We left our heroes planning another dip into the Great Sucking Noise (or "GSN") with the cat in the egg on the chain. This time, they plan to exploit Tom's skill and Second Order Glamour, which appears to interact strongly with the GSN. We also intend to move forward in time to a point further in the future than we've been so far, where the GSN will be weaker, we hope (and, incidentally, we will be back in proper temporal sequence).
Accordingly, we climb in the Munch and fly forward about 20 weeks. We then ready the egg on the chain. Tom plans to ride on the back of the egg (or, more exactly, the macrometal cage containing the egg, the cage on the end of the chain, the chain attached to the Munch by tractor beam). Tom takes a gun and some of his equipment for making dimensional surveys in places like the Chaos Marches, along with the locator watch and the psi-charger.
We are also, significantly, going to tie a rope to the cage. This rope was made by Second Order Glamour, by Daewen. Pulling on this rope by hand appears to be more significant than having a whole starship pull on the chain. Braeta will do the pulling, standing on a grav-pallet, just in case it matters who does the pulling. She is, after all, a demigoddess and kin to the folk who were abducted.
We start off and Tom uses his TK to hold up the chain, so the cat can fly his egg through the GSN. The telepathy net quickly fades out, despite the fact that Tom was trying to stay in contact with Braeta. This was an experiment; Braeta is sometimes very easy to contact telepathically. But not this time. Since she is also rather exhausting to contact, Tom drops it and Salimar takes over as telepathy router.
The cat's egg and its passengers get transparent. Just as they almost disappear, the Suck hits, right on schedule. It feels about as hard as last time, so the hope that it would weaken with time appears to be disappointed. Braeta pulls on the rope, and the whole ship jerks as the tension on the chain changes. So the theory on Second Order Glamour appears to be working out. We ease forward, the power drain in the Munch falling, Braeta's personal power drain rising as she starts using hysterical strength.
Out in limbo, Tom tries to see the landscape that Brunalf has sometimes glimpsed. He succeeds, with almost suspicious ease -- bands of green and blue. Remembering the expectation-meeting properties of Chaos' Rim, Tom tries to visualize vertical brown stripes. He fails. Good; we're going somewhere relatively solid.
Back on the ship, Dafnord looks out the lock and notes that the chain is actually hanging slack. We send to Braeta, asking her to ease up on the rope a bit and let the egg move forward. She complies. The egg lurches ahead and the chain goes taut. The ship jerks again, and begins moving forward, faster than Braeta is letting the rope out. Therefore, it's moving into the GSN.
Robbie has Braeta ease up more and orders the Munch to pace her and her pallet. We all slide forward, slowly. Dafnord, Markel, and Gannar go out to help Braeta, on two more grav pallets and Gannar's personal antigrav. (The gargoyle flaps out, too, but fortunately doesn't do anything.) She needs this help because she is nearly into the zone where you start vanishing. After some tricky work and much lurching and jerking of ship and egg, the additional help gets on the rope and pays out more line.
Back in limbo, Tom and Brunalf are out of communication and so rather puzzled about all the lurching, but busy themselves with trying to see ahead. There's little progress. Tom then tries lengthening the rope and the chain from his end, using Second Order Glamour. (For those not familiar with the orders of glamour, first-order just manipulates light and sound, while second-order persuades the target to act just as if it were something else. The results are tangible and sometimes indistinguishable from complete shapeshift.)
The rope lengthens but the chain does not. Everybody at both ends, including the whole ship, get jerked about as a result. The Munch gets pulled toward the GSN, then catches up and the chain goes slack.
Tom tries again, more gently and slowly, trying harder on the chain, but only gets a reduced version of the previous result.
Of course, the folk back out in the more-or-less-normal world have no idea what is going on in limbo. Robbie, understandably anxious, recommends we pull out. Braeta agrees, and points out they have pulled out almost all the rope they let in, and the egg is still nowhere in sight. (Because Tom made more rope, but they don't know that.)
Salimar sends her clairvoyance down the chain, trying to keep on the trail by counting links but eventually losing contact in limbo. She uses the rope as a similar trail, and is rather sure it's gotten longer. The outside team deduces what Tom is doing and decides to let him continue a while longer.
At the other end, Tom and Brunalf have got a marginally clearer view of the other side of the GSN. They see daylight sky over hills, in the distance. In the nearer distance, they seem to be looking down at jungle or rainforest.
Rather than play with the rope any more, Tom just waits a while. There's another shake of the rope. Ahead, the view clears briefly and something flies by, either small and close or big and far. Brunalf, who has infrared vision, sees that it was warm, too. He tries to use his feline hearing, to no avail. Then there's another shake of the rope.
Outside, Markel suggests they connect the controls of their grav pallets, to make the rope-pullers' lives easier. The rope jerks a couple of times while Braeta attends to this by issuing verbal commands.
In limba, Tom tries to use Second-Order Glamour to clear the (probably non-physical) mists between him and the landscape. Outside, the rope abruptly jerks loose from the Munch, which holds on by its tractor beam. Then the tension eases and the rope anchor whacks back on. And the rope slide ten feet deeper into limbo.
On Tom's side, the mist did clear a little, but then there was a tremendous jerk on the cage. Trying another tack, Tom attempts to probe the mists with clairvoyance. He gets the briefest of uninformative glimpses, then whack his viewpoint is destroyed. Very unnerving.
Outside, they've tired of all this jerking around and decided to haul the explorers back. But then they feel a jerk on the rope. Tom and Brunalf feel it, too. Gathering from the steady increase in tension that they're trying to haul us back, Brunalf looks back and notes that the path has changed. Brunalf, be it noted, is the only one who can see the "path," which is marked out by those flittery little things that only cats can see, which is why he was given the dimension-hopping egg in the first place. The flittery things are now acting "stirred up."
Tom deepens his telepathy with Brunalf and looks through his eyes. The turbulence is worst in front of them, the direction Tom has been doing all the weird psi toward. Experimentally, Tom conjures a small ball by Second-Order Glamour, and Brunalf confirms that there's flittery turbulence around it. The cat opines that the turbulence marks the presence of some magical barrier against their intrusions.
The mists between the two and the landscape close in as they are pulled back. The cat tries to help by throwing his egg into reverse gear. Fight the suck of the Great Sucking Noise is beyond the little egg's engines, and the flittery turbulence gets worse. The cat tries his own TK and Tom tries use Second-Order Glamour to move the egg back.
Eventually, what seems to be effective is a lot of hauling on the rope, and a lot of Second-Order Glamour by Tom, who has to stop and re-charge himself off the psi-battery in his ring a couple of times.
The egg pops out without warning. Tom peels off, flying on his own TK. The cat scrambles in his cockpit and quickly hits the override button for that dratted impact foamer. But he's still swinging pendulum-style under the Munch. At one point, while trying to damp his swing, his paw slips off the override. Sssspppppt
Eventually, we get everybody gathered up, cleaned up, extricated, and back on the ship. Robbie points out that we should probably try something simple and direct like running a wire from the ship to a phone that Tom and Brunalf take with them, so we can communicate (we hope) without worrying about telepathic fade-out.
As we compare notes, we strongly suspect there were several jerks on the rope that can't be ascribed to the people on either end. So where did they come from?
Considering all the jerking around and pounding from the chain that the Munch has been through, we decide to inspect the hull around the tractor beam. It's airtight, but should certainly be attended to at the first opportunity.
Tom recalls his troubles manipulating the chain with glamour. He tries it again, now. He can make links stretch, whereon the cease to be macrometal and become something very odd, with extra-long bonds between the atoms. He can create additional links, but the new ones certainly don't test as macrometal. When he removes the glamours, the chain goes back to normal, as far as the lab tests say.
Braeta remarks that no one was using TK or glamour the time she and several others hauled Tom out by main force, several weeks ago. Tom can only suppose that, just as his Second-Order glamour "tinges" his non-glamour TK, it may have "tinged" Tom himself.
Yet another try, anyone?
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.