Saturday 4 Safar 1417
Rael leaned forward, resting her elbows on the interrogation room’s table.
Eshy, or whatever his name was, refused to meet her eyes.
“So you’ve spent the last eighty years undermining the teaching of magic, and periodically murdering someone for a skin graft.”
His head jerked up. “No! We never killed anyone. We’d . . . well, we’d find an old wino and beat him up, a few shallow slices, and no one would notice if all the skin was there. We didn’t need much.” Definitely a whine in his voice at the end.
“Yeah. Sure. Now tell me what really happened to Dr. Yppo.”
“Yip? He had a heart attack. He’d told me his cardiologist wanted him to get a pacemaker. I don’t know if that was true, he was a horrible hypochondriac.” Eshy’s voice went a bit wobbly. “The police said he’d tried to cut off a mole and that’s why he was bleeding. Why would I kill Yip?”
“Well, we’re running DNA tests on all those patches on your arms. We’ll find out soon enough whether either of you sliced him up.”
But Eshy just looked puzzled, and a bit horrified.
“I was a little surprised at how early the substitution was. How did the Earthers find out that Purps had the same magic as Oners? I didn’t think they believed in magic.”
That got a snort. “My stepfather was a sociologist, he studied the Purps, married my mother. Then when they found Chelsea, he wanted to study them, and dragged all of us with him. Heh, and a Security Officer. To make sure Gregor didn’t go native or something.”
He gave a snort of derision. “Gregor—Gregor Hubble, my stepfather—was hopelessly naïve. When we tripped across a sociologist from another world, he was all excited about how much we could learn from each other. Such rot.”
“Metz—the security officer, Sherman Metz—hit them with a stunner. And then forced roofies down their throats, so they wouldn’t remember seeing us. But one of the younger guys looked so much like my younger brother, that we kept thinking about how we could use it. Metz liked the idea, and Mike was hot to try it, and I had the same color hair as the youngest fellow . . . We hit them with sleepy gas and copied everything they had, bugged them. Mike just needed a few changes to his ears, the resemblance was so close. I needed a lot more, so we just kept track of them until we were ready.”
“So you killed them.”
He looked annoyed. “No! One! A treasure trove of information like that?”
“How’d you work out the skin grafts?”
“Oh, the actual swap was difficult. Ejti said we weren’t Oners, recognized something about us. Roofie time again. And again. We finally tried an injection of cells from the guys we were imitating, and that was better. So we went for a skin graft and that worked great.”
“Did you have anti-rejection drugs?”
“Spells. Purps have plenty of medical spells.” He glanced at his left arm. The short sleeved prisoners’ garb revealed all the parallel scars. “The early grafts lasted five or six years, then they stared dying earlier and earlier. Two years now, if we’re lucky.”
“So, what happened when they analyzed your DNA for the new IDs?”
He shrugged. “Nothing much. I mean E’s the most common insertion, here, Purple, and on Comet Fall. I had some problems, but some of the variations are so close, they just said it was old bad identification programming, happened all the time. They made me change two letters in my name, and it was a real problem getting my old papers changed to the new name. Adse lucked out, but it’s not like there are all that many possibilities, anyway.”
Rael shook her head. “Good grief. So . . . how did you get such good training, in battle magic?”
“At home. Our oldest brother was a full-on Purp. Mike and I snuck and peeked and listened in. And once we were here, we went to the mojos, of course. Best thing we did, shutting them down.”
The magical dojos. Were they actually that good?
“What about Erdu?”
“He just showed up. He knew about us.
“He dropped all the right names. He was the real deal, a trained agent. We were finally back in touch with . . . well . . . for the first time we were in touch with a real spy organization.”
Amateurs? They spotted the opportunity and took it. One only knows why. That’s just insane.
“So that ‘security officer’ of your stepdad’s must have informed the UECIA about this infiltration on spec.” She shook her head. “When did Erdu show up?”
“Oh, 1385? Maybe?”
Ten years before Endi, Xen, infiltrated. Years before we got our precautions in place because of Endi. But Erdu never went back. ’85 was . . . thirty-seven years after his one trip to Granite Peak. Could a well trained thirty-six year old clone pass for a seventy year old High Oner?
Maybe we’d better dig up his back garden . . .
She stood up. “Well . . . what is your name, anyway?”
“Well, Mr. Felis, if you really haven’t killed anyone, you may survive this. Maybe even get traded back to Earth for trade concessions, or to swap for one of ours that your people have caught.”
He sighed. “No. They don’t care about Purps, and the Purps don’t care about Powers.”
Rael shook her head, unable to find any sympathy for the man who’d thought Exzy would make a good hostage, and left him there for whoever was lined up to talk to him next. Internal and External both wanted him. They can have him. In pieces as far as I care.
Adse, on the other hand . . .
“So, Mr. Mike Felis. Or is that Michael?”
“Doctor Michael Felis. I earned that second doctorate. Wrote and defended the thesis for the Sociology degree as well.”
“Hmm, and all you had to do is kill the real Adse. Must have been weird, the close resemblance.”
His eyes narrowed. “That’s what gave us the idea. To substitute me for him, get a spy into the this new civ we’d just found. And he’s not dead, or wasn’t then. If we’d had friendly relations with the new people, we’d have traded back.”
“But your brother subbed as well.”
“Half brother. Stupid little show off.” An angry shrug. “He’s not any kind of a scholar, you know. A bloody stand-up comic, doing imitations of politicians on street corners for tips.”
Rael crammed down laughter. Really? A standup comic? “I suppose the acting was handy. The biggest surprise was that Adse’s name worked for you, when they retested for the new IDs.”
Snort. “It’s just genetics. Which influences your appearance. Of course we had a lot of the same insertions.”
“And the skin grafts. Nasty. And taking one from Dr. Yippo was a big mistake. Why did you kill him?”
“He had a heart attack. Even the medics might not have been able to save him.” His eyes shifted a bit. “Why waste an opportunity?”
“Because it was a stupid thing to do. Way too obvious.”
“Damn Urfa for his suspicions. And damn you. I suppose you’ll be back in Paris sitting pretty with your brother-in-law in charge of the Black Horse Guards?”
“Er, no. I’ll be here, teaching. Raising my son, repairing three generations of deliberately lousy magical training.”
His eyes narrowed. “We have the best training for magifacturing and truth matching in the Empire.”
“And not a bit of battle magic.” Rael shrugged. “So, Lenny tells me you stole his data, his research from the draft of his doctoral thesis.”
Sneer. “I needed a quick paper to publish. I helped him with the data collection, so what if I accidentally left his name off the authors’ list. Stupid punk kid. He’s just in the Directorate School, no one cares if his thesis sounds a lot like my prior publication.”
So that’s where it all started to fall apart. Let’s see if I guess what happened.
“But Dr. Yippo cared, didn’t he. Pity he didn’t have sense enough to not confront you after hours, with the building empty.”
“He had a heart attack.”
“And you let him die.”
“I want a lawyer.”
“Right.” Rael got up and walked out.
Erdu started cursing the moment she walked in. Rael verbally poked him a few time, but he wasn’t budging.
She walked back out. “Have fun with a truth match on that one. Get lots of very strong priests, and then I’ll take the Chain off.”
Oljo hunched his shoulders. “That thing gives me the creeps. You need to teach it to some of us.”
Ajki snickered. “Jealous, Joe?”
“You better believe it. The three of them took eighteen of us down without breaking a sweat.” Oljo looked her up and down. “One skinny little Princess took out two with the weirdest spell . . . and then fast-talked the third into thinking he was escaping when in fact he was stepping into the one place where he’d have to behave or suffer immediate punishment.”
Ajki grinned. “And after Nick tossed him back through, you still had problems with him.”
Oljo sighed. “Two more stunned, and I think he was trying Control on Monty, when Rael Chained him. Beats me why they call her an incompetent assassin.”
Rael giggled. “Because the only two times I’ve been ordered to kill someone, they survived?”
“Probably because it’s funny that they found something you failed at—on the surface. On further analysis? Refusing to be used for murder-by-proxy, and then failing to trigger a war? Odd definition of incompetent” Oljo shook his head. “Well, I’m glad the damage to your house was only superficial . . . by the time the City Inspectors arrived.”
Ajki grinned. “What amazing luck. I arrived in time to find an incredibly cute little kid telling the local cops all about his Mummum zapping two Bad Guys and turning them into purple bunnies. Madam Kyol and the nanny are fine. If my kids were younger, I’d steal the nanny from you.”
Rael nodded. “I just hope she stays. I mean, not a good first day.”