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15 July 2015 @ 10:29 am
_External Relations_ part 5  
 

Chapter Five

Flu carted the tray into the board room and started pouring. The other new office assistant, a pretty blonde girl a year older than Flu, started handing the cups around and offering sugar and milk. The men ignored them.

"We could be the leaders of this World, not some disenfranchised beggars on the fringes of the Empire. The plains were the bread basket of the Empire, they can be the basis of a trading empire. We have mines – although the Earther's have been careless of the safety of their workers. We can make anything, do anything. Or trade for it if that's cheaper or quicker."

Flu had heard the exact words several times. They were loosing their punch with repetition. But this group was all nodding. They'd heard it before, had probably written the speech. They'll be the top echelon of their World. But how deep will the top reach, and where will I end up. Do they see me as a summer student, earning a bit of cash, or do they see me as a servant, lower than the Servaones?

The blonde girl stepped out and sighed. "Tak. Tak. No. Do. Do."

Flu blinked, recognizing the accent. "Oh. I hadn't realized you were, er . . . "

"A Not-Native." The girl snorted. "Think Oners got problems? Ow bout us? Da were a Miner f't'Earthers. Cough Cough freed 'im. No go home, can't stay."

"Yeah. My Grandmother was a Nomad. So the One don't want me, nor the Nomads. I'm Flu."

"Cherry." She shrugged. "An we too yong f'anyone t'listen to."

"I hate not having any say, no control over my future." Flu shrugged. "But what can a bunch of kids do?"

***

She watched Izzo as he walked through the doorway. Muscles tense. The quick scan, senses alert. The poor man is walking into enemy territory. He spotted the mass behind the weird frawny plant and aimed to give himself the maximum distance possible without actually looking like he was cringing away from the plant.

She stepped out, trying to keep a straight face. Enjoyed watching the change. The lines between his eyes relaxed, the laugh lines crinkled at the corners of his eyes, shoulders relaxed as he changed direction.

He wrapped himself around her and inhaled a deep breath with his face buried in her neck. "Saved!" He pulled back enough to kiss her. "Did I sound that pathetic, or has my mother's energy driven you from home?"

She wrapped her arms around his chest and leaned on him. "I think your father has been considering kidnapping me and taking me away to Homestead."

"Please tell me you're kidding?"

Long silence.

"One. Princess. I did warn you."

"We ought to have kept quiet for another six months."

"Right. Then he'd only kidnap Ixto." He pulled back and traced her cheekbones with gentle fingers. "After a week here you may want to flee back to them. Have you met my Bete Noir?"

"I apologize for thinking you were exaggerating in order to put my fears of abandonment to rest. One! She's got a bit of maturing to do, and if she doesn't do it fast I'll personally see that she doesn't do it at all."

Izzo paused. "What the One did I miss?"

"You're happier not knowing."

He leaned in and kissed the cheekbone he'd been stroking. "Right." He threaded his fingers with hers and led her off to the master bedroom. "Maybe I could just petition the President to let us run off to a deserted planet."

"Don't tempt me. Right now it doesn't sound too bad." She sprawled on the bed and watched him shed his business suit. "No more skunks?"

"No, but the executive bathroom certainly does have frequent problems. That painting of the Gran' Tor disappears and reappears in, oh, the Lady's lav, the janitorial closet, and so forth. I hope the Interior guys are being a bit less juvenile toward their new director. Right now I'm about ready to offer Ajki a major swap. Unfortunately I've now got almost twice the number of subdirectors he's got."

"And Glue isn't about to leave Paris. I don't know about the rest of them. You might want to hire Mushy and Whipper. Think how much fun you could have inviting them to dinner and setting them, one on each side of Gee Wiz."

"Princess, your cruel streak is showing. Or are they such a bother you want to get rid of them?"

"Don't be silly. Whipper's six month marriage to the Dachshund Lady matured him remarkably. Mind you, he was starting from a very low spot. Mushy, well, he's still mooning about Bay dumping him."

"Pity, really I don't know why these young men listen to the insane advice they are given." He flopped on the bed and curled up around her.

"Bay dumped him, not the other way around. And Mier and Jiaq didn't really want a relationship with Whipper.

"Just his baby. Babies. Well, with Bay's twins and Meir's and Jiaq's older kids they've got two each. And their mother had another baby. I think Ajha was dosing more than horses with that wine. Or was that you?"

"Ha! You're the only one I ever dosed . . . "

Their eyes met in mutual amusement.

"But what poor man do we sacrifice to get Wizzy to leave me alone?"

A deep melodious gong sounded in the distance.

"That's the ten minute warning for dinner. I swear I'm going to pin Ajki down about his lifestyle while he was here." Izzo rolled out of bed and hunted down shoes. "These people have a cast iron routine that they're trying to make me fit. I have some vague idea that it's supposed to work the other way around."

"Goodness. My poor little Colonial! I spoke to the cook earlier about the sorts of food you liked, and the hours you kept. She says the whole east wing is guest quarters for the people who either come in from Paris or come across to report. She reminisced about the parties that get thrown when a big exploration party returns."

"Oh, I like the idea of turning this into the Directorate's Hotel. We could just hide back in our little corner and let them all run riot through the rest of it." Izzo offered a hand to haul her out of the seductive softness of the mattress.

They entered the dining room, all green flocked wallpaper and gilded carved cornices, from the west as Gee Wiz entered from the east. The girl was dressed formally, looked right at home in the antique room. Izzo held the chair for his wife, then sat at the head of the table. The girl scowled, suppressed it and sat herself on his other side, facing Xiat across the table.

Izzo plunked his elbows casually on the table and split a smile between them. The girl was wearing long sleeves, and moving just a bit carefully. Xiat made a mental note to check on the local medgicians. There should have been no problem healing a straightforward fracture.

"So . . . there's about twelve hundred people working in headquarters, here, and about ten times that, across?" He smiled again. "Sounds like we'll have to break them up into groups for parties. Wiz, is party coordination up your alley?"

The girl brightened, and her eyes unfocused a bit as she started making mental plans.

Xiat hid a smile. Put the girl to work. Attaboy, Colonial.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

***

Izzo strolled with Xiat through the grounds. "Forty acres. Mostly woods in the back, but fenced. Some former Director was an equestrian. I thought you might like a horse. It's a bit early for me to start going overboard with ponies for the kids, isn't it?"

Xiat snickered, and led the way into the barn. "Eight stalls, tack room, feed room. Perfect for us. I'll buy you a horse too, Colonial. As long as I've known you, I've never seen you on a horse."

"Umm, the critters they have on Homestead are a bit closer to the original wild stock than what you're used to. I can ride, and drive. But horses were working animals there, not pets."

"Tsk! I'll have to fix that misapprehension."

***

///Jack

/// Flu

***

The Governors of ten Colonies had filed repeated complaints about the backlogged court system. All of them except Granite Peak, which was a problem all its own.

The Research Department wanted him to send out his best agents to find examples of Comet Fall potions. The Action Department was ready and eager to do so. Intel whined about how embarrassing it was to have all its agents in the Kingdom of the West found within days.

"And that's where the organized magicians are." Omsi Withione explained.

"We won't make the kind of mistakes we did before." Ebko Withione nodded decisively. "We'll infiltrate quietly . . . "

"A village of three hundred? Where everyone knows everyone? And most of them are highly magical?" Izzo studied the man. Had he kept those troublesome genes? Action Teams had such a bad reputation. "Do you have anyone who is completely non-threatening?"

The man glared. "We can't just walk up and ask for samples."

"No, and that's why we needs some info team successes first."

Subdirector Wrla of Research drummed his fingers. "Actually, I've found Q quite approachable. A business approach, requesting samples of things they might like to export would probably not be considered blatant spying. They . . . are very odd people."

Ebco bristled.

"Thank you, gentlemen. I will consider how to best get the information we want. Now, back to these backlogged courts. We need two things. More judges, and more courtrooms on the Colony Worlds. I will start looking into getting the judges, each of you start looking for local public buildings where we could set up temporary courts and see about clearing the backlogs without requiring excessive travel of large numbers of plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses and lawyers and all the clerks that go with it. Think in terms of reducing the backlog to cases three months old inside of a year, and work up some preliminary plans, get them to me in a month. Eiffel, the local authorities on Homestead were working toward changing their laws to match ours. How is that coming?"

"Not well. The idea of Oners being exempt from some laws is not well received."

"I dare say. How many of the Native Court Judges are One educated and licensed?"

"Probably better than sixty percent, and climbing, but surely you aren't going to let them judge Oners!"

"Why not? It's a matter of law, not a magic contest."

"But everyone knows a Oner could influence a Native judge."

"Does everyone know the penalty for using magic on a presiding judge?"

They were all looking at him uneasily now. A mutter of "gone Native" from somewhere down the table drew a faint smile.

"The Rule of Law is such a bitch when everyone has to follow the same rules. Eiffel, I'd like a recommendation on how to merge the Native Courts and the One Courts on Homestead, and for nominations of Native Judges to have their appointments reconfirmed by the One for the regional Imperial Courts."

Eiffle was looking at him like he'd turned into a skunk.

"Oh, and the two law enforcement agencies as well. Absurd on a civilized World. Merge them." He switched his attention to the next man on his list. "Wgli, I noticed that the Colonial Oners on Granite Peak don't have a registry office on their World. Nor a college. Which is a problem right now as they are all staying home to emphasize the large population of Oners there. We need to balance our thinking, treating them like every other colony, while not sinking too much money into it, in case we're tossed out. A Registry office should be quick and easy. Concentrate on locating and registering halfers to plump up the population numbers and show how well we're integrating the Nomads into our society. Think about dedicating a University, set land aside, and perhaps dedicate the royalties from that new mining area for its funding. You might even go so far as to bring in some portable classrooms and traveling lecturers for the current year."

Wgli bit his lip. "Yes, no need to put everything on hold for the year. But is the Registry office something they need?"

"Well, that rather depends. Let's face it, Comet Fall is biased against us and is the core of Disco. If we lose the case will the Colonists pack up and move? Or are they going to stay, no matter whose government is legally in charge? Think about what equipment our people will need, if they are cut off, partially or wholly from us."

Wgli blinked at him, trying to hide astonishment. He managed a nod.

"Wrla, I need an overview of terraforming research on Algae Worlds. A quick search through the system didn't turn up much. If you haven't got a live person in charge of that, get one and send him to me."

Wrla looked offended. "That's a bit low for us, we're mostly Physics and Native Magic."

"So, hire a botanist. Or I could pull it and run it as a Director's project."

Wrla looked indignant. "No, no. I have people who do World biota surveys of every World we discover. I'll assign one to this . . . project."

Izzo smiled. "Right. That's everything on the agenda. Anyone have any last minute problems they want to bring up? Very well, thank you gentlemen."

Unfortunately he was not heading home. His secretary Kiel had managed three appointments in a reasonably spaced time. The One first. Davi drove him through Corridors as far as Dimashq. There, he boarded the train. Settled back and read, trying to ignore the people crowding around him. I've gotten spoiled. Used to commute stuffed in the tram like a canned sardine twice a day. He kept his shield up hard until they were a hundred kilometers away, then softened it. Everyone around was quiet and contemplative, the Presence ahead overwhelmed and pushed their thoughts to the side. It absorbed his thoughts, and he drifted and bit, thinking about his upbringing, his life on Homestead, his identity with the people, however different his looks. What would those industrious busy people be like, if they to could commune with the One? If they had all the techniques of the Oners, the magic. True too of the Multitude here, and the Natives of the other three Colonies with indigenous people.

Then he thought of the tangled difficulties and expense of shipping everything through the One World. The frustrations. The traffic jams at the gate complex. Direct trade would work so well, especially between Colony Worlds. Loss of transport taxes would be offset by increased efficiency in the economy.

In Makkah everyone got off the train. Some strode off for a destination. Izzo was one of the ones who wandered aimlessly through courtyards, stopping here and there to admire a fountain. He ate at an outdoor grill, and wandered back to the train station in time to catch the last northbound train of the day.

He slept, woke clear headed and alone inside his skull. He caught the eye of the woman sitting across from him, and smiled faintly. "I do hope I wasn't snoring."

Her eyes crinkled. "No, Director, you just drooled."

"Err . . ."

"You may call me Guir. I will accompany you to speak for the One to the Council and President. The One wishes our opinion known." Her sharp eyes studied him. "Between you, Usse and Ajha, the One has changed."

"I am sure the two Philosophers had the greater impact."

She chuckled. "You must send us a sample of this Elixir of Long Life the Fallen have made. We need to study the effects. We are uncertain whether elements of the One living for thousands of years would be advantageous, or would make us less adaptable, more locked onto outmoded ways of thought. The neutering of Priest Candidates, once thought necessary, is under consideration. Bring us also samples of these herbs you were given."

He bowed. "I will."

"I wonder what else you will do? You are a most interesting experiment."

Their mutual appearances before the Council, and again before the President were brief. Izzo handed over the physical petitions, and spoke of their providence. Guir said that the One recommended a limited experiment using Comet Fall genetic engineering, approved of direct trade between Colonies, and was not adverse to direct trade with outside entities, so long as the Empire's security was maintained.


 
 
 
Bretbretw on July 15th, 2015 04:14 pm (UTC)
I felt that that last bit, starting with the conversation between Guir and Izzo needs a lot more development. Of course, that may be because I don't know what's coming up in the future.

Who's Guir? What herbs and when did Izzo take them? You've alluded to Izzo being an 'experiment' before, but it could use a lot more explanation about now. Does the one know about the plan to make all of Homestead Oners? Is that what "limited experiment using Comet Fall genetic engineering means," or is that something else?

The appearances before the Council and President may be brief, but it seems that they would be interesting enough to show those scenes, especially since Orde, Urfa, etc. are very interesting and likable characters, while the Council isn't very well known and any enlightenment as to their perspectives would be helpful to this reader.