Week 10, To the Pantope for Equipment
Alag and Pfusand are off somewhere on the grav sled and everyone else is on the warehouse roof. We slip down to the alley and sneak into the warehouse. We call Alag and Pfusand on the hand communicators and verify that they made it back to camp. We start shuttling down, fast and invisible.
On the way down, a low, fast cloud hovers around us vaguely. Sometimes it seems to look like a face. (Sometimes like a horsey or a ducky, occasionally like John the Baptist.) We make it to the ground, reappear in a shadow of the wall, except for the skycycle, which is Cloaked.
The cloud comes into view, larger and stormier. It throws a lightning bolt and fries a small shack near us. We split, unnoticed in the panicked crowd. We run to a copse and watch the cloud funnel down the trail of smoke into the shack. A corpse is carried out. We leave the skycycle in the copse and sneak hurriedly back to camp. Could the cloud feel the psi through the Cloaking?
We decide that since we can't use "magic," we might as well go back to the pantope and stock up on technology and grab disguises. Okay. While we wait for nightfall, we see a dust devil conjure up and wander about in altogether the wrong area.
We discuss risking enough psi to create a Glamour decoy of some kind. Daewen goes into a deep contemplation and wanders off. Tom retrieves the skycycle from the copse after sundown. We wait for a couple of hours, but no Daewen returns.
We hike all night and most of next day, figuring that Daewen can take care of herself and knows where we're going. As Tom and Lorelei stand the first watch in the afternoon, they see a bright flash off in the northwest, high in the air. Later, Sophie reckons it came from the Soa valley where the pantope door is. According to the times and speeds, it could be Daewen, if she flew directly back there at full speed.
Another day passes. At dusk,we find the valley with the zeppelin in it. It looks undisturbed. While Tom walks through the Glamours to unearth it, Sophie and Alag use Second Sight to catch up on Tambala, Tumbati, and Carson. They're all safe back in New Detroit. Chris tries to contact Daewen telepathically and fails. Alag casts Second Sight to the gate, where he finds the camera suspended, faintly glowing.
We get the zeppelin ready and under way. After a few hours, we spot what appears to be a Sultanate airship, minus props, moving at high speed. After another look, it seems to be a New Detroit zeppelin, moving slowly. Chris smells Glamour, tries telepathy again, and gets Daewen. She beat us back to the pantope and has brought back "some junk," to wit an air car Glamoured up to its sun roof in various guises, carrying blasters, parachutes, another flying belt, and some ablative colloidal armor (nifty!)
Alas, even this isn't enough, since we also wanted to get disguised and costumed as locals, so we all head back to the gateway. We stop off in New Detroit, where we give detailed reports on the Sultanate to the folk there (who have been warned about how weird we are by Tumbati and Co., and so do not ask where the spare zeppelin came from). The New Detroiters are grateful.
Chris and Sophie want to talk to Capt. Evans, but he's off in the valley, in his zep. We take one of our zeps (the fake) and go after him. He is startled at its speed, and even more so when he gets inside it and it looks like a Buck Rogers automobile. We then take him back to the pantope where Chris and Sophie spill a few beans about our mission. Would Capt. Evans like to join? He seemed to be hungry for adventure and new horizons? Not THAT hungry. They give him a discrete rejuvenation without telling him (the skin and hair stay old-looking) and take him back to his zep.
Lorelei and Cantrel are miffed at Sophie and Chris, since they told no one they were going to try to recruit Evans. Their response is that they knew what Lorelei and Cantrel would say, so there was no sense in actually asking their opinion, as it would only upset them.
We then spend a couple of weeks in the pantope. Chris invents an odorless, tasteless, invisible sleeping gas to douse the sultan's palace with. Tom builds the pumps and crop-dusting attachments to deliver the stuff. Cantrel has the Serving System run off a couple of dozen grenades.
For mysterious reasons, it delivers these to his quarters, where it hides them in places like his sock drawer. This annoys Victoria, since there is a child about the place. Cantrel retreats to a distance to avoid Victoria, only to be pursued by a grenade-bearing tray. He storms onto the bridge and tries to threaten the Serving System with the grenades. Tom suspects the machinery is colluding in some sort of joke, and intervenes. He asks Lorelei about them. She has no ideas. Tom asks Chris if he knows anything about them -- or is Wardrobe developing a sense of humor? Chris pauses and answers, "Yes." "To which?" asks Tom. "To the disjunct" replies Chris.
The serving system can't be bluffed, so Cantrel storms off. Searching his quarters, he notices a tray keeping close to the ground, trying to sneak into his room. Retrieving that grenade, he finds a blue plastic child-proof seal protecting the pin.
Tom asks the serving system to deliver the grenades to HIS room. It sighs loudly and replies, "as soon as we can, Captain." Meanwhile, Cantrel has armed a grenade, so Tom moves the door to the mountainside of the cave we're "in" and does an ad hoc field test of the grenade's explosive power. It's pretty good.
Meanwhile, we're all training, Tom has picked up the ability to create ectoplasm, and we've all taken cosmetic surgery to look like the natives of the floating city. Also, we've made ourselves some gas masks with built-in IR goggles (authors of interactive science fiction games should take note of this).
We spend another week in the pantope, during which Sophie takes a look at Alag's Lorien Cloak and figures out how to make one herself with Eldacūr Seamstry. What with all the colloidal armor, gas masks, and Lorien cloaks, we're starting to look like the Storm Troopers of Middle Earth.
Cantrel suggests that we make a pilgrimage to the Holy City and tell them that we are on a quest and need this artifact thing to save the universe. Sophie responds sweetly that she will go if he'll accompany her. So much for that idea.
We spend more time on the pantope being indecisive about what to do next, but finally decide to go back to the pocket universe at linear time. In English, this means we're going to let the four weeks we spent on the Dance also go by in the pocket.
We head off towards the box canyon. We come across a flock of Mehar, with whom we chat, and explain that we are a strange zeppelin. We head off towards ground level, and set down to wait for nightfall.
After a few hours, we spot a party of twelve Sultanate riders in the canyon. This is a bit upsetting, and we decide that we will have to capture a couple to find out if they've tracked us. It's perhaps a paranoid assumption, but a little paranoia lengthens one's life in our biz.
Lorelei floats off invisibly and starts sleeping them, starting from the rear. Chris and Sophie set off on foot with stun pistols. He's gunning for their captain, she for their cook (seems like a good pair to question). Alag set up in a tree with his bow. Daewen follows invisibly in the air, and Pfusand is also about her someplace. We're trying not to be lethal, but it pays to have teeth.
Lorelei drops the back three, but the fourth one realizes that he's in the rear and shouldn't be, and screams as she sleeps him. Daewen takes this as her cue and cuts loose with a blaster pistol, hitting two of them. The Sultanate lieutenant quick-draws a bow and gets Daewen. Fortunately, she has kevlar armor on, and isn't hurt too badly. Alag doesn't particularly take to the fellow who shot his granny, and shoots the lieutenant with one of his hopped-up arrows.
Sophie puts up a glamour of Daewen darting to the right as she makes Daewen fade out. Chris takes advantage of the confusion to break into a run and close on the Sultanate party. Fortunately, this has thoroughly confused them. Several of their troops are screaming about enchanters, demons, and witches (who us?), and their captain is just staring at the tableau with his jaw open all the way to his saddle.
Daewen, returns fire on the lieutenant who shot her. He doesn't go down, but berserks instead. She becomes visible again. Another rider, confronted with two Daewens, decides to shoot at the one with the arrow in her. Good choice, but fortunately, he misses. Pfusand finishes off the lieutenant. Alag shoots the other one, who also berserks. Sigh. Don't they know we don't want to have to kill them? Lorelei sleeps some more.
Their captain recovers from his shock, and starts riding his horse around in circles, ineffectually. Sophie stuns the cook. Looking at the captain, Chris pauses to think about whether he should bother to stun the guy yet. He has experience as a guerrilla commander, and when the opposing leader is being this confused, it's often best to leave him be. After a second or three he decides to shoot him. He hits the captain, but the captain apparently is already sort of stunned, and the stun pistol doesn't do a whole lot of good. The horse, however, is more cooperative. It starts to slump. The captain, in his frustration, starts screaming at and spurring his mostly senseless horse. Chris, being the kind-to-animals sort, stuns the captain again.
We mop up the rest of them, tie them up, and round up their horses. We didn't do too badly in pulling our punches. We had to kill the two that berserked, but that's the way things go. We'll try to do better next time we have overwhelming odds on our opponents.
Since we were planning on interrogating them. What we want to know is why they're here and how they're planning on reporting back. Chris and Sophie set up an interrogating studio, glamoured to look like a Victorian drawing room, complete with a pianist playing the Emperor Concerto. They also glamour themselves to look like yet other people these folks haven't met (remember, we're surgically altered to look like the Sultanate's people), with vaguely shifting features. Lorelei is present, doing Deryni truth magics.
We find out from the cook that they are out to find sorcerers, demons, efreet, and people like that. "Well, now that you've found us, what were you planning on doing?" asks Chris. The cook gets very scared. Chris tells him that for a long, long time, we demons have had a live-and-let-live pact with the people of the Holy City and we don't like being intruded on. The cook apologizes. We find out that the cooks been to this valley a couple of times before, but we don't get much out of him because he's so hysterical. We drug him a little, but apparently the hysteria was the only thing keeping him in one piece, and he passes out babbling.
Sigh. On with the captain. Chris pursues the same line, but from a different angle. He verifies that they were there to search out magical nasties (gee, I guess that is us), and asks what should happen now that we've been found. The captain tells us a little, but figures out that he's being magicked from the fact that Lorelei's magic speaks aloud the whole truth when he answers. Showing himself to be a better commander than he's demonstrated before, the captain clams up and simply glares at us. He doesn't even respond to Chris's needling about his commanding prowess.
On with another. Pushing the story further, Chris tells the "but we have a live-and-let-live pact" story to yet a third soldier. This one decides that it would not be dishonorable to take a message back to his people that we don't like being intruded on. We ask him to do so -- now, and he gets confused. We'd have to untie him and let him go. We do? Gee. Okay, so maybe we'll let you live then. We were afraid that they might have telepathic contact, or Holy Artifacts from the Angel Marconi or something. We can handle foot messengers, as we're going to attack the Holy City tonight or tomorrow night.
Discussion follows, and while some of us are scared to let them go, we end up deciding that we are in fact the Good Guys after all, and let them go. Just not immediately. We use some patterned glamour to drive their horses towards New Detroit (a few days walk), heal the mortally wounded ones up so that their wounds are survivable, and arrange them so that they will be able to escape a few hours after we decide to. We catch up on our shut-eye and prepare to continue. We'll let the prisoners go once we set off for the Holy City. If our plan works, it will be on the ground when they return.
In the previous log, the sentences:
Tom asks the serving system to deliver the grenades to HIS room. It sighs loudly and replies, "as soon as we can, Captain."
were in error. In fact, the serving system said no such thing. Your Intrepid Reporter put these statements in at the request of Chris and Sophie, who like to tease Tom about his turning out to be the Captain after all. They are fond of time loops and enjoy the rise it gets out of him. Your Reporter does not regret the error, but felt it should be pointed out, nonetheless. That's what Earl gets for going on vacation.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.