“Arno, are you busy tomorrow?”
Arno blinked at his com, stepped to the side of the walk to stop, not that there were many people around this late. “Hi, Aunt Rael. Saturday? I have to run in the morning, then I’m free for the rest of the weekend." He could feel his grin widening. “So I’d be delighted to help in any skullduggery.”
“Gah. Haven’t heard that term for decades. What are you studying in that snobby trade school?”
“Science, mostly. And karate. Man, I should have taken more karate. Oh well.”
“So . . . why don’t I pick you up at, umm, eight your time?”
“Sure. Meet you at the main entrance, then.”
Arno stared at his comm for a long moment. I wonder what a Presidential Agent needs me for? Something dimensional, no doubt. But what?
“Move it punk!”
He glanced over; two of the Team Trainees who thought they owned the campus. He sidestepped onto the grass and went back to staring at the comm.
“Beta.” The teamers walked on.
I wonder if she’ll tell me what’s going on? And . . . I suppose that if I’m going to get an interesting job, I ought to get on the Team Track.
He pocketed the comm and resumed progress toward the cafeteria. And of course the Teamers had met up with several others, and then stopped to chat up a girl . . . Oh great, Ryol. Figures she’d not realize she should be cautious around that lot.
As one of them stepped closer, he shot out a tiny little shield, flat against the ground, under his foot. It slid, he wind milled his arms for balance hitting the guys on either side as he staggered and caught his balance. But which time, Ryol had stepped back, laughing as she walked away. Arno circled the group—who were all kidding the clumsy one—and joined her.
She was still snickering. “Thanks, Arno. That was slick. And they didn’t even notice it. What do you think? Shall I shave my head?”
Arno snickered. “What would Mother say? Or . . . Milo?”
“Right. That settles it.” She waved at the gang. “I’m going to shave my head.”
Gior and Voyr horrified, and Pussy laughed. “Is Milo really that bad?”
Ryol snorted. “No! It’s the Team Trainees. They’ve started going out of their was to . . . encounter me.”
Arno nodded. “Five of them. Not that they’d do much in broad daylight, but . . .”
Gior snorted. “Before you do anything drastic, let me show you how to do it up with fancy hairpins. Sharp fancy hairpins.”
The girls all put their heads together, and started talking about stylish weaponry, and they collected food and grabbed a table. Sunny and Arno swapped glances and sat far enough apart to avoid hearing about which parts of male anatomy ought be targeted with various . . . bits of jewelry.
Milo walked up with his tray . . . caught a snatch of the girls conversation and joined the guys. “What triggered that?”
“Teamers.” Sunny rolled his eyes. “Pack of perverts. I thought the School was trying to drop that sort.”
Milo grunted. “They claim they’ve gotten rid of the rapist behavior, but they’re still aggressive, large, and muscular, so that’s how they try to impress women.”
Arno nodded. But I still didn’t like the way they were shifting to surround Ryol.
“So, anything going on this weekend?” Sunny looked hopeful. “Any new vids out?”
Arno sighed. “Maybe Sunday. Tomorrow . . .”
“You study.” Milo shook his head. “Have you ever considered having fun?”
“Science is fun.” Arno kept his face straight. And doing something with Aunt Rael even more so.
At eight the next morning, a ute pulled up to him and he hopped in.
Rael grinned at him. “So, Arno. I need a gate closed. And no questions asked.”
“No questions? Oh darn. Are you going to maroon an evil villain? Oops, sorry, that was a question.”
She laughed and pulled out. “How about an even dozen?”
“Really? I shouldn’t ask what they’ve done, should I?”
“Well, things got . . . really busy yesterday. I have an evil organizer who was planning an unfortunate explosion in a bomb factory, I have his trigger man, I have the eight bomb makers, and then I also have a sniper and spotter.”
“All in one day?” Arno blinked, thought . . . that explosion in Italy?
“Yep. What I do to keep the election peaceful. So these people are going to get dumped on an unused Evac World, and the gate closed. After the election we can fetch them, if we want to. The organizer . . . not at all sure I want him at large. Ever. But the eventual disposition is above my pay grade.”
“Huh. That school bus . . .”
“Probably the same bombers, probably the same . . . candidate. If he manages to win the election . . . it’s going to get interesting.”
Arno swallowed. “And you’ll be working for him!”
“No I won’t. My resignation with hit Urfa’s desk within minutes of the election results. And possibly if it’s anyone but Izzo.”
Arno eyed her.
She giggled. “I know, I know! Izzo’s as bad as Ox when it comes to trusting, or not trusting me. But I could transfer to External Relations, or take an indefinite leave of absence, or . . . something. I trust Izzo.”
She turned off and stopped in line to take the Gate City Corridor. Then across town to the SGA. She was waved through, nothing but a curious glace toward Arno.
They probably think we’re headed for Disco.
They turned early, though and drove through the “Hub Nine” gate. Rael swept a quick look around as they drove down a well kept gravel road.
“There are four Worlds being colonized and/or mined off this hub, and ten that are not in use. We need gate twenty-two.”