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12 December 2017 @ 08:25 pm
_Mirror, Mirror_ part 1  

Scrambled

Mirror, Mirror

Chapter One

5 Yusef 1411 yp

Ebsa eyed the new files on his comp. "Two Empires of the One? Does the Multiverse deserve that?"

"Probably not. The other one was discovered by Disco, but they decided against exploring it themselves. They just asked all sweet and innocently if we'd like to check out a world recently split off from us." Director Izzo drummed his fingers. "Q said there was something weird going on, and that she'd check the other side of the weirdness."

"And she didn't specify?"

"Several membranes orbiting each other, she said. Caught in a whirlpool in the inbetween and getting pulled in deeper. The other One World is in deepest, with a recent spit from Earth pretty deep as well, and several other worlds pulled in more recently. Whole membranes actually. We're not, Thank the One, talking about cannibal miniverses, here." Izzo grimaced. "We'll wait for the in-depth study, until Q has something to show us. But right now all we have is forty-eight hours of vid broadcasts and two days worth of newspaper downloads. All now on your comp.

"I want you to take a good hard look at what we have, then pop across and see . . . well, basically if we should ignore them or contact them. But just a few days, until we learn about the weirdness. I hope to Hell it's not a disaster in progress, or a third One World."

Ebsa grinned. "Now that would be bad. One more One will be quite enough of a challenge. I wonder if any of my electronics will work there? Or cash cards. Guess it depends on when the split was."

"Have fun. Let me know when you're leaving and who's going with you."

The entertainment shows were all different.

Ebsa watched two commercials for ordinary products, from companies he'd never heard of. Then a quick news break.

Flooding, murder, weather forecast, government . . .

President Agni was negotiating with Prime Councilor Akja over the details of the budget . . . then back to the silly situation comedy . . .

"Oh dear." Paer shook her head at the screen. "That's our Agni, not someone with the same name. President! And Akja!" She shivered and leaned into him.

"Remember, that's a different man." Ebsa checked the records. "Agni is a hundred and seventy, here, so whatever happened, happened in the last hundred and seventy years. Because everyone born since wouldn't have been."

"Oh? And how about those books? The close parallel Worlds that are getting closer, not moving apart?" Paer rubbed her extended belly. "And you'd better get back here before the twins arrive."

"I just need library access. Or if a normal cash card works, I'll just buy a couple of history books, download census data. Maybe the government personnel lists."

On screen, the entertainment vid was back. Ebsa leaned on his elbows and watched an actor open a perfectly ordinary comp. "If our electronics mesh."

"After a hundred and seventy years of random drift?"

"Maximum. Could be less. Probably is, I'll bet it's since Agni was fairly high in government. I wonder if Endi Dewulfe would be a splitting point?" Ebsa bit his lip and didn't say "Or the assassination was successful." Because then Akja'd be president.

Paer glowered at him. "They could have sent a different agent, I suppose."

Ebsa frowned at the screen. "Except . . . if they're exploring like us . . . how come we haven't met them yet? I think . . . since we'll be using Disco's permanent gate I'll just slip across and find out about the electronics. Because if they don't mesh, we'll have to do a whole lot of groundwork before we can do much of anything."

Paer pried herself out of her chair. "The clothing styles are close enough to pass. And the gate is in Paris? Your grey suit will blend right in. Let's get comps and cards with software from years ago . . . decades ago . . . You won't have Ra'd to watch your back . . . You'd better take the bubble with the pencil handles . . . "

Ebsa grinned and followed her. One month to go. Holy One! I'm a father! A real father, changing diapers, and helping with homework. I'll just pop across, try a minor purchase from a vendomat. If that works, download a bunch of stuff, then come right back. Quick and easy. I'll be so fast the Newsies won't even notice I've been gone.

I hope.

The newsies had been relentless in their determination to keep the newlyweds in the news. They'd hounded their house hunt, speculated about Paer's figure, howled vindication when they'd made the announcement about the twins' . . . now they were speculating wildly about names . . .  

His Father-in-Law had won the election handily. Thank the One.

I'll be right back.

***

A smelly alley. A big metal dumpster crowded the gate on one side, a puddle of oily water to the other. A persistent illusion concealed the permanent gate on the wall between them.

The tiny antennae and laser rely in the corner were unobtrusive. Azko was on the far side, an Empty World, with the crawler, recording broadcast news and entertainment. In theory the wiz kid electronics expert could come rescue Ebsa if he really fouled up.

Ebsa eyed the dimensions of the alley and doubted the crawler could make the turn. Although he's getting a lot better at slewing the whole thing around.

Ebsa stepped carefully around detritus and looked both ways. Busy street to the right. He headed that direction. He was a bit overdressed for the neighborhood. He unbuttoned the suit coat and spotting tall buildings, headed that direction.

The looks he got were of a predatory nature, but no one approached him. I guess I've got the "move confidently and no one will bother you" thing down.

A corner vendo. He fished out a cash card and slid it in. Wrinkled his nose at the nasty selection and chose a pack of antacids. The machine kicked it out to him and returned the card.

Excellent. Now I just need to sit down somewhere quiet and see if the comp will mesh.

A few miles further on he was just one more man in a suit. And as the lunch crowd thinned, he found an auto café and settled down for lunch and research.

I need to narrow down the time frame of the split. A hundred and seventy years covers too much . . . perhaps . . .

He opened his comp and turned it on. It searched for a bit, flicked through several error screens, then settled down to download an updated grid connection program.

And once ongrid, there weren't many changes. It was easy enough to hunt down census data.

South American Region, Uruguay Division, Montevideo District . . . no Ebsa Clostuone Castellanos Montevideo . . . Taix Castellanos on the other hand was registered with her two daughters.

Well, that worked. Whatever happened, happened between mom's birth and mine. 1354 to 1382 .

1354? The main things that happened after that would be . . . the loss of the Granite Peak Colony. Just a year or so after Mom was born . . .

He tapped away.

Granite Peak produced a load of hits, and a quick scan of the titles . . . he tapped the one about the nuclear weapon . . .

"Holy One. They didn't get the gate closed in time. The Earther's captured the gate complex." Ebsa gulped and shut his mouth before someone heard him.

We nuked our own city to stop them.

"Well . . . that certainly changed everything." He tried to not hyperventilate, thinking about how desperate they must have been . . .

Who was born before 1355? He checked the date. Before Ramadan.

Not my generation, nor the next. But Ajha and Xiat. Izzo . . . but was he still on Homestead?

Ebsa checked the status of the colonies . . . "Nothing. Holy One. Surely they have a gate working. It's been fifty years. Except, the colonies didn't split . . . probably . . . "

He went back to looking for people.

The President—my President Orde . . . a district representative in the Eastern Europe Regional Council.

He looked back at the picture of the destruction of Gate City. Damn.

He sat back, blinked and focused on a familiar figure walking through the door. Huffed in relief.

Ra'd stepped over and eyed him.

A bit more tanned and weathered, an old nick in one ear. Whipcord muscles, sharp cheekbones in an underfed face.

And of course anyone stuck in a bubble wouldn't have been affected by the events of the split.

Absolutely no sign of recognition, scrutiny turning into a decision . . . and not a passive or friendly decision.

"Afternoon, Ra'd. Join me for lunch?" I wonder how many guns or knives he's carrying? And which he's planning on using?

A pause. "So your people can get here?" A soft quiet voice.

Very different from his Ra'd's razor edged baritone.

"I . . . don't have any people handy . . . and why . . . " Ebsa sat back and . . . kept his hands in plain sight. "I . . . take it you're in trouble? Of the legal or criminal variety?"

Ra'd studied him for a longer moment. "You know my name. Why don't you know the rest?"

He was standing balanced, the relaxed pose of man prepared to kill him.

 
 
 
cnmckenney on December 13th, 2017 03:49 am (UTC)
Scramblrd?
So this is the lead into Scrambled. Will be waiting for the rest of this one. I see tragedy and high comedy ensuing in the near future. Oh Goody!
(Anonymous) on December 13th, 2017 04:54 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this, Pam. Things sure are going sideways on this mission pretty quick. Nice. And awesome spot to cut the snippet. :)

--TheOtherSean
(Anonymous) on December 13th, 2017 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks
I have been looking forward to reading this since you posted Scrambled.