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Supercape

Space Safari: Jubatus, Wisp, and the Monkey

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Target 3

Target 3 was, unlike the other two targets, on a highly fertile, lush world. Its gravity was very low, maybe a fifth of earths. It was actually a moon of a gas giant, a hot, moist world full of plant life.

It short, it was a jungle world.

A jungle thicker, denser, and more full of life than any on earth.

And what was the target?

A small purple monkey. A small purple monkey that was faster than anything on earth. It was faster than any ground vehicle on earth. It was practically a blur.

How was he going to catch that?

The only person he knew was Wisp. Wisp had apprehended Downtime, surely credentials enough to catch a superspeeding monkey. A quick search on the internet for "whizz" had come up with the "whizz-cat", aka Jubatus, a super speeding cat like creature, who looked like the perfect hunter for this quarry...

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Getting in touch with Jay Xavier, or Jubatus, wasn't difficult. Although he didn't go around blabbing his personal data in interviews or anything, at the same time he hadn't made any serious attempt to obscure that personal data on the internet. Between whitelisting, Bayesian filtering, and some data-sieving techniques of his own design, Jay's email inbox remained manageable; a competent answering service did the same for his incoming telephone calls. The answering service wasn't cheap, but Jay also didn't worry about money; not when his Timeshift power allowed him to accept, and fulfill, an order of magnitude more contracts than any other freelancer. In truth, the money was rolling in far more quickly than he could spend it, even if he insisted on buying gold-plated everything. And since Jay's tastes were not expensive...

Anyway, it wasn't surprising that Jay had received an email that was ostensibly from Supercape. It certainly could have been genuine; the linguistic choices, phraseology and grammar and so on, were all as UK-centric as the man himself was those occasional times when he showed up on the news. As well, the headers indicated that the email in question had a return address that resolved to a server at technocratic think tank The Lab, an association which was, again, consistent with publicly known data about Supercape. So yes, the email contained plenty of internal evidence which suggested it was genuine, and that evidence was why it had ended up in Jay's "possibly valid / investigate further" folder. As for the content of that email, well, it left Jay stunned, at first reading.

You see, Jay Xavier had celebrated his first birthday only a few weeks before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.

He remembered Sputnik.

He remembered Vanguard, remembered Mercury.

He remembered JFK's 'put a man on the Moon' speech.

He remembered seeing the first-run broadcasts of every episode in the first two seasons of Star Trek, and some of the disastrous third season.

He remembered the ill-fated Apollo 1.

He'd been 22 years old when Neil Armstrong took that 'one small step for Man'...

These days, of course, the mere fact of going into space wasn't particularly newsworthy. And why should it be? Superheroes went out to all corners of the universe; there were even faster-than-light vehicles for interstellar travel. Nothing that far out of the ordinary, really, when push came to shove. Which also argued for the email's genuineness; if it was a scam, what was the point? What kind of 'trap' could it possibly serve as 'bait' for? Still and all, despite decades of cynicism, decades of disappointments great and small, Jay Xavier remembered...

...and he'd once been young enough to dream of setting foot on an alien planet himself.

FROM: "Jubatus" (jubatus.acinonyx@freenet.com)

  TO: "Supercape" (Super.Cape@Thelab.org)


Okay, you've piqued my interest. I've got LOTS of questions I want to hear your 

answers to, so name a time and place, and I'll meet you there.

-- J.


--

Jubatus Inc: Freelance. Tech writing & troubleshooting our specialty.

[x] Fast   [ ] Cheap   [x] Good

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First reply!

Supercape was pleased with himself. Jubatus sounded keen enough, although perhaps he had best not count his chickens. Going to another planet was not everybody's cup of tea. Why, some people wouldn't get into an airplane... let alone travel by quantum.

FROM: "Supercape" Super.Cape@Thelab.org

TO: "Jubatus"


Excellent! Please drop by the Lab, I'll show you details of the trip, and the quarry (as best I know them). 20:00 today suit you? Am waiting to hear back from another - Wisp. Do you know?

He tapped send. And then drummed the desk. It would be best to show them both the information together.

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FROM: "Jubatus" (jubatus.acinonyx@freenet.com)

  TO: "Supercape" (Super.Cape@Thelab.org)


Meet-and-greet: 20:00, aka 8 PM, at The Lab. I'll be there.

Wisp: She and I have worked together. Don't know how useful she'll be in this case, but then I *wouldn't* know that until I have more of a clue about the target & environment & etc, so I'll provisionally assume you know what you're doing and not worry about it.

Teleporter and speedster, eh?  It'll be interesting to see what the heck you've got up your sleeve.

-- J.


--

Jubatus Inc: Freelance. Tech writing & troubleshooting our specialty.

[x] Fast   [ ] Cheap   [x] Good


And at 7:55 PM,the fastest cat alive blurred to a stop on the sidewalk in front of The Lab. He tried the door, not sure if it would be open...

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"Come in come in!" said Supercape.

The camera had only picked up a blur initially. Most camera's would not have picked up more than that. But the Lab was not one to slack on technology, and its high resolution high framerate internal cameras could be frozen. A few similar cameras had been placed pointing outwards on key approach streets to the Lab.

Of course, Jubatus had done Supercape a favour by actually stopping. But it was good to know the advanced cameras were up to the task. Just.

He had given instructions for the cat to be given a security pass and sent up to the simulator suite, where he had set up an illuminated display of the milky way.

"Magnificent isn't it?" he said to Jubatus as the cat entered, pointing to the enormous holographic display, slowly rotating.

He zoomed in on a distant quadrant. A bright yellow star was escaping from the galaxy. It had not travelled far yet, but was clearly well away from the cluster.

"How do you fancy a little excursion?" he smiled.

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"Come in come in!"
Jubatus returned Supercape's (overly effusive, to the feline's taste) greeting and followed him in to the simulator suite. Seeing the Milky Way spread out before them... Jube almost asked how reliable the data was, on which this image was based. But given the sheer level of brainpower in The Lab, not to mention the likelihood of data-sharing agreements with ET scholars, on second thought the question just didn't seem to be worth asking. Better to appreciate the sheer artistry that had gone into the image...

"How do you fancy a little excursion?" he smiled.
You had me at "take a little trip offworld," the feline did not say. Instead, he replied, "Nifty idea, but like I said, I got some questions. Like, who brought you in on this in the first place? And with an entire galaxy of hyper-advanced technological cultures to pick from, why request help from a podunk planet like Earth -- why call in a bunch of subnormal primitives when there's all kinds of real operatives you could hire? Or if you can't hire the real thing, why not?"

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Wisp had just finished the lineart for one of her drawings, a highly detailed space station orbiting a planet. She wasn't sure if during the coloring phase it'd remain the water world she had first pictured in her head or turn it into a gas dwarf type planet. As she thought, her phone began blaring out the theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Hey 'Cape. Sup?"

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"Ah, hello!" replied Supercape, answering his phone in the middle of explaining to Jubatus the astrophysics of hypervelocity stars.

"How do you fancy a little trip?" he continued over the phone. "A little conservation exercise, to be precise. A bit complicated to explain over the phone... can you meet me in the Lab? just explaining it to your partner here..."

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"Ah, hello!" replied Supercape, answering his phone in the middle of explaining to Jubatus the astrophysics of hypervelocity stars.

"How do you fancy a little trip?" he continued over the phone. "A little conservation exercise, to be precise. A bit complicated to explain over the phone... can you meet me in the Lab? just explaining it to your partner here..."

"Define little? Classes are out but if I'm gone too long, the school might get mad... Also, sorry I missed your first call, I got a little lost in an art project I'm working on here. And one last thing, I'll need the lab's address." Taking down the info, hung up the phone and tossed an extra costume into her bag with her art supplies then changed into her primary costume.

In minutes she was in the lobby of The Lab waiting to be ushered through to see Supercape.

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Issued with the same pass as Jubatus, it wasn't long before Wisp joined him in the simulator suite, together with the large holographic display of the galaxy.

"There you are!" smiled Supercape. "I knew you would be here in a jiffy!".

He introduced Jubatus and Wisp "Jubatus. Wisp. Wisp. Jabutus. The perfect partners for this little adventure..."

He motioned once more to the holographic display.

"See that star? its what they call hypervelocity.. in other words, travelling so fast relative to the galaxy that it has been ejected and has entered the depths of intergalactic space. I know its sounds fantastical, but on one of its planet is a rich world, full of exotic fauna and flora. Some fellow named Mr. Flowers, from the far side of the galaxy, has asked me to collect a particularly interesting specimen before it is lost from the galaxy forever. In the name of biodiversity, you understand. "

"The little fella, as far as I can make out, is going to be a devil to catch. I can get us there. That's why Mr. Flowers asked me. But I am no hunter. This thing is small, fast and agile. Moves like a blur. That's why I asked you to fellows here. To see if you could help..."

Turning to Wisp, he answered the question of absence. "The trip itself, and the return journey, will be nearly instantaneous. How long it takes to catch the little monkey, well that's up to you guys..."

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Jubatus allowed the galactic display to absorb most of his attention while Supercape brought Wisp up to date...

"So what do you know about this Flowers guy?" the feline asked, when their host had finished that task. "I asked before, but it bears repeating: Why the hell is he recruiting agents from a low-rent planet like Earth, when there's Thoth only knows how many hyper-advanced cultures he could be pulling agents from? He's got to have some kind of hidden agenda, end of discussion. So what is that hidden agenda? If it bites us, our being ignorant of it won't protect us!"

Also: "What're the environmental conditions on this alien world? We gonna need any kind of life-support gear? How's the gravity, too?"

And: "What can you tell us about the target critter? How big is it, what does it eat, what defenses does it have aside from being fast, how does its speed compare to mine?"

The feline had more questions, but he wanted Wisp to have a chance to ask any questions she might have...

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Supercape nodded at Jubatus.

"As for how much I trust this Mr. Flowers, well... I have no reason to trust him or distrust him. However, he is quite correct: the star is hypervelocity and lost to the galaxy. Collecting unusual biological specimens before they are lost to the intergalactic space seems a reasonable cause to me. I suppose the answer is: it checks out, and what other motivation could Mr. Flowers have? at the very worst, he wants to carve the creature up and serve it up at a pan-galactic restaurant. At the best, we have preserved an important part of biodiversity for the galaxy. "

"As for the planet, its a jungle world. Hot, steamy, and low gravity, about a third of Earth's. Technically, its actually a moon, lit almost constantly by binary stars. Its either warm, or scorching. So pack your sunblock!"

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Wisp watched the display, listening to Supercape and Jube discuss the matter. When her feline acquaintance paused in his questions she tried to think of any, "So it's more or less Endor, minus the planet-killing space station in orbit. Any predators we should keep an eye out for? Poisonous vegetation or, worse yet, animals that might make our lives difficult? I doubt there are any sentient lifeforms living there, otherwise why call us, but that's something else to worry about. More so if we're talking space pirates, we'd need a could space ninjas for them." When no one even cracked a smile at her joke she sighed, "Nobody appreciates my humor."

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"So it's more or less Endor, minus the planet-killing space station in orbit."

"I'm sorry" said Supercape, scratching his head. "Endor?...Never heard of that planet... a planet killing space station in orbit yo say? sounds serious. Somewhere to avoid...do forgive my ignorance. "

Supercape didn't watch much TV.

" Any predators we should keep an eye out for? Poisonous vegetation or, worse yet, animals that might make our lives difficult? I doubt there are any sentient lifeforms living there, otherwise why call us, but that's something else to worry about. More so if we're talking space pirates, we'd need a could space ninjas for them." When no one even cracked a smile at her joke she sighed, "Nobody appreciates my humor."

Supercape politely chuckled as best he could. He had actually met Captain Kraken, and had no particular wish to be put through the privateer's awful speech patterns again.

"Aha aha aha...*ahem* yes, anyway. As far as I can tell, the planet is indeed stuffed full of poisonous reptiles, plants, insects, and the like. Or at least their version of it. Nothing sentient noted on the data pad. "

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"I'm sorry" said Supercape, scratching his head. "Endor?...Never heard of that planet... a planet killing space station in orbit yo say? sounds serious. Somewhere to avoid...do forgive my ignorance. "

"You already have avoided it -- it's a fictional planet from the third Star Wars movie," Jubatus pointed out.

"As far as I can tell, the planet is indeed stuffed full of poisonous reptiles, plants, insects, and the like. Or at least their version of it. Nothing sentient noted on the data pad. "
"Which might be a hint to why this 'Flowers' guy wants to deal with Earthlings," the cheetah said in... well, as close to a 'thoughtful tone' as his throat was physically capable of producing. "What if the target critter is sentient? If so, what Flowers wants us to do probably qualifies as kidnapping, or whatever the equivalent offense may be under Galactic law. Which would neatly answer one question about him. Me, I'm gonna try to communicate with the critter before anything else."

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"You already have avoided it -- it's a fictional planet from the third Star Wars movie," Jubatus pointed out.

"Actually, it was a moon. Though, it orbited a gas also called Endor... Sorry, my nerd is showing. Carry on."

"As far as I can tell, the planet is indeed stuffed full of poisonous reptiles, plants, insects, and the like. Or at least their version of it. Nothing sentient noted on the data pad. "

"Right, don't suppose anyone in the building is working on super-bug spray by chance? If so, I'd happily test it for them."

"Which might be a hint to why this 'Flowers' guy wants to deal with Earthlings," the cheetah said in... well, as close to a 'thoughtful tone' as his throat was physically capable of producing. "What if the target critter is sentient? If so, what Flowers wants us to do probably qualifies as kidnapping, or whatever the equivalent offense may be under Galactic law. Which would neatly answer one question about him. Me, I'm gonna try to communicate with the critter before anything else."

"You make a good point," Wisp noted as she weighed the facts. "Um, Jube, no offense but it might be best if you stayed back if this thing isn't sentient though. I'm sure you've noticed but when you talk, your fangs are pretty visible, something that is almost guaranteed sure to freak out something on the middle ground to lower range of the food chain," she added as tactfully as she could.

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Jubatus very much doubted that the entirety of the planet they'd be visiting was all jungle. Earth certainly wasn't one uniform biome, so why should any other planet be like that? Of course, they probably wouldn't be traveling across more than a tiny fraction of that world's surface; the cheetah had no trouble believing that their entire visit would occur within the confines of one jungle-covered region.

All of which said, the real question was, just how Earthlike was the environment on the destination planet? Thinking over the information they'd already been given, Jubatus swiftly concluded that Supercape was only marginally less ignorant than either of the people he'd be playing interstellar chauffeur to. Which, in turn, suggested there was no point in wasting time asking the guy questions he couldn't answer...

"Um, Jube, no offense but it might be best if you stayed back if this thing isn't sentient though. I'm sure you've noticed but when you talk, your fangs are pretty visible, something that is almost guaranteed sure to freak out something on the middle ground to lower range of the food chain," she added as tactfully as she could.
"Works pretty good on the top end, too," the cheetah replied, in words with an unusually inhuman timbre. "Which is why I was figuring on trying hand gestures to begin with, maybe scratch some symbols into the ground with a claw. Anyway... At this point, I'm thinking we're not going to learn any more about the target just standing around here. So unless one of us knows of a good reason to delay -- like maybe some kind of necessary prep work we haven't done yet -- I say we may as well get started now."

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Supercape cracked his knuckles.

"Well then gentlemen, if you are both ready..."

He closed his eyes. Distance was really imaterial for him when it came to quantum entanglement. As were time, and other dimensions. However, locating a distant destination was still required, and of course, matching velocity required some calibration. It was as simple to move 1 centimeter as it was to the other end of the universe, theoretically. That is, it took a considerable effort in both circumstances.

With a distortion of time, and space, and other dimensions, the three heroes appeared in the far off moon.

The heat was oppressive, to say the least. The light was bright, and would have been blinding, if it was not for the heavy canopy of massive complex trees spanning the skies above. Vegetation of all sorts appeared everywhere, and the chattering of insects and other animals was vibrant. It was a botanists and zoologists paradise... if a temperature of 45 degrees centiograde and near one hundred percent humidty could be called paradise.

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Wisp stumbled slightly and almost tripped on a tree root sticking out of the ground after the trio appeared on the alien moon. Instinctive use of her own teleportation saved her from faceful of non-terrestrial dirt, letting her regain her balance a few feet away from the offending tree's roots. "I swear, I will never get used to other people's teleports," she muttered as her eyes adjusted to the strong ambient light.

Waving the smoke of her teleport away she reached into her bag and grabbed a bottle of water, downing nearly a quarter in one go. "We'd best make this quick, I'm boiling and I didn't pack enough water for an extended trip," she said, replacing the bottle.

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"My word its hot!" said Supercape, wiping off a film of sweat that had almost instantly formed on his brow.

"I'm not going above those trees" he added "frazzled in a moment... actually, its too damn uncomfortable as it is, despite what you may have heard about mad dogs and englishmen..."

An almost transparent bubble formed over his head and his costume extended to cover his hands.

"Its not called a Supercape for nothing" he explained "with a little modification, functions as an environmental suit, thank goodness. I like a little sunshine as much as the next man, but this is ridiculous..."

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Jubatus didn't bother to acknowledge the others' statements of how hot it was -- the temperature was too damned obvious to need any commentary, to his way of thinking. His fur didn't help matters any, but his spindly build did, what with the square/cube law and all. And there was one 'wildcard' in the 'deck': Unlike natural-born cheetahs, Jubatus had never overheated himself by sprinting at top speed. Did that mean his body had some sort of non-standard mechanism for dispersing excessive temperature? Jube didn't know, and if he had his druthers, he'd rather not find out the hard way.

"So. Little purple monkey," Jubatus observed. "Anybody happen to have any objects that carry its scent?" And his eyes scanned the surrounding jungle, ready to focus instantly on any high-speed motion...

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GM

The hunt was on!

The jungle was thicker than anything on earth, and it was slow going. It would have been at a snails pace for even experienced Jungle-dwellers back home. Fortunately, the superspeed of Jubatus and the swift teleportation of Wisp made things infinitely faster. Even so, the plants and trees grew so thick that neither hero could move at the blistering speed they were used too.

As it was, it wasn't long before they both caught sight of the creature: a small purple simian, perched up on a slender branch on the tree canopy ahead. They had spotted it from a distance, and it seemed blissfully unaware of the two hunters.

The same could not be said of the insect nest beneath their feet... out of the earth and rotten wood, a swarm of tiny blue beetles scuttled around them and up their legs, furiously biting at the intruders!

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Wisp boiled in her costume. Inwardly cursing herself for not designing a more heat-friendly costume as a backup. While the environment they traveled was beastly and uncomfortable, the local fauna was beautiful. It almost made her want to make a few sketches to take home. However, since the three of them were on a mission, she settled for trying to memorize what she could of the strange plants and animals.

Then she heard the hissing of angry insects and looked down to see what appeared to be beetles scurrying up and around their legs. As quietly as she could, she 'poofed', leaving in her place a plume of white and red smoke and confused insects.

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Jubatus was surprised -- and cursed himself for being surprised -- by the sudden emergence of a swarm of beetles from their lair under the surface of the ground. He upshifted by reflex and stepped out of the swarm; the insects closest to his fur came along with him, most likely because they were inside the boundaries of his Time-tweaking power. Well, the bugs had to be adapted to the godawful heat... and that suggested an obvious remedy: Jube whipped a small spray can out of his vest, a device intended for blowing dirt and such out of keyboards with a blast of inert gas. PV=nRT, the feline thought, and in accordance with that so-called Ideal Gas Law, the blast got much colder as it expanded out of the can.

The beetles dropped to the ground, either paralyzed or dead, Jube didn't care which. Good, he thought. Now, let's see if Wisp needs any help...

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GM

The blue, ten legged insects, who seemed to have far too many body segments than was necessary, decided to call it a day (if this moon ever had a period when the suns went down...) and scurried off deep into the earth. Some circled fore a few seconds, quite confused after being dropped off by Wisps teleport.

Fortunately, the purple did not bothered, about the commotion. Perhaps it felt somewhat secure in its treetop. It merely gave a curious glance for a few seconds, before reaching out and grabbing a yellow tinged leaf, chewing it contentedly.

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