Week 10, Elder machinery escapes
We left our heroes in a state of confusion. They had just finished softening up the Kendorini ship when a blue sphere of stuff resembling the Elder machinery popped into being nearby, then zoomed away in an extradimensional manner. After stopping time for some thought, we decide to check out the Kendorini ship to see if the Elder machinery or at least the diadem segment is still aboard. If not, we'll open a door on Cheapside and check it out. If the segment is neither of those places, we'll try tracking the blue sphere.
The Kendorini ship was last seen fleeing in hyperdrive. We open a window in the proper frame of reference and note that there is no distortion visible around it now. We move the window inside, locate a store room, and send out Pfusand. No psi storm and no segment.
Next stop: Cheapside. We open a door inside the archaeological ruins, hoping to find that the Elder machinery, which apparently abandoned ship, has gone home. It has not. No psi storm and no segment.
We replay the pantope's sensor log of the sphere, which Da╬wen uses to track the thing's path through hyperspace. She remarks it was not climbing steeply out of the local continuum. Tom then tries to follow the course indicated, but fails. We flounder in empty hyperspace, which is harmless but unprofitable.
Lorelei suggests that we ask the diadem itself. We have just over half of it assembled, and it told us itself the first location of the segment we're now chasing. Chris puts it on and telepaths to it. The response is overwhelmingly powerful and even scorches his scalp a bit. He reels off thirteen numbers. Tom and Da╬wen recognize these as lying somewhere in the Confederation's continuum, some short while in the future and a few light years away.
After we sleep off our last battle, we open on the coordinates from the diadem. It is a view of open space, with one bright star. A little study of the sensors reveals we are in the system of a fading orange dwarf. There are no planets or ships nearby. Our margins of error on the segment's location are high enough, the segment could be anywhere in this system.
The nearest planet is a bit like Neptune, with the usual accessories of moons and rings. We move the door to the largest moon, Lorelei steps out with the diadem detector, and we get a faint but clear directional signal, pointing toward the sun.
The next planet inward is a Jovian, with scads of moons and rings. Lorelei steps out on another moon and gets another pointer toward the sun.
The next planet inward is like Earth but larger. The cooling sun has ruined the climate for human purposes, but otherwise the place resembles Cheapside, except that it has a very nice ring. The pantope's sensors register lots of mechanical activity. None of it appears to be communication that the pantope can decipher. Triangulation reveals one particularly hot spot.
Opening a window a few miles from the hot spot, we see a landscape like Arctic tundra. The hot spot itself seems to be behind a range of low, gravity-laden mountains. Just as on Cheapside, the sky is stormy and dramatic. The area is psilenced, by the way.
Flitting to the other side of the mountain range, we find the weather sunnier. Sensors still point to the mountains as the source of mechanical activity.
Getting an aerial view OVER the mountains, we finally see that the largest of them is glowing, especially in one spot. This spot is a patch of by-now- familiar crystalline structures. Here is where the Elder machinery has come. (Has it come HOME?)
Da╬wen notices that the whole mountain is a literal hot-spot, being much warmer than the surrounding tundra. We also note that the mountain is more lushly green and populated by little rabbity and birdish animals.
We move the window INSIDE the mountain, but find nothing of interest except a large cavern lined with crystal, like an immense geode. The crystal, however, is just quartz, not Elder technology. Tom steps out and takes a diadem reading. It points to the mountainside above us.
We then take several photos of the Elder machinery. It does not match OUR Elder machinery exactly. Playing with her skills in Photographic Memory and Glamour, Sophie conjures her own image of the thing. We can now spot the blue sphere from the Kendorini ship, embedded in this patch of crystals on the mountain side. Time for a closer look.
We open a door near the crystals. Tom steps out for a reading and finds open psi and a detector signal pointing to the center. Next, we open a door INSIDE the crystals. We are in a dazzling structure that would be a building if this were a city, but it isn't. It has a "floor" composed of a lawn of tiny crystals.
Not wanting to damage this eldritch stuff, Chris takes the diadem detector and levitates out. He gets a nice clear reading. For a couple of seconds. Then the reading vanishes and psilence clamps down. Chris's levitation fails and he falls to the prickly floor. We retrieve him and take him to the autodoc for some minor patching. In his fall, he broke off some crystals. Retrieving these from his ... wounds, we take them to the Technology Museum for analysis. The computers aren't much help; the stuff confirms that it is machinery, possible of pantope-level or even higher.
We skip to the far side of the crystals, open a door, and try some very basic telepathic contact. Sophie and Chris do the honors and get the definite impression that there IS a mind in the city, watching, but it is very alien -- even its state of awareness is unclear. There is still no sign of the diadem segment. An aerial view shows that part of the city is now brighter and hotter. It's the place where Chris fell. Is it repairing itself there?
Da╬wen now remarks that the Elder machinery and the diadem probably first came here about three months ago. Perhaps we could combine our various mental talents to get a fix on the thing in the past. We link up telepathically and pool our memories of the detector signals. Sophie, using her artistic skills and Glamour, produces a reasonable fix, in a large structure at the center.
We decide to back up the three months and watch it arrive.
We are surprised to find the mountain cold and bare. A few hours after our arrival, the sphere comes down out of the sky, wanders for a bit over the surface of the mountain, reaches out with beams of light, and pulls a large chunk of crystal out of the side of the mountain, perhaps forming the geode cave we discovered three months from now. It then nestles into the crystal mass and produces a patch of crystals like a smaller version of the later crystal mass. It's about 150 meters on a side.
Lorelei goes scouting. She takes the diadem detector, to track the segment, and moves with our single remaining flight belt, so as to be able to float harmlessly over the crystals without being vulnerable to psilence. The psi, however, remains open, right up to the moment when Lorelei vanishes.
We were following with the pantope window. We hastily back out and Chris steps out of the pantope to call her telepathically. The reply is somewhat incoherent. Lorelei doesn't LIKE being in deep space without a spacesuit.
Tom gets a fix on her with his Knack of Finding. Da╬wen uses our experience with the sphere's own hyperflight to estimate the distance Lorelei got flung. She reluctantly suggests Chris use his Dicing talent to select the last few decimal places on the coordinates. Abruptly, the door is open on deep space. We stop time long enough for Tom to suit up. He steps out and gets another clairvoyant fix on Lorelei. Da╬wen then moves the window in the direction indicated; meanwhile, Chris moves Tom telekinetically. Also, Lorelei has turned on her Deryni nimbus (it's been ages since she did that) and now glows green, making it much easier to spot her. We quickly have her back aboard, with less than a minute's exposure to vacuum. We hustle her to the autodoc and disconnect for a rest.
Tom opines that "It threw her away!" and Da╬wen agrees.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.