“True.” Axel shrugged. “And you could stay truer to yourself. It’s hard to change, even when you want to.”
The next morning, Lord Gennaddiy, disapproval all over his voice, invited them to visit Orion and speak to a government representative.
“Krupin informs me that they will have a Portal to Orion open at eleven. I will meet you at the Facility.”
“We’ll see you there.” Axel looked over his breakfast and around the table. “Right. Finish, then pack up and we’ll head for the Portal.”
They arrived early, and got a brief tour as the tech worked over the guide rings. Bruno raised his eyebrows over the lack of a “coffin” in the control room.
“We always left ours in place, as a decoy.”
Lord Shura laughed. “I had four Cyborgs carry it out toward a truck, while everyone else ran like hell, and the invaders homed in on the coffin. The Cys—on order—saw them coming, dropped it and fled.
“So we all got away here.” He sobered. “The other portal facilities mostly waited too long and had a panicked rout under fire. Lost a lot of people, especially Cyborgs, that day.”
Axel nodded. And didn’t say aloud that that was how the Troystvennyy Soyuz had operated for centuries. Since we discovered dimensional travel. We raid, kill, and loot. And if we’re successful, we stay and enslave the entire population. And when we attack one of our own? No difference, we simply chip the loser Lords and sell their wives to brothels. Chip the kids as they come of age.
This has to stop.
Repairs finished, they got out of the way.
Lord Gennadiy showed up in his chauffeured limo. His chauffeur walked up and told Thirteen to follow them on the other side, but showed no desire to chat. Then the scheduler waved them up and through the portal ahead of the truck traffic. There wasn’t much of it, and only four trucks waiting to go the other way.
Thirteen followed the limo, and Pauli in the second car followed him. They emerged onto a broad concrete apron. Return traffic lined up to the left, and ahead to the right the big barn of a standard portal facility, the large doors closed, five cars parked there. Lord Gennadiy’s limo parked beside them, and Thirteen did the same.
Axel stepped out and frowned back at the traffic behind them. “They must have moved a beacon here after they lost the Portalmaker. So they could use the assembly area. Otherwise the portal from Regulus would be too close.”
A man stepped out of a small, human sized door to the right. “Yes, exactly. I’m Lord Foma Ustrashkin, representing the Government of Orion.”
Two more men behind him. “Director Zinovy Ivanov, and Pantelev Gorky, manager of this facility.”
“A pleasure, gentlemen. I am Lord Axel Ivan Vinogradov. Representing the Neighborhood Trading Company.” Axel nodded toward the door. “If the equipment is in working order, we can demonstrate the new system, so you know what you are contracting with us to supply.”
“We will not be dependent on a Tier Five World.”
“Siberia Max has no desire to control anyone. My company will base the Free Portalists here, and . . .”
“What do you mean by ‘Free Portalist,” Merchant?”
Was that supposed to be an insult?
“The Free Portalists are unchipped Portalclones. Eights, sevens, and sixes. They are not property . . .”
Sirens shrieked. Axel turned and saw that the portal from Regulus was closed . . . and another portal was opening, closer.
“Bruno! Get the kids get the kids out of sight behind the building. Pauli, give him the key to that car. See if they can tell where that portal is coming from, and get the hell out of here if a battle starts.”
The government and portal people were all approaching the new portal as it attached, police cars roaring up . . .
The portal attached, spun open. Armored Cyborgs leaping through and spreading out in an arc, two armored men behind them were probably mentalists, there were shields up . . . Mental and physical.
“Standard invasion tactics!” Thirteen was edging forward.
“Pauli, Thirteen, shields up, all three. Come with me.” Axel stayed behind and to the rear of Ustrashkin. Let the Government Rep do the talking. And the Bureau guy, Ivanov.
At least Gorky, the Facilities manager has sense enough to stay back . . .
“And here’s the guy to lay claim, very traditional Japanese. And behind him, the workers to install the ramp . . . and a P-22 tank behind . . .”
“Thirteen, you really did volunteer, didn’t you?” Pauli stepped right.
Thirteen moved a bit to the left. “Hell yes, I’m straight out of the slums, living my dream.”
Axel softened his physical shield and reached mentally to feel the Japanese Mentalists’ physical shields. Not bad. Strong but at a limited frequency range. A high frequency slice should go right through it.
“I am Lord Haruki. This World is out of contact and has lost standing.” Perfect Russian, the only hint of an accent was Home Moscow. “It is now the property of Tier Three Monoka.”
“No. It. Is. Not!” Ustrashkin’s projected voice was loud.
“Surrender or die.” Haruki showed his teeth. “However much I personally would enjoy a battle, my Governor prefers we take the world intact.”
Axel stepped up to the nearest cop. “You need shield piercing spells on your bullets. May I apply them?”
The cyborg growled. “Get back. All we need is civilians mucking with our ammunition.”
Ustrashkin was pulling power, glowing. “Turn around now and leave, if you wish to live.”
Haruki laughed. “Oh, you pitiful Russians. Raised soft, always letting your weakest do the fighting. You may be powerful, but are you a trained Warrior?” He waved behind himself to where the tank was moving forward. He strolled to the side to give the tank plenty of room.
Axel shifted to the right to get a good angle, pulling up a hard physical shield, angled and anchored on this side of the Japanese Mentalists’ shields. They both felt it and turned to eye him.
Haruki eyed him. “So, I get to take out one of your mentalists in the first encounter? Excellent.”
The tank enter the portal and Axel slashed low and flat. Cut the track and the first two wheels off just below the axles. The tank leaned, slewed . . . shredded.
Tons of hot metal shards ripped through the invaders, barely slowed as they hit the fading shields of the dead mentalists, were deflected upwards by Axel’s shield, and started crashing down all over the staging area.
Axel turned and threw up shields to channel the debris into uninhabited spots. Pauli and Thirteen jumped into help . . . it was over in seconds, the stunned Orion cops looking around.
Thirteen stared at the gory minced remains of a couple dozen people. “That was awesome.” Then he bolted to the side and vomited.
He wasn’t the only one. Several cops . . .
And Ustrashkin looked pretty shaky as he pulled out a phone and tapped at it.
Lord Gennadiy walked up, stiff and disbelieving. “That was you! You sliced the tank and it shredded . . . you were almost a hundred feet away, there were shields . . . how . . . Those stupid movies, I didn’t believe . . .”
Axel sighed. “They make up stories for those movies. But the strength of Movie Igor’s Mentalist abilities is pretty close. And now I need to find all my people . . .”
:: Bruno? The excitement’s over, but it’s pretty messy back here. Keep the kids away for a bit. ::
:: You got it. We’re looking at the place it came from. Big mess, fires starting . . . I don’t think they’ve gotten the portalmaker out yet. ::
Axel bit his lip. :: Look for other portal facilities there, see if there’re military units lined up to cross. ::