Chapter 118: Repairs
We left our heroes about to confront Stephos, Morniesul's shady business
contact. Tom has just dropped them off in the lobby of a business
building. Besides Morniesul himself, we have: Daphne (riding on his
shoulder), Dafnord (who surprises us by being the one to raise the
telepathy net), Markel, Robbie, Gannar, and the Gargoyle (being bipedal
just now, and with his new sword strapped to his back). A formidable
group to find in an office building.
But it's just as well, because they are suddenly confronted by six burly fellows with guns. "Halt!" one calls out. We do. Morniesul smiles at them and says, "Stephos will want to see us." After some grumbling, the spokesman pulls out a calling card and contacts someone who chews him out for letting us get so close. He waves the card in front of us, showing us to the person on the other end. We smile.
A small, neatly-dressed man in a long robe comes out bearing a clip board. He makes notes on us and produces disapproving noises. "You're not expected." "Nonsense!" Morniesul counters. "Stephos knows enough to expect me any time!" "... Wait here."
After a while, we're told we can come in, but will have to leave the "hardware" outside. We decide, on the net, that total disarmament would be foolish, and the less humanoid members of the group would be most imposing. So Morniesul goes in, accompanied by Daphne, Robbie, and the Gargoyle, while Dafnord, Markel, and Gannar stay outside ... and stay armed.
Daphne hands over a knife, a miniature gun, and two battle scarves. Robbie hands over two blasters and a gun made of wood -- in an ectoplastic casing. The Gargoyle hands over a walloping big sword. We are shown down a short corridor, through big wooden doors, into an outer office with a decorative receptionist and two more thugs. There are lots of little devices up on the walls, which may be monitors but may also be remote guns. The inner doors open, presenting us with two robot guards. We're scanned and ushered in.
Stephos is a big, heavy-set man, very well-dressed, miraculously free of Italian or Brooklyn accent. "I'm surprised to see you here," he says.
Morniesul: "It helps to keep people guessing."
Stephos: "I don't like surprises."
Morniesul: (shrugs) "I was in a hurry and wanted to make sure you had first choice."
He then produces a bag full of Faerie gems. Stephos's poker face slips a little; he's genuinely interested. He looks them over with delicate little scanners. While he does this, the Gargoyle morphs into a more canine shape and curls up on a rug.
Morniesul: "I'm in need of a freighter, fairly quickly, with few entanglements."
Stephos tosses a pad to Morniesul. He looks it over and picks an entry. He and Stephos agree on the stones.
Stephos: "How soon can you leave?"
Morniesul: "Should it leave soon?"
Stephos: "You probably shouldn't delay overlong."
Morniesul: "It needn't come back?"
Stephos: "That would be good. The registry should last for a few weeks."
Morniesul: "That should be enough. Oh, and rest assured that The Job went well. Anything else?"
Stephos: "There's the question of your arrival."
Morniesul: (smiles) "Professional secret."
Stephos: "I'll thank you not to repeat it."
We make a grand recessional out the way we came, collecting the armed members of the party on the way. Morniesul leads the way to an elevator bank, telepathically asking for a little help. As a result, the moment the elevator doors open, Dafnord darts in, Robbie and Markel block the way for Stephos's men, who try to cram in with us, the others pile in, and the Gargoyle brings up the rear, suddenly much broader than usual. We manage to get ourselves, and only ourselves, into the elevator.
Now, Tom has been quietly following the whole scene through pantope window, so of course the back of the elevator suddenly turns into a pantope door and we all pile out. We then amuse ourselves by watching as various henchmen, and finally Stephos himself, enter the elevator and examine it. After Stephos leaves, more technical minions arrive, and examine fruitlessly until well after we get bored and leave.
"That ought to keep him on his toes and off our backs," Morniesul observes with satisfaction.
Now to load up that freighter. Besides the stuff we need to repair the Tellemataru, we acquire nine new gun platforms to replace the ones lost in recent adventures, plus fake ID cards as members of Morniesul's security department. (Private security is very "in" these days, as the Empire slowly crumbles into smaller political units.)
The ID cards prove to be a bit of a challenge for those of us without DNA or retinas or fingerprints (or very tiny fingers), but eventually we manage to sell ourselves to our own appliances.
We're on Loald a few days, busy around shipyards. We gate over to the Tellemataru and acquire a Pemnal pilot for the new corvette, who has to stay strictly out of sight. We notice various loiterers around the yards, probably Stephos's people; we ignore them, but increase our security precautions.
At last, the final clearances obtained, we boogie. Gannar pilots the freighter to an "empty" part of the Reach, where we find a brown dwarf with three planets. One of the planets has a moon, and the moon has a space station orbiting it. It belongs to Morniesul, who is greeted rapturously by the various semi-sapient aliens he has running it. There are lots of the quasi-insectile Tlaptithule, and some unpleasing little creatures with shells and too many limbs, whom no one wants to talk to or about. They re-fit the freighter with an inertial valve, so its overdrive can go time-traveling. Gannar understand some of what's being done to the ship he's to fly, but the re-fit is, essentially, being done by alien children who can't explain themselves very well. It's a good thing Gannar is not of a nervous disposition.
It takes months (ship time) to fly back to the Tellemataru. Robbie accompanies Gannar, not being nervous either. The rest of us take the shortcut by pantope.
We all spend weeks on the Tellemataru, fixing it. Fortunately, we have the pantope for running errands, and several score highly motivated demigods to help. After all that, we drop said demigods off for a short stay on Olam Nephilim while Morniesul finishes the supply run he started so long ago.
And now we're ready for the next installment, second of three, of the exodus from Yazatlan. Suffice it to say that it goes somewhat better than the first and all the fractures are soon healed.
When we're done, though, we find we have many thousands of people on Olam Nephilim without a lot of civilization to shelter and feed them. Time to work on our supply chain. Morniesul suggests he make two supply runs, now: one to re-stock the ship and one to supply the nephilim already deposited. Agreed. We make a supply run for the settlers without incident.
By "now" (roughly speaking), Timmons's crew near Hellene have finished constructing the Clotho and can contact the crew on New Hierow. He could get the ship to the rendezvous with the Tellemataru, if necessary. But the Fata Morgana, on Olam Nephilim, is a bit behind schedule.
We make the second supply run without incident. (Tom keeps the pantope hitched to the Tellemataru, now, just in case.) We're now ready to begin the third and final phase of the exodus.
One of our recurring chores has been to gather N'Butu refugees. This has to be done in dribs and drabs, since they were effectively scattered through the forest by their Kitsu enemies. We've acquired some folk with pixie-leading skills to help us herd refugees, but we could use some more. We decide to ask in Lanthil and so open a gate to the New Dawn Yards, where Timmons and his folk (the Twilight Defense Force or TDF) are based.
We open out on the beaches, so as not to alarm anyone, and Robbie flies in. He notes much less building and more milling about. There's a ship in the harbor and an elegant little boat at the dock that seems to go with it. Some equally elegant elves, not in work clothes, are loitering about it.
Robbie dives into the crowd and wanders about, listening. People are discussing "them," but neglect to say anything very useful. He heads for Commandant Rilya's quarters and asks a guard what's going on.
The guard, a Lieutenant, says there are some envoys from Faerie visiting. (And no, they don't have any people who do pixie-leading. Counter-productive to their work.) Oh, is this a bad time for us to drop in, then? The Lieutenant, quicker about time-travel than most, remarks that all things have their time and this seems to be ours. Okay, then, should we just open in her office? Um, how about the Lieutenant's instead.
So we do that. We have the Lieutenant bring the Commandant a note, asking if we can be useful to her, or if she'd rather we left. Her reply says, "I never turn down aid. What do you know of the situation." Nothing. In response, she sends us a Commander, to brief us a little.
The envoys are Lumatar and Eldamanion ("Time Lord" and the "Elf-Hill Man," see log 87). They are here about a problem that has been brewing for years: Traffic on the Open Sea and the Endless Ocean has increased since Lanthil appeared, and almost certainly because it did. (We make a nice profit as a shipyard for the folk passing through.) There have always been occasional lost ships -- that is, ships who landed, announcing "we're lost, where are we?" -- but recently we've started getting people in from places like the Sargasso, the Bermuda Triangle, and the Hellenic Lozenge. And then there have been some problems with travelers, notably a young woman who showed up some years back, then went home and wrote a book about her adventures. This attracted still more people. That's what the envoys are here about.
At our previous meeting, Eldamanion appeared to be primarily a technician, while Lumatar was the diplomat/bureaucrat. This still seems to be true. Eldamanion appears unhappy with his companion's foul mood and perfectly willing to remain quietly in the background, trying to enjoy tea. Lumatar is holding a barely civil shouting match with the Commandant.
Lumatar's point, delivered in sententiously frosty tones, is that Lanthil, on the occasion of it's being officially recognized by Faerie and the other arcane realms, agreed that it would not cause any increase in contact between Faerie and the mundane realms, but instead here we are dealing with Remnants, causing said Remnants to trouble the Faerie Marcher Lords. Alvirin is Displeased.
Tom replies that, to the best of his knowledge (he is keenly conscious of having missed the previous thirty years of history), we are working hard to reduce the contact between mundane and arcane realms (meaning shipping the nephilim to a much more arcane timeline than the one Destine was on). Lumatar says he is not here to debate, so Tom says there's nothing more to say expect that his complaint is noted. More tea?
Dafnord demands to know why Alvirin's messengers are troubling folk like the Commandant rather than applying directly to the Silver Council. Lumatar answers, with considerable exasperation, that it's nearly impossible to find the members of the Silver Council, much less speak to all of them at once, and after you do find them, they vanish for years on end. (Tom wonders what he expects of people whose forte is time-travel and world-wandering.)
The Commandant jumps in at this point and says that she and her folk are only responding to the situations that come there way, protecting Lanthil (and thus the Summerlands behind us) in the traffic on the waters here. What we do about Remnants, she says, is no affair of Faerie's, and if we happen to find people on sinking ships, we will go ahead and rescue them. Now, since Lumatar and his friend came unannounced, and she has important, expected guests (i.e. us), he must excuse her. The Commander, on cue, shows them out. The Lieutenant, who was listening at the door, recoils and makes a plausible recovery. Alvirin's envoys leave, Lumatar steaming, Eldamanion smiling nervously and grabbing one last tea cake. (The diplomatic life is hell on the digestion.)
After they leave, we ask Rilya what the legalities of the situation are. It's not really clear. These ancient peoples don't do nit-picky and exact treaties. So, for instance, there really aren't any rules on what to do about the Remnants. Just now, they're being shunned. In another time and place, you could argue they should be wooed or coerced into coming back. And it's very unclear how Lanthil avoids being an attractive nuisance while continuing to exist. Tom wonders if Faerie isn't being leaned on by Patala, or by Lilith.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.