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The sergeant came to attention. “Colonel Abrams, Colonel Dupuis, sir.”
Abrams nodded. “Let him in Sergeant Macready.”
Dupuis was heavily built with strawberry blond hair and dark brown eyes. A white skinned, white haired and blue eyed girl wearing khaki cargo shorts and a similarly colored t-shirt followed closely behind and took up a guard station near the wall. He nodded to Abrams and held out his hand. “Colonel Abrams,” he said in with a pronounced French accent. “I’m Colonel Dupuis and I believe you were expecting me, sir.”
Abrams stood and shook the hand. “I’m Francis and have a seat, colonel.”
Dupuis smiled. “I’m Alexandre-Etienne.” He sat. “I would like to give you my congratulations on your new assignment, even if it is temporary. I have, of course, heard of you.”
Abrams had been starting to say something and stopped in surprise. “You have?”
“Come now, you are a legend, sir. We both know that you’ll get your star before the end of the year and that while the whole time refusing a pokegirl.”
His eyes flicked to the motionless girl behind Dupuis. “They can’t be trusted.”
“I assure you that Lisette is trustworthy, but if you would like she can wait outside.”
Abrams shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. I must admit I’m surprised to see you, Dupuis. I expected Major Drummond to answer the summons for an enforcer.”
Dupuis smiled thinly. “Major Drummond did try to come, sir, but he’s been detained for questioning. He’s suspected of being a conduit for General Golding to the traitors he’s been working with. Even if he’s not, and that is doubtful with what we already know, he’s too close to the General to be impartial and so I was sent.” He leaned back in his chair. “You, of course, understand the situation and how it needs to be concluded.”
Abrams grimaced. “I do. Bringing General Golding to trial would cause too many problems, both military and political.”
“That is right, sir. That’s why I’m here. I make problems like this vanish with at least the cloak of deniability.”
“Are you going to make Golding vanish?”
“General Golding is too high profile to simply disappear. I have instructions to arrange something suitable that will help to tarnish him a little more in the deliberations of the tribunal that’s investigating him while it finishes finding the details of his guilt. That way he’ll be comfortably dead by the time that happens and his actions before his death will help to promote the image that the tribunal will show. You understand what must happen, sir.”
“I do. It’s a shame he’s a traitor but that’s why we have people like you.”
“That is true, sir. I’ll take care of everything.” Dupuis reached into a pocket and pulled out a small notebook, which he proceeded to flip open and scan. “I am also here for the pokegirl Nicole, who was assigned to General Golding.”
Abrams tried to look surprised. “Why?”
“According to the information in the arrest report, she tried to protect General Golding from the MPs.”
Abrams frowned. “I read the report. She stood in front of them when they tried to enter until Golding told her to stand aside.”
“They had identified themselves and she was disobeying a direct order from authorized officials of the league in the process of discharging their duties. The Indigo League insists that behavior in pokegirls must be stamped out.” His eyes met Abrams. “There will be no tolerance of disobedience, no manner how minor, on the part of what is military property. She is to be confiscated and remanded to me for return to the Pentagon if I deem her suitable for retraining. Otherwise I will have to destroy her. I know you received that order, sir. Please do not make me have to contact the Pentagon over this.”
Abrams sighed. “I did and I’ll follow it but it’s just that we could use her here. She’s been given to Major Stratton and she’s been perfectly behaved.”
“No, sir, she has not.” Abrams looked surprised. “She contacted Major Drummond, sir, using Major Stratton’s phone, to try and get Major Drummond to rescue General Golding. That’s what put us onto him and when he arrived in the area we were waiting for him.”
“I see. I wasn’t aware of that.”
“No, sir, normally you wouldn’t be aware of an internal security issue.” Dupuis smiled. “But as the acting commander here at Fort Polk, I felt that you needed to know a bit more about the situation than you normally would, sir.”
Abrams looked at him for a long moment before smiling. “Thank you, Alexandre. I’ll remember your courtesy.”
Dupuis smiled. “Please do, sir, especially when you become General Abrams.”
Abram chuckled. “That’s if, Alexandre.”
“No, sir, with all due respect I would bet a year’s pay it is when.”
“Do you know something I don’t?”
Dupuis smiled. “I’m not at liberty to say, sir, but if I were you I’d remember this conversation.”
“Trust me, I will. May I ask a personal question?”
Dupuis nodded. “You may, sir.”
“Are you French?”
Dupuis smiled. “I was, but I moved to Montreal several years ago before the plagues hit and became an expatriate there. It wasn’t what I expected and I probably would have returned to France but then things happened,” he shrugged, “and I ended up in the state of New York where I found I could help my new country or league as it’s now called by rooting out its enemies and so here I am.”
“I see.” Abrams stood and held out his hand. “I’ll send word to the MPs to expect you.”
Dupuis stood and shook his hand. “Thank you, sir. Can you have Nicole brought to the detention center or should I get her? In either case Major Stratton is not to be informed of her actions, only that she will no longer be his.”
“I’ll have her removed to the detention center. She has a pokeball so there shouldn’t be too much trouble doing so.” He picked up his phone and spoke briefly. “The sergeant will be here in a moment to let you out.”
“Thank you again, sir.” Dupuis smiled and nodded to the pokegirl, who fell in behind him as he waited for Macready to return.
The lieutenant in charge of the detachment of Military Police turned to Dupuis. “Colonel, the prisoner Golding has been placed in holding cell six for you.”
Dupuis frowned. “Lieutenant Carter, until he is convicted and sentenced he is still General Golding and I would advise you to treat him with respect. Traitor or not, he is still your superior officer even as he is your prisoner. He is just no longer your commanding officer.”
Carter looked surprised. “Isn’t that unusual, sir?”
“No, lieutenant, and if you’d served in the US Army before joining Indigo you’d know that. All prisoners will be treated with the respect due their rank even if they are prisoners. If they are stripped of that rank by the designated authorities that’s different, but until then they are due all possible military courtesy.” Dupuis smiled coldly. “Even if I have to shoot a general, and I have, I’m polite about it.”
Carter looked like he didn’t quite know what to say but Dupuis could see that his sergeant understood. The sergeant finally nudged his lieutenant. “Sir, the pokegirl?”
Carter blinked. “Right.” He pulled a pokeball from his pocket and held it out. “Here’s the pokegirl Nicole, sir.”
Dupuis took it and tucked it into his pocket. “Thank you, Lieutenant.” He drew his pistol and checked the load before holstering it again. “I’ll see the general now. You have been instructed to turn off any recording equipment, correct?”
Carter nodded. “Yes sir. That’s why you’re in room six. The camera in it broke a while ago and we don’t have any replacements so it’s been taken out. It’s where we conduct our special questioning.”
“That will be perfect, Lieutenant. No one is to enter that room or otherwise monitor it until I call for someone or Lisette comes to get you. That is a direct order, Lieutenant Carter. Do I need to put that order in writing?”
“Good. Show me where room six is.”
Carter led Dupuis to a door. “In here, sir.”
“Lisette.” The pokegirl opened the door and entered, disappearing into it for a second before returning. She looked at Dupuis and nodded once. “Thank you, Lieutenant Carter.” Dupuis entered and door shut behind him.
Ten minutes later there were some crashing sounds from inside the room and then several gunshots. MPs, both tamers and their pokegirls, assembled outside the door but Lieutenant Carter blocked it. “We can’t enter yet. There’s no way a single human could overpower a pokegirl. We’ll give them five minutes.”
A short time later the door opened and Lisette looked out. She pointed at Carter and motioned for him to come inside. He did and she deliberately shut the door in the faces of the rest of the MPs.
Inside, Carter found Dupuis sitting and holding his face while blood pulsed around his fingers. The table and chairs had been overturned and scattered wildly around. “Sir, I can get a medic.”
“No,” Dupuis’ voice was both nasal and angry. “That bastard broke my nose but Lisette can fix it.” He gestured with his free hand. “Get someone in here to clean that up.”
Carter looked and gorge rose in his throat. General Golding had been shot several times in the chest and head and in addition his body had been smashed inwards by someone with much greater than human strength, crushing his sternum and torso. It looked like he’d been bear hugged by a hydraulic vise. “What happened, sir?”
“He attacked me, broke my nose and I killed him,” Dupuis snapped. “You had to see it before I was healed. Lisette!”
The white haired girl touched his nose and it slowly straightened out as the blood flow stopped. She looked at Carter and made a motion with her hands that he couldn’t understand.
Dupuis looked up at him. “Get me a wet towel, lieutenant, before this putain sang dries.”
Carter nodded and rushed from the room. A few minutes later a corporal came into the room with a bucket of water and some towels. “Colonel, I’m Corporal Williams and I’m a medic.” He knelt in front of Dupuis and offered him a wet towel. “Can I see your injury, sir?”
“Lisette healed me,” Dupuis grumbled but dropped his hands to take the towel and start wiping them clean of blood.
“It’s a legal requirement that medical personnel have to attend to all injured people in the center, sir.” He glanced over his shoulder at Golding’s body. “That is unless they’re obviously beyond help. Even if you’re healed by a pokegirl, sir, you were injured here and I have to record it in our records.”
“I understand, which is why I’m letting you examine me,” Dupuis said. He sat still while Williams carefully cleaned and examined his nose. “What’s your determination, corporal?”
“She does good work, sir,” Williams said as he repacked his kit. “I’ll leave you the bucket and the towels, sir. We’ll get them later.”
“Thank you, corporal. Please let Lieutenant Cater know I’ll be out in a few minutes for the mandatory interviews and paperwork for the death of a prisoner.”
Iain nudged the sleeping man with his foot. “Wake up.”
The man stirred and groaned, holding his head. “What the hell?” He sat up and looked around. “Grey?”
Iain smiled. “Greetings, Robert Golding. You’ll notice that you’re no longer incarcerated.”
Golding looked around at the room. “I certainly don’t remember curtains on my cell walls. Where are we?”
“We’re at a nice little hotel in Dallas,” Iain replied with a smile as he opened a small bottle and poured the contents into a cup before adding water. “This will help with the headache.”
“Give me that.” Robert grabbed the cup and drained it. “All right, why aren’t I in detention anymore?”
Iain pulled a pokeball out of his pocket and rolled it around between his palms. Pandora grabbed it from him with an irritable noise and tossed it to Golding. “Here’s Nicole,” she said. “And she’s going to be as surprised as you are.” She looked at Iain. “Stop the games and explain.”
“The last thing you should remember before waking up here,” Iain said with a smile as Golding stared at the pokeball, “is looking at Colonel Dupuis after he sat down and smiled at you.” He grinned when Golding looked up in amazement. “Alexandre-Etienne gave me his report after he left Fort Polk which he did right after writing the report in which he justified shooting you.”
Golding looked down at himself. “I don’t feel shot. I’ve been shot before and I remember what it feels like.”
“You wouldn’t remember this shooting since he shot you at least twice in the face,” Iain said. “He killed a body double for you.” He smiled. “Dupuis works for me and he confiscated Nicole and killed you so the Indigo League wouldn’t have to go through the embarrassment of a trial for one of its best generals. As long as you don’t start advertising that you’re not really executed, Indigo will continue to think you’re dead. The orders were real,” Iain said, “we just intercepted them as they were being issued and got them given to Dupuis instead of the original recipient.”
“That’s quite the system,” Golding said. “Can I let Nicole out?”
“You can. Even after being bonded to someone else, she called me to rescue you so I’d cut her some slack if you have any jealousy issues. Just remember that she was raped and that’ll help you understand what she went through.”
Golding nodded. “She was raped. Who was it?”
“If you go back to Indigo to kill him, you’re likely to get caught and undo all of my work as well as compromise my agent.” Iain gave him a stern look. “Let it go. You’re dead, Nicole will be reported destroyed and you two have a chance at a free life together here in Texas, or if you’re feeling nostalgic for being ordered around you can go to Sunshine or Johto.”
Golding glared at him and toggled the release on the pokeball. A nude Nicole appeared and looked around for half a second before she saw him and threw herself into his arms. “Sir!” She abruptly pulled herself away and got to her feet. “I’m sorry, sir. I won’t be weak like that again.”
Golding smiled at her. “I missed you too, Nicole.” He gestured behind her. “But we do have company.”
Nicole spun, her ears flat and her fangs bared until she saw Iain. Then confusion crossed her face. “Mr. Grey.”
“You called, I heard and Golding got rescued. You were also rescued and both of you have been or soon will be declared dead in the Indigo League. Please don’t fuck that up for me.” He smiled slightly. “And please don’t let Robert fuck that up for both of us.”
Nicole looked back at Golding. “Sir?”
Golding looked at Iain. “Did you happen to bring clothes for my pokegirl?”
“They’re in the bathroom.” Nicole was in the bathroom before Iain finished speaking. “In case she wanted to change. I didn’t know she wasn’t wearing anything. There are clothes in there for you too. Prison orange just isn’t a good color for pretty much anyone.”
“I’ll be right back.” Golding got up and went into the bathroom.
Pandora looked at Iain. “And if we hear the sounds of sex coming from in there?”
“We leave. There’s a phone in both Golding’s and Nicole’s clothes. But Golding won’t do that. There are strangers here, those being us, and he’s not going to embarrass himself that way.”
Eventually Golding and Nicole emerged. Golding was wearing jeans, boots and a button down shirt. Nicole was wearing a knee length sundress. She smiled at Iain. “Thank you, sir. This is very pretty. It even has a button hole for my tails.”
“You look very fetching in it,” Iain said.
“All right, we’re dead and we’re in Dallas.” Golding smiled slightly. “Isn’t there a joke about going to Texas instead of Hell?”
“The joke is that the Devil chose Hell over Texas because it’s cooler than Texas in summer,” Iain replied.
“Now what happens to us?”
“You’re a civilian and I’d recommend you stay one, although if you did join the Texas Defense Force you’d probably be made an aide to the commanding general in a trice.” Iain shrugged. “Whatever you decide to do is up to you. I realize we’re not friends and I’m the reason you got arrested and Nicole got raped in the first place and to be honest I don’t really feel any remorse about it. It’s war between Texas and Indigo and if I can get Indigo to eat its best that just helps Texas.”
“Then why aren’t I dead?”
“Nicole called, she’s pretty and she said please.”
Nicole blinked at him. “You did all of this just because I asked?”
“I did last time too. I was going to skive off on that meeting, remember?”
She smiled slowly. “I do, sir.”
“I don’t buy that,” Golding said.
“I have to confess that there are some women in my family who will be pleased to hear I didn’t let you get shot after throwing you under the bus,” Iain said. “However, I wasn’t keeping track of you and the first I knew of your arrest was when Nicole called. So she’s still the reason you’re dead there and not dead here.”
“I don’t know anything about being a civilian. I’ve been a soldier for all of my life.”
“I doubt you were born in a uniform,” Iain said. “And it doesn’t matter. There’s a pack in the closet with some stuff in it for you two. There are a couple of pistols, some pokeballs and you’ve already found the phones I’m giving you, which also function as pokedexes, by the bye. And you’ll find in that pack a bank draft from the First Dallas Bank for twenty five thousand Texas dollars. You can buy a nice piece of property with that or live off of room service for the next decade or so. If you want a job doing something you might find fun and it absolutely has to be of a military bent, I’m a Texas Ranger and we’re hiring. I don’t live here in Dallas, but the local Ranger lieutenant is a good woman.” He smirked. “She’s a Denmother who fought her way here from somewhere in Mexico with two kits in her arms and she’s about as tough and no nonsense as they come. And her husband is a Dallas native, a Dallas paramedic before things fell apart, a survivor of the war and really fast with a knife.” Iain pushed to his feet. “They’re also both pretty smart except for the silly little fact that they think my opinion of people is actually worth something.” He shrugged. “It’s probably because their kids like me. But if you want, I’ll put in a word for you with them.”
“This is a lot to take in, sir,” Nicole said with a glance at Golding. “May we have a few days?”
“You may,” Iain said. “And if during them you leave and don’t want anything to do with me ever again, I’ll understand. This room is paid up for two weeks. Food isn’t included. My number is in both of your phones and Pandora and I will be going now. I wish the two of you the best.”
He was to the door when Golding cleared his throat. “Iain.” Iain looked back at him. He was looking at Nicole. “Thank you.”
“I think we can be friends, Robert, now that you’re a Texan. I’m willing to bend a little and give it a try if you are. Just keep that in mind and you have my number.”
“But I was your enemy. Hell, I had plans to invade your land and assassinate you beforehand if I could.”
Iain smiled. “Except for the invasion part, I had plans too and mine worked.” Golding’s eyes flicked over to stare at him. “Remember that you are dead.” He smiled. “So if you’re willing to let your murder go, I’m willing to let go your plans to murder me. I hope I hear from you but I won’t call first.”
“And if I call and say please call him, sir,” Nicole asked amusedly, “because he’s too proud to call you?”
Iain gave her a mock pout. “That’s just dirty pool.”
“Which means he will call for you,” Pandora said. “Now let’s go, Iain.” She took his arm and they vanished.
“And I sent Lorena a message letting her know that Golding had fled Indigo with Nicole, that Indigo thought both of them were dead and that he was living somewhere in Texas.”
“Has he called you,” Ninhursag asked curiously.
“It took a couple of days but he did. He asked me to put him in contact with Ranger Lieutenant Claudia Thompson and also with General Hays. I think he’s angling for an adjutant job with Hays and the Rangers are a fallback. He’s also changed his name to Mark Goldman.”
Lucifer nodded. “That’s sound methodology. Do you think Hays will want him?”
“Golding knows the Indigo military inside and out. Hays has already offered him a job as a civilian consultant.”
Kasumi leaned back in her chair. “What about this Colonel Dupuis? Can we really trust an Indigo turncoat?”
Lucifer smiled. “He’s not a turncoat. He’s a creation of ours. I had an idea and Iain made it live.”
Kasumi looked at Ygerna, who shrugged. “This is new to me too.”
“It only comes up when needed,” Eve said. “Dupuis is obviously a real person and he goes around interrogating and executing special prisoners for the Indigo League. Nobody in Indigo knows who he works for and he just shows up, does his job, writes a report or two and disappears again.”
“How can nobody in Indigo know who he works for,” Kasumi asked curiously. “He’s in their army.”
Ninhursag shook her head. “No, he’s an executioner for their government and there are six separate organizations, all of whom keep secrets from each other, who handle the commissars and enforcers. They all think he works for one of the other five. He actually gets paid in rotation by each of them to keep the confusion growing.”
“Are you going to tell me this Colonel Dupuis is Iain,” Ygerna asked crossly.
“Sometimes, but not often,” Canaan said. “Sometimes I’m Dupuis and recently sometimes it’s Ganieda. That way Dupuis can be seen when Iain’s in public. That and Ganieda and I like killing prisoners a lot more than he does.”
Allison looked from one person to the other. “Why am I just learning about this?”
“Because we do compartmentalize some programs just to keep them as secure as possible,” Iain said. “Only one other pokegirl is involved in this and she hasn’t breathed a word about it even with the special status it might give her in the family.”
Allison’s ears went flat. “Tell me.”
Iain didn’t hesitate. “Dupuis gets around so quickly because he is always accompanied by a pure white Rapitaur who almost never speaks to the point that a lot of people think she’s mute.”
Allison’s mouth dropped. “Raquel?”
“Raquel kept this a secret from me? For how long has this been going on?”
“About two and a half years,” Lucifer said. “And I decided not to read you into this and Raquel was following my instructions. You leave her alone over this.”
Allison shook her head. “You are lovers with someone and they can keep this from you.”
“Do not tell her you know,” Ninhursag said. “That is an order.”
Allison looked bewildered. “But I do know. Why can’t we discuss it?”
“This only gets spoken of in secure rooms and the public areas cannot ever be secure,” Ninhursag said. “And you have never taken anyone into a secure area for a talk and you will not start with Raquel. I’ll arrange a meeting where you and I and Iain meet and she’ll be his guard so you and she can talk this out. And just so you know, Theodora has orders to listen for this and other compartmentalized secrets being discussed anywhere and has instructions to act to silence the speaker while informing the command staff members who have been read in.”
“I don’t know any of the others,” Allison pointed out.
“Yet. That may change.”
“Your knowing will be a relief for her,” Iain said quietly. “She’ll enjoy being able to talk about it with you in secure areas after you two have your argument and make up. She didn’t like keeping this from her friend and we both know that she does care for you very much.”
“Oh.” Allison’s ears flicked while she thought. “Fine, I won’t yell at her. We’ll go straight to kiss and make up.” She looked at Iain. “No, you can’t watch.”
“That’s just mean.”
She smirked. “If you ask beforehand and you’re free, you can participate.”
“You are forgiven. Please make sure I’m free and I’m asking now if I can participate.”
Iain waited until the laughter had died down somewhat. “We planned to do something about Golding a while ago because he is too good for Indigo and we hoped to get him into Texas. That’s why Theodora had his body waiting in stasis for a rather long time so it was available for use when Dupuis shot him. But we were also willing to let him die if that’s what it took to remove him.”
“Why did you let him break your nose,” Ygerna asked.
“That was Ganieda,” Ninhursag said. “And she did it so shooting Golding was easily justified. He attacked her. It was actually Raquel who smashed her in the face.” She smiled beatifically. “And she enjoyed it mightily.”
“I’ll bet she did,” Allison said with a grin. “There’s a line of people who want to accomplish that particular feat.” She sighed. “There’s even a pool but I don’t think she is eligible to win it because this is classified or can she?”
“No.” Ninhursag said. “But she will always know she was first and someday when we can declassify this I’ll let her brag about it. And who knows, she might be first to hit Ganieda in the face in public too and then she can win that pool.”
“I did not plan to be around a desperate Nicole,” Iain said. “And even if I’d considered it I think I’d have been cuffed to my bed with my restraints.”
“You got that right, mister,” Ninhursag said. “And I’d have taken the punishment happily afterwards.”
“I was going to get Dominique to do it,” Canaan said with a grin. “She likes his spankings.”
There was more laughter. When it died down, Lucifer looked at Iain. “With Golding’s death recorded and with a body to dispose of, the Indigo League isn’t going to chase rumors in Texas and since Golding and Goldman are obviously two different people, they won’t be connected. However, if they are, we’ll just arrange for them to try and capture Dupuis, where he’ll be revealed to be Sekhmet in disguise, with Lisette being Sekhmet’s girlfriend. After that, we’ll retire the Dupuis identity and set up another agent in Indigo who does something completely different. She scanned the room briefly. “Urd will be coming here on a regular basis as well as visiting the Prometheus offices under the guise of volunteering to help us with some aid to rebels in northern Johto. We are going to aid them and she is going to help, but we’re really briefing her on what we know about the Alliance operation inside the Sisterhood. She’ll use that to begin an investigation from the Alliance end now that we’ve vetted her team of operatives. There was one spy for Raphaela and she, sadly, was killed by a feral Umbrea that she stumbled across while bathing in a stream.”
“She was really meeting with some other agents while bathing,” Allison said with a purr of satisfaction in her voice. “They were really surprised when I jumped them. Like Urd thought, their close combat skills are not that impressive when compared to what Siobhan, April and Sofia are teaching us. Only one of them got away and even then I hurt her badly enough that she had to be healed before she could lead others back to try and recover their dead.”
“Urd says she lost her right leg at the knee, suffered multiple traumas to her torso, had both arms broken and almost died from shock and blood loss before she could be healed,” Lucifer noted idly.
Iain reached out and scratched Allison behind the ears. “That’s my girl.”
Her eyes slid shut and her purr intensified until she rumbled beneath his hand. “I’ll always be that,” she murmured.
Iain looked at Lucifer. “Do we have any sort of idea on the timeline for Raphaela and Prastara to move against the Norn sisters?”
Lucifer grinned. “I like that name for them and, no. We are, however, fairly confident that they don’t want to move against Bell and the others until after they’ve acquired the Iain Grey.
“Why is that cruiser so important to them,” Iain asked curiously.
“Several of the people they’re going to have to kill are pretty powerful and, since most of them have some form of precognition, they may prove difficult to eliminate. The Iain Grey’s holographic masking system will give them a mobile base that’s very hard to localize so they have someplace to hide while hunting down their foes. But the real reason is that Idun told them about the four neutron missiles that are on board.”
Iain smiled broadly as he stopped scratching Allison, who made a complaining noise. “I thought she might.”
Kasumi was staring at him with a look of horror. “We have nuclear weapons?”
“We’re mining the asteroid belt and there are a lot of fissionable materials out there. Nuclear weapons have other uses too,” Iain said calmingly. “However, Idun only thinks she has four enhanced radiation weapons on her ship. They’re fakes and they are neither ER nor are they nuclear. They have just enough radioactive material in them to give off the emission pattern of well shielded thermonuclear weapons. Other than that, they’re just regular bombs.”
Lucifer chuckled. “Until very recently I thought they were real too and I was very put out with Iain when he confessed the truth to me. I am glad I never saw fit to deploy one.”
“Kasumi,” Theodora said. The kami looked at the hologram. “In space warfare among the clans medium technology ship to ship missiles regularly carry thermonuclear warheads as a standard payload. Iain and I have no plans to utilize nuclear weapons on this planet and only we together can authorize a nuclear release. I realize your concern comes from what happened to your country by the Americans and we are not they and we bear no animosity towards Japan or Nippon.”
Kasumi looked at Iain and he nodded. “We aren’t going to use nukes here.”
She sighed. “I know I sound silly, especially since we have access to much more destructive weaponry, but nuclear weapons are a special fear of mine. Thank you for addressing my concerns.”
“You are very welcome,” Iain said gently. “Do we have any other business here today?”
“No,” Ninhursag said. “The training schedules are posted and tonight’s a full moon so we’ll be doing impregnations, but that’s it.” She touched her belly and smiled. “We will have to decide soon if everyone will get the chance to become pregnant before allowing the ones who want to have a second litter to get started. There have been several requests.”
He nodded. “We’ll talk about it this afternoon. As for Lucifer and Joyce, they are eligible now and that will be the rule for any other woman who might join the harem who already has children or is pregnant when she arrives.”
“Understood, even if we have no plans to add to the harem,” Ninhursag smiled in satisfaction. She looked at Lucifer. “So, tonight?”
The Megami Sama nodded. “Tonight. I expect Joyce will be there too.”
“I have no doubt she will.”
Iain watched two unicorns as they took turns poking their horns at a piece of granite on the edge of the field and giggling in between thrusts. The rock was too large for them to move and neither mare was hitting the rock hard, so they just stood there taking turns while the other snickered.
“What do you know of our legends?”
Iain had seen the unicorn coming up behind him and had kept an eye on her out of respect for her horn. None of them had proven violent against the family, and a few had gone feral hunting with some of the Elf teams, where they seemed to get along well with the plant pokegirls. Besides, he knew this one. “Hello, Golden Cloud.”
“You know, my name is Iain.”
Her ears flicked. “There is only one stallion. There are other people named Iain.”
He decided it wasn’t worth the battle and instead nodded towards the two mares poking at the rock. “Just how much marijuana did they eat?”
Golden Cloud swung her head to look at the two mares. “They have consumed a lot of that plant. I could tell you more but your Elves heal the plants faster than we can eat them which makes it hard to estimate how much they ate. I know that they only ate the youngest buds and they took most of the morning graze there.”
Iain chuckled. “That means they’re going to be high for a while. Well so long as they’re only picking a fight with that rock I don’t really care. Hopefully when they come down they’ll be really sick so they don’t want to do that again.”
“I can forbid them to consume as much of that plant ever again if you wish.”
“I have learned,” Iain said with an amused smile, “that a smart ruler doesn’t give orders that he or she knows won’t be obeyed. If you tell them not to eat so much, they’ll forget it as soon as they start eating the marijuana again and it takes over.”
Iain heard the wind driven bells again when she laughed. “You do not sound like a stallion when you say such words. You sound like the queen of a herd. I can begin to believe you might actually command your clan instead of the mares pretending that you do while they rule behind the scene.”
Iain snorted a laugh. “Oh, I do not doubt that a lot of that goes on where I can’t see it.”
“Again you sound like an experienced mare.” Her head came back around to look up at him. “What do you know of our legends?”
“You have a one track mind, don’t you?”
“You are not answering the question. Until you do, I will continue to ask it.” She sniffed his pockets. “Are you hiding treats in there?”
Ganieda snickered loudly. “Oh, there’s a very nice treat down there.”
Iain glanced at her but otherwise ignored his guard. “I don’t but come with me.” They walked a short distance and stopped in front of a great grape. “Have you had these yet?”
“I have not. They have very sharp thorns and they cruelly shield their berries from us.”
Iain carefully reached into the thorny branches and pulled out fat ripe grape. “Be careful, these are very juicy and very filling. They have a magic of their own.”
Golden Cloud took it from him daintily and her eyes widened when she bit down. “This is very good!” She looked surprised again as she swallowed. “And it is indeed very filling. How is this so?”
“I told you it has its own magic. One berry will sustain a person my size for a day of moderately strenuous labor without any other food and only some water. It also heals wounds.”
“It also stains the fuck out of fur,” Ganieda noted. “Get that purple in your fur or on your skin and it will last for over a moon.” She’d quickly figured out that words like week or month were incomprehensible to the unicorns.
Golden Cloud made a sound suspiciously like a snigger. “That would explain the purple horn tips that have recently appeared on some of the foals and a couple of their dams. I was going to ask about that.”
“I don’t know anything about your legends.”
Her ears flicked. “You successfully distracted me. Few do that.”
“I’m just a barbarian.”
“You are too smart to be a stallion. I would like another berry.” She looked at the bush and then him. “Please get it for me.”
It was the first time he’d heard that word from her. “Very well, I shall get you one.” He dug out another grape and offered it for her to take.
She didn’t quite inhale it but it disappeared far faster than the first grape did. “This one is even better than the last one!”
Ganieda was still busy looking for threats as her mind touched his. We are going to have to plant more of those, aren’t we?
It certainly looks that way.
I will ask Ninhursag to make sure that they have bigger thorns than ever so we get some for our use.
I suspect, he said with a feeling of amusement, that those horns make dandy pry bars and levers so that we’ll have to grow some on the Theodora if we want any for us.
We could fence them.
If they can phase like I suspect that they can it will be a waste of time.
Her ears flicked. I hadn’t considered that. You could be right. They flicked again. They have some kind of short ranged teleportation as opposed to the ability to phase. An opaque fence would stop that as long as they couldn’t see inside.
A unicorn mare weighs in the neighborhood of half a tonne. She could always just kick a fence down.
Ganieda made a face. I guess we’ll be growing them in orbit then.
Or we’ll be putting in orchards of Great Grapes. That’s what Ninhursag wants to do.
So we will be doing both?
Iain’s thought was amused as he plucked a third great grape and fed it to the mare in front of him. Yeah.
Golden Cloud swallowed. “These are delicious and dangerous. We will incorporate them into the forest.” She smacked her lips happily and Iain snickered. “What is it?”
“Your mouth and tongue are purple.”
Her eyes widened. “Are they? Show me!” There was a pause. “I mean please show me.”
Ganieda glanced at her as Iain shrugged and pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Who warned you?”
Golden Cloud’s ears flicked. “I was told by April that using please makes our stallion more likely to do what I want. I was given no warning. Is there a warning involved with that? Will he fuck me if I say please too often even if I am not in heat?”
Iain just took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “The warning is probably that if you aren’t polite then eventually I’ll just stop paying attention to any demands from you.” He opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue, holding it in place for a second. “Now do that and hold it so I can get a good picture.” She opened her mouth as much as she could and stuck out her tongue. Iain took a couple of pictures. “And done.” He frowned and activated the holographic display so she could see it and put up the first picture of her bright purple mouth and tongue. “Here you go.”
Golden Cloud looked at the hologram and giggled loudly. “That’s my tongue!” She giggled again. “It’s so purple!” The giggle died and she looked up at Iain. “There is a legend among the herd that on the eve of our rebirth as a power the herd and the forest together will undertake a great journey to a land so far away that none can even imagine it. There our herd will grow in majesty and power and its numbers will swell as it once was. Our dead will travel with us and there they will be reborn to the herd.”
Iain didn’t look at Ganieda. Are there two people living inside that head?
No. She’s just weird by our standards.
Great. I hope she is mentally stable. “That’s a very interesting legend. Are you interpreting the move of the herd here as being a part of that legend?”
“It matches the legend perfectly,” she said confidently. “It is the beginning of that legend playing out. Mielikki spoke to me last night and told me the time of the legend’s fulfillment is at hand.”
“So how does this dead being reborn thing work,” Iain asked curiously. “I’m only obligated through the contract that was agreed upon to breed with you until you become pregnant and only you and that once.”
Her ears went back for several seconds. “You should be pleased and eager that I desire to share my blood with yours instead of grudging about the role you are to play. Few stallions are permitted to breed me and fewer still have been blessed to sire a foal from my noble bloodline.”
“Well, I am an impertinent barbarian.”
“I learn that you are truly that when you wish to be and yet I have seen you be noble and accommodating when you wish to be that.”
“You tricked me and we both know it.”
She lifted her head higher than she normally did and looked him directly in the eyes. “You should be pleased that I was able to outwit you. I did not know then but believe now that you are smarter than I am. You have been so much more guarded in your speech since then that I do not believe I will be able to outwit you again like that. As for the breeding itself, that was fully renegotiated afterwards and you agreed to it being so.”
Ganieda chuckled behind him. “That was rather long winded for either suck it up or get over yourself, but that’s pretty much what she just said.”
“That was definitely an admonition to suck it up,” Iain said.
“My magic allows me to understand all beings,” Golden Cloud said as her ears flicked. “And it allows all beings to understand me, even orcs, kobolds and their ilk. However, I find your words confusing even as I understand their meaning.”
Ganieda grinned. “That’s because it’s slang. To suck it up means to accept that something has happened, you may not like it very much but you need to make the best of it because it’s not going to change.”
“I see. But you should want to breed me,” she said to Iain. “It is a rare and wondrous honor.”
“I am someday going to be a powerful wizard,” Iain said. “Assuming things go as I hope. That means that one day I will be powerful enough, if I want to, to turn you into a human woman.” Golden Cloud’s ears flicked uncertainly. “I could then get you pregnant and you would bear a human child and we could raise it together. How would you feel about that?”
She stared at him. “I do not know.”
“Imagine. You and me being human looking and having sex and a baby together.”
“Having hands would be wonderful, but,” her voice trailed off and her head cocked thoughtfully for several seconds before she shuddered violently. “No.”
“Understanding that I am not seeking to be free of our agreement, could it be,” Iain said gently, “that I might feel something similar about becoming a unicorn stallion and breeding a mare?”
Again she looked thoughtful for several seconds, her ears flicking, before lifting her head to look at him. “I cannot believe that for they are not the same thing. This is an honor and you are smart enough to realize how much of one it is. I am sleek and beautiful and human females are,” she paused as if trying to find the right words and having a problem doing so, “not mares.”
“You can’t dispute that point,” Ganieda said sagely.
Iain pursed his lips. “No, I must admit that I can’t.” He gave himself a mental shake. “So, what is there about the rest of this legend?”
“I am unsure about how the dead will be reborn. The goddess told me in my dream that I should seek your aid and that you know of how it can be done.”
“Well, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to know about that.” He frowned thoughtfully.
“I was also told by Mielikki to prove to you that my goddess knows that you can help us by asking a question that I should not be able to ask.”
Iain raised an eyebrow. “What question is that?”
“The herd is satellite clan and I, as their queen, am outer clan, which is higher in status than satellite clan.”
When she didn’t say anything else, Iain nodded. “There’s no question in there, but that is true. You took the oath and you are one of us.”
“Then as is my right as outer clan, may I have a twee?”
“Just a second.” Iain ignored his surprise since after all the word goddess was being thrown about and reached out to Theodora. So what do you think about her request?
Her response was instant. Her brain should be able to host a twee without any problem but just for safety’s sake I would like to run some tests. She is clan and so I do not want to see her harmed. Besides, it is possible that some other unicorns will seek promotion to outer clan and the required work should be done beforehand. The tests should take less than a week or two to complete.
Iain smiled at her. “Everything should be fine in giving you a twee, but just to make sure you won’t be hurt by one I want to take you to medical and have Theodora do a medical work up on you and then she’s going to run some tests with the results. That will take less than half a moon. I know your goddess says it will be safe but we’d like to double check just to be sure because sometimes a magical being like a goddess might not completely understand the ramifications of something like this technology. You have to survive if we’re going to have a foal.”
She nodded. “That is reasonable.”
“I would also like to have all of the herd get medical evaluations of their health, if you don’t mind. I’m sure they’re healthy, but if I’m supposed to help nurture the herd I need to know who needs more nurturing than others might.”
Golden Cloud’s ears snapped flat and she bared her teeth angrily. “You are my stallion and my stallion only among the herd.”
“Do you pick women who are jealous or do they become jealous after you pick them,” Ganieda asked quietly.
“Not helping,” Iain muttered.
She snickered. “Not trying to.”
“Please remember that I am trying to get excited about breeding you. I have shown no interest in breeding any other member of the herd and none of them have shown an interest in being bred by me.”
Her ears didn’t come up. “You are again guarding your words against me.”
“You have shown capable of trying to take a simple agreement with you as a binding oath. Of course I am going to guard my words to you. I’ll probably guard my words that I speak to others around you as well. How did you bring your dead with us?”
“I carry their bones within me. It is one of the powers granted to me by the forest. I am to release those bones into your care as part of the rebirth process.”
Something occurred to Iain. “Are you the queen of the forest?”
“No. I am queen of the herd. The herd is part of the forest but only part of it.”
That thought turned nasty in his mind but he had to ask, so he did so in a cautious voice. “Is there a queen of the forest?”
“There is. My goddess is the forest’s ruler.”
Iain sighed. “Am I going to have to deal with her too?”
Golden Cloud snickered as her ears finally came back up. “You would probably like breeding her more. She often amuses herself by taking the likeness of a human woman.”
“I said deal with, not breed and not fuck. She moved here too, didn’t she?”
“She did. As to what she may or may not want of you or of any other, she is a goddess and I cannot say.”
“All right. I’ll set things up so you can release your dead to me. I think the best place to do that would be in medical. Later, when I have some free time I’ll see about getting to know you better.”
“Will you be less grumpy about breeding me?”
Iain just shook his head. “I’ll bring treats.”
“How are you today, Iain?” Kerrik sat down across the table from him. “Are you ready for a workout?”
Iain rubbed his eyes. “I am doomed.”
“True,” Misery said with a grin.
“If only it was you,” Iain grumbled, “then all it would do is hurt.”
Kasumi settled down next to him. “Things have been slightly more hectic than usual at the ranch.”
“Wait, I’m not enough doom for you?” Misery’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll show you doomed, mister.”
Iain looked at Misery. “I’m not slighting you or your ability to beat me to a pulp. I’m sure I’ll get to experience that today and I’m sure it’ll be agonizing.”
“It will,” she said cheerfully. “Now what’s your real problem?”
Iain turned to Kerrik. “Understanding that I know a lot more about you than I safely should, I don’t think you should visit the ranch for a while. I know we’re working with your harem and if you really want us to we can move the training and socialization sessions here.”
Kerrik eyed him, his ears still. “What’s going on? I know it’s not our guest in the solar system since they’re still hiding wherever they are.”
Iain stared at him for a second. “What? Oh, right. The truewizard.”
Iain shrugged. “It’s more that they got pushed lower on my priority list.”
“What got moved up to take its place?”
“I don’t even know where to begin,” Iain said. “A herd of equine unicorns has moved onto the ranch, they brought a forest with them that they’re going to establish on my land, the forest is somehow alive but asleep right now, their queen is outer clan and they’re satellite clan and I just learned they brought their goddess with them who is living somewhere on my property and not paying rent.”
Kerrik frowned at him, his ears moving in what looked like random directions. “That does indeed sound complicated. Is the goddess clan too?”
Iain shook his head. “Not funny. She’s a goddess. If she wants to join the clan, what am I to say to her besides welcome aboard and your Clan Grey t-shirt is in your room?”
Kerrik chuckled softly. “So when the world is on fire and we can see into the crevasses down to where the very bones of that world are being swallowed up by the lava as it climbs, you’re still going to be making jokes?”
“If it’s still underground it’s magma and yes,” Iain replied.
Kerrik shook his head. “Does this goddess have a name?”
Iain took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Mielikki.”
Misery turned to look at Kerrik “What?”
“That’s the name of a real goddess. And it just so happens that unicorns are one of her chosen races to protect.”
Kasumi smiled. “Now you begin to see our problem. Iain explained it to the inner harem during a meeting. What do we do with a real goddess if she decides something we don’t like?”
Kerrik frowned. “Right now I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Iain smiled thinly. “Yeah, well you can afford not to. I can’t. I’m just a little weaker than you are.”
“I’m serious.” His ears flicked. “If there’s a goddess anywhere on your ranch, she’s so weak she’s probably near death. I can’t feel her presence and she should be easy to find.” His eyes widened. “What the fuck?”
“You found her?”
“No, but I did find where there is some serious magic in the center of your land that wasn’t there before.”
“What you’re sensing is probably where we put the beginning of the forest. I’ve been told it’ll grow outward over time. Isn’t that where this goddess would be?”
“Iain, I’ve met gods, remember? I know what their power feels like. This isn’t the power of a god or goddess. It’s,” he frowned. “It’s new to your place but it’s very old and pure magic. If a dying goddess was to want a place to cling to life while trying to gain worshippers and recover what she lost, that would be the perfect place for her. Still, I think we’re safe to visit and if there is a goddess there I don’t think she’ll be bothering anyone for a few centuries.” His eyes met Iain’s. “If I am wrong, I will help you deal with her.”
“Thanks.” Iain nodded. “That’ll help.” He got up. “Now Misery gets to dirty the landscape with my blood and you work with Kasumi on martial arts.” The Minitop grinned and grabbed Iain’s hand. They vanished.
Kerrik chuckled and offered Kasumi his hand as he rose. “I must say you seem happier than I remember you being while you were married to Shikarou.”
She took it and smiled as she got to her feet. “That would be because I am. Among other things, Iain saved my mother’s life and got me two grandmothers.” Her smile faded when she realized Kerrik was staring at her hand, his ears still. Then her smile returned. “Mum’s the word, old wolf.”
His head came up abruptly. “What did you call me?”
She shrugged and tugged her hand from his. “It seemed the right thing to say. Will you keep my secret?”
Kerrik’s eyes flicked towards where Iain and Misery had been standing a few seconds ago. “Does he know?”
“Not yet. I want to make sure first.”
“You can be sure and it’s not my secret to tell.”
Kasumi inclined her head gracefully. “Thank you, grandfather.” He raised an eyebrow and she nodded. “Although I failed in being her mother, I have to accept that Kozakura is my daughter, Shikarou is her father and you are her grandfather. That makes you family too and I am more comfortable calling you grandfather than I am former father in law or even Kerrik. I think my mother would like to meet you one day.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“That is your choice, but Kozakura will never voluntarily go there and I doubt Shikarou will ever return to that world again. You could tell my mother and father about the life of the granddaughter they will never know far better than I could ever. You know her far better than I do.”
“I should have said something, Kasumi.”
“You were not there when I foolishly placed my daughter in the hands of others to raise and do the job that should have been mine. It is not your fault, grandfather. It is mine and it is a mistake that I will never make again.” She met his gaze evenly. “Will you consent to be the grandfather to the children I have not yet had? Iain has two sisters that someday we will visit but his parents are both dead. Mine are both alive now,” she smiled happily, “but they will not understand how to deal properly with our children. And I don’t think that Iain will have a problem with you being the children’s grandfather.”
“I would be honored, Kasumi Tendo Grey.”
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
Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice
Heather - Elfqueen
Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
Queendom / Outer Harem
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
14 Wet Elves
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
Geradine - Human
Mother s & Children