June 16th, 2020

_Cool as Ice_ part 24

Tanya snorted. "I . . . see that they save a great deal of time. How far can a single corridor stretch? It took two to get here?"

"The problem is, long parallel or crossing corridors can merge so for instance, the corridor to New York from Paris is on the north side of both cities. The corridor from Paris to New York is on the south side of both cities. So there just isn't room for all the corridors everyone wants. So you take the corridor to AlCairo, drive a few miles and take the corridor to Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, or Jeddah and drive to Mecca or Makkah."

Tanya nodded. "I see, like connecting flights. Corridor hubs instead of airport hubs. That's very practical . . . do they still have airplanes?"

"Yes, but not as many."

Ollie started fussing and everyone refocused on the baby who was fed, burped, diapered and cleaned up as they pulled up to park at the train station.

The Prophet Emry was waiting for them, along with Jeb, Ytry, and several guards.

"Welcome, Tanya, daughter and granddaughter of Prophets." Emre smiled. "And friends of mine. I am delighted to know that you are alive."

Jeb nodded. "I feared my brother had . . . done something horrible . . . well, it turns out it was a different sort of horrible, but I am glad you are alive. Come in out of the sun and we'll talk."

A cool room, shaded by old trees, and, Keiq suspected, window spells.

They sat around a table and younger priest brought drinks and snacks.

"Mikel's will was very straight forward. Half of the estate to be divided equally among his living children. Half to be split between his living wives. Accounts were opened for Oliver ibn Mikel ibn Daiki ibn Oliver, and Tanya bint Oliver bint Alexander bint Fatma. Hoping you would return. With interest, the balances are substantial."

Tanya eyed them suspiciously. "A thousand years of interest?"

"Well, a few currency collapses and so forth. None-the-less, you are probably among the richest people in the Empire." Jeb head turned a little, eyes unfocusing. "Ah. You are the five-thousand two-hundred and twelveth richest person in the Empire. Ollie is also well to do, although he started with much less, there being eighty-two living children at the time of Mikel's death."

"I see." Tanya swallowed. "And what restraints do you put on me, and what of Ollie?" Her grip tightened on the baby.

"We have several means now, magical and herbal, to suppress boys' hormones so they can become as magically strong as possible. They are not required to join the One . . . and in fact our collective mind has broken. They, like everyone, are welcome to come. Forever, or just for a few years."

Emre shrugged. "So far this new organization is working well. Even though Ollie would be safe from our previous policies. The son of a Warrior. But we will not revert, the practice was barbaric and continued past all need. Or excuse."

Jeb nodded. "We take volunteers, only. Some young people, but more older have joined us, bringing their expertise and lifetime of experience. Breaking the One Mind was the right thing to do. So . . . the Registrar will be here in a moment, and we'll get you two some modern identification."

Which was a problem in and of itself.

Keiq, answering a pleading look from Tanya, took a look. "Oh dear. Well, Ollie can be OHLE, but you've got nothing in common with your real name except Y. Well, most people use one of a double, so maybe I for the other vowel?"

"But I have to have a consonant on the front and back?" A snort. "He called me a vixen often enough. VYIX."

Keiq nodded. "Everyone will pronounce that Vicks, which is inoffensive. You just say 'call me Tanya' or if there much publicity about you and Ollie, don't let the newsies learn your legal name."

"Publicity." Tanya looked appalled. "I have no wish to be gawked at in public!"

Keiq nodded, looked over at the Rangpur women. "That worked for all of you, didn't it?"

"Yes. We were treated like normal people, which was quite a relief." Umaya nodded and looked at the others, who also nodded. "I recommend starting out anonymous. You can always change that. The other way won't work."

Tanya nodded. "I will . . . camouflage myself, until I understand where I am."

The Registrar handed over two plastic wafers. "You and Ohle's data is permanently entered onto these ID cards. Other data, medical, education, residence, and employment will be added, some, education and criminal records, will be permanent. Some can be edited by the authorities, and some--the balance in your most commonly used bank account---will be changed at the point of purchase."

"Thank you." Tanya looked at the cards. "What do I do with them, now?"

Ytry held out a machine. "Put it, arrow end first, into this slot." When she did, he turned it around. "You see? It shows your picture and official ID, and that you have no money. Which I will fix in a moment. Are you going to live in the Paris area?"

Tanya glanced at them. "Yes, somewhere near the only people I know."

"Right. The three banks with the most activity in the south Paris suburbs are these. There are more options if . . ."

"Bah. That one in the middle, as I know nothing about any of them."

Ytry grinned. "You now have a savings account with a substantial amount of money, and a checking account with even more, as you may wish to buy a house soon. When you have established yourself and met people, I recommend you open an account with a stock broker. Then we will transfer in the rest of your inheritance." His grin widened. "He or she will be very impressed."

Tanya eyed the numbers and shrugged. "I do not know how much anything costs. I will no doubt find out."

And that quickly, it was done, and they were back in the cars, heading back to Paris.

Keiq rubbed her forehead. "Tanya, I hesitate to suggest you stay at the house, since there's no water, electricity or much furniture there. Ice and I are sort of camping out . . ."

"Yes. Perhaps a hotel?" She looked down at the baby she was nursing. "I will need a crib, or I can just put him back in the bag."

"Let me call Wacky--my sister-in-law. She'll know all the good places . . . Hey, Wack, I'm with a lady who has a baby and need a place to spend the night. Money isn't a problem. Where would you recommend . . . Oh . . . hang on."

Keiq looked over at Tanya. "My very good friend, who married my brother, offers her hospitality. She says she talked to Ice, and understands that you might like both privacy and a friend near by." She failed to snicker. "I'm sure it has nothing to do with worrying about me out in that poor wreck of a house."

Umaya sniffed. "It reminds me of Fort Rangpur. Without the explosions and shooting, but with Ice there, who knows?"

Keiq thumped her forehead. "I really wish Disco could do something to those Cyborgs!"

Tanya sat up. "Cyborgs? Robots?"

"Men with robotic parts, and brain chips to control them. They invaded after infiltrating and getting brain chips into some politicians, including the man who was elected President a little over a year ago. Ice discovered what was happening just before the invasion, and . . . well, it's still a mess, with the trial for treason of that former president coming up real soon." Keiq hunched her shoulders. "I probably won't need to testify."

"But your Ice will? Umm, I'm sorry I hit him, I thought it would be Mikel opening the bag."

Keiq started snickering, "But, to answer poor Wacky who is patiently waiting . . . will you accept my sister-in-law's hospitality?"

"Yes, I will. A good night's sleep and then a whole day to . . . look around and figure out a short term plan would be excellent."

They drove straight to Yveslin, where Wacky joined the other women in drooling over the baby. Even her nieces thought he was cute. Elk rolled his eyes and retreated with Keiq and Azek.

Her brother looked down at her.

It's no fair, dammit, to be a tall klutz of a woman and still get looked down on by all four of my brothers. At least Ice is only a couple of cems taller than me. I can wear high heels and maybe be a little taller then he is.

"So what's her story?"

Keiq switched a cautionary look between father and son. "First, she needs privacy and for no one to talk about her. Right?"

Two nods. Azek's glower deepening.

"Her husband just died, and she has suddenly inherited a ton of money, but has no home. In fact, she's got the clothes on her back and not much else. She needs to catch her breath after a really bad day, and tomorrow I'll help her house hunt. Find a hotel, shop for clothes . . . One! I wonder if she can drive a car?"

Azek glanced back toward the room full of women. "How old is she?"

"Eighteen in a week or so. Good grief, married at sixteen to an older man she admired . . . who turned out to be a lousy husband. And no, there's nothing suspicious about his death." Keiq shook her head. "It's enough to make me glad I'm not glamorous."

Elk rolled his eyes, and edged over to take another look at Tanya.

Azek snorted. "So she's a rich widow the age of all those nieces and nephews of ours? That's a bad combination."

"Yeah. How would you like to explain what a stock broker is to her? I think I'll talk to her about buying a house, tomorrow."

"Sounds like two good ideas. And it looks like you're all getting a late dinner. Go eat." Azek shook his head, dropped his voice as he watched Elk. "Zipping off to Makkah, with those women? Please tell me Ice's tall tale of hearing Mikel . . . Oh good grief." Her broke off at her nod.

"She needs time to adjust, without being hounded by newsies." Keiq shrugged. "Time to grieve and time to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life."

"And not get taken by scam artists."