Chapter 39:The Missing Martians
We left our heroes in the library, having just thrown an unwanted bogey
back into Faerie. The next morning, we resume work on our break-in
problem. Robbie asks the Avatar if the gaps in the house security
records indicate that it was Ms. Yanov in here, making inquiries about
the Missing Martians. Yes, they do, so we can probably consolidate two
(Tom, by the way, asks the Avatar its name. It doesn't use one.)
The obvious supposition is that Ms. Yanov's inquiries into the Missing Martians are related to her father's inquiries on the same topic, when we met him in his youth, thirty years from now. (This assumes they are the same Yanov, not parallels from different timelines.) Of course, we still don't know what the connection is, or how she managed the break-ins.
Robbie proposes we start by duplicating the research she has undoubtedly already done. We'll look up the Missing Martians in the public databases, on the house system, and (which Ms. Yanov couldn't do) in Edvard's databases.
The Missing Martians are a minor historical mystery, like the lost colony of Roanoke, only bigger. When they started building the first large habitats on Mars, early in the interstellar period, one of the oldest settlements vanished during a sandstorm. It had been quite successful, but was somewhat isolated from the other settlements, due to changing patterns of colonization. The population had adapted a lot -- taller, barrel-chested, dark-skinned against the UV -- partly by nature, but largely by genetic engineering.
Communication failed during the sandstorm, which was moderately common, but then did not resume when the storm ended. Fearing some major disaster like the blowout of a big dome, people mounted a rescue expedition. But there was no one to rescue. Instead, the place looked like everyone had made a quick but orderly evacuation. Some personal possessions appeared to be gone. There were ambiguous signs of possible struggle. A few small buildings were unsealed, open to the Martian air. Not nearly enough vacuum gear was missing, and there was no sign of where they could have gone.
Police investigation was hampered by the amateur poking around by the initial rescue party. There was a big public uproar, a fair bit of finger-pointing, and then, since no one could think of anything to do about it, it just sort of dwindled away.
We note to ourselves that this does not look like the dragontrooper raids we observed on the two nephilite colonies. Tom wonders if nephilim could hide among big, tall Martians, but Braeta points out that nephilim are much more heavily built.
Just copies of pieces of the public data. Maybe more copies than you'd expect, as if someone had been researching this at some time, but nothing new.
Data from the Munch:
The library system on the Munch is separate from Edvard and, it turns out, of a much more helpful disposition. It offers to make some cross-correlations and such. This yields nothing new on Martians, but it uncovers a discovery (in 2523, eight years from now) by the Philippians, as they are spreading out and establishing their empire. They found a world that appeared to have been colonized by Terrans in the early interstellar period, then deserted -- a hitherto unknown colony, out in what is now called the Diaspora. The very sparse records left by the first colonies named the world Caer Tiu, so the Philippians went on using that name. It isn't a very good colony -- very dry, very thin air -- and only one river valley on one very large plateau is really habitable, so "Caer Tiu" may be the name for the planet, the plateau, or the deserted town where the records were found. The library found it by correlating on missing colonies, low gravity, and the names of war-gods. ("Tiu" is a variation on "Tyr," a Germanic war-god.)
We decide to do some further research at Jumping Jacks. Tom, Robbie, Gannar, Kate, and the Gargoyle pile into the Emerald Metaphor. When Dafnord learns we propose to "commute" there by moving the pantope door from the ranch to Tom's apartment in Pericles, he strides through the pantope, into the Munch, just in case. And just as well that he did. Tom closes the door and completely fumbles the re-opening. The little ball of green fire that marks the omniport singularity goes flying off at random. First Robbie, then Gannar, try to catch it, and learn that it is surrounded by some very non-linear forces. It tends to skitter out of reach, and develop or lose apparent mass in unexpected ways. It's a little like trying to haul around a working gyroscope.
Once they return it to Tom, he once more totally fails to operate it. Looking a little pale, he goes into the Munch for a short lie-down. (Dafnord: "What's wrong." Tom: "Nothing. Nothing at all. 'Scuse me.") After a couple of hours' napping, he tries again, and...
Well, how about if Kate tries it. It would be really good if more than one person could fly this thing. (Especially given how Tom's doing just now.) And Kate has enough clairvoyance to try dowsing for targets through the omniport.
Kate obediently tries to dowse for Tom's apartment, and gets it. Or gets one like it. Tom stares at it, a bit puzzled, then realizes it is his other Pericles apartment, on the CoDominion timeline. Kate tries again--
--and the window opens on something dark and empty, except for the ribbons twisting in impossible, non-Euclidean ways. Tom hastily shuts this and opens on his Pericles apartment (the one on the United Earth line) with no trouble at all.
Robbie checks the media desk and finds that our two-hour absence has amounted to about a day. He calls the ranch, where people were starting to get a little uneasy, and reassures them. We then go to Jumping Jacks and check their data on Missing Martians, only to find that they don't have anything more to offer.
Robbie then suggests we use the pantope to go to Mars itself. Or, better yet, the CoDominion Mars, since that was the one that Yanov was really curious about in the first place. As a first step, Kate takes us back to Tom's CoDominion apartment.
Robbie checks through the media desk there and learns from public data that, here, Mars was settled during the sporadic wars with which the CoDominion (initially an alliance of the USA and a lot of the former USSR) consolidated its hold on Earth. At the same time, trios of slower-than-light colony ships were being sent out to the nearby stars. (This timeline developed hyperdrive much later than the United Earth line, which results in a very different pattern of interstellar settlement later on.) The basic tale of the Missing Martians is much the same, though. A different name, place, and time, but not by a tremendous amount. And, here, they had just started terraforming Mars. They had some transgenic plants growing out in the open, for instance. (The job is still nowhere near finished, centuries later.)
Now, how to get to Mars since Tom has no pantope coordinates for it, nor a dowsing token? Well, we could see if a pantope window can fly faster than light, but the simpler solution is to go to a nearby bank and get some Martian coinage. This will serve as a token.
It works beautifully. The window opens in what we quickly realize is the Martian mint...
Tom starts to move the window out. As it glides down the hall, he notes flashing lights. It soon becomes clear that there's an emergency going on. Probably us. Omniports in window-mode ought to be undetectable, but apparently Tom's aren't. He quickly whisks us up, out of the mint, into the air above a domed Martian city.
We look around, noting the air-cars with flashing lights converging on the mint. (Sigh.) This must be an old dome-city; it has three older domes under a bigger, newer one. We bring the window down and open it as a door in an alley near a book store. There's a pop, then a draft, as we connect to a different air pressure. Robbie steps out and goes to the bookstore, buying a Martian street-atlas with some of the coinage we used as a token.
Returning, he is so busy listening to the sirens in the distance, he doesn't notice the mugger lurking behind the dumpster. But Tom and the Gargoyle do. Tom steps out and gives Robbie a telepathic nudge. (Telepathy doesn't carry through the omniport.) Robbie then notices the mugger, smiles at him, and tosses him a coin as if he were a street beggar. Then he steps into the pantope and we shift door to window. We see the mugger come up and stare at the supposedly invisible window.
Tom tries move the window upward, muffs it again, and this time turns pale and reels back. It is not his day for navigating. The Gargoyle chases down the omniport, which is once again a wandering green will-o'-the-wisp, and has the same hard time handling it. Kate tries to help him with TK, but the exotic mixture of forces soon sends the Gargoyle careening toward Tom. Tom's efforts to steer the omniport telepathically only complicate the situation. Tom yells to the Gargoyle to let go. It obeys and winds up flying through the air to crash on the flipside of the deck, "above." Eventually, it sorts itself out and clambers through the access port to rejoin the others.
Meanwhile, Tom has regained control and opened the omniport using the atlas as a token. We're in the bookstore, which has lots of desk-top-publishing printers in the back, printing out books on demand. Our atlas has come "home."
Gannar and Kate step out, into the printing room. No alarms go off. Experimentally, Tom turns the door into a window and Kate tries to spot it. Nothing visible to her. Robbie tries, too, with no results, though he has the odd feeling he ought to be able to see something. Probably the mugger was just looking at the spot on the wall where Robbie vanished. But the mint certainly detected something. We should have the Avatar check out a window, once we get home.
Tom sends the window high above Mars, and, using the atlas, locates the town of the missing Martians -- Percy. It has long since been re-settled. We park the window in the tube-train station, where we figure we'll find tourist information. Sure enough, when Gannar gets out and looks around, he soon finds a pamphlet and a map for the "Lost Colony Museum" at a tourist information kiosk. There is also the actual Lost Colony Site (not near the museum) and the Lost Colony Theme Park. Percy is a very entrepreneurial place. Gannar also collects a city map, so we can find these places. Tom records coordinates.
Our next plan, after collecting any more public data, is to try driving the window back in time to the actual period of the Lost Colony. But first, we want to check back in at the ranch. Tom re-sets the omniport, using coordinates. This gets us back to the moment we left. We then fast-forward through time for a day and a half, to get us past the point where we called in from Tom's apartment. We see the Avatar flit by at high speed, pausing briefly to, it seems, look in at the window.
We bring the window to a stop and change it to door, hoping we have managed to stay in sequence.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.