Chapter 18 - The State Dinner

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Games people play, you take it or you leave it

Things that they say are not right

If I promise you the moon and the stars, would you believe it?

Games people play in the middle of the night

-- The Alan Parsons Project (Games People Play)

=/\=

Carmen heard a Communications chime in her left ear. "Calavicci here."

Bryce Unger was calling. "We've received a rather interesting incoming transmission," he said.

"Oh? Tell me more."

"We heard from the Zetal. Do you recall who they are?"

"Kindly refresh my memory," she said.

"They're one of our only connections to the Andromeda galaxy," he said.

"How very interesting. And what did our neighbors have to say?"

"They don't contact us too terribly often," he reminded her, "this is a species which, several hundred years ago, kidnapped a number of humanoid species for the purposes of staging full-scale war games. It's rather interesting that they were collecting humanoids, seeing as they are far from being humanoid themselves."

"That is a bit ironic," she paused, "and?"

"Well, they felt a bit badly when they were found out, lo those many years ago. We haven't exactly made friends with them, but we coexist well enough," he said, "No wars or anything."

"But we haven't kissed and made up?"

"No. but they've contacted us now anyway. It's, well, it's a warning."

"A warning?"

"There is a violent species, it's actually – they think – from the Triangulum galaxy."

"Triangulum, huh," she had a view of the Milky Way. She'd have to go to one of the offices on the other side – Dan's would be good – to get a view of it.

"Carmen!"

"Oh, sorry. A bit of woolgathering there."

"Not to worry," he said, "but you and your people will have to get up to speed quickly."

"What? Except for Grant, my people aren't soldiers."

"True," he allowed, "but we're directly in the path."

"So we should move the Adrenaline."

"We will," he said, "but our understanding is that won't be enough. We will need to make a stand," he said, "It must begin, and end, here."

"Then get my people out of here," she said, "I won't have them kept in harm's way."

"No, Carmen," he said, "this species has a propulsive system that works directly with time travel. All of our member species are going to be tasked with repairing timelines. Call a meeting, once your travelers are back. I'll pass as much data to you as we've got. Oh, and one more thing."

"Yes?"

"Tell your people that, unless it's for the express purpose of line correction, they are to stay in until further notice. No exceptions, Carmen."

"No one's going to like that."

=/\=

"I don't think I know you," Anwar Sadat said to Rick and Alice as the dance finished. "Then again, I don't know everyone here, do I, Jehan?"

"Neither of us do," replied his wife, smiling.

"We're with the American Embassy," Rick said, using their cover story, "Thank you for having us."

"And my mother is visiting Egypt for the first time," Alice said, "I want to thank you for being so gracious as to allow me to bring her along."

"But of course," Sadat said, "the lady did not need to stay alone in the hotel room. Ah, I see her over there. I do hope Saddam is behaving himself."

He wasn't.

"I am married, you see," he said to Polly, "but my wife, she does not understand me."

"Oh, really?" Polly rolled her eyes. 1981 or 3110, it was the same tired old story. That was a classic dodge for a guy who was just out for an affair.

"It is the truth," he said, "you should see Baghdad. The Arabian Nights – do you know the stories?"

"I've heard some of them."

"They can truly come alive in Baghdad. You could be my very special guest," he said, leering at her.

Rick and Alice came over, "Mother," Alice said, "come meet our gracious host and hostess."

Polly got up quickly. "Lovely to meet you," she said quickly to Saddam Hussein. Once they were comfortably far enough away, she turned to Alice and thanked her profusely.

"Oh, it's no trouble," Alice said.

"I wasn't relishing being hit on by a notorious dictator," Polly said, "it almost feels like Hitler grabbed my knee, or Mussolini called me baby."

=/\=

Kevin reluctantly closed the Communications connection to Josie. The whole thing seemed so fragile. His Communicator chimed again. "Honey," he said, not bothering to find out who it was, "I'm working as fast as I can. I'll be home soon."

Carmen chuckled, "Darling," she said, "I didn't know you cared."

"Oh, sorry, Carmen. What's up?"

"I'm afraid your evening plans have been changed. Everyone must stay in now – I'll explain at our next meeting," she said, "the good news is that your Calafan engineer friend needs to stay in as well. So perhaps you'll just have your date in-house."

"Oh." He hadn't told her about Josie being restored. He hadn't told anyone – only Yilta had managed to get it out of him. "You, uh, you still need Audrey up and runnin' in tip top shape?"

"It's entirely possible that we'll need her. I'd like to be prepared," she said, "Audrey's a poor substitute for Fluxy, but I don't see us as having much of a choice in the matter, Kevin."

"So I'll keep working on her. O'Connor out."

=/\=

Dan and Marisol were having dinner at a small, charming café in Rome. "This is nice," he said, "I know what you said, but it truly is romantic."

"I'm not interested in talking about such things," she said, "I want to talk about offing Grant."

"Ah," he swallowed hard. Tom was a good friend of his. Was this the price he'd have to pay to be able to stay with the Perfectionists? "Do you think it's wise to do that, Marisol?"

"I am tired of just sitting around. I need action," she complained, tapping her foot anxiously.

"We don't have any orders to do this, not from Milton, and not from Donald," Dan pointed out.

"So?" she shrugged. "Donald is ineffectual at best. And Milton is gone. The way I see it, that means we can do as we please."

=/\=

Games people play, you take it or leave it

Things that they say, just don't make it right

If I'm tellin' you the truth right now, do you believe it?

Games people play in the middle of the night

-- The Alan ParsonsProject (Games People Play)    

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