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15 October 2017 @ 12:04 pm
_Fractured Loyalties_ part 12  
 

Ra'd thought it over, and on the morning run, alone with Wolfson, brought up the Neanderthal story.

"It was a plant. we've got a leak that we're trying to trace. If you don't mind ignoring it? Umm, my guard detail is sort of trying to outdo the Ministry and solve it ourselves . . . "

Wolfson grinned. "And that's why Ambassador /// check may have new Ambassador/// Ashe was so genuinely baffled by that comment? Inso went across to ask about it, but no one knew anything. So you haven't even told Ajki?"

"No. But it's about time to bring in the local Head of Intel for the Ministry."

Wolfson sputtered. "You haven't even . . . " He started laughing. "The bane of all bosses. The underlings who do it first and ask permission retroactively."



Chapter Sixteen

19 Nicholas 1408yp

Empire of the One Embassy, Embassy World

Nighthawk started joining him on his hikes down to the beach, and back up. "Whew, at least you aren't running the whole way. But damn I need to get back into shape."

Ra'd grinned. "It's close to two kilometers round trip, the way I cut the path. And then with some running around on the beach, and part way back up, it's a good workout. Mind you, it's a bit lacking in the cool down stage. And we both know you'll be dashing up and down the hill inside of another month."

"Yeah." She tossed a grin over her shoulder. "I'd bubble Fox and Oak more, but I want to take advantage of you being here for as long as I can. Much though I hate to admit it, it is slowing me down."

"Hmm, more green vegetables needed."

"Yuck!" Oak yelled, from the baby pack on his back.

"Yeah. I'm with her." Nighthawk stopped to catch her breath. "Vegetables are yuck."

Ra'd shook his head. "Damn. I wish Ebsa was around. I guess I'm just going to have to find some good veggie recipes."

"Brute! Beast!"

He turned back and pulled her into a sweaty embrace. "Who'd have thought I'd finally be killed for force feeding my lovely almost-wife food full of vitamins and minerals?"

"Umm, most people don't know you well enough to believe you know a thing about vegetables."

"I know a little about everything, and lots about a few. Plus my mother was a veggie freak. Forced us to eat tons of the nasty things. Somewhere along the line, I started liking them."

"Humph. Appeal to authority. I think that's not a valid argument."

"Then the next time Lady Gisele casually drops by to terrify me, I'll ask her opinion about veggies."

"Oops. Now I'm in trouble." Nighthawk nudged him back into motion, and he headed up the trail.

Walking now. "I ought to have put some more switchbacks in, at the top, so it would be possible to cool down on the way up. Then I wouldn't have to put brussel sprouts in your pancakes."

"Dead. Meat."

He sent a message to Ebsa, asking for vegetable recipes.



Chapter Seventeen Treason

20 Nicholas 1408 yp

/// Leave this out? No spoilers for External Relations? ///

That night Wolfson showed up on Nighthawk's door and told Ra'd to go watch the Oner news.

"That hornet's nest in the External Directorate blew up. You won't want to wait to hear it, and you may be needed."

The news vids were frustratingly uninformative.

An announcement by Director Izzo. Treason. Totally unsuccessful. "I won't say more until the investigation is over. I suspect names will be forthcoming tomorrow. There were some fatalities. Next of kin are being notified right now." He walked out to a babble from the newsies.

***

Embassy Head of Intel Ajgi looked like he had a headache. Or a stomach ache. Possibly both.

"I cannot believe a hair-brained scheme like this actually worked. Maybe. So, we have a link between ten Oners on staff here, and reactions from the Earthers. A possible channel for the information through a beauty shop. Due to the beauticians lack of outside contacts, the possibility of electronic pickups in the embassy cannot be ruled out."

His glare deepened. "And the Directorate is in the loop. So I'm going to have to go talk to them—if I can find any of them not having hysterics over yesterday's debacle."

They all sat up.

"No, I don't have any inside information. All we've heard is rumors and the official 'We're investigating a serious attempt at treason, but it's all over but the prosecution. Nothing to see here, go about your business.' And we don't believe a word of it."

Essy stared at him.

Got nothing but a stoney glare.

Ra'd leaned toward Ajgi. "Izzo made the announcement. But what about Ajha? Is he alive? Is he accused?"

"As far as anyone said anything over there, most of the Action teams and several subdirectors are involved. No names. But if the former Philosopher was accused of treason, that would have leaked." Glare. "And no, you cannot go ask. Wait and watch the news."

***

Six subdirectors accused of plotting against the Empire. Two of them, Ebko of Action and Exploration and Wgli, the subdirector of Granite Peak, along with Governor Arry of Granite Peak had taken action and had been charged with Treason. Several Princesses. Thirteen Action Team Leaders. And nearly two hundred other personnel were charged with treason, kidnapping, murder, and rape.

Ra'd felt his stomach twist.

But he had to check the list. No telling who had been swept up in a mass arrest.

He recognized a lot of the names. But the important ones were not there.

He took a deep breath and let it out.

Caught looks from the others.

"No one I care about has been accused . . . but damn there's a lot of names I recognize." He shuddered. "I knew Izzo got sent in to be the hatchet man. But I thought it was . . . just nepotism and political influence."

Essy looked down the list. His finger pausing a few times. "They'll take it to the One, to be sure."

Ra'd clenched his jaw and didn't say anything.

Yeah, like they gave justice to Nighthawk.

Grandfather, have you learned anything? Will you just kill them all because of the outrage, or will you truly judge each man? He looked at the list. The length of it turned his stomach, and he slept not at all. Stuck to the vid in the common areas.

Four subdirectors had plotted, but taken no action. They were allowed to retire. Ebko and Wgli were executed. All thirteen Action Leaders were executed. More than half the teamers were guilty of other crimes and sentenced accordingly. Just under a hundred were executed for knowingly committing treason.

"I can't believe how fast it all went." Essy rubbed his arms.

"They see everything, unless you're drugged. At least for this they would have been very careful to examine each man. I hope." Ra'd stared at the vid screen. "Four Princesses. One!"

Nods all through the room. They weren't the only shift hanging around.

Boner shook his head. "I'll bet the whole bloody Gate City is in shock right now. I pity anyone who needs to deal with them for the next few days. Or weeks."



Chapter Eighteen

29 Nicholas 1408 yp

/// edit to bring in Intel Subdirector Omse? Leave Ajha out of it, since he's busy on Granit Peak? ///

"I don't believe this."

They'd all been summoned to the Intel offices.

Head of Ministry Intel Ajgi drummed his fingers on the conference room table.

Ajha, currently an administrator in Directorate Intel sat across from him, and looked at the guards with a grin.

"I do not believe this." Ajgi repeated.

"They are all three closely related, part Earther, part Purple, with magic genes closer to Comet Fall's than the One gene. Now we just have to figure out what the One Hell to do with them. Arrest them? Or use them to channel false information through to Earth?" Ajha grinned. "I'm going to kick the decision up to Ajki and Urfa, since the Directorate is such a mess, just now."

"Not settled down yet?" Ra'd eyed him.

"We've gone from shocked to stunned to . . . I dunno. More shocked and more stunned? I have an appointment with Izzo in an hour, so I've got to run. I just wanted to be sure you all sit on this information for awhile."

They all nodded. Jack looked a bit disappointed. Had he hoped for a career enhancing public arrest?

"That's . . . going to be difficult, since you still have One only knows how many gossipy women in and out of that shop every day." Ra'd shrugged. "But whatever the boss says, goes."

Essy nodded. "And we'll get back to plain old boring guarding."

Ajgi scowled at them. "You'd better."

Jack slipped out after them. "Thank the One I talked to him . . . He actually listened, and sent those samples off with a rush order."

And suddenly they were all grinning.

"We did it, didn't we?" Boner bounced on his heels waiting for the elevator.

Greg and Hector swapped shrugs.

Hector sighed. "You were all just guessing, and pretty much fell into it by accident."

Ace sniffed. "It worked."

Ra'd nodded. "So far. I wonder what they'll do? And no doubt I'll keep right on wondering, because we have no need to know. Dammit."

Greg smirked and walked off.

Hector glanced back. "But I really ought to have screwed Fluffy while I could."

Ra'd was glad to get away from them all. Kissed Nighthawk, and ran off down the trail. And down the beach, trying to clear his head.

Because I really hate the thought of having helped in the arrest, conviction and execution of those two women. Because there's a very real chance that's what will happen . . . Some big tough warrior I am. I've killed before. I've killed at close range and gotten the blood of my victims on my hands. And clothes. And face.

I'd have much rather have found just the man guilty. Or some electronic surveillance in their shop.

He looked up into the cloudless blue sky. "I'm an idiot. A compassionate fool who can't stand to think badly of a woman. No one knew about our three rumors except us, the harpies we passed that on to, and the beauticians. So just shut the fuck up."

He ran all the way back and up the hill and threw himself panting on the floor at Nighthawks' feet.

"Get it out of your system?"

"Not much. I just . . . the chase was fun, but when the results can get people killed . . . you tend to wonder if you ought to have done it. And if Isakson heard me say that I'd be in for some serious hurt."

"I need to meet this Isakson of yours. And no matter what my dad says, you can't ignore espionage." Nighthawk wound down to sit curled up against his side. "So come and take a shower. We can take the kids for ice cream at the Disco Kitchen. I'm going to start back to work tomorrow morning. We can celebrate. It has nothing to do with the Witches having an ice cream contest. "

He managed a weak grin. "Ice cream sounds good. Then tomorrow your bosses will probably want a complete report on that warrior you've been studying. Or is that my ego talking?"

"Ego. Go shower."