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18 July 2015 @ 09:51 am
_External Relations_ part 8  

Chapter Eight Acrobat

"So Governor Arry and Subdirector Wiggly are old school chums. I just hope he remembers we've a meeting tomorrow with the Granite Peak committee." Izzo eyed his guest at the Horror for a night. The ambassador to Embassy. "That could be bad with a hangover."

The Ambassador sniffed. "We're negotiating with one group of those stiff necked damned Earthers, and as far as I can tell, the committee is negotiating with a different group. We keep getting our wires crossed. I suppose Earth likes it that way; whichever of us has the best deal for them, they'll take."

"How are you doing with the Nomads?" Izzo watched irritation flash across the man's face.

"Damned arrogant . . . Excuse me, Ladies. The High Chief has moved his herds to the summer pastures. He says his young men do not raid. He will speak with us again when he returns. Unless, of course, we've departed in the mean time."

"That makes it a bit awkward. I mean, given Comet Falls' excessive weight at Disco, one must consider that they'll be biased in the Nomad's favor."

"Do you think so?"

"Well, we've invaded Comet Fall and killed some of them, the Earth has invaded Comet Fall and killed some of them, including, I heard a rumor, their archmage. So they know all about how the One and the Earth treat native peoples."

The Ambassador scowled. "We don't have to do as they order. We could call their bluff."

"It would be more fun if we could get Earth to do it first, and see what Disco did."

The Ambassador blinked at him, and a tiny smile crept out. "Indeed."


Xiat heard the loping hooves and walked down the path.

"* ta break * ta neck, * know."

The "tsking" click of Homestead.

!Tok was back? Why hadn't Izzo mentioned that? She stopped where she was still concealed in the foliage. The horse loping circles around the pen was strange. A bay with dorsal stripe and slashes of black stripes over the withers and quarters. Izzo was riding her without reins. Xiat narrowed her eyes as she noticed his easy posture, experienced balance.

"Just one more try, then I'll quit. You have no idea how hard it is to impress that woman." Izzo put his hands on the pommel, leaned forward and let the horse's bouncing stride toss him up to get his knees on the back of the odd flat saddle. Another stride and he was doing a handstand. Legs a bit wobbly, but pretty much straight up. Splits. One leg down in the center of the saddle, hands up and out, other leg straight back. His foot slipped a bit and he dropped back into the saddle, hands hitting first to cushion the bulk of his weight. "There. See? Told you I could still do it."

"*ta still insane, too."

"Am not." He flung a leg over and landed lightly on the ground. "Whoa, !Ti*l." Then he did a double take toward her bushes.

"You're leaking Princess."

"There's only so long a person can hold in howls of laughter. 'Don't expect acrobatics' indeed." Xiat walked out to lean on the fence. She had her knuckles in her mouth to stifle the giggles. "I love the color."

"But she's otherwise a bit different than you're used to?" Izzo led the mare over to the fence. "They're a high cold desert breed. Amazing endurance. I'm going to give a pair of them to the High Chief on Granite Peak. See if I can chat with him a bit."

"Are you up to no good?" The horse had long legs with heavier bone than she was used to seeing in a lightweight horse, a long back, long sloped croup. Long, sloped shoulder, long neck, long ears, plain head. She moved nicely, though.

"I'm hoping for a trading agreement, and possibly some land leases for several years so the Colonists won't be penniless when they depart."

Xiat looked thoughtfully at him, and then !Tok. "So, how do I go about buying one of these creatures? I need to encourage him. I've known this man for sixteen years and he still surprises me."

!Tok chuckled. "I'll put one in quarantine, for you." His eyes twinkled. "Poor man's a natural hermit, has no idea how to be a proper husband."

Izzo sniffed. "Just because you're still happily married after, what, fifty some years? I don't see that that makes you an expert."

"I think Izzo's doing very well. He certainly just impressed me." She grinned as his face lit up. "I suspect he was a horrible child."

Izzo and !Tok swapped naughty boy grins.

"Oh. I see. Both of you."

“We only ran away to the circus once.” Izzo’s attempt at dignity was ruined by a smile sneaking out.

!Tok grinned. “We were horribly disappointed when our parents showed up in the fall and reclaimed us. Turned out they’d known where we were all summer.”

Izzo snorted. “Apparently they even came and watched a couple of times.”

Chapter Nine Flu to Embassy

Flu sighed in relief as she closed the last file drawer. Everything was scanned and indexed. Anyone who needed the information could find it easily. Historians who wanted the actual original documents could find them as well. I'm about to lose my job. Do I want to try for a permanent position, or should I just cross to One World and see if I can get a job there?

She heard voices inside her grandfather's office and didn't knock. Stood close and listened.

"What about the other Colonies? Will the government give us grants there? One, no. The land is expensive, and the established folk don't want a bunch of penniless refugees, especially they don't want any halfbreeds." Her grandfather sounded bitter.

Flu spun around and walked away. Cherry stuck her head out the door of the staff room and then followed her.

"Wat's wrong?"

"Same as before. No one wants us. No one even wants the pure Oners. There's only one source for Empty Worlds, so maybe I'll just go ask how much they charge." She walked out of the courthouse by the side door and stared across the unkempt square. There was the Gate to One. And a hundred meters away, the Gate to Embassy that Disco had placed there, without so much as a by-your-leave. There were guards around it. She gathered her courage and started walking. Kian waved from the shade of a tree. There was a flock of boys around her and a couple of other girls. They all trailed after Kian as she tried to catch up with Flu.

Flu stopped in front of the guard station. "What do I need, to go through and come back?"

The guard snorted. "What are you going to do there?"

"I'm going to ask Disco to give us an Empty World."

Someone choked, behind her.

"Flu, are you insane? Why would they do that?" Evil pushed up next to her.

"Because if all of us youngsters just walk off, and refuse to pick up our parents' grudges and baggage, they will eventually follow."

The group of teenagers stared at her, and started swapping speculative looks.

"We could have our own farms, not work for free and hope to inherit something worth the effort." Ogg started smiling. "Well, what do we need?" He looked back at the guard.

The crowd had drawn the Watch Sergeant out and he bit his lip. "Just scan their ID. Take a head count and make sure you get the same ones, all of them, back."

And so that easy, on a whim, they were walking through a Gate and out onto another World. Walking into a white whirlpool and out onto a stone paved plaza that put the town square to shame. There were hundreds of gates. A huge fountain she could hear, even though it was probably a quarter kilometer away.

Tall buildings. She tipped her head back and turned in a circle, to take them all in. She stopped, facing a menacing black geometric heap.

"Is that Disco?" Ogg gulped audibly. "Department of Interdimensional . . . that's it."

Flu tried to force her feet to move. To walk toward that building. It's just black basalt, like the Kobe mountains. There's nothing scary about polished black rock.

"What do you want to bet they think we're a school field trip that's lost it's teachers?"

Evil's cheerful tones broke her trance. She crossed the street and set foot on the black rock.

"Maybe they'll think we killed him and ate him."

Kian started scolding him. "Honestly Evil. You'd better mind your manners once we're inside. We should look business-like." Her eyes widened in dismay as she looked down at her spaghetti strapped sundress and sandals. The half dozen guys were worse, in rumpled shorts and sweaty shirts and holey mocs. "Well, Flu, at least you're dressed for work."

Flu nodded and started up the steps. The doors at the top were huge. Wooden slabs with carved dogs and horses. They swung inward as she walked toward them.

The interior was a shocking contrast. Pale tan through deep red layered sandstone tiles. Warm honey colored wood. Recessed lighting. Artwork on the walls. A receptionist, a young woman with a white streak through her long black hair. Flu thought she looked more like the exterior than the interior of the building.

The woman snickered. "How true. Who are you here to see?"

"I . . . have no idea. I wanted to talk to someone about Empty Worlds."

"Umm, that would be Q, but she's awfully busy today, they're trying to figure out what to do about Granite Peak."

Evil stepped up beside her. "That's where we're from."

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on July 19th, 2015 12:58 am (UTC)

I wonder if either of them have seen the Xen images ?

Focus again, I am not clear about location of "pen" and "fence" but I think !Tok should have a early visual mention, say leaning on the corral.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on July 19th, 2015 03:18 pm (UTC)
Yep Empire ch 33, Rael and Xiat go through Endi/ Xen's room

So she has seen a picture of Xen standing on the saddle.
matapampamuphoff on July 19th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
Pyrite's bare back, actually. They hadn't graduated to tack yet.