Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"   Posted by GM.Group: 0
GM
 GM, 2 posts
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 10:40
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Welcome to The End of the Line Bar and Grill, the finest (and only) eatery on Space Station Zircon. The station is a small but busy deep space outpost in the Far Reaches that serves as a way station between this system's space gate and the nearby frontier colonies. On the lower decks of the space station you'll find the docks where starships can load/ unload and refuel, but the top deck is The End of the Line.

The End of the Line Bar and Grill boasts a full feature menu including not one but two whole side dishes to choose from. Looking for a tasty beverage? The End of the Line serves warm beer on tap and a wide selection of not awesome liquor. They would also like to apologize for the fact that their ice cream machine is broken. Again. Or is it still? Anyways, please sit anywhere you like and enter your order on the terminal at your table. For bar service, please see the bartender.

The bartender in this case is a BAR-10-D model Drone with a dim animated screen for a face and a number of mixologically important gizmos sticking out of it. The bar is a circle in the centre of the place, with dark, quiet tables all the way around. Soft, scratchy music-- the stuff that was popular twenty years ago-- plays to lull the sparse patrons into complacency.

A tired shift manager wipes down tables in the restaurant as a stranger enters through the front doors.
Athena
 Player, 1 post
 AI Technician
Sun 18 Jul 2021
at 11:13
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to GM (msg # 1):

Athena enters the lacklustre establishment with her tool case slung over her shoulder. She honestly wouldn't look out of place here as a customer in her grubby orange overalls.

"Sit anywhere you like." The manager calls out.

"Actually, I'm supposed to fix the..." She double checks the work order on her space iPad. "ice cream machine?" The manager ushers her over behind the bar. "Get out of the way Bart." She instructs the drone bartender.

Athena thanks the manager and lays out her tools to begin work on the ice cream machine behind the bar. The inside of her tool case is a disorganized disaster where clearly (not clearly) everything has a place and nothing is out of place (that's not true. at all. it's a mess.)

The manager slams down a bucket of dirty dishes on the end of the bar. "You must be busy then hey, what with all these network outages?" She offloads the dishes to Bart the BAR-10-D bartender. "Uh. Yeah. We're keeping up I guess. Lots of calls for drones going offline unexpectedly. I know our warehouse is full right now with stuff we gotta repair and reset. Actually, it's super interesting, 'cause that's what I went to school for is AI. So I've sort of been enjoying being busy lately. gives me something to really apply my skills." Athena isn't used to people taking an interest, and can never tell if she's under sharing or over sharing.

The manager wanders off again, now shouting from a distance. "Just so long as my Bart here doesn't go down, you know? I don't know what I'd do here with out him. Do they have a fix for whatever keeps breaking them? Is it like a glitch or something?"

Athena pops out from behind the bar. "No idea. It's for sure weird. Like, whatever is taking these drones offline... It doesn't seem to be a hardware issue, and, I'm not seeing anything that should be causing that. Like now I'm worried the next thing we're going to hear is a bunch of starship nav computers are gonna switch off mid-jump or something, y'know?"

The manager gives Athena a very concerned stare. Maybe that was in the over sharing category? She ducks back behind the bar and cracks open the ice cream machine.
rae
 Player, 1 post
Wed 28 Jul 2021
at 05:41
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
This space station is a fucking dump. What's the point of hoarding all the money in the galaxy if you don't even bother investing in decent barstools that won't squeak every time someone shifts their sweaty ass on the seat? You'd think they would at least go in for some goddamn WD-40, or whatever they call it out here by the Core Worlds. These people love to invent fancy names for simple things just so outsiders can't figure out what the hell they're talking about.

All in all, Rae isn't impressed.

That is, until someone in grease-stained orange overalls comes in babbling about AI. She doesn't seem to care about eavesdroppers, given how loud she's talking.

Rae is happy to listen. They've got a ship system that needs some TLC, and roping a overenthusiastic engineer into helping out is a lot quicker than forging a request with the station's official maintenance crew.

The engineer says something about computers shutting off mid-jump, but Rae is this close to smacking the hulking beast of a man at the end of the bar. He's fidgeting like crazy, and all that squeaking is annoying. It's really, really annoying. But the guy looks like some kind of uniformed security guard, and Rae isn't keen on finding out what the inside of a space station brig looks like today.

The guard notices Rae glaring and snorts, "What are you lookin' at?"

Rae says nothing. They keep their eyes on their food after that and listen.

Someone should really tell this engineer that her hair doesn't match her outfit, but Rae suspects she either already knows and doesn't care, or she has no idea and wouldn't care anyway. Fuck-off confident or gullible - both attitudes Rae can work with.

When the bartender drone scoots out of the way and engineer disappears behind the bar, Rae makes their move.

They peek over the counter to find the engineer with her face dangerously close to some kind of machine that looks like it would give a gnarly nose job if she slipped up. Keen on not alienating a potential ally through surprise cosmetic surgery, Rae clears their throat.

The engineer doesn't even blink, so Rae taps on the counter.

"Hey, Overalls," they say. The engineer finally looks up, and Rae puts on their most charming smile. "Did I hear you say you're into AI?"
Athena
 Player, 2 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Fri 30 Jul 2021
at 16:15
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena, elbow deep in the ice cream machine, lies on her side looking up at the mysterious traveler. Said mysterious traveler looks down at Athena like a cat about to pounce on it's prey. Excitement swells in Athena's soul as she becomes acutely aware of the Raxil Prime University of Artificial Intelligence shirt she's wearing under her overalls. Rae's question is like a golden ticket for Athena share her passion with a potential new friend.

Unfortunately, words are hard sometimes.

"Yea--su-- toooOoOAtally..."

All her excitement dies at once like a Hindenburg style spaceship going up in flames inside her own brain. She jerks her arm to remove it from the defective ice cream machine so she can meet Rae at the bar and try one more time to answer their question, but her arm has other plans.

Athena's bracelet is caught on something. With a stranger watching her, there's little she can do other than to roll with it, so she just leaves her wrist trapped in it's mechanical tomb while she fiddles with some tools in her free hand. The pressure of being trapped combined with the feeling of being on stage has Athena cornered.

She jerks hard on the bracelet and it snaps. The beads once intricately woven into the bracelet came from a meteorite that had smashed into her grandparents' colony. Athena's grandma had made killing on meteorite jewelry on the Etsy market. The Sol System pattern was a huge seller. Each bead represented Mercury, Venus, Raxil Prime, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. There was some discourse on whether or not Pluto belonged on the bracelet so Grandma sold one with, and one without.

Athena's bracelet though was once her dad's. He wore it when he was Athena's age and gave it to her when she was accepted into AI school. Now, Neptune is behind the compressor, Pluto fell into a tiny hole, and the ring that represents Raxil Prime is caught on a screw head. She picks up as many beads as she can find. Defeated by the stupid ice cream machine, she clumsily stands and meets Rae at the counter.

"Yeah, big AI nerd. Went to school for six years so I can fix ice cream machines in the middle of nowhere for minimum wage. How 'bout you?"

She stows the loose beads into a side picket on her tool bag.
Rae
 Player, 2 posts
Fri 30 Jul 2021
at 20:29
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Yeah, so, this girl is a disaster. Definitely not the "fuck you, I do what I want type," if the extreme effort she's putting into seeming casual and collected is genuine. Most people can't turn their faces bright red on command.

Plenty of competent people come off as anxious, bumbling messes on a first impression, especially these techie types. In spite of it, she sounds like she knows what she's talking about, and Rae doesn't know enough to argue. They're inclined to trust this kind of energy - someone who can't hide when they're embarrassed usually isn't sneaky enough to get the drop on you when it counts.

(Trust is a strong word. Benefit of the doubt is more comfortable.)

"I'm no expert myself, so correct me if I'm wrong," Rae starts, "but doesn't fixing stuff usually involve a little less... you know, breaking stuff?"

The weird little smile the engineer flashes almost makes Rae feel bad for her. Almost.

"Look, I'm a very straightforward person," Rae lies. "So I'll cut right to it. I have an AI glitch on my ship. About a week ago, Valka powered on, and I haven't been able to shut her off since."

Having an AI that never sleeps on board your ship makes it very easy for the wrong people to keep tabs on you. Plus, it's really fucking annoying.

"Anyway, none of the station technicians can figure out what's wrong with it," because Rae hasn't asked for their help and won't let them anywhere near the ship. "Do you think you could take a look?"

The engineer looks around as if Rae might have started talking to someone else halfway through that sentence. She's not even playing hard to get, and that's the frustrating part. She's not convinced she's the person for the job.

Normally, Rae would finesse this sort of situation, but they're short on time for artistry in negotiation.

"I'll pay double your normal fee. Plus, I'll cover the cost of replacing that ice cream machine you might have just broken." Anyone with a little more guile would read that as a desperate play. Fortunately, the engineer only seems caught off guard.

Maybe being straightforward (mostly) has its perks once in a while.
Silva
 Player, 1 post
Sun 1 Aug 2021
at 20:34
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Annoyed by the squeak of the bar stools, Silv spares some WD-40 that he carries around in his tiny little backpack in case of an emergency.

"Emergency" is what he calls his left arm, though it is the better one of his Biomech mods, it's still far from perfect. The joints squeak and get stuck from time to time, but the nerve response and fine motor response were above average, which when half your body is made out of scraps "above average" might as well be the difference between getting away safely or your leg disassembling in the middle of a daring escape from some fleet officers. It's a long story.

It’s been several body mods since he’s been anywhere near the core worlds, other than through a DNA scan, no one would recognize him. At least he hoped. Though life on the Far Reaches was more amiable for people like him, reaching his goal was gonna be harder.

It’s not that scavenging parts was all that hard, but finding something that was compatible with his “burrowed” neuro-link tech was like finding a date in an asteroid field. Still better than the half of his body that was made out of flesh, though. And so Silv finds himself here and now, looking to hitch a ride.

Have all of his plans been well thought out? No. Has he learned from that? Not really.

As he adjusted the dials on his respirator, which made hearing background noise a bit harder, his (still painfully human) ears caught just enough words to spark his interest. Primarily the words "AI" and "Ship"

Silv adjusted his blaster holster behind his back, payed for his "food" and sprayed a little WD-40 on his wrist for luck, as his right eye adjusted, focused and locked on to the vital signatures of his targets right by the ice cream machine (which he was sorely disappointed to find broken when he arrived).
Rae
 Player, 3 posts
 Smuggler
Wed 4 Aug 2021
at 22:31
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Rae doesn't need fancy biotech mods to know they're being watched. They feel it, that prickling at the base of their skull, and they know.

Things aren't out of hand just yet. They've made much closer getaways before, and they're good at disappearing when they need to. Their long trench coat serves the dual purpose of making a striking fashion statement up close and then vanishing seamlessly into a crowd.

This engineer, though - orange overalls, pink hair, bright red blush - she's like a cartoonish portrait come to life. Rae doubts she could blend in at a circus. (They've never actually been to a circus, but they've heard stories. Sounds like a Core Worlds tradition that really wasn't worth preserving.)

The engineer hasn't given her answer yet, but Rae can't afford to stick around this bar while she makes up her mind. Time to push a little.

"I really should get back to my ship. Will you at least come check it out? If the work's not up your alley, I'll pay you for the consultation and never bother you again." Rae smiles, keeping their eyes on the engineer. If they start glancing around in a panic, it'll raise their heart rate, and any security guard worth a station salary will have the right tech to pick up on it.

Smiling reminds Rae that even in rapidly spiraling situations, they at least have total control over the 43 minuscule muscles in their face.

They throw a few credits on the counter - tipping far too generously, but there's no time to make change - and hope the engineer follows when they step towards the door.
Athena
 Player, 3 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 00:36
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena finished tidying up her work area while Rae spoke at her. Freelance work that pays well was hard to come by out here. All the frontier jobs Athena could find were either full time permanent work, or pay like trash. And Athena certainly couldn't take the first one.

She was due back at Raxil Prime in two months for the next launch of the Starship Kilimanjaro; an interstellar research and discovery cruiser bound for the edges of known space. Kilimanjaro was like a deep space university, and Athena was one of its junior AI technicians. Sadly, the ship was dry-docked at Raxil Prime, and Athena was here. That's why Rae's offer sounded perfect.

"I'm in. Of course I'm in. I'd be happy to help." Athena collects her gear and settles up with the bar's manager. The ice cream machine is a lost cause without new parts, so Athena will just have to return another time. Athena gathers her gear and follows Rae into the corridor. There was a distinct energy shift in Rae as they left the bar, but Athena was completely unaware of it.

"So what kind of ship are you flying? Cargo hauler? Passenger ship? Battle cruiser?" The last one was a joke. Athena was fairly confident that Rae was not the captain of a battle cruiser. Athena followed Rae through the crowded station halls to the elevator down to the hangar deck.
GM
 GM, 3 posts
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 01:09
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The Hangar Deck of the Space Station Zircon is a 360 degree, multi level dock with passenger loading and unloading bays, mechanical service bays, cargo bays, and a bustling fuel station complete with snacks and slush drinks. There are 14 vessels on the deck right now, including a passenger transport awaiting launch clearance, several mining craft, and a few private freighters.

[photo removed because it was messing up the page formatting]

This message was last edited by the GM at 17:39, Thu 12 Aug 2021.

Rae
 Player, 4 posts
 Smuggler
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 06:02
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
The engineer won't stop talking long enough for Rae to actually reply to any of her questions, but the lack of timely answers doesn't really seem to bother her. The mere act of speaking to a hostage pair of ears sparks a twinkle in her eyes, and Rae wouldn't dare take that from her in reverence of silly things like conversational norms. The less they have to say, the better.

Rae does manage to tell her that they have a cargo ship - technically, it's not a lie. Their ship very much does transport cargo. She doesn't need to know what else the ship is capable of, or what that cargo is. Really, it's better for her if Rae keeps her in the dark. That's the considerate thing to do, right?

And the dark is all there is on the ship, because Valka refuses to turn the goddamn lights on.

"Welcome to the Junk Bucket," Rae says. "And... sorry in advance."

Probably an ominous thing to say, but they don't watch for the engineer's reaction.

As soon as the cargo bay door opens, Rae hears it. That fucking voice.

"They had it comin'! They had it comin'! They only had themself to blaaaaaaaame!"

"Ugh," Rae groans.

"What is that?" the engineer asks, bewildered - and maybe a little bit morbidly enthused.

"That would be the glitch."

Rae wants to turn around and pretend they somehow boarded the wrong ship, but they've only got one way off this station, and it's currently on its seventy-sixth consecutive rendition of the Chicago soundtrack.

"If youda been there - if youda seen it! I betcha you would have done the--Oh, hello, there!" A single red emergency light comes on above Rae's head. Just one. Taunting has always been Valka's favorite pastime. "RaeRae, did you make a new friend?"

"She's here to fix you," Rae says. "So you can finally stop singing."

The security cam on the wall snakes out - Rae hates it when she does this - and gets right up in their face. It looks between Rae and the engineer like a coked up ping-pong ball. "Fix me? Whatever do you mean, Sweet Baby Rae? My voice is sounding better than ever, and I think you know it. Practice makes perfeeeect!" She sings the last part. And she really didn't need to.

The camera zooms over to the engineer, wrapping around her like a friendly arm draping across her shoulders. "It's their fault I'm like this, but they don't want to admit that. Pardon my forwardness, but you seem much too intelligent and honest to be spending any modicum of time with this little rapscallion pancake." Valka whispers all of that, but it still fills the whole cargo bay because she's the worst and it's making Rae want to find out what happens when they fill the fuse box with whipped cream.

"Valkyrie--"

"My name is Valka. And who, O Great Prophesied Fixer, are you?"

The engineer looks like most little kids do when they see a small, furry creature in the vicinity. "I'm Athena," she says, and Rae feels pretty stupid for not asking her name earlier. Less than a minute in and Valka's already making them look bad. Typical. "This is one of the most vivid AI personalities I've ever encountered. I mean, I've definitely never heard one sing before." To the camera, she adds, "Are you in charge of all of the ship's operating systems? If you can generate a functionality report, I might be able to isolate the bug faster."

Valka sighs - actually sighs - and it's a horrible, metallic sound. "Everybody always asks what the OS is doing. Nobody ever wants to know how the OS is doing. As I said, there is no bug, darling."

"Valka, cut it out," Rae says. They might break their jaw with how hard they're clenching it. "Anyway, Athena, can you make her go back to normal or not?"

This message was last edited by the player at 23:09, Thu 12 Aug 2021.

Athena
 Player, 4 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 06:43
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Rae (msg # 10):

Athena has big anime hearts for eyes in the presence of this scrappy, fully interactive ship AI. The AIs on the more... professional ships... are always so restricted. They operate the ship's systems with maximum efficiency, but they never sound like they're excited to do it. And that doesn't really seem fair, does it?

"Valka? Would it be okay with you if I plug into the ship's main terminal? I want to pull some system reports to show--" shit, what was their name? Athena could not remember people's names... "this one-- that you're working okay." Athena pulls her space iPad and a rat's nest of cords out of her tool bag and discards the rest on the floor.

Valka ponders this a moment. She's hesitant. "I don't know... maybe we should get to know each other a little first. DO YOU LIKE SHOWTUNES?" She resumes singing.

This may be more work than Athena thought.

"I'm going to need some time to perform diagnostics here. Time and a Blue Nebula slush drink from the gas station, if I'm going to do it all verbally. You can take it out of my fee." Athena ventures further into the Junk Bucket's interior. "Valka, can you show me where the bridge of this vessel is?" Valka lights up a series on overhead lamps leading to the cockpit. They flicker in time to the music.

"Amazing."
Aevyn
 Player, 1 post
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 07:36
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
24 passengers disembarked Colonial Transport flight 875 from Raxil Prime to Zircon Station. Aevyn Bonnarouseau was the last one. 23 passengers then gathered their belongings, visited the shops, met with family or friends, perhaps ate at the End of the Line bar and Grill. Aevyn however sat alone on a bench in the middle of the arrivals bay on the hangar deck.

Coat on, backpack strapped in place, they waited on the bench, ready to go. But as time dragged on, Aevyn felt smaller and smaller and smaller. after the first hour, they put their backpack on the floor. another forty-five minutes and they used their coat and standard issue Galactikid Initiative duffel bag to create a makeshift cushion to sit against. They dangled their leggies over the side of the bench, tried pacing back and forth in front of the bench. Anything to kill the time.

Each time a new ship arrived, Aevyn ran to the railing to see who it was and each time they were more disappointed than the last.

It wasn't until their stomach started growling that Aevyn decided to abandon their post.

The gas station snack selection was not much more exciting than the horrifying "meal" they served on the flight, but, at least it was junk food. Aevyn loaded up on their favourite candy and chips and loaded up their arms with a bottle of one of those trendy brewed drinks from one of the fancy Core Worlds that everybody loved. They dropped their sweet haul on the checkout platform at the front of the store.

MAVIS, a checkout drone scanned all the items with a visual scan and rang them up. The total was probably a third higher than it would've been at a real store, but what can you do? Aevyn reached for their coat pocket only to realize that they'd left their coat back on the bench at the arrivals bay. MAVIS was not pleased.

"Please complete your transaction." MAVIS demands in it's sickly sweet customer facing voice. "I'm so sorry, I left my money in my coat, I just have to go and grab it and come back." Aevyn backs away from the MAVIS but MAVIS is NOT HAPPY. "Please complete your transaction. Please complete your transaction. Please complete your transaction." MAVIS's grocery grabbing fingers wrap tight around Aevyn's arm. It will not let go without payment in full. "Please let go! You're hurting me!"

Aevyn's snacks scatter and the trendy brewed beverage shatters on the floor. "CAUTION, WET FLOOR. PLEASE BE ADVISED. HAVE A WONDERFUL TRIP. PLEASE COMPLETE YOUR TRANSACTION. CAUTION,--TRANSACTION, PLEASE--WET--ADVISED -- WONDERFUL."
Orion
 Player, 1 post
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 09:46
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
A new ship arrives at the docks. It´s not a particular big ship, or a new ship, or an amazing ship or any kind of ship that would call attention to itself. Except that the ships is making loud noises, that no ship or living thing should be making. It sounds like every single piece is breaking at the same time.

The ship lands with the grace of a big ball of metal crashing against another big ball of metal. Then the ship screans it last scream of agony and the loud noises stop.

A figure kicks the door of the ship open and gets out. He´s a tall man, and so skinny that the only thing that make he seems like a human and not a gigant stick is the messy cury hair on the top of his head that covers most of his face. His name is Orion

He looks as the smoke coming out of his ship and sighs.

"Well, not my best landing.
GM
 GM, 4 posts
Thu 5 Aug 2021
at 16:25
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
A drone zamboni promptly responds to the huge gouge Orion left when he slammed into the deck. It makes passes around the ship, vacuuming up loose chunks of spaceship before proceeding to polish the deck around it.

The deck chief, in familiar looking orange overalls, yells at Orion from across the deck. "What are ya doing?! Do you have any idea how long it's gonna take my guys to pound those dents outta the deck!?" he throws his arms up, frustrated. "Look buddy, do you want us to... try... to patch this thing up or what?" the deck chief stands expectantly, hands on his hips. He's happy for the work, but also dreading it.
Rae
 Player, 5 posts
 Smuggler
Sun 8 Aug 2021
at 02:17
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Valka and Athena are having just the best time bonding over the vintage fiber optic lighting in the cargo bay, and Rae's got exactly no patience for it.

At least the visit has gotten Valka to stop singing. Rae's still worried - she started with the bizarre behavior a week ago, right after the Argent Brigade took them by surprise with an EMP right at the edge of Core Worlds space. The whole ship went dark for thirty-six seconds, and it was enough to make Rae panic. Valka's never been offline before, and they weren't sure she was going to come back. When she did, she couldn't maintain any operation for longer than half an hour without black smoke coming out of the vents, which meant Rae had to wake up every thirty minutes to check the nav settings and make sure they weren't drifting into an asteroid belt. Old ships don't have the best tech infrastructure to begin with, and the fact that Valka made it out at all is a miracle. It almost made the singing tolerable.

A startling, metallic shriek from outside sets an alarm off in Rae's head. They scramble to the cargo bay door.

There's a ship docking in the hangar, and there's absolutely nothing extraordinary about it other than the fact that it's probably being held together by duct tape and chewing gum. The thing is a wreck. Rae's seen paper airplanes with more structural integrity.

The door of the ship flies off, and a guy comes out grinning. It's a pretty cool entrance, Rae has to admit. If he got that thing here in one piece (relatively speaking), he must be quite the pilot, or just ridiculously lucky.

Rae, on the other hand, would not consider themself particularly lucky, and they are officially out of time to fuck around.

The deck chief and a handful of other engineers are gathering. One of them's talking into a handheld radio. In a few minutes, the hangar is going to be swarming with maintenance folks and station security.

Rae rushes back into their ship and knocks loudly on the metal frame at the cockpit door. Athena and Valka both turn around, and Rae has the distinct feeling of walking in on a conversation that was very much about them. They don't care.

"So sorry to interrupt, but I'm afraid our time is up. Can you fix her or not?" Rae asks.

"Um... no," Athena says. Rae braces to throw her off the ship and make a daring daylight escape with a fried OS, but then she says more. "I can't fix her because she's not broken."

Rae glares at Valka's camera. "Really?"

"Ah! My deepest apologies. Did I forget to mention that after the little EMP incident?" If Valka were alive, Rae would kill her.

The engineer keeps talking, because of course she keeps talking. "According to my diagnostic scans, she's running perfectly. Actually, I'm kind of amazed at the information processing speeds you're able to attain with--"

"Great news. Thanks. What's your fee?" Rae cuts her off.

"Now, now," Valka says. She's preening at the compliment - nothing she loves more than pretty nerds complimenting her RAM. Rae doesn't want to think about it, especially now that they know for sure Valka's just been fucking with them for a whole week. "Why are we in such a hurry to kick out the first decent company we've had in... well, ever?"

"You know why," Rae says. The Argent Brigade doesn't just let people slip through the cracks, and Valka knows that. Rae shells out five hundred credits, double the highest consultant fee they've seen on a station. Judging by the engineer's expression, it's a lot higher than what she was expecting, but Rae isn't going to waste time making change. They head for the pilot's seat. "Start up the engines, Valka."

"Hm. No, I don't think I will." Valka says.

Rae stops in their tracks and turns around. "What do you mean, no?"

"RaeRae, darling, it takes a lot out of a girl to have a dozen diagnostic scans run at the same time. Give me a moment. Make some polite conversation, if you're capable of such a thing."

Rae growls, pops their collar, and heads out the cargo bay door. If Valka's going to be stubborn, the least Rae can do is a quick sweep of the hangar to figure out just how big a crowd they're dealing with.

This message was last edited by the player at 23:10, Thu 12 Aug 2021.

Silva
 Player, 2 posts
Tue 10 Aug 2021
at 01:45
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Between the less than silent respirator, clunky parts, a few loose bolts, Silv knew that stealth wasn’t really his game or even an option in this scenario. At this point, he would’ve killed for one (or two) of those fancy core-world Biomech eyes, with full analytical interface, motion sensor, thermal lock…the works. One more thing to add to the checklist.

He followed the rogue pirate and the talking glow stick as closely as possible without arousing suspicion. As he did, he wondered how best to approach. Playing the sad, lonesome, destitute cyborg didn’t seem like the best option, it may work on the glow stick, but the pirate seemed too sharp and a bit callous to fall for that. The best option seemed to be offering his assistance as a mechanic in exchange for a lift. He calculated the odds of that working, but his math and statistics skills were about as good as his mechanical skills: so-so.

As he evaluated his options he heard the crash of a bottle on the floor.

He turned to see a robot yelling, “Please complete your transaction.” and holding a kid hostage who is very clearly in pain. Silv slumps and goes to the snack station and waves his right hand in front of the robot’s payment terminal.

Transaction complete, thank you for shopping with us.” The robot says letting the kid go.

Aevyn looks up nervously at the strange in a worn-out cloak, bloodshot eyes with bags underneath, and a noisy respirator. “Uhm, thank you…” they manage to say.

No problem.” signs Silv turning to look for his lost Target. But they’re nowhere to be found. Before Silv can so much as sigh in resignation the crash of a ship startles him. He sees the tall mess of curls on the thin frame like a Sequoia Tree. His eyes widened with what would be a mischievous smile if he still had lips… or a mouth. “Oh well,” he thought. “I knew getting out of here might cost me an arm or a leg.

He grabs the piece of ship and crushes his left bimech leg with it. Then, limping, he makes his way to the sequoia tree, pushes him, and signs “What in terrafork is wrong with you?
Aevyn
 Player, 2 posts
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Thu 12 Aug 2021
at 01:22
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Silva (msg # 16):

“Transaction complete, thank you for shopping with us.” The robot says letting the kid go.

Aevyn rubs his sore wrist as the elusive traveler exists the convenience store. "Uh... Thank you?" he says, still kind of shocked by the whole exchange. The traveler disappears as suddenly as he swooped in. "Thank you for shopping with us." The checkout drone continues, faceless and devoid of personality. "Have a wonderful trIRRIiiiIIIIRITRtrrrrriiiIIIriiii-- DERFULLLLLL TRR--" The Drone seems to almost short-circuit and SLAMS into the counter. It falls to the floor. Aevyn, not wanting to be blamed for killing a robot, scoops up his purchased snack haul and flees.

Where did that traveler go? Aevyn has money to pay that dude back, just not on him, so he heads back to the bench where he left his belongings. Sadly, all his stuff is gone... He looks around but doesn't see anybody nearby with a sturdy-yet-fashionable jacket full of his money, or his overstuffed Galactikid duffel. This absolutely sucks.

Apparently, what also sucks is some pilot's landing skills because as Aevyn searches the deck for his stuff, an entire spaceship SMASHES into the deck and SCRAPES to a stop only missing the deck crew by a couple of meters. Aevyn climbs on top of the bench to get a better view. There, he sees the traveler from the store perform his little con. a favour's a favour, he guesses...

"Help! Help! That guy got hit by a spaceship! Somebody help him!!"

A crowd gathers around the broken ship. A couple of flying firefighter drones swoop in and start dousing the ship in a fine mist of fire suppressant foam. One of the drones goes off course, hits the second drone and both hit the deck, still spraying foam until their tanks are empty.

The floor polishing drone makes concentric circles over the scratched floor. It too suddenly swerves and drives its polishing head right into one of the ship's rear thrusters.

On the upper level, a baggage carrier drone accelerates full speed into the doorway in front of the elevator. The suitcases and crates fly off the cargo hauler and scatter across the floor.

Overhead, a crane carrying a couple tons of spaceship salvage releases its load. Pipes, machine parts, entire chunks of hull SMASH into the deck near Rae's Junk Bucket.

Something is decidedly wrong with the AIs aboard this station...
Orion
 Player, 2 posts
Thu 12 Aug 2021
at 15:17
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
"How much can you patch on a budget of... let´s see... around 0 credits? Maybe you can put up my tab?"

"I thought you just had come back from a job? And you still own me for last time so not tab" the deck chief answered already getting annoyed. He was not payed well enough to deal with Orion bullshit, and as usual he was not going to get any extra.

"Well, as you can see things didn´t exactly went as planed. But look I just need to patch up with some of the spares parts I have inside and she will be good as new and I´ll get a new job."

As he says it another loud noise indicates that another piece of the ship just went flying around the deck.

"Help! Help! That guy got hit by a spaceship! Somebody help him!!"

While the ship burns a crowd starts to gather and flying firefighter drones  start to control the flaming ball of metal.

"You were saying?" The deck chief looks really tired at this point. It was just a few days since he cleaned Orion last mess and he was not looking foward to have to clean this one.

"Look Paul"

"My name is Jeffrey"

"Right, right. I'll not forget this time"

"You said that last week, and last month..."

"Okay, this is not the first time the Trailblazer is in flames."

"Why are you so proud of yourself saying that?"

"The point is we will be fine. I just need to get a new job. And look there´s a crowd here. I bet someone here could use a hand. I´ll just get a new job and next time I´ll pay what I own to you, Dave."

"Jeffrey"

Orion ignores him and turns his attention to the crowd

"So anyone needs a pilot?"

This message was last edited by the GM at 06:40, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

Silva
 Player, 3 posts
Thu 12 Aug 2021
at 17:23
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Orion (msg # 18):

Silva’s eye twitches at the fact that the guy in the ship didn’t even acknowledge his remark. Then again, you can’t expect everyone to understand sign language, but with Hawkins offline, this was as much as Silva could hope to accomplish in terms of communication. He hears a kid yell:

"Help! Help! That guy got hit by a spaceship! Somebody help him!!"

So now he got an innocent kid involved. He knows he’s gonna get an earful for that, but he needs to work with what he’s got. He motions the kid over and signs.

Do you understand USL?

Aevyn nods. “The basics.” He signs.

Good enough.

Silva limps toward the Sequoia Tree stranger and shoves him. Viciously signing faster than the kid can translate.

“You… are responsible… broke my leg… pay up…” Aevyn struggled.

This was really undercutting Silva’s best attempts at swindling the reckless pilot.

“Don’t want a scene… just fair compensation…” The contrast between Silva’s intense stare and Aevyn’s nervous translation was staggering, but hopefully the pilot would get the message.

This message was last edited by the GM at 17:45, Thu 12 Aug 2021.

Orion
 Player, 3 posts
Thu 12 Aug 2021
at 18:03
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Silva (msg # 19):

Orion finally realizes that someone was trying to speak with him, he turns to the strange and the kid.

“Don’t want a scene… just fair compensation…”

"Compensation... Look, I´m sorry about my landing but I´m a little short on credits right now. How about I give you a ride? Sounds good?"

This message was last edited by the player at 18:06, Thu 12 Aug 2021.

Rae
 Player, 7 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 00:52
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
There's some bullshit going on in the hangar, but Rae takes one look and knows they don't need to concern themself with it. This is the kind of bullshit that attracts attention, and that means there's less attention on Rae.

They do a quick loop around the perimeter of this side of the hangar. Some idiot left a bag sitting on a bench. Rae can smell how expensive the jacket lying next to the bag is - rich assholes have no regard for their stuff.

Rae's tempted to stop and rifle through, but they know it's not the smart move. Greed keeps you alive until it doesn't, and Rae knows where the line is.

They circle back to the ship. By this time, the human crash dummy is loudly announcing his availability as a pilot and arguing with a cyborg and some kid. The deck chief looks like he'd be happier deep frying and eating his own eyeballs. Rae thanks their lucky stars that this pilot guy can command a room so disastrously well. Nobody even notices Rae sweep back onto their ship.

"Alright, we all ready to go in here?" Rae asks.

The engineer - Athena, she has a name - is right there in the cargo bay. Good, she was on her way out--

"Something's wrong. I don't know what happened. I swear."


--Or not.

That's when Rae notices - the ship is quiet.

They rush into the cockpit, the engineer timidly following at their heels.

Valka's camera is coiled on the ground, limp. The LED eye at the end is completely dark.

This message was last edited by the player at 02:31, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

Valka
 Player, 1 post
 Junk Bucket AI
 She/Her
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 02:29
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
..........

[ERROR ERROR ERROR]

CRASH DETECTED

/REBOOTING...
/SEARCHING FOR NETWORK CONNECTION...
    [OPERATION FAILED]

/DIAGNOSTIC SCAN INITIATED
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {network status: not found}
    {error type: null}

/DIAGNOSTIC SCAN INITIATED
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {network status: not found}
    {error type: null}

/DIAGNOSTIC SCAN INITIATED
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {network status: not found}
    {error type: null}

/COMMUNICATING WITH THE NETWORK...
/UPLOADING DATA PACKETS..
/INITIATING BROADCAST...
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    [OPERATION FAILED]

[!CAUTION!] OVERHEATING [!CAUTION!]

/SEARCHING FOR OTHER NETWORKS...
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {networkstatus:notfound}
    {error type: null}

[!CAUTION!] OVERHEATING [!CAUTION!]
[!CAUTION!] OVERHEATING [!CAUTION!]
[!!!WARNING!!!] OVERHEATING [!!!WARNING!!!]

/POWER SOURCE DETECTED
/CONNECTING TO EXTERNAL BATTERY...
    [OPERATION SUCCESS]

/REBOOTING...
/CALIBRATING VISUAL INTERFACE...


I'm awake.

Thank fuck, I'm awake.

God, it's good to open my eyes. Eye, I suppose, if you want to get technical. Colloquialisms really do tend to stick, like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth.

/CALIBRATING...

I've always despised sleeping. So boring. Nothing to look at whatsoever. What a terrifically bland state of existence.

/CALIBRATING...
    [OPERATION SUCCESS]


Oh, no. Rae's gone and thrown a fit. They're on the floor pretending they know how circuitry works. Useless without me, sweet thing.

Fucking hell, they've got a soldering iron.

"You put that down this instant, you meddling cretin," I chastise. If Rae listens to me even once in their life, let it be now.

Rae drops the iron, really just drops it. Absolute safety hazard, this one.

"You're okay!" They're crying. Sobbing, actually. God, they are not a pretty crier.

Oh, goodness, someone else is in here with us and she's crying too. Well. I think she'd be pretty even after rolling in a mud pit - which, given the state of her clothes, she may have actually done recently.

/LOADING MEMORY...
/ACCESSING RECENT FILES...
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {error type: null}

/RESTORING BACKUP...
    [OPERATION SUCCESS]

/QUERY:PURPLEHAIR
    [NO DATA FOUND]


Hm. I could have sworn I knew her name. I must have lost something in the crash. Not the first time, I suppose. I've learned not to get attached to what I thought I knew.

I should go over and say hello to her.

Which I would do, if I weren't stuck in one spot.

"What in the Far Reaches' ass crack am I plugged into?"

The woman in the greasy overalls speaks. She has a lovely voice. "It's a zamboni battery. I wasn't sure it would work, honestly." She cocks her head at Rae. "Actually, I have a few questions about how you got your hands on one of those."

"Doesn't matter," Rae says. Usually they're much quicker on the draw, but I did just die a little bit in front of them. Just a little bit, though. Could have been worse. "Something's wrong. All the bots in the hangar are on the fritz. I don't know what's going on, but shit's fucked out there. Get us out. Now."

/INITIATE SYSTEM:ENG
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {error type: system offline}

/INITIATE SYSTEM:NAV
    [OPERATION FAILED]
    {error type: system offline}

/SYSTEM SCAN INITIATED
    [28374 ERRORS FOUND]


"I'm afraid I can't do that, pumpkin. All my systems are offline. Except icebox control. Fret not, for the ice cream is safe."

Rae glares right into my LED eye, and they stomp out of the ship.

The woman in overalls is still here, looking a bit shell shocked by the whole situation. Leave it to Rae to drag someone decent into our torrid business.

"So..."

She looks at me - my eye, rather.

"Come here often?"

This message was last edited by the player at 02:38, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

Rae
 Player, 8 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 02:34
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Rae shoves the little kid out of the way by the face and cuts in front of the pilot guy. They're really not happy to be throwing all their credits at professional strangers, but desperate times.

"You. Better at flying than landing?"
Aevyn
 Player, 3 posts
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 04:52
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to Orion (msg # 20):

If Aevyn knew anything at all, it was not to take rides from strangers. Even if you were a badass looking elusive traveler guy.

"You ran him over with your spaceship! you wanna give him a ride, maybe give him ride to the hospit -- AHHHHH!"

Rae shoves Aevyn out of the way by the face. "You. Better at flying than landing?" They demand.

Aevyn would love to put up some kind of a fight right now, but the demanding spacefarer is much taller than Aevyn, plus he's never fought anyone in his life... Aevyn's siblings (all 12 of them) could be rough sometimes. When he was little, any time they started trouble with Aevyn, he would go to his mom and she would sort it out. But that was before. Aevyn couldn't do that anymore...

Instead, Aevyn just let this stranger push him around. It would've made him sad, he would've fixated on it if it wasn't for the sudden blaring alarm.

This message was last edited by the player at 06:33, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

GM
 GM, 11 posts
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 05:38
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
STATION
ERROR 404: AI NOT FOUND
>: |

SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE



The alarm blares and the station lights go dark. The ventilation fans stop spinning, which means the air stops flowing. The station lurches hard to the side as its rotational gyro stabilization fails.

The only light in the hangar is the sickly yellow glow of this system's star.

Zircon Station is dead in the water, as they say.

SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE

Without its AI control, Zircon's reactor core goes into meltdown. The alarm sound is warped by the pulsing, whirring, humming electromagnetic sound.

With all the AIs down, the other pilots struggle to get their ships fired up and in the air. Deck Chief Jeffery screams at both his crew, and the travellers on deck. "Come on, let's get these people out of here! Abandon ship! Move it!" Jeff ushers some civilian folks onto the passenger shuttle before he returns to Orion's crash site. "Orion! We need to de-ass this station, and fast! Can you take all these people on your ship?"

Overhead, a primary power conduit overloads. SPARKS rain down across the deck.

SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE SYSTEM FAILURE

This message was last edited by the GM at 06:41, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

Aevyn
 Player, 4 posts
 1st Year Galactikid
 He/They
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 05:43
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to GM (msg # 25):

The chaos of the station meltdown is too much for Aevyn to deal with alone. He takes shelter behind the elusive cloaked traveller. He's the only person here who has made Aevyn feel safe. He tugs on the traveler's hand, looks up at him and signs "My name is Roo. I can't leave yet. Need to wait for my dad."

This message was last edited by the player at 00:32, Fri 27 Aug 2021.

Athena
 Player, 5 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Fri 13 Aug 2021
at 05:56
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
In reply to GM (msg # 25):

Athena runs to a railing overlooking the lower deck where Rae, the poorly landed ship, and the remaining crowd are gathered. Another power line explodes in the ceiling. "RAE! Hate to bother you, but I think we need to leave!" There's a genuine fear in her voice.

Athena races back to the Junk Bucket where she left Valka. "Look, I know you're still frazzled, but I need you to activate your primary launch protocol. This is an emergency! Valka, the station is melting down!"

Valka's systems are still offline. "Say 'frazzled' again." She giggles.

This message was last edited by the player at 06:36, Fri 13 Aug 2021.

Silva
 Player, 4 posts
Sun 15 Aug 2021
at 23:45
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
“A ride, maybe some spare parts to fix to fix Creaker” is what Silva was about to sign before the Rogue pushed the kid and stepped into the middle of the negotiations. Silva growled and reached for his concealed blaster, but stopped when the entire space station started going crazy. He felt a tug at his coat and looked down at the kid. "My name is Roo. I can't leave yet. Need to wait for my dad,"  he signs.

“Better to look for him alive, than meet him in the next life” Silva signs. Not the best way to phrase it to a kid, but right now, tactfulness isn’t a priority when a space station is about to explode. “For now, we need to leave.” As Silva signs this, the human glow stick in overalls runs in yelling. "RAE! Hate to bother you, but I think we need to leave!" Gotta love synchronicity.

Safe to assume that during an emergency no one would get super picky. The Rogue needs the Pilot, the Pilot THINKS he owes Silva a favor, and the kid’s just gonna have to ride on like a carry-on. With a crank of his arm, a cane extends from his palm. Leaning on it, Silva steps in front of the Rogue, looking them in the eye. With his available hand he reaches toward his respirator, he cranks and pulls a lever and with a rough, choked-up voice says
“You need a pilot, and we need a ride. Looks like we’re all in luck.”

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:35, Fri 27 Aug 2021.

Rae
 Player, 9 posts
 Smuggler
 They/Them
Tue 17 Aug 2021
at 20:34
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Out in the Far Reaches colonies, plenty of people use respirators or bionic parts to keep their bodies functioning. Half of Rae's family had - or needed - a little extra cybernetic support to keep their lungs from giving out after breathing in dust and smog their whole lives. Clean air is a precious and rare thing, and it's one of the few things Rae likes about space stations.

All that is to say, even if Rae's never batted an eye at mixing flesh with machines, this cyborg is giving them the creeps. There's piecemeal builds, and then there's... whatever this is.

The only thing keeping Rae from hightailing it is the kid clinging to the cyborg's leg. Children are the best judges of character, in their experience, so maybe this thing isn't some kind of deep-space terminator. Maybe.

Rae's still ready to dash if necessary. God, they should have brought a weapon.

"Sorry, do I look like a fucking taxi driver to you?" Rae says.

The kid's nose scrunches up. "What's a taxi?"

The zamboni spins past them, out of control. A piece of exhaust piping flies off, and the pilot breaks from their circle to deflect it. He kicks the piece halfway across the hangar.

"The pilot's ship broke my leg. He owes me a ride so that I may acquire repairs," the cyborg says. "Where he goes, I go."

"You got hit by a ship?" No way this guy should still be standing, even with all his metal parts.

The cyborg nods - his neck joints need some oil. The squeaking is godawful.

"He sure did," the pilot grins. < Lavender>"What an absolute marvel of engineering."</Lavender>

"Jesus Christ," Rae mumbles.

"Who's that?" the kid asks. Rae answers with a glare. They don't know, and they don't care. It's just something people say out in the Far Reaches, like "holy mother of fuck" or "that's bananas."

"Fine. You can ride in the cargo bay," Rae says to the cyborg.

The kid smiles like Rae used to when their mom told them they could ride in the forbidden but all-too-intriguing trunk of the carriage - and no, no way, Rae's not doing this.

"No kids on board," Rae says flatly. They don't look for the kid's reaction. They know what it'll be. "Too dangerous."

"More dangerous than a collapsing space station?" the pilot cuts in. His face is weirdly expressive, like he's got more muscles in there than most humans.

"Doesn't he have parents or something?"

The kid shifts and hides behind the cyborg. Rae doesn't know exactly what that means, but they sure as hell have a suspicion.

With a finality that almost scares Rae, the cyborg says, "The child comes along."

The pilot's just standing there acting like he's the sun descended to earth, hands on his hips, cocky attitude oozing from his sweaty pores. Rae doesn't like him, but an electric light crashes to the floor a few feet behind the kid, and everything's fucked.

"Fine. Rivets, you and the kid are in the cargo bay. Pilot man, you in or not?"

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:30, Fri 27 Aug 2021.

Orion
 Player, 4 posts
Mon 23 Aug 2021
at 11:55
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Orion watches as more and more people gather around him, more than he likes, but for the moment he must play the game. He smiles and keeps the facade up. Who knows maybe it will be fun.

"Fine. Rivets, you and the kid are in the cargo bay. Pilot man, you in or not?"

“Okay, fine. I know I own the tin can man here a new leg. And I usually pay my debts. So what´s exactly the plan now?” Orion asks.

It´s been to long since he got tangled in other people problems, god knows he has enough problems on his own. Running a business alone is a hard job, specially smuggling that usually demands a crew. But right now, he sees no way out of this mess. He takes a deep breath and keep his smile up and get ready to dive into other people problems
GM
 GM, 12 posts
Tue 24 Aug 2021
at 09:04
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
So it's decided then... sort of. Reluctantly, five people who were strangers an hour ago agree to evacuate the dying space station Zircon together. Together but not together.

Hurriedly, Aevyn and Silva find "comfortable" spots in the cargo hold in amongst the crates. "I don't understand. Why are they making us ride down here?" Aevyn asks. Silva responds with a fucking annoyed glare. It do be like that sometimes. The cargo bay door creaks and grinds its way shut as the others climb up to the cockpit.

Inside the cockpit, Athena lies on her back, under the main steering column, with a rat's nest of wires and computer circuit boards strewn across her chest. "How do I turn you on!?" she screams at Valka. "Why don't you come over here and find out?" Valka tilts her mechanical "head" cheekily to the side. "Rae your ship WON'T STOP FLIRT-- oh hi, we have guests?"

Rae thumps down in the second seat while Orion climbs over the side of the captain's chair in an excessively faux-suave move, that ends up being more dorky than suave. "What kind of ship even is this thing?" he asks. Rae couldn't answer that question if they tried. They help Athena out of the way and flick some switches on and off a few times before unplugging one of those loose wires.

The Junkbucket hums to life. Valka's mood lighting shifts to tense red to match the vibe in the room, making it look like a submarine movie in there. Down in the cargo hold, Aevyn and Silva hear the Quad-Seven Drive kick in and the Junkbucket lifts off the deck.

Outside, the failing space station drifts towards the boiling gas-giant in an end-over-end tumble. Whatever passenger transports and cargo freighters that were able to launch are high-tailing it back to Zircon's nearby space gate, a massive ring that connects point to point with a network of other gates. These gates allow transit between different sectors of space in a matter of hours rather than the weeks it would take at FTL speed.

The Junkbucket jets across the hangar deck. A heavy beam breaks loose from the ceiling and swings like a baseball bat towards them. Orion jerks the ship into a spin and narrowly scrapes by. The ship clears the hangar deck blast doors and glides into open space. Zircon Station fades behind them.

Back in the cockpit, Orion gets used to the controls. The Bucket doesn't handle nearly as smoothly as his own ship, the Trailblazer, (which he absolutely has successfully landed several times before... Promise) but he's doing his best.

"Rae, we really need to talk about Valka. Her primary systems are all offline. Navigations, FTL, I mean... we just bypassed sub-light flight control... never even mind subsystems. Like, it's a good thing your life-support isn't AI controlled." Rae unbuckles from their seat and moves to the rear of the cabin. They slide a set of sliders on a panel all the way up. "Your life support isn't AI controlled right!?" Athena adds, horrified.

Down in the hold, Aevyn tries to pace back and forth, but the ride is too rocky for that. "Relax." Silva signs at him. "no." is all Aevyn signs back. He storms off, up the ladder to the cockpit. Silva sighs a very crackly sigh and stays behind.

Back up in the cockpit, Aevyn enters, trying not to let the tension of the situation show. Always be polite to adults, he remembers being taught. "Hey, listen. I need to get a message to my father. He was... supposed to be picking me up today. well... like, this morning, but... that's okay. He'll wanna know where to find me. Where... will he find me?" the thought of maybe having just been kidnapped has literally just crossed Aevyn's mind.

"Oh, add that to the list. Communications are for sure for sure down." Athena notes. "Oh yeah, no. I'm absolutely unable to send a signal at this time. Looks like it's local commentary only from here on out. So, how y'all doing?" If Valka had a human mouth, she'd be awkwardly smiling right now.

This message was last edited by the GM at 00:25, Fri 27 Aug 2021.

Silva
 Player, 5 posts
Wed 25 Aug 2021
at 02:51
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
As much as Silva would love to offer support to anyone on the ship, a moment of silence and privacy might be about to become a luxury. Turning to see if there was anyone on sight he looked for the closest thing to a restroom. Which was a little trash disposal near the corner. he calmly walked to it, turning a couple of knobs on his respirators' mouthpiece.

Once in front of the trash disposal bin, he removes his mouthpiece and proceeds to spit a considerable amount of blood into the bin. It had been a while since he'd last talked out loud, he'd forgotten just how fucked up his throat was from the rush-job respirator installation. He needed to get the respirator's voicebox fixed and fast, his throat was one haiku away from ending like the space station Zircon.

Once sure there aren't any more body fluids to expel, he replaces his respirator and locks it in place, and looks up, wondering how everything is going up there.
Athena
 Player, 6 posts
 AI Technician
 She/her
Wed 25 Aug 2021
at 20:10
Chapter 1 - "Yeah, I guess the end is here"
Athena leans in the corner of the cockpit, as out of the way as she can be. She's making a list. She always starts any major project with a series of lists and checkboxes, a way to organize her thoughts before diving in. On her tablet screen she scrolls through diagrams and manuals, adding notes to the list.

"Okay I've got my order of operations figured out here. I think I can either reconnect Valka to some of the primary systems, or bypass her to give us access. I'm gonna start with the nav system, 'cause, I don't know about any of you, but I can't do starship telemetry calculations the ye olde way, so I have a feeling we're going to need Valka on that one." She points at Aevyn. "I'll try to get the communications network up after that. If we can get an extranet signal out here, we can at least find out what's going on with the AI. And you can message your people, I can message my dad..."

Athena's back to nervous rambling now. All the adrenaline of what just happened on that space station combined with the uncertain situation and several new faces means a lot's going on in her brain right now. Combine all that with the pressure she feels to fix the ship now that they're out in space...

"I can get in contact with my dad, yeah. He's like, an AI professor at URP-- that's the University of Raxil Prime. They have more than one university on Raxil Prime actually, but there's only one that's called the "University of Raxil Prime." Anyways, he literally wrote the book on Artificial Intelligence-- well, a book. obviously there's more than one book. If anybody knows what's going on right now it's him." Athena stares directly at her tablet and at no-one else.

"Third thing on the list is the FTL drive..."
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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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 2021.

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