Means, Motive, Opportunity.
Or who, what, where, when, how.
Kind of overlaps . . . but it pretty much covers what I need to find out.
“I felt silly being suspicious, but now I have two Purps where there shouldn’t be any, and I’m going to have to figure this out.”
Rael leaned back in her empty office, put her feet on the table and gazed at the ceiling. “Motive: to undermine Oner’s Magical abilities. How or means. Whatever: By messing with early childhood preparation for magic, and destroying the self-confidence of those most likely to be in a position to use magic against Earth. When: Started in the 1340’s through 1350’s. I need to read Madam Haig’s biographies, find out where that horrible ‘Natural Child’ rot came from.”
“Who—specifically—I know Earth with Purple Agents. But I need to find those two Purps. Powers. Whatever. It might help to study the changes that came after Granite Peak, moving people around as the Directorate School was formed. Not to mention identifying any other people who’ve been to Granite Peak. Or who were born on Tall Trees and not registered until they were adults. Maybe someone spotted the poor training and jumped in to finish it off.”
She started tapping at her comp. “Which leaves me with Opportunity, What, and Where.
“So I have nine suspects. So far. All at the party, all with field experience on Granite Peak where they, in theory might have somehow been kidnapped and ringers slid in.” Rael ran her fingers through her hair. “Still sounds silly. So. I need bios with pictures when they were teenagers, college students and . . . whatever. It’s a place to start.”
She pulled up the info already gathered on her main suspects. Peered at the family pictures. Adse, fitting right in with a family, not just the dark hair, but the eyes turning down a bit at the outside, the square jaws . . .
Ejti? She hunted through all his on grid bios, an only child of parents who’d died twenty years ago. She looked up the parent’s obituaries . . . they’d been quite old. Old enough, with possible sight and hearing problems that they wouldn’t notice how much their son had changed . . . when they were a hundred and fifty-eight? Not really likely.
But then, how often did they see a son who regularly made multi-year field research trips?
All right. The Chancellor of the whole figgin’ University stays on my list.
Dr. Erdu, the rude head of the Languages Department, had studied the native languages of the Granite Peak Nomads, the !Zolts’ T!ectlk*, four of the Tall Trees Tribal languages, and the Vista Horse Clans tangle of dialects.
Right. Tall Trees is where all the Earth’s gates were. Mind you, we caught them all, but did we catch all the spies they sent through?
Of course, the three dates . . . She checked quickly . . . 1382, 85, and 86. Even thirty-two years ago is too recent. Crumb, did Jues say she’d been teaching here for sixty-four years? And the changes in teaching changed over fifty years ago?
Well, Erdu stays on the list, but there’s nothing to indicate that he had anything to do with teaching Magic.
So, how about my own Boss? Dr. Eshy . . . His family pictures . . . have his mother, a stepfather, much younger half-brother and half-sister. Date stamp . . . he was seventeen. So that’s at least five years before he went to Granite Peak.
I wish I had a picture with better resolution, and boys change so fast as they turn into men. Put on muscles and weight. Not to mention what another sixty four years will do to a nose, and wrinkles . . . he’s pretty grey, but was obviously a blond, like in the picture. General face shape, give or take time is right. Nothing unusual about the eyes.
Dammit, I’m supposed to be eliminating suspects. Anyone with family ought to be immune to suspicious of having been swapped for a purp spy!
And he’s married. Two teenage kids. All right, his wife probably didn’t know him before Granite Peak, but marrying, getting connections to the world being spied upon is a really bad idea for a spy. But I have to keep him on the list.
Rael scowled at her list. Maybe I can eliminate Professor Ivy? I’ve never seen his bio . . . Oh. How interesting. He’s younger than I’d realized . . . Field work one summer, between his junior and senior years, and I do mean field work. He worked as a field hand while gathering data for what would eventually be his master’s dissertation. All about the evolution of culture in a semi-isolated colony. The obligatory family portrait with a good closeup, and again at his graduation, the year after he’d been to Granite Peak. Definitely the same guy. Hmm, and then messed up his knee a year into Info Teams, and came back for a PhD in History from the University and started teaching in the Directorate School.
And . . . a staff photo . . . yep, same young man, halfway between the teenager and the older professor.
“Yes! I can scratch a suspect!” She checked the time. “And I’ll analyze the other four . . . sometime.”
She strode out to the practice field, where, as usual, the eight o’clock class was half an hour early, and had already settled down in the greenhouse to practice holding shields and collecting power. Pretty damn good for my weakest students.
A second level-one class, then a level-two, only three students, which made it easy.
Then home for lunch in an empty house, shower and professional clothes for Advanced Theory and Comet Fall Theory.
Reminders about next week’s Mid-terms “Not that you need to be reminded of it in every single class, but . . . check the class page. It’s got a list and synopsis of the papers you ought to have read by now, and the place and time they’re holding this class’s midterm.”
Back in her office she looked over her Thursdays afternoon practice sessions.
The top six girls first. Then Arno and Sunny, with Milo, Fun, and Kev. Then add Unko, Osti, Agny, and Eggo from my Juniors very basic.
And then I have the eight Team Trainees at three.
So much for my “limit of five for safety” resolution.
Well . . . I’ll give it a try. May need to make another session, and split the teamers.
The house was still quiet and empty.
Nothing has happened to either of them! Don’t be silly!
She searched the house for the bag handles, then checked her office. Back to the house.
And heard the rattle of the garage door and walked out into the back yard to meet them.
Blinked at Xen’s weary body language, and fresh-scrubbed look.
“Sorry I’m late. We had a really hairy medical emergency. Pretty much had to rebuild a heart, but I think he’s going to make it.” He handed her the handles. “I may be there all day tomorrow, too. We bagged our patient so we didn’t have to worry about his dying while we caught some sleep.”
Rael bit her lip . . . He shook his head, refusing to answer the unspoken question.
“Well, in that case, I’d better feed you and tuck you into bed.” Rael turned and hugged him hard. “I love you, you nasty close-mouthed enemy agent.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” He flopped on the sofa. “Have I ever mentioned that ‘Dr. Rael’ is a great villain’s name? Or for a Supervillain, ‘Electric Rael’ would be awesome.”
Rael snorted. “Have I ever mentioned that you’re crazy?”
He kissed her goodbye in the morning, and left.
Rael sighed and glanced guiltily at Exzy’s bubble handles. “We’ll play in the Fast Room later. It’s just one day . . . but I think I really do need a nanny.”
Four hours straight of leading six or seven kids in magic practice. She spent the lunch hour in the fast room, eating, taking a nap, another snack, then back to see what she could do with six very talented young women.