Chapter 93: Mustering
We left our heroes back at the ranch, having a quiet breakfast -- or as
quiet as possible after Dafnord's ballistic landscaping and subsequent
tactical excavations. Dafnord bounces in, feeling great, and chows down
to a hearty 7000 calories. We decide, over the table, that the next good
thing to do would be to locate and bookmark the planet analogous to New
Hierow, over on the Falkenstein line.
We have coordinates for the place, but Tom has to navigate by sight, so these don't help directly. We download a suitably extensive star atlas from Jumping Jacks, use the house computers to prepare an interstellar trip-tick, then load that into one of the laptops Tom uses for a pantope helm. We then enter the pantope and, after some leg-work, locate the world in question.
We put the omniport in the air lock, and Robbie steps through and runs an air test. Looks okay. Tom steps through and takes a whiff. A slight, funny, new smell, but every planet smells different. Robbie and Gannar listen for broadcasts, but find nothing. A quick orbital view spots no city light. So far, so good, though it's hardly a thorough exploration. On the other hand, it's more checking than we did on the homeline version of this planet.
There's one more kind of check. Tom asks Salimar for the Map of Here and takes a peek, resolving to edit his memory if he sees anything too anachronistic. Hm. How anachronistic is "too" anachronistic? 'Cause Tom sees several markers for dimensional intrusion in the area. At least three are for our own pantope. At least one is for the family pantope "Fast Times." And some are unknown. There are about a dozen. So we are going to have been here already. Not really very surprising.
Next stop, our rendezvous with Morniesul on the Tellemataru, a month after our last meeting. We open a window on the requisite coordinates ... more or less. We're looking out on deep space, in the outskirts of the Hellene system, with a marked absence of Tellemataru. Oh, well. We try a radio hail. We get back, "Jumping Jacks 6 to Emerald Metaphor," and are soon talking to a Lt. Fuller. We offer to rendezvous, which means appearing right outside the door to his bridge. We barely have a chance to exchange greetings when we get a much more peremptory hail from a ship of the Hellene Planetary Guard. Fuller transmits his clearance, but the Guards complain that they have no record for this incoming ship he says he's here to meet.
At this point, a new voice breaks in, identifying itself as "Novarus 3," saying they're here on official business, and the Guard should butt out. The Guard grumbles. But then--
Whoosh -- The Tellemataru hoves into view. The Guard sputters some more, but Novarus 3 makes a loud official greeting, and Fuller quietly withdraws. So does the Guard. So does Novarus 3, after receiving our thanks. (We suspect the Rainbow Contract folk behind this bit of official help.)
It's a busy day. We've barely stepped into Morniesul's office and said hello to him before another ship hails -- the "TDF 1." They announce themselves by causing a holographic image to appear over Morniesul's desk. Neat trick. A young man and woman stand there, wearing grins of suppressed excitement and grey uniforms. On each uniform, there's some piece -- a cuff, a boot, a collar, etc. -- of black, and another of white. The young man introduces himself as "Captain Timmons."
With a shock, we recognize him as Timmons, the eldest of the five elfblood children we rescued from Destine. (See Destine log 6.) And the young woman is his sister Mara. (We are, after all, thirty years past the point in time where we first met them.) No wonder they're excited; we're about to help rescue their family. Timmons asks if he can dock his ship. Morniesul agrees. We watch on monitors as the ship comes in. It looks odd -- sort of lumpy-but-sleek, and streaky brown with shiny bands.
The crew that disembarks is fairly normal, compared to Morniesul's own crew of pink dragonettes, teddy bears, and bipedal wart-hogs, but they're still interesting -- five young adults, who are the elfblood children from Destine, a Marginalis, a dwarf, a trio of Marginalia, then three more dwarves, all thirteen in the grey uniforms with black and white patches, though the patch pattern is different for each individual, none of whom are fully human. Finally, and not in uniform, come Mithriel, Mirien, and Runyana.
Morniesul invites them all up to his office. Realizing we are out of sequence, we quietly procure handfuls of crackers for ourselves, to choke on rather than force any worse timelock from out-of-sequence remarks. However, since we're relics of the past, we're likelier to get unwanted omens than give them.
Soon, the TDF 1 crew is in the office and there are handshakes all around. Timmons looks enormously eager. We start by asking him what "TDF" stands for. "Tom's Defense Force?" Salimar suggests, enjoying the sight of Tom's wince. "Close," Timmons answers. "Twilight Defense Force." This explains the color pattern of their uniforms. The individual placement has nothing to do with rank; it only shows that fays are more individualistic than humans.
We pass on to introductions. The three girls need none, of course, though we notice they all seem to be young adults now, not adolescents. They are also carrying all their favorite weapons. They are here to help with the upcoming evacuation of the nephilim, though is history for them. They figured that, when dealing with a mass transfer across dimensions like this, some witchwalkers would be helpful. Sounds very reasonable. The TDF 1 came here to deliever them, really.
The sole Marginalis is "Seventh" and the trio are the "Tripod." The trio is going to help set up the transit system. Eh? Well, after we get the nephilim settled, we're going to need to supply them for a good long time, and do it quietly. This will be done by a combination of spaceships and magic mirrors. The trio will set up the mirrors. (Seventh is apparently here as Timmons's aide.)
The first three dwarves are Harry, Kerry, and Krimthortle. (A relative of Drumthortle's?) They are, of course, in engineering.
The ship is the "Lachesis," the first of her line out of the "New Dawn Yards," which gives Tom a mild temporal twinge, since he'd been contemplating setting up shipyards for Lanthil. After dropping off the sisters, Timmons will be taking his ship off to the rest of the assignment, including building the next ship, the "Clotho." (The "Atropos" should be a hum-dinger.) In order to pass through magic mirrors, and because they're unadulterated elf-tech, these ships are made of fay woods, bound with straps of silver.
Timmons waxes detailed about his ship, and Tom, at least, is interested. We learn, for instance, that the internal bulkheads are made of ectoplastically bound air and water. The engine room contains a large reserve of Lanthil water, taken straight from the Lightfall and so, essentially, liquid light -- used for energy storage. Cloaking technology is glamour-based. The air-recycling system is like that of the Fast Times, turning carbon dioxide into oxygen and turning the leftover carbon into diamonds.
The ship moves on a telekinetic drive, and has an "energy scoop" for re-charging in deep space. The "hyperdrive" is based on transits through the magic mirrors we'll be building, and the ship has three charges of spells for going through a mirror without a receiving mirror at the other end -- necessary for setting up the linkages in the first place.
As a present to Morniesul, they have a similar mirror-jump for the Tellemataru.
The new mirrors will be built by the Tripod (along with deep-space asteroid castles to house them) and by those of our people who will stay with the nephilim on New Hierow. The upcoming "Clotho" will also be build there.
We learn, by the way, that Fuller on the Jumping Jacks 6 was actually escorting the Lachesis out, not the Tellemataru in, though we don't know if Fuller realized that.
So. It looks like our mass exodus is about to start. What, we wonder a bit belatedly, about internal security on the ship? Morniesul says it's hopeless to even try. We shall just have to cope ad hoc. He also remarks that he had his own security problems recently.
He was, you may recall, making a gargantuan supply run to get the initial rations for the nephilim, after we dump them on New Hierow. This entailed some of the cross-time trading he uses the Tellemataru for, and hiring various pilots to bring sections of the shipment part of the way back through space and time.
Any pilot who does time-flights is something of a dare-devil. But none of these dare-devils from the future would come nearer than six parsecs to the version of New Hierow on our home timeline. Seems the place has a sort of "haunted" reputation...
To confuse any theoretical draconian researchers, we decide the Tellemataru will take the nephilim on a random wander through space, stopping at a series of UNsuitable systems, marked only by having really big gas giants in them. Just to lay a false trail.
But first, we have to scoop all the nephilim and their followers off Yazatlan. The three witchwalkers, we decide, will accompany Desmond and Braeta on each pickup. Desmond and Braeta will do the actual inviting aboard. Daphne should go along, too, as she has become something of a legendary figure among some of the nephilim.
We conclude by reminding ourselves that there will be hitches. We may have to come back later for people who weren't ready, or got delayed. We certainly won't get all of them on the first try. And there are some major nephilim said to be held by the dragonfolk. If we rescue them (and, though we have no plans for it, we now have three witchwalkers and a pantope, and we'll soon have a ship full of demigods), Yazatlan itself may implode. Which might count as a victory, or a hitch, or both.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.