|Previous Page||Next Page|
|Home Page||Index Page|
When Diplomacy Fails: Chapter Two
Last updated: Friday, June 8, 2012 21:26 EDT
"So why am I in a suit?" Ayisha asked in the back of the auto cab, and damn, did she look good even in business wear. Though that was likely in part because he knew she wasn't wearing underwear. That made it even more aggravating. She looked very professional outside, her hair neatly up, and it was just a mask.
She hadn't said much while boarding the Airstreak 5. She probably hadn't known its actual value, but "expensive" was easy to figure. He'd expected that. She didn't ask details of where in England they were going. Actually, they were going to Wales.
An hour later they landed, and she was still cool. I may have overplayed it, he thought. This was far more exotic and money-laden than anything they'd done, and he imagined she was put upon, or jealous, or worried at what kind of personal tag it carried, or if it was just to show off.
The Skoda limo didn't help, though she smiled politely as she accepted a third margarita. He'd mixed them light, for hydration more than intoxication. He preferred women alert and willing, not clumsy-drunk and pliable.
"Such pretty scenery," she said. "I didn't know there were still areas this undeveloped over here."
"Not many, but there are a few. A few kilometers of hills hide a lot of things."
"Yeah, I guess."
It also helps when you own all those kilometers and get to decide who builds what, he thought. At one time, this had all been coal country, and the Prescot family owned it all.
It was a lovely sunny day as they pulled into the apron, past the polished and manicured flower beds and under the perfectly transparent rain dome. Ron Schenk, his opposite number for this team, was waiting.
Aramis said, "Uh, we have to be searched before we go in. Thoroughly."
"Oh. Patted down?" she asked.
"'Felt up' is more like it. They'll have a female guard."
The driver opened the door, and Schenk said, "Hi, Aramis. And this must be Ayisha?"
"I am," she agreed with a nervous smile.
Aramis spread arms and legs and let them scan, flash and grope him. Besides clothes, he had nothing except his wallet, feeling very naked unarmed, but that was one of the rules. He didn't know who the female was, but she was Company, so she was a veteran and knew her stuff. It had taken him one tour with Elke to accept that there were women who measured up for this job, and he'd never questioned the idea since.
Then they were done and inside and Caron swept through the parlor in a dark blue dress.
"Aramis!" she said, and moved in for a hug and a warm kiss on the cheek. That was very nice of her, very nice of her, but probably wasn't going to make Ayisha relax enough for anything.
Sure enough, Ayisha said, "Oh, my, I recognize you, but I'm afraid I don't recall your name."
"Caron Prescot. You must be Ayisha." She extended a hand and smiled with a friendly crinkle of her eyes.
"You're…her." Yes, that had overloaded Ayisha's brain.
Yes, Ayisha, my other girlfriend is the richest person in the universe. Oh, and scorching hot. Sorry.
"I am. Welcome to Wales. I have refreshments out and my staff will move your things." She didn't say to where. Aramis assumed adjoining rooms, giving Ayisha a choice. It wasn't likely to help. And he wasn't going to visit Caron's room while Ayisha was here. Sigh, and dammit.
Caron continued, "Would you like a tour?"
Ayisha didn't hesitate this time. "I would."
"Then Aramis can mix drinks for us, and we shall be back soon." Caron smiled at him and led Ayisha away. One of the guards followed at a discreet distance.
Yes, but first he'd mix himself one, strong. The Penderyn honey finish whisky was wonderful stuff, actually affordable on Earth, and potent enough to dull his jitters.
He was on the couch, halfway through a second glass, when he saw them pass through the palatial public kitchen, separate from the professional one Joanne Crandall, the cook, used.
They were giggling and muttering, hunched close.
On the one hand, he was glad Caron was able to relax so easily. Things had improved for her. On the other hand, that pretty well ensured he was going to spend the weekend being a gentleman, and trying not to arouse jealousy in either of them.
He went for a third drink.
Joy Highland was irritated, more than usual. Minister of State was not her first choice of job, nor her final goal, but until the election she was stuck with it, and with having to do the job. That was fine. It wasn't fine for her putative boss, that upstart little social climber, to load extra taskings on her. She wasn't needed for the Summit on Mtali. It was just an excuse to get her off planet for a while leading up to the election. The outsystem votes weren't enough to matter.
Some people would be happy managing international relations on Earth and in the colonies. Managing relations, however, was not directing or leading. Or not enough to suit her.
That upstart Cruk, when campaigning for Secretary General, had violated plenty of finance and ethics policies and laws, and played the press off to his benefit. Fair enough, it got him, and the Equality Party, into power. It got her the position she held now, which was a good launching platform.
Now, though, he remained a cheat and thief, even to his own party and administration. He might get re-elected, but it would wreck them as a party if he did. Hence her campaign. It was completely legitimate. The party caucus could decide if they wished to support another run by him, or by her. If they chose him, she was just young enough to run again on the next cycle.
Instead, he was trying to derail her early on, so he'd have minimal competition. Hunter was the only other candidate with a shot, and she could take him out any time with accumulated dirt. It wasn't that he was dishonest. He was dishonest and clumsy.
Cruk's solution? Get her off planet with a small staff, to block most of her public appearances and name recognition. Any comment of hers would he 12 hours or more after the fact of the event, and she'd have only recorded second-string facetime, nothing live or leading. Well done, fucker.
Still, if he wanted to play that game, she'd play it. Mtali was a war zone. That was useful.
She checked through her list while alternately responding to deputy queries. James Jaekel, her Chief of Staff, was going to have to manage in her absence for a while. The fastest she'd be able to respond was twelve hours, and she'd be dealing with events on Mtali. There'd be no instant feedback to keep him on track. Of course, Cruk might have planned that. Or his staff. He certainly was neither that scheming, nor that intelligent. The bureaucrats had an empty suit they could puppet, and they still whined. If she could get in…
"My detail understands they are to be armed, yes?"
"They do," said her personal assistant, Jessie. "Does that include explosives?"
Joy turned, holding her brush halfway to her hair. "What? Oh, hell no. Whose fucked up idea was that?"
"An Agent Eleonora Sykora, who is a munitions disposal expert. She's one of the ones who identified the nuke on Salin."
"And she wants a nuke?" That couldn't have been what she just heard.
"No, she apparently had a nuke at the Prescot mine on Govannon. All she's asking for now is half a tonne of Composition G, Orbitol and Smithereen."
That was impressive in its arrogance. "What a bloodthirsty bitch. Maybe I can get her vote. But no, I don't need some militaristic nutjob with explosives. The guns will work better for visibility. We don't want to actually hurt potential voters, just make it obvious I'm actually in a hostile zone."
"Should I relay that message?"
"It's probably better to let them think it's agreeable, and stall until they accept it."
"They won't be loaded on the transport, then."
"Is there any way we can let…no, the stuff is traced, dammit. It will just have to get forgotten."
On Sunday morning, Alex was almost too content to be happy. Shaman—their nickname for Horace Mbuto—had arrived the night before, and rose early. He made smoked Scotch Eggs for breakfast. Everyone was accounted for. Transport was ready, and it was military-managed, with their client part of the same government. That meant there were standard protocols for safety and transfer. Her existing security detail would see her to the ship, they'd transfer responsibility in transit.
It seemed too good.
He chalked it up to nerves. They'd had easy missions, though eventually they always earned their pay.
A message chimed in, and he scanned it. Subject: security detail weapons. Requested: a long list of stuff they optimistically hoped would be one third approved. Approval: everything.
Pistols, carbines with grenade launchers, a sharpshooter's rifle, two squad weapons, an autocannon, a Medusa system, ammunition, hand grenades, Jason's tomahawk, knives, demolition hammers, stunners, stun batons, stickybombs…ah, there. "Authorization for incapacitance gas denied." Fine. He could live with that. Someone had either been very agreeable, slightly greased, or smart, and they had all the firepower they needed to hold off an angry mob with torches. Possibly due to the fact that once they had fought an angry mob with torches.
No mention of explosives yea or nay. He frowned, sent a query back, and decided not to mention that to Elke just yet.
Elke was slicing up a Scotch Egg with a surgically sharp knife, and fork. "These are fantastic," she said. "Though I'll need something vegetable to go with it. It's just too much by itself."
"Peasant food," Shaman said. "For very rich peasants. Such a marvelous world we live in."
"Caron's people are doing very well with the vats. It even tastes like it was well-exercised range meat."
Bart said, "I will be happy to assist her in testing any food, liquor or beer she wishes before the market. All they care to send."
Shaman said, "You know, I'm fairly sure she'd take you up on that. You are a connoisseur of beer, and reasonably experienced with liquor. You'd give her people honest feedback, which is a problem she always has."
"It will not be a new job, but it might be a nice hobby," the big man said with a slow nod. "I will suggest it to someone."
It had been a good day, Aramis reflected. He wasn't really a garden person, but Caron's groundskeepers did some amazing things with plants, rocks, flowers and trees. It was done in part under her direction, a hobby to keep her sane. She'd devised digital machines to dig and plant according to a map. They already existed for agriculture, she'd just modified one for decorative landscaping. She'd probably get a few million more dollars she didn't need from that, too.
Fine weather, if a little gray early on, but sunny with puffy cumulus now, had helped. Caron's domestic staff were the same, and Joanne had brought regular drinks, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and other snacks. It was hard not to eat too much.
Ayisha had the same problem, but was delighted, and seemed comfortable enough, once over the shock of Caron's insane wealth.
And here it was, evening, they were inside Caron's huge apartment with a real wood fire in a fireplace. It crackled and popped, and the broad couch he sprawled on was very comfortable. He could sleep here. Ayisha made a good pillow, too. His head was cradled on her middle, with her hips and chest in an arch around him.
The wood smoke was pleasant, and the sherry was delicious. He didn’t inquire as to brand. There was no way he could afford a single bottle.
Caron's family were dead, her immediate friends gone in a scandal. Now that she was alone except for staff, the house had been rebuilt inside, into a couple of large apartments in this wing, with the other wing set for visiting guests. He wondered if Ayisha realized that they were staying in the personal and family wing, not the guest wing. He also wondered if something might actually happen. Caron seemed relaxed, and she had put Ayisha's and his rooms adjoining. They connected, too.
Ayisha did seem to agree. She had her fingers inside his shirt and one of the buttons was undone. Well. It seemed it might be a good weekend after all.
Caron sat back with a coy smile, watching.
“You’ll probably find the bed more comfortable,” she said, and waved at the far end of the great room she used as bedroom, office and lounge.
Well, that was obvious consent. She didn’t seem offended, and that was good.
Ayisha giggled as he lifted her over his shoulder, swatted her ass and carried her up the broad risers.
Her blouse and bra yielded without struggle, and he enveloped her in a kiss and embrace, warm flesh against him.
They were naked and tingly when he felt a familiar sensation. An amazing set of boobs against his shoulders.
“Caron?” he said in surprise. Dammit, he should have been more alert, too. He hadn’t noticed her undressing and coming over. Yes, she'd dropped the gown, and her underwear.
“You can’t imagine I’m just watching, can you? I expect equal attention.”
Oh, the bitch. Already he was clinging desperately to self control.
In moments, her mouth was on his, her warm, supple breasts against him, and Ayisha shifted so her body was all over his lower half. He kept a steely grip on his nerves as they moved about, straddling and using him. The panting he heard wasn’t entirely them.
He focused on one thing at a time, ignoring sensations, or trying to. Silken sheets, sweat-cooled skin, tumbling hair, and Ayisha, soft and slick and shivering in response to him.
Her hips were very nice, rounded rather than oval, her thighs supple, and her skin wore a hint of spice. It was much easier to give than receive like this. Much easier.
He reached out for Caron, who was next to him and waiting patiently for him. He ran a hand down her flank and rose to look across.
Yes, she really was. Her fingers and lips were on Ayisha's skin, and…
He clamped down on every fiber in his body, and the rush that hit him was as intense as an adrenaline dump in combat, but far, far more pleasant. Endorphins ripped through him like never before. It was like falling off a cliff.
He slid his hand up, and traced her lips with a finger, a physical confirmation for his eyes, while trying to decide what to do.
Ayisha wrapped an arm around Caron and clenched, and clutched for him with the other. With the taboo broken, he collapsed on them and stopped thinking, in a burning, melting rush. He was beyond drunk, beyond lost, and only a thread of control remained, a glowing, sparkling line amidst the waves of fog in his brain.
Then two warm mouths collided on him and his brain jolted in disconnect.
He wasn’t sure if he was the first to scream.
It didn’t end with that, and he never got past it all feeling like a dream, an hallucination, an unreality that he couldn’t wake up from and didn’t want to.
An hour later they stopped, gasping and sweating and with unfocused eyes. Caron kissed Ayisha sloppily, then him, then bounded off the bed and into a kimono. She headed for the kitchen, as Ayisha headed for the bathroom. Ayisha came back with cool, damp towels. Caron returned with three glasses of tart limeade and a bucket of ice.
They wound up sitting in a triangle, and he gauged them. They seemed comfortable enough, neither fawning each other nor shying away. They grinned when they made eye contact.
Even if he wanted to tell anyone, no one would ever believe this.
“Thanks much,” Ayisha said as she accepted a glass.
“You’re welcome,” Caron replied. “I’m feeling dehydrated. And worn.” She ran a hand through her dark, tangled waves of hair.
Shortly, he was massaging Caron’s feet with mint lotion, while Ayisha braided her hair, and they talked about chocolate. Aramis liked it darker, but wasn’t an aficionado, really. Caron was, and could readily afford to be, and took a quick trip to the kitchen for several high end mixes.
Ayisha didn’t seem to have any complaints about the weekend. She tried nibbles of five different ones, and fed the balance to Caron, who’s head was in her lap.
“I’m not sure about the hazelnut,” Ayisha said. “Wonderful, but I like the effect of straight chocolate. This is too good to blend.”
“I like the contrast,” Caron said. “Also the Guatemalan pure with the bare hint of Jalapeño. I always wondered about that.”
“It’s all good,” he said, to say something, trying to ignore her feet on his belly. “Some is just better than others, depending on mood.” He didn’t say that he couldn’t tell much difference in his current state.
“Well, I suppose,” Caron said, sat up and reached behind him to the table. “Ayisha, do you know what Aramis really likes? Ice cubes.”
He could have wrestled them both off if he tried, but why?
When he woke the next morning, he was alone. He clutched around as Caron called from the desk, "It's okay, I gave her a ride home."
"I'd hoped she'd say goodbye."
"She did, about an hour ago. Don't you remember?" She rose and came over.
He didn't. Damn, they'd worn him out.
Caron was dressed in a business pullover and blazer, and even that was sexy as hell on her. She had literally everything, and all the sorrow that went with it, not to mention her murdered parents, psychotic uncle, and occasional assassination attempts. Would she rather trade her beauty or her money for a normal life? But she was who she was.
"I have to report in soon," he said.
“Well, be safe,” she said, taking his hand as he rose from the bed. “I’ll expect you in one piece, and ready for dinner when you come back.”
“I’ll do my best,” he agreed. Yeah, getting busted up was not on his list. He stretched.
“The weekend was great,” she said with a grin. “I don’t promise I’ll ever do that again. It was a spur of the moment thing.”
“No worries,” he said, blushing a bit now. Yes, she looked amazing face down on another woman, but it required the right woman, right time and place, and right mindset. “I’m glad I was there for it.”
“So am I. Thank you, Aramis, for being here for me. Be safe,” she insisted again, firmly and with finality.
“I will,” he said.
Her smile broke to a concerned frown as she turned. She probably hadn't wanted him to see that.
A half hour later, her goodbye kiss was warm, but hesitant. They definitely had something. That was a complication.
That, and he probably should have mentioned to Ayisha that the security detail were definitely watching via camera. They were utterly professional about it, but probably enjoyed at least some of it.
He wasn’t sure if the regret was a reaction, or something deeper.
|Home Page||Index Page|
Comments from the Peanut Gallery:
|Previous Page||Next Page|