Back to the Dinosaurs
Week 2, Lets just grab it!
We left our heroes back on the pantope, having done some scouting along the saurians' history. Chris notes that, since they have an iridium-based technology and are very war-like, perhaps they will simply blow themselves up, accounting for the iridium later at the end of the Cretaceous, and we can simply pluck the last segment out of the rubble.
Daewen points out that, whatever causes the Calvary syndrome that is keeping other human time-travelers away from here, it probably goes away when the saurians do. In that case, our protection against worldbenders goes away at the same time we start hunting for the segment.
Tom suggests moving back 1200 years, to the dawn of saurian civilization, and taking the segment from the cave where we found it. In its place, we would have to leave a consummately powerful fake, probably made by the 12/13ths of the diadem that we have, good enough to power the saurian civilization and to fool our own diadem detector (either the last or we have to fool our own past detections with fleeting traces of the diadem, as we did back in Gwennedd).
Cantrel: "Why not use 13/13ths to create the fake?"
Daewen: "Too risky, especially if we have to go back and create our own trail. We'd have to expose the entire diadem.
Alag: "Why not use the 12/13ths we've got to GET the last segment."
We are all struck by the force of this. Why not, indeed? Done.
Instantly, we begin to fine-tune the plan. Daewen recommends only using the bits we've had some practice with -- the Juju and the Instrumentality. Pfusand has a perfectly splendid place to hide the other 10 segments: take them through the In-House Time Gate to some point in time (in-pantope time, that is) after our effort to pull the last segment off Earth.
This means we have to learn how to work the Time Gate. First, we want to move it to a more stable part of the pantope. We are rather nervous about this, so Victoria takes the Main Bridge, Daewen staffs the Auxiliary Bridge and Cantrel, the Combat Bridge, with Tom at the Old Bridge, nearest the Time Gate's current location. (We now have four for bridge; a pity Gene no longer has four hands for bridge....)
Gene goes down Corridor X, off the Old Bridge, to the archway at the end we presume to be the Time Gate. He asks it to move to the Main Corridor, Position 7, and it does. As easy as that. How anticlimactic. We all stand down from our ready stations after Daewen moves the "other side" of the Time Gate to the Auxiliary Bridge. This means that any object you put through the Time Gate should come out onto the Auxiliary Bridge sooner or later ... or earlier.
We test the Time Gate. Tom encases a small clock in protective ectoplasm and tosses it through the Gate, aiming for five minutes ahead. Daewen, meanwhile, has taken the Auxiliary Bridge and isolated it. Tom saw her through the Gate as he tossed the clock through. Five-plus minutes later, she emerges from the Auxiliary Bridge with the clock. It looks like we can work the Time Gate.
We now divide up for the attempted Raid of the Last Segment. All the elves arm and armor themselves, don spacesuits, gather up the ten segments, and head through the Time Gate, for an undisclosed number of hours from now.
Everyone else equips themselves with weapons, armor, and spacesuits. Tom takes the Juju from Turtle World and Lorelei takes the Instrumentality from the CoDominion timeline -- the segments with which they are respectively most familiar. Cantrel will stand guard on Lorelei and Pfusand on Tom. Victoria will take the Combat Bridge while Gene and Jonathan take the shuttle. We plan to open the Main Bridge and the Shuttle Bay onto a point in space 50 miles above the saurians' main city and, using the two segments, command the last one to come into the Main Bridge. Should we get pulled out instead, Gene is to come to the rescue.
(While we are getting ready, Cantrel slips into the sickbay and has a little chat with the autodoc. He has it render Aphron paraplegic -- reversibly of course -- but the reversal to be made only on order of senior crew (i.e. not Gene or Jonathan) or if we're all irrevocably gone. Speaking of "gone," he gives a resurrection triage list: first Tom, then Daewen, then any others. And if none of us can be recovered, the Serving System should try to contact Elias, Leonis Wickman of the Jack in the 25th Century, Pfusand's husband on Akon-Naza in the 28th century, and Dr. Wu, last seen on Earth in the 1930s, we think.)
We all take our positions. Tom and Lorelei form a 2-ply link of human telepathy and Deryni rapport, and start. Lorelei suddenly discovers the Knack of Tools. She is probably using the Instrumentality as well as Elias ever did.
Our segments tingle, but instead of it coming here, we start to go there -- the two segment-bearers start to fly out the door, dragging their faithful guards behind them. Another act of will brings us back.
Gene and Jonathan report seeing a bright flash on the Earth below. Victoria gets a close-up. The flash is spreading, becoming a mass of white and pink fire all over Cretaceous India. We try again. And "just the segment" we add, not wanting the whole city to rise up and smack us. "Gently."
The bright light below continues to grow. (Oops. So this is how the dinosaurs went. We honestly had no notion this would take them out. Tom, at least, figured they would quietly fade back into lizardry once deprived of their segment, leaving crumbling ruins full of iridium.) Victoria now spots something ascending rapidly on her scanners.
The segment, to do it justice, slowed way down as it approached the bridge. It was only going a little over the speed of sound when it entered, arriving with a small sonic boom. Instantly, Tom snaps the doors shut.
Even the normally phlegmatic Pfusand gets giddy. Then the waiting starts, for the elves to come through to the Auxiliary Bridge from the Time Gate.
An hour later, we are still at red-alert status. Two hours. Four. Six. At eight hours, Tom reminds the others that the elvish sense of time is a little more luxuriant than most. We organize watches.
At 17 hours, 23 minutes, 5 seconds after their departure, the elves show up again. Cautiously, Chris telepaths Lorelei and Tom telepaths Alag, to make sure no ringers have been slipped in among us. It's paranoia time.
And speaking of paranoia, how well do we REALLY trust the Captain? Before we went after the saurian segment, we had decided to go ahead with the original plan and give him the diadem. After all, Elias approved (grudgingly) and he helped us get the Instrumentality. But that was before we had the Time Gate.
We decide to go ahead and take the Captain out of stasis. We will keep ten of the segments here while a party takes the Instrumentality and two others through the Time Gate, so that there will not be a complete diadem around, in case of mishaps.
Lorelei, Chris, Sophie and Daewen exit stage later. The others stay behind, giving the Captain a maximum number of familiar faces to wake up to. (The crew has changed membership a lot in the last SIX YEARS of questing.) Victoria takes the Combat Bridge and everyone else crowds into the sick bay. Stasis off.
The Captain looks just the same, of course -- very ill. "We've got it all," Tom tells him, both verbally and telepathically. "What do you want us to do with it?" And he cautiously watches the empathic band for flickers of greed or power-lust.
The Captain, however, just appears miserable and muddled. "That was quick! Oh, but then it would be. Do you have any facility with it?" he asks.
"I've terraformed with it," Tom admits.
"Oh! But I doubt that would be much use in healing me." Tom notes a lot of complex psi stuff going on in the background of the Captain's mind, but can't make out what it is. The Captain asks if he could use it himself. Or at least three segments of it. Okay. And Tom flips the stasis back on.
He goes to the lab and fetches four of the ten segments. No point being mean about this. Of the remaining six, Cantrel takes charge of three and gives three to Alag. We return to sickbay, turn off the stasis, then Pfusand gathers up the Captain and rushes him to the Old Bridge, through it, and down Corridor X. Everyone else brings up the rear. The Captain notes that we brought him to an unstable and under-powered part of the pantope. (Yes, that was a little security measure on our part.)
He notes Gene's presence. "Are you lost?" "Yes." "More than once?" "No." "Oh, good." Gene, it appears, is from the Captain's and the pantope's past. This makes life a little less complicated than it might otherwise be.
The Captain takes the four segments and concentrates. Jonathan tries to watch, psychically, and gets rather dazzled. After a bit, the Captain collapses. Tom examines him as best he can and decides he may be better.
We take him back to the sickbay and the autodoc. It restores him to consciousness. He wakes, announces "I'm better!" in tones of pleased surprise, and snaps up his telepathic shields.
Tom coughs gently and asks about that. The Captain apologizes and brings them down again, pointing out that normally, in his culture, you keep your shields up. But here and now he wouldn't have them any way but down. Telepathic inspection reveals good faith all round, as far as Tom can tell. A lot of the psychic background stuff has gone, too. Perhaps it was psychosomatic emergency measures.
Tom fills the Captain in, very briefly, on all the time he's missed. The others come back in the middle of this and Lorelei, who is a Deryni healer, gives the Captain a soothing arcane once-over. The others skip ahead again. He begins to feel that he may recover the rest of the way on his own. (We still don't know exactly what was wrong with him.)
When we tell him about blasting the saurians, the Captain recommends the people then present have the autodoc treat them for radiation burns. We do that.
Meanwhile, "Where's my ship?" Gene asks. This is the second or third time he has asked this, but only the first time the Captain has noticed.
"What? Oh, I'm terribly sorry. If we get out of this, I'll buy you a new one. At least they paid dearly for it."
Gene gathers that "they" are the worldbenders or some such foe and that they paid in blood, not cash. "Well," he asks, "are there any other doors like that time-tunnel, the Stones of Years? Places where people could slip in?"
"Oh, we're probably leaking on a dozen different continua." Charming.
The Captain is chagrined to learn about Henderson, whom he himself set on our trail, thinking we were going to have stolen the pantope from him. He also informs us that Elias is also known as Alior Nus, whom we have been wondering about for six years.
Cantrel asks the Captain how he would like us to proceed. He answers that our next stop lies down a LONG translation tunnel, like unto the one that took us to Toon (where we all became cartoon animals, as you may recall). Like Toon, this place is very strange, being an amalgam of bits and pieces of many continua, very chaotic and malleable by mental activity. He compares it to Jonathan's home line, where history was influenced by the fiction of the main line, only still more fluid.
(Jonathan's line imitated our fiction? Here we thought it was the other way around. As a matter of fact, the Captain takes Sophie aside a short while later and asks her to help build up Jonathan's self-image. She is closest to him culturally and, given his origin, he's likely to become what we expect him to be for some while, until the effects of his home line wear off. Sophie is disconcerted. No one else knows.)
About now, the rest of the party comes in through the Time Gate. We decide to trust the Captain and stop skipping for now.
Going back to this weird place he wants to go, the Captain remarks that this fluidity is what will let us fold the diadem in on itself and dispose of it. Unfortunately, everyone who EVER goes there tends to show up at about the same time. So the worldbenders will likely be there. We will have to fight to win the necessary breathing space in which to throw the diadem away. And since the worldbenders outgun us, we will need to fight them with the diadem.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.