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Doug had his own letters to write, as Lili busied herself with what was certainly meaningless housework. But it took her mind off things, at least a bit. Rick helped her load the dishes in the sanitizer, but backed away and cringed when he cut his hand on the big knife she'd used to cut the pie.

"Lemme see that," she said when she saw his face.

"No, no," he said, still cringing. There was a little blood, but not enough to make him really react like that.

She looked away for a second to get a bandage but he told her not to bother. And, sure enough, the cut was not only no longer bleeding, she couldn't even find it.

"What the hell just happened?" she asked.

"Stem cell growth accelerator," he explained, "I have certain enhancements that make me well-suited to time travel. That one keeps me out of most hospitals – medical care can be rather primitive at times."

"But you had a lot of pain," she pointed out, "Much more than you should've had."

"That's the price I pay for quick healing – I get all of the pain but compressed into the shorter duration of the injury. It all goes away about ten times or more faster than normal, so I get ten times or more pain than you would."

"Ah. Hmm. Interesting."


Doug wrote a letter to the Calafan envoy's office, resigning his commission. Then he wrote a commendation letter for the most promising cadet, Aliwev, recommending that the young Calafan man be promoted to his own job in his stead. And then, he sighed, one for the kids.

Dear Tommy, Marie Patrice and Joss,

Ever since Tommy arrived, it has been a dream of mine for the three of you to get to know each other better and possibly live in the same house. You should know each other as brothers and sister. This was not the way I wanted for this to happen, but I hope that you'll at least become close.

I hope that you will realize that it shouldn't matter who has which mother. We are all family. Do your best to stay together. Be strong and stay alert. There are a thousand things I could tell you about where you may be going but the biggest one I can tell you is to not show weakness.

I am very proud of all of you. We will be back as soon as we can.




Melissa and Norri put Tommy down for the night. Doug came in, too, and kissed the boy on his forehead, "I can't do this," he whispered, turning away.

"Do your best," Melissa said, "He can't see that you're upset, or else he won't sleep."

Doug composed himself, "G'night," he said, trying to sound upbeat as he gently squeezed the boy's ankle for a second, and then backed off.

"What a big boy you are," Norri said quietly, "A big boy who sleeps through the night."

They closed the door.


"Mommy, can we stay up with you?" Marie Patrice asked while Lili bathed her.

"No, you may not. You need to rest," Lili said absently.

"Does Joss get to stay up?"

"No, he does not."

"But I wanna see Rick."

"You'll, um, you'll see him later." Maybe.


The kids still shared the same room, although the plan had been that that would change. Well, like their other plans, it was now gone.

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