Chapter 19: Cat on a Chain
We left our heroes on Destine, preparing to explore the Great Sucking Noise, as we have dubbed the residue of the portal through which the dragon-troopers abducted the Destinos. We land at the now-deserted Destine City spaceport and hitch Brunalf's egg-ship to the Munch by means of a length of macro-metal chain, connected to the Munch by a tractor beam. We were going to have Brunalf set the controls on automatic and just send the egg into the Great Sucking Noise, with Tom's wristwatch inside. This "wristwatch" is actually a hyperspatial locator that gives you the time as only one of a dozen or so dimensions, and we planned to set it on "record" and find out the coordinates of the other end of the portal.
However, Brunalf really wants to go himself, and it is his ship, so we let him get in, equipping him with the watch, Daewen's magic compass for pointing the way home to Faerie, extra kitty-kibble (well, crumbled elven waybread, really), his gun-helmet, etc., until the packing begins to get snug.
We then take off, with the cat in the egg dangling from the Munch like a surreal watch-fob. We cruise over the ruined city and come to the Great Sucking Noise, in what used to be a park. The portal was vertical, and its residue is the same. You have to fly horizontally into it. But the chain turns out to be too heavy for the egg's engines, so Tom gets on a gravity pallet and comes outside to assist with TK. The cat takes off and starts to become translucent.
When we reach the end of the chain, the cat is still partly visible, so we ask Edvard to scoot the Munch forward, very slowly, a meter every few seconds. Edvard seems to feel this is rather beneath a vessel designed to go a few thousand times lightspeed, but complies.
Just as the egg is almost invisible -- and Brunalf is almost entirely off the telepathy net -- the egg slams forward into the bars of the cage at the end of the chain. We have encountered the Great Sucking Noise (which is actually silent but otherwise lives up to its name). What's really startling is that the Munch is jerked forward, too. Tom, who was just lifting the chain to take weight off the egg's engines, finds himself jerked forward, apparently hauled by the scruff of his TK. Neither of these effects makes much sense, but then you wouldn't expect normal mechanics OR psionics to work properly at a dimensional rupture.
The Munch skids to a stop. Tom pulls the grav-pallet back and "surf" a short way toward the Suck. As an experiment, Robbie has the Munch ease forward again, and the results are identical. Rather than see Tom dragged into the Suck, Robbie advises him to come back aboard the Munch. Tom complies.
We continue to edge forward. Soon, Edvard reports that we are draining significant power to keep from being sucked in. Then he reports that we're moving forward too fast; slowing down to the right speed really drains the power. And this is a starship...
Then we notice that the chain is no longer connected to the Munch. It's just stretched out taut, being held on by the tractor beam. We really don't trust the beam to be able to follow the egg and chain in; that's why we got a solid chain to begin with, rather than just keep the beam on the egg. And the chain, though still in tow, is getting further and further from the ship.
Robbie anticipates the whole ship is about to be sucked in. Remembering the unpleasant electrical effects he suffered the last time he went witchwalking, he sits down and straps in.
Meanwhile, out in the nowhere, Brunalf is vaguely aware there is trouble. He sets his craft's dimensional drive to backing a bit, and is able to come to a halt.
Out here, Edvard notes that the chain has stopped slipping away. However, we are now backing away from the chain, so the force is still rising.
Since TK seemed to be about as much help as ship's engines, despite the puny size of the sheer physical force Tom's TK can exert, Tom goes back out on the grav pallet to help again. He hauls mentally on the chain. It does help. The Munch's power drain goes down, and the ship is able to re-connect with the chain. It is even able to back up successfully, pulling the cat and egg back toward our continuum.
Since TK works so well, Kate goes out on another grav pallet to add her forces to Tom's. Nothing seems to change. Robbie comes out, on his own personal antigrav, and tries to help using the qui-based TK he picked up in the Reach. Nothing changes. Tom orders the gargoyle, which followed Robbie out, to haul on the chain. (Hey, the critter is magic; maybe that will help.) Brunalf is now close enough to be sort of back on the telepathy net. Salimar bellows (telepathically) at him to try TK. He does so. No change. Tom begins to feel uncomfortably special.
Meanwhile, back in nowhere, Brunalf's feline night vision has adapted to the darkness enough that he can see something ahead. Sort of. This brand of nowhere tends to look like mist, but now it also looks like it's swirling, and darker ahead. Ever so faintly, Brunalf sees horizontal banding that suggests a dark landscape. He opens the dome of the egg, cocks his ears, and listens. He hears a dim roaring, like wind or water, and once, a faint and far "awk!" like a bird.
Robbie flies back to the ship, gets a psilencer, turns it on, and tries chucking it into the Suck. It fails entirely to interact and just lands on the ground several meters below.
Brunalf now tries using TK on the chain -- not unlike trying to push a rope, but it helps. We are nearly all the way back before he is psychically exhausted. Well, there's a fix for that. Robbie fetches the psi-charger we bought in the Authority Zone and goes hand-over-hand down the rope to deliver it to the cat. Oddly, there is no adverse electrical effect. Maybe because he is not witchwalking "through" (or next to, or whatever) stone.
Brunalf runs the charger, accepting the headache, and starts hauling with TK once more. Meanwhile, Tom has run out of energy, but he has a battery with him and uses that rather than the charger. Eventually, with enough persistence -- POP -- the cat is out.
Of course, we wanted to get him in, but not so fast. He is, incidentally, once more swinging under the ship, watch-fop-style.
We retrieve everything and everybody, and think. The suction seemed worse than the last time we tried. Of course, that was later, thanks to timetravel. Maybe we should move into the future, ahead of or latest date so far, and try the Suck when it has more nearly worn out. And, incidentally, we'd be back in sequence.
Now, why were Tom and the cat the only ones who could use TK effectively? They're both from the Jack, but the Jack is just a space station, nothing psychically odd that we know of. Tom scrutinizes the chain that was the object of all this TK, looking for psychic signatures to analyze. After a lot of scrutiny and consultation of his trained memory, what he comes up with is this: he and Brunalf have something in their psychic signatures that is in common with the signatures of the witchwalking elves Tom knows. But Tom doesn't witchwalk, and Brunalf doesn't do it without his ship. But this feature also resembles that of a hexalogue psychic Tom once met, who could move through hyperspace, and it resembles the shape-changing medallions Tom was given by a centaur shaman, which work by Second Order Glamour. Tom knows Second Order Glamour.
Tom concludes that Second Order Glamour and psionic manipulation of spacetime are both reality-altering psi, in some manner, that are relevant to the structure of the Great Sucking Noise in ways that "ordinary" telekinesis is not.
So, the plan for the next try is this: Move back to the future, when the Great Sucking Noise will be weaker. Send the cat through again, this time with the psi charger in case of emergencies. Use Braeta as a telepathy relay, since, on a recent occasion, Tom was able to contact her and her alone despite psilence. And send Tom through with Brunalf, to help with Second Order Glamour.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.