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14 October 2017 @ 06:39 am
_Fractured Loyalties_ part 11  

They slid back into a semblance of normality.

And an old friend and Mentor dropped by. The guys all gawped at the Rael Withione. She giggled, but let a thin edge of deep power and strong control through, so they were left half confused and definitely wary.

"Do you have fun scaring people?" Ra'd walked with her toward Disco.

"Well . . . my reputation won't let me really fool people into underestimating me anymore. So I let them see the act."

Ra'd swallowed a comment involving "most incompetent assassin in the Multiverse" and changed the subject. "Xen is teaching Nighthawk how to teleport. I'm picking up a few hints about how it works. Apparently you have to have strong feel for both the departure point and the arrival point. What they call 'recognition.' But I haven't got the core spell. Yet." He turned in surprise.

Rael had stopped. "Really? We're going to have to get together about that. Umm." She tapped her forehead in a familiar fashion. And pulled out a long glittery string of a complex spell.

"Yeees. I recognize bits of that . . . " He studied it. Closed his eyes and rebuilt it. Opened his eyes and compared it. "Got it. Now I just need to learn how to integrate it all together. And this is recognition."

He held out his feel of the mountain.

She whistled. "One damn me. Now we just need to see how they fit together." She walked on, and he returned to work.

Which was still boring . . . until a lot of Earth women stopped wearing baggy pocket pants.

"My sister says they all get their hair cut here, and then they argued about whether Fluffy or Buffy was the best. They generally go once a month—then get together for dinner in the next few days—well, the two groups separately, but since they snip so much at each other they all tend to get their hair cut within a few days of each other, so no one gets one-upped. They don't—the two cliques don't—always have a fancy dinner out on the same night, but it does happen often enough that it's not news worthy."

Ra'd steepled his fingers. "So they had a ladies night out on . . . the twenty-fourth of Emre and that Project Rubicon had leaked was known by the thirteenth of Jumada. So eighteen days . . . and the Earth must have learned all that early enough before to initiate actions to block it. And those actions were . . . ?"

Jack scowled. "They increased food deliveries and suddenly agreed to a higher price for gold in the treaty negotiations."

"Which would have taken some time to get approved." Essy scowled. "So, a month later, roughly 24 Jumada they'd have gotten new hair styles, and dined out. And the thirteenth was when we started spreading the first rumor, so eleven days from us telling the Harpies and through them—in theory—the beauticians learning about the Neanderthals."

"And then a month later, in Nicholas, we spread the baggy pants rumor, and we know it got to the beauticians the same day. A week later, the style is suddenly out with the Earthers."

Ra'd tipped his chair back. "What we need to do is track Buffy and Fluffy and find all their contacts, especially anyone who regularly leaves the compound. Jack, why don't you try for a date with Buffy? We'll try to figure out the best way to monitor the shop and follow Fluffy."

"Sounds like a children's book with talking bunny rabbits." Boner grinned.

Essy snickered. "And do we have any volunteers to look like love sick fools hanging around hoping for a kiss from Fluffy Bunny?"

Ace sat up straight. "I'll make the ultimate sacrifice, and save my fellows from that horrid fate."

"Atta boy, knew we could depend on you." Boner clapped his shoulder. "Have fun."

Hector sniffed. "I don't see why they'd do it. Spy for Earth, I mean. No insult to Ace's sex appeal intended. But Earthers are so flat and uninteresting."

They all pondered that in silence.

"They are Oners, aren't they?" Ra'd glanced between Jack and Essy. "Can we get sight of their security checks?"

Chapter Fifteen

18 Nicholas 1408yp

Empire of the One Embassy, Embassy World

"Very interesting reports. Cousins from Tall Trees Colony. Illegitimate. Their mothers were half native, they grew up in the native slums, so they weren't registered until they decided to go to college in Rinville. They lasted a year, swapped to a beautician's trade school, moved to One World and worked for five years in Azteca before they opened the shop here." Jack looked up from the screen. "Tall Trees is the Colony that the Earth found, that they tried to infiltrate through, what, three times?"

"So, we have no record of them as children." Ra'd grinned. "Now, did Earth wise up and recruit people from Purple to act as their moles? And how do we get genetic samples so we can check?"

"Purple . . . for the power genes. Right. Of course." Essy frowned. "But they aren't purple."

"Nighthawk said only ten percent to their people are actually purple colored."

"Really?" Crocodile grin from Essy. "Right. We need hair, skin or blood."

Ra'd pulled up a specialty file on his comp. Ebsa has the fab codes for an amazing array of things. DNA sample collectors . . . don't think they'll open wide for a cheek swab . . . ah. Stickies for the fingers. He got up and walked over to a fab. A little tickle of telekinesis with a soft spin to open the lock. I wonder if Isakson knows about Ebsa's interesting past? He opened the control panel. It wanted a password, so he typed ADMIN. Accepted. Then typed the code for the hard-to-see stickies. Six of them should do, since they just wanted two women's samples.

Jack was scowling at him again. "How did you do that?"

"I have a friend who knows all sorts of interesting things. He can even make those things cough up edible food. Right . . . should some of us others collect samples while you two just charm them?"


Ra'd reluctantly abandoned his family in the predawn and sought the coffee shop that had a view of the beauty shop. Currently dark and locked up.

So I'm supposed to sprint down and hold the door for them or something, when they finally show up? Obviously no one gets a hair cut when they're usually getting breakfast. He dropped a glower at the fabbed "muffin" he was nibbling at. The coffee shops seemed to be the only places open for business. A man walked by, pushing a dolly with boxes . . . deliveries. Of course. A perfect way to get info out of the embassy. A delivery here, some to the café's and night clubs. Were there other beauty shops out in the developing areas. Or maybe just stores that sold shampoo. Some place far enough away that a compressed radio signal from a delivery truck wouldn't be detected.

This particular man turned into a clothing store. Ra'd turned casually and watched two more dollies trundling along. One stopped at a different beauty shop. He unlocked the door, checked a screen and took two cartons inside.

Ra'd finished his coffee and strolled down the walk, sticking fairly close to the store fronts. Ignored the squeaky wheels coming up behind him, nose down as if reading his screen.

"Excuse me!" Abrupt and impatient.

Ra'd looked up, stepped aside. "Sorry." His wave of apology barely brushed the man's bare arm. He walked on. Nose back to the screen. Turned off and reflective. Yes. The man stopped, unlocked the door. Made two trips with cartons. Didn't seem to dawdle. If he picked up anything, it was right where he expected it to be.

Ra'd bagged that sticky and stuck another on his finger, in case he ran into one of the women on the way out.

Ra'd dropped down to the ground floor and wandered through the gateway and waited. Wafted a slight illusion over himself. Blue shirt instead of white, hair lighter. Phone to ear, but set to take photos.

One truck, stranger at the wheel.

Second truck, bingo. He took pics and watched the truck out of the corner of his eye. It turned up the northwest diagonal, heading, more or less into Oner territory.

He walked back, wondering . . . and got on the elevator with Fluffy. Brushed her hand as they both reached for the floor button.

"Sorry. Oh, hey, the girlfriend loves the haircut. Thanks." A smile and he turned the opposite direction as he politely let her out first.

Bagged that sample, and headed back down.

Over to building one, and Jack's office. Jack eyed the bags, copied the pics. "I'll have to get authorization to send these to the Directorate lab. One only knows if anyone over there is paying attention to anything. Go away, I'll talk to you lot at lunch."

"Right." It was so early . . . Ra'd popped over to the house and found Nighthawk nursing his handsome devil of a son. He fixed breakfast, kissed Oak and Hawk good morning and went out to run and possibly impress his almost-father-in-law.

Then he sketched Fluffy, Buffy and the delivery man, while Oak doodled on another piece of paper. Did they really have a family resemblance, or was he "remembering" that because he wanted them to be related.

"Friends?" Nighthawk yawned over to him. Already flat stomached.

"Suspects in a security breach. Which I only mention because it appears to be between us and Earth. Nothing to do with Comet Fall or Disco. And I suppose I shouldn't even mention that much. Just in case."

"Probably not. I am a Disco agent, after all."

"Heh. I've heard reports that the God of Spies likes spies. That he thinks political espionage reduces the chances of war."

"It's the god thing. He has a real affinity for almost any sort of government agent. He even like counter espionage types, so don't worry that he might have a subconscious bias against you."

"Is being the Master of the Multiverse affecting him?"

"Not so's anyone noticed. I think he's a bit miffed. He'd really like to shed a lot of the Super Spy archetypical problems."

Ra'd frowned. "Problems?"

"Always gets the girl, but never finds true love, unless she gets killed or kidnapped so he can go on a vendetta. He's genuinely afraid to propose marriage to Rael. He figures that as long as she's his biggest weakness, the Enemy Agent, she's safe from the curse."

"Ouch. Yeah, all the movies are like that, aren't they? I hadn't thought about . . . being more subject to the collective archetype than the reality."

"They all have issues like that. I really hope I never wind up like that."

Ra'd considered the trope of the sword slinging barbarian warrior babe, and hoped devoutly that that Comet Fall did not have that Archetype. She's a mother, and an agent of a multidimensional peace force. And hardly a barbarian. No problem. Right?


Two nights later, at the weekly wrapup in the Assembly Hall, the Earth ambassador made a snarky comment about the Oner's Neanderthal buddies.

ekuah on October 14th, 2017 02:50 pm (UTC)
Something is off:
'"But I haven't got the core spell. Yet." He turned in surprise.'

Why did he turn in surprise?

Also, Ra'd's guessing about purple spies comes a little bit to fast.
mbarkermbarker on October 15th, 2017 12:32 am (UTC)
RE: Something is off:
Surprise because she stopped... but that does come next...
(Anonymous) on October 15th, 2017 02:49 am (UTC)
Problem: these are Jeff's kids, right? And they're really spies, trained and all, and raised by a spy to boot. So they have a leak on their side, too?

Fashion is not important enough to get spread around. Fluffy and Buffy have to be one of the Earth's most useful assets. Even if everything in their shop is recorded and examined, fashion is too small and inconsequential. Every time Earth acts on anything, they risk burning the agents. They aren't going to care about some secretary getting laughed at for her pants' style. Or even the ambassador's wife. Not when they have a channel that gets them info like Rubicon and Neanderthals. Fashion is just too frivolous.

False information that Rael was scouting Earth Embassy's . . . something or other, triggering a sweep of the Embassy by Purple personnel for magic bugs, maybe?

ekuah on October 15th, 2017 08:43 am (UTC)
Holly, I have to agree with you.
Fashion is really too unimportant.

And that earth would have to have an internal leak in their intelligence chain.
Like some female clerk -transcribing the live recordings.
(Sorry about the 'misogyny' but male clerks usually aren't aware what fashion is)
-hearing the comments about fashion, but leaving it out of the report as 'non-important chit chat'.
-babbling to her friends or snipping on her notfriends.

And the rumor is leaked.