Week 1, Rejoining the Jack
When last we left our heroes, they had pretty much decided to cooperate with KaiSen and use their various connections to try to set up a bureau of time rangers.
The final decision for us is to go to the Jack. Our discussions allocate resources as follows: Cantrel, Chris, and Gene go to the Jack and negotiate there. The rest of the group stays in the CoDominion, working on other tasks such as running the businesses and re-designing space ships.
We take the week's travel time to research the political situation on the Jack. The Jack is working on recovering from its long isolation. Nereus, the marginally habitable, mostly aquatic, metal-poor world that is technically owned by the Jack, had lost its colony during the years of isolation, and is no longer inhabited. The Jack itself has been updating with the help of the world of Capek, a world inhabited mostly by AIs. Capek has been helping out with some grants, loans, and so on in return for trade concessions. You see, Capek is a center of the high-technology industry, and the Jack needs high-tech. Capek is also being wisely careful in its dealings, because the AIs of the universe know that the biologicals have a bugaboo about being "owned" by "machines." Consequently, they haven't been buying property, but buying trade rights. Also, Capek has been helping the Jack get a stable, unified government.
There are three major forces in the Jack: the Jack Council, the Jack Patrol, and the Jack Rangers.
The Jack Council is the nominal federal government of the Jack, a senate made up of representatives from all the major population centers and a representative for all the major races such as humans, neo-gorillas, Naza, AIs, Hierowesch, etc. There is another seat for the First Councilor. The Council cannot own significant property or control territory.
The Jack Patrol is the "global" para-military force. It has no seat on the Council, and in part of the wrangling that formed the Council, the gorillas (who were almost universally part of the Patrol) left the patrol. Currently, neither the Patrol nor the Council work for each other, but we figure that sooner or later the Patrol will report to the First Councilor. Until recently, Leonis Wickman has been both First Councilor and Acting Commandant of the Patrol. But Wickman resigned his post as Acting Commandant to better serve as First Councilor. The current Acting Commandant is one Captain Jeffrey Chan.
The Patrol is charged with keeping the peace on the Jack. All political boundaries are to be respected, and the Patrol enforces this. The Patrol is forbidden to use lethal weaponry, but has the finest in defensive weapons from Capek, mostly high-powered, wide-angle stunners, and it has effectively put down several small wars -- or perhaps kept some disputes from becoming wars. It has its own seat on the Council, and also helps the local governments with their own constabularies, and controls the institutes and universities on the Jack.
The Rangers are in charge of the local ecologies. Much of it is made up with non-humans -- and, interestingly enough, the large, hulking, gentle types -- for example, the gorillas, the Naza, and AIs (especially those like Truck, the intelligent truck that was a friend of the Jack Patrol when it was made of Cantrel, Tom, Wu, Pfusand, David Hunter, and company). In some cases, particularly those of the Naza and gorillas, almost all of that race is in the Ranger Corps. The Rangers have no seat on the Council themselves, but the gorilla seat, the Naza seat, and the AI seat are in many ways all Ranger seats. Some of the group's best old friends can be found in the Rangers. Edward, their old gorilla friend, is the leader of the largest corps, which he has named CORC for "Cantrel's Own Ranger Corps." (He has also learned TK since we saw him last.) Interestingly enough, Cantrel himself is a gorilla citizen with full voting rights at the Dumdum (which appears to be their town meeting or something like that).
We decide that it would probably be best for us if we were to arrange our new Jack Time Patrol to be a wing of the Jack Patrol. We could try tying it to the Rangers, or the University system, or even the First Councilor himself, but we decide that it might be best for it to be part of the Jack Patrol, reporting directly to the Commandant. So we go to the Jack and go talk briefly with Wickman (just to let him know we're back and to get his advice), and then go to Chan with our proposal, which Cantrel gives.
The idea is that we form the Jack Patrol Crosstime Office (we're calling it "Crosstime" for short), which reports directly and only to him. Cantrel rewrites the escape clause he put into the Jack Patrol constitution which allows him to assume leadership of the Patrol, and thus Chan gets promoted from Acting Commandant to Commandant. Crosstime also gets a certain amount of autonomy from the Patrol proper (since there will be times that Crosstime simply cannot explain to the Patrol), and will have its base on some island on Nereus.
At first, Chan isn't completely pleased to see Cantrel and the rest of us back, but as we explain our proposal to him, he warms to it. It's a good deal for him, since he gets to both secure his position as commander of the Patrol and have the legendary Cantrel working FOR him. All he has to do in return is let Crosstime have its fun, and trust them when they say they can't explain. Incidentally, we also decide that we're going to call our whole organization Transworld, like the organization that Henderson claimed to be a part of. Thus, our whole little outfit is called Transworld, and the main-line portion of it is Crosstime. [Thus, also, the new title for the logs.]
You've probably already wondered about what we're going to do about weaponry. The Jack Patrol is restricted to non-lethal weapons, and while we have a fondness for such weapons, we don't limit ourselves to them. The solution that we work out with Chan is that while we are working on the Jack proper, and in a time that is under the jurisdiction of the Jack Council, then we are restricted to non-lethal weapons. But in other times and other places, we may use appropriate force.
We also explain the deal and get buy-in from Wickman and the Rangers. Edward is more than happy to help Cantrel, the Naza are also old friends, and some of the old Patrol's old AI friends are also quite pleased to help out their old friends. This means that when this proposal goes to the Council, it already has a good half-dozen votes in favor of it.
But politics being politics, nothing happens quickly and the arrangements to properly form Crosstime take eight weeks. One evening six weeks into it, there is a knock on Chris's hotel room. Chris flicks on the monitor and sees a vaguely familiar-looking fellow. He looks a bit Hispanic, and could be an old acquaintance, but Chris hopes the fellow isn't, because it's still a good four hundred years before he's born in Brazil. Chris asks the fellow for identification, and the fellow gives his name as Carlos del Gato, thus allowing Chris to score one point, and the fellow gives an Allied Epochs high sign, letting Chris score another. Del Gato asks if he can come in and talk about some business.
Chris lets him in, and del Gato confirms that he's speaking to Christopher Marlowe. That being done, del Gato explains that he's the Allied Epochs agent keeping an eye on this neck of the woods, and he has an investigation that needs to be done.
"I realize that you're currently on detached service, but I was given your name as a resource, and if you're interested in this, we can temporarily reattach you or something."
Chris smiles. "Go on."
"I know you and your friends are currently doing some business on the Jack. Does the name Jason Derrico mean anything to you?"
"Well, a long time ago, Dr. Derrico was a rather deranged scientist on the Jack, during its days of isolation. He did work with androids, building and training warrior androids, assassin androids, and all matter of other unpleasantness. Even after he died, he left a computer simulation of himself, which caused a good deal of trouble until it was stopped by your friends. This may not seem all that extraordinary to you," he says meaningfully, "but you have to realize that androids are anachronistic technology for that era. We know that somehow Derrico got his androids from the outside."
"We've already sent an agent in to investigate, and he missed his last rendezvous. We need to check up on him to see if he needs help -- and to complete his mission. I was wondering if you might be interested in forming a team to investigate this. We could wait for the appropriate authorities to be formed here, and refer the matter to them, but they may not be formed for a couple of decades, and the more promptly these things are handled the better."
Chris grins. He asks, "Is this a coincidence? Or perhaps a Coincidence?"
"I don't think so," says del Gato. "I got your name from up the ladder when I asked for local resources, and even checked for stochastic anomalies before I came to you, and nothing came up. If you know something I don't, then it must be a small coincidence. They do happen, you know."
"All the time. I ask because the business my friends and I are attending to is that of forming an office on the Jack to be an AE signatory. Actually, we should have the whole business done in two or three weeks."
"Oh! I see. I didn't realize that. This is a bit of a backwater, you know. Yes, forming a signatory with the help of an established agent would make the process go more smoothly. That's very good. It's always best to let the local authorities handle these things, especially when they're known to have good intent. Well, perhaps then I should go do some more research on the subject and come back to you in -- perhaps a month?"
"That sounds good."
"Well, this is a nice coincidence. Thank you very much, Mr. Marlowe."
"You're quite welcome, Mr. del Gato."
Del Gato leaves, and then Chris goes to Cantrel's room to explain the proposal to him. Cantrel is thrilled. "Good job!" he says, cuffing Chris on the shoulder. "Now we've got the perfect job to justify our existence. It's serious, but not too hard. We can use it to blood the new troops."
"Yes," says Chris. "I figured it would come soon, but not this soon."
They tell Gene, and write a letter back to the Transworld people, explaining the situation and getting a team put together. They remind Transworld that since this is going to be in the direct past of the group, that care should be taken, and they should all remember to bring stunners. Crosstime itself remembers to write the message in Pantope Patios, what we call our own argot made up of bits of all the languages we've had to learn over the years, like Faan, Hremish, Chyoxan, Lapidian, Sindarin, CoDominion Helene Forest Tongue, and so on. Hah, let 'em try to snoop on that! As Chris composes the letter, Gene asks for language lessons.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.