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12 March 2017 @ 10:57 am
_Black Point Clan_ part 9  

Chapter Eight

Xiat glanced out the front, to see if the newsies had the house besieged, and was shocked all over again. Ecclesiastical guards. Of course. One stood at either side of the walk up to the house. The small crowd was hanging well back. She circled the house, spotted two roving guards. No one was on the path.

Back in the Great Room the guard's officer was talking to Ajha. Ajha glanced past his shoulder. "Xiat, would you please go out there and tell the newsies that I will not be making any further statements until after the convention, so as to not distract from this important local matter?"

Xiat nodded and left. He was back to being closed up, just a bit of 'socially polite' glow showing. I saw him closed all the way up, I saw him open up enough access for the Truth link. And I never wondered how wide open he could go.

I felt his joy.


"We've closed your usual mail account to incoming messages."

Ajha stared at the eighty thousand some that had gotten in before then.

The Guard Commander was still stiff. Ajha was unknown territory, to him.

"Well. I guess I'll need about three new ones. Personal, business, and . . . requests for help."

"If I may recommend, Philosopher, you are going to need staff. And a home somewhere on this World, and a business office."

"Right. Well. First, please call me Ajha."

The man looked worried.

"Unless we're someplace formal."

Captain Wrlo relaxed slightly.

Ajha searched the closed account for friends. The Fiend sent a big toothy grin and brief message. "I have just won several thousand credits. As soon as I've collected, I'll be ready to come work for you."

The others were just as gleeful. Even Idre and Egto wanted to come work for him. "They don't know what I'll need doing. I don't know what I'll need doing." He looked up as the Great Room was invaded.

Kiaj, Jain and Fibber, maids with luggage.

"Dear, we're going to get out from underfoot, One help me, up at Ahvi's. So you'll have room to put your guards, and start getting some staff. I'll leave Maij and the girls, so you'll only have to worry about secretaries and so forth." She burst suddenly into tears. "I'm so proud, and so frightened!" She hugged him and nearly ran for the door.

Ajha looked further, toward his uncle.

"I'll stick around. You may not have quite outgrown a need for advice."

Various other heads were bobbing around the room. Mushy and Whipper looked mulish.

"Hey, we're your investigators." Mushy declared.

The Guard Captain looked appalled.

"One. There's still that murder, isn't there."

Xiat shifted. "You have immunity now."

"I don't need immunity. I don't go around killing people. Unless they really need it." He turned back to his comp and sent a message to the Fiend. [I need someone to find me a house and office, set up all the systems and hire, fire, or eat staff as necessary. Probably in Freeport. I don't want to be based in Makkah or Paris. Unfortunately Black Point would be too Clannish. Pity, I like the climate. How brave are you? Umm, incoming mail is blocked. I'll send you the new addy as soon as I have one. Just as well, you'll be forced to think, just to use up the time before you can reply.]

"Right. Captain, I'll be taking the ground floor bedroom at the back. Director Ajki has the room at the end. Ladies? If you're staying, why don't you move to the two upstairs bedrooms. Then, Captain, you can do whatever you need to, to the front bedroom for your troops, just for a few days. There's an attic as well. I suppose beds will be flying everywhere. The front parlor is also available, if you want it. This room . . . leave as is, likewise the dining room." Ajha looked around. "Any other week and I could call any of three realtors and rent any size house I wanted. Poor Mother."

"For now, turn on the convention, we're missing the start." Ajha leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "Go arrange everything the way you want, Captain. I'll be right here, probably comatose."

He listened half heartedly to the speakers, and drifted off to sleep. At some point, he woke long enough to get himself a new mail address and send it to the Fiend.

Krazy looked over his shoulder and scowled. "Who's she? Your social secretary?"

"A very competent young woman who can be whatever she wishes."

Poppy came up on his other side and sat on the arm of his chair. "What can she do that we can't?"

"She has information team training. Most likely she'll end up doing my political analysis. For now, she's in charge." The comp dinged and he opened the return mail.

[Tell me what you think of these three properties. I suspect you're going to have to have an office in San Francisco, just to deal with the VIPs. I can get you a corridor, if you'd like, for the commute. I've opened a grid page, will have it designed before you give me your positions to post. Right now I have it running all your interviews from the last few days. The equine hanky-panky is very popular.]

Xiat glanced at her watch. "Not bad for an hour."

Sue looked at him uncertainly. "What about us? You don't need us, do you?"

"No, but you just turned into hot property, didn't you? Go work your networks, chat with your friends. Brag. You were there when." Four of them headed upstairs.

Poppy eyed him. "You're not a Priest. Will they, umm. And can you marry?"

"I am very certain that castration is not a requirement for this particular job. And I'm too old for it to do any good, anyway. No, I am not going to marry you. You actually have experience in micromagifacturing, don't you? Let me think about that, and talk to the Fiend. Speaking of whom, I believe I ought to have a great deal of money. I need to get her access to it." He settled back and opened the real estate files. Hesitated and glanced at Xiat. "I've been assuming that you're Internal Relations?"

She nodded. " Lots of pre-cogs and dreams. About the convention, we thought. No, I don't want a new job."

"Right, well, if your boss wants you to stick around, please do, and I really did not kill Udzi, so perhaps that should be worked on?"

"I'll call my Director."

Ajki looked around the wing of his chair. "Tell him he missed all the fun."

"I will." She frowned back at Ajha. "What did she mean, equine hanky-panky?"

"Umm, you might want to stop by the stable, and see for yourself." He looked back at the comp. Office in Sanfran. Ugg. She's right. He checked the three houses, stopped the Captain and got his opinions on them, and a number for a bank account, now all his to do with whatever he wished.

He sent both sets of comments on all three houses, the bank number and his agreement about an office in San Francisco.

Then he turned off his comp. "What I need to do is forget that today even happened. I need to investigate Udzi's murder, sit back and watch my Dad Play the whole Clan, and start over from a rational basis in three days. Yes, Captain, you can still guard me. But I may come close to ignoring you."

Mushy, Whipper and Bo looked up hopefully.

"Mushy, Whipper? Did you find out anything yesterday?"

Whipper looked uneasily at Ajki. "Errr. . . "

"Don't mind him. Tell."

"Director Ajki spent the evening of the ninth in The Forty Thieves, with other people coming and going from his table. He stepped into the men's several times, but was never out of sight long enough to have gotten to Jib and killed someone. He closed the place down at 1am."

"That's not bad for a completely untrained investigator." Ajki said.

"Well, bars are our natural habitat." Mushy actually tried to look modest.

Captain Wrlo was a bit stiff faced. Poor man. He was likely to have a rough adjustment period.

On screen, the Town Council finally finished shining in their brief moment of world-wide attention, and adjourned for the night.

The three Candidates would speak in the morning, voting would start at noon, and end at midnight. The representatives of each subclan would verbally report his vote tally starting at one in the morning and hopefully finishing by early afternoon. Unless there was a challenge, it should work. It was a bit a useless pageantry, as the electronic totals would be know within minutes of midnight, and the plots of winner and losers would have hours to thicken before the losers, as representatives of the people who voted for them, would be required to pledge their support to the winner.

Xiat walked in from the dining room. "Dinner's ready. C'mon Ajha, up and at 'em. You can't live on philosophy, not even your extra chewy variety."

"Oh yes, Good. Thank you Xiat." He poked out a tentative elbow and received her hand.

He hesitated, then seated her in the first chair to the right, and took the head of the table himself. It was going to take some getting used to.

Chapter Nine

19 Safar 1407yp

Black Point Enclave, West Coast of North America

Xiat woke up a bit stiff, sleeping all night in a large chair that wasn't as comfy as it had seemed a few hours ago. It beat sharing a bed with two other women, even if she was guaranteed to not end up sleeping on the crack between two mattresses, like last night. The upstairs bedrooms were smaller than the downstairs ones, as the elegant roof swept down to the single floored end of the house. But she was only sharing with two other women, not five. Luxury.

Pity the poor guards. They'd wound up in the end bedroom when they spotted the connecting bathroom. Not even the Director of External Relations was going to get that sort of access to the Third Alternate Philosopher. So the nine guards at least had the biggest bedroom in the house. She hit the shower, and then the Great Room for the news.

It was all about the New Philosopher, and the New Philosophy, as best they could guess at this point.

And they had the poor man's complete, uncensored, personnel records. Excellent grades, those she remembered. The school suspension for a fight with Ewmo was a surprise. That must have gotten swept under the rug at the time. College, he'd gone straight into Cross Dimensional Studies, transferred in his junior year to the Directorate's college. Still good grades. Not top, but good. He'd filled the sports requirement with both hand-to-hand and fencing. He'd tried out for the teams, narrowly missed, both years. Graduate level classes . . . in Advanced Magic. Two internships at embassies across. Then assignment to an information team for Comet Fall before it was ever called that. Good reports from his own team leader, excellent report from . . . Post head Usse? The First Alternate Philosopher? The wary expansionist? Surely not. A reprimand from an Action Leader. No follow up, due to the death of the Action Leader. Then a series of assignments. Good reviews from immediate superiors; Director Agni's added rebukes sounded like personal animosity. Difficult assignments, seniority, leadership, then suddenly it was Ajha doing the training, instead of the other way around.

After Endi Dewulfe's infiltration of the president's inner circle, and spectacular heroics, Ajha been recalled to report on Comet Fall, and then sent across to resurvey the situation there. Recalled again and assigned elsewhere.

And after the establishment of the Embassy World, and the explosion in dimensional travel, he'd been sent off on a routine scientific expedition and ran head on into the outlaw Rior. The rebel princess and her gang of mostly Comet Fall witches and wizards. That report was still classified.

Then he was assigned to an Intel position, One! He'd bugged the Helios' government offices. Before the last merge.

Then he'd scouting the Helios merge zone, to locate kidnapped children, teenagers, mostly Oners. Holding a merge center for hours, while they organized transportation. Making a run for safety during the battle.

The last year and a half since then he'd been assigned to teams tracking down the still missing students, mostly women held as sex slaves at remote farms. Ah. And here was the Fiend. Fean Withione. A former team member he'd trained, following him into battle.

He'd been based on an Empty World for the last few months. An almost-colony for the Oners who'd merged with Helios, and mostly recovered. Mostly been rejected by their families, friends, neighbors, potential employers . . . Ajha'd been running the rescue missions out of there, returning with rescued Oners to this halfway point with hospital and living quarters. Now spreading out into farms and small businesses when the welcome mat was not laid out back home. Ajha had been spot checking, but pretty much run out of anyone to rescue. He'd been turning the unofficially named Limbo Colony over to self rule when he was recalled and sent home for the Patriarchal Convention.

"Poor sod. I wonder what he'll do now?"

Endi Dewulfe's popularity and heroics, once he had been publicly outed as a Comet Fall Spy, had shattered the concurrence of the collective subconscious. The belief in the utter supremacy of the One was shaken. The myriad possible resolutions of the confusion had coalesced fairly quickly around three people whose own personal philosophy matched big chunks of the collective confusion. The old arrogance was still in control. But caution, and the possibility of avoiding strong opponents had appeared. Isolationism had a sudden leap in the number of adherents and found a champion to carry their standard.

And now the huge swath of people who wanted peaceful relations with the multiverse in general, and Comet Fall in particular had found a man who shared those beliefs and who was strong enough to gather the spectrum of peaceful possibilities together and wield their beliefs as a single weapon in the battle for the over arching reactions of the One to the rest of the Multiverse.

Until yesterday, Xiat hadn't been interested in the matter. It had nothing to do with Presidential security, nor Criminal matters in the European Region, once she'd transferred. An agnostic, the philosophy of the One wasn't anything she found interesting, so she hadn't read any of the philosophers' histories.

I may have to check Usse's.

Some subdued looking maids started laying out the breakfast buffet. Xiat filled a plate and returned to watch the Newsies presentation of every recorded word Ajha'd said since his arrival. She'd heard half of them, and more that hadn't been recorded. They all oozed egalitarianism on one hand, and peace, friendship and trade with Comet Fall, on the other.

"Well, I can't say I expected the third Alternate Philosopher to be just like the others, but this is a major divergence."

One of the guards passing through suppressed a grin.

"Hang on a second, what happens next? Do they have a convention all their own? When? I keep hearing about how the third one will trigger a Great Debate. Seems like I hear debates all the time."

He cocked his head at her. "You're a Princess. You probably caught more of what happened yesterday than most people. The balance of the desires of the collective subconscious shifted, as the Third Philosopher attracted some energy. That's what they call a Debate. As people hear him, think about his ideas, he will either gain more, or lose so many he is no longer a nexus. With the energy being unevenly shared out four ways, especially with this one so different, the possibility of the Philosopher of the One losing the absolute majority grows. That triggers a Great Debate. Or, more likely, a series of them over the years, until a new—or old—absolute majority is reached. Then the One adopts that Philosophy."

"Right. Voting by aural energy through subconscious interconnections." She returned her attention to the vid, just in time to catch the equine hanky-panky, suitably censored for young audiences. "Jioh is going to kill me."

Ajha, dressed a bit more formally than usual padded in from the downstairs hallway. He shook his head at the vid. "That was my first cold blooded political maneuver. I know the effect the joy juice has. Dosing geldings is a running joke—and prank—on Comet Fall. Please extend my apologies to her, and tell her that if it had been the full von Neumann's potion, she'd be wasting her veterinarian's time gelding him again for a full year. In three weeks time, more or less, his regrown testicles will descend. He may have colic symptoms. Pain killers and muscle relaxants will help."

The guard shifted uncertainly. "It actually regrows parts? I mean testicles? I mean, I like the jump in power, but . . ."

"Yep. Amputated limbs, damaged nervous systems. And it's a killer fertility treatment, apart from the umm, ungelding effect. And an aphrodisiac. We need to study things like that, not run screaming because every other time someone gets their hands on it, it causes a spontaneous orgy."

"Err . . . "

"It should be in the hands of physicians . . . Am I going to start lecturing every time I open my mouth?"

"Most likely, sir."

Ahja sighed and head for the dining room.

Xiat followed him, grabbed a cup of coffee. "So you're going to be the Philosopher arguing for peace? With the other three variously fired up or cautious about the coming war with Comet Fall?"

"Yeah." He chewed thoughtfully. "I wonder how much I can get declassified? And I'm going to need some statistics . . . "

The house comm interrupted. "An unauthorized person is approaching. Fean Withione Tunisia."

"Admit her and add her to the list of approved guests." Ajha looked around; the guard nodded and headed for the door.

The woman who followed him in was a classic beauty of the Multitude type, black haired and olive skinned, full lipped and exotically slanted big brown eyes. She was shedding a rain spangled coat.

"Fiend, this is Investigator Xiat of the Internal Relations Directorate. She's investigating the murder. I think she still thinks I did it. I'll brief you shortly, give her all assistance."

Xiat frowned at the woman. Despite the classical type, the House had identified her as Withione. The girl lifted a supercilious eyebrow.

Ajha looked from one to the other. "Don't tell me, let me guess. Yet another Princess faceoff. Why can't high Withione women get along with each other?"

"Princess!" They managed a fair duet, and looked each other over again.

Fean sniffed. "I dropped out, the second year and transferred to the Directorate School." She turned back to Ahja. "I stopped and looked at four properties in Freeport. I have contracts for all, but I thought I'd see how your house here felt before choosing one."

"Look around, beware sleeping bodies, especially the ones down that ramp and to the right. I like this house, one sort of like it would be good."

"I got a good feel for the area and setting walking up. I think I can eliminate all four of these and start over. More trees, lower profiles, more isolated. Finding an office is going to be interesting, the property managers are trying to figure out how much traffic of what sort you'll be bringing through their doors. I'll be seeing them tomorrow." She looked around the house. "You're going to go stir crazy, sitting around not interrupting this convention. And Ebsa says everything is on track with the project. So. Have you started writing yet? This isn't the sort of thing you write a report on after it's all done, Boss. What I'd recommend . . . "

Xiat slipped away. A damned baby princess, eh? She shook herself mentally. This is not a contest. I need to get to work. We've never talked to all of Udzi's relatives, in-laws and former in-laws. We can't forget the possibility of personal motives.

mbarkermbarker on March 13th, 2017 06:51 am (UTC)
Got to get a better name than Third Alternate Philosopher! Admittedly, that's exactly what I'd expect them to be calling him at this point, but... that will change, right? The Explorer Philosopher, or maybe the New Wave Philosopher?
James Resoldier: pic#124400705James Resoldier on March 13th, 2017 07:30 am (UTC)

You know they're going to call him the Apologist Philosopher before long.