Ryol, with sunglasses and hat pulled low was keeping her back to the big windows. “. . . pity. A triad of us and the building would have been fine, I wouldn’t have a headache from hell, and we wouldn’t all be getting wary looks. And Newsies? One! I wish I’d stayed away, like a sensible person!”
Gior snickered. “I don’t know, I kind of like the idea of publicity. ‘The New Warriors,’ you know?”
Sunny snickered. “The New Warrior Babes are going to get the limelight.”
“Someone hit him, please?” Ryol pulled her hat rim lower. “I swear I’m going to shave my head.”
Milo’s laughing protest was interrupted by the doorbell, and the delivery of massive amounts of Chinese food.
Arno handed over a cash card while the food was hauled off.
“So Raod and Ox are keeping you guys well funded?”
“The biodad. Good thing he’s rich. All twenty-seven of us got together online about the cost of tuition, dorms, and everything else, and told him how much we each needed every semester. Lala pointed out that the tuition was just every semester, not monthly.”
Arno looked innocent. “ We’d suggested three thousand cash a semester to cover books, clothes, transportation and so forth. Apparently he thought that was one of the monthly expenses.”
Rael snorted. “You are such bad children. Carry on.”
Arno and Ryol stayed late, and Exzy came out to run off some energy and make a horrible mess of chicken fried rice.
“I guess I’m finally old enough to see how cute little kids are.” Ryol grinned. “I mostly thought Razzy and Little Ox were inconvenient and messy when I was a slightly older kid.”
Arno grinned and went back to dangling a noodle in front of Exzy. “Open up, little bird, here comes the worm!”
“Hopefully he’ll grow up to be more sensible than a certain twin brother of mine.” But the corners of Ryol’s mouth turned up as Exzy peeped and flapped his arms.
Rael shook her head. “I think I was thirty before I thought babies were anything but gross and disgusting.”
Ryol frowned. “How old were you when we were born?”
“Umm . . . Thirty-three? Right make that closer to thirty-five before I thought children weren’t, perhaps, totally, horrifyingly, messy.”
Arno snickered. “We always thought you were quiet sensible to avoid the yuckiest parts of Razzy and Oxie, when you were visiting.”
Rael nodded. “Got over it fast, this time. Not that Xen doesn’t help, when he’s around. He’s been gone a month, this time.”
“Does he report back to Disco?” Arno ignored his little bird for a moment.
“Sometimes. Not this time.” She huffed out a breath. “Well, no doubt he’ll show up eventually.”
Ryol dipped her chin and eyed her. “And if he doesn’t? You were a wreck last year. Heck, even Arno and I were worried.”
Rael smiled wryly. “And if I were to criticize my non-parenting back when you guys were small, I’d have told you more about him.”
Arno looked around in surprise. “You knew he was our father? But you didn’t know you were our mother?”
“Stupid, wasn’t it? Look in the mirror. Even when you were babies, those dark eyes with highlights were so obvious. And the shape of your eyes and so forth.” Rael shrugged. “Water under the bridge. And it was fun being your aunt.”
Arno fed Exzy the last ‘worm.’ “Yeah, nobody else had an Aunt as cool as you.” He grinned down at Exzy, eating rice one grain at a time. “Remember when you took us to dinner in the revolving restaurant?”
Rael snickered. “Everyone was very impressed at the amount of food you two put away, and with good manners, no yelling.”
“Then ice cream at the pier.” Ryol sighed. “That was a great day. We had lots of great days with you.”
“Yeah. We really did.” Rael grabbed a paper towel, wet it and worked over Exzy’s hands and face. Plopped him on the floor and dealt with dishes. “I’m not sure I’m really cut out for motherhood. Poor Exzy’s spending an awful lot of time bubbled.”
Ryol sat up suddenly. “You need a nanny! You need Jess. Mother and Grandmother were talking, while they hovered over me in the hospital. She was working for some utterly impossible people, who finally fired her last week.”
Arno grinned. “Great idea.”
“I’ve got her comm number . . .” Ryol pulled her comp out and found it.
Rael swallowed. A nanny I know. That I can trust. I really hope she’ll move to New York.
“I’ll call her in the morning.”
Return of the Native, er, God, er, whatever . . .
1 Safar 1417 yp
Sometime in the early hours she blinked awake . . . nothing wrong, a deep smooth layer of safety . . .
She grinned and rolled out of bed and met Xen halfway down the stairs.
She broke off a long kiss to look him over. “Got all your body parts, I see. Q?”
“Slight scorching, nothing a haircut can’t fix.” He shrugged. “Might have to turn in my D-cop badge. Given the choice between saving the Cyborgs from Eldon, or saving Eldon from the Cyborgs, I saved Eldon.”
“Hmm, sounds interesting, come to bed and tell me all about it.”
“Not that it was all of the Cyborgs. Just a minor branch isolated, so the locals can deal with them.”
“How many worlds do you think they have?” Rael rubbed her cheek on his arm. And refused to slide into sleep. Business. Information.
“I’m going to guess thousands, but a guess is all it is. I need to trace them all the way back to their starting point and/or their capital. It’s not going to be fast.” Xen yawned and snuggled her closer.
“Didn’t get much sleep?”
“It wasn’t very safe. Either Q or I stayed awake. But we’ve got what we need to infiltrate now, or at least pass in public, and track them down. God only know what we’ll do with them, then.”
Rael frowned. “Pass in public . . . Xen how do you pass as a Oner?”
“Oh, genetic engineering. I change the mage gene to a One gene.” His finger drew a circle on her shoulder. “Just a small patch, enough to feel, but not give out thoughts, or get them. I’m pretty sure I’m opaque to the One hive mind, and your collective subconscious.”
A small patch.
Six centimeters by three?
A skin graft. For the feel, small enough it didn’t reveal thoughts.
But they’d have to have anti-rejection drugs. Are there anti-rejection spells?
And why Dr. Yppo?