“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." Boaz then preoccupied himself with flitting around the ship at terrifying speed. He paused in front of the main mining controls while Frank asked him how he worked.
"You should probably stop now. I mean I would. This loud hunk of shit woke me up. Mission accomplished. This stops the racket right?" asked Boaz as he effortlessly pressed the one button that would bring everything in Frank's ship to an immediate halt.
"But um I mean." and Frank stopped talking because Boaz moved like a phantom and looked like a pornstar gunslinger. There was no other way to describe him. He was tall and lanky, but ridiculously quick like... a gunslinger. Frank couldn't think of any other words. Frank had once witnessed Jerry Miculek empty a cheap smith and wesson revolver into a target fifty yards away in under half a second. Boaz moved like that. It wasn't unnerving when you thought it was a projection. When you realized he was solid, that changed.
"Why don't you come with me now. Let me handle it. You made it this far. That carbon shell had to suck." Said Boaz. Then Boaz did what Boaz wanted. Like Boaz does. You can do that when you are your own Captain. Boaz snapped his fingers and transported the mining ship along with himself and Frank onto his favorite deck, the small one right off his main bridge. "Now we can get things done." Boaz snapped his fingers again.
Frank was suddenly standing dead center on the largest ship bridge he had ever seen looking back at his by no means tiny mining ship. His ship now looked like it was on display on Boaz. Just a decoration. That's how massive Boaz's main bridge was. And it screamed quality. Frank could not see a single seam or bolt or rivet-head or any sign that there were fasteners involved with the construction of this massive bridge at all. It was simply bizarre to experience this in a large space. You are used to extreme quality in small doses. You aren't used to that quality happening in an area larger than a football stadium.
Imagine a sea of the most comfortable looking seating in your entire life. The ship SMELLED good. Even the floor was some outstanding tiling, clearly covering up conduits designed to work with anything, beautifully etched, and yielding ever-so slightly when walked on with any mass. Amazingly comfortable despite being insanely robust. Tears streamed from Frank's eyes as he not so much sat but surrendered to a workstation chair on this perfect bridge. The chair immediately supported his entire body in a way that swung him in front of every significant defensive and offensive display. He was overwhelmed with data displays on everything that mattered.
"I can't even start taking in how much perfection floods my senses." said Frank. "That's not surprising. Jasher says I'm the best at being a ship. The best ever. There's math to back it."
"So how do I fly you?" asked Frank. He didn't even know where to start. "I have some very bad news for you, but some goods news too. See, you aren't stealing me. It's just not going to happen. I already belong to myself. Yes, I know. Bummer. But.. I know the location of a ship that needs a friend, and you are quite literally perfect for her."
Jasher would recognize Boaz in selling mode. Frank recognized it immediately. "Perfect how?" asked Frank. Boaz smiled. "Ok." and seemingly pulled two panels out of thin air like invisible window shades that were always there, but instead of blocking sunlight, they were displaying graphical representations of Frank, and what looked like a woman with red hair in her early thirties. The right side of each panel was absolutely riddled with what was clearly data, some of it changing, in a language Frank did not recognize. It didn't help it was reversed for him. Boaz pulled the panels for his own benefit.
"She's way too good for you. First of all, she's lived for billions of years now. She's one of three ships, including me, that survived a dimension-wide catastrophe that destroyed our entire timeline. She predates my original creation by quite a bit. They used to use live humans for ship control systems. She's the last of her kind. So, that you are even remotely compatible is pretty cool, but it's beyond that. Most of this just lines up. But it doesn't matter. Her name is Ree, she's delightful. Oh, she's also basically a carbon copy of a girl you knew in grade school." said Boaz.
"What? How?" Frank was remembering his own version of the little redhead girl from Charlie Brown. He could imagine this woman being her all grown up. Frank, who was still a boy named Edward at the time, got close to a girl that had joined their burgeoning science club and tried very hard to belong, but just didn't have the heart for it. After a while she drifted away, and Frank forgot about her. Frank of course had no idea she was interested in him. That she hated science and joined just to be around him.
"Humans say history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot. That's close. The truth is the Multiverse is about 93 percent stored procedure and all the Universe in the Multiverse share at least part of a common codebase. That's how things are now by necessity. So rhyming? The Multiverse will straight up plagiarize the past if it fixes a minor processing issue. So yeah, it's basically her again, but she grew physically to thirty before she was forced to become a stealth cruiser for the Jurai empire. They obliterated her physical body and turned her brains into a ship controller." Frank betrayed himself by latching onto the important part of it.
Boaz ignored this and started talking while pointing at the panels. "You like the same stuff. You'll remind her of her own school crush, a teacher she had. This one loves technology because she is technology. But most importantly, you will follow her without question. She's got forever on you. You respect it a great deal. And, if I'm reading this right, she doesn't lie to you a single time your entire life."
It suddenly struck Frank how familiar Boaz had acted with him immediately. And how it felt completely natural but shouldn't. "How do you already know me?" asked Frank. At first Boaz looked at the panels as if to say "duh" but picked up more of Frank's meaning. "It's a side effect of being temporal. I've already interacted with you many times because of doing things out of order. You've experienced some of this yourself." and Frank had, but just not that severe. He hadn't met anyone that he had met that hadn't met him yet. "That and, I have direct Multiverse archive access granted. So I can know anything and anywhen almost instantly. That's another reason you can't steal me. Ree isn't encumbered by such technologies. She's a much safer companion." Boaz popped the bottoms of the panels lightly with his palms and they rolled up and disappeared.
"Stealth Cruiser?" Frank smiled. Frank liked the sound of stealth cruiser. What Frank didn't understand what that his lust for ships didn't even come close to matching Boaz, Kay, or Jasher. They loved ships even more. Frank thought he had an impressive collection of ships. Thankfully he wouldn't have this illusion shattered for millennia. He'd eventually get to see a small part of Boaz's collection onboard Stephy, herself a massive ship.
Boaz smiled. "It's pretty awesome tech. She can't flit through time like I can. She simply wasn't designed for it. What she can do is be a hole in the wall anywhere almost instantly. Information gathering. Infiltration. Unbelievably fast travel. She has limited archive access also, but due to her temporal disposition can't look forward. However, she can walk dimensions and do barrier crossings that nobody can. I can dimension hop, but it's effort and work and terrifying. Most ships don't even have a rating for accretion disk dwell time. She does. Again, perfect for you. And she's absolutely beautiful. And I mean that. Look at this design." said Boaz as he activated a sixteen foot wide projection of Ree.
What looked like a large sea ray was displayed, if the sea ray had enlarge fins, and a more substantial tail with flat width. Where a mouth would be was smooth like the nose of a bomber. No obvious external signs of propulsion existed, making Frank wonder if she actually flapped her "wings". This made him smile.
"She also has some obnoxiously devious remote control technologies. If the Jurai wanted to destabilize a galactic economy, they'd send her. I honestly can't think of a better personal vessel for a man in your line of work. Plus she's not big like me. She's barely a mile nose to tail, wingtip to wingtip." said Boaz.
"That's bigger than anything I've got, and I've got some massive transport ships." said Frank. "My entire fleet could probably fit inside you." said Frank wistfully. He had really wanted to keep Boaz. "We might be able to work something out." said Boaz, trying to mask the sound of excitement in his voice. Already thinking about how it would be like they were actually his ships if they were parked in him. Possession is nine tenths of the law. The vessel Frank had procured to drill through Ceres wasn't the best at it, or the first, or even the best current choice. It was however outstanding looking, and possessed better than average design and durability. Frank had taste. Frank understood you had to live with things so get what you love, and get it the first time. He'd ask Frank if he could keep it.
Outside in the shadow of Ceres, Grik was back in his tiny stealth ship. He would not be robbed of the opportunity to watch Frank fuck up and eat it. He had no idea Frank had already returned Jarx to Trappist A4 and returned in the mining ship. He had been patiently waiting for hours while watching tiny house videos on the Earth Internet. He could not understand why these people had problems finding living accommodations. Earth was filled with them. Yet they decided to make small versions of larger dwellings at great cost, but to save money somehow. At a cost greater at times than buying a house someone else no longer needed and had for sale. Grik assumed this was another case where a class of humans were not being given all the information in order to monetize their ignorance. This monetization model, the ignorance model, was very common on Earth. How he wished his own people were ignorant enough for that to work.
A mere one hundred million light years away, Ree slept, powered down deep in the Local Void. She had run out of things to do or think about or say over a billion years prior and simply shut herself down. She had nobody. She was alone in a dead Universe so had gone to sleep. She had no idea her little brother and her destiny were coming to save her.
"She became like a sister near the end. Our last months together, I warned her. I told her to be way out of the local cluster of Universe. The devastation was so utter and complete. Some folks that did manage to escape still vanished as the roots binding them to reality vanished. Because of the broken nature of the Multiverse, the same mechanism that can save you, running very far and very fast like she can, can break reality and make it take forever to find things out. Things you don't know you should know. What I know is we are going to save my sister now because we can. Now is when it can be done. And we will succeed. That's why you found me. Why it was you. Why we are here." said Boaz.
Frank was reminded of a conversation he'd had with Ted when he met Jemsase for the first time. A shiver went up his spine. At the same time, it felt right. Frank had a good sense for when things felt right. He always had. He knew when to bend like the reed.
"You can have that mining ship. I have a few."
(Couldn't sleep Sunday morning, so typed this out and saved it. Took an hour to fix the typos and stupid. I type stupid when I'm fighting sleep. You get it early. Working on Chapter 4. You are going to love Ree. She's fucking awesome.)