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Valley of the mothersEdit

Tarangire-Natpark800600

African savannah.

The final stop on the tour was the Valley of the Mothers, on the "dark side" of the planet. This was a huge savannah-like area much like west Africa. Here is where several of the former queens have dwellings.

Mother Afua was the original wife of lord T'ola'an. When T'ola'an came down to her village, in what is now the modern republic of Ghana, the elders of her tribe presented her to T'ola'an as a bride. She subsequently gave birth to several alien-human hybrids, fathered by T'ola'an, and these children, who possessed extraordinary powers, were the foundation of the T'ola'a tribe of Zartha, and the ancestors of Jay.

She was believed to be over 827 years old. She looked like a woman in her 60's.

Jay and Laura set the egg-shaped transport down on the grassy expanse. As always, it hovered about 3-4 inches over the ground. Several bluish-green giraffe-like creatures were grazing in the bushes nearby.

The two exited the spacecraft, stood together and waited. Jay looked inside his dossier. The official itinerary called for the pair to be picked up by the "priestess trainees", whoever they were, and be taken to Afua's house.

Jay and Laura stood in the warm, slightly humid overcast light of the late morning. The climate reminded Jay of Oklahoma City (he spent a week at Tinker AFB on a secret propulsion project while he was active duty). Jay had his arm around Laura.

"Baby, I'm kind of worried," Jay said.

Laura turned her head slightly to look up at him. "You've been worried this whole tour," she replied.

"I just want to make sure I do a good job, baby. These people are depending on me."

"We'll be just fine, Jason," Laura said, resting her head on his shoulder. "Don't worry so damn much. You've got what it takes. And I've got what it takes to support you."

"Well, you don't seem to be having any problem, but I'm hoping I don't," Jay said with a sigh.

Suddenly, without warning, six huge white seagulls, twice the size Jay was used to back on Earth, came over the bush from the left side. High over the clearing, two of them broke from the group, flapped higher up than the others, then blazed at high speed, right toward each other.

"Look, Jay! Those birds are gonna collide," Laura said with a little concern, pointing upward at the birds.

"Wait a sec, baby...There are six of them. I don't know why, but I just got a crazy thought in my head. If they're doing what I think they're about to do..."

The two birds broke from their course right at the last second, flew rapidly away from each other, twisted upwards in an S-curve, made a wide loop back around and rejoined the main group, just as calmly and languidly as if they had been practicing this all for about three weeks (which they had). Then the whole group flapped over Jay and Laura - in the delta formation. Then they flapped and ascended upwards and came down in a loop - in formation.

Jay was stunned.

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed. "Laura, do you see that??? Those birds...they're doing a Thunderbirds routine! Those are standard Thunderbirds maneuvers!"

"They're doing WHAT? What are Thunderbirds?" Laura asked, with a puzzled grin.

"Laura, haven't you ever been to Fleet Week? Or an air show? Those seagulls know the Thunderbirds maneuvers! The Air Force demonstration flying wing!

Jay then wondered aloud, "Who the hell taught them that?"

"Maybe they watched a DVD of the real Thunderbirds," Laura said. "The animals here on Zartha are pretty intelligent. And I guess they know you used to be in the Air Force."

"Incredible," Jay marveled. "How'd you come up with that explanation?"

"Angie says the animals are smart. That's why Zarthans don't eat meat. All beings are intelligent and can contribute to society. If they move, they can think, feel and talk to you. On Zartha, no creature is lower than another, that's what she said."

Jay looked up. "Damn, you know, Laura, I remember that now, she always used to tell me that when I was a kid."

"See? You keep remembering, Jason. That's what I would call a good sign. What's wrong? Don't you like those birds?"

Jay had a frown on his face. "You heard Zed this morning. They just keep the 'disclosure' rollin' right along. So my CO was really an MIB operative all along. MIB and my momma BOTH kept me from becoming a pilot, and that's what I wanted to do the MOST in the Air Force. See, baby, the whole damn thing - my whole LIFE - was a damn set-up."

"Yeah, and ain't it crazy that Ben had an older brother, and that he was YOUR colonel in the Air Force!" Laura couldn't help having a smile on her face. "Jay, lighten up, man! What happened in the past happened and it was all to get YOU ready to be king! If you ask me, I think it was pretty damn smart of your mom and Zed and everybody to work together to make sure you got the right education and the right training. So just settle down and enjoy what's happening now. I'm havin' the time of my life. I'm with YOU, Jay.

"Hey, I think our ride is coming. Look out there."

Just then, two teenage girls came driving up in what looked like an old Apollo lunar rover. They were wearing colorful skirts and head scarves, and lots of beads. They were also wearing sun medallions. The rover bounded up and down on its huge bulbous tires as it scooted over the grassy, bumpy soil.

"Well, what have we here?" Jay asked, as the rover came to a somewhat dusty stop in front of Jay and Laura.

"We are the initiates of the Valley," the girl who was driving said (she was wearing glasses and looked like she could pass for a Delta Sigma Theta pledge back on Earth, which she indeed was). "We have to take y'all to Mother Afua's hut."

Jay and Laura stepped into the back of the rover and went off.

The squadron of seagulls followed them the entire way.

Mother Afua's compound looked like those remote African villages you see on the National Geographic specials. There was a series of round huts made with straw and leaves. Small kids were running around, playing with Nerf footballs. There were some older-looking men and women seated on what looked like wooden crates, smoking these weird pipes. Some had strange electronic devices that looked like radios.

The huts were arranged in circles surrounding central courtyards, which made up a compound. The courtyard was the center of activity, where people would sit and weave cloth, make clay pots, and where women would pound roots into meal, the way women in Africa do to this day. Clothes waved lazily in the cool breeze, hung outside on clotheslines which looked a lot like Earth clotheslines - well, they were. Zarthans have many goods flown in from Earth.

Electricity was taken care of by special generators which ran on special crystal batteries, solar panels, and fuelless electric motors. Each hut had all the power it needed. Water was gathered from central wells, and there was some running water in most huts, mainly for showers and for the small Bosch or Maytag washing machines most households had. The women of the village considered clothes dryers a silly, unnecessary extravagance.

In some ways the Valley of the Mothers was a reflection of the ancient village society Afua was used to, over 800 years before. Modern conveniences were only added as deemed really needed for the efficient operation of each household, but such conveniences didn't harm the environment. The Valley of the Mothers was a place where people could live a simple life (relative to the rest of Zartha) in reflection of the One Creator.

Afua was the chieftain and chief priestess of the entire Valley of the Mothers. Her compound was the equivalent of the tribal hall or council building. Pilgrims and young priestess adepts were always coming to pay tribute or to learn the ancient African ways.

Afua, who was the first queen of Zartha (she assumed the throne after Lord T'ola'an vaporized himself in a flash of light at the end of his reign) came to live on Zartha for good about 30 years after her last daughter was born, as she was staying too young in body as a result of the molecular and cellular changes that happened when she became intimate with the strange and powerful alien being. She visited Earth hundreds of times afterward, and eventually traveled to several other planets as well, spreading her message of joy and unconditional love and respect. About 150 years ago, the Intergalactic Council designated her a Person of Intergalactic Significance and gave her a medal.

In the 60's, she returned to Earth for a little while to mentor some adepts living in Ohio, and got a job as a high-school English teacher. Very few people knew her true identity, as Zarthans always keep it a secret from Earth humans who have not been initiated. If you saw her in the streets of Cincinnati, or in one of the churches in the inner-city area, or mingling with certain political or sports figures, you just might say "oh, yeah, I know that lady!" Each year she was teaching, several dozen young people were always encouraged to go on to college because of her influence. In the classroom Afua was tough, demanding, but always backed by a deep love for young Black students. She understood why it was critical to be your best. Cincinnati and Zartha shared a lot of similarities, good and not-so-good.

She continued to maintain a home in the area, and Jay and Laura would eventually go there, months after all of this happened.

Some of the people Afua met from Cincinnati were initiated; and some moved to this village, nine million light years away. They moved back and forth between planets as easily as Jay and Laura came to Zartha from New York.

As the rover drove through the village, the people would make that strange hand gesture with their fists. Jay would wave slightly to the people in return. These Zarthans were friendly enough, but to Jay they did some weird things.

Mother Afua lived in a simple hut. Her compound had seven huts surrounding a central court. In the middle of the court, several dozen clay pots were drying. The squadron of seagulls had landed by now (they had goggles on) and were gathered around, drinking water, set out for their use, from one of the larger pots.

Afua's hut was covered with mud and straw. She stood outside the doorway, and was holding what looked like a Palm Pilot in one hand. She was a tall woman, about Laura's height (Laura, like Angie was about 5' 9 1/2"), stately and long-limbed. Her close-cropped hair was white which contrasted with her dark sepia skin.

"Welcome, my children," she said with a warm yet reserved smile. Her accent was Ghanaian - well, sort of. This woman had the look of someone who had seen a lot of countries, on a lot of worlds. Her accent had some strange quirks to it.

Jay and Laura shook hands with Afua, and she gave them both a big hug in return.

"This is the greatest event to happen to Zartha in many a moon, my son," she said. "You have been created for this moment."

Afua asked the girls to bring some coconut wine from the small refrigerator, which they did. She bought the fridge at a Sears store back in Cincinnati and had a couple of the C'ola'a warriors ship it up to Zartha.

"Motheer Afua, why are we here?" asked Jay. One of the girls poured wine into plastic cups for Jay and Laura, from a re-used bottle of orange juice with the Kroger label still on it.

"Ah, T'Va'an, what a good question. Indeed, that is the central question - the most important question you can ever ask. And these days leading up to your wedding is precisely the time for you to answer that question for yourself.

"As for right now, you are here in my village to hear my stories and my wisdom - to learn a little bit about your planet and the people you shall soon rule. T'Va'an, let me begin with asking YOU a question. How are you enjoying yourself here on Zartha so far? What's going through your mind?"

Jay looked own for a second and replied, "Afua, frankly, I'm puzzled.

"My whole entire life seems to be one big facade, covering up my real identity. This is a wonderful planet, don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful place, and most of the people have been real friendly and like the fact that we're here - but it would have been real nice to know that this was my planet sometime before Monday morning. All my life, I was so damn curious about who I was, about my parents, about my childhood - come to find out that it was all neuralyzed away, by the very man I trusted with my life, the man who was my mentor, my teacher.

"And what's more, Afua - this man, I just found out, is most likely my FATHER. At least in part."

"How do you know that?" Afua asked with a patient smile.

Jay sighed an exasperated sigh and looked nervously at Laura, who looked back at him with a reassuring smile. "I've been looking at my DNA charts on this tour. Part of my DNA comes from Damien, the warrior of the Rock tribe my mom married, but part of it also comes from Kay. Kevin Brown. Of all people!!! My old partner's DNA somehow got spliced with Damien's and as a result, BOTH of those men are my father.

"After learning that Kay neuralyzed me when I was a kid, after finding out that he was tracking me and trailing me like some cyclopod or something, and after suckering me in to joining MIB while I was having a nice little career in the NYPD, and after going through all that trouble to train me and THEN, after that asshole LEFT MIB to scurry to some little civil service job sorting mail and yelling at people for not wrapping their packages right -"

"Calm, down, baby," Laura interjected, taking Jay's hand and holding it gently.

"It's OK, Sh'ana'aa," Afua said.

Jay went on. "Well, after learning about all that, the fact that part of ME, ME, I tell you, is actually HIM... it seems a little - well, a little disgusting if you ask me. I mean, he must be some kind of - terrible human being to hide all this from me for so many years, and not even acknowledge me as his SON. I respected that man, up until all this came down. I don't even want to see his face anymore." Jay's face was now shriveled up in a scowl of pain.

"Jay, come on, man, don't say that," Laura said almost pleadingly. "Kay LOVES you. I could tell, baby."

"I mean it, Laura," Jay said to her. "When he was deneuralyzed in Jeebs' pawnshop he remembered everything, everything...He remembered about you being the Light of Zartha and about me. He could have told us. I asked him point blank if he remembered about the Light of Zartha and he basically told me to my face no. But he DID remember. He kept all that from us, deliberately. And as a result, he almost got both of us killed that night back in New York, Laura. And all because official MIB policy was to keep me and you apart, to...to keep us from even meeting each other again, at all costs. It's in my file, Laura, the secret file that was for Zed's eyes only.

"You don't know how much I'm hurt by that. Those guys were like family to me and they just plain lied, all these years. It was all a big, elaborate, gigantic cover up, all this time. They were scared...Zed was scared...scared that I was gonna meet you and be king of Zartha and take over the whole damn universe. I have half a mind to do just that, just to get back at 'em!"

Then Jay looked at Afua. "What's more, and THIS is what really gets me...I suspect back in the '60s my momma neuralyzed him to forget they - well, you know..."

Laura jumped in. "He thinks Angie tricked Kay into making love with her - to conceive Jay - and neuralyzed Kay afterwards."

"What if Angelique did trick him? Does that change the way you see your mother?" Afua asked Jay.

Jay thought about this for a moment, then replied, "To tell you the truth, Afua, I don't know how to see my momma at this point. Sometimes I get all sad, and then I get pissed at her, but then, I say, well it's not fair to really blame her for what happened to me. I mean, she was forced into exile by Zed so she really didn't have much of a choice - she couldn't tell me anything, I was told she was killed in a car accident, this was all a part of the cover up...but now she's trying to just bust right back into my life like I'm seven years old all over again. Believe me, it would be nice just to go back to those days and start all over again - but a lot has changed since then.

"She makes me have these weird dreams where she's trying to teach me stuff, but it's all in riddles and stuff and I'm not quite getting what she's trying to tell me. I remember some of what she was doing when I was a kid, the sun energy rituals and stuff..." and here Jay took the sun medallion around his neck and held it up a little bit, "but connecting all that to the here and now is a little bit of a stretch for me...It's hard enough just learning that I'm an alien at all, and now Momma expects me to act like Apollo or Hercules...or Superman or somebody and be this mighty superhero king."

"Let me tell you something about your mother," Afua said now, "that might clear things up slightly. First off, your mother is not a normal human being in the sense that Earthlings are. Your mother is a fourth dimension being. She is S'aa na saa'la'ack - that means she is very similar to the original light beings that inhabited this planet over 2000 years ago, and they were pure light - they didn't have bodies like you and me. Very few S'aa people have those ancient characteristics. Your mother was considered extraordinary when she was born, and at the time some of the S'aa even worshipped her as a divine goddess - many still do to this day."

"OK, OK..but why does she have a body I can see??? Momma has a body."

"Your mother's body is just a shell, T'Va'an. Angelique is a being of light."

"Just like Ben was," Laura said with wonder.

"OK...so now I find out my own momma is just like Ben, whose body, and you can't even really call it a body, it's a protoplasm shell, like a rubber suit, almost, I found it laying on the floor of a pizza joint. What does THAT mean? Is that really what my mother is? and that means I'm like that too???" Jay asked, somewhat exasperated.

"It means, T'Va'an, that her body, her shell, if you will, is just a physical manifestation of her soul and spirit. It means that she can travel through time and space at will. She can shapeshift and change appearance at will. And she can manifest into her true form as a being of light - at will. Anytime, anyplace she chooses. I've seen her do it. I've helped her LEARN HOW."

"She did that to me," Laura said. "She came to me as a being of light."

"Whoa, Laura, wait a second...when was this???" Jay asked, a pang of surprise slamming into him again.

Laura replied, "When I was a teenager, your mom and my mom came to me in a dream - or at least I thought it was a dream, but I was really wide awake. I didn't know it was them at the time, I thought it was the Virgin Mary and St. Teresa. It's funny because I somehow didn't question why one of them was a Black woman and the other one was Asian...

"They looked like blue angels and their bodies glowed like light was coming out of them," Laura continued. "And I felt all this love coming out of them."

Jay replied, "You know, Momma might have been mean to me sometimes, but when she showed me love, it was pretty intense love. She never appeared to me as blue light or anything like that, but sometimes, when she would give me a big hug or something, I would almost start crying, that's how happy I'd feel, how special she made me feel. That pretty much made up for her whoopin' my ass."

Then Jay got a puzzled look on his face. "Are you absolutely SURE Momma can do all that?"

"YOU can do all that, T'Va'an!" Afua said.

Jay chuckled in disbelief. "No, I can't. I have no power like Momma has, the way y'all just described."

"Yes, you do, baby," Laura said.

"How?" Jay asked with a smirk.

"You made that dream where we were dancing in the MIB building!" Laura exclaimed with a smile.

Jay had another stunned look on her face. "You had THAT dream?" Afua gave a hearty laugh.

"Hell yes, Jason! You couldn't tell? I thought you knew. Your energy was so damn strong it was calling me, so I had to participate."

"What do you mean calling you?" Jay asked.

"Well..." Laura repled, "it was like I was able to feel how sad you were when I left to come here to Zartha. I felt it like...like our hearts were connected. I felt your sadness and I heard you calling me, out loud, I think you said something like, 'Laura, Laura, why the hell did you have to go away' or something like that. Your voice rang out in my head like I was hearing it on the radio or something."

"Holy mother of God," Jay said, and his expression was filled with shock. "Laura, I was nine million light years away!!!"

"That don't matter, not one bit, Jay. I still HEARD you," Laura said.

Afua smiled broadly. "Is that how it happened, T'Va'an?"

"Yeah...that's almost exactly how it happened. I was in my bedroom in Brooklyn and it was raining cats and dogs outside."

"Jay, what did Kay say about me and rain that night?" Laura asked with a smile.

"It rains...hmmm...it rains...BECAUSE you feel sad...Damn, and that's what you said the Knowing does," Jay said with wonder.

"The Knowing is a force a strong as creation itself, my son," Afua said. "The Knowing is the catalyst that starts a lot of things on Zartha and it is the Knowing that will bring forth the Golden Age of Light.

"And speaking of which...Just how did you feel when you saw Laura for the very first time? How did the Knowing activate within you? What was your first impression?"

"I had no idea about this Knowing stuff, but I'll tell you...when I first laid eyes on her, I said to myself, 'Who the hell is this fine ass woman and what can I do to make her feel better?'"

Laura laughed at this. She playfully leaned into Jay, who responded by putting his arm around her. Jay continued.

"And as time went on that night, I began to realize...that somehow, no matter WHAT, I had to have this girl - to make her mine somehow. I had a crime to investigate, and I took Laura to this diner in Tribeca I always go to, and my thought then, was that after the crime was solved, we could start a relationship - and that I might leave MIB and settle down with this woman. For the rest of my life. I've never felt that way about a woman before, ever."

"And that's exactly what's happening, you left MIB and we're settling down," Laura said to Jay, and they kissed on the lips quickly.

"This is a process, T'Va'an," Afua replied. "And if your mother never appeared to you as a light being when you were little, the time would have come when she would have, and it would have been as she was teaching you to do the same - that's the tradition, that's part of the ritual initiation of the S'aa priesthood. But because of her exile, that training was never done with you, so now you and Sh'ana'aa have to do it to each other, together.

"Slowly, you shall understand everything, don't worry about that. You may wish to do an analysis on the chemical composition of your skin."

"I'm a little reluctant to do that, Mother Afua," Jay said. "Zed already told me that I'm similar to Ben. I'm not quite ready to accept the fact that my body is just a shell."

"You are what you are, T'Va'an, whether or not you are ready to accept it."

"Don't you WANT to be a being of Light, Jay?" Laura asked, almost pleadingly. "When I found that out, and especially after I knew I wasn't going to lose YOU in the process, that was better than winning Powerball."

"You won Powerball?" Jay asked with another puzzled frown.

Laura sighed. "No, Jay, I've never even played Powerball. I'm just trying to illustrate how I felt. This Light stuff is some damn wonderful shit, and I just don't want to see you miss out on any of this."

"My mind still has one foot on Earth and one foot on Zartha, baby," Jay replied. "This is gonna still be a hard adjustment for me. But I'm trying. I want to be a good king to these people, they deserve it."

"Remember what Angie said, baby," Laura replied. "Feel the emotions first and use those to plan, and think - don't just start analyzing without the emotions, without the love, the force of love energy to back it up."

"That's about the way I would have said it," Afua said.

"To do that, I've gotta switch my whole entire way of thinking," Jay said. "The military...the police work...MIB..."

"You're still mad at MIB," Laura said. "You just got through saying how they hurt you so bad!"

"I may be mad at 'em, and yes they hurt me big, big, big time, but I can't stop acting like 'em," Jay replied. "Like it or not, their way of doing things works."

"Yes, my son, it indeed works on Earth, but remember, T'Va'an, you are home now. It's OK to be what you really are," Afua said.

The three walked outside. Afua pointed to the stacks of clay pots drying in the courtyard.

"See these pots, T'Va'an," Afua said. "Each one is shaped and created to hold something, right? Well, living beings hold the Light. The Light is like water to a pot. Pots work best when they hold something. People work best when they hold the Light."

"I wish the S'aa rebels would understand that," Jay said.

"Some pots are cracked, my son," Afua said with a knowing chuckle.

"So who are these girls?" Jay asked. The two girls were carrying water from a well into their own hut.

"They are the initiates. Members of the family, cousins of yours from New Orleans. Kisha is a sophomore at Tulane. Sheronda just started at UNO. They are here for the summer where I'm training them how to be priests of the Sun energy."

"Why is that, Afua? Most girls that age would be working or in summer school," Jay said.

"I've been around a long time, T'Va'an, so I know of what I speak. Knowledge of the energy is better than money, my son, or even going to school to get a degree, basically to learn how to get money from a boss who doesn't really care whether you live or die. To be a priest of the T'ola'a is to learn to become one with the energy of T'ola'an himself. This is what your mother did, Jason, and what her mother did before her, and and what her mother did before her. Your daughter shall come here as well."

"We're having a daughter?" Jay asked, looking quickly at Laura.

"I ain't pregnant! At least not YET!" Laura exclaimed.

Mother Afua just laughed. "You don't have a daughter yet...but you will. Sooner than you may realize."

Afua and Jay and laura walked out into a clearing. The overcast was clearing away and the twin suns began to blaze through the clouds.

"Afua, is it true that you sailed on Viking ships when you were a young woman?"

"I've sailed on a lot of ships on a lot of planets, my son," Afua said. "People haven't changed much in 800 years. Pirates, sailors, butchers, bakers, county supervisors, offensive linemen, teenagers in the 'hood, whatever. When I tell people about the Light inside of them, things happen.

"You and Sh'ana'aa are charged with telling the people of Zartha about the Light inside of them. First, know the light inside of yourselves. Know how special and powerful it is. Feel the joy blast out of your bodies. Become the blue star. The blue star of ancient fairy energy. Become that Light. Then, you will know how to rule Zartha. Your worries will be gone, T'Va'an, for the Light teaches people. The Light changes people, my son. You do not yet believe, and because of the exile, the years you were outside of our teaching, it's harder for you to get to know all this. but my son, I assure you, it gets easier.

"And once you know more about the Light, it may become a little easier to forgive your friends - and your mother - for the choices they made concerning you and Laura."

"I hope you're right about that," Jay said.

Afua took Jay's hand and smiled. "Jason, listen to me. You and Laura - and even your mother - are all part of a tremendous experiment, a great and noble plan conceived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. The purpose of this plan was, and still is, to bring eternal and lasting peace and joy to ALL beings, on Zartha and everywhere in the universe. We wanted to eliminate pain, suffering, conflict, prejudice, war, darkness - or at least show people that there was a different way to live. I was one of the people who came up with that plan.

"There were some rough spots along the way, with this great plan coming to pass. You have learned about a few of these rough spots, and the knowledge of them is causing you pain. Remember that it's not our place to force others to follow the plan or to even buy into it. That's the risk that we must accept. But the important part is that now, at this moment and despite efforts to the contrary, the two of you are now here, the two of you are now together, bonding so beautifully as a couple...the Golden Age of Light is now at hand. The plan has been validated, up to this point. The rest is now up to the two of you. The universe is in great need of the two of you. We have brought you as far as we could. We are behind you and Laura all the way, T'Va'an. Please understand at least that much, my son."

"Afua," Jay replied, "with all due respect...I do not consider myself worthy of this honor."

"Oh, you will, my son, once enough of the Light hits you. Then...the spirit of my husband, your ancestor, Lord T'ola'an, will awaken and arise within you. Then you will want nothing else for yourself. Nothing else will matter, but the plan. Mark my words."

"Am I really Lord T'ola'an?" Jay asked.

“Yes, Jason, in a very big way, you are,” Afua smiled. “Not in the same way I knew and loved him...but when you were dedicated in this village as a baby, I saw Lord T’ola’an’s soul in your newborn eyes, so innocent, but so full of power and promise...and Light. That’s when I knew we were on the right track.”

“But…the way I was born, it all seems so weird, the way Momma had an affair with an MIB agent…that’s…I’m still having a hard time with that.”

“You’re talking about an agent of MIB who is a very, very special Earthling, Jason. Someone we knew was worthy of playing a most critical role in the plan. Someone who had an open mind and an open heart. And someone who has always loved you like the son you are.”

Afua smiled softly at Jay, but he just looked off to the side.

“Look, T’Va’an, the way you came into this universe - the way you were conceived – yes, it may have been a little on the covert side, but we got the job done. You were born. Sometimes you have to hustle a little bit to do the work of the divine Creator.

“And now you are about to be king. Right now that’s the important thing, the thing to focus on and be proud of, my son.”

Jay and Laura stayed the evening in the compound. They gathered for dinner at sunset, prepared by Kisha and Sheronda. The seagulls joined the human occupants for a meal of spicy potatoes, fresh boiled collard greens, cornbread, peanut gumbo, and refried beans.

Some of the young men of the village played drums and some of the women sang songs, old African songs thousands of years old, songs barely sung, barely remembered in the modern Africa of the 21st century. Everyone was laughing and smiling, on into the night. Kisha was seen snuggling with one of the young drummers, wearing little but a Reds road jersey and some khaki shorts.

Jay thought the Valley of the mothers was one of the most comfortably magical places he had ever seen.

"I think I might retire here, baby," Jay said to Laura, in the warm glow of the campfire in the middle of the compound.

"Sounds like a plan," Laura said. The two shared a kiss.

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Sun of Zartha

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