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01 October 2019 @ 08:43 pm
_Professor_ part 31  

Friday morning she coached thirty-two cold students through maintenance exercises.

“Next year, first week of school, I’ll run evaluations and make recommendations. Just practice occasionally. Your power will be growing for years.”

Except they’re nineteen and twenty years old. They won’t get a lot stronger unless they’ve been horribly inhibited.

She pretended to not hear a snicker from one of the boys, and a joke about “curing” virginity to get more power.

Yeah, but, the youngest of them are two years older than I was when I started playing with the guys. Odds are less than half the class is virginal.

Dear One! Xen’s kids are going to be scary . . . pretty darn soon.

Maybe I’ll join Ox in chewing my fingernails and trying to keep them . . . oh, safe is not the right word. Keep the World safe from them, is probably closer.



Chapter Twenty-two

Business as usual

Wednesday 10 Muharram 1417 yp

“Back in the office, everything normal.” Ice stretched, hands behind his head, back arched. “Nothing to analyze but a nasty bit of fencing one-up-manship.”

Happy—Ahpy—stuck his head in the door. “You’re joking? Everyone’s jealous that you and Dog got to work with Princess Rael. You got advanced magic lessons.”

Ice blinked.

“Oh, don’t look surprised, your glow changed, your shield is solid . . . damn! Maybe the Director will send me, next.”

“Or me!” A voice from out of sight. Sock—Asko—was yet another analyst. “I think we should take him to the salle and have an unfortunate accident.”

Ice sighed. “Rael Withione is absolutely insane. The risks she lets those kids take is terrifying.

I don’t think she even sees the danger.”

“You wouldn’t believe some of the things she has those kids doing.” Dog was somewhere down the hall.

“And I wouldn’t believe you were all having so much trouble concentrating on the collapse of the One First Party.”

Oops. Senior Analyst Ibla, whom no one called Eyeball—to his face—sounded a bit acerb. He doesn’t drink caffeinated beverages of any sort, and has no patience with gossip and chitchat.

Ice looked down at the dregs of his first cup of coffee. More caffeine needed.

Happy disappeared, and Ibla walked in.

“What’s your first impression?”

“The War Party wants him back, but the guy they sent to chat Insa up couldn’t keep his personal feelings from showing.” Ice shrugged. “Mind you, I don’t know any of these people. Maybe it was about a woman. I don’t fence at that level, don’t go near that salle.”

Ibla nodded. “I agree. And you need to work harder at the fencing. Dammit Ice, you’re so good at it on paper, I want you out there seeing it in person.”

One of the least prejudiced Oners in the Multiverse.

Ice nodded. “I managed to squeeze in two lessons this week.”

“Is Ajki sending you back to the School?”

“He’s thinking about it. Knowing there are a couple of Purps on the campus . . . is a little shocking.”

“No kidding. So write up something about that little encounter, and find out if there’s a woman involved.” He walked off and Ice reread the report, re watched the security camera that had caught half—the right half—of the “friendly bout” that had gotten a bit out of hand.

He went spelunking through public street cams, caught Minister Huff—Whfu—leaving the Council Hall and stepping into a large black car, which took him to a restaurant. He walked in alone, but walked out with a woman. Glances were exchanged, but no other gesture that might have allowed Ice to figure out their relationship. Friends, colleagues . . . definitely not openly dating, but not being discreet enough to definitely indicate that she was married to someone else.

Huff is between wives . . . no one would be surprised if he was dating.

So’s Insa. So maybe they both had their eyes on the same woman?

The woman was in the standard office uniform for professional women in mid-level jobs. Light colored blouse, black or navy skirt, high heels. Professionally styled hair. Subtle makeup.

He grabbed a good still and sent it to his facial recognition program while he follower her . . . lost her . . . Backtracked and followed Huff home. He made no other stops.

Facial recognition programs came up blank on the woman. No criminal record.

I wonder where Minister Huff’s Assigned Princess was? Not that all Princesses take jobs in their Principle’s office. But they do usually involve themselves in some way.

He grinned a bit thinking of The Director’s Princess. Then sobered. Where was she going, two months ago, where “someone should know.” Makkah? To ask what Rael was up to?

All it takes is nerve enough to ask her.

But he didn’t. He headed home, into the southwestern suburbs where he could afford an apartment of his own. A light snack, grab the fencing gear and off to a salle that catered to people learning to fence, and not wanting to get near any of the popular, upscale, salles where they’d get thrashed by the more experienced fencers in front of their co-workers.

A place where no one would call him a Native.



Chapter Twenty-three

Detecting

Wednesday 10 Muharram 1417 yp

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. It felt strange to have so much free time. Two review classes today, and the same Friday. “But I’m here in the office, if anyone needs to talk to me, and in the meantime, I can analyze this problem.” She reached for her sandwich and chewed while organizing her thoughts.

“Motive: to undermine Oner’s Magical abilities. How or means. Whatever I call it: 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.”

She sat up and opened a file on her comp. Closed it. Pulled out a sheaf of paper and a pen. Grabbed another bite and started writing it all down.

“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. Like Ice, perhaps?

“Maybe someone spotted the poor training children were getting, and jumped in to finish it off.”

She scowled at her writing. “Which leaves me with Opportunity, What, and Where.”

She finished the sandwich, settled back to think.

“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 . . .

Never mind.

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. Or maybe an extra layer of normality for a long term mole?

I guess 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 another suspect!” She checked the time. “And I’ll analyze the other four . . . sometime.”

She saved the file and headed down to the lecture hall. Two days of review, then I’ll find out if I’ve been talking at you for six weeks to no avail.

***

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on October 2nd, 2019 02:11 am (UTC)
I'm starting to wonder if Ice is really Native+Oner, or perhaps Earther+Native+Oner.

--TheOtherSean
Peter RhodanPeter Rhodan on October 2nd, 2019 02:22 am (UTC)
Ice
I know who Ice is.......
matapampamuphoff on October 2nd, 2019 03:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Ice
Cough *Harp* Cough. I've written a short story, but I doubt It'll be published . . . until Ice decides he needs a story all his own.

I may need to back off on the prejudice bit so he can be badly conflicted. Or maybe have him balanced between amused and irritated.
(Anonymous) on October 2nd, 2019 02:38 am (UTC)
professor
suspect that Rael will uncover more than one spy. The primary one she will find will not be the problem one. Are the two purps aware of each other? Is one a natural child of a lost purp on colony? Does Eldon have children somewhere here?

Won't mention my guess as to the origin of the actual troubling spy.

can't figure out how to log in.
Tolonaro
matapampamuphoff on October 2nd, 2019 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: professor
Ice is having problems figuring out where his loyalties lie. However I don't want to push this too much in this book, too much potential for fun with an Earther spy inside IR.

(Anonymous) on October 3rd, 2019 04:18 am (UTC)
RE: Re: professor
Ooh. He could be rescued by God of Spies without Rael knowing. Or something, Fun.