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17 September 2016 @ 12:02 am
_Planet Purple_ part 2  

Rael eyed the man driving the truck. Purple or not, she could read that little dimple. "Don't smirk, or I'll keep up the nag imitation. Good grief, every woman there needed to have some manners and cunning slapped into her." The three hours of waiting in the courtroom had been . . . educational.

"Sorry, why on . . . for the One's sake did Ajki search for the most arrogant assholes to send here?"

Rael giggled. "Actually, yes. We've analyzed the Purps on Embassy, thought they were representative."

Xen shook his head. "Yeah, about as representative as the Oner delegation is of the whole of your society. What a disastrous combination. Snotty Oners probably realized that they were seeing an elite, and of course jumped right in to be the elite."

Hugo hunched forward and glared through the open window. "Why not? Look at Endi Dewulf, he was the coach for the President's daughter."

Lobo started laughing. Rael punched his shoulder.

"Endi Dewulf started his infiltration as a horseboy for the daughter of the governor of Britain, to pick up gossip. He worked his way up from shoveling horse shit to being a professional rider, and by pure chance fell into his high position. Two months later he was under arrest. If it hadn't been for the assassination attempt, and all the heroics, they'd have just shot him. Well, they'd have tried. You lot need to think about the advantages of being invisible. I've been spot checking this society, with a thin cover. We'll see if the cover can stretch to include you lot and your absent buddies." He shook his head. "What I do to keep the peace."

Hugo growled. "Who the hell are you? I ought to know all the directorate agents . . . "

"Disco. Don't sprain your brain over it. There are five Exile worlds that we know of, most of them have some peacock genes floating around, and that's why this is my assignment."

"Disco!"

They all turned their eyes toward Rael. She smiled sweetly. "Presidential Directorate. Rael Withione. You will call me Sophi, while I'm here."

Kook slowly shut his mouth. Everyone knew who Princess Rael was. He eyed the Purp. Endi Dewulfe, Xen Wolfson . . . Gene Lobo? One! This may be interesting enough to be worth the brand. Which immediately resumed hurting. He managed a tiny, careful, healing spell, and then a pain killer. Then he leaned back limply and tried not to think of his stomach.

The truck slowed, turned and stopped. Sophi opened her door.

"Nuh uh. Let the boys get the door. They're working for us now."

Kook pried himself out of his slump and took a look. They'd stopped at an old wooden barn. Peeling white paint, falling down fences to either side, but not very far. The barn had been engulfed by civilization, marooned in what looked like an area of low class shops, homes and small factories. He slid down from the back of the truck and walked around to open the door. It slid, suspended from a rusty rail overhead. The truck drove past him and shuddered to a stop.

"Shut the door, boy."

Kook had a nasty suspicion that "boy" was an insult in this society.

Carl steadied Loois and Hugo stalked around to confront Lobo.

"I am Exploration Team Leader Ugho. Neither I nor my team take orders from Disco."

"Then I suggest you take some strongly worded suggestions, because you have made some very basic errors. Why don't we start with some food and then showers, y'all look almost as bad as you smell." Lobo turned and walked away.

Rael—Sophi—climbed down from the truck cab. "I enlisted some knowledgeable assistance when we didn't get a message back from any of you. Do you have a rendezvous spot where we might manage to find the rest of your team? Twelve men, right?"

Hugo nodded. "So we'd have two compasses, if we needed to raise some serious power. Hopefully they haven't given up. It may feel like a year, but it's only been two weeks since we were arrested."

The soup was the finest meal he'd ever had. The shower was heaven. The spell Rael laid on the brand was delicate and powerful. It stopped hurting immediately.

"Is it going to scar?" Loois was back on his feet, but looking like he could faint again at any second.

"Yes." Lobo waved a few sheets of paper at them. "On the upside, you now have actual, legal identities. People will look at that brand and never remember what you looked like otherwise. Now, my thin cover involves me being a general contractor. It means that I build and repair homes. I suggest that we snag your other people, get the dye off of them before they wind up in need of rescue themselves, and treat the business like a business."

He skimmed the papers over to them. "The Ellaiha that we had you say was your home is an abandoned mining town. I will take you there, and you can make a going concern of it, so you have a remote base to run for, if you want. I recommend you consider your peoples' individual talents, and open other businesses, keep it small and simple. Learn to fit into the culture. At some point in the future, when you've got the feel of the place, talk to the Comet Fall people. They can stick a peacock gene into your chromosome eighteen insertion packet, and you'll turn purplish naturally. And they can remove it, when you're done."

"Why do you call it the peacock gene? They call it the purple gene." Kook eyed the man. How much did he know, and how much would he tell?

"The old stories say the gene complex is from a peacock. And the gene just codes for a protein, that other processes turn into several different things, one of them a blue pigment. The actual skin and hair color depends on the sum total of all the pigments. I've heard the Comet Fall Gods say that the artificial gene for dominant red hair was often chosen to go with the peacock gene, so the hair would be purple, rather than blue. So both genes are commonly found together, here.

Hugo growled faintly under his breath, but didn't argue further.

Lobo grinned. "And if you boys are tired, there's some blankets and straw up in the loft. I'm going to go chat up some of the folk around here, see how business is shaping up."

***

Rael scowled at the wall. Xen had put an illusion over the gate. Either that, or he'd moved it. She couldn't see it . . . she looked over at the raggedy team. They looked beat, mentally and physically.

:: Ugho, can you hear me? ::

Nothing.

"Well, until the local version of methalformaline wears off, I recommend R&R. Any of you up for more food?"

Head shakes all around, a couple of glances toward the bedrooms.

"I think you'd better stay strictly in your role, until you've got your footing. Team Leader? I am the rescue squad, I'll be leaving in a few weeks at the most. I outrank you, but you are still in charge of your team and the mission. We'll milk Lobo for all the information we can, and play nice until he's gone. I recommend that as you learn the ropes, you leave this place, and avoid his Ellaiha like the plague."

Ugho straightened with an obvious effort. "Thank you, Princess. That's good advice, and from you, we'll take it. Lobo . . . "

"He is not one of us. His motives are his own, and Disco's. Always keep that in mind. Act like you trust him. Use him and his position here." She was glad to see the man pulling himself together. Loois and Carl were nodding too. The youngster, Kook, or Klark, poor sod wasn't going to be able to shed his nickname, looked like he was thinking. Which could be good or bad.

But Ugho was making a mental comeback and getting back in the saddle, as all her horse mad friends would say.

"Well boys, let's check out the accommodations for the indentured servants, eh?"

Rael left them to it, stepping outside to look around "her husband's" property. Figures a Comet Fall wizard would like a barn. It was a nice big barn, and the decrepit fence railed off a few meters of tall weeds to either side of it, and maybe ten meters behind. The Team had three trucks. We'll have to park a couple of them back here. Or maybe put one in this Ellaiha place. If Loois and Carl don't perk up, they may need to be out there for awhile. Or I may need to ask Xen to take them back to Embassy. We don't need trauma and post stress reactions all over the place.

A shabby wall of rusty metal panels overlapped half the back property line. Rael tromped cautiously through the tall grass to take a closer look. Through a hole she could see rows of rusty dented and demolished vehicles. The metal panels ended in a high wire mesh fence. Two big heavy mastiff type dogs rushed out, barking and leaping on the fence. Rael retreated, splitting her attention between the ground and the dogs. They seemed to be safely fenced in.

"Muddy?" There was Xen looking down into the weeds.

"I was wondering about snakes and bugs and rusty metal trash."

"No trash allowed. I fetch a horse occasionally, to munch the grass down a bit. The boys are snoozing, probably having nightmares. Rumor is, these herbs they stick in the prisoners' meals suppresses magic, but also causes nervous reactions and suggestibility, not to mention being mildly addictive. What you're seeing is half withdrawal symptoms, half side effects, half reaction to the sudden rescue and whatever. I wouldn't worry too much about them. I think your 'brother' lost his appetite, and Loois ate to try and get his mind off the predicament. Give them a few days and they'll be fine."

"Was I that obvious?"

"No, but they sure were. If Hugo's up to it, I'd like to try and contact the others tonight. They're probably settled somewhere. So maybe they can stay there. Or come here. Whatever."

She eyed him, and felt a faint touch from one of the Team. Ugho, Hugo. She let him in, just enough to hear the conversation, but not hear her thoughts. "Can you do the genetic engineering? Add the, what did you call it? The peacock gene."

"I've got a potion for it, I guess it's a simple thing, well known. Although I ought to make you lot ask Disco officially. Honey trap." He shook his head, and Rael hoped Hugo couldn't see the laughter in his eyes. "If the other group has established themselves, gotten away with it, I'll offer them the real thing. One of the problems with being a Purp, is that there aren't all that many of them. Twelve of them, with nobody knowing any of them? Very unlikely, although I suppose I could fix up the ghost town. It's about a nine hour drive from here, not a bad location, soil's a bit poor, water a bit scarce, but I've put in a reliable water well for the few buildings I've fixed up so far."

"But living out in a ghost town . . . well, frankly, I don't know what their primary mission is." Rael admitted.

Xen shrugged. "Knowing you lot, you're probably trying to sidle up to the Earthers . . . I wonder what the Earther diplomats do for fun here. And if you could do it in a ghost town. Or where the Earthers live, here on Purp, if they need handymen, and repair people. Gardeners and so forth . . . "

Rael chewed a knuckle and tried to keep a straight face.

"What?"

"You are such a spy! You can't stop thinking that way, can you?"

He snorted. "No. Well, I'll help this lot. If nothing else, they could trickle in, one at a time from the ghost town. Once one of them gets established, he could introduce a fellow clansman, new to town, every once in awhile." He shrugged. "What you do with it is up to you lot."

Rael sighed. "Yes. But I'm glad you think the Team's trauma is mostly drug side-effects. Thank you for helping." She leaned on him, as she felt Hugo's attention fade away.

"Oh, Spikey. What are you up to this time?"

"Making nice, in case I need help, again."

He laughed out loud, and led her inside. "So tell, me, Term-wife, can you cook, or is that still my job?"

"I can cook. What have you got in the way of food?"

"Ah! The wonders of bubbles. Time dilation, you know? So when you open this, you are actually opening a bubble." He opened a wooden cupboard door.

A basket of fresh leafy veggies. A smaller basket of eggs. A big cooked roast. Two uncooked chickens, looking horrible and dead, to her city eyes. Lots of bottles and jars. She touched the roast. Cold, as if refrigerated.

"Well, that's handy."

"Over here, too." He opened another cabinet.

Ceramic crocks, labeled flour, rice, oatmeal, sugar . . .

"However, it won't last long with eighteen people here. There's a market . . . " He settled down to brief her on the local trades and customs.

It was educational. "I've never infiltrated a society I didn't understand. Heh. Mother disapproves of my Multitude friends. Now I wish I'd spent even more time with them."

Hugo and Xen left shortly after dark, leaving Rael in charge of the still sleeping trio.

Four trucks returned, a bit before midnight.

The team was no longer purple, and while they helped themselves to Gene's leftover roast, Hugo conferred with "Jack" Akci, the second in command, who'd apparently remained unnoticed by virtue of never stopping anywhere long enough to be questioned.

"You drove all three trucks all over the region? Constantly?"

"Yep. We ate take out, slept in the back, rotated drivers . . . We are now fully conversant with every major road in this quarter of the continent." He rotated his hands. "And you have no idea how nice it feels to not be purple. We've also been reading newspapers, listening to the radio, bought a few books. We could only hope you hadn't been captured, because we couldn't contact you at all. We've gotten close enough to every jail in town to hear you, and for you to hear us." He dropped his voice as he notice Rael.

Hugo shook his head. "Princess Rael. The Princess Rael of the Presidential Directorate."

Jack sat up and stared at her. "One!"

"And my tall buddy is Disco. Not admitting to a specific Exile World, although he did say he wasn't from here. Personally, I'm thinking Arbolia." Rael slid that one in.

"The place with the freak gods?" Jack thought about that. "Purple and he is tall enough to be a bit freaky."

"Hey, Mudball!" A fist pounded on the door. "You in there?"

Gene loped to the front of the barn, and pulled the pin that held the door shut. "Monteleon, good to see you again," he called as he grabbed the door and held it while a big, broad old man walked in. His hair shone iridescent blue in the lamp light, his skin tones looked more bruised than corpse-purple.

"Ho, you've got a crowd, am I interrupting?"

"Just a bunch of country friends, looking for better money. I figured I'd take them around on the job, see if they've got the skills they claim."

"Works for me. I've got contracts for four houses in Mesa Verde. Bring them by tomorrow, and we'll give 'em a try."

"Glad to." Xen pulled out a chair in invitation. "Had dinner? Oh, hey, Sophi, c'mere." He elbowed the older Purp. "Wait till you see this. Just got a Termer. Look at that red hair, and white skin, will ya?"

"Ha! Trying to clean up your bloodlines? Good luck." He leered at Rael.

She glared, and turned an evil eye on Xen.

"Feisty too." The old man grinned. "Serves you right if she gives you hell." He slapped Gene's shoulder. "See you tomorrow, Married Man." He swaggered out, and one of the Team slipped up to slide the door and pin it in place.

"You know, I could get to hating these people." Rael growled.

 
 
 
ekuah on September 17th, 2016 09:34 am (UTC)
Great. Please more!!!
Couldn't stop laughing after 'Hugo hunched forward and glared through the open window. "Why not? Look at Endi Dewulf, he was the coach for the President's daughter."'
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on September 17th, 2016 02:44 pm (UTC)
== Mother disapproves of my Multitude friends. Now I wish I'd spent even more time with them."==


Another possible short since we know nothing of Rael's Multitude friends and indeed I can't think of a named Multitude character - all are Oners or Halfers or Homestead Natives.
matapampamuphoff on September 17th, 2016 03:15 pm (UTC)
Wild childhood? Rebellious Teenager? Rael? Certainly not.

Mind you, living in the enclave she had to go further afield to find multitude, but they do make up 60% of the Real World. 80% if you include Natives.

I suspect it had to do with Bruno fan clubs, and how she met him.

Edited at 2016-09-17 03:16 pm (UTC)