In between cars, the very brief gaps, Ice spotted the German officer staring at him.
Pointing at the Cyborg beside him.
Pointing at Ice. Downward. Probably meaning the beacon. And crooking a finger in summons.
Ice checked Benedikt, who was looking down the road. Looked back at Bob, who now had his right hand up against his cybernetic left upper arm.
Ice met the officer's gaze and nodded.
Watched a bus stuffed with Cyborgs pass. Every car was stuffed full of people.
A desperate caravan, trying to escape the death of magic . . . civilized city people for the most part. I hope to hell they know how to hunt. And that they haven't brain damaged their women too badly for them to deal with cooking whatever they find, or catch, preserving food, and everything else a pioneer needs to do to survive.
He bit his lip, then walked away into the deep grass. He pulled out his old wood handled bag and opened it. Dumped the Real Khar, still unconscious, in the grass, pretty much out of sight. Eyed the mad bombers' bomb. Simple controls, short fuse. If it was behind a light warp . . .
Ice strolled back to the gate. The car quality was dropping, people stuffed inside.
Good luck, you brutal fools, and your abused women.
A last car . . . the two men in the baggies started taking the ramp apart.
Ice trotted up. "Look, go on through, I'll toss the beacon to you."
Oh damn, this is going to hurt. Again.
They looked delighted, as they tossed their ramp through and jumped after.
Ice propped the beacon up at the usual angle, grabbed the straps, waited for the gate to settle down.
"What are you doing? Hurry up and turn it off!" Benedikt ran forward.
Ice dived through, jerked the beacon through, rolled off the far side of the ramp, cursing.
When he shoved himself up to a sitting position the gate was gone. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his pocket flask. Took a quick swallow.
Because I think I need to be on the top of my form, if I'm interpreting the officer's expression . . .
"Do you know, we were never properly introduced. I have no idea who you are."
The man had circled the ramp, leaving Bob behind, and towered over Ice. "I am General Oswald Savva von Oldenburg."
"Ah, yes. One of the possible successors of the chancellor. I am honored."
"You are also going to work for me." He gave a not very nice smile. "Hopefully willingly. Because we do just happen to have a few last control chips. And then there's your family . . . we could track down your family, back on Novaya Moskva and . . ."
Ice rose, staggering deliberately. "Ah, I'm afraid I'm actually not Nikita Khariton Morozov." He gauged the size carefully, and threw up a dome shield. Physical and energy. Expanded it a bit just to bump Von Oldenburg back a step. He pulled out the bag and reached in, pulled out the bomb, warped light and levitated it to the left .
"By all means, go find his family. I don't care. Amazing, isn't it, how a big, ugly, face tattoo makes impersonating someone easy?" A big toothy grin. "My friends call me Ice. You can call me the Destroyer. I have spread the plague on every world I've visited. Including this one."
Ice slid out an illusion of himself, warped light and stepped back, up onto the gate ramp and across to Bob, standing across the shield, flanked by other Cyborgs, all with their lasers pointed at the illusion.
Ice knelt to avoid any accidental discharges, opened a hole in his shield, and reached through to grab Bob. Recognition point. Telekineticly pushed the button on the bomb. The recognition point by Gior's original gate. Spell. Power.
He hit the pavement in front of the wall . . . spotted the soldiers . . . extended the light warp around Bob who froze at the sudden darkness. "Quiet! They can't see us."
Ice staggered to his feet, no pretense now. He opened a "window" that let in Infra red light and shifted it into the visible range, so Bob could see.
All that practice fighting with my eyes closed . . . When did I stop opening windows for myself? And maybe I'd better think about that later.
He grabbed Bob's arm and hauled him away from the Cyborg soldiers walking up to check out that odd flicker of a Cyborg that had appeared, then disappeared.
The old gate site was surrounded by heavy weaponry, all aimed at the poor inoffensive wall. Ice led Bob around soldiers, and between a pair of tanks.
Down the street, where a line of military vehicles were neatly parked.
Ice looked them over and nodded at the next to last one. "Oh, look. It's just like an old historical Jeep, and I've always wanted a convertible. Let's steal it."
Bob snickered. "I'll drive. A Cyborg driving an important True Man in a military vehicle looks so much better than the other way around."
"Right . . . and you do have Lada and Animal, right?"
"Right. And Rafail. After all, what's one more stray?"
Ice smothered a laugh. "Let's get out of here."
Bob backed the jeep in a half circle and drove away, turned onto the first cross street and kept going.
A muffled boom from the direction of the Paradies Hotel. A climbing cloud of smoke.
"Unfortunately von Oldenburg probably didn't stick around long enough, but I hope I damaged their gate."
"And you stranded a couple thousand Russians on a high tech world?"
"Nope. An Empty World. The appearance of tech was all illusions."
"Damn. Umm . . . please tell me you are not an average Oner."
Ice laughed. "What do you think? Time for a vacation in the country?" Ice pulled out a hanky and started wiping off ink as he pulled it out of his skin.
"Sounds good to me. Well, anything but the ocean. Salt water's bad for the electronics."
"I'll bet. And we probably ought not get too far from the city, since this is where Gior will be looking for us." Ice leaned to look in the read view mirror. Ink smeared everywhere. "Eww. I think I'm going to need some alcohol, or maybe acetone."
"Definitely. So how about one of those illusions so no one remembers you driving past them?"
"Good plan. And how'd you like to be drive a big black important car?"
"Actually, a midsize gray sedan that no one would look at twice would be even better."
"You got it." And odd itch behind his shields . . . he softened up to incoming. Anything von Oldenburg wanted to say should be . . .
:: Ice? Is that you? ::
:: Yes! Gior, you're timing is magnificent. Where are you? ::
:: Northeast part of town in a park. Can you get here? ::
:: Yeah, we've got a car. :: Ice squinted at a familiar figure on the street. "Pull over for a minute." He hopped out pulled out his bars and started rearranging things.
"Was that you blowing up their gate?" The man paused behind him
"Trying at least. With luck they won't be able to repair it. I've 'lost' the Russians where they can't do much damage. And I hope I haven't lit things off too early for you. But I'm going to make myself scarce for awhile. Good luck." He closed the handles on a bag full of gene editors, wine, and charms.
Held it out behind him without looking around.
The tall thin man took it and walked away.
Ice got back in the ATV and Bob drove off.
"I just talked to Gior. She's got a gate in the northeast part of town. Head that way and I'll be able to point you her direction when we're closer." Ice settled back with a grin.
:: We're on the way. Don't let too many people through. We're in trouble, but they don't know where we are. Right now. Might need to close the gate fast, after us. ::
:: Is that still or again? ::
:: Still, although there was a period when they weren't actually trying to kill me. Got a lot done, before things warmed up a few hours ago. ::
:: Gah! Just sitting tight while you waited to be rescued wasn't good enough? I mean, it hasn't even quite been a month! ::
"You're grinning. What's Gior saying?"
"That we ought to have just sat quietly until rescued."
Bob laughed, and swung onto a cross-town elevated expressway. "You'd think she'd know you better by now."
"Bah, she's a young punk I've never had much to do with until about a month before I started this Destroyer gig. And the last few months might even surprise my wife." Ice leaned back and tried to not relax too much. "Really. The last few months have been quite outstanding in my formerly quiet and peaceful life."
Bob just grinned. And frowned. "We're being followed." He pointed up.
An unmanned aircraft, some sort of numbers and letters all over it. A quick slice took off a third of one wing and it spiraled down and out of sight behind them.
Ice thought about a light warp, but rather than wrapping them up, he just grabbed the light bouncing off the empty pavement on either side of them and spread it so it covered them overhead. "Drive like we're invisible. Some of the other cars can't see us."
Bob looked to the sides and nodded. "Good thing traffic's light."
Three more exits, and Ice started getting a general feel of a Oner "Over there somewhere" at an angle from the expressway.
"Let's get off at the next exit and head off to the right."
Bob glanced to the side, "Uh, Ice? I can't see to change lanes?"
"Oh, right." Ice changed the illusion on the jeep to white and dropped the lightwarp tunnel effect.
Only one shriek of brakes, the other driver were either too tough to startle or oblivious. Bob worked to the right side and off the next exit. Sirens converging on them. Ice tossed an electrical block behind them, to both sides at the first intersection. "Turn left."
A quiet street, tall trees on either side nearly covering the street. New illusion.
Boob leaned and peered. "Red? Looks pretty sporty. So where now?"
"Right at the next corner. Gior feels like she's that way. Fairly close." Ice reached out. :: Gior, we're dodging police. We'll need to just drive through, so get everyone out of the way. Since we may be going pretty fast. ::
:: One! You just can't stay out of trouble, can you? Everyone trooped out to look around, then came back. Only three of us here, now, I'll send Mikel to clear everyone out of your path. ::
Ice paused. :: Coincidental name? ::
:: I found a split that's running really slow. They're at 375 yp. ::
So she brought an old Warrior back with her? And she sounds smug. I hope to hell she hasn't seduced Mikel . . . or vice versa. Ajha will kill me if I let one of his Dimensionals defect to another One World!
And does it ever feel good to be thinking about normal things like an irate boss!
Bob hit the brakes and jerked the wheel. The jeep spun, jerked as it made contact with a police car, hit the gas and peeled out of the intersection. Ice pushed two other police cars, tossed an electrical block that stopped two others, but more were converging on them.
He heard a gunshot, threw a shield around the car. Added an energy shield in case of lasers . . .
:: Gior! Light up your Gate so Bob can see it, then get through and get ready, we're coming. ::
:: Yeah. I hear you. If you're that red car, get ready to turn left and drive across the grass. ::
"Get ready to turn left, the gate's out on the grass somewhere."
"Probably about where that big glowing red is?"
"Yeah probably." Ice grabbed as Bob wrenched the wheel over and shot a gap between car coming the other direction. Bounced when he hit the curb, and slithered, settled and raced for the arrow. Police cars coming in from both sides . . . Bob floored it as Ice through narrow diameter punches. tires, engines . . . They pretty much flew through the circle of different vegetation, hit ground and kept going. Bob veered right as he hit the brakes and Ice jumped out ready to repel pursuers . . . the gate spiraled down and disappeared.
A cheer from the trees, as the teenagers popped out, slowing as they got a good look at him.
"Yes, it's me. This is a disguise, which I will remove real soon." Ice spotted Gior, behind where the gate had been, a short man helping her up, and a big man eyeing Ice thoughtfully.
He stalked up, glowing behind shields. "So you're this Ice person. Think you're a Warrior?"
"Yeah. Bit different training than you probably got, as we weren't in a war at the . . . time . . ." Ice's trailed off as he attention was derailed by the glow of the short man . . . recognition hit. "One Furkan." He bowed.
The Prophet grinned. "So, the much cursed at Ice. You don't look at all like I expected."
"No doubt an effect of the fake tattoo and the hair dye."
The big one was eyeing Bob. Aggressively.
Bob froze in the act of unclipping handles from his arm.
Gior snorted. "Now that's a clever way to tote people and things around. Who are they?"
"Young friends I've sort of accumulated as I cruised along. And yes, Mikel, there are also weapons in there." Ice reached and took the bars, stepped back and opened them.