Xen strolled—or was that more of a very confident stalk—toward the carpet. Tapped the first guard on the left as he passed him. Tapped the second.
The Judge was frowning, watching him, saying nothing.
Outside his programming?
Lon turned his head enough to see Pyrite, eyes and ears fixed on Poobah, muscles tense, ready to fight. I know he can shield and teleport, no telling what else he can do.
Wait. Pyrite was with Q . . .
Xen finished his circuit, walking up beside Inso, and clasping his shoulder. “Jiol’s fine. And Karl, Rael and Q. Anyone else missing or dead?”
“No. Several nasty injuries. People who were at the edge of the big snatch. Rael tell you about it?”
“Yep.” Xen walked up to the carpet. “Tell Jaejong that inasmuch as he has killed no one, there is yet a small window of opportunity for negotiation. Tell him it would be wise to take this opportunity to prevent drastic escalation of our response.” He turned away.
Poohbah shifted his right hand and squeezed.
“That’s a different button than he usually . . .” Lon looked up, a rainbow shimmer spreading wide . . .
Xen raised his arms, wide apart, fingers spread, and swept them closer together. The rainbow shrunk . . . dropped down to cover the carpet . . . the guards leaped to get on the carpet . . . and it all disappeared, along with a scoop out of the ground.
Lon grinned. “Well, what took you so long?”
“Stopped to smell the roses.” Xen walked up to the scoop in the ground. “Have they been doing this every time?”
“No. Just the last two. And the other was much larger.”
Xen turned and studied the damage to the Comet Fall embassy, the fence around the Earth embassy.
Lon bit his lip . . . “Am I correct in assuming that you controlled that grab?”
“Only the size of it. I couldn’t stop it.” Xen turned away. “Lon, I think we need to cut the power to their dimensional apparatus. Hard to call that carpet thing a gate.”
Lon nodded. “I take it Q found you?”
“No, she found Xin Zhongguo, their home planet. They ‘transport’ undesirables to another world, with a solid slug of magical blocker in their backs, injured, no medicine, food or tools. As Urbanized as they are, pretty much a death sentence.”
“I . . . see. Inso . . . where did Inso go?”
“Probably off to find Jiol.” Xen looked around.
Among the crowd a clump of smaller people—kids, teenagers—looking happy and hopeful.
“Mom’s all right, right?” Poin, the girl twin.
“Yes.” Xen raised his voice. “And Karl and Rael. And Q is with them now.”
Lala’s grin broke loose.
“In fact, I need to take a whole bunch of survival supplies back to some other people there. Lala? You know where the funds are? Food, seeds, hand tools. Lots of nails. Lots! Go!”
The kids scattered.
“Xen . . .”
He nodded. “I know. Talk first, kick ass later. I am going to eat, shave, shower and sleep. More or less in that order, but I’ll do the sleeping in a fast bubble, so if you can round up a bunch of reps in a couple of hours, I’ll tell them what’s up, and they can decide if Disco should cut the power to keep the Renshe home while we scare up a diplomatic mission.”
“Right.” Lon watched him stride off toward his house, then looked around at the spectators. Cleared his throat and projected his voice. “Two hours from now—let’s call it fifteen hundred hours—there will be a meeting at the Disco main assembly room.”
A glance around. “Dagger? You have the list of who to call at each embassy? Grab helpers . . .”
She darted off, still grinning.
Yeah, I’m probably grinning like an idiot, too. The Master of the Multiverse is back in town.
“Albrecht? Hanger? Find vehicles, fetch everyone from wherever Q’s gate chain ends. I want them here to tell us what they saw.” Lon looked around at a wave from Ra’d.
“Ebsa’s bringing the crawler, the boss wants us to drag Rael back before she gets into more trouble. We’ll take anyone or anything you want to send.”
“Excellent. Hanger? Make that a gyp. Camping supplies, you two stay out there and keep an eye on the gate to this Zeen place, if Q says it’s advisable.”
Ra’d grinned. “Sounded like Mandarin. Xin Zhongguo would be New China.”
“Oh? A lost colony, perhaps? This would be the first time we’ve had a world where China was the country that discovered gate travel.” Lon looked around. “Dammit, I need Chang. Why the hell did they recall him now?”
“Never mind, it’s an old joke.” Ra’d turned and flagged down the crawler leaving the Oner embassy compound. A metal cylinder, the Oner’s largest exploration vehicle. Not unlike a motorized holiday camper. Presumably tougher, although they always looked a bit unstable, to Lon. The wheelbase narrow, to get through gates, the body ballooning out to get as much room inside as possible.