"Taste this," Paula said, handing me a drink.
I took a sip, smacked my lips a couple of times, and nodded. "Beer. Perfect day for it."
"It's made by Submind beer trees," Paula said, watching me.
I wasn't surprised. "Of course it is. Plant one in my ship please. It tastes wonderfully intoxicating."
Simon came into the Dizzy Pig Bar and Grill, looked around until he saw me, and started through the crowd towards us.
"Uh oh," I said.
"What?" Paula asked.
"Simon seems intent on interrupting our dinner," I said.
Paula looked around. "He's a good kid."
"Yeah," I said darkly. "Just don't say anything he might take seriously."
"I don't know. Piloting a combat ship maybe."
"Oh, that," Paula said mildly. She stood up and kissed my forehead. "I'm going to go freshen up."
"Great," I muttered.
"Hey, Mr. Jackson. Where's Miss Mattson off to?"
"Closet," I said.
"Ah," Simon said. "I came by to say you should stop by the office tomorrow and authorize your super-node. Joe said you can have two if you want, but I think he was joking. He was really happy when he sent me to find you."
"Two?" I asked. "I'm surprised he's giving me one."
"Joe found and repaired that broken q-link," Simon said. "Like we talked about the other night."
"The data paths went up by a factor of ten. The drive generators are beyond hyper and we are reinforcing the system with Submind organics. We've got some long days ahead, but this is beyond bonus oxygen, Mr. Jackson."
"Submind is definitely taking over," I muttered.
"What?" Simon asked.
"My understanding of quanta technology is limited to calling someone else," I said. "All I know is my sys-op instructor was fond of saying 'data singularity' whenever I asked why we went to all the trouble for a quanta drive we didn't really need. They all connect to the same quanta, so ten of them doesn't make any more sense to me than one."
"It's a matter of access," Simon said. "About how many pathways you got. More paths, more super-nodes, and more chance of connecting to an existing network."
"That explains everything," I said in sarcastic joy.
"Quanta is like this not-a-place made completely of data potential, and it can only be accessed through a data core."
"The data core is created by the drive generators," Simon said. "And the strength of the data core determines how many paths the core can process at any one time. Pathways usually process much faster after the first time, and there are a number of established pathways which are instantly accessible from almost every drive."
"Just like my sys-op instructor," I said, grinning at him.
Simon shrugged, but he didn't give up. "It's like an endless forest of data, and paths are how many trees we can touch on the way through. The more data you plant in the core, the more quanta paths you can access, and the easier it is to find the data you want. I've never been clear on whether we add the data or the pathways, but the end result is the same; an endless dark forest with places where light occasionally comes in."
"Ah," I said, taking another sip of beer. "An endless dark forest. That's a bit easier to imagine."
"Tomorrow, then?" Simon asked.
I nodded. "I'll bring Paula. You can authorize that second super-node for her."
"Joe said two. There's no reason to confirm that," I said. "Is there?"
"No reason at all, Mr. Jackson. I'll see you tomorrow."
This is the public log of DeeDee 'dzyjak' Jackson, a fictional character. DeeDee lives and works aboard a space station which orbits Saturn, and sometimes he writes about it.
"Taste this," Paula said, handing me a drink.
"The Martian Republic has turned Mars Metro into a prison station," Simon said.
"Yeah," I said, looking over the top of my data terminal. "I heard."
"Why would they do that?" Simon asked, sitting down.
"I guess a space station is the best place to put people you want to control," I said. "But you could ask Counter-Spin Rick."
"He's got a plan to take the station, but I don't think Miss Paine would approve."
"Miss Paine?" I asked.
"Laura... Oh. Right. She's not here."
"Laura Kimberly Paine? The dangerous Martian exile."
Simon nodded hesitantly. "I thought you knew."
"And she's living with Joe?"
Simon nodded again. "But she's not that dangerous."
"Eddie knows," I muttered darkly, tapping my fingers on the desk. "Even if no one told him. She's been here for months."
"They moved my Dad to the station," Simon said, worried. "He's in the heavy side detention block--1.2 gees. He's not used to it."
"I didn't even think to ask her last name," I said.
"I don't know what to do."
"No one does," I said. "We make it up as we go along, or we accept there's nothing we can do."
Simon looked miserable.
"Listen, Kid." I said. "You'll be legal age in a couple of years, right?"
"Good. Rick doesn't usually mess around when it comes to battle plans. His plans take weeks, if not months, to execute, and include three or four chances to get it right," I explained.
Simon nodded. "He's been talking about humanitarian aide. Belt stations will start running out of water in a couple of years--three if they start rationing air to keep the hydro decks alive. And Mars will need water in five or six years."
"Yeah," I said.
"He's got at least a dozen of those slush bombs built, and six of them are already growing Submind vines--and other things--inside. He wants to leave a trail of Submind bombs all the way to Mars, and the Three Brains are designing several types of light combat ships based on that scout ship they grew."
"There you are," I said. "Light combat ships. I bet they'll need pilots. You'll be old enough by the time it happens, and safe enough in one of those ships, I think."
"But," Simon said, objecting. "He plans to attack Mars. He's planning to take Mars Metro and quarantine the planet."
I thought about my reply for a moment. "If Rick has already started, the governor and Doc both know about it and approve. Trust me. Probably Kim as well. A lot of people we care about are locked in that prison along with your dad, Simon, and all you can do is help or stay out of the way. You won't stop it."
"It seems so... Sneaky. Not right," Simon said. "To hide an attack inside a gesture of generosity."
I shrugged. "Beware of Greeks."
"No one here can accept and do nothing. That's why we still have this station," I said. "Besides, a lot of people will get bonus oxygen--literally."
Simon still looked miserable.
"Don't worry about it, Kid. Rick stopped six troopships with no casualties. One lousy space station isn't even a challenge."
"But my dad will be stuck there--on heavy side--for over a year. Who knows what they'll do to him?"
"If they think there's a chance you'll turn yourself in, they won't touch him," I said. "Heck--offer to be part of the bait. They certainly won't expect you to have someone like Rick right behind you."
Simon stared at me for a moment. "Yeah. I need one of those ships. I could lead the distraction."
"That isn't exactly..."
Simon stood up and held out his hand. "Thanks, Mr. Jackson. I appreciate your time."
"Don't mention it," I muttered, shaking his hand.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/16/2007 03:43:00 AM
"Why are you darkening my entry port at this hour?" Joe asked, glaring at me.
Kim was behind him, wearing a mildly curious face.
"If I remember correctly," I said. "Paula told me to explain it as soon as possible. To you. Explain it to you."
"You've been drinking," Joe and Kim said at the same time.
"That didn't just happen," I said.
"What?" They both asked.
"I... Yes, I've been drinking. I've seen you do it too. Both... both of you."
"It's late, Jackson," Joe said. "Focus, explain, and then relocate."
"Right," I said. "I'm not sure Paula meant right now..."
"You're already here," Joe snapped.
"But I thought I might forget," I finished. "We were talking about weird images, and Simon went on about fractals, and how the third dimension is all a matter of perspective, and how if you do only a fraction of the third dimension..."
"I know about fractals, Dizzy."
"Good. The conversation got boring," I said. "I mean, who cares about math and messed up perspectives?"
"The math doesn't work right. You know? So, I got to thinking about that old data q-link you've been trying to find in null land or somewhere, and the way you talk about the math. If there's two ends like a string, and one end is dangling around out there, maybe all you have to do is solve for the fractal equation and fix the perspective. If that makes any sense?"
Joe stood and stared at me.
"I mean," I said nervously. "It's the same quanta. Right? So you just have to find the end of the string and reattach it to the old drive. It would be like having two drives in one, with the second drive existing in some fractal space right next to quanta. If you can pull that off with your little Submind math tricks... Well, you'll have done it, I guess."
Joe grabbed my head with both hands and kissed me on the mouth. Then he shoved me backwards and slammed the door.
"Don't mention it," I said to the door.
It opened and Kim peered out. "Thank you, DeeDee. That was sweet."
"Sure thing," I said to the closing door. "I'll go home now."
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/11/2007 06:55:00 PM
Buddy Jenkins is the least connected person I've ever met. He only recognizes the real world when he's tripping over it, and even then, it's an annoyance he will avoid in the future. This isn't all bad; it makes it hard for him to understand impossible.
"I'm not getting in one of those things," I told him. It was a tiny Submind scout ship--nice looking ride--probably good for impressing girls.
"It's really fast," Buddy said. "It'd make the Jupiter run in five weeks; maybe less if you push it. You're a sturdy young man..."
"Thanks, Buddy. Really. But I'm not riding that thing anywhere. Suit jets are fine with me, and if I ever go to Jupiter, I'm taking Paula in Ion Jack."
"We need to do more testing first," Rudy said. "The Jupiter run test is at least an Earth's year away. We are growing the prototype neural set. It's much like growing... um... teaching a small child."
"And you think I'm going to ride it based on it thinking like a small child?" I asked. Buddy and Rudy looked slightly embarrassed, but Fife nodded with excitement.
"I'm not getting near that thing," I said. "Why are you asking me, anyway? Test pilot is not one of my skills."
"You're good with chimps," Fife said. "For co-pilots."
"Doc said you could help," Rudy said.
"You won't need to do much piloting," Buddy said. "This whole thing; and all of these tubes; and the silicon net here; all of that is a like a Submind nervous system. Wonderful stuff. The ship will avoid danger and seek coordinates. It's quite intelligent."
"It's Submind," I said. "Of course it's intelligent. Despite what you seem to think, the only connection I have to Submind is a solid suspicion of everything surrounding it."
"Yes," Fife said with excitement. "Yes. A trainer who will pay attention."
I shook my head, and looked at the little scout ship. I was interested, but the one I wanted wasn't ready yet.
"Call Tera," I said. "Ask her if she wants to invest. Tell her you want Rick to test pilot for you."
"The... the Minister of Finance?" Fife asked with a squeak.
"Yeah," I said. "But she's got money of her own. Ask her as a private citizen. You'll be swimming in luxury before you know it."
"I'm not sure that would be...."
"None of your pious crap about wealth, Rudy," Buddy said. "If God doesn't want me to have money, he'll continue to keep it away from me."
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/07/2007 07:02:00 PM
Paula finished her set and came over to poke me in the ribs. I was sitting with the usual mix of apes and looking for the bottom of my third Hot Slush Bomb.
"Hey," I said. "Careful with that thing. I've been drinking explosive beverages."
Paula grinned and used both hands to attack both sides of my ribcage. Singing makes her very happy; like a narcotic. She was glowing like a pheromone vine, and she wanted to play.
"Hey," I said, fighting the giggles. "Not fair. I've been drinking."
She stepped forward and kissed me briefly. "So you said. I'm going to get some water."
"It's good. I'll be right here. Unless I'm not. Like maybe I got to see..."
Paula kissed me again and turned away.
After a few moments, a friendly, if irritated voice asked, "How's a freak like you keep a woman like that?"
I turned to look. "Kenny!" I said with drunken enthusiasm.
"Don't call me that," he said.
"Why not?" I asked. "You just called me a freak."
"She's too good for you."
"Ah," I said, as the sun rose over my slush bombs. "You dated her."
"More than that. We shook the station together..."
"And for some reason, she moved in with me instead of you," I said. "Poor Kennith. Poor poor Kennith."
"That isn't what I meant," Kenny said. "I mean... I'm sorry. You're a good guy for a mutant thug. I just thought... When I came back to the station, I was thinking about Paula."
"You should have thought before you left," I said.
"I did," he said mournfully. "She refused to come with me."
I couldn't help laughing. "She stopped dating months before you left. 'Cause of the whole orbital decay thing--you know? She claims it took five weeks to get over the cravings."
"What are you saying?"
"Three years ago she told me to stay the hell away from her unless it was business," I said. "Didn't even bother to find out if I was serious. What made you think she would leave with you? Over Doc?"
"You had absolutely zero chance, Kennith." Paula said from behind me. "Sorry. And it was three weeks, not five."
I smiled and reached around to hug her. "I had an imaginary girlfriend when I was young. Do you suppose she grew up to be you?"
"I don't think so," Paula said. "I had six imaginary boyfriends, and none of them were like you."
"Ricky had imaginary enemies," Tera said.
We turned to look at her.
"When he was a boy," Tera said. "He told me all about it. Didn't you, Ricky?"
"Armies," Rick said. "Planets. Solar systems. My only friend was Captain Killemall."
"What about you, Kenny?" Rhonda asked sweetly. "I bet you had an imaginary friend."
Kennith blinked at her uncertainly. I don't think he realized until that moment that everyone at the table had been listening.
"I... a spaceship," Ken said. "Her name was Photon Shift, and she was the smartest ship in the galaxy."
"Smartest," Rhonda said in apparent amazement. "That must have been exciting. I had an imaginary puppy. I genetically modified him to turn into a flying pony whenever I wanted."
"I told you that would never work," Rita said. "I had a perfectly normal imaginary biology teacher. She taught me all about unicorns and dragons, among other things."
"Giant space turtles?" I asked.
"So Kenny?" Rhonda asked. "What's say we go for a little walk while Paula is on break, and then come back for a bit of dancing?"
Kennith blinked at her again. Have I mentioned the Selmon sisters are supernaturally beautiful?
"I would be most pleased," Kennith said softly, like he was trying not to scare her away. The Selmon sisters don't scare easy, so maybe he was trying not to frighten himself.
"Yeah," I said. "Go away so I can be alone with my imaginary goddess."
Paula laughed with delight and proceeded to reward me thoroughly.
Posted by Darryl Branning at 6/03/2007 07:03:00 PM