Week 18, Catch 22 Time Technology
We left our heroes back on the pantope with the Captain, having just rescued Alag. We then tried to kill Prince Rashid, who appeared to be timelocked against it and fled by teleportation.
We ask the Captain if we could park our borrowed timeship in one of his shuttle bays. Sure. We double back and use the ten minutes Rashid was floating unconscious in space (and therefore pretty definitely not waiting for us back at the Jack) in which to open a door onto the ship so Gene can get in, then open the bay door so Gene can steer the ship into the pantope.
Meanwhile, Cantrel has come up with another interesting application of time travel. He asks the Captain if he (the Captain) has EVER left the pantope empty for long periods of time -- time measured aboard the pantope. You see, Cantrel would like to time-share the time-machine, and, if we can arrange to have already borrowed it, the Captain can be sure that he will/did get it back in good condition.
Unfortunately, the Captain can't think of any such idle time. How about times that the Captain was, say, unconscious and recovering in the autodoc? That's more likely, but the Captain can't recall, and we might NOT want him to check with the Serving System. It's a cute idea, and he assures Cantrel he will work on it.
(As a parting shot, Gene suggests using the In-House Timegate to get to an unused part of the pantope's past, but the Captain shudders delicately and says he's turned it off again and prefers NOT to turn it on. It is too rich a source of confusion, and a possible opening for enemies.)
While we're here at the Jack, we decide to scan that smallish spaceship we thought might be Rashid's. From the outside, it looks like a contemporary 24th-century interplanetary trader of no great size. We open a window inside and find that it has been thoroughly stripped of equipment. There is essentially NO engineering section. Air analysis indicates this happened long ago.
A fast rewind on the window shows that it was one of the three last ships at the Jack, after contact was lost with the rest of Terran-occupied space. They cannibalized it to fit out the other two ships, which set out to regain contact and were never heard of again.
So what we have here is a hulk. Well, WE could use a hulk back in the CoDominion, to "discover" and salvage for our infant shipping line. The Captain says he can drop it through a gate to some pre-selected point in CoDominion space. (It would have to be in space; depositing it, say, in a warehouse would be too tricky and inexplicable.)
Meanwhile, Cantrel looks up Wardrobe and orders up a dozen copies of that nifty suit of Waverly's -- totally dead black, even in the near infrared, and psi-insulated too.
Some time passes while Alag, Jake, and some others heal. We drop off Genvieve, back in Joliet. We also learn the stories of the Captain's three new passengers, the ones he wants to pass on to us.
One is an elf-woman of Alag's own world. In fact, she is Alag's own cousin, named Glorian. One way and another, probably involving her family connections, she learned that her world was an artifact. She therefore set herself the quest of finding the Real World. Eventually, she heard of a mysterious cave where people came and went inexplicably. (Probably the cave where we found Chris.) After enough trips there, she found a new passageway and then found no way back.
She wandered for some time in a maze of long twisty corridors and eventually encountered someone else -- Gerard and Marsina.
Gerard comes from someplace that, from the outside, looks rather like one of the pods of the Jack. But Gerard says it is made from the fabric of spacetime itself, not astroidal metal and stone, and is infinitely long on the inside. Even the Captain thinks this is a pretty neat trick. Gerard is a professional traveler and was born about a million kilometers back along "the Way."
Marsina Cho is a human woman of oriental race. Glorian told Marsina of her Quest for the Real World and Marsina told Glorian that there were oodles of real worlds to pick from. Marsina is from New Crete in the 35th century of our own timeline, and knew more of what she was getting into than did Glorian.
The three eventually find their way out of the tunnels, into a castle. This castle appears to be built on pantope-like principles: each door and window opened on a different and inconsistent view, and the architecture is very flexible. Parts of the castle seem to be under siege. In a tight spot, Marsina suddenly pulls a gizmo out of her backpack and pushes a button. The gizmo is, in fact, a panic button such as the Captain gave to the Transworld crew. Marsina got this one from Henderson; in fact, it was she who once shot the Naza with a stasis gun on Henderson's behalf, and she who eventually rescued a stunned, drunk, and naked Henderson (victim of Cantrel's suspicions) from a rooftop on Helene.
Nonetheless, it was a slightly puzzled Captain, not Henderson, who answered her distress beacon. The three piled into the pantope, and here they are. The Captain has no idea where Gerard is from, and anyway Gerard doesn't want to go back any time soon. There's no trouble getting Marsina home, but she's even less anxious to go back than he, being a professional anthropologist and have the field trip of her life. Glorian doesn't ever want to go home. Would we be willing to take them on?
Yes, in return for a favor. We want an agreed-upon rendezvous point with the Captain. He thinks that's fine, since he might want to get back in touch with US, too. (You never know when you might want some suckers to save the universe.) We pick a deserted spot in the Helene wilderness, ten years from "now" (that is, on a day in 2504 here in the mainline, and one in 2760 on the CoDominion line). We agree that each party will show up there in ten personal years, or in case of dire emergency, whichever comes first. (There's a very good chance it will be when we both have dire emergencies, but never mind.)
Now we are all healed up and ready to go. We decide to have the Captain drop us off in 2415 with our borrowed timeship; we will fly it home in the regular way, and thus have only our three new passengers to explain. We also decide we'd rather have the hulk on THIS line, so we have the Captain drop it a few thousand miles from the Jack.
Before departing, the Captain hands out some more neat junk, like colloidal armor and pan-dimensional navigation watches. Before we part company with Waverly, Cantrel asks him if he could get him (Cantrel) a time-travel belt like the one he (Waverly) wears. Waverly says he will try.
Waverly and the Captain vanish in their assorted modes, leaving us to potter over to the factory pods run by JACT47 and his friend, JACT56. We tell them of the hulk and suggest that it might be useful to fit it out with a gravity drive, a power system, and other amenities, for later re-sale -- to us. They agree and we head back to 2494.
We arrive two days after we left, to leave plenty of space for the returns Waverly made by belt, while he was getting help for us as we fled the Prince. We dock at Westpod and head for Jack Patrol HQ, under the forest, in what started as Dericco's stronghold.
As we head down the spiral road, we are met by an air-car, driven by ... Genvieve. Assuming she just aged to the current date, she ought to be around 90 in the shade, but she looks about 50. "Tom!" she exclaims, "It's been years!" "So it has," he agrees, his blood turning to ice-water. (Aren't they supposed to outgrow these infatuations in time ... surely THIS much time?)
Lorelei asks what happened to Pierre and learns that he died 20 years after we left, in another set of wars, along with Genvieve's first husband. It turns out that she is now the mayor of Joliet, hence a member of the Jack Council, and hence has known about the Jack Patrol Crosstime Office ever since its inception a few weeks ago. She now understands why
What a lot of company...
The Commandant, Chang, just wants our report. We give him a verbal one, carefully omitting mention of the Captain and the Dance of Hours.
We pass on to Grissom, who looks troubled. It seems that there has been some "recent" political furor in Allied Epochs. (How does a time patrol judge anything to be recent or not? Part of their discipline involves keeping a conventional chronological order within AE operations -- a bureaucratic version of the pantope's private history disjoint from the histories of the universe.)
It seems that there was no resistance to getting membership for the Jack in AE, especially since it had the sponsorship of a major member like KaiSen. But all of a sudden there is a big fuss about new members (not all members, just NEW ones) having to provide their own temporal technology. Well, the Jack can surely muster a couple of used starships, and any faster-than-light vessel CAN act as a time-ship in a pinch. But no, simple relativistic time- travel isn't allowed -- which is completely irrational, except as a move to hamstring the Jack.
These rules doubly hamstring the Jack. Not only is the Crosstime office of the Patrol rendered unable to perform its duties, the Jack can't even send its representatives to the AE council meetings.
These new rules were rammed through in what Grissom feels sure was an illegal manner, but at the meta-moment, they are in effect, though hotly debated. The time-ship we borrowed from Grissom and left less than an hour ago is now in the hands of five Allied Epochs agents, two on Grissom's side, three on the other, all watching each other.
Grissom and KaiSen believe that, not only were the rules put through illegally, but that they were introduced by violating AE's co-relative present -- time-travel within the time-patrol, which is further illegal. Someone is obviously very ticked at us. Rashid? The worldbenders? Some enemy we have yet to make?
It also looks very much as if these enemies are trying to silence us. Grissom tells us to be sure and file our mission reports, but to give them only to the Jack Council and to KaiSen's non-Allied-Epochs liaison officers. These officers can then give the report to KaiSen, who can present it to AE. Chris decides he'd better go write that report.
The next folk we are to meet are Ashleigh and Jeremy. This is a little surprising, since we left both of them on the CoDominion line and, last we knew, Jeremy didn't even know we were anything more than a daring new salvage and trade company. Well, he learns fast.
Just before we are about to meet with them, though, Waverly pops out of the air to tell us we are in trouble. Thank you, we knew that. Waverly is in trouble too. He tells us AE has had "another one" of its political blowups. He checked in wherever it is he goes to check in, and tried to give his report and pick up a time-belt for Cantrel. The people he dealt with told him he was ordered NOT to submit his report and that he was violating the new rules by trying to get the Jack people anachronistic time-technology. He ran away from them.
He was then contacted by his immediate superiors, who told him to go AWOL (!), and that if they caught him, they would have to shoot him (though they would not try very hard to catch him). So Waverly has filed no report and is on the run. Our report is the only one there is. Time flies and so must he. Pop. He vanishes.
We quiver our way to Cantrel's office, where reception tells us that Ashleigh and Jeremy are waiting along with a Mr. or Ms. Hiz-radish or something. Enter the two folk from other timelines and Hghzradifch the Banuesch. Jeremy continues the theme of anxiety with his opening question: "How secure is this room?"
Jeremy's main point is that we do not want to leave Ashleigh unguarded. Back in the CoDominion, he was working on our ship, got to talking shop with Ashleigh, and so learned of Ashleigh's time machine. Then he learned of Ashleigh's unique slant on physics. (Ashleigh comes from a timeline where about half the scientists are mad.) "Parts of Ashleigh's theory is far beyond the current paradigm of psionic physics. Far." Given a little more time, Jeremy believes that he and Ashleigh can scale the time-machinery up to the size of a space ship and make it operate reliably outside Ashleigh's native continuum. But it WILL take time, Ashleigh is the ONLY person who completely understands the theory (Jeremy's brilliant, but coming at it from a completely different angle), and Jeremy cannot protect Ashleigh.
And of course it occurs to us that, if Ashleigh can make us a time-ship, we'll have our home-grown time-technology and the Allied Epochs machinations will come to nothing. This makes Ashleigh a prime target for whoever is doing the machinating.
At this point, Hghzradifch gets a call from KaiSen itself. (Hghzradifch is a KaiSenese liaison.) He tells us that he is ordered to stay with us at all times unless another liaison is there or unless we forbid him. This is protection that KaiSen is offering the Jack and Crosstime. (Hghzradifch is getting triple pay for hazardous duty.) We have Hghzradifch, and other liaisons are accompanying the Jack Council and the Jack Patrol Commandant. This is a diplomatic shield, since any attack on these parties will be an attack on KaiSen's agents. Furthermore, KaiSen is hurrying some units of itself to the Jack, to take over for the liaisons. After that, any attack on the Jack will BE an attack on KaiSen, which few folk in known spacetime would want to risk.
"We accept," Cantrel tells Hghzradifch.
Hghzradifch tells us that the other two liaisons, Vrax and Joe, who were to accompany Crosstime as observers and assistants, are also now on the Jack, available as diplomatic shields.
We decide that the safest thing to do, after KaiSen gets here, is to return to Helene and the CoDominion timeline, out of Allied Epochs jurisdiction. There, we will divide into two groups -- one at home on Helene, building up the business and working on the other spaceships, the other off into space with the ship built around the Captain's shuttle, to help Hghzradifch save the Hierowesch of the CoDominion line and to get Ashleigh and Jeremy as lost as possible.
The home group will consist of Lorelei, Chris, Tom, Sophie, Victoria, Gene, the aliens Vrax and Joe, and the babies Tyrell and Nicholas. The ship group will consist of Hghzradifch (whose mission this is), Cantrel, Jake, Ashleigh, Jeremy, Marsina, Gerard, and Glorian -- a maiden voyage for the new ship and the new crewmembers.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.