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10 July 2019 @ 02:22 pm
   Mountains all around, no people. He closed his eyes and looked for a corridor . . . no, there was another gate, half a mile downstream.

Xen pulled out his radio . . . “No claim broadcast. Dagger, Centauri? Go bubble the utes and bring them along.”

Alf stepped through the corridor after them. The old admiral returned quickly, shaking his head. “I’ve had to accept magic, but this dimensional stuff defeats me.”

Xen nodded, and headed downstream. “Yeah, but do you realize how much I envy your ability to just look at a corridor or gate and see what’s on the other side? Nothing comes without cost. So, tell what’s through that gate?”

“A campsite. Colorful modern tents . . . teenagers and young adults. Couple dozen.”

“Huh. Well they are just five gates from Embassy.” Xen stepped through to a grassy meadow surrounded by a mixed broadleaf forest.
Mountains all around, a gushing stream through the middle of the meadow. Kids backing away warily, and couple shifting rifles around for quicker access, but not actually threatening them.

“Huh. Interesting reaction.” Xen raised his voice. “Hello, the camp! May we come in?"

A few of the kids exchanged a few quick words. Then one woman, barely twenty, at a guess, stalked forward, a scoped rifle, muzzle lower and pointing down, in her right hand.

“What do you want here?”

A hint of a British accent, perhaps?

“I sort of keep loose track of corridors and gates, in case some idiot attacks through them. Are you having a problem?”

A teenage boy scowled. “What business is it of yours, to control the portals? We’ve been camping and exploring for years. You’re only the third group we’ve encountered, so far.”

Nothing close to any of the accents from Zingo.

Xen started grinning. “You aren’t from a contacted World, are you?”

“What do you mean ‘contacted?’ I suppose you’re with those old fisher guys?” The women glowered at him.

“Didn’t you talk to them? You’re five gates away from the Embassy World, where all the various worlds have embassies and can hopefully work out problems without starting a war.” Xen looked over the belligerent youngsters. “Not that I’d mistake any of you for government representatives, but anytime anyone wants to come talk, any of those fishermen—they’re actually news reporters, they’d just rather camp and fish than sit around hotel rooms—can give you directions.”

Peter walked up beside him. “You’re not from the World Union of Socialist Nations are you?”

Wrinkled noses, as if smelling something nasty.

“Socialists! Hell no!” The young woman crossed her arms and glared.

“Good.” Peter grinned. “Don’t glare, that’s where I’m from and by now probably wanted as a traitor. Do you have a government type problem?”

More kids had come up as they talked.

A grumbled from the back. “Other than that they’d take away our access to the portal and exploring the multiverse? No.”

Xen grinned. “Well, have fun, and if you have a problem, like I said, five gates and four corridors to Embassy. There’s a hospital there, if you have that sort of problem . . . Umm, one of the reasons we’re checking new gates and corridors . . . some people have had issues with strangers in the Maze. You said we were the third group you’ve encountered?”

Reluctant nods.

“There were these two Chinese guys. They told us to get back through the portal and never set foot on their territory again.” The first woman glanced down at her gun. “They weren’t armed, but weren’t the least bit concerned about our weapons. They laughed when Reggie raised his gun, and . . . gestured and he flew back a good five meters.”

Her eyebrows rose. “You believe me!”

“Oh yes. Several world have genetic engineered abilities, like telekinesis. And can you tell me where this encounter happened?” Xen pulled out his maps, but since this world wasn’t on it . . . He grabbed a pen and sketched it in . . . “And since just a few hundred miles can change the description from ‘mountain waterfall’ to ‘rolling prairie with distant mountains’ this won’t work very well . . .”

But they got directions and prepared to roll out.

Xen hastily scribbled on a piece of paper. “A shortwave radio, broadcasting on either or both of these frequencies, something like ‘This world is claimed by the Feral Teens Exploration Company’ or whatever name you prefer is all that’s needed to make it yours, from Disco’s legal perspective. What your own government says, umm, well, eventually you’ll find out.”