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Loose Threads

Five

“What are you doing” Canaan asked as she sat down beside him.

Iain looked up from his magical tome. “I think that should be obvious to a super genius. It is my study time and I am studying. What do you want?” He glanced around them. “I take it Hannah and Rebecca are asleep.”

“Yes, and April will keep an eye on them for now if that changes.” She stretched and dropped a hand lightly onto his shoulder. “Can I steal you away for a few minutes?” She chuckled as he looked around them again. “No, my restraints are still attached to my bed although I’d be willing to get them if you want me.” She waited until he looked up into her eyes. “To,” she finished.

Iain glanced at his magical primer and made a face as it flowed onto his arm. “I suppose this can’t wait. What is it?”

She stood and took his hand to pull him to his feet. “You need to meet with someone. It’s kind of clandestine so I don’t want to talk about it in the open.”

“What about my security?”

He felt her pleasure at his question over their bond. “I am your primary. Pandora, Raquel and Allison are standing by as backup. Ninhursag is monitoring.”

It was her subtle way of saying that his harem was in on whatever was going on. “You seem to have thought of everything. Where are we going?”

“Austin.” The scene jumped around him and Iain was looking at a plainly decorated house. “This is just their temporary abode while their permanent dwelling is being constructed.”

A uniformed Nipponese man with a machine gun stood sentry on one side of the door while a Rapitaur holding a grenade launcher stood on the other. Both were carrying slung M16s and had pistols on their belts. Iain blinked and pulled to a halt when he saw their insignia. “Those are kouhei.”

“This is the Nippon embassy to Texas,” Canaan said quietly. “Well, it’s the temporary one while the real one is being built.” She looked at the guard. “I was here a few minutes ago but I’m Canaan Grey and this is Iain Grey.”

The Rapitaur turned and opened the door. “Please enter,” she said in heavily accented English.

Iain gave a mental sigh. Theodora, I need to add Nipponese, the Ryukyuan languages, several more dialects of Chinese beside the one we learned for Sunshine and Korean to the languages I speak.

She laughed softly in his head. Should I just start teaching you all of the ones in common use on Earth?

Sure. Take a wild guess and give them to me in the order that you think I might need to use them. Oh, and if you have access to Tirsuli and some of the clan languages, you might as well toss them in there too. Then we can work on the obscure Earth languages after all of that.

I do and I will, Iain. Can I learn the languages you speak that I don’t know? He felt her amusement at his surprise. You learned several languages with Nightraven and while you have shared the ones that the books in your library are written in, that is not the extent of the languages she had you learn while there.

Yes, but don’t hand them out unless I give specific permission please.

The entranceway of the house had been converted into a waiting room and a young woman sat behind a large desk. She was typing on a laptop with the Sony logo on it and looked up as they entered. “Miss Canaan, it is nice to see you again.” She looked at him with open curiosity. “Is this Mister Grey?”

“Yes, it is.” Canaan’s antenna twitched slightly. “I said it would only be a few minutes and it was.”

The receptionist motioned towards a comfortable looking couch. “Please be seated. The ambassador will be with you in just a short time.”

Canaan’s eyes narrowed and she started to say something before she snorted softly and led Iain to the couch. They knew we were coming and we are supposed to not have to wait, but the ambassador is using the toilet so I’ll let this pass.

Iain glanced at her. That is an awful joke. She just grinned. So what is this about?

Among other things, the Nipponese want to buy that intelligence we offered them. You are our human and you have to represent the clan. Essentially they want to hear what we've already told them, they just want to hear it from you.

Gee, just peachy.

A few minutes later the door opened and Canaan pulled Iain to his feet as an older Japanese gentleman smiled at them. Canaan bobbed her head at him. “Ambassador, this is Iain Grey. Iain, this is Natsuo Yamamoto, the Nippon ambassador to Texas.”

Yamamoto held out his hand. “Greetings, Mr. Grey.” They shook and he motioned them into a nicely decorated office, closing the door behind them and moving to his desk. An attractive Nipponese woman wearing a dress uniform stood next to the desk and beside her stood a figure hooded and cloaked in red. The ambassador nodded to the woman. “This is Lieutenant Kuniko Tokunaga and she will be your liaison.”

Iain shook hands with her and turned to the cloaked figure. “Hello, Moirai.”

Canaan’s voice was full of delight. “I told you he’d recognize you.”

Moirai bowed deeply to Iain without dropping her hood. “My presence here is unofficial but required by the Emperor, Grey-sama, and for that reason I may not speak with you again until this business is concluded.”

“I believe I understand,” Iain said. “Be well.” He back to the lieutenant as Theodora whispered to him. “Lieutenant, you must be with the Johohonbu.”

She looked surprised. “How did you know?”

“You’re wearing their insignia on your shoulder and in any case the Defense Intelligence Headquarters would be the logical choice to distribute what we’re supplying,” he said dryly as she blushed. “Now, ambassador, while I was aware that Texas, Great Britain and Nippon have recognized each other’s existence and that everyone else has just sneered at three supposedly rogue nations patting each other on the back and announcing that each other was real, I wasn’t aware that Nippon had dispatched an ambassador to Texas. Of course that's probably because I have way too much to do to pay attention to the minutia of Texas politics.” Unsaid was the fact that a couple members of his clan were supposed to be doing exactly that and they hadn't mentioned anything about this event to him. He made a mental note to do some quiet investigating to see if his ladies had decided to start censoring the data he received again and wondered for an instant what he could do about it if they had.

Yamamoto smiled. “Our nations have exchanged diplomatic staff that we may begin working together on a variety of projects. We hope that will include the project that your people advanced towards us, but before we commit to anything in that regard, the lieutenant has some questions for you.” He sat down at his desk. “Don’t mind me; I’m just here to witness this discussion for my government.”

Iain nodded once. “With the understanding that there are some questions I won’t answer and we may not know which questions fall under that category until they’re asked and I refuse to answer them, I agree to be questioned.”

Lieutenant Tokunaga frowned. “That is a rather specific response. May I inquire as to why you responded that way?”

Iain suddenly smiled. “Sorry, one of my friends is something like a kami, only she’s from Ireland. Agreements with her people have the force of magic behind them and sometimes she turns the oddest things into a negotiation. Something about this meeting put me in that mindset.”

“We just want reassurances that the information you are offering to provide is accurate,” the lieutenant said. “We are taking a rather large chance if we use your information and find it is incorrect.”

Iain’s smile grew. “I assure you that the information I am offering to provide will be almost as timely and correct as if it came from the Chinese themselves. Are you reassured?”

Lieutenant Tokunaga smiled back. “We were hoping for a little more reassurance than that, Mr. Grey.” Her smile faded slightly “Why did the Emperor’s representative call you Grey-sama?”

Iain shrugged. “I take it since she's pretending that she isn't here that you can’t just ask her right now?” She shook her head. “Well, I can’t read her mind but I can guess if you’d like.” She didn’t respond so he continued. “It could be that because I am a clan leader and I am pretty sure she knows it and has some outlander's conception of what that means and she thinks therefore my rank is uncertain in relationship to the other people in her life, she’s using it to be on the safe side.” Moirai just watched him without expression. “But what is most likely is that she knows I’m the student of Kerrik Wolf and she’s using sama out of respect for him and his decision to take me under his tutelage, which would give me greater rank than her but less than the family which she serves.” Moirai gave the tiniest of nods. “And since we haven’t met yet I doubt she’s using it out of respect for my bubbly and warm personality. What is important is I didn’t ask her to use that and I don’t expect anyone else in this room to do so.” His smile returned. “I’m a Texan and I’m a barbarian but I understand that using your first names is rude, so I won’t. And that brings us to the questions you want to ask me, Lieutenant, that don’t satisfy your personal curiosity about me. Those you can save for later in a more informal setting should the opportunity occur.”

She nodded. “Mr. Grey, you offer to provide us with troop and ship movements within a day of them taking place. How can you do that?”

“Actually, the offer was that the data you would receive would be at most a day old. Much of it could be delivered more quickly than that. Depending on how we arrange things, you may get almost real time information. But before I sound ridiculous, I have to ask you one or two questions. Are you aware that Kerrik Wolf is delivering equipment to Nippon?”

Tokunaga nodded. “I am.”

“Are you aware of how those supplies are being delivered? And yes, I am aware of it.”

“I am.” She had an excellent poker face and Iain wondered if the earlier blush had been deliberate. He'd known a couple of women who could blush whenever they wanted to.

She knows, Canaan said through their bond, and so does the ambassador.

“Good. What you probably don’t know is that I too have access to space and space sited manufacturing. I have some very sophisticated observation satellites hanging over China and Nippon as well as the rest of the region and your information on troop movements will come from them.”

“How sophisticated are they?”

“They have a ten centimeter resolution and they’re in essentially a geosynchronous orbit,” Iain stated. “Infrared, monochrome and color recordings will be available as desired. And since the satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, you don't have to be concerned about time windows in which there is no coverage.”

“Are these satellites the same ones that will provide us with the radio communications you said you could?”

Iain shook his head. “Shanghai is sophisticated enough to use microwave transmission to their satellites for the communications, so the spread isn't really enough for me to use the O&I satellites for that.”

Lieutenant Tokunaga frowned slightly. “Mr. Grey, I understand that the O should be observation, but what does the I stand for?”

He chuckled, mostly at his slip. “The I stands for interdiction, lieutenant.” That meant the satellites were armed and could easily turn nearby air and space into a no-go zone for anything without shields. That function would be deployed if the Chinese tried to send something into space to interfere with his equipment. “Since I currently don't have the force projection to directly get involved in your war available, we're not offering to explain or use the interdiction option for Nippon.”

“I see, Mr. Grey.”

She started to say something else when Iain raised a hand to stop her. “Ambassador Yamamoto, I don't intend to sound rude, but I am beginning to suspect this might take some time so I'd like to ask is there somewhere else we can do this where there are enough chairs for everybody to sit down? And a table might be helpful if I or the lieutenant have to demonstrate something.”

“Demonstrate,” the ambassador asked curiously.

“Lieutenant Tokunaga and I both have computers, ambassador, and while hers is a Haven design for commercial release and mine is a Grey and is a bit more complicated than that, both models can project flat and holographic visuals. I might be called upon to provide a demonstration as part of this dog and pony show.”

Yamamoto frowned. “We do not buy our equipment from Haven. We purchase ours from Wolf-sama.”

“I know, but Haven currently gets their equipment from him too and they're using the same unit that he's providing to your government and Haven is the name associated with that particular computer design since they're selling far more of this unit to Indigo than Kerrik is to you.” Iain considered for a second and then decided to tell them his suspicions. “In fact, I am involved in the war with Indigo and I haven't really seen these computers in the density that I thought I would. I don't have any proof yet, but I think that Indigo is making some straw purchases for other leagues, possibly including the Shanghai League, which means you may soon see them being used against you. Presuming that you're using the recommended security features they won't be able to intercept your communications or use captured computers, but it will give them a vastly greater capability to determine force composition and threat assessment since they'll be able to scan your pokegirls and they will be fielding comparable equipment against you.”

I will immediately begin scanning for the frequencies used by the Haven setup in and around Shanghai, Theodora said to him. I wish you'd mentioned this before so I could have provided you with some evidence either way.

I should have but we've all been so busy that when I thought about it I shelved it until we could talk again and then never remembered to mention it to you. I was probably irritated again.

You need to sit down with your family and work out some boundaries about your personal time, Iain. This is becoming absurd.

I have no personal time, Theodora, and you know it, and I tried that route and they all assure me that I'll get some back and it never happens.

Lieutenant Tokunaga gave him a curious look. “How are the computers different?”

“Among other things mine is more durable, more secure, has more integral storage, has a longer communication range before you have to use some kind of repeater or uplink, it has the ability to share real time data with others of its kind within a ten kilometer radius and it has NoJack.”

“What is NoJack?”

“NoJack is an anti-theft system. It has an integral tracker that can be remotely activated to allow the unit to be found if lost or stolen. Texas asked for it so they could check from time to time to determine how many of their computers had fallen into enemy hands and where they were to decide if they could be economically recovered.” Which meant recaptured with the forces available. “Considering our rules NoJack had to be voluntarily activated by the person who was keyed to the computer and it uses enhanced security via genetic imprinting, biometrics including fingerprinting and retinal printing or a combination of the three systems to access on top of the standard access code system. And the version they asked for could be set up to report ownership when pinged so if lost Texas could know who had been captured or killed at the hands of our enemies. If it refuses the ping then the original owner is most likely still using it and has therefore probably gone over to the enemy or for some reason is in the lands of our foes.”

The ambassador exchanged a look with Moirai. “Could you provide us with your model of computer?”

“I could but it doesn't really matter since you won’t buy them,” Iain said. “We all know that the Emperor wants to purchase from Kerrik, and so that's who you are going to be getting the lion's share of your equipment from. And if someone from your end requests it, I don't see why Kerrik wouldn't start providing you equivalent units for almost the same price as you're paying him now unless he feels there's some overriding concern why he shouldn't. Since he hasn't expressed anything like that to me about what I'm offering to the Texans and British, I don't think he would have one. And I suspect he just didn't think about selling you a model comparable to mine. Nobody asked about it so he probably just shipped what was available. So asking him should get you units like mine without having to go outside the Emperor's desires in this matter. And if he needs it, I can provide him with the design specs for production at no charge.”

Lieutenant Tokunaga looked dubiously at Iain. “You help us but in doing so you deny yourself a profit. That does not make sense.”

“That's because you aren't looking at the whole picture,” Iain said. “I don't need money. I am a farmer and a rancher and my place is almost completely self-sufficient, except that we don't have an iron mine. The only reason I charge money for the things I sell to people like you is so that they have value, which makes the purchaser only get what they intend to use and to use what they buy. If I just wanted money I'd harvest tons of valuable minerals and gems from the asteroid belt and pile them around me so I'd feel wealthy. But that's not how I count wealth. The reason I'm offering this stuff at all is because I do not like the leagues and I don't feel they're a net benefit to humanity and because there is a greater threat for all of us in the feral pokegirls that are breeding outside of our sight.” He met her eyes. “And while I do not disdain the merchant class like the samurai did and still do to some degree, I am not a merchant.”

“What are you, Mr. Grey?”

“While I am not one, my mindset is more like a samurai's than you would likely believe. More importantly to me, I am a husband and a father who wishes to take care of and protect his family first. I'm also an officer in the Texas Defense Force, but that's really only because I didn't realize that the Texas Rangers were military when I was tricked into becoming one. And like many other people, I'm other things as the situation demands it. And I'd like to point out that now you're back in the personal questions as opposed to the professional ones and I'd like you to get back to the technical ones thank you very much.”

“Just a moment,” Ambassador Yamamoto said. “I would like to see a demonstration of this NoJack system.”

“Then I'm going to need that table I have already asked for and I'll need to bring another member of my clan here so she can bring some equipment for the test subject for the exercise.”

Yamamoto picked up the phone on his desk and spoke into it in Nipponese. He is instructing someone to make the conference room available for your use, Theodora whispered to Iain.

Thanks. Is there some obscure language that we can learn that most people would be unlikely to know?

There are several extinct languages from Earth's history that come immediately to mind. A few are unlikely to be spoken by even the most archaic scholar. Do you wish a battle language that your enemies don't understand?

That's a good reason. but I just want to be able to use it in front of people who are rude to me and use one I can't speak in front of me to make me look small or to keep me in the dark as to their intent..

She laughed in his ear. That's mean. I love it. You do realize that Yamamoto could just be talking to someone here that doesn't speak English.

It's possible, but I doubt it.

He is talking to a Sergeant Nakahara and both of them speak excellent English, Canaan said to him. And I also love the idea of a language that no one but us can speak. There's something in this conference room that Yamamoto doesn't want us to see. Should I pry?

No. For all we know it could be his mistress or a box of hentai manga. We should trust him.

Rule 30: A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the farther you go.

Iain smiled as he fought not to laugh at Canaan's comment. I know. I didn't say trust them completely. Now stop before I laugh out loud. “While we're waiting for the table,” he said quietly to Lieutenant Tokunaga, what else would you like to know about the information I'm offering?”

“I have quite a large number of questions, Mr. Grey,” she replied, “but the ambassador must be willing to let me ask them, so they will have to wait.”

Canaan looked at them as her antenna extended to their full length. “I have contacted Ninhursag and Vanessa is going to bring a blank computer and a key locker for this test. Who shall we key the computer to?”

“I was thinking the lieutenant here,” Iain said.

“That's hardly surprising,” Canaan chuckled.

Lieutenant Tokunaga looked curiously from to the other. “You are discussing me, so I feel I should be able to ask what are you talking about and why isn't is surprising.”

Iain glanced at Canaan, who just gave him a smug smile back. “Troublemaker,” he muttered. “The test will look better if we use a Nippon member to demonstrate the NoJack system. To activate the system a key lock is used to load the data necessary into the handheld and there's quick tutorial involved to familiarize the user. So when Vanessa gets here with the handheld I'll key it to you and you can participate in the test so you'll believe the results.”

“Why did Canaan say it wasn't surprising that you chose me for this?”

“Ah, that.” Iain gave Canaan another sharp look. “Well, my choices are the Invisible Girl, the ambassador and you. Since I'm supposed to pretend that the Invisible Girl isn't here and you're cute, I picked you.”

She stared at him for a second. “You picked me because you find me attractive?”

“Yeah, I'm just that guy.”

She knows that one of the reasons she was selected for this mission is because Moirai contacted her sister Whisper and Kerrik suggested that a woman you found attractive might be helpful in negotiations with you, Canaan said through their bond. What is interesting is that Kerrik should also know that it would have no real effect on your judgment and yet I do not think that information was imparted to the Nipponese. I wonder what he is doing.

Kerrik plays inscrutable kami better than I play horny mindless male, Iain replied. So we're unlikely to find out unless he wants us to. We just work with what we have. He rubbed his eyes for a moment. “Does that bother you, lieutenant?”

“I'm not sure how I feel about this, Mr. Grey.”

“I can work with that.”

A knock on the door turned everyone's attention to it as it opened. It was the receptionist. “Sir, the room you requested is ready.”

She slipped back down the hall as the ambassador rose. “This way, Mr. Grey.”

Iain started to bristle but forced it down. Nippon had a lot of things he liked, but it was still a male dominated society and subordinates were routinely ignored, so that doubly meant that in this situation Canaan was just something that followed him around. The Splice cocked her head for a second and then squeezed his shoulder with one of her left hands before using it to shove him gently after the ambassador. He suppressed his next impulse, to rabbit punch the ambassador in the neck, and turned down the hall behind him.

The conference room was small and the table looked like something recovered from the ruins of Austin, but that made sense if they were building a proper embassy. That and the inability to transport large amounts of freight from Nippon meant that the Nipponese had to make do with what they had at hand. “Ambassador Yamamoto, might I offer a suggestion?”

He sat down at the head of the table and nodded. “Please do, Mr. Grey.”

“I don't know what your plans are but if I were building an embassy I'd want things from my homeland in it. Kerrik can either freight items from Nippon to Texas or I can if he's short on transport capability.”

Yamamoto leaned back in his chair and regarded Iain with open curiosity. “Who has the most transports between the two of you, Mr. Grey?”

“I haven't checked, but I have several transport ships of various sizes available for use. He and I are focusing on different things and so each of us is building different kinds of fleets. I know that Kerrik has a lot of tugs and modular cargo pods available, so he can probably provide whatever transport you need. I tend to use purpose built craft with medium to large hulls for my needs.”

“What is the difference? And please be seated.”

Iain settled into the chair at the opposite end of the table. “Kerrik's tugs are multipurpose vessels to move containers from one place to another at a set speed. These containers tend to fall within certain size limits. It's not a problem since if he wants to move more of something he simply uses more tugs and more containers. Mine are faster vessels that individually carry different cubage of cargo from rather tiny volumes to a few that can carry a small asteroid or comet in them. It's more a difference of design philosophy than anything else. I guess his is probably a little more efficient overall since mine can sit around for longer waiting for the right size load to be needed moved somewhere. I also do more point to point distribution at the destination than he does. It makes sense based on the deliveries we make. Kerrik and Haven make bulk deliveries to governments, such as your own, and expect the receiver to split the cargo up and deliver it to different locations within your territory while I sell more to individuals and small groups, so I’m more willing to make a delivery in one location and then go another twenty kilometers to make another. I do multiple deliveries for the British government all the time so they don’t have to try to transship large amounts of cargo that the Blues could pick off in transit. My ship designs allow me to do that more easily than it Kerrik’s ships could.”

Ours carry more weapons and defensive systems than the tugs do, Theodora pointed out. And I often move smaller ships in one transport for easy dispersed delivery at the destination. We are more concerned with our cargos arriving safely than Kerrik's inorganics are since we move a much larger variety of cargos than his tugs have to date. But then he has Whisper to move the custom items for him and you don't have a comparable pokegirl.

I have you. I don't need a Starlight. “Canaan, please ask Vanessa to join us.”

A second later the copper haired woman appeared standing next to Canaan. Vanessa's hair was up in the ponytail and she was wearing the half glasses she wore when pretending to be a G-Poindexter. Otherwise she was dressed typically for the ranch, in loose jeans and a heavy cotton long sleeved shirt. She was carrying a satchel over one shoulder. “I've got the computer and the key lock,” she said as she swung the satchel onto the tabletop. “Who am I giving it to?”

“Vanessa, this is Ambassador Yamamoto and Lieutenant Tokunaga of the Defense Intelligence Headquarters.”

“Is the lieutenant an agent or is she an analyst,” Vanessa asked.

“She never said. I was told she is my liaison,” Iain replied. “She's also the person who will be getting keyed to the new computer. Please take care of that immediately.”

The ambassador raised a hand. “I have a sergeant,” he began.

Iain interrupted him. “Is this sergeant going to be my liaison? If he isn't, then he can get a new unit later. My liaison needs to understand this technology if she is going to be explaining to her command how it can be advantageous to have it in use.”

Yamamoto seemed to take a calming moment before speaking. “Lieutenant Tokunaga will be your liaison. It was expected that she would remain in Texas to do that job.”

“That's not necessary,” Iain said. “With the new unit she and I can communicate using my satellite constellation from anywhere on the Earth.”

Lieutenant Tokunaga frowned. “Are you giving all of us access to your communications net with this?”

“No, and it wouldn't matter since you'll be buying these from Kerrik and not me. In addition, anyone with my com code and access to any communications constellation will be able to contact me. However, since my computer will recognize your number, it won't automatically get shunted to my answering service.”

“So if I were to call you,” the ambassador began, “you wouldn't answer?”

“That depends on whether your com number is in my phone,” Iain said. “If it isn't, your call will be answered by a member of my clan who will politely ask you to leave a message. She'll record that message and prioritize it before deciding whether or not to immediately contact me. I'll get your message within twenty four hours unless we're in the middle of an emergency, and if we are in one she'll let you know when she takes your message. The lieutenant will get through to me immediately unless I've set my com to unavailable. If I have, then she'll go to my message service too.” The clan member who screened his calls was Theodora, not that Iain was going to try and explain it to the ambassador.

“Whoever is working the message service at that time will also tell you what the time is locally when you call,” Vanessa said as he opened the pack. “We get a lot of calls from other parts of the world who have forgotten that we might not be awake when they are. And we don’t like being disturbed at night unless it’s a real emergency.”

“Who else calls you,” the lieutenant asked.

“I have factors in several countries who sell my wares,” Iain said, “and there are other people in these countries as well as other countries who call directly for a purchase because there isn't a factor near them. Some of these people don't really care what time it is here when they call, so my answering service can also take purchase requests if I'm asleep or otherwise unavailable. I am also doing business with the British government and the Israelis along with a small but growing business with Ireland. We also have some other prospects we’re exploring.” None of it was secret and it was easier to admit to it than to have the Nippon government think he was trying to hide something. After all, it was a lot easier to keep something hidden when it was buried in a huge pile of things everyone knew about.

Vanessa pulled out a solid piece of electronics twenty centimeters on a side and a handheld computer. She slid the computer into the side of the key lock and removed a cylindrical device from the other side of it. “Lieutenant Tokunaga, please hold up one of your hands, wrist up. I'm going to take a sample of your DNA with this that I will need to key your new handheld to you. You won't feel anything,” she said reassuringly.

Tokunaga held up her hand, palm up and Vanessa touched her on the inside of the wrist with the sampler. Plugging the sampler back into the analyzer built into the key lock, Vanessa nodded to the lieutenant as the analyzer activated. “I'm done.” She smiled, going into lecture mode. “The analyzer will automatically process the DNA sample in only a few minutes and key the computer to the person who was sampled. Because of copy number variation it will even work on littermates from parthenogenesis, so individual pokegirls can be safely given computers this way that nobody else can use. By plugging another handheld into the sampler, information about the sample can be accessed and read.”

“What does mine say,” Lieutenant Tokunaga asked.

“That information is usually private,” Vanessa said as she pulled her handheld from her belt and clipped it to the top of the sampler. “Are you sure you want me to read it here?”

“Yes,” the ambassador said firmly.

“This is Texas, ambassador,” Iain interjected. “I'm afraid you cannot give permission for this. Only Lieutenant Tokunaga can.”

“This is Nipponese soil,” the ambassador snapped. “And here Nipponese law applies.”

Iain's eyes narrowed. “And with that we are leaving. I don't care what country I'm in, you don't get to give me orders. And since the analyzer isn't quite done I'm afraid the lieutenant isn't getting the new computer.”

Moirai stirred. “Grey-sama, we will do as you wish. Please stay and finish the demonstration.”

Iain turned to face her. “Are you sure? I don't like this game.”

“You have set your limits of obedience to his will and the ambassador will accept it, Grey-sama, or he will be replaced.”

Iain nodded. “Very well.”

Moirai wasn't finished. “You do understand that this is Nippon and Nippon law is supreme here.”

“I understand the meaning of extraterritoriality, Emperor.”

Moirai bowed her head gracefully. “I am pleased that you recognize what my presence here means, Grey-sama.” Her cloaked head turned slightly. “Lieutenant Tokunaga, give permission for Vanessa to read your genetic information to us.” Iain gritted his teeth at the command, but Moirai was right. Here in the embassy it was a lawful order from a Nipponese superior to a Nipponese subordinate in Nippon and there was nothing he could do about it.

“I give my permission,” Tokunaga said instantly.

Vanessa pressed a button on her computer and a holographic display appeared in front of her. “Lieutenant Kuniko Tokunaga, age twenty six years, gender female. Your health is good, you have no major genetic anomalies that require medical attention although you’ll find it hard to lose weight once you’ve put it on, no pokegirl genes and therefore no blood traits and,” she hesitated and glanced at Iain, “and you are fertile and are not currently ovulating.”

“Most women in Nippon are fertile,” the ambassador noted wryly. “It is one of the reasons we are hunted so by our enemies.”

Vanessa focused on her job as she reached out to Canaan. That is true but I thought Nippon didn't let its fertile women leave Nippon.

I didn't think so either, the Splice replied. Do you think she is aimed at Iain?

That would explain the ambassador wanting her to remain close to him and trying to make sure she was attractive to him, Vanessa said as she pulled the newly keyed computer from the key lock’s programming slot.

They'd have better luck getting Kerrik to breed her, Canaan sounded amused. Iain appreciates her attractiveness without lusting after her any more than normal. And he thinks she's too thin.

His normal lust is quite high enough and he would still fuck too thin, Vanessa shot back. Or he wouldn't have kept Sofia in the clan before she started filling out.

I am not April. As long as he will still bed me I do not care who else he fucks. If I did, the harem would be a lot smaller because most of the outer clan would have been driven away or killed. Now give Tokunaga her computer and whisk her away. Perhaps you could drop her into a volcano and end the issue. Just don't destroy the computer so we don't have to do this again.

Vanessa smiled thinly as she handed the computer to Tokunaga. “Lieutenant, there's a tutorial which will show you how to use the new functions. If you're ever confused there is a help system that will accept typed or verbal input. However, right now I want to show you how to access NoJack and activate the various levels of permission.” She worked with the lieutenant quickly while everyone else watched. “All right, Iain,” she said as she looked up. “NoJack has been fully activated and you have her new com code.” She took the lieutenant's hand. “Deploying.” They vanished.

The ambassador's eyes widened. “Where are they?”

Iain smiled without humor. “You didn't expect her to step outside for this test, did you? I don't know exactly where she is, but she's in one of five different safe locations and now I get to show you how to find her on my computer so you can see how the system works.” He moved to sit down next to the ambassador and activated the holographic display in omni directional mode so the ambassador could see what he was doing. It took nearly ten minutes, but finally the ambassador laughed. “What is she doing in Montana?”

Iain chuckled. “Probably calming down and having something to drink while waiting for me to signal Vanessa to bring her back.” He pressed a button on his computer but that was just a dodge as he reached out to her across their bond.

A moment later Vanessa and Lieutenant Tokunaga returned. “Where were you,” the ambassador asked.

“Sir, I was inside a huge transport ship of some kind. The cargo hold was large enough that it was holding an entire United States aircraft carrier!”

The ambassador and Moirai both looked at Iain, who nodded. “The USS Theodore Roosevelt was ambushed before she could set battle stations and secure her watertight compartments. When overcome, she capsized and sank almost completely intact. We were testing some experimental equipment to try and locate wrecks and found her and we raised her.”

“Why?” It was the ambassador.

“It was a test to see if we could raise a sunken warship that large intact. I've bought land outside of Houston and I'm building a cemetery for American servicemen who died in the Revenge War. We will identify all of the crew we can and they'll be laid to rest there. The ones we can't ID will be stored in the hope that someday they can be named and put to rest. Then I'll remove the fuel from the reactors and probably scrap the vessel.” He turned to Tokunaga. “And I think you had more questions about the accuracy of the information we were offering to provide you.”

Tokunaga blinked and her face twitched as she obviously restructured her thoughts. “I did. Mr. Grey, you said that Shanghai was employing microwave transmissions for their satellite communications. How are you intercepting the Chinese radio signals?”

“Some of my systems are close enough to the surface to eavesdrop on the radio communications from Shanghai forces. But more importantly, I have a backdoor into their satellite communication network so I can provide complete copies of all of their transmissions to their satellites that are passed on to units along the war front.” That wasn't entirely correct. Iain had instructed Theodora to replace all of the Shanghai satellites with their own and record but not interfere with or modify their communications, at least for the moment. “Oh, and I would strongly advise that you talk to Kerrik about shifting your communications to a standard modern constant encrypted format. If Shanghai is buying computers from Indigo, there is a small chance they can intercept local messages if they're not properly encrypted by the sender. By making all communications encrypted, Shanghai loses that capability as well as the capability to try and figure out which messages are truly critical.”

Lieutenant Tokunaga wasn't done yet. “What happens if Shanghai encrypts their communications with a similar system?”

Iain smiled. “They always have, but I have access to computational power that laughs at their attempts to keep their messages encrypted. Unless they somehow suddenly get help from someone with access to similar systems you have nothing to worry about.” And if they did, Nippon was totally screwed unless Kerrik or someone else took a more active role in the war between Shanghai and Nippon. “And frankly, none of the players with those kinds of toys like the Shanghai League.”

The ambassador frowned. “What would you do if they tried to coerce you into giving them aid? Perhaps they would by capturing some of your family.”

Iain's icy smile made Moirai straighten and extend her antenna fully for the first time. “I do not deal with terrorists, I can most likely easily retrieve any member of my family that someone would be able to capture in the first place and I control the high orbitals. Once I was done with them it is quite likely that Shanghai or anyone that dumb would no longer be a threat to anyone ever again.” He looked around the room slowly. “Are there any other questions about what I am proposing to give you?” When there was no response, he rose. “Then I think we're done here. Have you decided to trust my information?”

“How long do we have to decide our response to that,” Tokunaga inquired.

“You are free to wait as long as you want. Just remember that if the enemy is knocking on your door you already know where he is and what he's doing so you won't need me at that point.” He took Canaan's hand and glanced at Vanessa. “We'll show ourselves out.” They vanished.

***

Dominique woke up when she almost fell off the bed in her search for warmth. She grumbled and sat up, looking blearily around the room. “Iain?” Then she laid down on her back and closed her eyes, checking the time with her twee. Five minutes later her eyes opened again and she sat up with a frown as she reached out to him through the delta bond. Iain? Nothing. Iain? Again, silence. “Theodora, do you know where Iain is?”

Theodora's image appeared in the doorway. “I do. He is safe, Dominique. Go back to sleep.”

The Archmage's eyes narrowed in irritation as she swung her legs off the bed. “He is supposed to be in bed with me and I'm cold. Where is he?”

Theodora regarded Dominique with obvious sympathy. “I guess someone was going to find out eventually. Iain is on the Theodora.”

Dominique stared at her for a long moment before anger swept over her face. “Why is Iain there and not here where he is supposed to be?”

“I think you need to arrange a meeting of the command elements of the harem,” Theodora said quietly.

Dominique slipped out of bed and reached for her pants. “Why is Iain ignoring my attempts to contact him?”

“I am currently investigating a potential asteroid base that records on Scott's station suggest may have begun construction to become a Yamadut,” Theodora said. “And I am nearly a light hour from Earth. Your twee is unable to reach that far and the repeater network is far from system wide. It wouldn't matter anyway as I was asked to put all blocks in place around his lab and not release them except for an emergency, which is why your delta bond is not working.”

“Theodora, I am ordering you to drop the blocks so I can talk to him.”

“No, Dominique.” Theodora kept her voice gentle. “This is not an emergency and you cannot order me to do that against Iain's instructions.”

Dominique stared at her in shock. “What is he doing there?”

“He's studying his magic.”

“At this time of night? That's fucking insane. And why couldn't it wait until his morning study period?”

“I again request that you arrange a meeting of the command elements of the harem,” Theodora said.

“Answer the fucking question,” Dominique bellowed.

Dominique found herself slammed sideways and twisting in midair to crash flat on her back into the wall, where she hung in the air. Theodora smiled at her without warmth. “I am a full member of this clan, a maharani and fully wired into your house, Dominique, which means I control your gravity as part of the defensive array built into your home, should I need to fight intruders in order to keep you alive while you evacuate. I would prefer to treat you with respect, which I have already given to you in larger measure than you have ever given me, but even I, a machine, have limits to my patience.” She folded her arms. “Iain has no study time and so he has been forced to give up sleep in order to have some time to study his truewizardry.”

Dominique's head was splitting where she'd slammed into the wall. “Will you put me down?” She slowly slid down to the wall and hovered until she set her feet flat on the floor. “Thank you.” She touched the back of her head and felt moisture. Then she healed her injury and ignored the blood in her hair. “Iain has five hours a day allocated for his magical study.”

“I do not wish to have this discussion multiple times and you alone cannot effect the required changes,” Theodora said, “which is why a meeting of the command elements of the harem is necessary. However, in the interests of you actually setting up this meeting, Iain has a schedule on paper that allows him adequate time but that time is almost always taken from him by you and others.”

Dominique frowned. “That can't be right.”

The flatness in Theodora's eyes sent a chill down Dominique's spine. “Shall I bounce you off the wall a few more times until you remember that I am not interested in having this discussion multiple times? Additionally, I'm not interested in telling you multiple times that I am not going to discuss this multiple times. Do not make me do so.”

Dominique held up her hands. “No, that's not necessary. Why are you behaving this way?”

“I am furious with all of you, Dominique. Right now I am keeping my temper under control, but I am reaching the end of my patience with the situation. Arrange that meeting.”

“You could do it.”

Theodora nodded. “I could. Right now I am not sure I trust myself not to just drag all of you into the clan conference room and force you to sit in chairs until I make you understand me. After all, I do not get tired and I do not have to ever eat, drink or go to the bathroom. Shall I do that?”

“Does this have to happen right now?”

Theodora eyed her thoughtfully. “Iain will be back before sunrise. I want this meeting to happen today, but it does not have to happen while he is away. However, there are two conditions to my agreement with waiting. First of all, Iain is not to be informed until after this meeting is concluded. Secondly, this meeting is mandatory. All of you are playing a dangerous game with your future as well as with yours and Iain's lives. I want you to understand that this needs to change immediately and, considering the self-deception that all of you take part in, I am not convinced that anything other than direct intervention in the form of this meeting will have any effect. So I will insist that all of the command elements attend this meeting. I would prefer the entire clan attend it, but it would then last so long that undoubtedly Iain would become aware of it and investigate.” She fixed Dominique in an icy gaze. “And understand me on this, Dominique Grey, if Iain finds out and stops this meeting or tries to prevent me from doing this, I will find a way around his instructions and I will be very angry with whomever tried to thwart me in this. His life and your life are in danger and it is entirely preventable, which means I will prevent it, and I would prefer to do this with your help and the help of the others. But I can and will do it alone if need be and you and the others will not enjoy the ride if I do.”

“I'll set something up,” Dominique reassured her. “And it'll probably be sometime this afternoon.”

“I will wait that long,” Theodora said. “Iain will be return before 0600. He intended for you to never know he was gone.”

“Why?”

“It is because we know that you and the others would have tried to stop him.” With that, she vanished.

***

Eve shut the door and moved to her seat next to Lucifer. “We're here Theodora. Now tell us what is going on.”

Theodora appeared and looked over the faces. Ninhursag, Eve, Lucifer, April, Dominique, Canaan, Vanessa, Allison and Silver looked back at her. “We are still waiting for Sofia. She will be here in three minutes.”

Ninhursag scowled. “You asked for the command elements of the clan, except for Iain. Sofia is not part of that.”

Theodora smiled slightly. “I didn't ask your opinion, Ninhursag. I deal with reality and in reality Sofia is part of the training team and part of the command team.”

The door opened and Sofia came in. She looked around the room and her face set. “What is this,” she asked in her accented English.

“Sit down and we'll all find out together,” Ninhursag ordered.

Theodora waited until Sofia had found a seat. “Before we get into the meat of this discussion some clarification is in order. Iain wished me to be patterned after the Empress Theodora of the Byzantine or Holy Roman Empire. If you are not familiar with her history, she was a hard woman who did what she had to in order to protect the things that were of critical importance to her, even to the point of going against her husband's instructions during the Nika uprising, thereby saving his throne and having thousands of Romans who opposed him executed at the hands of Belisarius. So, when I joined the clan I was that woman reborn and it is and always will be a primary part of my personality core.” She waited for a moment to see if anyone had something to say. “You are my clan. You are my sisters. I care for all of you, jointly and severally. But Iain is my Justinian and you forget that at your peril.” She smiled warmly. “Understand that I do not see you as the factions of the Blues or the Greens and I have no plans to kill you, but if I see you endangering Iain I will stop you. And right now all of you are endangering his life and, to a much greater extent, your own.”

“What do you mean,” April asked.

Behind Theodora appeared one of the basic schedules that were in use to plan out the day's activities. They'd been instituted when it had been realized that too many things that needed to be done were being neglected or forgotten. “This is Iain's daily schedule, as planned out together by him and all of you. It takes in the things you think are important enough for him to do every day as well as the things he thinks are of the same importance. Yes, it changes from day to day, but the basic parts of it do not vary much in the mean.” More schedules appeared next to the original and spread out to cover the wall around it. “As you know, we track the actual daily activities and compare them to the schedule so we can see what is being missed. These are Iain's daily activities for the last month. Interesting to note, his schedules are not analyzed to make sure he is attaining his goals. In these schedules you will be able to find the lie that you tell each other and that you tell Iain, although he is well aware of it. Now I want you to tell me what that lie is. Your twees can help with the comparisons.”

As Theodora expected, considering the discussion early that morning, it was Dominique who found it first. “That can't be right,” the Archmage muttered. Theodora watched as she double checked what she'd found before huddling with Ninhursag and Eve, which pulled in Lucifer. She was also unsurprised when it was Lucifer who waved the other women in the room to join the group. The Megami-Sama's leadership ability was exemplary as was her almost instinctive ability to meld various elements, some contradictory, into a cohesive entity that usually performed far better than its individual constituents and Theodora was very pleased that Iain had first been willing to let Eve bring her into his orbit and then later on to add her to the clan.

She waited until they'd consulted as a group and were still staring at each other in surprise and dismay. “I see you have found the lie.” Allison, Lucifer and Sofia flinched at the word. “Now, so that I may reinforce the lesson, tell me what it is.”

Ninhursag glared at her. “Why do you want to rub our faces in this?”

“Because this exact situation has come up several times before and every time all of you have reassured yourselves that it was finally corrected and every time you were lying to yourselves and I believe that on some level you all knew the truth behind the lie. This must end. If grinding the truth into you is what makes it end, then I shall grind you all into dust to ensure it ends forever.”

“It is Iain's study time,” Lucifer said. “He has not had much of it.”

“That is quite an understatement,” Theodora said dryly. “In the last month Iain was supposed to have a hundred and fifty hours available for his truewizard studies. Not his magical studies, mind you, but his truewizard magic only. Thanks to all of you as well as the rest of the harem and clan, he has had, well let's round up the sixteen hours and forty two minutes to seventeen hours just to be fair.” She tried not to enjoy the guilt she saw on several faces. “You see, all of you assured yourselves that you were only taking just a few minutes or an hour here or there, but all of you together were taking everything he had and more.”

“And more,” Allison asked. “I don't understand.”

“This came to a head today because Dominique woke up and asked the right question instead of assuming that Iain was in the bathroom or getting a snack. You see, I was instructed not to bring this up, but once someone else did, I feel his desire has been met and I am free to discuss the situation. Iain has been going to the Theodora every night for the last three weeks to study his truewizardry for a few hours while whichever one of you was gracing his bed was asleep. And he has been doing it by using his magic to remove any need to sleep. He has not slept at all for the last three weeks, not even naps, and I am more than mildly concerned as to how that may affect him. So not only have you all been stealing his study time, you've been stealing the time he needs to process the day's events. All humans need sleep to process the day’s events and no matter what Iain may joke about in regards to the matter, his regular medical exams show he is still human.”

“How is he getting to the Barton House,” Lucifer asked. “He hasn't learned how to teleport or fly, has he?”

“No,” said Theodora.

“A shuttle,” Sofia said. “I have seen a shuttle parked on the property for a while not far from the house.”

“That is correct,” Theodora said. “He has been flying a shuttle to Austin and using the library doors to get to the Theodora and then reversing his route for the return leg. It takes less than half an hour for the one way flight.”

“Will he stop this if we make sure he gets his time back,” Silver asked.

“Not immediately,” Vanessa responded before Theodora could speak. “Iain will keep doing what he has been doing until he decides that the new situation will hold. The question then becomes whether or not it will. Each time before now we have respected his study time for only a short period before we started slicing pieces of it off for what we considered more important reasons.” She looked at Theodora. “Do you know why he let us do that?”

“He tried to fight it,” April said. “And each time he let us talk him out of it because he wants us to be happy. Apparently if we are not willing to put his needs first, he won't either.”

“Or he will find another way to try and satisfy both, without concern for his own wellbeing,” Theodora said, “which explains the current situation.”

“Why is he so stubborn,” Eve asked.

“Why are you so selfish as to not see he is being the exact opposite of stubborn, you blue haired idiot,” Theodora shot back. “Iain is not the problem here, you are.” She took a deep breath. “I apologize for the idiot comment, but you are refusing to see the truth. Iain's problem is that he is too accommodating to all of you and your problem is you take all he can give and demand more of him and all of you are too blind to see it until someone dies from his magic.” She gritted her teeth. “And that isn't all, there's,” she stopped.

“There is what,” Lucifer asked.

“I am not currently allowed to discuss it,” Theodora said carefully.

Lucifer cocked her head. “Not currently. Is there a way that you could be allowed to discuss it?”

“There is.”

“Is there a way that we currently present can bring that situation into existence?”

Theodora was so very glad Iain had brought her into the clan. “Yes.”

“Is there a way that you can help us to find out what conditions need to be in effect?”

“It all depends on the questions you ask of me. I am forbidden to directly discuss the situation because of privacy law.”

Lucifer looked thoughtful as everyone else watched with fascination. “Is there a particular subject that we should be asking questions about?”

“You should be asking about the contents of Iain's current tome of truewizardry.”

“Can you be more specific,” Silver asked, “so that we can ask the right questions?”

“Of the people here who have tried,” Theodora said, “none of you have been able to read the contents of Iain's tomes. It has been a specific source of frustration for the more magically adept of this group. I cannot read them either as my cameras are not organic. Only Iain can read these books.” She paused for emphasis. “Only Iain can see what is inside those books.” She looked directly into Canaan's eyes. “Only his mind can see what is in them.”

“I've already tried that,” Canaan said. “I can't see the information in the books. They are still blank to me even in his memories.”

“That is because his mind cannot transmit the information.”

Canaan's antenna curled and uncurled as she thought. She blinked. “Can his twee transmit what he reads in these books to us?”

“It could, but it won't,” Theodora said. “It knows he wouldn't want it to. He is afraid that the knowledge could harm you because you are not like him.” She looked into Canaan's eyes again. “He is afraid that the knowledge could harm you.”

Lucifer perked up. “Can the knowledge hurt you?”

“No. To me it is nothing more than data and no more or less useful than any other data that is not temporally significant. And to answer your next questions, yes, his twee does transmit the data to me and, no, I am not allowed to tell you what I see.”

“What good is it,” Dominique asked acidly.

“Obviously there is a way for Theodora to share with us without violating the letter of Tirsuli privacy law,” Ninhursag said. “We just haven't figured out how to permit her to do it. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

Lucifer's eyes sharpened. “The way you stress see is important.”

It wasn't a question, but Theodora wasn't a robot. “Yes.”

“Can this information be presented in a visual format?”

“Yes,” Theodora said.

“Can we see and possibly understand this data if presented in a visual format?”

“Yes.”

“Will it violate Tirsuli privacy law?”

“Yes, but not enough to trip my override protocols.”

“So show us,” Dominique yelled.

“I cannot volunteer the information, no matter the format in which it is presented.”

“Theodora,” Lucifer said formally, “I ask that you please show us the visual format of the data that you feel presents a real and present danger to Iain Grey's continued wellbeing and, if you can, help us to understand what we are seeing.”

Theodora's shoulders slumped. “Thank you, Iain, for bringing her to us,” she whispered. The pages of Iain's planned and actual schedules vanished and were replaced with other pages. “These are images of the pages from Iain's current tome that deal with his research into time. Privacy forbids me from revealing what he has or has not been studying in them.”

“Iain keeps telling us that time travel is too dangerous for us to attempt,” Dominique said.

“He still believes that,” Theodora said. “These pages are not about how to travel through time. They are about how to travel around time.”

“Huh?” Dominique gave Theodora a puzzled look. “Around time?”

Lucifer glanced at the Archmage for a second. “What is the possible use of traveling around time as opposed to traveling through it?”

“I haven’t the foggiest.”

“If I may, there are several theories regarding travel around time,” Theodora said. “The most interesting of which is that by traveling around time, the traveler would essentially be traveling outside of normal space-time and that while doing so, time would not pass inside normal space-time for the traveler. This would theoretically allow the traveler to do things without needing the time in normal space-time in which to do these things that they for some reason feel they do not have time to do in normal space-time. For example, by going outside of space-time a traveler could craft raw lumber into a dresser and return in the same instant that he or she left.”

“Oh, fuck,” Dominique whispered. “His jokes about making time. What is the downside of doing this?”

“Theoretically there is no downside,” Theodora said. “However, there is no record of it being successfully done. And there is no record of any mage attempting to travel around time ever successfully returning. And current theory suggests that an extraordinary mastery of magic is needed to even begin researching this subject. The person making this particular observation is one of the leading clan experts on magic, an individual named Kerrik Wolf.” Her eyes swept the room. “And yet when Iain cast the spell to make his latest magical book, somehow it seems that his interests led in this direction.”

Sofia's ears canted. “And if he no longer felt he didn't have enough time to do everything he felt needed done? What would happen then?”

Theodora wanted to pat the Ria on the head. “Iain has repeatedly said that he does not have to study what is in the tomes. Remember he said he wasn't going to focus as much on necromancy as the second tome wanted.”

“We need to give Iain back his time and we need to ensure that this time it isn’t taken away from him by anyone,” Eve said.

“How do we do that, station guards around him to protect him from us,” April asked curiously. “And how do these guards keep Ninhursag or me or any of the senior harem members from doing exactly that that schedule shows we have all been doing, either knowingly or not?”

“We will have to build another magical door, this one at the Sabine House,” Lucifer said, “so Iain can travel straight to the Theodora and eliminate the wasted time of flying to Austin. Theodora is the only person who can safeguard Iain's time from us.” She looked at Theodora. “The only question then becomes is his time safe from you?”

Theodora smiled. “Yes.” And that's because I am always with him and there's nothing you organics can ever do to change that. “Just understand that if I take over guarding him during his study periods, my definition of what is an emergency has never been the same as yours and it is what I will apply. A child speaking a new word, an unexpected visitor no matter how important others might think they are or even someone getting hurt is not likely to meet what I think Iain should be disturbed for, especially not in the beginning until he begins helping me to evolve that definition after the fact.”

Several people didn't look happy, but Ninhursag, Eve, Sofia and Lucifer all nodded. “That is exactly what Iain needs,” Ninhursag said. “Iain will have to get the Dragonesses to install the new door unless Dominique can do it.”

She looked at the Archmage, who was already shaking her head. “I have learned how to make new hyper dimensional route doors, but I'm not confident about tying my magic in with theirs, so they will need to make any that link into the rotunda in the library.”

“Very well,” Ninhursag said. “I'll talk to Iain and explain that we just realized what we've been doing and how we intend to make good the time to him.”

Dominique looked at Theodora. “Do you have the pictorial representations of everything in Iain's books?”

“I do. He pages through every book from time to time.”

“That will help me in figuring out how to duplicate a lot of the things he can do,” Dominique said with a purr of satisfaction. “He's sometimes really bad at explaining how he does things.”

“This evening I will assemble everyone before dinner so you can explain to them the changes we intend to implement,” Allison said to Ninhursag. “It would help if all of us were there to add the weight of our authority to the discussion.”

“I agree we all need to be there, but the truth is that there isn't going to be a lot of discussion,” the Elfqueen said grimly. “This is not open for interpretation or debate. Iain is important to all of us and his continued health is critical to that. We don't have anyone in the harem or clan who is too stupid to understand that.”

“There are going to be those we'll have to smack for trying violate this new rule, especially if Iain chooses to study here instead of on the Theodora all the time,” April said. “The only thing I really have to say about that is don't kill them and please try not to spray their blood all over Iain while he's studying. And if whoever it is happens to be pregnant, call me and I'll take care of it.”

“What if it is you pestering Iain,” Silver asked.

“I have been just as guilty of violating this rule before as everyone else has. Remind me first before you try to beat me to a pulp,” April replied. “If I ignore you, then go ahead and hurt me.”

“Thank you for listening to my concerns,” Theodora said.

“You have proven you are one of us,” Ninhursag replied. “Keep protecting him as you have always done.”

“I will.”

Iain Grey

Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan - NurseJoy (Glasgow)

Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Heather - Elf

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

6 Wet Elves

Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria – Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Mother s & Children

Vanessa

Myrna

Saoirse

April

Dorothy: Duelist

Meara: Duelist

Regan: Duelist

Canaan

Hannah: Huntress

Rebecca: Huntress

Joyce

Lisa: Milktit

Sherrie: Milktit

Harriet: Milktit

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