Week 9, In pursuit of he Kendorini
We left our heroes in the pantope, with exterior time at a near stop, planning a response to the Kendorini raid, in which the aliens stole the Elder machinery from the archaeological dig, along with the diadem segment.
We decide to give chase, pretend to have difficulty catching up, and drop a window into the Kendorini ship. Once we locate the Elder machinery, we'll turn the window into a door and try to sneak the diadem segment out.
We also have a Kendorini prisoner. Using it as a base, Chris and the autodoc tinker up a neurotoxin for Kendorini which will, we hope, knock them out but not kill them. It's hard to be certain. Chris and Alag will tip their arrows with the stuff.
That done, we start up exterior time, take our prisoner out of the pantope and the surrounding shuttle, and dump him on the tarmac. Then we take off at several g's after the Kendorini ship. After a few minutes' chase, it jumps into hyperstate. We follow suit. Soon, we have completed the first part of our plan -- we are at a constant distance to the Kendorini ship, pretending difficulty in going any faster. We now try to send a pantope window out to the ship.
This is tricky. Hyperstate is temporally orthogonal to normal state, which queers Tom's pitch. But eventually we have a window inside the Kendorini ship. The first view is of a large room full of machinery -- but it's Kendorini machinery, not Elder machinery. The Kendorini then change course. We catch up again, relocate the window, and find a corridor with odd decor. A third try lands us in open space when we think we ought to still be in their ship. Why is steering the window so hard?
A remote view of the Kendorini ship shows it to be radically distorted -- twisted and rippled surrealistically. Tom recalls that there is a closer link between psi and gravity in this continuum than there is at home; it may be that the psi storm generated by the Elder machinery is causing these strange space-warps.
We check around for the Confederation fighters we were promised. They are some distance behind and catching up slowly.
What with the psi storm and space warps, and the cavalry so far over the hill, we decide to resume self-containment. Daewen calls up the Weapons Bridge and steers the miniaturized pantope out of the hold of the shuttle, back to its self-containment housing in the garden. We then open a door in front of our little ship and park it back in the shuttle bay, commending its autopilot for much good service.
Having picked up our toys and put them out of harm's way, we try to find that corridor again, and get something that might be an alien chart room, with funny, hammock-like chairs around a table. Then we find a store room. Then an engineering section full of Kendorini technicians. Then
Uh, we must have opened on interiors of the engines. The window ought to have a brightness filter to prevent this kind of accident, but it doesn't seem to be working. Most of the crew is blinded by the flash; we don't stick around to find out if it is temporary or permanent, but stumble into sick-bay for treatment.
Once we are all recovered, we go back to the store room. It was nice and quite. We then send out Pfusand, wearing the portable chameleon circuit to disguise him as a Kendorini, plus a blaster and the diadem detector. The detector still doesn't give a clear directional signal, but it does glow, proving that the segment is indeed in Kendorini hands.
The crew doesn't want to risk their pilot, Tom, but eventually agree to let him step out with Pfusand and try to locate the segment with his Knack of Finding. He gets a vague heading and, on that basis, tries a few more jumps. Nothing interesting.
We decide that hunting around inside the Kendorini ship is a losing proposition as long as that psi storm is raging. Instead, we'll soften them up so the Confederation fighters can finish them off. Then we can "show up" afterwards and help the Confeds sift through the wreckage for Elder machinery (and diadem segments).
Profiting from our mistakes, we open a door from the interior of their engines right in front of their ship's nose. We give them a ten-second burn. Three seconds into it, they start firing at the source of attack. Of course, the shots go through the teleport door into their own engines! Shortly thereafter, they stop firing and drop into normal state.
We send a window after them, stop exterior time, and examine their interior at our leisure. It's easier than in hyperstate, but the space distortion still frustrates us. We get a few views of something that might be a bay full of fighters or shuttles.
Continuing the softening-up process, we surround them: With exterior time still stopped, we pick out twenty weapons emplacements. Then, with exterior time running slow, Da╬wen fires at all 20, in random order, each getting three shots, alternately with laser and plasma cannon.
The Kendorini are amazing marksmen. One almost fires a blaster bolt down the throat of our weapons gate, and one, on our last shot, actually does some damage to a laser gun -- fortunately no more than a hand-blaster's worth. They have great gunners or great targeting computers.
Da╬wen, Tom, and a robot start repairs on the laser. When these are in hand, we take a look at our victim. It looks worse for the wear, and the distortion is now reduced to a shimmer like unto heat haze over a summer highway. The instrumentation shows the psi storm is as bad as ever, but perhaps it doesn't look as weird close up.
We let time resume its normal course and wait. After most of an hour, nothing has happened and Tom programs the targeting computer for three random strikes and the Kendorini engines, from inside, in case the Kendorini need to be softened still more for the Confeds. Just about then, the Kendorini leap back into hyperdrive.
We leap after them and burn them on the nose again. They fire one small shot into their own engine, then give up on that and launch six fighters out of two bay doors. Bay news for our buddies the Confed fighters, we start methodically cooking the Kendorini fighters with their own engines. We decide not to burn into the bays for fear of doing too much damage. If things get too fierce, the diadem segment may be able to retaliate or run away.
We were starting on the fifth fighter when the mother ship dropped out of hyperstate, leaving behind fighters five and six, unharmed, three others with various amounts of damage, and one completely slagged. We watch for a bit (we can always catch up with the mother ship later) and see the five survivors regroup their formation, wheel to face the on-coming Confed fighters (still light-hours distant), then drop out of hyperstate.
We return to normal state in our own way. The mother ship and the five fighters are very far apart, but the mother ship simply deploys six MORE fighters.
So we set about frying the next half-dozen with laser and blaster fire, aimed to come from the mother ship, as a demoralizing measure. That done, we fire into the fighter bays using their own engines again. All but one fighter are damaged. One bay exploded. Then the Kendorini shut down their engines. Good move.
While we are considering if they are softened up enough now, something else appears: a glowing blue sphere about twenty meters wide, apparently composed of the same weaving crystals as the Elder machinery. It just appears, without the usual signs of hyperdrive, about twenty kilometers away. Its glow brightens briefly. The Kendorini ship flits off into hyperstate again, leaving its fighters behind. The sphere then moves away in several discreet jumps. Or rather, it shrinks. Actually, it seems to do both at once, in a way that suggests movement out of normal spacetime. Then it's gone.
We're left with an invisible pantope window, several scorched Kendorini fighters, and the Confederation cavalry just coming over the event horizon. And a lot of puzzlement.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.