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25 August 2017 @ 12:47 pm
_Gate Team_ part 1  
These will eventually be intertwined into Last Merge.

At this point I don't know if I'll use the first three scenes. I may, once it's all written, find that Xen is the Main POV Character and minimize the Rael POV bits.

Why does he look so worried? "Why so worried, Boss?" What's the worst thing . . . Oh . . . Shit, no! "Is Helios coming this way?"

She caught the stiffening of his shoulders, and the change in the rhythm of his breath. And swallowed.

"Very, very closely held, Rael. Of the twenty worlds in their path—we're the third most likely to be close enough for them to trigger a merge. Q's trying to steer them away. And we really need new vocabulary to describe what's really going on in non-three-dee dimensions."

Rael controlled her own breathing. "So . . . guards for . . . what?"

"Q is going to open hundreds of gates between specific worlds and Helios in an attempt to steer it away from us. Helios will be passing an X-World in a month."

"So that's the first target for Q's steering experiment?"

Urfa shook his head. "They'll be trying to minimize how it changes Helios's path, so they'll be pulling it another direction, away from the X World. It'll be Q, Xen and six more Fallen Witches. Ajki's beside himself, says he's desperately short on trained field agents. And doesn't think some Action Teamers would be . . . appropriate for this. So I volunteered some of my guards and equipment. Who would you like to take? Who will—hopefully—behave around seven Comet Fall witches. Your Speed Squad buddies?"

"Yes. They'd do nicely, no problems with the witches. Can I take Bunny? I'd like to have a woman along to smooze with the witches, in case they . . . are extremely pissed at me. And Bunny is so unthreatening."

Urfa's eyes crinkled. "They're going to get a horribly wrong idea about Princesses from you two. By all means, take her. I'll tell Eppa he's about to lose some people and equipment. Xen said he'd provide food and shelter, so I thought I'd pitch in with transport. Five utes. So round up your team and weapon up. You leave in six days." Urfa grinned. "You'll have to finish the mucking out when you get back."

***

First stop Disco. It was the middle of the day, so business suit—well, the blouse was unusually colorful for "business attire"—but nothing really sexy. And not in uniform . . . I'm going to need field gear. . . clothes. Boots . . . I got a box from the Army. I won't ever wear a uniform again . . . I hope. But those were nice boots. Guess I'll have to finally unpack it. Pants, shirts, socks, ugh, heavy socks.

She took her own car and parked around behind the Embassy. The walk to Disco should give everyone there enough time to decide whether or not to shoot her on sight.

Apparently the decision was not. But not unanimous, judging from the glare and drumming fingers of the usual receptionist.

"What are you doing here?"

A snicker from the balcony above. "Now Dagger. Be nice."

The glare turned resentful as the young woman glanced over her shoulder. "She tried to kill you!"

Xen just grinned. "C'mon up Rael. You look official, is your business with me, or . . ."

"Q, possibly. Urfa said you needed some guards for some witches and thought maybe an Action Team would be a bad idea. So I'm hear to check what you need."

"And you're in charge? Are we going to have to be professional, pretend we barely know each other?"

Rael giggled. "That had not actually occurred to me. One! It's true though, isn't it?" She followed him into his office and kicked back in a chair, forcing herself to not kick off her shoes and put her feet up on his desk.

"Well . . . yes. So, Q's in Ash recruiting witches. She's got plenty of volunteers, but Answer has to wield her authority and approve of them 'missing lessons.' Not that they won't be learning, but Answer's territorial, and our family's reputation as wild rebels . . ."

"Really?" she snickered. "You? A rebel? Well, my starting point is five utes, four guards and another princess, in case my . . . presence becomes a problem."

He winced.

"The utes'll take twenty-five people if you're friendly, twenty comfortably."

"Q wants two triads, besides herself, so that's just fourteen total."

Rael pulled out her comp. "So no problem toting along a bunch of stuff. Although knowing you, it'll all be in bubbles."

"Yep. I'm preparing for two weeks in the field at a time, although unless conditions are bad, half that should be plenty." He grimaced. "It's the waiting to see if it worked that is the toughest part."

Rael hunched her shoulders. "And if the reports I read are right, you've only got four chances to pull it off. Then the President's got a very bad announcement to make."

"And two months to evacuate almost seven billion people." Xen met her eyes. "We will do everything possible to stop this. Or help deal with it if we can't."

Rael smiled wryly. "One only knows why."

"Because we keep meeting so many really nice Oners." Matter of fact feminine tones preceded Q through the door.

"Add six guards and two Princesses to the total. Five utes, plenty of room, unless you decided to bring an entire Pyramid."

"Nope. One triad from Ash, and one from Rip Crossing."

Xen grinned. "Heaven help the poor, poor Oners. Rip Witches. Dare I ask?"

"Goldfinch, Jacana, and Ibis. An experienced halfmoon triad. Ditto the Ash witches. Demoiselle, Egret, and Lapwing. And they've had plenty of cross-over triad practice, so their pretty much ideal." Q eyed Rael. "You're very good at not looking massively curious. Witches work in threes, like Oner men work in fours or eights. It allows them to do things as a group that they can't do singly."

***

"So." Rael giggled at the apprehensive glances her off-and-on students exchanged.

The Speed Squad, the rest of the guards call them. Because they can all do high level speed. Some of the best of the Black Horse Guards.

"External Relations Director Ajki is so hard pressed to field the teams he needs for projects currently underway that Urfa has decided to use some of the Black Horse Guards to fill Disco's request for some people to protect a field project of theirs. So, do we have any volunteers to go guard some gorgeous young witches from dinosaurs? Keep in mind that I have no idea what the age or appearance of the witches actually are, but I have been told there will be dinosaurs." She grinned. "Might even pick up some Fallen style magic techniques, inasmuch as Xen will probably be there at least periodically."

She glanced at Scar. "I've invited Bunny, so we don't give the impression of an all male group."

He grinned. "I'm in."

A chorus of affirmatives from the other three.

"Excellent. Major Eppa has signed off on five utes, Xen says he'll handle food and shelter. So weapon up. I understand the 20mm penetrating frag works very well on dinosaurs, but bring along lighter guns as well."

"Rael?" Ohhe was eyeing her. "I didn't catch what the project is?"

"Oh. Well, the witches are going to put up hundreds of gates between various worlds and Helios in hopes of diverting it away from the One World."

Horrified silence times four.

"So. Tell no one. Weapon up, pack for a month in the field. Day after tomorrow we go save the Empire."

***

Xen ran his eyes over the four Oners. Strong. At ease with each other. An experienced squad. I don't get much feel of mental contact. I don't think they do much Compass work.

"This is the latest update on Dr. Quicksilver's holographic model. The black line is the path of the Helios micro-universe. The little crumply looking things are the other universes, the tails are their back track. The cone is the currently predicted path of the Helios, and the spark is the One World."

"It's . . . probably going to miss, right?" That one had been formally introduced as Wsca—but outside of either formal occasions or cute nicknames the Oners treated the "W" in their weird coded names as silent. So he was "Scar" not Whiskers. A corporal, second to Sergeant "Oh-he."

"Yes, but we don't know how far away is safe from their merge machinery. It's . . . we don't have a solid enough base of observation, to be able to say that they can't force a merge if they want to. And if we can steer it far enough away that we don't have to worry about a spontaneous merge, we can sabotage their machinery and make sure they don't merge. But like I said we don't really know how far 'far enough' is."

One of the others, "Icks" for Ixpu, stuck his hand into the model. "It came close enough to that one to curve the path, but didn't merge."

"Yes, and it'll be closer to this X World, which will curve the path even further, toward the One World. So we're going to be putting gates—hundred of gates—from Helios to this X World here."

"To counter it? Do the gates pull worlds closer?"

"We have observed, in the close Earth books, that gates between close parallels do. That's why we only visit them from outside, and even then rarely. Most worlds have gates going several directions, and we haven't see a measurable change in the movements of any worlds."

"But you think hundreds all pulling the same direction will work?" Ohhe was looking worried.

"It's the only thing we have to try."

They all four nodded. No levity in their expressions.

"Your government is taking preliminary action—all those suburb worlds that were suddenly approved—and prepositioning necessary supplies, moving some manufacturing capacity and so forth."

"I'm surprised there've been no leaks." Scar eyed him. "Are they prepping worlds that aren't suburbs?"

"Yes. I think they're aiming at forty worlds, with basic accommodations for almost seven billion people. A hundred settlements on each world, half a million households each."

"Oh. My. One." Scar sat down abruptly.

"It's not possible. But there may be enough that with immediate and continuing outside help, everyone who will move will survive."

"Oh. My. One."

They exchanged glances.

Ohhe cleared his throat. "We sort of hoped Rael was exaggerating when she said we were off to save the world. What are we doing?"

"You four specifically? While we're setting gates we tend towards oblivious. So you'll be shooting any predators that think we look edible, interrupting us if something comes up that makes it necessary for us to move, and making sure we remember to eat."

"We've got five utes, for transport. And you have shelter?"

"Yep. I bubbled a building, and lots of food, so we're good there."

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on August 25th, 2017 07:39 pm (UTC)
I think the Rael bits add flavor. Could you keep at least some of them by having Xen listen to Rael describing the meetings?

Darqref
matapampamuphoff on August 25th, 2017 09:42 pm (UTC)
It'll depend on how the rest of the story flows.