Chapter 17: Reversals
We have retrieved Tom from an island on the Sunless Sea and are hovering
in our good aiship, the Pudgie Budgie, contemplating our next move. We
might want to go help the Black Mage, since we thought we glimpsed his
minions being attacked by our common foes, the probably-draconian grey
ninjas. On the other hand, it was while poking about just such an event
that Tom encountered whatever catastrophe threw him out of the pantope,
mirror reversed him, and left the pantope omniports floating in limbo,
whence we have only now retrieved them.
We decide we're tired of limbo ourselves and want to go back to some place before trying anything else with the omniports. Hauling the non-physical omniports with us through the grey murk takes some persistent attention, but we manage.
Eventually, some cliffs start to appear and Kate's back-tracker compass once more shows a pointer (to everyone; Robbie was always able to see it).
Now that we are in slightly more normal conditions, Robbie asks Salimar to examine him psychically. Interesting. She can't detect him as a lifeform; he's just not there. In terms of general psi signatures, he's a dazzle of something both very simple and very complex -- something that makes her think of fractal geometry or mathematical chaos theory.
Robbie asks Tom to look him over. Tom tries a telepathic audit, as deep as he can go, and is startled to find nothing down at the subconscious level. He, too, tries a general look at psi signatures, and is likewize dazzled by what appear to be infinite regresses of psi cast by psi cast by psi...
Turning the tables a little, Salimar asks Robbie to watch as she uses her Third Sight, to see if he can detect it, but he can't.
Tom's brief exertion has tired him. He's still recovering from the desert island. And he's still mirror-reversed. Robbie has the autodoc run off some K rations made of reversed sugars and amino acids. It complies, grumbling.
By now, we are almost entirely back in a place, hovering before the cliffs of the Back of Beyond. Through the gloaming, Dafnord can pick out the shapes of the rocks and can tell we're getting near the place where we met the Purifier. Soon, he spots the Purifier himself.
Robbie feels it would be only polite to talk to him, to tell him we succeeded, thanks to his help. And maybe he could then put Robbie back in his body, or even mirror-flip Tom? But as he takes off, Salimar gets a Bad Feeling premontion, very strongly, and we call him back. Maybe the Purifier shouldn't be interrupted now. Maybe that's not really him out there, but someone we don't want to meet. Anyway, Robbie turns back.
Flying back the way we came, we're soon in the region where the oddly rectilinear cliffs come down to the oddly glittering and transparent sand. Markel spots a dark blot on the sand. Dafnord discerns a humanoid figure, and Robbie launches second sight to look it over. =20
It's a grey ninja, not moving but at the end of a long trail of bloody sand leading back into the cliffs. Robbie flies out in person, encases the body in ectoplasm, and returns with it to the ship. (Unnervingly, he starts to fade off the telepathy net as he gets farther away.) Close examination shows the fangs and costume of a typical grey ninja. He's clearly dead, from a major wound in the chest.
Salimar does retrocognition on the body, to learn its recent history. He was sneaking along the crags with half a dozen others of his kind, when he saw a ship up in the air. There was a lance of bright light that struck him. Everything went black. (He must have recovered later, only to crawl out here and die.) The ship in the air looked like a sailing ship, not like our blimp-like Pudgie Budgie.
Something is clearly up with these grey ninjas, but we don't feel up to facing it yet. We sail toward home for another half-day, as near as we can tell in this unchanging twilight. When things are a bit more natural, we might play with the omniports and try to fix them. Then we might take a shortcut home, through a gate.
After a while, the cliffs look more naturalistic and there's ocean, with no beach, below us. Keeping an eye out for grey ninjas, Robbie spies a figure working along the cliff faces, going toward the Back of Beyond. On inspection, it's Mirien!
Robbie flies out to meet her, sending an eye and telepathic contact ahead of him. Both fail. Mirien has some sort of wards up, against the telepathy, and she's trapped the eye. Robbie settles for floating a few yards away and waving.
Puzzled by his translucent appearance, Mirien calls back, "Robbie?" She apologizes and tosses his eye back to him. Soon, she's aboard the Pudgie Budgie, getting updated on developments, such as Robbie's disembodiment and Tom's dimensional misadventures. She, too, was looking for Tom. She must have left before our return to Lanthil, and we've overtaken her, either by moving faster or by the elastic nature of time out here.
Mirien puzzles over Tom's mirror-reversal and that of one of the omniports. You look through it and see your mirror image looking back, only it isn't an image, it's you, regarded the other way around through a dimensional twist. She prods her image/self with a finger, but she doesn't touch glass; her fingertip touches itself. Weird, even by our standards.
Robbie considers that her finger gets in its own way, but he is intangible. He tries walking through himself and succeeds effortlessly. Ta-da! He's mirror-reversed! Prudently, he then walks back, to un-reverse.
Tom wonders if he could do that, by using heavy-duty glamour to become intangible rather than by getting disembodied. =20
Salimar tries prodding her finger, the way Mirien did, but lets it melt into itself, experimentally. This turns out to be a mistake. As we quietly sail back toward home, and those people who sleep do so, Salimar becomes more and more convinced that she's sick -- poisoned. Some of her biochemicals have mixed and gotten mirror-reversed, and it's NOT agreeing with her.
She resorts to the autodoc, which knows about her alien biochemistry, and has it set up a filter. She feeds herself in, deciliter at a time, coming out another hose, plop plop plop, into her bucket -- her old steel one. She holds herself together telepathically, where necessary. Soon, she's all in the bucket, except for a little wad of toxic trouble. She pops it into a sample jar for later reference.
Morning, or at least waking, comes. Tom feels somewhat better. He glamours himself intangible and walks through the flipped omniport. It works! He's no longer reversed. Gratefully, he settles down to an ordinary breakfast.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.