The Next Steps
"We have to warn the President! He's in deep danger!"
Axel nodded to Lord Gunter von Colloredo. The German part of the Empire of the Three Part Alliance was close and interpenetrated the Russian part. The Japanese part had explored in other directions and remained aloof.
"We checked for a legal path to Tier Two Stuttgart and have found blocks in all directions. The Council is debating whether, under the circumstances, a direct portal is an allowable emergency responce."
The other German, Lord Hans von Mansfeld, winced. "Indeed. These days, opening an unauthorized portal could be seen as an attack." He snuck a look in the mirror adjust his wig carefully.
Gunter snorted. "Under these circumstances? All I need is time to phone the President and warn him that there may be imposters, including one of me! Then all will be forgiven."
Or used as an excuse to attack us. This is such a bad idea.
But he nodded as if he agreed. "I'll keep you updated. They ought to make a decision by tomorrow."
He stopped by the Boss's office and got waved in by his secretary, a bright young man with his hair cut to display the inch suare of his executive plate on the right side of his skull.
"They're watching the Council debates."
"Growling and hissing, more often."
Axel tapped on the door and opened it without waiting for a reply. The two men barely glanced his direction, then focused back on the TV on the wall.
". . . we may need allies in the future, if we are attacked again."
"We have no way to pay . . . or even feed . . ."
"Which is why we need the goodwill of a large, prosperous Tier Two World, or more bluntly, we need them to owe us."
The Inquisitor had hung his red robes of office on coat tree in the corner. He was slouched in the guest chair, one elbow on the desk and fingers tapping in irritation. "So what do you think we ought to do, Igor?"
"Find a Tier Five World directly outward of them and throw them through a portal to find their own way home."
They both grinned.
"Not that anyone's going to ask our opinions on the matter, but I've got to say I like that one." The Boss shrugged. "I just wish they were more cautious."
"They want to make sure we get credit for rescueing their very important people." the Inquisitor sighed. "What do you want to bet they want to send Team One through?"
The Boss shook his head. "Even they aren't that stupid. But they may want to send Igor to get them safely home."
Axel nodded. His call sign in the Teams had garnered public notice a few times, and he been careful to keep his real name a closely held secret, hence his dyed brown hair whenever he was up here. But more people were finding out, and it could easily go public. And too many people know about my house too. Well . . . I invented a couple other secret identities years ago, to hide things from my dearly departed Evil Uncle. I can always go hide as one of them if I really need to. I should put a bit more depth into them.
Heck, I could publish that ridiculous book I wrote under one of them . . . that would be amusing, and hopefully I'll never need to admit to writing such utter trash.
"They'll be arguing for hours."The Boss shrugged. "Go home, Igor."
He nodded and slipped out.
Home. Such a divided meaning, these days.But since I've got the brown hair dye in, so I'll start at cliff house.
He dropped down to the ground floor and out the back door in time to catch the tram down to the city proper. It was a crisp winter day, perfect for a brisk two mile walk. And I need the exercise. I'm spending too much time doing everything else. Maybe I'll get up early and work out with the Team tomorrow morning.
He'd been spending a lot more time at the cliff house so there was actually food there, no need to stop and buy anything, today. He strode up the street, nothing suspicious in sight. A few older ladies giving him suspicious looks.
No sign of anyone home at his closest neighbor. The old houses had been, literally, built into the cliffs. Each individual and unique, the size of the houses determined by the width and depth of the niche they were built into, and the height of the cliff above. On his side, the garages were at street level an the house built up from there. Across the street, the street level garages were the top level, with the houses built into the next drop of the cliffs.
The neighbor's house was fairly small, three levels, three bedrooms. Just around a sharp jut of rock, his house was four levels and five bedrooms, plus tiny servants' quarters off the garage, and even a small yard, up on a ledge at third floor height.
He trotted up the steps, the security system receiving the signal from his watch, a facial recognition program double checking, the locks clicking open as he reached to push the door open.
To find a beautiful woman on the floor.
Surrounded by books, grinning.
"Hi Red! I mean Brown!"
"Hi, Dina. Found the boxes, I see."
"Well they did have my name on them." She looked around. "I don't know where to start."
He grinned. At eighteen she'd had a very bad grow-in of her inbedded brain chip and spent the next twelve years barely able to speak, unable to grasp the words in the books she'd loved. Most of the time acting like a happy child. A month ago she'd unknowingly dosed herself with an illegal substance he was studying and was recovering--from the bad grow-in. Right now she was a happy woman, devouring books of increasing complexity.
I hope she stays happy!
"I was going to drop them off for you yesterday evening but no one was home."
"Dad took me and Mom out for dinner. I'm, umm, still having a little trouble adulting." She grimaced. "I feel like I might almost have regained being eighteen. The thirty-year-old woman looking out at me from the mirror . . . is a bit daunting."
And very good looking!
"Ah, but is she hungry and do I have anything to feed her?" He walked past her and into the kitchen. "A sandwich so you can keep reading?" All my teenage books, hauled out of storage.
She picked a book and edged up to the table. "Aren't you afraid I'll ruin something?"
"Nope. I haven't the faint idea how it could possibly have happened, but you will probably find quite a few food stains already there."
He threw together two sandwiches, cut them in diagonal quarters, "Easier to eat and read," and popped sodas, and spotted an old favorite and settled down to read and eat.
Stopping only when her parents showed up and he fed them too. For the sheer pleasure of enjoying eating with nice people. And keeping my libedo in check. Because I don't know who she'll be when she finishes catching up with herself. And . . . dear god, when, if, she gets back to normal, what will she think of me?
They occasionally eyed his brown-dyed hair, but only asked how his other house repairs were going.
"Slowly. I . . . have an appointment with the historical society in a few hours. It should be interesting."
Mitty snickered, and helped cart the boxes of books back to their house.
A shower to get the brown dye out of his red hair, different suit . . . and he still walked down a few blocks to a strip of stores to call a cab.
My family isn't as bad as it used to be, but that doesn't mean I want them to know where I disappear to on occasion.
A few repairs were underway, when he got there. A glazier with experience in antique methods was replacing the last of the broken panes in the front entry. The representatives of the historical society were frowning at the poor man, but quickly transferred their glares to Axel.
"He's taking glass from the damaged back windows!" Lord Vasily Chaban was the head of the Society.