Demons Of The Past 03 – Retribution – Chapter 18
Yes. You have become immensely more powerful since last we were together. Vick leaned back and studied me closely. Proportionately even more so than I would have expected.
“Really?” At his crest-rattle I held up my hand. “I’m not really doubting you, but I can’t feel it, you know. I haven’t had much to compare myself to, after all.”
You — and I, following my own treatment — were improving along a strong, but well-defined, curve. I have continued to follow that curve, albeit some months behind you; your current level, however, represents a serious discontinuity.
“That’s good for us, though,” the EÃ¶nwyl pointed out, taking a sip of her samahei. “The stronger both of you are, the more certain we can keep in contact even when separated — and of course the better chance you’ll have when we finally run into Shagrath.”
“No doubt, no doubt,” agreed Guvthor in his deckplate-rattling, good-humored voice — another thing I’d missed more than I’d realized. “Yet it is a mystery. Does this mean that our friend Sooovickalassa will soon experience a sudden elevation of his powers, or has some other factor intervened? Captain, can you think of anything that might have affected your development?”
I felt myself frown, thought back over my months of imprisonment. “Not really. I mean, the first month or so I was not thinking very clearly anyway, being locked up in a Zchoradan prison, no one around that I knew, surrounded by creatures I was still seeing as monsters, guarded, and of course I couldn’t even use my powers since they had the psi-screens on constantly. Later on I . . .” I trailed off, struck by a sudden thought, and Vick’s green-gold eyes met mine. “Psi-screens.“
His head tilted, crest chiming again. An interesting hypothesis.
“You mean . . . if he was practicing his psionics inside a psi-screen, it would be like, oh, exercising with weights on?” the EÃ¶nwyl asked. “Could that work?”
For a normal psi, no. Their development is roughly set when they emerge, and while they gain in power for a short time the limit of that gain is predetermined. But for one subjected to my process successfully . . . yes. Yes, that makes perfect sense. How many layers of concurrent screening did you have at once, Captain?
“Honestly . . . I don’t know. They increased it at least a couple of times, but I didn’t really keep track. I could ask.”
Do so, if you could.
Since there were controls now conveniently placed in all the inhabited areas of The EÃ¶nwyl, and we were meeting in the cargo bay which served Guvthor as a cabin, I just stretched up and activated the D-Comm. “Sasham Varan to Zchorada; might I speak with the Grasper?”
The response was immediate; obviously the communications watch had instructions to be ready for anything we said. “Wait a few moments and we will find out, Captain.”
I picked up a milk puff and bit into it, then tried to catch the cream filling before it hit my shirt. Finishing it without making a terrible mess occupied the few minutes before the familiar voice of the Grasper came on. “You wished to speak with me, my favorite prisoner?”
“Yes, Grasper. If it would not be a great trouble, I know that during my incarceration you increased the shielding on my quarters for security purposes. I was wondering if you could tell me how many concurrent layers of psi-shielding were used at maximum.”
The buzzing rattle was an unmistakable laugh. “Your imprisonment required . . . very interesting innovations in shield adjustment, despite the fact that our people have had many centuries to perfect the technology. By the end there were no fewer than seven concurrent phased layers of psionic shielding.”
I was speechless. I’d seen three layers before, and heard of four or five, but . . . “Seven?”
“Assuredly. Is that all, Captain?”
While I was still stunned — and from the way his crest was jangling, so was Vick — I hesitated. “Actually, not quite. How are your new prisoners?”
“We were able to save both of the Guardsmen,” the Grasper said promptly. “They will recover in time, although I am sure they are not pleased with their circumstances. Admiral Dor’Kane is still . . . shocked by the turn of events. Do you have any specific instructions with respect to them? They are your people, after all.”
My people. It was not merely a courtesy from a Zchoradan to say that; it was her acknowledgement that I was the protector of the human race against an enemy they did not yet know. “Yes, I do. I want them to be fully briefed on the situation. They may not believe any of it, but they can’t possibly understand unless we give them a chance. And just maybe he will believe it. He’s one of the Five, and probably one of the few the Kaital haven’t touched yet; that’s why he was the one sent down, so you wouldn’t sense something wrong. Maybe he’s seen something. It can’t hurt. Treat them all well regardless, as well as you treated me.”
“Ahh, Captain, that I will not guarantee unless they, also, behave as well as you. But they shall have proper care and comfort, at the least.”
“Thank you, Grasper. We will be leaving soon, so if we do not meet again — many, many thanks for everything you did for me.”
“We are balanced, Captain. But your thanks are appreciated; take my own, and our good wishes for the future of both our Nests.”
“And to you and yours.”
Seven, Vick said as I clicked off the D-Comm. Extraordinary control they must have over these systems. And it does explain your strength. A rising excitement was in his thoughts. I will begin this process myself, and you should continue it, although I am afraid seven layers will be beyond us.
“Perhaps . . . perhaps not, my bescaled companion,” Guvthor said. “You do have me to assist you, and my astrophysical specialty includes extensive dimensional technology background.”
A hissing chuckle. True enough. And if there is any to equal me in the science of mind-technology I have yet to meet them. Perhaps together we can succeed.
“So, what exactly are our plans, Sasham?” the EÃ¶nwyl said. “You’re going to Ptial, of course. I guess I’ll have to get ready to go out to Thann’ta again, but I’m not sure we have time.”
That may be something we can alleviate, Vick said. With the combination of the Masters of Minds here, and the Masters of the Light on Thann’ta and myself to focus and coordinate, I believe we may be able to transfer The EÃ¶nwyl directly to Thann’ta. We would have to use more mundane means to travel to Thovia and, of course, the fleets would have to follow at a normal pace, but effectively we should be able to halve the trip time.
I stared at him. “Wait. You think we could teleport the entire ship? I thought that was something only Khoros –“
Khoros’ feat was, of course, far more impressive because it spanned a far greater distance and was performed by a single being. But with these massed powers, yes, a small vessel should be transferable. A link does not exist, unfortunately, between the Zchorada and the Ptial, as far as I know, so you will have to take the longer route. It is, however, a shorter distance.
“That should work out, then. You’ll only have to make the one-way trip at normal speed, with the fleet you can get from Thann’ta and Thovia.” I knew that Thovia wouldn’t have many ships to offer, but even a few like Hoorai’Gon Bal would be a hell of a symbolic force.
“How will you get there?” the EÃ¶nwyl asked.
“Our Zchoradan allies have small craft I can borrow for the trip. We’ll have to choose a good meeting location, but if we can manage a psionic link over that distance . . .?”
I expect we will. We will come up with a semi-random table of contact times to minimize the ability of our adversary to predict when they might catch us with shielding down, and keep the length of communications to a minimum.
“But after we have the fleets assembled . . . and, I suppose, after I’ve gotten good enough with this combat-prescience of mine to be of use . . . we still need a way to pull Shagrath’s mask off, Sasham. Yes, maybe we’ll be able to take Oro, but if we can’t win the people to our side –“
“I know. And I think I know how — the only possible way how — to do that.” I looked around my little group of friends. “We have to get him to take the mask off. And he has to do it at just the right time. We’ll need Taelin and Lukh and Trey’s help, and maybe a couple others.”
Guvthor looked at me, huge brows raised. “And you believe you know how to convince our enemy to remove his mask?”
“Yes. I started to figure it out back on Earth, when I learned about who he really was, and I’ve had time to plan it out. Like I said, it’s delicate — it’s a one-shot possibility that we couldn’t even have thought of if we hadn’t gone there in the first place — but I think it’s a solid plan, because it doesn’t depend on us overpowering him. It depends on him being who and what we think he is — Viedraverion, one of the destroyers of Atlantaea and the one who killed the Eternal Queen.”
I outlined the entire plan then, watching their faces as I did so.
“Fallen Towers, Sasham . . .” the EÃ¶nwyl said slowly. “If any of that goes wrong at all you’re dead. And the rest of us not far behind.”
Yet . . . I like it very much. It is psychology you are using, and psychology well supported by what we know of this being. Your tactics could work. They should work. And the very audacity of this plan . . .
“Indeed, audacity is an excellent term,” Guvthor rumbled. “But I concur. It is a desperate plan. It is a delicate plan, and one that must be properly arranged. But it is also the precise type of plan that Shagrath will not understand. He will not see this coming, because the set of circumstances that make it possible at all is, essentially, unique, and depends on facts he will not know.”
I sighed, letting myself relax. “I thought you were all going to argue me out of it.”
If I had any reasonable alternative I assure you I would forbid this plan. Vick’s thoughts were both worried and humorous. But its very insanity makes it the only course of action likely to succeed.
“Insane. But . . . yes, Sash. It makes perfect sense now that I think about it. And . . .” she smiled. “. . . and the really dangerous part’s only at the end. If we can’t get all the set-up prepared, you won’t have to take that last step.”
“Yeah,” I conceded. “And by Atlantaea I would really rather not take it. But if this doesn’t work . . .”
If it does not work, Vick completed grimly, the Galaxy will pay the price for our failure.