Week 16, Escaping the Prince
When we left our heroes last time, they were beating a hasty retreat through the utilities tunnels under Woodlark, pausing only long enough for Chris and Lorelei to give Cantrel and Waverly some hasty magical healing.
Just before we start running in earnest, Alag tosses some grenades out of the manhole, into the garden. Explosion, followed by fragments. We start running.
Two blocks later, Lorelei narrowly foils an ambush by two men in black, armed with concussion rifles. She sleeps one. Jake shoots the other, who blocks the shot with his own gun. Chris fells him, though. We fly on, through the psionic shield surrounding the Prince's palace, then dodging left. We start flying on our gravity belts. Alag probes about clairvoyantly for a door into some building's basement. He plans to knock it in, to lay a false trail while we go on in the tunnels a bit further.
Instead, he finds another ambush -- four men in battle armor lying in wait behind the next corner. A bit later, Chris Anticipates another four behind the other corner. A short but ferocious fire-fight ensues. We grab some of their ammo and put patches on our invisibility. Cantrel picks up a helmet and listens to the comm, and Waverly pulls the comm out of another. We hear them telling their people to go to personal channels. Cantrel tries calling in and passing as a beleaguered soldier asking for "ten men," but it may do more harm than good.
As we fly on, we recall that these tunnels are riddled with tracking sensors. Doubtless this is how the ambushers have found us. Alag finds us a basement door and picks the lock while Tom hastily produces some ectoplasts -- eight floating, man-sized potatoes of green ectoplasm, meant as decoys for the tracking sensors. He puts Cantrel's helmet on one and speeds them all down the corridor.
We slip into the basement and find ourselves in a small clothing store. We sneak to the roof door, find it unlocked, and steal forth invisibly. It's night outside. We see three trios of air-cars converging on an old location of ours a block away. One trio flies past and stops ahead of us. Not waiting to see if they know our present location, we take to the air ourselves, flying low to avoid radar. Below, we see a ground-truck disgorging men.
We gain five more blocks, then veer away from a patrolling air-car. As we near the city limit, we see the three high-speed jet-cars hover over the dome of the Prince's palace. We flit off the street, then over the city limit, hoping not to trip any sensors, then head for the woods.
Four air-cars head in our direction. We veer. A few minutes later, they veer. We veer again, tossing away Waverly's salvaged radio on the off chance they are tracking it. They continue tracking us, never very closely. Chris hastily checks us for clairvoyance tracers; none.
Waverly, you may recall, is wearing his time-belt. Retrieving it is half of what this hullabaloo is about. Cantrel asks him to flit forward to the "present" and come back with reinforcements. Waverly obediently vanishes. We fly on for half a minute, but nothing happens. Cantrel and Alag peel off and deliberately do some flashy psi, mostly glamour by Alag, trying to draw off the trackers. That works.
Just then, there is a loud aerial explosion about a mile away. Moments later, Waverly is knocking for admission to our telepathy net. He HAD come back with a time-vehicle, appearing outside the pod. He re-entered and promptly got blown out of the air, barely escaping himself. He doesn't think the folks back home want to invest any more materiel in our rescue. Thanks, folks.
Alag and Cantrel are preparing to send illusionary decoys ahead and sneak back to the rest of us, when the jet-cars come roaring in. Alag and Cantrel fly off in opposite directions. The jet-cars drop a pattern of little bombs. Alag is hit, but flies on.
Troops on gravity belts begin raining out of the jet-cars. They don't appear to see our heroes. Then the jet-cars home in on Alag somehow, and someone grabs him with TK. Alag hits his psilencer and the TK stops. Instantly, floodlights come on under the jet-cars, looking for the man who MUST have just now become visible. But, ever since his player rolled a critical hit with Second Order Glamour, Alag is invisible by nature, psilence or no psilence.
Cantrel tosses some grenades to distract the pursuers. Alag evades all but two troopers on flying belts. A jet-car fires a small blaster cannon at venture. It doesn't hit Alag directly, but it comes close and he is knocked out. He lands in a tree. The jet-cars and troopers move in to search.
Since he is in psilence, Alag is off the telepathy net AND invisible, and we have no idea what has become of him. We suggest various search methods. When Tom proposes some kind of optical search in the ultra-violet, Waverly seizes a multicorder and vanishes. Some of us note a small object falling through the air over Alag's approximate position. It's Waverly, who has teleported to mid-air, then taken his readings while falling rather than draw attention to himself with psychic levitation or a gravity belt.
He flits back and reports he was able to spot Alag on very low-frequency infrared. The knowledge is a little reassuring but doesn't do us much good. Waverly can't estimate coordinates well enough to pop into a tree and rescue Alag, and anyway, the belt doesn't carry much extra cargo.
Then something truly remarkable happens. Cantrel gets a rather subtle idea about time-travel. (It's very nearly the first time he's ever shown interest in temporal dynamics.) He suggests he borrow the time-belt and flit ahead to the first time he ever had any extended chat with the Captain in the pantope. (Surely you remember the pantope.) He had asked the Captain for an hour or so to get ready, and then gone away. That gives the present Cantrel an opening in time to go ask the Captain to come here and help us.
We refine the idea somewhat. Cantrel will simply hand the Captain, or Number One, a letter marked, "Do not open until you drop us off on the Helenes." Inside is a written description of our situation, and a set of omniport coordinates that Chris reads off the ultra-tech wristwatch he still has.
Waverly gives the belt to Cantrel, who vanishes. Moments later, Tom spots something flit by overhead. It was about the right size for the pantope at a miniature scale.
Elsewhile, Cantrel has dropped off the letter to a bemused Captain (who should be happy, since this future Cantrel's continued interest, and the address, are good omens for his own survival). Cantrel then flits further ahead to the "present" -- the 2480s -- and takes out a week for rest, relaxation, and healing. He then picks up one of our souvenirs from the pantope saga, a heavy-duty cutting beam, and flits back to us.
Around and about then, the rest of the party was hastening through the dark on the road to Joliet. Suddenly, a door, a familiar kind of door, opens in the air, and we see the bridge of the Dance of Hours. We jump on joyfully, except for Genvieve (remember Genvieve?), who is bewildered. Moments later, we acquire Cantrel and a mightily impressed Waverly.
The Captain is at the helm and complains of the quality of the coordinates we gave him. Just as he arrived, he saw Alag (by infrared or something, he's still invisible) being dragged aboard one of the jet-cars, into the presence of the Prince. The elf looked in mighty bad shape. He closes the door, so at least no more events are transpiring, and Lorelei simplifies things somewhat by putting Genvieve to sleep.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.