We're into the New Year. Pam is in her and Frank's new home with their new baby taking some time off. They report that Frank, Junior, or Frankie does not cry much because Starcheer is in touch with him and let's them know his needs. Pam and Frank are two very happy people. It's obvious to everyone who sees them together. The kids in our Sunday school class all love Frankie and he doesn't go to the nursery but has plenty of holders in the class, even the guys.
Brian continues to come to church and pay attention to Jenna. She tells us that she still hasn't gone out with him though his persistence is wearing her down. They have had some lunches together but he has gone to CME and lunched in our break room, too. She asked Coolbeam to look into his mind and he reported that Brian is a changed man. Jack and Red Fred agree. I think Jenna is scared that he has because she likes him.
Whatever caused her to avoid men romantically is deep and will take time to be cured. Coolbeam has helped her but eventually a man will have to break through to her. I'm sort of cheering for Brian. He was man enough to examine things and change wrong thinking. Lisa and I have talked two different times about a partner for him without a conclusion. As a junior professor, he gets the crappy schedule and teaches morning and evening with time during the day for office hours and labs. It also means getting away for lunch is easy for him.
He came to CME one day when I was there and we caught him before he went out back. He makes it a point to say hello to Lisa before joining the guys in back. Lisa said, "We're going to talk to him today." Out loud to Brian, she said, "Brian, it's good to see you. Would you eat with us today?"
"Sure," he answered, "I am just brown bagging."
Lisa said, "That's fine. Al brought in sandwiches for us. Food is not that important. We would like to talk to you."
He looked a little worried but came in joining us at the small conference table in our office. I asked a blessing on our meal and we dug in.
Over bites, I started, "I don't know if you have noticed but some people here and at church are different including Jenna."
"It's more and less than being Christians. We have presences in our heads. Most couples that have one who they share. Ours is called Stargazer. He has been with us for a while. He has peers or friends who have joined with other people. Jenna's partner is called Coolbeam.
"Stargazer is here. Greet Brian, Stargazer."
A small light appeared and Stargazer said, "Hello, Brian. I am Stargazer. Lisa and Al have thought of you a lot lately. Your first meeting wasn't very auspicious, was it?" Brian shook his head. "You seem changed and more willing to listen to others."
He swallowed and said, "Yes, I was mad at myself for being a fool. Al humiliated me by effortlessly controlling me though I deserved it. I have the feeling that arguing with Al could be bad for a person's health."
Lisa smiled and said, "It would be if you did it physically. After Al earned his engineering degree, he went to work for the government and was taught how to protect himself and others. He saved my life with those abilities allowing him and Stargazer to heal my injuries from the shooting before I died."
Brian said, "You were the couple! I should have made the connection. I read that you were wounded but went home."
Lisa said, "I should have died in that hall. After Al dispatched Andrews, he came to me. I was shot in the stomach and was dying. Stargazer healed me using Al's strength to sustain me as I healed. I don't even have a scar. My heart is always cheered to know that they care as much as they do."
She smiled at me gently. She said, "That's not why we asked you to join us. We would like you to talk to us and to Stargazer about having an alien partner for yourself."
Brian looked surprised. "What is it like?"
I said, "You will never be alone again. Stargazer is always with each of us. Because of the healing and use of my strength in Lisa, we have an additional bond beyond even that. Stargazer can manipulate our bodies to some extent. Healing Lisa's injuries took a lot of his strength and used a fair bit of mine. It was worth it. We care for each other even more than before if that's possible."
"Will I be able to read minds?" We shook our heads. "Will I have super powers?" We shook our heads.
I chuckled and said, "You might be able to bear the pain of resisting me but things would still be broken and mangled."
"What do I get out of it then?"
I said, "For starters, you will never be alone like we said. You will have friend who understands you completely like no one else can. Your body will be the best it can be. I don't think you will ever be sick again. Stargazer is able to work with our automatic bodily systems to help us help ourselves be the best we can be. Persons have been cured of cancer by their partners."
He said, "What do they get out of this partnership?"
Lisa said, "They enjoy our emotions and lives. They live vicariously through us. They have no bodies and, though we give them masculine and feminine pronouns, I think that a sexual proclivity is irrelevant to them. It is a partnership. You don't mistreat them and they don't mistreat you."
Brian said, "I think I would like to have a friend. I think I'm a better person than a few months ago. At least, I feel that I'm more likeable. I like the feelings that I have. If your partners add to that, then I am all for it."
I said, "Stargazer, do you have a friend for Brian?"
Stargazer's voice spoke saying, "Yes, Radiantbeam would like a partner and is here with me. He likes Brian. Radiantbeam, please show yourself."
"Hello, Brian. I am Radiantbeam. I would like to partner with you." The light shown was a warm yellow glow with flicks of red.
Brian said, "Radiantbeam, I am glad to meet you. Let's be partners." The light winked out and Brian sat back in his chair suddenly. Tears came to his eyes. He said, "Radiantbeam, thank you. I feel wonderful and, uh, brighter." He looked at us and said, "Thank you, both of you. This is a wonderful gift you have bestowed. I will try to be wise and deserving of your trust and of Radiantbeam's presence in my life."
We finished our lunches with a glow surrounding us. Brian was just standing to leave when Ellen knocked on the door jam. "Missus Lisa, your one o'clock appointment is here."
Lisa nodded. "Thank you, Ellen. Please tell him I will be with him in a moment." She gave Brian a hug and said, "We enjoyed lunch with you. Maybe this Sunday, you and Jenna will join us for lunch after church?"
"It would be my pleasure. I will be sure to leave my idiot self at home this time." We all laughed and he and I shook hands as he left. His step was lighter and more confident when he left.
Lisa's appointment was with a potential vendor. Olsen's had sold us but not lately. Janet had referred them to Lisa to talk with them. We were met by three men. The salesman for us, Joe Manners, a nice middle-aged man, the sales manager, Ed Barfield, a little bit older and heavy set, and the president of Olsen's, Greg Thurman, a young man in his mid-thirties were each introduced to Lisa and me by Joe. We shook hands all around waving them into seats. Lisa sat at the table with them while I sat at our desk ostensibly working on some paperwork.
Lisa said, "Joe, you requested this meeting. Janet doesn't buy from you and you pressed her. Our problems with your company are getting what we order on time. Unless we can have some confidence those issues will be cured, we will not be ordering from you. CME is a very different company than McNamara. We have developed a reputation for a quality product delivered on time and at or better than specification. We expect our vendors to do the same. We pay our bills promptly. We have ordered from you twice. One order shipped late. The other order shipped late and included wrong items. Janet came to me and apologized for using your company. We had to rush in both instances to get the right materials in time to prevent us from shipping late. Angela tells me that, though we marked up the second order's bill of lading thoroughly and called requesting a corrected invoice, she was harassed by your collections people when we refused to pay without a corrected invoice because the pricing didn't match what we actually received.
"All that being the situation, gentlemen, why should we give you any orders?"
Ed Barfield, the sales manager, said, "You have to buy from us. We have some exclusive items."
Lisa said, "There are two problems with that theory, Mister Barfield. One is that we have to use those items because we can't design around them. We can and are. Second is that those manufacturers are willing to forgo sizeable sales to let you keep your exclusivity. Chambers and Chambers has become a sales agent for two lines that we really do need and you are no longer exclusive in this area for McAdams and for Universal. Our lawyer read your agreements and you don't even get notice if you lose your exclusivity. The other will probably terminate their relationship with you because you aren't ordering their minimums and don't pay promptly.
"Is there anything else, gents?"
Greg Thurman said, "You have interfered with our business. I don't like that."
I came over to stand by my wife. I said, "I don't guess you would. We only looked at that situation because we preferred to use McAdams and Universal products and you couldn't or wouldn't ship what we needed on time or correctly. We complained to those vendors about the situation. They made the decision. They insist on using an agent so my company sells their lines and has leased warehouse space to handle a complete inventory of their goods. I suspect the lines will do quite well though that's really not my line of business. A number of my clients use their equipment and need parts they couldn't get from Olsen."
Lisa said, "Guys, other than to make a useless threat, I am having trouble understanding what you had hoped to accomplish from this meeting. I was hoping to hear that things were now going to be different and how Olsen could supply my company's needs correctly and on time. None of the three of you have addressed either issue. I must therefore think that there is nothing different and, despite Joe's desires, Olsen will ship the wrong products late if at all. That is if we ordered from your company."
Thurman said, "We came over hoping you would see the light. You do not practice fair business practices going behind our backs to line up new suppliers."
I said, "That's quite enough. You three need to leave before anything more is said. Obviously, our lawyers need to handle this now. We will not nor will CME do business with your company. It's time for you to leave."
Barfield looked at me evilly and said, "I'll leave when I'm finished."
He stood up. I said, "You're finished. You other two either support him or leave now."
Joe left. Thurman stayed. Barfield came at me but seemed to fall before he reached me while Lisa moved out of reach at our desks. She hit the intercom key and yelled, "Ellen, get help! Al and I are being attacked!" Thurman came at me and I dropped him to the ground hard. I thought to myself that this didn't make sense. Lisa's thought came to me that Ellen didn't answer her.
Now, I was worried. Very slowly and carefully, I opened the door to see Joe standing in the hall with a pistol in his hand. In our reception area, I recognized Pastor Joel from Pam's former church also holding a pistol! I stepped out into the hall and grabbed Joe and his pistol. Pastor Joel started to shoot but I winged him and he dropped the pistol. Angela grabbed the pistol and pulled the slide so it was ready to fire. She knew pistols!
Ellen ran to her desk and called to the plant for help. There was a rumble as men came charging into the office from the plant. Jack and Red Fred were in the lead. I pointed at them. "Help Lisa!" They ran into the office and Barfield must have risen because I heard some meaty thumps as someone went down. I had relieved Joe of his weapon and now put him in the care of Steve and two welders. The next men grabbed Joel and held him disregarding the pain in his arm. I had the next few check outside for a car or someone trying to get away. I went into the office and saw that Lisa, Jack, and Red Fred had the two under control.
I said, "We have Joel from outside being held. I shot him in the arm. Call Melody." Lisa called there and there was no answer. I called Stan. I explained what happened here at CME and that we heard no answer when we called just now. "I am worried. Would you get someone over there? Would you go too? We may need some detecting performed. Stan, hurry. I'm worried."
"Irene is on her way up and we're off duty. We will l be there in two minutes. Send someone to meet us."
I looked at Lisa. "Take a pistol with you. Go to C and C. I will join you after Joel talks." She nodded and left. "Stan, Lisa is on her way."
I walked over to Joel and squeezed his arm where he was shot. He screamed in pain. I said, "Joel, you are surrounded by people who care about Lisa and know enough about what you were probably planning to be unkind. Our receptionist, Melody, is married to a young man who works here. If she is hurt, your remaining life will be painful. I promise to mangle your body in such a manner that it cannot be repaired. You need to quickly tell us your entire plan before I begin to hurt you."
"You can't do that."
Bobby was holding his good arm and twisted it hard. He said, "If he doesn't, I will. Missus Lisa is one of the nicest people in the world. Mitch, Melody's husband, is my friend. If something happens to them because you don't tell all, no one will find enough pieces of you to bury. But you will die screaming."
Joel was now scared. It was probably a good idea because Bobby was serious. He moaned, "We just wanted to scare Al and Frank for hurting me. Our wives went after Pam at her office. That other whore is there, too."
Jack and Red Fred escorted the other two from our office. I yelled, "Where is Mitch?"
I heard a voice respond, "Here!"
"Good! You will come with me. Get a gun.
"Now the first one who tells us where you were going to take the women doesn't get a broken finger. Joe quickly said, "They were going to go to Bishop Joel's house." He told us where it was. I was standing next to Joel and quickly snapped his little finger. Quickly, I heard more screams as other men did the same to the other two. "Make sure they haven't any weapons. Bruising them while you search them is okay. Mitch and I will call you later with information."
Ben came up to me and said, "I'll go too. Pam and Melody are sweet ladies. I was also Special Forces."
"Okay. Do you need a gun?"
He shook his head. "I have a knife in the truck. It will be enough." He looked me in the eye. I nodded.
The three of us ran to my Chrysler and jumped in after Ben got his knife. I peeled out of the lot following Ben's directions. I had my flashers on and wasn't going slow. We turned into a neighborhood and made a left. Ben said, "Cut the flashers. Cross that intersection and stop." I stopped. He said, "That address is the third house on the left." He pointed. We exited the car and I grabbed my Glock from under my seat. We ran crouched down going through yards.