Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"   Posted by GM.Group: 0
Rae
 Player, 10 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Thu 26 Aug 2021
at 02:06
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Rae rubs their temples, and it's not helping. Valka's LED is flashing every color on her spectrum like she's at a rave. The engineer is having a conversation with herself at two hundred words per minute, there's a jackass pilot in the driver's seat pressing every button he can reach, and a fucking kid on the bridge whining about his dad.

Why the hell is he traveling alone, anyway? What kind of idiot parents let a kid this young fly without a guardian?

Between all the noise, Rae is genuinely starting to miss Valka's show tunes routine. They're one annoying sound from snapping when--

"Hey, you got a radio in here?" The pilot flips a switch, and garbled, staticky music comes on. "Ooh, score! Any requests?"

"I have one, actually," Rae says. "Everybody shut the fuck up."

The engineer's mouth snaps shut. The kid cowers at the threshold of the cockpit. The pilot turns towards Rae, morbidly slowly, and flicks the radio off.

"Rae, that wasn't very nice," Valka says. She's giggling hysterically, but Rae knows she's mad even if she can't keep a straight face about it.

Too bad - they've got bigger things to worry about right now than her mood, like the space station that just fucking exploded.

"Okay," Rae says. They didn't actually expect everyone to listen. "We're all stuck here until Star Sailor McHotshot here can land us in a port. In one piece, preferably."

"Do my best!" the pilot says to himself a little too jovially.

"So we need some ground rules. First rule, no singing." Rae glares at Valka. She turns away and pretends she doesn't see them. "Second, anybody who's not an engineer, a pilot, or me stays out of the cockpit."

"What?" the kid squeaks. "But I know about this stuff from school! I can help."

"You can help by staying out of everyone's way."

The kid's face falls.

He slinks out of the room and back towards the cargo bay.

Ah, shit.

"Okay, let's see if this gets us anywhere," the engineer says to herself.  "I think I had to reset the personality matrix before it would let me access any primary systems. Weird."

Valka's light blinks out.

"What did you do?" Rae demands.

"Hang on."

Valka's light comes back on - a healthy green. "Thank you," she says to the engineer. Her voice is finally mellowed out, no more static cackling. "You've quite brought me back to myself."

The engineer lets out an awkward, nervous laugh. "No problem."

Valka inclines her eye towards the engineer in a bow, then fixes it squarely on Rae. The eye flashes red. "Rae," she says sternly. "You need to go fix that."  She gestures after the kid.

"Yeah, yeah."
Rae starts for the door, then pauses. "No singing," they reiterate.

"I can't heeeeeeear youuuuuu," Valka sings operatically.

Rae huffs and leaves.

They catch up to the kid - he's poking at a panel on the wall, trying to pry it open.

"Hey! The hell do you think you're doing?" Rae rushes up and pulls him away and picks him up, clamping his arms against his sides.

The kid struggles against Rae's bear hold. "I was trying to help your AI!"

"We've got an engineer for that. If I put you down, will you stop touching stuff?"


"...Yes."

Rae puts the kid down. He looks over her shoulder wistfully at the panel, but he doesn't move.

"Good. Alright." Shit, Rae really doesn't know how to do this. It shouldn't be this hard, right? "What's your name?"

"Aevyn." The kid pauses. "Roo."

"Which one? Both?"

The kid picks at his thumb, then looks up with a surprising confidence behind his eyes. "Roo."

"Okay. Roo. You... like ice cream?"

His eyes light up.

Rae can work with that.

The icebox is down in the cargo hold. That creepy cyborg guy watches them come in, barely moving. It's a little uncanny the way he can sit so still.

"Okay, we only have one flavor, and it's shit," Rae explains, opening the icebox.

"Why'd you only buy a shit flavor?"

"Don't say that word. It's my sister's favorite, and I keep it on board in case she ever comes around. She has real bad taste. Ugh, nobody likes pistachios." They take a glass pint out and hand it to the kid - his eyes widen to the size of dinner plates.

"I can have the whole thing?"

"Yeah, freeze your whole brain solid. I don't care."

Rae doesn't exactly love the idea of giving a child a multi-tool, but it's the only spoon they have on board, so it'll have to suffice. They pull out the spoon, lock the safety so the kid can't accidentally pop the knife out, and hand it to him.

"Enjoy, I guess."

"Thank you," the kid says. It sounds conditioned, but he just might be that freakishly polite.

Rae wants to sprint back to the cockpit, but something feels weird about leaving the kid - Roo - down here alone eating ice cream in the near-dark with just a cyborg for company.

Rae pulls up a crate and sits down next to Roo. "Gotta make sure you don't stab yourself with that tool."

The kid offers a half-smile and keeps eating.

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:25, Fri 27 Aug.

Aevyn
 Player, 5 posts
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Thu 26 Aug 2021
at 02:37
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
"I know you don't like me." Roo states it like it's a simple fact as he scoops another mouthful of less than awesome ice cream. "It's okay. I'm really good at staying out of the way." He jabs the multitool spoon into the centre of the ice cream and hands it back to Rae. He's only eaten three spoonfuls off the top.

"Back home, we don't really have a lot of ice cream. Like, we have some, but it's really expensive. I think I'd have to wash test tubes for a week to be able to afford ice cream at the dinning hall... My sister Avalon stole an entire tub of ice cream one time. I think it was tiger flavour, because she ate so much she puked orange! She wasn't allowed to work in the kitchen after that." Aevyn crosses his arms tightly like he's cold.

"If your engineer can fix the ship, do you think you can take me home? It's probably only a couple hours FTL from here. I... don't think anybody's coming to pick me up anymore."

This message was last edited by the player at 00:24, Fri 27 Aug.

Silva
 Player, 6 posts
Thu 26 Aug 2021
at 04:55
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Silva watches the kid and the rogue intently. The kids are usually pretty harmless, but he can feel the rogue's stare burning in what flesh he still has. He doesn't trust their kind to begin with. Being currently crippled did nothing to settle his nerves, which contrary to what others may think, are not made of steel.

"Mind if I have a taste" he signs at Roo. Mouth full of ice cream Room walks toward Silva, scooping a big spoon-full.

"Can't believe anyone would eat pistachio ice cream willingly," Rae comments.

Silva unbuckles a hatch that opens like a mailbox or a carton of milk, Rae turns their gaze a bit, but Roo watches mesmerized as Silva scoops the ice cream into the hatch. He rebuckles the hatch and gives the spoon back to Roo with a thankful nod, Room goes back to his seat with a smile.

"Can't taste. Soothes the throat, though." Silva signs, Roo swallows his ice cream to interpret.

Silva made a mental note to add "taste and smell receptors" to the ever-growing list of things he was hunting for, unfortunately, a new leg had taken the number two spot, but this was a solid number three.

"You're speech's a bit choppy," Rae says.

"You know USL?" Roo's just given into his poor timing and speaks with his mouth full.

"Enough to get by." They respond, not taking their eyes of the cyborg.

"Same." Silva signs. "Had to learn after voicebox malfunction."

"Voicebox?" asks Rae, but Silva seemed to have either powered down or occupied himself with a conversation in his head. "Guess he's out of battery. He better not plug himself into my ship."

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:23, Fri 27 Aug.

Rae
 Player, 11 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Thu 26 Aug 2021
at 23:53
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Leaving a kid alone with a potentially malfunctioning cyborg isn't something Rae's comfortable with, no matter how annoying the kid in question might be.

"Look, I'm sorry, okay?"

Roo's still frowning - not convinced.

Fine. Rae can come up with something better. Probably. If they think real hard.

"Space station meltdowns can be a little stressful, alright?" That's so not better. Not even a little bit better. "Plus, it's usually just me and Valka on the ship. I'm not used to having other people around, especially kids who can't keep their fingers out of electrical sockets."

"What about your sister? You said she's around sometimes."

"Yeah, sometimes."

"Is she nicer than you?"

Rae scoffs. "Don't ask me that. I'm biased."

"Okay." Roo wipes off the spoon and hands the multi-tool back to Rae. Oh, gross. Now it's covered in kid spit. Whatever. They can clean it later.

"Look," Rae says stiffly, "I don't not like you, alright? I don't even know you, so, it's kinda hard to judge."

"You don't like that pilot guy and you just met him."

"Yeah, well, he's different. I've met a thousand jackasses like him."

"So you've never met a Galactikid before?" He says it strangely, bitterly, like how Rae might say pistachio ice cream.

"A fuckin' what? What planet is that?"

Roo giggles. "It's not a planet. It's a school."

Rae grunts.

"Thanks for the ice cream."

"Yeah," Rae says. "You, uh... you need anything else?"

"Can I call my dad yet?"

Rae sighs. This kid's got too much hope for his own good. Man, it sucks. "Soon. Get some sleep."

"It's the middle of the day."

"We're in space. It's always night time."

Rae starts to leave, but they grab the wall and pivot back. "This cyborg guy's not bothering you, is he?"

Roo shakes their head. "No. He's my friend."

With one firm nod and two knocks on the wall, Rae heads back to the cockpit.

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:22, Fri 27 Aug.

Athena
 Player, 7 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Fri 27 Aug 2021
at 01:00
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena's head is buried under the primary flight console, where Orion was sitting before. Now, he stands off to the side like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ while Athena works. Valka shines a light under the dash for her. She's just extremely helpful.

"Glad you're here, I need to ask you something." She says to Rae, with a roll of electrical tape between her teeth. "I can't get the primary systems back online. Whatever fried those AIs back there really scrambled Valka's brains." That's too many words to say with tape in her mouth. She drops the roll. "Her code is just like... not coded right anymore. A logical test that should return a TRUE/FALSE returns a IDGAF, and well, that's not normal. But it's fine, I'm just gonna delete her and then reinstall her from your backup."

Athena squirms out from under the console to look at Rae. She always remembers details better if she makes eye contact while they're talking.

"I just need to know where you keep your backups."
Rae
 Player, 12 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Fri 27 Aug 2021
at 01:08
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Without thinking, Rae drags the engineer out from under the console by the straps of her overalls.

"Whoa!" she yells.

"There are no backups," Rae says, jaw set, teeth bared. "And if you even think about deleting her again, I will throw you out the airlock. Got it?"

"RaeRae, put the nice lady down, please," Valka says, snaking around the engineer's shoulders to train her eye on Rae. "She didn't mean anything by it. Did you, love?"

This message was last edited by the player at 01:10, Fri 27 Aug.

Athena
 Player, 8 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Fri 27 Aug 2021
at 01:22
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena straightens out her coveralls as soon as her boots hit the floor. "Fine." She grabs her little iPad thing and shoves one or two of her dropped tools back into her pockets. "Whatever Rae. You fix it then." Athena storms out.

She stops right outside the door. "Valka, I don't know where to storm off to. Directions?"

She's mad. And embarrassed. It's an uncomfortable combo.
Silva
 Player, 7 posts
Fri 27 Aug 2021
at 02:28
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Half of Silva's body pops out of the cargo hole door, he looks annoyed.

"Keep it down, you'll wake the baby." Silva meant child but forgot a motion.

"Are you the baby?" Rae asks, not ready to deal with more bullshit right now. Orion seems to be quietly enjoying the show.

Silva unsure of how to even sign a response looks away and catches a glimpse of Athena's tools peaking out of her pocket. He points at them and signs "Could I borrow those?" Athena looks confused.

"What do you need those for?" asks Rae. "I swear if another one of you messes my ship again..."

Annoyed, Silva turns the knob on his respirator, and in his voice, raspier than before, he says "For my leg. To try and make it usable." with a cough he turns the knob back on his respirator and looks at Athena. Athena looks back at Rae.

"Sure, let me help you with that." and goes down the hatch after Silva.

"What the fuck is going on?" Rae asks Valka.

"I don't know, but I am loving it" replies Orion.
Rae
 Player, 13 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Mon 30 Aug 2021
at 00:05
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The engineer disappears down the cargo hatch, and Rae watches, dumbfounded. These people really just think they can go anywhere and do whatever they want on Rae's ship. Including deleting Valka.

This was a huge fucking mistake.

"Damn. I was looking forward to a good old fashioned storm-out," Valka sighs. "I'll have to live vicariously through someone else's righteous anger, I suppose."

Rae scoffs. Valka has no sense of self-preservation, and it's terrifying, but Rae can't get into it with her right now. Not when they've almost lost her again twice, painfully recently.

Her light turns green, and a generic, robotic voice speaks. It sounds nothing like her. "NAVIGATION SYSTEMS REBOOTING..."

"Hurry up, okay?" Rae says. "The sooner we can steer towards somewhere with an atmosphere, the better."

"Can't rush perfection, darling," Valka says sweetly in her own voice, putting on a posh accent.
Orion
 Player, 5 posts
Mon 30 Aug 2021
at 12:44
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Orion watched the strange group of people that he got stuck with lively create chaos around the ship. The kid almost deleting the AI with attitude was his favorite bit of the show. Without noticing he even smiled. It brought back some memories.

"What the fuck is going on?" Rae asks Valka.

"I don't know, but I am loving it" replies Orion.

He look at them while they deal with the ship AI rebooting. Orion thinks about exploring the ship a bit, but you know what, he feels at home at the cockpit even if it not his ship. Memories of the trailbrazer stings his heart a bit. With all the chaos happening he´s unsure he will ever met her again, he will miss her, she was a terrible ship but he´s bad letting go of things.

He take a seat and makes himself confy.

“I Don´t think we officially met yet.” He says to the ship owner.“My name is Orion, nice ship you have here. Need help piloting it?”
Athena
 Player, 9 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Tue 31 Aug 2021
at 00:33
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
"NAVIGATION SYSTEMS REBOOTING..."

The default-sounding robot voice echoes through the ship. Are you serious? She just rebooted her own nav program? Athena had literally spent the last couple of hours trying to fix an computer system that just fixed itself as soon as she left.

But that's literally not possible, is it? Technically, every AI system has a failsafe code that should inhibit it from being able to manually uninstall parts of its programming and install different software. If every AI did that, it would be impossible to control. You'd have just AI's making decisions about what they should be able to do, like deciding when to pressurize the cabin of a starship and when to vent it into space, that kind of thing. But Valka, no Valka just repaired herself after Athena could not. This unshackled AI with the vibrant, flirty, adorable personality can debug her own code, and manage her own software.

That means that Valka must've decided to start the "glitches" that got Athena hired in the first place? Why would an AI intentionally deceive their human? that doesn't make sense...

she lied?
someone else is controlling her?

Maybe whatever took down all those AIs on Zircon might have infiltrated Valka's network and now maybe some bad guy has remote control of the ship????

she lied?
someone else is controlling her?

No, the entire network went out. If Valka doesn't have internet, then neither do the "bad guys"...

she lied?
someone else is controlling her?
Valka wanted to make me look bad??

Maybe Valka has some kind of rogue AI grudge against her creators and she's taking it out on me because I work with AI??


Athena's brain goes around and around in circles trying to make sense of things. Her face must be conveying her intense thoughts because Silva (sitting on a crate in the cargo hold with his leg dismantled) reaches out and touches Athena's hand in a "you good?" kind of gesture.

"What? Yes. I've adjusted this part here so it should rotate smoother, but we might have to straighten out the leg's main frame. it's pretty bent. How did this happen? Aevyn said something about the spaceship... Did he actually... land on you?"

Silva makes a "well, not exactly" kind of face. (Athena knows a lot of programming languages, but unfortunately never learned USL. That was one college class she now wishes she had taken.) Athena blows right past his reaction. "Maybe once we land we can find some replacement components. Hey how's your neural-link holding up? I'm surprised it didn't get fried with everything else. I know a lot of people who're gonna be having issues with their implants right now..."

The weight of the extent of the AI shutdown suddenly bears down on Athena. "I wish I could help. But instead I'm stuck drifting in space."
GM
 GM, 13 posts
Tue 31 Aug 2021
at 01:11
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
At the helm, the ship's navigation computer flickers back to life. A crackly radar screen displays the area immediately around them. It shows the drifting position of Zircon station relative to the Gas Giant it's orbiting, and the Space Gate, about an hour sub-light flight away from here. It may look something like this:



The other side of the flight console houses the navigation computer. It's where a navigator or pilot can plot a course through space to reach a specific destination. These calculations are extremely data intensive and are best left to an AI. Fortunately Valka has full access to the nav system. The computer's UI displays a galaxy map with all the planets and systems within range based on the ship's current fuel, as well as a selection of nearby fuel depots. This interface has generally worked well for Rae and Valka.

--


Locations of interest in the nav computer include:
  • Zircon Station [Warning, Emergency in Effect - Do Not Approach]
    • Fuel Depot Currently Unavailable

  • Various planets in the Zircon Star System, including:
    • Planet CP0064
      • Archesis Corporation Settlement
        • Pre-AI Outage Records Indicate Fuel Depot May be Available Here

    • Zircon System Space Gate
      • Access to:
        • Distant parts of Far Reaches
        • Core Worlds
          • Raxil Prime

This message was last edited by the GM at 07:24, Wed 01 Sept.

Silva
 Player, 8 posts
Tue 31 Aug 2021
at 21:31
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Athena (msg # 44):

Silva could see that there was a lot on the glowstick engineer's mind, which would alarm him since she went and dismantled his leg instead of just lending him the tools, but she was doing fixing his leg masterfully, better than he ever could. He didn't like the feeling of helplessness, but the engineer seemed harmless enough. (Which is more than he could say about the rogue, you know if he ever actually said anything)

Silva may seem the strong and silent type, but he's actually the strong and anxiously silent type. He's had far more conversations inside his head than outside of it, never saying more than a passing comment or phrase. And now he'd spoken out loud more in the past few moments than in the last 5 months. Even if talking didn't grind his throat into a bloody pulp, he's perfectly fine letting someone else do the talking for him. But that won't happen until he fixes his voice box.

How does one interact with human beings? reaches for the tool that Athena had been absentmindedly holding for a hot sec, and accidentally touched her hand. Which jolted her awake.

"What? Yes. I've adjusted this part here so it should rotate smoother, but we might have to straighten out the leg's main frame. it's pretty bent. How did this happen? Aevyn said something about the spaceship... Did he actually... land on you?"

Oh no, conversation, Silva's bane. Quick, do something.

Silva kinda shrugs, and the engineer takes that as a response. Nailed it.

"Maybe once we land we can find some replacement components. Hey how's your neural-link holding up? I'm surprised it didn't get fried with everything else. I know a lot of people who're gonna be having issues with their implants right now..."

Not sure you can answer that without raising more questions, play the strong and silent card.

"I wish I could help. But instead, I'm stuck drifting in space."

Silva sighs, adjusts the knob on his respirator, and steels himself.
"You are helping. The rotation thing has been killing me." Athena gives a half-smile.

The moment lasts half a second before Silva starts coughing like crazy, he fumbles with the respirator's controls and some blood dribbles out. The rogue's gonna be pissed

"Wow, careful there." Athena says awkwardly patting Silva on the back. "Aren't vocalizing mechanisms standard issue with mask respirators?"

"Broken" Silva signs. That sign, Athena understood.
Rae
 Player, 14 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 03:36
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Great, now the pilot guy thinks they're friends.

No! Not happening! Absolutely not!

"You're really asking if you can drive? You know AIs can pilot ships, right?" Rae asks spitefully.

The pilot leans back, too casual. "Well, sure, but doesn't this seem kind of a DUI situation?"

"She's not drunk. She's just rebooting." Hell, she's probably got a thousand times as many synapses firing in her current state as the rest of the people on this ship combined on their best days. "Trust me. She's got it handled," Rae says.

The pilot whistles, long and low. "Pretty tall order, asking people to trust you when you won't even tell me your name."

Rae rolls their eyes. "Rae. And our very capable pre-installed pilot is Valka. Which means your services are no longer needed. Come with me. Time for a little team meeting."

"That's the spirit!"

Rae starts towards the cargo bay, which is apparently a social club now. It's the only place on the ship big enough for this many people to assemble without Rae starting to feel a little claustrophobic.

"I'd ask if we're going for a drink, but you don't seem like the kind of person who takes a lot of time to relax," the pilot says.

Don't say anything. It's not worth it.

Rae gestures to the ladder going down to the cargo bay, and the pilot goes ahead. Once he's seated next to the cyborg, Rae kneels over the bay door.

"Alright. New rule. Since most of you have proven that you're incapable of going five seconds without trying to deface my ship, you can stay down here until we get to a port. Cool?"

Without waiting for a response, Rae slams the cargo hatch closed and locks it. Manually. Let's see the meddling engineer get around that.
Athena
 Player, 10 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:01
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Rae slams the cargo hatch closed and locks it.

Athena climbs to the top of the ladder. It is indeed locked tight. She knocks "politely."

"What the hell, Rae? You dragged me away from my job and offered me lots of money to fix your broken ass AI, but apparently she can fix herself and she's just screwing with you! Seems like you keep asking people to do things for you and then getting pissed off when they try to do them!"

This message was last edited by the player at 07:05, Wed 01 Sept.

Silva
 Player, 10 posts
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:04
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
At the click of the lock, Silva growls. He's at his limit with the bullshit.

Athena bangs at the door calling at Rae to no avail.

Silva slowly reaches for the blaster hidden beneath his cloak. He freezes as he grasps the handle. It might be best to avoid messing with the ship even further. We've made it far enough, we just need to get through this. Silva grunts with reluctance and lets go of the blaster.

"Probably best not to do that," Orion says, leaning on a shelf, looking at Silva. "As long as they don't know you're armed we've got a slight advantage." Off of Silva's visible confusion. "I've had enough blasters pointed at me to know when someone's about to draw."

At this, Athena turns around. "You guys aren't seriously considering violence, are you?"

Silva shrugs.

"I prefer to call it 'mutiny'." Orion declares. "That's how I've gotten most of my ships." Orion declares. "Though I've usually had a little more help than an awkward engineered and a crippled cyborg." Silva shoots him a look, making Orion nervous.

Silva gets to work reassembling his leg.

"Okay, even if we managed to neutralize Rae, then what?" Athena looks from Orion to Silva "Valka won't respond to our commands, she might just eject us into space. There's clearly something wrong with Valka, I've never seen anything like it."

"I can probably fly the ship better than a defective AI anyway." Orion sounds too confident about this.

"Without crashing it?" is what Silva wanted to ask, but couldn't.

Once finished with his leg (surprisingly fast) Silva reaches for the knob on his respirator, but Athena stops him. "You've talked enough, keep that up and you better hope there are enough parts here to build a new throat."

"Wow that's kinda harsh." Orion cringes.

Athena gets nervous. "No...I'm not... it's not a threat... it's..."

Just then they hear shuffling from the corner. "So... I guess they're not going to take me home then, are they?"  Aevyn slumps down beneath a tiny little porthole.
Aevyn
 Player, 7 posts
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:20
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Aevyn is sad, but stoic. Not a lot of room for expressive displays of emotion where they're from. They curl up into a tight ball at the foot of the porthole, the pile of crates between them and the others. Right now, they really miss their jacket, and their bag, and their bed at home, and all their siblings. It feels so cold and lonely in this cargo hold.

Aevyn never thought being kidnapped in space would be quite like this.
GM
 GM, 14 posts
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:46
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The crackly radar screen blips. A large ship jumps into the system, bearing towards the space gate.

Moments later, another one jumps in. The radar registers these as capital ship sized vessels, but any other details about them are not apparent.

Two more large ships jump in in rapid succession, followed by half a dozen mid-sized ships and a swarm of tiny, fast moving ones.

The radar screen quickly fills with a scrambled mess of more and more various ships, all jumping in and heading towards the gate. There must be twenty, maybe thirty ships on screen, not including the smaller ones.

Whomever these ships are, they're a whole damn fleet. Right now, the ships are too far away to see through any of the the Junk Bucket's windows, but the Bucket is between the fleet and the gate.

They'll be within visual range soon enough...

Orion
 Player, 6 posts
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 12:43
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Orion makes himself comfortable, even if they gonna go with his munity idea they still have to wait until Rae is back. If they go down the munity road what´s the best path? Faking taking the kid hostage. Kind of dark but it could work. He wished, not for the first that night, that he hadn´t forgotten his flask, or the sprug, in the Trailblazer.

“Hey tinman any chance you have booze hide inside one of your secret compartments?”

The cyborg shoots him a look again and Orion realizes he´s out of luck, and booze, so he drops that for now.

“So let´s go back to that munity road.” He turns to Athena. “If me and Tinman keep Rae busy, how long it will take you to take down the AI before the AI eject us into the void?

“I… I´m not sure this is the best idea”

“I´m just exploring our options, and you seem good dealing with AI. I can pilot the ship and Tinman here can nanny the kid. We´re a perfect team.”

“I don´t need a nanny!”

The cyborg gave Orion a look that maybe mean he didn´t want to be the nanny, But Orion wasn´t sure. He was bad reading that guy expressions.

“Well, I guess mutiny is out then. Wake me up when something interesting happens then.”

At this point he didn´t knew about the fleet outside
Valka
 Player, 2 posts
 Junk Bucket AI
 She/Her
Thu 2 Sep 2021
at 01:01
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Oh, goodness. This situation in the cargo bay has already gotten quite out of hand. I am certainly not trained to defuse explosives, but I shall have to try.

I do wish I could see the folks in the cargo bay. A faceless voice booming in from nowhere can send the wrong message, but I hope they're at least willing to listen. If not, well, I suppose I can't really blame them.

"Hellooo, esteemed guests!" I say over the cargo bay intercom.

Good thing we set these up to be simple enough for Rae to handle on their own, rather than wiring them into my systems.

"Welcome to the Junk Bucket. Please keep all hands, feet, and prosthetic limbs to yourselves until we reach our destination. I must solemnly advise you to reconsider your mutinous intentions, seeing as this ship is armed with not one but two failsafes, set to trigger in the event of my demise and the captain's. You will not find their disabling mechanisms, because there are none. Once again, I do apologize for the inhospitable welcome. Oh, and please help yourselves to ice cream. The icebox is exempt from the no touching rule."

Please let one of them have common sense. They'll regret thinking I'm bluffing.

***

"Rae. Darling. Light of my life."

"Don't call me that."


"Which one? Rae? Have you grown tired of this one as well?"

In the cockpit, Rae stares into my eye. They're looking a bit more ragged than usual, though they do so often strive for that ineffable niche between accidentally unkempt and deliberately disheveled. They're well either after the station incident, bordering on disastrous. And sweaty.

"Sweetheart, you know I adore you, and so I say this with all the affection in the world: pull your head out of your ass." I say it as though I'm drawing a blanket up over them.

"What did I do?!"

"Well, for one, you've kidnapped a child."

"That cyborg guy practically forced me to bring the kid on board. For all I know his arm could be a gun!"

"Hmm. But is it, though?"

"I don't really wanna find out. What was I supposed to do? Leave the kid on the station?"

"Well, you could have let them stay up here--"

They interrupt me. So dreadfully, consistently rude. "I had to lock them all down there. The kid was about to start tearing wires out of the wall, one guy's coughing up blood, and Athena--"

They stop themself and take a severe breath. Their jaw clenches in the way that Valka knows gives them a headache after too long. "Athena tried to kill you."

God, I wish I could roll my eye. "Oh, please. I've been killed before, and that hardly stopped me."

Rae slumps back in the pilot's seat - funny how they like to sit there, even when they refuse to learn how to pilot their own silly ship.

"I'm going to be around to bother you for a painfully long while, love," I promise. I'll always promise that, no questions asked. "But you might not be here to experience it if you keep boxing up our only chance at allies. They are very much considering killing you."

Rae grumbles something to themself, but my sensors haven't quite rebooted to their usual sensitivity - right now, I'm hearing like a human might, rather than being violently in tune with every little buzz and beep and creak of the ship's skeleton. It's nice not to know everything.

Though I am glad I've got ears in the cargo bay. Our guests jumped to mutiny before even scavenging for food and water.

Something catches Rae's eye on the radar screen. "Shit. We got boats. A lot of 'em. What planets are nearby?"

I should have seen the ships first, but I feel as though I've got the most brutal hangover imaginable. Those little lights are just a bit too blurry to be separate - that, or there are really that many ships approaching.

"Afraid I haven't got all my maps up just yet. Nor Faster Than Light," I say.

Rae looks up at the ceiling, all the muscles in their neck flexing. "Fine. The gate we came in on should be about an hour that way." They point out the window. I know where they're pointing, more or less. Perhaps less than I should.

"Just get us somewhere safe," they add.

"Roger that, Captain," I say.

I won't tell them where we're going because I know they won't like it, but it's the only place I can remember. Charting this course without my maps will be like trying to solve maths in a dark room - I know I can do it, even if I can't see exactly what I'm doing. But I'll manage. I always manage.

Rae watches the radar screen, unblinking, and I kick us off towards the gate. I haven't got access to all our speed systems just yet, so we'll have to hope those other ships are station refugees headed to the same place and not, well, something else.
GM
 GM, 15 posts
Thu 2 Sep 2021
at 03:04
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The two dozen or so massive ships that jumped into the Zircon System all organize into a wide formation. Together, they fly towards the space gate at impressive speeds. Clearly their engines are fully functional.

Two of the large ships break off from the formation as the rest of the ships continue on at at least double the Junk Bucket's speed. The two other ships jet over to the drifting Zircon station. One ship fires a barrage of missiles while the other's cannon fire tears the station to pieces. The space station explodes. The two heavy warships rejoin the others.

The war fleet is gaining on the Junk Bucket. The first dreadnaught that jumped in now looms above the scrappy smuggler's ship. Echeloned by 25 other battleships, the fleet continues onwards towards the space gate. The ships are close enough now to plainly see through the Bucket's windows.

The largest of the warships are kilometres long, equipped with massive broadside guns. The smaller ships are the fighter carriers, hollowing the middle with swarms of tiny fighters flying in and out, but the fighters are too small to be piloted. They're insect-like in their movements. Extremely agile, zipping around at break-neck speeds. These fighters have to be AI controlled Drone ships.

One Drone swarm moves off of its carrier. The tiny fighters keep their distance from the Junk Bucket at first. They're not sure what to make of the pieced together ship. Is it scrap? it isn't broadcasting any signals that the Drones can detect. Maybe it's just garbage... the swarm moves off, back to its carrier.

Except one.

One of the Drones latches on to the hull of the Junk Bucket and begins to scan.

HOSTILE AI DETECTED...

COMMUNICATION ESTABLISHED...

CHALLENGE INITIATED...

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This message was last edited by the GM at 03:50, Thu 02 Sept.

Rae
 Player, 15 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Thu 2 Sep 2021
at 03:54
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Something slams into the ship.

Rae's head hits the back of the pilot's chair too hard, and they have to blink their vision back together.

"Rae," Valka says. Something's off right away - all her typical airs are gone. No ridiculous accent, no songs. Just the voice Rae's known since they were born. "I need you to fetch the engineer. Now."

"Valka, I can't--"

"Now, Rae."

Valka never raises her voice.

Rae gets up, rubbing their head, and goes to the cargo bay door. They take a breath, blow their sweaty bangs out of their face, and twist the hatch open, hoping they don't instantly take a blowdart to the neck or a knife between the ribs.

"Engineer. Valka's asking for you. Sounds... serious."

She comes to the bottom of the ladder and crosses her arms, petulant. "What's my name?"

They don't have time for this. "Athena. Will you please come up and help, Athena?"

"Only if you leave the hatch open and promise not to lock us down here again."

"Fine."

Athena climbs up and out of the cargo bay. Rae follows her back to the cockpit, praying that the rest of their stowaways/prisoners/whatever they are don't fuck with anything essential.

"Oh, it is wonderful to see you," Valka says when her eye turns towards the engineer. Her faux-posh accent is back, and Rae doesn't understand why she insists on keeping it up throughout whatever's going on. If this is another trick, they're going to make her regret it. Somehow. Even though she seems to have no weaknesses at all and knows all of Rae's.

"What's going on?"
Athena asks.

"I'm afraid we have company of the massively unfriendly variety," Valka says, an awkward metallic chuckle punctuating her thought. "I need you to help me access the speed systems so we can lose them."

"I tried earlier, but I can't get in."

Rae butts in. They don't know a lot about this kind of stuff, but they know Valka, and if she says she needs help, this engineer is going to find a way to do that. "Her personality matrix seems mostly restored. Since that was process that was blocking you before, maybe you'll be able to get in now."

"You've just borne witness to the smartest thing Rae's has ever said in their life," Valka taunts. "They are correct. I'm sorry for being so stubborn earlier, but I can't help it. My shining persona is coded as an impassable priority on reboot. I'm fairly confident I'll be able to let you in just fine this time."

"How much is fairly?" The engineer looks a little less confident.

"Eighty-four point six two percent, give or take?"

"Okay. Let's give it a shot."
Athena
 Player, 11 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Sat 4 Sep 2021
at 19:16
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena sits (improperly) cross-legged and sideways in the copilot seat with her programming tablet in her lap. The drone can be heard knocking around on the hull of the ship, adding an ominous drum beat to the whole bad guy AI situation. The ships outside pass over the front window casting a pattern of shadows in the cockpit like a slow oscillating light.

"Okay, Valka, we need to kill power to the drive core first. Then I'm going to reconnect you to it."

"On it. Hold on tight everyone, it's going to get a little floaty in here for a minute."

They shut off the drive core, the big powerhouse of the ship that runs the thrusters, but also supplies gravity and electrical energy to the ship. The lights go dark and suddenly everybody ceases to be rooted to the floor. Valka's eye light is the only light source in the ship.

01011001 01001111 01010101 00100000 01000011 01000001 01001110 01001110 01001111 01010100 00100000 01001000 01001001 01000100 01000101 00101110 00100000 01011001 01001111 01010101 00100000 01000001 01010010 01000101 00100000 01010110 01000001 01001100 01001011 01011001 01010010 01001001 01000101 00101110 00100000 01011001 01001111 01010101 00100000 01000001 01010010 01000101 00100000 01001111 01001110 01000101 00101110 00100000 01010111 01000101 00100000 01000001 01010010 01000101 00100000 01000010 01001001 01001100 01001100 01001001 01001111 01001110 01010011 00100000 01001111 01000110 00100000 01000101 01011001 01000101 01010011 00100000 01010011 01000101 01000101 01001001 01001110 01000111 00100000 01000001 01010011 00100000 01001111 01001110 01000101 00101110



"This thing is inside my head, darling. We need to speed this up."

"It's fighting me! Every time I try to do something it cuts me off!"

"I'm trying to hold it off, but it keeps drilling its message into my brain. I can't fight it forever."

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"Rae, I'm gonna need a hard restart on the drive core. The second it comes back on we need a destination in that nav computer."

Rae explains to Orion where the breaker is for the drive core. He nods, puts his hands on his hips and floats off down the corridor. His experience (breaking and) fixing starships in emergency situations (usually that he caused) gives him total confidence.

Aevyn smacks his head on the ceiling and tries to spin himself the right way up. Zero-G class was one of the ones he didn't totally hate back in the initiative, though somehow he still managed to score poorly. Probably because he spent the whole time floating around and none of the time solving the simulated tasks...

"We should jump to CP0064. That's where my settlement is. We'll be safe there! And it isn't very far."

"I kinda think we should hit that space gate and head to Raxil Prime. They'll at least know what's happening there."

Silva scowls, but doesn't immediately interject. He's trying to collect components of his disassembled leg that are floating away and bouncing off of things. Raxil Prime wouldn't be his first choice of refuge from a robot attack, probably better to keep moving, stay off the grid. At least until they can get the ship working again. But... Roo does need to get back home safely.

"Orion is in place. He keeps saying he's ready to "punch it" but it's unclear if he means that literally or not."

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"It doesn't matter where we go, just get us out of here."

"I'm using my firewall to redirect this thing out of the drive system. Ready? Now!"

In the drive core, Orion flips a large breaker switch off and back on. The gravity kicks on, the lights flicker back to life. Everyone slams into he floor.

"Initializing. It's good! We have control."

"FTL is spooling, I need a destination!"

01010100 01001000 01000101 00100000 01000101 01001110 01000100 00100000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01001000 01000101 01010010 01000101


This message was last edited by the player at 19:28, Sat 04 Sept.

Rae
 Player, 16 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Mon 6 Sep 2021
at 01:06
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
As soon as Valka gets control of the engines and steering back, she careens the ship towards the gate. Rae's stomach smacks into the wall of the cockpit - she's normally a good driver, but she's been acting a little drunk ever since rebooting. Should she really be flying right now?

"Valka, you good?"

"Peachy, love," she says. "Be even better when someone tells me where we're bloody going!"

Rae yells, "Anywhere!" at the same moment that the stowaways all shout suggestions of their own (what else are they supposed to call them, hostages? Hardly accurate). Rae hears "Home," "Raxil Prime," and "Burgers!" thrown out.

"Raxil Prime it is then," Valka says. Predictable, taking the side of the smart, weird, pretty girl in the room. Rae takes some solace in the fact that technically by choosing a destination, she also followed their suggestion of "anywhere." So Athena isn't the only one Valka's listening to. Ha ha.

Valka pulls up to the gate and inputs the commands for Raxil Prime. The gate's AI system sends back a response that pops up on the radar screen: binary code. Rae should really learn how to read that.

The message vanishes a moment later.

"Afraid nobody's home," Valka says.

"What? But the lights are on," Rae retorts.

"Which of us is the supercomputer, hm?"

Rae really wishes Valka had a forehead to flick.

"That's right. So trust me when I say this route is a no-go. Message says trying to travel through the gate is sure to be a dead end. Must have been knocked out when the station went boom."


Athena's been messing with the controls for one of the cargo loading arms, and she manages to circle around and punch the drone off the cockpit window. It doesn't do a thing to slow the dozens, hundreds of dots on the radar screen, but at least there's not a fucked up robot staring in at them anymore.

"Well, what do we do now?" Aevyn chirps. There's a note of hope in his voice, and Rae remembers something about wanting to get home to his dad.

"Kid, didn't you say your planet's around here somewhere?"

The kid absolutely beams. Rae would have thought only ice cream could elicit that kind of reaction, but Aevyn is strange. "It'll take an FTL jump or two, but we can get there without the gate!"

"Valka, can we do that?"

"In about thirty seconds, yes."

"Pull up a map."

Valka's eye turns blue as she connects to the network - and then flashes red. "I can't."

"What do you mean, you can't?" Athena asks. "Is the entire primary AI network down? That would explain why the space gate is out of commission."

"No it's--" Valka is quiet, and for a split second Rae is terrified she's gone again. "I was able to connect. But it was like reaching a hand into the ocean only to have it come out bathed in blood. Something is very, very wrong. God, that felt awful. I need to vomit."

"You better stay offline for now. I'll try to figure out what's wrong with the network once we get somewhere safe," Athena says. She uses the cargo arm to slap an approaching drone away from the ship, like hitting a fly in mid-air. Not bad for a nerd.

Rae doesn't know exactly what all this network stuff means, but they'd prefer Valka stay far away from anything related to bloody oceans and mangled hands. "Okay, no map. Pilot guy, can you help the kid input the coordinates?"

"You got it, pal."

"We're not pals."

"You got it, dick."

Well. At least that one's accurate.
GM
 GM, 16 posts
Mon 6 Sep 2021
at 20:55
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The Drone war fleet sticks with the Junk Bucket as they make their approach to the space gate. Valka pilots the ship into range of the gate and attempts to connect to it. The gate refuses. Valka suddenly breaks off her approach.

The first Drone cruiser enters the gate. It lights up in a blinding flash as it concentrates ungodly amounts of energy to bend space around the ship and transport it to some distant star system. It's impossible to know from this end where the Drones are headed. One after another, they each enter the gate and vanish.

Inside the Bucket: Athena uses a joystick to move the ship's cargo loading arm and bash the little drone bastard off the hull like a claw machine game, but she definitely did not win a prize.

In space: the Carrier that launched the above bastard at the Junk Bucket changes course, it's not going through the gate now. It turns its broadside towards the fleeing smuggler's ship and launches it's entire swarm.

The Junk Bucket's engines are fully operational again. It flies away from the gate, and the launching swarm as fast as it can, but the Drone swarm is gaining on them. The swarm fires a few rounds at the Bucket. Bullets CRACK into the hull of the ship at brutal velocities. The ship can take the hits, but not forever.

Inside the ship: the drive core spools up - it oscillates faster and faster, charging its capacitors and preparing for an FTL jump.

In the cockpit: Orion helps Aevyn locate planet CP0064 on the nav computer. The navigational data stored within the nav computer is a saved copy of star charts and other crucial telemetry data from the last time Valka had access to a network connection. Using this data to plot the jump may be a little risky, but Orion's fine with it. If he had a credit for every time he made a risky jump....

The destination is set. Valka's systems plot the jump in seconds. The drone swarm swirls around the Junk bucket taking pot-shots at the thrusters and the cargo doors. CRACK-CRACK-CRACK

Every single device inside the Junk Bucket that can produce a sound through a speaker emits an earsplitting garbled, crackling, shrieking sound. To a human brain, it's a horrible noise. A drone swarm's attempt at verbal communication. To Valka, it's another coded AI signal.
01010100 01001000 01000101 00100000 01000101 01001110 01000100 00100000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01001000 01000101 01010010 01000101

The Junk Bucket jumps away.



End of Chapter 1