September 5th, 2021

_Fall of Empire_ part 18

All right. Back to Mikhail on Home, watching the Battle of Regulus . . .


Mikhail laughed. :: Keep watching. I think Siberia Max may have just entered the game. ::

“What do you mean? That’s a small Research World.”

“With the best Special Forces you’ve ever seen.”

A line slashed in and attached. A bright spot, the line dimming as it attached.

“Can they see any details?”

The “view” swooped in closer, skimmed a warehouse district, some smoke, barricades of wrecked cars, soldiers shooting at the tanks coming at them. Swung past an ATV with a missile launcher as it fired.

Mikhail grinned. :: Fast Response Team. Actually looks like three Teams . . .”

:: Portal three is down! ::

:: They’ll drive back through their Portal, take it down and reattach it close to one of the others. ::

“Hit-and-run behind the lines. That’s incredible.”

One of the new men, :: They had red lightning bolts on their armor. Is the Office of the Inquisition fielding troops? ::

:: They started as guards for the Research Center . . . and spread out to doing a lot more. ::

The view wobbled around the battlefield, some soldiers and tanks that might have been retreating to protect their portals.

“We can only hope they’ll withdraw.”

:: Back the view out. Let’s see what the hit-and-run Portal’s doing. ::

A distant sight past retreating vehicles, advancing tanks . . . they swung back as the portal closed.

:: Back out further. They’ll probably go for the next portal. ::

:: Right there! How can they be so fast? ::

:: Multiple teams switching out. They may have a new bunch for every portal. ::

The Invader Portal winked out. The hit-and-run portal disappeared.

:: And One to go! :: Simon’s mental voiced sounded wobbly.

:: Relax. Simon, let the merge go. ::

The four kids flopped back groaning and crawled off to refuel.

Björn grinned. “Our turn!” Timo, Vanya, and Nestor formed up and reached out . . .

The last Invader Portal was only alone for a moment. Then the hit-and-run was a mile away and took it down quickly. The teams shot a few tanks, then retreated and the portal closed.

They closed in to check out the battlefield. Lots of explosions, the invaders loosing ground . . . .

:: Wait, was that a Portal? Back up. ::

“That looks like a downtown area! They’ve taken out the Portals and now they’re after the Government . . .”

:: Different invaders, it’s coming from somewhere else. ::

:: New Gate! Crowding them! Hit-and-run’s back! ::

Mikhail grinned. :: So you guys are on Regulus’s side? ::

:: Well you are, so . . . whoa! Shoot out! Invader Portal gone. Good guys picking up their lead guy and hauling ass back to their portal. ::

“Oh crap, Igor don’t you dare die!”

“Really? Somebody actually uses call sign Igor?” One of the new guys.

“He predates those movies, and might have inspired them. But he’s nothing like those abominations. And I don’t actually know who that was.”

The Hell I don’t! Nobody else is crazy enough to run out there and try to stop a battle in the middle of a city.

And succeed.

The highly interested Intel and tactics people stayed all day, getting the kids to check periodically, and suggesting things they’d like to see.

The smoldering ruins of four portal facilities on Tier Two Saxony boggled them, many calls were made and confirmed that Saxony only had four portals . . . Tier Two Yamaguchi appeared to have had an accident at one of their five portal facilities.

They scouted out Siberia Max and were duly impresses with the Massif.

Mikhail looked over at the kids. Munching the last snack, drooping a bit. “I think the show’s over for today.” He looked back at the crowd that had shown up over the morning. “And if you’re impressed, start looking for portalclones. This group? There’s one eight, two sevens, and five sixes.”

A whistle from Alexeyev, one of the Intel fellows. “That’s quite doable. Easy, in fact.”

“No chipping, standard Mentalist training. This is the fourth day of training, they picked it up that bloody fast. The older, well trained and experienced Quads can work an eight hour day, finding worlds, opening portals, holding them open, with an occasional break. We treat ours roughly like working class lords, pay them and run as many shifts as we need.”

Stiffened back and raised noses all around.

Walther nodded. “Yes, I was offended three days ago. But today I saw those ‘Free Portalists’ and maybe fifty special forces Cyborgs with Mentalist support take down an invading Tier Two World. I . . . am going to have to seriously consider the advantages of well-treated employees over controlled slaves when things get energetic.”


Chapter Seventeen

A Secret Society

May 6, 3740

He warned me about this, but somehow I thought he was indestructible.

Dina blinked away tears. He didn’t die this time. I thought . . . days like this would be years away.

She looked back as the doctor hustled back in.

A Medical Mentalist, with both regular and Mentalist training. He smiled reassuringly, and his brows rose as he put his hands around the cool therapy hood around Axel’s head. “Good Grief, Igor, do you even heal faster than normal people? And the bones!” And the man was opening Axel’s mouth and shoving and pushing. “Sorry, Lady Dina, but the wretched man is already showing some healing on his broken jaw, so I’d better get the pieces back in place. I was going to worry about it in a few days, when he could tolerate surgery better, but if he’s actually going to heal this fast, I’ll bloody hold them in place for awhile, so I don’t have to rebreak quite as many . . . or any at all. Damn, that’s amazing.”

Dina started to mention the zivvy remover . . . but . . . maybe she better wait until Axel approved, or didn’t. Ape had said he hadn’t gotten much into him . . . and had given the bottle back to her.

“I think the pieces will actually stay in place now. Mind you his jaw is far from healed, but that was just . . .” He looked at her then. “I’ll move him now, down where the nurses can keep an eye on him. And get you a comfortable chair, because you don’t look like you’re going to budge.”

“Thank you. I’ll stay out of everyone’s way.” She hesitated. “Were there many injuries today?” Deaths?

“Not many, and all minor until Igor. Only two I’m keeping overnight, and umm, well, one fellow who can probably be released in an hour or two,” He smiled slightly. “I’ll put Igor in the other bed in that bay, so you’ll have some privacy, overnight, otherwise you’ll have snoring Cyborgs for neighbors.”

She raised a smile for him, and followed the gurney when the orderly came and wheeled Axel and all the attached IV and cool therapy gear out of the surgery.

The ward had bays on both sides, monitoring desks in the center. The bays could probably hold four patients in each, and the atmosphere was peaceful and relaxed.

They wouldn’t put him here if his life was in danger. He’s going to be all right.

The man in the other bed sat up and snorted. “I’d be more sympathetic, if my head didn’t hurts so badly, and if I didn’t suspect he was the one who stunned me.”

“Stunned you!” Dina blinked in surprise.

“Heh. All these idiots rushing out jump into a war. We’re a tiny world, much better that we hide, instead of bring ourselves to so many worlds’ negative attention.”

Dina blinked. “Well, the Research Center, plus three portals is tempting, and the small population must seem like we’d an easy target. It’s hard to hide when you’re so shiny.”

An angry huff. “It all seemed so sensible, just a few months ago. Get everything to safety, out in the far reaches of the Alliance. A high tech World, but small and easily controlled.”

“Everything? What are you trying to save?”

“Books. We’ve got six temperature and atmosphere controlled cubes stuffed full of historically important documents, as well as electronic versions of everything. Everything we could find, buy, bribe, steal from thousands of Worlds . . . I though it would all be safe, up here on the Massif, with a small military to defend it.”

“Umm, actually any invaders are more likely to bomb Up Top than the rest of the city.” Dina thought it over. “You ought to have bought one of those big houses on the northern edge of the broadcast area.”

“What?”

“Haven’t you been here long enough to experience one of our winter storms? The wind howls down off the Sicilian Glacier and drops the temps below zero. They blow off to the east fairly quickly, and rarely even get to the center of the city. I think the Massif diverts them as much as the usual circulation.”

She shrugged. “Anyway those big mansions they built up there . . . the early folk moved south, pretty quick. Just ten miles makes a huge difference, and those old mansions go cheap, and turn over often. They’re on big acreage lots, lots of privacy. Who going to notice the Secret Society to Save the Books?”

He started at her for a long moment. “That’s . . . interesting. I . . . have sort of burned those bridges.”

“Well.” Dina thought about it. “You might want to at least move those cubes, and have the electronic files backed up somewhere off the Massif. And the trucks you use to move the Cubes should be sold on some other World, so anyone who looks for where you took them will look on some other World.”

He choked faintly. “What, you aren’t going to recommend a disguise?”

She eyed him. “You’d probably have to either shave your head or wear a wig. You have a very distinctive hairline. And maybe gain some weight, plump out your cheeks a bit.”

He gawped at her. “I . . . can’t gain weight, I’m . . . ill. Why do you care?”

“I love books. My favorite got me through a very bad time in my life. I love the idea that someone is saving everything.” She dug in her purse. Two small bottles, one a quarter gone . . . Axel doesn’t need both . . .

She pulled out the full bottle. “This has a couple hundred healing spells. Dilute it in red wine—it’s a von Neumanns. It’ll give you the time you need to get those books really safe. Whether you follow my advice or go somewhere else.”

She stood up and stepped over to hand it to him. “Don’t drink any until you’re somewhere safe and private. You’ll be very drunk.”

He hesitated, and took it. Looked around. “I . . . should move everything while I’m still, theoretically, in control of . . . things.”

“Good luck.” She stepped away, and pulled the dividing curtain forward a little.

Well, that was an interesting cap on a terrifying day.

She settled down to listen to Axel’s monitors, that slow steady heartbeat. He will be fine. She pulled out her electronic reader. Red and Brown for a comfort read? She shook her head, and started a new mystery she’d picked up.

A while later the doctor came by. Hands around Axel’s head, a smile. “Steady, fast, improvement.”

Then to the other man.

“You’ll be fine, now. The small amount of swelling has passed. I’ll sign the release papers, but you shouldn’t drive yourself.”

“I’ll call for a ride.”

Dina smiled a little and ignored the man dressing and walking out, a friend meeting him at the door. Save the books? I wonder who he is? But I won’t ask. After all, I’m married to a man full of secrets. I’d best be good at keeping them.