On The Dance of Hours
Week 1, Search the Pantope
We left our heroes back in the pantope, which was somewhat the worse for wear. They were debating whether to go hunt missing friends, go hunt the next segment, or try to repair the pantope first. Alag wants to hunt people on the ground that you shouldn't leave live enemies behind you (meaning the stray worldbender); Pfusand answers that they aren't behind us, they're more off to one side.
Jonathan, meanwhile, is getting queasy. His psychic sensitivities include the ability to feel (and even anticipate) dimensional distortions; the pantope is a whole construction of dimensional distortions, and gives him a turn every time he walks through a door, and even when he stands still. We try giving him a psilencer, but the psilence is oppressive to him. He goes to his room to lay down, hoping this will pass, like sea-sickness.
We decide to try repairing the latest damage to the pantope before making more decisions. Daewen recommends Tom look into the robot garage, usually seen near the bridge. Tom finds several advanced robots stumbling over each other, physically and programmatically, in an attempt to re-boot, refresh, power up, and otherwise get started again. He organizes some cybernetic triage and things begin working better.
Chris suggests taking the mysterious silver figures out of stasis, in thehopes that they are the "staff," but this gets very mixed reviews. What ifthey were prisoners? Well, let's at least see if the option is still open. Chris goes looking for the stasis-barracks, which he had left attached to the main corridor. No changes. We decide to leave it that way.
Next, we cross-examine the autodoc. It says that it can do normal first aid and disguises and such, but regenerations and resurrections depend on esotericresources that are running low. Tom suggests acquiring a merely 25th-centuryautodoc as a medical spare tire, but people decide they would rather rely on lo-tech medicine and Lorelei's magical healing. (So don't get zapped, Lorelei.)
Daewen, Sophie, and Chris go looking for the legendary Geometry Engine, which took a pounding in the first attack on the pantope (how long ago?) and probably took another pounding just now. Their expedition takes them out to regions of unstable architecture. These are definitely worse than when last seen. The rooms they are in fall off corridors, into isolation, or curl up on themselves in a disconcerting way. (One room, reminiscent of the track in the gym, turns into a pseudo-infinite corridor down which the trio pursue themselves for an uneasy time until the thing unfolds again.)
They come out into the Egyptian Suite and find they can reach the ServingSystem again. The Egyptian suite itself, however, is entirely in the wrongplace. Chris tries Second Order Dicing on the suite's door, which flickersmadly. The Serving System manages to stabilize things, but the Suite is stillconnected to a strange corridor. They investigate the corridor and find itincludes accommodations for various species of extraterrestrial. One room ismissing, the adjustable Xeno Suite that Pfusand picked for herself. Thecorridor itself empties back onto the familiar Dorm Corridor.
They decide that, although things are flaky, they are not so bad as to be worth the nuisance of trying to repair. So now what? Hunt people or segments? Neither, says Cantrel. He and Victoria want a couple of weeks' vacation on 28th-century Helene, CoDominion timeline. It needn't take more than a minute for the people on the pantope, so they can take care of Tyrell, too.
Perhaps in retort, the rest of the crew give Cantrel and Victoria a shopping list of things to pick up on Helene -- mostly stun-guns and macrometal blades. The happy couple disembark on Helene and, over the next fortnight, pick up the guns, but find no good source for the blades. Toward the end of the stay, Cantrel feels he's seen the same face a few times too many, and Victoria confirms this. They change hotels.
On their last day on Helene, they go to pick up the last consignment of stunners. On the way back, they get that Watched feeling. Victoria ducks into a ladies' wear shop and Cantrel walks on. A few minutes later, Victoria calls him on the comm and confirms that someone is following them -- a face that has shown up a few too many times for chance.
Victoria then leaves the shop and tails the tail, so she and Cantrel bracket him. Cantrel leads the way into an alley, climbs a wall, and waits. The tail falls into the ambush; Cantrel opens psi, trips the man with TK to distract him, and Victoria stuns him. Cantrel then levitates the unconscious form up to the corner of the building, where he is met by Victoria. They frisk their victim to the skin.
His belongings look mundane enough, only they add up to too much technology, and there is one thing, a silver little wand, that doesn't fit the locale at all, in Cantrel's estimation. They confiscate these little toys and leave their victim tied hand, foot, and mouth, naked, and with most of a bottle of liquor in him. By the time he gets over that, they should be long gone from this entire continuum.
They re-board the pantope without further incident and present their findings to the others. In the lab, Tom finds that a "credit card" is really a very good computer, and looks like more than 28th-century technology. The wand is a pen, a stunner, and other things -- probably not safe to test inside the pantope. His pocket phone is really a quadcorder, and one ring is a signaling device of some kind. He has what appears to be a CoDominion psi-opener, but turns out to be much more foreign on close inspection.
Chris looks the stuff over and judges it superior to the Allied Epochs equipment he is familiar with, but still qualitatively similar to the sort of thing they give their spies. He suggests the tail might have been the CoDominion line's equivalent of an Allied Epochs agent.
Alag and Tom join forces telepathically to use Tom's Tools knack, plus Alag's Retrocognition and Cyberclair to try and hack into the computer-card. They succeed and find it holds schedules, notes, and a lot of encrypted data -- two layers of it.
After they access and decode it, the first layer of encrypted data strongly suggests that the card was owned by a time-traveler. We dump all this data to the Serving System for later study, then try to tap the lower level. Instantly, all the software in the computer commits suicide and the system goes blank. Well, we are not surprised. Chris uses Glamour plus Retrocognition plus Cyberclair to get a partial dump of the vanished data.
The whole affair suggests that this time-traveler was working at a higher tech level than the CoDominion's, but that he also worked at a still higher and more secret tech level. As if, for instance, the Captain (100th-century) were to work for Allied Epochs (say 50th-century) on a secret mission in the 28th.
Lorelei scrys the wand. It has been used in deadly combat more than once. And the user feels familiar. Henderson again? She can't tell. Perhaps, or perhaps the person who fired on Pfusand with a stasis-gun when she came back from her marriage-break (unless they're the same person). We have the Serving System display pictures of Alior Nus, the Captain's time-traveling acquaintance. There are several pictures; none look alike and none look likeCantrel's victim.
Back to our debates. We decide to go after the next (and last) segment. Chris then raises the next point: What do we do with the thing?
(Remember Whizzer, the time-traveler who headed a community of wild talents living under 20th-century New York? We had to throw him into stasis. He is still in stasis, or rather BACK in stasis. He got out during the power failure, but Victoria managed to throw him back in, since he was still suffering from the multi-pronged attack we threw at him.)
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.