The Chaos Marches
Chapter 14, Repairing the Zephyr
Let's see. Our most powerful characters are missing; Mithriel is GM only knows where, Tom has fallen through the rabbit hole and Salimar is exhausted from her fight with the dragons.
To complicate things, one of the dragons got away, and knows that we killed three of them. And it will probably have a good guess what happened to the two that were attacking Professor Cadwallader's dimension ship, the Zephyr. Speaking of whom, Professor C is our only ticket off this miserable excuse for a realm. He's taking off and he's not answering our hails.
Now that the scene has been set, let's return to our heroes:
Seeing the ship taking off, Robbie hails the Zephyr on the marcofax with many "Urgent" bells. As he's doing this, Salimar lands near him, transforms to humanoid shape, and collapses bonelessly. Robbie checks for a pulse and finds a throb.
Professor C. finally responds with the message "Nt NPW!". After a bit of puzzlement, Robbie decodes this as "Not NOW!" Robbie sends back "The dragons are dead or fled." He contacts the others over the net and arranges for both groups to head towards the middle of Last Valley and meet up. Fortunately this is away from the forest fire. The Zephyr heads off in a perpendicular(ish) direction, towards the dark side. And it's definitely more of a drift than a purposeful motion.
As he walks, Robbie notes that Salimar is sagging alarmingly. Definitely squishy. Every so often he has to stop and "gather in" Salimar. Sort of like trying to carry melting Jello. He and Salimar intersect the others approximately in the middle of Last Valley. Salimar puddles into her bucket and congeals across the top (to prevent sloshing).
Robbie feeds the remaining dragon bits to the autodoc and asks it to come up with a species specific pathogen. The party then heads "dark and low" of center, towards the Zephyr. During the march, the autodoc announces "Cannot synthesize." When Robbie asks why, the autodoc claims that there was no biological sample to analyze. The major constituent was a synthetic substance (goop from the goop gun). Next was a mechanical item (the psilencer). The remaining material is psi-active residues. Hmm. A city-sized psilencer dropped on the Lilim city would be interesting, wouldn't it...
Over the marcofax comes an inquiry from Professor C. asking what we want. Robbie replies that we're on our way to meet him. Professor C. responds that there's no good clearing near the Zephyr. Robbie sends his eye up to find a clearing and directs Professor C. towards it (we go darkward, he goes highward). The party of the first part (us) and the party of the second part (Professor C.) meet at the agreed upon glen. Professor C. is quite shaken by his encountered with the Lilim.
We offer to help Professor C. repair the Zephyr, in any way we can. Dafnord then tells Professor C. that we want to use the Zephyr to get out of here. Professor C. is willing to take us somewhere, but the Gengine is busted, so navigation is unsure. Robbie and Tom had discussed whether he could substitute for the this before. The Gengine is some form of analog computer or advanced Babbage machine. While Robbie could doubtless perform the necessary computations, there's no way to derive the basic algorithms from the assorted tiny cogs and gears that make up the Gengine.
Professor C. asks if the clearing we're in is a safe place. Dafnord explains that the dragons came from the dark side, and we're pretty close to the dark side. Not that this a large valley, mind you. Robbie goes outside calls out for the leader to please come talk to us, Two Marginalia promptly come out or the brush and come hesitantly towards the Zephyr. Robbie asks them if we can hide the craft. The marginalia look dumbfounded and keep repeating "Big!". Guess not.
Robbie has a slow dawning of realization. We were going to let the hawk go after we dropped the tunnel. Mithriel still has the hawk. Oops.
Robbie sends his eye up and sees a clearing sort of lightward/highward. It looks sort of like... Yup. It's the sleeping place. Robbie asks one of the Marginalia if we can take the Zephyr to the sleeping/gathering space. They say "Fit..." slowly, as if they're not exactly sure about it. We decide to try it anyway. At least it's further from the dark side, and any dragon attacks.
Robbie invites the Marginalia to join us on the trip to the sleeping place. They aren't quite sure about the concept of "in", but Dafnord shows them how it's done. One inside, the Marginalia are fascinated by the seat belts, constantly buckling and unbuckling them. Professor C. takes us up and manages to get to the valley. Rather slowly. As Professor C. put it, the Zephyr is living up to it's name.
Professor C. mentions that he's not getting the thrust he should be. He believes that some of the power conduits are bent. We suggest that Dafnord could help. "A metalsmith?" Nope. Strong. Professor C. takes Dafnord back to the hold, through a hatch that would not look out of place in the Nautilus. The hold is enormous. It has three levels, each with rows of shelves. Professor C. had told us that the Zephyr was the first of a series of cargo ships, instead of a prototype. Clearly he was serious. It looks quite large enough to hold all the Marginalia. Professor C. and Dafnord open up a number of hatches and find some square conduits which are rather crimped. Professor C. mutters that this will take a few hours. Are we quite safe? Dafnord replies that he can think of no safer place here. This isn't reassuring.
Kate tries to use Second-Sight to check the conduit and fails. Dafnord starts checking them the hard way; open each hatch and look.
Robbie & Professor C. go to the engine compartment to try to effect repairs there. Things seem to be going well, though Robbie has no idea why he's doing what he's doing. More plumbing & mechanics than anything Robbie's familiar with.
Two Marginalia show up in the hold with Dafnord, clearly fascinated with what Dafnord is doing. He shows them how to identify bad conduit, pointing to one piece and saying "Good", a crimped piece and saying "Bad", and a cracked piece and saying "Very Bad". The Marginalia like this game. They quickly jump into the crawl space and bang on the floor to indicate where there's a bad bit of conduit. Dafnord bangs back to confirm that he's in the right place and marks where there is a problem.
Meanwhile, Leader shows up. Dafnord sends Robbie a ping. Robbie checks with Professor C. that he be spared from the engine repairs, and then goes out to see Leader. He takes Leader into the hold, and asks whether all the Marginalia can fit. Leader examines the three levels, poking in various nooks and crannies, and then agrees that all could fit. Robbie tells him that we want to take all of the Marginalia to the Great Lady, get help, and come back to fight the dragons. Leader thinks a bit, likes this idea, and calls an assembly of the Marginalia
The two Marginalia that are helping Dafnord are called to go. Dafnord's only been through 1/4 of the hold, so he explains to them in simple terms that he still needs their help. After a bit, the two agree to send two others in their place, and head out to the meeting. Suddenly it's very quite without the patter of little feet. Dafnord decides that he never wants to have children.
Shortly two Marginalia come hesitantly into the hold, looking awe-struck. Dafnord enlists them to play "Whack a Marginalia." They're not as good at it as the scouts, but they improve with time.
Katerina suddenly sends a very bad feeling over the net. Father Paddy comes down to the hold and tells Dafnord that Katerina has spotted dragons. They're about the size of "fire lizards", and flying in a line across the valley, from dark side towards us. They're clearly looking for something, most likely us.
Robbie sends his eye towards them at tree top level, and when it gets to their position, starts making machine shop noises. This attracts the attention of about 6 of them. Dafnord takes one of the Marginalia. to the bridge, who are surprised that there are so many dragons. Apparently there's never been such a large attack on the valley before. One dragon swoops down at the eye, and then heads off to dark side. Robbie continues the game of cat and mouse, occupying most but not all of the fire lizards. Their flight line is definitely bent in the middle.
Robbie asks Professor C. to prioritize the conduit repairs and is told that the breaks must be fixed., then the worst crimps. Kate and Dafnord use the macrometal knife to cut off the rivet heads of cracked sections and starts replacing them. Robbie knows some soldering and comes to help Dafnord with repairs. Fearing that we're running out of time and worried that the dragons will find the assembled Marginalia, Dafnord tells the one of our helpers to bring in the rest.
Soon there's a flood of Marginalia coming into the hold. We hadn't had any idea that there were so many in the valley. One of them catches at Robbie's pants leg as he's heading back to the hold and asks to help. Robbie shows him the cracked conduit he's working on and says "Broken... Fix?" The Marginalia says "Wait!" and runs off. Robbie goes back to work. Shortly the Marginalia comes back and with another (shy) Marginalia and says "Maker!". Robbie points at a cracked conduit and asks "Fix?" The Maker looks confused. Robbie points at a crimped section and repeats "Fix?" Maker looks happy and starts hammering away. Shortly he's joined by others and the hold is filled with the sounds of hammering. Other Makers come up to Robbie with some type of clay bowl full of metal scraps and ask Robbie to melt them with his torch. He obliges, and they head off towards another section of the hold. Robbie shrugs and goes back to the section he's trying mend.
After a while, Professor C. comes back to check on out progress. He sputter's that the Marginalia have been filling cracks in the conduit with silver of all silly things. Then again, it's better than an open crack.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.