Chapter 5: Battle Reprise
We are packing up to go through the mirror to Lanthil, but Daphne is
reluctant. She says she doesn't want to get trapped in Lanthil. But, if we
must go there, shouldn't we do a couple of things first? One is warn
Morniesul about all this. The other is go back a few days and parsecs, and
grab a chunk of wreckage from the space battles, for Salimar to retrocog on.
Dafnord agrees that retrocogging would be useful. It might even provide us with evidence for our case before Allied Epochs. But he thinks Morniesul is safe enough, 3000-some years away, in the future. Anyway, he can't see how to contact him.
And are we really likely to get bottled up in Lanthil? Dafnord asks Daewen, who is still hanging about, if our transits between the arcane and mundane are likely to cause trouble. Oh, yes, Daewen assures him. Alvirin is specifically concerned about mortal authorities penetrating fay realms.
Gannar asks Daewen how Avalon and Atlantis feel about Faerie and its slam-the-gates-shut policy. She replies that they never feel very fond of their powerful, overbearing "neighbor" and "ally," and are probably particularly miffed just now, but still aren't likely to do anything Alvirin would particularly dislike.
Dafnord now calls up Edvard and asks the computer if the Munch is up to the spacetime flight back to the battle. Or would this, he asks Daewen, constitute a violation of the time-travel interdict from Allied Epochs?
"What interdict?" asks Daewen, smiling. We haven't received any papers about it. Good point.
Edvard, meanwhile, tells Dafnord that the ship ought to be capable of making the journey, though the starboard gravity engine is in poor shape and really needs to be looked at.
Robbie wonders how Allied Epochs can plausibly take complains from extradimensional beings that we haven't "played fair" when they try to shoot at us. Daewen admits that sounds strange, but she doesn't know much about the situation. She would like to slip back to Lanthil, now, and recommends we go through the mirror in the next half hour. Allied Epochs agents are probably on their way already. Before she goes, she puts a lock spell on the mirror and gives a ring, for a key, to Dafnord, so we can lock the mirror after ourselves when we come back.
Given our very tight schedule, we bundle ourselves into the Munch and lift. In the rear view, we see a distant air-car headed toward the ranch...
On our way into space, we notice we are tracked -- escorted, it seems -- by a little ship we suspect was sent by the Rainbow people. How nice; we still seem to have a few friends. They waggle their wings at us before peeling off. We then jump to hyperstate.
We head back through spacetime to the Johnny B.'s battle. As we drop out of hyperstate, we have to shed velocity, and this does in the ailing starboard engine. This unbalances the power grid of the ship, forcing Blake to take the #3 pinhole generator off line. It also leaves us spinning slightly. At least our cloaking devices are working properly.
Gannar takes the helm and, despite missing an engine, manages to eliminate the spin and leave us drifting peacefully. He then moves to assist Blake. She firmly recommends against bringing the #3 pinhole generator back on any time soon and turns her attentions to the starboard engine. It's really quite sincerely dead, but bits are salvageable.
Dafnord, meanwhile, notes an anomaly on the ship's sensors. There's an asteroid drifting by, looking innocuous, but it just now showed up. Consulting the Map of Here shows that it showed up from a dimensional anomaly (the 37th unknown type of anomaly the Map has encountered). If it's an asteroid, we're a pack of standard humans.
So, for a very long time, we drift along, cloaked, and they (whoever they are) drift along disguised as an asteroid. We hope they didn't see Gannar's course corrections. Probably not.
Robbie decides to investigate. He shapeshifts to disguise himself as a bit of meteoric debris and heads for the airlock. It won't cycle properly. He tries a few times, it fails in various ways, and we start to suspect timelock. He drops the idea and the shape.
Ten minutes later, Blake pronounces the starboard engine irreparable but offers to transplant the engine from the Gunny, which we still have aboard. This will take a couple of hours. The battle is only an hour away, but we have nothing else to do.
Nor, apparently, does the asteroid.
We watch our earlier selves show up, then the Johnny B. Then the jot-fighters launch, and the manta ships show up. Manta ships get blown up. Yay. We track big chunks of debris and things that could be bodies. Probably the asteroid does, too.
The battle ends and, eventually, all the survivors leave the area. We try to power up weapons, just in case the asteroid tries anything funny. The #1 pinhole generator promptly fails. Hm. No obvious reason for it, and it re-boots without difficulty. Perhaps, Daphne suggests, the asteroid is destined to not notice us, so that opening fire on it is Forbidden. We wait and, finally, it disappears into another anomaly.
Blake gets the new engine installed and Edvard tries to fly with it. His programming isn't that flexible. Gannar's is, however, and Lt. Soo-Lin's is even better. We can steer.
We approach the debris field, and Robbie and Gannar go out and retrieve a draconian corpse and some metal wreckage. The carcass looks like one of the races we observed on Yazatlan -- sauroid but not terrestrial-looking. A more plausible party than a dragon to come before Allied Epochs with complaints.
Salimar's retrocognition on the body show the interior of a manta ship, similar to those we've seen before but not identical. All the crew are the same alien-saurian type.
We pop the body in a freezer and head for home, Blake babying the transplanted engine all the way.
We arrive a day before we left, just as the engine from the Gunny fails. We send for an orbital taxi rather than try to land the Munch with insufficient engines, and have to pay the cab fare out of the account we set up for the Blenari, to avoid temporal incongruities in the bookkeeping, and to avoid drawing attention to ourselves.
We send the Munch out of system, under orders to lurk in a random area of interstellar space until we send for it. At their request, we send Blake and Soo-Lin back to Jumping Jacks, where they no doubt face an interesting debriefing. We give them copies of our logs.
We then return to the ranch, by self-returning rental air-car, timing things to arrive just after we left. This entails a lot of hanging about, idle, in Pericles, but we manage it. We also hang about in the woods near the ranch house until we see our earlier selves take off in the limping Munch.
We then enter the ranch, say goodbye to the security system and the Young Dinosaurs in Love, grab our luggage, and march through the mirror. Dafnord locks it behind him.
We are now in the castle in Lanthil, in the library. Dafnord shakes hands with Fallataal, whose tour of duty with us is over, and we bid him a fond farewell. He'll have some interesting tales for the barracks, and, once he goes to sea as he intends, for his shipmates. He remarks that he means to start up a coast guard, and thinks he'll look up Tethycles, our resident sailor-nephil, who's building a ship for him.
Before we actually part company, Fallataal fingers his Silver Service badge, informing the Service we're here, and shows us to our rooms, since he knows the labyrinthine palace much better than we do.
We collar an elven servant and send word to Jonathan, current head of the Silver Council, that we're here. Gannar checks the Lanthil clock signal (a temporal navigation system set up by Tom) and learns we are in Year 3 of Lanthil. It's about an hour and a half before supper.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.