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16 July 2015 @ 09:50 am
_External Relations_ part 6  

Chapter Six

Flu eyed the Registry Office. Oners were lined up with their kids to have them tested. Her grandfather hadn't said anything. She'd checked on the office comp. The Registry was booked solid for weeks. She'd made an appointment, and would just have to wait.

And find the courage.

She kept walking. Two more miles to the so-called University of Granite Peak. This summer they were doing something called testing out. You took a test, and depending on the results, you could skip some basic classes. It sounded more like they were testing how well their school taught, than anything about each student. She'd done well enough in school, but it was, as grandfather always said, just country bumpkin makeshift, full of the offspring of farmers and miners. Not some high powered prep school like they had on One World. But she'd had enough money to take the Language Arts and the History tests. "Some college credit" would look better on a job application than "graduated from school." Not that there were many jobs. Most people were farmers or miners, but you had to train for years to run the remote machinery. No, she'd be a clerk somewhere. But the nicer the somewhere, the better.

Room five B. She signed in and sat to wait for the counselor to tell her to not bother with college. She could hear voices, faint from the inner offices, louder from outside. The door opened, letting the noisy ones inside. Oghw and Uvli. Ogg and Evil. Figured she get stuck here with them.

"Oh One! Look who we're stuck waiting with." Evil dropped into the seat beside her. The only other open seat being on her other side, she hastily scooted over.

Ogg sat. "I'd say something about body heat, but I'm trying to act grownup."

"You need a lot more practice."

"That's what everyone says. I here for Language and Math. You?"

"Language Arts and History."

Evil leaned around Ogg and nodded. "Me too."

"We ought to be out of here, off to One World, lights, women, no parents." Ogg sighed. "And I suppose no matter what happens, you're screwed?"

She scowled. "In every way except what you'd think is funny."

He actually blushed. Governor Arry's precious son? He glared.

"You shouldn't think so loud," he snarled. And hunched down and stared at the Counselor's door.

"You're supposed to be learning how to shield, else One World will knock you flat." She couldn't keep the envy out of her voice. "Anyway, what are you worried about? You've already been genetyped. Your parents took you to the One World for it before you ever went to school."

He looked away. Hunched.

Evil thumped his shoulder. "It doesn't matter."

"No. Of course not."

She frowned at them. What did I just miss? All right, there were jokes about Oghw inheriting nothing from Arry, but with a mother named Howd his name is hardly a scandal. Is he really not Governor Arry's son?

They all settled down in an uncomfortable silence until Kian walked out of the Counselor's office and Flu was ushered in.

"Congratulations, you passed both tests." The Counselor grinned. "No point in beating around the bush about it. Here's the chip. Now, Influenza, err, what an interesting name. I take it you haven't registered yet?"

She shook her head.

"Take the chip with you when you register, and it will get registered along with your genetic heritage, and the name you choose from the mix of the four highest prophets in your ancestry. You'll use that registry for attending college, here or elsewhere, and for employment and tax purposes. Your scores are excellent, you should consider college."

"When I can afford it." She sighed wistfully.

The Counselor stood and shook her hand, and ushered her out.

Ogg was called in and she found herself outside, looking blankly at the chip.

"How'd you do?" Kian was still there, probably waiting for some boy. She was so obviously a Oner, with her silky sandy brown hair and green eyes.

"Passed Language and History, for all the good that'll do me." Flu shrugged.

"Yeah. Reality has really hit this week. What do we do? We could easily lose our whole World. I wish our ancestors hadn't done that stupid Granite Peak Clan thing. We can't even throw ourselves on some distant relatives' mercy."

"Wow. I hadn't thought about it like that. Not that I'm even Clan."

"Oh, you tested? I'm so sorry . . . "

Flu shook her head. "The Registry is booked solid for weeks. But if I'd lucked out, I'd have bloomed by now. But I can't do a One Damned thing." She thumped her back on a tree and slid down to sit in the dust.

Kian sat down crosslegged beside her.

Ogg came out a moment later. Shrugged. "Passed. Whoop-de-do. What good does it do me."

Evil trotted out a few minutes later. "Hey! A miracle! I passed! Let's go celebrate!"

Kian scowled at him. "We're having a depressing pity party here, do you mind?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact. On your feet, Grads! March. Dad gave me a tenner, so I can probably afford sodas for everyone."

They pooled funds, and hit the store instead. They munched chips and drank sodas in Evil's father's old barn, with the radio playing, and more friends wandered in. Com calls were made, more drinks, snacks and kids arrived. Dancing, laughing, talking. It was as close to a graduation party as they'd gotten. The cops sent them all home at midnight.

***

"I couldn't resist their bloodlines." Xait blushed. "They're related to some superb animals, not just on the track, but these bloodlines cross out very well to the heavier breeds for jumping. They're both right off the track, but the seller has a good reputation. I'll find someone to ride and train them to do something other than run fast over the next few months. Master Gordon said he'd hire someone to take care of the stable."

Izzo had his eyes on the two mares, and she couldn't tell if he was pleased or not. She stopped herself from babbling. I'm going to be very glad when this pregnancy is over, and I stop being so damned hormonal.

"They're beauties. Subtly different than the horses I grew up around." He switched a grin in her direction. "Mind you, I'm a bit out of practice, so don't expect acrobatics on horseback from me too soon."

"Poor Colonial. Should I have bought you a nice old cob?"

"Nah. I'd have out grown him." His eyes crinkled a bit. "So, do Mushy and Whipper know how to ride? I could make them test ride your racehorses."

"Hired them, did you?"

"I refuse to play the Game. But those two dufuses of Ajha's do occasionally come in handy. They'll be coming in tomorrow, and staying here until they find places of their own. I assure you, I did invite them to stay with ulterior and fell purpose."

"Wizzy is going to hate them."

"With a passion, and I expect the converse as well. The emotional undercurrents should keep her distracted."

"Colonial, you have a very practical mean streak."

***

Jack leaned back in an attitude of relaxation, watching Arrow as she studied the Gate to Earth.

From a distance. She said he was too emotional just now to be comfortable around.

Emotional? He ran his hand over his scalp and tried to imagine he was feeling stubble. She says my hair will grow back, but she never told me it was going to fall out in the first place.

He caught Lieutenant Higgin's eye and shrugged. "It's my own damn fault for testing magic potions."

"I'm sure it'll grow back, sir. And the new clothes look good."

Damn ass kissing toady. "I just hope I've quit growing. I'm wearing my winter boots, and they're pinching a bit. Who'd have thought a potion to make you taller would also make your feet grow?"

The Lieutenant bit his lip. "Well, it's not really magic. I'd guess it must regress the growth plates of the bones a tad so they have a bit of a growth spurt. So everything gets bigger." He sounded a bit wistful.

Jack wasn't about to mention the potion that would cure the boy of his insecurities. He ran a hand over his head again. "Sounds logical." He huffed out an irritated breath, as Arrow stood up and walked back to them.

Arrow looked irritated. "I see how they are made, now. I probably could make one. But I don't know where it would go."

"Well. Maybe we should just take this World. Gotta nice climate and all. Can you close a Gate? If we can close the Gates to One and Earth, we can use Disco to keep them from being reopened." Which is the official plan, but I want an escape route.

Arrow frowned. "I heard Falchion describe what she did to close a Gate. Maybe I could practice on one of those Gates on that route you showed me. And you'd probably be better off claiming one of those Worlds – I suppose the problem is that you don't want to do the farming yourself?"

"You got it. A World with some stranded farmers would be perfect. And yeah, we ought to experiment away from where everyone is watching." He glanced back at the Gate and frowned. "I still don't believe you let me drink that. Why?"

Arrow smiled. "Along with the unfortunate side effects, the Hex installs several magic and power collecting genes. Congratulations, you are almost a magician."

"What!" He stumbled back. "What do you mean 'installs' genes?"

She rolled her eyes. "Just what it sounds like. You want a magic user? You're going to be one, real soon now."

Jack's vision tunneled, and he clamped his hands over his mouth to control the hyperventilation. Genetic engineering! Why didn't someone tell me! The memory of all those little bottles on Susto's shelves . . . and scattered about the floor and table, drained . . .

He managed to get back in control and the Lieutenant drove them back to HQ. Jack locked himself in his office and spent the next hour in the executive bathroom upchucking everything he'd eaten today, and what felt like everything taken in since he'd first met Arrow. Genetic Engineering, the boogey man of the modern world. What was he going to do?

Learn Magic?

***

Subdirector of Intel Omsi did not appreciate Izzo adding two untrained troublemakers to his stable of elite Info Teams. "I can recognize Disposable Errand Runners when I see them. I will not contaminate, risk, a Team by adding them to it."

Izzo smiled. "Good. Just get them Gate passes and let them wander around and meet people." He could hear Omsi's teeth grind.

Subdirector Idzo of Embassy Affairs scowled. "And these business permits you've approved. Do you think it is wise to give out that much information about us? The vid theater alone . . ."

Idzo and the Subdirector of Castle Peak, Izfo, were both cousins of his. No love lost. Hell, he barely knew them. There were two other Alcairo Subdirectors as well. He was going to have to figure out if that was talent or nepotism. With thirty thousand clans you think there'd be few concentrations . . . Former Director Ajki was Black Point, and Agni had been from the Canary Islands. The two in between had been in power too briefly to replace many of the subdirectors, but slitting Action from Exploration had opened a new slot, then elevating Embassy had added another. Both Alcairo Clan members. Maybe he should just assume it was the high quality Alcairo genetics, not Iffy playing clan politics . . .

"Indeed. I can't think why no one has opened any more nightclubs. Think of how much information you'll be able to pick up in them. Restaurants and the theater will simply make the One World less exotic, less threatening."

"Less, less . . . " Down the table a few chairs, the Action Subdirector sputtered.

"Changing philosophy is hell." Izzo tried to sound sympathetic.

Ebko gritted his teeth. "I want that man out of my section."

"No. I think we need to think in terms of expanding Exploration and reducing Action Teams. Even if we meet up with another hostile entity like Helios, we'd still be better served by their notifying us while keeping up observations."

"You, you."

"Yes. Infuriating though it is, we simply are not going to be as aggressive as we used to be. We are not going to be isolationist. So says the Spokesman of the One. So says a public referendum." Izzo watched the man while he got himself back under control. Bet the plague missed him.

"Now, the Courts. How are the new judges working? Is having the courtrooms across helping?"

The Subdirector of Savannah snorted. "All the big law firms are here. And bitching like mad."

"I suppose without courts, there was little need for litigators across. Well, no doubt either the law firms will adapt, or the across lawyers will start showing up in court." Izzo eyed his subordinates. "Anything else to bring up? No. Very well. Oh. I understand the Gothic Horror is used as a Directorate hotel, don't let my residence change that, or if anyone is accustomed to using the salle or the pool, by all means, continue." He smiled faintly as they thought it over. How many Game Players do we have here, and will they try me on the salle? My reputation is composed of conflicting rumors.

Ebko's eyes lit, and he nodded.

Further down the table a few almost subliminal glances. Izfo did the talking. "Thanks. There's a group of us who try to keep up some civilized polish out here, with regular fencing." Undertones of glee sabotaged his attempt at casual and friendly. "Perhaps we'll come by tonight."

Izzo nodded. "Anytime."

Back in his office "Welcome" had once again been let out of the executive bathroom. The nocturnal creature came for a doggy bone and ran off to eat it from behind the sickly potted tree. Nothing smelled. Could the critter have actually decided to use only the corner of the lav? Izzo might come to not regret keeping the critter yet.

He read and signed his way through the pile Kiel had left in the middle of his desk, checked mail, and headed home.

Xiat eyed him as he quit halfway through the soup, barely tasted the heavy creamed noodle and beef entre, and nibbled slowly through the peach pie.

"I'm almost afraid to ask."

"Some of the fellows like to fence. I volunteered the salle here. It will be a very informal feeling up."

She snorted. "Didn't think they were your type."

"Just the usual dominance games."

Wizz had been following this with narrowed eyes. "They're going to try to beat you."

"Exactly."

"Some of them are really good." The girl actually looked alarmed. "You haven't been practicing."

"I know. I'll no doubt regret the month off, but I have been keeping up the stretching, so I shouldn't be too off."

They all showed up at eight, six of them with all their equipment. Izzo was already warming up and stretching when Ohno showed them in.

"Glad you could make it." Izzo tried to sound chipper, not predatory. "I need to get back into the habit of fencing at least once a week.

Ebko, Izbo and Wgli. Ajha and two fellows he'd only met a couple of times. Very tall, with long legs and arms. They'd definitely pegged his reach as his main weakness. They all tossed various gear bags down along the walls and started warming up.

Ajha was staying straight faced and a bit formal, but Izzo had come to know him well enough to see the flickers of amusement. He caught Izzo's eye. "So are we going to get barely whipped, or completely over-awed?"

Izzo snorted. "And how fired am I going to need to be to beat those long fellows?"

"Not very. Ebko's trying all the angles, but he has limited material to work with."

"How about you?"

"Oh, I just fence for the fun of it. This lot hasn't figured out yet that being a Philosopher doesn't change the fencing. It's like they think I can't fire up like I used to."

Izzo grinned. "I see. Well, how about a nice little third level match?"

"You've got it. Why don't we just do it to three touches, so you don't get too worn out before you get around to Ebko."

They'd fenced before, and knew each other well. Izzo was the better trained, Ajha had six inches further reach on his lunges. Limiting their speed—the amount of magical, metabolic acceleration that they were capable of—to third level made for a challenging match, with Izzo taking two of three, but the points well spread in all.

"Warmed up, Cousin? I think we might have sparred once, when you were around for Law School. Let's see if you've improved." Izbo smiled, or at any rate showed a lot of teeth.

"Has it been that long?" Izzo faced him and raised his blade.

///

 
 
 
Bretbretw on July 16th, 2015 03:54 pm (UTC)
Kinda a lot of threads (Flu, Izzo, Arrow, Rustle genengineering, etc.). It'll be interesting to see how they all come together. (They will come together, won't they?).
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on July 16th, 2015 05:03 pm (UTC)
If not that sub-thread will be ruthlessly torn out and made a short story of its own.

Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!

BTW what is Ajha's current rank & position ?

Info Leader without portfolio ?


Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
matapampamuphoff on July 17th, 2015 04:38 am (UTC)
Yes, it all comes together in a battle on Granite Peak.

Former Philosopher of the One Ajha is now a Senior Administrator in either Exploration or Intel. His Uncle Ajki, the former Exterior Director and now the Director of Internal Relations, stuck him back into his old job after _Black Point Clan_. Much to the horror of the current subdirector.

As I said, this was written before I wrote any of the Ebsa and Ra'd stories. There are lots of continuity errors, and a lot of scenes unwritten. As this fencing scene I started. You'll just have to assume that Izzo beat everyone, but restrained himself and didn't make it look easy.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on July 16th, 2015 10:06 pm (UTC)
" It was as close to a graduation party as they'd gotten. "

Loss of focus ? It's not really clear that Flu attended the party.


Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on July 17th, 2015 12:34 am (UTC)
More continuity ?

==The two in between had been in power too briefly to replace many of the subdirectors, but slitting Action from Exploration had opened a new slot, then elevating Embassy had added another.==


Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
matapampamuphoff on July 17th, 2015 04:47 am (UTC)
Right. After Agni retired, the guy that showed up in Directorate School had a couple of years before he got canned. Then the temporary Director Iffy, who snubbed Ajha in _Interns_ managed to appoint a couple of cousins to new positions, then he _wasn't_ named as permanent Director. Ajki got the nod instead.

Ajki thus has, as subdirectors, a resentful defeated rival and a couple of close cousins, plus a couple more Alcairo Clanners. Ajki knew they were up to something, but couldn't pin anything down. A Black Pointer firing every Alcairo Clanner would look bad and Alcairo would raise a stink.

The President wants Izzo in a high position, and since he's Alcairo, he might be able to defuse whatever the problem in XR is, and avoid political repercussions when he figures out which subdirectors he needs to ax.

Edited at 2015-07-17 04:49 am (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on July 17th, 2015 04:50 am (UTC)
All of which I'll have to stick in somewhere.