Week 3, Jumping Back
We left our heroes in the year 2415, in the Jack, thirty years after its isolation began. They were at the top of the outer Northpod spiral road. Chris and Alag both go aloft on flying belts and render themselves invisible and Cloaked. They party sets off down the road, toward the city of Lurvey.
Around the quarter-G point, we see a passing flight of Ragaij -- winged aliens that share the Jack with humans and other intelligent species. We ignore each other.
Around the half-G point, we come to trees, which quickly thicken to forest. In the leaves, we spot the occasional small, blue face. Teldai, an arboreal species of intelligent alien. We ignore each other here, too.
At the .9-G point, we are tramping down a wide, badly overgrown road, with Lurvey visible ahead. Cantrel takes out his binoculars and examines the place. (He got those binoculars here on the Jack, some 70 years from now. They have been through spacetime and hyperspace with him, and it is a little odd to reflect that the self-same binoculars are already here on the Jack.) The streets of Lurvey are not very busy, but a disproportionate number of the people are semi-uniformed folk with large weapons, patrolling.
We decide not to enter Lurvey and instead strike off through the forest. Chris flits aloft and notes a thinly-spread band of Teldai tracking us. They taper off and leave us after ten minutes or so.
Later, Alag sees and Jake hears something big tracking us. Alag brings up the net and shows everyone telepathically; Tom and Cantrel identify the thing as a dire-cat, a heavily-build and heavily-armored tigerish thing. As we get closer and closer to open ground, the dire-cat looks more and more like it's going to charge. Finally, just before it does, Chris and Alag TK it into the air and leave it, startled and snarling, suspended for ten minutes. By the time the TK wears off, we are all far out into the open farmlands.
We note two kinds of houses, ancient and modern. The modern ones look ancient, being wooden frame structures; the ancient ones look modern, being sculpted into the ground, with a few gleaming windows showing, like a cross between the Jetsons and the Shire. The farmers, we happily note, do not carry arms.
We head for Lodgetown. This is on the opposite side of the pod from Spantower, a city featuring a skyscraper that goes clear across the pod, having its second foundation in Lodgetown. We find the borders un-guarded, though there are a couple of heavily armed watchmen. We do not attract undue attention.
We order lunch and rooms at a tavern and try to eavesdrop on conversation at the surrounding tables. All we hear is shoptalk and something about "west."
In our rooms, we find media desks. (The landlord was very proud of their good condition.) We dial up today's on-line newspaper; Tom types while Alag watches with his cyberclair, hoping to learn the local protocols.
The problem with newspapers is they assume you already know the background of current events. We learn that Westpod has a new regime, possibly expansionist. Lurvey also seems to be recently under new management, and is worried about Westpod. Woodlark now seems to be the capital of Westpod. No personalities are mentioned. Lodgetown and Spantower still share a common democratic government. Southpod has some kind of troubles.
We try to chat about these things but are bothered by the presence of possible bugs. We didn't find any when we looked, and it doesn't seem likely, but still... Gene suggests we adopt a simply code for our hot topics and refer to Waverly as "Horace" (his first name), Jason Derrico as "Homer," and the androids as "items."
We decide we can look through the last week's newspapers without being too conspicuous on the net. From this, we learn there was minor warfare in Westpod within the month. Chris gets even more daring and calls up the library access to Spantower, looking for older history. Alas, people haven't been careful about recording recent history. We do learn that Southpod turned feudal within the last ten years and seems to be slowly exporting this social system. Westpod is now a principality.
Lorelei, Tom, and Gene decide to go shopping, while Cantrel chats at the bar. Cantrel learns the Westpod prince does indeed have his seat at Woodlark, on the outer end. He's usually just called "The Prince," but part of his name is "Sing."
Sing is a religious leader as well as a political one, leading a cult with a lot of superstition to it -- according to this fellow Cantrel met at the bar. He's made Westpod a dangerous place, where there is either anarchy or an iron fist. His court has many strange folk in it, and the rumors include bosh about fantasy beings. Cantrel, whose companions include three elves and a Deryni, nods wisely.
Meanwhile, Tom has been attracted to a little gun shop where he hopes to buy some more ammo for his faithful six-shooter (which has traveled as far as Cantrel's binoculars). He is startled to find how many lasers and blasters are still for sale; in his time, they were quite rare. In fact, his gun is rather a survivalist nut-case model, by local standards. He quietly gives up on getting ammo for it and we substitute 9mm bullets, laser charge packs, and a charger.
Next day, we head out for Westpod. Before leaving town we ask a phone booth for the number and address of Derrico, Jason, just to see. Ta-da! We get an address in North Captown, which we will be going through on our way to the Hub. Well, we can't pass that up.
On the road to North Captown, we pass a window-lake. This is a giant port hole on outer space, sculpted to look like a pond. Jake has never seen one this close before and is fascinated, but has some trouble keeping his balance as he watches the stars slide by.
North Captown, when we get there, seems a thriving, bustling place. Lots more aircars than we've seen yet. We arrive around noon. Directly after lunch, we look up Derrico's address and find it is a three-story building containing about six apartments. We soon have it staked out. While most of us watch from the roof of the building across the way, Alag appears quietly in the lobby and looks at the mailboxes. None are labeled "Derrico," but the labels look like they've been glued over several times. X-raying them, he finds a partial label reading "-rico."
On the strength of this, Chris goes out and buys a book from the bestseller rack at a store, wraps it up, addresses it to Derrico, and plays delivery-boy. Alag, meanwhile, has found the landing-pad on the roof and the electrical stuff in the roof door. Burglar alarms? Intercom?
Chris arrives, buzzes the buzzer, and is answered by a female voice. "Package for Jason Derrico." "Oh? How odd." "Oh?" echoes Chris. "Yes," says the lady, one Jeanine Sung Ho according to the current name tage. "He's been gone for two years and now within a week two people come asking for him." "Really! Exactly when was the other call?" Chris asks. "Let's see. Today's Sunday... Last Thursday. Someone said they got something for Jason Derrico by mistake." "Probably this same package," invents Chris. "I'll be sure to tell them back at the store so you won't be bothered again."
So we are reasonably hot on Waverly's trail.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.