Chapter Seventeen: You Call This a Plan?
"All I'm saying is, if you go over to the other side, be prepared. Every portal is guarded; the one in Porterville is apparently the main one, but they all have armed men on the other side. With weapons." Nathaniel drained his wine glass. "Fabulous food you have in this world. I think I'd like to stay."
"That could be arranged." Guinevere smiled at him. "After all, I know of a lot of universities and museums who would be glad of your services. Like an inter-dimensional ambassador or something. You know," she continued, ignoring the look Mayne sent to Hero, "I think it's time we took this matter before the World Parliament."
"I wish we had a world parliament," Nathaniel commented wistfully. "Does it prevent wars?"
"We haven't had one in over three hundred years."
"You mean not anywhere -- in the entire world?"
"Right. Is that terribly surprising?"
"I should say so. At any given moment, people are killing one another somewhere in my world, for any number of causes."
Hero frowned. "It doesn't sound very efficient. Why doesn't everyone get killed off?"
Nathaniel shrugged. "Because we keep having children? Don't you? I mean, the population grows exponentially -- if I had six children, think how many there would be in a hundred years, just from me."
"And your wife, presumably," Guinevere retorted acidly.
"My apologies, goodwife -- we are not accustomed in my world to taking the woman into consideration."
"She's the furthest thing from a 'good wife' you're likely to run across in any dimension, and it's bloody stupid not to take women into account when they're the ones who have the children," Mayne retorted, pouring himself another glass of wine.
"Planning to get plastered, partner?" Guinevere asked him.
"Only if you're dragging me over into bonkers-ville. I still say they're bloody stupid." He regarded Nathaniel with hostility.
"As it happens, I agree with you. I probably would have long ago if I had ever given it any thought. Our religion teaches us that woman is simply the vessel into which man pours his seed -- the child is actually his. And then of course, man's fall and original sin are the fault of Eve."
There was a silence at the table, as the other three attempted to make some sense out of what seemed to them to be gibberish. "Eve? Who's Eve?" Mayne asked. "That your wife? Why is it her fault your religion's insane?"
"Eve was the first woman, Adam the first man."
"You mean you remember?" Hero seemed incredulous. "You people must keep terrific records."
"It's all written in the bible."
"What's that?" Mayne was starting to slur his words. "Did Eve write it? Must've been pretty intelligent...not just a 'vessel', that one, huh?"
Nathaniel shook his head. "It's hard to believe the misinterpretations possible between two such divergent cultures. If I try to explain, we'll be at this all night. And to be honest, I'm too tired. May we adjourn until the morning? It seems as if I've been awake for three days."
Guinevere nodded. "We have some busy days ahead of us. I'll be contacting our boss in San Francisco, to see about an audience with the World Parliament. We have to hurry -- this month's session is next week, and we don't have any time to lose."
"I can't hang around for all this bureaucracy," Hero said. "I'm going over to the other side."
"No!" Nathaniel resigned himself to the argument one more time. "I have already explained to the best of my abilities..."
"Your explanation was sufficient," Hero cut him off. "You said Tynedale has a way to keep magic from happening on the other side. Well, I never had any magic anyway, and between Mayne and me, we pack some pretty impressive muscle. You and Guin go on to the World Parliament; why do you need us?"
Mayne frowned. "Was that part of the plan? When did I agree to it?"
"Oh, just pass out, would you? I'll tell you all about it tomorrow," Hero instructed him irritably.
"But they will be waiting for you -- whichever portal you pass through, they'll be there with weapons."
"Primitive weapons -- you said so yourself. I think a grenade through the portal would fix that."
Guin's eyes widened, and Nathaniel frowned. "A grenade? This you will have to explain."
"Sort of a small bomb that can be thrown. We can pull the pin out -- that activates the bomb, then throw it through the portal before it explodes. If it's dark in the temple, then they won't see us coming, even if they have the lights on in their room."
"Will not that kill them?"
"Yes, that's the plan. They've tortured I don't know how many of our people, Nate. Any objections?"
"I suppose not, when you put it that way. I wish this could be solved without the shedding of any more blood. My religion teaches nonviolence."
"Really?" Guinevere seemed surprised by this. "I never heard that about Christianity, but I admit the whole thing is very confusing to me. Why are your people so violent, then?"
"I wish I knew. Somewhere along the line, it became perverted...now they believe they have the right to kill in the Lord's name."
"Would that be Tynedale?" Mayne asked.
"No, their god...don't you ever listen?" Hero asked.
"I'm not goin' through that damned portal with you -- you're a grouch." With this, Mayne rose from the table and wove his way unsteadily toward the door.
"Well, excuse me for being tired after everything I've gone through in the past couple of days."
Guinevere shrugged. "He's just drunk -- and scared, for which nobody, least of all me, would blame him. He'll go with you, but I expect you to watch his back while you're over there. These judgement calls are being made without any kind of authorization from higher up, and as the senior detectives we're the ones who'll stand the burn."
"Hey, if we come back alive I'll be glad to stand any kind of burn the boss has in mind." He morosely finished his wine and sat staring at the empty bottle.