I offer to 'drive' – I am the man after all.
Before long, Amanda and I are fading through space back to earth. She paces back and forth at the back of the space craft in a blue blouse and tan skirt. I've never seen her like this. It's touching to see how much she cares for her father. She also looks very girly – which I've never seen before either.
Jenn shows up as an enemy blip on the 'objects and bodies' interface in front of me. I still can't believe she and Amanda are telepathically linked now. I guess Center is in there somewhere too. And they don't have their powers anymore until they go all Captain Plant and merge in Unity or something like that. I couldn't choose between them before – now it's going to be impossible.
We cloak as we enter earth's atmosphere. A moment or two later, we hover in Amanda's father's back yard. I open the side hatch and she sprints toward the hovel calling for her daddy.
I slip out and close up shop as she disappears around the front. Another hatch opens out of thin air several yards away and Jennifer steps out. She wears a black t-shirt with blue jeans. The dark top gives lovely contrast with her shiny golden hair.
She approaches with a smile on her face and greets me with a kiss. "He's alive. She's with him inside. She feels super relieved."
I smile. "Good. Shall we join them?"
The look in Jenn's eye tells me she would rather drag me back into her ship and fly away with me, but she nods and mingles her fingers with mine. Together, we walk around to the front of Amanda's father's home and enter the narrow front door.
Amanda is wrapped around her father with her head on his shoulder. He gently strokes her hair. "There, there, Mandy my girl. Daddy's fine. Now what's all the fuss about now, hmmm?"
He furls his brow a little when I walk in with Jennifer. "Now boy, I thought I told you not to come around here anymore!"
"Daddy, please. They're my friends," Amanda whispers.
He grunts in response.
Jenn leaves my side and walks to Amanda. They embrace as her father and I look on. It's so weird to suddenly see them getting along like this. A couple hours ago, they were locked in combat trying to kill each other!
Her father swishes his mustache back and forth a little. I don't think he's used to hugs and sentiment being displayed in his home. He reaches up to a shelf in the corner and takes down a jug with three Xs scratched onto it.
"Well… I don't really have nuthin fer guests, but if y'all want a little taste of sunshine…"
Jenn and Amanda end their hug and shake their heads. "Daddy… not the Cactus Surprise again!"
I figure I'll try and make nice with the old coot. "I'll take a shot of that, sir. I think it did me some good when I was dying on your porch."
He smiles and gives me a nod. I hope the smile isn't hurting his face. "Now you're talking like a real man, boy."
He pulls an old mug off the shelf with the rest of his hooch and starts pouring me a bit of his cactus roadkill medley.
I glance out the window at the beautiful desert day. My blood suddenly runs cold.
Philander Jefferson stands in the middle of the yard with a smile on his face and a cylinder with a large red button in his hand.
My heart starts to pound. "Everyone get d—!"
My warning comes too late. The old man draws a sharp breath, and then his chest explodes. The jug of hooch shatters on the floor, quickly joined by his lifeless body.
Everyone stands in shock for a brief moment, then Amanda goes ballistic and starts screaming. Jennifer sinks to her knees, gripping the sides of her head.
Panic sets in. I turn to see The Warden's three alien ninja ladies materialize behind him. They charge toward us.
My heart feels as if it's about to explode as I frantically search my surroundings. A room off to the side with a sturdy looking door catches my attention.
I take Amanda and Jennifer by the wrists and start dragging them. "Into the bedroom! Now! Now, quick!"
Both women are disoriented and panicked. Amanda is still screaming as Philander's minions enter the hovel.
I slam the bedroom door and quickly push a nearby dresser in front of it. Powerful blows start raining against the wood and it soon starts to splinter a little.
"Girls! You've got to merge! We need Unity or we're all dead!"
"Like my father!" Amanda cries out.
Ok, poor turn of phrase. I could have worded that better – but I'm freaking out too, man! Three grey-skinned alien ninja woman are trying to chop us into little bits!
"Jenn! Do something! Merge with her!" I yell.
The blonde is still clutching the sides of her head. "I don't know how! Center is trying to tell me, but my brain is being flooded with Amanda's emotions and I can't hear her!"
The door splinters enough that I make eye contact with one of our would-be assassins. I pee a tiny bit. They begin pushing against the door. I grunt as I push against the dresser to hold them back. "Well, do something, or we're toast!"
In desperation, Jenn slaps Amanda across the face and stuns her for a moment. Amanda responds by slapping the blonde back. "Don't hit me!"
Jenn takes a breath. "Fine. Sorry. Now let's do this!" she says and roughly grabs the other women by the shoulders.
I look over my shoulder to see the women awkwardly hugging. I lose an inch or two of ground against the ninja ladies. Arms and daggers enter the room through the crack in the door and start slashing at me. "That isn't working, girls!"
Jenn grabs Amanda by the face and presses their foreheads together. "Calm down. Breathe. Clear your mind. Listen."
"Girls!" I screams as I lose the battle against the assassins. Their weapons finally shred the remains of the door and the dresser in front of it.
A blinding flash of light fills the house and the alien ninja women are blasted backward into the living room with the corpse of Amanda's father.
I'm knocked onto the small bed in the corner. A fabulous glowing redhead in a flowing golden dress floats in the air above me. "We are Unity!" she declares.
The alien ninjas exchange glances and quickly tap the belt buckles on their uniforms. They all distort for a moment, then disappear with a loud buzzing sound.
Unity floats outside, then returns a moment later with a frown on her face. Another flash of light fills the house and Amanda kneels beside the remains of her father. Tears stream down her face as she tenderly clutches the remains of his body.
Tears run down Jenn's face as well as she wraps herself around me. I hold her, unsure of what to do or say next.
"The Games Master is gone. Probably turned tail as soon as his minions attacked," she whispers.
I nod in understanding.
I reach for Amanda and place a hand on her shoulder. In return, she stands and starts pounding my chest with her fists. "Why didn't you kill him when you had the chance? You should have done something! You knew my father's life was in danger when I didn't let Jennifer kill me! Why didn't you do anything?"
I catch her wrists and hold them to defend myself from her attack. She crumples into me and begins to weep loudly, like a little girl. I hold her, still desperately wishing I could think of something to say. Jennifer wraps her arms around the two of us and we all stand together in her late father's broken down hovel.
Evening falls as I finish digging the grave in the old man's backyard. I know I could have just asked the girls merge and have Unity blow a hole in the earth, but I felt like I needed to do something.
Jennifer sits with Amanda on the side panel of her ship. Their lips move, but they don't make any sound. It's still a little weird to watch, but something tells me I don't want to know what they're talking about anyway.
I climb up out of the hole and wipe the dirt and sweat from my brow. I still can't think of anything to say to my lovely Amanda. I'm so glad my lovely Jennifer is here to comfort her.
The women merge into Unity and use telekinesis to lift the bundled body of Amanda's father into the air. I had wrapped him in an old bed sheet as best as I could. It doesn't look great, but it's still more dignified then simply tossing his remains in a hole.
The redhead slowly lowers his body into the grave, then splits into Jenn and Amanda again. We each hold a jug of his Cactus Surprise in the air as a salute, then all take a chug of the swill.
He would have wanted that. We do our best to suppress the choking and gagging that ensues.
I raise my jug again. "Here lies a fine man that loved his family," I say and pour the remaining hooch into the hole.
"Here lies a father that loved his daughter," Jenn says and does likewise.
"Here lies my wonderful father that loved me no matter what. Enjoy the stars, daddy. This wasn't the way I wanted you to experience them," Amanda says with a little emotion. She empties her jug into the hole and tosses a lit book of matches in after it.
Our makeshift crematorium comes to life and we all step back from the blaze coming out of the earth.
I hold hands with my lovely ladies until the fire burns down and I start filling in the grave.
Darkness has fallen by the time I'm done. The night sky is awash with thousands of stars. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
The women approach me, hand in hand. They each kiss one of my cheeks. Ordinarily, I would enjoy something like that, but I can sense something is up.
"We're leaving, Fenris. We need to take some time," Jenn says softly.
Amanda nods. "We have to figure out the whole Unity thing and how we're going to assist the people of Everdarc." She pauses for moment and glances over to her father's grave. "And I need to get away from all of this. All of it… including you. At least… for now."
My heart sinks. Is it me, or am I experiencing a double break up?
Jennifer nods. "You can't make up your mind about who you want to be with, and we're both tired of fighting over you, so… "
The girls kiss my cheeks again. What a crappy day this is turning out to be.
"Goodbye, Fenris," they say in unison.
With that, they walk hand in hand toward Amanda's ship. Jenn looks back at me and nods at her craft. "It's all yours."
Without another word, the door to Amanda's ship slides shut and… they're gone.
I look around at the unkempt yard surrounding me, then back up to the stars. A profound sense of loneliness wraps itself around me and I shiver in the darkness. I brush away a single tear as it runs down my cheek.
What the hell am I going to do now?