"So I'd better be prepared for this battle."
Ice had been busy while they were gone. Two cars in the driveway, one ordinary, the other a white limo with a uniformed chauffeur leaning on it in the shade.
Female voices echoing around the inside of the house, then a trio of women emerged and converged on them.
The middle aged one took the lead. "I am Umaya daughter of Victor and grandaughter of Carl. I am the wife of the Prophet Nicholas. This is Jadida, daughter of Juhani, and wife of the Warrior Davos ibn Daiki ibn William. And Mona, daughter of Ian. We are all survivors of Rangpur, a thousand years from our rightful time. We're here to help you."
Tanya gawped at the women, then slid down from the horse. Raised her nose. "I am Tanya daughter of Oliver, grandaughter of Alexander. Senior Investigator Keiq has been filling me in on . . . the basics. I believe I am going to start by speaking to the One."
Mona smiled. "Perhaps after feeding your baby? We have brought supplies . . . and lunch."
Tanya's eye narrowed and her head whipped around toward Ice.
Instant suspicion. Fear and anger, again.
I think she's had a lot of practice with those.
Ice extended two metal rods. "We changed his diaper, but put him back in when he got hungry."
Tanya snapped the rods out of his hands. "You are giving them to me?"
"They are not mine to give. Circumstances have robbed you of most of your possessions, I will not rob you of these."
Tanya's back relaxed.
A snort from Umaya. "I should think not. Come sit in the car, there's no furniture in that mess."
Resentment. Fighting an automatic rejection out of pure hating to be given orders.
Tanya's jaw muscles jumped, but she headed for the limo.
Ice walked up and took the reins. "Want me to take care of them? Umaya's a bit pushy."
Keiq nodded. "She's calmed down enough to think and plan. But maybe I'd better referee."
Wary, cautious . . . worried.
Dammit, I really ought to turn this thing off around Ice!
She joined the other women at the car, where Tanya was being shown the disposable diapers, and rolling her eyes. "Three ninety-seven was not the Dark Ages. We had those thing, or something close enough. But I do appreciate your bringing them, right now." She reached for a cloth to toss over her shoulder and pulled the baby out from under her blouse to pat until he burped. Switched sides."
"Do any or all of you have children?" Tanya smiled wryly. "You see, Keiq, I have acquired a few basic manners."
"Can't have been too much worse than I was at your age." Keiq looked at the wives and widows of warriors and soldiers.
"I have two, a grown daughter and a five year old son. And a stepson, also grown, and father."
"A son, five years old at Rangpur, just turned thirty." Jadida looked wishfully at the baby. "I should try an elixir, and have another one or two."
"One daughter, Naila, seven at Rangpur, where her father died. Thirty-two years old, and, well, I don't know if I set a good or bad example, going to college instead of being someone's wife." Mona grinned. "But she's so smart, and the young men such idiots. Perhaps someday I'll be a grandmother."
"I . . . am think about college. And this Directorate School sounds interesting. Exploring, guarding . . ." Tanya looked down. "It will not be easy with a baby."
"You'll probably want a Nanny. Possibly a cook or maid." Jadida shrugged. "We got the widow's pension, and a lump sum to start us off well. The government was generous, too. Ah, President Orde is a fine man. President Izzo is a bit sharp, but also a good man, if perhaps less warm."
Umaya snorted. "We should all go to Makkah, and make sure that Mikel's widow and son receive their due."
"Keiq said you can drive there?"
"Yes. Scoot over, let's go."
Tanya and Keiq exchanged glances and burst out laughing.
Keiq waved down at herself. "I'm filthy and we both smell like sweaty horses. Fortunately Ice's barn has a shower. And I have a change of clothes, but Tanya . . ."
"Bah!" Umaya sniffed. "Didn't your mothers teach you anything?"
The spell to clean clothes was amazing. Keiq still put on her nice slacks and blouse and shoes, rather than the suddenly clean work clothes. Then they were being shooed into the big car.
Five women and a baby were no strain for the limo to carry in luxury. The lunch mentioned was an endless supply of dainty sandwiches and non-alcoholic fruit drinks.
As an experienced aunt, Keiq was no stranger to babies, and took her turn hold Ollie as he got passed around. The Rangpur women seem to go all gooey and start talking about having more.
Keiq eyed the delightful child and passed him on to Mona with no reluctance at all. "I have four older brothers, who have a total of fourteen children. I'm not ready to add to the herd."
Giggles from all four women. "And did you do a lot of babysitting?"
"Not when I was young! I practically had to run away from home to college when the first nephew was on the way and my second oldest brother tried to talk me into being a nanny. He magnanimously offered to pay me about a quarter of what a trained nanny would get." Keiq rolled her eyes. "Mother thought that was a much better idea than going to New York.
"Of course, now I live next door to my eldest brother. He married my best friend from the Directorate School, and I babysat their three, even though they had a ferociously professional nanny. They're old enough to not need babysitting any longer, although I do sort of hang around when their parents are out late and stuff. I much prefer older kids."
The others looked at Ollie.
"Tsk! I like the babies and younger children." Umaya smiled. "Although my step son is a fine man now, he was a terror as a teenager. Have you met him? Or do you only work here in Paris?"
"I met him earlier this year, when I was training with Rael." Keiq turned to Tanya. "Rael may well be a good example of what you want to be. A woman Warrior. She's taking a break from most of her duties to raise her son, who's seven or eight now."
That got nods from the other women. "Rael is amazing, and she looks so harmless."
"We'll have to get out all those movies they had us watch, to show us what the world was like, and some important bits of it." Fajida shrugged. "It's funny, to remember how disoriented we were, that first month. Now it feels like home."
Mona nodded. "And this is your first day? One! Just tell us to slow down and explain . . . or just shut up and let you have some peace and quiet."
Tanya shoved back her gorgeous hair. "I'm very lucky to have met you all. Keiq especially got me calmed down." Her eyes widened as she looked forward. "What is that!"
Keiq turned and looked. "The Corridor. This one goes to Alcairo. The next one will take us to a spot north of Jeddah, just before the road splits off to Old Mecca, and Makkah."
Tanya muffled a scream, at the little twist as they popped through. Her head whipped back and forth as she looked around. "Where are we?"
"Alcairo. It's very handy."
Tanya glanced her way, and then back forward as they took aim at the Jeddah corridor. "Why would I want to use such a horrible thing!" She covered her mouth with both hands and didn't scream as they popped through the corridor.
"You'll get used to them." Keiq grinned.