by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
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There are certain years you remember; the year you graduated High School (1970), the year your first child was born (1976) and the year you learned that the X-Files were right and we are not alone (last year, 2004). So being one of the first visitors to Gaea I suppose that we must record our travels for posterity though with the current state of war between our two countries, I wonder if anyone will read this.
I’m a former stock-broker taking an early retirement as the market crashed when President Bush invaded Iraq and it was easier to sell-out and leave than to remain and fight for the next ten years for those dwindling positions. Yes, I know that the market has crashed a hundred times and will a hundred more and each time it has recovered but I didn’t want to wait and hope that my job would outlast the crash. So I talked to my wife and suggested that we sell the Belle View, our 26’ Sloop and buy a larger boat that we could live in and still sail ourselves. Something in the 40’ range that would travel the world yet be comfortable for two people rapidly leaving middle-age.
So we sold our apartment lease in New York, sold our boat and car, converted our assets to something we could access from any ATM or bank in the world, bought a fiberglass Hunter 450 with a full keel and said goodbye to the kids, friends and New York City.
With only one mast, we had no trouble sailing her alone and somehow, considering this to be that second honeymoon we never had time to take, we never missed our smaller and cozier Belle View or our friends. In keeping with our new lifestyle, we called our Hunter simply, Grace II.
You might think that a retired stock broker and trophy wife would have a hard time but we never were born that way. Grace, my wife, came from middle class values and was accustomed to work. And as for me, I grew up on a lobster boat in Maine from a Navy family so hard work and long hours at the wheel never scared me. Even when I was a rising star on Wall Street, working long hours to make that last sale, I saw life at a desk as no harder than on the boat.
As was customary, we sailed south with the Migration. The Migration is when all the sailboats left New England in the Fall, fresh with new paint, and sought warmer berths in the Caribbean for the winter and we were no different.
A few weeks in the Bahamas, snorkeling, working on a tan I hadn’t seen in ten years and remembering why I married Grace made me realize that we had made the right decision.
At first I looked at the Journal and flinched when I saw my favorite stocks fall another 2 tenths of a point until Grace sauntered over, topless, tossed my paper into the sea and went below, completely oblivious of what three kids and twenty years had done to her body. And me just as quickly following made me realize that I had married her for her smile, not her chest or hips.
Those were wonderful months. We slept in until we chose to awaken, ate what we wanted when we wanted and remained for as long as we chose. Sometimes Grace would say casually, “I heard Tom & Phyllis are heading over to Great Inagua, remember those margaritas?” and we’d somehow find ourselves in Matthew Town anchored next to some friends we had met 500 miles away weeks before and missed far more than any of my stock associates. And the fact that we were very well off and Tom & Phyllis were sailing on a shoestring never mattered, unlike my former friends who judged friendship by their bank accounts. Or we’d wake up late and find we were alone in an empty harbor and decide to stay another day, a day that became a week. Or perhaps we’d lay a chart on the table, toss a nut in the air and wherever it landed, we’d visit.
For a year we traveled the Caribbean from Bahamas to Aruba, from Belize to Martinique and we loved every minute. My only problem was that once, after buying a fresh lobster from some kid who didn’t speak English for a couple dollars, a lobster that tasted better than any I bought for $150 in a New York Restaurant, I would kick myself for not doing this earlier. The boat was paid for, we had money in savings and a regular income from stock dividends to ensure a comfortable life. Why did I grow ulcers and fight with Grace over something as trivial as which glasses to use for which party.
Then it happened. The remains of a hurricane had blown us off course and we were east of the Bahamas, tacking back to port to repair a snapped guy line and hoarding our limited fuel when a speedboat rushed out to see us.
At the time we didn’t know if the boat was a pirate seeking our craft for smuggling or someone’s military or even just a private speedboat out for a relaxing jaunt, we only knew that it was approaching fast! One minute the sea was clear, the next this hydrofoil was bearing down on us.
I was about to call Grace when she was there with my binocs in hand. Before she gave them to me, she looked at the vessel and said, “I see guns on the foredeck, big guns.” A sight I confirmed but by then the craft was so close I didn’t need anything other than my eyes to see that we were in trouble.
As the boat slowed to match us, I could only think that we had reached the twilight zone for we were in the Bermuda Triangle. The craft was obviously military but we didn’t recognize the flag which had some kind of circlet with horns surrounded by stars. The crew, at least those we saw, were female, not a man in sight and all wore a sky-blue uniform that hugged their curves save their jackets which were open and loose. The deck gunners were at their stations but they had the guns pointed away from us and their hands were not, fortunately, on the triggers so I saw this as a safe sign. Once, when approached by our own Coast Guard, the gunners had their weapons trained on us the entire time which scared the shit out of me.
The craft paced us and the woman I took to be the captain looked us over for a moment, talked to someone below in a language that wasn’t English, Spanish or anything else I could identify, then spoke to me in excellent English with an accent I couldn’t identify. “Are you in trouble?”
I tried to smile as I responded, “We snapped a wire or two during that last breeze. We’re trying to make Cat Island for repairs.”
“Grand Turk is closer if you adjust a few degrees south.”
“Thank you.” I replied. “I wasn’t aware that we had entered another nation’s water.” I was venturing on dangerous ground here.
She laughed and said, “Drakonis Barony has an outpost just over the horizon,” she pointed in the direction we were heading. “We don’t have a store but we can probably repair your cables if you wish. However, remember that we are a military base and so have none of the tourist haunts you are familiar with.”
I looked at Grace who instantly said, “Thank you. We’d appreciate the help. How far did you say?”
Well, when you are cooped up in a boat the size of a very small apartment with no escape, you learn very fast to avoid a fight so despite my misgivings, I pretended to agree.
“Permission to come aboard?” the Captain asked. She said it as if she really meant it and had I refused, she would have accepted my decision. Whoever heard of a soldier or cop being like that. Usually when someone said those words, they added an implied demand “or else”.
Well, I agreed because you never refuse such permission to someone who can sink you so easily and she simply jumped the dozen feet between us as if she were stepping onto a dock. Once settled, she opened a satchel to reveal a map that had little information save a small island, a bay, some soundings and a lot of lettering in a language we couldn’t read. “I would suggest that with your draft you come in along this course. The civilian dock is new but you can tie up there. Please return the charts when you leave. Also, please remember that we are a military base and so have few amenities for tourists so be polite and respect our ways.
“I am now required to ask if you have any drugs including tobacco? If so please hand them over now for smuggling is an executable offence.” When I told her we had none and didn’t smoke, she smiled and said, “Enjoy your stay in the Barony.”
And then she simply leapt back on board her craft which left immediately and was a dot within a minute.
Grace watched them vanish over the horizon and said, “What the hell do you think we have gotten ourselves into? An island that isn’t on any map, a patrol boat manned by amazons and a country that executes smokers.”
“Do you think we should try for Grand Turk?” I asked, genuinely interested in her response.
“Are you kidding? And miss an adventure like this? Let’s go!”
When your top speed is nine knots and six is more reasonable, the trip took a couple hours but then, if we wanted speed, we’d have bought a power-boat so we tried to relax and enjoy the sail wondering what we would find over the horizon.
SummerIsle, or so the chart indicated, was small, only a mile across with a fairly irregular coastline, no rivers or mountains and only one decent bay. Most of the map was empty and listed as something I took to mean ‘classified’ but there were a number of notations in that foreign language all over the chart. When you sail, you learn to use charts and maps as guidelines and ink in corrections as you hear and experience so these people were no different. According to the chart, there was only one city or town and that was listed simply as ‘SummerIsle Kastlow’ and as it was on the bay, we would see for ourselves what a ‘kastlow’ was. The hardest part was understanding that the chart was shown in metric so we had to convert our draft (6’6”) to meters (260 cm.) and note where the water was too shallow.
We also discussed our military friends for no matter how polite and casual they were, I had no doubts of their being soldiers. I come from a long line of navy men and these women were navy.
“Strange that that gunner had green hair. I can see a boat being all female to avoid strife but long hair, dyed green and loose like that isn’t very military.”
“And none of them wore makeup or jewelry, not even pierced ears. This isn’t normal for that many women. Did you notice how the captain jumped across to our boat. That must have been ten, fifteen feet and she never hesitated. She must be Olympic quality.”
Eventually we saw SummerIsle. Normally you see an island by the clouds stuck on the mountains but here the island was flat and the sky clear so we almost passed it before we saw the slight irregularity on the horizon. Unless you knew it was here, you could pass within a few miles and miss the place. We would have too had the patrol boat not told us about it.
We sailed around the island to the bay on the south and saw almost no traffic. Another sailboat was leaving and waved at us as they passed, their British Ensign flying from the halyard. There were a couple of canoes on the beach and two docks, one larger to the East to which a patrol boat was tied and another, floating to the west which was empty. Well, when you have a choice of dock, choose the one as far from a navy ship as is possible so we lowered sail, started the engine and maneuvered to the western dock as Grace tossed the fenders over the port side.
As we approached I saw a woman standing at a relaxed Parade Rest on the dock. She was just standing there watching us and although her stance cried ‘navy’ her clothing did not. She had long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, a large straw sun-hat and was wearing a bikini with a matching wrap tied to her waist. As we came close, she waved a clipboard at us and motioned for us to dock at her position so we slowed and just as the Grace II kissed the dock, she dropped her clipboard, caught the line Grace tossed her and quickly tied it to a dock cleat. Once I had jumped to the dock and tied the stern line off, she picked up her clipboard and, approaching, said, “Good afternoon. I am Harbour Master Shyhria. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?”
Again that strange accent and unusual politeness. Looking her over, I saw a woman that belonged on the cover of a swimsuit calendar. Hell, you could do the entire calendar of her alone and it’d sell every copy. She had a body that would make men fall off the dock. Long blonde hair, very lightly tanned and her bikini, blue with floral design, revealed more than it hid. She wore a small lei of blue flowers around her hat and another around her neck. In fact, her only concession to the military instead of a Tahiti postcard was the name tag clipped to her wrap at her hip. It had that flag and her name, a number and two words that I assumed meant ‘harbor master’.
I heard Grace suck her breath in and knew that I’d better keep my eyes to her face if I wanted to avoid an argument so I looked up, with no mean effort, and replied, “Of course, ma’am. Whatever you say.”
She looked at her clipboard as she asked the official questions and noted my answers, “Name of Boat?”
“Port of registry?”
“New York City.”
“Nation of registry?”
“Name of captain, crew and passengers?”
“I’m the captain, Vance Edwards. My wife is Grace Edwards, co-owner. No one else.”
“Thank you. As mentioned before, you are on a military facility so military law applies here and we have no diplomatic relations with your home country. But be polite, don’t cause harm and you should enjoy your stay. We don’t have much privacy here but you will find the latrines, chow hall and other areas of need indicated on the map at the central plaza. If you want to flush your systems, we set up a system for the Lifesong and can easily do the same for you. Just ask Engineering for whatever assistance you need.
“Again, thank you for your cooperation and please enjoy your stay on SummerIsle and Drakonis Barony.” And then she simply turned and walked away, not asking for our passports, not searching the boat, not even caring why we were here of how long we would stay. For a government and military official, she was very lackadaisical. Now comes the hard part.
I turned to my wife and saw a look I didn’t want to see. “Look honey, I’m sorry I stared but you…”
“Not that, you idiot,” she interrupted. “You can look all you want, just don’t touch. What bothers me is that!” and she pointed to the beach not too far from the dock.
Sometimes you can see things like that in the movies and be affected but nothing can prepare you for the truth. There were six poles on the beach and each one had a human head stuck on top. One had a gull pecking at it. After a minute I had to do something so I commented, “They did say that smuggling is a capital crime.”
“And what else is one?” she asked.
“Let’s find out what’s going on. That boat we passed must be the Lifesong she mentioned. They managed to live through this place and didn’t try to warn us off so it can’t be all that bad. Besides, we need fuel and guy lines or we won’t make it off-shore.”
So we collected our passports and papers, locked the hatch and walked toward the shore, deliberately not looking at the testament to human cruelty. Once off the dock, we turned to the right and avoided the beach but headed to the plaza, which appeared to be a large concrete pad still under construction. Scattered around the perimeter were a number of stone pylons, wider at the base and upon each was a bronze plate that had a knotted rope on top surrounding a word or name. Underneath was a list of names and numbers. These were obviously monuments to something but there was no indication of what they celebrated. There were also large tents around the plaza and these were filled with everything from concrete bags to garden and construction tools or anything that could be used to build a city and all were deserted. And to the south were a series of large stones set in a circle on a mound almost fifty feet across.
To the east was a large canal that was perhaps some fifty feet wide and well built. The canal reached straight to the west of north to what I supposed was the center of the island and we saw more tents and somewhat better buildings across the canal, some being worked on. Near the bay was a large bridge so we crossed over and noticed a number of women wearing clothing that ranged from nothing at all to jump-suits practicing martial arts on the beach. I had seen the movies but these women were fast and their bruises and blood showed that they used full force and no padding.
We watched them for a while until one, holding a cloth to her bleeding nose and with one eye swelling shut, limped over to us to ask, “Are you in need of assistance?” The fact that she should have been taken to a hospital seemed to bother her not in the least.
Grace responded before I could, “Yes, please, we just arrived and was told that we could ask your engineers to help us set up some power and water to our sailboat. Also I was told that there might be a shower here?”
The woman turned to the group and called out, “Kyra! We have more tourists who have need of your services.” Then she left without another word, tossed her bloody cloth onto a pile and faced off against another opponent completely oblivious to her injuries.
The woman who had been called was wearing a sports bra and shorts but had orange hair and pale skin. In this sun, she should be burned red but she didn’t seem to care or be affected by the tropical sun. “I am Kyra, Engineer.” She glanced to our boat and continued, “It looks to me as if you just need power and water and sewage hook-ups. Simple matter and I can tap off the set I made for Lifesong. What else will you need and what size fittings and power requirements fit your craft? I hear that British and American boats have different requirements? Come with me please.” And she led us back to the bridge then to a tent where she began to collect tools and materials.
“Thank you, we really appreciate this. I hope we aren’t putting you out any.”
“Not at all, it is a part of my job that I haven’t finished because there is so much more to do here that running lines for a boat that may never arrive is a low priority.”
She was pulling her wagon to the dock when Grace pointed to her wounds. One was a recent red scar that covered a part of her thigh, and there were two scars that could have been bullet holes in her belly with matching scars on her back as if some were entry and the others exit holes.
“Please excuse me if I sound too forward,” Grace asked, “but those scars you have. I noticed that a lot of the women here have similar scars. What happened?”
Kyra didn’t even slow down as she answered, “Battle wounds. I received mine during the Morgor and Shitai invasions. The others in the same or other wars. When His Grace established SummerIsle, he offered the duty to Red-Cords first to give us a chance to rest and relax. It’s an easy duty.” She noticed our questioning looks…
“I see,” she continued. “We call those who are wounded in battle a ‘Red-Cord’ because when we are wounded, we are given a red cord to show this. Then we wear a red border around the ribbon we wear from that war. Those who die in battle are ‘Black-Cords’. I have two sisters who are thus.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your loss. So you are all wounded combat vets?”
She didn’t volunteer anything else and when we reached the Grace II, she asked where our connections were then spent a few minutes measuring the fittings, threads and voltages until she was satisfied. Then she packed a number of fittings, hoses and wires into a bag, crawled under the pier and in an area that was wet and confining went to work. We could hear her singing to herself as she worked, then shortly after, she crawled out, soaking wet, and proceeded to mount fittings to a post she screwed to the dock. “These fittings here are Commonwealth universal but different from yours. I’ll have to make adaptors to fit your boat. Do you have hoses and cables to connect this post to your boat? Good, leave them out please! There is a shower and laundry across the bridge, look for this sign and by the time you are back, I’ll have everything set up for you.” She then handed us some paper with some foreign words and walked off with her gear in tow.
“Now that was a professional job. Half-drowned and she’s still pleasant. Imagine that she is still in the military after being wounded twice and having two sisters die. I can’t imagine how she feels about that.”
We decided to not waste time and gathered our towels, soap and dirty laundry and set off to clean up. On the way Grace changed course and returned to the plaza where she examined every monument until she found one that said ‘Shitai’ and another that said ‘Morgor’. She touched the names and asked, “Do you think that these are her sisters? It must be terrible to loose family that way. I can’t imagine what I would do if our children were to die in a war.”
We continued across the bridge and saw them still practicing save one who was laying in the shade being attended to by two others who had an open box with a red star on the cover. “We’d just get in the way,” I said and continued on.
For a military camp the place was disorganized. I had expected every tent and building to be in perfect line but this wasn’t the case. There was a section near the center which was blocked out with the laundry & shower, chow hall and what I took to be a clinic, each on it’s own corner but the rest of the buildings were scattered among the palm trees and the paths were lined with rocks and flowers with an occasional attempt at art thrown in.
The washers were strange but Grace figured them out as once you accept that as the purpose was to wash clothes, there were only a limited ways to do that. So we tossed everything into the washers, added what smelled like soap, couldn’t find any slot for money and turned them on thinking that we’d ask someone later how to pay for this all.
Then through a door we saw some benches with shelves and hangers and next to that a shower room. Well, the Harbor Master said that there wasn’t any privacy but we were alone and quickly found all the hot water we could want. There weren’t any rivers here so I imagine that all the water we used was either rain water or desalinated from the ocean but we didn’t care much after so many days at sea, and we were enjoying soaping each other’s back when we heard voices. Before I could reach for my towel, a half dozen of the women from the beach entered, all naked and all bruised and scarred, some still bloody. Some glanced at us then ignored us as they washed themselves and each other until one walked over still lathering her hair. “You seem concerned. Are you in distress?” It seemed that all of these women could speak English even though it obviously wasn’t their native language.
“No,” I responded. “I’m a bit embarrassed. I guess I’m not accustomed to showering with anyone other than my wife.” The woman laughed as I tried to hide behind her but Grace was getting upset with my poking her in the back. Seeing these women was having an effect on me.
One of them said something in their language and as I turned to look, she was pointing at my loins and laughing. Another asked, “Were you engaging in sex?” yet she wasn’t judgmental, just curious.
“No!” insisted Grace. “He sometimes looses control. I hope you don’t mind us being here. The Harbor Master said we could shower and do our clothes but we couldn’t find any way to pay for it.”
“Pay? Why?” the woman asked.
I offered, mainly to divert my attention from the sights, “I figured that all of your water must be desalinated or collected from rain and so is scarce and usually that means expensive.”
“Yes but the Hydrogen-reactor to power the desalinators uses sodium-chloride as a secondary fuel enhancer so we have plenty of water and power to spare. It’s not as efficient or as powerful as a T-C reactor but much easier to maintain than a cold-fusion unit.”
One of them said something to her to which she responded then turned back to us, this time lathering her pubic hair, “Micheya says that you are embarrassed and may want privacy for your,” she turned and asked something then continued, “love-making. We will be finished shortly and will leave you alone.”
“No, don’t bother,” insisted Grace. “We’re not doing anything like that. We just haven’t had a decent shower in a while.”
They shrugged then ignored us so we left immediately and as I was getting dressed, we were joined again by the women who dressed in various outfits, again completely oblivious to our presence. Finally I had to ask, “Excuse me, but do you mind if we ask a few questions? Those people we saw on the beach, you stuck their heads on poles, why?”
One of the women was combing her hair as she answered, “They were smugglers. They arrived with a hold full of drugs and when we asked them to leave, one made the mistake of trying to threaten us. So we killed them, destroyed their cargo, sank their boat for a new reef and piked their heads as an example to others. Later when the plaza is finished, we’ll move the pikes there but for now, the beach is the best location.”
I was aghast that these women could be so barbaric and so polite and helpful at the same time. “What about the monuments in the plaza, they all have bronze plates but not all have names below.”
“Each monument represents a war we fought. The names are those of us who died in that war. We are very good Warriors so rarely die in battle. But we like to remember our own who did so we place one of these in every city in the Barony that they not be forgotten.”
Grace chimed in, “Do many of you have relatives on those monuments?”
“We all have sisters in the Fleet. The older we are, the greater the chance of our sisters being killed. In the 65 years we have been independent, less than a couple hundred of us have died but far more have been wounded in battle.” And she raised her hair to show a scar that ran along her neck to scalp. “It is our life, our purpose to fight and die that civilians like you can live.”
“You are so casual about war,” Grace offered. “I couldn’t imagine my children being killed in a war. How do you manage?”
“We Lanai are bred and born to fight. That is what we do. If we did not, then those like your children would have to fight instead. Fortunately, the Baron never invades another nation and so our wars are self-defense only so we are happy to serve, to defend and to die for our people. It is our way.”
I imagine that these words are strange to you. They were strange to me and I heard them first hand. What would life have been like if we hadn’t fought in Korea or Vietnam or Iraq or Panama or… Come to think of it, the last war the US fought that could be agreed upon as justified was WW-II. Every other war was protested as unjust yet we sent men to die for oil or the president’s public relations. Strange how I think of this today but when you spend time on a military base, you can’t help but be influenced by the soldiers stationed there.
But I must admit that these Lanai soldiers, excuse me, Warriors for they insist that there is a difference, were helpful, courteous and polite to us despite our lack of reciprocal courtesy back.
After our shower, we dried our clothes, folded them and returned to the Grace II to find cables and hoses run to the dock with a note saying, “I made the adaptors and tested the lines as best I could. If there is any problem, please contact me that I may repair the problem, Kyra.” Imagine, within an hour of asking, she had arrived on site, crawled into an uncomfortable and dangerous place, tapped into the system, manufactured adaptors, tested and completed the job. Back in the Big Apple, my on-site apartment custodian would require days or weeks and even then, I’d have to bribe him. Kyra never asked for payment of any sort, not even to pay for materials.
Later that evening we decided to hunt down a place to eat so we returned to the shower area and entered the chow hall. We felt that these people would be able to tell us where we could find something to eat.
When we entered, there were women already eating but no one to ask for information so I approached the serving line and asked, “Excuse me, could you tell me where we could find a restaurant nearby?”
By now I had realized that everyone on this island spoke English and was unfailingly polite so it was no surprise when she thought and replied, “The nearest civilian place is some hundreds of kilometers west of here on Grand Turk Island. On SummerIsle this is the only eating facility. The food is plain by your standards but healthy.”
What could we do, we took a tray and walked the line, serving ourselves to a selection of food that was amazing. Most of it was strange to us. Aside from normal vegetables like carrots, peas, broccoli, there were others that defied description. Fruits of all kinds and the meats we identified were lamb and pork and there was shrimp the size of lobster and lobster so large I would be afraid to meet it in the ocean.
She was right though, the food was plain and bland but good in that way fresh food is when you don’t need spices to cover the taste of freezer burn or preservatives.
While we were eating, a half dozen more women came in dressed as the ones on the patrol boat. They were laughing in their own language and placed their rifles in a rack, their jackets on a hook and then forgot about them as if they had no fear of theft. It occurred to me that we had never seen anything locked here.
Someone turned on a flat screen TV and the view was Three-Dimensional. It appeared to be a news cast but from another nation with the announcer wearing something that looked like a cross between a Japanese Kimono and something found in a Science Fiction film. Since it was in another language, I had no idea of what we being said though clips of farms, stars, people by the shore and such made me realize that to SummerIsle, news concerning war and disaster wasn’t as popular as it would be in the States. The sports consisted of clips from a chess match to soccer when someone touched the screen to reveal a bar on the bottom. She touched one of the boxes on the bar and the chess match returned but expanded and most of the women watched the match with some arguing about one move which I suppose was done wrong. Eventually, the weather came on and they turned the TV off and resumed eating. As near as I could figure, the SummerIsle TV was linked to a computer which showed clips of everything, then you decided which clip to expand to full time. And I thought my plasma-screen television in New York was top-of-the-line.
After we finished, I asked the cook where we paid and after looking at me strangely, she said, “This is a military establishment. Until someone builds a civilian eatery, we will feed all. But we are not merchants and will not profit from your need.” I almost heard her spit the word ‘merchants’. Obviously these women considered themselves to be better than businessmen just as my Navy father considered himself to be better than civilians.
We decided to walk off the meal and as the island was roughly circular and only a mile across, we figured that even if we circumnavigated the entire island, we’d not walk more than 3 miles. So we decided to head west and followed the water. Once away from the bay, the beach vanished and was replaced with rock which was fairly easy to cross if we remained a hundred feet or so inland. But about a quarter of a mile, maybe less, we found a small road leading to the water and when we followed it, we came across a gun emplacement.
The thing was covered with a cammo net and was armored so it would be difficult to see from the air or sea but the woman on duty was sitting in a hammock swing reading a book. I was concerned as this was a foreign military base and most soldiers don’t like foreigners looking over their strategic arms but she simply glanced up at us, looked us over then dismissed us as irrelevant and returned to her book.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained so we started to stroll past and looked over the rocks to the sea. After a minute of this, Grace commented towards the woman, “It should be a nice evening for star watching.” To which she closed her book and replied, “Yes, and when the moon rises with Venus opposite, the conjunctive view should be quite beautiful.”
Grace introduced us and the woman treated us with their usual politeness until we heard an airliner pilot calling in to some airport for instructions. The woman ignored this but Grace asked, “What was that?”
She left her hammock, climbed into her gunnery-seat and rotated the weapon until the sounds cleared up. “An airliner approaching Santo Domingo. Automatic tracking locks on any craft within range.”
“Nassau,” I cried, “that’s over 500 miles away. And you have a weapons-lock on it?”
She glanced down and replied, “Yes. Do you wish to see?”
We looked over her shoulder and saw a battery of screens, one showing an airliner against a darkening sky with green cross-hairs following it path. “How can you shoot something that far away?”
She touched the aircraft and it expanded in the screen until I could read the writing on the side. “Six 45 millimeter pulse lasers with phased emissions producing 150 million degrees centigrade of power. If I can see it, I can hit it though the effective killing range is less than a thousand kilometers. Once that aircraft drops below the horizon, it leaves my screen and is safe.” She then touched the controls and the weapon began to scan, “Sea is clear, there is a flight of fighters south of us.” And the screen focused on seven F-15 Navy Tom-Cats in formation. Six immediately had green cross-hairs with the seventh a blue one. Sounds emitted from the speaker that sounded like the pilots talking to each other. “It sounds like the are about to engage an enemy.” She touched a tactical screen and the main was filled with three black aircraft, each with two green cross-hairs, one on the cockpit, the other on the engines.
“Those are American Stealth Fighters!” I exclaimed “That’s impossible to track them!” Then she touched another screen and I heard the pilots talk to each other.
What do you do when you discover that the most powerful nation in the world is second rate to a bunch of injured women? I freaked out! “How do you know we aren’t spies or terrorists or something?”
She looked at me as strangely as did Grace. Unfortunately, I was babbling now and couldn’t stop until she said to me, “Perhaps you should seek counseling for that paranoia of yours?”
“What!” That stopped me.
She continued, “How do I know you two aren’t child murders who eat their bodies and bury their bones in the bilge of your sailboat? Should I act as if you were? There is a fine line between caution and paranoia. Caution requires that we have a strong military that we use as a last resort, paranoia forces you to believe that everyone is against you and to attack them first. Were I paranoid, mentally ill, I would assume without any evidence that you two are spies and that that airliner was carrying soldiers. Since I am sane, I can act as if you were simply people who wish no one ill.”
Grace was smart enough to apologize to her and drag me away before I really made a fool of myself.
It took me a very long time to calm down and during that walk we passed two more of these gun emplacements, none of which saw us as a threat. Finally we returned to the boat and found our new guy-lines coiled and laying on the cockpit of our boat. Plus three extra, courtesy of Kyra who thought we should have spares.
The next morning we woke late to the sounds of screaming and rushing to the deck, we saw what appeared to be a riot on the beach. There were dozens of the Lanai Warriors fighting with each other, many with clubs and pandemonium ran wild. We didn’t know what to do until a whistle blew and the riot separated into two teams. Three of the women left the field, obviously injured, one being carried. Then two teams formed on opposite sides of the field, another woman tossed a ball into the center and suddenly all hell broke loose again.
“Some kind of field game. Makes the post soccer riots in Spain look like child’s play. I wonder what the rules are?”
“I think it’s kill the girl next to you and don’t care what team she’s on.”
“Let’s get a closer look.” And we strolled down to the beach to watch the riot. Someone had put chairs on tables so we climbed onto some empty ones and watched the game. Finally, I leaned over to an injured Lanai screaming to someone in the field and asked, “What’s the game?”
She quieted down, her eyes never leaving the field and said, “Hurling. It’s Irish. Died out in the Commonwealth centuries ago but the Kentaurans kept it going until Andromeda and Cassiopeia brought it to Drakonis 70 years ago. THERE! THE BALL! GET THE….. oh, that’s got to hurt.”
The whistle blew again and the teams separated again, each much smaller than before. The injured were removed from the field and tended then both teams hosed down to, I believe, wash the blood off so the referee could determine fresh injuries, new clubs were handed out and the ball was tossed in again and…. Really, I have no idea of what was going on or even if there were rules. But after three more time-outs, there were more players in the first aid tent and ICU ward than on the field. Finally, someone managed to run across the field with the ball and the defenders had too few women left to stop her so she scored and I was deafened by the cheers. After that, the crowd dispersed and the medics began triage for the players. Our companion began to stand and said as she did, “Dull game.”
I added, “You know if you’d wear helmets and padding you wouldn’t have so many injuries.”
She laughed and replied, “Like those wimpy Americans with their football? They look like school-girls who are afraid to get dirty or suffer a bloody nose. No wonder that country only invades third rate nations. Anyone with guts would wipe their asses with their own noses. At least the British try to understand sports when they play Rugby!”
I didn’t like the way this conversation was going but really, these women could wipe out the Packers and Hell’s Angels without breaking a sweat. So I turned to the woman who I had been talking to and asked her if she knew Kyra, to which she replied, “Yes, she’s my sister. Why do you ask?”
Grace jumped in, “She has been doing some work for our sailboat to make our lives easier and we wondered what we could do to thank her. She doesn’t seem to want money so perhaps a gift?”
The woman looked at her then said, “We are Lanai, Warriors, we do not sell our services for gold.” She thought a bit then continued, “Lanai don’t enjoy possessions either. Why collect tangibles when you could be dead tomorrow? Just show respect and all will be good.”
“Respect? What does that mean?”
She smiled and explained, “ Come with me. We are a Class people. Priests and Teachers on top, then Warriors and Healers then merchants then peasants then serfs. Each shows respect to those above to show that we appreciate the sacrifices that they made for us. We Warriors fight and die for all, not for wealth and power so the only pay we receive is respect, knowing that people appreciate our sacrifices.”
Now we were on the plaza and she stopped and pointed to a name on the plate. “This is our sister, Neomi. She wrote poetry and loved to sketch birds. And she died on Sothis stopping the Shitai from conquering us and feeding our people to their young. She didn’t do it for gold or silver or trivial gifts, she died to make people on Drakonis and even your world safe. She died so you and your children don’t have to.
“So how do you show that you appreciate her and her death? How can you show us that our sister’s deaths are important and not empty sacrifices? That when Kyra dies in some battle that you will never hear on your television that she gave her life for something important?
“Back home, we do this by showing respect. Men bow and women curtsey to Warriors to say to them that they know how we suffered and that they appreciate what we did for them.” She then kissed her fingers, touched her sister’s name then stepped back and curtseyed to the monument, saying something in her own language. Then she walked away without another word.
We looked over those monuments and tried to read the wars, Morgor, Alpha, Pirate, Kizinti, 1 Shitai, 2 Shitai, 3 Shitai, those Shitai were determined, and we never heard of any of them. But the numbers of the dead grew from none to … well, it didn’t seem respectful to count them and I think that the reason why there were so few was because the Lanai had weapons that America couldn’t even dream about coupled with their absolute fanaticism to excel and win. I wondered if SummerIsle had been involved in WW-II, would the war have lasted longer than three months?
That afternoon after lunch we went for another walk to the east and passed another gun emplacement where we saw Kyra sunbathing naked by the weapon. I started to turn away but she waved us over and being completely unselfconscious about her state of undress mentioned that her sister had told her that we had asked about her.
“Well yes,” I said. “We wanted to thank you for all the work you did for us. I know it was your job but we really do appreciate the effort you went through and it made our lives better for it.” It wasn’t a bow but she understood what I meant and appreciated it. She then changed the subject.
“Your father was a soldier, why didn’t you or your children follow?”
“It wasn’t my way. I was always too independent. That’s probably why I enjoy sailing. My father went where the Navy sent him and there were places I hated being but had no choice. With the wind, I have a say. Sometimes the wind tells me what to do, sometimes I can ignore it and force it to serve me. It’s a partnership. A time to be alone with my wife. What about you? Do you come from a military family? You said you had a dozen sisters who served. What do your parents think of this?”
She looked at the sea then said, “I have no parents. You wouldn’t understand our ways. We Lanai are different from you. We are born to serve, to be Warriors. It’s all we know. All here are my family so all understand.”
Grace chimed in, “But you lost two sisters. Surely that must hurt? I saw how your other sister acted when she read her name on the monument. I can’t conceive what I would do if my children were to die in a war.”
“I was born knowing that someday I would die. I knew that my sisters would die too. It is what we do. We fight and die so others won’t have to. If you knew us, knew what we really were, you still wouldn’t understand. Even those we protect don’t completely understand us.”
“I’d like to try. You people have been so kind to us. You are so dangerous yet so gentle. You have the ability to destroy anyone and you stick people’s heads on poles to rot, yet you crawled under that pier, you could have drowned just to make our lives easier. You play Hurling, injure dozens and complain that a game is dull if everyone lives yet your sister wrote poetry and loved birds. That other woman across the island can target airliners and supposedly invisible fighters yet she uses her gun to star gaze.
“And those wars you build monuments to, I’ve never heard of them but you all make them seem so scary. I would really like to understand you more. Maybe then we could really appreciate what you do.”
Kyra then stood up, again oblivious to her own nudity and sat in the seat of her weapon. She keyed a few strokes onto the screen and the weapon came to life, angled up slightly above the horizon and she then showed us a screen filled with a blue sky. “See this? Watch as I magnify.” And she touched the screen which then zoomed forward becoming black then filled with stars zipping past as if this were a Star Trek show. Finally it stopped and nothing was in the center.
“If this were powerful enough, you would see a binary star in the center of this screen. I came from the second planet of that system. I don’t even look like you, this form is an illusion. The Morgors came from a world near you that was destroyed, their fleet invaded Drakonis when they could more easily have conquered your world. We were outnumbered ten million to one. They had thousands of ships and a billion or more soldiers and we tossed against them three cruisers of 150 Lanai each. My sister died stopping the Morgor.”
She then moved the screen a bit and continued, “This would be the Shitai Empire. We don’t know how many they are, we only know that they need more land and all they conquer are fed to their young. We hold them back for if they take Drakonis, they will next take the Commonwealth and then your world. Three times they invaded us, the first two were tests of our determination, the last a full invasion. We met them with half our fleet and we killed thousands in space and more on the ground. My other sister died there, stopping the Shitai for if we didn’t, they would have overrun the Barony within days, taken our four dozen systems, spread out so far and fast that they could have taken the Commonwealth in a year then moved on to your world. We stopped them but lost many of us doing so.”
“This is what we are,” she continued, turning the screens off. “We Lanai fight to protect you because you cannot do so for yourselves.”
I looked at her then asked, “Why are you here then?” I had thoughts of alien invasions running through my head.
She laughed then, “You are being paranoid again. We don’t want to conquer you. We are here for two reasons, to speak the truth so you can be free of tyranny and to explore contact.”
“Contact?” asked Grace.
“Tourism!” she replied. “Who are you people? Are your politicians representative of your people? They lie, cheat and steal. Do all of your people do that? More than one of your own leaders started a war and sent your children to die because someone caught him having sex with someone he shouldn’t have. Are all you humans like that? Are you?”
“I don’t think so but they say that power corrupts so maybe leaders like the President are corrupted too.”
“I don’t think so. You, Vance Edwards, had power. You were part owner of a powerful stock firm. You had employees and wealth and power. Did you cheat on your wife? Did you ruin the lives of those who argued with you? Or did you try to be a good man?
“We think, Vance, that people like you are what humans are like. So rather than contact your government which is evil and lies to its people, sends its people to die in useless wars, performs Mengele experiments on its own citizens, we choose to contact you. If we communicate with the real people, the good people, then perhaps you will take back power and force the evil from your governments. We are forbidden to interfere with your lives and your government, but you are not.”
I laughed at this and said, “So an occasional sailboat arrives here, sees a few heads on poles, watches a Hurling game and Earth changes for the better?”
She laughed back, “No, for we Lanai are not the Barony. We defend the Barony. To see what Drakonis is like, you should go there yourselves, live among those we protect as you are among us.”
I laughed at the thought, “I really don’t think I can afford to pay for a passage across the galaxy. That sounds like an expensive vacation and I may be comfortable but I’m far from rich.” It was a game where Kyrea thought she was an alien from another world and I pretended to believe her.
“So sail there!”
Even Grace was shocked at this. “How do we sail across space? Unless the astronomers are making it up, there isn’t any air up there.”
“No, but there is a Stargate at the end of the canal that can transport you to Gaea. You sail up the canal, through the Stargate and then you play tourist on Gaea. When you return home, you tell people what you saw and they decide what to do.”
“That’s it!” I cried. “First contact isn’t two starships meeting in space or a giant spaceship talking to the UN. First contact between alien species is one alien meeting with another and talking about what burger joint to eat at when the visit another planet?”
“Yes,” she offered. “We have a saying on our world, ‘The Horned God has a peculiar sense of Humor so never play naked leap-frog with Him’. If my Devil were to meet with your President, he would lie to her, try to cheat her and the Baron would destroy your world in revenge. BUT, if you visit and make a mistake, it is just one person who made a mistake. And we cannot go to war over a mistake made by one man. But we can grow closer with these visits.
“I may be a Warrior who was conceived and born from a vat but I still appreciate such a cosmic joke.”
“But how do we know…” I started but she placed her fingers to my lips and said, “Shhh. Listen to your heart. It has served you well these past decades. Your heart kept you faithful to Grace, your heart led you to travel with Grace. Your heart made you an ethical man who tried to help people with investments and your heart brought you here. If your heart leads you away, then so be it. You are a good man and you are a good woman. Together you are exactly what humanity should be. So listen to your heart and follow your soul.
“Now I need to sun myself a bit more. We don’t tan but we enjoy the warmth on our skin and it will be cloudy the next few days.” Then she lay down again and looked out to sea.
Grace and I walked away not talking, both lost in our thoughts. By unspoken agreement we avoided the subject and simply watched the waves until the sky started to darken, then we returned to the bay and visited the Rec Hall. We sat there drinking a bottle of wine we brought from the boat for, unlike every other military base on Earth, the Lanai didn’t drink that we could tell. We saw them play chess at a speed that would cause the best chess masters to give up the game. They seemed to love logic and puzzles as much as they loved the physical efforts of combat. Yet, they never gloated over a win and always assisted the losers to be better.
Now that we knew, we could see how alien they were and things that they did before now made sense. They did not begrudge us courtesy but neither did they accept us as one of them. We were civilians to be protected but not to be loved. They would fight and die for us but not associate with us unless they had to. If we took them up with their offer, would we find an entire planet of these kind?
The truth is that I trusted these aliens in a way I never trusted any of my friends. I liked them, feared them, but never feared when I was with them.
Neither of us could sleep so we sat on deck watching the moon and stars. We had always wanted to believe that there were worlds out there, people out there and that someday we would meet them. But the movies had always shown the aliens as invaders. Beings with evil agenda yet, surprisingly vulnerable to disease or computer corruption or just plain Yankee ingenuity. Yet, these Lanai, I knew, couldn’t be stopped if they chose to invade. The only reason they didn’t conquer us was that they were more ethical than we were. I couldn’t help but think about how we treated the less-powerful Indians or how the British treated the less-powerful Chinese or how the Spanish treated the less-powerful Aztecs. Was conquest a human thing? And if so would the Lanai, not being human not possess this instinct to conquer?
They could kill so easily and casually, the smugglers proved that. And they could fight a war that we cannot dream of, yet did they conquer? Apparently not. We discussed the offer throughout the night and couldn’t decide so we finally fell asleep in our cabin.
The next morning, or late morning, we left the cabin and found a motor on the dock. The note said, “If you tourist, you will need a better engine. This one is electric and powered by hydrogen cells. It gives as much power but is quieter and runs off of filtered sea water. Call me if you want it installed. Kyra.”
Hydrogen power! “Grace, if we could get this home, we would be rich.”
“That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.” She said, quietly. “Kyra trusts us. We can’t betray her.”
Dammit! Grace was right. “Well, then, we’d better get this thing installed if we want to leave today or tomorrow.”
“We’re going?” she asked.
“Was there any doubt.” So hand-in-hand we strolled off to find Kyra.
We found her on the beach doing Tai Chi with a couple dozen other Lanai. All of them ignored us so we sat and watched for the next half-hour as they all moved in unison to their silent ballet. Grace leaned over and said in my ear, “Even watching them is calming.”
After it was over, we approached her and told her that we’d take her up on her offer to which she replied, “I’ll be over before lunch to install the motor. I’ll need room for the Hydrogen cells so I need to remove your fuel tanks and engine. Let me finish tuning the patrol boat engine and I’ll be right over.”
We spent the morning watching the ocean and the clouds drift across the sky. A pack of large and mean looking dogs of unknown breed came by, sniffed at us then continued on. Each had a collar and from their movements, we believed that they were guard dogs protecting the island but they never even growled at us. I recall someone on my father’s Naval Air Station saying that it was safer to train a nice dog to kill in war than to train a mean dog to be safe around children. There were huge crabs along the beach and I couldn’t help but wonder if they grew so large because none of the Lanai ate them? Then I thought of the giant lobster we had at dinner and wondered if we would meet such a monster if we snorkeled here. Looking around we saw birds and butterflies, insects and lizards and crabs. Life that was almost extinct on the other islands yet lived here in profusion, also protected by the Lanai.
When we walked to the beach and entered the water, the sea was filled with fish. I reached down into knee-deep water and pulled a huge conch off a rock, looked at it then Grace had me replace it unharmed. As we returned to shore, I saw for the first time what had bothered me earlier, the shore was absolutely clean. Never had I seen any Lanai litter. They walked out of their way to deliver even the slightest trash to a container. Even Kyra had taken pains to not drop anything, not even a drop of oil. Even their walkways were clean and swept every day.
Eventually we returned to the dock and saw Kyra and her sister approaching. Unlike other times, they were wearing coveralls and their hair was tied up which implied that the job would be dirty. As expected they smiled and asked permission to come aboard then they bolted a winch to the dock, climbed into our hold and drained not only the fuel tanks but the oil sump as well. Again they were careful to not spill a drop and Kyra mentioned casually, “We’ll store this for you until you return. We also have some of the smugglers oil and fuel you can have when you return from Gaea and leave SummerIsle.”
They then winched the engine out of our hold and removed the fuel tanks, replacing them with hydrogen fuel cells and an electric motor which they tested and certified as ‘working well’. Finally, after cleaning everything, they took our old engine and tanks and stored them in a tent as Shyhria arrived with the first man we had seen on the island.
“Captain Edwards, this is Michael Leonivich. He will instruct you in your role of tourist.” Then she walked away as the man asked if he could come aboard.
Unlike the Lanai, this man differed in so many ways. He was male, had a last name and his attitude screamed civilian. Also as the Harbor Master turned to leave, he bowed to her in respect as if they were Japanese. Shyhria gave a brief nod to him as she left then he tuned to us and said, “Good afternoon Mr and Mrs Edwards, perhaps we could continue this over lunch? It’s been a long journey for me,” and he smiled as if at a private joke.
On the way to lunch Grace commented, “Mr. Leonivich, you seem … different from the women here.”
He laughed at that, “It’s because they are Lanai and I am human. My mother was from Odessa, my father from Chicago. Most Lanai are women and we don’t really discuss why but humans are both men and women. It’s easier to understand if you grow up in the system.
“But aside from an occasional Invasion that the Lanai fight off, the Barony is really dull by Terran standards. We have no crime or poverty despite about one third of our population having been born and raised on your planet. We are extremely polite, partially because it’s easier to live with each other when you are and partially because dueling is legal.
“We have no disease to speak of and as we like it that way, I’d prefer you to submit to a medical exam before you leave here. While you are doing that, we will sterilize your boat so if you have any pets or plants aboard, you’ll need to remove them before we do that.
As we sat to eat, I asked, “What is it you said when you bowed to them? I’m used to them being polite but you are more so to them than I’d expect.”
He leaned over and said with all seriousness, “When you get to Gaea, ask to see the news vids of the wars of invasion. See how the Lanai rush in and fight and die to keep us safe. They fight for us because if they didn’t, I and my children would be drafted and have to go out and fight and frankly, I could never be as good a soldier as they are. So we show them respect to tell them how much we appreciate their sacrifices. I bow and say ‘Thank you for defending our Barony and keeping my family safe.’ Everyone has their own phrase but it amounts to the same. We don’t pay Lanai to fight, so we show our appreciation with respect and anything they want. All this food was given by the farms to the Lanai. It’s the best we have. If a Lanai enters a store, the clerks will refuse to take payment from them. What little they take is well worth the service they provide. You should consider doing the same.”
Grace whispered, “Didn’t I hear that they came from a vat? Doesn’t that mean that they aren’t human or even alive?”
Michael looked almost shocked at that thought. “Don’t you have artificial insemination in your country? Or organ transplants? Or mechanical organs and limbs? Does this make those people any less human? My father used to tell me stories about how Americans enslaved Africans and justified it by claiming that other races weren’t human. The first time you meet an alien race in space, you will have to change that attitude fast or face a war that you cannot win. Just because I am human born of a womb while they are Lanai born of a vat makes no difference to the Gods or the Government.”
After lunch we visited the medical building across the street. It had a big red star which I first thought represented communism but then realized that Red Cross was christian, Red Crescent was Islamic and so Red Star was their religion’s version. Once there, we were met by a Lanai with green hair which Michael assured me was her natural color. She introduced herself as ‘Phylea’. By then I was in the habit of looking for wounds and scars and with Phylea, I could see a long scar that ran from knee to ankle.
After introducing herself, she began, “So you are our latest tourists? Kyra told me about you so please be patient with our ways. Would you please strip naked and stand on that disc.” I was a bit embarrassed but did as she said as she took blood, saliva and lymph samples from Grace. By the time she was done, I was standing on the disc with my hands hiding my genitals but she ignored me and touched a control panel which caused a ring to rise from the ground up to the roof then down again. She then thanked me and asked Grace to strip and stand as she pressed some small device against my arm after feeling for a vein. I couldn’t even feel a pain but I saw one small tube in the device fill with blood and the other with lymph fluid. She then had me spit into a third and then repeated the ring thing with Grace.
Then it was done. We dressed and she then did something which caused the rings to rise again producing a perfect three-dimensional image of me on the disc. Then the image shed its skin revealing muscles, then lost the muscles to reveal organs then bones. Finally the original image returned and faded to transparency to reveal red blotches where my dental filling were, another showing an old fracture and others to reveal my missing tonsils and appendix. The image revealed every medical problem I ever had it seemed, including some I never knew I had. Clogged arteries, something I didn’t want to think about in my large intestine, a healing ulcer and so on. Phylea pointed out everything she saw then my image faded and was replaced by a magnified image of my blood, again with problems in red. She then repeated the process with Grace and noted what to fix and what to ignore.
Shortly after, Michael gave us our final briefing then we powered up and left dock for the canal. The engine was silent and vibrationless and appeared to have an endless supply of power. The bridge revealed itself as a draw-bridge and Kyra waved to us as we passed by. She had been our guardian angel while we were here and closer to us than any of our friends in New York and we already missed her. Then we followed to canal inland at low speed passing first trees then to the right was what appeared to be a landing pad. There were a few craft that looked like combat helicopters without rotors and one was being loaded with missiles. The things looked wicked and dangerous. But there was also something that looked like a giant silvery egg a dozen stories high. When I asked Michael, he responded, “The smaller ones are Drop Ships. Front line combat craft. The Lanai drop them from orbit onto a combat zone where they land and discharge fire teams for ground combat with the Drop Ship providing close air support. I’ve seen them in the vids and they are very scary. The big egg-shaped ship is the Amber Hope, a D-Class freighter. It’s owned by George Wagner who colonized from your country and later joined Star Fleet. He fought in the Pirate and Shitai wars then left and became a freighter captain. I hear he’s here seeking a cargo contract between Terra and Gaea.”
I looked at him and asked, “An Earthman was a Lanai and owns a starship?”
“Not exactly, the Lanai don’t want human or Weir to enlist but they don’t stop us. The numbers who do are so few that they are famous among our people. George, Marcus, Pauline, Ayiesha and a few others managed to enlist, fight and survive. George and Marcus are humans from your world who came to us with Colonial, Pauline and Ayiesha are Weir. We make vids and write books about these people. George isn’t Lanai, but he served the Barony by fighting next to them.”
This trip was getting stranger than ever. Eventually we saw the Stargate ahead. The thing was a massive ring large enough to allow the Grace II pass through without lowering her mast. On either side was a gun pod only this time the crew were alert and attentative. I guess that they were the last defense if anyone tried to invade their world.
There were four small vehicles that looked like a cross between an ATV and a miniature tank and which took up positions at the bow and stern, port and starboard of the Grace and to which the Lanai tied lines to hold her in the center of the canal. Then they slowly moved forward through the ring and vanished.
I looked at my wife knowing that this was our last chance to back out then, taking her hand, we stepped through to another world.
To contact me or to request topics to be covered, send to RikJohnson@juno.com
by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
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