Back to the Dinosaurs
Week 1, Further Surveillance
We left our heroes on the Dance of the Hours, having recently run across Gene Pearce, who appears to be a guest of the Captain's from either their future or past.
Quickly, life settles down to normal, if anything can be said to be normal on a ship with an unstable architecture. Jonathan is off trying to learn to be a backup diadem detector, and not succeeding very well. While the diadem has its own psychic signature, he can't really locate it from the signature, and the diadem detector proper doesn't really detect as any more psychic than much of anything else.
Meanwhile, Tom goes back to finishing up his improved glass daggers, outfitting most of them with self-destruct devices, and making another (without a self-destruct device) that is capable of carrying the diadem detector. This leads to yet another animated discussion as to whether it is such a good idea to send the detector off in a machine. This is our only diadem detector, but on the other hand, this is the last segment.
Cantrel has also been questioning Gene about his skills. Perhaps most interesting, because this is a skill that none of the rest of us have, Gene is a starship pilot. He also has some proficiency with pistols, can levitate, knows some dicing, and a variety of other miscellaneous skills.
Chris is of the opinion that it might be worthwhile to explore the Rocks of Ages, and the new corridor, which is christened Corridor X by the serving system. The others, especially, Cantrel, who is getting a bit bored, also think that this might be a good idea, and everyone equips themselves for an expedition in the pantope. Gene, who is not completely comfortable with an unstable pantope, is a bit nervous about this, as the idea of becoming lost on board the pantope is a bit frightening to him. It's also a bit frightening to the others, but they've lived with it for long enough to not let it stop them.
Daewen and Sophie talk privately about getting Daewen some new armor. It seems that Daewen was doing some patterned something and made her suit of elven chain a bit too inaccessible, or a bit too invisible, or something. Sophie makes Daewen an outfit of kevlar, but doesn't have the time to make it anything special.
Cantrel and Alag argue about whose turn it is to go first. It appears that it is actually Cantrel's turn. But Gene offers to go first himself, and Cantrel is willing to let him, to get an idea of what his skills are, and how well he goes first.
Cantrel sets up a programmed TK to power-cycle the switch that opens up the door from the old bridge to Corridor X. Chris also sets up a patterned levitation to do the same. The serving system suggests that it might be a good idea to place Corridor X on one of the unused doors of Corridor E, as it might be able to control things better if it doesn't have to route through the somewhat flaky connections through the old bridge. We think this is a good idea, and the serving system reconnects Corridor X. Things flicker, and the serving system says, "Oops." We ask the serving system what it means when it says "Oops." What has happened is that the serving system missed Corridor E, and ended up putting Corridor X on Corridor B, replacing one of the two doors that the natural history museum had on Corridor B. Gene shudders a bit, but everyone else just sighs and decides that that is plenty good enough. The other door of the natural history museum is now connected to the dinosaur door on the old bridge.
The serving system also thinks that it might be useful to connect the Rocks of Ages to Corridor E, but it doesn't think it can connect it itself, especially in light of its recent problem with Corridor X. It suggests that someone go to the Rocks of Ages, and ask the door to reconnect itself.
So Gene heads down Corridor X to the Rocks of Ages, and asks the door to reconnect itself to Corridor E. The door reconnects with no mishap. Tom mans the bridge, in can we need help from there, and everyone else heads into the Rocks of Ages.
When we go down, led by Jonathan, we find that the odd glow that Tom reported between doors 6 and 7 is not there. Tom asks about this, and is perhaps more upset about it than the rest of us. We are all trying not to stand for too long on any of the stones, but finally door 7 opens up. Jonathan looks out, and everything looks more or less right, with right meaning that it matches what we'd expect the place to look like if it opened up on the to-be Indian subcontinent.
Chris and Sophie go out to explore, and Chris relays the coordinates back to Tom on the bridge, in case they get stuck there. After a long fifteen seconds or so, the doors close, as we are trying to decide whether or not to actually close the doors. Since things have been decided for them, Chris and Sophie take a diadem reading (there is no segment, as they expected), and Chris's Map of Here shows nothing especially exciting. It's certainly possible, maybe even probable that they are in the highlands of the ridge that runs down the spine of the subcontinent, but nothing especially argues it one way or the other.
After another very long fraction of a minute, the Rock-of-Ages door opens back up again, and Chris and Sophie head back into the pantope to report what they've found. Everyone decides that while we're here, we might as well try door 7, which should open up at 70 million years in the "past." Again, there is no diadem segment, what we expect to find. Also, the door seems to open up on the same place that it opened up onto with door 6, even taking continental drift and the like into account.
We all go back to neutral territory. It seems that something is a bit amiss, what with Tom's glow not being there. We wonder if we lost the glow when the Rocks of Ages were moved from Corridor X. Sophie asks the serving system about the artists who painted the mural -- or perhaps the ones who repainted the mural with the intelligent dinos. The serving system says that they were guests of the Captain's, but it really doesn't have much more information about them. Sophie muses if it might be a good idea for her to learn that style in case it would be useful for her to know it later.
The serving system thinks it is extremely unlikely that it could put the Rocks of Ages back on Corridor X. We all grumble. But, it says, it probably could swap the Moebius Room, which is still on Corridor X with the Rocks of Ages. So we have the serving system do this, and to restore Corridor X itself back to the old bridge.
Daewen opens up the dinosaur door again, and we trudge down to the Rocks of Ages. Lo and behold, the glowing line is there. Jonathan examines the line, and detects nothing psychic about it. We open up door 6 and find it leads back to the same place as before.
We debate a little further about what to do, and somehow end up standing on both doors 6 and 7. We are quite surprised to find them both open up as a double door, and out onto a completely different place.
Chris and Sophie go out, and take a look around, as they did before. There is a diadem segment here. We also find that this is at 1200 years before our previous dealings with the dinosaur-folk.
We decide that this is a perfect opportunity to do some scouting, as we seem to have a door onto the segment that is not subject to the Gethsemane Effect. We decide to shed out psychic and psionic equipment and go out to explore.
However, Daewen starts to get cold feet, fearing timelocks or worse. The rest of the group assures her that this is strictly going to be a scouting job. Look but don't touch. Daewen finally decides that this is reasonable, and comes along equipped with her far-seer.
Daewen quickly finds the segment. It is put in the middle of an artificially carved cave, which is about a meter from a geode-like crystal cave. It looks like what we would expect the segment to look like, a large gem-like object. It has not been disguised or fashioned into anything else. After satisfying our curiosity, we head back into the Dance.
We start discussing how readily we can track the progress of the segment over the next 1200 years. Obviously, we can't snatch it, but we might be able to see where it goes. Many ideas are batted around, and we ultimately come up with three ways to help track it.
First, we will put a chemical tracer designed by Chris on the crystals of the crystal cave. This lets us track where they go to.
Second, we will place a second gem in the diadem cave. This is an artificial gem that has built into it a radio system that can answer a simple query. We hope that the two gems will probably travel together, and we can possibly track the diadem that way. Tom builds this false segment.
Third, Daewen builds a monitoring satellite, that we will place in geosynchronous orbit. The satellite, built using similar monolog technologies to the far-seer, will keep track of what's going on below, visually, and also psionically. We will place this machine in a hunk of rock that we build to look like a piece of space junk. This Should hide it pretty well from any high- tech eyes that stumble along the place.
With Chris and Daewen piloting the pantope, we dust the geode, and place the false segment in the cave. With Gene piloting the shuttle, we put the satellite in orbit. Then we skip forward ten years. We open a door, and collect telemetry from the satellite. Gene goes out in the shuttle to query the false segment, and check on the geode. Everything is as it should be, and the serving system announces from its analysis of the satellite's data that the past ten years were rather boring. We all decide that this is good news, indeed.
This being done, we decide to skip forward to the halfway point, 600 years from out dinosaur "present." Daewen opens the door, finds that the satellite has drifted a few meters, and reprograms the satellite. Daewen collects telemetry; Gene goes out in the shuttle to gather other data.
After analysis, we find that there was a major earthquake some 77 years ago. It fractured the crystal cave and some of the surroundings, but not much of the geode has spread. Only what you'd expect from the cave's fracture. The false segment is where it should be.
So we decide to skip forward to three hundred years from our present. Chris pilots the pantope this time, not doing as stellar a job as Daewen's been doing. Again, information is collected, and the serving system analyzes. We're in luck, the dinosaurs have found the segment. Bits of the geode are scattered all over the subcontinent. Their capital is already a good sized town. The serving system gives us newsreels of the whole thing.
The dinos already seem to have some psi. Jonathan wonders if the satellite could pick up psi effects using its non-psionic technology. Daewen thinks for a while, and decides that it is indeed possible. We also debate about the usefulness of pointing the satellite at where the segment was. So Gene collects the satellite, it gets re-outfitted with a psi detector, and Gene puts it back in orbit, watching the capital and environs. We use it to confirm that the dinos already seem to have a certain amount of psi. We're also quite impressed at the growth of their civilization. They seem to have gone from agrarians to the level we've seen in three centuries. This is a truly impressive feat, even with a segment to help.
So we skip to the present. Chris pilots, doing as good a job as his teacher has been doing, and smiles at her. We gather telemetry and analyze it. We find out a number of interesting things.
The geode has mostly re-coalesced around the capital. In these last few centuries, people have regathered about a third of it.
The psi-pipes have been mapped. We presume the segment is their source. They use them for a wide variety of technical feats, including building buildings, and other public works.
The false segment is in a building a couple of blocks away from the power center. It's in a complex of buildings that we are calling the university, as it probably would be that in our own cultures. It's not in the main building, which is a rather fancy creature. It's in what seems to be an annex, like perhaps a museum archives, or something like that.
We also find out some interesting cultural things about them. Most importantly, they're a rather belligerent bunch. They seem to have wars of some sort. Or, at least, we presume they're wars. They could be riots, but that doesn't seem as likely. We're more certain that the dinos do deal with the world mostly via psi. We detect bits of psi, and really can't put a good interpretation to it. They don't wear clothes, so we don't see them in uniforms or other outward signs of sides in the supposed battles. But we do see what appear to be battles, and things happen in them, like buildings collapsing for not outward reason. We presume some sort of psi-weapons. Perhaps they fight over the resource of the psi-pipes and the segment. It does seem like a reasonable thing to quarrel over. This may make a raid on the segment interesting, if we're forced to do so.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.