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29 March 2018 @ 01:18 pm
_External Relations_ part 3  

Chapter Two

3 Rajab 1408

Paris, One World

The newly appointed Director of External Relations, Izzo Withione Alcairo, had two offices. One in Paris, from which to organize his dealings with top government officials. With luck, he wouldn’t need it very often. His main office ought to be the one in Gate Town, handy for his subdirectors, and available to quickly deal with any issues Across. Twelve colonies on parallel worlds, twice as many used only for mining, science projects—One! Why were so many scientists fixated on dinosaurs!—and some large number of worlds being explored.

Oh, and Embassy. Must not forget the meeting place of worlds.

"What I need is a clone, to be in both places at one time. Two clones. The third one can take care of you full time." Izzo thumped down on the bed and gazed worriedly at his bride of three weeks.

She turned her eyes downward toward her very large belly. "I promise. I will not strangle either of your parents. So relax. Or rather, don't relax. Run at full speed and get your Gate Town people organized so you can get back here for the twins arrival." She held up a hand to forestall a reply. "And if you can't, you can't. Your mother may drive me to distraction, but she will make sure I get to the hospital on time. And I'm sure your father will be very supportive. After all, he's a wildlife expert. A mere human giving birth is hardly noteworthy." She started snickering.

Izzo gave her a faux hurt look. "He's only hyperventilated and fainted twice. And wasn't I right when I said we only wanted to tell them at the last possible moment?"

"Thank the One I listened to you. With my figure expanding, even Zowie couldn't go too overboard on the wedding. And your father has limited time to worry. Now. You've got two months to get everything settled. Get."

He looked deep into her blue eyes and nodded. "Yes, wife. As you command."

She snorted. "Don't make me beat you—again. I made sure you had plenty of toothpicks packed to keep your underlings affronted, Colonial."

He managed one last hug. "I can't believe I let the President talk me into tackling this mess. Right. I'm going. Damn."

They'd moved into her apartment, and bought the adjoining flat so they held half the floor. The workmen were just getting to work on the other apartment. Bedrooms and playrooms and a home office. The two kitchens were side by side, half of that wall would be taken down . . .

And I don't know whether I'm dumping it all on her, or whether she's getting me out from underfoot so she can do it to her tastes.

He let the Directorate driver do his thing with the car door and settled down for the trip. "Morning Davi."

Avdi Servaone, Davi was a nickname, nodded back formally. "Director Izzo." It would take some time before Izzo became simply "Director." His predecessor had taken over Interior Relations, and grumbled about having the same problem. Izzo had been Acting Director there for half a year, as his predecessor fought retirement. Glad I'm out of that mess. Good Old Uncle Ajki can deal with them. Xiat's uncle, not his, and now married to Xiat's schoolgirl chum.

So, from barely accepted by my natal Alcairo Clan, I've gone to semi-adopted into Black Point. One help me. Especially since I know the reason I've been chosen for the Hatchet Man's job is that an Alcairo Director can axe several Alcairo Subdirectors without giving the largest Clan an excuse to scream about factional politics. All I have to do is figure out which subdirectors are the problem, and what the hell they are up to.

But I can ignore that for now, and just be the new Director. Get established before I start making changes.

Today he could concentrate on that problem. It was quite simple.

Fifteen Subdirectors had just been skipped over for promotion in favor of some damned upstart from Interior. The Upstart was not looking forward to his first day at the office.

The car rocked as blasts of water and air washed insects, pollen, mold, and whatever from the exterior. The Fallen swear they've got spells on it for that, but we needed to do something, to show that we understood the complexities. They slicked through the corridor and emerged into the early afternoon sunshine of Gate Town, located in the middle of North America. The location had been chosen centuries before, to leave thousands of miles of empty plains between invaders and the nearest population centers. The dimensional corridors had removed the inconvenience, and centuries of being the bully on the block had relieved any fears of the Gates being captured and used against them. But Gate Town was still in the middle of nowhere. And the corridor miles out into the countryside. He eyed the rolling golden hills. Wheat harvested, no fall rains yet. If we moved our principle residence here Xiat could have a horse. Ponies for the kids. They drove past the new watchtower—dear One we are paranoid—and his view was abruptly shut off by buildings and he looked around curiously. He'd been through often enough, coming and going from visits to his parents. But he'd never thought about living here. In Paris, half the thirtieth floor of a residential tower was perfect. Here? Could the Director have a cozy little ranch? Or was he going to end up with a mansion and servants? He knew he could afford it, but did he want it?

He eyed the elevated train tracks. Starting in various warehouses and office complexes, arrowing for the gate complex. They had three high energy, expensive gate generators. Dozens of the Comet Fall permanent gates.

Eleven Colonies, each with its own subdirector who sat atop the political and law enforcement pyramid, reporting directly to him, and through him, to the President of the One World. And the Gate to Embassy World. With a subdirector sitting atop a potent brew of plots and maneuvers and espionage. And in the tower they were pulling up to, the home of the bureaucracy that sat atop all the Information Teams, Action Teams, Researchers, and Explorers. And fifteen irate subdirectors.

"Thank you, Davi. See you later, if I survive." He walked straight in. Nodded to the security people as they leaped to their feet. And to two familiar faces. "Ajha, Fean. Come to see who gets eaten?"

Ajha cleared his throat. "They've got a welcoming committee in the conference room on the eighth floor. I thought I should warn you they were snickering."

Fean sniffed. "They've brought in some Native from Homestead with a present for you, but they wouldn't tell me what it was or why it was so funny."

"Ah, the higher you get, the more subtle the insults."

"They . . . didn't give much of an impression of subtle. More sophomoric."

"I hope they're not going to make some unfortunate early impressions I'll have to spend years getting over. Oh well. Feel free to flee, or stand back and watch while I try to tame the lions."

Fean grinned. "I was planning on taking notes. Xiat says you're good with people, and that's one of my weak spots."

***

". . . not sure about the bright primary colors when the rest of your beautiful flat is all Earth toned and subtle . . . "

Xiat smiled wryly at her parents-in-law. She loved them for creating Izzo, for keeping him safe from the quirks of Oner society, for the genes they'd contributed to the children she carried. Really.

Zowz was driving her crazy, and Igzi worried her deeply.

Zowie was a bundle of energy. Barely a hundred and fifty centimeters, with a thin wiry build, she never seemed to stop. She zipped around, waving her arms, chattering non-stop. Blue eyed blonde, pale complexioned. She reminded Xiat of Izzo every time she saw her. His father Igzi "Iggy" was average in size, build and coloring. Very large in the intelligence category, where it didn't show. Certain and decisive in most things, her pregnancy had found all his weak spots.

The One, the collected subconscious of all of the people depended on a core of the most magical becoming an almost hive-like single consciousness. Every year people were chosen, to replace those who had aged and died. Some Princesses, like herself, with every single gene of the Prophets and double copies of the power gene on their X chromosome. But two thirds of the One was made of men with a rare power gene on their Y chromosome. A gene that conferred strong magical ability, if its mediation of brain growth wasn't interrupted by the effects of the male hormones on the brain. Iggy had seen both of his older brothers taken away from their family, to have those unfortunate hormone producing organs removed, to be educated and raised by the One. Never seen again. As the third and last son of the family, Iggy had been spared that fate. He and his bride had immigrated to a colony world, and their only child had been born in a Native village, and not registered, not tested, until he was too old for the fate of his uncles to take him as well.

The rules had changed recently. Boys could now refuse the privilege of priesthood.

But Iggy had still fainted when he'd heard she was pregnant. And again when the early genetic tests had detected twins, one a boy. Even now his smile looked forced, his lips pale.

She just wanted to hug him and tell him everything was going to be all right.

Because I want to believe it myself, that they won't have another rule change about the time Ixto is ten years old. Because that was supposed to always be the right of the young priest candidates. Because there have always been rumors that they only had the choice to make the right decision, else it would be made for them.

***

Ivul, pronounced like Eiffel, smiled. "We thought you'd like a small present from your former home." He stepped to a side door. "Bring it in, my good fellow."

The man who walked in was a typical *Zolt, a native of Homestead. His dark ringlets of hair had a reddish undertone. They were brushed straight back from his forehead and cut off square at his shoulders. His deep skin tones would have had him classified as sub-saharan if his hair hadn't been so obviously *Zolt. His nearly black eyes were sparkling with laughter.

Izzo hadn't seen !Tok for decades, but no amount of wrinkling could prevent the instantaneous recognition. Then the small cage he carried registered. A pretty little white beasty with two black stripes from head to tip of plumed tail. The cage wasn't very tall, the critter's tail was flattened, and couldn't be raised. Thank the One. Of course some people de-scented them for pets, but they wouldn't need a cage like this.

Dreadfully funny, did these city boys actually know what they were about to do? Izzo pulled out a very old memory, a spell he'd learned from his father. He let it seep over himself, and down, across the floor, protecting the carpet and the beautiful teak table. And !Tok. The rest of them would have to take their chances.

Of course, they were jockeying for position, they all wanted to see him get sprayed. There's Iffy, who, in a six month stint as temporary director split up some of the subdirectorates and appointed five close relatives as subdirectors. He looks pretty sour. Does he understand that's why he was passed over?

Ebko swaggered forward, grinning. Subdirector of Action and Exploration. Ajki said he’d really expected to be appointed Director. He took the cage, and turned it around for Eiffel to pop the top open and grab the skunk. It all looked so smooth and unrehearsed. Very well done, except they obviously didn't know about skunks, and their ability to flip up their tails and spray the predator in front of them.

Izzo rather suspected that they didn't have any experience with close up, enclosed skunk odor, either.

!Tok had stepped quickly back. Ebko and Eiffel got the full dose across their faces. The cage dropped. The skunk hit the ground and sprayed again. All those polite senior staffers were piling out the doors, gagging or turning red as they tried to not breathe. Eiffle was puking his guts up on the floor, Ebko made it as far as the tiny sink beside the coffee bar in the corner.

Izzo tossed a stun spell on the skunk and stepped up to pick it up before it got trampled. He rolled up his stink-proof spell, taking all the spray with it, and stepped past Ebko to look through the doors, yes, a tiny executive lavatory. He flushed the spell, not releasing it, and the worst of the odors, until it was a couple of meters down the pipes.

"I was hoping you'd have your father's spell ready." !Tok's shoulders were shaking as he watched the puking Oners try to pull themselves together.

"I thought you were some big time Capitalist these days? Filthy rich, owns eighteen companies or some such, Mother says."

"I am. But I saw your name on this request and couldn't resist bringing the skunk myself. Why would my old friend want a skunk in its natural state, eh?"

"Indeed. Hmm." Izzo pretended to ignore the others in the room and laid the stunned skunk down on the table for an examination. "A male. That makes it easy." He pulled out his pocket knife and opened the sharpest blade. The few men with cast iron stomachs who'd stayed so far, paled.

"So, !Tok d*ment!k. Apart from your appalling sense of humor, which I already knew about, why the charade?"

He clicked his tongue. "Still the clever boy, aren't you? I have a petition."

Izzo straightened in alarm.

"Homestead wishes to be able to negotiate trades on our own, import and export directly, and be exempted from the ban on gene altering therapies."

Izzo bent over the skunk for a moment, then used a repair spell where he'd excised the scent glands and testicles. Then a general healing spell. He set the animal in the corner to recuperate.

"You want me to take this petition to the World Council, the President and the One?"

"Yes."

"All right. After all, how much trouble can the two of us get into today."

!Tok grinned at their various parents' oft repeated phrase.

"They're going to think you want to secede."

"And you will point out that if we are able to add the One gene and the Genes of the Prophets, we will instead become more solidly a part of the One. A part of the Empire and citizens of the One, equal to the Oners."

Izzo whistled. "Now that's going to make everyone sit up and take notice."

Ebko looked up from the floor. "What is this?"

Izzo grinned as he realized they'd both fallen back into speaking T!ectlk*. Just as well. A bit a secrecy about this petition would be a Good Thing. "You've been Played by a Native expert. Live and learn. When you feel a bit better, get housekeeping up here to shampoo the rug and wipe down the furniture and walls. Tell them vinegar works best."

He steered !Tok out. "Lunch? I was going to do something with this lot, but they seem to have lost their appetites."

 
 
 
ekuah on March 29th, 2018 09:52 pm (UTC)
So, no tomato juice?
Or is that an urban legend.
matapampamuphoff on March 29th, 2018 11:26 pm (UTC)
Anything acidic. It's just a matter of what you want to smear on whatever. Tomato juice has the advantage of staying on your stinky dog a bit longer, before you hose him down.

Yes,speaking from experience.
(Anonymous) on March 30th, 2018 05:36 am (UTC)
The skunk is one of my favorite Izzo scenes.

We use hydrogen peroxide on the dog, when she gets too friendly-or, knowing her, more likely makes an attempt to kill the skunk.

Holly
ekuah on March 30th, 2018 03:24 pm (UTC)
Would be lemon juice acidic enough?
I mean it smells a whole lot better than vinegar.
matapampamuphoff on March 30th, 2018 04:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, but like vinegar, you'd need to dilute it. You don't want to damage the dog, the rug or the furniture.

And trust me, when dealing with skunk odor, the last thing you worry about is the smell of vinegar.
ekuah on March 30th, 2018 08:28 pm (UTC)
Oh man.
Sometimes I'm really happy that I will never have to deal with skunks, rattlesnakes, killer bees or fire ants here at home.