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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 25

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

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Uncharted Brown Dwarf System, 15 Light-Years from Stettin[]

Main Computer, NMS Beer Keg of Science!

[T = Indeterminate]

[Jump Complete]
[T = Jump + 5.0 sec]
[System Autostart: SDS-MAC_M-4.1.3159.BKoS]
[SDS-MAC_M-4.1.3159.BKoS Online]
[KF Drive…OK]
[Transit Drive…OK]
[Weapons Systems…OK]
[External EW Sensors…EM Interference from jump clear in T = J+30 sec]
[External Optical Sensors…OK.]
[Navigation Check…EM spectrum from local star matches 92.36% expected from target brown dwarf. Stellar drift calculations indicate expected arrival time within 94.5% accuracy. Both outside normal acceptable margins of error, continuing to monitor.]
[Internal Sensors…OK]
[Crew Vitals…Warning! Crew vital signs indicate significant TDS symptoms among 100% of crew and passengers.]
[Crew unresponsive. Continuing to attempt communications.]
[“This is getting to be ridiculous.”]

Primary Med Bay, NMS Beer Keg of Science!

Lieutenant Commander Alan Cottle’s head felt like he’d been on a week-long bender, fell on his head, got back up, went on another bender, then decided to sleep off his hangover in a centrifuge with a hammer juggler.

Distantly, Cottle could hear the sound of sirens, and a disembodied voice trying to get his attention. As his head cleared, he managed to croak out a reply. “Mac, did anyone ever tell you, you have the voice of a songbird slowly drowning in tar?”

{“So noted. Incoming casualties. TDS cases – fewer severe cases, but universal across the crew”}

Ain’t that the truth,” Cottle rasped. “Williams, you still alive over there?” As the chief medical officer unbuckled himself from his seat, he swept his eyes across his med bay, looking for his assistant.

For certain values of alive,” replied Lieutenant SG Arthur Williams. “I’ll get a triage team together, as soon as I triage our triage team. Was it just me, or was that significantly worse than last time?

His head still swimming, but with work to do, Cottle replied, “Worse? My brain feels folded, spindled and mutilated. If we weren’t about to be bombarded with TDS cases, I’d say I need a drink, and a smoke, but I feel like I’ve been drinking for two weeks straight anyway."

Doc, you don’t smoke.

I know,” Cottle agreed. “That’s what worries me. All right, time to get to work, then.”

Bridge, NMS Beer Keg of Science!

“Well,” Mo O’Brien-Howard croaked out, “that whole experience sure did suck. Just to check, though, did we all just…”

“Meet beings of phenomenal cosmic power, in their own living space, more or less?” Lea Carpentier asked from the captain’s seat. “Yes, Mo. Yes, we did. We’ve got more important things to worry about right now. Crew status?”

{“Med Bay has started triage, Captain.”} Mac, the ship’s AI chimed in. {“Physically, better than last time. Mentally…we’re all remembering things.”}

“We, Mac? You should’ve been asleep.”

(“Someone wanted to talk.”}

Got it. Table it for now. Damage control?

{“In the green.”}

Lea shook her head. “That seems unlikely.”

From his station, Rozhenko shrugged. “I have to concur, though, Captain. We’re showing green at my station.”

“OK, then.” Lea pressed a button on the arm of her console. “Bridge to Engineering. Reno, still with us down there?”

Everything’s just sunshine and frakkin’ puppies, Captain. I don’t mean that literally, though.

Good to hear.” Lea closed the channel. “And, now, for perhaps the most important question. Bridge to CIC.

CIC, Kirk here.

Oh good. James, would you be so good as to ask Lieutenant Howard if he would be so kind as to figure out what universe we’re in?

Captain, this is Howard. Already on it. The good news is we’re no longer in the same universe as Stettin. The bad news is I’m not sure we’re in ours, either.

Comms traffic? Fax, HPG, anything?” Lea asked.

From his station, Ensign Phoenix shook his head. “I’m not able to spin up the HPG, Captain. It’s like there’s too much interference still. And traffic on the Fax network is…I can’t make heads or tails of it. It’s all jumbled, hopelessly corrupt, and out of order. I don’t think I could get a signal through there and even have it comprehensible an AU away, let along light years.”

Mo frowned. “That’s nothing like it was over Stettin.”

“No, ma’am,” Phoenix agreed. “It’s also nothing like it was before we jumped to Stettin, either. That was noisy, but nothing like this.” He keyed in a sequence on his panel, routing the data to Mo’s station, as well as to Bob’s station down in CIC.

“This is…” Mo started. “…what the hell is this? We’re still where we expected to be, right?”

{“We appear to be.”} Mac agreed, with a hint of uncertainty. {“At least, we’re 15 light-years from Stettin, heading towards Niops.”}

Lea frowned. “So, to sum up, we may or may not be in our universe. We can’t contact home, so we’ll be showing up in a Niops system that may or may not be ours, in a cruiser capable of nuclear surface bombardment. At least some of us on the crew remember being in contact with weakly godlike entities in the space between universes, who warned us this might happen. Am I missing anything notable?”

{“I visited a recreation of a pub in Chicago with an entity who went by the name Uriel. Or Mr. Sunshine.”} Mac added helpfully.

“Accorded Neutral Territory,” Lea asked, enunciating the capital letters.

{“That’s the place, yes.”}

Oh good,” Lea replied drily, “someone else resonating with the same other universe as me. Anyone else?

You know, if if this isn’t our universe,” Kirk added from CIC, ”then there might be another ‘us’ here, right?

“Duly noted.”

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