A Cold Reception
Murphy handed the recorder over to the Techie waiting for it, and walked back to his team.
The mentalist they'd gotten stuck with was looking irritated. "Forget Axel. We need to have our minds on this crossing."
Lord Feliks Molotov was a wiry type, who probably considered himself elegant. With "Cat" stenciled on the back of his armor. Probably chose it himself. At least we're doing something today. Every time we've drawn him for our Mentalist he's spent all the idle time talking about himself.
Unlike "Igor" who was always happy to just relax and be quiet, or banter. Talk about books or movies. Joke. Never said a damn thing about himself. Not that he pulled much Portal Guard duty. Intel and Exploration wanted him.
And research--look at these Portalmakers. The first time Igor saw them, he walked over and observed. Spent maybe ten minutes working with them. Dr. Borodin was thrilled with the improvement and hauls him in for practices regularly. I think he helped train all the Quads, after that.
Most of the Mentalists look at them like they're subhumans. Axel made sure they got apartments and takes them out for beers after work.
Just like he pals around with us.
He ignored Cat prattling along in the background and checked the team. Zilla and Tiger were in good shape. Piggy looked a bit stiff, but the Doc said he was ready to go back in the field. This was Rin Ten Ten's first cross-dimensional mission, and his casual body language wasn't fooling anyone.
I don't grudge Ape getting his own squad. I just hope we work up quickly with the last few months' injuries and a new kid who's only done one drop. Which was all clean up, after Igor'd worked over those Stuttgart troops.
And Ape's got "Sure" AKA Shura Zadachin who, if unspectacular, is at least reliable and not going to try to grab control in the middle of a battle, so I can stop worrying about Ape.
And here we go to Alpine World. "Best Skiing in the Alliance."
Zilla was at the wheel of the snow-tired all-terrain vehicle.
Tiger was assigned portal duty, and would come through on foot.
Cat, of course, nabbed shotgun, so Murph and Piggy took the back and Rin rode the bumper.
In theory they could have all gone through on foot, the portal site being only a few hundred feet from the Ski Lodge. But that would take away from Cat's impressive arrival with a cyborg driver and "bodyguards" in full armor.
And he'd have had to put a baggie on over his suit.Which, of course, is what he wears when there's no reason to armor up.
The front cab has plenty of metal around it, so the pretty suit, it is.
And to be fair, that might get more respect from the sort of people who go to ski resorts.
Igor's getting too important to run around with us, so I'd better start figuring out how to coordinate with the rest of the Mentalists. Dammit.
A crackle as the portal initiated, and spread. every one settled down, and Zilla edged the ATV forward. The tech waved the flag and Zilla floored it. A twist as they crossed, a slither as the ATV hit the icy road, then they were crusing up the driveway to the parking lot in front of a huge lodge . . . Cars iced over, snow accumulated around them even though the drives had been kept clear . . .
Doors bursting open, lots of people excited to see them.
Murph radioed down to Tiger. "Lot's of people, but they aren't ready to leave immediately. Probably need at least an hour."
"Right. One hour to next gate."
Cat turned and glared, "That was my call, and ought to have waited for a proper assessment."
Zilla swung around so he could debark under the covered portico . . . straight into the crowd of angry vacationers.
"Where the hell have you been!"
"It'd been a freaking three months!"
"They aren't feeding us properly!"
"We ddidn't buddget for a longer stay!"
"I've probably been fired!"
"What the hell has happened!"
Murphy might have taken his time getting around to support Cat on the right, Rin on his heels. Piggy walked around the front to come up on Cat's left.
Murphy straightened and raised his voice over the crowd and Cat's shrill attempts to talk. "Quiet down! There's been an Alliance-wide emergency, following the attack on the 300."
That shut them up.
"We are operating out of Tier Five Siberia Max to check on outlying Worlds that may have been out of touch as priorities changed. We'll have another Portal open in an hour, to Siberia max, and from there we'll see about the best route for you to get home."
He shrugged off a mental slap from Cat.
"So pack and we'll start clearing the way for the cars, and charging those that need it."
Thank god for helmets, they couldn't see his grin. Which was aimed at Cat, not them.
"Agent Cat will be talking to the management here, about whether they want to shut the lodge down altogether." The crowd was still standing there. He raised his volume. "Go. Pack."
That shifted them a bit.
Cat raised his voice. "Who's in charge here?"
A hand wave at the back. "I'm the manager! If everyone would go to their rooms and get your things . . ."
"What you haven't taken from us!" An angry woman . . .
"You had to pay for your rooms and meals!"
Murph rolled his eyes and nudged his way out. "Let's see what they've got in the way of snow and ice clearing equipment . . ."
The first people showed up with luggage in half an hour, and Murphy prioritzed getting their cars cleared and charged. It still took four hours to get them all out, and then they sorted out the staff. Maids, cooks, waitresses, clerks, the "outside staff" that kept the lifts working, ski professionals who apparently taught as well as rescued injured skiers, a medic and nurse . . .
They ran around draining pipes and so forth, and left last.
Back home it was a zoo, with the staff trying to organize the refuugees from there and elsewhere into coherant groups to send off to worlds that Siberia Max could legally open a portal to, and that would get them closer to their homes. Fortunately most of them had come from or through, Regulous. So it was just a couple dozen that were difficult.
Cat bitched to the Boss about Murphy's insubordination.
The Boss glowered. "If you cannot coordinate with the best, most experienced squad, I will try to asssign you to them less frequently."
"But, but . . ."
"You were having trouble with an angry crowd. Murph stepped up and got them sorted. The Cyborgs are good at that. Use them, don't bitch."
Thank God for good bosses.
"Murph, your squad will be off again tomorrow, so go get their toes warmed back up."
Who are, none-the-less, bosses.