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matapam
02 October 2019 @ 09:25 am

She grabbed some extra time in the fast room to write the tests. Both two-parters. The first half multiple choice that the computer could grade. Two essay questions, that hopefully wouldn’t get as far out of control as the first test had.

And then during test week, plenty of time to dig through all the Granite Peak articles and construct a time line. While holding official office hours, in case students needed her sage advice.

Dr. Ejti had gone across in late Emre of 1337 with two grad students . . . Adse and Eshy. And stayed there the rest of the year, all of 1338 and most of 1339, returning Shawwal. Two brief breaks, to pick up supplies, literally a single day to comm family and friends before they returned to Granite Peak.

“Yikes! That’s dedication! No wonder Adse decided to go for Magic after that.”

And Ejti had led a second groups from 1340 to 1341. Three grad students, this time, no one now associated with the Directorate School, or University. “I’ll find out what they’ve been doing where, since then.”

In 1342, the Geologist fellow, Agxu, had spent eight months on Granite Peak, collecting rock samples and mapping.

1343. Ejti again. Three grad students, but only Ixsy was a sociologist. Wcke had been and still was a botanist and Ipfi a zoologist. They’d stayed until late ’45.

Rael searched her memory . . . Ixsy is that old sociology professor, right? I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a thing. And the other two . . . I’ll check them out, too. Even though it’s hard to see how they could influence magical education.

1348. Erdu, collecting languages. By himself. Stayed through the summer of ’50.

Late 1349, Eshy had gone back. Spent the winter with the Nomads, and met Erdu the next summer at some big Nomad shindig. Stayed two years.

1350. Ijly, the head of the Combat Department was also there, studying the horsebow contests bewteen the tribes, or subclans or whatever the relationship between the groups at the shindig. Or whatever they called it. Maybe I ought to read some of these papers?

1351. Ejti was back, with two students. Lows, the Sociology section head. And an unnamed person who quit at the first supply run. Well, there weren’t any women purps at the party. And I’ll have to ask Chancellor Ejti who the other guy was. Ejti only stayed a year and a half, that time.

1353. Professor Ivy, as a student, doing field work with the colonists, while studying their emerging culture. Two years before it was destroyed.

“Scenario number One.” Rael frowned at the list. “Young Grad student Eshy is somehow kidnapped and a trained Purp agent substituted. He returns seventeen years later and subs in another agent for . . . well, not Lows, the party purps were both male. So the unnamed other grad student who apparently didn’t write a paper on his experience?”

Her years of guarding against assassins spun out a quick tale of the unknown grad student stumbling across something and being killed to keep him quiet . . . and then Professor Yppo . . .

She cleared her throat and tried to get back on track.

“It was all so bloody long ago. Even the missing guy must be at least eighty. Huh. I need to call Dr. Ynke about Purple longevity. And Adse’s a hundred and six. Eshy’s . . .” A quick referral to his official bio, “a hundred and four. Huh, a bit precocious. Well, a bachelor’s degree at twenty isn’t any big deal.”

“But maybe I should be looking at the younger cohort.” She looked at her list. “Well, slightly younger cohort.”

“And Ejti had several long trips with multiple grad students. If he was the agent . . . he could have subbed in ten more spies.” Rael shook her head. “And now I’m really going overboard. Two. I have two Purple Powers to track down.”

She frowned at her timeline. “And a big messy overlap of Erdu’s only visit, Eshy’s second trip, Ijly’s sole trip, and Ejti’s last expedition. And one lost grad student.”

A tentative rap on the university-side door interrupted her stream of thought.

“Come in.” Ah, two panic stricken students. “What’s up?”

The first boy was glassy eyed. “I can remember anything!”

“When did you last sleep?”

“I have to study! I took some Alert, no problem.”

Rael sighed. “And how much Alert did you take?”

“Oh, I’m being careful, I just have to study . . .”

“When’s you first test?” Oh child! You are so buzzed!

“Tomorrow morning . . .” Panic flashed over his face. “It is still Sunday, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Relax. Wait here.” She stepped into the kitchen, grabbed a glass, and dug into the dimensional bag labeled First Aid. General Detox should do the trick . . .

The boys were peering through the door. Backed away as she walked back through. “This will get all the drugs out of your system. Get a good night’s sleep so your brain can function tomorrow.”

She eyed the second boy.

“I just . . . why is Sleep a mental spell, and Stun physical?”

“Because Sleep involves influencing the electrical activity of the brain. Stun is a fast push-pull that knocks the brain against the skull. Mind you, the aiming involves locating the brain’s electrical activity and targeting it, so you might say it involves both types of magic.”

Rael shrugged. “The divisions are not as clear cut as we make it sound, when teaching. But the action is physical, so call it that.” She reached and grabbed the empty glass from the first boy’s hand as he sagged. She took his elbow and steered him out to the antechamber. “Which dorm is he in?”

“Three. I’ll haul him there.”

Rael reached for the recognition point nearest three, touched the second boy’s shoulder and stepped there. The boys staggered.

“Teleported! You teleported us!” The second boy yelled. “Teach us that! Please?”

“In two weeks. Friday, eight hundred hours, at the practice field. I’ll see what you can do.” She handed the sleepwalker off to his friend and walked back to the office.

I don’t even know their names! So they’re taking Advanced Theory. And as far as I can tell, everyone is taking Comet Fall Theory. Well, hopefully they will sleep and stay awake for their tests.

Ice and Dog were waiting in the office, looking innocent. Her pathetic attempts to figure out what was going on looked undisturbed. Fat chance they didn’t read them. Probably took pictures.

“Got anything to add to that?”

They looked wide-eyed and even more innocent.

Rael shook her head. “Sorry, you’re good, but since you work for Ajki, I know better. So how do you two think I should proceed?”

Ice looked at her cautiously. “What, exactly are you trying to find out?”

“Who screwed up magical education. These kids I’m training are dead easy to teach. The worst of them are improving, and given another year or two to mature, will be reasonably good magicians. The best of them? They’re brilliant.”

“But they’re Xen’s kids.” Dog protested.

“Some of them. Do you realize that Milo is the Prime Councilor’s son?”

They boggled a bit.

“Fun and Kev are all Oner. And Agny who is named after his grandfather. Now, the School attracts a lot of the highest Oners. These kids aren’t representative of the whole population, or even the Oner subpopulation. But they’re already better than most of the Black Horse and Presidential Guards that I’ve worked with and trained. There’s no excuse for the piss poor magicians the School is turning out.” Rael eyed the pair. “I think I know how. But I want to know the reason. I want to know why they’re doing this.”

“Oh.” Dog sat back. “We figured you were looking into the murder of Dr. Yppo.”

Rael eyed him. “Do you know something I don’t?”

“Well . . . why else would the Rael Withione . . .” Ice’s voice trailed off as he looked back at her papers. “Other than . . . that.”

Rael’s turn to boggle. “Really? While I’m not advertising, I haven’t kept Exzy a secret.” She pulled the handles out of her pocket, unfolded them and split them.

The IR goons leaned to look. Exzy blinked and frowned at the two strange men. Looked around and reached for her. “Dad?”

“Not home yet. These are two IR goons who are helping me.”

Exzy studied them, perplexed. “Goos?”

“Agents.” Ice said, firmly. Looked from the baby to Rael, perplexed. “You had a baby a year ago?”

“No. The Dimensionally able can change the time shift of bubbled from ten thousand to one, all the way the other way, up to one to twenty. Double bubble a room, and nine months go by in less than a day. I broke it up into multiple two or three day stays inside every day for ten days. Much less boring that way.”

“I . . . guess . . .” Ice watched as she heft the baby. “So you took a teaching job here . . .”

“Because there’s only one hour time difference with Embassy, and I’m not handling any sensitive material that Xen ought not have access to.”

Dog snickered. “You expect us to believe . . .” he broke off and eyed the baby.

Ice grinned. “I don’t think she had a baby as an excuse . . . but didn’t you already have two?”

“With embryo transplant, there’s no bump in magical abilities. Giving birth was a real eye-opener. I still need to retrain . . . perhaps I’ll work on that this week. In between grading midterms.”

“Uh, cold blooded?”

“No. I had a bad case of baby hunger. The leveling up was an excuse . . . and more than I’d expected.” I really do need to work on . . . everything.

Then she grinned. “When I accepted the job, I thought it would involve a lot of free time.”

They boggled a bit.

Exzy pointed “Goo!”

“Ah, this goon is Ice, and that one is Dog.” He wiggled and she set him down.

Three shaky steps, then he opted to return to speed crawling. Avoiding the Goons and heading for the rug. He patted the bear’s head. “See? Dead. Mummum kill it dead.”

“Ah . . . yes. It looks like she killed it very dead.” Ice turned his head to look at her. “Did you eat it?”

“Yep.”

Exzy’s eyes widened. “The ho thing?”

“No. I shared it with your dad and a bunch of friends.” She grinned. “And we got really tired of bear meat too. I would have killed for some vegetables or bread.”

Dog grinned. “City girl. Hey Ice, do you know your edible wild stuff?”

Rael raised her eyebrows. “You’re awfully magically strong for someone from the tribal areas.”

Ice shrugged. “I’m probably third generation Oner-cross bastard from a disgraceful family that consorted with those people. There were a batch of us that got kicked out as our power came in. ‘Go to the city and live with the Oners, since you are one!’ so I did.”

“Huh. Well, guys thank you for the help, and I really hope Ajki will send you back after midterms.”

Rael eyed the door, then got up and found the sampling kit and rubbed swabs all over their chair’s arms. Labeled the bags “I” and “D.” Those young men are so off in a few details . . . Ajki will probably be pissed . . . All right. I won’t analyze their genetics. Unless I need to.

I wonder how long before I give up and do that at a department meeting and to hell with the legalities? If I were an active agent, I’d do it anyway, and then, knowing my target, use that information to find evidence enough for a search warrant, then do it legally.

***