Hello, this is Alysianah from Alysianah’s World of Star Citizen. Welcome to a stand alone record of my fan-fiction set in the Star Citizen universe. The story you’re about to hear continues the journey of Cami from Chop Shop which aired in Nightbus Episode 3. Moving her into the star systems where John and Maggie from The Exterminator reside. You can catch up with John and Maggie’s take starting in Nightbus Episode 5.
I wrote Journey to Stanton as an experiment of doing audio content that uses more than one narrator. Wanting to dip a toe into the pool without dramatically complicating the production side, Journey is written from four distinct points of view. I’d like to thank BoredGamerUK & Twerk17 from Redacted and Andrew from OldBloodandGuts for lending their voices.
Regardless of whose channel you hear this on, please stop by to give the other participants some love too. You’ll find links in the show notes. I’d also be interested in knowing if you’d like to hear more collaborative narrations.
Be kind and fly safe!
Cami | Medical Freelancer – Alysianah Noire
Silas | Hull B Pilot – BoredGamerUK
Keokuk | Freelancer Pirate – Andrew OldBloodAndGuts
Huyn | Herald Pilot – Twerk17
Writing and I go back a long way. I used to write scripts for the neighborhood kids to act out when I was around eleven. I participated in the writing publications all throughout my school years and went to college for Mass Communications. But a funny thing happened to me along the way to my career called personal computers. I had a knack for them when they first landed on people’s desks at work. I found out that my love and penchant for the English language extended itself to programming languages. Before I knew it, I was in IT then Business Intelligence then Research and Development, and now Product Management in R&D. I never gave up on writing. I’ve done technical writing where I’m a thrice published author, instructional design because I enjoy teaching people and I’ve kept a blog of one sort or another for the past 20+ years.
KNOWING WHO YOU ARE AS A WRITER IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR GROWTH.
My creative writing’s been a bit spotty. I have multiple novels in the works that linger for a year at a time before I take them up again. Mastering such a long form on your own can be daunting, even though I’ve taken several writing courses since my college days to help move things along. It often felt like my weaknesses were insurmountable in the amount of time I was willing to dedicate to the craft of writing fiction. My plots can be complicated and I can run out of the emotional steam half way through. I lose the motivation to start a story after outlining it which is what you’re taught to do.
Late 2016, I happened upon a video series by Brandon Sanderson that gave me insight into the type of writer I am. I learned that my style and issues aren’t unique to me or absurd. I’m a gardener/pantser style writer. Meaning, I write by the seat of my pants. Like a gardener, my story develops as I go, growing over time. Detailed outlining diminishes the joy of writing for me. It destroys the story and motivation which causes me to drop an idea dead in its tracks. So while I may not be alone or crazy in my style, it does necessitate I find what works for me, which might be contrary to what’s taught in school.
DEFINED TEMPLATE AND PROCESS THAT WORK FOR ME.
Writing fan-fiction for Star Citizen has helped me tremendously. It provided me with a pre-existing universe to write about and through those efforts, I’ve been able to identify writing tools and processes that work for me. AND for the first time ever, I’ve been able to consistently write shorter fiction, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but couldn’t quite constrain my ideas to the necessary length. I’m by no means a master writer but I do feel that I’m on my way to improvements and I’d like to share what I’ve developed for myself with others who may be facing the same struggles.
Luckily for me, I’m never short on inspiration for ideas. I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never needed writing prompts. I have more story ideas than I can shake a stick at. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t use things to distinguish a specific point of inspiration for a story.
I’m a visual person which is how I ended up in Business Intelligence when it was discovered that I had a knack for visual data analysis. I can “see” correlations. I can look at data and recognize the visual outputs that would express it best. This is the same skill I use for formulating a story from inspiration. To me, they’re part and parcel of the same ability to puzzle things out.
I VISUALIZE A PERSON, PLACE OR THING…
IMAGINE A PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE…
Every story that I’ve written has started has either a person or place that popped into my head that felt interesting. A digital image I saw that made me wonder what that would be like if it was real. In the case of Star Citizen, I add to my musings the locations described in the ARK Starmap. What is it like to be there for the average person? What types of challenges would they face?
Distilling these to a fine point my primary sources of inspiration are:
Corralling that idea into a bonafide story is the hardest and most important part. I believe in the saying that ideas are cheap. Anyone can dream up an idea. The proof of the pudding is assembling it into a cohesive tale.
TEMPLATE FACILITATES A PLOT-DRIVEN STORY
TEMPLATE FACILITATES A PLOT-DRIVEN STORY
It’s easy to get lost in the woods of your idea, words, characters, events and required story structure. As a Meyers-Briggs INFJ, I can get too focused on the puzzle pieces and I lose sight of writing the story. Since we’re rule followers, I used to inadvertently launch down the detailed outline path as most courses, professors and books suggest, forgetting that for me, it would result in a dead-end.
However, there are certain elements required for writing a cohesive story. And if you want to end up where you want to go, you need to know where you’re headed in the first place. To accomplish this without developing an outline, I created a template to capture the minimum elements contained in any story, of any length. These attributes are represented in a template with (4) sections.
IT WORKS FOR ANY LENGTH STORY
Section One helps you solidify the idea. What is the story you’re trying to tell? This is the most important part of the template. You shouldn’t start writing a single word of your story until you can articulate this much!! Completing Section One will save you countless hours of having to edit your plot and the sequence of events because you hadn’t really formulated the story before you started writing it.
The exception noted in the template is the Theme. You may not truly know what it is until you’ve completed a majority of the story. Once you’ve identified the theme you may want to go back and edit your story to make it more apparent IF you feel you REALLY have something distinct you’re trying to impart about the human condition.
REDUCE EDITING TIME – CLARIFY YOUR LOGLINE AND MDQ FIRST
Always start with the logline. This is a one-sentence summary of the whole plot. That’s right, you should be able to reduce your whole idea to a maximum of two sentences. Movies do it all the time. It’s the elevator pitch. It’s the tagline you see on the billboards. Search loglines for your favorite movies to see examples.
Here’s the logline for Gladiator starring Russel Crowe: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. This logline superbly sums up the whole movie. It also leads you directly to the Major Dramatic Question (MDQ), the next most important thing to clarify before you begin.
The MDQ in Gladiator is will he get his revenge? This is the question you must answer by the end of your story. Ideally, it’s at the very end, depicted in a direct showdown with the antagonist/blocker. Your story plot should have the protagonist taking steps toward achieving the MDQ during the course of the story in his/her favor but failing to do so, until the final encounter/showdown/attempt. This is the essence of establishing your plot and conflict. Joe wants X but Y is preventing him from accomplishing it. What lengths will Joe go to in order to achieve X? How much opposition can Y exert? Who wins in the end – X or Y?
ESTABLISHING THE SETTING IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE STORY’S PLOT
Establishing the story’s setting for sci-fi and fantasy is called world building. This is where you specify the time period, dictums and societal norms of the environment your characters are in. We can’t recognize what’s extraordinary if we don’t know what’s common. You need to take the time to clarify these rules for yourself first to ensure consistency in your fiction. And yes, it’s important to do this upfront and play by the rules you set. Readers don’t like Deus Ex resolutions, where you have to solve your plot by the sudden appearance of an all-powerful item, person, etc. that falls from the sky and was never heard of in your story until that moment.
READERS DON’T LIKE DEUS EX RESOLUTIONS
If you knew up front that you were going to use a miraculous device/person as part of the resolution, hints of its existence should have appeared very early or at least midway through the story. Ideally, using an element of foreshadowing. This is satisfying for readers who connect the dots. Sometimes in movies, you’ll see them flashback to the foreshadowing moment to ensure the audience realizes it’s not a Deus Ex event. All of these are things you consider in the Setting section of the template and you add to it as ideas develop while you’re writing.
For me at least, Section Two of my template, plotting the story, is the easy part. However, that might be because I spend the most time defining the story in Section One. By the time I’ve completed Section One, I’ve already visualized all the major plot points. In Section Two, I’m simply jotting them down in chronological order.
Some writers find it easier to plot backward. If they know where they have to end up, it’s easier for them to plot logically what must have preceded it. I’ve done a bit of both in longer form fiction. I may immediately know the beginning and end but have to noodle on what comes in between. Here you want to do what works for you but I caution starting to write your story before completing Section Two. Especially if you’re not a fan of large scale plot editing after the fact.
The only other advice about my template for Section Two is that the Life Today and Inciting Incident are particularly important. If we don’t know what’s normal for the character’s life, we won’t recognize when something happened that tipped their world off center. We won’t recognize the event that established the MDQ which is their quest. It’s imperative that the reader recognizes it so they can cheer them on and become invested in the actions that follow.
The rest of the template is cake and self-explanatory. After the character’s world has been rattled what will they attempt to set it straight? What obstacles will you put in their path to establish conflict? Typically the Dire Straits moment should be the most dramatic and meaningful. This is the last stand attempt at achieving the MDQ, where all hope is lost if they fail.
WRITING STAR CITIZEN FAN-FIC HAS AN EXTRA SECTION
When writing fan-fiction it’s important to readers that you remain authentic to that world and its canon. Unless of course, if you’re intentionally shifting its lore like people do when they change the endings or the outcomes of relationships. In the case of Star Citizen, I use the actual ships, Galactic Guides, Lore Dispatches and the ARK Starmap to ground my stories. Everything else is fair game but I want the elements of the physical universe I depict to be accurate.
An invaluable resource for me in doing this is my own website that contains information from the official ARK Starmap, Galactic Guides, and Dispatches presented in a format that’s searchable and easier to scan all the known star system information on a single screen.
I use my:
All of the above helps to create authenticity in the story for readers who are informed Star Citizen fans. And although I consider my content for ‘casuals’ I know that I have SC lore fans among my followers.
BEGIN PRACTICING THE ART OF STORYTELLING
If you want to take a stab at writing fiction but don’t have a formal training, I think my template is distilled to the essential elements necessary for a story. Although writing short form versus long form such as novels is a very different beast, you can still hone your craft and establish your style and voice by practicing with short fiction. You also have the added benefit of being able to finish more stories in the same period of time as a learning experience.
If you’re interested in writing sci-fi or fantasy, I think doing fan-fic has the benefit of only having to dabble in world-building while focusing on the craft of writing first. When you feel you have sufficient writing practice under your belt, you can stretch your wings toward developing your own worlds. You can access my template as a Google Doc. It’s my prefered format because it allows me to access my story ideas from any device at any time. It’s a convenient method of ensuring little things that pop into your head make it into the story template for safe keeping. I also maintain a Pinterest board of writing tips.
Earn 5,000 in-game currency when you create your Star Citizen account here and supply this referral code: STAR-QSVR-JFTR
It’s been several years since I’ve had an MMO to call home. I’ve played all the AAA MMOs that have come to the NA market. Unfortunately, out of the seemingly endless sea of them, the only ones that felt like home for any period of time since my WOW days were Guild Wars 2, EVE Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online and ArcheAge. With EVE being the only sci-fi title among them.
I’m not a traditional RPer but I love lore…
There’s a particular blend of gameplay needed for me to find long-term satisfaction in a game. A compelling mission system that provides progression to max level or whatever is considered end game. A sense of exploration, where I can wander freely while traveling, harvesting or completing quests. A robust crafting and/or trade system on which to hang my character’s hat in her adulthood. Regular injections of new content, abilities, professions and economic opportunities. And although I’m not a classic RPer, I enjoy good lore – deep backstory and context that gives meaning to what we’re all supposedly doing in that universe. My Holy Grail MMO needs to have all of the above or at least, a majority.
I wanted the original pitch of EVE’s Incarna expansion – avatars walking in space stations and player run shops…
EVE online had many of these qualities but the lore played out mostly as off-line content to me because of the shallow mission system. You could explore except in their version of deep space, there’s not much to see. Most of all, you aren’t a person, you’re a ship. There’s nothing meaningful to do with your character as an avatar. I always hoped more character features would come. I wanted the original vision they said would be Incarna – walking in space stations and player run shops. Alas, it wasn’t to be. And so, for me, EVE could never be home for more than a few months at a time even though I’ve played it across many years. It served more as my personal sensory deprivation chamber. A place to play when I really wanted to be alone in a universe of others.
My interest in Star Citizen began as a desire to have EVE 2.0. EVE Online + the missing pieces for my MMO preferences. However, in the years since I first pledged it has evolved to more than my initial small hopeful wish. It’s grown to be the game I’m expecting will be my next MMO home, whose years played will only be rivaled by the years I spent in World of Warcraft.
I’m in it for deep space, but now, I have a better understanding of the scale and scope of what’s to come…
I’m in it for the deep space gameplay. Predominantly the career ships and the economy topped off with exploration. Until today, I viewed the planetside content as a “nice to have”. Nothing I’m particularly interested in other than for exploration and harvesting resources related to my career ships. I’m not at all interested in doing missions planetside. There are only a handful of quest types in MMOs reskinned for a different environment. After playing MMOs for 30+ years, good lord, I’ve done them all. So if it’s not directly related to a player career or for exploration, I DON’T CARE.
The most recent Star Citizen Around the Verse featured CIG’s procedural planet tech. Of course, it’s impressive. As are the tools they continue to develop to assist in the massive undertaking of populating 100+ star systems with high visual fidelity and content. I watched all of it saying, “sure, that’s cool”, “whew, that will certainly help move things along” and reactions of that nature. Not to take anything away from the achievements but as I’ve said, that’s not why I came to the party. I came to explore deep space – be aboard my ship doing captain type things IN SPACE.
Even so, my jaw dropped during the final demonstration of the technology, as the SCOPE of the universe they’re building hit home. Yes, I knew it was on a grand scale. Yet reading the sizes of the ships and planets as text on a web page hadn’t adequately prepared me for the in-game reality.
As an explorer and a player who loves wandering off the beaten trial, it was mindboggling to see. Compounded by the realization that we were seeing wasn’t even a planet-sized object. Holy f–k! Delays be damned. The alpha patch with that content will be here within the next couple of months. I was already dubbing Alpha 3.0 as the patch that starts the type of content I care about enjoying, an explorer playstyle. Now that I see it with clearer eyes, the magnitude of what’s coming is breathtaking. It’s going to be buggy and laggy at points ‘cuz alpha but it will be nothing short of amazing.
I just released Star Citizen Nightbus Fiction Collective Volume 1. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s a compilation of the fan-fiction I’ve written thus far for Star Citizen. It contains the serialized stories that were previously released in NB episodes 1 to 6, plus the narration of Maggie’s Origin Story.
Star Citizen lore and the upcoming MMO have inspired me to start writing fiction again and I’m enjoying it. As ever, I wish there were more leisure hours in a day to explore all of my hobbies but, I try to make do as I can. Smile Somehow, I’m going to begin making time to resume writing my own fiction while I’m feeling excited and motivated.
There’s more to come for my NB fan-fiction too. The next two pieces of fiction that will appear alongside my OpEd pieces will be “An A.I.’s Story” and “Murder on the 890 Jump”. A.I. will play around with the idea of telling a story with a non-human as the protagonist and Murder will be in the style of Clue, letting readers play along to guess the identity of the killer. These are both a few weeks out as I have other obligations to fulfill in between. Until then, I hope you enjoy this collective. Time stamps are in the YouTube video description.
The narrated version of this story is available in the Nightbus Fiction Collective Volume 1
Maggie rolled away from him, relieved his session was over. She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. It was out of fashion but she wore her hair loose and natural. The auburn waves undulated down below her shoulder blades. She clutched the bed sheet to her chest, about to stand up and wrap it around herself. She stopped when she felt him reach out and rub his knuckles up and down the small of her back. She winced as he slowly traced his fingers along the bruises he’d left there. It took all of her composure not to flinch away in revulsion.
“You really should come with me to Kilian. MicroTech is building a new facility there. They landed a contract to make exclusive components for military devices. ”
“What’s that got to do with Revel & York?”
“You know these executive types. They need their luxury hangars, especially in less than ideal climates. I’ll be administering the design and construction.” He folded his arms behind his head. “Will be there for a couple of years at least. If you come, I can help you start a small business. A modest shop of some kind. Lots of activity in the area.” He looked around her apartment. “Your place and things always look so chic. You have a knack for it.” He leaned over and coiled a fist full of her hair around the palm of his hand. “There you’d only have to worry about pleasing me. We could be seen together in public, no questions asked.”
She yanked her hair out of his grasp and stood up. “What about your wife?”
“What about her?” He stretched and yawned. “She’s not coming. Doesn’t like to travel and damn glad of it.”
“I bet you are.” She thought to herself. Aloud she said, “but you’re glad of her money and so am I.” She felt him rise up behind her but this time she was faster than he was. She bolted off the bed and moved out of arm’s reach before turning to face him. He wasn’t bold enough to hurt her while she was looking directly at him. She seethed on the inside, “coward!” To him she sad, “I need to straighten up. Another customer coming soon.” He glared at her, hands balled into fists.
Larry was tall dark and handsome as they say. It was his soul that made him ugly. He backed off the bed into a standing position. “You know that disgusts me.”
Playing innocent, she cocked her head to one side. “What’s that?”
He ground his teeth and flexed his jaw before answering. “The idea of other men,” he spat.
She wanted to laugh in his face. Instead, she said, “Sorry, love. You know you’re the only special one.” Placating him felt like chewing on glass. She did it because he was her highest paying and most frequent customer. She needed him for a while yet.
He dressed quickly. Jerking on his clothes in anger. She walked him to the door feigning concern for his feelings and gave him assurances that she would consider his generous offer. And she would, just not in the way he thought.
Maggie wondered why anyone married these creatures. She could respect the single men looking for diversion and satisfaction. Or the older lonely ones. Unfortunately, Larry’s species was much more common, especially among the clientele of licensed paramours. It helped them feel less grimy in their illicit behavior and unfaithfulness.
Maggie sat across from Kitty. She was on the sofa trying not to be consumed by the avalanche of brightly colored fluffy pillows. Kitty was sitting cross-legged on her bed. Her face was heart-shaped and matched her plump girlish figure. Maggie was her polar opposite. Tall, lithe with keen features, and almond shaped brown eyes that dominated her face.
Kitty looked at Maggie expectantly, her bright blue eyes framed by three-inch artificial lashes that made a clicking sound when she blinked. Her surgically altered lips were set in a perpetually plump pout. “So what’s this idea you wanted to talk about? Haven’t heard you that excited in ages!”
“Larry mentioned something that got me thinking about changing my line of work.”
Kitty made a sour face. “Larry? Eww, surprised you’re smiling after seeing him,” she interrupted.
“He has his uses.” Teasing, Maggie said, “We can’t all have romper room sessions.” Waving her hand at Kitty’s outfit she continued, “I don’t think they make those in my size.”
Kitty popped to her feet on the bed, overturning several pillows and life-sized stuffed unicorns. She struck an innocent pose and pressed an index finger to the corner of her mouth. In her best apologetic child’s voice, she replied, “I know. Kitty sorry, Maggie big-limb giant.” She spread her arms wide. “Come, Kitty make it all better.” They both guffawed.
Referring to Kitty’s current outfit of pink ballet slippers, thigh high pink-n-white striped tights, multicolored tutu and pink leather bustier, Maggie said, “I don’t know how you wear that shit all day.”
Stealing a line from Maggie she said, “it has its uses,” and flounced down into a sitting position. “So what’s this idea?”
“In the past, Larry’s mentioned incentives offered to folks who settle on newly terraformed planets or bring new businesses to underserved areas. He’s being shipped out to oversee construction of new Revel & York hangars in Kilian. He wants me to go with. Would help me start a small business of some sort for income with him being my only client.”
Kitty’s eyes widened in horror.
Shaking her finger Maggie said. “Not to worry. Fuck being tied to that asshole.”
Patting her chest feverishly, Kitty said, “Thank God. Almost gave Baby a heart attack.”
“His offer got me thinking though. Why can’t we start up a business in a system where subsidies are being offered on our own? Even without a grant, if we can find a reliable lead on a developing community and the inside track on a prime location, we’d be in decent shape.” Maggie leaned back for a minute to consider. She looked around Kitty’s apartment. It was the same size and configuration as her own albeit themed for her clientele’s tastes.
Their quarters were larger than average being corner units. They had space for an oversized bed, formal sitting area, kitchenette and a bathroom with a double sized shower and Jacuzzi. The coup-de-gras, however, was the breathtaking view. A feature very few others had on the Granada space station. These suites were usually reserved for corporations, high-ranking government personnel, and military officials. Their ability to acquire them was the benefit of being a licensed paramour paying top union dues. The Paramour Union bid for and championed getting their members the best accommodations. They argued it kept up one’s spirit and attracted a better class of patrons. And they were right.
There were many nights when Maggie soothed her aching body and bruised soul by staring out of her apartment’s lavish floor to ceiling windows. The view of Vann from this distance was mesmerizing. Predominantly covered in ice, it was a pale blue ghost in the perpetual night sky of deep space. She could lose herself for hours watching ships pop in and out of quantum, arriving and departing from Granada, the largest residential and commercial space station in all of Croshaw.
Her life here was far from perfect but she’d seen worse. Her parents were hard working but unskilled laborers. Clinging to their faith, they shunned modern birth control options and struggled to provide for five children. Her early years were spent in slums of overly crowded resource-stretched cities. Her teens, living in what amounted to little more than tins cans with oxygen, on congested space stations. When she was eighteen, she’d set out on her own, determined to have better.
Her career as a paramour had provided comfort and predictability. She knew the rhythm of every day before it began. She wanted for nothing and had over the years sent money to her family who begrudgingly accepted it. Her father, all that was left of their tragic clan, was ashamed of her and refused to visit. His voice echoed in her head. “Glad your mother isn’t alive to see.” Maggie had always wondered at the stupid saying. She couldn’t imagine anything she could ever do that her mother being dead was preferable. “Jackass!”
Kitty scrunched up her face confused. “What hon?”
Maggie blinked, coming back to the present. “Nothing. Look – we can do more than this. See more than this.” Glancing around the room, “have more than this.”
“I don’t know. This is pretty good.” Kitty grabbed a nearby unicorn and hugged it to her chest.
“I’m being serious Kitty. Are you gonna be rocking that outfit when you’re 50? 60? If not, then what? Not planning that part now, is how we end up eating out of trash bins later.”
Kitty sighed and dropped the baby act. “I know what you mean. I think about it sometimes but it makes my tummy hurt.”
“No shit. It’s risky and scary but I don’t want to do this forever or wait until it’s too late. I could maybe squeak by opening something alone. But my savings can’t cover relocating and starting a business.” She looked up to gauge Kitty’s reaction. “Together we could. Don’t think it can be just you and me. We’d need a third to be safe.”
Kitty warmed to the idea. She knew Maggie to be a level-headed person. “Men do it in business all the time. I have a few clients that love telling me about their big deals and how savvy they are, all the while wanting to play patty-cake with ‘lil me.” She giggled. “I agree though. There’s safety in numbers.”
“Exactly! You, me and Bosha could do it. We’re good friends and trust each other.”
Kitty hopped off the bed and sat on the sofa next to Maggie, her face alert. “Think three is enough? There’s travel, start-up costs, license fees and we have to live on something while things get going.”
“I was thinking we should focus on finding a place where we could live on the premises in the beginning. That way all money is going to the business location minus food.” She poked Kitty in the ribs when she saw her make a face at the idea of cohabitation. “Temporary girls club!” She poked her to the point of tickling. “Popcorn and pillow fights,” she laughed while Kitty squirmed.
When she stopped laughing, Kitty took a slow look around her room. “I haven’t shared a room in ages.” Momentarily slipping back into her shtick, “Baby likes her stuff.”
“So does Maggie. We can have our stuffs again later. You in?”
Kitty got up and went to the window. “This view…” She leaned her cheek against the cool glass. “How far you think we’d have to go?”
“I honestly don’t know. It wouldn’t be immediate. We can take our time and shop around.”
Turning back to face Maggie she asked, “How are we gonna get the inside track on something?”
Maggie looked at her cockeyed. “C’mon. You don’t think between the three of us we can find a client who can scare up the information?”
“True.” Kitty turned away again.
“You in? I can’t do this without you, Kitty.” She hesitated. “Don’t mean to pressure but you, me and Bosha been each other’s rock for years. Two might could make it but…”
Kitty faced the room again and took a deep breath. “I’m in. Not leaving Baby behind!”
Maggie jumped up from the sofa and clapped her hands. “Excellent! Now the work begins.”
Maggie had waited over three hours for the time-delayed response from Richard. She was sitting at her dining table, half of which served as a desk. Watching his reply on the vidMail she could see how much he’d aged in the years since she’d seen him. Widower-hood wasn’t doing him any favors. His bushy hair was completely gray, including his eyebrows. He’d gained weight and his gentle face was completely lined with age. His hazel eyes, however, were still kind.
“Good to hear from you, Maggie. It’s been a while. My work in Goss is going well. Kind of you to ask. I’m surprised and relieved to hear that you’re contemplating a different career.” Chortling as though it were a shared joke he said, “Lord knows you are good at what you do but I always suspected you could do more.”
Maggie glowed on the inside from his sweet words. It wasn’t something she’d heard much. To her father, all of her choices seemed a day late and a credit short.
Richard continued. “I made contact with a few leads to see what was available and I think I lucked up on a sound opportunity in Stanton.”
“Stanton?” Maggie paused the playback and searched for the Stanton star system on her data pad. Not much information on it other than it contained four super-earths and the locals were in a quarrel about ownership with the UEE. She pressed play on the tablet again.
“It’s a rare find of four planets that are geologically capable of supporting life. Pioneers and separatists have been freely making use of the star system since its discovery but now that the UEE is strapped for cash and resources, they’re claiming eminent domain.” He rolled his eyes as if he wasn’t necessarily in agreement. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen with the planets themselves BUT there’s an asteroid belt actively being mined which ensures a certain level of commerce. Banking on that, Green Imperial Housing Exchange is building a station and trading post inside one of the asteroids. It won’t be luxurious. Nothing the likes of Granada but it’s a safe bet it’ll attract a high amount of traffic, especially during the early years of terraforming the system’s planets.”
Maggie traced the outline of Richard’s face on the display. She knew him to possess exceptional business acumen. More importantly, he was a good person.
“Friend of a friend knows the leasing agent. I took the liberty of transferring them a security deposit to hold a location that meets your expressed requirements. Things are moving quickly though. You only have four weeks to arrive on-site with a six-month rent deposit and to sign the papers. They don’t want absentee landlords or people squatting on locations. If you miss the deadline the security is forfeited. I hope this arrangement is agreeable to you. I think it’s an excellent opportunity. And selfishly, it would allow me to see you occasionally since I pass through there on business. You can repay me the deposit in credits or …” A huge grin spread across his face. “… or in services. Good luck. Hope to see you soon.”
Maggie was dumbstruck. He’d already secured a place! “Holy shit.” Her excitement immediately gave way to the harsh reality of the looming deadline. “We have to raise the money, pack up and be there in four weeks.” She bolted up from the table and began pacing.
They probably had the credits for the rent but then they needed more to turn it into — whatever business they selected and have funds to live off of in the interim. “Might have enough if we liquidate everything we own.” She chewed on a fingernail but abruptly stopped, not liking the taste of the red glitter lacquer on it. “Only keep bare necessities to take with. Live off space rations for a while if we have to.” She cupped her forehead. “Kitty’s not going to like that idea.”
The fifteen days since her conversation with Richard had been a blur. Getting rid of her big-ticket items had been the easy part. The station had a waiting list for her apartment. They were more than happy to take it off of her hands furnished. She was bunking with Bosha, who’d found someone to take the lease on her smaller apartment and was willing to wait until she departed if Bosha paid the first month’s rent which she did.
Dealing with Larry had been infinitely harder. She’d physically moved in with Bosha before canceling her client sessions to avoid anyone showing up looking for an answer, particularly Larry. The messages he’d left had quickly escalated from concern to outrage to threats. He’d refused her offer of meeting in a public place to discuss her change in circumstances, claiming someone who knew his wife might see them. He eventually relented when her final reply said that if he didn’t want to meet in public there was no point in contacting her again.
Maggie was sitting alone at a bistro table on the observatory deck of the Tip Top, watching customers come and go. Tip Top was a popular gathering place for drinks and a light meal owed to the glass walls and spinning platform which afforded an amazing view of the space station and Vann.
Being one of the few public locations with an exterior view at all, it was also a favorite spot for visitors to congregate. She’d asked the hostess for a table at the back edge of the round dining room. She didn’t want to be sitting front and center if her conversation with Larry became contentious. Not that she should care. She was leaving. Still…
She checked the time — again. Larry was uncharacteristically late. She regretted not taking the coward’s way out by leaving him vidMail the day of her departure. But she didn’t want him harassing anyone he thought knew her or contacting the Paramour Union. This way if he did, she could respond that she’d done everything in a professional manner. In which case, they’d put him in his place and threaten to blacklist him if he persisted. Although she didn’t plan on needing the union again, it was better to play things safe. No point in burning a bridge she might have to cross again one day.
Deciding that she was only waiting another ten minutes, she looked up from her watch, to find him staring at her from the entrance. “Here we go.” He had that look on his face. The one he wore when contemplating how far he could push her. Maggie schooled her expression into a mask a calm aloofness.
The room was full, with a line of people waiting at the entrance. Occupants were dressed to be on display. She watched Larry weave his way toward her. He wore a chest hugging shirt, slim fitting pants, and an aged leather duster. His swagger was attractive and he knew it. He’d planted on his patent slanted sexy smile. They both noticed a few heads swivel in his direction. When he reached the table he leaned over to kiss her but she pointedly turned away.
“We’re not sweethearts,” she said.
“We could be.”
“How easily you forget that you’re married.”
He waved away the statement and sat down across from her. “That’s a circumstance. Nothing more.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. “If you say so.”
“So — why the cloak-n-dagger routine? I’ve been seeing you for almost four years. Or rather, I’ve been paying you for that long.” He looked down his nose at her.
Maggie wasn’t taking the bait. Nor was she insulted. She always considered him and all of her other clients business. He couldn’t hurt her feelings by stating the obvious. “You seemed not to understand my change in status.” She sipped at the goblet of red wine in her hand. “The new tenant says you’ve contacted her several times looking for me.” She put the glass down and leisurely folded her hands on the table. “She doesn’t know me. We’re not friends. It’s a business arrangement of her taking over my lease. Period.”
He put both of his arms on the table when he spoke. “You’re living somewhere. I want that address.” He leaned forward with a menacing smile. “I’ll get it eventually. Station’s only but so big.”
Maggie made a mental note to tell Bosha that they needed to be more careful entering and exiting the apartment. Bosha’s place was on one of the lower floors with modest accommodations and less security. “I already told you, the friend I’m with isn’t fond of visitors. She works from home.”
“Still claiming it’s a she?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Not claiming. Telling.” She reached for the wine glass but he grabbed her hand instead.
“I don’t believe you. How are you living?”
She resisted the urge to jerk her hand back. He was being civil. Well, his brand of civil anyway. “On my savings. Like I told you, I’m entering a new line of work and making a fresh start.”
He toyed with her fingers alternately rubbing them gently and applying uncomfortable pressure. “I think that’s a great idea. I can help you.”
“I think you missed the ‘fresh start’ part of that. Fresh means not being a paramour OR a mistress.” She looked him directly in the eyes. Here was a fact he couldn’t refute or weasel around.
He laughed. “Not likely. Think you’re the first whore to say that?” She pulled her hand out of his grasp. He narrowed his eyes and looked around to see if anyone was watching. “Pipe dream. Nothing more.”
“Well, it’s my pipe to smoke.” She stood up and let her mask fall away. Her eyes raked over him with disgust. “I’ve suspended my license and notified the union about potentially unwanted contact from a client. An accusation they don’t take lightly. If you contact me again, in any way, I’ll notify them and you’ll be blacklisted.” She stepped back from the table when he rose. He lurched for her arm but she leaned out of the way. The glasses and cutlery on the table rattled violently. Heads swung in their direction.
Conscious of the sudden stares he said, “We’ll discuss this again. You’ll see things my way before it’s all said and done. I promise you that.”
There was a palpable threat behind the statement but she refused to let him see her acknowledge it so she tossed her hair and laughed. “Bye Larry.”
Fearful of Larry’s threats, Maggie convinced Kitty and Bosha it was better to be gone as soon as possible. They each took extra care when leaving or returning to the apartments. Maggie did her best to conduct as much of her final business as she could using video conferences. She sold her remaining possessions through third party merchants to avoid sharing information with potential buyers. Unfortunately, moving up their timetable compromised how much money they earned for liquidating their assets. It also landed them with horrible travel arrangements to Stanton by having to take whatever was cheapest and readily available for three.
An hour before they were due to board a Starliner to Ferron, as the first hop on their journey, Kitty still hadn’t arrived at the departure gate. Waiting passengers milled around the pressurized ramp leading to the ship or sat on the rows of cushioned benches. Bosha and Maggie were sitting alone on a bench near the glassed wall watching the ground crew prepare the Starliner for departure.
The Starliner was one of Crusader Industries premiere passenger transport ships. It was long and narrow, with sleek lines accentuated by red racing stripes. Maggie watched the ground crew refuel and load cargo. She wished they’d been able to go with their original plan of securing private cabins. Unfortunately, that was no longer option with their accelerated their departure arrangements. Bosha’s voice interrupted her wishful thinking.
“No surprise Kitty’s late.” Bosha was moderate height and full figured. She wore a tan cowl-hood sweater over a tight fitting jumpsuit that emphasized her curves. She had the hood up. The exaggerated folds draped against the sides of her face, contrasted against her mocha colored skin and covered her tattooed scalp. Her voice was deep and sensual. “It’s going to be real interesting to see her ‘off stage’ interacting without her — uh — props.” Both women smiled.
“She’s not responding on her mobi either.”
“Probably on silent. Old habit and all.”
“If she misses this flight she’s screwed. These are nonrefundable passes.”
“She’d find a means to cajole her way on the next one. I’m fairly certain of that.”
Maggie exhaled and tried to relax but another thirty minutes passed and still no Kitty. The boarding light turned on and passengers were beginning to enter the ramp to board the ship. Maggie and Bosha were near the door, standing off to the side, craning their necks looking for Kitty. Maggie gasped when she spotted her. She grabbed Bosha’s hand and squeezed it so hard, her knuckles turned white.
“What the…” Maggie’s mouth fell open. She saw Larry arch his eyebrows and smirk while holding Kitty in a death grip, slightly in front of him. One side of Kitty’s face was red, her eyes were watery and her upper lip quivered. “Think fast,” Maggie screamed inwardly.
Larry abruptly forced Kitty to stop walking and she almost tripped over her own feet. People brushed passed the two on their way to the boarding ramp. He crooked a finger at Maggie, pointed to her and then Kitty as if to gesture an exchange.
Bosha, now fully aware of what was going on said, “No fucking way. The balls on this fucker!”
Maggie watched in horror as he began slowly backing up, heading toward a secluded corner. No way could she follow him there. Realistically, what could he do if she just screamed? She didn’t think he was armed but she couldn’t know for sure. She suddenly remembered a prime lesson from self-defense training about never allowing yourself to be taken to an isolated location. Her mind raced. Wouldn’t he just let Kitty go if she boarded the ship? “Shit!” Her stomach roiled.
“What are we going to do?” Bosha asked.
Maggie was about to say she had no idea when an idea came to her. She dropped the small valise she’d been carrying at Bosha’s feet. She smoothed back her hair and walked forward. Behind her, she heard the gate attendant announce final boarding.
She saw Larry sneer when she headed in his direction. Half way to him, at the end of the line of passengers still boarding, Maggie spotted a young man alone, bringing up the rear. He was wearing a bomber jacket with cargo pants and looked pretty fit. She stopped in front of him and gave him with her most divine smile.
“Sorry to bother you.” She laid a hand on his chest. “My friend isn’t feeling well and needs help boarding.” She pointed toward Kitty and saw Larry’s eyes narrow. “That gentleman there was kind enough to help her this far but he’s not boarding.” She used a hand to slowly brush her bang out of her eyes. “Buy you a drink on board if you can give us a hand?”
The young man’s face brightened. “Sure, no problem.”
“I’m Maggie by the way,” she said while simultaneously hooking her arm in his and moving him along.
With an excessive sound of being pleased, she cooed, “Marvelous, don’t hear that one much these days.” She noticed Larry stiffen as they approached and she tightened her grip on Xavier’s arm. “Kitty, this wonderful gentleman has offered to assist you to the ship.” She kept her eyes trained on Kitty’s face, praying she’d play along. “I explained that you’re not feeling well and need assistance getting to your seat.”
Kitty looked the part. Her free arm was hugging her stomach and beads of sweat were trickling down the sides of her face. “Uh — okay. Th-thank you,” she stammered.
Larry interjected himself. “No need. I can help them both.” Dismissively he added, “You can run along.”
Xavier raised his eyebrows, bent his head to one side and cracked his neck. He’d felt Maggie’s grip on his arm tighten when Larry spoke. “Don’t think that’s possible unless you have a boarding pass.” He turned his attention momentarily to Maggie and smiled. “I’m here to help either way.” He extended a hand to Kitty who grabbed it like a life preserver. He felt Maggie begin backing away and so did he, gently tugging on Kitty.
Behind her, Maggie heard Bosha say, “C’mon on last boarding” with a raised voice. Followed by, “Hang on, those three there are coming.”
“Good girl,” Maggie thought. Correctly assuming Bosha was pointing them out to the attendant.
Larry went rigid and he momentarily yanked Kitty back to him. Bless Xavier, who didn’t let go or give in. He continued tugging Kitty while stepping backward one foot at a time. Hurried footsteps come up behind them.
“Excuse me, but you have to board now. Please hurry,” the young woman in her black uniform with red trim commanded.
Kitty fell forward, into Xavier, as Larry let go. Maggie grabbed her arm and the three of them hurried away toward the boarding ramp.
“Sorry for the holdup,” Larry said in a silky voice to the attendant. “I need a boarding pass.”
Maggie overheard and turned her head in horror.
“I’m sorry, this flight is booked. Next available departure is in three hours.”
“I have standing first class status. Surely…”
“My apologies Sir, there are no seats. As soon as I get them boarded, I’ll be happy to assist you in booking passage on the next flight. Please wait here.” She turned and rushed Maggie, Kitty, Bosha, and Xavier through the tunnel.
While the quartet was walking down the main aisle of the ship looking for their seats, Maggie turned to Xavier, who was directly behind her. “Thank you. I will happily buy you a drink or several after take off.”
“You don’t have to but I’ll gladly oblige if it’s not an inconvenience. Boring flight ahead and not tired enough to sleep through it.”
“Happy to.” They were nearing the middle cabin where Maggie knew their seats to be. Spotting the row she said, “We’re over there. Come by when you’re ready.”
“I’m up a bit further. ” He walked passed them then turned back to Maggie. “Not to pry but I hope you have help where you’re going. It’s easy enough for that bozo to follow you on the next flight.”
Maggie grinned like a Cheshire cat. “He could if that was our final destination but it’s not. We have many more flights to go. Doing it on the cheap and last minute is taking us via a very circuitous route.” She exhaled. “We’re good now. Thanks again.”
He winked at her. “Excellent. See you later.”
Over the past couple of months, we’ve been seeing more and more about CIG’s progress on character customizations, which has also yielded glimpses of the female avatar. As a woman that “plays” her character in games and writes fiction-like tales about my adventures, having a female avatar is paramount. Even with the limited customization, we’re likely to see initially, I’m delighted about the prospect of selecting and customizing a female avatar.
As I’ve said before, my journey in MMOs is always a personal one that manifests itself as blog posts, stories, and pictorial vignettes. Seeing a representation that I picked and suits my tastes is an important element. Thus far, I’ve been using my EVE avatar as my character’s likeness. It will be great to finally create her first iteration in Star Citizen.
When I’m doing the logistics included in my short stories, I endeavor to make them factually accurate according to the current configuration of the ARK Starmap. I, of course, use my own tool, the Route Planner on Aly’s World because the ARK Starmap doesn’t actually return all possible paths. I could figure it out manually using one of the maps various other content creators have made but you might be surprised to know how many paths there are between two star systems.
Doing research for Journey to Stanton, it finally hit me that you can’t arrive at all UEE systems without traveling through unclaimed or dangerous ones. This may become problematic for players seeking a PVE focused experience. For example, getting my character from Tanga to Stanton required that she travel through at least one unclaimed territory. As such, it’s a potentially more dangerous star system.
In a scenario for another story, it finally dawned on me that large ships simply can’t reach all destinations. I suppose that’s like “Duh!” but the realization hadn’t set it yet, as someone who owns larger ships. To date, we don’t know the actual size criteria for small, medium and large ships to correspond with the jump point sizes, other than the Freelancer is supposedly the largest in the “small” category.
These size limitation will require lots of logistics planning for ship captains. Not only will it determine where you can’t take that ship but it impacts the number of star systems you must traverse when you can only utilize medium or large jump points. This, in turn, translates into more travel time and fuel costs. I would also think that traversing more star systems increases the probability of running into an aggressor.
I was researching a story involving the 890 Jump and was planning to have Helios as one of the ports of call. Only to realize that depending on how the 890 is classified in terms of jump point size, it might not be technically possible. Helios only supports up to medium sized ships. So while there are 893 possible routes to get from Sol to Helios. That’s an insane number, isn’t it?? You can’t get there with a large ship. You also can’t start in a UEE system and get to another UEE system only passing through UEE systems.
I’m intrigued by the impact jump point sizes will have on travel logistics. AND how the community will react to those limitations once the realizations hit. Are any of your plans likely to be impacted by ship size? What will you do if your ship can’t go through the gate required for your ultimate destination? I can think of a couple of things, neither of which will be quick or convenient.
Without a doubt, the Drake Herald is the small career ship I’m most excited about flying. There isn’t even a close second anymore. This ship and my fascination with it, speaks loudly about how I often play MMOs.
Confession time, I solo MMOs and I profoundly enjoy doing so. I know. I know. This preference is anathema to more traditional players. I don’t ask or expect the game mechanics to be changed to accommodate me. I don’t kick people in teeth for inviting me to do group content. I’m not antisocial. What I am is on a journey that is best served alone – a good bit of the time.
I like doing my own thing, at my own pace, enjoying the story that evolves in my head. I often take the scenic route versus the fastest. I like to figure things out for myself versus looking them up on the internet. I want to enjoy the ride not hurry to max level. I need downtime after work and family responsibilities and then, I have the time and desire to do content with others. But I will always leave time to end a gaming session doing something alone.
All that said, I have a large fleet of multi-crew ships that excite me more than the Herald. I can’t wait to travel the ‘verse with family, friends, and org mates. I look forward to the group shenanigans we’ll invent. However, when it comes time to do my own thing, I plan on doing that in the Herald.
As a professional in the Business Intelligence field for many years, first as a practitioner and now as a senior product manager, I’m fascinated by the idea of being an Info Agent. I’ve always believed that information is power with the ability to make or break. I’m curious to see how the mechanic will be employed in Star Citizen. Although my natural alignment is chaotic good, I’m willing to at least stretch into chaotic neutral during my adventures.
I like that the Herald can be run solo and that’s the plan for the most part. However, it’s equally great that I can take a friend along if someone’s interested and I have the time. Equally compelling is that the ship can also serve a reconnaissance and/or electronic warfare role in group operations. It’s the best of all worlds in flexibility – solo, duo, and group opportunities. Here’s crossing fingers, eyes, and toes, that the mechanics are implemented well. This is likely the first career I’ll pursue in the released game. As a career, I think the output has the strong potential to inform other careers such as science, exploration and resource collection which benefits a wide variety of other ships. What’s your favorite small career ship? What career do you plan to take on first when Star Citizen releases?
I consume a lot of science fiction and fantasy content. Books, audiobooks, movies, cable shows, and podcasts are staples in my entertainment collective. In recent years, I’ve become enamored with narrated drama podcasts because they’re serialized, designed to be consumed in small bites and can be enjoyed while performing other tasks.
My Star Citizen content takes on many faces, two of which are narrated fiction. CIG’s fiction that I record from their Discovered series and my own fan-fiction on Nightbus. On several occasions, I’ve considered dramatizing these in the style of old-time radio to produce what’s now being called audio drama, by amping up dialogue aspect, collaborating with others for voice-overs, and including meaningful sound effects. It would take considerably more work to produce the show. It’s time I barely have but the idea wouldn’t let me alone.
I knew that I wanted to write a story that continued Cami’s tale from Chop Shop and move the story closer to the star system we all know the most about – Stanton. I also wanted it to be a different listening experience than the first time. After much consideration, I decided to dip a toe into the audio drama realm by including different narrators. This would make the production more complicated so I tried to simplify that by keeping the audio for each person in a single block. Hence the strategy of writing the story from four distinct perspectives. The story/script is now with all of the character narrators. I’m excited to see how this all turns out. Depending on the response I might continue this particular story in an audio drama format, as a trial. You can read the short story, Journey to Stanton, in the Fan Fiction section on Aly’s World.
Note from the Author: This story is an experiment of writing a short piece of fiction that will be narrated by multiple people, each telling the story from their point of view. Look for the narrated version in Star Citizen NightBus Episode 7. You may want to read Cami’s initial story, Chop Shop, before continuing.
My eyes do not see, alike reflection gazing back at me. More than just reversed, it twists and turns from circumstance of birth.
Cami was in the captain’s quarters aboard Gray Jaw. The gentle hum of the ship enveloped her, its life force rumbling through her bones. Gray Jaw was parked in its stationary position at the top of the upside down horseshoe alignment of Jimmy’s other Starfarers, each connected to the next by makeshift platforms. Together, they acted as a refueling station and trade post for the inhabitants and transient workers in Tanga’s asteroid belt.
Cami studied the holographic star map she was using to plan her trip to Stanton. The glowing blue orbs representing Tanga and Stanton were raised above the surrounding star systems. Wispy green lines floated in the air between them, illustrating the available jump points. Gnawing at her lip, she studied her options.
She looked up when she heard the door slide open. It was Jimmy. He was dressed in a utilitarian black jumpsuit, the upper half hanging open around his waist. His black T-Shirt had his company’s logo of a shark devouring a spaceship in the upper right corner.
“How’s it looking?” His voice was deep and raspy belying his youth.
“Pretty good. Several options.”
“I’ve made it through those parts a few times no problem,” he offered. “Question is how fast you need to get there versus taking a longer safer route.”
“Exactly what I’ve been thinking about. No matter what, I have to pass through unpatrolled space.” She used her fingers to illustrate the options. “Once if I take the longer route through Terra. Twice using the shortest route through Pyro.”
Jimmy came up beside her. “I’ve done both safely.” He rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “Do you have fuel for a longer trip?”
“I’ve got my cybernetic eye implant surgery covered but I’d have to postpone fixing the AutoDoc on medbay two.” Unconsciously, she poked a finger under the patch across her right eye and scratched around the empty socket. The phantom itching and pain had subsided over the last year. These days, it only flared up when she was anxious.
Jimmy flopped down in the high-backed chair at his desk. He crossed his legs ankle-to-ankle on the edge of it and leaned back. Like its owner, the room was sparse and neat. The bed inset into the wall was made. The storage cabinets against the far wall closed and secured. No personal items on display. “Nyx is the litmus test and you need to fly through there regardless. If it’s quiet good chance Pyro is too. Those two act like Siamese twins most times.”
“That’s been my experience. I don’t go that way often. Supplies too pricey. But I hear stories.” He stood up and pointed to the locations on the star map. “When you exit from Breman into Nyx don’t move until you’ve done a good sweep. The interference from the Jump Point will mask your ship if you stay within its signature. Do a directional scan toward Castra and then Pyro. Pay particular attention to unlicensed ships and the direction they’re going. Also, run a deep scan for deployable objects like interdiction devices and EMP snares.” He pulled a mobi out of his back pocket. “I’ll send you the common signatures for those. You can upload the info to your scan database. If the path to Pyro is clear immediately quantum there. If not, head to Castra.”
Cami nodded her head. “Like having the option. If there’s trouble, I’ll take the longer route and skip the repair supplies.” She gave Jimmy a warm smile. More confidence in her voice she added, “Thanks for the tips.” She turned off the star map and the holographic image blinked out of existence. “Structurally the ship’s in good shape. I’ve done small repairs here and there when I could. I can’t say as much for the A.I systems and weapons. They’re old as dirt and not something Rasa paid much attention. A simple assisted landing doesn’t work.”
Jimmy chuckled. “He was old school. Flew everything on manual. Plus it’s a salvaged Freelancer he cobbled into a medical ship for the living space. I suspect A.I. systems and whatnot were beyond his reach.”
Cami agreed. “Luckily they’re not systems I need regularly.” She exhaled “Damn – I miss him.”
The statement hung in the air between them. Jimmy sat back down and his eyes were unfocused as he spoke. “Same. He was a good man. I remember the first time he came over to do trading. He was a cheap old git. He’d help anyone he could but he’d haggle you down on a price to the point you were almost paying him to take it.”
They both laughed and the lump in Cami’s throat eased. Rasa had started as the stranger who’d fixed her up after the accident that had claimed her eye, offered her a home, and new life. He ended as a father figure who’d taught her a trade and left her everything he owned. “He went peacefully which is what you want. But…” Her voice trailed off.
“The suddenness of it. Yep. We were all shocked.”
“I – I didn’t get to say goodbye. Be there so he wasn’t alone.” Her voice cracked. “He’s with his family now which was all he really wanted anymore. “
“True, he spoke of them often.” Jimmy blew out a breath that vibrated his lips. “Worlds keep spinning and so must we.”
“True enough.” Shaking free of the memory she said, “I better get going. Heading out after I get some sleep.”
“Anything happens, you call and we’ll be there double-time! Enough around here owe you. Fixing them up even when they can’t pay. Don’t know why you think you need to change yourself. Fine like you are.”
Cami smiled and self-consciously touched her eye patch. “Thanks. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Give me a shout when you’re heading out.”
“Will do.” Cami gave Jimmy a mock salute, turned on her heels and left.
A blue-gray sky framed the horizon. Sherman, the city in the sky, sparkled through a ring of puffy clouds encircling its home, Mount Ulysses. Below, the denizens of Castra buzzed to life, their crescendo reaching deafening levels at the Covalex Shipping Hub.
A battered and aging Hull B was docked at Covalex departure gate E101. Workers with hover-carts scurried beneath it like feeding a queen bee. The pilot, a middle-aged man with a growing paunch and an affable smile, was sitting in the cockpit.
Silas looked out the left side of the cockpit at the departure status for E101 — again. “Hurry the hell up,” he screamed at the display. He gnawed on his fingernails and craned his neck to see how many workers were actively transferring goods to his ship. “This place is insane. Should have known the trade office would be a clusterfuck of queues. Now, this!”
He regretted going to the Trade and Development Division before queuing up to retrieve his contracted load. This was his first trip to Castra and his first time buying goods on the side for resale. He’d greatly underestimated the crowds and lengthy process of purchasing goods on credit. “Shit. Hope I haven’t completely cocked-up.” He wiped his sweaty palms down the front of his shirt. “Had to try something,” he reminded himself. He could barely make the next payment on the ship as it was. His stomach twisted in knots remembering the high alert message he received demanding payment or they’d seize the ship in five standard earth days. This was his livelihood. Without it, the rest of his life would slowly unravel. Resentment bubbled to the surface. “Fuckers,” he spat, “not like I planned on being sick.”
Things had been going well for Silas up until he’d been hospitalized. He wasn’t rolling in credits but he was holding his own. That ended abruptly when he suffered acute renal failure. The synthetic replacement surgery and recovery had required a four-week hospital stay. During that time he’d lost a majority of his customers. On top of that, he now had medical bills and overdue payments on his squalid one-room apartment and his ship.
Silas needed this to work! The combination of this new contract to deliver goods for MicroTech and his scheme to sell goods on the side would give him a sliver of breathing room. But it was all contingent on getting the top payment from every delivery. Which meant his delivery of OptiGlas to MicroTech had to be on time. If not, they’d reduce his fee and all of this will have been for nothing. He started chewing his fingernails again. The repossession clock was ticking.
Silas checked the cockpit dashboard for the hundredth time, monitoring how many of the ship’s cargo spindles had been filled and secured. Three of the four cargo rods flashed green. “Almost there, baby! The price I got on this surplus is going to put us over the top when we resell it on ArcCorp.”
He pulled up the ship’s route planner and tapped in his new estimated departure time. Silas’ eyebrows arched up to his receding hairline. “Shit, that’s not going to work.” Using his original flight plan of Castra to Hadrian to Terra to Stanton would put him at MicroTech several hours late. Nervously, he tapped in the command to see alternate routes.
The planner displayed four options. The fastest being Castra to Pyro to Stanton which would get him to MicroTech with an hour to spare. “Damn it.” He flipped open the mini mobi he wore on his wrist to check the latest security bulletin for Pyro. He waited as the report scrolled down the screen.
“Hmm, only yellow warnings. Let’s check these out.” He reviewed the details of each warning. “Intermittent outages at a single comm array.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Doesn’t sound too bad.” Decided he said, “Gotta go for it at this point. Let’s do this!”
The ALL SECURED light flashed on the cargo status panel. “Yes! Time to get moving.” He used the external cameras to take a cursory glance around the outside of the ship and engaged the [STAND CLEAR] signal. A siren sounded, warning others that the Hull B was taking off. In a single fluid motion, he applied vertical thrust and raised the landing gear. When he was sufficiently above the station platform he locked in the coordinates for the Pyro jump point and engaged the quantum drive.
Silas relaxed into his seat as the drive roared to life. For a split second the ship seemed to slip backward, collapsing into itself before ricocheting forward, pinning him in place.
The opening of the Pyro to Stanton jump point tunnel was a vortex that gaped wide. Inside, diffused white light streaked its opaque curved and twisted form. The walls undulated and pulsed, lethal as a cobra.
Keokuk slammed the button on the cockpit controls to open comms again. “This is my last offer,” he growled. “Jettison the cargo and be on your way.” He paused before continuing. “Taking out my turret was a lucky shot. Don’t push it. I can still blow you to dust.” The crackling of static was the only reply he received. He pounded his fist on the dash. “Stupid cargo haulers. Dumber than a crate of rocks!”
Keokuk knew he was half bluffing. Blowing up the Hull B he had pinned in the narrowed part of the Pyro to Stanton jump tunnel wouldn’t get him what he needed – the cargo it was hauling. If he backed off now, the whole operation was at a loss since his ship had taken damage. He cursed under his breath again, wondering what kind of fool was risking his life for cargo digitally marked as being owned by MicroTech. Surely, it was insured. The Hull B pilot would lose the payout but it’s not the end of the world.
“C’mon dumb ass. Let’s get this over with,” he shouted into the void. Keokuk re-checked his weapon status. Three of his four Tarantula GT-870s were operational and he had plenty of ammo left. Ammo he didn’t want to use. What he did want, was for this idiot to give up the cargo and go away. He wasn’t sure how long his mates would be able to keep the comm array servicing this end of the tunnel disabled, preventing this prick from calling for help.
A thought suddenly hit him. He wondered if he’d taken out the Hull’s comms preventing the pilot from responding. “That would suck.” From his ship’s position, slightly lower than his target, he couldn’t see into the cockpit even at maximum zoom. For all he knew, the pilot wasn’t even in the cockpit anymore. Perspiration rolled down the sides of his face. The faulty temperature controls on his EVA suit allowing condensation to build up on the faceplate of his helmet.
“Fuck it. Giving this clown one last warning then I’m blowing him to smithereens, cargo or no cargo,” he grumbled. “Screw them and the UEE. I gotta eat too.”
Keokuk seethed with anger remembering how the UEE had actively encouraged families to settle in Lier to establish mining colonies. He and his family had risked everything for the opportunity to start fresh and build up a business of their own. It was hard work and long hours. After three years of back-breaking mind numbing labor, they started turning a small profit. The trouble in Lier began a short time after.
A socialist group called the Outsiders quickly gained popularity. Within a few months, they’d staged a coup and seized control of the local government. It happened so quickly most residents didn’t realize what was occurring until it was too late. Once in power, they started confiscating private property and businesses for the common good. Or so they said. Instead of mounting a defense, the UEE abandoned the system, leaving the citizens who’d settled there at the mercy of the socialist government that was forming.
“Gutless assholes,” he spat. “Me and mine gotta eat and get up enough to get the hell out of there for good.” Keokuk hammered on the dash to open comms again. “Final warning. You got five minutes to drop all the cargo or Imma blow you out of this tunnel.” His voice dripped acid. “Next thing you hear gonna be Tarantulas in your face!”
Joys are his to wear. Mistakes his to bear. Speck of the same creation. Birthed from a shared womb. I owe him. He owes me. We owe you.
Lacking the functionality to fly her ship on auto-pilot, Cami meticulously followed the Pyro-to-Stanton jump tunnel coordinates she’d downloaded from Jimmy’s star map. She was a couple thousand meters away from the most difficult part of traversing the tunnel. She mentally prepared herself for the drastic narrowing of the route while it simultaneously did a vertical dip and slanted to a 45-degree elliptic shape. “Just take your time,” she reminded herself as she reduced speed. Up ahead she could see the undulating tunnel begin to narrow. “You got this.” She rotated the ship to match the skewed oblong shape of the contracting passage ahead. The Freelancer passed through with little room to spare. “Sweet. Stay focused.” Checking her radar she saw two ships ahead. “Nooo – stupid radar.” As she approached, her distance from the ships ahead decreased, as though they were standing still. “Don’t flake out on me now. That can’t be right.” She thumped on the radar panel. As the two ships came into view, an emergency communication request flashed.
“What the?” Spooked by the alert, she tipped the throttle too far to the left, losing her wing alignment within the precarious path. “Shit!” She reduced thrust again and readjusted the ship’s rotation. Cami had no idea who could be trying to contact her or why. She wasn’t even sure how. She’d noticed a few minutes ago that long range comms had died halfway into the tunnel. Has to be a ship inside,” she thought. “I’m a registered medical vessel. Wonder if someone’s hurt?” She took a moment to consider, half hoping whoever it was would stop trying to contact her but they didn’t. “Well hell!” Unnerved, she accepted the incoming request.
The voice coming across the comms was shaky and talking fast. “This is Captain Silas Martin of the Roving Wreck, Hull B class carrier requesting assistance. My ship is disabled 1.5 kilometers ahead of you. I’m under attack by a pirate Freelancer. Requesting immediate assistance! I say again, requesting immediate assistance!”
Cami’s mouth fell open. Was this guy for real? Her forehead started throbbing – instant migraine.
“Mayday! You there?”
“Yes — I don’t see how I can help. This is a medical ship. Give them whatever it is they want.”
“It’s just one guy. Greedy bastard wants the full load or he’s threatening to destroy the ship and the cargo.”
Her voice rising Cami replied, “Are you crazy? Give it to him!”
“He’s bluffing. No money in it for him if he does. I’ll lose everything if I surrender this cargo.”
“Better that than your life. Don’t know what you want from me. I can’t call for help either. Only have short range comms available.”
“We’re in the narrowed part of the tunnel facing each other. He can’t turn around and I destroyed his turret.”
“If you come up behind and open fire at the same time I do…”
“You’re out of your freakin’ mind!” Cami’s blood turned to ice. She could feel her heart hammering. A blinding pain ricocheted in her right eye socket. She swallowed down a mouth full of bile. “Not helping you attack someone! For all I know, you’re the aggressor. Get real! Besides, this is a registered medical vessel. Abiding by UEE conventions I can’t…”
Silas screamed. “This nut is going to kill me. You gonna just wait to pick up my corpse?”
Cami shouted back. “He won’t if you give him what he wants.” Cami worked to calm herself. “You said so yourself. Don’t be a fool. Give him the cargo!”
“This is all I have. He might as well kill me. I’ll lose everything anyway.” Silas bit back.
Remembering how trapped and hopeless she felt during the civil war raging on Charon III, she tried reasoning with him. “Look, I know it feels that way. Like it’s this or nothing but I’m sure that’s not the case. I’ve been…” Before she could finish another comms request flashed. “What now?” Cami had a sinking feeling about who was on the other end of the incoming request. She accepted it. Figuring it was better to be informed than not.
“This is Keokuk of the Endor warning the approaching medical class Freelancer to stay clear. I don’t engage service vessels. Mind your business and you’ve nothing to fear.”
Cami was somewhat relieved but this seemed to corroborate Silas’ story that he was being attacked. That made this Keokuk person a criminal even if he followed the polite conventions of war. Anyway, this wasn’t a war, it was piracy.
“Thank you for that.” She hesitated. “But what you’re doing is a crime. Why not let this guy go and we can all be on our way safely.” Beads of sweat formed on her brow. She clenched her hands in her lap to stop them from shaking. “Comms could come back any second and there’d be two ships calling for help. Stop now. No harm, no foul. Let’s all get out of here in one piece.”
“If that idiot took the time to contact you then he’s not taking me seriously. Think he just signed his own death warrant,” Keokuk replied.
Cami grimaced, fearing she’d said too much. “What? Wait. No! I didn’t say that. I mean, I can see the situation for myself and you contacted me.” Panic rose in her chest like a specter, stealing the air from her lungs. Shit! Had she unwittingly escalated the situation??
A cruel chuckle emitted from the comms speaker. It was loud and the echo reverberated around Cami’s cockpit. “Don’t take me for a fool,” Keokuk spat. “His time’s up anyhow. It’s my cargo or it’s no one’s cargo.” He laughed again. “You gotta nice voice. Probably a nice person. Don’t make me kill you too.” The comm connection closed.
Cami stared at the closed connection status. There was a throbbing pain behind her right eye socket. Her hands were shaking violently as she reached to re-open comms with the Hull B.
“You-You there?” No reply. “Look you better hand over the cargo. He’s not playing.”
The comms speaker crackled. Then a distorted reply. “You spoke to him?” Silas asked.
“He’s dead serious! PLEASE just give him what he wants. It’s not worth…” Before she could finish, Cami heard the roar of weapon fire. Horrified, she froze, her mouth hanging open. The slow and measured boom of ballistic cannons echoed in the narrow tunnel. She quickly set her targeting system to lock onto the Hull B. Its forward shield was quickly depleting and the ship was taking damage. Although it was shooting back, its rapid fire laser cannons pelting the Freelancer’s shields, the Hull B was not going to win this fight. Its midsection was billowing smoking and spitting sparks.
Cami was immediately transported to her childhood of being trapped in the chaos of a civil war. She’d lost both her parents before the age of five. Her life at the orphanage had been grueling and precarious. They had basic services when local repair crews could fix them. They ate when supply ships could make it through. Over the years, fewer tried. She grew up believing that this war was her only future until a kindly old couple offered to smuggle out as many of the teenagers as their ship could carry. They’d declared they were old, tired and things were too dangerous to come back again. As much as they hated to stop including the orphanage on their trade route, they didn’t have a choice. They had their own family to worry about.
The resounding hit of a missile shook Cami out of her reverie. The mid-section of the Hull B was completely engulfed in flames. The Freelancer’s left wing and weapon were gone. She wondered if perhaps, this was all he had in the world. His last stand against the encroaching dark. “Like eight teens being dropped at a space station with bedrolls and two days of rations,” she whispered to herself. Without having intellectually committed to a course of action, her instincts took over.
Cami cycled her target lock to the Freelancer and slowly advanced. She wasn’t wearing an EVA suit and there wasn’t time to put it on. If her hull was breached, she was dead. She had no missiles. She wasn’t even sure her Behring laser cannons would fire. Bound to this course, she inhaled and opened fire.
Space, a vast silence echoed back at him swallowing his soul. His listening ear poised for reclamation, defamation, accusation, examination. Leaked, hacked – kept or sold.
A short distance away, Huyn watched local security route pirates camping the Stanton side of the Pyro jump point entrance. Hornets protecting their nest, security ships buzzed in and around their opponents, exchanging warning shots and occasional direct fire.
Huyn sat in the cramped cockpit of his Drake Herald. Instrumentation, data cores, sensors, transistors and other technical devices lined every available workspace. Color-coded indicators flickered at varying intervals. A light show that only a trained information agent or hacker could decipher. While waiting, he amused himself by eavesdropping on the communication channel used by the Stanton security teams. Having a conversation with himself, the hazard of long periods alone in space, he repeated fragments of what he heard. “Everything under control. Target two and three bugging out. Heading to reenable the comm array.” Hyun saw two of the Hornets fly toward array #126. This was followed by radio silence that coincided with a focused fire exchange between the remaining Hornet and a Buccaneer.
The Buccaneer was moving at top speed trying to circle strafe the Hornet. But the Hornet pilot wasn’t having it. He kept changing speeds and trajectory while returning fire. Suddenly, the Buccaneer’s left wing was on gone. “Oh — shit,” Huyn said to himself. “Time to give up kid.” A second later the Hornet landed a volley of direct hits, blasting the Buccaneer into an expanding ball of orange-blue flame, white smoke and spinning ship parts. Huyn shook his head. “Well, that was stupid. Never understand some folks.”
When things settled down, Hyun was the first of the waiting ships to approach the jump point. The Herald, with its bug-like shape, hovered at the entrance. A ball of dread formed in the pit of his stomach. No matter how many times he went through them, Hyun never became acclimated as some did, to the gut-twisting sensation of entering and exiting a jump point. “Nothing for it. Let’s get this show moving.” The inner coordinates were already stored in his navigation system, allowing him to use auto-pilot. Hyun pressed back into his seat and closed his eyes for what should be a very quick ride through the serpentine tunnel into Pyro.
The ship slowly approached the vortex until it was sucked in and began traversing the light streaked tube of interspace. Huyn was about to relax for the remainder of the ride when sensors blared and his ship A.I. came alive. “Warning front collision. Increasing forward shields.” His eyes popped open. “Emergency brake applied. Warning front collision.”
Huyn braced himself. “What the hell??” His head slammed the back of the pilot’s seat as the Herald came to a full stop. Ahead, in the narrowest turn of the elliptic shape of the tunnel, there was a smoking wreck of ships. A decimated Hull B was between him and the spinning fuselage of a Freelancer. Dozens of metal crates floated around the two ships. Furthest away from him, he spotted another Freelancer. This one had the markings of a medical ship. Its turret and the right wing were on fire. Inside the cockpit, electrical sparks flashed like lightning.
Hyun had never seen a three shipwreck inside a jump tunnel. Of course, he’d heard of wrecks happening. Unskilled pilots traveling through one for the first time could fall victim to the precarious turns and sudden dips. But three ships?? Ship A.I. should have warned the approaching vessels of the wreck or — something!
As he reached to turn on his comms to alert the Stanton-side security agents, he wondered if this was the result of something else. Pirates were known to roam Pyro and would pass through here into Stanton. But who stages an attack inside a jump tunnel?? “Damn, you’d have to be pretty desperate,” he tutted to himself. “That or fucking crazy.”
Welcome to the Star Citizen NightBus, a quirky mixture of fact, fiction and opinion. I’m your host, Alysianah from AlysianahsWorld.com. There are only two show topics this week since both are rather lengthy. Alpha 3.0 Planetside Content and the conclusion of The Exterminator. You can hear part one of The Exterminator in NightBus episode 5.
Please sit back, relax and enjoy.
The Nightbus is existing statis. Please secure all personal items. Departing the station in 3…2…1
THE STAR CITIZEN EXPLORER PLAY STYLE TAKES FLIGHT
I gaze as far as the eye can see and I can go there if I please.
With the coming of Alpha patch 3.0, Star Citizen backers will be experiencing what I’m dubbing Explorer 1.0. It’s our first taste of seamlessly moving from space to a planetside location and back. Our first look at a free-roaming borderless planetside location. Where if you choose to, you can walk, fly or run the full circumference of a world. No barriers. No invisible walls.
In Richard Bartle’s classification of player types, I’m predominantly an Explorer. In Marczewski’s Hexad, I’m a Free Spirit and Philanthropist combo. I play MMOs to experience someone else’s vision of a fantastical world. Share stories about my adventures and help others along the way. I revel in turning what was provided to everyone into a unique experience that speaks to me and of me. I want to excel at the things that delight me most – crafting, trade and the economy. The content coming in Alpha patch 3.0 is the first beacon of light for my particular playstyle.
Our journey from deep space to a planet will be entirely under our own steam. No magic portal system handwavium lives here. From Port Olisar, I will request one of my ships and depart. Using the upcoming in-game Starmap, I’ll be able to choose a destination and quantum travel there, much like we can today, except that planetside locations will also be available. If I prefer the slower route, I can simply point my ship in the right direction and go.
As seen in the Gamescom 2016 demo, your ship will transition from space flight to atmospheric entry, and finally to atmospheric flight. This will be a seamless transition. No loading screens. Content will be streamed to your client as needed. After descending into the atmosphere you can put down at a designated landing zone or free roam, and land anywhere The only game controlled landing we expect to encounter, is if you deviate from authorized approach lanes, in densely populated cities. Beyond that, fly to where your desire leads.
A TRAVELER’S GUIDE: SETTING EXPECTATIONS FOR ALPHA 3.0 CELESTIALS
In order to create and continually populate CIG’s ambitious universe, they’ve developed technology for procedurally generating planets, painting biospheres, controlling weather effects, day/night cycles, dynamic lighting and the construction of modular surface outposts. Players will be play-testing the results of all this new this technology for the first time in Alpha 3.0. This is probably one of the reasons that the surface locations in the upcoming patch are three moons and a planetoid sized asteroid. By and large, these aren’t the types of locations you’d expected to be populated with dense cityscapes. It’s an alpha. They need to refine and test the tech’s core abilities first.
That said, there is diversity among the locations themselves:
In addition to exploring these three Crusader moons, two new mission-givers will be introduced. Miles Eckart and Ruto, both of whom made appearances in the GamesCom 2016 demo. With cargo hauling, trade, inventory management and grabby-hands arriving in the same patch, I’m certain we’ll see a diverse set of missions on planet surfaces and in space.
Given that this is a sandbox game, we can’t neglect the infinite opportunities for players to create their own fun – impromptu planetside PVP warzones. Dragonfly cannon races ala pod racing in Star Wars. Ground vehicle races using the Ursa Rover which will be available for the first time. And lots of RP type shenanigans.
Haters will denounce the release for starting with the moonscape type locations. I believe that you walk before you run. A slew of new tech is being rolled into Alpha 3.0 for play testing. I think we’ll enough on our hands to help test and bulletproof without the complexity of vast cityscapes.
Although space exploration is why I backed Star Citizen, I’m an MMO Explorer at heart. I enjoy seeing the sights and sounds of strange new worlds. I delight in finding quiet out of the way places. I’m fascinated by poking around the dwellings and artifacts of those worlds, discovering what they say about that supposed culture. Alpha 3.0 is where that journey begins for me.
BHAG – BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL INCOMING
To augment the procedural generation of planets and modular building sets, CIG will also be hand-crafting many zones to ensure that the universe feels unique and varied. Many have dubbed these efforts Hero Zones. One such zone has been included in the Alpha 3.0 schedule as a stretch goal. Meaning, if it’s ready, it’s in. If not, it doesn’t hold up the release.
The BHAG Zone for 3.0 is the inclusion of Delamar and its Levski landing zone. We saw a video of the landing zone quite some time ago and expected it to be added last year. However, CIG’s improvements to their development process with new technology and systems, sometimes means that completed content has to be reworked to fit the new standard.
Delamar and it’s landing zone will be added into the Alpha using sleight-of-hand. It’s not actually located in the Stanton star system, which is where the persistent universe alpha takes place. Delamar’s home is Nyx, an unclaimed star system populated with Anti-UEE activists, political radicals, and criminals.
For testing purposes, it will be temporarily placed in the Stanton star system. I’m crossing my fingers this zone makes it into 3.0. There’s cool lore about the subculture living there and the opportunities that can be found IF you’re willing to go off the beaten path into the underbelly of the beast. I’m no criminal but hey, it’s all in the name of testing.
I can barely contain my excitement. With this one patch, CIG breaches the siloed play testing we’ve experienced thus far into a unified game. There’s lots more coming in Alpha 3.0 – commodities trading, cargo hauling, true piracy targets and a reason to actually be a mercenary, all which I’ll discuss in NightBus Episode 7.
THE EXTERMINATOR PART 2 OF 2: You can read the conclusion of The Exterminator here.
That wraps up another episode of the Star Citizen Nightbus. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have, please considering subscribing to my channel and giving this episode a thumbs up. For more game commentary, lore, reviews, and other Star Citizen coverage, including mobile-friendly easier to read version of the official ARK Starmap data, please visit AlysianahsWorld.com. Be sure to register on Aly’s World for an exclusive Monthly Newsletter.
You can also support my videos, Alysianahsworld.com and my Star Citizen fiction efforts through my Patreon. A big thank you to my current subscribers. Your sponsorship is greatly appreciated!
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This is Alysianah signing off until next time. Be kind and fly safe!
The Nightbus has arrived. Please watch your step while departing. Re-entering stasis in 3…2…1
John slipped from shadow to shadow until he was across the aisle from habicube A19. To prevent the security system from locking them out of the room, the delinquent guests had placed a metal object at the base of the sliding door to keep it open. His pistol locked and loaded, he crossed to the other side, flattening himself against the wall to the left of the door. He heard an argument brewing inside.
There were two distinct voices. The man’s voice was agitated and traveled from side to side as if he was pacing. The woman’s voice was hushed and seemed nearer to the door. Her responses were clipped and defiant.
The man, “We to find a ride outta this rat trap. That bitch is starting to smell.”
“We need a plan before you get us killed,” the woman replied.
“Don’t have much time. Room money’s run out. Someone might be on the way already even in this dump of a station. Need to get moving.” Resolved he said, “Yeah, let’s get moving.”
“Pass. Rather take my own chances.”
“Suit yourself. I’m better alone. You’ve been useless anyhow,” he replied.
She laughed at him with a hint of loathing. “Too bad you can’t fly a ship even if you manage to steal one,” she said smugly.
“There is that. Guess that means you’re coming with me.”
“No, I’m not,” she replied mutinously.
“That’s not sounding friendly,” John thought to himself. Sensing that the scene he was hearing play out was about to escalate, he leaned forward to peeked through the door opening.
The room was steeped in filth. Empty food and beverage containers littered the floor. The woman had her back facing the door. She was in stained and perspiration soaked halter top and jeans. Her brown hair was cut short and plastered to her scalp. The man was tall, lanky, bald and wore a what looked like a prisoner’s uniform. He was standing in the far right corner next to the bed inset into the wall. Blood soaked sheets covered a lump on the bed.
“You wouldn’t have made it this far without me. I’m calling the shots.” The man raised a pistol toward the woman, a broken handcuff swinging from his wrist.
John had a clean shot if he could quickly thrust his hand in the opening. He hesitated for a moment considering his options. As though the man’s sixth sense of being watched had kicked in, he turned his head in John’s direction and their eyes locked.
The man pivoted his weapon in John’s direction and leaped toward the door. Whether to close it or grab the woman as shield John couldn’t know. What he did know was he couldn’t let this door close. John thrust his hand through the door opening while simultaneously dropping to the ground and began firing. The muzzle of the Gemini flared and smoked with each recoil. The woman who’d been standing fell to her knees screaming. Had she been hit? Couldn’t worry about that now. John pulled back using the door as cover.
Continuing to advance, the man screamed obscenities as he was hit. “Not taking me. Fuck you. You’re gonna die!”
John kept firing. Inside the room, blood splatters rained like confetti. Inches away from him, the man’s body finally fell forward, his skull hitting the slab floor with a sickening crack.
John vaulted to a standing position. He pressed his shoulder through the door forcing it open while reloading his pistol. “Station security,” he said with authority. Training his pistol on the women he shouted, “Don’t move.” Looking down at her, he doubted she’d move. She was in a ball sobbing hysterically.
When the woman calmed down enough to speak, John asked her name. She didn’t answer immediately. Leaning against the wall opposite here, he waited patiently for her to respond.
Trying to regain her composure and pointedly looking away from the corpse on the floor she said, “Diane. Diane Shea.”
“What happened here? This guy kidnap you?”
Diane’s pupils were dilated. Black orbs in a milky white sky. It never occurred to her to lie. Her voice was unsteady as she spoke. “No. Not really.” She wiped at the mascara stained tears leaving black tracks down her face. “We were on a slave ship headed to Kins.”
Incredulous, John replied. “Wait. What? Nah, not legal in UEE space. Not even to transport. Going to have to sell me something else sister. Tell me straight and I’ll be straight, that’s my motto.”
“I was in Yulin with… Guess you’d call him my boyfriend. Guess I knew he was running a scam. He was taking bets on Sataball. Things didn’t work out. We ran up a bill at the hotel we were staying at and he skipped out on it and me.” Her voice trailed off.
“He left me there sleeping. I couldn’t pay it. No one to call to ask to pay it.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Sentenced to three months indentured service.” She inhaled deeply and shook her head back and forth. “Like that shit wasn’t bad enough the assholes transporting us decided they could get more for the women if they sold us on the black market instead of transporting.”
The pain in her voice was too authentic to doubt. John eased up and prodded her gently to continue. “Kins huh. How’d you get here?”
“Ronnie,” she glanced at the corpse on the floor then averted her eyes again. “Hatched a plan to get us all out if someone could fly the ship.” She paused, transfixed by the blood on her hands. Suddenly revolted, she began scrubbing her palms up and down the front of her jeans.
John’s voice broke her out of her trance. “And?”
“And I can…fly a little. Enough to get us in the air anyway. Autopilot somewhere safe.”
Diane took it as disbelief. She briefly looked up at him. “I’m a dropout of many things. One of those being civ flight training.”
Diane explained that when they realized the ship was stopping for fuel in Stanton, they hatched a plan to lure one of their two captures into the female holding cell. Lara, an unlicensed prostitute who’d been snatched, volunteered to be the bait since she was dressed for the part.
Things hadn’t gone to plan. The guard was small but put up a huge struggle. After someone had grabbed his key and let Ronnie out of his cell, he’d killed the guard. Things went from bad to worse after rushing the cockpit ended in a standoff. Hoishee was hit and died instantly. The pilot bio-locked the controls while returning fire and quantum jumped to here.
Diane’s voice was steadier. “We think he also called for back up. Ronnie said we needed to run and take our chances so we did. He grabbed what he could on the way out – anything we might be able to sell quickly. Lara was hurt. I found the medkit and a coat to throw over her to hide the injury.”
“How many of you were there?” John interrupted.
“Four. Me, Ronnie, Lara, and Hoishee.” Diane cupped her face in her hands. “No one was supposed to die. Just wanted to get out of there.”
John looked at the bloody bundle on the bed. “That Lara?”
“Yes. Ronnie sold what he’d grabbed to rent this room and get some food. I tried… did what I could but I’m no medic. When we couldn’t stop the bleeding I gave her all the pain meds to — to stop her screaming. It was making Ronnie crazy. He started shouting and threatening to drag her off and dump her.” A shudder ran through Diane from head to toe. “I gave her all the pain meds in the kit and held her hand ‘til she was quiet.”
“You mean until she was dead.”
“Yes.” Diane’s legs were starting to cramp. She stood cautiously, raising her hands up when she saw John put his hand on the pistol protruding from his waistband. “What happens now?”
“There are dead people here. Someone has to answer for that. The ship you arrived on could still be here. More dead bodies.” He shook his head in disgust. “When you’re looking for trouble, you find it, I always say.” John looked Diane up and down seeing if she had any pockets. “You armed?”
“No. Never had a weapon. Was lookout in the cargo hold. I saw what happened in the cockpit on the remote camera.” Pleading in her voice she said, “I just wanna go home. Can’t you just let me go? They were going to…” Bile rose in her throat. She clamped both hands over her mouth and swallowed it back down. Wrapping her arms around herself she said, “It’s not right what they were going to do.”
“No, it’s not right. Fucking scum.” He spat. “Delinquent checkout for this room was logged for a security check. There are bodies here that have to be accounted for.”
“Do they what?” John asked.
“Have to be accounted for?” Diane asked meekly.
John rounded on her. “You were looking for trouble and found it. Don’t you think Lara’s family deserves to know she’s dead? What about this Hoishee person. I don’t know what Ronnie’s story was but he might have someone who’d like to know the same.”
“He was a drifter and a thief. This was his third stint doing time he said. Got no tears for him.” Deflated, she exhaled a sigh that completely emptied her lungs.
“Look, under the circumstances, you’ll probably be set free after the investigation.”
“After this kinda scared to take my chances. Know what I mean?”
John knew exactly what she meant. Everything would be hearsay about who’d done what. A lawyer friend once told him that if there’s a body, there’s a trial. People feel safer if someone’s feet are held to the flame when there’s a corpse. In this case, though, the ship logs could validate the story of being picked up in Yulin and a destination set for Kins that was later altered, diverting them to Stanton. But the deaths within the Stanton jurisdiction – they’d want someone’s hide for those. Right or wrong, examples were often made to make the next person think twice.
“I feel for ya kid. Having fun-n-games turn to this.” He flipped open his mobiGlas and set the status of the eviction request to completed. He’d finish the official report later. For now, he wanted to prevent anyone else from being assigned the case since he was already on site. John turned his thoughts to the unpleasantness ahead. He’d have to secure the prisoner and take her planetside for processing. Turning to Diane he said, “I’m going to have to cuff you.” He saw panic in her eyes. “I am NOT going to hurt you.”
“Don’t do this.” she pleaded. “It’s not right. Not my fault,” she said her voice rising. “Fuck those guys. If we hadn’t stopped them, they were going to sell us!”
“You’re right. Absolutely right but it’s not my job to make those judgments,” he said moving forward cautiously. “Live right and it’ll be alright. Just doing my part of the job. Local authorities will do the rest.”
Diane dropped her head and her shoulders sagged, resigned to her fate. When John was in front of her and about to ask her to turn around so he could cuff her, a thought occurred him. Where was he taking her? Grim Hex was in the Crusader vicinity but not managed or policed by that corporation. His official contracted work on Grim Hex was to evict delinquent guests and prevent damage to the functional habicubes. This situation no longer fits that scenario. Diane was certainly willing to leave and wasn’t that always his first course of action? Mutually beneficial agreement to vacate? He couldn’t imagine the ream of paperwork associated with reporting this situation. Damn it, he’d be planetside for hours and that’s after figuring out where to take her.
He reached to pull handcuffs out of his back pocket but paused mid-action. “Can you get out of here if I let you go?”
“What?” Diane looked up in confusion.
“If I cut you loose can you get off this station? Anyone you can call for transport?”
Diane brought a hand up to her mouth. Thinking, her eyes darted back and forth. Finally, she said, “No — not really,” dejection in her voice.
“Shit.” Exasperated, John said, “Can’t leave you here. Will end up in more trouble or worse.”
Grasping at straws Diane offered, “I can find work real quick or work for a seat on a ship out of here.”
“This isn’t that kind of station. Little to no work here but lots of trouble. Is only a few steps away from anarchy.”
“Oh. Should have guessed. Little we saw, the place is a dump.” An idea occurred her. A small ray of hope. “Could you maybe help me? I’d find a way to pay you back. I swear.”
“Not really my thing. I like to keep things simple. Don’t ask favors. Don’t do ‘em. Keeps everything on a level playing field.”
“Oh. I see. Well then so just let me go. I’m not your problem.”
John considered this option. He wondered how he’d feel if the next he heard of her, she was a corpse on Grim. Or worse. He did believe there were things worse than death out in the cold black of space. “Even if you find work, you wouldn’t earn enough to pay for a place to stay while saving to get out of here.” He didn’t mean to direct it at her but there was a bit of agitation in his voice. This was becoming the opposite of keeping it simple. And he had other work requests to process.
“That’s not your problem. You think I was headed to a luxury hotel? Sleeping in a stairwell is better than that.” Diane flinched when John suddenly took two strides and was suddenly next to her. When she realized that she wasn’t his target, she moved out of his way.
John entered his authorization code into a keypad on the door. A small panel slid open revealing an LCD display. He accessed the room’s status sheet and set the occupancy rating to “non-functional” | cause “Safety hazard. Air purification unit irregularities” | access permissions “security and maintenance only”. He closed the panel and turned to Diane.
“I’ve set the room to inoperable until it’s been repaired. I’ll call the local Search and Rescue Authority to collect the bodies. After that, you can stay here while you work on getting off the station.”
Diane’s mouth fell open. “Really? How much time does that give me? How long til a repair crew shows up?”
“Forever. Nothing gets repaired on Grim Hex. The company that owns these Habicubes collects revenue that’s readily collectible and that’s it. No maintenance crews. Shops are locally owned and maintained. But I don’t advise overstaying your welcome. Lots of trouble to be had, especially on this strutt.”
A small bit of relief came over Diane’s face. She closed her eyes and inhaled. When she opened them, she looked into John’s eyes and tentatively reached for his hands. John let her grab his hand and give it a shake. “Thank you. I won’t be trouble. Will be out of here as fast as I can.” She crossed her right hand over her heart. “Trust me. I’ve learned a scary lesson. Outta here as soon as I’m able.”
To her, he said, “Sure thing. Do right and it’ll be alright. Remember that okay?”
She nodded her head in agreement. “How will I get in and out?”
“Going to take you to a friend of mine. Nice woman. Get you a meal and maybe she has…” He looked at her blood and dirt stained clothes. “Something you can wear for now. In the meantime, I’ll get you a keycard that will access this habicube. With any luck, the bodies will be clear before you come back. Hopefully, an acquaintance of mine is working Search and Rescue today. I’ll slip her their names. Corpse retrieval team will clean up biofluids. That’s a public health hazard. For the rest this mess, you’re on your own.” John opened his mobi. “You know Lara’s full name or anything that might help ID her?”
“Lara Billingsley. Think she was a runaway from way back. She mentioned earth several times.”
“Sorry. No. Hoishee was pretty quiet the whole time. Calm compared to me and Lara. She didn’t say much. Got the impression this wasn’t her first run-in with being detained by the Banu.”
“What about the ship you were on? Need to see if it’s still here.”
“Was a rigged up Cutlass Black. Had the name Vipers Den painted on the outside. I heard them mention holding up in Spider after they’d collected on us.” The horror of the past events washed over her, raising goose pimples on her flesh. Hugging herself Diane said, “Sorry, that’s all I know.”
“It’s a start. C’mon lets get you out of here for a while. I’ll flag the bodies for emergency pick-up to move things along.”
Maggie looked up from wiping down the bar to see John walking through the door with a bedraggled young woman at his side. Maggie recognized the jacket the woman was in, as the one she’d seen John wearing earlier. “This looks interesting,” she mused to herself. When the pair reached the bar she said, “Didn’t expect to see you back here today.”
“Wasn’t part of my day’s plan either, Maggs. This here’s Diane.” Turning to Diane he said, “This is Maggs. The friend I was telling you about.”
“Rated a friend already?” Maggs said. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“You are and it’s meant to be one.”
Maggie smiled. She was instantly charmed – again, even though she felt a request for a favor coming. “Nice to meet you, Diane.”
“Same,” Diane said in a low voice.
“I kind of need a favor, Maggs.”
“Happy to help if I can.”
John relayed the events that had happened since they’d last spoken. He hoped the retelling of it and the choices he’d made wouldn’t offend her. He was glad not to see any condemnation in her expression as she listened. Unbeknownst to John, Maggie would never have reacted that way. She’d been around too long and had seen too much to be shocked by what he’d told her. In fact, she was happily surprised that he’d decided to help Diane. It didn’t seem in character for him to skirt the law, being the man of specific values and dictums. She was glad he’d bent his rules this time.
Maggie showed Diane into the employee restroom to clean up and change into a pair of overalls she kept in her office. She made her a plate of food to eat now and an extra to take with her. She suggested Diane eat and rest a bit in her office while the rest was being worked out.
John and Maggie were sitting at the far end of the bar having a drink. “You did the right thing, I think,” Maggie offered. “I can give her couple hours a day of work in exchange for food or credits. Whichever she prefers. Will also put the word out with folks I trust.”
“You’re the best, Maggs.”
“You’re a good guy, John. People told me you were and they were right.”
“You mean good guy as in violating my contract by falsifying the condition of the habicube? Getting a stranger a keycode to live there free? Lying about how I know the dead girl’s name?” He shook his head thinking about what he’d done.
“Life’s not always black and white, John.” She interrupted his ready reply. “I know. I know. You have your way of doing things. That’s all well and good when it’s possible.” She put her hand on his shoulder and waited until she had his full attention. “You are a good man, JJ. In this situation, it was the right thing to do.”
John smiled and shrugged his shoulders in acquiescence. “If you say so, Maggs.”
“I do. ‘Cuz even good people paint outside the lines sometimes.”