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12 May 2017 @ 08:15 am
_Scrambled_ part 19  

Nick shook his head and toughened his shields. Thirty meters . . . As bullets spanged off his shields he walked closer. Wafted out a sleep spell. At twenty meters a few soldiers shook their heads, as if warding off sleep. He jogged forward, and they started falling.

Fu caught on and backed away. His bodyguards got between him and Nick and they almost got back to the light truck before they all folded.

Nick bolted down the line of trucks as the men started leaping out . . .

The drive of the last truck was the only man who got a shot off.

Kirk drove their truck up and stopped. They all eyed the bodies laying around.

"They're breathing." Lou looked relieved. And worried. "You aren't going to kill them are you?"

Good idea. It's only sensible, they would have killed me without a second thought . . . Nick shivered. "No. Not even tempted." Really. Not. God, I hope these violent impulses quit when puberty settles down to normal adulthood. But what do I do with a small army now?

Leave them for the predators.

No, dammit.

"Kirk? Stay with them and make sure nothing eats them. We'll do a quick raid on the tower and see if this hardware store is in the patch and if it's . . . accessible." Nick took a look at the trucks, the end one was indeed empty. "We'll borrow it."

The hardware store was there, the walls collapsed, the beams of the flat roof laying across crushed shelves, stuff spilled out everywhere . . .

"There's pipes right there." Nick ducked and scrambled in, grabbing pipes and passing them back, a few fittings that looked about the right size, then backing out. He climbed around the perimeter, ducked in once more for garden tools. Shovels, mattacks, rakes and hoes.

"All right, before I get myself killed, let's raid the tower for clothes and get moving."

It was a fast raid, and bags of non-perishables snatched as well.

Nick grabbed a bowl of moldy fruit. "Seeds. Maybe."

Then they loaded up and headed back to the sleeping army.

A grinning Kirk had been busy.

Crates of ammunition in the calibers of their various rifles. They split them between their truck and the borrowed one.

Nick took a quick sweep around, reinforcing the sleep spell, then they were off. Stopping once to shoot an Auroch, field dress it and with difficulty, get it into the truck.

Nick backed the truck up to the Main Accounting steps, and lowered the ramp. They had plenty of help to unload, and Nick took off quickly.

General Fu and his troops were starting to stir.

Nick parked the truck in line and walked up to the front.

"Right. You guys head back. I'll keep an eye on them for another half hour. Make sure they've changed their minds about attacking us."

Kirk nodded. "I wondered if they were after us, or going around to hit the other Oners from the rear."

Nicked looked down at Fu. "Maybe I should ask him. Now you guys get."

He nudged Fu. Dammit . . . I ought to just kill him. He crouched in front of the semi-aware man. Reached and merged with him.

Picked out the plan to circle around and catch the guards from the rear.

Not after us, this time. Just thousands of civilians in those towers. Who are not my responsibility, but I will not just stand by and watch them be slaughtered.

And thought in Mandarin. They had gas. Knocked us all out. Nothing uncanny, no magic. Fortunately no predators found us. I will not attack them again, until the others have been dealt with.

Nick reached for an old memory, fear, terror. Stripped off the context and send the pure emotion deep into the man. Magic! Danger! Avoid!

He eased out of the merge.

"We'll just see if that works. Maybe I won't have to kill you."

He walked down the line of trucks, trying to broadcast the fear.

Walked back and sat deep into the grass, with an illusion of grass on himself to watch them wake, stagger about in alarm, load everyone back into their trucks, turn and depart.

Excellent. But I'll have to keep an eye on them.

Chapter BHS

Day 11

"Minister Wmcu. Good to see you recovering." Captain Ahco braced himself. The man had been out of the Docbox for two hours and Ahco had heard enough to realize he wasn't pleased with the situation.

"Rumor has it that you are cooperating with that criminal." MacU scowled. "Captain Ijje has told me all about it."

Ahco nodded. "Now that he's got most of his troops back on their feet, he's strengthened the wall and has roving teams keeping their eyes on the Earthers. They won't surprise us again."

Nick's potion had it's usual effect on the troops, instant cures of the stomach problems, and even broken bones healed well enough for light duty by the next day. The worst of the burn victims . . . look better. The docs are spooked.

"They tried something yesterday, Ijje said."

"Yes. Nick didn't approve of their getting near his people and stopped them cold. He's . . . useful to have on our southern flank . . . for now." And forever, you stupid ass. "In any case, with your Ministry Guards on the wall, I've put my people out hunting. I think we can easily supply everyone with meat. If we can keep your fabs running for nutritional balance we'll do well enough for the short term."

MacU crossed his arms and stared. "And the long term?"

"The civilians are starting to get into the pioneering spirit. We'll see how long that lasts . . . but I need to get them out of those apartment towers. I've got water pressure enough to supply the second floor. So long as the gasoline hold out. I'm only running the pump for a couple of hours a day" Less than a day's worth left. I need to send someone to the Red Zone . . . but what do we have to trade?

"I need that gas for the fabs."

"And the docboxes, sir. Exactly. So I'll be encouraging people to move out. Build cabins and plant gardens."

Narrowed eyes. "I'll bet the Earther's have plenty."

Ahco braced himself. "The only long term answer is to find crude oil and refine it. Or alcohol. I think the generator we've got will also run on alcohol." He pulled out his pad of paper and a pen. "I'll make a note to hunt down all the 200 proof alcohol around and cut the gasoline with it."

"Or we could attack the Earthers."

"Sir, I made a quick head count, during our first assault. They have close to double our number of soldiers."

"Yes. But we have civilians. I want you to actively recruit at least another company, preferably two, and train them."

Ahco closed his eyes in disbelief. "Sir . . . I will get together with Captain Ijje, about a schedule and training equipment and ammunition. And further inquire of him about personnel with experience training recruits."

The doctor hustled in then, glaring at Ahco. "He needs to rest. Leave."

Ahco saluted the Minister and fled.

Think. We need hunters. I will . . . start recruiting hunters. Those familiar with guns . . . I'll recruit for this amazingly stupid . . . fuck it all, we're marooned on a planet full of resources and all we can do is shoot at each other?

He veered over to a bunch of guys standing around the outdoor grilling area. "So . . .any of you guys ever hunted?"

Chapter Ebsa

22 Yusef 1410 yp

Ebsa waved his new crew aboard the crawler.

"Welcome to the Junkyard, gentlemen. Our crawler earned that name by being repeatedly battered and repaired. We are going to try to not do it again. Or at least not on this trip."

Utly and Wkde glanced around . . . froze and stared at Ra'd.

"This is our Ra'd, not your Azho. Azko, there is our electronics expert and Nighthawk Swishdaut is from Disco. She's our dimensional expert."

"Toss your stuff in two of those bins by the folded up bunks. For simplicity's sake we've left the starboard side for visitors."

mbarkermbarker on May 12th, 2017 01:31 pm (UTC)
Is Minister wmcu going to run into Ra'd in a situation where he doesn't know it's the other one? I think the slapstick humor could be good...
matapampamuphoff on May 12th, 2017 03:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, by the time he might meet Ra'd, MacU will have already survived a meeting with Nick. Other than screaming "Shoot him! Shoot him!" as he runs away, there wouldn't be much interaction.
Dean AgnewDean Agnew on May 12th, 2017 02:56 pm (UTC)
I finally realized what bothered me earlier, but wanted to keep the comment visible. During the scouting and initial prep work on Target 42, both the ambassador and the Karista Post Head where priests that managed across assignments. Usse having been cast out may have not been as deep into the Hive Mind, but the priest with the War Ministry section seemed almost broken by losing contact.

Given the melded state involved, I am not sure individual personality or training could completely account for the difference in the actions of the priests involved. except possible "shock therapy training" where the selected priest was sent to various worlds for longer periods of isolation.

It wasn't drastic enough to knock me out of the story, but it was enough to have been making me try to figure out what didn't mesh with my preconceived notions of how things worked :)
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2017 04:26 pm (UTC)
This One got killed by Isakson and Nick, though. So the priest here wasn't getting by without contact with the Hive Mind now, he was getting by without it for years, and it ended with him experiencing several hundred others die.
Take some probably severe PTSD, add injury and shock . . .
I assumed he'd been pretty broken for a while, held it together just barely enough to keep functioning, but this was the final straw. If that's the case, may be good to add a line about it from someone's point of view, when they're yelling at Nick, maybe, about how many Priests he left damaged too badly to work, a burden on society.

Dean AgnewDean Agnew on May 12th, 2017 06:36 pm (UTC)
True, I don't remember the compass being dissolved by the damage done, but even intact the death tolls would have managed that.
matapampamuphoff on May 12th, 2017 08:08 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I'll ponder the matter.

The Hive Mind didn't break from the loss of the last prophet, nor the deaths of several hundred priests, possibly 25% of the total minds. Some of the remaining priests are clinging desperately to their merge, while the more independent have escaped, eroding the merge around the edges.

Left to itself it will fall apart in another decade or so. But right now, all the official Priests tend to be more lost in the merge than the usual priests who are sent out to do things.

Extremely independent Priests like Usse and Irve walked away easily. And strong, loyal, and independent Priests do well in positions like Ygti, sent Across to keep an eye on an incipient conquest for the One.
matapampamuphoff on May 12th, 2017 08:09 pm (UTC)
This particular priest was badly injured, physically. He'll recover from the lost merge when he's physically stronger.
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2017 08:21 pm (UTC)
I'm sure in Mirror, Mirror, the Compass collapsed. I could be wrong, it's been a while.

matapampamuphoff on May 12th, 2017 09:05 pm (UTC)
From Ebsa's interrogation:

:: And if we can't capture him, kill him. ::

Can that be Urfa? So angry, so filled with hate?

:: NO. Absolutely not. The One must have him alive. ::

And panic from the Priest? Why do they need him alive? Ebsa's breath caught. Ra'd speculates that the One will collapse when the last Prophet dies. Do they think Ra'd can hold them together? Son of Nicholas, grandson of Emre and Eltia.

For clarity's sake, I'll add:

But it hasn't collapsed . . . or perhaps it is collapsing slowly. Slowly enough that they think they can still save it.
muirecanmuirecan on May 12th, 2017 11:48 pm (UTC)
This is where that raw power of Ra'd is important. I still wonder why they don't also target very strong non priests. Probably doesn't occur to them to try that.
matapampamuphoff on May 13th, 2017 12:22 am (UTC)
They want the double power source. A very powerful Princess (with two Oner X's) or the men with the Priest gene backing up the One power gene.

The Priests actually started with the Halfer sons of the Prophets, with just the Priest gene. The second generation, they started getting the double sources. Then they found out about the testosterone effect, at a time they were desperate enough to do it.

By choosing the most powerful for generations, they now have to settle for priests with lower counts, but with the double power, they are still stronger than the Princesses.

I'll have to consider how Ra'd and Nick's abilities differ. Ra'd with the Fallen suppression spell between the ages of nineteen and twenty-two, Nick a eunuch between fifteen and nineteen. Will different abilities have been enabled?
ekuah on May 18th, 2017 02:44 pm (UTC)
The Oner priest could also suffer from some kind of rapid extraction.
Usse and the other offworld priests never gated directly from Maccah. They left by train and were extracted their mind from the hive gradually.

My idea is that when 25% of the hive were killed there was an instant decline of 'hive pressure' or some kind of backslash.

Maybe something like the a mental for of the 'bends' (too rapid decompression)
matapampamuphoff on May 18th, 2017 03:50 pm (UTC)
Hehehehe! (rubs hands in approved Evil Overlord fashion) I have plans for that priest!