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20 April 2017 @ 07:43 am
Scrambled_ part 7  

More water world. Nick contemplated the remaining stretch of saltwater. Half a kilometer across, two long.

They ought to be good for something! Although they may all dry up with no regular rain . . . we've only been here a few days, we have no idea how often it rains, this time of year . . . or how these intrusive bits of other worlds will affect the ground water.

That limestone ledge, the seep . . . if that's what's a foot or so under the soil, there may be seepage into these tide pools. I wonder if anyone has any fishing gear?

He shrugged and circled the barnacled rocks. Lichen covered rocks out to the point. Then an easy trot across to the six story structure that looked surprisingly intact.

He started trio of deer and slashed out to take down a young buck.

He field dressed it, and started dragging it. He had been spotted, people standing on the south side of the building, two men approaching him.

"Hi. You guys need food?"

"Yep. And by now I could eat that thing raw. I'm Lou, that's Harrison."

"Nick. I'm a Oner. Civilian. Enuf mentioned you guys, and I figured . . . well, might as well meet the neighbors. Maybe we can avoid the problems we've both had . . . elsewhere."

"Yeah." Harrison grabbed a deer leg and started walking. "Be nice if we could just concentrate on surviving."

Lou grabbed the other back leg and they lugged it up the fancy steps to the flat area in front of the building. They had a nice collection of firewood, stacked, a large cone of wood ready to fire, sitting on the ashes of a previous fire, and a small fire burning to the side, with three metal kettles sitting on the coals.

"The bonfire is to discourage the dinosaurs. There's some nasty ones. They killed Sergeant Baldwin the first day . . . the day before yesterday."

"Yeah, I've seen two kinds, so far." Nick dropped the deer as a . . . bunch of office workers crowded around to eye the "poor dead thing" as one woman murmured.

"Don't be silly, Alice. That's the lunch you were complaining about missing and the dinner you were hoping for." The speaker put her hands on her hips. "And I hope we can find something better than my little folding tool to butcher it with."

Nick handed over his knife and withdrew. Lou and Harrison followed him.

He set his own rifle down, and pulled the slings of the other two guns over his head. "From what Enuf said, you'll need these. I don't have much ammunition, but those are Earth weapons, so those soldiers might be able to resupply you." Nick dug in his backpack and produced four magazines.

Lou was frowning. "You're just giving them to us?"

Nick paused, to find the right words . . . "I'm . . . I was trained as a warrior. Raised to believe that it was my duty to protect people, to assume responsibility at need."

"A warrior?"

"Well, and to kill enemy soldiers. But never the ordinary people of the other side." Nick shrugged. "Then I grew up to be a dangerous criminal. And of course now I'm just one more marooned fool. Hoping for nice neighbors and no more warfare. So . . . what else do you need?"

"Water and electricity." Harrison shrugged. "We found a stream, but it's a trek and a half for these women."

Nick looked down at the thick grass. "About twenty kilometers south of here the soils about ten centimeters thick, with limestone below it, with some water seeps. I wonder . . . if we could dig down to porous wet limestone here?"

Lou glanced back at the building. "Maybe we could find something we could use for shovels."

"We'll need something like chisels and hammers for the rock." Nick walked out into the grass and closed his eyes. Living animals were easy to sense. Something to do with the electricity of the nervous system. Plants' slow chemical reactions could be felt . . . differently . . . and then the diffuse glow o the microbes of the soil. The cold density of stone . . . weak in limestone . . . ten or twenty cems down . . . and three or four meters down even weaker, lots of tiny absences. "Go scavenge. I'll see what I can do here, with what I've got."

Physical shields and the slice spell were much the same sort of thing. A plane of force, of will that reflected moving particles, absorbed kinetic energy. Or pushed through physical mass and shoved, imparting kinetic energy.

Nick shoved a broad shield down though the tough grass root and dirt until he hit the stone. Scraped, lifted . . . watched it jerk and splatter as the tangled roots of the other three sides of his scoop resisted.

Right. He sliced down twenty cems, and walked a grid. Ten meters by ten meters . . . in half meter sections. This time he levered out a neat block of soil and tossed it. Narrowly missing his fascinated audience.

A couple of young women admired the neat square hole.

"I never believed those tall tales about you people being able to do magic."

Cute, blonde, sexy. I could take her right now. . . I . . . What is wrong with me?

Nick forced a grin and gestured. "Go ahead." Cleared his throat and tried to talk without squeaking. "Muscles work as well as magic."

By the time Lou and Harrison got back with pipes, rebar, and snapped off lengths of lumber, a dozen people were down in the holes, expanding them. They snatched the improvised pry bars and had the dirt cleared quickly. Another grid, cut into the limestone this time. Nine by nine. But no way to undercut it.

Lou and Harrison got busy with improvised chisels and sledges. Once one square was broken out, Nick could get down and slice across.

And nurse an aching head while the Earthers cleared a row.

The women toted the limestone cubes off to serves as outdoor seating around their campfire.

Nick dug through his backpack, and found a last bottle of boost. Chugged a third, then got back to work.

"I don't know why I'm digging a nice pool when I have no idea whether we can find water at all, let alone whether it'll have the pressure to not need to be pumped. Or baled, from however deep." His voice barely wobbled.

Lou shot him an odd look. "Kid . . . how old are you?"

Nick frowned. "Kid? I'm nineteen."

"Yeah, right. I remember when my voice did that. Welcome to the hell of puberty."

Nick choked.

Lou gave him a sympathetic grin. "But maybe you guys do it differently than we do. Your idea of a well is sure odd."

Harrison handed the last block up to waiting hands. "Ah yes, we could dig a well like in the fairy tales, a bucket on a rope."

Nick moved in about half a meter and made another grid cut. flopped down in the tall grass while they broke rock. Puberty? Can't be. I'm a Eunuch. And when the banging and thumping stopped he got up and started slicing again.

Four layers of limestone down it was definitely damp. Nick frowned. "Time to try something new." A cone. Ten centimeters across, tapering to nothing, two meters down. He levitated carefully and pulled it out. Reached deep and sliced carefully to widen the hole. Sliced another cone . . . then had to slice the cone into slimmer pieces to get it out . . . with water welling up around it.

They took turns peering down the hole.

"It not what I'd call impressive water pressure, but the water level is rising." The cute blonde bounced and Nick shut his eyes, locked down the impulse to just, just grab her.

I have to get out of here. Right now.

He straightened, and started a strategic withdrawal. "Well, Drinks and dinner on me, but I need to head . . . " He broke off at the sound of gunfire.

Lots of gunfire.

Nothing visibly happening to the south.

"Dinosaur, I hope."

Nick joined the general exodus to the east, and far enough out onto the grasslands to see the hub.

Black uniforms on the left, camouflage on the right. Shooting at each other.

"Damn. Stupid idiots." Nick threw his hands in the air. "I'm going to go home and warn the civies there that they're now in a war zone. We may have to just move out and away. There's a whole planet out there we can get lost in."

Lou looked from him, back to the battle. "Did you say you were a criminal?"

"Yep. Both sides will be shooting at me." Nick hesitated. "If you guys need to run for it? Head east until you're well clear of the pinwheel, then head south. If we're running, we'll be headed for the pass between the mountain range and the lone peak. You'll see it when you get out there."

Chapter Thirteen

Captain Ahco had envisioned a few deer carcasses, and maybe a quartered Aurochs. Long strips of some sort of possibly a smallish Tyrannosaur . . . Had the "unflappable" parade horses very definitely upset. But they were tired enough and well trained enough to behave reasonably well on the trip home.

They arrived to find the Directorate Princesses arguing with Ministry guards.

"We have four hundred people to feed and house. I am ordering you . . . " The speaker turned as the shod hooves hit the harder street. "Captain Ahco."

"Major Atzw. Good to see you Zee." He must have been one of the people we dug out yesterday. Sure wasn't around giving orders. "Myyk? Take the horses and draft some civilians to start cooking. We've got enough to start smoking or drying."

People popped out to take the horses.

"Oh, you've got it all organized, excellent. Major, let's get out of the way. I've got, One help me, a couple thousand civilians to feed. How are you doing?"

"The Minister requires your support to take out the Earthers who are here. Your subordinates refused to hand over the supplies we need."

"Zee, we're out of everything except, now, meat. I didn't ask if they had the sump pump working, so we may or may not have water to the apartments, and I'll bet we can't get it up to the top floors. My recommendation is that you extend my invitation to the Minister to come to dinner in a couple of hour and we'll talk logistics. Need food right now? Let me get you some dinosaur."

"We do not eat untested . . . dead animals! We have two fabs running. What have you got?"

"None. We have no electricity, apart from a single generator that we need to run the pump down at the creek."

"No fabs at all?"

"None. Now, what sort of support do you need?"

"How many rifles do you have, what about RPGs? We know the Black Horse is well equipped."

"Indeed, and damn little came through with us. Let's take a look. We moved what little we had out of the bit of Versalle that landed here."Ahco headed down the street, dodging the pack horses that hadn't been unloaded. Past the unpeaceful picket lines and into the small store they'd laid claim to. The second floor was a chinese restaurant, unfortunately empty, the third floor a dusty stuffed attic.

"Welcome to Black Horse Headquarters."

They'd moved the shelf units as they stripped the place, and brought down tables from the restaurant to serve as desks. Stacks of thirty kilo bags of horse feed filled half the space.

A single rifle rack, missing one end. seven rifles. All nine millimeter.

Zee stopped and stared at it.

"We've got fourteen more, we were carrying them today. Three hundred and seventy rounds."

Zee slumped. "One Dammit. We need more."

Ahco pulled the map he'd been making out from under a think scatter of notes.

"We spotted Earth Soldiers here, in this strip that starts at the southern edge of the messed up central zone. It goes almost due west, the gradually starts curving to the north. The close point is barren land, then a grouping of four two story buildings. The buildings looked undamaged, and they had a look out on the roof. I only saw a dozen men, but they came from several buildings, gave us a look over and ducked back inside as if reporting. No one looked like they wanted to chat, so we kept our distance, and moved on."

"So . . . at least we know where they are. I'd like a count of how many there are as well. And more weapons."

Ahco winced. "You could ask in the Red Zone. But I doubt they've got anything heavier than these . . . unless you talk to Azho the Priest Killer."

That brought Zee's head up. "He's here? Crap! I saw what he did in the Plaza . . . The guy in the suit was even worse. Or better."

"What did they do?" Ahco tried to keep his voice mild. "I have no idea what happened."

"The Earthers opened a gate." Zee waved back in the direction of the Plaza. "They got a troop carrier through before the suit guy drove a car straight into the gate just as tank started through. It shredded, just like they talk about. But the gate stayed open, soldiers came through . . . Urfa was out there, the subdirector of Criminal Investigations. He must have just arrested Azho, because he made them un cuff him, and he and suit guy just tore into the Earthers, they got though the gate and few minutes later, kablooey. No gate, but all this weird shit coming and going."

So . . . what Azho told me was essentially true.

"Did blowing up the gate cause all this?"

"Well . . . it actually started a bit before that . . . may be it was shredding the tank and car that started it." Zee glared. "I don't fucking know. All I know is that we're marooned here with a bunch of Earthers. The Minister wants them dead, and I'm going to take care of it."

Ahco pinched the bridge of his nose. "Zee . . . there are fewer than 5000 people on this world. Why the flippin' Hell should we have a war? Do you realize there are dinosaurs out there? We need to keep the ammunition for defending against them. For hunting. Now if you don't have a cook, send your guys here for dinner. Ask the Minister to reconsider attacking anyone."

"One! You Black Horse Guards are the worst pacifists. All you do is ride your ponies around and pose for pictures. Fuckin' cowards, the lot of you!"

"Zee . . . "


Ahco inclined his head marginally. "Major."

"When we form up, you and all your people will form up with us, Captain."

"Yes, sir. Would the Major like me to search for more ammunition?"

The Major narrowed his eyes. "In the Red Zone?"

"Or a more detailed excavation of the Versalle barracks. Guards do tend to keep extra ammo around, if they are planning a trip to the range."

"I will consider that, depending what we discover when we recce out in two hours." Another narrow-eyed glare. "Have all of your people ready then."

"Yes, Sir."

The Major stomped out.

Ahco blew out a tired breath. "Fuck me."

"Bad idea in the chain-of-command . . . " Myyk paused. "Speaking of which . . . isn't he retired? You are active duty, but the Ministry Guards generally aren't."

"That's . . . not going to fly. The Minister of War has the power to call up reserve troops, including retirees. Mind you he doesn't generally do it individually, but I have no doubt he has the legal right to do so."

"Damn. He had no legal hold on Princesses, so we'll sit tight and make sure nothing eats the civies while you're out on reconnaissance."

"Good. Hide the guns and half the ammo. I lied about the amount."

"Ooo! Court marshal offense?"

"I disremembered, having had so much on my mind. Keep some of the rifles as well. Hopefully we'll just pop across and do a head count, and not get into a firefight."

matapampamuphoff on April 20th, 2017 07:54 pm (UTC)
A quick change to chapter seven:

"What shall we check first?"

"Ministry first, to see if there's any part of the government around . . . then we'll check the apartments." He turned Panther and trotted out. It was only a half kilometer around the chaos, then he started seeing people . . .

And recognized the man giving orders at the ministry site, or rather, standing with his arms crossed, radiating irritation. The people doing the actual work seemed to be getting on without bothering him. Black uniforms, red piping. Ministry Guards. Mostly ex-military.
Acho slid off and handed his reins to Wiz. "Minister Wmcu?"

"That's pronounced Mac You." The man turned, irritated frown giving way to raised eyebrows as he took in Acho's uniform. "Black Horse! What the hell has happened? Where is everyone?"

Acho looked north. Where there was a notable absence of Government House. "I suspect, sir, that they are where they belong, and that we have been transplanted to a world that, at least locally, has a lot of grasslands. Now, do you have people still trapped? Show me . . . "

Mac You huffed and waved at the collapsed building. "We can tell that there are still people alive under there . . . but we don't have the heavy equipment we need."

Acho waved in the rest of the troops. "Park the horses. Let's see if we can slice our way in."

Magic slice and levitation got holes through three slabs of concrete, and with some sideways slices they helped the last of the trapped crawl out. One of the workers organized triage, and the worst were carted off immediately.

"There's a working hospital?"

"No, but there are clinics and the off duty doctors are coming into do what they can do." The guard brushed off his very much not immaculate dress uniform. "Which is fine, until the generators run out of fuel and the docboxes stop working."

"Right."Acho looked around. Wiz and Booze looked beat. They were the strongest magically, and had done the lion's share of the slicing and levitating. The rest were in good shape. "Right. Let's see what we can do to help there, and check out the apartment towers."
James ResoldierJames Resoldier on April 20th, 2017 09:48 pm (UTC)
Use of stereotypical numbers
I've been re-reading the entire wine series from the beginning again, and noticed the very frequent use of archetypal numbers, particularly, and most noticeably the number 42, followed by numbers 13, 7 and three.

It seems that every time a number is needed between 20 and 100, 42 ends up being used. It was quite funny after a while.
matapampamuphoff on April 21st, 2017 12:15 am (UTC)
Re: Use of stereotypical numbers
It is the answer to everything, you know.

Now excuse me, I have run off to _Fort Dinosaur_ and renumber Team 42.

Ahem, that is, move Team Forty-eight out of warehouse 42 and into warehouse 63.

Edited at 2017-04-21 12:23 am (UTC)