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17 January 2017 @ 07:27 am
_The Last Merge_ part 4  

Eldon opened the door of the magic shop, set out the sign and kicked back to watch a really great gory movie while waiting for customers. And actually got some. And more as the week went on

Teenagers mostly. Amazingly naïve and giggling as they read the labels, and frequently bought several.

The dog wandered in—he was getting really good at doors, and since they hadn't gotten any complaints from the apartment manager, he must be good at sneaking as well.

And as word that his charms worked circulated, he got so busy selling charm rings to teenagers he had trouble keeping up with football. Halfway through the season he put his foot down. The shop was only going to be open late on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Monday, Thursday and Friday, until five. Period.

Rings with a spell to prevent ovulation and menses, activating every quarter of the Moon, were amazingly popular. Almost as much as the orgasm intensifier. He resisted all requests for compulsion spells. The amounts offered often left him gawping.

"Old Gods! I don't do love potions. Why don't you just offer her that much? Sheesh."

"She won't talk to me."

"So go find someone else. Women are all pretty much the same."

"But she's special. She's the only one I want."

"Aww, kid . . . "

"My name is Shane."

"Right. Shane. What you need is a plan. Like maneuvers before a war. Start with anonymous notes. Love letters, you know? Poems? Then find out what she likes to do, and start doing it yourself, so you sort of meet now and then. Let's see, then it might be about time for flowers and candy. Then you let one of her friends know that you're the fellow who's been doing it all. And by then she'll probably talk to you."

"That's a awful lot of work."

"Guess she's not that special, eh?"

Shane bristled, and bought some of his anti-acne cream.

By the holiday they called Thanksgiving he was doing a steady business in anti-baldness lotions. And practicing all the other little things he'd been picking up, that he hadn't wanted to let the others know he could do.

If he could do them.

To make a Gate, Falchion had grabbed an oddly shaped bubble. So he sat and looked at the bubbles, and the more he looked, the more irregularities he spotted. Bubbles of different sizes and toughness. Cone shapes, spinning madly. Cylinders, doing nothing much at all, although they occasionally touched and stuck on those crumpled sheets-of-paper looking things.

When Falchion had made that Gate, she'd grabbed a bubble and rammed a cone to slow it down. Eldon spotted a cone and grabbed the nearest bubble. He bumped the cone with it, got knocked back a bit, bumped it again, braced himself mentally and kept bumping it until it slowed. Then he reached out and grabbed the cone pulled it around, shoved it large size up to the nearest sheet of paper. There it sat. Whoop-de-do. Doing nothing. All right. Falchion had pulled the tail into that wild energy, the breach in the Universe. So that wouldn't be what she usually did. So, how about another cone? He tracked one down, bumped it until he could handle it and pulled it over closer. The narrow tails swung past each other, twisted together and the large end turned toward him and pounced. It sucked down right on top of him and he found himself dumped into long grass full of stickers. The dog landed on him. He jumped up, cussing. The whirling white mouth of a Gate was directly above him. He landed hard on the floor of the magic shop.

"Wow, how did you do that?"

He eyed the pack of teenagers. Two packs of kids, light and dark. "Magic. Excuse me, I need to straighten this out a bit. He managed to shove one end of the Gate down, and the other up, then jumped through. This time he stayed hunched down and slithered through the stickers until he was out from under it. He look a long look around. Tall grass, thin woods. Nothing dangerous in sight. He tipped the Gate upright, and the teenagers poured through.

"Hey, don't you lot go getting lost or killed or anything! Just because there's nothing dangerous in sight doesn't mean there isn't anything dangerous out there."

That got him some gestures and suggestions.

"Not physically possible." He eyed the dark pack. "At least you lot are armed. What do you want to bet the pale pack hasn't got a single gun among them all?"

The head of the dark pack eyed him. "What are you, anyway? Mexican? I never heard of a blonde Mexican. You bleach your hair?"

"No. I started out blond. And where I come from, everyone's sorta tannish. I'm darker than average. There aren't many as dark as you, and nobody that horrible fish-belly white like them. I dunno why we keep finding people like that all over the Multiverse."

"Multiverse! Where are you from?" The pale boy, Shane, had walked up behind him.

"Yeah. Multiverse. Lots of parallel universes, except they aren't really parallel. I'm from the one they call Comet Fall."

"What do they call ours?"

"I dunno. I'm not an explorer, I'm a Bad Guy. You know, steal stuff in one Universe, sell it in another. Stuff like that."

The dark leader laughed. "You're one of the Strangers. That's what you are. Lost weight since you were changing into a deer, haven't you, Eldon?"

Shane backed away and eyed him. "Geeze. Take note, for once in the history of our Universe, Coltrain Newhouse is correct. Bleaching your hair and losing weight isn't much of a disguise."

A sudden cacophony of yells and running kids drew their attention. What charged out of the woods behind them looked a bit like the things Rior had called dinosaurs, except this one had more feathers and a huge beak. The dog shot into sight and snapped at its heels. The bird turned and tried to catch the dog, as it leaped and snapped around it. Eldon loped down the hill, as several guns started firing behind him. He toughened up his back shield, and threw a slice as soon as he was in range. The bird's head dropped and the body ran around a bit pumping blood.


"Mo Fo!"

"Wow, must have a lot of actions co-ordinated off the spinal cord."

Eldon and Coltrain stared at Shane. Coltrain shook his head. "There oughta be a law about smart boys like you. Keep 'em ona leash or neuter them so they can't multiply and blow up the World. Again."

Shane straightened indignantly. "We didn't. It's pretty much accepted that the Kamchatka attack was actually a meteorite. Well, okay, everyone over reacted. But that was a hundred years ago."

Coltrain spat, and walked over to where the over sized roadrunner had finally collapsed. The dog was all grin and wagging tail, and garnered much praise. Even from Eldon.

The bird was pretty gamey, roasted over a camp fire.

Once Eldon had found all the kids and wrestled them through the Gate, he tipped it back over and crawled underneath to cross. He didn't want to find that bird thing's friends in the magic shop in the morning.

The kids were back the next day. Armed and dangerous. With sleeping bags. Girlfriends armed with cookware and rifles. Or in Shane's case, quite obviously a sister. She fussed all over the dog.

"Don't you have to go to school tomorrow?" Eldon looked them over carefully. "I'm going to assume you all know to use those weapons, despite my not noticing that birdie getting hit."

Coltrain scowled. "That's why I've got this." He patted something that Eldon tended to associate with military movies.

"We're college students, we can skip classes if we want to." Shane gazed enviously at the weapon.

Eldon blinked at Coltrain's nod. He'd figured they were the notorious inner city gangs they talked about in the papers. Although the shop was a bit outside the really rough areas, and not that far from the University and cheap student housing, now that he thought about it.

Eldon shook his head. "Well, don't get lost." He ducked through the Gate and crawled out from under it. The dog followed him. Vultures and things that looked like over sized weasels scattered from the remains of the bird as the dog charged in. Nothing large in sight, again. He tipped the gate up.

"Have fun scouting around. I'm going to build some sort of building around the Gate."

The kids moved off, the girls both repulsed by the gory, and slightly stinky remains and partly fascinated by the alien animal. The dog rolled in it.

Eldon ran a quick head count. Seven guys, four gals. Then he scowled at the gate. He just wasn't as good at rock stuff as, well, any witch half his age. But he wasn't helpless. In fits and starts he cleared the ground, found rock about six feet down. He eyed it with disfavor. Molding solid rock would deepen the pit as the walls rose. He kicked a rodent that came to investigate. "What I need is a rock outcrop, so I can bring all the rock down here."

The ground rose to the east, past the woods, so he headed that direction.

He spotted the kids up on a bare hill top, and veered aside to leave them to their little adventure. He spotted a more ragged looking hill, and found his outcrop. Slice was such a satisfying spell. Such clear results. He trimmed off the weathered limestone, and started cutting two foot thick slabs.

"Are you teleporting them to the gate?" Shane had walked up behind him again.

"Nah, just scooping them into a bubble. Then I can take them all down to the gate and pull them out one by one, and fuse them together."

"Can we learn how to do that, or do you have to be born magic?" One of the dark pack edged around and studied the scooped out rock.

"Well, see, it's genetic. My ancestors were engineered to be this way. I suppose I could give you some of the magic genes, but since you didn't grow up with them, I dunno if you can ever learn how to use them." Eldon eyed them thoughtfully. "You're all pretty young, I don't suppose it would hurt to try it. I'll make up a potion when I'm done with this." He got back to work, and gradually the kids wandered off. Just as well. Some of them were curvy enough to be interesting, and he really didn't want to find out how Coltrain would react to him stealing his girlfriend. Or Shane his sister, for that matter.

He took the outcrop down to ten feet below ground level, then walked back to the gate. "It would improve the atmosphere if you guys would drag that thing off a couple hundred feet." They'd been so busy poking it, they hadn't heard him coming.

"Wow, you walk pretty quietly." Shane's sister eyed him in a clinical fashion. Definitely too young.

"So do stalking animals. You lot should think about sentries." Eldon turned his bubble around and slid out his first slab. Fused it to the ground. He got a five foot high wall and a temporary roof done, pulling the Gate down to the bedrock so it was safe, before he quit for the day. The kids followed him, after he promised to give them free access to the Gate. He didn't see the dog. Maybe it had gone home already.

He crawled home and collapsed. He hadn't worked that hard in years. In fact gold mining was slower and easier. Maybe he should go back.

After Superbowl.

In the morning, the store stock plus a search of the potions he'd picked up from Rior and Aunt Susto gave him a good starting point for creating wizard potions. He had the potions for the three power genes, but what about the rest? Two hundred and four other engineered genes, no one had any idea which were necessary for magic.

Well. He could start with longevity, and something from Susto that claimed to be "good health". He could reinforce their natural hair, eye and skin colors. Or change them if they wanted. Intelligence. Hmm. He took a sip of that one. Just in case it might work on an adult. Pity I didn't get any when I was a kid. I could be a nice honest wizard today. Probably bored to tears. Married, six brats. Unfortunately that didn't sound too bad.

He pulled out eleven empty bottles, and started mixing.

Heso came along to see his Gate. The kids eyed him carefully, then trooped through as Eldon opened a doorway out of his stone room. The dog had been lying in front of it, and wagged casually over to greet everyone.

"All right. I mixed up some stuff this morning. It won't change your hair, skin or eye color. If you want to change, tell me and I'll work something up. I don't even know what most of your names are. Here. Shane's sister. Miss Goldenhair. Nosey."

After he'd thumped Nosey, he explained that there was nothing wrong with a big nose, and what was his name? Ice? "Right. Now stop being so sensitive, only girls are sensitive. Here's yours. Coltrain. Pimples. What's your name? Right. Jeff."

They all looked scared, and eyed the bottles. Eldon grabbed his bubble and started removing his low ceiling. His next tier of five foot tall slabs completed, he started on a proper floor with ten foot of head room. Heso levitated thinner slabs while he fused them to the walls and then to each other. He left a hole for stairs and started the next row of wall. So. The Gate in the basement. Three floors. Flat topped roof with stairs, for a look out post They all bugged him until he put up a half wall with crenellations. And arrow slit windows on all levels. And decorative do dads. He refused to do gargoyles.

The kids informed him that there was a river fives miles away, and his location was lousy. He huffed a bit, then drilled a hole down through the sediments . . . six feet to solid limestone . . . but another hundred feet down he found a sandstone full of water and with a spell to induce movement, had running water in his kitchen and privy in no time.

The kids spent a week puking sick from the river water. He never heard what their parents thought about it. He just gave them all keys to the shop so they could come and go at will. The dog stopped coming home, improving the atmosphere of the apartment no end.

The Empire of the One

Directorate of External Relations

"So, in summary, our scientists' measurement agree with the Helios' conclusion that their world will miss our world and hit the sparsely inhabited Primitive World 65480." Director of External Relations Ajki Withione Black Point eyed his small audience. Half the people in the room were his experts, here to give their reports. "Questions, sir?"

The audience consisted of the President of the Empire, the Prime Councilor, and the closest advisors of each.

The President was the first to speak. "I am delighted to hear this. None-the-less, as a hostile dimensionally able civilization, it behooves us to keep a close watch on them. I'm funding the completion and expansion of your current spy post, and authorizing another to pre-stage a large army. We'll work with Disco and . . . hopefully not need the army. But one way or another, when it's over I want their dimensional abilities destroyed. They've killed billions without remorse."

The Prime Councilor nodded. "Nine months until it happens. One help all the Natives if Disco can't move them."

Urfa, the head of the Presidential Directorate, nodded. "The Helaos know there are enough humans there to merge with them. The question is, do they have a working gate? If they can move to another world, no problem, so long as it isn't ours. But we need to also consider worse options. That rather than move to a wilderness, they'll pick a world with an existing civilization they can take over."

Ajki sighed, as, of course, his brilliant and talented nephew leaped to field that one.

"Given their small surviving population, a small colony world of ours or Earth's would be ideal. Powered high tech infrastructure, but a small population they can easily dominate. We need to keep an eye out for that."

A nod from the President. "Have you discussed that with Disco?"

Ajki nodded. "Yes. Q says she can see where powered gates go . . . if it happens when she's watching. And she said she'd watch regularly, once they got the Natives off PW65480."

Winces all around. One bloody single woman who can just see the whole multiverse!

The President sighed. "We've always been relieved by the small size of the Comet Fall magical community. But I really wouldn't mind a few dozen more like her. Or her brother. However, our people are out in the field, and one of their priorities is to discover if they have a working gate."


Primitive World 65480

Xen didn't like playing God. Unfortunately it worked. He could get a whole village to pack their stuff and walk through a Gate to a very similar World in a day or two. Unfortunately, at this stage of civilization, the villages rarely had more than thirty or forty people in them.

His stomach hurt with the knowledge that he wasn't going to save everyone.

He might not even be able to save most of them.

But by God-the-Creator, he was going to try.

"I will not fail again. I will not stand helplessly by while billions die."

He closed the Gate behind the last of the tribe and flopped back on his back. "There's not enough time! God damn those Helaos!"

:: Stop being so pessimistic. We've got six months.::

:: Q! Who's minding the shop?::

:: Inso. I told him to enjoy it while it lasted. ::

Xen snorted and relaxed. :: Right. Now, what bright ideas do you have? ::

:: Many societies at this level of widely disbursed tribes get together once a year or so with all the related tribes in their region. I'm going to look for large bunches of people, and hopscotch around, instead of this neat orderly geographic clearance you're doing. Race ya! ::

:: Fat chance I'll have with your brains, Brat.:: He felt better already. Maybe they could actually pull it off.

mbarkermbarker on January 18th, 2017 01:57 am (UTC)

Heso came along to see his Gate. ... Heso levitated thinner slabs while he fused them to the walls and then to each other.

Minor thing, but Eldon had been doing everything, and I was skimming along when suddenly Heso popped up helping. I think the little "Heso came along..." sentence didn't quite register until I went back to find out what happened. Maybe have Heso get into the naming contest? Or somehow emphasize that Heso is along, too. Right now he's really pretty minimal.

ekuah on January 19th, 2017 11:03 am (UTC)
The part with Eldon making his first gate seems much smooth.
The "Strangers" are known as criminals and rapists (I'm not sure which kind of behavior the had shown on this particular world)
So nobody blabs and everybody is cool with them? Highly unlikely.

Second, the college kids are to well prepared for the new world. It suggest amounts of forethought and planning rarely found teens.
Okay, some have guns (out of habit) but I would expect that some of them show a very low 'survival index'.

Several years ago I had to supervise a group of students on a field trip to Brasil. You wouldn't believe what I had to witness on some occasions.
matapampamuphoff on January 19th, 2017 04:26 pm (UTC)
Re: critique
On this world, they were baldness treatments plus the Demon of Jones Creek, AKA Eldon in goat/deer shape. I'll address this later, but to college kids it'd be right up the with UFOs Sasquatch, and Elvis sightings.

Coltrain's group grew up on the fringes of inner city gangs. Smart enough that they probably get out, close enough that it was easy for them to acquire guns and ammunition.

Shane's group has Boy Scouts.

They were very lucky to have both Eldon and a Hell hound along. I cut Eldon acquiring the dog, I'll have to do something to show that he's pure Hell Hound.
ekuah on January 19th, 2017 06:49 pm (UTC)
Re: critique
Had to reread that part again.
The rapist episode was before (in Embassy) and the robbery part before and after (in Lodge in the Mountains) Criminal wise they kept a pretty low profile. Except Rior's botched jewelry 'shopping', Eldon's jogger seducing and their great departure.

Still I think there would be more curiosity of wrong sort.
But maybe there were so many false "Stranger" sightings all over the States that the police can't check them all.

About the preparedness: I forgot about boy scouts (you rarely find them here). But still it would be natural that some of them bring some really useless stuff, like electrical toothbrush, cellphone, hairdryer etc.

Edited at 2017-01-19 06:50 pm (UTC)
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on January 21st, 2017 06:58 pm (UTC)
"The audience consisted of the President of the Empire, the Prime Councilor, and the closest advisors of each."

So a dreaded Staff Meeting?

Doesn't add anything except a little set up and info so perhaps drop it and have Ajha think about how he got to the Empty World ?