Our little corner of unpredictability
September 15, 2016

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Copyright © Laura Loolaid 2015

Written and edited by: Laura Loolaid

“Space Junk” series consists of one character’s posts in an ongoing forum roleplay. It takes place in an already-built world, and *might* tie into some universe-establishing storylines. [Innocent whistle] This bit picks up where excerpt one left off.

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She woke with a start. Among the dimmed lights and occasional system beeps, it took a little while to adjust to the reality. Some sections of the displayed starchart were blinking, and system-relevant info was scrolling over side-screens. Rubbing her face, she switched the main display from chart mode to live view and saw a planet quickly taking up more and more of the screen. One of the central homeworlds, according to the data-roll.
“A new world, huh?”
She clearly preferred the backworld colonies – at least until they weren’t being attacked – but having to put up with more civilized setting was helpful for keeping that perspective.They were in orbit now, and she signalled the clamps to disengage. Nothing happened.
“Alright, Mama Bear, it’s been a pleasure travelling with you but this is where we part ways.”
She carefully repeated the command and held down the buttons a little longer. Still nothing. Again, and again with increasing patience and care – and again she saw the correct sequence lighting up in vain. Something between the two systems must have malfunctioned, and kept the two vessels locked together.
“Useless junk!”
She kicked the wall in exasperation. She paused, then chuckled in disbelief.
Her boot had landed next to an almost identical dent, once accompanied by those very words. She grinned to herself thinking how back then she’d found herself on an unfamiliar moon, stranded, with a broken shuttle and a broken heart; how, unable to do a damn thing about the latter, she’d set up in a derelict ground depot and channelled all her anger into repairs; how she’d painted the letters on a whim, then bust open the depot’s liquor stash, and completed the baptism by yelling obscenities at the galaxy above, and throwing every other shot glass at the shuttle’s general direction; how she’d finally gotten the damn thing to fly, and how she’d been moving from community to community ever since, doing odd jobs and building up resources – all the way to Tucker Nine. If she had handled all that, she could certainly handle one surprised runaway crew. Gathering her confidence, she squared her shoulders, and let the thrill of unknown wash over her. She slid the protective suit’s visor in place and braced for descent.***When the two ships came tumbling down in their unholy union, she had tried to fire up “Junk’s” thrusters to add what little direction and cushioning she could. Whether this had helped at all, she had no clue. Now everything was dark, and a faint short-circuit smell seeped in through her suit’s filtering system. Muffled creaking sounds came from somewhere – outside, she presumed. She somehow wiggled one arm free, and felt the suit’s headlamps. Still darkness – the impact must have shaken those out too.

Now that she let her perception wander, she noticed the shuttle swaying; there were more muffled noises, and an unpleasant feeling growing in her head. She tried shaking it off, and realized the world was hanging upside down. She couldn’t sense any direct bodily harm – the seat harness had caught her tight. Too tight, in fact. The mechanism must have locked up and wouldn’t loosen.
“Focus,” she thought. “Think, move slow.”
The folding knife strapped to the boot was no good; the attempt to reach it had already triggered the straps to tighten further; she could only afford two, maybe three stronger pushes like this before the short-term relative safety would become a permanent choke. In her mind, she slowly went over the tools and devices she knew to be stored in the suit – unless she’d forgotten something. Then again, she kept separate kits stored everywhere exactly because she knew she’d likely forget stuff that wasn’t tied down. She hoped that she’d indeed managed to outsmart herself this time.

When she thought of all the extra knives sitting useless in cargo, the longing gave her the illusion of sounds coming from there. “Focus,” she thought again, and monitored her breathing. But the sound didn’t go away. Now she was certain that someone was operating the main hatch from outside.
“Focus,” she thought once again, this time with a hint of smile. “Remain very still.”


Copyright © David Noe 2011

The Salvage Mission

Written by: David Noe
Edited by: Laura Loolaid

Nali Verricks is a salvage technician working near a space anomaly known as the Void Cloud. In this short story we witness what begins as a routine salvage mission.

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“Unidentified vessel, please respond!”
Covered in sweat, eyes focused on the cracked screen, he made another desperate attempt.
“Unidentified vessel, this is Nali Verricks of salvage craft Theory. I highly recommend you alter course!”
The console remained silent. Nali blew the air out of his cheeks. The ripped pilot seat groaned as he sat back. He’d never understood why people were so determined to test the Cloud. While the phenomenon’s nature was not fully understood, it was clear enough that its vicinity was dangerous, and tales of odd occurrences were spreading all over the homeworlds. Some thought of it as a gateway to ascension, others believed it a door to other worlds. As far as Nali had witnessed, the Cloud only meant certain Death, and as the only salvage operator in the area, he had taken it upon himself to warn others.

“Dome projection”
His voice was coarse, dry. Everything went dark, only the beeps and static noises indicating the systems working; then the overhead lit up with external display of otherworldly hues, intense enough to drown out starlight. Nali had seen the Cloud many times, and still felt humbled.
He saw a speck of movement – the unidentified vessel – and felt his heart jump.
“Zoom.”
The view settled around the indicated area. Nali stood and folded his arms, his sight fixed to the other ship.
“Unmarked Reclaimer?”
He frowned. “Change channel to R E C Four!” He rushed back to the console.
“Salvage craft Theory to Unidentified Reclaimer vessel. Change course. This area is unsafe! Turn around befor-”
The ship was caught in a flashing arc, and Nali watched in horror as it disappeared from sight. He closed his eyes, and felt calm automation take over. The galaxy took its own, whether he liked it or not. The debris from the wreckage wouldn’t arrive for a while. Nali decided to feed himself in the meantime. He turned around to handle a clunky hatch – the only visible remnant from the vessel the command module was once taken from.

Nali kept the cookery dim – this way the stacks of empty containers and wrapper-buildup didn’t bother him as much. He would have avoided the room and its clutter altogether, but he disciplined himself to have at least one warm meal in a waking cycle. He did keep his mealtimes minimal, though, and the door closed tight – as if to curb an infection. Nali gave a half-hearted attempt to pick out a meal pack for warming, then decided against it and walked away chewing on a portion of bora-jerky.

He returned to the command, and stood idly, watching the screen. He squinted, “What on Rey-”
A series of arcs flashed across a section of the Cloud again, and a moving speck appeared  from the arcs’ conjunction. “Zoom!” Nali held his breath. The image adjusted and his eyes widened: it was the same ship he’d seen before, mostly in one piece, it seemed. “Er…” He rubbed his forehead and frowned, then settled into the pilot seat. “Set course to the unidentified vessel. Evade debris.”
The computer buzzed and clicked while Nali fastened a seat harness; it felt worn, but held tight. A countdown appeared. Nali tensed as he felt Theory’s engines come to life.
He felt the familiar tone from the drives humming in Theory’s whole body. Built from scraps like the rest of the ship, they purred the tune of good care and regular maintenance. The slight tug in his stomach let him know that thrusters were performing impeccably. He relaxed and continued chewing his jerky.

* * *

Nali took a breath of filtered air, and pushed a button on his vacuum suit’s forearm-interface.
“Salvage log, Nali Verricks, er…”
After he’d rescued the suit from discard pile during a military depot cleanout, he’d been gradually customizing it to his own purposes. The easy-buttons panel on the sleeve was among more recent additions.
“Unidentified Reclaimer vessel, number… one. Scanners indicated four on-board life forms; communications and warnings remained unanswered. Vessel took a direct course toward the Cloud. Cross-reference: video log number 05723.” He pushed another button on his forearm. “Now starting: video log number 05724.”

He reached the airlock hatch, locked three red levers into operating position, and pulled the main handle. He bounced through the opening, and pulled the hatch until it snapped shut behind him. He waited for computer to confirm the pressure levels, the boarding tube’s position, and the other ship’s orientation were confirmed, then proceeded to handle the outer hatch.
He locked it into open position, and clamped himself onto the tube’s “lifeline”.

After some forward fumbling, and careful clamping, he reached the other ship. The gasket indicator lights shone green in unison – the sign of a secure seal.
Nali took his time to examine the Reclaimer vessel’s door. After a little while he felt confident enough to tackle the door’s familiar-yet-strange controls. In case of interface failure, he could always rely on his trusty “can-opener”.
“Come on…”
He secured himself into footholds, and gave the handles another sharp tug. The door popped open, and some smoky swirls reached past Nali, then settled into a thin mist that slowly filled up  the boarding tube.
“Gained ac-” He cleared his throat. “Gained access to unidentified vessel.”
He switched on the suit’s external lighting, and slowly swept it along the interior.
“Considerable damage to all visible components. Vessel in critical condition, but no hull breach detected. Estimated safe salvage time,” – he took another sweeping look around – “two kilosekunds, possibly less.”
He sighed, “Idiots. What a waste.”

Nali ducked through some fallen structure, and dodged trails of wire clusters, before almost tripping over a loose panel. The localized gravity field was still working, but fluctuated heavily. Nali thought he saw odd shadows ebb at the edge of his vision, but knew better than to give in to his paranoia. Instead he focused his efforts into finding the command centre or its Reclaimer equivalent.
He saw some flickering and flashing with blue sparks through a hole in the wall. He bounced closer to have a better look; the room had sustained so much damage that Nali could not even guess its original purpose.
“Estimated safe salvage time: under one kilosekund.”
He hastened his search.

After working his way through some more debris, Nali reached a larger room with some ripped control panels in plain view. He pointed his light over the room’s contents: sparking consoles, broken seats, dead screens, dead bodies. Nali sighed. He was fully aware that finding survivors here would have been impossible; having the reality stare into your face through burned eye sockets was another matter.

“Located Command Center, all four detected crew-members have perished…” Nali glanced the scene again; something didn’t add up. There were five seats in the command, each with an occupant.
“Correction: five deceased crew-members. Side note, recalibrate sens-.” Nali squinted, and approached the fifth seat.
“Disregard. Four deceased crew-members, plus one deactivated android, presumably of Reclaimer build. Proceeding to locate ship’s memory unit…”
His suit’s audio alarm broke out, and the inside of his visor filled with red blinking light. The gas and temperature readings indicated open flames nearby.
“Fire protocol; evacuating now.”

Without thinking, Nali unbuckled the android, and slung it over his shoulder. Pushing past the debris, and dodging the ripped wiring, he made it to the boarding tube. Its lighting shone milky through the thick smoke shroud. He pushed the Reclaimer vessel’s hatch shut, felt his way to the lifeline, and once clamped to it, activated the tube detachment count-down. Dragging the android behind him, he groped along the lifeline until he felt Theory’s hull under his palm. He wiggled his burden into the airlock, shut the hatch, and leaned back, finally allowing himself a sigh of relief. A helpful audio message let him know that the boarding tube had begun retracting.

Nali waited until all the smoky air had been cycled away, and airlock indicator lights turned green. He pushed through the inner hatch, dropped his cargo, and stepped into the suit alcove, letting it disassemble the unit piece by piece.
Stripped of his suit, he stepped out of the alcove looking for a towel. Catching a glimpse of the android on the floor, Nali shook his head and chuckled.
“Jackpot.”


July 4, 2016

Copyright © David Noe 2011

Picking up Trash

Written by: David Noe & Kieyotie McDermott
Edited by: Laura Loolaid

The forum that was, could no longer support our ideas, there were so many…

I had met Kieyotie at a Firefly fanfic group, and our collaborative ideas soon grew into a new fictional universe of our own. This text is a considerably edited version of the original roleplay notes; there is also a parallel version of the story from Trouble’s perspective. After all the years, the stories, the roleplay, and the new crewmembers, Tucker 9/Tucker X is the place we always return to, even with newer and remixed storylines – this is where it all began!

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Chapter 1 – Picking Up Trash

 

Smoke swirled and rose through the gaps in the rotting ceiling-boards of the bar as the many patrons drank themselves into a relaxed stupor. Work on Hubris was hard. Tucker 9, the desert moon’s only real source for crops and livestock, was no exception. Every waking cycle the townsfolk would struggle to create life out of sand and rocks. Their pay-off – a simple, mostly happy life, free from the burdens and bureaucracy of central civilized worlds. Dust rolled in from the street as people came and went. The mixed sounds of horses and charging hover-cars rose up and muted again each time the doors swung back to their rickety frames.

 

“Another!” The man at the bar uttered a low growl as he slammed his now empty glass down, causing cracks to appear around its base. He wore a large hooded coat that almost engulfed him. Dry blood covered his hair, face and hands.

He was unsure of how he had even ended up in this bar; his whole life up until this point felt like a haze. Impatient, he patted himself down, finding a small tin filled with herbs and smoke-papers in his top pocket. His hands had  passed over a holster and a protruding handle jammed to his left side; he made a note to examine the weapon once he was on his own.

At least the motion of rolling felt familiar. Maybe if he thought hard enough, the rest would come back… His head began to ache again, as if remembering meant a physical ordeal.

 

The bartender returned with a drink. Placing it on the counter, he lit up the man’s smoke. He decided against asking questions, and turned to serve another customer instead.

 

Alone with his drink, the man looked down at himself in an attempt to gain some answers. His eyes jumped from bloodstain to bloodstain, provoking more questions. Besides some obvious knuckle damage, he seemed in good enough shape, just in need of a good clean-up. He took a deep lungful of smoke, and let his gaze slowly explore the room, avoiding directly looking at anything – or anyone – in particular. The bartender gave him an occasional sideways glance but left him be. The man slammed another empty glass down on the bar, stubbed out his roll-up, and got to his feet, using the stool to steady himself.

 

Rubbing his head, he slowly made his way towards the bathrooms. The pain he had awoken with gave way to numb discomfort. The door to the bathroom swung open. He squeezed himself past a heavily intoxicated patron, and quickly locked the door behind him. The smell almost knocked him out, and the floor welcomed him with a puddle better left unexamined. Yet for now, these were the least of his concerns.

 

He rested for a moment slumped against the door, trying to gather his thoughts. He still wasn’t sure how he’d come to arrive here but one thing was certain – it had taken some struggle. Slowly, he made his way over to one of the more intact mirrors. It was missing a corner, and had a large crack running all the way through. He stared at himself, turned on the cold tap, and let the sink fill.

 

As he gripped the sides of the basin, his eyes wandered back to his reflection.

‘Who am I? ‘Why don’t I remember?’

He stared some more.

(more…)


Copyright © David Noe 2014

Written by: David Noe
Edited by: Laura Loolaid
Cover: Laura Loolaid
Proof-reading: Kayleigh Marchant

The novel “Seeker” introduces Jewel Harper, a junior specialist working for a bounty hunting  organization known as The Seekers. This chapter allows a glance into Jewel’s everyday: she completes a job, and takes a little off-time in Rystar station, the local Seekers’ hub. We see her idle moment interrupted by an out-of-ordinary job offer; she butts heads with her mentor on the way out.

The first part of Jewel’s adventures is available as e-book on Amazon; the second is currently being edited.

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Chapter 2

The corridors and criss-crossing catwalks of Rystar station were easy to get lost in, but Jewel, dwelling here between jobs, had made good use of her minimal downtime and the sprawling hive could not dissuade her. The bright, multi-colored store-fronts started to dim, marking the arrival of midnight. The translucent wall sections were slowly darkening, creating the illusion of a twilight. The hikari-plate walkways curving out of sight caught the last fleeting rays and carried them to the station’s inner depths.

Jewel favored this time of quiet. She took a little extra time measuring her steps before boarding a station transport unit. After a bit of motor-humming she found herself in the quietest section, on the doorstep of a secluded bar called ‘The Jenevere’. Just like the rest of the station, it was deserted. Even the bartender had left his post. Jewel instinctively settled into the corner-most booth and keyed in her order at the tabletop menu. She forwarded the bill to her shuttle, and waited impatiently. She was rewarded with a Rystar staple, rabbit lasagna, and a small glass of lightly carbonated water. Jewel had simple tastes but savoured every bite. Although meager in its size, the meal had satiated her enough. Content, Jewel pushed her plate into the receptacle, relaxed in her seat, and nursed the remainder of her drink with a careful eye on the entrance. For a brief period, Jewel could enjoy having the establishment all to herself. She often planned her drop-off’s to coincide with the station’s nocturnal stage. Her penchant for solitude was in stark contrast with the vehemently social ways of her homeworld, Ar-Kaos 4.

 

A well dressed gentleman appearing in the doorway ended her moment of bliss. He made a determined stride in Jewel’s direction. She tensed up and mentally recited the location of her concealed weaponry.

“Seeker Jewel Harper?” He approached the booth. She didn’t acknowledge him, but observed covertly that the new arrival was tall, a few heads taller than her, with broad shoulders. His wrinkled face a shade of sienna, with mahogany eyes and a slightly deformed beaky nose – a combination Jewel had often seen among Rystar’s Old Guard. He placed a thick paper folder on the table. Jewel raised an eyebrow, intrigued. Paper documents were a rare sight, especially in the world of bounty hunters.

“This folder contains information on a private contract that only you can fulfil. Inside, you will also find a forward payment in the form of authorized Standard Credit prints. It would be in your best interest to read what is written within.”

Jewel maintained her focus on the entry-way. She was unimpressed by the man’s self-assured attitude. With a frown that consumed his entire face, the man gave off a sigh before bowing his head and turning to leave.

Fare well, Seeker.”

(more…)


Copyright © Laura Loolaid 2015

Written and edited by: Laura Loolaid

“Space Junk” series consists of one character’s posts in an ongoing forum roleplay. It takes place in an already-built world, and *might* tie into some universe-establishing storylines. [Innocent whistle] This excerpt introduces the new character.

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The sign read: “Space Junk”.

Stenciled letters were peeling off a coppery egg – perhaps a retired shuttle, several giga-seconds past its glory, or perhaps a maqueta from those “Awld Spayce” galleries. Either way the craft was going nowhere now, its overblown butt-thrusters buried in makeshift shacks and unkempt weeds; its location and label symptomatic to those miscella-marts that peppered the port districts on so many moons.

Most times the hatch was bolted up and the shop’s keeper nowhere in sight – not that many would stray in these obscure paths anyway. But every once in a while an inviting light shone through the airlock, and the lucky guest was treated with genuine interest and undivided attention.

For now there was only the off-colour haze from the local sun, dragging its way through the third sector of a long moonday. The proprietor emerged from a crooked alley, and gave her tattered traveller’s mug some exaggerated bottom taps, quietly scanning the area behind the act. She climbed the narrow metal steps leading to the shuttle’s hatch, and popped it wide open, shining dim daylight all over the shop’s innards. Most wallspace was covered with narrow storage shelves, populated with items and components of questionable value – or function for that matter. Electronic parts that would most certainly be useless for repairs, strips of cable visibly too short to connect, diagnostic tools with dead displays; household containers and shiny utensils; various bits of scrap metal; jars holding pebbles, fossils, and bones; a proud pair of cattle skulls; framed pictures, a few paper books. One corner was dedicated exclusively to dinosaur toys.

Amidst the bizarre and vintage, sat an oddly well-lit and well-aligned island of strapped-down shipping crates. These were tightly packed with essentials that a traveller might find handy in their journeys through the lonely skies: water flasks and pocket-size purifiers, sewing kits and rolls of all-purpose repair tape, ration cubes, canteens, mini-burners along with spare fuel and fire-building tools; gnaw-gunk and rolling papers, caffeine capsules; a small selection of sweet bars and dry-fruit; heavy-duty socks, protective gloves, and thermal undergarments; rebreather assembly kits, simple folding knives, low-light vision aids, and basic field medi-packs.

 

She stepped through an indoor hatch into a narrow hallway that lead to comms centre – shaped like yester-gen cockpit, true to the overall theme.
(more…)