Apparently the loss of the Hive Mind was a tragedy to some and barely noticed by most.
Emre announced that the Great Compass would only reform in times of great need, and that they would recruit priests only from volunteers who came to them. “You need not have the Priest Gene. You need not spend your life here. If you feel drawn to serve, then come. And when you wish to leave, leave. With the breaking of the Hive Mind, many of my priests will be moving out into the world, with our support, of course.”
Not that it was that easy. The priests had never been taught to shield.
Nicholas drew them like a magnet. One or two a day, a steady trickle of lost children—however old their bodies.
Rael got put in charge of dealing with them. She hauled them in for lessons in how to shield. And found them jobs, schools, homes.
“At least most of them have the good sense to avoid the priests who are staying with the religion.” Lucky Dave watched the latest group finish up—better shielded than they’d been just an hour ago—and straggle out to the house they were sharing. “I’m surprised at how easily they’re finding jobs.”
“The most magically powerful people on the One World? The companies that need that sort of strength will happily train them in the basics, hoping to keep them afterwards.” Qamar was back, prepping for her thesis defense. “There’s only about three hundred of them. More than half the priests stayed.”
A snicker from Rael as she joined them. “They’ve loosened way up. The women priests who want to have a baby are getting far enough away that the Hive Mind—if it reforms—won’t mess up the babies’ brains. Sometimes with a favorite priest, sometimes not. The priests have formed a few four and eight man compasses, for some work, and had no problem disengaging afterwards. It’s a work in progress.”
“I’m a bit surprised about the women. They want babies?” Lucky Dave shrugged. “Don’t glare. I checked. All the women priests are volunteers. Generally from that ‘Princess School’ thing.”
Real gave her standard giggle. “Some of them want babies, some of them just want that level-up that childbirth gives. But so far, that’s only about forty women.”
Feol—the Head Princess—sniffed. “And I suppose they’re taking that joy juice to get pregnant?”
Lucky Dave blinked. “Do you mean to tell me that on top of massive aphrodisiacs, that stuff is a fertility aid as well?”
They all laughed.
Rael shrugged. “Very much so. There will be more twins, and fewer delivery problems than normal.”
“Good grief. So . . . what do they need even ordinary compasses for? There’s not war.”
“A fair amount of what they do involves weather control.” Feol shrugged. “Not that I understand it, but they say that heating and cooling air masses high in the atmosphere can steer storms. Pull moisture into a drought stricken area, or away from one threatened by floods. Steering hurricanes and weakening a strong monsoon . . . well, we may find out if a Great Compass can be formed for work, and then released, over the next year.”
Hurricanes and either strengthening a weak monsoon or weakening a strong one that threatens flooding? That will save more lives than . . . anything.
“I told them to use the grass clippings in their free medical care, but they got insulted and pointed out that they mostly worked on mental illnesses.” Rael glanced over at him. “A pilgrimage to Makkah is good for depression and anxiety. Addiction, depends on how much is psychological and how much physical. And they do have both doctors and medgicians. And docboxes, although few people needing them go to Makkah.”
“Okay. I keep hearing about these docbox things. What the hell are they?”
“Umm, life support to whatever degree is needed. They’ll circulate and oxygenate your blood while lungs and hearts heal, filter it while kidneys heal. Lots of repair nanos. And tests. Detox. Umm . . . they’re bloody expensive, and need lots of maintenance, and anyone sick enough to need one won’t survive a long trip to Makkah. They’re used a lot by the External Relation Directorate, for their away missions, where there isn’t a doctor.”
Dave nodded. “I see. And . . . you haven’t had any new students for a few days. Have they stopped leaving Makkah?”
“I talked to the Princess School. The people leaving are now stopping there for shielding lessons, a search for family, and arranging job interviews and apartments, as needed. The younger priests have mostly gone home. A lot of the older ones find siblings or nieces and nephews. So apart from the lack of shields, it’s worked well enough.” Rael nodded toward the exit. “That will probably be my last class. Then I can get back to my usual.”
Lucky Dave eyed Rael. “What is your job, anyway?”
Feol rolled her eyes. “Rael is Urfa’s and Orde’s top agent. She gets sent out to do odd jobs that no one else knows what to do about.”
“In between which, most of the time I analyze things, give opinions, and liaise with Xen Wolfson. Which is polite-speak for worming information out of him. Generally in bed.”
“Umm . . .” Dave failed to find polite-speak for do you want to fuck him.
Rael snickered. “For your information, I’m madly in love with the insane wizard, and spend most of my vacation time with him. As an experienced espionage agent, he tells me as much as he wants Urfa and Orde to know, and then I get to analyze all his minor body language tics to try and figure out fact from fiction. And he’s really good at lying.”
“I . . . see.”
She just grinned. “So, how about a driving lesson? You’re going to need a license.”
Which eventually meant he got to drive Nicholas and Umaya around to potential new homes for a prophet who was looking a bit lost in this strange future.
Lucky Dave stood back and watched President Orde, who was fast turning into the commander’s friend.
“We understand the need for the ‘New Prophets’ at the time, and the silence about just where they’d come from. But now, we’d really like a complete and detailed history. The Comet Fall Gods had brain damage, and they’re so in contact with their collective subconscious that they have trouble remembering their early lives.”
Nicholas grimaced. “So I should write my memoirs?”
“Yes. And then I think you’ll find yourself highly in demand as a lecturer in ancient history.” Orde grinned. “But right now? You should spend time with your family. Travel—we’ve got sixteen colony worlds, and then there’s Embassy, where Ra’d, Nighthawk and their kids live.”
“That sounds . . . interesting.” The commander looked over his shoulder and grinned at him. “Lucky Dave, are you really horrified?”
“Yes. I’ll need help guarding you.”
The commander half turned and studied him for a minute. “No . . . Dave, I think you need to stop worrying about me and . . . absorb this world on your own.”
“Oh, relax. I’ll accrue more guards. Probably starting with those ecclesiastical guards who killed the priest.”
Lucky Dave choked.
The commander grinned. “They’re trained guards. I’ll add a few people with wider recent experience, and go touring. Except when I’m home writing up reports on everything I can remember from my childhood.”
Orde chuckled. “Your expression, Lucky Dave! The Presidential Directorate wants you, and your brother. But I’ll warn you, I’ll have you go with Rael when she’s on any special assignments.”
“Oh . . . that would be interesting.”