Journey to New Europa
Chapter 23, Freeing Tom Olam
We left our heroes positioned around Tom Olam, being held prisonner, in suspension, in the cellar of the London offices of the Temple of Ra. Tom, Lorelei, and Nick are gathered in the room containing the sarcophagus containing Olam; Dafnord, Kate, Z, and Ashleigh are in the adjoining room leading down from the secret stairs. Through another door, they see a corridor littered with the unconscious bodies of their recent foes, and occupied by four working mechanical men, as well as the remains of one robot they have already trashed.
To summarize a very confusing action scene:
Kate and Ashleigh, hearing steps at the door leading to the secret stairs, train their sonic stunners on the door and fire through it, producing silence after several rounds.
Dafnord and Z cover the trio tending Olam by attacking the on-coming robots. Dafnord shoots at them with his blaster rifle and Z, in high gear in her fire-elemental aspect, tackles them low around the knees, causing joints to seize up, with the net effect that the robots appear to have been programmed by the Keystone Kops and fall all over each other in varying combinations.
Tom and Nick work on getting Olam out of the sarcophagus, which holds him in a glassy cylinder capped with ornate metal bands. Some of the ornament is actually controls, and Tom uses his knack of Tools to figure out which ones. But it is only when he recalls that the Ra Templars blend magic with their technology, and tries using Tools on the ambient magical threads, than he begins to get anywhere. THEN, you push the solar disc, twist the ankh, lift here, turn there, and a big knot of magic unravels. Olam wakes and it is a fairly elementary matter to open the cylinder after that.
Once Tom has things under control, Nick busies himself helping Z and Dafnord with the robots.
Lorelei, meanwhile, has been inspecting the shattered robot. This one moved much more humanly than the others did. Bits of it are still working. Some of those bits are chunks of a silmaril made by Chris, her husband. Peering into the thorax and the nearly-complete silmaril, she says aloud, "Where did you get this?"
The robot turns its head to face her and creaks something like, "'essage." "Message? From who?" The robot, badly damaged, is only able to say something like, "'a 'o, 'ah dee. 'elp e."
Looking deeper into its guts, she spots something like a very non-Victorian piece of cubistic "jewelry." This, she is willing to bet, is its brain. After some time, while the fighting and rescuing go on around her, she manages to rip out the brain, along with the cable attaching it to the head, and gather up the rest of the silmaril, after enlisting the help of Kate, who has a macrometal knife.
Meanwhile, Z has worked her way through the scrum of Keystone Robocops into the corridor beyond. She sees a pale bluish light shining out of one door and investigates very cautiously, at floor level. She finds, hovering over a lab table, a sheet of light, like a square chunk of aurora borealis, rippling erratically as if in ethereal winds. Around it, the room looks exploded upon, or more like it had been stirred.
Inching in and looking around, she sees a wardrobe, in which is a ... suit? ... like very heavy armor, with a massive conical helmet, all in black, the limbs being short chains of bulbous joints. Actually, this suit is full of stuff. Machinery?
The sheet of aurora, meanwhile, is sort of flattening out.
After Olam is freed and all the robots are down and everyone behind the cellar door is stunned, Z tells the others what she found.
Nick identifies the "suit" and headpiece as a movie-style robot, much more sophisticated than the steam-driven sorts we've been up against. We agree that neither it nor the sheet should be tampered with.
Now, how to get out of here?
Nick sends Second Sight through the cellar door and sees two guards trying to remove two unconscious guards without making any noise. Some more stunner fire settles that ... for now.
We all move out of the cellar and the sarcophagus room, into the corridor, locking the door behind us. Z has Tom look at the Map of Here, to see if the aurora sheet registers on it as dimensional activity. It does. Furthermore, the Map color-codes it as "household blue." OUR style of dimensional activity!
Now a cannister comes bouncing down the hidden stairs and begins spewing gas. We retreat into the lab with the aurora. The robot head makes frantic glances at the wardrobe containing the robot body. "Yours?" Lorelei asks. It grunts a feeble affirmative.
We decide this thing is probably an ally, given its apparent connection to a "household"-style dimensional thingie, so Tom hastily tears the brain off the head and installs it in the chest of the robot body, then connects it to the headpiece and attaches it. The result looks very much like Robbie the Robot from "Forbidden Planet." It starts booting itself up and making noises of satisfaction.
Nick examines the aurora with the instruments we've brought with us, but only determines that it is, as we expected, a door, and is unstable. He can't see through it. Meanwhile, there's the gas. We form a chain and enter the doorway, or start to.
Lorelei is first through, followed by Nick and Ashleigh. They find a cloudy, chaotic environment, with a path in it. Very much like a witchpath through chaos, the sort of thing we were doing when we first came here.
They also find the door is collapsing shut. Asheligh dives back through, but only the first half of her makes it. The robot seizes her hand and tries to pull her out, to no avail. She's stuck, but unharmed.
This seems like a good time to get that message the robot said it had. Ashleigh establishes telepathic contact with it (incidentally proving it to be sentient and not a mere device), and it plays back a message from Chris:
"I'm in a spot of trouble and could use rescuing. As you have no doubt realized, the robot carrying this message is a patrolman from Ashleigh's line. I'm somwhere in Ashleigh's future. I got in trouble while investigating the Directorate. On the bright side, I've got lots of time -- too much, really. The robot is carrying an artifact -- a silmaril -- to authenticate it and to help you stablize the gateway. Without being stablized, the gateway can only take three or four people. I hope Lorelei will come, because I can really use some of her skills."
Ashleigh's home timeline is either the inspiration or the reflection of much of the fiction of the Home Line of the other members (except Kate, who is from Ashleigh's Elizabethan era). Her future, we know, includes something like the Lensmen of E. E. Smith -- with whom this robot appears to be associated -- who are part of a time patrol run by a group known as the Directorate and their head, the mysterious "Director".
It's a pity the crucial silmaril is smashed. Still, Nick fits the pieces together and casts an excellent glamour on it to glue it together. With this, he is able to re-open the door. He feels he might be able to steer it.
Meanwhile, on the other side, in the lab, everyone not wearing a psi-opener or standing in range of one just stops. Freeze-frame. The Ra Templars have cast some more time-magic.
Using more instrumentation, Nick records the hyperspace coordinates of the witchpath, then he, Lorelei, and Ashleigh all pile out. Lorelei thaws out the frozen party members and we all pile back IN the door, to chaos and the witchpath -- even the robot.
Nick now tries to steer the doorway out of the lab, but finds it gets harder, the further he gets from a pyramid of magical energy in the neighboring lab. We are able to steer to the maids' quarters on the next floor. We bail out and Nick closes the portal. A little experimenting shows he CAN re-open it, but only with great effort.
All well and good, but now to get out of here. Tom goes to open the door into the hall, but note that the air begins to feel thick. Second Sight reveals a livid Frenchman (see previous log) stuck in freeze-frame on the other side. So we go out the back door of the maids' quarters.
As soon as we exit, Morrolan, de Alqua, and six Bavarian guards swarm into view, with Katrina and Cailin close behind. Carriages roll up. Ra Templars come pouring out but it's broad daylight in a London street, so all they can do is gawk as we bristle defiantly and roll away, with a futuristic robot jogging behind the last carriage.
We retreat to Auberon's summer house, north of London. There, we deliver Tom Olam to Auberon, de-brief, and start deciding what to do about Chris and his busted portal.
The druids, we reflect, are obviously good at dimensional transitions -- or we wouldn't be here -- and they owe us, big time. Auberon sends for the highest-ranking Druid in London, and he shows up readily.
Tom lights into the Druid. (Pity he isn't MacLeish, the Archdruid who summoned us here.) Tom offers to waive his claim on MacLeish's liver if the Druid will help Nick and Lorelei leave on their rescue mission. He points out that the Ra Templars' recent mischief all centers on this silmaril from Chris (which probably explains why we were the ones sucked into this world by MacLeish's spell, being Chris's friends and relations), so sending the silmaril and its intended recipients far, far away would be in the Druids' own best interests. It would resolve all or most of the ill-defined "problems" we were conjured to solve. "And then, do you suppose your great big world is old enough to take care of itself from here on?" Tom asks acidly. Lorelei remarks that obstruction on his part could mean we will stop showing the restraint we have used so far. He is unnerved to see she is not joking.
The Druid sputters and burbles a bit, of course, then remarks that these witchpaths we describe sound a lot like the Elder Ways. He also doesn't think rescuing Tom Olam and disposing of the silmaril is a complete solution, though it is a big chunk, he admits. He hurries off to consult.
When he comes back, he takes a chunk of the pyramid from the Ra Templars' lab and begins dowsing with it. Auberon shows up and bids us farewell, giving Nick a ring as a future recognition token, and saying we must finish our diplomatic business sometime. Nick gives the hyperspatial coordinates to Morrolan, just in case. Morrolan wants to come along with the Druid, to observe.
Packed up, we follow the Druid into a nearby grove. This proves to be much larger inside than you'd expect, and very dark. Soon, it blurs into mist, chaos, and the witchpath.
There, we split up the party. Lorelei and Nick will, of course, go seek Chris. Ashleigh is coming, too, because she can readily build a time machine on that line, and that will doubtless be useful.
The rest of us will return with the Druid, to polish off the rest of this geas. And we bid farewell.
[We bid farewell, too, to Jon and Tamzen, who are moving out to California. Jon played Nick and Ashleigh. Tamzen played Lorelei. We wish them well and hope they will play return engagements someday.]
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.