Tales of Deepspace

A webserial set in a lost sector of space.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

S1E8: Iire

The days passed slowly. Zeke continued to work on repairing the damaged ship, while Mahari passed the time with a small DeepNet communicator he had kept in the cockpit. It had obviously been years since Mahari had last had contact with the rest of Deepspace, and she seemed particularly fixated with news about the ongoing war with the Hourglass Republic.

Zeke's work progressed smoothly. Over the span of several days, he managed to get the damaged engine back online, though not working at full capacity. The shipboard computer was also up and running, although some less critical functions had to be disabled in order to save power. There was one critical flaw, however, that prevented Zeke from announcing that he was ready to go. Somewhere along the line, one of the base shield generators had short-circuited, weakening the shields to the point of near certain destruction upon reentry into any atmosphere.

Bending down, he took a closer look at the damaged mechanism. Upon doing so, he realized the terrible truth: he didn't know what a shield generator should look like, much less how it should work.

He called over to Mahari. "I need that for a second," he said, motioning to the communicator. She sighed, and walked over and handed it to him.

Pressing a few buttons, he conjured up a schematic for the device based off of a serial number inscribed on it: SC-BSG-6423-3725. This he could read. Comparing the schematic to the actual device, he learned that one of the chips designed to maintain the delicate balance of molecules around the ship responsible for the shield's effect had been burned to the point of destruction. He pressed another button, checking the chip against a vendor database. A new screen flashed up, revealing a reasonably-priced and widely available chip.

Zeke handed the communicator back to Mahari. "I've got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that this thing's base shield generator is fried. We could take off and fly just fine, but entering an atmosphere would turn us into charcoal."

"And the good news?"

"These chips are widely available. I'm thinking I'll send in a call, we'll have my boss send someone down in 10 to 14 days and we'll get this thing repaired." He moved and sat down inside of the cockpit, then began flipping a few switches to activate the ship's communicators.

Mahari interjected, however. "Stop. If you have access to talk to your boss, why didn't you do that in the first place?"

"Not that easy. She doesn't deal well with... uh... problems."

"Regardless. That amount of time is unacceptable. I need to get off this rock as soon as I can."

"Why so anxious?" Mahari remained silent. "Fine fine. Different question. How exactly do you plan on getting us away from here?"

This time, Mahari answered. "The wreck of the ship I came here on lies just over that ridge, in the city," she said, pointing over a close range of hills. "It looks like your ship is just a newer version of the one I came here on. The chips should still be compatible for small crafts."

"Wait, wreck? You mean you weren't just dropped here on a science mission?" Again, Mahari did not answer. After a few awkward moments, Zeke spoke again. "Fine. Take me to this thing."

He climbed down from the ship and began following Mahari, who had already begun walking, gun in hand. The two walked for several hours until reaching a ditch in the ground filled with the twisted metal remnants of what had once been a fighter.

"Dammit, this thing is old," said Zeke, as he began looking over the wreckage. "Seriously, how long did you say you've been down here?"

"I didn't."

Zeke didn't respond. Instead, he climbed up the wreckage towards the roof of the ship, where the chip providing access to the base shield generator was located. He traced the maze of circuitry crossing between the sheets of metal, and then returned back to the bottom of the ship.

"You got any tools here or anything?"

Without speaking, Mahari climbed up to the top of the ship. She opened up a compartment in the cockpit and removed an old toolbox.

"Should have whatever you need."

Zeke opened it up, and quickly began flailing his arms in an attempt to clear off the dust from them. He reached a hand into the box and fished around for three tools: a small soldering iron in order to melt the chip off from the surround circuitry, a solder pump in order to suck away any excess metal, and a screwdriver to force a wedge between the chip and ship in order to separate the two. After working for a few minutes, he managed to pop off the chip, which went flying and landed in the cockpit.

He bent over and leaned down in order to pick it up. As his head neared the ground, he suddenly noticed a very low droning noise in the background. He turned around to face it, and saw that one of the computer screens had randomly flicked on. Although it was showing nothing more than a grey screen with some standard interference patterns, it slowly began to change, until it became a black monitor with green text on it:


There was a flash of light, and Zeke's mind exploded with pain. Everything swayed around sickeningly. Feeling drunk, Zeke stumbled out of the cockpit, vomited, and collapsed on the ground, twitching. He felt nothing then, not even pain.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

S1E7: Mahari

The familiar sound of bullets caused Zeke to follow his usual reaction: he ran away, hiding for cover. His ship, already pockmarked with bullet holes from the battle in space that put him here in the first place, was now damaged by additional bullet holes. He suddenly wished he had a nice glass of whiskey, or at least some beer.

He reached down to the holster on his belt, drawing his own gun. Pulling a smallish magazine from his belt, he loaded it. He took a deep breath, counted to three, then jumped out.

As much as he hated to admit it, Zeke loved the feeling of the recoil from the gun as shell casings popped from the chamber and onto the ground. He barely even knew from whence the other shots had originated, but he didn't care enough to try searching for the other person. Whoever it was had a gun, and he had no form of protection. Bad combination.

More shots rang out from his opponent, causing him to dive back to cover. They continued for several moments, and Zeke wished that the ship would fly if he got into it. But he knew that would never happen, since it was already damaged so severely from the fight not so long ago in space. Hell, he considered himself lucky for having survived that battle. Surviving a ground battle should be easy. Sadly, he knew that "should" was the operative word.

Slowly, as he chewed through bullets while unsuccessfully trying to kill his attacker, he came to the conclusion that surrender could be the best option. He did not know who the attacker was nor why they were attacking, but the small hail of bullets told him that he only had a single opponent to worry about. In the worst case scenario, he could always stab them in the back. Literally.

He stepped to somewhere with cover and aimed the gun straight up. After hesitating for a brief moment, he emptied the remainder of his magazine. In most traditions throughout Deepspace, such an act would be considered a surrender. He hoped that the tradition held true on Rashi II.

Putting his hands on his head and his gun in his holster, he stepped out into the clearing around the ship. There were several brief moments of awkward silence. He half-expected a slug to appear in his chest any time.

Several more seconds passed, until finally a voice called out, "I see you and will come to you. Please put your weapons on the ground." A female voice. Zeke would be the first to admit that he was confused. Why was female alone on this planet? Had she crash-landed here long ago or what? Nevertheless he did as he was told, bending over and putting his gun and spare magazines on the ground.

Within a few moments, he heard footsteps in front of him, and out stepped a woman. It took Zeke a few seconds to comprehend her. She was wearing a damaged but still functional jumpsuit, similar to the sorts that many mercenaries wore, and her long brown hair hung down to her shoulders. Her skin was dark but beautiful, similar in many respects to those still identified as Indians from the geography and evolution of humanity on Earth. For a moment Zeke thought she was beautiful, but then remembered that she had been trying to kill him.

She took a few steps towards him, holding a handgun between her two palms, ready to fire it at Zeke's head if he made one wrong move. Slowly, she moved in, taking care to examine him for any sort of tricks he might have up his sleeve. He did not look like the most trustworthy man.

"Who are you?" she asked. "And why have you come to my planet?"

Her planet? "My name is Zeke Rath'u," he responded. As much as he hated to give away his name, guns in his face had a tendency to make him tell the truth. "I am a bounty hunter of the Imperial government. I am currently on a bounty call seeking a man by the name of Kiah Faed'i. I was shot down by an unknown attacker not far above this planet, and crashed here. Is that good enough for you?"

He had more sass than she would have liked, but she had to make do with what she had. "It will suffice for now."

Zeke paused for a moment. "Might I ask whom I have the privilege of speaking to?"

She hesitated. "My name..." her voice trailed off. "My name is Mahari. Just Mahari."

She looked to the sky and sighed. "Tell me, Zeke Rath'u, assuming that is your real name, where are you from?"

Zeke really wished that there wasn't a gun in such close proximity to his head. He wouldn't be so bloody stupid if it wasn't there. "I am from the Imperial Worlds," he replied. "My family were devoted Imperials, but after my father died in a stupid battle that should never have been fought, I became Undetermined, as you can tell. I see you have no allegiance?"

Mahari stared at him. She had not thought about the allegiance system in a long time, and it pained her to see that it had become such a standard that Zeke expected one. When she had fled from civilization after the incident, it had been a suggestion among the Imperials, and certainly not a standard.

The idea had been simple: at that time, and presumably still, the Imperials had been reasonable lax about whether or not someone sided with them. Since they already had four-letter naming conventions in place, people simply added an apostrophe and a letter designating their allegiance to the end of their name. A "u", like Zeke Rath'u had, was Undetermined - usually an admission of no preference, common among bounty hunters. Mahari was surprised that he was not "i", Zeke Rath'i, which would mean that he sided with the Imperials on most matters. Other letters, such as "o" for Opposed existed, and when the war broke out, cries of "h" for Hourglass joined the chaos.

"No, I do not," she said simply. It was already enough that her name did not follow the four-letter rule, proving that she was not from a Imperial World, but rather more likely from a world closer to the Hourglass Republic, as stood now. Even so, the name made her spit. If she followed the allegiance system, she would be "o", not "h". She might even invent her own of "a", for Anarchist. Governments always failed their people.

She stood for several more moments with the gun up to Zeke's head. His eyes darted around quickly, hoping that she would lower the bloody thing already and let him leave. She looked around, until her eyes finally settled on his ship. "Your ship," she said, pointing at it. "What is it? Can it still fly?"

"It's an S-17 fighter, but it can't fly. That's why I landed here." Part of him wanted to insult her in that last comment, but the gun stopped him.

"How long would it take to fix it?"

"Three or four days, assuming nothing went wrong. Why, desperate to get off this rock?"

"You could say that." Although Mahari liked her work here studying the ancient Riilan city - really, she did - she wanted to return to Deepspace. Hopefully, in the years that had passed since the incident, everyone would have forgotten the five murders that led to war. "Tell me," she said, hoping he did not read between the lines, "whatever happened with the Hourglass Republic and that rebellion?"

"You don't know? I guess you don't get much access to DeepNet out here. They're still fighting. The Hourglass Republic is probably growing stronger as we speak. There are rumors of an official end to the war, but no one seriously believes them. Battles are still being fought weekly."

Of course. She sighed. Of all the things that had to happen to her, now here she was getting a lift from some low-life bounty hunter from some no-name planet in order to return to a civil war she had started. Reluctantly, she pulled the gun away. She wanted to leave, to get off this rock, to escape Deepspace in its entirety. She knew passing through the Veil would be foolish, and she would probably die. No one had ever escaped, and it was a miracle that the Alexandria had passed through that wall. Zeke would certainly never agree.

She told Zeke to get to work fixing his ship, and walked off. Over the ridge, she counted the number of bullets she had. Seventeen. Easily enough to get off the planet and attempt a trip through the veil.

After all, it would only take one bullet to kill Zeke.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

S1E6: Whispers

The roar of engines had been a surprise to her. It wasn't often that ships visited the dead world of Rashi II, and they never, ever landed there without a radio message a few days in advance. Something was wrong, and she didn't like it.

Following when she had seen the ship descend through the atmosphere and crash onto the planet, she had returned to her base of operations deep inside the city to view her tracking device reader. It was by no means the scientific ship that she usually saw landing on the planet. This thing claimed to be an old military craft. Good, though. Old but good.

Still, she thought it was a bit odd that a military craft would be landing on the planet, but the timeline of events as listed under the device's history led her to believe that the landing was not so much a landing as a crash. Shortly after the ship had entered the atmosphere of the planet, the scanner claimed that the ship's tracking device had failed. The obvious assumption would be that the ship had burned up in the atmosphere, but she didn't usually trust obvious assumptions.

Following the crash, she had ignored thinking about the possibility of not being alone in the city anymore. She didn't know why she felt so on-edge, it wasn't like this had never happened to her before. Rather, it hadn't happened in such a long time. Especially without any sort of warning beforehand. She had returned to where she had been excavating parts of the ruins. Nothing terribly interesting, she had simply found lots of old scripts by the Riilan documenting their life, culture, history and so on. Important, yes, and mildly interesting too, but after years of unearthing similar scripts, the whole idea tended to get old.

It had been when she was lying awake at night trying to ignore the fact that there was an unidentified military ship on the planet that she decided to take action. She rummaged through her things to find a small pistol she had obtained in what seemed like a past life, as well as a few cases of bullets. It wasn't the biggest or fanciest gun by any means, but given enough time to line up a shot, one bullet could end anyone's life.

She took the gun in hand and grabbed a small tracking device. Maybe that chip would somehow start working again. She didn't need an EBD anymore - ever since she had spent so many years on the planet, her body had somehow acclimated to the atmosphere. Not that she was complaining. Her supply of Earth-like air had run out years and years ago.

Throughout the day, the device had been pointing towards the south - further into the aptly named Great Desert (a direct translation of the Riilan word "salim", from what she had made out of the language). She ignored the fact that this implied the ship's transmitter was indeed working again. According to the texts she had read over the years, there lived a great monster somewhere in the Great Desert, which was the primary reason nobody went there. The dangers of a monster far outweighed the dangers of overheating and dying a slow and painful death of dehydration, apparently.

As night began to fall, she made for a nearby cave to stay. Her gun in hand, she cleared out as much room as she could in the cave for sleeping. It was then that she heard the noises.

Outside the cave, voices whispered to each other. She could not understand the things they said, but the tone was dark and ominous, and latent fears long suppressed within her began to rise. Her mind flashed back to the horrors she had seen before she ever went to Rashii II...

She hated what she had done. Her job had been a single hit - only the senator was a target. She had her gun in hand when she broke down the door, but she didn't expect to find what she did.

Inside was the senator's family. She had done her prepwork, and had learned that never before had this particular man ever let relatives into his office. She figured he just kept a pornography collection in there or something. It would be befitting of a man with that much power to be that corrupt. But she didn't have time to think about what to do.

She opened fire, shooting her mark first. But the job wasn't finished when his bloodied body hit the ground. She needed to obscure her identity. She was never careful enough, never wore a mask to hide her face. She was too damn sneaky and full of herself for that. She reloaded the gun, and fired again at the wife. And again, and again, and again at the children. When the shots finished, she looked around at the macabre collection of corpses around her.

What had she done? This wasn't just a mark she killed. She had killed the wife and the children - Oh, God! The children! - after killing their father in plain view. What had she done? She had no time to think about it, she was sure she would be caught and executed if she stayed.

It had been days later that she had learned the full extent what she had done. Open warfare within the Empire. Five worlds near the edge of Deepspace, near that great asteroid wall, had declared independence from their ancestral nation. Calling themselves the Hourglass Republic, from the shape of the trade routes as viewed from the Maw, they razed many worlds, all in revenge for those five bodies. Not that just five bodies caused a war, but they were in many respect the proverbial straw on the proverbial camel's back.

Oh God! What had she done?

She woke with a start from her dream. The whispers had faded. The stars were disappearing as the sun began rising over the horizon. In the distance, she could see electric lights. Certainly there were no lights left anywhere on this dead world. She had been right - the ship had not crashed, it had landed. Someone was doing something with it. In all likelihood, it probably was damaged, and the captain had landed it here as a convenient place for repairs.

Taking her gun in hand, she moved closer towards the ship in question. Hiding behind a large rock, she poked her head around to see what was happening.

The ship was of Imperial make, looked to be some sort of trade ship. She guessed based on visual evidence (not the other evidence she had already recieved) that it was not licensed to the Imperials or any other group. The large add-on engines and non-standard cannons gave away the fact that the ship appeared to be used for smuggling. It at least was used for some sort of borderline-legality activity. Why a trade ship, seemingly not allied with the Imperials, had a military tracking device she couldn't figure out.

She hadn't seen him at first, but it became obvious that someone was indeed working on the ship. Slowly the person in question came into view. A man, fairly young, probably involved in shady activities. From what she could see, not bad looking either. But people in general scared her. There was always the chance of identification. Rumors had circulated following - the incident. Rumors about the shooter. Rumors that were all too true.

There was no time to think. She took her gun in hand and pointed it at the man. Easing the trigger, she let the bullet fly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

S1E5: Emergency Landing

Blinking red lights circled the ceiling while a loud alarm blared. Zeke covered his ears to try to lessen the sound some, but to no avail. Although it rarely played, Zeke dreaded the alarm not because of the fact that it only triggered when he was in a very dangerous situation, but because it was so bloody loud. He flipped a switch on his control panel and the noise stopped, but the lights and red message remained.

Zeke pressed a few more buttons on the panel to see what was wrong. The computer chattered to itself for a few seconds, then displayed a small graphic of the rear of the ship. Apparently some circuitry on the back was short-circuiting. Although this was not exactly a good thing, a question remained in Zeke's mind. How was the ship depressurizing? A problem like that shouldn't cause depressurization. He decided to read the alert text that accompanied the graphic.


"Ah," he muttered. That explained it, after all, if the ship's circuitry couldn't maintain the air pressure in the cockpit, then the cockpit would lose air pressure, which in turn would set off all of these bloody air pressure alarms. Made sense. He hit a few buttons to see the actual damage, not this stupid computer graphic.

A small "Whirr" sounded as a camera on the back spun to look at the problem. The screen shifted again to display a new image. Sparks flipped off of the wires into the cold vacuum of space. Sparks? In space? Must be combining with solar wind or something in order to be visible. But he wasn't near any stars, was he? Suddenly a few holes appeared alongside another panel. Bullet holes. They were accompanied by the all-too-familiar "rat-tat-tat-tat" of machine gun fire.

"Shit!" Zeke yelled. He pulled hard on the joystick, and the ship lurched strongly up, forcing Zeke into his seat with several g's of force. He flipped a few switches, and his left-hand screen switched to a rear camera.

It was difficult to make anything out on the screen, but behind him, he could just barely see a bright light behind him. He worked a second joystick to center the camera on the dot. "Magnify ten times." The camera lurched in closer, showing the object in more detail. It was very clearly an enemy ship. He pressed a few buttons, and the computer began working to see if it could find the homing chip in the ship's computer. That chip would contain data on the type of ship and status of it. After a few seconds, the image froze and text appeared. Zeke didn't care about most of it, but there was certainly important information on it. Most notably it was an S-12 type fighter craft - the same type as the one from Station 7 that disappeared when Kiah did. It had an identifying number of 3725, which Zeke seemed to remember as fairly important, but wasn't sure if his bounty had listed the identification number of the stolen ship.

Another round of bullets tore up the back of the ship more, and the sirens turned back and the red lights turned brighter. Bloody sirens! The computer spoke out in a more monotone than usual voice. "Hull integrity at 72%. Recommend immediate emergency landing." Zeke muttered a few curses, then spun quickly aorund to the right in the hopes of catching the S-12 off guard.

He had a problem, though. He could not destroy the ship, since his bounty required him to talk to Kiah. Destroying the ship would also be illegal if Kiah was on board, since Zeke was not registered for the other bounty call. Something needed to be done, but attacking his enemy was not it. And if the ship was not Kiah's, but rather a regular Imperial strike craft out on mission, that would cause problems he didn't even want to think about.

"Computer!" screamed Zeke, as a third round of bullets hit his ship. "Find nearest habitable planet and set course!" An emergency landing was exactly what he needed now, before the ship broke apart and he wouldn't have to worry about who was piloting that ship. The computer beeped quickly, an acknowledgement that it had recieved his orders.

A few seconds later, the computer returned with an answer. "Planet found, name Rashii II. Setting course now." The engines flared, but not as strongly as Zeke had expected. Those bullets were taking their toll - not that he expected differently.

Zeke looked back in the rear camera, and saw that the pursuing ship did not look as close now as it had before. Perhaps it was breaking off the attack? That wouldn't make much sense, since it obviously wanted to kill him, but for whatever reason, it didn't seem as aggressive as before. Zeke relaxed a little, then tensed up as yet another round of bullets struck the ship.

"Hull integrity at 48%. Converting power to shields." The lights dimmed, and the two outer screens of the main terminal turned off. As much as he hated to admit it, Zeke knew that that was the right thing to do. Keep going at full power for the cockpit and the ship wouldn't last much longer, even if that was the last round of shots. He hit a button on the control panel, and the main screen flipped to a diagram of the distance between his ship and Rashii II. He was certainly getting closer, and switching his view screen to the front camera, he could see the planet in the distance.

The ship lurched again as more bullets entered the hull. The lights in the cabin went off; only the main screen was on. "Switching control to manual," chittered the computer, in response to a few keystrokes by Zeke. He grabbed the main joystick, and began piloting the ship closer to Rashii II. If he could make it look like his ship had broken up in the atmosphere, the pursuer wouldn't have a reason to chase him onto the surface of the planet. Then he had an idea.

He pressed a few buttons, switching power from one of the most critical parts of the ship's CPU. It would dramatically reduce the power of his shields, but it would also shut off his homing chip. Maybe now the pursuer would break off the attack.

Just as he was thinking that, the hull burst into flames as the ship entered the atmosphere. He pulled hard on the joystick to try to slow his descent as much as possible. Thank whatever powers that be that he had spent the money that he had on retroburners like he had, he thought. The ship slowed considerably, and as he watched the rear camera, the other ship had broken off of the attack. Obviously the loss of a homing chip followed by the ship burning as it entered into the atmosphere led the other ship to think that he had been killed. That should fix that problem.

The ship's descent was not as smooth as he would have liked, but he managed to slow the ship down enough to land safely near a dark patch on the sandy surface of the planet. He pressed a few switches, and the computer brought back the command module to full power.


A breathable atmosphere. Always nice. Zeke pressed a button, and the hatch on his ship opened up. He stuck his head out and looked out. He gasped as he looked out on the landscape. The dark spot was not simply an area of rich minerals, like he had assumed.

It was a city.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

S1E4: Station Mnemosyne

Dead or alive. The words hung in the air like moisture on a humid summer day. Those words spelled out certain death to the one mentioned in a bounty call, because dead subjects are much easier to transport than live ones. Fortunately for Kiah, Imperial laws allow only one hunter to follow a call at any given time, leaving him some breathing room.

Although he was loathe to do so, Zeke called on the computer again. "Computer, connect me with Tali. Again."

Somehow, the computer managed not to speak when performing the requested operation. A few seconds passed, and the right screen flickered back to Tali.

"What is it now, Zeke? Can't you just leave me alone?" she asked angrily.

Zeke shuddered. The Imperials were still looking for the head of the last person Tali got angry at.

"I'm- I'm sorry Tali. But I found this call on DeepNet," he said. Hitting a few buttons, he sent the call to her. "He's my primary target right now, he's the one who was there when Mnemosyne got the finger! And now he's dead or alive!"

"I'm sorry, Zeke, but there's nothing I can do for you. The call has already been accepted, and by one of our own. Laha Vast'o, his name is. I'm suprised the Imperials let him take it, but they're pretty pissed at Kiah right now."

Laha Vast'o, Zeke's archenemy. The one who had betrayed him and handed over his partner to the Imperials. And now he was after Kiah.

"So be it," said Zeke, as he flipped off his screen.

During the course of the conversation, the ship had been traveling trans-dimensionally to Station Mnemosyne. According to the charts, he would be there shortly. In the meantime, he decided to watch the distress video again for anything he missed the first time through.

The computer read out the gibberish again as it tried to decipher what the scientist was saying, and an explosion rocked the bridge. Something seemed to grab at Zeke, so he paused and rewound the tape slightly. Slowly this time, he watched the first explosion.

There in the shadows, he saw something. It looked vaguely humanoid, albeit about nine or ten feet tall. But the way the light was hitting it was undeniable. Something was on the ship with the scientists, something that was not a scientist. Impossible. Nothing had ever been found proving life on other planets, only some circulating rumors of ancient ruins elsewhere in Deepspace.

The computer beeped as it approached the station, and Zeke tried to clear his mind from what he had seen. There was no way something had been on board that station. He slowly made his way to his space suit, preparing to take a walk out into the station.

After getting on the suit, the doors of the depressurization room opened, allowing Zeke access to the black void outside. Tethered to his ship, Zeke slowly drifted towards the station.

An entire wall had been blown off, revealing computer terminals, linoleum floors, and burn marks. Although the tape had only shown two blasts, nothing said that there hadn't been more after the camera was destroyed. Looking at the damage, Zeke estimated that it had been hit by at least four explosions.

He slowly drifted his way to what seemed like the main computer terminal. Attached to the wall was a camera, very badly damaged, and probably the one that recorded the tape. Looking behind himself, he saw that he was indeed where the scientist had been when the signal was sent. Zeke worked his way up to the camera to take a closer look at it.

The camera was not just shut down due to lack of power, like Zeke had assumed would be the case. It was smashed in by bullet fire, destroyed maliciously. Curious as to whether there was any other damage, Zeke turned on his flashlight and looked around the room. Sure enough, the entire room was covered in bullet holes, and blood stains on some of the walls. Something had attacked, this was not just an accident.

Continuing his search, Zeke drifted to the power room, where electricity was generated and used throughout the station. As he arrived, he noticed that the main generators were still intact, but a number of the major wires had been severed. In addition, he saw that the fuel tank where the gasoline was held had been shot multiple times, allowing the fuel to escape into space. As he floated around the room, he realized an idea that had not occurred to him.

He pulled himself back to his ship along the tether, then reentered. After a few minutes of repressurizing and depressurizing, Zeke had what he was after, so he returned to the generator room.

He remembered from his days in training in the academy that all space stations came with a power terminal in case of power failure, and that small generators were available, generally providing about fifteen minutes of electricity. He also remembered that he had one of those small generators in his ship.

Looking around, he found the terminal again, and attached the generator. He activated it, allowing the powerful batteries inside provide the station with 120 volts of power, enough to power the station for a brief time.

Slowly, the lights flickered on, but not the extent that they would have under the main generator. Still, it was something, at least the circuits remained intact so that he could power the station at all. He drifted back over to the terminal, and turned it on.

After the computer loaded, Zeke made his way to check damage reports. The screen filled with data, so he decided that it would be best to simply put the data on his disk for later review. He also told the terminal to output a second disk with mission data on it. As he floated over to where the disk slots were, he noticed that one drive in particular had a disk in it. The coordinates drive.

Zeke had long known that many space stations were equipped with minor engines for transportation, but never had he seen them in use. He pressed the button to eject the disk, and took that disk with him too.

Thinking of nothing else to do in the station, Zeke slowly made his way back to his ship. Following pressurization, he entered his cabin, and inserted the coordinates into his own coordinates drive. The right screen flickered on as the computer pulled up a map. Data on the destination flooded the screen.


A planet, the third from the sun in the system Gorash, and only 1.4 lightyears from that massive black hole called The Maw. Zeke inserted the other disk, the mission disk, into his drive in the hopes of finding out why the station was headed to such a remote destination.

He read the information for a short bit. It seemed that the scientists were investigating the rumors of an ancient alien race. According to the information that Station Mnemosyne had deciphered, it seemed that they called themselves the Riilan. This planet, Gorash III, a jungle world, appeared to be an ancient home of the Riilan, so the scientists were traveling there to find ruins and decipher them. Feh. Maybe there was some truth to those alien rumors after all.

Go where the facts lead, an old bounty hunter's creedo, echoed in Zeke's mind. He set the computer to travel to the world. He fell asleep a few minutes later, until an alarm woke him up. The middle screen flooded with large, bold words in a red font.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

S1E3: Mission Details

Zeke stared into his right computer monitor. His mind flooded with questions to ask about this new information that Tali had given him, but only one managed to move from his thoughts to his mouth:

"What the hell?" he asked. "Missing? How the hell does he go missing?"

"They're not sure yet, Zeke," said Tali. "They tried to keep a close eye on him, as standard Imperial procedure dictates for those who call alarms, but he disappeared nonetheless. A ship is missing too."

"What sort?"

"S-12, a fighter craft. Again, standard Imperial stuff. I recommend you just drop by Station 7 and find out what's going on."

"Sounds like a good idea. I should be getting there soon anyways."

The right screen flicked off, and Zeke leaned back relaxingly in his chair. He never enjoyed his conversations with Tali, she was too dangerous of a person. She was usually worse when giving him bad news, and, in his mind at least, a subject going missing was very bad news.

Zeke flipped a switch on the control panel of his ship, and the right screen came up again, welcoming him to DeepNet. DeepNet, so the stories went, was modeled after an old communications network back on Earth called the Internet. Its functioning was very similar, but the technology had gotten much better. With the addition of speech recognition software and content valuing software, his computer could now look up information that he simply told it he needed, and it would find all of the relevant facts. Computers, and DeepNet, are good things.

"Computer, look up the S-12, Imperial strike craft. I only need specifications."

"Sure thing, Zeke," said the computer, in its classic too-nice voice. Bloody computer.


The right screen flickered again, displaying a clever little graphic to show that it was loading. A few seconds later, it was replaced with a rotating 3D model of a fairly standard-looking strike craft, and detailed specifications.

Zeke looked over the specifications, until he came to one in particular:


After some quick calculations on the computer, he came to the realization that the simple strike craft was capable of traveling at nearly 4.2 times the speed of light, meaning that already Kiah could already be millions of miles away. Damn him.

"Approaching Station 7," chimed the computer. Zeke looked at the central screen, and already the ship was taking him in for a landing. He heard the retroburners flare as the ship slowed down for a descent into the hangar. After guiding the ship safely into the entrance area, he slowed it to a halt, and lowered the entrance ramp.

Zeke grabbed a few things, then walked down the ramp. He was greeted by three Imperial guards, each carrying fully automatic machine guns. Laser guns were not used for multiple reasons, such as the fact that they could destroy a space station's hull too easily, killing everyone in the process. Also, scientists just couldn't seem to figure out how the hell to get them to work.

"Name and purpose of business," recited the first guard.

"I am Zeke Rath'u, bounty hunter of the Empire. I am here to investigate this call." With a cinematic flick of the wrist, he produced a piece of paper with the bounty call written on it, as well as his bounty hunting license. The guard took the paper, then motioned.

"This way."

Zeke followed the three guards down innumerable hallways, going deeper and deeper into the complex. He couldn't understand why he had ever thought that he would be able to handle the boring monotony of being part of the Imperial military. They never seemed to do anything exciting. Well, the exception to that would be the ones actually fighting, but that seemed too exciting.

They reached a large set of metal doors, inscribed with the Imperial seal. The second guard produced a red card key, and swiped it in a slot next to the door. He then punched in a series of four numbers, which Zeke identified as 3, 7, 2, and 5, in that order. It was a curse, not a gift really, but Zeke had always been good at identifying what numbers were being hit on a keypad based solely on the hand's movement. Finally, the doors opened, revealing a large room dominated by walls of computer screens, each with a single solid green line across them.


Zeke followed the guards into the room, until they met a fourth soldier, much more decorated than the guards. He reached his hand out to Zeke, who shook it.

"Sir, this man is an Imperial bounty hunter investigating Station Mnemosyne."

"Thank you, you three may leave." The man spoke in a nasal voice, which was only amplified by the curious configuration of chairs, screens, and the sort. "My name is Meku Tras'i. And you are?"

"I am called Zeke Rath'u, sir."

"Pleased to meet you, Zeke. The distress signal came in late for our time, when most of the crew was asleep. My alarm went off at approximately 0023 local hours. I, too, was asleep. I ran down to this room to see what was going on, as did a number of other crew members. Kiah claimed that something was happening at Station Mnemosyne, and sure enough, the screen was giving a warning read-out. Then he showed us this."

Meku leaned over a keyboard and began pressing a few buttons. A larger screen than the rest flicked on, and then began playing the distress signal sent by the scientists aboard Station Mnemosyne. Zeke, who knew that it was what Tali had sent him but hadn't actually gotten around to watching it, stared at the screen for the minute or so that it played.

"Attempts to make contact with the station after this point failed. Our first message was received, but the later ones were not, suggesting power failure throughout the craft. I recommend that you check out the station to see if you can find any signs of what happened there." He bent over, pressed some more keys, and a disk shot out of a slot. "This disk has the coordinates of the station to help you find your way there. Need anything else?"

"I should be fine, thank you very much, sir. May the Veil part for you."

"And may it for you as well."

Zeke followed the signs back to the hangar where his ship was parked. He boarded it again, and inserted the disk with the coordinates. The computer processed them for a moment, then began filling the right screen with a star map and distances.

"Distance from Station 7 to Mnemosyne is approximately 3.7 parsecs," said the computer. Again, it spoke in that sickeningly nice tone of voice.

"Thank you. Engage overdrive engines, set course for Station Mnemosyne." Zeke sat back, and switched the right screen to return to DeepNet. He idly tapped a few keys to see whether or not there were any calls. Four came up, more than he had seen in the last few months. Didn't it figure that now that he finally had a job, and a hard one at that, all these other ones came in. Damn Imperials. Most of them looked like standard stuff, until he saw the last one. He pulled it up onto his screen.

Just like he expected, it followed standard Imperial formatting, complete with the watermark at the bottom. But he didn't care about the formatting, only what it said. What it said was this:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

S1E2: A Job Offer

The computer blared loudly as Zeke cruised through the Core Sector of the Empire. It wasn't blaring warning messages or news reports, but music. Loud music. Loud music infused with electronica, with just the right amount of grunge that Zeke needed to cheer him up.

It wasn't that anything bad had happened recently, no, it was rather the opposite. Zeke was a bounty hunter, so he made a living off of bad things happening. When bad things happened, someone was responsible, and that someone was wanted by the Empire. And when someone was wanted by the Empire, Zeke and the other hunters would go to work.

No, as a matter of fact, Deepspace had been rather calm as of late, barring the battles between Imperial forces and various rebel states. But the Imperial government didn't offer war-related bounties, leaving him where he was. To pass the time, Zeke had recently taken his ship to New Earth in order to fix it up. It was in a seedy spaceport on New Earth that he had won the ship originally, in a card game called Veil. It was a gambling game, very common throughout Deepspace, especially in seedy spaceports. He wasn't terribly good at the game, but he was good at judging how inebriated other players were, and it was when he sensed that they were not alert that he would pounce.

Still, he had lost over a thousand credits during his recent Veil playing on New Earth. Compile that with the rather expensive repairs that his ship needed, and he figured that he was badly in debt. He needed a job, and desperately. It didn't help that after successfully tracking down a wanted terrorist just a few cycles ago, the Empire had refused to give him his pay. No, they said, that money needed to go to the armies fighting the rebels.

"Screw them," Zeke muttered to himself.

Turning his attention back to the computer, he intoned, "Computer, contact Tali at headquarters. Direct connect me."

"As you wish, Zeke," replied the computer. Zeke couldn't stand the computer. It was too nice to him. Always responding in a soothing tone, it seemed as if the programmers had forgotten to upload the code for negative emotions to it or something. Bloody computer.

One of the three main screens in front of Zeke's chair flipped on. The left one had been showing the Imperial Stock Market (damn those bastards at ALS Inc., screwing with his stock like that), and the middle one had been acting as his viewscreen. Of course, space is big, so nothing really had been visible save the stars in the sky.

The right screen flicked on, and the image of a woman appeared. She was mildly beautiful, probably in her early 30's. Brunette, fair skin, blue eyes. She wasn't really Zeke's type, and besides, if he ever tried to bring their relationship past the professional level, he'd probably wake up with a knife in his back.

"You rang?" she asked. Her voice resonated oddly, presumably because of compression algorithms needed for the communication over DeepNet.

"Hey Tali," said Zeke, trying to hid the nervousness in his voice. He never enjoyed his conversations with Tali. She had a blacklist more powerful than the Maw, as the saying went. "I was wondering if any jobs came in. I'm having some - issues - finding money."

"You never were a good Veil player, were you?" she laughed. "Hang on, I'll check the queue." She bent over, and began tapping wildly on a keyboard. Despite all the technological improvements of the past few decades, she still preferred classic terminal computers. She claimed they were easier to use than the more intelligent ones, and they never seemed to be trying to scheme against their users. Of course, the Unified Computer Laws protected against malevolent computer programs, but they weren't well enforced.

"Ah, here we go." She shook her head a few times. "This one looks dangerous, Zeke. I'll transmit the mission data straight to you." She tapped her keyboard a few more times.

Zeke's computer beeped, and he switched the left screen to display the document that had just been sent to him. He noticed it followed the format of an official notice. Good thing, too. They paid more. They document read as follows:


The document closed with an electronic watermark designating it as an official Imperial document.

"There was also an attachment with the message," said Tali, in her usual no-fooling tone. "The distress signal was recorded by the scientists aboard the station. I'll send that to you as well."

"I'll view that later. Any ideas as to where to start?"

"Only one person was present at Station 7 when the call came in. I'll pull up his file for you." The left screen switched from the document to a government file. At the top was a picture of Kiah. Red haired, fair skin, brown eyes. Underneath were service records: school attended, branch joined, main base of operations. "Seems like the standard stuff, soldier, happened to be on guard duty when it occured."

"I know him."

"You what?"

"I said I know him." Tali's blank look spoke volumes. "I once tried to join the military, wasn't really their type. He was my roommate freshman year at the academy."

"Hopefully that'll make the conversation easier," she said. "Friends will spill more than enemies, after all."

"'Friends' probably isn't the proper word here. Roommates, yes, friends, no. Let's just say that I got him into quite a bit of trouble during the course of our lessons at the academy. A bit of trouble that ended up in me joining the bounty hunting business. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Still, I bet he might be willing to help. I busted him out of a number of jams, probably more than I got him into. Who knows, maybe he'll end up coming along with me, we both know what happened to my former partner."

Although neither wanted to talk about it, Zeke's former partner had gotten into some trouble with the law. He fled the Imperial authorities to a planet near the Maw. A small detachment of soldiers managed to capture him and bring him back to New Earth. He was executed as a traitor, one of the worst crimes under Imperial law, comparable to perjury, rape, and murder.

"Sounds good, Zeke. He's still at Station 7, and my tracker suggests that you are near there now." The right screen kicked off.

Zeke checked his readings, and yes indeed, he was only .15 parsecs away. He set his course to Station 7, and the overdrive boosters kicked in. So he was off to see Kiah, his old roommate. Should be an interesting reunion, to say the least.

He set his music to some more upbeat electronica, and cruised away to Station 7. He had never heard of it, but he figured that all of the main observation stations for the military were the same. The ship cruised on for a few hours, until the right screen clicked back on. Tali was there, staring right through the screen at Zeke.

"Zeke, there's a fly in the ointment. Kiah's missing."