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A Little Blue
07/22/09 1000 Scotland
One of the more useful items from the loot of the woodcutters was a nice pair of Zeiss binoculars and now Ciaran looked through them at the pokegirl picking her way through some scraggly vegetable plants that had wild seeded from a larger plot. He looked down at his pokedex and refined his description. “She’s a quadruped and has arm wings. The wings are multicolored and definitely insectile.” The screen changed, removing several options and highlighting the one with the highest probability based on the information he’d given it. It would have been easier to scan her, but she was over a hundred feet away and out of focal length of the optic lens, which doubled as the scanner and the camera for the pokedex.
“What is she?”
He glanced at the tall blonde beside him, hesitating before looking up. The Samhain’s human form was six and a half feet tall and he wasn’t used having to look up to see someone’s face. She had a name, too, Eliana. Her green eyes crinkled with amusement as he grinned with self-embarrassment. “From what I can tell it, the pokedex thinks she’s a Veno-Miss.”
“Is that good?”
He shrugged. “It’s neither good nor bad. She’s feral so we can catch her but her breed won’t affect her price to the Grey family.”
“Then it’s not important to know what she is, is it?”
“It is. She could be one of a handful of breeds that, if we run across them, we will immediately turn and go the other way, hopefully without her ever knowing we were around.”
Eliana cocked her head and grinned. “That makes sense. Are you going to keep her?”
Ciaran looked at her again and decided she was merely curious instead of potentially jealous. “You just joined my family. Are you planning to leave?” She looked surprised before shaking her head in a vehement negation. “Then no, I have no plans to keep her.”
“You won’t give her to the Royals or the Blues?”
Apparently Victoria had briefed Eliana on the current political situation while he was still convalescing. “No, I won’t. Either side would just take her and not pay for her. I have some things I want to purchase from the Greys, so I sell to them. That and I know the girls have a much better chance to be happy with their lot in Texas.” He straightened slowly, wincing as pain lanced through his gut. Victoria’s magic had healed his injuries, but the damage had torn muscle and flesh in ways they were never intended to and apparently some rehabilitation was in order. Victoria had mentioned that lower level healing abilities usually did required some. If her magic had been stronger, he’d have been completely healed and not even had a scar from it. However, she wasn’t and one had to live with what life gave him.
“What do you want to buy?”
“I thought your breed was supposed to be taciturn.”
She frowned as she tugged at the collar of her dress. She’d wanted clothes and they’d looted some houses around the cottage to find something for her to wear. It was sized for a severely overweight woman, so it didn’t fit well and she didn’t like the way it smelled but in her opinion it was still better than being nude. “What’s that?”
“They don’t talk much if they don’t have something to say.”
Her smile lit up her face. “I don’t. I do, however, have something to say now. And that involves getting to know my male. What things you want could be important. What do you want to buy?”
“Among other things, I want a healing machine. It’ll let me heal you while we’re in the field. They’re not too expensive, but my income and half the money I get selling pokegirls to the Greys is going to my family so it's going to take some time before I can get one.”
Eliana frowned again. “We are your family. We have no need of your money.”
He chuckled. “My parents and my sister still live on the family farm. They’re the ones getting my pay. Until recently, they were the only family I had.” He saw a tiny flash of light on the other side of the Veno-Miss and looked through the binoculars again. The flash of light from the tiny mirror his other pokegirl carried came again. “Victoria’s ready.”
Samhain could summon weapons, and Eliana summoned hers as she shifted to her centaur form and trotted forward. The pokedex mentioned swords being the preferred weapon, but Eliana’s weapon of choice was a wicked looking poleaxe with a hammerhead on the reverse side from the axe and a haft seven feet long. The butt of the haft ended in a sharp spike.
Eliana spun the weapon like a baton as she moved deliberately towards the feral, who at first tried to ignore the oncoming Samhain as she crammed tomatoes into her mouth. When Eliana shifted to a canter, the Veno-Miss gulped down what was in her mouth and vaulted into the air, turning away from the oncoming Samhain.
Her path took her over the group of overgrown hedge bushes Victoria was hiding in and her spear shot upwards, skewering the Veno-Miss through the stomach and coming out her back until stopped by the boar guard. The feral shrieked and went into convulsions, crashing into the bushes. The spear vanished just before Victoria’s pokeball hit the Veno-Miss in the chest. When the ball stopped jumping around, Victoria retrieved it and headed for the shady spot where Ciaran and Eliana were waiting.
She handed him the ball. “We should reach Glasgow tomorrow, if you feel up to it.”
Ciaran ignored the concern in her eyes. “I have to work out the tightness and pain, right?” She nodded reluctantly. “Then we will push until I tell you I can’t go any further. I promise I won’t try to deliberately hurt myself more.”
“I could carry you,” Eliana said firmly.
“I need to exercise,” Ciaran shot back. “But you can carry my pack. It's too heavy for me to want to haul around right now.”
"I would like to do that," the Samhain replied.
"Then let's finish looting the garden and get on the road."
07/23/09 0830 Glasgow, Scotland
They’d started seeing farms a few miles outside the city limits of Glasgow. It was obvious to Ciaran, at least after seeing the Grey farm, that the Scotts weren’t using pokegirls to enhance the soil quality, water or accelerate maturation. Ciaran had been so impressed by the Elf and other breeds and their work that he’d suggested in a letter to his parents that they try to convince a couple of farming pokegirls to work for the family farm. His mother’s cool response hinted strongly that she might make his father wait until Ciaran could return home to be their tamer.
His father’s response indicated that he was going to do what Ciaran’s mother wanted him to.
At the edge of Glasgow, construction crews were busy pulling down buildings and using the debris to construct rough walls which, when completed, would surround the city. On the immediate either side of the road the rough walls had been replaced with ones of finished stone with a medieval looking portcullis for the road to pass through and machicolations on the wall. Upon reflection, Ciaran figured that eventually all the hastily built walls would suffer the same fate.
To one side of the portcullis a wooden hut had been constructed and a squad of soldiers and two obvious pokegirls were standing by while a trio of their team checked the line of wagons and people waiting to enter the city. They were being fairly thorough, but it was obvious as Ciaran and his girls waited patiently that they were looking for specific things, probably contraband and pokegirls.
The line moved steadily and soon one of the soldiers turned his attention to Ciaran. “What is your name and what is your business in Glasgow?”
“I am Ciaran Sullivan and I’m on a mission from my employer. It has taken me to Glasgow.”
The soldier frowned, but before he could speak one of the sentry pokegirls called out. “At least one of those women is a pokegirl.”
“Actually, both of them are,” Ciaran said to the gatekeeper, a soldier who was wearing a ratty uniform that didn’t have a name tag. “I’m a Texan and I have authorization from the Queen’s government to have pokegirls of my own.”
The gatekeeper scowled. “What’s a Texan?”
“He’s a Yank,” one of the others said loudly. “I recognize the accent.”
“I am not a Yankee,” Ciaran muttered. “I was born in Texas in the USA, which makes me a Southerner by that definition. But Texas is its own league now and I’ve always been a Texan.”
“I heard that Texas is part of Indigo,” another said.
“They wish,” Ciaran said. “Oh, they can say whatever they want, but the reality is that they’re afraid to attack us and we do not acknowledge them as our overlords and masters.”
“Whatever,” the gatekeeper said. “Our orders are to confiscate all civilian owned pokegirls.”
Eliana instantly changed to her centaur form. The flames coming from the holes in her jack o lantern head roared furious counterpoint to the anger in her voice. “I will not be confiscated.” Victoria shifted slightly to put herself closer to Ciaran.
Ciaran watched the squad level their weapons at them as the civilians around him began scattering and suddenly regretted stashing his M-16 in the pokepack before arriving in Glasgow. On the other hand, its presence would probably just get him killed faster. “Eliana,” his voice snapped, “stand down.” The flames lightened in intensity as he patted her on the hip. “Nobody is getting taken away.” He turned to the gatekeeper and tried to keep his voice light. “I have a letter from your Minister of Defense allowing me to have pokegirls. I think your best option is to have us go stand over there,” he motioned to an out of the way spot, “and send for someone with enough rank to change your orders in my regard.” He shrugged slightly, feigning a calmness that he didn’t feel. “Or at least enough rank to assume responsibility for a major diplomatic incident and absolve you of all blame.”
The man frowned for a moment before turning to the squad. “Carver, go find the captain and tell him he’s needed at the gate immediately. And don’t you screw around while looking for him or I’ll have your hide.”
A man straightened. “Yes, sergeant.”
As Carver trotted off the sergeant jerked a thumb towards the area Ciaran had indicated while trying to calm things down. “You can wait over there.”
An hour later, Eliana had finally relaxed enough to return to human form and Ciaran was teaching her to thumb wrestle while Victoria stood guard. “Ciaran,” she said quietly. Victoria nodded towards the gate when he looked at her. An officer was talking to the sergeant, who was pointing at Ciaran’s group. “A major is coming to see you.” She smiled thinly at something only she could see. “Apparently they’ve already forgotten the lessons we taught them about wearing bright insignia.”
Ciaran patted Eliana on the hands. “Remember what I said.”
She nodded. “I won’t go to my battle form unless you tell me to or I think we’re going to be attacked.”
“You’d better do what I say, too,” Victoria said softly. “If I tell you to do something, you’d better do it.”
Eliana looked at Ciaran. “Should I?”
“For now, yes, unless something I say contradicts her.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” the Samhain said reluctantly. “I still don’t think she should have the right to order me around. She hasn’t earned it.” Victoria shot her a hard look that she studiously ignored.
“We’ll discuss it later,” Ciaran replied as he watched the officer approach. The man was in early middle age and fit, although a slight limp told him that the man hadn’t escaped his years of service completely unscathed. He waited until the man was close enough that greeting him wouldn’t seem defensive. He held out his hand in welcome. “Good morning, major. I’m Ciaran Sullivan.”
The major shook it cheerfully. “I’m Major Paul Macaulay. I understand you claim to have a writ from the Ministry allowing you to have civilian ownership of pokegirls. I need to see it.” Ciaran had it ready and gave it to him. He took what seemed like a long time reading it before looking up at Ciaran. “You must understand that this is highly irregular.”
“With all due respect, major, I must understand that it’s only irregular because I’m not a member of the aristocracy or incredibly wealthy and supporting the Queen.”
Macaulay’s eyes narrowed for an instant before he shrugged. “That doesn’t matter for people like us. It’s unusual for regular civilians to have pokegirls. We don’t have enough of them for the troops as it is.”
“If it would help, I’m not really a civilian. I am a member of the Texas military.”
“You’re a soldier?” Macaulay almost sneered. “You’re not in uniform.”
“I’m not in uniform because a uniform only shows you’ve been trained to fold your underwear in a particular fashion and know how to walk in straight lines,” Ciaran said with a grin. “We in Texas have better things to do with our time and we don’t fight in set piece battles. But fight we do and we’re rather good at it.” His smile faded. “But we’re getting a little beyond the scope of this discussion. War stories can wait for the pub. Are you going to honor the orders of your government?”
“I am, although there is a problem in the fact that your pokegirl threatened members of Her Majesty’s army.” He nodded towards the Samhain.
“I did nothing of the sort,” Eliana retorted.
“I was told you assumed your combat form.”
Ciaran placed his hand on Eliana’s. “We’d just been told that my girls were going to be confiscated.”
Eliana’s eyes narrowed as she ignored his cautioning touch. “I do not threaten. I was preparing to defend us if we were attacked. Threats warn your enemy that you are going to attack. If I’d decided that defense was necessary, I would have killed them all without warning.”
Ciaran gave a pained chuckled. “That’s not exactly how I would have put it, but she’s essentially right. We were threatened and she did change to her combat form but didn’t give any sort of threat, either by voice or body language. We wouldn’t.” He glanced in the direction of the squad in question. “And when they pointed all their weapons at us, frankly I’d have been happier to have a combat form myself. Their behavior was a threat.”
“I’m sure that if I asked them, they’d say they were only defending themselves,” Macaulay replied. “In any event, no one was confiscated and no one was injured and that’s what’s important. I do have a question, though. We were sent word to expect you several days ago. What took you so long?”
“I had an accident and we had to stop off so I could rest for a bit.”
“I see.” Major Macaulay looked at the laminated paper again. “There does seem to be a small problem though. We were told you only had one pokegirl and now you have two.”
Ciaran had been expecting this and was prepared. “And my authorization doesn’t have a limit on the number of pokegirls I can own on it, does it?”
“No, no it doesn’t.” Macaulay handed it back. “And the fact that it doesn’t means that I’d recommend you keep that with you at all times.”
“Trust me when I say I will.”
“I’ve got instructions to escort you to our transient housing. This evening you’ll be dining with me and some of the officers of the garrison. Tomorrow you’ll meet with the garrison commander and the Lord Provost’s aide.”
Ciaran blinked. “What on earth was in the message you received? I’m not anyone important; I’m just a farm boy from North Texas on a mission from my employer. You want to fete someone, get Iain over here. I don’t even know what fork is for seafood.” He flashed a smile. “According to my sister I may not even know food can be eaten with things other than my fingers.”
Macaulay laughed. “It sounds like your sister and mine might have a great deal in common. Don’t worry; tonight I and my fellows will coach you on what to do tomorrow.”
“I’m sure you’re all great instructors, but I think I’ll worry anyways.”
Macaulay motioned and they started towards the gate. “That just shows you’re not stupid, Sullivan. I’d worry too. As long as you own a cummerbund you’ll be fine.”
07/24/09 0800 Glasgow, Scotland
When Macaulay arrived to take them to breakfast, he had an attractive middle aged black woman with him. She too wore a British Army uniform. Ciaran made a mental note to learn British Army rank tabs, and soon. “Sullivan, this is Lieutenant Baker. She’s going to be your escort and military contact here in Glasgow.”
Baker gave him a professionally neutral smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Sullivan.”
Ciaran nodded to her. “And it’s nice to meet you too, lieutenant. Please forgive me as I am a blunt person but do I really need a caretaker?”
She glanced at the major. Apparently he was going to let her handle it, so she nodded. “You do unless you’re willing to wear a British military uniform. You’ll get in too much trouble wandering around dressed as a civilian and with pokegirls.”
“I see. And would you be willing to give me rank equivalent to that of your most senior military officer?”
She blinked. “Of course we would not. Why would you want something like that?”
“Because otherwise someone with rank tabs which outrank mine will eventually decide he can give me orders. At that point I’ll tell him what he can do with those orders and I’ll be in trouble again.”
She gave a surprisingly warm laugh. “Then, Mr. Sullivan, I think you’d need a handler whether you wore one of the Queen’s uniforms or not.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Ciaran said with a grin. “If I get to wear one of the Queen’s uniforms I don’t think anyone would bother me.”
Her eyes widened and then she gave him a wry smile. “She’s too short for her clothes to fit you.” Beside her Macaulay made a choking noise and her smile vanished like a soap bubble popping. “The first thing we’ll do today is take care of some administrative issues that, hopefully, will smooth your passage through Her Majesty’s kingdom.”
“That would be very nice, but don’t I have a meeting with the Lord Provost’s aide and the garrison commander?”
Baker shook her head. “There’s been a raid to the south by the rebels and Brigadier Tomlinson and the rest of the RHF command staff have been called away. The Lord Provost and his staff will be in meetings all day to see what can be done to improve Glasgow’s defenses.”
“What’s the RHF?”
Victoria spoke before Baker could. “The Royal Highland Fusiliers are the regiment protecting this part of Scotland. They remained loyal to Queen Anne II during the Blue Revolt and were the least damaged of the British Army units during the Revenge War.”
Macaulay’s eyes narrowed. “You know a lot about us, pokegirl.”
Victoria seemed unfazed by him. “We were enemies once, major. We’re not anymore, and I have nothing but the highest respect for the way the Fusiliers have conducted themselves both during the Revenge War and now.” She glanced at Ciaran and relaxed when he winked. She knew he was aware she’d kept up on the units as part of keeping safe from them while working as a prostitute to stay sane.
Ciaran decided it was time to change the subject to something a little safer. “Can we go to breakfast now? I’m starving.” Besides, he was hungry and Eliana’s stomach was growling. “Afterwards we can deal with whatever paperwork needs to be filled out so I can get back to my job.”
07/24/09 1030 Glasgow, Scotland
After breakfast, Major Macaulay had excused himself. Lieutenant Baker then led Ciaran and his girls to an office in a government building in the center of Glasgow. Several desks filled the space to almost overflowing and men and women sat at them, either talking on telephones, writing, or typing on manual typewriters. She pointed at an empty desk. “Collect some chairs and sit down in front of my desk while I get the typewriter set up.” Once everyone was settled, she looked at Ciaran. “There’s no information on you available, so I’ll have to start with you. What’s your full name?”
He didn’t want to give up the information, but he knew that he had to go along with their silly rules for a while. “Ciaran Declan Sullivan.”
She typed for a moment. “What is your date of birth?”
“I was born on January 12, 1986 in Texas.” He smiled. “That makes me a Capricorn.”
She didn’t look up from the typewriter. “What are the names and breeds of your pokegirls?”
Victoria gave Eliana a hard look as the Samhain opened her mouth and she subsided. “I am Victoria Sullivan and I am an Angel. This is Eliana Sullivan and she’s a Samhain.” She glanced at Ciaran and muttered in a low voice, “as if that means anything to her.”
“It doesn’t,” Baker said, looking up for the first time. “But I have to document it.”
“You have better hearing than most humans,” Victoria said with surprise.
“I know,” Baker replied with a slight smile. “It’s stood me in good stead.”
“Hey,” Ciaran said speculatively, “what’s your first name?”
The smile vanished. “Lieutenant.”
He shook his head. “No, it’s not. What is it?” When she just looked at him, he shrugged. “Then I dub you Babette. Lieutenant Babette Baker.”
Baker glared at him. “You can’t change my name. I am not a pokegirl.”
“I’m just giving you a placeholder name until I learn your real one. Of course, Babs, by then it may be too hard for me to remember your real name.”
Her glare intensified. “My name,” she said through gritted teeth, “is Tamsin. But you’ll call me by the benefit of my rank.”
“I am not British,” he shot back, “and I’m not in your military. As long as I don’t hurt anyone else, I do what I want. If you insist on being my handler and being called Lieutenant, then we are going to have a problem. I don’t want a handler. I don’t need a handler. If I’m going to tolerate a handler, then you’d better be willing to meet me at least half way. If you don’t, then unless you’re willing to sleep on the floor in front of the door to my room you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to find out where I disappeared to.”
“Wouldn’t help,” Eliana muttered.
Baker leaned back in her chair and fixed Ciaran with a hard stare. “When you entered the United Kingdom, you agreed to follow our laws.”
“I did nothing of the sort and that’s completely beside the point in this situation.”
Her glare didn’t soften. “Explain.”
“I never signed anything acknowledging British law as being absolute. I read all of the fine print on anything I’m given. But, there is no law that says I need a keeper because I have pokegirls. There’s no law that says you have the right to steal pokegirls at all. That was an administrative decision made by someone who decided that the military needed more pokegirls and that the most expedient way to get them was by crippling your civilians. On top of that, according to British law, pokegirls are property and so this rule deprives people of their property and violates natural law. It also violates civil law since there’s no due process. On top of that, rich and influential civilians are allowed to have pokegirls and they don’t need keepers. So this is just a special decision made for me, it’s not a law of any sort, even one I don’t recognize, and so I feel no reason to accommodate you when your demands get silly. And if you and your leaders don’t like that, kick me and my girls out of your country.” He shrugged. “I have been willing to go along with a lot of this so far, please remember that. I only dug in my heels when you informed me I was going to call you lieutenant the whole time I’m in Glasgow.”
Her glare faded a little. “From what I’ve heard, that’s true enough.”
“I don’t have any reason to be too unreasonable. I have a job to do and getting ejected from the UK would not help me to perform that job. But there is a line across which I will not dance as a puppet for your entertainment.”
Her glare became interest. “I hadn’t been told this. What’s your mission?”
“I’m not surprised your government is playing ‘I have a secret’ from its own people. I’m here to do a survey of certain parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. My employer is interested in investing in the UK and also in keeping the rebels from taking control of the country. Texas doesn’t have troops to spare and wouldn’t be interested in intervening even if it did, but my employer feels that by investing in the infrastructure of the United Kingdom he can make it easier for the Queen to wage war against the Blues. So he gave me a list of places to inspect and then report back to him as to my opinion of the feasibility of investment.”
“So he’s a British patriot?”
Ciaran knew the answer to that question and also knew that Baker probably wouldn’t like that answer. “I know he spent some time in the UK and Ireland and he has a lot of respect for the people in both places. He thinks this will help them.”
“Do you feel the same way, Mr. Sullivan?”
“I’ve only been here a little while. I’ve almost been shot, had my hotel set on fire and was nearly blown up by a rebel attack in Dundee. So my opinion of the Blues isn’t that great. I have yet to have a lot of experience with the Royals, so I haven’t formulated much of an opinion of them as of yet.”
Baker had stopped typing and seemed to be genuinely interested now. Ciaran half figured it was an act to draw him out, the whole attractive woman showing interest ploy to draw out a lonely man, and before he’d met Victoria and Eliana it would have had an excellent chance of succeeding even if he’d recognized it for what it was. “Can you tell me more precisely what kind of investments is your employer interested in making? Infrastructure is a very broad word.”
Ciaran nodded. “Well, his primary interest is in farming and ranching. He’s got a breed of sheep that he’s interested in importing. It’s very prolific and the meat can be excellent. As for the farming aspect, well, the Grey family has a glut of agriculture related pokegirls and, while he’s not going to sell them since that’s illegal under Texas law, he’s interested in leasing them out to farmers. They can improve a farm’s production by orders of magnitude. I’ve seen his farm harvest a crop every three weeks. He’d lease them out on a quarterly basis, taking a percentage of the farm’s profits in return. Right now I understand he’s negotiating with your government to ensure your people don’t just come along and scoop up his pokegirls accidentally. I’m supposed to be sounding out farmers so he’s got a clientele already clamoring for his girls.” He shifted in his chair. “There’s a similar program in Texas that’s been very successful. In places we’ve got enough excess food to make it economical to ship it elsewhere in the state. I mean, elsewhere in the league.”
Baker was looking thoughtful. “That would be extraordinarily helpful to the Crown. I’m beginning to understand why you’re being given so much latitude.”
Ciaran smiled. “And by improving your farming to the point that you can feed everyone year round, it’ll free up more people to begin the long process of rebuilding your technological base. That, the pokegirls you’ve been adding to your military, your superior training and your superior morale should allow your government to crush the rebels.” His smile became slightly evil. “And since you won’t be as dependent on waiting for the harvests before you can campaign, you can carry the war to your enemies when they’re least prepared for it.”
She matched his smile. “Yes, you could be right.” She glanced down at the typewriter. “I’ve got a long report to write and I don’t see why you have to remain here while I’m doing it. Unfortunately, I’m supposed to be with you when you go around town, especially in the beginning. If I asked you to return to your quarters and stay there until tomorrow, would you do it? I’ll arrange for food to be delivered to your room.”
“You want me to be helpful,” he asked amusedly. She nodded slowly and he chuckled. “Whether you believe me or not, the truth is that I’m not out to cause trouble unnecessarily. I will see you in the morning?”
“I’m supposed to walk you back to your quarters, but yes, other than that you’ll see me tomorrow.”
“As long as you understand that we are leaving for breakfast whether you show up or not, yes, we’ll do as you ask.”
“Thank you, Sullivan.” She covered the typewriter with a plastic sheet and stood. “Let me take you back now.”
The walk back was uneventful but as soon as the door clicked shut Victoria turned on Ciaran. “I thought you told me that Texas treats pokegirls as people,” she said accusingly, “and now you tell her that the Grey family is going to lease pokegirls to the Royals?”
Ciaran chuckled. “Can I tell the whole story before you accuse me of being a slaver? And, no, I didn’t tell Baker the whole story.”
Victoria cocked her head. “Am I going to like this story?”
“I think you will.”
Eliana plopped down on the bed. “Stop arguing with him and sit down, Victoria. He hasn’t lied to us yet, has he?”
“No, no he hasn’t.” Victoria settled down next to Eliana. “You have the floor, Ciaran.”
“Ok, the short version is that yes, Iain is going to lease agricultural pokegirls to Royal farmers. However, that’s only part of his plan and it doesn’t treat the girls involved as slaves or property. They know what’s going on and they’re willing.” He got himself a glass of water. “You see, the UK, while not a league, has adopted a lot of the ideas about pokegirls that the leagues have. They’re not human, they’re property and they can be stolen from the families they’ve joined. None of that is our way. What I didn’t tell Baker is that while the Greys are providing pokegirls, they’re not providing taming. The farmers will have to tame each of the girls, which of course means the girls will eventually bond to the farmers. Now I wasn’t kidding about the Greys having a glut of pokegirls. Right after I came to work for them, Iain and what he calls the inner harem went on a trip for about a week. I don’t know where they went. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know where they went and I didn’t ask where they went. I only know that when they came back, they brought with them several thousand pokegirls in pokeballs. All of them are sane and a bunch of them are in what April called long term storage, which I understand means they’re not going to go feral.”
Eliana’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Who is this April and what is she to you?”
“She’s one of Iain’s wives, is a pokegirl and, as far as you’re hinting, is not aware that I even exist sexually.”
Victoria turned to Eliana. “Shut up. Ciaran, please continue.”
“These pokegirls are being released in small lots and are being taught by the family what it means to be Texan.” He blinked. “Funny, most of the ones I’ve met have English or Scottish accents.” He shrugged. “Texas farmers who have pokegirls are being taught how to get the most out of their girls and some of the other farming girls have gone to join farming families in Texas, but Texas farmers can only support so many of them and so there are still a lot of pokegirls who don’t have tamers and want them. Iain proposed to some of them that they join families here. The idea is that they’ll help the war effort for the Royals but that they’ll also teach the farmers what it can mean to be free, instead of merely swapping one oppressive government for another. It may take years or perhaps even generations, but a lot of these pokegirls have longevity and Iain and his family are thinking long term about how to change the world. As for the whole idea of leasing them, it was decided that the Royals would be too suspicious of pokegirls who claim they want to come here just because they can. After all, pokegirls aren’t free here and to think that free pokegirls really want to come here and become property would seem ludicrous. So he’ll collect the lease payments for a year or two and then phase them out, claiming he got enough money back and that he doesn’t want to bleed the Royal farmers dry. That will also act as a lure for other Royal farmers who didn’t accept pokegirls from the Greys initially because they didn’t want to pay for them for decades.” He chuckled at the stunned expression on Victoria’s face. “When Iain starts telling me his plans, his thinking is so convoluted that it makes my head hurt.” He grimaced. “And when April and Vanessa trot out their charts showing the percentage of pokegirls that will drop out of the plan because of the desires of their new tamers due to pokegirl adaptive behavior and so how many pokegirls they have to ship to how many farms in order to achieve a particular level of unrest and change, my head really hurts.” The room had a tiny table with two chairs and Ciaran sat down in one of them. “Needless to say, we really don’t want the Royals finding out what’s going on.” He chuckled. “For that matter, what I told you is what I was told, so it’s entirely possible that it’s been completely fabricated so that a telepath can learn it from my mind and nobody here will know what Iain’s real plan is. All I can do is work with what I was told to do, and that’s we want to help the Royals win while subverting them from within. If I start pondering what ifs and what may be, I think my head will explode.”
“I can believe that,” Eliana said. “Are there any women from the Grey family that you have a relationship with?”
“Why is that important?”
“You named other women that I don’t know and I desire to know if I should be jealous of them.”
“No, you shouldn’t. Eve is a Megami-sama and she foresaw that my destiny, at least as far as pokegirls go, lay here in the British Isles. To that end, she and some of her henchgirls went out of her way to keep every pokegirl there away from me.” He shrugged. “Considering that I was willing and some of them were willing I’m still not sure how she succeeded. I think a lot of magic was involved.”
Victoria cocked her head. “Megami-sama can be powerful enough to shift the strands of fortune for certain individuals. If she did this for you, I, personally, am glad she did, otherwise you might not have rescued me and we would then have never met.”
“In retrospect, I suppose I am too.” Ciaran rubbed his eyes. “I wasn’t at the time, though.”
Eliana shifted so she was sitting cross legged. “What are our plans here in Glasgow?”
“We’ll do the survey of the park and then see about arranging to meet with some of the local farmers. For the last part I’m hoping that Tamsin can be of use in coordinating with whatever central planning group governs agriculture.”
“You think there is one?”
Ciaran smiled at Victoria’s question. “Whenever a government decides there’s an emergency the usual response is to gather in as much more power as they can snatch from the populace without inciting open rebellion. If they felt they had the power to force people off their property and consolidate them here, I’m almost certain they established some kind of bureaucracy to manage their resources. Food development and supply is an obvious place to manage with typical bureaucratic efficiency.” He made the last word sound vaguely pornographic.
“And after that?” Eliana rolled her neck in a slow circle.
“After we talk to the farmers we’ll move on. I have a lot of latitude in where we go, but Iain has expressed an interest in how Edinburgh is faring.”
“Why?” Victoria frowned. “I’ve been there and it isn’t anything remarkable. Like all the others, it’s a city that’s mostly empty.”
Ciaran hesitated. “What I am going to tell you next is not be discussed with anyone else unless I clear it in advance, is that understood?” He waited until both ladies nodded. “It’s not really a secret since they were willing to tell me about this, Iain and his family is from a parallel world similar to this one. I don’t know why they left it to come here, but I do know that in their version of this world Edinburgh was destroyed during the war. When he last saw it there was nothing but ruins, some ferals and the dead. Its existence here is a major difference and Iain is curious know as to how things might be unfolding around it.”
“How would things be different?”
“We didn't talk about it, but I think,” he said thoughtfully, “its existence means that the people living there don’t live somewhere else. I’m sure there’s a military garrison and the Blues would like to conquer it. That draws off resources they could have concentrated for other places if Edinburgh didn’t exist. It also draws ferals who otherwise would have gone somewhere else and bothered someone else. I’ll admit that to us we won’t really notice anything different, but if Iain has some history books from this other place and significant deviations from what it says should be pretty obvious.” He looked up when someone knocked on the door. "That's probably our lunch."
Victoria got up. "I'll check. I don't know about you two, but I'm hungry. Let's table this discussion for now."
"What does table mean," Eliana asked.
"It means we won't talk about it for a while, but we will probably talk about it again later," Ciaran explained.
"Then why didn't she say that? All these sayings are confusing."
He chuckled. "Wait until you get to Texas and hear the ones we have." He turned to watch Victoria let a man enter the room with a tray of covered plates. "And now we eat."
07/25/09 0900 Glasgow, Scotland
After meeting them at their quarters, Lieutenant Baker had taken them to the officer’s mess for breakfast, which had consisted of oat porridge. All of the porridge one could eat, but porridge nonetheless. Ciaran had eaten oatmeal every day for over fifteen years while growing up and hated it, but he ate it without comment. It was food and it was free.
There was no honey, sugar or milk to go with it. It didn’t bother him not to have them, but he made a mental note to send the information to Iain in his next report as possible luxury items to export to the United Kingdom.
Eliana made a face when she started eating it, but other than a comment to Ciaran that they’d eaten better food than this on the road she’d been silent while consuming three large bowls of the stuff.
When they were done, Baker looked at Ciaran. “What did you want to do today?”
“We’ve got some shopping to do for Eliana and Victoria. I also want to replenish some of our supplies. We’re almost out of salt and that’s the one thing it’s hard to find scavenging on the road. After that, we’ve got a survey to do at Glasgow Green and then I’d like to get your help in meeting people in your agricultural administration. I want to talk to some of your farmers about some ways to improve their yields exponentially, but I want to go through channels to do it. I’m sure you’ve got some government agency that runs farming.”
“That would be the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The local representative is Peter Buxton.” She thought for a moment. “I should be able to make the arrangements for us to meet with him in a few days.”
“That will work nicely.” He rose and reached for the pack he’d leaned against the wall. Eliana made a grab for it and he slapped her hands away. “Mine.” She stuck out her tongue at him in reply.
Baker watched the exchange with obvious amusement. “Why are you carrying that around? You could just leave it in your room.”
Ciaran strapped the pack on and shifted it until it was as comfortable as it was going to get. “I was injured on the trip to here and some of the muscles that help to hold this up are still weak. This is the best way to strengthen them. Besides, it’s easier to haul it around in town where there are not any threats than in the wilderness.” He grinned. “If I get too tired I’ll hand it off to Eliana.”
“You should give it to her now,” Victoria advised.
“If I intended to do that I should have left it in our room. I didn’t so I get to carry it for a while.” He gestured at the door. “Ladies, we have things to do.”
07/25/09 1115 Glasgow, Scotland
“Why are you staring at her ears?” Victoria kept her voice low as they watched Lieutenant Baker haggling over a purchase.
Ciaran looked surprised for an instant. “Was I that obvious?”
“No, but I pay special attention to you so I noticed.”
“I was admiring her earrings.”
Victoria glanced at him and looked hard at Baker. The lieutenant’s earrings were gold studs enameled with green. The design of the stud was a narrow triangle surmounted by a tiny circle. “You like that?”
She glanced at him. “What aren’t you telling me?”
He flashed a grin. “Lots of things.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “I see. Should I get my ears pierced? Do you find earrings sexy?”
“Not particularly. Besides, you’re sexy enough without any ornamentation. Hers are just interesting.”
Victoria decided to drop the subject. “So, is that pack too heavy for you yet?”
He frowned. “It’s starting to get there. But if I don’t work on strengthening those muscles, I’ll be a liability. I know I’m not a pokegirl and I’ll always be something of a victim, but I’d like to be as little of one as possible.” His face cleared as Baker finished her purchase and headed their way. “You all done?”
She looked slightly embarrassed. “I am. I’m sorry, but it’s been a while since I had a chance to do some shopping.”
He chuckled. “It’s not a problem. My sister is the same way when we get into town. Now it’s off to the park.”
Glasgow Green was a pretty park situated along the north bank of the River Clyde. There were a few monuments scattered around it, including one to Queen Victoria and another to Lord Nelson. Most of it, however, was flat green grass that somehow the Scotts of Glasgow managed to keep looking as manicured as it had before the Red Plague. Ciaran suspected it was sheer stubbornness on their part.
Stopping in the middle of the park, Ciaran looked at Baker. “You know, this is probably going to be pretty boring. If you want, you can go do something else. If we get done early we’ll wait here until you return.”
Baker smiled brightly. “Are you trying to get me to leave so you can do something nefarious?”
“No,” Ciaran said. “I’m not.”
“No matter,” she said as she sat down on a bench. “You’ve piqued my interest. Just pretend I’m not here and carry on with your survey.”
Ciaran was careful not to let the irritation he felt show on his face but from her smirk he suspected Baker knew about it anyways. He had, however, anticipated her response and was as ready for it as he could by prepositioning his pokedex and the sensors in a pocket of his pack. He pulled them out and activated the handheld computer.
Baker leaned forward curiously. “What’s that?”
“Mine.” He followed the GPS directions until they told him to stop, ignoring Baker as she got up and trailed after him. Then he opened the package of sensors and handed them to Victoria. “Place these twenty feet away from me in all directions to form a circle with me at the center.”
She frowned. “Those are pretty specific instructions. What, you think I’m a Bimbo?”
“If you were a Bimbo I’d tell you sit down over there and I’d place the sensors myself.”
She laughed. “Eliana, protect him.”
As she headed off Baker watched her go. “What are you doing?”
“How are we supposed to pretend you’re not here if you keep talking,” Eliana asked in an annoyed tone. “Shut up.”
“Pokegirls are supposed to show humans respect,” Baker said angrily.
“Enough,” Ciaran’s tone was firm. He met Baker’s eyes. “And I mean both of you. Eliana’s right. You told us to pretend you weren’t here and then you kept disturbing our work by reminding us that you are. Eliana, rudeness is never polite, no matter who it comes from. Please apologize to Tamsin for being rude to her.”
Eliana’s green eyes met his for a second before she bowed her head. “I am sorry I was rude to you, Tamsin. You did not deserve being told to shut up.”
“Thanks,” Baker broke off and turned to Ciaran. “Sullivan, did you just insinuate that I was being rude too?”
Ciaran shook his head slowly. “I did not insinuate anything. You were rude by trying to tell Eliana, who is not your pokegirl, how she should behave. I just cannot ask you to apologize to her.”
“Me? Apologize? You do realize what they are, right, Sullivan?”
Ciaran’s eyes cooled. “I do. In fact, it’s very likely that I know what they are much better than you do. Victoria and Eliana are pokegirls who are in my care. They’re also people just as much as you or I are. The only real difference is that they have powers we don’t and they’re handicapped by needing us to keep them sane. Victoria saved my life and I wasn’t conscious to order her to do it, either. Without her I would have either drowned or bled to death, and,” his voice began to rise, “neither situation was her fault. She saved me from an attack by humans. Without her they would have killed me and she would now be alone, as would Eliana. So, while yes, I know they were our enemies a few years ago, that was a few years ago. Today they’re my friends, family, lovers and allies. The fact that you can’t move past that isn’t my or their fault and it certainly isn’t my problem, but I will not let you take out your hate on my family. I wouldn’t if it was my parents or my sister and I won’t with them.”
“I’ve got the sensors in place.” Victoria put her hand on his shoulder. “Is there a problem, Ciaran?” Her tone suggested she was warning him that he needed to consider her question thoroughly.
He didn’t need to and took a long breath before letting it out slowly. “No, there isn’t. Tamsin, you didn’t deserve that rant and I apologize for it. Yes, I think you were rude to Eliana, but it didn’t warrant that response from me.”
Baker was watching him curiously. “What response should you have given?”
“I should have ignored it. It’s not like you’re going to change it if I call you on it. I just find it aggravating that the Royals are subjugating the very people who can protect you from the Blue League and, to be honest, as far as pokegirls are concerned there’s no real difference between the two groups. Both treat them like dirt.” He shook his head. “If your government treated them like people instead of slaves or pieces of equipment, you have far more motivated defenders. Considering the force disparity between the two groups you’re going to need all the help you can get, but you still cripple your defenses this way.”
Baker scowled. “So we should treat them like people?”
Ciaran eyed her for a second and deliberately misquoted. “ ‘He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a pokegirl. Hath not a pokegirl eyes? hath not a pokegirl hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a human is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?’ ” He smiled grimly. “Wrong them long enough and some of them will rise up and hunt you for that revenge. Once upon a time, the church argued that women didn’t have souls and couldn’t go to heaven. It was as wrong as the way most people in the world are treating pokegirls today.”
She shook her head. “Even if I agreed with you, what can I do? I’m one person.”
“In complete darkness, a single ray of light can be illuminating.” He grinned when she frowned. “My pastor used to say that.”
“He’s dead now.”
Eliana cleared her throat loudly. “We are not surveying.” Her eyes flicked away from Ciaran’s when he looked at her.
He touched her shoulder. She looked at him with an expression that mingled hope and a touch of fear. “Eliana, you are not being rude and,” he smiled ruefully, “you’re right.”
“I was worried. I don’t know what rude is.” She glanced at Baker. “When I told her she was interfering, she was. I was being honest.”
“Yes, you were,” Ciaran admitted. “But the way you told her that she was interfering was rude. You can politely tell someone they’re in the way, and often it works much better at getting them out of the way than being rude does.”
The Samhain looked surprised. “Really?”
“I will try to remember that. Do I have to be polite with you?”
“It would be nice if you were, but no. We’re family and family is open and honest with one another, even if it’s sometimes rude. It’s strangers we’re supposed to be polite to, because they don’t understand our ways and because we feel a little sorry for them for being outsiders.”
“Oh. I think I understand.”
“Good.” He activated his pokedex. “And now we’re scanning. The soil is pretty wet so it’s going to take a couple of minutes to build a profile.”
“Why is that important,” Eliana asked as Baker asked almost the same thing. The two women glared briefly at each other.
Ciaran managed not to laugh as Victoria made a choked off noise that suspiciously sounded like she was doing the same thing. “That’s a good question. We’re using a technique called ground penetrating radar and the distance of penetration is affected by the quality and density of the soil as well as the moisture content. Using many different transmitters at the same time overcomes the problems, but it takes a while to build a profile and then for the software to interpret it so I can better understand what I’m looking at.”
“Why are you doing this,” Baker asked. “Why is your employer interested in what’s underground here? Is there buried treasure or something?”
Ciaran shrugged. One of the things he’d been given by Iain was a directory of stories that he’d called a “site rip” and told to read them when he had time. He’d also said that the answers to a lot of questions Ciaran had were in there. The stories were various levels of entertaining, although one about turning pokegirls into pokegirl food had made his skin crawl. He’d read Where None Has Gone Before and knew what he was looking for here. It also meant he thought knew something else, too, but this time about Tamsin Baker. “Something like that. I really doubt there’s anything here, though.”
Victoria had been leaning over to look at the display on his pokedex. She pointed at it. “You’re wrong! There’s something there!”
Crud. Ciaran gave a mental sigh. He didn't want Tamsin to know there might be something of interest here and he’d intended to announce he hadn’t found anything and then to move on so that Tamsin didn’t come back with a crew to excavate the park until she found something. Later he'd return and dig it up himself. Unfortunately he knew as Baker’s eyes lit up that Victoria had ruined that plan.
“Looks like you’re right. So, Tamsin, do you have a problem with us digging a hole in Glasgow Green?” If she were thinking, she’d eject him and his ladies immediately so she could get a team to retrieve whatever it was without having to worry about his interference.
Apparently, whatever she was thinking about, it wasn’t that. “You must understand that if you find anything valuable, you have to pay the applicable taxes on whatever it is. If it’s illegal, I will have to confiscate it until your employer and my government has a discussion about it.”
“I understand.” Ciaran’s entrenching tool was strapped to the outside of his pack and he took off the pack so he could hand the shovel to Victoria. “You found it so you get to dig for it.” He put the pack on the ground. It was getting to heavy to wear and he was tired of it.
She blinked at him and gave him a look that asked him what she’d done wrong. He cut his eyes towards Baker and then back to her. Victoria’s eyes widened and she flushed slightly. Then she squared her shoulders and unfolded the tool. “Tell me where I’m supposed to dig.” Her tone said she knew she’d screwed up.
He consulted his handheld and stomped on a spot of ground. Obfuscating at this point would be a waste of time, so he didn't bother to pick a wrong location. “Whatever it is, it’s buried here.”
After centuries of care, the Glasgow Green’s soil was soft and rock free, so the digging went quickly. Only a few minutes had passed when she unearthed a small object six inches long and two inches wide. She lifted it with the shovel and offered it to Ciaran with an apologetic smile. “Is this what your scan detected?”
“It is.” He gingerly took the item, relaxing mentally when nothing happened. He wiped enough of the soft mud off of it to reveal a box that was secured with a simple catch on one of the long sides.
Baker leaned forward eagerly. She wasn’t alone in this as both Eliana and Victoria mirrored her movements. “Open it,” she ordered.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” he said cautiously.
“You can open it or I’ll confiscate it and open it myself,” she said ominously. “Now, Sullivan, you open that box.”
Ciaran decided that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, gritted his teeth and opened the box. Inside a padded receptacle was a rectangle of metal with two buttons, one red and the other green, placed on one end of it. “It looks like some kind of controller.” He looked up at Baker. “So, Tamsin, is the appraised value high enough that I have to pay taxes on it?”
Baker stared at it. “What’s it for?”
“How on earth should I know?” He shook his head. “At this point you know as much as I do, and before you ask, I am not going to push either of those buttons.”
Baker held out her hand. “I’m not going to touch that nasty box. Give me the controller.”
“Are you sure about this? It’s a lot harder to accidentally touch the buttons while it’s still in the box.”
“Give it to me, Sullivan. I doubt it’s anything significant. Some angry wife hid the remote to the telly from her husband here.”
Ciaran started to say something and stopped. He pulled the controller from the box and handed it to Baker. As soon as she touched it, light flared from the buttons. A golden globe of light appeared around the four of them. It grew brighter and brighter before flaring and going out to reveal only the disturbed ground from Victoria’s digging and nothing else.
Victoria – Angel
Eliana – Samhain