Diplomacy, part 7
Cyd watched Jenna with a chuckle. The woman might be irritatingly aloof, a bit arrogant, and anti-social but the blonde had a way with animals. One of the horses they had gotten from Whitefeather, a painted mare, adored Jenna and the feeling was mutual.
She bit her lip, attempting not to giggle as she watched the tiny Russian nuzzled and kissed Shadow's nose. The mare swished her tail lazily and her eyes were half closed. She seemed to enjoy the attention. 'Just our luck, we probably have gay horses too.' Cyd shook her head and continued on to the smithy's shop.
The door was open and the sound of metal being pounded by a hammer could clearly be heard. She waited until Maggie noticed her before getting closer. She had found out early that the beefy woman was jumpy and swung if startled. Maggie dropped her hammer onto a wooden table and removed her gloves.
"Not a whole lot. I was wondering if you had time for a project?"
A brow lifted. Maggie worked 24/7 at times. There was always something that needed built or repaired.
"Okay, silly question. I had this idea for a smoker grill. Come fall we'll be doing a lot of hunting and--"
"Say no more. We got metal from the embassy on that last trade and got some to spare. How big do you want it?"
"Oh, I figure the cooking surface ought to be about four foot by two foot."
"Almost enough to smoke a side of beef. May as well make it six foot long with two lids. We cook barbecue with it this summer too, if I finish it early enough."
"A woman after my own heart. Thanks Maggie."
"No problem. Just make sure you hunt down a nice tender animal."
Cierra walked along the trail with Michael King, the ambassador to the Embassy. She had her hand wrapped around his elbow as they walked. She liked the quiet man and found him to be very honest and kind. She didn't expect that from anyone in politics. Even Michael Davies, the Vice President, had his own agenda because of his office. The VP was a nice man as well but sometimes forced into deals he disliked in order to compromise.
"So, when is Jason coming?"
Michael's eyes widened then he sighed. "I keep forgetting your talent. To answer your question, I don't know if he is coming. He's..."
"Accustomed to his luxuries?"
"Exactly. What makes matters worse is why I was chosen for this post. He resents my taking it."
Cierra nodded in understanding. Michael was chosen because he was gay and the higher ups believed that would give him an edge dealing with the lesbian community.
"Well, ask him to at least visit. I know you and he haven't seen each other since you jumped back a few weeks ago," Cierra suggested.
"He might. He'd miss his studio. There wouldn't be anything for him to do."
"Well, he could paint scenes from around here."
Michael laughed and leaned forward. "He paints nudes, male. I don't think painting cabins and crops are his cup of tea."
"He can expand his horizons," Cierra giggled.
Cierra arrived at the Earth Embassy and looked around in amazement. The scientist expedition had arrived and were waiting for her to appear. She had expected about twenty men and women but easily counted over forty people in front of her. Maybe she should have arranged for more clan members to escort them. Tate Redhorse's men were going to be busy keeping an eye on all of them.
Their pack horses were kept in a huge trailer so she could move them easier and she peeked into the emptied greyhound bus. Inside were stacks of supplies.
JP shook her head. "Damn, they came loaded for bear. "Let's talk to Kelly and Laura. There's no way to keep an eye on so many people."
The couple went inside the embassy and tracked down their friends. Before they could say a word, Laura held up her hands in surrender.
"Yes, I know. They showed up this morning in double the numbers agreed on. I told them it was up to you but I doubted you'd let that many enter Mother Earth."
Cierra gritted her teeth. "Alright, here's the deal. I'll return in three hours. By then they had better have settled on twenty-five people and have the supplies and such ready. If they are still arguing about it when I return then they can ALL go home. Make that clear, please?"
"You got it, hon."
Cierra returned this time with JP, Robbie, and Jonesy. She knew there was military personnel at the Embassy but wanted people she trusted to back her in case it got ugly. All of them were armed and determined to keep the visitors under control. They would not be conned or bullied into more than agreed on.
She stepped into the field and looked at the people there. The scientists and explorers looked a combination of excited and surly but their numbers were smaller. She did a quick count and saw only the twenty-five she ordered. Of the ones remaining, it was seven women and eighteen men. Also quite a bit of the equipment was gone as well. The ones who left took their toys and went home. All of the animals still remained in the trailer. Cierra guessed that they had been supplied by the government and not owned by the scientists themselves.
"Okay, is everyone ready? Line up, please. I'll be back in a moment." Cierra boarded the bus and randomly touched items, making sure no banned equipment was snuck aboard. Jonesy would be looking over the horse trailer and the other two would keep an eye on the group.
Satisfied nothing was being smuggled into Mother Earth other than some pot and a few bottles of alcohol, she got off the bus. She shook hands with each person as they boarded. Since the government and scientists both knew no one could enter Mother Earth without passing this test there were less chances of anyone attempting to try and get anything past her.
Cierra hated touching so many people but she knew if she ever skipped over this requirement then she'd have nothing but trouble on her hands.
About halfway through the line of people her eyes met those of the man who looked down at her with a leer. She shivered and hesitated to touch him. She took his hand reluctantly and gasped as the impressions came to her. She dropped his hand and stood back quickly. Robbie and JP both placed their hands on their pistols in response.
"What is it?" JP asked.
"This...man, is not going."
The man began protesting. "Hey, I have just as much right as any other scientist to go along on this expedition."
Cierra looked at him with disgust on her face. "Do you really want me to tell these people why you aren't going?"
The man stiffened and shrugged. He didn't think her famed abilities were real. She didn't know anything about him. "Sure, why don't you tell us what your little psychic hocus pocus theory is?"
"Alright. Twice you've gotten away with date rape. You intimidated them so badly that they didn't tell anyone. You have no respect for women although you do hide it well. You also didn't hesitate to smack around a few of your girlfriends either. You tend to find timid women who wouldn't say boo."
The crowd began whispering amongst themselves while the man began sweating. He didn't think her powers were real and now faced the possibility of being in trouble with the law if she gave the names of the women to the police. He had to do something quick.
"God, they say you really hate men but I didn't think you'd stoop so low to punish any guy you could. Just because I dated one of your ex girlfriends isn't a reason to try and discredit me!"
Cierra shook her head. "You and I have never met or dated the same woman. However, if anyone doubts me then you wouldn't mind showing people what's in your shoulder pack, would you? You know, let them see your journal. I believe dated November 12th, how the night was spent?"
The man panicked as he realized she knew what was written there. His journal could send him to prison. He bolted in the direction of the parking lot, common sense gone. He didn't make it very far before the military police nabbed him and dragged him away.
Cierra waited until the man was out of sight and asked if anyone else wanted to drop out of the team before she shook their hand. The crowd looked shaken but no one stepped away.
"Okay then, let's get this over with. I have a baby to feed soon."
Cierra transported the bus and trailer. The scientists had chosen to take only thirty of the horses and gave the four llamas to Cierra when Jonesy expressed a desire to have a few of them when they returned. The remainder of the horses would stay at the Embassy on Mother Earth.
"I thought they were silly looking," one of men said of the llamas. He was glad to leave them behind.
After everything was unloaded she had the Embassy people move the bus and trailer to behind the estate until they were needed when they returned in six months.
Redhorse's men shook their heads. "We agreed to do this? We must have been outta our minds," one of the men mumbled. They had agreed to escort them, and in return, the US would drill them six wells, setting them up with windmills to draw the water. The area that the Whitefeather clan roamed had few decent areas for water and the windmills would allow them to travel without going around the long way. The well crew would arrive in a few days and the sixth man from the Whitefeather clan would lead the men to each spot to dig.
The women got on their horses as Michael approached them. JP greeted the man and handed him an envelope. "Laura said to pass this on."
Michael glanced at it and saw it was from Jason and told the ladies so, promising to send word to Cierra if he needed anything. The shaman knew he meant if Jason wanted a ride to the Embassy on Mother Earth.
They waved good-bye and headed back to the village.
Robbie let out a tired breath. "Whew, one thing out of the way for now. Laura said she hadn't heard from the ones who want to study the hominids yet."
"Well, knowing them, they won't delay much longer. I'm sure word got out and people will be busting down the doors to be allowed to study them," Jonesy added.
JP grumbled, "I figure they'll organize fast. They already proved that they like to try and rush us into things. They don't want a bunch of foreign scientists elbowing their way into what they think is their territory."
Robbie spoke up. "Cierra, I hate to say it but you have to keep up your tough as nails face. What happened today will help. Don't let them push you around. We don't need them as nearly as much as they need us and they know it. If you stand your ground they'll back off."
"Yes, I know. I already made a mental list in my head. If they give me a suggested crew manifest and it has less than thirty percent from foreign countries I won't let it come here. They already took most of the spots on this expedition. They had one Canadian and the rest were from the US."
"What teams would you like to see included?" Robbie asked.
"Well, since this is in South Africa I would like to see a team from them. Then the Chinese have a few well known people in the field. The French, um, maybe the Australians and there's a few assorted people who've been studying the few remaining primitive cultures that are still around. Plus it wouldn't hurt to have other sciences studying them too."
"Like geology, linguists, and behaviorists?"
"Yeah." Cierra giggled. "I think you know more than I do. How about I let you go over the suggested list when it gets here? You can give me your ideas then."
"Sure, no problem," the security expert said, pleased that she was valued for more than just her profession. Then again, the women on Mother Earth were all expanding their horizons and finding new interests and abilities.
They arrived at the village and unsaddled their horses. Robbie headed for her new home. She had a dinner to help burn.
to be continued
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