Tales of Deepspace

A webserial set in a lost sector of space.

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.


At 5:08 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Hey man, I'm liking what I've read, but how about an update before I forget what's going on?


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