Print
Category: Loose Threads
Hits: 1284

            This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copywritten. Everything in this work is mea culpa. 

            This work is the property of Kerrik Wolf (saethwyr@ (SPAM) hotmail.com). Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.

            You should not read this work if you are under the age of legal consent wherever you reside. This work may or may not contain any and/or all of the following: death, cannibalism, dismemberment, violent acts, implied sex, explicit sex, violent sex, rape, blasphemy (depending on your religion), BDSM, torture, mimes, necrophilia and just about anything unwholesome that you could consider.

            Feedback is encouraged. I enjoy hearing from people. Positive feedback will be appreciated, cherished and flaunted in front of people. Negative feedback will be appreciated, cherished and listened to, that I might continue to grow. Flames will give me a good laugh. Feedback may be delivered to: saethwyr@(SPAM)hotmail.com. Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.

 

Loose Threads

Sixty Five

 

            “I want to thank all three of you for doing this so promptly,” Iain said. “I realize that this is irregular, but it is necessary.” He sat facing Kerrik, Magdalene and Tanika. Behind him Ninhursag was there, both as his bodyguard and as the maharani.

            Tanika smiled warmly at him. “Iain, you requested a formal conclave. We are the senior clan here and you recognized that by asking me, my husband and my sister to this conclave.”

            “Why isn’t Caradoc here,” Kerrik asked curiously. “He should be involved in any conclave since there are only three clans on this world.”

            “As the heads of the only other clan on the planet, I invited both him and Naomi to represent Clan Bishop,” Iain replied. “When I explained that I was asking for a conclave for sitting judgement, he told me that he hadn’t formally become a clan and therefore he couldn’t sit in judgement of anyone.”

            “I see,” Kerrik said. He looked at Tanika and Magdalene before turning back to Iain and Ninhursag. “Then I will call this conclave into existence. You have requested a court and you have it. Who are we sitting in judgment of?”

            “Me,” Iain said quietly. He placed his phone on the table before leaning back as he spoke. “Fourteen days ago, under my orders, Theodora and my clan engaged a foreign enemy in combat to avenge the destruction of a tiny clan that is satellite to Grey and primarily to rescue the only surviving member of it, who was being held as their prisoner. While doing so, again under my orders, Theodora used multiple high fractional c kinetic strikes against multiple inhabited planets, deliberately targeting the populace. She also, again under my orders, deployed two planet killers on separate worlds inhabited with sentient life, destroying most of not all of the life on them. As required by clan law, I have called this conclave to sit and judge the actions I have just admitted to and my justification for them.”

            Kerrik looked at Tanika and Magdalene in turn before returning his attention to Iain. “It is good that you came before us to freely admit to what you have done. You, of course, do understand that we cannot make the final determination as to the worth of what you confessed to. This will require more than one clan to decide that.”

            “I understand,” Iain said calmly. “But you can convey my case to the head of your clan along with your recommendations and she can present this to the next assembly. Will you do this?”

            Kerrik looked at Magdalene, who nodded and then Tanika, who nodded as well. “I will. As the most junior member of the judges, Tanika will ask her questions first and then we will continue the questions in rotation until we are satisfied that we understand the situation thoroughly.”

            Iain touched his phone. “The records of the event are now available for your twee to upload. There are some supplemental files of the history and behavior of the Magog, the race that we attacked.” Then he looked at Tanika. “Please begin when you are ready.”

            She blinked, her ears flicking. “Your records corroborate that you did order these attacks and Theodora did do what you commanded. Where did you get the resources to perform this assault on the Magog?”

            “Several years ago, I instructed Theodora to build the equipment necessary to rescue Daya. While the materials required to build planet killers are very rare, she managed to locate enough inside this solar system to make two of them.”

            “Do you have more of them,” Magdalene asked.

            “No. If I’d had more planet killers I’d have used them on the Magog.”

            “Could you have rescued Daya from these Magog without deploying these weapons?” Kerrik’s voice was even. “According to the records you provided, the Sword of Vengeance,” he smiled slightly, “was already doing an excellent job of distracting the Magog from even suspecting the Theodora’s presence.”

            “That would have ended the instant we had to use the Theodora’s weaponry to cut the wreckage of Daya’s ship from the structural support it was attached to. It was deemed that would raise the chances of my clanswomen being assaulted to an unacceptable level. By using the kinetic strikes as a ruse to affect the release of the Fenaslir, it kept the Theodora from having to reveal her existence earlier than we had to. Even then, as soon as we did reveal our presence, the Magog tried to destroy us.”

            Tanika cocked her head curiously. “You claim you started preparing for this assault years ago. How long have you known about the Magog and what they did to this Wolf clan?”

            “I have known of the existence of the Magog and their actions for about a month,” Iain replied. “Shadow walking allows me to transit time if I think it’s necessary and so I went back in time to give Theodora orders to prepare for this attack. She also had orders not to tell anyone anything about it until after I had met Daya for the first time. After informing her of the meeting, she told me what I needed to do in order to make the timelines properly converge.”

            Magdalene was frowning unhappily. “Do you understand the risks you took when you did that?”

            “I do. I could have affected causality and changed my timeline permanently and irrevocably. I was as careful as I could be and I can see no changes in my timeline.”

            Magdalene looked at Kerrik. “You know I have many more questions about this.”

            He chuckled. “I know you do and I also know that Jassalane is not a mage and she will not be able to sit in judgement of that kind of magic. It’s beyond the scope of this conclave as the clans have no authority over time travel. When we’re done you can tape Iain into his chair and question him to your heart’s content.”

            Tanika giggled. “If you just sit in his lap he probably won’t move for quite some time.”

            Ninhursag’s face set but the Elfqueen didn’t otherwise react to the comment.

            “Magdalene’s personal activities are definitely beyond the scope of this conclave,” Kerrik said firmly. “And they’re none of your business unless you also want to discuss your lovers, my

dear.”

            “All of your lovers,” Magdalene said so softly that Iain almost couldn’t hear it. Tanika scowled and glared angrily at her sister.

            With the two women glaring at each other, Iain decided to try and change the subject. “It might interest you to know that Daya came to this Iain Wolf from a wife of the Kerrik Wolf that he knew.” Kerrik looked curious and the two women had transferred their glares to him. “Her name was Alicia Wolf and the images I was shown suggested she was a Xanadu unicorn pretending to be human or a pokegirl. I think she’s the analog of the woman we know as Alicia Starr.”

            That got their attention. “She’s one of my father’s wives,” Magdalene said slowly.

            “In this reality, yes,” Iain replied. “But this Iain seems to be from a reality that isn’t as close to this one as I originally thought. Daya has the coordinate list of their travels and it isn’t in the same system that we use. We’re converting them, though, over to the system we use so I can read them and try to figure out where in the multiverse he came from.”

            Magdalene turned to look at Kerrik. “How well do you know my mother Alicia?”

            “Not that well,” he replied. “We’ve met a couple of times and I’ve always been in your company when we did. I don’t go visit almost anyone in your father’s family without you. He and I are not enemies, but we’re not friends either. The only one of your father’s current wives I know well is Rainbow and we’re just friends. Alicia thinks I’m just a passing fancy for both of you and has never bothered to get to know me more than superficially.”

            Tanika chuckled. “Rainbow likes you because you bring her the most interesting people to study.” She looked at Iain. “Was your attempt to distract me and my sister really necessary?”

            “Probably not,” Iain said, “but you’re my friends and I don’t like seeing you two ladies squabble.”

            “Will you be offering us the coordinates you discover from this other’s Iain’s records,” Magdalene asked curiously.

            Iain shrugged. “They won’t be free.”

            Tanika grinned at him. “If one of us sits in your lap, will the price come down?”

            “If Kerrik sits in my lap I think it’ll at least triple,” Iain replied dryly.

            Ninhursag burst out laughing. “That sounds about right.”

            Iain chuckled as Kerrik, Tanika and Magdalene all laughed too. “Before we get too distracted, I’d like to finish this conclave.”

            Kerrik nodded. “How did the situation with Daya come to your attention?”

            “During my travels I exited inside the remains of the Fensalir and met Daya, who was using the name Frigg then. She told me of what had happened. I told her it was too dangerous for my clan to get involved and she made me her primary administrator in perpetuity to ensure I had to make the attempt to rescue her.”

            Tanika looked surprised. “Can she even do that?”

            Magdalene nodded. “The rest of her clan was dead and not by her hand. Whether or not she had formally been made clan by this Iain Wolf, as the sole survivor, legally her birthing agreement was complete and she was free to choose how to spend her existence. There will have to be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of her clan to ensure she wasn’t the cause, but I doubt that was the case.”

            “It isn’t,” Iain said. “I insisted that Theodora review Daya’s code and memories before we let her get close to us in order to ensure that the Magog hadn’t turned her into some kind of trap. Daya allowed us complete access and from her own records she fought to save her clan as hard as she could. And she still has a very serious hate on for the Magog.”

            “That’s good,” Magdalene said. “However, an investigation will still be held once the minutes of this conclave are announced.”

            “You will have brought a great deal of attention to your clan,” Tanika said. “What you did was almost unprecedented, and a planetary bombardment of that magnitude has not taken place in several millennia and never in one battle. All of the circumstances that brought it about will be researched as much as your people are willing to let it be. But there will be a formal investigation and more than likely it will be from another leading clan than ours, just to show impartiality.”

            Iain sighed. “Great.”

            “It won’t be that bad,” Kerrik said. “I looked over the information you provided on the Magog and my recommendation will be that there was no way you could have negotiated Daya’s release and it is unconscionable that she be left where she was. You only had two options and from the recordings you provided from your memories of your first meeting with Daya she didn’t want to die once she thought you could rescue her. The only thing you could have done differently was ask for help from a friendly clan, like mine.”

            Magadalene looked at her husband, her ears canted curiously. “Are you jealous of his kills?”

            Kerrik just looked at her blandly. “I wouldn’t have minded helping.”

            “The world ship isn’t destroyed,” Iain said. “Perhaps crippled, but not dead. In addition, the Magog have turned some planets in that universe into brooding colonies of slaves. I’ll give you the universe’s coordinates and you can have at them to your heart’s content. Nobody except some politicians trying to use the Magog as a threat to gain more personal power will miss them in the slightest.”

            Kerrik smiled slightly. “Thank you, Iain.”

            Magdalene looked at Iain. “Are you indulging my husband’s homicidal tendencies?”

            “Indulging? No.” Iain shrugged. “He’s my master in magical and martial training. If I can give him an outlet for some socially unacceptable urges that makes him look heroic because he’s wiping out a major threat to the locals at the same time, I don’t see that as a problem.”

            Tanika’s ears flicked. “Do you have the same urges?”

            Iain frowned. “I don’t think I have the same urges,” he said thoughtfully. “I do, however, admit that I have similar ones and I have worked hard not to indulge them lest it become too easy to justify indulging them regularly and then they would become the same urges that he has. I have chosen those constraints because of the women that have been in my life who would have not wanted me to be like that, first my mother and sisters and now the women that I love here. Kerrik did not have that kind of support while he was growing up and, indeed, had people who instead almost forced him to fulfil those urges.”

            Magdalene looked at Kerrik. “We need to get him into our family before you kill him for knowing what he knows.”

            “I agree,” Kerrik said calmly, still watching Iain. “He knows entirely too much otherwise.”

            Iain sighed. “Too much?”

            “No,” Tanika smiled at him. “But it does mean that we need to get you married to someone related to us.” She glanced at Ninhursag. “Sorry.”

            “We knew about this,” Ninhursag replied. “And we accept that he will marry Kerrik’s half-sister or one of your children. We do not accept that he will marry every woman you try to introduce him to, so you’d better figure out who he needs to meet and quickly.” She smiled. “Or one of your other sister wives or sisters will beat you out to his seed with their daughters.”

            Tanika laughed. “Are you trying to turn this into a contest between us?”

            “I’m only stating that obvious fact that it is. There will be few winners and a rather large number of losers in the race to marry my male and husband.”

            “Can this wait for a little while,” Iain asked.

            “I think not,” Tanika replied with a smile. “You keep getting into situations where you should have been killed. If we want your bloodline incorporated into our family, we probably need to move quickly.”

            Iain looked at Kerrik, who held up his hands. “I stay out this sort of thing, Iain, at least when I’m not the one being served up on a platter. You’re on your own. The best thing you have going for you right now is neither of these two are likely to share what they know about you to my other wives. They don’t play fair, so you aren’t going to be inundated with the daughters of my other wives.”

            “It just might be more interesting if they did find out about him,” Ninhursag said.

            “What?” Iain was staring at her in shock.

            Ninhursag smiled amusedly. “It would make it more competitive and therefore the best picks would be available for you choose from, and not just the picks that these two have decided were the best.” She looked at Kerrik. “Would you let the others know the situation please?”

            Kerrik’s eyebrows had risen in surprise and then he glanced at the women on either side of him and smiled craftily. “I’d be glad to. Consider it done.”

            Tanika whirled to face her husband. “Kerrik!”

            His tone was amused. “Yes, dear?”

            “I’d really appreciate it if you did not do this.”

            Magdalene frowned. “Too late. I just felt him send the messages.”

            “I thought you loved us,” Tanika said accusingly to Kerrik.

            “I do. However, Ninhursag is right. I’m not going to lose since somebody from my family will end up married to Iain. This just increases the chances he’ll meet someone he’ll love too.” He looked at Iain. “And when things settle down I will be introducing you to my sister, if she’s interested in marrying a human. It’s unlikely, but I’ll check.”

            “He’s a dragon,” Ninhursag pointed out.

            “True,” Kerrik said thoughtfully. “I’ll be sure and emphasize that little fact to her.” He smiled. “However, Iain was right about something he pointed out.” He looked at Tanika. “As a senior representative of Wolf and a member of this conclave, how do you decide on basis of the evidence and justifications that have been placed before this conclave today?”

            She didn’t hesitate. “The actions that Clan Grey performed under the instructions of the Grey were just. Leaving a clanswoman, even of another clan, in the grasp of any race like the Magog for any length of time is something that none of us could tolerate. The Magog have demonstrated throughout their history that they only respect superior force. Since they believe that humans will never be superior, I do not believe that Iain could have negotiated Daya’s release without first bloodying the Magog precisely as he did when rescuing Daya. At that point, why bother negotiating? The Magog would have demanded something in compensation or, more likely, they would have broken faith and any truce in order to attack Clan Grey as soon as they felt they were in a position to defeat it. They have no honor and deserve none in return.”

            Kerrik turned to look at Magdalene. “And how do you decide based on the evidence and justifications that have been presented to this conclave today?”

            She smiled. “I concur with Tanika’s assessment. I also would add that Clan Grey showed excellent judgement in how they conducted this assault to minimize the chances of failure and maximize the chances of success without unduly endangering the Grey Clan.”

            Kerrik nodded. “And I also agree with Tanika’s assessment and Magdalene’s addition. Iain the Grey, I will forward the report of your actions and the decision of this conclave to the Wolf and request that she present it at the next assembly of the clans. I will recommend that she adopt our decision as Wolf’s and urge her to ensure a favorable decision from the assembly. I will also recommend an investigator from another senior clan come here to ensure that Daya was not complicit in the death of her Wolf clan, as is required by custom and law. You will host this investigator as a guest, if and when she arrives.”

            “I understand and I will comply,” Iain said formally.

            Kerrik nodded. ‘Then as the senior member of this conclave, I officially dissolve it as of this moment. Here will end the report I send to Jassalane.”

            “Are you planning to go back and finish the Magog off,” Tanika asked.

            “Daya wants to do just that,” Iain said with a smile. “I explained to her that we’ll have plenty of fights that we can’t avoid. I don’t see any reason to go looking for more. Not to mention we don’t yet have access to a neutron star so we can build more planet killers. Theodora scoured this system to come up with enough raw materials to build the two we had. We estimate there’s enough of it in the system to make one or two more devices, but it would take centuries to gather the resources required because they’re so sparse.” He picked up his teacup. “And when we do get access to a neutron star there are other things I’d like to focus on building from mining it than making more planet killers.”

            He took a long drink. “We decimated the Magog. From what I know about the universe they live in, they can’t make up the numbers they lost quickly and that’ll give the heroes that should fight them a much better chance of victory if they act smart. But if Kerrik wants to savage them too, I’ll send him the coordinates with a smile and a wish for the best.”

            “What are you going to do now,” Magdalene asked.

            “I’ve got training, as usual. Kerrik gets me this afternoon. I want to thank all of you for taking the time out of your day to do this for me.”

            Tanika grinned at him. “Are you grateful enough to marry the first daughter of mine that I present to you?”

            Iain almost choked on his tea. “No.”

            Tanika sighed theatrically. “Very well. I guess I’ll have to figure out who the best match for you would be and get her here quickly.” She winked. “See you.”  An instant later she’d vanished.

            “She is always interesting,” Ninhursag said. “I know she’s serious about Iain but it’s sometimes hard to tell.”

            Magdalene nodded. “She still often drives our father to distraction and did the same to her grandmother. They were both rather happy that she married Kerrik and moved far from home.”

            Ninhursag cocked her head curiously. “How did they feel when you married Kerrik too?”

            “Tanika’s grandmother has never acknowledged that I have any sort of relationship with her,” Magdalene said. “She has not, even among the children who are actually my father’s from women she doesn’t approve of, but as an adopted orphan, I essentially don’t exist to her. It never really bothered me, however, since she has never visited my father’s home. I didn’t even know his mother was alive until I was an adult and living on my own. I understand their relationship is very distant. As for Father, he was and still is somewhat amused by the fact that both Tanika and I married the same man. I don’t think he understands what two so different personalities could find in one man that we could both love enough to marry.”

            “And that’s hilarious,” Kerrik muttered.

            Magdalene nodded. “It is, considering how many wives my father has and how different some of them are.” She stood, smoothing down her skirts. “Ninhursag, may I come and visit, perhaps next week?”

            “You are always welcome with us,” Ninhursag said. “And you never need an appointment. You are free to just drop in as long as you’re willing to understand that Iain won’t always be available immediately.”

            “That is very gracious of you, Ninhursag, and I will probably impose on your hospitality soon.” She bowed slightly. “I wish all of you a good day.” Then she was gone.

            Ninhursag smiled at Kerrik. “Yes, we understand she’ll be scouting us for whatever daughter or daughters she intends to introduce Iain to. She’s still our friend and she’s always welcome with us.”

            “I’m glad to hear that,” Kerrik replied. “Magdalene needs more friends and she could have done a lot worse than made friends with you and your family.” He glanced at Iain and back to Ninhursag. “You do understand that she might possibly be interested in Iain for more than one of her daughters.”

            Ninhursag nodded. “We are aware that she potentially likes him more then she has liked another male for quite some time. Iain warned us in case it might cause trouble with you or her. Will it?”

            Kerrik shrugged. “Nothing in our marriage said anything about being exclusive to each other. Just understand that if she is my wife and she does become pregnant, it is my child even if Iain is the sire.”

            “If something like that were to happen,” Iain said, “then that child would have two fathers. I will never be just a sire, not if I know a child is mine.”

            Kerrik regarded him for several seconds. “Very well, I agree.” He grinned. “Since I’m the same way most of the time.”

            Ninhursag looked puzzled. “Most of the time?”

            Kerrik nodded. “Under Tirsuli law a woman may approach a man for the purpose of having a child without being married to him or even in his clan. If he agrees to try and get her pregnant, she can insist that he have no contact with the child afterwards, but she has to announce this before they ever have sex and he has to agree to it in front of neutral witnesses. There have been some occasions where I accepted those terms and I did so for very specific reasons. They are, however, very rare and getting rarer as I get older. It unlikely to crop up anytime in the near future.” He pushed his chair back and stood. “If there isn’t anything else, I need to get back to Raven and the others. Besides, I’ve got a report to finish putting together about some lunatic throwing around planet killers and a letter to Jassalane to write.” He stopped and eyed Iain evenly. “Do you know who she is?”

            Iain nodded slowly. “She’s the great granddaughter of you and Imtat. She’s also one of the ones who takes turns being the head of the clan. I don’t know a whole lot else about her.”

            “No one should know as much about me as you do,” Kerrik said quietly.

            “That’s why you’re keeping me close, right?” Iain leaned back in his chair. “You are probably the one person I will not hide what I know from. While I know that doesn’t make my life safer, it does give you a very selfish reason to keep me friendly, breathing and in one piece. Thus the attempts to marry me into one or more portions of your family and why I and my women, while not happy about the idea of adding more people to my life, won’t protest unduly. They don’t want me dead, I don’t want to die and this is a good way to make sure you are hesitant to do away with me.”

            Kerrik nodded. “I’m glad you understand. I don’t want to kill you but I can’t have you not have some kind of reason to want to keep my secrets.”

            “I do, but you won’t trust that until I’m part of your family.”

            Kerrik smiled. “Exactly. Now I’ll see you this afternoon.” His ears flicked. “Be well, both of you.” Then he was gone.

            Ninhursag got up, pulled Iain to his feet, wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on top of his. They stood that way for a few minutes before she spoke. “That was scary.”

            “It was,” Iain agreed quietly.

            “That last part was the worst. Kerrik would kill you without hesitation, wouldn’t he?”

            “Once, yes he would have. Right now he wants to kill me but he’s hesitating and we can work with that.”

            She sighed. “You have to marry one of his kids and possibly his sister.”

            “It will keep us safe and make us stronger. We all do those things every day.” He pushed her head off of his, pulled her down to her knees and kissed her gently. “But the standards are going to be just as high as ever, if not more so.”

            “Oh?”

            “I have to marry at least one of them. So, it could be the sister and not any of the kids or one of the kids and not the sister. His sister is a truewizard. That means any of the daughters I am introduced to will have to be one as well to even be considered. It is, after all, about making us stronger even as we protect ourselves from Kerrik’s family.”

            Ninhursag nodded. “We already have kami with Kasumi and Sidhe with Ygerna. You’re right. It is about making us stronger while ensuring Kerrik doesn’t kill you one day.” She draped her arms around his neck and rested her forehead against his. “Do ever find yourself wishing that things were simpler?”

            He chuckled. “I have found reality is weird enough that I don’t want to accidentally mess with it by making wishes that my magic then tries to have come true. There’s no telling what could happen at that point.”

            She looked surprised. “Could that really happen?”

            “It could. One of the reasons I work so hard to control my power is because if I’m not paying attention, any idle whim could cause catastrophe. It’s how a lot of fledglings who don’t have self-control like I do end up destroying themselves. They either wish for something that makes someone else kill them or they wish for something that they regret and then destroy themselves with a whim or wish in a fit of depression or remorse. It’s one of the reasons the so called evil mages are much more prevalent than the so called good mages since a narcissist or psychopath is much less likely to regret whatever it is they do and so avoid that particular pitfall.”

            “What does that mean for you?”

            “I would feel remorse if I hurt one of the people who are important to me,” he said quietly. “I think that I would survive it and the feelings it would engender in me because I would still have others that are still important to me and who need me, but I don’t want to hurt anyone I care for, so I work hard not to lose control in the first place.”

            She nodded and stood. “That’s good because you’ve got a lot of daughters who will need you at their weddings.”

            “Trust me, I know.” He took her hand. “Let’s go. I’ve got a lot to do before I go off to Kerrik’s this afternoon.”

***

            The door opened and Sawicki came in, holding some clothing on a heavy wooden hanger. “Your wife dropped off your new uniform, LT.”

            Iain looked up from his computer and frowned. “Amanda, which wife and what’s wrong with the uniform I’m not wearing now? I don’t see where I need another one I’m not going to wear.”

            Amanda grinned at him. “It was April and she dropped it off because she knew you’d try to avoid wearing one to the meeting with President Robinson in Austin this afternoon. I’m sure she would have stuck around to make sure you wear it but she’s coordinating some war games between the clan and some Sisterhood unit that’s gotten a mite big for its britches.” She hung the uniform on the hook on the back of the door to his bathroom. “I’ll be back to inspect your appearance before you have to leave for the meeting.” She glanced at Iain and frowned at the amused smile on his face as she shut the door. “What?”

            “‘A mite big for its britches’? You’ve certainly taken a liking to Texas vernacular, haven’t you?”

            Her grin reappeared. “As a little girl, I was adopted into the Sisterhood from southern Indigo. It’s about as close to where Texas used to be as any place in the world is and, while I can’t prove this is where my ancestors came from, it feels right here.”

            “Well, if this is your spiritual home, then welcome home.” He sighed, looking at the closed door to his bathroom. “When should I expect you for the inspection?”

            “I’ll be back about half an hour after lunch. That way you can finish eating, get cleaned up and change before my inspection.”

            He nodded. “Amanda?” She looked at him curiously. “Thanks for everything. We both know I pretty much suck as a Ranger. You’re the glue that holds this place together.”

            She shook her head. “You don’t suck as a Ranger, Iain. You’re actually pretty good. Yes, you don’t have the background in criminal investigation that we do, but you’re more than smart enough to realize that and not to interfere with our work and, if you agree with us, you back us to the hilt and damn the politics. Even if you disagree, you will never throw us to the wolves to save yourself. Also, you’re learning a lot about criminal investigations and doing it as fast as you can, and that in spite of your other responsibilities. And, finally, you’re willing to listen to us even when you do disagree with us. I’ve had commanders who were administrators more than law enforcement before and you’re the best I can remember.” She smiled slowly. “And on a more professional note, I’m very glad you’re sitting in that chair.”

            “Why, so you’re not?”

            Her smile widened. “No, it’s because I shudder to think what the body count would be on my team if we had to bring you in. Between you and your girls, I’d need an army. And if it was just you, I’d still want that army”

            “I think that was a compliment,” Iain said. “So while I still think that, how about you make your escape and I’ll see you an a couple of hours.”

            She laughed and headed for the door.

            A few hours later Iain stood patiently while Sawicki finished looking him over. “As usual, sir, you look impeccable when you’re actually in uniform.”

            “I have an excellent seamstress who can tailor to hide my flaws and too many people around who actually terrify lint into avoiding me. You’d be one of the people who scares lint.”

            “I wish that were really true,” Amanda said wryly. “Then the lint would stay off my uniforms.” She adjusted his collar and stepped away from him. “I will not hear one word of complaint about your new rank, will I, sir?”

            “Lorena warned me she was going to do this,” Iain gave a half shrug. “It restructures the Rangers to what they originally were, which is important because the Rangers are growing and, also, because it respects Ranger tradition, and tradition is a big thing here in Texas and something to which almost all Texans pay more than lip service to. So I’m a major now with silver oak leaves on my collar.” He smiled slightly. “And when I get done with the paperwork, you’ll be an officer here as well as in the Sisterhood.”

            She nodded. “I figured as much. I’m putting together a list of corresponding advancements to bring us up to force requirements as we start recruiting again. Now that it’s been clarified by the Eldest Sister that retired Sisterhood troops in the Rangers can be reactivated if needed, I think that’ll help with recruiting since we have access to your technology whereas the Sisterhood personnel don’t, at least not yet.”

            “Good.” Iain glanced at the door a second before it opened and Ganieda came in. “And here’s my ride.”

            The Snugglebunny Splice nodded. “You look very nice. If Amanda does any better taking care of you some people in the harem might get jealous.”

            Sawicki snickered. “Iain is my superior office, both in the Rangers and in the clan. There is no way I’d screw that up by screwing him. Besides, he gives off that big brother vibe too strongly for me to think about him and sex in the same thought.”

            “That’s good,” Ganieda said as she took his hand. “Thank you for helping him with his uniform.”

            “It was part of my job and he’s my friend.” Amanda waved as they disappeared and let herself out of Iain’s office to get back to her job.

            “It’s weird,” Ganieda said as they arrived in the teleport entry zone in the Presidential Wing of the Texas Government Building. “You meet all of the requirements she is looking for in a male but she really isn’t interested in you.”

            “And that’s a good thing,” Iain responded. “Do nothing to make her rethink her opinion of me. She’s my friend and a nice woman who has done absolutely nothing to deserve the hell of being in a relationship with me.” He grimaced. “And I do not want any woman with even one Officer Jenny in her family around me full time because her harem would be around me full time. Especially for people like me, having a Jenny around would be worse than being surrounded by Celestials.”

            Ganieda nodded. “True.”

            Iain turned to the door out of the room and opened it. It led into a smaller room with a guard post manned by a woman in a sergeant’s TDF uniform. Her violently purple hair, eyebrows and eyelashes suggested she was a pokegirl. “Hello, Sergeant Cassidy.”

            Her eyebrows rose when she glanced at his collar. “Congratulations, Major Grey, and welcome to Austin.” She nodded to Ganieda. “Hi, Ganieda.”

            “Hey, Riley. So have you decided to join the clan yet and really get to kick butt?”

            “I’m still considering it.” Cassidy made a notation on the computer at her station. “Major, you have an appointment with the President in half an hour, sir. You can wait in the Blue Room with General Hays and his aide if you’d like.”

            Iain shrugged. “That’ll work. Thank you, Cassidy.”

            “You’re welcome, major.”

            When Iain walked into the Blue Room, Hays looked up and grinned. “Iain, it’s good to see you.” He glanced at the oak leaves on Iain’s collar. “I see Lorena finally pulled the trigger on the restructuring.” He held out his hand.

            Iain shook hands with him. “Well, general, it is her decision to make, but I tend to agree with what she did. The Rangers are growing, and we needed the room in which to expand.”

            Hays chuckled. “I’d say that you didn’t do too badly with the new rank, but we both know you’re not in this for the glory.” He turned to the other two people with him. “I don’t think you’ve had the chance to meet Mark Goldman.”

            Iain nodded to the man who he’d known as Robert Golding, who was wearing a nice suit. “No, I’ve never met anyone with that name.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Good afternoon, Mr. Goldman.”

            Goldman shook hands with him. “I intended to call you, but I’ve been so damned busy ever since Mike here hired me.”

            “Trust me,” Iain said with an amused glint in his eyes, “I understand all about being busy. So who’s the pretty lady with you?”

            Goldman grinned. “Nicole, I’d like you meet Major Iain Grey. Major, this is Nicole.”

            Nicole held her right hand out, the fingers together to show off the small ring on her third finger. “I’m Nicole Goldman.”

            “Well, congratulations,” Iain said with a grin. “Nobody deserves it more.”

            “Thank you,” she said with satisfaction.

            “We’ll have to have you two out to the ranch when we get the chance,” Iain replied. He turned to Hays. “So why are you here?”

            Hays shrugged. “I’ve been summoned to meet with the President in about twenty minutes. You?”

            “Me too. This is getting curiouser and curiouser. Were you told anything about the meeting?”

            “All I was told was to wear a good uniform and to be on time. You?”

            Iain shook his head. “That’s what I was told too. She’s playing I have a secret again. Is Garrett supposed to be here?”

            Hays glanced at Goldman, who was checking his computer. “According to the schedule I have, Garrett is in Dallas today and won’t be back in Austin for two weeks.”

            Iain shook his head. “So he’s not here and I am. Weird.” He rubbed his chin. “Well, we’ll find out in a few minutes. Do you think this has to with the uprising in Matamoros?”

            Hays grunted like he’d been punched in the stomach. “It had better not. I was in Brownsville yesterday when I was told to be here. She wouldn’t drag me back here for a sitrep, she’d have just called or emailed me.” He smiled slightly. “It’s nice when our President is married to a Marine colonel that she listens to about avoiding interfering with the TDF.”

            “So what happened? I don’t have many details yet.”

            “You are not alone in that.” Hays smiled. “Two days ago, the people of Matamoros rose against the Sunshine garrison there and smashed it flat. Most of the troops there were locals and turned against the league. Then they put up a white flag, sent a team of representatives over to Brownsville and said they’d had a vote and were requesting that the entire district of Tamaulipas be allowed to join Texas.”

            Iain gave a low whistle. “Damn. I doubt the other cities in the district are going along with that.”

            Hays’ smile turned grim. “You’re wrong. The group includes people we already know represent the governments of Ciudad Victoria, Tampico and Nuevo Laredo. They’re serious and this was pretty well thought out. There were other uprisings at the same time of the one in Matamoros and right now Sunshine has no control over the district.”

            “Does Texas have an official position on the situation,” Iain asked.

            Hays snorted loudly. “We had no warning this was going to happen.” He looked at Goldman. “Did Indigo have any inkling this was coming?”

            Goldman was already shaking his head. “Indigo has its own problems enough that it doesn’t have agents helping police Sunshine, but it might explain something that General Golding was looking into before he was shot. In the last year and a half there has been a decided uptick in rebel organizations developing cell structures across southern Indigo. They’re well organized and tightly controlled. I know Indigo intelligence was trying to penetrate them, but from what we could tell, they’d gotten their hands on some psychic pokegirls and were performing counter surveillance on known Indigo operatives as well as policing their own cell structures. At the same time, some of our covert agents and informants were starting to turn up dead with disturbing regularity.”

            Nicole put her hand on Goldman’s arm. “You said ‘our’, Mark. We’re not Indigo.”

            Goldman grumbled. “Hell. Sorry, Mike, but I’m still getting used to pretending this.”

            “I don’t expect miracles and we all know who you used to be,” Hays replied. “What about you, Iain? Have you heard anything from rebels inside Indigo?”

            “Not a peep,” Iain answered. “But to be honest, I’ve talked to more rebels in England than I have here.”

            “Indigo rebels would be insane to approach us,” Ganieda said. “Indigo has so many agents in Stile it’s not funny.” She grinned. “Well, it is actually funny since apparently they’re too busy watching us to see what might be happening in their own league.”

            “She’s right,” Iain noted. “Indigo blames us for pretty much everything bad that happens to them except Rush.”

            “They’d blame you for him too if they could find even a hint of a way to tie you two together,” Goldman said.

            Iain frowned. “I take it you never knew Ronald Hastings, Rush’s Secretary of State, made it to Texas and met with Prometheus and the Texas government?”

            Goldman stared at him for a moment. “He did?”

            “He showed up in Stile and was requesting that Prometheus send Rush aid and wanted Texas to invade Indigo to open another front and take pressure off of the Illinois Free Republic. In return he was offering some vague promises that Texas would be left alone once Rush took over Indigo. On the Prometheus side he met with me and Lucifer because, hey, she’s a pokegirl and can’t be trusted to know her own mind. It was only a few weeks before Rush dropped dead.”

            Nicole’s ears flicked. “You don’t sound happy.”

            “I don’t like people who think pokegirls are nothing more than receptacles for sperm and shields to be used to protect their partners from harm in a fight. Lucifer runs Prometheus and she does a damned good job of it. Anyone who tries to go around her and talk to me because he or she doesn’t feel a pokegirl can make decisions on her own is not going to get on my good side.”

            Goldman smiled slightly. “Do you have a good side?”

            Iain shrugged. “I’ve been told I do. Somewhere. Probably not anywhere I can see it.”

            Ganieda snickered. “Hastings wasn’t happy to be told to sod off by both Prometheus and Texas.”

            “Why did you tell him that,” Goldman asked curiously.

            “Look, I don’t like Indigo. But Rush was a different monster entirely. He would have declared war on Texas just as soon as it suited him and he’d have invaded immediately.” Iain shrugged. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but Indigo has been sitting in place and playing with itself for years while letting Texas get organized enough to resist it. Even if I hadn’t moved here, Texas would have been a nightmare for Indigo to invade and some smart people in Indigo figured that out. And Rush felt he had to be a bigger monster than anything Indigo could do. I couldn’t give any sort of help to that. Lucifer wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help them either.”

            Goldman was nodding. “I knew that the losses on both sides in an invasion of Texas would be horrific and was trying to build the forces I needed to do it right. I was almost there when you showed up.”

            “And now you’re a Texan and Nicole is your wife.”

            Goldman shook his head and took Nicole’s hand. “I would never have voluntarily moved to Texas but I think being executed by the league was the best thing that’s happened to me, possibly ever.”

            “Glad to help,” Iain said.

He started to say something else when the door opened and a man looked inside. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll take you to President Robinson’s office.”

Ganieda’s ears flicked. “Nicole, we’ll treat all three as a group for defense. You take point and I’ll bring up the rearguard.” She smiled when the Dark Kitsune hesitated. “You don’t trust me and I don’t trust you. Trust that Mark will be with Iain and I’ll keep them both alive to keep Iain alive while you do the same to keep Mark alive.”

Nicole’s ears flattened for a second. “Done. If you wanted us dead, it would have already happened.”

“What about General Hays,” Goldman asked.

            “He’d better stick close to you two,” Ganieda replied.

            “Let’s go,” Iain said. Nicole headed out the door and Iain chivvied the two men along with him after her.

            Goldman shook his head. “Do you really think we might be attacked on the way to the President’s office?”

            “There was a feral attack on the grounds of the Texas Government Building the night before last night,” Iain said. “She didn’t get inside, but I have been attacked in the damnedest places.”

            Hays shrugged. “Major Grey is right. The ferals are getting bolder, more cunning and less fearful. It’s not a good combination and, from what we can tell, it’s going to get worse.”

            Nicole glanced back at them. “General Hays, why don’t have you have a pokegirl?”

            “Nicole,” Goldman said warningly. “Don’t pry.”

            “It’s a good question, Mark,” Hays said as Nicole’s ears flattened. “Nicole, I’m a widower. I met my wife when I was eleven and I knew then we’d be together. I was right, and I married my childhood sweetheart who was also the love of my life. When she died from the plagues during the war, I knew I’d probably never marry again and, whether or not you make it official like you and Mark did, having a relationship with a pokegirl is almost exactly like being married. I’ll never love another woman like I did my wife and I see no reason to have any woman try to live with the fact that I’ll never love her like I love Kathleen.”

            “I’m sorry,” Nicole said quietly.

            “It’s not your fault,” Hays replied. “And here we are.” Ahead of them, their guide was opening the door to the Presidential Suite. An Enchantress and a human soldier stood sentry on either side of the door.

            Lorena didn’t like coming into Austin unless it was necessary and did most of her work at the dairy, so Iain had only been in her Presidential office a couple of times. It was nicely decorated with new carpet and some statuary salvaged from the old Texas State Capitol. The paintings in the Capitol had been badly damaged in the flood and had been carefully stored in a warehouse with plans to raise funds to someday restore them. The only painting in the room was a silk painting of a nightingale that Iain had picked up in Tokyo and given to her and Aaron as a present.

            Lorena’s desk was huge and was another salvaged piece from the Capitol, having once been the Texas Governor’s desk. The rest of the furniture in the room was new, including the pair of couches facing each other and angled towards the President’s desk.

            Lorena was sitting on one couch with her Vice President, a solidly built man by the name of David Lyons. Sitting on the other couch was a man wearing an expensive suit. He was middle aged, slightly stout and with a shaggy shock of bright red hair.

            Lorena rose, with a smile. “Larry, I’d like you to meet General Michael Hays of the Texas Defense Force and Major Iain Grey of the Texas Rangers. Gentlemen, this is Ambassador Larry Hennessy from the Johto League.”

            Hennessy stood and shook hands with Hays and then Iain. “It’s a pleasure to meet both of you.”

            Hays looked curiously at Lorena. “Madame President, why am I here?”

            Lorena’s smile was amused. “Ambassador Hennessy wanted to meet you since you’re the commanding officer of the TDF. Through Larry, Johto is proposing ending the war with Texas, recognizing Texas as a nation and sponsoring Texas for entry into the Planetary League Council.”

            Iain and Goldman exchanged a look and Iain was pleased that Goldman looked as surprised as he felt while Hays frowned. “And what is it going to cost us?”

            Lorena smiled again as she turned back to Hennessy. “I told you he was blunt. Johto wants trade.”

            Ganieda’s ears flicked. I am telling this to everyone here at Lorena’s instruction except for Nicole, who is a Dark type and whose mind I can’t touch without her permission. Rebels in Johto have been destroying every wellhead they’ve found and Johto needs access to our oil and natural gas. They know we’re pumping it for our own use and they know that Israel got a nice shipment of natural gas from Texas.

            Iain frowned mentally. Theodora, can you give me an assessment of how badly Johto has been hurt by rebels?

            I cannot, however, Iain blinked when he felt another presence in his mind, Daya can.

            Daya’s mental voice sounded like her, making it easy to distinguish from Theodora. From surveys that I’ve recently completed of our enemies which surround us, Johto has lost nearly eighty percent of its oil and natural gas production to attacks. Some of the damage is undoubtedly from internal rebels, but some of the damage to the northeast shows a different modus operandi in the pattern of attacks. The damage from the eastern assaults is more consistent with that of military grade explosives and equipment, which the rebels do not use in quantity. They tend to utilize IEDs, dynamite and even homemade black powder explosives alongside pokegirl techniques. Something else that is different is that the eastern attacks tend to involve a much higher loss of life than the others across the league and the destruction is more professional and more complete. Also, more militarily significant targets have been attacked than elsewhere in Johto. I suspect that, for reasons we do not yet know, Indigo forces are attacking Johto in the eastern portion of its territory and trying to make their assaults look like rebel activity. I have established satellite coverage to test this theory but so far have no concrete data either way.

            “Are you having a territorial dispute with Indigo,” Iain asked as he reached out to Ganieda and quickly filled her in on the situation. Tell Lorena, Hays and Goldman what Daya just told me, but make it sound like it came from me.

            Done.

            Hennessy stared at Iain as if he’d suddenly started speaking in tongues. “How did you know that? That’s so highly classified I don’t know all of the details.”

            Lorena started chuckling. “While you wanted to meet Iain for your own reasons, I wanted him here because he sometimes has information that nobody else seems to possess.” She looked expectantly at him. “Spill, major.”

            “We all know that Johto, at least in part, wants trade with us because their fuel and plastics infrastructure has been gutted by rebel attacks and they don’t have the tech base to rebuild the lost capacity. However, the damage done by these supposed rebels on the eastern side of Johto seems to be too professional to be local rebels,” Iain said. “And locals, even fanatics, wouldn’t murder everyone they ran across because at least some of the workers they encounter would have to be friends or family since the wellheads and cracking plants are operated by locals. Indigo is probably raiding across the border to make Johto more likely to give up claims to land that Indigo wants.”

            Hennessy swallowed hard. “Can you prove that?”

            “No, it’s all supposition except for the fact that the attacks are different in your eastern regions. I’d have to have eyes on some of the damage and the dead to develop a better opinion and I doubt you brought samples of them with you.”

            “If you had access to them, could you make a more definitive assessment,” Hennessy asked curiously.

            “My people could.” He frowned. “But if you didn’t want me here for my technical expertise, how does this treaty or alliance or whatever involve the Rangers?”

            Hennessy smiled. “Johto and Capital are the smallest leagues in the old US. You have been involved in every militarily significant action involving Texas and the leagues for the last few years. I wanted to make sure you were on board with this because Johto can’t afford to have you attack the league.”

            Lyons had been watching the exchange closely. “That’s the reason you wanted to meet Major Grey? He sounded incredulous and slightly insulted.

            “While it might look like it from the outside,” Iain said carefully, “I and my clan have not ever initiated hostilities between Texas and anyone else. Also, while we might have been involved in many of the recent major events, there have certainly been, as you put it, militarily significant interactions between Texas and league forces that we were not involved in.” Beside him, Hays was nodding.

            Hennessy wasn’t done. “What about the events at Reynosa?”

            “The Shiners decided it was amusing to snipe Texan civilians. That’s terrorism and both the local military commander and President Robinson pointed out it was against the articles of war, league law, Texas law and that it needed to stop. Both were then told by legal and legitimate Sunshine government representatives at different levels of the Sunshine government to pound salt. I’m a Ranger and it’s against the law for that sort of murder to take place. I found out about the terrorist attacks and got involved after I also discovered they almost killed a relative of mine with sniper fire.”

            “And what about the events in Louisiana?” Goldman winced but didn’t otherwise react to Hennessy’s blunt question.

            “There is a special group of pokegirls running around called the Legendary pokegirls,” Iain replied. “They’re called that because they’re very powerful, unique individuals and they’re seldom seen. One of them decided to create the Louisiana Canal for her own reasons and she involved me because I know her and because she trusts me to follow simple instructions without fucking them up. She also insisted I be involved because I’d been conducting surveillance on the Indigo military and police in Louisiana, so I knew who she would want to bear witness to the Canal’s creation and who might understand its implications. Trust me, I wasn’t involved in deciding where to put it. I happen to think it would have looked much better going through downtown D. C, even if where it is now it gives me access to an ocean port.”

            “Why did she do that?”

            “She didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask,” Iain replied. “If I were to speculate, I’d say she wanted to get the attention of Indigo, but she didn’t want to murder thousands of people to do so. I do know she’s a believer in minimum application of force at focal points whenever possible so she doesn’t have kill large bunches of people. While among the most powerful of any of the pokegirls, Evangelion, which is her name, tries to avoid massacres if she can. Remember, I said if she can. She is capable of depopulating entire regions if it is necessary.”

            “I see. Your troops are holding Reynosa while this so-called vote is being organized.”

            “That vote is real,” Lyons said amusedly. “And Texas will abide by the results.”

            “As Vice President Lyons gently reminded you,” Iain said calmly, “the plebiscite is legitimate. For the record, it is being organized by the people of Reynosa and not the Texans. As for the troops securing the people of Reynosa while they’re deciding what government they are going to have, while it is true that they are members of my clan, the Sisterhood troops involved are mercenaries in the pay of Texas and my understanding is that they should be withdrawing about a month before the election.”

            “You don’t know,” Hennessy asked curiously.

            “That’s a military decision,” Iain said. “I’m a Texas Ranger, not a soldier.”

            Hays nodded. “TDF regulars will be taking over the security for Reynosa next week, which is sooner than originally projected. The Sisterhood forces were hired because of the suddenness of the situation that had developed in Reynosa. In fact, we’re already negotiating with their commander to hire more troops from the Sisterhood to secure Tamaulipas while we’re discussing its future with the local government. The fact that the Sisterhood is living on and leasing land owned by Major Grey is just a coincidence.”

            “Major Grey isn’t the commander of the Sisterhood?”

            Hays shook his head. “No, it’s a woman by the name of Lucifer. Major Grey isn’t even a member of the Sisterhood, much less it’s commander.”

            Hennessy looked surprised. “I’ve heard of her. She’s a pokegirl.”

            Hays nodded. “She is, and in Texas she’s a much a citizen of the country as I am. The fact that she is a pokegirl is just a fact.”

            “Considering that you’ll probably want to talk to her about purchasing supplies for Johto,” Lorena said quietly, “you might want to remember that Lucifer is very proud of what she’s accomplished. She also has a long memory for insults.”

            “Johto wouldn’t want to hire mercenaries,” Hennessy said.

            Lyons gave a brief laugh. “If you’re getting involved in a shooting war with Indigo you might want to rethink hiring mercenaries, but that’s not important. What you apparently don’t know is that Lucifer is also the CEO of the Prometheus Society and I believe you have already been inquiring about how to contact that organization.”

            Hennessy’s eyes went wide. “Oh.”

            “I happen to know Lucifer,” Iain said. “As long as you treat her like the powerful, wealthy philanthropist she is, things should be fine.”

            “Also keep in mind that she can tell if you lie to her,” Nicole added. “She’s a Celestial, which is a special type of pokegirl and all Celestials can tell when people lie. It’s part of their magic.”

            That wasn’t true, but it was the kind of story that would keep Hennessy from trying to play games with Lucifer and so Iain wasn’t going to correct Nicole. “Ambassador?” Hennessy turned worried eyes on him. “Did you just want me here to sign off on Johto’s plans?”

            “My government insisted that I speak to you about it.”

            “Well, you have.”

            Hennessy’s eyes narrowed. “Do you have someplace better to be, major?”

            Lorena’s gasp was audible. Iain smiled sadly. “I really would have had President Robinson ask that and not you. Then I could get into a huff, hand her this badge and tell her to sod off. Ambassador, I’m a Texas Ranger. I’m not a soldier and I’m not a politician. I’m a policeman. I’m also a rancher and a farmer and a husband and a father. I have a lot of places I’d rather be, but my presence was requested by one of the people I let give me orders because I respect her, that being President Robinson. So, the answer to your question is yes, but I will remain here as long as the Madame President wants me to remain here.” He turned to Lorena. “Sorry about that, ma’am, but I wanted to make sure that the ambassador understands that I am here because you want me here, not because of what some foreigner might want.”

            Lorena nodded. “Thank you, Iain.” She turned to Hennessy. “Larry, Iain is here because I asked him to be here. It is not your place to try and dress him down. I warned you when you requested him that he is not politically correct and you said you didn’t have a problem with it, but here you are having a problem with it.”

            Hennessy flushed slightly and then sighed. “You’re right and I’m sorry to both you and Major Grey for my behavior.”

            Lorena looked expectantly at Iain. He smiled. “I accept your apology, Mr. Hennessy, but you need to remember that while I am a barbarian, I’m also a student of history and for you and Johto it’s a good thing that I am a policeman and neither a politician nor a soldier.”

            Hennessy frowned. “What does that mean?”

            “While you seem all right,” Iain said, “you represent Johto. It, Indigo, Capital and Sunshine conspired to and then murdered the United States of America along with Canada, Mexico and other countries while more leagues did the same thing around the world. While the US wasn’t perfect, it was the best place on this planet to live, which is why so many people wanted to emigrate to here. And it can’t be brought back, and I think that Texas, in a lot of ways, is much better off without the US being around anymore and I don’t think that it would have become what it is without the US being destroyed. But in the conspiracy and murder of the US, as well as what they’ve continued to do since, the leagues have legitimized betrayal, oppression, assassination and bloodshed as tools for political change. We all know that they still use those tools today. Texas cannot ever forget that your government feels those methods are legal even if the Texas government decides to work with you. If I were a politician I would be shouting that reminder every time I was at work and if I were a soldier I’d be keeping that close in mind and always asking if this next request for aid or offer of assistance was the trap where the leagues intended to destroy Texas’ ability to resist them once and for all.”

            “I’m not proud of what we did,” Hennessy said. “But it had to be done. You won’t likely agree with that, but it did. But agree or not, it happened and now we have to live with the results. I joined the Johto State Department after the Revenge War ended because I believe that the bloodshed and betrayal must end and that I can help do that by doing my job, which is helping to build alliances and peace between nations such as Texas and Johto.”

            “That’s admirable,” Hays said. “But it’s my job not to believe a word of what you just said and to plan for it to be nothing more than lies.”

            “Hennessy believes what he’s saying,” Iain stated. “The question is does the rest of the Johto government believe it as well or are they planning to betray him too?”

            The thing to remember, Lorena said to Iain with her twee, is that if we do agree to this treaty with Johto, it gets our foot in the door for recognition with the other leagues and it might just set Johto against Indigo and Sunshine even if they do all betray us in the end. I believe divide and conquer is as much a legitimate military strategy as it is a political one.

            It is. Your job is the one of compromise. So rein me and Hays in so it looks like we’re divided too so we can keep our enemies guessing.

            Robinson smiled. I will. I just wanted make sure you wouldn’t take the opportunity to quit on me. She glanced at Hays and Iain. “Larry, just remember that General Hays isn’t a politician either and he’ll do what I order him to. And you’re the one who insisted that Major Grey be here.”

            “True, Madame President,” Hays said. “I swore an oath and I take oaths seriously.”

            Iain closed his eyes and took a deep breath before letting it out. “Yes, ma’am. Am I needed here for anything else?”

            Lorena eyed him for a moment. Are we still invited for lunch next weekend?

            Of course you are. This jerk isn’t going to ruin our friendship. You can even bring that silly Marine you married with you.

            She shook her head, obviously trying not to smile. “No. In fact, I think all of you should go.”

            Hays nodded. “Madam President. Mister Vice President.”

            Goldman came to attention. “Ma’am.” He nodded again towards Lyons. “Sir.”

            Iain just smiled and looked at Ganieda. “You have point. Nicole can bring up the rear. And you know where the front door is.”

            Hays looked at Iain when they were out in the hall and a short distance from the door. “Do you think Hennessy bought it?”

            “Our disagreement with Lorena? He believes Johto is turning over a new leaf. If he can buy that crap, he might believe anything.”

            “You are all crazy,” Goldman said. “But this is crazy enough that it might work. If Johto recognizes Texas as a nation and makes peace with us, it’ll go a long way to legitimizing Texas as a real nation.”

            “What happened,” Nicole asked.

            “If you will let me touch your mind,” Ganieda said, “I’ll fill you in on what you couldn’t hear.”

            “OK.” Nicole blinked. “That was sneaky. I didn’t know you were a telepath.”

            “You weren’t supposed to,” Ganieda replied with a smirk. “You were just supposed to think I was a big, not very bright bodyguard.”

            “I never thought you were dumb. Iain is too smart to have a stupid bodyguard. I just never realized how crafty you really are.”

            Hays shrugged. “It doesn’t matter how cunning we are. I told Hennessy the truth. Politicians work for the best possible outcomes, or at least claim to. Our job is to plan for the other side of the coin.”

            “Your job,” Iain said. “My job is to raise my kids, hunt ferals and help catch the bad guys. I’m not a soldier or a sailor anymore.”

            Goldman grinned. “Hennessy is going to have a fit when he finds out Lucifer is your wife.”

            “No, his fit is going to happen when he realizes I’m her husband,” Iain said with an answering smile. “He’s going to immediately figure I’ve already poisoned Lucifer against him.”

            “Isn’t that the same thing,” Nicole asked, her ears canted sideways in confusion.

            Iain chuckled. “It is and it isn’t. As far as the Sisterhood and Prometheus are concerned, Lucifer is in charge, which makes me her husband and subordinate somehow. It’s a free pokegirl thing and it’s never really bothered me because it means they sometimes underestimate me. More importantly it means they go to her for decisions and not me, which is what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s the occasional human who can’t figure out the chain of command and thinks they can do an end run around Lucifer to me.”

            Ganieda’s ears flicked. “And all that happens when they do is they manage to piss off both Iain and Lucifer.”

            “Pretty much.” Iain turned to Hays. “Are you headed back to Brownsville?”

            “I will go there in the morning. I’m not in Austin all that often and I want to visit my son and his wife.”

            Iain nodded. “Mark, you and Nicole stay close to Hays if you don’t mind. Austin’s Rangers and some volunteers have started patrols around the town and into the shattered zones because the ferals are getting worse. In the long run it’ll lower their numbers but right now they’re being disturbed and so there have been more sightings and attacks.”

            “I’ll keep close to him unless he orders us away,” Goldman said.

            “If he tries that,” Iain replied, “call me immediately. I’ve been roped into too many jobs to want to be the commanding general of the TDF.”

            Hays chuckled. “You’re not qualified to do my job.”

            “I’m not qualified to be a Ranger either and Lorena knows I’d bring Amanda with me and I think that woman could do both of our jobs, maybe at the same time.”

            Hays stopped laughing. “True. I think Garrett was hoping to poach her from you.”

            “He tried.” Iain’s smile was evil. “Dora, her alpha, had a lot of fun explaining to him that it was against the rules.”

            Hays looked surprised. “It is?”

            “Damn straight. I wrote that rule with him in mind to keep him and people like you from stealing my Rangers and members of the Sisterhood.”

            “I thought you didn’t have anything do with the Sisterhood.”

            “I don’t. But Lucifer saw the new order and immediately realized what it was for and pinched it for her own use to protect the Sisterhood’s people. I didn’t show it to her, but I suspect Sawicki did.”

            Hays eyed Iain curiously. “What is her rank in the Sisterhood?”

            “Active duty she’s a colonel. It sounds like she’s merely very competent until you find out there are no generals in the Sisterhood. It’s colonel, then the inner council of Celestials and then Lucifer. She is easily the equivalent of a Major General or Lieutenant General because, before she retired, she commanded all of the Sisterhood’s internal security forces.”

            Goldman looked surprised. “How did you end up with her as your subordinate?”

            “She was bored in retirement, I think Lucifer asked her to help me and Garrett has a fucked up sense of humor. Amanda should be running the Rangers I command, not me, but Garrett and I think Lorena wanted to make sure I didn’t decide one day that I was going to run for President of Texas or stage a coup. She ordered him to shanghai me, I gave him the opportunity and he didn’t hesitate to try and neutralize me.”

            Hays frowned. “You’d never do that. I think you’d rather be set on fire than run Texas.”

            Iain flashed a grin as he nodded. “They know that now. They didn’t then.”

            “Any regrets,” Goldman asked curiously.

            “There was this really hot girl that I should have asked out in the ninth grade,” Iain said without missing a beat. “But I figured she was way out of my league. Only later did I find out she was interested in me as much as I was in her. Of course,” he grinned, “that ruined my opinion of her.”

            Ganieda sighed. “We’re working on his low self-esteem.”

            “Yeah, well,” Iain said, “thinking I’m the best person in the universe for everything is just as unhealthy and more likely to cause problems.” He looked back at Nicole. “Do you know how to teleport?”

            “I do, sir, but I can’t carry anyone else when I do.”

            “We can fix that,” Ganieda said.” She looked at Iain. “I presume that’s what you were going to say.”

            “Pretty much.” He looked at Goldman. “If you and Nicole are interested, you can do some training when you visit, and she can get some personalized training so she can carry you and so evacuate you if things go badly.”

            “I would hope she’d also take their paymaster with them,” Hays said amusedly.

            “That’s up to them,” Iain replied. “But they seem like good people so she might want to learn if she can carry two people on a teleport.”

            “Are we visiting,” Goldman asked.

            “If they can teach me to carry you when I teleport, sir,” Nicole said firmly, “we will visit regularly until I can. And then we’ll see if I can learn to carry two at once.”

            Goldman gave a sigh that was belied by the amusement in his eyes. “You heard my wife.” He shook his head. “I never thought I’d be able to say that again.”

            “Widower,” Hays asked.

            “Nope, she dumped me for a city councilman during the war. Then she dumped him and went back home to her mother in New Jersey before the plague hit. I lost track of her after that, which is a shame because she took my daughters with her.” He shrugged. “We didn’t part on terrible terms and I’d like to see my kids again if I could, but I don’t even know if they’re alive or not.”

            They stepped through a door into the foyer of the Texas Government Building. A twelve foot tall double door led outside.  Almost blocking passage to the rest of the building were a pair of desks that were occupied by receptionists who also doubled as low profile security. Iain stopped at the closest one. “Iain Grey, Ganieda Grey, Mark Goldman, Nicole Goldman and Michael Hays are leaving.” He knew that Cassidy would have updated the entry database. “Please let Sergeant Cassidy know that Ganieda and I won’t be leaving by the teleport zone.”

            The woman, who Iain had never met before, gave him a pleasant smile. “I will, Ranger.”

            When they were outside, Hays flagged down a Ponytaur drawn cab as Iain turned to Goldman. “When you and Nicole get a few days free, call me as soon as you get the time approved and we’ll bring you two to visit. Nicole can get an evaluation so we know how to focus her training and I’ll show you around the ranch, or, if you’re bored or feeling nostalgic, you can run the obstacle course for old time’s sake.”

            Goldman shook hands with Iain. “I don’t think I’ll ever be that bored. I’ve heard about how brutally your family trains.”

            “Yeah, well, we have these belligerent neighbors to the east, although they’re less competent than they used to be,” Iain said with a grin.

            “Can you tell me who took over at the base? It wasn’t Abrams, was it?”

            Iain shook his head. “Abrams is up north. He got his star and he’s working on the mess Anton Rush left when he abruptly died. Golding’s post at Fort Polk was filled by General Yolanda Greene.”

            Goldman frowned. “I’ve never heard of her.”

            Hays had rejoined them. “That’s a good sign for us, isn’t it?”

            “It is,” Iain confirmed. “She’s held her rank for less than six months before being sent to Polk and she is not a product of any military tactical school. She’s a decent administrator and a dyed in the wool Indigo loyalist, but if she’s any sort of a tactician then I’m a stunt double for the Easter Bunny and we all know that I only do stunt work for Santa. She was a major in Washington and then they bumped her all the way to four star and sent her to Louisiana. And to make it better for us, she’s a micromanager, so her able executive officer can’t get anything useful done behind her back.”

            Goldman looked disgusted. “Who is her patron?”

            “Senator Howard.”

            Goldman’s expression went from disgusted to slightly ill. “Which one?”

            “Lisa is her specific patron, but I understand she and Glen get along well too. So, yes, she’s a hack and owes everything to the two Howards. I think it means she won’t be looking towards Texas much. I suspect she was installed to keep an eye on all of the property the Howards own around the Baton Rouge area.”

            Goldman grunted sourly. “That’s one of the places the rebels have been the most organized.”

“And we like them being organized,” Hays said. “It keeps us out of Indigo’s crosshairs.”

            Goldman grunted again. “Sorry.”

            “Wow, he must be fun at parties,” Iain said to Nicole.

The Dark Kitsune giggled. “It’s just that you keep bringing out this side of him, sir.”

            “You know, Nicole, my name is Iain. You keep using your pet name for Goldman on me and eventually he’s going to get annoyed by it.”

            Nicole blinked, her ears sideways. She glanced at Goldman and giggled again at his expression. “Yes, sir.”

            “If it makes you feel better,” Goldman said, “it took a direct order to make her call me Mark sometimes.”

            Iain shrugged. “I’ve got a couple of ladies who insist on calling me sir. One does it because she wants to and the other, I think she just wants to annoy me with it sometimes. But I can’t tell them what to call me, I can only tell them what I absolutely won’t allow. If they want to use sir, whatever.” He took Ganieda’s hand as he looked at Hays. “Anything I need to tell Lucifer?”

            “Her prices are too high.”

            “If you’re still willing to hire the Sisterhood after saying that I don’t think her prices are high enough,” Iain smiled. “But I’ll pass the message along. Nicole, Mark, don’t be strangers.” Then they were gone.

 

Iain Grey

 

Inner Harem

Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani

Eve Grey - Megami Sama

April Grey - Duelist & beta

Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage

Pandora - Fiendish Archangel

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

Zareen - Nightmare

Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur

Sofia - Ria

Vanessa – Evangelion

Lucifer – Megami Sama

Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice

Heather - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen

 

Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit

 

Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)

Golden Cloud – equine unicorn

Arianrhod -Fey Goblin Female

 

Satellite Clan

            74 male Goblins

            89 female Goblins

 

Queendom / Outer Harem

73 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

14 Wet Elves

 

 

Dead Harem

Eirian - Silver Dragoness

Aurum - Gold Dragoness

Skye - Blue Dragoness

Emerald - Green Dragoness

Beryl - Red Dragoness

Julia - human

Ling - Cheetit

Matilda - White Tigress

Liadan - Twau

Sorrel - Armsmistress

Natalie - Blazicunt

Maria - Slutton

Rhea Silvia - Chimera

Geraldine - Human

 

Mother            s & Children

 

Vanessa

     Myrna

     Saoirse

April

     Dorothy: Duelist

     Meara: Duelist

     Regan: Duelist

Canaan

     Hannah: Huntress

     Rebecca: Huntress

Joyce

     Lisa: Milktit

     Sherrie:  Milktit

     Harriet: Milktit

Lucifer           

     Olivia: Megami-Sama

     Seraphina: Megami-Sama

     Miriam: Angel

     Haley: Angel

Zareen            

     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare