The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 66: Back through the Rabbit Hole
We ask Aldamir if there is a Grandfather Tree on this side of the spire-island. He cannot locate one. Mandorak tries to determine if there is something 'different' on this side, but all he can determine is that downward is a vibey-er direction on this side. We ask Aldamir if we should find the Grandfather Tree on this side, and pay our respects, and he has no objection to that.
Eric uses his map to decide on a direction. He and Aldamir head off to the left of the spire, followed by the rest of the troupe. As we walk along, Aldamir remarks that he would have gone the other way. Why? "Because that's the way it feels." He turns around and goes widdershins. We amiably reverse direction, and spiral out from the spire for about ninety degrees.
There we find ourselves at the top of a small bluff. Below us is a grove of trees, centered around a very old, short, squat, and gnarly tree. We spot birds hopping around on its branches. As we get closer, we notice that although it is definitely bent and distorted, it also has many grey and silver clusters, which must be clusters of flowers.
Aldamir confirms that this appears to be the oldest tree here. We nudge him to be the one to address the tree. He demurs, suggesting that, like the previous time, a more appropriate person should give the thanks, while he translates again. Eïr, as the one who has harvested the most nuts, fruits, and berries, is urged front and center. She gives her thanks, sounding very like the grace before a meal, explaining that many of these items will find their way to other lands, where they will be welcomed. Aldamir seems to communicate with the tree, then backs away from it.
Eric notices that there is a hole in the tree, apparently where an old limb had broken away. Mannie notices it too, and sends his second sight into it. He spots a nest with a downy baby bird in it. He feels no special vibes here, so he mentally thanks the tree for sharing its wonders, and retreats.
Aldamir congratulates him on doing the right thing. He then informs us that the tree is vaguely aware of the Other Side of the Spire, but he did not think the tree actually knew much. We return the way we came. Aldamir says, "It occurs to me, not many people come here, much. Grandmother Tree must not have many visitors, which would explain how she has behaved."
"'Grandmother' Tree? You called the other one 'Grandfather.'"
"I did, didn't I? This one just seems more... fruitful."
We make our way back to the Tindomë, but without seeing anything else of interest, such as more nuts or berries.
Back on board, Mannie asks Chekhov about navigating or maneuvering away from here. "That may be difficult. The Interface is not configured way it was. It changes with time."
"Does it change in a pattern?"
"I am not yet seeing a pattern."
"Can you predict where it will take us?"
"No. The Interface is being of an unknown type."
"Will further observations allow you to deduce a pattern?"
The bust goes compute-bound.
"It would be easier... answering these questions... if I were interfaced with other systems on proper ship."
Mandorak grits his teeth and explains, "Unfortunately, we don't have that facility."
"Fluctuations of system are not entirely random. There are some regularities to it."
"With what kind of period?"
"Insufficient data to set this into set of patterns. But is not random."
"What influences it?"
"That is unknown, but will be several factors, because is not simple cycle."
Bavör and Mandorak consider letting Chekhov continue monitoring the changing pattern. How long has he been doing this?
"Since we are arriving. Is very hard to do, without a ship's clock. In proper ship, everything links to ship's clock."
A ship's clock! That sounds like an interesting idea. We ask Chekhov about the Interface that we went through that brought us here. He admits, indirectly, that he ceased operating doing our passage through the anomaly. As we chat with the navigation system, Mannie notices that the ship is moving, although there is no one directing it.
"Chekhov. Are you maneuvering the ship?"
"I am navigation system. I am navigating ship. Anomaly detected."
"How far away is this anomaly?" asks the dwarf.
"Less than kilometer."
"Everybody hang on. We're approaching an anomaly," announces Mandorak. To Chekhov, he advises, "Quickly, please. Going slowly was not good for the ship the last time."
Everything should still be tied down; it's only the people who may be thrown about.
"Detecting irregular fluctuation of anomalous interface."
"Which means?" prompts the engineer.
"Power and precise nature of interface changing over time."
"So you can't predict where it will take us?
"Would have to make multiple observations to make prediction."
"How would we do that?"
"Make multiple passes through Interface."
This does not sound like the best idea ever. "Well, let's make one pass through it." Mannie positions the viewport window in front of Chekhov. He turns on zoom for the window.
Despite this, Chekhov announces, "Navigational system augmentation needed. Navigational system augmentation needed, with visual enhancements."
Mannie zooms the window more. Through it, he now sees something sparkly. He zooms the window to maximum magnification. Now he sees something irregular and sparkly.
"Navigational system augmentation needed, with visual enhancements."
In desperation, Mannie asks the captain to mentally link to Chekhov. The elf does that. Chekhov reports, "Navigational system augmented with visual enhancements." So that's what it's been kvetching about. We veer away from the sparkly anomaly.
"Irregular obstacle in interface," intones the navigation system.
Mannie sends out his second sight, and asks the captain to link between him and Chekhov, so that the bust can observe the sparkly thing too. As his viewpoint gets closer, it looks like a series of loops bursting out of a rock, looking shiny and metallic. There are shining crystals studding the central rock, or sculpture. It all looks very irregular and random. It is rotating slightly.
To Mandorak there is a contradiction here. The psi, or spell, here is powerful and simple. However, it also seems rich and complex. It's a puzzle, and he voices the conundrum out loud. He also asks Captain Finwë to relay the information to Chekhov.
Chekhov says, "Is like organism, you say?"
"Like an organism?"
"Living thing. Very simple, very complex."
"So you think it's an organism?"
"Anomalous thing is having significant effect, or is even causing, anomaly. Should avoid it."
Eïr suggests we go though to the other side before we converse with this creature, so that we are less likely to be isolated here, on the 'wrong' side of the Interface.
Chekhov announces, "First three factors in irregular pattern identified."
"Out of how many?"
"Unknown. Area of maximal interface strength does not exactly coincide with object. Is 17.5 meters away."
"How far away from the object should we stay?"
"Best not to collide or disrupt."
"Should we wait here and observe for a bit?"
"Am navigation system." So Chekhov has no real judgment.
"Navigation system must know destination."
"I want to go back to the Sky Islands."
"This requires navigation of Interface."
"Proposed course, to approach point of greatest Interface strength from point opposite anomaly. Needing xeno-braking algorithm."
"Make it so," declares Mandorak. "We're going through the anomaly. Everyone hold on."
We are going more and more slowly. "Activating xeno-braking algorithm."
"We're going through. Hang on."
The cluster of people around Mandorak collapse. He remains conscious, but feels that he is being forcibly everted. He is wobbly and sick, and grabs for the back of the captain's chair. He realizes that the floor is really at a thirty degree tilt. He looks out the window and sees only a bright, moderately cloudy sky. The ship must be climbing, but sort of sideways.
"Chekhov, please right the ship - after we are through the Interface."
"Internal sensation indicates that we are not flying straight."
"Yes, we are flying at a thirty degree tilt."
"What is method of propulsion of ship?"
"Internal psionic kinetic drive."
The ship straightens with a lurk and a horrible sound. The ship is now swinging back and forth, under the partially-inflated gasbag. Looking down out the window, Mannie can see blue and white.
"Is gasbag-lifted ship. Should not be at thirty degrees. Kinestatic system should not be able to do that."
Finally, over there, in the blue, he spots a floating island. The rocking back and forth is damping a bit. We do not seem to be falling or rising.
Mannie is able to rouse Eïr. She looks out of it, and is pulling things out of her pockets, things that have been missing for months. He gives her a psi battery, and heads down to Engineering. The sound she emits as he leaves seems quite painful.
He steps over Bay's unconscious body, and heads for the port kinetic drive, which is making its own terrible noise. He hits the emergency stop, which halts the starboard and port drives. His head starts to spin, but that slowly subsides.
He now applies first aid to Bavör, and other dwarf soon regains consciousness. They listen to the admonitory clacking of System Batteries Low. The overload on the port kinetic drive seriously depleted the batteries. Next, Mannie checks the ascent meter, and finds that we are still going down fairly rapidly. He adjusts the inflation on the gasbags. The descent end abruptly.
Eïr is thrown about a bit by this, but soon is back at work, trying to rouse Eric. She succeeds; he regains consciousness, throws up, and now feels much better.
"So we went though," say Eric.
"Yes. Don't talk so loudly. My head hurts."
Eric and Eïr look around at the other, unconscious people. Eric pats at Sam's face, trying to wake her up. Eïr works on the captain, and finally coaxes him into groggy semi-awareness. She crawls off to her cabin. She has to get rid of this headache before she can concentrate enough to heal anyone else.
Updated: May 11, 2007
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.