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09 September 2017 @ 10:15 am
_Gate Team_ part 3  
  

***

"That looks amazingly boring."

Xen grinned and looked over at the men guarding the two triads of witches. "Open your shields carefully and check out how much power they're handling."

Ux elbowed Icks. "I'll bet Goldfinch's group is better than Ibis's"

"Five rials on Ibis."

Xen shook his head and looked over at Ohhe. "Do they bet on everything?"

"Yep. They don't actually pay each other. They keep score with various embarrassing consequences when ever either of them gets a hundred rials ahead." Ohhe sighed. "And while spilling a drink on Agni was amusing . . . Well, Urfa put his foot down and told them nothing involving a live person."

Wsca snickered. "Then he added, 'Or dead' so it's mostly been quieter since."

"Other than the clown makeup and wig on the statue of the Prophet Emre?" Ohhe rubbed his arm. "After they washed it off, Isakson—the Martial Arts trainer at Versalle—gave them a . . . lesson they remembered at least until the casts were off."

"They still swear it wasn't them. I wondered about Ra'd, myself."

"Nah. It was too funny. Ra'd doesn't do funny."

"He's pretty good at disrespect, though." Wsca broke off to stare at a clump of brush. A touch of magic and brushes shook as something large ran away.

"True."

Xen raised his eyebrows. Sounds like a lot of changes around Versalle. And it sounds like I should meet this young man of Nighthawk's again, and give him a good look over, over-protective father style. "Doesn't do funny" sounds off.

But today I have other duties.

Xen eyed the setup. The two triads were a couple hundred feet apart, Egret's down hill of Goldfinch's. Q sitting cross-legged in between.

"Not many animals." Ohhe looked around. "They really fucked this place up."

"And why are there so many X Worlds right around here?" Scar—like the rest—had his eyes and most of his attention out away from the group.

Well trained guards.

"This band is worlds that split from Earth Prime due to a nuclear war. There's a spectrum running from minimal damage all the way through completely lifeless. The One World is one of the moderately damaged worlds. They drift around a bit, mingle. The One World is currently edging through an area of badly damaged worlds."

Xen pulled a bubble off his arm and opened it. Pig and Barracuda leaped out, tails wagging, noses up, eyes and eats alert. "Good dogs, these are friends. Be on guard, and don't bother the witches."

Bunny snickered and held out her hand to be sniffed. "I don't think they understood all of that."

Rael giggled. "Don't tell me—genetic engineering."

"Yep. Not of them; their parents and half their grandparents are the original Hell Hounds. Fourteen century old experiments from Earth. They're very smart."

"And large." Ohhe eyed Pig. "Boxer? Maybe?"

"Half, plus Great Dane and sheepdog. Barracuda's three quarters Great Dane and a quarter sheepdog." Xen thought that over. "I'm a little surprised the dog breeds survived, what with Europe and North America being so thoroughly nuked."

Rael sniffed. "South America and Australia were barely touched, and most of Africa . . . well, the southern tip got nuked pretty well. But the Europeans got around and took their dogs with them."

Bunny was looking around. "Sorry, no sticks to throw for you."

Barracuda's ears perked up and she looked at Xen.

"After the witches are done working," he promised. "Right now, guard. I'm going to help Q."

The dogs galloped off in a wide circuit around the two triads. Xen sat down near Q and sank into a meditative state as he opened his awareness to the inbetween. Electric blue liquid, fizzing with bubbles. Crumpled sheets that were the membranes, entire universes his brain interpreted as paper wads. Listened for Q . . .

:: There. That world. ::

Xen focused where she was looking, the sheet towering over them, translucent, so close he had looked through it without seeing it. He tried to draw back, to focus close and see the whole thing.

To see how simple it was, compared to other membranes. He let his perception sink in, dive down and spot the melted ruins of Helios.

::Yes this place. :: He held it in his mind and felt Egret's triad aim a cone at his spot . . . he felt the tail stretch, saw the gate open. He shifted a bit and reached for Goldfinch's Triad . . . another cone, another gate. He shifted . . . Again and again.

:: Very useful, Xen, but we need to move, to spread out the gates. ::

Xen nodded and eased far enough out of the inbetween to see the ground he was sitting on. To get up and walk south with the witches . . . then sit and see that he could still feel the Helios membrane and serve to guide the gate locations there, spreading them well out . . . moving again . . . Was that Rael leading him along? . . . more gates . . .

And a hard poke. "Enough! You guys are all showing signs 0f serious drain. Snap out of it or I'll kick you."

Xen shook his head and blinked up at Rael. "Umm?"

"Drink this!"

A cold frosty bottle of sugar and salt. Heaven. He listened to Rael talking to Q . . . and then Q prodding the witches. Finished the boost. We need to import this stuff by the case, I didn't think about it. But I guess Rael did. He pried his eyes open and looked around, Q was sitting on a rock drinking, Rael and Bunny were handing out bottles . . . it looked like they had a stash on one of the utes. The witches were sitting around . . . but everyone looked all right.

He looked the other way. An almost orderly array of gates. He tried to count and his eyes crossed. "Right. Tomorrow, we'll time it and stop sooner. Maybe do two sessions, morning and afternoon." He finished the boost and laid down flat to soak up energy, power, from sunshine, heat, and the pull of gravity. Pig laid down beside him, and Barracuda pranced up, looking hopeful.

"I know, I know. I promised a frisbee. Just wait a minute."

Her ears pricked at something behind him. She leaped over him and bolted up the hill. Xen groaned and rolled over, pushed himself up . . . "Wolves. Crap."

"Should we shoot them?"

"Only if they start looking hungry."

Bunny scurried up, "But your dog's attacking them . . . Oh." Her voice trailed off as 'Cuda play-bowed and jumped around, trying to get the wolves to play.

"Barracuda is a party girl. And if she doesn't get eaten, I'll be at risk of yet another litter of puppies . . . Oops!"

The biggest wolf's ruff bristled and it leaped at Cuda. Who spun and jumped to the side with unnatural speed.

The whole pack attacked and Barracuda fled.

Xen sighed. "All right, try shooting a couple and see if the rest will go away."

The gunshots attracted the pack's attention. And while some stopped to sniff the fallen wolves, a dozen charged on toward the noisy animals just standing there looking like an easy dinner to the naïve beasts. Xen waved and Cuda dodged to the side, giving the Oners a clear field of fire. Two fled across the hill, the rest died.

Ohhe walked up to the nearest . . . "Damn those are big critters. I wonder what they live on?"

"Seems like a pack like that would have to be bringing down large prey. I wonder what survived a war that killed all the people?"

"Umm . . . do you know where we are, geographically speaking?"

"Europe. Spain, was the old term. The Helaos concentrate in North America, so we're avoiding it." Xen leaned to pet a distraught Barracuda, ears down and tail between her legs.

"I thought things tended to stay close, you know, same place on the same world?"

Xen snorted. "Close as within a couple of thousand miles. Which might be the other reason for being four gates away, not that Q couldn't do it in one, but why give her yet another chance to show off? Oww!"

"Big brothers are a pain in the ass." Q walked up and shook her head at all the wolves. "Well . . . perhaps he wasn't completely wrong to think we needed some people along to pay attention to the real world while we were working."

The witches gathered. Egret shrugged. "Nasty thin coats, must be warm here. Maybe you should bury them so they don't start stinking. Xen? I believe you said something about a building?"

"Right. Top of the hill good, Q?"

"Yes, wherever you can find a flat enough spot."