We Left the Dwarf Running
We left our heroes in the pantope, connected to a parallel version of
the planet Hellene, in the timeline containing the para-Victorian world
of "Castle Falkenstein." We had discovered, the hard way, that the
draconians were monitoring activity at the ranch site, even on this
parallel. We were considering visiting the draconians in freeze-frame.
Instead, we first fast-forward a day, to see if the draconians poke around any more. they do indeed. An air-car comes in, buzzes around, then leaves. Night flashes by. The next morning, three of the manta-shaped fighter ships come zipping in. they disgorge several floating platforms, at which point we drop back to normal time, to watch.
The platforms are staffed by the beefy, leathery "dragontroopers" and their more gracile officer-caste. And there's one fellow who looks, at a distance, as if he's wearing a cowl, but turns out to be more of a cobra-man. He appears to be the ranking critter. At one point, he conjures up a staff and waves it around. They all hover about and do scanning motions, but no one and nothing actually touches the ground. Eventually, they all pack up and go away.
We fast-forward a little more, and find that they come back next day, with lots more platforms. No cobra-man is evident this time. There's a cluster of scanners near the ground and another cluster up in the air, apparently on look-out. Brunalf the neo-cat is sure they're inspecting the spot where we first opened a door. It's gratifying to see how scared they appear to be of us.
Robbie has Tom sail the pantope door around the planet, over to the island where Pericles is on our timeline. It's empty, and rather less lushly forested than our version. We open a door and Robbie steps out, cautiously, looking at the Map of Here. Nothing happens to him. Nor, when he cranks the scale up far enough, does anything happen in the way of dimensional activity elsewhere on the planet. And, looking back at the draconians at the ranch-site, no one there twitches or notes red lights flashing. So the draconians are not scanning the entire planet of Hellene. How finite of them.
Back in the pantope and disconnected, Robbie looks over the service log on the Map, and determines (what we could have learned weeks ago) that the dimensional portals used by Ms. Yanova are very like the ones used by the draconian spies before the raid on Destine. This all fits with our idea that the draconians, in particular Lilith, were using Ms. Yanova.
We decide that trying to spy on the draconian outpost on Hellene is more risk than it's likely to be worth. However, it would be worthwhile having a way to detect draconian dimension-doors. And Jumping Jacks appears to have that sort of technology. So we gate into Jumping Jacks.
Specifically, we open on the hangar where Tom keeps the Nones, a few moments after we returned it. And this is a few days after the end of the battle under the force-dome. We step out, and Tom remembers, this time, to call security and "check in," so no one runs about in a panic, discovering what the new dimensional anomaly is. They're grateful.
Robbie fishes out a calling-card to call Cantrel. "Why not just do it in your head?" Tom asks, since Robbie has done this many times before. At least, he did back in the days when he had hardware, and sometimes since. Robbie is discomfited to find himself forgetting this sort of thing, but can, indeed, call Cantrel up in his head.
Cantrel invites us to gate over to his office, thus circumventing his receptionist. We tell him that we feel a dimensional-door detector would be useful at the ranch. He agrees, but tells us it is a product of Eldacur Technology, not Jumping Jacks, and will take a few days to get rummaged up and installed, especially since Eldacur Technologies is helping Jumping Jacks with the re-building effort after the battle. Also, the equipment "refuses to be captured," self-destructing if necessary, so we should keep it away from other equipment. We agree to all this, say we're in no particular rush, and gate out.
Tom has been thinking about where to finally put the nephilim. Most of them don't want to go to the Plains of Penance and the Seven Times Seven Cities of the Nephilim beyond. It seems like anywhere else in creation leaves them vulnerable to draconian attack. He asks Braeta if it mightn't be better to turn them loose on Chaos' Rim so they can MAKE a realm of their own.
Braeta replies that something like that was suggested among the nephilite remnant about 3000 years ago, but it didn't go over well. The fact of the matter is that the remnant really like the mundane plane and just don't want to leave. Anyway, all these manufactured realms are so ... small, cosmologically speaking. And a race of demi-gods and heroes is not keen on any move that looks like surrender.
Okay, okay. How about this line's version of the planet of New Hierow? Arcane beings appear to be allowed out in public on this line, and New Hierow is an out-of-the-way planet. Sounds good, provided the place is sufficiently habitable.
One problem with all this gating about in the pantope is that you lose track of your personal time. Lots of us are tired. We decide to call it a day (since we can call it anything we like) and go rest at the ranch. This will also give us a chance to see how Drumthortle is getting along, and to tell him about the people coming to install the dimensional detection machinery.
We open on the library in the ranch and soon locate Drumthortle. He's been keeping himself busy, dwarf-style. He's been excavating a new basement for us, since we clearly lacked sufficient cellarage, by his standards.
We are mildly aghast at home much he's excavated in the short time we've left him to it, but we do know, from previous time-trips, that we have loads of underground space by thirty years in the future. We just didn't know he'd dig it single-handedly. For a hobby. In a month. He's sort of an earth-moving machine that runs on beer and pretzels...
The new basement includes:
- A secret entrance in the back of the hall closet. (Very dwarvish.) (Low lintel.)
- A new kitchen, though it is not yet really equipped.
- A new exercise room, though the main exercise is presently lifting rocks.
- A new weapons locker. This is equipped. Drumthortle is a soldier, after all.
The weapons include used (or "seasoned") weapons, for Tom, whose knack of Tools runs off the psychic traces left by previous users, but also some just plain honkin' big guns, to make Dafnord's trigger fingers twitch.
Robbie, remembering to do it through his head this time, dispatches an e-mail memo to Cantrel, telling him to officially commend Drumthortle for his industry, even if he does regard the dwarf as a "senile old fool."
Dafnord goes to a comm console and begins mail-ordering gym equipment.
Daphne begins planning an underground conservatory with Drumthortle, who's not big on trees, but likes the digging part fine.
Tom goes to bed. So does Robbie. He tries to sleep and finds he can. On waking, he tries shapeshifting from his current shape (very humanoid, Madame Tussaud's best effort, almost passes for human) to his old shape (shiny black humanoid with silver piping). He finds he can, which is a comfort to him.
Early the next morning, Dafnord rises and seeks out Drumthortle. He really wants to try out the new plasma bazooka Drumthortle put in the new weapons locker, and knows the dwarf would enjoy this too. They head out in the new truck (which Drumthortle ordered on his own initiative, but hey, we'll put in on Yanova's bill), to test the gun by blasting the top off a small hill, so Drumthortle can get to the rock underneath, for construction material. Daphne, always fond of fireworks, comes along.
Once they get to the hill, Daphne points out that there's a perfectly nice tree in the way, which she'd rather not see incinerated.
The dwarf grunts. What can you expect from a pixie who does wood magic? But Dafnord sighs and resolves to do something, since Daphne is a tested battle-comrade of his, who has hauled his bacon out of some odd fires. How would she like it transplanted? Fine.
So Dafnord strips of his shirt, revs up his voluntary hysteria skills, grabs the tree, and shakes it loose. He then pulls it out just in time for the admiration of several domestic robots (who were bringing rope, explosives, and similar landscaping supplies) and the Gargoyle (who was just tagging long), in addition to the dwarf, the pixie, and a couple of the local lads on air-cycles, who've been hired by Drumthortle to help out and happened by in time for the show.
Dafnord then uses his sword Umbra to cut out a suitable root ball. He ties a rope to the tree and has Drumthortle use the truck to haul it up into the air. (Of course it's an air truck.)
He then uses his plasma bazooka to blast a new hole for the tree. When that's insufficient, he orders the robot totting the explosives to park its little red wagon in the shallow crater...
...and soon it's a much deeper crater, and the robot is minus one little red wagon. It goes back to the garage to pout. The new air-truck lowers the tree into its new hole and quietly decides to put itself up for sale on the local web.
Daphne satisfied, Dafnord and Drumthortle turn back to their small hill and cheerfully blast all the topsoil off it. The rest of the robots edge inconspicuously back toward the ranch house, where you can bet that, if anyone was still asleep, they aren't any more.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.