Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tumbles



"All you did was take one of our publicly available courtesy craft and smash it into a triangle shape for some inexplicable reason."

Grik, The representative from the Zeta manufacturing corporation was getting pissed.

"You actually managed to somehow weaken every positive attribute with one shape. But as usual it was that dumb genius you are famous for. When it flew straight we figured out that was because the mass was still balanced even if the shape wasn't a circle anymore. So we started making squares. Because squares are smart. More storage. But still, we'd have never found it if not for your idiocy." He was done. Just done talking at that point. He was going to give in. He just didn't care anymore. Fuck the humans. Fuck Tate Cameron.

"So that's the reason your stupid triangle copies of our craft do not work and tumble all over the place and look silly. Have you no shame? Why do you still fly them? Do you understand that everyone else is laughing at you? Why build more? Why not just look at our catalog. We have fine ships to pick from." Ok this time. This time he was done talking.

Tate started again. "And I'm going to explain this one more time. They had a dream or some such bullshit. I don't care what the damn thing looks like. They want a triangle. So none of what you say, no matter how true, matters. It has to be a triangle. Because some whack-a-doodle friend of MY PRESIDENT that could HAVE ME KILLED wants it to be a triangle. "

Grik interrupted him

"He could have me kill you."

General Tate Cameron froze in place. Was that a threat? This wasn't supposed to be happening. This was big serious pow wow time. What the fuck? Completely derailed, his brain kept processing it. Was he serious? That better have been a joke.

"Look, this isn't official. We could just make round ones and smash them into triangles ourselves." said Tate, completely serious.

Grik busted up laughing "YOU WOULD! I do have to say though... your human gift for aesthetics is also there. That's a stunningly beautiful craft." said Grik. "Can I ask who designed it?"

The ship was a beautiful hovering weapon-looking triangle. Like something a titan ninja would throw into another one. It was painted a gradient that ran from a perfect deep chartreuse to a high polish silver somehow in both color and luminosity, top to bottom.

"The shiny bottom is so they get to see what they think of as a shape changing UFO. I'm just reflecting the Earth. The top is just a favorite. It get cooler."

"Oh and um, I'm the designer. Hey General, why not take a break. Get some of that amazing coffee they have in mess."

A tall skinny guy in his 20's stood there arm extended. "I'm Frank."

"Who... look... who are you? Why do I hate you already?" Grik could not explain the rising anger. But then the guy smiled and it all clicked.

"Before you say another word." Frank pointed a thumb back over his left shoulder. Clearly visible in the massive hangar was the long term research and habitation craft stolen by one 9 year old Edward Franklin Drake. Grik's space RV.

"I've already talked with Prime. You don't have to do anything. If you check now your title and properties have been restored after all these years. I'm so very sorry. They have arranged to come pick up the ship. I made absolutely sure it's in perfect spec."

Grik was baffled for only the second time in his entire life. He silently pulled out his Ven. Something you could think of as a smartphone that's also a weapon. Frank imagined Tate unloading his service pistol into Grik. Not a great idea designing a communication device that looks like a gun. VERY terrifying for Americans. Because they never knew. There are two documented incidents of US Presidents drawing guns on Zetans just answering a call. He immediately saw the change in his crest. He was now a full officer again. His full prestige restored.

"I really want to be angry with you but I am just so relieved instead." said Grik.

"You really did well for yourself. You are here negotiating the very first business deal this planet has ever made with another one. It will be historic. You will be famous. You will have an amazing story to tell. You could write a bestseller now. It really worked out great for you. Let's cap that off with a big sell." Frank was in full sell mode. 

"I mean, you get what, 3 percent of that as commission right? Won't that make you unbelievably wealthy?" Grik considered this...

"Now, how about a design credit on the best looking spacecraft that will ever fly out of your factory?" offered Frank.

"What do you mean?" asked Grik.

"There are simple things I can not get working. I want to do something awesome to fix two problems at the same time."

"Go on" said Grik. This kid. This Ed/Frank. Here he was doing it again 13 years later. Captivating him. After the kid had stolen his ride, provided by the good folks at Prime for a long term science op, he didn't just get demoted. He didn't just have to pay back the full cost of the ship. He was publicly disgraced and forced into his private sector. Now he worked interplanetary business since it was an easy field to cross into. He had done well. And he also discovered he had a flair for it. He might have missed his calling.

"I need a way to force this project to stay classified forever. A very easy way to make that permanent is having you as co-designer." said Frank.

"But I have designed nothing" said Grik.

"But you technically will. I'll explain. See, we do not have the technology to perfectly gradient metal content density on a triangle shaped metal structure so it perfectly mimics a circular one. It has to be absolutely perfect. We experimented with a gradient honeycomb but kept failing." said Frank.

"That could work, but if you could do that to tolerance, you'd do something smarter. What is the point to forcing the triangle shape? Even if we make that for you, and we can do it, it will still be slower, less efficient, and have half the storage and lift capacity." Grik was getting very tired of pointing this out.

"It's what you aren't seeing because you aren't thinking that way. What I did was approach the design looking for things it does better." said Frank and smiled.

"Look Ed, there isn't a sing"

"It's Frank now." said Frank

"Yeah whatever, there isn't anything of any value to that shape. I can't think of a single" but then it clicked. A reason. "Oh my, you are trying to negate the bearing." Suddenly it all made sense.

The key design feature of the Zeta craft was that the entire cockpit was the center of a huge bearing. The outside skin of the craft designed to spin around the central control room. This relieved the intense magnetic forces generated by the engines. It also unfortunately generated a lot of visible light.

"The irregular shape itself will cause a flat venting that doesn't require spin, so doesn't generate heat, so doesn't luminesce. Also, no more need for a fucking bearing. So no more need for ships to be very tall that look like ugly hats."

"That is very smart. Still, is it worth the speed and agility tradoff?" asked Grik.

"You'll get some of that back just losing the bearing cockpit. Figure you lose about 12.5 percent of your velocity and agility rather than 25." said Frank.

"I'm imagining a massive triangle that's only 12 feet thick at its thickest point. How glorious would that be?" asked Grik. Frank nodded.

"Added bonus. Come with me." Grik followed Frank down the metal staircase from the internal office to the beautiful triangular shaped craft below.

"This is my baby. She stays stable in flight for about 97 minutes now. You wouldn't even know it's not perfect. Then it will suddenly twist so hard when it loses sync that you risk structural failure."

Grik nodded grimly. He understood perfectly how dangerous it would be to fly.

"I overcame that by making an overlapping engine system. They seamlessly swap in and out every five minutes. That resets the critical failure timer. The technology itself might extend the usable life for an existing hull by 50 percent, while providing needed fault tolerance."

"That's amazing." said Grik. 

"But wait, there's more... Remember how one of the aspects of this shape was that it refused to reflect any light at all? So our early versions were just black. Which was great at night, but terrible during the day." Grik nodded.

"So I put a simple light filter in front of the emitter. I mean, they aren't using the light so it shouldn't matter right?" asked Frank.

"Yeah, that makes sense."

"Watch what happens when I put up a red filter. Look over there. I just have a little carousel with filters I rigged up in front of the emitter." said Frank as he pointed at the middle of the bottom of the craft. Grik looked over and saw the contraption. He heard the click sound as the filter slid into place over the emitter.

"Now watch what happens when I turn it on."

Frank powered up the magnetrons. Almost immediately Grik saw the effect. The entire skin of the craft was now glowing blue, but in a perfect Sierpinski triangle pattern. It was reflecting the ceiling over and over again. Billions of tiny triangles.

"Now watch what happens when I filter everything." said Frank and pushed the button again. Suddenly the blue was gone. All bands of light were being reflected in the fractal pattern. Weirdly the pattern blended into the surroundings, but looked fake inside the hanger.

"Know what this is great for? Sitting in clouds." said Frank. "The effect is almost seamless."

Grik was stunned. "We are going to make a lot of money."


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Precocious


Ed was a bored kid. His brain voraciously ate up everything it could. He went through two full sets of encyclopedias and still could not be sated. To the library. To the grocery store to read all the papers. To Grandpa's house so he could ask him about things that happened before he was born. So Ed knew what was going on when he was wide awake but could not move. Which was quite impressive for a nine year old human.

'STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP NOW. JUST LISTEN TO ME'

Ed thought this as loudly as he could. He was being levitated and pulled through the air by several individuals. He knew he was being abducted. They ignored him. 'IF YOU STOP NOW I WILL TELL YOU THE SECRET'. Nothing... then a few seconds passed before the entire procession stopped. A voice way too loud inside his head 'WHAT SECRET' and he felt his motor function return. He could move his jaw. 

"Oh, I made that up. I just wanted you to stop so I could tell you that you don't have to do it this way. I've been researching you for a year. I want to meet you. I want to know you guys. You can stop. I'll just walk with you. Take me to your ship or whatever. I'd love to see it."

'You are not lying.'

"OH! That's awesome! You can read minds!" said Ed very excited. "READ MY MIND! READ IT!" he offered.

'We do not read minds. We can just tell if you are being dishonest.'

"Well I don't lie. I want to be friends. I could be your friend. I want to see the whole Universe someday. I know this might sound silly coming from a young human, but I wish I could have my very own spaceship someday. And that's the truth."

'I am a data gathering, processing, and labor unit.'

"Oh, like a robot? SO COOL!!" shouted Ed excitedly.

'You are walking very quickly but you are very loud. If you continue being loud we'll go back to sleep moving.'

"What if I think at you?" offered Ed.

'That is fine'

'Do you have a name or are you all the same person?' asked Ed.

'We are the same. All data shared.'

'Why me? Not that I'm not very happy about it.' asked Ed.

'You copied David Hahn and made a Breeder Reactor, but yours reached critical mass. So you must be studied.'

'My science fair project?' 

Ed had made the breeder reactor and literally nobody took him seriously. It was an elementary school science fair for God's sake. Nobody really believed it was real. The presentation was absolutely outstanding though. He had actually rigged up lights for it to run. He had spent painstaking hours turning monazite into fuel using a technique he invented.

'Yeah, I did well but nobody believed me' added Ed.

'It worked, it was safe, and when it was no longer needed you properly disposed of the material.'

As they'd been walking, it was between projected blue walls. As if to hide the outside world from him and them from it. You could look down and see the forest floor. The walls had some substance to them because they were holding back branches. Ed was afraid to touch them.

As they were rounding a bend, the blue walls turned into a blue tube going uphill and the forest floor disappeared. Suddenly Ed was standing in his first spaceship.

"Can I talk now? It's hard to explain but the constantly thinking starts to hurt." said Ed. 

'Talking is ok now.'

"Why are the ceilings high? You are little guys." asked Ed.

'We are not all little guys.'

"Oh." said Ed. They lead him into a room where he saw a tall guy.  "Hello" said Ed.

"Are these your robots?" asked Ed.

"Yes they are mine. We use a lot of them. I am Grik. You are Edward Franklin Drake." said Grik. The tall ones could talk. Ed made a mental note.

"They look so useful and strong despite being so small."

"They make all of this possible as a great source of manual labor. They also store very easily and are perfect for this planet."

"Am I inside a spaceship?" asked Ed, visibly excited.

"Yes, this is an interstellar transport. It's nothing special really." said Grik.

"REALLY! I THINK IT'S AMAZING! Can you show me how it works?" asked Ed.

Grik was usually on the bridge for the catch and release stuff. He couldn't bear to watch it. But when the k3's told him the boy was somehow resisting sleep moving, and demanding they let him cooperate he just had to meet one for the first time. He was moved by the simply joy this young human had for very mundane things. His own child thought he was a loser. How lucky the humans were to have such happy, good children. He showed him the entire interface. He embellished a bit here and there for effect, rewarded with "WOW!" and "OH!!!" many times. Then he let him look at things on his own because he promised not to touch anything.

"What's this thing?" asked Ed, pointing at what looked like a very sophisticated television remote. This shook Grik out of his daydream. The Zetans daydreamed a lot. They had no problem checking out from reality for hours on end to just think about interesting things. It was easy with an army of k3's doing the real work.

"That is the control wand for the k3's. You hold it like this, and think commands at it." Grik demonstrated. Two k3's entered the room and stood ready for command. 

"Can I try?" asked Ed.

"Sure, but it may not work." said Grik flatly while handing Ed the wand. "You should be able to do it, but it requires a level of"

Many hours later Grik woke up on the forest floor. A few k3's wandering around. He pulled a control ring from his side pouch and summoned them.

'He ordered us to stun you and take you outside and keep you here. Do you have new orders?'

Ed wasn't lying. He did want his own spaceship. It was the truth.






Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Easy Ones


Frank had stolen literally thousands of spacecraft. He didn't keep them all. Hell, he didn't keep most of them. He had about 50 that are personal that he never gave up. Most of the time stealing a ship is work. It's lots of time and planning. But sometimes it's wonderful.

Frank's favorite easy one was so easy he's not even sure if you can all it a theft. In fact they were just like "here, take it.". He probably shouldn't count it.

He had flown a big cargo ship stolen from hundreds of light years away with the intent to fill it up with Zeta Reticuli saucers on Z4. He knew they had no security to speak of, and no alarms.

"It's amazing man. They just offer the things. They are everywhere. You trip over them. There is literally a public machine where you push a button and it makes them for free."

He didn't want one of the pieces of shit. He just wanted to sell a bunch to get what he really wanted. He knew many suckers that would shell out for what was almost a disposable flying saucer. 

What he wanted was a Plegaren disk.


The Plegaren disks have five main advantages over the Zeta shit:

1) Designed to also withstand crush pressure
Try taking a Zeta disk to the ocean bottom. Leave a note.

2) Better looking. The Zeta stuff literally looked like something off a classic hollywood set, and not in a good way. Looks matter.

3) Time Dilation field for travel. You can negate most time effects for travel. It's a great idea. It stops things from happening like that time that Jeff left on a 115 run and got back 19 years late because he stopped to fuck with a neutron star for a few minutes. Yeah. Inconvenient shit like all your friends growing old and dying on you after a few trips becomes a thing of the past.

4) Not designed to fail. The Zeta disks are all enclosed and non-tool. You can cut them apart, refuel them when they run out after 5-6 years, fly them another 20, but they were never designed for that. Critical components will start failing after six years.

5) Easier fuel. Still a pain in the ass. But at least not so hard you risk death.  



The 

landing pads of Z4 are these massive sterile looking affairs. Just huge white slabs you point your ship at. The material itself unknown, but designed to stop a malfunctioning ship from destroying much more than itself. They are thought to be indestructible.

Frank proved this theory wrong by cracking the hell out of them. He only had a few days in the hauler. He didn't time the landing wrong so much as just ignore 3 important steps. The end result was hairline cracks spreading out in every direction from the extended landing claws. Thankfully it seemed to go unnoticed. They either didn't know or did not care.

Frank then went about the business of opening up the side. It resembled a giant kitcher refrigerator on it's side as the top and bottom doors opened outward. Frank was literally planning to just ride his little electric kick-scooter around, steal a ship, fly it back, and land it inside. Rinse wash repeat.

Suddenly a beautiful violet glow from the next pad bathed all. Frank turned and gasped.



He'd never actually seen a Plejaren craft in person. He'd seen video that did no justice. It was a bright that you thought would hurt your eyes but didn't. It touched down absolutely perfect as if picking on him for cracking the tile, clearly automated. Frank noticed that despite there being a huge open area to set down, they parked right next to him. He had met Plejarens. They could be... well.. it's a good thing they made a pretty ship. And what luck. A simple large circle appeared in the side of the ship and two figures stepped out. Sitting still and powered down it appeared to be made of hand blown glass.

"Hey, that's a gorgeous ship." He called towards the tiny blonde humanoid dragging what looked like a male exotic dancer behind her. She literally had him on a leash. He looked quite drunk.


"Thanks old timer. You should do something about your oldness." she said and smiled at the same time.

They met halfway at the dark line separating the pads.

"You don't have to be old. I'm not old anymore." she said.

"I like being old. I was shitty at being young. I'm Frank." He said.

 "I'm Jemsase. You can call me Jem. This guy is Ted. Ted is very stoned."

"I can see that" He said. Frank wasn't in the business of rescuing men from attractive women. That could get you beat up by an attractive woman.

"You sure you don't wanna shed some years? You are tall and you got great shoulders. Strong features." she offered.

"I think you misunderstand. I choose to look like this. I have for a long time. In my line of work it helps."

"And what kind of work is that?" she asked.

"Oh, I steal spaceships like yours." Frank smiled. Frank also found it was dangerous lying to women. Especially women that took trophies.

"Been doing that for a long time?" she asked.

"Oh yeah. But time is kinda weird now. I mean if I math it one way I've been boosting ships for over 500 years, but another way and it's closer to 11 years. But physically I decided to stop aging about 40 years ago. Or 300 years ago depending on how you do the math."

Jem busted up laughing. "Yeah, it's hard shaking the temporal thinking. You are doing pretty good. It gets easier."

"So what, you start herding us in high school?" muttered a very inebriated Ted. 

"What do you think all those tests are for Ted?" asked Jem. "Say hi to our new friend Frank."



"Hi Frank. Are you a clone too?" asked Ted.


"That might be cool. I don't know Ted." said Frank.

"I like your attitude Frank." said Jem and she genuinely did.

"So what brings you to this backwater?" asked Frank.

"Shopping. I know, very cliche. But I fucked this Ted up bad. So I need some illegal tech to make it right. I um, I fell in love with this one. I can't just throw it away now. He's family now!" 

You could see genuine concern and caring in her crystal blue eyes.

"Well, there's illegal and th" she cut Frank off.

"The federatzies send me back to DAL. One way trip."

"Jesus" said Frank. 

Imagine a public library staffed by executioners instead of librarians. Where punishment is completely automated and immediate. Where you can literally have no real fun. Now imagine an entire Universe like that. DAL was the "completely structured Universe" of your nightmares.

"You must really love this guy."

"He was my first." she said. Frank giving her a knowing look she recognized. Jem busted up laughing "No, silly, my first Ted". Frank smiled. He thought she genuinely meant well. 

"What tech are you chasing?" asked Frank.

"Here's the thing... I wanted the perfect Ted and I got one very close, but he wasn't perfect perfect. So I broke some rules and mucked with his code and now some things are very very broken. I'm already fucked if they check him, and I'd like to be able to take him in public. I love him the most. So I have to use a temporal fix..."

Frank understood now. Time tech was ferociously protected. For the big huge reasons, like avoiding a paradox that destroys all existence, to the tiny petty things like assholes that would use it on a part that fails, then resell the part to some sucker not knowing it's going to fail. 

"You'll reset him. You'll have to start over fresh." said Frank.

And that's when Frank saw a Plegaren woman weep for the first and last time in his entire life. But a thought occurred to him. 



"Do you have some sort of storage technology I'm not aware of? How were you planning to get a temporal device out of here? Also, what do you have to power it?"

"What?" asked Jem. She hadn't considered this.

"I mean, I'm assuming you have some sort of miniaturization tech? You might fit some of the smaller stuff. You'll need a power source also unless you have something advanced you can use already."

"Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I don't even know where I'll work yet." said Jem.

Frank smiled.

30 minutes later Frank eased himself into the temporal field in his new Plegaren ship. The sell was easy.

"There's your shipping, and your lab in one package. Hell, get a power source and some goodies and some supplies, have a designer build a nice apartment in there. Go hide in space. Fix your man."

Jem quickly looked up the ship as he was making the pitch. "It's STOLEN" she said. "Duh, ship thief." said Frank. "But that's perfect! If I get caught I can claim I was kidnapped or any number of things!"

Jem took the time to show him around his new ship. "I have three of them, all identical. Do you hate the color? You can change it like this." Frank watched as she rolled the pad of her thumb over the raised ball on the silver fob. He noticed the ship matched her outfit and accessories.

"No, please. Leave it alone. I think it's beautiful." said Frank.

Jem smiled.