We left our heroes returning to Pericles, the capital of Hellene, at their home date, after a failed attempt to time-travel into the invasion of Destine. We land at Jumping Jacks to find a black hanger still ready for us. (They know our type.) The Munch is not badly damaged, but the repairs will take two days. We decide to leave the repair crew to it and retire to the ranch in Ipsylvania, to conduct some experiments.
We plan to try a second attempt on the invasion, this time using the transilience driver (or "jaunt cannon") to by-pass that annoying invasion fleet. However, you can only jaunt to a place you have already conditioned to be a jaunt focus, so we will need to do a bit of time-traveling and sneaking about to set up the focus. Also, we need to know how obvious the focus is to psychic sensibilities. This is where the experimenting comes in.
Normally, psionic technology and living, organic psi have little to do with each other, expect in special cases like psilencers. They just use different "frequencies." But the transilience driver is a very noisy piece of psi-tech; even its own brochures warn us about it. So we need to check.
Working in psilence, Gannar the android, our least psychic technician, sets up a focus in a back field. He also sets up two dummy foci. Then he goes away and the rest of the crew come out, for the psychic types to take in the vibes.
Brunalf the neo-cat thinks he can just barely see it as one of those "things that only cats see." He describes it as a "dent" in the local spacetime.
Tom picks out the same focus as the real one; to him, it feels like a place where someone once had a clairvoyance tracer, then removed it, long ago.
Salimar tries to look around, accidentally slips into retrocognition, and thus disqualifies herself, since she sees Gannar setting up the focus. And since her retrocogs are public epiphanies, she also disqualifies Braeta and Kate. But they all agree after the fact.
Tom goes to get his spacetime survey instruments and finds the cat was right about a bit of a dimple in the ol' fabric of space.
In short, the focus can be felt. But it isn't screamingly obvious.
Okay, so how about the actual act of jaunting? The transilience driver comes with a complimentary test subject -- a guppy in a life-support bowl that hovers on mechanical TK. Back at the ranch garage, Gannar dutifully loads this unfortunate fish into the jaunt chamber, and fires.
Everyone who is the least bit psychic registers the equivalent of thunderous applause of one hand clapping, or a photo flash in the third eye. There is also a perfectly real optical flash. The cat pouffs out. The guppy appears to be on spin-dry in its bowl. Even Gannar gets a headache.
Then Gannar pulls the guppy back to the garage. This is just as bad. Fins can't really look frazzled, but this guppy tries. Gannar finds that his headache is because of extraneous charge build-up on the interface between the organic and electronic parts of his nervous system.
So we can't be very subtle about using this.
Dafnord thinks it would be a good idea to go back to Vinyagaerond, in Faerie, and fetch the elfblood children to get their opinions of the jaunt focus. For instance, does it feel like an elven "special place," such as we found on Destine?
Tom, Kate, and the cat therefore go to the library to rev up the magic mirror. Tom, however, trips over the door jamb, unaccountably left un-repaired after the last time we had to take the library door out (to accommodate Morniesul's time-sled). Tom twists his ankle as a result. Suspecting timelock and out of temper anyway, he limps off to get a cold compress while Kate and Brunalf go through the mirror by themselves.
They find the corresponding library in Vinyagaerond empty, but they hear a hubbub of many voices in the hall beyond one of the two doors. Cocking his ear, the cat distinguishes several young voices, and noises as of the effortful moving of heavy things.
He pushes the door open only to have it slammed back in his face. Kate clairs through and sees three young Ennorathi elves struggling down the hall with a large winged table, assisted by a couple of gnomes. They appear to be taking it to the conservatory. Gnomes are not part of the usual staff around here, so Kate suspects we've arrived in the middle of more preparation for a high state visit, maybe Alvirin's Second Lanthil Council. (Or, who knows, maybe the First. Time, as we said, is fluid between realms.)
Once they are past, Kate cautiously opens the door in time to see an elf in a chef's hat -- quite a sight in himself -- come out of the corridor leading to the kitchen, bearing a huge cake, on a collision course with the table. Loud imprecations ensure, but he edges past successfully, headed past them to the conservatory, where the action evidently is.
Kate and cat start out the door again, but are once more pressed back, this time by a Marginalis carrying three parchments. He tries to run under the table, but first leaps over the cat. The cat then tries to follow him under the table.
While there, Brunalf tries to help everyone with some TK, but perhaps fortunately fails and only winds up being a cat underfoot who happens to be psychic and have a PhD (ABD) in spacetime physics. None of this helps. The Marginalis -- whom we belatedly recognize as one named Seven -- trips over the cat, and the two form a heap under the table.
An elf with a featherduster waves it at them. The thing must be a magic wand as well, because cat and urchin are both gently wafted back down the hall, out of the way. Seven gets up, vents his exasperation, retrieves his fallen parchments, and runs back the way he came. The cat waits with Kate, back in the library.
Kate uses her second sight to keep track of the table's slow progress, so they will know when they can come out. But her viewpoint is suddenly confronted by a hovering pixie, who apparently sees the viewpoint clearly, addressing it in no uncertain terms: "None of this here! Not a bit of it! Not permitted!" "Don't be silly," Kate replies. The pixie starts working up to a high boil. Brunalf, meanwhile, is intrigued, pads out into the hall and does the natural cat thing -- he bats at her. At this point, Kate finds her viewpoint vanishes.
Peeking out into the hall in the ordinary way, she is just in time to see the pixie stooping, hawklike, on the cat, who naturally dodges. There is a puff of pixie-dust that leaves the cat stunned. But the pixie is left face down in the high-pile carpet. She drums her fingers and we can see her ears turning red.
She turns over and conjures a ball of sparkle in one hand. She then lobs this at the cat, but it goes off early, causing her to recoil off in the general direction of the kitchen. Brunalf gets to his feet and staggers back to Kate, discharging enchanted electricity with each step. Kate refrains from picking him up.
Instead, she leads the way to the other door out of the library. This leads to a music room. Unfortunately, it is full of elven musicians, busy unpacking their instruments. They stare at her blankly, and remain just as blank when she asks after the elfblood children.
Further inquiry is interrupted by a chittering noise at the hallway door. Opening the door, Kate sees the pixie has come back with reinforcements -- several other pixies, some riding horseflies (as in tiny horses with insect wings -- fay-style horseflies). The cavalry has swarmed over the hill. "Intruders!" they squeal.
Kate slams the door, and is rewarded with the gentle pattering noise of pixies slamming into it. The cat wants to go back to get its egg-ship and settle this right now. Kate agrees to the going back part and they leave just as the door handle starts to sparkle with pixie-dust and a particularly lithe pixie comes oozing through the keyhole.
They find that ordinary quantities of time have passed back on Hellene. Tom is still nursing his ankle. They debrief and go off to find some anti-cling sheets in the laundry, to de-sparkle the cat. These turn out, later, to taste really awful when you lick your fur...
On the whole, we decide to skip the elfblood perspective on this, and let the pixies get sorted out back in Faerie. Instead, we go back to the field the next morning and take a second look at the focus we used. It looks more intense. We take it down and put up a new one, which looks less intense, not having been excited by use. There is just the faintest perceptible afterimage of the removed focus. We let a week go by to see if the foci decay. The unused one remains unchanged. The afterimage fades some more.
Tom recommends we time-travel back to Destine, show up a week before the invasion, then sneak in and hide a focus in a quiet place where we know they will open a gate. (That will be an adventure in itself.) Then we skip ahead or wait, then zot down during the invasion, stun some enemy soldiers, and zot back, all as quickly as possible.
Which brings up the issue of stun weapons. In addition to our guns, it would be handy to have some stun grenades, which are more suitable to a quick-and-dirty operation such as Tom envisions. We get some from Jumping Jacks and decide we need to practice with them. This takes the form of Robbie and Braeta vs. Dafnord and Tom in a grenade-chucking skirmish in the woods back of the house.
Soon, Tom and Robbie both get taken out. Brunalf (in his egg-ship) and Markel decide to join the fray and take on the surviving Braeta and Dafnord. Braeta scores a hit on Markel, who goes down. The cat scores a hit on Dafnord, who resists, this being one of the perks of being a transgenic giant. Braeta resists the cat's next attack, this being a perk of being a demigoddess. Then the two giants go racing through the woods, lobbing grenades at a cat in a flying egg -- a wondrous sight, if only anyone else were still conscious. One of the grenades connects, but Brunalf resists and goes berserk, this being one of the perks of being a cat...
Braeta notes the cat's state, realizes he will never go down under mere stunner effect now, and so turns on Dafnord, who was on the opposing team to start with anyway. But Dafnord still resists. He also sends a telepathic call to Gannar to fetch his goop-gun, to take out the cat.
By the time Gannar arrives, Brunalf has finally taken down Braeta. Dafnord hides in a thicket, then springs out with the goop gun at the ready. The cat snaps shut the dome on his egg, then finds himself sealed in as it gets gooped shut. And of course he can't see now. So he steers into a tree and the anti-collision foam goes off. Again.
Eventually, the cat's adrenal glands give out, everyone wakes up or gets re-booted, and we draw our revels to a close.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.