And More Family
7 Qadah 1421yp
A morning long prowl of various eateries. Picking up comments, alarmed, or appalled. Apprehensive. The degree of prickliness, high.
Not just the spy fiasco, but more ill-conceived legislative suggestions.
I can't believe Afgu wants to cut off commerce like that! Connections to Embassy only through the Home World, and requiring permits? Tonight's snark from Ace is going to be well laced with horror.
Because the president is not acting for the good of the Empire. He is trying to consolidate power.
So . . . should I talk to . . .
He stopped dead, blinked and studied the woman sitting at the table outside a tea house.
No. Oh dear One . . . The tilt of her head, then both hands around the cup as she sipped . . . Oh . . . Mandy.
He turned away, found a bit of shade, a tendril of vine hanging down . . . Enough to keep him unrecognized.
He leaned on the wall and watched his step-sister talk to a waitress.
Forced himself to pull out his comm and called Keiq. "Sorry to bother you at work, but I think I need to talk to Oljo. Can you look up his number?"
"I'll transfer you . . . you sound odd."
"I feel odd. I . . . don't know when I'll get back to you. There's a problem I need to deal with."
"Right." She sounded dubious, but two clicks . . .
"Oljo, who is this." A demand, not a question.
"Ice. Oljo, I have eyes on a spy from Earth. I don't know if this is your job or XR's, but I think I need to get wired before I approach her and find out what's going on."
"I didn't think you were still working for us."
"Heh. I've got you spotted, we'll be right there."
"In civilian garb, please. I think we need to follow her home and see if she brought friends along."
"Right. We'll be there in five. Keep an eye on her."
She was still eating when the Wrecking Crew arrived. Ice pointed her out and most of them strolled away.
"And Real Soon Now you're going to tell me how you spotted her, right?"
"Just as soon as I have clearance from XR to do so . . . hell, I'm not even sure who to ask, any more." Ice grinned. "It's no good glaring at me. Not my decision."
Except . . . given his bosses right now . . . I think I'll lie.
"I suppose I should be reassured that it's not more of your Cyborg Juju, which no one ever explained to me either."
Ice grinned. "That was just an idiosyncrasy in my natural shields, probably because I'm part Tree, and/or maybe that Priest gene or something."
"Yeah. Because you're just so Tree." Oljo turned casually. "Looks like your target's finished lunch. Put this in your ear and move off a block that way. We'll team up on her and tell you where to accidentally encounter her."
"Right." Ice strolled casually away. Stomach knotted. Maybe she's escaping from Earth, too.
<She's headed south.> someone's voice whispered in his ear. Sounded like Wluv.
Ice turned south and strolled.
<Down to the underground . . . R-line south . . . big enough crowd, I'll get on the train with her. Shutting up now . . .>
Oljo's voice now. "Ice, wait until we find out where she gets off, then take the next train."
Ice headed for the underground, dawdling until the unknown came back on.
<Dawkins Street. Looks like she's heading for the Vacarama Hotel on the corner of Kato. I've got a bug on her.>
Ice got there and followed instructions to round the block and join Oljo and part of the crew in a small truck.
Oljo pointed. "Third floor, roughly the middle of this side. There's at least four of them. They're scattered around a bit. We've got a vibro on one guy's window, and a bug on the woman. It sounds like they're a bit twitchy. I gather one person hasn't shown up."
He turned and eyed Ice. "You're too high Oner. Go home and dress down, if you know how. We'll monitor them, count them and follow them. Hit them at our leisure, or maybe send you out to meet the woman and chat her up."
Ice hustled, and was back right as the Earthers left their hotel.
"There's six of them, now, their missing man arrived. They're going out for dinner." Oljo looked him up and down. "You mug some hard-working stiff for that outfit?"
Ice made a low-class rude gesture, and watched the group walking out of the hotel.
He knew them all. David Panther, a non-purple Power . . . Crap, Everitt . . . what the hell was his last name? Mickey? One of my fellow half-Oner rape-kids. He's probably the leader. Bill Ursus, another Power. Peter Golden, same again. Mandy and . . . another purp girl . . . Opal something? Another bear? Ursus?
Oljo started unpacking micro things and pressing them onto Ice's clothing.
<They've turned south on Cavanaugh.>
"If they're still living in a hotel, they can't have been in town very long." Ice turned and strolled south, paralleling them from a block away. "I wonder if they're planning on staying, or if they're enroute to somewhere else?"
Oljo nodded. "I think the hotel was a rendezvous point. And now they'll get down to business, whatever that is."
And from the earbud, <I walked through them. Two Oners; the woman's pretty high, the man is at least a Neartuone. The others feel like Halfers. They've got power, but no connection.>
"Purple powers, most likely. They'll have a power gene, but not the purple color gene."
Oljo eyed him, and passed that on to the others. "What about the Oners?"
"Action Team's get, probably from our occupation of Comet Fall. Or from Granite Peak. No doubt we'll find out." Ice shook his head. "Director Ehfa has been looking for an excuse to go to war with Comet Fall. Maybe he'll think attacking the Earth would be just as fun."
Oljo nodded. "About half of us want to shake some answers out of you. Or maybe involve some priests. We're all pretty sure you must have done something to help Dog escape."
"Kept Ehfa talking long enough for the metalformaline to break down? Even my glib tongue isn't good enough for that."
A skeptical snort from Oljo, then the team spread out around the restaurant their target had chosen.
And picked up bits of their conversation out of the busy restaurant's background roar.
". . .then we'll leave . . . morning . . ."
<They look pretty damned grim and determined.> Bit put in.
Oljo eyed Ice. "You game?"
"No Option. Well, I'm prepared to offer them one. We'll see what they've got by way of loyalty to Earth."
Ice sighed. "Handing Earth regular doses of disinformation is useful. Just getting them to sit down and write about day-to-day life on Earth is useful. Making Earth beg to get them back is also fun, if Afgu doesn't kill them outright. Just hustling them off to an unused Evac World and leaving Earth trying to find out what happened to them would be fun."
Oljo sighed. "This is why Ajki thought you walked on water, and Afgu, Ehfa, Ink, and . . . oh hell the list of people who hate you is really impressive."
"Meh. Second-raters, by and large. Not that I'm not wary of the top men, but the rest of the herd is ex-puppets and ass-kissers. Not impressed, personally."
"Man, you're going to be lucky to live out the year."
Ice sighed. "I know. Depending on their respect for the rule of law is . . . not a good idea."
<They've paid up and are heading for the exit.>
Oljo eyed Ice. "Which way are they going?"
Ice trotted two blocks and cut over . . . spotted them and crossed Cavanaugh as the six spies started across. He paused to let them by, turned to stare.