May 5, 3740
“Now follow that ghost trail and see if you can see where it goes.” Mikhail could hear comments from the spectators, but had the Octagon’s working area shielded against incoming thoughts.
One week of training and they’re awesome.
Thirty-eight had a mapping program open on a computer and was drawing and taking notes . . . They already had all twenty-seven tier two worlds identified, and were working on tier three.
:: What’s the slow blinking light? It looks like a beacon. :: Pyotr was a low seven, on the portalmaker scale. Very strong Mentalist Talent.
:: It’s a beacon. They set it to a slow blink to signal a Plague area. Now if you look west, across the ocean I suspect we’ll find . . . ::
:: A working Portal! So the whole World isn’t poisoned. :: Nestor was the enthusiast of the group, and the rest were starting to get into it as well. :: I don’t see a portal through. ::
::That’s unusual. That’s Tier Three Orion. It has five vassal worlds, one of which has a vassal of their own, plus a bunch of recreation worlds that we sold them, and that we’ve been relocating and rescuing marooned vacationers and staff from. Their portal is usually quite active. ::
:: Thirty-eight? Do you see the five ghost trails? The one down by itself label Betelgeuse. ::
:: Let’s take a quick look at the one on the left. I think that goes to Regulus. Yes, see the constant portal activity? See the four portals? ::
:: That one is different! :: Björn, the details boy.
:: Yes. It’s being run by a quad. See how it’s straighter and dimmer? It’s an easy crossing and uses about sixty percent of the power of a normal portal. ::
:: Wait! There’s a fifth one! It’s . . . coming from somewhere else? ::
:: Yes. They have an agreement with Siberia Max, so they can connect and handle their own shipping. :: Mikhail felt their energy flagging. :: All right. Relax. Let’s take a long lunch and recuperate. ::
They scrambled up and headed for the picnic tables and the coolers. The two new handlers twitched, then settled down. Maybe this pair won’t be bullies.
Mikhail strolled past them, to the Portal Manager. “I’ll split them up after lunch. Get the quads used to working with each other. So why don’t we plan on a trial run tomorrow morning?”
“We haven’t established discipline, yet!” A snap from behind him.
Mikhail sighed and turned. “They don’t need the sort of discipline you seem to be envisioning. They need something pretty damned close to a sports coach. Someone who will encourage them, and take care of them. Someone who can spot fatigue and stop them before an accident happens.”
The second man walked up. “So they really aren’t any good.”
“They are quite good, they are just not the same as a wired in Portalmaker. And need to be handled differently. So until you find some zivvy, and a Nine to get wired into the machine for a short, miserable painful life, you need to be sport coaches. Or go away, and maybe the Director will stop sending in sadists.”
He looked over his shoulder at Goethe. “I’ll give you points for being a stubborn traditionalist, but you really do need a different sort of person for the position.”
Goethe growled a bit. “By law the Portalmakers must have a handler present when working. I know you want someone like a sports coach, but the Union doesn’t appear to have any.”
“Would you have hired these guys to teach your boys Mentalist Techniques?”
Definitely a growl. “I’ll keep trying.”
Mikhail sighed. “Since they’ve gotten as far as Regulus, I’m tempted to see if they can open a portal to Siberia Max tomorrow. I’d like to check in.”
“Do you think they can open a portal?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me, and Siberia Max would be a good target—and unlikely to shoot, once they see me.” Mikhail looked at Walther. “Do you need me here, for anything?”
“For more training? I don’t suppose you could send someone else? I’ll check with Nix and see if any of them want to investigate from that side.”
An afternoon of quad practice, then he sent the handlers off and drove the kids back to the hotel. Turned them loose in the pool to exercise after spending so much of the day sitting on the ground, ordered in food and turned them loose with a selection of movies.
He headed for Walter’s house, got scolded for preferring the company of teenagers, and fed too much, and scolded again for going back to the hotel.
A quick check on the kids, still watching TV, then he headed for his own room.
Maybe tomorrow I can pop home for a few hours . . . or at least long enough for a report.
Not that they’re reporting to me anymore, but I ought to warn Axel and Grigory about Pavlovsky/Aslanov.
The kids were so eager in the morning, Mikhail couldn’t not grin along with them.
“So you guys all like this?”
“Oh yeah! I’m mean, we just sit down and close our eyes and then we, well I know it’s not vision, but . . .” Pyotr trailed off thinking.
“You mentalist abilities utilize the vison center of your brain to interpret the input, so it feels like seeing?”
“Oh. Well, that makes sense. Huh.” Björn nodded, and drifted over to sit with Timo, Nester, and Vanya.
“Why don’t we start with a little more Quad practice, then we’ll see what you guys think about working with the Portal.”
Simon looked over. “Anything you want to look at today?”
“See if you can spot Regulus, with just a Quad, then I’ll show you Siberia Max.”
He pretended he didn’t hear “Race you!” from Timo, as he settled down to “listen in.”
:: Hey, it’s easy to find places we’ve already been . . . what the heck is that? ::
Mikhail swallowed. :: Twice as many Portals as there ought to be. Relax and let me get a good look. ::
The visualizations firmed up again and they dived to see an uneven array of five portals.
:: The Quad one’s down and there are two coming in from . . . somewhere else? :: Timo sounded puzzled. :: The outsiders aren’t attaching where that one did yesterday. ::
:: Oh, Hell. From the way they’re lined up with the portals . . . I have a nasty feeling we’re looking at an invasion. ::
:: But why is the Quad Portal down? ::
:: Because the Quad can be evacuated, quickly and easily. With just a mile for the attacker to cross, I’m surprised they had time for even that. :: Mikhail pulled out his phone and called Walther. “The kids have detected what looks a whole lot like an attack between Worlds. Send down some intel and tactical types and I think we can show them an interesting way to collect intel and monitor a battlefield.”
:: There’s another Portal! Two! Now there are four Invader Portals total and all the Regulus Portals are down and what’s going to happen? ::
:: A war. Simon, stand your Quad down. I want you guys to rest. When Timo’s Quad tires, you guys will take over while they rest. ::
:: Can you back-track the Invaders? ::
In fits and starts they followed the portals back and across to a World . . . Tier Two, not one he was familiar with.
Four men showed up inside of a few minutes.
“Sit down open you mental shield to incoming and do not interfere. We appear to be looking at Tier Two World attacking a Tier Four. We’re looking at the Tier Two right now. Do any of you recognize it?”
“Saxony.” One of the Newcomers sounded certain.
“You can see other world with out attaching . . . You haven’t even got any equipment running!”
“Yep.” :: Timo, relax, let it go. ::
The vision fizzled out.
“Wait, wait! We need to see more!”
“Don’t worry, you will. You guys grab snacks. Simon, you’re up. Look for Regulus.”
“I’m Siberia Max World Joint Director Mikhail Rasputin. You four are?”
“Alexeyev, Gusev, Mauer, and Hurst. What is this?”
“A training exercise, for eight unchipped Portalclones. It was part of training them for quads running no-zivvy Portals. We tripped over an invasion. Again, do not interfere.” Mikhail looked back at the Quad as they reached for the inbetween . . . and flew through it slowed . . .
:: Yeah, way easy to find one, once you’ve been there . . . ::
:: All the Regulus facilities are down, those four are the Invader Portals . . . ::
:: New one, feels like a Quad portal, it’s really squeezing the fourth One. ::
A flick of light. The fourth portal disappeared.
:: Replacing it? ::
Mikhail grinned suddenly. :: The fifth isn’t coming from the same place as the first four, is it? ::
:: Oh, no it’s . . . Oops! It’s gone. ::
Mikhail laughed. :: Keep watching. I think Siberia Max may have just entered the game. ::