Whats Up, Docs?

Doc and Thunderhorse have been studying, training, and drinking heavily for more than a week without much sign of Dr. Ritenrong. He's been practically camping out in the robotics lab the whole time. Occasionally he will appear in the galley late at night, order dinner and drinks, and chat briefly. He's not much for conversation, though.

Doc manages to catch him in the galley at about three in the morning. Thunderhorse was off abusing the malfunctioning Maid, while Doc was watching what at first appeared to be a brain transplant, but was in fact a sex change operation. The Atharan patient was having a large, single gonad installed in his (formerly her) skull, replacing the uterus that was there. Doc drinks some single malt whiskey, quickly, as the vulva still on his/her face is quite disturbing.

Steve comes in and sits down next to Doc. He orders a roast beef sandwich, looks briefly at the TV, then changes his order to chicken salad. He also orders a vodka martini.

"What's up, Doc?" Doc asks.

"Everything and nothing," the doctor replies. "That autopilot is hopeless. There's just not enough TerraRAM slots in his cerebral processor housing, and his systems are not compatible with ExoRAM. I need to either get a bigger cranial unit or buy a less complicated space ship."

"Sounds rough," Doc replies as he sips his whiskey. "What about the overcoat? Figure out where that wormhole goes?"

Steve slams his martini belligerently. "See, that's the whole damn problem with quantum physics. Fucking Schrodinger. Right now, it goes anywhere, AND EVERYWHERE. At once. It's all in flux. We won't be able to collapse the waveform and KNOW until we go into it. But I want to have some kind of idea of where the fuck we'll end up. These kinds of calculations take forever. Sure, I could weld together a metal cup or something right now, open up a wormhole in it, plant a small time bomb on it so that it cracks open in 2199, and keep it in on the space ship in deep space for the next 360 years. Theoretically, we should show up right where we want to be without any dicking around. But you know what?" Dr. Ritenrong stops to drink from his second martini.

The pause goes on. "What?" asks Doc.

"Theories are horseshit. Do you have any idea what could happen in the next 360 years? Of course you do, you're a damned historian. There's no way to guarantee that that cup will make it that far, or worse, not go too far. What if the explosive doesn't go off in time? What if the stabilizers fail and the ship drifts into the sun? What if space pirates attack? You know what, they will. All of that will happen. And it won't happen. It will be a totally random chance where we end up. Believe me, I've tried it.

"The only way to reliably navigate time is to find something that you know will take you where you want to be. Something you can trace the history of from start to end. That corncob pipe was a perfect example. All we had to do is open a wormhole in it, jump in, and leave it to its natural course through our timeline. It would take us exactly where we want to be. I spent months doing the research and calculations, and that idiot judge fucked it all up."

Dr. Ritenrong drinks some more. The cook brings him his salad, but he's no longer hungry. He picks at it a bit.

"You know, I never thought my career would end up like this. I spent forty years researching wormhole and time travel. When I finally worked it out, when I finished my sketch of the Q-TIP's mechanism on the fridge, I showed up at my own door. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever opened your door and saw yourself on the other side? It'll mess you up, man.

"I came in to my apartment and told myself 'The galaxy will be destroyed and only you can stop it.' Then I handed me the Q-TIP and jumped into a coffee cup, which promptly fell off the table and smashed into pieces. Damnit, why am I so damned cryptic, sometimes? I guess it's because no one payed attention to me in school." He finishes his martini and orders another.

"I spent the next five years trying to figure out what the hell I was talking about. I traveled time, backwards and forwards, studying and researching the fate of the galaxy and what I had to do with any of it. I also made a few bucks on the side, and got some swanky tenures at some respectable universities. Cambridge is my favorite. Did I tell you Isaac Newton is a good friend of mine?"

"No, you never mentioned that."

"Oh, yes. He's a reclusive, arrogant dick most of the time, but when he lets loose, it's a party." Steve chuckles to himself. "'Those aren't my knickers!' haha, classic." He smiles into his glass, and takes a sip. When he puts it down again, he's solemn. "Then I found my graveyard."

"Graveyard?" Doc asks.

"Yeah. After years of searching for answers, I finally figured out where the fuck I disappeared to all those years ...ago. I was in a cave in ancient China. So I went there, hoping to ask myself what I had seen that was so important. What I found was me, dead. Lots of me. There were at least twelve bodies, all me, all dead. I don't know what killed any of them, and I'm not sure I want to find out. They all just seemed to stop living. It's got to be something about narrowly escaping the cataclysm."

He shudders as he remembers. "On the walls were detailed the events that lead to my deaths. I suppose I put them there so they would be preserved. A map of various timelines, each leading to a disastrous outcome. The galaxy on the verge of destruction, having to escape to the past to pass the torch, so-to-speak, and then crawling into a cave to die. Is that what will happen to me? How many times will this go on?" He chugs back the rest of the drink.

"What happens in the future? How exactly is the galaxy destroyed?" Doc asks.

"See, it's this ship. Not this ship, a different one. I think," he slurs. "And it galaxies through movement at the light of speed. It uses an ex-tra-die-men-shin-al fuel star fueler thing to push it through the ex-tra-die-men-shins. Then it crashes into this thing, I donno whadit is. You can't see it its ex-tra-die-men-shin-al. But it crashes and BLOOOOOWS up into bits and pieces and then the galaxy disappears." Steve hiccups.

"What ship?"

"A warship. Last time it happened it was a warship. First time, it was this ship. Thats why I bought it, so I know it doesn't go and blow everythings up. Every time the galaxy explodes I try to go back and change something to stop it. So first thing to do is buy this ship and make sure it doesn't go and crash into the whadderveritis. But then something else happens. After this ship, it was a space probe, so I blowed that up but then they just sent another one. So I stopped them sending probes but then a courier went through that sector and HE crashed. It took three lives just to stop that guy from taking a shortcut. I mean you think people want a galaxy instead of pizzas but, sheesh, some life forms. After the pizza guy, a damned warship goes through and IT hits the fucking thing. That was five lives ago, and I still haven't figured out how to stop it. Can't stop the war, I started it to stop the courier. Can't blow up the warship, it's a damned warship, and any other warship you send after the first will just go and crash its self. Can't just put up a sign saying 'DO NOT ENTER THIS SECTOR OF SPACE IT WILL CAUSE THE DESTRUCTION OF THE GALAXY' because too many depressed jerks would just race right the fuck out there and end the galaxy right now. Already tried it.

"Anyway, I can't thinkaboudit anymore tonight. Gotta sleep." Dr. Ritenrong slides off the bar stool and staggers off towards his room, crashing into a table and chairs as he leaves the galley.

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