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16 April 2017 @ 06:43 am
_Scrambled_ part 3  
 

Chapter Six Earthers

Guard duty at Main Accounting was considered a cushy post—all those pretty women to admire, even if they wouldn't give a soldier the time of day—even though it involved standing around outside doing very little.

"But man, it would have been cool to be on the assault teams that were going to tackle the assholes who started this whole screwed up mess . . ." PFC Lou Valenti gazed wistfully in the direction of the gate, six clicks away.

A flash of light from beyond the lower buildings across the street. A concussion wave that threw back, stagger a couple of steps . . .

"Oh, man, they have really fucked up this time!" Lou blinked at the climbing smoke cloud. They were ten kilometers away from the gate. The rifle fire was a distant rattle, punctuated by larger . . .

The ground heaved.

Lou cussed and looked up to make sure any falling glass would hit him in the eye. Fortunately the building had been built with earthquakes in mind and appeared to be undamaged. "I really hate Earthquakes! I make that six today."

His buddy Harrison Titus was staring slack-jawed out toward the road. "That . . . wasn't . . . an Earthquake."

Lou jerked around, stared. Ten meters away, the street, the buildings across the street, the traffic, the smoke and gunfire . . . all gone. Replaced with tall trees, damp swamp, great big . . . dinosaurs . . . standing up and looking around in alarm . . .

A couple of the clerks who'd run out of the building, were backpeddling, turning to run up the broad steps. Lou reached and pulled the door open so they could run through.

The world wrenched. Everything came back.

Lou swallowed. "That had to be some sort of dimensional screw up . . . we need to get out of here. Get everyone out of here."

Harrison nodded. "Were we gripping about boring guard duty a few minutes ago?" He stepped into the building.

Sergeant Baldwin was in charge of inside security. Busy now telling everyone they were safer in than out, to . . . go back to their offices and cubicles and . . . He stopped to glower at Harrison.

Lou kept a suspicious eye on the entirely normal exterior, and listened in.

"Sir, should we evacuate the building? Send everyone further away?"

"Private Titus. Get your ass back outside where it belongs. This building is so quake resistant they could launch it into orbit without cracking the plaster. Everyone's safer inside."

Harrison stepped back out.

Lou stated the obvious. "He didn't see the dinosaurs."

"Yeah, well, I sorta wish I hadn't seen them either."

The world wrenched again.

No dinosaurs, this time. A big fancy marble building. It had guards too. Black uniforms with red piping, very classy. They stared at each other, across a badly mismatched street.

Lou stepped out and looked up and down the street . . . streets. Half a kilometer each direction . . . palm trees.

Heave. Lou staggered . . . marble buildings everywhere. Black uniformed guards stalking toward him. "Oh shit. I think . . . I . . . stepped too far across . . . " He kept his hands away from his holstered pistol, open and clearly visible to the men approaching.

"Hi. Do you have any idea what's going on?" And I really hope not, because it would be an odd coincidence to have it happen just when we opened a gate to our enemy's world . . .

Wrench. Lou was still facing the marble building, but now there was a barren desert behind him. And down the street . . . a familiar building. He ran for it. Jumped down off of that street onto H street in front of the Alcoa building.

Heave.

The patch of weird world was gone. Everything normal. Lou turned and bolted back to Main Accounting.

Lou threw himself up the steps and planted his back to the wall beside the doors. Panting. He was in good physical shape, but panic . . . "I don't think we should get off our, umm home ground."

Harrison, who'd been halfway down the steps, walked back up. "Yeah. Sounds like a plan. We'll just . . . guard the hell outta this building."

There were no more explosions, or gunfire. Plenty of sirens. A couple of cars drove past, not stopping.

A few of the staff came out, sweaty and irritated.

"One! It's hotter out here than in there!" A tall dark-hair woman looked up and down the street. "The streets don't look too bad. I'm going to go find out if there's any bus service."

No one else followed her. Lou tried and failed to suppress the thought that she was the only one with any sense.

The rest of the women apparently decided the heat inside was marginally better than the heat and sun outside.

It was nearly half an hour before the next . . . change quake. A vertical wall of water, higher than their head collapsed.

They moved as one, jumping through the doors, closing and bracing themselves against them as the wave hit the building, shoved them back . . . subsided and poured away. Leaving a tiny three centimeter deep puddle spreading out across the floor.

Lou stared at a fish flopping on the floor . . . turned and walked back out to examine the wet steps.

Harrison stood beside him. "So . . . if blocks of worlds are swapping around . . . what do we do when we wind up as just one block on that water world?"

"We haul ass up to the second floor."

"Sounds good. So . . . how come we don't have ultra-sharp black uniforms?"

"Because we'd die of heat stroke, if we survived the assault of hundreds of women turned on by those really evil outfits." Lou looked down at his baggy wet desert camos. "I'd risk the heat stroke."

"Yeah. Me too."

They watched the fish flop . . . stop flopping . . . the sun set . . .

Wrench.

"Damn, I was hoping we were done with that."

Lou stared into the twilight. "Desert over there. Good. Maybe it'll stay that way."

"I'd rather it went back to normal."

"Well . . . yeah. I still think running for normal Earth on either side would be a sensible thing to do." Lou shivered. "Because I think we on one of the small blocks that is jumping around."

***

The temps were dropping as the desert cooled.

They called it Nowhereistan. A small city just outside the Earth's Dimensional Gate Complex. In the middle of nowhere, an otherwise uninhabited bit of desolation a hundred clicks from the shore of the former Aral Sea.

Main Accounting was outside the Gate Complex, so the personnel didn't have to go through security twice every day.

The door bumped Lou's back, and he stepped out of the way.

Sergeant Baldwin stalked out, and looked around with a scowl. "Apparently everyone is going to have to walk home. I talked to the Captain briefly, before the coms cut out again."

Lou and Harrison swapped alarmed looks.

"Sir . . . I'm not sure that's possible." Harrison was a lot more diplomatic than Lou would have been.

The sergeant shrugged him off. "I know. Twelve kilometers in high heels? But I'm sure they'll get the busses running at least partway here from the residential area."

Lou and Harrison exchanged alarmed glances. Lou trotted down the steps and looked both directions. The sun was down, the moon was just edging up in the east . . . and failing to silhouette the buildings that ought to be there.

"Sergeant . . . that's not home, out there."

"What the bloody hell are you talking about?" He trotted down the steps, pulling out a flashlight . . . slowing as he reached the line where abused pavement gave way to hard ground, strewn with rocks, windblown sand . . .

Lou walked east and found where "home" ended and a tall grass prairie started.

Some of the workers had followed them, a faint babble of voices.

"Where are we?" A tired middle-aged woman, her professional suit a bit limp after a long day with no air conditioning.

Lou could only shake his head. "I don't know. It's been a very strange day."

Harrison jogged up. Glanced at the high grass. "It's the same on the far side. Sergeant, we ought to break out the big guns for this . . . just in case there are wild animals, predators . . . Why not?"

The sergeant was shaking his head. Looking exasperated. "Does Main Accounting look like a military base to you? We don't have any big guns. You two, the outside guards have a 9mm pistol. That's the sum total of our weaponry."

Lou swallowed. "Maybe everyone should get back inside, because I swear I saw a dinosaur, earlier."

The lady looked at him. "Dinosaur." Her voice was flat, uninflected. She turned and walked toward the building, waving down the milling workers and gesturing them back into the building.

"One dammit. We can't stay here." Sergeant Baldwin stomped back to the crowd. "Listen up. We need to leave. Now."

"Ten hours too late." Harrison muttered under his breath.

Lou spotted a shifting mass in the dim light. "Oh shit!" He started running, unsnapping his holster, drawing the pistol . . . "Sergeant!"

The sergeant looked his way then spun as the women started screaming and running.

It was like a slightly oversized kangaroo, but striding instead of hopping. Scaled and feathered in the beam of the sergeant's flashlight. Toothy. Clawed.

Sergeant Baldwin stepped backwards, tripped on the first step and fell. The flashlight rolled away. The little dinosaur's head tracked it, then snapped back toward the fleeing humans. It ran forward, head out and focused on the nearest woman.

Baldwin got his feet under his body and heaved himself up. Threw himself on the dinosaur, tackled it to the ground . . . screamed as it raked him with those clawed hands.

The jaws closed on the sergeant's shoulder.

Lou shoved the barrel of his pistol into the dinos mouth at the corner of his jaw, angled it up and back and pulled trigger. The beasts movements went spastic, Harrison grabbed the Sergeant and jerked him away . . .

The middle-aged lady picked up the flashlight and shone it on them, showed the spilled guts the pumping blood . . . the Sergeant's grip loosening as his gaze fixed on nothing.

Harrison lowered him to the ground, then looked around. "We'd better get him inside."

"He's . . . he's dead." the Lady whispered.

"Yes. But we can't leave him out here, we don' want any . . . thing to taking up eating people."

"Guys!" Lou spotted more movement. "Leave him, move!"

They moved, and once inside . . .

"Shit. Who has the keys to these doors!"

Three women skidded a desk across the lobby and against one set of doors, and went back for another.

"The doors open out." Lou flushed to say something so obvious.

"Yeah, but until we find keys, this may be all we can do."

Lou swallowed. "This had better all get back to normal . . . because between the two of us, we've got nineteen bullets."



 
 
 
Dean AgnewDean Agnew on April 16th, 2017 01:24 pm (UTC)
Early stages for editing, but having Earthers using One as a curse word kind of jars the brain enough to lose focus on the story. :)
matapampamuphoff on April 16th, 2017 01:49 pm (UTC)
Oops! I'm not used to writing the Earther's POV.
muirecan: Withersmuirecan on April 16th, 2017 04:55 pm (UTC)
I wondered. About that.
muirecanmuirecan on April 17th, 2017 01:42 am (UTC)
So Main Accounting has only 3 guards. Now 2 guards. Hmm, I think maybe they under armed the building.
mbarkermbarker on April 17th, 2017 02:29 am (UTC)
Clearly, someone thought the pen was mightier than the sword?
mbarkermbarker on April 17th, 2017 06:18 am (UTC)
For later -- when the water hits, it pushes the doors in? But when they're blocking the doors with desks, the doors open out? Minor nit...
matapampamuphoff on April 17th, 2017 01:59 pm (UTC)
They moved as one, pulling the doors open then shutting them. Lou braced himself against his pair. Harrison shot him a glance and threw himself against the other pair as the wave hit the building, shoved the doors hard against their frames.

Water sprayed through every joint. Harrison's door flexed, wrenched . . . the wave subsided and poured away. Leaving a tiny three centimeter deep puddle spreading out across the floor.

Lou stared at a fish flopping on the ground outside his door . . . he had to put his shoulder to it to pop it back open.

Harrison heaved at his doors, but they were thoroughly jammed.

"Leave it for . . . maintenance. Better to have them stuck closed than open." Lou walked back out to examine the wet steps.
(Anonymous) on April 17th, 2017 02:21 pm (UTC)
Oaths
You had Earthers swearing by"One". I know that this is a mix-up of universes, but the Earthers should be swearing by something else. I thought the first woman swearing by the One would be a spy startled into old habits but you continued having characters swear the same way.

Andrew Ramage
matapampamuphoff on April 17th, 2017 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Oaths
I'm having a terrible time writing from an Earther's POV. I _think_ I've found all the wrong cussing and fixed it in my master copy.