Lords of Being
Chapter 15: The Road to Madagascar
After his ghostly visit, Captain Barron can’t get to sleep, so he talks with Neville, who recounts his adventures since Bugtussle. The only thing he’s reticent about talking about is the fragment of Asirus.
Suddenly Mabel feels a block. She looks at Neon and says, “We feel a block. Do you feel it too?”
“Yes. It’s that way.” He’s pointing straight down. Zabeth considers the direction he’s pointing. Unless the blockage is right underneath the plane, it’s underground, which would be very inconvenient. Of course, it could also be clear on the other side of the planet…
Glass has been running fiber optic cable through the hold. He tells the cables that have been snaking their way through to sit still, and opens the luggage hatch to get out. Striding across the hanger gives him no triangulation, so it’s fairly far down.
Catalyst hasn’t dealt with these before. He comes to Mabel and asks which side it’s on.
“It’s on the order side. Can you tell where it is?”
Neville and Captain Barron notice the change in the rest of the crew. They walk over to Hellgrammite, who was working on the entertainment console and ask what’s up.
“It appears a block has cropped up. From what the Knights have been saying, it’s on the other side of the planet.”
Neon offers, “We do have a plane.”
Of course, first we have to figure out where we’re going. Glass hops into his sports car to try to triangulate on the detector
Meanwhile, Hellgrammite starts tying down loose ends. We may need to leave quickly. Unfortunately, adding additional tie-downs in the hold was on the schedule for tomorrow.
Once the clanks are in motion, he cranks up his laptop and sends out agents to look for reports of weirdness on the net.
Captain Barron asks, “What’s going on?”
Hellgrammite looks up from his laptop, “We told you about how problems occur? A problem has occurred. We can feel it.”
“You hadn’t told me that.”
“'Normal’ ones we can push on and clear from anywhere in the world. For the new ones, we have to be physically present to clear them.”
“Which is why you need the plane. Where do you need to be?”
“We can tell distance (sometimes), but not direction. The Elementals can tell direction, but not distance. Glass drove off to try to triangulate on the anomaly.”
“Well, tell me when you know where we’re going.” Now that he has something to do, the worries that have been plaguing him start to lift. He pulls down his hat to make another stab at napping.
After driving for a few miles, it’s clear to Glass that the anomaly is quite distant. He pops over to London and California and back to Florida to get a good long baseline. When he plots the points on his phone, the triangulation comes up with somewhere in the South Indian Ocean.
Glass drives back to the hanger to report on what he’s found. He connects his phone to the TV screen to show our destination. Captain Barron helpfully notes that there’s no airport in the middle of the ocean. The closest land is Heard and McDonald Islands. The nearest airport is probably in Madagascar.
Captain Barron asks, “Do you need to rush right over there?”
“Pretty soon,” replies Glass.
“Does the world start coming apart at the seams again if you don’t get there quickly?”
Mabel offers, “Probably not. Possibly one of the others can push at it.”
“But this is one of the ones with location,” disagrees Glass. “You’ve got to be physically there for the ones with location.”
Captain Barron tries again: “Do you think you can fix it with a flyover?”
“We don’t know,” answers Mabel.
“Since it’s not likely that people are being stricken with a desire to make pipe cleaner dollies at this location, is it more likely to be in the nature of frog falls?”
Mabel smiles wryly. “Or fish flights.”
Glass fiddles with his phone, and a view from on high appears on the screen. First there’s a Google Earth image that zooms into the south Indian Ocean. Then the image switches to a commercial satellite feed. A wheel of blue-white light can be seen shining on the water. It seems to be several hundred yards wide. Dusk if falling, and this is only going to get more prominent. So much for keeping the bosses from being embarrassed. Someone is sure to notice this soon.
Glass does a rough calculation. Our maximum airspeed is approximately 500 MPH, with a range of 2165 miles. It will take us 5 hops to get to Madagascar: Florida → Halifax, Nova Scotia → Reykjavik , Iceland→ Geneva, Switzerland → Dubai, UAE → Antananarivo, Madagascar. We should have enough range to go from Madagascar to the glowing spot and back. It should take us 24-26 hours to get there, with refueling time, assuming minimum turnaround time at each refueling stop.
We load basic supplies and leave the rest in secured storage here.
When Captain Barron learns that we want to launch as soon as possible, he goes into a flurry of activity, filing a flight plan to get us out of Ft. Lauderdale and on our way. He works a minor bureaucratic miracle and gets us a departure slot only four hours after we’ve pinpointed our destination. All of the necessary supplies are loaded and stowed with an hour to spare, so Glass goes to Sun Aviation to advise them of our change of plans.
Meanwhile, Mabel picks up a hot meal to-go for the Captain as a reward for his efforts. He’s in the middle of the departure checklist, but he promises to eat is as soon as we reach our cruising altitude on the hop up to Halifax.
With a roar of thrust we depart sunny Florida, Catalyst sitting in the copilot seat. Barron eats his breakfast keeping a close eye on Catalyst who’s manning the controls. It’s a bit rough when he takes over the controls, but he gets the hang of it rapidly, staring fixedly ahead.
About 45 minutes into the flight, Captain Barron enters the passenger area and reports. “We’re doing fine now. It was a little rough when your boy took over at first. He’s doing fine now. I think I surprised him. I don’t think he knows the terminology. But he does know how to fly the plane. I’d be a little happier if he knew how to blink. I’ve called ahead to Halifax and Reykjavik to make landing requests. I’ll call ahead further when we’re further along. I think I’ll take a nap now.”
Glass suggests that we should name the plane. There are a number of suggestions bandied about, but nothing that sticks. Perhaps inspiration will strike in the future.
Glass opens the hatch to the hold, which fortunately is pressurized, since Neville and Captain Barron have this inconvenient habit of breathing.. He goes down to work on the cable runs. Hellgrammite joins him in the hold to work on integrating his systems into the entertainment system and the ground-to-air communication system. Bored, Neville offers to help. Hellgrammite asks him to monitor the entertainment system screen and report what he sees.
Various test patterns appear, and then a text window opens up on one of the entertainment screens. It reads, “You are betraying your world.”
Neville calls out, “Hellgrammite, why are you displaying a window saying 'You are betraying your world’?.”
“I’m not.” He brings up full security and diagnostics. He finds the record of the text window’s display and traces it back to its origin. He reports that the message was entered through an input buffer that’s not connected to any input channel.
Neville asks, “Rosamund, can you sense spirits?”
“As well as any other Courtier.”
“Can you sense one here now?”
She looks at him in confusion, and whispers, “Yes, but I didn’t think we wanted to talk about it. Is there another one?”
“Yes. The one that put the message into the entertainment system.”
She concentrates, and the replies, “Something just scuttled away.”
Glass asks, “Scuttled away? Could it have been a ghost?”
Rosamund replies, “It could have been. I’m not an expert in this area.”
Neon asks, “Since we’re in the air, would the ghost still be on board somewhere?”
Neville goes looking for anomalous cold spots. He’s the paranormal investigator, after all. He doesn’t find anything. Not even in the fridge.
Hellgrammite looks around down in the hold around the servers. He too gets the impression that something just scuttled off.
Mabel tries crawling around on her hands on knees. Hookie thinks this is great fun and she should do this more often. She surprises something… a presence… in one of the clanks. “Hellgrammite, come here!” She’s nose-to-nose with a possessed 4-legged power wrench. “This is the source.”
Hellgrammite bends down to pick up the clank. He’s very surprised when it starts to run away from him. He grabs it. He can feel the presence in it. Hellgrammite turns the machine off, and hands it to Rosamund.
The Courtiers and Elementals can all feel the presence diffuse out of the wrench.
Neville feels a chill.
Hellgrammite restarts the wrench and puts it down. It’s no longer possessed. Now he hears an anomalous whirring noise. One of the clanks is trying to open a hatch to the hold. He grabs it and puts it in a bag and seals it. He then has the rest of the clanks go into storage bins so they can be stowed away and powered down. He also warns Glass that a spirit has been taking over his clanks and been trying to sabotage us.
Last Updated: Jun 5, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved