Dr. Ransom said, “No! It’s a trap!”
Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone grinned a savage grin with all his fangs and said, “I live for traps. You should know that by now,” and was out the door.
The dark swordsman was bigger and heavier than the mirror-armored tiger, but before he could raise his curved saber, the Earl of Maurya had slashed him with two deep cuts that tore his armor like tinfoil. To the swordsman’s own ferocious swings he danced mockingly.
The swordsman’s shield came up, deflecting a blow downwards. He then pressed the tiger, and two or three blows went ringing off his armor. The tiger’s grin never left his face as he lowered to one knee, aiming for the weakest spot in the force shield where it met the ground, and game up with a two-hand stroke to the enemy’s massive thigh.
O Tse had dragged the Lieutenant into the hospital and laid him on an elegant couch, then returned to his position at the doorway. “That ship still is a major danger.” Jeanette and the Queen went over to the valiant young man, who was pumping blood from the hole in his chest.
The Queen held Jeanette’s shoulders as the young girl touched the healing stone on her necklace. The power necessary for such a major healing would have prostrated Jeanette, but the Queen only seemed to stand taller as the tissues knit and repaired themselves.
The giant, now staggering a bit, had increased his shielding to the point that it was fogging up before its face. For the first time, it started to make motions to retreat to the ship. With an almost contemptuous swing, Silvertyger slammed the sword out of the bigger swordsman’s hand, and then whirling around on the backstroke before the shield could re-form, chopped off the hand midway up the forearm.
At that point the ship parked in the front yard of the hospital started to power up, but O Tse was there, shoving his feather-bladed pike into an intake port, shattering its louvers. A surge of lightning ran down the staff and lit up the piping, and the ship sank to its side. The Weasel-Bear pulled the pike out, and raised it to where the control cabin would be.
“You will all die here and now if you do not submit completely,” snarled Lord Elphinstone.
A hatch whirred open on the ship and a much smaller version of the swordsman came out, that might have been a female of the species since they were not mammalian, and a frog-like humanoid festooned with sockets ad cables. “We submit,” said the smaller one.
“Explain this dastardly act,” the tiger growled.
“We are from the Tam-Kardaniuth Group, investment specialists. The Board of Directors made a decision, based on the fact that the little Yahoo girl had unlocked the secret of the Library, to make a proactive move and kidnap her, extracting the knowledge from her and leverage it into a major venture.”
“There is another danger,” a voice behind them said. It was Lieutenant Quintus Octavian, propped up between Dr. Terence Ransom and Senhor Capoeira Capybara, in bloody rags with a blanket over his shoulders and very pale. “Or there would be, if we weren’t two steps ahead of these buffoons. They managed to stage an effective attack, neutralizing the hospital’s force shield and disabling the monitor system without tripping any alarms. Plan A was to kidnap little Jeanette, but plan B was to tangle up the Queen and her retinue in a maze of legal actions, basing lawsuits and sworn warrants against her based on the lack of documentary evidence of the fight.”
He paused, panting a little. “But you reckoned without my presence. It’s true, I was no match for your brute here, but I did raise the household. And what’s more--” Aided by Ransom and the capybara, he bent down, and pulled a small cube out of an angle of grass. “--You could not deactivate my own Ecbatanophore-secure recorder, which has not only recorded everything, but has copyrighted it and already licensed it to a number of entertainment services.”
Then he started to cough badly, and they brought him back inside.
A squadron of floating platforms arrived, bearing Primus Inter Pares Decemvir and a large contingent of Ecbatanophore guards. The guards took away the three assassins, and others climbed aboard the ship and got it airborne.
Primus was ebullient. “I have to say that you folks have become a major profit center even before our first sit-down meeting! We’ve already sold two adventure serials and a romantic comedy before breakfast. All subject to your approval, but you’ll find our agreements insanely generous.”
He walked over and pointed a finger at Lord Elphinstone. “You,” he said, “are a star.”
Then he was gone, and the front yard of the hospital had an eerie peace and quiet, with a pale blue early morning sky and a cool gentle breeze.
Once inside, they all gathered around the Lieutenant’s couch, talking and having an abundant breakfast off of small suspensor trays. The Queen of Hearts was closest to Quintus, and periodically felt his forehead, which caused him to close his eyes every time she did so, and not from weariness.
“I find it remarkable, Lieutenant, that you managed to transform hanging around the hospital hoping for a glimpse of Her Majesty, into a major strategic triumph,” said Senhor Capoeira.
“Now, now, just because its true is no reason to rub it in,” responded Dr. Ransom merrily.
“You’re all being mean,” said Jeanette.
“I’m just happy that I turned out to be of service,” the Lieutenant said weakly.
After breakfast was done, and the Queen had taken the Lieutenant upstairs, the others adjourned to the dining room table.
“Now I think you should tell us about you knowing where we go next,” said her father. “Or was that just the necklace talking?”
“It is, a bit,” Jeanette said. “But I’ve been thinking that our whole quest--or whatever it is--is somehow bound up with the phrase ‘And with one hand raised high in the dark.’ The King of Ys knew it--Ngozi knew it--and then we found it in the book, that it may come from the Chorus. And then the Research Librarian--I haven’t had a chance to tell you about him--gave me those three books.”
She paused. “I can’t tell you all about it, because I promised not to, but Ngozi told me she learned the phrase from someone called the King of the Moon of the Moon. It has to do with a big planet that’s so big its satellites have satellites. But anyway, he may be someone who knows a lot, and when the Queen touched the Wisdom and Understanding stones on the necklace, I knew that we should go seek him out.”
Before the discussion could begin, the Queen came to the table, and handed Jeanette a package tied elegantly up in a ribbon, and a little card that said Jeanette Ransom. “It was sitting at the door. The sensors passed it, and I don’t think it’s a bomb.”
She opened it up quickly. It was a book. Then she remembered (many birthdays and Christmases of Dada telling her, ‘Read The Card, Jeanette!’) And looked at the little card. In delicate handwriting it said, ‘Thank you so much for the connection between Bravura, Sprezzatura, and the Court of Miracles.’ So it was from the Scotties.
She looked at the title of the book, and a chill ran up and down her spine.
In embossed letters, it said:
THE KING OF THE MOON OF THE MOON AND THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
A Romance of Many Dimensions