Chapter 36: The Hills Are Alive
Our heroes are traveling on toward the mountains, following the direction of the dowse. We are moving in the general direction of the river but do not fly rigidly over it. We notice once more the sparkling on the nearby hills.
Tom conjures a spyglass again and examines the sparkle. It looks like shimmery patches on the hillsides. We're going to be passing some of it.
We enter the foothills and raise the Budgie to keep clear. Robbie launches a Second Sight viewpoint to get a good, close look at these shimmery patches. Up close, they are shiny, polished-looking, and textured. The underlying colors are blue, green, and black. The texture resolves into intricate patterns of relief, dizzying to look at. Does it move?
Telepathically, we pipe the image to Dafnord, who examines it closely and is sure that it moves. Robbie conjures a small block of ectoplasm and deposits it on the nearest patch, then watches; soon, it falls over, giving more proof of slow but actual movement.
Tom feels around psychically, and gathers an impression of lots of psi in a new and unfamiliar tone.
We are hoping there are people around here. There's a way to check, perhaps: Gannar takes a look at the Watch, which always gives the local time in the local calendar. Unfortunately, it also gives it in the local script, which is unintelligible. Tom looks at it and infers that the small, simply characters are numbers (#), while the big, fancy glyphs (G) are syllables. The general pattern is:
#G####G GGG GGGG ## ### GG
Someone has an elaborate calendar. Might it be the stuff on the hillside? Is there a mind associated with it? Tom feels about telepathically and has a general and diffuse sense of presence, but that's it.
Daphne decides to take a closer look and buzzes off. Gannar follows, and it's just as well. She lights on the nearest shiny patch and faints. Gannar picks her up -- carefully, by the clothes, not touching the stuff himself -- and heads back to the Budgie. But his care was unavailing; he faints in mid-air and spirals down into the woods with the pixie. So Robbie flies off and returns them both to the Budgie.
Fortuantely, we have an autodoc. Kate pops Daphne in.
Robbie, meanwhile, produces one of his flying eyes and sends it down into the woods for a look around. He sees something wriggling under the earth. He drops a ball of ectoplasm on the ground and watches. Nothing.
He raises and drops the ball repeated, to simulate footsteps. A snakey head emerges from the ground, grabs the ball, and dives under again. A very big snake. Well!
We advise the autodoc to check Daphne for snake poisons. Sure enough, it finds neurotoxins, in addition to the bruises. It spits out Daphne's clothes and tells us they're contaminated.
Robbie, meanwhile, has got his eye eaten. He tries, several times, to fly it out of the ground. Nothing visible happens, though we may imagine the snake is unhappy. We certainly hope so. Robbie discontinues the eye.
What to do about Gannar? He's bigger and probably got a smaller dose, but he still hasn't regained consciousness. Fortunately, we have an omniport below decks. We quickly run him through the pantope to the Munch, still quietly repairing itself on the outer edges of the Hellene system. The Grand Aesclepius autodoc on board has no problem coping. We fast-forward a day or so, pick up the patched-up Gannar, and return to the Budgie.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.