Chapter 117: Back to the Reach
We left our heroes returning from a couple of weeks' shore leave. We get back in the pantope and seek out the point in spacetime where we are to rendezvous with Morniesul and the Tellemataru. It's in an asteroid belt of an unfrequented system, where one of Timmons's teams is setting up a magical stargate and building their next ship, the Clotho.
We wait. Robbie tries sending out radio hails. Nothing. Finally, Tom starts dowsing for Morniesul, aiming for a point three weeks further along in Morniesul's life from when we saw him last. The view out the window continues to look like random, static starscape, but motion is hard to detect under such circumstances. After considerable trying, we see the stars start to move. We whisk along, then slow down again. (Mirien and Robbie notice an interesting sparkling effect on the edges of the window when Tom puts it in "hyperdrive" like that.)
We find ourself looking at a small nebula furnished with a few red dwarves. The dowsing leads us into the nebula, toward a dark circle which resolves into a brown dwarf with a Saturn-like ring around it. At long last, we find the Tellemataru in the ring, a darkened disc, patched with flecks of light. The big green band of forest is not evident, missing or darkened. There's a scribble of green light over the surface.
Robbie tries a radio hail again. A voice answers, but it's speaking an alien language. We think it's a Krilnyap, one of the teddy-bear-like aliens Morniesul employs. Robbie greets it in KaiSenese, which gets an excited response, but no mutual comprehension. Robbie then asks Tom to raise the telepathy net. Tom tries, but fails very badly and faints. Kate takes over telepathy duties while Tom recovers, but Tom was the one who actually knew KaiSenese. Meanwhile, Robbie calls "Morniesul" into the radio link several times, but nothing happens. He tries hailing the ship's computer. Nothing, then more alien gibberish. Robbie gives up and has Kate close the connection while we wait for Tom to recover.
Once Tom is on his feet again, he windows straight into Morniesul's office aboard the ship. Morniesul is there, his head down on his desk, the lights low. We see the door get forced open (instead of sliding by itself as usual). We can't see who it is from our current angle, but Morniesul wakes and talks to them a bit. Changing our angle, we see he's talking to a Tlaptithule, an insect-winged, hexapodal alien, and, we happen to know, one of the pilots.
We decide to shift from door to window, to find out what's wrong and help. This startles the Tlaptithule, which gallantly dives in and grapples with us. But it's a very weak being. We fend it off and Morniesul calls it away.
Once we settle down, Morniesul tells us the sad tale: He was ambushed, on his way to another rendezvous point -- this system, in fact -- where he was going to pick up some of the supplies. The attackers were not dragons (fortunately), but "largely human." The Tellemataru wiped them out, but lost one of its corvettes in the process and took a great deal of other damage. That was a week ago. They've spent the rest of the time trying to get the ship able to hyperdrive again. It's still leaking air, but not as badly as it was.
After consulting with us, Morniesul calls in his quartermasters, a pair of sims (humanoid robots) named Nance (a "male") and Ada ("female"). They're to compile a list of things needed to fix the Tellemataru. While they go off to do that, Morniesul retires through the pantope, for a quick full night's sleep back at the ranch.
While he does that, we acquire Drumthortle and his Lads (of whom there appear to be seven, though they scuttle around evasively). They ought to be useful in the repair effort. In fact, Daphne seeks out Braeta (wearily repairing the ship's comm system) and presents her with the gremlin that managed to hack into the ranch's computers. She's very pleased, and even more pleased at the prospect of a nap on the other side of the pantope.
Soon, Nance presents us with a very long list of ... stuff. Mostly bits of machinery from the Terraform Reach, which even Tom doesn't always recognize. But we know where to go for it, and Gannar recognizes most of the stuff, being from the Reach and a spacehand besides.
Braeta calls Kranov before she goes, though, and he tells us more about the damage. One of the engine rooms is airless and flooded with radiation. Robbie, Gannar, and the sims could work in there, provided they can get radiation protection. Something more to add to the shopping list. Or, as Tom points out, we can pipe air into the engine room -- or anywhere else that needs it -- through the pantope, from Hellene.
Braeta goes to crash in the tent in the pantope. We disconnect from the Tellemataru, promising Kranov to be right back. Next, we have to dowse our way to the Reach. We use one of the busted bits of machinery we've got to replace.
Sure enough, this leads us to a factory of some sort, making widgets like our busted sample. Moving our window outside, we find a sign: "Dendwari Neutronics." Oh. Gannar steps out and tries to get onto the local internet. This only causes several guards to come our way, so we withdraw.
Well, how about Aondoar, where we picked up Gannar? Using the android's toothbrush, we dowse straight to ... a farm field, where they apparently grow some bristly plant you use for toothbrush bristles... Furthermore, we're at a time when Gannar is still resident on Aondoar. But a little fiddling gets us to a spaceport town and a more suitable date.
We go shopping on the net. First some small stuff: anti-radiation belts for working in the engine room, and some new gun platforms to replace the ones we've lost recently. We locate these but have no way to pay for them here. That's what's Morniesul's for. We re-connect to the ranch and fast-forward twelve hours. Thus we meet Morniesul at breakfast. Using a garment he gave us, we reach his version of "now" in the Reach -- in the men's store on Loald where he bought this shirt. We go forward a month from that and then steer the window to the house where Morniesul's now living.
This is not the mansion where we left him. No, this is "the new place," a much larger mansion, with bigger grounds. (Nothing like elven merchant princes.) We get out in front and ring the doorbell, which is answered by a young footman, rather startled to see Mr. Morniesul back so soon.
Morniesul goes to his study and makes a call to "Hyorgey," to see about "The Item" and "The Full Lot," which is moving in eight months. (Don't you love eavesdropping on elliptical conversations?) Morniesul explains that he's raising money for his repairs but that we want to not know the details. He checks developments, cancels some plans, initiates others, and has us move forward eight months.
"Hm," he says, studying the screens, "I made 53 million, but two of my businesses went under. Net gain of 3.1 million. And I can't pull that trick again; I'd get caught. I'll have to call Hyorgey again." He does so, commiserating and apologizing and scheming. Now we fast-forward six months.
Yes! Good old Hyorgey did it! Hyorgey's friend Stephos has -- or had -- a rival, who is now-- Never mind. We now have plenty of money to go shopping for ship's parts. Having fast-forwarded a total of fourteen months, he now has us rewind to the same amount (plus a few moments). He then places lots of orders then so they'll be ready in fourteen months, which we will call "now."
There are complications. First of all, there's so much, Morniesul needs Robbie and Gannar to just help make all the orders. At that, it takes two days. And Morniesul needs to help with details because a lot of this machinery is cutting-edge; he's been making Reach technology accelerate beyond it's usual conservative level.
We zip back through the fourteen months to "now," where we now need to acquire a ship to pick up all the bits we've ordered. This will be financed with various exotic gems that Daphne picked up in Elvencrown, Djinnistan, and similar places.
Now it is necessary to go visit Stephos, whom Morniesul admits is not really nice. Morniesul will take Markel, Dafnord, and the Gargoyle, all three in Destino-style uniforms (the Gargoyle shaped to look moderately humanoid for the occasion). And Daphne. Morniesul has Tom drop him off at a particular corner of an elevator lobby on the second floor of a particular building, at a point in time two weeks before our orders are to be delivered. He remarks we don't really want to hurt anyone. (Okay. And the other way around, too, right?)
Morniesul dresses to the nines and has Daphne perch on his shoulder. "We'll talk to a man," he explains. "It will irritate his guards that we got so close to him. And you, Daphne, will confuse him." He and his party step out, and we flip to window mode.
Suddenly, six burly fellows with guns show up.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.