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14 January 2017 @ 09:33 am
_The Last Merge_ part 1  
 

Part One—Before the Storm

Embassy World

Disco Headquarters

Xen hid a smile as he watched his sister try to explain what was plain to her to so many people who, however intelligent, were, for the most part, not cross-dimensional experts.

"And this thinner spray of worlds are Earths that had devastating nuclear wars. The One World is one of them." Thin gray lines, thousands of them, forming a stringy fog over a wide wedge of her model.

"What are these oddball colored lines going across?" The President of the Empire of the One was studying the translucent 3-D illusion intently.

"I call them strays. Worlds so different than the worlds they split from that they've gone zinging off in unexpected directions, very far from the clusters of the more common differences that split their worlds." Q sighed. "It's . . . I really wish you lot would develop some machinery that could measure these things. In any case, the red lines, if you follow them back, departed from the main dinosaur line about sixty five million years ago, but internally have only experienced a few hundreds of thousands of years. They're both rare, and scattered. The blue are primitive worlds. A departure from ours at about fifty-thousand years ago, with perhaps ten to twenty-thousand years experienced internally. Also rare, but with a much tighter grouping as they cross the area of interest.

"However, what I want to show is that I've backtracked the Helios' micro-universe across the various membranes." A black line sprung up, wiggling through the cloudy specks of thousands, perhaps millions of other membranes—parallel universes."

"Why isn't the line straight." One of the physicists glared at the model.

"I think that having been ripped away from its home membrane, it—all five stars and however many planets and asteroids—it is no longer orbiting the galactic center. But it passes through other membranes every few years and gravitational attraction jerks it around, closer to the equivalent bodies, even though it doesn't merge."

Xen frowned. "Wouldn't that be a little rough on the other brane? Surely they'd get jerked too?"

"Yep." She stuck her finger in the model. "Note that it wandered across the Hygeia branch. I suspect that has a lot to do with the planetary scale devastation so many of our branch's branes have experienced."

Xen leaned and tracked the black line to its end, deep in the nuclear war branch. "And now?"

"Now." Q reached and flipped a small tab of metal over, turning off the imbued illusions. She flipped a second tab over to the "on" side. A close up, now, with the membranes as a small gray crumples trailing the treads of their past positions.

The black line showed a slight course change where it passed through one crumpled membrane and clipped another.

Q tapped the first crumple. "It's been a year since it merged with—and ripped the Earth out of—that membrane. It appears to have been slightly diverted from a straight path. It has just passed XC 12634. A world so devastated by nuclear war that no humans and damn few animals survived."

"It bent again, we could measure it." The Oner expert, Esna Withione was leaning forward, glaring as if Q was responsible for the looming disatser.

"Good. I placed hundreds of gates between Helios and the X world, in hopes that that would encourage a merge, or add to any divergence.

"If it keeps going straight now . . . " Dr. Esna scowled and poked. "Is that the One World?"

"No, that's EM 11566. It's going to be close. Possibly close enough to at least change its course, but not close enough merge. The course change will be entirely the wrong direction, for us. I am in the process of placing my storm of gates up to this world up here, another X World, in hopes of countering any deflection toward the One World." Q drew a dozen parallel lines to the world she hoped would anchor the Helios miniverse.

"Then the next three encounters. You can see that there's a Dino World, and a Primitive World crossing paths—not over lapping—as they cruise through going different directions. And then the One World."

The growing cone of the Helios miniverse's possible paths went right through the One's crumpled membrane.

"If the first world bends its path . . . " Urfa looked pale, lines of stress marred his usually calm expression.

"It might still miss. There are two more worlds I can try to steer it toward." Q met his gaze. "I need you to monitor the situation, well, I know you will, but I need you to tell me if it's working."

"Of course, we have no way to tell if it's what you're doing or the natural result of a close pass."

"Of course. But if it pulls it even a little, I can repeat with the Dino World, and again with the Primitive World. We will not stop trying."

"Q?" Xen stared at her, horrified. "You're going to try to merge it with an inhabited world?"

"Yes. As an absolute last resort. Because we can evacuate a few million people a lot more easily than a few billion." She looked away from him.

Oh. Bloody. Hell . . . And she looks like she's going to cry, but she's right. No matter how many people we'd miss trying to evacuate a Primitive World, it'll be less than the number who refuse to budge from their homes on the One World. But for us to choose which world to sacrifice . . .

"Right." He swallowed, and sat back, a bit relieved at the appalled expressions on the Oners' faces. "So . . . how are the suburb worlds doing?"

The President finally relaxed, sitting back as his eyes crinkled with humor. "Oh. One. You have changed so many dynamics, I don't know where to start. But we have infrastructure in place and being expanded, on twelve Empty Worlds. So the twelve largest metropolitan areas could be evacuated in days. Which would barely be five percent of the population."

"We'll put up a whole lot of gates, at need. To those worlds, and your other colonies."

"And pray to the One True God we don't need them." Urfa shivered. "We have another year to track them before we go into panic mode . . . maybe."



Helios

Office of the ArcHelios

". . . then we'll shift the captives through a Gate and walk them into the merge zone from the other side. We'll all have one last chance to get younger and healthier. The newly Merged will return to our world, and be transported to the Far Gate and into the Wilderness World where we will be starting over."

Nikostratos nodded. "And other teams will be doing the same with livestock, I presume?"

"No sir. The animals will be driven directly from here to the Wilderness World. There is no need for them to merge. We will also be taking Gate machinery through. We can raid elsewhere for more livestock. Many people, such as yourself, sir, who are currently young and healthy may prefer to not Merge."

Nikostratos nodded thoughtfully. "That is a good point. I am actually fertile now, no reason to risk that." Of course, that's with a slave from another World, not my wife. "Especially any fertile women may wish to not merge again. And the children, of course. Excellent point." Although if Hecuba could be persuaded to Merge with Sissilia . . . No, Hecuba will choose some high class and very young woman for this.

"We've located five possible Worlds to raid, and two Wilderness Worlds. The scouts are comparing the Wildernesses. We may, in the long run, keep both, but we'll start with one, to minimize the Gate switches. Now that we've eliminated the Blasted World as our final merge, we have more time to perfect our plans. The Beast World would certainly be interesting—the merge will kill all those hideous creatures, but the air is thick and humid. I hope we pass it by. The Savage World has a much nicer climate, and humans to merge with. But I prefer a more civilized and technically educated Damos for merges. The Hightech World would be best. But even if we don't merge with them, that technological world will be quite easy to raid for mergees."

Nikostratos nodded and turned to the third man present. "ArcAlexos?"

The Commander of the Armies nodded. "My teams are ready. There's little point in snatching people immediately. When the Merge nears, we'll start harvesting the targets we've picked out. We're going to include Mergees from several Worlds, for genetic variety, but we think the more technically advanced Worlds will yield more evolved intelligence types. We will therefore seek out akademies of higher learning on two or three Worlds, and make our plans to pluck the healthiest looking students. We will begin, on your authorization, the process of picking which two of five possible Worlds we'll raid first."

"You have it. This is the time to start picking specific targets for raids."



***

Ena Duphoros liked this World immediately. The damos spoke a local hodge-podge that was hard to follow, but it contained enough of the Anglish they'd learned from their last merge that they got by.

Trains everywhere, everything automated. The damos were a handsome dark people, with skins from deep tan to nearly purply black. The Helios took electronic identification and money from the first people they met. Good enough to scout with. They took a train to what seemed to be a major transportation hub and found a huge city. Five different akademies in this single city. Universities and colleges, they called them.

The students looked down their pretty noses at them as they scouted the campus.

"The Mulitude doesn't do well here. You should attend City College instead." The girl smirked superiorly. She spoke a patois with a high percentage of Anglish and TesserHelaos Antitios smiled in satisfaction.

"Ah, this akadema caters to the upper classes? I'll take note of that. Thank you."

The girl frowned at the Tes.

Duphoros slipped up behind her. "We like upper classes." He whispered in her ear.

She spun around, and recoiled. Turned and marched away.

"Behave Duph. We don't want to alarm the authorities on this campus prematurely, do we?" The Tes grinned.

"No, sir." Yeah, he'd just bet this World would be one they'd raid for young healthy bodies. They were talking about raiding for slaves as well as Merge candidates, and he'd just love to include some of these supercilious beauties on that list. Perhaps he should stop drinking his pay and save up a bit so he could buy one.

Talon strike team was composed of the most vicious killers around. That they'd previously merged with women and had to have been surgically de feminized only made them meaner. And determined that they were going to merge with males this time.

They picked up a campus map. Placed a coder. Then they moved to the next location. Some of the literature showed other campuses, some out in the countryside, which would simplify a few things. Cities around this whole world with akademies in each. They scoped out some lower class hotels and managed to not have to fingerprint confirm their stolen ID. At the end of the month they had everything they needed, and returned to the gate site for pickup.