There was a ramp up to where the gate would form. From the high ceiling three long hydraulic arms were folded back out of the way. The arms ended in arcs of some polished ceramic material.
No spinning rings? Or are the rings offset, like the descriptions of the Zingo's magic carpet transporter. Ice tried to not be obvious about his survey of the room. Nothing like the focusing parabola of the Zingo's, so maybe those arcs on the arms control the gate?
And maybe there's a lot of equipment underneath the floor here. And somewhere there's a mentalist wired into the whole mess.
A man in uniform looked them over. "Ist deine Gruppe bereit?"
Aleksandrov nodded. Replied in German. "We're ready."
"Three minutes. We will scan first, then if the World looks modern, we will anchor and you have thirty seconds to jump across. In eighteen hours we will begin searching for the beacon. I recommend you have it running earlier."
The arms moved, lowering their arcs.
A wide door on the right slid open and a over-sized coffin-like box was rolled out, trailing wires. A stab of pain through his head, mental screaming that had him tightening his shields, raising them higher.
Ice pulled his hood up and over his head. Tugged it down to his eyebrows. Pulled the collar up, over his nose and mouth. Hope this shit works.
He took the beacon in a bear hug. Fifteen kilos. I'm supposed to do what with this much weight to drag through last?
The arcs sparked, electric arcs jumped between them filling the gate-sized circle, the drawing back, circling as a night view opened . . .
Dark trees showing briefly in the light through the gate as it drifted. Mown grass, a sidewalk and bench, lights low down and near, further up and further away in a collection of skyscrapers against a pale re-dawn.
Orders as the picture sharpened and gained dimensionality.
Aleksander led the way, leaping through and landing on grass, running to get out of everyones way. The rest poured through, half of them muffing the landing, Ice ran with them, jumped. Stumbled over someone's legs, got a foot up high enough to step on the next prone figure, then grass, and a sideways turn to hit a tree with his shoulder as the light disappeared.
He looked back. No gate. He eased the beacon down and stood still as his vision adjusted to the night.
The man he'd stepped on wheezed at him. "How dare you step on me!"
"Sozhaleyu. I didn't dare drop the beacon."
A hiss as the man shoved himself up. Several others were cursing as they climbed to their feet.
"Can everyone walk?" Aleksandrov looked down at all of the men who'd fallen. "Let's move in case anyone saw that and will investigate."
Ice hefted the beacon and trailed the rest as they followed the paved walk across to the far side of the small park. What Ice would have called a strip center, back in his childhood, faced them across the street. Mid-rise office buildings beyond.
Ice lowered his shields to incoming, at that high frequency that the Drei seemed to show so brightly. Another mental shield between himself and the others. Felt more. Several kilometers away.
"There are Mentalists here. A dozen or so, that way." He pointed obliquely back across the park. "Not enough for this to be a conquered World. Perhaps infiltrators?"
Aleksandrov glowered. "That is not your part in this mission. We will find a safe place for you to stay."
Ice turned to study the strip center. "All the signs are in English . . . And that one's for rent, the windows covered."
"But can we get in?" Dimitrii Popov rubbed his chest, glaring.
Ice looked both ways at the empty street and crossed to the empty store. A rotary kinetic push and he pulled the door open.
Stale air, with an under current of grease and piss hit him.
Someone laughed, behind him. "Great place for you to stay, Morozov."
Ice grimaced. Stepped in and formed up an illusion of a metal tube, then a light spell. Empty, grimy. He set the beacon down and walked past a kitchen, to a hallway. Switches. A box on the wall, a blinking red light.
"Dammit, a security system, let's get out of here . . ."
Ice flipped switches, nothing happened. Electricity's off. So the alarm bow is battery operated, perhaps? He set his hands around the box studied the system. "Basic, very basic." The top row didn't work, but he felt the first number had been correct. So try the corners . . . Green light.
"So, Khar's a house breaker." Popov snorted.
"Useful, today. Khar, stay here with the beacon." Aleksandrov stepped out of the door.
Ice followed them to the door and felt their alarm . . . oh, someone there, alert and suspicious.
He stepped out, flashlight tucked under his arm, an illusion of a clipboard with papers in hand. "So if you are certain of color scheme two . . . Just initial here, and sign at the bottom and we'll get to work."
He glanced over at the uniformed man, and nodded politely. Turned back to the others. "I'll get my crew out here, and we'll have it all cleaned by noon. Then we can see how much patching the walls need and either paint this afternoon or tomorrow morning."
Aleksandrov took the "clipboard" scanned it frowning, initialed and signed. Handed it back to Ice.
Ice aped tearing off a colored copy underneath and handed it to Aleksandrov. "Pleasure to do business with you." He turned and walked back inside the store. As he'd hoped, the cop followed him in.
"Oh!, that's . . ." The cop had his hand over his nose.
More illusions . . . a bright work lamp, that showed the whole dismal room. Ice looked over at the cop. "You think this is bad?" He shook his head and grabbed a screw driver. Took the "lamp" into the kitchen. Popped the top off the stove, as he'd expected, a greasy mess beneath, and some sort of fungus in one corner.
The cop shuddered and checked the bathrooms. Very briefly.
Ice led the way out into the fresh air. "I don't know why the hell they wanted to meet me here so early. I'm going to lock up and roust out the crew. Extra chlorine, top of the list."
The cop snorted. "Have a nice day!"
Ice walked back in, pulled out his little plastic tab and scooped up the beacon. Closed his eyes and "felt" the local area, enough for a recognition point. Set the alarm system, and bailed.
I'm going to have to clean it, just so I don't have to smell it all day! But first . . . I do believe I see a water tower.
He doped the water, sold a small slug of gold in an older area, and bought chlorine and scrub brushes and garbage bags at one store, and just around the corner from his grungy hideaway, a dozen doughnuts and a two extra large coffees.
He propped open both front and back doors, dumped chlorine where it was desperately needed, then retreated across the street to a bench.
Got laughed at by the cop, strolling past. "Airing it out?"
"For at least an hour. I splashed a load of chlorine about, but the crew swears they're not coming until it's done it's work."
The cop laughed and strolled on.
A foot patrol, what was it called? A beat? Odd, in a world with cars. Or maybe they have the trust of the people.
Those Drei I felt . . . the water tower was over that way. I hope to hell they get dosed. Else that cop will be patrolling with a Cyborg arm and a puppet master Mentalist making him very untrustworthy.
He headed back across the street, to magic up a cleaning like that poor old restaurant hadn't seen for years.
And then practice rolling through an imaginary gate and snatching the beacon . . . Making it clear that they must have lost a lot of people trying to keep all their body parts while also getting the beacon through the gate.
But if it's propped up at a thirty degree angle, it pulls through much easier, won't jerk me to a stop with my hands on the wrong side of the gate.
Then he reheated his second coffee and was polishing off the last doughnut wwhen the cop returned, and scowling man on his heels.
"Mr. Hernandez says the shop hasn't been let."