Dave barely caught Izzo’s whispered, “Oh shit!” before all three woman descended on him with engulfing hugs. And then they spotted Dave.
They fluttered over, a rainbow of colors on three large women, well, not so much tall as sturdy with padding, but the clothes added a lot to the appearance of bulk. They formed up, a shallow arc of big eyes, all three with their hands clasped in front of themselves as if praying.
“Oh . . .” A long triple exhalation.
The one in (mostly) orange stuck out her hand. “It’s such an honor to meet Lucky Dave! Oh my, what we’ve seen!”
Dave shook her hand, trying not to flinch at the faint zing.
“Manners, Ladies!” The very multicolored one inched closer. “I’m Lady Hoax. This is Lady Jeep, and Lady Heum who appears to be frozen in awe. A first, in my experience.”
Dave nodded. “Lady Jeep.” He reclaimed his hand. “Lady Hoax.” Dammit, another zing. They must both be . . . what? Inbred descendants of Daiki?
Lady Heum, in pink, with purple accents, including her lipstick, shook herself a bit. “My pleasure. Oh my.”
Dave shook her hand, barely a zing this time, thank you!
Behind them, Izzo had his hand over his face, shoulders shaking. “Ladies, why don’t you come inside, and tell me why you’ve come?”
The inside wasn’t any less . . . notable . . . than the exterior. But Dave’s contemplation of the ladies’ exclaiming over the wall that was papered with actual peacock feathers was interrupted by the arrival, at high speed of two small blonde tornadoes.
“Did you bring him?” A small sized version of Izzo vibrated in place, his eyes widening as he spotted the three witches . . . Ladies from PreCog.
The female version scooted around behind her Dad and eye the trio uncertainly.
“Yes, I did. And these three ladies are people I worked with . . . Has it really been eighteen years ago?” Izzo pointed. “And that’s Lucky Dave over there. Dave? This is Xiaz and this is Izto, my kids and.” His gaze lifted. “My wife Xiat.”
The woman in the doorway was definitely worth looking at, not that Dave was going show that in front of her husband. Light brown hair in a short style that set off a spectacularly beautiful face. She tossed him a warm smile, then returned to studying the three ladies. Dave grinned, shook hands with both kids and settle back to observe the trio.
The ladies giggled, flirted with an alarmed El Zee, making him look even younger and “precious” and admired the long and exciting career he was going to have. The poor chauffer/bodyguard shot a panicked look toward Izzo, who shrugged, and then he fled “to put the car away.”
The little girl giggled, looking up at Lady Jeep. “I think you scared him, messing up his hair like that. Isn’t he handsome?”
“Yes, he is. And so brave! And you’re pretty enough to just eat up!”
“Jeep! What a silly phrase!”
“My mother used it all the time.”
“Three centuries ago! Really, Dear!” Hoax looked down at the girl. “Cute as a pin, now, and oh my! The hearts you’re going to break!”
There was a faint whimper from Izzo.
“Tsk! Silly boy, anyone can see that. This young man may well do the same. But! We came here to talk to Lucky Dave. We need a back check on some old predictions . . .” Heum patted her huge purse. “We brought all the old time stamped files.”
Izzo winced. “The files that aren’t ever supposed to leave the custody of the Subdirector?”
“Yes. But since these have probably already happened, it doesn’t really matter. Now, where can we spread them out and work?” Heum smiled innocently.
“The library has a good work table.” Xiat waved in a very professional Nanny, who rounded up the kids, with much protest.
“Now, these all involved the bags of the Prophets, and we felt that they might involve you.” Heum pulled five sealed envelopes out of her purse.
“There were more, but we didn’t think they were about you.” Hoax added.
Jeep tapped one. “I’m not sure about this one. It may not have happened yet.”
Izzo shook his head and read the labels. “Let’s not break the seals yet, then the new subdirector might not kill me.”
Snickers from the three women. “Oh, Izzo, that man believes everything. The poor thing’s being treated like a chew toy and the poor analysts keep telling him . . . well, never mind.” Jeep leaned to read the label. “Oh, ‘The Cripple” I remember that one. The man with the crutch. He was hobbling down a road in the early morning, the sun wasn’t even up yet.”
Heum shook her head. “No, he was down on the ground, inching along on his left side.”
“And he ate a goat.” Hoax frowned at Dave. “Really! Some poor farmer’s goat, and you killed it!”
“I needed the food. And I dare not approach any houses.”
Izzo cleared his throat. “But was there a goat?”
“Yes. I killed it butchered it and cooked it, I was nearly done with the jerky when the farmer came looking and I had to hide again. And yes, until my arm and shoulder healed . . . sort of . . . I couldn’t even use the crutch I’d made. I hitched along on my side, maybe making a quarter mile a day.”
Dave thought that over. “I rested three days, then headed for the road I’d been paralleling, and tried out the crutch. I managed a couple meters, then the Crazy Redheads happened.” He eyed the three women. “You each got a tiny piece of that, didn’t you?”
“Yes. That’s often the way we work.” Hoax sighed. “Most of us just see things on their own.”
Izzo looked at the next envelope. “Bag of the prophets, black-haired boy, red sports car?”
Heum squirmed. “The red sports car was invisible. I think he was just daydreaming.”
Hoax sniffed. “Some boy in India, I could tell from the clothes. He was walking down the road. And I knew he had a bag of the prophets and a red sports car. But I didn’t see the sports car. Or the bag, but that would just be the handles, anyway.”
Dave bit his lip. “Ra’d would dress like a local, borrow or buy some goats and graze them along the road. The Imperial Chinese troops would either ignore him, or ask him if he’d seen and of those evil Islamics. He point them toward an ambush, then fade away. Sometimes his father would loan him his bag, so he could take a gun with him. He was a hell of a sniper.”
Jeep sighed. “He seemed like such a nice boy, though!”
“Good, yes. Nice . . . not really.”
Izzo grabbed the next envelope. “Man crying?”
“When his father lay dying, he gave his bag of the Prophets to his youngest son, not . . .”
“Me.” Dave sighed. “I’m not a Warrior. Davos is. It was still a nasty slap, for the green twenty-year-old to get it, and the experienced soldier to be overlooked.”
Izzo looked at the next envelope. “Brother and sister.”
“They were reading something on a stone plinth, upset, and an old man walked up behind them, he had two bags of the prophets and was wondering if he should give on to the boy.” Heum shivered. “They’d just read something horrible.”
Izzo winced. “I know that one. Ra’d and Qamar, reading the dedication plaque of the Fort Rangpur reconstruction, and the dates on it. And realizing that their father had died a thousand years ago.”
He reached for the last envelope. “Redheads with bags, everywhere.”
Heum nodded. “Teenagers, both boys and girls, nine of them, just goofing off, than some nasty fellow comes over and starts harassing them, and they laughed and swooped a bag over him and ran off to hand him over to someone.”
Xiat snickered. “Nine redheads. That sounds like Embassy, and a batch of Xen’s kids. I wouldn’t have thought . . . well, I’ve never heard about PreCogs across dimensions.”
“It may not have happened yet.” Jeep frowned. “Do they have so many bags that teenagers can each have one?”
“With those people? The teenagers probably made them, themselves, as a training exercise.”
“Teenagers?” Hoax looked appalled. “How do their parents survive the kids’ puberty and teen age rebellion?”
Xiat snickered. “By sending them off to their very powerful father for a few years. Although Xen isn’t actually the father of all of them.”
Izzo looked at the unopened envelopes. “Right. And now, having satisfied yourselves as to these predictions, you are going to return them, still unopened, to whoever poor fools are assigned to assist you. With,” He pulled a chip out of the minicomp on the table beside him, “this recording, and do a proper, official, backcheck.”
The ladies tried hard to look crestfallen. “Yes, Izzo.” Lady Heum glanced at her watch. “Dear me. It’s three in the morning, back home. We should go.”
They walked them out to the driveway, where an apprehensive El Zee held the door for them.
Jeep paused wavering a bit, put her hand on Dave’s arm to steady herself. “Dave. Just . . . remember to keep the gun.”
She shook her head and climbed into the car.
Dave straightened and watched them drive away. “That was certainly interesting.”
“Indeed. And like as not, they’re in a hurry to get back in time to sneak those envelopes back into poor Yghy’s safe. In a couple of days they’ll ask for an official check of old predictions, and be all delighted at their own brilliance.”
Dave snickered, and accepted the offer of bed and breakfast.
“Poor El Zee does need to get some sleep.”
At breakfast he entertained the kids, El Zee, Izzo’s Princess, Gee Wiz, but not the starched and disapproving nanny with stories about how kids got into trouble while Makkah was under construction, and their Dads most off to fight.
Then El Zee drove him back to Paris, where he found Nicholas packing up to move.
The Prophet grinned wryly. “You need to go find Umaya. I told her to buy whatever house she wished, and hire and assume command of however large of a staff she wanted . . . so she did.”
“Dare I ask how she financed it?”
Nicholas snickered. “She called Emre and informed him of how much back pay he owed the commander of the Army, his bodyguard and his Warriors for eleven hundred years of sick pay. Or retirement. She said he growled a bit about only experiencing six weeks. And stuck his heels in about the end of the Islamic Union Army, a century after the fall of Fort Rangpur. She had to point out that the Army was renamed, when they added in the rest of the world, not disbanded. Emre stuck his heels in, and talked her down a good way, and refused to pay interest.”
“Well, we were pretty poorly paid—and often not paid at all—but over a hundred years . . .”
“Go check your bank account. You’ll like it. And go see what Umaya’s doing and organize the guards she hiring.”