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16 October 2017 @ 08:11 am
_Fractured Loyalties_ the end  

The ice cream had been made without the faintest concern for calories or fats, or the addictive qualities of field ripened strawberries. Or other ingredients. But the strawberries . . .

Fox, who was growing by incredible steps in the speed house, got a tiny taste of cherry cordial. Oak wolfed down a broad selection and licked the bowl. Declared the mega chocolate the winner. Ra'd was hard put to not copy her eating style, and went back for more strawberry.

Word of the treat must have circulated. There were a lot more than Disco people here. Nighthawk elbowed him and nodded across the room.

"There's your other girlfriends."

Ra'd snorted. "I hate to disillusion you, but my heart belongs to the incredible woman who just happens to be sitting right next to me. Fluffy and Buffy . . ." are waving and blowing kisses to Greg and Hector. What the One Hell? "But I really ought to have screwed Fluffy while I could." Which sounds like . . . Hector going out of his way to say that he didn't know the women personally? Oh surely it's a bit late in the story to be having a twist like this.

And how do I figure it out, prove anything?

Or more likely disprove it. They probably chatted the women up before the Intel head warned us all off. Sex hadn't happened yet, and now won't ever, but the women don't realize that.

And there's no reason to suspect Greg and Hector of espionage. Why would they bother? They aren't fuzzy headed idealists about the Empire, but then, who is? We make plenty of missteps, but we're getting better. And it's a long step from "The Empire is ruled by idiots" to active aid to the enemy.

None-the-less I suspect we need to keep an eye on them. I'll start now, and make sure those idiots don't do anything nasty to Fluffy and Buffy. Drat, means missing out . . . but I really do need to watch them.

He glanced over at Nighthawk.

She was smirking. "You are at your best and most handsome when you are on the hunt. And no, don't tell me. Or just tell me you need the kids out of the vicinity."

"I'll walk you to your house here, and then sneak around watching these guys. Good old Hector and Greg. I think they are about to do something stupid, so I'm going to try to . . . use it for something better." He handed a cash card over to the waitress. "Wish me luck, Warrior Babe."

"Good hunting, Warrior. Watch your back."

Chapter Nineteen

2 Shaban 1408 yp

At least it was summer, with nice dry foliage to lurk in.

No doubt Greg and Hector also appreciated it as they split up outside the Kitchen and went to ground.

Ra'd shifted to where he could see both of them, and edged closer. Are they really going to attack them so close to so many powerful magicians? Just kill them or haul them off somewhere for some "fun" first?

This could be the first time I've actually found a use for the Oner perversions, because I'm going to have trouble blocking a couple of quick shots.

He tracked movement to the left . . . more Oners in search of ice cream . . . the Ambassador and his wife, Intel Head Ajgi with a woman on his arm, other men and women vaguely familiar as upper echelon . . . Through the windows of the restaurant, he spotted Fluffy and Buffy heading for the doors.

Oh Shit.

He reached for Essy. :: Boss! Possible trouble about to erupt outside the Kitchen, and the ambassador and his wife are here. ::

He warped light and beat the ambassador to the doors by a few meters, just as Fluffy and Buffy walked out.

And the idiots jumped them.

Perhaps they'd been so focused they hadn't seen the approaching party. Perhaps they had tipped across the line of sanity as they anticipated what they were about to do.

Hector leaped, shoving Buffy into Fluffy, and Fluffy into Greg as he emerged from the shadows. Greg grabbed Fluffy, a brief flick of a spell as he pulled her into the dark, north away from everything but the running track.

Hector hustled Buffy after them . . .

Ra'd chopped across his bicep to loosen his grip, grabbed Buffy and whirled her away and into the Ambassador's party. He flattened Hector and bolted after Greg. Who whirled and threw Fluffy at him. Ra'd tried to dodge, tangled feet with the flailing woman . . .

Greg bolted past him, back toward the lights and people. Hector staggered to his feet and in concert they leaped at the Ambassador's group.

"Get the Ambassador! I've got the wife."

And guns in their hands, aimed at the heads of their victims as they backed further away.

Toward the gates. Where are they planning to run? Do they have a place that they can go to? Who do they work for?

Ra'd stepped into the shadows, dropped the light warp and stepped back out.

"Who do you work for Greg? You do know your value just dropped to zero." Ra'd glanced at the shaken Fluffy as everyone withdrew from the confrontation.

Just in case Ajki wants to use them . . . "Your plan to frame the beauticians for the intel leaks has failed. Why don't you surrender and live to tell us all about it?"

A harsh laugh. "Surrendering to the One is a death sentence." Hector glanced over his shoulder and shifted his retreat to the right.

Running footsteps, slowing and spreading out around the confrontation. Essy was half a step ahead of Commander Umbe and Lt Lucky.

:: That's one of Q's exploration gates. Goes to an empty world with dozens of gates to more interesting places. :: Essy's mental voice.

:: Can you get someone through it without them noticing? ::

Somehow I suspect they aren't heading for their Dinosaur hunting ground. The question is, do they have stuff there. Weapons, supplies . . . a route to . . . where? Or perhaps who . . .

"Ah, I see. Met Rior, have you? Do you think she'll bother with you now?"

"He, you moron. And he needs magically talented and trained people."

"Stop telling him things, Greg. You! Fuck-You-Ra'd. Back away, or we start damaging the ambassador's wife." Hector was wild eyed and his hand was shaking a bit.

As likely to accidentally kill the ambassador as deliberately.

Lucky grabbed Ra'd and hauled him back. "Back off Ra'd. We'll handle this now."

:: Do that invisible warp. Get through the gate. :: He shoved Ra'd behind the other guards and stepped forward.

"So, Hector and Greg. I think this has gone far enough. I have no idea why you are working for Earth . . . "

Laughter. "Earth? We work for money. Fuck-You-Ra'd got that right. Collect and sell info to anyone who'll pay. Including those Ministry Intel fools. And don't think you won't keep right on doing it, once we've got our new set up finished." Greg was steadier.

Ra'd warped light and eeled through the crowd, emerging into the open well to the side of the Guard officers.

A light mental touch from Nighthawk. :: Am I allowed to kill Hector? ::

:: Better to keep this all Oner . . . officially. You take Hector, I take Greg. Simultaneously, as they give us an opportunity to divert shots from both. ::

:: Pity they aren't using lasers. Can't drain your slug throwers. ::

Ra'd edged nearer. Silent, and careful to not get touched . . . unless . . .

He closed his eyes. Slick gates, the looming protective spells of the Disco building, the solid presence of the Comet Fall Embassy . . . Recognition.

The volcanic hotsprings were too far away, but the back porch, the trail he'd built with his own hands winding down to their beach.

That complex spell.

He stepped forward and touched the two hostages. Removed the contact with Greg and Hector from his recognition, and fed power into the spell.

Light warp. Here. The spell bridging to. Porch. Power.

He stepped to the porch. The Ambassador staggered, grabbed his wife. No sign of Greg or Hector.

Ra'd's head gave a single spike of pain and he folded.

"What was that!"

"I believe, sir, that I have figured out how to teleport." Ra'd grabbed a chair and hauled himself to his feet. Kept a grip on the chair while his balance steadied. "Umm, if you'll come this way, I'll get us all back to Disco."

If I can stop seeing double.

He guided them back through Nighthawk's two houses and found it all over but the shouting and pursuit.

Nighthawk pounced on him. "They fired some shots around and ran through the gate. I followed, but they'd already gone through another."

"Ah." Ra'd looked around and sat on one of the black basalt cubes that piled around Disco HQ.

"Huh." Nighthawk dodged away. Returned moments later with a bowl of ice cream. "Eat it before you fall over."

A tall figure loomed. "I'm impressed. Three people, thirty kilometers on your first try. While warping light."

Nighthawk tossed her head. "Well, Dad, you always did say you wondered if Oners could teleport."

Wolfson's teeth flashed. "And now I know—and have to live with the consequences. Nighthawk? Keep him, eh?"

"Was planning to, Dad."

They watched him walk back to the gates.

The embassy guards walked up to them.

"So, figured it out, did you?" Ace sighed.

"Yeah. One, that was energy intensive. I'm going to have to practice . . . when I feel up to it." Ra'd leaned back against another very hard and uncomfortable cube. "And teach it. I may come to regret my success."


"You should have seen the expressions on Hector and Greg's faces when you all just disappeared."

Boner grinned. "Best horrified disbelief ever."

Essy snorted. "I suspect that you'll cease being a guard and turn into a full time magic miner real soon now. Possibly right now."

Ra'd opened his eyes and focused on the advancing pair. Izzo and Ajha. Izzo angled off toward the ambassador, Ajha came and shook his head at Ra'd.

"Well, aren't you just full of surprises. And here I thought the President's little talk about warriors from the past had cleared up all the questions I had about your never-spoken-of past. But teleportation?"

"It's new. Got it right the first time, and a damn good thing." Ra'd contemplated getting up and decided there wasn't any reason to do it. At least he was only seeing one of everything. He settled back. Against hard angular basalt. "So . . . what shall I find out next?"

Chapter Twenty

16 Shaban 1408 yp

"So, I've been assigned to the Intel subdirectorate, with orders to learn as much as I can about—and learn how to do—Comet Fall style magic." Ra'd let a grin out. "So I'll be here for a good while. What are you guys up to?"

"Well, everyone's gotten mail about do we want to change jobs, what with a sudden loss of personnel in the Action Subdirectorate—did you hear that they've split them up again?"

"Ouch! Trying to insulate the Exploration Teams from all the chaos in Action, perhaps? I wonder what poor ass just got stuck with the job of rebuilding?"

"Kael Withione Montevideo."

"Holy One! Kael the Bitch. Damned efficient mind you, but diplomatic, no. Any of you tempted?"

Sighs all around.

"Sort of." Boner shrugged. "Much though I hate to admit it, you have impressed us . . . and it was interesting going out and tackling a problem instead of sitting on our duffs guarding."

Ace grinned. "And your philosopher buddy has been appointed Subdirector of Exploration."

"Oh . . . best field leader ever. He'll hate the job and be very good at it. And damn good for both teams and projects. Damn, now I'm going to have to hope this Intel stint doesn't last too long. Don't tell Nighthawk I said that."

Since she was walking along beside him, she punched his arm. "Behave." Her head turned and lifted. "And Ajha's just come across . . . he feels upset."

"The Director's Limo." Ra'd strode out. "They're going to Disco. Let's eavesdrop."

He ignored the laughter behind him.

"There's your Action teamer. Sticking his head into danger for the sheer fun of it." Essy's voice.

And Boner's. "So, c'mon. Let's go see what's up."

matapampamuphoff on October 16th, 2017 01:15 pm (UTC)
__Project Dystopia_, _Fractured Loyalties_, and _External Relations_ all overlap in time. By ending this one here, and cutting a few bits from it and from PD, and publishing them in that order, I can avoid spoilers for the outcome in ExR.
muirecanmuirecan on October 16th, 2017 07:51 pm (UTC)
Nice. I think this worked out very nicely.
(Anonymous) on October 28th, 2017 12:40 am (UTC)
Oner Ambassador
I thought the ambassador was a priest (i.e. a castratto). With a wife?
matapampamuphoff on October 28th, 2017 01:56 am (UTC)
Re: Oner Ambassador
The ambassador to Auralia, back in _Spy Wars_ was a Oner Priest.

The Arbolian Ambassador to Embassy was a low level priest of theirs, which did not involve castration.
(Anonymous) on November 4th, 2017 01:34 am (UTC)
Re: Oner Ambassador
As I recall, in Black Point Clan, Ajha comes to Embassy hoping to be less that obvious and fails in that due to the fact that the ambassador is a priest.
matapampamuphoff on November 4th, 2017 01:39 am (UTC)
Re: Oner Ambassador
BPC was written a gabillion years ago, and will get a full blown overhaul once I fight my way through _Last Merge_.