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09 July 2015 @ 06:38 am
Tidbit that just happened  
  

Conclave of the Clans

P.A. Uphoff

Chapter One

15 Shaban 1406

"Come to Paris in your best suit. Versalle. Right now. Drop everything. Ra'd as well, if you spot him."

"Yes sir." Ebsa clicked off. "Oh shit, what's happened?" Urfa's never called me before!

He trotted down the hall, worry building as he leaped and grabbed the closing elevator door. Jittered under the disapproving gaze of three office workers, one male, two female, all old enough and with assured body language to be well above his pay grade. In basement one, he bolted out and down the steps to the tunnel slidewalks. He'd been working late, again, so they weren't crowded. He strode down them to the last stop, up the stairs, two more blocks to the warehouse. He stripped as he crossed to his room, grabbed the dress shirt, into the slacks, shove feet into the good shoes, grab tie and jacket and head back out . . . a black car slid to a stop.

Presidential guard at the wheel, Ra'd leaping out of the back.

Ebsa leaned to catch Kief eye. "You taking us all the way?"

"Yeah, no one's sure what's up, but Isakson says he wants you right now, so he gets you." Princess Kief grinned. "He was muttering about Izzo being too high and mighty for this, and Xiat too pregnant. But all the rest of you guys that he's started calling Warriors are being hauled in for something."

"Something?" Ebsa scooted over and Ra'd dashed back, coat and . . . guns over one arm.

"Don't give me that look. When Isakson calls up his warriors, he expects us to be ready for a fight." Ra'd handed him a shoulder holster.

Ebsa bit his lip, and shrugged into it, got his tie tied, and coat on . . . huh, the sleeves were about right. Now I can only hope I've finally stopped growing. He ran fingers through his hair and hoped for the best. Checked the gun. Loaded, of course.

Ra'd had both shoulder holster and a 10mm rifle.

The shiver of a corridor and they were in pre-dawn Paris. Well, the outskirts. They'd wisely put the corridor far enough from downtown to avoid traffic backup through the corridor.

Versalle, the president's retreat and home of the Presidential Directorate and the Presidential guards was across town. Encroaching suburbia meant it was no longer the Presidents' country retreat, but the grounds were expansive, and it backed up to the forested ruins of old Paris, now an Imperial Park.

Isakson was waiting for them in the gym. The old warrior's gaze raked over them and he nodded his approval. Rael and Qayg were both there, Qayg in a black suit, Rael in her uniform, black with purple trim. The four guards that Isakson had called Warriors, in their slightly different uniform, also black with purple. They were military, but assigned to the Black Horse Guard, the special presidential security unit.

Isakson handed them white scarves, green bands . . . Ebsa's breath caught. The green agal is worn ­only by Warriors of the One. I guess it's official . . . and perhaps about to become public?

"The One has requested an honor guard of the Warriors when he addresses the Conclave of the Clan this morning. We will be there."

I hope I can figure out how to put this thing on. And . . . is this a priest sent to represent the One or that scary old man who made me wonder if all the Prophets were actually dead?

***

Emre was tired. "I'm too damn old for this."

The Ecclesiastical guards didn't reply. They were too closely connected for them to not know he was just grumbling. Wishing the weight of years would finally crush me, and I could be done with all this. Finally find out if there is anything after death, some excuse for forcing religion down the throats of eight billion people.

The limo glided to a gentle stop. The guard in front was out first. The ones in back out next, then he was allowed out himself. An old friend was waiting for him, an old warrior just a century younger than himself. Except he was bubbled for most of it. He's really only a couple of centuries old.

"Isakson. You look good. And you have found some interesting companions." Ra'd, of course. My grandson. And his friend who glows so solidly, so reliably and so unwaveringly. You ought to have been the Philosopher of Justice, boy, but then we might have missed the Philosopher of Friendship and wide open Acceptance. Heh. Hadn't expected that! It's even affected me. Heh. I'd nearly forgotten how to be friendly.

Four young men, strong and vibrant. Never met, but well known through the Power of the One. Ohhe, who's working so hard to look impassive. Wsca, whom everyone calls Scar, despite his flawless babyface. These names! Uzmo and Ixpu, competing for everything, as if life were one big game of points. Another old friend. Qayg, I almost didn't recognize you, you've grown well since leaving the Hive Mind. And . . . the happy woman. Glowing and bright. A Dancer turned Warrior. A granddaughter, I believe. I remember wanting to make her Of the One . . . just to add happiness. Too independent, though. Invaluable where she is. I wonder who her mother or father is?

But he turned to the business at hand. Legal definitions. As if they truly matter . . . They matter. I remember Trans World Travel, damn you Xen Wolfson, for making me remember. We—all of us Tellies—were less than slaves. We were legally defined as laboratory animals. So . . . this legal naming is important.

The Ecclesiastical Guards were ahead, behind and beside him, but the Warriors were even closer. Isakson at his left shoulder, Qayg at his right. Protective equals. The other seven followed and once inside, spread out, watching everyone, everything.

In the audience the respectful near silence suddenly became utter silence as his presence penetrated their self absorption. He paused to let them adjust. They needed to be capable of remembering what he said.

"I am Emre One. After fourteen centuries, there are few of you who are not my descendants. And also the descendants of dear friends and colleagues of mine. Long departed.

"I come to you today, because of why you are here. You wish to clarify some entirely artificial divisions among the people who have the power gene of the One. It is only human to form hierarchies. Only human to, once you are on top, to want to stay there.

"But of late I have become aware that the current system fails to encourage all the One to train their skills, to learn their limits, and stretch them.

"When first the New Prophets came, there was limited technology for genetic analysis. And frankly, we arrived in the middle of a long war. There was no time for laboratory tests. We fought, on the battleground, in the halls of power, and more subtly within our expanding social alliances. We sorted ourselves according to talent and ability.

"It was only later that we had the time and luxury to analyze children, and try to steer them toward what we felt might best suit them."

He eyed the three thousand people watching him. Do you understand?

"Names became attached. I don't even remember the origination of the With, Near, Close, and Servant designations. First they depended on the number of genetic insertions, then they switched to counts of individual genes. Occasionally there were attempts to decide which genes were more important than others.

"None of that matters. What matters is that each person be judged as an individual. You must realize that if someone you label Servaone has the right genes, he may well be stronger magically than a Withione who has every single cosmetic gene.

"Do not exclude people. Make your new definitions more inclusive." An odd thought drifted in. "Stop calling my children servants. They are workers. They see what needs to be done, and they do it. I recommend you rank people by the number of insertions, and by the number of genes, and by ability. Raise individuals in ranking by any of these standards. There is no need to have a single exclusive qualification. Raise people, do not fence them in and discourage their reaching for the sky." Oh dear God. Reach for the sky, you varmint! I'd forgotten about Westerns. Used to love those movies.

Emre stared out at the crowd. Is there anything more I need to say? No. Oh, wait.

"Bless you. Seek the wisdom within you." He nodded to them, as to equals, turned and walked out. The Warriors exfiltrated ahead, around, and behind him. "Isakson, Qayg, ride with me."

Isakson dismissed the rest, and slid into the limo behind him. Qayg sat facing him.

"I have been pondering these . . . healing magics from Comet Fall. They are shockingly cavalier about genetic manipulation, but many of these potions of theirs are more mundane than that. What are your thoughts on them?"

***

Ebsa squeezed into the car from Versalle. "So . . . is Isakson going to collect us together?"

Shaken heads.

Rael shrugged. "He says that in the modern setting, it is better to have us spread throughout the directorates, Ministries and military. Highly trained, and hopefully on the spot when a Warrior is needed." She giggled. "You two especially have epitomized that. I suspect you may consider yourselves the Poster Boys of Warrior . . . whatever."

"Certification, perhaps?" Ebsa pondered the possibilities. "Sort of like having Medic certs, or markmanship certs."

"Hmm, yes. I like that. I'll suggest it to Isakson. And get more people in to work with him."

Ra'd flashed his teeth. "If you bring in Ajha, can I watch them meet?"

A pregnant pause.

Ebsa eyed the trepidation on the others' faces and started snickering. "You don't know him, do you? Honestly, best field leader ever. And other than being horrified at being stuffed behind a desk, he hasn't changed a bit."

Ra'd was grinning. "Oh yes. We must be here when you lot meet him. The meeting with Isakson will be dessert. And don't think I didn't notice the One picking up on Workaone, Ebsa the Rebel."

"I didn't . . . He didn't pick that up from me, did he?"

"It's hard to keep anything from one of them." Ra'd grinned. "And it's a good idea, too."

"I'm going back to the office and I'm going to pretend this didn't happen. With luck no one will have recognized me."

Rael giggled. "Stay for breakfast, find out if Isakson is coming back. We'll still get you back in time to go to work with no sleep. How did you end up in an office, anyway?"

"The Action Teams are . . . sort of in a crisis, with their primary bully boy rapist roles evaporating. Ajki's got a fight on his hands, and . . . I think he decided to get some assets away from the fight."

"At least I'm not stuck in an office." Ra'd snorted. "Getting tired of painting warehouses exactly according to spec, though. I don't think my supervisor appreciated all the hard work I put in on Warehouse Forty-two. I just glad this call came after I'd cleaned up for the day."

They breakfasted, and were driven back to Gate City. Neither Isakson nor Qayg had shown up.

The Prophet Emre was the headline, in the morning. With pictures. Lots of pictures. And lower down, speculation about the warriors. Which made Ebsa all the more glad that he'd gotten right back to work.

Half his co-workers found excuses to wander past his office and eye him. Most of them walked off shaking their heads. ". . . nah. Couldn't have been the Closey . . ."

Help! Help! Get me back out into the field! Preferably to that Lost Civilization World that Paer's assigned to. "Surely they need a cook, if nothing else."

"Who needs a cook?" His boss crossed his arms and stared at him from the doorway. Wrinkled his nose and shook his head.

"Oh. I was thinking about that Lost Civilization project. It must be fascinating . . . Have they decided whether or not the inhabitants were human?"

An impatient wave of the hand from the administrator. "We'll find out when they issue the report. Now about these figures you sent me. Stop wasting your time talking about the economies of permanent gates. The Director purely hates having to ask Disco for help. So we need to shorten up on gate expenses."

"Fewer, longer, gates. Set up tracks for the trains on the far side, and you can really get a lot through in a hurry without worrying about driver error." Ebsa shrugged. "It's not magic, sir."

Glare.

"Or wait ten years and hope that Endi Dewolfe's children can make gates. They're, umm, twelve or thirteen years old. Might be time to start talking to the Directorate School about actively recruiting as many of them as we can."

The administrator pinched the bridge of his nose. "Surely someone needs a cook somewhere."

 
 
 
hollybambolo on July 9th, 2015 04:16 pm (UTC)
I may just be horribly ignorant (okay, almost certainly am) but I had to look up what an agal was. I wonder if a bit of showing him fussing with it/Ra'd correcting him would be helpful here, if the average reader is as clueless as I am? (I've seen them before lots of times, just never knew the name.) An agal is, according to the internet, the band worn around the draped sort of head scarf.

I wonder about a cultural thing here: back when Isakson was bubbled, the New Prophets regime was pretty heavy on men fight women reproduce, or so it seemed to me from Warriors of the One. And he's been mentioned several times as being extremely traditional. So how did Isakson come around, in less than a decade, to female Warriors--Qayg, Xiat, and Rael, at a minimum, from this snippet? Is there a story in there somewhere?
matapampamuphoff on July 9th, 2015 05:54 pm (UTC)
Not knowing about the reproductive problems of the One, the Prophets made a lot of alliances through marriages to their daughters--who were, with normal men--infertile. They quickly became status symbols, none-the-less, but not quite "Real Wives" since "Everybody knew" they couldn't have children. They were trained to spy on their husbands, and report back to the Prophets if their ally was wobbling. And kill him if necessary.

So the women were, from the start, trained to fight and kill. And called Princesses.

Later, as the widows returned home, and married other Prophets they found out that they weren't infertile, they just had to find a man who had enough of the genes of the Prophet to do the trick. This led to the habit of frequent divorce and remarriage.

Isakson was raised in a more Arab culture than average, but still knows that women can fight, knows the origins of the princess culture. In the Presidential Guard, it is not surprising that he quickly found three women he'd call warriors. Once the certification program starts pulling in more ordinary people, the men will probably dominate even more.
hollybambolo on July 9th, 2015 09:23 pm (UTC)
Well, in Warriors of the One. Isakson had his choice of several women and Ra'd for their dash to recover his son, and he grabbed Ra'd. Women as possible assassins and women as soldiers being rather different things, this may need more clarification somewhere then. Or maybe it's just me.
I guess my line of assumptions runs along the line of women as princesses and dancers, yes, those are individual assassins and special agents. Warriors seem more like magical infantry types, maybe special forces, but still boots on ground against other troops. Now acting as an honor guard. Not that Isakson would think that women can't fight, but that a good commander doesn't deploy women. That would be wasteful.
I was under the general impression that Princess was an equal status to Priest/Warrior, with Priest being the more modern version and Warrior being the archaic version, until Isakson and company reappeared on the scene.
matapampamuphoff on July 9th, 2015 09:42 pm (UTC)
Over the 300+ years of the Unification wars there were only about 3000 warriors. While many were officers in the army, a lot of them were in Intel, security. The Prophets who traveled usually did so with seven Warriors, so that could form a compass.

The women trapped in Fort Rangpur were the wives of men there, not trained warriors. Not all daughters--or sons--were suitable dispositions for military duty. Ra'd, at fifteen had been trained, and working as a scout, and fighting for a couple of years.

I'll have to work up some basic requirements for the new warriors. Level five or higher Speed, trained in martial arts and weapons, and with experience that shows a willingness to kill or die in service to the Empire. At a minimum.

hollybambolo on July 9th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)
So can Ebsa fill us readers in on some of this, maybe with his research on Ra'd/for his history report back at the end of Directorate School?
matapampamuphoff on July 9th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've got some stuff written, for their last year of college, but it's floundering for lack of a problem for them to solve. I' may just stick some chunks elsewhere, for the data dumps.
shana: pic#26226061shana on July 9th, 2015 10:00 pm (UTC)
Philosopher of Justice? Did Ebsa get any of the Comet Fall Mage potions?

I guess Emre has mellowed since Michael's visit.

It looks like Ebsa is following Ajha's example. Be right all the time, and they'll keep sending you out into the field. ^_^
matapampamuphoff on July 9th, 2015 10:28 pm (UTC)
In _Directorate School_, Ebsa had a brief face-to-face with Emre.

One old man snorted and stepped out, eyeing Ra'd. Then he gazed at Ebsa, with deep deep eyes that drew him in. "Pity you don't have a priest's gene. You come close to being the Philosopher for the Rule of Law." He snorted derisively.
Ebsa heard scrambling behind him.
"We're going, Ebsa." Paer sounded breathless. Ra'd was a rather large young man, even with three of them to share the load.
Ebsa backed away, fighting the pull of those eyes. "Law? How about justice? There doesn't seem to be much interest in it around here. Blindly following the Rule of Law is not always the best path. Gleefully tripping down it is going to have horrible repercussions for the Empire, and perhaps especially for the One.
matapampamuphoff on July 9th, 2015 10:33 pm (UTC)
In between we've had Black Point Clan and the Philosophy situation has been settled in favor of Tolerance and Friendship and Rainbows . . . well, it's mellowed the situation quite a bit. And _that_ was post Cannibal World, where Comet Fall shock troops rescued a whole lot of college students. _And_ they all realize they can get their nasty genes back--if they want them.