Conference Dinner

The crew of the Younger Brother Pear meets in the galley for dinner. The host has set the largest table for them, and the wine is already breathing.

Mark and Thunderhorse are already seated when Doc arrives from his office. Steve and Veronica arrive shortly after.

"Where's Jazelle?" Doc asks.

She shows up with a platter on a cart. "Cooking, what else would I be doing?" she says with a sneer. "That strange headless man was trying to roast one of those chicken lizard things in the washing-up device. I know there are many strange things on this star boat, but, honestly, why put a headless man in charge of the kitchens?"

She unveils her platter. Roast chiguana, mashed glazed yams, and cheesy sprouts. It's smells like Thanksgiving. The Host begins dishing it out.

"Well, I suppose we should start with the damage report, then," Steve says. "The Chef is apparently decapitated. Thank you for reporting it, Jazelle. Life support is back in the green, no problems there. Computing systems are back at 80% operational capacity. Main generators are at 20%. Our particle cannon is still online, there's just not enough power to use it. The replicator caught a power surge and needs some replacement parts that the concept for won't even be discovered at least a century. The Electromagnetic shield generator overheated and fused into a ball of gold and copper and if it weren't we wouldn't have enough power for it either, so we're sitting ducks if there's a solar flare. The thermal shielding still needs repaired. Structural integrity is still critical. XD drive is operational, but with all the micro-fractures in the skeleton we can't use it. Priorities are power, structure, shields, and thermal coating. The TV and holobooths have to remain offline until further notice."

"Fuck me," Mark says. "What're we supposed ta do then?"

"Help fix things," Veronica replies impatiently.

"I don't know nuthin' about fixin' this ship. Shit, I don't know half'a what Steve was talkin' about just now."

"Ever paint a house?" Veronica asks.

"Well, yeah."

"Good. You can paint a new thermal coating on the ship. Thunderhorse, you can help him."

"Uh, don't that mean we gotta go outside the ship?"


"Inta space?"

"Don't be a pansy about it. I go out there all the time."

"Yeah, but you don't need ta breathe."

Steve interupts. "Mark, we can discuss your vacuuphobia later. Veronica, continue."

"Well, if those two monkeys can paint the ship and Doc can help me with the structural repairs while you're working on the power and shields, I'd say two weeks."

"Two weeks?"

"Flying into an asteroid you are currently drilling into with nuclear warheads tends to rattle things up a bit. There's exactly fourteen thousand nine hundred and twenty one microfractures in the framework. Each effected beam needs to be removed, heat treated, and welded back into place. We have the cutting and welding equipment, but nothing that can re-crystalize the diamondsteel. We're going to have to fabricate something."

"We can't use thermite patches?" Steve asks.

"Not if you really want the ship to stay together in warp. There's just too many fractures."

"We don't have anything to fabricate a forge with. We can power something, but we need a shitload of tungsten and a forge to melt that into shape, not to mention the hydrolics and everything else we'll need to keep the pressure up."

"Is there much tungsten in the asteroid field?" Doc asks.

"There is some, but it will be hard to find. Still doesn't solve our forging problem, though."

"So, long story short, we need to get supplies from Earth," Doc says.


"Well, that will be a trick. We've arrived in the middle of World War Two, and not just your average hum-drum World War, but one with jets and rockets. Imagine World War Two taking place in the 1980's. As a matter of fact, I dug up this picture off their television broadcasts."

Doc shows them his I-Browse.

"Also, the United States seems never to have existed. The Q-Net entry is wigging out because of all the undetermined factors, so it's hard to figure what's going to happen, but from what I can tell without the US involvement, the world is much more likely to fall into Hitler's lap."

"What the fuck happened to the United States?" Mark asks.

"I tried to figure that out. Apparently, Father Nathan and his monks made a more permanent copy of the star chart. Nathan studied it for a few years before returning to France to give a lecture on what he'd found. He was not only laughed out of the conference, but branded a heratic and forced to flee back to Norway. He and the monks still loyal to him formed a sort of underground branch of Catholicism focused on new-found tenants of science and astronomy.

"A later pope took action against them and invaded Norway to root them out with an inquisition. The subsequent war forced many Norse to flee across the Atlantic to Greenland and eventually Nova Scotia, where they became the first permanent European settlers to North America. They brought with them 13th century tools and technology, and this was during the 12th century. This technology acceleration seems to have somehow effected all of Europe and Asia, although now it seems to have slowed to only 40 years ahead of where it should be."

"So this is World War Two with nuclear weapons?" Steve asks.

"Not yet, but soon. Possibly within two years. Strangely enough, some things didn't get accelerated. I think it has to do with the minds involved in inventing them. Nuclear physics really relies on Einstein and his contemporaries, even though in this timeline Gallileo describes Newtonian physics and Newton lays the framework for Relativity. Still, the world needed Einstein to really understand it, though."

"Interesting discovery," Steve hums. "We'll call that Shaw's Great Minds hypothesis."

"The Native North Americans got the best deal out of it. The technology the Norse brought, metallurgy, swords, chainmail, longboats, horses, things like that, gave them more of an advantage when dealing with the other European settlers that started coming around the time they should have. Earlier exposure to diseases like small pox and the plague allowed them more time to discover treatments and build immunities to them, certainly not like the Europeans but enough that it made a great difference. All in all, the Indians never got pushed aside by European culture and instead absorbed it."

"Are you tellin' me that injuns run the United States?" Mark replies incredulously.

"I'm telling you there is no United States. There are several smaller nations composed of tribal groups. They seemed to have taken to the European notions of political borders and real estate much easier than the indians we know. There are European settlements, New England and the Confederated States of America. They were never united, hence there was never a civil war. Slavery is still legal in the Confederated States."

"What about Lincoln? If the Great Minds hypothesis is correct, he must've accomplished something."

"Yes, in fact. He was an itinerant lawyer who successfully lobbied to have slavery outlawed in New England, settled several disputes between the Cherokee and Shawnee, and brokered peace treaties between nearly every warring nation in North America. He was asassinated by John Wilks Booth at Ford's Theater after he started lobbying to liberate the slaves in the Confederated States."

"So what does all this mean?" Mark asks.

"Well, on one hand the Native American tribes never suffer genocide at the hands of the Europeans. On the other, slavery still persists in the South. Color TV, video games, supersonic passenger jets, personal computers, and other foundations for modern society have already been invented, but some of the most evil men in history stand a good chance of conquering the planet."


Doc said...

Sorry I've been away. Just stuff.

Fix the ship as much as we can then plan a trip to Earth. I want concrete particulars so I don't botch this one like the last one.


ERR said...

Yeah, I've been busy too. But I'm taking vacation next week so I'll have plenty of time to play then.

Doc said...

Life intrudes. Write when you find the time.