Chapter 125: Boom
We left our heroes in the midst of evacuating a city, variously distracted by
dragons. After considerable time, we load up all the people who had to crowd
into one pickup point, forced out of another by a crashing fighter. Next, we
pick up the folk in a small park/sacred grove.
Next, we tune in on a larger park. This one is fenced in, with a fence of wrought-iron bars set in a knee-high stone base. There are lots of people inside, and more out in the street making some sort of parade, and still more in another park a block over. There are no dragons in sight. For once.
Dramatic effect usually serves us well, so we open right in front of the oncoming procession. Dafnord steps out and intones, "Children of Destine, this way to the Exodus!"
That's the explosion on top of the Temple, the one we set off.
"Come! The time is nigh!" The parade comes to a screeching halt, at least in front, the first ranks standing in amazement as the ones behind crunch up behind them. Then someone recognizes Metalais, who stepped out with the rest of the away team. We hear his name added to the general babble. The crowd begins milling.
Soon, we are looking at a study in formication. (Look it up.) We have one traffic jam at the mouth of our tunnel and another at the small gate in the park fence. (There are bigger gates, but they're on the far side of the park.) Dafnord asks us to make a hole in the fence, to help people out of the park. Tom comes out of the pantope and is able to make a small opening by turning some of the iron bars to a putty-like consistency and pulling them out, but he soon tires. Robbie tries to create some handy steps for getting over the stone base, but fails, so the next several dozen people track ectoplasm down the tunnel. Dafnord does the most good, just simply whacking the bars out with his sword Umbra.
Meanwhile, we realize that putting the tunnel mouth at the front of the parade was a mistake. Ever wonder what was on the other side of the tunnel mouth? Turns out it's a view into the pantope. Actually, it's a view into the armored airlock in the pantope, but this has wide portholes, so you can see into the green abyss of the pantope anyway. Several people are now wandering around in there, having tried to take a shortcut to the Exodus by going around back. Tom turns on the intercom and peremptorily orders them out. Then he conjures some curtains over the portholes.
That's the first crashing fighter. It causes some panic in the crowd, which does nothing for the traffic jam.
On the Tellemataru, down in the reception area where the tunnel comes out, Gannar is accosted by three dark nephilim, armed with spears -- some of Obedan's men, in fact. (Remember Obedan?) They want to know why Tom ordered them to come out. Tom has to come and explain he was talking to someone else.
Tom has Dafnord clear the threshold, then does a little fast-forward to give some folks time to get back on duty. From the street, this looks like a tunnel-full of people vanish instantly. This causes someone to faint right on the threshold. Someone else runs screaming down the street and has to be retrieved -- by Robbie, flying after him, all shiny black and silver.
Robbie stuns him, causing him to crash to a halt on the pavement, acquiring a bloody face. This does not go down well with the crowds at the tunnel, when Robbie flies back and takes his victim down the tunnel. "Monsters!" someone cries.
That's the other crashing fighter. Some of our crowd are now starting to run away from us. The mob is starting to slide down the tube in a sort of human slurry.
At the bottom of the tunnel, Robbie continues to frighten. After he gets back from dropping the fellow off at an infirmary, Gannar suggests Robbie use his shapeshifting skill to acquire a more humanoid shape. Gannar was thinking of the bland Madame-Tussaud's-finest shape, but Robbie instead copies Gannar's own form. Only a tad more streamlined. The skin, for instance, has a nice, smooth, Ken-doll-like uniformity, and the hair is just sculpted on. Gannar is not impressed, but it doesn't frighten the crowd.
Back on the street, enough uneventful time goes by that things "quiet down" to the earlier mob scene. But the folk in the neighboring park are starting to push in, and they're aimed at the back of the portal, into the airlock.
Time to move the blasted tunnel mouth. Tom puts it on a handy wall, the way he should have in the first place. "We apologize for the inconvenience!" Dafnord bellows. "We are only doing this to serve you better!"
"Serve us to whom?" calls some wit from the back of the crowd. Dafnord singles the fellow out, pushes through to him, and asks if there's a problem. Terrified silence. Dafnord starts to depart but gets a rotten fruit on the side of his head. He ignores it.
It fades from his mind entirely when he sees the crowd from the neighboring park running toward us. Markel spots a small aircraft coming in -- a grav-boat or some such thing, with several dragon troopers on it. They might or might not notice the tunnel mouth as they whizz by. Odds look bad.
Tom tries the Stupid Pantope Trick again, gating the craft into the sea. But this works best when the craft is moving too fast to dodge the portal. This one tries to dodge, fails, but bounces off the edge of the portal, sheering away a chunk of itself. At the same time, one of the dragon-troopers leaps out and onto a nearby roof. The craft gets dunked, and Tom even catches the stray chunk.
So far, so good. There isn't even an explosion, which we were more than half expecting. As for the trooper, we send Mirien and Mithriel up to finish him off. They do, but not before he stares up into the sky and smiles. What--?
We go back to loading again, but feel something just went wrong. Dafnord spots a glint in the sky, off in the east. Where the dragon-trooper was looking. Some kind of aircraft. How much has it seen? The little glint flares. Dafnord guesses it just launched--
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.