A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1) (27 page)

BOOK: A Prison of Worlds (The Chained Worlds Chronicles Book 1)
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“Damn,”
the armored man muttered as he lowered his arm and the light vanished.  “The
barrier went down and the entire block above the hideout just melted.  Nothing
left, but a sinkhole,” he looked at me and nodded.  “It’s a good thing we
evacuated the area.  The shield generators we put in place lasted about two
minutes before they melted too.  The military will be furious.  They were on
loan.”

The
circles heat must have been a secondary effect as opposed to actual flame. 
That would explain how they ignored the shield the police had up.  I am not
sure this world’s technology had any way to block those effects.  More due to
them not being able to gather empirical data than ability.  Perhaps if they had
a gravity generator in sync with the barrier they may be able to set up a
harmonic standing wave that would affect the fabric of space enough for magic
to actually notice it was there.  Of course, it would be easier to simply ward
an area than do that.  I would still mention the idea to Jeremy.  Maybe he’d
get a patent out of it or partial credit if anyone actually implemented the
idea.

“...does
that sound acceptable Professor?” the police officer was looking at me as if he
expected a response.

“I’m
sorry,” I asked a bit confused.  “Did you say something?”

“Did
your mind wander a bit,” Mei teased while Estella tittered from her seat.  I
shrugged.  I am sure if Conrad had anything interesting to say I would have
noticed it.

“I
was saying that we would appreciate it if you could look at the slag pit and
give up your opinion if there is still a hazard,” Conrad said rather
impatiently.

“Well
the pit is likely to be molten well into tomorrow based on the entire block
melting on top of it,” not that the heat would bother me, but I don’t want to
have to shop for a new pair of shoes.  It would probably be pretty disgusting,
maybe like mud.  “I didn’t even know permacrete and durasteel melted.”

“It
doesn’t,” the shifter stated flatly. 

Hmm,
I wonder if that could be used in my alchemy experimental to remold materials. 
If I ever figured out the heat effect of the circle.  “Good to know.  I’ll stop
by later tomorrow once the surface solidifies.  It should be safe.  Burying a
circle is a tried and true method of disabling them.”

“I
would say it’s a bit more than disabled,” Mei offered.

“Not
necessarily, most magic is immune to its own effects,” Estella volunteered. 
She was only slightly subdued after hearing of the disaster.  I assume that Mei
had given her the details during their ‘girl talk’ over the last few days.

“It
is very likely the circle exists, but with all the material sitting on top of
it no one is going to be able to get close enough to activate it even if it had
any energy left.  The dimensional portal also should not be able to activate if
there is a solid mass where the breech is.  Unless...”

Conrad
sighed, “Give me the bad news.”

“Well,
it is not likely, but the circle master was pretty good.”  Better than anyone I
knew from home at least.  Excluding a big scaly evil monster who needs no
introduction.  “It’s possible, if the mage was smart enough he may have set up
the barrier to collapse or have a secondary barrier to activate when the shit
hit the fan.  If that happened it may have formed a bubble that all that goo
would cool around.”

“Oh,
a natural cavern that he could reopen the portal into from the other side,” our
happy little elf added.

I
didn’t think Conrad could get grimmer, but I definitely noticed a change in his
mood.  “Fine.  I’ll have some multi-environment floaters go over it and take
some scans.  We’ll know soon if there’s anything down there and...”

“Your
scans won’t work,” I offered.  I don’t think he was an idiot, but I was
constantly surprised how even the supernaturals forgot the basics.  “Whether there’s
a bubble or not there is an entire room of exhausted but active circles.  Your
sensors won’t give you anything but static.”

“Then
we’ll excavate...”

“And
there’s no guarantee the circles don’t have enough residual energy to activate
and do it all again if they are triggered.”  It would likely be on a lesser
scale but still...

Conrad
sat there.  Lips tight and his left eye twitching.  I could tell he was
considering his options and was not happy with what he was coming up with.

“Come
on Derek, stop playing with him.  Tell him how to fix it,” Mei berated me.  I
think she was amused, but she was also taking the news seriously.

“No,
keep it up!  Conrad’s funny!”

This
last came from the elf, who had been watching both me and Conrad in delight. 
She was definitely enjoying it, even more than I was.  And I have to admit I
was getting a kick out of teasing Conrad.

I
gave a nod in both the girl’s direction while Mei gave the elemental sorceress
an exasperated look.  “Fine.  Just do what I suggested when you first asked me
about it.”

Conrad
looked confused again.  “We did.  We did exactly what you suggested.”

“Then
you weren’t paying attention.  I distinctly remember suggesting that you get the
military involved and have a satellite blow through the barrier.  Even if it is
immune to energy, possible but not definite, it should clear the way to see if
there was a bubble at all.  If it wasn’t, just refill it with the plentiful
slag in the area.  If it was, then either it is destroyed or it will be exposed
for alternate means of destruction.”  Or was that Mat I told?  It was somebody
in a uniform.

“What
if the new barrier is immune to everything?” Conrad asked with some evidence of
trepidation.

“Then...”

“Mortal
magic can usually only completely shield against energy or kinetics.  They can
be very durable and even regenerate themselves, but it’s likely you can destroy
it with a little work.”  Estella finished her explanation with a smile. 

I
pouted.  I could have dragged that out for Conrad until he was frothing at the
mouth.  The police officer looked at the elf with new eyes.  “I don’t think we
have been completely introduced, Ma’am.”

“She’s
an elf from Norseland,” I injected as revenge.

“I
am not!  We haven’t been there for ages.  Don’t be a meanie,” she pouted.

“I
don’t think Norseland is a real country,” Mei shot me an aggravated look.

“Well,
the álfar aren’t real elves so all the figments of our imagination can gather
in one place.”

“Never
mind,” Conrad emphatically declared.  “Forget I asked.”  Sighing he continued
in a slightly more formal tone.  “If your people ever wish to be recognized and
accepted by the world at large, just come to me.  Apparently, my new position
includes playing ambassador for races still in the closet.  Just wait a few
weeks for the bureaucrats to invent the paperwork.”  He sounded less than
enthusiastic about this part of his job.

“Will
you be able to tell what the situation is tomorrow?”

“No,”
I thought more about my last astral escapade.  I wasn’t going through that
again.  “All I’ll be able to do is tell if there are active magics.  We already
know the circles are going to be live to some degree or another.”

“I
may be able to help,” Estella piped in again.  “I would be happy to commune
with the elements and see if there is a disturbance.”

Mei
and Conrad looked at each other and then at me for clarification.

“She
means that she’ll be able to sense if there is a gap in the rock... er,
congealing permacrete sludge.”

“Great! 
I’ll send Officer Cromwell here tomorrow at noon for both of you.”  He nodded
politely to all of us and backed out of the door.  He was probably just happy
to leave with most of his sanity intact.

After
I closed the door I turned towards the girls and clapped my hands together.  “Well
now that’s out of the way let’s wait for Jeremy so he can enter the data points
the vampire council has kindly left us.”

Mei
stared flatly at me for a second.  “You’re going to make a lousy consultant. 
Why did you wait until Conrad left to bring this up?”

“Well,
I got a little distracted,” I hesitantly defended myself.  “Besides, until we
enter all the data I don’t see any reason to get Conrad all excited about it. 
He can help once we figure things out.”

Mei
held out her hand.  “You may be a genius, but you’re an idiot.  Telling Conrad
after the fact is just going to make it obvious you were leaving him out of the
process of finding Jin.  Considering he organized the shifters to do the grunt
work and is now officially responsible for protecting the city against
supernatural threats; that seems like a poor career move.”

“Do
you think he’ll take away my parking space?” I said as seriously as I could.  “Vivian
came by just before you got here.  She was that big billowing cloud.  There
nothing we can do at the moment anyway.”

“Vivian
Delargo?  She is pretty high on the council.  I suppose it’s a fortunate thing
you have a good relationship with her.”

I
thought back to the damage to my door and the fire in Vivian’s eyes.  Well,
figuratively speaking.  “Well, that may be stating the situation a little
strongly but I am sure we will work fine together,” I said optimistically.  “As
soon as the council stops pissing themselves at the sound of Jin’s name.”

“You
are very aggravating,” Mei said tensely, before she took a deep breath and let
it out slowly.  “Okay, we’ll deal with it.  Give me the chip.  We don’t have to
wait for Jeremy, I can do data entry as well as he can.”  I doubted that but
handed over the chip.

“This
is ancient.  Is this even compatible with your holo box?” she asked as she
turned over the chip in her hands.

“It’s
actually the same generation as my box,” at her surprised look I continued.  “You
can tell because it’s the same form factor as the port.  Keep in mind that
Vivian is very old.  She has the same problem as I do,” I shrugged
uncomfortably.  “You know with my... magical lab downstairs that causes so much
interference and blew up your wrist terminal.”

“Right. 
Your lab.” She stared at me without expression, before she turned away and
marched over the vid box.  She inserted the data chip and then started working
with the holographic interface.

I
turned to Estella.  “So where is tall, dim and muscly?”  I almost made a snarky
remark about him attacking me, but held off.  Since I was the one to last haul
off and attack him without provocation, I was trying to be the better man. 
Failing, but trying.

“You
should try to get along better, you have so much in common.”

I
stood there with my mouth open for a minute.  “I... I... what?”

“See,
you’re both so cute like that,” she smiled, as she walked over to where Mei
was.

I
just stood staring after her.  She had to be nuts.  Maybe all elves were
crazy.  Of course, she had just avoided answering my question, so maybe the
birdbrain act was just that, an act.  It was a very good one though.

Once
I shook off my stupor, I joined the women and looked over the interface.  She
had already imported the data and was about to overlay all the data points onto
the three-dimensional map of the city.  It was rather tiny on the interface so
I gestured at the wall where we usually projected the movies.  With a nod of
acknowledgment, she pointed the emitter and the wall suddenly disappeared to
show a large representation of the city.

Red
dots littered the city. Some had little icons of creatures.  I assume the
vampires had included data on the creatures found near the sites.  I walked
over to the projection.  Through some technological trickery of reflections, I
did not interfere with the image as I stepped into it.

“Lines
here, blue,” I directed the lobotomized AI as I pointed my fingers at two
dots.  “Lines here, blue.  Lines here, red.  Circle here, translucent, red.”  I
continued a series of directions as the map of the city gradually came alive
with crisscrossing lines and nodes.  Occasionally, I would erase one or make
one darker or lighter.  Ones with creatures were generally stronger and became
darker circles or lines.  Unfortunately, those were the ones we were too late
for.

Before
an hour had passed, we had a revised map that I was fairly certain mostly
reflected reality.  “These locations need to be staked out,” I tapped the
darker circles.  “It is likely the apprentices will test these out next.  I
would also like these watched, even though they have been ‘visited’ already. 
They seem to be strong nodes.  Maybe strong enough for what he wants.  If not
now, then when the energies peak.”

The
girls had stayed mostly quiet during my work.  “That’s twenty-four locations,
ten in vampire territory.  We’re going to need their help or at least their
promise to let us move through their territory,” Mei responded uneasily.

Uh
oh.  That didn’t sound good.  “Didn’t you say the territory divisions were
fixed in stone?”

“With
the exception of the Blight, yes.” Mei responded.

“It’s
a good thing you have such a fine relationship with Vivian.  I am sure she’ll
be happy to help you.” Estella had said the last.  Apparently, she had been
listening to Mei and I argue.  The funny thing was, she sounded very earnest. 
Either she hadn’t picked up on the subtleties of how Vivian actually didn’t
like me or she was being sarcastic.  If so, she had an excellent poker face and
I couldn’t swear to either one.  Mei snickered.

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