Chapter 20: Phaon

 

Joe walked casually around the pinned noble. He wasn't sure how good his skill was up to it, but he hypothesized that the Margrave was securely pinned. Continuing what he hoped to be his ruse to seem sympathetic, he said, "Hmm ... well, we can probably get you out of there, but it'll take some equipment. I'll see if I can't track some down through the computer." He walked around the corner, pretending to find a terminal. Calling around the corner, he said aloud, "Drat! The system is in paranoia mode. Oh well, time to start
guessing passwords, obviously ..."
Thorn, trusting that Jessine could keep an eye on the noble appeared to look over what Joe was doing.
"Is that going to hold him?"
"I guess we'll find out," Joe answered rather testily. Turning back to the Margrave, "Please hold on, my Lord. Help will be coming if we can ever locate it. The trouble with accessing the necessary equipment to free you is that all these combots are running around. If there was only a way to turn them off, or even better, gain control of them. But alas, since we're only lowly technicians, I doubt that our codes would be enough. Still, I guess I can try."
The Margrave remained quiet, though a whirring servo motor could be heard, followed by the rather stilted movement of one arm.
Joe and Thorn eyed the prone knight suspiciously, but he seemed quite pinned and his badly damaged suit offered little in the way of mobility.
Taking Thorn by the arm, Joe disappeared, leaving Jessine and Bug to guard the Margrave from his blind spot.
"What are we doing?" Thorn asked.
"Don't worry. I don't have time for that romantic interlude just yet."
Before Thorn could punch him, Joe headed her off by continuing. "I'm pretending that I'm accessing a computer terminal. Probably in that room over there," he pointed to a room blocked by a buckled deckplate. The door was hopelessly cut off.
"If there is a terminal in there, there's no way you could make use of it."
"I know that," Joe hissed. "But our friend back there can't see over here so for all he knows, I'm here plugging away at the computer." Joe looked at his chrono. "I'll just wait here a few minutes," he explained.
Thorn shook her head disbelievingly and went back to Jessine.
"He's trying to break into the system, but having exactly zilch luck," she said.
"What are you talking about?" Jessine answered. "And why am I holding this gun? Is this guy alive?"
Thorn looked at her and then slapped her hand to her forehead. "Tessa!"

While Thorn explained their situation once again, regretting that the more militant Jessine had taken her leave once more, Joe took his time pretending to work and after almost an hour had passed, reappeared.
"Well, that's shot," he said. "I'm all out of ideas. I guess we'll just have to hope that our rescue team gets here before the combots find us and our helpless commander here."
"Are they far away?" Thorn asked, playing along with the ruse.
"I doubt they'll get here in time," Joe replied sternly. Snapping his fingers as if he had an idea, he turned on his com unit and said into it, "Base to Scouts - on your way back, see if you can find some heavy lifting gear, will you?"
The Margrave appeared silent and immobile. Only their multiscanners showed that he was still alive.
Joe winked at Thorn and Tessa and disappeared again, ostensibly to work again at the unseen terminal. His voice could be heard, calling back around the corner.
"Darn, this'll take a lot more time then we have right now, " Joe sighed and leaned back, his head popping into view, "I'll never get that code in time."
Suddenly, he stood up, turned towards Rabastus and said, "Hey, why didn't I think of this before? My Lord, you must have access to this computer system. What do I do to get inside this thing? Right now, it is completely uncooperative ..."
There was no movement from the Margrave.
Thorn cast Joe a sour look.
"Get mouisuit. Out!here." his voice could only barely be heard through the static of his damaged communication grid.
Tessa and Bug bent down and removed his helmet.
The Margrave looked very much like his holograph. He was thin faced with a rather yellow cast to his skin. His brown hair was very dark and fine, and as revealed to the party, glistening wet with sweat. Sweat poured down his face, stinging his green eyes. Obviously, the suit's enviro controls were damaged as well.
"Enough of this charade! Get me out of here!"
"Certainly, my lord," Joe promised. "As soon as we can."
"Just prop up the plasteel," he told them. "Then pull me out."
"Can we do that?" Tessa asked.
"Do we want to?" Thorn added.
"I think I have a way," Bug said. Without waiting for permission, he took off his antigrav belt and increasing its setting to maximum, he placed it around the main girder that was pinning the knight to the floor.
"Help me lift this," he asked.
Joe was about to suggest otherwise, but having reached in impasse, he decided to go along with Bug's scheme.
"Watch him!" he whispered to Thorn. Thorn obligingly held her rifle ready to kill the Margrave should he appear to try something.
The weight of the beam lessened considerably by Bug's belt, the crew was able to heft it with still very much effort off of the prone knight. There were a few times that they lost their grip and the Margrave was painfully subjected to the beam's weight on his crushed battledress. Eventually, however, they were able to pull it off.
Bug, using the tools he kept hidden in his carapace, worked to free the Margrave from his entombment. Joe, watching Bug work, noted the strangeness of the alien's tools. They seemed to be made of the same material that Bug's "skin" was made of.
Finally, when freed, they were able to lift the knight out of his battledress and set him down a few meters away. Tessa produced a blanket to cover him in his jumpsuit. Despite his supposed rank, he wore no insignia or valuables inside the battledress. Only an inner suit lining full of sensor linkups and padded with unknown circuitry. The knight's legs, several ribs, and a hand were broken. His scalp was also torn, though it had stopped bleeding and sported a very large scab mixed with hair.
"Well, my Lord," Joe was about to address the knight.
"Enough of this charade! I know I've been captured. Tell me now, are you Jadists?"
They all looked to each other, unsure of what to say.
Finally, Joe answered. "And if we were?"
"Then I would say," the Margrave paused to cough, his face grimacing in pain. "Kill me now, Jadist scum! For I have nothing to tell you."
"And if we were not with Jade-London?" Bug ventured to ask, eschewing his normal timidity.
"Then I would say, return me to my people on Galatia, and I will see you are amply rewarded."
"How much?" Thorn pushed.
"Does a million Galatian marks sound fair?" the Margrave asked.
They all turned, looking at each other.

Once again, Raymont put on the headset for his Ono-Sendai interlink.

Once again, he was dropped into a world of electric colour. Trying to find some focus, he visualized himself walking through a corridor. The image obligingly formed. It was an obviously a common pattern. Raymont walked down the corridor and pointed at files. They lit up with words, but he could not read them.
Encoded.
Walking for what seemed like forever, Raymont looked for a guide to lead him to the file he was searching for. A coloured globe obligingly appeared, leading him through the maze. He found the file he was looking for. A schematic of the Divinity, not as it existed, but as it once was when it flew the stars, appeared. The physical location of his body appeared also along with the name of the occupant of the stateroom.
Margrave Rewn Rabastus, Commanding General of Galatian Crusader Forces, Knight Templar O-9. GPN-Z337-0808-3198
D.O.B. 19 Novanus A.E. 54766
Awards:
Adamantine Baton
Order of Qual
Order of Nodrin
Star & Scepter x2
Cross of Gallantry
148 Heads
Locating a schematic of the room, he identified the area occupied by the transporter and asked for it purpose.
Access denied
Raymont noted that several glyphs now appeared, glowing around his alternate self, but he had no idea what they meant.
Requesting information in combots, he was able, but only after a search of what seemed hours, to locate a file on them.
ONX 500 Guardian Combat Robot, manufactured on Galatian nine complex - Krontin.
Armament:
One Dynatronics Dtp-81 Mk X plasma pulse cannon
One Dynatronics Dtd-72 Mk X phased disruptor cannon
Seven Singhjon V-3 Mk V gattling blasters
Two Tandem Powerlaunch Mk V grenade launcher banks
Seven Varian Alpha-k rotating blaster mounts
200 Krontin Inohg 46688 Mk V d.u.c. shrapnel grenades.
4 Krontin Inohg 38219 Mk I anti-matter particulate grenades
10 Bardin Aura-9 Mk V field disruption grenades
1 Krontin-11 suspended molecular acid core charge (Inohg 4217177)
Armour: Androks 22mm double hollow Crysteel semi-moulded chamber with infused electroplasmic rosin core.
Memory: Krontin T-211 Duotronic Afeln converter (Inohg 128540)
Power: Krontin D-90 Microfusion pack, lifetime 500 Imp. years.(Inohg 22754)
Backup power: Bardin Mindpower-10 Ionic Converter, lifetime variable, est 2 Imp. years.
Projected costs: 900 million Galatian Marks
However, when Raymont tried to access their command codes, he saw a barrier approaching him, seemingly charged with energy. Quickly, he fled back out of the computer and then immediately tried re-entry along another pathway.
Something easier, he thought.
Accessing the ship's log, he found that the last entry had been made on 3 Janvus, A.E. 54905, which was more than fourteen years ago. However, when he tried to access the log entry itself, a barrier presented itself.
Access denied.
Raymont knew somehow that the glowing glyphs orbiting around him had some significance, perhaps as tools, but without proper training there was no way of telling which one to use, and how to make use of it. Fearing another brainfry, Raymont backed off.
Trying another entry point, some break to access the main computer again, Raymont searched out the file for Brother Antheus, recently deceased cause of their predicament. He was able to find it in short order, aided by the Ono-Sendai glowing globe.
Brother Sculn Viberian Antheus, Acolyte C-3 (Paygrade C-9), Subheading Communications Technician R-9. GPN-D430-6695-8028
Former Service:
Sergeant Sculn Viberian Antheus, Crusader Scout Platoon Leader E-9. GPN-D430-6695-8028
D.O.B. 7 Solaris A.E. 54850
Awards:
Cross of Gallantry
Black Star
12 Heads
And again, accessing anything beyond tier 1 proved impossible. Raymont went on, trying to find out about the Genesis project. He was surprised to find out that entry was easily gained but easy access was itself a disappointment as his alter self walked into a virtual room, totally empty and barren.
The file had been erased.
For the sake of experimentation, Raymont decided to play with one of the glyphs. It was hard for him to ascertain any shape to the shifting geometrical form of the glyph, but Raymont could see that it was at least green. Touching the glyph, he found that his virtual arm had absorbed it, also turning green and that a wide green beam, as if from a searchlight, was now emanating from this arm. Sweeping it about the empty room, he found that it illuminated nothing except in one corner, where a stream of encrypted data was seen. Following the data stream, he was able to follow it to a monitor somewhere else in the ship. Apparently someone had been watching the file when it had been erased, and the local circuitry had preserved just the information that had been on screen at that time. Raymont was able to read it.
Third Empire: NOTE: THIS FILE IS RESTRICTED. UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS WILL RESULT IN IMMEDIATE TERMINATION. THIS FILE IS CODED RED AND REQUIRES A SECLAR RATING OF D.K.-12 TO ACCESS. The Daysanj (from French des Anges) arrived while the Earth and her colonies were busy squabbling over pieces of nearby planetary systems. The Daysanj, who had conquered most of the galactic core were now exploring the spiral arms, conquering and overcoming all in their way. They found humankind a rather uninspired race but having easily overawed the humans with their technology and power, were able to easily manipulate one human faction against the other and with their aid to conquer the rest. It has long been speculated why the Daysanj bothered with this rather laborious way of conquest as they could have easily overwhelmed all the Terran powers. But now it is realized that the Daysanj, having studied human history, realized that humans, every bit fratricidal and fractious, were still highly resilient and resourceful. Their initial method of subversion would preserve the most genetic material for future breeding whereas open conquest would have proved unnecessarily wasteful.. Also, humans were quick to learn and easy to manipulate and coerce. And since slavery had long been part of their own history, openly and also in various guises of class, sex, and economic subservience, it was obvious that humans would make ideal slaves for the Daysanj. Once consolidated without too much bloodshed, the Daysanj discarded the fiction of their alliance and openly assumed stewardship over the human race. Humans were seeded to various farm planets and bred to differing standards as to make them more appropriate workers in different planetary climes. Also, humans were found to be highly nutritious as a food supplement to the Daysanj diet and though the adults were considered too economically unprofitable in terms as foodstuff, taking far too long to mature, the newborn young could be gleaned and were quicker to produce and had a superior flavor by comparison. For all human pretensions of justice and freedom, once the overwhelming physical, mental and technological superiority of the Daysanj became evident, humans fell over themselves to try to please and ingratiate themselves to their new masters. Those few that didn't were culled. Ever adaptive, humans were soon becoming the foremen of the breeding farms themselves. Humans were also trained as low level technicians, trained to operate some of the more simple systems of Daysanj technology. In this fashion, ever useful humans were seeded throughout the galaxy, as both slaves and crops. They became the Daysanj' most useful animal. Through selective breeding and genetic manipulation with alien genes, Daysanj was even able to foment a very limited telepathic ability in some humans, thus it is revealed that the Daysanj were the creators of the telepaths so that they could better communicate and serve their masters. Since they were themselves exclusively telepathic, some archeologists have speculated that it was Daysanj DNA itself that was used in this fashion. This steward arrangement continued for some 200,000 years until a great catastrophe occured that overthrew the Daysanj. There is some speculation that Daysanj, having breached timeflow, was able to contact an ancient galactic wide empire and that forces of this empire, which predated the Daysanj existence by billions of years, were able to come into the present and set about to war with the Daysanj with technologies that were every bit as potent as its own. Other theories state that a coalition of Daysanj subjects, or an extra galactic power that the Daysanj had only recently conquered, had revolted and in a bitter war lasting millennia, wiped out the Daysanj, but were themselves almost utterly destroyed and certainly removed as contenders for stellar power. What is also certain is that humankind faithfully served their Daysanj master but when Daysanj died, humans were left with enough technological knowledge to keep something of the Daysanj infrastructure alive. Now turning on their former masters, most humans ruthlessly destroyed any surviving Daysanj enclaves, fearing that if Daysanj was allowed to regrow, it would one day resume its power over humankind. Of course, there were sects of humans who clung to their old belief of worshipping Daysanj as God, but these sects eventually were destroyed or died out. Until they were themselves destroyed in superstitious purges, the various techno castes were able to keep the lesser Daysanj machines going and understood enough to build new machines, such as the early stardrive units. Thus it is understood that almost all modern technology as well as the phenomenon of telepathy can be laid at the feet of Daysanj. Of course such knowledge only adds fuel to the Genesis Heresy, which caused much damage heretofore in the efforts to eradicate it. It is considered a heracy and an irrelevance to point out any truth in the Genesis stance that humans were not always supreme or destined for supremacy in the galaxy. For this reason, all Daysanj discoveries which cannot be directly utilized are ordered destroyed and all traces removed entirely. This is to be considered a standing order from the Prelate of the Holy Order of Archeology.
(Note that the traditional use of the plural in reference to Daysanj is still considered correct, even though new information convincingly proves that Daysanj were merely extensions of the same consciousness. It is therefore also correct to use the singular in reference to Daysanj in that by human understanding, Daysanj was a single entity.)
Inventory of excavated Daysanj Artifacts and descriptions:
FILE CONTINUES D.K.-13 SECLAR REQUIRED
Raymont read all there was to read and having read it, wished that he hadn't. Still, he couldn't understand why such a file would be onboard a combat ship. Leaving the empty virtual room, he jumped on another light path after thinking/talking to the Ono-Sendai scout globe that he wished to find the others in the party. This was a total dead end as the ship's internal sensors seemed to be destroyed or offline. Perhaps that's just as well, Raymont though, feeling drained by his time in the computer. After all, who could say whether or not the Guardian combots could make use of the ship's internal sensor grids if they were active. Feeling more than a little tired, Raymont willed himself to take the mindset off of his head. He was grateful that the others had let him spend so much time, what seemed over a day's time inside the computer. Who knew what the ramifications to his brain would have been had they interrupted him. (Raymont looses 1 temp. Me and 1 temp Re for his time in the computer)

Raymont took off the mindlink headset, appearing drained and tired.
"What'sa matter, kid?" Solo asked him. "You don't want to try that thing? Is it hurting your head again?"
"What're you talking about?" Raymont looked at him. "Of course I'm tired. I've been in that thing for hours. What day is it?"
Solo and Leon exchanged glances.
"Raymont, you never left. You put that headset on and took it off right away. If you even were hooked up, it couldn't have been more than a second," Leon assured him.
Raymont looked at the both of them as if they and not he were suffering from delusion.
"Anyway," Leon continued. "I think it's time we thought about getting back to the others." As Leon started checking his weapons and setting them to maximum, ready to get back to the others, he said "How about transporting the self-destruct mechanism off the ship?"
Solo raised an eyebrow, "Do you plan on carrying the SD mechanism up here and placing it on the stage?"
Recovering from his journey, Raymont added, "I'd say the only thing that ever indicated that this is a time machine is its request for a time and Bill's overactive imagination. We just watched what it does with the time given it. It seems that at least the program we've currently accessed is set to automatically retrieve, evidenced by the fact that it asks for a time BEFORE a destination. As for safe locations, I can't think of any, inside the ship is BAD and outside is unknown, but at last report had people shooting at us with BIG weapons. Which brings up an interesting question, what if that somebody was a combot and it's recall time on tis here platform just hasn't come up yet, we could be in for a nasty shock. In any case, I agree heartily with Leon, we need to get everyone together and put our heads and information on this project as a group." Raymont checked his weapon, then said, "Shall we?"
Solo nodded his head, "Right. I never got transported to the future. That message got sent accidently. I wanted to key it to be sent should I have made the trip. As for helping to fight ... I am about as useless as tits on a boar hog with only one arm."
Solo then looked at the stage and thought out loud, "What if someone were to transport from within a transport? Would they be pulled back for the first before they were pulled back for the second? Let's do a quick experiment with the chair. Even I don't want to push it by jumping to volunteer for that one." With that ... Solo reached into his cloak and pulls a stogy out of his humidor. He then carefully ran it under his nose and lit it up. Even in the thick of things, it seemed, some things were never too thick too change.
Solo then looked at Leon and said, "We have a satellite positioning mechanism in our possession. I suggest we use it. I am sure we keyed it to Dicey's. How else could we have made the trip?"
"I think Bug has it," Leon informed him.
"Well, let's do Solo's experiment and then we can get back to Bug and the others," Raymont suggested.
Solo set the chair back onto the platform and Raymont keyed in two times using the same transport coordinates as before. One time was to initiate the program and the other, set for five minutes later, was to retrieve the chair.
The chair winked out and reappeared across the room.
"Beautiful," Solo smiled.
Leon then brought the chair back and Raymont set it to transport once more, this time with a retrieval of two minutes, which put it inside the time frame of the first transport.
Once again the chair disappeared and reappeared across the room. After two minutes, it winked out and reappeared onto the platform. They waited a few minutes more, but nothing happened.
"I guess the second transport must have cancelled out the first," Raymont surmised aloud. "Though I don't see how it could recognize that this was the same chair."
"Shall we?" Leon asked, heading for the door.
The trio set out with Leon in front and Solo watching the rear, more to call out than to offer any resistance. Raymont meanwhile monitored his multiscanner to try and see they weren't ambushed enroute.
"I've got a reading!" he announced not long after they had set out.
"What is it?" Leon called out, readying himself.
"Big and massive. It's not human!" Raymont yelled. Seeing Leon prepare for a fight, he added. "Leon, let's get out of here. While I was in the computer, I had a chance to look over the initial specs on those combots. They are not nice and I mean that in a BIG way!"
"I can vouch for that!" Solo added.
"Specifics would be more helpful," Leon growled.
"We'll talk about that later. Let's just say those things could take on an entire platoon of Imp Marines and come out without any paint burns."
"That bad, eh?" Leon asked.
"That bad," Raymont assured him.
The three took off running down the opposite way, hoping that the combot's sensors were less powerful than their own. They weren't very hopeful.
"Give me that thing!" Leon yelled, wrenching the multiscanner out of Raymont's hands. There were distant sounds of energy weapon discharge and the stale air took on a burned smell.
"I think it must be encountering debris," Solo voiced.
"This way!" Leon yelled, not even waiting. Solo, with Raymont to help him, raced as fast as they could in pursuit. The trio ran on in a direction they hadn't come before.
"Where are you taking us?" Raymont called after him, but Leon didn't answer.
Finally, when Solo and Raymont thought they couldn't run anymore, Leon reappeared and grabbed the two of them with surprising strength. Carrying them like two satchels, one under each arm, he ran ahead into a dark room, which illuminated from Leon's light, appeared to be full of conduit. A large hole had been blasted into one wall. It was into this hole that Leon started to stuff both Raymont and Solo.
"Hey! Could you tell me!"
Solo's voice was cut off as Leon crammed his body in after, squashing the two of them. All were conscious of the smell of sweat in their confinement. It was the smell of fear.
"Turn off all equipment - anything!" Leon hissed, throwing his and Raymont's chronometers out into the corridor. As Raymont complied by shutting down the lights and multiscanners, Leon pulled a large section of what looked like plasteel plating to cover the hole.
A moment later they could hear a whirring sound which at once vanished. A strobe sensor, vibrant blue in colour, swept the outer room, even passing through gaps in Leon's "shield" to light up their faces. No one breathed.
Finally, the sensor sweep went elsewhere and the whirring started up. They waited for a long long time before Leon nudged Raymont.
Raymont turned on the multiscanner, not an easy task in their predicament, and his loud sigh was the signal that they could all relax.
"Oh, I ache!" Solo whezzed, finally able to move his limbs. They seemed on fire, with red hot pins poking his nerves everywhere.
"This plasteel absorbs sensors scans, doesn't it?" Raymont asked Leon. "I noted that the multiscanner was having an almost impossible time getting past your shield until you moved it a bit."
"We're near the outside of the ship," Leon told them. "Remember what Onzlo said about not being able to scan the wreck until he was down close and burning his sensors all the way up?"
Solo and Raymont both nodded.
"Smart," Solo complimented him.
Leon didn't acknowledge him with more than a nod.
Having gathered their chronos again, the party was greeted by a blaring voice coming from their com units, still perched on their heads.
"Base to Scouts - on your way back, see if you can find some heavy lifting gear, will you?" It was the voice of Joe Grange.
"What does that mean?" Solo asked.
"I guess we'll find out," Raymont said, checking his gear and stretching one more time. "I sure don't want to answer with that combot anywhere close to being nearby."
Leon started out the door. "Let's go," he said.

Enroute to the others, they passed through the medical unit where they had first entered the ship. Reluctantly, they found themselves once more splashing through the cold water while a waterfall cascaded onto them from above.
"Hey look," Raymont pointed out. "That terminal's still working, even in this environment. In a way, all this destruction is really sad. This ship was well built. Certainly it never achieved its potential before it died."
"Be careful, or someone will say that about you," Solo warned.
Since much of the water had found a way to drain away, Raymont felt it was safe to try and breach the welded door they had shut earlier. While he was doing this, Leon tried to access the terminal but found that with out an access code, he was locked out. He tried to create a fictitious personage, but again he was locked out, his skill unequal to the task.
"Can't do it," Raymont told them.
"Here," Leon said, producing a portable hand welder. "I'll use this."
"You might have offered that before," Raymont said.
"I had other things on my mind." Offering no explanation, Leon set to opening the doorway.

"Well, I've made him as comfortable as I can," Tessa said.
"I've got a reading!" Bug announced.
All of them, with the exception of Bug, grabbed their rifles holding them ready.
"How do you work this thing?" Tessa asked.
Thorn groaned. "Tessa, I don't suppose you could go and find Jessine, could you?"
"What would you want her for?" Tessa asked, perturbed.
"Nothing," Thorn groaned once more. "Forget it."
Joe announced, "I was just thinking."
"That's a first," Thorn retorted.
"Testy, aren't we. Anyway, I was thinking - do we really want to do this? I mean, after what we saw one of those things do to Solo, do we really think we have a chance?"
"What about the Margrave?" Tessa asked. "None of us could carry him very far."
"What about him?" Joe asked.
Thorn was the one to point out, "He's offered us a million marks."
Joe crawled over to her and whispered. "You gotta live to spend it first."
"You gotta point," she admitted. "O.K. Let's dump him here to fry. There's a sort of poetic irony in it."
"You can't leave me here!" the Margrave screamed.
"Oh yea? Watch us," Thorn told him, getting up and gathering her things. "How far away is it?" she asked Bug.
"Right here," he said calmly.
"WHAT!" Thorn dived for cover, readying her rifle once more.
Bug was the one to break the climax.
"But it's not a combot," he announced. "It's
"Hello everyone," Raymont greeted them, walking over some fallen debris and having difficulty finding purchase on the sloped deck. Behind him came Leon, helping a one armed Bill Solo over the same obstacle. Solo was dressed in priestly robes.
"Look who we found," Raymont said smiling.

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