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As for Dylan, he found himself, and all of his gear, in a swamp. It was dark, gloomy--the twisted wizened trees let in little of the weak light of the overcast sky. But he was able to gather his things,
How long it took him to get there I couldn't venture a guess. He, of course, is very self-sufficient--I'll wager he used the telekinetic devices we found in the glass city to carry things more easily. He managed to reach the overgrown crumbling gray stone walls; a formidable oaken drawbridge blocked an iron portcullis as the only obvious entrance. He called out for attention.
In a moment, the bridge was lowered. A rather ugly hunched man stood behind the portcullis, and asked what he wanted. Dylan, never one to assume too much from appearances, explained that he had gotten lost in the swamp, and wondered if anyone could help him find where he was. The man wandered off stupidly, saying something about asking the master. In a moment he returned and raised the portcullis. Dylan was inside. The master, he was told, would join him for dinner immediately after dark. The sky was indeed darkening, although Dylan could not have said whether night was falling or the gloom was thickening.
The master of the castle did appear just after dark; candles were lit though out the halls, although Dylan never saw anyone lighting them. The master was tall, and if not handsome certainly noble of bearing. He greeted Dylan in a cordial yet formal manner, and immediately scolded his manservant for not taking better care of their guest. The servant gathered Dylan's loose belongings and took them out, as the master invited Dylan to sit and have some dinner. Food was brought--the master seemed at the same time able to be warm and interested in Dylan, and cross and almost cruel to his own cowering servant. He saw to it that Dylan received fine food (although he himself at nothing, and drank what was poured from a wine bottle, offering Dylan several other drinks), and spoke in pleasantries about the loneliness of the castle. Dylan told stories about other worlds, and his host hung on every word. At one point, the host showed him a beautiful jeweled dagger, and then allowed him to keep it. They spoke until dawn, when the host excused himself, saying he had things requiring his attention, and charged the servant with taking care of Dylan.
Dylan had gotten permission to look around. As he toured the castle, he took in several points. There were no mirrors anywhere. Also, there were no religious artifacts, artwork, or jewelry. Although he had been given a nice room upstairs, his host seemed to have retired into the basement--the only place the servant was unwilling to take him. Putting this together, he decided that it was very likely that his host was a vampire. He didn't see too many options, either. The drawbridge had been raised, and the portcullis lowered; he could not get both open without arousing the suspicions of the servant. And even if he did get out, where would he go? From the arrow slits around the second floor, through the thick overgrowth, he saw nothing but swamp in any direction. He had quite a bit of stuff to cart through the thick undergrowth, and nowhere to go--not even a clue of a direction. And today was as gloomy as yesterday. With no sun, moon, stars, he could wander in circles once he lost sight of the castle, the one place he knew he did not want to be. He needed a plan. But he was never hard up for plans.
Chatting with the less-than-stellar servant, he got talking about magic. The servant liked magic--the master could do magic, he said--but he knew none himself. Dylan said that he could do a bit of magic himself. In fact, he said, if he had his equipment, he could actually become invisible.
Eager to see such a trick, the servant took him to the room in which his things had been gathered--piled with many other things unfamiliar to him. Finding a screwdriver, he pulled the back off the television set. He had heard me many times say that the power capacitor in a T.V. could hold enough voltage to kill someone, and he was hoping it would work this time. The box was clearly marked, and easily opened. Licking his finger for good luck, he stuck it against the contacts (I guess he figured he survived the last jolt, what could it hurt?), and felt the power hit him. He never had the chance to jump back. He--and all of his things--were out of there.
It isn't Whisp's real mother--no, it is, but. . .but that gets confusing. It seems that one time this tachyon grenade went off, just a couple seconds sooner than he could manage to get out of the blast radius. He'd been killed many times, but this time there was nothing left--that's a guess. I don't know quite how it happened--I know it happened to Michael once, too. Whisp found himself being born all over again. Only this time, he was a little girl.
Well, I won't tell you the whole story. I will tell you that Whisp was unhappy, and did not want to be treated like this little girl. He drove his parents crazy--quite literally-by insisting that he was really a space warrior, a mercenary in an alien army, and a man. Eventually, both of his parents were driven to their graves.
His mother, she who bore him and suckled him and raised him, was infected with scriff from him. She died, but was never buried. Instead, she found herself in another world. Confused and upset, she came to the conclusion that her child was a demon (they had taken their daughter to see a priest, and identified some of the classic signs of demon possession). She decided that the multiverse was a curse brought upon her for giving birth to the demon, and that she would finally be free when she was able to kill the demon child.
At first, this was not a problem for Whisp. He was more concerned with how to get his old body back--for several worlds, he was still female. He even had reached the point where he was able to magically become any kind of creature he had ever touched, but always he would be female. If you knew Whisp, you'd realize how frustrating this was for him--the thing he enjoys most after defeating powerful enemies is impressing women. He couldn't stand being one. So he was hardly cognizant of the woman who kept trying to kill him.
But she was very much aware of her failures, and she began to see that in the worlds she landed there were ways to make herself stronger. She began to enhance her abilities, to give herself a more powerful body. Using the magic, psionic, and technological help of those she encountered, she became strong and tough--a monster herself, much more powerful physically than most of the things Whisp normally fought. And, although in the process she lost much of what remained of her mind, her intellect, her sanity, she became entirely focused on one goal: kill the demon child.
She can sense whether he's in a world when she gets there. She hunts him unrelentingly, pursues him unmercifully. Sometimes he manages to fool her, to evade her, to convince her that he's not there. Sometimes he out-maneuvers her. And sometimes she blind sides him, killing him again. Then, in her mad desire for ultimate rest, she kills herself--and waking up in another world, believes he has eluded her again.
It is something of a joke to the others. After all, Mother never hurts anyone unless they stand between her and her quarry. Whisp is easily the strongest and toughest verser any of them know. His martial arts skills alone make him a fighting machine. His morphing abilities make it possible for him to be anything, to fly as an eagle, burrow as a gopher, swim as a fish. He has studied magic in a mage's college. He carries a Dar Koni multiblaster--I saw it melt the pavement on an entire block one night. He's wired with sensors and detection equipment which can identify life forms as much as a mile away. His stealth fields can block his visible appearance, several non visible ranges of the EM band, and all audio. I myself trained him in a few advanced psionic skills, but he knew many potent mind tricks before he came to me. No verser of my acquaintance is more powerful than he. There are quite a few who are smarter, wiser, more knowledgeable--I've known a few who could probably beat him in an all-out no-rules battle--but no one would dare get in the ring with him to slug it out one on one. Yet Mother terrifies him, and sends him running, and not without good reason. She has ripped him apart more than once.
These guys were not your run-of-the-mill cops. They were the psi police. They made the thought control of Orwell's 1984 look amateurish. Each was hand-picked, and trained in mind reading techniques. When they wondered what you were thinking, they just listened. Dylan was picked up because it was against the law to be out after dark.
It would have been a routine arrest, but they quickly recognized that this kid was different. First, there was no record of him--his identity was not on file. Second, he had a very powerful psionic mind--not surprising, considering the work he had done with it in NagaWorld. Third, the equipment he had with him was very unusual. The television and game systems were technologically very advanced, and unlike the systems in use in their world--the T.V. could receive channels which did not exist. The psionic devices were even more troublesome. Psionic devices were unknown to these psions, but they could tell that these strange objects were responsive to psionic power. Fourth, as soon as he realized that they were reading his mind, the kid put up a series of mental defenses unlike anything they had ever faced. Probably they could wear him down; but he was just a kid, and they would prefer to harness power like that for their own ends. They took him to interrogation, and asked him who he was.
He told them the truth. That really stymied them.
It happened that some of the things I had sent him through the scriff mail--the bow and arrows, I think--arrived in the alley right after he did. The police found them, and asked what he knew about them. He told them that I had sent them there for him. Now they were really intrigued. It appeared that the boy, as powerful as his mind was, was the student of an even greater psionicist, one with the power to transfer matter across space. They wanted me, too. But Dylan's story was that I was in another world, and they couldn't believe that such an other world existed. They asked him if he had any proof that such other worlds were even possible. He said he could prove it. They just had to provide him with some wire and an electrical outlet, and he would be able to prove to them that all he had told them about traveling from universe to universe, all he had said about gathering these things in alien worlds and taking them with him, was all true.
Expecting that the experiment would prove him wrong, and allow them to discover the true location of his allies, they brought him what he requested. He connected the wires to the wall outlet, and grabbed the ends. It was over in a minute, and he and all of his gear were scattered across the hot sand of a vast desert. He had proved it, and the information would do them no good at all.
M. J. Young Net