The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 11, Preparig a Second Rescue
When last we left our heroes, they'd just discovered that Aelwe was involved with a group which advised him to sit tight, keep a low profile, and look for information on "Heksenyager." Our best guess is that it's "Hexenjager, German for "Witch Hunter." We had been planning to snatch him and head for home as quickly as possible, but we're not sure what he's gotten himself (and potentially us) into.
After much debate and a few more reminders that Daewen would be very unhappy if we simply left her son Aelwe in the mess he's created, we decide to go ahead with the extraction. Dafnord and Kate are on the Nones, which is dirtside at Tybaud Yards' spaceport. Everybody else (except Markel who's on his way back from trailing the gentleman who took Aelwe's note) is loitering at a cafe near Ohmet's jewelry shop. Robbie's eye is hidden on a high shelf in the shop and watching Aelwe unpacking boxes. He's been unspeakably smug and cheerful since he hid the note (that eventually was delivered to us, 3000 years ago, and lead us to this point in space and time) at the food court.
After a few moments, Ohmet comes into the storefront and sends Aelwe to fetch loads of crystal from the basement. Just what we've been waiting for. Robbie and Morniesul head towards Ohmet's and time things so that they arrive just as Aelwe heads downstairs for another box. Ohmet looks up as we enter and grins. "Ah Morniesul! Another consignment?"
"Yes, this is the shipment I told you about."
Morniesul lays out the gems for Ohmet to examine. Just as Morniesul is starting into his sales pitch, Aelwe appears carrying a box labeled "Extremely Fragile, Handle With Care." He stops dead in the doorway and drops the box, yelling, "You came!"
There's a moment of shocked silence, in which we can hear bits of broken crystal from the box that Aelwe dropped tinkling musically. This was certainly not the reaction we were expecting. Attempting to keep to the script, Morniesul looks shocked and cries, "Aelwe! what are you doing here?"
Aelwe looks puzzled. "What do you mean? Didn't you get the letter?"
Ohmet is clearly befuddled. He turns to Morniesul and asks "Do you know ..."
Morniesul quickly cuts in before Aelwe can mess things up. "Uncle. This is my uncle. He's been missing for some time. I've been looking for him."
All of the blood drains from Ohmet's face as he splutters "Your ... uh ... um ... This is very awkward."
From the back room a voice calls "What's this?" And out comes Berla. She pushes past Aelwe who's still in the doorway and her eyes widen as she looks from Morniesul to Aelwe. "Oh sweet holy..."
Morniesul grins. "It would seem that you've found my missing uncle."
Berla pounces. "So you'd buy him back?"
"1000 marks even. That's all." Berla appears to be very happy to sell us Aelwe. We know that they bought him for 550 marks a few months ago, so they'd be making a healthy profit on the sale. But ever since Aelwe showed up, Ohmet's home and shop has been plagued by "poltergeists." Berla has brought in a parade of "holy men" to try to exorcise the demons that have plagued the house. Clearly, Berla is convinced that Aelwe is the source.
Morniesul hesitates a moment, then nods acceptance of the price. Considering that we'd been prepared to exchange millions of marks in dwarven gems for Aelwe, 1000 marks is cheap.
Berla quickly (very quickly!) prepares a contract, stamps it, thumbprints it, breaths on it, and shoves it across the counter to Morniesul.
Morniesul carefully reads the contract. It's pretty standard. The item being sold is listed as "One male slave know as Elwin, serial number xxxxx." We're not sure what the legal consequences of our buying the relative of an Imperial citizen is (even if we're buying his freedom) but we're planning to leave the Empire soon anyway. Morniesul dutifully signs, prints & breaths, and hands over payment.
Berla snatches the contract back and glances at it quickly, then shoves Aelwe out from behind the counter. "There. He's yours." She then challenges "Go ahead. Break one more thing. Make a chip in one tile and I'll have you!"
Aelwe ignores Berla and greets Morniesul. "Uncle! How good to see you."
"You must tell me how you got yourself into this, but right now I have business to attend to."
"What?! But... Mmrph!" Robbie pushes a cracker in Aelwe's mouth. In fact, this is the cracker that Tom gave us at the start of our adventure to give to Aelwe when we found him.
Morniesul, Ohmet and Berla go back to dickering over the gems. Clearly Ohmet's heart isn't into it, since he doesn't bat an eyelash when Morniesul raises the price by 1000 marks to cover Aelwe.
As we're leaving, Berla glares at Aelwe, "You're just lucky. I was going to bring in a new holy man and you weren't going to just walk away from his exorcism."
Once we're out of Ohmet's, Morniesul turns to Aelwe, "You might as well tell me about it now..."
Aelwe responds with a dazed "Huh?" as Tom's cracker does it's work. He then confesses that he no longer remembers much about any of us, though he recognizes us. We realize that Tom must have put a spell on the Wafer of Discretion to cause Aelwe to forget us. This will keep him from accidentally saying something out of sequence and potentially causing a timelock. Of course, it's also inconvenient as hell.
As we walk to the cafe, Dafnord pings Morniesul. "The ship is ready. Shall I start the departure sequence?"
"No, but we're going to assemble at the ship in case we need to leave quickly."
We hail a cab to take us the spaceport at Tybaud Yards. The cab starts towards the spaceport and Aelwe turns to Morniesul. "This is great! I didn't think that you were going to get here this quickly."
"It depends upon what you mean by quickly. I started out 3000 years ago and have been on Loald for five years. How did you get into this mess?"
"I'm glad you asked because I think we really need to leave soon. I really have to try to rescue him."
"Rescue? Rescue who?"
"We have to go rescue Klulimi!" insists Aelwe.
"Who, or what is Klulimi?" Morniesul asks.
"Someone who taught you how to get into this mess. How lovely."
"No! You see, we had just left Aondoar in Klulimi's ship, the Illustra, and stopped off at, I don't even remember the place, and he got this message from somebody and we had to be back to Pharos as soon as we could and they were going to catch us. I don't know who they were, exactly, he didn't know either. I suppose it could have been imperials, or pirates, or ... I don't know. He bought us a little time with an evasive maneuver. And they were closing in and we didn't have any energy left so he scraped together as much energy as he could and walked out the airlock. I think he was wearing a diffusion belt..."
Robbie breaks into Aelwe's mussing, "What is Klulimi?"
"He's human. He's from Pharos, like all the Quishonne."
"And how did you get to the Reach?"
"I got here by witch walking."
"Is he a telepathic? Is he psychic?"
"Oh yes, the Quishonne are renowned for it. That's why I came here. To learn Quishonne psi."
At this point we arrive at the Nones.
As we debark, Morniesul asks Robbie to transfer the liquid assets to the Nones. We leave 500,000 marks to take care of the non-liquid assets, like the house and the estate. He then turns back to Aelwe. "Who contacted you at Rionells?" (The food court where Aelwe secreted the note.)
"Well, what happened was that I was walking behind Ohmet and a trash can blew over and a piece of paper slapped against my leg. It was the note. I assumed that it was from one of the Quishonne clockwatchers."
"Why did you leave your note under that table?"
"It came to me that if I left a note right there and then that it would be picked up."
"Just ... came to you."
"Yes. I've always had hunches. Mother says I'm a Sensitive."
After a moment, Aelwe continues: "I never told you how I got to be a slave. The last thing that Klulimi told me was that I should get to Pharos. Then I was picked up by slavers."
"Who's ship was it?"
"Have you managed to dredge up when you lost Klulimi?"
"About two weeks before I was sold here."
We discuss how to contact the Quishonne. One possibility is to go back in time a day and catch the woman who looked at the letter. Of course, that would require us being not only in the same time twice, but in the same place at the same time. Not a good idea. The other possibility is for Salimar to try to contact the person who passed the letter to Aelwe. She tries and manages a retrocog on the letter. We see the young woman who came to the table writing the letter on a ledge, crumpling it up and putting in the trash and staring at it hard for a while.
After the picture fades, Salimar says that the retrocog is all she can manage. She can't contact her at the same time. Rats. We'll have to try to find her the old fashioned way. We print out a picture of the young woman and send Markel out to go look for here with one of the glamour communicators. After all, despite all OUR time travel, it's only been an hour or less since she wrote that note.
While he's gone, we ask the Nones to search for any ship sales by Captain Meed. He had a small ship slaved to his ship when he dropped off Aelwe. It was probably the Illustra.
After a bit, Robbie notes that Aelwe's sister Mithriel could locate a world by attempting to "tune in" on a token from that world. Perhaps Aelwe could locate the mystery woman the same way using the note?
Aelwe takes it and turns in a full circle. Then he points towards just forward of the furnisher, "I think she's in that direction." We contact Markel and have him look in that direction.
Meanwhile, Salimar puts a disguise on Aelwe and we take him and the note and go dowsing for the young woman. Dafnord goes out obviously looking for someone; craning his head around and carefully examining the people we pass. Morniesul and Aelwe are on the other side of the street strolling along as if they didn't have a care in the world. Kate is with Brunalf a block or so behind "walking her cat" with Salimar. Robbie stays with the Nones to coordinate things. Eventually we think we see our target out in the crowd. Salimar launches a viewpoint and it is indeed our target. Morniesul senses that the young woman is nervous.
Dafnord goes past her, still appearing to search the crowd for someone. Perhaps this will calm her. Our quarry turns at the next intersection. Salimar tries to contact her. Her probe bounces off a shield. Salimar can feel the woman start to cloak. The cloak then gathers around the viewpoint and goes squish. Ugh. Just before the weird cloak squeezed out her viewpoint, Salimar tried to Anticipate what would happen next. She had an impression of a roving zone of psilence. Perhaps the "squish" was it.
By now, we are in an emptier, more industrial part of town.
Morniesul calls out, "Excuse me! Madam..." The woman looks over her shoulder at him and then bolts. Morniesul and Aelwe chase after her. She's about 50 yards ahead of them when she runs around a corner and screams.
Morniesul turns the corner and finds her crumpled on the pavement, and a figure running away. He pulls out his glamour blaster and shoots after the figure, missing. Telling Aelwe to stay with the downed woman, he gives chase. Dafnord is paralleling him on the next block.
The figure turns at the next corner, fortunately towards Dafnord. Dafnord and Morniesul turn onto the street at about the same time, and the figure has vanished. Fortunately, Salimar was watching through a viewpoint and reports that the figure disappeared into psilence. Both Dafnord and Morniesul trigger their psi-openers, and a male figure appears in the middle of the street. Dafnord goops him. Morniesul also shoots, missing the figure, and (barely) missing Dafnord at the far end of the street. He manages to stun the figure on the second try. The figure appears to fuzz out, then shrink in upon itself, and slumps against a wall.
As they approach the figure from opposite ends of the street, Dafnord pulls out a stunner, and Morniesul bumps his glamour gun up to blaster.
When the reach the figure, they find that under the goop is a flattened egg-shaped thing with four "hoses" coming out of it at roughly each quarter. On closer inspection, two are feet, two are hands. Dafnord kicks the gun away, and then bangs on the body. It sounds like he's banging on glass. There appear to be oval panels that give access to the interior.
Clearly it's a mechanism of some sort. Since they're dealing with a mechanism, and a hostile one at that, Morniesul and Dafnord cut off it's limbs with a macrometal knife. Dafnord then goops it again for good measure, and cuts it off the wall.
Meanwhile, Salimar gets to the young woman and retrocogs. She sees the woman come around the corner and run into the "man". He grabs her head, she screams, and he runs. After the retrocog fades, Salimar sees that there are burn marks on the woman's temples. And she doesn't appear to be breathing. Salimar attempts to combine the retrocog with telepathy to read the dead woman's mind, but runs into the psilence that surrounded her attacker. A dead end. Literally.
Checking her pockets, all Salimar finds is cash. No phone card, no ID. Very odd. Salimar suggests that we inadvertently formed the second prong of a two prong hunt and herded the woman to her death. Sigh.
Morniesul takes a picture of the event and a hand from the mechanism he and Dafnord defeated and searches down the street the woman was running on, trying to see if she was heading towards anything. He doesn't find anything. She was running trying to lead whatever away from where ever she was staying.
Robbie had sent autocabs to the corner where the attack occurred. Dafnord loads the broken mechanism into the first, and he and Aelwe climb in and head back to the Nones to let Robbie try to interrogate it. Brunalf, Salimar, Kate and the body come back in the second taxi. When they return to the Nones, Dafnord puts the woman's body in the autodoc. Unfortunately, it can't do anything except diagnose that an electrical charge through the head was the cause of death.
Dafnord then goops the mechanism to the wall of the Nones. Robbie opens the panels to find that it's a hollow ceramic case with oddments strung together inside. Robbie tries to read it using Cyberclair. He can't get anything, since the mechanism is powered off. Aelwe points out that the power supply has it's breaker's thrown. Not trusting power supplies not under our control, Robbie connects the mechanism to the Nones' power supply. Now he can detect it booting. Robbie can tell that it's not sentient. Salimar gives it a psychic once over and assures us that there's no mind present. There's a small cluster of processors that appear to be the main data feeds for the rest of the system... There's the holographic system... Those things over there appear to be telesthetic sensors -- the mechanical equivalent of clairvoyance. The system is programmed to hunt things down based on the data from the telesthetic sensors. Basically, it hunts for things that match a psychic sig! natu re. Suddenly the thing tries to lunge off of the wall. So it's also telekinetic. Fortunately, it's gooped securely in place.
Aelwe comes up and makes a popping noise. The robot is now trying to go after Aelwe. He says softly, "I thought it might be looking for Qui."
Robbie cuts the machine's power, and it ceases its struggles. "What did you do that triggered it?"
Aelwe explains he was doing a minor teleport with a coin, from hand to hand. He tries to do it again, but fails. "They gave me Stymie, an anti-TK drug. It hasn't worn off yet."
Dafnord asks "Will the autodoc will do anything about it?"
"You have an autodoc?"
Dafnord points to the corner. Aelwe grins and climbs in.
We decide to go time-traveling again, this time back to the point when Aelwe and Klulimi are on Aondoar, before the attack. We'll follow them (discretely) until they meet up with the pirates. Then we'll enter the fray, equipped with a look-alike for the Illustra, to confuse the enemy.
We depart Loald, with the bodies. We set course for Meshel, where we can get a yacht like the one that Aelwe was in with Klulimi.
On the chance that the pirates were attracted by the "Qui" psychic signature that was given off by Klulimi. Robbie, Aelwe, and Salimar work to res up something that can create "Qui" during the trip.
We arrive at Meshel, which has a whiter sun than we've seen before in the Reach. The beacons lead us to a planet that looks like the moon; airless and bone-dry. As we approach, Aelwe looks through the catalogs of the yacht builders. He finds one which could be the twin of the ill-fated Illustra. The only difference is the paint job. It sells for 104,000 marks. Once we've arrived, Morniesul buys it, and convinces the dealer to throw in the paint job as part of the deal.
Conveniently, the vendors on Meshel can supply us Telesthetic sensors for 4500 marks. We buy 4; two each for the new ship and the Nones. The vendor has to modify the sensors for our needs, but that's OK. We also arm the yacht with 4 shock cannons and hide them from the outside for 18,000 marks, and splurge on a military-model cloak for 9800. We offer the Nones the chance to upgrade it's armaments, but it declines. And it already has a very good cloak.
Morniesul discusses contacting Aondoar for a computer system that can respond to verbal orders, much like the Nones, until Dafnord points out that we'll be traveling back in time again.
Before we leave, Dafnord christens the ship the Obscura, and Robbie spawns a slave process into the Obscura's computer. We leave the vicinity of Meshel and carefully maneuver the Obscura into the Nones' hyperstate envelope. The Nones takes us to a position just outside the Aondoar system and a time before Aelwe and Klulimi leave on their ill-fated journey. The two ships separate and continue on to Aondoar separately. Aelwe, Morniesul and Robbie are on the Obscura, the rest of the party remains with the Nones.
We arrive on Aondoar. Once again, we've cross-timed ourselves, but this time we've brought our credit with us. We transfer 1 million marks to (yet another) account on Moncair, and load 1 million marks of nondescript cargo onto the two ships. Morniesul orders an almost sentient AI for the Obscura.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved