Mother Goose Chase
Chapter 20: A Warehouse Like Home
Salimar sets up psionic wards all around the warehouse space. Kate feeds
and grooms the ponies in their selected corner, demarked by the picnic
baskets and our luggage. Gannar sits and searches through his databases
for information that might be useful. The dragon eventually stops flying
and perches on a high cross-beam.
Daphne gets a glass of water and retreats to the most distant corner, murmuring fretfully. Dafnord watches her mix something into the water that turns it murky, then pour the water into something in her lap. He walks over, and hears her burst out with "How could anyone do this to you?" He looks into her lap, and sees that she's holding a large dish containing a miniature tree. With a sob in her voice, she explains that this tree has been tortured, and kept in a pot that is much too small for it, and that this has been going on for a very long time, since the tree is quite old.
Dafnord assures her that it will grow under her care now, and asks where she got it, although he thinks he knows. She says, "I took the poor, starved, stunted thing from That Apartment. Here, poor baby." She dribbles more liquid into its bowl.
Dafnord goes over to Salimar and asks her if she can read the mind of growing things.
"Well, yes. What thing?"
He points and describes the bonsai.
"Why don't you just ask Daphne?"
It had never occurred to Dafnord that the pixie could do that. Now he ambles back over to her to make his suggestion to her. She tries, but decides that the tree is just too traumatized to talk. She says that it needs loam and a larger pot before it can start to prosper, so Robbie volunteers to go to a plant store to get that. He locates a florist near the shuttleport, and heads off.
Dafnord then leads the rest of us in a chronological review of our information. "Three months ago, in the park..." Salimar plays her visual retrocognition of the summoning of Sammy for us. Dafnord has her run the actual appearance over a few times. Finally he is sure, and declares that Sammy had been on the verge of tears, and his hysterical laughter is a sign of his relief. We watch a third replay, and agree with the Acro's conclusions. Kate adds the observation that he did not dress himself until after making eye contact with Perdetta, and that he then dressed himself appropriately. We think this is telepathy.
We then mull over Sammy's injunction to "leave, kill no one, and approach no children." The last command is quite puzzling. Robbie, on the net, resolves to approach a child at the first opportunity. We discuss our response to the command to leave. Some of us felt a compulsion, and others did not. Of those who felt the compulsion, some successfully resisted it, and others didn't. Gannar seemed notably affected.
Daphne tries again with her new, arboreal friend, and this time it tells her what happened just before we first arrived here. (It feels like a retrocognition to us, but if she thinks she's reading a plant's mind, then we're fine with that.) We see the Connor apartment from a viewpoint slightly above an end table. The center of the room has been cleared, and there is a red circle with symbols and lettering on the floor in the middle. Perdetta is chanting something foreign, and Sammy is lounging on the arm of a chair. Soon, a mist forms, and we start appearing. The conjuration seems to have been a seeking for servants. Great.
Robbie spots a young boy ahead of him. He approaches the child, and starts to feel a little "melt-y," as if his upholstering system were about to start operating by itself. Nothing else feels odd. His skin starts to develop a slight rainbow sheen, but he fixes it.
He intrudes on the child. "Excuse me?"
"Yes?" The boy gets a good look at him. "Are you all right?"
Robbie again re-adjusts his upholstering, and replies, "Yes. Could you tell me where the florist is?"
"Is that a flower shop?"
"Thanks anyhow." Robbie has his information, and he passes it on to us.
The child skitters away from the distinctly odd adult. As Robbie resumes his walk, he tries calling Jumping Jacks at Cape Canaveral. He gets the "all circuits busy" signal again.
We wonder about the significance of Sammy's instruction to us to not approach children. Would this be a way in which we could interfere with Sammy? Is it merely a response to the standard situation vis-a-vis "fairies" and children? Other unanswerable questions are asked. Fallataal remarks that children, or at least innocents, defeated the great dark wraiths back on Ennorath. Gannar remarks that Lathil was created for us by innocents, for whom we defeated the draconian, possibly even demonic, Lilim
Fallataal asks about our Tighmarker geas. We demonstrate that it is still in full effect by placing the dragon in front of the door, waiting for someone to come down the street, and having Markel go to open the door. Markel goes weak in the knees, so we end the experiment.
Robbie gets his pot and soil, and heads back to us.
Dafnord makes another attempt to encompass our intractable problem. We agree to dismiss the possibility of a full frontal assault; this would never work. Alternatively, since our goal is to leave, we could work at doing that. Then, once we're in Tighmark, we'll be in a better position to fix things here. Robbie suggests that we go to a good mindsmith here and say, "I've been put under a compulsion. Please remove it." Fallataal asks a good question: "Which compulsion?" This gives Mr. Roberts pause.
In the pause, Salimar points out that Bev, our Perdetta, found something effective here, in the way of occult methods, and that, therefore, we should be able to also.
Fallataal works on the return idea. He suggests that we get back to England, return to those large standing stones, and rouse the Avaloneans to aid us. Dafnord prefers returning to Tighmark, where they can (we hope) remove the compulsions as well as the geas. From there we can return to Lanthil, and thence to Hellene. Once there, we can return to Arcangeles, and fix our problem permantently.
Robbie contacts Geosync Transport, who would, for a large surcharge, lease us a ship without a pilot, and Arcangeles Space Inc., which would not, though they will cheefully chaufer us to any spaceport on Earth. As Robbie gets closer to us, he sees a woman and girl approaching. He turns aside to let them pass. He feels a tap on his shoulder. It's Perdetta.
"I want a vee-are berth from paper moon and a six-pack of up. That's an order." She walks away.
Robbie heads for our warehouse with a mental shrug. Perdetta didn't give him a time limit. He does fret that she found him, and worries that we may not be allowed to leave. Gannar promptly books us with ASI and a pilot to take a freight run to Heathrow tomorrow afternoon, the earliest they can take us. Dafnord advises us to stay put and not interact with outsiders.
As Robbie gets closer to our warehouse, he feels his upholstery system slipping again. He adjusts himself firmly, and steps back into his temporary home. He immediately turns into a shiny black robot with silver piping. He changes back, and turns to Salimar. "Get this compulsion out of me."
She brightly asks, "What technique?" as she mentally prepares herself for the process. Then she feels her body cavitating, until she steps away from the eidolon. "That was interesting," she remarks, and explains what she felt. "I'm considering a TK block."
Robbie decides to take matters into his own processors, and re-programs himself. "I am nobody's servant. I am a free agent."
With that, some of us start to feel queasy.
Robbie spawns a watchdog process on his codebase. After a noticeable pause, it reports some bit rot, more than can be expected from the usual quantum flux. Robbie starts up his daemon's repair cycle.
Markel now doubles over with pain, Kate collapses from dizziness, and Robbie again becomes a shiny black robot with silver piping. Our true elf, not looking too well himself, asks Salimar to drop him off the net, or at least isolate him mentally from Markel, Kate, and Robbie. She obliges.
Gannar feels a creeping sense of dread. Without consulting the rest of us, he cancels our trip. Even so, he starts to hyperventilate. Daphne, no devotee of absolute morality, suggests that we get Perdetta what she asked for. Instantly, Gannar dials Paper Moon and orders a one-month rental of a top-level virtual reality berth. (He learns that a person must be over eighteen to do this.) He finds out that Up is a mildly psychoactive drink, likewise note sold to minors, and has a six-pack put in the VR berth.
Fallataal suggests that since Perdetta is a minor, this might make her a child, and therefore someone we cannot approach. Ha! We think about this, and allow that it might be helpful, or might not be.
Things seem to have calmed down. Gannar re-establishes our reservation with the slightly annoyed person at ASI. Salimar checks Robbie over for tracers, but can find nothing. His daemon reports that his rate of bit rot is down to normal.
This has upset us all, and Dafnord has to be firm that we will not break our isolation, not contact Sammy, Bev's parents, a private investigator, the police, etc. We calm down and realize that Perdetta had to contact Robbie directly and physically, and that nothing happened to the rest of us until he told us of his orders. So he probably spread his compulsion to the rest of us.
Robbie asks Gannar to make a debugging run on him (Robbie). Gannar agrees, and asks Robbie to download him a memory dump. Robbie does so, but all Gannar receives is a hissy, high-pitched twittery noise with no data. Robbie resends at a slower rate. Gannar now reports that he received a low-pitched warbly noise. Robbie accesses his software repair routines himself, and receives their report that he is fine.
Robbie hands the pot and soil over to the pixie, who takes it with thanks, and retreats to her corner to minister to her leafy charge. Fallataal gets some wax from Markel, and plugs up his ears. Markel, Fallataal, and Dafnord take turns checking the warehouse. Kate moves from grooming to detailing the ponies. We eat, some sleep, some talk softly. Dafnord reminisces about his experiences on Aphrodite. Again.
In the morning, Fallataal suddenly becomes hyperactive, pacing the length of our space, and juggling five balls at once, something we've never seen him do. He explains that he's gotten into a hyperfast groove, and that he's trying to maintain it. We decide we can live with a member of the Silver Service who is hysterically speeded.
Around noon, we move out, and head for the ASI entrance to the shuttle port. We walk up to the main road on the inside of the donut hole, and turn spinward to get to the ASI access road. After we walk a bit we realize that we must have overshot it. We backtrack, and soon several people, using their various modes of perception, realize that we've gone farther than we could have traveled. It would seem that we're not allowed to find the correct cross street.
Robbie calls a taxi. When it arrives, he gets in and gives it the address for ASI, and they take off spinward. Meanwhile, Fallataal dashes back to the previous cross street, which he is sure is on the other side of ASI from the rest of us. With Markel and a bit of string, he ascertains where the access road should be, but there's nothing there except bulkhead. The taxi comes up to us from anti-spinward and stops. Robbie has it reverse direction and try again.
Gannar calls ASI and asks for someone to come out to the street we're on, because we're having... difficulties. Soon a medium-sized man in brown coveralls comes down the street to us, and, with an exasperated look, directs us to follow him to... it's not there. He becomes upset, and accuses us of getting into his head, messing with his mind, there's laws against this, blah, blah. While this is happening, Robbie returns from spinward, stops, and pays off the taxi. Fallataal hands the guy a gold coin for his troubles, and he stalks off to a nearby bar.
We return to our warehouse.
Kate unpacks the ponies and feeds them. Dafnord helps her, and they discuss the possibility of offering Sammy something he wants more than to continue living on a space station and consorting with a teenaged girl. Daphne asks how one gets rid of a demon. Gannar explains that a religious ritual to exorcise a demon is the usual technique. This discourages the pixie; she doesn't see any way to apply her wood magic to that problem.
Robbie accesses Information, and learns that the nearest house of worship is Beth Yakov Synagogue. Dafnord decides that we should at least find out if we can perceive this place. He puts some wax in his ears, and he and Fallataal set out on a pessimistic walk of exploration. The two move at a more than brisk clip, since the elf is still speeded and the Acro refuses to fall behind. At the right address they see a small sign in Hebrew and Earthron, the latter saying "Beth Yakov Synagogue". Below it is a doorway, and in the doorway is a man looking at them in astonishment. They pull the wax from their ears.
"You need help," says the man.
"Oh, yes," says Fallataal.
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.