The author interviews the cast and crew of The Kestral Voyages: The Lens


cover of The Kestral Voyages: The Lens

An unutterably silly story, transcribed (with comments) from the MobileRead forums

Konichi-wa. I’m Steven Lyle Jordan, and I’ve been offered a rare opportunity. I am standing just outside of the space freighter Mary, featured in the novel My Life, After Berserker, and The Lens. I have been given permission to go on-board the Mary and speak to its cast—er, crew, about the upcoming novel, and anything else they want to talk about, before it is released! And as this is a sort-of pseudo kinda something like live feed, you, my MR friends, can also suggest questions for me to ask the crew, about anything you want! (And they may even answer you!)

Yeah! Cool, isn’t it? Just like a DVD extra! First: How did I get here? Well, yesterday a strange, tiny man in a dark cloak showed up at my door and presented me with a box… then ran away. I opened the box—after making sure it wasn’t ticking… certainly a futile gesture with digital watches these days—and discovered a device with a few buttons, and a label which read: Mr. Quantum Right Brane Displacement Tuned Macro Organism Translator (MQRBDTMOT, for short… like it helps) with Optional TARDIS Locator and Key Fob.

Well, being a key fob aficionado (remind me to tell you sometime about my brand new auto-expandable superhero costume fob—it’s cool, but a b***h to fold back up!), I naturally unpacked everything and found that the key fob projected an instruction manual before my eyes! After giving it a quick once-over, I realized that I would be able to translate myself into the Right Brane, where my stories originate before I translate them to novels… and actually speak to the characters in my novels!

So: There was no question who I was going to visit first (actually… I wanted to visit Alain Guest first, but his new girlfriend scares the hell out of me. Maybe after a few dozen drinks.). So I worked the controls, on the MQRBDTMOT, pressed the fob, and here I am!

Don’t ask me how my cellphone works here—heck, I’m not sure how it works at home—but I was able to call ahead, and they’re expecting me, so I’m just waiting for them to open the hatch and ask me in…


what fine wenches you have on those book covers …..

Steve, I’ve never gotten a real sense of the size of the space freighter Mary. Is there anything you can compare it to that I might know? (A terminal at BWI, the new terminal building at Ronald Regan National Airport, FedEx Field?) Also, is it new and shinny looking like most NASA vehicles or looking like most over the road trucks and railroad box cars?


Geoff, I’ll try to discreetly pass that on when I see the Captain. Regarding the Mary: Wood, it’s huuuge! It must be a good city block long, and maybe five, six stories high. The engine pods alone are the size of boxcars! I can’t see any seams in the hull, it’s pretty much smooth, with just a few little ports and modules here and there… they look like they’re molded right into the skin. And it’s white, like shiny alabaster… I mean, it’s pretty! Of course, it’s a relatively new ship, and I guess a few years will put some blemishes on it eventually. But right now—

Ah, there’s the hatch opening… and unless I miss my guess… yes, that’s Captain Carolyn Kestral waving me up! Come on… (I am so geeking out over this!)

“Welcome to the Mary, Mister Jordan! It’s so nice to meet you in person.”

And you, Captain! My MobileRead colleagues would like me to pass on their compliments on your… ahattractiveness. Yes. As a matter of fact, you’re… uh, taller than I imagined you.

“I get that a lot. And you, uh… look thinner in person.”

Thanks! I’ve dropped a few pounds… heh… anyway, why don’t we get started with the interviews?

“Certainly! And if you and your friends would like, we can also walk around the Mary, and I can show you some of the amenities.”

That would be great! And where is the rest of the crew?

“Oh, they’re about somewhere… we’ll run into them soon enough.”

Okay. So: You’re just back from the planet Shura Dva, where most of the story The Lens takes place. Nice planet?

“Well, it’s still in the process of being terraformed, so it’s really not much to look at. And after our visit, we were happy enough to leave!”

I can dig it. We know, of course, that you had quite an adventure on Shura Dva, although only you and I know the details.

“It was an incredible adventure, Steve! And as rough as it was at times, I can assure you that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Excellent. Ah, we seem to be approaching the bridge of the Mary. Would Mark O’Bannon possibly be here?

“Well, let’s see…”


Ask about the crew – any dogs/cats – non-humans?
Do they like chocolate?


Wow, look at this bridge. For my MR friends, the bridge isn’t so much like a bridge you might be familiar with… it’s sort of like, um, a large interior office. There’s a viewscreen on the far wall, where a forward port might be… but there are no windows here. It has these three desks, two of them side by side, and one behind them. Captain, this desk back here is yours, right?

“That’s right, the Captain’s station. That one is the support station, which is only occasionally needed. And there, at the pilot’s station… this is Mark O’Bannon, my first officer and pilot.”

Mister O’Bannon… pleasure to meet you!

“Call me Mark.”

Of course! You can all call me Steve, by the way.

“So, you’re the one in the Left Brane that’s transcribing our stories into e-books! How in the world did you get here, anyway?”

I was given a MQRBDTMOT by a strange visitor. See?

“Looks like a key fob.”

Oh… yes! Well, the MQRBDTMOT sort of sits between branes, and I call it with the fob when I’m ready to go back.

“I… see.”

No, really.

“If you say so.”

So… Mark, I’ve heard quite a few comments about the Martian appearance… the black skin and white hair, and all. Up close, it’s very striking. If you don’t mind my asking—

“Yes, it’s black and white there, too.”

It… Oh! No, no, I was gonna ask something else! (But I’m sure a few people will be glad you cleared that up.) uh… Knowing that your skin and hair color comes from your ancestors’ experimenting with improperly-tested skin therapy treatments, do you or other Martians ever get any… I dunno, grief from other races about the bad judgment of your forebears?

“Oh, no… that kind of thing went away generations ago! It would be like criticizing an Australian for having ancestors who were criminals.”

Good point. Mark, I understand that on this adventure, you met someone from your past. Can you tell us about that?

“Well, yes. I happened to meet someone who was aboard the scout craft I used to rescue a group of innocents from a battle zone.”

That was the mission that cost you your Ranger career, wasn’t it?

“That’s right, it was. No big, though… I was just as happy to leave.”

So how does that fit into the story?

“Well, the girl’s name is Sharee, and she is now a member of the Oan Engineer’s Guild. With her help, I managed to get involved with what was going on between the Engineers and the Cargans on Shura Dva… I’m not spoiling anything, am I?”

No, not yet…

“Ah, good. So, anyway, Sharee helps me to assist them with their little… problem, and save their terraforming operation. For now, at least.”

For now?

“Well, they still have a lot of work to do, back there. But they’ve got a much better chance at it now.”

And what happened to Sharee?

“Ah, that would be telling! Spoilers…”

Yes, of course… silly of me! So, how is working for Captain Kestral?

“Oh, this is a great job… some of the most enjoyable work I’ve ever had, really! ‘Course, every now and then, it gets a bit stale. But when it does, something like Shura Dva comes up… or Lief’s Planet… and we get a little excitement.”

Lief’s Planet? Tell us about that.

“Actually, you should talk to the others… I was sort of in the background through a lot of that, and they can give you more background on that one…”

“Mark’s Being modest, Steve. If it weren’t for Mark, we’d probably have died on Lief’s Planet… or worse.”

Worse? What’s worse than dying?

“I’ll tell you, while we check out more of the ship, and look for a few more of the crew. Come on.”

Sure… whoa! Carolyn, is that—

“Oh, don’t mind that, Steve. That’s just the ship’s remote drone. It hovers around and monitors things for the Mary, sometimes inside the ship, and sometimes outside. It’s pretty quiet in hover mode, and until your ear gets attuned to it, it can sort of sneak up on you.”

Neat! It looks like a smoked glass orb. I can see tiny lights flashing inside of it… but I don’t hear anything. What makes it float?

“It has its own gravity field that it uses to propel itself. It just floats around the ship, doing its job.”

Sort of like a ship’s mascot, huh?

“Well… I tend to think of it as a remote independently-mobile sensory node and intercommunications tool… but I suppose you could call it a mascot, yes.”

Mm. So, I’d guess there aren’t any pets aboard, huh?

“Why? Did you plan to bring one?”


Hey, is that one of the crew quarters?

“Yes, it is… would you like to see?”

Absolutely! I’ve always wondered what the cabins were like… hey, this is nice! Friends, I’m inside what can be considered a stateroom, like a large hotel suite. There’s a main room… well, area, really, with a sofa and a few chairs, a large viewscreen on the wall, and a desk with a ship’s console… this allows you to access the ship’s intelligence system and library, yes?

“That’s right.”

Nice. And over here, in an adjoining space, is the bed… mmm, memory foam. (wish I had a glass of wine…) Looks like plenty of built-in drawers, and a nice-sized closet. Then, there’s a private bathroom. This looks fairly normal, overall, except for the shower: It looks more like a big pod, and inside of it, instead of shower nozzles, there are grills on each side, above and below. I’ll bet this is a sonic shower, isn’t it?

“We just call it a shower, but yes, it uses sonics instead of water.”

Nice. You just use water for the commode, then?

“That’s sonic, too.”


“Of course. We can’t afford to be as wasteful with water as people were before the 21st century! If we did, we’d’ve used up all the hydrogen in this arm of the galaxy by now! Sonic cleaning is much more efficient, sanitary, and even pleasurable. Depending on the setting.”

That must be… interesting.

“Are you blushing? Ah, you Old Earthers and your provincial ideas…”

Yes, well, on that note, maybe we should move on!

“Sure. Why don’t we check out the common area?”

Great! I hear you can get a great cup of coffee on this ship.

“Yes… almost always. As it turned out, coffee wasn’t nearly as enjoyable while we were on Shura Dva. That planet did some… interesting things to food.”

But it all reverted to normal again when you left?

“Yes, thank the Gods! I almost had a mutiny on my hands, thanks to… well, I don’t want to give too much away.”

Spoilers. Of course. Let me say, wandering around the Mary is a wonderful experience. The corridors are a nice size, plenty of room to walk side-by-side. Not quite as big as a Star Trek corridor, maybe…

“Star what?”

Star Trek, you know, the Enterprise…

“What kind of enterprise? Is that a business venture?”

Well… it is, the way Paramount runs it. Never mind… ah, and now, we’re in the common area. It’s like a big rec room with a big table, a few smaller game tables, some loungers, and a kitchen on one wall.

“Oh, don’t let Angel hear you call this a kitchen! I think he’s used to much more elaborate cooking spaces… like you’d find in your average four-star restaurant. We call it the galley. But, yes, we get together for meals here, talk about work, hang out, play fizzbin…”

Oh, I’m not going there.

“Of course you wouldn’t. It’s Tuesday.”

And the sun’s still up. Is there some coffee made?

“Here you go…”

Thanks. Hey… 3-D chess! Let’s see… how do you move the pieces? Is it a joystick, or…?

“Um… you just pick one up and move it. See? It’s not a hologram…”

Heh! Of course… silly of me… oh, is that the infirmary? In Berserker, you hid a small incubator here that was supposed to hold a sample of the Raian virus.

“Yes… it was just under there. Sitting on it’s side, it looked like it was built-in. Of course, after the Raians found it and melted it down, it took a blowtorch to get it out.”

Do you still have it? A memento of your first mission together?

“There are some things you don’t want to be reminded of, Steve. That whole episode just serves to remind me of how stupid it was not to tell my crew about my carrying the dormant Berserker virus. That first mission almost became our last. No, I don’t need any reminders of that lying around.”

I understand. Can I see the cargo bay?

“No problem. This way…”


Oh, Snap! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? That’s what i get for trying to walk the dogs without a leash!


I was hoping I’d get more questions from the MR members, but I got a quark-burst a second ago… something about everyone being out chasing dogs…

Oh… my… God. It’s like the closing scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in here! Look at all the containers!

“Well, as a matter of fact, we’ll be taking these crates to our next stop in a few days. They are from the private collection of a media mogul who died recently, and most of it will be sold to pay off his estate. Mind the hand truck…”

You mean this sleigh-looking thing? Hardly looks big enough to hold a nine year old boy. Carolyn, early on in The Lens, you end up staging a fight in here.

“Yes, on Lief’s Planet: A bunch of criminals were trying to rob a settlement, and we lured the leader and his men in here to try to subdue them.”

You and your crew seem to have some LEET fighting skills!

“Well, of course Mark and I have had the benefit of Ranger training, which includes comprehensive combat training. Tirri and Sarander haven’t had the same kind of training, but Sarander just fights like a bull, and Tirri… well, I don’t know where her fighting ability comes from, but you have to see it to believe it!”

Word. Doesn’t Tirri work back here?

“Let’s see if we can find her… I think she’s working on one of the booms further into the bay.”

Along with Mark, Tirri is the other member of your crew who isn’t baseline-human.

“Right: She is an Avian.”

So she is genetically altered to best adapt her to the planet she was born on. She has hollow bones, and feathers instead of hair.

“Her hair is essentially a compound follicle… but it looks like feathers. She’s very light and agile, but strong, and better-suited than baseline humans for working in 3-D spaces and variable gravity environments. And like I said, you should see her fight!”

With Mark and Tirri here, it’s kind of like having aliens on board, isn’t it?

“Well, maybe. There are some races in the Galarchy that look pretty alien! But as much as we might want to meet beings from other planets, the world we’re in is much better than living with actual aliens.”

How so?

“Well, think about it: First of all, we all have a common ancestry… we’re all human. That means a basic cultural understanding between us.”

I follow.

“Then, there’s the fact that we can speak to and understand each other. Think about how great that is… and how unlikely it would be with aliens! We can barely communicate with the Raians, and we’ve been working on that for decades now! With aliens, you don’t have a cultural base, so sharing concepts is much harder. And who says aliens will vibrate vocal cords to communicate? They might blink lights in the infra-red spectrum at each other, which we couldn’t even see…”

Like trying to ‘hear’ radio waves…

“Exactly! The possibility that we’d be able to communicate effectively with multiple races of aliens would be impossibly remote! Then, there’s biology: Most Oan races can eat the same foods, breathe the same atmosphere, see and hear the same messages and warnings, operate the same machinery with similar appendages, et-cetera. Again… aliens with completely foreign biologies would be unlikely to be able to do those things. You’d be so occupied with providing air, food, basic biological services, controls, messages and warnings that every alien could understand, et-cetera… just like language, it would be impossible to do it! I’d never want to be part of a world like that… what an insane idea… it would never work!”

Heh… funny you should say that…

“Oh, I think I see Tirri around there.”


Waaa! Now I have to read Steve’s books… waa… my poor to-read list.

Ask her if she’s seen Slite or Wetdogeared. We found Vivaldi. He’s been out rolling in something awful. Called it “work.”


“Yes, there she is! Tirri, I’d like you to meet our guest.”

“Oh, hi! You’re Steve… the writer guy! Nice to meet you!”

Pleasure’s all mine. What are you doing here?

“Just servicing this boom. It was acting up on Shura Dva, and this is the first chance I’ve had to service it. It dropped a crate, and… well, I don’t want to get into that right now.”

You don’t want your client to know one of their crates was damaged?

“No… it’s a spoiler! Duh! Aren’t we supposed to be avoiding spoilers?”

Ah, of course! Quite right, let’s skip the crate. So, you run this entire cargo bay. It’s massive!

“Oh, yeah, we can hold a lot of cargo. I mean, we’re not a Valley Forge-class freighter, but we have a lot of space. And this is just the main bay… we have smaller bays above this, on the next level, for more sensitive supplies, and things that need customized atmospheres.”

Could you carry animals and livestock in here?

“Well, yes, I suppose. Were you planning on bringing some?”

No… just asking. Uh, you haven’t seen any stray dogs around here, have you?


Never mind… I’m sure they’ll turn up. Tirri, you’re one of two crewmembers on-board who are not baseline-human. Does that ever present any problems for you?

“My husband’s a baseline-human, you know. In fact, some of my best friends are baseline-human.”

But seriously…

“Seriously, no, not usually. Although I had my own… issues on Shura Dva. That place was just not conducive to my health and welfare! Was it, Carolyn?”

“I’ll say! Another good reason we were glad to get out of there!”

“Anyway, there’s no one on this ship with any prejudices or preconceptions about Avians, or any other race, for that matter. Well… maybe Mark, the things I’ve heard him say about Lokians. And, of course, none of us like Spiders—I mean, Raians. But they mostly want to wipe us out, so that goes without saying.”

Right. Your feathers… well, compound follicles… are really fascinating to look at, if you don’t mind my saying so. It sort of… drifts about on the breeze a bit, it’s very hypnotic. If you don’t mind my asking…

“Yes, there’s feathers down there, too.”

Whu—No! (Why does everyone think I’m gonna ask stuff like that?) I was gonna say: On your home planet, did your feathers serve any purpose in helping you to get around?

“Oh, no. From what I understand, the compound follicles were a by-product of the genetic alterations done to Avians, not a desired trait. Avians use flying rigs to get around, which is why we were bred like birds to be lighter, and more comfortable in open space. But the feathers do serve a useful purpose: They’re great insulators, better than regular hair, or even fur.”

I see! And speaking of seeing, I imagine your larger pupils make it easier to see greater distances?

“Well, mostly to see better detail. For instance, if you look over there at that red crate… see it? I can read the label on the bottom left corner from here.”

What label?

“There… the bottom left corner. It says ‘This end up’… oh. I guess I should fix that.”

“Good idea! And while you’re doing that, I’ll take Steve upstairs, and see if we can’t find Angel.”

“Okay, have a good tour! See you later!”

And you…


Okay, seriously, how is it that artifical gravity continues to work while your ship is getting the tar whupped out of it by the Raians?

Wasn’t the cargo bay wrecked when the security harnesses broke? Hope it wasn’t too long to repair.
Way to go Steve. Kestral is, I think, one of your best avenues to follow through.


Okay, Carolyn, I’ve had a question posed by one of the MR people: how is it that artifical gravity continues to work while your ship is getting the tar whupped out of it by the Raians?

“Well, this ship hasn’t been ‘whupped by Raians’… thank goodness. If you’re referring to our first mission, remember, the Ranger heavy cruiser Superman showed up and deflected a particle beam that would have cut us in half. At that point, it wouldn’t have mattered how good the gravity systems were. The gravity systems work in conjunction with inertial manipulation fields to maintain a steady gravity, and usually do a great job. However, when you’re near a strong gravity well… say, inside a Sun’s corona… it’ll work, but so weakly that it’s like it isn’t even there. Then things can get messy. We bounced around like ping pong balls on that one, and Tirri almost ended up crushed by machinery in the bay. Fortunately, she’s very agile.”

And did it take long to repair the bay after that incident?

“Well, we had to take a few weeks to check and remount every security harness in the bay. The standard mounting system was to spec, legally … but I decided they could be much better. That kept us going nowhere for awhile, but we didn’t want to see it happen again. Uh, what?”

You’re climbing a ladder.


Well, this is a space ship. Aren’t there turbolifts, or something?

“What’s wrong with ladders?”

Well, nothing, I guess…

“A space ship is a self-contained vessel that travels alone in deep space. You don’t waste power on things like turbolifts in deep space when you don’t have to. And we don’t have to. Besides, there are service shafts that run from top to bottom, and stem to stern, which are isolated from the gravity systems and therefore maintain a neutral gravity. If we have to move something heavy from one level or section to another, we use those.”

Okay, I get it. No wasted energy. Good thinking. So, these are the upper storage bays. It’s sort of like walking around in a big self-storage facility. Does each one of these maintain its own environmental system?

“About half of them do, by default. Others can be set up to run their own ecosystems, if needed. A lot of them are just used to store our own things. That one there holds most of Sarander’s excess engine supplies. Come on, the farm is right over here.”

Yes, I want to see this…


I just love the practicality of your space ships!

More, more, more… don’t stop…
If your books are like the interview, then I”m seriously going to have to get your books.

Oh, definitely get the books!

Damn it !
I knew I should have gotten that spare tire fixed !
Hum, no, that’s not what I was planning to say.
Too much Rocky Horror Picture Show can play havoc with your brain.
Let’s do it again :
Damn it !
This interview piece sure is interesting, it makes me regret not having already read Berserker.
I’ll make sure I get it during Read an Ebook Week, if it haven’t already got it when I bought a bundle some months ago.
Let’s see about some questions :
– do they have any cool gadgets they can talk to us about, as they don’t have turbolifts ? Like an Improbability Generator or peta-Watt laser beams for laundry service ?
– any FTL capability ? (Disregard this question if it’s already explained in details in your universe, as I don’t know it – yet)

What’s the food like on board? How many chefs have they to cater for all the different tastes – and don’t tell me they just ‘manufacture’ food out of thin air.
Any jacussis, swimming baths, cinemas – libraries …?


Boy, what a long corridor… seems like we’ve been walking up here all night…

Okay, now Captain Kestral is taking me to a large, trapezoidal door, it’s opening, and… oh, man. It’s a field of wheat!

“Actually, it’s quatro-triticale, but it’s often confused with wheat.”

“Steve, meet Angel, our expert in all things edible.”

Pleasure to meet you, Angel! Wow, this is really impressive, dude! How can you grow plants like this… hey! We’re standing on dirt!

“That’s right, Steve. Some plants just grow best in dirt and under gravity, like the Q-T, here. But I also have hydroponic spaces, aeroponic spaces and potted gardens. All to provide real food for the crew!”

Okay, obviously there’s nothing wrong with real food, but is it really that significantly better than storing and cooking the prepared foodstuffs that you can get almost anywhere you travel to? I mean, is it really healthier? Is it cheaper? It’s certainly not easier!

“No, it’s not easier… this is work! But yes, it’s worth it. You’d be surprised at the lack of chemical balance you get from processed foods, which are mostly prepared with exactly one thing in mind: To make you want to buy more of it. This is the way people were intended to eat, how they’re designed to eat. And it gives me a great deal of satisfaction, knowing that I’ve contributed to the health and welfare of my shipmates. That’s what makes it worthwhile to come up here… to take my tools in my hand, the same tools that Man has used for thousands of years… to work the land, to feel the grit between my fingers… to hold an ear of corn in my hand… to find exactly the right color on a freshly-picked peach! That is what farming is about! It’s a covenant with nature! It’s a sacred duty!—”

Say, does anyone else hear a fife and drum playing “Yankee Doodle” in the background, or is it just me?

“Hm? Oh… that must be the music player, sometimes it adjusts the volume according to the air density, to make sure all the plants can hear the music.”

You’re kidding me.

“No, no! Plants do respond to music! They also respond to being handled by people and other animals, as opposed to machines.”

But you don’t have any animals up here helping you, right?

“No. Were you planning to bring some?”

Uh-uh. So, you also cook. I hear you’re good enough to be working in four-star restaurants!

“Don’t give him any ideas!”

“It’s okay, Carolyn… I like it here! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!”

And what about your routine? Does farming and cooking ever get a bit boring? Do you ever get involved in other things on the ship?

“Oh, yeah! In fact, on this last mission, I got into a brawl, got out to enjoy some entertainment in town on Shura Dva, and had to assist Tirri in keeping our guests happy… we had a lot of people coming and going on this ship recently!”

“But we won’t go into that, right, Angel?”

“Right… spoilers! But anyway, it was fun! And strange. But mostly, sort of… strangely fun!”

That’s great! Well, we’ll leave you to your farming, and maybe I’ll get a chance to sample some of your crops. Say, you grow cocoa beans around here, buddy?

Heh… when I can! Anytime I make chocolate, I have to hide ’em from this bunch, or it’s gone in a nanosecond!”

Okay… thanks again! …Wow, Carolyn, that was really something back there! How could anyone resist working a ship that carries its own farm?

“If you’d been with us on our last mission, you might rethink that question. There was something weird about Shura Dva, and somehow it affected our foods… everything, right down to the coffee. And I tell you, it’s hard to put me off coffee! But usually, it’s great. Better than anything I ever ate on a Ranger ship!”

Where are we going now?

“Engineering. Let’s see if we can find Sarander there.”

Sounds great…


Hey ! That Angel, does he sometimes moonlight as a vampire ?


By the way, do you know what Angel does with his nights?

“Sleeps, mostly. Why?”

No reason… so, Carolyn, this ship can travel faster than light! I gotta tell ya, I have a really hard time believing that actually works.

“Yes, it’s a strange world. The whole process seems counter-intuitive… even counter-reality! But it seems to work for us.”

What’s the basic principle behind it?

“It’s based on a construct called a ‘tesser field’. It’s essentially two time bubbles, one inside the other… a sort of time-thermos bottle. Inside the outer bubble, everything moves faster in time… so a ship traveling through space can exceed the speed of light inside the bubble. Of course, that would mean everything inside the bubble would age faster than outside the bubble, and we’d all arrive on a new planet as old men and women. So, the inner time-bubble slows the time in the ship itself down, to counteract the faster time inside the bubble, and equalize us with the rest of the world. Understand?”

If I tell you I do, will you refrain from going into more detail?


Then I understand, one hundred percent!

“Thank you.”

No… thank you. Ah, this must be engineering. Um…

“Not what you expected?”

Well, not really, I guess. I thought I’d see giant machinery, huge glowing tubes humming with energy, rotating crystals suspended in mid-air, and steam blowing out of regulators… but this looks like a combination workshop and concert control station.

“You were expecting an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?”

“Steve, this is Sarander Fi, our ship’s boss.”

“Pleased to meet you, finally! Mark told me you two were coming up… by the way, how’d you say you got here?”

I was given a MQRBDTMOT by a strange visitor. See?

“Looks like a key fob.”

Yes, well, the MQRBDTMOT sort of sits between branes, and I call it with the fob when I’m ready to go back.

“I… see.”

No, really!

“And he thought my explanation of FTL was hard to believe.”

Anyway… Sarander, you run all of the ship’s engines from up here. Is it a lot to handle by yourself?

“Not usually. The nice thing about a Quicksilver-class freighter is, the control systems are really pretty comprehensive. It’s like being on a cruise ship! If you know how, you can do almost anything from the control panels, without having to pop the hood on anything at all! And when you do, it’s easy enough to secure things until you can do repairs.”

What about repairs that have to be done on-the-run?

“Well, yeah, that’s a lot trickier. Quicksilvers weren’t designed for that kind of thing. Not like, say, a Ranger battle cruiser, which is designed for people to be able to reach in and do repairs while the damn thing’s still running! Active maintenance and repair can be done, but it’s pretty delicate stuff. I try to avoid it when I can!”

Is this all to control the time-thermos-thingy?

“The tesser fields?”

Thanks… much more realistic when you say it…

“No. The tesser field generators are controlled on this console.”

The one that looks like God’s synthesizer?

“Yup. These let me shape the time-fields to allow more efficient transition through space. A sort of teardrop shape is best, but it takes continuous effort to maintain the shape, depending on the characteristics of local spacetime.”

I… see.

“No, really.

Okay… then what?

“Well, time-fields are great, but they don’t actually propel us anywhere. For that, we have twin fractalmonic fusion reactors, which directly supply power to the ship’s batteries, the fuel-based drive engines, and finally the tesser-field generators.”

What’s ‘fractalmonic’?

“Sounds waves modulated in frequencies shaped by fractal geometry equations, of course! What, you attended high school, didn’t you?”

I may have been sick that day…

Yeh. Anyway, the drives use fractalmonic fields to shape ionic plasma into a very tight stream. That propels the ship… it’s got a lot of punch for its size.”

How much punch?

“Enough to get us off a planet.”

Impressive! But I hear your trip to Shura Dva put you in a spot.

“I’ll say! We almost didn’t make it through that one! I don’t know what it is about that planet, but I hope I never have to take this ship back there again!”

Well, obviously, we’re all glad you made it back in one piece.

“Only for the grace of the Gods, and the quality of the Mary. She spoils me… I’ll never be able to work on another ship after this! Right, Carolyn?”

“And let’s hope you don’t have to! Well, Steve, you’ve met the crew, and you’ve seen most of the ship. Let’s head back downstairs, and see what else we can talk about.”

Sure. Sarander, thanks for the tour!

“No problem. I’m about ready for a break, anyway, so I’ll follow you guys back downstairs.”

Don’t you need to leave someone behind to watch things, or secure all stations, or double-check the injectors, or something, when you leave here?

“Heck, no! Half of this is on automatic, and the ship knows how to reach me if something needs to be manually adjusted. See? This is my com. We all have one.”

Looks a bit like my cellphone…

“Sure… it looks like your ancient phone! But in fact, this not only lets you make calls about the ship: It can access the ship’s library or order it to coordinate queries with Oan databases; provide the ship with your location, on or off the ship; monitor your health, and alert the ship if someone is injured; access all of your personal library data and replay it on demand; you can use it to read, play games, record diary entries, check your schedule, update your bank accounts, take video, and exchange data with other people’s coms.”

My phone does all that, and it lets me customize the screen, too.

“Really? Cool…


Yum yum, engineering …
EDIT : aw … too slow for Steve’s fractalmonic posting speed
Is their phone a Pomegranate ?

Oh so last millenium ….

“You were expecting an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?”
This question seemed nicely ‘ducked’?


Captain, I can’t say enough about this ship, and about all of you. It’s really something being here, and you and your crew are incredible!

“Thank you! I feel very lucky to have assembled such a great crew.”

And I hear you’ve recently met someone special, haven’t you? Another freighter captain, I understand?

“Yes… we ran into each other a few times, doing parallel runs in the Mook system, and somewhere along the way, we managed to hook up. His name is Coray Gheris.”

Captain of the Jovian Skies. What’s that ship like, compared to yours?

“Oh, the Jovian is nothing like this… it’s tiny! The kind of freighter you use to haul small goods and do a lot of short runs. But small ships have capabilities that big ships like mine, and the big superfreighters, can’t match.”

I hear he turned out to be a large part of your mission to Shura Dva in The Lens.

“He’s what got us there in the first place, in fact. Not that that was his fault, of course. But if not for him, we never would have gotten involved in the problems on Shura Dva. Still, it turned out all right in the end.”

And where is Coray now?

“Out on a run. He said he’s running ‘cow seeds’ to Taurus Nine. I’m still trying to figure out what the heck those are.”

I got nothin,’ sorry. Anyway, I wish you luck with that. I know long-distance relationships can be tough.

“You don’t know that half-parsec of it…”

We’re back to the common area… oh, hi, Tirri! Taking a break too?

“Waiting for my welds to cool… hi, sweetie!”

“Hey, baby! How’s the bay looking?”

“Pretty good. I’ll be finished pretty soon, and we’ll be ready to head back out.”

Do you have another mission planned already?

“No, but we always want to be ready for when somewig comes up…”

Somewig? Carolyn?

“Oh, God, did I say— Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m sorry, I was looking at… Ann, your wig’s on crooked!”


“It is? Oh, no! Why didn’t someone tell me? Oh, look, it’s all touseled on this side—”

Agh! Tirri… your hair! Um, feathers! It’s… a wig?

“Well, duh! Of course it is, silly? What, did you think I grew this?”

But… you’re bald!

“Oh, yeah. It’s too hard to keep my hair when I’m wearing this thing. I usually just put on a regular wig when I go out… then, when filming is over, I’ll let my hair grow back in…”

What are you talking about! You’re an Avian!

“Uh, no… I’m an actor… from Manchester.”


“Hey, Roland, I’m sorry, but the wig’s all messed up, and this eyebrow makeup is killing me… can we redo the scene over my shoulder, so I can get a break from this stuff?”

“Yeh, sure, luv. Everyone, let’s go back to page fifteen, an’ we can—”

Aaagh! Who are you guys? Where did you come from?

“Oh, lor’ luv a duck, here we go again…”

“Steve, calm down! What’s wrong?”

Wrong? Wrong! This is supposed to be the Right Brane! I’m in another universe, where my ideas actually exist, so I can interview the embodiment of my characters—

Blimey, it nevah fails. You give a writer a minnit in front of a camera, and ‘e thinks ‘e’s Olivier…”

“What’s going on? Roland, are we resetting?”

“It’s okay, Frank, we’re just having a go at—”

Mark! Where’s your… you’re white!

“And… you’re not. What? This makeup never stays on for long, I have to re-apply it five or six times a day.”

What’s going on?!?

“Steve, calm down!

“Okay, ‘at’s it! Someone say lunch!”


“That’s lunch, people! One hour, not a minnit more! Lor’ give me strength from writers…”

“Steve, look, as long as we have you here, there’s something we need to discuss…”

What’s going on? Who are you? Carolyn?

“Oh, stop! Okay? It’s Rainy Summers, the girl you hired to replace Dustie Bottoms after she refused to do a Kestral sequel! Now, can we talk?”


“Look, this has all been fun, y’know? We’ve done The Lens, we’ve posed for the posters, we’re doing the DVD extras, and I’ve been measured for those stupid Burger King toys. But we still haven’t seen dime one beyond the basic contract agreement for all the residual work, y’know?”


Steve—focus! Now, look, this has been a great gig, y’know? But you still owe us, and if we don’t get paid, we’re pulling the plug on this whole thing! So you need to get Diane on the phone—”


Diane! Your agent, Steve? —and tell her to get on the stick!


Dude, I passed up a season on CSI St Petersburg to do this bit. You’re gonna do right by us, right? ‘Cause if you don’t, we’re gonna have words…”

L-look, Sarander, I don’t—

“It’s Sonny, all right?!? Sonny! What is this, you’re trying to go section eight on us and duck out of your contract?”

Uh—No, no! I—uh

“Look, just get it done, okay? We got bills to pay!”

Y-yeah… right… sure, sure, guys. Um… I’ll call… uh—


Diane! and get it fixed! Yeah. Today! Yeah. I’ll just—

“Where are you going?”

I’m just gonna go and make a call! Yeah! I’m gonna call… back there! Where it’s quiet! Besides, the reception sucks in here. So, I’ll be right back, okay? I’ll be right back

“What the hell’s wrong with him?”

“Writers. They’re all flaky as hell. Did they bring in kielbasa today?…”


Oh – I was so NOT expecting that twist ….

I hate it when the voices in my head go all “Fourth Wall” on me!

Are those voices the ones that are ‘talking’ to me, too ?


This isn’t right. This isn’t right! I’m supposed to be in another universe! These are supposed to be my characters! What the heck is happening?

I know: They’re just messing with me! It’s a gag… yeah! These guys like to play gags on each other! And now they’re having a go at me!

But… Tirri’s hair… uh, feathers… nuh, wig… and Mark’s skin was… and I don’t have an agent! Where are they getting this stuff?

Okay… okay… maybe the MQRBDTMOT took me to the wrong brane… I’m in the… the Bizarro Brane, or something! I took a wrong turn! I gotta see if I can get back to where I’m supposed to be, or—



“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Did you get through to Diane?”

I’m, uh, still… you know, answering services… I left a message, so I’m waiting for her to call back…

“Well, I just wanted to thank you for trying to straighten that out. And for the opportunity to be in The Lens, of course! I mean, after a while, you get tired of the stupid horror movie roles, all making you get half-naked before the monster eats your head, and all… y’know? It’s so nice to be doing something more legit… and with a better message for kids than ‘don’t go out naked alone in the woods’.”


“So, any idea when Diane will get back to you?”

You know, I’m gonna try her again… maybe I can get her on the way to… wherever she is… I have her private number, but I usually don’t try to call it unless—

“Um, Steve? You’re holding that key fob.”

I am? I am! Ah! Well… I figured, if I couldn’t get Diane over here, that I might have to… go and see her myself! And get this straightened out! After all, I wouldn’t want you guys to be screwed just because I couldn’t track her down.

“That’s really straight up, y’know? Thanks again, babe!”

…Okay: She kissed me on the cheek… so I know I’m not hallucinating. But I gotta get outta here! Come on… call up the MQRBDTMOT manual… there. Okay, turn this like that… align vertically… and press—



there’s more twists in this interview than there are in the anchor ropes of the HMS Victory …..


Uh… okay, this doesn’t look like the Mary. It’s all grungy and dark, and—

“Who’re you?”

Um… who are y—WHOA!

“I asked you a question, y’ old coot!

“Jayne, put him down!”

“But Mal, he just appeared in the middle of—”

“I said, drop him!

UMPH! Thanks…

“Sorry about that. Jayne gets a mite peevish around people who just appear out of the nowhere. Can’t say as I’m particularly fond of it, either… seein’ as how it’s my ship, and you didn’t pay me to get on…”

Your ship? Wait: You wouldn’t happen to be Captain Mal Reynolds, would you?

“And exactly how do you know me?”

“Excuse me, Captain—”

“Relax, Doc, no one’s hurt yet, so you go back and mind your sister.”

“Captain, I know this man. It’s Steve Jordan. He writes science fiction novels.”

“Which are what?”


“Oh. Those.”

“Which one? Do you do Green Lantern?

Jayne… hold on. I do know you! You’re the one who put out that book Berserker, right after we went on the air!”

My head hurts…

“Book with terraformed worlds in it, right? And you said you thought of it first! Kaylee, go get Joss on the phone, I need him to see this guy!”


Goh-gu-fish-hing-haw-day, girl, will you stop clinging to the sawbones and get me a phone?”

“Why don’t we interrogate him?”

“I wouldn’t, boys… I’ve heard of his agent, Diane, and she’ll have us all locked up if you hurt a hair on his head.”

Yeah… Diane…

“Well, I guess Inara would know about such things. Lucky for you, Mister funny book writer. You still haven’t told me how you got on my gorram ship.”

Uh… with this…

“Looks like a key fob.”

“Is it a remote control? Careful he doesn’t open the cargo bay doors!”

“Shut up, Jayne! What is it?”

It calls up… here, I’ll show you, you do this… turn it this way… and press—

“Hey! Wha—”


Can’t see… lights are too bright…


Okay, that sounds seriously not good! I’d better— OW!

“Mister Worf, stand down! You’ve just knocked down an old man!”

I’m… only 48…

“Pick him up! I’m Captain Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Who are you, sir?”


“Mister Worf!”

“Sorry, sir, but he was reaching for this weapon!”

“Weapon? It looks like a key fob. I repeat, who are you, sir?”

My name is Steven Lyle Jordan… I’m an author and futurist…

“How did you get here?”

I really wish I knew…

“Captain… it’s all right.”

“Counselor? Are you sensing something from him?”

“Yes: I sense confusion, disorientation… and a lot of pain…”


“Captain, he is who he says he is… an author. But… I don’t know if I’m interpreting this right, but he thinks he’s from another dimension!”

Yeah… that’s about it…

“We have been exposed to the mirror universe before, Captain. If he is from there, he is probably devious and dangerous! I recommend we secure him in the brig until we ascertain his true origins!”

“All right, escort him to the brig, and we… hold on. You said your name was… Steven Lyle Jordan?

Yeah… can I stand up straight, now?

“Worf: Heel. I remember a Steven Lyle Jordan, from ancient Earth. As one of the earliest authors to experiment with e-books, his were some of the only writings from the early 21st century to survive the chaos after the Eugenics wars.”


“Yes! I’m sure the ship’s library has your books.”

Well… nice to be remembered…

“I believe they are all listed under ‘humor’.”

“Captain, I sense his pain is coming back.”

“Yes, apparently you had some… colorful ideas about the future. But you didn’t foresee the discovery of Dilithium, or the first Human-Vulcan meeting… you didn’t seem to think we’d even be able to converse with alien races!”


“Worf. Well, I don’t think this… author… is a threat to anyone… except maybe himself. Oh, Worf, you can give him back his toy.”

Thank you. You know, everyone thinks you all are a lot more… congenial… back home.

“That would be the early 21st century, yes? Well, considering how Humans back then were all selfish, murdering sociopaths without the sense to even stop polluting their own atmosphere, I suppose it’s no surprise that you would misinterpret our friendly actions for aggressiveness.”

Uh-huh. Excuse me.

“What are you doing?”

Hoping I don’t end up on the Red Dwarf next.

“Sir! He’s vanish—”


Omigod, I’m blind, I’m—

Oh, no. The lights are just off. Hey… this is a small room… like a closet. I’d better stop pushing my luck with this keyfob, before I end up materializing inside a wall or something.

Speaking of which, let’s get out into the light. Here’s the door… it’s stuck. Force it… wait. What if there’s a vacuum out there? What if I’m on the Nostromo or something, and there’s an alien out there?

“What makes ya think there isn’t one in here?”

Well, this place’s awfully small, and— GAH! Who is that?

“I’m the guy who gave ya the MQRBDTMOT.”

Where are you?

Down here, ya dipstick! Does the word ‘short’ ring a bell?”

I prefer ‘altitude-challenged’… oh, yeah. Hey, man, what the hell’s going on with this thing? First I show up in a weird Bizarro world, then I’m on the Serenity, then I’m on the Enterprise

“Yeah, it’s a strange universe, isn’t it? Full of ideas, cooked up by a universe full of people… many of whom thought up the same ideas before ya.

Whachoo talkin’ bout, little guy?

“I’m talking about these notions of yours that ya invented the perfect future before everyone else, ya numb-nuts! And acting like yer sooo muucchhh smaaarrtterrr than everyone else because ya thought up words like ‘fractalmonic’. Big deal!

But… ‘fractalmonic’ is cool

Lissen, hot-shot! It doesn’t matter what fantastical future universe ya thought up. I’m telling ya now, someone else already thought of everything ya got! What matters is the story ya tell, and how well ya tell it! And lucky for ya, ya tell a decent story!”

Um… thanks?

“Yer welcome, mook! So stop bein’ so smug an’ uppity, and just sit back and enjoy the ride!”

What ride?

Ya hadda ask?… HA!

No, the doorAAAAAAAAAAA………….


:eating popcorn:

Wait, I’m still catching up…
Yea! Mainstream old Earth… you know you’ve made it when Burger King makes the toys :eating popcorn:




Ah! Omigod… what—

“Here, let me help you up! Welcome to your surprise appreciation party!

Surprise party? Hold on… where am I now?

“In the basement of the National Air and Space Museum, silly!”

“You’ve been here all along!”

“Ever since you started playing with the MQRBDTMOT!”

Whu… you mean… this thing never took me to another universe?


“Uh, of course not.”


“Go see if you can find that doctor…”

“Hi, there! Remember me?”

Hey, the little guy! What is all this?

“It’s something we worked together for ya! See, every time ya used the key fob, it gave with an odorless, colorless knock-out spray and put ya out. Then we’d move ya to a set designed to make ya think ya were in another dimension. And boy, did ya play it up!”

But… why would you do this?

“To give you perspective, of course!”

Carolyn? I mean, Rainy. Perspective of what?

“Of what it means to create characters that start to take on a life of their own. When that happens, readers really identify with them, and want to know they’ll be all right. It makes it important to be able to write for characters like that, and keep your readers happy and yearning for more. It’s a special ability that not every writer has.”

Are you saying… I have that abilty?

“Well… you’re close.”

Real close!”

“Almost there!”

“I feel real! On most days, anyway.”

“But keep working on it! Yer doing great!”

Gee, thanks! I guess…

“Here, let me take that off your hands.”

The MQRBDTMOT? Aw, can I at least keep the key fob?

“Oh, sure… that’s how we knew you’d go for the gag. it served to distract you from looking too closely at the MQRBDTMOT.”


“See, if you had turned it upside-down, you might have recognized it—”

A Sharper Image combination stapler, sonic grill cleaner and ionic air freshener?!? I might have guessed… those guys always did have cool designers!

“We hope you’ve learned something from all this.”

Other than ‘don’t do drugs’?


This silliness has been brought to you on behalf of, the Not Ready for Big Bang Players, and the Free Electrons Movement (FEM), now celebrating its 5,000,000,000,000 nanosecond anniversary!

(Oop— anniversary’s over! Back to work, boys!)

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