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22 December 2017 @ 10:22 am
Final Merge  
Is a done deal . . . well, *very* rough draft. I'm coordinating dates amoung all the Helios stories, and then I'll post google docs of both _Shadow Zone_ AKA Rescue Mission and _Final Merge_ AKA Last Merge so you guys can point out all the plot holes. Today, for your amusement, Eldon and Xen on a collision course . . .


Eldon sat down in front of the SUV and meditated. No snake, anymore, but he could see the ragged membrane edge . . . and something weird . . . it was passing through a normal membrane and right there a dark area where it was sticking somehow. And looking closer, he could see the ruins of dead cities.

All the tall tales about the Cannibal World . . . They're going to kill all those kids.

The only movement, the only feeling of power was very close to the sticking spot. And that marked where he needed to go. He backed off, away from the dark wedge. A bulldozed path with no traffic on it. One cone, two cones. He got back in the SUV. Jerry, Phil and the dog jumped in. He drove through.

***

They emerged in ruins. Sick twisted things, as if each building was two, overlapping and warping together into something that shouldn't be able to stand, and often hadn't. Side walks had been sucked up to become parts of the walls, mismatched widows didn't quiet overlap. The sky ahead looked odd, like a shadow cast across the sky by nothing whatsoever. He listened and caught vehicular noises and drove carefully that direction.

"Set up one of those Corridors, here, for a fast retreat." Phil rolled his window down. "Damn, this looks like a Hollywood set from Hell."

Eldon backed up, stepped out and stuck the corridor mouth on the wall across from the gate and took the other end with them as he wound through a neverland of mutant trash.

When he found the bulldozed path through the weird wreckage, he stopped and parked. They pulled out the three big crates and shifted them into a travesty of a room. He looked over the controls carefully, before he fit the three parts together, and then set the timer for six hours. They all set the alarm functions on their watches to give them a fifteen minute heads up, then he restarted the SUV and headed for the shadow.

***

Eldon cruised down the bulldozed road at a speed probably not recommended for the surface.

"How are we going to find the kids?" Phil bit his tongue as they hit a larger bump than usual.

"We're going to ask. I'm not planning on being nice about it, either." Eldon told him.

"So how come you've gone from being the Demon of Jones Creek to Mr. Hero?"

"I think a whole lot of people need a hero, right now."

Jerry snorted. "That hardly makes sense. Watch . . . "

They hit the oncoming truck head on. Fortunately it had been going slowly and Eldon had good reflexes. They all leaped out and Jerry found himself grabbing the driver of the other vehicle and dragging him bodily out of his truck. "Where are the people you kidnapped?"

The driver cursed in another language.

Eldon reached over and put his hand on the man's forehead for a long moment. "On the far side of the shadow zone. In a prison by the Merge Center . . . right. I got the location . . . And we can't get there from here." He slapped the corridor on the nearest wall and got back in the SUV and waited impatiently "Just drop him. He's a cold blooded killer, you'd puke if you knew what he did to a college student a couple of weeks ago."

He backed away, turned carefully and drove through the corridor and through his gate.

Grabbed a cone, smacked his gate and watched it fall apart. He grabbed one of the cones and aimed it at the world the Cannibals were eating, set it down . . . it sheared away from the shadow zone, and attached out in a grasslands probably ten miles from the shadows.

He found another cone, twist the tails and . . . shoved this end up right against a building and then shoved it down a bit.

They piled back into the SUV and drove through.

He stopped long enough to attach a corridor to a pair of trees, then hustled.

This time there was no road at all, but the bumps were softer, big grass mounds or fallen branches from the scattered trees.

Half the bumps they were feeling were not the ground. He rather thought that the SUV was on its last legs.

"Is that an army? Over to the right?"

Eldon gave a quick glance. "Two of them. We're not the only people pissed as hell."

But closer to them, there were buildings silhouetted against the shadows. And he could feel the terror and desperation from there. It was close.

In fact it was that building right over there, across the barren field. Eldon threw a corridor and crammed the SUV in without worrying about the niceties. It spat them out a dozen feet from the blank concrete wall, and Eldon stepped out and looked it over. "Time for a bit of slicing, I think this place needs a new door right about here." He chopped his hand around and scooped a ten foot diameter hole in the wall, the rubble collapsed in front of them and they strode into a makeshift prison, a maze of bars and stairs. Figures inside the cells were staring at the hole. Lots of people. Starting with the half dozen kids in the cell they'd just broken into.

He grabbed prison bars and molded them into a rectangle with handles. Attached the corridor.

"Jerry, this is the corridor back to the Gate. Tell that dog to find Shane and Coltrain. I'm going to find guards. And get the kids out of here."

He slid through the gap he'd made in the bars and stalked off, locks shearing off prison doors as he passed them.

***

Jerry and Phil looked around.

The prisoners looked from the hole in the wall to the frame he was holding. "Can you get us out of here?"

Jerry turned the frame. "Yeah. Step through the frame, see the gate, go through it."

They dived for it. A quick glance showed them dashing through the gate and into the familiar campus.

"You know. I think we're lucky Eldon's worst behavior seems to be nasty sex."

Jerry nodded. "Yeah. How'd you like someone like that that wanted to rule the World."

He shoved the frame out of the cell and followed it. "All of you, through here!" The other prisoners wavered, then one jumped through and the rest rushed it and crowded through.

Jerry stared around. "Follow Eldon or . . . Napper. Find Coltain." The dog sniffed the air and wagged his tail. They followed him up a metal staircase, and found more occupied cages. Locked.

Phil shoved the frame between bars. "Go through, look around, there's a Gate to Earth, take it." They dived through without questioning him. He jerked the frame out and shoved it in the next cage. There were hundreds of cages, with perhaps ten people in each. All men, he realized. He heard the dog barking and then some screaming, shots. The prisoners were all up and yelling, and he could only keep dragging the frame from cage to cage. Then Eldon was trotting toward him, snapping the locks off the cages with a gesture of his hands. Jerry held up the frame and the prisoners poured through it.

"Stay here, I'll send the kids this way."

Phil looked at his watch. "No problem, we've got almost an hour until Eldon's bomb goes off."

Jerry shrugged. "Doesn't really matter, we're not even on the same world."

The light dimmed suddenly and the metal building and bars warped around them bending to sink into other bars that hadn't been there a moment before.

Jerry swallowed. "I hope."

Chapter Main Battle

3 Safar 1405 yp

Clouds climbed through the turbulent air on both sides of the shadow zone.

It's going to be a wet muddy battle.

Xen returned his attention to the troops. "General Ilqy? Your men are safe as long as they stay out of the Shadow Zone. If they go into the Zone, they will feel an immense desire to merge with any un merged Helios. So try to keep them out. I'm going into the zone and I'll send out any Oners I find already inside the Zone."

A high whine echoed across the rolling plain. A plane still low, but climbing, flew out of the shadow zone. Egg shapes of bombs below it's wings . . .

"Aunt Question? Take it down." He verbalized the mental command so General Ilqy would understand what was about to . . .

The lightening bolt hit the plane, continued to the ground, the reverse strike again passed through the plane. Almost faster than he could see . . . the plane exploded, or perhaps one or more bombs. The result was the same.

Xen eyed the army facing them.

A battle line of infantry, and tanks. Far to the left, the jail building he'd explored, just outside the shadow zone. Where I need to be, right now.

He turned back to the Oner officers. "The Helaos who come out to fight have already merged with one of those kidnapped college students. From the procedures I witnessed, before merging, they do spot damage to victims brains to ensure the Helaos will dominate the merge. Then they merge. The kids are not recoverable, at that point.

"You're going to have to kill them."

An uneasy shift through everyone within hearing range.

"If they hesitate, if someone inside there is fighting for dominance, you can try to get them to surrender. Use stun spells. But don't hesitate so much that you get yourselves or your men killed. I'm sorry. Now get going, they're merge killing those students right now."

Xen hardened his habitual physical shield, and reached for one of his recognition points . . . the one inside the shadow zone . . . wasn't there anymore.

He grabbed the stable bubble from his collection and opened the door. "So, feel like a run across a battle field?"

Pyrite tossed his head. :: I want to hurt those people who hurt Q. ::

"Right. We'll take out a tank or two on the way to where they're holding youngsters they captured the way they captured Q."

Xen ignored General Ilqy's "What? You can't take on a tank from horseback!" and vaulted aboard.

Pyrite sprinted down the hill, and up the next . . . head up taking a good look, and teleported to the crest of the next. Galloped down through the next swale.

:: Be ready. They'll be close on the next jump. ::

Xen braced himself, raised physical and energy shields. A wedge, a plow to shove everything—everyone—from their path. They crested the hill and Pyrite traveled them to the crest of the next . . . a few feet from the front line of infantry.

Tank escort. Professional, no sign of internal resistance to be seen.

He opened horizontal slits in his shield to both sides and sliced.

Then a vertical slice that went diagonally through the tank as Pyrite raced past. Veered for the next nearest tank.

Xen let the horse take care of the driving while he sliced, then sent a fireball into a canvas covered truck. The tank was turning it main gun his direction . . . he chopped the barrel off and braced his shield as it fired anyway. Hit the shield and exploded.

Pyrite staggered, levitated to stay on his feet, laid his ears back and charged the tank.

Xen gave it a vertical then a horizontal slice, then they were past the tank line.

Xen threw fireballs, started grass fires, more for the smoke cover than for actual damage. He threw a physical effect—glitter, Q called it—reflective surfaces, tumbling through the air. One or the other worked. The army didn't follow as Pyrite bolted for the jail.

Put on the brakes and slid into a scene from a nightmare.

Unconscious teenagers on gurneys, being wheeled to his right, toward a hazy edge of dusky light.

The terrified auras of thousands of people coming from the jail on his left.

Xen warped light as he drew his pistol and shot the Helaos orderly pushing the gurney closest to the shadow zone. Shot the magazine empty, switched, and kept shooting. He swung off Pyrite and swooped a bubble over the gurneys as he ran toward the shadow zone.

An open walled pavilion housed a scene of horror. Limp bodies on gurneys being stripped, a doctor with a gun-like instrument to a young man's head as a line of naked old men leaned eagerly . . . Xen shot the doctor. Shot the old men.

The Helaos soldiers were running in to help, but stopping short, staying in the zone.

One turned toward the gurneys already inside . . .

Click. Out of ammo.

A mental punch dropped that soldier, but the rest turned and rushed the gurneys.

A careful slice. Head high. Well above the gurneys.

Blood sprayed.

A head rolled onto a gurney and sank into the flaccid body.

He turned and slap attached the bubble to the saddle. "Get out of here, up to the crest of the next hill and warn me about what's coming."

Pyrite snorted disagreement, but spun and bolted back toward the smoke.

Xen closed his eyes, looked at the infrared . . . Several hundred warm bodies headed his direction.

The kids can't even help themselves!

Can I merge proof them?

He looked over the pavilion roof, to the clouds rushing into the zone from Helios.

That should do it.

Xen strode into the shadow zone. Three slices over head and a hard push to send the roof flying. Pulling power and reaching far out into the Helios sky to release it as heat. Instant thunderheads lifting, rain falling toward the shadow zone . . . he pulled it, blocked the Target world's rain . . . was hit by a deluge, torrential rain hitting his skin and sinking in. Hitting the kids and disappearing into them.

Xen started pulling the gurneys past him, shoving the kids back toward the target world and got between them and the charge of soldiers through the door.

Shield out and grounded . . . and where the hell was a bubble so he could get these kids out of here . . . Did the merge affect them, repulse them? Did he dare open one of his other bubbles . . .

:: Soldiers coming your way from either side, but they're stopping at the edge of the shadow . . . :: A mental spook and a sense of a fast retreat . . .

A shiver underfoot, a cacophony of metallic scrapes and pops. A glance back . . . the shadow zone had expanded.

With unmerged Helaos soldiers charging from both sides to surround and trap him.

All right. No more Mister Nice guy.

Xen reached out mentally , a shallow scoop of a slice to take off the left side of the jail's roof. Bend the gravity slope, slide it left and toward him . . . and drop it into the space between jail and pavilion. On the soldiers coming from that direction.

Another scoop from the right side and drop it on that batch of soldiers.

Xen wove between gurneys, reaching up and pulling down another deluge, shoving the water over and into the jail.

He reached over his shoulder and drew his sword.

And extended his shield to cover it.



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ekuah on December 22nd, 2017 05:29 pm (UTC)
I know it is a very rough draft...
...but Xen needs help.

And it's not like back when the Wine of the Gods was created.
'Today' there should be enough highly trained people to cause mayhem.
The chapter like it is now, is to highly Xen-centric.

He needs sidekicks. (Even if you only mention them casually)
Maybe Nil and some of his students, a few witch triads and Wavelength as Airforce. A nice Dogfight with that plane could be funny.

matapampamuphoff on December 22nd, 2017 06:22 pm (UTC)
Re: I know it is a very rough draft...
(1) Everyone else is busy helping the Army. (I need to add a mention of what they're doing. I cut a lot of draggy organizational stuff.)

(2) Xen doesn't need much help. He'd just wind up trying to protect them, and hampered in things like dropping roofs or neck height broad slices, in case they were in the way.
ekuah on December 22nd, 2017 08:22 pm (UTC)
Re: I know it is a very rough draft...
Still...

He is the god of spies.
Not the god of open conflict or solo missions.

You mentioned that you can't use Kevi for stealing the stranded prophet because there is not enough collective subconscious to get him doing it.

Now, how can Xen do this?
matapampamuphoff on December 22nd, 2017 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: I know it is a very rough draft...
He's not being summoned as the God of Spies. He's there as a Disco Agent, one of many, stopping an aggressive cross-dimensional war.

If you go back to _Young Warriors_ I have always had Xen tending to be a lone actor. To see a problem and go deal with it. As opposed to Garit, who thought in terms of grabbing some troops and dealing with it.

In _Empire of the One_ he's the member of the espionage team who goes off alone to deeply infiltrate, while the others stay at the shop and attend college.

In _Cannibal World_ he checks them out alone.

I try to keep true to these personality traits. Not that he can't work with a group, but that his natural tendency is to jump in by himself.
mbarkermbarker on December 23rd, 2017 12:47 am (UTC)
RE: Re: I know it is a very rough draft...
He’s got Pyrite... hum, might have the Hellhounds turn up to help herd? Somehow a set of animal sidekicks seems suitable?