Rick Hillard
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From one of my would-be novels.

From one of my would-be novels.

Feb 17, 2023

     Mah^Rikka drew her wings about her and turned to greet the White Talon Sub-minister. “Hello, Vu^tkr. This is Sindu.
     “Hello,” the Spotted Owl said, eyeing the Road Runner warily.

     His expression was enough to twist Sindu's thoughts back to several other encounters just like it. “He hates us, mistrusts us. He isn't a friend, kind, love one. He hates us and wants away, away,” she said with a strange lament.

     “Be nice to our friendly associate,” the spymistress chided. “You'll have to forgive her, Vu^tkr. She can be overeager to make new friends at times.”

     Vu^tkr flicked his eyes from her to her mistress and nodded. “Speaking of friends, we've spotted one of those suspects of yours.”

     “Which one?”

     Vu^tkr tapped a button on his wrist'puter, causing a holo projection of Kormia to appear. ^Rikka's beak snapped shut with a sharp crack.

     “Kormia, Ronin agent, works for Kal Ban. Oh, she's pretty.” Once again, the Road Runner's hands began stroking the outer length of her thighs. “So playful. She's near.”

     “Correct,” ^Rikka said as she looked from the holo to Sindu. “She's the one we've suspected of having a hidey hole in this block.”

     “She's involved herself in some gang activities.”

     The lethal and twisted fem blew a quite humorless raspberry. “Petty, little, small time do – nothings. Gangs are not fun. We don't worry about gangs.”

     “We do when they become tangled with a certain individual who is under a Protective Wing status. A top-ledge Protective Wing.”
     “Amgrū,” ^Rikka said. It wasn't a question. “Top ledge had to come straight from the Executive Branch.”

     “From the Duke himself,” Vu^tkr confirmed.

     “Amgrū, Amgrū, child of the Helian princess – priestess, Torni. Torni with the happy hugs and interesting stories. I love Torni, who must not see me or hear me or be afraid of me. No, never be afraid. So long, so long since we spoke, so long fare well, an accident, can't happen again, no,, but she's here.” Sindu tapped the side of her head with two fingers. “Forever and ever happy and whole.”

     Concern showed on Mah^Rikka's face. “Why is a ten (?) year old prince anywhere near a Gutter Gang? Was he in danger?”

      “Everyone in The Perch is in some sort of danger, mistress, “Vu^tkr said dryly. “In this case, it was managed. Between the Prince's odd bodyguard and my teams of Shell Crackers, Gutripper's droogs weren't much of a threat.”

     “Gutripper, rap sheet with dozens of petty infractions, three serious threats of bodily injury, seventeen incidents of suspected theft, assault and two instances of being accused without supporting witnesses after the fact, one murder, one rape. No, bad. Can't let him hurt precious little nestlings of sweet, kind Torni.”
     The Red-Winged Blackbird ignored Sindu's ranted warning and half turned to glare at the White Talon Sub-minister.

     “Any time a member of the Royal Nest is in a dangerous situation it is too much. Wait? Bodyguard? What bodyguard?”

     “A local goon-for-hire. John P. Mather's fairly low branch, but he's wet-weared. A drunken wet-weared goon – we assumed that he's in the Houses employ.”

     Statistics rose to the Road Runner's awareness. She rattled off the numbers of assaults and other threats posed by Taurans, than listed the dossier of overnight stays, assorted criminal charges, including theft, destruction of public (and private) property, criminal trespassing, and numerous vagrancy arrests.

     “No, not him, he's not House. John is no one. No one and untrusted. He's certainly not a bodyguard. No, not for Torni's loved one.” Her head whipped side to side so rapidly it made the Owl slightly dizzy to look at her.

     “Sindu's right,” the spymistress snapped, wings flaring in a rare display of agitation. “A Bullman, cyber enhanced or not, is dangerous. Especially a drunken one. Why haven't you stooped and taken Amgrū home?”

     “Because the Duke told me personally to leave his son alone unless he's in dire circumstance,” Vu^tkr said calmly. “As for the Tauran, he's no friend of the local tuffs. And aside from being a public menace to his surroundings, Mr. Mather has shown surprising tenacity, even loyalty to the Prince.”

     “Oh, let me play, pleas? I'll run in and take out the Tauran. Take out, make out, maybe make him laugh in delight as our bodies dance in love and hate and death. I'll dance and laugh and make it so our pretty Torni gets her baby back.” The Road Runner's hands blurred as they stroked her thighs.

     Both Aviaries glanced at her for a long moment. ^Rikka finally shook her head slowly.

     “No, Sindu. As much as I think letting a Nestling, especially a Royal Nestling, flit around the Perch alone – save for a questionable booze addict for company, is a bad idea, it's not our place to intervene. Why the LADs and LADIES aren't on over watch duty is also troubling. Not” - she bowed her head slightly to the White Talon Sub-minister - “to suggest that your floobs aren't up to the task, but protecting Royals is the primary purpose of the Duke's Watch.”

     “Most irregular!” the agitated Road Runner snapped. Even she was surprised at how succinct the statement was.

     “The situations irregular, I'll be the first to agree.”

     “Highly irregular!”

     “Not good, not right to have no LADS to play with the threats, no hovering LADIES to give sweet steel kisses with love to all bad ones.” She crooned 'not good, not right' several times quietly, almost as if to herself. For several long minutes her eyes were unfocused.

     “Exactly!” ^Rikka exclaimed, then made a visible effort to cool herself down and to smooth her ruffled feathers. More for herself than for anyone present, the Red-Winged Blackbird banged a balled-up talon against the rooftop pourcrete.

      “Too thin. Everything's being spread too thin,” Mah^Rikka muttered.

     Sindu could easily surmise why the Protector Service, called the LADS and LADIES, were not watching over Torni's son. She had caught a glimpse of part of a report on some analysts holo screen back in the Dark Nest. Prince Chigaard Flay-Tiber had formed a relief force for Ph^anass and the duke had loaned his son a company-sized force from the watch to help. While the report hadn't been fully displayed, Sindu's hyper thinking process made it easy to fill in the missing data. Between losses suffered during last cycles raid, Princess Isuï^ui's pending return trip to Avia Prime and other, similar arrangements, the duke was dividing his strength.

     It was very clear to her that her duty was to share this revelation with her friend (her enemy); her boss. It was also clear that doing so in the company of someone who wasn't vetted for privileged intel was a bad choice. Sindu would tell Mah^Rikka about her thoughts when they were alone. She always did. She never forgot, never forgot, or forgave.

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