Chapter 71: Crystal Gazing
We left our heroes in the pantope, having successfully extracted someone
we believe to be Ms. Yanova. Furthermore, she has psychic traps set
around her mind, with a signature that is more or less draconian. But
we'd really like to make sure it's Yanova and not, say, a high-level
Looking at her unconscious face, we could imagine some family resemblance to the Yuri Yanov we met some time back, but that's hardly conclusive. So we gate to Jumping Jacks, a few hours after we were last there, opening on the landing field. It's now night. The Jumping Jacks force dome is still up.
Cantrel must have noticed our arrival on some of his magic/ultra-tech equipment, because he instantly calls us. He asks Robbie if he ever talked to Green of the Rainbow people. Robbie says yes -- well, not talked, but sent a message to. Green hadn't known there was any conflict going on. Cantrel goes "Hmm" and asks us to come by.
We move the gate to his office. "It's gotten more complicated," he tells us. The mopping up is going well -- they have almost all the enemy troops gathered up. But Green called 15 minutes ago. It seems this was not an "official" Rainbow operation, and Rainbow doesn't want to see 37% of their forces turned over to the local Pericles authorities. And our recent "enemy" is Jumping Jacks' best customer. This is why Cantrel's security field is still up.
Tom offers New Hierow to Cantrel as a staging area / dumping ground for embarrassing Rainbow people. He's tempted. The others point out we were going to use that planet as a staging area for the nephilim; Tom replies that the Rainbow people needn't stay there long (only minutes, maybe), and a planet is a big place.
Tabling that idea for the moment, Robbie asks after White, the most militant member of the Rainbow group that we've met. Cantrel tells us he's being "checked out" by Blue and Green. Meanwhile, Slate, Black's old aide, has been asked to come out of retirement and run things while all these other chromatic folk try to sort themselves out and get their individual realities to line up.
At our request, Cantrel steps into the pantope and views the unconscious Yanova candidate. "Could be her," is all he can say. She looks older than he'd expect, though. (Time travel?)
Cantrel asks if we could give him a big door into the pantope -- big enough to accommodate a flitter. He'd like us to drop the flitter with him (and a pilot) on the far side of Hellene, near Kush, where Rainbow has its HQ. And he'd like us to rewind, and drop him there a couple of hours ago.
We do that, then pop back to "now" and open to see how Cantrel did. He calls us and says he, Blue, and Green have agreed to trust one another for now. Slate is still in operational control, and trusted by all. They're still negotiating over what to do about Yanova. He asks us to fast-forward two more hours and open back at Kush.
We do that, and pick up Cantrel and his flitter. His pilot is having a fascinating day. So, we presume, is the tall woman in gray, who came with them. But she hides her reaction to the pantope well. She's introduced as "Pearl," now acting as Slate's aide. She confirms that our prisoner is Ms. Yanova. ("Or a fairly perfect duplicate.") She is here to find out WHY all this happened, which is great, because we'd like to know, too.
We warn her about the psi traps set around Yanova. She says this "fits the pattern" of atypical behavior and inexplicable tricks that Yanova has been exhibiting lately. She has been using "upgraded technology" without being noticed. We hasten to tell Pearl that Yanova can match or come near some of our tricks with dimensional effects.
As an example of inexplicable tricks, Pearl tells us that Yanova apparently teleported one Scarlet from her duty post to a near-perfect mockup of it, without Scarlet (of internal security) ever noticing, and then proceeded to run a very elaborate and convincing attack scenario, using very advanced computers, thus keeping Scarlet busy and distracted for the last few days. The first people to try to penetrate Scarlet's illusion died...
Salimar offers to brief Pearl on Yanova's psychic defenses. Would she like a telepathic contact? No thanks; how about a diagram? Salimar obliges with a glamoured illustration of something between a flowchart, a political cartoon, and a phrenology diagram. Pearl is appreciative; the rest of us are rather a-gog.
Tom opines to Pearl that Yanova has extra-dimensional contacts who are in the same general class of things as the "Missing Martians" that interested Admiral Yanov.
Pearl asks if we think Yanova is sane. We can hardly tell; Braeta did characterize her software security as "paranoid."
Pearl asks if she can bring in a major psychic operative. We agree.
Robbie asks if she can convey a message from us to the Admiral, saying we have information on the Missing Martians; we don't know if he ever got the report we passed to him earlier.
We also show Pearl the dragontrooper knife and helmet that Braeta first brought from Destine. Pearl waves an instrument at them and says they have "non-local signatures." We shuffle feet, cough, and admit that the "extra-dimensionals" we mentioned are, um, dragons. Salimar provides glamoured images of several species.
Pearl takes all this in stride and tells us she's sent for "Crystal," her psi operative.
While we wait for her, Tom looks over a stray helmet left over from our battles with Rainbow. Yep, it too is enchanted/patterned/whatever. It helps to hide and protect, at least on the mental plane, and probably does other stuff besides. It may also hide the traps, apparently set on the wearer, not the helmet.
It doesn't smell draconian, but more mechanical, but Pearl denies it is Rainbow's work. Pearl goes on to say, after scanning with her instruments, that it's an unusual pattern, and seems to mask against mechanical psi, too. Specifically, it'd mask against some of Rainbow's own psi detectors. We give her all the bits of Yanova's suit. She's grateful.
Crystal now arrives in another flitter, with another fascinated pilot. (He's just flown through a door hanging in the air over the Kush mountains, to find a lot people and some equipment, strewn over a seemingly-infinite plane of green, with another such plane leaning over everything in an alarming manner.)
Crystal is a lady all in white, shorter than Pearl, with a computer board and a very severe hair style. After introductions, she levitates Yanova into the tent, accompanied by Salimar and Dafnord.
Crystal then produces several little cubes and other widgets. Some she suspends in the air; they produce a shimmering envelope around her and the unconscious Yanova. Others she puts on Yanova's forehead. She taps on buttons, stares into space, rearranges widgets, and eventually sighs and takes it all apart again.
"Somebody has been very thorough," she remarks. She then goes back to Pearl and the rest of us. She explains that there are multiple layers of traps, and that she has been using only mechanical methods. At that, one machine got zapped. She would like to take Yanova to "the Clinic."
Crystal knows Yanova, and sees that she's got in a state of mind very unlike her usual, with an emotional mix and intensity unlike her usual self. Crystal would like to check out what appears to be a system of delusions in Yanova's head, largely concerning ... us. So, would we answer a few questions? Sure.
Mr. Noon, do you in any sense "have a cult"? "No, but I've been accused of it. By her. She got quite exercised about "St. Thomas" and the "Thomists." Just before she lunged at me and we had to stun her." (Robbie thoughtfully sends a roving eye and some gun platforms into the tent.)
Tom offers to let Crystal have telepathic contact, to verify his truthfulness. She gives an icy little smile and explains she doesn't contact voluntary subjects. (The phrase "mind like a scalpel" occurs to some of us, in a whole new context.) But she does patharchic truth-reading, so she can still verify Tom's utterances.
How many planets, worlds, and races has Tom destroyed? Tom pauses to pick his words, and this little pause causes Crystal to look rather stricken. Tom admits that:
(1) He was once in a battle that he thought wiped out the last few of a species, but later he was relieved to discover there were plenty more elsewhere.
(2) He once remodeled a planet, but it was for the public good, to preserve it, not destroy it.
(3) He did once wipe out an intelligent species by accident.
And, uh, how many worlds have you created?
None. Tom only admits to helping save a race who went on to create a small "world" (meaning the Marginalia, who created, or were the cause of, Lanthil).
So there is no Order of St. Thomas? No priest named Father Padraig? No, there's no order. There is a priest by that name, and it's interesting Yanova's heard of him.
Do we have an enemy who could be described as a tall, dark woman? Oh. Yes. (Lilith. Never met her in person. Yet.) It was this person who "enlightened" Yanova about threats to her father, the Admiral.
Crystal asks Robbie if Yanov was interested in the Missing Martians before he met us? Yes, in fact we met him while he was off exploring the subject. And we've recently done some research on it for him.
Did this concern an exotic ... um ... Otherworld kind of place? Well, yes.
Crystal sums up by saying that she believes this Dark Woman to be real, that the delusional elements are the Order of St. Thomas and the seduction of her father into some Elysium-like place, like a night under Elf Hill. And there is this new plague. (That's the Dark Woman's fault, we chip in, or that of her children.)
Crystal believes the Dark Woman wove this delusion for Yanova with her spin-doctoring of some (unusual) facts. The end result was to push Yanova into urgent action to save her father and the world at large from ... us.
Around now, Crystal's talented eye rests for a while on Markel's dragon. "Oh, my! That's a natural creature, isn't it? Not a construct." We admit it. We did mentioned dragons to Pearl. She and Crystal trade silent glances for a while, presumably in telepathic conference. Tom adds the information that dragons, though now extra-dimensional, originated on Earth in the Mesozoic. He doesn't bring in the whole mythological phantasmagoria, but it probably won't be long now.
Robbie asks Crystal if there is any cult like "St. Thomas's" out there? (Tom had been worrying about this himself.) She can only say they're still disentangling their computer systems. Like Scarlet, White got stuck in one of their simulations.
Robbie: "These computers that faked out Scarlet and White -- they're very advanced?" Oh, yes. "How's Green doing?" He and Blue have decided Cantrel is being truthful. That's why they brought back Slate -- he'd retired before this whole delusion could possibly have started, and so is uncontaminated -- a "clean slate" as it were. (Espionage corrupts your sense of humor.) Slate is helping stamp out the paranoia that is now infecting Rainbow.
Meanwhile, where to put Ms. Yanova for her therapy? It would be nice if it were someplace that Rainbow didn't know about and hadn't picked. Crystal herself recommends this. We talk about it (out loud, with many references that must intrigue Crystal and Pearl), and decide on Victorian London, on the Classical Line. We have a house there. We'll find a suitable date.
Meanwhile, we've learned that Lilith, She Who Was Once A Dragon, the Serpent of Eden, appears to be gunning for us personally.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.