September 17th, 2021

_Fall of Empire_ part 28

Chapter Twenty-four

A First Success

May 20, 3740

Mikhail Rasputin looked around at his usual audience. “Any special requests?”

They all had their computers out, ready to write what they “saw” while monitoring the Quads. The kids had gotten very good at finding places, but still hadn’t mastered that final connection. The Intel types were delighted. The Military Intel people were in heaven.

“No? The usual, then, but I want to try connecting while they’re fresh.” He turned back to the Quad. Simon’s was up first, this time. “Back to Siberia Max. We’ll take the rings up to about seventy percent power and see if that makes a difference.”

Simon flashed a grin and grabbed his helmet. The kids were experienced at that part, too, and generally adjusted their own, now. They slid into their merge and were reaching for Siberia Max as the rings powered up.

:: It’s right there! We ought to be able to push through and land it. :: the Quad stared at the concrete pad in frustration.

Mikhail sighed. “What’s the power level?”

“Sixty-five and rising.” Lord Otto Redmann called back. “Shall we run it up all the way?”

“Yes, let’s try that.” Mikhail touched the Quad. :: The power’s going to keep rising. See if it helps. ::

:: Right. :: The Quad grabbed the incipient Portal and hauled hard on it, then jammed the end into the “dent” they claimed to see. :: If we lean on it really hard . . . ::

Otto called through the door, “It’s opening, but foggy . . . I would send anyone through unless . . . Holy Crap!”

Mikhail popped out to see a figure wrapping in white cloth rolling on the ground. Cussing.

“Ack! That felt horrible!” Throwing off the Spatter cloth sheet, wearing a spatter suit under it. A familiar voice. “Hi, Boss! I thought a double layer would work, but that was . . . nasty!”

“Henrik? Are you insane?” Mikhail stepped up and helped him up.

“Yeah, been around Igor too long.” He shook himself and shoved the hood back. “Seems like your Quads are having problems, so I figured I’d better come help train them.”

“Good idea. And how is Igor?”

That got a snicker. “They managed to keep him fairly inactive for about three days, which gave him way too much time to think . . .”

Mikhail laughed. “That’s dangerous. Umm, Otto, this is my resident expert on Free Portalists, Lord Henrik Leitz. Henrik, Portal Manager Otto Redmann.” He waved through the door, “and the Quads, who are surviving my half-assed training.”

“Oh, they’re pretty good, we’ve been watching them. Let me show them how to properly attach that portal so The Inquisitor can come through, he wants to talk to you and whoever’s in charge.”

“Excellent idea. Have at them.” Mikhail glanced back at Otto. “He’s very good at this. Igor got one Quad working before he joined us, and he’s helped train all the rest of them.” he nodded at the Portal.

Otto looked back as it firmed up. The flagman waved the green flag for the first time, looking relieved. On the far side, Murphy nodded and turned away as Grigory tossed a red cloak around his shoulders, safety glasses, pulled up the hood and jumped through.

Mikhail was laughing as he clasped his friend’s hand. “Don’t tell me Ariadna made you a spatter cloth suit!”

“I think I may have been a bit too emotional about my one and only unprotected transit. Socks, pants, and this natty cape. Not a whole suit. To my shock Jacques said he’d made several suits, including Lord Axel’s formal jacket. But he refused to consider robes, hence this ridiculous cape.”

“Henrik said you wanted to talk to me.” A nod to Walther as he walked over. “Joint Director Walter Goethe, Senior Inquisitor Grigory Gorbachev.”

The two old men sized each other up as they shook hands.

“Director, a pleasure to meet you. I came to make sure that Mikhail, with his new Quad had noticed that the Tier Two Japanese Worlds are massing troops near their Portal Facilities, while their vassals attack German and Russian branch worlds.”

Grigory tilted his head. “Not that German and Russian Worlds aren’t causing problems, but the entire Japanese sector give the appearance of having decided to take over.”

“Shit.” Walther looked back at the Quads. “Can they see this?”

“Yes. Let me show you the map. The Intel Bureau man—the old one not the new, who is utterly worthless—has done an excellent job of collecting data on this.”

They wound up dragging tables up near the door to the quad station so they could study the holographic display and then ask the Quad to look at specific worlds.

Less than an hour before Walther was calling the other bureaus and the army to send observers, and they started arriving suspiciously, quickly becoming alarmed and engaged . . .

Mikhail wound up sitting back with Grigory and Walther, listening in.

Grigory shook his head. “The consensus seems to be that they’ll attack the German and Russian Tier Twos first, then turn and come after Home and the Citadel.”

Walther nodded. “Because once the Tier Twos are gone, they can work their way up the branches at will.”

Mikhail nodded. “But they may want to take Home first, all these portals that we could pour our forces through to aid the fight against Japan . . .”

Grigory sighed. “But would we? And would we do it effectively? As in taking down all their portals?”

Walther eyed him. “I can’t imagine an entire branch so starved of zivvy that they cannot keep their Tier Two in Portalmakers.”

Grigory nodded. “The hard part is finding the potential Portalmakers. Years in between being able to contact their branches will loosen their control. And while they can, at first, take Portalmakers from their vassals, at some point the vassals will rebel. And truly, if once slapped down they will concentrate on trade instead of invasion, we have succeeded in our goals.”

“You downplay the role of the Inquisition?”

Grigory snorted. “We’re a pack of lawyers with delusions that we control the Bureaus. Without the 300 and the zivvy, we have no teeth. In my opinion, if the 300 doesn’t recover, we should be dissolved, possible integrated into the Bureaus as legal advisers. And at the rate the Alliance as a whole is breaking up, we should all go home and figure out how to survive and save as much of the local civilization as we can.”

Mikhail laugh. “Oh, Walther, the expression on your face! Trust me, out in the high tiers, we’re starting to worry about basic survival. Because from our perspective, the Center has collapsed, and the techo-barbarians are raiding the out-lying Worlds.

“My coming here might look like a employee problem, but I’m paying attention to how far down the central Government has fallen and whether it can be patched back together. We’ve been attacked twice, and our immediate Liege once.

“Just because we fought them off, doesn’t imply that they were not serious invasions. And this news about the Japanese is definitely worrisome.” Mikhail winced. “We’re going to have to stop them.”