Then off for a duty cycle.
Murphy shook his head. “The Boss must be pissed at you. How long has it been since you’ve had Portal Guard Duty?”
“I think he’s trying to keep me busy so I can’t get into trouble on my own.”
“Hmm, can’t imagine why. Really.” Murphy stepped out to give the eye to the driver of a truck getting a bit too pushy for safe Portal transit. The truck slowed and the space between him and the truck ahead widened. Murph nodded and stepped back. “Not that a nice shred doesn’t liven up the day. Did I ever tell you about the time a chicken truck shredded?”
“Live chickens? I didn’t think we had any?”
“Oh, not here . . . that was . . . Tier Three Saarland. Man was I ever glad to see the last of that place.”
“I didn’t know you were from one of the German Worlds.”
“Oh, and you have me all analyzed?”
“You mean that very slight odd word usage when you’re in a hurry or really pissed, plus getting tangled up reading Cyrillic? I figured you grew up speaking English, and reading that barbaric alphabet.
“Damn.” Murphy sounded indignant. “And it’s not barbaric. Cyrillic looks like it ought to make sense, unlike Japanese, where at least you know there’s no use even trying.” He crossed his arms and glowered.
“So? Barbequed German chickens?”
“Nah, the front of the truck took the brunt, and about three hundred chickens got blasted out the back. Half dead and half making a run for FREEDOM!”
“Don’t you mean flight?”
“Chickens can’t fly worth beans. And they’re both stupid and vicious.” Murphy grinned. “I was on punishment detail.”
“Now that does surprise me, you must have been very young and inexperienced to have gotten caught.”
“Actually if they’d realized the whole of it they’d have killed me. But that day, oh my, feathers and blood everywhere, and the live ones squawking and running around flapping . . . Took us hours! Actually that was an excellent last assignment there. We were all—a whole Cyborg Company—on the sales list. Me, separately on account of Leader type, the rest as ‘trained squads.’”
“A whole company?”
“The idiots tried to take a pretty high tech World and got handed their asses. Decided it was the fault of the troops’ lack of enthusiasm.”
Axel eyed him. “I don’t think I’m going to ask just how unenthusiastic you were.”
“Good. I’m not sure I would tell even you.”
“Oh, my. How long after that did you wind up here?”
“Two days. This damned red robe walked up and talked to me. I told him I didn’t kill civilians, and I didn’t raid worlds who done nothing to deserve it.” A deep chuckle. “I might have been feeling a might suicidal, back then.”
“Uh huh, and what did Inquisitioner Gorbachev say to that?”
“He turned to the broker, signed his pad and said ‘I think you’ll fit right in. Come along.’ So I did. Might have had a bit of an attitude for awhile.”
“A lot of the guys here are a bit that way.”
“But not you.”
“No, I saved that for dealing with Dear Uncle and the snobby cousins.” Axel sighed and pointed at a car as it rushed the portal and when it sped up, levitated the whole thing and pulled it out of line. “Let’s just see what this fellow’s trying to run.” He felt the gleeful satisfaction, from him and from the driver two trucks back. “And his pal.” He dropped the bait car in front of a wall, and reached to tangle the electronics of the truck.
The police joined them as the judge handed out search warrants. The driver of the car protested. The driver of the truck frowned at him. “What did you put in my truck?”
Under the legitimate load, six young men. Drugged, unconscious.
“Portal Clones, I recognize the look.” Axel shook his head. “This is going to get interesting, real soon.”
“So, they’re what, maybe sixteen or seventeen?” Ape shook his head. “Have they even been tested or rated yet?”
Zilla glowered. “Maybe privately, so someone knows what they’re worth?”
“Or they think that the Research Center’s gotten even better at cloning strong Portalmakers?” Piggy growled.
Yeah. Nothing like a good kidnapping to raise the ire of people already enslaved. And chipped. About the only thing worse than being Cyborged is getting wired into the Portal Controls.
Axel strolled over to the Cops. “So your hospital or ours?”
“All the Portal Clone kids belong to the Research Center, so your choice.”
“We’ll take them Up Top, then. Detox and see what’s going on.” Axel pulled out his phone and started tapping.
Alerted the medical staff and requested transport for six unconscious portal clone kids.
Dr. Borodin showed up with the ambulances and checked them. “Definitely Portal Clones. We’ll find out who they were fostered with and what’s going on.”
The two drivers were held on smuggling charges, pending investigation as to exactly how they happened to have acquire the clones.
Then his shift was over and he headed Up Top to doff the armor, shower and change.
He popped into the Medical Center; the clone kids were recovering from sedation, no problems expected. And wobbling in to frown at the slowly waking kids, Henrik Leitz, the Portalmaker he’d kidnapped. Bald head, six metal posts sticking out of his head.
“Nobody’s said what they’re going to do with me.” Henrik sighed. “I’ve talked with Dr. Borodin, he tried me in a helmet, didn’t work.”
Axel eyed him. “How would you like to try a different experiment?” He pulled out his phone and tapped in Dr. Borodin’s number.
“Can I borrow Henrik?”
“I don’t think he’s mine to loan. You stole him, fair and square.”
Axel blinked. “True. Well . . . in that case, I’ll talk to the docs about springing him out of here. And why don’t you think about grabbing these six guys? A Mentalist training program and a bit of maturity and see if you can make a new Quad. Our two Portalmakers are pretty old.”
“Huh, with two more, I could do two Quads, but they need to work in shifts . . . I’ll look into a regular training program . . .”