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16 November 2018 @ 12:38 am

Ryol watched the tall man sweep down on the car, whip the door open. She swallowed, dry mouthed, and climbed out after the ambassador. Stiff. The other kids clumped behind her.

His eyes were dark. Nearly black. Like Mine. Studying them seriously.

Yrno, nasty overgrown bully stepped forward first.

"Yrno isn't it?" Wolfson put his right hand out to shake.

Yrno took his hand, stepped in close and swung his left under the grip and punched him.

Wolfson rocked back. Almost unbalanced, he jerked Yrno to the side and lunged forward.

His left hand reached out . . . toward the gun in Laar's hand.


Xen slapped the gun down, his hand closed over the weapon before he got conscious control and realized the child had no idea how to shoot, no idea there was a safety . . . he went to one knee as he took it out of her defeated grip and sighed as the tears started falling.

"Which one are you?"

"La . . . la . . . " Hiccupping gasps.

Laar. No doubt pronounced with a pause in the middle. "Lala, listen to me." He leaned back and looked at the little group, all legs and elbows and big eyes. Especially the biggest one, that he'd dumped on his butt. More kids crowding in as the rest of the cars pulled up and disgorged kids. "And all of you, too. Fifteen years ago, I stopped a war the only way I saw possible. It wasn't fair to you. It wasn't fair to your mothers, nor the men would ought to have been your biofathers. But a war would have killed thousands, possibly millions. Do you have older brothers? Uncles or cousins? There's a good chance they'd have been drafted. Yes, the Oners would have been drafted, the war would have been fought with magic as well as guns. And a lot of them would have died. They're alive today, because we were able to stop the war.

"But it's not fair to you. You weren't the people who wanted to attack us. But the main burden has fallen on you, and for that, I'm sorry." He rocked back upright, and extended a hand to the kid on the ground. Who was still gawping at the girl. "C'mon, grab your stuff. Let me show you the school. Then we'll head for the beach, for some basic magical practice."

They hastily pulled bags out the limos, the trunks, and followed.

He led the way past the shocked looking priest, and through the front door. "We'll change things around as needed. The builders got a bit carried away, so we won't actually need to add space, even with all of you here at once. Library over there. This side'll be the classroom. Those two hallways go to the dorm rooms."

He eyed them to see if they were ready for a bit of humor. "I figured, boys over there and girls here on the right. Because, after all, girls are always right, aren't they?"

They eyed him.

"Right. That fell flat. Anyway, those three arches in the middle: despite looking like wood paneling, the right one goes to a spot in the mountains, with hotsprings, the left one to the beach, not for recreation, but because shoving sand around is one of our standard training methods. How that will work with half Oners, well, we'll find out." From all the blank looks, they didn't do much shoving of sand. "The middle arch doesn't go anywhere, yet. If we discover someplace we need to go to regularly, I'll stick a corridor to it, there. So, toss your stuff in your rooms—take whichever you want, the keys are in the locks—and we'll take an orientation walk around Embassy. It's warm, so you might want to change."

Xen waved the kids away, and looked at the adult Oners. And couldn't help but grin. "You three look a bit shell shocked."

The woman cleared her throat and straightened her back. "And you don't. How often do your children try to kill you?"

"Well, that was a first. I, umm, was expecting some unpleasantness." He tossed a grin over at the hovering kids. Yrno was still looking overwhelmed, Laar woebegone. "Don't worry. Lala needs some lessons in how to shoot a gun, and Yrno, you need some martial arts training. I'll get you started, this week. By the time I send you home, you'll be much more dangerous."

"Oh. One." The priest wasn't quite whimpering.

Xen could feel his grin widening. "Yep."


Ryol took Laar's arm and marched her into the first room.

"Right. Like it or not, I am going to search your luggage. No. More. Weapons."

The little drip just started crying again. Ryol grabbed her suitcase, plopped it on the bed and went through it. Removed three pill bottles. "Are these or your parents?"

"M, m, m, mother's sleeping pills and heart m, m, medicine."

Ryol stared at the bottles. Swallowed queasily. "Were you going to poison him, or yourself?"

"H, h, him. T, t, then . . . "

Ryol stepped out and back to the main room. Held out the bottles to Princess Diuc. "I'm not sure whether she's taken anything herself, already."

"Oy!" Wolfson strode past her, the Princess and Priest on his heels. "Lala! If you hurt yourself, you'll break my heart. Look at me."

He cupped his hand around the girls face and looked deep into her eyes. Was he a medgician?

He nodded. "Yes."

Had he heard her? He nodded.

Ryol concentrated on tightening up her shields.

"All right. I broke down all the fancy chemicals in your system, but you'll probably feel pretty yucky for awhile. "Now c’mon out and I’ll show you Disco Headquarters."

Laar nodded, silently.

Xen stood up and stepped back outside. "I'll keep track of her. And as I was about to say, up the stairs in each wing you'll find apartments for the chaperones. Take whichever you want."

Ryol hustled down to the first unclaimed room, and threw on her most lightweight shirt and plain pants. Running shoes. It sounded like they were going to do a lot of walking today. She ignored the pistol in the suitcase. Dad insisted, but he said I’d better not shoot anyone who wasn’t trying to rape or kill me. And “Master” Xen doesn’t look like that sort of threat.

She eyed Lala's door—the girl deserved a nick name like Lala—but didn't go in. The princess looked over the group, pressed her lips together and marched off, returning a moment later herding Lala.

Wolfson looked them over.

"We're going to start with a stroll past a few places of interest. This is the Northeast Diagonal Road. Not what you’d call an imaginative name.”

One of the taller boys looked around, squinted at the sun. “That way’s North?”

“Yep. Jay, is it?”

“Yes. My mom—Poppy—said she would have sent a message, but she didn’t want me using language like that.”

“Indeed.” Xen started pointing as he strolled. “The theater there is run by a Oner Company, although I suspect you’ve seen everything they’re showing. They use it for education and propaganda. The pastry shop across the street is owned a some Comet Fall Witches. I’ll dole out local coinage so you all have pocket money—is that term in use? Anyhow, the nightclub is also run by Oners, and won’t serve anyone under twenty-two.”

No one asked anything. Stop feeling insecure. Of course they aren’t going to chat with you. Yet. He crossed the street and into the plaza before he turned around.

“So the street grid has half mile spacing—about 800 meters—running north-south and east-west. Then the diagonal roads off three of the four corners.

“Our first thought was that embassies would need a quarter of every block. Forty acres, or—do you use Hectares? About sixteen. Of course Earth and the Empire immediately decided they needed a lot more and too four lots each.” He waved at the east side of the square. “That’s why Arrival—one of the other Exile Worlds—and the Kingdom of the West on Comet Fall share that side of the plaza. The Empire of the One, is there. The Earth is opposite them.

“Excellent symbolism.” Xen eyed the kids. Closed up. Bored? Hostile? Rejecting? I can’t tell. But I’ll wrap this up quickly.

“On the west side, the Arbolian Empire also decided to grab four squares and did a fair job of using it all. Down the Southwest Diagonal . . . the wooden fort is the Purple Embassy. That’s not a good indication of their tech level—it’s from a period in their early history that they are quite proud of.

“The building with arms going all over is the library. And if you go another ten miles, you’ll find the beach. There’s a . . . passenger thing that goes back and forth, so you don’t have to walk it. It’s a different beach than the one we use for training exercises, that the corridor leads to.

“Northwest Diagonal . . . the pink granite building is the Comet Fall Hospital. If you have a problem, you can go there, or to the clinic in the Oner Embassy.

“So . . . let me show you Disco.”

Well, at least they’re a little wide-eyed. I’d hate to not get any reaction out of the whole batch of them. From here on out, I need to take them in smaller groups.

“The frame of the building was built by a compass of Mages . . . who I’ve invited back to put in a sewer system and expand the water supply system.” Xen glanced back at the big black cubist heap. “I hope I don’t come to regret it, they sort of get drunk on magic and get a little out of control. But what can go wrong with sewers?”

That got a few snickers from the boys. The girls mostly looked appalled. Xen turned and trotted up the steps. The big double doors swung open and he led the way through and into the much less threatening sandstone walled reception area.

Nighthawk was bent over the receptionist’s desk, a finger on something there. She straightened and studied the kids. A fit young woman, dark honey complexion and long black hair, wearing the Disco gray uniform.

“Ah, and my oldest child. Nighthawk, these are your half siblings.”

And there was his fierce girl starting to laugh. “All twenty-seven of them, all at once! Oh, this is going to be fun!”

And another laugh, as his sister trotted down the stairs to join them.

“And this is Doctor Quail Quicksilver, also known as Quicksilver Rustledaut in the proper witch matriarchical naming scheme. Who is your aunt. Of every single one of you.”

“Nighthawk, Q, this is Yrno, and Laar. Let’s see, Jay with the unpronounceable name. There are two Arno’s . . . there and there. Ryol and Rain, Voyr , Voih, Voan, and Viin.”

“We’re never going to remember all of them. Stop showing off your memory.” Q shook her head, laughing.

“Orny, Ogri, Orry, and Orty. Zyop, Zyot. Avro, Anro, Utry, and Yrbo finishes off the guys. Gior, Nyok, Foyh, Noop, Poan, and Toyz.” Xen took a deep breath . . . “Did I get you all?”

Nods, a few giggles.

“And did I point to the right people at the right time?”

More giggles. Even the boys looked pleased to be recognized.

“Good. I’ll try to keep it up. In the meantime, this is the main assembly room, that shows up on so many news reports. C’mon down. I think the mix of magical effects and tech are interesting. Inso and Jiol put most of it together, so no doubt you’ll recognized the electronic components.”

And then, since they were at the bottom, he showed them the jail. “It’s empty. We really don’t catch all that many criminals. And up here the smaller meeting rooms, and the top floor if offices, records, and libraries.

Q showed off her multiverse models, enlarging them so the kids could walk around inside them, and trace the permanent gates to all their colonies, to Earth, Comet Fall . . .

And finally, he herded them all off to The Kitchen for a late lunch.

And yeah, the witches laughed at him too.

“Sit anywhere.” Redheaded Kyle waved them in. “You’re late so you have the place to yourself.”

Gior eyed the young woman. “Are you a Witch?”

“Yep.” She nodded at the other girl working the table. “Vero and I both have the witch gene and the wizard gene, so eventually we can probably do dimensional stuff.”

Vero nodded. “We’re here to get trained, now that we’re out of school.”

Q nodded. “We have a nasty tendency to make our youngsters work, even the ones who are in college. Umm, on Comet Fall. There’s not a college here, yet. But some of the kids take remote classes the first year or two.”

“And we have money!” Vero added.

“Until we’re good enough at magic to hunt for gold. Then we’ll be rich!”

“And bored!” Came a voice from the kitchen, and a pretty brunette stuck her head out. “Hi. I’m Wren, me and Verry are running the kitchen at the moment. Welcome. Ask us anytime you need anything food oriented.”

She ducked back into the kitchen.

“The witches have a tradition of cooking contests.” Xen waved at the younger girls. “No doubt the brats here will be showing off their cooking skills in a few more years.” Xen grabbed a table against the kitchen wall and sat looking out at the room. “Iced tea for me, Vero.”

Jolted back to duty, Vero and Kyle ushered the kids in and reeled off the drink selections and then the menu.

“We do soup and sandwiches for lunches. Today’s soups are vegetable tomato, and chicken noodle. Sandwiches . . . pick a bread—sourdough white, hard French rolls, whole wheat and pumpernickel rye. Then we’ll load them with your choice . . .”

Xen took a deep breath and tried to make himself relax. It’s going all right. After lunch I’ll show them the exercise ground, the running track, the horses, and then let them unpack and just putz around until dinner.

Then a history lesson . . . unless they’re looking tired. More than half of them are here from Paris and the seven hour time difference will be catching up to them.

He turned to the adults joining him at the table.

Three Princess-Priests and three Eunuch-Priests.

“So . . . you six are in charge of this training project?”

Six cautious nods.

“Any time I use terms you don’t understand, or otherwise confuse you, please interrupt and ask for clarification. I’m as ignorant of your usual training procedures as you are of mine. But given the similarities in our engineering, I hope that sheer practicality has produced similarities in training.”

Duic, a black haired woman that he’d guess at fifty years of age—plus or minus twenty years—was alluring physically. But it was the devastating glow she was aiming his direction that had him hardening his shields. She leaned closer. “Yes, we want to see how your training differs from ours, and whether that’s a matter of the slight differences in those genes, or simply due to different needs in both our early years.”

One of the Eunuchs grinned. “Academic curiosity, Duic? I want to try some of those house remodeling techniques we’ve heard about. That sort of brute force molding of materials is unheard of . . . but is it impossible, or did we just never develop the techniques?”

“You’re Ytry, right?”

“Right. This is Unvu, and you’ve met Izmo. Duiz, Teal, and Jaum are both Princesses and Priests. We’ll be trying to learn, and then disseminate your techniques.”

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.