“Let her go now, Insa. Come and sit down over here. We’re going to be talking to the detectives for hours, we might as well let everyone else do their jobs.”
And a dreary couple of hours it was.
And this is only the primaries. It’s going to get really nasty before Ramadan.
“Why did I do that?”
Lucky Dave looked over at Insa, who was looking at his gauze wrapped hands.
“You guys would have gotten them all out safely, probably faster, without me being in the way.”
“No, we wouldn’t have.”
Insa jerked around and stared at him. A policeman walking past stopped and turned.
“I didn’t even see the bus, I was focused on looking for a follow up threat, and getting you to somewhere safe.” Dave glanced toward the burned out wrecks. The freeway’s going to be closed for the investigation for the rest of the day. “The four people who died were critically injured in the initial blast. Because you spotted them, and instantly ran to help, we were able to get the rest of the kids out before the secondary fires flared up. Before the bus’s gas tank burst.”
Insa dropped his hand and stared into space. “Damn Ycrw. And you know damn well there won’t be a speck of proof.”
“Yeah. Even if they trace the truck, the explosives . . . there will be layers of blind errand runners.” Dave winced. “And don’t discount the War Party or the Isolationists. They may have figured to eliminate both of you. You dead, Ycrw suspected of brutal murder.”
Insa was staring at the ground, probably not seeing much of anything. “A year ago it seemed so clear and obvious. I was angry and everyone agreed with me. Except it was really just the few people around me. I didn’t see anyone else. Even the crowds . . . just warm bodies I could whip into a frenzy, to reinforce what was so obviously right.”
He swallowed. “I thought Crow was brilliant—a boring speaker, no human touch at all—but his ideas were sound. Or I thought so, then. Since he declared for himself, I’ve gone back and read his speeches. And wondering how I missed the way he talked about people.”
He hung his head. “At least I saw people I liked, or disliked. People I could use. I never saw things.”
Eventually they were sent away, and after three days of no campaigning, Insa braced his shoulders and scheduled an interview.
Dave watched from the sidelines.
The cute blonde hostess was smiling while she expertly prodded Insa into saying a lot more than he’d intended.
“No. ‘Equal Rights’ doesn’t mean ‘everyone is the same.’ I’m more magically strong than most people, I’m more intelligent than most people.” Insa flashed a grin at the closeup camera. “Good looking too. But. We are all citizens of the Empire, all equal before the law, and all endowed with the civil rights that the Prophets enumerated.”
He sat back and eyed the pretty Newsie. “But we are not identical. We are all individuals, and should be judged as such, not categorized and put in a box and required to conform to society’s preconceived notions of how someone from that box ‘should’ behave.”
She raised eyebrows. “But you reject genetic engineering?”
“Yes. We are both who and what we are, and genetic engineering changes the what. Does that also change the who? We are all the sum of the interactions of our genes and our environments. Where are the studies of personality changes, with genetic engineering? And which genes? How many?
“And why? I heard of a few antidotal instances of people touching the power of the One after receiving a One Power gene. But no actual studies to say what percentage of the engineered ever touch power, and how many gain a truly useful amount? How many have accidentally injured another person, having had no lessons in control and caution?”
“I haven’t heard . . .”
“Because there have been so few. What happens when millions of people get genetic engineering?’ Insa threw his hands out, the right one still bandaged.
“No one knows what people may be doing to themselves!”
Dave nodded. Finally, something of the fire and passion. But . . . the wrong issue for a One Firster.
Insa leaned toward the newsie. “The . . . social status of the One is due to our being the descendants of the Prophets. Some artificial chemicals added by a Native Wizard doesn’t make anyone a descendant of the Prophets.”
The Newsie was frowning at him, now. Not getting what she wanted.
“What about the bus? Did you realize you were risking your life for a pack of Multitude kids?”
Insa paled. “That didn’t matter. They were kids in danger, and I did my best. The Black Horse Guards did most of the saving. If I hadn’t tried . . . I wouldn’t be fit to be president.”
“You cried over a girl who was already dead. Are you strong enough to be president?”
Insa was blinking back tears. “Yes. I’m strong enough to care. Smart enough to do things that will work, not things that sound good.”
Ycrw called him a weakling and a Native Lover.
His wife filed for divorce and half his staff quit.
There was no progress on the investigation. A auto-drive truck stolen a month ago. Old fashioned explosives made from easily obtained household and farm chemicals. Commercially available electronics reengineered to trigger the explosion.
Someone was watching Insa’s campaign HQ, and had the timing right to send out the truck. So many thing that could have delayed us . . . but a check of all public records we can find, and there’s no sign that they’d tried before, but not been in the right position.
Well, sometimes you do luck out the first try.
Arno eyed the sender’s address . . . University of the Empire, School of Directorate Studies.
“Well . . . Good news or bad?”
Ryol leaned to peek at his screen. “Oh One! Are they sending acceptance letters?” She jerked back and started clicking on her comp. “I have one too.”
Arno opened the letter.
We are please to accept . . .
“Yes!” Arno heaved out a deep breath and started reading the details . . .
Ryol bounced in her chair, “Me too! We’re in!”
Congratulation from around the room. Izzo looked in to see what was causing the commotion, and added his congratulations. “Well, other than losing staff . . .”
“Not as fast as Insa . . . he’s really sunk in the polls of One Firsters. You can probably stop mentioning rabble rousers and start in on cold-blooded, unfeeling, power seekers.”
Izzo grinned. “Yeah. Heroics that would have won any other party’s nomination . . . but the One Firsters are horrified. Well, Ycrw always was the bigger threat to me.”
Ryol, still grinning, turned around. “Actually him being the bigger draw than Insa is good. It pulls more voters from the War Party and the Isolationists.”
“True.” Izzo shook his head. “Kids . . . advising a presidential candidate.”
Then he called his Mother, and then Aunt Rael, uploaded a note to the Wolf Kids bulletin board . . . and got back to work.
Izzo and Pug—Wpgu—were unique in that they were both pushing their moderately similar agendas, without getting extreme or attacking each other.
The other primary races were a gold mine of extremist quotes that were going to be very useful . . . hopefully for Izzo. And vastly entertaining, even when they weren’t usable.
They headed home before the rush hour hit and found a party waiting for them. Mother beaming, then Dad getting home early, also beaming. The little brats excited, except for a brief wide eyed minute of realizing their big brother and sister would be leaving and only get home a few times a year . . . from now on.
And it’s true. I’m months away from turning eighteen . . . and suddenly I don’t feel very grown up.
And faster than he’d believed possible it was suddenly Rajab and time to run frantically around the globe encouraging people to vote for him as the twenty-ninth arrived and the Polls opened.
Xiat had reserved the main ballroom at the Saint Honorine for the poll watching, and hopefully victory party. And a penthouse suite so he could step out and . . . flop on the bed.
“I can’t keep smiling. My face hurts.”
Xiat snickered. “Yes, Dear. Relax for an hour. Then we’ll go over the exit polls before your next interview.”
“Umm . . .”
“Relax. They look very good, everywhere but Paris. Homestead is in your pocket, as we expected. Now relax for a little bit.”
Guess I’d better. This is just the prelims. I just hope we don’t have any more bombings.
Insa conceded early. Circulated, thanking all the hard work and loyalty his staff had given him. “Remember that you are the best people. Not the best tyrants.”
Dave tried to keep one car and send the Guards home. Scar shook his head. “Nope. He’s getting the full escort, none of this slinking away home, defeated crap.”
So they drove him to his oversized home in the Alcairo Enclave, gave it a quick sweep . . . removed a nasty—but neither illegal nor dangerous—present from his soon to be ex-wife.
Dave eyed the man. Sad but not depressed. Solidly centered. “Going to rabble rouse for Ycrw?”
“No . . . I’m not dead sure what I will do. Now.”
Dave nodded. “You might look into the effects on personality of adding power genes to adults. I conned a better researcher than me into digging for information . . . and there simply are not any studies out there.”
Insa eyed him. “All the Lucky Dave stories said you had the priest gene, not the power gene.”
“I got the power gene the day after I arrived.” He shrugged. “I don’t think—or feel—like my personality has changed. My magic has increased by a tiny amount. Measurable, but tiny. And I’m a man who was trained rigorously in the use of power from the time I was five years old.”
Insa nodded. “I’m glad to hear about the personality . . . and mixed on the rest. Because, you know, Halfers are the descendants of the Prophets. And even a lot of Multitude have some of the non-insertion genes. So . . . maybe I was completely wrong.”
“We are all the children of Allah, or God, or however we all variously call the Creator. Even the one who vehemently deny his existence. Good Luck.”
Izzo napped, showered, and headed back down, to look confident, talk to Newsies. To thank all his staff, both volunteer and paid. Uncle Zipo was looking happy about the money that had rolled in the last few days.
Midnight, and the last polls closed on the far side of the world. The actual numbers started rolling in . . . half an hour later Ugpw conceded.
Tomorrow it starts all over again, with a slightly different focus.
The Black Horse guards reorganized for the general election. And the analysts as well.
“Agfu, for the War party. Ovil for the Isolationists, Ycrw for the One First Party.” Rael was reading off her list. “Izzo for the Modern FederalistsDiego Jesus Blanco Ramos for the Multitude Supreme, Ketzel of Falconhurst for the Nativists, Beautiful Flower for the Pacifcists. The two independents are still running. So, nine people to guard. Volunteers? No, you cannot all have Izzo.”
That was good for a snicker.
“So . . . Idlo, how are you getting along with the Crow?”
“Poorly. I’m not an admirer, therefore I am the enemy. Same with the Guards. I’d recommend trying a whole new set of people to liaison with his people, and that they avoid too much contact with the man himself. That way they might remain neutral and do a good job of warning his security.”
“Ouch. Right, anyone want Afgu or Ovil? Ammo?”
“I’ll take Afgu, he’s a pretty standard politician. I understand the mindset.”
“You’ve got him. Idlo? Ovil’s all yours. Echo, how are you doing with Izzo?”
“Umm, he’s got so many competent people I feel like I’m getting run over by a fleet of trucks. I mean, no problem, but you might want to put in someone new, who can establish a better rapport than I did . . . Actually, working with an icicle like Ycrw will suit me.”
“Hmm, Dave, I think we’ll throw your mystique at Izzo’s staff. Then there’s Ramos and Ketzel . . .”
Ydro waved. “I’ll take Ramos. I grew up in a Multitude neighborhood.”
Mick volunteered for Ketzel, “I lived on horseback all of my early life. From his interviews, I’ll like him, even if it isn’t reciprocated. Plus he’s got a wife and a princess, a teenaged daughter and two younger boys. I’ll ask Major Eppa to send guys who like horses.”
Save rolled her eyes. “I’ll stick with Miss Fluffy Beautiful Flower. The woman’s insane, and driving her new princess crazy. It’s entertaining.”
“Good. Ydro, you get Atty, and Opnu, Wglo’s all yours. From what I’ve seen they’re single issue candidates, just working to raise awareness of, for Atty, the environmental mess in Siberia, and Wglo, the demands of the pre-nuclear war Amerind tribes in North America. So they’ll both continue with minimal Guards. But if they do actually scare up some interest, or trouble, let me know.”