September 9th, 2021

_Fall of Empire_ part 22

 “We finally get to see the Wolf Road ‘gate’ string! Embassy!” Leon, enthusiastic as usual, threw his bag into the rear of the ATV and leaped into the back seat. Henrik was a little more dignified about it. A little. Definitely grinning.

“Boleslav’s got the Octagon set up, with four new kids. Dr. Borodin said you said we should train up a whole bunch of Quads? Why?”

“It looks like Orion has lost their Portalmaker. So we’re going to propose that we set up a portal there, to keep off the wolves. I’m going to . . . God I hate this culture . . . insist that we own the clones, will lease their Portal Facilities, and pay for the power we use. And charge for passage.”

They both nodded. “Because they won’t be anything like you.”

“If we can set up all the outer parts of the branch in a trading  association and keep the wolves at bay, we can sit out the next few years and see if the rest of the Alliance can survive.”

Murphy stalked over. “Don’t get into trouble without me. I ought to be going, too.”

“If the Boss was here, you probably would be. But since I’m on medical leave, you have to stay here and fill his shoes.” Axel grinned at his shocked face. “Didn’t notice? You’re good at it.”

The portal swirled open to the brushy track. “See you in few days!” He rolled his window up as the green flag waved and Pauli zoomed through.

“Take a left on the road. We’ll stop about five gates along. So you can get out and examine them up close.” Then he rolled his window down and enjoyed the changing temperatures as they drove on.

All three were astonished at the lack of scorch, the mild twist as they passed through. It was raining five gates on, and for three beyond that so they stopped after ten to examine the gates on foot
.
Axel scooted over to the driver’s seat and drove through and pulled over, as he spotted movement ahead.

Whistled and pointed, so no one got run over by the messenger and delivery service girl, who waved and kept going.

He drove for awhile, then, in as much as driving seemed to be the best way to avoid nausea going through so many gates so quickly, he switched and let Henrik drive, then Leon, and back to Pauli.  With breaks to admire the scenery when they switched. He drove the last five gates himself, and drove down to the corner.

“The big black building that really is not creeping nearer to squash us is the Dimension Cops’ HQ. And . . .”

“Hey! Are those all gates too? They’re very stubby.” Leon had his head out the window, frowning across the intersection at the stone arches.

“Stubby?”

“Yeah.” And he was out the door and trotting across for a closer look.

Henrik bailed too, and Axel just shrugged and drove around the corner to park near the Kitchen restaurant.

Before he gotten back to the intersection, Xen Wolfson caught up to him, and eyed Axel’s stitches and Pauli’s worried hovering with raised brows.

“I had a bad concussion. Pauli’s here to make sure I don’t trip and hit my head again.” Axel frowned across the intersection. The boys had attracted a young woman . . .

“Yes, stubby. It’s way shorter than anything we’ve ever made. Your Wolf Road gates were about average.” Henrik shrugged. “It must be an effect of the powered assist. Throws us way out into the inbetween, and then we look out at other worlds. These are so close . . . I guess we never notice worlds this close to us?”

Leon nodded. “But I’ll bet we see them from other Worlds. Huh.” He looked around at Axel. “I need to go with you to that Orion Gate and look back at Siberia Max. And this is Q.”

The young woman shook hands, blinked at the zap.

“Axel Vinogradov. Captain Wolfson thinks my maternal Grandmother being from a place called Discord, was probably from Comet Fall.”

“Discordia. Yes, a lot of Wizard genes there, even decades ago.” Q nodded at the Boys. “Henrik and Leon are Dimensionals.”

Xen nodded. “Are you two these Free Portalists Axel has mentioned?”

Leon nodded. “Yeah, now. I was a wired-in Portalmaker on Stuttgart before Igor rescued me.”

Henrik grinned. “Same here, eight nightmare year on Budapest Reborn, then Igor happened. Umm, Lord Axel, here.”

Axel shrugged. “Frankly, that was just to shut down their portals. Dr. Borodin’s the man with the new method.”

Xen still looked dubious. “And how about that fellow from New Texas?”

“Dolph?” Leon sobered. “He’s better, but physically, he’s got a long way to go yet. But he’s got friends now, the other old Portalmakers out at the rehab center are about a year ahead of him and starting to muscle up.”

“I tried to exercise a little everyday, so I got back on my feet inside of a month.” Henrik grinned. “The punk here was only in the coffin for four months.”

“It felt like years! But I could still walk. Well, wobble a short distance.”

Axel startled to realize another man had joined them. “Ra’d.” He glanced at his compatriots. “Ra’d is one of the Enemy. from the Empire of the One, who’s embassy is across the plaza there. I met him on Budapest Reborn, where he was spreading the plague, just before I, umm, kidnapped you, Henrik.”

“Rescued!”

Pauli edged around to be almost between Axel and Ra’d. “N-next you’ll b-be telling m-me you’ve m-met Ice the Destroyer.”

Snickers from all of them. They understand Russian.

“Actually, I’m here to ask a few questions about the Plague. Ra’d do you know how long it lasts?”

“Depends on the environment. I believe Dr. Heath might be able to answer your question more specifically . . . and take a look at those cuts at the same time. How did you manage that?”

“Took an explosive round from a tank on my shield, that hit my helmet and shattered the glasite.”

“That’s what happens when you Bunnies go around attacking people.”

“Well, in this case it was a Japanese Alliance World attacking a Russian Alliance World. It’s getting cannibalistic over there.”

“Good!”

Axel nodded. “So, if you two want to talk shop, I’ll head for the hospital, which is that pink granite building over there. Don’t get into too much trouble.”

They grinned, and Axel headed for the hospital. Pauli hovering, and Ra’d walking along.

“So, does the Cannibalization have anything to do with your concern for the plague?”

“To a degree. One of our local Branch has lost its last Portalmaker, I don’t yet know why or how, possibly simply age and stress. They lost another to the plague three years ago, and abandoned the entire city.”

Axel tried to figure out how to make the problem clear . . . “With no zivvy being made, we all need to transition from the current slave culture to something a whole lot more egalitarian . . .”

“He hit his head ten days ago. He’s a bit scrambled, but actually on this subject he’s always been crazy.” Pauli, speaking slow English, not a stutter to be heard.

“Well, I want to help them get a Portal working, so they’re less likely to be attacked. But I will not hand a Quad over to them to treat as property. I’m going to try to negotiate something with us owning and operating a ‘Portal Company’ on their World to keep them from being a ‘lost World’ that’s up for grabs. I thought they might be open to foreign ownership if they knew they could go back to Berlin and open that portal themselves.”