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Lodi and his wife did not live in the building where he had met and entertained Mr. Brown. That building was a condominium those of his kind used when they had business or work in the city.

He was part of a large community of Trolls living in the Tillamook forest area. Their homes were secluded in the forests, but generally on or near one of the many creeks in the coastal mountains. Humans generally bypassed the forests in the bullet trains that got them from Portland to the coastal cities in about half an hour. The Naval bases and large population supporting them were primarily in Astoria, Newport, and Coos Bay. Much of the ocean view area was dedicated to vacation homes and hotels. However, most people preferred the warmer climates along the southern costal areas for vacations.

Lodi and his wife Cona were anxious to get home the next day after the torrential rains of the last few days. Lodi had installed a web cam near his home to monitor the creek levels, but the storm must have damaged it as he got no response that morning.

“Packed love?” he asked Cona.

She came out of the bedroom of their condo with her bag over her shoulder. “Ready, when is the train?”

“We have time for breakfast, or we can eat on the train if you like.”

“Train is fine, can we go to Starbucks on the way?”

He nodded, picked up his bag and opened the door for his wife. He turned and locked the door. “You just like racking up the points more than drinking the coffee is what I think.”

She ignored him. Ever since she got her new phone she loved using it to track her coffee purchases, and get her freebies.

They took the elevator to the basement and followed the underground passage toward the train terminal. They were stopped by a warning message overhead, the tunnel they planned on using to the train terminal was blocked due to mud slide. They would either have to go upside or take a detour.

The underground tunnels that served non-humans were not as extensive as streets and sidewalks above, but they could move freely without being stared at by humans. The tunnels generally had plenty of coffee shops, fast food and other amenities as did top side. They popped into a Starbucks. Most were run by elves, as trolls didn’t like commerce or at least not as much as did Elves or Dwarfs.

Cona used her phone to pay for their coffees. They sat down and Lodi did a quick Google search for train times and alternative routes. The underground taxis were not as frequent as above. They were all electric and due to the combined foot, bike and electric vehicle traffic, were slow.

“I think we need to wait for the next train, or go up for a cab.” Lodi muttered. “Even if we got a taxi down here now, we probably wouldn’t make the train.”

“How long?” Cona asked.

“About an hour.”

“Great, then we can do some shopping.”

Lodi agreed. There was little shopping, except on-line, from home. They finished their coffee and headed in the direction toward the train station. Finding a taxi was much more difficult than they anticipated as the closed tunnel resulted in more than themselves in need of alternative routes. They headed for a cafe and breakfast instead.

Lodi called a neighbor to check on the web cam and the creek. He found it had been knocked out by a branch, which fell from the heavy winds. The winds in the hills had gotten up to 50-80 mph and there had been damage from downed trees. The creek was not at flood stage, and would not get there as the rains had let up.

With that news, Cona decided she needed to get her hair done and Lodi headed for his favorite cheese shop. Although most cheeses were brought in from Tillamook; he found he had better selections here in Portland because the shops were larger.

Cona had her hair dyed blue; something Lodi could never understand. Why did she need to change the color every other month. She had been into the cool shades this last year with shades of blues and greens.

They didn’t get the train until nearly afternoon, but arrived near their home in forty-five minutes. Although their home was only two miles from the station, both Lodi and Cona preferred using their ATV, which was nearly the size of a Jeep, since they had their shopping packages to get home.

Their home would have been nearly unnoticed by a human. There was no path and not indication of habitat. Trolls build extensive underground homes. They prefer living near water, so they required extensive drainage systems to prevent flooding. Most homes had a fireplace in every room, as they prefer dry and warm environments. The Northwest was not the best environment for Trolls, but they needed to be where the work was. Lodi and Cona had lived ten years near Mexico City. Large cities had greater need for their services. But they decided to retire near a much smaller city. Lodi kept up as a consultant for the Union and served most of the state of Oregon and Washington in negotiations for the Trolls.

Cona called out from the kitchen. “Want dinner now, or later?”

“You should ask?” he replied, “I’m starving.”

Cona was a good cook and within half an hour an impressive meal was on the dinning room table. All meals, at least those eaten at home, were formal. Both Lodi and Cona dressed for dinner, and the table always had at least two wines, dinner, and after dinner.

Now at home they could talk more freely than when out and about. “So tell me more about Mr. Brown. He seems like a nice human.”

“He is. He is one of the few that think. One of the few humans I have been able to talk to.”

“That is your fault, or all of ours. If they knew we could understand their language, they would probably talk to us.”

“We have centuries of history that say differently my dear.”

“Never mind. You seemed troubled by that meeting, what was it?”

“As we thought, there are a lot of questions being asked with the increased risk of invasion. There are some who think or who doubt the loyalty of non-humans. They are afraid of what they don’t know.”

“And?”

“These steaks are just right my dear.” He replied with a large grin. Then continued. “And the mayor is concerned how we would react to some radicals that might mean harm to us.”

“Did you tell them we would not react, that we would leave?”

“I think that was the message. I think Brown knows more, so I told him how it is. I told him non-humans have been serving and protecting humans here in this country for over three hundred years, and that we are not going to stop now.”
He paused as he took a sip of the red wine. “But of course they don’t know we protect them. Most of them don’t know.”

“They know what is in their history books, what is in the sociology studies of human and non-human interaction. Most of them do anyway. I think the fears are that we have some kind of ‘magic.’ That is the issue, magic. How do we fight that as an enemy, especially when we in this country don’t have any.”

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