New York 1984
Week 2, Into the Sewers
We are setting out to investigate the exact whereabouts of the mysteriously shielded segment in New York City, 1984. We've just dropped Cantrel off in New Jersey and spent some extra time training in the pantope. Now we have to find a way to coordinate our pantope settings with a New York street map.
First, we try to get a short glimpse of the original coordinates, to see a street sign or something. The flutter is worse than ever. Tom takes us straight up for an aerial shot and this gives us a general idea. Sophie also conjures an image of a store from her photographic memory -- a place with a brilliant red and yellow sign reading "McDonald's." That ought to be distinctive...
We rejoin Cantrel in New Jersey and hail a cab. There are eight of us, and three of them are huge, so the first cabby radios for two more. They are nonplused by the address ("McDonald's on the lower West Side") and we are nonplused by the fare. We are sufficiently nettled by the typical New York cabby to pay them off in quarters.
We get off at an address in what we hope is the right neighborhood and take a diadem reading, then make our way through a city like none we've seen before. The cities of the 24th, 27th, 31st, and 300th centuries are MUCH cleaner, less crowded, and usually less garish. The cities of medieval worlds, the 19th century, and post-holocaust 21st-century were dirty, but at least they didn't LOOM over you so, and only Hong Kong in 1937 was so crowded. It reminds the elves of Mordor.
We find another McDonald's and understand the cabby's problem. Following the diadem detector until it points straight down, we find ourselves in a multi-level department store. We enter an elevator and press "BB" There's another button with a lock on it. Alag starts to pick the lock but doesn't finish by the time we reach BB. Cantrel hastily fixes the button.
BB, the sub-basement, is even more crowded and less civilized than the first floor was. Cantrel spots a wary-looking fellow with a locked bag. Cantrel's never seen a locked bag before and follows the bearer out of curiosity, inconspicuously of course. Alag second-sights the bag and tells Cantrel that it contains money. Cantrel leaves the man's trail and figures out where to intercept him later. This turns out to be an "employees only" door. Alag second-sights through and follows the fellow in this way to a room with an accountant, a guard, and a safe. He and Cantrel lose interest at this point and, as Alag withdraws his viewpoint, he takes a glance down the elevator shaft. It keeps on going down. So do the indications on the diadem detector.
Now Tom turns on his Second Sight and sends his viewpoint through the floor. Below is a stock room. Below that is a room with a 25-foot ceiling with still more stocks, very like a warehouse. Below THAT are tunnels full of trucks. Below the trucks are twenty feet or so of pipes and cables and things. Then bedrock. (Thank goodness.) But Tom's knack of Finding still point down. Tom tries that -- and his viewpoint bounces. That's odd, and completely out of keeping with the technology of the period. (It isn't even much like the psionic technology Tom knows. With that, Finding wouldn't work, assuming the segment is inside the shielded area, and clairvoyance would simply go blind, not stop dead this way.)
Moving sideways, Tom hits a tunnel, dirt-floored, probably an old sewer. At this point, Cantrel suggests quitting. We may have found an enemy outpost, and they might notice our investigation. Let's try Second Sight again when we're further away from the locality ourselves.
Lorelei asks that Tom take a quick look up and down the tunnels first. About then, some over-eager bargain hunter tries to snatch off Tom's back-pack, apparently not noticing that it's being worn. We disengage ourselves from this and leave the sub-basement.
Once on the elevator, Chris uses his second sight and traces the shaft to see how far down it goes. It stops in the warehouse. By this time, the elevator is on the sixth floor, which is far quieter than the basement but not what we wanted. We ride it back down and disembark. It only takes us a minute to persuade Alag to go through a revolving door. (You can take the elf out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the elf.)
We go to a Burger King now, where we are informed they will do things our way, and order a table for eight and food for about a dozen. Tom tries to resume his Second Sight but is thrown off, first by a punk hair-do ("I didn't think we contacted ETs until the 22nd century...") then by a boom-box that gets glamoured into silence, to the puzzlement of its owner. Eventually, Tom sends his vision back down into the sewers, where he left a tracer.
He moves along for some large chunk of a mile, then passes a corridor coming in to form a T intersection. He continues and spots a large slanting hole in the ceiling. He goes up this, through some dirt, an iron grate, more dirt, and into subway tunnels. He hops back down, finds another branch, follows it to a brick wall, and finds the wall is clairvoyance-proof. Oh-ho. He feels his way around the edges of the barrier. It's rectangular. Another side tunnel reveals the same set-up.
The main tunnel ends in thick concrete. Beyond are subway tunnels and tracks. Should he leave a tracer? No, the others council not. Sophie, who is sharing Tom's vision with the rest by the old telepathy net, records the location with her photographic memory. Tom retraces his path, picking up the tracers he had left along the route, so as to leave as few clues as possible.
Heading down the tunnel the other way, it goes south and down hill. It silts up. Before it does, Tom passes three other T intersections. The last one ends in the funny psilence on a very large scale. We get the impression of a vast area of psilence with ridges and blocks on top. Alag suggests that it may have been here long before NewYork. Lorelei suggests we do some research in the local libraries. Tom, just about exhausted psychically, agrees. He withdraws his Second Sight and finds himself staring meditatively into a drink described as a "mocha shake."
A few minutes later, we are stunned at the sight of a library all full of hardcopy and the size of a small town. A librarian shows up and is very helpful. Lorelei thinks she can identify the tunnels Tom explored. The psilent areas ought to be in and under the steam tunnels under Grand Central Station. A big domed ridge Tom found is probably a utility tunnel. Below that, the records fail. They may be naturally spotty, or perhaps they were removed we speculate in our paranoid manner. Cantrel looks for odd, out-of- the-way entrances to this tunnel system and finds several. The librarian remarks that there are a lot of homeless living down in there.
She then gives us directions to the subway to get us back to the pantope. By the time we get on it, it's late at night. Someone propositions Daewen. "Explain that remark!" she invites him, once she has him pegged two feet off the floor on the subway wall. "Can I play with this one?!" Cantrel begs, falling into his idiot-monster act. "No, you broke the last one," Daewen retorts, playing back. Tom yawns with studied indifference and pulls an ectoplastic "pet rattlesnake" out of his coat to fondle. The guy is long gone, and we seem to have the car to ourselves after that.
Back at the pantope, we give our zeroes, etc., to the Serving System, which works up a holographic map of the area under Grand Central. Cantrel works out three approaches.
As we work out the tools we need, Cantrel orders up a 40th-century industrial cutting tool -- sort of a cross between a jack hammer and a blow torch, done with technology like unto Luke Skywalker's light saber. He then orders the Serving System to set up a wall in the lab to practice on. He and Tom wait patiently but nothing shows up. Cantrel is afraid the Serving System has once again delivered something to his bedroom, but it isn't quite that bad; the wall is in the Rock Garden. We go up there and practice.
In addition to the cutter, we are taking a heavy-duty psi-opener, several personal psi-openers and psilencers, digging tools, lights, psionic communicators, space suits (it's stuffy down there), dark kevlar armor, loose street clothes, and weapons.
We steer the pantope door into New York City proper and park it in the science fiction section of the library. When the library is closed, it will shift automatically to the alleyway out back. We disembark and head for Grand Central, to one of Cantrel's approaches.
On a lower subway level, in a train tunnel, we come upon a door. Alag picks its lock. We enter a cinder-blocked corridor. To the left, we find a switching center for the cars. We find some stairs down with another locked door that yields to Alag. The stairs go both up and down, though the records only show down. At the bottom, we find boilers, tended by a couple of people. Alag clairviews the room and finds a metal plate bolted to the wall where we expect out entrance to the pipes.
After Alag picks the lock to the boiler room, we become invisible and sneak over to the metal plate. Daewen moves its image down the wall a space while Alag oils its bolts and Patterns them to screw back in behind us and open again when we push on the way out (landing QUIETLY on the floor).
Soon, we are past the metal plate and into a pipework jungle. Daewen's elven infravision spots a dangerously hot pipe and she kindly illuminates it with a glamoured glow of faint red. We sneak forth in order: Chris, Tom, Cantrel, Sophie, Alag, Lorelei, Pfusand, and Daewen. Down a ladder we go. Daewen is very subtle with her illumination -- it's strictly infrared and only shines where she looks.
We come to the utility tunnels and steam pipes to find they are both psilenced and sealed. Lorelei takes a close look at the psilence and it is, indeed, funny and non-standard, unlike mechanical psilence or psychic cloaking. A little way ahead, the pipes go into the floor, which is dirt and psilent. Our only way into the psi-dead areas involve either cutting into the pipes or trying another of Cantrel's entrances.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.