Wine of the Gods 26: Embassy (7 page)

***

Once the mages were sacked out and snoring, Q made a quick trip to the beach and returned with bubbles full of sand. She and Xen spent the next day glazing the windows and the pyramid . . . she failed to resist and added a layer of dark mica from the basalt. It darkened the windows enough to maintain the threatening hulk of angular black rock aspect.

"It's dark as all hell inside here." Xen complained.

"There's some very pretty cross grained sandstone out there. Slice thin sheets and meld them to the walls." Q walked into the council chamber and pondered the empty space.
If it sank a bit toward the podium, into that mostly useless basement, the visibility would be better. And then I think I'll just buy carpeting and upholstered benches and desks. Umm, go for a look somewhere between the Earth's and the Oner's big council rooms . . . furniture . . . hire some staff. We'll have to set up some bank accounts in all three worlds, and set up payroll so they have local currency and home currency, as they wish. Huh. Local currency, we need some neutral coinage we can use here.

And places to spend it.

And places to live. I'll have to throw up some small houses around the grotto.

Old Gods! This is hideously complicated!

And I'm probably being naïve and simplistic.

 

 

Chapter Eleven
15 Shaban 1400 yp
Paris, One World

 

 

"Rael?"

Rael looked around to find both her bosses hovering in the doorway. She gestured them in.
Silly, these manners. The president can go wherever he wishes. But Orde and Urfa always ask, and that's just one more reason we're all so loyal to them.

"We just talked to Endi. We've suggested that he attach the permanent gate to this Embassy World within the grounds of the Gate Complex, but on the far side of the warehouse area, where we can throw up another security zone. Agni . . . is not a happy man."

Rael swallowed, dry mouthed. "So it's really going to happen. This is . . . one of those sudden step transformations that changes the whole world, like the arrival of the Prophets. Except this time it's going to affect the entire multiverse."

The president nodded. "The risk is worth the potential. Just the opportunity to talk to Earth will be incredible."

"And the Council wanted in on it, and once it leaked," Urfa tried for an innocent look, then gave it up. "There was no chance of keeping it secret. So there will be reporters and vid cams everywhere . . . "

Orde glared at him. "And someone thinks my being there would be too much of a risk, so he's hogging the limelight."

"With the election three months away . . . Orde's well ahead now, but this news may shake a few things up."

Rael cocked her head. "So you test the waters before you jump into the deep end. I can see where everyone could be apprehensive . . . there's not enough time to show the positive, the possibilities, is there? What can I do to help?"

Urfa clasped his hands on the desk top. "Rael . . . you are our secret weapon. Our . . . surprise attack, our way to throw Endi off balance."

She swallowed. "So . . . you don't want me in the first party to this Embassy World?"
I am not relieved. Not. I am not afraid to see that man again. And definitely not tempted. Not!

"Not at first. We need to check out the situation, what the Earth is doing . . . and whether there really is a Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation, outside Mr. Dewulfe's fertile imagination." Orde shifted uncomfortably. "We may need to . . . I don't know. Recruit Endi? Blackmail him? Get information out of him, certainly."

Urfa nodded. "Or just distract him, if we need to do something a bit underhanded. This is such an opportunity to gather information on Earth . . ."

"It's an opportunity to expand our horizons, to become a piece of a human civilization so much larger than the Empire. Not, mind you, a part of some greater government." The President shifted again. "I hate being so deep in the dark. So we're not going to show our hand until everyone's done betting and we've got a glimpse behind their poker faces."

Rael nodded. "Right . . . I . . . don't know that I qualify as a femme fatale, but I'll give it my best shot, when you need it."
Oh dear One. What if he . . . doesn't care? What if he's repulsed by all the scars, the damage?

Urfa looked at her, worry lines across his forehead. "I have no idea how he'll react . . . he never asked, and I never volunteered any information about you. Was he hiding a vulnerability, or indifference? Don't . . . "

He never asked . . . but he came . . .
She nodded. "And after four years, well, we'll find out, at need."

Urfa leaned back. "So, I'm working with Agni, curse the man, to put together a home team of analysts to dissect everything that happens across. Even Agni agrees you should be on it."

"Eep!" Rael swallowed. "Well, I never expected to live in Gate City, but life is just full of surprises."

President Orde grinned. "You'll need to come back and report regularly. We'll keep your barracks room and offices untouched, so you can pretend you're just visiting Gate City."

Urfa cleared his throat. "If you start feeling like killing Agni, please just hop on the next flight and come back. I still need the son-of-a-camel."

Rael snickered . . . sobered.
I remember Agni, when the assassins struck. He jumped straight in to protect the president. No hesitation, no calculating of his own advantage. He has a lot of credit in the bank of don't-kill-the-jerk. But Dear One, that doesn't stop him from being a loud-mouthed blowhard asshole.

Chapter Twelve
10 September 3515 ce
The Hague, European Union

 

 

"No, gentlemen. We are not going through with tanks." President Howard Carmichael glowered. "Just this once, let's try for a peaceful meeting with the One World monsters. I don't like the idea of genetic engineering any more than you do, but the era of our hegemony has apparently passed. We need to consider peaceful trade with the One World, or the Empire of the One as they apparently call it. We need to negotiate a split between their sphere of influence, and ours."

"But what about those Elves?" One Member was looking belligerent.

"This Wolfson person claims that they are leaving it all to us to jointly forge a hopefully peaceful coexistence. He was uncertain what would trigger their return—although he suggested that a cross dimensional war would probably 'do the trick,' as he put it." Howie stiffened his back and tried to hide how bloody damned tired he was.
What the hell was I thinking of, to let them talk me into coming back? I served three terms and retired. I'm too damned old for this! Stupid warmongers, still wishing they'd been able to kill hundreds of millions of people. No. Natives. Not people. They still refuse to see anyone else as real people, somehow.

He tapped at his comp, to catch their attention with a pause, not because he needed to refer to his notes. "I approve of your choice of Mr. Montgomery for our ambassador. And we have bids lined up for the construction . . . and then the first foray through this 'permanent gate' is set for next week." He glowered around the chamber again. "There will be no military. Mr. Montgomery will lead a small delegation through for preliminary talks. Then we will have the official, public crossing. I will have a small security detachment. And, like it or not, news media. Yes. It's going to be a circus."

A low clamor as the councilmen all conferred with each other.
I wonder how many of them will decide to get in on this historic occasion? I'll give my major speech on this side, with full media coverage. Then on the other side, a briefer speech aimed at the Empire of the One, welcoming the start of diplomacy. If only I can figure out how to keep this lot quiet, perhaps we can actually accomplish something.

Chapter Thirteen
Fall Equinox 1398 px
21 September 3515 ce
1 Hija 1400 yp
Embassy World

 

 

Xen's awareness prowled through the inbetween, catching glimpses of worlds, none of them the right one. But there was a bright line, a rope snapping out between two worlds . . . a second rope curled out and touched a third world.

:: Those are the powered gates. Easy to spot when you're close enough. :: Q dived toward the world both ropes touched.

:: See this crowd of worlds? They're spraying out after this event back there, you can sort of see the trails. ::

Xen sighed. :: No, you can see the trails. ::

:: Humph. Don't see why everyone can't see the structure. Anyway, that's where—I think—a meteor hit Moscow in 1964 and started a nuclear war. ::

:: And the One World is just one slight variation of how that played out. :: Xen eyed the collection of worlds . . .
someday I'll explore them all, see what happened when a bunch of genetically engineered magicians
didn't
get marooned there.

He turned his attention back to the World that had pulled back one rope and was throwing it again. Easy to track them back home . . . :: Right, so their gate complex is right there in North America. ::

:: I went there while you were playing with horses. This is Gate City, and that's their . . . I think they call it the Secured Gate Area. ::

:: Urfa said beyond the warehouses . . . over there, do you think? ::

:: Yes. Nice and far from their powered gates. I'm a bit worried that the powered gates will disrupt our gates. They certainly blow all the local inbetween clear of tops. ::

:: Even the bubble cloud is pretty thin. :: Xen eyed the world, a distorted vision, as if looking through running water. :: Let's put it there, just off that ring road. Easy access for them. ::

Q drew back . . . returned with a top, slowing the spin, forcing it into the right place . . . it leapt out of her grasp and grabbed the world.

Xen pulled back . . . and back . . . finally spotted a top, a very tough spinning cone shaped interdimensional . . . thing. He started bumping it with bubbles, to get it to slow down and move where he wanted it.

The tails of the two tops twisted together and the flat side of the second jumped to adhere to his world.

Xen pulled out of his meditation and opened his eyes. He was an arm's reach from a spinning white vortex.

Behind him, Garit cleared his throat.

"You might want to get up. Their emergency equipment is arriving and it includes a lot of large weapons pointing this direction."

Xen raised a shield . . . "Can they shoot through a gate? No reason why not, I suppose."

Q stood up as well. "We need to check the positioning of the gate on the far side, as well." She stepped through.

Xen choked and jumped after her.

" . . . at an angle to the road, or moved elsewhere?" Q was facing a gun toting Oner officer of some sort. Her expression was mildly questioning and entirely amiable. Her shields, physical, mental and energy were up and strongly held.

Three vehicles, or various sizes and utility (why the fire engine?) and a couple dozen Oners, about half in casual khaki uniforms, the rest in business attire were standing back, some weapons.

The Oner in front was clearly taken aback by what he probably thought was a harmless young woman. His rifle was held in a loose left handed grip, muzzle pointed downward and away from Q. A flash a relief crossed his face as he spotted Xen, and shifted to a more confrontational stance and expression. Didn't move the gun.

Tall, thin, wiry muscled, thinning brown hair. The belligerent stance was unconvincing, but the casual handing of the weapon, confident and competent.

Xen hid his amusement.
An actual nice fellow who doesn't want to bully a girl? How refreshing.

He strolled up beside Q. "Are you the person we need to speak to about the exact gate placement?"

Further relaxation and a faint twirk of lips. "No. I suspect Director Agni will be here very soon to . . . express an opinion on that matter."

Xen glanced across the open lands to a half dozen vehicles headed their direction. "No doubt."

"As a practical matter, moving the gate back another ten meters and angling it forty-five degrees would simplify vehicular access. Once we pave and so forth."

A black car swerved around the cluster of Oners and rocked to an abrupt halt. The back door was flung open and . . . yep. Agni.

Madder than hell, glaring from Xen to the first Oner.

"How did you get here first!" An angry bark, not really a question.

The first Oner answered anyway. "Somehow I was assigned to the least convenient warehouse." A glance over his shoulder to the nearest building. "Well what used to be . . . "

"Shut up and go away."

The man turned away abruptly. Xen could see the grin starting on his face. He retreated twenty feet and stopped.

I need to find out who the hell that is and recruit him for Disco.

But he turned his attention back to Agni.

"Director Agni, what a . . . pleasure to meet you again. Here's your gate to the Embassy World. Would you like it closer to the road and facing it straight on?"

"You . . . "

"Wildly successful spy?"

Agni took a deep breath. Smiled through clenched teeth.

A Oner in a business suit sidled up. "Director? For the best entry approach, could you get them to move the gate back and angle it a . . . bit." He trailed off staring at the gate. "One! I didn't really believe . . . "

Agni unclenched his teeth. "I take it you can move it. So . . . back it up and angle it."

Xen could hear his teeth grind.

"Please."

Xen shut his mouth on a sarcastic remark about Agni's virgin attempt at diplomacy, and walked over to help Q shove the gate back thirty feet and turn it forty-five degrees.

Agni and an ever growing crowd followed them, circled them and frowned at the back of the gate.
I should ask someone, some time, what the back looks like. And what walking into it does . . . umm, first we'll experiment with throwing inanimate objects into it.

And fortunately Q stepped in to talk to the man. "The world on the far side has very few land animals, and a mild climate. Feel free to study the gate—and the world—however you wish. We'll be busy establishing these first gates for several days, so perhaps five days from now would be a useful time for any official delegation you would like to send. Diplomatic or scientific, as you wish. We will suggest the same to Earth, so perhaps some early moves toward diplomacy can be initiated."

Agni scowled down at her. "Who the One Hell are you?"

"Oh, pardon my manners. I am Doctor Quail Quicksilver, from the Kingdom of the West on Comet Fall. I am a civilian, working for the Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation as the head of Science and Exploration."

Behind Agni, Xen spotted Oners in civilian garb, carrying vid cams, microphones on long sticks, scrambling to get into position . . .

Agni ignored them and nodded at Xen. "That your husband?"

"God forbid! What a hideous idea." Q looked amused . . . and horrified. "Captain Xen Wolfson is head of Security. This particular Disco node is under the direction of Colonel Garit Negue. They are both also from Comet Fall."

"Node." Agni crossed his arms and frowned down at her.

"That's what Ambassador Time called it. Then he left. We're on our own, to become a civilized corner of the Multiverse, or not. Our decision, jointly arrived at or forced upon the region by one of the civilizations here. An interesting . . . endeavor." She turned and walked through the gate.

Xen gave Agni a friendly nod and followed her. Glanced back to see Agni stalking out of the gate.

The Oner stopped and took a slow survey of plaza, frowned at the hulking black Disco headquarters. His frown deepened as he eyed the stone underfoot.

His dismissed underling was the second man through, a pair of armed guards on his heels.

Agni glared.

The Newsies poured through the gate. Recording this historical occasion, or some such.

"I called Subdirector Wrla. He's sending a laser repeater. Grounds will take a look for building a proper approach." The thin man dropped his gaze to the stone. "And perhaps we need an engineer to study their paving. I've seen roads like this. There."

Agni turned his back on the fountain and looked past the gate.

"We'll be selling quarter mile square plots. Two to a side. For building embassies." Xen looked as well. Plowed dirt grid, not even worthy of the term "road." He'd placed the Oner's gate centrally on the west side of the plaza.

The thin man cleared his throat. "They use a rather old measuring system. That would be four hundred meters a side, about 16 hectares."

"Not enough." Agni waved at the block. "We'll take two."

Xen shrugged. "No problem. We were planning on charging a hundred thousand per, as a way to get starter funds on every participating world."

Agni hissed. Cast another look around, then turned back to the thin man. "Get. I will assign a
proper
team to study this world."

Must find out who that is.

Agni dismissed the guards with a simple wave, and followed them back through the gate.

The Newsies grinned and turned on Endi.

"Endi! Were you working for this Department of Interdimensional . . . " The woman trailed off looking around the wilderness and focusing on the big black building. Somehow the building and the fountain made the grasslands look even emptier.

"No. At that time I was entirely at the service of my government. We were in contact with . . . others, but frankly? We're pretty much on our own, to make peace or war. I'm hoping for peace."

"And these other people?" A man waved his video man to take Q and Garit . . .

Then Oners in khaki flooded through the gate and rounded up the newsies and hauled them away.

Garit walked up, looking through the gate . "Looks like they're organizing a guard for the gate. And moving a vehicle to block the gate. Paranoid, are they?"

"A bit. We're going to need some non-dimensional type people around, so we can see what's on the far side before we step through." Xen pulled his innermost mental shield up tight and solid. He could see a thick foggy impression of something massive across the gate. He winced and let the shield relax to his usual barely-show-a-glow. Looked at Q. "Earth tomorrow?"

"Yep."

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