[MISC] This Shining Sea II (Novel Arc)

George Phillies phillies at 4liberty.net
Wed Jan 18 20:11:04 PST 2006

Once upon a time, I posted This Shining Sea, about a group of characters 
who had escaped from a comic book and ended up here.  I am now rewriting 
it, and offer the opening segment:

Okay. 'Become world's leading war criminal' was not my favorite birthday 
present.  The best present a twelve year old girl can imagine is ponies. 
But they were my own presents to me.   I paid for them myself.  For two 
appaloosas I paid Aspen bank notes, silver cartwheels, and Austrian gold 
thalers.  For 'Dear Supreme Enemy of Humanity.  Please drop dead. 
Slowly and painfully is better. Your friends, The League of Nations' I 
paid five broken ribs, black eye, bone bruises, and 'wrecked up my garb 
something fierce'.

But I did exactly what the League said I did.  I did it on purpose.  I 
knew exactly what I was doing.  I know why I did it, and why I was 
right.  I'd do it again, too.

Then, yesterday, going toe-to-toe with Plasmatrix was not fun. I don't 
care she's four thousand years old, gets politely called 
Plasmatrix-the-Desolation-of-the-Goddess, and thinks 'melt planetary 
hemisphere' is how you do a barbecue.  She doesn't own the universe.  In 
particular, she doesn't own my personal cube of space, all five feet and 
a bit tall of it.  I told her 'This way is closed.  You may not pass,' 
just like in Mom's old book.  She tried back her 'I am fire's mistress' 
line.  I really shouldn't've said 'Fire? I command the secret fire' and 
sounded bored about it, even if it was in Mom's book.  Especially not 
when it's true. I talked about my gifts, should've kept my mouth shut. 
Yes, I'm twelve, not four thousand.  I'm also my Mom's daughter, no 
matter how Mom treated me. Push comes to shove, my feet stand where 
Mom's do. And I promised my team I'd keep anyone else from coming 
through the Tunnels while Comet was bargaining.  I did, too.  Plasmatrix 
hit me with everything she's got. I was standing afterward. Then I hit 
her back, good and hard.  She wasn't really standing, not after I hit 
her back.  Except she really hurt me, way more than I hurt her.  But I'm 
as tough as I have to be.  She isn't, not with herself.

Yes, she is Plasmatrix.

But I'm Eclipse, Mistress of the Maze, Bearer of the Namestone. I bake 
better coffee brownies, too.  Not as good as Star's, of course.  Even 
twin sister Aurora says Star is a super cook.

Letting Comet talk me into taking this trip was mayhaps a bad idea.  I'm 
really not healed up from the Maze, not yet.  Someday I pay for getting 
wrecked up all the time and not healing enough in between.  There was no 
choice.  Giant flying ghost jellyfish started eating cities.  Persona 
attacks literally don't touch them.  The Eye of Mars told Comet how to 
stop them.  Why?  I don't get it.  Most personas, even national team 
leaders, can't get the time of day from the Eye.  He invites Comet and 
Aurora for tea all the time.  So, he says, all Comet has to do is a 
couple-four short flights.  She takes her best friends along. That's me 
for one, no matter what Star and Cloud say.  Everything will be 
answered. After all, Comet's the fastest persona there is.  How long can 
four trips take?  It turns out the trips are across the universe.  Four 
times. Even for Comet, that's a long day.  But the Eye lent Comet a 
Starcompass, a quadridimensional widget, so she for sure had the fastest 
route there is.

We did the trip.  We're back on Earth.  I don't get it.  Mars to Earth 
without the thirty billion light year detour would have been a tad bit 
shorter.  Comet and Cloud are arguing where we are.  Other than 'where 
the Starcompass points', which is someplace on the Pacific Coast, Oregon 
or Washington or Columbia.  Even those two couldn't find a way to argue 
about the Starcompass.  Of course, I daren't carry an SPS--Satellite 
Positioning System--widgit.  Not unless I want my League of Nation 
friends to track me home.  Comet and friends each have their own in 
their lessoncomps.  SPS should say lickety-split where we are, to within 
a couple feet.   It won't say a thing.  I know better where we are from 
watching landmarks as we flew in.  This Pacific is just west of here. 
We're in the coastal range, someplace like Oregon or British Columbia. 
There's a town one hill over.

Wherever we are, it's cold enough I see my breath.  Comet, Star, and 
Cloud are drawing on their gifts to stay warm.  I can tell.  You can see 
the air flicker.  Aurora is drawing, too, I think, but she never gives 
anything away.  Me?  I pulled my Ultra-R blanket from my duffel, wrapped 
up, and lay back on a nice tilted slab of stone.   A little hard for 
sleeping.  Fine for being tired.  When Aurora asked to share my blanket, 
like we were sixth grade friends at a slumber party, I said yes.  It's a 
big blanket, enough for her and me.  Besides, I never had a slumber 
party, and two of us under the blanket warmed me up lots faster.  Aurora 
was careful to lean on my good shoulder, too, not the one where the ribs 
got broken.

Yes, I could draw on my gifts to stay warm. I've taken photos on Pluto 
and Mercury, not feeling the least bit warm or cool.  That's gifts, 
protecting you, flying you around, letting you break things.  But I'm 
tired to the bones.  Mind, I can take getting cold if I've got to.  I 
did in Antarctica, first time I did something dangerous.  I was nine.  I 
teleported to Antarctica, the Deep Waste.  That had to be me by myself, 
and Mom knew she couldn't know where I was.  Anyone else close, I 
couldn't've listened hard enough, even gifts damped.  Hid out of the 
wind, pushed all my gifts up to absolute zero, and listened.  Listened 
with my mind, listening for the Currents of the Earth.  After a 
half-hour, I was chilled to the bone, down coat and pants or not.  Then 
I heard them, singing ever so softly in scales and rhymes not our own, 
songs of Rome and Atlanticea and Marik and the Goetic Knights.  Singing 
of memories unfaded.  I 'ported home.  A pint of Mom's hot cocoa later, 
I was warm.  And a bit dizzy, Mom having spiked the cocoa with a shot of 
chocolate brandy. But I'll always hear the songs. Wrong!  I'm not 
hearing them now!  Can you get senile at twelve? I didn't notice, not 
until I thought about them.

Star and Cloud and Comet are doing the boy-girl thing, the cats snarling 
and hissing but never striking thing. Cloud can't just say 'I think that 
command is meant for ClassLink.'  He's got to phrase it 'only girls are 
so dumb they think that command is for SPS.'  They both learned from 
their older friends that only boys/girls choose one have brains, common 
sense, or experience.  Goddess be thanked. I wasn't brought up that way. 
  So they're standing there slamming each others' lessoncomps as 
second-rate cheapo models. I happen to know Comet and Cloud have 
identical units.  They both stand there shouting their own is better.  I 
bite my tongue.  Praise the highest, Aurora finally gets tired of the 
sniping.  Of course, she's a Gamesmistress, well 'Highly Esteemed by the 
Lords of the Hexagon' and your list of 11-year-olds in all history that 
highly ranked is short.  Not zero, but real short.  So half the time she 
knows they're boys and girls, and she's a Highly Esteemed.

"Star?"  Aurora stuck her head up from our blanket.  "Would you do me a 
favor? Please?"  Star turned his back on Cloud and Comet, rolling his 
eyes at a particularly choice bit of Comet's invective. His sister was 
in rare form this morning, not that Cloud was any better.  Star is a 
boy, but ofttimes he thinks the sniping is really dumb.  "You've got a 
better comp than I do.  Ask it what the carrier signal strength is." 
Star winked at his twin sister.  His fingers rustled against the 
touchpad.  He looked puzzled, tried it again.  That got my attention. 
He's eleven, not a mind-reader, but he's real good about 'I don't know' 
when he doesn't know something.

"Janie?  It says there's no signal. None at all.  The CommLink signal is 
zero, too." He tapped more keys.  "And I'm talking to your unit--that's 
a frigid Territories position you're studying--so our lessoncomps must 
be working."

"That's impossible! We're out in the open.  What's going on?" Aurora 
asked.   That was my cue to wake up and try thinking.   I was dead to 
the world, pretty nearly, but not that dead.   Something was blocking 
SPS radio waves, something invisible.  Something like a force wall.  I 
snapped to my feet, pushed locks of platinum-white hair from across my 
eyes, and brought up my body screens.  "Is something wrong, Eclipse?" 
Aurora asked me.

"Guys? I think we may be in a T-R-A-P."  I waited a few moments for them 
to notice me.  Cloud was ranting about some theory that girls have less 
brain cells than boys, and they don't work too good, either.  Later I 
have to brag up Star to the others.  I barely reached "P" and his force 
field came on.

"Talk elsewhere?" Janie suggested.

Time to teleport.  Of course, someone could be holding a teleport block 
on me.  Key word, for me versus block: 'try'.   Light, blue as 
cornflowers.  The chimes of distant bells.  Freezing wind and darkness. 
   Warm air, the sun not quite peeping over the horizon.  A mile below 
were ocean waves, rolling from horizon to horizon.  We were where I 
targeted, I think.   "Everyone!" I shouted. "Check I 'ported all your 
stuff?"  I pushed more curls back from my forehead.  Force field and 
teleport and holding us aloft, all at the same time, was a lot of anvils 
to juggle, not to mention I'm ready to break something if need be.  I'm 
good at breaking things.

"Eclipse?  I grabbed your blanket ." Aurora started folding it.  That 
was truly thoughtful of her.  But she is thoughtful when she puts her 
mind to it.

"Eclipse, my flight field is ready." Comet bathed herself in the orange 
flecks of light that mark the best persona flight field I can name.

"Passing across--don't worry, there's plenty of room if we drop 
someone," I answered.  Mind you, I will not drop Star, because he can't 
fly, shows no sign of learning, and trusts me implicitly.  The flecks of 
light surrounded us.  The load on my flight field, me supporting the 
five of us and a couple-hundred pounds of equipment, rose to zero.

"GR.  Where are we?"  Cloud waved at the horizon.

"Pacific," I pointed at the waves below.  "A tad north of Hawaii.  By 
way of Antarctica.  What's your SPS signal now?"

"Zero!"  he answered.  "Ditto CommLink is zero.  The only links I see 
are to our three LessonComps.  No SPS, No Global Time."  He dropped a 
long antenna from his 'Comp.  "No satellite video feeds, even too weak 
to read."

"Agreed," Comet added.  Star and I looked meaningfully at each other. 
Once Comet and Cloud forgot to be sniping at each other, they really 
worked well as part of a team.

"Are the other lessoncomps working?" Star asked.  "Mayhaps they cooked 

"Eclipse?" Aurora whispered.  "I folded your blanket and put it back in 
your duffle."

"My comp brings up my language lessons," Cloud announced.  "And it'll 
talk to Comet's and yours.  Mayhaps we didn't have to 'port out so fast?"

"Better safe than sorry."  Star closed down the debate before Comet 
could say something.  I gave Star a thumb's up.  That 's a boys gesture, 
but Star has it worked out.  I'm beyond that silliness.  We both knew: 
Cloud would only take being told to drop it from another boy.

"Comet, can you see the SPS satellites?" Cloud asked politely.

Comet stared at the sky, which was more than a bit hazy.  Yes, she has 
this extra vision, so she thinks planets are like stars, but with bigger 
disks.  Seeing through glare has limits.  "Don't see any," she 
announced.  "But it's way after first light.  Cloud?  Would you please 
hold everyone up for a bit?"  Cloud's flight field, the puffy white 
carpet of his name, appeared beneath us.  "That's lots better for 
refilling back backs," Comet added.  "Are we GR to shift?" Her siblings 
nodded.  "Dropping my flight field on three. One. Two. Three." The 
scatter of orange sparks faded, everyone and their camping equipment 
coming to a rest on a decidedly solid patch of white cumulus.

Comet stepped to the edge, raised her hands, and did a back dive off the 
edge, falling oceanward.  She is a bit of a showoff with her gifts.  Her 
flight field snapped into place.  She rocketed skyward.  No, she does 
not go supersonic instantaneously.  She needs most of a half second. 
Yes, I have met someone who goes supersonic instantly--he teleports in 
speed space, not place space.   Comet just pulls her hundred gees or so.

Star industriously began storing camping equipment, filling first his 
pack and then Comet's.  He and Comet and Aurora are real good about 
taking care of each other, for all they snipe.  Then Star looked over 
twin sister Janie's shoulder, found her lessoncomp screen filled with 
game notes, and looked skyward.  I could tell his thoughts without 
reading his mind. When she wasn't studying Chess, it was Stones. Or 
Territories. Or City of Steel. Or... He smiled.  He made no secret that he 
was really proud of having a sister who was incredibly good at games.

"Eclipse," he asked me hesitantly.  "Do you have any idea what's going 
on?"  The tone wasn't hero worship.  It was very respectful.  GR, I did 
solve the Maze, beat traps that had defeated armies and persona leagues 
for millennia.  And I've spent months not being arrested by the League 
of Nations, their best efforts to kill me slowly notwithstanding.

"We're doing what the Eye of Mars said." I lay back down on Cloud's 
flight field.  Its back support was flawless.  My back was grateful.  My 
judo throw in the Maze, something its champion had not expected, had 
tossed someone twice my weight.  I didn't wreck anything up permanently, 
but some things you have to let heal slowly.   Plasmatrix blasting me 
back into a rock wall, hard enough to dent the wall, had given me some 
new bruises.  Inside my force field, I am not a lot more damage 
resistant than an ungifted.    "GR, what the Eye told Comet to do. 
Complete with me planting those papers so your parents think you're all 
on school field trips.  But why fly in a circle? I'm sorry, Star, I 
don't understand yet."

"You're always so good at solving puzzles," Star said.  "You did the 
Maze.  You can solve anything."  He decided to ignore Cloud rolling his 

"Anything?"  I gave a weak laugh.  I'm really a lot better at breaking 
things than solving puzzles.  "I wish!  I know a few tricks.  The lesson 
from the Maze is 'be patient, hints may be here soon'.  I know it's a 
pain, but I think we've just got to wait, follow the Star Compass, and 
roll with the punches.  Mentioning which, it's been a couple minutes, 
Comet should be a couple thousand miles up.  Aurora?  What's the word 
from her?"

Aurora frowned.  A rainbow flicker passed over her head.  I could have 
kicked myself.  No one asked her to keep overwatch on Comet, reading her 
mind, so she didn't.  There's no proper game based on persona tactics, 
so Aurora never thinks about what her gifts should be doing.

"She says 'hi' to all of us."  Aurora smiled.  "She's way up there. She 
says there are lots of satellites, but she doesn't recognize any SPS. 
And she's closing on something strange."  Aurora flashed us a mentalic 
image, something white with huge gold wings.  No, not wings, they seemed 
to have no thickness. I was completely baffled--not that hard, 
really--but Cloud and Star were, too.  Then Aurora gave us the mentalic 
link to Comet.

*That's the biggest thing in orbit,* Comet announced mind to mind. 
*I'll see what it is.  It's not a skyhook, for sure.  Be there in a few 
moments."  Comet can sustain a hundred gees flight, and has a gift for 
matching orbits.  When she says moments, she means moments.

To his credit, Cloud saw Comet's mistake before I did. *POSSIBLE 
HOSTILE.*  His mentalic shouts carry as well as his speaking voice.  I 
could feel Comet making her emergency turn, hard enough she could feel 
the acceleration though her flight field.  Aurora cranked her telepathy 
way down, as much power as she can handle.

Fortunately, the space ship had windows.  Aurora had no problem finding 
its crew, learning
Space Station Freedom--that's the name its crew uses--has no weapons, 
not even a couple-three neutron cannon, and determining they were nice 
people.  If I'd been asked, I might have suggested that Comet not park 
outside a window and knock politely on the neighboring hull before 
waving 'hello'.  I'd rather get more data before committing myself.  I 
wasn't asked.  The other three thought it was a really frigid way to 
introduce yourself, which likely happened all the time to ungifteds 
flying a spaceship in a very low orbit.

*Is this where the Starcompass is pointing?* I ask, trying to sound 
polite.  There was a reason we came here, and somehow I don't think this 
is it.  Actually, I am absolutely sure we've gotten sidetracked again.

"You'd rather be at your base?" Star whispered in my ear.  I never say 
anything about where I hide out.   Not that Aurora would peek, but I 
have lots of mentalic screening around those issues.  Some secrets are 
worth keeping, given the League of Nations warrant for my arrest, not to 
mention Manjukuo offering a hundred tons of gold for my head, preferably 
neatly boxed and gift-wrapped.

"I'd rather be lying back in my hot tub," I answered wistfully.  "With a 
book.  And a cup of hot chocolate in easy reach. Or sleeping.  For a 
day. Or two days. "  I pretend to ignored the shocked look on Cloud's 
face when I mention the cocoa.  Sometimes he is a real prude.  "Most of 
a day flying in a big circle I did not need.  Not to mention the bit in 
the middle we still need to talk about. Especially when I kept thinking 
for no good reason we weren't flying in a circle, and were off someplace 
else, except Starcompasses are pretty nearly perfect. But I said I'd 
come with you, be part of your team."  Cloud nods.  'Team' means 
different things to boys and girls, of course, but if I'm with him he's 
required to think I'm GR.   Finally I realize that Aurora was reading 
the mind of the Space Station Freedom computers, a truly feeble mind but 
a mind, so we were hearing what they were saying back and forth to the 

"...Houston, I have a medical emergency.  I am having 
hallucinations...please clarify...outside the station #7 port...and she's kind 
of cute...this is Kondratieff...I see, I think the same thing...I have the 
minicam and am transmitting...please, please tell me there's nothing 
there...Freedom, this is Houston.  We have some good news and some bad 
news.  The good news is we see her, too.  The bad news is we see a human 
female, dressed like a comic book escapee, floating about three feet 
outside the window.  Okay, how are you guys pulling today's practical 
joke off?"  I could feel Comet's miffedness.  She had dropped by to say 
hello, and they didn't believe she was there.  Not waiting, she backed 
from the station and headed back to us.

Aurora, bless her heart, had looked more carefully than was really 
polite at the minds of the Space Station Freedom crew.  Of course, there 
is no such thing as a Space Station Freedom, and several skyhooks were 
to Comet's eyes obviously missing, so these Freedom people were probably 
some sort of space pirate.  Taking notes on their thoughts was defensible.

Unfortunately, 'space pirate' was way wrong. They'd never heard of space 
piracy, SPS satellites, or skyhooks.  How did they fly into orbit?  Oh, 
dear.  Giant skyrockets.  But Aurora was quite sure.  This so-called 
'Space Station' doesn't even have engines.  It flies in circles around 
the earth because it is in orbit.  They've never heard of persona 
lifting ships...make that, they've never heard of persona except as a 
literary gimmick called 'comic book super hero'.  Then Aurora looked 
really impolitely closely at their thoughts.  I choose to be reasonable. 
  If someone doesn't know what personae are, and these guys didn't, they 
must be mind controlled, or crazy, and we could help them find their 
right minds again.  Well, Aurora could.  If I try mentalic stuff on 
someone, either I'm real careful or I tend to break things.

"Guys," Aurora announced, "they have a space plane stranded in orbit. 
And no way to rescue it, none at all.  Can we rescue them? Please?"  I 
bit my tongue.  Again.  This has like absolutely nothing to do with the 
Starcompass directions.  I'm sorry.  The five of us can't solve all the 
world's problems.

That's why there are persona leagues by the score.  Who should have 
rescued this space plane way beforenow.  Except, Aurora looked 
carefully, none of these people have ever heard of personae.  All right. 
  The Namestone could fix the world's problems.  That's why I did the 
Maze.  To make sure I had the Namestone, not a group of halfwit 
politicians who'd try using it.

"Why isn't League America rescuing these people?"  Star asked.  I'd had 
the same thought, but he said it first.  "Or Stars Over Boston?"  Aurora 
closed her eyes.  There are people who can tap your mentalic link to see 
what you are seeing, like Eclipse lying five feet in front of you, which 
would be really bad if I didn't want unexpected hostile visitors, but 
anyone trying that on Aurora hits first her first-line mentalic screens 
and then, well, her eyes are closed.  After longer than I thought, she 
put up a hand 'Wait!'.  Minutes later, she came back to us.

"They're gone."  Cloud cupped a hand over one ear, his complaint she was 
mumbling.  She was obviously terrified half out of her wits.  "I even 
tried remote viewing: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, 
Cosmopolis--which by the way is a small suburb of someplace I've never 
heard of.  I can't find any personas.  Not one.  They're all gone.  We 
rescue that plane, or no one does."

"Eye of Mars trick," I announced calmly.  Mind you, I have no idea which 
one, or how he pulled it off, let alone why, but when you deal with the 
Eye of Mars, things can get a bit odd, like the shark swimming in the 
dining room table, only its fin visible above the polished mahogany. 
"Deal with it later."

Star and Cloud were looking at me.  They can't be reading my mind.  I 
suppose crossing my arms across my chest and frowning might have been a 
giveaway.  Star was almost going to beg me.  "GR", I said.  "One time. 
The plane rescue.  Then we follow the Star Compass again. The plane is 
nothing Comet can't do by herself.  Wouldn't hurt, Cloud, if you went 
along and killed the plane's mass first, so she doesn't have to lift as 
hard.  She's tired.  Flying across the universe does that."  I could 
have argued that we shouldn't rescue these people.  The time that would 
be wasted arguing is longer than the time needed to find one airplane 
and deposit it on the ground at a large airport.  "Aurora?" I ask. 
"Screen Comet's mind during the rescue?  So whoever sees her can't read 
it?  It would be totally inconvenient for everyone chasing me to learn 
where I am at the moment."  Her team-mates have decent mindscreens, but 
Comet's mind is an open door.

"Did that already," Aurora announced.  I beam at her.  She shouldn't 
need encouragement.  She's the Highly Esteemed.  I'm just a kid who 
knows a few tricks.  She can use tactical thinking other than for Games. 
  She just doesn't, at least not most of the time.  "I learned where 
this stupid plane is.  It's trapped in orbit because it doesn't have 
force field generators, doesn't have enough fuel to reach their space 
station, and has a hole in its armor plate--the armor it uses because it 
lands by ramming the atmosphere at full speed without quite burning up 
like a meteor."  She followed with mentalic pictures.  This plane didn't 
have a flight field, either; on the way down it was a fancy glider that 
flew like a brick.  I don't understand where it came from.  For a 
spaceship it's the most incredible bunch of random parts I've ever heard of.

"Eclipse?"  Cloud sounded as polite as he can.  "Could you please 
teleport us there?  If it's in your envelope?"  Suddenly, we're doing 
things as a team, and he is all team, no boy against girl nonsense. 
Aurora flashes me where and how fast.  He even remembered 'envelope'. 
We teleport into orbit and all that energy and momentum comes from 
someplace.  Me, to be precise. Me and...better I not even think 'foamspace'.

"GR.  Two jumps.  First is North Dakota, ground.  Mayhaps Star and 
Aurora stay there?  Nothing to fight.  In mentalic range.  Then we two 
join Comet at this plane?"  They all nod agreement.  "Ready for vacuum?" 
I ask Cloud.  He nods.  Light, the horizon at noon.  A xylophone's 
melody.  The sky is black, sprinkled with stars and distant galaxies. 
There, two miles out, is something escaped from a Goetic Knight space 
opera.  Comet should be...she comes to us.

*That's what we rescue,* she announces.  Aurora is keeping us linked 
mentalically.  *Might be better if we said 'hi!' first, so they don't 
get frightened and do something dumb.  Mayhaps Cloud and I stay outside, 
you knock on the window and teleport in, Eclipse?*  It's a plan.  I nod 

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