A second after everyone wearing white gloves hit the floor, Jack Shift phased away and didn’t phase back. Captain Ngozi Makena Odile shut down the detector. The Queen of Broceliande was kneeling among them, feeling their trembling bodies. When she got to Jeanette Ransom, the little girl grabbed onto her hand and wouldn’t let go. She was shaking like a leaf.


At breakfast it was noticed that Queen Parise had gone. This was more than a little disturbing, but Senhor Capoeira Capybara said what everyone thought: “Had she embraced and said good-bye to all of us, we would have had to swab the decks with tears.” There was also the feeling that they were now powerless and unprotected, but that also made the swift and secret departure a good thing.

At least that was the theory.


Through the cabin doorway there came a thumping rush of wings as Thyrsis and Antithyrsis entered. The crows headed directly for Jeanette and started pulling with their beaks on her necklace and bracelets. Since the stranglehold was not mainly a physical contraction, they came off. Jessica could breathe.

“We got an emergency call for a security alert,” Said Thyrsis. The voice, oddly enough, still came from the bracelets lying on the deck.

“Only it was from the bracelets and not from you, and that sounded bad.” Antithyrsis continued.

“Thanks. Both of you.”


Wynken, Blynken and Nod ran into the cabin and strapped themselves into their bunks. They were excited and considerably less than terrified. They threw Jeanette a tub full of snacks. They took them seriously, and Jeanette could count on the tub being full of her favorites.

“So--what’s this a storm of, anyway?” She asked. “I thought we were traveling through a whole lot of nothing, like one atom per cubic meter.”

“Oh, way less than that,” said Nod.

“Okay, I’m still asking the question,” Jeanette said grumpily.


The Paradox Swan was gliding through deep intergalactic space at a neutral velocity that was the speed of light combined by a complex process with the Hubble velocity--the rate of this universe’s expansion. Since this universe was made of antimatter, there would periodically be a loud ping as an atom annihilated itself against the damping field of the ship.


“Since I’m headed on a future-to past geodesic, any antimatter will blow up in the future and leave us a clear path!” The young woman said excitedly.

“If you say so,” responded the captain. “If it works it’s a very nice trick.”

“It’ll work until your trace heads out into normal space again. We do have to interlock closely, because the wake isn’t terribly broad. So ready to accept navigation lock. Carrier in three. two. one.”

“Lock,” said Ngozi Makena Odile.

“All set! We’re good!”


It was a little hard to wrap one’s head around, that the two ships, the Absolute Elsewhere and the Paradox Swan, were sailing along towards their destination, but going backwards in time as they did so. What that meant, since the universe was an antimatter universe, was the massive energy release involved in matter meeting antimatter would occur in the future and they could edge by.


“I think we can turn off the detectors now. We can use the power going to them to better use right now,” the Pirate Queen of the Night said. “Senhor Capoeira, could you go to the hold and see that everything is secure. It would be better than relying on remote sensors.”

“At once, captain.” The capybara’s voice came over the air.

“Dr. Ransom, did you tell me these ships were being held off by jet airplanes?”


The land was oppressively dark without being completely black. There were dots and gashes of red fire, and there were sullen glows at the horizon in a few directions. The sky was just illuminated enough to show and angry roiling darkness. The land was low but irregular, but you had to look for a while to make it out. If this was in fact The Night Land, it lived up to its name.

Truthfully, Jeanette would just rather have panicked and clutched at her father. She did hold him close enough to feel the strength in his body, but could not stop thinking.


After the explosion there was a mad dash for the boulder with the Decision Tree mark on it. With everyone sure to be in contact with everyone else, Grandmère Hutan put her white-gloved hand on the symbol as the shadow of another huge pillar descended on them.

Then they were through, in the sullen darkness of the Night Land, and the shock and horror ran through them.