Week 19, Attacked by Rashid
We left the group with a political brou-ha-ha that they really don't understand. After having come back from a mission in the Jack's own past, the Jack Patrol Crosstime Office is being suspiciously blackballed in Allied Epochs.
Grissom decides that he'd just as soon leave the Jack and try to find something useful to do. He is pretty much known now as both a KaiSenese liaison and AE agent, and he's going to have to make the best of it. He decides to go back to Helene, and offers to give a few of us a lift. He has some of the paperwork that he'd promised us, but with our having acquired even more people who don't have identities, he's going to have to get back to us in a while. Tom, Vrax, and Joe go with him to Helene, to work on some of our business there.
In the meantime, Cantrel and Gene get touch with the orbital factories that we helped hide, and we start to work out deals with them. Chris cautions them that whatever deals are made with the robots there -- JACT47 being someone whom we legally recognized as a citizen -- needs to be made on behalf of the Jack government. One of the things Allied Epochs is supposed to police is unfair cross-time business practices, and it wouldn't be good to do anything that is the least bit improprietous with all the other nonsense going on.
They contact the factories, and learn that JACT47 and its friend JACT56 are now calling themselves "Jock Tau" and "Jacques Tau" respectively. Sigh, they may be intelligent, but they're not terribly imaginative.
Jock, knowing that humans like face-to-face contact, sends the ship we had them refurbish for the two of them, which alarms the controllers on the Jack, as it's unregistered, came in without clearance, and so on. Chris smoothes over the legal problems as Gene and Cantrel go out to the factories. Chris also finds out that with the interesting legal situation surrounding property in the Jack, the factories are essentially the property of the Tau Twins.
Gene and Cantrel work out the negotiations with them, and even bring Jock back to the Jack for a tour. We recommend that he will likely want to contact the Order of Artificial Intelligence and see what needs to be done to get Jacques recognized.
Jock is also quite willing (maybe even enthusiastically willing) to sell the JAZZ security robots. We decide that there's not much harm in our buying them ourselves, and decide to take them off Jock's hands. We can find something to do with them.
After a bit of other planning, we decide that it would probably also be reasonable for us to start setting up the Crosstime offices on Nereus, the mostly water-covered planet on the Jack's system, and perhaps some of our own (Transworld) property. The JAZZ robots -- which would be distinctly out of place on the Jack, as they're the robotic equivalent of pit bulls -- would actually be useful there.
Also, the deal we end up working out with Jock for the ship we had refurbished, ends up with its being Crosstime (and the Jack Patrol's) property, with the Jack government owing Jock a small amount of money. Jock also seems willing to consider trade deals as payments, but we leave this for the lawyers. Cantrel, ever practical, also cons Jock into signing up into the Jack Patrol / Crosstime reserves. This can get him some lucrative government contracts. It can also get him commandeered, but Cantrel doesn't mention that.
Cantrel decides to check up on some of the investments that he's had for some time. It turns out that the couple flats he owned have now been expanded by his lawyers into nearly half a city block, and his other moneys have grown considerably, too.
We check up on them, and find one flat that is above a pizza joint (not the same pizza joint that was there a decade ago, that one was across the street and went broke a few years ago) is absolutely perfect for our Transworld offices. Not only that, it's vacant. We decide to take it over, while planning our helping re-colonizing Nereus.
Perhaps a quick explanation is in order, since as you faithful readers know by now, Cantrel has a very low tolerance for boring stuff like that, and our Banuesch friend, Hghzradifch (also known as "Bambi"), has offered us a *very nice ship's power plant for our help. The plan is still in the wings, but Chris suggested that we not go and pursue it quite yet because the next few weeks might not be good ones to leave the Jack. The Allied Epochs mess is still brewing, and we really should see some sort of resolution of that before traipsing off to another continuum. Also, for once Cantrel hasn't been snide about people who want to spend their time training, for reasons we will get to in a few paragraphs.
Cantrel takes the time to look up some old contacts of his. In particular, a fellow named Steven Eames, who agrees to work for Crosstime in return for a medical plan (he's starting to get up there in age, and hasn't been able to afford rejuvenation).
Cantrel also gets back in touch with his lawyer, Isiah Treadwell, who has been taking care of Cantrel's properties. Isiah agrees to be Crosstime's lawyer, and agrees to meet with Chris, who explains to him some of the interesting questions surrounding intertemporal law. We consult with him for someone to be a business agent for Transworld, and he recommends his brother-in-law, Christian Smithfield.
This brings us up to Friday, late afternoon. Most of the group has been spending its time training -- some people decide they're not as good with weapons skills as they'd like to be, and it has also dawned on people that the three best doctors in Transworld are Lorelei, Chris, and Tom. Ordinarily, this is nothing to really even notice, but Tom has wanted to go on a long-term sabbatical (and is currently on some Helene or other), Lorelei is wanting a dose of retirement until her son gets older, and Chris has been muttering about wanting a desk position and has been doing an annoyingly good job with the business and legal ends of our enterprises. This leaves no one who knows any sort of psychic healing in the active group.
Chris has pointed out that actually, he's more than willing to function as the group's psychical trainer, and resident wizard. He is quite happy to teach his healing skills to anyone who wants to learn. This is the other reason the group has decided to poke around in the Jack's environs. The group has gone soft and doesn't want to go off into dangerous situations without effete things like magical healing.
Part of the group who have been out to the shooting range, Gerard, Marsina, and Glorian, are downstairs eating pizza. A number of other people are upstairs. Jeremy, who is not used to a world relatively calm about psi, has been looking at the sort of complex spells that Alag, Chris, and Daewen have been developing over the years. Alag is showing him the original Map of Here that Daewen built. Ashleigh, for whom all this magic stuff is new, is also attentive.
"What are the push-pins for?" asks Jeremy.
Push-pins? Push-pins? Oh, the push-pins. Daewen built them in London so that we could track space-time disturbances like pantope doors being opened. They're color coded with the age of the events with red being the most recent and -- uh oh.
Chris brings up the net, excluding the three new people for the moment. Alag and Jeremy examine the map more closely. Two of them are easily identifiable as Waverly's quick jaunt a week ago. The others though, are frightening. There have been several over the past week, and three within a few miles of us within the last 24 hours. Alag fiddles with the controls, and manages to get precise times -- early this morning.
Quick discussion among the group brings them on alert. Cantrel is against bringing the new trio on the net, and Chris argues weakly against it, especially when Cantrel agrees that they shouldn't be kept in the dark, merely kept off the net for the time being.
Chris sighs and heads downstairs to inform the new people that there's something up, and quite possibly there will be trouble. After a few more moments discussion of precisely how little there really is to do until the trouble, if any, arrives, and Chris catches a motion out of his eye and ducks quickly. A blaster bolt flies through the space his head was just in and scorches the wall. Patrons scream.
Chris tucks and rolls across the pizza parlor, dodging another bolt, and landing behind a table, which makes a reasonable shield against a third bolt.
The people upstairs are alerted to this, and Chris surveys his assailant for a second. He contemplates TK-ing the pistol out of the fellows hand, and mutters, "No. If I were trying to kill us, I'd be in psilence." He leaps from his cover, attacks the fellow with karate, breaking the fellow's arm and sending the gun flying. Patrons scream more. A few tables start to fall over as they dive for cover.
Gerard turns over the other table, spilling pizza on Glorian. Various members of the group mentally observe that there's likely to be more, given what we know from the Map of Here. As if on cue, two more men with blasters appear in the front of the shop. One takes another shot at Chris, who again anticipates the shot and dodges. The shot hits the poor first assailant. The second gunman shoots again, this time hitting Chris, who falls, catching himself.
Gerard, who has just gotten back from shotgun practice, levels a shot at the second gunman, and bulls-eyes him; he collapses. From upstairs, Cantrel yells, "Don't kill them, I want prisoners!" Marsina dives for cover and draws her pistol. Glorian also dives for cover, going invisible, and levitating to a safer spot. The third gunman shoots at Gerard twice, missing him, but pretty much destroying the table he's behind.
>From upstairs, Jake bolts for the stairs, Alag grabs his macro-metal katana and decides that the window is his best bet. He goes through it, sword leading, and lands with a perfect view of the situation. Cantrel tells him to only disarm the fellow, and Alag grins fiendishly, but since he's invisible, we only get to feel it on the empathic circuits of the net. Alag aims for the last gunman's arm, so as to dis-arm him. This fellow though, though being an anticipator or just from hearing the broken glass and stuff behind him wheels, and interposes with the only thing in his hand -- his blaster.
There is a very bright flash of light. It blinds nigh everyone in the parlor, as they were looking at the gunman for one reason or another. Chris does not like being blind and in the open, so he turns on his second sight, goes invisible (leaving an image of himself behind), and floats up to the ceiling, flatting himself against it. Cantrel decides to go out the window, and yells at the last man, "Shoot up my renters, will you?" and floors the last one with a stun rifle.
Jake arrives, rather upset that he's missed all the fun. Lorelei arrives downstairs on his heels.
"Someone ought to call the authorities!" says Cantrel.
"We are the authorities." Lorelei growls.
Cantrel grins and says, "Oh, yeah. Isn't that nice for a change?"
Chris mutters that we should still call the Jack Patrol, as that was undoubtedly a hit squad from who knows where, and stay alert while we're at it. Cantrel flips open a radio and finds that all the phone lines to Jack Patrol HQ are tied up.
That's funny. Real funny. Cantrel mutters that this might be a set-up or a diversion. We don't relax, even when our eyes finally clear. We contemplate mindscanning these people, probing for mastoid processes etc., but Chris recommends not doing so. We don't know who these people are, and Rashid's people often fought back. Lorelei checks them mundanely, and finds that one of them is wearing contact lenses over cat-like eyes. Yeah, Rashid's fellows.
Cantrel tries Jack Patrol HQ again. Someone answers, asking if it's an emergency. Cantrel says no and hangs up. Chris heads upstairs, saying that he's going to go to HQ, as there's apt to be trouble there, with Gerard following. Lorelei says she's going to come along as backup. Chris puts the remaining people on the net. As Chris dresses for bear -- armor and arms flying onto him telekinetically as he also dresses mundanely -- Gerard asks if he can come along. Chris recommends that actually he armor himself up and stay here with the others, and recommends that other people like Jeremy and Ashleigh, also put on the armor that they carefully procured from the Dance for them. Gerard argues a bit, but Chris points out that he and Lorelei are going to be using flight belts at top speed, flying invisibly, and up against who-knows-what. Gerard sees the wisdom of Chris's comments -- he and Lorelei really are daft -- and decides to hold down the fort.
Alag also decides to go aloft, and heads out first. Lorelei and Chris are just behind him. They notice several craft leave the local Jack Patrol HQ for the center of the Jack. Cantrel calls Jack Patrol HQ again. They again ask if it's an emergency. This time, he tells them that it's Cantrel. They snort that if he's smart, he'll either be at HQ or in hiding -- there's a lot of confusion, but it looks like a shooting war in West Pod. Of course. Rashid's people. Great. Cantrel shepherds most of the other people to a friend's place down the street, explaining that they'll all be safest together, most likely, and then he takes to the air and the trouble in West Pod.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.