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05 June 2018 @ 05:42 pm

“I’ll start the corridor. Why don’t you get the aircar?” She smirked and headed across the parking lot to the garage.

Jack scowled and headed the other direction, to claim the aircar for the next three days. As aircraft went, it was fairly slow, just a hair over 300 kilometers an hour. But the combination of jets and antigravity gave it not just four times the speed of a gyp, but there wouldn’t be any time consuming searches for a way across any streams.

When he got back to the garage, Arrow was climbing down from a ladder beside the big square of bronzy—he poke it—rubbery thing.

“That’s what the inside of a bubble looks like.” Arrow hopped off the ladder. “I made it big enough for the aircar.”

Jack blinked. “So instead of flying out five hundred klicks, pinning it down, then flying home, we can fly out a thousand, and just pop through the corridor and be home?”


It was a boring flight. A thousand kilometers west-southwest. Mostly flat prairie and occasional meandering streams, with a fringe of trees. Then as the ground rose toward the mountains out of sight to the southwest, something that approached “river” in size and a forest of sparse trees. Native broadleafs, for the most part, but as they climbed a bit the pines became more common, and by the time he landed in a meadow, they were dominating the forest.

Arrow placed her corridor, climbing two trees to attach the top corners.

“There. You’ll have to roll the aircar through, I don’t what trying to fly it through might do.”

Jack stared at the square of night. The edge of a familiar parking lot and roughly mown native grasses, side-lit by the parking lot floodlights. “And anyone who walks by will see this?”

“Yes, but we can leave it closed most of the time.”

“And you can open it up, right to here?”

“Or wherever I move it tomorrow.” She grinned. “Don’t look so shocked. I thought you were the hotshot Merc with security contracts on five worlds.”

“I am. I just never saw a corridor being installed.” Jack frowned at the corridor, a faint stirring of . . . worry? Guilt? “Arrow . . . when we meet the Oners, we need to be very clear that they paid me a finder’s fee for an employee. That you will work for them, for pay, and walk away whenever you want.”

Her brows lowered. “Was something else planned?”

“Not by me. None of my business what sort of relationship they planned on having with you.” He met her glare evenly. “I didn’t know you then. I didn’t care what happened to some nebulous unknown woman. So we’ll go talk to them . . . in four days. And you can accept or turn down the job, however you like. Stay back in the woman’s barracks, or go with them.”

Her glare faded, and she unfocused a bit.

Jack let her think while he unloaded a cooler. Drinks, sandwiches, and assortment of deserts.

“If I go with them . . . you won’t get your world.”

He rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know, anymore, what are my ambitions or what came in those potions. And if it’s not mine . . . I’m going to be royally screwed in six months.”

She picked up a sandwich and walked away. Staring up at the tall trees.

How the Hell did I think this was going to make me rich? I shouldn’t have ever talked to the Oners. I was curious, couldn’t resist . . . and walked away ready to help them.

Oh. Shit. Did they get to me mentally? Make me want to do this?

No. I was already ambitious. They just . . . magnified it. They took my dream of a nice big HQ on an Empty World . . . and made me think I could really have it.

He looked at Arrow as she walked back. “And . . . they may be able to influence me, so keep an eye on me as well.” He hunched his shoulders and made himself say it. “They may have got to me already.”

Jack turned away and forced himself to eat a sandwich, drank straight water. Then he rolled the aircar through the corridor and into the parking lot. Fueled up and rolled it into the garage. Tomorrow we’ll take a good look at the meeting site. And maybe prowl out a bit further, and see what the Oners are up to, out there.


The coordinates of the meeting place led him to a cleared area beside a river. He landed and walked out to look around. A bulldozed road led down to a broad shoals area. The river bed, exposed now in the dry season, was all loose rounded pebbles. Hell to drive on. Four channels still held water. On the far side he could see where the bank had been cut into for the road to continue, and that faint, distant buzzing could be chain saws.

“So, this isn’t the end of the line. Just a remote site, suitable for a brief chat.” Jack looked at the forest to the east, and a bit north. “It’s pretty open. I can probably get my gyp through it.”

Arrow shrugged. “I can cut down trees, at need. Let’s look for a good place to put the corridor.”

Back in the air, twenty klicks took them to a grassy area on a hill. Well, grass, weeds and seedling pines, burned stumps, a few quite tall. A jagged border between the old forest and the new.

“Forest fire.” Arrow hopped out and looked around. “Two or three years ago. If I put the gate between those two trees over there, it’ll be side on to anyone coming from the meeting site.”

“Right. Place the corridor and I’ll see about clearing a path from there to the other side.” Jack landed at the crest of the hill and eyed the half-burned tree trunks laying scattered about.

Arrow strode down the hill, stepping across the tree trunks without a problem.

Jack eyed a way through that would only involve moving three tree trunks. He searched the aircar, and found a crowbar. It was not impressive when it came to shifting the logs. “I’ll come back tomorrow with a longer pry bar. Maybe a saw.”

Arrow snorted, and made a chopping motion. The half burned bole fell apart.

Jack cleared his throat. “That makes it much easier. Thank you.” By the time he’d cleared that one away, Arrow was a good way down the far side.

Jack grimaced and got to work.

By the time he’d run out of tree trunks, Arrow had cut back the brush under the old forest, and shoved it to the side. He followed the path for a good mile as it wound around between the large trees.

Arrow was sitting on the ground rubbing her temples.

“Are you all right?”

“Head ache. Doing too much Magic. It causes low blood sugar, among other things.”

“Can you walk? I really don’t want to try to get the aircar in here.” Jack knelt beside her. “What do you need?”

“Food. And sweet stuff.”

“Right. I’ll be right back.”

Water and chocolate candy, first. Relaxed as if the headache was fading. Then she wolf down two sandwiches.

And looked back toward the meeting place.

“No. No more today. “We’ll bring the gyp tomorrow, and quit before you run out of energy.” He helped her up and they walked back to the aircar. And rolled it down there path and made a sharp turn for the corridor.

This is the way to travel!