"They say that lizard and the President are getting real close." Regis walked along the plane, nervously. "What are all those little roundish things?"
"They control the shape of the field – everything inside warps through – nothing outside gets affected."
"Do they have to pop out like that?"
"It'll work better that way. The truck had them inside, but the field was very poorly controlled, that may have been part of the problems we had." Rex punched some buttons on his laptop and the white balls on stalks pulled back even with the plane's skin. "In theory, we'll be going so slow there won't be a reentry problem, but since velocity ought to be conserved, we can't count on going the same direction as any planet we find. But! We should be able to jump around and use gravity to change our direction of travel and speed, and then we can jump down into the atmosphere, and fly normally, land wherever we want."
"Until you run out of fuel." Regis pointed out. "And how are you going to power your warp drive, when your engines need air to run?"
"Solar power, of course. I've got a bunch of panels coming, those new full spectrum ones on the flexible substrate. We'll coat the exterior with them."
"Except where your popup balls pop up."
"Exactly!" Rex popped the balls back up and down a few times. "That all works very nicely."
"Well. I actually came out here to say that someone actually answered your advertisement for a interstellar navigator. She says she's an astronomer, and has written a program that can calculate both where and when you are, so long as you stay in the Milky Way Galaxy."
"Perfect. Just what I was going to do myself, but I figured someone else would have done it already."
"I glad it makes sense to you. It sounds loopy to me."
"That's because you don't read science fiction, and meet fascinating people at conventions."
Regis shook his head at his naïve brother. "Most likely she's a government agent, some Black Ops space alien thing."
"Well, with Metsi whosit in the White House, they don't need to be Black anymore. They can come out and tell us all about the Galactic Federation that promotes Peace and Tranquility Throughout the Known Universe. Or finally warn us we're under attack. Or whatever."
"Black Ops Agents never reveal the truth. Metini Lazz Low is most likely a hoax, designed to bring about the New World Order."
"Regis, I think your paranoia just jumped a track. Can I borrow one of your Black Helicopters?"
"They aren't my Black Helicopters. Pay attention, Rex. I should have sent you away to do this, where the government couldn't find you. The nearest airport is pretty obvious. That woman agent is coming to the ranch for an interview tomorrow morning."
"What agent?" Rex looked worriedly at his brother. "Do you mean the interstellar navigator?"
Regis threw his hands up. "Yes. The astronomer who says she's an interstellar naviagtor. Who else?"
"Excellent. I wonder if she wants to come along for a test drive, so to speak. I'm just doing the last checks. It's ready."
"What about the spacesuits? Do you really want to try those stretchy things? They can't possibly work."
"Of course they'll work. The elastic fabric and the gel keeps pressure on the skin, and the shoulder harness glues to the skin to form the seal for the helmet."
Regis abandoned that direction of attack. "And then there's Hondo."
"He's a pilot. Stop being paranoid, he escaped from the government years ago."
"Delta Force. You know he was Delta."
"Which will come in really handy if we meet any aliens. Has he woken up yet?" Rex disconnected all the wires and closed his lap top.
"Don't you mean regained consciousness? Couldn't he get drunk on something besides my best single malt?"
"Ah, he was just all wound up from the drive. He'll be fine." Rex hopped up into the plane.
"And he's almost as old as the plane. Why the hell a DC-3? You're building a space ship, fer crissake!"
"The DC-3 is the most reliable plane ever built."
"Fifty years ago." Regis inserted.
"It can land and take off from grass runways." Rex continued.
"How about no runways on alien planets?"
"Exactly! And it's big enough to carry all the scientific equipment we'll need."
"Oh," Regis crossed his arms. "And have you found a scientist crazy enough to join you?"
"Well, not yet. Or rather he's not a scientist yet. He should finally graduate next year, now that he's picked a major."
"Oh Ghod." Regis threw his hands in the air. "Do you have any idea how guilty I'm going to feel after you get yourself killed?"
Agent Chanel Monroe listened with half an ear, the other half was on the TV, where Met the Martian was being interviewed again. Why couldn't she have pulled that plumb assignment, instead of being stuck with this maniac? Rex Kingsland. Shudder. The man is clearly insane.
"So the trick is to have the time vector cycling rapidly between forward and reverse, all the while the spatial coordinates proceed linearly to the aim point." Rex spread his hand. "Ta. Da. FTL space travel."
"This jumping in and out of the atmosphere is weird." Billy Ray Adair tightened the strap holding down the spectrometer. "Isn't there like, overlap, two bodies occupying the same space kind of thing?"
"Doesn't seem to work like that," Rex said, "the transition is slow enough – about 3 microseconds – for the air to displace, instead of being inside the object reemerging from gravity space. Otherwise we'd have all blown up when we went dinosaur hunting."
"Is that your favorite word, Billy Ray?" Chanel asked.
"Nope. 'Die, Foul Beast' is my favorite word." The kid was actually talking about changing his major to FTL physics after half an hour under Rex's influence.
Chanel was a tall, plump, healthy-looking young woman. At thirty, she was all business on the outside. What she was on the inside was nobody's business, but it certainly did not include an attraction to mad scientists who converted DC-3s into interstellar spacecraft. One more oogle at her cleavage and she was going to rearrange his teeth.
"Okay, let's take her up and see if everything stays where it belongs."
Mike Hondo waved a vaguely salute-like gesture in Rex's general direction and started flipping switches. First one motor, then the other roared to life. "We'll just let them warm up for a bit, here and then we'll go." He yelled back, then fixed a beady eye on Rex. "And no fooling with your warp drive, neither. There ain't enough food on board to see us though till this little lady figgers out how to get us home agin."
Not to mention the Cowboy from Alaska with his fake Texas red neck twang.
If it hadn't been for the big birds these yahoos were trying to pass off as dinosaurs, the Bureau wouldn't have assigned a single agent. Unfortunately, whatever the birds were was sufficiently ambiguous that she was stuck here, undercover, until she proved they didn't have either a time machine or a space ship.
"To think I used to like pulp magazines." she muttered.
"Yeah, living one is much better, don't you think?"
She jumped as Rex spoke from just beyond her shoulder.
"Yeah." She yelled back, although apparently he had no problem hearing over the engine noise.
More thumps from the mobile steps, and a woman she recognized as Vera Fallon entered with three men on her heels.
"Rex, you weren't really going to leave without us, were you?" The spectacular redhead had been featured in all the shows about the dinosaurs.
"Ah, Vera, I keep getting you into trouble. I though that maybe this time I could do it myself."
Vera's eyes flashed toward Chanel and darkened. Jealous. What a laugh!
"Not a chance, Buddy." One of the other men pushed forward. "It been really boring since I thought I was lost in the Cretaceous, with no way home."
"No kidding. There's no adrenaline rush like discovering your time machine has been stolen by dinosaurs. Speaking of whom, isn't Met one of them?"
"Yeah," Vera grinned, "isn't he the one that got poked trying to hug the little copper one?"
Rex sighed theatrically, then shrugged. "Vera, this is Chanel Monroe, she's an astronomer with a program that can help us navigate. And this is Billy Ray Adair, head science officer of the ship. Hondo you all know. Chanel, Billy, this is Vera Fallon, Mark Polasek, Russ Green and Steve Zydoux. They went time traveling with me." He scowled at them. "And how do you think I'm going to fit you all in here? And what can you do?"
"You mean besides save your ass?" Steve looked him up and down. "I don't have a license, but I fly ultra-lights all the time, and I've done ground school. Hondo can use a bit of help, and I'm it."
The mid-sized black man with the ripped body took over the argument. "Have you given any thought to an air system? Yeah, you've got a pressurized cabin, and space suits, but you're going to need days, if not weeks or months of breathable air. It won't be at all the same as in a sub, but that's my job." Russ crossed his arms stubbornly.
Chanel boggled for a bit as she realized that Rex hadn't planned anything more complex than a couple of hours on oxygen tanks. Not that this air plane was going anywhere. But if Russ could delay them for awhile longer, all to the good.
The last man, Polasek buffed his nails. "Photographs Rex. Video. I could probably pay for this trip on what I raked in on the dinosaur photos." He glared suddenly. "And why aren't you releasing anything on the Space Dinos. They've got one living at the White House now, you know?"
"Well, y'know, I don't want them interfering with this trip." Rex turned to the Redhead. "And how about you, Vera?"
She gave the maniac a sultry smile. "Where's your list of the food you were planning to take along?" Rex actually squirmed as he tapped away at his laptop.
She tweaked it out of his hands and started reading. "Spam. 100 cans. Microwave Mac and Cheese. 100 servings. Hostess cupcakes – breakfast, Rex? 100 packages. Chili. 100 cans." she shook her head. "No fruits or vegetables, Rex? Oh, I see. Gatoraid fruit flavors. Perhaps we should take a vote? Who wants me to take over the, umm, nutritional program?"
Even Chanel raised her hand. They might not get any further than Galveston, but that didn't mean she would willingly eat spam.