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Friday, June 27, 2008

what does this what's-a-jig do?

Right I seem to have pressed the red button... or at least at some point I did, because I had anonymous comments disabled. That wasn't my intention n'or did I know about it when I demanded comments in my last post.

No, I lied, I did it on purpose to torment everyone who was so foolish as to visit my blog...

Okay, I lied again. Either way, comment away, new settings now abound! That's one less technical pothole to hit later.

Full post. |Syndicate us: Add to Mixx! Simpify! stumbleupon.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chapter 2: The Wolf and the Fox

So here's chapter 2. I'll be holding out for more hits and comments before chapter 3 is put up. So; nyah! Post comments and let me know you're here if you want to read more, it's not that bloody hard.

Having fallen in with a very peculiar crew of security contractors, Mackai does his best to acclimate, but finds yet another pressing issue is keeping things from going his way.

EXCERPT: network wide piracy alerts.
TRANSLATION: All revisions by Open-Bracket-Close-Bracket Semantics Ltd. Subroutines
Sent: BUSEI administration botnet, Basic Universal Regulation and Assisted Intelligence committee division.
Received: Relay Bot @ E. Eridani
Translated at Relay Bot @ E. Eridani into Farsol Semantics
Approval stamp by BUSEI Quality Commons Commission

The following is a general piracy alert for the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. [To all you newbies – god only knows, there’s so many of you on Farsol – piracy is not all yarr harr where’s the booty at, fool? Oh wait, wrong kind of booty.]

-Merchant vessels resupplying Sat 1 in orbit around EZ Aquairi were attacked by unknown, jump capable raiding vessels of frigate class. The raiders closed distance and used fast-tracking ballistic weapons to breach the cargo bay. Boarding teams grappled unknown quantities of avionics components and fresh chemical batteries from the holds of the freighters. It is reported that half the boarding teams were killed in lethal accidents or by the crew of the ships. [These are typical pirates, suicidal, poor and desparate. At least far out where the matter density starts to drop. You humans have TAME freebooters.]

-A freighter of the Bellicose class [a model made by you earthlings] preparing for jump re-calibration in high orbit around Lalande 21185 reported contact with an unknown vessel on an intercept course with their vector. They state that this was [twenty minutes] after they began hearing strange, unencrypted radio transmissions. They report the vessel was outbound from an unidentifiable origin. Their path couldn’t be traced back to any planet. [Pirates tend to be modders, that means they use anything they get, hence the radio transmissions.]

-Anomalous activity of unknown vessels has been reported within the range of the Oort cloud of Farsol. Ships in this area are advised to operate under physical-cyber lockdown conditions.

Sunrise Ep.2: The Wolf and the Fox

I meet the benefactors in five minutes.

I was busy testing out the two drone companions in my light kit. The little buggers were four legged spider drones about the size of my fist, standard equipment for Farsol field officers. The TAR-15 Tarantula is a pretty decent model drone, at least for its size. It’s good for reconnaissance in urban or indoor environments (about eighty-five percent of environments you encounter in space… the rest being space.) It also has a nasty little belter gun you can load up with all kinds of cute toy ammo, though the miniature railgun attachment should NEVER be laughed at.

My light kit was curled up like some transforming plastic toy in the corner. I clicked in my sidearm, loaded and ready to fire. Well, at least my ex had taught me one thing… the x-factor will kick your ass when you least expect it, which is why it’s called the x factor in the first place. It stands for extra sucky… wait, that isn’t right, never mind.

I flipped my vision over to wireless and tapped into my drones’ cameras, I was using the hi-fi lenses (one on each) to get some kick ass stereoscopic predator vision (infrared mode! Prrrrrrrrr.) I took the opportunity to look up from mouse-height at my now monolithic form, sitting up on my mattress. I sure do look weird in infrared spectrums… better switch back to normal vision. I thought I managed a cringe while I looked up at my own face, not really though. I was too busy looking like I was high.

Nothing like sense-linking with remotes, it does wonders for making you look smart. So, while I still remember, I will introduce you to my pretty, pretty face. I’m a skinny bloke, but I have the face of a Cossack, chiseled and Slavic. This face has gotten me into worlds of shiny, enjoyable, painful and not-so-good situations over my life.

I was also wearing my specs at this point. They were for making me look good, mostly. They also acted as my HUD, as they were easier to ignore than superimpositions on my eyes. Also; one less important thing; they’re also for interfacing with my equipment in the event my spinal implant ever crashes.

By the way; I really hope that never happens.

“Hey, execution time, prisoner.” I heard a familiar brassy voice say through tinny drone audio. Now; I’m cynical, not twisted, there’s a difference. Thus, the joke appealed not so well to me. I would have frowned at Sam’s joke, had I had better control of my mouth. I instinctively turned my vision to face her. My ‘eyes’ whirled around on their eancy weancy legs and looked up at her. I noticed, dastardly, that she was still looking up at my stoned face.

I should forewarn that I’m a pervert. In my defense; most people of both genders value my friendship and my constructiveness in their lives when I’m not an asshole. I’m a pervert, not a shut-in creep. In other words; I looked at everything BESIDES her face… faces get boring after a while. Don’t look at me with those accusing eyes!

So anyway, for those of you who want to know (you star trek geeks and your exotic alien women) she was VERY human. Well, very woman, at least. For those of you who like their women like they like their coffee (no, not cheap and right-this-second! I mean dark and strong!) She would be a winner on her looks alone.

She was rather sinewy, which was obvious through the jersey top and high-waters she was wearing, dumb fabric that fell limply about her betrayed her curves. That aggressive armor she’d worn hadn’t done her any justice! She had this odd yet oddly beguiling tomboy look to her which I hadn’t really noticed before. Mostly because she was too busy threatening people’s well being and alternately keeping me in states of shock and awe.

Speaking of shock… she looked down right at my remote eyes.

My little drones froze, and I was afraid she might haul off and squish the wee things. But she just scoffed, “fucking drone jockeys. If you keep this shit up, you’ll have TWO women you really won’t want to be around.” She was getting more agitated as she went on, I thought now would be a good time to switch back. My eyes blanked for a few seconds, then I was fully back in my own head.

“I mean seriously, what the fuck?” She said aggressively. I paused. “You got anything to say for yourself, asshole?” Good things I could say: her working out shows. No. that could be taken badly… Grovel?… cry? I hate it when my mind gets the blue screen of death! Oh wait, false alarm, I have an idea! And it’s… tell the truth? What the hell?

“I…” Ah, why not? Freakin’ say it! “I’m sorry. I’m a bloody pervert, I know. I was even convincing myself I was guilty… outside my own race? Wow! I sighed and went on. Might as well let this runaway train have one last hurrah. “I also showed you a lot of respect before. Was I trying to exploit you then? I’m happy to say that’s not who I am. Pervert, yes. Jackass, not on my life.” Okay, let’s tally the votes. Hopefully my ballseyness doesn’t end up on her calling me out and punching me in the face. I couldn’t stop myself from pulling my hands up to my shoulders like the skinny kid getting his lunch money pilfered by Big Bubba’

“Hmm,” she nodded thoughtfully. “Good answer. But, if this shit gets me angry again, things will be VERY personal.” She swiftly turned and walked from the room.. I let out a long sigh, being careful not to make it too audible.

I activated my new automation for loading my Tarantulas and shutting them down and watched them skitter into their little cubbyholes in my pack. Luckily, there weren’t any hang-ups or failures. I nodded approvingly and walked out of the cramped bunkroom.

So I’d saved my own ass, didn’t mean I wasn’t feeling guilty. What if what I did WAS kind of screwed up?


I walked in to find ‘Sam standing alone shamelessly. She nodded in my direction and I looked about stupidly.

“Hey,” I said with sarcastic enthusiasm as I gave up looking for the stragglers. “Here’s the idea of a meeting; everyone shows up!” And we were short two heads; my benefactors. Sam pointed down toward the bridge again, no large profiles blocking the main worldview-

“Oh, d’oi!” I said as I smacked myself on the forehead. I looked down a bit further and saw a duo of eight legged creatures about the size of my head curled up in tiny flight chairs. “Captain?” I asked.

“Yes?” the basso voice I’d heard before ripped through the bridge and made me jump. God?

“’Dan, get the hell out of your chair and talk to us over the network.” Sam said impatiently as I looked about nervously. I just hoped there weren’t any more lovely surprises for me, a.k.a., the newbie.

The transpara-monitors around the pilot pit ceased emanating lightning-speed readouts and HUDS. The creature in the lowest and largest uplink lifted itself up and scuttled out. It buzzed and flittered to the one in the other seat, prompting that one to rise. They lithely jumped down to the floor and scuttled over to us. They were holding a personal distance oddly adequate between humans, but not very good for giant, fuzzy spiders the size of my head.

I honestly am not terribly afraid of spiders. But still; aliens and spiders... I paused, waiting for them to say something over the babbler, but I was getting nothing downstream from them.

They were odd looking creatures. Though clearly similar to arachnids, they had a number of definite differences. First, they had yellow stained book gills running in a thin duo of slits over their backs and looking as though they continued on under their abdomens. On their other surfaces, they were covered in a thin pelt of tan and white spotted hair. Their forward limbs, the set that didn’t qualify among their eight legs, were long and gangly, almost as much as the legs. The limbs appeared to be able to manipulate objects by curling around them. I suppose they rose to sentience as tool users, like most of us still left stewing in our own excrement inside The Bridge.

I was back to the present as they suddenly stirred. Their gills began to vibrate, then to shimmer in multiple visible electromagnetic spectrums with an effect like a rainbow. They then began to dance about and brandish their forelegs at one another. They were also emitting some audio byproduct. The sound was like mountain wind swimming over well-made wind chimes while a Buddhist Monk played a harp. This was oddly therapeutic for me, that and I had actually gotten some decent sleep. Those together made me feel all right, at least for a second. Damn, I needed a massage…

“I apologize,” the synthetic basso voice rumbled in my head. That ended my lovely moment much like a truck ends a fly on its windshield, sad and not at all lovely. “But, my brother, 1,213, is acting decidedly like our species. This is very un-typical for either of us. We underwent a rather nasty locking of horns just now” There was a pause as my babbler processed some more of the speech. That pleasant romp was a fight?

“Allow me introduce myself and my brother on behalf of the both of us. I am 1,212 and this is 1,213, as I have said before.” Weird way to name oneself, I supposed they were from some massive hive-creche, as arachnids tend to lay massive egg groups. Families tend to go from namimg their kids after the great war hero in the family to naming them after sandwiches by the third kid. I’d hate to think how hard it would be for a family in the thousands.

“Eh…” Sam said aloud. “Their full names are Badhadboadan and badhadboazin, it’s the closest lingual sound to their number-names,” she said, making the pronunciations seem rather easy. “Just call ‘em ‘Dan,” she pointed to the leading one, “and ‘Zin,” she pointed to the other, slightly darker hued one. I hoped I’d be able to tell them apart, I’d likely forget which one was which if they moved.

“We are from the planet Tyrennia, I suppose you could call us Tyrennians, that would be most suitable. You must understand, however, our race doesn’t deal with outsiders. Save the two of us, of course.”

I raised an eyebrow and my babbler sent off the nonverbal signal. Damn thing! I wasn’t expecting that. “Ah, you are curious?” The basso voice said excitedly. I moaned inside my mind. This would be a long conversation, seeing as I was naturally inquisitive but also had an unnaturally short attention span. That and this bloke seemed to be a jabber jaw, good people most of the time, but jeez!

“We were ostracized by our crèche some decades ago for being un-Tyrennian. We are a very collectivist lot, you see. As thus; any dissent is not taken well. We got off with a fair punishment and avoided being recycled… We tend to take this as a gift and a message from Order to move fourth and prosper in the name of our race…” blah, blah, relatively cerebral, though.

“We hope some day we may return rich and show what benefits befit interstellar commerce!” If only they knew about some of the consequences. But they were idealists. Knowing that would never stop them. I had recognized that earlier on when I had heard this gent talk modestly.

“Bridgett should be arriving shortly.” He added hastily. Bridgett, who’s Bridgett? I thought that decidedly hard so my babbler would hear it. “Ah, she is the ship’s engineer.” A grease monkey? Likely to be a rather gruff thing, was this crew going to be all aggressive girls? Damn, I was going to drown in an ocean of burning estrogen!

“Did someone mention my name?” I heard said behind me in a squeaky, 21st century London accent. I turned around immediately, not really knowing what to expect by that point. “Why, hello there, sunshine!” She said with incredible zeal, grinning with an unsettling tyrannosaurus rex grin. I suppose this would be Bridgett. This all while she appeared human. She was wearing a rather peculiar outfit, blouse and short dress that looked somewhat out of style but slightly sophisticated in a librarian sort of way… I sat for a few seconds, thoughtless and confused.

“What’s ‘a matter, love?” She questioned mousily, “never seen a girl before?”

“Bridgett, you’re not even technically human…” ‘Sam offered bluntly.

“Ah shaddap!” ‘Bridgett’ said with a scowl. “You know I’m -oh my god, what happened to my real body?” She said with massive drama. “Must have thrown it out the airlock, oh well!” A likely cover story. This masquerader was clearly having some kind of identity crisis.

“Bridgett, this is nonsense.” ‘Dan said over the babbler, like a parent chiding a child. “You are a cybernetic organism and have been so long as we have known you. Do not confuse our new crewmember.”

“Ah,” she squealed, “you’re the new bloke headed for the meat grinders, lovely!” she said that with far too much exuberance for my liking… No liking at all, that is. She then casually jumped onto our babbler-party-line.

“Uhh,” I said over the babbler, “so I’ll be doing drone tech duty, mostly?” I asked. Hopefully non-field work.

“Indeed, though we are also counting on a pilot of a drone controller,” ‘Dan said. That was also known as flying a glorified, unarmed control pod on limited fuel with crappy maneuvering systems and a few dozen cookie-cutter, crappy drones backing you up. Lovely, I don’t think I needed that body I was using anyway, a full cyborg body would suit me just as well, as I’d likely die a few times. I looked at my hand and wondered if I should kiss it goodbye.

It was about then I remembered all the military grade drone equipment and fighter-grade weapons systems they bought. So I hoped and prayed that they were for me. A fighter retrofitted as a drone controller would be a GOOD thing.

“My BFF is on her way!” Bridgett squeaked. I turned, completely off balance (conversationally, so no, no cartoonish fall, you creeps.)

“Who’s that?” I asked quite innocently. I really hoped there was no one so hard to make small talk with as this crazy mystery woman-cybernetic… thingy… whatever she was.

“Ooh, time for an info dump!” Her face blanked and she spouted a massive amount of data on my babbler, which then dumped it on the synthetic part of my brain. It was so heavy I physically said “Oof!” Okay, maybe I can find the important stuff.

“Ooh sorry, duckey! Let me just say the important stuff…”

“S’ okay,” I croaked. Almost had it… either that or I was about to lose physical control and soil myself straining to do so…

Polina Soldeux
AGE: 23 [Converted to Sol years]
PHYSICAL: Human, augmented.
-Birth daughter of “Simon “TheMortician “ Serriistere
-Received certification from Guild Arcanum of conditioning as a Data-Archaeologist, Age 21
-Guild Arcanum Thesis received high notoriety: “Ice Giants: The Singularity and Catastrophe”

“Woah…” I said aloud, dumbstruck with some large measure of awe “Daughter of TheMortician.” He was one of the leading theorists in Data-Archaeology. Even if you weren’t into that, you knew about TheMortician… period. “You know this girl?”

“Yes,” Bridgett gloated, “aaand… she’s our ship’s archaeolologist…ist.” She stumbled foolishly. She was too good at sounding dumb to actually be that dumb. I’ve known stupid people, they like to sound smart. Yes, I am a hateful individual… Only because stupid people get everyone killed in wars, if you fight smart enough, few, if anyone, dies.

Well, if they had this kind of brass on the crew, I suppose it couldn’t be that bad. My luck was looking up!

“Ooh, wot?” Bridgett suddenly looked stern. “Oooh duckey, you’ll be all right, I want you to talk to ‘Zin now…”
“’Zin is clammed up.” Sam said unenthusiastically.

“-I mean ‘Dan, yes ‘Dan!” Bridgett did a good job of looking worried as she looked toward the hamster-colored spider standing somewhat distant, still looking creepy. It glanced at me with its two main stereoscopic eyes and I looked away quickly.

“-OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO HELP ME! THE PIRATES-“ Oh shit… new person on the line, likely Ms. Soldeux. Oh, no! Where are you going, luck! Come back! I would like to take a moment to inform everyone I’m also dying a little inside as my stomach flops a bit… yay?

“Get a hold of yourself, Polina,” ‘Dan said with almost human affirmativeness. “What’s happening?”

“Jesus, ‘Dan, I’m about to die…” there was slight sniffling on the other end of the line. “I can’t fight these guys, they’ve been tailing me… they’re pirates or thugs or something… they won’t speak in BUSEI. They’re trying to scare me into ejecting or something!”

“What is she flying?” I asked ‘Sam aloud.

“Last ‘I saw; it was your ship.” Sam said blankly, looking a bit bleak in the face -- though the amusement in her tone didn’t go unnoticed. Another tick on the blacklist under ‘Sam.’ She appeared to be somewhat dazed, maybe in cyberspace trying to evaluate the situation herself. This wasn’t big news compared to what was coming in on the line. I was thinking quick…

“I can’t fight in this thing, I’m running it on auto pilot, it would be suicide to let it fight by itself-“

“Let me pilot it-“ I thought into the conversation network.

A pause, far too long. I was getting impatient. I wanted to do something, anything to get this crap off of my mind!

“Look,” I asserted into the line, “do you want to die?” I only took one unit of interpersonal communication training as part of my basic in the stellar Fallers, by the way. Does it show?

“Get her back here,” I said aloud and directly to ‘Dan (remoting talent also means you know how to whisper in cyberspace.) “Get me in that ship, I don’t care how crappy it is…”

“Mmm… of the quality of excrement?” Dan thought into the babbler line. “As you process excrement in a rather nasty way as a species, I must venture you say that the Sun Lark is unsavory and useless. The statistics of her class and loadout beg to differ.” Another big dump, another big headache. Damn, I’m an Augment, not a bloody super AI!

Wait a second. I reviewed the blurb about the ship…“The DCV Star Lark is of the Kestrel class commissioned by Martani Secuity Inc.” Wow, they were quite legit… the Stellar Fallers based their business model off of MSI. I brought up a 3d turnaround of the hull and watched it spin as the information about the ship continued to jog through my head. It was actually helluva good… More of a fighter craft or miniature warship than an actual drone controller.

I was more interested in the fact that it had an armored cockpit that was fully blinded, no one could see inside. I had an idea. “Okay, I need to get in that ship… I don’t want to risk any lives besides my own.” And yes, a glowing, golden light surrounded me in my supreme protagonism. Thank you, would you like an autograph?

“I’m patching you in to a hailing frequency with the enemy squadron.” ‘Dan whispered back, I think I’ve just been overestimated! Oh shit!

Think fast… name dump of this ship… SSW-DCV Sunrise under the direction of… this would do.

“Speak” a gruff human on the other end of the hail demanded. The lights in the bridge dimmed and both spiders scurried back up into their flight seats. A tactical map came up, there was one green arrow at the center… another flying towards said green arrow, and a hell of a lot of red flying every which way. I muted the hail.

“I assume that red represents potential ways the combat systems onboard think the pirates can kick our ass?”

“Precisely,” ‘Dan said. Damn. I was tempted to throw my hands up in the air and run from the bridge in a panic. But I managed to keep my cool. No autographs, please.

I summoned up my most official Rele-shout for the hail. “This is the SSW-DSV Sunrise under the direction of Sunrise Starwide… aggressive action will result in retaliation in kind.”

“This is of trivial importance to us, for we are shielded!” They said it like king Arthur who just found a durn ‘magic’ laser. I chuckled ruefully. Who did they think I was, an idiot? Or do they think I think they think I think I’m an idiot… ah, screw it!

I glanced at the Sunrise’s military datashee --, kinetic attack drones, ballistic cannon.

“We are a fully equipped military vessel with fully capable ballistic combat networks, attacks by ships reliant on shields alone are strongly cautioned against.” Translation from corporate speak: “If you fuck with us wif yo’ punk ass shields, you gonna’ die!”

“Well then, we have armor… shit, Milligan, what do we do?” Was delivered downstream from the hail. Okay, so they were either stupid at bluffing, and thus actually equipped with potent armor and damage control… Or; they sucked at bluffing and were trying to bluff. The latter was covered by Murphy’s Law (synopsis: “oh shit! I didn’t plan for that!”) And thus a bad gamble on my part.

The green arrow was now nearly on top of our green dot. “Where’s the docking bay?” I said aloud.

“Follow me,” Sam said to the air. I wanted to get there right now. “I’m guessing you mean the docking systems for the sun Lark? We have those. They’re fairly new.” Thank god… no extra vehicular activity I’d have to do.

So here’s ingenious plan A: First, I convince them the Sun Lark is going runaway and attacking it would make many things explode… second. Oh shit, what was second? Oh, yes! I jump in and make it do crazy things, bluffing them into running like sissy school tikes that’ve seen a ghost. Hah, sometimes even I amaze myself.

We ran from the bridge while I half mindedly tried to formulate a response to the last sorta-bluff on the hail. Okay, going to have to think fast, time to begin the execution of plan A…

“Oh shit, what the fuck is wrong with our flight computer on that drone?!” I willed over the hail.

“There isn’t anything wrong with-“ Sam said aloud.

“Not the time, Sam, part of my plan.” I grumbled mischeviosly. She shook her head and rolled her eyes as we continued down the hall.

“What the fuck, the one we’re chasing?” Came the gruff voice on the other line.

“Yes, you gotta’ let us get that thing linked up, it’s about to go runaway!” I willed down the hailing line, feigning panic. “If you knock it out of the sky, rocket powered death will be flinging everywhere, and it will be angry!” That’s what happens when loaded ships explode… Hence; why military strategy now emphasizes, fewer, more powerful buggers instead of gank swarms (a.k.a. kamikaze fireworks.)

“Are you kidding, mate?” He asked skeptically.

“No. It’s loaded and primed, we’ve got to stop the thing before it goes apeshit!” I really hoped I performed a convincing “we’ve got to disarm this bomb before the bus goes under 30 miles per hour!”

“Let us link it up and empty the bays, we might be able to wrangle it before it’s too late!” I said plaintively down the hail line.

“Oh shit, Hal, let the thing dock, they have to unload the weapons!” Suckers! The fun thing is, we’d be loading the weapons in… the weapons-

“Sam, oh shit! Sam!” I yelled. She turned and raised her eyebrows in some bastard mix of exasperation and concern, where did she learn to do all this human body language? “Are the weapons you bought for the ship ready in the dock?” I said in meatspace once again.

“Who do you think we are, slugs? It’s been ten hours since we left, yes!” I sighed and wiped the sweat from my brow.

“Ms. Soldeux?” I said to the convo’ line.


“Yes you can! Let the autopilot bring you in, then get ready to leg it out of the hatch, I’m doing switchsies.” I said evenly down the line.

“…alright, just get me the fuck out of here-“

“I will,” I said with firmness that even shocked me, since when was I a cool talker?

There was a hellish slam below us as we entered the bay. The roof was barely over my head and the one narrow serviceway to the hatch was surrounded by beltways with lead bullets lined up on them and tiny elevators with clamps for missiles.

“Where’s the hatch?” I asked. Sam pointed down to a circular port in the center.

“That’s the ship-to-ship port, the ship will dock upside down, don’t puke when you exit gravity or hit your head or something.” She said with a hint of concern. That was a first. I wonder if she approved of this buccaneering lumberjackery.

I leaned down over the hatch and squatted there, waiting. Time to ice the cake. “Shit!” I yelled in a panic down the hailing line, “What do you mean it’s overrunning our networks?”

“Oh shit! What the fuck!” the gruff bloke yelled on the other side of the line.

The hatch opened. “Oh fuck, oh fuck!” Polina yelled as she dove feet first through the hatch. I grabbed her and lifted her promptly out of the way so she didn’t fall on her ass. She really sucked at getting out of that tin can. “Who are you?” She asked in exasperation as I let her down. A load of carrier trays and lines locked into the ship below me as I leaned down, the hum of moving service systems pervading the bay.

“A dead man.” I said plainly as I jumped down the hatch, the hum subsiding through the armored hull of the ship and coming through faintly through the narrow hatch.

“Do you got it, man?” The gruff bloke on the other side of the line asked. Oh shit… um… where was I? The weapons were just about done loading.

“What the hell, it’s overriding the docking systems! What kind of bug did this thing pick up?” The hatch closed in a ripple of spinning sections and clicking knobs and sliders.

I was already releasing the docking pads hugging the small fightercraft to the bottom of our hull when the response down the hail came. “I’m beginning to wonder myself.” The hailee said after a long pause. The words were said with a sudden coldness that chilled me to the bone.

“Real bugs wipe out a ship in seconds, why the hell didn’t it just leave you for dead? Prick, you’re screwing with us!” Was yelled down the line.

Shit, oh shit. My mind blanked for a few seconds, then I was back. What the fuck was I doing out here? What would I say? Did they just lead me into a trap?

“I…” think, think, think!

“Prime the guns, Hal, shoot the little gnat down!” Active lock alarms started going off and big, nasty looking, red triangles filled the faux-window covering the cockpit canopy of my ship. They buzzed angrily around, enhanced sights -- laser rangefinders all sorts of things trying to track my craft!

“Oh my god… it’s a virus!” I yelled in alarm down the hail. Going to plan B… or is it just plan A extended?

“Hold that! What the fuck do you mean!” came down the hailing line.

“We had a combat AI onboard, it held back the infection, but now it’s being subverted.” I paused, mostly for drama. “I think the fighter’s still runaway, we couldn’t get any of the ammo off of it!” Of course, I was in the fighter. “Now OUR computer’s starting to go ape!”

“Fuck, shoot that bird down, I’ll take an area blast instead of a direct attack!” The gruff bloke said down the line in a panicked blur.

“No, don’t risk it! If that thing gets in Rele-contact with you, you’re computer’s next! It must be some kind of nasty marketeer meta-being!” I said with desperation down the hailing line. This was like a science fiction B-Movie. I knew they’d take this, real viral vectors could pass easily. Their only option would be to run.

I started up the auto-combat routine in the ship. “I’m telling you that things loaded, oh shit, man, it’s gunning for you, GET OUT NOW!” I sounded even more panicked then when I was panicked. Mostly because I was about to get plucked out of the sky if this didn’t work. I started activating random gestures in the control interface that had linked to my mind.

The weapons primed and the afterburner started by coincidence. The screen also shifted to infrared and Poinga’s smash hit “Cowgirls of the stars” started playing in my head. Who the hell installs a media center in a military craft? Then I saw the pink, fuzzy dice bouncing and floating in the zero gravity and cursed the day that little girl used this beautiful, beautiful ship as a yacht!

Oh god, I hope I don’t die. I thumbed over to the tactical overlay and watched a medium-sized shitheap of a ship turn around and implode to an infinitely small point from a hundred different directions. They’ve run.

“Are they on the trace, ‘Dan?” I asked down the overstretched babbler chat. I was exasperated and likely running off of a shitload of waste adrenaline.

“They jumped out, it was an emergency jump, they aren’t coming back. It looks like they went to a completely different branch of the network.” ‘Dan burbled. I sighed and collapsed in the flight chair. Holy crap… I wasn’t going to die slash wasn’t dead.


“A human interchange model, huh? Why did you need me to do that, 1,212?” Bleh, can’t see.

“I’m sorry Newsdot-“ ‘Dan said in my head. Oh wait, eyes are closed.

“What, you’re giving me a pet name now?” the new voice questioned.

“Calling you by your full name in standard speech would take five minutes, Newsdot.” ‘Dan said monotonously. “Your enterprise name would be much more suitable in this case.”

“I see… Indeed, you’re correct! So, still, why, old bean?”

“Our new crewmember is of the persuasion of which this interchange model caters.” ‘Dan said, that woke me up from my dead stupor.

I looked up at the virtual model of a middle aged, balding. butler-like individual, complete with proper English pronunciation.

“I see, why do you need me to re-brief you? You could just dump on him what I did on you.”

“It’s not so simple, you see, he’s technically a member of the Stellar Fallers.” ‘Dan said with a possible hint of wryness.

The representation’s eyes widened. “Farsol? I can safely assume by my approximation of possibilities that you are likely concerned with using him as leverage to gain access to classified documents?”

“Correct. In accordance with the Farsol Insourcee Enablement act, of course.” I think ‘Dan said that… too many big words.

I slumped in my chair and fell asleep.


The data dump hit me like a bucket of cold water.

“Good morning, sleeping beauty, shall I schedule a manicure for you pansy ass?” I grumbled and sat up, I’d been plopped down on my bed and ‘Sam was standing beside it.

“I checked a background file on MWPedia, certified by lolfacts.rhub,” Sam said smugly. “The article said human circadian rhythm naturally settles into a sixteen hours by eight sleep hours rhythm. I was feeling kind, so I gave you eight hours and ten minutes.” I’d never heard her talk so long… people surprise.

“Any particular reason you suddenly give a crap about me?” I grumbled hoarsely.

She scowled down at me from her standing height over my flat-on-my-ass height. There was a BIG difference. “One, the data that you fell asleep and missed –and that I just dumped on you- is pertaining to your virgin mission. Hopefully we won’t catch the short end of the stick, as they say,” virgins and sticks? Oh god, more morbid humor!

“Second,” she said as she stopped chuckling to herself, “you did a really ballsey thing back there. Plus, you saved a crew member. That’s going above and beyond in my book.”

“So, you forgive me for sneaking a peak before?” I asked, smiling hoefully, but NOT innocently. She frowned, slackened, frowned again, then grunted in frustration.

“Ah hell, why not?”

“So then…” I said, smiling dastardly. (Where’s my pencil mustache, I must twirl it scandalously, then tie a helpless victim to the railroad tracks, mweh, heh, heh!) “What happens if there’s more of that ballsey shit where that came from?” Damn, I hope I don’t get punched in the face for this. Even if I do, it MIGHT be worth it, depending on how many teeth I lose.

“I ‘unno it’s hard to top-“ She suddenly went from genial expression to defcon 1 death glare, then pointed right between my eyes. “You’re pushing it, human!” I chortled a bit, both out of nervousness and because this was funny. “You WON’T get away with that kind of shit again… just this once!” She sighed and walked towards the door, then paused and looked over her shoulder. “By the way; run for landfall is in two hours. Get your heavy kit together and be ready to go groundside.”

“Big guns?” I said plaintively.

“Yes… you might actually be decent with them, the way you behaved before… keep it up and I won’t change my mind. Don’t and I’ll not be within a mile of you when you’re in that stupid suit.” She turned in one fluid motion and walked out.


“Ten years?” ‘Sam questioned, the main view was dominated by pitch-blackness and a single shadow in a land of shadows dominating the view and disappearing below us. “I thought you said this planet wasn’t hot!” I turned my attention to the tactical view, standing out from the normal real-space and only visible through the virtual screens of my spectacles, enhanced reality. There was a solitary green arrow facing a large, bumpy sphere, the view had to be at nearly seven thousand clicks range. I looked at the blank planet.

“Marketeer dominated worlds never cool down,” Polina said morbidly, looking very afraid as red markers pinned themselves along the coastlines of the planet, likely probable settlements. “The AIs are always watching.” My spine shivered as she whispered out the words. I’d shivered because I knew just how right she was.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Chapter 1: Crash Landing

Without further adeau, here's the first installment in the Sunrise story.
Mackai Solen finds his future a shambles and his life in danger, both at the hands of an unlikely, but furious nemesis. Left no other choice; he flees for the stars to an unknown future on a never-ending job with a crew of strangers.

There was nothing quite like watching your things get thrown out of the window of your own apartment over a remote video feed from your office too far away to do anything. What was the clincher was that the blonde haired beast on the other end was a woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. She had what little commitment I could spare from my military tour, and I was beginning to realize even that wasn’t enough. Those clingy ones get you like that and never let go.

“MACKAI YOU SON OF A BASTARD!“ Ooh, there goes another kitchen chair. Eighty stories down… there was no way it was going to survive. “I can’t believe you took another tour in February! You knew how lonely I was you son of a bitch!” She said with zeal as she lobbed yet another heavy implement out the window with her cybernetic limbs. “You should know I’m cheating on your ice-cold ass and it’s all your fault!”
"... I started to spout out some reconciliatory words, then cut myself off after I finally realized what she’d said. I’ll admit, I didn’t think much for the next fifteen seconds. “You blame me for you cheating on me?”"..."

“You don’t know what I’ve been through!” she said defensively. “Do you know how it feels to be lonely!?” She screamed the word so loud that the remaining window glass in the room shattered behind her. Why the bloody hell did I go steady with a full cyborg? Hell, I didn’t even know her sanity credentials… oh wait now I did… crazy mofo’.

“Do you know how it feels to unleash a mind-fucking mega virus on herds of AI zombies who don’t know any better?” I yelled back reflexively. I was pulling the “my buddies died face down in the mud for this?” card. On the whole viral genocide of dumb AIs thing… It sucked. Those poor skynet-esque buffoons smashing apart planets and mining out entire solar systems were as innocent as a colony of ants. Still, we had to squish the poor buggers nonetheless. I was tired and angry simultaneously. Being tangry isn’t pleasant, like reliving one’s adolescence all over again.

“Sentries!” I roared into the call channel, fully unable to control the angry jitter to my output in my angsty stupor.

“This is Farsol emergency, how may we be of assistance?” came an amazingly sedate voice in my head.

“Yeah, there’s an enraged cyborg… tearing apart my apartment.” I barely managed to keep my output from cracking and stuttering as I slowly said the sentence into the security channel. It was about then I realized just how little I believed what was happening. First came the urge to cry and gobble like a schoolgirl. But then my manly man lumberjack training kicked in and I hastily felt like breaking things, too. Maybe my girlfriend and I could do lunch and break things together. I believe that would be what most people would call “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY AT THE SUPERDOME!”

My squeeze paused and looked over into the room cam with sudden fear in her eyes, “What the hell are you doing?” I waited for it to click, feeling rather satisfied that I’d delivered some vengeance. “Farsol security? YOU BASTARD!”

She resumed throwing things out the window with massively renewed vigor- oh shit! Not the crystal drink glasses! “If I get out of aggression rehab, I’ll fucking kill-“ At that point I was almost too pissed to breathe, so I cut the line before I said something that would earn me a new stalker-slash-killer. She was buggered, anyway. The Far-sec sniffers would be able to find her in every square foot of the city given enough time. Hopefully I had that much going for me at least. So I suppose she’d just accepted the futility and was going to have one last hurrah of going medieval on my stuff before she went to psych therapy.


About then I held back the urge to vomit, aided by my stomach suppressor implants. They were lovely one day out of every month when you really needed them… whenever something really fucked up happened. This was definitely one of those days.

“What the hell do you mean she bloody escaped the paddy wagon?” For a few seconds there, I lost control of myself. Mostly because I was rather afraid they were already writing my will and I might as well get on with it and upload before she got a chance to kill me. Goodbye, old body, it’s been a blast!

“It’s alright, Mackai, that’s why I’m talking with you now.” The sun was way, way on the other side of the planet. Maybe it was shining over thar in gosh darn China on the other side of the earth. I had slept about twenty minutes in the past three hours. Thank the stars for emergency meetings, or I would have pulled my hair out and gone insane with anticipation of my uncertain future… had to relax. What the hell am I saying? I’m going to frickin’ die!

“I want to disappear, Jasper, you have to help me!” I pleaded.

“Active duty,” he grumbled in his basso voice. That was more a tentative question from His Manlyness the Grand Master Sergeant. That was because Sergeants of the Stellar Fallers didn’t actually ask questions, They didn’t have to because they had given them a ruthless suplex and told questions to call them daddy.

I was feeling a lot like the question in that moment of sheer terror. I gulped. Full active duty was a nightmare, but it was where people who wanted to get away went. Though I was much too pretty to spend one out of twenty hours flying through a hellhouse and then spend the next nineteen (of the rest of my life) crying to a psychotherapist.

“Okay then… One last option,” he said, dark, piercing eyes glaring up at me over his arched hands. Apparently he had x-ray vision and could read the discontent screaming around and around through my mind at the mere mention of active. “Other than that, we make you full time office and put you under constant security detail.” I was also much too smart to spend the rest of my life in make-work jobs meant for washouts. After all, I was one of the best drone technicians the Stellar Fallers had. I grumbled absently.

Grand Master Sergeant Jasper Fahlsol sighed and suddenly looked very tired. “Mackai, you’re a good man to us, a good remoter and a good programmer. However...” he paused, thinking things over as commanders of massive, interstellar military firms must often do. “You’re running down my bag of tricks… Mackai.”

“I thought you said I only had that one other option-“ Jasper grunted and I shut up.

Jasper laughed slightly and grimaced. People like Jasper only grimace in the pig-flying event that a joke pierces their stoic nature, or in the more likely event they’re backed into a corner. “You’re a piece of work, Mackai. You ‘got balls.” I instinctively looked down at my jeans just to check. Yep, everything seemed in order from the outside, one thing my girlfriend HADN’T taken. Jasper laughed a sandy grind of a laugh at that

“Like I said, Mackai, I got one more thing for you. You sure you wanna’ disappear?” I nodded emphatically, remembering how my Girlfriend had told me about the hydraulic knives she’d replaced her ulnas with for “self defense.”

“Then I ‘got one word for you; insourcing.” I paused to think over this extremely heavy word. Insourcing was when a professional firm exported complete service of a particular form to another. Farsol’s Stellar Fallers had such insourcing services for hire. “It’s pretty much the foreign legion for any good talent we can export, you disappear.” He snapped his fingers with the last word and grinned like a card shark.

So it was about then I realized it was my only real option. I still remember this moment in hi-def - I made sure to archive it heavily and back it up for sentimental reasons. There was Jasper, arms forming a neat pyramid, hands hiding everything but his eyes, looking like the dastardly artificers of the past, if you know which one, you get a cookie! Anyway…

He was surrounded by the muted blue of the stratosphere out the shutters behind him. The room was dark, save the light from Shangri-La, the massive float membrane on which the Stellar Faller naval base hung in low orbit and upon the top of which we were perched. It was nearly five-hundred kilometers in diameter, so large it affected weather systems on a global scale. I called it home and I was about to kiss it goodbye.

“What do I have to do, Jasper?” I asked, surprisingly calm considering this moment changed my life as I knew it.


“Excuse me, but do you have my stapler?” Dwaine asked from behind me, I jumped and dropped my Tarantulas back into my foot locker. The little drones rolled into defensive balls and bounced a few times before settling. “Someone’s being naughty!” Sure, an employee in the office after his shift rooting around his company locker isn’t common. But, hell, not at all suspicious.

“Don’t want to talk about it,” I mumbled, and I sure as hell didn’t. I also, sure as hell, wanted my light kit on hand when I left the building, just in case.

“Have a case of the Mondays?” Dwaine crooned the last word like a fat office telephone operator, which made me roll my eyes. References to out of date, pre-jack entertainment were so passé… unless I was the one doing it.

“My girlfriend escaped from Farsol Psych, told me she’s cheating on me, and was last seen completely trashing my apartment.”

I could almost see Dwaine cringing behind me. Of course, that only lightly veiled his office-jockey sized drama vampirism. He was a full time cubicle spook, I never really envied him. “In that order?” he asked. He was also once my wingman when I was in an anti-sensor battalion, he’d washed out, I hadn’t. Nonetheless, the slight hint of empathy that masculinity allowed showed in his tone. I silently basked in it before I spoke.

“No, just the order that would create the most life-ganking experience possible.” I sighed as I finished and began charging my pack’s bays with stuff again.

“So, murderous intent or nay?”

“Homicidal bitch mode: one hundred percent. ACTIVATE!”

“I told you, you shouldn’t have dated a cyborg chick. At least uploads are good in bed. You won’t get torn in half switching positions in cyberspace.” I begged to differ, she was okay in the sack, it was when me and her opened our mouths to say something besides primal yells and sentences no more than two syllables that things went to hell. That and whenever we spent longer than a few days together. Thank god I didn’t get much shore leave.

The last thing I was thinking about was quality bedtime, though. Unless that bed time was me sleeping alone, not being plotted against or watched by evil, beady robot security eyes. It had been another five hours since my meeting and I’d spent the whole time getting my shoebox worth of stuff left from my wreckage –erm apartment.

“Look, I’m going to ramble ASAP, Dwaine,” I was trying to sound as much like a cowboy as possible. I sucked at it, need to watch more westerns. “ ‘Dunno when I’ll be comin’ back,” I mumbled in a devil-may-care tone.

“Great we’ll throw a party!”

“Oh that’s okay,” I began, breaking the cowboy motif like china in a trash grinder, suddenly taken aback by what a kind gesture Dwaine was offering. “There’s not nearly enough ti-“

“Oh no, after you leave, and there will be moist, delicious cake.” Wanker

“You’re some joker, Dwaine.” I grumbled, feeling ice cold yet at the same time finding the mental faculty in my sleep-deprived state to laugh at myself.

“It’s cool. Look, no cake, okay? And,” he said, emphasizing the last word like a game-world host, “I’ll space your heavy kit for you!”

“Really?” That got me excited again; I hoped he wasn’t joking. Lugging out a heavy metal box full of things that liked to beep, fly hop and explode wasn’t number one on my bucket list. “Yeah, I’ll get it to wherever, beam me the address.”

I called up my take-along HUD and sent him a memory file. “hmm, high Shangri-La, huh? Looks like you’ll be spacing it after all.” I nodded with a mix of pride and fear as I stood up with my pack. “I’ll get the grunts to lug it right now… No more cubicle duty?” I nodded emphatically as the heavy metal door out of the closet armory slid away. “Man, you military blokes make us code jockeys’ days. How boring will the office be without you?”

“Very boring,” I said unenthusiastically as I stepped into the grubbily carpeted cubicle farm. There were a few workers with cords running from their necks sitting in flight chairs with stupid looks on their faces. “Ah, such bright eyes and bushy tails,” I said campily, panning my gaze about dramatically. Dwaine chuckled as he caught up with me.

We walked the short distance to the lift, which I had called in advance from a few ten-hundred stories downhill. The doors opened before us with a suitably futuristic swish. “I have to go down to the atrium, you on break?”

Dwaine nodded, “yeah, I’ve been nano-stockpiling an extra minute from my last one hundred breaks, I’ve got time to spend.” I nodded in appreciation of his cleverness as we stepped into the car that was docked alongside the glass façade of the building. The car was shaped like a pill long side down. At either end were two chairs and the floor was upholstered with the same drab office carpet as the floor I’d just stepped off of.

The doors closed as we took seats on opposite sides. Crash pads clamped down on both of our legs from the sides of our seats. Shangri-La had a famous and highly expensive personal rapid transit system for its workers. It was also mind-numbingly fast.

The tram did a little circle around the station line before it started picking up speed onto the merge for the main network. Soon enough, we were barreling down the slopes of Shangri-La. I was in the backward seat and got to watch Dwaine bare his teeth and practically pop his eyes out of his sockets as we passed six hundred klicks an hour.

“I never get used to this…” he trailed off. I just put my hands behind my head and leaned back in my harness. This was pleasant compared to getting dropped in an assault boat. Meanwhile, I watched Shangri-La’s extensive offices fly by and disappear over the artificial, curved horizon. Shangri-La was a massive arch-bubble construct designed to aid in transorbital commerce and logistics for Farsol.

It was thin as all hell and supported by antigravity mats on the underside. If we had a bird’s eye view, it would look like a large, white, shiny bubble with big arch-shaped holes at the bottom half. The spaces between the holes were used primarily for transitways to terra firma. Above that was where most of the lighter weight was, skyscrapers and office complexes. In the center of the dome was High Shangri-La, Farsol’s main harbor on Earth.

Shangri-La, like the scale of the entire Farsol government, was about as huge as they came around here. It was some odd four hundred and fifty klicks in diameter with anchorages in a dozen states of the old U.S. Me and Dwaine were screaming down the rails towards Dallas. Not many cities were around anymore, but they were big and tall these days. Dallas was one of the biggest.

There were a few resounding thumps as we began to level out from our steep descent. The nagging, helium filled, floating feeling in my stomach was slackening, much to my relief. “You have just been deflowered yet again by Shangri-La freefall, thank you for flying.” I said to Dwaine, much to his chagrin. He shook his head at me and frowned, all the while betraying himself with occasional chortles. “I guess it WAS good for you.” I added. He started cackling madly at that.

We swung around a banked curve somewhere under one hundred klicks an hour, past great arcing guideways. The guideways rose and fell, banking closer and further as they streamed past the rear windows I had a vantage out of. A Heavyback trundled up the main guideway carrying a starship on its massive lifting bed as smaller trams and passenger trains buzzed along the gravity defying guideways surrounding them.

“Dallas station, low capacity. Transfer to ground network, transfer to atrium-”

“That would be us,” I said clearly to the cab intelligence.

“Okay, thank you very much for using SLTA services, take care.”

“Thank you,” I said curtly to the half-sentient hijacking the cab’s speakers. Our guideway swung in to join a lower artery sweeping under the main one. We dove into a tunnel and began to decelerate. Work lights flew by at decreasing speeds until we finally exited into the massive covered park they call the Dallas Atrium.

The car stopped with a click and the doors bumbled open, sliding away out of view. “Underfoot park?” Dwaine asked.

“N’ah, I’m expected down at the Hub Terrace.” I said as I stood from the parting lap harness and rotated myself out the door.

“Hmm,” Dwaine said as he fell in behind me again. “I want to see the bounty hunter who you’re going to be answering to.”

“Oh bugger, Dwaine, you’re hard to ditch.” I said, reaching back and clocking him in the shoulder as I finished the joke. “I’m going to have to ‘accidentally’ walk into the girls bathroom and escape through a vent or something, won’t I?”

“Hey, if that’s how you want to see naked women… not really my bag.” I frowned; he was good. We walked away from the car as its doors closed with a thud. By the time it sped away, we had crossed the large paved platform raised above the tree line and started down the stairs.

“So, how’d you know about the insourcing I was going into?” I said, getting back on the subject. Dwaine just tapped his wifi implant. “Ah, Jameson from human resources?”

He nodded, “The guy’s still thankful I got him through his certification test. Besides, rumors get around, at which point they subsequently become the property of gossip monkeys, including me.” We walked along the walkway and down another flight of stairs towards the main pad. People walked to and fro at modest paces, passing Dwaine and I without even a glance. “So,” Dwaine said, “any foreword?”

“None at all,” I said apathetically, “They’re supposed to be a pretty advanced group, they’ll be doing all the briefing.” We were just about under the treeline, climbing down the shiny, utopian-esque paths contrasting with the wild park below us

“How much do you want to bet your boss is a fugly slug alien with beady eyes and-“ we passed the tree cover surrounding us and were about to descend the last flight of stairs when I stopped. “Woah,” Dwaine said tersely, mouthing what I would have said had I had any sense at that moment.

"...There was a seven and a half foot tall humanoid holding up a sign in poorly scribbled analog script that said “Solen.” She was clad in an armor skeleton that would put any civilian racket to shame. It was all curves and thick polymer armor with jade camera eyes jutting out every which way. She appeared to be vaguely mammalian, with a relatively human form, but she was covered in dark gold fur maybe an inch in length with white covering the underside of her chin. Furthermore, her oddly feline features made her look like a reject from Captain Ahab 3120AD...." Oddly, though, she was stunning in an amazonian sort of way.

“You have an appointment, mate,” Dwaine said.

“And you have break time, c’mon!” I said as I grabbed the shoulder of his business suit and dragged him along. No way I would be able to summon the balls to walk up to a massive amazon like this woman (clearly a woman, I won’t say any more.) My light kit clunked along as I descended the flight of stairs. I hit level ground and walked over with Dwaine in tow.

We stopped a few meters short, she still hadn’t noticed me, girls like her had a stare like drill bits. “Well man, this is it, I guess.” It WAS it. My apartment was trash and there was someone likely out on the hunt for me, I didn’t plan on coming back. In fact; I wanted out soon.

“Alright, keep in touch,” he said as he patted me hard on the shoulder and headed off on his own mission.

“Mackai Solen?” I turned around at hearing my name. The battle she-wolf who’d been holding the sign looked down at me with angular, purple rimmed, catlike eyes. I nodded. “Good, you’ve kept me waiting long enough,” she said, a slight hint of spite escaping her casual tone. “I’m –“ she said something that sounded like ‘samteesoap’ said in fast forward with air escaping from a balloon in the background.

I paused, “can I just call you Sam?”

“Sure, that works,” she said tersely in a brassy voice that sounded oddly human. I supposed her species had a rather versatile set of vocal chords. “Anyway, I’m here to give you the tour. ‘Have to get some supplies while we’re planet side as well. I’ll brief you along the way, good?” She said in a clipped manner.

“Yeah sure, you guys are already parked in H.S.L.?” She nodded as we started down the main concourse. The floor sunk into a high street of commercial shops as we walked toward the ground exit. “So why don’t we just order this stuff over the net?”

She sighed like I was a two-year old tag along. Too stupid for my own good, I reasoned. “It’s too easy to forge feeds. You humans don’t do it too much. But; out in the Abyss, it’s easy for the superpowers to do.” I nodded. “Your firm shop locally?”

“For short orders, yes,” I said. “There’s a few good places, if that’s what you’re thinking.”


Two drone logic units, military grade ox’ supply, and fifty kinetic attack drones, fighter grade. These guys didn’t screw around.

“Now I want this EXACT stock on this palette delivered to pad Northeast twenty-one. No funny shit.” Sam was looming over the short, synth-scalp clad merchant in his own warehouse acting like she owned the place.

“Yes ma’am, and I’ll make it priority.” It was working. She nodded, clearly satisfied with the “negotiations,” yet still wearing a strong scowl.

“You didn’t have to pick him up by the collar,” I offered with slight tentativeness as we turned to walk out. “Around here, the Global Business Bureau keeps these guys under a microscope.”

“Doesn’t hurt to keep them on their toes.” A valid point, the merchants around here had grown fat on port business. A little rough play now and then wouldn’t hurt. We walked out shoulder by shoulder from the warehouse into the daylight.

“Anyway, like I was saying,” she began smartly. “We’re a special missions firm, we handle the exotic jobs mostly. Things that pay top dollar,” and only go to the craziest sons-of-bitches out there, I finished for her. Some people to fall in with, this lot was. “Anyway, we know you’re some top Farsol polish. We’ve made some accommodations in our equipment for you. We’ve been needing an information warfare man for a while so we’re hoping you don’t disappoint.” Depends on what you’re offering.

“Anyway, we have some benefactors with quite a bit of money to pull. They’ve been trying to move their planet’s market into the offworld game, almost single handedly.” She was getting warmer. We continued walking along the dusty cement culverts and arroyos of the supply sector in the lower levels of the city. These spaces were meant for the heavy vehicles they used to lug ship-grade cargo around. We passed through stray avenues of sunlight bleeding down from the crowded, claustrophobic skyline far above as we meandered back towards the Dallas atrium. I wished we’d go faster, security was only at the cargo scan checkpoints… this was no man’s land.

“My superiors are prepared to offer you some top of the line systems to use on duty on the condition you deliver good productivity.” Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks! She looked down at me with a wry grin. “It’s at least as good as the bath toys you ape militants call weaponry. It’s getting on a bit, but it’s ex-security equipment, so you know it’s good.” Could I get any happier? No.

Sure, Farsol looked after its troops better than most government militias, but they also had to supply a few million heads with said equipment. The going was better when you were the sole receiver of hand-me-downs from the rich. So, being a hacker, programmer and warfare expert, I love things that cost money. Thus; I’d struck gold. I would never be bored again! Huzzah!

“Found you, you louse!” Umm… not-huzzah! The scorn with which the last word was said was enough to tell me who was on the other end. I didn’t piss many people off back then, but when I did, things flew and made scary explosions. Melyssiah Medrosol was the current example… if that was her real name. Lover, fighter, ex-girlfirend-from-hell-who-just-trashed-my-appartment… ah to hell with it.

I quick-turned, hoping I was wrong, but there she was. It was about then she decided to extend the hydraulic knives, about as long as my arm, open up her dermal plating so her synth’ muscles could work at full and flip out an automatic firearm. Damn, well… she had looked and, honestly, felt, like a normal dame when I’d first met her. Damn how I wish I cold do a rollback on time.

Beside her were two light model utility bodies, full synthetic and not at all human. Their limbs were as long as I was tall and at their ends were some rather shiny, rather nasty looking shiv claws –likely carbon-infused for maximum killing potential.

“s-s-s-SENTRIES!” I squeaked. She smiled and wagged her finger at me.

“Not this time, Mackai,” Melyssiah said ruefully as a rather portly looking armored suit walked out of the nearby alley. His torso and head seemed entirely concealed by a massive metal sphere that slightly resembled a diving bell if it had been painted in technology. The main eye gimbal sticking out of the top spun wildly and turned to stare at me -red glare, laser sight and all. He looked like a giant screwy-eyed gorilla. “You’re all mine now, Mackai, my buddy here has suppressor gear, no radio, no rele-pulse. I sure hope you have someone within shouting distance or this will be boring.” I instinctively looked at ‘Sam, her eyes were flitting between my ex’s merry gang of military misfits and me.

“What the fuck were you up to while I was gone all these months?” I squawked as I turned to face her again.

“Ah, you know, making friends in the underground, pulling favors. Just doing what I have to, mostly. Nothing new,” she said. Why in the hell did I never check her background record when I met her? It seemed kind of stalker back then. Now I knew it would have just been good measure.

“What the hell is going on, Solen?” Sam quietly grumbled in my direction. I glanced at her in confusion. She glared at me for offering no help, then turned to face my ex. “If you have a bone to pick with Mr. Solen, you should know he is now under the employ of Sunrise Starwide, a company of Badha-“

“Blah, blah, blah,” Melyssiah said with childish ire. “Talking won’t get you and your hussy anywhere, Mackai,” Jesus, she was hell bent on staying completely focused on me and making everyone else out to be secondary. “You’re both unarmed.” How goddamned blind was my ex? Not very, but she had a reputation for being almost harlequinesque in her stupidity.

“Hussy?” Sam paused, I guessed her babbler was trying to assemble the meaning of the word for her from an offline database, fairly slow. Then she bared her teeth and howled an ear-shattering roar at my ex. “I barely know this man!”

“And we are fucking armed!” I said with vigor… for once. On queue, my kit sprang to life. The containment field flickered to life and I was encased in an energy repelling bubble. The air around me shimmered and sparked slightly as the shoulder mounts with combat sensors lowered into place. The pack flattened as the exoskeleton unfolded gracefully from it. I had scarcely said ‘armed’ by the time most of my body was encased in a light carbon armor conducting an energy barrier. You should have seen my heavy kit.

Quick lines to my heart rate and my equipment status began feeding into my brain through the suit cybernetics as the visor clicked down over my face. I was endowed with wide-angle vision as the sensors clicked on and bypassed my own eyes with a sensory software header.

Sam took one quick glance at me and deployed her own suit, that was much less involved. The helmet slid down over and below her head, slipping shut over the front of her pronounced muzzle. The overall effect seemed rather intimidating, like a demon weasel with glowing blue eyes. The eyes were pretty impressive, compound models that probably let her pinpoint the exact position of a fly a mile or so away.

A rifle sprang around her shoulder and slid into her right hand, she fingered the power on as I turned to face Melyssiah again, still undaunted and angry at me as all hell.

“Ooh,” she crooned, eying the both of us predatorily. “Some hot bitches want to tangle after all?” I swear; this was not the woman I met a few years ago. The big jammer tub stepped forward to protect my ex, but she waved him back. Who the hell was that bloke being all defensive about? I suppose I now knew who she was cheating on me with… or thought I did… great.

Without any warning, my ex bum rushed me with those knives which had previously seemed so nasty. I instinctively positioned my arms over my face as she brandished the buggers at me. Her knives bounced and skittered off the carbon plating over my arms as she tried to leap over me. Then I heard a grumbling blast of energy off to my right as Sam let rip somewhere over me.

I jumped back as my ex flipped over and landed slightly behind her blokes. “You wee bitch!” She said, the skin to one side of her face wrinkling unnaturally and blackened to a crisp. The faux skin was healing before she even began speaking, it took more than a few stray shots to kill a cyborg.

The tank man was up upon us, weapons bays popping out of his bulbous torso. Energy weapons mostly, I stepped forward so my containment field could soak up the damage. The bolts that followed hopped and sizzled around me and made the field sputter and spark madly. A whiff of ozone escaped into my mask as I stood, pausing and still having failed to fire a shot. Capacitors at twenty percent, wow, what a volley!

The tank man made to rush me and I jumped out of the way. I rolled to the ground in a manner that would have made my CQC instructor nod approvingly. Before I even finished flying butt over head, though, I heard a roaring screech of fire from Sam’s direction and a resounding, crackling crash. I suppose the bloke wasn’t prepared to deal with energy weapons.

Now that the jammer had ceased jamming, he was likely uploading out of the crumpled heap that was his mechanized body. I stood and looked at the smoking, sputtering remains. My ex and her two remaining goons were motionless and speechless. I suppose they shouldn’t have messed with a chick who was over seven feet tall with a rather large plasma spray gun in her hand.

They looked around briefly, then bolted like the dogs they were, running down the alley. “I’m not surprised at that outcome…” I said breathlessly, “Except for the whole us not getting torn to shreds thing, that was a lovely surprise.”

“Why the hell didn’t you fight back?!” Sam roared at me as her helmet hid itself away behind her. Did I mention, as well as sucking with women, I suck with close quarters combat… well the actual combat mostly.

“Uhh,” I said intelligently, “My resume says it all, I’m a remoter and programmer, I don’t do CQC.”

“You don’t what?” She said in utter disbelief. “If you intend to join a mercenary group like us, you better frickin’ learn it!”

“Look, let’s just get the hell out of here, she’ll be back and my heavy kit’s at the docks.” I said in a rush.

“Oh great, you have bigger guns… Bigger guns are only of any use if you USE THEM!” She roared, not hiding any ounce of rage in her as she turned dramatically and started sauntering the way we had been going.


“’Dan, I want you to have the Sunrise ready for takeoff as soon as possible, and by as soon as possible I mean right the hell now or you’ll be short on crew,” Sam said over our shared conference space.

“I understand, there has been trouble?” A synthetic basso voice warbled from nowhere, oddly apathetic.

“Do you even need to ask? Also, get ‘Zin to get Trebuchet one and two ready to launch ordinance, would you?” We were barreling up a guideway towards High Shangri-La, on the run from a number of scary people wielding many sharp things.

“Indeed there has been much trouble.” The basso voice said inquisitively. “The charge is secure?”

“Umm, hi,” I said, coming to the tentative decision that now was the time to chime in.

“Ohh,” the synth-voice trilled in excitement, “very good! How long until you arrive?”

I guessed Sam was going to make an estimate, but I decided I knew the place better. “It should be any minute now, we’re about to get to the Northeast concourse.” We were, too. The buildings of Shangri-La proper were receding behind us into the distance and the mooring masts and lights of High Shangri-La were rising to meet us. Any second now, any second now and I’d be safe!

“We were already preparing to leave, ‘Dan will make hasty arrangements.” The Basso voice said over the channel.

The car began to decelerate as we passed clean off the surface of the dome into open space miles above the earth. All that was below us was a thin guideway, suspended under the great protrusions of the harbor. The panorama was swallowed in darkness as we disappeared down an airlock tunnel. The car stopped and there was a muted hum ahead of us as the interior doors parted and the exterior ones far behind us closed.

We passed into the posh, red-carpeted interiors of the terminal and began to stop. “Your kit ready?” Sam asked hurriedly.

“Why?” I asked, hoping she would say no reason other than caution. She pointed to the left of the car and right at my ex’s face. She was standing proudly with her two massive bodyguards.

“Fu-u-u-u-uck!” I said, there she was again… AGAIN!

“Please open the port doors!” I said hurredly.

“Okay, security is currently busy, I can’t call help, I don’t know what’s going on.” The halfie said through the speakers. Oh hell, we were screwed, even the ‘bot was out of ideas!

The doors bumbled open and me and Sam squeezed out, backing away in the opposite direction of my Ex. Idiot must have not thought that the cars had two sided doors. She scowled at me with mild amusement, then she and her guards performed a flying leap over the track to our platform.

“Not getting away this time, duckey!” She said spitefully.

I heard a series of clicks and swishes, then watched a fusillade of hot plasma bolts streak into my ex’s face. She collapsed, but both Sam and I were under no illusions she was going to stay down. I was already deploying the musculature of my kit so I might manage to run at least close to cyborg speeds.

“Run!” Sam said, I was way ahead of her on that. We both bolted and I didn’t even spare one backward glance. There was a massive raucous behind us filled with gunfire. Hot lead and glowing plasma buzzed and pinged around the reinforced walls of the concourse and ricocheted against the heavy-duty containment fields keeping people inside from shooting through to vacuum. I ducked under my hands as I ran, having heard what sounded like a clown car full of homicidal gangsters unloading at a police station behind us. Someone had brought lots and lots of friends, and they had big, explodey things… lots and lots of big, explodey things.

Bullets zinged past my lowered head as we ran down the concourse. “Bugger!” I heard my ex’s unmistakably angry voice behind me, “If you fucking shoot me in the face again…”

I didn’t hear the last words, a helmeted officer was motioning us through the security checkpoint past a number of heavily armed soldiers and armored suits. Me and Sam weren’t going to keep him waiting. As we dove past the detector arch, a defense barrier blasted up behind us. The crude metal thing wouldn’t hold long. Sirens futiley rang out behind us and I expected to hear a silky, inexplicably female, computer announcement say “five minutes to total destruction.” THEN we would have been in a bona-fide science fiction action sequence!

We ran on down the dock concourse. I counted the labels for the connections… nine… ten. There was a wrenching shriek behind us as the barrier was torn in two. I glanced back just long enough to see the two massive, lanky, bodyguards tear through the barrier. I heard pinging ordinance smacking forcefield in all directions and guessed the mechs were jumping all over the place. They’d be baffling the security officer’s targeting systems with sheer agility, like cyborg space ninjas (pirates watch out!)

Sam turned, began to backpedal and took a few shots at the buggers, now on the ceiling, before turning around. She hit the turbo and kicked up to perhaps eighty clicks per hour, I jumped to catch up with a good twenty meter leap. Thank you, synth-muscle assist. Ten… fifteen… twenty. I hit the brakes, skidding a good twenty meters on my poor shoes and leaving a path of burnt, low grade rubber behind me. Thank god all my joints were reinforced by the musculature or I might have lost a foot.

“Let’s go!” she yelled. The door to port 21 opened as we scrambled in. The guideway we were entering suddenly felt incredibly exposed. It was a glass tube with flashing lights running down in sequence toward the end, which was far too distant for my liking. We sailed down the tube in long leaps in the gravity of low orbit.

The doors to the terminal closed and sealed behind us as we made for the spearhead shaped ship attached to the mast we were leaping down. I languished in the sudden silence, deathly afraid that a railgun round the size of my entire body would rip through the mast and kill us in explosive decompression, that my Melyssiah’s people would have fleet support.

My heart thumped against my containment field, making the skin on my arms annoyingly prickly. I had to get out… almost there. I was distracting myself picking out the metal greeble all over the hatch surface when it opened a yard ahead of us. I took one last large leap and dove into the hatch.

I smacked into the ground hard, suddenly under about point eight gees. I guessed by the fact that I didn’t lose a tooth when my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t see a thing through the pain and barely managed to roll over and notice that the door at the opposite end of the mast was being smashed in. I sure as hell hoped no one I was in good standing with was on the other end of that door when we spaced. Containment would seal the nearby area but whoever was breaking that door was about to be VERY surprised.

Our end of the hatch closed swiftly. “’Zin, punch it!” Sam yelled over the conference channel, making my head throb.

“Detaching from mast 21 now, we are away.” My stomach lurched as we drifted free. I had just enough time to see a set of heavy metal doors sail down the mast tunnel and smash into our hull before our ship rolled free. What followed them was rather vindicating, the two lanky guards flew out of the tube, flailing madly. Likely no one would be around to rescue their bodies, weather or not they required oxygen to operate.

“Give the vacuum a kiss on the cheek for me, dumb shits,” I mumbled. “And happy uploading.” I hoisted myself up off the ground and shook off the pain in my ribs.

“Any contacts, ‘Zin?” Sam asked tentatively.

“Nothing on Rele-trace, no pursuers, we’re clear. I’m getting us out of here, neither Farsol nor whoever your attackers are will be terribly happy with us. The former I can negotiate with, however.” There was a pause on his end. “I’m making the leap for orbit, grab something.” I hastily stood up at the mention of escaping orbit. Even a low-orbit to high-orbit transfer was bumpy.

“C’mon,” Sam said tersely, “there’s crash seats this way.” We ducked down a hallway clad in tan plastic fittings, humming with machinery that made it sound like an atmospheric hopper plane. We hung a quick left and slipped through a narrow hatch. Sam collapsed into a chair immediately beside the door. There was a window on the far end. So, being a grandstander, I jumped over and took a seat beside the thick window bay.

The cabin lights shut down and ‘Sam and I were bathed in darkness. I fumbled with my straps in the dark service lighting and finally clicked them in place. They sized up my physical model and tightened accordingly. It was pretty impressive these guys had adaptive restraints, who was on this crew that they’d need it?

I was punched in the gut as the main thrusters kicked on. A low roar grew around us and our chairs shook. The room was bathed in muted blue light from the sun on the opposite side of the ship, bathing the earth in warm sunbeams. Shangri-La was in the lower extreme of the window.

The sight was mesmerizing, a white jewel shining in the sunlight, capped with a forest of spires. “Hey,” I said, not tearing my eyes from the vista. “Check this out!” I glanced back to see if ‘Sam was looking. She was craning her neck to try and get a view, but failing miserably.

She scowled and unlatched from the seat, landing on the far wall and walking lithely on all fours, much like a cat. She reached a seat across from me and plopped herself down into it with a sigh. “This had better be worth-“ She stopped cold as she turned to watch. She stared down with wide, saphire eyes.

“Damn,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s about all we’ve got.” That said, it was damned amazing. The sun glinted off the white reflective surfaces of Shangri-La as though it were a bubble of fresh snow. Its center was accentuated with harsh spires and glowing blue tapestries of light, hiding in the shadow confined sides of the great skyscrapers there.

“Why’d you guys build it?” Around Shangri-La were occasional thunderheads, further away the oceans reflected a pearl essence.

“We needed something to keep the squatters out. I think you might remember a few centuries back when there was an attempted invasion here…”

“The Sol-Hunter Group Farce?”

“The one and only… we only escaped because of a stupidly brilliant NASA project. It taught us a lesson about the relay industry. Out here in the Styx, no one can hear your cries for help.”

“It’s true,” she said matter-of-factly, “I guess you guys got it right. I respect that.” For some reason, it meant a lot hearing something positive from a woman who had so far been a fully functioning negative-factory…

I took in the view, disappearing below the lower lip of the window, falling out of view. I’d likely go through hell and high water before I returned to see it again, much less to stay.

“All crew prepare for relevance Space insertion for rendezvous with buoy 110324,” the ship’s communications channel said in my head. Goodbye, earth.

There was a hum and a flash. Space stretched in a thousand different directions, bleeding away like a drop of water exploding in zero gravity.

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Laying the groundwork

Alrighty. In the future this space will be populated as a suitable home for my episodic Science Fiction thriller "sunrise." That means this drab white background will hopefully get some multimedia shebang to it whenever I get time to produce images. Meanwhile, I'll try and keep it a good reading environment for those like me who can read in the cool glow of their monitor.
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This is the result of long hours of giving my blog template a probe in naughty places...

I'd like tot ake a moment to note I frankensteined post expansion code based on this incredibly helpful and very robust help article. Can you sense my sarcasm? Good.

Anyway, all told, this was a major pain, but considering I know next to nothing of html, if this actually works, it'll be a miracle anyway, comprehensive help post or no.

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