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16 March 2017 @ 09:21 am
_Black Point Clan_ part 13  
 

"Father says he's got the equipment they took from your Action Team, as well." Xen sounded a bit quiet. They'd all seen how much blood he'd shed, in the battle here. No doubt he'd lost friends here, for the battle hadn't been that one sided until the end, when the Fallen reinforcements arrived, and the Oners ran low on ammunition.

One of the Guards ran a scanner over the mounds, then they walked back to the Tavern and through a corridor to the village of Ash. A near replica of the Tavern had been built on the spot, and the Old Wolf, the God of War waited for them on that porch. Again with a bag of nothing. They ordered lunch, and dumped the Fallen's gleanings. No field cams, but a few micro recorders that, together could be used to reconstruct what had happened. Laser pistols, heavy old things with massive power storage.

"We were always puzzled that they sent so few people." The god didn't look much older than his son, until you looked in his bottomless eyes, and saw the length of the history that formed the man that stood before them.

"Eighteen trained killers?" Ajha shook his head. "We had a census of the village, so few grown men, so many women and children against those trained killers. Their plan was to go in quietly and start cutting throats. They figured they'd eliminate half the adults before the alarm was raised. Instead they got eaten by a pack of teenagers. We had two observers who escaped, you see. Not that their superiors believed their story. Did a dozen teenage girls really turn into dragons, rape them, kill them, and then eat them?"

"Ten of the girls were dragons, the rest mostly witches, a few mages. Three boy dragons, but they ran away when the girls started changing. They knew about dragon mating habits."

"May we take these, and see the site?"

"Certainly." The world shifted. "I don't know if there's much to find." The god indicated an area with the sweep of a hand.

One of the guards swept the scanner around. "Some bones, low density though, mostly decayed and gone. A few doo dads of metal and plastic. Belt buckles, shoe brass and such."

Ajha shook his head at the flat little meadow. "So damn stupid. I was under restriction in Karista, for arguing against this stupid . . . "

Xen nodded. "Harry said you were the only sensible one of the bunch, that the others were frightened, where you saw possibilities."

"And it's still that way. Well maybe this will at least get people thinking that they don't need revenge—that we've been the aggressor over and over." He flinched faintly as another person flicked into view.

A hunched over little old lady. Bright eyes surveyed him. "I think this might help as well. I've printed it out, as I understand our computers aren't compatible."

Goddess of Heath and Fertility? He eyed her in consternation.

"Eh, likely you'll look worse when you're fourteen centuries old."

"No doubt about it."

Fiend was standing with her mouth open, but accepted the pile of paper.

The old woman cackled, and disappeared.

The Old Wolf nodded. "I doubt it could hurt. It's our early history, what we could reconstruct of it after the Exile. We were badly damaged, and the memories are difficult to resurrect against the tide of a World of people who don't remember anything at all about such a thing. I wish you luck in your quest for peace."

"Thank you, sir."

The World shifted again, and they were on the road in front of the Gate to Embassy.

"Well. Time to go home. C'mon troops."



Chapter Eleven

"No sign of contamination, Lady Kiaj." The man had the head-covering off his environmental suit off.

Xiat stood by as the hazard team cleared out of Kiaj's home. I should have thought to do this. She followed her aunt inside. "I'll pack and move to a hotel. There's space available now, and you can get your house back to normal."

Kiaj looked around, then walked into the kitchen. "Oh, if you want. The boys packed and left for Paris before the . . . cleaning people arrived. Good Grief, they've thrown away everything edible in the entire house. It looks like no one lives here. I think I'll call the painters before I fill everything up again. Maij went back to her restaurant, with the girls arguing about which of them is going to be Ajha's cook. It seems so strange, Ajha, with all the authority of a Philosopher. Not that his mind hasn't always gone off on strange tangents, but generally he went with them, and I'd just hear an abbreviated version a year after everything was settled. Now he'll be living an hour away, with money pouring out of his ears, and saying crazy things on the vid. Honestly, I was afraid to turn it on after last night."

Xiat squeezed the bridge of her nose. "I'm never going to live that down. Never."

"Maybe you should marry him, dear. People don't gossip about what married people do. Oh, good, here's Jain and Fibber." She bustled off.

Xiat collapsed in a chair. Marry? Ajha? "No. Absolutely not. I can handle the gossip." She got out her comp and started checking people and tickets. Ifbo was already back in Paris. Whipper and Mushy were apparently in San Francisco. Was Ajha going to hire them? Ewmo, Orc and Yukky were enroute to Paris. Ask Me had just arrived there. Echo was in New York, where he worked for the Regional Authority.

The House chimed and admitted the Investigator.

"Well. All my suspects have run away, except for the Ax. I've moved Poppy and Jay. I've run out of things to look for and people to interview."

Xiat nodded. "I think I'm going to head back to Paris, and see if I can shake anything loose there. I'm afraid I'll have to leave the Ax for you to investigate."

Imgo and Arja were walking through with what looked like their wives' entire wardrobes. Moving back in?

"Is the Ax a suspect?" Imgo sounded surprised.

"Hard to say." Xiat shrugged, opening her barriers just a tad. "This Third Philosopher ascension of his son's wasn't predictable, and if we're not looking at a blown play in the Game, then I can't think what it is. Of the satellite of young men surrounding this affair, Ajha's about the only one without an alibi. And we can't touch him. If the Ax keeps his cool, we're through. File Udzi's murder as unsolved and move on."

Imgo looked disturbed. "I see."

Arja just grunted something about "Logical" and staggered off toward the down stairs bedrooms.

Xiat frowned. "Where is Uncle Ajki?"

Jain hustled past. "He's moved in up there, with Ahvi and the Ax. I can't believe he'd turn his back on his sister like that."

"Oh, don't be silly, Jain, they're just plotting something." Kiaj glared at the Investigator. "Not a murder. Ax isn't that crude."

"Bah. You need to get out of the doldrums, get over that man, finally! And get a life"

"Honestly, you two, and your Game. I'm not ever going back to it." Kiaj walked out tapping numbers on her comm. "Tuyq dear, my servants have all run away after the turmoil of the last week. Very sensible of them, but I do need a cook and at least one maid, do you know of any one who's available? Oh, and you wouldn't believe the state of my cupboards! One of Ajha's insane staffers decided . . ." She walked out of hearing range.

"Good luck, Investigator." Xiat headed upstairs to pack.

***

The house was long, low and redwood. The front looked over a sloped meadow to the coast road and the elevated train tracks. Beyond, a few houses, a few shops; the north end of Freeport. The backdrop was all sky and the distant watery horizon.

"I couldn't find a place where you could see the beach or the harbor. I also bought the first house down there, where your driveway turns off and comes up here. It's for your troops. I thought I'd better keep them happy."

"I'm never going to get rid of them, am I?" Ajha stepped into the house and found it dropping away, to a wall of windows looking east into a tree filled ravine. "Oh, I like this."

"It reminded me of your bedroom, minus the bachelor detritus. Two bedrooms that way, kitchen and dining room the other way, with two bedrooms up over them. Take your pick for bedroom and home office, Bay is volunteering to be your cook and maid and apparently anything else you want."

"Don't be catty, Fiend. Or I'll tell her all about Eldon."

"Brute."

"So, you, the Newt and the Eft are planning to live where?"

"Well, I figured you wouldn't want to be distracted by kids. So I've got an architect drawing up some plans and I figured it could fit in nicely a few hundred meters upstream. If you don't mind."

"I do not mind at all. I think that is an excellent plan."

"Now, I've got a fellow coming by tomorrow to put a door over this bit of wall, and then I'll move the corridor out of the closet."

She opened the closet door and stepped through to an office hallway ninety kilometers away.

Hail looked up in surprise from a desk in a broad open area. It appeared to be the only furniture. "Oh, good. I need one or the other of you to sign all sorts of purchase orders. Office supplies and decor, although not much of that." She glanced over her shoulder. "Presents have begun arriving. Coordinating them is going to be a challenge. I've changed a few of the colors of paint in some of the areas to . . . minimize clashes."

Fean rolled her eyes. "Presents. I didn't think about that."

He followed her into the corner office. Completely bare, it looked out over the city to the bay and the hills beyond. He could even see the park, the best preserved bits of the original city, destroyed in a nuclear war fifteen centuries ago. "Don't tell me how much this costs, it'll scare me."

She chuckled wickedly. "Wait until you see the computer I ordered for you. Oh, and the desk. Hope you like mahogany."

"The chair's the important part, since I've got a desk job. Why have I got a desk job?"

"Because you have to write stuff. Don't worry, you'll be talking to lots and lots of people. You're collecting invitations rapidly. Staff is going to start snowballing soon."

"Travelling and giving speeches?"

"Yup."

"Shoot me."

"Nope."



Chapter Twelve

Paris was a large and busy as ever.

Quite a change from Black Point. There, she'd known nearly everyone, knew the streets, knew the salary implications of every address.

Here everyone was a stranger. Each one she'd have to get their government number from, just to tell them apart from all the other people who'd gotten the same damned four letters for a name. The Prophets, twenty-five men and ten women, had walked out of a hole in the World, and found themselves stranded. But they'd had magic. Real actual magic. That, properly applied with lots of fast talk and politics had gotten them to the top, and they'd stayed there. Riding the tiger of state, aiding the leaders of the Islamic Union to victory over China and Greater Venezuela. They'd had children, lots of children. Only a few of the lines had died out. Their half Multitude children had married each other, even as the polygamous society had allowed them to keep spreading their genes through the population. At first they'd used the initials of their Prophet ancestors as code, to avoid inbreeding. But with every generation it became clumsier, until they dropped all but the highest percentage ancestors. They formed clans and subclans, sent their children to the best schools, and boosted technology as best they could. Now the naming scheme was all genetics. The artificial genes were organized in packets of eighteen, and inserted toward the end of six different chromosomes. Each major variation had a letter designation, identified at birth, and used for a name. They didn't even know which Prophets really had provided which genes, nor even the male from the female. It was all pretend and make believe. Statistics. And awkward as hell.

Maybe I should talk to Ajha about taking a stand for Real Names.

She hefted her shoulder pack and pulled her wheeled luggage from the corridor terminus to the city rails. Her apartment was just a kilometer away from the F line.

And it had never looked better. She dropped everything and collapsed on the sofa.

How do you outplay a Player? When you aren't even sure which one you're after, but they are all playing like mad?

And they are both big enough to squash you. And your Boss. Maybe even his boss.

No. The Director of Internal Relations was a staunch member of the War Party, but content with the amount of power he held. Which was considerable. Neither the Ax nor Arlw would seek to dislodge him, they were each even with him now, and either could easily flow past him and into the Presidency. All three of them had been unmarried at the time of Endi Dewulf's strategic seduction campaign. They'd all stepped up into their current positions then, and worked together to resurrect the shaken warmongers. Only now, with a strong party, and a clear enemy to rally people against, were they wrestling for sole control. Udzi had been a Strong Federalist. A nuisance to the War Party, but of no significance in the power play. He had, by his nomination, made himself an obvious target.

He'd probably been chosen as the victim simply because he was easier to kill than Ozji. Smaller household, very conveniently located. For coming and going from both Kiaj's and Zowm's. Ideal.

Note to Investigator Efku: Who suggested to Udzi that he try for Patriarch? The Dachshund Lady had visited the day before. Was she bearing messages? Encouragement? From Whom? I need to talk to her.

Her door chimed, then opened. Izzo Withione Alcairo, Subdirector of Internal Relations, European Region, flung himself into his usual chair. "So. What the hell happened in Black Point? Start at the beginning."

Xiat marshaled her thoughts. "The Patriarch died.

"Axti, Minister of Audits, declares that he is going to be the next Patriarch of Black Point Clan.

"Arlw, Minister of Agriculture, says he'd be a better one, and joins the fun.

"Udzi, a minor nuisance to the War Party, decided to run for the position.

"Uzga contacted ex-wife Poppy, set her up emotionally, and left her with a single pill that he said was a hallucinogen. He said she could make up for letting Endi Dewulf get her pregnant by putting it in the drink of someone, yet to be determined. To humiliate them. Make them lose points.

"Those four things—I need to check and recheck the timing. It's important."

Izzo nodded.

"The night of the ninth. Ajha declines to party with the boys at Ewmo's parents' house. Ajha sacks out on his private patio, for all intents and purposes invisible.

"At ten, dinner in the house. Arja Withione, subminister in the War Department, trots down to check on him, returns to say no one is there. He hangs back and makes a comm call, but is in the dining room in time to formally seat his wife.

"Now, speculation, based on weak evidence. Ifbo, partying at Ewmo's gets a call that the right patsy has no alibi. He pops up to the attic and opens his case . . . Hmm, note to Investigator Efku: Did Bo bring the case then? Or earlier? Or did someone else bring it and leave in a prearranged spot?"

"Good man, this Investigator?"

"Excellent; intelligent and methodical. Bo tosses a pretreated body suit and sword out the attic window, walks out naked, it was that sort of party . . . actually it was a bit minimal. Maids, booze, big vid and gamer table. Note: When did Ewmo arrange the party?"

"Sounds like your Ewmo's graduated to running blind errands."

"And several others of the cohort. Bo puts on the suit, picks up the sword, trots uphill and kills Udzi.

"Body suit, pretreated with Digestors, and sword, tossed in storm drain. He runs back to Emo's house. Tosses shoes on roof, walks in starkers and straight into the shower, makes enough of a scene that everyone knows he is there, then, and presumably was the whole time.

"Unfortunately for them, a rider passing on the trail spotted the snoozing Ajha, including noting the unmarked hillside in the moonlight. Very romantic, she thought. Right about eleven, eleven thirty, roughly when the murder took place. I won't say it's impossible that he committed the murder instead of Bo, but he looks clean.

"Until I found the rider, Ajha, acting for his father, was my main suspect. Well, that and his obvious lack of that sort of coldbloodedness, his comprehension of the Game and realistic assessment of his father. I think his philosophy is going to get plenty of people killed, but I don't think he'd plan out a careful assassination to please his father."

"I don't think his father can be pleased. Cold blooded bastard."

"That's pretty much what Ajha says."

"Talkative, is he?"                 

"In retrospect, that was the Philosopher emerging. Poor man can't hardly open his mouth with spouting something outrageous. Which made the attempt to murder him so easy."

That got the subdirector up out of his slouch.

"Bo called him some indefensible names, that frankly went right over Ajha's head. Ask Me just happened to have brought a matched pair of dueling swords along to show someone. Orc just happened to pin me where I couldn't interfere. And Ajha beat the crap out of Bo. Again in retrospect, minus the terror, it was a beautiful thing to see."

"I have handcuffs, could probably get some mud delivered."

"Don't go there. The embarrassing part is that I was certain I was cuffing Bo and saving Ajha. And he just looks at me and says, 'Lecture me. Let Bo go or we'll never find out who hired him to kill Uzdi.' I damn near punched him myself."

A corner of Izzo's mouth turned up. "All the Salles in Town are trying to perfect that sword grabbing spin punch and kick thing. Do you realize how fired up he must have been to carry that off? At least two levels above Bo."

Xiat suppressed an urge to ask how he was doing at it. He was easily the fastest she knew, although perhaps Ajha . . . If Izzo had been either taller, with a longer reach, or more driven, he could have been a top fencer. "Two levels? One! I asked him where he learned it, and he said it was a panicked adaptation of a knife fighting technique he learned from Xen Wolfson. Has he really been running about fighting Helaos?"

"Yep. Real live and very dangerous raids to rescue our people and the Earther students from that world they raided. So he has killed. In job lots during a couple of hairy battles when Army units caught them. Grenades, lasers, slice and death spells. And he's killed up close, personally and pretty coldly as they checked the farms for captives. Some of the girls were in pretty bad shape."

"Hard to picture him doing it. He was always such a nice little doofus in school. Unlike Bo who was always a nasty and fast little snake."

Izzo pried himself out of his chair. He was short, blonde haired and blue eyed, muscular, fit. She admired the way he moved. Pity he grew up in the hinterlands of a colony world. He missed competitive sports, like, yum, gymnastics. He crossed the room and laid down partly on the couch and mostly on her. "I'm jealous, Princess. All these people know you so well."

"They know who I used to be, Colonial. You know who I am now." She closed her eyes and let her consciousness melt down to awareness of his body, and the kisses working their way from lips to jawline to throat.

"Else this Orc wouldn't have dared pin you."

"I think their concertedly juvenile attitude had me reverting to cheer leader. I was hideously slow in taking out Orc. At least I only stunned him. We can still ask questions."

"So, after the mud wrestling, Princess Cheer?"

"Umm, I hadn't intended to ever let that escape. Go away. I can't concentrate on anything but you."

"That's good. And my lips are sealed." But he peeled himself off of her and returned to his chair.

She pushed herself to sitting. Shook her head to restore blood flow to the brain. "Yours is the opinion I didn't want diminish. Right. So we all ran ourselves through the showers and had clean dry clothes on. I was talking to Poppy, she seemed a bit depressed. Then I tried to get the boys to talk about their parties and who was there, thinking I could trace Bo and Ajha through gossip. Poppy went upstairs. Ajha sent Mushy and Whipper to collect Bo from the hospital and bring him back. The Ecclesiastical Guard Captain assigned to Ajha just about popped a vein right there. Poppy hadn't come back and I walked up to see if there was a problem, or if she was in the know and ready to talk. Instead she just took the poison. At which point we all found out that Ajha can not just fight, he's got some powerful healing spells, one dispersed microkinetic effect kept open some something-or-other cell membrane channel that the poison was supposed to block. The doctors were impressed and made him show them. He's got a spell containment system I will need to show to the teachers at the Princess school, as well."

"Poppy?" He prodded her back to the subject.

 
 
 
ekuah on March 16th, 2017 03:22 pm (UTC)
Suggestion...
"Travelling and giving speeches?"

"Yup."

"Shoot me."

"Sorry boss, your guards wouldn't let me."
ekuah on March 16th, 2017 08:30 pm (UTC)
Ten dragon girls:
I re read the relevant parts of 'Spy Wars'

It were only nine dragon girls and and three dragon boys.
The dragon mom, the Major, did not participate in the orgy.
So Egto and Idre couldn't have any knowledge of her.
matapampamuphoff on March 17th, 2017 02:28 am (UTC)
Re: Ten dragon girls:
Yep. I forgot my 13 dragons included the Mayor.