Week 5, Making Contacts
We left our heroes the prisoners of a desperate Naza, anxious to escape Westpod with his wife and child. We have offered our help and he has unbent enough to let Lorelei patch up his family. As a result of that, we have sent Chris out hunting for something to provide a blood soup for Baby Naza.
Lorelei, meanwhile, goes on tending the wounded. The male Naza, Bdob, has lost an eyestalk in his last fight. She patches that up, leaving room for any fancy regenerations Chris might like to try. Tom, meanwhile, asks the mother Naza what the baby's name is; she gives an evasive answer. (Tom and the others are worried that the baby might be Pfusand; the age is about right.)
Out in the woods, Chris bags a deer and drags it back. On the way, he spots a neo-gorilla skulking in the brush. When he returns, he asks Bdob if the gorillas are friends. No, not enemies either. They are new hereabouts.
While Lorelei mixes up the blood soup, Chris goes back out for more meat. He finds the trail of a panther or some such thing. As he tracks it, he hears the big cat pounce and roar. By the time he arrives on the scene, the fight is over -- the cat has been throttled by a gorilla. The gorilla sits panting next to the dead cat, bleeding profusely, with a crossbow nearby, rummaging in a bag.
"Do you need help?" calls Chris cautiously. The gorilla whips out a knife and registers fear. Chris offers some bandages. The gorilla warily accepts, scanning the surroundings for any more humans.
While Chris helps bandage him up (throwing in a little Metabolic TK for subtle amounts of instant healing), the gorilla unbends further and tells Chris his name, Ronald Edward. "You new?" he asks suspiciously. "Haven't seen much new that was good." Chris answers with a fragment of our cover story and says he understands that the gorillas themselves are new to the area.
Ronald Edward responds with a short history of his people's woes: His race is rare, and not as popular as the "cuter" neo-beasts, e.g. dogs and cats. They came out here when the Jack was being built, and supplied the heavy labor. As is often the case with neo-beasts, they were all legal minors, until they were adopted en masse by "Mr. Richard." He set them up with a ranch here in Westpod, shortly before the Isolation, and treated them in a very egalitarian manner. He worked away most of his life at getting them adult citizenship. This took much time and provoked resentment. After Mr. Richard died, about ten years after the Isolation started, there was another fuss, because he left his ranch to the neo-gorillas and many folk did not think they had the right to own it. No sooner was this settled than the current Prince burned the ranch down and let loose the wild animals in the wilderness preserve nearby. The gorillas remember well that they built the Jack and resent this spoiling of it; they have set themselves the task of putting the wilderness preserve back in order. Ronald Edward resents having been forced (by the Prince, as he sees it) to kill this cougar.
Chris telepaths all this to his companions back at the Nazas' house. He asks Ronald Edward how gorillas get along with Nazas (preparatory to suggesting he come home with him). Ronald Edward grouses that Nazas are okay, but talking to them makes him feel dumb. Chris drops the idea of bringing him home and gives him a bottle with some antibiotic pills in them, putting a healing Metabolic Pattern on one pill and determining that it will be the first out of the bottle.
While the gorilla limps to a tree and carves a mark on it (a warning sign for other gorillas), Chris offers the alliance of his companions. Thanks, but no, and better watch out for other gorillas. Chris gives up and leaves, after thanking Ronald Edward for building the Jack.
He finds pig tracks and, following them, gorilla tracks as well. He also spots two gorillas and Ronald Edward in the middle distance. Pretending not to see them, he shoots the pig, then "discovers" the gorillas and presents them with the pig.
After Chris returns to the ranch, Cantrel, the invisible Alag, and Tom mount an expedition to the nearby town of Lafayette. They hope to salvage a gravity motor, with which to rig an air-sled big enough for at least the baby Naza. The plan is to move the Naza family up to the air curtain tonight, under cover of darkness (and Glamour), then fly them through to a more civilized pod, with help from the Ragaij if we can get it.
At the border of the town, they are ambushed by two guys in heavy armor, with guns to match. The guns are stunners, or something, and successfully stun Tom. Cantrel shoots his own stunner and downs both assailants. Then a third drops from a nearby hiding place, but is nailed by Alag.
Tom gets up and dusts himself off, then hears the far-off hum of a gravity- motor. He and Alag follow the sound to a small air-car, hovering a story up, near an empty building. Tom scuttles up a wall on a TK assisted climb, but just as he reaches the car, a black-clad person pops up and stuns Tom a second time. He then peels out with the air-car, but crashes into a building. He leaps out and hangs onto the wall 1.5 stories up, while the car falls to the pavement, fortunately nowhere near Tom. The man in black then drops just before Alag can stun him. (That looked a LOT like Anticipation.) Alag stuns him anyway after he is winded by the fall.
Meanwhile, at the first battlefield, Cantrel has started stripping the first three attackers. How interesting! One has horns like a bull's, and the other has tiger-striped skin and hair. The third is simply very large and dark-skinned. Could some of these folk have Jason Derrico designer genes? Their guns shoot concussion grenades, with 63 shots left, total.
The fourth man, the unarmored fellow in the air-car, is also unusual. He is very wiry and thin, and not only does he wear black Ninja-style clothing, his skin is covered with fine, dense black fur, mole-fashion. While Alag muses on this, Tom roots through the wreckage of the air-car and determines that its gravity motor is salvageable.
Tom says he can eventually get the thing airborne, but Cantrel loses patience and has Alag bind TK into the wreck so we can float it (and our four prisoners) back to the Naza ranch.
The threesome returns around sunoff, Cantrel feeling cranky over losing the air-car. Chris does a memory audit on the bull-horned fellow. Unfortunately, we were all on the net, so we all get to feel it as bull-horns dies and tries to take Chris with him. Chris screams, we all cry out, and Lorelei faints.
The Nazas are understandably alarmed, since they missed all the telepathic aspects of it. We give the other three unconscious prisoners to Bdob, who unhesitatingly blows them away with three neat shots of his portable cannon. We decide to leave as soon as possible; these guys will be missed, and they are NOT local talent. They are not from the Jack, but from far away, in space or time or both.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.