Horses and Houses
18 Muharram 1322yp
"So . . . I brought them back." Ice eyed the Master of the Multiverse. "Having realized that all four horses are intelligent beings, and therefore not property."
Wolfson grinned. "So I was so scary they didn't even talk to Pyrite? Well, why don't we let them out to run with the rest of the horses here, and they can talk to them, and then make up their own minds where they want to live."
"That works." Ice sighed. "And then let's talk about the Drei Mächte Bündnis. And the Free Cyborg Rebellion. However much we respect Disco's 'No Cross-dimensional Warfare' policy, we'd just love to support any home-grown rebellions."
Xen waved him back out of his office and led the way out the back of the building. "Pyrite will show the horses around. And the Drei Mächte Bündnis . . . it like fighting some mythical many-headed monster. Chop off one head, and two new ones pop up."
Pyrite was dark brown, with a gleam of gold where the sun hit. Calling him a "liver chestnut" just seemed wrong. He eyed the stick in Ice's hand.
Ice planted one side and opened it up. "All right, guys go chat with the other horses about what you want to do."
They eyed Xen warily and crowded out the side furthest from him.
Pyrite snorted in amusement. :: Really? He's the best human, ever. Come with me. ::
He led the cautious pintos around the barn and galloped off over a low hill and out of sight.
"Scared of me!" Wolfson shook his head. "Well, come tell me what Izzo and Ox have in mind for the Bunnies."
Ice closed up the shed and leaned the stick up against the barn. "We'd like them grounded. But to do that we've got to find out so much about where they are, and how to best keep them there. XR is starting a mapping project, finding their hub worlds with gates, and worlds they've merely conquered."
"Right, but how to stop them?"
"Our starting premise, just from what we know from our prisoners and from the Disco reports, are that they have spread to roughly two thousand worlds. With—randomly—one in ten becoming a hub world. That they abandon conquered worlds when they've stripped them of everything they want. And that their gate mech needs a dimensional magician, and uses them up fast, and if not replaced, that hub world is isolated from both roots and conquests."
Wolfson nodded. "Their lost Worlds are often rediscovered and conquered by the new finders. They have wars between their Mentalists for control of all the cyborgs. Along with all the usual shooting, bombing, tanks and so forth."
"Embassy has a bad effect on me, I've noticed my vocabulary and accent backslide, the more often I come here."
"So . . . off the record . . . have you considered using one of your engineered von Neumann's to remove their power genes?"
"I considered it, but ran head-on into their . . . rather unstructured engineering. In fact, I'm not sure but their power gene might not be a natural mutation.
"There's a gene—gene complex, really—that everyone's got. It energizes people who listen to music, who dance, who are in active crowds. Only the Witch gene is significantly different. All the rest of the power genes are variations of the natural gene. We moved—well the designers of the Tellies we're all descended from—moved those altered power genes to locations on the X and Y chromosomes.
"The Drei Mächte Bündnis didn't. Their power gene is right where the natural gene is located. Umm, people usually have multiples of the gene complex, how many probably has something to do with personality types . . . but for our purposes, the Mentalist gene can't be targeted without danger of targeting the natural gene and probably killing the person."
"Whether or not they are a mentalist?"
Ice swallowed. "Right. Absolutely not a good idea, then. I . . . think I'm glad to hear that. Our second thought was attacking their metal parts. The alloy is fairly rare, mostly used in medical devices. So while the danger of something that attacks pacemakers can't be ignored, even a huge accidental release wouldn't apocalyptic."
Wolfson thought that over. "The Wine attacks it. It just doesn't always get it all, and there are microassemblers that repair it."
"Yeah, we had some control chips that regained functionality. That's how they controlled the Black Horse Guards last fall."
"Heard about that. I can't believe they managed to keep it all quiet until they struck. I'd love to get a bunch of your and Earth's gate experts together to find out if they can communicate without an open gate."
"Which will require capturing one of their gate buildings intact. As I'll bet any communications will be there . . . maybe."
Wolfson nodded. "And since we've, so far, demolished the whole building every time we track one down . . . eh. Come and have lunch. Lots of people will just happen to wander by to see what's going on. Maybe someone will have a workable idea."
Ice bit his lip. Nodded. This could be a really bad idea. Or an opportunity . . . if it happens at all. The Directors, all of them, liked the idea. But if I'm wrong . . .
Ice ignored all the speculative stares he was getting. Talked all about the last three months, the slow clearing of the wreckage of Government House, the finding of a Drei Mächte Bündnis dimensional beacon in a basement secure room that had been visually checked just a week prior to the vote of no confidence.
About the self-repair of the chips. The memories of the few surviving puppets of only being taken over half an hour before the swearing in of the Interim Committee . . . "We know one of the officers was controlled earlier. He arranged for the guards who could be controlled to be on duty in the Rotunda."
Several ideas thrown around. Nothing new, including the chilling glance Xen gave the woman who recommended nuking them.
And then the Earth's Ambassador walked in, with General Daniel Black.
The occasional observer when I was young. The nice man who brought cookies and played games with us. Pirate Captain Danny Black. Oh sure, it was work. But he connected with all of us. And I saw him regularly after Mom started working for him.
I know she both liked and respected him. I think she loved him.
"How could you betray your home. How could you do that to your mother?" His eyes were hard, but there was a gleam of water as he stepped close and loomed.
Ice stood up and got into his face. "What else would a non-human mutant with a terminal license do?" He poked the first finger of his right hand in Danny's chest. Got right in his face. "What idiot would expect loyalty? And my traitorous mother? She can go to hell. I don't care."
He turned away, lighter by the bit of metal he'd slipped, left-handed, into Danny's pants pocket.
Picked up his fork and stabbed angrily at his salad. Kept his face cold and hard.
The general stared down at him, then turned and left. The ambassador left as well.
Ice ate quickly and walked out.
Oh, One! All those old secrets that don't matter anymore. We spent weeks trying to make it look like I'd been collecting intel for two decades. More recent stuff that we cleared with Izzo before adding it.
He turned right and walked down the street. Kept going when it turned into a dirt path, and climbed the low hill to see a small valley, and be seen.
The pintos galloped up.
:: Those mares are mean snobs! :: Dusty tossed her head.
Pineapple nodded. :: They called us work horses and told us to go pull a wagon! ::
"There's nothing wrong with working and doing a good honest job." Ice distributed scratches, frowned at some scruffs on Lightening.
:: The stallions chased me away. ::
A snort from Dusty. :: They really liked us, then the mean mares came and chased us away. They said the stallions were too young to be taking off their spells, and putting spells on us. ::
Triple nodded. :: It was fun . . . until then. Can we go home now? ::
"Sure . . . but it looks like I'd better see about building you guys a better stable."
And do I or don't I want to know just how much fun you ladies had?
A laugh from Wolfson behind him. "You're good with wood. Let me show you how to do a whole building. And you can tell me what you just passed to General Black, Mr. I Refuse To Be A Spy."
"Information we think can't do any harm if the Earth knows it. And a letter to my mother. In a dimensional bubble, with a suggestion for using it, should she ever need to run for it."
"Interesting. Leaving all the doors open. Yours and hers."
"One, dammit! I have zero interest in being a double agent. But . . . it might keep my mother safe. Less in danger of losing their trust."
Xen studied him. "And you think General Black will give it to her?"
"He's the only one who might."