Chapter 107: Mage Hunt, Part II
We left our heroes trying to gather up N'Butu refugees despite the
interference from their hereditary enemies, the Kitsu. To this end, we
have to neutralize the five Kitsu mages responsible for that
interference, together with the two dozen assistants. Last week, we
collected a shapeshifter.
It sure would be nice to spike their wheels with psilence, but we aren't sure it works very well on nephilim. Dafnord makes a trip down to sickbay, to ask Braeta who psilence affects her. She says she finds it annoying and somewhat hampering, but it wasn't really a problem. Blast.
The five remaining mages are an ancient mage-king, a teleport specialist, a fire-magic wielder Tom has dubbed "Mr. Lucky" because we're timelocked from attacking him yet, and someone we have yet to figure out. We consider going after the mage-king, maybe having Desmond throw him into stasis or having the Kitsu chief talk to him. But our timelock detectors register very high on him, so we go after the teleporter instead.
How do you catch a teleporter? Well, if you have a pantope, you at least have a fighting chance. Using an amulet the mage gave to one of the assistants, Tom dowses for his location, in freeze-frame. We get an apparently empty chunk of forest, but close observation shows a bit of scenery that looks blurred. We ease forward in time and the blur goes rippling away through the forest. It is relatively easy to follow, at this time scale, and once you know what to look for. It appears that the "teleportation" is really a form of acceleration. We wonder if he is running because he detected us hunting for him.
He zips to a halt at one point, and we see him clearly -- a Kitsu man holding a bloodstained war club. Then he zips out, but not before we record his appearance.
We then try opening a door right in front of him, leading into the armored airlock, which we have filled with remote-controlled gun platforms set to heavy stun. We glamour the airlock to be invisible.
The result is that several gun platforms explode. Apparently, he spotted our trap, and we've lost the element of surprise, if we had it in the first place. Picking through the wreckage, Tom spots a little leftover something that Salimar identifies as a "bookmark." This guy has tagged us for later reference. Hm.
We decide to do what we did with the shapeshifter -- use authority rather than force. Dafnord goes to get the Kitsu chief again. We ask him to come "identify" this speedster mage, and escort him and his two bodyguards to the reception area. We show him the image, but he only slightly knows the fellow. Would he be willing to step back into Yazatlan to talk to him? Yes.
We re-locate the speedster and, giving the chief a shortened version of the gangtube we usually use, let him step out to meet this mage. Robbie sends an eye in to observer. The speedster zips up. He notices the eye right away. He and the chief appear to talk in low voices for a moment, then suddenly seven birds burst out of nowhere between the speedster and the chief. The speedster zips away. The chief just stands there.
And stands there.
We ask the bodyguards if their chief is okay. Yes. Sure. Um, that is... Dafnord walks up to the chief, who maintains a statuesque stillness. Tom and Daphne begin to scope out the situation. Tom notes magic in the shapeshifter's flavor. Daphne twigs to the answer, because she feels vegetation where the chief seems to be. We've been tricked by an illusion.
The guards are understandably anxious about the location of the chief. So are we. We dowse for him in the pantope, and find he's asleep, in his quarters on the Tellemataru.
The chief was never with us at all; that was the shapeshifter in disguise, who has taken the opportunity to dive back into Yazatlan and continue his fight.
Making sure, Dafnord steams into the chief's tent, brushing past the (other) guards, and demands to know where the shapeshifter is. The chief doesn't know, just tells us the shapeshifter promised he "wouldn't fight here."
"We won't be needing your help to get any of them back, now," Dafnord informs him. "You won't be seeing them again."
"I did not expect to."
"We take note of that." He stalks out and tells the ship to seal off the Kitsu area.
We evaluate. Tom never expected to be able to out-wit a powerful trickster; he was counting on the guy's obedience to the chief's authority. Now, it is clear that this won't work, even if the mage obeys within the letter of his word. It looks like we're going to have to resort to lethal force, or Desmond's stasis if we (and they) are lucky.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.