Return of the Native, er, God, er, whatever . . .
Wednesday, 1 Safar 1417 yp
Sometime in the early hours she blinked awake . . . nothing wrong, just a deep smooth layer of safety, of magic . . .
She grinned and rolled out of bed. 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.”
“You smell smoky.”
“We were burning them down, not them attacking us. Mostly.”
Rael gave up an attempt to frown, and let the grin back out. “Come take a shower. I’ll scrub your back.”
And later, in bed. “So tell me about these Cyborgs?”
“Not that it was all of the Cyborgs. Just a minor branch isolated now, 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. They use people in their gate machinery, so they do have dimensional abilities. We were afraid that they could see the captured bubbles and home in on us.”
“Oh. I see.”
“And I 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, tell me all about it.”
“Oh they started scouting out the Earth Book where Eldon’s settled down, and he wasn’t about to let that happen. I yanked him out of the fix he was in, and left the Dissolution Bomb he’d set ticking away. It was the small version of what he set off on Helios. It took out about eight cubic kilometers then fizzled out.”
“Yikes! Yu said it isolated them? So Eldon dissolved their gate apparatus?” And those dimensionally capable people you said were ‘in’. . . I could have nightmares wondering what you mean by ‘in.’
“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? Genetic engineering like when you infiltrated, right?”
“Yes. I change the mage gene to a One gene.” His finger drew a little 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 maybe even your collective subconscious.”
A small patch.
Six centimeters by three?
Someone wanted a chunk of skin. For a skin graft. For the feel of the One, but small enough it didn’t reveal thoughts.
And here I’d been thinking that there was no reason an attacker would do something so odd, so it had to be self-inflicted.
But they’d have to have anti-rejection drugs. Are there anti-rejection spells?
And why leave such a mess, and evidence . . . of a sort.
Why kill Dr. Yppo?
“. . . an’ I ate all the worms.”
Rael giggled as she walked in from the morning run. “Noodles! Honest!”
“Ahno was the big brother bird and I flapped my wings.” Exzy demonstrated. “And I ate the worms!”
Xen laughed. “Sounds like you’ve been having fun. Hmm,” He picked up a piece of bacon. “What do you think? Squashed bug? Yummy.”
“Woad kill.” Exzy crunched and nodded. “Good woad kill.”
Xen grinned over at Rael. “Eggs with your . . . bacon?”
“Yes, please.” She popped bread in the toaster. “Wednesday. My easy day, so I won’t beg you to come help with the scary boys.”
“Nope. Warrior trainees. They failed to level the campus last week, but did manage to break windows with a power explosion.”
“Umm . . .”
“So they spent the weekend on Embassy, at the practice beach. But there won’t be any Triad or Compass practice here.”
He just grinned. “Sorry I missed the fireworks.”
“Oh, and since they got called Warrior trainees in public, the Society page Newsies are flocking. Especially the girls. And the Team Trainees, who weren’t included in Isakson’s roundup, are getting publicly lumped in with them.”
Xen grinned. “I think I’ll try to be invisible on campus, unless you need otherwise.”
“An excellent idea.”
“Can I be visible!” Exzy bounced excitedly. “Nobody see me!”
Rael giggled. “Fortunately you have to be a whole lot older before you can be invisible. Because you’re getting hard enough to keep track of, as it is.”
“Now let’s get you cleaned up and running before I have to go teach.” Rael caught a questioning eyebrow lift from Xen. “Magic practice. Three classes of beginners, then lunch, then my two lectures. Tomorrow I’ll be swamped, and the strongest students--minus Ryol who scorched her brain keeping the damage to a minimum last week—in the afternoon.”
“Do you need help?”
Rael shook her head. “Ajki sent a couple of goo . . . analysts. To help and learn.”
“Goons.” Exzy grinned. “Ice an’ Dog.”
Xen eyed the boy. “That’s very good pronunciation. You’re growing up fast. What do you think? Shall we go watch you Mom teaching college kids magic?”
Despite knowing they were there, she couldn’t spot even a distortion in the air.
After the kids had left, there they were sitting cross-legged, side-by-side. With identical grins. And a picnic basket. Fortunately with lots of bubbled food, as “the Warrior Trainees” zeroed in on them.
Xen’s kids all rolled their eyes.
“One in the morning, all of a sudden instead of the all pervasive One, we had god level magic syrup all over everything.” Arno eyed Xen. “You look surprised. Haven’t you felt the other gods . . . just being there?”
Xen frowned. “Usually, only when they’ve been summoned, and the collective subconscious is focused on them. I wonder if it’s an effect of the larger population, here? Or . . . The God of Just Deserts has a mile wide field of karmic justice . . . ”
Rael pondered that. “I didn’t feel it until you were close. So not all the way from Gate City. We can test that after my lectures.”
Xen nodded. “I wonder what it does? Make everyone spy on everyone else? Make real spies extra good at whatever they’re doing?”
“Maybe it’s a Master of the Multiverse effect.” Arno’s eyes defocused. “Huh. I can see further than I could before. Of course, that could be age, too.”