The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 1, Meeting Captian Yanov
We left our heroes on Helene, fresh from stocking up on weaponry for a proposed trip to find Dinlai and (probably) help her fight Lamiae. But before we set off, we're gong to settle down to a month or so of training, to get used to the new equipment.
If we get the chance. The very next day, our security passes from Crosstime beep. A patch on them lights up and gives the image of the security guard we met yesterday. He tells us "the Old Man" wants to talk to us on "Priority 1."
Wondering what "Priority 1" is, who "the Old Man" is, and hating being out of sequence, Tom says to go ahead. The response is a telepathic contact -- oddly muffled -- from someone on behalf of "the Admiral," who is probably "the Old Man" under a more respectful title. Are we ready to receive? Or do we want a more secure channel? Would we like an A-psi-P? "A what?" "Oh, sorry. An Artificial Psionic Personality." (Gurk.) "No, no, this is fine." "Are you the latest representations of yourselves available?" (Perhaps they suspect our mis-sequencing.) "Yes, we're the only ones."
We now get a holographic call from a nondescript and efficient man, who has Tom verify his identity through a gizmo that one of the house trays fetches for him -- breath here, thumbprint there, now talk, now the retina print, etc. -- then turns him over to a distinguished-looking gentleman in a sort of uniform markedly stripped of insignia. Tom vaguely recognizes him as someone Cantrel had dealings with. He introduces himself as Admiral Yanov, and Tom clearly remembers a fleeting encounter with someone named Yanov in Chaos' Rim, during the Battle. But it was voice-only and very brief.
Adm. Yanov's problem is an "anomaly" in Helene near-space. And, when he turned to his desk to deal with it, he had the most amazing series of butterfingered fumbles that left him holding this. (He holds up a little box that Tom recognizes as a Nick-made timelock detector. It's just the atomic-electronic equivalent of a fistful of coins, but it makes the hi-tech types feel better.) It's engraved as a present from Crosstime and the readout warned against Yanov getting involved himself. (So who you gonna call? Anomalies-R-Us, apparently.)
Yanov is reluctant to give us much more information, not that there's a lot to be had, but he can deliver a ship to us in seven minutes. It will whisk us to our own ship in Pericles much faster than we could get there in the family air-van.
We agree, sign off, and scramble to grab our weapons, just in case. We call the Crosstime folk in Pericles and tell them to scramble in their readying of the Nones. Sorry for the sudden change of schedule.
We call Salimar at the KaiSenese Embassy and tell her to hustle to the Pericles yards and bring the Map of Here (which is specially designed for mapping nearby dimensional activity). Then we congregate on the porch and wait. Tom casts a neo-dog illusion on Markel's shrunken dragon just before--
--an unmarked teardrop of a spacecraft drops out of the heavens, with, interestingly enough, no hint of a sonic boom. A hatch opens and we see guys in space armor, covering the nearby shrubbery with big nasty guns. We dash aboard and shake hands with the officer as the hatch clangs shut and we volley skyward in eerie silence.
This guy is the faces that went by in the introductory calls to Adm. Yanov. His uniform is almost as blank, and his "name" is "Blue." Other folk are introduced as "Green" and "Brown." It will be very silly if these turn out to be their actual names.
Following a path that owes nothing to orbital dynamics, we come hissing down onto the Crosstime yards. Dutiful personnel come scrambling to meet us, see the aforementioned space-armor gunners, and stop dead in their tracks, looking as innocent as possible. We dash out, pick up Salimar, and rush to the Nones. The maintenance tech tells us it's only got fuel for a parsec or so, but that should be plenty. Other than that, don't eat the store and ignore that odor of mothballs.
We pile into the Nones and, since Tom has no piloting skill, tell it to follow that unmarked ship that just took off like a bat out of hell. The Nones complies.
A few AU out from Helene, we catch up with our unmarked friends, two more blank teardrops, and a bigger spherical ship, all gathered anxiously around a zone of refraction about a kilometer wide. Stars viewed through it are displaced and discolored Also, it wavers, and it's been wavering more and more. There are circular rainbows deep inside it.
Shortly after we arrive, the stars viewed through it appear to rush away into infinity, a zone of blackness rushed in, and a ship pops out. At us!
It veers. We veer. Fortunately in different directions. The anomaly vanishes and the Nones announces that we are being hailed. We take the call and find ourselves looking at a young Old Man -- an earlier version of Adm. Yanov. And it is clear that this is the ship we met a few subjective days ago, in the Battle of Lanthil.
Tom and Yanov introduce each other. This "representation" is Captain Yuri Yanov, and has spent a couple of weeks trying to get out of Chaos' Rim, or some place like it. From time to time, he pauses in his conversation to address something low and out of sight, in a language like a badger fighting a horde of frogs. He gets answers in the same language.
Tom shows him the watch that appeared on his wrist to let him take Yuri's hail during the Battle, admits that we're world-hoppers like him, and offers him, say, three days shore-leave at the family ranch. (He does this after clearing it with Blue. He now recalls that Blue is the technical expert -- the equivalent of James Bond's Q -- in the highly anonymous agency that appears to be Cantrel's contact with the Helene government. Or somebody's government. Maybe.)
So, we arrange to have Yuri and ... crew ... stay at our place with "just the usual security" while the Crosstime people finish getting the Nones ready.
And after that? We'll talk.
We land at the ranch, and Dafnord takes the Nones back to Pericles for complete fitting. Meanwhile, Yuri disembarks, followed by his crewmate, a meter-high alien that looks a lot like a giant frog, being wide-mouthed, with bulging eyes at the top of the head, and green. True, it is also scaly, bipedal, bimanual, and about as strong as Dafnord. It is a Kishaer and it, or he, is named Shartsay / Chartze / Tshaertsai / name-of-a-frog-with-teeth. Salimar says that she recognizes the species, but thought they were not starfaring and were interdicted by the Aowlq'im and the Ordic Empire, who disapprove of intruding on primitives. KaiSen generally goes along with them.
Yuri and Chartze, when told the date, would like to go back about 120 years. That would be their home era. But their actual goal is to find the Missing Martian Colony -- a large settlement (in fact largest) of three generations' standing, that vanished mysteriously just as Mars started to receive its first major wave of colonization, back before starflight.
Tom hasn't heard of the Missing Martians, but brightly supposes they might be one of the old Astral Societies, scattered over the Solar System between World War Three and the invention of gravity drive. The big settlement Yuri mentions might be the Platinum Rush. But Yuri looks puzzled.
120 years back, Yuri's home time, is shortly after the Psi War, but Yuri has never heard of the Psi War, or, it turns out, KaiSen (except as a remote and curious primitive race with a group consciousness and a different name), and we quickly determine that he and Chartze are probably from the Co-Dominion line, where the Kishaer are a major spacefaring species.
Yuri's search for the Missing Martians involves bucking the Calvary Conundrum, also known as the Limelight Effect and the Publicity Factor. It's a dilute form of timelock. Many historical events (e.g. the crucifixion of Christ at Calvary) would be natural places for field historians to visit with time travel. But, in fact, they hardly ever go there. Otherwise, you'd have vast hordes of time-tourists showing up at every famous historical event, which would disrupt the history they came to see. ("Dr. Livingston, I presume. And who are all your friends here?")
But it's not impossible for a few people to sneak through. And that's what Yuri and Chartze are trying to do with the Missing Martians. But the Limelight Effect keeps bouncing them away. Sometimes way, way away. Like into Chaos' Rim. And out again into the wrong continuum. Turns out, he's been in the Rim five times. He calls it "Absolute Zero."
We have a logistical problem here. We can time-travel with the Nones, but only in this, the United Earth timeline. We have a dimensional gateway (two, in fact, one through the magic mirrors, one via an omniport in a warehouse in Pericles) over to the Co-Dominion line, but it's much too small to get a ship through, and the date over there is about 300 years further into the future than it is here.
Unless, of course, Ashleigh has left one of her time machines on either side of the magic mirror. But Kate makes a quick inspection and determines that there are no time machines in the garages. The one on the Co-Dominion line even has a note left telling us who took it and when, but that doesn't help much.
So Yuri can have the right timeline or the right date, but not both.
And is this Adm. Yanov at an earlier date, or his analog from another line?
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.