Week 6, The Nazas escape
We left our heroes recovering from a telepathic kamikaze defense by a suicidal psychic who died when Chris tried to read his mind, and who tried to take Chris and the rest of us with him. Bdob Walker, our semi-captor/semi-ally Naza, has just blow away the other three.
They were all three odd-looking, even partly animal. Gene tells us that their appearance went beyond mere cosmetic mutation but was certainly producible by the genetic technology of the "present" (2494). Chris, from the 31st century, remarks that sort of mutation is less popular in his era and MORE popular around the time of the Psi War, which is a couple of decades ago, here in 2415. Chris says our late foemen were either the minions of a psi-lord or from the future.
Gene asks how our powers compare with those of a psi-lord. Chris opines that we'd at least make him flinch.
This conversation has happened telepathically. Bdob has heard none of it and wants to start running NOW. We agree. We head for the woods with the Walkers and the limping air-car. (Tom still hopes to make some use of it.)
By the time we enter the woods, we can see six air-cars, in two trios, converging on Bdob's ruined farm house. We hide. But Nazas don't hide readily. Chris supplements with some Glamour to quiet their treads without telling the Nazas.
The air-cars scatter. Two head back toward the city, two hover over the farm house, and ... two head toward us. After an anxious moment, we see they are not heading DIRECTLY toward us. They peel off, circle, then hover while a man steps off each car and drifts slowly down to the ground. (TK? Grav-belts?)
Tom, hiding near the air-car, hastily looks around for anything that might transmit radio, finds a candidate, and pulls it out. Cantrel spots another pair of scouts descending. Tom then conjures some imaginary "sound dampers" alleged to work by interference, and passes them out to the Nazas. (They're really Glamour foci.) In a similar vein, Lorelei wraps the baby with a ribbon that makes it weigh less; however, she doesn't even bother with pseudo- technical explanation.
The party sneaks off as quietly as they may, except for Cantrel who stays in hiding near the air-car. We've left it behind and Cantrel has rigged up some of the grenades we still have from the Dance of the Hours. We figure that an explosion, once we are well away, will act as a good distraction and disrupt any psychic trace on the car.
Cantrel retreats from the car, covering his path with a blaster, and flying backwards, loudly crunching bracken. After a bit, he turns around and flies quietly, headed off athwart our path.
Two scouts come pounding up and examine the abused air-car. One goes back. About then, BOOM, the air-car goes up and the remaining scout goes flying WITHOUT and grav-belt or TK. By now, Cantrel is well on his way to circumnavigating the pod.
The rest of us head in and up toward the air curtain to the Hub. We climb up forested hills and eventually come to the Spiral Road. Overhead hover the three armed air-cars; one will probably spot us if we cross the road.
Fortunately, it's Monday. This is fortunate because Mondays are always cloudy in the Jack's artificial weather cycle. Up here in the hills, that means it's foggy. We arrange for some fog to drift across the road, with us in it. We choose a stretch of road midway between two air-cars.
Telepathically, we have been worrying about how to hoist the Nazas through the air curtain. We need to match velocities with the Hub, too. Power is not the problem -- we have enough TK among us. It's saving the appearances. For instance, Lorelei proposes to fly the baby Naza using a Mary-Poppins-style umbrella Chris made for her long ago. Tom looks at it critically and gives it a more Tom-Swift appearance, with rivets and control buttons and things. We decide to explain as little as possible.
While we hike higher, Cantrel encounters some unfortunate guard on patrol in the woods. We hear a "Damn!" over the telepathy net and soon gather that Cantrel was obliged to shoot him. At least he now has lots more grenade bullets.
Our cover is getting thin. We keep an anxious eye on the air-cars. Cantrel proposes that whoever set them up is not local, and thinks in terms of flat geography. The far air-car is only looking DOWN at its stretch of ground, not UP at the opposite stretch.
By now, Mrs. Walker is getting tired, Lorelei has to bolster the baby's energies, and Bdob is looking skeptically at the unnaturally good fog cover. Tom abruptly announces, "We're gonna try to lift with some junk we've got." Whereon all the levitators start flying and hoisting Naza, while Chris does a bravura Glamour job that looks like surrounding fog to the Nazas and looks invisible to the air-cars.
Meanwhile, Cantrel has put a patterned TK on his blaster, to have it shoot at the air-cars to distract them with the fire. He himself says "tweet" and thus triggers a second-order Glamour Alag put on him, giving him the appearance of an eagle. In this shape, he flits up to keep an eye on the air-cars. He sees two guys float down to an earlier point on our trail. Their fall takes them past the invisibly rising party and Chris can almost "overhear" telepathy between them. We hastily throttle down our own telepathy links to mere Presence perception.
The scouts wander about, the ascend back to the air-cars. Their mode of flying strongly suggests grav-belts, not TK.
By now, we have reached the axis of the pod. We start to accelerate gently toward the air curtain, meanwhile spinning the party slowly to match rotation with the Hub. (Actually, the Hub doesn't rotate; we're LOSING the rotation of the pod.) We Glamour our way through the air curtain, attracting the suspicion of one air-car, but no more. Alag (invisible) and Cantrel (disguised as an eagle) slip through, the former leaving an image of the later to fly away.
We are now in zero gravity and there is no real way to disguise from the Walkers that they are invisible. We don't try, and don't try to explain. Where would they like to go. Uh... Portpod. We fly them there with no further incident except for the much-tried baby throwing up on the much-tried Lorelei. Since it's very poor space etiquette to leave such debris around, Tom conjures a bag and Alag Dices it all in.
As we part company with the Walkers at the Portpod air curtain, Chris once more asks what the baby's name is. The mother recites something long that, near the end, sounds a bit like "Pfusand."
"Pfusand?" asks Chris. "Is that a common name?"
"It is part of a name. About 8% of female Nazas have it as an element in their names. And of course it is up to her what name to choose for daily use when she reaches her age." So we are still only suspicious. Oh well.
Chris and Lorelei give them battered Nazas a final, quietly arcane medical and we send them on their way. Now we have to decide whether or not to go back to Westpod ourselves. Except for mission objectives, our only incentive is that Cantrel left a perfectly good blaster there.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.