Rael cocked her head. “I wonder if a Priest could do anything about the mental modeling? We’ve got the judge and six guards . . .”
One Ytry eyed Rael thoughtfully. “Mental modeling. Interesting.” The old man’s eyes unfocused for a moment.
Then sharpened. “Right, we’ll come.”
“Eight of us, just in case we need a compass.”
Rael eyed him . . . then pulled out her comm and called Ajha. He promised a crawler and escort immediately.
A teenaged girl trotted up and handed Ytry a pack.
Rael raised her eyebrows.
“She’s new, very strong. Just walked off the train one day and joined the One. She’s scarier than you.”
“I never had an avocation to join the One.”
“We noticed. Was it your mother or father who is Emre’s child?”
Rael froze . . . “My mother’s birth certificate lists her father as One of Mahkah.”
Ytry nodded. “Emre One. Nicholas has declined to contribute to the next generation in any way except with his legal wife.”
“At the Princess School, we told ourselves scary stories about what happened to women who flunked out.”
That got her an amused snort. “Girls being sent off are given the opportunity to have the baby of the Prophet or one of the very oldest and strongest priests, with the usual stipend and so forth. Two or three accept every year.”
“Oh, are some of the priests so old they predate . . .”
“Castrating youngsters? Yes. Rechecking our records, we find that the more Prophet’s genes a man has, the later puberty begins, the longer before the critical parts of the brain complete their growth. We believe that’s why the Prophets were so powerful. And some of the fourth generation or so of sons had high concentrations of those genes and were very powerful.” Ytry nodded as another man walked in.
The priest was dark of complexion, black haired, hawk-nosed. A former Philosopher of the One. Rael had always suspected that his apparent forty or fifty years of age was considerably shy of the truth.
“Jeb ibn Oliver ibn Joseph ibn Byram, for instance. How old are you? Thirteen centuries and change?”
But I hadn’t realized he was that old!
“He shows up on birth certificates as Ojby. Not often, he tend to frighten the young ladies.”
“Says the six hundred year old man who’s just survived puberty.”
Ytry shook his head. “The hormones!” His gaze drifted to Rael.
“It was not my fault you got dosed.” Rael primmed her lips. “An orgy at your age! I’m just shocked by such behavior.”
“Tsk! So how many of those eight babies were yours?”
“None of your business, Miss Gossip.” Ytry nodded at the other men entering. “And you’ve started an interesting trend.”
“Not. My. Fault.”
Five hundred or so eunuch priests dosing themselves with the joy juice to regrowth their testicles. Experiencing puberty, loss of virginity, parenthood. Getting stronger as they cross the thresholds of several major life changing events they had thought beyond their grasp.
And the women priests as well, giving birth is apparently such a transformative experience for the extremely powerful that they all want it. They hadn’t thought they were capable of getting pregnant, so high their count. But the joy juice . . . Dammit, I really do need to find the time to seduce Xen.
Ytry jabbed his fingers at the new priests. “Epoxy, Whinny, Ooze, Hummer, Work and Gamble. Yes, they have proper Oner names. Nobody cares. C’mon. I want to meet this judge.”
Which involved the train to Dimashq, then limos through two corridors. Ajha had two brand new Crawlers waiting, four utes for escorts.
Jeb snorted. “Overkill, don’t you think, Philosopher?”
“Not at all. I have no idea what the One has planned, how long it will take, nor whether some of your group will stay while others return. Philosopher.”
Ytry cackled. “Covering all bases. Well, let’s go find out what we’ve got. C’mon Rael, you can wave to your boyfriend as we drive past.”
“Won’t do any good. He won’t be paying any attention yet.” Rael stepped on board the lead crawler, and half the priests followed her.
And Ajha, who climbed into the driver’s seat.
“Ooo! Subdirector Ajha! Are you escaping?” Rael promptly nabbed the navigator’s seat. What about the Fiend?”
“She’s driving the other crawler. I suspect Exploration will fail entirely to fall apart in our absence.”
“I probably ought to have called Info about this, but I figured you had the equipment. Plus I haven’t met the new subdirector.”
“He’s arguing with Ajki about how he needs to get out there himself. I know better.”
Jeb chuckled. “You simply grabbed vehicles and are leaving.”