?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
29 January 2017 @ 02:42 pm
_The Last Merge_ part 14  
You know that main battle I said I hadn't written? Still haven't written it. It'll go right here, then the wrap ups in not necessarily this order:



Ebsa and Ra'd

Ebsa led the way, the crawler grinding and clanking over grass turfs and bumps. They'd had to slice through sheet metal from the building that had collapsed and half merged with the exterior. I just hope the radio locator is working! It claims to be picking up something ahead.

"I recognize this place. See that huge dead tree? Those two groves of trees maybe five kilometers on? It's right between them." Even with poor comm reception, Ajha sounded relieved. "We're going to be there in a couple of minutes . . . Oh, crap . . . "

Ra'd leaped to the window, looked out. "More effing damned trucks."

Offe staggered up, looking somewhere between punch drunk and dead. "Three trucks full of kids they've kidnapped?" The three merged analysts had, sort of, recovered.

Three trucks . . .

"We'll check them out." Ebsa turned gradually, not wanting to stress the poor damned crawler past all functionality.

"Don't linger." Ajha called back. "At some point they're going to start closing gates."

Ebsa nodded. "Hopefully yours is still open." He eyed the trucks, glanced back at the three merged analysts . . . in Helios uniforms. "Do you guys know how to drive that sort of truck?"

Pause choked, faintly. "Yes . . . I don't like having memories like this in my head!"

"Well, try and keep the language. Think how valuable it would be, to understanding their communications. Ra'd? See if you can get a window working, in case we need a sniper. I'll go out on foot with the guys, and hopefully get close enough to just stun the drivers. Then we run for the gate."

Ebsa slowed the crawler, and waited, ready to reverse and turn into the trucks path if necessary. "Go. You guys in the uniforms need to lead the way. Flag them down. Tell them there's an emergency at the merge center and they need to wait a bit until it is under control."

Offe jumped out and threw up a hand in a signal to stop . . . the first truck slowed, the window lowered, and the driver yelled something unintelligable.

Ebsa hustled out and stayed behind Pause . . . ripping loose from the tall grasses assaulting his legs. Stinging. One damn it all, I don't have all the minerals I needed to merge . . . but I don't know if Offe can throw a stun spell.

He kept going. Cursing as the pain increased, his feet felt like they were being stabbed by needles.

Offe was calling back to the man, his language all over the shop. The man's brow's drew together and the truck lurched back into motion.

Ebsa threw a hard stun spell and the driver collapsed. Ebsa ran forward and jumped for the truck, got an arm through the open window, and grabbed the throttle bar, pulled it back. He found the door handle, swung it open and waved Offe in. "Head for the Gate. Don't wait for anyone."

The other two trucks . . . two sharp cracks from Ra'd in the Crawler, and they were going nowhere. Ebsa ran to the first. Broke out chunks of the shattered window, opened the door and pulled the dead driver out. "Pause, get in. Follow Offe. Hurry."

Amsi was over at the third truck, unable to get the door open, thumping at a window with a neat bullet hole, unshattered, and apparently too tough to break easily.

Ebsa called up his slice, small, needle thin . . . he drew a circle, punched it out, opened the door. Amsi grabbed the driver and hauled him out. "Damned murderer." He got in and Ebsa ran for the crawler.

"Are we crazy? We should have taken a truck, they're faster." He threw himself into the driver's seat and hit the accelerator. Turned to follow the trucks. Losing ground.

He glanced at the chrono and really, really hoped it wasn't working.

We're almost out of time.

He passed the dead tree, looked forward as one truck drove into a circle of desert and disappeared. Good, it's visible. No problem finding it.

The gritting of bearing grew louder, the crawler vibrated.

"Can you tell which wheel that is?" He yelled back.

Ra'd leaned down from the hatch. "Center right."

Ebsa put that wheel in neutral. Less vibration. But I think it's dragging.

"We may need to get out and run!" He watched the second truck cross. Fought the wheel, trying to stay straight on at the circle. The third truck crossed.

Ra'd dropped down and walked up the to the driving deck. "They're all safe. Now we just need to save ourselves."

"Yeah." Ebsa flinched from blinding light, reflected in the mirror. It hurt mentally and physically. He slammed his shields closed and squinted, drove.

***

Nighthawk sank deep into the inbetween, grabbing the fast spinning tops and ramming them into the linked tops that made a gate between worlds. Three gates closed. She found another top and bumped it to guide it into the fourth gate. Please Ra'd! Ajha said you were coming through the fifth gate. Please hurry!

She could feel Paer's loose link, hear her whisper. "Three trucks. The soldiers are stopping them . . . more students . . . I don't feel them yet."

Nighthawk spotted a distant top, reached for it. Bumped it and guided it nearer. Waited . . . waited . . . A blinding white flash from the merging worlds. The top skittered, getting away from whatever had just happened. She snatched for it . . . shoved it into the last gate. It snapped, and she sat back, returning to the real world. Feeling for Ra'd . . . nothing. She staggered to her feet and looked. The former location of the fifth gate was marked by scorched vegetation and wisps of smoke. A half dozen Helios trucks had turned to the side and stopped, Ajha talking to the soldiers pointing weapons their direction.

Her vision blurred, and she blinked. I'm not crying. She couldn't bear to look at Paer. Had to say it. "I closed the gate." She whispered. "When that bright light came through. I shut it before he got out."

Paer sat down abruptly.

Ra'd . . . Ebsa would have been with him.

Nighthawk knelt and put an arm around the girl, and tried not to anticipate a loss so devastating . . . And spotted the battered crawler lurching into sight as the trucks moved away. "Look!" She shot to her feet. "Ra'd!" She took off like a sprinter.

The crawler gave up altogether, just short of being properly parked. Ra'd stepped out, grinning, and Nighthawk pinned him to the side in a frantic embrace.

She barely registered Ebsa's voice. "Huh. Someone with no faith in our ability to survive anything."

"She had to close the gate, when whatever that thing was happened. She didn't think you got through." Paer's voice had a bit of a shake to it.

"Ah. Well it was a bit close . . . and I'd kiss you just as enthusiastically if only my feet didn't hurt so bad."

"Ebsa! What did you do? Never mind, can you walk up to the hospital . . ."

"Oh, they'll be processing the kidnapped kids . . ."

"Come in here and let me see what you've done . . . "

Nighthawk shut them out and returned her attention to Ra'd. "Hmph. And have you injured yourself? Almost husband?"

"Is that similar to a fiancee?"

"No. It just means I . . . well . . . sort of."

Chapter Agents

Ebsa was more than happy to be fussed over in private. As he limped back inside he called back. "Ra'd? You've got your bag of kiddies?"

"Oh damn. Right. I'll take them to the docs. Then I'll get back to this terrific hero's welcome home."

Fortunately the grass merged with his shoes and socks and self was powdery and tore without too much pain as he wrenched his shoes off. Jerked and tore at the socks . . . then his pants.

He looked at all the green spots and streaks. "That doesn't look too bad." He failed to keep a waver out of his voice.

"I . . . am not sure what to do." Paer sounded horrified.

"Well . . . how about the debriding spell? I mean, any cells that are merged with grass are probably dying, right?"

"Right." She touched a spot.

Ebsa managed to not scream. "Umm, umm, pain killing spell? Before you do that again?"

She brushed a hand across her cheek. "Right."

"Right. You're a Medgician, tough as nails. My screams are an accolade to your ability."

She took a deep breath. Rubbed the back of his knees, and his lower legs went numb. He watched a long grass stem shaped green smear peel away, leaving a bloody slash.

"It's not deep." Paer's voice wavered.

"Good. Keep going." He looked away. I feel nothing. It's superficial. No big deal. "I guess you can count this as practice, and experimentation, in case those students have similar problems."

"Oh . . . "

"Yeah, they're young and not nearly as tough as I am. You may need to . . . show the doctors how to do this extraction of foreign material impregnated skin and tissues."

Paer snorted, and switched to his other leg. "As if they'd listen to me!"

"Oh . . . I think they've just had a couple thousand patients dumped in their lap. Hurry with me, this does seem to work . . . I'll swab it down and wrap up. You get going."

She stood, wiping bloody hands. "You're not fooling me."

"Hell, I'm not even fooling myself, which is a first." Ebsa pried himself up and limped to the first aid kit. Sprayed himself down with wound coat. "There. Ugly as hell. Now go rescue those kids from your doctors."

She backed away, turned and bolted.

Ebsa staggered back to his bunk and laid down to whimper for a few minutes, as the numbing spell finished fading and the chemical numbing took over . . . more or less. He finally groaned to his feet and opened the tiny cubby hole. Clean clothes . . . no problem. Shower . . . well it had to be done.

After a not too painful sluicing, he re sprayed his legs and dressed. Limped off toward the pavilion . . . Packed, of course. Waiting for a doctor . . . when did they last eat?

"Cook coming through, make way . . . "

His kitchen was the only empty spot in there. A med tech turned away from the fab and scowled at him. "How do I make this thing give me lots of calcium and protein for these kids? They're badly demineralized."

"Ouch. Umm . . . glasses . . . He limped around and hauled out a box stuffed with disposable glasses. Back to the fab. He opened the control panel and tapped in for special products.

Ebsa started ordering extra calcium powder, extra mineral powder, and extra protein powder, in a vanilla milkshake. "Times five hundred," he muttered. Shut the panel and started filling glasses. A couple of the ambulatory students offered to help. So he grabbed rectangular bins and filled them with filled glasses and sent them off to serve the less mobile. Set another volunteer to filling the glasses . . . headed for the kitchen to start cooking.

The vat had been running for days, so something resembling meat was at hand . . . He interrupted the milkshake business long enough to get powdered calcium, protein and minerals, then set it back to shakes. Another five hundred.

The crowd thinned gradually, patients being cycled through to the overwhelmed clinic, and then off to the fast rising tents and beds and doctors being pulled in from One only knew where.

I know security of the Home World is everything, but surely they can send the kids home quickly! A quick look from a priest should show a lack of merging, right?

Meat nuggets with various dips, nothing fancy. He sent trays of veggies with fortified dips out to all the tables, broke into the storage room behind the vendos to replace the raw materials bins in the fab . . . and kept mixing and cooking.

Paer stopped by, weary. "Oh, man, they were so desperate they turned me loose, then they started copying me. Why did I ever complain about being treated like a not-too-bright nurse?"

Ebsa tsked and put a plate in front of her. "High protein, high calcium with lots and lots of other minerals and vitamins. That seems to be the order of the day for the returned students."

Paer nodded. "Merging just with water had left them with spotty demineralization of their bones and other odd symptoms that are probably related. That thing with the water was brilliant, by-the-way."

"Ajha's idea. Although he says he got it from Wolfson. Ra'd and I did the same, and grabbed food from their cafeteria that was probably about like what I'm doing now. Of course, mine tastes better."

Paer giggled. Hugged him. "I have to get back. See you . . . sometime."

The pavilion was merely full rather than packed to the rafters. The sun was dropping toward the horizon and even the untreated were venturing out as the scorching temperatures started to drop.

Students from the Directorate showed up, sudden interns. Ebsa grabbed a dozen to run fortified "milk shakes" over to the hospitalized patients while he mixed and matched real food with calcium and protein powders and fixed huge amounts of various items. Two of the interns knew how to cook. Thank the One. He started two assembly lines—patients and everyone else. More interns arrived . . . "Azko! Yeah!" Ebsa looked around. "Right. You see the guy in the ripped up gear over there. That's Ajha, go tell him I recommend you to him as Hob's understudy, and be sure to tell him that's because you never, ever, hacked anything."

"But Ebsa . . . "

"He'll understand. Hold out your arms." Ebsa loaded him with two plates on each arm. "Take these to his table."

Azko teetered carefully away and Ebsa grabbed his minicomp and found a food requisition page and started putting large numbers in front of lots of things. Hopefully Wxxo could approve it. All the fabs and vendos were showing yellow lights. He sent an intern off to find the army's supply sergeant and beg for any refills they might have.

The Colonel brought them personally. "I can't believe you're back here cooking." The soldiers doing the actual toting staggered off to reload the machines.

"Well, it needed doing."

"Right . . . so tell me, did you roll that crawler on purpose?"

Ebsa started laughing. "One! Did I have an audience? Yes, umm. There are these things called Doodle Bugs. ATV's with roll cages, that you can roll on purpose, really fun on sand dunes."

The colonel shook his head. "I've seen pictures . . . never saw it done with a crawler before."

"Yeah, well . . . maintenance may have something to say about the shape it's in now." Ebsa shrugged. "Or not. It's pretty old and was battered before we got it."

"I'm not going to ask how it got so battered—because I have a suspicion you know. Whoever sent you here, Chef, knew what they were doing. We were apparently an irresistible target. Gates in from Helios and out to the Target. They must have waited until they were ready to open the shadow zone. Then they moved a sizable amount of munitions through here while we were busy with the fight."

"Oh. Yeah. Not to mention all these young healthy soldiers to merge with their front line forces."

"They got about thirty men, during that surprise attack." His eyed darkened. "And killed nearly as many. Damn them."

***

Ajha looked around as External Director Akji stepped into the electronics crawler. And two other men. Ajha blinked as he recognized the President. And Director Urfa.

"Damn good work, Ajha." The President shook his hand. "I can't believe you pulled over two thousand of our students out of that hell hole."

"I had some very good help. And there were a lot more missing . . . "

Urfa nodded. "We're still trying to count them all, both missing and recovered. But the Comet Fall shock troops probably freed half of them, and a bunch escaped through another world they were raiding. We've probably got ninety percent of them back, so far."

Ajki nodded. "When we get a final count, we'll have a better idea of how many are lost. Merged, kidnapped or marooned." He winced. "Or dead when that . . . weapon took out everything." He looked over at his nephew. "Ajha, I want you to find as many as possible."

"Most of them probably merged." Director Urfa hunched his shoulders. "And they're not recoverable, unless someone laid those spells on them before they merged. But some of the women were under the impression that they were going to be sex slaves. If so, we need to find them. We need to retrieve everyone we possibly can."

Ahja nodded. "The most likely place will be that empty world a lot of them moved to before the merge. I'll need . . . Hob for electronics intercept and a direction finder, the reports have the Helios scattered all over. The women may be in bad shape, so a docbox and a medic, preferably female. Fean, so there's at least one woman to help them feel safe. Ebsa and Ra'd for extra firepower and creative mayhem. So three crawlers." Ajha drummed his fingers. "Three more drivers would be nice. If Offe, Pause, and Amsi retain the Helios language they could be very useful . . . Does Disco know we're raiding across the dimensions?"

"Yes. They said they had no objections, in this case. So if you can sweettalk someone with dimensional abilities into going along, do so. Take everyone you want with my blessings." Ajki relaxed enough to grin. "Although Wxxo's going to scream about you stealing his cook."

Ajha shook his head. "Wxxo's seen him in action. He knows he won't be allowed to keep him. In fact he probably figures Ebsa was your plant."

"Now there's an interesting thought. That's a very impressive pair of young men."

"About time someone noticed that. I'll start requisitioning equipment and we ought to be out of here in three days. Are we staging out of here?"

"Yes. Disco is putting up gates to various spots on New Helios as we speak. Good hunting."

***

Sometime in the depths of the night, Ebsa ran out of customers. He fed his crew, sent them off to their tents. Fixed a last burger for himself, turned everything off and cleaned while he ate.

Walked over and slumped into a chair.

Looked up as Ra'd sat down across the table.

"Well, you look rested and happy. Speed bubble?"

"Yes. Very handy, those things. I checked the hospital tent. They're starting to send the students home. That last batch we rescued were never in the merge zone, so once the knock out gas wore off they were fine. The rest are being released as the doctors check them. The analysts are looking better, still under guard, but the Priests looked them over and said they were mostly rid of the other personalities. They—and the geneticists—will keep checking them."

"Excellent. So . . . do you think we'll be staying here long?"

Ra'd frowned at him. "Ebsa . . . The Director of External Relations was at the hospital tent. 'Good job.' He said. 'I'm sending you off with Ajha, for awhile. I must think how to best use you two after that.' Ebsa . . . we'd know if we were hotshot special agents, wouldn't we?"

"Err . . . yes?"



/// St Louis got back a whole lot more students than they lost. Someone realizes that they're some of the missing Oner students and leads them back to Embassy.

***

"It ate the whole miniature universe." Q felt a bit faint. "It sort of spit out the World it was starting to merge with. Big chunks of it are gone, serious volcanism. But the entire Helaos World is just flat gone. The other membranes are separating and drifting off. They're normal, apart from a big crimp where Earth ought to be, and depending on how long ago the merge started, space and planets and so forth. Whatever Eldon did has undone that whole nasty knot."

"So . . . what did Eldon do?" Inso squinted at her.

"I haven't the faintest idea."

"Sounds pretty damned dangerous." Cliff rubbed his arms as if chilled. "Do we need to hunt him down?"

"I'm not even sure he survived it. There were no other Gates he could have used."

Garit shook his head. "One of the Hors de Combat, a hero. Old Gods. Well, looks like we're done here. Easterly, shall we round them up?"

***

Once the blindingly white light went away, Eldon contemplated the bell that seemed to be ringing inside his head. He couldn't see a thing outside the bubble, and an attempt to meditate had his head spinning so badly he nearly lost his lunch. He turned awkwardly around in the seat of the Suburban and started hunting through the bubbles all over the back. Food, good. Guns and ammo, useless. Bedding, oh, yeah, a nice soft blankey sounded good right now. Horses, good grief, why had Falchion packed all the horses? Ah, potions and wine. He pulled out a bottle of wine, covered up with the blanket and was asleep before the bottle was a quarter empty.

He sort of woke up and found the food bubble. Found an empty bubble to piss in. Slept . . .

***

Earth 1992 Kamchatsky /// name needs explanation somewhere

Q watched the last of the Oner students crowding through the gate to their home, then turned back to the local people. "So if you'll decide where you'd like a gate, we'll open a permanent one to Embassy, and you can take it from there."

Phil and Jerry flanked the definitely spooked looking Secretary of State.

"Thank you, Miss, err, Doctor, Quicksilver. I, err, suspect we'll want it somewhere in the vicinity of the District, I'll let your people know as quickly as possible. I haven't a clue how we can break this news to the people of the World."

Q ducked back through her Gate. The Secretary of State looked around the University of Saint Louis campus, then turned and headed for his limo. Phil was on his heels and Jerry right after.

"So, you still got that dog in his invisible dog house?" Jerry kept his voice low.

"Yeah. I'll have to get him his vaccinations and license as soon as I get back to Houston."

"If you get back to Houston. The State Department may want you."

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on January 30th, 2017 12:16 am (UTC)
What's that saying we used to use with Lois? boils down to "Write Faster"

So this is where Eldon breaks free and ends up as Santa or one of the other shorts? if I remember correctly, the short where he drives almost onto someone's deck doesn't describe the SUV as beat up? Maybe some cosmetic bodywork, or a good illusion? Or maybe it doesn't matter after the thumping it takes falling off the deck....
Do the Eldon alone shorts take place before the part where Fean looked up Eldon to find the smugglers?


And the piece you posted some time ago where Paer and Ebsa rescue the elf kids is after this sequence with the cannibal world? But in that one, Ebsa was still treated like a good cook, not a good agent... (still going on memory)

Sometimes this process seems like you're sequencing DNA, where the first thing you do is put it all in a blender and then look at all the fragments...

Darqref
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on January 30th, 2017 12:59 am (UTC)
The next Eldon episode is when he becomes a film star (_Nowhere Man_) and yes the SUV requires some attention.

The Elf kids are in Project Dystopia September 2015 and everything here is thus in Ebsa's backstory.
matapampamuphoff on January 30th, 2017 04:32 am (UTC)
Ebsa and Ra'd are not well known as Ajki's special agents. They get underestimated, rather like Ajha, as that Closey and the Trouble Maker.

At the start of Project Dystopia and Fractured Loyalties, Ajki is about to start a serious house cleaning in Action and Exploration. He pulls out or assigns to long projects the people he doesn't want involved in what may be quite messy.

The Prophet Emre, and news about Warriors, and Ajki sends Ebsa and Ra'd across.

And yes, at this stage of rough drafting, there are lots of continuity errors.

As for Eldon . . ._Mall Santa_ first, then _Nowhere Man_, _SuperStar_, Fean hunting him down in _Black Point Clan_, _Serpent_ (his first Cyborg encounter)which isn't even vaguely formed, then _Saturday Night_>

Probably.
ekuah on January 30th, 2017 04:03 pm (UTC)
Continuity
I know it is entirely your decision, but it would be somehow sad if you would have to scrap that Mall Santa extension you had already written.

Facts of Mall Santa:
Eldon is hurt and on the run.

Facts of Mall Santa extension:
He is chased by the cyborgs.

Facts of Nowhere Man and SuperStar:
He is established and in hiding.

Facts of SuperStar and Black Point Clan:
He looks after a bunch of children.

Facts of Serpent:
He clashes with the cyborgs for the first time.

Things which are missing:
The breaking point with Rior and Jade

Things which do not fit:
His chase by the cyborgs and his first encounter with them.

I know you said, you will probably rewrite Mall Santa extension in a way that he will be chased by the Helios. But it pretty much seems that the remains of the Helios are so beaten that they could never have retained any dimensional ability.

Btw.
Is there any mentioning of Jade or Rior after 'The lodge in the mountains'?
Maybe Eldon accidentally nuked on of them in the 'still to be written' main battle. To explain his hostility with the remaining Hors de Combat.
matapampamuphoff on January 30th, 2017 10:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Continuity
The Mall Santa Extension was just noodling around. I doubt I'll even try to fit it in at this point.

Eldon's break with Jade and Rior starts when he is established on the _Nowhere Man_ Earth, and recontacts them. He offers a home and schooling to all the kids with the provisio that the adults never commit a serious crime on this Earth, and never leave a trail their enemies could use to follow them here.

One doubts Jade and Rior will honor their side. I think Eldon bubbles them and turns them over to Disco. Who turn them over to the Earth that wants to prosecute them. Then they'll escape.

Or something along those lines.