Chapter 122: Friendly Fire
We left our heroes having just recovered from a draconian bomb delivered into the pantope. Of course, this was just after WE delivered some grenades into THEIR fighter aircraft, so let's re-connect with Yazatlan and see what we've gained for our pains.
Not so good, since it's just crashed onto part of the city we're trying to evacuate. We hurry up and finish our current round of loading. Robbie, meanwhile, launches a remote eye, trying to get an idea of where the fighter crashed, but not get too good a look, so we aren't fated into being unable to rescue anyone. He gets the bearings, but also gets an unfortunate impression of lots of people running and screaming.
Leaving this unwelcome bit of the present for the future, we disconnect and back up to our standard connect time, moving the window over to the next pick-up point. Before we open, Robbie says he wants to time the intervals between explosions, so we can anticipate them and keep the crowds from panicking ... as much. He asks Gannar to help, since his own clock hasn't been as reliable since he lost his original hardware on his way to Djinnistan.
We open. BOOM almost immediately, from the explosion we set off on top of a draconian temple, to distract them. "Welcome to the Exodus." Load, load, load.
Boom from the first fighter we took down. Gannar makes it 12:53.87 minutes since the door opened. Robbie thinks it was ... a while. Damn. Load, load, load.
Boom from the second fighter we just saw go down. Gannar makes it 15:08.03. Robbie makes it ... a while later. Sigh. Load, load--
Boom? (20:22.75, Gannar helpfully supplies.) Wonder what that was. Will be. Whatever.
We still have lots of people to load. We're gathering them out of a sort of forum, a rectangular plaza with big buildings on three sides. Clairvoyantly, Markel notes that, a block away, there's a troop of a dozen or so dragon-troopers double-timing it down the street toward some of the other chaos we've brewed. But they aren't the real problem yet; the real problem is a dragon centurion who's spotted us and is running off to report.
Mithriel lofts and gets near enough to get a good shot. She then shoots him. He goes down and she finishes him off. All well and good, but the dragon-troopers heard the shooting. Fortunately, their commander is a focused sort and won't let them veer off to investigate.
We've gathered almost twice as many people as at the previous pick-up; the crowd is starting to thin. We disconnect, though this means (as it always does in the city) having to leave behind some people who are approaching in the distance. We'll get them later.
The next pick-up is from a small park and/or sacred grove. It's very full of "revelers" hoping for the promised pick-up. Alas, it also contains four dragon-troopers and a more reptilian (hence higher-ranking) draconian, apparently in dispute with the humans. We observe all this in freeze-frame and decide to take steps.
Robbie and Dafnord seek out Metalais. After all, this is his home town. Could he direct us to any nephilim from this city who would be able and willing to help us gun down these dragons? He helps us locate some. We wind up with two very old nephilim, who used energy weapons back on Destine, and six crossbow-users who might be trained to use blasters quickly. We drop them and Dafnord off in our new firing range, back home at the ranch, to get up to speed.
(While we are running around the Tellemataru, doing this, Robbie has occasion to chat with the ship computer. He thinks he's doing so over his radio telemetry, but soon learns that the computer is hearing him speak through audio pickups in various comm equipment closets throughout the ship. Robbie collars Tom and tracks down the current pickup. Tom finds he can feel a point of psi activity and hear Robbie's voice coming from it (as Robbie duly counts, to supply a sample). It feels like glamour and like the trick Robbie does to project a remote eye.
(Robbie then tries the same thing with Gannar, who perceives it as radio contact. Tom, however, perceives it as something like glamour, something like cyber-psychic "coiling," and something just plain novel, quite distinct from the contact with the Tellemataru. We bring in Salimar, who perceives much the same.
(When Robbie tries this trick on Tom, it feels to Tom like a bug flew into his ear and is buzzing around. When Robbie tries to "contact" Tom's hand, his palm itches. Great. We have a new psychic trick for annoying humans and talking to machines -- robo-djinnish ventriloquism.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dafnord has washed out one bowman as unsuited to blaster work (which he unhappily agrees to), and has to give a pep-talk to a young woman who's a good shot but nervous because she's never killed anyone before. That taken care of, he orders armor for them from the long-suffering Jumping Jacks.
Now, back to the park. We let time run up to the first boom. They get upset, but no dragons conveniently run away to investigate. We freeze frame again and scout around with our window. There are a number of other dragon-troopers in a nearby street, holding back a crowd. Something to bear in mind.
We go back to the park, set blaster rifles on stun for the sake of the evacuees, and open the door. Charge!
Two of the dragon-troopers go down immediately, but the other two go literally berserk and become impervious to blows as long as their blood volume holds out. One clips Dafnord a good one. Then Mithriel accidentally hits Dafnord twice trying to take out the berserker. Runyana hits him a third time as Mithriel finally blows away the berserker.
Dafnord, who barely had a chance to get in a couple of sword-blows, faces the shocked civilians, declaims, "Children of Destine, the Exodus has begin," and collapses. Mithriel feels it's the least she can do to extinguish the fires on his clothes before Markel hauls him away.
Leaving the people in the grove to make their way through the boarding tube, Mithriel and Runyana fly out to the street, where allies to hit will be more thinly spread. Gannar and Metalais follow cautiously. Robbie brings up the rear, to discover nine dragon-troopers on the ground versus Runyana and Mithriel aloft. Spears against stunner-fire is pretty unequal, and the girls soon take the dragon-troopers down. They only down three civilians, too.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.