Complex Causal Chaos

The noise of the pneumatic ratchet subsides as the mechanic working on the gunship puts down his tool in exchange for another.

Doc changes from a shout to a whisper. "I'm sure Steve can doctor up some X-rays. Don't worry about it. Just meet us later at our room and we'll make plans."

"I'll need access to a terminal, and you'll have to come with us so it at least looks like this is legit."

"Come on, my office is this way." Veronica leads them across the deck towards the large building inset in the walls of the cavernous hanger. They pass the gunship captain, who grins smugly at Veronica through his cigar-clenching teeth.

"Who's that?" Doc asks.

"That's Captain Dodridge. He's the wing commander. That big gunship, the Terrasque, is his."

"That doesn't look much like a defensive ship," Doc comments. "Unless they plan on being attacked by a city. Those are some pretty hefty bombs mounted on the wing. They didn't mention that in the brochure."

"No, they didn't. Admiral Spaaz is the most powerful pirate in the galaxy right now. No other pirate fleet would even dream of attacking his flagship. This is a raider fleet. It's designed to hit a large ship, space station, or city fast and hard, wipe out its defenses, bomb them into sumbission, and then snatch any cargo and 'passengers' we can find."

"So where are they taking this ship really?" Steve asks.

"Alpha Centuari B. Specifically, Spud, the fourth moon of Mackenzie. After a stop at Selph in AC-A for a quick raid."

"Wait a minute." Something is puzzling Doc. "If we're going to arrive at Alpha Centuari four years before we left, how are they going to ransom anyone who hasn't been kidnapped yet?"

"Once we arrive at the base they'll take a head count of all the prisoners and send a courier ship back to Earth, which will arrive four years earlier than that. The courier will contact everyone in custody and ransom them from themselves. Then, eight years later, they simply know not to get on the ship and avoid ever being kidnapped in the first place."

"But then they're never kidnapped and won't have to pay the ransom."

"Not in this universe, no," explains Steve. "But the prisoners are transferred along the causal loop along with the pirates? What happens to them?"

"Highly disposable slave labor. Spud is ripe with uranium deposits, and why buy a lot of respirators and radiation suits when the people who are working there also live happily somewhere else?"

"Wouldn't the people who paid their own preemptive ransom tell everyone about the Marriott?" Doc asks.

"It's part of the ransom agreement that they never talk about it. Besides, Spaaz has an incredible PR department. Some of them are rich and stupid enough to ride again."

"Why do they scrap the ship? Why not build up a fleet of ships over time- er, dimensions?"

Steve answers Doc's question. "Because if you condense the pan-dimensional existence of matter into a single dimension, it can have wildly unpredictable effects. Same matter in the same time tends to want to occupy the same space, and such intense existence collisions tend to resolve themselves by throwing the subject (or subjects) into a dimension where they do not exist. This could be the one it came from, thus undoing whatever causal paradoxes were created, or it could be one in which the subject never existed, which presents a whole different set of problems. The same-matter attraction phenomenon is subject to physical forces like magnetism and gravity, but the more same-matter that exists at one time, the stronger the attraction. A ship this size could not share the same orbit with its self, but the prisoners in the mine can exist four light years away from the passengers they were before. If there were many more that that, I'd say billions, the prisoners would experience causal resolution effects.

"Oh, that reminds me. If you ever meet yourself while time traveling, do not under any circumstances touch your other self."

"Like that time we met ourselves on the Pear? That would've been good to know then."


They arrive inside the administration building. Veronica shows them through the halls to her office.

"Hey, Autopilot!" shouts a violet lieutenant commander. "Heard you got grounded! What are you gonna do with all that free time?" he joshes hurtfully. "Think the Admiral is about due for another spit-shine?"

"No, I'll be thinking of ways to punish you for insubordination, you little shit," she barks back.

"Oooh, we'll just see what Dodridge thinks of that!" he laughs and continues on his way.

"Not much respect for authority around here, is there?" Steve comments.

"It's a pirate ship. The ranks are mostly for show," Doc answers.

They arrive at Veronica's office. It's small and undecorated. It's perfectly spotless, not a pen out of place. Doc closes the door.

Steve sits at her holoterminal and brings up the medical database. He opens up a random human female's file and copies the medical scans over to Veronica's. He changes the timestamps on everything, and has Doc sign off on the report.

Veronica is not yet satisfied. "Dodridge is not going to let me be flight leader anymore. He's hated me from the start, since I only got the job by sleeping with the Admiral. The only way I can get my position back is if we can put Captain Ritchie out of action. Can you sabotage his records?"

"Sure thing." He opens up Captain Ritchie's records and gives him syphilis. "That ought to do it. Doc, you'll have to convince Dodridge to put Veronica back in the lead."

They find Captain Dodridge on the flight deck chewing out the mechanic who is still trying to work on the Terrasque. "And you better get that damned CO2 converter back in there somehow. I ain't ridin' around in no damned monkey suit." He turns his attention to the approaching party. "Well, well, well. If it ain't ol' spit shine. Get your x-rays taken, then? You want your flight status reinstated?"

"I'm fit to fly," Veronica replies.

"Okay, toots, you got it. You're Richie's wingman."

Veronica is upset, but still smug. "I'm the best pilot you got. I want point. And I want Starling on my wing."

"Tough shit, sweetheart. Richie's up front now. You get to suck his exhaust."

"Uh, sir," Doc steps in. "I've reviewed the medical records for all of your pilots. It seems Captain Lyle Richie has a... condition which invalidates his flight status."

The Captain's smug grin turns to a toothy frown. His still unlit cigar droops a bit. "And what might that 'condition' be?"

"Well, that's subject to doctor-patient confidentiality."

"Bullshit. I'm his fucking commanding officer. I get to count the corn in my pilots' shit if I damn well please. Now spit it out."

"Syphilis, sir." Doc hands over a datapad queued up to the record in question. "Blood tests are confirmed."

Dodridge pauses a moment. "Well, if that ain't some shit. Richie!" he yells into his collar.

"Yes, sir?" Captain Richie is right behind him. He's a shortish man, red hair, young, well built and healthy looking.

"The Doc here says you got the spoils. Were you gonna tell me about that or just shed your infected pubes all over my cockpit?"

Richie is incredulous. "What? Sir? I don't have anything? My medical report came up clean!"

"This says different." He shows him the datapad.

"But- but, there must be some mistake..."

"Well, now, you're going to have to get that taken care of. Report to the medcenter for vaccination. And next time you're up decks to go downtown, keep it wrapped up. Wear your goddamned flight suit if you gotta. Christ, man, I ain't your fucking high school gym teacher! You should know this shit, you stupid fuck! Hit the fucking bricks already!" He sighs and pouts and rubs his temples. Richie runs off. "Autopilot, you got your damn ship back. Fucking hell." He climbs up into the Terrasque mumbling and cursing. There is a loud clanging and clattering of tools as he kicks the poor mechanic's kit aside, yelling "Get that shit out of my way!"

Veronica turns to Doc and Steve. "Okay, get the hell out of here now. I've got work to do."

"Meet us or call us when you can," Steve says. "We're in room 4.16.2028. Here," he hands her his sunglasses. "Put those on and download the encryption codes for our com system."

She does. It takes her only an instant.

"Keep us updated on what's happening. Let us know if we can help."

"There's not much you can do. Not until we arrive at Alpha Centuari."

"What then?"

"Then the raid starts. Selph will be bombed to hell and back, and that's the only opportunity we'll have to take control of this ship. If we can't do that, we'll have to blow it up."


ERR said...

Steve Computing: 47(18+29) vs DC35, Success. XP+35
Steve Computing: 37(8+29) vs DC35, Success. XP+35
Doc Bluff: 27 (18+9) vs. Dodridge Sense Motive 19 (14+5), Success. XP+19

Doc said...


How the hell can the five of us take over a ship the size of Manhatten?

I'd love to just say blow it all up and make a run for it, but that would be too easy and violate a major tenate of my character. I can't standby while people face kidnapping, slavery and death for greed. I only have one reality, regardless of how many there are, and I have to do the best I can with the hand I'm delt. "Do no harm," and make the best of it.

As far as how to do this, I need a to hold a brainstorm. We have five people to control a huge amount of people, one third of which will be hostile.

I'd like to read everyone's suggestions on what to do. I have a plan in mind but I'm going to need everyone's input.