Previously in Only Slightly... The Geraldine suffered as more
cryptic information was imparted to her. Bill met with Ambassador
Elizabeth Randall of New Earth, and is now planning a trip to a remote
uninhabited world where one human has been detected.
Thou art not safe here.
Where am I?
Irrelevant. Thou art not safe. Be careful. Be wary.
Who are you?
Not important. Friend.
Do you know what's going on here?
Not everything is known. Thou art in danger. Be careful. Do not
believe what thou art told.
So why should I believe what you're telling me?
Time will prove it correct. Must return thee now.
The Geraldine blinked. No time seemed to have passed, but she was sure
she had been somewhere else. The man was just finishing laughing.
'Time is something you do not have,' he said. 'The first mystery must
be solved now.'
'The first mystery?'
'Mysteries are things to be solved. This is the first which you must
solve. You will know when you have found the solution.'
'What is the mystery?'
'That is part of the solution,' the man said, and vanished. The
Geraldine blinked, but he still wasn't there.
'Wonderful,' she told the empty banqueting hall.
Bidet waited impatiently while the airlock cycled to Martian atmosphere
and opened the outer door to let the wizard and Fridgara step out onto the
surface. They walked over to where The Geraldine had disappeared two days
before, a route now well-marked by an impromptu path left by many feet
going between it and the part of the habitat which had been built over the
last couple of days.
The building work had been time-consuming, of course, requiring a lot
of magic in order to get things up and running quickly enough to give
everyone a decent space to sleep in after the first night. But Bidet and
Fridgara had found some time here and there to study the remains of the
spatial tear, and Bidet had spoken to his father at length about it, late
into the night when he should have been asleep. The upshot of all that
work was a spell which, they hoped, would re-open the exact same tear,
hopefully taking into account any planetary drift that might have occurred
between Mars and wherever the tear emerged - possibly at the edge of the
galaxy, if a recent message from President Lewinsky was to be
Reaching the location of the tear residue, Bidet exchanged a look with
'Ready?' she asked over the radio.
'Ready,' Bidet confirmed, and cast a spell to which she would attach
the one which actually did the work. Although Fridgara was a very talented
witch and exceptionally good at complex magic like this, she was not
particularly powerful, so Bidet hoped he would be able to provide her with
the necessary raw energy to do what was necessary. If he couldn't, they
could always try again, using some of the other settlers as sources, but
that would require another day or so to sort out, and The Geraldine might
not have that much time.
'Then I shall begin,' Fridgara said. She hooked into Bidet's power
spell almost immediately, and began drawing quite heavily on it shortly
afterwards. Bidet nodded appreciatively - she wasn't powerful herself, but
she knew how to handle power when it was made available to her, probably
due to experience gained during the reconstruction of London in which she'd
played a big part.
The spell was long and complex, but after perhaps fifteen minutes of
concerted effort, a flicker of light caught Bidet's attention.
'It's opening!' he exclaimed excitedly. Fridgara nodded, not wasting
any effort on speech, and performed the final gestures of the spell. With
a violent thud, the spatial tear re-opened, and immediately started
spilling a black powder onto the red ground. Bidet frowned, and a few
moments later the spatial tear closed again. Fridgara knelt and ran her
hand through the pile of powder.
'Buckminsterfullerene,' she said. 'Several cubic miles of the stuff on
the other side of that tear.'
'Are you sure the spell was right?'
'Yes. That was the same tear The Geraldine went through. What's on the
other end must have changed. There's no way she would have fallen through
into that - the gravity on the other side is the wrong way around for it
even if there wasn't several cubic miles of solid matter in the way.'
'Then how are we going to get her back?'
'Hope Bill's right, I guess.'
President Bill George Hillary Lewis Lewinsky and Ambassador Elizabeth
Randall took a short shuttle trip to a point in near-Earth space where
Elizabeth's personal diplomatic liner, which was rather improbably named
Gingivitis, was keeping pace with Earth's orbit around the sun,
coasting along with the occasional thrust from its engines to maintain the
correct speed and course. It was a beautiful ship, only fifteen years old,
and equipped with luxuries befitting the Ambassador to the human homeworld
who represented over seventy billion colonists and emigrants. Bill found
it most agreeable as they settled in the lounge for the jump into
'Prepare for hyperspace in thirty seconds,' the pilot announced over
the ship's tannoy. Bill took a sip from his glass of wine.
'You know, this is very nice,' he said. 'Ever thought of going on a
'Yes, but I've never had the time for it,' Elizabeth replied.
'Maybe when we get back you should see about making the time.'
'I wouldn't be so sure about getting back if I were you,' Elizabeth
said, but it wasn't her voice, and it wasn't her eyes which turned their
gaze on Bill.
'What? I didn't say anything,' Elizabeth said, sounding confused. There
was a dull throb through the deck, and they jumped to hyperspace.
'Just now you said 'I wouldn't be so sure about getting back if I were
you,' ' Bill told her. 'It didn't sound like you though.'
'What does that mean?'
'I have absolutely no idea,' Bill said. 'But I think we should be
extremely cautious from now on. Somebody else is involved in all this, and
I have no idea who it is.'
'Good plan. Would you like some peanuts?'
Will The Geraldine figure out what the first mystery is and how
to solve it? Will Bidet and Fridgara manage to rescue her, or will it be
Bill and Elizabeth who save her? Will both groups fail and leave The
Geraldine to spend the next four thousand years wondering what's going on,
or will she escape by herself? Join us again next week for the start of
the answers to these questions and more.