8 Emre 1421yp
The President of the Empire
“I am the legally elected President of the Empire.” Afgu’s angry voice had just a hint of a shake to it.
Ice stayed back against the wall. Just one more flunky . . . Ignore me, please.
“Yes, you are.” Izzo looked his successor over. “Are you, yourself, confident that the Drei Mächte Bündnis cannot control you?”
“Yes. I. Am. And my physician agrees. Without the wires, the chip was impotent, and now has been dissolved by that damned potion of Wolfson’s.” Afgu eyed the Committee.
Ydza growled faintly, then waved a hand and was recognized by Izzo.
“First: In that the invasion has been repulsed and the invader’s ability to open dimensional gates has been destroyed. And second: In that we have received and read the physicians’ reports and spoken to Afgu ourselves, the Ad Hoc Emergency Council’s purpose has been fulfilled.
“I therefore move that the Ad Hoc Emergency Council be disbanded and control returned to President Afgu Withione Iztapalapa Azteca.”
A long silence. Then Ovli nodded. “I second the motion.”
Izzo looked around the table. “All in favor?” And raised his own hand.
Hands slowly rose around the table.
A few more hands.
“Nine in favor, four opposed. The motion is passed, and this committee is disbanded. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your service to the Empire.” Izzo stood, turned and extended his hand to Agfu. “Mr. President, welcome back.”
A new salle halfway across town. A new membership card. Hair darkened, because he really didn’t want to be recognized. The neutral accent he used to cover any remaining shreads of an Earther’s European slant.
A room the size of an airplane hanger . . . which is what it had been before dimensional corridors reduced air travel to a shadow of its former self. There was an office area in one corner, lots of people hanging around.
Ice looked over the signup charts. “What I really need is lessons, to up my game.”
Nods from several others and soon enough he was in a group lesson, then sparring. Then leaning on the wall waiting for an open lane.
Joking with several other guys, and critiquing their fellow fencers.
“Man, that guy’s as bad as the magic duelist.” A young guy with swagger.
A chubby guy snorted. “I wonder if that guy could even fence? Native Halfer, no matter what he looked like.”
Which is half the reason for the dark hair.
“Well, he’s supposed to be a hot shot in IR. An analyst.” An even younger guy shrunk back under a barrage of glares. A tall lanky teenager with a square jaw.
“He’s a Tall Trees Native!” An old man walked over to loom at the teenager.
“It’s the selection effect. Every Halfer woman has to . . .”
“Look kid, a hundred and thirty years, four generations isn’t long enough. I’m older than that Colony. There are no ‘pure Oners’ born over there.”
“Mathematically, and with shorter generation times . . .”
The old guy stalked away, and a few other wall props followed.
The boy scowled, and with the square jaw suddenly reminded Ice of Keiq.
She never mentions family. Hell, a Security Goon. She may have also never mentioned a husband, and children. She never makes any romantic comments. I don’t even know how old she is. I need to . . . just casually pop down there, once or twice a week.
A lunch a month isn’t getting me anywhere. Maybe I should call and see if she’s free for dinner.
Ice spotted a lane opening the other direction, and caught the boy’s eye. “C’mon, let’s grab it.”
For a wonder he’d actually found someone worse than he was. He gave the boy a few pointers, then a couple of other men, waiting for a lane, drifted over and turned it into an impromptu lesson, before the other guys took over the lane for a bit of sparring themselves.
Ice checked the time. The salle was emptying out, so he started stowing his own gear.
The boy followed him. “Hey, umm, thanks. I’m Elka. Elk. Thanks for the pointers.”
“Ice. My pleasure. I’m . . . I need a lot more lessons, myself.”
“This is only my third time here. My aunt joined and got a free add-a-friend thing.” He glanced across the big room to the side that was majority female. With people leaving, Ice had a clear view, and spotted Keiq. Pulling on her mask and stepping out to face another woman.
“Huh, she’s not bad.” Elk threaded between occupied lanes.
Ice lagged a bit and admired Keiq’s figure, well, in the bulky jacket and mask it was more a matter of really nice legs . . .
Good form, huge lunge and reach . . . not enough to not get trounced by the other fencer. Three-zip. They took off their masks and shook hands.
“More practice, Keiq. You’d be so good, dammit, if you’d make the time to get out here.”
Keiq sighed. “Yeah. Not impressive.”
“Well, you’ve advanced to the point of finding someone you want to impress, so we have hope for you yet.”
“Ha!” Keiq stepped away and, yep, guessed right, spotted the young man. “Hey Elk, you have fun?”
“It had its ups and downs, but I got some good pointers.”
Ice looked innocently away, trying to not catch her eye.
“Oh . . . I do not believe this.”
Ice looked back. “So much for not being recognizable.”
“Aunt Keiq? You know Ice?” The boy’s eyes widened. “He’s not the guy who kissed you, is he?”
The other woman, stopped and turned around.
“Actually, she kissed me.”
“You kissed me back.” Keiq yelped.
“It was self-defense.”
The other women snickered. “Oh, this is good! C’mon, Keiq, Introduce me.”
“No. He’s walking around in a stupid disguise. I think I’m going to refuse to have anything further to do with him.”
“Can we not discuss this in public, really?” But a glance around showed few people close, and no one paying them obvious attention. “Because it’s too soon for me to get into another public brawl.”
“Are you that magic duelist guy?” Elk was grinning and bouncing on his toes.
“Can we please go to some moderately private . . .”
“All sweaty like this?” Keiq looked horrified. “No way am I getting near a restaurant.”
Her friend grinned. “There’s only one thing to do, Keiq. Let’s take him home.”
Keiq pinched the bridge of her nose. “Ice, this is my good friend from college, Cwyk Withione Yveslin. Who was wacky enough to fall for my oldest brother, and marry him, thus gaining a new nickname. I see that you have already met her son and my nephew, Elk. Wacky, Elk, this is my former fellow Interior Relations wage slave, Icka Withione Sycamore Tall Trees.”
Ice grinned and offered his hand to Wacky. “A pleasure to meet Eye Que’s family.”
Wacky choked faintly but stuck her hand out to be shaken. “Eye Que? As in smart? Well, that’s right.”
“Ooo! I like it.” Elk hefted his bag. “Let’s go. I can’t wait to see what Dad says.”
Wacky and Oldest Brother had a mansion in the southwest . . . too old to call the area a suburb of Paris, more of an area of old chateaus that had slowly sold off land for more modern extravagances, as it was inexorably swallowed by the growth of the metropolis.
“It actually belongs to my parents.” Wacky glanced over the seat at Ice then got her eyes back on the driveway. Long, gracefully curved, driveway. “We’re in the Yveslin Enclave, which is handy for the kids. And since I’m their only child, when my parents decided to move to Hawaii they said I might as well move in, since I’d inherit it, eventually.”
Keiq snickered. “They closed off the parents’ side, and rented the servants’ quarters to me. The commute is hell, but . . . One! The gardens!”
“And thank the One my dad keeps paying the landscape company! If it was up to us, we’d let it go wild and the neighbors would complain.”
Old Money, and Raised By Wolves. Ice managed to keep his face straight. Or is it one of the Wolves I should think about impressing?
The house at the end of the driveway probably wasn’t more than four thousand square meters. Not counting the servants’ quarters over the six car garage. Probably a modern replica, not one of the few buildings that had survived the nuclear war and fifteen centuries of time and weather.
Keiq led him up the staircase at the back of the garage, grabbed a towel from a closet and aimed him at a bare bathroom. “Everything ought to work . . . Oh, soap, hang on, and I’m making the crass assumptions that you have a change of clothes?” Back to the closet to return with a little wrapped circle of soap. “Sorry, it’s all I’ve got.”
“Thank you. Yes. I have clothes.” He subdued a desire to ask her to scrub his back, and closed himself in the bathroom before he said something that would get him kicked down the stairs.
And tried to not think about her naked and soapy in a frilly pink bathroom . . . Nah, not IQ. And anyway, servants’ quarters, it was probably stark white, or institutional green and perhaps she’d be showering in a jungle-like motif, dancing to drums.
He cut the hot water way down and shivered while he soaped his hair until the water ran clear.
And hovered in the hallway, afraid to penetrate deeper into IQs home.
Footsteps on the stairs on his left. Wacky with her hands full. “What’s this? She made you use the old bathroom?” Her grin widened. “And you really are a blond. Oh, this is going to be so fun to watch.”
“Be warned. It’s a pretty slow spectator sport.”
“How slow?” Her eyes were crinkling.
“Over a year since the kiss. Haven’t managed another one.”
“Oh. Dear. No wonder Keiq’s been so snappy lately.”
“Really? I thought she was like that all the time.” Ice eyed Wacky warily as she started snickering.
He closed his eyes and listen carefully to “No, no, no! Have you forgotten everything we taught you about makeup? Wash your face.”
Oh. Am I about to get the glamour version of Keiq? This could be scary.