3055: A Space Odyssey

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3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:07 pm

In space, as common knowledge will often - boringly - remind you, there is neither up nor down. Which probably goes some way to explaining why, even now at my lowest ebb, the zen state frequently referred to as Rock Bottom is still nowhere in sight.

I'm... somewhere, nursing a bottle in the dark corner of some shithole establishment where, honest to fuck, the bartender is a bare-breasted woman wearing nipple pasties and an adhesive name label that indicates that "Candy is happy to help!" Every thought I have about her hurts, and I wordlessly buy a bottle and over-tip her in the hope she'll leave me the fuck alone as I quest for oblivion.

Mira is dead. After 6 months on the run, I seem to have finally been let off the hook for it. For a while, the Duvalls had placed a hefty bounty (1.5 million!) on my head. I found some dirt ball on the edge of civ space, parked up, drank my way through the days keeping bar to earn my booze. Guess they blamed me for EVERYTHING, but when the investigation into her death was published, I was unequivocally Off The Hook, and the bounty rescinded. Go me.

Hilariously, Dead Girlfriend got drive-fucked by an Orca on its way into Meech Dock as she was boosting out of it. Vectors overlapped and, in a wholly improbable repeat of circumstance (see this entry for lols), her vulture (beautifully named "Finger THIS" to compliment my bird called "That's Not My Finger") vaporised against the Orca's hull. She was mid-sentence; we were fighting. Fucking Aisling fucking Duvall's fucking wedding to which I wasn't fucking invited. Like, specifically not invited in a "and don't bring that trollop whore with you" sort of way - the legacy of that goddamned sex tape that went wide and pissed, like, everyone in Mira's family off.

Except Mira, of course. Privately, she thought that shit was the funniest thing ever, ever, ever. But when you're gorgeous and perfect and your family owns everything you can see for literally light years in every direction, I guess you get to find that sort of attention flattering. After all, what the fuck have you got to lose, eh?

Publicly, her stance was a bit different. After a decade of going out of her way to piss her family off, she'd already hit jackpot by announcing - in great, lurid detail - her relationship with me, a grubby, bitter, drunk jock whose greatest talent is still being able to fly combat with Mira's face pressed firmly between my legs, so the publication of a mockery of the sex tape they'd only just recovered from by said crew of "trollop whore girlfriend" was, truly, a step too far.

"Money can't buy you, love," was the last thing I said to Mira, congratulating myself on the cleverness of my pithy rejoinder even while I watched her little vulture explode in an atomic puff and listened to her coms fall silent. "You know what, you ungrateful-" were her last words to me. I didn't even get to hear her final insult. I didn't even get to the inevitably amazing make-up fuck after, when we'd shot our aggression out in some haz res and refound our synergy and then tethered our ships together even as the debris of our recent victims span and reeled about us.

It's all so fucking tragic. It was 6 months ago. Of the time since, I remember maybe 3 whole days.

After that, me and the A-Team... I guess we hit a point where it wasn't clear whether the japes were insulting or just worn out anymore and we kinda floated apart in a mutual shrug of indifference. Truthfully, I blamed them - that fucking sex thing they did was, as far as I was concerned, the top of the waterfall; a floodgate that, once opened, released a cascade of events that led, inevitably, to our fighting that day. Had she not crossed the deck to slap my face and, instead, just climbed into her bird and launched, she'd have left the station seconds sooner and that Orca would still have been an asshole who needed to learn how to fly, but not an asshole who killed my girlfriend in a fucking horrendous repeat of the bullshit that took my parents.

Truth is, circumstance is a fucking bitch and the reason we were fighting was because I'm also a fucking bitch. I - still as determined as ever to fuck up the only good thing going on - was holding Mira responsible for her asshole family's behaviour and, fuck me, she was like a suicidal moth to a napalm flame on the subject. The sex tape had nothing to do with it - her family would have hated me no matter what. But that being uttered outloud to anyone, much less the goddamn A Team... well, I'm busy drinking myself into a hole right now, so you get my point there.

Unbidden, memories flood back into view as I watch Candy clean the bar. She's wiping that cloth a little more vigorously than required. It's making her boobs shake energetically. They look unnaturally pert and were probably expensive. In my head, I can hear Dawg's slide whistle and, for the briefest moment, I smile at the thought of him piping a little shitty interlude for "Candy" as she goes about her business. I imagine Al inviting her onto his fucking aced-out dolphin or Tor-

"Well you've seen better days." Familiar, resonant tones jolt me from my reverie. I am, for several moments, unable to process what is happening, I am so deeply entrenched in my mind and my misery.

"Fucking Not-Dave..." I whisper. "What the... Fucking... Fuck."

"Indeed, and eloquently said. Do you need to take the bottle with you?"

"Huh?"

"We're leaving now. You're coming with me. Do you need to bring the bottle? I don't know how this drinking oneself to death thing works, really." His tone is as politely conversational as ever, though gentle and non-judgmental. He reaches out to gently wipe tears from my cheeks. I wasn't aware they were there.

"Uh... Take it? Sure."

"Good. Are you quartered anywhere? Do you have things to collect?"

"More booze?"

"And clothes?"

I must have peered at him in confusion for he nodded with reluctant comprehension, murmured, "Very well, let's get on with it, then" and then walked around the table to slide an arm around my back before lifting me from the chair to my feet.

"I don't wanna... where are we... Fuck YOU, Not-Dave."

"Aah," he says warmly, with wry humour as he steers my unsteady ass toward the door, waving brightly to Candy on his way out, "I remember the first time you made that offer. You were in better shape back then."

"I didn't... you were... Hey! Fuck you!" I stop walking, a brief flare of anger, "You offered to fuck me that time."

"I was naked and bound on the floor of your ship. It seemed a wise tactical position to take."

"Tactical sex?"

"Why not," he replies with a shrug and a smile, "It seemed you were going to kill me."

"I still fucking might," I reply.

"Aah, but you'd need to at least be upright and able to hold your arm still and co-ordinate with your eyesight. I feel comfortably safe for the time being."

I scowl but say nothing as he continues to frog-march me through the shitty station and onto his 'Conda, pristine and shining as ever.

"You have anything docked here? I couldn't find your name in the current registry..."

"I got here flying gunner on a courier or something. I dunno."

"Where's your vulture?"

"I dunno, Not-fucking-Dave."

"How can you not know?"

"Because I don't know. I wasn't planning to leave here."

"I see."

For the first time - after all the bullshit I've put this man through - he sounds disappointed in me. The sense of shame that provokes makes me angry and I struggle in his grasp for a moment. But now we're aboard his pristine ship and a door opens and a clean, soft bed is revealed. Suddenly I am tired like I've never been before. My legs turn to lead; I can no longer stand. I lose control of my emotions around the same time I lose control of my legs, and start weeping helplessly.

Not-Dave manoeuvres me to the bed, lies me down, strokes my shitty, not-washed-in-how-long hair back from my face and then settles on a chair next to the bed. The last thing I see as my eyes close is his face, calm, forgiving, concerned. He takes my hand in his and squeezes it gently. As slumber overtakes me, I hear the words I said to him at the end of our first encounter, some 1,000 years ago: "Fuck you, asshole," he whispers. "It's you who wants to fly with me".

I am safe. I'm going to be okay. Not-Dave doesn't let go of my hand and I can rest now.

Turns out you don't know Rock Bottom until you've hit it and started to bounce back up again.
Last edited by SockFiddler on Tue Nov 26, 2019 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby Norwin Palmer » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:52 pm

You write very well, sometimes better than people I have paid money to read.

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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Thu Nov 21, 2019 6:53 pm

I am staring at my boots, wondering what the fuck it was that I ate that produced vomit that looks like that. I mean, seriously, I don't even remember food for the last 3 days, so how-the-fuck-come it's goddamned orange and green? And while I'm doubled over, dealing with another of Life's Unanswerables, I blindly reach my right hand out vaguely in the direction of a nearby table and fumble about for my glass: my last shot of whatever-that-was is now an undignified smear over my left toecap and I'm not prepared to risk sobriety.

The glass isn't there.

"The fuck..?" I muse. Turning my head to the right to better assess the situation requires a level of co-ordination I don't quite possess; my knees shake a little and, hilariously (though maybe only to me) I let out a super-cracking fart. I snicker a bit, return both hands to my knees (for stability) and let out a stream of curses about Not-Dave's fucking interference in my purposeful downward slide.

"Who is Not-Dave?" The words come out in a deeply resonant Federation drawl: "Naaaaaaaaaht Dayve".

"Some dickbag teetotaller who is hellbent on fucking saving my lame ass and fucking my shit up. Fucking nicest goddamn prick in the galaxy and a meddler who was dropped on his head as an infant, prick." I emptily retch over my boots, wipe my mouth and add, "He's the only friend I've got. I love him. Fuck you - give me my glass back."

"Your glass?" That voice. Fuck me dead. With that voice, ideally.

"Ugh, just..." I don't have the words to insult him, and am annoyed that such a goddamned sonorous larynx could belong to such an annoying fucko. "Ugh."

"I need a pilot," the voice says. Mira flashes through my mind: I hate him for it.

"I need a fucking drink."

"I heard you're the type to do anything for credits."

"As would anyone else in this shithole drinking pile... shite pile hinking drole... FUCK, just find someone else."

"I heard you're pretty good."

Oh, ENOUGH already. This sends a fire through my spine and limbs and I straighten up to turn to fix this crapstick with what I hope is my most withering and dismissive glare. "I look pretty good to you? Seriously? I'm the best candidate you could find?"

"Word is you don't steal and you don't skim. And once you're on the job, you commit."

"Word is fucking wrong. Piss off. Take your stupid voice with you."

Screw the glass; my hand shakily seizes upon the bottle. My other hand is busily engaging stand-assist, clinging to the table which has been bolted to the floor (it's that kind of old school, charmingly quaint, scumbag establishment), so I have to wrestle the lid off with my teeth: it's a fucking screw-top and it utterly defeats me. So I smash the neck of the bottle on the table, top off the liquor onto the floor in an effort to rid it of some of the shards, and then upend the bottle over my mouth. I mostly miss: I completely don't care.

He, on the other hand, remains expressionless as he slides onto a stool and watches me. There is no expression on his face, but I don't give a shit about reading him. I wipe my mouth with the back of my sleeve - briefly clocking blood, presumably from the remaining glass shards that now crunch about in my mouth - and slide the bottle over the table to him.

"This one's on me," I growl and then, with an utter lack of grace, turn to stalk out of the bar. Except my fucking boots slip in the puddle of puke I'd forgotten about and I'm falling in slow-mo, watching the edge of the table slowly approach my head until, yep, it strikes me clean across the temples and I black out.

Waking up is a study of pain that I've not experienced since my last days on Earth or my first days with the A-Team. Everything hurts; not hangover-type dull, insistent ache, but all warning lights flashing, eject! eject! sort of pain. It takes some time for me to be able to move my head - I am convinced I have broken my neck or my back, and that I have gone blind. Or that I've just died, pure and simple. Nothing will move: everything is made of electric barbed wire. The one and only thing I absolutely know for sure is that I'm right about to piss myself.

"Well fuck."

At least, that's what I intended to say; that's what my mind had told my mouth and throat to say. But what comes out is a strangled, hoarse growl that ends with a hard -K sound.

"Morning."

Aah, shit.

I peel a lid off an eyeball that is now made from sand and gingerly look around. A cabin. Tidy, clean. Dimly lit. Generic. Light coming in from behind a window blind, so we're docked somewhere. Some asshole - that asshole - sits in a generic med-bay style chair watching me. His expression remains unreadable. I growl.

"Did you fuck me?"

Silence. Ambiguous. Heh, he has it coming if he did; I've not taken my antibiotics for months.

"You kidnap me?"

"I hired you."

"Fuck you. I don't want the job."

"Tough shit, Ma'am."

Well, if you're dumb enough to "hire" a wreck as obviously dysfunctional as me after meeting me in a bar where I'm clearly trying to dig through rock bottom to discover an entirely new depth to sink to (a challenge I am always ready to accept), you already have the best kind of expectations of me. Which goes to mean I am off the hook.

I protest by closing my eye, sighing and going back to sleep.

Here's an interesting truth about time. It's not relative: it's relevant. I do not care about being alive, therefore time is irrelevant to me. Time is for people who wish to mark the passing of their lives; birthday celebrations, deadlines, time spent in the slammer, hours until that one hot date, years since you were last on your homeworld. That sort of shit. I do not care about these events; I do not mark the passage of time. Fuck you, Time; fuck you to hell.

I do care, however, about the gentle hum of engines that resonates through my cabin and the smell of coffee that drifts into my nostrils. I find I care fairly rapidly about the puddle I am sleeping in and the discomfort of it against my skin. I care that there is blood on the pillow from where I dribbled as I slept, and that my headache is clearing.

I gingerly get up - carefully testing each limb before I move it - peel my disgusting even for me clothes off, clean up, drink coffee and have a quick think about things.

I am in space. I / we are in transit. I can only assume Dickbag owns this vessel and is off to wherever this job of his is to take place. If he wanted me dead or in more discomfort / torture than I'm willing to inflict upon myself, he'd already have carried that out, so I'm relatively safe. But, after a moment of looking around, the only clean replacement clothing I can find to wear is one of those generic, skin-tight, one-size-fits-all flightsuits that you wear when you're 17 because you think you look hot until you pop your first love handle and then realise you've been looking like a fucking idiot the whole time.

I, of course, have no issues putting this atrocity on, though I am briefly tempted to put my genuinely unpleasant, puke-shit-piss-blood-covered clothes back on just to be obnoxious. I am stopped by brief flashbacks of my performance in the bar and realise this asshole is most likely immune to most forms of obnoxious and that I'd only be annoying myself - which isn't a deal breaker by any means, but might be a hindrance when it comes to finding out what the fuck the deal is here.

So teeny-bopper skinsuit it is, black and sleek. The benefit of my recent (*many-months-long) liquid diet is that there's not an ounce of fat on my body and certainly no love handles to shame me with: I feel like I look a little bit awesome - I am quickly disabused of this idea when I arrive on the flight deck.

It's a Type-9, tidily but ungenerously outfitted. No extra whistles and bells, this space-cow is built entirely for function and there is barely an inch given over to even the slightest notion of luxury or comfort. It is a vessel that will sustain life while Getting Shit Done: I grudgingly find myself respecting the uncompromising utilitarian build as I walk through it.

He speaks before I'm even in my chair, swiveling round to look at me as I enter the deck. "You look less like shit than I was expecting," again, that resonant Federation drawl, "Though that suit makes you look like a famine victim."

"I thought I looked sleek."

"Sleek like someone who hasn't eaten in 16 months, sure."

I scowl but am genuinely too tired still to put up much of a fight. I move to sit in the other flight chair, but he stops me.

"I didn't say you could sit down."

The fuck..?

"It's sorta part of the job if you want me to fly this shitbird."

"You didn't want the job."

"You kidnapped me."

"Rescued."

"Fuck you."

He smiles - the first I've seen from him - and turns back to check his panels, murmuring, "Still. Don't sit down. You stand until I say so."

He has a moustache that is almost a comedy handlebar affair, but that stops just shy of being funny and rests, instead, on a little unsettling. His hair is shoulder-length and I can't tell in the 'pit lights whether it is grey or sandy blond. His frame is slight, his movements measured and precise: military - a suspicion I confirm in my mind with the memory of him calling me "Ma'am" in spite of the obvious piece of shit I am.

Still, I'm not so obedient so while I remain on my feet as I size this cock-eater up, I make sure I lean and sprawl and adopt as unmilitary a posture as possible because: fuck him.

"What do you want, then?" I ask finally. "What's the job? And how did you hear about me? Your intel is way out of date: I'm washed up and over."

"Bounties," he says simply, not even bothering to address me directly.

"Bounties?"

"You haven't collected a single bounty in over 12 months, but they're still stacking up. You're still killing - a lot of Fed wanted targets, too - but you're not collecting."

"Yeah, gosh, what a hero I am."

"I need someone I can trust, who won't fuck with me, even if things get rough. And you..." he spins to look at me, "Seem perfectly comfortable low-balling everyone's expectations and don't kill for the money. So I figure you're a good bet for this kind of work."

Well, I have to admit, I'm curious now. Typically, an asshole like this I'd bet on a wet-work job; some high-level mucky-muck stepping out of line and needing a quiet ending to their glorious career. But I'm not known for my subtlety, and we're in a Type fucking 9 so military assassination this is not. It's not freight-hauling because you can hire any fucking chimp to co-fly on those runs and just lock them out of the panels when things get sensitive.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out what we're up to here, and I generally don't care that much except I've not been handpicked by anyone in a very long time, and this asshole has something about him that I find at once profoundly irritating and yet compelling.

"So what's the fucking job?"

"I need a combat jock in a python to watch my back. It'll be slow, dusty work, and you'll be sober the entire time. We'll be traveling between two locations, and I expect you not to fuck around at either end. When I hit my credit total, we quit and you get paid. It's that simple. You can even keep the python at the end: I don't care about it."

"Your credit total?"

"Yeah. I'm aiming for about half a bil in a week or so."

"Half a... what?" Is he fucking serious right now? Half a goddamn billion credits? In a week? I mean, I'm not motivated by money (clearly) but that's some ludicrous fucking number he just casually dropped there. That's... well, my mouth has gone dry and I am already calculating percentages.

"What's my cut?" I ask, eventually.

"The usual ten points, plus a bonus for each time you keep the bad guys away. And if you wanna join in, you keep whatever you sell, but you outfit and stock yourself at your own expense. No advances - you fund your shit yourself from the get-go."

"And this in a python?" I hate pythons. I want my vulture back. I can do this in a vulture. In my vulture.

"Easy to get hold of, easy to repair, easy to fly and fight in." He throws me a challenging glance, "I heard you were the badass fighter pilot, right? Scared of something people can actually chase?"

I shrug. "I like what I like," I reply, "Not all of us are such devotees of austerity." I gesture around the no-more, no-less Type 9. "Could this cow be more bland?"

He smiles again; there are hidden depths and he doesn't care to share them with me. That's fine: I don't care to inquire right now: I still don't know what the fucking job is.

"And we will be..?" I ask.

"Mining."

"Mining? Half a bil in a week?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"What the actual fuck?"

"Painite. I've got intel on a double hot-spot that we'll be working. Federation find, not out in the open yet. We'll hit it hard and fast, be ready for pirates, sell it high back to the Feds."

Well fuck me dead. Even in a python, a hold full of processed painite could easily clear 50 million in a single trip. And we'll be working this angle for a week?

"What's the distance between the dig point and the sell point?" I ask.

He nods, understanding that I am - finally - on board. "About 140 light years. You'll make it easily in the python. I'll be slower in this."

I feel my brain yawn, stretch and start to wake up; I am already formulating strategies; planning my load-out on the python; visualising the tools and bullshit I need to secure my own mining spoils in this enterprise. I move to the chair, put my hand on the back but pause and glance at him. "May I?" I ask in a distracted sort of way.

He replies with a nod and his first genuinely warm expression: he's actually quite handsome, but for the piercing, calculating grey eyes. "You may." Then he leans toward me, hand extended, and says "I'm Commander Ithallius. Welcome aboard."

I spit in my palm, old school Earth style, before I accept the handshake and then clap my palm against his. "Just call me Socks," I reply. "Where we off to?"

"To get your bird. Sit back, enjoy the ride - this is the last free time you'll have for a while."

And then, with a howl and a lurch that indicates that the space-cow is about to ignore all known laws of physics, our ride lurches from super-cruise into pure energy as the FSD tugs us out of reality and toward our next system destination.
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:17 am

It seems he is milking the Type-9's limitations to slow our arrival at "Alpha Base", but I still can't tell whether that's a kindness or just another manifestation of his asshole need for control and efficiency. What I do know is that in the 4.5 days it takes to complete the run, my head clears, my hands calm and my mind starts to focus.

Each morning I wake, reach for a bottle that isn't there and find, instead, a little hypo filled with what we used to call "Booze Bane" in the A-Team. It's a little cocktail of intravenous drugs that help scrub booze from the blood, ease the symptoms of addiction, kick-start metabolic function and also have a little pain dampening effect thrown in for giggles. It's what we'd shoot ourselves up with if we ran into a situation while still recovering from the previous session, before we'd had time to return to our optimal blood alcohol levels.

At first I am irritated by this: who the fuck this guy think he is anyway? My body; my miserable demise, and he knew what the fuck he was hiring, after all. On the first morning, I resist the syringe but am shaking and sweating so violently within a few hours that I am almost unable to stand and the inside of my skin suit is slick against my skin, squeaking as I move.

So I shoot that shit right into my arse cheek and then leave the empty hypo on his pillow (just one: standard issue: the least appealing pillow in, perhaps, the entire galaxy) with a note that says "Fuck you. Happy now?"

The next morning, there is a new syringe with a note that says, "Grow the fuck up," in tidy cursive.

I kinda like him for that: I stab myself in the thigh and pump that crap into my bloodstream right away.

3 more of those hypos and, while still sharply feeling the effects of suddenly not drinking after a... let's say "long" binge, I am definitely sharpening up.

On the bridge, shit is warming up, too, though he seems utterly immune to any kind of charm and disarm tactic I throw at him: upon arrival at the start of the day, he politely asks after my health (simple systems check), asks if I need anything (basic maintenance) and then lays out my duties for whatever we're up to (mission allocation). Once he's satisfied that I am functional, he more or less ignores me. He does not laugh at my jokes. He does not let his eyes play over me when I pretend to not be looking. He does not initiate small talk. He doesn't care about my stories or history or hopes and dreams. Which is a relief as I don't really have any, so at least he can't be disappointed, right?

What he does do is dedicate a data panel to me and constantly shoot information, telemetry data, mining and market info, the python's engineering specs, information on the arm of the Federation we'll be dealing with, all kinds of stuff over to it. And if I have further questions on that bullshit, he'll answer them politely and fully, Ma'am-ing me the entire time.

At first I find this incredibly austere way of living sparse and hard to deal with: there is a lot of time to get lost in my head, and memories plague me constantly. But as the grip of the booze - assisted by the daily jabs and three basic but wholesome meals a day - lessens, so does the foggy bewilderment and sense of turmoil, and I start to find it easier to focus, process, operate. And, I'll admit, it's quite freeing to have someone who absolutely does not give a shit about me beyond expecting me to function within defined mission parameters.

On the 5th day (since my fucking kidnap, let's still keep that word in the zeitgeist), I am surprised to see my very own Federation Profile flash up on my data screen. I glance at Ithallius in surprise: nothing is redacted and I have complete access. And they know everything. There is a profile on Mira and my relationship with her. There is a file on each of my parents. There is even the summary report following an investigation into their deaths - I didn't even know there had been such a thing.

"I'm meant to see this?" I ask.

"No, Ma'am," he replies, turning to look at me - unusually. He has odd eyes, this fellow. Little cyborg numbers that have mechanical irises. I keep meaning to ask him about them, but I never fucking do: small talk is not part of our groove. Still, it explains the piercing gaze which he aims at me following his reply; the fucker literally never blinks.

"Then... why?"

"You need to clean it up."

"I don't understand."

"When we get to Deciat, you're going to collect those bounties. You're going to update your license. You're going to clear those unpaid docking infractions. You're going to finally conclude whatever remains of your parents' estate. You're going to accept and then dismiss whatever bullshit the Empire wants from you in relation to Mira's death. You're going to square your shit away."

Well oof, motherfucker.

"You don't want me attracting attention?"

"I expect you to eliminate anyone who looks at you too hard: that's your job."

"Then why?" I am perplexed.

"Because it'll be good for you."

I have to force myself to stay upright: I don't know how to process this. Why would he care? As he would say, "That's outside current mission parameters", surely? I can make no reply: my welfare hasn't been on anyone's agenda for some time except poor, long-suffering Not-Dave, and I have not behaved well around my new employer. So I simply nod and return my glance to the data panel, now displaying the coroner's findings for Mira's death.

"It's not on you, you know," he says quietly. I glance over: he's looking at the same page in my file. "This was bullshit. Empire bullshit, and you were meant to carry it. For the record, you got stung pretty badly there."

My mouth is dry; I cannot formulate words. My head briefly swims but I am determined to keep my head in the game and not fall back into the abyss I am slowly - and so, so painfully - climbing out of. I clear my throat and ask "ETA?"

He nods a single time and brings up his nav panel. "Deciat in 3 hours, Garay another hour after that. Python is mission ready?"

"Yes, sir," I reply, only realising that I got all faux-military (and without any irony at all) when he cracks a half smile. He'd shipped the combat-fitted python before he'd even hired me: I'd sent word and credits ahead to get the additional mining stuff sorted, with a hefty bonus for having it all prepared quickly and quietly.

We busy ourselves until we dock; I'm collecting what little shit I have here and he's running system checks and cargo space integrity tests. It's quietly busy, but I'm cool with the hush. Because into that void of chaos that used to be my mind, a single, bright thought hovers over everything I do:

It wasn't my fault: I'm sorry, baby.
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:17 am

We are on Deciat less than a day. I have made a list of the shit I've got to "square away" and get to it immediately - after getting some actual clothes, food and more of those little hypos - my contract demands sobriety so I figure I'll stay on those things another week: won't kill me, eh? I find I'm oddly eager to get off this space ball and into the work, though that could just be because I've not flown in a fucking age and I want to get the next few piles of crap tasks out of the way with as little fuss as possible: I sign the papers to confirm receipt of my parent's estate: I blankly note that I've inherited a reasonable swathe of land on Earth - hilarious as I'm still in exile - which I sign immediately over to Not-Dave's name and possession: it's the very least I owe him, after all.

I have just over 50 mill in uncollected bounty credits which, again, I barely register as I present my chip to receive. Similarly, the fines I pay with equal disinterest, though Tor would have been delighted with the trail of chaos they seem to indicate: 29 infractions across 18 systems. I believe that's a new A-Team record.

The only thing that really ruffles me is the shit about Mira. I had to endure a face-to-face holo chat with some high level administrator to receive my official pardon, and there's some bullshit that Mira left me in her will that I've requested they courier over to Deciat and leave in storage for me. I'd expected this to be the worst job of them all, so I put it off until last, mostly so that I can go immediately from the Coms Office to the new bird.

The python has been well-fitted as a dual purpose combat / mining bird. The design adjustments Ithallius made to systems, internals and so on are well-thought-out and, while somewhat generic (to be expected given he has no idea who'd be flying her) betray the thinking of a man well accustomed to flying combat missions. Of course, I like things the way I like them, so there is a bit of balancing and tinkering, then - happily as we are in Deciat - I test-fly the bird by taking her out on her maiden flight to my old friend Felicity to get some work done on my core internals.

As an amusing sidenote, the Skaccoon I once dumped in her cargo hold has somehow managed to endear itself to Ms Farseer, found itself a mate and now rules over three generations of terrifying shit-rats. See, Universe, I can give back, too.

Ithallius has agreed to give me a little time in the python while he does whatever Fed shit he needs to do, so I've got a little window to take the newly engineered python out for a wee spin. A couple of interdictions and some stupid antics later and I feel I've got a feel for her. She might not be as zippy and flighty as the vulture, but she's certainly more solid and has better staying power. I grudgingly admit that my employer has done a good job putting her together, and, no matter, it feels good being back on the wing. A small voice in the back of my mind tells me it's also no hardship to be flying a vehicle that Mira never fucked me senseless in, which is when I learned the bird's name - Tabula Rasa.

Our pre-jump meeting is brief and takes place in the hangar beneath his T9's landing pad. I agree to everything he asks without question - there's nothing outrageous or overly demanding, and as I'm being paid very well indeed it would be churlish to haggle. In response, I have but a single request - demand, really. I want all communications routed to his coms and to be buried until our contract is completed. I don't need any distractions, I just want to get on with the fucking job, and there's not a soul in the galaxy important enough to pull me off this new beam I've found.

"And Socks?"

"Yeah?"

"Maintain open coms at all times while on mission."

"What if I'm taking a dump?"

"All times."

"What if I'm puking my face off?"

"All times."

"What if I'm wanking. You know, really banging one out - feet up on the panels, sweating, maybe moaning your name. Really beating on myself? I mean, I'm pretty disgusting - you really wanna hear the shit I do to myself when I'm bored? You want to hear your name over the top of that fap-fest?"

He pauses a beat, gives a very subtle smile and, with a slightly lower tone, replies, "All times."

Well fuck me, I do believe I just... well, it's not charm, but there was a moment of something there - just a little one. The man does have a dick, after all.

Our destination - he reveals - is HIP 21991, just a few jumps for me in the python, especially with Felicity's tinkering, but more than double that for him in his T9. He is unconcerned about maintaining my protective stance while in transit - he assures me that he is more than capable of outrunning or out-jumping whatever bullshit comes his way, but just in case, we both mask our FSD wake signatures to ensure any pirates have to work harder than pirates generally work if they want to follow us.

9 hours later, after really pushing the limits of the python's FSD, I arrive in our destination system, some 11 hours ahead of Ithallius. The first thing I do is hit the nav beacon. Then I check the local Galnet law enforcement channels, then I head to Charlois City, power down and sleep (with my coms set to "Wing" and "Always Open") until Ithallius arrives.

I wake, shocked at how refreshed and alert I feel, with my employer's voice in my ear.

"Socks, game time."

"Copy that, welcome to the Back Water, Captain."

"Don't-" he starts to protest, but seems to realise that there's no point and, in any case, I wasn't calling him that to be a prick. "Meet me ten clicks out of Charlois. Time to form up."

I am releasing docking clamps and rising from the landing pad less than 8 minutes later.

Though he sends me the nav data for where we're heading, I really don't need it as I just target him: he's my job, and flying escort for him isn't challenging at all, meaning I can toggle my contact panel on and keep an eye on local traffic. It isn't long before an FDS catches my attention, hanging back but tracking our vector as we approach the nearest gas giant and head towards the innermost ring.

"Potential fuckbag," I muse, "nothing serious. Let's not alert him he's been clocked."

"Roger. FDS?"

"Eyes on the prize, Sir. Let me work - you do you, boo."

There is a brief chuckle over the coms. I find it deeply satisfying to have made him in the slightest part amused: it's reassuring to know both that he has a sense of humour and that I'm still, on some level, still a bit fucking funny, even when sober.

The FDS continues to track us as we descend, headfirst, like fucking death-or-glory ram jockeys directly into the ring. We don't politely drop out of supercruise but, instead, crash heavily out which leaves my blood a little cold as it delays our ability to jump back into SC should we need it. It is 35 seconds before our shadow joins us but, sure enough, there is a flash and the FDS appears some 15kms off my left wing.

"Socks..."

"All in hand. Go shake your money maker - I got you."

The T9 double-flashes its engines in acknowledgement and then slowly readies itself for work, opening its enormous cargo scoop, powering up its mining lasers and popping out the first of many prospecting limpets which shoots away toward the nearest lump of rock. If the FDS is tracking us (which it totally is), it'll see the nose of my bird still following the space cow. But my eyes are on the scanner and I'm watching him slowly approach; he's even got some limpets so he can pretend to be a miner. I'm guessing he's not going to make a move until Ithallius has been at work for a bit, but he's also not going to hang about too long.

After about 30 minutes, Ithallius' voice says in my ear. "Being scanned."

"Payload?"

"About 8 ton."

"Keep going - just keep working."

My worry is that the FDS's gambit is to pull me away toward him, to challenge him and leave the T9 unprotected. And then he'll call in some fucking clipper or 'conda which will pop open the T9 like a pinata before I can get back to its side. Fucking idiots: it's an old-school play, but still an effective one. I don't budge my nose from the T9's arse. And my eyes don't leave the scanner.

"12 tons now."

"Keep going. May I remind you of my career in piracy?"

"I've read the file."

"Yeah, but you fucking Feds have no style when it comes to writing that shit up - you leave all the good bits out."

"What's your play here?"

"I got no play. I'm wanking. I warned you. Your T9 is sexy as fuck and I can't resist myself."

"Socks..."

He sounds a little nervous. I can understand it.

"You know how you kidnapped me? Forced me to come along?"

"Not how it happened-"

"Fuck you. I've got this. You chose me - now let me do my work my way."

There is a pause. Then, "Roger that."

The FDS is drifting away a little. I switch my bird to combat mode, flick power into weapons and change fire groups: my get rich mining debut is about to kick off and I prepare to boost from standing and flip around to greet whatever bullshit is about to jump into range.

A python, as it happens.

Ithallius is also prepared and puts a giant spinning rock between me and him while I boost, get pressed heavily back into my seat, groan a few curse words and flip to face the pirate python. It is a brutal maneuver, but incredibly effective and the python is still preparing for combat, having banked on having 15 more seconds to get into the game.

I throw down immediately, boosting forward a second time, now with my nose pointing directly at the python. At the last moment I pull up so my belly - the thickest point on the hull, scrapes brutally over the pirate python's nose, blasting away its shields and stunning the pilot. "Thanks, Dawg," I murmur as I fire a warning shot off at the approaching FDS and flip to lie along the back of the python which is only now starting to move. But I'm inside its circle and can easily track its motion with my beams. With no shielding, its hull is quickly in tatters. I hit it with a scan while I shift my head to see where the FDS has gone.

The dropship has flicked its way over my left side and seems to be trying to flank the T9 through the rocks. "Pips to shields, sir," I mutter as I spin off the heavily damaged python to take on the dropship. I am easily faster and more nimble than this ugly brick of a machine and while it has far more firepower, it can't turn worth a shit and has, hilariously, hampered itself by putting a shit-ton of rock and debris in its own line of fire. I break heavily, spin to the left and open fire. The drop ship turns to face me, but is already pulling up its nose to clear the grav-lock of the belt and jump free. I give it a little laser blast, mostly to be a bitch and make it have to pull power from engines and throw it to shields, before turning back to the pirate python.

242, 000 credit bounty: A specialist miner-feeder. Even if the KWS hadn't returned such an utter dickhole, I'd have finished it off, but there's something deeply satisfying about taking down someone who really, truly deserves it. The python blooms around my nose as I power down my weapons, flick back to my mining lasers and slowly come about off the T9's wing.

"Want me to chase the Dropship?"

"Negative. Let it go. Nice work."

"Thanks. Now... back to wanking."

"Not mining?"

"Nah, mining's for losers."

"Fill your hold three times and you've got a conda."

"I already got a buttplug - wearing it right now."

And do you know what? The bastard actually chuckles.
"Drink fast, die young"
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Sat Nov 23, 2019 5:35 pm

Though I'd never previously given it any thought, mining is surprisingly similar to combat, just much, much slower. We work with quiet efficiency: at first I am more concerned with watching our scanner but quickly realise that, if no-one sees us drop into the field, there is no-one to follow us, and because our drop from SC is so sudden and close to the ring debris field, our wake sigs are masked and almost impossible to follow.

This means that, while the first 15 minutes of any new mining session could get very hectic, the subsequent 3 hours never are: there is no point in diligently watching the scanner as nothing will appear. In the end, simple common sense says I should get into the mining game and crack on.

We work in comfortable silence. Occasionally he'll even sing, though the words are never really clear enough to understand. I like hearing it, though; I remain utterly silent so that he doesn't get rattled out of his mood by whatever dumb shit I typically come out with. Our mining sprees get faster and faster: we stop hitting up the local station to refuel when we arrive, then we start hooking up right at the painite field. Eventually we learn to sleep in 3-hour bursts and start working 3 runs in 2 days. It's a whole new way of thinking about doing things for me, but I find it satisfying, and on the rare occasions when I need to take care of some pirate or other variety of dickbag, I am relaxed and in good shape to do whatever is needed and then immediately return to chill mining mode.

Instead of a week, we tacitly agree to work the hotspot for 10 days in total. I have no idea how much cash either of us have made, but we refine our shit ourselves so that we can transfer it quickly and turn our runs around faster. I'm a little disappointed when, after the final painite transaction, his voice comes over the coms to tell me that our contract is fulfilled and he releases me from his service.

We agree to head back to Deciat together, where we'll settle up and part ways. As I make my way there, I am struck by a sudden sense of reluctance: I have enjoyed this period of industry and focus, and though he's the most closed-off human being I've ever encountered, I have liked my time working for CMDR Ithallius.

The bar I end up in is called "Horatio's", though, obviously, it gets renamed "Fellatio's" in the local parlance. It's a mid-range type of place - you know, where personal hygiene is required, but manners are not and you're still allowed to keep your weapons. Robot bar tenders but human servers; bad food being sold out of good replicators.

I am leaning up against a wall, making eyes at some loader operator - an absolute behemoth of a man - who is currently trying to guess the last bird I flew. He is - happily - as dumb as a rock, but I'm not giving him the eye for his mind: I have little to no interest in anything he has to say. But he's coriolis born-and-bred which means, untethered by planetary gravity, he has been able to grow to literally super-human proportions: almost 8 feet tall and with a chest broad enough to... well, let's just say he's a very big guy and leave it there.

I have just made a simple joke that he clearly doesn't understand, so is doing the Tough Guy "Huhhhnn huuhhhnnn huuuhhhnn" laugh when, out of nowhere, Ithallius is charging him at speed, right arm drawn back for a huge jab that Loader Guy does not see coming. As it connects, it lifts this poor asshole clean off his feet and sends him crashing heavily onto the floor. Before he can get up, Ithallius' left boot is on the poor dude's windpipe. The Loader looks confused - hurt, even - and moves his hands to Ithallius' leg.

"Don't be an asshole, asshole," growls Ithallius. The guy nods, drops his hands, and lets his eyes glaze over. Ithallius nods. "Now get the fuck outa here." Loader doesn't need telling twice: I am furious.

"The actual fuck, ass-muncher?" I shout, placing my drink on the bar and rolling up my sleeves. "Let's fucking go."

"You don't wanna..." says Ithallius, but he's squaring up anyway.

My first punch isn't a bad one - I'm just warming up, really, but it connects with his shoulder and knocks him back hard enough to make him growl.

"Oh no!" I tease, "Hit by a girl. What the fuck. Come on, what you got? Apart from a dick I don't think you know how to use."

He feints a couple of times and seems fairly light on his feet. He is, I realise, moving us into the middle of the room where there is more space. I happily follow, keeping in mind where the bar is in case I need cover or ammunition.

"It ever occur to you to just shut the fuck up?" he asks.

"Nope. Ever occur to you to not hire a dysfunctional drunk to hold your hand while Daddy Gets To Work?"

His hook is fast and catches my face square on the jaw. My head snaps back and a little plume of blood spins away into the air. Still, I've clocked him: he's got a little pride after all.

"No discipline. No shame. No fucking game at all..." he muses while dancing lightly in a circle. I throw a couple more but miss: there's something about the way he moves that makes it really hard to get inside his reach. I keep pressing: I keep screaming bullshit at him, too.

"No game? Except all those nasty-wasty pirate ships you and your fat-ass Type-10 wannabe were scarpering from, all the time. 'Socks! A nasty Fer-de-lance! Please don't let it scan me - I'm scaaaared!'"

I am ready for his next hook and deftly dodge it, snaking low and forwards while he is recovering his balance. My shoulder locks under the pit of his extended arm and I throw my weight forward to knock him backwards. As he starts moving, I throw my arms forward so that my momentum transfers to him: I stop moving and he flies over a chair to land heavily on his back.

This, I later muse, would have been a great moment to leave this be and walk the fuck out. But I am never one to walk away from a scrap - a point he makes just moment later, while I have my back to him and am throwing back a shot of something room-temperature and 67% proof: I figure he's going to be down for a good few seconds. In the end, he is down less than 3.

He delivers a jab-hook combo that first knocks the glass from my hand and spins my head around, and then finishes with the other hand that comes at me from beneath my solar plexus, ripping into my rib cage and tossing me over the bar. Fuck me, that shit hurt! I am still dazed and struggling for breath when I realise he has vaulted the bar after me and is now gathering up the front of my shirt in his fist to lift me back to my feet.

"You're the biggest coward I ever met," he whispers, completely white with rage.

"You're the most arrogant fuckhead I ever met," I whisper back, jamming my head suddenly forward so that I catch his right temple with my forehead, breaking the skin with my headbutt. His face floods with blood.

"You punch like a trainee," he growls, balling his other hand and preparing to throw one directly at my face.

"You punch like a woman," I breathe back.

"You are a woman," he replies. We both stare at each other in brief confusion.

"Well, yeah..." I respond as he shakes me again and presses my back against the bar, bottles and bar crap digging into my back.

"Wasting my fucking time. Soon as you could, you're diving back into the swill at the bottom of humanity's barrel."

"Whatever, go fuck yourself, Tough Guy," I press my knee against his groin to let him know that I'm targeting a more valuable asset than he is.

Not that our scrap was elegant until now, but this is where it starts to get really ugly: we separate, gasp, and then half-punch half-wrestle each other, arms locked around waists, blindly gripping whatever clothing we can find, each grunting with effort, throwing clumsy half-punches, inexpertly grappling and trying to bring each other down. This goes on for a long moment; it is painful and exhausting, and for a skinny guy, he is incredibly strong.

Eventually I hook my heel around his left foot and, while twisting him to the right, kick his foot out to the left. I am expecting him to tumble to the floor but, instead, he twists against my weight, throwing me backwards and letting me go so that I take the brunt of it and tumble heavily to the floor. Then - as with the Loader - his left foot is hovering over something painful and important.

"Don't" he growls, wiping blood from his mouth and gasping for breath as my hands find his flight suit. But I'm not as smart as that dumb Loader and don't heed the warning at all. Instead I grasp, twist and try to throw his foot off me. And that's when I understand the real trouble I'm in now: the fucker has a neuro-rigged prosthetic goddamn leg. And yet, I'm angry and feeling somehow betrayed and I don't even understand what the fuck is going on, and now he's pinning me to the floor behind a fucking neon bar; under a sign that flashes "Drinks! Snacks! Sex!"

There are tears in my eyes - making me even angrier - as I struggle to twist his leg off my chest, but - of course - it doesn't move at all. He watches my pathetic struggle for a moment and then swears loudly and removes it anyway.

"FUCK. What the... you just don't..." He dumps his credit chip onto the bar to appease an anxiously-beeping tender-bot, grabs a couple of bottles of real rum and sinks down to the floor next to me.

"The fuck is wrong with you?" he asks, twisting to look at my face.

"With me?" I reply, accepting the proffered bottle and taking a deep swig. I try to straighten up: it's hard to swallow in this kind of slump, but I wince and give up. There's some broken ribs, possibly a fucked up jaw, and blood is happening.

He starts to speak, narrows his eyes, shakes his head, apparently changes his mind, drinks, looks at me again and then says, "You know, not every fight is a good one."

I shrug: I've long since given up looking for the good and the bad in things. Now they're just things.

"Stop fucking yourself. All the time. Always rushing towards death," he sounds not disappointed but exasperated. Almost paternal. It annoys me.

"Makes me a good fighter." I eye him coldly, but my fury is dropping away now. I'm still out of breath but this is the lull between the anger and the pain. "Whatever the fuck that was about. Didn't like my date?"

"You know his name?"

"I needed to?"

He looks at me, searching for something I'm not sure he finds. He takes another drink. "What's so fucking wrong with being alive anyway?"

This weird fucking man who just beat the shit out of me. I try to find as honest an answer as I can: let's call it the spoils of victory. When I do find it, it's simple and raw and I am unashamedly, openly crying when I utter it out loud: "It hurts," I reply. "It just really fucking hurts."

He watches me for a moment, then sighs, nods and shuffles closer so we are pressed, shoulder to shoulder, on the floor of the bar. "Yeah. It fucking does."

"Yeah," I say. I spit a mouthful of blood and a tooth onto the floor and carry on crying and drinking and pressing myself against this fucking asshole who is warm and present and aware of me.

He digs into his pocket and hands me a chip. I shake my head: I wasn't doing the work for the money.

"It's yours."

"Nah, dude."

"Wanna know how much?"

"Fuck it. Sure," I say.

"Bounties, protection bonus, 10 points on my sales plus profits from your own. All told: 748 million."

I start laughing: a dumb, still-crying, drunk-ass-bitch laugh and raise my bottle at him. "Yeah, but seriously. How fucking much?"

"748 million."

I feel I should keep laughing. I mean... that's a funny number. Just saying it out loud: the sounds of it are funny. But the laugh dies and then I am just staring at him. "How much?" I whisper.

"748 million."

I scrape my hands over my eyes and wipe my snot over the back of my hand. "I dunno..." I say, dumbly.

"Work for me," he says.

I wince and shake my head.

"Work for me," he repeats, more insistent now. I don't know why: I pull up his left trouser leg and tap on his tritanium prosthetic. It has a hollow thud: I find the sound disappointing.

"You're so fucking stupid," I whisper.

"Yes, Ma'am," he says.

"And I'm not joining some fucking Fed outfit anyway. Fuck that shit."

"I'm not a company man," he replies.

"What?"

"I'm not Federation. I crashed out."

"Seriously?"

He nods.

"Why?" I ask.

"Because..." he closes his eyes briefly, as if recalling something to mind, and then says, "...all 3 super powers have created a "justice" system where they literally don't even have to sully themselves to clean their own mess up." Then he looks at me and waits.

The words are familiar. "I said that, right?" He nods.

"But the file - my file?"

"I maintain good contacts."

"Huh." I shuffle about to look at him. Those crazy cyborg eyes; the scar across his mouth; the face-rat, the sternly unreadable expression. He's austere and brutal and inflexible, and yet I feel safe with him. Like... things are going to be okay. Like it's okay to think about next week or next month and not just lift a bottle and forget it all in the hope of getting from this moment to the next.

"You beat the shit out of me," I muse.

"Yeah. Got me good a couple of times, too."

I throw a look at him: of the two of us there's a very definite "Winner" and "loser" and I know which role is mine.

"Wanna get drunk?" I ask.

"Sure," he replies.

"Cool."

So that's what we do. Right after we buy the bar and kick everyone - patrons, robots, servers - out and close the door.

We get fucking legless.

(Huuuuuhhhn huuuuuhhhhn huuuuuhhhn)
"Drink fast, die young"
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Sun Nov 24, 2019 4:39 pm

"So, uh, hi..."

I'm feeling awkward and out-of-place. And I'm not used to this shape-to-your-body, very expensive chair that came "as standard with our premier package". The holoscreen is at a weird angle, and my ribs are still killing me from my fight with Ithallius. But, the ship is impressively huge and there is no argument that it is a beautiful, beautiful machine. Plus, instead of having to hop and wriggle into the belly of the beast, it has a proper door, with little flippy-out steps so that you can board her like a fucking civilised cocksucker. I have named her "Bulging Compensator" - I don't think that needs any further explanation.

"Oh greet!" replies Not-Dave, his face brightening up when he sees me. It quickly darkens again. "Do you need assistance?"

"Uh... what?"

"You appear to have been recently beaten and are contacting me from an Anaconda. Are you in need of help?"

"Oh!" For shit's sake... "No, fucking Not-Dave, I'm all.. yeah. I'm fine."

"Is there an explanation?"

"There is."

"May I hear it?"

"Uh, sure. I did a job, made a fortune, got beaten up and then re-hired by my boss and bought a 'conda."

Not-Dave is accustomed to my shade of shenanigan these days, but this is a little too pithy for him to process immediately. He raises a finger at the screen to indicate that I should wait a moment, and then vanishes for a blink. Seconds later he is back in his chair with an enormous glass filled with... something.

"I finally drove you to booze, Not-Dave?"

"Just the usual H2O. So where have you been? And manner of crime did you fall into this time?"

"Ah... well, wasn't crime, actually-"

"What?!" Not-Dave looks genuinely shocked. I figure I'll press my advantage.

"And I've been sober for four weeks now. Well... mostly. Like, not perpetually drunk, at least."

"Bugger me," muses Not-Dave, running his hand over his chin thoughtfully. "How on Earth did you manage- Oh! speaking of Earth, I appear to have somehow ended up with your inherited lump of Earth land, and an inheritance tax bill which has accrued interest at the rate of 19% over the 2 years it's gone unpaid for."

Fuck damn it - the taxes! I hadn't even considered it would cost Not-Dave anything to receive that as a gift. Shit it all to death. "It was a gift," I murmur, glancing down at my coms panel and making a transfer directly to Not-Dave. "I inherited the land from my parents, but I'm in fucking exile and you've been... well, you're always, you know..."

"I'm always..?"

"It's just that I'm kind of a dick to you, like, all the time and you've always been there when I, uh..."

"When you have been drunk for so long you forget your own name and in which system you landed your ship?"

"Well, yeah... FUCK. I was trying to say thank you."

Not-Dave's coms panel beeps and he glances down to open the message. A little thrill of pleasure rocks me as I see his face light up in delighted confusion. "For the taxes," I say, "I'd forgotten about them. That should cover it. And, you know, all the other shit I owe you."

"More than enough. There's really no need." He glances up, directly into the holo-capture; he really is a handsome fucker. Just the right amount of scratch over his chin, well-groomed hair, big, brown eyes. I wish - not for the first time - that I could just fall in love with him and be done with everything else. "This means a lot," he says, "Especially as you claim it was earned legally. Thank you."

I smile: it's nice. I just made someone happy. And not using tits or guile or guns.

Not-Dave and I dig in for a good, long catch-up session where I hear about the wonders he's encountered in his latest exploration trip outside The bubble (a black hole named "Socks" - har har), and I tell him all about Ithallius and the mining and the 'conda I just bought and am currently parked up in, taking a break from maintenance and whatnot.

We are just about to get into the ins and outs of 'conda core internal engineering when a voice calls, "Permission to come aboard?" and every part of me freezes solid.

"Socks?" says Not-Dave, noticing my suddenly panicked expression. "What is it?"

"It's... oh fuck... I gotta go," I whisper.

"Hey, are you there?" Her voice again. I'm still resisting the notion that she's real.

Shit. She's coming aboard; I can hear her steps. I can even smell her, though she's still nowhere near me. I can't bear it: my heart is going to explode in my chest: I am feeling furious; frightened. I'm panicking, dry-mouthed, terrified, excited, aroused and, more than anything else in my life, I am suddenly aching to hold her. I cannot turn around; I cannot see her. The sight of her, here, after everything that has happened - after Mira - will surely destroy me. I screw my eyes shut. My mind blanks.

"Babe?" Her voice is soft; satin sheets on Sunday mornings; damp skin after a warm bath; chocolate melting on a lover's tongue.

I still cannot turn.

"Hey." Now she is behind me. Vanilla and sweet, sweet musk fill my nostrils. I can hear the material of whatever she's wearing - and I know exactly what she's wearing before I even turn around - quietly rustling as she moves. The light touch of her hand on my shoulder and then the feel of her kiss on the back of my neck. Like no time has passed. Like nothing happened. Like we just woke up and are checking our mail over coffee.

"It's okay. Everything is okay." Her voice is shaking; my silence is unsettling her. She's doing that thing she does where she reassures both of us at the same time, with the same words. In this familiar dance, I'm meant to now gather her in my arms and hold her so tightly my shoulders ache. And then I say something dumb, and she laughs and then we're okay again. That's what she's asking me for right now.

I can't do it: not yet.

"How did you find me?" I ask quietly. Unbidden by any conscious thought, my hand rises to my shoulder to feel her fingers lightly gripping me. Under my fingertips, her hand is cool and smooth and steady.

"Doesn't matter right now. Look at me, baby. Please turn around."

I don't know how fast or slow I actually rotated that chair, but in my mind, that 120 degree rotation took about 3 hours. My eyes were closed the entire time. And then I came to a stop and looked, and there she was.

Nari.

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(Image by Fluxen. More here: https://www.deviantart.com/fluxen/art/S ... -598114272)
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby Dudley » Wed Nov 27, 2019 7:17 pm

As slick as I remember.. You're the man, err or woman, err or gender fluid thingy.. anyhoo.. let me just say - most enjoyable.
As a tribute to Tor, my CMDR has small feet too! o7 Dawg

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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Thu Nov 28, 2019 5:57 am

"...so I made his nose a bit longer, his cock a bit shorter and accidentally," Nari draws little quotes in the air around that word, "sent it to his wife."

"Which one?"

"Both of them!"

I snicker wildly at the end of Nari's story - she is a holo-artist, particularly good at placing boring, middle-aged male administrators into fantastic, beautiful worlds where - with sword, shield and a determination they've never possessed in real life - they are fighting or fucking or saving or heroically posing post-epic-combat. Invariably they are set in situations where there is at least one woman who is utterly helpless in some way or another, and all of this is rendered in glorious detail inside a holoball that you can either sit on a table like an ornament or enlarge until you can seemingly climb into it and walk around.

We are back on Garay, walking to the bar Ithallius and I bought during our fight: I have been summoned and as Nari and I are still on the "Can't Do Anything Without You" phase of our reunion, she is coming along with me everywhere/ cumming everywhere with me. Har har. I am still not accustomed to the stupid amount of wealth I have acquired to the extent that I have carried on with the mining, carrying out a few more chilled runs to 21991, as it's bought me and Nari time to be together, catch up, reconnect, get comfortable ag-

"HEY!" I trip over something outside the bar and stumble heavily forward. Nari giggles.

"Sookableet!" *It is worth noting, at this point, that everything that is said by this voice was recorded and later translated - at great effort - so that it could be put into this log with any degree of accuracy.

"The fuck," I exclaim as I recover my balance and look back at the pile of what I had assumed to be post-fight debris ejected in some clean-up effort, but that now trembles a little and then slowly unfolds to reveal a broken-looking human being, trembling and gesturing up at me from where he'd been sleeping on the floor.

"First Boris is shamed like gopnik, then fucking bar is close and not open. Then Boris told he no fucking pay rent for live in cyka sleep-box, and now is fall over when sleep by old bar. Is only want piroshki, blyat."

I wince, struggle to process all of this - which is delivered in an impossibly thick Russian accent - and then glance at the pile of humanity again. His face is completely covered by sunglasses, a balaclava and a black ushanka. He is wearing a bright yellow flight jacket seemingly made from seat covering, black trousers that feature 3 white stripes running down each leg and a pair of "shoes" that would require several long minutes of description to do any real justice to.

"...Kharma?" I venture; it's the only explanation ridiculous enough to fit the moment.

"Who this karma? Cyka karma, I say - huuunnn huuunnn - why my bar close? Boris just want kvass and butterbrod before he work on making ship more blin."

I glance helplessly at Nari - a woman who easily possesses the skills to deal with this situation. But Nari enjoys watching me squirm (*take THAT how you will), shrugs prettily then lights a smoke as she leans against the wall and watches. I scowl and crouch down to talk to the "man".

"Boris? Are you Boris?"

"Of course."

"What... uh... You want... I mean, you wanna get some food? You used to eat here?"

"Was my place!"

"Ah, dude, I'm sorry." I rise to my feet and attempt to tug "Boris" along with me. He resists at first but is soon swaying cheerfully next to me, all yellow and black and shouting sounds like "Gopnik!" and "Blin!"

I am about to question the creature further when, from behind me, I hear Ithallius' voice, "Good. You're here. Come in."

"What about..?" I gesture to the swaying Boris.

"Bring them, too," nods Ithallius. Nari frowns at being lumped in with Boris but says nothing: the three of us file into the bar. Boris shouts, "OPA! Boris make butterbrod!" and vanishes through a door.

"Wow," breathes Nari, looking around. Indeed, the bar is destroyed. In the 10 days that have passed since Ithallius and I brawled, nothing has been tidied up, sorted, cleaned... there's my first puddle of blood. There's the tooth I spat out... there's the two little clear patches in the sea of glass that is the floor behind what used to be the bar... there's-

"Heh, look at this." I stoop to pick up a napkin that has something written upon it. "The Wet Spot."

"Nice," nods Ithallius approvingly. He stands next to me and eyes the napkin in my hand.

"You idea, obviously," he murmurs.

I shake my head. "Not my handwriting."

"Nor mine."

"Nah, defo yours. I remember you writing it."

He eyes me suspiciously and shakes his head. "You don't. Because you wrote it."

"Cyka blyat!" shouts Boris, "This boring. Bar open or close?"

Ithallius sends me a questioning look. I shrug. "Found him outside," I reply.

"He got money?"

"How the fuck I'd know?" I reply.

"Hey," calls Ithallius to Boris, "You want the bar open?"

"Is blin!"

"You want a job?"

Boris looks around and then nods emphatically.

"Congratulations. You're now the manager of The Wet Spot."

"Piroshki blyat!" shouts Boris happily. "Boris clean! Boris make new sign! Boris make bar good!"

"Boris shut the fuck up now and let grown-ups talk," says Ithallius. Nari giggles again. There is a brief moment of cursory introduction between them - he seems to know exactly who she is and, while polite to her, Ithallius doesn't give an actual fuck about Nari in the slightest. Which is fine as Nari evidently doesn't give a fuck about my boss, either and, instead, drifts over to Boris to help him assess the damage.

"First thing," says Ithallius, guiding me by the elbow to a table and indicating I should sit. I am about to tease him about whether or not he's sure I should sit down this time, but he takes something out his pocket and eyes me seriously.

"What is this bullshit now?" I ask suspiciously as I slide onto the chair and rest my elbows on the table.

"Here. Elite wings. Trade." He has a little box that he slides across the table to me once he has also sat down. I open it and discover a tidy little Pilot's Federation badge - my name across the middle - indicating that have been recognised as an elite-rank trader. I am stunned.

"Mining runs: you hit it after you and I quit, actually. The last few you did with Nari (he says her name easily; almost approvingly) pushed you over the edge. They sent it to me as your employer: you should register this as your home station for the time being."

"Well shit," I muse. Almost a billion in the bank, a fucking 'conda to my name and now elite wings to boot. There was no denying it: I'd turned into a grown-up. "Shit. I don't know how to be rich."

He offers me a rare smile and tips his head slightly. "Sure you do. Same way you do anything else."

"How's that then?"

"With wild, chaotic abandon."

I laugh and run my fingers through my hair. "You sound like her," I reply, my eyes flicking to Nari. "So you keeping the bar?"

"We're keeping the bar."

"Naaaw, I dunno. I'm doing good without the booze."

"There's booze everywhere you go. Your being sober ain't about whether you're in a bar or not."

"That's fucking profound. You miss me or something, Captain?"

"Don't-" He breaks off and tips his head to me. I'm taking that as a yes. My eyes drop to the little badge again; it represents... something. Something that is important and fundamental that I cannot yet put into words. It is precious and there is an emotion blooming in my chest that I am unfamiliar with; it might be pride.

"Got a job," he says, "Need you in your bird."

"I'm not ready to do anything in that fucking dreadful butt plug yet."

"Not that bird. Your bird." His voice is low, dirty and growling: he can only be referring to my vulture. Interesting.

"Go on," I say, nodding, closing the little box and putting it in my pocket.

"Blin, comrade!" comes Boris' voice across the bar. I look up: he is clapping Nari on the shoulder. She is laughing. This shitty, still-wrecked bar feels like home already.

"Hunt and eliminate. Discreetly. You in?"

"Sure," I nod. "It gotta be discreet?"

He winks at me, says "Mission data will be in your coms panel," as he gets up and, with a polite wave to Nari, leaves the bar.

I remain seated at the table, taking a moment to chew over my new life: it is surprising how satisfied I am feeling I think to myself. But then I look over to where Nari now stacks chairs on tables ahead of some epic debris clearing effort and realise, actually, it's not surprising at all: though the first few hours were almost impossibly difficult and awkward, Nari and I have fallen into an easy tempo that brings my tired heart more relief than it probably deserves. For a moment I consider how eager to please her I am, especially in the memory of all the ways I disappointed her back on Earth in the lead-up to my exile. That's cool; I'm fine with that.

My hand drops to my pocket and closes again over the little box with my wings in it. I have an idea and I smile to myself, newly confident, as I rise to my feet, walk over to Nari, kiss her on the cheek and say, "Gotta get to work, babe. Be back later. Love you." It is so natural and domestic that I almost laugh at myself as I pull the box from my pocket and press it into her palm. She looks down at her hand, at the box, which she is flipping open as I turn for the door. I catch her surprised expression as I leave and head to the flight hangar.

To murder.




*The inspiration for Boris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYTJfLyo_vE
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:10 am

I am returning to Garay ("Back home," as Nari says, greeting me over coms when I arrive back in Deciat - she has been watching the local traffic), just dropping out of supercruise and completing my approach. The job has gone smoothly: target eliminated with minimal fuss and utmost discretion and I have achieved a turn-around on the job of less than 15 hours (I was given 24). Clean. Tidy. Quiet. This new skill set is making me feel like a badass.

I am selecting the station from my contacts to secure docking permission when a ship is flagged on my panel: it's a hack I learned from Tor that allowed us to track the ones that got away. It's very simple - it just flags up any ship I've targeted before along with a quick note of where they were last time I scanned them. In this case it's an FDS. In fact, it's the same FDS that dropped into the mining field when Ithallius and I were on our first run to 21991 - a system that is 120 light years away. What the actual fuck?

This is not a coincidence: after letting him go, this asshole must have followed us - in spite of the measures we took to mask our wake signatures. How else would he have found us here? And let's not forget, I blew up his buddy in the fugly python before tickling his hull with my pulses.

Ithallius and I haven't yet talked about exactly what I'll be doing in his employ or even who I'm "officially" working for yet, but it's clear that it's some kind of under-the-radar paramilitary or mercenary outfit: efficiency and discretion being things he reminds me to bear in mind. So to find we're rumbled before we've even gotten our little Bandit Band a name... well, that's not cool. However, both the FDS and I are well inside Garay's no-fire zone, so all I can do is target this cock-licker, hang back, see where it docks and then follow up on foot.

I follow him into the envelope - my vulture is still A-Team registered (the python isn't) and I doubt he's clocked me as I coast over the nose of his ship, now sinking onto its landing pad. Happily, I am just two pads away and make quick work of landing, securing, then leaving the bay. As I go, I alert Ithallius on a closed coms loop: I am certain he will not be pleased at this kind of surprise: "Roger. Update me," is all he actually says on the matter, though.

As I enter the hangar where the dark-coloured (black? green? I can't even identify the actual colour of the thing) dropship now cools down, there is something... off about it. I linger by the door and get a solid look at this truly abominable ship. For a start, it is "decorated" with obscene slogans, random letters and pictures that all seem to have been crazy-glued all over the hull - squatting men and cats in hats are a popular theme - and from the front left side, across the vessel's roof to the rear right side, three white lines have been... applied. I squint and peer at the lines and realise that they are made from tape - white insulating tape - that has been stretched and coaxed and, in some places, scratched away and then reapplied, to the hull of this hulking beast.

And there is a smell, like oil and rubber burning. Like you get from the dash when you're trying to jump while still fuel scooping and your internals start to cook. Except there's a kind of earthiness to it which takes me a moment to identify as I don't remember the last time I was anywhere near soil, much less paid any mind to how that stuff smelled. But it is organic and a little cloying and utterly bizarre. "Cheeki Breeki" is emblazoned along the side of the ship, in proudly glowing yellow lettering and there is no ship registry panel or marking.

But the most amazing part - the "feature" of this vessel that truly causes me to stop in my tracks, blink, swear, blink again is the cockpit.

You see, there is no canopy. Not, like, it's a bit cracked or it's very thin glass so hard to see. I mean, shreds of the vacuum-proof caulking still remain, but the entire panel has otherwise been removed, leaving the entire vessel open to The Void and unable to maintain any form of life support system.

The reason for this is both obvious and breath-taking. And unlike anything I've ever - including all the bullshit that the A-Team and I got up to - encountered or even thought of, even while drunk off my ass for months on end, before. See, the FDS has two seats in its cockpit: the first sits low and at the front and is the pilot's seat, offering a decent view and good space for all the required panels and gubbins. The second is the navigator's (Or "cope", as in co-pilot) chair which is raised up on a platform behind and slightly to the left of the pilot's chair.

In this ship, the pilot's chair as vacant, as you'd expect. But in the cope's seat has been strapped...

I mean, it's a little bit genius, really. And it explains a lot about the bizarre encounter I had with him in 21991.

In the cope's seat has been strapped a huge rail gun that has been tied to the chair and secured to floor with a collection of bungee ropes and what looks like extra belt strapping, and whose barrel hangs over the lower flight deck and protrudes right through the space where the canopy should be until the end of the gun hangs over the front of the ship.

I move closer to examine this incredible spectacle - the pilot has jury-rigged a manual trigger so that they just have to reach their left hand out a little and... fuck me, the trigger itself is a collection of more insulating tape, polymer wheel-chocs and, yep, a glass vodka bottle. I cannot help myself now; I am climbing up onto a set of steps I have tugged over to the front of the vessel so that I can get a closer look. Along the barrel of the huge rail gun is written, in untidy script, "VADIM BLYAT" and "GOPNIK!" and from the very end of the barrel hangs a plushy cat wearing an untidily hand-made ushanka.

"Holy actual flying shit..." I muse, trying to guess whether the rail gun is wired into the ship's internals or whether it has its own power source, tempted as I am - forgetting all sense of peril - to climb inside and look around more.

"Is good, no? Is blin!" says a familiar voice behind me.

"Fuck... Boris!" I am startled and glance over my shoulder to see the yellow-jacketed new manager of The Wet Spot. "Look at this shit, will you?" I lean further in to see how the gun is mounted: it seems to be a dual feat of tricking physics and relying on low grav to keep the thing from toppling forward.

"Here," I say, glancing over my shoulder at the balaclava'd Russian, "Keep a look out for me - I'm going to look inside."

"Haha, no davai! You take time, Boris think it okay."

"Uh, okay... thanks," I say, clambering awkwardly into the cockpit, taking care not to disturb the rail gun in any way.

"It safe," calls Boris, "It no shooty-shooty until bottle hit with elbow. Boris make good."

My eyes return to the vodka bottle and realise that, indeed, the only thing the pilot has to do is to knock it with their elbow to make it fi-

Wait.

What?

"Boris make good."

"Boris".

This is Boris' fucking ship?!

In a flash - and a with a dexterity I never would have been able to summon were I still drinking - I am shouting down the coms to Ithallius as I jump, tuck and roll out of the cockpit. "Hangar 32, now. Assistance very much required." Then I am sliding off the vessel and vaulting towards a confused looking Boris who I immediately grab by the collar and, using what's left of my momentum, throw him to the ground.

I don't have a gun. But it seems like, according to all the shitty 20th Century space movies I've ever seen, I should definitely have one and should definitely be pointing it at Boris' face while growling something commanding and cool at this very moment. Instead, I take a moment to catch my breath and rest my right foot on the Russian's crotch.

Ithallius arrives just seconds later. Though he's still giving a good appearance, there are slight signs that he's a bit ruffled: the hint of a bead of sweat on his forehead. "What's going on?" he asks, assessing the situation as he enters the deck. Turns out, he does have a gun, and has no problem at all with pointing that thing at Boris' face so I can double over for a moment, wheeze, catch my breath, will life and sensation back into my legs, straighten up and give a quick sit rep.

Boris, meanwhile, remains still and quiet on the floor. He is more than aware of the gun trained at his face and seems relatively relaxed given the situation. And, I guess, he's been around us both long enough - and seen the state of the bar - to understand that we're okay with fucking shit up.

"Fucking Boris... a plant or a spy or some shit. This is his fucking ship." I look at Ithallius, "His."

Ithallius gives no sign of comprehension. I gesture wildly at the vessel.

"21991. The first run. The python and the FDS that we let go..."

"The same FDS?" growls Ithallius. I nod emphatically.

Ithallius eyes the vessel, a flicker of surprise when he realises that, yes, that is a massive rail gun extending out of the cockpit.

"120 light years and 3 fucking weeks. And he turns up outside our fucking bar and we give him a job?!"

Ithallius nods. "How far from here is your vulture?"

"2 pads."

"Get him up, I'll cover him. Let's get him onto your bird."

"Yep," I reply, as Ithallius backs away without dropping his aim. I bend and grip Boris' jacket again, but he doesn't need strong-arming and is perfectly compliant, rising to his feet and beaming a confusingly bright smile at me.

"Boris come! Boris big fan!"

Ithallius and I exchange confused glances as I start Boris walking in front of me, winding through the little pilot spaces that lead to the deck where my vulture is docked, and then up into her tiny - soundproof - hull.

"You there," says Ithallius to Boris, gesturing to the corner of the flightdeck where, once Boris is seated, Ithallius sets about roping and securing him. It's an impressively fast process.

"Fire her up," he says to me. "Edge of the system. Mask your signatures."

I nod, slide into my pilot's chair and am requesting launch protocols from the operator before I've ever fired my girl up. I'm trying to play it cool as I rise from the pad and pull up my landing gear, but I can't help but boost through the envelope and out into the void beyond: I have genuinely no idea what the next hour of my life is going to offer me, or even how many of us will be returning to Garay at the end of it.

I just know I'm in the fucking game now.
"Drink fast, die young"
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