One hundred sixty-one

One hundred sixty-one

Lord Elphinstone was evidently more affected than he seemed at first, so Jeanette insisted on healing him as soon as they were back in the fortress. Both Senhor Capoeira Capybara and O Tse laid their hands on her shoulders to lend her their energy. She touched the healing jewel on her necklace and she felt the power go out of her and through her. There was more--a lot more--than she had expected, and when she was done and the tiger stood up, the other three were extremely tired.

“You’ve been carrying a lot more injuries than just this--which surprises me not one bit,” said the capybara.”

“I’m ashamed to admit the truth of that. Pride and folly, and now I’ve drained Jeanette too much,” he rumbled.

“At least we have time for her to recuperate--and we have you to thank for that. So I think that averages out to a moderate kick in the pants, you big dope.”

“I will take it as having been administered. I am sorry.”

Senhor Capoeira came to the barren stone cell Jeanette had adopted. She was lying next to the wall with her backpack behind her head and Gad the beetle--now gorgeously colored, he noticed--on her stomach. He pulled out two special blankets that her father had been carrying ever since the world of the Rose and Briar, rolled one up to replace the lumpy book-filled backpack, lifted up the beetle and covered her with the other. Then because he could not pretend having energy anymore either, he settled down on his stomach next to her.

“Of all the places to recuperate in, this rough little room is pretty low on the list. Not much like Avalon, or that rental in Storisende.”

Jeanette said wearily, “I just wish we weren’t going backwards--running and hiding. It seemed, however bad it got, that we were moving towards something--and now we’re not. It seems like we’re getting farther away.”

“I can’t say much to that, my dear, except to say that forward and backwards and near and far get rather complicated when we’re jumping universes and leaping centuries. We might be right next door to our goal, cosmologically speaking, and not know it.”

“I guess you’re right,” she said.

She could hear the capybara’s even breathing, and her own bleakness was turning into a more comfortable sleepiness. She put a hand on Gad.

“What did you think of the fight, Gad? Was it too much?”

The voice came over her bracelets. “It was beautiful and terrible. Those beings--”

“The thundercloud jellyfish?”

“I wish I could see them some more.”

There was a pause.



“Does this sort of thing happen a lot?”

Jeanette smiled a sleepy smile. “I guess so, yes.”

The beetle beat its wings quickly. It sounded like purring, and Jeanette readjusted herself.

The morning was bright and clear, and there was still an abundance of water on the short grass. The travelers made sure everything was packed, and they boarded the platform. It was decided that, although the spray-covered station was more or less directly below them, they would take the long way around, up to the head of the fjord and back down, since the winds were still strong, and a direct descent might be dangerous.

It was far more impressive looking up the cliffs than it had been looking down,  and the spray and wind made it quite cold. They were looking carefully for any artifacts from the ship, even though there was the distinct possibility that such things might be as invisible as the station.

When they hovered on their platform in front of the torus-shaped structure that could only be seen from the spray around it, they could see  a battered and cracked area that could be explained by the station crashing into the further wall of stone.

Senhor Capoeira had a phone-sized device out that Jeanette thought might be the one the Cowards had given them--given her father. She asked, “Are you getting something?”

“Well, it’s not made off neutrinos, that’s for sure, although a couple of moments of thought would have one arrive at that conclusion--but it’s not something weird and exotic either: it’s structure seems to be standard hull material--there’s even a listing on this scanner. No reason it should be invisible, except for one thing: Its mass and magnetic moment are 21 percent of what it should be. And that makes no sense at all.”

“The same percentage for everything? 21%?” She asked.

“Yes. I’m sure that’s tremendously significant, but I can’t see what it is. I’m a funny animal, not a scientist.”

“Let me see that,” she asked, and he handed it to her. She held it in one hand--the screen was just bars on a grid--and she touched the eighth and ninth jewels on her necklace, the ones for wisdom and understanding. For a second or two, nothing happened. Then something dawned on her.

“The best explanation for those readings is that the ship is just 4/5 not there. And what that may mean was that it was phasing out of one universe--this universe--and into another, when something went wrong.”

O Tse, who had been respectfully quiet, spoke up. “So perhaps it was ready to phase through that mountain wall, something went wrong and they slammed into solid rock instead.”

“Yes, yes,” said the capybara. “That could mean that there used to be--or maybe still is--a portal up on that wall. But outside of that, I don’t see that there’s anything useful that can be gotten out of it. A pity, because it seems to me that there should be.”

“All that means here and now is that it’s hiding its secrets more effectively,” O Tse said sadly.

They all stood on the platform as it floated above the narrow strand  of beach and were silent for a while.

“Well, not quite,” the capybara said at length. “It does mean that the ship was using the Decision Tree networks and is probably on the side of the Pilgrims and all, though driving a whole station through a portal is rather outrageous.”

More of a pause, and then said, “Unless Jeanette could somehow heal it--?”

Lord Elphinstone said forcefully, “Trying to heal a whole space station would simply kill her,”

“Maybe not the whole ship, but a fragment of it? There are probably bunches of fragments--invisible ones, to be sure--along this sliver of beach, or under the water.”“It’s worth a try,” Jeanette said.

They brought the platform down to the choppy surface of the water, looking both on the stony beach and underwater. They were at it a long time.

Jeanette thought she saw something under the water by the edge that looked like an odd-shaped bubble. They fished it out, and though she held it in her hand and feel its weight, she couldn’t see a thing.

But with the three others holding onto her amid the spray, she touched the healing jewel.

It drained her tremendously, though not as much as healing Lord Elphinstone had. At the end, there was a small silver box with filigrees on it, broad and flat.

She opened it up, and gasped.

“White gloves,” Senhor Capoeira whispered.

Jeanette touched them. “More than that,” she said. “These are Nemesis Gloves.”


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