Week 1, A Cautious Entry
We left our heroes on the pantope, with the eleventh segment out of the thirteen. Two to go. Chris dons the nearly complete diadem and gets another set of thirteen numbers delivered to his head. We decide, as usual, to take a peek at what lies on the new coordinates and then try to prepare.
Daewen looks the numbers over and opines that they are NOT in our home timeline, but close to it, somewhere around 1930. (Maybe we are going to visit the past of the CoDominion.) She also says the numbers look interesting in terms of esthetics, particularly elvish esthetics -- neat ratios to the home coordinates. In particular, there are a couple of intensive coordinates that govern psi activity. One would indicate this line is LESS psionically active than home; the other would indicate that it is MORE active. The best guess is that psi will be different here.
Tom sighs and dials up the 13 numbers on the helm. "Whoa!" exclaim Chris and Lorelei, and a red light starts beeping. Tome hastily shuts everything down and sorts them out: First, the exclamation was simply because Chris and Lorelei both know 20th-century history well enough to know what to expect of the 1930s -- and it does NOT include a street scene full of horse-and-buggy traffic. Perhaps this line is technically retarded? The recording of the window shows a British-looking city, perhaps London, but more like late 1800s than early 1900s.
As for the red light and the beeping, the Serving System informs the crew that this is an artifact programmed in by the Captain. A little intuition, confirmed with a little Tools on Tom's part, tells us that the red light is a reminder -- it comes on whenever these coordinates get dialed, and the beeping starts if one opens a door or window. The Captain has labeled this a danger zone.
Examining the helm's files, Tom finds there are several stretches of several time lines marked with warming markers like this. Our particular warning marker extends in time from a point about ten years before we looked it to a century or so into the future.
Tom asks Lorelei to scry the helm, to get some indication of what the warning is about. Lorelei finds the Captain was worried that he had blown his cover or compromised his position or something like that. (So we may have a bad reputation preceding us, or unfriendly people like worldbenders on the lookout for the likes of us. Thanks a mess, Captain!)
Meanwhile, what are all those horses doing in the streets of London or wherever? We decide to calibrate our coordinate system to the local calendar. We back up 50 years, check for worldbender activity, and find none. We open the window several miles straight up and look down. Yep, that was London.
Tom switches to Daewen's controls and flies the window down into Kent. We pause while Sophie and the Wardrobe robot whip up some reasonably contemporary clothes, then Sophie, Chris, and Tom step out for a diadem reading and calendar check.
The door snaps shut behind them. They find themselves in a field, occupied at the far end by a puzzled bull. No trace of a diadem reading; it isn't here yet. The calendar gives the date as 1844. So our first look at London here was 1894; Daewen was out in her reckoning of the date; no wonder the streets were full of horses.
We test the locale with our arcane senses and find psi is open but, well, "cramped." Meanwhile, that bull is heading over to investigate. Fortunately, the door opens around then and we vanish.
We hop ahead a year and over the fence into the road. Stepping out into someone else's version of 1845, Tom tries to TK a rock off the road. It comes, but not as far or as fast as he expected, and he almost fumbles the catch. Chris tries the same feat and finds TK sluggish. Tom tries generating some ectoplasm and produces only greenish slime the first time. Just as Sophie is hoping Ectoplastics doesn't work on this line, Tom manages to conjure a gold-tinted ring out of the air. Clairvoyance and telepathy are similarly muffled. [Game mechanics translation: we're at -10% on psi skills in this world.]
Back in the pantope, we decide to spend a week reconnoitering somewhere irrelevant, where our mistakes in the local customs and assumptions won't be disastrous. After a little shopping around, we decide to visit Bath to take the waters, in 1883, a year before the red zone starts.
Tom locates this setting and opens the window on the Crescent, for Sophie to get a look at the fashions. Cantrel goes off to the Cultural History museum and researches weaponry for the period. (At least, weaponry for our version of this period; the pantope doesn't have history on alternate time lines.) He finds that the only guns are slug-throwers, the top of the line being something like the .38 revolver.
We settle on our personae: Tom will Thomas Dashwood, a rich, elderly hypochondriac from Canada who made his money in gold (sort of proto-Yukon Gold Rush, which isn't due until 1896, if the histories keep parallel). Sophie and Lorelei will be his nieces and Cantrel will be his ne'er-do-well nephew, Jonathon Lawless. Chris will be Tom's personal physician, who has married Sophie, a Dr. Baker, who is nonetheless Portuguese. (Assumed name?) Pfusand will pass as an Amerind valet. Alag will be Cantrel's companion Albert Woods, and Daewen will be Anna Bulgakova, Sophie's companion, of Russian extraction. (Daewen plans to be very equestrian, to give her the excuse to dress more for action.)
"Whence cometh these nieces?" Pfusand wants to know. "A brother, I guess," Tom replies. "Which one?" "A dead one." They decide to name him Homer.
We train and prepare for four weeks. Sophie devotes herself to making clothing, in particular clothing that will look normally Victorian on the women but will not encumber them in a fight. If you've ever seen Victorian women's wear, you will understand that this takes not just masterful needle- work, but enchanted elven masterful needlework.
Daewen gets herself a carpet bag, lines it with chain mail, has it magically cloaked against clairvoyance (by Chris), and locked with a Chinese puzzle lock (by Tom). Into this she puts all her weird junk, like the flying belt, the magic silk she stores spare energy in, her crossbow, etc.
In a breath of spare time, Sophie runs off a nice little sketch of a lady which Tom has framed. This, if asked, is a miniature reproduction, done by Sophie, of a full-scale portrait of Tom's "late wife." Tom spends his spare time running off six-shooters for everyone.
Not that we expect any trouble in Bath, mind you, but it's good to be prepared, and we want practice carting this stuff around London eleven years hence. (When we should all look different, or at least older.)
When she isn't enchanting ladies' wear or sketching portraits, Sophie designs some jewelry for Wardrobe to run off. With this and some raw "Klondike" gold, she, Chris, Pfusand, and Tom go to Liverpool, where they sell it for 1000 pounds. Thus we obtain local money. It remains to buy ourselves a coach and horses at some town outside Bath, so we can arrive there in a normal manner.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.