Chapter 65: The Back Door
We left our heroes on in a KaiSenese ship's boat, hovering over the ice floes near an old, secret bolt hole. They have just managed to get back together, having been rescued by KaiSen and its agents from the battle that is raging at the ranch and in Jumping Jacks. Of course, we are now without the resources of those places, without our starships and pantope, and cut off from the magic mirror through into Faerie. But we are not finished yet.
Robbie tells Dafnord that there are plenty of weapons back in the bolt-hole. Tempting, but if we can get the pantope back, we can easily come back for the weapons. How to do that?
We still have an omniport set up in a warehouse, set to open on another warehouse, in another Pericles, on another Hellene, on another timeline, which we have dubbed the Co-Dominion timeline, as distinct from this, the United Earth timeline (sometimes called the "home line," by some of us, though Robbie and Kate are from yet another line, the "Classical line").
Soon, the pilot, Piersens, has us back on the tarmac at the Pericles spaceport. It only remains to get to the warehouse, a few blocks away. We could take cabs, but we are a large and exotic group, and someone is gunning for us. So Dafnord asks Piersens (an eyestalked humanoid and KaiSen's critter-on-the-spot) if we can borrow a large truck.
Well, er, the problem is that we're going to use this to go join battle, right? And our battle is at least being covered up by a duly registered war between Ipsylvania and Gorslavia, which KaiSen is diplomatically required to stay out of. So it's awkward, having KaiSen provide what is arguably military transport. Um.
Dafnord shrugs and offers to buy the truck from KaiSen. Piersens gazes into his own eyestalks briefly as he considers this, then agrees. Dafnord only asks that the funds transfer not be put through for a day or so, in case someone could track us that way.
Soon, we are in possession of a large truck, formerly used by human employees of KaiSen to service the groundside ends of KaiSen's interstellar comm net. We glamour over the KaiSenese logo and promise to re-paint the truck within ten days. Tom throws some glamours around to make us a little less conspicuous -- shrinking the gargoyle and making it look like a cat, shrink the dragon and Obedan's plasma bazooka, disguising battle gear, enlarging the pixie and making her wings invisible, making the real cat look like a Hydrian bogey-bird in a floating cage, making Robbie look like a standard Sim. Then we pile in and head off to the warehouse district.
We approach and enter the Jumping Jacks warehouse cautiously, but meet nothing more sinister than the smell of something organic that was stowed here too long and has since gone off. There's a small Jumping Jacks courier craft here, too. We locate the hidden omniport controls, open the portal, and step into the other warehouse on the other Hellene. All quiet here, too. We close the portal, leaving the truck in our home-line warehouse.
While the rest of us wait, Robbie and Kate seek out a public phone booth -- rare in an age where most people carry calling cards in their wallets, and it's really more of a public terminal. There, Robbie calls the other ranch, in the other Ipsylvania (which does not, by the way, have a parallel Gorslavia for a neighbor, but some other nation). The machinery at the other hand does not recognize Robbie in his new body, but Kate vouches for him, and they soon have an air van ordered up, to meet us all at Tom's other apartment.
Hailing a couple of taxies, we make our way to that apartment, to wait. Unlike the apartment on the United Earth line, this one has not been torched and psionically scrambled. It's just been unoccupied for some time, and we arrive to find the automated vacuum cleaner bustling about, dusting, and the air conditioner trying to freshen up the air.
Tom goes through his mail, but doesn't find anything significant.
Eventually, the air van arrives. We embark and spend an equal number of tedious hours flying back to the ranch. There, the automation is still scurrying around, freshening up, addressing us in obsequious tones, and probably hiding the swimsuit issues of Popular Robotics, the game software, and whatever else its been amusing itself with in our absence.
We don't care about that. We march to the library, where Tom tries to open the mirror into Vinyagarond, in Faerie. The mirror asks for a countersign.
That's new. Tom knows the family has often promised itself to tighten security on the mirrors, but this is a deuced inconvenient time to do it. He consults the computers again and they find a message to him from Nick and Alag. Sure enough, they tell Tom about their new, beefed-up security, and, if he's reading this message, he needs to get through the mirror. The override, they tell him, is one of Tom's own small psi batteries, hidden in the scrollwork frame of the mirror on the lower right-hand corner. Drain it, and the mirror will obey.
Tom follows through on this, and the mirror turns obligingly permeable. While we decide who should go through first, we see a dwarf come somersaulting through the library door. Curious, but we have to come through. Next, we see a rapier tip poke through the doorway. We enter, Tom first, then Dafnord. The rest wait to be picked up by the pantope.
We find we are between a dwarf with a heavy crossbow and an elvish swordsman in handsome blue and silver livery. Fortunately, they are our gang. The elf is one Taurendil, a member of the newly-formed Silver Service, and he tells the dwarf it's all right. Apparently, we set off some alarm when we came through. And the date, it turns out, is two days after the Second Council.
Pumping his memory, Tom realizes that, depending on time of day, there are at least two earlier versions of us all, moving about the house. But there also ought to be the Emerald Metaphor, parked in the closet of the Grey Room, ready for takeoff. We thank Taurendil for his care and information, and scurry to the Grey Room. There, we hear some soft sounds in the next room over. Tom freezes, trying to guess who it is, but Dafnord shoves him into the Grey Room. There, we enter the closet, smooth over a little wrinkled in Runyana's glamour at the back, and at last get back aboard the Emerald Metaphor.
Tom connects to the Co-Dominion ranch and picks up the others. Then we disconnect from all other spacetimes and spend two days resting and, for some of us, taking turns in the field autodoc, healing.
During this lull, Robbie asks Greywolf about the Destine government. There was a council elected by various regions, election rules depending on the region. There was also the Council of Elders, consisting of the twelve oldest nephilim. (How classical.)
Tom tells Greywolf about Attalais's offer to help with repatriation and entry to the Plains of Penance, thence to the Kaf Mountains and the Seven Times Seven Cities of the Nephilim. Greywolf warns us that the Destinos were basically trying to avoid just that. Yeah, but it might look better than Yazatlan, now, and they should at least have the choice. Tom proposes to approach the Twelve back on Destine, at a point in time after the battle has become hopeless, and offer them this alternative. Greywolf recommends Desmond as an aide and negotiator, though he probably won't want to vanish away, either.
The last couple of logs have said that Braeta was the only person unaccounted for and probably back at the ranch. This is incorrect. There are also two other people from Yazatlan, whose names are not recorded. So it may be the three of them, battling invaders at the ranch.
The appearance of pantope Emerald Metaphor was incorrect. In the old description, standing inside the Metaphor looked like standing on an infinite plane of stone, next to a statue of a tornado -- an equally infinite stone cone, touching the plane 100 meters away, extending forever (apparently) into a blue sky at a 45 degree angle
Based on further consideration of the way the scaling and closed geometry works, here is the new, corrected description: Standing inside the Metaphor looks like standing on the lower half of an infinite stone book, open at a 45-degree angle. To one side, the plane of stone sweeps away to infinity; to the other, it ends 100 meters away, where a slanting wall of stone leans over at a 45 degree angle. It's too bad this is more claustrophobic.
In reality, the two planes are opposite sides of the same sheet of stone, which is really only 200 x 628 meters. The stone used to be white, but is now bright green, being real emerald.
Facing in toward the fold, you see repeated images of yourself, increasingly miniature, swallowed up in bright blue-green light. The nearest look 100 meters away, at 1/100x scale (insect size). Facing outward, you see the repeating images enlarge and get dim and shadowy against blue sky. The nearest look 10 kilometers away, at 100x scale (the size of a large office building). Facing athwart, you see life-size images of yourself, repeated at intervals of 628 meters.
Other features include: a meter-wide gap or moat, running parallel to the fold and new filled with meltwater from the Kaf mountains; 4-meter-wide access holes at regular intervals; and a series of shallow canals, running roughly toward the fold, gouged out in an early accident and now filled with water. Presently, there are also a lectern-like helm, a tent, and two armored airlocks, by way of furniture.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.