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matapam
20 September 2017 @ 03:48 pm
 

Xen looked out over the rolling plains, spotted with trees and brushy ravines, and bright spots of open gates. A small herd of something that was trying to be an elephant was paying a lot more attention to them than he was comfortable with. "Nice World. And the witches have picked up Q's technique of getting the gates to attach away from where you're standing."

Wsca edged over. Shrugged. "I suspect they spent last month working on it, so they didn't get shone up again. I don't like animals that big, that close. Although watching those undersized elephants checking them out was interesting."

"Elephants are quite intelligent. Curious. These . . . probably paleomastadons . . . probably don't have enough brain size to, well who knows. Those sort of flightless parrot things cleared out fast when the gates started popping up." Q was leaking a bit more glow than usual. "When they take a break it'll be safe to walk out and take a look."

Making sure Qayg respects her?

Or trying to see of Oner guards are immune to her archetype?

Or hoping? I certainly find one of the Oners irresistible.

He glanced over to where three Oner Princess were sitting cross-legged on the ground. No doubt trying to figure out what the Witches were doing.

One was a voluptuous beauty, one was old and scary, and the third was the most irresistible woman in the Multiverse. Resist, Xen. Professional.

"So, we're in Siberia this time? Not much like our Siberia." Ohhe looked around.

"The glaciers shift the entire global air circulation." Xen blinked as the plains rolled in a very different way than the usual winds . . . The ground shivered. "Earthquake. Could be a coincidence."

Q shook her head. "The X world had them too. I was hoping it was the proximity to Helios causing it. But I think it's the gates. Possibly local, possible because the pull toward the other membrane. If this was an Inhabited World I'd worry about it. Here? No Problem."

She stepped closer to the two triads . . . a moment later the witches dropped hands and shook themselves a little.  

"Take a break, and perhaps we should hike off a couple of miles and spread the gates out more." Q looked around at Ohhe. "Want to take a closer look? I need to see what's going on, on the other side. Maybe your guys could help the witches move?"

Xen hid a smile as they headed for the nearest gate. Oh Q! I hope that man is really open minded, not to mention resistant to archetype effects.

He grinned at Ux and Icks, scurrying about to get the witches drinks and sandwiches. Caught Wsca's speculative glance.

"You might warn your buddies again that witches are not just love'em and leave'em types. They're all Halfmoons, which means that they've given birth. Double powered so they're stronger than hell. They can damage men during sex."

"How about your sister?" Wsca frowned out across the prairie as Ohhe walked into a circle of rock and disappeared.

"Hell quivers in terror of the thought of her landing there. Yes, she's a Halfmoon. Destiny is, umm three now? Something like that."

"Losing track, with these bags, bubbles, whatever, and you slow them down and then speed them up?"

"Yes. I suppose it sounds odd . . . well, even inside our magic community Q's eccentric, and not just for her child rearing practices."

Scar grinned. "Language shift, there. In the Empire eccentric is not a synonym for spooky. Can you just . . . look around and see other worlds?"

"Yes. But I have trouble peeking inside to see what world it is. And lots of trouble finding the same one again. So being able to see them isn't all that special."

By the time they'd moved and Xen had set up the Great Stone Inn, Q and Ohhe had caught back up with them.

"Plenty of Earthquakes on Helios as well. And it's very odd. There's a permanent gate in North America. I've never been here before, and I don't generally leave gates open."

"Hmm, the Smuggler sisters or the Hors de Combat?"

"Could be either . . . but why either of them would want a gate here defeats me. Maybe next year I'll have time to check it out."

"I'll check it next month just to make sure the Helios don't have a permanent gate."

She shook her head. "It goes from here down into the main Earth branch."

I'd better check that it's not the Hors. I don't need to be blind-sided with a major rape and pillage raid in the middle of this crisis!

They spent four more days of increasingly strong earthquakes placing gates, then gated back to the barren world they were using as a staging ground.




Chapter Eldon Party

"We all want to talk to you. So I'll send my car tomorrow night at nine."

Eldon bit his lip, then nodded. His team wasn't playing and Heso could tape the Toronto San Francisco game. He'd made a hell of a lot of money off the old gal's friends. So maybe he ought to go listen to them.

It turned out to be one of those formal cocktail we're-not-talking-business-just-checking-you-out-as-a-possible-partner sort of things.

Except when he laughed at the thought of these conventional businessmen turning into black market potion salesmen they got a bit rude.

One of the formerly bald men leaned in, as if he were trying to be intimidating. "We can make you rich. Do you really like that grubby little shop? We can get you a mansion like this." He waved at the big-enough-for-five-families heap of stone. The squiggly shaped swimming pool with two fake waterfalls and three Jacuzzis jutting out here and there.

Eldon looked around at all the cold calculating eyes. Remembered the laughing college kids calling him to comer and see what they'd done . . .

"Not interested. Thanks awfully for inviting me to your party . . . "

"Eldon, you're a wanted criminal. One phone call away from finding yourself behind bars." So much for the nice old lady . . . not that he'd actually ever considered her nice . . .

He grinned and shook his head. "Police don't worry me." So long as they aren't the Disco variety.

"Eldon, you'd better reconsider."

Eldon loomed. And he was tall enough, muscular enough, and ugly enough to pull it off effortlessly. "Walk away. Enjoy your second youth, your head of hair, your energy. Otherwise I'll be forced to completely humiliate you." He turned to demonstrate how "walk away" worked . . .

"The Feds want you really badly. You'll never see a court of law. You'll just disappear and they'll dissect you."

Eldon warped light and stepped around to the outdoor bar. A bit of wine added to every drink as the blank faced barman poured . . . and his flask refilled four times . . . The noise level was rising, look were being exchanged.

He swiped a bottle of brandy, anointed it and poured it into the pool.

Huh, pretty good self control these old businessmen and women.

An invisible nudge and Mr. Bigshot was stumbling into his old lady and they landed in one of the jacuzis. Tittering from a pack of old ladies . . . who found themselves staggering back into the group of former baldies . . .

The party'd had a lot more women than men so the barman and the catering staff were getting some really hungry looks . . .

Eldon left them to their fast developing orgy and walked out to the silly fountain in the front of the building, and added wine to that too.

Hesitated . . . Damn it, what if one of these idiots drowns?

He turned back and joined the party. Had a bit of wine himself, and started in with the animal transformations, putting them on lightly, so they'd fade in less than an hour. His little black stallion morph was as popular as always. The cat was fun too, until he fell in the poor. Wet cats are just not sexy.

 The neighbors called the cops. The first responders were both good looking men. Lucky to get out alive. Eldon sobered himself up and left about the time the third round of cops arrived. He kept his radio turned off for the drive, and watched the tape of the game over Heso's snores.

The hung over chauffeur showed up at noon for the car. "Madam does not want to ever see you again."

Eldon gave him a quick cure and the keys. "Yeah, hangovers are a pain. I hope no one got arrested."

"You missed the snotty neighbors coming over, and getting pulled into the fountain. I will cherish it, secretly, for all my remaining years."

"Ah, right." Eldon wondered a bit about all of what he'd put in the drinks. Shrugged.

Most likely everything has already worn off.


***

"There must have been a gas or something." Donahue was as spiffy as always, and his sympathy was well dosed with cynical enjoyment at the downfall of every single possible competitor for the next Captain's slot.

Phil nodded, then shut his eyes in pain. "I tried to get Sergeant Michaels out of the fountain, next thing you know I'm partying like a teenager. Has the lab come up with anything?"

"Nope. All those blood samples register at 1.2; well-lit and better not drive. Not life-of-the-party to falling-down-drunk like you all apparently appeared to be."

Phil gazed blearily across the vice squad's domain. It was amazingly quiet. Thank God. He drank more coke and tried to focus on what was on his desk. "Any luck yesterday with the stake out?"

"Nope. Our friendly neighborhood Whore killer must have been out at your party."

"If anyone there had any sexual hang-ups, they were hiding them very, very well."

Donahue choked on a snicker. "I heard you walked out with a glass of wine, and when Brenard got you home, you split it between him and your wife."

"Was it wine? May have been water from that damned fountain. I hope he had sense not to swallow it."

"So . . . how many of those teenagers did you . . . get friendly with?"

"I was, thank god, a late comer. They were all starting to pass out about the time I got there." Thank god, else I'd be divorced by next week. Even though Jessie said she was going to get me drunk more often, in the future.

He winced as crisp footsteps echoed off the wall. Sergeant Jolly. Ugg. "Lieutenant Farley? The Chief want to speak to you."

"Right." He shoved back from the desk and stood, and followed Jolie out and then up the stairs. Jolly had gained his nickname not for his actual name but for the cheery Santa Clause expression he never seemed to be able to overcome. An expression further from his personality was hard to imagine.

The Chief eyed him and shook his head. "If you hadn't been in sight of the patrol cars' incident cameras the whole time, I'd be reaming your ass. As it is, I'm ignoring a case of the Blue Flu that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of a Union organizer. Lieutenant Donahue is the senior detective that is free of this . . . stain. He is going to be investigating this new intoxicant, and you are going to find the fellow that killed those two pros, assuming the similarities weren't just a coincidence, and we have someone with a bad kind a desire for blue-eyed blondes in red dresses."

Phil nodded. "I doubt the razor work could possibly be two different perps. Thank you sir. Will Brenard be assigned to the murder investigation as well?"

The Chief's eyebrows contracted painfully. "If he's well enough for street duty. His call, but don't let him get too macho."

"Yes, Sir." Phil took the Chief's wave as dismissal. Donahue was at his own desk, keying a report into the computer.

"Hey, Lucky Boy. Guess who gets to interview a bunch of hung over people today. Congratulations. By virtue of your absence last night, you are the only clean handed cop around."

Donahue sat back with a exasperated sigh. "And who, pray tell is going to sit nursing his fading hangover at the most likely pickup spot? I'll shoot everything over to your machine. I don't like to extrapolate between two points, but the two murders were both within a day of the full Moon, thirty days apart. Full Moon is tomorrow, so I was going to be especially alert the next three nights."

"I'm mostly up-to-date on the case. Both women were, umm, independent contractors, picking up men in singles bars, not walking the streets."

"Right. Most of the places could spot them, didn't mind so long as there was nothing obvious about it. I've been circulating, warning women . . . they won't listen, though. They never do." He pulled out a map. "Last definite sighting of the first victim was at the Top Hat, second, leaving the Good Time Charles. There are eight other places about the same in a five block area."

"No wonder you wanted more people. Tonight's going to be iffy, for warm bodies in working order." Phil winced.

"And we're not allowed to go around taking down license plates or photographing men leaving in a blonde woman's company." Donahue flashed his teeth. "But I'll be out there with you, no point in tackling your drinking buddies until tomorrow anyway."

Phil winced and ambled back to his desk, and tried to concentrate on the reports instead of his head. He got out his own map and marked the likely area, the last seen locations, and then he plotted the spots the body was found. No big surprise. A vacant lot and an alley, both in areas that were all business and light industrial, virtually deserted at night. He blocked out several similar areas from memory, roughly the same distance away. He decided to give his head another couple of hours, then he'd drive the area, updating map and memories.

Brenard came in whistling at his usual hour, and shook his head sadly at the Phil. "You should have stuck to that swamp water you forced down me. I feel great."

"Excellent. You can drive. Donahue's on the case of the mystery intoxicant. We're on the pro killer."

Bernard growled. "Ought to be Homicide's case, and we all know it. Lazy bums are just too backed up and will do us the favor of giving us this case. Ha! Two might make a pissed off pimp taking out the competition likely. Especially since they're so close geographically. It's going to take more to convince me we're looking at a serial murderer."

"Me too, and that's no doubt the reason Homicide is leaving it to us. The thing is . . . There's not a hooker hangout in the area. 'Everyone knows' where to go for hookers. These are upscale pickup bars. Who's going to be upset about a few women making money off a few guys, here?"

"No one. It's not like the world depends on it."

***

Xen stepped through his gate carefully.

I ought to have checked out this gate last month. If it's the smuggler sisters, no problem. The Hors? I need to find out what they're up to.

The other gate, the unknown gate, was moderately near. Pig and Barracuda were looking around for their new friends and looking disappointed.

"Sorry, next week we'll be back to work with the Oners. Until then we're hunting down a gate that's here . . . probably less than a hundred miles. This is as close as I could get without risking landing right on top of it." He popped opened another bubbles as he talked, letting Pyrite out. "So. Lots of dangerous animals around, and possibly the Hors de Combat."

Pyrite nodded and looked around. :: Pretty world. Let's go find the gate. ::

The four of them were apparently scary enough to keep the predators away. But Pyrite had to stop and watch the eohippus proto-horses. :: Can I have one for a pet? ::

:: Like some people keep monkeys? ::

:: Weird little horse-like things are funnier. But I'm kind of busy. :: The horse shook his mane and galloped on.

Xen picked up human mental activity and they slowed. Warped light.

Young. Male and female, camping along a river. Lots of guns and modern camping equipment.

"Wait till Eldon sees this one!" A boy held a spear aloft. The point was metal, and there was a cross piece . . .

:: Eldon. Damn . . . but . . . what the heck are they going to do here? Another way point from which to raid? ::

:: They don't look like bad guys. :: Pyrite snorted and the dog sniffing at his invisible hooves backed off to bristle and circle Pig.

:: No they don't. The gate is mile away up the hill . . . I'll bet it's in that tower. Let's go see if it's got bad guys. ::

It was empty. Except for the gate to another world.

He bubbled the horse and dogs before he slipped through and into a small room full of magic charms. Xen felt a few. Nothing objectionable. Eased out into an alley, down to a moderately busy city street.

He closed his eyes and took a long hard look.

No other gates. But then they probably realize we can see them.

He pulled out a strong unnoticeable spell for a walk around . . . or better yet backing into the alley and waiting for the familiar figure he'd spotted down the street.

Eldon abled down to the magic store and shrugged to find it unlocked. He propped the door open and set out a sign. Sat cross-legged on the floor for meditation. Then moved behind a desk and started some fumbling attempts at mage exercises.

Lots of power, piss poor training.

Xen leaned on the wall and watched for a long moment. "Well, you don't look like you're planning a crime spree."

Eldon froze . . . closed his eyes, opened them. "Still can't see through your spells. Hi, Xen."

Xen snuffed the unnoticeable spell.

"So what are you doing here?"

"Watching football. Then we got bored—me and Heso—so we figured we'd, you know, do something that would keep us from getting dangerously bored."

"What about Rior and Jade?"

"Eh. None of my business. Falchion made a gate for us, then closed it. I . . . should never go back . . . but . . . "

"But the Hors de Combat are all you've got?"

"Pretty much."

"So . . . what about that gate?"

"I made it." Eldon's pride faded into uncertainty as he eyed Xen.

Xen pinched the bridge of his nose. Eldon. Making gates. He eyed the younger man. "Be careful . . . and if you need to close a gate, the best method is to grab another fast spinning cone and ram the joined cones."

He shoved away from the wall and rounded the desk. Eldon shoved back, quivering on the edge of doing something. Xen stepped back through the gate and out of the tower.

Eldon edged after him.

"What about the kids?"

"College students. They think it's a great lark. I've thinned out the local predators, and they've got guns." Defensive tones of voice, worry. But neither guilt nor indifference.

No one killed yet. At least he's doing something to lower the risk.

Xen looked back at him. "The general consensus is that if any of you live honestly and don't force us to take notice . . . we won't."

Eldon winced. "I don't think Rior and Jade can stop. They're . . . twisted."

Xen nodded. "I know. Try to find someplace you can belong, without them."

He let the dogs and Pyrite out. Mounted and rode away.

Eldon. Opening gates. Old Gods, Eldon, you'd better stay honest.

Because I think trying to capture you could be very very dangerous.




 
 
matapam
20 September 2017 @ 05:29 pm

I really hate figuring out timelines, especially when I realize I really need to change dates on stuff already published.

I suspect though, that no one will notice.