“Ouch.” Dave stopped and eyed the setup ahead. Three large buildings, not quite in line, so he could see a bit of all of them.
“Barracks up front and then the barns, with a large covered arena behind them.”
“Ah.” He got his feet back in motion and followed her into the barracks.
H shaped, with four wings, the fat middle looked to contain a kitchen and mess area, and a gym, complete with a couple of square Martial Arts mats, currently in use.
Rael rose up on her toes . . . “Ah. Isakson is running a training session. Would you like to see? They’re usually over by now. I wonder who messed up.”
A man in a uniform turned and nodded. “Riot control. A demonstration against Granite Peak Independence got out of control, a dozen ran up the steps to Government House and the boys made a complete hash out intercepting and blocking them.”
A major’s palm tree insignia. But he looks a little . . . scruffed up. Rael noticed, too.
“So of course, he started with me.”
“Oh, they must have really blown it.” Rael tuned to Davos. “Major Eppa, this is Captain Dave ibn Daiki of the Islamic Union Army. Dave, Major Eppa is the commander of the Black Horse Guards.”
“Rael, I hear you! Get over here!” Isakson voice, sounding pissed.
“Oh, now I’m in trouble. C’mon Lucky Dave, you’ll enjoy this.” A man in a gi was limping out of the square as they walked up.
Isakson grunted and pointed at Dave. “Six weeks, and I’ll get you out here to show these modern softies how to fight.” He crooked a finger at Rael, and shook his head when she reached an arm around her back. “If you’re walking around with your little sneak gun, come fight with it.”
“Ouch.” Rael walked out and bowed to Isakson, who bowed back. Not a proforma bow, but definitely the bow he gave people he respected.
A bell chimed and they blurred into motion. Dave reached for Speed just to watch them trading blows.
Isakson, for the first time Dave had ever seen, was up against someone as fast as he was, and then Rael blurred again, a spike of extra Speed that got her in and out of Isakson’s longer reach, with a solid blow to the old man’s diaphragm.
Blocked punches and kicks and throws. Rael got through again, this time a face punch and somehow managing a foot hooking a knee and down he went, sweeping his legs, she jumped over them and Isakson heaved up and his hand grabbed her foot.
She arched backwards in midair, her left leg sweeping up to kick his wrist and she bent further backwards to get her hands down, completed her back flip enough off balance to slip down to crouch on one knee, and divert a series of kicks from a strong base.
Then back one her feet and driving in kicking . . . the bell dinged.
They staggered apart. Isakson bowed to her. Rael returned the bow, and limped off the pad.
She walked over to a bench and eased down, stuck out her right leg and rotated the foot. “I swear that man has the hardest damned grip.” She stripped off her jacket then leaned forward and reached around to the small of her back and tugged a holstered gun off her belt. “At least I only landed on it once. I’m going to be so bruised.” She placed it on the bench.
Dave eyed the gun. Eleven centuries. How much have guns changed?
Rael nodded at it. “Go ahead.”
He drew the gun, keeping the business end pointed down. Not a make or model I’ve ever seen, but no big changes. Safety is on, magazine release here, clear the chamber. Smooth as silk. Too small for my hand. “Nice. And not too different from what I’ve had.” He reloaded it checked that the safety was on and reholstered it.
“So . . . do you beat Isakson regularly?”
“Umm, maybe twenty percent of the time? Less, probably.” She rubbed her back. “And I rarely fight in uniform, but, well, I can’t argue with the logic.”
“Ha! So you just grumble.” Isakson stalked up. “Will you be here tomorrow morning?”
“Yep. I’m back on duty at midnight.”
“Good. We will demonstrate how to deal with rioters, and,” he nodded to Major Eppa, “see how to change the ceremonial rotation so there is always at least one and preferably two men who can do large shields on duty at all times.”
Rael winced. “Should I look at the security vids, or leave the poor fools some dignity?”
“Watch it.” Isakson growled. “Pity we can’t just shoot idiots anymore. That would have stopped the rioters cold.”
Eppa snorted. “I think I’m glad we’re too soft for that sort of response. Decadent Modernists that we are.”
Rael hooked the holster back on her belt and grabbed her jacket. “Well, continuing the tour . . . Those two wings are Black Horse guards. The shorter wing over there is Princesses . . . umm, that is to say, highly trained, highly magical women guards. And this last wing is the horseboys on the ground floor, and Directorate analysts and agents on the second floor.”
“Yes, but since I started out as a Princess, I sort of wound up staying in that wing. Anyhow there’s more of us agents and analysts, but a lot of us live elsewhere.” She shrugged. “I’ve actually got a house, but I’m on call so often, I’ve kept the room here.
“And a good thing, since my brother-in-law just got a job in Interior Relation here in Paris, and they’re going to be living in the house until they buy a place themselves.”
“With your twin menaces?”
“And two more of their own. So it’ll be a houseful.” She frowned. “Do you know? I think I need an excuse to visit the Princess School, Real Soon Now.”
“Princess School?” Dave wrinkled his nose. “Please tell me you are kidding.”
“’Fraid not. It’s a college level school, concentrating on Political Science, Psychiatry, Sociology . . .” She broke off to glare at some snickers. “Magic, manipulation, and yes, assassination. I believe the powerful female descendants of the Prophet were married off to men they needed to monitor and possible influence and control? Yes? Well, these days they skip the married part and just assign them to monitor . . . umm, what, maybe a thousand men?”
“Up to sixteen hundred, last I heard.” A tall handsome woman in a gi, black belt.
“So the One knows what they’re up to, and can stop them before they do something stupid. Dave, this is Feol, the head of the Guard Princesses.”
Feol grinned and looked him over. “You look pretty ordinary, for the reputation you’ve got.”
Dave squirmed. “I am definitely going to have to catch some of these movies people keep referring to.” He looked back at Rael. “And I’m beginning to think people around here are used to people looking a lot more harmless than they really are. A trained assassin, eh?”
A lot of snickers, coughing, wheezing from the eavesdroppers.
Rael was definitely blushing. “I . . . have a reputation as the world’s most incompetent assassin. Slightly offset by some news vids of the Aukland raid. Hmm, your next vid probably ought to be ‘Cannibal World.’ Fortunately a problem that has been resolved.”
A shifting and glances swapped around. Quite a few grins. A snort from Scar, as he edged out of the crowd. “We show vids here, Wednesday nights. You and Davos should come. We can get a good selection of vids based on recent events for you and answer your questions.”