Chapter 25: Alien Abduction
We left our heroes on an unidentified planet, waiting around after Braeta has tried to attract the attention of the local demigods. While we wait, we re-examine the Map of Here for the neighborhood of that curious set-up with the chain and ropes. There are three tiny marks, labeled "anomaly," with no date stamp. Two of them could be reached by the rope. The rope, by the way, ends in a frayed cut. We suspect that the people we glimpsed in the Great Sucking Noise -- probably of Braeta's blood -- have been departing and possibly arriving through these anomalies, by means of the rope.
Tom is in no mood to go egg-diving with the cat into the Ongoing Event (the local version of the Great Sucking Noise), but he decides to try one more thing: Suitably prepared with Brunalf and Braeta standing by with egg and glamour-rope, Tom walks up to the rope and tugs on it. Nothing.
With a little difficulty, we untie the rope, to take back for later analysis or use as a token. The metallic fibers in it have some of that ultra-tech molecular styling we've seen in the dragonfolk equipment.
Tom then goes back and tries to extract a link from the chain, as more sample. He tries to do this with Second-Order Glamour, the palpable kind. He fails. A little poking around shows that the whole chain is entirely psi-proof. You can't, for instance, look inside the links with clairvoyance. Clearly worth taking for examination.
The chain, however, was forged in place. To take it, we'll need to blow away one of the columns it's wrapped around. But we have this starship, equipped with light blaster cannon. It is the work of a moment to blow away the required masonry.
It is the work of milliseconds for a fraction of the blaster charge to hit the edge of the Ongoing Event and ricochet freakishly right back down the barrel of the blaster cannon. Fortunately, no one is hurt. But we're down one blaster cannon.
We gingerly employ the tractor beam to shake the chain loose from the rest of the rubble, then go out and stow it.
Braeta thinks it is pointless to wait longer for any local nephilim to show, so we prepare to leave. But we want to make one more try at locating the dragonfolk, or at least the other side of one of their suction portals. Tom and Robbie ask Salimar if she would like to donate a small sample of her substance. The cat could then toss it down the Ongoing Event and she could try to contact it. Salimar, who has just recently reunited herself, does not take the suggestion kindly and points out that it is qualitatively the same kind of problem she had before, with even less chance of recovering her missing portion.
She proposes instead to make an ectoplasmic object for the cat to launch. She makes it look like an ordinary pebble, as camouflage. Brunalf then launches his egg into the Ongoing Event, tethered by ropes held by Braeta, Dafnord, et al. He drops the rock and is hauled back.
We wait for an hour. Salimar then dowses for the rock and finds her dowsing points off into hyperspace. (This was why we asked Salimar. She alone of the crew has psi that operates across dimensions.) So it would seem the dragonfolk take their nephil slaves somewhere out of continuum. At least, Salimar says she would have to go through hyperspace to follow that psychic lead. The Munch is not equipped for this.
Accordingly, we leave. Tom proposes that we head back to the Destine system, to the time of the Invasion, there to examine that chunk of alien craft we suspect of being a lifeboat. After all, these people might have information about the dragonfolk or be potential allies ... if they live. And we rather owe them the help, since we were the other party to the collision.
The journey takes two weeks.
Since we know we're headed into a combat zone (or astronomically near one), we jump out with shields up, everyone strapped into battlestations. We arrive a couple of hours after we last saw the alien. The battle is comfortably far off, we find. The lifeboat is not exactly on the trajectory where we left it, but we follow a trace of radiation to it. It is still tumbling, and one part is still radiating. We approach, Markel launches Second Sight, and Tom piggybacks telepathically.
Inside the alien ship, we find more of the irregular chambers and corridors we saw before. One chamber is packed with containers of various shapes. One of the larger ones contains a damaged-looking alien. Coffin? Hibernation pod? There are bits of machinery in with it that could be life-support. Or grave goods. Or neither. We find two more aliens in boxes, but don't get any wiser about their condition. Telepathy entirely fails. They are either very alien, very unconscious, shielded, or dead.
A corridor ends in a psi-proof zone. Other chambers include one full of fiery light -- probably the generator -- and another full of tangled cabling. One room appears to have furniture (we suppose) and things on the walls that could be appliances or art, making little sense as either. Anyway, it looks like it might be quarters.
We try hailing the ship in all the ways common in the Ecumene. Nothing. Eventually, though, Markel stumbles on an actual, live alien. It is, uh, seated before a mass of machinery, which it appears to be operating in a steady, deliberate manner. Tom tries telepathy and gets nothing whatever. Either it's very alien or it's shielded.
We bring the Munch in closer. This produces no reaction. We have Edvard use the tractor beam to stop the tumble. Edvard does so, remarking that there is a thrust working to maintain the tumble. But neither this interference nor the signals we blink with our running lights get any rise out of the alien. Nor does his cabin gravity appear to change.
We just watch for a while. Some psychic probing reveals the region of psi-block is irregularly shaped, extending part way out of the ship and just barely including the alien itself. If it only gets up and walks away from the panel...
We decide to take it back to Hellene and turn it over to the KaiSenese Embassy there. Edvard throws an event horizon around both ships and we jump.
This produced a reaction from the alien. It starts working faster (though this is still pretty slow to human sight). After a bit, it gets up off its "seat" (a ring-like structure on the floor) and moves toward the door. As soon as it moves out of the blocked zone, Tom tries to contact it telepathically. Nothing. We conclude it is wearing the equivalent of a personal psilencer.
The alien goes to the room where all the boxes are, and proceeds to entangle itself in gadgetry. After a while, we conclude it's putting on a space suit. It then opens a hatch -- not an airlock, though there is no sign of escaping air -- and looks out. It sees the Munch (or so we presume) and points a gadget at it. Sensor beams? Comm signals? Safety flare? Ritual insult projector? Isn't it amazing how meaningless stuff is with no context? After a while, the alien goes back inside.
Edvard announces that the alien is directing radiation at us, in the high ultraviolet and low X-ray range. The beams do the Munch no harm, though it wouldn't be good for exposed flesh. The beams are modulated -- though they are too regular to be communications and too complex to be sensor pulses or weapons fire -- or so we'd think. We try sending the patterns back, then sending 1-2-3 code in bursts on those wavelengths. Nothing attracts the alien's attention so far as we can tell. It just goes back to working it's console. Over the next half hour, it goes back to look out the hatch twice more.
The radiation intensifies. We copy this in our reply. When the alien pattern changes, we copy that, too. Now the alien gets excited. It looks out its hatch again and points its gadget at us again. Then it goes back in. We try more variations, but get no more reactions.
Time passes. Eventually, the alien closes the hatch, takes off its "suit," and works some more at its console. Then it takes a strange device off the wall, puts it down, and does nothing. For all we know, it is listening to its album collection.
And we hurtle on through the night, in great incomprehension.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.