March 30th, 2019

_Guardsman_ part 31

“Well, we’ll find out how out of practice I am, with everything but the pistol and carbine I’ve been toting around.”

A chuckle from Doc. “And don’t think we haven’t noticed that you’re expert with both. This should be fun.”

It was fun. Marvelous selection of firearms these guards had. And the long range shots, settling down and feeling where the bullet needed to go. Once he’d reached the limits of the range they simply grabbed a loose bench and moved him back, and back again.

Finally ran out of room at three kilometers, the length of the Versalle compound.

“Luck, my ass.” Foo was grinning. “What are the numbers looking like?”

Isakson snorted. “He’s lucky when the need is greatest. And this isn’t it. Twentieth place. He’s always been among the best.”

Eppa shook his head. “Fooled by a reputation. Looks like Ra’d—and the next eighteen—keep their place.”

Davos laughed. “Guess who trained Ra’d. He’ll move up with regular practice.”

Three men he didn’t know split the substantial pot.

***

And Dave got teamed up with Foo to stand his first watch. Or rather, walk it.

Government House was freaking huge. He got lost three times despite the map, as they roamed randomly through the main halls, cross halls, stairs both public, staff-only, and concealed. And he . . . experimented, yes experimented. With the antigravity tubes.

“Expensive as all hell.” Foo shrugged. “So of course they have to have them, just to flaunt their power. And occasionally discommode a visitor. Didn’t work with Ambassador Never. She just started speculating on how to do the same effect magically. ‘If I was feeling particularly silly’ she said.”

“Heh. I refuse to believe she could do antigravity with magic.” Dave stepped in and jumped upward, just a gentle push, grabbed the bar at the third floor and swung out, almost gracefully, this time.

But with three days to explore, he was fairly confident of not getting lost by the time Rael returned from whatever she’d been up to.

She just grinned. “Nothing very exciting, this time. I’ve been talking to all the various governments involved—Whirlpool One, Whirlpool Earth, Tyrant’s World, and Refugee World—and figuring out where they fit together. And getting a direct gate from Tyrant’s to Refugee, so all the various natives who’d been stranded on various worlds can get together and find friends and families.”

“They don’t want to go home?”

“Well, it’s a bit difficult. When the Earth split, the natives who were on Earth also split. So one version was isolated on the Whirlpool Earth, and the other version didn’t notice anything had happened. So . . . now, going home involves duplicates of themselves, a lot with different spouses and children and those children and grandchildren grew up on technologically advanced Earth and won’t fit in well, even without the weirdness.”

Lucky Dave thought about Davos and Jadida. “Yeah, but is that Refugee World high tech?”

“Sort of. The prefab housing has electricity and running water, they’ve found oil and got a refinery going, so motor vehicles and tractors and such all work. And now with communications through Embassy they can contact distant relatives. Mind you, they aren’t very experienced farmers, but, well, it’s working. And having the Tyrant’s World farmers on tap is helping.”

“Huh. So . . . what about Whirlpool Earth and Whirlpool One?”

“Eh. They both checked out the damage and wrote their buildings off, but they all want the contents. Furniture, electronics and so forth. Nick put his foot down and told them they were leaving the plumbing and fixtures, but they could take the kitchen and laundry appliances.” Rael giggled. “Of course, the people there have been raiding the apartments for clothes, kitchen stuff, and furniture, so there still a lot of acrimony about theft vs claiming abandoned property. Disco’s setting up a small claims court and is paying out a lot of the claims.

“Xen just stepped in personally and bought whole buildings—cheap, mind you, although he did offer to return them to their owners in their original places, and one of them actually took him up on it—so it’s all small stuff, now.” She was grinning.

“So what was funny about it?”

“Well, Whirlpool Earth sort of freaked about him dropping off a building, forty stories high plus everything way down into the ground and including all the water mains, sewers, storm drains and all into the middle of their equivalent of Gate City.” She giggled. “And Xen just looks innocent and says ‘Yesterday you were yelling at me to bring it all back. So, please, make up your mind.’ And they just cursed him out and demanded that he return Main Accounting.”

“Is that one he’d bought?”

“Yep. The Gate Authority just leased it. So they went in and stripped it. Pissed off a whole lot of accountants, but since That Earth’s Courts ruled that they had to pay all their employees backpay and comp pay for all the weekends they’d spent in their work location, the people who stayed just went on a spending spree and remodeled a bunch.”

“Huh.” Dave eyed her. “And the other Rangpur survivors?”

“Happy pioneers. That Nicholas had a little discussion with the eight priests who came to . . . let’s say recruit, shall we? Yes, entice him to return to Whirlpool One.”

“Eight? As in a Compass?” Lucky Dave heard the growl in his voice.

“Yes.” A smug grin. “I stunned one of them. Then Nicholas stepped in and held the compass and . . . studied them. They got judged and knew damn well just how badly they’d failed to stand up to any standard of decent human behavior, and responsible handling of power.”

“And then?” Dave prompted.

“He broke the compass and sent them home. Walked away and barfed. Told me if I ever found out who ‘kidnapped’ them he owed them a lot.”

Dave bit his lip. “I did wonder about Crazy Redhead number two.”

“Except that I know where she was the entire time . . . and Arno, my son, well, he was with us for at least half the possible time. And before that . . . well, he was on Embassy being taught about gates by Q . . . I really don’t think he had time enough to do what must have been done, and I don’t think he can steer gates, even if he can make them.”

“Hmm, sounds like I ought to meet Crazy Redhead Number Three.”

She shook her head. “Brown hair. Scary Smart. Quiet. Nice. Hmm . . . I really don’t think he could have pulled that off . . . yet.”

She grinned. “Anyhow, now that Ox is officially Subdirector of Investigations, Raod can stop running frantically between Gate City, Montevideo, and Paris.”

“And you’ll see your kids more often?”