The Multiverse is a Nice Place, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There

by Ira Nayman

Why would someone, apparently chosen at random, have their consciousness swapped with someone else in another reality?

How would someone, apparently chosen at random, have their consciousness swapped with someone else in another reality?

Why would another three persons, apparently chosen at random, have their consciousness swapped with three other someone elses in another reality?

Why would the entire bridge crew of a starship, apparently… well, you get the picture.

What will happen to all these very confused people?

How does the Alternate Reality News Service get scoops on these events so quickly?

Why are their reporters acting so dodgy – do they have something to hide, or just issues?

Who are the Pops, and can they help?

Does the editor know what's going on, and if she does would she even tell Noomi (our favourite TA investigator)?

What was that noise from her office when Noomi was 'interviewing' her?

Why am I asking you these questions when you haven't even read the story yet?

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Excerpt:

The door whooshed, clanked, wheezed and hoowahed almost open and Able Spaceman Elliott K’voort strode onto the bridge, back so straight you would be forgiven for thinking it was made of tungsten carbide, eyes focused so forward you might think they were seeing heaven. He strode up to Captain Pompous’ chair without looking down to see where he was going; he had made the trip so often that he could now do it by body memory. Standing to the Captain’s left, he used his right hand to offer a futuristic looking handheld device with a tacky nineteenth century case to the Captain.

“Sir, I need your signature on this document, sir!” Able Spaceman K’voort crisply said. If the statement had been bacon, it would have been delicious.

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Able Spaceman K’voort stood at attention for several seconds. When it became apparent that the Captain was not going to snatch the device out of his hand, sign it without looking at it and hand it back to him before turning his attention to more important matters (like the imminent destruction of the ship, which happened, generally speaking, once every three weeks), the average looking Pastel Pusher (junior crew members who all wore variations on the standard ship uniform in any colour they wanted as long as it was red) with black hair and one leg slightly longer than the other (which made his strides a matter of precise mathematical calculation as much as anything) cleared his throat and said, “Captain, if I could just get your signature on this document…”

Several more seconds passed. Able Spaceman K’voort realized that this was the longest he had ever spent on the bridge. The thought filled him with satisfaction mixed with dread. The bridge wasn’t his place; he was much more comfortable in his office on B Deck, writing requisition requests to Star Armada headquarters for additional anti-matter plasma for the ship’s Kessler Drive (one of which was the very document he was waiting for the Captain to sign). A bead of sweat appeared on his forehead. He cleared his throat again, louder, hoping that this would have greater effect.

It didn’t.

Able Spaceman K’voort did his best to stare at the wall screen at the front of the bridge, on which somebody had been playing a game of Space Invaders, but the person had lost and superimposed on the battlefield was a box that asked if the player wanted to play again or log out of the game; the beads of sweat on his forehead were multiplying faster than a computer with an iterative math problem to solve and… and… and before he even knew what was happening, out of the corner of his eye he looked at Vice Captain Tresseloon’s work station. Was that – the Vice Captain was slumped over his work station, unconscious.

Panic is a terrible thing. No longer concerned about bridge protocol, Able Spaceman K’voort looked wildly around him. The entire bridge crew were slumped over, unconscious! Even Captain Pompous! “Captain!” he urgently whispered. “Captain, wake up!” He raised the Captain’s arm, then dropped it to the arm of the big comfy chair with the impressive control panel built into the fine Corinthian leather armrest that the Captain never actually seemed to use for anything more complicated than inter-ship communications. Nothing. Able Spaceman K’voort turned to face Captain Pompous, took him by the shoulders and shook him. “Captain! Really! Need you to wake up now!” There was still no response.

Able Spaceman K’voort gulped and thought, I’m gonna get blamed for this!

Able Spaceman K’voort tapped on the comm button on the left sleeve of his uniform. “Doctor Excitable,” he commanded it. A few seconds later, the mechanical comm voice pleasantly told him, “Doctor Excitable is not responding to his comm.”

“But…but…but I need Doctor Excitable on the bridge! Now!”

“Doctor Excitable is not responding to his comm.”

“Have you tried –?”

“I have tried everything that comm technology can do, and all I can tell you is that Doctor Excitable is not responding to his comm.”

“Aaargh!” Able Spaceman K’voort aarghed in frustration. The comm had been cheerful enough, but he sensed an undertone of regret at the limited role the device had to play in the life of the ship. Not that that was important now. “Alison Blebblemann,” he tried. Alison was his shipwife – she would know what to do. She was also a Leading Spaceman, outranking him, so if blame was to be apportioned, she would get one rank more of it. Oh, and she was part of the ship’s medical team. That might come in handy.

“Hey, Elliott,” Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann responded. “What can I do for you?”

“Need you on the bridge right away.”

“I’ve never been on the bridge,” Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann responded. “Am I even allowed…”

“Get up here now!” Able Spaceman K’voort hissed.

While he waited for his shipwife to make her way to the bridge, Able Spaceman K’voort poked, prodded and otherwise tested the bodies of various bridge crew members. He thought he heard a sigh from Helmswoman Ketchaparian, but it turned out to be the air duct next to her work station. He did find Doctor Excitable, whose body was slumped on the other side of Captain Pompous’ big comfy chair with the impressive control panel built into the fine Corinthian leather armrest.

“Okay, what’s so…” Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann’s voice trailed off as she surveyed all of the slumped over people.

“Close the door!” Able Spaceman K’voort demanded.

Realizing that she was still standing within the door’s sensor range, Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann stepped into the room. The door shushed shut behind her. She went up to Captain Pompous’ chair and waved a Diagnostic, Analytical Medical Interpretive Transducer over his body.

“What does it say? What does it say? What does it say?”

Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann looked at the screen on the DAMIT and frowned. “All of his vital signs are normal, except…his brain waves. There aren’t any.”

“There aren’t any brainwaves!” Able Spaceman K’voort screeched.

“For science’s sake, Elliott!” Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann wanted to slap him. Because he was really annoying the skivvies off of her; if it stopped his panic, that would just be a bonus. “What is your problem?”

“You know what my problem is! We’re Pastel Pushers! If we’re not the first ones to die in away teams on alien planets, we get blamed for whatever goes wrong on missions!”

“You’re exaggerating.”

“I am not exaggerating! Remember what happened to Plestof the Unanticipated? Captain Pompous was the one who crashed the shuttle – hell, Plestof wasn’t even on the damn thing, but whose pay was docked for the replacement cost?”

“Plestof had…other issues…”

“My point stands.”

Leading Spaceman Alison Blebblemann sighed. She DAMITed each member of the bridge crew, but got exactly the same response. It’s like…their brains have been sucked out of their bodies, she thought. I was under the impression that this was a classier vessel than that – I really thought we avoided those b-movie plots! She touched the comm button on the sleeve of her uniform.

“Doctor Excitable is not responding to his comm,” the mechanical comm voice told her before she could ask it to make the connection.

“How did you know that was what I was going to ask?”

“I’m more than just a pretty voice, you know.”

Pointing to the body on the floor, Able Spaceman K’voort wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Why did this have to happen? Why can’t you wake up? Why can’t you just get on your feet and…”

Captain Pompous’ body jerked up and unsteadily got to his feet. Somebody screamed. It was Able Spaceman K’voort (although later, when the official investigation of the events was being conducted, he would vociferously deny it). “I liked you better when you sat in your big comfy chair with the impressive control panel built into the fine Corinthian leather armrest!” he shrieked.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Ira Nayman is a comedy writer who stumbled into science fiction 15 or so years ago and decided to hang around and see how it played out.

He is the author of six books in the Multiverse series, the most recent of which is Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face. The seventh and eighth books in the series, including the second book in the trilogy, are currently awaiting a decision by Elsewhen Press. In addition, Ira has self-published 11 books in his Alternate Reality News Service series; the most recent of these is Idiotocracy for Dummies. He is also the creator of Les Pages aux Folles, a web site of political and social satire that has been updated weekly since 2002.

In another life, Ira has a PhD in Communications from McGill University and taught in the New Media Programme of Ryerson University for five years. He is currently the editor of Amazing Stories magazine. Yes, that Amazing Stories magazine.


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