The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 3, The Rescue Note
We left our heroes at home on Helene, with two dimensionally-displaced guests, Capt. Yuri Alexandreivitch Yanov and his companion Chartze of Kishaer, transcosmic wanderers who are investigating the Mystery of the Missing Martians. After a month of training and re-outfitting, Yuri and Chartze are ready to go on, back into the past. (The Martians went missing a couple of centuries ago.) We will be going with them back the first 30 years.
When we are ready to depart, Dafnord calls up Crosstime and asks to speak to Admiral Yanov, who is probably a later instance of Yuri.
"Yes sir," says the functionary. "The ET line?"
Soon, he is talking to Adm. Yanov and the rest of us are making sure Yuri is somewhere else in the house, far from Dafnord. "We're leaving. Both ships. Please don't shoot." "Of course not. Anything to report?" "No." ...Waits.... "Oh. Well, if you ever can, please do." "Yes."
Dafnord is sure easy on the connect time.
We have had the Nones brought over from the Crosstime yards in Pericles and parked next to Yuri's ship, the Fateful Quest, so it is simple to load up our new, lethal, anti-draconian weaponry and take off. The hard part is prying Yuri out of our library, where he is doing research on the Missing Martians of our timeline, who went missing in a slightly different time and place. He remarks that the parallels are very interesting and make him want to delay going home. (We think of Adm. Yanov and loudly say nothing.)
He has also looked into other mysterious disappearances on colony worlds. Perhaps the most intriguing is the disappearance of the "Bogies of Eridanus." The Eridanus colony was a minor one. Like most others, it had rumors of natives, called "bogies" in this case. But, oddly enough, all the bogies appeared to vanish -- that is to say, all reports of bogies stopped -- abruptly, 200 years ago. And no one seems to have noticed anything odd about it. Which is odd in itself.
Dafnord reflects that this might mean there's less Limelight Effect to prevent the likes of Yuri from investigating Eridanus. Yuri nods, but points out there is not a lot of interest in the Missing Martians, either. So why are they shielded by Limelight effect? Perhaps they will be a crucial question in history at a later date.
Once we get Yuri flying, we are soon in Helene near-space. We pass a ship that looks suspiciously like Green's. We flash our running lights in greeting. Once sufficiently far out of the gravity well, we make hyperjump. The stars blink out, to be replaced by a few scattered violet sparks -- the nuclei of black holes, shining with tachyonic radiation.
After a few days' quiet flight, we jump out again. Only there's no sight of the Fateful Quest. Hm. They jumped within a few seconds of when we did, but that could mean days of difference when you're time traveling. We check local time signals and find we are 30 years back, as we planned. The Map of Here is not much help. At maximum scale, it shows a chunk of Helene and innumerable little markers, all of "unknown" type, all probably labeling hyperjumps in and out. There are some markers for Holmes Effect time machines.
We decide to land at the ranch rather than at Pericles. (There's probably an instance of the Nones at Pericles. It would be embarrassing. We may have to put this one under tarps for 30 years, just to catch things up.)
As we head down, Robbie calls up the ranch and gets an automated answer. Cantrel isn't there, nor is Tyrell, nor Daewen. The machinery gets suspicious and reveals it would like to know who Robbie is. Tom clears him. Turns out the machinery only knows of Mr. Jacobson, the caretaker (who is either the soul of discretion or has had all his clues surgically removed; we'll assume the former).
We land, get out, and amble toward the ranch buildings. The garage door is open. Wandering in, we see a vehicle like a large snowmobile (say, a model built for three), with a pair of legs and some flares as of welding emerging from beneath it.
Kate says in her brightest Dennis-the-Menace-startling-Mr.-Wilson voice, "Hi, Mr. Jacobson!" and gets a satisfying clatter and flurry of motion. But the startled face that comes peeking over the vehicle -- welder at the ready -- is not Mr. Jacobson. It's an elf, with "Family" stamped on his features. "Uncle!" he says, seeing Tom.
For a moment, everyone draws a blank, including Tom. Then Tom's trained memory kicks in and he recognizes Morniesul, grandson of Daewen, son of Daewen's daughter Moranna and Sulieamon. He was rescued from the Second Age of Worldbender Middle Earth in the Great Raid, and has been one of the semi-regulars around Vinyagarond. Tom makes introductions.
Odd that the house machinery didn't mention him. But, as we head off, he shouts "Sorry for the mess in the library" and it becomes clear why. The library is much disturbed, the door neatly taken off the hinges. Morniesul and his funny sled must have come through the magic mirror, thence to the garage, but only after Morniesul took the door off. (The mirror is a little bigger.) The house hasn't twigged to his presence because he hasn't come in through the door yet, or passed any of the other main sensor stations.
Around now, Tom's card beeps plaintively. This card has been warning Tom regularly that he is out of sequence. Now it complains it is out of sequence. Tom advises it to shut down. It does. So do all the other cards in the party's possession.
Back at the garage, Tom quizzes Morniesul, who acknowledges he came in through the library. This object is a time machine, but it's also supposed to fly. And it's brand new, recently cobbled together by Aunt Ashleigh and Cousin Alag, part ultra-tech, part magic.
Morniesul was trying it out and found himself flung back 20 years to this date, whereon the flight mechanism broke. He was near Vinyagarond at the time. That's temporally awkward. It was just about as awkward sneaking the time-sled through the hall of mirrors to here, but he thought he'd better, rather than hang about precipitating time-twists.
Tom goes off to find Mr. Jacobson, but comes back to the others looking very thoughtful. He's found a letter in the mail box in the hall.
And we change GMs.
Tom presents the others with the letter. It has had quite a life. Besides some things that might be stamps, it bears, in large, strange, Tengwar, the address "Vinyagarond." There are also:
Some alien, unreadable script.
A label at one end, reading: "Crosstime, local seq. 28"
A tag on the back reading "JP .CTO"
Earthron in an alien alphabet, which Tom is able to read as, "TO DAEWEN AT LANTHIL OR VINIEAGAROND"
Inside is a letter accompanied by a lot of office memos that it appears to have accumulated in its travels. These read:
In that alien alphabet:
Two wholly unreadable alien memos.
The reasonable question, "?Kor zhe vormess thwi"
The readable alien script again, saying:
AKA FOONIE! AKA FOONIE!
-- and, on the back, in smaller writing:
sweet holiness, move this on before it blows a vacuole
The single word, in Greek characters, "neohematidae."
A large slip of paper, reading: "Fas es his vorPotchket qoessa? Is geshenni en resx ado zeqenss fen klasa gystig odr zydmaexo odr tuledu. Zjund snal. [signed] Kol"
Several very small notes reading, in no clear order:
One for H.
A note in clear Earthron, reading, "Ack! Get this off my desk and back in the stream, presto. [singed] Crone," with the smaller annotation, "She sounds mad. Spare her the details."
Two little cards with nothing but scribbles on them. However, the scribbles turn out to have bound telepathy, confined to the verbal and empathic levels. The language is unknown, but the empathic overtones on what Tom takes to be the first one are whine-whine, grump-grump, while the overtones on what appears to be the reply are more now-now, there-there.
The note actually clipped to the letter says, "Found this on Loald, Tybaud Yards, under a table in "Rionel's" near the spaceport, 587:045 AIC. Can't place the script. Smells of urgent. Pass it to your Xronicale friends."
The letter itself is in Tengwar characters, but the language is Earthron. It reads:
Aelwe. The Elf on the Air-Cycle. Mr. Yowza. Mr. Time-Tangle. Tom curses in Dwarvish. Dafnord suggests that selling him into slavery is how we are going to get that money for the interest-bearing account we owe the company.
Tom stops cursing. Latches flip open in his memory. His shields go up and he explains carefully that he can tell the others how to find Aelwe, and he's willing to lend them the Nones to do it, but he really does not wish to go along to Loald.
Morniesul asks if Loald is one of those planet things.
Yes, Loald is a planet. The Terraform Reach is a region of space far to the galactic west and outward from the presently-settled Ecumene, and the year 587 AIC is the year 5477 AD. Tom explored that stretch of space-time several subjective years ago. He skipped a dotted line through a fair bit of their history, but he happened to be there for the entire year of 587. In fact, well... Never mind. He won't be going. The Reach is a big place, but the family is not, if you get his drift.
However, he is willing to give them background information:
The Terraform Reach is a region where, some 35 million years ago, someone terraformed a large number of planets to very Earth-like conditions. Then, some time later, they went away. A few centuries in the future, the area still has four times the normal density of human-habitable planets, gets discovered, and is settled in several waves of colonization.
Now, there are about 150 inhabited planets in the Reach. About 50 of them form an Empire. Loald, where Aelwe is, is deep in the Empire. Tom recommends they not go straight to Loald. First, they should stop off at the non-Imperial world of Moncair, to buy identity records and get their feet wet.
If they take the Nones to the Reach in the year 587 AIC (Ad Imperia Condite), they will find some money in bank accounts to which Tom will give them access. But not a huge amount of money. No being filthy rich, as they are here, or as they were in the world of the First Compact.
The party immediately begins considering what they could sell to a culture in the far future, with superior technology and their own capacity for time-travel. (Tom point out that, although they can time-travel, the people of the Reach don't do it often. This helps a little.)
Stuff from Earth -- almost anything, sticks, rocks -- will go over big.
Art will do, if it's either aged properly (requiring some back and forth through time) or if we can happen to bring an obscure work by someone who is then regarded as a great master (requiring luck and a fair bit of combing current art galleries).
Morniesul very helpfully offers some gems he uses as trade goods when time-traveling. They're from Faerie and therefore NOT the sort one could find in the Reach, natural or artificial.
Recipe books. Romances. Histories. Machinery, if presented as antique. Ephemera (Grinchly-for-Earth-President buttons, hula-hoops, two-credit coins, aeromer busts of Prince Teddy of Albion, a complete set of KaiSen plush toys, souvenir T-shirts from Centauri, that kind of thing).
Morniesul recommends books; he and Alag always bring those forward. Even if the text isn't lost, an original edition is welcome. (NB: Needs to be aged, or presented as a reconstruction.)
When journeying back, Alag or Morniesul bring precious metal (not applicable here) or family musical instruments -- flutes, harps, dulcimers. Robbie thinks those could be usefully traded forward here. ("No, honest, it's an elven harp." "Well, it sounds remarkably good, wherever it comes from.")
Tom offers few suggestions. He calls up the Nones and begins making arrangements.
Belatedly, he reflects that he has opened Daewen's mail. Morniesul points out that's much better than sending her the letter now, since Aelwe won't even be conceived for thirty years.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.