Edward Franklin Drake (or just Frank) had felt off for years. He could pinpoint the day. He had taken possession of a Candy Ship from one Jemsase. She was a DAL/REC hybrid born to move between both Universe. A genetic hybrid being all of four foot ten that could have walked out of a Charles Dickens novel. It hadn’t occurred to Frank how she did the Universe hop. That is until he fumbled with the key fob and ended up in DAL Universe.
Of course she’d use a ship. Of course she’d be so irresponsible she’d sell one of them to someone and not warn them.
“Holy fuck.” was all Frank said under his breath, then he froze and thought. He had to very quickly think about everything that had just transpired and reverse it.
“I was rotating my thumb here near this metal loop lanyard thing on the weird side where you’ll never instinctually touch. Maybe if I” was what he was thinking when the first and only shot hit his ship. He stopped thinking. He repeated the circle motion on the awkward end of the keyfob and he was back, looking at Zeta4.
For ten terrifying seconds, Frank was in an entire Universe of light and data collection and monitoring. It was a miracle he made it back at all. DAL was very efficient. If he ever made the mistake again, they’d have him in 4 seconds. He’d put some VHB tape over that part of the fob.
It took a few months to start noticing differences. He’d literally only been off by one tick on the Universe numbering system. There are entire Universe blocks that are completely identical copies of each other that vary by ten. That he noticed anomalies at all were amazing, but he did. Small things. The “z” in a popular soft drink was suddenly an s. He of course assumed he was crazy. He did a search and found every reference going back to the beginning of time telling him it had always been an s. And it was always the A-Team, never Murdocks Ronin. What a dumb name, the A-Team. But maybe he saw a pilot or something and they changed the name later. That was a long time ago. People remember things wrong.
He’d eventually just accept it when both Boaz and Jasher would explain it and prove it. Boaz went into a lengthy discussion explaining that no, it wasn’t the cheap Hollywood plot. The shot that hit his ship didn’t do anything. It was just shitty tech. He explained that the Plejarans were lazy with their gravity mapping and didn’t adjust for shift, so when they’d latch onto the lattice like structure between Universe in the local conglomeration, they weren’t factoring shift. But the phasing technology was apparently very good.
“They’d have to start redoing them every 50,000 years if they aren’t going to implement any kind of update technology. Never use that again for the obvious reason, and a couple big huge non-obvious ones.” suggested Boaz. For his part, Jasher just showed him a couple episodes of Murdoch’s Ronin. “I FUCKING KNEW IT.” Said Frank emphatically.
Regardless, those days were far off. The biggest thing that changed was the new ship showing up in scans from certain craft.
it’s like he still remembered it all now all the time. Even when he couldn’t know it yet. He knew it, everything that happened coming up, and he just knew the words coming out of his subordinates mouths, and it was all very strange but he thought maybe this was just some new effect from the Plejaran time dilation field from his recent Candy Ship acquisition.
He’d be making a routine run so he’d grab something quick like his Duroxan Battlecraft (Small, outstanding scanning technology, cheap to fly. Hard to retrofit for humans. Duroxan folks are tiny little things.) or a cheap Zeta runabout that had good storage capacity, and also had a decent scanner. Twenty of his favorite ships were ones he found deep in the Earth itself, or stranded with dead crews out past Neptune. It’s like they tried to come visit and biffed it somehow. All of them were outstanding craft, possessing some amazing technology. The Duroxan ship was by far his favorite.
It was rare for Frank to pay for a ship, but the Battlecraft he saw on Trappist A4 was just one he had to have. They had so much technology packed into a very reasonably priced package. It was culture shock when he showed up at the Trappist A4* dealership, and they were all of four inches tall. They barely came up to his ankle. He had simply seen one of the ships from a distance, thought it was amazing looking, very retro, but with none of the retro downsides. And the list of technology on research was simply astounding.
*Note: the 8 Billion Year old, Jurai naming conventions were letter for first level Satellite, number for next level Satellite in the “Language of Wisdom”. So in their nomenclature, our Moon would be Sol C1. Jasher had engineered the base Universe to always gravitate towards the “Language of Wisdom” which was basically the root language of Jasher’s people. It just made things easier when an entire multiverse was compelled to speak your language.
“How much would you pay if we could make it work? With the full understanding that it would be fast quick work, and the stated crew capacity would drop from 30,000 to roughly 30.”
“I’d pay double. Triple if you can do it really fast.”
“Double is fine. We can do it reasonably fast.”
They gutted the interior and painstakingly made human size interfaces. Their automation technology was frighteningly good. They did research on existing human seat design, but applied their improvements to human designs. They redid facilities and even food creation to serve 30 humans, each crew/passenger, given a large room. There was a focus on using natural materials like tree woods and matte finish light alloys with a pleasant touch. It looked like gunmetal and dark oak with a track lighting theme, each station a sized up duplicate of the original, but with a human in mind. “It’s absolutely beautiful.” said Frank. “Please convert 20 of those rooms into additional cargo space, but don’t make it obvious. I’ll pay more.”
“Hmmm. Projectors? Make it look like there’s a room there visually?” suggested Jarx, the lead engineer called in to remake the interior. “That would be absolutely perfect.” Jarx made a note to add a simple button to the captain’s chair that turned the projected facade on and off in the cargo bay.
Jarx loved that another race of beings was interested in his craft, and found them beautiful. He was overcome with pride in his craft. Frank just knew an outstanding piece of engineering when he saw it. He wasn’t willing to wait to try to steal one of these, and was glad because he’d have had no idea how to fix the interior himself. Sometimes there’s no quick way. The only way to get something right is to have the folks that make it do it for you. And boy was he glad he did.
The blip kept showing up on Ceres. He’d noticed unusual things about Ceres before, but he didn’t put together that it started happening after the DAL incident over Zeta4. He’d be taking a largish cargo vessel (he had a personal fleet of six now depending on what he needed for his new underground hangar. Long gone were the days of stealing them from shipyards near Orion.) typically, to a waste field close to Barnard’s Star, to collect metals and other exotic materials, or off to some distant station to pick up a bunch of smaller ships. Frank had a steady business selling small, light ships at a decent profit. He was becoming more and more legit every day. He’d sell to anyone that wouldn’t do something stupid with it, or it wouldn’t matter because the fireball wouldn’t leave anything behind anyway. When some of those 115 fueled ones go, there’s just a hole erased out existence. A perfect round void left behind. The effect can be disturbing with the larger ships.
Frank remembered the void left behind by a five mile wide Zeta max hauler in our own asteroid belt. The accident was very unfortunate. Over five thousand Zetans died, most of them en-route to the station hidden near Vesta. The perfect sphere of nothing left behind was too suspicious. Frank watched, cloaked, in his Mylox Stealthship (His name. He found it 300 feet below the Grand Canyon.) while the Zetans “filled in” the void with nearby rock. The work was flawless. The Stealthship itself, a miracle he hadn’t figured out yet. All he knew was he was a hole in space. Nothing could see him, but he could see everything. ANOTHER ship with outstanding scanners that had started pinging on Ceres…
What bothered him was that there was no way in hell he was the first to spot something so huge. Something was going on with Ceres. He’d go ask Grik.
“How do you… work?” Asked Frank simply. “I find it’s easiest to work with things I understand.” he finished with a smile.
Boaz practically beamed. Explaining how he worked might be his third most favorite thing to do. Frank had been boring through Ceres with a Tplani mining frigate, when the projection (he thought) appeared on his bridge and said,
“A little more to the left or you’ll fuck up lining up with the aft entry."
(just a little teaser for chapter 2)