September 5, 2009

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4 Sworn, Session Four

Previous Session: July 25, 2009 Next Session: February 20, 2010

Galax, Perdition, Psion, Shockwave, Victorine, Zap

Contents

Showdown North of the Border

While the batrachian copy of Zap! distractedly gulped down a particularly succulent desert horsefly, his still-electric alter ego managed to extract himself from the chain link fence that had diverted him to the far side of the Customs building. Disoriented by his trip, he glanced about, trying to get his bearings.

Alongside the building, black fire streamed from the Staff of Bone to engulf Shockwave as she struggled to extract herself from the pavement. The pain it caused was particularly gnawing, discomfiting even Shockwave, who normally found such things invigorating in the midst of a fight. Worse yet was the faint but penetrating keening sound that rang in her ears as it burned, like distant cries of the damned. Freeing herself at last, Shockwave leaned against the cinderblock wall of the Customs building and tried to beat down the black flames licking her arms. Karybdis, meanwhile, stormed toward Perdition, who was currently dodging plumes of fire sprayed by Shee-Ariel, high overhead.

“Time to share the wealth,” sneered Shockwave, looking up.

As little experience in combat as Victorine had, she could still recognize that things were going poorly. “All units… Everybody? Galax? Psion?” she called into her watch, “We need help here!”

Galax, the savage cheers of an Aztec mob still ringing in his ears, responded to the new voice in his helmet. “I’m here!”

“Where?!” cried Victorine in relief, “Are you still in that skull? In London?”

“Yup. Where are you? Can you give me a lift?”

With a flip of her cloak, Victorine was standing on the terrazzo floor of the British Museum, and then running toward the crystal skull display, only to find the glass case empty, but for a sign announcing “exhibit removed for examination”.

“Galax? I’m here at the case. Where are you?”

Galax, smaller than a beta particle, streaked from the skull and the vault it occupied. Growing large enough to navigate, he zoomed from the lab, down a corridor, turned… turned…

…and looked for a “You Are Here” map.


Perdition, guns at the ready, faced down the charging Karybdis. Noting the asphalt she kicked up with each stride, he raised the mystical Ring of Xian, having just enough time to raise its protective force field once again before she reached him. Her punch impacted the shield obliquely, but was still powerful enough to collapse it with a pop and the sound of wind chimes. Perdition spun with the glancing blow, but before he could even raise his guns, Karybdis had thrown her body into a Muay Thai spin kick. As she moved, her mimetic-polyalloy coating extruded to cover her leg with razor sharp, whirling blades. Her shin impacted Perdition’s torso with the force of a speeding truck… with a chainsaw on the bumper… and the mystical gumshoe hurtled over a hundred feet back across the road, crashing through the windshield of a minivan and coming to rest in the rear cargo area in a pile of detachable seats.

Shee-Ariel grinned delightedly as she watched Perdition’s flight. Preparing to lay a firestorm onto the vehicles among which he’d come to rest, she was interrupted by a sudden jolt. Shockwave had sprinted up the side of the Customs building, bounding upwards over 100 feet in an attempt to grapple the fiery redhead. Though Shockwave lost her grip, and continued on her upward trajectory, the collision had done its job. Shee-Ariel’s wreath of yellow-red flames now bore a patch of black, and the villainess shifted her fire-spewing attention to her new assailant.


On the pavement below, in front of the Customs building, Victorine appeared, and a diminutive Galax popped from her mouth like a two-ton wad of gum. The two briefly assessed what they could see of the situation, and Galax bolted for the parking lot. Seizing the largest, most fuel-inefficient SUV he could find, Galax hurled it at Shee-Ariel with a mighty sonic boom, which she, of course, could not hear until it was far too late. The Ford Expedition disintegrated on impact, its flaming pieces continuing to spread skyward like a fireworks display along with the limp form of Shee-Ariel herself, pitching helplessly end over end.

Meanwhile, Victorine vanished with another flip of her cloak, reappearing high in the air to scoop up Shockwave and gate her to the warm ocean waters off Hawaii. Perhaps, she hoped, a quick dip might quench Soul Catcher’s black fire. Disappointingly, it did not, and she quickly plucked the speedster from the waves to return her to the Customs office parking lot. Feeling weary from her repeated teleportations, Victorine readied her valorium flight ring and took to the air.


Perdition sat up in a pile of broken glass and scorching hot vinyl upholstery, catching his breath to see Karybdis again charging in to press home her attack. “This fembot's playing for keeps,” he thought, “Gotta get clear and take a breather, or else...” Just as his assailant reached the front of the minivan, its roof tore open and side windows blew out as Perdition streaked skyward, the powers of the mystical Ring of Xian speedily levitating him to safety.

Karybdis lurched to a stop and looked upward in annoyance, chrome brow furrowed and fists clenched, oblivious to the peering eyes of Shockwave briefly breaking the parking lot’s surface. Shockwave’s head dipped once more as she made her final lunge, then sprung up as she threw her arms around Karybdis’ legs, imparted her own vibrations to them and dragged down her cyber-foe. A snarled curse on her metal lips, Karybdis threw down her hands against the tarmac to arrest her descent. She slipped from Shockwave’s grasp, but remained stuck fast in the ground up to her upper thighs.

Zap!’s non-amphibian avatar at last returned from its detour and hurled a bolt of lightning at Karybdis, hoping to short out some of the robot’s systems, but no effect was apparent. In fact, as if to emphasize the point, she flexed her arms and body to rip her legs from the earth, propelling herself to a wobbly, but upright posture. Her legs, now dirt and gravel encrusted rather than gleaming blueish chrome, seemed no longer to bend at their joints. But even slowed, moving in awkward goose-steps, she remained dangerous. Shockwave peered from the blacktop… seeking a weakness…

“Her face is made of metal,” Shockwave thought, clenching her fists and circling for another attack, “But her brain is made of flesh. Or… brainy stuff”.


Galax closed in on the apparently unconscious Shee-Ariel. While some restraint might have been justified against a lesser foe, the somewhat sketchy historical files he had on hand indicated that this murderous villainess might possess some form of regenerative capability. Reason enough, he reckoned, to make sure she stayed neutralized. He readied his feared “Tidal Force” attack. With no black hole immediately at hand to dump her into, it would have to do.

Almost in range for his attack, Galax noted the black flame still clinging to the hip of his spinning target. It seemed to remain strangely stable, in spite of her motion, almost as if it was meeting his gaze. Suddenly the flame shot forth, attenuating as it did so, but flaring and spinning at the center of Galax’s vision… Drawing him in… Compelling him to…

SHOOOM! Galax vanished with a thunderclap and gleaming blue-white flash[1] signaling his transition into hyperflight.


Perdition coasted to a stop thousands of feet over the battlefield, taking in the big picture, when suddenly a new foe appeared.

“Zap! Watch it! There’s another one flying around the building. The Chrome Commie, I think.”

Zap! whirled and loosed a lightning bolt at Spartacist’s head. It struck home with a shower of sparks, but seemed to do little more than mildly surprise the villain. He continued to close, perhaps a bit more slowly, hammer and sickle hands at the ready. Zap! fired twice more in an effort to wear down his foe, but to no avail.


Victorine swooped down on Karybdis, extending her cloak in hope of scooping the cyborg into a pocket universe where she could be safely contained. Seemingly oblivious to the threat, Karybdis lifted one of her rigid legs. A moment before Victorine reached her – had the flapping cloak given her away? – Karybdis threw herself into a flying pirouette and spun clear of the cloak. Victorine put on a burst of speed as she passed, pulling up to get clear of what could have been a fearsome retaliatory kick.

But the cyborg had again been distracted by the threat from below. Shockwave sprung from the ground before her and delivered a haymaker punch to her forehead. Shockwave had judged the vibrational frequency correctly, and her fist passed through Karybdis’ armor with only a bit of drag, delivering a kinetic pulse to the… brainy stuff… as it passed through. Shockwave again plunged into the earth as Karybdis staggered back and collapsed.

Victorine spotted Spartacist as she climbed away from Karybdis, and she altered course to aid Zap!. Seeing the apparent ineffectiveness of the lightning attacks, she keyed her power band for a magnetic blast, and fired. This impact threw the villain back perceptibly, but still caused no visible damage. His attention remained focused on Zap!, and he closed in, his hammer and sickle hands at the ready.

With little to fear from a physical attack, Zap! let his foe draw close, trying to assess his defenses (Was he a robot? Armored?) and what the best attack option might be. He was all too surprised when Spartacist swung his hammer-hand only generally in his direction, and glittering dust flew from it, sprinkling from fingers barely visible beneath the hammer. Zap!’s eyes burned mildly, then grew heavy, as if he had gone a week… without… Zzzzzzzzz. Zap! fell like a stone to the road below, and Spartacist turned to face Victorine.


Cresting the parking lot surface again, Shockwave looked over her shoulder to see Karybdis lying motionless. Ticking one foe off her mental list, she surfaced entirely and bolted at maximum speed to the side of the Customs building. Seeing no sign of Soul Catcher on arrival, she approached the sole door on that side – a fire door that stood open, its hydraulic closer hanging broken.

Shockwave felt a chill, like corpse hands on her spine, as she crossed the threshold. But before she could long contemplate the sensation’s meaning, she saw through the haze a uniformed figure sprawled on the floor of the hallway. Finding a weak pulse, she shouldered the Customs officer and took him to clearer air outside. Laying him carefully on the pavement, Shockwave glanced out across parched dirt and collapsed fencing to see Soul Catcher perhaps a hundred yards off. The villainess, her back to Shockwave, made broad, sweeping, circular motions with the Staff of Bone, as if she were stirring some enormous cauldron. Shockwave crouched for a moment, ready to pounce at her unsuspecting foe.


Spartacist and Victorine whirled in airborne melee – Spartacist swinging wildly with hammer and sickle hands as Victorine backed out of reach, sniping at his head with magnetic blasts from her power band. Perdition, now descending over the parking lot, fired his Desert Eagles down at Spartacist, their .50 Action Express slugs shattering ineffectually against the villain’s chrome steel chest.

Looking down on the parking lot as he fired, Perdition saw Karybdis begin to move again. Struggling to stand while unable to bend her knees, the android raised them, then pounded her powerful arms against the pavement in an awkward version of a “kip up” maneuver. On her feet again, she turned and waddled with surprising speed toward Soul Catcher, and what Perdition could see was a swirling vortex yawning before her on the desert hardpan.

Perdition redirected his fire at the fleeing Karybdis, hitting clanging two rounds off her back and muttering in frustration. Against such heavily armored adversaries, his guns, powerful as they were, were proving to be of little use. What little Soul Catcher was wearing, however, seemed unlikely to be armored. Moreover, she might have other vulnerabilities. Perdition released an empty magazine, and readied one filled with bullets whose wadcutter slugs gleamed an eerie copper-gold.

Shockwave barreled toward Soul Catcher, ready to deliver a shoulder block at high sub-sonic speed. At the last minute a cold, sick feeling seemed to drain the blood from her head. She veered only slightly, but enough to miss the unsuspecting and otherwise vulnerable Soul Catcher. Shockwave tumbled across the desert in a whirling cloud of dust.

Soul Catcher’s attention now focused on Shockwave, Perdition landed and took careful aim before firing. The orichalcum round emitted a faint, bell-like peal over the gun’s report, and when the shot caught Soul Catcher squarely in the shoulder, she cried out in pain and fell abruptly. She quickly rose to a sitting position, though, snarling and hissing like a mixed bag of angry animals. She raised the Staff of Bone over her head and pointed it at Perdition, her bestial sounds modulating into a chant in some unknown language.

Perdition raised both guns to rebut her argument, but grimaced when neither hammer fell as he pulled the triggers. As he raised the orichalcum-loaded weapon, awkwardly attempting to work the slide with a free finger or two of the other hand, it suddenly fired, inflicting a meaty graze wound on the detective’s left arm. “Damn it!” muttered Perdition, “That was no acci…” He cautiously moved his right hand near the barrel of his left-hand gun.

BLAM! The muzzle blast singed the hairs of his right hand, but at least the bullet missed. And clearly Perdition’s finger had been nowhere near the gun’s trigger when it fired.

“Curses,” he muttered in annoyed realization.


Spartacist and Victorine remained locked in combat. Bloodied by at least one sickle swipe, Victorine parried another with her buckler and aimed her power band once more. A double-tap of magnetic blasts clanged against Spartacist’s head, and this time sent him spinning to the ground, shattering the concrete walk in front of the Customs building as he landed. Victorine sighed with relief, but couldn’t linger long alongside the crater to gloat. Followed closely by a small, determined amphibian, she headed through the building’s front doors, morphing her own form into the gleaming image of Spartacist as she walked. If any villains remained inside, perhaps she could get the drop on them.

Making her way through the smoky, abandoned lobby, frog at her side, she noted a door flanked by a card key lock. A quick blast from her power band and she was through. Briskly entering the anteroom beyond, she saw uniformed Customs officers yelling at each other through the haze. “What’s going on?” called Victorine. “Are you all…” A panicked spray of 9mm bullets was the officers’ response.

Retreating to the lobby Victorine considered trying again with a friendlier visage, but with the ache from her injuries intensifying, she decided the best course was to seek reinforcements. With a flip of her cloak, she and her temporary frog sidekick returned to the deck of the Firehawk, hoping that Psion might have returned from his reconnaissance mission by now.


Somewhere in the inner fringes of the Solar system’s Kuiper Belt, Galax lurched back into normal space. It took a moment to banish from his eyes the image of the black flames into which he’d felt somehow compelled to plunge. Finally, as he blinked, starfields and faint nebulae grew sharper against the void. Disorientation giving way to annoyance, Galax clenched his fists rhythmically as he activated his helmet’s celestial navigation program and awaited a bearing back to Earth.


Shockwave scrambled to her feet and barreled back toward Soul Catcher, but had barely gotten started when the waddling Karybdis got close enough to hurl herself into the vortex. Then the reason Soul Catcher had opened her portal so far from the Customs building became clear, as Shee-Ariel’s unconscious form plunged through. But Shockwave, determined not to let the villains depart on their own terms, was next to dive in, thinking only as vertigo clutched at her stomach to check that she was still wearing one of Miss Cleo’s Traveler’s Gris-Gris Bags® under her uniform.

Soul Catcher snarled and hurriedly swept in the opposite direction with the Staff of Bone. The swirling of the vortex appeared to slow, as did Shockwave's descent into it. Uncertain whether his comrade’s dive into oblivion was all that good an idea in the first place, Perdition nevertheless realized that whatever Soul Catcher was doing was unlikely to make Shockwave’s trip any more pleasant. Dropping his unhelpful weapons, he sprinted toward the voodoo priestess. Stopping a few dozen yards away, Perdition raised the Ring of Xian, and focused his will on his foe.

"Bring them back now."

Soul Catcher wheeled, her wide, dark eyes fixed on his. "It cannot be done. It has already been taken."

"What?"

"Great value, the entire contents of the vault, except for the artifacts."

"Where are the artifacts?"

"They were used where they lay."

"Where were they taken?"

"Far beyond your reach."

"Where?"

"I've revealed far too much already."

Only now did Perdition realize to his horror that during their conversation Soul Catcher had been drawing closer, until she was now only inches in front of him. He had only a moment to contemplate whose mind had been clouded by whom before she swung the Staff of Bone to seize his throat with the teeth of one of its skeletal serpentine heads.


Galax slowed himself at the last moment practical, and hovered over the smoking Customs building, surveying the area carefully for possible threats as the hypersonic booms lagging behind his arrival rumbled across the desert. Only a few seconds later Soul Catcher entered his line of sight from around the side of the building. Perdition’s body hung by the neck from the Staff of Bone’s jaws. His legs, half limp, took wobbling, marionette-like strides backwards as the pair moved.

"Galax, Back so soon?" purred Soul Catcher, her voice seeming louder to the hero than it should have at such a distance.

Not hesitating even an instant for banter, Galax massively reversed the gravity within a generous distance of Soul Catcher. A shower of sand, gravel, and chunks of loose pavement erupted skyward, as did Perdition in a spray of blood as he tore free of the Staff of Bone, but Soul Catcher herself remained where she stood, seemingly unaffected.

"Not very sporting stealing my trophy that way,” she declared snidely. “No matter, I'm sure we'll meet again." She drove the end of the Staff against the ground, and sank swiftly and silently into the earth.


Showdown West of Mauritania

Shockwave stood in a large, barren room. Frayed wires and peeling paint trailed from the ceiling. Large windows along one wall allowed in limited light, and a rolling, rumbling sound. Scanning the room, alert for any threat, her eyes alit on a raised, stage-like platform with some folding screens near a wall perpendicular to the windows. A form immediately recognizable as Soul Catcher stood near the screens and raised her arms.

Shockwave dove through the steel floor and vibrated through a pipe and wire-filled service space until she reached a corridor, apparently parallel to the windowed wall above. This wall too had windows, but of a much smaller, porthole pattern. Through them Shockwave could look down onto pounding surf.


Zap! awoke lying on asphalt that would have scorched him painfully were he not composed of living electricity. Galax, looming over him though technically still only an approximately mortal size, dropped a set of police handcuffs on his chest and told him to secure Spartacist, who remained embedded face down in his parking lot impact crater. No sooner had Zap! done so than the villain too awoke up and abruptly attempted to fly away. Galax, who had taken off to recover the still-bleeding, unconscious, and ascending Perdition from his parabolic arc, quickly spotted the escape attempt, and decisively gravitically terminated it. As soon as the gravity around him returned to normal, Spartacist again scrambled to his feet and took to the air, but another gravity surge cut this flight even shorter. Picking himself up on the ground a third time, the villain looked up to see Galax, who merely cocked his helmeted head skeptically. Spartacist slumped back into his crater, and offered no resistance as Galax applied another set of cuffs to his ankles.

Apparently now resigned to capture, Spartacist offered little resistance to interrogation.

"I am Spartacist!” he proclaimed proudly. “We sought to liberate the goods that were in that building. I am told there were also ... artifacts there that would be useful to our cause.”

“How did you get here?” asked Zap!, hoping to maintain the villain’s confessional momentum.

“Soul Catcher created gates through which we dropped."

Galax, already wandering the scene, marked the location of her last vortex, scraping a large “X” in the dry earth with his heel.

The heroes regrouped, and began a more systematic crime scene analysis as police and emergency services began to arrive. Victorine returned, swept Spartacist into a temporary holding cell in her cloak, and explored the building, this time undisguised. The vaults had been gutted, with only the numerous stacked bales of marijuana, probably the least valuable of the vaults contents by weight, left untouched. Several large rock carvings, likely of Aztec or Mayan origin, were present. Several statues had been repositioned around a low stone altar across which lay a customs officer, uniform charred in places and ribcage gaping.
The Nogales Altar, pre-use
A haze of marijuana smoke hung over nearby bales, apparently also caught by whatever flash fire had occurred here.

Perdition entered and explored the vault as well, while Galax disarmed his cursed weapons outside. Awake and ambulatory, but his throat aching mightily, Perdition remained silent as his wounds knitted under the energies of the Ring of Xian. He noted bloodstains daubed around the inside frame of the building’s side entrance.

“Another curse,” he thought. This one a boobytrap, of sorts. He painfully whispered directions to the police to block off the doorway with tape until it could be exorcised or removed. Zap!, meanwhile, set about obtaining whatever vault inventory records he could.


System Force reconvened back on the Firehawk almost an hour later under a cloud of apprehension. Both copies of Zap! contemplated whether and how to cure the one copy’s amphibian condition before reuniting. Neither Shockwave nor Psion could be reached via SSC channels, but at least the latter’s absence on his relativistic reconnaissance mission was planned.

Suddenly the conference room speakers rang out with the emergency message chime.

"I'm here on a ship with Soul Catcher!"

Victorine paused a beat for a sigh of relief before responding, “Where?”

“You tell me.”

Communications satellites localized the source of the transmission in the Canary Islands, and a check of the coordinates in the Firehawk’s computer by Galax pinpointed it to the wreck of the liner American Star, grounded on its way to Indian ship breakers in 1994.

Frog-Zap! croaked farewell as Zap!, Galax, and Perdition in turn stepped through Victorine’s cloak, followed by its wearer. They arrived on the battered, windswept forward deck of the American Star. Detecting that Shockwave’s signal was coming from somewhere within the rusting superstructure, Zap! immediately volted through the ship's wiring to reach her.

Assuming that Shockwave had been lurking on the ship for nearly an hour, Zap! expected to regroup and strategize before making any move. But Shockwave, still perceiving herself as being in the heat of battle, didn’t want to concede whatever element of surprise remained. She described Soul Catcher’s position in the ballroom above, directing Zap! to outflank her. Waiting only a beat or two, Shockwave leapt up through the ceiling, and popped up from the ballroom floor unleashing a lightning attack on the villain.

Zap, emerging from the bulkhead close behind Soul Catcher saw her clearly, standing unnaturally motionless. He could also see what Shockwave could not – behind the folding screens on the stage were two large propane tanks, with rectangular blocks and wires lashed to them, obviously rigged as bombs. As Shockwave’s lightning bolts tore through the screens, Zap! shot back toward her, snatching her up and out the windows as he yelled into his SSC “Boobytrap! Clear the ship!”

Zap! and Shockwave dove clear of the blast and took temporary refuge on the reef. Perdition and Victorine ducked back through her cloak to the Firehawk, while Galax took flight. As he recovered his comrades from the reef and headed for home, the corroded hulk of the American Star groaned, shrieked, and collapsed like a house of cards into the surf below.


Superluminal Hindsight

In the solitude of interstellar space the flight deck of the PsiPlane was lit only by computer displays and the distant stars and nebulae of the Milky Way's Sagittarius Arm. The panoramic view sprawled through the windscreen was technically many hundreds or thousands of years old; the ancient light from its various sources only now converging within his eye. Psion allowed himself a few minutes to meditate on the scene and its meaning before focusing once again on the precise task at hand. A holographic heads-up display guided by the PsiPlane's Integrated Navigation System painted brilliant tell-tales over important nearby stars -- newly released photons swamping the cold, fossilized emissions that had traveled so far. Amongst the near-infinite pinpoints of light, he fixed on the particularly bright one that he knew to be Sol. The vehicle's computers confirmed this and supplied an abbreviated list of the Sun's properties. He had traveled to this point on a sweeping curve, so as not to obstruct his own view on the return course. Closing back in on Earth at superluminal speed, he would be able to effectively “replay the tape”, the PsiPlane’s sensors recording energies emitted years ago. Doing so at a useful resolution, however, was a daunting challenge even with the formidable technology at his disposal.

The PsiPlane was inherently more stable than any other earthly mode of transport, but Psion took all feasible measures to improve upon that status. He shut down the sound system, as pleasant as his usual shuffle of environmental tracks was on such flights. Off went life support – unnecessary without passengers. All mechanical systems were shut down, and electronic ones powered down so as to be able to function at least for a while without fans or coolant pumps. Displays too were shut down in favor of solely psychic interface with the ship – This could be tiring over time, as well as isolating and perhaps even psychically destabilizing, but would be manageable for the duration of this mission.

Now to all appearances just another cold, dark, and drifting piece of interstellar flotsam, the PsiPlane and its pilot gathered vast energies from nowhere and shot towards Sol faster and faster until time itself began to run backwards.

In the Fall of Earth-year 2003 a significant measure of subspace noise appeared, associated with subspace computer-related research at Brookhaven, NY, Silicon Valley, and Yokahama, Japan. Filtering out locations of known major research, Psion became aware of a steady, distinctive bit of noise in the region of central to south Asia. He closed and opened the range at vast yet imperceptible speeds, trying to refine his observations. “This certainly looks like what I would have expected from the hafnium isomer conversion process I theorized,” he acknowledged to himself. “Spinning” a mass the size of the core of the New Orleans LOOP bomb like a ball of nanotech yarn would have involved prolonged, steady operation of a subspace field, at higher power than mere communications would require. He scanned the sensor data streams for other associated emissions, working to pinpoint the location.

“Northeastern Iran… Southern Kazakhstan. Not all that far from the Aral Sea,” He consciously deferred dwelling on the grim memories of that place. “The process should take a significant amount of power. There may be some nuclear or hydroelectric facilities in that area. Or perhaps even…” One of those memories usefully crept back, “A small naval reactor… A submarine design.”

The Anomaly Appears

Psion parked for a while, out beyond the Solar Oort cloud, reviewing his records from multiple approach paths in search of more clues. His benchmarks for correlating the data were the few significant natural sources of subspace emissions, such as Cygnus X-1. Yet as he overlapped the data, a sort of “skip” showed up in the emissions from that object near the end of one of his approaches.

Psion repeated the path that displayed the anomaly. Then he duplicated his path a thousand light-years closer to Cygnus X-1, and again a thousand light-years further away. Neither of those “bracketing” paths displayed the anomaly. Clearly it was being caused by something within the Solar system – specifically something between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus, but above the plane of the ecliptic, and with a fixed location relative to Sol. Something at that point was causing a “lensing” effect peculiar to subspace emissions. Investigating still more closely, he found that within a range of about 10,000km there was slight, but detectable lensing of the electromagnetic spectrum as well.

Psion performed time-dilation reconnaissance on the anomaly itself. It had grown significantly larger since 2003, and seemed to have first become detectable in 2000, a few months after the first significant deployment of subspace technology in communications satellite relays.

That seemed, to Psion, unlikely to have been a coincidence. With growing apprehension, he launched a probe for closer examination. Nothing material was discernable at the heart of the anomaly, but the effect was quite real, and the EM lensing anomaly appeared to have a gravimetric component as well. And while not yet discernably growing in real-time, the trend was clear.

Psion parked the probe in an orbit approximately 42,000km from the center of the anomaly, where it could record usefully detailed data. If it detected any dramatic change in the anomaly, it would sound an immediate alarm.

“At which time,” Psion thought grimly, “I will do… what, exactly?”

NOTES

  1. The Cherenkov singularity collar is an ethero-luminous effect associated with hyper and warp-spacial travel, analogous to the “vapor cone” effect that may accompany transonic atmospheric flight under humid conditions.
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