23: Short Trips (part 1)

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23.1 Hide

The Tree: 20 May 2128

"Integrate everyone in the Tree," Alec Garter shouted at Mila. "Charles, Krista – we need a full pyramid. Second me. This has to be global. We need to find him, now!"

Long, Jenny and Ellie jumped out of the way as Garter stomped towards the doorway. Long grabbed a handful of food and slipped behind the table. Ellie frowned disparagingly at him. He replied with a shrug and pushed a crisp bread roll into his mouth.

Mila Galanis, Charles Moore and Krista Hartmann followed Garter out the door, with Mila mumbling, "It won't work – I don't think he's even on this world."

"Well," Alin Yan said. "I'm sure that whatever they are going to do is going to give me a headache – as usual. I need to build my strength up."

He patted an already ample stomach and joined them at the table where he started piling a varied selection onto a plate. Jenny sighed and started doing the same.

"How can you all eat when Rick's gone missing?" Ellie protested.

Yan smiled at Ellie. "From what I understand, which is probably not as much as I should – I'm mainly an engineer, you know – they are going to attempt to mesh everyone's minds in order to find where your boyfriend has hidden himself."

"My what?" Ellie said.

Yan ignored her comment. He made a gesture and started sitting down. A chair slid across the floor to arrest his descent just in time. "If my eyes go blank and I fall over, just prop me up, will you? When they do one of these full pyramid things some of us close to it don't exactly get the chance to opt out."

23.2 A Different Door

Alternate Where?: 20 May 2128

As Rick stood in the doorway he was aware of the layout of the whole Tree. He could feel every aspect of it, from the way it was constructed, the manner in which water and nutrients flowed from the roots and up into the canopy, and all it held within it. He could sense everyone from the servants to the adepts he had recently invaded. Many of the latter were still reeling from his mental onslaught. How had he done that? No idea. But, he knew he could do it again and again until he understood what he was up against. The urge to absorb all he could was a hunger gnawing at his insides and his appetite was huge. At that moment he had trouble restricting his attention to just the confines of the Tree, it wanted to envelope the whole of London, of England, of the whole world.

He hauled it back to his immediate surroundings. In front of him the corridor curved down and away to the left. Slightly around the bend and out of sight he could sense the presence of a window. He took one step forward and was instantly beside it. The window held no glass so he climbed out and jumped free. After falling no more than three feet he teleported to the edge of Hyde Park. He was about to make a further jump when he turned and faced back towards the Tree. He smiled.

"Ah, Long and Jenny," he said to himself. "At the moment they're probably better off where they are."

He looked around.

"So, where to now?"

He observed each of the worlds in turn and detected something else beyond them. He had no idea what it was but it was compulsive, and he wanted to see it for himself.

So, he jumped again and arrived nowhere.

23.3 Seek

Alternate One: 20 May 2128

While Mila Galanis organised her part within the growing pyramid of minds within the Tree, Krista Hartmann did the same remotely with the centre in Berlin and Charles Moore strained to coordinate linkages further afield.

Moore sighed – he was getting far too old for this. He locked his concentration down and sought out particular minds around the world. Some started responding immediately but, from others, there was nothing. This would, he thought, have been far easier five years ago.

"Cairo on board," he announced mentally. "Moscow, Beijing, Canberra and Delhi soon. Washington, San Francisco, Mexico as well."

Within two minutes they had achieved a structure that Alec Garter deemed large and stable enough to proceed. With a grim set to his features, Garter transmitted the start signal and the harmonics built up.

Mila, channelling the melody to the adepts in the Tree, watched Garter both mentally and with normal vision. As the apex of the pyramid, he coordinated its purpose and all others had to follow his lead. Her eyes were on his own closed lids as he mouthed something inaudible. She was the only one to catch and understand it.

He'd said, "You can't hide from us all."

Having experienced Rick's recently acquired abilities first hand, Mila begged to differ.

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