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19 December 2017 @ 09:59 am
_Mirror, Mirror_ part 8  
 

Utterly got a call and they headed out.

Urfa was back, with scientific backup. And then another familiar man walked in. Axti the Ax? Minister of Audits?

"And Presidential Director, Axti Withone Black Point."

Axti looked him over dyspeptically. "We have two problems and you seem to be mixed up with both of them. We'll leave the Azhole for now. We seem to have a dimensional gate problem that might be related to the worrisome uptick in earthquakes."

He looked Ebsa up-and-down. Frowned in disapproval. "What can you tell us about them?"

Ebsa bit his lip. "My specific assignment was to look this world over and report back as to whether we should contact you or not. But the context of the orders were that Disco—the Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation—umm, Disco's science branch reported that there was something weird going on.

"Specifically, a couple of membranes orbiting each other. A behavior apparently not seen before. Q—Dr. Quail Quicksilver—was investigating the phenomenon. Other people were going to be exploring the other world, while we checked out this close relative." Ebsa leaned back and eyed them. "I think I need to go back to Disco and talk to them about this, and I see no reason I shouldn't take some scientists and diplomats with me."

That got suspicious looks from everyone in the room.

"That is . . . " The Ax broke off as the room shivered . . . started shaking hard . . . a picture crashed to the floor . . . the suspended ceiling warped, tiles popping loose, starting to drop . . .

"Urfa!"

Urfa looked over to where the Ax was standing braced, shielded. "I talked to Eggo earlier. The test gate is shut down. We're not doing this." He grabbed the door knob, jerked. Both hands and pulled again, wrenched it open.

A crash of glass from out there, yells and screams.

"A gate! There's a gate opening!"

Everyone rushed the door, and in this crowd, Ebsa had no height advantage. He kept a shield overhead as ceiling tiles kept falling, the floor kept shaking.

And out the door into the two stories tall entry, formerly all glassed in, he could see the open plaza across the street. A vertical circle showing desert rock and sand, pavement, vehicles lined up and ready to cross . . .

Ebsa was grabbed and shoved up against the wall.

Furious Urfa in his face. "So, you're invading, are you?"

"No, sir. But I believe Earth's Gate complex is in the desert, and if you could return my com, I can call for help."

:: Azko! Can you hear me? ::

Nothing.

Other than being slammed back into the wall. "Calling your friend?"

"Azko, not Azho. A team mate who unfortunately is not within range."

Over Urfa's shoulder, he could see Axti being hustled away.

And the gate.

Best way to close it . . . "We need a large vehicle to jam in the gate. Is there a bus . . . or something large?"

Urfa jerked him away from the wall and threw him toward the street. What little discipline had been in the evacuation of the building evaporated as the last people bolted out and the building started crumbling. Urfa staggered, Ebsa grabbed his arm and staggered with him out into the street and kept going.

"So what's more dangerous, a falling building or an armed invasion?" Ebsa spotted Wicked and Utterly, and steered Urfa that direction. He flicked a glanced back as the police building folded, collapsing mostly inward. Ebsa pulled his shirt up over his mouth as dust billowed.

A black car, covered with dust. Looks like a government vehicle . . . Ebsa jitter-stepped over to it. The quakes aren't stopping. I suspect they won't stop until the gate is shut. A glance at the gate. No vehicles had come through it yet . . . was the column starting to move?

The car was locked, but clicked open at the touch of the button. Ha! Implanted ID protocol hasn't changed in fifty years.

He didn't have the keys, but with the security interlock released, a simple mental tickle and the engine roared into life.

He wrenched the wheel around, crossed the street and bounced over the curb.

Floored it and took aim for the gate as the first Earthers started though.

Chapter Nine

Nick tried to concentrate while he panted for breath.

No taste of excited hunter, so no police nearby. Probably. Finally.

They learned a bit from that pathetic trap three days ago.

But if they can't find me in an hour, they won't find me at all, right?

He reached further out mentally . . . nothing from Gamer. He'd gotten a single quick flash from her, that she'd found his new friend. She'd called him handy and said she was going to see what he had.

Nothing since.

And she'd better be out of range, not . . . not . . . He shoved the thought away. And thought about the police raid. On the street, so someone in the Red Zone recognized me. Alerted the police, and when I showed this morning, they were ready and closed in.

We're going to have to move, immediately. And a considerable distance.

He rubbed his gritty face. I'm so tired. If only I could mold my face the way Gamer does. Find a permanent home. A real job, not day labor, like the lowest of the Multitude. Like a Native. Never have to steal to put food on the table.

:: Umaya! ::

A faint response. She could her him, even if she was too far to answer. She was the magically strongest of the wives.

:: Pack. We must move. It is in your hands. ::

Their contingency plans had always been clear. He could leave the execution of it to her.

He straightened and started walking. Away from home, for now. In case they spotted him again. Where would that Ebsa Clostuone take Gamer? Do I believe him? He's either police, and Gamer is in trouble . . . or an agent from another world . . . and Gamer is in trouble.

If he's trying to convince the authorities that he's not with me . . . handing Gamer to them would be a good move.

Until I catch up with him.

He turned and headed toward the city center. He needed a few items for a physical disguise that would fool the electronic surveillance systems that were ubiquitous in the better parts of town. Then an illusion to fool the people around police headquarters . . . and then what?

A corner vendomat supplied him with two thin round sponges, glue, and putty. He found an alley and shoved the sponges in between his teeth and cheeks. Glued his ears flatter against his skull, and folded his ear lobes. The putty—sandstone, they called the color—built up the bridge of his nose. It wasn't pretty, but it changed his facial parameters enough to spoof the system.

Then the illusion. He rarely used such a large one, but his worn work clothes were already starting to stand out.

Damn that Ebsa with his gorgeous suit. Obviously custom made just for him. The subdued colors of the tie—probably real natural silk. Leather shoes. Hair professionally cut.

Nick copied them all, and straightened and made himself move with the confidence that he was one of the elite, master of all he surveyed. Born to rule.

Ha! What a joke. I should be a Warrior. That confident, that sure. Not a sniveling Eunuch, hiding in the shadows.

He boarded a tram. Held his illusion as people crowded in. Followed half the crowd off a few blocks from the East Plaza.

He staggered as the ground shifted, lifted and shook. And kept shaking.

It's going to be a bad one! Will they evacuate the police building? If they don't evac the prisoners, can I get in and find Gamer?

As people fled the buildings on either side, Nick started running.

And the ground kept shaking.

The East Plaza was an unexceptional block of red brick pavement with a few patches of landscaping and benches. The police building on the north side was the only government building around it. The Interior Directorate buildings were a block to the east, facing north onto a different plaza. The rest of the government buildings loomed on the near horizon, to the north and west.

People were fleeing the buildings, but avoiding something in the square as well. As he watched, the glass entry of the police building shattered and fell. And despite the danger of falling glass, people were still pouring out of the building.

Oners, with shields, no doubt.

He spotted a familiar figure. Ebsa and damned if that isn't Subdirector Urfa he's hauling out of the building. Damn you Ebsa, where's Gamer? Are you worried about her, trapped in a cell in there?

The building folded, the top falling backwards and then the whole thing pancaked.

Nick froze. :: Gamer! :: "Gamer!" he stumbled across the street, spitting out the sponges. "Gamer!" No! No! No! No!

He could see Ebsa getting into a car, turning it to speed across the plaza . . . toward a glowing circle. He's escaping to his own world.

And he was smashed flat to the ground, arms wrenched behind him.

"Got you now you little son of a bitch."

Cold cuffs clicked around his wrists.