Note: For the examples of spacecraft design posted on this blog, I mostly use 2ed. Mongoose Traveller rules, but some examples using 1ed. rules will persist until they can be upgraded.

Look at the side column for variant rules I use in my campaign.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What happened to flight heavy 29 to Melbourne?

He dreamed that someone had jumped him in a dark alley and had shoved a plastic bag over his head...

The silken suddenness of death's complete mastery shook StuWiFoo out of a coma-like sleep where the paralyzing terror of frightened dreams gave way to brutal reality. The dark of the aircraft passenger seating was only punctuated briefly by weak red LED flashes reflected from the shiny plastic of limply floating oxygen masks. Everything was floating. Suddenly the dark was shattered by an active flashlight wielded by a surviving flight attendant, the suddenness of the bright light like lightning flashing through a midsummer's night. The blueish-white beam played across the interior of the cabin, skipping quickly over the obviously dead passengers to briefly light upon the handful still alive. The beam of light flickered over to the sealed, twisted, cockpit door with a small rent in the frame where swirled a small funnel of dust and paper as the air bled into nothing.

"I think our air is goink." Spoke one surviving passenger with a Russian accent. "The oxygen masks are dead," gasped a woman. And now Stu could hear the hiss of escaping air. Already two other survivors were hastening like first time swimmers to float their way over to the leak and stuff something into the hiss. The illumination in the cabin wavered as another survivor jostled the passenger holding the flashlight. Eternity passed in ice-age seconds. Finally, the screamingly long twenty seconds that it took to seal the leak were over and everyone took a deep breath wishing the air were thicker. One more passenger, an Egyptian by appearance, spoke with an Arabic accent, "What do we do now?" The other passengers sighed, as if acknowledging the question, but no one replied.

Sometimes in your journey through life, you encounter circumstances that make you realize that you are thoroughly, ineffably, screwed. In the shock and confusion of returning consciousness among the passengers still alive on Flight 29, it occurred to these passengers rather quickly that they were in this screwed state. As some among the small crowd began to mutter prayers to themselves, the dark sense of doom was suddenly suspended.

The sound of a strange violent dull clunk as of machinery suddenly becoming one with the hull of the aircraft radiated in the thin air from about where the mid-section emergency door was located. A rhythmic tapping on the door denoting intelligence began and then repeated.

As Stu began to realize that the tapping sounded like Morse code, he found his thoughts interrupted by the excited voice of another passenger, a young woman who was obliviously translating the letters being spelled out and muttering, "O-f-f-n-e-t" "What does it mean?"
Remembering conversations with a brother at the Language School, it immediately came to Stu's mind--"Is it German?"--then out loud, "it's Ö-f-f-n-e-t which is German for 'open'."

"But the air," wailed a passenger. Before anyone could object, Stu pushed through and began the procedure for opening the door. The door opened to better air and flashlight beams poking into the dark cabin. "Guten Tag," began a man dressed in a uniform reminiscent of a passenger ship's officer, "Ihr komst", and then looking at Stu and a number of other passengers, in broken English, "You come--all!"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Narrative: relating to StuWiFoo

Stu had just drifted off into a fitful sleep on the tedious flight from San Francisco to Melbourne. His last thoughts reflected a positive meme; "Christmas will be enjoyable down under and I get (after a recovery sleep) three whole days to hack the networks before I report to the payroll of my latest job; it's been a glorious run..."

The atomic clock registered the adequate quanta decay and December 21, 2012AD, came in a nanosecond; suddenly 'last summer', 'straight into the heartland', thought became unbound.

Flight "heavy-two-niner" of Quantas skipped across the surface of probability...

The nearest control radar noted the absence of signal where flight 29 used to be...


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Background for Stu Wi Foo part 2: Temporal Theory

In 1957, Dr. Hugh Everett III came up with the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, as a way to resolve the paradoxes of the Privileged Observer and such thought experiments as Schrödinger's Cat. The Privileged Observer (according to the rival Copenhagen Interpretation) is the observer who causes the quantum wave function to "collapse" into particles with location and speed and other characteristics while under observation. Schrödinger's Cat is inside a box with a vial of deadly poison that will break when a given atom decays and releases an alpha particle, killing the cat. Since quantum-mechanically, the atom might or might not release a particle at the instant of decay, the cat is famously half-alive and half-dead in the Copenhagen Interpretation--until the Privileged Observer opens the box and "collapses" the cat into either the alive or dead state.

According to Everett's interpretation, every quantum "choice" creates two worlds, two timelines. In one, the observer sees a live cat. In the other, the observer sees a dead cat. There is no Privileged Observer, because both outcomes occurred--just not in the same universe. Every single decision, every single atomic flow or switch, creates another worldline. Initially, the Many Worlds Interpretation held that information (and therefore energy, and therefore, matter) could never pass between worlds. However, string theory in the 1960's, and strange experimental results showing seemingly instantaneous "dipole communication" in the next decades, made it seem theoretically possible.

Van Zandt's discoveries did not actually solve the question. Although he discovered many worlds, they weren't of the infinite "one photon displaced" variety the orthodox Many Worlds Interpretation predicts. Instead, they were like "knots" in the superstring--places where the potential fog of alternatives "collapses" into actual worlds. Further, these "knots" are bunched up into different "energy levels" that Van Zandt dubbed the quantum levels, or quanta.

Thus, parachronics actually managed to combine Everett's theory with an empirical Privileged Observer--the parachronic traveler. And that, with minor mathematical fillips, is where the theory remains even now, with nobody satisfied, and with some radical theorists proposing that a kind of Observer Effect holds for parallel worlds, or that the expectations of the traveler have some effect on his destination.


Precisely how the infinite worlds vary and interrelate remains a tangle. Most of the fundamental physical constants remain the same, but some differ wildly while somehow not reducing the universe to quantum fog. It's difficult to make valid crosstime theories work, in large part because physical laws don't seem to hold constant across the continuum. Not only are there worlds where magic works, or where the luminiferous ether exists, there are innumerable subtle variations down to the level of individual electrons. Other changes don't seem to make any real sense, or exist in isolation when they should affect the entire system of physical constants. For example, there are two worlds in which the speed of light is measurably greater by some half of a percent, and one in which it is less by almost a full percent.

In Earth 0, the speed of light is actually decreasing by a very small amount constantly.

The only universal difference is that the second is nanofractionally slower on all known inhabited world-lines except four: Homeline, Centrum, Shikaku-Mon, and Imperium 0 (unknown to the first three).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Background for Stu Wi Foo part 1

Like a virus mining its way into the nucleus of a cell, the substance D came to the sprawling small town. The statistical uptick in robberies and theft was the visible noise of dying brain cells and the creeping death of dreams. The teenager stood outside the small over-priced grocery store and felt the heft of the shotgun under his long coat. A crazed chuckle slipped from the boy’s throat, safety off…
“Stupid fuck,” interjected the words from behind the disaster about to enter the store. As his crazed chuckle died in his throat, the boy felt the weight of the universe come crashing across the back of his head. At the end of the darkness in a closing tunnel stared the face of a mirror…
The ocean of pain rippled through an opened mind as consciousness stirred. Stu Arrhenius tried to move and slowly realized through semi-wakefulness that he was restrained. Peeling his eyes open just in time to the approach of a tall figure and feeling the shock of a sliver of a needle shoved into the flesh of his arm, he jerked awake. “What the hell,…”
“This medication is to initiate the cleansing of your body’s systems and to insulate you from temporal shock,” interrupted a voice. Before his eyes could focus on the individual speaking, the drug began to take effect. Suddenly speechless, Stu melted into the recliner and he no longer felt the restraints keeping him into the chair. “Don’t worry, you won’t pass out this time, I want you to watch the television in the corner. I just saved you from a life of misery—take a look…”
Stu’s eyes focused on a television screen and his thoughts began to clear. That voice sounded so familiar. On the screen rolled scenes from someone’s life. “Look, what the hell do you want with me?” Stu whispered.
“Just look at the screen, this is what your life was about to become”—on the screen showed a prison, years of dangerous living, and bad choice after bad choice. It suddenly occurred to Stu that he was the person on the video. “I had to intervene; you pissed away so much potential.”
“In about twenty minutes, you will become drowsy, fall asleep, and when you awake, you are going to follow the instructions in the brief-case that I am leaving you.”
When Stu awoke, he was alone, unrestrained and resting on a bed in a hotel room. On a recliner facing the bed, sat a brief-case. Stu, jumped up, popped open the brief-case and came to a complete stop. His jaw slackened as he saw stack after stack of hundred dollar bills. On the top of the stacks of money was a manila folder with twenty or thirty pages of type written instructions, documents, and receipts.

Briefing by Infinity Patrol on Temporal Crimes Suspect
StuWiFoo Al’Arrhenius grew up in dysfunctional family in a miserable backwoods town in the United States of America on Homeline variant Earth 0. At the age of sixteen at the moment of a fateful decision, he was kidnapped and released and given money and information that led him to move to a large coastal city in North America. Unknown to him, the intervention was performed by his future self in violation of at least fourteen laws and regulations concerning temporal interference with the timeline. The subject disappeared until records show an enlistment in the US Army in Signal Intelligence. After twenty years service, he retired from the military and went to work for a number of Security Companies before disappearing. Last known whereabouts are San Francisco Bay Area, but records indicate some flights to Hong Kong and Melbourne before his disappearance. The disappearance is somewhat unremarkable as it occurred on December 21st 2012 at the time of the disappearance of several thousand people worldwide. We have no reason to suspect Centrum involvement, but we can’t be sure until he is apprehended for questioning. All agents are reminded to consider the subject and the others on the Dec. 21st top 100 list as persons of interest. Report all sightings to control if apprehension is not possible.