Life is going wonderful. Basically, imagine the perfect existance, and there ya go. Aren't you jealous? Yes, you know you are.
Merr... lets see. Ah yes, I just watched the newest Star Wars movie (yay Kazaa!). Much better than Episode I. Lots of swashbuckling action, etc, but *yawn* on the love scenes. Trite, canned, and unoriginal.
The new trilogy are developing into an interesting conspiracy movie.
The acting was atrocious.
In other words, it's jsut fun. Worth a matinee show.
Now, speaking of swashbuckling sci-fi adventures, I've gotten the first thrirteen pages of my book rewritten. Flashback time:
In high school, I got bored. So I wrote a sciencefiction novel. It was bad. Really bad. I mean, the characters were neet, the plot was interesting and original, but the whole thing was possibly the worst written piece of drivel ever.
Tip number one: Don't give everyone you know a cameo appearance in your book.
Anyway, I'm rewritting it (from scratch, since the original flew away someplace). I'm almost at what I call the Fux Point- the point at which the story begins to write itself, and it will finish regardless of what you do.
To prove it, here, for your reading pleasure, are the first 13 pages of my book, split across two posts, because this one is too big:
Slurp. Slurp. Sarul inwardly groaned. The boss was coming.
Slurp. Slurp. This could not be good. First off, the boss never left the operations room. Ever. The worst thing on Coida could happen, and the boss would lie calmly in its office, a thick pile of ooze wired into the computer network, pumping and shifting information around.
Slurp. It would lie there, Alzoort it was called, and it would be wired into the corporate database, making instant decisions about everything that happened in a interplanetary, four-gigaquad a minute business, where a mistake could kill ten thousand people.
Slurp. It saw it all. Like some giant eye, or like the Shadow's inner sanctum (Sarul had a fondness for Human mythology), everything passed through Alzoort.
It was coming this way.
The slurping stopped.
Sarul turned, and saw it, the revolting brownish blob that was Alzoort. What he did not see was the revolting brownish blob that broke off from the whole and slithered behind his desk.
Sarul concentrated on not stammering, and greeted his superior. "Alzoort sir! What brings you to this humble office? In what way may I serve you?"
Alzoort seemed to bask in the moment of obsequiousness. It was hard for a humanoid like Sarul to read the reactions of a gelatinous blob of biological composition so varied from his own that it was not even made up of cells. Even so, the brownish color seemed to tinge to a slightly more healthy looking amber.
The blob quivered, its surface varying in tension, rigidity, and texture, generating different tones approximating speech. It always had a very unreal sound, and never carried the same resonance as a spoken voice. Very synthetic, very stilted. Of course, Alzoort's speech patterns tended towards artificiality. "Sarul-being. Assignment to be distributed. Priority Radical-Twelve."
Sarul felt his colinium system triple in its decay rate. He concentrated on damping down the glow that had begun to emanate from his blue skin. The suit that he wore sizzled slightly at the increased thermal output. A Radical-Twelve priority code meant that he would be assigned to a covert mission. A mission, covert or not, would mean leaving the office.
Sarul's fear was completely understandable. However, if Alzoort noticed the biological changes, it probably did not care. There was not much Alzoort seemed to care about.
"Mission parameters to be defined by uplink."
"Uplink?" Sarul started to ask. He completed the first syllable of the word (a four syllable word in Coid-standard, his native tongue), when a weight fell upon his shoulders. It was large, cold, and damp, and a turn of his head registered a flicker of movement before things went black.
Slurp. Slurp. Callal did not have the foggiest what her sister was up to in the access panels in the floor of the cramped cockpit. Whatever it was, it was creating the most hideous organic sound.
Slurp. Slurp. Clang. A stream of curses leapt up from beneath Callal's feet, incoherent after being filtered through several layers of metal and synthblock. Callal for her part fumed, staring at the controls in front of her. The display panel was dead, most of the connections severed by the sheer amount of abuse her ship, Dante's Refugee, had taken.
Dante's Refugee was a fifty-year-old clunker, an old model Ziff Tandem-85. Even in her heyday, the ZT-85 did not qualify as reliable. When Callal purchased it for ten quads (the price of a stiff drink), it had been worth about that much. Paul, her significant other (sigoth as he preferred, some old Terran custom he had picked up), had suggested christening it the Tortured Soul, as it most certainly wanted to be put out of its misery. Foxx, Callal's sister, claimed that such a name lacked subtlety.
As if, Foxx was one to discuss subtlety. At any rate, in the spirit of tortured souls, Foxx suggested paying tribute to some guy named Dante. Some dead guy that had written about hell.
Callal's life was hell, so she agreed to the name.
One example of how hellish this existence was of course, the fact that she, owner and pilot of Dante's Refugee was currently sitting behind a dead yoke, with nonexistent or meaningless readouts, with The Beat breathing down her neck so hard that even though their ship was almost an entire astronomical unit away across a small asteroid field, she could still feel the rancid exhalations of the law on her neck. Not like it was a bad day or anything.
Oh, and of course the cargo they were carrying was selinik-diatrate compound 15. SD-15 held enough energy in one milligram to ignite a fusion reaction in a reasonably sized gas giant. Right now, the only reason the galaxy's most unstable compound had yet to reduce them to free floating molecules was expensive, complex, and very temperamental stabilizers, which were currently linked to Dante's Refugee's cheap, complicated, and even more temperamental power systems.
As if the ship simply sought to ruin her day more, the lights flickered.
Callal slammed the intercom for the cargo area. "Paul, what the hell was that?"
Callal was madly in love with Paul. They had been an item for nearly a decade. The relationship was great, the sex was great (Paul was an Oidrolite, and hence hung like a� well, like an Oidrolite). However, Paul had two annoying habits. The first was that he never became upset. He never showed stress. Even when he was tending stabilizers that could cut out at any instant, thereby reducing his lifespan to a picosecond.
The second was that he spoke with agonizing slowness.
The latter was really sticking in Callal's craw at the moment.
"No worry," he said; then paused. Callal gritted her teeth, and thought to herself that she could take a small vacation in the time it took him to complete a sentence. "That was because," another pause, and Callal decided it could be a long vacation. To Dakkara, where she could bask under pleasure lamps all day. Yes, a nice weeklong stay at Dakkara. She would only miss a few of the words he had to say.
"Because I was rerouting power� to keep a steady flow� in the stabilizers."
"Well don't scare me like that!" Callal was not sure why she was being so short, aside from the fact that she was ready to kill someone. Preferably, a Beat cop. "Fuck it," Callal flicked the intercom switch off and leapt from her seat. A bit of the stuffing flew out with the force of her motion, adding to an ever-growing pile on the floor of the cockpit.
Without blinking, Callal aimed an axe kick at the top of the console. The plastiform panel obediently gave way, falling apart into its constituent nano-coils, which immediately began to reform into solid plastiform again. Not to be undone by technological superiority exhibited by a control panel, she moved forward, dropping a palm-heel strike on the panel, followed by another.
Plastiform was often used to make up starship landing pads. It gave easily and cushioned, and a well-maintained plastiform panel could rebuild itself in a period of nanoseconds. This however, was not a well-maintained plastiform panel. It lost cohesion completely, the nano-coils evaporating, and Callal's palm slammed into something solid and metal with a rather unpleasant "crunch" echoing up her arm. The noise was followed by a wave of pain.
Of course, things could only get worse if broken bones were involved.
It was hell.
The consoles flickered to life; the perpetual hum of the equipment that in previous moments had been so lacking returned. Callal vaulted into the pilot's seat, forgetting her injury. A quick glance told her the cockpit systems were back online, and all systems were green.
Okay, so maybe it was only Purgatory.
Clang. An access panel flew open in the floor of the corridor directly behind the cockpit. The old ZT-85's were laid out in a linear fashion, with the cargo area swelling up like a tumor on a strand of spaghetti. The cockpit could be sealed off from the rest of the ship, but when the only other people on board were your twin sister and your lover, what point was there in that?
Foxx pulled herself out of the access hatch. Her hair was thatched into a ruddy brownish red roof atop her head. Her face was a mask of grime, cuts, scratches, and bruises, most of them inflicted in the process of slamming her head against broken equipment.
There was not an inch of Foxx that was clean. Lubricants, sealants, solvents, grime, assorted hydraulic fluids and elasticity compounds crusted to her skin and clothing. The clothing itself was in dire need of replacing. A torn and threadbare jumpsuit, the variety with pockets everywhere for the purpose of carrying tools.
Callal was busily checking the readouts on the newly glowing displays when her sister stood, walked over, and leaned over her shoulder.
"Looking good?" Foxx asked. Her voice was chipper, perky, and full with pride in a job well done.
Callal hated perky. "Fine," she growled. "I mean, the controls are working. Of course, that patch you did on the engines last week gave out, and we're leaking rads. Gonna flash up on the Beat's screens like a Coidosh plugged into a matter recompositor."
Callal did not turn her head to see the tongue that she knew would be sticking impishly out at her. "And Foxx dear, you reek like my ass."
Foxx flopped down into the copilot's seat and began running some checks. "Yeah, well, we can't all smell like a rotting corpse Cally."
Callal's eyes darkened, and she delivered a sharp punch to her sister's shoulder. No one called her Cally. Callal's eyes darkened further when she realized that she had used the same hand she had just injured taking out frustrations on a console. She obstinately refused to show any pain. Through clenched teeth she grumbled, "You should never call me that."
Foxx simply shrugged, rubbed the shoulder that had taken the blow, and looked at the sensor displays.
"How long have we been hiding here in the shadow of this planetoid? Two hours?"
Callal nodded and pretended to study readouts through slitted eyes. That last hit must have done some serious damage to her hand.
"And the Beat should be at least two-fifty off our course, right?"
Callal nodded again, wondering where this was going.
"Well, they're about ten minutes off on an intercept course with our position."
Callal nodded and continued to pretend that the readouts meant something to her at the moment. It took about five seconds for the meaning of what Foxx had just said sunk into her pain thickened skull.
When it did, she leapt up to peer at the sensor readouts, her hand once again forgotten.
A Beat patrol cruiser was closing in on their position, but Foxx had misestimated. Callal guessed that it was only about seven minutes from firing distance. And closing right on them.
With her good hand, Callal began turning over the reactor, flipping switches, thumbing data pads, and gesturing at optical interfaces. As she did so, she barked to Foxx, "Go give Paul a hand locking things down. It's about to get hairy."
"Kinda like my ass." Foxx blurted out, and stalked from the cabin.
Callal shook her head, and finished warming up the pre-flight. Ever since that incident in college, Foxx just had not been the same. She would just blurt out the first thing that popped into her head, fucking the first person that came into sight, that sort of thing.
Callal began to analyze her situation. Her small freighter was under matched to a beat cruiser in pretty much every way. Firepower, shielding, speed, and maneuverability. The only thing going in her favor was her determination- no one would beat Callal. No one.
So she spent a full minute considering the possibilities. She had a small planetoid that she could take advantage of, about three kilometers in diameter. Dante's Refugee was already close enough to it for its gravity to have an effect- small to be granted. If the Beat were under prepared (almost a given), the gravity would make her maneuvers a bit unexpected.
Callal flicked the intercom switch with her injured hand- she was getting increasingly convinced that it was broken. Or the wrist. Something below her elbow. With her other hand she grabbed the control yoke and programmed in a flight plan.
One of the first modifications that Foxx had made to Dante's Refugee was to the computer. On a standard set of controls, you either had a preprogrammed course, or were in manual free flight, where you had total control.
The problem was this- the former was predictable.
The latter would probably blow all your fuel and splatter you against a planetoid, unless of course you were a diefically (as or like a diety) skilled pilot.
Foxx had successfully melded the two. Callal could program in a course, which she was doing now. When she ran the course, the control yoke would stay active, allowing Callal to make minor, unpredictable changes.
It was sweet.
Callal watched the sensor displays, keeping her injured hand clutched to her chest.
"Paul," she called at the intercom, "How's the cargo?"
Again, Paul's voice crackled over the intercom, racing at a glacier pace that was hard to keep up with if your brain flows at the speed of glass. "Redlined. Probably explode if Foxx or I sneeze, or if there's a solar flare anywhere within a light decade of here. Or perhaps if you exhale sharply on the control stick."
Foxx's voice chirped in from somewhere in the background, "Or if you use it to masturbate."
Callal eyed the scanners. One minute to firing range. "Keep it stable you two."
"There's nothing stable about me!" Foxx tittered, and there was a sound like a large spanner being use to hammer on a bulkhead.
Ever since that incident, Foxx had been horrible to have in a high stress situation. It fell to Callal to keep it cool and focused. And Paul was beyond cool- glacial to the point where rapid action was beyond him.
In other words, pretty much everything was Callal's responsibility, and she was getting pretty well sick of it.
She fumed for a moment, listening to grunts, groans, and curses drifting across the intercom. Ten seconds until the Beat would fire the interference pulse cannon. Callal counted down under her breath, using the counting to force herself to hyper-focus. Paul would call it meditation, but to Callal that sounded far too... too soft. Only religious kooks meditated.
Well, Paul meditated, and he was not active enough to be a kook.
Two seconds before the Beat patrol ship would be in range to fire Callal ignited the thrusters, kicked over the engines, and grabbed the controls. Accidentally, she used both hands, but she was too concentrated to notice.
On the Beat patrol cruiser the Carr, the computerized scanners spent a moment balking, trying to use a complicated vector routine to predict the behavior of the target ship. The crew might call the ship and its crew all variety of things, criminals, smugglers, villains, and scoundrels. The computer just thought of it as a mathematics exercise. One at which it was quite adept.
It took the computer only a few picoseconds to recompute and in the eons that it took for the cruiser to get in range, it accurately predicted the course of the target and sent the command to fire.
The shot was dead on, and the cannon was powerful enough to flatten any control system on the target. While the math was perfect, the timing was crippled by the fact that in the 2.2 seconds it took to get the first shot off, the tiny freighter had dipped around to the far side of the planetoid.
Aboard Dante's Refugee, support struts protested the sudden acceleration with a painful groaning; the inertial dampening field that kept the acceleration from causing the crew to protest as they became a thin red smear struggled to keep up with the forces. As a result, for a twentieth of a second, the force became so great that Foxx and Paul were thrown to the deck, while Callal was kept in her seat with forces that distended her features. To imagine some of the horror this entails, please note that Callal wears a pair of coveralls. And nothing else. Not even a skimpy top.
Paul, whose muscles and bones were more qualified for this variety of punishment, recovered first. He raised himself push-up style, and raised his eyes.
Containment had been lost on container B-144. Paul leapt forward, and in the merest fraction of a second was slamming the button to eject the canister. Despite Callal's opinion of his speed, Paul could move like lightening. He just chose to move only as fast as he needed to. In this case, he had to move faster than humanly possible.
Good thing he was an Oidrolite.
Callal sat up and took in several pieces of bad news.
The first was the Beat ship careening around the asteroid and the cannons were flickering with the moments of pre-discharge. The second was that her wrist was purple now. The third however, was the fact that Paul, in an infuriatingly calm voice, was warning her that he was jettisoning a two-kilogram container that had gone critical.
Callal knew there was only one-way to get clear before this went off. That was to use the Spatial Distortion Drive and go to faster than light speeds. Callal activated the SpaDD course that had been stored in the ship's computer. The ancient machine attempted to dredge the vast amount of information out of its memory and shunt it over to the actual spatial distortion drive.
This process took two point three four one seconds.
It took the container two point three four two seconds to explode.
The Beat patrol cruiser would have taken three seconds to target and analyze the container. Unfortunately, that was .665 seconds after it was turned into ash.
Kaisghie, the world in Balance. I am at peace with the Universe and my place within it, I Balance against all things, as all Things Balance against me.
It slept. Long, dark, and cold. Floating.
Dante's Refugee lurched out of null-space a few moments after it entered- in real space at least. For the crew, three hours passed like a kidney stone. Travel in null-space was incredibly boring.
To travel across a landscape, no matter how dull, is still travel across something. Travel in null space is travel across absolutely nothing. Not across blackness. Not across dark, or emptiness. Across absolutely no-thing.
To make matters worse, time spent in null-space did not have a direct relationship to the total travel time. It could take weeks on board, and seconds in real space to leap halfway across the galaxy. Conversely, it could take seconds on board, and hours in real space to travel an inch.
There was a set of mathematical formulae to explain the phenomenon. Foxx had expounded upon them at length, using terms like "derivative" and "chocrate" and "variational combinatic extrapolation".
In short, it was fucking confusing, fucking inconvenient, and the extra time did not make Callal any happier, considering their cargo. If anything went wrong while in null-space, there was no outside to jettison things into.
Callal could only fume so long; after about fifteen minutes she went to the ship's common area, where she found her sister and her boyfriend sitting over a steaming pot of tea, and dainty china mugs clutched in their hands.
The white china was getting smears on it from Foxx's hands, her naturally alabaster complexion made nearly black by an accumulated layer of grime.
The cup that Paul held screamed in fear at the hands that dwarfed it. If a muscle twitched in his scaly hand, the glass would shatter. If he looked at it funny, it would probably crack.
Foxx brought the cup to her lips, a pinky raised, as Callal entered. When Foxx saw her sister, the cup paused. "Something wrong sis?"
Callal scowled. "We're only toting our certain demise in the cargo bay, that's all." She kept her face glum for a moment longer, then gave in, dropped the bluster, and plopped down on Paul's lap. "Well? Pour me a goddamn cup already!"
Foxx languidly finished the sip she had begun when Callal had entered. "But of course!" Setting her own cup down, she pulled a fresh one of the rack on the table, picked up the dainty, hand glazed porcelain teapot that had been a family heirloom, and poured off a cup. "How much sugar?"
Callal rolled her eyes. Foxx knew exactly how much- she was simply teasing. Still, Callal played along. "Just a smidge darling, just a smidge."
Foxx nodded, pursed her lips, and began spooning sugar into the teacup. Twelve spoonfuls later she stopped, gave it a quick stir, and passed it across the table.
Paul made a vaguely disgusted sound, "I still don't understand how you people can devour so much sugar! It's not healthy! I've been studying human biology and-"
"Yes Paul," Foxx interrupted, "that's all very nice." Her tone suggested that it was anything but interesting. "Now Callal, what's bothering you?"
In her most placid tone, Callal sipped her tea and replied, "Nothing dear, just the fact that if a micro singularity pops into existence anywhere within this sector we'll all be scattered halfway across infinity."
"Oh, is that all?"
Paul mentally shrugged. He and Callal had been an item for years. Since even before 'the incident' with Foxx. Callal had always had a tendency to behave as if a landing strut was in her ass. But it was all an act. He had been slowly coaxing her out of it, trying to show her that people would like her for who she was. He had even been making progress until Foxx was put into Callal's custody.
Callal and Foxx had grown up enemies. Practically mortal enemies, much like the children in an Oidrolite warren. Paul had killed most of his littermates by the end of a stellar year. Within three, he was one of the five surviving youth from that breeding season.
Humans, he knew, lacked such customs...
As children, Foxx and Callal had tried to create them.
Which is why this friendly banter was so confusing for him. Ever since that incident, they had been... been like sisters. Callal's personality took a depressing change though. In order to counteract her sister's free spirited nature, she had to become stricter, less flexible, and in many ways, more annoying.
At least, Paul thought, there were moments like these to remind us all that it was an act. Even if Callal did not realize it, it was an act.
Despite his hopes of this moment relaxing everyone, he did have one business concern to get out of the way. When Paul spoke, his voice was always a rumble, deep, loud, and filled with harmonics. "What will Uncle Samson say about the crate we had to jettison?"
The question cut across the tittering conversation between the twins. Callal simply said, "Uncle Samson can suck me, he wasn't out here."
Paul nodded; that was the response he had expected from Callal. It was not a response that would get the very far with Samson, the man who gave them most of their smuggling jobs. He would probably cut his payment in half, on the grounds they had lost him a great deal of money, and bitch about it.
That was fine, expected, and no hazard to their health. However tangling with the Beat, and worse yet, dumping an exploding canister on them, thereby damaging or destroying a Bea cruiser was a very large, very unhealthy No-No. Uncle Samson stayed in business because he did not cause enough trouble for the Beat to mount a serious manhunt.
Paul decided to point out what had most likely happened to the Beat cruiser, and Uncle Samson's most likely reaction.
That ended the tittering. Callal and Fox just looked at each other, then Paul, and swallowed hard. Uncle Samson was not known for his mercy. In fact, the complete opposite was true- he was known for his habit of never letting go of a grudge, and for always providing a fresh, original, and uncomfortable demise for those with whom he had a grudge.
Everyone sitting onboard Dante's Refugee was a corpse looking for a place to fall.
Information moves faster than light, but not fast enough for news of what transpired to reach Uncle Samson's ears yet. At one point in his life, Uncle Samson possessed tresses worthy of his namesake. There were more than a few holos of him wearing his sandy hair down to his thighs. Uncle Samson had also never had a haircut. No, in this case, it was biology that caught up with him; he was bald as an egg, save a handful of wispy, lonely hairs that reached almost to the floor.
His face was liver spotted, and his skin wrinkled. What, at onetime, had been a startling physique had remained startling- but for completely different reasons. It started being startlingly well built. Now, it was startlingly decrepit. Pallid skin clung to birdlike bones, and his head was roughly three-point-four sizes too large for his body. A nose that would have fit on a face that was healthy instead jutted from an emaciated, shriveled face, a deadly looking crag that would tempt the hardiest mountain climbers to fall to their doom.
Across from him sat a small blue alien. A Coidosh. Generally, a Coidosh would never have entered a meeting with Uncle Samson, unless it was someone's assistant. Uncle Samson would never consider himself racist, but to him Coidosh were like annoying children, incapable of acting independently. In his mind, they were lifetime losers, and most useful as cargo.
But this particular Coidosh, which called itself Sarul, had made it into this meeting.
This was probably because of the twenty men wearing body armor and toting over-powered pulse rifles. Well, that and the fact that they blasted their way into Samson's office, killing his guards.
Sarul had entered the room, flopped down on the chair across from Samson, as if he owned it. The small alien was almost lost in the seven hundred year old wing-tip chair.
"I've come to make a purchase." Sarul had spoken simply, as if nothing unusual was going on.
Uncle Samson took it in stride, saving his anger for later. The planted holo-recorders would keep this dead Coidosh's face on record; the hidden DNA sniffers would map its cellular structure. Already, thousands of databases throughout the known universe were being accessed. Within a few moments, the screen on Samson's desk would display everything about this foolish alien.
But it was Samson's eyes would remember this impudence. And it would be Samson that would kill Sarul. Now, however, was the time to play its game.
"And what would you like to purchase?" Samson was calm and cool, his voice relaxed and jaunty. His employees, at least the living ones, paled at that voice, for they knew a death sentence when they heard one.
"There is a ship in your possession. The crew is indentured to you by contract. The current cargo is a shipment of the compound SD-15."
Samson instantly knew which ship was meant by that. Samson made it a point to always keep a mental registry of all the ships in his employ, their destinations, and their cargo. Computer records could be used as evidence- so could his memories, but a decent lawyer could get it throw out as an unconfirmed forensic method.
The Coidosh wanted to by Dante's Refugee. A moderately profitable crew. No stellar performance could be credited to them, but they pulled their weight in the Organization.
More importantly, he owned them. He had more than a contract, he had their balls. The Coloumb woman needed her sister out of the loony bin for some scheme or another. Since she was a fair employee, he finagled the paperwork, but made it clear how easy it was to finagle it back.
Callal herself was shielded from a past of petit larceny, muggings, and other minor crimes by his organization. He could easily invent some more serious ones for her records. The alien, Paul, was clean. There was no dirt on it, nothing that could be leveraged against it- except for Callal of course.
Samson weighed this against the twenty heavily armed men. "How much are we talking?"
"Market price for the SD-15 in the hold, as well as an additional three-point-six megaquads."
Samson failed to balk at the sum. He could clone and reeducate a thousand Callal Coloumbs for that price and still have enough leftover to buyout voting share in twelve average size companies. If someone was willing to drop that much cash on what he thought was a mediocre crew, that could only mean one thing- he was wrong; there was nothing mediocre about the crew.
Still calm, he looked pointedly at one of the armed men and said simply, "Agreed then."
TO BE CONTINUED (overran LJ-s Size Limit)