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04 March 2017 @ 09:15 am
_Black Point Clan_ part 1  
 

Chapter One

6 Safar 1407yp ///This is the new date. Change all dates and ages. Jay is 10.

Black Point Enclave, West Coast of North America

Ajha Clostuone Abadan Black Point eyed the drunks down on the other end of the train car.

"The King is dead!"

"Long live the King!"

Drunken laughter. "I mean patty ark. Patry . . . arch! Ha! Got it!"

The drunks tried singing, fortunately breaking off into laughter.

Mushy the Lushy and Whipper. Figures. Distant cousins. Thank the One.

The law that required that every descendant of the Prophets bear the letter designation of four of his genetic insertions had landed Wpja an unusually unpronouncable name. Ushy, well. Sometimes nicknames came too easy. Of course, nothing prevented a parent from adding an actual name type of name to the whole collection, but that had fallen out of custom a dozen generations ago. They were also, by law, saddled with a public disclosure of approximately how many magic genes they had, with his Clostuone rating putting him well down rank. His parents had divorced following the disgrace of his birth. Withiones were not supposed to have Clostuone children. If for no other reason than it meant his father was publicly outed as not having double complete sets.

And, of course, they also had their clan and sub-clan designations.

Ajha sighed impatiently. When one entered Government service, one was supposed to drop Clan affiliation from one's name. But everyone knew.

And now this conference. Everyone was going to come. Everyone.

Black Point Clan was one of the smaller of over three thousand clans. But they had a large number of influential government positions. So the death of the Clan Patriarch and the Convention to name a new one was big news.

His own father was one of the potential Patriarchs. Axti Withione. The Ax. Minister of Audits, maker of much sweating and trembling in the halls of government. As Patriarch of Black Point he'd have one of the 3274 votes in the Conclaves Concerning The One. Usually a social duty, and a huge tic on the snob scale, this year it would mean something in the Halls of Power.

For the first time in four hundred years they were going to vote on the definition and standards for the One. The seven percent of the population with the gene for power collection. Another ten percent or so "the Halfers" had the other genes, the Prophet's genes, but lacked the essential power Gene. The One Gene.

The Prophets' genes were not unalloyed good. Three of them, in the wrong combination with the normal version of the gene tipped the balance of the male sexual aggression. Perhaps ten percent of Oners had the impulse to rape, although many were to honest, too honorable to give into the urge. At least, that was the situation until four years ago, when an unfortunate decision to revive a covert war with the world known as Comet Fall had resulted in a bit of retaliatory biowarfare. Nano scale von Neumann's had been deliberately spread. Nanos that homed in on the three genes and altered the Prophet's version to the normal allele. It hadn't gotten everyone. Just, at latest count, ninety-five percent of them.

Of course, we can reengineer the genes back to the violent version. Why anyone would want to is beyond me, and politics over whether to release the potions that will repair them . . . it could be decades before the fix is approved.

Hence the upcoming Conclave of Clans.

Should the One categories be redefined, as percent possession of 105 rather than 108 pairs of genes? Should the redesignation be retroactive, or just applied to children born post Conclave? People had always been able to request retesting. Should they be held to the old or new standards? What of the few Oners who hadn't been changed? They were mostly against changing the qualifications, and demanding a complete retesting. No doubt they hoped to be left standing on the pinnacle in a much reduced company.

Ajha, to his eternal gratitude, had never had any of the suspect genes. He was old enough to cynically realize that any change to his official designation would change only a few words. But too many people see their self-worth in the label. They're going to fight the conclave—one way or the other—for their own personal benefit. And it all starts here, for the Clan.

His drunken cousins—thankfully several generations removed—were singing now.

The train dropped to the slower tracks and eased to a halt at the platform. Home is the hunter. And all of his cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews and whatever else and however distant. Family.

He grabbed his bags and followed the crush out the doors. The town was packed, people everywhere.

Grocery store, medical center, a few art galleries, the hardware store, bookstore. There were probably only three thousand of the clan that lived here full time, double that number who, like him, had a room stuffed with their possessions in some relative's home, and where they were, in theory, welcome to sleep when they were in town. Today? Fifty thousand here, easily. Possibly more, if they'd married outsiders and brought them with them. He eyed, and was eyed in turn by everyone on the street.

His mother's house was made of the local wood and blended into the mostly natural trees of her allotment. The door still opened to his ID, and the house computer addressed him by name.

"The Mistress is in. She will see you in the Great Room."

He set his luggage down and turned into the designated room.

Packed, of course.

Uncle Ajki was there, to his surprise. Director of External Relations. His own boss, up a few levels.

"Thought you'd be too busy to come."

"Unfortunately the Ax needs every vote he can get. If I can tone down your mother, so she doesn't attack him and turn her friends away, I can get him a dozen at least."

"I'm surprised you're supporting Father."

The Director snorted. "Politics before family, especially in family matters."

"My condolences."

"Who are you supporting?"

"Supporting? No one. Like as not I'll vote for Father. The other candidates are a bit squishy." Ajha shrugged.

"Squishy? What world did you pick that up on. And no, I don't want a definition. You've been abroad too much, gone native."

"I've been accused of that from the very first one. Can't remember who by, Uncle Ajki."

"Three tiers of your superiors, starting with me, if I remember correctly. We should have listened to you. The thing is, if we retest and redesignate, well. Rumor has it that Urfa knows who's headed up and who's going down. And he wants your father in the Conclave. Do you know?"

Ajha shook his head. "About myself? I haven't bothered, never had those genes. I've outgrown the problem. If, One forbid, I ever wind up in politics, it will matter again. What is Father's position?"

"That we drop those three genes from the count of the Prophets' genes. One hundred and five pairs, rather than one hundred eight. Withiones having one complete set of 105 and at least 80 of the second set. Or whatever number will keep them an elite one percent of the One. Neartuones, one complete set and 79 or fewer of the second set will then be about ten percent. Clostuone, the next thirty percent by gross number of Prophets' genes. Servaones, everyone else with the power gene. If I recall, you lacked only five of a complete set, and had almost as high a number of the second. And then there were those Comet Fall Potions you tested. You ought to get yourself retested. At least anonymously, so you know what impact a redefinition will have on you."

"If they allow official change of rank after a genetic change, you'll see a rush to Embassy or Comet Fall to get those gene altering potions. Legal or not."

"Or a demand that we import them, or duplicate them. Legally. There's already a sizable black market and con men selling snake oil to the terminally stupid. It makes the thought of killing all their magicians, which, as you might have noticed, is rather high in the polls of public opinion, just now, look really good to us poor hard working cops."

"Polls of the One. I understand the Multitude is delighted. And you haven't been a cop for a century, Director."

Unfortunately his Mother overheard that.

"Very amusing, Jaja."

Oh, One, not the baby name, please, not the baby name. Ajha retreated hastily into formality.

"Mother, Kiaj Withione, I am honored to see you again. Aunt Zowm, Aunt Tuyq, Uncle Afla, Uncle Elwy." He clicked his heels properly and bowed. "Ahvi who is With the One. I greet you, Grandfather."

His father's father nodded infinitesimally. "I was just telling your mother what a shame you had no brothers. Your lack of a complete set should have been seen as a mere unlucky draw, not likely to repeat. You're accomplishments are proof of our house's competence."

Ajha showed teeth. Fortunately the old man had a house of his own here, and didn't live with his former daughter-in-law. Maybe I will get retested. Show the old son-of-a . . . no. At that point, he'd start bragging on my genetics, and I really would haul off and hit him.

His mother beamed at the mixed praise. "Now, dear, I've had to move furniture all over for all the people coming to this convention. Ajki, of course, has the big guest room. Fibber and Jain and their new husbands have the upstairs two. I managed to squeeze your bed into the other downstairs bedroom, and the girls will be sharing it. Then I swapped work for room and board, and the servant's quarters are just packed. So I got some smaller furniture for you boys. I know you, Ushy, Whipper, and Ifbo will have a great time remembering your school days."

"Oh." Ajha hastily closed his mouth on the rest of that. It could be worse. Really.

Aunt Zowm beamed at him. "Ewmo is home! He got in this morning with Ukky and Orqu. Why don't you all come over! And Tuyq, do send your three over as well."

Yes. It could be worse. And it is getting there, fast.

In the interests of getting the pain over with, Ajha looked back at his mother. "You said girls? Who's staying, Phoebe and Poppy?"

"And Xiat, of course. Plus three friends, barely related, third generation outcrosses, you know, but they have to sleep somewhere. Kayz, Suyh, Cuec . Do you know them?"

"Of course. Krazy, Sue, and Cookie. They were the popular girls in secondary. Cheer Squad and so forth." And no doubt they never noticed my drooling from afar. Well, no problems there. Fifty-six years since I graduated and went off to University, and the Directorate. Maybe they're all fat and wrinkled. He suppressed a smile at such vain hopes. Withiones and Neartuones, all. They will have aged better than me.

"Well, you do have a houseful. Should be lively." He turned as the House computer murmured the names of new arrivals. Mushy and Whipper, arm-in-arm and still quite drunk staggered in. Ajha took one look and steered them down the hall to his bathroom. "One! I hope I have some antihols. I don't believe you two didn't stop on the way up the hill."

"We did stop." Whipper protested.

"For another drink!" Mushy laughed uproariously, staggered back and started falling. Ajha cursed and steered him toward the bedroom. "One! Where did Mother get these?" Two sets of bunkbeds. He rolled Mushy into one bottom bunk.

Whipper giggled as he tried out the other. "I don't know if we'll fit!" He was snoring in seconds. With his feet sticking over the end.

The Director walked in, carrying Ajha's luggage. "I was afraid of that. One! Did your mother think you'd revert to being teenagers?"

"Apparently. We're all over seventy. This going to be embarrassing. Pity it's so cold out, between the beds and the snoring, camping begins to look good."

Ajki shook his head. "It's going to be a rough week."

"Maybe Mother still has that old couch in the attic. Would you happen to know when Father is getting in?"

"Right about now. Ahvi's house will be campaign central. Avoid it if you can."

"I will." Ajha sighed. "He's going to want some command displays of his faithful parenting, though. How about if I trot up there and hug, umm, Asno instead, then stammer about I'd got them all mixed up, not having actually seen my dad more than a couple times a year?"

"I'd have to choose between firing you and twice a year full audits." Ajki looked a bit wistful though. "I'll have to just imagine it. You're much too sensible to actually do it."

"Yeah. Pity though. And father wasn't that bad." Ajha looked at his slumbering cousins. "I think maybe I'll talk to the adults out there for awhile." He shifted his electronics from jacket pockets to pants.

"You need to get one of these bracers to keep your stuff on. Very handy. All the rage."

"I noticed. You may have Tin Foil to keep you up to date, but I'm just a lowly Info leader. All my old clothes have narrow sleeves."

"If Fuyl ever hears you call her that, you may suffer an embarrassing accident in public view. You need to get home often enough to at least have a fashionable wardrobe."

"I'll speak to my boss about it." Ajha smiled a bit. Princess Fuyl, his uncle's official watchdog, was an elderly pushover, a reliable source of sweets, and always nagging Ajki to find a nice girl and settle down.

His uncle glared. "And no, I didn't drag her out for this. No cookies for you."

***

Xiat eyed the "reception committee" at the train station. Young men and old. Only about half the number she'd been expecting.

About five of them spoke at once, a babble of obscene suggestions. One leering face, unfortunately familiar. Equally familiar, penetrating voice. "Hey, Xiat, need a place to stay?"

"One! Ewmo, what are you doing here begging for sex?

"I'm not begging. I'm offering hospitality."

"He's worthless, take me instead!" She didn't know that one, but he grabbed her arm, and that was something she was not prepared to allow. A simple hip throw dropped him flat on the platform. She snapped her mental shields down a quarter, and power-punched to his solarplexis. Nothing like a bit of magically enhanced brute force.

Gaping for air, he still reached for the magic. He waved his right hand uselessly. Even at three quarters shield, she easily bounced his attempt at a simple stun spell. She walked past, stomping the hand that tried for a grab. She kept the contact light, no need to break anything. At least perverts weren't as pervasive as they used to be. If the town hadn't been crowded, the Clan called in for the vote, there probably wouldn't have been a single one on the platform. She kept the stranger in the corner of her eye and saw him stagger to his feet. He headed the other direction. Good.

Ewmo was still following. Bad.

"Hey, Xiat. Haven't seen you since we graduated. Hey, I've got a position in the Commerce and Trade Department now, apartment in Paris."

"Get lost Ewmo. I have my own apartment in Paris, and no lack of company much higher than you."

"Hey, I stayed in quarantine, kept all my prophets' genes. I could probably get you pregnant, now."

Investigator Xiat Withione Abadan Black Point, curse her ancestors for these stupid naming laws, made a rude gesture. She was not looking forward to this homecoming. Mainly because of idiots like this one. But this was business, not pleasure.

Her former boss, the Subdirector of Internal Relations, European Region, was worried about this Patriarchal convention. Too many pre-cogs, too many dreams about it. Nothing clear or definite. "He's starting his move" and "the next one" seemed to be the limit of the hard information. Who was moving on what, and whether the 'what' was the same as the 'next one' was typically clouded and uncertain. The Director of the whole Internal Relations had more than once threatened to just shut down the Pre-Cognition and Divination Lab.

Both Director and Subdirector had spoken to her before her departure.

"Two of the three most powerful men in the War Party are Black Point Clan." The Director was the third, of course. "They're using the Patriarchal race as a proxy battle for control of the Party. Beware dirty tricks."

"And violence." The Subdirector smiled ruefully. "Watch out for Bully Boys on each side. And don't enjoy yourself too much beating them up, if the opportunity arises."

The Director had shaken his head. "If you kill any of them, try to make it look like an accident. If they don't know your training and affiliation, all the better. I'd as soon be invisible in this."

This being business, the Subdirector had not kissed her good bye.

If Ewmo tried to kiss her, she would kill him. The engineered plague that had removed three pairs of genes from the One had received a very mixed reaction. The genes had affected aggression, especially the identification of the proper targets for aggression. With their removal, rapes had plummeted. Scenes like this one on the rail platform had disappeared except in a few high population areas. Not even a magical plague could infect everyone. But even if some of the effects were welcome, it was still an attack on the One, and struck at the very definition of the One. Which was one reason this election was so important. She towed her luggage down the ramp, and caught the tram up the very aptly named Hill Street.

"I take it you have a place to stay?"

She sighed loudly. Cranked her shields almost closed. Aura and sex appeal being close to the same thing, maybe she'd show the absolute minimum polite amount all week long. Save herself a world of trouble. Maybe. "I'm staying at Aunt Kiaj's."

"Oh yeah, Aunt Kiaj's has got her old buddies back, hasn't she? And Poppy and Phoebe are their kids and I'll bet they invited the rest. All the old Cheer Squad back together, eh?"

Ewmo was not actually stupid.

"Yeah. All us girls, back together again."

They were all of the One, with all that implied in magical abilities, long life, excellent health, miserably low fertility.

"Well, I'll see you around." Ewmo dropped off at Spinnaker Lane.

The tram labored up the steep hill past Jib and then Topgallant, where she dropped off. She pulled her luggage four houses down the street—the lots were large, with lots of privacy afforded by the coastal redwoods growing thickly between homes. There were no fences, just a few enclosed patios.

The houses all had security systems hooked to their computers. She tapped the control on her bracer to turn her implants on. They identified her to the house computer as soon as she turned up the sidewalk toward the building. Women burst from the house. "Xiat! Yay! Now we're all here!" A mixed up chorus from five women. Ten years since she'd seen most of them. Fifty plus years since they'd all palled around. If she hadn't known better she'd have guessed them all still in their early twenties. Bless those artificial genes. She herself had every single one of them, and under cover she'd been known to pass herself off as eighteen.

Judging from the squeals, the other women were going to be acting like they were still eighteen.

***

Back in the Great Room, the beauty of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean was competing with the beauty of a half dozen women. Seventy years old, give or take a few years. Ajha's eyes had gotten adjusted to several different standards over the last twenty years. On Earth, he'd have judged them to be less than a third of that age, and fit and healthy, with the added confidence of experienced women. The softness and the silliness of those teenage girls was gone. Almost.