“So, my young man, I now need to sort through all those people I invited to the party.” Rael wiggled her fingers and slowly lowered them toward Ezxy’s tummy.
He giggled and rolled over to crawl away. “Cat me, Mummum!” He made for the hallway at impressive speed.
Rael giggled and followed. “I’m going to get you!” And I’ll get the Not-Purple Purps later!
But even playing with Exzy, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then dinner, a bath and reading a bedtime story . . . and into the fast room to make a list of all the men at the party over, well, to be safe, sixty.
University Chancellor Ejti, School of Magic Chancellor Adse, and those three horrible women were the only guests other than the Directorate Faculty. And the spouses. Eep! But they are influential . . . So really, only about forty men in that age range.
Prioritize them by their influence on Magical training, now or in the past.
Sort by, what? Travel to Granite Peak or Tall Trees? The two worlds we know Earth found, and could have used to infiltrate an agent.
But if the problem originated on Zingo . . . no. The two Purps mean this is an Earth infiltration.
So . . . Chancellor Ejti goes to the top of the list. And did he say eight grad students, over the years? I’d best track all eight of them down.
She walked out of the double bubbled fast room to check on Exzy—silly, really, since it had been less than a minute for him—then back to the fast room. She’d spent eight months here—over a span of ten days on the outside. Xen had fitted it out with an office, and a recliner with a good reading light, exercise machines, a huge wall screen and a vid player with hundreds of shows. A comfy couch, a dining room, and of course, a large bed.
She’d come out for the bathroom, for cooking, grid access, com calls . . . sunshine and talking to someone other than Xen. In fact she’d spent most of those ten days out of the bubble, just ducking back in for less than four minutes—three days of study and sleep—before returning to chat with whoever was handy or strolling around the hills. And ducking in for another minute and a half . . .
If I was normal, I’d resent every extra minute I aged in here. But Xen says I have the best longevity genes, so for me, it doesn’t matter how much extra time I accumulate.
She sorted through all the papers on the Granite Peak Nomads, eliminated the ones that hadn’t involved actual field work, and was left with Chancellors Ejti and Adse. Dr. Erdu of languages, Dr. Eshy, and Dr. Ivy, the historian. Two professors from the BioSci department, Wcke and Ipfi. A Geologist. Professor Agzu. And the head of the Combat Department, Dr. Ijly, had published a paper on the use of the bow from horseback.
A lot of other papers, as well, but these nine were all teaching here, and had all, possibly, been at the party.
“I’m not even sure I’ve met all of these people, or that they were, or weren’t at the party.” She sighed. “No wonder Ox calls me a horrible investigator.”
“Does he?” Xen closed the door behind himself.
“Yes. Usually followed by suggestions that I go away and stop it. So how has Wolf World done without Wolfson there?”
“Pretty well. It’s knee deep in snow, and I worked over the fireplaces and chimneys a bit.” He shrugged. “Then Q dragged me out to work over the gate chain. We can link a cone to a cylinder to another cone and bypass up to six gates. We’ve got a selection of different lengths we’re going to leave up in parallel with the current chain to make sure they stay stable. I’ll go back in a couple of months, and see if I can turn twelve hundred gates into two hundred or so.”
He eyed her list. “Nine suspects, two of them purps?”
“Umm. I hope I’ve narrowed it down enough. How many of them did you meet at the party?” Rael leaned back and watched his face, the amused crinkle at the corner of his eye.
“All of them. Most of them had their hands full of wine glass and munchies. Don’t think I shook hands with any of them. Snobby as Karista Lords.”
“Are Karista Lords a specific rank?”
“No. It a group term for the ones who flock to Karista to play politics.”
“I see. What’s the derivation of ‘Karista’ anyway?”
“She was the mother of Edward Negue, the founder of the Company to the Settle the West. Our first king.”
“Oh. Huh, I wonder why I never heard that?”
“Probably because of how little time you’ve spent on Comet Fall?” He grinned. “I ought to haul you two out there this summer. Rufi’s been dropping strong hints about wanting to meet all these relatives of his. I told him that I doubted Ryol and Arno could come, but I’d see if there wasn’t a hole in their time schedule somewhere I could grab.”
“Not very soon. They’ll be interning all summer. So all your kings and spears are descended from Karista Negue?”
“No. King Edward was a confirmed bachelor, sixty or so, when they headed west. His half-brother Jek—different mother, same father—also an old bachelor, married when he was seventy and his grandsons continued the double leadership that was in the Charter, backing each other up.”
“You guys are strange.”
“Umm . . . a bit. But it works for us.”
Tuesday 8 Muharram 1417 yp
Three more weeks of early practice every morning, and she was . . . very busy Tuesdays and Thursdays. And it’s about to get worse.
“So. I have sorted you guys out by ability, and split you up accordingly. I’ll be running four level-one classes, three level-two classes and three level-three practices. Everyone gets two sessions a week. Check your messages, check the class grid on my site. Sign up for all of them that will fit your schedule. Then I’ll decide which one you’ll be in, so I’ve got a reasonable number of students in each. If you can’t make any of the classes at your level, come talk to me.”
A tentative hand raised in the back. “What if we’re not very good?”
“A lot of you are quite young, and also late developers. If you want to wait a year, to see if your magic comes in stronger, that’s a legitimate choice. And probably a really good idea for the freshers. Umm . . . if so, come to the practice field Friday morning, and I’ll run you though a good practice routine to do on your own.” Please! Because I don’t want to be brutal, but half of you kids are pretty . . . mediocre. And probably always will be.
By the time she’d repeated that six more times, she was whipped.
And looked at her top group. “You three, plus six kids who took techniques last year, and the top six kids I just worked with will all be my level three groups. I hope you can all make one or another of the of the classes, otherwise we’ll go late again, or early Fridays.
“You are all at an awkward stage where your ability to damage things or people exceeds your control.” She waved a hand. “Not that you aren’t trying to control what you do, but you are getting so much stronger both gradually, and in sudden leaps, that you don’t realize how much you have to throttle down to only do the bit you want to do, because your power keeps changing.”
Milo winced. “Yeah. Lost my temper a bit and kicked the bureau. Going to cost me, to replace it. And my clothes. And I just kicked it!”
“Kicked it? What shape is your shoe in?” Rael eyed him. This isn’t good!
“Fortunately I was barefoot.”
“Right. Well. Let’s work on that tonight. Or rather, work on not doing that. So, shoes off and, umm, you may need to stand on them, to keep your feet from freezing.”
It took most of an hour to get Milo to gather power in tiny bits, and to slowly bleed off any build up, to let it radiate slowly away.
“You can damage yourself, holding too much power, but it’s more likely to come out in dangerous uncontrolled spontaneous bursts.”
“Like when I kick the furniture?”
“Yep. Or just get pissed at something. So the trick is to hold so little power that otherwise perfectly harmless feelings or actions can’t flare.”
Fun and Kev had been quietly following along, and she nodded her approval. “Keep in mind that I don’t worry so much about most of the other students. But you three are very powerful, and getting more powerful daily. For you three, controlling your power and controlling the energy you are hold is extremely important.”
They nodded, looking a little intimidated.
“Don’t . . . doubt yourselves, the way the School of Magic undermined your belief that you could do magic. Just be cautious because you know how powerful you are.”
They shifted, a bit wide-eyed.
“If you have a problem, come to me immediately. Right now? Put your shoes on and go get dinner.”
By the time she got back to the office, her practices were already half-full, and she had a note from the senior Team Trainees asking what level they should sign up for.
A few hours of fun with Xen and Exzy, a lot of cleanup after dinner devolved into something resembling a food fight, with flying peas.
Then it was bath and bedtime for a tired baby . . . she fell asleep as soon as she hit the sheets, herself.