Chapter 70: Abduction
(When Salimar was departing the sick-bay of the KaiSenese ship, the bird-like doctor returned her possessions to her. These included a gem, a slagged bit of metal, and .. the Map of Here! It vanished some time back, probably in response to a time twist, but it's back now. She has no idea what the bit of metal is, though a quick retrocog connects it with a child in a room with a fireplace and, for some reason, a bush covered with ornaments.)
We left our heroes back in the pantope, having helped Cantrel finish off the attack on Jumping Jacks. There remain a few enemy troops at the ranch, but we are more interested in capturing Ms. Yanova, the immediate mover of all this mess.
But we are more immediately interested in resting. That's one of the things a pantope is great for. We knock off for a subjective day. It stretches into two days, and finally into a full week. During that time:
The pixie and the robot experiment with the magical tent. First, Daphne tries to see if its ever-full bowls will yield anything besides fruit. Not apparently. Next, Robbie tries to catch the fruit in the act of appearing. But a watched horn of plenty never provides. At least, not when it knows it's being watched...
When Robbie empties a bowl and watches in the normal manner, it stays empty until he turns his back. But when he empties a bowl and leaves one of his remote spy-eyes floating up near the ceiling, he sees fruit appear in the bowl, one by one, each starting out as the merest speck, then enlarging to normal size.
Experimentally, Robbie removes a fruit when it's half-grown. It stays little. He tries setting the bowl on a tilt, so the fruit rolls out soon after appearing. He gets a collection of miniature fruit. He tries setting the bowl on edge. He gets a slowly growing deposit of colorful "dust," which, on microscopic inspection, turns out to be sub-miniature fruit dropping out of the bowl at the moment of appearing. He puts the "dust" back in the bowl and it fills up with unusual rapidity.
He notices that all the spare fruit generated by his experiments is disappearing faster than he thinks his comrades are eating it. Watching with another remote eye, he sees one the eldest peaches, alone in a magic bowl with no place to hide, slowly turn transparent and vanish like a soap bubble. So that's why the fruit in the tent is always fresh...
One thing he has not learned is where the matter for the fruit comes from. He asks Tom about it. Tom shrugs and says the tent and its fixings came from a heavily magical world where he doubts that conservation laws applied at all. Robbie looks aghast. Tom says something, meant to comfort, about energy being a well-defined quantity only in purely inertial frames. Robbie looks confused. "It's magic." "Oh, well."
Robbie continues to rummage around the tent, hoping against hope to find something like a mechanism to explain its operation. What he does find, near the end of the week, in a drawer of the buffet table, is a box of chocolates. (He suddenly has a pixie hovering near his shoulder.) Now, was that box always there, or has it appeared since Daphne began wishing for chocolate from the tent? However that may be, Daphne is happy to help Robbie prove that the box of chocolates, like the bowls of fruit, is self-refilling...
Also during that week, Tom discusses the plight of the nephilim with those present, mainly Desmond. He reminds Tom that a lot of the nephilim will not care at all for the idea of crossing the Plains of Penance to the Seven Times Seven Cities of the Nephilim in the Kaf Mountains.
Wouldn't it be better, asks Tom, than captivity on Yazatlan, being hunted, enslaved, etc., by draconians?
Maybe, but not by much, says Desmond. He asks Tom if they didn't have another world located for the nephilim? Well, yes, it's unknown on this timeline; it's the analog of a planet we helped find and settle on another timeline. But we were only thinking of it as a staging area. After all, what's to keep the dragons from finding the nephilim there, just as they did on Destine and that other, unnamed, planet?
Desmond grants the point, but thinks that, forewarned, the nephilim might win the next encounter. And there's the example of the Missing Martians of that alternate timeline, who turn out to be a fugitive elvish remnant, fleeing from world to world as the neighborhood gets too crowded. The nephilim might do the same, starting from the staging world.
Tom sighs. It doesn't sound like much of a life to him, but it's not his choice. He proposes offering the nephilim a choice between the Plains of Penance and the staging world. He wants to keep the Plains as an option, because otherwise he feels he might be seen (by the Powers That Be) as working against their Ban.
Desmond says that Tom might have to have his position defended, but it is probably enough that he is a Son of Adam; it's his plane, and if he wants to let nephilim loiter about on it, that's his business.
(It's not comfortable to think about what court Tom would face when needing this defense.)
There is, in retrospect, a noticeable lack of pixie during this conversation. Skirting the wrath of the Powers? No, thank you very much.
There's also the practical question of how you get the nephilim from Yazatlan to anywhere else. Tom's general plan is to make several trips with the pantope, perhaps taking weeks of subjective time, but doubling back repeatedly so as to remove as many as possible on a great Day of Escape. (The nephilim here present volunteer to go back to Yazatlan to spread the word, so that those who want to leave will be ready.)
But all that has to wait until we know how to get people to the Plains of Penance if they want to go there. And that is going to wait until we settle affairs with Ms. Yanova.
After a week, and despite having Kate's extensive collection of Black North mystery videos to watch, we're itching to get out. Ms. Yanova is the next order of business. We arm and armor ourselves as best we can, then open back in Locker 17 at Jumping Jacks, where we pick up additional bazooka-blaster charges (and a better bazooka blaster to go with them), some incendiary grenades, and another crate of stun grenades. We also look around for a heavy-duty psilencers.
The psilencer is not to be found. But Robbie finds a box of funny-looking grenades, unlabeled save for a black strip on the box. When Robbie touches it, he gets the mental message "psilence grenades." Perfect!
We get in position, around the helm in the pantope. Daphne armors herself with her bark-skin spell. She notices her comrade in arms, Dafnord, in the front lines with the demigods, but without their natural endurance, and casts the bark-skin spell on him, too. Braeta conjures up some ball lightning. Those who can, turn on their patharchic powers of voluntary hysterics.
Tom opens a window inside the air car we believe to hold Ms. Yanova, in freeze-frame. He moves the window for the convenient dropping of grenades into the air car. We have a mixture of psilence and stun grenades at the ready. Tom's plan is to turn the window into a door (necessarily starting the time flow), drop everything in, then go back to window as quickly as possible.
The door frame starts to turn aqua.
Braeta throws in a lightning ball.
Robbie and Salimar take the worst of the blast. We don't know what it was. The four nephilim go flying, as does Robbie. Salimar splatters, but her grenades go in. Tom and Kate, who had grenades, drop theirs in. Robbie had some, but is lucky just to keep their pins in.
The nephilim come scrambling back. Braeta rushes up to the portal and reaches for it, doing something psionic. Robbie sends an eye in, but loses contact with it immediately.
Several seconds after he planned to, Tom shuts the door back into a window and freezes it. The frame stays green now. We appear to be safe.
Braeta explains that she sensed a trap through the door, possibly cybernetic, and so threw her best lightning ball in. After the explosion, she came back and reached in psychically to bollix their cybernetics.
We resume time through the window. Three seconds later, the various grenades go off. Between them, the lightning, and a hacker demigoddess bollixing their cybernetics, nothing in the air car is working properly now, neither people nor machines. The ground is coming up fast.
Tom moves the window around, to be handy to the limp figure we believe to be Ms. Yanova. He opens.
Braeta moves so fast that only Robbie can see her do it. She grabs Yanova out of there and hurls her into the pantope.
Tom snaps the door shut. Dafnord and Braeta then enjoy themselves stripping the armor off our captive, who is totally unconscious between stun grenades, being slammed around by Braeta, and random electrical shocks. In fact, she isn't obviously breathing.
Ah, there we go. Then she inhales again. By now, we can see that she has red hair and the unmarked gray uniform we've come to expect. Her eyes focus. She looks alarmed.
Dafnord: "Hello. Welcome to the Emerald Metaphor. You're a prisoner."
She sees Tom and stiffens.
Tom: "Can you hear us?"
She swallows hard. Thinking of cyanide pills, Dafnord quickly pries her jaws open, but she's just dry-mouthed. We provide some juice from the pitchers in the tent, though it must be admitted it gets more on her than in her.
Salimar: "Name, rank, and serial number?" Waits. "Name?" She gets a glare back.
Tom moves around to address her. Before he can say anything, she sneers, "Saint Thomas!" and spits in his eye.
Dafnord cuffs her. "You were asked a question," he growls.
Tom wipes his face off and returns to the conversation. "I gather you are Ms. Yanova?" Salimar notices her tense up and reads a yes in that. "These are my partners."
"Thomists!" she hisses. She then lunges at Tom. Dafnord slugs her, Salimar throws a telepathic brain cocktail at her, and between the two she is knocked out.
Well, that was unfulfilling. "Saint" Thomas? Hm. Tom has a number of friends from further in the future. One of them (Chris), on first meeting him, blurted, "You're that Tom Noon? What are you doing here? You're supposed to be a religious figure on Hellene!" This bothered Tom a lot, and it's bothering him again now.
Salimar now tries a telepathic memory audit. Tom cautions her about what happened when he tried that on one of her troopers -- agony, that's what happened.
Salimar gets a nasty bite back from something protecting Ms. Yanova's mind, but she isn't disabled the way Tom was. Using hexalogue telepathy and the qui psionics she picked up in the Terraform Reach, she sidled up to Yanova's mind again.
Booby Trap City. At least this time she can sit here and look at the traps, rather than get hit by them. She can't read Yanova's mind, but she can get a distant look at it, so to speak. And a much closer look at the traps. There's something familiar about the flavor of them.
She and Tom link up and rummage their memories. Ah, yes. We've met this psi signature, or one rather like it, before. On Destine. And it bears a general resemblance to other signatures we've met recently. The mind of a dragontrooper on Destine. The draconian spies encountered back in Faerie. The Patalan Ambassador. There's even a slight resemblance to Markel and his dragon.
The barriers around Ms. Yanova's mind smell of dragon. Isn't that interesting?
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.