Raylorian Dawn
Author: Othello Gooden Jr.

Chapter 5
Uncle Landon

As the sun's rays flickered through her windowpane, Kayla squinted, looking elsewhere. Shortly afterward, the girl rose from her bed but almost stumbled over her music stand next to it. Kayla quickly caught the stand with her flute on it sitting vertically. She sighed in relief after preventing the delicate instrument from falling on the floor.

 

This was a part of Kayla’s daily routine—get up and play music then start her day. She constantly reminded herself that all musicians, famous or not, practiced long hours of the day to become better. Kayla’s practicing sessions included tunes she learned in high school and original compositions. She practiced for a few hours, playing her runs on each song, improvising over long periods of time.

 

About a half an hour later, Kayla was interrupted by a knock on her door.

 

“Come in!” Kayla shouted after she stopped playing.

 

The door opened as a tall man dressed in a brightly colored green suit stepped into her room. He stood about 6 feet 2 with his long black and bushy hair draped over his light complexion.

 

“Uncle Landie!” Kayla said happily as she ran to hug him.

 

“I heard you getting down there—Kayla the piper!” Landon joked with open arms to embrace the fast approaching young lady.

 

“How's my favorite niece?” Landon asked as the two continued hugging each other.

 

“Good!” Kayla replied with a smile, pulling away from him. “So what brings you here?”

 

“I was in town for a couple of days on my usual business trips and happened to stop by to see what's up!” Landon replied.

 

“How's the travel agency doing?” Kayla continued with her questioning. She went to sit on her bed.

 

“Quite slow. Another recession is coming!” Landon muttered as he pulled up a chair beside her.

 

“This planet has had too many of them!” Kayla said in agreement.

 

“Well, it's not our fault the mayor of Lunar-2 got ran out of town…” Landon paused for a moment, angered at remembering who had done so. He continued in a grudging tone, “Cecil, that good-for-nothin’ slumlord. He’s gonna make this town go to pots!”

 

“But what about Zyra?” Kayla believed that LIA had the means to bring him in.

“What about her?” Landon looked at Kayla from the side, confused.

“Aren’t they helping?” Kayla asked, assuming he too believed what she did on this issue.

“Ha!” Landon laughed sarcastically but added with hesitation, “They got issues too.”

 

“Is it comparable to Lunar-3?” Kayla brought up the city many knew to be controlled by that mob boss Peter “the Electro” Giordano.

 

LIA didn’t have the power to clean up the city. Thus it fell to the infamous godfather and his mafia.

 

“Not as bad but the alternative media outlets say it will!” Landon said curtly. “I been up there a few times and the only safe places to go are on the campuses in Sector B and the neighborhood around Sector A’s Capitol building. Sector C is like downtown Lunar-2—overrun by those freaks of nature they call the Genese!”

 

“How could Mankind’s Utopia

 

“Kayla,” Landon interrupted softly. “It may be a land of opportunity but remember all heck broke lose around 2024 when there was a nationwide revolt up there! No leadership because of the General’s sudden death birthed chaos. Also, the Queen was doing massive dirt behind his back and previously tried to take out his whole family!”

 

Kayla stood there in a daze as Landon's words rang in her mind. She felt crushed. Was all the positive Kayla read about on the net about Zyra fake news? Thought of it made her more depressed.

 

“Kayla?” Landon shook his niece still in a daze.

 

“I'm sorry, did you say something?” Kayla said apologetically, slightly shaking her head at not hearing her uncle the first time.

 

“Are you okay?” Landon looked at her with a bit of concern.

 

“I am. I just remembered something, that's all! Now, what were you saying?” Kayla turned to him, laughing off her being in a dazed state.

 

“That you was zonin'?” Landon paused after his witty counter with a grin on his face before explaining, “Anyway, we aren’t going see a lot of changes in this city until we get a new mayor. Quite possibly, Zyra might appoint a new one if and when LIA forces arrive.”

 

“So in the mean time, how will you get your business to stay afloat?”

“My charities and sponsors! They keep on donatin’—I keep on bookin’!”

“Cool! I remember back when mama was still alive, we use to visit Miami!”

 

“That was quite some time ago!” Landon said and suddenly paused to laugh in amazement at Kayla’s recall before saying, “At least six or seven years back. That's their way of saying thanks for your support!”

 

“I see.” Kayla paused to muse over the thought with a nod before asking, “So how long are you going to be in town?”

 

“For about another few days or so. Visiting my favorite nieces―which reminds me. I haven’t seen Marion yet—she working?” Landon looked around, listening to see if he could hear Marion’s voice downstairs.

 

“She’s at school.” Kayla answered.

 

“That’s new!” Landon paused after jerking backward in surprise before asking, “She failed a class?”

 

“Not this year! All those months of being grounded for poor grades finally motivated her to study harder!” Kayla explained after laughing at the obvious truth about Marion back then.

 

“Hmm…” Landon thought aloud with a pause. “Then it's something extracurricular I bet.”

 

“Yep!” Kayla nodded as a grin developed in her lips as she leaned her head toward him, “Guess which one it is?”

 

“Uh, let’s see…” Landon said, trailing off in thought. The man hesitated on purpose and in a tone of sarcasm when he finally said, “Chess.”

 

“How did you know?” Kayla asked after laughing at his correct answer.

 

“Because she’s good at it? I taught Marion everything she needed to know. She’s probably whooping every wannabe Grandmaster in the school right about now!” Landon explained.

 

“So, where did you learn how to play chess?” Kayla was curious. She never knew where Landon learned how to play the game.

 

“My father―your grandfather taught me.” Landon said and then paused to clear his throat before continuing, “And what went on between me and my dad I see is happening again between me and Marion.”

 

“Which was?” Kayla looked at him, intrigued by his recollection in memory.

 

“He didn’t like to lose!” Landon said and after a long pause, he added, “And neither do I!”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with playing your niece every once in a while, is there?” Kayla playfully teased him.

 

“Uh, no.” Landon stuttered, pausing again. “But after a while, stuff like that starts to play on ya!”

 

“Get outta here! It’s just a game!” Kayla joked.

 

“Maybe I should leave now and I might miss her!” Landon joked, faking a fear stricken face while shortly looking around and added, “I’d probably sleep better on the flight back to Earth!”

 

Kayla laughed at the scene he was making. She began to remember all the good times she and her family had when Landon came to visit—the expensive restaurants they visited, the presents he bought for them throughout the year on occasion—the list seemed endless. There was an air about him that put Kayla at ease. Landon was one of the few in her family who shared much with those he loved.

 

“I also see that you’re enjoying that Sankyo I bought for your graduation!” Landon noted, pointing at Kayla who had just sat her instrument on its stand.

 

“Yep! I play it just about every day!” Kayla answered him cheerfully. After sitting beside him on his bed she added, “It definitely beasts my Jean Baptiste.

 

“And it also matches the Beast playing it!” Landon added playfully before asking, “So how things been going with you, lately?

 

“Good!” Kayla answered, nodding her head cheerfully.

 

“I heard you got an album coming out!” Landon said, more enthusiastic about what he just said.

 

“My band and I just finished recording the originals. Now, all we have to do is wait.” Kayla nodded to his inference.

 

“For what? The CD is done, right?” something about what she said didn’t sound right to him. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Well, yeah, it is.” Kayla said hesitantly. “But money is needed to market it!”

 

“Ah, I’ll take care of that! Don’t worry! So how many songs are there on that album?” Landon sounded more interested after dropping his brow. Yet Kayla knew, out of all her family, Landon was her biggest supporter.

 

“Ten. I believe you've heard some of them already, right?” Kayla nodded with a smile.

“Only your originals.” Landon said.

 

“I only have three! But two are on this album.” Kayla looked at him with sudden disbelief.

 

“Samba Blues,” Landon began naming the songs she wrote, pausing after trying to remember each one. “Anedra's Jam and Longevity… The last one was the song you wrote for Earl and Mariana's 5th anniversary, right?”

 

“Ya! You got it!” Kayla smiled at him again.

“I just wonder about those three songs though.” Landon said as he rubbed his chin.

“What's wrong with them?” Kayla looked at him nervously.

“They sound kinda similar.” Landon said and with shrugging.

“So?” Kayla answered him with apathy.

 

“I mean,” Landon slightly paused. He then panicked as the two met eye to eye. Landon had forgotten how sensitive his niece was about her music. The man then knew that he quickly needed to turn what he said into something positive or else see Kayla blow up in his face. Landon cleared his throat and continued but rushing his words together, “The songs are great, don't get me wrongyou're a brilliant musician. But they're all in the same key! Does any other musician―”

 

“Of course!” Kayla yelled with a bite of unsettledness in her voice. “Movie Soundtrack composers use a similar sound in one album, like a trademark rhythm―just like a chef does with three basic ingredients in making a few dozen platters!”

 

“What does that last part have to do with music?” Landon was now in confusion.

 

I just messed up.” Landon just thought to himself as her heard Kayla grumble low at him.

 

Landon had his eyes turned away from her. But he just wanted to see if she bought him being confused. Kayla had dimmed her eyes at her uncle, making him nervous. Yeah, he blew it this time. Yet he assured himself, comparing Kayla’s way of pouting to Marion’s.  The “lesser” of the two evils, between Kayla and Marion, wasn't as bad. Kayla's dimmed eyes response made him nervous every time. Marion’s temper tantrums, which consisted of her constantly yelling at you, could be easily defeated with something similar to Kayla’s “angry look”.

 

Marion stomping around like a Tasmanian Devil vs. Kayla’s ‘evil eye’”. Landon ran over in his mind. He’d run that equation through the side of his brain that was good with calculations and for the 100th or so time. Sadly, he always came up with a remainder when he tried to balance the two out.

 

Marion’s temper tantrum, like that of any other child, was just a sign of something inside them that hadn’t matured. Sometimes, Marion got what she wanted if she pulled enough strings, using different natured tantrums to make Landon crack. Kayla, for many years, and since Mariana and Earl were married, used that same blank expression every time she got angry with somebody. In Landon’s opinion, Kayla’s way of telling you to back off was much creepier than her sister’s temper tantrums. By far it was the hardest for him to deal with.

 

Landon sometimes felt like an outcast in those types of situations. Mariana and Earl were the only ones in the family who could defeat both girls in their fury. Landon was a slow learner in this respect, most of which he blamed on not having children of his own.

 

“Okay, I get it!” Landon finally shrieked, with his voice cracking. He jerked away from Kayla, waving his hands up at her in surrender. “Sorry.”

 

Kayla nodded to him firmly with a forced smile. Her angered expression quickly faded.

 

“So with music,” Landon paused to clear his throat before continuing, “A single phrase or sound can be altered in another song in becoming a new melody?”

 

“Yup!” Kayla answered him with a smile. That smile faded as she added, “Unfortunately, those making the big bucks are using material that's just so unoriginal!”

 

“Cheer up Kayla, as long as you keep using what you've been using to create, you might prove Earl wrong!” Landon said as he comforted her with a hug.

 

“I hope so—unless some cat or chick tries to steal my stuff.” Kayla agreed but in a grudging tone.

 

“Speaking of people stealing stuff, whatever happened to that one girl?” Landon started as he let go of her.

 

“What girl?” Kayla looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

 

“You know,” Landon assumed. He knew she was faking her loss of memory. “She tried stealing everything you worked hard for just to say it was her own!”

 

He stopped, trying to recall more and then continued, “I forgot her name. I think it was Valerie.”

 

“I don't know no girl named Valerie!” Kayla said defensively.

“You do know!” Landon raised his index finger at her.

 

“No, I don't!” Kayla said in denial, turning away from him. She gave him a short look with that evil glare again.

 

“Look, you.” Landon said in a firm tone. He stopped and assured himself that this time; he was going to get passed that ‘wall’ she kept building between them with that glare. That’s when thought of something. He wasn’t quite sure that it would work.

 

“Don't let me go detective Dartan on your secretive self!” He grinned in a joking tone.

 

“You're not Earl!” Kayla laughed, completely caught off guard by his joke as she folded her arms.

 

“Oh?” Landon edged closer to Kayla, dimming his eyes at her. He whispered to the girl informatively, “In case you’re wondering, the boys in the family take after their mama. You remember Grandma Dee?”

 

“What about her?” Kayla peered over her shoulders as Landon came near.

 

“You know why you always called her that?” Landon raised his voice with his questioning.

 

“Because that was her name.” Kayla said apathetically. She shrugged, not really caring.

 

“ANNNT... WRONG!” Landon said in a buzzing tone with a grin and added, “You called her Grandma Dee after learning from experience!”

 

“What does that Dee in her name have to do with—” Kayla said but gasped, finally knowing where he was getting at and then dimmed her eyes. She gave him another short look as she continued in a flat tone, “Dee, as in Detective. So, she's the one you and daddy called the Sherlock Holmes wanna―”

 

“Hey watch it, bub!” Landon interrupted. “That's yo granny ya talkin’ about!”

 

Score!” Landon ran over in his mind as he felt he had broken the barrier. Grandma Dee’s trick seemed to be working.

 

“What you didn't know… She and Mariana worked side by side!” Landon continued with a grin on his face.

 

“She did?” Kayla turned to him after gasping in surprise.

 

“Lunar-2's Private Eye, Detective Andaya Sade Rice—retired after 30 years in the biz!” Landon said in an announcement.

 

“Retired?” Kayla rose in her enthusiasm.

 

“Not exactly.” Landon said sadly. “You didn't know much about her—she always worked in the background while Mariana took care of things in the fore."

 

“Is that why her grave is next to Mariana's?” Kayla asked him, interested.

 

“Both sacrificed their lives to make Lunar-2 safe!” Landon explained. He looked deep into her eyes and continued, “And if it wasn't for the help of a talented teenager—”

 

“Stop!” Kayla turned away, blushing with a grin. “You're flattering me!”

 

“But it's the truth!” Landon said innocently. “Taizo wouldn't have existed if Dee and Mariana didn't believe in you!”

 

“Andaya…” Kayla cocked her head sideways, thinking aloud and freeing herself from Landon's grasp. She hesitated as she added, “That sounds kinda like my—”

 

“Middle name?” Landon interrupted her, “It’s a derivative of Andaya, streaming from another—Andrea.”

 

“Nice!” Kayla said shortly, turning around and away from him.

 

“So who was she?” Landon poked her abruptly. “Don't make me have to go down the line like Earl―I mean, like Grandma Dee! All I remember—the girl was Hispanic.”

 

“Not even close!” Kayla snapped—all of the sudden cracking under her grandmother’s age-old ‘interrogation method’. “She was Portuguese with a bit of Heinz!”

 

“Oho!” Landon leaned back in shock to his niece’s sudden burst of anger. He hid a grin in his lips, knowing he had won. “So you do remember?”

 

“How could I not forget that little snotwad?” Kayla yelled. “That Lina always tried to steal my stuff! If she couldn't steal it, IT was blown up or sabotaged! Then she had the nerve to blame the mysterious sabotages on other students on me even though she WELL KNEW she was the one that could pull off that crap—that jerk almost won the science fair because of what she did to the MCLT-2 mainframe!”

 

Landon scooted over to Kayla, laying a firm hand on her shoulder. Kayla let out a sigh of frustration, turning in the other direction, trying to escape his touch.

 

“Mariana's death was partially her fault.” Kayla grumbled.

“Don't say that!” Landon shook his head, firmly correcting her.

 

“Why shouldn't I?” Kayla looked at him, appalled. “The school accused me of hacking the mainframe while Taizosu was badly damaged from her minions in cyberspace!”

 

“Whatever!” Landon threw his hands up and shortly sighed afterward. “You know—”

 

He suddenly stopped as a statue of something sitting on her dresser caught his attention. The object shared the space near a small blue and green boom box.

 

“…that isn’t true!” Landon finished as he got up and walked toward the statue. He studied the 20-inch high figure face to face.

 

Kayla turned around at Landon getting up to view a sculpture of a silver humanoid robot with its right hand out. Its left hand was an over-sized arm cannon pointed aimlessly into space, posing in a battle stance. Landon looked at the trophy with amazement.

 

“Is this the trophy you won from the Senior High Science Fair?” He asked her as he picked up the trophy.

 

“Why?” She turned to him, slightly tilting her head.

 

“This trophy says that Lina Vera was no match for ya!” Landon exclaimed with a grin.

 

“Uncle Landie, If Tai never woke up from his coma—that trophy would've belonged to her and I would’ve been expelled!” Kayla said solemnly.

 

“Yeah, I remember you telling me that and along with his mission to foil Lina's plan to hack into the MCLT mainframe!”

 

“She already did!” Kayla corrected, “But Taizo was the only one capable of cleaning up her mess!”

 

Landon nodded to her words. He looked down to the gold outlined plaque mounted below the figure.

 

“What's this thing say?” Landon asked her. He squinted at trying to the small, engraved print but couldn’t make out the words.

 

“1st place winner of the 2034 Senior High MCLT Science Fair - Kayla A. Dartan!” Kayla answered triumphantly.

 

“You had it memorized!” Landon said, impressed. He turned his head to her and asked, “So, what are your plans for the future?”

 

“I, uh…” Kayla looked at him with a lost stare. She flinched upon remembering. “I planned to attend college, preferably RIAS but—”

 

“Sector B is the safest out of all three sectors!” Landon said confidently. “LIA troops incognito—you can't beat that!”

 

“But you said—”

 

“Forget about what I just said, okay?” Landon stopped her. “You're child of a famous Special Forces Operative—slash bounty hunter! Someone with your expertise and background has LIA's undivided protection!”

 

“Thanks Landon, I feel a lot better!” Kayla said. Her face lit up after hearing his words.

 

“Anytime!” Landon smiled back as he returned Kayla's trophy to its place on the dresser. “What about that scholarship they owe you?”

 

“They don't because—”

 

“Oh yes they do!” Landon said in disbelief. “You won that scholarship fair and square at the competition. Earl told me earlier they haven't gotten back with you yet!”

 

“The truth is Landon, I didn't want to follow up on it.” Kayla finally said after looking a bit down.

 

“No way!” Landon's jaw dropped when she said that. “How could you turn―”

 

“You don't know the pain I'm still feeling inside. When Mariana died, I felt something do the same within me.” Kayla explained.

 

“All of us did, Kayla.” Landon said consolingly. “But now Mariana and Dee are asleep now.”

 

“I just wish for them to wake up,” Kayla said bluntly, folding her arms. “And make this pain of mine go away!”

 

“From what I learned at those sermons Earl and I attended with father when we were younger, only God has the power to do so.” Landon said.

 

“Then why can't he just do that, now?” Kayla asked in a semi-angered tone.

 

“All I can say from memory is that the appointed time hasn't come yet… and I'd just leave it at that, okay? People grieve in different ways.” Landon said, rushing.

 

“And I'm just at a point where I can't cry anymore.” Kayla added flatly. “I've seen so much and I just reached the point of not having anything left to cry about.”

 

“Mariana did tell me how she found you.” Landon said upon remembering a conversation he had with his sister-in-law a while back.

 

Kayla still stood there, aimlessly in a daze. Still thinking about all the loved ones she’s lost. Then there were the nightmares she kept having of this person named Kimmy. She too witnessed those dying. Though it was all a dream to Kayla, their deaths still felt real to her.

 

“She did?” Kayla fixed her eyes on Landon now, surprised at what he had just said.

 

“She told me your biological parents were murdered.” Landon answered.

 

“It just doesn't make any sense!Kayla raised her voice again, but this time in confusion to Landon’s answer. “It's like I'm cursed with this trail of death and—”

 

“Kayla!” Landon grabbed hold of her as his niece began to ramble. “Get a hold of yourself, okay? You are not cursed! The unforeseen―”

 

“How would you know?” Kayla shouted, darting her eyes up at him. “You've never had the trauma of witnessing your parent’s death! Nor were you haunted by nightmares and flashbacks of stuff you've never experienced before!”

 

“Kayla, calm down, everything is gonna be alright, okay?” Landon said, trying to calm her.

 

“Earl told me to get off this planet and go to Zyra, but how do I know if those who were after Mariana aren't around the corner—somewhere watching my every move?”

 

“Didn't Ta—”

“I don't have Taizosu anymore! It took me two years to—”

 

“And in two more years, you can build a better model if not in a less amount of time!” Landon said, confident in his niece’s skills.

 

Kayla stayed silent but shortly looked up at him before looking downward again.

 

“I'll give you that.” Kayla puffed, turning her head away. “Hopefully and by the time I'm done, it will be enough!”

 

“That's the spirit!” Landon said as he shortly hugged her tighter. He let her go a short while later.

 

Kayla moved over to her closet and stopped at the entrance.

 

“Speaking of which—” Kayla stopped, slightly turning her head to him with her hand on the closet's door. “I've already started.”

 

“Really?” Landon started toward her in awe as she opened the door.

“But you have to promise me uncle Landie that—”

“You don't want me tell anyone?” Landon anticipated.

“Make sure it's a promise you won't break.” Kayla continued tightly.

 

“You know me, Kayla!” Landie said with assurance. Kayla then looked at him with those dark piercing eyes again.

 

“Right,” Landon cleared his throat, spooked by her stone cold gaze at him. “I promise!”

 

He looked away after Kayla went into the closet—she had beaten him again with that look.

 

Can’t beat it every time.” He mused, laughing at his defeat.

 

Kayla dug behind her dirty clothes hamper in the corner and lifted it. Landon saw Kayla pull a neatly folded grayish black leather suit out of a box. For a few seconds, the suit stayed folded. Then Kayla shook it downward. Landon flinched at seeing the suit unfold.

 

“What is it?” Landon asked, looking over the suit. “I mean, what's it called?”

 

“It's called the SGY.” Kayla answered with a smile and folded SGY back into the box. Landon was standing at the threshold of her closet. Kayla moved the hamper in front of the box and piled dirty clothes over it. SGY was hidden even from Landon’s view.

 

“Meaning?” Landon trailed off, looking at her from the side.

 

“Uh, the name is an acronym in Japanese Kanji—so I'll just say it in English.” Kayla said.  She paused to laugh before saying, “Power Shell Armor.”

 

“Nice! I'd knew you'd put that Rosetta Stone I bought you in the 9th grade to some use!” Landon shifted his head frontward, smiling with a nod.

 

“Yeah, they helped although I haven't used them in a while.” Kayla nervously laughed.

 

“And what does this Power Shell Armor do?” The name alone had sparked Landon’s interest.

 

“Remember that patented Kinetic Forcefield Emulator the Evanstons invented during the mid 2010s?” Kayla looked at him, anticipating his response.

 

“You mean the rich boy's defense system?” Landon laughed after replying.

 

“Using the body's active energy,” Kayla nodded as she unconsciously buried her scarred index finger in her other hand. “A computer could emulate that energy into a massive field that's nearly impenetrable!”

 

“So this SGY is supposed to do that?” Landon stood there, nodding slightly.

“Think of what Taizo could do if he had that kind of capability!” Kayla exclaimed.

“I dunno!” Landon shrugged with a grin.

 

“C'mon uncle Landie—think!” Kayla said, shocked at Landon being stumped. “An AI with a reflector?”

 

“Ya lost me!” Landon laughed. He still couldn’t put the two together. That’s when he got an idea and said, “Wait—now that you think about it, he'd become a walking tank! So, how can a reflector be possible?”

 

“Advanced Cybernetics!” Kayla said happily. “With the new developments done in the field of computers, scientists were able to strengthen the link between man and machine.”

 

“How so?” Landon blinked, cocking his head sideways at her in confusion.

 

“On a small scale, a machine could read brainwaves, heart rhythms, temperatures, et cetera. What if you could store something, like a human's heat sig, and store that energy into a database that could be transferred into electrical energy?” Kayla explained.

 

“I kinda follow you!” Landon shortly smiled. “So your SGY can store this energy in this database for later usage?”

 

“Doesn't the body already do that with fat cells?” Kayla looked at him from the side. “That’s energy available but in a different way!”

 

“You're right, they are!” Landon laughed. “But it seems a little mystic, don't you think?”

“If it was, Naira Adega II would be after me!” Kayla said, snorting at thought.

 

“Oh, you mean Zyra's so called spiritual leader?” Landon said, turning his head away slightly while thumbing his nose, “Slash politician, Y'know...”

 

“Why, what's wrong with her?” Kayla asked, raising her eyebrow at what he just said.

“There's something about that woman that's—”

“Menacing?” Kayla interrupted with anticipation after lowering her brow.

 

“No!” Landon said, waving his hand at her, shocked as if she said something wrong. “There's a side to her that all moralistic people like!”

 

“What about the other side?” Kayla asked, almost naïve sounding.

“She's a bit too extreme with her religious endeavors!” Landon finally said with a sigh.

“Like what?” Kayla asked, slightly curious.

 

“Have you ever heard someone getting jailed because they were just living with someone of the opposite sex?” Landon asked her.

 

“No but—”

 

“Or how about exiling you off the space station for the possession of anything dabbling in the occult?” Landon continued.

 

“That is extreme!” Kayla looked at him, shortly raising an eyebrow at his the content of his question. “What about Madam Zyra? Can't she—”

 

“Naira has half as much political power as the Head Councilor herself!” Landon interrupted in a mocking tone. “If Naira II’s plans don't conflict with LIA's Utopian goals, Naira can do whatever she pleases! She could even have someone executed for supporting anything that isn’t strictly technological if she wanted to!”

 

“Oooh!” Kayla faked her fright. “Capital punishment for those breaking a divine law!”

“Naira kinda reminds me of ol' King Saul.” Landon recalled.

 

“Who was he and what did he do?” Kayla shook her head at not being familiar with the person.

 

“In the Bible, he was King David's predecessor. During Saul’s reign over Israel, anyone who inquired of a fortuneteller or was one, practiced magic, or sacrificed their children to idols, got the death penalty!” Landon explained.

 

“So that's how Princess Saul got her name!” Kayla looked away and laughed. “I knew her title had to be biblical!”

 

“It’s more to it than that! Remember King Saul didn’t stay in God’s favor cuz he ended up living by a double standard.” Landon shook his head. “Enough about that now—just talking about that woman gives me the chills!”

 

Landon paused to clear his throat and continued, “If you do get into RIAS, what do you plan on doing?”

 

“Cybernetic Engineering!” Kayla twisted toward him in excitement, cheerfully smiling. “And I've done the research. It's a three year degree program for a BSc.”

 

“Ah, a Bachelor of Science!” Landon nodded, enthusiastic. “What do you plan on doing once you've gotten your degree?”

 

“I want to start my own business in electronic security systems.” Kayla said with confidence.

 

“And if you do, let ya rich uncle know, mkay?” Landon winked at her. “As the old addict goes

 

“You need money in order to make money!” Kayla laughed after they said the line in unison. “I know! I know!”

 

“Also, what I learned from my clients up on Zyra, Cybernetics is a growing industry—there’s an increasing need for security systems.” Landon explained. He then nudged Kayla playfully at adding, “You'd fit right in!”

 

“I believe it!” Kayla laughed.

 

“Looks like Mariana's entrepreneurial skills are rubbing off on ya after all!” Landon added while heading for her door. He stopped at the foot of it, looking at his gold Rolex watch, and turned around to her. “I gotta finish talking to Earl about some stuff before I gotta make a run across town—you take care, hun!”

 

Landon hugged Kayla one last time before he exited her room. Landon made his way back downstairs into the kitchen to where Earl was sitting. Liz was sleeping next to Earl at his feet.

 

“Kayla's happy to see you as always, Landon.” Earl said as Landon sat down with him at the table.

 

“You know it!” Landon said shortly, turning to him.

 

“About what we were talking about earlier,” Earl began, folding his arms. “I still don't like the idea borrowing from family.”

 

“What's the problem? I won't do you like that good-for-nothing woman, Lee-Anne!” Landon said, reassuring.

 

“I know—I know! She kept ringing my phone off the hook, bugging me about the money I borrowed from her just to keep my daughters in MCLT.” Earl paused with a shudder and added with a grudge, “That conniving jerk. I disown that woman of ever being my sister!”

 

“How many times did I have to tell you not to trust her, Earl? You saw how she did her clients!” Landon said, scolding.

 

“Oh?” Earl leaned forward. “But you being so hard to reach is just as bad!”

“No it’s not!” Landon argued.

“Yes it―”

 

“NO IT’S NOT! And you know it! You and that religious way of life—you should have learned a thing or two about divine patience and blessings!” Landon interrupted in a loud, angry voice.

 

Liz opened one eye at hearing the commotion. She rolled it shut after letting out a low sounding yawn, followed by a grunt. Liz rolled over and away from Earl, lazily opening and closing her mouth finally before falling back to sleep.

 

“And you're bringing that up because?” Earl asked Landon straightly after shaking his head at Liz's lackadaisical movements.

 

“Remember way back when you told me that you had prayed for someone to help Kayla and Marion through high school?” Landon looked at him in confirmation.

 

“Yeah, I do.” Earl said in acknowledgement.

 

“Don't you know that the Devil knows that too by your actions? He'll throw the same thing at ya, but spearheaded by someone approved by him!” Landon said.

 

“Since when did you ever consider something like that?” Earl leaned back in shock to his younger brother’s words. “Sounds like something I heard in daddy's sermons a long time ago.”

 

“That among a few the other things they preached stuck with me—it makes since!” Landon nodded.

 

“Who are you to tell me that? And since when did you—”

 

“I don’t wear mine like a badge as opposed to some in the family.” Landon interrupted, raising an eyebrow at his older brother. “But that’s beside the point! Think back to when the last time I loaned you some money—did I ever slap on a high interest rate on ya?”

 

“No.” Earl answered him nervously. “But—”

 

“Did I ever bug you when you couldn't pay me back right away?” Landon continued in his questioning, raising his voice again to stop Earl from talking. “Remember that it took you longer than expected to pay it back sometimes!”

 

“Uh, no. But you see—”

 

“And we can’t say the same about our racist relatives, now can we?” Landon continued, raising his voice again in interrupting him. He leaned forward toward Earl and added, “After they tried to steal my identity, backstab me, and not to mention, lying on me by saying that I'm a lousy businessman—then there was Anne—always trying to steal my clients and ruin my rep with saying the latter! Despite all of that, I still maintained my sanity! To be honest, she shoulda stuck with the Post Office. She’s a lousy travel agent!”

 

“But you have the money to put those losers in their place! Why didn't you?” Earl asked, reasoning on the idea of Landon using his money to maneuver things his way. Earl knew his brother had enough to run a police investigation on those who wronged him and have the guilty put in jail if caught red handed.

 

“I'll let them be a victim of their own foul play.” Landon waved his hand at the thought. “Like that Lee-Anne, who’s in jail right now for all the dirt she's done!”

 

“Say what?” Earl’s ears perked up at hearing those words, surprised at hearing the news about their stepsister. “When was this?”

 

“Six months ago, the Lunar Prime police arrested Lee-Anne Tunnelsworth at her Lunar Prime office on the charges of extortion and money laundering.” Landon explained informatively, leaning back in his chair. “You reap what you sow—though most know it as 'what goes around comes around' or ‘Karma’. Nevertheless, it's a divine law set in motion by the Creator. Lee-Anne paid the penalty for being the evil woman that she has been all these years!”

 

“I knew that crook would end up in jail one day!” Earl said, laughing evilly at her fate. “She got what she deserved!”

 

“So how about it?” Landon brought up the subject again, breaking Earl from his relaxed mood. Earl looked at Landon with a blank stare.

 

Landon sadly shook his head at his brother's silence and sighed hopelessly. He knew that receiving a blank stare from his brother meant that Earl was pretty adamant about his views. Yet Earl’s stare wasn't like Kayla's. Landon could still helplessness in his brother's eyes as opposed to the defiance in Kayla’s. To that fact, Landon wasn't leaving. He thought of another tactic to change Earl's mind.

 

“If daddy were resurrected today, he'd die of another heart attack!” Landon emphasized in an appalled tone. “He worked so hard to keep his family together despite the apathy and hatred around him!”

 

“The people of his faith aren't jerks like some believe they are.” Earl said quietly.

“And what about Ma?” Landon asked, almost mockingly.

 

“What about her?” Earl countered with another question, still emotionlessly staring at Landon.

 

“All those years she opposed his faith? Look how much better we were off than our other relatives who didn't have one!” Landon said.

 

Earl returned to his silent state of melancholy and quickly glanced at his watch.

 

“Let's see,” Landon started listing with impatience, “Family turning racist, older brother not trusting his younger brother like he—”

 

“Okay—Okay!” Earl sighed in resignation after a few moments in thought. “I give!”

 

“Good!” Landon smiled, clasping his hands together. He took out his checkbook with a pen on the inside from his shirt's pocket. “And for future reference, Earl, do me a favor.”

 

“Anything, bro!” Earl said relaxed, waving his hand freely while smiling at Landon.

 

“If something sounds too good to be true, you know—it's NOT!” Landon reminded. “That's how those annoying telemarketers get ya!”

 

“Understandable.” Earl nodded. “You would know the kind of tactics they use!”

 

“Dishonesty may save companies money,” Landon sighed as he began to fill out the check. “But it's still wrong morally—Earth's economy is plummeting again because of those greedy corporations! 30 years later, they're repeating the same mistake over again.”

 

“What about Zyra?” Earl asked, curious.

 

“Except for them! Their economy grows in a closed environment, separate from everyone else—lucky.” Landon said.

 

“That's not luck, Landon.” Earl said, scoffing.

 

“What else is there?” Landon stopped writing the check for a moment to look up at Earl.

 

“Skill! Zyra has the best in economics, security, and technological achievements. I can see why people are claiming she's mankind's Utopia!” Earl said in his explaining.

 

“If they lived one day in Sector C, they'd say different!” Landon shortly said.

“Zyra's advisors will clean that up!” Earl said after shrugging.

“What makes you think that?” Landon asked him as he resumed writing the check.

 

“Well,” Earl paused. “Zyra University is one possible explanation. The Mellis Foundation has improved the private institutions. On the High School level, there's MCLT, run by the same people.”

 

“So you’re saying that Z.U. students contribute to Zyra's wellbeing?” Landon briefly looked up Earl through his glasses.

 

“Even the smaller colleges a part of Z.U. do too! After all, they all follow the dream of that one NASA College—”

 

“NIAC?” Landon interrupted, nodding with an audible sound of agreement.

“What's that stand for, again?” Earl scratched his head, drawing blanks.

 

“NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. As soon as they shut down 30 years ago, fall of 07, Gen. William Mellis Sr. went to NASA shortly after NIAC's closure. He asked for NASA's permission to use some of NIAC's proposals for the basis for Z.U.!” Landon paused to glance at his brother sitting there listening to him talk.

 

“His dream led to the completion of the Lunar Space Station in 2011.” Landon continued, “Thanks to philanthropist Mercer Evans, father of Conner Evans—later known as Conner Evanston of Evanston Incorporated, people now live on the moon in biospheres!”

 

“Didn't know that much!” Earl said in surprise. “How you find time to research all of that?”

 

“Well,” Landon blushed slightly and as he looked over the check he was writing. “When you got two intelligent nieces—especially one who’ll talk to you the death about technology, stuff starts sticking to ya!”

 

“So then you've heard about Kayla's plans to attend RIAS?” Earl's tone faded into a cough.

 

“Yeah but she's worried herself too much.” Landon shook his head.

 

“About what—oh, it's the same story.” Earl stopped to hopelessly sigh. “She says she going to apply for RIAS—three months later I ask and hear the same ol' thing!”

 

“She’s doing what?” Landon inferred loudly, tilting his head at the stairs toward Kayla's room. “I KNOW no niece of mine is gonna let that college fund I saved for her go to waste!”

 

“I guess they took Mariana's death pretty hard, huh?” Landon cleared his throat after turning back to Earl. “You try anything new lately to make her happier?”

 

“You already know about Liz.” Earl explained. Liz woke up at hearing her name. She looked up at him lazily and then went back to sleep. “Right after Mariana died I—”

 

“You did the right thing!” Landon comforted in interruption.

 

“But for Kayla—” Earl sighed with a pause. “It didn’t help much. Even as a pup, Liz couldn’t make Kayla happy.”

 

“She seems fine to me!” Landon argued but paused, “Well, except some things.”

 

“You don’t live with her!” Earl cocked his head at Landon in surprise. “Of course you wouldn’t know all of it! She doesn’t open up much.”

 

“Kayla did tell me a little bit how she was feeling after Mariana’s death.” Landon explained.

 

“She doesn’t tell people everything.” Earl finally said after a long pause. “I knew something was up when she had donated all her electronics to her instructor, Prof. Benton, before we had moved into this place.”

 

“She did what?” Landon’s jaw dropped in shock. His tone was loud in disbelief.

 

“That’s right.” Earl nodded. “And I'd just gotten use to hearing the buzz of electronics in the morning—and Kayla making a poor imitation of Dr. Frankenstein's shouting victoriously after each successful project! Remember how our basement was once her workshop?”

 

“I do!” Landon answered after a laugh. “What she do to it? ...Don’t tell me!”

 

“Traded it in for a music studio! That Sankyo flute you bought Kayla for her graduation—she suddenly started playing it nonstop!” Earl explained.

 

“Did you ask Kayla why she did that?” Landon scratched his head.

“She won’t tell me!” Earl looked down and shook his head.

“What about Marion?” Landon asked.

 

“Mama D’s technique discovered that Marion knows nothing either.” Earl toothily grinned.

 

“Oh—my—God.” Landon whistled, shortly shaking his head in dismay. He glanced down at his checkbook and resumed filling out the blank spaces.

 

“So, how much do you want?” Landon stopped writing once he reached the dollar amount line.

 

“Oh, uh—well, the bill is going up again next month.” Earl explained with hesitance.

 

“Isn't your SS and Mariana's severance check enough to cover that?” Landon asked, assuming.

 

“Nope!” Earl said low. “There's a limit to how much the government is willing to give us.”

 

“Doesn't Kayla and Marion help out?” Landon raised his head at Earl.

Earl flinched at him asking that question, not saying a word.

“Earl!” Landon scolded. “You should’ve told them to pitch in and help!”

“I didn't need to! They just offered.” Earl said.

“Why didn't you accept their help?” Landon asked, looking at him from the side.

“I don't want something like this to be of their concern.” Earl shook his head slowly.

“So you rather risk getting put out on the streets just because—”

 

“They’ll need that money once they move to Zyra.” Earl interrupted. “If I force life on them now, they won't enjoy it later.”

 

“You're forcing life on Kayla and Marion now by allowing them to live unrealistically!” Landon retorted.

 

Earl remained silent, looking at Landon with a frown.

 

“You say Kayla can't make a living off being a musician. You're gonna push her to insanity if something unexpected happens—like if the banks foreclose on this condo! Then what are ya going to do, huh?” Landon asked, disgruntled by Earl's reasoning. “Better yet, what if something happens to you tomorrow and you end up in the hospital or worse? How will your daughters survive out there? Mind you, people like Lee-Anne are tenfold in this world!”

 

Earl continued in his silence. He and Landon stared each other down for a few moments. Earl suddenly looked in the other direction, ashamed.

 

“I'll give you two thousand.” Landon finally said after an aimlessly sigh.

 

“But that isn't―”

 

“Take Mariana's income, yours, Kayla's, plus Marion's together and this check—” Landon abruptly stopped. “That should do.”

 

“Kayla doesn't make much on her gigs.” Earl explained. “And Marion doesn't get called into work every week. She plays in chess tourneys during the summer and winter months at MCLT just to have money in her pocket!”

 

Landon stopped to look at his older brother and blinked. He could see the sadness in his brother's eyes. At that he dropped his head back down to his check.

 

“No need to repeat yourself.” Landon finally said and dropped his pen on the amount line. “Tell you what—I'll make it eight grand!”

 

“Wait―woe, woe, woe!” Earl stopped him, shortly coughing as he quickly leaned forward.

 

“Relax, bro, I got you covered!” Landon reassured his older brother with a smile.

 

“Eh heh—I haven't heard that from ya in a minute! Something telling me I won't have to owe back a cent!” Earl said, remembering his brother’s catchphrase.

 

“I think you're psychic.” Landon teased, stretching his back a little.

 

“I'm 5 years older than you!” Earl said after laughing. “I aughta know my younger brother's favorite lines!”

 

“That makes this 50 year old feel a whole lot better!” Landon said with much sarcasm as he finished writing the check. The both of them laughed shortly at Landon's joke.

 

“Here you go!” Landon finally said after ripping the stub from the booklet. He handed it to Earl.

 

“Thanks, bro!” Earl said as he took the check from Landon. “I'm sure the Lord has blessed you for your generosity!”

 

“It's the best I can do!” Landon agreed as the two rose from the table. “Especially in the times we live in where family is no longer valued!”

 

Landon and Earl rose from their seats and shake hands. Earl escorted Landon to the front door, picking up his hat and jacket on the coat rack nearby. Earl opened the door for Landon and followed him out to his silver Mercedes e300 AG (Anti-Grav) parked behind Kayla's car.

 

“Hey Earl!” Landon asked as he got in his car. “You still attend masses like we use to when we were little?”

 

“Na!” Earl shook his head. “I'm still searching though!”

“I feel ya!” Landon agreed.

“How about you?” Earl asked.

 

“When I can!” Landon answered with a smile as Earl closed his car door for him. “Tryna make a living is hard out here—I can’t always go when I want!”

 

“And rampant hypocrisy these days are sickening!” Earl grunted as Landon rolled his car window down. “Where's the love?”

 

“Amen to that, brotha!” Landon prostrated himself lightly at Earl with a nod before starting his car. He then rolled his window up.

 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you!” Earl exclaimed.

“Yeah?” Landon said after rolling his window down again.

“Kayla's gig is coming up!” Earl said. “It's going to be aired on the radio!”

“Which station?” Landon asked as he fiddled with his car's radio.

 

“Uh...” Earl trailed off into thought. “Don't remember off hand but I'll text ya when I find out!”

 

“Let me know when ya do!” Landon said with a smiled, rolling up his window. He waved to Earl before taking off. Earl went back inside, met by Liz who came to the door barking at Landon's departure.

 

 

Marion walked through the door a while after Landon had left. Liz barked from her place in the living room, running to the door as the girl opened it. Happy to see her, Liz began prancing around Marion. As Marion came into the room with Earl, Liz sat down next to sofa and looked up at the two talking.

 

“Hey Marion!” Earl turned his attention to Marion coming into the room dressed in her blue MCLT uniform. You wouldn't believe who just paid us a visit!”

 

He had a grin on his face.

 

“Who?” Marion asked as she dropped her book bag down by the wall below the room's entrance.

 

“Eh, I'll give you a hint.” Earl said with his grin widening. “He owns one of the top ten travel agencies in the world!”

 

“If you were trying to say Uncle Landie stopped by, just say so!” Marion said cynically.

“I dunno. I just wanted to―”

 

“Why didn't you keep him here until I got home?” Marion placed her hands on her hips. “Yall know I'm involved in after school activities during the summer!”

 

“About that,” Earl asked, sounding concerned. “How did it go?”

 

Suddenly, Marion laughed evilly with a grin as she picked up her book bag and unzipped it. After digging through its contents, Marion pulled out a trophy that looked like a rook chess piece.

 

“First place in the MCLT 2037 Summer Chess Tourney goes to...” Marion trailed off and made a short audible fanfare. “Marion Elizabeth Rose Dartan!”

 

“Congratulations!” Earl said after hugging her. “I knew you could do it! Hey, why don't you go upstairs to show your sister?”

 

“Yeah!” Marion said happily. “Now both of us have something to brag about!”

 

“Okay,” Earl broke into laughter. “Just don't go overboard with you two's deep-seated sibling rivalry!”

 

“I'll try not to!” Marion said with a grin, heading for the stairs. When she got upstairs, she yelled, “Daddy, I think my trophy is bigger than hers!”

 

“You dreamin'!” Kayla yelled as Marion came into her room to show off the trophy.

“Alright you two!” Earl warned, joking with another laugh.

 

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