However, just in case . . . He stepped into an awkward space between a pipe and the steps and absorbed the feel of the spot. Then headed up the stairs, that ended a hundred meters up at another door. Outside for inspections? Or into the tank? I don't think I'll open it.
He retreated a half turn, then snuffed his magic light. When the locked clicked, he warped light around himself and stood still as Cyborg guards circled, footsteps echoing, no sound of voices. They flashed lights around. Some headed up the stairs, some peered through the mesh floor and pried up the access hatch and dropped out of sight.
Briefly. The pit must have been small. The Cyborgs climbed back out of the hatch, shutting it neatly behind them. Stood there, not even looking around.
Ice waited until the Cyborgs were a turn away, then climbed over the rail and ducked. He clung quietly as they walked by. Echoes from above got louder, then the Cy's trooped back past him. He heaved himself over the rail as quietly as possible and waited to see what they'd do.
They marched out as a group, closing and locking the door behind them.
Ice sat down in the dark, searching his pack by feel and hauling out food and more drink.
Well, this was just the fifth out of thirty water towers in the downtown area I wanted to "treat." But, per orders, when discovered, return home immediately. There are always more worlds in need of treatment.
Just three of us allowed to do the dirty work. Powerful enough mentally to deal with the very strong mentalists, should we ever find ourselves confronted by one. Able to teleport to escape. Three teams of four. A saboteur, a gatemaker, a couple of guards.
Thirty or forty hub worlds each, over the next few years, and voila! The Drei Mächte Bündnis is grounded. Or at least crippled for a generation. Because there's simply no way to cover an entire planet. We can only hope to remove magic from a sufficiently large chunk of the most powerful and hopefully disrupt their governments.
Or at least their gate-making ability.
So as soon as I get some energy back, I'll teleport back to the gate and head home for a couple of weeks before I head out again.
Action Teamer Gior Withione Tallin stalked over to the gate.
"Hey! Don't go through! That's completely against orders!" Ycbe yelled at her.
"Yeah? Well pawing your team mate in the field is too, but that hasn't stop you Creeper Wannabe Rapists, has it?" Gior tossed head.
"Gonna go tell Pretty Boy Ice?" Oddy laughed. " Making trouble in the field?"
"Ice is probably more interested in feeling you guys up, than in my problems." She snorted and jumped through the gate. Into a disgusting dirty alley. Exactly what Ice had wanted.
It even spelled bad.
She turned and stalked upwind, into fresher air. Peeked around the corner. Big black angular vehicle headed her way. The shock of adrenaline got her moving, running for the gate, but there was another vehicle down at that end, disgorging Cyborgs . . .
:: Ice! We've got troops down the block! ::
:: Close the gate. I'll head for the secondary pickup location. ::
:: Ice! :: You stupid fag!
:: Do. Not. Let. Them. Capture. A. Gate Maker. ::
Oh One! That's the exact reason I shouldn't be here! But I'll make it . . . .
Then she hit the pavement. She twisted . . . a Cyborg flat on his belly, metal hand locked around her ankle . . . she screamed in frustration . . . closed her eyes and focused on the inbetween . . . grabbed for a cone and rammed it into the gate.
Ice reached for the teleport spell. It slithered out of his grasp.
Gior was the important part of his support team on the far side of the gate. She could open the Comet Fall style gates, and had no business stepping through that gate.
A faint impression of a confused fight, then nothing.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
He pulled power and shoved it into the teleport spell and felt it evaporate.
Oh, we're screwed if they've captured Gior.
And that means they've captured the gate, because only Gior can take it down!
And it's to a hub world. And only four guys to hold it? They'd better get an alarm out!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
Ice took a deep breath and force himself to go cold.
First priority is to get Gior, or anyone else they've captured back. Quickly. So . . . would they take them to their Police HQ first, or straight to the Cyberntics Center to implant at least a control chip.
Another deep breath.
Since there's not a hope in hell of me getting into Police HQ, I'd better head for the CC.
*and then later*
He stopped and looked around. Rolling hills with lots of rock outcrops. Mountains in one direction. "Take them up on that hill and have a look around for danger . . . and water. Bob and I will deal with the mess here."
She looked relieved and trotted away.
Camping with Idiots
Gior minced barefoot through the tall coarse grass.
"And be ready to shield if something tries to eat you!" Ice called after her.
"I could so easily hate that man." But she kept it to a mutter. He found me and saved me.
The bald kids . . . well, a couple of them hadn't gotten their heads shaved before Ice came, but they were mostly bald, and, hiding around the curve of a hill.
They looked pretty silly in their blanket dresses.
Gior raised her voice. "Right. Let's find a good camping spot."
"Should we go back and help?" A wobbly voice of a pubescent boy.
"Is there anything you can help with?" Gior tried to keep any skepticism out of her voice.
Another baldy nodded. "We were raised on a farm. We've helped with butchering." Clear voice, looked just like wobbly voice. Twins?
I'm the oldest person here. The only adult. Gior cleared her throat. "I'm Gior Withione Tallin, an . . . Explorer Scout."
"Dean Collins, my sister Tory."
"Right. Why don't you wait till we figure out where to camp, then go see if they need help. The rest of us will set up camp." Gior turned to the rest and did a quick head count of the kids. "Ten of you . . . twelve counting the Collins. Did anyone else run off elsewhere?"
"No, we sort of stuck together." The kid shrugged. "I'm Earl."
"Right." Gior peered around. "Now a place to camp . . ."
"Here? Umm, I'm Alia Smith." A girl so pale she must never go outside. Not an albino, with that red hair.
"No we'll need a source of water." Gior frowned down at the scattered trees. A line of trees halfway to the horizon was probably a stream or river. "Let's hike on around hill and see if there are any streams."
More names, Brigitte, Chrissy, Lillian . . . The girls are out numbering the boys . . . Ken, Mark, and Randall. Natalia and Sheri.
"So how old are you guys?"
"Eighteen. This is . . . what happens when you turn eighteen." Natalia hugged herself. "I thought, being from an important Russian family they wouldn't . . ."
"You all speak English, were you in England?"
Giggles. Brigitte shook her head. "North America. What used to be the Untied States of America until the Cyborgs came. The Drei Mächte Bündnis . . . just rolled right over us. A hundred and fifty years ago, now. Five or six generations. We're all part Drei by now, but they still rape any woman they feel like. And keep a list."
Gior shuddered. "They attacked us, they got a brain chip into a politician who ran for president, and won."
Nods all through the group. "That's how it started here . . . well, back home. The top politicians in every nation . . . By the time we'd found the military officers who were chipped, and got rid of them, it was too late."
"Grandmother says her grandmother talked about how they killed so many people, mostly soldiers, but old people they didn't consider useful . . . and the rest of the men were changed. Chips in their brains. And once they were done with them, they started chipping women. Now it's everyone."
Gior hunched her shoulders. "And that's why we're spying on you." She walked carefully, bending over the tall grass and stepping on it to cushion her bare feet, and walked further around the hill. "See that line where the grass is greener? That's probably a stream, so let's check it out."
Ice gnawed a lip, sending Gior off, alone, but this was going to be messy and all he needed was Gior adopting an injured Cyborg.
Speaking of which, Bob was standing over the mentalist, knife in hand, brow furrowed.
Ice sighed. "Yeah, it's harder in cold blood." The Mentalist wasn't going anywhere, the bull's head lay across his abdomen, the bottom horn out of sight in his sleeve, but by the blood . . .
"Get it off me, get it off! Get me back to the hospital!" The mentalist was in too much pain to attack mentally, none-the-less . . .
"He's . . . I hate him, but . . ." Bob shifted uncomfortably.
"Yeah. So, it looks like the horn's made a bit of a mess of that arm, but all we really have to do is get the bull off of him."
Bob snickered. "Good, umm, my cybernetic arm is strong, but . . ."
"Yeah, I'll levitate and we'll shove the bull back that way . . ."
The Cyborg shot a half panicked look his direction.
"I am nothing like these slave master mentalists of yours." Ice pulled power and levitated. "Heave!" the horn sucked out of the long wound through the man's forearm, as the mentalist screamed.
They moved the carcass half a meter, then Ice grabbed the horns and lifted the animal's head while Bob pulled the Mentalist out from under, screaming again.
Ice tossed a pain reducing spell on him, then pulled up one of his newest spells and made a copy of the Chain. Xen Wolfson for the handle. And cast it.
Bob flinched back. "What was that?"
"We call it the Chain. It will prevent him from collecting power or doing magic."
Ice walked away and checked the Cyborgs. Three still alive.
"Bob? Are any of them also Mentalists? We know from the invasions that some of you are."
Bob nodded, walking over to the whimpering man, curled up, arms around his stomach. "We're all weak Mentalists. They breed us, rape our mothers, or like Ten, here, grow us in a vat, cloned from a Gate Maker. Everyone's excited about the whole race of Gate Makers, who don't even need machinery or electricity." He frowned. "But you didn't . . . I thought it was all of you? Is it just the women?"
"No, it's both men and women, but it's very rare. Are they safe to leave unchained?"
"Yeah." Bob stood up. "They're safe, but I don't know how badly hurt they are. It might be a mercy to kill them quickly."
Ice knelt by "Ten." Pain glazed eyes, but conscious enough to swallow a jot of joy juice. The Cyborg's expression cleared as the pain killer in the huge collection of spells hit.
"Right, just relax and let the nano meds work." Ice rocked back to his feet. "Bob? Come help me with the others."
The other two Cyborgs had broken bones, probably internal injuries. They got dosed, and their bones set as well as Ice and Bob's amateur efforts could manage.
Then back to the Mentalist.
"Yuri Bogdan." Bob looked down at him. "We were friends, sort of, when we were younger. I was a suitable playmate for a scion of the hundred."
Ice closed his eyes and tried to see the harder skeleton. Multiple fractures. Mostly on the right. Hip joint trashed. Well, guess we'll leave it to the joy juice and luck.
He dosed the Mentalist, then looked over to where two grinning bald kids were mincing through the grass.
"There's a spring low down on the far side of that hill and we're setting up camp uphill of it where we have good sight-lines." The wobbling pitch of a teenage boy.
"We were raised on a farm. Do you need help butchering that bull?" The high tone of a girl. "I'm Tory Collins, and this is my twin brother, Dean."
Ice grinned. "That's an excellent idea But first . . . " He pulled the boots off a pair of dead Cyborgs and tossed them over to the kids. We're going to need everything. Yuck.
It was deep twilight before the bodies were stripped and buried, the bull butchered, and a reasonable amount of meat and the hide shoved into Ice's dimensional bag. The four injured men were added more carefully.
It made toting everything, and everyone, to the camp a whole lot easier.
The camp site was good, above the spring, with a very crude outhouse well away from and lower than the spring, a moderate seep with a deep dish that hinted at larger flows, probably after rains, or if there was snow, while the snow was melting. Ice turned the meat and hide over to kids claiming to know what to do with it. And laid out the injured in the quickly designated "hospital area."
To the wide-eyed fascination of all.
Dear One! Such enthusiasm! But then they all just escaped having control chips stuck in their brains, so . . . if they want to treat this like a fun adventure, who am I to spoil it.