Chapter 18: Physics and Metaphysics
After finding Tom, finding Mirien, and resolving Tom's left-handedness, the crew of the good ship Pudgy Budgie is heading back to Lanthil with a feeling of a job well done. Well, all except for Robbie, who was "purified" by the big gray dude we met on our way widdershins around the back of Lanthil to find Tom.
After being examined by Tom and Salimar who remarked on fractal nature of Robbie's being, Robbie decides to examine himself. Unfortunately he doesn't get much from it, other than what he takes to be a headache. The world's gone sort of fuzzy. It's kind of like what people have described migraines to him as. Having started life as a robot, Robbie had never experienced one of these before.
Robbie decides to take himself down below decks and rest. When he gets to the bottom of the staircase, he finds that the spell on the staircase that makes people shrink as they descend hasn't worked this time. Just what he needed on top of his "migraine." He irritably shapeshifts himself to fit the cabin. Lying in the corner is the body he'd been wearing since the trip to Djinistan. Hmm. Perhaps if he tries to "settle into" it...
Whatever Robbie is now, he's not materiel. As he sinks into the still form, his view of the world around him gets dim, but is not obscured. Robbie tries to flex "his" hand. With concentration, he can make the hand move, but it's disconcerting to see his translucent fingers clenching through the other one, which moves jerkily and doesn't complete the motion.
Giving up on that, Robbie pulls himself out of the body. Perhaps cyberclair will allow him to get in touch with "himself". He is/was a robot after all. Oh. That made the fuzziness worse. If this is pain, he's not impressed. Robbie goes looking for one of the other crewmembers and finds Mirien on deck. Who looks at him and winces. "I don't think you're all here. Or all right. Or something. Oh, that hurts!" With another glance at Robbie, Mirien collapses.
Dafnord, who'd come around the corner to hear the last bit and see her collapse quickly scoops her up and pops her in the autodoc. After it's recalibrated itself, having last been used as a sieve by Salimar, the autodoc asks what seems to be the matter.
Dafnord responds, "She's fainted."
The autodoc considers this and then points out "The specification for this species is unavailable."
Oh yes. Mirien. Of the five parents. Before he can start to explain, a muffled voice comes from within the autodoc. "Why am I lying down in a bag?"
Dafnord quickly pulls the autodoc off of Mirien and explains that she fainted. "That's odd. I remember that I was on deck, and then Robbie... Stop the ship!"
Dafnord relays the instruction to Ganner who's piloting the airship.
Once the ship has stopped, Mirien calls Robbie to her. Trying not to look directly at him, she asks if he understands about the multidimensional universe. Robbie, a former member of the Time Patrol, has a good grasp of the concept. She explains that he's slipped out of this universe a bit. Mother had always told her not to go very far that way, since it's very hard to get back.
While Robbie has a good grasp of the concept of the multidimensional universe, navigating it is another matter. It takes a bit of coaching from Mirien to figure out which "direction" he needs to move in to get all the way back in the universe. Once he's all there (well, as there as he ever was), he asks "Who taught you to witchwalk?"
"How did she do it?"
"Mostly she tried to keep me from witchwalking."
"Who could teach me?"
Mirien thinks for a bit, and then replies "I don't know anybody who isn't physical. All the witchwalkers are inherently physical. So there's somewhere to start from. You think about things within space. You can't have space without things, and you can't have things without space. But you don't have space."
Mirien pauses and thinks back over what she's just said. "That sounds like... familiar... somebody said something like that once before. I don't really recall what they were explaining. If I can remember who, they may be able to help.
Having dealt with this crisis, we prepare to resume our trip back to Lanthil. Unfortunately, Kate has lost her "grip" on the omniports. Perhaps we should wait here for a bit and let her rest. Robbie looks at the ground below and thinks of the whatever-it-was that tried to reach the ship on the way out, and suggests that we should probably be higher if we're going to take a breather. Ganner raises the ship a bit, but Kate is unable to bring the omniports with us. Mirien manages to get the "normal" one to our height, but can't get a grip on the "mirrored" one, either. That shouldn't be too much of a risk, since only noncorporeal things (like Robbie) can go through it.
After a bit of food and some rest, Kate is ready to try again. This time she gets a firm grip on both omniports and we proceed on our course. Shortly after we resume, we pass the cove where we met the mermaids. They're nowhere to be found; either they're still nursing their wounds or they've learned to leave us alone.
After a while longer, we can see the giant as he heads back to his island with a big net full of fish slung over his shoulder.
Then we're back at the quay we departed from. Mission accomplished.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved