Pin the donkey on the . . .
Rael felt utterly ridiculous in the spacesuit.
Not that she was going to let Poobah see that.
She had the helmet under one arm and tried to look friendly as the carpet fibers hissed like a million little bits of metal sliding against each other and waved around her feet. “I am Rael Withione. At the behest of the President of the Empire of the One, we invite you, or other representatives of your government to come and go freely, talking to everyone . . .”
Poobah was going straight to the staff.
She swung the helmet over her head in a quick practiced motion . . .
The carpet fibers grew and stretched . . .
Iron rods slammed through the carpet from below . . .
The staff leaned her direction and thumped down . . .
Lightening leaped from the staff . . .
Hopscotched across the rods and crackled around her head.
Poobah thumped his staff again.
A slight crackle. The carpet fibers wilted.
Poobah dropped his right hand from staff to the arm of his chair, and the six guards threw themselves back onto the carpet.
Rael turned and sprinted . . . hit the pavement and turned.
Poobah was jabbing at his chair arm, and nothing was happening.
Rael pulled the helmet off and studied the seven strangers. Lowered her mental shields and probed carefully . . . into rigid simplistic minds.
She pulled back in horror, and looked at Inso, as he came up on her right. “They’re mind molded. Strongly. Horribly. We might as well be talking to robots.”
Q rose, and frowned across the carpet at them. “Oh. Yes. This may not be very helpful.”
“Unless they can snatch them from wherever.” Inso exchanged glances and nods with Lon Hackathorn. “It’ll be a useful test.”
Rael nodded. “Q? why don’t you head out to the end of your chain and just wait for a powered gate.”
The girl crossed her arms and glared across at Poobah. “I don’t understand why there isn’t more gate activity. “Oners and Earthers throw powered gates around a hundred times a day. I should see that level of activity, but it’s like there’s nothing out there. As if they use their gates a couple of times a month.”
Rael nodded. “When you’re close enough. Maybe they don’t have the power to run them often? But they ought to be looking for these guys fairly soon, right?”
Q shrugged. “Maybe they don’t care. All right. I’ll head out and hope for something.”
She was gone in minutes, and Rael settled down on a big black basalt cube to one side of the Disco building. Several diplomates were trying to talk to the strangers, and getting ignored.
The poor things don’t know what to do. We’re too far off their programmed script.
I just hope they don’t suicide when captured, so to speak.
Or flip out and start killing people.