Geeks in Space
Chapter 10: Miracles and Messengers
Copyright© 2011 by Sea-Life
The Hawking's return to Earth was very low key, as was the activity of most of the people who left the ship.
Rob called another meeting in the Captain's mess, with the same group as before. Ted Henley got included this time.
"We're back in a hurry because we need to get some teeth, both for the ship and for the crew. That means guns, and when it comes to this area, I will concede a lack of expertise, and cede it to those among us with military backgrounds." Rob said as an opening statement.
"What are are options for non-lethal weapons?" Wendy asked immediately.
"Well, we'd like to be able to offer some sort of Star Trek phaser that would have a 'stun' setting, but we can't." Chesty Price answered. "Despite a lot of technological advances in the past few decades, hand held weaponry is still pretty much confined to guns that fire bullets."
There was a brief silence while the rest of us digested that.
"There are some definite options as far as arming the ship goes." Ted said. "There are some seriously powerful fusion-powered industrial laser systems that can be adapted, as the military already has, and adding a couple of them to the ship wouldn't require much in the way of hull modification. Getting them to fire through the shields might be tricky. I'd have to defer to you Geeks for that."
"It might be a little trickier doing the Beagle and the Viking, but not impossible." Ike said. "We would probably have to add at least part of it as an external blister on the hull, then integrate the two."
"We've been throwing gravity fields around for a lot of benign purposes so far," Rob said. "Maybe we should ask Brian Conroy and Chester Magill to put their heads together and build us some sort of gravy gun. I seem to remember reading about gravy guns in a science fiction novel once."
"We may not have phasers, but I think I can give us photon torpedoes, or at least something similar." Ted said.
"Ted, what have you been up to?" Wendy asked.
"Well, when I saw your report on having to tow an asteroid back from Alpha Centauri B's asteroid field because you couldn't blast it with anything, I had an idea."
Ted brought the room's holo display up and piped an image into it from his Q-tap.
"This is a RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow, it was one of the US Navy's favorites, back in the day. Its twelve feet long, and ten inches in diameter. Back when they were carried on US Naval vessels they were equipped with a 66 pound fragmentation warhead. We can buy these by the thousands, minus the motors and the warheads, of course."
"Missiles?" Victor asked.
"I think we can modify these for use as our photon torpedo. This presumes an ability to build a fuel cell and G2 drive unit that will fit inside a ten inch tube and still leave room for a payload."
"A fuel cell that size won't power a G2 drive for very long." Rob said.
"We shouldn't need it to, under most circumstances." Ted answered. "We won't need inertial dampers or safety protocols on these, and at G2 speeds, even 30 seconds at .5 lights still puts the missile on a target a long ways away."
"What about guidance?" Victor asked.
"The electronics can be replaced by a single sensor array with a track and lock system similar to what we're using for getting a fix on the beacons with the Q-Space engine. The gear we added to the Viking takes up considerably less space than the old electronics in these missiles did."
"It doesn't even need that much." Alexandra offered. "The original targeting and identification work could all be done by the ship's systems, and then the locking data gets dumped in before the launch. The missile wouldn't need any of the locater gear, only the track and lock gear."
"What about misfires and loose torpedoes that loose their lock on the target?" Victor asked. The old submarine commander was in familiar territory in this discussion,
"We've got full contact via a Q-tap connection, so republishing the data, or updating the torpedo shouldn't be a problem, right?" Ike answered.
"True, and we can do remote aborts and manual triggering the same way, I'd think." Chesty said.
"Ted, you've put some thought into this, obviously. I think you should run with it. You'll want some help, so pick whoever you think will work best and get busy." Rob said.
"I think I would like to be involved in this, if you don't mind." Victor said. "I bring a certain experience to some parts of this, don't you think?"
"Of course." Rob said.
In a small room on the Planet Obsidian, Chesty Price sipped his coffee and waited for a reaction. Dave McKesson and Constantine Fylakas, along with Arden Anderson and Fred Sabarte, all founding members of the Legion of Light, sat across from him at the table, sipping t heir own drinks while they considered his request.
"This is going to take some thought." Arden began. "They are close enough on the magno-gravitic side of technology to be able to make this discovery without having to invent anything new. That part is true."
"But to have you just waltz back to the ship with 'an idea' that is ninety degrees away from current thinking in those areas of research would seem suspicious." Dave McKesson said.
"Actually, I was going to play on my known secret military background and show up with one, tell them I've got the solution to their problem, hint that I've acquired it from some secret government military source, and leave it up to the geeks to reverse engineer it." Chesty answered.
"Major Price, your idea has merit, and your delivery method is actually better than what we'd envisioned, at least on its face," Fred Sabarte said. "but it would be too unbelievable that you could deliver something like this so quickly after the need is identified."
The old soldier sighed and shook his head. That was the one weakness he'd seen in his idea as well.
"I agree. Its a good idea, but not one we could do immediately."
"I think we're agreed then?" Con asked. "We must wait some length of time before we introduce the Zombie Gun?"
"Agreed." Everyone at the table answered.
Rob sat at the table, listening to the sounds of the surf on the beach and staring at the reflected moonlight on the sea. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and poured himself a glass of milk, grabbed a brownie from the plate full on the kitchen table and came out to the front porch to think. There were things bothering him
The 3.14159 seconds of jump time had been bothering him. Why Pi seconds? Pi was a mathematical constant and an irrational real number, but seconds were a totally artificial human invention.
Why did the people making the jump not register this time passing? Was it a property of Q-Space itself, or an effect of the jump field? What would happen if you could extend the period of time the subject remained suspended in the jump field, would they remain in Q-Space, or would they bounce back to their starting point? Perhaps they would disappear forever into the mysterious Q-Space? Could it even be done?
Rob pulled up a holographic scratch pad through his Q-tap and began scribbling some notes. Next to appear were the original equations he had written when first exploring the quantum spacial possibilities for the sensor array. Finally he brought up the Q-Space engine's core series of formulae as well. Rob finished the brownie he'd brought out with him, washing it down with the last of the milk, and began reworking some of the math. In his head at first, and then on the scratch pad in the holo display.
If these factors were altered here, and the series redone with a new constant, drop the second series for the endpoint coordinates and substitute those temporal parameters back in that had been transformed earlier in the process... 'Yes!' Rob thought, this could work, maybe. He pulled up a clean page on the virtual scratch pad and began scribbling furiously again.
Wendy found him there in the morning, still working, in one of his zoned out phases. She grabbed the empty glass and the plate the brownie had been on and went into the kitchen to begin making breakfast. 'At least He didn't keep me awake with one of those dreams!' She thought, plugging in the waffle iron to let it begin heating.
Rob worked most of the morning on resolving the questions he had. While he was tracking down an answer on Sandy Isle, Ted Henley and Victor Emanoff were quickly discovering obstacles to their acquisition of the U.S. made Sea Sparrow. To purchase them, they would have to explain to the pentagon what they needed them for and where they would be using them. Lying to the U.S. Military seemed like a bad idea, even if it was going to be a white lie.
"There is a recently replaced Russian missile, the 9K37 Buk, that would be close to this." Victor said. "It is bigger than your Sea Sparrow though, probably half again as long as well as half again as wide in diameter. We could get them on the black market, no questions asked."
"That would probably be better than the Sea Sparrow, we could use the extra interior space."
"I hear a but that you are not saying." Victor replied. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking we could avoid all this by just taking the specs we want and asking Obsidian Aerospace or one of the McKesson manufacturers if they can make them for us."
"You're right." Victor admitted. "We let ourselves focus too much on the availability of this old hardware. All we need is the information it provides us."
"Particularly since ours will not need any of the aerodynamic features. Simple aluminum tubes would work fine, don't you think?"
"Well, they should be able to be sealed at both ends, but beyond that, you're right."
"Victor, lets start at the other end. We should work with someone to develop a G2 drive built to fit those kind of dimensions, add the electronics and then see what size tube we will need."
"Of course, that makes sense. Chasing after these old missile bodies was a bit of a false trail."
Carol Kingman was in Vienna, Austria. She was expecting two research microbiologists from the University of Vienna for lunch. She had already bagged a virologist in Anaheim two days earlier, and if she succeeded in recruiting this pair, she would be off to see an immunologist in Jakarta. Both men she would be meeting today were native Austrians. Fred Wassermann had come with her in case both men were more comfortable in German. Her German was weak, but according to their online biographies, both men spoke English. Already she had been grateful for Fred's presence when the hostess, whose English was much better than Carol's German, struggled a little with her description of the men that would be meeting them.
They each ordered a glass of a pleasant Riesling, and were still sipping it somewhat experimentally when the hostess returned with their guests.
"Guten Tag." Fred said, rising to meet them.
"Guten Tag." They replied in unison.
"I'm Frederick Wassermann, and this is Carol Kingman. We understand you speak English?"
"Yes, of course." The taller of the two said. "I am Karl Prager."
Carol was standing by then, and they shook hands. The shorter man held out his hand as well.
"Welcome to Austria Doctor Kingman, Doctor Wassermann, I am Florian Keller."
The two Austrians took their seats and the hostess asked them if they wanted to share our wine, or order something else.
"Vöslauer Goldeck, Bitte." Karl asked.
"It is an expensive wine Karl and I cannot afford to order on our own, but you are on expense account for QuanTangle, yah?"
Florian Keller's English was not quite as smooth and polished as Karl's, but he was the more gregarious of the two men, and they got to listen to his amusingly accented description of their efforts to get picked for the Mars expedition, and the frustration they felt at not having made the cut.
"But we aren't competing for a spot now, eh?" Florian asked.
"No, we are here to offer you a position in the medical section of the Hawking's crew." Carol said. "You will not be the only people we are adding."
"It should come as no surprise to you that we both wonder where we might be going, that you would need microbiologists." Karl said.
"No, it does not, but you will also not be surprised to have me say that we cannot tell you in advance."
The two Austrians glanced at each other and smiled. A promising sign, Carol thought.
Rob did not climb back up out of himself for three days. Wendy worried at first, but he was not having the dreams, and was more responsive during the day than he had in the past. By the time he did, he was happy with the progress he had made, was tired of eating meals he didn't taste, and ready for a little socializing.
"Princess, I need some wake up time, and you must be going stir crazy, with me in one of my sessions the last few days. Lets do something fun."
"Really, Rob? That would be great, but what?"
"I dunno. Maybe Havana? The nightlife is pretty wild, and the food is great, and the music is spectacular too I hear."
"Ooh! Havana! Absolutely!" Wendy said, jumping into his lap. "But I don't have anything to wear for those hot Havana nightclubs!"
"How about we stop off in San Juan or Kingston on our way and do a little shopping? They'll have what you want somewhere, I'm sure."
"Ted's off with Victor making torpedoes, so we have no pilot or bodyguard. We'll have to find someone else." Wendy said.
"Can't we just fly ourselves for a change?" Rob asked.
"Are you kidding? The people at McKesson, and Dave McKesson in particular would have a cow if we went wandering off on our own without a bodyguard." Wendy said with a snort. "Your ass is just too damned valuable these days."
"Yeah, I know they want me protected, and especially with Cuba's newly rediscovered religious fervor I could run into some of those fanatics who seem obsessed with my work." Rob confessed.
"Before you get your boxers in a bunch, why don't you check in with Ted and see what he's doing? He may be at a point where he's ready for a few days away too."
As Wendy was making this suggestion, Rob's Q-tap flickered with an incoming call. Rob opened the channel.
"Rob? It's Ted. Are you free?"
"Wow, this is a bit of a psychic moment!" Rob said, waving a finger at Wendy. She interpreted the meaning of the vague gesture and linked into the call with her own tap.
"What?" Ted asked.
"I had just this moment suggested giving you a call to see if you were free for a couple days, and zap! You call Rob before he can so much as twitch an eyebrow." Wendy chimed in.
"Hah! That's funny! Victor and I were calling because we decided we had to start at the other end of our project, and begin by designing a G2 drive that will fit inside our missile. That means getting your help."
"Hmm. Well, Wendy and I were going to call to see if you were free for piloting and or bodyguard duties, since you do seem to be acceptable to the McKesson folks as a bodyguard."
"Where to and how long?"
"A half-day stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico or Kingston, Jamaica for a little shopping, then Havana for a couple days of tourism and a night of clubbing in between."
"I think we could do that, especially if we get your services at the end." Its not a problem if Victor comes along?"
"Victor? God no!" Rob said. "We'd love to have Victor come along."
"We may be doing a lot of couples activities along with our clubbing, will you two be feeling left out?" Wendy asked.
"You know me, I'm still doing a little post-divorce sowing of some wild oats, so my socializing tends to be more of the meet-a-strange-woman-in-a-bar kind for now, and before I hear it from you, yes, I know this is not a very satisfactory life to lead, but for the moment, it avoids any sense of commitment, which is preferable to me for now. Victor may have someone he wants to bring though."
"Is it who I think it is?" Wendy asked.
"Hush now Mrs. Young, we wouldn't want to spoil the surprise of it for our oblivious Mr. Young, now would we?"
"I am willing to be surprised." Rob added. "Give me another day to wrap up some loose ends with what I'm working on now, and meet us here on the island tomorrow morning."
"Sounds good. See you then." Ted said, closing the connection.
Wendy and Rob had begun to notice in recent months that they had begun to really firm up, physically. They attributed it to the exercise associated with their martial arts classes, and the need for activity during the idle hours aboard the Hawking, as well as their generally more active lifestyles of late. While that was true to a degree, they would both have been surprised to learn that they were the recipients of some extra-curricular Light work from Andy and Cor McKesson, as well as Dave and Ginny McKesson, along with other unseen Guardians.
Rob had always been a bit thin and pale, but all the time spent recently on their island in the Caribbean had taken care of the pale part, and the new muscles and the new sense of gracefulness and physical competence hadn't been tested yet.
Wendy had noticed her improved fitness as well, though she was less concerned with musculature than she was about the overall shape of the new Wendy. She still was generously equipped up top, but now she had a flat, trim stomach and dancer's legs. Her ass had always been an admirable feature, but now it was a magnitude better than it had been in college. She couldn't wait to try on a few new dresses, especially the kind made for dancing!
Ted arrived mid-morning. Victor walked through the door with Alexandra Nascimento on his arm, and the both of them were smiling like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Rob stood, stunned, with his mouth doing credible caught fish impressions.
"I'll be damned!" He said.
"Didn't I suggest that very thing to you once?" Alex asked with a laugh.
It was quite obvious after only a few moments of observation that Alexandra was quite happy to have been 'caught' by the Russian. The age difference didn't matter to her in the least.
"He is my ancient mariner, eh?" Alexandra said.
They took Isaac to San Juan and ate lunch at a charming outdoor cafe in Old San Juan before heading to the condado area where their waiter told them they would find a lot of boutiques and high end shops with both international and local designers.
The women struck gold at a place called Moda Sabela. Sabela Oquendo was the owner and designer, and she had a selection of dresses that both Wendy and Alex said were perfect. When she was told the group was going clubbing in Havana, she led the women to a section that had them giddy with excitement. With Alexandra, there was no parade of options. She immediately settled on a short black dress, tight at the top and loose at the bottom with swirling streaks of red, like a tornado of flame.
Wendy's dress was more of a challenge apparently, because the entire section of dresses were scooped up, along with a box of something from behind the sales counter, and the three women disappeared into a back room. The three men were left to cool their heels.
"So what kind of work were you wrapping up yesterday?" Ted asked.
"Yes, are you going to revolutionize space travel again?" Victor asked.
"No its nothing like that," Rob answered. "but I don't want to say anything yet, there's still some work to go before I'll know if it will even work."
"We can understand that. We had to drop back and punt a little on our original ideas as well." Ted said.
"Really? I remember you saying you were starting at the other end of the project, but I didn't realize it meant you'd dropped your initial idea. What went wrong?"
"We realized first that to buy the U.S. Missiles we would have to lie about what we were going to be using them for." Victor answered. "Then we looked at some old Russian missiles, a bit bigger, which was good, and less questions to answer, but in the end we dropped the whole idea of buying ready made missiles."
Rob would have liked to have learned more, but right then the women returned, with Wendy in her dress and the three of them forgot all about their conversation for several minutes.
The bottom half of the dress was a dark, dark green, with lighter green leaves and vines that circled and swirled their way upwards. Sprinkled here and there were delicate looking white flowers with petals like butterfly wings. It was the White Mariposa, the Cuban national flower, also known as the Butterfly Jasmine.
The upper half of Wendy's dress was ... tantalizing!! It seemed as if a whole lot of Mrs. Wendy Young would come popping out of it at any moment, but even when she spun around to show it off, things remained safely in place. Wendy was nowhere as heroically proportioned as Serenity McKesson, but there was a lot of Wendy above the equator. As she walked towards them, it also became obvious that to all three men that she was somewhere between unfettered and firmly held in place. The bobble and sway was controlled but not eliminated. The deep, deep cleavage seemed to indicate no bra, but something was keeping things up and in. They managed to avoid actual applause, but Victor revealed to the other two later that he had to be very, very nice to Alex later to make up for his reaction.
Rob saw the secret of this architectural masterpiece later, but didn't provide the other two with much in the way of details. All he said was 'there are more uses for moleskin and spring steel than I was previously aware.'
With the presentation out of the way, Sabela turned to Ted and asked why he wasn't outfitting his date for the evening in a similar fashion.
"I haven't been too interested in the world of nightclubbing and dating recently, so I usually remain to the side and play the bodyguard." Ted said, but He impressed Rob and Victor with his situational awareness by following up with. "But if you have a dress to wear, I would be pleased to ask you to accompany me tonight."
All three women disappeared again immediately into the back room, and as soon as the curtain separating them had fallen back into place the men could hear a wave of laugher followed by a string of rapid-fire Spanish.
Rob looked at Victor and he returned the gaze. They both wore matching grins. They turned to Ted, prepared to tease him, and saw him suddenly blush.
"What?" Victor asked.
"She apparently likes the ah, 'cut of my jib', so to speak, so they are congratulating each other on their triumph in maneuvering me into asking her to accompany me tonight. Mostly though Alex and Wendy are begging her to slow down, their Spanish isn't good enough to allow them to keep up."
"You will mention to her at some point tonight that we are staying in Havana tonight?"
"I'll wait a while and then ask if the ladies told her."
There was a period of time, after Castro's passing, that the city of Havana was a dangerous place. Freed of the oppressive hand of Cuba's communist rule, the pendulum swung too far back in the direction of freedom, and past it into lawlessness. Drugs, crime and violence were rampant. Slowly the quiet, enduring faith of the countryside began to penetrate back into the cities. The reactionary leadership was replaced by more moderate influences, and the rule of law again took hold. With the rule of law came the influence of the Catholic church.
They flew into Havana that afternoon, landing on the roof of the Hotel Del Nuevo Siglio, the Hotel of the New Century. Although this was a relatively new hotel, with its own parking garage, there was limited grav car parking on the roof and a few extra dollars went a long way towards securing a free space.
Old Havana was devoted to remaining as it had been since the 1950's, before the days of Castro, before the original revolución. The rest of it was determined to shake off the revolutionary past and a little more than a decade ago had decided to shed the seedier sides of the city that had crept into it as it expanded, and transform itself into a shining, modern city. Our hotel was in the new, modern part, but close enough to the old city to be appealing.