Time Vault

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Quin never gives up.

I have heard that said both as criticism and as compliment.

Earlier today, I used the coordinates Quin sent me and went to take a look at his latest experiment, Time Vault. I did not go in a professional capacity – not as explorer nor as time traveller. I was off duty. I just wanted to go have a look after reading Quin’s message about this project. Partly out of simple curiosity, as I had not been to one of the ages in Time Vault, and partly because I couldn’t believe he was expanding the experiment at this point and just had to see it for myself.

It is quite the undertaking. Here, he continues to work on his Future Past experiment…but that is not all. In this one place he has brought Illusion and Starfyre together with Future Past. Yes, Illusion. This was most surprising. I could tell the last time we spoke that he could not get this age – and his lack of success with it – out of his head.

I arrived in Starfyre, the age I had not seen before in person, only in pictures. The terrain was a very rocky one. A green-blue rock…or maybe blue-green. I was not about to study the color of the rock…as I say, I was off duty.

I was standing at the foot of a mountain. With the aid of flight, which appeared to be the only means available to me, other than climbing the mountain – which I was by no means prepared to do – I made it to the large structure at the top. I did not spend any time investigating the structure because two things distracted me. At first it was the large horns on the outside of the structure. Speakers? That is surely what they are. There was no sound coming from them, it was dead quiet here, in fact, but those are undoubtedly speakers up there. (This intrigued me as separately I am investigating what appears to be a series of towers scattered around some of the Devokan ages which I believe may be the antennas of an ancient relay system.) But before I could make any further observation about the speakers, came the second distraction – a shining, shimmering glow from inside the structure – crystals! Giant ones. Large examples of the blue crystals I have seen in several of the ages were sticking out from the top of the mountain. Not only that but green crystals of the same size as well. I tried to recall if I’d seen green ones before in my travels through these worlds. I will surely have to come back to Starfyre when I am on duty.

I headed over to Future Past which I could see in the distance. As best I could tell it was there intact, at least as it was when I last saw it. The blue orb still inside the spinning wooden frame, the fog or mist coming from inside the building that housed it, and so on. The sun was shining brightly in the night sky. Yes, you read that correctly. But at least it was to the west this time, rather than to the south as in Quin’s previous attempt to stabilize Future Past.

I wasn’t sure whether to enter Illusion or not. With much hesitation, I did so but briefly…just as in my last encounter with it. The place, as colorful as it is, still has the look of the aftermath of an earthquake. I am not sure how safe it is to be there. I suppose I should take a closer look sometime but today…that’s right, I am off duty. I moved through Illusion quickly and headed to the towers in the distance I recognized as the Devokan hub.

I arrived there and went down inside to the linking book room. Quin has turned some of the books facedown. The books for Deepwater and Waysmeet were in that position, apparently denoting their disappearance “from the current universe” as Quin had put it in a recent letter. A few of the other books were facedown as well. I could only wonder what else Quin had been up to.

Other books were open in the normal position. I hesitated to use them as Quin had mentioned in his most recent notes that these books were not working properly, if it all. I was not in the mood for experimentation, myself.

But then I saw the book for Selenitica back in Evergreen, my base in the Devokan ages.  Hmmm. Should I? No, I should go back the way I came…well…maybe…

At the risk of being “catapulted out of the current universe” I placed my hand on the picture of Selenitica, closed my eyes (which isn’t actually necessary but it’s what I did), and waited.

After a minute or so, I was back in Selenitica. Unharmed. I exhaled. And walked up to my room in the castle to pour a drink and resume my day off.

 

Return To Devokan

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I am standing on the rooftop of the castle in Selenitica, the highest point in this region. From here I can see to the very edges of Evergreen – north to Kamar, where I am beginning to furnish the little Japanese house where I spend the night when in residence;  northeast to Tao and the sky tree which towers over the swampy grasses and odd-shaped rocks; and due east to Satori, an open water region with only a couple of tall plants and two unidentified structures the only things visible above water.

My mission today is to take detailed notes on each of the four ages here that have been put under my care by the Devokan Trust. These notes will be used to write a guide for explorers, tourists and other visitors. It will come in handy as there is more to this world than meets the eye. I can not guarantee that I have found all there is to find here but that is part of the enchantment of this place. You may tag along with me as I make my notes if you like. Bear with me as I will also be stopping to make photographs from time to time.

There are three tall islands in Selenitica, the eastern one is your arrival point as you enter the world of Evergreen. You will be standing next to a tower. If you should enter this building and work your way up to its top level, you will find two benches on which to sit and take in the view. Just the other day I found something new. Touch the floor after you sit down on a bench. Wait a moment. What happens? I will make a photograph of the area as you try that.

There are smaller rock islands as well. When you first arrive, you will see to the west, the home of Mr. Quinquifid Oddenfen, Director of the Devokan Trust. This is his study, his laboratory, his retreat. Yet he is not often in residence as his work takes him to other ages. His retreat sits on a platform – a pedestal –  on one of the rock islands. If you wish to look around Quin’s home, follow the bridge to your left, it will take you to what I have taken to calling Garden Island. You can wander about the interesting and colorful flowers and trees here until you come to another bridge which connects with Quin’s house.

You will also see in the northwest corner of Selenitica, on the highest island, a castle. When you first arrive, if again looking west, the bridge to your right will take you there. The bridges need some repair work, so “pardon our appearance…” as the saying goes. You should be able to manage.

I have been using a room on the second floor of the castle as my office here. I refer to that room as the Observatory as the view from there is stupendous but there are two observation towers above on the roof. Still, this room is where I feel most comfortable, sitting and looking at the lands before me, thinking and writing.

My names for these islands are unofficial. I am the Custodian of Evergreen and so I am the one most often putting pen to paper to write about it. So I need reference points, names…for the tourists’ sake as well as my own. I suppose I should get Quin’s approval for these names but to Quin, this would not be a matter of great importance and, as he has so much on his plate, I do hate to bother him with such trivial matters. For now, unless I hear him call them by other names, I will be using these: Arrival Island – where visitors land; Garden Island – the southern most island, there are no buildings here; Quin’s Island – the rocks that host the pedestal for his home; and Castle Island – obvious, eh? Let’s go north now, to…

Kamar. This is a rocky continent, with some moss, a few grassy spots, some beautiful flowers and a good number of trees. The land surrounds a nice bay. My house faces the ocean to the north but I spend most of my time at the back window looking out at the bay or on the rooftop observation deck. As I say, I am just beginning to furnish the place. A day bed is there in one corner. This is where I sleep and read and sometimes write. Yes, I spend my nights on a day bed, a contradiction that makes me smile.

There is a secret place in Kamar as well. You cannot see it from my house. Look around and you will find a way to reach…

Kamar Sky Garden. This is a wondrous rock garden on a lake in the sky. Interesting things to see here. I would love to get that balloon-powered vehicle working…but what a nice spot to relax. Feel free to do so. I also think it is a perfect spot for a party someday in the future. Or the past. One never really knows in the Devokan lands.

Let’s return to sea level now and wander over to…

Tao. Not a lot of walking to be done in Tao. And if you do so, I hope you have worn your wading boots. There is much open water but, as you can see, there is some land. Most of it is swampy though there are a couple of small rock islands here. And there are interesting items to inspect on these rocks. (I will leave that to you.)

If you are one with the power to fly, a good landing spot in Tao is on the odd rock formations in the northeast and southeast of the region. From afar you might think they are trees, I certainly did. On closer inspection, they look like plants. But once you land on one, you see they are terra firma –  specifically, rocks. Rocks that look like mushrooms, if you ask me. Poisonous mushrooms? I could not say as I can’t imagine biting into one without it involving emergency dental surgery.

Yes, I know you can’t take your eye off of that giant tree in the sky above you but before we go there… I just want to point out that Tao is interesting to see underwater as well. So, if you have brought your scuba equipment – or you hail from a race that breathes underwater –  you can wander around below sea level in Tao. You may happen upon Quin’s one-person submarine. I would not suggest trying to drive it. (I speak from experience on this. I got stuck in there and had to go to my bag of tricks to extricate myself. When I get a chance, I’m going to have to rummage through Quin’s study to see if I can find the keys for that vehicle.)

All right, I won’t keep you waiting any longer… to the Sky Tree!

aka the Tree Tower. Whatever one calls it, it is truly one of the wonders of the ages. You can walk around the outer rings of the tower and view Selenitica and the landscape below or go closer to see the tree and the surrounding vegetation. This is a very nice place to sit and ponder what you have seen on your journey thus far.

But I know you will want to examine the roots of the Sky Tree as well, in particular the pods – known to the locals, if we had locals that is, as “flying homes.” Feel free to go inside and make yourself comfortable but be sure to close the door on your way out so as to keep the elements – and the birds – at bay. I am guessing Quin used these rooms when Tao was a distant age, before it was brought here to nestle in next to Selenitica and the others. The homes are nicely appointed and very welcoming. I may spend some time in one of them to write. I am trying to figure out why one of them has a blue or cyan glass door while the others are yellow or amber.

Until this very day, entry to these pods was nearly impossible. As Custodian of Evergreen, it was my duty to report this problem to…somebody. In the absence of Quin, I had informed my friend Dot Macchi, who first introduced me to Quin long ago. Dot then  investigated and was conducting experiments regarding a strange force field that existed around these pods. I was helping her as best I could, my knowledge of such things being quite limited. She told me that evidence of force fields were found in other Devokan ages as well. (In fact, the problem may not have been limited only to Devokan worlds.) Dot arranged for the services of a wizard, one Oren Hurvitz, who worked his magic and has caused the force fields to disintegrate…or evaporate…or whatever it is a force field does when it goes away. Apparently, this Oren fella is one heck of a wizard.

So, if you have explored Evergreen previously and had not been able to access the pods (or had problems in the Kamar Sky Garden), please do visit again as all is well now. This improvement is only a few hours old as of this writing.

Okay, we must now hop on down to Satori, south of Tao for me to finish these notes…

There isn’t much to see here, so I put it off to the end of my ‘tour.’ I can hardly call this an ‘expedition,’ as I am merely ‘exploring’ the places next door, looking around the neighborhood as it were.

Satori is an open water region and I plan to spend my leisure time sailing here. The only thing visible above see level is a structure or two (I must see if they are connected underwater) that somewhat resemble the masts of a ship. From the observatory in the castle in Selenitica, I thought this structure was vegetation but now that I am here…well, it’s not vegetation but I still don’t know what it is actually.

The two “masts” – I’ll call them towers – stand next to each other. (They are not connected underwater, it turns out.) Some sort of alloy, I guess. Are they a symbol of worship? Do they honor some god? Are they a piece of art? Or do they have some practical use? It bugs me that I cannot answer these questions. Already I know what will be keeping me up tonight when I try to ease my mind and fall to sleep in my little house in Kamar. Oh well. That’s about all there is – oh wait, there is some very interesting, glowing vegetation underwater here, you must take a look. I should make another photograph as well.

That is the end of our little trip. You can wander about if you wish, I must be off now to review my notes. Thank you for joining me and for your patience. So long!

 

Later, I stop in Selentica at Quin’s house to make supper at the end of the day. I poured some wine first and browsed Quin’s library. Stuffed into one book were some papers about the ages bordering Selenitica. In one, written by Shenn Tao who discovered Satori, he discusses the possibility that the towers there are some kind of communication device. Of course! I slammed the book shut, downed the wine and went to a window facing east to stare at those towers. They could be antennas. That would explain why they stand in the middle of nowhere, in open water. A signal travels very well over water. Yes! They could receive and transmit from one Devokan age to another! But wait…these are just the antennas. Where is the station? The transmitter? Wait… A relay station! Yes, that is it!

Hmmm..before I get carried away, I need to conduct some experiments here. Unlike magnetic force fields, communication is something I do know a little bit about, not much but a little. Did I ever tell you about visiting Messrs. Hertz or Marconi while on time traveller business? Well, needless to say, I picked up a few things along the way. Now, let me see, how to go about this? Oooo, that wireless set in one of Quin’s pods up in Tao! I will bring it to Satori. And I will contact my secretary back in the Steamlands, Mr. Afterthought, and have him send along my best wireless set. Maybe two. Yes, it would be best to use radio equipment I am familiar with.

Well, I guess I have my next project before me so I will just have to put these notes aside for the moment. I will get back to them in the new year, organize them in a more coherent manner and fashion them into an Evergreen guide for the tourists.

 

Editor’s Note: You may visit the ages of Evergreen via Kitely. The article above also appears on the new Kitely Forums as the first in a new thread of Devokan stories, a thread in which Mr. Whitfield will be one of many participants. The photographs Mr. Whitfield has made of these ages are on his Flickr page in a set called, Evergreen – Devokan. Region credits: Selenitica by Paislee Myrtle; Kamar and Satori by Shenn Tao; Tao by  Leah Auxifur and Shenn Tao. Evergreen is Free to visitors. Many of the scripted items in Evergreen are not working yet. As with so many things, these ages evolve.

Future Past

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At first, I thought I was standing in water. But it was moisture, moving along the ground. Fog?

The coordinates Quin had given me, had taken me to a rocky island. To my left was a small round building, presumably with one room. Around the outside of the building, just a few feet away from it, was a low stone wall. The building itself, round as if a globe or an igloo, looked almost as if it had been sliced in half. Through the opening, I could see a large spinning object inside. The fog emanated from the building and drifted slowly toward me. Was it steam?  Possibly this steam powered the spinning object. Or possibly the spinning object created the steam. I could see and feel the moisture, however, there was no heat from that which wafted toward me. Not steam. Fog. Or mist.

Obviously, one of my first thoughts was to enter this stone sphere and investigate the spinning object. So I turned and slowly walked the other way.

I have this thing about venturing toward – and especially into – the obvious, when first encountering a new, unknown and foreign place. Over my days as a time traveller, I have found it is usually better to look around first, to get the lay of the land.

Moving away about fifteen paces led me toward a very odd tree. Odd but familiar. Very old, it recalls the weeping willow of my world, though it’s vegetation is a silver-blue color, long strands that look almost like ice. This tree is familiar to me as there is one of the same in Selenitica. Here, the tree stood next to a stone archway.

As I walked toward the arch, a much greater amount of the mist moved toward me. It was thicker here and appeared to come from the ocean itself, and onto the island. Hmmm. If the mist comes from the ocean, and it comes in the opposite direction from that stone building…perhaps the building is connected to the ocean somehow. As curious as I was about the building, I still chose to continue to investigate my surroundings further before entering.

To my right, there was a small formation of blue crystals. I first saw crystals like these more than two years ago when I went up to Reverie, back in Winterfell, to visit Quin’s workshop at Dot Macchi’s former residence. Those crystals were not actually in Winterfell itself, however. For I found a contraption on Ms. Macchi’s land that I took to be a time machine of some sort. I entered that machine and was taken to, what I believe, in hindsight, was another age. It was there that I saw the crystals. But that is a story I have already documented on these pages. I would find similar crystals here, in several places as I explored the island.

It took quite awhile to get my bearings. The position of the sun threw me. It seemed…wrong.

It was sunset. The sun was descending in what I estimated to be a southerly direction, nearly due south, in fact. Or was it sunrise? The only way to find out was to spend some time here.

In his note, Quin called this place, Future Past. As I looked around, I chuckled at that phrase. It seemed perfect, in a way, as I could not tell if, from my starting point in Winterfell, I had gone to the future or the past.

Future Past

Future Past

I walked through the archway toward the ocean. There were steps, which had been hidden by the mist, that led down into the water. I was not equipped for underwater exploration, so I turned back and headed east with the intention of walking around the coast of this good-sized island. If it were sunset, I would have to hurry but if it were sunrise, I had all day.

Part of my tour was over rough rock but for part of it there was a stone path to follow. Along the way were more arches and steps, more crystal formations. There were also strange rock formations, unnatural, going straight up. Built by someone. Tall, with the larger rocks balancing atop the smaller ones.

Around the bend and through another archway, I was standing in the middle of a circle of smaller stone posts. Round on the sides, flat on top. Maybe it was just a wall but they could be seats. This could be a gathering place. In the middle, next to me, was a hovering plant. From a distance I had thought it was a machine as I could see it was moving. but as I came closer, I could see it was a plant. Like the tree I saw earlier, I had seen this plant before as well. A blue-green flower, hovering just off the ground and spinning, slowly in a clockwise fashion. The other one I know is in Tao in the Evergreen lands. The color of that one is different but that may be due to the sun’s effect there as compared to here.

I was on the other side of a mountain range from where I started. Continuing to follow the coast, I eventually made my way back to the arrival point and the round stone building. Along the way, I half-expected to find an underwater building or tunnel, or a tunnel through the mountains. But I found neither, though I can’t rule out the possibility of same.

Finally, I had seen everything in plain view, it was time to enter the stone building.

Inside, the room was nearly filled by a spinning contraption, a large wooden frame rotating around a blue globe that looked eerily like an eyeball, a small, darker, round object inside the larger blue one. The surface of the outer orb was out of reach as the rotating wooden frame was in my way. But that was fine by me. The orb’s surface fluctuated, at times giving the appearance of trying to receive a transmission signal. I stared at it for quite some time but could not come to any conclusion about it…other than the obvious, someone had built this for a reason. But what sort of reason? Was it practical or aesthetic? Or some other?

There was a perfectly round hole in the floor, under the wooden frame. It looked as if water was running beneath the building. I am assuming this water runs to the ocean, either directly or through the mountains, but underground either way. It would explain how the mist could come at me from two directions, this building and the shoreline, at my arrival point. But again, these are assumptions on my part.

The Orb.

The Orb.

I left the building and returned to the arrival point. I must have been here for two hours or so by now but the sun, as best I could tell, was in the exact same position as when I arrived. Sunrise or sunset? Is it possible it is neither? Could it be this island is on a planet that does not rotate? Or moves so slowly that I could not detect a different position in a two-hour period? Because of the seemingly stationary position of either this planet or its sun, my estimate of spending two hours here is only that, an estimate. Under the circumstances, there was no way to measure it truly. It was as if no time had elapsed. Does time stand still here? That is the kind of question I should leave for Quin.

The other question, the bigger question I am left with, is: What is this place? Who built these arches, pathways, this stone building? And secondarily, what is that contraption inside the building? Why is it turning? What is it doing? And that eyeball-looking orb. Is it a screen? Is it for receiving or transmitting…or both or neither?

I know Quin’s time experiments led this place, this time, to be here. But he did not create it, not exactly. It would not be here without his work, however. I know that is difficult for you to understand. It is difficult for me, as well.

I look forward to comparing notes with Quin. I agreed to prepare a report for him and then meet with him to discuss my observations. I think I will send a copy of my report to Dot. Quin told me she has not yet been to Future Past. I wonder if he has even told her about it?

 

Editor’s Note: You may visit Future Past via Kitely.

The Outer Regions

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I began the day in Quin’s study, reviewing his maps over coffee. Satori is the sea region to the east that sports some vegetation. The region to the northeast where, on this clear morning, I can see rock islands, trees and other plant life, is called Tao. There is a huge tree up in the sky above Tao, with no visible ties to sea level. That will not be easy to get to. But first, to the north and Kamar, where I begin to scout the area.

In my walk from the castle across the series of bridges to Quin’s building, I spotted a sailboat on the northside of Selenitica. At low tide I must be able walk there, the most difficult part being finding a good spot to get down off of these high islands.

Having reached the sailboat, I headed north toward the entrance to a large bay. Here was the Japanese-style building I saw last night from the castle window. I landed near the house and walked around to the front, which faced north to the ocean. Inside the house was empty. A staircase led to an opening and out onto the roof, a simple, one room house with a rooftop observation deck. The ocean to one side, the bay, with its interesting trees and plants, to the other. This would be a good spot for a writer to getaway. (Although most any spot in this world could serve that purpose.) Yes, I will use this house…as no one else is. The room in the castle and this house by the water, they will do nicely.

I walked back to the boat and sailed east for Tao. It was mostly open sea, my main focus being that giant tree in the sky. I sailed south into Satori to confirm that it too, was mostly open water. There may be interesting plant life to see below sea level but I am not prepared for that sort of exploring today. So back north to Tao, to stare up at that tree.

Stare was all I could do as there was no visible way up there. This calls for extreme measures. As revealed on these pages some 20 months ago while on another trip to the Devokan worlds, I can fly. I prefer not to but sometimes there is no other way. This was one of those times. Maybe Quin or Dot know another way up to that…that tree tower…but I do not. And so, left with no other choice…

I flew straight up to view the leaves at the top of the tree. Interwoven through them was a multi-level stone walkway. Flowers here and there. I walked around in circles on these walkways, then flew out from them and down a bit to look at the roots of the sky tree. At the end of some of the roots were rounded…pods. I moved in for a closer look. Well, look at that! These pods looked bigger on the inside than they were on the outside, I know that sounds ridiculous but it was true. And on the inside, they were entire rooms! Furnished rooms. A study, a living room, a drawing room, a laboratory. Books everywhere, some artwork on the walls. This was astounding! I entered one of the pods and took a seat in a comfy Victorian-style chair. Wow! Does Quin use this or does it belong to another? With that thought, I jumped to my feet and left, just in case.

That was truly unexpected. Nothing would top it. My day of exploring was over. I returned to Selenitica, to my room in the castle, to write in my journal of the days’ sights and wonders. I went to my bags and the secret pouch where I kept my most important papers…and pulled out a bottle. I poured a drink and reached for pen and paper.

Explorer’s Journal: 26th Century Sanctuary

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The note didn’t tell me much about our meeting place. When I first read the word ‘Sanctuary’ I thought my cousin Robertson wanted to meet me in the north of Winterfell. But the place he referred to was another place known as Sanctuary, a much different place in another time.

It was the 26th century here and yet the surroundings had a strangely familiar feel. Although my Victorian style of dress was different than the people I passed by, they did not seem completely miffed as they glanced my way, though glance they did. Still, it was a glance not a stare. I stopped to ask directions to Crazy Ivan’s bar. The man I asked seemed a bit surprised by my question but just a bit. His own clothing was more rustic, a la Wyatt Earp but with a dash of Buck Rogers, as odd as that may sound.

Sanctuary is a frontier town, if town is the right word. ‘Settlement’ might be better. There were tents along my route, gathered together not far from my arrival point which was in a very large stone building which I did not have time to explore.

I found my way through the brush and hills to Crazy Ivan’s, a large establishment in the middle of nowhere. There was a man outside who seemed to be standing guard though he paid me no attention as I walked up the steps and entered. Loud music with a heavy beat surged through the place, pulsing across the floor. The bar was empty except for a woman dancing on the stage. A beautiful, scantily clad woman, dancing around a pole. My grandfather would have described her as an exotic dancer. An apt description.

I sat myself down at the bar and waited for a bartender to show but none did. After a while, the dancer called out a hello which I returned. The guard appeared to have left his post or resumed his patrol, so it was now just the dancer and me. She left the stage and came over to the bar and offered to fix me a drink but mentioned she had not done that sort of thing for awhile. I thanked her but stated I would fix my own and that I was sorry to interrupt her dance, which I was. I had enjoyed watching her. She smiled and returned to the dance pole.

She continued to talk with me as she danced, revealing more of herself by her actions and her words. She removed her top, leaving only a skimpy undergarment between her breasts and my eyes. As she did so she told me that she was not working in the bar, just practicing. The exotic dancing was her hobby, a chance to “cut loose” from her real job.

She asked me to guess what that real job might be. I am not a big fan of guessing games. But the lady was beautiful and I did not wish to break her focus on her hobby. I asked a question or two, trying to narrow down the possibilities. Just then another woman walked in and introduced herself as Jacquie, a hostess at the bar. I figured this was the end of my conversation with the dancer and of her dance as well. I was wrong.

She continued dancing and there was some small talk amongst the three of us when a man entered the bar. He gave hellos all around and proceeded straight to the far corner of the bar, behind a screen. Jacquie joined him there. It was as if they were expecting to meet. The dancer continued to do her thing, announcing she would remove an article of clothing for every new person that entered the bar. I looked up from my drink to see her remove her tiny skirt, revealing a g-string. As I watched her gyrate around the dance pole I heard the sounds of sex coming from behind the screen where Jacquie and the gentleman had gone.

This was just a place I’d come to have a drink, a resting spot on my way to meet Robbie. I hadn’t expected any of this. Robbie hadn’t told me anything about the place other than it was the only place to stop and that most of the people here were friendly but to be wary as you never knew who might come in. At this point, “friendly” seemed an understatement. Or was I to be wary of these people? Or maybe the “wary” warning explained the guard.

The dancer asked if I had given up on guessing her occupation. “No,” I stammered, having been distracted by all that lay before me, “no. Ah…” Before I could pose a new question she stated, “I am the local coroner.” Ah, a woman of science!

Another man arrived and took one of the ringside seats along the stage. The music churned on, the dancer did too, removing her bra, the sexual encounter in the corner behind the screen continued. I sat there, a bit stunned, sipping my drink and gazing upon the dancer’s breasts.

The man sitting by the stage got up and left. He had only been there a few minutes and hadn’t said anything. Once he was out the door, the dancer removed her g-string. She wore just stockings and boots now. Her long, red hair flowed through the air as she danced around the pole. I looked her up and down, it was impossible to do otherwise. I had never seen a coroner naked before. A coroner sees you naked, you don’t see a coroner naked. It had never even occurred to me that coroners got naked.

Now Jacquie and the gentleman, whom she referred to as FireStorm, came out from behind the screen, sat at a table and rejoined the conversation. I mostly listened to the others at this point, not wishing to say too much but jumping in from time to time for I did not wish to say too little either. I was trying to be low key in what was very surely not a low key kind of place.

Finally the dancer stopped and began to dress. Our little crowd applauded her. “Helluva show, Doc.” I hollered. “Thank you. And it’s Miss Emer if you please. ‘Doc’ can give people the wrong idea.” She said her goodbyes to the others and had to pass by me on her way out. She stopped and, glancing at my clothing, asked if I was of nobility. “Well, I do have a title back home,” I offered, as matter-of-factly as I could. “Oh, that’s great,” she said, “I always love to talk with nobility.” I just smiled, not knowing what to say and not wanting to give any indication how out of place I felt. For Robbie had told me that time travel was not known in this world, so there was no way I could tell of my real home back in Winterfell. “And where is ‘back home?'” she asked, the question sounding more coroner or investigator than dancer. “Persephone,” I answered, without missing a beat. It was the answer Robbie had given me, should I need it. “Persephone! Well, you are a bit beyond your orbit, aren’t you?” She said it as a joke but I could tell she was curious. “How shall I address you?” she asked, looking for my title. I didn’t know if there are any Dukes on Persephone so I said, “Oh you can just call me Danko.” But each answer led to a new question. “And what brings you to this part of the ‘Verse, Danko?” she asked. “Just tending to a business matter,” I said, trying to make it sound rather boring. But another question followed. “What type of business?” Trying to put a stop to the questioning, which hit me as being a bit methodical, I lowered my voice. “Oh, a very exciting business,” I said while motioning her to come close so no one would hear. She looked at me, smiling in anticipation. I looked around to be sure no one was paying attention, she looked too. I whispered, “Farming.” Her face went blank. I laughed. She realized my joke and laughed as well. She wished me luck and exited the door.

I was just about to do the same. As I finished my drink, I wondered if I would see that dancer again. Here I was in the middle of some God-forsaken nowhere in the 26th century and yet I had this feeling that is not the last I will see of the naked coroner. Though it seemed unlikely I would see her naked again. After all, how many times does one see a naked coroner in one’s lifetime? Unless, of course, I happened in to Crazy Ivan’s during another of her practice sessions. It then hit me that she used the word ‘practice’ rather than ‘rehearse.’ A dancer would say rehearse but maybe a coroner, a doctor, would say practice. Does a coroner have a practice? I suppose they do. Just not much in the way of return patients. I guess a coroner can’t be one of those doctors who “isn’t taking new patients at this time.” Apparently I had had enough to drink at this point.

I stood up from the bar and Jacquie invited me to join her table but I made my excuses and walked out. I had to move on if I were to meet Robbie by the next day. I thought what a kick he would get out of hearing my story of Crazy Ivan’s but the purpose of our meeting was for me to hear his story. I was quite curious, if not I would not have made this trip. I have been doing a lot of time traveling lately for one who describes himself as semi-retired from the field. But Robbie said it was an important matter. Important enough that he had asked me to come all this way, through space and time. A matter involving the very exciting business of…

Farming.

Sometimes telling the truth is the best way to throw someone off track.

———————————————————————————-

Editor’s note: The scene above took place in Sanctuary in the Soros sim in Second Life and the places and terms should be familiar to those interested in the Firefly – Serenity stories. You can easily become familiar by searching these names or by joining the Firefly Roleplayers group inworld. It appears this story will continue on these pages.

Explorer’s Journal: New Land in Winterfell!

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Exploring unknown territory and discovering new lands can be pretty heady stuff. But it’s not all fun and games, you know. It is hard work, sometimes tedious work under horrid conditions. The average person might think they would like to be the first to walk a new land, “Oh, the sense of adventure!” they might say as they daydream about such feats. But put them out there one time at the lead of a bunch of tired, hungry, cold, grumpy support personnel, and believe me the thrill and the magic of discovery can wear off quickly. Still, it is rewarding to push through the mental tedium, the physical torture, the spiritual exhaustion of the act of discovery, to bring back a report to one’s leader and to the masses that he or she has “discovered new land!”

But sometimes – not very often, mind you, but once in a great while, if you’ve been in this game long enough, sometimes it’s just too damn easy! Sometimes, and don’t tell any explorer you know that I revealed this, sometimes new land can just fall into your virtual lap!

Like this past Sunday. I had observed a game of football (my side was victorious!) and, while puffing away on my victory cigar, was pondering the proper choice for the post-game meal. It was a tough choice, the kind of thing better considered over a fine ale. So I poured one and walked to the back window of my cottage in Haven and peered out. ‘Ah, it’s snowing!” A nice light snow was falling, the kind that makes one want to walk through it. I put out the cigar, grabbed a coat and hat and exited the back door, bringing along the ale.

I stepped into the snow and took in the night air. I walked over to the edge of the cliff on the east side of my island, looking at the open ocean and the snow and sipping my brew. What a lovely winter night.

Back inside, I put my supper on the table and poured another ale. I had the radio tuned to a jazz station, from the future. (It’s a very special radio.) I was about halfway through my meatloaf when I heard something. A deep sound, low in pitch, a broad sound but muffled, not sharp. It lasted…must have been 20 seconds or so. What could that have been?

A minute later, there it was again. Longer, this time. Then silence. Then the sound, a third time. I reached for my pocket watch. A minute-fifteen on that last one. I realized now I was not only hearing the sound but feeling it as well. Here it was again now. A bit louder and now a rumble to it. An airship? I looked out my windows, front, then back. The back window was rattling. I exited the back door again, no coat or ale this time.

I walked toward the cliff. The sound subsided again. I stopped, stood a moment. Waiting. And I heard it start up again, slowly growing, rumbling, louder, longer. And I could feel the earth moving. Earthquake? Must be. But I was guessing. I really had no idea what was happening here and I couldn’t see a thing. The sound and rumbling of the ground lasted over three minutes this time, ending with what I can only describe as a groan. What the hell?

The snow was falling harder now and it combined with the purple fog of Winterfell to make visibility just about zero. “I must be standing near the edge of the cliff,” I thought. But I couldn’t see the edge. Very gingerly, I took another step forward. And another. And another. And another. “I should be swimming by now.” I turned around, re-traced my steps, went back to the house for proper clothing and a lantern.

“That’s better,” I said back out in the cold night. Ulysses The Cat sat in the window, watching me through the snow, as another round of the deep sound and slow rumble cascaded about me. Again, I could feel the ground move. I trudged back along the path I’d created to its end. I stopped.

I turned and looked left, then right. I was standing well beyond the tree line. Thoughts raced through my head. “The edge of the cliff must be eight or ten steps behind me. There was ocean here an hour ago! I should be standing in mid-air above the sea!” But I was not. I was on solid ground.

Again the sound and rumble approached from the west and the north and maybe the east and from below me as well. This was no earthquake like I’d ever known. But an earthquake it was for there could be no other explanation, not one based on science at any rate.

I thought of going back inside but was it really any safer there with the land moving? In the dark and the snow, even the lantern only let me see so far. I could not see the ocean but I could hear it along with the wind. “That ocean’s out here somewhere,” I thought with a chuckle.

I continued away from the house. After a minute or so there was another tremor. I turned but could no longer see the lights from the house. I was still on firm ground. As I looked ahead, another surprise, a break in the clouds.

The last tremor seemed shorter. The next one did too. And the interval between them seemed longer as well. But maybe the second is the same observation as the first. I laughed. My watch was in my pocket but I would not take it out in this weather. It was all I could do to hold onto my lantern and hat.

As the minutes passed, the tremors fell in length and number (though they did not stop completely for several hours). The clouds overhead were breaking now and there was some moonlight to help my lantern. The snow was now just a few tiny flakes here and there but the wind held steady at a pretty good clip. I walked to the sound of the water.

When I reached the cliff it was…well, not really a cliff anymore. It was now a hill that rolled down to the water. There were islands in the distance to the east. A high one, a low one. I turned north, not knowing how far the land might go. There came a point where the high ground there also gave way to a slope. I descended the hill and continued quite a way until I came to a wood, the first trees I had seen since those around my cottage. I poked my way through the trees and the brush and held up the lantern when the footing became odd. As in oddly regular. A path?

I got down on one knee, my gloved hands pushing the snow from right to left to clear the ground before me. A path! Where…? I did not have to calculate the direction nor the mileage, it hit me immediately… This must be Lady Rachel’s wood. I have just walked from Haven to Mourning Wood! You’d have to be able to walk on water to do that! But it was solid ground all the way.

I sat down in the snow, wishing I had taken a flask on my way out the door. But how could I have expected to be out this long, go this far. It’s impossible!

I followed the path a bit more, just to confirm my conclusion. As the clouds had lifted the moon was now providing more help and I stopped at a clearing and looked and saw Lady Rachel’s home, Carenduna, in the distance. “I really have done it,” I thought, “I’ve walked across the ocean.” It made me laugh out loud.

The hour was late and I would certainly not call on Lady Rachel tonight as there was no emergency. This could wait until daylight. Aside from this new land mass and the two islands, everything else remained the same. Carenduna looked as if it were just another night. Just a snowstorm blowing through. No damage, no trouble. I headed for home.

As much as I wanted to explore the entire area that had newly appeared, I decided it best to sleep for a few hours and get up early and get out there as the sun exposed all.

But there was one thing I had to do before bedding down. In fact I had to do it right now before anyone showed up. Although, who would – could – show up here? This place isn’t even on the maps yet! Who would know to stop at my Haven place in the middle of the night and walk east – EAST! I laughed at the thought. Or to go to Lady Rachel’s at this hour and walk SOUTH! More laughter.

I started running as I laughed, running through a few inches of snow, not going too fast but running just the same, as I was so excited at the chance to do what I was about to do. It was not my first time to be the first person in a new land but I had never had the opportunity to do this…

I was now running as hard as I could through the snowy high ground back to Haven, huffing and puffing in the cold winter night. Upon arrival at the cottage I tore the door open and ran to my study. There she is!

I grabbed the pole with one hand and the furled cloth with the other and quickly carried the Winterfell flag out into the night. Ulysses The Cat screeched and ran from the door as I exited.

I trotted now – I had to catch my breath – and made my way back to a spot I calculated was halfway between Haven and Mourning Wood. I picked out the spot from a distance as I trotted and as I got closer, I ran a little faster again.

My heart was beating fast, my mind was racing. I unfurled the cloth and grabbed the pole with both hands now and held it up over my head and declared, “I claim this land in the name of Lady Twilight, Seneschelf of Winterfell!” And I slammed the flagpole down into the ground. Well, not exactly ‘in’ to the ground. ‘On’ to the ground may be a better description.

The ground was, of course, frozen.

“Ouch!” I sounded a loud ouch. “Ouch, ouch, oooowwwwwch. Oooooo.” I trudged back to the house for a pickaxe and a shovel. “I’m glad there was nobody around to see that,” I grumbled to myself.

Well, I’ve kept you long enough. Needless to say, the flag was planted but I couldn’t call it a night just yet. As is customary, the discoverer of new land has the honor of naming the land. What should I call it? I was too tired to think. “Earthquake Hill,” yeah, that would be a good one; “Whitfield,” short and simple (unlike myself, of course, haha); I looked back toward the cottage where I knew a stout awaited me…and almost called it “Beerland!”

I noticed the tall pine trees next to my cottage and thought of the similar trees in Lady Rachel’s wood. At that I further declared, “I Christen this land, Evergreen! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” It had been awhile since I’d gotten off a good huzzah.

The morning brought the opportunity to see the extent of the new land mass and the islands. The Seneschelf, herself, came down to see. And later in the day, I met with Lady Twilight and Lady Rachel and Mr. Greymyst and an agreement regarding the new land was signed, The Anodyne Accord. The details of said agreement will be released in the coming days. What I can tell you is this…

I purchased this new land, all of it. As we were leaving the meeting, the magnitude of the purchase had not hit me. But then Mr. Greymyst shook my hand as he departed and said, “Thank you and congratulations, Your Grace.” As he walked through the door, I turned to Miss Serra but was speechless. Seeing the look on my face she smiled and said softly, ‘Yes Ambassador, you are now the Duke of Evergreen.”

Mind you, I had thought about such loftiness in my daydreams, I do admit it. But in all the excitement surrounding the discovery (And hey, they don’t get any easier than that, do they? New land just plops itself down at my back door in the middle of the night when nobody is looking. Guess there is such a thing as good luck, after all.) and claiming the land and exploring the next day and the purchase negotiations…well, it hadn’t hit me ’til the others said it after the meeting. Duke! Yeah baby, I’m the Duke, that’s right.

Well, there actually is more to tell but I really should let you go. Just let me say, Dear Reader, that whenever you hear one of us explorers going on about finding new land and all that went into it – the effort, the pain and the tedium (and the rotten food) – they are probably telling the truth. But sometimes, all you gotta do is be in the right place, in the right time. And to my fellow explorers, if land should ever fall in your own virtual lap, no worries, you can still get a very long story out of it.

Explorer’s Journal: Dispatch from Steeltopia

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I was in the Babbage office of Steampunk Explorer in Academy of Industry this afternoon meeting with Executive Director Boston Steampunk. He was bringing me up to date on the group’s news and happenings in the Steamlands while I was away. As we talked, our brand new ticker tape machine started up. It went on for a bit, a lengthy message apparently or a series of messages sent in rapid fire. When it stopped Mr. Steampunk excused himself for a moment to take a look.

“Mr. Chairman!” he exclaimed, “take a gander at this!” It was a dispatch from the Steeltopia authorities which I shall reprint in excerpted form here…

“REPORT DARKEARL LEADER VALERIAN CONFED ATTACK STEELTOPIA. ANCIENT SUPER WEAPON. STEELTOPIA ANCHORAGE OBLITERATED. STEELTOPIA SCIENCE CONSORT DETECTS RADIATION. PUBLIC ADVISED STAY CLEAR. VAST CRATER. HIGH POSSIBILITY FALLOUT NEARBY REGIONS.”

As I read the tape I looked at Mr. Steampunk and raised my eyebrows. Obliterated? Fallout? I finished reading the entire message and took a moment to let it sink in. I looked at Boston again, speechless. He spoke, “You or me, sir?” “I’ll flip you,” I said, reaching into my pocket and tossing a silver dollar I’d picked up in my travels into the air. He won. “Damn!” He smiled at my reaction. “But I’m going with you for a quick look,” I started. He began to object, “Mr. Chairman, there’s no sense in both of us being exposed —” I cut him off, “…but then it’s all yours,” I said, “I’ll come back and monitor the ticker reports.” He smiled, a victorious smile I thought. “Worried about me being exposed? My ass!” I said with a great big knowing smile. He laughed, I joined him. We explorers are a competitive lot!

We stood together on the north wall of Obsidian Bay, gasping in unison. We could not believe our eyes…there was nothing to see. Nothing! Anchorage had been wiped away clean and ocean waters lay before us where the town once stood.

I left Mr. Steampunk to continue his investigation and headed south to Steeltopia prime. The streets were empty, the citizens having taken shelter somewhere to avoid the possibility of radiation. I saw the Emperor hurrying by at one point, a determined look on his face. The few others I saw on the street seemed hurried and determined as well, though a couple showed a bit of a panic on their faces – but who can blame them at such a time of uncertainty. The capital was in a complete state of disarray but whether this was due to the super-weapon blast or the ongoing reconstruction project was difficult to assess.

I heard the call of a newsboy, “Extra! Extra! Super Weapon Destroys Anchorage!” I was out of the local currency as the Winterfell Embassy was temporarily closed for the reconstruction and I had no petty cash drawer available. I will never part with that lucky silver dollar I had used earlier. I had been at my Cape Wrath house earlier and only had Caledon and Babbage currency on my person at that moment. I handed him a Caledon pound. “What do you expect me to do with that? I can’t break that sir,” said the young ruffian. “Keep it,” I muttered at the little pipsqueak as I grabbed my copy of the Tintype & Telegraph and stomped off.

I headed back to the Babbage office of Steampunk Explorer to monitor the ticker. On the way I thought about my many visits to Anchorage. I had investigated land there several times. Thought about putting a house there, tried to get a parcel for a Steampunk Explorer office but lost out to another buyer. And there were those afternoons spent over a pint or two at The Black Fox Tavern. “This is one of those times I would like to turn back the clock, just for a couple of hours,” I thought. But I had done that sort of thing in my early days as a time traveller. I knew from experience that it would not help the way I felt but just make me feel worse.

By the time I got back to the office, I was too sad to read the details of the battle in my newspaper. “I’ll read this tomorrow,” I thought. I placed the paper on Mr. Steampunk’s desk, turned on the wireless, mixed a stiff drink and waited for the ticker to tick away.

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