Week 3, Drop back 5 years and...
We left our heroes on the Earth-colony of Helene, in the year 2745 of a slightly divergent timeline, faced with the project of insinuating themselves into the local society.
Tom was going to locate a nearby village from the air, set the pantope door there, then flit back to the middle of the woods and have us walk in from the outback. However, the Captain seems seldom to have performed this kind of scouting maneuver, so Tom's Knack of Tools can't let him do it either. We settle on a nearby mountain for a pantope rendezvous, pick a location on its foothills, flit back to the woods, and start hiking.
We admire the exotic, alien flora and, for dinner, Pfusand runs down a piece of exotic, alien fauna, a cerquine. This was a beast that had been exported for hunting back on the space station where Pfusand, Cantrel, and Tom came from.
In the early afternoon, we come across a road. After we have been walking along it for awhile, we are overtaken by a man driving a wagon drawn by two large, ox-like animals. "'Morrow," he greets us. We answer politely but briefly, for fear he'll notice that our lips don't synch with the words. (We're wearing psionic translators.) Da╬wen thinks she recognizes the lingo and ventures a longer reply. "Everything all right?" he asks us. "Uh... yes, fine." He cocks an eyebrow at us and drives on. Hm, obviously we don't look quite right.
Da╬wen remarks that the language for this area is not exactly like the equivalent back home, either because it's from another time line or because she's from much further in the future.
Guided by Tom's Knack of Finding, we locate the town in a few days, encountering nothing worse than a wild vulp (big blue, beaked, wolvish thing). It runs away. After we find the town, we DON'T go in. Instead, we strike off for the mountain and the pantope rendezvous. We have some more preparing to do -- Da╬wen now knows which language we'll need and we want to take crash courses before venturing out.
Sophie, meanwhile, finds Nate is preying on her mind. She feels that it can't be good for him to just lie around like that, even though the autodoc assures her he isn't getting any worse. The basic problem is that, even though the spider venom has been destroyed, it ate a number of small holes in his brain (and other organs), and while the autodoc could regenerate his brain, the resulting object might not have much of Nate's mind left. Nate needs to haul his mind into more robust shape before he can withstand brain-regen, but that's hard to do with holes eaten in your brain...
We consider a number of possible remedies. The only thing that doesn't sound hazardous is attempted telepathic contact. Contact with Sophie seems natural, but given her recent preference for Chris, it might just make him give up. Pfusand and Nate always got along fairly well, so Pfusand it is, telling Nate telepathically that we'll be taking him home, to Earth, to the 19th century. This provokes a faint flutter of response.
Sophie then takes his hand and starts talking to him vocally. He actually wakes up into a semi-delirious state. (Leave it to a pair of Victorian lovers to pull off a near-miraculous recovery on the strength of Affection's Ties.) He mutters about when do we make port and wishes the boat would stop rocking. Da╬wen obligingly casts a glamour over the sick bay, making it look nautical in the mode of the 1870s, and altering Sophie's clothes to suit.
The autodoc feels semi-delirium is much more promising than coma, so this is a real step forward.
We then shove a robot out the door, to listen for a week to radio and TV and other broadcasts, to give us background about this place. After we have been taking language lessons for a week, we haul it back in.
We are in Ipsylvania, learning Ipsylvanian. (The name means, roughly, "the Forest Itself.") Nearby are a culture mixing social elements from the ancient Greeks with high-tech, and a culture based on a blend of English and French -- Nuvo Angeva. We decide to use them as a background and concoct the following cover-story:
Our parents are Nuvo Angevins who decided to go live a simple, hermitish life in the wilds of Ipsylvania. That's where we were born and why we don't speak Ipsylvanian too well, even though we were born here. We, however, have heard the call of the hot-tub and, in youthful rebellion against our elders, are coming in from the woods, to the bright lights of the big city.
Our first big city is really just that small village we'd located. And the minute we cross the town line, we're in psilence. We seek out an inn and get rooms. The innkeeper is a little put off by our paying in cash, and with offworld money at that. He has to haul out the computer keyboard and call up the bank. (It seems that these people are only as low-tech as they want to be. And in fact, we saw no cars on ground or in air, but we did see wagons with no wheels floating behind the oxoids pulling them.)
We then go over to the trading post, where Lorelei haggles for a good price for some of our trade goods. (Sophie would normally do this, but she was unable to pick up much Ipsylvanian, being busy nursing Nate.) The trading post has the local version of the newspaper tacked to one wall; studying this, we learn there are no interplanetary wars in progress, and no local wars here and now.
Using the proceeds from the trading post, Chris goes to the local bank, opens an account, and gets a banking card. This is the first step on the paper trail we want to leave through the next five years. To get more papers, we apply to the burgermeister's hall for temporary work permits.
We use these work permits to get laboring jobs. Woodchopping, a little hunting (mostly for ourselves), and in Sophie's case, selling her sketches.
Over the next two weeks, we move on to a slightly larger town, then a small one again, and finally a small city. There, we decide to settle down for a while and build up some credit and some history -- permanent work permits, tax records, bank accounts, ID cards.
Alag gets a license to sell the arrows he makes and the sketches Sophie makes, acting as her agent. Pfusand goes to work for an apothecary. (Bet you didn't know he knew herbal medicine, did you?) Tom takes up teaching mnemonics and total recall in the patharchy department of the local community college. Chris gets work as a musician. Alag takes up teaching archery as well as making arrows, and Sophie gets work as a seamstress in addition to her sketching. Cantrel works as a laborer, hangs around, and cases the joint.
The best business is the one started by Lorelei and Da╬wen (who has taken the travel name of Tens╬ Lo╔n, her original name really). They have opened a karate studio over a shop, like the ones you can see downtown. And we all live in the apartments above the studio. We install the pantope door over a closet next to the refrigerator, and since this can supply all the food and clothing we need, it makes a handy household appliance you really shouldn't be without, a real money-saver. (Slices! Dices! Time-travels! But wait! There's more!)
Sophie's seamstress work expands to making the gis for the karate students. Tom gets a book entitled "Teach Yourself Amnesia" to expand his knowledge of mnemonics. Unfortunately, he keeps forgetting where he put it.
It's time to give thought to how we want to reach that planet and what history we want when we get there.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.