A long silence.
“Hello? Ice are you there?”
“Yes. I’m here.”
“Do you have any idea how many of these guys are out there? They aren’t the Drei Mächte Bündnis, they’ll be locals that the Cyborgs are using as puppets to spy out a potential target.”
Ice looked at Ajki. “I got the same creepy feeling from him as I did . . . some other people.”
Ajki reached out and covered the mic on the phone. “Who, exactly.”
“Afgu and Uqqy. A bunch of people in his ingroup.”
“Right.” He took his hand off the mic. “Thank you Captain Wolfson. We’ll be in touch if the problem escalates.”
Ajki stared into space, then turned to the cops. “The problem is the patient. You will assist the Medic, and keep him under strict guard. Expect violence, expect magical attack.” He turned back to the Medic. “You will put your patient to bed. Dose him with methalformalin. Because he is very dangerous.”
“You three . . . Ice. Get out of here, be prepared to disappear if necessary. Keiq . . . be careful but I don’t think you’re associated too closely with Ice. None-the-less . . . why don’t you go home anyway. Dog . . . get back to your cubical. Querry had . . . low blood sugar and will be staying in the clinic overnight, possibly taken to a hospital if he doesn’t stabilize. Try to stay out of trouble and keep your ears open. Run if you need to, but I’d like you here . . . so I have a pair of eyes up here . . . You have my number. Text only. Get. Right now.”
Ice and Keiq grabbed an elevator heading down. Dog and Ajki headed up.
What the hell is the Boss going to do?
He met Keiq’s gaze, but said nothing, in front of other people.
Strode out for the Metro, caught a train.
So. Controlled puppets implies someone controlling them. How many puppets can a single Cyborg control? And did knocking Querry out cut the puppeteer off? Or did he hear all of that? Or realize that Querry’s burned?
And all those creepers . . . if there are fifty puppets in town, are there fifty cyborgs hiding here as well?
What were they planning? Are. There’s every indication that they’re moving into what? A peaceful takeover? Or a violent one?
Ice considered what he’d seen himself. The Minister of War, cozy with the President-elect.
Between the two of them, they could stop a response to an invasion, at least long enough for the Cyborgs to establish a beachhead.
What did mother say? Six gates, in an arc, closing in on the government buildings. And a strike force aimed at the President. They wouldn’t need that here.
In fact, their goal may well be Gate City. The tech behind both our powered gates, and the permanent gates.
He swung off the train and took the stairs two at a time.
If they are going to invade, what sort of time table do they have? Are they ready now, or are they expecting a peaceful transfer of power, and a quiet removal of dangerous people before they try anything?
If we break them now, can we prevent an invasion?
And . . . how the hell do we do stop a president protected by the Black Horse Guards?
Ajki felt cold, and it had nothing to do with the outside temperatures.
It’s been a good hundred and fifty-five years.
And maybe it’s all Ice’s nerves.
Please let it all be Ice’s nerves.
His driver swung around to a back entrance and let him out. The door guard let him through. Stern faced.
Better than grinning. I’d hate to think they were glad to see the last of me.
The whole ceremony had started, carefully choreographed so the Oath of Office was spoken at Noon. A priest was in the middle of a prayer, frowning and casting glances toward two men arguing . . . Ax and . . . Judge Ykmi?
The man who will official certify the election results? And Ax is arguing with him?
Ajki didn’t have to close his eyes to see the sound suppression field over the pair, and a Black Horse Guard stepping up . . .
I don’t recognize the guard. Surely a brand new man isn’t assigned to close protection here today.
A flash of a spell, and the guard was half supporting Ax away through the crowd.
Hell, that’s what’s going to happen to me. If I’m not clever.
The smug Afgu was above and behind the Priest, flanked by Izzo and Ox . . . no sign of Pug, the XR Director . . . who had been reaffirmed to his job . . . protecting the gates . . .
Ajki stepped aside and pulled out his com.
His nephew answered immediately. “Why aren’t you up there?”
Well, no doubt the whole XR had the inauguration on all available screens
“Ahja, we discovered a possible Cyborg infiltration this morning. One of my Analysts, with a chip in his brain to control him and use him, damn them. He was one of Afgu’s . . . group . . . dammit, Ajha . . . watch Pug.
“Remember that the Cyborgs have powered gates. Be on guard. I’ve got to go.”
He walked briskly up beside the dignitaries arrayed on the raised platform. And stepped up to stand at the end of the second tier.
Everyone was trying to look solemn, and not look to see what the fuss with the Ax was about, so Ajki’s late arrival was barely noticed. The man next to him, the Minister of Transportation shot him a frown.
Barely aspirated. “What’s the Ax going on about?”
“One! I hope there’s nothing irregular about the vote.” His voice a little louder, probably only a few could hear him. “You’d think he’d have sense enough to shut up, with a War Party win.”
A twitch from the man in front of him.
Then everyone was murmuring “Praise the One True God” and Afgu was stepping up to place his left hand on the stack of religious tracts.
Ajki looked away. I should have brought a gun.