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  Reeanth pulled me away as an argument erupted. “My lord, are their mental faculties compromised? Are yours? You sound like them as well!”

  “Calm down. I grew up in North Carolina. I got rid of my accent when I moved up to Virginia because Northern Virginia is not like the rest of the state. It’s the city part that looks down on its bottom half.” I answered her with one hear turned towards the argument which went from the right way to cook a monster to the best tasting monsters.

  “Besides, it doesn’t matter, southerners are good people, and loyalty is their strong suit. And they’ll die for you if you have fried chicken and biscuits. Trust me. I’d do the same.”

  “Then we need to secure fried chicken and biscuits my lord. You need serfs to do the menial labor.”

  “Damn it Reeanth, I’m not a noble, we’re not in the Dark Ages, and nobody is a serf!” I angrily whispered. “That’s not how any of this works. Besides, I think all of them have magic of some kind.”

  “Them? Impossible!” She looked affronted, as if magic wouldn’t deign to grace the lives of our guests.

  “What? Don’t tell me you didn’t catch that with your enhanced intellect?” I teased, “Sally, the blonde, can change her appearance, which means she might be able to shape-shift with practice, and maybe only in minor ways. Tommy, the mechanic, probably has some kind of techno-sorcery and maybe metal sorcery. The big dude got more muscles, so maybe he’ll be fantastically strong. And Billy, poor Billy, he got an enhanced sense of smell. The fact that they still have beer and are chugging it the way they are either means that they keep finding it due to Billy or they had an impressive stockpile when the Ripples came.”

  “Astute my lord,” Reeanth said, “I did not put those clues together.”

  “It’s just a hunch, but we’ll see where it goes,” I replied, “Besides, we have to figure these people out. Southerners are either the nicest people on the planet and would give you the shirt off their back, or they are literally the worst people you’ll ever meet. There’s no in-between.”

  “I’ll get my axe my lord.”

  “You will not. You will be a good hostess and make sure that they eat until they are full. If they need to be taken care of, I’ll do it myself. Am I clear.”

  “Yes my lord.”

  Sheesh. She may be from an advanced civilization, but she sure has some backwards traditions.

  We walked back in with a pitcher of water and more heated canned soup. “I apologize, but this the only kind of food we have,” I said to my guests, “But I do have plenty of it. If y’all come back and visit again I’ll treat you to a slow cooked deer. The whitetail around these parts is huge, so piggin out in the future is an option.”

  “Wooweee, I can’t wait!” Billy whooped, “Maybe we’ll bring some beer and get Sally drunk for ya.”

  “Scuse me?” she said, “I don’t do that no more, highschool is over.”

  Big Jimmy laughed deep and low, “You did that two nights ago.”

  “Shut it muscles!” she said, gritting her teeth, “Or no more for you!”

  “My lord doesn’t need the . . .”

  My glare cut Reeanth off. “What she means to say,” I cut in, “Is that that’s not necessary. We’ll have ourselves a cookout and relax. And if y’all need some shelter for the last Ripple, then I’d be happy to offer it to you.”

  “Another one? Shit, we don’t have enough beer for another one.” Tommy said. He turned to me to clarify, “We get plastered every time one of the Ripples comes through, cause we were sure as shit drunk during the first one.”

  “You know what,” I said, rubbing my scruff, “So was I. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get picked up by the Conglomerate or the Centauri.”

  “The who’s and the what’s?” Sally interjected.

  “Genetically advanced humans and the Orion Conglomerate, which is composed of many alien lifeforms for the purpose of commerce and profit.” Reeanth clarified. “That’s the reason most of humanity is not on this planet.”

  “Holy cow, you kiddin me?” Billy freaked, setting his beer down. “I always thought my uncle was crazy, talkin ‘bout them anal probin little green men.”

  “Ok! That’s enough!” I cut back in, “The little green men is probably not true, but the alien part is real. Look at Reeanth, she is human, but her genetics were magically enhanced, or fixed to what they should have been back when humanity had magic. Apparently we’re all supposed to be way taller and more muscular. But what you said was more interesting. Y’all were drunk when the Ripple came?”

  “As a skunk,” Tommy answered, “Why? That’s not new though.”

  “No, no. The only people I’ve talked to about the first day itself are sitting right here. Everyone else I didn’t even think to ask. Reeanth,” I said, turning to our resident alien, “Did y’all do some kind of brain scan to sort us, or to know who to pick up?”

  “Absolutely. Every human was scanned and catalogued and rescued,” she said, her voice fully of pride.

  “So, how come it missed us?” Sally said, her eyes narrowing.

  “Probably because we were drunk,” I guessed, “There’s a good chance that we got missed because of our altered states of mind, we didn’t register as sober functioning adults.”

  “What other parameters did you search for during the initial scan?” I questioned, turning to Reeanth, "And how the hell did you miss something that simple?"

  “All healthy men and women of all ages, and all those with mental disabilities. Such things are easy for our genetic recombinator treatments to fix. Besides, we Centauri do not use mind-altering drugs of any kind. It hinders our performance on the battlefield.”

  “What about those with bacterial infections, or people who were unconscious during that time?”

  “The Conglomerate picked them up for testing. The Centauri only wanted those that were easy to fix with the standard genetic package that all Centauri citizens are entitled to. We need soldiers, and this agreement was done several millennia ago. Those missing limbs or with severe bacterial infections were not picked up. The genetic treatments do not fix those issues.”

  “What about those with altered states of mind, such as us. We were drunk when it happened. My fiance was drunk too. Does that mean stoners or people who were high or on some kind of mind-altering drug were missed?”

  “It’s possible,” Reeanth said, looking a little uneasy.

  Sally stood up and screeched, “Oh my god! That means Vegas is still full of people!”

  “I’m sorry,” Reeanth said sadly, “But the city known as Las Vegas is no more. It was bombed when we noticed a Hive infiltrant there.”

  “A what?”

  Petulance and boredom flowed through the mental link. I put my head in my hands and sighed. “Fine. Come on out,” I said, and then mentally screamed, [But behave!]

  “Woohoo!” Gungnir rejoiced, “My turn!”

  My most powerful weapon floated over and landed in the center of the table and became the futuristic magical version of a disco ball projector. Light coalesced in its crystal core and refracted out to show our guests what the Hive looked like in all of its various forms as Gungnir’s voice artificially deepened and narrated like David Attenborough. I sat back and enjoyed the show as this doesn’t happen often. Movies didn’t weather the apocalypse too well.

  “It’s like Star Trek!” Billy said, his entire face in awe.

  “Dummy, Star Wars had the holograms,” Tommy correct.

  “I thought that wuz Stargate?” Sally chimed in.

  Reeanth whispered in my ear, “My lord, I’m not sure that this is a good idea. We don’t know anything about these people.”

  “What would you have me do?” I whispered back after looking at the four guests who were enraptured by Gungnir spinning what it called, “The New Order”. “These are good people, tried and true Americans that managed to survive this long. I could make them some epic gear or try and enchant what they have to be powerful, and they could thrive here. And if they survived, there’s a good chance other people did too.”

  “I thought you didn’t want to take care of people my lord, or at least that’s what your paraclete said.”

  “I don’t, but these four probably will, see where I’m going with this yet?” I had my eyebrows raised and everything, trying to communicate with this dense woman without actually saying the words. I have my own responsibilities, which means I don’t want to leave my area if I don’t have to. Powering up and properly equipping four people with somewhat complementing magics and their own history is a godsend if handled properly. The mechanic could hopefully make anything if I conjured metal for him, and Jimmy ‘Muscles’ could be their tank if he had armor, and Billy could be their scout if he learned to shut up while Sally, well, we need to see about Sally. I’d bet she has the most combat potential out of all of them, but that depends on her temperament and exactly how much she can ‘change’.

  “That true or are ya pullin my leg?” Billy asked, frowning at the orb as it cut off the light show.

  “That’s some serious shit right there,” Jimmy rumbled.

  “Yes it’s true,” Gungnir answered, “I’m a magical floating orb that put on an epic holographic show for you bumpkins. I got no reason to lie.”

  Billy burped, “Awesome! We totally get to kick some zombie ass!”

  “I don’t have enough supplies to make zombie weapons,” Tommy cut in, “We need axes and leather armor and baseball bats and all kinds of shit.”

  Jimmy sat there staring at his plate sized hands. “Not sure I wanna fight zombies. Your dick don’t work if you get bit by one right? Cuz zombies don’t need to fuck, so if we turn into one, no sex.”

  “Hey, hey, knock it off. Relax,” Gungnir attempted to soothe their fears, “Weren’t you listening? It’s gonna take a long ass time for them to get down here. The only thing you gotta worry about is giant creatures and mish-mashed monsters. Oh, and other people too, we’ve met some not so nice teenagers with a peeved deity. But that’s besides the point.”

  “That’s enough outta you,” I interjected, putting my hand on Gungnir and silencing him, “But, I would like to invite all of you to stay for the night. I have some beds and mattresses stored away from before the Ripples messed everything up and in the morning I’ll get a couple things ready for ya. There’s one Ripple left, and I don’t have a good feeling about it.”

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