Exploring the Pantope
Week 1, Shhh... I'm hunting wabbits.
We left our heroes in the pantope. Dr. Wu is in a coma, probably the symptom of a psychic ailment. We don't really know what to do for him, but the autodoc can maintain him indefinitely.
We have some other developments. Pfusand announces that she'd like to take out ten or fifteen minutes and raise three or four families on Akon-naza, the homeworld of her species. We only need to drop her off, disconnect, then reconnect to the same place twenty years later. You see, Nazas only have families when they have earned the status by accomplishing something noteworthy. Pfusand feels that, after several worlds, four or five transformations, and a resurrection, all in the cause of saving the history of an alien species, she has a fling coming. Since Akon-naza is a completely unhuman world, and therefore not a worldbender target so far as we know, we decide its safe enough to do.
While Pfusand packs her trousseau, Chris approaches Tom and mentions that he and Sophie have decided to regenerate as elves. "Why?" Partly because elves have so much more psychic aptitude than humans, and partly because they just seem to have a lot of fun. Those are Chris's reasons. Sophie isn't going to be a different race from Chris. Tom had seen that coming for some time and wonders what Nate will think.
Meanwhile, Tom tries to dissuade Chris. He tells Chris that the regeneration process is debilitating. Also, when Tom himself regenerated as Deryni, he found he was somehow a stranger to himself, uncomfortable in his own skin. He hated it and turned back into an ordinary human at the next opportunity. He really thinks this is a bad idea.
Chris goes to Daewen and asks her opinion, since she started out human and then turned elf. (She did not, however, use an antiquated process like regenerating on an autodoc.) She advises against it. She says that the change is so profound, you may reasonably ask if you are even the same person afterward. Then why did she do it? Just young and foolish, she supposes. Also, it is her opinion that Chris is substantially happier with himself and has more opportunities as a human than she did. She thinks he could be throwing away a perfectly good identity. Chris remarks that she sounds just like his mother did when he was going to get his ear pierced. Daewen tolerantly does not karate-punch him across the room but remarks that the change is considerably more fundamental.
So Chris talks to Lorelei, who started as an ordinary human, regenerated into a Deryni, and, unlike Tom, stayed that way. She admitted to some personality changes, but not great ones; on the other hand, the difference between Deryni and eo-human is very slight compared to the difference between elf and eo-human.
Even Sophie has a go at dissuading Chris, but fails. He goes to talk to the autodoc about the upcoming regen. It recommends getting ready by picking out clothing suitable for about three days' confinement to bed, since that's how long it will take. Chris says he'd like to keep his red hair and round ears for a while, to ease the shock when he looks in a mirror. The autodoc notes this, then asks if he'd like to be an elf like Alag or an elf like Daewen. Daewen is considerably more psychic and less human than Alag, now. Chris plays it safe and opts for Alag's model.
Sophie goes and talks to Daewen about all this. Daewen got substantially more elvish back in the world of Hreme and Chyoxus, when she resumed her habitual shape by sheer force of will. She explains to Sophie that elves are native to cosmoi with more uncertainty in them than the human-occupied ones. For instance, she doesn't really have a natural appearance in the way Sophie does; for Daewen, there is less difference between appearing and being, waking and dreaming. She repeats that she thinks this regen is a bad idea, but if they must do it, it is certainly safer to turn into Alag's kind of elf, particularly since that will blend in better on Middle Earth. She herself will no longer blend in so well and has been worrying about that.
The next day, Sophie and Chris start their regeneration. We select a point in the 27th century, outside a city on Akon-naza. And there it is -- no Nazas in sight, just a lot of orange grass and two red suns. Pfusand steps out. Tom closes the door and opens it again on the same point twenty years further on (Akon-naza years, as we decided). No Pfusand. Oh, well, we didn't say what time of day. Tom proposes to step outside and call her by telepathy, but Cantrel would prefer not to risk our pilot. He suggests waiting three days for Chris to gel, then have HIM do it. Okay, what's the point of a time machine if you can't take your time?
Chris and Sophie come through the change with no immediately visible ill effects. Daewen is nonplused by the red hair and unpointed ears but Chris promises to have them fixed before we go to Middle Earth. Remember the portable chameleon circuit that Pfusand used to wear for disguises? Well, she certainly didn't need it here, so Tom gives it to Chris to disguise him as a Naza. Chris-turned-elf-disguised-Naza steps out to a moment after we tried to pick up Pfusand and telepaths. "Pfusand? We're back."
"What? You're a day early. I'm not finished packing."
"Okay, we'll come back tomorrow." As Chris steps back into the pantope, Cantrel notes a circular shimmer around the door. We play it back and analyze it -- it was a spherical distortion of some kind on Akon-naza. We all go into paranoia mode and discuss how much precaution we should take when we go back to retrieve Pfusand. We decide to pick her up next day, but do it fast and sneaky by opening the door UNDER her. With this in mind, Daewen removes the control lectern from the cargo bay. She and Tom then practice the underneath pickup on a tree on the planet Helene in 8000 BC, when there's no one there but us time travelers. The results are quick and effective but rough on the passenger. The Serving System cushions the bay with a mat like that in the gymnasium.
Based on observations of the tree, there is a chance that Pfusand will burst through the door of the bay and slide on into the hallway opposite. Cantrel, just to play it VERY safe, takes the chameleon circuit and disguises himself as a floor lamp. Daewen joins him, using her elven glamour to disguise herself as a potted palm. Victoria is at the auxiliary bridge and Chris is at the weapons bridge.
Feeling just the teeniest bit silly, Tom opens the door as an invisible window far above the rendezvous point. Yep, there's Pfusand, with a large backpack, whistling through her upper lips and shifting her feet restlessly. We move the door to just under her feet and open it.
Just as that happens, Pfusand feels very uneasy and draws a gun. A man steps out from behind a tree and fires at her. A large silvery object drops sideways through the door to the docking bay, slams through the door, and goes skittering down the hall. It grazes Cantrel, stunning him slightly and knocking his shade askew. The potted palm leaps dexterously aside.
Tom slams the door shut and we go to investigate. The large silver object is Pfusand, all silver, unmoving, and wrapped in a silvery net. The net gives you electrical shocks if you touch it, even if you touch it with an insulator. The Serving System identifies it as a stasis web, 50th-century technology. There are several ways to get her out of it, or we could just wait three minutes and it will wear off.
We decide to wait. In the meantime, Tom slide Pfusand back to the cargo bay telekinetically (the stasis having rendered her frictionless) and everybody takes off their disguises. The moment the stasis wears off, Cantrel stuns Pfusand, in case she was mentally suborned the way Wu was long ago in Gwennedd. Tom then telepaths her and examines her conscious memories of a few seconds ago (by her own clock). Nothing odd or disloyal -- just regrets at leaving, anticipation of the pantope, a touch of impatience, and some gloating over our reactions when we see what she's bought us.
Tom speaks to her in a dream, apologizing for the rough treatment and assuring her she is back on the pantope, as safe as she is likely to get. She wakes up and is fine. We want to hear all about her marriage [as soon as the player makes up the details].
Next on the agenda is a hunt for the geometry engine. Tom sets off for the unstable parts of the pantope with Chris, Sophie, Nate, Pfusand, and a robot. The robot looks like an ornamental marble urn, with arms, floating in mid air. It should be able to pin the thing in place long enough to start repairs, or so we are told. Meanwhile, we are going to see if Chris's "dicing" talent can steer the random flickers of the doorways so as to lead us to the geometry engine. Cantrel will stay at the bridge, trying to keep in communications with us.
After some bumbling around and getting stuck in temporarily doorless rooms, we find a new and unfamiliar corridor. As we enter, Cantrel is no longer able to track us, but can raise us on the new psionic communicators Pfusand brought us. Chris and Tom try to hold the doorway open for a while, but the door collapses and pops them forcibly into the corridor. The others find themselves looking in at the gymnasium. Chris manages to get the door open onto the conservatory and the party re-groups.
We try to find that corridor again, but instead find another, also new to us. The Serving System is able to stabilize the connection somewhat, so we enter. Opening the first door in the corridor, Tom sees a man standing just opposite. He flinches back and Sophie neatly trips the stranger with TK. Only the stranger was Tom, so it's him she trips. Seems this door folds back on itself. How disconcerting.
However, the Serving System now recognizes this as the engineering corridor, which sounds very hopeful. Examining the other doors one at a time, we find:
There are three other doors leading out of the ready room. Two are locked, but the third opens onto what is obviously barracks, 'cause there are ten bunk beds in it, each occupied by a sleeper in stasis. They look pretty human, but the silvery stasis field blunts out any fine details. There is a switch on the wall, although the lights come on automatically. Maybe...
We decide to leave the switch alone. A little more investigation shows us nothing but lockers full of clothes -- uniforms but not very military-looking. On the other hand, fashions change. There are also some notes written in a neat hand, in an unknown tongue.
We decide to let the robot finish repairing the autoscaler and then go back to stabler architecture. Perhaps the Serving System can read the notes and tell us something about the sleepers.
Meanwhile, we have some unanswered questions about the crew:
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.