Week 2, Chris Negotiates
These used to be the "pantope logs." They may be again; who knows? But the pantope is now out of sight and not expected back. A couple of informational points:
Eventually, they get tired of waiting. They step through (invisibly, courtesy of Chris) and Chris hails Tom telepathically. This time, Tom is in open psi, so Chris gets an answer. He gets a very brief run-down from Tom, then breaks the contact and calls Alag. Alag gives him a fuller description of the capture, punctuated with the refrain "Cantrel is gonna kill Tom." Gene and Lorelei, who have been listening in over Chris's mental shoulder, are not pleased either. Chris offers to come to the Embassy as their representative (they can't just lock him up, because of his status as an Allied Epochs agent) and Alag accepts.
Chris then calls Tom back to get his version of the story, or, as Chris quaintly puts it, to "see how goofy Tom has gotten." Tom also accepts Chris's offer. Chris and Gene then set out for the Embassy. Chris resigns himself to a long walk, since he has no local money, but Gene saves the day; true, his credit card hasn't been used for five years (local time), and the banks are light-years away, but the auto-cab accepts it after a somewhat lengthy conversation with a banking computer with good interstellar comm-links. Before they leave her, Lorelei warns Chris of things NOT to say -- like committing anyone else to anything, or revealing the location of the gateway. Chris agrees and leaves Lorelei with an invisibility and a telepathic link.
A few minutes later, Chris and Gene leave their cab and start walking up the driveway to the KaiSenese Embassy. They see three people coming out the door, Officer van de Camp, another human, and a Banuesch. All three wear the KaiSenese lyre-curve and star logo. As Chris and Gene start to pass them, the Banuesch says, "Greetings, sentient. May I help you?"
"Do you speak English?" Chris asks. Not very well, it turns out. The Banuesch turns Chris over to the second human and Chris asks for an appointment with KaiSen. He feels that this fellow looks vaguely familiar. "Have we met before?" he asks. "Not YET," is the pointed reply.
Chris: "Then you have the advantage of me." He: "Sorry, I thought you might have the advantage of ME." Chris feels fairly sure he has just contacted and been recognized by another Allied Epochs agent. They make introductions all around and the fellow asks to be called "Grissom." Chris asks to be called "Locksley." The Banuesch, it turns out, rejoices in the euphonious name of Hghzradifch Hnyadghm; unlike "Grissom" and "Locksley," we suppose this to be its real name.
Chris mentions Alag and Tom, whereon "Grissom" leads them inside. Chris, Gene, "Grissom," and Hghzradifch retire to an unused office, where "Grissom" touches a button, thus raising psilence, to ensure security. He then mentions that they had triangulated Chris's rough location from the telepathic signals -- and admits that any form of telepathy-tapping is anachronistic for this date (2494). In fact, "Grissom" is an Allied-Epochs/KaiSenese double agent, his basic loyalty being to KaiSen. He has been called in on this matter of temporal security, at the cost of his cover. This measures the importance of the situation, in KaiSen's view.
The KaiSenese have not (yet) forcibly read Tom's mind, since (1) KaiSen doesn't like resorting to such personal violations and (2) Tom is being pretty cooperative, but they gather that Tom is feeling guilty over something besides the Eilythry genocide and Grissom wonders what that might be.
Chris remarks that neither he nor Gene were present at the Eilythry "genocide" and that he is not at all sure all the Eilythry are dead. Grissom nods and mentions the parallel case of the Mota Banu, who were wiped out except for some germ-cell samples, but remarks that in genocide and horseshoes, just being close counts.
Chris reminds Grissom that we cannot presently reach the Eilythry world to do the background research KaiSen wants. Grissom remarks that this is something else KaiSen wants to work on.
Grissom also says that KaiSen would like interviews with ALL the witnesses to the Eilythry massacre. Chris says that there are only two left in the team and one (meaning Cantrel) would be highly truculent. Grissom replies that, although KaiSen can be very scrupulous about privacy in some ways, if it feels it must be ruthless about invading privacy, it can be very ruthless indeed. Putting a couple of KaiSenese agents into the team, to get to know the people involved, was the SOFT solution.
But there is more collecting accounts of the Eilythry massacre. There is also a question of ... group dynamics, sociology, character and destiny, that sort of thing. KaiSen wants to understand the context of the situation. Why do things like this happen to humans? (Something we've all wondered about, I'm sure.) Hence the choice of non-human liaisons (Vrax and Joe) of two different species to get to know us; it provides more objectivity.
Chris asks if KaiSen means to HIRE the party. Grissom says that it might; it might easily offer some sort of official status as an agent of the KSA or of KaiSen itself -- e.g. deputy liaison officer. In any case, whatever the party and the agents
And how does KaiSen propose to maintain temporal security and hear about the party at the same time? The whole race-mind can't time-travel very conveniently, as people who know too much about the future often have to do. Grissom explains that KaiSen is expert at managing its own memory. The liaisons or the party members will report to a carefully isolated memory segment of KaiSen, which cautiously refrains from bringing things to mind in an ... untimely fashion.
Chris is finally willing to expand a bit about the other thing bother Tom's conscience -- causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Like Chris, Grissom is not much bothered by the ethics of this (but then, Chris doesn't mention that there were intelligent dinosaurs involved) and agrees that was one extinction that "should have happened." But Grissom is puzzled why Chris is "terrified" at Tom's plans for re-instating dinosaurs. What does it matter if we have a dinosaur park somewhere? (Yes, but intelligent and highly psychic dinosaurs?)
Chris: "What else do we get, besides KaiSenese job titles?"
Grissom: "What would you like?"
Chris: "ID. We need a paper trail in this continuum."
Chris: "Money and all the usual stuff."
Grissom: "Of course. Would you like Allied Epochs ID?"
Grissom: "Good. As you can see, there are complex problems of infiltration in temporal security organizations."
Chris: "The real problem is going to be convincing my other colleagues." For by now Chris and Gene are reasonably resigned to doing business with KaiSen and perhaps making a profit from the transaction.
Meanwhile, Lorelei is still waiting invisibly in the warehouse district. Her telepathic contact with Chris was severed when Grissom raised psilence. To compound her anxiety, she has just noticed the same furry critter scuttle by once too often. Vermin? Stray pet? Dock worker? Somebody's agent? And can it see into the ultraviolet, or further into the infrared than Chris can cast glamour?
Chris tells Grissom he'll have to go back and discuss this with the others. Could Alag come with him and Gene? "Your friend seemed ... upset when last I saw him. Do you think it wise to take him to your negotiations?"
Chris: "Maybe not. Can I not be followed, and can you not nab any more of us? We've been under fire for years, and we're kinda paranoid just now." Grissom consents. "Oh, and could we have cab fare?" (After all, the services charges are bigger than the fare, moving money from Gene's account on Centauri.) Grissom blinks a bit, but has his wallet print a check.
Once they are outside, Lorelei contacts them and sends a picture of her critter. Neither Chris nor Gene recognize it. Chris then warns her about the telepathic triangulation trick and drops contact.
As they are about to leave, the Banuesch, Hghzradifch Hnyadghm, trots up and asks Chris for a person favor. What? It would like to come with the other KaiSenese liaisons to the other continuum. You see, the Banuesch "owe much" to the Hierowesch, who were themselves nearly wiped out once. It occurs to Hghzradifch that there might be an alternate Hierow in the other continuum, with alternate Hierowesch that need saving. And since the Banuesch owe so much to the Hierowesch, Hghzradifch would like to try repaying the debt. It would not necessarily require a return trip. Chris agrees to remember the request.
Hghzradifch summons an Embassy aircar and orders it to obey Chris and Gene. They leave and take a circuitous route, just in case. Lorelei, meanwhile, has been shooting at the critter with a stun-gun. It ran away, on four legs. She fired a sleep spell after it, to as little effect as the stun gun. She then scrawls "I just left. L." followed by the time, on the wall of the warehouse, and steps back through the gate.
Back in the KaiSenese staff car, Gene asks Chris, "Suppose we just drop the gate?"
Chris: "Which side do you want to be on?"
Gene: "The safe side."
Chris: "Which side is that? The side with KaiSen? Or the side without rejuvenation? and with Cantrel?"
Chris: "We can run, or we can cooperate."
Gene: "We'll have to watch our contacts with KaiSen forever, if we cooperate."
Chris: "Not necessarily a whole lot. It's still run or cooperate. And if we run, we'll have be on the lookout for KaiSen forever. I'd like to cooperate. To a degree. And I don't like leaving Alag and Tom. We CAN'T rescue them."
Gene: "I don't want to leave them either."
They are cruising above tree-lined streets and spot Lorelei's furry thing up in a tree. It looks like a cross between a raccoon and a monkey. They decide to set down ten blocks away from the gateway. Just for good measure, Chris sends some decoy images the wrong way as he muffles them up in invisibility. They have barely walked a block, when they hear a collision. An air-taxi has just rammed their empty air-car.
They book it, taking to the air themselves. They find Lorelei's message and Chris erases it alchemically. Then they step through the gateway and shut it.
Gene would now like to hear from Chris some explanation of this "Allied Epochs" he and Grissom were talking about. Chris explains that it's a time patrol. (Gene shudders.) Chris is a member on inactive status. They combine the functions of police, travelers' aid, and historians. Rumors are that there are several time patrols, all infiltrating each other thirteen ways from Sunday. And the famous Mr. Henderson claimed to be a member of at least two different cross-time and cross-continuum organizations.
"Cantrel isn't gonna like it," remarks Gene, referring to their immediate situation.
"I don't like it!" Lorelei exclaims. She doesn't trust KaiSen one bit and insists on killing its liaisons as soon as they cross over. Chris retorts that THAT is a very dangerous thing to do. Also, dealing with KaiSen can have lots of bennies. For instance, KaiSen might be in a better position (someday) that we to tell the worldbenders that the diadem contest is over. As for killing liaisons, "if KaiSen has any sense at all, it MUST retaliate on people who kill its liaisons."
Gene: "What if we just say no?"
Lorelei: "Or don't tell them anything?"
Chris: "Those are both possibilities."
Lorelei: "I don't want to be spied on for the rest of my life."
Chris: "You WILL be spied on, no matter what. Given that, it would be better to have the spy in front of you, where you can keep an eye on it."
Gene: "Won't they be telepathic?"
Chris: "Yeah. So what? I bet they're literate, too."
Lorelei (still fuming): "I don't want to be a puppet."
Chris: "You'd be less KaiSen's puppet than you were Verger's [the Captain's]."
Gene: "We could let them cross over, then not go anywhere near them. Or vanish in St. Clair's time machine."
Chris: "Okay, but we won't be able to hide the fact of St. Clair's existence."
Lorelei: "Why not just give KaiSen the coordinates for the Eilythry and scram. Leave it to do its own research in a few millennia, when it develops pantopes?"
Chris: "Because the Eilythry are only part of the problem. KaiSen has tumbled to the fact that we were doing something so important, we were willing to put up with genocide as a SIDE EFFECT. It wants to know what that important thing was."
Lorelei: "YOU get to tell Cantrel."
Gene: "Yeah. But get him drunk first."
Chris: "No, he'd suspect. [To Lorelei.] What exactly is your objection?"
Lorelei: "I want to be left alone to raise my son. I don't want an omnipotent being looking over my shoulder.
Chris: "Then go away, and we'll throw Aphron and David to KaiSen."
Lorelei: "Fine. Call me when St. Clair invents a pantope."
Chris: "...but remember, if you want to be left alone, don't start any fights with KaiSen."
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.