"So, you guys just kick back and take a few days off until the Stutties realize that they aren't going to be allowed to have our gates." Nastasya eyed the twenty-four young men. The portalmakers. I think Axel has kidnapped our portalmakers!
"Ten days." The fellow in charge grinned. "Not that I can tell you why then."
They didn't come close to filling all the bedrooms on third floor west. By using the old furniture shoved into rooms, they'd managed to furnish them, only having to move a few beds from guest rooms in the east wing. And Nastasya had raided Axel's Parents' apartment for the big screen tv and set it up in the only big room they could find over there. And bathroom space was a bit tight, but as the only people living in the whole wing, they didn't even have to worry about being quiet.
There wouldn't be a problem feeding them, Axel'd had the Burser load up on food two weeks ago.
No, the main problem was a house full of servant women and teenagers suddenly confronted with young men they weren't related to. Suddenly they were wearing their best dresses and using makeup and she had lots of volunteers to bring food to the mystery guests they were hiding from the Evil Stuttgartians . . .
I really hope this isn't one of those long drawn out wars!
Agent in Action
The Stutties were hiring every truck they could.
"Ghost. Belong ta Lord Max Ignatov. Don' care what I do, so long's he get mos' of the money." Axel held out a card. "Pay to this accoun'."
The Stuttie grunted and ran the card through his machine, and handed back the card, and sent him off to get loaded.
Loot. State of the art electronics. You'd think a Tier Two World wouldn't have a problem buying any of this. But they sure are happy to swap for meat and veggies. At their exchange rate.
The loaders finished, slapped a big "5" on his windshield. "After you leave the gate, follow the five signs," and waved him off to wait in the line for the portal. The Stuttgart portal.
I just hope Henrik can open a portal in ten days. And that's cutting it close. Even if what he said about the Stuttgart Portal makers is true. Two very old and wobbly. Two strong.
If I can take at least two of them . . . preferrably the strong ones, they may find us very low priority, and go pick on someone else.
I'd say a world like that must have a bunch of clones ready . . . but if they are already out of zivvy and can't wire up a new one . . . that's going to have major ramification for these would-be Empire builders.
And that's why they wanted us. They assumed we had three portalmakers.
I wish I'd been able to see their faces when they popped the coffins and found them empty.
He had a gym bag on the floor. Clothes and toiletries. Two bottles of wine, professionally recorked and rewrapped after being dosed. In two fancy gift bags.
Two teams of Cyborgs in Stut uniforms working their way down the line of trucks. Checking papers . . . spotting the gift bags and reaching for them.
"Hey! Tryin' ta get laid, y'know!"
"We'll let you know if it works. Get moving."
He growled and put the truck in gear.
Winced through the portal twist and followed the rest of the trucks out of the portal security area, turned to follow the number five signs to where they were unloading electronic goodies and waited his turn to get unloaded. And drove off into the city.
He parked at a casual looking restaurant, pulled his (new) computer out of it's hiding place and ate while he searched for those warehouse type places he'd scouted for the Diplomats . . . yeah. That one was not in a very good area. It would work perfectly.
The Unfamous Artiste Max Ignatov rented and paid for it, got the code for the door, paid the waitress with a big tip and headed for his new home.
All it needed was some furniture for the visible reception area, a couple of matresses for the side office, because even Igor couldn't steal four Portal makers in a single day. Here.
And some work tables.
Groceries. Wine. Funnels. Because opportunities should never be missed.
And studied maps, aerial photographs, and the "So you want to be a Portal Driver" handbook that showed him right where he needed to go in all four facilities. If all he wanted to do was drive through the portal.
"It'll be easy to get in . . . but once I've taken the portal down . . . it's going to be interesting getting out with a handicapped guy over my shoulder."
He frowned over at the truck. So perfect for some things, but . . .
What the hell. He bought a dark grey sporty sedan. With a lot of zip. Held the road well. Excellent getaway vehicle, once he gotten into the electronics and set some switches so he could turn off the location beacon, and the "anti-theft" remote turn off.
And then there's the other thing . . . He drummed his fingers in irritation. This isn't the diplomats fault.
He drove to a busy parking lot and pulled out the big clunky phone the techs had built for his first visit.
No. They're politicians, heart and soul. Maybe later.
He cruised the loop highway that passed all four portal centers. Made note of the times the portals were active. It took multiple passes, all day and all night.
The first portal started at noon and stopped at midnight--the third portal ran opposite it.
The second portal ran from six in the evening straight through to ten the next morning.
The fourth portal ran from two in the afternoon overnight until six in the morning.
To let the portalmakers sleep. And no doubt have nightmares, poor sods. I suspect two and four are the young portalmakers who can handle sixteen hour shifts. And the old ones can only handle ten hours, and get fourteen to recupperate.
Had an early dinner on the way back to the warehouse for his gear.
The active camoflage suit got him in easily enough. And once in, he backtracked workers and grabbed generic overalls, and stuffed them in his backpack for future use. He ghosted along with the camo pretending to be plastered wall, and followed workers up to but not through the security gate.
He slid into the shadows, and climbed the door trim of the tall truck entrance. A hard illusion to swing around inside, above most people's gaze. and reach up for a girder and he was above all the lights, and could prowl at will. A peek through the portal . . . no place recognizable. Not much security on the far side.
Must be one of their conquests.
He prowled to one side . . . no, not the portalmaker room. The other side . . . Yeah, that thin stream of pain and effort. Exhausted, weak. No surface thoughts.
One of the older portalmakers.
No doors out to the portal room and truck entrance.
The room had a solid ceiling, pierced only by wires and airducts. He stretched out on a girder. Cut a little hole in the duct and ran a minicam down to the vent and far enough out to get a good look. Not quite the standard setup, the coffin half built into the control panel. Just a slanted bin lid to access the portalmaker.
Awkward, but not too difficult.
One door, out of the wall away from the portal . . .
Great, I can just see me staggering through hallways, a slimy, naked man over my shoulder, hunting for a door to the outside . . . Guess I'd better get back outside see where the doors are. Unless the others are worse, this will be the last one I raid I'll need to hit them fast, and get the last one out before the first one's rest period is over and they raise the alarm.