Yorick realized 355 had a good point about how "Lisa" was nowhere near as ridiculous as "Yorick." "I'm joking, dummy. It's perfect. It's really--"

KRACK went the windowpane.

"What...what was that?"

Lisa just started screaming, a split second before blood started to trickle from a newly torn hole in her dress's waistband and her legs crumpled under her.


The open door slammed against the wall behind her as Alter watched the shiny butterfly, her arm and rifle falling in a downward arc until they pointed at the floor.

"<No fair! How come you let Colonel Rebecca stay in the apartment and dragged all of us back here?! They crank the heat up too fucking much! I mean, people are wearing ski jackets outside and this building has a tropical garden in the lobby and-->"

Alter turned to face her door-slamming fellow IDF dropout, who had followed her around the world and now had followed the insect into the room. "<Did you see that, Naim?>"

"<Whyareweevenhere?!>" Naim immediately shouted back.

Alter was speechless, as Naim hadn't given her long enough to come up with something this time...


Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris
Two Weeks from Now


In a single hospital room Lisa sat in bed, with the backrest tilted up. Sunlight filtered through the window, some of it bouncing off nearby mid-rises on the way. "...I feel like the world keeps getting bigger and lonelier."

"How?" Yorick asked from where he sat on the other end of the bed.

"Remember how the plague made the Internet go down? I used to talk to my friends in New Zealand and Mexico and Austria every day."

"It's back to like when we were kids and only called people far away for birthdays and holidays since it was so expensive."

"Yeah. Then President Valentine sent me to go with you to Boston, and I couldn't even see my friends in D.C. anymore. Now I can barely get a signal from my own legs," Lisa said as her eyes teared up. She reached for her knees and tried to curl herself up, but then winced and put a hand to her bandaged gut. "Ouch."

"I'll call the nurse!" Yorick said as he reached for the summons button.

"No, she'll just give me even more painkillers. Too much of that stuff bogs down my brain."

Lisa rested against the backrest again, still wincing for a few minutes, then relaxed.

"Can you hand me the wheelchair catalog? I need to pick some to test-drive."

"You're giving up already? Isn't there still a chance they can fix this? You got hit all the way down at T10!"

"I'm not giving up, I'm getting on with my life! Sure there's still a chance but I'm not going to put everything else on hold waiting for it..."


Fairfax, Virginia
Eighteen Years Ago


Agent 355 and Lisa were walking down the hallway between a gymnasium and an indoor swimming pool, passing the aerobics room they had used almost every afternoon for the past year.

"Where are we going?" Lisa asked as she flipped through her Trapper Keeper to find her schedule. "I thought we had gym class again today."

"Um...there comes a time in many a Culper Ringer's life when...her body goes through...well, changes, and life is never the same again. I haven't had that myself, but I'll introduce you to someone else who has and can prepare you for it secondhand instead of thirdhand like I can."

"Sex ed again? We already took that in 5th grade and 7th grade and 9th grade. We even covered cups and sponges and dental dams, not just pads and tampons and condoms. Are you a virgin too?"

"No it's not, and-- wait, I don't have to tell you my sex life, that's personal!"

"Oh. Is this menopause ed?"

355 dropped her face into the palm of her left hand, and a couple of steps later with her right opened a door marked PHYSICAL THERAPY.

Lisa saw more of the familiar mats, mirrors, weights, and treadmills but not the familiar number of limbs per person who was working out. A brunet wearing a blue tracksuit and holding a clipboard turned to face 355 and Lisa then rolled towards them, pulling an empty manual wheelchair alongside him.

"Hi! I'm Agent 2647. Since our chances are higher than average of ending up like me, we've been preparing all you probies for that possibility since the thirties. It's not the end of the world, and once you're not scared of the chair you can do so much mo--"

"Can you teach me to pop a wheelie?"

"That's the spirit!"


Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris
Three Weeks from Now


Lisa sat in bed again, knitting a pink tank cozy, when she heard a knock at the door. "<Come in,>" she said as she put the yarn and needles on the nightstand.

"<Mademoiselle, you have visitors today!>" the nurse announced. Then she barely got out of the way.

"This is like college kids in 1959 packing themselves into phone booths," Lisa said as she watched Hero, Natalya, Ciba holding a toddler, Beth holding Ampersand, another woman holding a baby, etc. pile themselves into her room.

"Wow, did you just make a pop culture reference again?"

"It's history, silly."

"You know, they had pop culture back in--"

"Yorick, you left your monkey back at my place and he needs changing!"

"Congratulations, you made me an aunt! Meet your daughter Beth! Marry your baby mama already!"

"355! Get soon well! <Did you come through Russia? How was it?>"

"WAAAAAAAAH!"

"Shut up Hero, I don't want to marry him!"

"Long time no see!"

"But I haven't seen you in two years so shouldn't she be bigg-- MY POOR BABY IS STARVING!"

"Who the fuck are half you people?!"

The adults continued arguing or trying to be heard over the arguing. Vladimir fit right in with his preverbal volume. Ampersand hid under the hospital bed. Beth just quietly stayed in Beth's arms next to the bed and reached for Lisa's I.D. wristband.

"Don't eat th-- another one?" Beth gasped as Lisa pulled her wristband out of Beth's mouth, in doing so revealing ELISABETH printed on it.

Suddenly another pair of hands came from behind Beth and grabbed Beth out of Beth's arms.

"You again?!" Hero yelled as the woman who had tried to kidnap Beth before now once again held Beth with one arm and a pistol with her other hand. "Who let the colonel in?!" Natalya tried to aim her rifle again, but this time didn't have room to lift it.

"I thought she was with you!" cried the nurse from the doorway. "She came in only a minute after you did--"

Col. Rebecca cleared her throat. "The child's safer with me than with you people who let rifles near your--"

"You don't want a child," said Lisa. The rest of the room went silent. "You could get your act together and have a child easy. I spent seven years in an orphanage waiting to be adopted--"

"Me too! We have to share war stories sometime," said Beth.

Lisa kept her gaze on Rebecca. "–-and lots of girls these days survived their mothers' deaths too. Why aren't any of them good enough for you? You just want a baby. What are you going to do with this one when she's older? Stop wanting her the same way no one wanted me?"

"<I...I don't kn-- oh shit,>" Rebecca quietly said to herself as she heard hospital campus police approaching in the hallway and lowered her gun. Lisa took Beth out of Rebecca's hands and handed her back to Beth. The nurse backed into the hallway as two hospital security guards reached into the room and handcuffed Rebecca...


..."<I got all the stuff you asked for!>" a volunteer announced as she handed over a shopping bag to Lisa the next day.

"<Thank you!>"

"<You're welcome.>" Then the volunteer turned to face Yorick. "Your support group screening is in half an hour, you might want to head over now," she said before she left the room.

"What?" Lisa asked as the door closed.

"Some transsexual men meet here too. The shrink who mediates the group wants to interview me first, make sure I won't be a jerk to them and all that."

"That's sad. You can finally see other men again but a woman's blocking your way."

"It's not like that! Dr. Lefevre's a transman himself. He says I should fit in okay even though I wasn't raised a girl. He'll translate for me too," Yorick said. "Will...will you be okay?"

"I survived all those times I kicked you out for bedpan breaks, right?"

"But I'll be gone for a few hours this time!"

"The front desk won't send up any more uninvited guests. I'll be fine," Lisa said as she pulled Yorick in for a kiss.

"Wait...I have to finish breaking up with Beth." Yorick said as he gave her a hug instead.

"I know, I know, as soon as you feel safe leaving the hospital," said Lisa glumly as she watched him stand up and leave.

A few minutes later, as Yorick closed the door, Lisa sifted through the shopping bag. She pulled out colored pencils, a graph paper notebook, the 38th edition of Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, and measuring tape, and put them on the nightstand. Then she pushed aside her sheets and blankets and pulled off her pants. Snapping open her telescoping baton and leaning forward as much as she could, she reached out and tapped her right big toe.

"Damn, nothing." Lisa took a note on the graph paper and methodically kept tapping...

...and tapping...

...for half an hour. By this point she'd already switched from the baton to her hands and still found very few points that she could feel. Tears streamed down her face but she kept checking up her thighs.

"Wow?!"

Lisa dried off her finger with a tissue and then flipped through the book, happy but still confused about how she could feel so many points, until she learned that the vagus nerve system doesn't even go through the spine.

She put the book back, peeled off her panties, and kept...checking.

An hour later and blissed out of her mind, Lisa barely got back under the covers before she fell asleep and had some very sweet dreams.


DNS 478.194.130.296
Two Years from Now


355555 [reserved] #reunionchannel389756
[355555] I'M BACK!
[355555] :D :D :D :D :D
Mannster [joined] #reunionchannel389756
@>-->-- [joined] #reunionchannel389756
[355555] Hi! Glad you got my message! :)
[Mannster] OMGWTF2AM
[@>-->--] next time check time zones
[355555] We're in the library and it'll close in an hour. Minitel hasn't resumed residential service yet.
[@>-->--] china telecom same here. allison and i only get service @ home cause home's technically lab
[355555] WTFF is taking them so long? *Copper wires* didn't die in the plague. >:(
Guest18157 [joined] #reunionchannel389756
[Guest18157] Woulsd you like to rekinance you rghome??? Mortgage rates have nevernbeen lower!!1!
[@>-->--] imho at least it's not breast enlargement spam
355555 [kicked] Guest*
Guest18157 [was kicked] [banned: GTFO spammer]
[Mannster] Where's Yorick?
[355555] Making his way back from the public phones. I requested the latest _I Am Woman_ collection, and then a few minutes after I checked it out the PA system said FREE INTERNET ACCESS IN THE MULTIMEDIA CENTER. :D
[@>-->--] ^_^
[355555] I got a computer and reserved the channel then sent him to call you.
[Mannster] I'm having flashbacks to graduate student wrangling on field trips. >8( How many of you mobbed those computers like junkies in withdrawal and looking for a fix?
[355555] ;)
[355555] Lemme look around...the room's still pretty packed...
[Mannster] nklwu903t m,qwdc]pk
[355555] ?
Mannster [quit] #reunionchannel389756
[@>-->--] that was sachiko
[355555] The 2 year old, right? Aww. How is she?
[@>-->--] yup. u woke her up 2. allison's putting her back n crib
YB [joined] #reunionchannel389756
[YB] o_O
[YB] Library rage sux


Les Estudines le Magistere, Creteil
Five Semesters from Now


In the living room of a small apartment, Beth and Yorick sat on the floor and played with Beth and her alphabet blocks. Outside, birds chirped. Upstairs, a couple of neighbors and several of their friends chattered. A key turned in the doorknob.

"Just Operating System Engineering and Nonlinear Programming, then I'm done!" announced Lisa as she rolled into the room and beamed.

"Congratulations!" said Yorick right before he kissed her.

"And! And!" Beth said, and Ampersand jumped off the sofa to join her.

The sounds of a carpet being rolled up filtered down through the ceiling.

"About time too!" Beth chimed in. "Beth's outgrowing her crib, and I'm sick of sofa-surfing in your love nest. I can't wait for you to afford a bigger place."

"It's Am-per-sand, not And. Can you say Am-per-sand?" Yorick said to Beth. "And!" she said as she petted the pet.

One of the latest raï hits, and several pairs of shoes, boomed from on high.

"I mean, can you believe those people upstairs? They didn't even invite me!" Beth added.

"Everyone's invited to the Wire marathon on Sunday in Océane and Sylvie's apartment," said Yorick. "We're refreshing our memory of the show right before Season 2 gets released here. Lisa, it was a TV series about Baltimore that finished six episodes right before the big deat--"

Another student, wearing a blazer, turtleneck, jeans, and ponytail of thick frizzy ringlets, knocked on the open door frame. "<Hi Lisa! Do you have a minute?>"

"--Sylvie says she thinks Season 2 will begin with Kima deciding whether to advance to Homicide or look for something better and Nerese running emergency elections," Yorick finished. Then, Lisa turned and rolled to the door.

"<I do now, Noémi, what's up?>"

"<Noémi! You Sunday coming Wire marathon at Océane and Sylvie's?>" Yorick added in loud but weak French from the living room.

"<No thanks, I prefer science fiction TV,>" Noémi yelled across the apartment to Yorick. "<Lisa, who did your braids?>"

"<My husband did, why?>"

"<What are your rates?>" Noémi yelled again.

"<Rates? Um...>"

"<They're negotiable,>" Lisa said while Yorick walked over and struggled for words.

"<Whites Afro hair want too?>" asked Yorick.

"<Wow, you're the first person to call me white since I moved from Algeria,>" said Noémi as she checked her watch. "<Gotta run but I'll be back to make an appointment!>" she said as she left.

"Did you just sign me up to be a hairdresser?" Yorick asked after Noémi left.

Lisa smiled. "You were so upset about not having a job! The ways you do my hair are marketable skills. We wouldn't be the first family to save up more by using the kitchen as a salon either..."


The Kalahari, Botswana
Seven Years from Now


"...to stop the groom from getting to his bride on the big day. It was supposed to prove a man's worth, I guess."

"You still think that's what it was all about, huh?" Hero replied, after hearing her brother's plan to base his first novel on a mediæval Welsh wedding custom.

"No he doesn't!" Lisa chimed in from her wheelchair with off-road tires from the mountain bike store back home. "I read the first draft, Mellith is really good. This time the groom's another bride and the obstacles are homophobia."

"Hero?" called another woman from behind a nearby hill.

Yorick almost bolted away, before realizing that Lisa hadn't even unlocked her brakes. He decided to stay put. "Yeah, I know that's not what it was all about! It's not like the real world is a novel with me for the main character. Besides, my agent thinks modern-day audiences will relate more to Nonnita and Awst..."

"Yorick?! What are you doing here?" yelled Beth as she came down the hill. "Is he still clitblocking you?" she asked Hero.

"No, this is just a family visit," replied Hero over her shoulder before facing her brother and sister-in-law again. "See, I told you she wasn't just leading me on to use me as a thesis topic..."


Grenoble, France
Ten Years from Now


Mid-morning one Saturday, Lisa and her family and Beth's new girlfriend Lynne left an optics store and walked down the sidewalk. "Thanks for the advice on the frames," Yorick said as he adjusted his new glasses, "but these still feel weird."

"C'mooon, Adèle and Thanh Thúy and Jehanne said they'd meet me at the playground today!" Beth whined.

"What matters is that you don't feel blind," Lisa replied as they turned the corner and saw the park.

As Beth ran over to her friends in the park's playground, Yorick muttered, "The only thing kids that old want to do there is stupid stunts."

"I think it's sweet," Lynne replied. "They're not in a hurry to flirt and sneak dru--"

"<Get 'em>" shouted someone bursting from between two stores as she grabbed Beth from behind, spun her around, and punched her in the gut.

"<Penelope?!>" yelled Yorick as he recognized the attacker, a moment before Lynne grabbed him too. "<Lynne?! I thought you were our friends, I mean we're neighbo-->"

Jehanne halted where she'd been walking on the monkey bars, carefully crouched enough to hold on with a hand as well, and screamed "<Someone help them!>" as she pointed.

At that same moment another woman stepped out of that alley and threw a punch at Lisa's face with her right hand. "<Mary?!>" Lisa gasped as she blocked the punch, grabbed Mary's left wrist with her own right hand, and used a wrist control to twist her arm in a tight circle, flipping Mary through the air and dropping her flat on her back near Lisa's right wheel where she lay, the wind knocked out of her.

Thanh Thúy made it down from her attempt to do a 360° on the swingset and ran to the newsstand across the path. Beth and Adèle ran to a larger climbing structure, stumbling a few times on the way, and scaled it.

"<It's not fair! You bi bitches hog the man and leave nothing for us!>" yelled Lynne.

"Plural? Fuck you, I love Lisa, I don't cheat on her!" yelled Yorick.

"<Beth hogs the detachable showerhead,>" added Lisa.

"<Lynne?! You're with them?! I thought you liked me!>" Beth cried as she caught her breath.

"<I liked your inside info on him,>" Lynne said to Beth as she let go of Yorick and aimed her left foot at Lisa's head. Lisa wrapped her right arm around Lynne's ankle, arresting the kick, and brought the heel of her left hand down hard on the underside of Lynne's knee, flipping her onto her belly. Yorick pinned Lynne down.

From the top of the climbing structure, Beth and Adèle pulled rocks out of their jacket pockets and threw. Adèle hit Penelope's wrist and broke a post office window. Beth grazed Penelope's shoe, hit Mary's shin as she tried to sit up, hit Beth's arm, and paled.

"--I'm sorry Mom I'm sorry I didn't aim at you at all Mommy I'm so sorry--"

The sounds of engines and sirens approached.

"<Fuck you, crip!>" said Penelope as she dropped Beth and reached to grab the front of Lisa's jacket. Lisa punched Penelope in the solar plexus and she doubled over forward. Penelope almost landed in Lisa's lap, but Lisa broke her nose with the heel of her hand. As Penelope fell a bit to her right, Lisa grabbed her head and turned it around so that Penelope landed on her ass next to Lisa's left wheel with her neck in Lisa's hands.

"<You think I'm a crip? You have any idea what happened last time I got the neck of someone like you?>" Lisa said quietly as police officers parked their cars and ran to the scene...


Grenoble, France
Sixteen Years from Now


Lisa sat at her drafting table, tilted up just enough for her to read and write on her tablet's 58" touchscreen comfortably without slouching. She wrapped up the last codes of a tricky flowchart, put her stylus down, tapped a few commands into her wristband for the motorized supports strapped to her legs, and kicked back to watch a dusting of snow through her corner office's windows...

...until the sound of a bell ringing called her attention back to the screen. A message window popped up in the lower left-hand corner.

[GothGraveGrrl249] Hi Mom! Just got home. :)= Mom + Dad sed I can txt u now if ur not 2 bizy @ work. R u?
[3555555] It's OK, I'm at a good breaking point. :) Why not just write on a tablet?
[GothGraveGrrl249] Mobile fitz bettr nxt 2 cola + nachoz :)=
[3555555] How was school today?
[GothGraveGrrl249] :/=
[3555555] :( What happened?
[GothGraveGrrl249] @ lunch Faïza + Yvette askt Y I liv w/ 3 parentz. I DUNNO y + I told em that + then they lookt @ me funny. :(=
[GothGraveGrrl249] Yvette even haz *2* stepmomz but she movez b/w em. She sez her momz h8 each othr now. U dont h8 Mom, rite? Faïza sez OMG UR RENTZ R POLY but ur not eithr.
[GothGraveGrrl249] ???
[3555555] It'll make more sense if I start from the beginning...
[GothGraveGrrl249] It wont b ew like where I came from?
[3555555] Sorry, you can't use this one as an excuse to drive adults nuts like you use your conception...


Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris
One Month from Now


In the evening Yorick sat on his cot in Lisa's hospital room, holding Ampersand and a tissue box. "...I asked her to come with us, and she didn't, and we ate plenty of food while my baby was starving, and..."

"Stop blaming yourself!" Lisa said as she moved her wheelchair a bit closer and put her right arm around his shoulders. "You spoke up to help the baby as soon as you knew. Now doctors are helping her."

"If you say so...but what about us? You were beaming with joy the day Dr. Mann said you were infertile."

"I was beaming with joy because I wasn't paralyzed. Besides, I meant it about adoption last week." Lisa sighed. "I did want a kid. I still do. I just always expected to marry someone and settle down first, then we'd adopt, together."

"You and 1033...?"

"Yeah, he even had a vasectomy."

"Still...I mean...I can't stand the thought of Beth using you as a mammy--" Yorick choked through fresh sobs.

"Fuck no I won't be a mammy. Besides, cleaning up after them is your job. You've had diaper-changing experience for years, and Beth doesn't even have a tail."

"--it's almost as bad as the thought of me using you for sex, that asshole cut your clitoris from the inside!" Yorick wailed.

Lisa shuddered. "Imagine if she did, it would be even worse."

"What?" Yorick said, a moment before he noticed the open graph paper notebook Lisa held up to him.

"Don't get me wrong, Alter deserves to stay in that jail for all the shit she did do, but she missed that part of my spinal cord. Now study this map of what I can feel down there..."


Necker Hospital for Sick Children, Paris
Five Weeks from Now


Later at night in the hospital room where Beth and Vladimir were being treated for their failure to thrive, a sleepless Beth and Lisa and Yorick were gathered around Beth's crib and looking at the more well-rested one.

"...are you sure joint custody's a good idea?"

"What, you want to take my child too?!" yelled Beth.

"Look, she was starving when I found her, I love you but I can't leave her!" cried Yorick.

The noise woke everyone else up and Beth started wailing.

"Wait, wait, that's not what I meant!" gasped Lisa as she picked up Beth. "Here, one of you calm her down, see, I'm not trying to split up any of you!"

Beth cradled Beth to her chest then faced Lisa again. "Then why don't you like joint custody?"

"I thought we could live together instead of sending her back and forth. That's not joint." Lisa sighed.

"Cool, sounds like what Joe and Vlad and I planned," chimed in Ciba from her cot next to her son's crib.

"Didn't you say Joe and Vlad loved each other too?"

"Yeah, I was the third wheel until they came out as bi instead of just gay."

"This isn't like that either," replied Lisa. "Look, I'm not thrilled about this, but I'm even less thrilled about trying to protect my family when we're in France," she said to Yorick before she turned to face Beth, "and Beth's wherever you're going."

"You want to stay here?" Beth gasped. "Isn't it way more racist now than during the Harlem Renaissance?"

Lisa sighed. "It is racist here, but America's more racist than you think too, and anyway I can't go back with this," she said as she tapped on her left armrest.

"Doesn't your job have coverage?"

Lisa shuddered. "What's left of Blue Cross Blue Shield's Federal Employee Plan cannot make up for what being in the Culper Ring did to me."

"Blue Cross? Not Tricare?" asked Yorick.

"For the millionth time, I was a shepherd, not a soldier!"

"Baa..."


[GothGraveGrrl249] wheelchair? o, that wuz b4 ur motor leggingz + crutchz, rite?
[3555555] That's right.
[GothGraveGrrl249] neway, thanx!!! :D=
[3555555] You're welcome. :) Next time tell Faïza and Yvette that you're just lucky. BTW, don't use the = fangs with the :D, they look like they're hanging out of your lower lip. ;)


DNS 873.294.565.301
Twenty Years from Now


[Mannster] Anyway, enough about me, how are you? 8)
[355555] :(
[355555] I'm going gray.
[DrMama] You're looking more distinguished, congratulations! :)
[@>--->---] Show pix!
[355555] NO
[@>--->---] OK, Ill show pix then
[355555] I see.
[@>--->---] Allisons platinum blonde, r u?
[355555] Allison's platinum blonde and neon greenette. WTF?
[Mannster] Now I can have stripes without bleach! 8)
[DrMama] Oh, so you *weren't* trying to spare me further shock when you kept your mohawk black back then?
[DrMama] still bent on driving me nuts
[355555] I hear you about the alkalines. "Gentle for children no-lye" isn't.
[355555] Me, I have a white hair here, a white hair there, etc. and if you squint my head just looks dark gray. :(
[Mannster] Ooh, subtle.
[SrrfGrrl2002] Like Big Wave Bay. Hi Auntie Mermaid! ^_^
[355555] Hi Ayuko! :)
[@>--->---] Youll never live down that nickname
[Mannster] 8/ Not my fault the kid misinterpreted "Lisa can't walk" when she was 5.
[Mannster] You could do a glaze, I'd recommend royal blue. 8)
[DrMama] You could do more mature than this brat.
[Mannster] 8p
[SrrfGrrl2002] Visiting soon??? Spring break's next week! We can go SCUBA again! ^_^
[@>--->---] For the record *I* did not make her a beach bum
[SrrfGrrl2002] Beach bum?! This summer I'm gonna fight ninjas in KANSAS. That's 1000 km inland!
[355555] WTFF NINJAS
[355555] Aren't you safely in B-school?
[SrrfGrrl2002] Yeah! ^_^ Got an internship w/ the Dr. Hartle twins on the livestock crisis.
[355555] They have ninjas there?
[SrrfGrrl2002] Lots of banks offered No Income No Jobs no Assets loans w/ tricky terms. >_< Now tons of people w/ startup ratite ranches are in trouble.


Transjordan National Museum of Fine Arts, Amman
Forty-three Years from Now


Lisa, Yorick, Beth, Beth, and two of Beth's bodyguards from her embassy left the "2030s Holography : A Retrospective" collection. "Thanks for the recommendation, Khadija, those holograms were cool!" Beth said to one of her guards.

Khadija, smiling, turned to her colleague. "Told you so, Mimi!" she said as they approached the "Aegean Art : Visualizing the Trojan War" exhibit.

"You look nervous, what's wrong?" Beth asked Lisa on the other side of the hallway.

"I've had, um, bad experiences with archæology, remember?"

"Don't worry, we'll be fine," Yorick said as he wrapped his left arm around Lisa's waist, careful not to touch the part under which an implant let some redirected nerves control her demi-exoskeleton.

Once in the exhibit, they wandered apart to get closer looks at the displays. Beth and her bodyguard Mimi checked out the details on a Mycenaean painting. While her coworker stayed with Beth, Khadija stopped to chat with one of the museum guards, standing in the corner of the exhibit hall left of the entrance. Meanwhile, Beth stopped to read the map of Minoan Crete, and Lisa and Yorick walked to a glass case of Cycladic metalwork.

"What the fuck?" Lisa blurted as she saw the label under a silver and ruby pendant: 7. AMULET OF HELENE.

"Didn't Anna Strong destroy that years ago?" Yorick asked. "And wasn't it made of sandstone?"

"All those deaths..." Lisa whispered, shaken, as Yorick held her closer. "...I thought I at least spared her, I didn't know her chest muscles and diaphragm wou--"

"<Everyone put your hands on your heads and nobody gets hurt!>" a young woman in a blue shirt yelled in Arabic from the entrance as she pointed a handgun at the crowd and then recognized Beth. She repeated herself in English, French, and Hebrew, then yelled over her shoulder back into the hallway "Jenny, we got a politician with only one guard!"

Before she finished speaking, Jenny and two of her friends rushed in and grabbed Khadija, Mimi, and the museum guard and held guns to their heads.

People throughout the exhibit hall stopped in their tracks, grumbling in dismay but obeying Blue Shirt, putting their hands on their heads.

In the left corner where Khadija had been chatting, the gunwoman wearing a green jacket and holding Khadija said "I think we're all set, Ashleigh," to her friend holding the museum guard. "<If either of us moves they might kill us,>" that guard told Khadija.

Back at the entrance, another young woman arrived. "You're late, Nigella!" snapped Blue Shirt. "Go get the Amulet!"

"Yeah, our men depend on us!" chimed in Ashleigh.

"<What the fuck?!>" exclaimed an art student in Hebrew from near the display of gold rhytons, sitting in front of her easel with her pencils on the floor.

"<Who do you think we are, comic book villains? We're not going to waste time explaining this to you,>" Blue Shirt snapped back.

Across the room, in front of a display of photos and plans of Gournia Palace, one of the tourists asked "<What about him?>" in French as she nodded in Yorick's direction.

"<Hey, what am I, chopped liver?!>" a young man said in Arabic near the timeline display.

Nigella got to the Cycladic metalwork, broke the glass, and grabbed the Amulet of Helene.

"<Sorry, he's too old for us,>" Green Jacket yelled to the tourist across the room.

"Yeah, and I'm too old for this." Yorick muttered after Beth shouted a translation in English from over at the Mycenaean paintings where Jenny held her and Mimi.

"<Trannies don't count!>" said Blue Shirt.

Nigella made it a few steps past Lisa and Yorick on the way back before a loud alarm went off and she hesitated.

Back at the corner, "<Our generation needs men too!>" Green Jacket continued in French.

"Don't hurt my baby!" Beth cried at the gunwomen from where she had frozen in front of the wall map of Minoan Crete.

"Mom!" Beth yelled from the paintings display. "<My being an ambassador, or American, or French, does not make any of your lives worth any less than mine,>" she announced in Arabic to everyone in the room.

While everyone else stared at and listened to Beth, Mimi twisted out of Jenny's grip. A second later Blue Shirt noticed and shot at Mimi, hitting the wall two inches from Mimi's head. Mimi didn't miss a beat and disarmed Jenny. She wrapped her right arm around Jenny and held Jenny's gun to Jenny's right temple. Mimi then aimed her own gun at Blue Shirt.

"Freeze!"

Blue Shirt did.

"Do you people even know where Troy is?" Beth yelled from the map area.

"The cops will come, hurry!" said Jenny from where Mimi held her.

"Yeah, it's in Cornwall, why?" said Ashleigh.

Lisa groaned. "That's even more asinine than the version I heard last time. Back in 2003 someone told me that the curse would be reversed if it was returned to Jordan's contemporary borders. Besides, the people who claim Troy's in England say that the Trojan War was over tin mines and that there wasn't any Helen."

Blue Shirt looked over her shoulder and saw more museum guards running down the hallway. "Nigella, hang onto the Amulet!" she yelled.

Nigella held up the Amulet. "We have to fly to Troy, right?" she said just before she gulped it down. Green Jacket rolled her eyes as she watched. Nigella choked and gagged, dropping her handgun as she convulsed.

"<You eedjit,>" said a tourist in Hindi at the Akrotiri-on-Thera architecture display, right before going to Nigella and performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Meanwhile, Lisa stomped on the gun Nigella dropped with and blew a small crater in the floor--but not in her foot, which the boot of her demi-exoskeleton shielded well. Another alarm went off.

"Oh shit a bloody cyborg!" screamed Ashleigh. "And cops!" she added as police officers and more museum guards streamed into the room, and the would-be thieves began to surrender...


An Undisclosed Location, Quebec
Sixty Years from Now


Yorick sat on the beanbag chair in his small bedroom and was checking out McGill Faculty of Law's virtual campus tour, the orbital jurisdiction chapter, via his 3D display sphere when an older voice from down the hall brought him back to Earth.

"XVII, go to the lab, you got called to a channel."

"Really? I'm already on my sphere, you can transfer it over, thanks Mom."

"No I can't, it's from the President! You know we can't expose these secure channels to all that garbage you download."

"It's not my fault one of those I Am Woman fanfics had a worm in it..." Yorick muttered as he walked to the complex's computer lab.

[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] Hello Yorick, how are you?
[LegalEaglet] I'm fine, and you?
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] I'm fine too but I could use your help with something.
[35555555] Hi!
[LegalEaglet] Hi Lisa! :) Is my brother there too?
[YB1.0] Yo, bro! 8)
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] Um, right. OK.
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] My surviving parents have been in hiding ever since the latest Daughters of the Revolution attacks, and now they're getting weird.
[YB1.0] If that was your idea of weird, *you* need to get out more.
[35555555] Black leather corsets and green scarf bondage are practically vanilla. So's his safeword ("Ow!"). ;)
[LegalEaglet] TMI! TMI!
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] You should have locked the door!
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] BTW, how can I make my tits look that good when I'm 93?
[YB1.0] She takes after you Lisa
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] Yorick, I thought if you met them you could help.
[LegalEaglet] ?
[LegalEaglet] I already met them.
[35555555] Beth, remember when I told you *computers don't transmit plague* and you stopped applying the quarantine to their media grid? We've been in touch ever since. :)
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] I meant in person. They have cabin fever and need some novelty.
[LegalEaglet] Cool, I have a summer job in Amsterdam and can drop by on the way!
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] OK
[35555555] That's not changing the scenery enough.
[YB1.0] Kid, we're inviting ourselves over to your place. 8)
[NorthAtlanticSororitéPresident] *You 2* travel?! I mean, you're *old*!
[35555555] I'm not dead yet! ;D