“Must be the drugs that are still in your system.” Xen grinned as she frowned at their burden. “Bear. Think of the rug it’ll make.”
They all paused to listen to the high voice. “ . . . And Mr. Wolfson has a really great house under an oak tree and me and Jiol have been collecting stuff while he was away finding you. I’m having fun!”
Karl grinned. “Under other circumstances, I’d be enjoying this too. Q’s traced the general direction, but it’s so far she says she’d have to make a chain of gates, and it would take months.”
Xen nodded. “Excellent, and I’m getting over this crap in my bloodstream, so I may be able to build out to meet her. Umm, let’s not mention that any of us have dimensional abilities. Those guys may be helpless city boys . . . but they’re the enemy’s city boys.”
Jiol’s gaze sharpened. “Indeed. Cali thinks she knows all about why her daddy was transported . . .”
“Cali . . . doesn’t understand her own status. I talk to you later about, if it doesn’t come out all on it’s ugly lonesome.”
Karl gave him a sharp look. But glanced at the approaching men. “Right. Well, why don’t you lead me to this house under the oak tree.”
They left the bearskin down at the stream, cleaned up a bit under the waterfall, and helped Sam climb the irregular rock ledges up to the tree.
The old man sat down on a barely shaped log and looked around the roughly octagonal log cabin.
“Holy cats.” Karl was staring up at the roof, supported by the limbs of the tree. “You know it’s going to torque every time the wind blows, don’t you?”
“Yep.” Xen grinned. “Let me see what I’ve got by way of bedding for five more people. I haven’t killed all that many deer.”
The four looked horrified. “Sleep on a dead deer?”
Cali looked over at the leather hammock Xen had rigged for her.
“Don’t worry, we can heap up a bunch of grass. It’ll be softer than sleeping on the ground.” Xen looked around. “I don’t suppose any of you can cook? You know, starting with raw meat?”
Looks of horror.
Jiol rolled her eyes. “How much meat are we talking about, Xen?”
“Several hundred pounds. Lots of nice fat to render, too.”
She looked down her nose.
“I believe it’s one of the first steps in making soap.” Karl was grinning. “What do you need help with?”
“Let’s start with a shallow pit and get a good fire going, then build a frame and rack. I’ll rig a deerskin for smoking the meat.”
Jiol rolled her eyes and held out a ragged lump. “Acorn flour, chopped walnuts and a bird egg. Sort of baked.”
Xen took a crunchy bite. “Excellent. And not just because it isn’t meat.”
The four Chinese guys were stiff and complaining the next morning.
Xen hauled then into the woods to carry the small trees he cut and trimmed back to the meadow by the tree house. And made them use the stone tools to shave them down a bit, and notch and fit them together. Soak strips of rawhide to bind the bedsteads together.
The newcomers collapsed in the shade. Giving Xen time enough to properly scrape and clean the bear skin, and stretch it.
Xen cleaned up, and grinned at Jiol, who was up in a tree raiding a squirrel’s cache. “I’m ashamed I never thought about the squirrels. Three months of unnecessary protein starvation, all because I ignored squirrels.”
Karl nodded. “If we can’t get out of here . . . this is what life is going to be like, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I don’t think it will last, but for now, hard work, and once a month, rescuing idiots and showing them how to survive.” Xen tipped his stretching frame up so the bear skin would dry.
“At least they can’t send, transport, anyone less clued in than these guys . . . Right?”
An illusion over her clothes, darken her hair and Rael fit right into the street scene.
Everyone wore the loose-pants-and-long-jacket-with-sash style. Generally in subdued colors. A lot of gray shades, none very dark, looking crisp and business-like.
Business karate. I’ve been in a few meetings that would have been improved by a few spontaneous fights.
Both men and women wore gray, but highly biased toward the men. There were both men and women in pastel colors, but highly biased toward the women.
Tsk! A dimensionally able civilization and they’re still male dominated? How very unusual. Most high tech civs overcompensate for a few generations after women hit the workforce in large numbers, then settle down to rough equality in everything except a few fields that need muscular strength.
At first glance I’d say these guys are lagging. I wonder how many worlds they have?
I need information.
“Do you need help Miss?” Rael turned. This washed-out blue outfit had a copper badge.
“Sorry, I got turned around. I was looking for the library.”
“Ah, new in town. Go up two blocks and turn right. It’s on the right about three blocks further.” He looked quite benign, so Rael beamed and thanked him.
First conversation, no disaster.
And directions to the library.
Where she met with her first problem.
Everything was electronic.
An older women gave an audible sigh and emerged from behind a long curved counter. “They need to spend more time training you colonials before they let you return. Come here.”
“Here” was an odd hooded desk, a dull black quarter of a sphere.
“I suppose you want some silly story?”
“I sort of thought . . . history?” Rael tried to look very young.
“History of the Universe, the World, the Empire . . . “
“World?” Rael watched the woman press spots on the desk and the inside of the sphere lit up. So much for browsing through the stacks! “Thank you.”
And soft surround sound . . . “Exile World Three was settled in the year 2117 by a mixed group of genetically engineered people and their normal families, all led by The Immortal, Jaejong Chou . . .”
One of the Tellies?
They’d had enough tech, and there were enough resources to build a modern civilization from the start. To learn how to manufacture electronics before the old ones died.
Jaejong had brought the vital pieces for a dimensional gate with him.
All he needed was power. And that they could build. Eventually.
Two hundred years after the Exile, they had working gates . . . and no control of where they would go. They persevered, trying different techniques, redesigning the equipment, off and on for a thousand years.
Until one test was pulled to a particular world, and the gate held while a million desperate people fled a dying world. The last person to leave was the brilliant and powerful magician AnnaKarina.
And for the last century and a half, Jaejong and AnnaKarina had explored the muiltiverse, and planted scores of colonies.
They kicked Rael out when they closed, her head full of knowledge and speculation.