Back to Hreme, Week 1
We left our heroes in a back room in the multi-world tavern, The Golden Boar. The taverner, Elias, turns out to know the Captain and is willing to give us a lift back to the pantope, just to get us away from his place before the worldbenders track us down.
Chris asks Elias if he has any advice on how to fix a broken pantope. He plans to take a robot companion and go searching for the missing geometry engine.
Elias: "Let's see if I understand this correctly. Your pantope's geometry engine is broken, and from what the other fellow [Tom] said, you have flutter in two dimensions, you don't understand how the pantope works, you have set yourselves against the worldbenders with all of history in the balance, you've been winning so far by random chance and dumb luck, and you want to FIX the pantope, or at least fiddle around with it?
"On the one hand, I'm tempted to suggest that you not introduce more causality into a situation that seems to work quite well on uncertainty, chance and luck. On the other hand, poking around with dimensional technologies you don't understand and which are known to be unstable is not all that far from an opportunity to exercise your luck..."
Chris chuckles and answers, "All right, that sounds fair enough."
Cantrel asks Elias if he would mind giving us the coordinates for Eastmarch, in case we ever have to come back there. Elias considers this carefully, then reels off thirteen numbers, which Tom dutifully memorizes. Elias then opens a door in the wall. It opens on the top of a thoroughly blasted tower. The top story has no roof and only a fraction of its original walls. The pantope crew, at battle-ready, barrels through the door. The instant the last of us is through, the door snaps shut and we're alone on the top of the tower.
We don't see any pantope doors hanging in the air. We can only hope Victoria will try back here soon. If the worse comes to the worst, we can tramp overland several hundreds of miles to the Black Mage's castle and wait there. Meanwhile, we start searching through the rubble of what used to be a wizard's lab. Tom tries to locate the diadem detector with his Knack of Finding and gets a vague impression that it is around somewhere. Pfusand pleasantly suggests that it is shattered and scattered all over. Cantrel, meanwhile, hears heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.
The others continue to search while Tom mounts guard on the door, hidden around the corner. Cantrel finds a slender stick that leaks glitter as he brushes it aside. Oh, a wand. He tucks it into his armor and continues. The footsteps continue up the stairs.
What comes up is an Unman, about human-high but thicker, stronger, uglier. I suppose there was a non-zero chance he was bearing a cheese tray and coming to thank us for freeing his people from Gorlach's tyranny, but Alag opens fire with a couple of arrows and the Unman chucks a huge club at the elf in response. Alag ducks and the club hits Cantrel. Daewen puts in one more well-placed arrow and the Unman falls off the tower.
Unfortunately, two more show up and start heaving rocks at us. A couple of zombies are bringing up the rear, but they can't do much with their buddies the Unmen in the way. We all start firing at the Unmen, or punching or slashing, depending on our talents. One tumbles down the stairs. For the last one, Cantrel invents the telekinetic punch, which I shall dub the TKO. Alag follows this up by levitating the Unman off the roof.
This leaves the zombies. Daewen attacks one with karate and sends it down the stairs. The other tries to slug Nate. Cantrel uses his TK to deflect the blow, but Nate utterly fluffs his defense against the next blow and sprawls on the floor. Pfusand charges down on the zombie and catapults it into the stairwell. It vanishes.
A loud feminine voice cries, "What the hell?!" and there is a loud ZAP and zombie parts come raining out of thin air. Pfusand notices she has sunburn on one shoulder. "Hello Victoria," she calls into the air. The door becomes visible. There is now a door in the air, opening on a white-walled room, occupied by a tall, athletic young woman with red hair, standing behind a lectern-style control panel, holding a smoking raygun. The cavalry has come over the event horizon.
"Looking for this?" calls Victoria, holding up the diadem detector. No wonder Tom's location sense couldn't pinpoint it; it wasn't normally located. Tom eagerly scrambles into the bridge with a hand up from Pfusand. Cantrel leaps in after him and explodes. He goes flying back out onto the tower, gravely injured. Remember that wand he tucked away? It didn't take kindly to the transition from the magical world to the non-world of the pantope.
While Tom moves the door out of the stairwell and into the center of the floor, so Cantrel can hobble into the pantope and go lie down on one of the autodoc's beds, Daewen fetches a disflorger from the pantope's store rooms. She then returns to the tower and blasts away at the walls near the stairwell, causing them to collapse and block the well. We needn't worry about attacks from that direction.
We then rummage through the ruins thoroughly and find three or four storage chests. These we haul into the pantope for leisured inspection. There is nothing else here, and although the rest of the castle might be full of loot, it is even more certain to be full of Unmen and zombies. Anyway, we have the pantope and the diadem detector; everything else is replaceable. We disconnect from Gorlach's Castle, hoping never to return.
Next, we attach to a point a few feet in front of a cave the Black Mage uses for a lab. The pantope's door is very conspicuous, magically, but no Black Mage shows up. Alag and Daewen leave the pantope and enter the cave. They come to a wall with a door in it and knock. No answer, even after repeated knocks and a long wait. So they leave a note, in Elvish (an unknown language here and thus private, but the Black Mage can translate it magically), saying, "Thank you for the escape from the void. We made it back in good shape. We owe you a watch," for we HAD promised him one of our locator watches after we settled Gorlach's hash. At the moment, we don't have any to spare, having lost two of the three when we died in Hong Kong.
Then it's back in the pantope again and we disconnect entirely for some much- needed recuperation. We left Cantrel in sickbay, keeping the autodoc busy. The autodoc is a sure healer, but rather slow and Cantrel is still near death. Accordingly, Wu uses his healing powers to bolster him up. But the effort leaves Wu looking markedly pale and haggard. He goes to take a nap.
Time for some explanations. It's been about an hour since Victoria last saw us. In that time, Dr. Wu has returned to looking oriental, Cantrel has returned to looking Melior, Pfusand has turned back into a Naza, everybody has lost any scars they may have accumulated, and we've picked up Nate and Sophie.
(Actually, it was a little more than an hour for Victoria. After we all vanished with a bang, she reattached the pantope to the moment right after the explosion, checked around, found the diadem detector, failed to find us, and left the pantope attached, with its door invisible and the external time-rate choked down. She then very sensibly went to bed and rested as well as she could between nightmares about carrying on the mission with no one but herself and her infant son. She then woke up and matched time-rates just in time to have a zombie butted through the door by the Naza.)
We introduce Sophie and Nate to Victoria and show them around. For instance, this is the sickbay. That silvery figure on the bed is the Captain, frozen a few seconds away from death. That odd silvery figure is Foggi, dead, being preserved in the hopes of a medical resurrection. The third figure is a worldbender guard we captured. And of course you know Cantrel.
Nate asks if we have a gymnasium and Tom offers to give him a tour, confident that the gym will turn up along the way somewhere. Cantrel, feeling grumpy, quietly orders the Serving System to give them a hard time. Thus, when we come to the door that usually leads to the gym, we find ourselves in the natural history museum. Stepping back to where we left the corridor, we find the dining room. "Is it always this bad?" Nate asks. "No, it seems to be unusually flaky today," says Tom, but he is so happy to be back on the pantope at all, he doesn't really mind the unstable architecture.
A few random rooms later, they find the chapel. Tom sets the altar for an alpha-omega design and excuses himself for a few minutes meditation. Nate, the missionary, follows suit. While he prays for an end to confusion, Tom watches rooms flicker past the chapel door. The third time the art museum goes by, he calls out, "Hold it there please!" This countermands Cantrel's mischievous order and they have little trouble finding the gym after that.
There, they order up two pair of boxing gloves for Nate and a partner. The only available partner is Tom, who knows no boxing. So it's back to sickbay to get an icepack for Tom's nose.
After this, Nate and Sophie pick out rooms along the dorm corridor. Nate plays it safe and picks a Victorian one. Sophie tries Early Lunar, on Tom's recommendation. (Looks like the inside of a submarine. Tom thinks it looks rustic.) She then asks the Serving System if she could have a piano. The System is sure it has three or four around somewhere, but it isn't sure where. She says she'd settle for a keyboard. A few minutes later, a floating silver tray shows up bearing a tin can. Inside the can is a rolled-up strip. It unrolls into a flat keyboard that nonetheless sounds like a piano. It also has stops that let it sound like other things, e.g. a cat winning a fight with a bagpipe.
After a little more exploring, Sophie finds the dining room and thinks it is grand. She proposes we celebrate our return to the pantope with a formal dinner. Everything is going fine until we discover that we can't rouse Wu. We carry him carefully to the autodoc and ask for a diagnosis. The autodoc says it is unsure, but Wu appears to be "suppressed," psychically. He is suffering from some psychic illness which has caused him to go into something like hibernation. It can suggest no cause and no treatment, though it can sustain him in this condition indefinitely. Daewen recalls that heavily psychic races like Deryni (Wu is currently a Zenner/Deryni blend) were subject to psychic diseases. It isn't a field she knows well. She thinks specialists of her era could help, but doesn't think her era a safe one to visit with this pantope on this mission. (She hails from the 412th through 418th centuries, from the planet Helene, the oldest remaining human-inhabited world left un-terraformed.) All our amateur suggestions are either useless or dangerous. With diminished appetite, we go to dinner.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.