Week 14, How to Park a World?
We left our heroes trying to take a segment out of the pocket universe it created and maintains without destroying the universe in question.
After determining that several things won't work, Tom leaves the segment with Pfusand while he, along with Chris, Sophie, Daewen, and Alag, take five minutes or so (pocket-universe time) to rest for a day (pantope time).
Tom comes back with the idea of putting the pocket universe into self- containment. After all, the pantope is in self-containment and got along fine without diadem segments (better than after picking some up, in fact). Everyone agrees that this sounds like a splendid notion and they are quite willing to let Tom try it just as soon as they all bail out and get back to the pantope. Tom doesn't blame them.
Before they go, Sophie locates an atoll in the lake that would make an appropriate place to put the world. They also get Tom a set of 13 numbers, the coordinates of the pantope's door, in case he has to fight his way back to the pantope with the diadem segment. (Not that he's sure how to use the numbers or the segment for that purpose!) Finally, they run a rope from the pantope, out the door, into the mist, and into the pocket world. Now we hope that none of this is necessary and the world can go into self-containment without breaking anything -- especially itself.
And it works. Tom is presented with a two-meter-wide sphere of grayish translucency. A peek inside with Second Sight shows the foggy seas of the world's edge. Using the segment, he views the center of the sphere and sees the surrounding valley. Tom yells an all-clear and jerks on the rope; everyone piles out of the pantope to look.
To discourage tampering by the inhabitants, Tom casts a glamour of invisibility around the sphere, then starts to move it. Ever move a large tureen of soup? It sloshes, doesn't it? Tom spots tiny ripples (= tsunamis) on the sea in the sphere. He damps them out with the segment and decides they had better leave the sphere where it is. We start planning to build a rocky dome over the thing and order up some cement for the job. But then Tom also notices that this won't really help the basic problem -- the world needs the segment to keep it running.
Oh heck. Tom takes down the self-containment and the cloudy sphere vanishes. This leaves us with two acceptable alternatives, as far as anyone can see: evacuation (which would probably not be thorough enough to be acceptable) and creating a "brace," or "battery" that will run the world in the absence of the segment. Tom proposes that the battery take the form of a large lumpish rock and the bottom of the lake; such rocks are often found in various mythologies under the label of "navel of the world" or something like that. Feeling in the segment, Tom thinks the job is possible if tricky.
Everyone agrees to try this. They all evacuate again except Tom and Sophie, who stays to record the proceedings with her photographic memory. What she sees is
[What the players see is the GM rolling 99.] Actually, just before that, something started to form at the tip of the segment, then Tom yelled "No!"
Sophie finds Tom unconscious, slammed against the cliff face. His right hand is missing. She hastily takes steps to prevent him from bleeding to death.
Back at the pantope, the folk on the bridge hear
and the explosion is cut off half-way, so to speak, as the misty gateway vanishes. In considerable anxiety as to the fate of his wife, Chris goes into the neighboring lab and dons the partial diadem. As we have done before, he examines it telepathically for the coordinates of the "next segment." There's nothing new, just the faint and fading echo of the old coordinates. He halloos at the diadem in his mind, with no result. Well, so far, so good. It suggests that the pocket universe was not destroyed.
Lorelei suggests looking for a space-time anomaly, such as the one that marked the gateway in the first place. There are none that register on our instruments. We begin fast-forwarding to reach the next appearance of the misty gateway, hoping there is one.
Elsewhile, back in the pocket, Sophie makes Tom as comfortable as a knocked-out traumatic amputee is likely to get and tries to contact Captain Evans. Showing surprising telepathic talent (since she never contacted him before and he is nowhere near by), she succeeds. She startles the hell out of him, of course; he was sitting quietly at home in New Detroit, reading.
After a while, he is reasonably sure that he is not imagining all this. She asks for medical aid and tells him to look for a beacon -- a twinkling star she produces by glamour. He tells her that he can be there in a few hours and she breaks the link.
Sophie then looks about for the diadem segment. She finds the bottom half of the wand it was mounted on, looking severely exploded upon. After a few hours, Evans shows up in a zeppelin, along with his son-in-law Tumbati and one "Dr." Ferguson, one of the original Flight 19 survivors, who wasn't really a doctor when they landed here but has had lots of field experience in the intervening decades.
Ferguson compliments Sophie on her first aid work, works on Tom some more, and gets him groggily conscious. Tom wants Sophie to locate the segment as quickly as possible and gives her some bare hints on how to use it. Everyone except Tom hunts around and eventually Evans finds it. Sophie tries a little cautious telepathy to query the segment on the current state of the cosmos, but Tom jerks upright and telepaths an urgent "NO!"
...and it was kind of, well, stereo. That is, Sophie seemed to get the same cry from within the diadem segment. She drops the probe immediately. She wishes for a private image-screen that only she can see, and, after some practice, decides the cosmos is as stable as it ever was.
A day goes by. Everyone camps out on the cliff, it being somewhat risky to move Tom. Tom becomes somewhat depressed over his amputation, but tries to remind himself that the autodoc can fix it, if he ever gets the autodoc back again. He probes the segment and finds it feels normal. He offers to try again on creating the world-brace when he feels better. Sophie suggests that he should first rest, and then open the gateway again.
Two more days go by. Tom discovers that he doesn't have to be touching the segment to operate it, though he needs eyeshot. He opens the gateway, bemusing but hardly shocking the New Detroiters. Sophie marches through and finds a cave with no pantope door in evidence. She chalks a message on the floor -- "Sophie was here. I'll come back the same time each day." Followed by a mark.
Three days later, the pantope skids to a halt. Chris appears out of the mist on the cliff face. Tom wobbles into the pantope, shocking some of the party with his battered appearance, and makes his way to the autodoc, where he get his hand re-grown. He then wobbles out again and offers to try another world-brace, but this time from behind a small wall of rocks, not touching the segment, in heavy armor.
No, say Chris and Sophie. Go rest. Take ten minutes for a week's recuperation. Tom obeys, during which time Cantrel gets to discover the load of cement mysteriously delivered to his clothes closet.
Tom spends the time exercising his new hand, praying, meditating, and thinking. He also examines the diadem. It is even more powerful than the single segment, but this power feels more laid-back and quiescent. He thinks he might be able to use it to do things like open misty gateways. He doesn't think he wants to try.
The week is over and Tom armors up and heads out to the cliff-side, where ten minutes have passed. Dr. Ferguson is impressed at the thoroughness of Tom's recovery. Tom starts probing at the segment again.
It appears that, when he hastily backed out of his disastrous first attempt, he set up a block in the segment, preventing any similar attempt. This was probably why Sophie "heard" Tom's mental voice echoing from the segment. The frantic energy of the block prevents Tom from trying the same trick again. Taking down the block would be a major piece of research, or, as Chris put it in a comic German accent, "Vell, Professor, back to ze old drawink board, eh?"
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.