January 12th, 2020

_War Party_ part 29

Ajki shook his head, checked his watch. “I have to go. Dave, get Ice some helpers and haul him everywhere, and find as many of these Cyborg Puppeteers as possible.”

As they shifted toward the door, Ux shook his head. “Born and raised on Earth! Damn. Nobody bet on that.”

***

They had to recruit a hundred cops raid the Rialto Suites. Twenty-nine people who gave him the creeps. They took ten of them alive, and two cops were injured.

“They aren’t fighters. They really are just puppeteers, relying on their slaves to do the dirty work.” Scar hunched his shoulders and hauled the dead to the DNA lab in the HQ building, and the live, off to a small prison, emptied for their use.

“Scar . . . how come the military isn’t all over this?”

“Because the Minister of War told them the invasion was a lie, to enable Izzo’s coup, and to stand down.”

“Oh . . .” Ice suddenly wondered if a couple hundred Action Team traitors were all they had, across on the Bunnies’ world.

“Yeah. . . and we haven’t found him yet.” Scar shrugged. “And thanks to Ajki and you, it was over so fast we got it straightened out before the Military not showing up didn’t matter. That is going to be an interesting complication.”

Ice nodded. “Downsize them because they aren’t needed, or beef them up because we just got invaded? If the Bunnies had established a good solid foot-hold here, we would have needed them.”

He followed Scar back into the armored troop carrier they were using. The Black Horse is a military unit, after all. I just hadn’t realized how much military equipment they had on hand.

Government House was clean. A dozen people had suddenly left, an hour before.

In the Internal Relations Tower, Querry was still sedated, and Zeeq, who barely made him nervous, looked baffled, and went with them unresisting, until she palmed a ceramic knife and tried to stab Ice. Then it took three guards to hold her down and get the cuffs on her, while she cussed in four or five languages.

No control chip.

“So we’ve had a Drei Mächte Bündnis Mentalist here for . . . twelve years? One! And I thought she was such an efficient secretary, a real gem.” Ice shook his head. “We’re going to be rooting out Puppets and Bunnies for years.”

Driving a grid of streets . . . raiding a house in the Red Zone and finding a lot of radio-type equipment. And six more Bunnies.

“So is this how they reinforce their control?” Ice kept his hands to himself and took a lot of pictures. “Some sort of physical . . . monitoring? Punishing?”

Then through a corridor to Gate City where Director Ugpw was under arrest, and only one Bunny was found.

Back to Paris, where it was approaching midnight. A brief stop at his apartment to pack half his wardrobe, and then drive across town to Versalle, where they assigned him a room and let him collapse.

He pulled out his phone . . . tapped for text only and then Keiq’s code.

Still alive. ((Hugs))

No reply. Hope she’s asleep.

The alarm rang at an obscene hour. Ice had been here often enough to know it was the call out for the morning run. He groaned and decided he’d better hold up the IR reputation, or at least not confirm it. Shirt, shorts, running shoes.

The brisk air got him moving, and he almost kept pace with the guards.

He cooled down and walked back inside. Caught a glance from Scar and walked over.

“Back to the streets today.” He held out a bundle of cloth. “We’re going to allow you the incredible privilege of wearing a uniform, so you don’t ruin another suit. Shower, dress, and breakfast, we’re heading out in an hour.”

At least he’d gotten a message back from Keiq.

Yeah, I’m alive too. X-rayed and trying to find anything diagnostic, any indication of where the information they’ve been grabbing has gone, anything that might indicate where they were coming and going from, so we can destroy that beacon . . . Arg! Might get home in a week.

No return hug, but . . .

///Write a scene where they track the Min. of War w/Mentalists to the gate location, that never opens///

/// And where’s the Ax? He knows there was vote counting shenanegans in China. Izzo and him in face-to-face about negative repercussions of anything resembling _Izzo_ cheating? ///

This time they scouted out the area of the four gates, and found two Cyborgs hiding, who quickly surrendered, and even told them how to remove the laser on their cyber arms.

“Beats me what we’ll do with them.” Scar frowned at the subdued pair.

“Maybe we can hand them over to Rael’s Free Cyborg Rebellion.” Ice grinned at the Guards’ expression, but it was the sudden lift of the Cyborgs’ heads that he watched.

“A rebellion?” The one on the right sounded wishful, shook his head. “They’ll all be killed.”

Ice eyed the pair. “We have some medicine that will dissolve the wires in your head. Not sure what we can do beyond that, but we’ll see.”

And suddenly the one on the right lost all expression. Ice’s nerves jolted him into action . . . Think! Which direction . . . there!

He popped them both with a stun spell. “I think a Mentalist was trying to take them over. Coming from that direction.”

They slung the Cyborgs in to the ATC and caught the Mentalist, this one also cyborged, as he tried to steal a car.

He searched for three more days, as work crews cleared roads, buildings were inspected and his apartment was not condemned, thank the One, because stuck in the barracks with a bedroom and bathroom to call his own was just not going to work, full time.

The city was returning to normal, people sliding back into their routines . . . sort of. There was still a background alertness, awareness.

And horrible commutes, with the west-side Metro still being inspected and repaired. Only one tunnel collapse.

He finally managed a lunch with Keiq.

Keiq complained about parking availability. “I’m still driving. Carpooling with three other people crammed into my little car. Poor fellows. At least I’ve gotten a tag for the IR parking garage. A bunch of us gang up and cram into a dead end, and then we all leave together, or move out of the way and repark if we have to stay late.”

Ice nodded. “They were damn good at hiding. Rael says my mixed up genetics made me more sensitive to mental glow at unusual . . . frequencies. So I could sort of feel them, but my mental shields were also high enough that they couldn’t get around them.”

“So that’s why they were trying to kill you?”

“Yeah. It’s not very reliable. Zeeq? I mean, other than not finding her sexually attractive, I never felt much of anything around her. I guess she had good shields.”

“And Enqy?”

“I think those control chips really did keep them from . . . breaking free. I think I felt them most strongly when the Bunnies were in direct control. Or something. It seems a very wobbly and unreliable way to detect them.”

She eyed him, but didn’t actually glower. “So . . . are you one of these New Warriors? And you legally could carry and dispense the Comet Fall Wine of the Gods?”

“Yes, Warrior . . . No, I did not have explicit permission to carry the Joy Juice.” Ice shrugged. “Ajki just shrugged and said good thing I did have it, because the hospitals just could not cope.”

That got the glower. “Last year Ajki told me I was investigating his top analyst, and that I’d have to really work to prove you untrustworthy. I had no idea you knew all these famous . . . You were trained by Rael! And you know Ra’d and Ebsa, and Paer . . . I ought to have dug into your past, not your computer.”

Ice grinned. “So you instantly decided I was bad?”

She thunked her forehead with the heel of her hand. “I . . . had to get mad to keep myself from drooling. And you were smart, and snarky. Thank the One you used the accent I hate above all others. And now that I realize it was fake, I . . . umm . . . I . . . have to get back to the office.”

And she was up and gone.

Ice grinned and headed for his tailor to pick up two new suits. Appallingly expensive; Dog had always called them Ice’s number one costume. Which was absolutely true.

The return of normal.

For as long as it lasts. The Joy Juice does dissolve the wires, so the docs kept dosing the puppets, and it looks like even the chips might dissolve. If not totally, at least enough to ruin them.

Which means it’s going to get interesting real soon.