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13 October 2015 @ 03:58 am
_Crossroads_ part 1  
Wow! This is really old. I'd nearly forgotten it.


April 1, 3513[1406]

"Welcome to the Crossroads of the Worlds" The old man's dignity was marred by the cynicism he wasn't even bothering to hide. "You have been selected from thousands of applicants for a summer internship here at the Earth Embassy. We expect you to work hard, and to also get to know your fellows from the other Worlds. We hope that you will have something more edifying in mind than counting coup by getting laid by someone from each of the other Worlds, but experience has proven our hopes useless."

That brought out a spate of nervous giggles.

"Please understand that the sexual mores of the other Worlds are different, and differ even between social classes and different societies in each World." He eyed them, the cynicism deepening. "There is a court system here. It is operated by the Government of the Kingdom of the West from Comet Fall. Please be aware that they punish rape rather severely. And inventively. Be very clear, verbally, without euphemisms, about what you want to do, and be sure to get verbal permission in such a way that no one would ever think it was coerced." He eyed them and shrugged.

"That is the One World Embassy." He pointed at the glass cube directly across the plaza from the Earth Embassy. "That is the Comet Fall Embassy." That was polished and carved stone, slightly ornate. "The blocks off the corners are, in theory, open to the public. Courts and police, both local and their so-called Dimensional police, in that one. The Library there, and the Hospital across there. The hospital is operated by the Comet Fall people and uses their nano tech. We prefer you bring injuries to the attention of our clinic in Embassy building three. There are considerable concerns about how well – or poorly - the Fallen understand the dangers of what they do." He ran his eyes over them. "No doubt you will all be wanting to explore, so pick up your luggage and come along. You'll be staying in the Residence Building."

Jill looped the strap of her small bag over her shoulder, and grabbed the handle of her large case and fell in with the crowd. There were supposed to be exactly a hundred summer internships awarded every year, and every year there were claims of favoritism and cheating, monetary payments and sexual favors that were usually settled by funding a few extra slots.

Jill had won her slot publicly, in the tri-state academic triathlon. She eyed the ditzy blonde fumbling with three times as much luggage as any sensible person could possibly need, and looking around beseechingly for help.

"Wonder how she got an internship." The tall willowy brunette beside her curled a lip and marched away.

Two young men lounging against the central fountain exchanged looks and grins and swooped over.

"Need help? Looks like you brought enough stuff to stay a year." The handsome black haired fellow smiled, showing faultless, white teeth.

His blond friend grabbed three cases. "Let us help you in any way possible."

Black hair grabbed two more and they bracketed the blonde girl as she trailed the rest of the interns.

"Oh thanks! I just got so excited, and I didn't know what to bring and what to leave."

"Hmm, what a dilemma." Blond hunk said. "So you brought it all."

"Oh, no. This is just barely enough for me to get by with. I had to leave _so_ much behind."

The old man led them around the left side of the Earth Embassy and up to a Security Gate. They all walked through, automatically identified by their chip.

"So, when you have some time off, come ask for us at the One World Embassy."

Jill looked around suddenly. The One World was their main rival across the multidimensional World. Or had been until the supposedly primitive Comet Fall World not only beat back the Earth's invasion, but followed them home and destroyed their Gate. Now the 'Fallen' controlled cross dimensional travel, and imposed their own rules of behavior.

This empty World had been designated as neutral territory, and all Worlds invited to build Embassies here.

The Earth and One World had been the first, but thirty-five others had since then. Including Comet Fall.

But . . . to just sit and talk to One Worlders? The arrogant fools who worshiped their One Power, and considered everyone, including eighty percent of their own population, beneath them?

"We'd be delighted to be the first notches on your tally stick." The dark haired One Worlder leered.

"Oh, wait, Hector! No euphenisms!" The Blond shook his head reprovingly.

"Oops!" Blackie – Hector - smirked. "We'd be delighted to have sex with you."

"We love fucking idiots." Blondie assured her.

The girl stood staring as they dropped her luggage, her mouth open.

"Hey Greg, is that Earther for, 'I wanna give you a blow?"

Jill gritted her teeth and dropped her own luggage. She marched back out the security gate and grabbed two of the girl's suitcases. "C'mon, ignore them, they're just rude children."

The girl fumbled with her luggage. Again.

"Grab the god-damned handle and lug it through the gate." Jill snapped at her. The girl blushed and towed the case through as if it weight a hundred kilos, and went back for the others, making each one look like a tremendous effort.

Jill kept the largest one, and the elegant brunette another. The blonde girl looped some straps and managed to drag the rest along behind her. By the time they made it to the lobby, the girl was sweating and pale.

Jill looked at her and shook her head, realization sinking in. "Don't tell me. You're from Mars aren't you?"

The girl nodded.

"So you're fighting triple your usual weight, and you brought this much stuff?"

"I had to live on Earth for a year to finish acclimation, so I had to have a lot of stuff. I didn't even think about not having any sort of transport for the luggage, here."

"Mars?" The elegant girl looked the blonde over. "I thought all Martians were fat?"

"I dieted."

The crowd at the desk thinned and they walked up and were registered. "Third floor. Rooms 315, 316 and 317." The clerk pointed at them as he gave the room numbers.

Fortunately there was an elevator.

"I'm Kelly Tharsis." The Martian girl smiled tentatively.

"Pleased to meet you, Jill Fenris. I apologize for being rude."

"Shirley Mason. You ought to have just said something."

Kelly blushed. "I feel so stupid and helpless. We Martians always pride ourselves on being independent and able to deal with anything, and I just stood there, looking bovine." The door opened to the third floor, and she started shoving her stuff out the door. Jill and Shirley helped and they all dragged their stuff down to their rooms.

"Wow. They did warn us the rooms were small." Shirley said.

Jill nodded. Small bed, small closet. She looked down the hallway and spotted the bathroom sign. "Right." She dragged her stuff in and started unpacking. It fit, and the suitcase fit under the bed. Barely.

She looked herself over carefully in the mirror over the dresser. No roots showing. Just smooth black hair, in a long clean braid, intelligent and business-like. No one had ever noticed at home, and no one would notice here.

Time to explore.

Spring Equinox 1406

Xen stepped through the Gate and cast a quick look around the plaza. The central fountain sprayed water, the grassy patches were green, the stone patches were stony and no one was trying to kill him. Made for a nice change.

He eyed the few people in sight. All of Question's attempts to get the various Worlds to open stores and trade and sell, or at least display trade goods had, so far, produced a single open air market west of the Comet Fall and Arrival Embassies. The Kings of Arrival and Western had become bosom buddies, and were underwriting a small currency exchange, and trying really hard to get all these arrogant asses to just sit down and chat with each other over coffee or tea as if they were equals.

The only people outside looked like couriers, hustling between Embassies with notes. No, he'd have to take that back. Three young women were walking out of the Earth Embassy side gate, and looking around both hopefully and fearfully. At least there weren't any predators in sight. Human variety. The One Worlders and the Earthers were forever going out of their way to be rude to each other.

He was early for his meeting with the Ambassador. Perhaps he should try to entice the trio into the market and buy them some coffee. Umm. Not really that early. Drat.

He walked around the Gate – for some reason it had seemed more esthetically pleasing to have people walk out of the Gates and into the Plaza. With the Gates ringing the Fountain, that meant everyone had to loop around their Gate and cross the street to their respective Embassies. It was very inconvenient for vehicular traffic, but no one had actually asked them to turn them around, yet. The Ambassador was waiting them out.

The Earth Embassy had taken up most of the block to the east of the Plaza, the One World most of the block to the west.

His own had shown restraint in their design, and put up an attractive carved block of polished granite with generous windows and surrounded it with a garden. The Ambassador's residence and the apartments for the rest of the staff were beyond the gardens, and they had stables beyond them.

One Worlders and Earthers used their mechanized transports when needed, and generally went out of their way to spook the horses. The Gate complex was three miles from the beach. With the weather warming rapidly, traffic to the beach would be picking up.

He just hoped that they wouldn't have a repeat –or worse – of last summer's incident. An Arbolian officer had seriously injured the driver of a One World Vehicle that had broken his horse's leg.

Wine and whine all around, and all parties, including the horse, sent home, healed but angry. It was bad enough when Comet Fall had to act like the Multiverse's policeman. Multiverse's babysitter was just too pathetic for words.

He trotted up the steps and greeted the doorman cheerfully. "Why so gloomy Hix?"

"The Earther's summer interns have just arrived. Two Oners were offensive within about three minutes. It's going to be like this all summer long."

"Erg. I saw some young women coming from that direction. I ought to have realized." He glanced back. The women were circling their Gate, examining it. "Give me a yell if you think I should saunter out and break anything up."

"Yes, sir."