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15 March 2017 @ 04:54 pm
_Black Point Clan_ part 12  
 

Chapter Ten

20 Safar 1407yp

Black Point Enclave, West Coast of North America

The Ecclesiastical Guards all had medical training, and all carried all sorts of interesting things around with them. But it was Ajha's anti-toxin, anti-shock, and cell metabolism spells that kept Poppy alive long enough for the poison to be identified and the antidote applied.

Jay had sat in a small miserable huddle in the hospital's emergency room for hours, and had now moved to being a small miserable huddle in the corner of the hospital room where they'd eventually transferred Poppy.

Xiat sat down beside him. "The doctor said she'd be all right now. You just started boarding here at the first of the year, right?"

"Two months ago. I should have stayed with her in Caracas. She said I needed to know the Clan Enclave. That I'd need their support to get into a good college, and get a good job. She said the school down there couldn't teach me magic, but this one isn't either."

Xiat reached out and hugged him. "It'll blossom soon enough."

"Unless Endi Dewulfe sabotaged it. He isn't of the One, maybe he couldn't make a real One gene, just something close enough to pass a standard quick test." His legs were drawn up against his chest, scrawny arms looped around them. He laid his head down on his knees.

Ajha came over and sat on his other side. "I've met him. He isn't cruel. And the One accepted the genetic changes I've had. I think you'll be fine. Right now, we need to figure out who gave her that poison."

"She was supposed to kill you, wasn't she?"

"Yes. Did she have many visitors, in Caracas?"

His eyes darted to Xiat. "No, Xiat came, sometimes, and she had friends from work, and we knew all the neighbors."

"Do you ever remember any men visiting her?"

He shook his head. "She dated a couple of guys, but they both stopped calling. Partly because of me, but I think they were just Halfers, and they knew they'd never have kids if they married her."

"You've been around the last couple of days, ever see her talking to anyone? That's a stupid question isn't it?" Ajha sat back huffily. "We've all been talking our heads off for . . . what day is this? Have they finished the tally? Who won?"

"Ozji. Arlw looked bilious as he gave his oath in the name of everyone who voted for him."

"Good. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of some guy who lived in Paris being the Patriarch of the Clan." Ajha leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "Jay, your mother is right about the importance of Clan to a Oner. Remember your neighborhood in Caracas? You know the people, even if you don't talk to them, you know the houses and the road, favorite trees, places to play, places to hide and dream. Your mother wanted you to feel the same way about the Clan and the enclave. That was one reason she sent you here. As your magic comes in, it'll be in fits and starts, and you'll start seeing the world around you a bit differently. Here, everyone will understand that, and they know how to cope with it. You won't be able to damage them. Not accidentally, not on purpose if you lose your temper. Your friends back in Caracas, any of them that were Multitude or weak Halfers won't be able to protect themselves. That's the other reason you are here. It's the reason there's a government stipend for Oner children. Not to encourage them to have more children, but rather to ensure they can afford to do what is needed as the children come into power."

"Doesn't seem to work that way." Jay grumbled.

Ajha nodded. "Yeah, damn near everything has unintended consequences. Some times you just have to put up with them."

Over on the bed, Poppy whimpered a bit. The investigator, who'd been sitting on her far side stepped up. "Lady Jowp? Who gave you that poison, to give to Ajha?"

She wiped at tears. "Uzga. Payment for my disloyalty, for the insult to him. A little white pill to make everything right. Tell Pajamas I love him. It was nothing to do with him, not really."

"I'm here, Mum." Jay had crept up to her other side. She turned her head and more tears flowed. "You're going to be all right now." His voice suddenly changed to scolding. "And next time, just tell the police and let them deal with it. You don't have to go all tragic and silly and try to kill yourself, like, like in one of those silly plays."

"Yeah. Less painful all around." Ajha slouched over. "Mind you, I suspect Uzga's been working on making you feel guilty and softening you up for this for awhile."

"He called me, a month ago. I was lonely, thinking about home, I'd just heard about the Patriarch's death. Before I came, he gave me a pill. 'Keep it,' he said. 'Maybe you can do me a favor, make up for what you did.' He said it was a hallucinogenic, that it would dint someone's reputation a bit. I didn't believe him. He called and said to give it to you. So I crushed it, and put probably less than half of it in the glass." Her eyes wandered to Jay. "Pajamas, over the years I've said some bad things about your father. But it was all my fault it happened . . . and he was just trying to save his world from a war. And he managed it without killing anyone. He saved the President. These people, Uzga and whoever he was acting for, they don't care about people dying. Even our own soldiers dying. It's all about winning points. Money, titles, positions of power, people you can order around. Order to kill and die." She heaved out a deep breath. "I knew that. I can't believe I was so stupid."

"It's all right, Mom. Just, just don't do it again. Please?" His voice wavered on the last.

They were still crying all over each other when Xiat followed the other two men out. Five Ecclesiastical guards and three uniformed policemen were waiting in the hallway.

The Guards hauled Ajha off, leaving her with the Investigator.

"Right. Lady Jowp is under protective custody. No guests apart from the kid. She will be moved as soon as the doctor releases her. In the mean time, please keep her alive. This is her ex. Arrest him on sight. Preferably alive. Xiat, we're going to need an Imperial level warrant for him."

Xiat nodded. "I'll get that moving."

"So. The War Party. The actual members are strewn all over the bureaucracy, and include Arlw and the Ax, who are vying for power, for the leadership. Lets go talk to Lady Jain about her daughter, and incidentally speak to her husband, who made that phone call just after checking Ajha's room on the night of the ninth."

"And the Ax. See if he's ruthless enough to kill his own son to advance his position." Xiat shook her head. "Sometimes I think I've been in Paris too long."

The Investigator's eyes crinkled. "And here I thought you were with the Western Region."

"Well, I'm Central Region, but as such we get all the Imperial level stuff. I get sent everywhere there's a problem in the western hemisphere with Imperial implications, that the director wants extra people on. That's why I saw so much of Poppy, in Caracas."

"Were you sent here, or did you just happen to be handy?"

"I was coming anyway, and then there was this horrible spate of pre-cogs and dreams. Maddeningly indecipherable, but all having elements of something starting, or starting again. They could all be about the third Alternate Philosopher, or a big political gambit."

"Or both."

"Yeah. In fact, I'll go check in and see what's new." She closed her eyes in pain. "What my boss is going to say . . . "

"Orgies in the mud, eh? With handcuffs? Don't recall seeing that in your file, Princess." Subdirector Izzo sounded amused.

"It a recently acquired taste. Have you caught up to the latest? A failed attempt to poison the Third Philosopher? The instrument failed, took the poison herself, but we got to her in time. Protective custody as a piece of the evidence chain. We're pretty solid on the Udzi assassin. Ifbo Neartuone. We're giving him line to see where he leads us. We need to pick up Uzga, third Minister of Labor, which is going to take a warrant with the President's signature."

"For?"

"He supplied the poison and the emotional control of the woman who was supposed to deliver the poison. She's so informed us."

"Right. I'll run it by the Director and get it to you soonest."

"Thank you, sir."

"You can stay away until the snickering stops. I don't need blood on the carpets."

"This week has been too strange for me to even kill anyone over. Have there been any new precogs?"

"Millions of them. With the Third Alternate Prophet out, apparently all bets are off."

"Right."

***

Ajha was cheered to find the Fiend had returned. Alarmed to see she was hiring staff already. "This is Hail, your new secretary. Home and office are all settled. Now, this time line of yours, all about our relationship to Comet Fall. I think it's a great idea. I sent it off with Enda—yes, Dan-the-no-longer-drunk. Everyone who knows you is jumping in to help—and he reports that Ambassador Never sent him with it to Xen, because there were some big chunks missing. We all know that when we invaded them, they cut off our access and two companies of infantry went to the One rather than surrender and possibly give the enemy information. Except, according to Xen, the regular troops had kill implants and our own officers killed our own soldiers then killed themselves. We're going to have to have physical evidence of that, his word just won't fly. And it wouldn't hurt if we could recover some of the dead Action Team's equipment, either."

Ajha shook hands rather distractedly with the good looking brunette. "Hail, welcome to the team. Hmm, would the recorders still be in working condition after fifty years? Perhaps I should go ask, myself." He glanced at the Ecclesiastical Guards. "It would get me away from the poison."

"Poison?"

"Poppy crushed the pill she was given, and took about half in a glass of wine. In all the confusion, well, after Poppy said that, I went back to make sure no one accidentally got the rest of it, and couldn't find any such thing anywhere. The maids said they didn't even go in the room, that possibly being a crime scene and all."

"So some one on that side of the conspiracy slipped in and cleaned it up. Or kept it for future use." The Fiend wrinkled her nose. "Right. Let's go visit some graveyards." She turned away, tapping at her comm. "I'm ordering a chemical hazard team to clean up your mother's house before anyone moves back in. Now, you were using some of these people as investigators, One knows why. Do you want to keep them?"

"Whipper and Mushy. I'll talk to them. They're actually quite good, when the information you want can't be gotten nicely."

"Nicely? What are they doing?"

"Orgies and bar crawls. So as to not tip off the opposition. I don't even know what they do, for work."

She sighed and shook her head. "You've just got to stop fixing us wild and dissolute Oners."

"You were never dissolute. Just arrogant and dangerous."

She beamed. "Thanks boss."

They left the rather bewildered Hail to look into ordering office furniture and set up equipment.

They took the train to San Francisco, and a corridor to the Gate Complex.

"Remind me to point out to the War Party how useful the corridors are, how valuable."

"They know that, they seem to think they can capture a few slaves and make all they want." The Fiend shook her head. "The Princess school needs to send their students out once a year to beat the crap out of these armchair generals and convince them that the highly magical are controlled only by themselves. Slaves with that much ability cannot be controlled."

Ajha drew an audience, and the puzzled gate security hastily checked with their superiors, who confirmed that the Third Alternate Philosopher could go wherever he wanted to go, including through gates with his guard detail and staff.

The gate to Embassy was a permanent one, set up to be walked or driven through. The energy gulping temporary Gates the One created used aligned tracks on either side to move large volumes of material quickly.

"Not to mention the cost savings of the Fallen Gates." The Fiend stepped through and cast a look around, the guards half on her heels, and half on Ajha's.

Pressure he hadn't realized existed evaporated from his mind. "Now look, we're just doing a quick bit of fact checking, we don't want . . . " He sighed. "Never mind." The Oner Ambassador was hustling down the steps of their embassy building. He must have been down on the ground level for something else. And felt Ajha. "I thought I was closed up enough to not attract attention on the street."

"Oh, yes, One, you are."

Ajha nearly recoiled as the ambassador grabbed his hands and kissed them. "Oh, a Priest."

The old eunuch nodded. "It works better this way, to have someone who can feel the Fallen, and stand up to them, if necessary." He tried hard to glare at Ajha. "You teach them too much of our fighting styles."

"And I learn much. We know they can fire up, speed up. We, hopefully, won't be taken by surprise, not expecting that, now. If you will excuse me, I need to confirm some things about our history with the Fallen."

To his dismay, he was also collecting the attention of the Fallen, The Arrivals, the Arbolians, the Purples . . . We are all related. All children of the Prophets or Those Left Behind.

Across the plaza, Xen Wolfson trotted down the steps of the Disco building and strode down the sidewalk to where the Comet Fall Ambassador was waiting at the foot of the steps to her embassy.

Ahja led his entourage over to them. "Ambassador Never, I need to see the sites of the two battles, and if possible, collect some of their old recording equipment."

"Of course. Xen? Why don't you take him? Them?"

"Yes, Ma'am." Xen grinned at the eleven guards. "Please keep all weapons holstered. I'll take you through the Gate, then teleport the entire group to a spot close to the battle fifteen years ago, then we'll go the spot where we buried the Action Team, forty-two years ago. The first site is in our experimental gate area, under guard. We will be arriving at a tavern, frequented by the local troops. Do not over react to their presence."

He turned and walked across to the Fallen gate. The termini of the gates had to be kept a safe distance from each other. Right now they were offset in three rings around the kilometer square plaza. Some physicists were concerned about the effect of so many in so small an area. The Fallen were considering shifting them all out to a more distant loop around the growing city.

"You're going have to have tram runs and all sorts of civilized things, pretty soon."

"I know. Growing pains. Hiring a city manager and staff is under consideration." Xen stepped straight through his gate, and Ajha followed, in a crush of guards.

They'd changed the arrival spot, since he'd last been across. Now it was paved and landscaped. Instead of the circular enclosure, two more distant walls would allow defenders to concentrate a cross fire into the arriving area. Xen led them a few meters away and sudden they were on a different paved street, in front of a colorful steep roofed building. Ajha remembered it well, from another location.

A couple of blue-and-gold uniformed fellows lazing on the porch jumped to their feet, then shook their heads and relaxed.

Xen looked surprised, though. "What are you guys doing here?"

"The brass figured we were perfect for guarding the area. Garit can make us practice charging through Gates and so forth, while we're hanging about. Need help?"

"Probably not. Is Harry in?"

"Yep, got back yesterday."

"Excellent. That'll probably save us a lot of work."

Ajha caught on and explained to Fiend and the Guards. "These are the cavalry with the magical horses. Very handy, that was."

"I heard about that, but didn't understand what the horses actually did." Captain Wrlo shot a glance at a pair of riders trotting down the street.

Xen waved them over, and the horses demonstrated their ability to form a flexible physical shield around themselves, and levitate over rough ground.

Ajha tried had to not laugh as the guards lowered their mental shields enough to talk to the animals.

The disturbed guards finally followed Xen into the Tavern.

The Fallen was talking to a dark old man, who was pantomiming looking through absolutely nothing. "Ah here you go. This is probably what they need." He handed over nothing, and Xen took it from him and walked to the big central table.

The Fiend was staring at the old man. Ajha grinned. She didn't believe me, about the Old Gods. He decided to not further disturb the Guards, and watched as Xen dumped his nothing onto the big round table. A pile of rolled belts with weapons removed and everything else left. A glittery cascade of micros.

"These were the officers'. We don't even know what the little things are for, but we collected a bunch before we buried everyone."

"Couldn't you tell?"

"No. I was still pretty green and anyway, full of holes and recuperating at home. The troops just took guesses at 'machines' vs 'decorations.' About two years later, we located One World and infiltrated to try and figure you lot out. We're still trying."

Ajha sorted out memory chips, mini recorders, communicators . . . even a larger field records camera. "May we take some of these? Most of these little memory chips will be personal stuff, logs, journals, letters they wrote and later sent home."

Xen exchanged looks with the old god.

Harry nodded. "Take it all. I've got another two bubbles with stuff taken from the common soldiers. Do you want to shift the bodies home, is that your custom?"

Ajha bit his lip. "I'll leave that in the hands of the authorities. Are they buried near?"

"About two miles north. You'll see the mounds on the right side of the road."

Large mounds. Two hundred soldiers.

Ajha looked at the field camera, triggered the play back. They watched the miniature massacre soberly, looking up occasionally to spot the real locations. When the Gate disappeared, the situation became hopeless, and the officers started tapping at their communicators, and the soldiers started dropping dead. More than one tried to shoot their own officers. They failed. Then the officers turned their weapons on themselves. He switched it off.

 
 
 
mbarkermbarker on March 16th, 2017 05:01 am (UTC)
We are all related. All children of the Prophets or Those Left Behind.

Yay! There's the key they've been looking for!