Chapter 22 - Now We Are Two
We prepare for our -- what is it? sixth? -- descend into the Great
Sucking Noise, our immediate goal to rescue those two figures we
glimpsed on the previous attempt. Our first step is to hover in place
for a while, so people can sleep and rest. Next, we add a phone to the
camera on the rope, and Tom runs off lots more rope, plus a harness for
himself, equipped to do rappelling like a mountaineer. He also makes
collars for the egg, so it can be more effective if it is called on to
act like a spindle again.
Braeta wonders how much time has passed for those two mysterious figures we saw whisked away by mysterious forces. Excellent question. No answer.
Salimar volunteers to go, arguing that it will be easier to keep telepathic contact if she stretches out, rope-fashion, so that one end of her is physically with Tom and the other end is physically with Brunalf at the egg. Then she will only need to bridge the gap from egg to Munch telepathically. We agree, and Brunalf takes a tupperware bowl for her, in case.
We also decide that, since it seems to matter that people, rather than impersonal machines, haul on the ropes, we won't have the Munch haul at all, but Braeta, Dafnord, Gannar, and Markel will all stand in the open freight lock and haul from there.
We launch, the cat steering the egg into the Great Sucking Noise, Salimar at his side as a ball of twine. Once we are as far in as we were before, Tom lowers himself off the egg, the camera and phone just above him, Salimar paying herself out, helixing around the rope, with an eye on the end.
Trying to re-create the conditions under which we spotted the two travelers, Tom now tries using his TK to pull back up toward the egg. As it did last time, this makes the rope curve around. It also plays merry hob with Salimar's interdimensional psi. She feels disoriented, and suddenly realizes her two ends are only communicating with each other by interdimensional telepathy ("hex telepathy," in our jargon). This is reminiscent of the way Tom and Braeta could not feet their own toes, when they were down here last.
Salimar premotes that continuing bending like this is dangerous, but not as dangerous as going further down into the Great Sucking Noise. It also seems only moderately relevant to their quest.
Tom doesn't bend things any more, but looks around for that scrap of landscape. He spots a brighter patch in the dark nullity, "above" and to one side. There's a spinning swirl of blue and green. Brunalf spots it, too, and -- with his feline ability to see those wispy things that mark witchpaths -- sees lots of wisps streaming away from the patch, and down the rope. Usually, they move both ways along a path. Maybe the bias on this path accounts for the suction on the Great Sucking Noise...
Instead of trying to levitate up along the rope, Tom tries to TK toward the swirly patch. This produces no visible results, but Salimar gets a full-body migraine. tom eases off, which feels better. Salimar tries curling over herself, but this feels very weird.
She tries to look into the bright swirl by hex clairvoyance. Telepathically, the cat joins in and adds his feline clairvoyance to look for flitters. (There is a pause while the GM works out the game mechanics of this.) He sees all the flitters coming out, perhaps repelling. Tom tries "ordinary" clairvoyance and has his viewpoint ripped off for his trouble. Yug.
Tom now tries changing their positions by Second-Order Glamour. This really sends sparks up and down Salimar's metaphorical spine. Tom stops and, back in the egg, Brunalf sticks Salimar's other end into the psi-charger. He turns it on. Since they are both in range, they both get headaches, or would if they both had heads. Salimar, however, always said she enjoyed the sensation. Anyway, they ought to be psychically re-charged.
Salimar now tries hex glamour to maneuver our position. This feels worst of all, but we can see a suggestion of landscape through the swirling. The rope is almost curling back on itself now. In his egg, Brunalf can see more light off toward the vanishing point.
Suddenly, Salimar blacks out, thus dropping the telepathy net. The cat screams in agony with a splitting headache. The comm line to phone and camera goes dead.
Looking about, the cat realizes Salimar has melted. He's sitting in an octarine puddle. He lifts a sticky paw and, reflexively, starts to lick it clean, but hastily reconsiders. He tries telepathing at the puddle. He makes no contact, but gets a distant impression of fitful dreaming.
He starts spinning his egg, winding up the rope and, as a side-benefit, sloshing the puddle of Salimar up to the sides of the egg. About half the rope reels in. No camera. No Tom. Brunalf stops spinning the egg; he now has nausea as well as a headache, and is very, very worried.
Robbie, over what remains of the comm line, tells him to come back out of the Great Sucking Noise. He reverses engines, the folk back on the ship haul, and they get him out. Along with an estimated 40% of Salimar. Removed with a rug cleaner and put in her bucket.
Robbie asks the remaining crew if we should go fishing for them, or go get help. "Help" would presumably be one of the elven witchwalkers back in Faerie. They consider the options.
Aelwe is out, being a flake, plus not due to be born for thirty years yet.
Daewen is probably available, but also probably busy. There is the question of how she will take the news that they have lost her friend of many decades. She slays dragons and things. She's good at it...
Mithriel, her daughter, is much milder. We think. She's only killed a few dragons. And she certainly cares about Tom. He's her favorite uncle, even if an honorary one, and her mortal godfather. In fact, she might be really upset...
Well, what about going fishing for them? Kate tries to contact the sample of Salimar they have, telepathically, and, like Brunalf, gets impressions of fitful dreams.
They look at the physical clues. The fiber-optic comm line and the glamour rope both look like they were stretched until they snapped. The psi-charger is almost run down. Someone has been sucking on it a lot. Salimar! You pig! They plug it in to re-charge.
Dafnord suggests going back for help, even if it means facing the elven music. They prepare to ascend into orbit, then jump out.
Let's go back to Tom and Salimar, or at least Tom. Swinging in the void, he feels soundly freaked by Salimar's hex glamour, and then suffers about four solid blasts of headache a la psi-charger. He closes his eyes, nearly fainting. He registers free-fall. Or just falling. He opens his eyes. It's bright. There's ground. He hits it.
He may or may not have passed out. When he notices time passing, he primarily notices it's a bad time because he hurts like hell. He opens his eyes and finds he's staring at sky. Eventually, he sits up (very carefully) and looks around at countryside. It doesn't look like the jungle he glimpsed on the far side of the Great Sucking Noise. It looks more like deciduous forest. Or it was. There was a forest fire around here recently, and a nasty smell of old, wet ashes hangs in the air. A bit of motion catches his eye and he spots Salimar (or 60% of her) oozing up over a rock. "Are you okay?" he asks.
"Not very." Salimar awoke to find herself splattered. She did the natural thing and began gathering herself up, calling in outliers, hunting down and collecting the bits that were hung up on rocks or trees or too stunned to wiggle. This was harder than usual because she felt really fumble-witted.
She spat out some pebbles and dirt, tallied herself up, and came up 40% short. Feeling around, she found the deficit was 'way, 'way far away. Then she saw Tom and flowed toward him.
"Where's the rest of you?" Tom asks, also noting the lack of bulk.
Tom stands on the second try, looks around, and un-dislocates a shoulder that would probably hurt a lot more if he wasn't kind of shocky. Handling the arm reminds him he is wearing the interdimensional watch. It gives the date as "13 Kron 437." Huh. Has someone named a month "time"? No, that's an abbreviation. Tom expands it and gets "13 Kronasi 437." That still looks like "Kronos," and Tom voices the unpleasant suspicion that they have landed on, say, ancient Crete, and might meet an earlier version of Braeta.
Then he remembers he can check this if he is on one of the known timelines. The watch can convert the date to his calendar. He tries it and gets 2516 AD, and the date is ... today. Whew! No time travel. And we even seem to be in the same continuum. 60% of Salimar tries to feel grateful.
Looking around, the forest fires seem to be continuing in the distance. The sky is overcast, with ruddy tinges on the undersides of the clouds. And, on closer inspection, the "pine" trees have birch-like bark and are not really Earthly. Or Destine-like. Are we on another lost colony of nephilim? Or another victim world of the Dragonfolk? Salimar tries to do a retrocog and promptly faints.
Tom gathers her up, moves to the shade of a relatively unburnt tree, and picks pine needles out of the goo until it wakes up. While he waits, he notices a tree with broken branches. It has a strand of rope in it. It almost undoubtedly marks their trajectory as they presumably fell out of the sky. He goes to fetch it, along with the tupperware container for Salimar.
Salimar wakes up. Or 60%-wakes, the other 40% dreaming fitfully far away. Tom remarks that telepathy has very little range limit, and although telepathic contact is broken by discontinuities like hyperjumps, we don't know that we went through that kind of discontinuity. So he tries.
Oof. He has no psi energy left at all. Neither has Salimar, now that she has the half-wit to think about it. Probably why she fainted. They both suck some energy out of the psi battery in Tom's ring. Both feel better, though Salimar is still missing half her clues.
Tom tests telepathy on Salimar, succeeds, and tries again to contact his friends. Kate in particular.
Far away, in orbit around Destine, Kate announces that she feels Tom's presence. Dafnord holds the countdown to jump. The cat tries telepathing their 40% of Salimar again, with no results.
Trying to help, Dafnord takes the partially-recharged psi-charger, turns it on (Ouch.) and drops it in the bucket. Zootie! The other 40% of Salimar is now also recharged. Pity it doesn't wake...
Tom tries again, having felt Kate dimly, and comes down with a headache. Salimar tries instead: "Salimar to Salimar. Do I read me? Am I there?"
And, lo, the blob in the bucket sits up and talks to the cat. The two groups update each other quickly. How to find the missing two? (Or missing 1.6.) Kate dowses for them, using the 40% of Salimar as a token. This gets a direction, out along the galactic plane, but the distance is just plain "far."
They consult and decide to make a short hyperdrive trip athwart the direction Kate got, so they can triangulate. This will probably snap the telepathic connection, but we hope we can re-establish it. After all, Salimar has one heck of an incentive.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.