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02 October 2015 @ 05:15 am
_Gods and Princesses_ part 3  

Chapter Three

Ajha's new, ridiculously large, office had a view over the gate grounds to the south and Gate City to the West. At absolutely nothing. No mountains at all here on the plains. He turned his back on the view and contemplated the work he needed done. Hob, thank the One, had finished hacking into A&E's database, and all the personnel's files.

He had three inhabited worlds that needed early studies. One Colony Prospect, two Dinosaur Worlds, and three Pleistocene Mega Fauna Worlds. A couple of early biota worlds – not a lot of land animals yet, but the plants were flourishing, the seas filled with interesting things. He even had an X World – where human civilization had died.

For the populated worlds, Arzo, Ylki and Izma all had Contact training, they could just slip in and study the people. Then either drop those world or turn them over to Intel, to infiltrate and study from the inside for a year or two, then recommend diplomacy and trade—or not.

/// needs updating

He had a pack of scientists out on a Dinosaur World. The Exploration team there had been thrown together in desperation, when the experienced people had been pulled to watch the Helios. Now they've had nearly two years together, and we're getting good reports from the science teams they were escorting and protecting.

I'll send another team to double up with them for a month, to see how a good setup works, before I send them off to the other Dinosaur World to set up their own base of operations. Enda has always had visions of being a Big Game Hunter. He is about to get his wish.

He was going to need lots of good shooters for there and the two Pleistocene worlds. That wouldn't be a problem, all teamers had weapons proficiencies. But they needed scientific backup. Geologists, mainly, to find out if there were minerals enough to make the danger worth it.

Fewer shooters and more scientists for the other worlds. They'd be looking at colonization prospects, as well as minerals. Idre and Egto would be good for those, just good solid guard and help the scientists, no human complications. Ajha sorted the lists of those who'd indicated job mobility within the Exterior Directorate. The list was fairly short; people were tending to hunker down and mind their own business after the trials and executions. But Baik was there. Good solid scientist, that girl.

Project Dystopia. And who, besides me, would like to analyze a failed human civilization?

"Damn, this is a big project, over a hundred people across, most of them either directorate or university scientists . . .

"And there's Iqgu with a double sized Action Team, providing security.

"So how dangerous is it? And is it going to be my job to protect it or Kael's? Must be dangerous, else they wouldn't need the double team . . . " He hunted through several strangers' files and found no reports since . . . two months ago. Almost three. "That's . . . a little alarming."

Pity Ebko was so efficient at erasing his tracks. Thank the One some of his people were less efficient at it. Else I'd be floundering even worse.

He called up the gate log . . . Stabbed at his comm and got the gate trackers . . ."World X 22845. How much traffic do you have through . . . you closed the gate? You got Disco out to close the gate . . . "

"No, Subdirector. When they opened the gate, they emplaced an experimental device we could used to close the gate ourselves. They put it here because of the . . . dangerous biota."

Ajha bit his lip. "Well, that is interesting. I take it, it worked? After you evacuated the project personnel . . . "

"No." Irritation warred with trepidation on the other end of the connection. "We sent the reports to . . . Ebko . . . er . . . "

Ajha found himself on his feet leaning close to the comm on the desk. "Let's be clear here. Are you telling me that you marooned over a hundred people, most of them civilians, three months ago?"

He caught movement from the corner of his eye. Kael.

She mouthed "Dystopia?"

He nodded. The voice on the other end sounded distracted. A bit away from the pickup, he caught a faint ". . . eaten by giant insects?" and then, clearly. "Subdirector? The gate was under military guard. Our records show that the gate was closed to prevent biological contamination. They report that they lost contact with the Project after they detected a large explosion from the camp."

"Did they check the camp?"

"There's . . . nothing in their report to indicate that they did so."

"Did they . . . can they reopen the gate?"

"No. Umm, I see a notation that we removed our beacon once the permanent gate was in place. They're expensive, you know!"

Ajha stared at the phone. "This should be huge news. And you reported this to . . . someone who's dead. Who was probably busy plotting a rebellion at the time. Right. Shoot a copy of everything you have to me, to subdirector Kael, and Director Izzo. Thank you." He clicked off and looked at Kael.

"I was hoping you had information about them." She scowled. "Do we need Disco?"

"Yep. Would you like to come meet some of the people there."

Snort. "I hope you don't think I'll drool over Wolfson."

He failed to resist. "Well, maybe Q." His mail pinged and he looked over the list of files. Opened personnel. He scrolled down the list . . . "Oh. Shit."

"What?" Kael leaned to read . . . "The President's daughter? Crap."

"Yeah." Ajha tapped at his comm. "Izzo? In tracking down our scattered personnel, Kael and I have discovered that a large science party was marooned three months ago. We're going to go talk to Disco about finding it."

"Is it an emergency?"

"Yes. I'm surprised the President isn't wondering why he hasn't heard from Paer."

"Oh . . . meet you downstairs."

The director's limo was waved through ahead of all the other traffic, not that there was much . . . and waved out of the embassy yard without delay, and by the time the three of them had made it up the stairs of Disco (Kael, with lowered brows, scowling at the atmosphere) Xen was at the doors, waiting for them.

"Actually we need Q." Ajha glanced right, toward the exploration side of the building. "Or maybe both of you."

"Oh?" Wolfson didn't even glance that direction, but Q came trotting down the stairs. "What's the problem?"

"We've marooned over a hundred people." Ajha nodded to Q. "That dead civilization world, where you installed some sort of gate closer. Apparently there was some sort of biological emergency. Three months ago. And . . . Paer is over there."

The air chilled noticeably.

Ajha eyed the man . . . no, not him . . . He turned. Ra'd in civilian clothes, Nighthawk on his heels. He turned back to the Comet Fall pair. "So we need a gate, probably through an empty world. If you can find that world again."

Q nodded. "No problem. Let's go." She eeled past them and out the front doors.

Izzo waved them all forward. "I love the way you guys just dive into things, no arguments, no persuasion needed."

"No orders . . . "

Ajha glanced over and spotted Inso, the retired director of Interior, and now the Director of Disco, trotting down the stairs.

"Don't even bother to tell the Boss . . . " The old man grinned. "I love them to bits and pieces, even when I want to strangle them. Tell me all about it."

Izzo snorted. "At first guess, Ebso either manufactured a reason to close the gate, or when it happened, realized how handy a timely release of the information might be if he needed a distraction. So no one was ever informed that we'd lost a large project—including the president's daughter."

"Oh. One. Izzo, not that I have any authority what-so-ever, but please, will you keep the politics out of the directorate?"

"Doing my best."

They walked down to find Q and Xen getting up off the ground and walking through a gate arch.

The world on the far side was all barren rock.

"I think a corridor, in case it's an airborne contagion." Q walked off to the side, and everyone but Xen followed her.

Izzo looked back, to see an arch of rocks rising from the ground at a wave of the wizard's arm. Marking the gate. Good plan. By the time he'd caught up with the rest, Q had an even larger arch of rocks framing a bronze surface. She stepped into it, shrinking in a few steps to a dot, making his brain hurt while his eyes tried to work out the perspective. A bright light, suddenly expanding, with a full sized Q silhouetted against it.

"She can throw the far end of a bubble a couple hundred miles without raising a sweat. I'm lucky to get half that." Xen shook his head and stepped through.

They all trailed along like little ducklings.

And watched them sit down and open a gate to a blast furnace.

They scrambled to either side, gate makers and observers alike.

"Hundred and forty degrees, easily."

Izzo blinked at Xen, then remembered the calculations. "Umm, what we'd call sixty degrees, I think. Centigrade."

Ajha squinted against the blast of hot air. "There's something moving . . . a crawler."

Xen and Q grabbed the insubstantial sides of the gate and shoved it into the ground, so the wheels had clearance. Leaped through and . . . probably did the same. They staggered back through, and stepped out of the way as the crawler lined up and drove through.

A familiar face in the driver's seat. Ebsa. Maybe I ought to have checked the whole list.

The metal sides of the big cylindrical vehicle radiated heat. It turned to get out of the approach, and the side door popped open.

Paer! Ajha sagged in relief.

"Close the gate! We've got everyone else bagged up."

Q sat off to the side, and a few moments later the hot wind died, disappeared.

Paer jumped out without touching the outside of the crawler. Grinning, sweaty, sunburned. "We figured any gate connection would be here, at the old gate site. We traded off, who got to sweat . . . we were just wondering if it was time to bubble the whole crawler and hope anyone who came would be able to see the bubble, when we spotted the gate opening."

Ebsa jumped out, two bottles in hand. He handed one to Paer. "We've been rationing water. And . . . we've got whole buildings holding a couple hundred people all of which needs decontamination."

"Oh, yes. I didn't hear any details about this biological emergency." Ajha raised his eyebrows.

"Insects and arachnids. Size small to Oh-my-One!!!!! And any eggs they might have laid. The reptiles, amphibians, and rodents were all large enough that I doubt any have hitchhiked along with us." Ebsa grinned. "And the elves went home before the heatwave hit."

"Elves?" Three voices.

"They had dimensional gates. We encountered, I think, a policeman searching for two kidnapped children, whom we had rescued." Ebsa snickered, probably at their expressions. "Why yes, we have been writing reports, while waiting to be rescued. As soon as I get a nice cool shower, drink a couple of gallons of water and . . . " Ebsa sighed. "Yes. Senior Administrator, I'll get right on it."

Ajha and Izzo swapped glances.

"Umm, it's been a busy few months, on our side. Ajki is now Director of Interior, Izzo is Director of External Relations, and I'm subdirector of Exploration. Do you know Kael Withione? She is subdirector of Action."

Paer and Ebsa both started grinning.

"Excellent." Paer looked around. "Empty World? Good. She pulled a metal bar out of her pocket. "So, where do you want a slab of concrete with a dozen squishies, and a hundred and twelve people? Twenty of them with critical burn injuries."

Ajha blinked. Pointed. "Right there. But wait until we get medical staff and a field hospital set up. Director? I think I'd better call for a biological inspection team and then find some transportation, and . . . "

"Ajha, you're the subdirector. Step through the corridors and tell your underlings to get it done."

Ajha nodded. "Right. Q? Xen? I'd kiss your feet but I'll bet that'd get me into even more trouble than leaping to do the scut work. Ra'd? Are you working for intel? Yes? Well, my advice is intel the hell out of this, especially the part about the Elf policeman. Please try to remain uncontaminated so you can carry reports through to us. I'll send . . . I'll delegate someone to send medical, transport, supplies and so forth."

He marched determinedly away, hearing Kael explain that she'd stay to talk to the Action Leader and Project Manager. Damn, I should have thought of that.

Ajha glanced back to see Izzo shaking hands with Q then striding toward him. Right. Directors get to have even less fun. He waited. They walked back together.

"I wonder how many other little surprises we're going to find, as we go through the traitors' records."

Izzo sighed. "Lots. One save me."

Chapter Four

Izzo eyed his comm. Scowled. I should have found that problem at least a month ago. But putting off this call won't help anything . . .

He tapped in Urfa's comm number. Got the man immediately.

"Not another crisis!"

Izzo grinned. "Nothing like last week. In fact it's a crisis averted. But since Paer was involved—she's fine—I thought I should call immediately."

"One! Why did I get a President's Daughter who goes out and does things? I sometimes wish for a spoilt dahling who thought of nothing but clothes and boys. What this time? No dinosaurs, I hope?"

"Nope. Giant bugs and rats, solar flares, incredible heat, and dimension traveling Elves."

A long silence. Then, "Izzo, I have either misjudged your sense of humor or you'd better tell me all about it."

"Here's Ebsa's executive summary. And full report with all the appendixes." Izzo sent it. "I haven't had time to read the whole thing either. So, why don't you call me when you've digested it. I'll no doubt still be digesting away as well."

"Ah, Ebsa was there? Good. My panic level just dropped to half."

Izzo cleared his throat. "It's not going to stay there. Even if the bit I read was the worst of it."

matapampamuphoff on October 2nd, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC)
So that's what was going on back home, while Ebsa and Paer were waiting to be rescued.

I'll post a few more scenes, just because I have them, but I'm trying to work on other stuff, so that'll be all for awhile.

Edited at 2015-10-02 06:22 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on October 3rd, 2015 07:11 am (UTC)
Time dilation?

Somehow I don't think the timing works. The purge is referenced as only a couple of months past, and if I remember correctly, Paer was not even beginning training yet (still competing in horse stuff). Unless there's more than one president's daughter, I don't think there is enough elapsed time for her to get trained and then stuck on Distopia.

Did I mistake names? or a completely different purge?

matapampamuphoff on October 3rd, 2015 12:28 pm (UTC)
The External Relations Granite Peak rebellion was months ago.
Let's see how badly the formatting translates with a bit of my timeline:
And let's edit it and try again . . .

Empire of the One.......1395/96yp

Dancer..................1397/98 yp

Warriors of the One.....1397

Target 42...............1398-1399

Embassy.................1400=>1401 yp

Just Following Orders....1401 yp Fall

Small Family Wedding.....1402 yp Spring

Directorate School.......1402 yp Fall

The Lodge in the Mountains.....1402

A Tale of Three Interns........1403 yp Summer

Cannibal World.................1403 yp

Trouble in Paradise............1403 yp fall

Short Term Assignment..........1405 yp spring

The Last Merge.................1405 yp fall

.....Home Sweet Home

.....Rescue Mission............1405

Black Point Clan..............1407yp late Fall

Project Dystopia..............1408 yp late spring

External Relations............1408 yp late spring

Gods and Princesses...........1408 yp fall

Wedding Bells.................1410 yp

Children of a Foreign God.....1413 yp

Edited at 2015-10-03 12:43 pm (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on October 3rd, 2015 12:52 pm (UTC)
I suspect that nothing past "Warriors of the One" having been published is the problem. Good grief. My backlog is getting worse instead of better!
(Anonymous) on October 4th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC)
OK, so you ARE talking about two different purges. I was thinking of the one in Empire of the One, that resulted in bunches of people being executed. If that did not generate the specific change in leadership discussed in this story, then the timeline problem goes away.

And yeah, your backlog is increasing. But that's a GOOD problem....

You should also update your signature block (as if you don't have enough to do... 2 time machines?)