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03 August 2015 @ 11:44 am
_Exernal Relations_ part 14  

/// change this to walking through the gate with the horses bubbled. Go to the governor's office and get brushed off. Watch him joining the Action Team. Grab the back of the end truck and get hauled several hundred miles before they ride the rest of the way. ///

Spark snorted and broke into a rolling gallop. His brother Shine was right behind, and decided to make a race of it.

By sundown, Ajha felt like he'd been beaten with a bat. A grove of trees on a stream bank beckoned. He slid limply off the oversized creature and staggered over to a nice soft looking patch of grass and laid down flat on his stomach.

Fean laughed. "So, been slacking off? Haven't ridden much lately?"

He ignored her. Didn't even bother feeling guilty as he heard her pull off the horses' saddles, the jingle of bits. After a long moment of non-movement he pulled up a generalized healing spell and cast it on himself. Groaned to his feet and grabbed a brush so he could at least brush his own mount.

"Spark, I apologize for thinking that you were to heavy, and fat, and soft to be optimal for this trip."

"Thought you needed some Arabians, Boss?"

"Exactly. I suppose these guys are Comet Fall bred?"

"Yep. Eldon said they were twins and their sire is Phantom, the Dark Lady's mount. And when I asked, well, apparently they're recently descended from at least two of the original experimental horses from the Earth Labs."

The horse turned his head and met Ajha's gaze with what he'd swear was an equine smirk.

"I see."

In the morning he had to apply pain killing and healing spells before he made it out of his bedroll.

By mid-morning, a dozen miles down the road, he was eyeing an approaching dust cloud and looking for cover. From behind a scraggly copse of over grown brush he watched the Governors car pass.

"So the team is staying. But Arry's business is concluded. What the hell is he up to?" Ajha stretched and groaned. "Maybe I should walk for a while."

Fean pulled a bottle of wine out of her saddle bags. Surely not . . . But he thought about getting back up on the horse and didn't hesitate when Fean offered him a scant half a glass of wine.

Halfway down his throat, the wine exploded like lightning and, and, glowed through his body, and removed every ache and pain and Fean looked twice as gorgeous as usual and . . . and he got a grip on himself, took a deep breath. Another.

"Damn, that stuff is . . . is . . . "

Fean snickered. "Just be glad I don't want any more children just now, Boss. Because you are definitely on my list to father the next one." She looked down at her own glass. "Damn, drunk and talkative."

Ajha paused . . . took another swallow. Another burst of energy, but no increase in, umm . . . damn, riding may be a bit uncomfortable in an entirely different way, for a bit.

Spark looked wistfully at the glass, so he poured the last ounce into his hand and let the horse lick it up.

"Oooo, not a good idea, boss."

"He'd working harder than I am." Ajha handed back the glass, fighting an impulse to make as much physical contact with Fean as possible.

They mounted, walked and trotted, a brief gallop, walked until the horses were cool, then took a long break through the heat of the summer day. The horses grazed. The people napped . . . Ajha was blushing about the dreams when he woke and resaddled Spark.

They rode on until nearly midnight. Ate the sandwiches Fean pulled from her saddle bags . . .

"Are those bubbles?"

"Yep. You would not believe the stuff I have in them. And yours."

Ahja eyed his saddlebags and swore to check them in the morning. For now though, he really needed to rest. Horses could do fine on three hours of sleep a night. Mere humans needed more.

Or he could just lay there, fighting magic wine induced aphrodisiacs. And not thinking about the Fiend just a meter away . . . and not thinking about making mad passionate love to her all night long.

Until she cursed and shifted her bedding over against his.

"You know you're going to kill me when the wine wears off." Ajha managed to not reach for her. It wasn't easy.

"Don't be stupid, I ought to have seduced you a decade ago."

Ooo, those luscious curves, didn't matter that he couldn't see them in the dark, he could see them in his mind. He grit his teeth and made one last lunge for sanity. "Really? I was still going bald then."

"Well, I was young and foolish."

"You're still appallingly young."

"And even more foolish. Let me demonstrate."

Then it was mad passionate love all night long.

Despite which, they were flat on their bellies surveying an armed compound on the evening of the fourth day.

"Well, well. Now isn't that interesting. Action Teams and Earth mercenaries, all chummy in something that would take a fair amount of work to take down." Ajha eased back and thought about it. "I thought the locals might fight to stay, even to the point of seceding."

Fean grinned. "Looks like the Earthers had the same idea, and they've made a common cause of it."

"Yep." Ajha squinted suddenly. "And that group of women and children they're herding across aren't being treated like volunteers. I guess some of the raids were real."

Fean growled. "And not the Nomads. What do you want to bet the Mercs and the Teamers are raiding each other's towns?"

"Could be. So, let's get some dinner, let the sun set, then we'll slide down there and see what sort of mayhem we can commit."

They sat close to eat yet another fresh sandwich fetched from the saddlebags. Exchanging uncertain glances as the twilight faded.

"Bring the bubble you had the horses in. If those women are captives, we can use it to smuggle them out." Ajha warped light around himself, knowing Fean would be doing the same. They'd both managed enough coaching on Comet Fall magic to be able to do things the Teamers wouldn't be expecting. The warps would even conceal their body heat, and the little slit for vision had a secondary spell to shift frequencies for night vision. They marched confidently down the hill and slipped through the guarded gate as the guard shifts changed.

He started with the buildings opposite where the women had been herded. ::Offices. Armory. Officer's quarters. ::

He eyed the low building.

:: Better not, Boss. There's too many of them. ::

:: I wasn't going to start a fight! I could just tap a few brains . . . ::

:: And one of them would wake up, and then we'd be fighting our way out of here. C'mon. Finish the survey. ::

:: Mess hall and kitchen. And yes, by the leaking emotions, captives. And the lock on the outside, of course. ::

:: The last building is barracks, between the lock up and the gate. We need to be sneaky, else we'll find a hundred soldiers between us and escape. ::

:: Not really. The place was built to keep an army out, not sneaky people in. :: Ajha slipped up to the door of the building that was leaking a stew of emotions from frightened to resigned. Even a bit of excitement, mixed with youthful naivety. Some of the kids are making it into an adventure. Good. Less trauma.

He bit his lip, then put a soft mental shield between this building and the barracks. Then touched the lock with a telekinetic spell that fitted itself to the wards and turned. They slipped quietly inside and dropped the light warps.

Barracks, rows of beds, huddled forms leaping up in alarm . . .

Ajha lowered his shield a bit, and spoke up. "Hi. We're the good guys. Anyone here in need of rescue?"

The sheer stupidity stopped the panicked women.

The nearest one frowned at him. "Who the One Hell are you?"

"Umm, well, Ajha Clostuone. I'm with the Directorate, trying to find out what the rogue Action Teams are up to. Kidnapping, I take it?"

"And murder and rape." Another woman stalked up and glared at him, frowned at Fean. "And yeah, we'd like to be rescued. Or give us some guns and we see about a bit of revenge and then rescue ourselves."

"Unfortunately Governor Arry isn't here right now. So let's get back to town and start by taking him down."

That got a groundswell of deep growls from half the women. The other half huddled in terror. About half Oners or Halfers, about half . . . Earthers? Or maybe Natives the Earth brought in to mine and do the stoop labor?

Fean stepped forward. "This is a bag of the Prophets. Let me show you how it works."