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IE Journal 20

Page history last edited by Michael 8 years, 8 months ago

back to the Index, or to Journal Entry 19

 

119 Apex 599

 

... or 19 August 12606 AD; or 3 April 2012 AD (back in the Contemporary Juncture). The Terrans are standing on Mount Sinai, with Pi Tui the Ice Queen and some of her staff; her sky yacht is hovering nearby, along with a Darikahn frigate. It's a couple of hours after local dawn.

 

 

Imperial Action Against Usurpers on Terra Insula

119 Apex 599

     Admiral-Companion Perrin Benorth announced today that Imperial forces have intervened to restore the proper and established governments of the Nafkat and Canaan regions on Terra Insula. His Eminence informed the press and local courts that no significant resistance had been encountered, and that the heirs of the last Sultan of Mafkat are being provided with security forces by the Fleet for the time being. 

     The Sultan of Mafkat was deposed just over a year ago; and two months ago the usurper's army overran the cities of Canaan. The usurper met his well-deserved death yesterday, at the hands of several brave lords-pilot.

     All hail the Emperor's benevolent oversight; long live His Majesty!

 

 

The Terrans decide to return to the Ice Pagoda and ponder their next step.

 

The Fire Pagoda, Hell

 

More winding down, and discussions of where the Darkness Queen might be hiding out. Her palace, back in the era of the Four Monarchs, was in Peking; and one of the Jammers at the Ice Pagoda ran into a couple of men wearing "Darkness Livery" ... they were buying ammunition.

 

120 Apex 599

 

More rest and recuperation. The Terrans decide the visit the City of Heaven (Beijing) for clues as to the Darkness Queen's whereabouts. The Ice Queen loans them a grav sled (nicer and a bit faster than a utility sled).

 

121 Apex 599

 

The Shaolin Temple, Terra Insula

 

Off to the City of Heaven! It's a couple of hours flight in the grav sled. Helen and Harriet Chan travel with the Terrans. At the City, the Terrans check into nice hotel, playing the part of aristocratic tourists. "Fleet Admiral" Burns is able to use his charm and knowledge of etiquette to get the group invited to a nice party the next day.

 

122 Apex 599

 

Mid-afternoon, the Terrans attend a swanky garden party, with lots of other aristos -- many of them retired from offworld. The venue is a 2 hectare garden, cantilevered off the side of a skyscraper -- very much not for acrophobes. Besides invitations to buy into a narwhal racing syndicate ("buy a share of Golden Fin"), and to join a tiger hunt, the Terrans don't get any information about the Queen of Darkness.

 

123 Apex 599

 

After breakfast, the Terrans visit the narwhal racing stables (and decline to become part of a "narwhal Dick Francis" plot). Then the Terrans decide to lower their sights and investigate the "slums" of the City of Heaven -- all built upon barges moored around the bases of the various skyscrapers and arcologies. Open-air markets, dive bars, and the cacaphony of a dozen languages and cultures attract the Terrans' attention.

 

In one of the markets, "Colonel of Marines" McClellan notices a man wearing the insignia of the Darkness Queen (a white skull with a black stripe, like a censorship mark, across its eyes). In fact there are two or three minions of Darkness, and they get in a small boat and head northeast to the shore; the Terrans (except Macdougall) follow them in a water taxi and eventually in their own grav sled.

 

Macdougall remains in the City of Heaven, at the behest of the owner of a narwhal-racing stable, to investigate a murder!

 

On the shore, not far from the Great Wall, the Darkness guys get into a grav sled of their own, and fly (more or less) north. A pursuit of 2600 kilometers follows, across Mongolia and an icy mountain range, to the vast forested land of Sukhu. In fact, by about sunset the Darkness sled lands at Avukid, the capital; the Terrans land about 10 minutes later.

 

Avukid is a dreary, industrial lumber-mill town, usually hidden below vast clouds of steam from a geothermal power tap. Most of the population work in the mills, and almost all live in dormitories. There don't seem to be any schools or children. Near the spaceport are piles of larch-wood lumber, waiting to be taken away. The Terrans are welcomed with no courtesy, but no signs of suspicion either. They are directed to the Travelers' Hostel, a jail-like building with a one-eyed, wrinkly old attendant. He informs them of rules and conditions for their stay -- mandatory bathing before midnight, and a curfew at 2 am. There's no charge for lodging or food. Some religious pamphlets are provided, and a not-very-informative map of the city.

 

Going out for a stroll, the Terrans notice a local tailing them -- pretty obviously, in fact. The streets are clean, the buildings are unpainted, and the mills are humming along. Safety standards in the mills seem a bit lax. Near the starport is a military base, with a barracks, parade ground, and training area for a battalion or so of grav-mounted infantry. Also present at the base are a dozen old Index 2 dreadsleds (probably not their actual name) -- very large armor sleds, with multiple turrets and able to carry at least a squad of troops. The military doesn't seem to be doing very much; the dreadsleds are well-painted, but look kind of ... ceremonial?

 

McClellan notices some arcanowave activity in the Temple, and a distant glow to the south, many kilometers away along the Lena River.

 

Mournful sirens and air-horns announce a shift change; the Terrans enter a meal hall and manage to swallow the fulfilling-but-not-tasty synthesized food. They visit the Library and talk with the reasonably friendly librarian, who tells them more about the history of the Church of Night and of Sukhu. The Goddess appeared about 2500 years ago, and recruited the believers and the priestesses; but only in the last 500 years or so has the Church been able to practice openly. More pamphlets reveal that, yes, the food is treated to reduce libido.

 

Sukhu is the geographical area; the Sukhu Rokikrad means "the Sukhu Republic".

 

After dark, the various bars and cafes open, and the Terrans watch as the locals let their hair down (well, they're mostly bald). The choice of drinks is limited, but the booze is strong; the locals tell jokes, sing songs, and seem genuinely merry (especially in comparison to their daytime life). There's no broadcast entertainment in the Rokikrad; news is proclaimed each night in the Temple. The inhabitants don't seem too knowledgeable about, or interested in, foreign affairs or ancient history.

 

Before midnight, the Terrans return to their hostel, bath, and join the throngs headed to the Temple.

 

124 Apex 599

 

Inside the large step-pyramid is an inverted pyramid or cone, with seating for about 20,000 persons (about the size of the Oracle arena in Oakland, but with steeper sides for the seating). It's pretty dim, with just strip lighting along the aisles; and once the ceremony begins, even that is turned off! The Dark Lady and her attendants are down at the bottom; their are short speeches or announcements, and several chants or rituals -- all conducted in the local language, of course. McClellan peeks with the wave scanner and ghost goggles, and doesn't detect any worms or supernatural creatures; their are arcane powers related to Portal-type energies down at the bottom of the Temple, though.

 

After the ceremony, everyone files out (it's quite a crowd); a couple of persons with Queen of Darkness symbols on their robes are spotted! They are tracked to one of the few private residences in the city, not far from the Temple and the Dark Lady's palace. The Terrans return to their dormitory.

 

After waking up in the morning, the Terrans decide to skip the (libido-suppressant) breakfast, and begin their return to the City of Heaven. They pack and depart, unhindered. They follow the river south, to where the arcanowave energies (and feng shui) are notable. This turns out to be an interesting geological zone, with tall spires of rock rising hundreds of meters along the east side of the river, forming a long, narrow maze on the riverbank.

 

 

 

 

There's a footpath among the spires, but the arcanowave energies seem to be hidden from casual fly-by. Landing their grav sled a few kilometers south of the probable Portal, the Terrans decide to release a couple of surveillance midges towards the Portal, and do some spire-climbing waiting for #2 to return (#1 is going to stay on station until retrieved).

 

  • Surveillance Midge:  a bug-sized surveillance drone, capable of (somewhat noisy) flight at 10 kph for about an hour, or "station-keeping" for several days. Can be controlled by a battle computer or a laptop computer with the correct encryption, radio, etc.; or, it can patrol autonomously on a designated path or area. Sensors record sound, video (including low-light). Index 1, price 5 Σ.

 

The spires are quite a change from climbing the plastic, artificial rocks glued to the walls of their ship's engine room! When the Terrans reach the top, Helen and Harriet fly up in the grav sled to recover them from their "dick-measuring" contest. Midge #2 is recovered, and shows four or five small sensor-and-weapon hardpoints embedded back among the pillars, connected by footpaths, and with a well-used landing spot somewhat hidden behind the pillars. The hardpoints look fairly recent -- probably emplaced after the last big rains, in spring. At the "back" of the maze of pillars, protected by the various bunker-y structures, the footpaths converge on an armored door, set in the cliff face. Nobody is in sight.

 

The Terrans head south to the City of Heaven after that, arriving just before sunset. They meet up with Alistair Macdougall, who's been making connections with interesting persons, and solving the Mystery of the Murdered Narwhal Trainer!

 

Macdouogall was approached by Sirin Chapcharm, an aged writer for Splash magazine (which follows the narwhal-racing sport). Chapcharm had persuaded Achmed Rook, a young narwhal trainer from Portugal, go undercover in the City of Heaven to investigate a narwhal-doping scandal. Rook was found dead, speared through the chest with the tusk of the (long-dead, stuffed and taxidermed) champion narwhal, Emerald Blaze! The seamy lives of narwhal-stable boys, and the corrupt world behind the glitter and pageantry of narwhal racing, almost distract Macdougall from discovering the actual reason for Rook's death!

 

Macdougall now has press credentials from Splash magazine, for what it's worth.

 

on to Journal Entry 21

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