Glotmorf on 16 Apr 2002 13:40:45 -0000

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spoon-business: Chapter 6 -- DimShip Saga

{{ _To Seek Out New Life, and New Cultures_


The onboard crew weren't the only ones working.  There was still the ground crew, which had members of the design team as well as the service techs.  Which meant that, even as we were jumping from place to place in our big boring box, people were coming up with new ideas for it -- new controls, new scanners, new drive functions and new ways to push the limits.  It wasn't strange to come back from a voyage and have the craft swarmed with workers bearing new parts to install.

We were very pleased to find, for instance, that the team had come up with drive control for movement as well as dim-shifting.  Among other things, that would let us explore the effects of the changes across cultures and cities.  So far we hadn't seen any other people, since our craft had been confined to either the inside of the warehouse, or the outdoor site the craft was launched from.  The changes we'd observed had been extreme, the sorts of things bad science fiction is written about.

We therefore moved the craft out onto the outdoor landing pad, started the drive, and rose above the ground to about a thousand feet.  From that height we could see the coastline, the tavern and the houses on either side.  As a test we slowly cruised over a confined part of the campus; I have heard since then that people who saw us thought they were looking at a truly ugly weather balloon.

Then we shifted.  We chose to attempt a large ballast of respect and charm, thinking we would be drawn to a space perhaps like a Dickens landscape, with poor or harsh lifestyles...or maybe a swamp, whether a form of nature or a product of bad land use.

What we found was Hell.

The buildings seemed to be a mixture of modern frame housing and old stonework, perhaps like in central Europe.  It was easy to tell how they were made because much of them had been blasted to bits.  We first thought there had been a riot, but moving across the landscape showed no clear end to the damage.

The remains of forests were seen in blackened stumps on ash-coated hills.  Rivers were choked with mud, oil and debris.  There were few grasslands, but many stretches of pocked, cratered and trench-cut land.  Roads were oddly intact, even showing signs of recent repair; we supposed that, no matter who was fighting, all parties needed to move supplies.

And this time we did indeed see people...or at least bodies.  They were clearly observed in the shattered remains of towns -- men, women and children scattered in the streets and alleys.  There may have been more dead in the cities, but streets were so covered with rubble that none could be spotted.

There was of course no way to tell what had started the war, or even how long it had gone on.  Quick-to-build huts and frame houses were side-by-side with, and in many cases on top of the ruins of, older buildings, as if there had never been time to do a proper job of clearing a building site.  That seemed to suggest the war had gone on for a very long time -- years, at least, perhaps even decades -- before the final battles that had brought a gruesome peace.

I myself wanted to explore, to find some place still standing that perhaps held books or papers or journals that talked about what happened, what they tried to do to stop it, or if they even tried at all.  But we had been careful up to now to not venture outside the craft; since, compared to where we came from, these places weren't even real, we had no way of knowing what would happen to us...or how real we would be after.

I could spin theories, though.  We were, after all, in a plane of very low respect and charm.  Low respect alone could have caused conflicts, as people failed to find a reason to respect laws, feelings, fences, borders or life itself.  And charm?  Charm was the tool of trade, friendship, peace talks and treaties; without charm the world would be a very nasty place.

The Old Man scanned the landscape as I mused over my notes.  After a while I heard him murmur, "There appears to be something standing after all."

I glanced up at what he had found.  It looked like an old fort, almost a castle, on top of a hill.  Part of the main wall was missing, but still it looked able to repel ground forces with enough guards inside.  Which may have been the case, given the thin tendril of smoke rising from a chimney.

I leaned forward. "Could there be people alive in there?"

"Perhaps those who survived the last battle here." He changed the angle of the view slightly. "Judging by the remains at the base of the wall, it may be that the fort was never breached."

I brought the craft around and drew closer to the fort. "What are those wooden cone things on the wall?"

The Old Man squinted at the screen...then his eyes widened in alarm. "Do not get any closer!"

It was then that we saw the first living people in that plane.  Two men came running out of a tower at the end of the wall and threw open panels on the cones, which revealed a round metal barrel.  Before I could react there was a muffled *boom*, and the whistling of something passing very fast beneath us.

"Can they hit us?" asked the Old Man.

"What, with that old thing?  Not likely.  There's no way they'd be able to get the range out of a..."

A second boom, and something crashed into us, followed by yelling and screaming as our crew scrambled to contain the damage.

"Get us out of here, Mr. Morf!"

"Blowing ballast, sir!  Hang on tight!"

We didn't move in normal space, but still there was an odd and ugly lurch in my stomach as we shifted home in one sudden burst.  The Old Man looked green, and he was likely a good mirror of my own face.  After a few deep breaths I resumed the controls, turned the craft around toward the warehouse, and headed in.

Neither one of us said a thing while I landed the craft, or while the ground crew rushed aboard.  I managed to stammer to the medic that we were all right, and sent her off to see to the others.  Somehow, it turned out, no one aboard was badly hurt.

The craft was not quite as lucky.  Frank told me later that, if I hadn't blown all the ballast, it would have blown on its own; the ballast and buoyant limits were built into the structure of the craft, and the structure had taken a direct hit.  There would be severe limits on our ballast until we could get the craft fixed.

The teams got to work.  The Old Man and I could hear their banging away and barking orders, while he and I sat in the control room, staring at each other.

At last he spoke. "That was not very pleasant, Mr. Morf."

I managed to not laugh like a madman. "Yes sir."

"Where were our defense systems?"

"The craft doesn't have defense systems."

He raised an eyebrow at me. "Do you often go to strange places without a weapon?"

"I've never been to places as strange as these!"

"Hm.  True." He pondered a moment, then set his eyes on mine. "And what shall we do about this?"

I tried to switch my mindset from a boy with a teddy bear to a man with a degree.  "Well...uh...shielding...yeah.  After all, we're dealing with both real and non-real space...we should be able to create a field of non-real space that would at least slow down things shot at us...maybe even block them."  I reached for my clibpoard. "Of course, it'll take work..."

He nodded. "Of course.  Work on the shields, then.  And the guns."

Clanking sounded from the back as panels were removed for repair.  Frank relayed orders to the teams over the com.


"Guns.  Weapons.  Non-passive defense systems."

I had not lifted my eyes from the clipboard. "We don't need weapons.  We won't be shooting at natives."

"Do I need to remind you so soon that natives just shot at us?"

"That was a war zone!  They didn't know who we were!  They were just firing in defense!"

"Yes.  Something I would like to be able to do."

"We don't need to shoot back.  We can rise up out of their range.  Or just shift away."

"Hm.  Perhaps.  And what about other DimShips?"

"There aren't any other DimShips!"

"Did you not once tell me that there are no secrets in nature?  And can you say for certain -- truly for certain -- that no single person on your staff breathed one single word to any single person outside the lab?"

"They wouldn't...I trust my staff!  You can't just imply..."

"And can you say that there is no one in this world who, if given the chance, would raid some other world?"

I had no answer to that.

"Your natives will be shot at, Mr. Morf," the Old Man said quietly, "whether or not we are shooting."

He waited while I thought about all he'd said.  Then I picked up my pen. "Shielding.  And guns.  For ship-to-ship use only."

He sighed softly. "Very well, Mr. Morf.  We will try it your way."


{{ _DimShip Guns and Armor_

DimShips can have Guns.  Adding a Gun to a DimShip costs 10 points, and counts as 10 Respect buoy. and 10 Charm ballast against the DimShip's limits.

DimShips can have Armor.  Adding Armor to a DimShip costs 10 points, and counts as 5 Respect buoy., 5 Style buoy. and 10 Charm ballast against the DimShip's limits.

If a DimShip fires at a DimShip, the firing DimShip does 3d6 damage.  If the DimShip fired at has Armor, it blocks 3d6 of that damage.  Any damage not blocked will be done to the fired-on DimShip either in (1) the buoy. limit or (2) the ballast limit, based on 1d2.

If the buoy. limit is reduced below the buoy. used, or if the ballast limit is reduced below the ballast used, the DimShip must adjust the buoy. and/or ballast values to be within the limits.  If the buoy. limit or the ballast limit becomes less than 20, and the DimShip has both a Gun and Armor, the DimShip must lose one or the other.  If the buoy. limit or the ballast limit becomes less than 10, and the DimShip has either a Gun or Armor, the DimShip loses it.  Neither the buoy. limit nor the ballast limit can fall below zero.

Damage can be repaired at the rate of one score point per point of damage fixed.  Damage can only be repaired if both buoy. and ballast are zero.

Each DimShip that has a Gun can only fire on a DimShip once per nweek.  The target DimShip must be in the same Realm as the firing DimShip.



The Old Man reviewed the specs as we sat in the warehouse, watching the work in progress.  He nodded and handed the sheet back to me. "This will do, yes.  Odd, though, that the gun and armor should affect our flight..."

I shrugged. "Airplanes work the same way.  Beef 'em up, slow 'em down."

"Hm.  Then perhaps something can be done about our speed...?"

"Speed isn't an issue when moving across planes.  And one of my techs says speed is a pain in the butt to worry about."

"He was not aboard on our last trip, was he?"

I shook my head, and turned to look at the craft.  A peaceful research project, it was about to be armed to the teeth, hardened for battle.  I was about to become the pilot of a gunship.

I felt sick.