Xen tucked Exzy into bed, and started rattling around the kitchen.
Rael stepped into the fast room and pulled out her notes.
Eshy grew a beard in the field. Cover for plastic surgery marks to heal? Or did they find someone close enough to the original Eshy that they just needed a distraction for a year or so until age would explain away everything?
Then there’s Adse and Ejti.
Could I have missed a third man? Except Ejti had long term friends. And Adse looks just like his family.
Rael kicked back and contemplated her theories.
Am I right to be focusing on a Pre Granite Peak substitution? Just because that’s how a Purp could get into the system? Look at Xen. Their forged IDs were all they needed. No one ever went into the archives and checked . . . well, Okay, we knew they were forged. We thought we knew why.
And the Granite Peak disaster . . . would have marooned them. What did they do then? Just hunkered down and staid in character, hoping for contact later?
Which would have been through Embassy. So I need to check on who’s gone to Embassy.
Rael snorted. “All of them, I’ll bet. And who’s going to bother watching what some academician does there? So. How about a second theory? How about a post-Embassy switch? Counterfeit ID. Or not even a switch. Just a straightforward infiltration of a young adult, who goes off to college, gets a job . . .”
She shook her head. “No, the genetics, again. I mean skin grafts are all well and good, but they had to have magic, so Purps. Powers, whatever . . . Or, of course, part Oners, because Earth was mostly in touch with Granite Peak, and people being people, there was much exchanging of genes.”
She nodded to herself. “Some, like Governor Ryah, were raised to be Oners. But I’ll bet there were quite a few who got raised as Earthers. Steered into Intel type careers . . .”
She pulled out her faculty list . . . This is ridiculous. I can probably find a way that anyone could be a spy. The thing is, I need to figure out who actually is a spy. Through Granite Peak is one way. The other known way was through Tall Trees Colony. We know they gated there three times in the thirteen-eighties. Because we caught their spies. Zero magic, no shields.
Did they ever wise up and send a Purp? She paused, a nasty thought . . . Ice? Surely not . . .
Or the third way. Through Embassy. Mind you, our security is pretty good. But how early did it get good? If they were ready to infiltrate through Tall Trees, could they have quickly changed their plans and gotten through the gate in the early days?
Sixteen years ago. Or less. Again, a young agent with a fake background goes to college . . . which opens up the possibilities hugely . . . Lenny . . .
“Stop it! Dammit.” She thumped her forehead with the heel of her hand.
“Eshy is looking very possible. And Dr. Yppo died in his office . . . which, if he’d killed him, wouldn’t have happened. Or wouldn’t have planned it that way.” Rael thought that over. “I should go collect gossip.”
She walked out to yummy smells; just as well it was too late to hunt anyone down. “And tomorrow I’ll be at a dead run all day. Thursday I will . . . do something.”
Xen walked in from the back yard with steaks on plates. “What dire things are you plotting?”
“Well, I’ll start by collecting all the information I can . . . actually, tomorrow I’ll eat lunch in the faculty dining room and see if I can scare up some juicy gossip.” She shot an apologetic glance Xen’s direction.
He laughed. “Go sleuth. I won’t pine away if you don’t come home for lunch. Who are your suspects.”
“Oh, Ejti and Eshy are neck and neck in first place, Adse a close third, and the rest of the pack back a bit, but still in contention.”
“Everyone at the party who went to Granite Peak prior to the Earth’s attack?”
“Yeah. Umm, Erdu . . .”
“The rude Languages guy?”
“Yeah. Nothing to do with teaching magic, but he’s at least got an office in the right building to have been handy to murder Dr. Yppo.”
“At least failure to render aid. Likewise Lows and Ixsy, with the Sociology section. Professor Ivy in History. No one else has an office in the same building. A Geologist, a couple of BioSci types and the Department Head of Combat.”
“Uh huh. So you have a possible murder of the head of the Magic Section, and possible deliberate interference with a high energy magic practice session.” Xen propped his elbows on the table and his chin on his hands. “I think I’ll tell Lon I’m off again, and come watch your back.”
“I’m much more worried about the kids being targeted.” Rael swallowed steak and grabbed her comm. “And before I forget, I’d better call the nanny who got mentioned.”
She tapped in the number Ryol had sent her . . . “Hi, Jess!”
A laugh from the other end. “Rael. Everyone has been saying that I ought to save your baby from you. How’s Ryol?”
“Recovering. So, some idiots actually fired you? Dare I ask what happened?”
“Oh, mind you I’m their third nanny, and the kids are only three and four. Totally undisciplined and wild. They expected me to wave a magic wand and turn them into sweet obedient children, all the while cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking, and marketing.” An irritated huff over the comm. “I stuck it out for three months, trying to help the children. I finally informed them that a professional nanny was neither a maid nor a cook, and they needed to either hire someone for those jobs or start doing the laundry themselves.”
“You ought to have done it sooner.”
“Yes. Anyway, I regret to say it came down to a screaming fight, and me getting fired on the spot. I barely had time to pack my clothes before I was out on the sidewalk and wondering where to go.” A snort of amusement. “Then your mother pulled up and told me to get in. Apparently the neighbor was a social rival and called her with the delicious gossip about what a horrible nanny her daughter had had. And now a vagrant, homeless . . .”
Rael started laughing. “Sorry, sorry. Oh, One. Well, can I persuade you to move to New York? I mean, just a couple of years to let the gossip die? What do you think?”
A heaved breath. “I think I’d better. All the nanny placement services here have declined to represent me.”
“Excellent! Well, not, but it’s good for me. So where are you, and do you have transportation? My schedule is a disaster, can you . . .” Rael paused at a familiar voice in the background.
“Madam Kyol says she’ll drive me there herself, personally, so she can visit Exzy.”
“Excellent! Come any time, Mom’s got the keys.”