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08 October 2017 @ 09:16 am
_Fractured Loyalties_ part 5  

A week in nine hours.

More or less. The bath and toilet were outside the bubble, and the sunset was better from the porch.

"The colors are a bit different, between inside and out. I think your shield bubble shifts frequencies and compacts them a bit, bring a lot of UV into the visible spectrum."

"So it looks like tinted glass, but it's actually the closest it can get to looking natural? Huh. I copied it from the God of Art's shields on his museum." She flashed a grin at him. "Now I'll have to analyze it, all the way down to the frequencies and try to impress Nil."

He realized that a "once a day run" was going to totally insufficient if he was going to crowd a week into every night. Slicing trees, rocks, and dirt for a steep trail down the hill to the beach was good magic exercise. Carrying Oak up and down was certainly good physical exercise, once he got the path cleared.

He got out his paints and worked while Oak was napping. Sleeping baby, gorgeous woman, spectacular scenery—once the sun finally rose.

And seven sort-of-nights with his own Nighthawk, and deliberately creating a son.

Chapter Six

26 Emre 1408 yp

Empire of the One Embassy, Embassy World

Unfortunately, the guards were not the only people researching him.

Ambassador Ashe Withione Narsingi Bangladesh interlaced his fingers and glowered at him across a polished teak expanse. "I do not like either the External Directorate or the Presidential Directorate overstepping the separation of Presidential and Council spheres of activity."

The Head of Ministry Intel, Ajgi Withione Blackpoint, nodded. "The proper way to transfer authority over an asset such as yourself is for you to resign from the Directorate and join the Ministries."

Ra'd hoped his usual poker face was on duty. Trying to not admit that you kicked me out of your office without checking a thing, Chief? With that name you must be fairly closely related to both Director Ajki and Ajha—whatever his title is now that he's discharged the duties of an Alternate Philosopher to the Hive Mind. Black Pointers. I seem to either love them or hate them. And I have a nasty suspicion where you're going to land.

But outwardly he just shrugged. "I think the Director just wanted me to see how close to Wolfson I can get. I shouldn't impact the usual Intel functions at all."

The Ambassador nodded, staring at Ra'd. "I don't care how old you are, by the calendar. You're a very young and inexperienced Intel Agent. And as far as I can see, your main talent is shooting people. I don't like this. Don't make me do something about it."

The fourth man in the room was a flunkey of some sort. Ejqo Neartuone. Sharp eyed. Watching Ra'd and probably taking plenty of mental notes.

Ajgi nodded toward him now. "Liaise with Ejqo. Jack, I expect reports regularly."

The young man nodded, and followed Ra'd out of the room when Ra'd was dismissed.

Ra'd eyed him. "So . . . are you another very young and inexperienced Intel Agent, Jack?"

Jack showed his teeth. "I specialized in Electronic Intel in college, but didn't neglect the old fashioned, hands on variety either. And I've been in Intel since I graduated. Not running around killing dinosaurs and Helaos."

Ra'd stopped and looked him up and down. Soft. A bit pudgy. He snorted. "This should be fun."

"Starting with staying in public spaces with this Comet Fall girlfriend of yours."

"I don't do sex in public. Live with the uncertainty."

Jack huffed in disbelief. "You are under the authority of the Ambassador while stationed here!"

"Nope. Embassy Guards are directed to seriously consider obeying orders from Ministry staff. But when you lot do something stupid, we'll do whatever we need to do to save your hides."

"You are an Intel Agent! You . . . "

"Nope. Embassy Guard. Says so on my orders. Now."

"And where the One hell were you last night. I checked Nighthawk's house and you weren't there."

"And no doubt you noticed she wasn't there either. Did you check the beach?" Ra'd smiled and turned away. OK. So sometimes I still have to fight down an urge to smash someone's face. Nice to know I haven't gone too soft.

"You'll sleep in your room tonight!"

"Oh? And you're going to invade my privacy?" Ra'd walked back. Then shook his head. Not worth it. Turned and walked away.

He joined the gang for a horrible lunch, then boring duty, slightly enlivened by the harpies, this time commenting on hair styles. /// Details may be needed to support future suspicions.///

Back in his room, a few minutes meditation found four different observation spells. They differed slightly from each other. "Oh surely there aren't four different people curious about me." He removed them all, and sank deeper into . . . yes electronic bugs as well. The power sources were hard to hide with so few other electronics to mask them. He laid on a few sticky spells then surfaced and located the energy sources he'd detected. Tiny, not quite microscopic. He picked them up carefully and shifted them to a public toilet. Have fun listening! He left the embassy under a light warp.

But no one else questioned him and he settled in to just work. And take sword fighting lessons from a master every morning. Definitely a good way to build up the shoulder muscles.

Chapter Seven

10 Jumada 1408yp /// date from External relations///

Assembly Room, Disco HQ, Embassy

"They have no right to do that! That is our colony!"

Ra'd jabbed Ace with his elbow. "Quiet."

In two weeks he'd settled into an accepted place in the guard detail. Gotten into the routine of a humdrum job. Adjusted to the oddness of speed bubbles. But today, Disco was done listening to the disputants of a dimensional issue. Their rare show of authority was not being well received.

Down on the floor before the podium, the four interested parties—The Empire, Earth, the Nomadic herders of Granite Peak, and the representatives of several groups of laborers semi-abandoned on Granite peak—were all arguing for possession, or at least the right to live there.

"That was not a suggestion." Disco had brought in a judge from Comet Fall to hear the arguments. William Michaelson's solid impenetrable glow was impressive. "You have one year from today to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, or we will impose one.

"That is all, Gentlemen and Ladies."

Michaelson stepped down off the podium, shook his head when approached and disappeared.

"Dammit, I need to learn how that is done." Ra'd kept his voice low, but received a return elbow anyway.

Essy was scanning the crowd. "I heard the president was going to replace the Director with someone named Izzo. I don't know which one he is."

Ra'd half stood. "To the left of the Ambassador. The short blonde guy. He's currently the acting director of Interior. I wonder if Director Efge finally got all his problems taken care of?"

Boner scowled. "Yeah, but why dump Ajki? Dammit, he was the best subdirector we've ever had, and despite the rest of the subdirectors hating his guts, he's been a good director."

Essy shrugged. "While Subdirector Iffi was Acting Director he brought in a bunch of his Alcairo friends and relatives. They've been acting to undermine Ajki all along. Ought to fire the lot of them."

Ra'd nodded. "I'll pop back across and pick up some gossip . . . I'll bet Ajha knows what's going on."

That got him some sideways glances. "Know him well do you?"

"What? I thought you researched me. I was on his Helios hunter team. And made out like a bandit betting against all the people who thought he'd get arrested when he started spouting philosophy in public."

"Is there anything else we ought to know about you?" Essy sounded exasperated. "Got Urfa on speed dial? Date Paer when Nighthawk's not looking?"

Ra'd laughed out loud. "Nope. Paer's just a friend . . . but I do happen to know Urfa's number. Only used it once, so relax, I'm not on chatting terms with him."

"Paer's just a friend. One help us all." Boner craned his neck. "Drat, your buddy Izzo's going off with the ambassador. No hope of you butting in?"

"The ambassador doesn't seem to like me. So . . . I'm just going to stay out of this public meeting and catch up with old friends later."

"Yeah . . . I guess we ought not spy on our own side." Essy watched the ambassador's party walk out of sight. "However tempting."

Ace perked up. "Hey, we all need practice in intel and, and . . . whatever. What's the harm in a little practice?"