Week 44: Greywolf's Return
We left our heroes freshly rid of a dragontrooper, whose telepathic
audit showed us how little use it was to interrogate his kind.
Re-winding our pantope window, we look over the four officer types in
the convoy where we got the dragontrooper. They, alas, get solidly
blown away and so are not available for questioning.
We left events progress and see that the gunfight continues for some time. Leaving them to it, we look the city over for more interrogation victims. While we do this, we wonder about defenses if we should pick up someone psychic. The obvious defense is a psilencer. How well do they work in the pocket universe of the Emerald Metaphor?
Dafnord pulls out his personal psilencer and turns it on. He does not drop off the telepathy net. And a faint globe of something like heat shimmer springs up around him. When he speaks aloud, his voice is faintly muffled. Tom conjures a stick of ectoplasm and pokes at the shimmering interface. There are faint sparks as the stick goes through, but it survives the penetration, as it normally would not. The boundary itself pokes in a little, as if it were a rubbery membrane.
At this point, Gannar, the spacehand android, notes that the background radiation level has risen a little. (In fact, now that he considers it, one of the oddities of this pantope is that its usual background radiation level is flat zero, unlike normal places.)
The gargoyle prods the psilence sphere, with no numbing effects such as he would normally expect. And Tom can use TK in it, albeit with a slight wobble.
Dafnord now notices that the bubble is starting to glitter, and Gannar says the background radiation is continuing to rise. Dafnord therefore decides to turn off the psilencer and go visit the house autodoc (which says he's fine, except for this little broken bone in his wrist, which he never even knew he had).
Back in the Metaphor, Tom experiments a bit more. He tries his personal telepathic shields. They work fine. He turns the psilencer back on and feels around inside its field. Something is vaguely wrong. And getting worse. He turns it off again.
Okay, so psilencers don't work in the Metaphor. Dafnord points out we can always just stun our victims and haul them through into Hellene, where psilence works just fine.
We go back to hunting high-ranking dragontroopers. Looking over various groups, we spot some guys who might be "sergeants" or the equivalents, but no one of much higher rank.
We pick out an office building that is not a scene of battle, bring the window in, and cautiously turn it into a door. Gannar, Robbie, and Salimar step out. The two AIs sample the radio spectra. There's a lot of "static" that isn't really random enough. We suppose it to by encrypted transmissions by the dragontroopers. Salimar feels out the probabilities, seeking a compass point where we could best go hunting for knowledgable enemies. Nothing. Anywhere.
This confirms something we were wondering, in light of the audit we just did. These guys are so focused and unquestioning, so, uh robot-like (sorry, Robbie), that no one down here on the ground is going to know anything useful. They just obey orders. The nearest knowledgable types will probably be on the bridges of those huge starships that dropped through the dimensional gateways between Destine and its moon. And they'll be very hard to sneak up on, or abduct without drawing attention.
We close the connection to Destine. Tom tries dowsing for the six Destino fighters we dropped off. He gets nothing. Salimar tries, too, and likewise fails, but she suspects its because they are no longer together.
Okay, we'll pick one of them. We use the bloody rags from the autodoc to home in on a human-looking fellow we knew only as "Ruis." Tom tries again, and the window opens, a little slowly, on a forest scene. Green-filtered light. It looks a bit like a redwood forest or a temperate rainforest, dampish. It does not look particularly extraterrestrial, which is a little odd in a way. There is not sign of Ruis, but the cat points out a path.
Tom steers the window down the path -- a bit jerkily. Local psi conditions are a bit "hyper" and tend to exaggerate the window's movements. Eventually, we come to a little clearing. There are a lot of small mounds here, at regular intervals. Graves. Oh, damn.
Looking about, Robbie spots several more paths into this graveyard. Salimar notices that, of the twenty-three graves, half a dozen have little lumps at one end. Headstones? They don't look new. She feels about for Ruis, but gets nothing. There's a sort of background hum to the local psi.
Disconsolately, we record the local coordinates, break off, and try again. This time we try Greywolf, the fellow who gave us, as his token, a little leather bag he'd had all his life, warning us not to open it. Tom does his best to open on Greywolf sooner rather than later, so as not to encounter another grave.
We open on woods again, but on hilly ground, with lots of underbrush. Once again, we see no one. At first. Suddenly, the brush is hacked aside by a large, bald black man, in tatters, with a machete. Greywolf comes dodging out from behind him, out of the brush, and drops to one knee, facing back along the path, a bow at the ready. He's shirtless and wearing a shaman-like necklace of bones. Two more men stumble out of the brush, one with a bloody left shoulder, the other a second archer. They keep glancing back, clearly feeling pursued.
We freeze frame and move back along their trail. (The navigation is still touchy.) Markel advises on the tracking. We come to a river and take the window aloft. We un-freeze and notice motion in the trees. Coming down again, we find a mixed party. Very mixed.
One is an olive-green humanoid. He has rather too much muzzle for a human, though, and his mouth is very wide, with pointy teeth. He's wearing baggy black pants and boots, not tattered, and a heavy gold necklace. He has a streak of red painted on his forehead. He carries a metal-tipped spear. Which is he point, in an indicative way, at our window.
We freeze-frame again, and look around for more people. The first we encounter is technically more humanoid than Mr. Olive-Green, but he looks like a classic caveman -- squat, semi-erect, naked and very hairy, with heavy brow ridges. He wears a collar of dark metal. There are some more olive-greens, all clothed to some degree or another. One has an ornately carved staff. The others have spears and swords. Standing a bit apart is a saurian, like the ones we saw running the comm console aboard the dragontrooper fighter. It wears lots of metal accessories. We could be looking at high technology, magic, or a mixture.
We click back to the place and moment where we left Greywolf and his friends. We resume normal time. We open the door. Robbie calls, "Greywolf? Over here!" They all wheel toward us, weapons at ready. The injured one dives and the archer fires. He takes Robbie square in the chest, narrowly missing his braincase. But Greywolf recognizes us, waves the others down, and approaches.
After some natural hesitation, they enter the pantope. While Tom makes reassuring noises, Robbie pulls the arrow out and promptly crashes. Markel removes him to the robot garage, where the repair droids make tut-tut noises and get to work. Dafnord, meanwhile, removes their injured member to our autodoc for analogous attention.
Tom and Kate invite the others into the dining room and start feeding them. They try to explain what is happening to the big black man, who is named Obedan. He is confused, not sure whether to be relieved or wary. Tom decides Salimar is a better choice for this and tries to turn the conversation over to her. Obedan immediately gets all nervous and deferential, addressing her as "Lady."
Greywolf, who's normally very quiet, steps in. He assures Obedan that, though Salimar isn't human, she isn't draconian either. Obedan relaxes again into mere confusion. Greywolf then explains to us that it's very confusing for the other three, since they are not "first generation." This is very awkward, since Obedan is his leader, but circumstances require Greywolf to do a lot of the talking.
So it seems that, though Tom tried to be early, a lot of time has still gone by.
Greywolf confirms this; he's more than doubled his age since he saw Tom last (though he doesn't look it -- must have nephil blood), and has served Obedan's great-grandfather.
Then Markel comes in and Obedan tenses up again. Markel looks just as human as Salimar, and hasn't even been known to shift shape, but he is a "dragonrider," and claims to have draconian blood in him. Obedan's reaction would seem to confirm this. Greywolf reassures his leader, then explains that noting non-humans is a knack Obedan has. It would be fascinating to try him on Katrina, but she's not in the room.
Greywolf can't give us very much history. The human types have been on the run too long and too fast to bother with history for the last few generations. He tells us that the dragontroopers have apparently scattered the Destinos through time as well as space, in whatever world it is. And they probably get folk from other worlds, as well, we suppose, recalling that other planet we found.
Another thing that makes Obedan and the other edgy is that we live in a "palace" like the draconians, unlike the huts used by the small, scattered human communities. However, the draconians don't use high technology, at least not in the area Greywolf knows. There are high towers to the north, which might be different.
Greywolf apologizes for not gathering better intelligence for us. He does know that there are many races of draconians, and they dominate the humanoids. Some, they even domesticate, like that cave-man type. He has not met many other first-generation Destinos there, though there was Desmond. Desmond arrived about seven hundred years before he did, and assume all the humans of that world originated from Destine.
We ponder the size of this mess and once more wonder why the draconians (at least the hi-tech ones) are doing this. Greywolf says Desmond had several theories, but his favorite was that the humans were put in to challenge the draconians, keep them on their toes, as sparring partners, so to speak.
We resolve to look up this Desmond, along with Hector, Jason, and the other Destinos we've met.
And we probably need to take this enormous mess to Vinyagaerond. Won't Daewen be pleased.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.