Two dozen communicators, in our choice of four formats:
- Very small, voice-activated, easily hidden, like the little pin-communicators in Star Trek: The Next Generation (tm) We select eight of these.
- "Wristwatch," undisguised, which also gives hyperspace coordinates. We select four of these.
- Pocket-sized, with a little video screen and user-defined keys, reminiscent of old-style Star Trek (tm). We select four of these.
- Communicators worked into 28-century CoDominion multicorders (well hidden), with fold-out keyboards. We select eight.
Whatever their format, the communicators have the following functions:
- They can receive and broadcast radio and standard public psi-links. These modes have a range on the order of millions of miles -- i.e. planet-wide, plus or minus some moons.
- They have secret, hi-tech channels undetectable, the Captain hopes, even to psionic technology. These have ranges of billions of miles -- i.e. interplanetary.
- They can control the between-lines portal.
- They can serve to home in the pop-teleport. ("Beam me up, Scotty.")
- They contain a VERY broad band emergency beacon with a 40% chance of attracting the Captain's notice and a 15% chance of attracting the worldbenders' notice. This feature can be locked off to prevent accidental use.
In addition to this, Chris asks if we can't hang around the pantope for a month, unwinding and getting ready for the move. The Captain consents; otherwise, as Chris points out, it looks like "Save the universe and get your eviction papers."
Early in the month, Pfusand regenerates into her original form -- a young female Naza. This startles Ashleigh and Jake, but it doesn't scare them away from the autodoc; Ashleigh, who's forty-ish, rejuvenates, and Jake acquires a full set of teeth and has his arm fixed (It was broken once and never set right).
Chris creates a glamour library and copies selected chunks of the pantope library into it. Daewen prepares for her own departure; she's going to disembark in the 300th century, her native era, and try to liberate an omniport, then meet up with us back in Helene. This will take years, for her, and might take any amount of time, including never, for us. She then plans to use the omniport and/or her own powers to look for Faerie. Or build a Faerie, if need be.
While we're discussing disembarking, what do we do about Aphron and David? We don't really want either of them tagging around with us; too much water under the bridge, not to mentioned personality clashes [and their players left the game years ago].
We decide to disguise them and drop them back on the Jack, the space station where they came from. Unfortunately, the Captain found all the Jack people vanished from sight for at least a decade (which was why he felt free to recruit us). Hence the disguises. We disguise Aphron, who was always absurdly short for his race, by regenerating him to full size -- about seven feet, up from five. We do a bit of plastic surgery on David. Tom then slaps an amnesia on both of them, timed to wear off slowly, so they don't remember much of the pantope campaign. He adds a strong telepathic suggestion to lay low for a decade. Finally, we run off enough pawnable jewelry and Jack-style money to make them not resent us when their amnesia wears off. Then we drop them off, still unconscious. Exit David and Aphron.
Next to exit is Pfusand. This is an era-ending event. Pfusand is another native of the Jack, but she now has a family on 28th-century Akon-Naza. She gathers some souvenirs (such as the dainty 100-lb. cross-bow given her by her mother) and many heart-felt good-byes, including a resolution from Tom to meet again, by aging through the intervening time if necessary. Then she leaves.
By now, Tom has finished his work on the Eilythry -- everything anyone on board knows about them, plus the tissue sample. The Captain proposes dropping him off in 25th-century home-line Helene, so he can give the package to KaiSen. Then he'll drop off the rest of the crew on the other line and we can rendezvous through the gateway. Alag volunteers to go with Tom.
Alag says farewell to Daewen, his grandmother, whom he will not be seeing again for an unknown interval. Tom seconds this. In fact, this may be the last time either of them is on the pantope, and here may end the pantope logs properly so called.
The Captain, meanwhile, has selected a place for the gateway. It is in the city of Pericles, capital of Helene. Pericles exists on both timelines, on the same island in each, but with different street plans. Fortunately, the warehouse districts overlap. Alag and Tom step out into the Periclean night, in a rough part of town. Alag fades into the shadows, but Tom cannot do so very well, with his large bundle of guilt. But given his physical appearance (resembling Dick Cavett) and his experiences, the people he meets either do not find him threatening or figure he looks capable or figure he's crazy. Equipped with no cab-fare and a street map, he sets out for the KaiSenese Embassy, across town.
While he and Alag are walking, let us give a little refresher on their situation. Tom's bundle is, so far as he knows, all that is left of an intelligent species called the Eilythry. Tom and the other pantope crew of early vintage killed off the others while obtaining a diadem. There were only about forty left, and they seemed to be resigned to extinction. "Death before dishonor" and all that. Tom regards himself as guilty of something like third-degree genocide, and would like to make what amends he can.
The best entity to handle the problem, so far as Tom knows, is KaiSen. KaiSen is a race-mind and the founding member of the KaiSenese Association of Worlds, KSA for short, a treaty organization to which Earth and its major colonies belong. Being a race itself, KaiSen feels very strongly about genocide and has gone to great lengths to prevent or un-do it in the past.
So Tom's basic plan is to leave his bundle on the embassy doorstep, like unto a foundling baby, and run like the guilty thing he is. He trusts KaiSen to do the right thing for the Eilythry but is very unsure how KaiSen will view HIM.
As he reaches the better neighborhoods, a cop stops him. Tom claims to be walking back to his hotel, lacking cab-fare. The cop goes away and does not ask about the keg-like bundle under his arm. After that, Tom glamours up a better set of clothes. Alag stays out of sight.
Finally, near dawn, Tom comes to the KaiSenese Embassy and is nonplused to see all the security cameras around. He's been away from hi-tech too long. He tries to sneak up to the door, but does a poor job of it; the place is too well monitored. He leaves the keg on the door and tries sneaking out, failing in an effort to glamour a fake keg under his arm.
Half a dozen blocks away, four air-cars dive in on him, bearing the black- and-silver logo of the KSA. Tom fades into invisibility. (WHY didn't he think of it earlier?! Oh well, the cameras probably scanned infrared, so glamour would not have helped.) Quickly, someone in one of the cars broadcasts psilence and Tom pops back into visibility. He hits his psi-opener and winks out again. Alag, aiming by telepathy, grabs for Tom with TK. (The intervening psilence doesn't hamper such things as long as Tom himself is in open psi.) As Tom takes off, someone fans the area with a stunner. Tom arrives in Alag's arms unconscious.
Alag is faster to use invisibility and fades into the night. He revives Tom a few blocks away, just about the time a new set of air cars drops on them -- this time with funny knobs on them. Sensors? Weapons? Alag looks about for a manhole to dive down. Tom emits a shower of green, yellow, and blue sparks in a vain attempt to vanish. This upsets the KaiSenese and they hit the stunners hard.
Tom wakes up on his back, to the sight of someone in a blue medical jacket putting something away. Headache city. Stunners always do that. Also, there is psilence many fathoms deep. That figures too. The medic goes away and Tom finds a man next to his bed. The fellow introduces himself as Officer van de Camp. His uniform bears two symbols; one is the same as the badge Tom saw on the Periclean cop; the other is the silver lyre-curve and stars of the KSA. Officer van de Camp has good news and bad news. The good news is that KaiSen has dropped the "attempted sabotage" charge, having realized that the package on the Embassy steps was not a bomb. The bad news is that there remains the charge of resisted arrest AND KaiSen wants him held because there may be ... other charges. "I can see how that might be," Tom admits, biting back the word "genocide."
Officer van de Camp leaves to repeat this information to Alag, who is in the next room, visible through a sound-proof window. His place is taken by a plain cop. Then van de Camp goes away and time passes.
Van de Camp returns, with company. There's another human cop-liaison, two aliens, and half a dozen or so units of KaiSen. A KaiSen unit looks like a bear (the size depending on its caste) in any of several pastel colors, with large black shoe-button eyes, parrot-like beak, and a pair of large, feathery antennae, the originals of the lyre-curve in the KSA logo. The other two aliens are fur-covered and somewhat sauroid in appearance. They wear black tabards with the KSA logo and so are presumably liaison officers or other employees of KaiSen.
Van de Camp asks Tom if he knew the contents of the package. Tom admits that he packed it himself. After all, he strongly suspects that KaiSen can screen his mind quite thoroughly by force, so he might as well cooperate and demonstrate that his goals and KaiSen's are the same in this. Van de Camp confirms this suspicion about mind-screening with a pleasantly veiled threat and says they would like to start the ... debriefing. Tom sighs. "Fine. What precautions do you want to take about temporal security?"
"Oh my," exclaims van de Camp. Silence. Everything goes into a huddle, then the other human and one of the saurians leave. Tom has tentatively identified the furry saurian as a Mota Banu. The Mota Banu are one of the races KaiSen rescued from oblivion. Their presence in the same room as a genocide suspect is probably significant. In fact, van de Camp explains that they are involved because KaiSen wants them to accompany Tom back to the Eilythry homeworld, to do more background work on this problem.
Meanwhile, so to speak, the rest of the crew has been dropped off on CoDominion Helene, where they have apartments and at least three businesses -- a high-security space trade and delivery service, a karate studio, and an art gallery. They can therefore move about Pericles with their papers in order and money at hand. They get tired of waiting for Tom and Alag. Chris and Lorelei cross through the gateway and hail their comrades telepathically. Nothing happens, of course. They decide to give it twelve more hours and try again.
Van de Camp wants to know how to get to the Eilythry homeworld. Does Tom have a way of getting there? Yes, he DID. It was part and parcel of the time travel. The Mota Banu intuits that there may be more than one Helene involved, from some clue Tom dropped. Tom admits this, and admits the two have different histories. The Mota Banu remarks that this is awkward. It appears Tom needs resources in the other Helene, but its own race probably does not exist in the alternate history. (Tom admits that he never ran across it. He didn't run across any version of KaiSen, either.) In fact, it goes on to explain that it is not strictly a Mota Banu, but a "Banuesch," a genetic experiment unlikely to have been repeated in the other history. It WON'T fit in. Bother. Everyone leaves.
Alag, who has been watching all this through the sound-proof glass, is much bemused. He is even more bemused when the menagerie comes back: van de Camp, another human, the Banuesch, half a dozen of KaiSen, a furry lump, and something pretty humanoid if you ignore the orange chitin and the beak. (Alag is being ignored mostly because Tom assured them that Alag wasn't there at the genocide. So he's just a -- what? accessory to trying to ameliorate a genocide?)
To Tom, van de Camp introduces the two new critters as Joh Kodogorum Chug (the lump) and Vr'raxad'da (the chitinous orange humanoid). They are the replacements for the two Banueschi. Vr'raxad'da's race and something like Joh's race exist in both timelines, so they can join Tom working either side of the gateway. KaiSen is willing to drop the genocide charge, in the light of the circumstances Tom has outlined, and in light of Tom's demonstrated good intentions, provided Tom will take these two and help them do the field work necessary to re-instate the Eilythry properly.
Tom agrees, but points out that he no longer has any way to reach their homeworld so as to do research on it. He mentions hyperspace. He MAY be able to tool up, given time and the cooperation of his traveling companions. The obvious first step in enlisting cooperation is to talk to Alag.
Tom and the menagerie descend on Alag. "They'll let us go," Tom assures the elf. "Would you like an aspirin?" "My head is fine," says Alag, who cured himself while waiting. "Then can I have one of yours?" "Sure. What kind of $#:+ are we in now?" Alag inquires cynically. The Banuesch outlines the situation for him. Alag is indignant over Tom's degree of cooperation with the "enemy." Tom explains, "I've been cooperating with them because our basic goal is the same. We both--"
"Cantrel will kill you," Alag tells him. This opens a largely pointless and disagreeable wrangle. Alag makes it clear that he would like to ditch Tom here and now. He's blown our cover, big. Tom finally storms out and leaves the elf to the professional negotiators (i.e. the three aliens).
The Banuesch asks Alag what he wants. Answer: To leave without obligation. The Banuesch doesn't see what the terrible obligations are. Alag bluntly states that he wanted to be able to sneak in and out of here without being tracked. The Banuesch offers to assist in this; KaiSen and its employees are in excellent positions to help us lay a false paper trail. "But YOU guys know!" Alag objects.
The Banuesch begins to understand that it is dealing with a group who, in another game, might be termed Chaotic; they aren't fond of The Law. It explains to Alag that, so far, the only people who know about Tom and Alag's unusual status are itself, van de Camp, Vr'raxad'da, Joh, and KaiSen. True, KaiSen is a large individual, but it is still only one person. Furthermore, KaiSen is not a government or a subject of any government, if you get the drift here... "It is merely the most powerful individual in known space." Finally, it suspects that a lot of what Alag wants to do is going to take place in the other timeline and other places well outside KaiSen's jurisdiction (or anyone else's, for that matter).
And ALL they want is data.
As the Banuesch starts leafing through its phrase book, looking for "Pretty please," Alag unbends enough to ask for some ID. Certainly. Take two, they're small: a civilian set and some set describing you as some kind of KaiSenese agent. The Banuesch offers to arrange this and to move Alag and Tom to more comfortable quarters. They accept and depart for more hotel-like rooms deeper in the KaiSenese compound.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.