Their mother watched as they trooped into the house one by one.
Usually rambunctious and always on fast forward, they were walking slowly today and there was a definite air of worry.
This of course set off every mother instinct in existence and she just knew they were either currently up to something or had already done the something and knew they would get caught. She knew what it was about, these were not the first kids she’d raised, and she knew that one of her eldest would most likely be storming in after the kids because of what they’d done.
Sooner rather than later if she had to guess. Now the question was, ask them straight out and let them confess to their crimes or wait until the guilt and worry got to be too much and let them come to her.
She looked at the clock in the entryway. It was pretty late already and her spawned middle child was going to get into trouble with her superiors if she didn’t leave the house five minutes ago to make the rendezvous.
The late time made up her mind. “Hold it right there.” She held back a grin at the way the eight stopped and hunched, trying to make themselves less visible. Technically speaking, the eight were far older than she was, but by their individual races standards they were infants still. This made for some interesting times as she tried to figure out how to balance raising kids older than her chronologically but whose minds were still those of little kids.
For the most part. Having lived so long in the human world meant that they had seen and witnessed things that took some of that innocence away that every living creature is born with.
“Where have you been?”
They looked at each other, most likely trying to think of something to get them out of trouble without lying, before finally facing her. It was the ring leader of the group, Erac, who opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by the sound of the front gate slamming shut and she watched as their faces drained of color.
Her second oldest daughter came storming in a second later, slamming the massive oak doors shut behind her before stopping and glaring murder at the kids.
Il, as the kids called her, looked over at her, pointed at the kids and snarled. No words, just a snarl full of rage.
Knowing the middle child she’d given birth too, as opposed to the many adopted, fostered and mentored kids since, was long on patience when it came to the kids they took in she knew that whatever they had done would not be forgiven any time soon.
She held up a hand to stop Il from speaking, not that she’d given any indication she was going to, and said, “Whatever it is I will find out about and they will be punished accordingly alright?”
Her jaw twitching Il took several deep breathes before nodding and storming down the main hall to the stairs and up. Presumably to her room to get ready.
She didn’t have to say a word. She just turned back to the kids and waited.
“We didn’t want her to leave, so we duct-taped her to the tree.”
It was Salva who quietly confessed. The little shapeshifter girl was one that Il had rescued from a trafficker three years before and Salva had attached herself more to Il than any of the other older kids.
In fact, all of the eight currently on the verge of tears were more attached to Il than anyone else in the house. It was good that there was someone they looked up to and always knew they could depend on to keep them safe, but they were old enough to know that what they had done was wrong.
Worse was the fact that they had betrayed Il with their actions. They had known she was leaving for a little over a year now and had seemed to understand that it was something Il wanted to do. Something she had dreamed of for most of her life. For the kids to pull such a cruel trick on her?
“You knew she was leaving.” They all shifted nervously when she addressed them after a small silence, “You knew that it was something she chose and trained to do. You knew that she could be court martialed if she backed out and sentenced to life imprisonment as a traitor to her country or put to death.”
The tears started falling now. Unfortunately, it was far too late for them to be remorseful. If they didn’t learn now that their actions had consequences, they would grow up as selfish brats who thought they could get away with murder.
“Whether you are sorry or not isn’t going to make a difference in this case because I’m pretty sure you aren’t telling the whole truth yet. Which means that there is something worse I’m going to be hearing about from Il when she comes back down those stairs isn’t there?”
She let the question sit in the air a moment. “Anyone want to confess now? It may make things a little easier for Il to forgive you if you come clean of your own will before she has to snitch on you.”
When they still said nothing, she sighed and waited for Il to return. The kids weren’t going anywhere anytime soon and the wait would give her time to think about an appropriate punishment. They weren’t too old for a spanking, but somehow she didn’t think that in this instance that would get it across their minds that you do something wrong you get punished.
Ten minutes later Il made her way back down the stairs and to the front doors. By now everyone who was home had come to say goodbye and see her off. They wouldn’t see her until Christmas, which was nine months away still.
Having wanted this farewell to be a positive one, she had to instead ask Il for the details of what the kids had done.
After a moment of glaring at a wall and taking several deep breaths to gain control she said, “I suppose they told you they duct-taped me to a tree?”
Nodding her head, their mother waited for Il to continue, motioning for the others not to snicker or laugh at the image the words evoked. Not that anyone seemed to be in the mood to do so, but this was hard enough without someone finding it funny and making Il more furious then she was.
“Did they happen to mention that the tree they duct-taped me to was Yggdrasil? And that they intended for me to stay there until I had changed my mind?”
When the others pulled in deep breaths of astonishment and horror, she knew that there was no need for to punish the kids this time. Apparently, they had done so much damage that no one was going to let them forget it anytime soon. There were a lot of lectures, talks, reports, walkabouts, soul searches…pretty much these eight were going to have a lot of time with their siblings to figure out that what they had done may have irrevocably damaged their relationship with Il.
Outside there was the sound of a craft landing in the yard and those with heightened senses listened as someone big hit the ground, followed by at least four other. Footsteps against the ground, then the pebble drive let them know where the intruders were. Except that they weren’t intruders.
“The only reason I’m here and not still taped to that damned tree is because Loki and Coyote came along, planning some mischief, and owed me still so they got me down and opened the doorways to get me back here as soon as possible.”
The front doors swung open and Il looked from the five ranking officers back to her mother. “And as you can see it still wasn’t quite fast enough.”
Eyebrows raised in question the obvious leader of the officers asked in a southern drawl, “Am I missing something important?”
“No.” Il slung her duffel bag over a shoulder and walked to the door. The officers didn’t move however and their leader asked another question. Either he didn’t sense the tension in the entryway or he was blatantly ignoring it for whatever reason.
“Are you sure? ‘Cause there’s a lot of anger swirling around in here and it’s never a good thing to leave on a negative note. You’ll regret any words said in a rage later on. I promise you. No one has a guarantee of coming back alive from where we’re going. Better to say ‘I love you’ now.”
Il turned on her heel and lifted a brow at his words.
“Admiral Blaste, I appreciate your advice however…” She trailed of thinking of a way to politely phrase her next words. Not finding anything particularly useful she decided blunt would have to do. “I won’t be dying anytime soon. I am the best you will ever have in your fleet and I will rise through the ranks faster than you can blink. Besides,” she glared once again at the eight, “at the moment they aren’t even a little sorry for their actions. The only reason their crying is because it didn’t work. When they’re sorry I’ll know, but until then I refuse to stick around any longer so they can come up with some other plan to keep me from serving.”
The gathered crowd could all tell that the Admiral wanted to argue and even opened his mouth to try. Thankfully, Exa put her hand on his arm and shook her head. “Admiral, I assure you, my sister knows what she is speaking of. These eight before you look no more than ten or perhaps twelve years old, however they are quite older than that in some ways and will try their best to keep Il from her dreams. We will handle this situation.”
Looking around the Admiral let his gaze meet everyone’s there before settling on their mother. She just looked at him placidly. Knowing her as he did, Blaste put his hands up in surrender and signaled for the others it was time to go.
They took Il with them to the space station where she would join the growing number of recruits determined to keep their homeworld safe from new threats. Her family wouldn’t see her in person for two and a half years because of the skirmishes and all-out war that erupted in space with other alien life forms.
The eight kids apologized via computer screen not long after the first skirmish had ended. Il forgave them, though it took another year before she could say the words truthfully, and when they were older they too joined the military group Il was part of.
Though unable to serve under Il’s command directly, too much paperwork stood in the way for them to be bothered, they served alongside her during countless successful campaigns without any more childish pranks.
Well, not too many others. They had, after all, bought an economy sized roll of duct-tape. It would have been a shame to let it go to waste.
©2016, Illeana Nexry.