When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
Week 2, Counsel with Henderson
We're in the shuttle, miles above dinosaur-era Earth, following a radio beacon to a place where we're supposed to meet our old friend Mr. Henderson.
Jonathan asks why we're going to meet Henderson, if we don't trust him. Cantrel explains that it's often good to go into an ambush knowing that it's an ambush. Chris adds that while we don't trust Henderson, we don't distrust him either. We have been wanting to talk with him for some time, but haven't been able to.
We follow the beacon, which leads us to a meadow in the foothills of what will eventually become the Himalayas. We decide to leave one of our pantope pilots, Tom specifically, in the shuttle, which hovers over the meadow.
We start to head out. We fuss about weight distributions on the grav sled and sky cycle. Alag wants to use a psychic parachute to go down. We check with Henderson, who grumbles about it, but doesn't say not to.
Alag dives out, Daewen (wearing a flying belt) follows after him, and the others of us leave, too. Daewen dives after Alag, passing him, and half wondering if she can do anything if his 'chute doesn't work.
Alag and Daewen arrive in the meadow first. About thirty seconds later, Henderson comes out. He is wearing expedition clothes, a cape, a pistol on his hip, and making obviously-non-threatening gestures. He is followed by an elderly-looking dinosaur. It is skittish, slightly mangy (if dinosaurs can be said to have the mange), and probably carnivorous by habit.
Henderson says to the two elves, "Who the hell are you?"
Alag replies, "I'm Alag." Daewen keeps scanning for trouble.
Henderson laughs. After a tense moment, no one really talking, the sound of the two craft is heard. Henderson and Alag and the dinosaur look up. Daewen keeps scanning. The craft land, and everyone carefully gets off.
Henderson asks, "Who are you people?" leaving out the colorful language this time.
Chris answers, "We're the crew of The Dance of the Hours."
Henderson asks, "Where is Lee -- Captain Verger?"
Chris curls a lip and says, "Captain Verger is indisposed." He takes a breath and adds, "He was badly wounded in a battle with his enemies, and recruited us to carry on with his mission."
Henderson sighs a bit. He suggests that we go into his cave and not talk in the open. We look around a bit, and decide that it's probably for the best. We walk past a few bushes into Henderson's cave. Cantrel wants to be the last in. He insists on following Henderson, and makes the dinosaur nervous. Dino finally skitters past Cantrel.
We end up past a small cave-in and into a room. There is a 12-15' in diameter silver sphere in one end of the room. There's a table, old chairs, boxes, and lots of stuff. All of it made of bio-degradable materials.
Henderson asks us all to sit. Cantrel stands. Most of us sit. We all (including Henderson) are careful to remain non-threatening.
We start out by asking a bit about the locals. The locals are intelligent dinosaurs. They've developed a high technology recently that is apparently orthogonal to human technology. It is a psi-based technology, the average local being equivalent to a sensitive. Their technology apparently is built up from personal psi-power, much like the complex spells and psi-machines that Daewen and Chris have been building of late.
It is apparently not good to even be seen by the locals. Somehow, being seen by them can force you to go home by spooky means or something. Henderson is also curious about how we got here, because this place is guarded by its very own Calvary Conundrum. Henderson asks us what we know about it. We say that we're familiar with it. Henderson says that as far as he knows, he's one of the few people who can get here at all, which is why he's here. He's a historian, and this is prime research area. There's probably enough research material here someplace for an assistant professorship. And he and Captain Verger are the only ones he knows (besides us) who can get here. They used to spend a good deal of time here.
He asks a bit about us, and we're reticent to talk. Chris offers to tell him about how we got signed up, but the others don't want to talk about that yet.
So we talk around things. Henderson says, pointing to Cantrel and Chris, "I know one of you two is from Allied Epochs." Cantrel growls, and Chris smiles amusedly. We ask what makes him say that. He says some of the tactics look familiar. He mentions that he is wanting to find out about us and has been tracking us. We know, we know.
He asks who a couple of us are. Pfusand gives her full names. Jonathan introduces himself. The rest of us do not give our names. Henderson mentions that he almost captured her, and that if he had, it might have solved the whole business.
"Oh!" says Chris, "You were the one with the stass gun!"
"The same." shrugs Henderson. He compliments us on out-smarting him on that.
We confess to being the people who zapped him in his hovel where we got Whizzer. Pfusand apologizes for the flu. We mention that we were careful not to use lethal weaponry. Henderson mutters that someone came close a couple times. We ask what he means by that. He mutters a bit, and we figure he's talking about when Cantrel and Victoria left him naked and drunk on a roof in the Co-dominion. We explain while Cantrel looks sheepish, and Henderson sighs saying, "Is that what that was? I was sick for weeks."
We find out that he was not the fellow we threw off the train in France. At least not yet. We warn him that if he follows us on a train in France in that world, to be prepared to take a fall. He nods, and notes that that's where Jonathan is from. He mentions that Captain Verger always liked that place and spent a lot of time there. We mention that it was splattered with red and warnings on the Dance's console. It has apparently become dangerous since Henderson last was there.
Looking at Chris, whom Henderson apparently has pegged as the Allied Epochs agent, Henderson starts talking about secret security groups again. He mentions that in these things any given group is assumed to be infiltrated. By its successor, by the other odd group and by independents. He mentions that he thinks Chris is such a person -- an Allied Epochs agent working independently. Chris shrugs, says that he's not an independent, but no one knows he's here. Henderson adds that while he hasn't figured us out, he knows that at least two of us -- Chris and Jonathan -- are independent.
Henderson guardedly asks if Chris has ever heard of Transworld. Chris curls a lip and says, "I might." Henderson mutters about the practice of hinting at things that don't exist to get negative information, thus suggesting that Transworld was a red herring. Chris replies that often people know of things under different names. That he doesn't know the name directly, but he knows a couple of things that could very well have that name, one being a place. Henderson mentions that Transworld is an organization. Chris relaxes and says that that's not what he was afraid Transworld was.
We then start debating about how we can trust each other enough to really talk about what to do with each other.
While many of us debate quietly whether we can trust Henderson to leave us alone, Sophie talks with Henderson. She asks him about the Dance's computers, and what contact he's had with them. He's had a bit. He too, like everyone else it seems, finds the serving system a bit exasperating. She asks him about the autodoc, and specifically about some medical work that he'd had done there. He describes the autodoc fixing him up from having been gored with a spear. His description of it all is good enough to convince Sophie that this is the Henderson that the Captain had brought onto the Dance.
We decide that we'd like to hear him talk to us while Lorelei truth-reads him. He wants to talk to us for a while and have questions answered. To protect against leaking psi, he wraps up in Chris's psi-shielding cloak.
Henderson tells us that he's in many ways willing to believe our story, but he needs to convince himself that we did not hijack the Dance (or the Dancer, as he calls it). He tells us that he has been tracking us for a couple decades of his subjective time. The reason? Captain Verger -- Lee, as Henderson calls him -- asked him to.
You see, about twenty years ago (for Henderson), Lee asked him to check out these people, because he had been in New York City with the people who lived underground, and he had gotten time-locked out. And he was reasonably sure that he had been time-locked out by the Dance itself. He was afraid that someone had stolen the Dance, so he asked Henderson to go on a Dangerous Personal Mission to check out these people. And Henderson has been doing that. Following many dead-end leads, and occasionally bumping in to us. What he really wants to know is that we didn't steal the Dance from Captain Verger.
Captain Verger was going to go do some checking himself, and they were to rendezvous back here -- or about here -- and Lee missed the first rendezvous. Henderson has been tracking us off and on ever since.
We mention that one thing that would help us is he could mention a term for the Captain's enemies that only the Captain and one other person have used. The people in New York, for example, used a different term.
Henderson says that he didn't know Lee had people who could qualify as enemies. He says that he doesn't know about all of Lee's exploits. Lee didn't talk about them all, and Henderson didn't ask, 'cause he doesn't feel like being timelocked from his own time. After a moment or so of fussing, he says, "Oh -- are you talking about the Worldbenders?" We say that we were. As far as we know, that's a name that Captain Verger invented himself. Henderson mentions that Captain Verger and a compatriot did have a battle with the Worldbenders some time ago, but he thought it was all settled. He wonders if we're from that. We think that we're more likely from its resurfacing.
We do a lot of talking, and convince ourselves that Henderson has no dark designs on us. We decide to give Henderson the broad outlines of how we were recruited. Sophie starts. When she gets flustered about the details of how the Captain was hurt and the Dance damaged, Chris steps in and describes what he knows about the topological attack. That term seems to impress Henderson, and he starts smiling. He says that was just Captain Verger's style, to set up an alternate group like that, and that he'd talked about several he was cultivating.
Cantrel mentions something about Tom Noon being in the shuttle. Henderson says, "Noon? You have Noon with you?" We say we have, but he's upstairs in the shuttle. This is apparently good news, and means we're genuine. We're very relieved. We were beginning to wonder if we were genuine, ourselves.
Having seemed to believe each other, we agree on what we're going to do. Henderson is going to leave us alone, and let us to our business here. When we're done, we're to meet him in the hovel he used where we captured Whizzer, 27 years, 5 months, and 3 days after we left him there. No mention of leap years, though.
Pfusand asks him if he always uses the name "Henderson." He says he does. Henderson is a common name, even up through his time (which is before the Captain's). And that having a usual name makes a lot of things easier. Chris nods, and says that where he's from first names are kept, and that he uses one of two first names, but still doesn't say what they are.
While we're dropping names, Lorelei asks Henderson if he knows Elias. Henderson raises an eyebrow, and says he does, and that Elias is the compatriot he mentioned before. She tells Henderson that Elias is sort of a friend of ours. We've all been friendly with each other, and he's done us a couple of big favors, but the fellow would like best just to not see us. Henderson says he's just like that. We tell him about Elias' comments about leaving the Dance broken. Henderson laughs and says that now he knows we know Elias. That that remark is so much like him, we have to have known him.
We get some more information about the locals. They have an area they live in. They have some sort of flying machines. They have set of colonies on nearby areas of "Africa" and "Asia." We shouldn't be seen. Henderson gives us a map of the area.
We also hear that the Captain said some time ago to Henderson that he'd done something around here that he regretted, or thought he might have to fix. Henderson does not seem to know about the Diadem, and doesn't want to. He's interested in staying in his home timeline.
We ask him about Dino. Dino is a member of the intelligent species, but is not intelligent or psychic. Dino would be in danger if the others find him -- apparently, they're ruthless with deformed members of their species. Henderson is still under truth-read, and he hedges around Dino's origins. But we do find out that Dino is rather old.
After we've all talked enough, we decide to leave. Henderson is going to pack and go. He's going to take a short vacation, and then go to the rendezvous with us. He asks us to give his regards to Noon. He comforts Dino with some sort of clicking sounds that he explains are not quite language. We all give our good-byes, and we leave Henderson, as he is gathering his equipment.
We go back to the shuttle and take it very high to plot our next move.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.