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31 March 2018 @ 07:59 am
_External Relations_ part 5  

Chapter Four

"Princess, I am in so much trouble."

Xiat snuggled into the pillows and grinned at the tiny hologram. "And what did all those subdirectors do to my poor little Colonial?"

"They gave me a pet skunk. Being careful to get one that hadn't been de-scented. They thought a species specific to Homestead would be a touch of home for me. Unfortunately for them, I do in fact have extensive experience with the critters. I know how to shield, and clean up. So I shielded most of the room, and sat back and watched them. They got much more, emm, business-like in the afternoon. Now, are you brave enough to hear about the bad part and the horrible part?"

She wished she could read his aura, along with his voice and face. She didn't like the undertones in his voice. "I'm braced. Tell all."

"The Directorate, in its beneficence, provides housing. Designed and built by the Third Director. It is a bit too small to call a Palace. Gothic architecture with gargoyles and curlicues. Possibly a few Greek columns. A fencing salle in the basement, a library with real paper books bigger than your flat. Two hundred and twelve bedrooms, each with a bathroom, as the third Director thought sharing was unhygenic. Yes, it come with funds and a staff of forty." He paused, looking a bit daunted. "And the One has assigned me a Princess."

Xiat sat up and winced at a pulled muscle in her abdomen. "Who?"

"Gewz. Looks sixteen and acts like a spoiled darling. Says she just graduated from Princess School. She expected to sweep me off my feet and wrap me around her little finger. Any thumps you hear in the background are her packing up and moving to the far wing. I told her to go find a professional attitude and it didn't go down well. And she really didn't like me calling her Gee Wiz."

Xiat snickered. "Oh dear. Some men's fondest dream, other men's worse nightmare. A baby Princess."

"I was hoping for a different kind of scary. Qayg-like, you know? I can deal with a threatening professional. This one needs to be sent to the Principal for a grow up lecture."

"Hmm, well. It sounds like you had a delightful day. There's just one thing I need to know."

"Yes. You own me heart and soul. Yes, you can redecorate as much of this Gothic Horror as you wish. No, we are not keeping the skunk."

She couldn't stop the giggle. "How bad was the smell? I mean, there are skunks on the West Coast. I know what they smell like. The mind boggles at the thought of one indoors."

"Fortunately it was a very young skunk. It had the salutary effect, provided me with an opportunity to show of my dim colonial wits and language skills. The chap that delivered the skunk was an old friend—CEO of a pharmaceuticals company, these days. He caught mention of my name and just had to come see what happened. We chatted in T!ectlk* while I demonstrated how to de-scent and neuter a skunk with my pocket knife on the conference room table. The few tough guys that hadn't run off to puke turned green at that point."

"Oh, you were enjoying yourself, weren't you? For shame." She narrowed her eyes. "What did you do with the skunk? Assuming it survived all this."

"Of course it survived. Goodness, I've assisted my father often enough poking around in animal gizzards. I thought he would make an excellent Directorate mascot."

"I love you, you insane Colonial. I'll be there with you soon enough, and in shape to deal with your spoiled Princess. And don't forget that Ajha and the Fiend are there, so you can ask for help if she stays obnoxious." She rolled out of bed and onto her feet. Ridiculous to be so big! She waddled out to the living room. Zowz looked up in inquiry.

"Ah. Good idea. Unless Fean is inclined to help her. Do you suppose she'd fall in love with a former Philosopher? That would solve half the problem."

"Poor Ajha, you're going to make me feel sorry for him. Here, talk to your mother for a moment." Xiat handed over the comm and waddled for the bathroom. Ridiculous that I have to keep peeing all the damned time. Just as well it's twins, I'm not sure I'm ever going to do this again.

Back to the living room, where Zowz was chatting away about nursery colors. Xiat put her feet up and listened contentedly, then took the phone back.

"Anyhow, I'm trying to set up some appointments, and hopefully I'll have time to see you as I whizz in and out or Paris. I may have to pick you up after talking to the President and ditch you as I dash in to speak to the Council. But that would give us nearly four minutes together."

Xiat snickered. "Poor Colonial. And me in no shape for a quickie."


!Tok felt a wash of shame, as he took advantage of the Permanent Gate Pass Izzo had given him. Izzo's deep. He knows what he did. The automated machinery read the pass and sent him through. He waited for a truck to roll by, then walked through.

First *Zolt to set foot on Embassy. He strolled to the center of the Plaza, and circled the fountain. Hopefully any watcher had gotten bored and taken to tracking someone else. He headed for what he believed to be the Comet Fall Embassy.

Ambassador Franki Negue was amused and had a flunky escort him through their gate, for a stroll through a very attractive city full of horses and wagons. And then through two corridors. To meet a lady.

"You want to add all the Prophet's genes to the genes of your people?" Rustle gawped a bit. "Old Gods, that'd stir things up, wouldn't it." Her eyes unfocused a bit. "There's a hundred and five genes, plus the One Gene." She eyed the man. "A lot of them are cosmetic. What do your people look like? Dark like you, or is there a range in coloring?"

The old man chuckled. "There's a bit of variation, but most of us are dark. Perhaps there should be a selection of attributes." He flipped on his comp and brought up the list. "These are the Prophet's genecomplexes, and what they do. These cosmetic ones have multiple possible genes, for the coloring and all."

"What a very useful list. We could work out a dozen variations on color schemes that converts some genes and leave others alone. So it would lighten or darken, but the individuality would remain. Other physical attributes, height, weight, gender distinction, improved immune and repair systems. We've already got a Von Neumanns potion for all the longevity genes. Then there are the power genes. We'll do them up in a single package."

"What about those three rape genes? The ones you removed from the Oners?"

"Their original purpose was to bump up the ambition, leadership, and charisma. Frankly the lack of turn over in leadership positions since the removal demonstrates how minimal any effect was. I recommend leaving them out." Rustle looked down at her list and smiled. "This is an excellent challenge. I will need to be careful, so I'll take, umm. Six months. But in the mean time, we have several ready to go. This is the longevity suite. It will alter the genes in artificial insertion packets, or finding none such, add it to a normal chromosome. It's a von Neumann's. Just keep adding red wine. Please label carefully, because people who don't want things changed or added to shouldn't be given it accidentally. The Original Joy Juice. It doesn't change genes, but it will cure ills associated with age. In combination with the Longevity, it will regress a person's apparent age. If the person is extremely old or otherwise sick, start with the Wine of the Gods, and give it a week or two to work on general repairs. Then dose with the elixir of long life. Hmm, these others are not von Neumans. A bottle this size you could dose maybe three people. Try them on a few volunteers, as examples of what will happen to people who take the things I'll be making."

!Tok picked up a bottle. "Red Hair." He eyed the shelves. "And eye colors, skin tones, err."

"We had some problems, with illegal potions of dubious providence and sometimes dangerous results. We found it necessary to provide safe, clearly labeled potions. Even the ones for . . . organ enlargement. They are not genetic." She pulled out another bottle and frowned. "We took this from one of the, err, Combat gang criminals. It will engineer the One Gene. Let me make some fast copies of it. This, with the dozen other genes will allow people to start feeling the power, maybe. Some adults may be too set in their ways to relearn things. But this will give you a core group that's six months ahead of all the rest and can give you some lead time to prepare the vast majority of people for what they will be feeling. I should be able to manufacture all six insertion packets. Hmm, several variation of each, so people can choose various attributes."

"I should have driven. I didn't think of the bulk. Actually I thought I'd just be opening negotiations. And bargaining. I still have not asked your fees."

"Oh. Well. Actually I prefer to barter. Do you have herbal medicines? I'd like samples, what they're used for and if possible, live plants or seeds. A good long visit with some experts would be nice as well."

!Tok nodded. "I noticed a garden as I walked up. It reminded me of my grandmother's, now my sister's garden. I, err, rather trespassed on a friend's trust to get here. I'm not sure how many people I can get through, or when."

"There probably wouldn't be any problem placing a Gate from your World to Embassy . . . well. Maybe there would be, if it seemed to be for the purpose of undermining their Empire."

!Tok chuckled. "My purposes are quite the contrary. I want my people to be the equals of the Oners, full members of the Empire. We're probably the most lightly colonized World of the Empire. When they discovered us about a hundred and fifty years ago we were in the middle of our industrial revolution. We added the Oner's tech and got rich. We figure that if we have at a sizable chunk of people with the One Gene, we can add their micro-manufacturing abilities and keep right on growing."

"I see." Rustle snatched a bubble floating by, picked up one of the metal clasps she kept around and attached the bubble. She loaded in all the bottles on the table, closed the clasp, and handed it over. "Bubbles make carrying things so easy. Let me walk you back to Embassy. We'll talk to Q about putting up a Gate in about six months. Attaching somewhere convenient for you. They've got little beacons at Disco, I'll get one from Xen or Q."

!Tok swallowed, a bit dry mouthed. "I suppose you know them well?"

"They are my children." The woman's eyes twinkled. "And here I thought everyone knew."

Chapter Five

Xiat parked the car and swung her legs out. Stood and took in the utterly tasteless and breathtakingly absurd gothic facade.

One of the front doors opened. Xiat was peripherally aware of a woman walking out to meet her. She lowered her gaze. "I was hoping Izzo was exaggerating about the gargoyles." The woman was young enough to call a girl. Glowing in an attempt to intimidate. Poor Izzo, and I'm probably going to make it worse before she gets better. "You must be Gewz. I am Xiat." She shut the car door and stepped forward to meet her rival on open ground. So to speak. Surface sculpted concrete with ornate pots and twisted dwarfed trees.

The girl looked her up and down and curled a lip. "Yes, he said you were a breeder."

Xiat clucked and shook her head. "Don't they make you do memory exercises in the School anymore? Izzo can be blunt, but he's rarely suicidal."

"What would you know of the school." The girl tossed her head like a horse. "I'm going to take him away from you. It's not right that his first wife should be so low class as to get pregnant."

"Or research."

"Or are you just a slut?"

"Did you flunk Manners 101?"

"Straight A's in assassination. A fall down the stairs would solve this problem." The girl actually stepped up to try and loom.

Xiat sidestepped, grabbed, pulled, rolled her across her hip and dropped on her back. With her arm in a nice straightforward lever hold to keep her there.

"If you ever threaten my babies again, I will kill you. I will not fight you, I will not debate you. I won't call the police until after you are dead. I will kill you as quickly and efficiently as I would any other dangerous animal threatening my children. Do you understand me?"

"Bitch!" The girl reached across, although she ought to have had enough training to know what had a chance to break the leverage.

"Do you understand me?" Xiat switched her attention briefly to the guard in Directorate brown, aiming the rifle her direction. "I am Senior Investigator Xiat, IRD, former Presidential guard, currently on leave, and at the moment, Madam Izzo. Verify all that, then cease pointing that at me before I get really pissed."

The guard stepped back a bit, getting a bit absent minded looking. The gun barrel sank. "Sorry Madam, it's just . . . "

"That you are not accustomed to a cat fight on the front porch? I'll try to keep it brief. Now. Gee Wiz. Do you understand that if you threaten my children, you will die?"

"Social climbing cunt. Kiss my . . ." She screamed as Xiat broke her arm.

Xiat did not release it. "Do you understand?"

"Yes . . . " The girl choked back some other no doubt personal comment.

Xiat let go and stepped back.

The girl scrambled up, cradling her arm. "I am going to . . . "

Xiat eyed her down the barrel of the little laser she always carried. She kept the red aiming dot in the girl's right eye. "Yes?"

The girl clamped her mouth shut, turned and walked back toward the front doors.

Xiat disappeared the gun. Nodded politely to the guard. By the time she got to the double doors, the other one was also open, an older gentleman trying to hide shock holding it open, or perhaps supporting himself by clinging. "And you must be Ohno? Pleased to meet you."

"Madam." He sounded a bit faint.


Xiat watched Izzo as he walked through the doorway. Muscles tense. The quick scan, senses alert. The poor man is walking into enemy territory. He spotted the mass behind the weird frawny plant and aimed to give himself the maximum distance possible without actually looking like he was cringing away from the plant.

She stepped out, trying to keep a straight face. Enjoyed watching the change. The lines between his eyes relaxed, the laugh lines crinkled at the corners of his eyes, shoulders relaxed as he changed direction.

He wrapped himself around her and inhaled a deep breath with his face buried in her neck. "Saved!" He pulled back enough to kiss her. "Did I sound that pathetic, or has my mother's energy driven you from home?"

She wrapped her arms around his chest and leaned on him. "I think your father has been considering kidnapping me and taking me away to Homestead."

"Please tell me you're kidding?"

Long silence.

"One. Princess. I did warn you."

"We ought to have kept quiet for another six months."

"Right. Then he'd only kidnap Ixto." He pulled back and traced her cheekbones with gentle fingers. "After a week here you may want to flee back to them. Have you met my Bete Noir?"

"I apologize for thinking you were exaggerating in order to put my fears of abandonment to rest. One! She's got a bit of maturing to do, and if she doesn't do it fast I'll personally see that she doesn't do it at all."

Izzo paused. "What the One did I miss?"

"You're happier not knowing."

He leaned in and kissed the cheekbone he'd been stroking. "Right." He threaded his fingers with hers and led her off to the master bedroom. "Maybe I could just petition the President to let us run off to a deserted planet."

"Don't tempt me. Right now it doesn't sound too bad." She sprawled on the bed and watched him shed his business suit. "No more skunks?"

"No, but the executive bathroom certainly does have frequent problems. That painting of the Gran' Tor disappears and reappears in, oh, the Lady's lav, the janitorial closet, and so forth. I hope the Interior guys are being a bit less juvenile toward their new director. Right now I'm about ready to offer Ajki a major swap. Unfortunately I've now got almost twice the number of subdirectors he's got."

"And Glue isn't about to leave Paris. I don't know about the rest of them. You might want to hire Mushy and Whipper. Think how much fun you could have inviting them to dinner and setting them, one on each side of Gee Wiz."

"Princess, your cruel streak is showing. Or are they such a bother you want to get rid of them?"

"Don't be silly. Whipper's six month marriage to the Dachshund Lady matured him remarkably. Mind you, he was starting from a very low spot. Mushy, well, he's still mooning about Bay dumping him."

"Pity, really I don't know why these young men listen to the insane advice they are given." He flopped on the bed and curled up around her.

"Bay dumped him, not the other way around. And Mier and Jiaq didn't really want a relationship with Whipper.

"Just his baby. Babies. Well, with Bay's twins and Meir's and Jiaq's older kids they'll have two each. And their mother had another baby. I think Ajha was dosing more than horses with that wine. Or was that you?"

"Ha! You're the only one I ever dosed . . . "

Their eyes met in mutual amusement.

"But what poor man do we sacrifice to get Wizzy to leave me alone?"

A deep melodious gong sounded in the distance.

"That's the ten minute warning for dinner. I swear I'm going to pin Ajki down about his lifestyle while he was here." Izzo rolled out of bed and hunted down shoes. "These people have a cast iron routine that they're trying to make me fit. I have some vague idea that it's supposed to work the other way around."

"Goodness. My poor little Colonial! I spoke to the cook earlier about the sorts of food you liked, and the hours you kept. She says the whole east wing is guest quarters for the people who either come in from Paris or come across to report in. She reminisced about the parties that get thrown when a big exploration party returns."

"Oh, I like the idea of turning this into the Directorate's Hotel. We could just hide back in our little corner and let them all run riot through the rest of it." Izzo offered a hand to haul her out of the seductive softness of the mattress.

They entered the dining room, all green flocked wallpaper and gilded carved cornices, from the west as Gee Wiz entered from the east. The girl was dressed formally, looked right at home in the antique room. Izzo held the chair for his wife, then sat at the head of the table. The girl scowled, suppressed it and sat herself on his other side, facing Xiat across the table.

Izzo plunked his elbows casually on the table and split a smile between them. The girl was wearing long sleeves, and moving just a bit carefully. Xiat made a mental note to check on the local medgicians. There should have been no problem healing a straightforward fracture.

"So . . . there's about twelve hundred people working in headquarters, here, ten times that across. And about that many again, running the gates and . . . everything else that has to be done?" He smiled again. "Sounds like we'll have to break them up into groups for parties. Wiz, is party coordination up your alley?"

The girl brightened, and her eyes unfocused a bit as she started making mental plans.

Xiat hid a smile. Put the girl to work. Attaboy, Colonial.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


Izzo strolled with Xiat through the grounds. "Forty acres. Mostly woods in the back, but fenced. Some former Director was an equestrian. I thought you might like a horse. It's a bit early for me to start going overboard with ponies for the kids, isn't it?"

Xiat snickered, and led the way into the barn. "Eight stalls, tack room, feed room. Perfect for us. I'll buy you a horse too, Colonial. As long as I've known you, I've never seen you on a horse."

"Umm, the critters they have on Homestead are a bit closer to the original wild stock than what you're used to. I can ride, and drive. But horses were working animals there, not pets."

"Tsk! I'll have to fix that misapprehension."

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on March 31st, 2018 03:29 pm (UTC)
Pam, you need to get !Tok from the "Comet Fall Embassy" to Ash and Rustle (there was something but you snipped it all).
cnmckenney on March 31st, 2018 03:38 pm (UTC)
I would argue that Russel is in the Comet Fall Embassy, not on Comet Fall.
matapampamuphoff on March 31st, 2018 05:02 pm (UTC)
Ack! Wrong draft!

Edited to add:

Ambassador Franki Negue was amused and had a flunky escort him through their gate, for a stroll through a very attractive city full of horses and wagons. And then through two corridors. To meet a lady.

Although, thinking about it, possibly his wife Sandy, rather than a flunky.
cnmckenney on March 31st, 2018 03:35 pm (UTC)
Not a fight
That was not a cat fight. That was the schooling that a sensei gives to a new black belt that thinks s/he is really the thing and wants to take on the world. You can tell by the lack of heat on the senior's side. Just correct technique and a calm assessment of the idiot's true place in the scheme of things. If they have any brains only one lesson is needed. They usually don't survive a second one. I like Xiat. She would make an excellent senior sister in a pyramid.
ekuah on March 31st, 2018 06:21 pm (UTC)
Two things:
Someone should smuggle some 'smart horses' into their stable.
Just to plant the seeds for future books mayhem.

Someone should hint Xiat about that 'dog barking' spell by Never (as it was mentioned in 'Dark Lady')
Should do wonders whenever Gewz dares to call Xiat a 'bitch' again.
matapampamuphoff on March 31st, 2018 06:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Two things:
Later in this book you'll meet some horses--Fean borrows them from Eldon--who keep showing up in various places, including the Gothic Horror's barn.

(Anonymous) on April 1st, 2018 02:46 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Two things:
And Whipper and Mushy get Xiat's horses bred.
Typo: We figure that if we have AT a sizable chunk of people with the One Gene. Although I can imagine them having at them with fencing swords.
(Anonymous) on April 1st, 2018 06:07 am (UTC)
show of my dim colonial wits. Should be show off, not show of.