January 6th, 2020

_War Party_ part 23

North and east to Government House, nerves settling down. Stirring a bit as he walked past the edifice.

Ux trotted down the front steps. “Scar says you’ve taken up hoodoo.”

“Yeah.” Ice looked up at the building. “At a guess, I’d say there’s three or four flunkies getting the New President’s office and apartment ready.”

“More than that, actually, so only three or four are setting you off? Interesting.”

“And the Rialto Suites on Nicholas Drive is so stuffed with them I couldn’t stand to walk in front of it.” Ice shrugged. “Hoodoo, eh? I really pity you guys who are going to be working for them. And I really ought to not infect anyone with my nerves.”

“Yeah. Just thinking about it and observing the new crew is bad enough.” Ux grinned, but his eyes stayed serious. “Everything will shake out over the next few weeks, and then we’ll know what we’ve got.”

Ice nodded. Shivered. “They won’t wait that long . . .” He put his fingers to his lips. “Shit. This is so damned stupid.”

Ux grinned. “Better send your resume to Pre-Cog.”

“Only if something happens in less than a few weeks.” He hunched his shoulders. “Why me?”

“Yeah, we have bets going on why they want to get rid of you. Of course all most all the bets are on ‘seduced all their daughters,’ but I took a look at a few of their daughters’ pictures and bet on granddaughters.”

Ice laughed. “I wish it was something so obvious and mundane. Do you suppose they are reacting to me like I do to them?”

“No, they hate your guts, but it’s cold and calculatingly. Shit. Ice . . . Watch your back.”

“Will do. And maybe it will all come to nothing.” Ice shrugged. “Right now? All we can do is wait until something happens. Or better yet, doesn’t.”

Ux nodded. “Because the elected president doesn’t need to stage a coup.”

“Good point.”

But I wonder if he was prepared to, if he lost?

One trusts he has solid control over whatever mechanism he would have had lined up, if he had had such an insane plan, which he didn’t.

“This is just stupid nerves. I’m going home. Maybe hit a liquor store on the way for enough to get drunk on tomorrow.”

“Nah, stay sober and alert, in case they try to kill you again.”

“Oh. Good idea. And a good thing all the kids are out of town . . . Oh shit.” Ice touched his lips. “Sober. Alert. One!”

Ux had paled. “I’ll double check that they’re leaving town tonight.”

“Right.” Ice turned and headed west. A longer walk to the metro station that way, but he didn’t have to walk past the Rialto.

***

This year, the twenty-ninth of Shaban fell on a Thursday. Many businesses were closed for the day, but certainly not Internal Relations.

Not that Ice had much to do on his last half day. Scrubbed the computer and returned it to Equipment. Packed up his books, the one picture on the wall, his rock . . . He went through the desk, a couple of pens that were his . . . he left everything else.

A quick visit to HR for separation documentation.

Back to his cubical. A shock of nervous energy through his body.

“I thought they’d escort you off the premises, Tree.

Querry didn’t used to do this to me. Has he changed, or have I become more sensitive? Crazier?

“Oh, after ten years I’ve finally figured out where the door is.” He opened his mental shield to incoming.

:: Kill him! :: an angry mental voice.

:: I can’t! :: Panic, fear.

:: Get the gun! :: Pressure, pain.

Sneer, an awkward lurch, then Querry was walking down the hallway.

Split personality? But the pressure . . . possession?

An old memory surfacing, his mother describing, seeing mentally what she had experienced . . .

Oh. Shit.

Ice pulled a little power, closed his eyes and felt Querry, down the hall, Lulu walking past, then a clear line. A stun spell, narrow and hard.

A thump of a limp body hitting the ground.

A startled voice. “Querry? Are you all right?”

“He’s out cold.”

“Is he breathing? Check his pulse.”

Ice stuck his head out the door. “What happened?”

Not that anyone told him . . . He walked down and peered at the man. “A stroke, maybe? Vaul, call the elevator. Dog, take his feet let’s get him down to the clinic on fourteen, right now.”

Dog opened his mouth, then shut it and reached for Querry’s legs as Ice hefted him up and got Querry’s head on his shoulder and backed all the way to the elevator.

“Ice is this a good idea?” Dog sounded worried.

“It is absolutely necessary to eliminate a horrible possibility.”

Vaul crowded onto the elevator and punched the fourteen button. “Ice . . . you are going to explain this, right? Right?”

Ice snorted. “If I’m wrong there’s probably going to be handcuffs in my future.” The door opened and Dog backed out and down the hallway. Vaul scampered past them and opened the clinic door.

A double take from the sole person in sight then the door to the back opened. “Bring him straight in here. You shouldn’t have moved him!”

Ice glanced at the bed. “No. Head X-ray, right now.”

“Excuse me, but I am the medic . . .”

“Who is going to give this man a head X-ray Right. Now.” Ice spotted the right sign and headed that way.”

“I am not going to . . .”

“Then I will. Probably won’t kill him.”

He managed to not drop Querry as he reached behind him to open the door. Heaved the limp form up onto the scanner bed and turned to look at the controls.

“Get away from those controls!” the medic threw herself between Ice and the controls.

The sound of running footsteps. Ice threw a shield across the door.

And looked down on the terrified medic. “This man is going to get a head X-ray. If you want to minimize the danger to him, you should do it.”

She whimpered, and turned to the controls. Moved them very slowly.

A thump as a cop ran face first into the shield. He staggered back, and all his friends had to try the shield.

“Miss, if they break in here, it’ll be a tossup how badly your equipment is damaged. Ricocheting lasers and bullets, might even kill poor Querry here. So really, the quicker this is over, the safer for everyone.”

She whimper and the suspended thing moved faster.

Ice stepped back to Querry, got his head propped, told the Medic to move the whatsit further. “We need to see his brain.”

“Yeah, like that. Now zap him.”

A quick buzz.

“I hope it sterilizes you!” The medic hissed.

But Ice was looking at the screen. At the little square, thin enough that some electronic details showed.

“Oh. That is not good.” He pulled out his comm and tapped in a number.

“Rael? Is Wolfson anywhere around? I’m going to send you a picture . . .” He aimed the comm’s camera at the screen, and sent the picture.

A commotion at the door. Ajki in a very formal suit, Keiq just behind him.

Ajki was ordering the cops back and Ice released the shield.

“Ice?” A warning growl. “If you make me late for the inauguration . . .”

Ice pointed at the screen. “That’s in Querry’s head . . .”

“Ice?” A deep voice from the comm. “That’s a cyborg control chip.”