January 16th, 2020

_War Party_ infill 2

***

Ice obeyed a summoning wave from Rip.

“So . . . who threw that spell?”

“I couldn’t tell. It wasn’t one of the people right around us, but if it was one of the group standing by on the right side, they were very well trained, and naturally strong. Whoever it was didn’t try again.”

“That Major Yjlu noticed what you did. I wondered if he was the source.”

Ice shook his head. “I don’t think so, and I not sure he even felt that first spell. It was . . . sneaky.”

Rip nodded. “I was wondering who was leaking a bit too much glow when you cut it off. It didn’t ring any alarm bells.”

“Yeah. Sneaky . . . subtle.”

“Well, I’m glad you caught it. Can I give you two a ride back to IR?”

“Sure. Keiq?”

“Oh, definitely.” She glowered at him. “Where did you learn magic like that? I know they don’t teach it at the School.”

Ice grinned and slid into the car. She joined him, and Rip followed them in.

“I’m going to admit to being curious about that myself.” He eyed Ice. “Rael, right?”

“Right.” He glanced at Keiq. “The Boss got a bit itchy about Urfa and Rael operating on his turf, and sent me and Dog off to see what the top Presidential Agent was doing while pretending to be a professor.”

Keiq nodded. “Everyone wondered what was going on. And then she nabbed three spies.” Frown. “Were you there for that?”

“Yep, got stunned right alongside the Wrecking Crew. Ajki’s been sending me back regularly, and Rael just puts me to work with the younger students, and trains me with the advanced groups. It’s . . . terrifying, what she teaches some of those kids to do.”

“But . . . why is she still there?”

“Well . . . first, she really doesn’t work well with her brother-in-law. And second, she’s trying to give the kid as normal a childhood as possible, and that’s tough when Xen is excluded from so many secure areas, and shouldn’t see anything she brings home from work and so forth."

"The . . . kid? I thought her kids were grown?”

“Two of them. Number three is about four? I think?”

“She had a baby?” Keiq sounded boggled.

“Yep.” Ice looked over at Rip. “Has Exzy charmed the Black Horse yet?”

“Oh yeah. Madam Raod and Madam Kyol borrow him regularly and bring him over.” Rip grinned. “Be careful, if Eppa finds out Rael lets you teach magic, you’re going to get drafted.”

“Nope. Ajki is very territorial about his Warrior Trainees. You can’t have me.”

“We’ll see.”

“After the election.” Ice grinned. Oh shit. No way can I be in close proximity to the President. I . . . am going to have to fess up . . . go to Makkah . . . or something.

The car swerved over to the curb and Rip hopped out and held the door.

“Pleasure to have met you, Miss Keiq.”

“Likewise. I’ve never been around the Guards.”

“See yah!” Rip ducked back into the car and it pulled away.

“They specialize in quick deliveries and not blocking traffic.” Ice headed for the steps.

“I . . . see. You are turning out to be not at all what I was expecting.”

Ice grinned at her. “That’s because the real me hides behind an over-priced suit and a really annoying accent.”

“Which has just reappeared after disappearing for most of the day.”

“So . . . what was it you wanted to ask me this morning?” Ice eyed her thoughtful expression. Damn, get that scowl off her face and she’s really . . .

“I . . . am going to go revaluate that . . .” She scowled and marched off for the elevators.

Ice hung back a bit. Internal Security. Absolutely the wrong woman to be the least bit interested in.


_War Party_ infill 3

***

“Why are you inflicting that accent on me?”

Ice grinned. A random encounter in the elevator, or was she looking for me? “Because you’re investigating me. But I suppose I ought to stop being deliberately obnoxious, since you do seem to be intelligent and only a little biased.”

Glare. “It is my duty to protect the Empire from . . . intel leaks.”

Ice resisted an impulse to drawl, and stomped on the accent. “Oh, and you never had an opportunity to answer my question about what was being edited out, and what was going on to the Earth’s embassy.”

“Indeed, what other reason could I possibly have to not give you that information.”

“Exactly. Now . . . two years ago? Sorry, ought to have remembered this earlier . . . Ajki, who had been trying to track down the leak, asked me why I was erasing any and all classified disinformation he was using to try and track down the leak.”

“He what!”

“And I said everyone knew there was a leak in the section, so I was making sure I didn’t have anything that looked like something the Earth or Comet Fall ought not have, was not on my computer, since so many leaks traced to me.”

Her fingers drummed on her leg.

“So he told me to leave them there so they had something to trace.”

She slapped her forehead. “Arg! Date when you started keeping the disinformation?”

“Hija . . . 1417. So almost three years.”

She muttered something under her breath that couldn’t possibly be an obscene opinion of the Boss’s twisty, scheming paranoia.

Professional paranoia.” Ice smirked at her glare. “Psychologically, he’s remarkably sane for a man who’s been in politics for over a century.”

She crossed her arms and glared.

“So . . . innocuous, or inflammatory?”

“Anything that might heighten the Earth’s paranoia, and alarm their leaders went through. Anything that might settle them down was missing. All the innocuous information went through.”

Ice thought that over. “Because a lot of the innocuous info could be checked for accuracy, lending weight to the inflammatory also being accurate.”

She eyed him thoughtfully.

“So who wants a war with Earth? Comet Fall? All they’d need to do is open permanent gates all over. The War Party? Would they commit treason for the sake of . . . what? Honor? Could it be an old Helios plot, still running?”

She growled. “We’ve thought of all that!”

"At least you can be reasonably sure it isn’t Earth, doctoring their own intel.” Ice frowned. “Of course there’s always Whirlpool Earth and One.”

Glare.

The elevator door opened and she stomped away.

***