Week 19, Dimensional Attack?
It is Sunday the 17th of June, 1894. Our heroes have gone their various ways, intending to rendezvous in Rome. Lorelei, Pfusand, Jonathan Goodhue, and Tom are aboard a train chugging to Dover. Everyone else has packed up and left the house for a hotel, taking very seriously Jonathan's warning that it will get "twisted" soon. They have left behind a timed spell to display to Victoria the coordinates of the hotel room.
Around seven o'clock, the cuckoo clock goes off. This is not a normal function of the cuckoo clock, which is, in fact, rigged to signal an event registering on Daewen's home-made dimensional sensor. "It's faint, on the east side of London," she remarks, checking the readings on the sensor. "Cuckoo!" Another one. "This one is--" "Cu-cuckoo!" Two at once. There's a flood of them for the next 15 or 20 minutes. Invasion of the World-Benders?! Everyone gets battle-ready and Daewen calculates like mad
She announces there are four classes of dimensional events:
After half an hour, things calm down somewhat. Daewen remarks that the Type 2 doors are almost instantaneous -- mere flickers -- while the Type 3 connections stay open for some time. Everyone speculates like mad. Alag contacts the folk on the train (except Jonathan), so they can worry too. Many conjectures are put forward, but none are altogether satisfactory.
The rate of events drops off to 2 or 3 per minute. The elves join forces to create a partly cybernetic, partly magical mapping system whereby the various events appear marked on a map of London, color-coded for time, shape-coded for type. Daewen announces that Type 2 now occurs less than once every three minutes and the other types cluster around these. Are three or four parties playing dimensional tag all over London? Daewen feels sure the Type 2's are scattered about randomly, not in any search pattern. 2's generally precede 3's, and there are about ten 1's for every 2. They are evenly, randomly scattered in a low dome all over London.
Everyone settles down to an uneasy watch. The train reaches Dover, rolls onto a ferry, and sets off for Calais. Lorelei quietly casts a sleep on Jonathan, in case weird stuff happens. We arrive in Calais around midnight. Daewen has accumulated about 100 data points in five hours. Actually, it works out very closely to 500 data points in 24 hours. Tom suggests that someone with a pantope (possibly OUR pantope) is taking 1000 random samples within 24 hours either way of the time Victoria is to open the door (7:00 PM Monday). Daewen concurs.
But why would anyone do that? And who's following them about (if they ARE following them about)? And who's doing the 1000 samples? Victoria? Us, after boarding the pantope, for a reason we will discover? The Captain? Henderson? Alior Nus? The world-benders? Elias? Amelia Erhart? Naomi?
As to the Captain, we are near the end of the "red zone" he defined over this stretch of this timeline. There is about a year to go. That doesn't suggest anything much.
The train reaches Paris in the wee hours of Monday morning. There, we change trains for Rome.
Around 7:00 AM, Daewen reports that it is still going on. The events avoid no place, are scattered randomly. She has 250 Types 1 and 2, 40 Type 3's, and a few oddities. She is becoming nervous about someone spotting the numbers. On the other hand, they are in Daewen's person notation, known only to herself, Chris, and Victoria. On the third hand, they aren't really encrypted or anything.
Back on the train, Jonathan is oblivious of all this. He does notice that his occult sensitivities are a bit dulled and connects this with the absence of his amulet, which he also notices for the first time. He inquires after it. Lorelei and Tom return it to him. It's slightly bent, but that's his own fault; he had it grasped in a classic death-grip when he fainted on our steps.
At the London hotel, Daewen wants everyone to stay armed and englamoured with displaced images. She says she wants everyone to grab her rope when she yells "Now!" ??? Cantrel suggests torching the house as a warning to Victoria, but we decide against it. They ask the people in the train to drop off the telepathy net, but we decide that Tom should hang a Second Sight tracer in the room, so that he knows what's happening.
7:00 PM approaches. Everyone at the hotel is armed, armored, glamoured. Tom drops in at the tracer. "Cuckoo- COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!!" Daewen glances at the sensor. "It isn't just Victoria at the house," she reports.
Then the door opens into the hotel room. But it is not high enough and about three times too wide. Three men jump out, with gold coveralls, helmets, goggles, and guns. "Want to leave now?" Daewen asks.
Cantrel fires twice with his disflorger. The first worldbender explodes. The second glows golden all over -- shielded. "Yes!" he yells. The rope becomes faintly visible. "Now!" cries Daewen.
Alag looses two arrows at the worldbenders. Both bounce off the shielding. Coincident with the arrows, all the images fire their (illusory) weapons in unison, as cover. The Alag grabs the rope.
Sophie is the last to grab hold. Just before she does, the middle worldbender fires at the end of the ghostly rope, right where it is vanishing into the wall. Daewen is stunned but keeps on going ... into the wall...
Her image, however, and Cantrel's, appear to explode under the disflorger fire, much to Tom's consternation. He THOUGHT those were images, but would like to be sure. Meanwhile, why can't he reach anyone by telepathy?
The people hanging onto Daewen's rope dive through the wall and find themselves stumbling through gray murk. A dim golden path forms ahead of them. Slowly, it becomes greenish below and bluish above, but not to say true ground or sky. There is no horizon. The path turns gray and develops cobbles. It becomes broader and buildings come into focus. They are on a city street, London-style, complete with traffic, still invisible. Daewen hastily leads them onto the sidewalk and into an alley. "Welcome to Bath," she states while they edit their glamour. "When?" Alag asks. "Uh, now?" she hopes.
Alag contacts Tom telepathically. It has been a tense fifteen minutes for Tom since they left the hotel room through the wall; hard to say how long it was for the combat party. In the train, Tom relaxes from his mysterious (to Jonathan) anxiety and breaths, "They're all right!" Jonathan inquires who and Tom tells him. Naturally puzzled, Jonathan asks how he knows. Tom admits to being a telepath. "Am I supposed to believe that?" Jonathan asks with, it seems to Tom, an incredulity unbecoming someone with his background.
Believe what you like, snaps Tom into Jonathan's verbal centers. You'd better believe it! remarks Lorelei to his other hemisphere. Now, now, that's not nice, admonishes Pfusand. Tom calms down somewhat and apologizes to Jonathan, who sits and looks thoughtful.
Back in Bath, the party takes stock of what they've lost (not much) and unfolds their enchanted map to see what happened. One of each type of event showed up at the house. The door into the hotel was Type 3, a London University College type, which we now identify as worldbender activity. Daewen now notices a faint smudge near the hotel, marking the strange exit to Bath. She sends Alag back a block or so and, sure enough, there is another smudge floating in mid-air, marking the arrival in Bath on the map's scale. Daewen clips the London map and they start setting up a Bath map.
What now? Chris reminds Cantrel that Victoria has instructions to contact Holmes if she can't find us. Holmes will tell her we're in Rome. Lorelei, telepathing from Italy, suggests sending a wire to Holmes, telling him to tell Victoria to look for our ad in a Roman newspaper. But Holmes will be watched, we fear; it's risky enough for Victoria to go to him.
Tuesday the 19th of June, 1894, the Bath party leaves for Rome. In Rome, the others are moving inconspicuously from one middling hotel to another, changing appearance with purely mundane disguises, carefully eschewing psi and hi-tech.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.