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06 March 2017 @ 11:14 am
_Black Point Clan_ part3  

Chapter Two

7 Safar 1407yp

Black Point Enclave, West Coast of North America

Ajha got up early and beat the drunks to the shower. And with the wisdom of experience, he slid the glass door wide and left the drapes pulled across the closed half. Fast, safe egress for the possibly sick Mushy and Whipper. He left the bathroom door open as well. Then he left them to deal with themselves.

With so many guests, his mother had apparently decided on buffet style breakfasting. Ajha wasn't the first in. Fibber and Jain and their husbands were chatting at one end of the table. Three of the six younger women were up. Two in robes. Xian was dressed in riding gear. He filled a plate and sat down across from her.

"Riding? Do you have a horse?"

"I don't own a horse right now, but I ride regularly. I had to reserve a horse a month ago, and I'm not going to miss my only opportunity to ride my favorite old trails."

Ajha nodded. "I've ridden a bit, but my latest work has all been in post industrial Worlds. No opportunity."

She swallowed a bite. "I thought we avoided those?"

"Yes, for exploring for colonies or mining prospects. But I'm working with the Dimensional Physics Group at the moment, studying close parallel worlds."

"Really? Those are such strange . . . " She broke off as the House computer chimed.

"An unapproved visitor is approaching the door. Opjw Withione."

"Pajamas? Poppy's boy?" Xiat frowned. "She's going to throw a fit if he bothers her mother or Sub-minister Arja." She glanced down the table, where Jain's fingers were tapping in irritation.

"Well, lets find out what's up." Ajha rose. "Let him in, House."

The boy hovering in the doorway looked younger than ten. Or maybe it had just been a long time since he'd seen a ten year old.

"Hi. Opjw?" He pronounced it more or less like Op Jaw. The boy looked relieved. Pajamas was definitely the nick name from hell. "I'm Ajha. Your mother's not up yet, do you need her immediately, or would you like some breakfast?"

More relief. "Breakfast would be good." His glance slid past Ajha and he nodded to Xiat, eyes brightening in relieved recognition. In the dining room he hesitated at the sight of his grandmother and her new acquisition.

"Grab a plate and come sit with us." Ajha headed for his own abandoned breakfast.

The boy speed loaded his plate and sat on Ajha's far side.

Xiat frowned. "I thought Poppy said you were going to stay in school."

The boy nodded. "Yeah, but everyone's older brother and sister are looking for places to stay, and the bullies are making sure they find them."

Ajha nodded. "Figures. They're probably earning finder's fees."

Opjw smiled briefly. "I sold my bed last week, for my room mate's brother. Unfortunately his parents can't find a place. So they're getting the beds and the three of us get the floor. They all snore. And cough. And whine about not having room to unpack. I figured I needed to clear out for a couple of hours this morning."

"No problem. Make yourself at home. House, add Opjw to the allowed guest list."

"Yes, Information Leader Ajha."

The boy sat up straight. "Info leader? Here or do you get to Cross over?"

"Cross over. I highly recommend it."

He deflated. "I'd never pass the security checks, because of my father."

Ajha frowned at that. "Well. I can see where it might be considered an item to check. But I wasn't raised by my father and my loyalties are all with my mother's family. I mean, judging the split of loyalties is something that is done both internally and externally for all of us." He'd been thinking as he talked, though. "One! You are so screwed, aren't you?"

"Yep. I might as well be a Servaone."

"Oh, it's not that bad. Just—government service may not be in your future, but private industry is still eighty percent of all jobs."

The kid really did look like Xen.

"Have you considered a different hair cut? Minimize your resemblance to Dewulfe?" Ajha shrugged. "I blend in to various cultures all the time. Hair and clothes are the easy part."

Xiat eyed the kid. "He's right. Stick around, kid. I think you need a makeover."

Opjw looked alarmed. "I haven't got money for that! Mom isn't one of you rich divorcees, you know. Sorry, Aunt Xiat, I know you work too. But the school is expensive, much more than the stipend."

Xiat sighed. "Right. And that's why I'll do the hair cutting and then buy you just a couple of shirts in a very different style. But right now, I've got to bolt, or I'll miss my ride."

"Stick around, kid. I'll show you how to research what you need."

The kid was smart and caught on fast. They compared the most frequently seen pix of Endi Dewulfe, and the most recent of Xen Wolfson.

"He always had his hair a bit long and shaggy. Showing the curl in it. Clothes wise, recently, uniforms. And previously, show jackets or stretchy shirts that showed off his muscles."

"No worries about that." Pajamas' tone was glum.

"Not yet. You're a little young for puberty. The muscles will come. So. I'd recommend short hair and traditional Arab style shirts. Those are starting to come back into popularity. Your coloring is good for a Withione. Colors. Hmm. Xen tended to wear black jackets and white shirts for showing. Black tees shirts to show off his muscles. And now the charcoal grey Disco uniform, and sometimes the dark blue and gold Comet Fall uniform." Ajha glanced at his watch. "I've got to do a command performance at my father's. Stick around. I'll be back and make sure Xiat doesn't violate masculine standards of appearance."

He hiked out to the main road, hopped a tram to the top of the hill, and walked to his Grandfather's house. He was deliberately barely on time. His father gave him a stiff nod. Princess Vaad looked him over with half closed eyes, glow showing. Ajha didn't let it in. As far as he'd ever been able to tell, Vaad was a social arranger, no love lost between her and the Ax. Professional politeness, indifference or tepid dislike below, as far as Ajka could tell. Above a certain level in both government and industry, all men had Princesses somewhere in their vicinity. Often in their beds. If his father and Vaad had a private relationship, it was very private. But even their public relationship was cooler than a lot of princess and principal interactions.

Vaad's eyes flicked over Ajha's 'business casual' attire and she frowned.

"I brought a tie, in case it was needed."

His father snorted. "That's the least of it."

Indeed. He got a complete briefing of his father's stands on a dozen matters. All solidly conservative. While he listened, a woman combed his hair, nodded approvingly, and made up his face.

"You'll look very well on the screen. Just a bit rugged, and you have very good posture. You look confident and accomplished." She stepped back and smiled. "Now don't touch your hair or face."

His father got the same treatment. The Ax was a tall thin man. Good looking despite a rather long hooked nose. Black hair and brilliant blue eyes. Ajha had a subdued version of the nose, but otherwise resembled his mother, in his green eyes and mid-brown hair. Checking a mirror, he saw that whatever the makeup lady had put on his hair had darkened it a bit, and it was brushed to display his tall wide forehead just as his father's was displayed. Maybe it is a bit more than the nose. And I suppose the age doesn't hurt, either. Seventy to his hundred and fifty beats eighteen to ninety-eight, as far as family resemblance is concerned.

At ten thirty the guests started trickling in, including a few with vidcamms on their shoulders. Ajha kept track of them as if they were Natives looking to add him to tonight's menu. He talked to a wide selection of men and women, generally echoing his father's policies, differing mainly on cross dimensional matters, and especially as to retaliation against Comet Fall. As to his father's position on redefining the One, he replied strictly according to his father's instructions.

"What about your own opinion?" One pushy man was fishing for a good scandal. "Why don't we just re-engineer those genes ourselves, eh?"

"We count ancient genetic engineering, even when it only effects esthetics, for reasons of tradition. And also because we don't understand how each change affects the whole. New genetic engineering? I find the idea a bit frightening, and I think that only the repair of damage justifies its use today. We really don't know what we're doing."

Not what the man had wanted at all. "How about redefining the One? How can anyone stand for that?"

Ajha raised an eyebrow. "It's been redefined before, for political purposes. It's only words. We are what we are, each of us, individually. We've been thumped, no doubt there, but it was a rather gentle thump. We can change a few labels, or just ignore it."

"But, that means there won't be as many Withiones or Neartuones!"

"Hardly. Those three genes weren't power functions. Oh, by the old standards fewer people will be labeled Withione. To change the labels, the definitions . . . I can't think of a single scheme that doesn't have problems. I wish the conclave the blessings of the One in deciding what to use."

"If you had to pick a favorite, what would you use as a standard?"

"Socially, I'd have everyone stick to how they tested as a child, or upgrade if the new standards raised them up. Personally? I always thought the original system of just counting the number of insertion packets was clean and simple. Zero to twelve. Practically, for education and employment? There's an obvious advantage to having two copies each of seventeen specific genes. Once you've got those, I'd tend to simply go with a straight percent of the remaining genes, however you want to count them. Take the current Oner population, split it into top ten percent, next twenty, next thirty and the last forty percent. Label them Withione, Neartuone, Clostuone, and Servaone. Or better yet, drop the designations altogether as job requirements and just go with a test of skills."

"Drop . . . but then we'd be competing with Servaones for jobs. Even Multitude!"

"If they can do the job, why shouldn't they be allowed to compete with you for it?" Ajha countered.

"What does you father think of your opinions?"

"That they aren't worth listening to."

The boggled newsie backed away politely, murmuring into his vocal pickup, to add commentary of his own.

Ajha kept track and after he'd been cornered by all five newsies, he headed home.

". . . and Arab style clothes are in. I need some shirts. In light blue, green and yellow. No dark colors, and no bright ones either." Opjw was scowling at his mother, arms folded. He looked different with the short hair. More One and less Dewulfe, certainly. But still a skinny undersized ten.

"Excellent haircut, Jay." Ajha nodded his approval to the boy, who blinked at the sudden nickname. He was seriously out numbered by the seven adult women looming around him. "Good job Xiat. How was your ride?"

"A bit muddy, which is just as well. One doesn't want to get too nostalgic. C'mon, Poppy, let's take Pajamas, Jay, shopping. No, not the whole herd of us females. Take pity on the kid."

"Perhaps I should come, show Jay how a man shops."

"Oh, this I have to see." Phoebe grinned.

Some of the ladies decided to stay home, but it was still a rather large group that took the tram down to the shops.

Ajha swept a look around the first shop, caught the kid's eye. They exchanged infinitesimal head shakes, turned and walked out.

"But, but, you didn't look at anything!"

The next shop had some shirts that might work, but the whites and off whites . . .

The third shop was perfect. Jay tried a shirt on. They checked it in the mirror, agreed on cut and size. Plucked six other shirts in acceptable colors off the racks and bought them without trying them on.

"Ta da! Half an hour. Done." Ajha looked around. "Hey. A sandwich shop? That's new. C'mon. My treat."

The restaurant had a good view over the ocean, and they were enough off the lunch hour to get seats.

Xiat was looking amused. "You're enjoying yourself, aren't you? Showing off."

"Yep. I was blessed with an Uncle that showed me the ropes. Now I'm returning the Karmic debt. And showing off my account balance to all you school chums is fun too. Who'd have thought?"

"No kidding." Cookie put in dryly.

Snickers all around.

"Did Whipper and Mushy ever regain consciousness?"

Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Yes. The less said, the better. Uncle Ajki dosed them up with something, the Serviones cleaned up the disaster in your bathroom, they went back to bed. Now tell us about you morning meeting with your father."

"A small reception for a dozen people and five news bureaus. I expect that with a bit of cutting I can be made to sound like a wild-eyed radical out to destroy the One, and with my poor father under my thumb. I may never be allowed to set foot on Black Point again."

"Uh, oh. Sounds like trouble. Aunt Kiaj said there'd be a disaster this week, and maybe you'd get it over with early on." Poppy smirked.

"Such confidence in me. I am crushed."

"Well you haven't exactly impressed anyone, outside of Uncle Ajki."

Jay leaned forward. "Tell us about your first cross dimensions assignment."

Ajha grinned. "After a couple of embassy internships, my first real field assignment was as the junior member of a four man info team. Their fourth had resigned suddenly; I literally met the others on the train to Gate Town. So off I went, barely briefed to Target World Forty-two. Since renamed Comet Fall."

"You've been to Comet Fall?" Jay's eyes glowed.

"Spent five years there. Almost six. Karista, the Capitol City of the Kingdom of the West is located about where San Francisco is on Band One Worlds, so it felt almost like home. Colder winters, what with the ice age and all."

"Did they really start the war by killing an entire Action Team?"

"In as much as the Action Team was tasked with killing an entire village of a couple hundred people, I really don't think we can say that they started the war."

"We did not!" Poppy and Phoebe synced that, with equal levels of indignant denial.

Ajha nodded. "Did too. Ask Uncle Ajki. Well, not quite forty years ago, so I suppose it's not public yet. I dare say it'll be quite a shock in ten years, when it is declassified. It was an utterly disgraceful affair. Anyone who digs for information above and beyond the official news releases can find out that we lost eighteen Teamers on Target Forty-two."

"Eighteen! That's . . . "

"Two full teams, their leader and a scout. Two more distant observers escaped. They reported that a couple dozen teenage girls killed them all."

Even Jay was looking offended. Poor boy. Well, just as well if Ajha was a small bit of help, not a major figure in his life. It wasn't like Ajha was going to marry Poppy and raise the boy.

"If it's classified, are you supposed to even talk about it?" Phoebe frowned. "I suppose you can say anything you like, and just laugh and say the supporting documents are classified."

"Well, we're not supposed to talk to news outlets and so forth. Prior to the elapse of twenty-five years I couldn't have even thought about it too loudly. At fifty years, half a century later, all the supporting data will be available. Which will make it all more fun to talk about. So perhaps we should change the subject. Where do you all live, these days?"

"Caracas." Poppy brightened at the thought. She must like it there. Jay look wistful. Poor Oner kid, he really did have to be in solid Oner territory until his power had come in and he'd been trained to control it. The Caracas Enclave must be well outside of the city. Or maybe she thought he should get to know his own clan enclave.

The others were all living in Paris. Phoebe and Cookie had gotten their apartments as part of their first divorce settlements, and been working upward since. Ajha listened, a bit baffled, as Phoebe and Cookie discussed the prospects they were seeing here.

"Really, I'm half tempted to go for an old man." Phoebe's eye twinkled at the other's reactions. "Take someone like Minister Udzi, who's running for Patriarch. He doesn't have any children, so he can't really be that strong. Dump him in five years, and think of the status! A minister couldn't get you pregnant."

"You've got to watch that, though." Cookie paused for a sip of tea. "Sooner or later you'll get high enough that the man expects a child. Shaming him by putting him in the same tier as your former husbands can really hurt."

"Well, you've fooled around with Neartuones, Cookie. You should go for a good solid Withione next time. Have a baby."

Cookie was scowling, no doubt at the veiled reminder that as a Neartuone she was playing the Game at a lower level than the others.

Ajha caught a faint sigh from Xiat. Since she'd been chosen for the Princess School, she could well have every single one of the Prophets' genes. So no one was stronger than she was. She would never have a baby . . . without outside assistance in the form of the Comet Fall Joy Juice. If I could import the stuff wholesale, I'd be rich. It would mess up all these genetic rankings and give the princesses a stake in the future. Not to mention what it would do for priests.

"Personally, I'd recommend marrying someone you like and hoping for a baby." Xiat took a bite of her sandwich as if she had a grudge against it.

Cookie rolled her eyes. "I've seen what a mess women can make of themselves, having babies, then getting divorced. That's not for me." She glanced toward Poppy.

Poppy shrugged. "It worked out well for me. I had divorce settlements and Pa, I mean Jay. And frankly, a job that you leave behind at the end of every afternoon is really nice."

Xiat was the only one nodding agreement, and the look she threw at the kid was downright hungry. Definitely a market for the Joy Juice, here.

The brief world news just showed him talking with his father, while the newsie talked over it about the coming convention to choose the Patriarch. The regional news channel had neatly trimmed his speculations about the One redefinition, and mentioned that his father was in contention for the Patriarchy. The local feeds had all his interviews. To his surprise, they were also posted, in their entirety, on all their grid sites. Even the world news that got echoed to the colonies.

Why do they think my opinion is that important?

His father was at the door in minutes of the broadcast about not using One status for job requirements. "Are you insane? Whatever you think, you can't just say something like that in front of a news vid!"

"Really Jaja!" His mother chimed in from the other side. "Such utter rubbish! What sort of people have you been associating with?"

"Very intelligent, competent ones, some without a speck of magic to them. And still good at what they do. Some jobs require magic, some are easier with magic and some don't need it. I think you'd be shocked at how large that last category is."

His father shook his head. "I should have taken more care with your upbringing. However, that remark will bring me to the notice of everyone in town."

"You hardly need any help at that!" His mother led the man off, and Ajha retreated to watch more news. More talk about what to do to Comet Fall, and when.

If the Commerce Ministry would simply approve the importation of the six repair potions, the matter would fade away. Which, I suspect may be why they aren't being imported. Damn politics.

More talk about the Conclave. The Council wanted to limit their authority to a recommendation, and not allow discussion of anything but reclassification. The President was pointing out that the Constitution didn't allow limiting a conclave. Then some vid stars' news about upcoming vids. Then sports and weather. An entertainment show started, and Ajha slipped out. His bedroom was deserted. He stepped out to the patio, got out a chair and enjoyed the sunset in private. He nodded off, was awoken when his drunken cousins—all three this time—showed up. This time he had the antihol to hand, so they were technically sober when they all went to bed, two hours after midnight.

Michawl Dolbear: pic#111005956Michawl Dolbear on March 7th, 2017 01:43 am (UTC)
==Xian was dressed in riding gear. ==

Might as well correct to Xiat