"I guess IS gets more complaints about CI than Analysis, what with you guys being an order of magnitude larger than us. Them."
A snort from Oljo. "Still thinking of yourself as one of us, eh?"
"Bad habits are hard to kick." Ice frowned and pulled out his comm. "Perhaps I should figure out how to contact the ecclesiastical guards?"
"Already done. Those poor doomed idiots."
Ice's stomach knotted. Doomed. Mandy. My raised-like-a-twin-sister Mandolin.
". . . killing that creature . . ."
"I don't care anymore."
Oh Mandy. You have doomed yourself.
Ice was quiet all the way to Makkah.
They were in the fifth car of the train, the Earther assassins in the third.
The back ground rush of whispering voices grew, then fell away.
:: What an interesting selection you bring today, Grandson. Spies. ::
Oljo head jerked around to stare at Ice.
Ice shrugged. :: Assassins, I'm afraid. I don't know what weapons they have. We need to separate them from the other people. ::
:: My guards have that in hand. Stay on the train a moment. Join us after we've isolated them. ::
Ice shrugged back into his long sleeved shirt and buttoned it. Took off the cap and folded it down to pocket size. Finger combed his hair, as the train slid into the station and stopped.
The Wrecking Crew stayed seated as the train car emptied.
Oljo eyed Ice. Shook his head. "If you get any scarier, I'm going to run away screaming. Was that the Prophet Emre calling you grandson?"
Ice spread his hands. "Yes. I mean, it's not my fault. Nobody gets to pick their ancestors."
"Maybe . . . not screaming so the nightmares can't find me."
"Yeah, well, I think I'll be getting more nightmares out of this then you will." Ice stood and walked off the train, and around a few corners to a small courtyard.
Everitt was on the ground, trying to get up, then laying back.
The Ecclesiastical Guards were stepping away with a collection of weaponry and devices, dropped them into a bag of the Prophets and set aside.
Eight priests walked in, formed a loose circle around the Earthers, and studied them silently for a long moment.
Everitt made it to his feet and scowled around the circle. "Which of you is the Prophet? You'll never read our minds. We've been trained to resist."
The five Earthers all tried to look defiant, backed into a circle facing out at the ring of priests.
"I am Emre."
The Earthers' head snapped around to the arched entry way.
Emre walked in and shook his head. "All five. No doubt in your minds, no remorse in your souls."
The five snapped into motion, rushing the Prophet. Crashing into the physical shield they hadn't even noticed
The oldest-looking priest in the ring looked at the five prisoners. "You have been judged and found guilty of attempting to commit premeditated murder. An attempt on the life of a prophet. You are sentenced to death by beheading."
The belligerence collapsed, the Earthers leaned on each other for support.
Mandy blinked back tears. "Harp?"
"I can't help you, Mandy. You came here to commit cold blooded murder. You aren't the person I knew, so long ago. I offered a way out that would give you your freedom. And you came here instead. To kill."
He turned away, his heart frozen in pain. They will execute her. And I'll accept it, because she came here to kill.
He bowed to Emre and the older priests flanking him.
"I would have sent them somewhere where they could live in peace, make a life for themselves. Only one of them took it."
Ice looked back at Mandy and his heart chilled. “And perhaps I was wrong to offer it at all. I do not know why their controllers would want a war with the Empire. Or even who they are. Whether they are a trouble-making faction, or their government."
Emre nodded. "They are not well informed, they've spent the last two years isolated and getting carefully tailored news, to reinforce the danger we represent. And no doubt the timing is due to our . . . current political unrest. A President with so little backing, so little trust."
Ice could feel the agreement around him.
Even the Wrecking Crew knows what a disaster Afgu would have created, starting a war over the death of the Prophet.
"I helped Dog escape." Ice waited, and got no response from the Prophet. "Because he wasn’t trying to kill anyone. Because an illegal execution on the spot would have caused a diplomatic crisis. Because I think he was waffling on his loyalty. A bright young man doing good work, who, if we’d gone to war with Comet Fall, might have been able to warn them ahead of time, but who was not in a position to do much damage. But mostly . . . I helped because he was my friend.”
Emre nodded. “Agent of the One. We have trusted your judgement, and have been glad of it more than once now.” He looked at Oljo and gestured at the silent Earth Agents. “Get all the information you need out of them, then exile them to an Evac World. They may be useful diplomatically, sometime. Ice? Talk to that nice young Arno. Tell him we want them on Evac Twenty-three with the others, and the gate taken down again.”
Oljo bowed, and Ice joined the rest of the goons in bowing as well.