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12 April 2018 @ 08:23 am
_Marooned_ part 9  

Ten miles to the southwest, the dots had spotted them and turned toward them. Two men supporting a third. Watson rushed ahead.

“Bloody impulsive . . .” Xen followed at a reasonable pace and got there in time to catch most of the acrimony.

“. . . your fault, and Doc Sam is dying without his magic.” That one was young and intense, dark haired.

“I can’t believe you did that!” The second man was not as young, not as dark, and pudgy.

The third man was elderly, sagging. Thin gray hair and brown eyes, slight epicanthal folds.

Watson looked at Xen. “Cut it out! Quickly!” he turned back to the old man. “This guy can get the Death out of your back. He took mine out.”

The old man waved vaguely. “Too late. It’s done. I am no longer a Chou.” He collapsed on his face.

Xen sighed and brought out the water. “Sips, small sips.” He turned and looked for the smoke, thinning, but the mountains were close enough for him to spot the blackened slope.

He dropped his gaze to the nearest hill where a man in orange stood surveying them.

“Who the heck is that?” Watson shifted nervously, looked at his . . . friends. “Who else was transported?”

“No one . . . this month.” Pudgy propped up the old man and helped him drink.

“It may be one of my people.” Xen turned back to the old man. “In any case, let’s get the poison pellet out of you and make a few plans.”

“What good will that do. It’s too late.”

“Swear to god you lot are pessimists. If it was permanent, they would need to put a dissolving poison in your back, now would they?”

Xen had it down to a routine, now. He was helping to old man back into the overall as the next guy walked up to the group.

“Hi. I’m Karl Mantigo, Earth Prime, assigned to Disco.”



The old man staggered to his feet. “What’s a Disco?”

Xen sighed. “Hi Karl. Disco is the Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation. The Dimension Cops.”

The old man rounded on him. “Dimension . . . there’s no such thing.”

“We operate an Embassy World where all polities can talk instead of fight. Your people—I think—have come in to start a fight. Hopefully they will decide to try diplomacy, but, well, we’re out of the fight for now and jut staying alive.”

Karl looked him up and down. “And you . . . look a bit leaner and meaner than when PooBah snatched you three months ago.”

“I’ll bet. I found Jiol, she’s recovering. I take it they didn’t stick a magic suppressor in your back?” PooBah? Oh. My. God. That’s perfect.

Watson looked around. “He’s not magic, why would they?”

“Point. Well, I’m Xen Wolfson, sorry, ought to have introduced myself before surgery.”

The old man growled a bit. “I’m Dr. Samuel Chou, Guangzhou Institute of Science. Or was.” A glare at Watson. “Call me Sam.”

“Jerry Thorne and that’s Connor Johnson.” The pudge jerked a thumb at the young one. “We’re Dr. Watson’s lab techs. And Doc Sam is the Big Boss.”

Dr. Watson hung his head. “I told them it was all my doing, that you guys were ignorant of my . . . aberrant behavior.”

A glare from Dr. Chou. “Failing to disassemble the robotic dog was bad enough. Failing to terminate a biological experiment, lying about it! You deserve this.”

Xen eyed the old man. You’d better not be talking about Cali! But I think I won’t mention her until I have to. Because I suspect you are chock full of information about your society.

“Karl? Do you know of a water source nearby?”

“Nope, the streams all dried up about three weeks ago. There a tiny snowmelt spring half a day up the mountain.” He eyed Xen’s clay jugs. “How much you got left? And do you have a place with water?”

Yeah, and like it or not, I’m going to have to take them there.

“I’ve got two gallons. And I’ve got a house by a stream that was still running a day and a half ago.”

“Umm, give me the empties. I’ll fill them and catch up to you north of here?”

“Yep. The house is probably right on a hundred miles away. If you don’t catch up to us by nightfall, we’ll light a fire . . . umm, was that you playing arsonist?”

“Yep. Worked too, although I was getting worried about Jiol. Anti-magic chemicals, I take it?”

“Yes, but mine and Jiol’s are starting to wear off. Oh, and there’s a half-tame wolf around, but watch out for any packs.”

“Gotcha.” Karl grinned. “Half-tamed wolf? Buckskin pants. House. Dunno why everyone was so worried about you.”

“Have some venison. See you tonight.”


They made five miles at a snail’s pace before Sam folded. The four of them carting him on an improvised stretcher made better time, but none of them complained when Xen stopped on a hill at sundown.

He slid one of his spears out of the deer hide stretcher and used the edge to cut enough brush for a fire. Some combination of signal and to keep predators away.

The PooBahs all grumbled about the jerky.

“Why didn’t you collect nuts and berries instead of killing animals?”

“Because the nuts ripen in the fall, and the birds beat me to the vast majority of the berries. Plants have to be tested carefully, as a lot are poisonous. If we’re stuck here very long, yeah, lots of plant material will be added to our diets.”

Xen stared into the night. Rustling grass. Hunter or Karl? Or something else?

“Hello the camp.” Karl sounded cheerful. “I found your pet wolf.”

He walked into the dim firelight. Hunter was at his heels, but circled around to lay down near Xen. He handed over four jugs of water.

“We’ll be home by noon tomorrow.” Xen eyed the strangers. “What do you call you’re world? Or is it another Earth?”

“Exile Three is the original name. But we call it .”

Xen sat up. “Well, that explains the magic. I’m from Exile Five, now called Comet Fall. Our founder population was exiled from Earth when they turned on the genetically engineered.”

They all shifted uncomfortably.

Watson broke the uneasy silence. “We have laws against genetic engineering. It happens only under very controlled conditions.”

A glare from Sam. “Not controlled enough.”

“Please understand that on Embassy, and my own world, that even directly engineered people are . . . people. With all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that all people have. I suggest that we act in that fashion here, so as to avoid any dangerous conflicts within the group.”

Jerry turned and studied him. “We were unconscious and dropped off alone fifty kilometers apart. Was there someone beside us four dropped off? Say . . . a girl named Cali?”

Watson’s hands fisted and he stared at Dr. Sam.

Sam Chou’s mouth thinned. “Great. The failed experiment, and we’ll wind up feeding her and caring for her.”

Watson’s hands relaxed. “It doesn’t matter here, that she’s designed.”

Karl looked at the PooBahs. “Why was she a failure?”

Sam huffed. “We were trying several combinations of genes, trying to replicate a specific ability. She didn’t have it, so . . .”

“So Watson adopted her, instead of ‘terminating the experiment’ in the usual fashion. Which is apparently to kill the unsatisfactory children.”

One glare, two techs gazing off into the distance. Watson staring holes in the ground.

“How could I kill her? I work with the magic metal, I don’t . . . I couldn’t. Anyone could see she was a little girl!”

The old man scowled. “You should have told me you couldn’t do it. I would have had it taken care of it.”

“Yes.” Watson got up and stared out into the dark. “Actually, you deserved to be Transported.”

It was a very silent group that settled down to sleep.

Karl signaled that he’d stay awake. Xen nodded, and put his head down . . . woke to a growl from Hunter. A rustle in the grass, departing quickly.

Karl shrugged. “Whatever it was, it changed its mind.”

Xen nodded. “I’ll take the watch. Catch some sleep.”

He sat up, crossed his legs, and slipped into a meditation trance. Six glows close by. Sam was the brightest, jumpy and uneven. Watson was jumpy as well. Wonder what I look like, magically? I’ll have to ask Jiol tomorrow. Karl and the two lab techs were ordinary, normal people. Hunter glowed like most of the larger mammals. He soaked up a little heat. And touched a bubble. Grabbed it and pulled it closer. Opened a hole. Closed it. Stuck it on his arm.

A quick check of the surroundings. An owl skimmed by overhead.

Xen settled back and looked at the inbetween. A crumpled paper universe there, and another way over there . . . He couldn’t look any further.


ekuah on April 12th, 2018 02:16 pm (UTC)
This doesn't make sense.
“Swear to god you lot are pessimists. If it was permanent, they would need to put a dissolving poison in your back, now would they?”

This would make more sense:
“Swear to god you lot are pessimists. If it was permanent, would they need to put a dissolving poison in your back?”

But anyway, any magic-killing-drug need to be dissolve able.
I think it would be best to stay away from the dissolve ability:
“Swear to god you lot are pessimists. If it was permanent, why would they implant a drug depot in your back?”

(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 03:03 pm (UTC)
Re: This doesn't make sense.
Or call it a drug implant like they now use for heroin and other opioid addicts undergoing treatment: https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2016/05/fda-approves-six-month-implant-treatment-opioid-dependence
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on April 12th, 2018 04:50 pm (UTC)
==Xen eyed the strangers. “What do you call you’re world? Or is it another Earth?”

“Exile Three is the original name. But we call it .”

Missing word ? Earth ?

mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 02:03 am (UTC)
Oh, let's have fun. The Japanese name for China is Middle Country, the Nation in the Middle, and it sounds like Chugoku. How about having their world be Chouquo (Cho-u-kwo?) for the world of Chou? Or something like that, harping on the notion of it being the home world of Chou? Chou's Place? (Joe's Place?)
matapampamuphoff on April 13th, 2018 02:22 am (UTC)
Xin Zhongguo. New China.

Not because of Jaejong, but rather all the family he accumulated by the time of the Exile. They were predominantly Chinese, with some of his earliest children marrying Americans to get the whole family into America.

Edited at 2018-04-13 02:25 am (UTC)
mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 04:22 am (UTC)
Sounds good to me! (where's the like button here :-)
(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 06:22 pm (UTC)
PooBah? Oh. My. God. That’s perfect.
Perfectly wrong. Forgive me. The guy on the copper carpet is obviously The Lord High Executioner (Titipu). PooBah was the Lord High Everything Else.
(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 07:41 pm (UTC)
Re: PooBah? Oh. My. God. That’s perfect.
Do we get to hear him sing tit-willow later?
(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 07:50 pm (UTC)
"The house is probably right on a hundred miles away."
"We’ll be home by noon tomorrow."
Less than 2 days walking to cover 100 miles. With one of them an old, dehydrated man. Do they have 7 league boots?
(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 09:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Marathoning+
They're down to only 95 miles at that point. :)

matapampamuphoff on April 12th, 2018 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Marathoning+
picky, picky . . .
(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2018 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: Marathoning+
But by the end of the night Xen has recovered at least the beginning of the ability to manipulate bubbles. Lots of things are possible with bubbles. I forget how far Xen could throw a corridor...

(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 08:01 pm (UTC)
So they decided they were the Chous' exile world. Wonderful! That means the original homeworld of Chou is still out there, AK is still out there . . . Lots more stories.

(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 10:17 pm (UTC)
What are you talking about? AK? Chou? What book is that in?
(Anonymous) on April 12th, 2018 11:22 pm (UTC)
Book #1. The Chou's were behind TransWorld Travel. AK was AnnaKarina?, one of the other "test kids."

matapampamuphoff on April 12th, 2018 11:27 pm (UTC)
The first book, Outcasts and Gods.

AnnaKarina was one of the Tellies, shot, and presummed to be dying. But that was before they had any experience with serious injuries and the healing sleep.

Jaejong Chou was an early pioneer in the genetic engineering, and eventually the owner of the company that owned the Tellies and developed the dimensional gates. Possibly a marooned explorer from another world, he and his entire family were exiled as genetically engineered.

In case you missed the start of the original series:

(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2018 12:50 am (UTC)
Signal fire
It sounds from this as if Karl lit a signal fire, then left the area. That does not sound right as it sort of negates the purpose of the fire.
mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 01:21 am (UTC)
Re: Signal fire
Or shifted over one hill, to stay out of the smoke and see who came to look?
matapampamuphoff on April 13th, 2018 03:09 am (UTC)
Re: Signal fire
I suspect he tried a normal fire first, and no one came. So he climbed up nearly to the tree line and started a forest fire in a spot where it was unlikely to spread too far.

High enough to be seen for a hundred kilometers.

Then he moved enough that he wasn't in danger if the wind shifted. And searched for food and water. And then a high vantage point. And when no one came, he set a second forest fire.

He got to the trio of PooBahs shortly after Xen, so he must have been watching for people heading for his fires.

ekuah on April 13th, 2018 07:25 am (UTC)
Re: Signal fire
Another explanation could be, that Karl just have botched up the signal fire.
I mean he is a soldier from a high tech world.
Maybe they don't need to rough it anymore (for training purposes).
A big signal fire can get easily out of control.
mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 01:19 am (UTC)
Just a thought -- to see someone 10 miles away, they must be on a hill about 60 feet up, according to


It just felt like the horizon was a bit far away. I have the number 7 miles stuck in my head for an average person on flat land, but I'm not sure that's a good number.
(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2018 03:58 am (UTC)
It also depends on the elevation where you're looking from, the overall topography (hills/mountains in the way), and clarity of the air, too. For example, on an extremely clear day at the higher elevations in Bryce Canyon National Park you can see the Black Mesas 160 miles away.

That's an interesting thought if one can dimension-hop. Owning own's natural splendor. I love the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, but the crowds can be a bit much. It would be pretty cool to be able to slip away to one's own special place.

mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 04:26 am (UTC)
Yep. And in fact, in the previous segment, they climbed a slightly higher hill or something, so they are up a ways. Which makes 10 miles reasonable.
matapampamuphoff on April 13th, 2018 04:22 am (UTC)
The main question is, since the Character lives in a place where nearly everyone is metric, shouldn't the writer stick to metric?

Xen spotted them from "a high hill" and they're wearing day-glow orange.

mbarker: Me typing?mbarker on April 13th, 2018 09:51 am (UTC)
Well, ten kilometers is shorter than ten miles. Let’s see... my rule of thumb is 80 kilometers is 50 miles, learned from a speedometer, no less. So about 8 to 5, or call it 16 to 10? Which means 10 kilometers is a little over 6 miles, if I did that right (and I haven’t pulled out a slide rule, calculator, or web app yet!) That’s reasonable both in terms of visual horizon and all that, I think. Plus, you know, first rough draft, the author does get a little room for error and such. Don’t worry, catch it in revision.
(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2018 04:01 am (UTC)
no magic?
Xen knows that Karl is non-magical, so why ask him about a magic suppressor? How would Karl know what was a magic suppressor? More likely Xen would ask about a pellet.

How could Watson could tell that Karl was non-magical? Presumably by observing the amount of glow, but it's only been 24 hours since Watson had his pellet out. Xen thought it would take 10 days for magic abilities to start to return.

mbarkermbarker on April 13th, 2018 04:32 am (UTC)
So, that specific ability that they were trying to get? I wonder when they will explain it to Xen, and how much he will laugh as he tells them (a) he has it (b) she will probably have it when she reaches puberty (c) he can provide them with a potion that will give anyone the ability (d) something else I haven't thought of yet? So much fun....
matapampamuphoff on April 13th, 2018 04:42 am (UTC)
Hehehehe! All will be come clear, later!
mbarker: Me typing?mbarker on April 13th, 2018 09:46 am (UTC)
I love multiple choice tests where no one knows how many answers might be right, or even if there is a right answer! Looking forward to learning just what our little ‘xperiment can do!