Our little corner of unpredictability
October 23, 2017

Copyright (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): 2017 David Noë
Co-authors/players involved: David Noë, Laura Loolaid, Kieyotie McDermott, Drew Eckhardt
The original forum thread ran from May 2014 to Oct 2014.
Read more about the Forum Leakage project here: http://bit.ly/2gkGNrm
Read previous post in this series: http://bit.ly/2zwBInz

And now onward to part 6!

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Corey struggled with the unknown vessel’s outer hatch. He glanced at the tow crews who had stopped to re-align the floating wreckage – again. The irritation gave Corey strength, and he yanked the hatch off with one frustrated motion.
He stepped inside, looked around, and listened. Silence.

Begrudgingly, Corey allowed himself to rely upon his enhanced senses, and followed the faint shuffling sounds deeper into the shuttle. He found a human figure strapped to the upside-down pilot seat above his head.
“Nice shuttle.” He climbed over some burnt electronics. “Love the end-of-days decor!” Through the age-old command-stress crust, Corey’s younger self was asserting itself.
The figure uttered some words but the headgear muffled them all.
Corey examined the figure in the chair, and noticed how the safety harness was cutting into the protective suit. It also became very clear that this was not his partner Trouble.
“Oh. Sorry, I was expecting someone else… Hi.”
Corey dropped down and stumbled outside. He peeled a torn bit of metal off the scrap ship, then returned to the pilot to cut her down. Before severing the final straps, Corey readied himself and caught the stranger.

They made it out to the daylight and sat atop the wreckage. “So…” Corey offered his new acquaintance a smoke. “What brings you to Ar-Kaos? Besides us I mean. Fame? Fortune? A taste of the high-life?” He took a heavy drag on his own smoke and glanced back to the shore.

***

“… expecting someone else.”
The voice drifted away and got lost in a jumble of ethereal noises. Then there was light – proper daylight. There was sky, there was water, she was breathing. And then there was this guy, waving somewhere, talking apparently – she couldn’t quite concentrate to make any sense of it. She fumbled towards a shoulder pocket and pulled out a small multitool. With some effort she was able to break her visor’s seal and pop it off.
The guy was still talking.
“Those,” she croaked.
She pointed at his smoke.
“I got those. My shop… Paper… Licorice.”
She gratefully accepted the smoke handed to her. She only smoked on occasion, but this here certainly qualified as “occasion”. She leaned back and flicked some ash away.
“Who were you expecting then?”

His eyes narrowed, “I… I’m not sure anymore… I figured my old buddy had tagged along from Tucker 9, but instead I’ve met two new people and an old friend who has no business being here…” He took another deep toke and watched as the wind took the fresh ash before glancing back at the woman, “Name’s Corey… Corey Henderson, Commander of the Alesha Last Defense Flee…” He trailed off before giving a re-assuring smile, “Eh… Just Corey, how about you?”

She watched the last embers fade atop the debris. Peeling gloves away, she extended her right hand.“Call me Smith,” she said. “I’m sorry I jumped your ship.”

***

Standing on the mountain, he watched the ship crash into the water. It was happening again. Things were different this time, of course. But they always were. He watched Corey Henderson climb from the wreck and thought of killing him right there to save time. But satisfying as it would be to watch him die, Corey was integral to making things right. Hopefully, the variations this time would allow him the opportunity to save-
It didn’t matter.
The man turned back to his fighter. Once again he had the chance to make a difference. His ship rose from the ground, and faded from sight.

He had some time to see how things play out. The Alexis was here. Then again, Boats was not: this time he had run harder, faster, and had racked up a bigger debt; in this incarnation the debtors would claim more than just an ear or a finger. He had thought about stepping in to replace Boats, but too many changes in the timeline would prove just as counterproductive as too few.

***

Br’er Rose walked through the junkyard.The smell of hot metal, old fluids soaked into the earth, and… something always made her to enjoy these places. Many saw them as graveyards, but, unlike with ships, taking pieces from a long dead corpse wouldn’t bring another another person to life. She knew what she was looking for, she had seen it before – but it wasn’t where she expected to see it. Not surprising, with the way things had a habit of changing.
Then she saw it – in a back corner, sitting crossways atop two others.
Mallory had run into an asteroid field, her drunken pilot relying too heavily on the autopilot; Yolanda’s crew hadn’t bothered with the basic filtration maintenance, had all asphyxiated before she crashed into the Lindos Space Station; Alexis was the trifecta, done in by a simple compression dampener. Between all three ships however, there were enough parts to put two into service. Now that she had found them, she hurried back to the salvage office and made the purchase.

***

Three men surveyed the damage on Tucker 9. Even without uniforms, their conduct was unmistakably military.
“So he finally made it?”
“That was the message, Commander.”
“It appears to be the case, sir.” The second subordinate stepped closer. “I ran some interviews and looked over the security scans. Despite all the false alarms so far, it looks like this time Corey’s really awakened.”
“Thank you, Captain.” The tall man gave the ruined city another look, wishing he had been able to prevent the loss of life. But certain events had to flow a certain way. He turned back to the others. “It’s about time.”


October 18, 2017

Copyright (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): 2017 David Noë
Co-authors/players involved: David Noë, Laura Loolaid, Kieyotie McDermott, Drew Eckhardt
The original forum thread ran from May 2014 to Oct 2014.
Read more about the Forum Leakage project here: http://bit.ly/2gkGNrm
Read previous post in this series: http://bit.ly/2ywHZSw

The fourth part of this story has already been featured among reading samples as 2nd excerpt of “Space Junk”. Read it here: http://bit.ly/2xOPVQe

And now onward to part 5!

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“We’re coming in hot!” Knux called out as the entry burn began and the bridge flooded with red warning lights. “According to this, we’re still at a funny angle… Reports say we’re going to crash smack-dab in the middle of… New Haven?”
Corey ignored him, he was frantically trying to bring the retro-thrusters online to slow their descent. One fired, before ripping off, the other two failed to even start.
“Corey….” Knux muttered with worried tones.
“I’m working on it!”
Without warning, the main screen went blank.
“This isn’t right!” Corey grabbed his hair. “I can’t correct the angle! It didn’t happen this way before!”
The ship shook as the final engine cut out.
Knux wrestled to get his safety harness off.
“Where are you going?” Corey asked.
“Where do you think??” He darted out of the hatchway and stumbled towards engineering.
“Twenty seconds until impact…” Moirai nodded calmly. “Fifteen.”
“Try it now!” Knux called out.
“Ten.”
Corey slammed his fist into the console which flashed a flurry of colours at him. Two thrusters fired and the ship shook, throwing everybody about.
Corey struggled with the controls as Knux came tumbling through the hatch, crashing into the main screen.
“Where are we going to hit?”
“The docks! Three!”
“Everyone HOLD ON!”

At the New Haven docks, people gathered to see the wreckage. The last minute burst made the difference between ‘exploding fireball’ and mere ‘near-certain-death’. A tidal wave spread out from the impact area and people pulled farther from the water’s edge. Steam rose as the ship slowly resurfaced and bobbed on the water.

The bridge was pitch black, except for the sparks that flew from smashed consoles. Corey and Moirai dangled in their harnesses.
“Did everyone make it?” Corey tried to sound confident.
“I think… I think I’m still in one piece…” Moirai replied.
“Knux?”
Silence.
“Hey! Knuckle-head!”
Corey undid his harness and fell with a splash. “Come on, we’ve gotta get out of here.” Moirai landed a lot more gracefully than he had.
“I’m gonna need some help here… Inflatable raft in the locker – grab it!
Moirai pulled out an inflatable life-raft and some life-suits.
Corey quickly spread out the life raft and rolled Knux onto it.
“It’s getting a little too damp in here for my liking.” Corey broke the raft’s seal allowing it to inflate. It instantly inflated into a canoe shaped boat, narrow enough to navigate the hatchways of the ship. Moirai grabbed the front of it and began dragging it over the water while Corey pushed from the rear.
“We need to get to the airlock, it’s on the… right, down here. Took me a moment, I’m used to this thing being right side up.”
Moirai waded through the rising water, pulling the raft behind her. Once at the airlock, she kicked the hatch out of the way.
The ship was already rolling dangerously.
“GO!”

Moirai and Corey clung to the raft, and smiled to the approaching group of local fishermen.
“Quite the show… You need help?” One asked with a welcoming grin.
Corey didn’t skip a beat, “Five-hundred credits if you tow that thing to shore.”
“Seven-fifty, I’ve gotta cover the cost of the pumps.”
“Six-fifty.”
“Seven-hundred?”
“Deal. Now get it to shore.”
The skipper rallied his men to work, and soon a small fleet was tugging the wreckage.

“We could have used their help you know…” Moirai muttered, glancing at Knux.
“As long as he’s still breathing, he’ll be fine. He’s almost impossible to kill thanks to that damn arm of his. Come on, you ready for a swim?”
As Corey turned to paddle away with the raft in tow, he glanced back at the ship and noticed a small vessel, stuck to the bottom of their ship. “Odd… That’s not supposed to be there…” His eyes lit up with hope. “Is that you, Trouble?”
Moirai frowned at him, “Are you feeling okay?”
“Never better. I’ll meet you on the shoreline, keep an eye on our engineer.”
“And where are you going?”
Corey smiled and began swimming back to the wreckage.
“I’m off to see an old friend I’ll return soon!”


October 14, 2017

Copyright (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): 2017 David Noë
Co-authors/players involved: David Noë, Laura Loolaid, Kieyotie McDermott, Drew Eckhardt
The original forum thread ran from May 2014 to Oct 2014.

Read more about the Forum Leakage project here: http://www.chaosnova.co.uk/wp_newsupdates/?p=209

Read previous post in this series: http://www.chaosnova.co.uk/wp_newsupdates/?p=212

The second part of this story has already been featured among reading samples as a stand-alone called “Space Junk”. Read it here: http://www.chaosnova.co.uk/wp_newsupdates/?p=108

And now onward to part 3!

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“Here, help me with him.” Corey tried hauling Knux further onto the truck bed. Moirai glanced at him for a moment in confusion before taking the battered engineers other side and pulling him on.

Another hail of energy shots glanced off the vehicle before she caught something out of the corner of her eye and reacted sharply. Corey returned several rounds of his own.

Moirai had dodged a blow to the back of the head, and caught it into her shoulder. It hurt like hell, but with the sudden burst of adrenaline coursing through her body, she drew her quarterstaff forward and thrust at her would-be attacker. He dodged, but as he stepped backward, Moirai swept out his leg making the Reclaimer stumble. She drove the end of her staff towards his neck and, after a mighty crunch that seemed to echo off the truck, the Reclaimer’s head fell backwards into the dust.

As she turned back to Corey, she noticed he was reloading from his latest burst. He turned to her with a frown. “We need to go, I assume you’re coming along?”
Moirai nodded, “You seem to know what’s going on, I will join you until I can find my own path or you do something that causes me to leave.”
“When you find out what’s to com-” The truck absorbed an energy-shot but some lashed at Corey’s hand.
“Ow! Fuck!” He shoved his hand in his mouth.
“Are you alright?” Moirai gave him a concerned look.
“Bastards… I should have been expecting that. Come on, we need to go. Can you drive this?”
“I can try?”
“Good enough, I’ll be in the back laying down some covering the rear. Bank’s the last building on the left. Big hole in the wall, can’t miss it.”
He leapt onto the bed of the truck and had begun firing. He tagged a few, and was aware enough to avoid another wound as Moirai drove the truck forward.

As they hit a bump in the road, Elder Knux began to stir.
“Aim for the wall?!” Moirai called out.
“No, no! The hole in the wall!”

/…/

[The group fights their way to the crashlanded ship among the ruins of the bank. Corey leads the way farther into the ship.]

“Get up here!” Corey radioed over the ships loudspeaker to anyone still alive to listen. It reminded him of how Alex…Trouble had directed him to join him in the bridge and for a moment he was lost in a day-dream.
“What do ya need boss?” Elder Knux asked as he stepped through the hatch, a weary but aware Moirai in tow.
“I need you to man that console. Did you get the cargo bay door sealed?”
“Safe and all. Those Recs won’t be a problem anymore either.”
“They weren’t really a problem to begin with…” Corey muttered as he began to fire up the engines, “You’ve fought Reclaimers before. Didn’t these guys seem… obviously weak?”
Knux shook his head as he sat down, “Yeah. Not big on the fighting, these ones.”

The ship slowly rose above the ruined building. Preemptively, Corey dropped the engines he knew to be dead. If this was anything like last time, the rest would be in pretty terrible shape, but enough to get them to a nearby system. That system would be Ar-Kaos.

“I can’t believe it actually flies…” Knux muttered. “I mean, you’ve told me the stories, but I had no idea this is how it happened.”
Corey shook his head, “It didn’t happen like that… You weren’t there, neither was…” He glanced up at Moirai, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
She took a deep breath and looked over from her seat near the back, “Moirai Seraph…”
“Nice name.” He turned his attention back to Knux, “Neither of you were there, whatever Tahu did at the Void Cloud… It messed things up, I’ve got two theories. Either we’ve hit a parallel dimension…”
“Certainly possible…”
“Or we’ve time-traveled.”
Knux frowned. “When I came back, I didn’t bring a new being into existence with me. Something’s wrong here and I bet those fucking invaders are to blame again!”
“Either way… It doesn’t explain why you’re here. The last I saw of you, you were about to rescue Tahu. Any time after that, we’ve been several systems apart.”
“And where you have regressed in age, I appear to have maintained my elderly charm.”
Corey smirked, absent-mindedly tapping commands into the console. They would reach a Transit-zone soon. “Ar-Kaos… I suppose we’re on our way to pick up Alexis and Eve.”
“This is beyond weird, I just want you to know that.”

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October 2, 2017

Leaked from the forums: Deja Vu (part 1)

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We’ve got a rich trove of material that hasn’t normally been exposed to the public viewing (or – sometimes – even daylight): the roleplay-writings of our forum’s “inner compound”, that shall now be featured among our reading samples. Such leaked-from-the-forum bits will be presented mostly unaltered, receiving only the most essential spelling and grammar cleanup, and cuts for clarity.

Deja Vu twists together some older and newer settings and characters, and adds an important dimension to our growing story-verse. This adventure marks a junction in the long lineage of forum posts, serving as a connection point and a recap tool between the older material, the upcoming stories, and the potential greater story-arcs to be woven into actual books. The original forum thread ran from May 2014 to Oct 2014.

Co-authors/players involved: David Noë, Laura Loolaid, Kieyotie McDermott, Drew Eckhardt

Copyright (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0): 2017 David Noë

We’re excited that you are reading our work! Do tell your friends and send them a copy. We’re cool with non-commercial sharing – just credit the authors and link back to this page. If our story inspired you to create something new, please, check with us about sharing. When in doubt, read more about the licence here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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It was happening again… Had it all been a dream?

As the groggy mercenary sat in his blood-soaked coat at the bar, roll-up in hand, his mind was an absolute mess. Through the haze however, he came to realize exactly where he was, and it shocked him to the core. ‘Tucker Nine…’ He quietly muttered to himself in disbelief as he stared down at his shoddy, half-smoked roll-up and empty glass. Without thinking, he slammed the empty container on the bar and demanded “Another!”
As soon as the words left his lips, a wave of disbelief flooded his entire body. Lifting the roll-up to his lips, he stumbled away from his stool and out the bar-door in a dizzied frenzy, his mind was racing.

It was slowly rolling in to evening on the small moon, most of the workers and their families had packed up for the day and were either on their way back to one of the outlying settlements, or heading for the bar to relax after a long day of hard graft. After gathering his thoughts, the mercenary pulled himself alongside one of the many hover-bugs charging in the last of the light and took a long hard look in the mirror.

“Wh… What?” He stuttered to get out. The wrinkles had disappeared, his hair had returned to its dark brown hue and was much thicker once more. It was as if the events of the last thirty-five years had never taken place. With renewed desire to learn more answers, he straightened himself out and headed back into the bar to clean up.

* * *

This is wrong… I’m out of time…

“Do you think we should wake him up?” One of the settlers asked with wide-eyes.

“Is he still alive?” Another replied, equally entranced by the visitors sudden arrival.

“We should take him into town, the doctor will know what to do,” came another suggestion.

The settlement was abuzz with conversation that evening – a bright light had been seen in the sky before the local grain-house had been blown into pieces. Investigating settlers had discovered a body crumpled in the grains and brought him out to the main yard.

The visitor suddenly lurched forward and coughed loudly, causing most of the settlers to jump backwards, some even drew their weapons. He was in a bad state, torn clothes seemed to cover him from top to toe, and had there not been any shape under the rags, it would have been acceptable to assume he had no limbs. As far as the settlers could see, his left arm was hanging down, while his right leg was bleeding heavily.

“He.. Hello?” He asked meekly, through nearly closed eyes.

“Easy son, you took quite the tumble…”

“Doc… Doctor…” He tried to say, only to be interrupted once more.

“You heard him! Matthews, we’re using your truck, you two, help me load him up!”

The settlers were quickly put to work, noting that the traveler was much heavier than they had anticipated. They moved swiftly to get him into the back of Matthews hover truck before speeding towards town.

* * *

This life feels new… Born from something… Unnatural…

Her eyes opened slowly and adjusted to the panels on the cooler panel above. After allowing a few moments of thought to try and clarify what was happening, the young woman tried getting to her feet. She stumbled from the bed with little control over her arms and legs, it was as if she’d only just been given this body. For a few moments, she tried to gain control of her arms and bring them into view. As she glanced across her nearly perfect skin, she noted that a network of silver coloured markings criss-crossed her entire body. She found the markings relaxing, and seemed to draw an energy from them. Slowly, methodically, the young woman got to her feet and, using the furniture in the room, pulled herself towards the door with little more than the bed-cloth around her.

“Miss Seraph!” Came the shrill voice of a woman from the other side of the door. “I have your clothes here, I shall leave them outside the door. Dinner will be ready in half an hour. I hope to see you there!”

‘Miss Seraph…’ The young woman tried to say to herself, but with little control over her vocal chords, it simply sounded like mumbling. For the next few seconds, she tried as hard as she could to  say her last name, with little success.

As the sound of footsteps left the corridor, the young woman waited for a few more moments before reaching for the door handle and opening it slowly onto a tiled corridor painted with some-kind of thick white paint. It looked lumpy, but oddly familiar. ‘Miss Seraph’ reached for her clothes and retreated back inside her room. Things were slowly beginning to make more sense although clarity was not returning to the young woman’s mind. After a short struggle, she had pulled on her clothes before turning to face the mirror. Once she was satisfied that her appearance was satisfactory, she began searching the room for any further information while also trying to regain control of her voice.

“Se… Say… Sera…”

Upon opening the small, wooden wardrobe in the corner of the room, she discovered a quarterstaff of exquisite design, and a book titled ‘The Empyrean Code’.

“Seraph.” She suddenly said with perfect clarity. “Moirai Seraph…”

Her memories were beginning to solidify and form in her mind. With a deep breath, she took the book in one hand and the quarterstaff in the other.

She knew herself to belong among the Empyrians – the defenders of human homeworlds, at odds with their Reclaimer brethren. However facts like her location, how she came to be and why she was there still escaped her. With quarterstaff strapped tightly to her back and book at her side, Moirai Seraph stepped out into the corridor.

* * *

Things are the same, but different… What is this…

Now much cleaner, the mercenary stepped back into the bar and already knew that no-one would take his seat. He couldn’t explain his strange sense of deja vu but it was beginning to drive him crazy. He seemed a bit more sober for his clean-up too, and moved to clarify this by re-taking his place at the bar and rolling a smoke in preparation for what he knew was coming, often checking his remaining rounds or making sure his rifle was easily accessible.

And then, almost on cue, it happened, although something was much different.

He remembered having a companion alongside him for the coming battle, a face that he knew he could rely on. Although this time, he was no-where to be seen. And as this thought sunk in, an awful racket began to stir outside.

“We need a doctor!” Came the cry from outside before all hell broke loose. Townsfolk began to scream loudly, running frantically for cover as the sound of a ship came crashing down in the distance.

He steadied himself for the shock-wave and remained the only one on his feet as the windows blew in upon the ships impact.

“Everyone keep down and get to the bathroom!” He snarled knowingly, automatically, before pulling his rifle forward and turning to the door in wait for the Reclaimer assailants due any moment.
Three shots, almost predictive in their nature struck at three targets with almost divine accuracy as they attempted to breach the tavern. With renewed sense, the mercenary dropped low and headed for the door, taking out another Reclaimer as he rolled into the street.

A group of people had gathered around a truck and were using it for cover while trying to pull something, or someone, from the back. Since most of them seemed to be armed, and willing to fight for their rock, he decided to join up with them.

* * *

This doesn’t make any sense…

“Evening! Seems like I picked a merry old time to visit Tucker Nine!” The mercenary shouted over the sound of incoming gunfire.

“Make jokes or help us defend the place, your call!” Came the stern reply from one of the people trying to lift the traveller from the rear of Matthews hover truck. Again, the mercenary responded with almost predictive ability by taking out three nearby Reclaimers.

His attention then turned to the person they were trying to lift with little success.

Suddenly, the mercenary caught sight of the traveller’s left arm and a wave of hope flooded his body like no other feeling before it.

“Knux!” He cried out with almost euphoric emotion. The mercenary rushed to push the townsfolk away and reached for the engineers arm.

“Come on…. Come on…”

“You know this man?” One of the citizens inquired.

“Do I! Cover me, this shouldn’t take long…”

The mercenary found a switch on Knux’s arm and flipped it to reveal an opening to a network of tubes lining either side of a small control panel. With a couple of button presses, the mercenary rebooted Knux’s arm and began the nano-repair program. With that underway, he turned back to the invading Reclaimers and went to work dispatching them whilst keeping Knux safe. If anyone was going to know what was happening here, it would be the engineer with a history of inter-dimensional travel.

* * *

Our duty is to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

The commotion in the street had drawn all sorts of attention, least of which from the diners at the hotel who had been enjoying their meal on the balcony overlooking town. Without thinking, Moirai had leapt from from the balcony, quarterstaff in hand, ready and willing to engage the Reclaimer invaders who had taken a shine to this seemingly insignificant moon.

Moirai continued onwards towards the pockets of resistance lining the streets.

“Ah! Glad to have an Empy fighting on our side!” One of the townsfolk mentioned as he took cover from a barrage of energy weapons fire.
Moirai joined a rugged mercenary behind the hovertruck. “What’s the situation?”

The mercenary fired a few rounds towards the buildings at the far end of the street before reloading. “I need to reach the bank…” He mumbled, “If I’m going to find out what’s going on then that’s where this all leads to.”

“Where this all leads to?”

“Look, I don’t exactly know what’s going on, but if it’s anything like the dry-run, then those Reclaimers just crashed down on the bank. They’re here to steal the money, but instead…” The mercenary’s eyes began to wonder the horizon, almost in a trance.

“But instead…?” She pressed.

“Sorry…” He shook his head, “Instead I steal their ship and escape to Ar-Kaos with a friend.”

“How do you know all this?”

“This isn’t the first time I’ve done this run, but it’s different to before. For example, I’ve never seen anyone who looks like you before.”

Energy weapons fire registered hard against the truck, killing two of the townspeople and wounding several more. As the vehicle shook violently, Knux fell from the rear and began to regain consciousness.

“We… What’s going…. on?” He asked, groggy from the excess of Nanites in his system.

“I have no clue, but it looks like we’re on Tucker Nine, Thirty-Five years prior to the battle at the Void Cloud.”

Moirai spoke up, “What are you talking about? Thirty-five years? Void Cloud?”

Knux couldn’t understand what was happening, he needed a few more minutes to gather his thoughts.

“So what’s the plan?” Moirai asked.

“The plan?” Corey replied, “You sound like someone I know… The plan is, we reach their ship and steal it. Tucker Nine is later compensated, it recovers from this.”

“And what about your friend? He looks kinda heavy…”

“Just give him a minute or two, we’re not leaving him behind.”

“Do you have any other friends around here? Do I at least get to know your names?”

The mercenary nodded and ducked from another barrage of energy weapon’s fire.

“I don’t know where the rest of my team are, I’ve only found this one so far. He’s Knux Vee-One, but I know him as Elder Knux.”

“And you are?” Moirai pressed.

“Me?”

She nodded.

“I’m Corey Henderson.”


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.”