When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
Week 6, Exploring the Capital
We left our heroes on the pantope, recently returned from explorations of late Cretaceous Earth, where they find a civilization of intelligent dinosaurs, using a technology based on iridium and psi. They have examined a dinosaur outpost and a frontier village, using "Glass Daggers" -- holographically invisible boxes steered by remote control and equipped with audio-visual receivers, transmitters, and recorders. Half of the Daggers are also equipped with laser beams, and the other half with mechanical grabs and storage boxes. We have stolen a crystal sphere from the outpost. It appears to be some kind of psychic data storage device. However, the saurian psi also appears to be totally alien and quite overwhelming in power. We need artificial shields to defend against it. Nor does Chris succeed in his efforts to counterfeit the psychic signature of the thing. It doesn't seem to have one.
Despite the fact that the saurian sphere has overwhelmed us every other time, Lorelei decides to try her own analysis of it, finessing with her Deryni shields. (GM: "She wraps her lips carefully around the fire hose before turning it on.")
After her head clears, she decides that the principle leakage through her shields was at the verbal level -- unintelligible babble. This confirms our opinion that the sphere is some kind of book.
We discuss various reconnaissance methods. Jonathan suggests spying on the center of the Repeller with Daewen's far-seer, but Daewen reminds him how shaky her focus and aim are. Cantrel suggests aiming down the radio beacons of the Glass Daggers, and Tom offers to make the precision mounting.
We then load our latest run of equipment into the shuttle, set up rendezvous times, and disembark for a still deeper probe, into the saurian "capital" (or at least, largest settlement). Chris, Sophie, and Victoria stay aboard. The rest of us get on the shuttle and exit the pantope fifty miles straight up from the city. There, we toss out the Glass Daggers. We then move off to the eastern wilds, hovering fifty miles away and a few yards up.
We then spend a very long time flying the little Glass Daggers into the capital. (After all, its fifty-plus miles, and they don't have very powerful gravity motors. Nor are they streamlined, being little cubes about 20 cm on an edge.) Daewen has her usual difficult time aiming the focus of the far-seer. Lorelei, Jonathan, and Tom steer the Glass Daggers. The capital is unwalled, with a fair bit of air-traffic, both levitating air-boats and ridden pterosaurs. Ground traffic is on foot, or in carts, wagons, and hansom-cabs pulled by non-intelligent dinosaurs. The street plan is rambling, the buildings are mostly low and boxy or somewhat blobby and rounded. (The saurians seem to favor a kind of cast stone, as we saw back at Dinosaur Beach.) At the center of the city are four likely candidates for Very Important Buildings, such as might house a segment. We send some Daggers over to investigate.
Jonathan flies his Dagger toward a four-story pagoda thing with glazed windows and a wide pair of swinging doors with rather a lot of dinosaur traffic going in and out. He muffs his piloting. Tom tries to help him, and dexterously times his entry to avoid the swinging doors.
Tom tries to fly the captured Dagger, but the saurian holds tight and crunches it. The saurian then makes the first noise we have heard from them -- a squeal of pain. Jonathan's Dagger stops transmitting, of course. From Tom's, we see the gravity motor whiz out of the handful of shards in the saurian's grasp.
More saurians collect. The original hands around its strange discovery. Daewen announces that the laser is still in the wreckage. Tom tries it, but the controls are busted.
Meanwhile, Lorelei is examining a large building with very plain decor and few doors or windows. She circles it and finds it is connected to several smaller buildings by closed hallways. These form a network around the largest building we have seen, but don't connect to it. She steers her Dagger through a door to a connected building, close behind a saurian. Soon, she comes to one of the connecting halls.
The hall is very stark and, judging from the outside, must have very thick walls. Lorelei finds a panel in the wall. Access hatch? Daewen, using her far-seer, X-rays through and discovers a largish tube, about half a meter by one meter, full of pipes and cables. Everything looks slightly odd. Daewen remarks that it reminds her of Glamour. Looking at Daewen's screen, Lorelei notes a faint, hazy aura in a stream alongside the pipes and cables. Psi plumbing?
Lorelei follows the hallway to its end, waits a bit, then steers the Dagger through as a saurian comes out. Now up a narrow ramp to a large chamber with pillars. Through that and up another ramp, then more rooms and ramps and occasional saurians. The saurians seem to heed each other a bit more here than they usually do. Lorelei locates a central chamber but, since no one is opening doors to it, waits around.
Daewen tries to aim her far-seer into the chamber. She finds four saurians in a complex of rooms. Two are seated on odd stools, looking at crystal balls on tripods. One holds a ball. No one looks at anyone else, just as usual.
Lorelei starts her Dagger toward the big, plain, unconnected building.
Meanwhile, back at the pagoda, three saurians have gathered up the wreckage and headed off to the fourth candidate Very Important Building. Tom follows them with a Dagger. He then uses the Dagger's laser to shoot the wreckage out of their hands and pulverize it as it lies on the sidewalk. The resultant dust makes his laser beams visible and the startled saurians actually look directly at them. They seem to try and locate their point of origin. A small crowd gathers. Time to leave.
Leaving the saurian to cope with its version of a UFO sighting or a Fortean freak-out, we return to Lorelei, who has penetrated the big, plain building. She finds a long ramp flanked by a thick "railing" big enough to hold one of the connecting tunnels. Daewen, after much difficulty, manages to X-ray it and does indeed find a tunnel, complete with the crawl-space full of pipes, cables, and glow.
She follows this to a mass of crystals and iridium. Pushing into this, she finds glare. Daewen suddenly flicks off the far-seer and asks to leave. She's afraid the far-seer may have drained psi-energy through its window, and this may have been detectable. Tom obediently starts the shuttle and the outside Daggers toward their fifty-mile-up rendezvous.
Lorelei hustles her Dagger out, using the grab to open doors. (Slightly risky, but time presses.) Once, she very much startles a saurian. Out and up, narrowly missing an air-boat!
Once all our chickens come home to roost, we wait a couple of anxious hours until the pantope door shows up. Then we flit through and disconnect.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.