Tales of Deepspace

A webserial set in a lost sector of space.

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."