The Exterminator Part 2

The Exterminator Part 2 of 2

John slipped from shadow to shadow until he was across the aisle from habicube A19. The delinquent guests had placed a small metal object at the base of the sliding door to keep it open, preventing the security system from locking them inside when they’d overstayed their welcome. His pistol locked and loaded, John crossed to the other side, flattening himself against the wall to the left of the door. Hearing movement near the door, he froze in place and listened.

Inside he heard two distinct voices. A man’s voice, that sounded agitated traveled from side to side as if pacing. A woman’s voice was hushed and seemed nearer to the door.

The man, “We to find a ride outta this rat hole. That bitch is starting to smell.”

“We need to stay calm. We need a plan or you’re going to get us both killed,” the woman replied, her voice breaking.

“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.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you without a plan. Rather my chances on my own from here.”

“Suit yourself. I’m better alone now anyway,” he replied.

She laughed at him with a hint of loathing. “I bet you are. 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 defiantly.

“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 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 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? Could worry about that now. John pulled his arm back a little 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.

“And?”

“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.”

John grunted.

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?”

“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 go 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. I’ll slip her their names. Corpse retrieval team will clean up bio fluids. 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.”

“The others?”

“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 it. 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 in 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 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.

Maggie understood John’s conundrum from his point of view. “Life isn’t always black and white, John.” He was about to reply but she cut him off. “I know. I know, you have your way of doing things. And that’s all well and good when it’s possible.” She put her hand on his shoulder and waited she has his full attention. “You are a good man, John James. And in this situation, it was the right thing to do.”

John smiled and shrugged his shoulders in acquiesce. “If you say so, Maggs.”

“I do. ‘Cuz even good people paint outside of the lines sometimes.”

 

THE END

Copyright © Alysianah Noire – 2017 All Rights reserved
Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are the property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.


The Exterminator Part 2 Teaser

I live in a world where stars collide silent and unseen…

My weekend started on Thursday. I’m taking time off for some family activities. During any downtime, I’ll be working on the conclusion to The Exterminator, which debuted in Nightbus Episode 5. Yesterday evening I did something rather unnerving – for me at least, that will be shared on Monday. I’ll give you a hint. Tyler from Cloud Imperium Games was involved.

After The Exterminator, I’ll be revisiting Cami from Chop Shop, whose story was told in NightBus Episode 3. The narration of the story will be a collaboration that I’m very excited about orchestrating. I’ll be writing the story specifically to support three different character points of view. I’ll discuss more as I get closer to finishing the content.  For now, here’s a teaser for the conclusion of The Exterminator.


More Content Incoming

I live in a world where stars collide silent and unseen…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reorganizing the content on AlysianahsWorld.com to meet near-term plans. I will be writing more about Star Citizen, what I’m doing within that community, writing more fiction and getting back to my blogging roots. I felt it was necessary to reorganize how my articles are grouped and categorized to support these changes.

For the hardcore followers of Star Citizen’s development, there’s no lack of available topics. For me, it was about finding the time to research and produce the type of shows that bear my personal signature, which takes a lot of time just for that, much less blog or author other articles. Now that things have settled down in my world, I have more time for my longest running hobby – gaming and writing about my gaming. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more.


Star Citizen Nightbus EP05 - Referral Contest Kerfuffle and More

This week’s episode of Nightbus takes on some drama, theory crafting, tidbits and new fiction.

Show Transcript

Welcome to the Star Citizen NightBus, a quirky mixture of fact, fiction and opinion. I’m your host, Alysianah from AlysianahsWorld.com. This week’s show are:

  • Surface level resource nodes. Are you for or against?Interesting Facts
  • Interesting FactsMore Kerfuffle – Ben’s Response to Community feedback on the Referral Program kicks up more dust
  • More Kerfuffle – Ben’s Response to Community feedback on the Referral Program kicks up more dustThe Exterminator Part One
  • The Exterminator Part One

Please sit back, relax and enjoy.

The Nightbus is existing statis. Please secure all personal items. Departing the station is 3…2…1

Surface Level Resource Nodes

With planetary landings on the horizon, conversations have started within the community, speculating on the methods CIG might utilize for planetside node harvesting in Star Citizen.

Every MMO that I’ve played, and I’ve played every AAA MMO that’s come to North America over the past 20 years, has utilized surface level node collection. The one exception being SOE’s Landmark which — well, in the end, didn’t materialize into the planned MMO, Everquest Next, so perhaps that one doesn’t even count.

By surface level nodes, I mean objects that appear directly on the surface of the visible terrain. Even when a node is inside a cave, it’s on the surface — you can see it. There’s no digging below terrain you’re standing on.

I don’t have a problem when games only employing surface level nodes. They’re easy to find and access, which makes harvesting a more casual affair. Depending on the concentration of nodes needed to support the player-base however, surface nodes can clutter up the landscape if not done very well. And require very unnatural looking zones of heavy density of nodes to support large-scale collection.

While digging below the surface wouldn’t bother me, I’m fine with surface-only. I enjoy harvesting casually while I explore. Finding resources below the surface necessitates more intent than aimlessly meandering and picking up whatever you happen to see. Or opportunistically harvesting while you’re traveling.

I’ve recently seen high concentration surface level nodes only done very well. Unlike most other MMOs using surface nodes, BDO doesn’t use visual cues that can be seen from a distance. You can’t tell if an element is a harvestable node until you’re right on it. And the nodes themselves – ore, plants, trees, etc., look like any other part in of landscape. This results in a natural looking environment that doesn’t break your immersion or call your attention to “fake thing here” when you’re not trying to harvest.

In BDO, I explore while harvesting because you have to mingle in with the environment to know if you can gather an item. I enjoy walking along the furrowed rows of a farm along side NPCs maintaining it, looking for vegetables to harvest for cooking recipes. Chopping down trees in a nearby wood while seeing if there were any quest mobs in the area. Or vice versa.

So while I’m open to surface only, beneath only or a combination, I found BDO’s surface only implementation quite compelling and natural. Do you have a preference? What game have you played that got it just right?

Interesting Facts brought to by Star Hangar


For more interesting facts, check out the Star Hangar Facebook page. I’ll include a link in the Show Notes

More Kerfuffle – Referral Program Contest Hits a Sour Note

If you’ve subscribed on Alysianahsworld.com, you know that in my May newsletter, I expressed my thoughts on the whole Referral Program contest kerfuffle. The short version is that something that was initially billed as an exciting restructuring of the program does not a one time contest make. I was expecting a permanent enhancement to the program aka restructuring, that all backers could work toward over the lifetime of their referral activity. Who thought a timed contest with a short duration was going to excite most of us, was sadly mistaken. The game development is in alpha, yes. But it’s time for marketing and communications raise their game out of alpha mode.

Ben Lesnick of CIG, posted a reply in a thread on Spectrum that addresses some of the concerns expressed by a part of the community. Why they showed referral codes of some, concerns about it being timed event that most can’t reach and why the new backer push with such a harsh new player experience, among other things. Net-net is that they appreciate the feedback and are going to work on improvements in the area of new player experience and it appears they’re going to extend the time to allow us “regular folks” a chance at the lower tier items.

While it’s good to see a direct response and some action. It’s sad that this sort of misstep happened in the first place. It’s as if they don’t know this community at all or worse, they don’t perceive the disconnect between what they say sometimes versus what they actually do. I’m sorry but we shouldn’t be having these kinds of disconnects at this stage of the game.

DO NOT USE MARKETING SPIN when communicating with the backer community. Save that for potential customers when the game goes live. Save that for interviews. PLEASE SPEAK PLAIN LANGUAGE TO US. This will greatly reduce the unnecessary drama that inspirational letters from Chris won’t always be able to solve. Stop using that and conciliatory messages afterward as a crutch. Please please, get it together and consider vetting this stuff outside the circle of people working on it. Perhaps they’re too close to it and can’t see the pitfalls that other CIG staff who interact with the community might have before the cat was out of the bag.

If you haven’t seen Ben’s response, check the Show Notes for a direct link.

The Exterminator Part One – Original fan fiction by Alysianah Noire

 

Wrap Up

That wraps up another episode of the 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 of my Star Citizen coverage visit alysianahsworld.com, where you’ll also find Aly’s Starmap Matrix, a mobile-friendly easier to read version of the official ARK Starmap. While you’re there be sure to register on Aly’s World for an exclusive Monthly Newsletter.

You can also support my videos and Alysianahsworld.com efforts through my Patreon and receive exclusive articles, more fan fiction, narrations, monthly extract of Aly’s Starmap Matrix and more. A big thank you to my current subscribers. Your sponsorship is greatly appreciated!

If you haven’t created an account yet on RobertsSpaceIndustries.com, you can earn 5K in-game currency when the game goes live by using my referral code when you do and I’ll also earn some in-game goodies. You’ll find my referral code in the show notes.

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

HOW TO SUPPORT THE SHOW AND WEBSITE

You can donate using Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Alysianah

Use my referral code and earn 5K UEC when creating an account on RobertsSpaceIndustries.com: Referral Code: STAR-QSVR-JFTR

Direct Links


The Exterminator Part 1

THE EXTERMINATOR BY ALYSIANAH NOIRE

Audio version available on YouTube: Star Citizen Nightbus Episode 5

“John James, plain name, simple life,” John introduced himself. Followed by “Or you can call me JJ. I’ve no preference.” He reached across the bar toward Maggie and gave her hand a friendly shake.

Maggie immediately warmed to his disarming smile. Was it a trick of the light or were his eyes sparkling? “On drugs more like,” she thought to herself. Shit! She might have to find someone else. But he’d come so highly recommended. She stepped from behind the bar to join him on the other side.

Maggie was in her late fifties with spiky gray hair she kept long on the top and cut close on the sides and at the back. The lines on her face aged her beyond her years. But the fact that she’d been a beauty in her youth was evident.

Maggie and John were standing at the bar of Maggie’s Red Dragon pub, a popular hangout on Grim Hex. The public space was a large rectangular room divided into distinct quadrants. The decor was a cheap gaudy attempt at the Asian Revival design that had been popular two or more decades ago. Circular black and white rice paper chandeliers with missing panels hung from the ceiling. Scarred wooden dragons acted as vertical beams, the blood red paint chipped and faded. A rumpled threadbare gold and purple lotus patterned carpet was spread across the floor.

Maggie pointed to the areas as she described them. “I’ve got just the one room here as you can see. Pool tables there.” She pointed to the back left corner. “Card tables there.” Back right corner. Pointing to the front half of the room where they were standing,“Up here is all dining.”

John absentmindedly scratched at the three days of stubble on his chin as he listened. He didn’t say anything so Maggie shrugged and continued. Pointing to a door centered on the wall behind the bar she said, “Back there is the kitchen, my office, and restroom.”

“Just staff?” He asked.

“Yeah. Public restrooms too much trouble. Kept finding empty syringes, vials. That Black Widow crap smells like a rotting flesh. Vagrants sleeping, couples fucking — you name it.”

John laughed. He could imagine that and worse. “Hex customers aren’t known for their manners.”

“Drug busts in the men’s room. Last of it for me. Walled it off from this side and renting it out as a commercial stall on the other. Young kid doing tats out of the space. Name’s Ronnie. Seems like a good kid. Pays on time. Customers welcome to eat, drink, ‘n party here. Take care of their other needs elsewhere.”

“I’ve walked through some of those elsewheres,” he joked. “No entrance on this side to the tat place?”

“Nah. Registered as a separate location. This work is only for here.”

“Okay. Cool. It’s really just the one room then. Kitchen looks secure,” he said pointing to the hand scanner on the door. “The glass opening bulletproof?”

“Yep, had that installed last year. So this the kind of job you take? I know you’re bounty but was told you take freelance stuff too. You came highly recommended just wasn’t sure this is your thing.”

As was his custom, John diligently tapped notes into his mobiGlas. He preferred the palm size translucent version. It fit easily into his pockets – pants or a jacket. He especially liked that if necessary the display could be enlarged into an interactive holographic image.

Noticing that Maggie had stopped talking he looked up. His smile was genuine and raised his cherub-like cheeks high on his face. Dark curly hair rested on his forward just above a bushy unibrow that arched gently over gray eyes. “I do most any security work on contract if I can fit it in comfortably. If I can’t, I’ll refer you to someone.” He continued tapping in notes. “No point in stressing to squeeze it.” Looking up he said, “Or stressing you if I can’t be here when needed.” His face back on his mobi, “I like to keep it simple. Works best that way.”

Maggie nodded her head, still uncertain if that meant he was taking the job or not. “Okay…”

“John James, plain name, simple life, is my motto.”

“Uh sure,” was all Maggie could think to say again.

He closed the mobi and gave Maggie his full attention. “Looks like I can fit you in. Friday and Saturday from 10 PM until close which is?

“2 AM.”

“Right!” He walked away from Maggie to survey the space himself. “I’d like to install security cameras in each section.”

Maggie walked toward the card tables where John had wandered over to. “How much does that cost?”

He chuckled. “My expense if we can agree I can take emergency calls when the place is quiet.” He saw her eyebrows arch up and smiled. “Only local — emergencies. I discount for the time I’m out.” He sauntered back toward the front and leaned on the bar. “Cameras are my eyes and ears. Also, solid evidence if you need if you insist on pressing charges. I prefer to work things out in other ways but here, you’re the boss.”

With concern in her voice, Maggie asked, “You expect that to happen often? Being away during my shift?”

“Never know. Just a precaution. This is side work for me. Filler. Routing pirates and vagrants are my main meal ticket. I’m a senior security and bounty contractor for Hurston, Crusader, and ArcCorp. I get first dibs ‘round here so that’s my priority. If I don’t take a gig, I lose it and eventually, get bumped down the ladder for new work.” His tone was light. His voice even.

Maggie came to stand beside him. “I don’t know. I had trouble a few days. Is why I started asking around.” She wrung her hands. “It got pretty bad. I need those hours covered. Place is rowdiest then. Station’s been seeing more traffic lately. Some looking for work or to shop. Others for trouble.”

He reached out and took one of Maggie’s hands. He patted it like they were old friends. “I hear ya. Totally understand.” Humming quietly to himself he flipped open his mobi. “Let me shoot you a couple names. Either one of these will do just as well.” He returned to humming while he scrolled through his contacts. “Neither are A level cuz they’ll have the same problem as me. Local corp work comes first.” His head bobbed slightly to the tune that only he could hear.

“Oh, I hadn’t realized. I just asked around about who’s best…”

“That’d be me,” he said absentmindedly. “Here we go. Try…”

Maggie cut him off. “Several said you’re the best and actually a good guy. Everyone said that — good guy.”

“I try, Maggie dear, I do try. I keep it simple. Live right. It’ll be alright. That’s my motto.”

“Well if you think it will work…” She hesitated. “I’m up for giving it a try.”

He looked up and graced her with the full force of his penetrating gaze and smiled. “Trust me, it’ll be fine. Wouldn’t steer you wrong. Do no harm is my motto.”

Maggie caught her breath. “Well damn, “ she thought to herself, “His eyes actually do sparkle.” To him, she said, “Send the contract and I’ll authorize it.”

He pointed his mobi at Maggie and swiped his finger from it to her. “There you go.”

“Oh — sorry, don’t have a mobile one. Will pick it up off the one in my office.

“No worries.”

“Can you start this week?”

He extended his hand and Maggie accepted it. “Sure can. Will install the cameras on my first shift.”

She hoped she wasn’t blushing. He was too young for her. He wasn’t even particularly handsome. “But there’s something about him,” she decided inwardly.

“Pleasure doing business you with Mags. Off to do my rounds.” John slid his hands into his jacket pockets and sauntered toward the exit. Over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t hesitate if something comes up before then. You’re one of John’s now. I’ll come as quick as I can.”

Maggie patted the sides of her hair and wiped gently at the edges of her eyes as if that could erase the heavy crow’s feet nesting there. “Okay. Sure. Thanks.” Her voice cracked on the last and John gave her a knowing look. She turned away, her cheeks flaming.

***

“Now for the main event,” John said to himself. He checked the work queue on his mobi to verify the habicube eviction request he’d received earlier was still active. It was. Maggie’s pub was at the back of Hex-D, one of the cleaner struts on the space station. The work request was in Hex-A, the worst area. The quickest way there would be through the tunnels.

The tunnels, as they’re called by locals, are a network of secured maintenance routes burrowed into the giant asteroid turned mining station and housing exchange, now a self-governing powder key. A handful of legit merchants had stayed after the Imperial Green mining operation pulled out. Having invested all their life savings in establishing businesses here, they couldn’t afford to pack up and run when the mines dried up and the criminal element began infiltrating the station, trying to secure a foothold in Stanton.

Industrious opportunists stayed too. They squatted in available spaces, installed personal generators and opened for business. Imperial retained control of the functioning self-service habicubes and continued to collect the revenue. But everything on the station was an “as is” situation. No maintenance or repairs. When things stopped working on Grim Hex, they stopped working forever.

John whistled as he made his way to the closest maintenance tunnel. He unlocked the massive vault-like door with his access code. As the door retracted, he ducked his six-foot-four stocky frame through the opening. It was pitch black inside. He pulled out the flashlight he kept clipped on his belt.

With no maintenance crews on the station, lighting in the tunnels was spotty. A good distance ahead, he could see a pinprick of yellow light flickering. He panned his flashlight around him and forward to get his bearings. The jagged walls of the tunnel glistened with sweat. Rusted pipes overhead lead the way forward. They hissed angry pockets of steam from cracked wounds. John started walking, his boots echoing every footstep.

Although it would be a reduced payout, John hoped the occupants had voluntarily vacated by now. The request was two hours hold. He’d get his 25% fee for swiping in at the location as evidence he’d checked it out. It would be easier for everyone if they were already gone.

Persuading vagrants to depart on their own was his preferred solution. Convincing would-be pirates to vacate the area with words or by force was better than disabling, capturing and hauling them planetside for processing in his book. “Everyday flying free above the rock is a good day,” was his motto.

Seasonal supplies and the mandatory annual physical required by his contract were the only times John went planetside. He was impatient waiting at the medical facility. He fidgeted waiting in line at the surplus warehouse where he bought non-perishable food supplies. He grunted trying to maneuver around the [other customers] picking through clothing haphazardly tossed into “Final Sale” bins. The streets were the worst, especially on ArcCorp. The teeming throngs of yackers brushing by and bumping into you at every turn. It made his skin crawl to be scurrying among them on the anthill.

John was almost at the other end now. He could see the door clearly from here. He pulled his Gemini L86 from the back waistband of his pants and checked the magazine. It was full. He reached down and grabbed a fresh magazine one from the bottom right pocket of his cargo pants. He put away the flashlight. Just before stepping through the exit, he slid the pistol into his right jacket pocket and the fresh mag into his left.

He emerged from the tunnel and waited until the door locked behind him. Strut A was quiet. Fewer people than not normal around. He wondered why but kept moving. He nodded to a group of guys decked out in grunge gear, hunched around a fist-sized glass vial full of red smoke. “Red Alice”, he mused to himself. A popular psychotropic drug that caused temporary paralysis when overdosed. Just beyond the group of men, was the metal grated staircase to the next level. John took the steps two at a time then turned left into Strut A’s shanty town. A dead end of the lowest rate habicubes, fronted by first-come-first-served cardboard sleeping spots and perfumed in urine. With no merchants on this side, there was no one to complain or pay for security to keep the place civil.

The cube he was looking for was second to last on the left. As he approached, he saw a bloody trail leading to the door. Drops of blood on the gray slab floor like bread crumbs. A bloody palm smeared on the door frame. He eased his pistol out of his pocket and moved into the shadows along the opposite wall.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Copyright © Alysianah Noire – 2016 All Rights reserved
Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are the property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.


Chop Shop

CHOP SHOP BY ALYSIANAH NOIRE

Audio version available on YouTube: Star Citizen Nightbus Episode 3

White hot lightning exploded inside her head. Or at least, that’s how it felt. Cami screamed and convulsed. Pain rippled through her like a jackhammer. She bucked violently. Rough hands tried to keep her still. She felt someone shove something between her teeth. All around, sensors blared, voices yelled and the klaxon boomed. She wanted to die.

She felt a sharp jab in her left arm. Instinctively, she rolled her head in that direction but… She couldn’t see. It was like staring into the sun from one eye and nothing from the other. Slowly a small measure of her pain receded. Her limbs felt heavy. The voices around her quieted. She was weightless and floating away. Wait. No, being carried. Cami tried to reach out but her hand flopped back down like a dead fish. She felt someone take her hand and squeeze it gently, before folding it across her chest. When darkness came for her, she wanted to resist. To tell Death calling him was a mistake. The pain was manageable now. She fought to stay conscious but her eyelids were like lead. Her world faded black.

***

Cami moaned. She could feel every beat of her heart as a pile driver behind her right eye. The vision from her left eye was blurry. She tried looking around only to realize her head was being restrained. She blinked a few times and her surroundings came into focus. Using her peripheral vision, she could see that she was in a makeshift medbay aboard a ship. The wall racks and wenches on the ceiling gave her the impression of it actually being a retrofitted cargo bay.

There was another medical cot with an autodoc to her immediate left. A stained curtain separated the two beds but they were drawn back. Across from her, she saw chipped and scuffed ship components painted bright yellow and the once white MISC logo, now gray and faded around the edges. Familiar with the layout, she knew that the storage containers bolted along the wall were blocking the Freelancer emblem. The medbay…cargo bay…whatever, sounded hollow, like being inside a tin can. It echoed the faint sounds of a monitor chirping out the rhythm of her pulse. The equipment in her field of view looked dated and dingy – held together with plexi and cable ties. A basin of blood soaked rags was on a metal tray at her feet.

She heard a mumble a short distance away but couldn’t see anyone. She tried to speak but it came out as a croak. “Wh-where…”

A man in a rumpled khaki jumpsuit hobbled into view. He was hunched over, age bearing down on him. His brown face was cracked like old leather. “Awake?” He clapped his hands together and nodded. “Rasa very happy see this.” His smile was genuine.

Cami tried speaking again, “Where am I? Wh-what happened?”

“Accident them say,” Rasa replied. “Came rushing. Nearly knock off orbit docking fast n reckless.” He tutted under his breath as he moved to read Cami’s vitals on the autodoc display. “Four carried you on stretcher. Had you topped off with Ops for pain. Surprised you lasted from Tanga. Near jump I guess.”

Cami’s reply had the halting cadence of someone trying to remember a dream – or nightmare in this case. “We were – I think. Lots of bottom feeding miners in Tanga. Harvesting fast, chasing heavy metals.” Her voice gained more confidence. “I was clearing a jam from the pul-pulverizer. Piece of shit barely worked. Usually take the raws over to Gray-Jaw, Jimmy Chi’s reclaimer for processing. This shift we were trying to stay out longer – make a few extra creds each. Luther and I were at it with rods, trying to clear the input tray. It started grinding and then there was a high-pitched squeal.” Cami shuddered. “Fragments spun loose and …” She started inhaling in short shallow burst as if suffocating.

Rasa, still standing near the AutoDoc controls tapped a button then moved to stand beside her. She felt an icy coldness creep up her arm that had the IV. Her body began to relax. The rising terror on her face melted away. “Rest. Over now. Be good soon. Can go home.”

“Home?”

He smiled down at her. “Yes.” He nodded several times. “Eye socket cleaned, stitched and gave plasma. Need patch few weeks.” He patted her hand. “But is good. Yes, can go home next day.” Enthusiastically he added, “And have change!”

“Change?” Cami struggled to keep up with what Rasa was saying but she was being tugged down into the darkness.

As if giving good news he said,“Yes, I do fair prices. Friends leave your share and add a bit extra, they say. Help you straight.”

Cami replied in a small voice. Her tongue heavy in her mouth. “But my – my eye? Fixed?” She went to lift a hand to it, only to realize they were strapped to the bed.

Rasa sighed. “Is gone. Ruptured. More force you dead.” An alert sounded. Rasa checked his mobi. “New patient.” He plucked at his overgrown salt-n-pepper beard while reading the details. “Quick fix. You rest.”

In a monosyllabic tone he said, “ Bed 2 – Curtains.” As Rasa stepped back out of the way, the curtains around Cami’s bed began closing.

She tried to shout but it came out as a whisper. “Wait… Please… Don’t go…. I need…” But it was too late. The curtains swished into place around her, blocking her off from the rest of the room. Her eyes closed to the step-slide-thump sound of Rasa’s retreating footsteps.

***

When Cami woke again, she was propped up in the bed with the curtains open. The bed next to her was empty but there was a stainless steel cart of beside it. Surgical tools, stained bandages, and used syringe lay on the top tray. Minus the restraints, she gingerly probed the area around her right eye. A wad of gauze was pushed into the eye socket and secured with medical tape. On top of that was an eye patch. She winced when her fingers skimmed the skin around the bandage. It was taut and hot to the touch. She looked up when she heard the cabin door swoosh open. It got stuck on the first attempt. She saw Rasa step back and then forward to try again. The tired look on his face brightened when he noticed she was awake.

“Good. Good. Let’s see.” He walked over to Cami’s bedside, his progress hampered by his left leg. It trailed behind until he pulled it forward with a quick jerk. Examining her injury, he lifted the patched and poked at his handy work. “Is good. Very good work,” he praised himself.

“Ouch!” Cami tried to pull back from the less than gentle examination.

He glanced at the AutoDoc. “Sorry, pain meds wore off. Can give one more dose.”

“Yes, thank you.” She sighed in relief. “Look, I need to have a replacement put in. How much does that cost?”

Rasa chuckled and shuffled over to the other medbay. “You got change but not that much.” He sprayed the bed with a potent antiseptic smelling foam before wiping it down. The task made more laborious by his hampered gait and limited reach. “Get home fine for now,” he grunted while he cleaned.

“There is no home. I can’t work like this.” she said, gesturing to her missing eye. “No papers for Breman. No work but mining in Tanga. Everyone pulls double duty on salvage and miners. No one’s going to hire me gimped.”

Rasa gathered up the used surgical instruments and placed them in a vial filled with blue liquid on the lower half of the cart. He balled up the bandages and chucked them into a nearby recycler. Sounding winded from the effort, he gingerly lowered himself on a nearby cushioned stool and swiveled to face Cami. “Be runnin?” he asked but didn’t wait for a reply. “Tanga. Breman. No one checkin’. No one wants these parts but lowers workin’ these rocks and folks like Rasa doing services,” he said, tapping his chest.

Cami looked away. “I can’t make it out here. If you know this place like it sounds, you know everyone is replaceable. Many waiting to take the next job. No one’s going to hire me.” She turned back to Rasa who was watching her intently. “Take all I have left. I’ll come back with more. I promise!” Looking around for her personal items she said, “Sell my mobi! It’s a decent one. Can get by without it.” Grasping at straws she added, “I’ll sign on with you a few weeks. Pay it off.” Gesturing around she added. “Place looks like shit.” Belatedly she added, “No offense. I can fix things and make minor repairs.”

Rasa sigh. “No need. Just hanging on ‘til gone. Sorry young one. No creds to even buy what’s needed not counting Rasa fee.” Cami dropped her gaze to her lap where her fingers were at war with the bed sheets.

“Friend have fuel station nearby. Lots come for supplies too.” Pointing aft he added, “We go. Can set beacon there a couple days. Ask about work. Rasa know the good ones.”

Cami’s voice was flat – dejected. “Sure. Thanks.” Resigned she asked, “Can you at least tell me what I need and how much it cost?” She didn’t know Rasa but her gut told her that he could be trusted. “This way I don’t get robbed when the time comes.” She tried for a smile but the edges of her mouth barely moved.

Rasa reluctantly agreed. “Sure. Need sleep first. Come back soon.” It took him two attempts to stand up from the stool before slowly making his way out of the cabin.

***

Cami tried to quiet the panic inside her chest. It had taken her two standard earth years to find a spot on Rally One, a trio of independently owned ships that worked together mining and salvaging their way through backwater systems like Tanga. Decent captain, crew and fair split on profits weren’t easy to find. She was assigned to the Orion but occasionally helped out on the Reclaimer and Prospector. Her dream was to someday buy a salvaged Prospector to restore over time and captain her own ship. She knew saving up that much alone was a long shot. Even so, she allowed herself to dream. It kept her going when profits were low and stomachs empty. When the shifts were long and the ship cold trying to conserve fuel.

Even with the ups and downs, the Rally organization had a good reputation among the low tier miners and salvagers. There was a line of people waiting to take her spot and Rally One couldn’t afford to hold it for her. She knew this and didn’t resent it, even though it made her gut twist to think about. They had families to feed. She just had herself. But the idea of finding a new spot was terrifying. Alone out in the black was a dangerous place. She wasn’t afraid of being hungry as much as she was the potential for violence. She’d fended off attacks a time or two, barely escaping. The memory made bile rise up in her throat.

Trying to steer clear of painful memories she focused on the present. She wondered how much “change” she had left and how long it would last. She knew how to stretch it. That wasn’t new. Unfortunately, she also knew that the local Tanga teams were full. That is, any crew she’d even consider. Her vision blurred as a trail of tears ran down one side of her face. She dashed them away. “There’s no crying in space.” She reminded herself.

***

When Rasa came back he was carrying a disposable tray with two containers on top. He still had dark circles around his eyes. Was he hunched over a bit more? He sat the tray on Cami’s lap. She picked up the containers one at a time and read the labels: Purecleen water with electrolytes and protein cubes. Space rations.

“Been five days. Tubes gone. Need start eating,” Rasa explained.

“Okay. Thanks.”

“We exam for cyber replacement.” Managing her expectations he added, “Just to see. Okay?”

Cami perked up a bit. “Yes. Please.” She set the tray beside her when she felt the bed begin to recline.

Making his way to the AutoDoc he continued, “After we head to fuel depot couple days and see.”

“Thank you – really.” Cami reached out and touched Rasa’s sleeve. “This isn’t your problem. I appreciate the help.”

“S’okay. Had family. Wife. Two kids. Hope someone help them before was over.”

“Over?” Cami hesitated. “Are they gone?”

“Yes. Lost all in Caliban. So few escape attack. Wife and daughter medics. Son captain in military. Me surgical assist.” He let out a long sigh, completely emptying his lungs. “Confusion during UEE retreat. Were separated. They never made out.” Rasa wiped at the corner of his eyes. “Will join in next life.” A sad smile on his face. “Soon.”

Cami was at a loss for words. She was missing an eye. Clearly not the end of the world, she tried to tell herself. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that in her case, it was. “Sorry for your loss,” was all she could think to say.

“Me too.” Rasa turned the AutoDoc on. When the status indicator went from yellow to green he said, “Eval Right Eye Replace” To Cami he added, “Hold Still. Eyes closed.” A head restraint extended from the medbay headboard. It cupped the upper port of Cami’s head and applied firm pressure, clamping her head in place. Cami laid still, her hands rigid at her sides.

The scanning unit positioned over the top of the bed whirred to life. “Initiating scan 1. Evaluation for cybernetic eye replacement”. A light blue beam swept up and down and side to side on Cami’s face. “Skeletal frame complete. “Initiating depth scan.” Two mechanical hands descended from the scanner. The metal skeleton fingers clicked as they moved. Each finger had probes for fingertips, wires looped from one joint to the next. Hovering a couple of inches from Cami’s face the scanner repeated. “Initiating depth scan.”

Cami heard a pop and a clang that echoed through the medbay. The spindly metal fingers splayed and groped like a crab caught by its shell, as they struggled to reach Cami’s face.

Rasa cursed under his breath. “Stupid scanner.”

Cami’s eye popped open. “What’s wrong?”

“Jam.”

The AutoDoc chimed in. “Error initiating depth scan…”

The hands continued spasming over Cami’s face. She tried sinking further back into the pillow or turning her head but no luck. She couldn’t move without tearing her scalp. “Wait – turn it off.” Starting to panic she grabbed the head restraint with both hands trying to move.

“Is fine. Stop. Hurt yourself.” Straining, Rasa reached up and fiddled with a few screws and wires. He groaned from the pain of extending his back as he worked. “There” he sighed.

“Error initiating depth scan. Canceling request in 10…9…8…”
Rasa used the bed rail to support his weight as he walked to the opposite side of the bed and repeated the adjustments to the scanner. The cancellation countdown stopped.

“See? Fixed. Relax and close eyes.”

Cami looked at him skeptically. “You sure?”

“Yes, close eyes.” To the AutoDoc he said, “Continue scan.”

The AutoDoc whirred back to life. “Reinitiating depth scan.” The appendages lowered, placing sensors at exact points on both sides of her face – temples, brow and around her eye sockets.

Cami winced when she felt the pressure around her bruised eye socket. But she kept as still as a corpse. After a few seconds, the scanner retracted and announced that the depth scan was completed. Rasa told the AutoDoc to “Show holo”.

A wireframe holographic image of Cami’s face floated below the scanner. Rasa used his hands to twist the hologram in his direction. He spread his hands over it to increase its size. After reviewing it at different angles, he thumped the areas around the right eye, making the other elements disappear until only the damaged eye socket remained. Rasa told the scanner to display the dimensions. Numbers with lead lines pointing to various parts of the hologram appeared.

The Autodoc had retracted the head restraint when the scan was over. Cami pushed up on her elbows watching in wonder. She’d never seen someone use a hologram up close and was fascinated. “How does it look? Can it be replaced easily?”

“Can not the question. Cost is.” He replied. He commanded the Autodoc to send the dimension data to his mobi. He scanned the open market for a synthetic eye replacement that fit Cami’s measurements.

He knew the most affordable option would be an eyeball replacement made using a 3D bioprinter but even those didn’t come cheap. Lesser organs were more reasonably priced – blood vessels, ears and such, but the complexity of the human eye kept the price out of reach for most civilians.

When the mobi returned a price, Rasa’s eyebrows arched up to his hairline. He grunted, “Hmph.”

“What? How much?”

Rasa leaned in and let Cami see for herself. She caught her breath. “Oh. Wow.” There was nothing more to say. No favors to ask. It was completely out of her reach. A feeling of despair settled in her belly.

“You dress. We go refuel station couple days and see.”

Resigned Cami said, “Sure. Thanks for checking.”

***

It felt good to be up and around at least. Rasa had given Cami all of the personal belongings the Rally One crew had brought with her. She thought about trying to artfully cover the eye patch with her hair then decided against it. This was her new reality. Instead, she swept the shoulder length brown curly up into a high ponytail.

The Bremen fueling station Rasa used was privately owned by a man named Jim Haven. It was an “add as you go affair”. Fuel dispensaries formed an unevenly spaced arc around the back of battered Starfarer. The day they’d arrived, she’d seen the Starfarer carefully back its way into the arch to refill the dispensers. Once in place, customers looking buy supplies were allowed into the cargo hold to see what Jim had available. Rasa had left the ship to talk to Jim and others he knew. Putting out the word that he had a patient that needed work. No one had, or knew of anything, being available.

On the second day, Cami decided to quiet the nervousness in her gut by fixing a few things in the makeshift medbay. She’d asked Rasa if he had any tools. He’d pointed her to a container with a variety of rusted tools, cables, wires and plex-guns scrambled together in a heap. She spent an hour sorting out the contents and cleaning the tools before replacing the wiring and bolts on the scanner and fixing the cabin door that stuck when it slid open. The work hadn’t erased her sense of loss and concern, wondering what she was going to do next but it had passed the time. She was sitting on her medbay eating a bowl of soy noodles when Rasa came in. He clearly had something on his mind. “Bad news no doubt,” she whispered to herself.

Rasa rolled the cushioned stool over to Cami and sat down. “No luck. We tried.”

“I know and I appreciate it very much.”

“Need return my spot – is where customers come.”

“Understand.” She looked around the cabin noting where her things were. She’d gather them and get off here. Maybe pay for a ride to a busier location. “I’ll get my things and get off here. I’ll try to…”

Rasa put up his hands for her to wait and cut her off mid sentence. “You come with me. Stay.” Tapping his chest he continued. “I teach. You help. And fix things.”

Cami’s mouth fell open. She was at a loss. Was he serious? “Stay? Here?” It was tight quarters and no privacy in the sleeping berths. She could sleep in the medbay when no patients were here. It was safe. He was kind. It would give her time to figure things out.

He nodded. “Not hardly much pay. But have bunk and food and safe. Is safe.” He stopped speaking, breathing and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again he said, “Rasa tired. Am waiting join family in next life.”

Cami heard a sense of peace in Rasa’s voice when he talked about being ready to join his family. So sure in his beliefs that he would. The calmness he radiated washed over her. “How can I possibly? I’m not a medic.”

“Do AutoDoc service only when Rasa gone. Go place where is less fee but more work. You young. Can do.” He smiled. “Leave if find better. Til then is home.” Gesturing around he said, “You keep when Rasa go. Scavengers don’t deserve. You have.”

Her mind was racing. Was he for real? Why do this for her? No one had offered her so much since the elderly couple had smuggled her and 5 other teens out of the state-run orphanage on Charon III. They used to deliver supplies a few times a year. However, the increase in attacks and bombings made up their minds to drop the route altogether. On their last trip, they’d offered to smuggle out anyone willing to go. Fairly poor themselves, they’d had little to offer but this chance at freedom. They’d dropped the lot of them at a space station in Tyrol with a few credits each, a sleeping roll and a few days of cubed protein rations. Those first few months had been terrifying. In some ways, more so than the civil war raging on Charon.

“What think?”

Cami returned from her reverie wide-eyed and dumbstruck. She found it hard to speak above the lump in her throat. “Are you sure? You don’t have someone else to leave this to?”

“No. All lost. All gone.”

Cami slid down from the bed and crouched in front of Rasa. Taking both of his hands in hers, she said, “Yes, I would like that. I will do all that I can to help.”

They were both crying now and not ashamed. Cami swore to herself that she would repay this kindness. She would help him. She would fix the ship. And she would learn all that he wanted to teach her. In time, he could just rest. She’d do it all and take care of him.

A different kind of future blossomed in her mind’s eye. Joy swelled in her chest and rung in her ears. She would repay this gift to Rasa and forward to someone else somewhere someday.

Copyright © Alysianah Noire – 2016 All Rights reserved
Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are the property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.


Bryony's Dilemma

BRYONY’S DILEMMA BY ALYSIANAH NOIRE

Audio version available on YouTube in the Star Citizen Nightbus: Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 4

ArcCorp Area 18 | Sleep Pod Barracks #21

Fog laps at the edges of a dimly lit street. Debris turns to mush in shallow pools of rain. Vermin scurry, snatching morsels from overflowing trash bins. A neon marquee flickers intermittently then fades to black before restarting. Letters scroll by identifying Pod Barracks #21, a row of nondescript cement towers. You’re asleep inside sleep pod 16. Over the hum of the air recycler, you hear the rat-a-tat of raindrops pelting the pavement. Ugh, just what you need. Your chest rumbles when you breathe. You shiver and wipe beads of sweat off your forehead.

You’re asleep inside sleep pod 16. Over the hum of the air recycler, you hear the rat-a-tat of raindrops pelting the pavement. Ugh, just what you need. Your chest rumbles when you breathe. You shiver and wipe beads of sweat off your forehead. “Not yet. More sleep.” Exhaustion drags you back under. Your eyelids clamp shut. Heavy as a stone, you plummet into blackness. Time stands still until…

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. A loud beeping ricochets around the pod. You flay a hand over your exposed ear as if swatting a mosquito. Yawning, your wits begin knitting themselves back into place. Alarm clock!

You groan. Your stomach grumbles. From muscle memory, you whack the button on the panel overhead. Ahhh, sweet sweet snooze. Curling into a ball, you grab a fistful of blanket and drift back to sleep.

Precisely fifteen minutes after hitting snooze for the second time, your sleeping pallet begins vibrating. Muscles and joints protest. You groan but can’t afford to be late. Gingerly, you roll over onto your back, turn off the alarm and flip on the lights. You take a moment to wake up more fully and gain your bearings.

You’re in a stark white claustrophobia-inducing fiberglass tube. Pinpricks in the ceiling cast diffused light. Cubbyholes of varying sizes line the curved side walls. Your UEE Citizen dog tag and mobiGlas are in the cubby closest to you. Yesterday’s uniform and work boots are in a heap at your feet. You peek through the slatted window behind you. Dawn is creeping up over the horizon. At least it’s stopped raining – for now.

Propped up on an elbow, you grab your dog tag and slip it over your head and clip your mobiGlas to your wrist. You inch toward the pod’s entrance by sliding on your butt. Before deactivating the door lock with your heel, you check that your PJs are still snapped shut. The pod door hisses as it retracts. You scoot into a sitting position, your legs dangling out over the edge of the sleeping pod. Your slippers are hanging on a nearby hook. You mindlessly put them on while rummaging in the wardrobe inset into the wall on your right.

You hop down into the growing throng of residents preparing for the zero-five-hundred shift change. They’re in various states of undress. You nod ‘morning to familiar faces, fellow transients, and low-wage workers at an industrial facility or loading dock here on ArcCorp. You check that you have everything you need to get going. A bathroom kit is wedged under your right arm. Work boots attached by their shoelaces are slung over the opposite shoulder. A freshly laundered uniform is on a hanger in your right hand. When you turn to head toward the restrooms, you see Naomi. Punctual to a fault, she’s already dressed in the drab and common olive colored jumpsuit you all wear. Waving a hand back and forth, you croak out her name – once…twice.

It takes her a moment to figure out who’s calling her. When she realizes it’s you, she smiles and heads your way. “What’s doing?” Her voice is light and cheerful. Curse her, it’s too early to be chipper.

“Not much. Heading to the salt mines.” You hold up your uniform as evidence.

She laughs. “Ouch, still shuffling crates?”

You nod in disgust.

Her mouth puckers as if tasting something sour. “Damn. Short on experience but you’ve got certs.”

You’re seized by a coughing fit as you’re about to reply. You have to clear your throat a couple of times before you can speak. “Tell me about it.”

As your coughing continues her face takes on a yikes look. “That sounds nasty.” She mockingly takes a step back. “Taking anything?”

“Didn’t want to spend the creds. Trying to get outta this dump. At least get a real room.”

She laughs. “You and me both!” She adopts a more serious tone. “Still salty I never got moved to the shift manager dorms like my contract says. But who the hell am I going to complain to here?”

You rub your throat which is starting to burn. “Exactly.”

“I don’t push ‘cuz it could be worse. We dropped a hundred freshies last week. No warning.” No free ride off-world like their contract says. They’re basically screwed.” Punching you on the shoulder she adds, “These days steady creds, couple meals and a bed is the dream.”

Pointedly looking around, you reply with disgust, “Yeah… it’s the dream alright.” Inside you’re disappointed with yourself and situation. Most of all, your stupid choices that landed you here.

Naomi’s voice pulls you out of your reverie. Checking her mobi she says, “Better get moving. Don’t be late. I’ll catch you later.”

You nod in agreement and turn to walk away. Over your shoulder, you call out, “grub later?”

“Sure – meet you at G after the shift.”

The wait in line for an all-in-one restroom cube was less than five minutes. With the exception of a small mirror above the pull out washbasin, the interior and all of the fixtures are made of stainless steel.

You use the pull-out toilet to relieve yourself. The smell of the disinfectant used to make you gag but you’re used to it now. You wash your hands, face and splash water under your arms. That’s as good as it’s getting today. Brushing your teeth, you take a good look in the mirror. Bleh, you look exactly how you feel. Your cheekbones are more pronounced, body leaner and arms more defined. Wide-eyed wonder has been replaced by dark rings of harsh reality. You run a hand through your severely short haircut. It suits the new you that’s evolving. You aren’t the same person who eagerly waved goodbye to parents, a comfortable home, and a scholarship because “I need adventure in my life before settling down! C’mon dad, I need to see more than this planet. There’s a universe to explore!”

Unfortunately, having your business associates steal your ship, stranding you on ArcCorp, wasn’t the grand adventure you had in mind. No way gonna message home for a hand-out. And couldn’t hit up friends either, all of whom were at university with tight pockets of their own. You’re better than these first few mistakes. Pointing a finger at the reflection in the mirror you assert, “If granny made it out here on her own, so can I!”

Through bouts of coughing, you slide into your jumper and put on work boots. You chuck the paper slippers in the recycler and ball up your PJs. Dressed in a clean uniform you feel a bit better. You stop by your sleeping pod to grab a plastic laundry bag. The front of the bag is stamped with your UEE ID barcode. You shove yesterday’s uniform and PJs into the bag. Heading toward the back entrance, you drop it down the laundry shoot. Bracing yourself for the weather you exit the barracks.

Towering industrial buildings box you in on all sides, stealing the meager sunlight of an overcast sky. The air is thick with moisture. You shiver as a clammy breeze snakes down the collar of your jumpsuit. You check your mobi. Good – just enough time to make a quick trip to the Area 18 Med Unit. As much as you loathe spending the credits, you can’t see how you’ll make it through the day without something. You mutter to yourself as you approach the Area 18 Medical Unit. “Better not be crowded…” Tan walls, shiny floors, and uncomfortably bright lights. They’re all the same – medical facilities. A twinge starts in the pit of your stomach as you enter the triple-wide sliding glass doors. They hiss and whomp as they retract.

You wrinkle your nose at the potent antiseptic smell. Instantly, your mind is transported to five years earlier when you and your parents were frequent visitors to the hospice facility where your grandmother had been placed. Days turned into weeks of visiting every day. Watching — and waiting for her to die. She’d lived to a ripe old age. Feisty and fearless, roaming the galaxy in a souped-up science ship with granddad. She even kept at it after he was gone. Seeing her crippled and deflated by age was hard to watch. The remembered loss grabs you by the throat, threatening to suffocate you. The pain of it, as lethal today, as it was then.

Throw the throng of people milling around while waiting to be seen, you spot the QuickMeds dispenser across the waiting room and sprint to it. Eyes front, you block out everything around you except the display case. Your nose pressed against the glass, you scan the medicinal options. “What the hell? This is crazy.” You contemplate not buying anything. You can tough it out another… Before you finish the thought you’re seized by a hacking cough that near doubles you over. That seals it. You can’t afford to be dismissed from the shift altogether. “Freakin’ spacelane robbery!”

You choose a moderately priced antibiotic and a low priced cough suppressant from the QuickMeds LED display. A 60/40 mixture stem should do it. After confirming your purchase and authorizing payment, the dispenser begins to whir. You hear faint metallic clinking noises. You anxiously tap your fingers on the glass while watching the progress meter inch toward ‘Ready’. When it’s done, a metal drawer slides open from the bottom of the dispenser. You grab the package and go. On your way out the sliding doors, you pop the top off the stem, exposing the head with its pincushion of needles. You quickly jab it into the left side of your neck. Wincing you say, “shit better work.”

Walking briskly through the growing crowd of pedestrians, you arrive at loading dock J42 with a few minutes to spare. You hurry up the stairs, turn right and swipe your ID to open the security gate. A Freelancer MAX is parked on the landing pad. Quasar is painted with gold metallic swirls encircling the letters like a tornado. You recognize the ship and it’s Captain. He unloads cargo here a few times a week. Being that this landing pad is for smaller cargo vessels, the Quasar is the first of many Freelancers you expect to unload today. There will also be the occasional Avenger or Hull A. But in these parts, the boring Lancer is king.

You’re not a fan of the Lancer’s design. With its elongated forward cabin, slightly bigger than the neck on which it rests, the Lancer has always reminded you of pictures you’ve seen of tortoises found on Earth. Not an attractive shape for a ship in your eyes. But you ain’t going to complain by starting with a small one today. You walk forward to join coworkers who are standing around Zone Manager Rodrick. You put on your work gloves as Rodrick begins speaking. He’s a no-nonsense ex-military guy with a booming voice.

“Listen up!” He waits for silence. “We have a newly registered Connie arriving on platform J45. It’s going to take a bit longer to process her through. To stay on schedule I’m going to switch things up.”

Rodrick checks his mobi before continuing. “I’m leaving a few of freshies here to process the MAX. It’s business as usual.” He points over his shoulder to the man standing by the ship’s cargo bay. “You all know Captain Chuzen.”

You look to where Rodrick is pointing to see Captain Chuzen talking in a huddle with his crew.

Rodrick checks his mobi again and begins calling names. “Bryony as cargo inspector.” Wait. What? That’s you! You hesitate. When you don’t move, Rodrick looks up and calls your name again. Coworkers standing nearby give you the “Are you stupid? look”

You gain your composure. “Sir… Yes, Sir, I’m here.” You separate from the crowd and walk forward. Thomas, the actual inspector for J42 gives you a “What the fuck?” look as you go by. You shrug your shoulders in his direction.

Rodrick calls out the rest of the assignments. Thomas has been assigned to lead the team processing the new Connie. Damn, you’re jealous of that one. You’d rather be unloading crew, getting a chance to see inside the Connie, than leading the team processing a tortoise.

When all’s said and done, you have three cargo movers assigned to you. Rodrick hands you the Inspector mobi and says, “You know your way around this right?”

You nod your head. “Yes, Sir.”

He continues. “The ship’s manifest, travel log and cargo list are loaded. I want this done quickly.” He makes eye contact with the others in the group. “An Aurora CL is scheduled to touch down in 30. I want the MAX gone before it arrives.” Everyone nods their head.

As Rodrick is about to step away, Thomas comes forward. “Sir, I think I should stay here to make sure this is processed quickly. I can walk Bryony through it and join the J45 team right after.”

Rodrick looks surprised but not annoyed by the interruption. “Bryony can handle it. I need you with the other team. First time processing is a full inspection, as you well know”, he says in an admonishing tone. “It’s gonna take more time and I’m not having my schedule jacked over it.”

Thomas starts to speak but Rodrick cuts him off. “Is there a problem?”

You look at Thomas quizzically wondering, “What’s your problem?” There’s a long silence. Thomas’ eyes cut toward the MAX. You and Rodrick both notice and look in that direction too.

“No, nothing. Just trying to make sure regular customers get good service.” Thomas replies.

Rodrick claps Thomas on the back. “Captain Chuzen’s not goin’ anywhere. He’ll forgive us a hiccup or two.” Looking pointedly at you, he adds, “But that’s not going to happen is it?”

You stand up a little straighter and add a little bit of base to your voice. “No, Sir! It’ll be like clockwork, Sir.”

“Excellent” Rodrick slaps you on the shoulder and walks away with Thomas trailing behind.

***

Scanning through the manifest you notice a discrepancy between the ship logs and its approved route plan. The log shows an unscheduled stop in Cathcart. “Probably just an oversight. Last minute change of plans,” you shrug. Around you, the team is preparing to unload the cargo. Joey, a hefty bald guy in his early thirties, is hoisting himself into a mech suit to handle the heavier crates. The suit hydraulics hiss and clank as he stretches and retracts the arms, and tests rotating the hand clamps. The other two, Rhon and Alya, grab hover carts for the smaller crates. The platform vibrates under your feet as Joey lumbers toward the Freelancer. You head toward Captain Chuzen.

You approach the Captain of the Quasar, your hand extended in greeting. His meaty hand grabs yours and gives it a quick shake. Captain Chuzen’s hair, wide sideburns, and beard are all immaculately trimmed. His hands are callous free with manicured nails. No bruises, no tats mar his skin. If not for the Quasar jumpsuit, you’d mistake him for the office type, not a space trucker.

“Morning Captain. I’m Bryony. I’ll be overseeing your inspection and unloading today.”

Captain Chuzen’s staring off in the direction Roderick and Thomas went. “Where’s Thomas going? He usually handles my ships. He keeps it quick and simple. Suits are schedule.”

“He’s helping Roderick with a new Connie coming in on LZ J45.” Adding more confidence to your voice you continue. “We’ll get you done as fast.”

Distractedly Captain Chuzen replies, “Sure kid. Let’s get moving.”

“Excellent.” Flipping through screens on the inspector mobiGlas you continue. “One thing to clear up first.” You raise the mobi up so Chuzen can see the display. “There’s seems to be a discrepancy between your ship log and your approved flight plan.” You gain the Captain’s full attention. But his only reply is a grunt.

You continue. “Yes, it’s showing an unscheduled stop in Cathcart. Ship appears to have docked at Spinward for roughly 2 hours.” Hesitantly you add, “I think that’s part of your company’s no-fly zone regulations?” Rethinking how that might have come out you say, “Not that it’s our business. We just have to perform a different kind of inspection for ships with stops outside of UEE space.” Chuzen’s eyes narrow and his silence makes you nervous but you press on. “’Cuz of… the kinda… of stuff happening there. Robberies. Hijackings and uh — contraband.” Emphasizing this isn’t an uncommon situation you say, “Not a big deal on our end. Just different forms and takes a little longer. But we can still get you out of here in about the same time as usual.”

Captain Chuzen is staring you up and down like sizing up an opponent. You don’t want to be his opponent. You just want to get this done quickly. Beads of sweat start forming on your forehead as the silence stretches out. Are the meds wearing off?? You wipe your forehead on the back of your sleeve. Clearing your throat you suggest, “Maybe you had an emergency? If you can state the reason and add it to your official logs, I can re-sync and get the inspection started.” Pointing toward the ship you add, “We’re already starting to unload. This really isn’t a big deal.”

Like flipping a switch, Captain gives you a wry smile, puts his arm around your shoulder and pulls you in close. You’re not pleased by the gesture which violates what you consider your personal space. But you go with it since he’s talking.

“You see kid it’s like this.” He continues in a conspiratorial tone. “Sometimes when we’re ahead of schedule we like to take a break. Blow off some steam. Stretch our legs. Have something other than space rations. “ His tone is nonchalant. “We may wander off course for a bit of recreation.” He steps back and waves his hand in an “it’s not big deal” manner and concludes, “No harm. No foul.”

You’re surprised they could get away with that undetected. I mean, it’s in the ship logs. That’s how you know that they went to Cathcart. You scratch your head in confusion. “But that stuff shows in the ship logs?”

“Not by the time we go back for inspection,” he laughs. “Forgot to take care of it before hitting Stanton. In more of a hurry than usual.” He flicks his thumb off the end of his nose and winks.

You’ve got no reasonable response to that explanation. Like what the hell? “But…” He cuts you off.

“You get paid extra to unload ships faster? Or extra creds for playing inspector on my ship today?”

“No, sir.”

“See what I mean! Me and the boys stopped in Cath for a bit of a stretch. Have a real meal planetside. We don’t report it ‘cuz we don’t want anyone getting the idea to add more stops on our route. Beaners love “more work same pay” thing, stiffing civs like you and me.”

Your throat is starting to itch. You want to cough but Captain Chuzen is leaning in too close. You’d cough right in his face. Another beat of very uncomfortable silence follows as you hold back your cough and really have no idea what to say.

“Not even your job. You want the hassle of more forms to complete?”

You clear your throat and swallow the urge to cough. “Not really. Haven’t seen those forms before myself. Above my pay grade.” There’s an echo resentment in your tone.

Chuzen seizes on it. “See what I mean. That’s my point exactly! More work, same pay.”

That last bit got you thinking that maybe he’s right. You nod your head slowly at first. “You’re right.” A little something extra for today could replace what you spent on meds this morning, get more to help sleep better tonight or a full meal., Is that really too much to ask? But you’re sure nothing extra is coming for acting as inspector on this ship. Shrugging your shoulders you concur, “like you sad, Not my real job anyway.”

Captain Chuzen claps you on the shoulder. “What’s your ID kid? I’ll shoot you some cred as a thanks.”

It’s tempting but you know that’s strictly against regulations and could cost you your job if anyone found out. Shit as it is, it’s still a job and it’s the company that should be compensating you for doing the extra work. Shaking your head you say, “No. Not necessary. Let me hurry up with the interior inspection then I’ll validate the off-loaded cargo and get you on your way.”

Relaxed and jovial Chuzen replies, “Great. Going to stretch my legs and throw one back at G-Loc. Buzz me when you’re done.”

“Sure thing. Won’t be long.”

Walking up the rear ramp into the primary cargo bay, you nod as you pass Joey. He’s busy stacking three crates precariously on top of each other. You wonder what he’s about when you notice that Alya is coming up behind you.

Alya’s the new kid on the dock. For a quick second, it stings that no one tries to get your attention anymore. Then you remember that you don’t want that kind of attention anyway. Alya’s still into being who she was before she landed here — the ass end of Stanton. Well near it anyway. From what you’ve heard, Hurston is even worse with its pea-soup smog and a shortage of living accommodations. Rumor has it workers have resorted to sharing sleeping tubes. You pull a face at the mere thought.

You turn your attention back to Joey. “If that falls and gets damaged you better have another gig lined up. Rod will have your ass. ”

Joey laughs and raises his voice unnecessarily. “I got this kid. Gonna help you do it in record time. You know I’m the best mech operator we got.”

You watch Joey glance to the side to see if Alya is paying him any attention. She’s not. She’s stacking smaller crates on the hover cart, scanning them as she goes. A lock of hair falls forward and blocks her view. She tries pushing it behind her ear but that’s near impossible with the oversize padded gloves she’s required to wear. She gives up in a huff after three attempts. You chuckle, remembering when that was you.

Realizing that Ayla isn’t going to pay him any attention, Joey’s resumes his normal speaking voice. “We do this super fast and maybe Rod gives you this zone. Stick Thomas elsewhere.”

While it would be music to your ears if they officially bumped you up, why would Joey care? You ask him. “Nice for me. Why do you care?”

Maneuvering himself down the ramp he replies, “I ain’t gonna get it and something about ole Tommy boy don’t sit right. Count close and see what you make of it.”

You’re not a fan of Thomas yourself. He’s always hunched over like he’s trying to fold in on himself. And there’s something about his eyes. They’re shifty, always darting around like a trapped rodent. Beyond that though, you don’t know of any wrong he’s done. And what did Joey mean by that last comment? Count close? You want to ask him but he’s out of earshot now and there’s no time waste. You’ve got a job to do and just enough time to do it.

You do a perfunctory scan of the main and secondary cargo bays, swiping the radar wand across the walls, ceiling and, floor as you go. When the door to the crew cabin swishes open, you’re surprised by the cleanliness. The bunk beds inset into the walls on each side has been made – more or less. The random personal items stashed in the cubbies look neatly placed. You’re instantly jealous of the personal Spectrum LCDs hung above each bed. You’d kill to have one of those to pass the evenings with when your creds are low and your stomach is grumbling.

Continuing to move forward, you notice that immediately after the berths, there’s a toilet shower combo on one side and a cramped single counter kitchenette on the other. Standing in the middle of the aisle, you can almost touch the door to the commode and the food prep station on the other side. That must make for interesting situations. You thought your accommodations were small. You’re not eating and shitting within arm’s reach. But the truth is, you’d switch places in a heartbeat to get outta here. You continue casually scanning your surroundings. So far the ship has a clean bill of health. No illegal substances detected. You expect to encounter the same as you enter the flight deck.

When the door opens onto the flight deck you stand there for a moment taking it all in. You remember the pride and elation piloting your own ship. And this is not too shabby. Not too shabby indeed. You might not like the look of the ship from the outside but the interior is winning you over.

The flight deck contains four high back cushy seats, perfect for long hop travel. There’s one for the pilot, co-pilot and two additional passengers. The Quasar’s been around the ‘verse a few times but the components show very little wear and tear. They’re substantial — meaty, like an oversized breakfast. You check the time on your mobi – still 15 minutes to spare.

You step down to the pilot’s seat and survey the instrumentation. You wistfully glide your hand above the controls. Feeling a bit audacious, you slide into the pilot’s seat. The dash is massive with slots for personal storage — beverage holder, small firearms, whatever. The field of view reminds you more of a ground vehicle or passenger transport vessel but you sort of like it. The struts are thick and blocky which makes sense for an industrial ship with a reputation of long reliable years of service. Definitely a step up from the Aurora that you got swindled out of, leaving you stranded on ArcCorp, scrapping for survival. A call comes through on your mobi. You almost jump out of your skin!

You answer it. “Bryony here.”

It’s Joey. “Cargo’s in transport hangar.”

“Great. It’s a go here, coming out.” You exhale. Time to hop back to it. You walk briskly through the cabins, your footsteps echoing in the now empty ship. You break into a jog when you hit the rear exit ramp.

***

You head over to the transportation hangar. Just a fancy name for the section of the landing pad that has a protective tarp over it and is reserved for pickups. Two ArcCorp trucks are standing by to collect cargo and transport them to their next destinations.

Joey, still in his mech suit is standing by the first stack of cargo. “Record time,” he brags. “Stacked, scanned and Trans ID’d. Needs your sig and it’s done.”

“Cool! We killed this with time to spare. Thanks!” You mock bump fists with his mech hand. As you quickly survey the piles, you notice one of the crates is a good distance from the rest. Rohn and Alya are approaching. You point to the lone crate. To no one, in particular, you ask, “Why’s that one way down there?”

Alya shrugs. Rohn and Joey look at each other.

Joey answers. “That one – blue Big Box crate always goes there. Thomas has us separate it out for special delivery.”

You screw up your face and cock your head to the side. “Really?” You don’t recall having seen that in the past. “You sure?” Rohn and Joey nod in agreement. That seems odd. Big Box is one of the more expensive and secure storage containers from Stor-All. They’re tough specialty crates. With a titan-grade metal exterior, a ribbed body skeleton and a cushioned super-reinforced ablative rubber interior. They’re used for fragile important cargo.

You scan through the Quasar cargo manifest. Nothing but common ship components and raws. You don’t see anything that would warrant the Big Box. Worse you don’t see the container listed in the inventory. So why is it here? Why is it being set aside?

Noticing the consternation on your face, Rohn shrugs his shoulders. Even through the padded jumpsuit, he looks starved. As if a sudden breeze would blow him off the platform. “Been doing this for months Bry. That crate from Quasar always goes there. You just never noticed. Don’t ever operate the mech suit or come up here to talk to Thomas while he’s doing the final sign off. It’s legit according to him.” He points a thumb over his shoulder. “Just go with the flow. We’re done with time to spare. Let’s catch a quick break.”

Rohn had a point. If you call it now, you’ll beat the best unloading time for the Quasar for the quarter. But something is itching at the back of your brain. “Sure, you all take a break, I’ll call it in.” You check your mobi. Ten minutes left to spare. You watch the team walk away, chatting among themselves. Joey is pulling up the rear clomping along in the Mech suit.

Just before entering the Employee-only habicube that’s next to the platform steps, Joey turns back to you. He puts his hand up in the air with his fingers splayed open and then starts folding them down one by one. You flip your hands palms up and shrug. “What??” Slowly he pops each finger back up. Then it hits you — he’s counting. Oh. OOOOOOOH. Your eyes bulge. When he realizes you get his meaning he shoots you a thumbs-up and you do the same in return.

Like puzzle pieces, things falls into place, forming an uncomfortable idea. An unscheduled stop. Thomas and Captain Chuzen’s concern about who’s doing the inspection. An unlisted crate set aside for special delivery. “Well… Fuck!” you curse under your breath. “Really? I need this shit?” Then again, it doesn’t have to be my problem if it’s been going on for months. You can sign off and it will be business as usual.

You walk over to the container. It’s only 2 feet by 2 feet. Too big to sneak past passenger security but small enough to fly under the radar of someone carting it off. You pass over it with the scanner. Nothing detected. You use your temporary inspector code to fiddle with the settings, changing it to a high-grade scan. Still nothing. They could be using scan protection tech.

Taking the few extra credits Chuzen had offered, is sounding good about now. But are you that desperate? You note the chills are slowly starting to return as the meds you took this morning wear off. Still — aren’t these the same kind of people that tricked you into disengaging your ship’s transponder code before stealing it and dumping you here? If Chuzen and crew ever get caught, it will be too easy to trace if he’s ever made payments to ArcCorp personnel. That’s not the kind of mess you want to be mixed up in. Sign off and mind your business. Whatever’s inside is eluding detection by the equipment you’ve been given. Wash your hands of it. Maybe Roderick will suggest a little something be thrown your team’s way for beating the standing record. Anything – any little gesture will help you out.

On the inspector mobi, you access the cargo authorization file for the Quasar. You tap it once to display the inspection outcome section. You press your thumbprint in the Inspector authorization code slot. You inhale and hold your breath as your finger hovers over green indicator for “inspection passed”. Your heart thuds in your ears as your finger is poised to tap green. At the last second you slide it over and press “yellow” – failed and “red” possible contraband detected. Feeling lightheaded you back up and flop down on the nearest crate.

Head in hands you ask yourself, “Why Bry, why?” But you know the answer. Right is right and wrong ain’t. Your mobi emits the three beat signal for priority message. It’s from Roderick. It reads On my way with security DO NOT MOVE! “Fuck me!”

***

You’re alone, sitting at a table in the back left corner of the G Loc, a popular bar in Area 18. Well, the only bar actually. You have a raggedy cap you grabbed out of the lost and found at work, pulled forward to obscure your face. The orange murky lighting helps you to fade into the background. Your eyes unfocused, you stare at the holographic menu hovering above the table top. Music is booming and your leg is shaking but not in time with the song blaring out of the speakers.

Every time you notice the doors open, you crane your neck looking for Naomi. Damn, she’s usually punctual to a fault. Another group of loading dock workers saunters in. You look away and slouch down into your seat. Area 18 is a big place but news like yours travels quickly. Never in years in a million years could you have anticipated Roderick’s reaction or what had ensued when he arrived with security in tow.

Caught daydreaming, you’re startled by the sound of someone flopping down into the seat next to you. It’s Naomi. Relief washes over you. Then you notice she’s staring at you with an OMG look on her face. Clearly, she’d already heard — something.

No hello or preamble. “What the frak happened?” She asks in a hushed tone. She leans in waiting for a reply.

You slouch back into the chair shaking your head. “So you heard.”

“Pretty sure most have. Went to your sleeping cube. Saw goons hanging outside your door. Then remembered we were meeting here.”

“Well that sucks. Not much in there worth having but still…”

She looks like she wants to shake you silly. “Well — what the hell happened??”

You inhale. “I’m actually starting to think that I’m a drama magnet,” you say with a wry smile.

That puts a small smile on her face. She crosses hers and leans back into the booth. “Just might be.”

“Probably already know that I got assigned as temporary inspector on J42. Things were going good. Finished early. Except for 2 hiccups. Unplanned stop in Cathcart on the ship log and unlisted container.”

“New ship? Crew?”

“Nope. Regulars. Initially fell for the excuse for the unscheduled stop.”

Naomi shrugs. “It happens. Crew has things to do that aren’t necessarily the company’s business.”

“Flying the company’s ship?”

Another shrug. “On time. Cargo intact. Who cares?”

“Yeah, I can get with that. Was willing to let that part slide. Right up until I’m told that setting aside a particular container is a routine thing. Something Thomas manages as a special request.”

“Oook, now we’re moving into shaky territory.” She agrees.

“Exactly! So…”

“But this is ArcCorp. Who cares? Not like the Corp is doing us any favors.”

“True, there’s that. I’ll give you that and I nearly let that slide too. It’s ArcCorp, where fucking the likes us over, is on someone’s daily to-do list.” You lean forward, more intensity in your voice. “What happens if today of all days, that special delivery gets policed in transit and they backtrack to the inspection?”

The possible ramifications dawn in Naomi’s eyes. “You’d be fraked is what.”

You nod in agreement. “And then some! So at the last sec I called it in.”

“Still don’t understand how you ended up fired for it?” Her mouth slants down and she has a sore look on her face. “Ain’t right.”

“I’m okay with how things turned out – in the end anyway.”

You explain how Roderick had arrived in a near rage with a team of security. Joey, Rohn, and Alya were coming back just as Roderick had shown up. Security put all of you in handcuffs and rushed you off the platform. You were frantic not understanding what the hell was going on. When you tried speaking to Roderick but he told you to shut up until you were spoken to.

You unconsciously rub your wrists. “It was scary and embarrassing being dragged across Area 18 until we reached the security building.”

“I bet. So what happened?”

You continue your tale. You’d each been placed in a separate security holding cell. While you were anxiously waiting to speak to someone – anyone, you saw them marching in Thomas in handcuffs and then the crew of the Quasar a short while later. They hadn’t been in restraints and in fact, seemed to be talking in a carefree manner with Roderick.

“My stomach hit the floor when I saw Chuzen prancing in full of confidence and Roderick seeming to eating it up.”

One by one you saw your team escorted into what you realized later was an interrogation room. You were the last to be taken in and pushed none too gently into a metal folding chair across from desk with two people on one side of it. Roderick and a security officer. You explained what you’d seen and done in painstaking detail. You were questioned about your actions repeatedly. When they’d had enough, Roderick asked the security officer to leave the room.

Once it was just the two of you, Roderick’s face softened. He removed the handcuffs, pulled his chair next to yours and sat down with a sigh. “Rough day kid and you done good.”

A look of extreme confusion had covered your face. “I – I don’t understand what’s happening.”

“We’ve had a drug smuggling problem for quite some time. We could occasionally catch the users but not break into the cartel managing the operation or how the narcs were arriving.” Smiling he said, “You just gave us our first break.” He stood up and paced the small room while he talked. “I doubt ArcCorp would even care if not for the accidents caused by narc’d up workers. It messes with their safety rating and slows down production.”

“I’d heard about two guys losing a limb on the large engines assembly line.” Scratching your head you say, “Last week wasn’t there construction worker who dropped a scaffolding down 8 stories over where they’re building the Galleria?”

“Yeah, got the whole project temporary put on hold until the safety investigation is over. Stuff like this costs the company hundreds of thousands of creds per incident and it’s adding up quickly these days.”

“Oh” is all you can think to say. You’re still shaken by what’s happened.

“This whole dragging you all in here is for your own safety. We think the group working out of here is rather sophisticated and we’re after the big fish. We’re going to be able to nail Chuzen but we need to find who they work for and who else is falsifying inspections. I want to protect you four so here’s what we’re going to do.”

At this point, Roderick sat down next to you again. He dropped the managerial tone and spoke to you like a friend. He explained that he was going to have your inspection findings scrubbed from the record. He’s going to claim that he and security had come by to do a spot audit and found the crate, which by the way, was filled with vials of hallucinogen class narcotics.

He’s going to say that since it was your first time inspecting a shipment you were late and hadn’t gotten to validating the off-loaded cargo. For their own protection, your team was being given a company paid transfer to another Arc facility with a 2 weeks bonus pay. He’s leaving Thomas in place even though they know he’s on the smuggler payroll. But now that they know that, they can use him to catch the next crew that comes in and then they’ll nab him.

“Wow, umm okay. But don’t you think anyone will catch on?”

“They make think something is up at first but once a few months go by, they’ll be bold enough to restart their operation. Plus now we know what to look for at the other landing zones and can update the security procedures accordingly.”

“What if they don’t use Thomas again? Seems like he gets off the hook.”

“We’ll be keeping him under close surveillance,” Roderick said with a smile. “He’s not conspiring with them for free. Likely used to the extra income. Even if they don’t seek him out, he’ll no doubt contact them for more work.”

You nod your head in agreement. “Gotcha.” Nervously you ask, “What about me? Do I get the 2 weeks bonus and transfer option?” Your gut twists. You want off this rock but if it just means dropping you on another where you have to start over? That’s not sounding so great. At least here you have a couple of friends and Naomi. The idea of slugging it out alone again is depressing.

“No, I have something different for you in mind.”

***

You stop for a moment to gauge Naomi’s reaction. Her mouth is gaped open and her neck craned forward in rapt attention. You wonder if she’d miss you as much as you’d miss her? She has such an easy way about her. She makes friends easily. Always liked and well respected. You on the other hand — no so much. You’re private, quiet and often prefer the company of the ideas spinning around in your head, than conversing with others. You keep the friends you gain but don’t gain them very often which is by choice. You miss home, your friends off at university and now you’ll miss the few you’ve gathered here too. You sigh.

Naomi kicks your foot under the table over your sudden silence. “No stopping now!” She exclaims, “what’s the plan for you?”

“He’s worried that the cartel would come around asking me questions and might not be that nice about asking ‘em. They just lost a lot of creds having that crate confiscated.”

“Those goons outside your door,” Naomi whispers.

“Exactly. So I have to get gone too but with a different kind of bonus.”

Her eyes widen in surprise seeing the smile on your face. “How much?” she says in a near shout.

“Shhhhhhhh!” Noticing the couple at the table next to you glance your direction, you pull the cap down lower over your face.

“Oops — sorry.” She giggles and her excitement is infectious.

You’d been trying not to be too excited least the rug get pulled out from under your feet. And you’d miss Naomi unless…

You lean across the table toward her and show her your UEC balance on your Mobi. She gasps in response, her eyes growing wide. Now you’re smiling too and giggling like a child.

Whispering she says, “That’s leave for good money.” In awe, she adds, “Start over money. Wow!”

“Or ship for two money?” You let the question hang in the air.

Naomi’s eyes bug out and her eyebrows arch up to her hairline. “Me? You’d take me?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t leave you behind. You’ve been a good friend to me.”

“What would we do? Where would we go?”

“What do you want to do? We can decide together.” Your stomach twists waiting for an answer. You want her to come, to help her out of this place. But you also have selfish reasons. You don’t go back out into the black alone. You’ve got more advanced skills than Naomi but she’s got the life experiences. In your mind, that would be a great mix.

Naomi leans back into the booth. “I need a drink and you’re buying,” she says with a smile. “Holy shit!”

She sounds happy. Does that mean she’s coming? “That mean you’re in?” you ask outright.

“Oh yeah, I’m in!” She nods several times for emphasis. Her eyes dart side to side as if working out a problem in her head. “Maybe we get you off here tonight and lay low somewhere cheap to make plans.”

Relief washes over you. “Sounds good to me!”

With a wry smile, Naomi asks, “Ever been to Terra? It’s the most expensive ticket outta here. But lots of resources to figure out what you want to do next. That money won’t get you setup in place like Terra but can get all the supplies you need for whatever…”

You correct her. “The supplies we need.” The idea of it makes you giddy and lightheaded.

“Yeah. What we need.” She laughs. “Holy frak, I can’t even… Holy shit, we’re outta here!”

 

Copyright © Alysianah Noire – 2016 All Rights reserved
Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are the property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.


Trolley Cart Interlude

TROLLEY CART INTERLUDE BY ALYSIANAH NOIRE

Audio version available on YouTube: Star Citizen Nightbus Episode2 

You’re asleep in your berth aboard the NightBus, dreaming of the credits you’re going to win gambling on MacArthur in Kilian. Like taking candy from a baby, you plan to fleece as many military types as possible. If you’re lucky, you might score some primo narcs to sell out of your wrecked Cutlass, turned home base, in Spider.

Your mouth is full open, gargling back a snore when a knock at the door startles you awake. Swiping drool off your face you grunt, “Who is it?” No reply but another knock. Caution makes you slide quietly off the cot. You creep to the door and flatten a bloodshot eye against peephole.

You see a young man dressed in an attendant’s black and purple uniform. He has a food trolley beside him. Sizing him up, he seems a bit bulky for dressing like a dandy. He has one hand on the cart and the other bent behind his back.

Releasing the cart the stranger knocks again, bellowing “Breakfast.”

Your stomach grumbles. Rubbing your chin you think, “It’s near time for it. But don’t like the look of this bloak. Hmm – Didn’t have no active warrants where we boarded but could have wherever the hell we’re rollin’ through now.” Just as the attendant is about to knock again you shout, “Sleepin. Shove off!” You wonder if you have enough time to assemble your pistol, disguised as disassembled random parts across multiple suitcases. You curse yourself for not having done it before you got snookered in the bar after boarding last night.

Turning away from the door, you scan the small berth for your luggage. As you do, you hear pressure on the door. You lean on it again, about to tell the attendant to fuck off with his breakfast. You press your eye back to the peephole.

The attendant is bent over, a shit-eating grin on his face, as he leans toward the peephole himself. There’s a personal shield crackling in front of him, it’s blue aura glowing. The hand that was behind his back, now reveals a military grade stun pulse-rifle and it’s pointed at your door. You see him press a button on the side of the massive goggles he’s wearing. Probably a radar device. You start backing away from the door.

With a shit eating grin he says, “Peekaboo, I see you. It’s time for me to earn my — BREAKFAST.”

Copyright © Alysianah Noire – 2016 All Rights reserved
Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are the property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content, including places, characters, concepts, and ships produced and created by RSI relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.


Newsletter May 2017 - Piece by Piece

Alysianah’s World of Star Citizen Subscriber Newsletter

ALY’S WORLD UPDATES

Prod Schedule: Piece by Piece

I’m starting a new series of articles that will run exclusively in Star Citizen Nightbus. The articles will be a deep dive into the Star Citizen Production Schedule. As Alpha participants, the schedule is what’s driving the content we are going to experience in the coming months. It’s the angel delivering the ships and features we’re all excited about. The hammer raining down blows of disappointment when things shift out. The war drum echoing shouts of despair when aspects aren’t explicitly included.

Because of the power it wields over what we get to experience and when, I think it warrants a detailed review, versus a high-level glossy treatment in a quickie video. In the series we’ll discuss the work being developed by month and feature type, delving into what that means for game mechanics and new content, and pay special attention to the timelines that are bundled into release candidates.

My aim is to present the Production Schedule material in an educational and entertaining format. The first of this series will appear in The Star Citizen Nightbus Episode 5.

Producing Episodes More Frequently

I’ve been blogging about the games I play for 15+ years. I enjoy writing guides and tutorials to help players get the most out of their gaming experience. Many of us are busy adults with demanding lives. We don’t have time to fumble around in the dark during the time we’ve allocated for entertainment and relaxation.

For Star Citizen, I’ve expanded what I normally do by creating Alysianahsworld.com and producing two YouTube shows. I’d like to do more – more shows, fiction, and lore. However, like everyone else, there are only 24 hours in my day, part of which belong to career and family. Math being what it is, I can’t do more unless some things start taking less time.

Surprisingly and quite unfortunately, it takes more time to produce the shows than writing and recording them. Editing audio, gathering relevant images and footage takes twice as much time as writing and recording. However, they’re necessary elements for my vision.

To help cut back on one aspect, videos and images, I’m starting to build and catalog as much as I can in advance. Particularly, trying to find game footage that’s generic in nature but pleasant to look at. Methods of focusing on minutia in an interesting way that can be shot for longer durations since the content available to us at the moment is limited. So far it’s proving painless to gather the footage as I’m able to do it whenever I have moments to spare versus trying to setup specific scenarios. I need to review a tutorial on using the new camera options too so I can use those techniques to add visual variety. Hopefully, viewers find this approach acceptable in exchange for being able to have episodes released more frequently.

Upcoming Shows

  • Nightbus EP5 – Production Schedule Piece by Piece series & The Exterminator: Part One
  • Nightbus EP6 – The Exterminator: The Conclusion
  • Causal Citizen EP29 – Cold Case Files and Review of Flight-Ready Bounty Hunter Ships

COMMENTARY

Tone Deaf

Oh CIG, if there’s a loose thread you unravel it. A wobbly floorboard you trip and fall. Sometimes it’s too evident that passing years and what should be lessons learned, still haven’t steadied your feet. The cringe is real. I’m here for the game so little else matters to me but it sure would be nice for the non-development gaffes to end. CR’s wonderfully expressed and inspiring emails can’t cure all ills.

CIG marketing efforts at times come off as being tone deaf to the fact that they have an extremely vocal, emotional and fickle backer community. And while we should concede all quality of life issues and bugs in the game at this point in the development lifecycle, marketing shouldn’t still be in alpha mode.

The latest gaffe is the 2017 Referral Program Contest. Backers have been waiting for and hearing that an exciting restructuring has been in the works. I think most expected new ranks in the existing program, options for different rewards for the existing ranks and/or something fun that a majority of backers could work toward. Unfortunately, that’s not what was unveiled.

I think if the lower ranked rewards announced had been added into the existing program many would have been happy. Or at least not as WTF outraged about them being included in a timed event. I think if the top rewards for the contest had been announced separately – on its own as part of an annual contest for the referral program it would have gone down smoother. And if the coupe de gras misstep of then promoting the codes of a handful of people hadn’t occurred, fewer pitchforks would have been raised. Unfortunately, when you combine all of the above into one colossal misstep, it seems as though you don’t know this community at all. And when that’s followed closely by a price change twice on the BMM within days of each other because the first increase communicated was wrong, one has to ask WTF are you doing?

It seems as though CIG has learned the type of information the community at large wants to hear about and see in the weekly shows. Bravo! Anyone who’s still complaining about the shows needs to f— off. Every episode can’t be Christmas. Now it’s time for the people involved in marketing and communications AT ALL LEVELS rise to the same level. There’s a bubble up there that needs bursting. They need to consider what they’re doing from this side of the aisle BEFORE they do it.

They have Evocati for testing. Perhaps they need to preview marketing type stuff under NDA with a handful of backers as well. Most any of them could have told them that the Referral Contest wasn’t going to go down well after being touted as a restructuring of the referral program itself, which it was not.

I love CIG – the passion, commitment and hard work that’s easy to see. However, that doesn’t blind me to areas that need improvement — and quickly.

THE ‘VERSE

Excerpt from The Exterminator

On a dilapidated space station, a by-the-book bounty hunter’s personal ethos is challenged when he arrives to conduct a routine vagrant arrest.

“John James, plain name, simple life,” John introduced himself. Followed by “Or you can call me JJ. I’ve no preference.” He reached across the bar toward Maggie and gave her hand a friendly shake.

Maggie immediately warmed to his disarming smile. Was it a trick of the light or did his eyes sparkle? “On drugs more like,” she thought to herself. Shit! She might have to find someone else. But he’d come so highly recommended. She stepped from behind the bar to join him on the other side.

Maggie was deep into her fifties with spiky gray hair she kept long on the top and cut close on the sides and at the back. The lines on her face and circles under her eyes aged her beyond her years. But the fact that she’d been a beauty in her youth was evident.

Maggie and John were standing at the bar of Maggie’s Red Dragon pub, a popular hangout on Grim Hex. The public space was a large rectangular room divided into distinct quadrants. The decor was a cheap gaudy attempt at the Asian Revival decor that had been popular two or more decades ago. Circular black and white rice paper chandeliers with missing panels hung from the ceiling. Scarred wooden dragons acted as vertical beams, the blood red paint chipped and faded. The once gold and purple lotus patterned carpet was now threadbare.

To be continued…

Star Citizen fan-fiction set on Grim Hex, debuting in Star Citizen Nightbus Episode 5.


Casual Citizen EP28 - Banu Protectorate

This week we’re taking a closer look at the Star Citizen alien race I’m most excited to see in the game, the Banu. I like the idea of their unorthodox societal structure and the fact that they’re welcoming to all races. I’ll to put my thoughts about their participation in the slave market aside. In many cases, it’s being referred to as indentured servants. We’ll have to see just how far down the rabbit whole their practice goes. For now, their lore and star systems sound exciting and hospitable to humans.

Show Transcript

CAVEAT – THIS IS THE BEGINNING

Star Citizen’s feature set and lore are evolving. This article is based on what we know now. The information in the Star Systems section is based on the current ARK Starmap. That said, we know that economy, population and locations of conflict will change as the universe evolves and players begin impacting it. Therefore, this discussion is the likely starting point for the Banu species.

BANU AS A SPECIES

Our first encounter with the Banu occurred in the Davien system. In 2438 an independent nav-jumper named Vernon Tar opened fire on what he thought was another privateer trying to steal his meager claim in the system.  The pilot of the other ship turned out to be Banu. Luckily, the incident didn’t lead to any deaths and became humanity’s first introduction to the Banu Protectorate.

Directly from CIG

Known best for their industrious nature, Banu pride themselves on their artisan craftsmanship and astute business acumen. Rather than the traditional family units or corporations typically found among Humans, the Banu instead have a societal structure that combines both into one single unit – the Souli. Often translated as ‘guild,’ the Souli is the foundation for life in the Protectorate, where Banu work and live together.

This is an interesting characteristic the lore team has decided to attribute to the Banu. Unlike humans, there’s no concept of family within their culture. Their identity and affiliation are defined by the Souli assigned to them which is most equivalent to an occupation for humans. I wonder if they form loyalties of any kind outside of that structure? Do they only mate within that Souli?

More on the Souli from CIG

Each Souli specializes in a specific industry and can vary widely; from a ship manufacturing Souli, to a trade Souli, even a Souli that raises Banu young. There is a Souli for everything. This regimented division of labor translates directly into the skilled expertise present on Banu worlds.

Bacchus is believed to be the Banu’s home world.  We say “believe” because they haven’t been forthcoming on the subject. As with most Banu systems, their trade lanes are always packed with travelers from across the universe. Permanent flotillas are built anywhere they find a confluence of potential customers. The Banu are the traders and lore hounds of the Star Citizen Universe. As such, it makes sense that they would be the manufacturers of the prize among deep space merchants, the Banu Merchantman.  A vessel that is more of a lifestyle than a ship and acts has the primary residence among the stars.

The Banu worship multiple deities. The most popular being Cassa, the Patron of Luck and Taernin, the Great Traveler. Banu societal beliefs and principles are dictated by The Council, their religious leaders located in the Trise system.

Members of The Council intentionally remain isolated from the rest of Banu society.  Pride in craftsmanship is even demonstrated by Banu equivalent to monks who produce elaborate copper-based artwork which has a certain kitsch value.

The Banu Political System is a republic of planet states, each run under its own set of governing laws. The representatives of each planet gather for a quorum to debate legal and trade issues that affect the entire species. Otherwise, each planet is left to their own devices.  The lack of a central government, formal or required communication between the planets and loose historical recordkeeping, means that Banu planets are rife with crime. Criminals can migrate from one Banu planet to the next when things get too hot. And since the UEE is forbidden from crossing borders to pursue wanted felons, Banu worlds are also a haven for human criminals and syndicates.

The Banu do not maintain a standing army.  Local militia keeps the peace within their systems and they’re not especially selective. Even criminals can and do serve.  However, don’t be fooled into thinking this makes the Banu worlds an easy target.  On the contrary, they have the means to muster a formidable fighting force if necessary.  

It should be noted that the Banu belief system supports and participates in indentured servitude. The Kins system is their primary slave trade market. Visitors should take extreme care to avoid dubious areas and refrain from visiting the slave markets.

BANU STAR SYSTEMS

Banu aligned star systems account for 7% of the known Star Citizen Universe. Which means that they govern 6 of the 90 systems currently represented in the ARK Starmap. That’s small compared to the UEE’s 42%. With so few planets, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the populations within their systems is very high.  Unlike other species who have some systems with very low populations, the Banu appear to utilize what they have to it’s fullest and are able to attract other races to them because of their reputation of having diverse and abundant marketplaces.

LIVE IN THE MOMENT. RELAX BANU STYLE

DIRECTLY FROM CIG

Banu they take their relaxation almost as seriously as they take their work. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to diversions and there’s sure to be something to match almost any taste.

Traveling throughout the Banu Protectorate offers a variety of exotic sights and sounds. From the flotillas of Yulin to the hallowed halls of Trise, you can find adventure and mystery around every corner. So where do you even start? We’ve assembled a handy guide of some of the systems, to make planning your journey even easier.

  • Bacchus II – Skip between the thousands of archipelagos and islands across this vast ocean world to experience what many consider the quintessential Banu world.
  • Geddon I – Fancy a little danger? Visit the arcologies among the beautiful desolation of this geologically active volcanic world to see how mining soulis are harvesting planetary resources for trade goods.
  • Gliese IV – Ever wonder what an uninhabited planet looks like? Traverse the unkempt wilds of Gliese IV, perfectly habitable to Humans and Banu, but completely unoccupied.
  • Kins II – For you history buffs, no trip to the Banu Protectorate would be complete without seeing the ancient structure on Kins II. Completely defying any existing Banu engineering styles, these sites have long baffled xenoarchaeologists about who (or what) built them.

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? Things to Do When Among the Banu

Things to Do When Among the Banu

  • Try your hand at one of the bustling gambling halls where goods are exuberantly exchanged in games of chance.
  • Take in a game of Sataball. The Banu have taken a strong liking to the sport. You can find many Sataball arenas within Banu space.
  • Shop! Banu markets are considered second to none, offering what many consider the best shopping anywhere in the universe. Browse Souli elite craftsmanship and exotic goods from every corner of known universe.  These marketplaces are always built around a central area making it a hassle free experience for visitors.
  • Purchase the Banu’s version of the human magic 8 ball. Tholo, a small three-sided token representative of Cassa, the Banu patron of luck are sold as decision-making devices. Ask a question, then roll the tholo to get a ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘run for your life’ as an answer.
  • Partake in large communal meals. While Banu typically eat with their hands, some places that cater to Humans will have silverware available.
  • Negotiating is a must. It is considered very strange to accept an initial offer.
  • Even though an item or a ship can look the same on the outside, it’s worth taking a closer look at Banu manufacturing can vary widely from Souli to Souli.
  • It is traditional for Banu to offer hospitality while negotiating and you will often see traders gathered around a slomaddon, a large ornate brewing vessel, each of them having contributed an ingredient to the drink, sloma. If you are offered a cup, be polite and take a sip, but make sure to drink responsibility – sloma can sometimes be quite potent.
  • Most Banu will consider a deal final once the transaction is complete. Make sure you inspect everything closely and double check the terms of your agreement before leaving.
  • A good tip for finding a reputable dealer is watching where other Banu shop. If a Souli doesn’t have very many customers there might be a reason for it. If you see something you like, go ahead and buy it! Banu traders are often transient and may not be there next time you return.

So far we’ve only seen two Banu ships. The Banu Merchantman and the recently unveiled Banu Defender. I’ve pledged for the BMM and am waiting with baited breath for more updates on the ship’s design. If you’d like to know more about the BMM check out Causal Citizen Episode 9. I’ll include a link in the show notes.

Of what’s been revealed so far about the alien races planned for Star Citizen, the Banu interest me the most. Their societal structure is very foreign from a human’s perspective. I like that they live in the moment and are cordial to other races. I see a piece of fiction with a Banu protagonist in my future. I’m sure their systems will be among the first that I visit in the live game.

WRAP UP

That wraps up another episode of Causal Citizen. 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. If you want to know more about the physical universe being built visit Aly’s Starmap Matrix, a mobile-friendly and easier to read version of the official ARK Starmap data. 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!

If you haven’t created an account yet on RobertsSpaceIndustries.com, you can earn 5K in-game currency when the game goes live by using my referral code when you do and I’ll also earn some in-game goodies. You’ll find my referral code in the show notes.
This is Alysianah signing off until next time. Be kind and fly safe!

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