26 Aug 3531
The Prime Minister had a headache. The President looked like he had one as well. The Archbishop of Sahara and the Archbishop of Central America, this decade's Head of the Council of Archbishops, were both clearly furious. The God of War was keeping his state of mind to himself. Prime Minister Bernie Glasser had a suspicion he was dangerously angry.
"It was all a thousand years ago. Just because there are twelve people alive now who were alive then is no reason to initiate hostilities that could end up killing more people than the Comet." He caught a flash of the God's eyes, before the two churchmen leaped to their feet.
"There is no statute of limitation on murder, and that is what we are talking about." The Archbishop of Sahara growled.
His superior looked a bit skeptical. "They, Art, Peace and Mercy, have admitted to what they attempted. Whether they actually did cause those deaths, or if those were simply the deaths the rest of the gods couldn't prevent, will forever be unknowable. I agree with the Prime Minister, that we must keep our reactions within bounds."
Sahara glared at him. "We should take this opportunity to finally remove the last vestiges of legal protection from those evil . . . "
"No. No matter how evil, we cannot dilute Civil Rights by removing them from any class of human . . . "
"They are not human, they are artificial constructs, made things, that move and breath like human beings."
"Gentlemen, please. We are not going to initiate a genocide on my watch. I think we have plenty of time to discuss a crisis that occurred over a thousand years ago. Right now I would like to discuss whether we want to open diplomatic relations across dimensions, and specifically what sort of import controls we'll have to have to limit the untested entry of medicines from other dimensions."
"Yes. What are you doing about that debacle? I've heard that the so-called 'Joy Juice' is already spreading via the blackmarket. It's obscene!"
"It's a cure for cancer and the common cold. People warehoused in perpetual vegetative states are recovering. They're having trouble finding anything it won't cure."
"It is an aphrodisiac. It is being used to circumvent morality."
"Men have been getting women drunk so they'll hop in the sack with them for millennia."
"This is much more effective. And what about the rumors that there was a second elixir? Eternal Youth. Rejuvenation and long life. What if that's true? Do you know what it will do to our economy?" The Archbishop of Sahara glared at the two politicians.
The President snorted suddenly. "One, it'll do even more damage to the medical profession than the Joy Juice. Two, it'll relieve the burden of medical care from families. And three, the small number of people who expected to inherit money, business or home from their parents will be horribly disappointed."
"The underpinnings of our medical care system will be uprooted. Then where will we go when we are injured? Or when something comes up that this cannot cure?"
The Prime Minister sighed. "Are we to then turn our backs on a medical breakthrough?"
The Auld Wulf leaned into the Archbishop of Sahara's personal space and softened his voice to a chilly purr. "I suspect you can find a way to claim credit for it. You churchmen have always been good at taking credit for other's labor."
"It is clear that you so-called gods argued among yourselves, and did nothing about the comet. A merciful god heard the prayers of the faithful and saved his people."
"Yes. Just like that." The tall man turned a cold shoulder to the Churchmen. "I recommend we accept this gate and go talk to these people. Whether we like it or not, they've found us. We'd better get up to speed quickly."
"Indeed. I think a multi-disciplinary group should go first." President Jalasco put his elbows on the table. "Led by a seasoned diplomat and a crack staff. If the Church would like to send four people, get me their names and contact information. Wolf, we'll be needing some of your best people."
The god nodded.
The churchmen sputtered. "You should not rely so heavily on magical spies. You should not trust the magical to police the magical."
"Despite all your efforts, there is still just one set of laws, and they apply to everyone."
3 September 8250
Miles Tregarth surveyed the plaza quickly. Half mile square, fountain in the middle, perhaps a hundred arches in a wide circle around the perimeter. A quick glance behind showed that they'd driven out of just such an arch. The sun was lower in the sky courtesy of the eight hour time difference between this part of this world and their own Sahara.
Four people from the Church and four people from the government had somehow been translated as "four important people, with their immediate staff and security" by both bureaucracies. Forty people. Eight limos. Five motorcycles.
Miles swung his bike around in a large loop, and headed for the road that bounded the plaza, and the hulking black building that held down a block off one corner of the Plaza. Something about the angular design, not to mention the black stone, got his hackles up. It was the sort of building that probably had dungeons in the basement. Ultramodern, dark, angular dungeons.
At the curb, Ambassador Amin climbed ponderously out of one limo while Bishop Hatterus was assisted formally from the other. Various aides scrambled to assemble in their wakes as the pair of dignitaries tried to beat each other up the steps without appearing to be racing each other.
The sixteen man security detachment had been thrown together quickly. The Bishop and the Ambassador had both already had official Home Guard protection, and had brought their familiar driver-guards. They’d added twelve pragmatic men with a history of putting the good of the government ahead of the will of the Church, yet not openly Atheist. Then Miles Tregarth and Johann Fann, magicians from the Secret Service. Hopefully not known as such by the Church and their fellows.
Captain Terrance Collier headed the detachment. He had been riding with the Ambassador, and was a step behind him as the covert race reached the doors. Miles didn't like the idea of that mob without guards. Apparently Collier didn't either. The radio bug in his ear clicked as he settled his bike. "Dupre and Maas, up here now. Winston, stay with the cars. Drivers keep the engines running. Fann, Tregarth, guard the delegation's rear."
Miles paced quickly up the steps, catching up as the last of the delegation cleared the doors.
He couldn't see the source of the voice over intervening heads, but it was clear and calm, female. "The Director will be right down. Would you like to see the Assembly room? It's where we're supposed to officially hear complaints, but usually people just stomp straight up to the offices and start yelling."
The lobby was a huge contrast to the exterior, all warm sandstone and polished wood in various tan shades. The polished carved wooden double doors opposite the entrance swung open on a tiered auditorium. The wood parts were darker, the upholstery blue and the floor carpeted in dark red. The dais at the far side was set up like a courtroom.
Miles glanced back at footsteps. Two men and a woman came down the stairs, only one of them making much noise. The middle aged man at the fore looked experienced and competent. The man a step behind him was almost as tall as the Wolf. Miles twitched at the thought that there were multiples of the man, each with a different history. He trusted his Wolf absolutely. The thought of others, with his abilities but different goals, drives, morals . . . He shivered a little.
The tall man nodded. "Yes. I found your God of War quite alarming."
The woman snickered. "He didn't say it out loud, Xen."
The tall man grinned. "I know. Which one is your Ambassador?"
The crowd seethed and produced both dignitaries.
The middle aged man cleared his throat. "I'm Director Lon Hackathorn. Welcome to Embassy."
There was a slight jostling of shoulders. Amin's bulk slowed him down, and he glared as the Bishop got a jump on him.
"I am Bishop James Hatterus, here representing the Church of the Creator. This is Ambassador Kandu Amin, representing the secular side of our joint Government."
"I am honored. Why don't we step out again, so I can point out some of the interesting patterns in the city." Hackathorne headed out the door without waiting for a reply.
Episcopal and ambassadorial eyes narrowed. But they followed.
"To our immediate left is the Earth's Embassy. Earth has split so many times that each World is being given identifying names and or numbers. But the World that first discovered Dimensional Travel is generally just referred to as Earth." The tall pale building was golden in the sunset. "Across the Plaza from them is the One World Complex." Silhouetted against the sunset, four buildings of various heights between ten to twenty floors. "The Empire of the One independently discovered Dimensional travel. They both discovered a number of Worlds, and generally dominated them. When they simultaneously tried it on Comet Fall, the Fallen developed their own methods of travel: these permanent gates we now use, almost to exclusion. You will find Comet Fall moderately familiar, as they split from your World roughly a thousand years ago. That's their Embassy to our right." Marble, ornate, perhaps three floors, hard to tell as the light dimmed.
No street lights.
"On the other side of them is the Arrival Embassy. They are another World where the genetically engineered were dumped. Err, does your history? Oh, good. To the south, Arbolia is an antagonistic polity from the same World. The diagonal road to the southeast leads to the beach. The white building you see there is the public library. Your government can donate any books about itself that it wishes, and you can read up on the other worlds. The wooden fort to the left of the library is the Embassy of Purple, again, an Exile World. The design is a tribute to their history, not an indication of their current tech level. Additionally, several companies have purchased land along that diagonal and are planning to build office space. We keep hoping for a hotel, but it hasn't happened yet. The opposite diagonal leads to the mountains, and has several retail outlets, should you wish to shop or dine. Monetary conversion can be a bit of a challenge. We're also hoping for a bank, but no one seems to wish to establish one here.
"To the southwest, the glass building is a hospital, open to all, and operated by Comet Fall. I believe you've had an encounter with their magical healing." He didn't make it a question, and several people looked at the tall man. "The rest are various embassies. You may build one on any block not already claimed. Why don't you come upstairs, I have a map, and you can ask questions."
The Bishop had a question ready. He leaned into the Director's space. "Do you believe in God the Creator?"
The man didn't look intimidated. He shrugged. "Not really. It has never been terribly important to me."
"Do you believe in the thirteen?"
"The Comet Fall gods? They're just people with interesting talents conferred by genetic engineering, not gods."
The Bishop narrowed his eyes. "How interesting." He eyed the other two Disco Agents. "And you two? We haven't met formally, but you appear to be this Xen Wolfson person. What relationship are you to the Wolf? The God of War?"
"My World's God of War – I am from Comet Fall, of course – is no longer your Wolf. My God is my father. My God of Traveler's is my great great-grandfather. And there's a possibility that Chance is in the pedigree somewhere."
The Bishop recoiled. "The gods do not have children!"
The young woman smiled. "The companies that created them two thousand years ago generally sterilized them. They've since healed themselves. Sorry, but you really ought to not think of them as gods. It's neither accurate nor useful. I'm Dr. Quail Quicksilver, also from Comet Fall. I'm the head of the exploration and research department. When you want a gate made, I'm the person to ask."
The Bishop was red faced and furious. "How many of you heretical magic users are there on this Comet Fall?"
"The entire population averages twenty-six percent of the engineered genes, so, most of us can do some minor things."
The Ambassador stepped in then. "What limits do you place on gates?"
"If there are people on either side, both have to agree to the gate. Otherwise, we'll be glad to establish a gate to an empty world for you. We generally charge a small fee, to run the Disco office here. The first one is free. We'll work up some exchange rates and let you know how much. We have an inventory of worlds, which you may select from, since you don't yet do any exploration yourself."
"So, we could have a new frontier?"
"Exactly. Untouched minerals, forests, land. All you have to do is not wage war across the dimensions. We don't really care if you go home and denounce us all as demons and perverts." Dr. Quicksilver shrugged. "Although good manners never hurt anything."