June 1st, 2020

_Cool as Ice_ part 15

Erzo got Ice a Ministry Comm, so anyone could call him.


Keiq laughed. "Only you could figure out how to move a Ministry Office so you had an easy commute."

"Part time. What do you want to bet I wind up bouncing back and forth between them, daily?"

"I'll try to sympathize while I have tea with the Historical Society and we chat, off the record, about how to hide the fire suppression system."

"Heh, that will probably be easy. The pipes and wires are small enough that I can make channels in the decorative ceiling in the formal dining and ballroom. Whatever they call them."

"Oh. In those framing boards . . . the Victorian ceilings . . . except, frankly they look heavy enough to call them Gothic . . . but the actual sprinklers will be ugly. Although with your illusions . . ."

"Yep. The problem is, illusions don't show up in pictures, so we'll hide as much of them as possible. How about a working dinner tonight? Brings some pictures of the ceilings, I'll pick up some lumber and sprinkler parts, and maybe we can make something to impress the Historical Ladies."

"Good idea." A mumble away from the mic. "Wacky says to come up here, she wants to see you do woodwork."

"Deal . . . and in two minutes I'm off the clock, so I'll pick up the ute, buy a few things and meet you in Yvesline."

It was fun doing the decorative carving by magic, and hard to do it evenly. Keiq wound up drawing the patterns on, ruler in hand. A very thin sheathing of wood over the plastic housing of the smoke detector/heat detector/sprinkler with an overhang to conceal the white plastic without blocking the air vents, and the sprinkler head sticking out the top.

All inset up to the vents in a round juncture with cross beams.

"If I can stain the metal a bit, I won't even need much of an illusion."

Wacky was fascinated. "And a plain, well, decorated, dome on the rest of the junctions."

"It's different from the pictures and ceiling in Oliver's House in Makkah." Keiq bit her lip. "But I hope it'll fly with the Hissers."


"They start hissing every time I ask about something not absolutely authentic. Modern plaster is right out. They gave me the formulas for the period." Keiq shrugged. "And it's better than calling them hussies."

"Get snippy, did they?"

"No . . . actually they find you fascinating. I'm not sure if it's lust, horror or both."

"One! Bored society women are the only thing worse than teenagers. At least I'm finally looking old enough that most of the girls think I'm too old to be interesting." He ignore Wacky snickering.


The office was open for business Monday morning. Ice finished the morning run, the morning magic training sessions, showered, suited up and joined the morning crush on the metro to get . . . to his other office.

"Ice? Since you're only part time here, you're getting one of the smaller, well . . ."

"Is it worse than a cubicle?" Ice grinned. "I worked in the tower, in a cubicle for eleven years. You can't scare me."

Erzo grinned. "Even if I point you at the laundry room in 1c?"

"Nope, you'll have to do worse than that . . . so where are you putting Advo?"

Erzo pointed out the door of his nice big office. "In that laundry room. At lease he got a nice desk. Yours is utilitarian."

"That's me, useful." Ice grinned, and went in search of his utilitarian laundry room. It wasn't much smaller than his cubicle had been. He hauled the desk around sideways so he wasn't sitting with his back to the hall and popped open his bag to unload about half his usual office paraphernalia. The other half being back in Versalle . . .

"Ice? How did you get these early dates for the start of the Drei's infiltration?" Analyst Zawm, a plain woman with damn good makeup and style sense.

"The first thing I check is public information. Take Zeeq, as an example. Tracing her reported school history back, she's absent from all yearbook pictures and class pictures until her senior year."

"A high school yearbook?"

"Yep. There are digital copies on line. I tracked down a former student and examined all her old paper versions, to double check, and I still do spot checks, just on general principles. But they seems to think that the final year of high school, then college, then work, preferably in a government job, is a good way to infiltrate a society."

"Did they all do that?" A voice from the hall.

"Yep. They . . . don't appear to be very innovative. I've heard a lot of opinions about the brain chips stifling inventiveness, creativity." Ice shrugged. "Those so-called no-show cyborg soldiers in the Government House attack were highly controlled by the mentalists, who had no concerns for their lives. They were just robots to them. Even the obvious cyborgs had more . . . personality. Given the opportunity they'd surrender, or dive for cover."

He spent the whole afternoon being informative and helpful. Didn't get a lot of his own stuff done for Ox, but getting off to a good start with a new group was more than worth it.


Ice groaned. "No, I can't come in before I go to Versalle. I'm already out there. I'll come in after lunch, if that'll work? No? Right. Be there in an hour."

He clicked off as Ox stepped through the door.

"Having trouble splitting your time?"

"Yeah, I think I'd better switch to two days there and three here. The troops are up to speed on the magic, until the next batch arrives, and three mornings a week will do for just ten of them."

"Good." Ox shook his head. "I suspect you're not getting a lot done on your house, just now."

Ice grinned. "We've got it cleaned, and Keiq got the Building Inspector--this time with a whole crew--out to look over the bare bones and the roof beams actually passed inspection. The plans for the plumbing and electrical systems were approved--by them."

And one help me, we have to have eighteen toilets, at least half of which must be in full bathrooms.

"Next up, the Fire department's inspection and hopefully their approval of the fire suppression system design.

"And then . . . we present it to the Historical Society." Ice pinched his nose. "All of whom will probably be horrified. We'll see how many iterations it'll take before all parties are satisfied."

Ox chuckled. "Good luck. Now, on the trial front, you have achieved a milestone, never before reached by a Presidential Analyst. More death threats than the President. We're totally impressed, and the Black Horse wants to put a guard on you."

Ice leaned and thumped his head on the desk. "Really? I'm a Warrior, I'm supposed to do the guarding."

"I know. But, no more commuting on the Metro. We'll send you from home to work in a car. Set it up with Onca." Firm voice. Steady stare.

"Yes, sir." Ice pinched the bridge of his nose. "So . . . Which days do you anticipate needing me here? Then I'll see if that meets Erzo's needs . . . speaking of iterative approvals."

Ox chuckled. "How about Monday, Wednesday and Friday?"

"I'll give it a try." And maybe I can add a bedroom to the magic bathroom in the horse barn and sleep out there every weekend.

Major Onca shrugged. "What the heck, I'm not as short on people as I used to be. As early as you come in to run, I'll need two drivers, graveyard and late." He eyed the rosters on his wall. "Now I know why Eppa hated vacations and holidays . . ."

Ice looked over. "I heard you were still doing mounted guards changes."

"Silly as it sounds, but it has reduced the people trying to get into the ruins. I wish to hell the trial was over so we could strip it all down and get the rebuilding started."

Ice caught some familiar names. "Still don't trust Enno and Ettw?"

"No, and I don't think having two former puppets driving you is a good idea."

"Ah, but who better to detect a problem?" Ice grinned at Onca's sour expression. "You've even got them on late and graveyard, so E-one can haul me home and then go on to the rest of his duties, and E-two can pick me up and haul me in toward the end of his graveyard shift."

Onca pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ox just lost another bet with Ajki."

Ice eyed him suspiciously. "What was the first bet?"

"Ox didn't think you'd fit in well with the War Ministry. Ajki said you'd own the taskforce within the first month."

"I don't own them!"

"Nah, they just look to you for advice, for opinions, for direction . . . In just a week." Onca grinned. "And Ajki said you'd look after your Guards."