Dog nodded. “We got snob training. Worked on fencing and Speed. A few push and pull spells. Glowing. Yes, really, how to project your glow. And shields, but even so, this controlled power collection and feed is . . . really nice.”
Rael grinned. “Well, I do have to make this worth Ajki’s loan of a couple of fellows. Mind you, finding the purps is probably his main motive. But some training for the pair of you definitely caught his interes. And no telling how many secondary reasons that man had to send you two here.”
Ice looked innocent. “Are you calling the Director twisty and sly?”
“Good. He really hates being underestimated.”
Rael giggled. “I find it useful, personally. So, how are you two at Martial Arts?”
Ice shrugged. “Black belt, but nothing special.”
Dog nodded. “I trained more in fencing. Brawling is so déclassé. But yeah, black belt.”
“Stick around and I’ll show you a few things.” Rael spotted the boys’ wishful expressions. “No. You three need to get better at the Martial Arts part before you even think about adding magic.”
In the morning she checked, and reserved a small dojo room.
The Very Basic students were solid on the mental shields, so she started them on telepathy, and sent them off.
Sent Dog and Ice a toothy grin. “C’mon over to the dojo.” Where she found a small audience.
Ikku gave her a wry smile. “All the Combat faculty who don’t have a nine o’clock class. Including myself.”
“Oh, well.” Rael grinned at her assistants. “I was just going to show these two Internal Relations Goons . . . oops, Analysts, how to mix magic and martial arts. However since I have no idea of what they can do in the first place . . . well, I’ll just start by checking out their Speed.”
Ice and Dog swapped glances. Dog shrugged. “I do, Ice doesn’t like getting mad.”
“Oh? Well, let’s just spar a bit. Keep your temper, and just try to go fast, relax and let your reflexes act.” She crooked her finger. “C’mon Ice. Three minutes.”
He stepped out, looking apprehensive. Bowed, she bowed, Ikku tapped the bell to start the timer. He was big and strong and slow. She stayed just a bit faster, and he relaxed and got quicker, started flowing a bit. Reflexes a bit out of practice, but she sped up a bit and he followed, not even noticing. The bell dinged. They bowed.
“You need to do that regularly. Relax and just be as quick as you can.” She looked over at Ikku.
Ikku nodded. “Once you were relaxed, you showed your Speed. A very strong level two.”
Ice blinked, uncertain. “But . . . I didn’t get angry.”
Rael grinned. “Cold speed. How about it Dog? Keep your temper under control and come on out here.”
Dog was naturally fast, and eased into cold Speed in for a minute . . . then he lost his temper, and jumped up to probably a four.
Rael danced around, dumped him when he started getting careless about pulling his punches. And again . . . The bell dinged and Rael backed away keeping her eyes on him, but he stepped back and started working on his temper immediately.
“Hmm, trained to go hot. Too bad. If you want cold Speed it’ll take a lot of retraining. Or have you learned to cool down after you’ve triggered the Speed?”
“Well, if you’re around long enough, I’ll help both of you get there.”
“Now, however, both of you come out here. Let’s start with push and pull . . .”
After they figured out the right amount of which, she sparred with them, just a bit.
She looked at all the hopeful gazes around the room, sighed and nodded.
They were all damned good, and she led them all into at least a bit of cold Speed, then a few pushes and pulls.
And left them knowing she could have thrashed them, had she not been training them.
They bowed to her. She bowed back and took herself home to recuperate before Advanced Theory.
A three day week end, Monday being New Years Day. Halfway through the winter. I hate thirteenth month.
“But I need the time, to figure something out.” Rael looked at her notes. “No wonder Ox calls me a horrible investigator.”
“Does he?” Xen closed the door behind himself.
She grinned and abandoned the desk for a long kiss. “Yes, he does. Usually followed by suggestions that I go away and stop it. So how has Wolf World done without Wolfson there?”
“Pretty well. It’s knee deep in snow, and I worked over the fireplaces and chimneys a bit. They were rather smoky.” He shrugged. “Then Q dragged me out to work over the gate chain. We can link a cone to a cylinder to another cone and bypass up to six gates. We’ve got a selection of different lengths we’re going to leave up in parallel with the current chain to make sure they stay stable. I’ll go back in a couple of months, and see if I can turn twelve hundred gates into two hundred or so.”
“That’ll be a great improvement.” Rael remembered her first trip though gate after gate . . . everyone but the driver had been up chucking by the time they were halfway there. “A huge improvement.”
He eyed her list. “Nine suspects, and no idea which two of them are purps?”
“Umm. I hope I’ve narrowed it down enough. How many of them did you meet at the party?” Rael leaned back and watched his face, the amused crinkle at the corner of his eye.
“All of them. Most of them had their hands full of wine glass and munchies. Don’t think I shook hands with any of them. Snobby as Karista Lords.”
“Are Karista Lords a specific rank?”
“No. It a group term for the ones who flock to Karista to play politics.”
“I see. What’s the derivation of ‘Karista’ anyway?”
“She was the mother of Edward Negue, the founder of the Company to the Settle the West. Our first king.”
“Oh. Huh, I wonder why I never heard that?”
“Probably because of how little time you’ve spent on Comet Fall?” He grinned. “I ought to haul you two out there this summer. Rufi’s been dropping strong hints about wanting to meet all these relatives of his. I told him that I doubted Ryol and Arno could come, but I’d see if there wasn’t a hole in their time schedule somewhere I could grab.”
“Not very soon. They’ll be interning all summer. So all your kings and spears are descended from Karista Negue?”
“No. King Edward was a confirmed bachelor, sixty or so, when they headed west. His half-brother Jek—different mother, same father—also an old bachelor, married when he was seventy and had one son, who adopted a courtesy big brother to be his general. His sons continued the double leadership that was in the Charter, backing each other up. And it’s still going on.”
“You guys are strange.”
“Umm . . . a bit. But it works for us.”
A few hours of fun with Xen and Exzy, a lot of cleanup after dinner devolved into something resembling a food fight, with flying peas.
Then it was bath and bedtime for a tired baby . . . she fell asleep as soon as she hit the sheets, herself.
Fireworks Sunday night, to usher in the new year. Sleeping in on Monday, waking up all warm and cozy, snuggled up against Xen. I could get used to this.
28 Furkan 1316 yp
“That woman is scary.” Ice set his cup on the conference table, and sat himself. “Whether she’s sparring or teaching magic, it’s quite obvious that she’s operating a level above us.”
“Or two.” Dog thumped into the seat next to him, and looked up the table to Ajki. “Maybe three. It would have bruised my little ego, except I watched her spar with half the Combat Faculty, black belt with multiple rank banks, and handle them easily.”
“And the magic lessons.” Ice hunched his shoulders. “The woman is fearless and just, just . . . tells the kids how to do something and off they go, no limits, no warnings.”
“And they all still have all their fingers and toes.” Dog added. “Miraculously.”
Ajki nodded. “Makes me realize that the Warriors actually were a step above High Oners. So, the Purps?”
“Of the men at the party, nine of them did field work on Granite Peak, and could have been kidnapped, questioned, and replaced by a Purple Agent. All prior to the Granite Peak attack, and thus prior to the widespread adoption of the modern IDs.”
Ajki paused at that. “I see. The older IDs could have been forged, and then replaced with completely genuine IDs. If the infiltration was that long ago—Ynke was guessing their ages as over eighty, based on telomere erosion—but if they aren’t long lived, they could be too young to have infiltrated pre-Granite Peak disaster. Keep that in mind.”
A man down the table nodded. “And we know the Fallen can manufacture ID blanks. I wouldn’t rule out the Earth not being able to, again probably using Purps.”
Ice shook his head, “More likely they’d just break the lock on the permanent information. Edit the kidnapped persons’ information to fit the Agents’ information.”
A mix of nods and dubious looks around the table.
“So? The nine?”
“University Chancellor Ejti, and School of Magic Chancellor Adse. The rest are in the Directorate School. Social Sciences Head Eshy, History Professor Ivy, Lecturer Ixsy Geology Professor Agxu, Botany Professor Wcke, Zoology Prof. Ipfi. Combat Head Ijly.” Ice sat back and suppressed a grin at all the shocked looks.
Dog snorted. “That’s everyone who was both at the party and is known to have been across on Granite Peak prior to the attack. We have no other reason to suspect any of them.”
Ajki nodded. “Well, enjoy your weekend in Paris, I think I’ll send you back when classes start up again.”
Ice nodded. “Just one lesson from her and I learned a whole lot about holding and powering shields. Quite apart from find these Purp infiltrators.”
They headed down stairs, to check mail and memos and status reports . . .
Ice stared at a report on ways they could try to monitor the Earth Embassy. He swallowed, sweating. This shouldn’t be so widely disseminated! What if it leaked . . . He junked it. No one’s going to get info from my on-Grid inbox. Dumped his junk file. Or my garbage.