Chapter 82: Fast Forward
We left our heroes further in the future then they have ever been
before. To be sure, this is how most people conduct their business from
moment to moment, but for this lot, it amounts to an accomplishment --
even if we do have to discount some brief or circumscribed trips to
later decades, centuries, or millennia. The point is that they are
relatively untangled and ready to turn their attention back to their
biggest task -- What About the Nephilim?
Well, where were we? Through our earlier diplomatic work in Faerie, we learned that there is a passage for nephilim somewhere in the Hindu Kush, taking them to the Plains of Penance and thence to their prophesied homeland in the Kaf Mountains. Attalais, a very old and senior nephilite diplomat (a.k.a. "Atlas"), has agreed to tell us exactly where the passage is, and how it's to be entered, if approached by a suitable intermediary between him and the Destino nephilim. We've settled on Robbie as the appropriate intermediary.
But, on the Destino side, things are still messy. The Destinos are scattered all over Yazatlan and, worse, all through a long series of ages. For instance, we picked up Desmond from a time 800 years earlier than our pick-up of Greywolf, Obedan, Hassan, and Paolo. Also, by no means all of the nephilim will want to go to the Plains of Penance; many will want to go on running, hoping to stage a better resistance next time.
Tom says he had planned to use the pantope over and over, all on one special Day of Exodus, to scoop up as many refugees as possible, as quickly as possible, giving the dragons as small a window of opportunity as possible. This involves back-stitching through time across the face of Yazatlan, but shouldn't be too risky if the landings are far enough apart.
Desmond proposes that we drop him off where and when we got him, so he can approach the various nephil princes about an upcoming exodus. (We will, of course, keep this secret as best we can, to avoid letting the dragons know.) He will keep plans from advancing too fast to overtake Greywolf 800 years ahead, and will use some of his own newly-acquired temporal tricks to throw into stasis anyone who looks like blowing the secret or being too impatient to wait the necessary centuries.
Daphne suggests that part of the plan can be circulating the right mythic themes in songs and tales among the populace. (Robbie starts humming "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.")
Tom asks our nephilim how many demigod kings will want to commandeer the pantope for their own uses?
Desmond concedes that could be a problem. Could we disguise the pantope as something else? Or make it look like something other than the pantope is doing the magic?
We immediately think of the Tellemataru, Morniesul's vast trade ship, "waiting" in orbit around Hellene about 30 years in the future. Accordingly, we open the pantope back on the Tellemataru, where we last left off. We fast-forward a day, to give Morniesul some breathing time, then walk into his office and call him up on his own intercom. He is only mildly surprised.
Morniesul is also agreeable to our plan. In fact, we can use the size of the ship to keep nephil groups apart, if needed, and we can adjust the length of their apparent trip by selecting the time, on the Tellemataruās trip from Hellene to New Hierow, when we load the ship with nephilim. We decide to give them about a week in flight.
Tom asks Braeta if psilence inhibits nephilite powers. Some powers, to some extent. And how about Robbie, who may be all psi now? We stage an experiment in Morniesul's office, setting up a zone of psilence. Robbie finds he can send his eye into it okay. Walking into it makes him feel tingly, as when your foot falls asleep, only all over. But he can tolerate it.
Morniesul says he can cover his whole ship in deep psilence, if need be. And he can set it up for LOTS of guests. And, as for our monkey-puzzle drive, come look at this...
He leads us through some highway-sized passages to a cavernous "minor" hold containing a device he calls a "telemporter," which he acquired from an aggressive and non-human "star empire" on the far side of the Terraform Reach. The device is a large ring of machinery on a big stand. When powered up, the ring appears to open on a long, dark tunnel. Tom and Robbie try it out and find that it is slick. They slide down it and come out in the back pastures at the ranch. With a simple adjustment, they can also slide back up it. It appears these star-empire folk are building early versions of omniports.
Robbie proposes that we use the telemporter, though not nearly as much as it will appear. We can pour refugees into the far mouth of the telemporter tunnel, but just have that mouth be in another cargo bay. Then they appear to get "telemported" into the Tellemataru from Yazatlan. Robbie also tangles some qui into the works of the telemporter, where it will do nothing, but add to the general misdirection.
Experimentally, Tom tries taking a pantope door down the tunnel. This turns out to be a mistake; the door suddenly opens on vacuum. Tom slams it shut, then opens briefly on the ranch, on Hellene, to re-supply himself with air. (Obedan, who was relaxing in the tent, comes out and remonstrates Tom mildly.) So we won't try that trick again.
But we have a plan for this side of the operation.
Now to let the nephilim start working their own salvation. Desmond asks us to drop him off back in the city where we found him, then pick him up in three years. We drop him off and zip ahead, checking monthly, just in case.
He flags us down in three years and says he has a collaborative leader. He'll now want at least ten years, and help from another nephil. Braeta volunteers, leaving her computers behind.
Fast forward. Ten years later, we meet Desmond in the same back alley. He reports success. Things are shaping up nicely. He now wants to jump ahead 80 years, himself. We give him two days to collect Braeta and finish up his affairs, then we loft the window to orbital height and start a long fast-forward.
Whoa! The sun goes whizzing around, not the planet. This is a geocentric universe! Ptolemy rides again. Interesting, but not a problem. We count through the decades. (Gannar notes that Robbie gets a little behind, which piques the robot.)
We then let Desmond off for a year, to reconnoitre. He reports that two of his allies have risen in power and the legends he's crafted are circulating nicely. His first ally is having a political comeback. Now he wants ten more years.
Fast forward. We pick Desmond up ten years later. He's beaming with triumph. Things are magnificent. He wants to confer. He goes into a huddle with Obedan and Greywolf, in the tent. Braeta, meanwhile, tells us things are going well, but affairs in the south are troubled. The area is ripe for conquest. They'll cast Obedan and his friends as the conquistadors, setting things up for kings who vanish a la Arthur, etc.
We drop our nephilim, minus Braeta, near an oasis in a southern desert. They asks us to look in every five years -- (We'll do it yearly.) -- and watch for their signal, a red-and-white scarf. We give them a chunk of emerald shrapnel, to finance themselves -- and say goodbye.
Kate takes the helm and drops Braeta off back in Desmond's city.
Fast forward.A scarf show up, tied to a bush. We emerge invisibly, surprising a young boy, who bears a note. The note has some mediocre poetry on it, but when we hold it long enough, it morphs into a request for annual checks, like we were doing anyway. We say fine.
Kate then goes back to Braeta's pickup point and does a fast-forward there. Braeta flags her down after six years and says she needs "one of Desmond's amulets."
So we go back to the desert pickup point and intercept the boy. He's stunned when Dafnord and Daphne hail him in the midst of the desert and tell him "an amulet is needed next year."
Fast forward. Next year, Greywolf appears at the southern pickup, with three amulets. He gives them to Braeta and hears her story (which is from two years in his own future, but never mind). Then each departs.
Fast forward two months. We pick up Braeta, who is downcast. When one of the amulet recipients disappears, it panicked someone, who began talking in the wrong places. She had to pursue, and tried to use an amulet on him. He turned on her with deadly force, and she was forced to kill him. She asks to be skipped ahead a year. The mission is not endangered, but she's feeling low and must stay out of sight to avoid draconian attention.
Fast forward five years. We pick up Desmond, who wants to vanish as part of a Merlin-like retirement.
Fast forward five more years. Paolo and Hassan show up at the pickup, looking pleased with themselves. They tell us all's well and wander off.
Fast forward one year. We are flagged down by Greywolf, looking badly damaged (but, oddly, younger than he has lately). We help him into the autodoc. "I think he's dead," he says as he goes in. "Who?" "Obedan."
After he heals up some, we get a fuller story. Our nephilim established a kingdom in the south that ought to last for many years. They intended that it should be taken over, as part of their plan. But Obedan "got difficult" and could not bring himself to follow through on that. A young general, Talac, led a coup after Obedan tried to remove him from his position. Obedan was supposed to leave, according to the long-term plot, but wouldn't. Instead, in the midst of the coup, he threw Greywolf down the stairs and barred the door. Then Greywolf heard fighting and an awful scream that he feels sure was Obedan dying. Then he had to run. As he fled, he saw the palace burning.
We offer to mount a rescue effort. Greywolf is eager to, but not hopeful. That scream sounded very sincere and final.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.