Lords of Being
Chapter 19: Decoys
We’re en-route from Reykjavik, officially on our way to London. Captain Barron announces over the PA that he’s altered our flight plan to head to Rotterdam. Hopefully this will catch anyone who’s tracking us by surprise. Like those hooligans with Hanuman who sabotaged the computers at the Reykjavik airport and attacked Mabel and Hellgrammite (and Hookie) in the terminal.
After finishing the changes to Neville to disguise him and throw off Hanuman’s Bandar-Rishi, who appear to be tracking him, Rosamund has been working on imparting Neville’s “essence” to the walnuts we took from the Minster basement in York. She looks up from the bowl of nuts she’s been running her fingers through and asks, “By the way, is there any way we could dispose of these walnuts before we get to Rotterdam?”
Glass offers, “I think I could take them to London.”
“You could also try flushing one or two. I believe the Captain can dump the loo reservoir from the cockpit,” suggests Hellgrammite.
Glass asks, “Do we want to scatter them?”
Rosamund grins. “That would be more confusing.”
Glass pours about half of the walnuts into a second bowl. He suddenly appears next to Neville.
Startled, Neville grumbles, “Why do you have to do that?”
Glass shrugs. “It was a test.”
“Could you warn me next time?”
“Sure.” Glass disappears.
Glass appears on the roof of the Lloyds tower. He reaches out a hand and moves it through the window in front of him, “borrowing” a little glass as his hand passes through. He repeats this with several windows, accumulating a handful of glass, which he then shapes into a bowl. Very decorative. He pours the walnuts into his new bowl and takes the elevator to the lobby, where he places the bowl by the exit, sort of inviting passersby to take them to snack on.
Hellgrammite knocks on the cockpit door. “Captain, could I speak with you for a moment?”
Captain Barron replies, “Certainly, Mr. McArthur. Over to you Mr. Baker?”
“I have the controls, Captain,” responds Catalyst.
Captain Barron stands and stretches. “How can I help you, Mr. McArthur?”
Hellgrammite holds out the bowl with the remaining walnuts. “We’ve managed to make these be decoys for Mr. Neville.”
Captain Barron looks at them dubiously, “What would I find if I opened one?”
“A nut. We’d like them dispersed. We were hoping to flush them down the lavatory and have you purge the holding tank. Preferably over woodlands where squirrels will find them.”
Captain Barron grimaces. “I think I don’t want them on the plane. We’re over Scotland now. Let me know when they’re flushed.”
Hellgrammite flushes the walnuts down the lavatory, and then notifies the Captain. They end up scattered over a Scottish forest.
Neville’s phone rings. “Neville? It’s Si. You might want to hold your phone out at arm’s length.”
“Well, you seem to be disconcerted if I appear too close to you.”
“OK.” Neville extends his arm.
Glass appears. “There. Much better, eh?”
“I made a lovely glass bowl for them.”
“What’s this fascination with walnuts?”
“They’re a decoy. You wouldn’t want your DNA to disappear from the face of the planet.”
The sound of the lavatory holding tank being pumped out can be faintly heard. Rosamund smirks.
Eventually we land in Rotterdam and taxi to the hanger Glass reserved for us. Customs comes, stamps everything, and goes away. We’re not entering the country, so they’re not very concerned about us.
Once the Customs inspectors have departed, people in white uniforms emerge from nooks and crannies. There are six: four men and two women. On the back of the uniforms are logos for van der Linden Painting. The Courtiers among us recognize Jan van der Linden, Lord of Order, who looks like a blocky graying Dutchman. Presumably the others are his family.
Hellgrammite is the first down the stairway to greet them.
Jan calls out, “Ah, Jonathan. Why don’t we get everyone down here to make introductions?” The rest of us file down the stairs as Jan continues, “Mabel good to see you. This is my wife Elise, and this is my son Arend, this is my daughter Wilhelmina, her husband Pim and their son Wim – William.”
Jan apologizes for the painters' uniforms. "We thought uniforms would make us look more official, but these are the only ones we could get at short notice."
"They're fine," Hellgrammite assured him, and explains the situation a little: "As you know, we have a team to deal with the anomalies, and we've run across a fragment of Asiras. Hanuman has been chasing after us for it. Cadmus, too. We’ve stopped here to modify the plane, and we need you folk to make it look like we’ve got a crew, as cover."
Glass asks, “You’ve got the sand I requested?”
Jan replies, “Of course.” Wim & Pim drag forward a 50Kilo bag. “Do you want us to help or do you want us to look busy?”
“Some help spreading out the sand would be good.” The glass menagerie comes down the stairway to help, along with an assortment of Hellgrammite’s clanks. “Please try to avoid stepping on my glass figurines.”
Glass turns to Captain Barron. “I’m going to reduce drag by giving the plane a thin coating of glass, making it extremely smooth. Please tell me places where I need to worry about parts that have to move past each other, or can’t be covered.” He proceeds to direct Elise, Wilhelmina, and Pim to spread a thin coating of sand over the wing. The glass menagerie helps spread the glass out evenly. Glass then runs his hand over the wing surface. Where his hand passes the surface is perfectly smooth and glossy.
Van der Linden's kin are fascinated by the assistants. Wim and Arend are tagging around after Hellgrammite, charmed by all the little clanks. After checking with the Captain, Hellgrammite sends them burrowing into the engines, tuning up the turbines and improving the hush kits. This should give us a noticeable thrust improvement.
After watching the surprisingly quick work on the engines, Wim asks, “Are you going to put some of those cool tips on those wings?”
Arend chimes in with his own ideas: “Tilt them forward? Make them mobile?”
Hellgrammite snorts, “That never helps.”
Jan comes up to Neville. “You are Mr. Carrols?”
“I have been thinking about your situation and it comes to me that you might be able to use a decoy.”
“I think we already made some. You should talk to Rosamund about them.”
“No, not that. I had not known the details of your situation. If you could arrange a decoy for your cargo that might prove useful.” Van der Linden pauses, and then explains, “I don’t know how to put this. I don’t foresee the future, but I do get intuitions about what might be valuable later on. I think it would be a useful thing for you to come up with a decoy cargo.”
“I think it might be useful.”
Elise calls down from the wing she’s working on, “I’d listen. His hunches have proved to be extremely fortuitous.”
Neville asks, “How can we make a decoy for Lord Asiras?”
“That I cannot tell you, especially since he’s of Chaos.”
Neville considers this. Fortunately he’s got companions of Chaos. “Rosamund? Could you come here please?” When Rosamund joins them, Neville says, “Jan just told me that he had a hunch it would be useful to have a decoy of Lord Asirus. Or a decoy copy of Lord Asirus.”
Rosamund asks, “You still have your Tupperware container somewhere, right?”
Neville shrugs, “Somewhere.”
“They saw it in your televised presentation from York. We should put whatever we come up with in it. It might keep them from looking in you.”
“That would be good.”
Glass asks, “Is there some aspect of chaos what could be used to simulate Lord Asirus. Some way to culture a bit of him perhaps?”
The Courtiers are agog at idea of “culturing” a member of the Inner Gang of Chaos. Hellgrammite explains, “If nothing else, that would be extremely dangerous. The last time any of us was created, there was a bit of a bang.”
Neon asks, “What was he before?”
Neville replies, “Iridescent and purply.”
Glass starts out, “Isn’t there some primordial goopy…” and runs out of words to express what he’s asking for.
Catalyst tries to help: “Remember way back when most of us didn’t have many atoms and we were just kids and made fake ones out of magnetic flux and spit? We could try something like that.”
Glass retorts, “Some of were more stable than that, even then. I’ve been concentrating so much more about what you could do with atoms… You guys are more into that sort of stuff.”
Zabeth reaches into her purse and says, “Well you might use this.” And pulls out what appears like a steel ball bearing
Mabel observes doubtfully, “It doesn’t look a thing like Lord Asiras.”
Zabeth throws it at the wall with the command, “Play around.” The ball splats as if it were mercury, clings to the wall, and turns itself into a mobile fractal pattern, roves a bit, and the collects back into a ball, rolls up the wall, across the ceiling, and then drops back into her purse. Zabeth shrugs, “It might be amenable. I don’t know.”
Neville stares at her, “What was that?”
“I was in a lab one night, and after I had picked up what I came for, I saw this beaker of mercury and took some.”
Glass muses, “I don’t think he’d mind.”
Zabeth continues, “I found out later that it was a lot more alive than you’d expect mercury to be.” She looks at Glass, “A friend of yours?”
“There’s only 94 of us. I haven’t worked with him in quite a while.”
Zabeth shrugs. “It’s some mercury. It’s animated. I honestly don’t know why.”
Glass says, “Catalyst. Since you don’t specialize so much anymore, could you have a look at Zabeth’s sample?”
Zabeth rummages about in her purse to give the sample to Catalyst. Each time she reaches for the ball, is squirms away from her hand. It doesn’t want to come out.
Catalyst takes the purse and looks in. “That’s definitely not just mercury you’d find lying around, is it? Is anyone here telepathic?”
Glass replies, “Not with anybody but me.”
Neville offers, “I’ve gotten impressions from Lord Asiras.”
Catalyst holds out the purse, “Here, try.”
Neville thinks “Hello?” Nothing interesting happens, other than some indigestion.
Glass asks Captain Barron, “I don’t suppose you have any telepathic talents?”
“I’m pretty good at poker.”
“Many of you folk who have that talent don’t seem to be aware of it. Well outside of stats?”
“I never kept track. You asking me to be telepathic with the lady’s…”
“Catalyst was asking for anybody who’s got telepathic abilities.”
Barron raises an eyebrow. “I’m willing to try. It’s rather normal compared to the other things that have been happening around here lately.”
Zabeth has been rummaging in her purse and manages to present the ball to Barron.
Barron takes it and tries talking to it. “Hi there little guy. You’re among friends. See? Your kind of people. They’re trying to keep the universe going. That would help you too.” He hands the ball back to Zabeth, “I’m not hearing anything. Perhaps if we could find a way to sit it down at a card table…” He shrugs, “I’m going to see if the plane still works the way it’s supposed to.”
Catalyst says, “I’m pretty sure of one thing. She’s got hold of something elemental here. Which is to say our kind of stuff.”
Glass comes over with one of the glass figures. “Is it Mercury?”
“Looks like him.”
Glass goes over to Zabeth who holds out the sphere. Glass examines it closely, looking for things which are purely elemental, both physically and metaphysically. “Physically, it appears to be a glob of mercury, about 1 CC, possibly a bit more. It’s not evaporating at all. Its surface tension is not uniform across the droplet. This is not Mercury himself. But is of his personality. It’s under his auspices. But Mercury is not attending to it. Or not so we’d know.”
Neville notes, “But it did obey Zabeth’s command.”
Zabeth grins. “It took the opportunity to show off,” she corrects.
Glass asks, “But why would anybody mistake that for Asiras?”
Zabeth replies, “If this is an aspect of the Elemental Knight Mercury, and he is mercurial in the general sense, isn’t trickery and disguise up his alley?”
Hellgrammite adds, “And the Tupperware container might have picked up a bit of a fingerprint of Lord Asiras.”
Glass asks, “What if we tried to mask it a little?”
Mabel exclaims, “Make it look as if we’re trying to hide Lord Asiras!”
Glass continues, “I have several pieces of modestly intelligent, well separated bits of glass. Like this guy. He’s one of my most flexible. What if we lined the inside of the Tupperware with glass proclaiming that there’s nothing that’s metaphysical in here, and then put the bit of Mercury inside. Then if they detect anything of an Elemental nature, well, that’s just the glass that’s trying to hide the bit of Asiras.”
Zabeth says, “Well, first we’ll have to get the bit…” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a long silver string which suddenly contracts into a cluster of silvery bubbles. “I think he likes the idea.” She gives the blob to Glass, who puts it in the Tupperware container that Neville retrieved. One of his figurines comes off the aircraft with a chip from Glass’ luggage that’s been threatening to generate a personality. He introduces the chip to his glass figurine and says, “You be good.” And puts them both into the Tupperware with the silvery blob, and then adds some sand for good measure. He instructs the figurine to spread out and be a shield. The chip is instructed to be clever and have fun. He seals the lid.
Jan examines the container, and then examines Neville. “Whatever’s going on in there is much noisier metaphysically than what’s going on in Neville.”
Glass asks, “Jan, you intuited that it would be good for us to have a decoy. One nearby or one sent out as a false trail?”
“I’m not sure. I just thought you would want to have someone run after the wrong thing.”
“I’m thinking of keeping this with us.”
As we ponder that, one of Hellgrammite’s clanks tugs at his sleeve. Hellgrammite reports that one of his agents has found some news on topics of recent interest. A couple of prisoners have escaped from the jail near Reykjavik, Iceland. No doubt Hanuman and his henchman. There are still no reports about the glowing thing in the middle of the ocean. Yet.
Hellgrammite borrows van der Linden’s phone, calls Ragnison and asks about websites about magic. He’s looking for spells to make it hard to perceive the presence of metaphysical beings.
Ragnison replies, “I’ll see if I can come up with somebody. It will be delicate to get a spell out of him without spilling the beans, so to speak. And human magic is mostly a face-to-face matter. And I have no doubt that you’ll be on the move.”
Glass asks, “Would any of these students or professors be found in Cairo or Addis Ababa? I know that there’s a lot of esoteric research that goes on in Addis Ababa.”
“I am not aware of anyone in Addis Ababa who does anything remotely technological in the way of magic. Most of the people in Addis Ababa who are doing magic don’t think they are and would get very angry if you told them they were.”
Glass replies, I don’t care what they think it is as long as they can mask things. I’m told that they’ve been hiding very important things there.”
Ragnison says he'll make inquiries.
Last Updated: Jul 18, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved