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24 March 2016 @ 10:45 am
_Surveillance Camp_ part 3  

Chapter Three Helios Ruins

29 Emre 1405

Capitol City, Helios

Looking through the gate . . . the ruins were eerie. Melted, twisted. Even where the buildings had crumbled and fallen, the edges looked like they had crawled to merge with something from the other world.

"Hard to tell which world which of the merged buildings came from." Ajha shifted uncomfortably.

"I'd guess glass and steel, or red brick for the victim. Concrete for the Helios. Cheap and fast, because they knew it would all be ruined." Paer shivered. The gate opened on a third floor room, open to the air, the outer wall holed and . . . melted.

A sniff from Offe. "We're the analysts. I suspect the victim world was in one of the modern phases worlds seem to go through, all concrete squares. The Greeks were known for elaborately decorated buildings."

Ajha sighed. "Offe? These are not Ancient Greeks. We'll be watching the films the victims took as they retreated. This was a thriving metropolis, population over two million. Most of them were able to flee. It had a very diverse mix of building styles, being centuries old. The Helios buildings were crude and unadorned."

Scowl. "We didn't have much time to prep for this."

"I know. They want to keep this under wraps for as long as possible. Hopefully until we can eliminate Home as the next victim." Ajha stared out at the scene on the far side. Beyond the ruined wall, they had a view over a part of the infantry encampment.

Xen had claimed the illusion he'd put over the far side would block all light from their side.

There was movement now, as the Action Team returned.

Ubno was shaking his head as he stepped back through. "Damn. That was strange. They've got aura like a small animal. I tried a few things . . . nada. Guy's let's talk about this." He rounded up the Teamers and pulled them aside.

"Info Leader?" Xen eyed Ajha.

"Right. Fean and Hob, let's go get a feel for these people." Ajha eyed the Analysts. "Do any of you have field experience? No? Umm, maybe later then. Paer? You want to come?"

"You bet!" Paer ignore the indignant looks of the analysts.

Ajha nodded back to Xen. "Just us four. And yes, I've seen Paer in the field."

A flash of teeth from Xen. "Ah, that's where I've seen you. Paer's dinosaur rodeo."

Paer choked. "You've seen those vids! I thought they were pretty closely held."

Grin. "Urfa showed them to me. I think he was bragging about his kick ass Directorate trainees. Or enjoying shocking me, perhaps."

"Definitely kick ass." Ajha turned and stepped through the gate.

Fean and Hob were on his heels and Paer followed. She glanced back as Xen stepped through a battered cement wall. She concentrated . . . still a battered cement wall.

"I do good illusions. Even the Helios see these."

Ajha looked over his shoulder and raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Silently now. There's a pair of guards walking towards us, on the other side of the wall." Xen watched them, not elsewhere.

He thinks we might do something stupid. Paer closed her eyes and looked. Four bright spots around her, two so well shielded she suspected they were only showing her as much as they wanted. Ajha and Xen. Fean and Hob are solidly shielded as well. But I don't see the Helios.

She opened her eyes and listened. Footsteps, a bit of gravel crunching underfoot. A faint metallic clink. They're right there! She looked mentally. The faintest of glows, like a small animal. Holy One! And they're just as hard to affect as to detect? This is going to be difficult.

The footsteps faded, and Xen led them out and across a street, through another ruined building.

"The whole city is like this. Their population may be somewhere around a couple of million. Enough to cause a serious problem to fight. But it's the possibility of them merging with a populated world that makes me sick." He pointed. "See the tallest building on the horizon? That's their working government offices. Below it, to the left there's a slightly more ornate building for the highest officials, and their council hall."

"What do the magnetics centers look like?" Paer kept her voice low.

"Big square boxes. They've got counter rotating super conducting rings. Bastard cousins of your powered gates. Our go-to-hell scenario is to capture them and keep them running, slowing the merge to give you time to evacuate everyone. God only knows if we can do it, or keep them running."

Ajha eyed him. "Or survive?"

A quick flash of teeth. "The human body is over 90% water. The trick is to find unmerged water inside the shadow zone. Add salt and chalk, iron and minerals—unfortunately from here, nothing you can bring with you will merge with you."

Hob looked horrified. "Tell me you're kidding!"

"Nope. I was trapped here, rolled in a rain puddle, stood in some kitchen smoke, stole salt . . . It worked well enough. Q . . . recovered faster than I did, not that I actually let her see that."

Fean snickered. "Sibling rivalry in the middle of a war zone?"

"Oh, by then we were in survival mode. There wasn't a whole lot to eat after the merge. I kept finding dead animals and however gross, pulling out the bones to powder and eat. Serious calcium cravings."

Paer gulped . . . and crouched down in the deep shadows of twilight as swinging beams of light preceded another pair of guards around a corner.

Ajha leaned forward, squinting a bit. A cat slipped out into the path, stopped to look at the approaching guards. They walked past it, giving no sign of seeing anything. The cat darted forward. Not the faintest twitch from the guard who's booted foot swung through the illusion.

Ajha sat back, looking a bit taken aback. The guards walked on, and Xen ushered them back to the gate.

Ajha shucked his backpack and pulled out half of a laser relay. "Fean?"

She nodded and stepped through. Presumably to set up the far side receiver.

Hob unreeled optical cable, running it up a wall, and installing an antennae in an opening. He fiddled for a long moment, then climbed quietly down.

Xen glanced at Paer. "I take it they're an experienced team?"

Paer nodded. "I worked with them for a couple of months. They're awesome."

Ajha cleared his throat. "I think your illusion is interfering. Can you give us a tiny corner?"

"Ah." He frowned at the concrete wall for a moment. "Try it now."

"Got it. Right. We're done." Ajha stepped through the gate. Hob and Paer followed, and Xen brought up the rear.

Ajha frowned back at the gate, then over at the Waiting Teamers. "Could you feel them?"

They all shook their heads.

"That is going to make things difficult."

Ubno shrugged. "I tried a sleep spell. Nothing. But they did stumble over a very tiny shield down on the ground."

Xen nodded. "Both energy and physical effects work. It's the mental fog that is the problem. You can't see them coming . . . until they can see you, as well. So while we're setting up, I'll try showing you some physical effects that will help a bit."

Or just give them headaches. Warping light, Xen called it. Paer could do it . . . for thirty seconds.

Xen just grinned. "You've made the Action Teamers jealous and impressed your boss. Practice, it gets easier."

Paer moaned and staggered over to the newly installed vendos. Booster was, of course, on the menu. A vaguely fruity, vaguely salty, definitely sweet concoction that contained all the electrolytes one tended to use doing magic. She chugged half the bottle, then stepped back and eyed the array of machines. Vendos, fabs and a vat. Nothing resembling a kitchen.

"No real food? Well . . . no one ever said field assignments were all roses and sunshine."

Fean laughed behind her. "Ajha couldn't even stock up on edibles, security was so tight."

"Do people watch Ajha? I can see why they would—if he's still getting tossed at the toughest jobs."

One of the Analysts snorted behind her. Paer wasn't sure which one.

"Really? Watch a Closey?" Tayc sniffed. "Really Paer, you shouldn't hang out with the secretary."

"Tayc . . . we're Teamers. You desk jockeys wouldn't understand competence in the field. But with us, it's what counts." Do you actually think you can snob at us?

Fluffy . . . Hioz . . .stepped around and eyed the machines. "Ooo! Just like the mall. Vendos!"

Fean snorted. "At least one of you is diplomatic. Yes, we'll be eating out of vendos and fabs until we're big enough to warrant a kitchen squishy."

"Oh, I doubt they can find a chef with the kind of clearance we have." Offe poked a couple of buttons and snagged his drink. "So, how was Helios?"

"Ruined." Paer tossed her bottle in the trash. "They've just bulldozed roads in between large fallen buildings. And probably over them as well. One only knows how they managed to keep any tech functioning at all." Which is an interesting question. I'll ask Ajha about it.

Sniff. "We need recordings of their speech, so we can get a start on translation." Wpxa—Pause—sneered at the selections on the vendos. Or maybe the lack of instant data to analyze.

"That is going to be difficult." Ajha strode up to them. "Grab chairs and pull a couple of tables together. Let's see what we've got, to date."