As the Director had said, one thing the Embassy World lacked was a hotel. Disco's guest quarters were filled to bursting by the delegation.
"The problem is that newcomers generally don't have established exchange rates. And so far we've also managed to not attract a bank here. I think we may be forced to go back to Comet Fall and ask them to carry the risk." Dr. Quicksilver waved at a block of small buildings. "These are the guest quarters. We gave your guards the keys to the doors. We'll let you parcel yourselves out however you wish. The large building across the garden with the lit windows is a restaurant and grocery store, they all know Disco is paying your tab. I'll most likely see you at breakfast, or just ask in the main building, if you need any of us."
Albert Maas was the senior driver, and had taken charge of the keys. "The one large building, I've reserved for all the female staff. There are ten other buildings. This closest corner house will be our security headquarters, and we'll also take the house closest to the car park. You will all have to be friendly, but there is enough room."
"Thank you, Albert." The Captain sounded relieved. "Have all the assigned guards checked their respective houses?"
"Yes, sir, and the cars are parked where they can be easily watched."
"Excellent. Bishop, Ambassador?" The group split up as the drivers, the assigned guards, ushered their groups away.
The eight women started splitting off and Angela German, the sole female on the security team led them off to the center building.
"Thank you for that, Albert. I shall kiss your feet at an appropriate time."
Maas snorted. "I did wonder which of them would win, if I left the big house up for grabs."
"Right, well, how many beds does security have?" Captain Collier was eyeing the grounds.
"Eight for the sixteen of us. Two couches. The kid that showed us around said they'd scare up some more mattresses. If we need a night patrol, it'll do. The big house has four bedrooms, with six beds, two of them large. If Angela wants to take the couch there, that will cover night security for them."
"We'll get it working. Right now, Tregarth, Danford you two take the early watch. I'll stay on the circuit until two. Everyone else, rack out wherever you can."
Miles headed out, delighted to have the opportunity. He made a quick circuit of their block. To the north and east, a dark prairie stretched to the horizon, rising slightly to the north, falling slightly to the east.
The ecclesiastic forces had nabbed the houses to the south and east of the block, the secular delegates were to the west, with the second security house on the north side, where the limos were lined up, like a barrier between the theoretically cooperating parties.
"I'm going to circle out wider." He murmured into his pickup.
"Don't get into trouble." The Captain was not in an enviable spot, between the rival factions and the two spies inside his own forces. Not to mention any hostile outsiders.
Johann Fann slipped up beside him, as he eyed the restaurant and the other dark buildings across the "garden" which was actually a deep grotto with ornate bridges and flower beds now colorless in the moonlight and dark with shadows.
"Need any help? Mentally this place is closed tighter than the Wolf's inner circle." Fann followed him down steps, lit only by the gibbous moon.
Miles didn't know the younger man well. A rookie, said to have considerable magical potential. "I did notice a lack of sparkle around all the people here. Xen – Save Us – Wolfson apparently didn't even register on the department equipment, until he lowered his barriers. The genetic sniffer pegged on him." The bridge was made of recrystallized stone of some sort. God work.
"Scary, to think of how many high magicians they must have, after fifteen hundred years of the Gods reproducing." Johann stopped suddenly, looking to his right.
"They haven't all been reproducing the whole time." The young voice from the darkness could have been either male of female. "Most of us are natural concentrations of engineered genes, and sometimes engineering."
"You're doing genetic engineering, yourselves? Who's in control?" Miles couldn't keep the horror out of his voice.
"No one, as far as I can tell. There aren't that many people around who can do genetic work. You want something, you ask them. Lady Rustle's the best. She's a Waning Half Moon level witch, but she was good even when she was young."
"Who made these bridges? The God of Vice charges a hell of a lot – too much for work like this." Miles ran his hand over the railing. Smooth and perfect.
"Huh. Never and Dydit. Q can do them. We're working on it."
"And who might you be?"
"Levi Lavason, from Rip Crossing. That's a colony of Comet Fall's. I'm working here while I get training from Xen."
"You sound kinda young to be a Dimension cop."
"That must be why they have me mucking out the horse stalls, and running messages. Sheesh. I'm a trainee. And I'm almost eighteen."
His voice was much too high for him to be anywhere within reach of eighteen, but when Miles softened his own mental shields he could feel the kid's shielded sparkle. He pulled his own shield up tight, and shivered a bit. Shielded and he still leaks that much!
"Mucking stalls? They have horses here?" Johann sounded amused.
"Of course. Don't you? I mean, if you split off, you must at least have Jet, Dun and Sun Gold, right? We've been breeding God Horses for ages."
"Sun Gold, as in the God of Love's gelding? I don't know the other two."
"Jet is the God of War's black stallion. Dun was like him, but he's been out for so long his age is showing. But he's had lots of time to learn all sorts of stuff. The God of Art had seven of them in his museum, they're all out now."
"The God of War has not fought from horseback for several hundred years now. And no one summons him, for fear of the Church's prosecution."
"Wow. What a weird world." In the dim moon shadow Levi shook his head. "Would you like to meet our horses?"
"Love to." Miles grinned. A guided tour? Damn straight he'd like it.
The horses were spectacular. Levi, under better lights was almost six foot tall, wiry muscles on a frame that was still mostly knobby knees and elbows. Big feet and hands. I wonder how tall he's going to be when he finally quits growing? His hair was red, his eyes blue. He was full of extravagant gestures and brilliant smiles as he showed off the animals.
"This is Pyrite. He's Xen's. Well, not that God Horses are actually property but . . . and this is Galena, and her dam, Stripy. And . . .
Two other boys and a girl showed up, and introductions made the rounds. Kyle Kileson, Xavi Gavison and Styx Niledaut.
The later wrinkled her nose. "It's not our fault. That's what our mothers named us." She could nearly pass for eighteen. Leggy, but starting to fill out. Okay, maybe fifteen. The boys all looked like overly tall twelve year olds.
She gave him a fishy look. "Those of us with high percentage engineering tend to mature late. Is it different on your world, or have you allowed the Church to beat you down until you apologize for existing?"
Johann bristled. "No one beats us."
"But the Church interprets the laws, and magic is virtually illegal, from what we've heard." Xavi sniffed. "I'll give you another generation before they start burning you at the stake."
Miles rolled his eyes. "It's more likely that a medieval level society, with horse based transportation, would start burning witches."
"We don't have a Church at all, let alone one that's anti-magic. The last one that tried that, well, our great grandparents dealt with them!" Styx smirked.
They were all similar in features, or maybe it was just the age and development stage. Their hair ranged from Kyle's deep red through Levi's carrot, Styx's red-blonde and Xavi's blonde with a hint of . . . under the lights in the barn it looked almost purple.
Kyle had been quiet, up till now. "Perhaps when we open gates to Empty Worlds, you magicians should grab one for yourselves. Then they can be happy and you can start developing your talents, instead of subduing and hiding them."
"Uh. I don't really think that sort of drastic move is needed." Miles looked around. "Actually we're supposed to be on guard. We'd best head back across your garden canyon."
"Oh, yeah, sorry. I guess we shouldn't have dragged you away. Sorry."
Miles hustled a bit, his subconscious throwing out plots to lead them away while others attacked . . . but Danford reported everything peaceful in the block of guest houses. Fann headed for bed, or at any rate someplace to sleep until his official shift. A few feminine giggles led Miles to peek in on a card game in the big house's dining room. The other houses had only snores or silences.
At two, local time, Carl and Eddy relieved them. Miles layered a couple of rugs and slept till the Captain rousted him out at ten. "The dignitaries are starting to stir. You have probably got time to shower before breakfast."
He made it, still snapping his jacket as he tailed the herd across the bridge and up to the restaurant. In the morning sun, the bridge proved to be red, black and white crystals in a quartz matrix. It had the standard recrystalized look of god work, but he'd never seen it like this, the small red crystals set off in spirals in the quartz, with the black behind it. Sparks and swirls of gold—surely not actual gold—glowed at the edges of the spirals.
"That's some of Never and Dydit's best work." Xen Wolfson was waiting on the far side. "Good Morning, Ambassador, Bishop. Several of the other embassies have shot people over to just casually happen to be breakfasting here at the same time as you. I thought you might appreciate the warning."
"Indeed. I'll gladly meet with the representatives of other embassies. At breakfast, or any other time."
The Bishop drew his gaze away from the bridge long enough to nod.
Xen scratched his chin. "If you need office space immediately, we've some conference rooms that we can leave empty for your convenience. Just let us know." He flashed a smile. "Everyone's just fascinated by the thought of a Comet Fall split, including Comet Fall itself."
"Humph. Well, we'll see how fast we can get up to speed ourselves." The Bishop frowned. "I'd rather like to speak to your World's government."
"I'm afraid we've got seven, at the moment. We've never consolidated into a single polity. I can arrange for you to visit and speak to King Leano of the West."
"And I'd like to speak to your religious leaders as well."
"That will be a bit more difficult. Err, The High Priestess of Ba'al may be somewhere about, even though the god himself is missing. Annnd, somehow I don't think you'll want to speak to the Six Virgins of the Temple of Love. That's about it for churches, I'm afraid."
The Bishop drew his suit jacket in, as if pulling vestments away from a defiling substance.
"Well. Speak to the Comet Fall Ambassador any time you wish to cross. I'll leave you to your breakfast." Xen turned and moved off.
Miles eyed his confident balanced movement. The Wolf's son. Bet he's good at martial arts. And his jacket had pockets everywhere. No sign of a pistol, but plenty of room for other things. Or nothing at all, if he's highly trained and highly magical.
He was last into the restaurant. The Captain and the eight drivers were standing around keeping a eye on things, so Miles took the Captain's nod to seat himself with the others. One of the Eclesiastical gofers and one of the diplomats' secretaries joined Albert and him at a table for four.
"This is so exciting." The gofer was all bright-eyed and chipper. "Hundreds of other worlds. The Bishop is eager to spread the Word of God."
The secretary rolled her eyes. "I'm Gina Harbinger, this Mary Elizabeth Kent."
"Miles Tregarth, and this is Albert Maas."
"I'll bet the competition for spots in security was as fierce as ours." Mary Elizabeth grinned. "I'm surprised any women made it onto the Bishop's list. I only made it because Father Leonardo's usual man broke his ankle two weeks ago and I've been filling in."
"Actually, our bosses asked for volunteers, then closeted themselves and decided. We didn't even have time for backstabbing." Albert shook his head sadly.
Gina grinned. "This really is a rushed delegation. Now that we're here it seems so silly. We could have sent someone to pick a spot and bring back some engineering specs. We didn't need to send an Ambassador for months. Possibly years, until we have a building."Miles coughed to cover a laugh. "Yes. We could have been backstabbing for a much longer time. I feel cheated."