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18 September 2016 @ 12:05 am
_Planet Purple_ part 3  
  Xen just grinned. "But he just gave us jobs. Do you lot know which end of a hammer to hold?"
They all had a reasonable spread of abilities. Her "brother," who was still getting called Kook instead of the proper Klark, admitted to having worked his way through college as a plumbers assistant.
"That means I got all the dirty jobs in the tight twisty uncomfortable places."
Xen looked over at her, his eyes laughing. "And guess what women don't do in this society?"
"Work?"
"Not around men, and not at all once they marry. You can, however, shop and cook." He eyed the various Oners hanging around. "I'd advise against local girlfriends, but casual dating can give you a bit of cover. Now, since none of you are purps any more, I want to make this very clear. Normal men. Do. Not. Date. Purple women. The relatives will castrate you, and not worry about you bleeding to death or whatever. And damn unlikely a judge would find them guilty of anything. Just don't do it."
That got a bit of muttering going, most of it about not touching a corpse lady with a ten meter, umm, pole.
Hugo ordered them off to sleep in the loft, set a watch, with Loois and Carl splitting the night and staying home tomorrow.
Rael was all too aware that a number of eyes watched as she and "Lobo" entered separate bedrooms. Damn it.
She fixed breakfast in the pre-dawn and sent everyone except Carl and Loois off to work. Scowled at the kitchen. I'm used to an autokitchen that will make anything I want, from basic ingredients to a five course meal, ready to eat. This completely from scratch cooking is . . . challenging. Good grief, eggs still in the shell!
Three of the Team drove home at noon.
"Monteleon said we were useless." T-bone Canis, formerly known as Ento Withione, shrugged. "As far as construction is concerned, he's right."
Rael looked at them. T-bone and Andy were dark, Sam fair. "Think about really being purps. Yeah, genetic engineering makes me squirm too. But this is a tried and tested gene complex that a lot of the Prophets' friends had. Yeah, including Endi Dewulf, through his father, who is a Comet Fall Old God. Apparently there's a version that's turned off, there. Well, think about it." She waved toward the table. "I've been looking through the jobs postings. There are some entry level accounting positions, that specifically want Purps. Sales positions. Executive secretaries. Women don't do secretarial work here, apparently we're too giddy, and easily taken advantage of."
They gravitated to the table, and joined Loois and Carl, who were head down in the paper, and to her relief, acting much more like arrogant and angry Oners, than yesterday's quiet and traumatized zombies.
So, some of them working rough jobs and some working in offices. Some Purps, some Normals, and some branded bad boys. Not a bad setup. Rael stepped to the small side door and looked out at the weeds and the scrapheap of a house next door. I'd get claustrophobia, or go stir crazy inside of a month. Maybe both. I'll write up a report, emphasizing the conditions and warning both male and female agents, so they know, psychologically, what to expect, here.
Her lips quirked. And I'm going to suggest that I regularly interview Xen about all those other worlds' societies. She stepped back inside to pick up what Xen had called a shopping basket, a wicker thing with about a twenty liter capacity,  and the cash he'd left, and headed out to find this market he'd spoken of.

The work party hit the barn an hour after sundown, stiff, sore, complaining about the paucity of showers, and eating everything in sight. Rael mentally doubled tomorrow's shopping list. These guys are going to have to spread out, and maybe some local girlfriends to do the shopping and cooking wouldn't be a bad idea.
T-bone propped his elbows on the table and eyed the Purp. "So, Lobo. Sophi says you can do genetic engineering, give us real purple genes while we're here, and then remove them when we go home."
Hugo frowned.
Lobo shrugged. "I can. I don't know if it's a good idea, but that's not my call. It's two days till Sunday, no work allowed all day. If you'd like, we could run up to Ellaiha, Perhaps leave some of the vehicles there." He eyes flicked toward the trucks, full of anonymous boxes and crates under tarps. Ugho had made no move to unload, here in someone else's domain. "You could all get acquainted with the area you are supposed to be from. I set it all up, figuring I'd need to check regularly and make sure the Earth wasn't taking over, violently or otherwise. Turns out this is one of the few worlds they actually get along with, so I'll be a rare visitor, and you can use the town as you wish. I expect you'll get sick and tired of the barn, quickly."
Loois' hand went to his burned cheek.
Lobo nodded. "And I can sign the release papers in about six months, show the court a working ledger, how you're gainfully employed and haven't been making any trouble. And how you've earned back your bond and more. You'll get all new papers, but the brand will have to stay until you go home. Speaking of which, I'll get a ledger. You can keep the records up, and pay taxes."
Hugo nodded. "And carry on like a real company."
Lobo's teeth flashed. "Drop that mindset, it will give you away. Be a real company. Sweat to make payroll, pay all the taxes, the guild fees. Live it, believe it. Be authentic and they'll never question what your hidden motives are."
"But you're not hardly ever here. Why do they believe you?"
Another quick flash of teeth. "Because I'm a Purp. Poor Purps are supposed to put up a front of prosperity, not let the Color down. They all know I bought that town dirt cheap, because no one in their right mind wants it. But it gave me a lot of 'face' so to speak. They laugh behind my back, and think they know exactly what I am. Lazy and pretentious. Oh, and that I'm an alkie. Alcohol addict, which explains the long absences."
Hugo nodded. "And now you've got us. And they know we're not from your town."
"Right. They think I'm putting up some non-purple throwbacks who got kicked out of their family compounds. Probably for a cut of your pay. Grabbed a pretty girl, for bed and breeding, but I can dump her if the kids don't get my purpleness."
"One. Well, no question that you've saved the four of us, and kept the rest from just running back home on the first scheduled gate." Hugo leaned back and eyed Lobo. "So . . . where's your gate. One of these Comet Fall permanent ones, I suspect."
Lobo nodded. "I'll have them close it, or move it, when I leave. It just goes to the Maze, wouldn't do you guys much good. But we, Disco, don't actually want to hand you the keys to our spying web. Sorry. What I can do is a corridor from here to wherever you put your gate anchor. In Ellaiha would be my recommendation."

Kook didn't say anything about his suspicions about Lobo's identity. Partly because he was junior to everyone else here, but mostly . . . because the man fascinated him. He had his shields up all the time. In public he'd felt like a low powered Oner. Servaone. Yet somehow his eyes weren't shuttered. They were deep and powerful. Eleven years ago he'd infiltrated Oner society and shaken it to the roots. Saved the President's life, stopped the invasion of his own world, and changed the Oner's view of the multiverse forever. Kook was more than willing to learn from the best. Even if it meant being a branded almost-slave installing primitive plumbing in substandard housing.
Just today had been an eye-opener. Lobo had worked his ass off all day, and talked his green crew through all the jobs they'd been tasked with. He'd sweated, joked, cursed and laughed. Fit in. And the Oners had been pulled into the crew in his wake. I felt like a member of the group. Even the Purps started treating me decently once they saw I could do the piping. Hugo got treated the worst, branded and nothing special. But he worked, and they all accepted him, by the end of the day. Is this how the Multitude feels, lives? It's going to knock some of my prejudices loose, that's for sure.
He looked over at the two bottles on the kitchen table. Wrapped in paper, and labeled simply "On" and "Off." Lobo had set them down and wandered off.
T-bone, Andy and Sam had had a long talk with Hugo and Jack. Then all three of them had taken a small glassful of "On." Changing their genetics as if it weren't important. Not a big change, mind you, but . . .
The construction crew worked their asses off for the next two days.
And then they piled into the trucks and drove overnight to this Ellaiha place.
In the early light, it was dry and dusty. Something about the untracked blown sand in the streets and the build up in the drainage ditches along both sides of the main—and only—street spoke eloquently of its long abandonment.
"The outsides of the buildings have been repaired, and I've got the  plumbing working in the saloon and the church. The church is to show respect. Don't let anyone hear you not respecting it. Act like it's a chapel of the One, with a Priest living there. You three who are going Purp, I'd recommend you pick homes. I'll put in a corridor to one of the private houses, so you can come and go, at need, but you'll need to occasionally drive back and forth, so people don't notice that you never do. Got it?" Lobo slanted a look at the group. "Actually, it would be in character, and quite typical, for me to order one of the indentured boys to stay here and start watering, landscaping a bit and so forth. Paint my saloon." He shrugged, glanced at Hugo. "Whatever works for you lot." He walked away from the trucks, fishing out a big ring of old fashioned metal keys.
Rael scowled after him. "If he wasn't an expert, I wouldn't even do it short term."
Hugo nodded. "Unfortunately, as you say, he's good. I think we'll follow his suggestions, for now."
Kook stretched. Sleeping in the trucks had been even less comfortable than sleeping on straw. He eyed the little town. Saloon at one end. Two vacant lots then five houses, crowded together. Then, with space around it, a tiny building. Steep roof, with a cross. He nodded to himself. Their intel had been that the Natives had clung to one of the old Christian sects, but had modified it in their early years.
Beyond the chapel, three houses. Across the street from the chapel, two more little houses. That was all that was left of the town. A suggestion of square corners and straight lines in the drifting sand hinted at old foundations.
He followed the rest of them into the saloon. Inside, the desolation vanished. There wasn't even dust on the polished wooden bar, the tables. The floor boards were a bit scuffed and dull, the mirror behind the bar was cracked and the silvering crazed all around the edges. There weren't many bottles on the few shelves. Stairs led to a balcony, a narrow space with rooms behind it, doorways gaping open. The ceiling was wood, unfinished cedar, it looked like. Lobo strolled out of sight under the balcony, and pans clanked.
Rael . . . Sophi . . . looked around and shook her head. "I think someone has watched too many Western flicks. Leader, I'll leave you to organize your people. One only knows whether that man can cook." She strode off.
Hugo looked around. "Well. I suppose we ought to have known Disco was good at infiltration. Loois, I want you to stay here. Play gardener. You three had better stay until you get purplish. That'll give you a minor compass, if you need to raise power. Carl? How are you at rough carpentry? Or book keeping?"
Carl was looking a lot better for having been out of jail for almost four days. "Actually I do fine cabinetry as a hobby. Mostly boxes and stuff. Custom picture frames, if my brother needs 'em. He's an artist."
"Right. Tomorrow you can start working, impress that Monteleon character and you'll be in good shape." He ran an eye over the rest of them. "So, who wants to be the book keeper for a 'general contractor' and what other job opportunities can we find?"
"Sales, accounting, office work, several professions. Are we going to be here long enough to attend college?"
They knocked the ideas around while Lobo and Rael started bring out plates of food.
The sixteen of them half filled the room as they tucked into a big breakfast.
Kook paid attention to where Lobo and Rael were. Deliberately not joining us, making it clear we're on our own. Except that eventually they did join them. Rael came out of the kitchen with a pot of coffee in each hand. Lobo carried two plates and two empty cups to a table near Ugho.
And started talking while Rael topped off coffee cups.
Local history, local customs, legalities. Relationship with Earth, with other worlds. It was a one day cram session. All about Purple, all about fitting in.
And after they had eaten, Lobo walked over to the smallest house, and put in a corridor to the barn in the city, with an illusion over it, and lined out another spot and said he'd see about a permanent gate. "No promises. I'm personally of the opinion that the more we infiltrate each other's worlds and can keep track of what they're doing, the better off we all are, and the less likely we'll go all paranoid and pull a pre-emptive retaliatory attack."
Rael snickered.
"Oh yeah, laugh all you want. But don't think both the Earth and your own government don't trot out terms like that when they're feeling paranoid."
"So you think, the more information we have, the less paranoid we'll feel—and them too?" Hugo narrowed his eyes. "Have you helped the Earth spy on One?"
Lobo grinned. "Nope. I helped the Fallen set up on Earth, but didn't do anything the other direction. Pity, there'd be circular closure that way, wouldn't there?"
 
 
 
muirecanmuirecan on September 18th, 2016 03:54 pm (UTC)
All good advice from the god of spies. ;)

I rather like Kook/Klark. He is keeping his mouth shut and paying attention to what is going on around him. He will make a very good spy. You know of that particular team I could see him and Rael as the two most likely to call on the god of spies in an emergency. :D And then not explain later.