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02 August 2015 @ 09:54 am
_Exernal Relations_ part 13?  
Man, this plot needs help! I really need to stop showing you guys stuff this raw.


Izzo grinned at Ra'd's frowning study of the horses.

"You ought to have asked for Paer. She'd love a week on horseback."

Izzo shook his head. "Much though I hate to admit it, I may need someone to watch my back. Granite Peak is a real mess. And I can't even blame it on Disco. Something's going on—raids and kidnapping—that are being blamed on the Nomads. But why now? I need to talk to them, and find out if it is them, before I go to Disco and accuse the Earthers." He nodded at the two mares. "They're native to Homestead and have incredible endurance. A present for the Chief of the tribe that interacts the most with the Oners on Granit Peak, and well known and respected among the larger clan that holds most of the continent."

Ra'd nodded. "And you think you can find them?"

"They've gone to their summer pastures. I have a map." Izzo grinned at the younger man's expression. "And a direction finder. They've adopted a fair amount of tech that should be easily trackable. I'm hoping that you are just along for the ride, and . . . is it possible for you to arrange a corridor, so we can return on foot, quickly?"

Ra'd laughed. "I see now. Everyone thinks I'm a source of cheap bubbles and corridors."

"Thinks? Or knows?"

Another laugh. "Oh, very well. I just happen to have one at the warehouse. When do you want to leave?"

"Early this evening, which will be pre-dawn on Granite Peak. They're in Europe, not much different than ours. I figure if we're early, maybe there will be less argument about my going."

Ra'd's eyes narrowed. "They argue with the Director of External Relations? Or is the proper term, obstruct?"

"I'd rather not find out. I've stuck a wedge in their solidarity—well, they mostly did it themselves—and I'd like to not give them cause to bury their differences."

"Sounds like fun. What are they up to?"

Izzo shrugged. "Figuring that out is half the problem. I'm pretty sure it involves Granite Peak, but I've got three other Colony subdirectors involved, along with Ebro and Idzo."

"The Embassy Affairs subdirector? That surprises me; not that I like the man. The Action subdirector, that I can see. Ebro wanted to be the Director. Has he joined forces with Iffy? Iffy's never forgiven the president for choosing Ajki over him, and now by passing him over again . . . Idiot. While he was acting director, he managed to get four close relatives in as subdirectors. And he wonders why Orde decided he wasn't right for the job? Heh."

Izzo nodded. "I just haven't managed to find out what they are up to. But I need to settle the Granite Peak mess, whether they like the idea or not. I've got a really nice big wedge to shove into the that problem, and I hope that a chat with the chief will settle the Oner part of the problem."

Ra'd eyed him. "Giving up Granite Peak will not be popular."

Izzo grinned. "The younger generation is leading the way. A pack of teenagers marched into Disco and asked Q for a new world. She gave it to them. All I need to do is spin the news into the Brave and Resourceful youngsters taking their fate into their own hands. And an agreement from the chief to let the old folks stew about, and finally give up and follow them."

"Ha! A pack of teenagers? Oh, I'll bet the old guys are steamed."

"I suspect they will be—once they figure out where the kids are disappearing to." Izzo grinned. "I suspect that a lot of the reported raiding is the kids moving. But I do need to check on that."

They rode the two horses quietly through the arch of the gate to Granite Peak, with unnoticeable spells wrapped around them. Plodded quietly through the small town and down a road between farms.

Izzo turned in the saddle and eyed the farms, frowning.

"Is there a problem?" Ra'd was sweeping the hedgerows with a keen glance, not seeing it.

"The fields are hand plowed, well, horse or ox, but the signs of tractor plowing are absent. The furrows should be straighter, with sets of a dozen or so absolutely parallel, even if the tractor driver is a hamfisted amateur and can't line up right to get the next set in right. And the fields are small."

"They lost a lot of equipment to the Earthers."

"We sent some new equipment right after the rediscovery. And the Council coughed up the money to replace all the old ruined or missing machinery five years ago, then sued through Disco to get the Earth to pay repartriations. And been stuck in court, ever since. But the farmers ought to have tractors."

"And since at least some of them don't . . ." Ra'd looked over at him. "One has to wonder just where the money has gone."

"Yep." Izzo lifted his reins and the mare broke into her ground covering lope. "The nomads are two hundred miles up the river. Let's see if we can do it in three days."

***

Ajha turned his horse south. "Hob sicced Azko on the satellite data. Someone has created a hole in the coverage, and we need to find out what's there. But first, let's see where Team Fifteen is going, and what they are doing."

Fean shaded her eyes and studied the dust hanging in the air. "They didn't waste any time getting out of town. You'd think they'd have some social contact with the locals—they, or someone, has been crossing over regularly for the last three years."

The two big black gelding were getting double takes from the locals as they trotted down the road. Ajha categorized them automatically as he rode. Oner, half-Nomad by the cheek bones, that fellow looked for all the world like an Earther, but he had a bit of glow. A trio of teenagers on the corner—the girl had Nomad cheek bones, but the Oner connection was solid . . . something a bit different . . . ah. Purple. The Earthers must be bringing in Purps to work the mines. Cough Cough freed a lot of them, and they all mixed with the Nomads during the decades before Xen Wolfson opened a gate to the One World. The two boys were pure Oner. The ladies turning to look at them were halfers. The men in khakis were Servaones, and not locals. They had the look of hired guards. Police, perhaps? They stepped out and gave them a narrow eyed scan.

"Too late to use Unnotideable," he muttered. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted the corner of Fean's mouth tuck in.

She changed her posture slightly, lowered her shields a bit, and suddenly the two policemen were gaping at her. Drooling. All suspicion and belligerence forgotten.

Ajha sighed. The girl can drop out of Princess school, but she never forgets how to manipulate men.

As they cleared the last houses, he could look over the fields and see a cloud of dust receding to the southeast. "Interesting. They're headed straight for that hole in the satellite recordings. Let's see if Eldon's oversized beasts have any endurance."