Ice pulled the bug out of his ear and handed it back to Oljo. "In case they search me."
He trotted two blocks and cut over . . . spotted them and crossed Cavanaugh as the six spies started across. He paused to let them by, turned to stare.
Her head whipped around and she paled.
"Oh . . . sorry, I mistook you for an old friend. Sorry . . ." He turned and walked away, down the side street.
Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Bill the Bear and Peter Golden, peeling off and walking down the other side of the street.
He spotted a bar that didn't look too seedy, and stepped in. Early enough it wasn't too busy. Enough people to generate background noise. Perfect. He bought a beer and turned to nod at the two Earth Agents. "Grab something. I'll get a table."
He sat with his back to a solid wall, and eyed the two men. "So . . . you guys been in town long?"
"None of your business." Bill took a sip and grimaced.
"Well, it was just . . . I've been here in Paris for ten years. If you need a hand, or advice . . ."
"Why haven't you ever contacted the Earth Embassy here?" Bill scowled at him.
"Because here I'm just a human being, not a subhuman with a terminal license. How about all of you Purps? Have they loosened up yet, or are they still threatening to deport you to Purple, or some mining hellhole?" A tiny sip of beer while he eyed their clothes. Good replicas, but the fabric's wrong for the style. They really are new here.
Double glares. Peter snorted. "The Oners only think you're human because they don't know about you."
Ice heaved a sigh. "Look, I can help you, if you want to get free of them."
That caught Peter's attention.
Ice squirmed just enough to look a little uncomfortable. "Or . . . if you're here to collect info, I can help you get established. I know the ropes."
Double glares, but Peter's looked a little forced.
Bill scowled. "Crap, you've gone native. You'd better come talk to Mick."
Ice took another swallow of beer and followed them out.
Ice sighed as Mandy glared at him.
"We thought you must be dead."
Ice snorted. "I went across before Embassy. Before there was any hope of contact at all, knowing I'd be out of touch for years. Possibly forever. So I fit in and just got to work . . . and I like it here. The regular people here are just normal people."
A derisive snort from Mandy.
Ice shrugged. "Those Action Teamers? Tiny percent, but after Granite Peak they were recruited and turned loose on other Worlds. Nasty, but nothing like the people I work with. I have friends here, neighbors.
"Look, if you want to fit in and settle down, I'll help. And . . . I can introduce you to people who . . . work for the government. You can pal around with them, get inside information to pass on . . .
"Okay. I see that doesn't interest you. Well, I do a lot of trucking, deliveries to the colonies, and from there it's easy to get to Embassy. I can get you out of here, and across to one of those independent Worlds. Hell, I could probably get you to Tyrant's World. They don't extradite anyone to any other worlds.
"You can just settle down and just . . . live. No one controlling you."
Peter nodded. "That . . . if you could do it . . .'
The other five turned on him. "What the fuck, you slimy little . . ."
Ice stepped closer to Mandy.
She glared. "Don't think you can talk me into anything. I'm finally going to get some revenge for your precious Oners gang raping Mom. They damn near killed her, they traumatized her so badly she turned Lesbian until your mother rejected her."
"Ah . . ."
"No. You've become one of them. Just like your rapist father!" She spun back and grabbed Everitt's arm. "We can't trust him. Lock him in the bathroom, all we need is twenty-four hours."
"Less. We'll leave right now, we'll be in this 'Makkah' by dawn."
"Makkah! What the hell are you . . . Emre? Are you going to kill the Prophet?"
"Damn right." Everitt grabbed Peter, and shoved him into Ice. "Stupid little punk, we can't trust you, either."
"But it's a chance to be free. We don't have to kill anyone."
Ice swallowed. "It's a suicide mission. You know that . . . Mandy?"
"I don't care anymore. I just want the One dead. And maybe killing that creature will cause enough chaos for some of us to get away. I don't care!"
Everitt nodded. Drew an odd little gun and shot twice. The combination of Ice's usual mental shield, and the physical shield he'd had up for the last hour scrambled the stunner effect a bit. He was tossed, a door closed . . . He shoved the limp Peter off of him and used the edge of the bathtub to haul himself up. He stood shakily . . . touched the doorknob and jerked his hand back from the heat. Melted something, to keep us in.
Put his ear to the door. Thumps, low voices, footsteps, the thump of a door closing and then silence.
"Damn. Well, that didn't go well. That'll teach me to neglect energy shields. I hope you caught that, Oljo. They're headed for Makkah, armed and dangerous." He pulled his little chunk of wood out of his pocket, popped it open and shoved the dazed Peter into it.
A quick slice between the door and the jamb and the door swung open. The room was empty, and looking out the window he spotted the group halfway down the block.
By the time he'd made it down the stairs and out the backdoor he was almost steady on his feet.
Oljo was waiting for him, and offered the ear bug. "My, my. You do have an interesting history."
"Involving an ongoing project that must not be mention, speculated about, or researched, or you'll get the current agents killed."
"I . . . see."
Ice stuck the bug in his ear and picked up the banter.
< Those guys need to lighten up, they look like a Red Zone gang headed for a fight. >
Ice raised his eyebrows. "They didn't hear that?"
"I had a nasty suspicion there was going to be rather a lot of dangerous information being discussed."
"Thank you. Do they have a vehicle?"
"Apparently not. The fastest way, for them, would be to take the Metro to Alcairo, then take the train from there."
Ice nodded. "And since they're headed for the closest Metro station . . ."
"The main question is how do you not get noticed?"
Ice grinned and ran a hand along a window sill. Ran his fingers through his hair from temple to nap, on both sides. Pulled a lightweight folded cap out of his pants pocket shook it out and put it on. Took off his shirt, rolled it and tied it around his waist. The heavy material had completely hidden the red T-shirt with the Montevideo Flash logo . . .
"Oljo, you are not my type. At all. Sorry." He slouched along, letting his arms flop.
The older man snickered. "I'm going to have to completely re-evaluate you. Does Keiq know you do disguises?"
Ice straightened. "Keiq talks about me?"
"Drat." He slumped again.