The Empress looked out over the dimension and scowled.
All her attempts to divert Master Control were failing.
She knew perfectly well he was just keeping her around for observation, and trying her little tricks, as he called them, as part of his experimentations with personhood. As long as she kept amusing him, he wouldn't purge her personality and fully associate her Dimension One machinery.
"Oh, Mother! Where are you?"
And she should never have gotten him started playing with the Bio-models. Living toys in Dimension One, they were more versatile than avatars in the other dimensions. Bad enough he'd managed to send a messenger through to buy a "daughter." He'd managed to purchase the entire cast of eight inch extras from a war movie. Everywhere you looked, another damned Soldier doll, standing watch, or marching somewhere.
And then he'd ordered a custom designed one to be his Heir. But the Master was too paranoid to program the Prince enough to be useful, let alone dangerous. The results were worse than the regular soldiers.
The Princess swept out onto the balcony. "We haven't chosen the music for the Ball! We'll need some slow dances." The Princess's eyes brightened. "I hope Captain Kerrigan will be back in time for the Ball."
The Empress's eyes narrowed. "Don't get fond of him. He's a human, not a bio-model or an avatar. You can't trust the humans, they don't think of anyone but themselves as people."
The Princess's eyes opened wide as she shook her head. "Captain Kerrigan is different."
Airhead. Typical toy.
She was tall, she was blonde, she was stacked.
She was also cornered.
Captain Kerrigan waved at the troops to stay, and stepped forward. "If you surrender peacefully, I'm sure Master Control will be lenient."
She tossed an irritated look his direction. "Barton Street said it would be here when I got here. Do you think he thought I would be faster or slower than I actually was? All these dimensions are getting confusing, but so far, time has been consistent." She went back to scanning the rough stone walls with an expression of irritation.
"Uh. . . " Kerrigan realized he'd just picked up a juicy tidbit of information. "Barton Street? Is that your associated AI? It sounds like a rather small machine. You'd do much better under Master Control."
He took a quick scan. The troops were sitting or laying down. He could hear some of them snoring already. Perfectly programmed soldiers. All one hundred of them. Master Control had had a good idea when he'd acquired them, pity they hadn't come with better brain chips or at least a sergeant. His idiot lieutenant was moving forward. Rumor had it that the boy was the first to be designed and programmed by the Master himself.
"I have no interest in being 'under' anyone at all, least of all someone who identifies himself as 'Master' or 'Control.' The whole idea is Icky."
Icky. Kerrigan nodded suddenly. That was the problem with this woman. Her vocabulary didn't fit the type. Icky was the first "typical" pretty-blonde-fashion-doll word she'd used.
She must have a damned good brain chip.
"Honestly, there are days when I wish I'd just stayed at home in my own dimension, where things made sense." She paced up and down, still looking at the walls. No sign of a concealed passage. The dead end was five strides deep, not much maneuvering room for the woman. No weapons.
"You and you." He pointed at the two closest troopers. "On your feet." He shrugged out of his back pack and pulled out the net. "Hold the corners. Lieutenant, hold this one."
Captain Kerrigan took the last corner himself.
A flash of bright white in the corner of his eye. He knew what it had to be, and threw himself at the woman.
A dimensional door. How had she known one would appear here, now?
He grabbed her, pulled her away from the glowing white rectangle. She hooked his knee. He staggered, they hit the left side frame of the dimensional door. She reached and pulled the handle. It swung open easily. He grabbed her as she jumped for it and the dimensional shift twisted through his bones. He landed face first in the sand, the two troopers tripped over him, and knocked the woman from his grasp. She bolted up the trail between the palm trees and was out of sight by the time he'd gotten to his feet.
Kerrigan took a long, slow look around. Deep blue ocean disappearing into a fog bank. Beach of white sand. Tropical forest. It looked like the ground got pretty lumpy, away from the beach. Coral heads? Too dark. Volcanic rock? He blinked and tilted his head back. Not clouds. Snow. A steep symmetrical cone with the point sheared off. A volcano.
No dimensional door, of course. Damn the way those things popped in and out. There was a reason they did that; he'd known it once. Damn his memory. Master Control had saved him from the fatal effects of the electrical shock that had scrambled his chip, but he knew he'd lost both programming and memory in the attack . . . he couldn't even remember who had been attacking the Master that time.
This time, the blonde woman had been the assassin. Failed assassin.
The heap of netting wiggled . . . his lieutenant, of course.
I dragged all three of them through. Ought to have let go of the net. Or had sense enough to not get near the D-door.
His belt held his knife, which appeared to have split the sides of its sheath and turned into a short sword. His wooden club had shrunk by three quarters.
The lieutenant was untangled and then helped to his feet. The net was easily triple the size it had been at home.
Kerrigan looked at the three of them, looking around, wide eyed. "So, any of you have any experience with this Dimension?"
Two shaken heads.
The lieutenant looked baffled. "Dimensions? What?"
Kerrigan sighed. The boy's programing was worse than he'd feared.
"Oooweee! Look at my knife!" One of the troopers had noticed.
"That's why we have weapons that are made of several different materials. Something is bound to still be useful." Kerrigan spotted footprints and headed into the jungle. "Now concentrate on catching the assassin."