_War Party_ start

War Party

Chapter One

1 Muharram 1420yp

Internal Relations HQ, Paris, One World

“So, welcome to the Election Year Panic.”

Icka Withione Sycamore Tall Trees bit his lip.

Cannot be crazier than the last one . . . can it?

I was oblivious to the election in 1400, the year I came across to Tall Trees. 1405 . . . I was in college, so we were supposed to be paying attention. I joined the War Party, both because most of my fellow Directorate School students were members, and because it was the home of most of the troublemakers—from Earth’s point of view. The election itself was a shoo-in, after that amazing no-confidence special election the year before.

The 1410 election was another shoo-in for President Orde, all the gooey emotions flying around his daughter’s wedding. I shifted to Interior Relations right before that. Kind of fun, watching everyone go bonkers.

1415. Holy cats! Bombs during the primaries, a sniper, a hostage situation during the countdown party. I still don’t believe Izzo pulled off a win.

And now we’ll see if he can do it again.

He turned his attention back to the screen, where Director Ajki was addressing the whole Internal Relations Directorate over the dedicated grid.

“. . . Black Horse Guards will be providing security, and the Presidential Directorate Analysts will be analyzing threats to the candidates.

“Which we will be doing as well, but we cannot neglect our regular jobs, especially since the politicians will be jostling for positions in a possible new administration.”

Crap. I hope to hell not! Orde and then Izzo have been peace-makers. Not pacifists, by any means, but . . . One Hell! I don’t want to see a return to the old aggressively expanding Empire.

Not the least because I’m an agent of Earth.

I’ve enjoyed the life of a nice quiet mole.

“. . . so we’ll be authorizing some political surveillance even without prior indication of criminal intent.”

One Hell! I hate the constant watching. Not that Earth is much better. Especially for a nasty mutant like me. I may be their agent . . . but I’m not one of them.

. . . I may never go back.

Bastards. A terminal license—I’ll never have a child there. Of course here, would I dare? I have that priest gene . . .

Good thing I’m not in love, nor inclined to get married.

***

Ice eyed his comm suspiciously. “That was fast. I don’t think I know a thing I ought not tell you.”

“Good! Then just come and distract me.” Noon was newsie, and thus not to be trusted. But also a good source of gossip. And she always had invitations to interesting parties. And she was very easy on the eye, even if she’d never so much as flirted with him.

“Sounds good. Maxwell’s? Twenty hundred hours?”

“Deal!”

Ice clicked off and sent a censorious glower at the doorway of his cubicle.

Dog and Vaul grinned.

“Making dates on government time?” Dog tried to look innocent.

Ice elevated his nose. “Currying favor with a good source of gossip. You children need to find some contacts. And no, you cannot steal Noon from me.”

A snort from behind them. “One! Ice Kah Tall Trees. Out of your league and over the hill. She’s well into her second century, isn’t she?”

“Can’t tell by her looks, and she’s pretty sharp, well connected, and collects some fascinating information.” Ice eyed Enqy. “And no. I’m not going to introduce you to her.”

“Thank the One!” Enqy—Querry, around the office—gave a nasty laugh as he walked away.

Ice shrugged. “I guess some people just like being unpleasant. So are you two just being nosy or is there a purpose for your visit?”

“This is our first presidential campaign. I mean, I was hired in the middle of the last one, but I mostly went from training to scut work and back to training. What the heck do we do?”

Vaul nodded. “I was across doing my internships for the Summer, then we wrote reports for classes about the end of it, but . . . Well, what do we do?”

Ice blinked, nodded. “Right, Eyeball will call a section meeting, probably as soon as he escapes from the face-to-face meeting he’s in right now. I suspect he’ll split us up between the political parties, and we’ll start keeping an eye on the upper and mid-level types, to hopefully keep the backstabbing metaphorical.”

“Upper and mid-level?” Dog frowned. “Tell me you don’t mean ministers, subministers, and councilmen?”

“Yep. And the Senior level analysts, aides, and, well, anyone with good enough reputations. Whichever party you get, you look at who’s closest to their candidate, especially the people who are possible Directors. Presidential, Interior, and Exterior.” Ice grinned at their horrified expressions.

“Yes, even Ajki could be replaced. You’ll want to look over the leadership of the Party, see who might be rewarded for their support. Or, as I said, stabbed in the back by someone supporting someone else in the Primaries.”

Dog let out a whistle. “That’s going to be interesting!”

Ice nodded. “All year.” His comm buzzed. He glanced at the message as Dog and Vaul both grabbed for theirs. “Ibla. So, let’s go see who gets what.”

 


_Cats and Crows_

I haven't the fainest idea where this will go, but the neighborhood animals were bound to be odd.

Cats and Crows

Pam Uphoff

“And furthermore, I have too many projects already to be adding you guys to the list!” Exzy glared at the cat, and then up at the crow. “Besides, neither of you are really smart.”

Unless my Wine samples had something from Rip Crossing that added smart genes. But I only gave the cat a bit of the Elixir of Long Life for Dogs. And I may have spilled the horse version, but even the dead bugs ought not have gotten very much on them.

So they didn’t get the same thing, and it’s just my imagination. They may live a long time, and the cat is looking younger, but they’re just normal smart animals.

“But I’ll keep feeding you if you’ll stop fighting.”

The cat, who belonged to his next door neighbors, yawned and looked away.

The crow, who belonged to no one, ruffled his feathers and muttered a complaint.

Fortunately not in English.


_Moles_ the end

He pulled it, and ran diagnostics. No viruses.

Start with checking the saved file against the copy I just made. Gah, that’s going to take forever, huge folders with tens of thousands of sub files . . .

He inserted the new chip and got started.

I’ll bet I never looked at more than half the major losses. Or any of the recent . . . messes.

And he was probably just curious.

Ice shifted the comp further out of the way, turned so the running lights weren’t visible. Then he took down three more references and a note pad and started researching . . . what? He looked at the book in his hands.

Oh, the history and theory of impressed magic. I sort of remember buying it a few years ago.

Sure, why not study up on it?

He was a quarter of the way through, and busy making notes about glyphs, when Dog stuck his nose in.

“Quitting time. And you’re supposed to be taking it easy.”

“I am.” Ice glanced at his left hand, reduced to holding books open. “See? I gave up typing. What time is it?”

“Eighteen hundred.” Dog shook his head. “I suspect one handed typing would be even easier on your hand.”

“No, just more frustrating. And if I wait an hour, the metro will be less crowded."

Sigh. “How about dinner at Low Down? Eyeball told me to get you out of here and make you behave.”

“Uh . . . I don’t want the noise tonight. All right. I’ll pack up and head home, bloody task master . . .” He opened the comp long enough to see the very short list of differences . . . a missing file. He eyed the name, scanned the summary. Closed the comp.

Hauled out his briefcase, slid the comp in . . . what the hell, took the book and his notes. Sighed. “You aren’t actually going to escort me off the premises, are you?”

“No, I’m just . . .” He broke off when Ice’s comm dinged.

Ice tapped, “It’s the Big Boss . . . Yes, Sir? Yes, Sir.” He tapped it off. “He wants to talk to both of us. Right now.”

Dog moaned. “This is going to be embarrassing.”

“Really? What did you do.”

Dog just hunched his shoulders, and followed him on and off the elevator without speaking.

The Director’s floor was still busy. Nobody goes home until the Director leaves?

The secretary just pointed them at the open door.

No one there but Ajki and Princess Fuyl.

Ajki closed his comp. “Close the door and sit.”

Fuyl glanced their way, and the corners of her mouth tucked in, eyes twinkling.

What did Dog do?

Ice sat. Eyed the Director. He was grinning. It must have been a beaut.

“So . . . did you two enjoy investigating each other?”

Ice froze. Blinked. Turned to face Dog. Sitting there, still, lips parted.

Dog sputtered. “You . . . were investigating . . . me!”

Ice cleared his throat. “Yes. And you investigated me?”

“Yeah . . .” He snuck a look Fuyl’s direction. She snickered.

Ajki’s grin widened. “So, Ice, what is your main take away?”

“That if you look hard enough you can find something on anyone. And equal amounts of stuff pointing completely the other direction. And it’s really hard to figure out what’s real and what’s an odd coincidence.” Ice thought that over. “And I really hate digging for dirt on a friend.”

Ajki looked at Dog.

“Same. Well, up until the field work—hauling him out to a Tall Trees Festival and watching him make a fool of himself over his old girlfriend—was pretty fun.”

Ice sniffed. “Watch it, Infant. I have some really precious school photos of yours.”

Ajki nodded. “Good. I wanted you to learn on a personal level, that sometimes you really have to dig into the background of someone you like.”

Ice raised an eyebrow. “Probably harder to be unbiased, though, when you don’t like the person.”

“Oh? Like who?”

“I just tripped over . . . well, Enqy. Born here, but his mother divorced and married someone on Granite Peak, post rediscovery, when he was seven. He left to attend college—since he had all the right ID—and was away during the attempted Coup and isolation. He returned once, a Directorate School internship, was missing on a hunting trip for three days. Turned up hungry and limping from a fall.”

Ice shrugged. “Like I said, you can find suspicious indications about anyone. A clone? I dunno. He’s a believable twenty-seven. Nineteen? Eh.”

Ajki crossed his arms and glowered.

“Which I wouldn’t have paid any attention to, if someone hadn’t removed my data chip on anyone ever gone missing across, and removed Enqy Neartuone Nebraska’s file before returning it.”

“Removed . . . dammit all! Querry, eh?” Ajki drummed his fingers. “Let’s get back to what I actually brought you up here to talk about.

“Ice, you showed very high Speed in front of the Black Horse’s highest ranking Warrior. Not to mention that trick with the rock. And today, long reach with Stun.”

The glower lightened. “High time Interior had a couple of Warriors. As soon as you’re out of that cast, you’re back in training. Dog? You’ve been showing a lot of potential, lately. Tomorrow. Versalle. Five am, prepared to run.”

Dog groaned.

“Now both of you get out of here, so I can figure out what to do about Querry.”

The door closed behind them. They stopped and stared at each other. Then burst out laughing.

Heads popped out of cubicles and offices.

Which had them laughing harder as they staggered over to the elevators.

They snickered all the way down and headed for the nearest bar.

***

“Oh, One! I was completely convinced you were a Comet Fall spy, your mother a marooned Dancer named Hoon.” Ice took a long pull off his pint.

“Ha! You were obviously the son of a marooned XR infiltration agent also known as Killer Kaat.”

Ice snorted beer. “Killer?” He started laughing.

“Except . . . how to account for that priest gene?” Dog shrugged.

Ice snorted. “Yeah, your school pictures just ruined my beautiful theory.” And oh . . . One! Did you ever have me pegged!

He eyed Dog. I wonder if he really is . . .

Nah. That would be ridiculous.




_Moles_ part 10

Laughs and heads sticking out of cubicles. Querry sniffed. “Alcoholic.”

Happy rolled his eyes. “Sounds good. And we can divert you by interrogating you about Wolfson.”

Tiif, Socks, and Vaul joined them. And a bit to his surprise, he had no trouble seeing her as a colleague, not a sex object.

I’ve found a much better ideal woman.

And I’ve got her number. She lives in Center City most of the year, going to college . . . She’ll be out of touch until fall, she said . . .



Chapter Eleven

Monday

Ice took the stairs up from the metro two at a time. Right there’s a slight reshuffling of the One First factions, the War Party has settled down, and the Isolationists’ Blood and Sword idiots are all nudge and wink. Going to have to watch them. Again.

And Dog . . .

No. Damn it. I refuse to believe it, and even if it were true . . . why would I care? It’s not like I’m a loyal Oner, right?

Right.

As he reached the sidewalk the roar of engines, and high pitched sirens had him turning around looking for the source.

A dozen motorcycles, heavy powerful machines rounded the corner, heading toward him. Cars hit their brakes or swerved. The bikers wove around them, down the center line and veering into oncoming traffic. One took to the sidewalk as the traffic stalled out. Then the police car in pursuit rounded the corner and skidded to a halt in front of the clogged street.

Joy riding or . . .

Behind him, at the other end of the block, two police cars skidded to a halt, blocking the bikers.

. . . criminal pursuit.

Ice eyed all the people on the sidewalks, in the cars . . . This could get nasty, fast. The biker nearest him was reaching into his jacket.

Sleep.

He sagged and Ice jogged forward to grab the bike and get the stand down before the fool riding it slumped off. Caught by Dog and lowered to the ground.

They swapped grins, and looked back at their office mates.

“So, who wants to show the street cops that analysts aren’t totally useless?” Ice turned back and threw up a kinetic spell that would slow bullets. Spread it as far as he could.

Dog laughed. “Yeah. I get Happy and Tif. Vaul and Socks, go with Ice, and we’ll see whose team bags the most,” he slapped out a stun spell and a bike, biker and gun crashed to the pavement. “Bad Guys.”

He went left, so Ice headed right, waving in “his” team. “Let’s try to keep them from shooting anyone, especially the civi’s. The other goal, of course, is to not get shot ourselves. Do you all have physical shields? Get them up. Stun and sleep spells,” he stunned a Biker across the street, “Should be sufficient.”

The police were out of their cars, shotguns in hand . . .

Ice cleared his throat. “Yo! Biker Boys! You most likely want to live to ride again, so how about hands up and on your helmets!”

“Spoilsport!” Tiif yelled from down the block.

And plenty of hands were coming up and none of them had guns.

Ice parked his butt on the railing around the stairs down to the Metro, and watched the police handcuff bikers and haul them away.

A captain from CI showed up, shook his head at them. “Some analysts. Get. If we need a statement, we know where to find you.”

Vaul sighed. “I didn’t get to throw a single spell. And . . . the guy across the street was a good fifteen meters away! How did you do that?”

Sock—Asko—shrugged. “Ice and Dog keep getting hauled out to Versalle for special training. Warrior style, to hear them talk.”

“But . . .” Vaul eyed Ice. “I mean, I don’t mean this as an insult, but . . .” She verbally stalled out.

So Ice finished it for her. “Upcomer. Native. Not supposed to be so strong. Meh, that’s just snobbery. Recognize it, then make sure you’re looking at the real world. Come along children, no more lectures today.”

Back on the twenty-fourth floor, Ibla glowered. “Taking rather long lunches these days, are we?”

“Bit of a traffic problem.” Ice shrugged. “Sorry.” He ducked into his cubicle and thumped down into the seat.

Zeeq stuck her head in. “What was going on down there?” She pointed at his window. “We all crowded in to look. Bikers, it looked like.”

“Yeah. No big deal, no shots fired. But there were so many people there, we stuck around, just in case.”

She eyed him. “Riiight. I’ll get the whole story from Tiif and Vaul.”

Ice just grinned and opened his comp . . . stopped grinning. Didn’t I leave that chip in? He checked the drawers, the floor.

Peeled out a blank chip and inserted it. Downloaded that whole huge file. Pocketed the chip and shut his computer, set it a bit to the side. Pulled a reference book off the shelf and opened it to a random page and left it there.

See? I didn’t even look at my computer.

He headed for the men’s room, then the break room for coffee, and took the long way around that took him past Zeeq’s desk.

“Querry was looking for you.”

“Right. Probably thought up a new insult.”

She snickered, he waved to Vaul who looked out of her cubicle, and sauntered down to his.

It certainly looked untouched.

Apart from the chip in his comp.