Chapter 102: Oops
We left our heroes trying to collect the warring tribes of N'Butu and
Kitsu nephilim. We'd found a large group of N'Butu being harassed by
small groups of Kitsu. We decided the simplest method was to toss stun
grenades down on all of them and have the Kraslk stevedores pick them
Accordingly, we start lobbing grenades out the pantope portal, which we set to open a couple of meters above the warriors' heads. It becomes a routine: position portal, pull pins on grenades, open portal, drop out grenades, close portal, back up in time a few seconds, reposition portal, repeat.
After a few rounds, though, one of Robbie's grenades hits another on the way in and bounces out again, knocking two live grenades out of Markel's hands. So we have three grenades, minus pins, rolling around the pantope.
Tom, Kate, and the Gargoyle all seize a grenade by TK. Unfortunately, they all seize the same grenade (since you can't see who's grabbing what with TK), and when they all try to heave it out the portal, they overshoot drastically. At least it's far away from the people. Isn't it?
Robbie and Gannar both lunge for a stray grenade, trying to stay out of each other's way. Robbie grabs it and chucks it out the portal. Gannar realizes he still has a live grenade in his hand, so he chucks that at the portal. Then both of them scram, straight up. Unfortunately, Tom decided to close the portal, around then, so Gannar's grenade just drops to the pantope deck. Kate gives it a toss with TK.
Around now, Dafnord realizes that one of the grenades he's holding is not a stun grenade, but a psilence grenade, accidentally packed into the wrong crate. Remember this for later.
Markel runs. Everyone else braces for the stun effect. The loose grenades go off, and it isn't too bad. We all tingle, but it was far enough away that we're all still standing.
Robbie reviews the initial accident in his memory. It wasn't actually physically impossible, just really bad luck. Or something. The alternatives are some bad juju sent back at us by the nephilim we're bombing, or timelock brought on by too much looping back across the same few seconds of time.
Meanwhile, the portal is still there, just working as a window. Peeking through, we are disappointed to see that, although some people are staggering around, no one is falling down. We recollect that the stun grenades work on a psionic principle. If another psilencer grenade got dropped out with them, it would have inhibited their effect. Double damn.
Dafnord puts his remaining psilence grenade in a hip pocket and recommends we resume bombing, more carefully. We start another round. As Dafnord leans over to drop, he hears the grenade in his pocket click. Robbie fumbles his grenade and drops it. The Gargoyle tosses it through for him, but he's now acting very slow -- not at all like Robbie. Gannar detects ionizing radiation. And Markel remarks that Dafnord is sort of sparkling.
We now recall that psilencers in the pantope don't produce psilence -- they produce radiation, which doesn't agree with Robbie, apparently. Also, they appear to produce this sparkle.
Dafnord asks Tom for a portal to the ranch, back on Hellene. Tom complies. Dafnord exits hastily. The sparkle effect vanishes, Robbie resumes normal speed, and Dafnord falls off the telepathy net, as he enters normal space and the psilence grenade starts producing normal psilence.
Dafnord appeared in the front yard. Entering, he finds a flying tray and an egg-shaped robot, both inert on the floor. Oh, yeah, the psilence knocks out their TK motors. Soon, a turret-like little robot with no TK to it trundles up and relieves him of the psilence grenade. Dafnord then high-tails it to the autodoc to have his... to be treated for a minor radiation burn.
Back on the pantope, Robbie asks Tom to look him over. Tom feels with his psychic faculties and gets an impression of dimensional manipulations nearby. Robbie himself seems relatively normal, if a little frazzled. Tom does his best to smooth away the frazzle, noting as he does so that it has rather the same flavor as the dimensional effects he noticed first.
We ask Brunalf to look around for any dimensional oddities (other than the usual ones for the pantope). He spots a place that looks "thin" right where Dafnord was standing. Desmond notes that it looks odd to him, too, as though the timestream wasn't flowing quite right there.
Tom decides to try an experiment and exits to the ranch to fetch a personal psilencer. Robbie exits, too, not wanting to be around an experiment likely to generate radiation. The two of them encounter the little turret robot, just coming back from disposing of the psilence grenade. Tom would rather like to study it, to see if there was anything odd about it, but it's too late. The robot took it to the hazardous materials disposal shed (What, doesn't your house have one?), where it was zapped with a large electromagnetic pulse, to deactivate it.
Tom gets a personal psilencer -- the sort you can buy in any Hellene hardware store -- and goes back to the pantope. He flicks it on briefly. Then he and Desmond feel around the area psychically. Tom gets a whiff of the odd dimensional effect, but Desmond flickers -- and vanishes.
Startled, Tom looks around for someone knowledgable in matters extradimensional and calls in Mirien. She pokes briefly at the area -- and vanishes. Brunalf leaps into his egg-ship, charges to the rescue -- and vanishes.
Alarmed, Tom begins feeling the psychic fabric of the pantope. Yes, there's a weak spot there. And another where Dafnord stood. And a third nearby, where we first tried to use a psilencer in the pantope some weeks ago and found that it didn't work, producing radiation instead. (And apparently unraveling the pantope, too.)
Salimar, looking around with Tom, announces that she can feel Desmond's presence -- and then vanishes.
Then Desmond flickers back in, right where he vanished. He's a little confused; as far as he's concerned, nothing happened to him, but we all snapped to new positions. He seems to have skipped forward through time a few minutes. He admits that, when he probed that anomaly, he sort of "ran away with himself" and lost his grip on things for a moment. He thinks the local continuum is doing poorly. Tom agrees.
Robbie comes back into the pantope, finding we're done with making radiation but are losing people overboard. He and Markel can both perceive the anomalies clairvoyantly, as faint greynesses in the air. Now that he knows what to look for, he can even see traces of the same weirdness on the edges of the portal to the house. But that's almost to be expected.
Markel tries to send his clairvoyant viewpoint through an anomaly. He finds he can, just for a moment, but then it gets cut off in darkness and silence.
Tom fetches his dimensional survey equipment and finds that it, too, can locate these anomalies. But several minutes have passed and none of the other folk have skipped back in the way Desmond did. Tom reluctantly decides to go looking for them with the pantope, even though they may be in the same pantope some hours or days hence -- which would be twisty. He starts to open a portal, but feels a Looming Presence behind him. Looking around, he sees it's the Gargoyle, who has a Very Bad Feeling about this proposed action. Well, Tom does too, but what are we going to do?
We research a little more. Markel had a rope tied to the cat's egg. It snapped when the egg vanished. Sort of. It sort of stretched like taffy, first. Robbie picks it up and looks it over. It feels odd. Sharp. No, what's the word? Painful! Yes, a sensation Robbie has been spared most of his life. Interesting once in a while, but not something to repeat. However, sticking his hands in the anomalous areas gives him the same painful sensation.
Tom, meanwhile, is worrying about the way his pantope is developing leaks. He goes to the anomaly that formed from the psilence grenade in Dafnord's pocket and tries to fix it. He finds that he can. Good. He is not going to fix the hole that everyone disappeared through, however, in case we need it to get them back.
And -- funny thing -- when he patched the anomaly, he had the distinct feeling that something stopped. Some note of ... chaos went away. Hm. The pantope was created by Tom using a psychic pattern to impose his will on Chaos' Rim. Might psilence act against the pattern, bringing back the chaos? Is the chaos always there, underneath?
A lot of time has passed and no one has reappeared spontaneously. Tom feels that he must go looking for them, even though the Gargoyle and the Dragon are both now getting edgy about it. After all, not only is the pantope Tom's responsibility, Tom has some pretty good hints that he'll still be around in Lanthil years from now, so the venture shouldn't prove fatal for him.
Everyone trades uneasy glances but agrees, or at least acquiesces. We all get battle-ready. Tom ties on both mundane and ectoplastic ropes and hands them to Markel, who ties them to his Dragon, which he's riding. Then Tom marches into the anomaly, dowsing for Mirien -- and vanishes.
The ropes go taut, and the Dragon and Markel vanish.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.