Lords of Being
Chapter 31: Chopping Block
Adjustment to previous log – Glass waited at the edge until the anomaly erupted. We were in the process of flying to meet him when the sun turned red. Which makes much more sense for the plane control handoff.
When last we left our heroes, Glass had just returned from his survey of the anomaly. While he was there, it expanded and erupted from under the ground. There were a number of smaller anomalies that “came with” the larger one. They were vaguely animal-formed. Sort of a tangram come to life. And it was able to turn to look at him, even though he’d sped up time to a rate where it should have been still as a statue.
Glass returned to the plane just as the anomaly grew again. The Courtiers were able to “dispel” it after a minute or two of concerted pushing with extra energy supplied by Catalyst. But the smaller anomalies are still here, and heading towards Thompson. We’re flying to intercept them.
It’s late at night in Denmark. Neon is discussing the logistics of forming additional teams of Elemental Knights and Courtiers when Lady Diamond’s phone rings. It’s Glass, calling from Canada. “Diamond, we’re going to need backup.”
Lady Diamond explains that she’s in conference with Neon and Ragnison, puts her phone in speaker mode, and repeats Glass’ request.
Neon asks, “Now?”
“Yes, this anomaly was a tear to somewhere else. Some creatures have shown up from ‘elsewhere.’ They look abstract; not very biological. To my eye they looked hostile. And they didn’t go away when the anomaly was popped.”
Lady Diamond wastes no time. She says to Ragnison, “Call Mona and get there.” Then she turns to Neon and says, “Let’s go.” They disappear, leaving Ragnison to arrange his own transport.
Neon and Lady Diamond are on the plane, invading Glass’ personal space. They each take a step back. Glass shows them an image of one of the creatures on his phone.
Neon asks, “Is it three-dimensional?”
“ Barely. I think it’s more of an abstract entity than a biological entity. Certainly not of this plane.”
Neon and Lady Diamond concentrate, ‘feeling’ for the anomalies. They can feel a number of little anomalies getting closer.
Glass continues, “They look substantially more outré than anything I’ve ever been. This includes having been a silicon based life form. I’ve gotta say they’re from off-plane.”
Neville has been listening to the Knights and asks, “Can they exist here?”
“At least for a while. If there’s anything that makes me nervous, it’s that things like that can only exist in a place like this if the place they’ve come to is about to change.”
Neon says, “You saw the triangle-hound inside the anomaly.”
Glass nods, “Yes. Some of them on the ground, some of them in the air. Those anomalies are them.”
“Who’s attention has this universe drawn?”
“Every faction among the Courtiers that sees a vacuum of authority in the absence of certain individuals.” Glass looks significantly at Neville and the Courtier which has been recovering within him. “Second, those powers that are unfriendly to the Courts and Courtiers that see a moment of weakness. Thirdly, those who are taking advantage of the holes that have been put in this universe. So they can come in from an entirely different place.”
Neon notes, “It strikes me that the Breakdown was a test, and this is the invasion.”
“I would have thought that that was the effect of the falling out of the higher levels of the Court. Though I suppose that they let their guard down and something might have taken advantage of it. Courtiers, do you have any idea?”
Hellgrammite replies, “From the way we were scolded, it sounded like we had collectively dropped the ball.”
Glass muses, “That there was external malevolent intent is an interesting thought.”
Captain Barron interrupts from the cockpit, “I’m headed on the same bearing because no one’s asked for a change. Should I head somewhere else?”
Glass replies, “Five degrees to port would be closer to them.” He grabs a laptop and loads the triangulation software on it, taking input from the myPhone. Glass walks into the cockpit and places the laptop on a shelf. “Unfortunately there’s no time to tie this into the heads-up display .” He adjusts the screen, “There, that’s where they are.”
Captain Barron considers the icons, and points at the screen. “This thing hovers, though we haven’t tried it in a battle situation yet. Shall I try that here?”
“Just a little shy. On the off chance that something goes terribly wrong, and you can run away if you need to.”
Mabel asks, “Did the creatures strike you as strong and powerful or fragile?”
“They struck me as fragile, but it may have been an illusion.”
Captain Barron calls out, “ETA in four minutes, unless you’d like me to circle.”
“Diamond? Do you have any recommended weaponry?”
Lady Diamond considers, “I cannot remember encountering anything like these before. We may hope that they are easier to disassociate than a contiguous creature. Do we have any explosives?”
Rosamund grins. “Catalyst and I have been working on some explosives, yes.”
Mabel considers and says, “I was thinking of a long metal bar.”
Glass looks at the assembled Courtiers, “Perhaps the courtiers can push them out?” They try, but nothing happens. We must be too far away.
Glass returns to the cockpit, “Captain, why don’t you look for a vertical descent landing spot not terribly far from them, but far enough ahead so we have time to deploy and can fight them from the ground.”
Barron consider the display. “There’s a big stretch of pebbly beach not far ahead. Not terribly near your bogies.”
Glass approves, “Good that gives us some time to setup.”
Barron adjusts our course and announces, “Revised ETA is five minutes.”
Everyone gathers up their weapons:
Rosamund comes from the galley with a big pot full of the explosives she and Catalyst cooked up, and Si encased in thin glass sheathes. Glass helps himself to a number of the home-made grenades, and also packs a bag with armaments and ammunition for it. Hellgrammite and Mabel got down to the hold for lengths of metal piping. Catalyst is cooking up a storm in the galley; it’s one of his ways to recharge quickly. Lady Diamond joins him.
As everyone is readying their weapons, a new voice calls out, “Are we in Time?” It’s Mona, who’s blowing out her Babylon candle.
Ragnison, who accompanied her, replies, “Yes! I think time is running right now.”
Mona grins. “Good. I’ve been in places where it wasn’t.”
Hellgrammite has been fiddling with his length of pipe. Fortunately he always travels with a Swiss Army knife, a length of wire and other useful doo-dads. The simple pipe has been converted to a paintball/explosive ball gun, which he gives to Mabel.
The engines shut off and we slow down, then the electro-ballast deploys and we slowly descend towards the Canadian wilderness.
Glass asks, “Neville, do you have much on your plate?”
“The menagerie has unbolted that table over there. Can you help me carry it out? If you see anything anomalous, you’re to run back to the plane immediately. OK.”
Neville’s glad for any chance to be helpful. “Sure.”
The plane settles to the ground. Rosamund exits the plane and fades into the background. She’s an unfriendly tree. Glass and Neville carry out the table.
Rosamund calls out, “I may be moving through the woods. You may be able to see me.”
Glass asks, “Do you have anything glass on you?”
“I’ve got all of these glass-encased explosives.”
Glass takes out one of his glass rail gun bullets and entangles an atom in it, then hands it to her. “Here. Now I’ll be able to tell where you are. Stay to the flank as much as you can.”
Captain Barron appears at the top of the rear-exit ramp. “Which gun would you like me to hold? Something you gentlemen might like to know: they changed direction and are heading straight towards us.”
Glass asks, “Please bring the laptop.”
Barron disappears into the plane for a moment, and then returns with the laptop in hand.
“We Knights can sense where the bogies are. You may need to help direct the Courtiers. You should stay in the plane with Neville in case you need to flee.” He turns to Mona who’s looking at the Canadian wilderness that surrounds us. “Mona, do you have anything particularly offensive?”
“Some great Chinese slang? My best bet might be emergency evacuation. I’ll just stay on the plane with the mortals and my candle and lighter.”
Glass turns to Ragnison, “Ragnison, how offensive can you be?”
Ragnison is dressed as usual in a tweedy jacket and slacks with loafers. He looks more like a college professor than an immortal guardian of the Earth. “I’ve worked for years to be as inoffensive as possible.” He smirks. “It’s a great language the English have come up with. My best aid here is probably on the telepathic plane.”
Glass announces, “I will start being physically offensive. I will damage them as much as I can physically. The Courtiers should ‘push’ them to see if they can push them out of this world. If that doesn’t work, then everyone may have to work on the physically.”
Mabel calls out, “The one who pushes the most out wins!”
Glass asks Ragnison, “Psychic?” He nods, “You can’t feel where the critters are, but Barron has them spotted on that laptop. Maybe you can feed location information to the other Courtiers if needed.”
Ragnison replies, “If they get close enough, depending on how unworldly they are, I may be able to feel them before I can see them.”
The Courtiers and Knights array themselves around the plane, with Neon, Glass and his table full of arms at the point closest to the approaching anomalies. It’s evening in the Canadian wilderness in August. It’s still light out. Some nerve wracking minutes go by.
Neon points his Swiss Army Laser at one of the bogies, and triggers the lidar function. There’s a lot of hash from the intervening vegetation, but he sees a bunch of compositions of perfectly straight lines approaching, at some speed.
Rosamund can feel the anomalies now and attempts to feel them for life. They’re alive, but not like anything she’s ever sensed before. She also feels vegetation being cut. The bogies are slicing though the branches and leaves. It’s like giant razor blades are coming this way. She pushes. Nothing happens. “We need to be closer to push.” She heads forward. We can hear crashing from the woods. It’s the branches falling to the ground. The creatures burst onto the pebbly beach. They’re silent, and not touching the ground. Rosamund pushes again. Still nothing.
Glass fires a laser at the lead creature. It’s aimed straight at him, so there’s not much cross-section for him to hit and the shot misses.
Hellgrammite is offset, so he has more surface to aim at. He fires his lightning gun. It misses too.
Neon shoots his Swiss Army Laser on “roast”. He hits one! There’s a brilliant flare of red which puts a hole in the flank of the one he aimed at, but it doesn’t noticeably slow down.
Mabel pushes. Nothing happens. She shoots the airgun that Hellgrammite made from the length of pipe. The explosive pellet flies out. Boom! Triangles go flying everywhere, fall to the ground and lie still. She scores the first kill.
Glass pulls out the rail gun. It’s loaded with explosive charges. He blows another apart. As he reloads, the calls out, “Barron, get out of here!”
As the electro-ballast starts to deploy, Captain Barron replies, “Roger that.”
Glass suggests that Neon try the shotgun. He picks it up. Boom! More triangles scatter. Three down.
Two of the remaining creatures leap over the table at Glass. He stops time, then pauses to consider his options. He hates to lose the table, but there’s no option. He runs to the side. To his surprise, his attackers accelerate their apparent time and continue after him. As the two creatures come abreast of him, Glass grabs two of the grenades and slams one into each.
From the viewpoint of everybody else, Glass explodes. When the smoke clears, he’s standing with arms that end in stumps that blaze blue and yellow light. He’s literally been disarmed.
There’s still three of the creatures left. Rosamund hurls a pair of grenades at two others that are still in front of Glass’ table. She must be right handed, since she only nails one. The other creature is blown across the beach by the blast. It lands on its feet apparently unharmed and runs towards Glass.
Mabel shoots at the one that Rosamund didn’t aim for. Boom. It’s a goner.
Hellgrammite takes careful aim at the one that’s charging at Glass with his lightning gun. It doesn’t affect the creature.
Glass throws a grenade at the remaining creature. Which is fascinating, since he doesn’t have any hands. There’s final Boom and the creature breaks into pieces. Silence descends. There are triangles all over the beach. Many of them embedded in the rocks of the beach. The Courtiers methodically comb the area and “push” on the triangles. They “push” easily and disappear.
Glass is missing both hands. There are blazes of sky blue from the stumps. His body has a number of cuts, some of which blaze blue, some blaze yellow. He’s cursing.
Neon asks, “Si?”
Glass hisses, “Yes?”
“Let go, Si. You can reform the body. If you take apart the pieces and put them back in the box, you can put them together again.”
“There’s another one of me in Silicon Valley because neither of us has let go!” Glass gestures with his chin at his laser which has been knocked off the table. “If you point that laser at me…” Neon picks up the indicated weapon and points it at Glass. There’s a flash as Glass lets the mirror go. “That helps, but it’s not enough.” Glass has Neon take out his laser, tune it, and shoot him with it. When the glare fades, Glass’ hands are reformed. Now they hurt. He doesn’t usually feel pain. His hands glow dimly. The worst is that his phone got broken. He’s going to have to replace all his toys!
Ragnison has saved one triangle. Other than this, neither the Knights nor the Courtiers can sense any more anomalies. He and Neon examine it. It appears to be only a few atoms thick. Neon pulls out his Swiss Army Laser and adjusts it so it functions as a spectroscope and examines the ex-creature feature. The triangle is made of iron, tungsten & titanium. At least it’s made of recognizable matter.
Simon Glass asks Neon to call Silvester in Silicon Valley and ask him to start making another phone and a new set of spectacles. He’s grumpy and kicking stones down the beach.
When Neon reaches him, Silvestor is grumpy too. He reminds Neon that he is another instance of Silicon, just like Simon, and was aware of the pain the Simon is in, that Simon could communicate with him if he wanted to. He’s already started building another 3 sets of Simon’s equipment. And then he hangs up.
Rosamund examines the path that starts where the creatures burst onto the beach. They appear to have sliced straight through anything in their way. She tsk’s at the damage and gestures as she follows the path of the devastation. Wild flowers start sprouting as she passes.
Ragnison approaches they grumpy Knight. “They were very interesting. I was doing a telepathic scan of the area, and they have… minds.”
“Jolly good for them.”
“I don’t think they were sapient.”
“They didn’t feel like they wanted to be friendly.”
“No, they weren’t coming up to lick you in a friendly fashion. They seem to have had it in for you. I could get enough to tell that they were interested in you more than anything else. The other thing you may want to know is that there’s a human being a fraction of a mile over that way. And there’s a large animal near her. “
This catches everyone’s attention. Mabel and Roper go to investigate. Ragnison accompanies them. Glass takes the rail gun and limps after them.
After a bit, they come to a small clearing only a few yards from the beach. There’s a helicopter in the clearing. Standing in front of it with a pair of binoculars is a young woman who is looking perturbed. Roper is growling at the helicopter. As they approach, the woman lowers the binoculars and says, “Congratulations on your victory.”
Mable, says, “Excuse me?”
“I have never seen anything like that.”
“I hadn’t either.”
“You’re taking it very well.”
Glass grumbles about stiff upper lips.
Mable ignores him. “I did what I had to do. Why are you here?”
The woman replies in a strangely distracted voice, “Curiosity. Mr. Carrols initially. I met him a few days ago.”
Glass asks, “And you’ve been following us?”
The woman shrugs, “Well, sort of.”
Glass looks at her craft, “Very fast helicopter then.”
“No, I didn’t follow you in a straight line.”
“If you followed us here, you must gotten here first. Hell of a way to follow.”
She shrugs again, “It was the only way open to me.”
“How did you know where to follow us to before we got here?”
She looks at the ground in front of her, “I, um, I paid for some very expensive satellite tracking. And saw you fly from Colorado to England and back, and I had to do that because no one could dowse for you for some reason.”
Mabel asks gently, “What did you see on the satellite images that lead you here?”
The woman replies absently, “I came in on an intercept course. It’s a fast helicopter, but not as fast as a jet.”
Mabel admonishes her gently, “Never do that again.”
The woman looks at Mabel, “Is Mr. Carrols alright?” She looks at Glass, “Is everyone except you?”
Mabel says, “He’s fine. He’ll be fine as soon as he gets over his mood.”
Back at the plane, Glass steps out of Neville’s phone.
Captain Barron comments, “God that looks weird!”
Glass grimaces. “Sorry. I’d call, but my phone doesn’t work at the moment. If you didn’t like that, don’t watch this.” He walks into the head, and “pop”, he’s gone. Except for his reflection in the mirror.
Neville peers into the head and asks, “Is Mabel OK?”
There’s no answer. However, there’s a voice with a Danish accent in his head, “Do you know a Miss Perry Hengist?”
Given the odd things that have been happening around Neville in the past few weeks, a voice in his head doesn’t phase him. “We met at the library in the museum in Fairplay. She may have seen Asiras.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me. She’s very inquisitive. “
“Maybe you should invite her to join us.”
There’s no answer.
“My name is Mabel Ansen and you are?”
The woman replies listlessly, “Perry Hengist.”
“And I am David Ragnison.”
Mabel continues, “And this is my dog Roper.” He barks. “How long ago did you get here?”
“Shortly after you touched down. That’s a very cool plane.”
“So from your point of view, what did you see?”
“Well, I was chasing this plane.”
“Why did you choose to land here?”
“Because you landed here. Then I came up through the trees. And then I saw these wolves made of razor blades and you were prepared for them and blew them away and three of them jumped on the guy who went poof and he blew them up in a blaze of blue light and then I came back here because I had had enough.”
Mabel considers this, then asks, “Speaking of expecting things, do you think you’re here alone?”
Perry gives Mabel a nervous look. “Uhh. No. I’ve got a couple of companions with me in the helicopter.”
“Uh huh. And…”
Pery sighs, “Come on out Charlie.” A very unprepossessing young man comes out from behind the helicopter. He’s very pale and wobbly. He almost looks half-witted.
Ragnison stares of Charlie and says quietly to Mabel, “The animal is close by. But we have another problem. I wasn’t picking him up as a living mind. Like the animal. But now that I’m looking at him, and looking around, now I’m picking him up. Charlie is a particularly blatant ghost.”
Mabel glances at him and whispers, “Does she think he’s alive?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t looked into her mind that far.”
Mabel turns back to Perry and continues her gentle interrogation, “Who was piloting?”
Mabel cocks her head, “I always thought they were difficult to fly. What’s the rest of the story?”
“The helicopter doesn’t need a lot of piloting.” Perry looks at the ground again, “It, um… it’s imprinted on me. I raised it ever since it hatched out of the cow.”
THIS has Ragnison’s full attention. He’s staring at the woman as if she’s gone mad.
Mabel continues her questioning, “What did you think it was originally?”
“A black helicopter. That’s why I was there when it hatched out of the cow. I have friends who studied the lifecycle of black helicopters. And they told me, for a consideration, where there was one due to hatch. And I thought it would be a really cool way to get around. So I did that.”
“How do you keep anyone else from find out about your helicopter?”
“I park him in the woods.”
“I was thinking about the farmer.”
“He just thought it was a case of cow mutilation.” Perry sighs, and calls out, “Chopper, change.” The helicopter promptly morphs into a giant black dragonfly. “Chopper change.” The creature morphs back into a black helicopter and sits quiescently.
Mabel is looking at the creature and asks disbelievingly, “And you’re willing to get inside it?”
“Yes. And he’s very fast. And he can do a certain amount of dousing.” She rouses from her stupor once more to ask “Is Neville alright?”
“Yes, he’s fine.”
“I thought I should find out about the only human in the group.”
Well, that’s an interesting revelation. Mabel corrects her, “He’s not the only one.”
Perry says dismissively, “Oh yes, there’s the pilot guy.”
“The ‘pilot guy’ is Captain Barron. Why didn’t you think I was human?”
“Because you never sleep. I watched you in Colorado. With my binoculars.”
Mabel glances at the third stranger in the clearing. Charlie hasn’t changed his expression much. “Why do you keep Charlie around?”
“He was my father’s idea.”
Mabel tries again. “Why do you keep Charlie around?”
“He’s supposed to protect me, to the best of his ability.”
Mabel considers this, and then calls out, “Roper, take one step towards the girl and growl menacingly.”
Roper does as commanded. Charlie looks upset and shambles over waving. Roper’s hackles go up.
Mabel watches Charlie wave his arms at Roper for a bit, then calls out, “That’s enough Roper. Heel.” Roper growls once more and then returns to her side. His hackles are still raised.
Perry watches this, and says, “Well, I was very curious. Curiosity is sort of what I do. I know when to trust my senses. And I know that there was a big purple iridescent ball rolling around there, and I saw it roll into his cube. And he lied very well about it. So I followed him back, and then watched.”
Ragnison says, “I think we should bring her back. Her and Charlie. Can Chopper stay here, Miss?”
Perry replies, “Chopper’s good at staying.”
Last Updated: Dec 11, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved