3055: A Space Odyssey

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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:18 pm

"Get your flight suit on."

"Eeeeh, and Boris?"

Boris' question goes ignored as Ithallius does a visual check out of the vulture's canopy window before leaning over the panels to check nearby contacts. I get up from the chair and hastily undress then redress in my bird's resident - bright pink, as chosen by Mira (oof) - flight suit. There are two further suits aboard; both the same kind of shitty, basic skin-suit that I once found myself dressing in not too long ago when Ithallius took me aboard his ship: neither the irony nor the humour of the situation breaks the surface of my concentration now.

I flip my helmet up, take a breath of the nothing-tasting, filtered suit air and return to my seat. Ithallius withdraws from the panels, out of my way, and similarly undresses and puts on a skin suit. Boris looks on impassively as Ithallius flips up his helmet, confirms vacuum seal and air feed, then returns his attention to the panels.

"Signal Nari. Send her this," he hands me a slip of paper with a 12 digit code printed on it. "Tell her to plug it into my 'conda. Tell her we need her here in 19 minutes. Then prepare for self-destruct in 11 minutes. Make it look like an FSD ignition error; make it big and showy."

"Roger," I nod, not really letting the full implications of his instructions enter my mind as I set about my work: there is a lot to do and I must rapidly prioritise. First I fuck up my FSD, working back from explosion to overheat to coil burn to ignition in my mind and realising that I need to start that process immediately. I am working on the panels while I dictate Ithallius' message to Nari who, I presume, will be our ride. I read out the code carefully, then read it again to confirm. When my vulture's AI realises what I am initiating, there is no big frenzy of countdown timers and flashing lights. Just the usual confirmation beep and the light over my FSD panel starts to glow an incessant red. it's a bit disappointing, really; I'd expected more.

Meanwhile, Ithallius is leaning over Boris, who still looks unflustered. A part of me is impressed by this one's nerve; the rest of me finds it deeply unsettling.

"In 11 minutes, this ship is going to explode. Violently. And then we'll be floating in space for 8 minutes after that. This means you have around ten minutes to convince me that you should be wearing this skin suit and getting picked up with us, or I'll vaporise your ass and wear the dust that remains on the nose of my anaconda. Talk, fucker."

"Is big fan!" says Boris brightly. I wonder whether he has even understood what is happening. Ithallius remains silent. Boris makes a few more gestures and some sounds like he's clucking and then taps on the floor of my flight deck. It is a rhythmic little tap that repeats and repeats and repeats: A code.

In fact, it is old Morse Code, and spells out "No Talk Bug".

Ithallius and I nod to each other, stand Boris up, undress him completely and then I shred and eject the remains of his clothing while Ithallius conducts a quick bio-chip scan of Bori's naked - surprisingly unpaunchy (he'd been wearing a padded suit to make him look weightier than he is) body. Two beeps and Ithallius doesn't hesitate. In fact, even Boris complies, holding out first his left wrist and then turning around and bending slightly to present his right arse cheek so that he can have the tiny little Triple L (Listening, Lifesigns, Location) chips cut out from under his skin. Ithallius works quickly and accurately, scanning with one hand and cutting into Bori's skin with the other. Another bio-chip scan and Ithallius nods that Boris is now bug-free.

Ithallius drops both bugs into a small flask of water before handing them to me. I make quick work of jettisoning them out of the garbage hatch.

8 minutes.

"Empire," says Boris. His accent is still Russian, but far less heavy, and his language is now flawless. "Wants you dead. Doesn't like how things ended up."

"Fuck me," I say, running my hand through my hair. "I thought all this was fucking done. How much goddamn more do they want from me because of Mira."

Boris shakes his head. "Not you. Empire doesn't care about you. Him." He tips his head to Ithallius. "Payback time."

Ithallius simply stares for a moment and then shakes his head. "Nope."

Boris shrugs and continues, "Was meant to follow you, to join you. Was going fine. Did stupid pirate job in 21991 for blyat laugh - Empire pissed off but say to continue. Empire monitors Garay and sees your python and type 9 docked and not move. FDS won't be problem, says Empire. Fucking dicks. Empire wrong. Again." He shrugs and shakes his head, "You check FDS logs. I tell them nothing about you and bar. I tell them drunk gopnik bullshit. You check Boris logs."

"There's no going back, motherfucker," replies Ithallius as something on the console beeps 6 minutes. "As far as The Empire knows, we all died here today. For some of us, that might even be true. How did they know?"

"One survivor. Holo capture."

"We were careful. Anonymous."

"Wasn't on ship. Was researcher working alone. Quiet. Capture whole thing."

What is this? What the fuck is this?! My mind reels but the ship's status panel beeps, jolting my mind back to more immediate - instantly vaporising - issues: time is running out.

"Ithallius," I interrupt. "We gotta go." It's one thing to not be on a ship when it explodes, but it's all together another to not be in the blast zone of a faulty FSD.

Ithallius nods, eyes Boris again, then cuts his bonds and tosses the last skin suit at him. "Quickly."

Another minute passes, and we are now strapping ourselves into an eject-bench that fires from the side of the Vulture. Boris is between Ithallius and I, as soon as he is seated, I am activating the void screen and setting a 5 second countdown. We lean back into the seat, letting it do what it can to shape and mold the chair's foam around us, cushioning each of us as best as it can in the brief time that remains before we are blasted fast, fast, fast into the void.

All three of us moan involuntarily: the eject-bench is a rough way to go - much harder ride than the eject seats on the flight deck. But we need to be a single target for Nari to collect, and we need to be thrown clear of the impending blast very, very quickly. After a few seconds of heavy, multiple-G acceleration, the pressure in our heads, chests and spines relents and we are slowly able to breathe again. My eyes rest upon the vulture - suddenly there is a pang in my chest; it hadn't occurred to me until now that this would be the death of That's Not My Finger; her absolute moment of finality.

Fuck.

2 minutes.

We are still moving backwards, away from the vulture at a fine old clip, and I am watching her shrink into a single glorious, pink dot. Tears bloom in my eyes and I can do nothing about them. But I don't want to - I let the moment take hold of me; let the memories bound up in that bird - Tor, Dawg, Lori, fucking Mira (and, of course fucking Mira), Not-Dave, my sense of freedom, of redemption - fill my mind.

Ithallius flips a switch on his visor which will protect his eyes from the explosion that is about to take place before us; Boris and I follow suit. Seconds later and she is gone; that same fire flower that I flew through in her so many times before now extends from within her own hull. Her FSD coils erupt, the drive starts to spin up, igniting her fuel load and...

We sit in silence while I quietly weep; I am shocked at my sense of loss. I do not look at either of my companions; I stare at that fading fire flower until I can see it no more.

"She was fine ship," says a Russian accent.

"Fuck you, Boris," I spit in quiet reply.

"You get another one," says Boris.

"I'm gonna cut your tiny Russian testicles off at screw them into your eye sockets if you say another fucking word to me right now."

"Socks," says Ithallius quietly. His tone is gentle but his implicit message clear: Get your shit together now - get your head back in the game.

"So what now?" asks Boris.

"Now," replies Ithallius as the lights of his Nari-navigated 'Conda bloom into view. We do not activate our beacon, after all, we just faked our own deaths. Instead Ithallius tight-beams the 'conda from his suit coms panel as he finishes speaking. "Now you spy for us."

"But Boris-"

"You spy for us or," says Ithallius in a hardened tone, "I let Socks do whatever the fuck she wants to you."

Boris pauses and weighs up his options as the 'conda begins to utterly fill out view. "Very good. Is blin! I spy for you!"

I realise that I have been promoted to the role of Outfit Heavy as the 'conda ejects two collection limpets to retrieve us. Moments later we are in the 'conda's cargo bay. Nari is holding me; I am numb; Ithallius is securing Boris to a cargo rack. Nari throws me a questioning look; I shrug and nod: truth is, I suddenly feel like I have lost Mira all over again, and I feel guilty as shit about how much that hurts because Nari - fucking Nari - is standing right in front of me, desperate to offer comfort and all I can do is shrug her off and withdraw.

I break out of her embrace with a shake of my head and stride along after Ithallius: work to be done and I don't have time to get all moon-eyed right now.

That's just not what Heavys do, eh?
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Sun Dec 29, 2019 2:52 pm

Ray Gateway: Diaguandri

https://youtu.be/WGNiBC9Z8rk

It has been three weeks since Ithallius and I faked our deaths. After Nari collected us (and Boris) from our drift in the Black, we have lain low and quiet. We have accessed neither our ships nor our funds. We have used no communicators, we have let ourselves fall from existence.

Nari is now the official owner of The Wet Spot, our bar in Deciat, as well as the inheritor of the 'conda she hacked to come save us. As far as anyone is able to tell, she flew out to our crash site to see what happened after our wing beacon suddenly died, and found only Boris floating in the gloom. Now she is unbelievably rich (having inherited both bank accounts) and alone.

Ithallius was clear: Ray Gateway and nowhere else. We are not here by accident. Nari hopped over here under the pretence of buying that Mamba she's "always" wanted, to assuage her deepening grief with a ludicrously engineered, over-gunned speed machine. And to pay a lot of money to scrub a lot of data logs from the 'conda before paying a lot of money to someone else to fake new ones. Now, the 'conda never belonged to Ithallius and its registry has been changed to "W-SPOT". Meanwhile, Boris leaned on some connections to forge some wildly expensive but astonishingly comprehensive new IDs for Ithallius and I.

I keep forgetting my name.

"You should try harder to remember it. Needs to be natural, baby."

"As long as you don't forget it, Bitch." I look up at Nari from between her thighs. She is lightly coated in sweat - it makes her look almost ethereal in the dim light of the room. I am about to spear her again with my tongue, but pause to look at her, to commit her utterly to memory. She reaches her hand out towards me and tangles her fingers in my hair.

"Love you, Pussy Cat," she whispers before tugging my face back towards her honey pot. But I resist, still looking at her in the half-light. I never let myself just breathe her (or Mira) in before; never thought to savour moments like this. She looks confused at my hesitation; her expression makes me almost laugh. I am shocked to realise I am tearing up; a wave of emotion surges in my chest and I think I might try to ride it except her legs are closing around my ears even as she reaches for and lights a smoke with her free hand.

"Again," she whispers. "More," and then she blows a perfect, delicate smoke ring that hovers over her tits, intact and unmoving for a long moment.

I obey.

When she climaxes, she calls me by both names: my old one and my new. She is my bridge between my identities and even as I savour her, I cannot fathom how I will live without her when she leaves. As her gasping subsides, our coms beep - a polite discretion Ithallius has agreed to in order for us to maintain constantly-open coms, and his voice quietly speaks.

"Ladies, it's time."

I say nothing, instead I meet Nari's still-glassy eyes and shake my head. She sits up and pulls me up the bed into her arms. She kisses herself off my lips and holds me while I silently weep for a moment.

"I don't want this," I whisper into her ear.

"You have to do this," she whispers back, "For me. For us." She pauses and then adds, "For him."

I wince and am furious that she is, of course, right. We kiss again and then dress ourselves in silence. Neither of us showers: we each want to keep the other's scent on us for as long as we can. Nari combs first her hair and then mine through with her fingers and then I click into my flight boots.

"Fuck you, Ithallius," I murmur as I survey the room for anything we might have left behind.

"Roger that," he replies in my earpiece: he does not sound smug; his tone is muted and oddly respectful. Nari smiles sadly and rubs the top of my arm before assembling her game face and opening the door to our (very expensive) suite. Then we are out, back under the assumed pretence of our new relationship: she the immensely rich widow and me her hired tech who will test her new Mamba; a racing jock with nothing to lose as I throw her new machine around in the Black.

We walk in silence to the large pad where "her" 'conda is docked. She touches a panel on the outside of the enormous bird and the door smoothly opens to allow a set of steps to quietly extend out toward her. She turns to me before she boards, mutters some bossy-boss stuff I cannot absorb about her Mamba and hands me a data chip which I numbly accept. I do not follow her aboard; I do not embrace her; we do not kiss again.

Instead she nods, lightly climbs the stairs and closes the door behind her. Two minutes later, the docking pad lights are flashing to indicate that launch permission has been requested and the pad should be cleared. With heavy legs, I leave the docking bay; I have to pause, lean against the wall, catch my breath as the pad drops, spins and rises again. I hear the clamps release and those enormous engines whirr up, burn and engage.

And then she is gone. Again.

Ithallius is in front of me suddenly, silent and immutable as ever. But he isn't immune to my state and his presence before me at all signifies his recognition of both my sacrifice and its impact upon me. I look up at his face and blow out my cheeks. He nods but says nothing.

"Well oof, motherfucker," I say quietly, trying to gather myself.

"Yeah," he replies.

"See what I do for you?" I ask. I'm trying to be cheeky but, actually, it just comes out kind of sad.

"I do," he says. And then the asshole salutes me. You'd think it would look trite and a little ridiculous: it doesn't, and I am moved by the gesture. But what Ithallius giveth, Ithallius taketh away, and even before I have fully process his gesture, he is back into Boss Mode and giving me orders, turning on his heels and stalking away into the belly of Ray Gateway.

I close my eyes for a moment, gather myself up, steel myself and follow after him.

Time to get to work.
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Re: 3055: A Space Odyssey

Postby SockFiddler » Tue Dec 31, 2019 6:07 am

It takes one person to fly a Mamba. It takes two to race it.

I'd say that I'm flying stick and Ithallius is in the cope seat because I'm the better pilot and he's a bossy asshole who gets his kicks pointing out obvious shit. He'd disagree with me, but as this is my fucking echolog, let's say I'm correct and move along.

We have been flying hard, clocking well over 10 hours a day for over three weeks now, rock hopping in the various bodies in this and nearby systems. This is all new to me: I did some dumb shit with the A-Team, but hugging uneven terrain while boosting forward in the fastest ship in production is, perhaps, the dumbest shit I've undertaken.

Plus I'm doing it fucking sober.

The reason it takes two of us to fly like this is simple: flying a Mamba that fast in gravity is a feat of concentration that I genuinely didn't think I was capable of. Your whole body has to connect with the ship; every twitch, every rock, every lurch requires immediate response otherwise, quite simply, you'll crash so fast you'll not even have time to know you're dying. I have no room in my mind for anything other than feet, hands and looking ahead: I am strapped into my seat so tightly I can feel the Mamba's tiniest movements in my lower back and ass.

It's exhilarating.

https://youtu.be/gASYU2OpNeY

So while I'm utterly focused on what's immediately ahead of me, I need someone else to have a slightly wider perspective: what's nearby; big changes in terrain ahead; systems performance; how the fuck I'm doing - you don't recognise that you're about to succumb to G-blackout until someone else tells you you're slurring, and much of my torture is about getting my body used to those kinds of stresses. Ithallius is my live telemetry feed and, I have to admit, I admire his balls.

So we practise for hours and hours and hours, giving me time to get a feel for the ship; so I get used to listening to his voice as well as paying constant attention to the ship; so I learn to feel the gravity, down force, physics of what I'm doing. It's a completely different game to flying in space, and I find it at once frustrating and invigorating. I slowly find my intuition and instinct reaching out toward and then connecting with the vessel, then I find I am starting to read the landscape and anticipate how she will respond. But with each step forward, I feel my progress as a pilot slides backwards; as we increase the speed we're flying at, more challenges present themselves and my reactions times must get ever quicker if we are not to suffer catastrophe.

Two people. We get inside each other's minds quickly, and camp there for three weeks while we log almost 300 flight hours in this fucking ludicrous ship.

Of course, in Li Yong-Rui space, in Sirius space, there is a "sirius" racing scene (GEDDIT?!), and there are local favourite hotspots where the best routes and their best times have been well-documented. Toward the end of the second week, we start measuring our performance against some of these local markers... and are outrageously disappointed. On some strips, we are a full minute off the pace - a fact that grates at both of us, but for different reasons.

So we work and fly and tinker and work and fly some more. We pull long hours and heavy, heavy G's, working my skill and the machine's capabilities until, finally, we are somewhat in the mix with the top 10 times posted for some of the most-heavily used planet racing routes. I never had a fraction of the instinctive understanding with the vulture that I already have with the mamba, and there is a visceral sense of connection, to the point that, some nights, I sleep under her smooth belly because it bothers me too much to be away from her.

"Good job, Socks," says Ithallius, on the 24th day of torture. We have just docked back in Ray and I am exhausted, sweaty and my pulse has yet to settle back into normal human range. I think he is being an asshole about some dumb mistake I made so I turn to scowl at him.

"Hey, fuck you, Man, I don't see you working the fucking stick-"

"No, really. Good job." His tone is even - perhaps there might be a tinge of pride in there, too?

"Oh," I'm surprised and don't quite know how to wind my irritation back. "Well, thanks, I guess."

"I think we're ready."

"To..?" I tug off my helmet and scrape my fingers through my shitty hair.

"To find a race."

"Fuck. I mean, okay. Sure."

"She needs a name, though."

"What you wanna call her?" I ask him, expecting some gay Fed shit. Maybe the name of some goddamned general or a famous vessel or whatever tomfuckery Ithallius is thinking about right now.

Instead he shrugs and nods to me. "You choose. She's more yours than mine."

I look at this man, this difficult, clever man who I have come to trust and even adore a little bit (FINE. FUCK YOU. A LOT) and wonder how I can pay tribute to him without coming off sticky and weird. "I can choose the paint job, too?"

"Sure," he says, in that tone he uses when he anticipates shenanigans. "Nothing too-" He pauses, knowing my gift for turning almost anything he says into a challenge, and then says, "Do what you want."

"Oh, I will," I reply with a nod and a wink.

He shakes his head and leaves the hangar, pausing in the doorway to call over his shoulder, "Get a shower - you stink."

Fine, Fucko... I whisper as I run my hand over the mamba's smooth exterior. I love this ship, and possible names run through my mind as I finally tug myself away from her to find a shower, a meal and a bed.

I'm about to get into said bed when my coms beep in my ear again.

"Socks, get in here, will you?"

"Where is 'here', CMDR Ithallius?" I ask, somewhat annoyed. I look longingly at the bed for a moment - a proper thing with bedding and pillows that isn't a flip-down bunk chained to a cabin wall - and start to dress myself.

"it's a bar, 'The Racing Line' on level 9."

"I don't wanna get drunk," I murmur.

"As impressive as that is, that's not your mission."

"Then what is?" I pull on my jump suit and boots and start for the door.

"I found us a race."

Oh. Well. Okay.

Ten minutes later and I am walking into The Racing Line and glancing about for Ithallius. The bar is an atrocity in neon - all fucking colour-changing LEDs and words written in bright pink and cyan light tubes. I hate it instantly and consciously engage my Get The Fuck Away From Me expression as I spot Ithallius and make my way toward him. The place is packed with people, all of them with stupid tattoos, garishly coloured jumpsuits and fucking dumb hair cuts and not one of them looks older than about 14.

"And here's my pilot," says Ithallius as I approach. He is sitting at a table with 2 pre-teens. They are dressed identically, even down to the same dumb, cool hair style and guy-liner.

"Her?" laughs one, nudging the other with his elbow. I assume they're in that kind of bromance state where they're in some sort of dickless love thing. In the light, their teeth glow the same kind of white as an afterburner when the mix is too potent. It amuses me.

"She even awake, Bossman?" says the other one to Ithallius. I take a seat and eye him questioningly.

"She'll take you on, boys, don't worry about that."

"Aaaw, I don't like making girls cry," says the first one. Now I am closer I can see that one is white and the other is of some vaguely Asian descent. I also realise that they're trying to goad me, as if I am also a pre-teen.

"You on top of this?" I say to Ithallius, "You really need me here?"

"Patience, Socks," he replies. "I got this."

"Socks?" laughs Twin 1, "Your call-sign is Socks?"

I sigh.

"Yeah, what's your ship called? Bra?" snickers Twin 2. "Panties?" I feel this line of "humour" could go on a while, so I interrupt it quickly.

"TL; DR," I reply, dropping a data pad with her race spec on the table. The twins flick it around and slide it to between then on the table.

"TL; DR?" says Ithallius in my ear.

It suddenly blooms in my mind that it is, indeed, the perfect name for a ship I must fly with him, and so smile, nod and say, "Yeah! Like it?"

"Not as awful as I was expecting," he replies, "Though I've not seen her paint job yet."

I'm about to slap him with an oh-so pithy rejoinder when The Twins peep up again.

"Aight. You got a ship. You got any game?"

"What the-" I say with a sigh, "I don't even understand what they're talking about."

"She's got it," says Ithallius, his hand on my forearm to gently interrupt me. "She'll take you on, give you a run for your money."

"Well, cool. Time and place, Star Bitches," says Twin 2, "Name it. Winner gets scrap."

Ithallius is prepared for the challenge and uploads some data to the Twins' coms. They beep, glance down, scan the info and nod at the same time. I am amused.

"Aight... It's a date. By the way, better know my name so you know who's gonna take your pretty ship, right?" Twin 2 rises to his feet and extends his closed fist. "I'm Qua-"

"I just don't care," i say, shaking my head. And then to Ithallius, "Can I go now?"

"Sure," he replies with a nod. I'm on my feet and walking away when he beeps in my ear again, "That was perfect. Good job."

So he wanted me tired, grouchy and unsociable. Fucker. I shake my head and stalk back to my quarters where I undress and climb immediately into bed.

I have a race in 9 hours.
"Drink fast, die young"
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"You may ask who was wearing the bow tie; me or the shark. The answer is: YES."


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