"You Bitch! You actually think you can . . ." as the gun cleared his coat, Ridhe hit him.
Ice jumped in, kicking one goon, and swung Rumakova away from the rest. Shields up. The nearest goon took aim at Ridhe. Ice tossed a stun spell.
I haven't been here long enough to know who is corrupt.
Other than Utne-Bruce.
Two of the newly arrived police took up position on either side of Rumakova, their attention and guns pointed outward for threats, their elbows trying to get her to back away.
"Him and him!" Utne screamed, pointing at Ridhe and Ice. "Kill them!"
Ice jumped forward to get, mostly, between the hunter and the goons.
Staggered as a bullets hit his shield. A hard kick took down one. A chop to Utne's neck backed with a stun spell and he was down.
The fight slowed, stopped . . .
A quick glance, Rumakova was unharmed.
Ridhe sank to one knee, hands going to his thigh. Lots of blood, but not pumping.
Dammit, in full public view.
He pulled out his wallet and extracted the little tube. "Take a sip. Keep the pressure on your leg."
A quick survey. The police were arguing with each other, no weapons in sight. Ah ha! The newsie was talking into his mic while he tried to get his vid camm up.
I just hope it got knocked over in time!
He took the tube back from Ridhe, and put it away.
"I hardly needed that Oner scat." The old man growled. "It was in and out through the muscle."
Ice grinned and offered him a hand up.
The new Chief of Police surveyed the mess and shook his head. "And what the hell do I do with this mess." A soft nudge with his toe. "Especially this mhondu."
"Indeed." Rumokova stalked up. "He'll somehow escape jail within minutes . . . either that or his former buddies will make sure he 'commits suicide' before he can name names."
Ice looked down on his former fellow spy. "Perhaps because of that, and because he stands accused of the attempted murder of a Colonial Governor, it would be expedient to take him straight to Makkah."
He bit his lip. "I will take him, if you wish."
"You can't do that!" A skinny vulture of a man hustled up from the street. They were gathering quite a crowd, now.
"Are you a lawyer?" Ridhe eyed the man.
"Well, no . . . but . . ."
"If he's innocent, the One will clear him quickly. If he's guilty . . . he'll at least be safe from the other corrupt . . . cronies who might want him silenced."
"Well, but . . ."
Ridhe grinned. "This is an excellent idea. His guilt or innocence will be known."
Ice looked around, and spotted the wide-eyed office boy. "James, right? Or Emja? Grab his feet."
"Grab his feet. Let's go."
Ice grabbed the stunned Utne's shoulders and hauled him at an angle down the broad steps. James scurried and grabbed one foot.
Well, better than nothing . . . Good thing I parked so close.
Two cops caught up with them as they reached the ute. "Chief of Police Ridhe, at the request of Governor Rumakova, has ordered us to accompany you."
"What an excellent idea." Ice eyed them. "Open the back door, won't you?"
He backed in and hauled Utne with him. Propped him up long enough to get a seat belt on him . . . a quick search and he removed the knife strapped to one ankle, and the little derringer strapped to the other.
"Now you gentlemen . . . can I trust you both to not try to kill him enroute?"
Two nods, one looking pale and . . . shamed.
"Right. You ride shotgun. And you are in the far back." Ice looked around, but James had removed himself from the situation. "Let's go."
After that it was just a matter of three gates and another four hour drive. Utne started groaning about the time they passed the ruins of old Mecca.
"Have you guys ever been here?"
Double head shakes. The older one, up front sighed. "At least I was born and raised on the Home World. I've felt the One before. How are you doing back there, Kid?"
"This is . . . really odd. I think I like it . . . or maybe I ought to run away screaming."
Ice nodded. "The first time I crossed over, it nearly floored me. It was like . . . a big hug welcome home. I . . . sort of miss it when I'm back in the forest."
A whimper from Utne.
"How about you Utne? You awake enough to know what's going on." The rushing whisper of hundreds of mental conversations, thoughts, and feelings was getting stronger.
"Go away, get them away from me, I don't want to hear them." He thrashed around, managed to unfasten the seat belt and shove himself up to sit. He frowned around the sear landscape.
"What the hell? Where am I? Kidnapping me won't do you any good." Utne glared front and back. "Illyah, you're as dirty as I am. And you think Killi the Kid will vouch for you?"
Illyah turned and looked Utne in the eye. "And I'm ashamed. And I'll face the One and take my punishment."
"Oh yeah, when I die and face God, I'll be plenty penitent too." Utne choked suddenly, his head whipping around. "Where . . . where . . . Oh . . . no, no, no." He lunged for a door handle, jerked at it, grabbed at his ankle, then pulled off a shoe to break a window. But it was much too late.
Ice steered around an upthrust rock spire and down the hill to park beside the train platform. Hit the lock. Utne leaped out . . . stopped.
"On the One World, we often face our final judgement before we die." Ice got out, and banished all his illusions.
The two cops did a double take.
The four ecclesiatic guards who walked up didn't appear to notice. They bracketed Utne-Bruce and gestured toward the dome at the end of the street. "The One will hear you."
Ice and the cops followed.
A few priests, both male and female seated around the dome. Four older priests waiting in the center for them.
Ice bowed. "The Chief of Police of Tall Trees Colony Utne Neartuone London Britain, who is also known as Bruce Gardner, under suspicion of serious abuse of his office, was dismissed. At that point, he drew a gun in what appeared to be an attempt to kill the Governor of the Colony."
The Priests split up, and interspersed themselves between Utne, Ice, and the two cops. They reached out, physically and mentally to form a Compass. Ice took their hands as he pulled his mental shield back, keeping private his personal life and blocking off his former government activities.
The older cop, Illy, fumbled his way into it. The younger was gently nudged into keeping a privacy shield.
:: We do not need a deep search here. :: Ice wasn't sure which Priest spoke through the merge. Most likely it didn't matter. :: This twisted violent mind . . . :: Flickers of memories, hands around a throat, laughing and enjoying the helpless bucking of the body beneath him as he killed the woman he'd just raped . . . Torturing a man, laughing. Spotting a woman on the street and arresting her, the anticipation of the fun they'd have with her.
The Compass searched deeper, past all the recent muck . . .
Memories much further back . . . The Earth's powered gate the painful passage through to the World beyond. His three companions. Exploring, finding a small town . . . crossing over to the One World, a program that registered their forged ID cards, and then they were free to figure out how to fit into this strange world.
Utne-Bruce's realization that he was feeling something the others weren't. His decision to return to that tempting world they'd just left . . . "To assist future infiltrators," while the others continued on.
Laughing as he used his forged ID to establish himself as a Oner, as one of the elite, on the colony world.
:: Did you help more spies? :: A blank indifference.
The compass fell apart, leaving Utne shivering.
A sigh from behind him. Ice turned. The Prophet Emre and one of the oldest priests had joined them.
Emre looked at Illy . . .
"I'm sorry . . . one little misstep . . . then another . . . and then I was in so deep . . . I tried . . ."
"But you never lost your horror, and now have retraced your way. Go in peace, but beware of that first little misstep, always."
Illya staggered back and headed for the main door.
And Killi, Wkli swallowed. "I suspected, I looked away. I did not believe it could possibly . . ."
"Ah. To be so willfully innocent! You've seen, now, what you—and so many of your colleagues—enabled with your averted eyes. Don't do it again. That way lies a different sort of corruption. Go now." Emre looked back at Ice, as Killi nearly ran to escape the One.
"So, nothing new in the way of the Earth's infiltration methods." Emre shrugged. "We'll pass that on to the appropriate people. His three companions were discovered years ago. Orde wished to avoid a diplomatic crisis just them, so they were allowed to escape to Comet Fall."
Emre eyed the shivering spy.
"Utne Bruce Gardner . . . there is nothing to do with you but remove your threat." A wave, and the guards stepped up and led Utne out a side entrance.
The old Priest was studying Ice. "This talent you have for being just where you need to be is quite interesting. It must be some subconscious precog, perhaps?"
Emre nodded. "But right now, I think it's time to test Ajha's Reef Theory. Jeb, pick seven more priests, or more, and go to Tall Trees. Help this interesting Governor clean up her police force. Decide if we need a permanent presence there."
Emre turned back. "Well done, Ice. Take your chastened policemen home and tell Governor Rumakova that we are coming to assist."
Ice bowed. "One."
As he walked out, He caught a dull thump from the side door, and felt the power flash of a Oner's death.