They were back, spiffy in new clothes--German style, but not horrible--and their old clothes at the dry cleaners, when Ice was summoned back to the Paradies.
To meet a half dozen men. Showing their age, which was probably around fifty, they looked tough and eager.
"The Chancellor and his advisers are delighted to have us looking for a better home, and a treaty to provide cybernetic parts will be the cost of the gate time." Dryagin smiled. "Of course, that was after a private moment when I confessed that regen was my personal goal and if my special agents could find it, they'd bring two doses."
Berezin nodded. "Tomorrow, very early we'll send you with an explorers' beacon, to turn on after eighteen hours, and the last men through, pulls the beacon with him. A dangerous task . . . Khar."
Oh shit! Grab the beacon and roll through? He forced a grin. "Just like in the movies."
/// go back and throw in a few bits of cultural accumulation somewhere along the way.///
A number of sneers.
"Matvei Anatloi Aleksandrov will be in charge of the mission." Berezin nodded toward a man showing a fair amount of gray at his temples.
Aleksandrov shifted forward.
"The Germans claim to know nothing of the region they will scan and possibly solidify a connection to. So we are going completely into the unknown. Our priorities are to find out if they have Cybernetics manufacturing, and if they have regen. If they do, we will find a safe place leave the beacon, return here and start making plans. We will not acquire anything tomorrow. We are scouting and nothing more."
Nothing? They don't know . . . anything? What if we wind up on a Dino World? Well, I suppose they look . . .
"Dress unobtrusively. Meet me here at midnight." Aleksandrov showed his teeth. "I recommend an early dinner and try to sleep for a few hours. Tomorrow is going to be a long, busy day."
Yeah, eighteen hours in enemy territory. Not that I haven't done it before, but not with a bunch of Russian Mentalists snobs. Should be . . . bad for my blood pressure.
Back to the Little House and an empty room. No bugs, no sign of forced entry, no mental bars just laying around . . .
Calm down. They probably went shopping. So . . . I'll just step out and find a place where I can watch the front door . . . there a deli, or whatever they call it in German . . . I don't even know what part of the World we're on, or what language the natives speak.
But when he got there, the outside patio had an excellent view of the front of the old hotel. The staff gave him a cautious look. The main menu was a hasty germanic rewrite. The old part was . . . a variation of English. Ice studied the unfortunately small English sample and decided an early nineteen century split from the main Earth line would explain a lot.
I wonder what happened? And what the time variable was. If the World was pre-electronics age, when the German Drei invaded, that would explain why they're still importing cybernetics thirty-five years after they got here.
He took a sandwich and lemonade outside and sat until he spotted Lada and Bob walking down the street, Bob with what looked a lot like the dry-cleaning over his shoulder. He ordered three more sandwiches to go and headed "home."
Where his entourage was looking around in dismay.
"Yeah, I worried about you two, too."He grinned as they jerked around to where they'd left the door open. "But then I realized that while only one of you was actually an adult, Lada's pretty sensible. Have you had lunch?"
Bob looked apprehensive. "We went furniture shopping, then picked up the clothes . . ."
"Good plan." Ice shook his head. "Bob . . . where I come from people are not property, and as far as I am concerned you can do anything you like, so long as it doesn't involve hurting Lada."
Lada snorted. "Not worried about yourself?"
"Over confident and egotistic." Ice plunked his bag of sandwiches down on the table. "However, to avoid worrying each other, let's see, I'll shift this chair to have it's back to the windows, and when you leave . . . turn this one like this."
They nodded in relief. Lada's only know me for what? Forty-eight hours? Most of which I was either passed out drunk or asleep?
"Tomorrow, actually starting just before midnight, I'll be gone all day, exploring another World. So let me charge up all the cash cards you've got and be sure to keep those charmed coins on you."
They both nodded, and Lada produced some more expended cash cards.
"Bob . . . take those coins off. Let's see if you can do this. Just in case I don't come back."
Lada's hands clinched. "So we'll have money to run with. Please come back!"
"Yeah. I don't to have to explain this mythical wife of yours what happened." Bob gave a firm nod. "Because any woman crazy enough to marry you . . ."
"Keiq is not crazy. She is strong. And smart. And she knows me much too well to blame someone else for the trouble I got myself into." Ice pulled out two sandwiches. "I'm going to keep one, in case there's problems buying stuff wherever we wind up. You guys . . . remember that you can close yourselves in the bubble, and stay there . . . look, one minute inside is a week on the outside. Nobody ought to be watching the room after a week. Half an hour? It'll be late winter or early spring. Take a nap? And hour is a little more than a year. Stay in here all day? Twenty-seven years on the outside.
"So depending on the kind of trouble . . . watch the time."
Lada nodded jerkily. "I'm mostly worried about someone trying to steal me from you. Taking over Bob. And just . . ."
"Yeah. Look have you seen how women act after they gotten a chip? Act that way, escape when you can." Ice huffed out a breath. "I'm leaving at midnight, I should be back before midnight tomorrow."
He got subdued nods in return.
They ate while he rearranged his bags, again. Leaving most of his weaponry and gene editors, and half his survival supplies in the hideout room.
He napped, fetched dinner, napped . . . dressed like a middle class worker on any World he'd ever seen, with a coat that could class up the ensemble at need. A briefcase, that held a canvas tote large enough to hold the briefcase. And quite a bit more. The important stuff would be invisible to anyone here. And probably there.
He headed for the Paradies Hotel early, and relaxed, watching the fountain on the patio, moving inside as the rest of the group gathered, looking his plebeian garb over with sneers. Then Aleksandrov showed up with what at home Ice would have called an extended van. It was going to be a tight fit for thirteen of them. Fourteen, including the driver.
"Are we driving through?" Ice eyed the van. It would be fine anywhere with illusions to get the details right, but then the beacon . . .
"No, this is just our transport to and from the Science Center, where the Germans house their gate." He waved them in.
Ice climbed into the front with the Cyborg driver, then shifted to the middle scrunhing to avoid interferring with the controls. One of the older of the group scowled to have to sit with the help, the rest crushed into the back.
Fortunately it was a quick drive to the Science Center at this time of the night.
They piled out gratefully at a back security door, where they all got a suspicious double check from the guards, and the techs scowled and dumped a pile of white cloth on the floor.
Aleksandrov glared after the man. "Put on those covers. They are impregnated with metallic fibers that will alleviate most of the effects of the transit."
Crap. I forgot how nasty the powered gates are. Damn.
He wiggled into the baggy thing and sealed it up, leaving the hood down.
Two techs walked up with a box between them. "The beacon must be returned. The gate will collapse as it comes through, so the last man rolls through pulling the beacon through. And body parts not getting through before the gate collapses . . . will be left behind."
The other tech shrugged. "The field cauterizes nicely."
Aleksandrov knelt and studied the controls.
"Just open this, push the button, and close it, so no idiots bump the switch. The gate will open just behind the beacon. Last man grabs these straps, dives through, pulling ther beacon up and through." A faint smile as they eyed Ice. "Tuck your feet in, those are the parts most often lost."
"Right." Ice didn't even try to not sound appalled.
"Do not stop, or the straps will be severed and the beacon lost. They are expensive . . . and currently irreplaceable."
Unlike the poor sucker trying to do gymnastics with a heavy weight. Pity I never worked hard enough to be good at it.
Maybe I'd better find the time, sometime today, to practice.