Tales of Deepspace

A webserial set in a lost sector of space.

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."


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