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27 January 2017 @ 09:37 am
_The Last Merge_ part 12  

Disco

" . . . So I dropped a bus on it. Sorry, it was the largest thing I could commandeer fast enough." Q was sitting with her very still hands in plain sight, feeling the high emotions all around her. Somewhere in the vicinity of ten thousand college students were missing, world-wide. Outside the windows she could see the investigators crawling all over the broken gate anchor under the crumpled bus. That had stopped the transfer of students, and enabled the capture of several hundred Helaos soldiers. She had no trouble reading Helaos, but apparently they had been so different than the Oners' previous experiences that the Oners hadn't mentally 'noticed' them. Now they could pick them up from miles away. She believed them when they said there wasn't a loose one left on the planet.

Director Ajki, the head of the One's External Relations Directorate, which included all their spying and quasi-military actions, was leaning on a wall listening to everything, and making everyone else work as if he weren't there. It was quite a trick. Urfa was coming and going. His position was separate; the President's branch of domestic affairs. All the police were domestic, and Director Efge of Internal Relations had been cooperating with the military temporarily as well, for the last few days. He'd made himself scarce now. As all the news people knew Urfa by name and on sight, he was being the public mouth-piece for the debacle.

"You Fallen do have a way of direct, forceful action." The External Relations Director pushed away from the wall and frowned down at her. "Why are you here?"

"Xen was here, looking into the missing students he was being accused of kidnapping. He recognized the Helaos and called me to ask me to find the location of their powered gate. It wasn't on when I looked, so I came here and waited until they connected again. I teleported to it and grabbed the biggest thing I could find to drop on it to close the Gate."

"We have nothing but your word that the Helaos are the problem. And where is Xen? We have been attacked by his, your, nation, and we will retaliate. Actions beget reactions. I trust he accepts that?"

"If you're talking about the Genetic attack, I wouldn't trust too deeply, if I were you. You committed an Act of War against a polity you need help from, right now. But let's table that issue until we rescue your children. Indeed, you have only my word. I have opened several gates to the World that they are starting to merge with, that they have probably taken your people to. We need to get there fast, and stop the merges. Whistle up some spies or scouts or Info Teams or your freaky rapist Action Teams, and send them to look over the situation."

"And you're very confident." Ajki didn't look impressed.

"Oh yes. I've seen the Helaos in action. I have spells that can firm up a person's personality, so they win out over the Helaos personality in a merge. And other spells to return the genes to normal for that person. And I needed them. I was captured, lobotomized and merged. I have a three day blank in my memory. I dare say I had a great time during it. My daughter is a year old."

They all looked at her in consternation.

"Your students don't have those spells. They are going to be killed—for some definition of dead. Their bodies merged with another, cell by cell, the genetics a random combination, their academic knowledge available, their personality overwhelmed. I do not know if they will be able to do magic. They will have the knowledge of it. We need to go quickly, damn it. They are killing your children. Right now." Damn it, Disco isn't large enough to save those kids. These people need to move!

:: Got it under control, Brat?::

:: I closed their gate, but they are missing nearly ten thousand young men and women. Go check the planet they are merging with while I keep talking to these close-minded idiots. ::

:: Don't worry, they've got an army waiting to attack. ::

:: Oh marvelous. Tens of thousands of healthy young men charging into be merged with the Helaos soldiers. ::

:: On top of the ten thousand missing students? We need to rescue them quickly, then leave the Helaos to merge with trees and rocks. I'll be back in case you need rescuing. ::

:: Ha! :: Q looked over at Director Ajki. "Disco is going to raid a structure on the Target World. Would you like to help?"

Rather amusing, how he reacted to being teleported halfway around the world.

Chapter Five

3510 Winter Solstice

Inso Clostuone stayed back on the hill as the Action Teams closed in on the barn-like structure. The infrared scopes showed what their telepathy was certain of. Hundreds of young men and women were inside. Oners, by and large. But a few guards as well.

With Jiol Withione on one side and Quail Quicksilver on the other Isno figured he ought to be completely overwhelmed. But he was too angry to be intimidated.

"Bah. When was the last time you were intimidated?" Jiol kept her night glasses trained on the building.

"It's been awhile." He relaxed just a bit though. Jiol had always been the unachievable Ice Princess. The operative that everyone wanted to emulate. And impress. Especially the men. If not for that wine, he'd still be worshipping from a distance. Not to mention unmarried and childless. His lips curled up just a bit. Twins. Poin and Ipno, aged thirteen. Both smarter than Hell, both Withiones. It should have been impossible. Only these insane and giddy Fallen could have come up with something so potent, so outrageous, so tempting and so horrifying all in one dangerous and delicious drink. He loved the idiots to death, especially for knowing where to come for this raid. "We should have hit this place yesterday!"

"The Director couldn't get the troops mobilized any faster." There was no censure in her tone. He was aware of how hard that was for her.

"And I'm still sitting on the sidelines as backup." Q's fingers drummed on the stock of her rifle. Something her father had given her, that she swore she was an expert with. She also had a sword at her side.

Inso had one too. He'd been drilled mercilessly by Xen, learning to combine sword work and magic.

Below, a flare of thermite preceded the Action Teams' entry into the building by seconds. Q hunkered down with her rifle and Inso watched in vain for escaping Helaos. There were none. The all clear sounded and the backup loped down the hill. Q sat up cross-legged and started doing her Gate HooDoo routine. He and Jiol stayed as her guards, until a bright circle of light expanded into a daytime view of the quarantine facilities in Espania, and Q stood up and dusted off her hands. "Shall we leave it here, or take it down the hill? I suspect some of the kids are exhausted, if not injured."

"Let's take it down." Jiol stood and joined him in watching Q casually put her shoulder into it and shoved the Gate down the hill. A soldier dived out of the Gate and scanned all around. Signaled the all clear and jumped back through.

The Action leader jogged up the hill toward them. "Good, we need to get them home, medicated and debriefed. Apparently these Helaos have been hustling people in and out of here. A couple of the women that the guards kept around to rape have been here for a week and said there's been two complete turnovers every day."

Q nodded. "We'll interview them after they've been seen by a doctor." She pushed the Gate into position in front of the improvised doorway and anchored it. The students stumbled gratefully through.

". . . and then they took Ojre away, you must find him. What did they want with us?" The pale (for a Oner) girl turned and leaped through the Gate. A long string of people did likewise, and the kidnappers, some on stretchers, and some walking defiantly were taken through last.

"Right. Now, do you want me to keep this Gate open?" Q asked the Action Leader. "It will collapse if they enlarge their shadow zone and take it in, but I think it's far enough away that the first enlargement won't take it."

"Can you keep it up for a few more days? I suspect we'll be searching the length of the merged section, hoping to find more of the children." He cast a jaundiced look at the shadow zone.

It was larger than when Quicksilver had last seen it, but still several miles beyond the building, the lights inside the shadow zone shone a dim blueish in the local night. "I'll put an illusion that it's just a steep grassy hillside on it. Now, Inso, here's the Corridor back to the Gate to Embassy." Q peeled an invisible something off her arm and snapped it open against the side of the building. Open, it looked like more grassy hills. "I'm going to stay and keep an eye on that shadow zone. And listen for your scouts, in case they find another Merge center and prisoners."

Inso nodded and stepped through the corridor, then walked across Xen and Q's old camp to the gate to Embassy and headed back into the Disco building. I think I'm getting used to traveling like this. Now if I could only open gates and corridors myself . . .

It bothered him quite a bit to be in possession of the front corner office. "What the hell am I doing here?" he muttered.

Jiol chuckled behind him. "Indeed. Now do you understand why Garit and Xen ran away, and Q handed it to you as quickly as she could?"

"By the One! Yes. What the hell do I do now? Cannibals raiding all over and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. They've probably already killed several thousand kids. What's the total?"

"They kidnapped ten thousand. We recovered three hundred or so. Have you heard whether the One will allow the use of those spells of Q's? If I got trapped and merged, I'd like to think that my personality would win and the genes would all change back to mine."

"It was a bit un-nerving, the way Q talked about her experience. No wonder she scares men anyway. That cold matter-of-fact description . . . "

Jiol chuckled. "And her indifference to the method of her getting pregnant. One! 'I suspect I enjoyed it at the time.' Ajki was looking green."

"Well, all you have to do is stop a crossdimensional war and hand Disco off to . . . Oh, I suspect Lon would do a good job." Jiol leaned and kissed his cheek. "Then you can look back at your time as Director of Disco with fondness and terror."

Inso snorted. "Yes, Dear."



Part Four   War

Eldon

They emerged in ruins. Sick twisted things, as if each building was two, overlapping and warping together into something that shouldn't be able to stand, and often hadn't. Side walks had been sucked up to become parts of the walls, mismatched widows didn't quiet overlap. The sky ahead looked odd, like a shadow cast across the sky by nothing whatsoever. He listened and caught vehicular noises and drove carefully that direction.

"Set up one of those Corridors, here, for a fast retreat." Phil rolled his window down. "Damn, this looks like a Hollywood set for Hell."

Eldon backed up, stepped out and stuck the corridor mouth on the wall across from the Gate and took the other end with them as he wound through a neverland of mutant trash.

When he found the bulldozed path through the weird wreckage, he stopped and parked. They pulled out the three big crates and shifted them into a travesty of a room. He looked over the controls carefully, before he fit the three parts together, and then set the timer for forty-eight hours. They all set the alarm functions on their watches to give them a fifteen minute heads up, then he restarted the SUV and headed for the shadow.

The Directorate of External Relations

Ebsa and Ra'd

"They're moving toward gate four! Tanks in front, infantry behind them." The yell came from the peak of the pavilion roof.

Ebsa winced. "That's the gate Ajha used."

Ra'd turned to the Colonel. "Do you have any anti tank mines or charges?"

"Yep." The colonel led off at a run.

Ra'd, on his heels, looked back at Ebsa. "Get the crawler. We need to hit them fast, preferably on their side of the gate."

"Right!" Ebsa turned, hesitated. Looked at Wxxo. "You'd better get Disco to come close the gates. We'll try to find Ajha and get back here fast, but . . . we understand if you can't hold it." He turned and ran.

Locked the gun safe door in the open position. Strapped into the driver's seat. Pulled out and headed down the road. He spotted Ra'd with a crate, stopped. Got right under way. At the gates, their own tanks were doing nothing.

"The Helios sabotaged them yesterday. The mechanics are working on them." Ra'd peered through the gate as Ebsa charged it. "I only see two tanks coming. We'll beat them through. I think you can get between them. Do so. You drive, I shield the crawler. And drop tank busters."

"Right." Ebsa eyed what looked like a fairly steep slope on the far side. Have to be careful to not roll it. Not much maneuvering is going to happen. He took careful aim and roared through the gate. Ra'd was thumping around in the back, the door open on the left, a window on the right, mines thrown . . .

Ebsa slewed left to miss the first tank, then turned the wheel back right to cut between it and the tank behind and to the left of the first. The crawler jolted as the second tank made contact with their rear quarter. They bounced off and kept going. Loud whumps behind. But Ebsa was more worried about the infantry ahead. He could drive through them, but . . . "Close the door!" And they had things that looked like they might be more dangerous than the rifle fire that was peppering Ra'd's shields. They were spreading out . . . the distance down slope to the road was about right . . . If he cut hard, right there . . .

"Ra'd, strap in fast!"

Ra'd vaulted into the seat beside him clicked the restraints. "Damn, there's a couple hundred of them. Going to run over them? They'll swarm us . . . "

"Ha! There speaks a man who's never driven a doodle bug. Pull your shield in as tight to the outer skin as possible."

Ebsa had been drifting right, now he pulled a sharp left turn. Speed, slope and momentum were all it took. The crawler rolled. Round of side and top, to fit through the round gates, it rolled very well.

"You fucking maniac!" Ra'd cursed through three rolls.

Ebsa put the left side wheels in reverse and the next time the wheels hit the ground, floored it. The crawler slewed to face a bit up hill, tipped . . . thumped back down on its wheels.

All wheels, reverse. Thump thump crash onto the road, slew around, all wheels forward, floor it. They raced away from the carnage strewn slope.

"I sure do hope we're going the right direction, because I don't really want to go back that way, just yet." He ignored the red dripping down the windshield.

Ra'd cleared his throat. "You are going to have to teach me this 'doodle bug driving technique.' It sounds interesting. Insane but interesting."

Silence for a long moment. Well, not from the crawler. A loose panel was banging and thumping somewhere in the rear, and a grinding noise that was probably bearings . . . Poor thing wasn't actually designed to roll . . .

Ra'd had his eyes closed, glowing brightly enough that Ebsa hardened his mental shields.

Ra'd pointed forward and left. "Ajha's that way. He says the Helios have opened a shadow zone and the overlap is starting. He said to get into it, find water to merge with, and then come help them hold a merge center full of kidnaped college students. I think he was appalled that we'd come, and desperate for help."

"Hey, we're heroes. Danger is our life blood. I mean, adrenaline beats boredom hands down." Ebsa peered forward. "Truck convoy ahead."

"Pass them on the left. I'll toss a few tank killers. Over kill, but, as you say, beats boredom."

Whatever the trucks were carrying exploded spectacularly.

"Next one, throw further behind us!" Ebsa yelled back, dodging into the right lane to avoid a couple of oncoming cars.

Ra'd picked up the 20mm and stepped to the door.

Two sharp cracks, and the cars were just another smoke cloud in the rear view mirror.

Ebsa pulled out and pushed the pace.

With periodic explosions behind. The tanker trucks were fun, flaming fuel floating on the leaking water . . . No traffic behind them any more.

He dodged into the right lane again as they approached an intersection. The traffic was splitting left and right. Dead ahead, a smoky area . . . no, the edges of the dark area were too well defined. "Shadow zone, dead ahead."

 
 
 
ekuah on January 27th, 2017 10:05 pm (UTC)
Withiones?
Small issue.
"Poin and Ipno, aged thirteen. Both smarter than Hell, both Withiones."
This is post-anti-rape-gene-bio-attack, right?

Ether the definition has been changed (you haven't mentioned that), or they got the get-the-rape-genes-back-potion (somehow unlikely). Else they would be 'only' Clostuones because of the double missing three genes.

Or you just forgot it ;-)
matapampamuphoff on January 27th, 2017 10:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Withiones?
It was far from a universal application. The God of Just Deserts took a few months to hit the major cities and largest enclaves. And it was not spread on Embassy. It was also self-limiting, gone in a month or two.

It is also easily replaced. The major effect, in fact is, as Ebsa points out in _Trouble in Paradise_, that the Oners were helpless and vulnerable. Not a feeling they are used to.

And then they have to ask nicely for the cure.

Which means that they each, individually, have to get tested and find out for sure.

It's an attack aimed right at their egos, and then keeps right on kicking those little egos.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on January 27th, 2017 10:42 pm (UTC)
You have been ignoring Jiol's twins since the old-spys home episode - for thirteen years. Not in namelist either

Perhaps this ought to continue since you don't really need them.

The point being that Urfa, Rael and Xiat's (and Fool's maybe) attitude to Princess' births and advancement would have been different for thirteen years but you don't show that until Gods and Princesses.

I edit to add that this was Empire, so before gene removal.
And you need to check timelines since 1396 yp is less than fourteen years ago so thirteen year-old twins is unlikely.

(Nor listed is Inso Clostuone or is it Neartone ?)

I edit again to point out Inso is (Empire of the One) Inso Neartuone Gday Brisbane. this needed to be corrected in Embassy too.

The dynamics of Jiol and Inso, often on stage since Embassy also now looks wrong.

Edited at 2017-01-28 08:40 pm (UTC)