January 2nd, 2020

_War Party_ part 19

“Half my damned job is playing in traffic, trying to find out what politicians are up to.” He grinned suddenly. “We should use your office. Since mine is compromised.”

A snort. “Poor rat, starved for natural light.”

But she turned her computer over to him, sitting where she could see the screen. “She took it from your office on the fifth of Jumada, at eighteen fifty-one.”

“Almost seven in the evening, the office would be nearly empty. She usually does work late. Very dedicated, I thought.” Ice brought up a selection of traffic cams and found one with a reasonable view of the sidewalk in front to the IR building, another of the first intersection to the south.

“She usually walks around the corner and down to the metro.” He boosted the speed of the replays, slowed it abruptly. “And there she is, with a purse for a computer. The purse I recognize; she’s carrying it like it’s heavier than usual.”

“She’s not turning.”

Ice brought up the next block, the next intersection . . . They tracked her four blocks before she turned, two more before she turned down an alley.

Ice cursed. Found shots of the street to the south, but nothing that looked up the alley.

“And she’s back. That was quick.”

Zeeq walked out of the alley . . . carrying her purse like it was lighter. And walked to the nearest Metro station.

Ice pulled up an annotated city map and located the block. “The way she angled in, I think she was headed for something on the east side. Nothing leaps out, wait a minute . . . I know that block. Surely she didn’t . . . ” Ice double checked prior businesses.

They contemplated it in silence.

“So . . . she took my comp to be bugged . . . to the Afgu for War Party HQ?”

Keek snorted. “Through the back door. Have I mentioned how much I really hate politics?”

“Really. I swear if I knew anything about farming I’d quit and head for a colony.” Ice jumped three days and watched Zeeq return to the alley in the early morning, and leave, her purse pressing down on her shoulder.

“Well. I guess everyone just hates me. And so long as they don’t try to kill each other . . .” Ice looked over at Keek. “Let’s talk to Ajki. He may prefer to wait until after the election.”

“Wait.”

Ice watched the man who run Internal Relations for thirteen years and External Relation for four years before that. Whose whole adult life had been in the Ministries and the Directorates.

“Damn it.” Ajki leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, I’d love to dig into this, but cold hard reality—and the polls—says that in six days we could have a new president. We . . . The Directorate needs to know that it has the support of the President. And if it’s Agfu, we won’t get it if we’re unearthing his spies and looking like we were digging up dirt on him.”

Ice bit his lip.

I saved the man’s life, but what does that matter to a politician?

Ajki nodded at him. “In fact Ice and I will be lucky to have jobs. Keek, you keep your head down and hope the bloodbath passes over you.”

“Hopefully metaphorical, Boss.” Keek looked worried.

“Damn this all. Ice . . . watch your back. Keep your eyes open for active attacks . . . and, we’ll see what we’ve got in a week.”

Ice eye Keiq as they took the elevator. “Guess I’ll have to try really hard to act like I don’t like you. You, of course, don’t have to act.”

She glared. He grinned and got off on his floor.

Querry looked around with a sneer. “Kiss her again?”

“Oh hell no! I got told to keep anyone from killing anyone and Internal Security can introduce me to the thumbscrews next week. Next thing you know, I’ll be headed for Makkah.” Ice scowled and stalked off to his office.

Scowled for real at his comp. Pulled up the candidates last frantic tour schedules. Stared blankly at the screen.

Makkah. All my secrets bared. Twenty years of never doing anything I’d have to account for, to the authorities here. Twenty years of feeling the touch of the One, of belonging. Of losing the contempt and anger I felt toward the Empire for what they did to my mother. For leaving her as conflicted and uncertain as I was.

Because . . . this is my home now. Not perfect, but neither was Earth. If all the laws of Earth had treated me as one of them . . . but they didn’t.

Here? Individuals, hell, whole social classes treat me like a lower form of life, but in law, I’m equal.

Everyone is equal under the law. And someone like Rumacova can run for President.

This is my weird, infuriating home now.

Maybe I’ll just go to Makkah and say, here I am.

Worst they can do is kill me.

He looked back at the screen. Rumacova was in China.

If she can get enough votes from the multitude there, without pissing off India, and vice versa, she could actually win. So I won’t commit suicide-by-Makkah until after the election. Because that would be so awesome. And she’ll need help.




Chapter Seventeen

25 Shawwal 1420yp

The Presidential Election

Ice looked at his closet with disfavor.

The Election Countdown Party. Twenty-four hours of voting. Midnight to midnight at the International Dateline. Noon yesterday to Noon today. All the Candidates will try to be back to Government House for the count.

And five minutes after noon, we’ll know who we’ve got for at least the next five years.

I would so much rather stay home and get drunk! But I think I should stick close to Rumacova.

So, break out the tux. One help me!

The Black Horse had it all choreographed, Limos zipping everywhere. They picked up Ice then zipped across town to Rumacova’s HQ, then her other headquarters, and then the whole five car fleet pulling up to the steps of Government House. Rumacova and her entourage. Slightly inflated by Dog, Ice, and Vaul on IR passes.

And still pretty minimal, from what I know of the War Party Campaign and heard from the others. And of course all the Ministers Councilors are at one watch party or another, a lot of them War Party, and a lot of them here.

At least my nerves are only a little jangly.

I hope that means there will be a minimum of unpleasantness.

***

Ajki circulated, smiling and chatting.

Observing.

There are two factions, and they aren’t splitting along party lines, which is very odd.

Agfu has a couple dozen War Party people around him, but easily three quarters of the party faithful who approach him are rebuffed. Well, talked to briefly and gently edged out of the select group.

Ink and Ydza, the defeated rivals get the cold shoulder. Ydza’s off in a far corner with his own group, all looking frustrated. They’ve been denied a grip on the coat-tails.

Uqqy, on the other hand, a losing One First Party Candidate and high in their party apparatus, had a long cordial chat with him. And Ehfa, his One Party rival, got a cordial handshake, as a whole lot of people frowned.

Or just looked confused.

No kidding.

And his select group? Minister of War Ytgy. Minister of Agriculture Ohgy. Minister of Education Enhi.

The Ministries are supposed to be under the control of the Council. It looks like at least part of the check on the power of the President is . . . in danger.

Crap. I’m one of the top War Partiers around, and I’ve been praying for Izzo to be re-elected for weeks. Months.

And there’s the Ax, getting a bare handshake and nod. Retreating looking a bit pissed. I think I’ll circle around and have a little chat with him. And the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who’s also getting a chilly reception.

Swear to One, there’s going to be a major party shift, win or lose.

One! Please lose!

He looked at the clock. Six minutes until the polls closed. He turned and retreated behind some clumps of people and looked around for Ax. Strolled casually over.

“Interesting . . . associations out there.”

The Ax snorted. “I don’t like the reorganization I see happening in the War Party. The only upside is that if he loses, that whole faction of his is going down. He actually stiffed the Prime Councilor.”

Ajki blinked. “I missed that. Well . . . would you stop speaking to me if I admitted I voted for Izzo?”

“Shit, I voted for Rumacova.”

Ajki choked back a laugh. “You ever Audit an Election?”

“I audit every election.”

Ajki sobered abruptly. “I didn’t know that . . . and I hope that lot doesn’t either. Otherwise . . . you’d better watch your back.”

“I always do that, too.” The Ax stepped out to look at the clock. “One minute and we’ll know what’s up.”