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23 January 2017 @ 09:52 am
_The Last Merge_ part 9  

"So why don't you stay home and eat ice cream."

"Well, the usual stupid teenager story, you know? Ran around with friends who were up to no good, and by the time I realized just how bad they were, I was right there being bad with them. So I skip home and enjoy it for a bit, then head back out for football, jewelry heists, bank robberies, whatever strikes our fancy."

"And is there a police force that can catch you?"

"Oh yeah. Big mean guys. And gals. Heavy magic. They're why I don't ever stay home for very long. And no, I'm not going to put you in touch. Actually I don't know how, from here." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Actually, they may show up, I left a gate open, and that damned Q can probably see it. Everyone says she can do damn near anything."

Brenard walked in with a stranger following. Presumably the Fed.

"So, I don't get this Gates and Worlds stuff. Where are you from?" Lanton hadn't even glanced in their direction.

"Oh, it's a dimensional thing. Parallel Worlds and all that. Some Worlds have these big machines that can open Gates. We use magic. Like I was explaining to the kids, time goes slow in some Worlds and fast in others. So dates don't properly match up, but traveling is always consistent. If I went home, and came back in a week, I'd get here a week from now, not a hundred years ago."

"Thought we were slow?"

"Well, you were, but the Gates seem to equalize things. Now you're at the same speed as Comet Fall, and every World Comet Fall has ever touched. It probably falls apart eventually, but it apparently takes more than fourteen hundred years."

"You don't seem worried."

"Old Gods, no. I can walk anytime I want, so what's the rush. This could be fun too. Want to see the Gate I made?" He yawned. "It's almost dawn. You might want to bring some rifles along."

The Fed, who looked like he ought to be wearing a uniform, badgered Denison a bit, and got grinning answers that sounded like something straight out of a science fiction novel. Or a fantasy. They finally managed to budge the Fed and take Denison back to his magic shop. The Fed looked around the little room, dominated by the big screen TV and sneered.

"This is the fun part, back here." The wall behind the desk was blank concrete until Denison waved his left hand at it. Then it showed a round picture of a dungeon. Well, a stone room. The picture was ten feet across, and Denison stepped right through and walked up the steps. The Fed lunged forward and came to a stunned halt, looking around the room. Phil braced his shoulders and walked through. There was an odd sensations that had his nerves twitching and his muscles shivering a bit. Then he followed everyone up the steps. There was another square room, bare except for more steps leading upward and an open door. Phil stepped out and looked around the rolling hills. A tough tall grass covered most of the land, with scattered thickets of trees. The grass rippled in the brisk wind as he circled the tower, taking it all in.

Toto, I'm very, very certain we're not in St Louis anymore.

Brenard and Michaels joined him. The sergeant had brought a shotgun along, and Phil suddenly wished he had more than his usual 1911 along. Lions and tigers and bears. He walked over to where Denison was peering into the distance.

"So, where exactly are we?"

"Well, see besides time not going as fast in some places as others, things happen in one that don't in others. This World has either gone really slow, or something different happened. Anyhow, people never evolved here, and in fact the animals are really weird. The kids that have been exploring are talking about 'Miocene' this and 'Eocene' that."

"You say this is a whole different World?" Brenard looked around. "Full of animals that went extinct millions of years ago?"

The grass rustled and everyone drew down on it. A big speckled gray hyena . . . no, a dog with flop ears and lolling tongue.

"Don't shoot the dog, he's actually useful here." Eldon walked past, giving him a pat. "This World has never been mined. Mining companies would love it. I prefer places with movies, football and computer games, personally. C'mon, the kids can probably tell you more about it than I can." He strode off to the west, and Phil followed.

"The kids?" Phil looked around. No sign of natives, but what sign would there be?

The Houston cop stopped and held his hand out to the dog. The beast sniffed it, then sat and offered his own paw to shake. Part great dane, at a guess, but with a bit of a ruff and curly hair on his chest.

"Bunch of college students. They're having a great time out here. Bit of trouble with the terror bird things, but they haven't got hurt badly enough to need help yet."

The Fed caught up with them. "When you say terror bird, are you talking about the large flightless carnivores that replaced the dinosaurs as top predator?"

"Yep. The kids told me about some really big wolves, too. And there's this weird humongous thing that’s . . . well, it's got to be seen to be believed."

"Are there people here? Natives? Cavemen?"

"Nope. That's what makes it legal to come here and do whatever we want. The Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation is pure death on anyone waltzing in and claiming ownership of planets that have a native population. Or even a transplanted population that got separated from their source."

"Dimensional . . . Security and Cooperation?"

"Disco. The Big Bad Cops. Small organization, trying to keep the peace, promote trade and study of the Multiverse, and prevent cross dimensional crimes. Needless to say, they don't much like me."

From the hill top they could see a river, with an encampment beside it. Modern tents in all colors and sizes. Three people were doing something with the camp fire, five more down by the river appeared to be building something. Hollowing out a log. Making a canoe?

"So, you gotta name?"

Phil glanced around. Denison was eyeing the Fed.

"Kegler. Martin Kegler."

"You look militaryish."

"We don't give out information about ourselves."

"Ooo. However much I'd like to see it, I really don't want to be there when you meet Xen."

"One of your buddies?"

"Head of the Dimension Cops. Tends to forget he's not really a god. Very powerful wizard, very goodie, goodie. Nasty in a fight. But he'd just look at you and nod. And say, 'So Major Kegler, why don't you go tell Director Vincent about the Gate? Oh, wait, you don't tell the FBI first, they're third on the list. Well no doubt you've got them on speed dial.' He's the most irritating person I know."

The Fed glared, and stomped down the hill toward the river. Denison sauntered along behind him, and the various police spread out a bit and gawped. A pack of dog sized animals burst out of the forest and charged up hill. They veered away and dived into a brushy stand of trees. Something large and hard to see wound through the forest and burst into the open. Ostrich with an attitude. Or emu, it was a splotchy speckled gray-brown and white. It might have been after the first animals, but it had obviously spotted Kegler and switched the breakfast menu. Kegler drew his gun and Denison bolted down hill to the right, as if trying for a clear firing angle. The dog bounded down and around, coming up on it from the rear.

The Fed's gun barked six times with no obvious effect, then the creature's head flew off, then the legs. Denison lowered his empty left hand and resumed his strolling pace.

"Pity they're so tough and gamy. They sure are easy to catch."

Kegler lowered his gun. "This is why you suggested rifles."

"One reason. They seem to avoid the camp down there, I think they don't like the fire smell."

The people in the camp were all looking up hill, and a couple of them grabbed a long bundle and headed up. Eldon rocked back on his heels and waited for them.

"Hey, Eldon, you get another one? This is the first we've seen all week. You and your friends hungry?" The two boys looked more like high school students than college. One white, one black. Both with rifles.

"I expect we will be soon enough. Need a hand?"

"Very funny." The black one unrolled something that looked like a fat stretcher, and they rolled the bird onto it.

It took eight men to haul the carcass down to the fire. The girls there attacked it with huge knives and had several roasts spitted over the coals in moments. They hauled the guts down to the river and washed them.

"We're experimenting with sausage making." The elegant black girl explained. She'd had a rifle over her shoulder, but leaned it carefully against a tree before she started sloshing out bird guts.

"You're pretty brave, camping out here with those things roaming around." Phil eyed one of the girls, who couldn't possibly be in college. She was wearing cutoffs, a shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a shoulder holster.

"Oh yeah. Isn't it cool! I shot a wolf all by myself yesterday. And we've got live traps out for the eohippuses. Can you imagine what my paleontology professor is going to say when he sees one?" The young one looped cleaned intestine over her shoulder like a rope and staggered back toward the fire.

There were several more dogs around the camp. Mostly large, a couple of pit bulls and one small fluffy poodle.

"Holy Toledo." Branard shook his head in disbelief. "And you kids are pioneering out here on the weekends?"

"Oh, we live here all the time now. Much cheaper than the dorms. Walk a couple miles uphill to the tower and gate over for classes. Drives my parents crazy. I had to tell them the apartment building had too much metal in it or something and that was why my cell never works at night." The black girl shrugged. "Sooner or later I'll have to tell them." She eyed their party and wrinkled her nose. "This is looking a bit like sooner. Eldon! They'll be pouring through here in trucks, next."

"Ah, if they ask nicely I'll open another Gate a bit away from here. Maybe this one can be, like, the University's." Eldon looked askance at the intestines. "You don't want those for sausages, you want that thin little outer membrane. Trust me." He glanced back at the cops. "I keep telling them they're going to freeze their asses off when winter sets in properly, and they're definitely in the flood plain, but so far the weather's been mild."

Kegler returned to the Magic Shop long enough to make some phone calls. Phil decided that arresting Eldon wasn't his job and returned to work . . . with frequent visits through the Magic Shop.

Over the next month government people came and went, and scientists with telescopes spent the nights doing something, and then claimed that this World was forty million years younger than their own. Finally Eldon moved the Magic shop end of the Gate to the University, then the Feds took him somewhere else for a few days.

"Opened another Gate that isn't infested with kids." Eldon said, grinning at the dog sitting attentively at Lanton's heels. The Houston cop had stayed the whole time, apparently under orders to keep Eldon corralled.

Lanton shrugged. "I had a great dane when I was a kid. He reminds me of him."

"The nuisance followed me home one day. Consider him a gift, from me to you." Eldon headed down the slope to the camp.

It had doubled in size and Phil had noticed some bristling between the kids who thought it was theirs and the professors who thought the children should follow orders and be kept safe. And disarmed.

Eldon had a pow wow with the kids and they all started moving. Upstream and uphill to a site with a tall hill to the north, only a quarter mile to the tower and gate. They started stockpiling firewood and constructing something next to the tower. Winter coming soon. The blocks they were stacking were fitting together quite well. Must have bought cement blocks or something.

"So, what are you going to do with him?" Phil looked over at Lanton.

"The dog or the pervert?"

"Umm, I was wondering about the dog, actually. He seems pretty smart."

"Yep. He's learned everything I've tried to teach him, and I've seen him take down a terror bird all by himself. I think I should leave him here with the kids. Have you seen their pack of dogs? Every kind imaginable. A couple of them had puppies last week. With a strong resemblance to this guy. Funny thing is, the owners swear they'd been spayed. It reminds me of that mess in Houston with the Demon of Jones Creek. Half the women had implants, a couple were post menopausal, and one had had a hysterectomy."

"You know, I always discounted that stuff on the websites. About the demon."

Jerry snickered. "I'd say only ten percent is true. I keep asking Eldon about stuff. He swears that he can cure cancer, and regrow amputated limbs. All the Federal Agencies are freaked out by his 'potions.' They'll have to be tested and licensed, same as any other medical treatment. The big pharmaceutical companies are worried because he says he mostly copied them. They aren't his own invention. There's got to be something we can do with the man that's more useful than treating him like a criminal, but we've got about seventy rape charges lined up."

"Ouch. Well, the Demon of Jones Creek . . . "

"Yeah. Most of his victims were out trolling for the demon, and put the 'rape' pictures up on the internet. But a few of the early charges are from women who were just out jogging. Except a lot of them went back for seconds and thirds. The one woman who's got the best case against him won't co-operate. She had cancer, and a hysterectomy when she was twelve. She missed out on his magic love spell or something, fought him, kicked him and ran away. But now she says it was a miracle, her baby girl's a miracle, and no way in hell will she help put Eldon behind bars. So we don't have much of a court case against him, but he really is a rapist." Lanton turned to watch as the dog trotted off, nose in the air. "And he's been horribly cavalier with the kids' safety. Speaking of which, I think there's been a bit of a seasonal migration, we've had an influx of predators this last week."

"What about the Denver Jewelry robberies?"

"The leader, Brian, and several other guys. Not Eldon, Heso or the four women."

Phil snorted. "Glad to hear that. There was a, umm, semi-riot and orgy here. It was a lot like the stuff on the internet about the Demon of Jones Creek. People catching him, and then finding it's actually the other way around. They figured they'd make a killing with his 'magic' potions. Instead they got samples."

Lanton grinned. "And it never occurred to them that they might not be able to duplicate them. For my sins, I let him talk me into trying some. Just about blew the top off my head. Definitely not safe to drive while under the influence of."

Phil nodded. "I was one of the second wave of responders to the orgy. Got pulled into a fountain in front of the house, swallowed some water while trying to not drown, and then it was party time. All the tests since claim it's just plain old water. Brenard drove me home, and I forced him to drink some of my fountain water, and then my wife . . . Brenard was in the process of selling everything he owned, before checking into a hospice. Now his doctor can't find a trace of cancer anywhere. I think we need to track him home and introduce ourselves to the non-criminal people over there."

Lanton nodded. "Some government people have suggested that I keep my eyes open for pretty much exactly that opportunity."

Part Two—The Beginning

Helios

/// Change this so that it fits in with the raid on the Oner Watch Post? Or give more time between raids on the Watch Post?///

The first shadow zone was deliberately small. Done at the first opportunity.

Half the team was on one side, half on the other, with each other's hand picked Damos. Having gated to the primitive world, both Helaos and Damos would react as if native to this world. Like wise, having gated back to Helios with half the captives, those Helaos and those Damos would both react as if all were native to Helaos.

Duphoros grinned as he saw the Tes pull out the handsome black haired boy Duph had chosen, lay him on the wheeled bed and shove him into the zone. Duphoros stepped forward eagerly and once in the shadow zone was nearly sucked into the other body. The creepy crawling sensation, the blackout, only lasted a few minutes. Then he staggered out to help the rest of them merge. Then they got the first team of doctors merged and then they all broke for water and sleep. And fun. They all crossed into Helios to hit the makeshift pleasure house. After-Merge libido hit hard, as always, and the new little slave girls got to learn all about it. They were keeping them on Helios for obvious purposes—the officers damn well knew how few women had survived the disaster two years ago. The girls would be shipped off to Novo Helios quickly. No need for them to merge, in fact, to maintain their fertility, they should not be allowed to merge.

Next day they headed back to their gate, talon team leading a full Dokasi. Time for a major raid. A thousand or so healthy young students from each Akademi on that world that was spying on them. Maybe ten raids before solid security would be in place everywhere. Then they'd swap to their second target world. The third target was much less sophisticated, but they'd be able to complete the draft there, if they had to.

In a couple of days, people were working the pens, bringing people of the right gender and size to the docs. No worries about age or health this time. With the population of Helios reduced to two million, and only a hair more than a hundred thousand of them wanting another Merge, the collectors would have an easy time of it.