As the World Turns Above Us...

Three weeks pass too easily on the Younger Brother Pear. Their orbit brings night and day every six hours or so. It feels as though they're travelling through time without Dr. Ritenrong's contraptions.

Thunderhorse spends his days with the Sleipnirs, getting to know them and letting them know him. He spends the rest of his time drinking in front of the TV making his way slowly through the infinite playlist of a hacked Q-NetPix account. Doc tries to steer him towards the greats and the classics, but more often than not it's Red Sonja, The Arena, Albert Pyun's Nemesis series, or anything else involving muscular women warriors.

Mark spends most of his time reading and playing Shoot Out! in the holobooths. He and Thunderhorse occassionaly hold Sleipnir races around the Obersvation deck, but the last time they did Mark got bucked off into the pond. Doc is glad that Thunderhorse holds domain over the television more than Mark, since when Mark puts something on it's usually the most grotesque, demented pornography he can find. He thinks it's hilarious, while everone else wants to puke.

Doc also finds himself lost in the holobooths for hours at a time, practicing his surgical skills and playing a game of world domination and politics called Riskopoly against people from across time and space, all brought together by Q-Net. He's particularly proud of the moment when he defeated both Napolean and Abraham Lincoln in a battle to control the oil and medicinal resources of South America whilst making a highly skewed trade agreement with Raboid615 (an Ursine alien from the moons of Epsilon Eridani Beta who is not a very shrewd negotioator) for control of European mining, leading Doc to total domination of virtual 22nd century Earth within 36 rounds of play. To be fair, who ever was personafying Lincoln was not doing a very good job and Napoleans are in general very easy to goad into making poor decisions. Still it stands on record as the sixth quickest and thirteenth most dominating victory on the high-score boards.

Steve, meanwhile, has been working diligently in isolation, trying to perfect a more useful time-device. He comes into the galley for dinner and tries to be conversational in attempting to explain his day's problems and achievements, but instead spews out reams of technobabble which makes sense to no one but himself. The best Doc can make out is "it's coming along."

The only people who can be seen doing any actual work around the ship are the androids. The Cook and Host of course do most of the actual day-to-day stuff, the Host having taken over the duties of the now transformed Maid.

Veronica had done a lot of work before she left to join the EDF. The once mangled and tattered EGU shuttle is now good-as-new, perhaps better. Doc's jeep is running better than ever, as she had torn its engine completely apart, cleaned it, and rebuilt it. She did this one or twice a century to keep it in good condition through Doc's three-hundred year absence. She told Doc that at first she wanted to replace the engine with a fusion generator and make it an electric, but not having the parts she had to wait until the technology came to be on Earth. By then she had grown fond of its simple internal combustion system and decided to leave it alone.

Veronica stops in only briefly between EDF missions. She was not particularly happy to see them the first time. She landed her SF-112 Starfire, the Maria Bochkareva, in the shuttle bay with an attitude only she could display while flying. She stormed up the to the galley to tell them all off about beaming transissions at her while she's on a mission. Apparently, the Host's attempts to contact her in the Neptunian system scarred off the Exkorean pirates they were trying to hunt down. Fortunately, the signal did not give away her position, but it did alert the pirates to the fact that someone was out there after them. Their sudden attempted escape and the ensuing chase threw off the mission timeline by a factor of hours and, as she put it, "cost the Earth taxpayers thousands of dollars in wasted time and ammunition."

Once that was off her chest she was quite pleasant. To Doc and Steve, at least.

After a quick break she was off again to help sweep the asteroid fields of the remaining Exkorean ships. Although the Sol Peace Treaty of 2177 had the Exkoreans promising to leave Mars and the Solar System forever by 2185, many Exkorean outposts still remained. They are not more than pirates and raiders now, but they still swear loyalty to their fallen empire. It's Veronica's job to wipe them out whenever they interfere with commercial shipping and transport. Civilians are, for the most part, on their own.

After a tough week of flying, Veronica slumps into a stool in the galley, slamming her helmet on the bar. She's still wet with synthetic perspiration. She peels her flight suit loose from her chest, unzipping it slightly and airing it out.

"Fucking pricks," she mutters loudly.

"Welcome home," Doc greets her, lifting his beer glass to her before taking a sip.

The Cook provides her with a frosty mug of Android Replenishment Fluid which is a mix of coolants, hydrolic fluids, ethanol, bio-corrosive acids, and specially laced with a ferromagnetic substance which scrambles her circuits in a delightfully intoxicating way. It's great for clearing the volitile memory, although it does tend to interfere with active programs such as speech macros and stabilization systems.

She lifts her glass in return and drinks down the blackish-green substance with ease. Two weeks ago Doc had to pump Thunderhorse's stomach because he had stolen a mere sip from her glass. The chemistry designed to remove foreign biological materials from her system had given the viking a rather severe ulcer. Doc, always looking for practice in his medical art, cloned him a new stomach. He went ahead and replaced his liver, too. It was the most sad and abused thing he'd ever seen inside a human body. It's preserved in a jar on his office desk to remind himself to go easy on the sauce.

"That dickhead Major Kwong still won't listen to me. I've told them a hundred times that the Exkorean base is near Ceres. But they won't listen. They won't scan. He tells me 'There's no reports of Exkor activity from Ceres,' but that's because they're hiding! It's a hidden base. He goes 'Well how do you know about it then?' and what do I tell him? That my real boss is a time-traveler in violation of a hundred-year-old treaty but he's got all kinds of useful information on the future and oh, yeah I'm an android more advanced than anything you'll see for another century at least?"

"I can see how that can frustrate your day," Doc answers sympathetically. "Can we scan them from here?"

"No, I tried. The asteroid field is too difficult to scan through and besides, they're cloaking their emissions. You have to send probes to do a sub-surface scan of every asteroid near Ceres, but without EDF support they just get shot down by the Exkors before they could return confirmation. I'm not wasting any more probes on other people's problems. Let 'em ffffffindout the hard wayeeee-" She ends the sentence with a rough digital burp, much like a failing DTV signal. She pats her chest and smiles, letting Doc know she's alright.

A few more drinks and some casual conversation later, they sit quietly together, watching the sun rise on the monitor.

"I never get tired of seeing that," Doc says.

They both turn as they hear something odd. The elevator door opens in the hallway, releasing a merry yell. They hear footsteps pounding around the corner, interrupted by a brief pause and a sudden thump intermixed with a jubilant shouting, something that could only have been a jump for joy.

"I've done it!" Dr. Ritenrong comes screaming into the galley, followed curiously by Mark and Thunderhorse whose body-builder porn he had interrupted. "I've actually done it!"

"What?" Doc asks.

"A new method of time-travel!"

1 comment:

Doc said...

"Great! We can travel through time and not get our ass shot off again?"