Chapter 1

I propped myself on an elbow and looked at the sleeping form of Zeus, or Alex Hobart, Harvey Middleman – or Together with the Spirit. I hardly knew what to call him these days. Zeus, I guess.

It was early in the a.m. on a Tuesday, near Thanksgiving. I was in bed, looking at the most screwed up, damaged, wonderful, sexy – and if you can believe him – certifiably insane guy, who'd made my life so topsy-turvy in the last eight months. It was breathtaking. I'd been shot at, and hit right in the chest, had my life almost snuffed out by assassins while tied – naked – to a chair, had shot at and taken out that same assassin – okay, so it wasn't fatal, but ... I'd rescued Zeus – God! I couldn't even remember how many times. I'd killed Mexican drug guys, helped take down an Asian heroin czar, participated in sinking a billionaire sex fiend ... and met some interesting characters along the way. I'd swindled – no, make that helped to justifiably take – billions from terrorists, drug cartels – and that was only the beginning. I'd met and befriended a disembodied person – make that two disembodied people. One was an entity that lived in the brain of Zeus, and one was living in the internet. Or maybe she was the internet by now.

And the best and most exciting of all – last Friday, I got married, to the aforementioned Zeus. I looked at the wedding ring that Chief Painted Horse had instructed Zeus to put on my finger. He said it was a symbol of the circle of life and renewal that would forever bind me to him – and him to me. My hand was shaking when I put a matching ring on him.

My Aunt Poppy had come out from Chicago for the weekend, so we had a house guest for our honeymoon weekend. Almost. I mean, she did stay with the Soaring Eagle family, so it wasn't like she could have heard me in the throes of – whatever, I was in the throes of. She didn't hear Zeus throw any thunderbolts of his own either. We even turned off the connection with Io. I hope that Master Chief Martinez wasn't listening. That was the entity that lived inside of Zeus. I guess I'll have to get used to that – making love to someone who has a person 'listening' in, inside his head. He heard it all; maybe he experienced it all. That would be embarrassing.

It doesn't matter. I looked down at him while he was sleeping. Softly, carefully, I ran a hand over his head and felt the slight seam where a titanium plate replaced part of his skull. That's what caused him to feel 'damaged.' He wasn't more damaged than anybody else. He'd been the victim of an Afghan IED, so he had PTSD. Big deal. I'd been trapped in the back seat of my parent's car when they hit a bridge, and I had heard them die. I had PTSD too. I was damaged, too. Martinez was dead, for heaven's sake. Can't get more damaged than that. Io was the only one of us who wasn't damaged, and she was less than a year old and didn't have a body. I'd hardly call her 'normal.'

I checked the clock on the bedside table. The workforce would be here soon to keep working on my – OUR – house. Zeus and I had fought over every room. Each of us insisting on doing things that would please the other. Did I mention that I loved him?

Anyway, they'd be here at 7:00 to put up the exterior walls. It was gonna be a nice house. Out here, in the high desert of the Navajo reservation, houses didn't have a basement. Ours will. It'll have a secret basement – well a tunnel actually – to a cave complex that will be Zeus' back door. His escape hatch.

His was a life ruled by many things.

Like, his paranoia. That started long ago when he was injured. He went really nuts for a while. Personally, I think that's pretty normal. You get blown up. You hear a voice in your head that says he's the guy who died in the same explosion. You're in a hospital, and you have to lie to the shrinks to get out. So you develop a little paranoia. So what? And later, you find that there really are a whole bunch of people who are out to get you – that was an outfit that called itself '5225'. They have a team – multiple teams – of mercenaries to bring him in. I think that paranoia is the wrong word. It's reality. So, yeah. His home has an escape tunnel.

Like, his commitment to the many projects that would make life better – even good! – for the Native Americans he came across. I like to think that he was an enthusiastic participant in that. He was, but he was just a do-er, not a planner. Well he planned, and planned well, all the tactical encounters we had to do. He wasn't much of a strategic planner. That's not exactly true either. He wasn't a 'go to the meeting and form a consensus' type planner. He was more of a 'I'll let you know when I'm finished with the plan' type. George Patton versus Dwight Eisenhower. Ike would have been terrible leading the 3rd army through northern France.

Like, his bravery and sense of right. Oh my God. He'd climb a cliff with his fingernails if an innocent baby was at the top and was being threatened.

What I personally liked best was his commitment to me. I'd only known him for eight months, like I said, but he'd do anything for me. Like I would for him.

I wiped the tears away and slipped out of bed. I went to his closet and slipped on my robe. It wasn't really a robe. It was an all cotton, all white, dress shirt from his closet – with two pockets. I'd picked it – and six more just like it – so that I could wear them. I wouldn't wear them fresh from the washer, I'd wait until after he wore them, so they'd have his scent. I never told him that though. Underwear? Not with the morning shirts, hehe. He just thought I wore them so I'd look sexy in the mornings – okay, that was a reason, too.

After tending to my bathroom routines, I padded out to the central portion of the travel trailer we were calling home while our house was under construction. I pushed some Eggo waffles into the toaster and powered up the laptop.

"Morning, Io," I said after it was done with its beeps and startup stuff.

"Hello, Arti. I hope you slept well," was the slightly tinny answer from the laptop's small speakers. She, of course, didn't have to sleep at all. When the Hummer, and the powerful computers housed therein were off-line, she was splitting her time between the University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil, and the unused time on a mainframe at one of the larger catalog companies in Westchester County, NY – and about six other mainframes around the globe so she could keep all her processes running. Our computer installation has run into some construction problems, and wasn't going to be really up until the new year. Every once in a while, she'd download a copy of herself to the cluster that was taking shape there, but if the heat dissipating devices weren't working correctly, there wasn't much that could be done. She was still working her way through her reading list. Somebody had said that if you want to get to know human nature, read fiction. So she had a list of about 500 novels ranging from 'Cat in the Hat' to 'War and Peace'. Io wanted, more than anything, to be human.

"Any news from the power project?" I asked. We had created the Navajo Power Company. It was 100% solar and wind powered, and we were working on a way to harness the water that ran – sometimes intermittently – through some of the higher elevations of the Naabeehó Bináhásdzo – the lands that the white man called the Navajo reservation.

There was a long delay before Io answered. Long for Io, anyway. It was about two seconds. "Sorry, Arti. I wasn't ready for your question. I had to connect with the computers in the power station. They have all the solar array operational, and almost all the wind mills are running. We have connected 62% of the population to our power, and the rest should be getting our feed by the end of December. It is a big success – low rates, of course. A large portion of the population was put to work getting everything set up and some of them are getting up to speed on the operations of the company. We should be transitioning over to all Navajo personnel in about six months. Well, all AmerInd personnel anyway. We have some non-Navajo Indians working there, as you know.

"Before you ask, the scholarship program is doing quite well. We have fifteen students at colleges all over the country. Six more will be coming in next semester. Almost all the students are doing well. The sole exception is a fellow who is playing football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. His grades are adequate but not the best. He may not graduate, if he decides to apply for a position in the NFL. It is called the draft. I'm not exactly sure how that works, but if he is accepted, he will make a lot of money. I doubt that he will honor his promise to work on the Naabeehó Bináhásdzo after graduation."

"That's all right, Io. We'll deal with him when and if ... and thanks for the update," I said. "Any word from our friends at the Nation?" Nathan Stone was the President of the Navajo Nation, the ruling body of this little island of independence within the United States.

"The Nation is taking about opening an 'embassy' in Washington! They've shelved plans to open a casino here, too, because there are enough jobs now. There has been massive layoffs at the BIA (the US government's Bureau of Indian Affairs) in the section dealing with the Navajo. The Cheyenne Nation has contacted us to get more information. They don't like being under the heel of the BIA either."

"Hardly a surprise," I chipped in.

"The Nation's government is very popular these days ... and very busy," said the tinny speakers. "Is Zeus there?"

"Not yet. He's still sleeping. We had a long night." I giggled. I never giggle.

"Wassup?" a sleepy Zeus said from the doorway. His hand was on the door to the camper's small bathroom.

"Making breakfast, Z," I offered.

"I like your get up, this morning," he leered. "You sure you don't wanna come back to bed?"

"Good morning, Zeus," said Io. "I was just giving Arti an overall update. I wanted to wait for you because I have some new business."

"Will it keep for a few minutes? We poor biological units have to go to the bathroom from time to time," he said.

I laughed.

"Of course, Zeus. It will wait for a few more moments. The Chinese aren't going to make a move against the US economy until at least February," she said, calmly. "I'm drafting a message to President Wentworth." That was POTUS. "And 5225 is getting active again, but I don't have a timetable for that."

That stopped me from laughing.

"Soon, L.T." said Martinez' synthesized voice, through the tinny speakers in the enhanced laptop on the counter. "5225 is moving soon."

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