Mari had looked about agape as she took in the architecture. Everything seemed scaled up. Instead of corinthian columns and huge naked busts of women draped in fabric, the house was decorated in a rustic style. The walls were painted in warm earth tones, and the floors were laid out in blond hardwood. At each window, which was maybe twice as high off the ground as Mari was used to, wine colored curtains started at the ceiling and pooled slightly onto the floor. There were a couple of pieces of artwork dotted around the house, as well as children’s drawings that had been framed.
Mari passed a ‘small’ bookshelf that she would probably have to climb to reach the top of. She thought she’d gotten out of the phase of life where she needed a footstool for everything, but here they were.
Theo finally took them to a hallway with one large double door at the end of it. He knocked once.
“C’mon in, just wrapping up a call!”
With a bit of effort, he pushed the door open.
The figure sitting in a large easy chair before them was… well, it was Jayna. Plus about thirty-odd years and a foot of height and minus a few trips to the gym. She pushed a pair of thin spectacles up the bridge of her nose with one hand, and clutched a tablet in her other.
“I’m well aware of that, Parisa,” she said. “But they’re going to revolt if their–very reasonable, I might say–demands are not met. I’m on their side for once. Give them what they want. Goodbye.”
The small group crowded into her seating area. Mari and Zane took half a seat each in one chair, and Jayna plopped down hard in the other. “Is it that splinter group up north again?” Jayna asked, giving her mom a smile. “They still giving us trouble after all these years?”
“Oh, you know how it is,” said Nia, sighing. “I’m up for re-election soon, and that always brings the loudmouths out of the woodwork. People accusing the current government of selling out our cultural identity and all that hooey…” She paused to roll her eyes.
ayna rolled her eyes as well. “I don’t get those people sometimes. Cultural Identity is not a fixed concept. It changes over time. Typically for the better when the people are less idiotic than the current residents. These ‘loyalists’ are always stirring up trouble.”
“Sometimes trouble just pops right up,” said Nia. “And sometimes it pops back in after being gone for… how long, again? How many years?”
“It’s not like I didn’t call!” said Jayna defensively.
“I know, sweetheart.” Nia broke into a grin and beckoned Jayna forward “Well, let’s take a look at you,” she smiled, gesturing.
Jayna rose to her feet. “All in one piece, all ten fingers and toes accounted for,” she said.
“I can see that,” said Nia, patting her daughter on the head. Mari never thought she’d see someone able to pat the top of Jayna’s head without a few books to stand on. “Look at you, my little spacer. So many new friends!”
Jayna smiled. “I got you a souvenir from Kanaloa too,” she said.
Nia grinned. “We’ll catch up over dinner, dear,” she said, getting to her full height and leaning on the desk. “So, Ash, I remember you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to break your legs.”
“I appreciate that,” said Ash, nodding. “I kind of need those.”
She then regarded Zane. Zane waved at her. “And you must be the ‘captain’ I’ve heard so much about.”
Zane nodded. “Um, yes, that’s me. Your daughter has saved my life countless times. I only hope that I can keep her as safe as she keeps me.”
Nia let out a chuckle. “You’re adorable,” she said. Then she regarded Mari. “And you are the newest member of the crew, I take it?”
“That’s me,” she said, nodding. “Your home is lovely.. I’m already used to most people being giants compared to me, so I feel right at home.”
Nia nodded. “Our culture is boisterous, but friendly. I’m sure you guys will fit in nicely while you’re here. And you obviously have the full run of our home, the vehicles, and our place on the North Beach–it’s a little shack, but it’ll serve your purposes well. I’ve heard about your run-ins lately. I just want you lot to relax and enjoy yourselves, okay?”
“That’s what we’re here for, mom,” said Jayna. “My crew’s had a rough couple of jobs, and they’re here to unwind.”
“Excellent,” said Nia, beaming. “The island’s economy is partially tourism based, you know, so it should be easy to find things to do. And the Games are going on this week, too!”
Jayna laughed. “So my sisters are going to be off the grid, then?” she said, and shook her head. “I’m guessing you’ve gotten our regular box then?”
Nia nodded. “And if I rub elbows at a dinner in a couple nights I can probably get us another box as well.”
“You know, I’m getting kind of tired of always being the new kid who asks the obvious questions,” said Mari, rolling her eyes.
Zane patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry–I don’t know what they’re talking about either.”
“Yeah, but you’re so chill that you never ask,” said Mari, folding her arms.
Jayna laughed. “The Games are kind of the biggest deal of the year,” she said. “Both for the locals and the tourism industry.”
“It’s an annual week of athletic competitions,” explained Nia. “With only women competitors. There’s sporting events, strongman competitions, track and field…”
“My favorite was always the mock gladiatorial combat,” said Ash. “You have to hand it to these people. They pick a theme and they stick to it.”
“And my sisters are both very, very good at the martial events. No doubt they’re competing for our district,” Jayna said, settling back. “I did it once, a strongman competition. The year before I left. It’s a lot of fun and pomp and circumstance.” She paused, and let out a slightly wistful sigh. “But it’ll be nice to sit and watch with a nice drink.”
“You should have seen her,” said Nia, beaming. “She set a lifting record that hasn’t been beaten yet! Could have been a star of the field if space hadn’t called to her.”
Jayna smiled. “I wanted something different.I’m still sorry, but I’d never go back,” Jayna said.
Nia smiled and ran a hand through Jayna’s hair affectionately. “I know,” she said. “But I’m glad you’re here now.”
She smiled and pulled her mom into a hug. Mari smiled. After everything she’d seen from Jayna, this was probably the most jarring.
The two parted, Nia wiping her eyes. “Oh, enough of this,” she said. “I’ll put you all up in the guest rooms, and the whole of the city is at your disposal. Anywhere you want to go, I’ll have someone escort you.”
“Thanks, mom,” she said and smiled. “You still working?”
“Always. I have a few loose ends to tie up. Everyone tries to pass all of this legislation before the break for the Games and we have to very politely tell those people to remove their feet from their asses.”
“Same old, same old, then?” said Jayna.
“What can I say?” said Nia. “If I wanted a job where people liked me, I’d have stuck with modeling.”
Theo cleared his throat. “Now that you two big babies are done crying all over each other, you’ve got a rug in town to cut. Go on, get out there, show your friends all of the wonders that the island has to offer.”
Nia smiled. “Try not to lose the little one, but otherwise… take the Falcon. I am still looking for a new daughter in-law, anyway. Maybe you’ll get a little more lucky with a wingman.”
“I think I’d prefer my rugs uncut, myself,” said Zane. “But I’ll be sure to enjoy myself!”
Nia looked over to Jayna. “Is he for real?” she said.
“We never can tell,” said Jayna. “Just roll with it.”
Nia chuckled. “Okay. Just be careful and watch for out for each other.”
“We always do,” said Zane.
The “guest room” that they had been given was bigger than Mari’s apartment back on Raulin, and she readily said as much as she plopped down onto a huge bed.
Jayna chuckled. “I used to have my own room, but I think Theo turned it into his own gym. Loser.” she said, and peeled off of her boots and opened up a suitcase, pulling out a navy blue affair that complemented her skin tone well.
“So I don’t know about you guys,” said Mari, stretching out. “But I wanna go and hit this town. I haven’t gotten a chance to really cut loose since college.”
“None of that for me, thanks,” said Zane, sitting upside-down on a sofa as he cleaned his goggles. “I don’t do well with crowds.”
“Well, Theo’s offered to take us. He’s invested some money in a couple of the night life scenes in the area. He said we could get a VIP table anywhere,” Jayna said.
“I could get used to getting the star treatment in the places we land,” said Mari, smiling. “As opposed to the other kind. The hurtful, shooty kind.”
“Ditto,” Ash said, and then shrugged. “I mean, Zane, it might be a little, music-y, if we’re in the VIP lounge, it should be pretty quiet as far as people go. What do you say?”
Zane flipped himself over. “Alright, I guess,” he said. “Loud is fine. I mean, can’t be louder than a gunfight, right?”
“Nope, and less violent, too.” Jayna said. “Besides, I haven’t gotten to play dress up in a while,” Jayna murmured, heading into the bathroom.
Mari rolled over and looked at Ash. “How’d you get her to leave all this behind??”
“Get her?” said Ash. “She practically begged me to take her.”
Mari frowned. Ash rolled his eyes. “Not every woman dreams about beautiful clothes and spa trips and cabana boys. She had all that. She wanted something that money couldn’t buy her.”
Mari chuckled at that.
“It’s cliché,” said Jayna, as she came out of the other room. “But it’s true.”
“Yeah, but–” said Mari, then stopped when she saw what Jayna was wearing.
Jayna was still fiddling with the clasp around her neck as she came out, but if anything that just left more of her body open for ogling. She was wearing a navy blue floor length gown, with a slit exposing damn near all of a tanned, muscular thigh. It curved, hugging around her hips before narrowing around her waist, with small, neat circles cut out of the sides to reveal her sculpted midsection.
It wrapped neatly around her breasts and left her thick arms bare for all to see. As she let her arms drop, they could see the thick shoulders that were bisected by the metallic straps. It was quite a dress, but it paled in comparison to the woman in it.
Ash and Mari both squirmedslightly.
Zane smiled as he popped back up. “Wow, Jayna,” she said. “You’re gorgeous.”
Mari and Ash looked at each-other. They were both blushing.
She smiled. “Thank you, Zane,” she said, and looked him over. “Ash, Zane, my brother Theo probably has something that could fit both of you. I’d just go kick his door in and steal his stuff. Mari… I actually have an idea of what to dress you up in.”
Mari blinked. Then she considered. “I haven’t worn something that wasn’t either shorts and a tank top or scrubs in ages,” she said. “So y’know what, give me both barrels.”
Jayna nodded. “Excellent!”
Jayna shooed both boys off with minimal complaints and then set her sights on Mari, who seemed to be beet red for a reason Jayna couldn’t place–oh, wait, yes she could. The dress she was wearing was backless, after all, with the lower curve draping just a little lower than Mari was probably used to seeing. “Alright, keep it in your pants, Naoki. we’ve got work to do.”
“I can’t help it!” she blurted out. “You are a whole lot of woman and I have not gotten any for awhile!”
Mari paused. The room was dead silent. Crickets were not native to Isocrateria, but if they were, they would be hearing them.
“Did I say that last part out loud?” she said, somehow even redder than before.
Jayna smiled. “Oh, you’ll have your pick of the litter tonight. Literally and figuratively.” She looked over Mari again, and then held up a hand. “GImme a second. I’ve got it,” she said, and left the room.
She returned five minutes later with a box marked ‘Crap Jayna left here’ and plunked it down on a coffee table probably worth more than Songbird.
“What are you going to find in there?” said Mari, eying the box dubiously. “I mean, unless you’ve got some of your old doll clothes in there, I doubt you have anything in my size.”
Jayna procured a few things out of the box, and rolled her eyes. “Just let me work,” she teased, pulling out an old tank top. “What’s your favorite color?”
“…is this a trick question?” said Mari, taking a handful of her vibrantly-dyed hair.
Jayna shrugged. “Well, you never did let me know if the carpets matched the drapes,” she said, giving her a devilish smile as she got to work. About ten minutes or so later, she held up something for Mari to see.
It had, at one point, been a boring black tank top. In the past few minutes though, Jayna had added thick piping along the hem and straps that added splashes of purple. She’d sashed it low, right about Mari’s hips and added a cut out panel reinforced with purple stitching right atop of where Mari’s cleavage would sit, if she had any.
Mari looked at herself. She raised an arm, as if checking to see if the image in the mirror was actually her. Then she twirled around. “I can get used to this,” she said, smiling.
“I bet you could,” said Jayna, giving a thumbs up. “Those scrubs do that figure of yours a remarkable disservice, let me tell you.”
“Oh look,” said Mari, turning to hide the creeping blush, “a distraction.”
Jayna laughed. “Go get changed, Naoki.”
They came out a moment later, just in time to see the men of Songbird approaching them, also dressed for a night out.
Zane still had his aviator cap on, but instead of his traditional garb, he wore a crisp white dress shirt with a bright blue t-shirt beneath it. He shifted a bit in a pair of loaned denim pants, and then waved to Jayna and Mari as they walked out.
Ash had switched out of his clothes for a black top that seemed to consist of overlapping black panels, constructed to highlight the slim build of his chest and lean frame. He complimented the top with a crisp gray jacket and similarly colored denim.
Of the two of them, Ash took to the change in outfits considerably better, to no-one’s surprise. Zane kept his hands in his pockets and his eyes downcast, but seemed relatively together.
“Well?” said Ash. “Shall we hit the town?”
Jayna slung an arm around Zane’s neck. “Hey, you know what they have in this world that you’re really going to like? These little chocolatey drinks that fizz. It’s a riot,” she said, and pulled him towards the car. “C’mon.”
“I do like things that are chocolate and fizz,” said Zane, smiling. “But I never imagined that I could have both.”
Jayna smirked. “Stick with me, kid. I’ll take you places. I got us a driver for the night, so you can have as much sugar as you want. We’ve got excellent detox bars too, that are quiet and have lots of water, for after we get crazy,” she smiled.
Zane gave a half-hearted smile.
“Alright then,” said Mari, stepping out from behind Jayna. “Let’s go before someone decides to start shooting at us.”
Ash let out a whistle. “Damn,” he said. “You clean up nice.”
“Wish I could say the same for you,” said Mari.
Ash chuckled, putting a hand over his heart. “To be fair, I’m starting from a much lower position.”
“Come then, noble companions,” said Jayna, putting her arms around everyone’s shoulders. “The night awaits.”
The ride to the club district wasn’t a very long one. Jayna acted as tour guide, showing off all the places in her city that she’d grown up in.
About twenty or so minutes later, they’d arrived in front of Obelisk, a nightclub her brother ran.
It was certainly active. There was a queue to get in, and the thumping of bass could be felt from across the street.
“Man,” said Mari. “This island knows how to party.”
The four of them began their approach, until they realized that the four of them were, in fact, a threesome. They turned around and saw Zane leaning against a nearby streetlamp.
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t do this. It’s too much… just, too much everything. You all go have a good time, though.”
Jayna looked at him, and then to the nightclub.
“Jayna?” said Ash. “We can go back. I don’t want Zane to be alone.”
Jayna shook her head. “No, don’t worry. I’ve got this. You guys? Enjoy everything Obelisk has to offer. Ash, keep an eye on Mari. Here’s the house number, if you need a pick up, just let them know.”
She moved towards Zane, and whispered something in his ear, and he gave her a hesitant nod. Jayna grinned, and then guided him back to the car. “We’ll meet you guys back home,” she called, before closing the door.
Ash and Mari shared the look.
“Well then,” he said, offering Mari an arm. “That settles that, I guess. Shall we?”
“Let’s,” said Mari, taking it. “What d’you suppose they’ll get up to?”
“I’m sure we’ll hear about it…”