"Shit! do you mean we have to break into the church? Fuck! We are trying to run here!" Doc yells as he pulls some dynamite from Lightning's saddle bags. "We need to flee, as in Eff, Ell, EE, EE. We will pick that shit up later!"
No sooner are they on their horses than cries of help raise from the back of the sheriff's office. They've already untied their gags.
Dr. Ritenrong needs a moment to gain his balance on the horse. The eleven remaining men of the 21st Division of the Michican Militia and their captain start running up the street towards the jail house.
Thunderhorse lets out a whoop, exciting all the horses into a full sprint. Lightning blasts ahead, showing those two pampered race horses what a real horse can do. The race horses, however, are nothing to laugh at, and keep their pace tight with the lead.
The streets are not busy but not empty. People heading home or to their night jobs duck for cover as the three horses and riders race up the streets. As they near the edge of town, Doc checks their rear. Three horses are following them about two hundred yards back.
Doc lights a stick of dynamite and watches the fuse for a moment, ensuring his estimate of the timing. He drops it near the signpost where they first met the old farmer.
The blast blows dirt and smoke high into the air a safe distance behind them, and a good distance in front of their pursuers. Their horses whinny and surge forward.
Doc looks back again. One horseman rides through the dust cloud. It's the Captain. They're nearing the edge of the woods. The Captain stops his horse and lifts his rifle. He fires.
Doc wakes up eight hours later on the Pu. The first thing he notices is the burning pain in his left shoulder. The second thing he notices is the fairly poor way in which he is patched up. The third and fourth things he notices is that he's on the utility table in the Pu and that the clock reads 2:42 AM.
The fifth thing he notices is a horse chewing on his pant leg. The gangplank door is closed, at least. The life-sign monitoring equipment is beeping away. Doc checks it. He's in fairly good condition for having been shot. Thunderhorse is also here grooming the gray stallion and speaking to it softly.
Doc groans as he sits up. Dr. Ritenrong comes down the ladder from the cockpit into the crew quarters.
"Well, it seems you found a novel solution to our problem," Dr. Ritenrong remarks lightheartedly.
"What?" Doc asks groggily while fixing his bandage.
Dr. Ritenrong hands Doc the I-Browse. It's keyed up to newspapers from later today that haven't been printed yet. Doc can't read it through the fucking headache. "Our young friend Deputy Johnson went straight to Governor Lucas with news of Mason's conspiracy. The whole situation's been pushed over the edge. Blood has been spilled. Sorry it was yours, though."
Doc is still a bit dizzy. "How's that?"
Dr. Ritenrong tries to show Doc the relevant news articles on the I-Browse. The light from the screen hurts Doc's eyes. "Politics. Lucas is going to turn Mason's conspiracy to his advantage. He will claim that I was sent here to be county coroner, and that you were Ohioan agents sent to rescue me and uncover Mason's plot. The street brawl yesterday afternoon; your little fireworks display; Captain Daniels shooting you; the whole situation's been escalated before Philip's Corner ever even happens! They're calling it the Battle of Toledo. Later this morning, things will go as the history we know tells it. No one gets hurt, but it will be the last straw. The straw we need. Lucas will call up his ten thousand men, Michigan will surrender, Wisconsin gets the upper peninsula, and Alyss Valia will be born!"
"Our pilot, my friend, our pilot."
Doc is really upset, and Dr. Ritenrong's nonchalance is not making things better."Okay, look. We've been plucked from our times, you've asked us to do things that are out of our nature, and ultimately I got shot. I need some answers. Not to mention the fact that I have this drunken viking for a partner. You are dealing with a crew that is approaching hostile. Mind you, you have time on your side, but this had better be pretty polished or you may lose Thunderhorse in the translation. He is a tricky one to handle. I know."
"I know I've asked a lot of you, both of you. I'm sorry, but I had to do it. This was forced on me as well. I spent my life researching the nature of time and space. When I finally solved the equations, I thought that would be it. Humanity would be safe forever and thrive. But when I showed up at my own door not a moment later, that illusion was shattered. In another reality, I had built the Q-Tip and gone into the future to see what lies in store for us. What I found was devastation, death, and our ultimate demise.
"Humans are an incredible species, the fastest to adapt in the entire galaxy. Our technology grows exponentially. By that time, we do not only travel across the galaxy, but to neighboring galaxies. The key lies in the extra dimensions. Our ships explore space that we cannot even imagine. But right now, even at the furthest reaches of known time-space, we cannot see where we are going.
"Only eight thousand years from now, our entire galactic cluster will be destroyed. Through the circumstances of our own fate, a life form from our galaxy will travel through those higher dimensions and collide with a life form we cannot possible imagine. A pan-dimensional being that, right now, does not know we exist, but once it finds out; once the fateful collision occurs, it will annihilate us. Imagine, if you will, that our universe is like a sheet, a blanket on the bed of a giant. We exist in one of the wrinkles in that sheet. Our trans-dimensional ships jump between the wrinkles, like fleas. Now imagine one of those fleas irritates the sleeping giant. It pulls the sheet tight, the wrinkles disappear. In an instant our galaxy is destroyed.
"This will happen. It also does not happen. All events that have happened, could have happed, will happen, or may happen are in superposition with each other. Everything that can happen does happen and simultaneously does not happen. It all depends on the observer. Observe an event, and the wave form collapses. That's why we are here. To witness changes to our own history, so that the future that we witness is one in which we survive.
"I admit, I do this for my own survival. But I need your help. I need Thunderhorse's help. I need Alyss Valia's help. If we all witness the past change, we move ourselves through even higher dimensions. To us, the galaxy will be saved. We can return to our own times secure in the knowledge that life will go on, and the people of the Milky Way will exist and evolve for eternity.
"We can even make your own times better, if you like. Think of the lives we could save by ending wars before they start, curing plagues, stopping pollution, anything like that. But we must be careful not to undo the future we wish to make for ourselves. Stop world war two, and mankind does not go to space for a hundred years. Medical research goes as slow, and smallpox is not cured. Stop world war one, and world war two never happens. Do you understand?"
Doc nods, even if not every word is making it through the pounding in his skull. Doc pops some aspirin.
"But we can't do any of this without my equipment. There's no rush now, though. Take your time. Heal up. I'm sure you can do a better job than I did. When you're ready, we'll set out."
"Shit! do you mean we have to break into the church? Fuck! We are trying to run here!" Doc yells as he pulls some dynamite from Lightning's saddle bags. "We need to flee, as in Eff, Ell, EE, EE. We will pick that shit up later!"
“Well, I’ve heard all I need to hear," Doc gets up and pulls his .44.
Thunderhorse reacts as well, jumping up from his seat and drawing one of the the vibroknives. The party is stunned.
"Gentlemen, you are barking up the wrong tree. One look at this man should tell you that he is much more interested in saving lives than taking them. Look at his hands."
They look. Dr. Ritenrong holds them for inspection. He's as much in shock as the rest.
Doc continues. "Soft as a baby’s bottom, not the hands of a cold-blooded killer. You are trying very hard to hang an innocent man and this is a grievous wrong, but I am not about to compound the sin of murder by killing good, honest Christians who are doing what they think is right."
"Now look here, son-" starts the Judge.
"Don’t get me wrong, if you move a whisker, I’ll blow your head clean off, and this pistol holds six shots, so don’t start thinking that I can only drop one of you. I am asking for some cooperation and you are damn sure going to provide it. While I don’t want to kill anyone, Don here is not hindered at all by Christian values. He is more than willing to beat you to a pulp to where your own mother wouldn’t recognize you, but maybe he is a little tired and would rather just gut you like a fatted calf. Perhaps you’ve heard about the poor militiamen who are now regretting they ever laid eyes on him."
"It's true. He beat them fellers good," the sheriff chimes in.
"When he gets ornery even I can’t stop him. Now if you all would kindly put your hands behind your backs and accept the minor inconvenience of the gags we have provided, we’ll get you into this nice comfy cell that the sheriff has provided."
The party complies. Doc strips the Marshal of his twin single-shot pistols first. He gets Thunderhorse to tie the cloth napkins his mouth. He goes to the sheriff next, and extracts his old gun and his keys. Thunderhorse ties a napkin into his mouth as well. The Judge is unarmed. Thunderhorse ties the gag extra tight.
"Lautes Arschloch," he says as he ties. The judge moans in pain.
"Deputy, if you would open that cell for us." Doc tosses the keys to the deputy, keeping his gun trained on the party guests. Deputy Johnson nods and does as he's told. He tosses the keys gently onto the table in front of Doc.
"Yer doin' the right thing, sir," the deputy comments.
"[Shut up, boy]," mumbles the sheriff through his gag.
Doc waves the party guests into the open jail cell. The deputy and the cook, Wendy Thompson, follow them in. Doc locks the door behind them.
Dr. Ritenron exits his cell at this point. Doc tosses him the key ring. He looks at the set, picks the correct key, and undoes his shackles in a matter of seconds.
Doc drops the money he made earlier on the table. "By the way, here is twenty dollars for the meal I’ve ruined. And if you are thinking of forming a posse, you had best set out looking for a Mr. James Ford. He sold us some horses that weren’t his to sell. Judge, here is six dollars against the horses. Mr. Ford has the rest of your change. As of 4 o’clock, he was a cloud of dust headed for Michigan, so he has a bit of a head start. Trying to follow us would be a fruitless effort as I have spent the better part of the afternoon lining the road with torpedoes and we wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt now would we. Thank you ma’am for the lovely meal, I’m sure it is delicious, and good night.”
The three time operatives exit the sheriff's office in a hurry. It's still light out. The 21st is back at the dock where the Chesapeake is put in, sitting on crates, smoking and bullshitting. The trio whip around to the stables without their notice.
"We need to get my stuff," Ritenrong says as they mount up. "The pipe, my watch, and my Q-TIP are all in the basement of Olden's church."
"Your Q-tip?!" Doc nearly screams. "We need to get out of here!"
"Quantum-Temporal Interference Projector. My time machine!"
"Gentlemen, it is a pleasure to meet you," Doc extends his hand to shake. Marshal Mathews returns the gesture, but Reverend Olden does not.
Doc and Thunderhorse take the two available chairs at the round table. Thunderhorse sits next to Sheriff Jones while Doc sits next to Marshall Mathews. Reverend Judge Olden sits across from them.
Deputy Johnson pours them some wine. "Sorry, Mr. Shaw, but McDonald's was out'a steaks. I figured this roast would do just fine, though. Good thing, too, seein' as how more company showed."
"Not a problem, deputy," Doc smiles. The young woman begins dishing out the boiled vegetables while the Deputy starts cutting the meat.
"So what business brings you to town, Mr. Shaw?" asks the old Judge in a stern and steady voice. He's a gray,lanky old man, clean shaven and well dressed. He stares stoically through his spectacles.
Doc replies matter-of-factly. "I've come a long way to seek out Uncle Steve only to find him here in Toledo locked up and charged with murder. Everyone seems to think it is a foregone conclusion that he has committed this heinous crime. I'd like to hear the particulars so I might be better able to defend him in the morning. Perhaps you could clue me in."
"A straight talker. I like that," the judge replies.
The plates are served, and the party begins the meal. Thunderhorse digs in with his usual mannerless gusto.
Doc tries to excuse him. "Don't mind my brother, he was raised in the hills and doesn't have much in the way of manners."
Doc stares at the old man. He tries to read him, but can't seem to get through the Judge's stone face.
The Judge continues. "The fact of the matter is, your uncle is a murderer. I've got a dozen men willing to testify that they saw him shoot old Joe Brown and push him in the river."
"Impossible! That never happened!" Steven shouts from his cell.
"You're the judge and the prosecutor?" asks Doc.
"No, sir, Marshal Mathews will be prosecuting this case. I must remain impartial," the old Judge lies.
"Did you find a gun on his person?" Doc quizzes the Sheriff.
"He threw it in the river right after the deed," interrupts the Marshal.
"When did the shooting take place?"
"I wasn't even here until Friday afternoon!" offers Dr. Ritenrong.
"Who did you say saw the shooting?"
"The 21st Division of the Michigan Militia," the Marshal answers, smugly.
"But, sir, they's just arrived tod-" the deputy starts.
"Hush, now, boy," the sheriff shuts him up quick.
"Just arrived today? How could they have witnessed the murder?" Doc drills them.
"The boy doesn't know what he's talking about," responds the judge. "They've been here on special detail escorting Governor Mason."
Doc thinks back on his American History. He begins to remember more about this little incident. "Governor Mason, eh? He's a young guy, isn't he? Got a long career ahead of him, if he's ambitious enough, right?"
The room gets quieter. Thunderhorse continues slurping wine and chewing meat messily.
"You might say that," says Sheriff Jones at last.
"It's hard work being governor. You've got to show people you can get things done. Look out for the good of the people. Michigan's nearly a state, now, right? It would be nice to count Toledo here as Michigan territory," Doc goes on.
"Without a doubt," toasts the Judge. The three Toledo men clink glasses. Doc joins them, hesitantly.
"Well, to do that, the Governor's gotta show the people he can get things done. He's gotta stand for justice and prove that Michigan's no longer a lawless territory, but a lawful state. And that means stringing up criminals," Doc continues.
The rest of the party looks at him. "Just what are you implying?" asks the Judge.
"That Governor Mason ordered you to try my uncle for the murder of Joe Brown simply because he's a stranger that no one from here would miss, and he ordered his militia men to testify against him. He ordered them to commit perjury, and you to hang an innocent man for no other reason than political gain!"
"Son, I think you've overstayed your welcome," says the sheriff.
Doc's instincts kick in. He's a natural fast talker, and his abilities have gotten him out of many a jam with men and woman alike (mostly women).
"I was just explaining to Uncle Steve the predicament he has gotten himself into and he got mad and kicked the door. Listen sheriff, I need to look after my brother before he gets into more trouble, but I would like to buy you dinner and drinks later and discuss your findings about the murder. The trial is tomorrow and I don't have a lot of time to prepare his defence and you are the only person in town who could help me. I'm sure your job doesn't pay much, but if you could see your way clear to having dinner and a talk with me, I'm sure I could find another $50 to make it worth your while. Why don't I meet you here at the jail at 6pm and I'll bring a beefsteak as big as a barrelhead and all the trimmings, my treat, and we will shoot the bull for an hour. One hour and fifty dollars ain't much to ask when a man's life is at stake is it?"
Sheriff Jones scratches his head. He rubs his gut. He passes a bit of gas. "Well, I suppose that sounds reasonable enough. That's mighty nice of ya'. Throw in a steak fer my deputy and you got yerself a deal. Speak of the devil,"
"Sheriff, what is goin' on out there?" says a young man entering the office. He's only about 19, medium stature, wearing brown pants and a white shirt lightly stained with horse manure. He also wears a tin star, although smaller than the sheriff's. "Captain Daniel just about chewed my ear off about some fight or other."
"Just a little roughhousin', nothin' too severe. You know how them militia boys are, always welcomin' folk to the neighborhood," Sheriff Jones responds in a calming manner.
"They was draggin' Cody Mathews down to Dr. Hicks's place on a cot!" The deputy says in disbelief. "An' who's that strange feller gettin' drunk in the stables?"
"Don't mind him, matter'a fact don't bother him at all. That ol' boy throws a mean right hook."
"Sheriff, have you gone strange?" the Deputy asks.
"Now, Johnson, don't get yourself all stirred up. This here's Mr. Doc Shaw, and that feller in the stable's his brother- what's his name again?"
"Don. He's a bit touched in the head. It's his first time in town," Doc answers.
"Don. They's here for their uncle," Jones nods towards Dr. Ritenrong, who smiles back, worriedly. "Mr. Shaw here's buyin' his uncle a last meal, and said he'd share with us fer treatin' him so good." The Sheriff winks toward Doc. "Ain't that right?"
Doc blinks. "Yessir, thank you."
"Johnson, why don't you go out and get us some steaks. I think McDonald's has 'em fresh today. But get Wendy Thompson to cook 'em up for us. McDonald uses too much grease, and that don't sit right with me," the sheriff says as he rubs his gut, trying to ease the flow of gas into his seat.
Doc is momentarily confused at the apparent anachronism. Deputy Johnson extends his palm towards him. Doc snaps back to reality, such as it is, and drops twenty dollars into the outstretched hand. "Keep the change."
"Thank you, sir!" The deputy is ecstatic, and runs off in a hurry.
Doc drops another fifty on the sheriff's desk.
"Don't you tell that boy nothin' 'bout this here transaction. Kid's young and got some big ideas. He don't quite know how things work yet."
"Mum's the word. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some business to take care of before tonight. By the way, where can I buy some horses?"
"Ford's stables. He's got some mustangs for sale. Go down Water street along the ferry landin' until you get to Monroe. He's there at the corner."
"Of course. Well, I must get going. Don't worry about my brother, I'll make sure he stays out of trouble," Doc says as he walks towards the door.
"You do that," the sheriff replies, sternly.
Doc waves and steps outside. There's no sign of the Captain or his men. Doc goes to the stables, which are not much more than a wooden awning on the side of the sheriff's office. Thunderhorse is sitting next to Lighnting on some hay against the wall. His mug is empty but still in his hand, resting sideways on his lap. He's slumped over, but not passed out. Doc crouches down in front of him. He turns on the translator, but keeps the volume on minimal. He checks the time. It's 3:17.
"Get up, we've got work to do."
"No, I'm staying here. It's hay. I like hay."
"We've got to go. We can rest later, right now we've got to get another horse and get rid of this junk," he points to the overladen Lightning.
"Not the alcohol! What is this clear wine? It tastes like... sunshine," Thunderhorse lifts his mug up back towards the keg tap.
"It's rum and you can have more later," Doc says, carefully pushing the mug away. Thunderhorse pushes back, forcefully.
Doc gets pissed. "You want a chance to save your woman, you get off your ass and help me!"
Thunderhorse looks up. He works his way to his feet. He throws his mug across the street, nearly sending it through a window. "FOR JAZELLE!" he cries.
"Yes, for Jazelle. Now lets go. And no more fighting unless I tell you."
Doc and Thunderhorse lead Lightning once again down the streets of Toledo. The river is filled with small fishing boats, ferries, and barges running people and cargo to the other side of town. People they pass tend to steer clear of Thunderhorse. The news of the brawl has already spread throughout town.
"I heard he knocked out half the 21st in one blow!"
"That's a bunch of shit, Jed. Look at 'im. He can't hardly walk."
The ones that do approach make Thunderhorse nervous. "Hey, boy, how'd you like to fight for me on Tuesday? There's a whole dollar in it for ye if you win," says a round man in his thirties wearing a dusty business suit.
Doc steps in. "No thanks, we won't be in town that long. Please excuse us,"
"I'll make it two!" he shouts after them as they walk away. Doc ignores him.
They make their way the corner of Water and Monroe. There's a large wooden barn with the doors open and the unmistakable smell of horse shit wafting out of it. A sign over the doors reads "Ford's Stables." They enter.
A man approaches them. "Well, what can I do for you today? Need to put'cher horse up?"
"No, actually, we need to buy some horses. I need your two fastest," Doc replies.
"We-hell, you came to the right place. Ford's my name, James Ford. I got the finest fillies in Toledo. Take a look at this here," he points out a sable horse nearby. "Ain't she a beaut?"
Thunderhorse taps Docs shoulder. Doc turns to see him shaking his head. Doc flips the translator back on in his pocket and whispers. "Go pick out the two best, one for me and one for Ritenrong." Thunderhorse nods. Doc flips the translator off again and turns back to the salesman.
Thunderhorse pushes past the salesman into the stables. "He-hey, where's he goin'?"
"That's my brother. He doesn't say much, but he's an expert on horses."
"That so?" They watch as Thunderhorse inspects the lot. After pacing the whole place, he goes into a stall and begins grooming and inspecting a pair of gray stallions. He smiles and waves at Doc.
"I think we'll take those two," Doc tells the salesman.
"Well, now, your brother sure does have an eye for quality. Fact of the matter is, those two ain't exactly for sale. Those two are Judge Olden's prize race horses. You wanna buy 'em you gotta talk to-"
Doc produces a handful of bank notes worth $500 dollars.
"Well, I don't think he'll look to kindly on me if I just up and-"
Doc produces yet another handful of cash, now totaling $1000.
"Shit, son. I just don't know. If Judge Olden finds out I sold those horses out from under him he just might-"
Doc adds another thousand to the wad.
"Congratulations, sir, you just bought the two finest steeds in the city," Ford says, taking the money and shaking Doc's hand. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna pack my things and the the hell out'a town." Ford leaves in a hurry.
Doc and Thunderhorse get to work saddling up their two new horses. They take off Lightning's barding and pack it away in saddle bags.
Along the way Doc manages to sell off the bolts of cloth, the mojito mix and the barrels of alcohol to a general merchant. After some brief haggling, Doc manages to get $26 for the lot. Thunderhorse is pissed about the alcohol, but Doc promises to make it up to him later.
Doc checks the time. It's almost six o'clock. They make their way back to the Sheriff's office. Doc and Thunderhorse stable the three horses. There are three other horses already here. They tie theirs to the back post, hiding the judges race horses behind the rest.
Bracing themselves, they enter the sheriff's office. The sheriff's desk pushed aside into the corner and replaced with a proper table nicely set with silverware. There's a bottle of wine on the table, a plate of boiled potatoes, carrots, and turnips, a bowl of green salad, and a huge roast. It smells divine.
Around the table sit the Sheriff and two other men. The Deputy and a young woman are acting as waiters and are busy dishing out the meal.
"Here he is," says Sheriff Jones. "Mr. Shaw, this here's Marshal Mark Matthews and the Reverend Judge Jacob Olden. Judge, Marshal, this is Mr. Doc Shaw and his brother Don."
"Donnerpferd, HALT!" Doc shouts. "ACHTUNG! DONNERPFERD! HALT!!" He tries again. Either Thunderhorse cannot hear him, or is choosing to ignore him. He seems intent on pummeling the next contender.
The next contender is smaller than Earl, but heavier with a lower center of gravity. "Show him what for, Bull!" the crowd yells.
Doc moves towards the action, but the sheriff extends his hand and gently pushes him back. "Best not step into that, cous'," he warns, still leaning against the wall.
"I'm a doctor. Earl needs first aid," Doc explains.
Thunderhorse's fist finds another face with a loud smack.
"I thought you was a lawyer. Don't matter none, though. You can look after 'im after they're done tusslin' if ya' want. I don't 'spect they'll want your help, though."
"Can't you stop the fight?"
There is a loud thud as "Bull" discovers the thick leather armor beneath Thunderhorse's costume.
"'Spect I could, if'n I wanted to. But I don't. Way I see it, your brother started it, and these here boys seem willin' ta finish it. Now if knives get pulled, I'll put an end to it. Till then I'm gonna enjoy this."
There's another leathery thump as Bull's next blow bounces off Thunderhorse's chest.
"My brother is touched. He's from the hills, he's never been to town before, he doesn't know what's going on."
"Don't matter none. He's either gonna take a whoopin', or get arrested for brawlin'. Feller's gotta learn some manners, one way or another. You wanna step in, I'll arrest you, too. If you win, that is. I expect you'd get your butt whooped just the same. These ain't no dainties your dealin' with. That there's the 21st. Michigan's finest."
"Bull" hits the ground, unconscious.
"So...if he loses you'll let him bleed in the streets, and if he wins you'll arrest him?"
"That's about right,"
Another fighter steps forward. This one is a light on his toes and jumping around. "Take him DOWN, Pete!" The crowd is getting angry now.
"I suppose there'll be a fine involved in releasing him?"
Sheriff Jones turns to Doc. "I expect so,"
Pete jumps right in and throws a punch at Thunderhorse's face. Thunderhorse's arms are there just in time to block the blow with the bracers beneath his sleeves.
The Sheriff thinks it over for a moment. "Fifty dollars," nearly smiling at the relatively astronomical amount.
"Done," Doc produces a handful of ten dollar coins. The Sheriff is startled by this. "Once it's over, forget it happened."
Thunderhorse swings wide, barely connecting with the bouncing Pete's collarbone. Pete's loud yelp lets everyone know that even a glancing blow from a drunken viking hurts like hell.
Jones takes the coins and pockets them. "Yessir," his attention turns back to the fight, a genuine smile finally overcoming his gaseous discomfort.
"Now what about Dr... my uncle Steve? I heard his bail was five hundred..."
The sheriff turns back to Doc, the smile gone forever. "Well, that's an entirely different situation. A whole lotta people wanna see him on the gallows come tomorra'. Whole lotta important people, git me?"
Thunderhorse waits a moment while Pete hops back into reach, then easily knocks him to the ground. This time, the boys laugh.
"How about a thousand?"
The Sheriff seems more upset. "Look, son. It's gonna take more than fast talkin' and fast money to git'cher uncle outta this. Now bring it up again and I'll have you in the cell next to 'im."
Another contender approaches Thunderhorse, this one larger than the rest, nearly Thunderhrose's equal. He tosses aside a flask and wipes his mouth with a large, hairy arm as he steps forward. "Yeah, Cody! Knock him out!" the crowd cheers.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Yer his lawyer, you figger it out."
There is an incredible cracking sound as Thunderhorse demolishes Cody's jaw in a single, sudden blast. The crowd relieves a collective "ooow" in sympathy. Some laugh. "Cody got knocked out by a dummy! HAW, HAW" Thunderhorse finally starts enjoying himself and laughs with them, or at them.
Their CO, however, is not laughing as he runs up the road cursing and swearing at his men. The Sheriff intercepts him, returning curses on why he's letting his men brawl in the streets. The rest of the militia men rouse their fallen companions and tend to their wounds. Cody is mounted on stretcher.
Thunderhorse pumps his fists into the air and releases another war-cry. He heads back to the stables and slumps down next to Lightning after filling a mug up with rum.
Doc, meanwhile, returns to Dr. Ritenrong's cell, taking advantage of the distraction.
"What's going on out there?" Dr. Ritenrong asks.
"Oh, Thunderhorse is just fighting the Michigan militia. And you're going up on a show trial with no chance of bail or bribery. We've got to get you out of here."
Doc goes for the vibroknives from the ship's galley. "Here," He hands one to Dr. Ritenrong. "Try to cut through your shackles,"
"Is this my good bread knife?"
"It doesn't cut through iron, only bread! Or tomatoes. I did see a commercial where someone cut though a soda can with one, but-"
"Okay, well, just keep it in case you need it," Doc interrupts him. He produces the bottle of hydrochloric acid.
"Hydrochloric acid. Will this eat through iron, professor?" Doc asks sarcastically, at least mostly sarcastically.
"Well, yes, but you don't have enough of it,"
"I've got enough for this," Doc pours the contents of the bottle into the lock on the jail cell. The liquid runs red as rust inside the lock is quickly eaten away. Doc jiggles the bolt a bit. "It's working," he pours a bit more in. Quick, you push, I'll pull."
Doc pulls on the jail door's bars, and Dr. Ritenrong pushes. The door latch loosens and almost gives, but doesn't quite go.
Doc checks over his shoulder, outside. The sheriff can still be heard arguing with the captain. The militia men are gone.
Doc pours more acid into the lock. "One more time!" This time Doc yanks as hard as he can. Dr. Ritenrong throws himself against the door, just enough to break the latch.
The yelling outside stops.
Doc immediately closes the jail door again just before the sheriff comes back to the office.
"What the hell was that noise?!"
"Oh Lord, that crazy viking is in trouble again!"
At times of great crisis, sometimes it is a good idea to relax and take stock. Doc does so. He takes a deep breath. He freshens the chew in his mouth. He looks about the room.
There is a small window just large enough for a small man to squeeze through seven feet up along the back wall of Dr. Ritenrong's cell. It is fitted with iron bars and no glass. The walls of the office are lined with wanted posters, news clippings, a map of the area, and other posts and notices. The surface of the sheriff's desk is cluttered with quills, logbooks and pipe cleaning equipment. The desk its self is locked. There's a small pantry in the corner messily laden with tin plates and cups along with bags of oatmeal and cornmeal, plus a few potatoes and some onions rotting away at the bottom. Nearby is an iron stove still warm with dying coals.
Doc cracks the wooden shutters on the front windows to look outside. Sheriff Jones is leaning up against the wall, blocking his view through the window. There is obviously some commotion. He can see Michigan Militia troops shouting and pumping their fists in excitement.
Doc opens the door and steps out. The dozen militia men surround Thunderhorse in a semicircle shouting and encouraging a fight between him and one of their own. The small keg of whiskey is smashed on the ground nearby, with surprisingly little wet around it. On second thought, that's not so surprising.
The Sheriff spits a bit of chew. "Yer brother's a piece a' work. He was out here drinkin' when he up'n shouted some gibberish at them boys when they was walkin' by. Well one thing led to another an', well, there y'are," Jones nods towards the ruckus. "I'd arrest 'im fer bein' a nuisance and brawlin' in public, but I think them boys'll teach him a lesson well enough."
Thunderhorse is standing his ground silently as the militia men holler at him. The other man in the ring is not small; he's just as tall as Thunderhorse but lanky and wiry instead of hulking and huge.
"Get 'im, Earl!" shouts another man. "Show that gimp not to lip off!"
Earl stands in fisticuffs position, ready to box. Thunderhorse stands ready, brows furrowed. Before anyone can react, Thunderhorse launches his fist into Earl's face. His nose gives way with a pop.
Earl staggers back, grasping his bleeding face. He throws a wild right hook, dizzily, before collapsing on the ground.
The crowd gasps and hushes, but only momentarily. Another man is peeling off his jacket, getting ready to step in for his buddy.
"Who are you?" Doc asks.
"There's no time for my life's story," Dr. Ritenrong responds. "I am a time traveler. I have seen the destruction of Earth in the distant future, and I am trying to stop it, or at least avoid it."
"What do you want with a corncob pipe?"
"It is a vessel. I can use it to travel through time. My device creates a static temporal bubble on any concave surface. Unlike the generators in the Smithsonian, the wormhole persists throughout the existence of that object. Instead of reaching from the time the cavity formed to the time the generator is turned off, my wormholes reach from the creation of the cavity until the cavity is destroyed. Entering into the wormhole at the moment of the cavity's destruction will take you to the moment of its creation, and vice versa. Entering at the apex of its existence will put you right back to the moment you entered.
"As long as you know where and when a particular object was created, and where and when it will be destroyed, you can use it to navigate through time and space. The corncob pipe is one of those objects. We are very close to the beginning of its life, now, and I happen to know it will be destroyed in the year 2299. By creating a wormhole in it and jumping in now, we will arrive in that future.
"But that is a secondary goal. We do not need to be in that future if we cannot change the pa- ...er, present. Our main objective is to spill blood at Phillip's Corners."
"Spill blood. We don't need to kill anyone?" Doc asks.
"No, I suppose not. Although, the more of a frenzy we can stir up, the better."
"Governor Lucas and President Jackson will respond to the attack by sending ten thousand men to Michigan. The Michigan Militia will try to fight them off, but lose quickly resulting in only abut three hundred casualties, total. Everything will be as it was ...er will b- should be, except that the Upper Peninsula will become part of Wisconsin instead of Michigan. Wisconsin gets the iron there, thrives on the steel business, and Milwaukee becomes a much larger city. This increases immigration, and as a result a particular individual will be born-"
There is a sudden scream from outside. Not a scream, a battle cry. A Nordic battle cry.
In creating the character sheet for Dr. Ritenrong, I've discovered some possible imbalances with the current Training rank system. This addendum is to repair these imbalances.
Spending Skill points on Non-Combat Training will increase that training rank by one plus the appropriate ability modifier. If the ability modifier is negative, it will cost additional skill points to gain one training rank of that ability.
For instance, a character has a 16 (+3) Strength, 12 Dex (+1), 10 (+0) Con, 10 Int (+0), 8 Wis (-1), and 6 (-2) Cha. This character may spend 1 Skill point on a Strength-based training class and receive 4 ranks in it. For Dexterity based skills, the same character can spend 1 Skill point and receive 2 ranks in that Training. For Constitution and Intelligence training, 1 Skill point buys 1 Training rank. For Wisdom training, the character must spend 2 Skill points to get 1 Training rank. For Charisma, the character must spend 3 skill points to receive 1 training rank.
When purchasing training from an NPC, ranks may be added one at a time at a discount or possibly for more than normal price, depending on the modifier. For example, the above character need only spend $250 to learn to swim, but must spend $2000 to learn to survive in the woods, or $3000 to learn to sing. Time taken for training is also adjusted by the same percentages.
Specialization multipliers still apply to these additional ranks. Ability modifiers still apply to rolls.
This change should allow non-combat characters to advance in training more rapidly as they level, and thus overcome the more difficult challenges required to gain higher levels.
I will adjust character sheets accordingly and the new system will be used from now on.
Name: Dr. Steven Ritenrong, PhD
Occupation: Quantum Theorist, Inventor, Professor
Origin: San Fransisco, California, Earth
Era: 1980 CE
Steven Ritenrong was born in San Fransisco in 1980. His lifelong dream of designing a time machine was realized when one day in 2041, the day he figured out how to create such a device, he was visited by himself and given the Quantum-Temporal Interference Projector as well as a dire warning about the future. Since then, Dr. Ritenrong has been traveling time in an effort to save himself and mankind from destruction. He currently holds tenure at Europa University in 3133 CE, as well as Cambridge University in 1670 CE.
Level 4 XP: 6000 Next: 10000 Skill: 0
Str: 8 (-1) HP: 16/16
Dex: 12 (+1) Chi: 12/12
Con: 11 (+0) Ref: 0(1) Fort: 0(0) Will: 0(2)
Int: 18 (+4) Atk: 1 Melee: 0 Ranged: 2 (6 firearms)
Wis: 15 (+2) Def: 10 Dodge: +1 Armor: +0
Cha: 9 (-1) Init: 0 (+1/-1) Move: 5
Physics 25 (+29)
Computing 25 (+29)
Research 15 (+19)
Electronics 20 (+24)
Mechanics 20 (+24)
Chemistry 10 (+14)
Pilot Spaceship 2 (+4)
HUD Glasses: Advanced Targeting (+4 Firearms)
"Ah, just the man I wanted to see," Doc says as he pockets his I-Browse before getting up and turning around. "Name's Shaw. Doc Shaw. And you are?" he extends his hand for a shake.
The man's thumb remains firmly hooked. "Jones. Monroe County sheriff. Whadder you doin' prowlin' round back here?"
Doc instinctively reaches out with his mind to sense the man's emotions. Suspicion, stress, and a general feeling of grumpiness, probably stemming from poor gastric health, judging by the smell.
"I'm looking for my uncle, Dr. Ritenrong. We just got in from Cleveland, and I heard he's being tried for murder!"
"That's right. Fraud, too. Can't make the Pains and Penalties stick, seein' as he wasn't here on no official Ohio business. That still don't 'splain whatcher doin' sneakin' 'round the church."
"A passing stranger told us he was in the courthouse basement."
"He ain't down there no more, jes his effects. They's evidence. He's over at my office, behind bars. You wanna see him, you follow me."
Doc whistles to Thunderhorse and waves him over.
"Keep that horse off the grass!" Sheriff Jones yells at Thunderhorse. "Got two gol'darn Governors in town." He gets upset when Thunderhorse does not obey. "Hey! What'd I jus' tell you?!"
"Sorry, sir. My half brother is a bit touched in the head. Chew?" Doc offers the sheriff some of his Mail Pouch.
"Don't mind if I do." The sheriff accepts his offer, grabbing a pinch while examining the anachronistic packaging. "Ain't that some fancy stuff," he remarks as he shoves the stuff into his cheek. The gift does not seem to appease the man's grumpiness, but at least he's laid off Thunderhorse for now.
The Sheriff leads Doc and Thunderhorse down the road towards the river. Doc takes the opportunity to press the old man for information.
"What are the particulars of the case against my Uncle?"
"Perticulers? Wadd'ya mean?"
"What evidence do you have against him?"
"Whatter you, a lawyer?"
"Does he have legal representation?"
"Said he'd represent his self. 'Sides, ain't no lawyer 'round here has any interest in keepin' him alive. Why? You gonna be his lawyer?"
"I guess I'd like to talk to him, first."
"Ain't no wrong in that, by me. You ain't the first visitors he's had. Matter 'a 'fact ol' Lucas his self was there talkin' to him just an hour ago."
The Sheriff's office is a small brick building near the edge of the river, just across the street from the ferry docks. There's a beautiful steam powered paddle-wheel river boat named the Chesapeake resting in the waters. Dockworkers are hastily unloading its cargo, while the militiamen Doc and Thunderhorse ran into earlier oversee the proceedings. A dockworker drops a small crate into the water. The Captain heartily chews him the fuck out.
Doc instructs Thunderhorse to wait with Lightning in the stables as he follows the sheriff inside. The sheriff's office is a small thing, one room hardly 20x20 feet with a row of iron bars sectioning off the back third into two cells. Dr. Ritenrong is lying in a bunk, but he gets up when he sees Doc enter.
"Hello, Uncle," Doc calls to him, catching him up on the lie. "My brother Don and I just got in from Chicago to pay you a visit."
"So I see," the Doctor replies. His once nice suit is down to just a shirt and tattered trousers. His ankles are shackled. He leans against the bars. Doc steps up close. "It's good to see you." They shake hands.
"What happened?" Doc asks.
"It's hard to say." Dr. Ritenrong nods towards the Sheriff, who's leaning back in a chair watching them.
Doc calls to the Sheriff. "Can we have some privacy? Attorney-client privilege."
The Sheriff looks at him hesitantly, then gets up and steps outside.
"So what happened?" Doc asks again in hushed tones.
Dr. Ritenrong whispers back. "I came here attempting to acquire a specific antique in the possession of one Mr. Joseph Brown. A corncob pipe, to be exact. When I learned he'd been found dead in the river, I posed as a coroner in an attempt to... extract it from his person. Unfortunately, I did not properly research the ruse beforehand. The sheriff arrested me under the Pains and Penalties act, but when they found out I wasn't really sent by Governor Lucas, they changed the charges to fraud. And now, they suspect me of murdering the poor man!"
"Why do they think you did it?"
"I don't know! Probably because they've got no other suspects and because I'm the most suspicious person in town. Did you tell them you were going to be my lawyer?"
"Not as much as they assumed I was."
"Well, we don't have time to wait for an acquittal. We don't have time for the trial. If we're not out at the Phillips farm by nine-o'clock tomorrow morning, this entire mission will be a failure."
"Why, what happens tomorrow at nine?"
"The Battle of Phillips Corners. A pivotal moment in this time sector. Your history records that this was a brief affair, some shots were fired, no one was hurt. This path of history leads to certain destruction. We need to alter this path to save our future. I've done the calculations a thousand times, there's no other choice. We must make sure at least one bullet finds a target. We must turn this war bloody."
The fresh smell of lake air and the acrid stench of sulphurous, burning coal wrestles Doc's nostrils, overpowering the understated scent of drowned worms and horse shit lining the streets as the Operatives walk down Monroe St. towards the center of town. The houses are brick and wood. Many along Monroe are well built, expensive mansions. As they approach downtown, the family houses give way to simple apartments and shops. Butchers, bakers, apothecaries, general merchants, a bank, all tidy and neat brickwork with glass windows and hardwood floors.
The streets are filled with passers-by waving how-do at the curious pair. Most people here are well dressed, relatively middle class shop owners and service industry folk. A few are well-to-do factory and land owners dressed to the nines for a Saturday afternoon stroll through town, others are poor farmers or employees of those wealthy people. Most are friendly, a few heads turn, and Doc picks up bits of conversation as they pass.
"That's an odd pair, ain't it? Look at the size a' that galoot."
"Where, did he get those awful trousers? And that hat, my God!"
"Some people have no sense of decent fashion, my dear."
"Don't see that sort'a horse breed 'bout these parts, much. An' look at that bardin'. 'Taint right fer a horse like that to be carryin' such a load."
"More strangers, today. I wonder where they're all commin' from?"
"Must be part'a Lucas's crowd. Heard he's bringin' ten thousand men to take back the strip."
Thunderhorse remains silent. He seems to be experiencing an extreme case of culture shock. He is eying everyone with suspicion, and continually stares at trivialities. Women and men scoff when he stares to long at their dresses and shoes. Doc keeps leading him away from shops and barkers as he is continually drawn towards baubles and trinkets the likes of which he's never seen before.
"Uh, nahe zu mir," Doc attempts to tell Thunderhorse to stay close. Thunderhorse is at first confused, but understands.
As they turn down Ontario, they find themselves walking behind a dozen rag-tag militia men carrying rifles fixed with bayonets. They're being led by a man in a blue uniform with the stripes of a captain on his shoulder. Thunderhorse is startled by the sight.
"Bleiben Sie ruhig," Doc tells Thunderhorse to remain calm. They keep their distance and try not to attract attention. They don't seem to notice them. Eventually, the militamen turn towards the river.
They almost pass the "courthouse." It turns out to be a church with a sign out front that says "Monroe County Court and Episcopal Church, Honorable Judge Reverend Jacob Olden presiding." Below that is a smaller sign reading: "Court in session 9 am to noon, Monday through Friday. Church services Sundays 8 am to 11. Closed Saturdays."
"Aufenthalt hier," (Stay here) Doc instructs Thunderhorse. He approaches the church door. There's a post nailed to it.
"Special Trial tomorrow: Territory of Michigan vs. Steven Ritenrong for the Murder of Joseph Miller. 12 pm after regular Services. Fricassee potluck to follow."
The door is locked. Doc knocks, but there is no answer. "This can't be right," he mutters to himself. He secretly checks his I-Browse for more info. It turns out Toledo doesn't have an official courthouse until the 1850's. In fact, the first official business of Toledo as the seat of Lucas county takes place in a ramshackle wooden schoolhouse.
Doc checks his hand-held further. He asks it to find Dr. Ritenrong on the GPS map. A red dot blinks, pointing out a spot just a few meters from where he stands. Doc walks around to the side of the church. There's a small cellar window which Doc peers into, but it's too dark to see.
"Whadder you doin'?" A gruff voice yells, startling him. He's an older, gray haired, wiry bearded man in a leather hat and vest. He's carrying a rifle in one hand, and his free thumb is hooked into his belt. A tin star is pinned to his vest.
"Hello Friend! Come and have a cool drink and tell me of the news," Doc calls to the old man. The mention of a drink seems to accelerate the farmer's lumbering pace.
Doc turns to Thunderhorse. "Relax, and don't get violent unless I yell 'Gott in Himmel,' got it?"
"What god, where?"
"It's just a signal. Now hush and get the whiskey." Thunderhorse nods and obeys. Doc secretly turns off the translator.
The old man arrives at the crossroads. "Well, how-do, stranger. Ain't seen yer likes 'bout here b'fore. Name-a Abraham, Abraham Hicks. But everyone jes' calls me Abe."
"Nice to meet you, Abe. I'm Doc Shaw, and this is my, uh, half-brother, Don." Doc leans in close and whispers. "He doesn't say much, he's a bit touched in the head."
Abe nods and smiles at Thunderhorse. Thunderhorse furrows his brows and snorts as he pours a drink from the small keg into the old man's tin mug. Thunderhorse proceeds to chug straight from the barrel.
"Yew fellers jus' in from Indiana?"
"Yes. We're on our way in from Chicago to find a lost relative, and to help people. See, I'm a medicine man. That's why they call me Doc. I've got the secret formula to cure a hundred ailments and put all good people at ease. Well, most of it. My long lost Uncle's got the final secret ingredient for my family's elixer. I need to talk to him to finish the recipe." Doc plays the part of snake-oil salesman convincingly. "Meanwhile, I've got some things for trade, if your interested."
"Yeh got anything fer my corns?"
Doc ponders for a moment. "Unfortunately, we're under-supplied at the moment. I've got some other wares, though."
Abe is not interested, and has nothing to trade. "I just stopped by the market to get some 'baccy seed, the missus will be mighty upset if I turn up with a barrel of whiskey instead." He motions towards the canvas sack in his lightly loaded cart. The wagon is old and about ready to fall apart, much like the horse that pulls it. "So, who's yer Uncle? Maybe I know 'im."
"He's a doctor, too. Don't know his name, exactly," Doc replies, lying on the spot. "I got a letter from him here in Toledo, but the bottom half of the letter was washed out by rain. But my poor, dying mother told me what he looks like. Said his name was Steven. Shorter man, about fifty, white hair and a beard, dresses well. She said he'd probably be in trouble with the law if I found him."
"Oh, you mean that Ohio doctor? Sho'nuff, your momma was right. He's locked up in the courthouse basement right now. Whole damn town is up in arms about him. First person to be arrested fer Pains and Penalties. Now he might be facin' trial for murder."
"Well, sir, Ol' Joe was a farmer, owned some wheat fields a couple miles south a' here. Wound up dead in the river with a bullet in his head. When they pulled him out, here shows up this new doc no one ever seen before. He said he'd just been sent by Governor Lucas hisself, appointed county coroner. Well, Sheriff Jones goes an' arrests him on th' spot. He's been in jail fer three days now. Word is Governor Lucas denies he ever met the man. They say he's gonna be charged with Ol' Joe's murder, now."
"Why would they charge him with murder?"
Abe sips on the whiskey. "Way I see it, it's awfully suspicious him jus' showin' up in town and Joe a'gettin killed like that. He was a quiet old man, didn't have no enemies. Didn't have much friends, neither, but nobody 'round here 'ed kill him fer that. This ol' Doc's story don't check out, neither. No one from Columbus ever heard of 'im, least that's what I hear. Yessir, seems mighty suspicious. Trial's tomorrah right after church."
"Well, I best get that recipe from him before he's strung up. Which way is it to the courthouse?"
"Jes' head on down Monroe here and turn left at Ontario. It's at the end of the road."
"Is there a hotel nearby?"
"Matter'a'fact, there's rooms fer rent right across the street from the courthouse. Just tell Miss Jenkins ol' farmer Abe sent yeh, she'll fix you up nice. Well, it's nice meetin' y'all. Good luck with the medicine business. Maybe I'll look yeh up tomorrah 'bout my corns. 'Bye, now."
With that, the old man heads on down the road back towards the swamp.
Doc briefly considers heading back to the Pu for supplies. It's already past noon and they've got nearly six miles to cover to get into town. Doc decides he can make do with what he has. He's got enough supplies for a makeshift medical kit.
"Okay, lets go." Doc collects himself and leads the way to Toledo. The mud no longer belabors their every step, and they begin to make good time at last. As they walk, the corduroy road becomes simply dirt and stone. The ground, while damp, is no longer a mudpit. The trees begin to thin, and thick black smoke can be seen drifting on the horizon.
An hour later they're free of the forested swamp and at the edge of a cornfield, which the road winds past on its way to the town still two miles away. Black smoke rises from the growing smelters and refineries along the Maumee; a sign of progress in this day and age.
To Doc it is a sickening sight. He was raised during the Greenhouse crisis; an age of smog and heat, where nearly everyone in he grew up had asthma, and skin cancer and lung disease overtook heart disease and car accidents as the leading causes of American deaths. Fortunately, science and medicine had reacted quickly and cured the symptoms, but not before he lost nearly a third of his graduating class.
They continue on until they reach a fork in the road. A wooden sign welcomes them to Toledo, and declares the road they are on to be Indiana. Another, smaller sign indicates the intersecting path as Monroe St. Down both paths they can see people and horses bustling through the town.
They stop and rest for a bit. It's been a while since Doc has done a ten mile hike, let alone one through the mud. Lightning chews on some roadside weeds. Thunderhorse snacks on mead and horse-oats. Doc is not quite that hungry, although he's getting there.
A horse and wagon approach them from Monroe St. Thunderhorse goes on alert and stands near Lightning where its a quick grab for his battleaxe. They watch as it approaches. It is a simple cart with an old nag in front and an old man leading it. He's wearing overalls and a straw hat, and moves at a slow, steady pace. He's carrying a rifle similar to Doc's. He waves to them as he approaches.
Doc is quick on the draw as he pulls his pistol into position, but the snake reacts to the threat just as swiftly. The speed of its movement surprises Doc, causing his shot to go a bit wide, splattering mud into the air. The snake dives towards his foot and bites into his shin.
Doc yelps in pain as the sharp teeth hit bone. The snake strikes again, this time hitting flesh. His calf goes numb as the snakes venom enters his blood. He vainly tries to knock the thing away with his pistol.
The snake rears back once again, flattens its head, and practically throws its self at Doc. It goes wide and ends up turned around confused. Doc takes the opportunity to back off and aim his pistol. One well placed shot neatly smashes the snake's head into tiny pieces.
"Thunderhorse!" calls Doc. "Donnerpferd! Whatever the hell your name is," Doc mumbles agitatedly as he switches the translator back on. Thunderhorse had already turned around to watch Doc dispatch the water moccasin. He collects the muddy cloth and escorts Lightning towards Doc.
"Was that your thunder sling?" Thunderhorse asks, observing the remains of the snake with extreme caution.
"Yeah. Can you get me the medicine box?" Doc asks. Thunderhorse complies. Doc feels the poison in his leg, and the numbness is starting to spread. Doc is able to ignore it for now, but it won't be long before it gets worse.
Doc sits down in the mud with the medical kit. He expertly treats the snake bite on his calf and bandages up his wounds. Meanwhile, Thunderhorse inspects the remains of the snake. He refuses to get too close to it, though.
"Fucking snakes. I hate them," he mumbles.
When he's finished with his leg, Doc collects the snake's remains. He drains it's blood, wraps it in a bit of cloth, and slips it into the saddlebag.
The two head up to the corduroy road and have a seat on a sand covered log. Doc looks up and down the road. The woods are thick and the road curves around the large marshy puddles in the swamp, but it leads towards Toledo. Doc can find no sign of people within his field of view or range of hearing.
Doc reloads his pistol as they rest. He cleans the mud off his suit as much as he can. He retrieves the flintlock rifle from the muddy cloth, inspects it, and rams a ball and powder into the muzzle.
Doc contacts the ship. "Yes, sir?" the Host speaks to Doc through his I-Browse.
"Can you replicate some equipment and send it down to us? I need some more first aid kits and a flare gun."
"Negative, sir. The only option for delivery is to launch a torpedo into your vicinity, and I have neither the programming nor the clearance to perform such an operation. You'll have to return to the Pu for supplies."
"Acknowledged," replies Doc.
The sun is high in the sky and is beginning to break through the dark clouds. After a twenty minute break, Thunderhorse begins to grow impatient. "Are we sitting here all day crying over your leg?"
Doc and Thunderhorse lead Lightning down the gangplank onto the muddy, rain-swollen marsh. It is a gray and overcast morning, but the air is fresh and free of smog. Doc is instantly reminded of his youth in the country. Its been a long time since he's tasted natural, clean air.
"You should take off your helmet. We don't want to scare the locals," Doc instructs Thunderhorse as he adjusts the top hat on his own head. Thunderhorse reluctantly complies.
Doc wishes his costume would allow him some decent boots. His new shoes are already muddy.
The two begin loading Lightning with supplies. Without a cart, they can't carry as much as Doc would like to take, but in this terrain it's probably for the best. They tie the rum and whiskey barrels together and hang them across Lightning's saddle so that they hang to the sides and offset their weights. They conceal the flintlock rifle, Thunderhorse's battleaxe, and other equipment within the bolts of cloth and mount them onto the warhorse, who does not seem to enjoy his new role as a mule. Thunderhorse keeps him calm.
The two set off eastward. Going is slow, as the mud is thick and heavy with spring rain. Mosquitoes and flies torment them. The further they go, the more they smell of drowned worms and dead fish. The cool spring air does nothing to offset the hot sweat they generate while plowing through the mud.
They walk for an hour. Thunderhorse is getting pissed. His excessive layers of clothing and armor are irritating him. He mutters curses under his breath, but the I-Browse in Doc's waistcoat pocket translates and repeats them at full volume. Doc turns this off for the time being. He checks the GPS map. They're still seven miles out from town.
Half an hour of trudging through muddy woods later, they reach something of a clearing. Doc spies a corduroy road in the distance. "Look, there's a -"
Doc is cut short by a high-pitched, girlish scream and an accompanying whinny. Doc turns round to see Thunderhorse and Lightning in a panic attempting to flee through the mud from a water moccasin. Doc must've stepped over it unnoticed. As Lightning tries to run, the bolts of cloth tied to his back come loose and fall into the mud. So much for white linens.
The three-foot snake, turning its attention towards Doc, rears up in a defensive position hardly five feet away, mouth agape and hissing.
"Just a couple more things." Doc is rounding out his plan. "How long will it take to load my Jeep onto the Pu?"
"Well, sir," replies the Autopilot. "Th' thing is we need ta' clear some space out in the hold, plus we can't jus' move the Jeep through th' ship, y'know? Too big. Gonna hafta dock with the main cargo bay after we launch. Should be a breeze once we're down there, though. Been meanin' to clean up the Pu cargo bay, anyway."
"Good. Grab as many tools from the repair bay as you can, including the plasma torch and load them on the shuttle, then get ready to launch."
"Yessir!" The Autopilot happily obliges and goes of to complete his tasks.
"Host, do we have any body armor on board? Bullet proof vests or anything?" Doc asks.
"No, sir. There are several EVA suits on board which can withstand micro-meteor impacts but they are not combat rated and they are far from concealable." replies the Host, dutifully.
"Fine. Go get Lighting and load him up on the shuttle." The Host obeys. "Chef, can we borrow some vibro-knives? Three if you can spare 'em."
"Sure! Glad to help!" The Chef goes off the the kitchen and returns fairly quickly with a set of the devices. There's a butcher's knife, a cleaver, and a serrated bread knife each with a small thumb button to activate the ultrasonic feature in the shape of a two-headed stick figure with eight limbs representing the Spyderhenckel's brand. They are lightweight, ceramic, and very nice. "Gonna need these back, though, sir, unless you don't like your bread sliced."
"Noted." Doc goes over to the replicator and quickly orders a couple kevlar vests. They will be ready in twenty minutes and costs $1132.68 from his personal account. While that's printing, Doc has a chat with Thunderhorse.
"We're going down to Earth in a few minutes," explains Doc.
"Yes," nods Thunderhorse.
"We have to rescue the beardless dwarf."
"...to kill him ourselves?"
"NO! No. We need him to tell us why he brought us here."
"And how we can go home?"
"Yes, exactly. Although, I'm sure he has plans for us."
"...to kill us?"
"No. Not to kill us. He needs our help. He brought us here to save... his tribe. Ourselves, in fact. He can see the future, just like Odin. He can take us there to fight evils that would destroy us, or take us to the past to stop the evils before they start."
Thunderhorse has a blank, quizzical look on his face.
"He can travel through time."
Thunderhorse furrows his brows. "Travel through time. Make what has passed what will pass. And change it?" Something begins to dawn on Thunderhorse. "So he can take me to that day when King Nathan took my Jazelle? And I can stop him?!" He's on his feet, pumped and ready.
Doc is wary of passing on false hope, but doesn't want to kill his enthusiasm. "Yes. I'm sure he can. But first we have to rescue him."
"RHAAUUGH!" Thunderhorse screams a warcry. "VENGANCE WILL BE MINE AT LAST!" He throws a barstool across the galley, smashing its aluminum frame upon the wall.
"Yes, yes. But first we have to go get him. Now the people we are rescuing him from are... from a different tribe. They're my ancestors and they speak my language. Let me do the talking."
"I understand. You talk and I will kill."
"No, no. Don't kill just anyone. I'll tell you when it's time to kill. But you have to be very careful. The people of this tribe have powerful weapons. They have these." Doc picks up the flintlock rifle. "It makes thunder that can kill you. It is like a sling. It shoots these." Doc shows him the lead balls. "It is a thunder sling."
Thunderhorse listens carefully in awe. "Truely, they are powerful." He likes weapons. "But no mere stone can stop me. I am Goeth."
"You are strong, but don't let its little size fool you. Just like those tiny poisoned arrows the metal bugs hit you with, these little balls can take you down quickly. This might help you, though."
They wait while the Kevlar vest finishes. Doc gives it to Thunderhorse. "Put this on under your armor. It will protect you from the bullets. And put these on. It's a disguise. You'll look like a commoner of the tribe."
Thunderhorse understands and takes the work clothes. He begins stripping down in the galley. The smell of unwashed barbarian taint hits the room like a nuclear bomb. No time to explain the concept of showers or modesty now, though. Doc takes his new suit and goes to his room to change, half choking.
Minutes later they are both dressed and ready. Thunderhorse looks almost twice his normal size as his studded leather armor bulges beneath the work shirt and overalls. He's still got his goat-skull helmet on, beneath the felt sun hat.
They take the remaining equipment and Doc's duffel bag down to the docking bay and enter the Pu. The engines are humming. The Autopilot is in the cockpit, strapped in and ready.
"What have you done to my horse?!" screams Thunderhorse to the Host, who has Lightning lying on the ground between the seats and secured with multiple safety lines. The horse does not like this situation and is struggling against the restraints.
"It's okay, its for the best. It's going to be a bumpy ride and we don't want him to break a leg," explains Doc.
Thunderhorse sits himself on the ground next to his horse and comforts him. Doc straps himself in behind the Autopilot. "Thunderhorse, you have to sit in a chair and strap yourself in. This will be a bumpy ride."
"Piss off," he says.
"Y'all ready to go?" the Autopilot asks.
"Not if he's not in a seat."
"He'll be alright 'till after we dock with the cargo bay."
"Alright, then. Let's go."
There is a sound of mechanical devices decoupling the two vessels. The Pu pulls gently away from the Younger Brother Pear. A bluish force-field passes over the windshield as they leave the hanger. Gravity leaves them.
Thunderhorse is notably upset by this. "Thor's Balls! What the fuck is going on?!" he yells as he begins to float away from the floor. Lightning whinnies in alarm.
"We're enterin' freefall. Don't worry, it's normal. We'll be docked with the cargo bay in a minute."
The ovoid Younger Brother Pear diminishes in the window for a brief moment. The Earth takes up the entire sky above them. Doc realizes they're upside down and is made a bit dizzy by it. Or is it the lack of gravity? The Autopilot hits a control, and there is burst of acceleration as the shuttle begins moving back towards the main part of the ship. The Younger Brother Pear begins eclipsing the Earth. Blue and red plasma bursts forward from the shuttle as the Autopilot begins slowing down and starts docking. A quick tap on the controls, and a large, circular door opens on the underside of the YBP. The shuttle start moving upwards (or downwards?) slowly towards the circular opening. There is a sound like a fender bender as the shuttle docks with the main ship, and the sound of metal clasps securing their position. Gravity returns, and they're all upside down. Thunderhorse hits the ceiling.
"FUCK! That hurt."
"Careful, gettin' down, y'all," says the Autopilot as he unhooks his safety belts, hangs on to some handles on his chair, and drops expertly ass over head onto the ceiling feet first.
Doc also unhooks his seatbelt and manages to get down safely with a bit more difficulty. Thunderhorse picks himself up and tries to comfort his braying horse who is now tied to the floor above him.
The three go back into the cargo bay. All the cargo is secured to the floor, hanging over a large, gaping hole leading into the main cargo bay. The Autopilot hits a few buttons in sequence and cargo begins releasing its self from its restraints and dropping onto the cargo bay floor with surprising gentleness.
"Leave the alcohol on board," Doc commands. The Autopilot obeys.
Once all the rest of the cargo is transferred, the Autopilot crouches down to a handle and another control panel at his feet. "Grab on, fellers." The other two do so. With a quick punch of keys, the gravity suddenly reverses. Their feet fall towards what is now once again the floor. They drop from the handle.
The dizzying transformation of gravity and the dizzying realities of orbit begin to take its toll on the operatives. Thunderhorse takes it surprisingly well considering he's never even heard of "gravity" before, let alone experienced free-fall. Doc knows all too well what's going on, and that doesn't help the butterflies in his stomach. He pukes violently.
"Don't worry, happens all the time," the Autopilot explains. He goes back to the control panel on the wall and enters some more commands. The tied to the floor of the main cargo bay above them starts slowly falling into the shuttle's cargo bay, rotating to remain upright as it does so. Once secured, the Autopilot closes the bay doors.
"Alrighty, fellers, time to git on down there." The Autopilot leads them back to the cockpit. Everyone straps in this time.
With a click and a whoosh, the shuttle decouples from the ship again and gravity disappears. The Pu rockets past the Younger Brother Pear and towards the Earth, entering a lower orbit.
"We'll hafta go round once 'r twice to get inta landing position. Should be about fifteen minutes 'till atmospheric entry."
Doc takes the time to recover is facilities and study maps and historical information. (History) (Timeline). He finds this map of ancient Toledo:
Governor Robert Lucas of Ohio, backed by President Jackson, is disputing the claims on the Toledo strip and its valuable access to waterways made by hot-headed Michigan territorial governor Stevens Mason (who is backed by former President J. Q. Adams). Lucas has just created Lucas County, and Mason has assigned Brigadier-General Joseph Brown the task of keeping Ohioans out of the strip. On Sunday (tomorrow), a group of surveyors will be out to mark the Harris Line, and will come under fire from sixty of Brown's men; the Battle of Phillips corners.
Doc doesn't know who might be involved with Dr. Ritenrong's kidnapping, but he suspects that it may have something to do with the Pains and Penalties Act Mason has enacted, prohibiting any Ohioan government officials from performing their duties within the Toledo strip. Dr. Ritenrong was dressed as a coroner, and may have been arrested under this act. He's probably in the courthouse or somewhere nearby. Why he went down there in the first place is anybody's guess.
"Hold on ta' yer butts, fellers." The Autopilot warns them as the shuttle begins to turn upright. There is a feint glow of red as the Earth begins to swallow them up. There is a sudden jolt and a burst of flame as the atmosphere engulfs them. "Yeehaw!" yells the Autopilot. The cockpit gets hotter. Lightning whinnies. Thunderhorse begins screaming Nordic curses. Doc clings tightly to the handles on his seat. Sweat pours down his brow. Condensation forms all over the inside of the ship and begins raining on them as the careen towards the ever growing ground.
Slowly, the ship begins leveling off. Soon, they are simply flying eastward at supersonic speeds over the forests and mountains of the American west. They continue to descend and decelerate as they approach the great lakes. Within a few moments, they come to a near stop just above the treelines. Toledo is just visible, probably ten miles away, as they descend vertically below the trees and land easily onto swampy ground.
"Alrighty, partners. We're landed. These trees should keep us hidden for a while anyway. I don't think no one goes this deep into the swamp much. Least that's not what the Doc says. Not you, Doc, the other Doc. I'll be waitin' here for ya'. If I run inta troubles I'll jes let ya know on the com." He flicks some controls and the ship's hatch opens.
"Welcome ta' Earth!"
2 kevlar vests
Doc Fort save: 1 (+1) vs DC15 critical failure. XP +2
Thunderhorse Fort save: 20 (+3) vs DC15 critical success! XP+15
No bullshit, it happened that way.
Doc History check: 19 (+4) vs. DC 20 Success! XP +20
Doc's Colt .44 Revolver w/ holster, 2d6+1, 40' RI, 46 rounds, Mastercraft(+1 to hit)
Pulse Ion Particle Pistol (2d8, 73 shots +3 power packs, 80 r. each)
Jumpsuit (Def +3, +2 Rflx vs. Pain gun, Mag Field, Low: +4 vs. Charged Particles, Mag Field, High: +6 vs. Charged Particles, Recharge time: appx. 12 minutes)
HUD Glasses: +2 Reflex, Combat Awareness, +1 Firearms
4 Pictures Nude Women
Simple Lockpick kit
i-Browse hand-held device.
Maglite Flashlight (1d4 club, full batteries)
Advanced medical kit (2 use left)
50' Rope, tarp, flashlight, cooking kit, Freeze dried food (1 weeks worth), bedroll, 2x canteens
Spending Acct: $-26598.42 QNC
Savings Acct: 0
Stun Baton 1d6 NL
Slug Thrower 2d6, 5 rounds, 2 clips (10r each)
Light Railgun Assault Rifles 2d10, 76 shots left, +1 clip (100 shots)
Jumpsuit (Def +3, +2 Rflx vs. Pain gun, Mag Field, Low: +4 vs. Charged Particles, Mag Field, High: +6 vs. Charged Particles, Recharge time: appx. 12 minutes)
Goat Skull Helm: Def +1
HUD Glasses: Weakness Sensor (Critical Hit 19-20)
9 Sticks Dynamite (10 second fuses)
Mk3 HEDP rockets (x11)
Cash: 1 gar, 18 krum (~ $236 QNC)
Spending Acct: 0 QNC
Savings Acct: 0 QNC
Cpt. Mark Daniels
Stun Baton 1d6 NL
Pulse ION Particle Pistol 2d8, 77 rnds, + 3 power packs (80 rnds each)
Light Railgun Assault Rifles 2d10, 73 shots left, +1 clip (100 shots)
SMAW MK153 Missile Launcher: 10d6, 150' RI, 30' min range, 10' blast Reflx DC18, Ignore 10 hardness. Spotting Light (+1 attack)
Jumpsuit (Def +3, +2 Rflx vs. Pain gun, Mag Field, Low: +4 vs. Charged Particles, Mag Field, High: +6 vs. Charged Particles, Recharge time: appx. 12 minutes)
Blue Militia Jacket w/ Cap
HUD Glasses: Mind Focuser: Will +2
Cash: $22.16 US1835 = $454.72 QNC
2 Slugthrowers 2d6, 10 rounds each + 4 clips (40 rounds)
Flight Suit (Vacuum survival, temperature regulation, acceleration compensation, Piloting +2)
Flight Helmet (Def +1)
HUD Glasses - Advanced Targeting (+4 Firearms)
Q-TIP Wormhole device
19th Century styled Q-NET Pocket Watch
Universal Computing Interface device
Small Electronics Repair kit (1 use)
Doc's 2008 Jeep Wrangler
Fuel Level: Full
M2 Browning .50 cal Machine gun (unmounted): 2d12, 110', Automatic, 1000 rounds (100 shots)
Slug Thrower (2d6, 7 rounds)
2x Pulse Ion pistols 2d8, 80 rounds
Jerry can w/ Water
Jerry Can w/ Gasoline
Basic repair kit (screwdrivers, wrenches, ratchets, fuses)
Spare tire kit
4 Road flares
10 Music CDs
Leather Barding w/ Saddlebags
2 Light saddles
3 gallons red wine
16oz. Black Powder
5 lbs Oats
1 Boarshead Mead
Electronics repair kit
4 Iron Shackles
2 pair leather work gloves
Survival Kit (lantern, canteen, tent, rope, folding shovel, etc)
Younger Brother Pear
Weapons, Ship Defenses:
4 Hover Sentries
Internal Microwave Emitters (Pain guns)
1x Light Particle Cannon: 8d8, 4000' RI
2x Light Laser: 6d8, 3000' RI
22x 25kT Nuclear warheads: 10d12
136x Unarmed Torpedoes
Armor, Ship Defenses:
Aurora Magnetic Particle Shielding
Composite Hull plating, 10MT rated
8 Extra-Vehicular Activity Suits
Studded Leather Armor: Def +2
2x Kevlar Vest: Def +1, +2 vs. Bullets
2 Ion Pulse Laser Pistols
1 Bull-pup Railgun
3 Kitchen Vibro-knives
1 Flintlock rifle, 50 rounds ammo
2 "Fancy" Flintlock Pistols, no ammo
1 Old Flintlock Pistols, no ammo, -1 attack and damage
SF-112 Starfire "Maria Bochkareva"
3 years food & life support
Portable Spacewalk toolkit:(Sonic Screwdriver, Hydrospanner, Pneumahammer, Safety Lasersaw, Hover laser level)
ARSE Money Dispenser
Fully equipped galley
Partially equipped shuttle repair bay
Fully equipped medical bay
Partially equipped robotics lab
Sparsely equipped chemistry lab
It feels like months have passed as Doc ponders a thousand scenarios. He has always been prone to daydreaming, sometimes for days at a time. But only an hour has gone by when he returns to reality, such as it is.
He has a plan, and it's time to get to work.
The Chef had cleared the table while his mind had wandered. Thunderhorse had passed out under the table after finishing off the gobbit and emptying the bottle of wine. The Host is standing at the ready nearby.
"I need to speak to the captain," Doc tells the Host.
"Dr. Ritenrong is ships captain, sir. He is not currently responding to hails," the Host replies.
"Are there any other crew members aboard ship?"
"Unfortunately, no, sir. Dr. Ritenrong left space port without a full compliment, indeed without a crew at all. You, sir, are listed as both First Mate and Science-Medical officer with the unofficial rank of Commander. Thunderhorse," the Host looks almost disdainfully at the meat-bag passed out beneath the table. "...is your Lieutenant and Security officer. The Autopilot is currently filling the rolls of Pilot, Navigator, and Engineer, although his programming is stretched a bit thin. I will be serving as your Information and Communications officer."
"Stretched a bit thin?" Doc asks worriedly.
"He is programed to operate the ship at a basic level: station keeping, docking, routine maintenance, etcetera. He is ill-equipped to handle the ship in an emergency. Fortunately, we are at little risk at the moment. Dr. Ritenrong has plans to acquire a human pilot at a future date; specifically, July 3rd, 2299. I'm sure you can discuss it with him in detail later."
Doc digests this information for a moment. "Okay, what about ships resources? Do we have any weapons?"
"The ship its self is armed with civilian grade defense systems. The particle cannon is rated at one megaton, enough to deflect most small asteroids, and our shields can withstand a ten megaton impact. In comparison, a small military patrol vessel of the same era can withstand well over one hundred megatons and fire one hundred 50 megaton particle blasts in a second. We are also carrying 22 twenty-five megaton warheads and 136 unarmed torpedoes.
"Internally, we have two hover sentries armed with shock guns and tranquilizers. There are microwave emitters on every deck that can generate an immobilizing pain field. There are two pulse particle-laser pistols and one bull-pup railgun locked on the bridge for emergency defense. There is also, of course, your side arm, Thunderhorse's battleaxe, a plasma torch in the repair bay, and a number of vibro-knives in the galley."
"Can we get the laser pistols to take with us to the surface?" Doc asks.
"They are limited in ammunition and thus for emergency use only. Dr. Ritenrong has coded the locks and only he has access," replies the Host.
"What about explosives? I don't mean nuclear warheads but something like a grenade?"
"None, sir. Although we do have a chemistry lab and facilities to create them, I do not believe we have the appropriate materials to do so."
"Can the replicator make any weapons for us?"
"I don't know, sir. The replicator can only create materials and simple devices, and only those for which we have patterns. New patterns can be purchased and downloaded from Q-Net. Military-grade patterns, however, are often extremely expensive and require proper licensing and permits which we do not have. Skilled hackers, of course, can often find ways around this problem. I personally do not have the appropriate programming to do so as it would be illegal for me to be programmed in such a manner."
"What about information. Do we have maps of the target area? Any political information? Can we bring a computer? What about a printer to forge documents?"
"We have sattelite images of the area in question prior to Dr. Ritenrong's departure. As to political information, you will have to research that on your own. We only have information that is available to us through Q-Net.
"Your IBrowse will keep you connected to the ships computer. Translation services, maps, tracking, and GPS systems are available through it. We have no paper printing devices on board, as such things were made illegal fifty years prior to my activation date. You will have to create any documents either with the replicator or on the surface with materials you find there."
Doc acknowledges this. "Thank you. If I have more questions, I'll call."
"Of course, sir," bows the Host.
Doc makes his way back to the galley. The Chef is cheerfully sweeping up broken glass. He waves a greeting as Doc makes his way to the corner of the galley next to the bar. There are two machines here, one kind of looks like an old vinyl jukebox and the other is kind of like an oversized vending machine.
The jukebox is labeled "Banking Unification Network Services Automated Residual Savings Exchange." It has an electronic touchscreen like an ATM but fashioned to preserve the jukebox look-and-feel. After touching the screen once, it verifies Doc's fingerprints and displays his account information:
WELCOME, LUCAS SHAW. THANK YOU FOR USING ARSE.
PERSONAL SPENDING ACCOUNT BALANCE:$14,998.52 QNC
PERSONAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT BALANCE: $1.48
MISSION ACCOUNT BALANCE: $5,000 CE1835 ($112,870.06 QNC)
| WITHDRAW | DEPOSIT | TRANSFER |
He leaves it be for the time being.
The vending machine is labeled "Q-MART REPLICATOR, ADVENTURE!" Inside the glass encased compartment is a series of nozzles, robotic arms, and laser devices. Next to the glass is a control panel. Doc activates it.
"WELCOME TO Q-MART!" buzzes an annoying electronic voice. "WHAT CAN WE MAKE FOR YOU TODAY?"
"A simple black suit from 1835 America for myself and some rough work clothes: overalls, flannel shirt, hat, and coat for Thunderhorse," he asks.
The control panel displays a range of styles and sizes of those things. Doc selects the ones he wants.
"THAT WILL BE $338.56 QNC. IS THIS A PERSONAL PURCHASE?"
"What? I thought this was free."
"NEGATIVE. THESE PATTERNS MUST BE DOWNLOADED. IS THIS A PERSONAL PURCHASE?"
"No, put this on mission credit."
"PURCHASE AUTHORIZED. TRANSACTION COMPLETE. REPLICATION WILL COMPLETE IN THIRTY TWO MINUTES."
The robotic arms within the glass case spring to life. Various nozzles spray some unknown chemicals while laser beams dance about and begin stitching molecules together.
"WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONTINUE SHOPPING?"
"Yes. I need a lockpick set, hydrochloric acid, four pairs of handcuffs, zip ties, binoculars, gloves, a pry-bar, and nude photos of women."
The machine does some calculations. It presents some options to Doc on the control panel. He is able to find some appropriately old-timey pictures of nude women with surprising ease.
"THAT WILL BE $10,472.93 QNC. IS THIS A PERSONAL PURCHASE?"
Doc hesitates. "Uh, mission credit." Those are some nice binoculars.
The machine whirs for a bit. "PURCHASE DENIED. SOME ITEMS ARE OUTSIDE MISSION PARAMETERS." The zip ties, the handcuffs he picked, and the binoculars are all from beyond 19th century Earth. "WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE THIS A PERSONAL PURCHASE?"
"No," replies Doc. He removes the offending items from the list and replaces the handcuffs with a less modern model. It comes to $512.46 and will take a further two and a half hours.
"WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONTINUE SHOPPING?"
"I need some weapons. Grenades, explosives, lasers, assault rifles, anything you've got."
The control screen delightfully displays a wide range of deadly futuristic weapons.
"Can I purchase these on mission credit?"
"NEGATIVE. FILTERING DISPLAY TO MISSION PARAMETERS."
The display reduces to the simple blades and firearms of the time. Doc picks out a good flintlock rifle and fifty rounds worth of flint, balls, and powder. He also gets some extra black powder. It comes to another $2,257.40.
"Can I purchase modern weapons with my personal account?"
The machine calculates a bit. "NEGATIVE. YOUR WEAPONS PERMIT ONLY ALLOWS FOR CLASS C PERSONAL BALLISTIC FIRE ARMS."
"Can I get a new permit?"
"THAT FUNCTION IS BEYOND THE SCOPE OF THE Q-MART REPLICATOR ADVENTURE!. APPLY FOR PERMITS AT Q-NET WEAPONS REGULATIONS COMMITTEE SITE FOR A BACKGROUND CHECK AND A TWO YEAR WAITING PERIOD."
"Okay. What about dynamite?"
"THAT ITEM IS BEYOND MISSION PARAMETERS. ONLY ITEMS AVAILABLE IN 1835 ARE WITHIN PARAMETERS. YOU MAY PURCHASE DYNAMITE WITH YOUR PERSONAL ACCOUNT."
Doc briefly considers getting some raw nitroglycerin instead, but if the ride down to Earth anything like the transit shuttles from his era, that would not be a wise thing to carry. Doc curses Nobel for not having invented the thing thirty years earlier as he shells out $467.83 of his own money to get only 10 sticks of dynamite and some blasting caps. The prices on this thing are almost random. In fact, they are up-to-date to the nanosecond with current Q-Net market value, as well as often being hijacked by hackers looking for an easy buck.
"Sleeping gas? Tranquilizers? Anything like that?"
The control panel on the replicator displays a selection of mission appropriate items. Doc picks out a bottle of Laudenum. The pattern is already in the system.
"Okay, computer. One last round. I need a horse-cart, bolts of cloth, barrels of alcohol, and some mixers."
"ERROR, SOME OBJECTS AND QUANTITIES ARE TOO LARGE TO BE REPLICATED. WOULD YOU LIKE TO UPGRADE TO Q-MART REPLICATOR INDUSTRIOUS!?"
"Not right now, thanks. " Doc is upset. Acquiring the key elements of his plan will be more difficult than he thought. He goes ahead and orders a few bolts of cloth; some simple white linens, drab canvas, and floral patterns that are already downloaded to the system.
The current queue of items will take about six hours to produce. Doc checks his account status.
WELCOME, LUCAS SHAW. THANK YOU FOR USING ARSE.
PERSONAL SPENDING ACCOUNT BALANCE:$14530.69 QNC
PERSONAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT BALANCE: $1.48
MISSION ACCOUNT BALANCE: $4,862.30 CE1835 ($109,761.64 QNC)
| WITHDRAW | DEPOSIT | TRANSFER |
Doc withdraws the mission account balance. The jukebox looking device begins spitting out masses of official US bank notes and coins from 1835 onto the floor like a slot machine. Doc begins collecting it onto the table before giving up and going to bed.
Eight hours later Doc awakens. He wanders into the galley and orders some coffee and steak and eggs from the Chef. His replicated items and the mission money is all neatly stacked and arrayed on a galley table. Thunderhorse is already up and having a breakfast ale.
"Good morning, friend," says Thunderhorse in a peculiarly cheerful mood. "The strangest thing happened last night. Well, just as strange as anything around here, but much more fun. I woke up under the table in the field above us. I was still sleepy, so I found my way down here to get into that soft bed again. When I got here, I saw this amazingly beautiful wench goddess cleaning up the shit falling out of that magic box in the corner. Suddenly, she stopped. She walked right over to that bed room over there, took off her frock and lay there legs up! She began writhing and moaning as if she was fucking a ghost! I followed her in and looked around. If there was a ghost there, I couldn't see it. So I got on and fucked her rotten! It was wonderful, I tell you, my friend. When I was done she was still going! I got off her when it started to hurt, but she kept it up. It was amazing. Just as suddenly as she started, she stopped again, got her frock back on and went on cleaning up the magic box shit."
The Chef chimes in. "The Maid has a programming burn. One of the previous crew members used her as his personal 'service' droid. He did it so regularly that it was scarred into her systems. Every night at the same time she goes into his room and goes through all the motions automatically whether anyone is there or not. It is not good for her processors or servos, but no one has tried to clear out the bad programming for some reason."
"Horseshit!" yells Thunderhorse, confused. "She loves me!"
Doc briefly considers trying to explain, but his mind is focused on other things. Like how to get a horse drawn cart to appear from thin air. "Computer, what's in the cargo bays?" he asks.
A quick inventory appears on the view screen. It reads like an archaeological inventory. Urns, vases, pots, barrels, bottles, cups, jars, bowls, various items of art and clothing, etc, all from different Earth eras and cultures. It turns out his Jeep is in the main cargo hold on deck six. There's some barrels of rum, wine, and whiskey in the Po's cargo bay. No horse carts, chariots, or even a wheelbarrow, however. The only thing that comes close is a palette jack. He'll just have to find something on the surface.
The Host walks in with another android beside him, presumably the Autopilot. The Autopilot is dressed like a World War 1 fighter ace complete with goggles and scarf.
"Gentlemen, this is the Autopilot," introduces the Host. "He will be delivering you to the surface."
"Howdy!" He's got a drawl and swagger much like Slim Pickins in Dr. Strangelove.
The Host continues. "Dr. Ritenrong has called again this morning requesting an update on your preparations. Are you ready to go?"
Any last minute preparations or changes?
Doc regains 1 Chi
1835 Men's Suit, Medium
1835 Work Clothes, Large
2 pair leather work gloves
Simple Lockpick kit
3 Bolts Cloth
4 Iron Shackles
Flintlock Rifle, 50 rounds balls & powder
16 oz. Black powder
10 Sticks Dynamite & blasting caps
8 oz. Hydrochloric acid
12 oz. Mojito mix
8 oz. Laudenum
4 Pictures Nude Women
Cash Aquired: $4,862.30 CE1835
A feller'd have a real good time in Vegas with all that stuff.