June 3, 1883
Albert waited impatiently in the mission room as Marcus stammered through his third explanation of what had happened.
“And then he, he just wasn’t here, when I returned, he—vanished. And then you arrived, sir.”
“You are quite certain that he gave you no description, no hint whatsoever of events?”
“Go wake Richard, have him make ready with the team on the alternate shift at once. Then wake the other medics, their assistants, the girl who washes the linens, everyone. I want all of them at the ready, and I want a crisis team in here five minutes ago.”
“Yes, sir.” Marcus rushed out of the room.
Albert consulted the map Charles had left of their projected mission area. If they even crossed at this point at all, Albert thought, calculating the best way to send a rescue mission. The maps weren’t about navigating the land of the tentaclebeasts itself—that they knew, and could project into the minds of agents they Interfaced with. It was the correlation between the two worlds that was the difficulty. How to protect human beings when we don’t know what areas of their world will affect ours.
“Albert,” Mary said quietly as she entered the room. “Where are my husband and children?”
Albert looked at his sister and saw that she had dressed in tough leather overalls and a plain white shirt, and carried an assortment of guns, explosives, and other weapons, not to mention a look of steely resolve.
“We’ll find them,” he told her firmly. “Will you wait here while I consult Numose?”
“Of course. Go. I’ll resupply them when they come through.”
Albert looked at her carefully. Will she try to cross? But no, she can’t be hiding a tentaclebeast in her pocket. He nodded. “I will return shortly. Don’t let them cross back until I’ve seen them myself.”
Albert departed for the tentaclebeasts’ quarters.
* * *
Eudora woke as she heard a ruckus in the halls. Voices, rapid footsteps, and shortly, bells clanging up and down the halls. By the dim moonlight streaming through the window in her quarters, she was able to see to strike a match and light the lamp on her bedside table. She carried it to the door and opened it. Support staff were emerging from their quarters—Eudora wasn’t housed with the Special Services team yet.
“Begging your pardon,” Eudora said to Rachel, a nurse’s aide in her mid-twenties who was one of her “neighbors” in this wing, “but what seems to be the matter?”
“Most likely that something’s gone amiss with the mission. We have to be at the ready to receive wounded. Forgive me, but I must be off.” She proceeded down the hall with a basin and a bundle of linens.
Eudora went back to her room and quickly dressed in the plainer, more practical of her gowns. Then she made her way to the mission room.
* * *
Albert was able to find Numose in the common room, alert rather than in that odd dozing state that passed for sleep in the tentaclebeasts. Numose was shaped differently from other tentaclebeasts in that he seemed to be turned on his side, his tentacles emerging vertically from his center like sunbeams instead of hanging down as with others Albert had seen. “I would consult with you, if you are willing,” Albert said, holding out his arms and giving a slight bow.
Numose stretched out a long tentacle, thicker than Albert’s own arm, to accept. They Interfaced and Albert thought back to the maps he had examined, showing Numose the area of the mission. Then he shared his recollection of Marcus’ stammered accounts while he rolled out of bed and went to the mission room. Finally, he sent, questioningly, the thought of a rescue mission, and Richard’s team.
If the others are there, Numose told him, we will feel them, within a distance. Numose sent the impression of the distance rather than a number.
What wounds do you think most likely? Albert tried to picture the different sorts of attacks SPOT members had encountered in the past: squeezing, crushing, burns, shock, and so on. Numose struggled a bit with the communication as Albert visualized things he had not directly seen.
Numose sent Albert images of battles he had engaged in, where tentaclebeasts fought with various magical-looking means, flashes of light and flame, as well as invisible crushing force. Albert could not help but to think of the team, his family, burned and crushed. Hastily, he shoved the image out of his mind as Numose winced.
We need to coordinate rescue efforts, Albert thought as he turned their steps towards the mission room.