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       Jenny In Space: Chasing The Killer Comet, p.1

           Michael Coles
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Jenny In Space: Chasing The Killer Comet


  Chasing the Killer Comet

  Michael Coles


  Copyright 2013 Michael Coles

  Ebook formatting by

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1 - The Mysterious New Housekeeper

  Chapter 2 - The Dreams and Visions of Madame Caidoz

  Chapter 3 - The Danger from Above

  Chapter 4 - The Faint Hope

  Chapter 5 - The Suit

  Chapter 6 - Inevitable Impact

  Chapter 7 - The Events

  Chapter 8 - Contact

  Chapter 9 - Wondrous Technology

  Chapter 10 - Decision Time

  Chapter 11 - Preparation

  Chapter 12 - Sad Farewells

  Chapter 13 - Chasing a Comet

  Chapter 14 - Earth's Plan

  Chapter 15 - Extinction or Salvation

  Chapter 16 - Triumphant Return

  Chapter 17 - Another Prophesy Beginning to Take Shape

  Chapter 1

  The Mysterious New Housekeeper

  Full speed, like a comet streaking through the heavens, Jenny Thompson felt released and re-energized. It was one of her and Polka's favorite times of the day. Jenny's blond hair moved in unison with Polka's black mane and tail, and she squinted against the rush of air in her face. Polka's hoof beats were fast and hard, and Jenny leaned into the speed. Jenny gradually slowed him to a canter, wanting to save some of his energy for one more burst on the way home. The white spots covering Polka's black coat stood out like a snowfall on a dark night. Sitting up straight in the saddle, Jenny looked around at the sights she loved so much. The swaying grass and the warmth on her face made her relax her flexed body and she slowed Polka to a walk.

  "You know what, Polka? I'll bet I'm one of the luckiest thirteen-year-olds in the world. Mostly because I've got you. I mean there's lots of other stuff that I'm thankful for...but you pull it all together. You're my pal no matter what. I'm just so lucky to have you."

  Polka snorted as he continued to catch his breath.

  "Let's head over to the lake and get you a drink."

  Jenny tightened the light-blue elastic in her hair as she rocked comfortably in the saddle. She usually wore her hair in a ponytail. The summer sun had bleached it to a radiant golden tone, with wisps of blond highlights at the front. Her facial appearance was a mixture of her mother's soft beautiful features and her father's angular characteristics. She had inherited her mother's calm relaxed demeanor. She was sensitive, but confident and outgoing. Jenny missed her mom, although she did not really remember her. She had passed away ten years ago.

  "I'm going in for a swim. Here, I'll take this off so you can cool off," Jenny said as she loosened the cinch. "It's hot, isn't it? And I haven't been sprinting for a mile like you have."

  Jenny loved her new saddle and so did Polka. It was small and light, not like the huge, 40 year old, beat up, piece of junk she'd been using up to this point. She could barely heft that old relic onto Polka's back.

  Jenny went in for a swim while Polka wandered off in search of some tender blades of grass. As she looked into the blue sky, Jenny's mind wandered, as it often did, to the vastness of space. Her father worked at the Lester B. Pearson observatory about 10 kilometers away. Jenny was determined to have a career in astrophysics. She thought her Dad had the greatest job in the world. He was able to peer deep into space and try to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

  Jenny's father, as a boy had also been keen on astronomy, working hard to make it his career...but now, he was troubled by something he had just discovered in Earth's solar system. The excitement of his discovery had worn off days ago as Roy Thompson began to worry about the comet's course. As it got closer, the size and direction became clearer, but a couple more days of study and calculation were required to pinpoint how close it would actually come. He tried to keep his mind on his work, but the scientific calculations were tedious and Mr. Thompson's thoughts often strayed to his family and home. Mrs. Anderson and her daughter had helped immensely with the housework over the last 10 years, but the daughter had just recently married and moved away, and Mrs. Anderson was ready to retire from her job at the Thompson household. Jenny, her brother Martin and their father had thought they could keep up the house themselves, but it did not take long for Mr. Thompson to realize that they had underestimated the workload. None of them liked the idea of bringing a stranger into their home to take care of the duties Mrs. Anderson had so lovingly tended to, so Jenny and Martin stubbornly clung to their desire for independence.

  The Thompson home was located in a lovely rural area, surrounded by open fields and gentle rolling hills. Their closest neighbor was almost a kilometer away. Mr. Thompson tried to relax as he drove home for what promised to be an eventful evening. He groaned as he stretched his long body out of the car and brushed a lock of brown hair off his forehead. Mr. Thompson was not in the best of moods; he was tired from too many long hours at the observatory. He also knew what he would find at home-a disaster!

  Mr. Thompson rubbed his temple as he walked up the steps and across the wrap around porch of the beautiful two-storey home. The painters had just recently applied a fresh coat of light grey paint to the exterior of the house and the faint smell was still perceptible. Walking into the house, Mr. Thompson found exactly what he expected, food-encrusted dishes and drinking glasses scattered everywhere, unclean floors, and dirty clothes piled up in a big mound on the laundry room floor. The pressure he felt had been building for days, weeks, even months, and it was about to explode. He found Jenny and Martin in the kitchen hurriedly cleaning up.

  "That's it you guys! I can't take it any longer! We need a housekeeper," he announced to Jenny and Martin.

  "No, Dad! We'll do better, we promise," Jenny pleaded.

  "Yeah, Dad. Give us another chance," Martin said.

  "No!" their father said, shaking his head and setting his jaw. "You can't change my mind this time. This is too much for us, we can't keep up, and I'm tired of the mess: laundry and dishes pile up, the house is a mess, meals are unhealthy, and the bills don't get paid on time. I know I don't do my part either, I need help too, we all need help."

  "I'm too busy at work, and you two have too much homework, or so you keep telling me. So, we need a housekeeper, and that's final! I placed an ad in the paper yesterday. I received three calls at work today regarding the position. I've booked three appointments for tonight. I want to get them over with so we can make a decision on which we like the best. I'd like to hire someone and have them start on Monday."

  Jenny and Martin looked at each other and remained silent. There was no point in further discussion. They had put up a valiant fight, but they just couldn't keep up with all of the housework. They were both good students, who kept up with their studies, and were involved in organized activities, so finding the time and energy for housework, on top of all that, was difficult for them. Martin was 2 years older than Jenny and they enjoyed the things kids enjoyed doing, which did not include anything with the word "work" in it, like housework and homework. Jenny's mind wandered aimlessly as she hurried tidying up the kitchen.

  What a way to spoil two perfectly good words, "house and home," Jenny thought to herself, just by putting the word "work" behind them.

  "I have to go back to the observatory tomorrow, and likely Sunday too," Mr. Thompson announced.

  Jenny glared at him with piercing blue eyes. "The whole weekend again, Dad? Why are you working so much lately?"

  "Umm, just some solar flare-ups we've been documenting," he said vaguely.

  Jenny could read her father pretty well, and s
ensed he was hiding something.

  "The first appointment for the new housekeeper is due in about a half an hour. What culinary delight do you have planned for supper tonight?" their father asked, somewhat sarcastically.

  "We have a wonderful chicken dish prepared by Chef Swanson," Jenny played along.

  "We'll have to make our first priority for the new housekeeper-someone who is a good cook," their father said, as he walked unenthusiastically into the kitchen.

  "Yeah!" Jenny and Martin agreed wholeheartedly.

  "She has to be astronomical in the gastronomical department. Weird eh, you just add the letter 'g' to the beginning of astronomic, and you get gastronomic. One is the outer reaches, and the other is the inner reaches," Jenny realized, earning a chuckle from her father, and a roll of the eyes from Martin.

  Martin was a few inches taller than his sister. His hair was thick and blonde like his mother's had been; he liked to wear it in a shaggy style.

  Jenny and Martin didn't mind TV dinners, because they were easy to prepare and clean up after, but a nice home cooked meal occasionally would be nice.

  They had just finished eating when the doorbell rang.

  "There's the first one," Mr. Thompson said, as he wiped his mouth and went to the door, with Jenny and Martin close behind. The door opened, revealing a woman with a stern face, atop a substantial frame.

  "Good day, my name is Mrs. Stoggert. I am answering your ad for a live-in housekeeper. Are you, Mr. Thompson?" she asked sharply.

  "Why yes, yes I am, please come in. We'll go into the living room and chat," he said, leading the way.

  Mrs. Stoggert looked around the house and huffed.

  "Please have a seat, Mrs. Stoggert, and we'll get to know each other. These are my two childr..."

  "Yes, fine," Mrs. Stoggert rudely interrupted. "Let's get a few things straight first."

  "Yes, sure, of course, what's on your mi...?"

  "I don't do floors, windows or bathrooms. Everyone takes care of their own rooms, and their own laundry. I cook, and I do breakfast and lunch dishes, but someone else cleans up the dinner dishes," she said glaring at Martin and Jenny.

  "I vacuum. You have a built-in vacuum system I hope?" To which Mr. Thompson just nodded.

  "I dust, and I will sweep outdoors. I work from nine a.m. 'til six p.m. Monday to Friday, weekends off, no exceptions, and I will need a television and cable in my room. These are my terms," she ended abruptly.

  Mr. Thompson raised his eyebrows and opened his eyes wide. "Well, I guess you've answered all of the questions I had, very efficiently."

  He put aside the list of questions he had prepared, and had no interest in asking anymore. Jenny and Martin smirked at each other as Mrs. Stoggert was quietly escorted out, and the door closed behind her.

  "She's perfect!" Jenny jokingly raved.

  "Dad, if you hire her, I'm moving out," Martin protested.

  "Hmm, that's a tempting suggestion. What do you think about Martin's offer, Jenny?" her father asked.

  "Hmm," Jenny pondered the thought for a calculated moment, as she glanced at her brother out of the corner of her eye. "No, I think even Martin is preferable to her."

  "Oh, thanks a lot," Martin complained.

  "She may end up being the best of the three," Mr. Thompson said, wincing.

  Twenty minutes later prospect number two showed up. She was thin, and had a much friendlier disposition than Mrs. Stoggert.

  "Hello, I'm Mrs. Ringer," she chimed pleasantly, "I'm here to apply for the housekeeper's position?"

  "Hello, Mrs. Ringer, I'm Roy Thompson. Just call me Roy, and these are my children, Martin and Jenny."

  "Hello," they all said.

  "Come this way to the living room, Mrs. Ringer," and he beckoned her to follow.

  "Oh, what a lovely home you have. I once owned a home like this in Vancouver from 1999 to 2002. It was a beautiful place, two stories and lots of room, the carpets were kind of dirty when we moved in but we replaced them with new ones right away," she reminisced.

  Mr. Thompson motioned for her to have a seat, and she just kept right on talking.

  "The yard was lovely, although we didn't care much for the large pine tree on the lawn..." Mrs. Ringer went on for ten minutes about her old home in Vancouver.

  Jenny, Martin and their father glanced at each other.

  She doesn't even stop for a breath, Jenny thought.

  "Oh, but I'm rambling on as I am apt to do. I do love to talk, as you will soon discover, and you and your children must have some questions for me, and what attractive children you are. Mine are all grown up, but they were a joy to raise."

  Oh oh, here we go again. Jenny could tell Mrs. Ringer was winding up again.

  "Margaret, my eldest, went to university and became a nurse, and Sam, well Sam is still deciding what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He's a little bit lazy and unfocused." And she went on for another twenty minutes about her family, all the way back to her great, great grandparents.

  Mr. Thompson had been looking for a pause or a break in her sentences, but none ever came. Just as he was about to interrupt her, the doorbell rang again.

  "Hmm, that's my next appointment for the position," Mr. Thompson said.

  "I'll get it," Jenny blurted, looking for any excuse to escape. She bolted to the door and opened it to an oddly dressed woman, who did not say a word for a moment. The woman just stood there, with a look of recognition on her face. She nodded her head slightly, and Jenny thought she could see tears accumulating in the woman's large brown eyes, and then a smile swept across the woman's broad, flushed face.

  "Hello. My name is Rellet Caidoz, although my clients know me as Madame Caidoz, but my friends just call me Relli, and I know we are going to be close friends," the woman said, with the hint of a European accent.

  "Hi, I'm Jenny." She thought Relli had the look of someone who had been searching for something for years, and had just found it.

  "I suppose you're here regarding the housekeeper's position?" Jenny asked, and the woman nodded.

  "Won't you please come into the kitchen and make yourself comfortable? My father is still with the last applicant, and he could be awhile by the sound of it."

  Jenny eyed Madame Caidoz up and down. She wore a long flowing skirt, layered with different shades of purple, and adorned with fine gold chains and medallions, impressed with the signs of the zodiac on them, and she swished and jingled as she walked. From her ears hung large gold hoop earrings and broad gold bangles encircled her thick wrists. A purple kerchief, decorated with stars and crescent moons covered the top of her shoulder length black hair, and a lavender tassel at the back of it, swayed back and forth as she walked.

  "Are you interested in the zodiac?" Jenny asked, intrigued by this unusual-looking middle-aged woman.

  "I am a student of the stars and the planets. My card," she announced theatrically.

  Jenny took the card from her, and noticed Madame Caidoz had very strong looking hands, and her unusually thick and sturdy fingernails were painted purple to match her outfit. The card had all of the signs of the zodiac adorning its borders, with a vague background of stars and planets. Jenny read the card aloud. "Rellet Caidoz, star charts and fortune teller." Jenny's face lit up. "Cool! You're a fortune teller and astrologer!"

  "I am indeed," Madame Caidoz said proudly.

  "My father is an astronomer, so you're both kind of in the same line of work."

  "Ah yes, your father searches for the history of the universe, while I look into the future of the inhabitants of the universe."

  "The inhabitants of the universe?" Jenny asked, surprised by the scope of her statement.

  "Well, this planet for the most part," Madame Caidoz corrected.

  Jenny liked the new applicant already, especially considering her competition for the position.

  "I'm a Taurus. Do you know what my horoscope is for the next little while?" Jenny asked.

  "Do you believe in the art of
the zodiac, psychic readings and fortune telling?" asked Madame Caidoz.

  "Well, not really. My dad's a scientist and I am too. We kind of believe what we can see and chart and theorize on. But no offense. I still like to read my daily horoscope in the paper, and I must admit, sometimes its accuracy is a little spooky."

  "No offense taken, I assure you," Madame Caidoz chuckled, as if she knew something Jenny didn't. "I can do more than just tell you generally what's in store for Taurus. I can give specifics, for a Taurus named Jennifer Thompson."

  Jenny's eyes lit up with interest, and she leaned forward in her chair, putting her elbows on the kitchen table and resting her chin in her hands. Madame Caidoz looked deep into Jenny's eyes, right into her soul, Jenny felt.

  "I see great things in store for you, Jenny. There are worlds of adventure waiting for you, and people who need you."

  "Wow! What do you mean by 'worlds of adventure'?" Jenny asked, just as her father led a still-talking Mrs. Ringer to the door. Jenny could hear her chattering on until the closing door stifled the noise.

  "Man, what a talker," Mr. Thompson said in frustration.

  "We've got two beauties to choose from so far," Martin said.

  "Hopefully number three will be better," Mr. Thompson said, rolling his eyes and trudging towards the kitchen. He put on a happy face just as he walked in.

  "Hello, I'm Roy Thompson, and I see you've already met my daughter, Jenny. This is my son, Martin."

  "Dad, this is Madame Caidoz," Jenny introduced, and passed her father the business card. "You're both in the same business, studying the stars and the planets."

  "Hmm, so I see," he said as he studied the business card. "We all have hobbies, but yours seems to be more of a business venture, and I am already concerned it may interfere with your duties if you did get the position. I'm not sure if you realize, this is a fulltime job."

  "Yes, I am aware, and I assure you, nothing will interfere with my duties as your full-time housekeeper. If I get the position, I will be dedicated to you, my boss, and the children." She smiled at Jenny and Martin, "And the smooth running of a busy household. There is no duty I won't perform. I will clean out the drain gutters if you request it of me, and I will not bore you with endless trivial details of my past. I have dropped all of my clients to come here from San Francisco, because I want to dedicate the next several years of my life's work to this beautiful family."

  "How did you find out about this position in British Columbia, all the way from San Francisco?" Mr. Thompson asked.

  "I didn't find out about it until I picked up the local paper."

  "Then why did you leave San Francisco to come here?"

  "Let's just say, I was drawn here by a need."

  "A need?" Mr. Thompson asked.

  "Yes. I need to be here and you need a responsible, hardworking, nurturing housekeeper. I guess that's two needs."

  Mr. Thompson tried to suppress a grimace. "Do you have any references?"

  "No, I'm sorry, I don't. I've been self-employed for the last fifteen years, although, I could collect some from clients if you wish."

  "You mean you've never worked in this capacity before?" Mr. Thompson asked.

  "No, never as a housekeeper. My only job experience has been as a forecaster of the future, and it has been quite lucrative for me. But I am an excellent cook, I'm very organized, and a hard worker."

  "Why would you want to leave a thriving practice to come and do this? The work will be harder, and I'm assuming the financial gain will be less," Mr. Thompson questioned.

  "Yes, the financial gain will be far less, but the personal gain will be immeasurable."

  "I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. Are you trying to get a break from fortune telling, and looking for a place to escape?" asked Mr. Thompson.

  "No, I love helping people to plan for their personal futures, and I hope to do the same for you, and especially your children," she said, smiling warmly at Jenny and Martin. "You see, Mr. Thompson, I feel I am needed here, and I want to help."

  "Well, I must be honest with you, Madame Caidoz..."

  "Please, call me Relli, all my friends do."

  "Sure. Now, first and foremost, I must look after the safety and welfare of my family, and without any references, I would not feel very comfortable hiring anyone. And your story about being guided here by unexplainable forces puts me on my guard. Surely, you can understand my reluctance."

  "Yes, of course. You are a responsible and loving parent, who is only looking out for the welfare of his children. I will produce some personal references for you by the end of the day."

  "But, even with personal references, there is no guarantee you will secure the job. I have two other candidates to consider."

  "I understand, but let me assure you, you will not find anyone else who can offer the children the love and guidance required during this crucial time of their lives."

  "I will certainly consider your application," Mr. Thompson promised, and he stood up to escort her to the door.

  "I look forward to hearing from you, and to working for you," Madame Caidoz said confidently. "Good bye, kids, I'll see you later."

  Jenny smiled at Madame Caidoz, who gave Jenny a quick wink, as the door closed behind her.

  "How do you like that woman?" Mr. Thompson said. "No references, no experience, and she expects to get the job? What do you guys think?"

  "I like her," Jenny said immediately. "She's a little bit odd, but there is something about her that's intriguing, and I feel really comfortable with her."

  Mr. Thompson agreed in part, "Yes, she is definitely peculiar. That story about her being drawn here by a mysterious force concerns me."

  "What do you think, Martin?" Jenny asked her brother.

  "Well, out of the three, she definitely was the best. A little weird but..." he ended with a shrug.

  "I think she'll turn out to be a good housekeeper. I've got a good feeling about her." Jenny said.

  Mr. Thompson shook his head. "I just want to make sure she's not crazy. I'll make some phone calls."

  "How do we know Mrs. Stoggert or Mrs. Ringer aren't crazy, and actually Relli seemed the most stable of the three-at least the most likeable," Jenny added.

  "Let's recap our choices," Mr. Thompson said, as he counted on his fingers.

  "First, we have a rude grumpy woman, who will only do half of what we need her to do. Second, we have a woman that you can never get a word in edgewise, and would undoubtedly drive us crazy. And third, we have a fortune-telling gypsy, with no experience, or references, who hears voices in her head, telling her to go to British Columbia, because there's a family that needs your h-e-lllp," he mimicked a ghostly voice, which got a chuckle out of Jenny and Martin.

  "Why can't anything be straightforward and easy?" Mr. Thompson said.

  "Maybe her personal references will change your mind about her. I think you're just stuck on the whole horoscope, fortune-telling thing. She's a little bit eccentric, but that doesn't mean she's crazy. And as Martin said, she is definitely the best of the three."

  That evening, as promised, the references started arriving in the Thompson's email, and didn't stop until the following morning.

  "This one's from a congresswoman, Dad, and here's one from a movie star, a judge, a doctor, a lawyer; you name it and it's here," Jenny said, impressed with the list. "And they all rave about her clairvoyant abilities and how much she's helped them."

  "She sure seems to be well thought of and trusted," Mr. Thompson admitted. "Let's sleep on it, and we can make a decision in the morning. That means no sleeping in tomorrow, okay?"


  The following morning, before breakfast, Mr. Thompson brought up the subject again. "We'll put it to a vote then, just to keep it official. Who votes for Mrs. Stoggert?"

  "You've got to be kidding. We may as well stay the way we are," Martin commented. Mrs. Stoggert didn't get a vote.

  "Mrs. Ringer, the talker?" their father asked.

I'd move out after a day with her," Jenny said.

  Mr. Thompson reluctantly put up his hand for Mrs. Ringer.

  "Oh thanks, Dad. You want me to move out?"

  "Well, if you both would move out, I wouldn't have to hire a housekeeper," Mr. Thompson joked, which earned him a couple of scowls.

  "Well, I guess unless you guys aren't voting, Madame Caidoz gets two votes. But, just to keep it official, who votes for Madame Caidoz?" their father asked, to which Jenny and Martin's hands shot up instantly.

  "Hmm, let's see. That's two votes for the gypsy lady, and because I'm the Dad, and I make up the rules, my vote counts for two, so it's a tie."

  Jenny and Martin objected. "Dad! That's not fair!"

  "All right, all right, I'll call Madame Caidoz this morning and ask her when she can start," Mr. Thompson said.

  Their discussion was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell chiming.

  "Who could that be so early on a Saturday morning?" Mr. Thompson asked, looking puzzled.

  They all went to the door and were stunned to see Madame Caidoz standing there.

  "Good morning, I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I would pop in to ask if you got my emails, and if you had made your decision yet," she said cheerily.

  Jenny beamed a surprised smile, Martin smirked when he saw Jenny's reaction, and Mr. Thompson just looked bewildered.

  "Well, being a democratic household, we took a vote, and, you got the job. I was just going to call to see when you could start, but, here you are," Mr. Thompson said, gathering his wits.

  "Well, how fortunate that I was in the area. I can start immediately. I would be happy to make you all breakfast, if you would be so kind as to take my bags to my room," Madame Caidoz said, as she sashayed into their lives.

  The Thompson's exchanged mystified glances after they looked out into the driveway, and saw Madame Caidoz's car, with the trunk already open and suitcases visible.

  "Now, let me see what you've got in your depleted kitchen for breakfast fixin's," Madame Caidoz said as she hung up her black velvet jacket.

  "You mean you don't already know?" Jenny asked.

  Madame Caidoz laughed, "No, there are still some mysteries I must unravel with my bare hands," she said, rubbing her big hands together briskly, and walking purposefully towards the kitchen.

  "Can you two handle the suitcases?" their father asked as he followed Madame Caidoz.

  "Yeah sure, Dad," Martin answered, and he and Jenny walked out into the bright, cool morning.

  "It's like having Mary Poppins coming to be our housekeeper," Martin said as they walked to the car.

  "Yeah, this is weird, but interesting," Jenny admitted.

  Martin reached into the trunk, and jerked at one of the valise handles.

  "Ooof. Give me a hand will ya, Jen?" he grunted. "What's she got in here, lead?"

  "Why couldn't she have just levitated these into the house?" Jenny joked.

  "Yeah, that would have been a sight. Suitcases floating through the front door, and dancing up the stairs."

  Inside, they struggled up the stairs, dragging the luggage behind them, with a thump, thump, thump, as the suitcases bumped each step. Martin got to Madame Caidoz's room first, and dropped the suitcase down flat.

  "Martin, what are you doing?" Jenny asked, as she entered the room huffing and puffing.

  Martin had noticed the suitcase was unzipped about eight inches, and he was pulling at it in an attempt to get a peek inside.

  "Are you crazy? That's an invasion of privacy!" Jenny whispered. And then, "What do you see?"

  "Books, that's what weighs so much; it's full of books. Probably books about black magic and stuff," Martin surmised, as he stuck his fingers into the satchel, and carefully slid out one of the books.

  It was a large, thin, hard-covered black notebook, with a white label on the front of it, and on the label, was a series of symbols or letters in an unfamiliar text.

  "Martin! Don't!" Jenny warned, and then unable to help herself, whispered, "What's it say?" She moved closer.

  "Don't know. It's in a foreign language, or else her handwriting just stinks."

  "Open it up."

  "No, I think you're right, we should put it back," Martin said, making fun of his sister's sudden about-face.

  "Shut up and open it," Jenny growled, and Martin chuckled as he did just that. Inside the book were hand-written symbols, similar to the ones on the front of the strange notebook.

  "What kind of gibberish is that?" Martin wondered.

  "None I've ever seen," Jenny answered.

  "I'll bet it's a spell book, and she's a witch," Martin guessed.

  "She is not. You think?" Jenny wasn't so sure.

  Martin flipped through some of the pages, and mixed in with these strange symbols were words written in English:

  The savior will come in a time of great need, when all seems lost,

  and further down the page...

  The chosen one will come from a far away land,

  and will save us from dehydration and extinction,

  Then more of the strange letters and symbols before,

  Our champion will be small in stature, strong in spirit, brave of heart

  They continued to flip through the strange book, but found no more words written in English.

  "The English words almost seem like a translation," Jenny surmised.

  A glint of light caught Martin's eye from within the open suitcase, and he reached in to discover the source of the reflection.

  "Martin, don't. That's enough. We're going to get caught. She probably already knows."

  Martin fumbled the object as he removed it from the bag. It fell onto the floor with a thud, and rolled towards Jenny.

  "Way to go," Jenny whispered angrily, as she scooped up the glass orb, like a shortstop whisking up a routine ground ball.

  "What is it?" Martin asked.

  "It looks like a crystal ball. Well, it is a crystal ball, in the sense it is glass, and it is a ball, but, you know what I mean."

  "It doesn't look too mysterious, but I guess you need special powers to get it to work," Martin surmised.

  "Put it away before she gets suspicious," Jenny said.

  "What do you mean, you said yourself she probably already knows." Martin tucked it back into the suitcase along with the strange book.

  "Zip it back up and let's get back downstairs," Jenny ordered, and they hurried out of the room and hustled downstairs.

  They burst into the kitchen looking flushed and guilty.

  "What have you two been up to?" their father asked.

  "Nothing. We just took Relli's bags upstairs, that's all. They were really heavy," Jenny answered. "That smells good. What's cooking?"

  "I've got some scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast on the go. I would have freshly squeezed some orange juice but you are all out of oranges, so frozen concentrate will have to do," Madame Caidoz said, as she bustled about the kitchen.

  Jenny and Martin looked at each other, and raised their eyebrows.

  "Jenny, be a dear and set the table for me, please," Madame Caidoz delegated.

  "Martin, could you please pour the juice, and get out any condiments you require? Mr. Thompson, here is a newspaper I picked up for you on the way here." Madame Caidoz placed it in front of him.

  "Why, thank you. My goodness, I think we made the right choice, didn't we, kids?" Mr. Thompson said, very impressed with Madame Caidoz's first fifteen minutes on the job. Jenny looked at him, scowled and shook her head, to which he gave a quick shrug of his shoulders and opened up the newspaper. "Please, call me Roy, Madame Caidoz."

  "Okay, thank you, Roy, and you must call me Relli. My given name is Rellet, but everyone just calls me Relli."

  "Rellet Caidoz, that's an unusual name. Is it European?" Mr. Thompson asked.

  "Yes, it is. I was raised in Romania," Relli answered, as she loaded up the table with steaming food. "Dig in. I'm going to start a grocery list, if it's
okay with you, Mr. Thompson?"

  "Yes, please do. Remember, it's Roy," he reminded, and they all dug into the breakfast feast.

  "I have to work today, Relli. I'm sorry to leave you on your first day. Will that be all right?"

  "Of course. I'll get acquainted with the children, and get myself settled in and accustomed to my new surroundings. We'll get the grocery shopping done today. Food is first on my to-do list today. Any objections?" No hint of disapproval came from the contented trio.

  They all finished their breakfast, and Relli enlisted the children's help for cleanup duty.

  "What? I have to help?" Martin complained.

  "Relli's the boss when I'm not here," his father answered.

  "Tell you what," Relli said, "if you help me from time to time, I'll be available to help you, or to drive you somewhere when you want. Deal?"

  "I guess so," Martin reluctantly agreed.

  Jenny smiled to herself as she helped to clean up. She could tell Relli wasn't going to let Martin get away with anything, which pleased her. Jenny was happy to pitch in and help. Besides, she wanted to spend some time getting to know more about their curious new housekeeper.

  "Good. I'm off to work then. We have an account at the local grocery store, Relli. I'll phone ahead to let them know you're coming, and that it's okay to charge what you pick up." He took a final slurp of his coffee, wiped his mouth, and stood up to go. "That was great, Relli. Thank you, and welcome aboard."

  "Thank you, Roy. Have a good day at work," Relli said with a contented smile.

  "Are you going to study those solar flare-ups again, Dad?" Jenny asked, ready to study his reaction, and Relli paused from her task as well.

  "Um, yes, we'll be looking into that again," he stammered, and retreated out of the door.

  "He sounded rather evasive," Relli said, returning to the kitchen cleanup.

  "Yeah, he's been working an awful lot lately, and he seems to be hiding something from us," Jenny commented. "I wonder if he's discovered something up there that's really hush-hush."

  "Yeah, probably tons of our discarded space junk has joined together, and is falling back to Earth," Martin joked.

  "See how quickly the job goes when we all work together?" Relli commented as she dried her hands.

  "Yeah, but we're not getting paid for it," Martin mumbled under his breath.

  "Remember what I said, Martin. You help me, and I'll help you," Relli reminded him.

  "Now, I'm ready to see my new digs, who wants to help me unpack?"

  "Umm, I'd like to, but I have other things I need to do," Martin said.

  "Yeah, like surfing the internet," Jenny teased.

  Martin sneered at her in response, and left the room.

  "I'll help you," Jenny said, eager to ask Relli some questions. "Come on, I'll show you your room." Jenny motioned, and led the way upstairs.

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