Week 6, On to the Solomon Islands
We find our heroes sailing along peacefully on their way to the Solomon Islands, on a perfectly normal cargo run. Talk about a radical change of pace...
Lorelei and Sophie are in the ladies' cabin one evening when Hayes knocks at the door and asks if he could see them in the captain's cabin. Once there, he asks Sophie what she wants to do about her partnership with him. Does she want to pull out now, or soon, or never, or what? Sophie says she'd like to think about it, but that she doesn't think she is cut out for sailing personally. Hayes is glad to hear it, since his crew were somewhat scandalized by the presence of a woman.
They leave and Lorelei asks, "What was I invited along for? Propriety?" "I suppose so." Just to be sure, they check out their room to see if anything has been changed. It hasn't.
Sophie, you may recall, has recently learned about the mission of the pantope crew, and it's the sort of thing you can't really leave out of your personal plans. ("Hello, we're here to save human history. Could you direct us to the nearest time machine?") She consults with Chris; he says he would like her to join us. She then consults with Nate, who knows nothing about time travel and pantopes and such. Nate wants to marry her at the first opportunity and go back to Boston. Sophie thinks that this sounds pretty tame compared with guerrilla time-war and says she wants to think about it. "I've gone through things no Harvard man should have to endure and now you want to THINK ABOUT IT?!"
Nate storms up onto deck and sees Hayes. "Captain, do you know what's gotten into Sophie?" Hayes keeps a straight face and tells Nate that by running home he is missing out on a lot of fun. Nate storms off again. The sun has set by now, so he is a dark and stormy Nate.
The ship is too small to allow for much storming room, so he winds up leaning up against the Naza, sulking and pouring out his troubles to the silent acceptance of this "dumb beast." Only the beast, listening, keeps going "Uh-huh. Mm-hm," and once, "There, there." Oops.
Nate's suspicion of this odd creature flares up again and he calls over Tom for an explanation. Tom was never very good at lying. He admits Pfusand is intelligent and tries to stop there, but can hardly help sounding like he knows more. Lorelei, who was up in the rigging, deftly drops a sail on Nate while simultaneously casting a sleep on him.
While Tom pantomimes attempts to wake Nate up, the telepathy net forms and the crew consults on what to do now. Lorelei suggests pretending that one of us is a ventriloquist and Pfusand has been trained to act as dummy. We then pass off the conversation as a practical joke.
Sophie is on the net now, so we ask her if she wants to tell Nate the Awful Truth. She isn't sure. (She isn't sure of much tonight.) Tom takes Nate below and Wu sieves through his mind. Wu discovers that Nate is beginning to enjoy the adventurous life too. He is very much in love with Sophie and is afraid he is losing her. It's impossible to tell how he would take to us.
We decide to tell Nate and ask Sophie to break the news. She wakes him and tries to explain, but, by trying to break it gently, is unintelligibly confusing. Chris steps in. He explains that Pfusand is an extraterrestrial. He shows Nate an adjustable soft-tool from the pantope. These things more or less prepare Nate for some strange story. Chris goes on to tell him that we are fighting a group of tyrants and, in the course of our adventures, got shipwrecked, in a manner of speaking.
Nate asks for an explanation of Sophie's odd "swimming" back when we rescued her. Chris explains about the flight belt and the invisibility ring. He gives the ring to Nate to try, and Nate becomes invisible for a bit. He removes the ring as soon as he can find his finger. ("Oh good," thinks Chris to himself. "The ring still works. I was afraid to try it out after that cannon hit it." We are pleased to note that Nate doesn't become invisible permanently or change color or fade or anything.)
Sophie confesses that she'd like to go adventuring with us. Nate is furious and accuses Chris of alienating Sophie's affections. When he starts getting violent, Chris picks him up off the floor with levitation. The startlement lets him calm down. He tells Sophie that he will follow her anywhere she likes, but mostly he wants to marry her. He agrees to come with us, but he wants a fuller explanation later. No problem.
Sophie goes to Hayes and tells him that she wants to dissolve the partnership.
That night, Chris gives Nate more background and Wu probes Hayes' mind for information on the Chinese mercenary general Huay. Gen. Huay does not live in Hong Kong, but near it. Also, his stronghold is a fortress, not a converted monastery, as was/will be the island of Nguyen Cat. This reduces the chances that he is a worldbender. But all this information is just hearsay to Hayes.
Hayes has also claimed to have seen a picture of a Naza at some time. Wu finds this memory: it was a woodcut in an African bestiary and was a cross between a centaur and one of those "men whose faces to grow beneath their shoulders" (originally a description of an ape, but always drawn as a headless figure with a face in its chest). There is probably no connection with real Nazas, unless we someday visit 16th-century Africa.
The upshot of all this conversation and telepathy is: Nate and Sophie will join the party. The party will sail the "Rona" to Hong Kong and sell it, leaving Hayes in possession of the "Lorraine." Mubato and the Preacher (one of Hayes' crew) will accompany us to Hong Kong to represent Hayes' interests. Sophie will keep her share of the proceeds and send the rest to Hayes by Mubato and the Preacher.
Soon, we arrive in the Solomons and wait for the "Mubato" to meet us. We wait at a missionary station, run by a Church of England missionary who supports himself by running a coconut plantation. In fact, Nate sniffs at the worldliness of it all, since there seems to be more plantation work than preaching going on. Also, of course, he represents a competing denomination. The missionary's name is Sir Jonathon Quail.
While Quail and Hayes have business chats, the pantope crew buys some supplies from the mission store. Most of this is dull, practical stuff like ammo, but Chris picks up a guitar.
The "Lorraine" shows up in due course, and we part company with Hayes and Hiro. The Preacher joins Mubato on the "Rona" and we start out on a three-week journey to the Philippines. Hayes tells us to avoid Germans and Spaniards. On the way, Chris gives telepathy lessons to Pfusand, Sophie, and Nate.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.