“I need to talk to Emre. Perhaps I should do so right now, while this attack has me alert and not likely to snooze for a while.”
Three armored vehicles. Isakson, Ra’d, that Ebsa fellow who’d been in so many vids. Scar and his team. Foo and his team.
Lucky Dave and Davos with Nicholas in the center vehicle, Ebsa driving, Ra’d riding shotgun. I wonder if they use that phrase anymore? And of Ra’d’s three visible weapons, not one is a shotgun.
And Corridors. We’ll only have to drive straight the last 300 kilometers.
I wonder how much it has changed in the last millennium?
Less than he’d expected. Some obviously new buildings in Jeddah more that were either aging incredibly well or had been replaced with buildings so similar as to fool his memory. The road still skirted the ruins of Mecca, a victim of the nuclear war that had happened a century and a half before the arrival of the New Prophets. Fifteen centuries ago, now. Hence the extensive parking lots, and people on foot, walking in.
Another two hundred kilometers on, east and then northeast, they reached Makkah. The home of the New Prophets.
Lucky Dave was squinting at the head ache from holding a mental shield against an increasingly powerful mental buzzing, pressure from ahead, from something huge.
Nicholas gripped his shoulder, and the commander’s shields reached out and covered him. “Relax for a moment. I don’t know what that is.”
Ra’d glanced around. “The hive mind. Five or six hundred powerful magic users in a giant merge. Stuck there. Some of them have no individuality left. Few were volunteers, and while the coerced mostly accept their fate now a lot of bitterness and hatred remain. Emry was weakened for some time. He’s recovered and is trying to correct the excesses, but I do not find the situation pleasant.”
A massive understatement!
I’ve seen a few, with the usual eight. And jolted a few loose, come to that, when they needed to retreat, or just stop and eat.
Five or six hundred! No wonder that buzzing is so unpleasant.
Lucky Dave eyed R’d. “So . . . from our vid education, most of the people here were kidnapped at ten years of age, castrated and then shoved into this hideous huge merge?”
“Yes.” Chilly tones, not hiding the hot anger underneath.
“But this Wine of the Gods joy juice stuff can regrow their tentacles?”
Ra’d shot a nasty grin over his shoulder. “That’s what happened to that other One World. A priest was among those marooned for months, and when he returned, he took the wine with him and spread it all over Makkah. Without a prophet to hold the together, most of the priest broke loose from the merge and have left Makkah. There are ongoing problems, with less than fifty priests, the influence of the church is gone.”
Lucky Dave shifted uncomfortably. “I wonder if they were behind the attempt to kidnap . . . but then, don’t they have their own prophet Nicholas?”
Ebsa answered that one. “There’s an eleven year time lag, so they went and searched for your Bag of the Prophets. Where you ought to be resting. I understand they found only a small rusty stub that they think was part of the handles. They’re searching local records for anything that might have been you three, and finding nothing.”
The commander eyed him. “Are you involved with them?”
“Yes sir. I was doing a quick survey of this odd world, just as the other Earth connected. It was . . . quite exciting for a while there. I am liaising regularly.” He kept his eyes forward as he spoke, and slowed and turned to park near a raised train platform.
Lucky Dave raised his own shields and stepped out of the car first.
A mob of people approaching, eerily silent, rustling footsteps. The first ones were in uniform, white with green and gold piping. The remainder were in white arab style robes, perhaps half including a white keffiyeh scarf with agal bands in multiple colors.
Dave ran a hand up and down the short stick he’d picked up out of the various weapons in the gym’s martial arts collection.
If that was my Luck, it’s off its top game. This isn’t riot control material.
But he stepped out anyway walking far enough away from the Commander that Davos and Isakson had time to form up with the Black Horse Guards for a loose merge if it looked like they were going to need it.
Scar stepped forward as well, an unneeded ninth.
Ra’d and Ebsa . . . were an interesting pair. In contact somehow, standing far enough apart to not interfere with each other if it came to a fight.
Dave waved Scar out to the left flank, and took the right.
The white uniformed guards split to let five men through.
A dark man, striding out, grinning.
Lucky Dave recognized him, with a shock. Jeb ibn Oliver ibn Joseph ibn Byram. Head of the Islamic Unions Diplomatic corp. Everyone always said he was as strong as a Prophet. Apparently as long lived as well.
The second man was a stranger. Lucky Dave’s shield was leaky enough to show his strong glow.
:: Unvu. :: A quick thought from Ra’d. :: Young, ambitious, and not to be trusted. ::
The Prophet was visibly older than when Lucky Dave had last seen him. He could pass for a healthy sixty year old. Not bad for fourteen centuries.
He switched his attention to the last two men. They looked older than the prophet, one calculating, the other grinning like a kid.
:: Usse can be dangerous. Retired spy. Ytry’s the youngest, an expert in shields, trained Rael. Trustworthy. ::
Dave could feel Ra’d concern about the mob, as he stepped forward. “Grandfather?”
Emre nodded at some unspoken question. “I am well.” His lips split in a grin as he looked beyond Ra’d. “Not as well as you, Nicholas.”
“You look a thousand years older than when I last saw you.” The commander grinned as he embrace his old friend.
Unvu stared hard at him. “Join us. Lower your shield.”
Emre frowned at him. “Unvu this is very unwise. It is time to disengage, not entangle another Prophet.”
Jeb turned to frown at him, and the silent mob of priests closed in.
Not physically threatening, but the pressure of their minds made Dave’s eyes water in pain as he eased through the crowd.
Drawing the stick.
And bringing it down in Unvu’s head.
The mental pressure snapped as the priest dropped.
The mob stepped back, spread out, the priests shaking their heads, puzzled.
Nicholas started laughing.
“Lucky Dave, I believe you have successfully broken their Compass.”