Week 12, Fight for the Segment
We left our heroes trying to figure out how to collect the segment now that they have it to themselves, more or less. Tom tried to pick it up and got knocked across the room. Alag tries TKs now, and gets thrown OUT of the room into the adjoining antechamber. Tom decides to shake down the sultan to look for a key of some kind. To save time, he levitates the sultan out of bed.
About then, two dozen troops arrive in antechamber where Alag landed. They start keeling over from the sleep gas, but Alag either forgets about the gas or doesn't feel it will work fast enough and so tosses a grenade in among them. Daewen then fires her blaster at those who haven't been knocked down by gas or grenade. She also whips up five illusory images of herself, so there is quite a fireworks display as six apparent Daewens send volleys of fireballs through the glass-bead curtains into the antechamber. Finally, the ones who haven't been gassed, blown up, or blasted get to slip on the glass beads from the curtains.
Tom, meanwhile, has quietly levitated the sultan back out the conservatory. There he frisks him with Second Sight. "Look for a magic whizzy," Chris advises over the telepathy net. Sure enough, the man is wearing an amulet that noticeably distorts the flows of power emanating from the nearby segment. Tom reaches into the sultan's PJs to fetch it--
-- and finds there is a burglar alarm on the amulet as well. Not as ferocious as the one on the segment, though. Tom recognizes the force as the kind of levitation he is familiar with, though, so perhaps a plain old Zayres domestic psilencer, such as he has on his belt, will help.
"Wait-a-minute," telepaths Chris. "That'll cut off our--"
ERRNOESP-- Path to remote node failed. Remote node unavailable.
Tom feels the amulet twitch slightly as he grabs it, but the psilencer seems to be doing its stuff. Quickly, Tom dons the amulet, gingerly approaches the filigree cage with the segment in it, and opens the latch. No explosions. He grabs the wand bearing the segment, pulls his hand out, starts to take off the amulet --
-- and just about then his psilencer blows up and he gets thrown across the room again. But he held onto the wand. Quivering somewhat, and back on the telepathy net, he retreats to conservatory, turns on Tools...
ERRNOESP-- Insufficient resource at remote node
It's rather interesting for the others on the net; Tom is there, but his mind goes silent. Daewen approached cautiously and verifies that he's still breathing.
Meanwhile, outside, troops are leaping into the courtyard. Alag, back in the anteroom, goes invisible, steps outside, and steals to grav sled just about the time Sophie makes it invisible too. This is awkward to fly, so they spend some time and energy sorting this out.
The others spend the interval exchanging fire with the troops in the courtyard until the gas starts getting to them. Lorelei and Pfusand spot a barge and a ship flying in low over the city, with fresh troops. This worries us somewhat.
At this point, Tom comes back on the net, his brain lobes sizzling softly. He has realized that, yea verily, the segment DOES hold up the world (and the city and the ships). He also realizes the massive incompetence, or at least carelessness and ignorance, of the people who have handled it before. He has the proverbial tiger by the tail here.
Meanwhile, we really must be going. Daewen tries to airlift Tom to roof and gets zapped by the burglar alarm function. Tom tries to turn it off and ascends using his own flying belt.
Meanwhile, the barge and ship are still approaching. Tom decides that a good way to practice using the segment would be to cut off some enemy power. He can sense the tendrils coming out of the segment to support the ships, but can't tell which ship is borne by which tendril. That's all right, we'll just park the whole fleet. Tom waits until we are all airborne to try it.
Lorelei and Alag, meanwhile, have taken out after the ships, to shoot and bomb them. Thus they get a good view when Tom tries to shut off the power slowly. It doesn't work. The two ships drop like stones. Tom catches them again. Alag and Lorelei fire on the demoralized crews.
Tom then tries being more explicit. He orders the segment to bring all the ships to a halt at a quarter-g deceleration. Once they are all dead in the air, he has them all land at half a meter per second. Once they are all down, he withdraws power from them.
The barge and the ship come down with reasonable gentleness on the city. Daewen decides to add to the confusion and demoralization of the populace. She throws all her magical energy into a massive glamour. The result: all the clouds in the area gather together and a gigantic humanoid figure leans out of them. It then folds its arms with great deliberation and turns its back. It then dwindles into the infinite distance. These folk always thought their ships and city were held up by the "favor of heaven." This has now been visibly withdrawn. Furthermore, it looked the same from every point of view in the city.
Tom, nearly overwhelmed by the tool he's holding, feels very uncomfortable about this theological by-play. He closes his eyes and starts praying, heedless of the fact that it is going out over the telepathy net. He isn't very coherent. His first thought, in reference to the vision, was "Please let that be okay!" followed by "Please let this be good for them!" referring to the local populace and the effect of the vision and the loss of "favor." And finally a general and desperate, "Don't let me screw up!"
He can't be blamed for being edgy. His next task is to park the city. After that, we're going to try to park the world.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.