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31 October 2015 @ 01:30 am
_Trouble in Paradise_ part 12  
 

Sunday morning he rolled out early and took the bus up the coast to Maldonado. Met his college buddies, rented doodlebugs for some fun in the sand dunes . . . swam in the warm water, then back to Montevideo for the Sunday Brunch that segued into dinner. Monday morning, he kissed his mother goodbye, told her to stop being silly and marry Rico.

"That's a business decision, and none of your business, young man. You . . . be careful!"

He carted his luggage, the parka, and the box two blocks and boarded the bus for the corridor hub.

***

In Paris it was already late afternoon. Paer, driving an official vehicle, picked him up and whisked him off to Versalle.

"I won't ask if you have permission to nab an official vehicle."

"Ha! I suggested that since I could requisition both car and driver, surely there was no problem with me taking just the car. I've had this one all weekend—I suspect it's loaded with tracers, and micro cams. So kiss me and scandalize the Nannies."

"Not while you're driving." Ebsa scooted closer and kissed her at the first stop light. Retreated as the light changed.

"So . . . how many references to T-rexes have you suffered through?"

"None. But there have been quite a few pauses when riding is mentioned, and 'horses' hastily added." Paer looked cheerful. "I think Dad has finally decided to be proud of having a kick ass daughter. Or maybe it's just boggled. How about your Mom?"

"Well, I think she's realized that I've flown the nest and won't be coming back. She's . . . frightened of the thought of me being in the middle of a war."

Paer nodded. "Yeah. My poor guards tried to explain the procedure for exfiltrating me from a battle zone. I told them I'd be fighting with the rest of the Directorate Teamers, not being specially evacced. Dad and Urfa sort of turned green, but Dad told them that was what I had to do and that whoever was present should pitch in and fight too."

Ebsa nodded. "That . . . must be causing a lot of ulcers."

"Yeah mental adjustments, all over the place." She drove in silence for awhile. "And, umm, I think you may be getting some attention as well. They finally realized that Ra'd was not the young man they needed to worry about me getting inappropriately involved with."

"Ah. That's what I get for kissing you without checking for newsies."

Paer giggled. "I think it was all the kissing in the back seat of the car three days ago that made it official."

"Yeah . . . so did your dad say anything?"

"Not a word . . . umm, he did say he'd come to dinner at Versalle tonight. How about your mom?"

"You are toying with me and will throw me out like trash when you tire of me. We will never have children. A good honest boy like myself deserves better. Thank the One my mother doesn't know me very well."

Paer snickered. "And you didn't mention the possibilities of Comet Fall Joy Juice? "

"Nope, else I'd never hear the end of it. Her little boy! Using an illegal drug! And two minutes later, she'd be talking about grandchildren."

Paer giggled as she turned into the back gate at Versalle. "Well, I hate to tell you this, but the first person you are going to see tonight is Isakson."

"Oh?"

"Yes. He said you needed some lessons, and he'd start tonight."

"Maybe he'll beat me up so badly that your father will take pity on me and be nice . . . or is Isakson what happens to low class suitors?"

Paer thumped his shoulder. "Really, Ebsa. You'd better drop the inferiority complex, or I'm going to get mean."

She parked the car and lead the way inside the barracks. Ebsa followed, wondering just how badly he was about to get beaten up.

"That's a bad attitude." Isakson was standing at the front security desk. "Today, you will be learning a new technique. Come. No need to dress out. You will be working hard in another fashion."

Blindfolded.

Sensing mentally for the people reaching for him.

Not too hard. He'd had some practice looking for animals. Even with their shields up, Oners this close were obvious. But he hadn't realized he could "see" their arms and legs.

One of the presences darted in and tapped his arm. His response was way late, but he shifted it to tap another foggy person jumping in. Was tapped from the back, turned, struck out to the side . . .

He tapped more people than he was tapped by them, got repeatedly tapped by someone—Isakson, no doubt—who simply wasn't there to the inner senses. Worse than Ra'd. The old man chuckled. Ebsa lunged for the sound. First time Ebsa'd managed to tap him.

"Sound can be deceiving. Few people, in a fight, will hold shields hard enough that you cannot find them, no matter the lighting."

Ebsa tapped three people . . . there was the faintest fog . . . he lunged and jammed his fingers on rock hard Warrior.

"Excellent. Practice that with Ra'd. You are dismissed, Warrior."

Ebsa took off the blindfold, bowed and retreated.

Rael, who had probably been one of the tappers, gave him a thumbs up. "We're all impressed. Even us Princesses with some training in sensing took longer to get the hang of it. Now come have dinner before you head back to school."

He followed her gaze. Orde Withione Tarsus Ottoman. The President of the Empire. Paer's father. He hadn't been nearly as scary before Ebsa had fallen for the daughter he was smiling down on.

Deep breath for bravery.

Ebsa walked over. Feeling all the eyes on him.

The president eyed him. "That was an interesting session. Less painful than most of his lessons. Most of them just make me glad I'm too old for it."

"Dad, I think he's older than you are, even not counting the time . . . er . . . "

"I know. But I'm not going to call that to his attention." A quick smile, and he eyed Ebsa thoughtfully. "Well, come to dinner. We should have a little chat."

Gulp.

And . . . all they talked about was last summer's internships, with the President shooting a few wry comments Paer's direction. Complementing Ebsa's fast thinking and response.

Ebsa could only sigh and say that he ought to have been more alert and prevented the whole near disaster.

"That's what we all say, afterwards." The president shrugged. "Take this mess with the cannibal world. Ten years from now we could well be kicking ourselves and wondering why the One Hell we didn't take care of that obvious danger the first time it surfaced in our part of the multiverse."

Ebsa nodded. "But right now, it's seems so far off, and to have nothing to do with us. So why should we make it our problem?"

"I've read your report. A very cogent analysis of why we ought to care. Not that it'll work, but it has put a bit of perspective on the bioattack."

Ebsa glanced from President to Rael. "I did wonder if anyone had asked Wolfson if it was reversible, but then he's apparently not available, just now. What about this Q person?"

Rael shook her head. "Also gone. I talked to Nighthawk, though, and she said that the genes would be easy enough to replace, the complications would only come in individualizing it, and that that shouldn't be any big deal, since we had records of what everyone had stared with. Except the babies. Then, of course, she said we were obviously insane to want them back, but, then Oners, go figure."

Ebsa thought that over, and shook his head. "The genes almost don't matter. It's the insult to the High Oners, the demonstrated ability to harm them at will. No one likes to discover that they are helpless and vulnerable. Going begging to Comet Fall for a remedy isn't going to help the underlying issue—our vulnerability to stronger magicians."

The president pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ouch. That's very perceptive of you. I will have to think about how to address that problem."

Then they were driven back to New York. Paer grumbling at being evicted from the driver's seat.

Ebsa retrieved his luggage and the box from the car and took it all up to his dorm room. Stared at the box. I'll look later. Maybe. Probably nothing will fit, anyway. It was a nice gesture, though.

He caught three hours of sleep, then rolled out for the morning run.