Lords of Being
Chapter 21: Pages out of Order
When last we left our band, they were about to depart from Gurneh. A strange woman in white had come up to their disabled jeep, pulled a pistol out of her robe and demanded that they hand over the fragment of Asiras.
With a wild Polynesian war shriek, Rosamund leaps at the mysterious lady. The stranger dodges, ending up crouched next to the jeep.
Glass has his blunderbuss, which he’d brought from the plane. He’s become insubstantial to everything except the gun. He pauses to aim.
Hellgrammite steps around the jeep and aims his gun at her, to find that she’s aiming her pistol at him. It’s a standoff.
Mabel is unfortunately unarmed. She edges around the jeep, looking for rocks.
Neville notes that he’s mortal and ducks out of the jeep on the side away from the stranger. Daoud joins him.
Rosamund shrieks again and throws her trowel at the interloper in an effort to distract her. The trowel hits the stranger in the forehead and causes a wound. Interestingly, she bleeds red.
Glass walks up to her through the jeep and shoots. Somehow she notices him, dodges, wheels around and shoots back at him. Her shot hits the blunderbuss. The blunderbuss goes spinning out of Glass’ hands and flies over the jeep, landing in the grass beyond Neville.
Hellgrammite shoots at her with his microwave raygun and misses.
Mabel edges further around the jeep and scoops up half a dozen rocks.
Rosamund shrieks a 3rd time and jumps at our assailant. She slaps a hand on the stranger and she instantly faints. Rosamund grabs the gun.
Glass had gathered a giant hand of sand which is coming out of the road. He had planned to use it to pound the stranger, but when the stranger goes down, he leaves it standing in the middle of the road. Fatima is in her doorway and blinking in mild surprise. Glass backs out of the jeep and picks up his gun, examining the barrel. Unfortunately, it’s cracked.
After quickly frisking the stranger, Rosamund says, “The car parts are not on her.”
Daoud straightens up. His eyes widen at the sand hand which is still looming over the scene. He backs towards the house. When he gets to the doorway, he murmurs, “Righteous creatures?”
Fatima, who has not come any further out of the house nods and replies, “I think so.”
Accepting the answer, Daoud goes to Rosamund and asks, “Should I bind her? She’s an enemy, yes?”
Rosamund replies, “I can bind her. You should go look for the parts she took from the jeep.” As Daoud and Hellgrammite walk off in the direction that the stranger came from, Rosamund makes a rope out of vegetation and binds the stranger’s wrists with them. After she’s done, there’s a continuous band of rope – no ends to untie. Fatima approaches with first aid materials and tends to the fallen woman.
Rosamond calls out “Si? Here’s her phone.” She’s also found the stranger’s wallet, including her passport.
Glass nods and continues his retrocog of the stranger’s movements and watches as she stashes the missing parts. He goes off after Daoud and Hellgrammite to show them which house the stranger has stashed the missing jeep parts in.
The giant hand of sand is still standing out of the road, as if it were about to swat an annoying mosquito. This is certainly an anomaly, and Neville examines the appendage, poking it with his finger, for lack of a better tool. His finger pokes into the sand, like poking his finger into a sand castle on a beach. There’s a tingle. When he removes his finger, the hole slowly fills in.
Fatima finishes bandaging the captive, and stands to move her out of the road. “Help me with her.”
Rosamund replies, “I’m watching her so she does not wake. Have you seen this lady before?”
Rosamund tosses the captive over her shoulder, unassisted, and as she passes asks, “Mabel, do you recognize this lady?”
Mabel also replies, “No.”
Rosamund gives the stranger’s pistol to Mabel. After years of foxhunts and similar amusements, she’s familiar with firearms.
Fatima leads Rosamund up the walk and starts into the house. Rosamund requests to stay outside. The sun is slowly replenishing the energy she used in the fight. Fatima goes in, and returns with blankets and a pillow.
Rosamund lays the captive on the makeshift pallet. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Fatima goes into the house again, and returns with iced tea.
Glass reaches into the hand of sand to get a good handful. After he withdraws his hand, the appendage collapses with a “Thump” and a cloud of dust, leaving a lump in the road. Rolling his handful between his hands, he makes a glass rope to tie a noose around her neck. He attaches the other end to a stake which he drives into the ground.
Back at the plane, Zabeth and Neon are working on the lighting. Neon is working on a circuit to make the lights change in a pattern that’s dependent on the plane’s airspeed.
In the middle of a sentence, Neon pauses. Something unusual is approaching the plane. He senses a small sphere about the size of a ping pong ball approaching the nose of the plane. “Catalyst? Incoming, about 30 degrees that way.” He points towards the approaching sphere.
Zabeth whips out her palmtop to do some numerology. It’s in the general class of spiracula – a minor spirit. Probably a Page of Order. “We have to make sure the plane and Captain don’t get hurt.” She calls out, “Captain, there’s something coming towards the plane.”
Zabeth sends Ragnison and Si a text message from her palmtop. “Spiraculum has embedded itself in nose of plane. Expecting visitors?”
Her phone rings immediately. It’s Glass. “We just fought someone here who demanded the fragment.”
Zabeth snorts, “They can’t have it”
“That’s what we said.”
“There seems to be a Page of Order that‘s embedded itself in the nose of the plane. Any hints?”
“One moment.” Glass calls over Rosamund and Mabel. Rosamund calls out so Zabeth can hear her, “I got this one. That one’s yours.”
Mabel explains the duties expected of Pages of Order. Basically, whatever they’re told to.
While Zabeth is talking to Glass, Neon says, “Captain, if I’m not mistaken, the avionics are in the nose of the plane, right?”
“Yes. You said something that I can’t see is coming into the plane? Does that have anything to do with the knocks and bumps I feel in the steering yoke?”
Zabeth mutters, “I think we have an uninvited visitor.”
The avionics panel is sealed. Captain Barron goes to get the toolkit. As the Captain departs, Neon steps “through” it (he is a gas after all) into the avionics behind the panel. It’s dark, so he lights the interior with a friendly red glow. There’s a naked humanoid in the panel who’s disassembling things. Neon commands, “Stop that!”
The naked figure glances up and retorts, “No!” Looking back down, he continues disassembling components.
Neon changes the friendly red light to a blinding red light and again commands, “Stop!” Up in the cockpit, Zabeth sees scarlet light leak through every seam in the control panel.
The naked figure screws shut its eyes and again screams, “No!” It can no longer see what it’s disassembling and starts waving its arms around wildly.
Neon pulls out his Swiss army laser. It’s set to weld. He puts the laser against the figure's shoulder and triggers the beam, dragging the tool down the figure’s chest.
The naked man screams and stops.
Zabeth succeeds in unlocking the hatch, just as Captain Barron returns with the tool chest and demands, “What the hell’s going on in there?” He looks at Neon, who’s standing in the middle of the avionics. Beyond him is a naked figure, unconscious and in deep shock, though neatly cauterized. “Are you alright?”
Neon replies, “Yes.”
“With all those cables going through you?!”
“Yes.” Neon gestures at the naked figure. “That is what was causing those bumps and thumps and sabotaging the avionics.”
Captain Barron peers into the avionics panel. “I don’t see how to get him out without taking the plane apart or him apart.”
Glass has been listening to all this over the phone, which Zabeth has fortunately not hung up. Hellgrammite has been reassembling the Jeep. Glass calls out, “Put the car back together quickly!”
Neon shrugs, “OK.” And considers the most efficient way to get the figure out of the panel. The Page faints. “It will take four more cuts to get him out from inside the plane. Can you open an exterior hatch to get him out that way?”
Zabeth is for cutting up the interloper, in the smallest possible chunks. “He manifested inside the panel. We caught him in the act.”
Captain Barron is not amused. While he has nothing against killing an enemy who’s actively fighting you, carving up an unconscious captive is beyond the pale. “I’m gonna have to get in there and fix it anyway. When I open the door, you can extract him. It’s going to be a couple of hours, at least. I’m going to go get a ladder. Don’t do anything precipitate until I get back.”
Before Captain Barron can leave, Zabeth says, “He is a manifestation of Order , but he’s a Page.”
Neon notes, “You keep saying ‘he’ as if it had gender. It isn’t human.”
Captain Barron asks, “What would happen to it if you cut it up?”
“It will eventually remanifest,” she reluctantly admits. “We have to understand why it’s here.”
Captain Barron repeats, “I’m going to go get a ladder. Don’t do anything until I get back”
Glass calls Catalyst and observes, “I think Captain Barron is going to need considerable calming down.”
“Yes, he did see Neon cutting up the Page with his laser. I’ll see what I can do to explain the situation.” Catalyst hangs up and goes out after the Captain.
Rosamund asks Glass to take photos of our assailant and her ID and send them to Ragnison. Glass waves his phone over the passport and the clever device downloads the RFID data from her passport. He finds out that she goes by the name “Benoic.” She is listed as a Brit. A quick net search turns up evidence of a sketchy life. He calls Ragnison and passes the information on. “We seem to be under mild attack. More sabotage than personal. We’ve subdued a ‘Benoic.’ And a Page of Order. He’s been subdued and… dismembered.”
“Dismembered? Probably just as well. Benoic may also be a Page of some sort. Let me ask around and I’ll get back as soon as I can.”
While Ragnison searches, Glass ties the calls to Ragnison and Zabeth together. With a grunt, Ragnison says, “No hits. Zabeth, is the Page in the nose of the plane the one that Glass was referring to?”
“Yes. He’s naked. Neon carved a few pieces off with his laser.”
“Well, his clothes are not a part of his manifestation, after all. You appear to have a couple of Pages, I assume of Order. I don’t recognize them. The other one is named ‘Benoic.’”
“Do you need any further data on this one? I could give you a picture.”
“That would be good.”
She hands the phone to Neon, who takes a picture of the figure entwined in the plane’s avionics. A few key presses and the image is transmitted to Ragnison.
“I will ask around.” He hangs up.
Captain Barron returns with a ladder on wheels, which he positions against the plane. He climbs up and starts opening one of the exterior hatches. He looks down as Zabeth passes, heading towards the terminal. “Just for my peace of mind, where are you off to?”
“I’m looking for a shroud to put around the plane's nose, so we take the guy out without causing comment.”
“And what excuse do we have for why I need a shroud?”
“We seem to have a sandstorm coming. We’ll need a shroud to keep dust out of the avionics.” Zabeth mentions it first to the Captain to keep him calm in that she will be coming up with a scheme to get a shroud without people asking too many questions.
As Zabeth makes her way to the terminal she calls to Si and asks about the 'chances of weather' coming our way to form a distraction.
She explains to Si the need to deal with getting the Page out and get repairs going on the plane so she wil lbe requesting a shroud for the work to be done undercover.
Si likes the sound of this and will be on the towers radar in short order.
With that she smiles and enters the terminal, thinking “Thanks, Si!”
She enters the terminal and finds her way to the security office, where she asks to see the head of security. When she’s ushered into his office, he exclaims “Zabeth, what are you doing here?” Zabeth and this gentleman have met before. He was working for a clandestine agency at that time.
“I’m on trip to do some archeological research and my plane is having some problems. There’s a sandstorm coming and we need a shroud to keep the dust out of the plane. Oh, and we’ll need a gurney.”
“Of course. No problem.” Suddenly she has minions who provide a shroud. And no questions about the gurney.
Back at the road in front of Fatima’s house, Glass raises his hands. Bits of sand rise and start swirling in the air around him, forming a dust devil. Normally the sand is carried by the wind. In this case, the air is being stirred by the sand. The swirling sand seems to give him new energy and it would be very easy to get lost in the pleasure of the wind and the sand. More and more sand joins the whirlwind, until Glass is lifted on the wind. He heads east towards the airport.
As Glass rises into the sky, Rosamund calls Ragnison. “Can we just get rid of this girl? I don’t want to leave her around here to trail us.”
“Let me think.” Ragnison pauses for a moment, “I’ll ask Mona to take care of her.”
“That would be excellent. Thank you.” She hangs up.
A few minutes later, Mona comes around a corner of the house.
Rosamund waves. “Hi, Mona.”
Mona looks at the figure on the pallet. “Yes, that’s Benoic.”
“She’s sleeping soundly.”
“Yes. She was taking our jeep apart. Then she shot at us.”
“I’m going to need a little help to get her loose.”
“Si did that. He’s not here now.” She beckons over Hellgrammite and asks him to remove the cable. “Si did that. It’s not organic.” Meaning Rosamund can't control it.
Hellgrammite pulls the stake out of the ground with a yank, then clips the cable. Some things don't require special effects.
Rosamund continues, “We might need you again. There’s another saboteur at the plane.” She grins, and quotes, "Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies.”
Mona says, “I was thinking of taking her to Ragnison. He’s got Lady Diamond with him, and should be able to contain her. Does anybody have a wheelbarrow? I need something to help move her.”
Fatima replies, “Wheelbarrow? Just a moment.” She says something to Daoud who goes away and returns with an elderly wheelbarrow.
Rosamund warns, “You might not get it back.”
Rosamund lifts Benoic into the barrow. Mona wedges her candle into a crack in the wheelbarrow, lights it, lifts the wheelbarrow handles and starts forward with her chant. They see her take seven steps away, each step longer than the last, before she vanishes.
Rosamund turns to Daoud, “We’re the good guys.” Just in case he was wondering.
“I believe you because Fatima says so. And because nothing bad has happened to her.”
“She is well guarded.” She turns to Fatima. “You must have a garden.”
“Do you mind if I spend a few minutes there? It helps me.”
Fatima leads her to a garden out back. It’s rather dried out. The plants are small and shriveled. They’re surviving, barely, but certainly not thriving.
Rosamund observes, “The water isn’t close enough to the surface.”
Fatima shrugs, “Not at the moment.”
“This plant can grow long roots that bring it up.”
“Perhaps.” Fatima goes back the front of the house, leaving Rosamund walking among the plants of the garden.
Zabeth returns to the plane accompanied by airport minions with a shroud. While they position it to protect the hatch indicated by Captain Barron, she ties into the airport radar and monitors Si’s progress. He's taking a straight line from Gurneh, across the Nile, to the airport, much to the surprise of the citizens of Luxor. She warns him about the ruins at the Temple of Karnack, which he obligingly hops over.
Catalyst and Neon extract the Page out of the plane and place it on the gurney. Zabeth ties it down with duct tape.
Neon says, “Captain Barron, the body is out of the way. Do you have enough light?”
“I could use more.”
Neon snaps his fingers. There’s a pleasant red light flooding the compartment. “Do you need help?”
“I could use some.”
Neon and Catalyst help reconnect things. The fact that both can reach through the components is very helpful. Captain Barron tactfully does not comment on this.
While the boys fix the plane, Zabeth calls Ragnison and asks him to send Mona to pick up the figure that was extracted from the nose of the plane. The left arm is still sort of attached.
“Oh good, then I can have the whole set.”
“Yes, I’d really like to know who sent them and why. With a good hit of pain meds, they should talk.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to my landlady.” Bleeding strangers, wheelbarrows, gurneys…
“Does Mona need coordinates?”
“She’s resting. Do your connections run to buying a Babylon candle? She’s been burning hers at both ends.”
“I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got the Page on a gurney. Naked.”
“Don't worry. This is Denmark, after all. Mona says thank you for the gurney.” He hangs up.
Soon, Mona steps around the edge of the shroud. “You have another passenger for me?”
“Greetings Mona. This page seems to have insinuated itself into our avionics.”
“Gyron. You must have IDed him from the pictures I sent.”
“Yes. Benoic and Gyron are Pages of Order. Our hunch is that they were sent by Clisk. The gurney’s very appropriate under the circumstances.” She sets up her candle, takes seven small steps and disappears.
Zabeth calls up, “Do you need anything, Captain?”
“Let me think about that.”
Neon asks, “Can this be repaired?”
“Yes. He was just taking things apart. He didn’t break anything. But it’s going to take a while.” He calls down, “I’d like a double cappuccino, please.”
Zabeth retraces her steps to the Security Office, where she finds the Head of Security. “Thank you for all your help. Do you need anything?”
He thinks. “If you could send a few passport blanks for Turkey to the following address…”
“Of course. It will take a few days. One more request. Could you arrange for an appropriate gift be given to given to this man? Something culturally appropriate.” She gives him Daoud's name and address.
“Certainly.” In a few days, Daoud and Fatima will receive a large, gift-wrapped package of gourmet marzipan.
After exchanging a few more pleasantries, Zabeth goes to fetch the coffee, and heads back to the plane.
Back in Gurneh, Hellgrammite has reassembled the jeep with the speed of a Vegas dealer passing out cards. And Daoud is in for a pleasant surprised about the thing's new gas mileage.
Fatima comes to the back of the house and says, “Your friend says that the jeep is ready.” She looks around. “The garden looks… perkier.”
“It should feed you well. Save the seeds. They’re special.”
Fatima bows her head. “Thank you.”
Daoud drives us back to the Nile, guides us across on the ferry, then drives us to the airport. He drops us off, nods gravely and leaves without a word. Just beyond the airport is the dust devil containing Glass. It’s growing.
When she sees us coming, Zabeth calls Glass. “Si. It’s time to come back now.”
Neon, more used to Glass’ ways takes the phone. “Si. How long are you going to be?”
“Anything from one to eight hours.”
“We’re going to be leaving soon.”
“Give me a call when you absolutely need me.”
The group that went to see Fatima troop aboard. Rosamund settles herself into a comfy chair with a Thompson and Morgan seed catalog. Zabeth ties into a satellite view of the region to track Glass so we don’t lose him. Somehow that doesn't seem likely...
Si's storm, as seen the next day.
Neon calls out, “Captain, we are ready to leave.”
Captain Barron replies dryly, “I can hardly wait to see what’s next.”
Last Updated: Aug 14, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved