The kids were quiet, merged, looking at the inbetween. Axel sank in, barely touching the merge :: So, can you see the direction they are preparing to send the portal? ::
:: Just looks odd . . . ::
"Are you up to thirty percent?"
"No, it builds slowly. Twenty . . . Twenty-five . . ."
:: Oh . . . it's being squeezed out that direction! ::
:: Do you see a world out there? Go take a look. ::
They sank in . . . to a sere reddened badlands landscape.
:: I don't think that is where they want to go. Pull back, all the way back and look beyond. Is that another . . . ::
They dived in, and this world was green and blue. :: I've heard that Portals leave a scar, but I don't know what they look like. ::
:: There's a dent. Sort of. Not a real dent . . . ::
:: Take a closer look. ::
They swooped in, a city, a building, a wall with a sign Athens Alive.
:: That the World, and it looks like a Portal Facility, but we're looking at the small vehicle and walking orientation, can you look around? ::
The view swung, a big opening . . .
:: Now all we need is the actual portal, that hanging around back there. Can you pull on it or something? ::
:: Not strong enough. ::
"Turn the power up to forty."
:: That's better, it's cominging, ugh, stuck! ::
"Turn the power up to fifty."
:: All right! Here it comes . . . What do we do with it now? ::
:: Shove it into the dent? ::
:: Whoa! It likes it there! ::
Axel looked around, "Find out if it looks right. Send the scout, and then just one truck."
The scout found it nauseating. They power it to fifty-five, then sixty.
Worked like a charm. A steady stream of trucks out, a smaller number back, then they powered down, levered the portal loose and released it, released the merge, took the helmets off and flopped to the floor, exhausted.
Axel fetched a box of cold drinks and sandwiches from the battle limo. And fitted Team Two with the helmets and hunted down the next world . . . Apparently there were six low population worlds that they were having trouble getting shipments to.
"Two hours . . ." Shura Krupin grinnned. "Low stamina, but at sixty percent power and no surge needed for the connection!"
"They're just seventeen years old. With two weeks of training."
Krupin blinked. "Yeah . . ."
"They need mentalist lessons, they aren't even ready to collect power yet, and that was the strong Team. Don't push them, and they'll be awesome. Try to persuade your Bosses to let Portal Three handle all the short transfers to the small worlds, so they get rest and food in between Portals." Alex walked back to the table and set up the Phones again.
Krupin pointed at the wall. "Can you cut a hole without dropping a chunk of concrete on someone's head?"
"Yep." Axel walked over and cut out a two-by-two foot square and pulling the block in and setting it down on the floor.
It helped communications immensly, and the three teams swapped in and out several times, until they were all quite certain that they could all find all six of the small worlds.
With Axel back leaning on the wall and letting the handlers do everything.
So they ganged up and hit a ice cream place to celebrate, on their way back to the barracks the kid had been staying in.
Axel kicked back in a corner with Evgeny and Shura. "It's going to upend the whole culture surrounding portals, and especially Portalmakers. If there's no more zivvy. We need to be ready, in case that happens. All those little worlds, even a lot of the big ones will be in deep trouble without portal trade.
"But if there is zivvy? You shrug sadly and say this method had promise, but it was slow and awkard, better than nothing, and thank God and the 300 you can get back to real portals."
They both looked at him in disbelief.
"Because the 300 is going to come down hard to reestablish its primacy, posibly soon, possibly next year. And your job will suddenly be to save your lives, and the lives of everyone at Portal Three. And that's why you probably ought to use those kids as little as possible. Maybe a couple of days a week, as needed. Keep it dead quiet. Get them Mentalist training, keep them invisible.
"Because they may be desperately needed later. Save them from the dying spasms of the Troystvennyy Soyuz--OR save yourselves from the rebuilders of the Alliance. At this point. We. Don't. Know. So we need to prepare to jump either way."
Evgeny looked at him. "You sound like you're leaving."
"However wonderful running back to Siberia Max sounds, I'm afraid I need to go the other way, and try to find out what's happening. On Home and to the 300."
Shura snorted. "Good luck getting there. Home's damn near as exclusive as The Citadel."
Axel made a non-committal sound, and told himself the cold pit in his stomach was just the ice cream.
Certainly not that little conversation with those "friendly" Inquisitors in the observation room. Portals to Tier Four Budapest Reborn that might have been overlooked if only he hadn't followed up with the raid on Tier Two Stutgart, not under govenment orders, but while he was a wanted criminal. With rumors that he had somehow removed zivvy wires and a chip from his own head.
I . . . have accumulated a rather large heap of criminal and treasonous . . . actions. And they're starting to catch up with me.
And as I've just advised these two, I should be quiet and still. Go home to Dina and our child. Disappear from notice.
He checked with Pauli. Nothing happening, other than a few of the adults with hangovers (mostly gone now) and packing.
"M-miss Katyusha was n-not pleased to be sent off to the ends of the M-multiverse . . . until she heard her f-father telling Six that he'd b-been sold to you, and s-suddenly she's packing like she's planning t-to stay for a year--or forever."
"Six-twelve? Oh . . . didn't see that coming. Anyway . . . I need to go take a nap, then . . ."
A snicker from Pauli. "Eat an early dinner and go to bed. I'll keep an eye open here. Thirteen and Six--not to mention Ark--are all on the alert and made me take a nap so I'd be fresh for the all out assault on the mansion. They're starting to realize it's probably not going to happen."
"Yeah. Getting Arkhip past his Presentation has everyone looking over their backup plans. Hopefully everyone will realize that with Grigory out of the game, this line of pursuit is a waste of time. I'll probably spend tomorrow getting bounced between various authorities, God help me.
"I'm a little worried about my older relatives. I have no idea if old Yarik Vinogradov is still alive . . . and how far through the rest of the family they've gotten. Grigory was #4 a few months ago, so they apparently haven't gotten very far. But a bunch of the Vinogradov list live on Home, and are in the Bureaus. So having them on hand, they may have gone faster in my family." He stopped and rubbed his face. "I have to catch some sleep. I'm just chasing the same line of worries around in circles. I'll see you tomorrow."
He ate in the hotel restaurant, but no one approached him. Went to his room and slept.