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04 October 2017 @ 10:14 pm
_Fractured Loyalties_ part 1  
 

Chapter One

21 Emre 1408yp

Empire of the One Embassy, Embassy World

Ra'd ibn Nicholas returned the disgusted stare of the senior administrator.

"Intelligence is run by the Ministry." The administrator frowned down at his computer. "Wqlw Withione Nicholas Makkah. Formerly of Action Team Twenty-nine. For six months, ending in disciplinary charges. Formerly of Exploration Team Forty-eight? Only lasted two months, there. Formerly of Action Team Thirteen. Lasted two and a half years. You're improving. But it comes as no surprise that now there aren't any teams that want you. Well, Directorate personnel, here, are Embassy Guards. So report to their office. Wqlw."

Ra'd eyed the idiot. Shrugged. "Certainly. Will you forward those orders to them, since it has apparently been misdirected?"

And I must remember to invent a time machine, and go back to kill the person who thought of this naming scheme. Or maybe just far enough back to tell me to not be so bloody-minded stupid.

"Certainly. Go away."

Ra'd walked out and headed back down the stairs. He'd memorized the layout of the Embassy before he'd come across, and knew the security offices—and all the other non-Ministerial operations—were stuck off in another building where no one had to notice them. Although the exterior doors so close to the gate were no doubt handy.

The first built—and now renamed Building Three—was the smallest building in the complex. The second built was the office building he'd just left. The last of the trio of tall buildings was mostly residential—for the ministerial staff.

The directorate staff all lived in the upper floors of building three. All External Relations in one subdirectorate or another.

The ground floor was mostly facilities and maintenance. Ra'd trotted up one flight of stairs to the Security section.

The Guard Commander looked up as he entered. "You Wqlw?"

"Yes, sir." Ra'd gave the office a quick scan. Family pictures didn't seem to include wife or children, artwork leaned heavily toward architecture. The prism of plastic on the desk was embossed with "Umbe Withione Damasq."

"I'll query Security HQ." The commander shook his head. "You don't even have any security experience. Go . . . take a walk around town and familiarize yourself with the place. Come back in a couple of hours and I'll most likely have this straightened out."

"Yes sir." Ra'd was pretty sure he managed to keep the enthusiasm out of his voice.

***

He strode cheerfully out the front gate and crossed the street to the huge plaza. He'd driven in and out twice, never stopping long enough to really look at it. But he'd seen it on screen often enough. News or vids, the big model of the solar system in the pavement and the big fountains in the middle were instantly recognizable.

He turned south, away from the Comet Fall Embassy. No need to give the watching guards too much to gossip about. The small city was built on a half mile grid—roughly 800 meters. The original plans had been for four embassies per block.

Of course both the Empire and Earth had immediately decided that they needed the full block, and the other polities had mostly followed suit.

The first two embassies built—Comet Fall and Arrival—sat side by side on the block north of the plaza. The Empire had taken all of the west side, the Earth occupied all of the east side. The southern block had been taken by Arbolia, another polity on the same world as Arrival. The block diagonally to the northeast held Disco Headquarters.

Ra'd glanced across at the cubic black building. Much lower than the Earth Embassy beside it, it still managed to loom menacingly. It almost looked as if the Earth's tower was leaning away from it. Cringing.

Is Wolfson there? Intel—Directorate Intel—says Nighthawk is frequently here. Would she have Oak here? He restrained an impulse to race across the plaza and find out.

The southwest block was cut by a diagonal road. The Comet Fall Hospital to the south, a hodgepodge of lodgings and shops to the north.

Ra'd turned away from the hospital and strolled past the Arbolian Embassy. Unimaginative stone and glass square. A road led diagonally off the southeast corner. That would be the road to the beach. The white building would be the library. On the east side, and back on the next block, a fort of wooden poles.

The Purple Embassy. Another Exile World, an ally of Earth's. The wooden fort was a cultural and historic form. Not indicative of their current tech level, which was industrial, and had been edging into the electronic age when they'd been discovered by Earth.

He turned north and strolled past the Earth Embassy. The guards on duty watched him, but made no move. Then he was at the corner, and had to decide whether to commit to this or not.

"If you don't, you'll be in trouble."

Ra'd started, scanned . . . the man's unnoticeable spell was strong, and leaning casually on a gate arch, he was close to invisible.

Ra'd stalled, not used to being tongue-tied and dry mouthed.

"Of course she's here. First time I've ever seen her panicking over what to wear." Wolfson pushed off the arch. "I'd almost think she wanted to impress you. Walk around to the back, you can admire the grotto if she's still frantically trying on everything she owns."

Ra'd attempted to suppress a vision of Nighthawk partially undressed and failed entirely.

"I find that hard to believe. I'm not the least bit nervous about my reception." Ra'd strolled past the man as he snorted in amusement. A glance to the side showed nothing.

So, was he there and teleported away, or was that just an illusion . . . with projected speech? No . . . he was there.

Ra'd strolled past the black steps and turned up the street beyond. The Comet Fall embassy on the left was all craved marble, elegant and beautiful. To his right, the Disco building was tickling his flight-or-fight reflexes. Beyond it, an angular building claimed to be a restaurant. The walk between the buildings split, one branch curving away from the black hulk, to swoop down into a deep landscaped ravine. Ferns, flowers, a graceful bridge . . .

Ra'd lowered his shields to incoming mental impressions, felt for Nighthawk . . . and blinked at the strength of the nervous, excited, frantic, frightened, vulnerable swamp of emotions leaking from a woman he'd always thought of as so self confident . . . It really is love. Not just passion.

He followed that trail of leaking emotions up the far side of the grotto to that house right there. The door opened to his touch. He followed the emotions down a corridor.

She was standing in front of a mirror in panties and bra, holding up two dresses. Elegant and slender, smooth curves of muscles under flawless dark honey gold skin.

"The red one. Definitely."

***

Ra'd gazed out the floor to ceiling windows.

They were high on a steep hill, giving them a view down the coastline. Three headlands, fading into the haze on the horizon.

"The city is just out of sight." Nighthawk strolled over and leaned on him. "The beach everyone talks about is just past that last headland."

Ra'd looked down at the nearest bit of ocean visible from this high. Watched the swells creeping into shore, the cresting breakers defying gravity as they slowly curled and foamed. "Are we in a slow time bubble? How do you make them transparent?"

"It's a weird thing, involving shields and effects that drag some ultra thin edge of the bubble across it. And yes, we're at roughly twenty to one." She flashed a shy smile. "I can feed you, drag you back to bed, and still get you back to Embassy before your superiors panic."

"Have I mentioned that I like your style??" Ra'd eyed the horizon. "Why is the frequency of the light unchanged?"

Nighthawk paused. "I . . . have no idea. I copied something the God of Art did. And if I ask Nil, he'll make me figure it out myself. Nil's the Arch Wizard. Umm, he's about eight hundred years old and he can get a bit scary."

"I'll have to meet him, and find out what you consider scary. And perhaps before I sweep you off your feet, again, I should spend some time with our daughter."

Nighthawk flashed a grin. "In that case you'd better get dressed."

Oak was not just a baby, not just Nighthawk's baby, or even his and hers. She was Oak. The first time he'd seen her, at three months of age she had struck him as an individual. At six months, she spotted him and lit up in a brilliant smile. Held out her arms. "Da!"

Ra'd gathered her up with a grin. "She's talking!"

Nighthawk chuckled. "Starting. And crawling. She's getting hard to keep track of."

"You're just like your Mother. And you're going to grow up to be a killer gorgeous woman just like her too, aren't you?"

"Da!"

He laughed and breathed in clean baby smell. "I hope I can stay here for months, and spend time with both of you."

Nighthawk nodded. "I have it all planned out. With the speed bubble, we can manage a week every day. If you stay here for months, you could be here when she starts walking, and really talking."

She grinned and walked back. "And if you are interested . . . you could be here when your son is born."

"S, son . . . did you just . . ."

"No!" She started laughing. "Oh, the look on your face! No. Since you're here, since you keep turning up in my life . . . and making me glad to have you in my life, you get a vote in any more children."

Ra'd dry swallowed. "I, I . . .One! I'm stuttering." He looked down at the wiggly creature in his arms. My little girl. But a son . . . "Nighthawk . . . I have the Oner Priest gene. I can't have a son, they'll take him for a priest, and I simply won't allow that."

She shook her head. "Think, Ra'd. Our son will have one of my X chromosomes, and your Y. He won't have the One power genes."

"Oh. He won't be a Oner at all, will he?" Ra'd thought that over. "But he'll have a Comet Fall witch gene."

"Or if he gets Dad's X, he'll have a doubled up witch and wizard power genes. Hmm, and the Oner Priest gene. That could be interesting."

"Right." Queasy butterflies danced around his innerds.

Her dimples deepened. "Five minutes ago I'd have said you were impossible to fluster. Take your time. Think."

"Yes." It doesn't feel like my brain is working at all right now.

"There's no rush to decide. Play with your daughter while I fix lunch."



Chapter Two

21 Emre 1408yp

Empire of the One Embassy, Embassy World

Commander Umbe gave Ra'd a dyspeptic glower when he returned.

"Ajki did indeed send you to Intel. But he says if Intel is that oblivious to a gift from the One, I should keep you, and treat you like a regular guard, and you can report directly to him anything useful you pick up. Would you care to tell me what and how you are planning to pick up useful information, Wqlw?"

"Four and a half years ago, I was in the Director School at the same time that Wolfson's daughter Nighthawk was attending the University."

"Oh, wait. That's who you are."

"Yes. And I also worked with Nighthawk during the post-Helios War search-and-rescue. Ajki wants me to use this as a way to get close to the Comet Fall magic community. I'm interested in their magical techniques, to learn how to use them, if possible, and figure out their reach, strength, capacity, and endurance, so we can defend against them should the need arise."

"Right. A lot of the fellows—both mine and intel's—join the Comet Fall and Disco people in early morning exercise. Mostly physical, but Inso and Wolfson drill their people and anyone else who’s hanging around, on magic and martial arts after the run. Five hundred hours. Just like being back in school. I'll put you on the day time shift. That should give you plenty of free time at the right time to . . . schmooze."

"Thank you." One! A competent commander, and flexible enough to add a spy in a useful manner.

"Report to Lieutenant Lucky—Olqy—next door. He's expecting you."

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on October 5th, 2017 04:13 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on October 5th, 2017 02:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

Nice to see the brushed up and hair cut version.

==
Take your time. Think."

"Yes." It doesn't feel like my brain is working at all right now.
==

Ambigous 'yes'

The first draft November 2015 had

==1
Her dimples deepened. "Five minutes ago I'd have said you were impossible to fluster. Take your time. Think."
"Yes."
==

Which I think was better, if you intended that meaning

Edited at 2017-10-05 02:51 pm (UTC)
ekuah on October 5th, 2017 07:18 am (UTC)
Ra'd have to be careful...
... to not overdue that speed bubble thingy.
He will be old and grey in no time. ;-)
If not Nighthawk secretly intervenes.




Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert

On the other hand, this is story where they find those spies in the beauty salon, right?
Is that salon women only or a mixed barber shop?
If it's the latter he has the perfect excuse to visit there regularly. I mean with his super fast growing hair ;-)
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on October 5th, 2017 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Ra'd have to be careful...
Ra'd is 100% Prophet so can expect to live a thousand years, body clock time. Nighthawk rather less (She probably thinks "as old as Answer") but Xen's elixir of Long Life is now out (Bad Karma) so no limit.

Yes, the beauty salon does do men and actually trims R'ad in story.

Edited at 2017-10-05 08:31 pm (UTC)