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05 November 2018 @ 09:20 am

Xen nodded. Just so we all know where we stand.

“And keeping an eye on the kids.” Izmo added.

I was planning on teaching the kids, not the chaperones. This could be interesting.


Kid talk

“ . . . use vehicles of various sorts, we’re more likely to ride horses. These horses, specifically, are the descendants of the horses in the genetic engineering labs. They have a high number of human genes and . . .”

Arno lost track of the lecture as he stared at the horses.

The horses could talk!

Arno looked from horse to horse as words and mental impressions of ear twitches, head tosses, tail swishes, and words flowed past.

:: A whole herd of Xen’s foals! ::

:: Well of course, he’s very good breeding material. ::

:: I’m surprised there haven’t been a lot more. ::

:: He’s not stallion stupid. Human mares try to manipulate men. HE won’t allow that. ::

:: Snort. Just like you, Pyrite? ::

An amused wicker, aloud this time. :: No. HE has a favorite lead mare. Two of the foals are hers. I’m surprised they haven’t had more. But little humans are so slow growing that, for them, it is sensible to spread them out. ::

More snorts. :: Well, this is a nice little herd of them. Maybe we can keep some of them. ::

Arno stumbled over his big feet as he tried to stay with the group, while looking back and trying to figure out which horse was saying what.

And organize his thoughts.

Morning exercises, starting with a long run.

Long for me. Aunt Rael could do it easy, I’ll bet.

Then breakfast, and off he goes to keep peace in the Multiverse, with help from talking horses.

Well, Dad goes to the gym after work, not before, but he does keep the peace.

Arno snickered at the thought of his dad’s underlings in the role of talking horses . . .

But it’s not that different a lifestyle, just sort of “Cop’s Life” with a weird twist to it.

And he didn’t try to get any of us to call him dad or anything, so that’s a relief. I guess this week won’t be too bad.

He looked back at the horses. Did one of them say they wanted keep us? Does . . . Master Xen want to keep us? Any of us? I may be Aunt Rael’s biokid, but I’m hardly stand out in this crowd. Heck, with no power I’m probably one of the culls.

But back in the school, or training center or whatever, Master Xen just disbursed piles of coins and turned them loose.

“Unpack, look around, whatever. Just pop into the restaurant whenever you’re hungry, they’ll put everything on my tab.

“And since there’s a seven hour time difference between here and Paris, I won’t get you up too early in the morning.” A flash of teeth in a quick grin. “The day-after-tomorrow, on the other hand, I’ll roust you out for some exercise at dawn.”

Universal groans, then the man went away and left them looking around at each other.

Ryol trotted off down the right corridor. “I’m going to unpack, and change clothes.” A bunch of girls followed her.

Arno rolled his eyes. “Girls!”

Yrno laughed. “Sisters! Yeah, I’ve got some back home. I’m going to go see if I can meet any women who aren’t related to me! Or some form of entertainment.”

Most of the guys drifted back out the doors after him.

Arno looked east, but the horses had all moved off. I’ll try to talk to them later.

He followed the other guys as they head for the plaza . . . or knowing Yrno, for those girls sitting on the patio of the pastry shop.


Ryol swapped to a prettier blouse, and decided to take a jacket along. It is winter here, and the air’s dry, so the temps may drop if we stay out past sunset.

Some of the girls—her sisters—were sitting at the tables, heads together, giggling. No welcome signs out, so Ryol walked past them and out the door. She spotted Arno in the group around the pastry shop, and walked that way.

It’s weird, not being around people who know me. She squirmed a bit. People who know I’m one of the cool kids, one of the in-group. And I’d better get used to it. Dad’s new job is just temporary . . . for now. He’s got a small apartment in Gate City, and comes home every Friday and leaves again Monday morning. But what if that changes in the next few months? If the External Relation Directorate hires him full time, we’ll move. We’ll go to high school there, with complete strangers.

Not that we wouldn’t be among mostly strangers at La Playa, but all the kids, all our friends, would be there too. But Gate City would be like this.

So, get used to introducing yourself and finding new friends, Girl!

Starting here. There’re some strangers in the bunch.

She straightened her shoulders and sashayed up to thump her twin on the shoulder. “Hey Arno.”

A few heads turned her way, and a couple of the guys’ eyes widened.

Arno grinned at her. He’d always kidded her about her looks. “The boggling guys are Epic and Irwun. Epic and Arwen are in college—in fact they were trying to write joint research paper, when all of us showed up—Irwun and Zodiac are cross-dimensional traders, and everyone else is in high school here.”

“Cross-dimensional Traders?” Irwun was a drop dead gorgeous blond. She tried to not drool. Zodiac and Epic aren’t bad, either. I wonder where they’re from?

And . . . is it just the light, or do those two younger boys, and those two girls have purple hair?”

“Just what it sounds like.” Irwun flashed beautiful straight teeth. “We trade with several worlds that connect to the Maze. It’s great fun, and we make a ton of money.”

“The Maze?” Must not drool!

“A bunch of worlds, some that Xen and Q discovered, and used to set up a way to keep you Oners from following them home when they spied on you—that was before they figured out how to take down the permanent gates.” Beautiful smile, fantastic glow. Down girl! He must be a Fallen wizard, or mage. And damn being fourteen! All the lectures form everyone about waiting . . .

“Ooolala.” A whisper from behind her. Gior, with Foyh.

Ryol ignored them. “Do you need a permit to use the Maze?”

Irwun and Zodiac both laughed.

Zodiac shook his shiny black hair out of his eyes. “Nope. It’s wide-open. Lot’s of people camp back there.”

Irwun grinned, showing a lot of big teeth. “Want to see it?” He hopped off the porch and headed up the diagonal road, away from the plaza.

The boys all chorused a yes! Ryol nodded. After all, I’m with my twelve brothers. What could possibly go wrong?