Demons Of The Past 03 – Retribution – Chapter 20

Chapter 20


Take care of yourselves. I thought that with all the intensity I could muster.

And you as well, Vick replied from on board The Eönwyl, far across the Zhiraz system. But you need not echo so loudly in my brain! Your power will reach far, Captain; for such trivial distances you need not focus.

“All right, I guess I need to learn to judge that kind of thing better,” I said aloud to the D-Comm.

“Yes,” the Eönwyl said, with a smile from the screen lighting the control room of Hikitt-a-Hrrdr, the fast attack scout craft the Zchorada were lending me. “Vick’s shaking his head and holding it in both hands; you must have almost mentally deafened him.”

“Sorry, Vick. Really, I am. It’s just . . . you’re literally millions of kilometers away.”

Apology accepted. But understand that as you have reached and surpassed the level of ordinary Masters of the Light, distance begins to matter less and less. Even now, I am in contact with the Master of the Final Light.

Without warning, that diamond-hard, space-cold mind touched mine. You can hear me as well, can you not, Captain Sasham Varan?

Yes. Are you reaching out to read my mind, or am I sending to you now?

A flash of humorless teeth. A bit of both. But your mind is capable of reaching mine on its own; I can sense its power, and it is vastly greater than when first we met, Captain. Now, at least, you may share one advantage of our great Enemies: though separated by the gulf of the stars, still you will be able to speak and be heard.

“But only at proper times,” Guvthor reminded us. “At each conversation we will re-synchronize our timekeeping, and appoint another time to speak — at random when possible, so as to prevent any likelihood of our enemies finding us with protections down.”

A wise precaution, Rizzivor said. The red-and-black Chakron Master of Minds had volunteered to come with me, to assist me on the ship which had only hastily been customized for a human’s use. Ordinary adversaries would find attacking minds at such distance a daunting task, and the defender would be at a great advantage; but we cannot say for sure that this would be true of the Kaital or of your Shagrath.

“And leaving that aside, the less he can sense of us, the less he’ll be able to guess of what we’re doing,” I finished. “All right. Eönwyl . . . I’ll miss you more than I can even say. But we’ve got to get going.”

She looked, perhaps, the slightest bit embarrassed — I knew how private a person she was — but her smile rivaled her spectacular hair. “I’ll miss you too, Sasham. Don’t get yourself killed.”

“Try not to, anyway.”

Then we are prepared. Masters of Minds of Zchorada, have you the link fully in mind?

I could sense the tremendous echo of thousands of powerful consciousnesses all responding YES.

It is well. Sooovickalassa is the bridge. It will be a great Test you undergo, Sooovickalassa; if you fail, it may be a disaster indeed. Are you both prepared and certain?

Vick’s mind-voice was confident. Am I not a Master of the Light now? There is no room in my soul for doubt, nor time for us to waste. Do it!

A titanic pulse of psionic power rose, so swift and powerful that I closed my own shields in reflexive defense, but not before sensing a strange superimposed panorama of empty, deep space and a spaceport in the midst of a lush jungle. On the forward screen, the tiny dot that represented The Eönwyl shimmered and vanished.

I stared in awe, probing the area with my senses. That hadn’t been the activation of any stardrive. The Eönwyl had not used any technology at all; somehow, the combined power of Thann’ta and Zchorada had teleported the entire ship . . . hopefully safely! . . . fifteen thousand lightyears away.

I opened my mind again, thought hard about Vick, his mindvoice, and the direction in which lay Thann’ta. Vick?

I . . . am alive. The transfer . . . was a success. His mental presence suddenly cut off.

Vick? VICK!

Clear your mind of concern, Captain Varan. Master Sooovickalassa has collapsed, yes, but I sense no permanent injury done. He will recover. See for yourself.

For an instant I found myself looking through an alien pair of eyes, seeing in spectra subtly different than human, smelling other scents sharp and intriguing, looking down at Vick. The little R’Thann scientist was being tended by the Eönwyl.

Just as quickly the vision ended. Wow. I . . . hadn’t done that before.

It is an experience worth availing yourself of when the opportunity arises. Understanding the nature of the Tests confronted by a species is always aided by understanding the nature of that species. Now, we have our work to do, and you have yours.

I know. Blessings of the First World on you.

And may the Testing favor you, Captain. We will speak again in one week plus six and one-half hours. He cut off instantly and I was once more alone in my head.

I turned to Rizzivor. “I guess we’d better get moving.”

He bobbed his mandibles. “You are a pilot; are these controls satisfactory?”

“Good enough. Someone obviously stripped them out of an Imperial fighter, though an older design.”

Older or not, the controls responded well enough, and it took me only a few moments to become sufficiently sure of myself that I was ready. “Zhiraz Control, this is Hikitt-a-Hrrdr, preparing for departure.”

Hikitt-a-Hrrdr, you are clear of all obstructions. You may Convert when ready.”

I touched the control and the attack scout instantly disintegrated itself and reintegrated on the other side of lightspeed. “Smooth Conversion. Your drives are good, Rizzivor.”

“Give me no credit, Captain. While not incapable in technical matters, I am no engineer or designer of drives. I am here to be a companion and teacher in the time you have remaining.”

“And I certainly need a teacher. We won’t have to come out of Conversion until the next contact time, so I suppose we should get started. What will we be practicing?”

Rizzivor buzzed thoughtfully. “You are accomplished at telepathy — both the simple communication, and combat of the mind. You have also been well-trained by our enemy in the more direct physical manifestations — telekinesis and its relatives as well as personal physical and mental enhancement. This would seem to me to leave only a few specialities untouched, and it is my view that we should begin with what we just witnessed: teleportation, the ability to bridge distance without crossing it.”

“You think I can do that?”

“I am certain of it, Captain. We discussed aspects of his process, Dr. Sooovickalassa and I, and while he was — understandably — extremely reluctant to go into details as to how the process worked, he was very clear on the purpose of the design and his expected results. If the process worked as intended — and all evidence thus far is that it has — then you should have access to all known psionic fields to one degree or another, possibly excluding peculiarities such as the Eönwyl’s precognition.”

Well, if he and Vick thought so, they were probably right. “Can you teleport?”

Rizzivor buzzed a laugh, and then was suddenly on the other side of the control room. “A poor teacher I would be if I did not know what I was to teach!”

I remembered that Raiakafan could do that in combat as well; sparring with him had been a challenge in more ways than one. “True enough.” I glanced at the screen. “So teleportation works even when in Conversion space?”

“Within a vehicle in Conversion, yes. I would not recommend attempting to teleport from here to, say, Zhiraz while traveling!” A telepathic impression of a very sudden and devastating explosion. “Transporting oneself from one point in a known universe to another is one thing; performing it from an object in one plenum to another, far less simple. I know of very few who have ever attempted it, and even fewer who have succeeded.”

“But it’s not impossible?” My engineer’s brain was hurting trying to figure out how you’d even reconcile the vectors without wiping out a planet.

“Not impossible, no. Few things may be said to be truly impossible. But not something to be attempted without great skill and great justification for the necessity.”

“Well, right now I’ll settle for being able to move across the room.”

“That will indeed be enough of a challenge. In fact, you may find it more challenging than you think.”

“So how do I do this, anyway? In some stories you just sort of . . . imagine yourself there, and suddenly there you are.”

“That would be convenient, but it is not quite correct. Teleportation follows something of the same essential principles as what you call the Nexus drive; you are attempting to enforce a spatiotemporal equivalence on two separate points in the universe. However, Nexus points are what amount to natural channels between locations. A psionic teleporter has no such natural channels; they must bridge that gap on their own, by, in essence, pulling the distant point to you, superimposing your current location on that point, and then letting the current location . . . spring away, so to speak.”

I thought about that. “So I have to keep both my current and destination location in mind?”

“More; you must visualize them, with as much precision as possible. At the moment of teleportation you must have combined their visualizations so that they are thesame, and only then can you choose which one will remain with you, and which will recede in the distance. The actual act of preparing a teleport is experienced differently for each psionic; some simply report the need to merge the visualizations, but most describe some sort of effort involved in, conceptually, pulling the distant location to their current one before they can truly superimpose the destinations and successfully transport themselves.”

I chuckled. “Visualization again. Well, I have had a great deal of experience with that!”


I summarized a number of the more visualization-heavy tasks of learning Tor; Rizzivor’s scent and mind-presence showed he was impressed. “This Hand Center is actual? You visualize your own body in such detail?”

“Oh yes,” I said, my head having a phantom ache just from the memory. “Every detail.”

He buzzed to himself. “Well, if you have mastered such visualization discipline, you should find teleportation far easier than I would have thought.”

I grinned but shook my head. “Oh, I’d love to believe that,” I said, “but at least my hand was already right there for me. Visualizing something that isn’t there, and then superimposing it on something that is? No, Rizzivor, we’re going to be working on this for a while!”

I closed my eyes and began to focus, building up an image of the deck and space around me, even as I relaxed myself, made myself prepared for a long, long session of meditative discipline.

But I felt cheerful as I did so. Oh, the dangers ahead were incalculable. The Eönwyl was now a quarter of the Galaxy away and who knew what she might run into. Ptial itself wasn’t going to be safe or easy, and I was now, once more, a mere student.

Yet we were all alive, we were still free, and I finally had a plan that might — just might — let us save the galaxy.