Mother Goose Chase
Chapter 19: It's All Downhill
We continue to walk through the fog after the "Sixpence" song fades away. Soon, we start to feel our Path is slanting down. Markel is sure this is wrong; we should be going off in the direction that is 30 degrees up. Kate orders everyone to halt, and directs Markel to lead us in the correct direction. This doesn't help; the Path gets steeper and more slippery. In only a few seconds the ponies are frantic, and starting to slide "downhill." The pony that Dafnord was leading falls down and starts to slide. Kate stops it with a burst of TK, but by then three other ponies are down and skidding.
There is now a light up ahead, but it has an artificial quality. The mist starts to thin, and we find ourselves all sliding down onto a hard, flat surface. Markel, Angel, their pony, and the mastiff/dragon are the first to land.
"We did it! Yahoo!"
Fallataal and his pony, despite the vertiginous challenge, arrive upright, until they pitch headfirst into the sofa.
"Horses? Stop! Wait! No!" The voice, young and feminine, changes from glee to indignation. At the same time, there is a burst of unkind, maniacal laughter.
We continue to arrive, crowding into a single, ordinary-sized living room. The horses remain distressed, interacting (negatively) with the furniture. We dismount to avoid the ceiling and to control the animals better. Dafnord occupies himself by lifting various ponies out of their perches. (At least one small table will never be the same again.)
We examine the figures in front of us. The first voice obviously belongs to the fair- skinned, fair-haired teenaged girl. The laugher is a youth of medium height, thin, with fair skin and black hair and, oddly, an eyepatch. Markel spots markings on the floor, while Gannar checks The Watch.
The man advises the young woman, "You'd better nail it down."
She speaks in Latin, but we understand it. "I who have invoked you command your obedience."
He makes a sardonic little "so there" gesture, followed by "Get those horses out of here."
Dafnord has already located the door and now opens it and puts the nearest pony out. Gannar dives for the door, barely beating the second animal through it. Dafnord turns back, drawing Umbra.
Our putative summoner demands, "What the heck are you?!"
Her companion answers, "You've snagged fairies."
We are deeply offended. One pixie and two elves out of nine people does not consititue "fairies." So there.
She isn't convineced either and points to Dafnord, an obvious Acro. "Elf-friend," her companion suggests. "Tuatha du Danaan," suggests Fallataal (under his breath, from behind the dagger he's drawn, as he backs cautiously away from the pair). The Tuatha were often about Acro-sized.
"Why have you brought us here?" demands Markel, accented by a growl from his four-legged companion.
"She was trying for bigger fish," sniggers the one-eyed man.
"I am Bev- Perdetta, and I have conjured you."
Kate aims her sonic stunner at "Perdetta". "Put that down," is the petulant command. The weapon wavers for a second, but steadies.
"Answer the deeper question," grates our Londoner.
"Because I summoned you and you must do what I say," the young woman announces with a defiant toss of her head. The stunner is still aimed up her nose.
Salimar and another pony slip out the door. They're in a corridor, so apparently this is an apartment building. They head for the elevator bank at the other end of the hall.
We ask Gannar where and when we are. Gannar seems confused, but consults the watch and broadcasts that we are in Arcangeles, and it's 2517, only three days after we left Tighmark. We are happy to learn that we are when we should be, and not handicapped by any time tangle. We are not happy to have Gannar explain to us that Arcangeles is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit over Los Angeles.
Fallataal slams a pillow directly into Perdetta's face. She's had enough. She screams, in red-faced hysteria, that we're on her shit list, really on her shit list, and we have to leave now, just now, and we don't want to mess with her, because she's Perdetta. Et cetera. Fallataal now points a dagger at her nose. He starts to have trouble breathing, but he doesn't back down.
Kate urges the last of the ponies out into the hall. The man warns us, "You must leave. Do not kill anyone and approach no children." Markel has Angel and the mastiff in his control.
Kate gathers the others with her eyes. "C'mon, guys." We walk out into the hall, with Fallataal covering us and leaving last. The door slides closed on a shambles of a living room that now smells strongly of horse urine. Fallataal takes a deep breath, then slams his dagger into the wall, right where the door would have to slide in order to open again. We note that this is apartment 96 before we head for the elevators.
Kate does a mental scan of the ponies, and is unsurprised to learn that they didn't like the scent of That Place. They are still distressed; they can't find the direction that led to "home." She soothes them as best she can, while we gather ourselves to leave the building. Salimar shows one of the big Oakley acorns to the ponies, and they clearly identify it, but are unable to use it to tune into an exit.
The sole elevator arrives, and it's small. Kate and Markel take the first of the ponies downstairs. Salimar uses the stairs, having ascertained that we're only on the third floor. Fallataal follows her down. Kate leaves the rest in the lobby, and goes back up for the next equine passenger.
Robbie ignores the elevator and stairs. He makes a direct net connection: "Arcangeles Civic Network. How may I help you?"
"Where am I?"
"You are on the eighth floor of the Baja Residential Complex." He figures he's linked in through a communications unit on the eighth floor, since he knows he's on the third floor.
"Map, please." The map is downloaded, and is a torus.
"What are the regulations concerning horses?"
"... We have none, per se."
"Who lives in unit 96 on the third floor?"
"Peter and Melissa Conrad and their daughter Beverly." That combines with the aborted "Bev" that Perdetta said; our tormenter is Beverly Conrad, who still lives with her parents.
"When is the next shuttle to ... London?"
"There are no direct shuttles to other continents. The next shuttle to Baja leaves in three hours."
Down in the lobby, Markel spots two middle-aged ladies, who are eyeing him and the ponies dubiously. Salimar pulls out the Map of Here. It curls a bit in an effort to represent a torus, and displays a grid of the entire satellite, and shows not only our arrival marker, but a small mist in a greenish area that is probably a park. Markel, clutching the bag of pennies, can locate Tighmark. It's up, over about there. And slowly moving. (Well, really Arcangeles is spinning.)
Fallataal is bewildered to find Markel and a pony in the lobby, since he has no concept of elevators. Salimar tries to explain, but is distracted by the staring ladies. She turns to them. "We're part of a circus. We'll be performing at the park in an hour."
One of the women astutely asks, "Why do you have these horses in here?"
"Costuming," she answers. Fallataal distracts them by juggling.
"Arcangeles Civic? Could you give me the number for the KaiSenese Embassy? Their consulate? Legation? Phone number?"
Robbie calls the phone number, but gets the Circle Star Networks, which seems to be a light entertainment lyncast channel.
"Could you give me a number for Jumping Jacks?" The number is in area code 54321, which is Cape Canaveral.
The two ladies are still bothered. This is understandable, as more and more ponies and strange people are emerging in their lobby. Eventually, they can no longer hold their ground, and retire elsewhere.
We are finally all down in the lobby. Salimar shows around the map, and we agree that, what with one thing and seven anothers, it would be a good idea to go to the park. We line up in chaos-traveling order, and head out into the Concourse. We turn down the street that will take us to the park. Markel locates Tighmark, and finds that it's now over there. Salimar tries to explain to him that we're in a satellite habitat. People are staring at us. We keep walking. Gannar points out one or two semi-empty lots, where we could put the horses if we had to.
Robbie taps into the nearest park camera. It shows us a standard park with trees and grass, all contained in a three-floor atrium filled with people. At the locale that maps to the mist point there's just grass and birds. Daphne, happy to be in a realm with lift packs, flies along beside us, oblivious to the staring policeman. We enter the park, and head for the mist point. Kate can tell the ponies aren't happy with this site; it has a feel like the apartment.
Salimar uses her third sight, and learns that the mist point happened some three months earlier.
Robbie makes another call. "Arcangeles Civic? What unusual events occurred in this part of the park two to four months ago?"
"There has been a crafts fair, two zing band performances, an historical reenactment society display..."
"Details on that, please."
"There were no admittance charges. It was a public get-together, with people in costume for the Industrial Period (1500-2100), demonstrations of an internal combustion engine and of a spinning wheel." Robbie requests and gets a series of pictures. The photographs of the officers of the society show no one of familiar face or name.
Choosing not to broadcast her results as she achieves them (except privately, by telepathy), Salimar does a retrocognition on the area. She sees this area in darkness, with the retro-festival in full swing in the background, and Perdetta in Elizabethan dress in the foreground. She is standing in one circle, in front of another, empty circle on the grass, both marked out with powder. She is clearly chanting and gesturing. Suddenly, the youth from the apartment appears, naked, in the second circle. He looks around, laughs, and collapses. Her face fills with glee. She apparently tries to give him imperious orders that he ignores with even less effort than we required. He then rises and steps out of the circle, and as he turns his head, Salimar can see that there is merely a dark hole where his eye should have been. He is laughing, quickly talking back to Perdetta, making eye contact with her. Suddenly he is clothed as we saw him, and then they walk off, still talking.
With some urging, she does more work. There has clearly been a large expenditure of psi here. Soon, she gathers her energies and does an auditory retrocog. Perdetta is chanting in Latin. She is summoning Samael in the names of.... Gannar confirms that they are the names of demons. When the young man first speaks, he laughingly assures her that he has done her the biggest favor in the world by not being Samael. She asks him who he is, but he only says that she should call him Sammy.
Robbie gets back to Arcangeles Civic. "What entries do you have under Psionic Services?" There are a lot of entries, but most of them are just mindsmiths, which are small shops. He calls Jumping Jacks, but gets an "all circuits busy" signal. He tries to call KaiSen again, but this time it's "Duffy's Pizza Palace. Please hold."
Kate gets a sinking feeling in her stomach. "This sounds like time lock. Maybe Jumping Jacks is taking care of things now. What's the time?" Gannar reports that it's 12:03 pm.
We lead the ponies to an isolated area where they can graze and we are less conspicuous. We agree that we can't simply take a shuttle out and leave either Perdetta or Sammy rolling around like loose cannons. We decide to rent some warehouse space for us to stay in. Robbie gets us one, orders in an autochef and bathroom facilities, and pre-pays it out of one of our accounts.
It takes us a while to walk there since it is "up" from the park, but we relax once we're in it. It's cavernous, it's barren, it's comfortably like the pantope. Markel pulls the ripcord, and his dragon happily unfurls, taking a few laps around our space. Kate starts turning out oats and hay from the autochef for our ponies.
Robbie taps into Baja Residential, the apartment bloc Perdette lives in. The third floor access cameras don't show anything special. He taps into the videophone in 396, intending to spy with cyberclair. Sammy picks up as if we'd made a call. "It's for you," he says, and there are handset-transferring noises.
The ex-robot asks, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"
Perky Perdetta replies, "Oh, great! It worked. Here's your first assignment--" Robbie hangs up.
Gannar has been checking the current statutes on psi crime. The list begins with psionic assault, voyeurism, and goes on from there. The penalties for compulsion-based psionics are really severe. But "conjuration" isn't among them. Gananr starts to look up something else.
Robbie tries the hall cameras again. He runs the nearest one back until our reversed exit. Then he scrolls backward until he sees Sammy arrive at the apartment. Back further, and he sees the parents leave. He zips through several days of traffic, and learns that Sammy has been there, briefly, when Peter and Melissa Conrad were there. We are mildly discouraged to realize that the parents know about their daughter's companion.
Gannar reports his researches on Samael. He is found in Kabalistic lore, where he is variously Satan, the consort of Lilith, the son of Lilith, and Heaven's hit man. In sum, he is powerful and nasty. We are happy that we are not dealing with him, probably, but who or what is Sammy?
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.