"This man has been injured! Call the paramedics and bring me your first aid kit, I'm a doctor!"
The foreman doesn't take much convincing. Someone is already on their way with a woefully inadequate medkit. Doc tears it open to see what he can do with it. Steve is going to require surgery, and this pile of bandages, burn patches, and aspirin is not going to get the job done. At least it's enough to change the bandages and disinfect the wound some.
"You didn't answer my question, doctor. What are you doing in my oven?"
Doc is considering how best to answer this question when he is distracted by a flashing signal in his HUD sunglasses.
Q-NET Uplink detected. Connecting... Established. Welcome to Q-NET!
Doc doesn't know much about computers, but he knows what this means.
"The Pear is in Orbit!" he shouts out. "Veronica?" he calls. There's no response. "Veronica?"
The foreman looks at him funny. He turns to one of his workers. "Call an ambulance. And the police."
"Hold up, there, Jose," calls Mark, leveling his assault rifle at the man. "I don't think ya' oughta be callin' no police."
"Mark!" Doc yells. "Put it down!" He turns to the foreman. "Look, sir. I'm sorry we interrupted your production line, but we've got a serious situation here and I have no time to explain."
Doc removes his sunglasses and looks deeply into his eyes. He's an overworked sort, trying to achieve something worthwhile from this dead-end job. He's been on the rocks lately, heavy drinking involved, something dissatisfying at home, etc. This big contract with StarScape Voyages to make teacups for the Marriott was going to help him out financially and emotionally, but it all now looks to be in ruins.
Doc forces his will further into the man's mind. He finds a soft spot- his mother's death. Something about the blood and guns opens up this grand old wound. Doc tears it further and throws on some psychic lemon juice.
"We're being hunted," he says. "You can't call the cops or we're dead, understand? I need to get my friend to a safe place or he will die. I want nothing more than to be out of your hair, but I need your help to do that. I need a ship that can get me into orbit."
"There's no way I can do that," replies the forman.
Doc knows he's asking a lot, so he presses hard on the sympathy button. "Please. You have the chance to save a life here, a chance you never had before. Please, help us."
The man begins to well up with tears.
"We'll be out of here and you can get your machines back on and you can get your life back in order."
"Yes," the forman chokes. "Jesus!" he calls. One of the workers steps forward.
"Yes, sir?" The sunglasses needlessly translate for Doc.
"Bring a cargo lift out front. Yeti 9 should be available. Get them the hell out of here."
The other workers look at their foreman in total shock. They've never seen this side of the man before.
"Yes, sir," the sunglasses again translate. Jesus runs off, grabbing a keycard from a chain on the wall on the way out the back door.
Doc continues to hold pressure on Steve's wounds. Within a minute, he hears the whining sound of a fusion engine spinning up. Thunderhorse and Mark lift Steve while Doc maintains pressure on the bleeding hole in his back. They carry Steve out the fire exit, held open by the foreman.
The Yeti is a simple conical craft not much more than an engine and a cockpit. The nose of the cone can extend (and is currently retracting), revealing a superstructure that can hold six of the trapezoidal cargo containers seen all over this industrial area. As the nose finally fits its self into place.
Jesus opens the hatch. There isn't much room since the Yetti was only designed for two crew members. The cockpit takes up half of the cone, with only two seats. Behind it, in the other half, is a small sleeping and dining area. The table doubles as a bed, and only one person can really occupy it at a time.
Mark and Thunderhorse place Steve gently on the table. Doc, still holding the wound, takes a seat on the bench around the table. Thunderhorse sits next to him. Mark climbs into the co-pilot seat next to Jesus.
"Hold on to your hats, amigos," warns Jesus. They can feel the primary thrusters building up underneath them. The ship rocks and vibrates a moment. It begins to lift and gain momentum. Soon their ears are popping and their breath is stolen. The cabin pressurizes its self unsteadily. There's a hissing, leaking sound.
Soon, they feel that familiar sensation of their stomachs trying to escape through their mouthes as the ship's acceleration dies off and they find themselves in freefall. The hissing leak gets louder.
"What's that sound?" asks Doc.
"There's a small hole in the hull somewhere. It needs fixed."
Doc looks at their driver incredulously. It's then that he notices the web-work of duct tape all over the interior of the ship. There are several red lights blinking on the dash, each poorly covered in electrical tape so as not to distract the driver. Loose wires hold on to the reminants of a speaker assembly, what was once the alarm buzzer.
"So, where you heading, amigos?" Jesus asks.
It takes a while, but they arrive at the Younger Brother Pear in orbit somewhere over the Pacific. It's fully intact with the Pu docked. Doc tries to raise Veronica again to no avail. Fortunately, Steve had programmed some of the control codes for the Pear into their sunglasses. On Doc's authority, the cargo bay at the bottom of the ship opens up. The small Yeti fits easily inside.
"Wow, man, this is nice," says Jesus as he opens the hatch. The Time Operatives and their wounded employer scramble out of the transport.
"Thanks for the lift," Doc says as they exit the Yeti. Thunderhorse and Mark carry Steve to the elevator, Doc still holding the bleeding wound tight. He barely has time to feel relieved to be back on the Pear.
They rush Steve up to the medical bay and get him in one of the beds. Doc was an emergency medic in the army, not a trained surgeon. It's been a long time since he's done anything like this.
Doc takes his time. With these beds and equipment, he can afford to. The bed can keep Steve in stasis if something goes wrong. The Clone-o-mat can make replacement parts if necessary. The pharmacuticals available can slow Steve's heart rate to almost nill without killing him.
Doc has to break ribs to gain access to all the bullet fragments. He has to vacuum out all the bits of blue gel from Steve's failed armor. He has to clone Steve some new artery and lung pieces, remove the torn, useless parts, and install the fresh ones. He has to glue the broken bones back together. This is actually made very easy by the bone glue, a substance which stiches the bones together quickly and strongly without the need for screws, metal, or even plaster casts.
The procedure takes almost seven hours. After he cuts the final thread of stitching, applies the antibacterial super-glue salve, and slaps on a bandage, he slumps into the nearest bed and promptly falls asleep.
"This man has been injured! Call the paramedics and bring me your first aid kit, I'm a doctor!"
The footsteps of the approaching pirate attack forces grow louder, snapping Doc out of his near trance-like state.
"Thunderhorse!" He shouts. "Get the teacup out of your pack, and take Steve through! I'll cover you" He turns to Mark, who is on the other side of the open entrance to the FastTrack station. "Mark! Get over here! Cover Thunderhorse"
More armored transports carrying even more heavily armed pirate troops arrive and begin to unload.
Thunderhorse quickly retrieves the teacup from their hotel room out of his backpack and places it on the ground. He takes over for Doc, putting pressure on Steve's bleeding wound. He hefts the dying scientist onto his shoulder. Then, in a sight more ridiculous than can be easily described, the giant viking carrying a mad scientist hops into a teacup and disappears.
Mark waits for a break in the enemy fire to dash across the open entrance. He opens automatic fire on the approaching pirate troops as he runs. Most of them duck out of the way of the eye scorching, ear ringing rain of violence, but one of them catches a bolt of death right between the ears, leaving nothing but a cauterized hole where his face used to be.
The pirates regroup and raise their guns to return fire, but Mark dives into the teacup before the bullets start flying.
Meanwhile, Doc is fiddling with a timed detonator he grabbed from Steve's pocket. The bullets from the pirate's assault rifles start pelting his armor. It stiffens up, but the ionized led pounds against his arm and back hard. He can feel the bruises forming.
It's almost more than he can take. At last Doc gets the timer set for ten seconds. He slaps it to the side of the cup and jumps in head first.
The noise of gunfire and the rioters of the train station on the IDS Marseilles Marriott shrinks away and the world around him fades to black, if only for a moment. Soon a new reality grows into view. It is a reality filled with teacups.
At first it seems that Doc has somehow slipped into a dimension made entirely of teacups and red light. As he slides out of the wormhole, a new noise grows into his ears. It's an alarm. The world of teacups grows larger and becomes reality. Suddenly, Doc is amongst all the teacups, surrounded by them. It's very, very hot in here. The alarm is joined by the wild claning and smashing of teacups as they give way to his sudden presense.
A new sound, the rushing of air, instantly and mercifully coincide with a lowering of temperature and a the light turning from red to black. Doc finds himself in a confined space on some strange kind of surface, proving that there is more to this bizzarro dimenstion than teacups. It is cold rough, and hard. It feels like some kind of metal mesh.
The darkness he how finds himself in reveals a light at one end of this tight tunnel. He uses the walls and ceiling of this cave to push himself along the rough surface, which seems to move with him with a grinding whir. He arrives into the light, where the buzzing alarm is blaring loudly.
Three people in hardhats are standing around him, staring incredulously. He's on a conveyor belt. Suddenly he feels a blunt impact on his groin and feels a muffled cry from between his legs. It's Mark's head.
Doc finishes climbing out of the tunnel. Mark is right behind him, cursing and spitting.
"God Damnit! Where the fuck are we?"
There's a loud bang and wailing as Thunderhorse get's jammed in the tight space of the tunnel. Mark and Doc grab the foot they can reach and pull. Thuderehorse emerges, holding Steve by the legs.
Doc rushes to Steve and pulls him further along the conveyor. He flips him over and puts pressure back on the bleeding gunshot wound.
"Where is this cursed place?" asks Thunderhorse, as he gathers his bearings.
Doc looks around a bit. It's a large, enclosed space filled with machinery and gawking workers. There are thousands of identical teacups lining the conveyor belt before them. "I think we're in the cup factory."
"I thought we'd end up back in the hotel room," says Mark.
"So did I," Doc replies. He checks his sunglasses for their position in space and time. They're in Mexico City. It's 1:13 pm on June 16th, 2194. Five years before the battle on the Marriott.
Someone cancels the alarm. A foreman marches angrily towards them. "What the hell is going on over here?!" He yells in a thick Indian accent. "What are you doing in my curing oven?!" He notices Steve. "What happened to him? Why is he bleeding all over my production line?!"
Time slows as Doc stops to consider how Dr. Ritenrong's magic wand works. He remembers a conversation they once had.
"The Q-TIP creates a wormhole in any concave space," said Dr. Ritenrong. "The wormhole links the creation of that space with the end of that space. Entering the wormhole at any point in it's timeline takes you to a the point in it's timeline opposite of the zenith (the precise middle of its existence). So if one were to use the Q-TIP to create a wormhole in a coffee cup and throw it in the air, then jump in right before it smashes on the ground, you would arrive right as the cup was being made, in a kiln in a coffee cup factory.
"The weird bit is that once you create the wormhole, it suddenly has existed throughout the life of the object. So every cup of coffee ever poured winds up in the wormhole.
"Let's imagine a cup we've made. We make the cup at noon and will be smashing it at midnight. At two o'clock, we have tea in it. At three, we wash the cup. At four, we create a wormhole in it and turn it upside down on a drying rack. At eight, we throw a penny into it. In a totally different dimension, a penny fell out of the cup at four o'clock, the instant we created the wormhole. At nine o'clock in our dimension, dishwater spills out of the cup on the drying rack. At ten, we flip the cup back over. The tea we poured in at two appears, and immediately sloshes back and fourth through time, existing simultaneously at ten and two. If we then pour it into a different cup, we can enjoy two cups of tea for the price of one, at the cost of depriving a different dimensional version of ourselves of tea. At eleven, a bunch of cutlery comes flying out of the cup because we've upset ourselves in that different dimension and we're trying to get back at us for stealing our tea. It must've been shoved in at one o'clock, so in a totally different eleven o'clock we wrote a note to ourselves telling us to get revenge on ourselves for stealing our two o'clock tea at ten. At midnight, we smash the cup, and let our brains cool off."
Dr. Ritenrong had told Doc a lot of the technical details of how it works, but Doc had drifted out of the conversation. He does remember something about metals, inconsistent or composite surfaces, and liquid filled vessels causing some unpredictability.
Doc enumerates his options.
1. The teacup from the Marriott Suite.
It was manufactured on Earth before the Marriott was completed. Who knows how long it will survive, although you would be abandoning it in a train station currently being attacked by pirates. Also, Steve has a number of small explosive charges that can crack the cup on a timer, thereby controling somewhat of the when factor of their destination. It's currently in Thunderhorse's backpack.
2. The camping cup from the Python
It's origin is a mystery. It could have been made on Earth, Mars, or anywhere or anytime the Exkoreans might have come from. All you know is that at some point in it's history it was on the Python and now it is in Mark's backpack.
3. A small plastic sphere in Steve's pocket.
It is hollow and seperates in half by twisting it slightly. Doc has no idea where this came from. It's a sort of thick resin, much sturdier than a plastic Easter egg. One half is blue and the other is red.
4. Start a new hole
Doc can use the Q-TIP on any surface as concave as a spoon, as long as it doesn't have holes. A sink works if you plug the drain or something. A quick look around reveals a number of suitable objects: trash cans, chair seats, the glass walls surrounding the turnstyle, bullet holes; anything one might imagine would be in a futuristic train station on an asteroid. Even the walls are cratered and pock-marked, much like the origional surface of the asteroid except polished and shined. And then there are the people: their shoes, purses, watch casings, backpacks, etc. The scabbard of Mark's sword, Thunderhorse's helmet, Doc's own jacket pocket; the choices are endless.
Doc hears the clomping march of armored footsteps running towards them as time returns and reality sets back in. He hates quick decisions.
Posted 1/12/2009 11:53:00 AM
The artificial sun of this artificial day of this artificial city on this hollow asteroid space ship zooming between the stars through inconceivable dimensions at two hundred times the speed of light burns brightly. The scorch marks, bullet holes, and artillery craters which mar the LCD panels that line the ceiling prove it to be synthetic, and reveal the bleak, cold iron behind them.
Dr. Steven Ritenrong, age unknown but over 50, is out of breath, having run two blocks under mortar and machine gun fire from the security forces of this Pirate-run space ship. He is less than a hundred feet from his friends and the relative safety of the FastTrack train station.
"Thunderhorse! Get Steve! Mark! Coverfire!" Dr. Lucas "Doc" Shaw, Time Operative, shouts over the heavy gunfire. He throws himself behind the heavy asteroid-extruded steel wall of the wide train station entrance. Mark does the same, on the opposite side of the entrance. Doc leans out and fires a Pulse Ion Particle Pistol, which emits a beam of purple light. The particle beam hits its target, a large, hovering Armored Personel Carrier which is levelling a machine gun at his friend Steve, and out of which six heavily armed Pirates have just jumped. The thick armor glows red from the impact of the high-speed charged particles, but resists any further damage from them.
A brave man from the crowd of rioting passengers wielding a Magnetic-Accelerated Compressed Gas Assault Rifle stolen from a previous encounter with pirates stays with the Time Operatives. He's obviously used a gun like this before, perhaps in the Earth Defense forces, but has no tactical sense, or really common sense whatsoever. He stays between Doc and Mark, in the middle of the entrance. He fires the thing on automatic randomly into the universe, making a lot of noise but not accomplishing much besides further scoring the fake sky black.
Captain Mark Daniels, formerly of the Michigan Militia circa 1835, fires a railgun assault rifle at the tank. The pulse of light-bending micro bullets redshift as they slam hard into their target at a quarter the speed of light. The blast glances off the armored vehicle, collapsing a side panel in on its self and ejecting it from the vehicle
Meanwhile, Thunderhorse, the Nordic horseman from ages long forgotten and unknown, races towards his employer. The chains on his Hot Topic jeans jangle, and the railgun he carries slapping against his back. He pulls his goat-skull mask down over his face. He runs as hard as he can, as hard as a horse.
The APC ignores the damage it's taking from the future weapons and continues to vomit metal from it's .50 caliber machine gun turret. Steve is pinned by the lead rain. Thunderhorse reaches him in time to be caught in it, too. At first the bullets creep towards them from behind, then a few begin to impact their gel-filled reactive armor, leaving welts and bruises. Then, a blue substance explodes from out of Steve's back, at first in jagged shatters, but then jellifying and oozing out, turning purple as it mixes with blood.
Steve hits the ground.
The pirate security forces from the APC approach, firing their assault rifles. Thunderhorse ducks and weaves towards Steve, but cannot avoid the pelting from the .50 cal. His reactive armor stiffens, constricts, and pounds against his muscles with every impact. He imagines being flogged with a python by a frost giant.
The pirate security forces fire at Mark and Doc as well. The walls they hide behind are far too thick, and the Time Operatives are much too fast to be caught out in the open.
The whole area is a cacophony of richochets and automatic fire bursts, glass breaking, things exploding.
Mark ducks back out and returns fire. This time his railgun penetrates deep into the APC's armor, causing a minor explosion in the engine compartment. The hover system fails and the whole thing drops the 18 inches it was floating very violently. Smoke pours out the hatch as its pilot and gunner make their escape.
The plucky rioter refines his aim, this time causing the left flank of the pirate forces to scatter. A purple beam of particles blasts through the space where a pirate Sergeant's head used to be. Doc mumbles to himself as he tries to steady his aim.
The pirate forces are undeterred by the loss of cover fire from the APC. They return fire to the exposed, inexperienced crowd member, cutting him down. The right flank continues firing at Thunderhorse as he tries to collect Steve. More bullets bruise his muscles beneath his armor. Thunderhorse lets out a roar as he uses almost all of his reserve to endure the pain. He lifts Steve over his shoulder as he is pelted and pelted and pelted, then starts the hard run back to the train station entrance. Steve leaves a red trail behind them.
The pirates continue firing at Thunderhorse as he runs, carrying Steve. He jukes and serpentines, escaping continued pummeling from assault rifles. Running as hard as he can, he finally dives behind the train station wall where Doc is taking cover. Bullets bounce off the steel walls in front of them. Mark returns fire, his railgun on full auto. An incredible deafening and blinding burst of light and explosion seals the fate of the left flank of the approaching pirates.
Doc speed-holsters his pistol and drops immediately to tend to Steve. The back-left gel pad failed and shattered under the stress, allowing a .50 calibur bullet to slide through his body, shatter on the backside of the chest-plate. The pieces then bounced back into Steve's chest cavity.
Doc plugs the hole with a torn piece of Steve's lab coat and puts enough pressure on it to stop the rampant blood loss. He's going to need immediate surgery. It's been years since Doc has done this level of combat medicine, and he never was too great at meatball surgery. It's going to take several hours, and he's pinned down by gunfire in a train station.
"Veronica!" he calls into the air.
"What now?!" responds an irate female voice.
"We're pinned in the FastTrack! Steve's been shot. I need to get him to the Pear's medical bay IMMEDIATELY! Steve was going to hack the trains to get us out of here. Can you do it?!"
"Let me try." There's a brief delay as her android brain connects remotely to the ship's computer systems. "I can't get through the firewalls. I'm programmed to fly space ships, not disable network security systems. Why the hell did you let him get shot?!"
"Now is not the time!" Doc shouts as he pushes down on the soaked lab coat, trying to keep the blood at bay. His knee lands on something in Steve's coat pocket; a device the size and shape of a large pen or small vibrator. The word time echoes through his head as he frees a hand, works it into the pocket, and withdraws the Quantum-Temporal Interference Projector.