The messenger found the king quickly and delivered Yosha’s message. It was another half-hour before Hannes could read it, but he immediately acted on it. He also called for the eldest of his sisters.
“Nat, there you are. Read this; did you know anything about this?”
Annat took the missive and looked it over. Her normally placid face darkened. “No, I didn’t. This is not good.”
“How do you mean?” Hannes paced around the much-cleaner table and stood in front of Annat.
“I should have known about this; it’s in our own city, for pity’s sake!”
“Come now, Nat. None of us is perfect, and even if we were, we’d still be surprised by the actions of pin-heads.”
She laughed softly. “True enough, Han. Still, it bothers me that I don’t have enough people in Sholam to follow up on this. A cult forms under our noses, and my informants are sniffing the robes of the highly-perfumed nobility. Small wonder I caught no wind of this.”
Hannes grinned and stepped back to his papers. “We’re all short-handed these days; we’ll have to make the best of it. I can spare a squad or two to lurk around the rooms inthe hospital where Miss Liming is. I don’t like putting them on such a long rotation, but that’s the way it is. Maybe your sniffers could ask among the servants of the great houses if there’s word of this fanaticism up there.”
Annat raised an eyebrow at him. “And who do you think my informants are?”
Hannes laughed heartily. “Good for you! Hah! I’m glad we know about this now, before it got serious. Good for old Yosh, finding out an letting us know. As usual, Sister, you were right. He only needed a push in the right direction. See how much he’s already gotten done in here? Heber is practically floating over that new records room. I imagine they’ll have it done in a few days, so I won’t drown under all this, but it will be weeks before Heber stops pestering the cooks and maids to see their closets.”
“I imagine they will be relieved when he leaves them alone,” Annat replied. “With your permission, Hannes, I’d like to get started on this new development.”
He waved a hand in her direction. “Go right ahead.”
She dipped a small bow. “Have fun playing with the soldiers.”
When she had gone, Hannes blew out a breath. “One of these days,” he muttered, “I am going to do something thy she doesn’t know about beforehand.”
Leigh awoke refreshed and relaxed. He stretched out on his palette for a moment and allowed himself time to think before he got up for the day. Everything was going so well that he was tempted to allow himself some time off. He did not for two reasons: first, the god himself did not sleep, and neither did his plans. Second, there was still so much to do.
He rolled out of the blankets and found his soft shoes waiting for him. How nice. The first task for the day was to check on the new converts made while he slept, to ensure the process and machines still functioned properly. If there were problems, he would fix them; if not, he would quickly look for potential improvements to make in a few minutes. He would not linger on that, however, because he still needed to determine the extent of what the brats had come up with. If they were determined to block the army of the Eidolan Night, then he would devise a way to reduce that block to nothing.
*Slave. Attend me.*
The summons knocked him to his knees. “A-at once, my god,” he mumbled, blindly groping the floor. His vision returned, and he rose, dressed, and left his chamber.
How could he have forgotten? His first duty was always to the god.
Barna threw both fists in the air and shouted with triumph. His assistants cheered, as well, as Esthis loosed a piercing whistle. In the courtyard they stood in, a sad-looking amalgamation of metal, tubes, and wires hummed and vibrated steadily.
“Look at those readings! Spot on!”
“Power output holding steady, Princess!”
“Can you feel it? I think I can hear it in my legs!”
“Here, grab a helm and let’s see what that does.”
“Great idea! How do you– no, I got it. Oh, wow!”
“You said it! Zeve, make a note to up the
number of helms to keep in hand. We can probably use the basic design for operators, since we won’t have to worry about any Riven getting through!”
The group shared congratulations and ideas for several moments longer, watching the device’s actions and already plotting design improvements.
Esthis held up her hands to calm everyone down. “Before we get too carried away–” Barna snorted earning a scolding glance, “–let’s start thinking about what we have the resources to actually build. Barna, how much room do you need to put code in all the Repellers we’ve got?”
“Um, the units we’ve got right now hold about twelve cards, and those hold fifty lines each. This new code is pretty big; we’re using what, four code units each? Um, so that means we can put up three Repellers with three codes in reserve. So not many.”
“That’s what I thought. So how do we want to do this?”
Barna scratched his nose, leaving a smear. “Why don’t we start by finding a range for them? We can use my handhelds to check for energy signatures.”
“Great idea! That way we don’t have to bother Liming, poor thing. She’s so tiny; I just want to hug her and pat her and put her on a shelf. Oh, I wonder if we can convert some of those old boxes to read the Repellers’ output; that way we can reduce the time for determining the range.”
“Why don’t you do that, and we’ll start with the ones we have.”
“I’m on it. While you’re at it, wash your face, Brother.”
“You’re one to talk, Grease Ball!”
“So I know best!”