Ox nodded. “The thing is to be flexible, and not double down when a plan doesn’t work. I’ve spent the last four years officially working for External, but working closely with Internal on police and courts on all the colonies. It’s been fascinating, watching the upper levels think. The Ministries are a bit stiffer, but the Directorates have been a delight.”
Izzo looked over at him. “Do you think there will be a problem with the Ministries over the governors?”
“No. I think they’ve got the worst of it knocked out of their heads. After all the elected Governors on the other worlds have done well enough.” He grinned a little and caught Dave’s eye. “They elected a sixteen-year-old girl on Lucky Number Thirteen. Well, she’s twenty-one now, and still doing a good job.”
“I see . . .” Good Grief, these people are insane!
“So is it officially sixteen colonies?”
“Yep, with three more being actively colonized.” Izzo grinned. “I need to consolidate some of the colonies that don’t really need a subdirector each, to keep an eye on them. Maybe a Subdirector of Evacuation Worlds.”
Rael answered his questioning gaze. “When it looked like there was a possibility of the Helios miniverse hitting us, we started setting up forty worlds for massive evacuations, and long term residency.”
“So now you have forty worlds that are what? All ready for people to move in?”
“Yep. We needed three for various purposes—All the Granite Peak people moved to one, the Helios victims who couldn’t go home to another, and some traitors to yet a third.” Izzo shrugged at Dave raised eyebrows. “We executed the worst. The followers are getting a chance to redeem themselves.”
“Very much so.” Izzo eyed him. “If you have the free time, I’ll show you around.”
Rael giggled. “Go on. It’ll be good for you. I’ll let Nicholas know where you’ve gone.”
Director Izzo had a large car—not quite a limo—and a driver. “One of the punishments for advancement. They start assuming you’re too important to know how to operate a vehicle.”
The chauffeur grinned and held the door for them.
“So . . . have these corridor things destroyed the airplane industry?” Lucky Dave eyed the shorter man. Right. This is the man who killed the head of the assassination plot in a sword fight. Talked Ra’d, Abbas and Isakson out of Makkah when they dared attack Warriors and their families. Don’t underestimate him.
“Not quite, but it’s definitely changed things. Likewise shipping. Shipping . . . by water has become nearly non-existent. Trucks can drive through a few corridors and be within a thousand kilometers of any destination on the World, in a few hours. And loads that can fit through a gate—can go anywhere in the known multiverse just about as quickly.”
“Or an Army? Like the one Jiol spoke of. And . . . she said something about a Combat Gang and the Maze?”
“Yes. You’re going to be picking up on details for years. When the Fallen—which is what we call the people from the world called Comet Fall, because of the comet that hit it a thousand years ago—invented the permanent gates, they didn’t know how to take them down. So when they found us—this was a couple of decades after we’d founded them and two years after we’d tried to invade them—they built a maze of gates and corridors they could use to dissuade pursuit.
“Pretty much unused until it was discovered by Fallen smugglers, who added on to it. And then a criminal gang, mostly composed of Fallen Witches, some of whom could open gates and calling themselves the Hors de Combat.”
“Indeed. Led by a marooned Oner Princess who’d taken a sex change potion. Rior.” Izzo sighed. “Most of them have been arrested and are in prison. But the Maze keeps growing. Disco explores, students practice their gate making lessons, the smugglers are still out there . . . From the original thirty-five gates, it’s grown to well over five hundred, and the maps are always out of date.”
Dave blinked. “So . . . they know of five hundred worlds?”
“Or, more than that. That’s just the Maze. All the contacted worlds have multiple worlds we’ve claimed, or just explored. The Catalog is up to sixty-thousand, and I’ll bet the Earth has even more.”
“Okay. I’m officially boggled. I know in theory there are an infinite number of worlds, but when you start putting numbers to it . . . that’s boggling.”
“Yes.” Izzo shrugged. “I just think ‘lots and lots’ and avoid spraining my brain.” He grinned. “I’ll show you the catalog, and try enticing you toward XR.”
“I . . . have a duty to Nicholas. And . . . I’m a really good bodyguard. Period.”
Izzo shrugged. “You did what was most needed at the time. Dave ibn Daiki ibn William? I think you have a lot of untapped potential. I’m perfectly happy to steal you from Urfa and get you into lessons with Xen Wolfson.”
Dave eyed the traffic as it slowed . . . in front of a corridor. “So you’re recruiting? I’m surprised you’re not after Davos.”
“Oh, I’ll get around to it. Unfortunately I haven’t come up with a real need for a prophet, but I’m working on it.”
“I see . . .” The car gave the faintest of lurches as it drove through the gate and on to a road that curved and merged with a four lane highway. No, eight lanes. Four each direction.
Damn. Yet more ‘welcome to the future, Dave’ experiences.
“So . . . these political parties, eight of them?”
Izzo nodded. “The War Party, Isolationists, Strong Federalists, Multitude Supreme, One First, Nativists, Pacifists, and of course, the Modernists.”
“Orde’s a Modernist, right? And you?”
“Modernist.” Izzo sighed. “We’re such a small party, and Urfa’s the only well-known person who could run . . . 1415 is going to be an interesting year, but not in a nice way.”
“I see. About the time I adjust to the future, it will all change.”