We’re Either Stopping Genocide Or Starting It

space

Image: JPL NASA

From the Flight Log of Freighter Pilot Camdon Rod

Not only am I a moron, I think I’m going out of my mind.

For the record, my name is Camdon Rod and I’m the owner/operator of the jump freighter Ginger’s Regret. Ginger, the woman the freighter is named for, is here too. Well, sort of. Over fifty years ago, a hyperjump accident destroyed her flesh and blood body, but the rest of her stayed here. She’s the ship’s personality. Sometimes, she can become a woman for a while. Convenient since we’re in love with each other.

Sometime ago, I accepted a deal to work for a group of hyperspace beings, illegally hauling cargo for them. I had no choice. They could kill Ginger if I didn’t.

After that, I had to agree to work for the terrorist organization Spire for the same reasons.

I can’t believe I was stupid enough not to see the connection right away. Either Spire is run by these beings, or behind the scenes, they’re manipulating the people who do run Spire.

So if the “hyperspacers” or whatever the heck they’re called, have a criminal organization working for them, why do they need me?

Because I’m legit. I’m a licensed freighter pilot working the Outer Region of Consortium space. I hate the Consortium, just like almost everyone else who lives and works out here, and I should be Spire’s number one fan, since the Consortium is their target too, but the stakes are a lot bigger than that.

The hyperspace beings are chill with Ginger and I knowing who they are and that they live in a highly specific fold of hyperspace. They would not be cool at all if the Consortium found out about them and started exploiting their existence. So not cool in fact, that they might decide to eliminate all sentient life existing in the Consortium.

Ten to twelve runs, Spire said. When I took their money and said “yes” to their offer, which was the only way I could keep Ginger safe, they said I’d be doing ten to twelve jobs for them, all within a standard year.

That year has just ended and so has my fifteenth and final job.

I know what they’re doing. They’ve got three planets, all hidden from Consortium detection, outside the Outer Region. I’ve carried three sets of identical cargo to each of those worlds.

Ginger used ship’s sensors covertly and her own unique talents to analyze what we were carrying.

“As near as I can tell Cam, when those parts are assembled, they’ll be able to create an energy field that will expand toward Consortium space. It will be both in normal space and hyperspace. Cam, I think it can make normal space collapse in on itself. The wave expands exponentially and it’ll cut right through the heart of the most densely populated part of the Consortium.

“It could kill trillions. It might even fracture the parts of known-space it doesn’t directly contact. In those areas at the very least, jump travel would become impossible. Worst case scenario, all sentient life would go extinct.”

Terrific news. I’m a party to Galactic genocide. For an instant, I ask myself if Ginger’s life is worth it. But that’s only for an instant. Still, I feel horribly guilty.

Now what do I do?

“Wait.” I snap my fingers. “We’ve been working for the hyperspace aliens through Spire for a year now. What have we learned?”

Ginger and I are sitting in the Regret’s control cabin. As usual, even wearing standard crew overalls, she looks gorgeous. We’re in between jobs docked at our home port on Marconii.

“You mean about Spire, Cam? Actually, a lot.”

“Such as?”

“You know I can tell the difference between an ordinary sentient life form and hyperspace beings. Not since our first encounter with Spire have those beings been involved. I’ve analyzed every subsequent transmission from Spire and those occasions when a Spire member has personally come to the ship, and they are humanoids from our space.”

“What if they don’t know who they’re working for, Ging? What if they don’t think they’re working for anyone at all, just themselves?”

“It would come as a tremendous revelation to find out they’re being played. I don’t think even Spire wants to execute every living being in Consortium space.”

“Fine, but how to we convince them?”

“They can’t possibly know what they’re constructing in orbit of each of their planets. Only my perceptions of hyperspace let me figure it out.”

It’s true. For me, my cargo, for the ship, a jump through hyperspace is instantaneous, but Ginger experiences “something” each and every jump.

For instance, after a year, she finally discovered that the reason no one can detect our advanced hyperjump projector, the one gifted to us by the hyperspace beings so we could do their dirty work, was because those “hidden” parts of the drive exist both in real and hyperspace.

Only Ginger can sense those parts because of her nature, because the ship, including the engines, are her body.

The modified jump drive of the Regret gives us an ability normally reserved to Consortium police, explorer, and rescue ships. When a jump ship travels through hyperspace, it materializes at its destination jump point. The problem is, if anything already exists in that space when the ship appears, it causes a spectacular explosion.

The Consortium maintains a series of sweepers at each jump destination point to keep them clean, but that means ships can’t hyperjump outside Consortium space. Only the Consortium can explore new planets because their advanced drives send out a sweeping pulse ahead of the ship. It clears the unknown space of any debris that might be present so the ship can arrive safely.

That’s the kind of drive we have only more so. Our projector is undetectable and only costs a small amount more to maintain than the drive type most freighters use.

That’s why this is going to work.

“I have a plan, Ging. It’s dangerous, probably crazy. I think it’s our only option.”

“Are you sure you want to play it that way? The hyperspace beings will only use destructive force if the Consortium discovers their realm, and they might never find it.”

“Every sentient being in our space has a gun to their head that could go off at any time, and they don’t even know it. I can’t let that slide. Besides, how do you know we won’t be killed now that our work for them is done?”

She’s turning it over in her head. I’m not the hero type, she knows that. But this is bigger than going out of our way to give someone a hand, even though that’s exactly what I did right before we got involved with Spire. We may be rogues on the verge of being pirates, but we still have feelings about a right and a wrong, and we have definitely been wrong.

“Okay, Cam. What’s the plan?

******

Three days later, we’re at Marconii’s jump point. This should happen very fast. Hopefully, we’ll live through it. We could be making a horrible mistake.

We don’t know the names of the three planets or the systems controlled by Spire, so I just call them A, B, and C.

Ginger isn’t physically present in the control cabin but I can hear her voice over the comm. “Hyperjump in 3, 2, 1…”

Jump!

We’re in system A. I can see the construct in orbit. It’s huge. They must have manufactured the superstructure locally. I beam a compressed comm message to the planet, praying to whatever god who will listen that Spire hears it but the hyperspace people don’t.

Jump!

We do the same at system B.

Jump!

Same deal at system C.

Jump!

That last jump had a bit of a twist to it.

I have to believe the hyperspace people not only know each time we use their realm to travel from one point in our space to another, but know exactly where we’ve come from and where we go.

I had a few requirements for our current destination. It had to be someplace in or near known-space where we could observe the three Spire planets. It had to be close enough where we would only have to wait a short time period, minutes or hours, to see events in each of those systems.

Otherwise, we jumped blind. Ginger said she thought she could alter the hyperspace field to obscure exactly where we re-entered normal space. It’s a terrific gamble, but it’s all we’ve got.

We wait.

We wait seventeen days and nothing happens. We make love, we eat (I eat, she watches), we take turns at the sensors, we look at A, B, and C. We look for disturbances on the edge of hyperspace in case our adversaries find us and come looking for trouble. Seventeen days and nothing.

They say no news is good news, but I want something better.

Mid-morning ship’s time on the eighteenth day.

“Cam! I see something. The construct orbiting B just lit up like Sven’s and Olaf’s butts on a New Bunda’s Eve celebration!”

Eleven minutes later, she reports the same thing about system A, then four minutes later, it happens at C. She does the math and because we are different distances from each planet, the light from each one takes a different amount of time to reach us.

In reality, all three orbiting constructs fired at the same time, but not at the Consortium.

“Did it work, Ging?”

“Only one way to find out, Cam. We have to go back through hyperspace.”

“We don’t know for sure that hyperspace still exists.”

“If it doesn’t Cam, we are stuck a long way from anywhere. The closest system is B and using space norm drive, it’ll take weeks to get there.”

“We might not be welcomed too warmly if they realize no one can hyperjump anymore, Ging.”

“Buckle up, lover. The worse that can happen is we try to jump and a field doesn’t form.”

She’s right. She’s always right, well, most of the time, anyway. I do as I’m told.

I turn to the nav computer, even though Ginger can program it faster. “Where to?”

“Marconii or bust?”

“If we go to Marconii, assuming the hyperjump works, that’s the first place anyone will look for us.”

“Cam, if your plan worked, no one will be looking for us. If it didn’t, it’s only a matter of time until they find us. We can’t hang out here forever.”

She’s right again. “Marconii it is, Ginger.”

One set of nav coordinates entered later, “Hyperjump in 3, 2, 1…”

We arrive at Marconii’s jump point and I send the ship arrival message to the flight controller.

“That’s one problem down, Ging. What about problem two?”

Like I said, for me, the jump is instantaneous. I didn’t notice a thing. One instant, we’re in uncharted space and the next we’re on course for the freighter docks on our base planet.

But for Ginger, poor sweet Ginger, she notices everything during that instant, including whether the hyperspace beings are still there.

“I didn’t sense them, Cam. For the first time since I’ve known about them, I can’t detect them or their realm at all. Hyperspace still works, but they’re gone.”

She stops. We’re both going over the implications in our minds, but she’s the first one to say it out loud.

“I don’t know if we destroyed them or just closed off their realm from the rest of hyperspace and us.”

We could have just committed genocide, only of their species and not the races of the Consortium. On the other hand, they’re the ones who built the gun and pointed it at us. Our retaliation was just self defense.

Yeah, that’s what I keep telling myself, because the alternative makes me want to vomit.

We did it. Our big plan worked. We hyperjumped into each Spire system just long enough to beam a compressed message to them. It contained detailed information about the hyperspace beings and their realm, a complete design of the construct, an exact explanation of what it would do to Consortium space, and changes in their control systems to target a different location, the alien beings’ realm in hyperspace, just their one fold of it.

“You were right, lover.” Ginger puts her arms around me. Fortunately the ship is on auto pilot because when we kiss, both of us are too distracted to fly the Regret.

“Spire didn’t like being played by other-dimensional beings, and even though they hate the Consortium, they want to compromise the system, not end trillions of innocent lives.”

“I’m so glad it worked but I’m still trembling, Ging. I’ve taken a lot of risks in my day, but this is the grand mother of them all.”

“Wait, Cam. what about the hyperspace beings living in our world now? What happened to them?”

Oh crap! You mean our problems aren’t over yet?”

“Yes. Unless somehow the destruction or isolation of their realm reached out and affected them, they’re stranded here in our universe.”

“And they’re going to be coming after us.”

“What can they do without the resources from their realm?”

“I think we’re going to find out, Ginger. We’re about to go on final approach to Marconii.”

It’s been almost four months since I wrote the last Camdon and Ginger story Spire. I thought it time to continue the series. Hopefully my resolution to the hyperspace beings/Spire problem was satisfying. In the next adventure, I’ll show you the aftermath.

The whole series started with the story The Last Flight of the Cynnabar Breen in case you’re interested in reading Cam’s chronicles from the beginning.

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11 thoughts on “We’re Either Stopping Genocide Or Starting It

  1. With these stories, one does rather lose track of which person is more evil than the next, but Rod and Ginger are always sympathetic! I would love to see Ginger develop more abilities or even develop more human physicality from contact for good or ill with the hyperspace people…particularly if some of them turned out to be not so evil. I get the feeling that she doesn’t have nearly as much fun as Rod does!

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  2. I remember reading about such characters in a collection published quite some time ago. I remember that ship and vaguely abut the accident that left a human woman crewmate’s personality embedded in the “body” of the ship when her own was destroyed. After this many years, I don’t recall the name of the original author; but the flavor of this story is so much like that one, that I must ask, James, were you that original author? If so, I feel as if I’m reconnecting with an old acquaintance, though I never would have realized it during the past few years of our correspondence on other topics.

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    • OK, now my head is spinning. I just read your previous stories linked in this blog only last year, when I must have read them presumably for the first time. But somehow my memory is connecting them with stories read in a “known-space” anthology published decades ago. I’m getting that “Twilight Zone” feeling… But maybe the explanation is simply that my memory is playing tricks on me because of some other associative connection between the sci-fy you’ve published here and that which I read years ago.

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    • Yes, I wrote about Ginger’s accident, caught outside the ship when it jumped through hyperspace. It vaporized her body but somehow the wonky physics of hyperspace caused her to be the “personality” of the ship.

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      • Yes, but did you publish such a story decades ago where I might have read it in a scify anthology; or is my purported memory of it from then an artifact of some state of confusion?

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      • No, I didn’t. Not familiar with such a story except Anne McCaffrey’s novel (and sequels) “The Ship Who Sang,” but that was a human brain implanted in a space ship.

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