Izzo leaned and poked at the screen. “Actually, there’s an entrance back here that I’d prefer to use. We’ll park back there and walk in.”
Dave nodded. “Political maneuvers starting already?”
“Just dropping in on some old friends.” Izzo’s grin was sharp and hungry, his eyes bright.
A happy warrior in the field of his expertise. Right. Let’s go get ‘em.
And not exactly a battle.
Lucky Dave thought about just being part of the background, as Izzo sought out a small meeting room. No more than a dozen men and women, chatting, the door open . . .
“Izzo!” The first man to spot him sounded surprised. “I don’t suppose you’ve come to rejoin your old party?”
A lot of eyes brightened at that, only a single scowl . . . and that faded into thoughtfulness.
Izzo shook lots of hands, only needed two introductions.
Dave eyed one man, his deep red complexion very foreign . . . was this the XR subdirector? Tok, with a deep pop in front of it? He was clearly delighted to see Izzo.
He thumped Izzo’s shoulder. “So . . . how much trouble are we going to get into today?”
“Oh, this is just a quick visit. I wouldn’t want to disturb a Party meeting.” Izzo grinned. “I mean, it’s not as if you’d consider merging with the Modernists, to combine your broad appeal in the Colonies with Orde’s popularity here to take advantage of the way the One Firster have pulled voters out of both the War Party and the Isolationists.”
!Tok nodded. “Really, it would be so hard to find someone well known on Homestead, as well as a solid reputation and well known to the public here. Although perhaps not so hard as persuading someone else to quit their job to run from our ranks.”
Heads turned from !Tok to Izzo and back.
The man standing at the head of the table laughed suddenly. “I’d forgotten how the pair of you used to plot and plan . . . or just jump in and support each other no matter how hare-brained the idea. Thank you for dropping by Izzo. Perhaps you could hang around for a while.”
Izzo grinned. “They’ve got a nice snack bar here. Good coffee.”
Dave stepped back out the door, all clear, and Izzo followed him. The door shut firmly behind them.
“That . . . was very interesting.”
“Yes, but we won’t mention it again, until they’ve realized this is . . . workable.” Izzo pointed the way and a subtle spell, an illusion, slid over his face, the hair darker, the face young.
Dave snorted. And thought fatherly thoughts. Two coffees and half a dozen overpriced cookies later, Izzo’s comm buzzed. He looked at it and grinned.
“Let’s go do some more talking . . . or it might be time to arrange a meeting with the Modernist leaders.”
Dave frowned as he followed Izzo. “You have talked to them, haven’t you?”
A couple of the federalists caught that and nodded. “You have, haven’t you?” The leader asked.
Izzo ushered them back into the room and closed the doors.
“I have spoken to Orde, Urfa, and Exle. We hashed it over and agreed that they’d support shifting a whole lot of responsibilities to at least the regional level, if not below. If. You will admit that some things do need to remain at the Imperial level. And not suddenly decide you dislike so much trade with outsiders.” Izzo eyed them. “I suggested that since you had wanted, and been pleased to receive the gates among the colonies and to Embassy, you would realize that the Modernists have already shifted a great deal of power to the colonies.”
A man down the table snorted. “In trade, not in government.”
“Not officially. Not in making law. But the laws Orde fought to get passed changed laws so that colonies can trade independently—if they wish—or not. Their choice.”
!Tok looked innocently around the table. “It’s really no surprise that over seventy percent of registered Strong Federalists voted for Orde four years ago. It’s hard to spot a downside to this.”
Numerous glowers bent in his direction. “Especially since you think it lets you off the hook!”
“Well, you know me. Personal before Party.”
Dave decided, based on the combination of amusement or irritation around the table that !Tok had probably just mangled a party policy. Or something.
Izzo looked serious. “It just so happens that Orde, Urfa, Exle, and I will be meeting in Versalle tomorrow. If you would care to join us.”
Had it all worked out and set up, didn’t he?