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Stories of the Fringe - Tachyon Fiction

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In due time I broke out the holo of our new cruiser. Then, after the ooh’s and ah’s had subsided, I broke out the vid of the sucker, beamed in from outside the station. Sitting there in space, attached to the side of Trilithon’s coppery solar paneled surface, I felt another stab of pride. This was our ship, after all.

Stations are kind of on their own, no matter what, right? Well, all stations have a policy called the Compartment Clause. You set aside room for shipments to the ship, and bring in cargo anually; you get a corporate grant of 100,000 credits. Straight up. Well, I had received it this morning.

Sorcerer summed it up.

”We are high time, now. The big boys.”

”Yup.” I said.

”But that means we have to contend with big players, as well.”

Something in the way he said that made me feel ill at ease.

Hu threw in his bit.

”We can capitalize on this. I got notice of a few jobs this morning, and this changes the stakes, indeed.”

”Don’t get too frisky with the jobs, I just got a call from Dragon, of the Neechi clan, and he is kind of on the A list at this point, dig?”

”What’s the job?” Dos asked, his hands clasped in front of him.

”Don’t know, but the guy didn’t get to the top of the clan because he won it from a sweepstakes. The guy probably is going to want something pretty stiff, and we are all going to devote ourselves, ok?”

”Don’t like the idea of clanners.” Inferno said, his voice low and confident. He hated clans, never said why.

”We call the shots, gang. The paperwork is done, but I owe him, ya know?”

”You’re the boss.” Inferno said.

”About that-” I filled up my coffee cup, then manipulated the smooth plastic controls of the built in holo display.

I broke out some crystal shot glasses and poured everyone some whiskey.

I lifted up my glass, and they followed, looking at me as if I had grown a little strange.

”Gang, The Sixers are now four years old. As you know, my stock is up. But I have since reviewed the articles of corporation on me, split up my share and made you all equal partners. It’s a democracy now, with me as chairman of the board, and you guys are all, well, the board.”

Machine knitted her brows. ”Why?”

I paused as a cleaning ‘bot outside stalked up the building and rinsed the windows with foaming tentacles, domed eyes glinting myopically, it’s body was the green color of old Coke bottles. For a moment, as my back was turned, it felt as if it was raining outside.

”Why? I’m tired of being the boss. Ain’t my style. There’s enough of me to go around, and you guys have been there. On the right of the 6/66 logo you can see how much you all have in terms of the corporation. From here on, we stick together, as we always have. Anyone who wants out can hit the road and give up their shares to the rest. If not, we all sign a five year contract with a retinal pattern scan.”

There was another pause.

”I’m in.” Said Sorcerer.

”Same here.” Dos said.

”Sounds good.” Hu Jing-De reached for the scanner.

”I gotta look at all of your ugly faces for five years?” Inferno said, also reaching for the scanner.

”I feel like I am getting married again.” Machine looked up at me and gave me a tired smile.

I hit a button and summoned Han.

He strode in with a smooth gate and bowed slightly.

”Han here will be the witness.”

We went through the formalities, and I felt an electric buzz in my spine, a familiarity, a realization that I had journeyed so long, so very long to be here…and it was only the beginning of a new jaunt.

I lifted my glass, the 6/66 logo, a gold and black swirling hologram, floated elegantly above us.

”To you all, gang.”

They raised their glasses. Even Inferno resembled something that might have been happy.

”To the Sixers!”

Han watched us all with a cool, impassive wisdom, and then bowed, honoring the ceremony.

Outside, downtown Trilithion station was hued in a thousand colors= golden neon advertisements, emerald rustling gardens of bamboo, the deep cyan of the koi ponds, the champagne hash braziers, the scarlet Indian curtained windows of cafes and shops juxtaposed with the mirrored corporate offices, like steel cubes, black in the station’s faux day.

Above all that the gravitrans and hovertaxi’s continued their days work, beneath the station’s ceiling that was their metal sky

Sorcerer noticed the back of my head.

”What happened?” He asked, eyebrows raised.

I downed my coffee and told them the story.

”Geesh, Otto, next time tell us so’s we can give you some back up.”

”I paid off the cops. Besides, it’s just Esprezzio, not Al Frikkin’ Capone…”

Hu stabbed at me with his finger.

”No, boss, Esprezzio is getting bigger, and we need him around. He won’t make a jump to nail you, but we are going to have to at the very least get our munitions elsewhere, until he gets busted or swallowed up by the Yak cartels.”

Yakuza. They’re everywhere, even here.

”Listen, I will take care of Esprezzio, not to worry.”

That being said, we called it a date and agreed to get together later, to party.

”Oh, Machine, Hu, you guys wanna come with me to the meeting with Dragon? One big happy family, ya know…”

”Sure.” Machine said, checking her wrist comm. ”Where at?”

”I told ‘em Ichiban’s.”

Hu looked up from the printouts of our new Carrier.

”See you then.”

Part V= ”Variables”

I bought myself a new gyrojet pistol, one of those shiny brass colored Iztech designs, and put it in a shoulder holster. It had a baffler and a silencer, with a digital display, no less. We had our own cache of weapons, but the sucker had been beckoning to me for quite sometime, so I splurged.

They checked over my permit without so much as a murmur.

I footed it up Berthold’s Lane, had an espresso and some pasta, and checked out the latest stock reports.

I made a few more calls at a holobar, watching the crowd around me. Mostly maroon suited station techs, some College students, and more than a few pilot’s. Some looking for jobs. They sipped at glowing drinks in the darklight, looking sidelong for possible future employers.

The walls were crushed dark blue velvet decorated with hammered steel plaques commemorating old fights and awards. I recognized a few faces. The rest of the bar was gold mirrored panels and black leather furniture, the music retro techno with a lot of percussion.

Independent Mercs shared a disjointed relationship with clanners. They don’t like us, we don’t like them, but both sides have a respect for each other. We were on opposite sides of the fence, and the line that separated the merc from the pirate from the clanner was a single atom thin.

To say nothing of your corporate pilot…

But Mercs went to clans and corporations for money jobs, rich jobs. You got well funded and made some good cash. We got the awful jobs, yeah, but after the cordite cleared from the air you had made more than you could ever get from a criminal element or normal citizen who might hire you.

I had a whiskey sour and some pretzels, thinking, watching the holovid project the latest news about the Void Alliance, that hotshot clan centered near the Madoran sector. They were quite an event a few years ago. Movies were made about their exploits. They used to be kind of backwater, located in one small area of space, but then they hit a kind of technological renaissance and were big, now. I occasionally ran into their pilots. Word was they wanted to branch out here, but…

Their leader, RedStorm, had gone into hiding (probably retired), they had gone through a changing of the guard since then, but nothing violent. Word was there was some strife with Iconian Space, but that all passed.

I finished my drink and turned my head away. Holos could make you dumb, staring out at them like a hypnotized dog…

I paid my tab and hit the streets.

It would be evening, soon. Or it’s equivalent, deep in this station. You forgot where you were, sometimes, in space. Floating in orbit, adrift, alone with the stars.

I could see some dealers in plastic business suits shifting in the shadows of alleys. A police hovercar above, ignoring the refuse below. The dermoplast streets cluttered with empty nitrolite cans, a few hubcaps, a severed and eyeless doll head, a broken down street sweeper, the color of tangerines with black striped construction bumpers, left to rot. It’s husk spread a shadow over me. I had walked into the part of the station polite people didn’t go to. In the distance, street walkers, began to peddle their flesh, while high above amidst girders, cables, wiring and piping and electrics did their turn, recycling water and air to the inhabitants of Trilliad, moving information at a billion bytes per nanosecond.

A few bums, hopped up on something deleterious to your long term health, eyed me as they warmed their hands around a electric heater unit. They had plugged it into a receiver somewhere in a wash drain, duct taped it to a moddy, and had given themselves a nice amount of warmth, because down below, where I was, even in the midst of a bounty of technology it got so cold the rats died.

Our heater unit was an archaic thing, left over from the former century that had birthed it. A burnished titanium, with a huge cable that was taped up in places, with old station bar code acid etched into it’s surface. I didn’t trust the cable, it sparked occasionally, and when it did the whole burner would shudder, as if it were possessed by some djinn.

Supposedly, you could set the things to whatever heat you wanted, but ours only worked on it’s highest setting, so the top of it glowed with a piss yellow light, it’s radiance drawing lean shadows on the walls of our dwelling.

A few years later, one time, Faddah had taken off, and I think Joe was running out in the streets, maybe stealing something, like he was apt to do, without Faddah around to kick his ass.

Aggie and I were with Vinscenzio and Oscar, and Vinscenzio had been playing with a puppet I had found for him. It looked like a little boxing man, with a bulldog scowl, cartoon like five o’shadow, and big gloves. There were tiny levers inside, and if you hit them the hands popped out, like he was throwing a jab.

I had found an old out of date flight manual by the trains, and was reading it voraciously.

Oscar had been staring at the new toy for about ten minutes.

He groped for it, mouth slightly open, the glow from the heater unit reflecting in his eyes.

”Stop it, Oscar. Vinscenzio is almost done with it.” Aggie said.

Oscar still sat there, staring at the toy.

On the table in front of me was a steaming cup of nitrolite (Joe had stolen it and given it to Aggie, but she didn’t like them) and a wooden dowel we kept for clubbing rats that wandered up from our sink. You could put a grill, there, but they eventually gnawed through it.

Oscar pawed for it again, and Vinscenzio started to cry. He still gripped it, as Oscar finally just held onto the puppet and pushed Vinscenzio down so hard the back of his head hit the floor.

Vinscenzio began to cry, more, and Oscar put the puppet it, grinning at the boxer’s jabs.

Aggie picked up Vinscenzio.

”How DARE you, Oscar!? Give me that!” She reached for it with one hand.

Oscar punched here with it, in the nose, hard. She let out a cry and began to bleed.

Oscar laughed, seeing some joke, there.

I hit him in the back of the head with that wooden dowel so hard I figured the thing would crack. Now his head was bleeding, and he got up off the ground and turned to look at me, blubbering, rubbing his head with the puppet.

”Why you hit me, Otto???”

I looked at him, confused.

”You hit Aggie!” I said.

”But Faddah hit Aggie?” He was drooling, snot dripping from his nose.

”Well, you ain’t Faddah.” I said, still holding the dowel stick like a baseball bat.

He turned from me, took the puppet and threw it into the heater unit. It began to melt, the microwaves agitating it’s molecules.

My logic seemed to work on Oscar. He never hit Aggie again.

I realized that he was a lot like his dad. He didn’t have any real malice behind his violence, it was just something he did reflexively. No evil, no cruel intentions…he just lashed out at that which could not hit back.

People do that.

The boxer seemed to regard me with an infinite sadness as it simmered and melted into the machine, as if I could have saved it, if I had been faster.

We grew older, all of us. Faddah’s company began to sink, and he was reduced to working only a few days a week. But Joe had found a job somewhere, and shared some of his money.

I began to understand the system, then. Education was only for families who could afford it. The entrance exams into higher station levels and better paying jobs were vicious, requiring a lot of money and training. Lacking a higher level education, one could only take deep down station jobs, but you were then in debt to the station, paying stiff fees and stiffer interests. It was a perfect system, keeping the poor poorer, and far down below, while the rich upstairs never saw what went on. Faddah had been a victim of it, Tolio had died from it, and now I was next to put my arm (and soul, along with it) on the chopping block.

Joe got meaner, no doubt. He had found work, like I said, but it seemed to twist and warp him even more. With dad’s sour moods, the only the thing that snapped Faddah out of it was alcohol, and Joe seemed to always have a bottle.

One time, I saw Joe whispering in Faddah’s ear, leering at me the whole while.

I had been reading more books on space flight (I had found a few of them, but one time had just mugged a student for them, thinking he was carrying money. I had gotten bigger, and mugging was just easy).

Joe had always given me a hard time, never where I could see it coming, but from the edges, taking my food, telling on me, stealing from me. It was a behavior he had not grown out of, but had grown more into, you know? Like, whatever he had against me had surfaced all the more.

Faddah had been staring into his glass, and Joe spoke in his ear, looming like a buzzard, hissing like a possum.

I realized that suddenly, I was afraid, so afraid that I felt like I had been riveted to the seat. My hands gripped the book, and I felt a curtain of steel on my shoulders and head, trapped.

His fat head was a ball, and his teeth were gritted, he was a hulking mass of muscle, knuckles scarred from fights, acid, burns, intense work, and they both were clenched into tight fists that lay upon the table.

Joe had stepped back, almost delighted at whatever it was he had done. Faddah was a volcano, seething, he began to shake like one, and then-

Aggie put a bowl of hot soup in front of him.

”Here you go, let it cool, it’s very hot.” She said, oblivious, kissing him on the forehead.

His attention, drunken as it was, wavered, and he looked away from me, seemingly losing interest.

He put the spoon into the soup.

Aggie put a similar bowl if front of me. Not helping myself, I stared at Faddah.

He took a spoonful of the pepper soup and put the steaming liquid into his mouth.

Aggie smiled at me.

Faddah made a choking sound, a chortling, gurgling noise in his mouth and throat, and rose up, holding his face, and then spat the mess of it onto the ground, wailing from the burn he had received.

He stood there, coughing, soup drooling down his significant chin, and we all gaped in horrified silence.

Then Oscar began to laugh, like a f*cking idiot.

Aggie came forward, holding a napkin to his mouth, and his eyes were huge, drunkenly rolling in their sockets, and he hit her.

He had hit her before, and she had always just stumbled back. But this time she just dropped.

Then everything stopped.

No one moved.

Faddah seemed to calm down, the rage draining from him, and crouched down, looking at her.

We all stopped breathing, watching.

He shook here, and then turned her over.

She was breathing faintly, with small, shallow gasps.

He picked her up, his eyes squinting, and set her on the lime green couch Oscar and I had found in the subway tunnels a few months before. Joe has duct taped the portion of it, and it had sat in our living area, ugly, but functional.

Faddah sat on a chair, looking down at her, shaking, rocking, and I realized he was crying, silently at first, the tears rolling down his fat face from his squinting eyes. He was saying something in Russian, I think a prayer, but I could not tell.

Joe looked at me, and then grabbed his coat and left.

I ushered Oscar and Vinscenzio into our room.

We waited, listening, for hours, until the lights dimmed. I fell asleep, drifting off, Vinscenzio and Oscar curled up on a tattered mattress.

Later on, in the shadow of the living quarters, I got up, and crept from my room to the couch where Aggie still lay.

Faddah was still on the chair, asleep, snoring in the dark.

I put my hand on Aggies, and then on her forehead.

She was cold…very, very cold.

Have I ever shared with you my theory that mankind is dumb?

We can travel the stars, go light years in a few second, we have mined the moons of Neptune and perfected cybernetics. We cured cancer a hundred years ago, and that used to be a big deal. Hell, there are whales on Pluto because of us (in big aquariums in bigger stations) and it’s not like they were going to get there anytime, themselves.

I mean that no matter how far our science goes, or how fast towards the future it takes us, we will always be stupid in the common sense department.

Take firearms, for example.

In the early days of space travel firearms weren’t really a big idea. If you fired a bullet, it would go through the station’s wall, and then you would die as you and the person you were shooting at and everyone around you would get sucked out into the vacuum. Bye-bye.

Not that it mattered, they were all a bunch of geeky science types, anyhow.

Well, when stations were small it was no big deal. Then stations got bigger. Still no big deal. Then the cops and the military wanted to be up there, probably so they could arrest and start wars with people, so the scientists let them up.

So the cops and the military folks wanted to have firearms, and after the scientists explained that they were kind of a bad idea, what with the vacuum outside and all, the cops and the military dorks went back to Earth to figure out a way to kill folks in space, as if the environment was not dangerous enough.

Back on the Iscariot, after I fell in with some people that I will talk about later, we did not have guns, really. Oh, we did, but they were all in the upper levels, the lower levels did not have guns, because if they did, there might have been a revolution or something, I dunno…at any rate, we were in the Dark Ages, you wanted to whack someone then you had to hit ‘em, or kick ‘em, or stab ‘em, or hit ‘em with something hard and heavy, or garrot them, or whatever. I mean, you had to really work to whack someone, and it wasn’t pretty, afterwards. People bleed and scream and try to crawl away when you whack them (some even have the audacity to fight back…the nerve of those people!) so it takes a little more chutzpah, compared to just point and click.

But the upper levels of the Iscariot, and the rest of the universe, have weapons like you can’t believe, thanks to those cops and military guys.

You’d think that mankind would have just thought, ”Ya know, shooting each other is kind of dumb, and dangerous, so let’s just get along, right?” Yeah, right. Instead military researchers just developed new and more fascinating ways of taking somebody out of the equation= sonic disruptors, neurotoxin sprayers, airguns with little pellets filled with neurotoxin, pneumatic aircannons, rifles and shotguns with ammo that would stop if it hit a station wall, lasers that do nothing to ferroconcrete or plasteel (once they invented that stuff), gyrojet weapons that fire miniature rockets that stops when they hit the aforementioned substances, zap guns that fire electricity that just shuts the poor bastard down, even those masers that fire microwaves that broil off a 6” by 6” section of flesh, fries ya over-easy, but does nothing to surrounding objects, because that would be ”dangerous...”

Don’t get me wrong. Mankind experiments with various alternatives, but it always turns back upon him, our own natures are like our won shadows, you can’t outrun them, they are always with you, connecting to your heals under a distant sun.

Baalbek has a ban on all firearms, period. Only police and military are permitted firearms of any kind whatsoever, and you had better believe they use every tool in the shed to prevent anyone else from using them= code words, DNA locks, chip implants…

Your standard citizen cannot own so much as a crossbow. Ha!

Oh, don’t get me wrong, a few folks tried initially to own guns, despite the heavy customs security. But Baalbek laws are swift and absolute. Illegal possession of any firearm whatsoever is met with the death penalty, three days later, you can set your watch to it. Same with dealers.

There are scanners at every doorway of any major corporate or government building that can locate a pistol from about twenty feet. Cops have similar scanners that run automatically from their units. Satellites overhead do the rest. They can find a gyrojet pistol through one mile of concrete, no matter where you are, it seems.

Someone eventually finds their way around it, for a time. Photo cryptography, anti-scanning EMP chipsets, whatever. But it does not last long.

Because the next day the whole lot of ‘em, plus the dealers who sold them the hardware, all get televised disintegrations.

So here is a whole planet, a complete industrialized society, without any pistols or rifles. Must be pretty serene, right?

Wrong. The crime rate is through the roof. Only citizens get whacked with baseball bats, chains, machetes, swords, knifes, hand held sonic projectors, whatever. Burglary has risen steadily at a %15 rate every years, as has auto theft, muggings, robbery, etc.

What does it mean? I don’t know and I don’t care. We did not have firearms for the most part where I grew up, but that didn’t make life easier. I think a gun is a crutch. It allows you to shoot back, ya know? Well, here is the difference between people who have used guns in a fight and people who have not. Your normal stooge who watches too many vids gets shot at, and pulls his weapon and fires back. Your military man goes for cover, then fires back.

Well, chances are, if you are behind cover, you can probably run for it, too. Most people can’t hit the broad side of a Claymore from distances longer than ten feet.

Yeah, I carry, most the time. But I ain’t stupid…

Think the laws will change on Baalbek? Naw. A disarmed society is an easily policed society, and you had better believe that members of the government get to travel around with their own cadre of police bodyguards, armed with whatever ordinance is chic that year. They argue in Baalbek senate meetings espousing ”…the glory of a free and peaceful unarmed society, and the merits thereof.” Then they walk out with armed guards to armored hoverlimos and fly far above the crime ridden areas below to fortress mansions far in the mountains, as safe as the angels in Heaven.

So that’s Baalbek. But the rest of us in our stations and bases, in our cities and planets, still have our pistols and rifles, thank God. I think.

Don’t get me wrong, it can get a little out of hand, over in Station #542, deep within the worst part of the Fringe, that place is out of control. You can rent a piece for 100 credits and hour, and they sell disposable gyrojet pistols out of vending machines, in designer colors. Go figure…

So, yeah, we didn’t get the hint, we just made weapons to blow each other away in space, rather than just not shooting at each other. Inferno had the right idea. People were really kind of an evolutionary error, for every two steps forward that science takes us, eventually our own nature takes us three or four steps back, sooner or later. Eventually, we pull out weapons and blast, stab, or bash each other, it’s only a matter of time…

Why did I mention all that?

Well, I was on the mobile phone, I walked out of bar, ducked into an alley to grab my favorite shortcut to meet with Dragon, and there’s Esprezzio, surprised like me, only he whips out a slim gold gyrojet pistol and holds it to my gut.

You know what it’s like to almost walk into a spear point? You kind of stop, your feet and head move forward but your stomach lags behind, and you do this dumb I-don’t-want-to-get-shish-ka-bobbed dance and waddle back? No? Well neither do I but I bet that’s what it is like because that’s what I did, only I had my hands up and now realized that I was f*cked, perfectly, I couldn’t run away, I couldn’t rush him, and I had holstered my own pistol inside my jacket, and then like the perfect moron buttoned by suit coat up, swell, just swell…

So I stood there, hands up, feeling scared and dumb, but more latter than the former.

Esprezzio was shocked, holding the pistol. He was wearing these black and red sunglasses, his hair slicked back.

The cell phone chimed.

I honestly didn’t know what to do, except get shot.

”Answer it.” He said.

I kept my eyes on the barrel of the pistol and answered it.

The panic in me was making my ears ring, and I couldn’t comprehend who it was or what they were saying.

”I’ll call you back later.” I said, my voice hollow to my ears, and hung up.

We looked at each other.

”Alright, get it over with, I ain’t gonna kiss yer ass.”

Esprezzio blinked, and then put the pistol away.

I looked at his face.

”So…why don’t you?” I still had my hands up, like a total jack ass.

”Because I wanted to do business with you, and because of Inferno.”

Inferno. Oh, yeah. He was the machine, to the underground in Trilliad. You put in a living human being, pushed his button, and ya got a corpse.

”Ok, what do ya want?” I put my hands down, trying not to shake.

”Here.” He threw me a cred card.

”What’s this?”

”It’s the money I owe you for your rockets.”

Man, it was money day.

”Ok, so what?”

”I took out of it for the money it took to patch my guy's face up and repair my mouth.”

Well, he didn’t shoot me, so…

”Fair enough.”

His lips were a little yellowish, from the healing process. Modern medical science could patch you up quick, if you lived.

”Listen, I need to pick up a weapons shipment, and you have a cruiser, so we should work out a deal…”

”Why should I work out one with you?”

”’Cuz I am the only one who deals weapons here, now.”

Wow. I was impressed. Esprezzio had been a busy monkey.

”So I could just buy them legally.”

”Yeah, right.”

He knew me too well.

”Ok, Esprezzio, seein’ as how you were polite enough not to shoot me in two, I will get the shipment for you, providin’ I get first pick of what you get.”


He put out his hand.

I shook it, and then he probably had trouble turning his head to the left, because the side of his nose was now pressing hard into the barrel of a gauss pistol held by a gloved hand attached to an arm belonging to Inferno, who was wearing a pair of Armani mirrorshades, his eyebrows beetling behind them, his teeth slightly bared.

”Say the word, Boss.”

Esprezzio seemed shocked by the turn of events.

”No, it’s taken care of.”

Inferno pressed the gun into Esprezzio’s face a little harder.

”Easy, gent, I could have shot him and just left.”

”You would not have gotten far.” Hu Jing-De said, stepping from the other side of the garbage choked two way alley, lightly holding his kusuri-gami in his left hand, his features impassive and dangerous, slightly smiling. They hated each other, but when Hu and Inferno worked together, the results were not bad.

So they had been keepin’ tabs on me. Ok.

I let go of Esprezzio’s hand and backed off.

”Guys, don’t worry, he just set us up with a job, and besides, we have to work with him.”

Inferno seemed to push his face a little with the gauss pistol, and then holstered it behind his back.

I stood there, a little dizzy, and then I remembered something, a half glimpsed shadow of a memory, I had been in an alley, before, looking at Joe, Oscar and Vinscenzio, I had held a pistol, and so had Joe, and he was screaming at me, and then everything-

”Boss?” Inferno asked, knocking me out of it.

”Naw, I was thinkin’, I gotta meet with Dragon. You guys come with me. Hell, I’ll call Dos and Machine.”

Esprezzio rubbed the side of his nose. ”I’m out of here, then.”

”Yeah, Esprezzio, call me about the specifics, and get your hounds off me if they are sniffin’.”


Inferno stared at Esprezzio, hard, and Esprezzio backed away and walked briskly down the alley, past an old barrel shaped oxygen converter someone had tossed.

”One day I am going to step on him.” Inferno said, his voice quiet.

”You goin’ with us?” I asked.

Inferno looked out into the street.

”Naw, I got a few things to take care of. Call ya later.”

He left.

Hu shrugged.

Above us, the traffic of several hundred hover cars continued on as it had been for fifty years.

Part VI= ”Theory and Law”

Here we were, in formation around the Time Baby III.

The Deep Space Cargo Freighter, Soul of Osiris, was en route, I had been told. ETA half an hour.

I was in wing formation with The Sixers, and the Neechi starfighters were to my left= Dragon, Wildfire, Veliceraptor and Princess.

We had set Time Baby III for auto pilot. I doubted if we would have to worry about it, but it’s defense grid proggies would blast away at any unrecognized ships within four clicks around it…

We had made the jump from Baalbeck, and the swirling silver and violet bubble of the Tach gate was a distant marble against the silver specked velvet beyond.

The moon Vaspere was a solitary, grey giant, flecked with quartz, pock marked with craters wide and small from a millennia of asteroid hits.

The powder blue ionized derridium skeletons of half constructed space stations and power relay grids stood slim and black against the reflected solar light from the moon’s surface, silent and alone. Ten years before, Galspan had began construction of the stations, only to abandon the project in their war with the Bora. So now they stood here, unused by civilized space, but a nice drop off point for people who wanted to be left alone.

Another Tach gate stood nearby the, from an unspecified sector of Sol space. That is where we expected our rendezvous.

The Neechi ships were in disguise, their marking painted over, their clan tags encrypted. Outside channel not on our precise frequency would see them as Doves 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively.

Sorcerer came through on my HUD.

”Automatic, I am getting strong readings from the Tach gate, but I got some signals from behind Vaspere…might be an echo, but…”

”Yeah, I think we know what’s going on.”

Inferno came through.

”It’s going to be a pincer move.”

”Think so?” My pulse was goin’ up.

”That’s what I would do.”

”Dragon, ya hear that?”

”Yes, Automatic, shall we split off?”

”Not yet, but get ready. If we have to, then have your wing protect the Osiris and my wing will hit anyone comin’ out of that base.”


Then, a silvery-white incandescence, as if an atomic had detonated, the Soul of Osiris, emerging from it’s jump, an old SteelJack, Inc. design, glittering with communications lights, it’s hull an unassuming moon dust gray, it’s surface lumped with redundant systems, navigational mechanics, shield transponders, communication routers, and ablative armoring. I could not see any weapons, but I knew from the rear coupling and exposed turbine arrays that it could take a hell of a beating, good for it because from the looks of it the thing had taken a hell of a beating, some of it’s systems were smoldering, and I could see freshly blackened marring from blast torp detonations…

Ichiban’s was a blend of the old and the new, run by Peter Kishii, a stout Japanese fellow who always had a leather cap on his head, tattooed forearms and a cigarette, unlit, dangling from his lower lip.

Peter Kishii had been here longer than anyone, and had two stories for every one you might offer him about Trilithon. Don’t bother trying to guess his age. He looks forty, but people swear he could be 60 or 70. If you ask him too much, he buys you a beer or kicks your ass out, depending on how much he likes you.

I love the place. Koi ponds, rock gardens, paper screens and bamboo growing in great glossy black pots, decorated with golden dragons. Silver Buddha’s looked at you from alcoves, along with those cool-assed money frogs you always see in Asian bars, shops or restaraunts, carved from wood, painted red, with a coin stuck in it’s mouth.

I loved the floor, as well. Solid jade, it’s depths swirled with cool green and subtle quartz. Peter also kept statues of Confucian sages and displays of katana’s and o-yori armor, with occasional engravings of Musashi or Confucious.

Ichiban’s had three levels, but each booth had a clear view from the front stage, where Peter always gave over to local bands. Sometimes it’s jazz, sometimes it’s synth rock, and Peter never tells folks ahead of time, he says it’s like life, unpredictable.

I dug the fish tanks in a big way. Hovering on Void Alliance anti-gravs, only a centimeter of clear plasteel separating the water from the air.

In it’s clear liquid space, above an earth of shimmering platinum sands, upon which sat aqua and ruby hued coral, were fish from earth, some painted like flame, or deep Sargasso greens, titanium purples…

Naw, it’s all about the octopi, their eyes brimming with some cold intellect, lazily waving their tiger colored tentacles with the faux currents. The fearsome blacks and oranges of their bodies stood out in sharp contrast to the fish about them, as if they were royalty, and the rare and precious piscine hoards above them were but paupers to their princedom…

Hu Jing-De arrived with Machine and Dos.

I had called Dos earlier, asking him to go. Why not?

Hu wore a glossy black suit, his tie satin with gold bamboo print.

Dos wore a dark blue jumpsuit, his pockets stuffed with minor electrics and more than a few pins. Almost as if to emulate Inferno, he wore these sharp black ”I-am-going-to-kill-you-and-roll-around-in-your-blood” glasses, but still had this goofy smirk. His boots were military Kevlar weave, and I wondered for a second if he was packin’, like I was…

Machine was…


Skin tight leather jumpsuit against sleek curves, she probably did one thousand crunches a day, the front zipped low, exposing some nice, ample territory. She was wearing a perfume-jasmine.

”How are you, Otto?” She said. Her lips were a near black purple.

I’m slobbering on myself.

”I’m good, just waitin.’”


I pushed the vision of Machine’s fine body out of my mind (with a mental hand on her ass, I might add) and looked past the dark and silver neon to see Kishii, smiling, as he shook Hu’s hand.

”Peter.” Peter said, beaming.

”Hu.” Hu answered, smiling.

Old joke, that. Peter Kishii was Chinese, but had a Japanese name. Hu was the opposite; Japanese with a Chinese name. Also, by exchanging names, Hu had told me, it confused evil spirits.

”Business or sport, Automatic?” Peter said.

”Business, we are being contracted, I think.”

”Ah, I will make you look unlike the lazy drunk ass you normally are! Ha!”

”Thanks, Peter, where would I be without you.”

”Sober and hungry, with no place to go when you have money.”

We all laughed.

Peter left us, and drinks were brought to our table.

I looked through the smoke swept dark and saw that Dragon and three of his others had arrived.

Faddah came home.

It was far afterwards, after Aggie had…

I was in front of the heater unit.

The others were out, and it was just me.

I had found a job as a coffee vendor, I was just some punk, trying to find my own place. I still crashed at home, but I was older, now. Fourteen, I think.

The place was still the same, we were one family, contained in it’s stained copper walls, the ever constant ozone air enclosing us, deep in the station.

All of Aggie’s things, her books, her pens, her dolls, her cooking utensils, everything that was evidence of her, had been thrown out long ago.

Except for a picture, a small one, no bigger than the palm of your hand, that Faddah held occasionally and stared at.

The electrics had all fallen into deep disrepair, from not being used. We never cooked, I could remember. Just those garish sodium burners above, their salty yellow light coming down on us, on the dusted table, the unused chairs, the threadbare carpet the color of dirt, on all the nothing we owned, and there was less of it since Aggie was gone.

The heater unit was really screwed.

The heater units cord had long frayed, it’s wires starting to show through the rubber, it’s copper ligaments dangerous. I threw tape around that part, meaning to glue it later, and then he was home, and staring at me.

There were stains on his shirt, red and brown, and he had gotten fatter over the years.

His eyes were black and purple pitted things, his spittled mouth a hole that his yellow gray teeth pushed through.

We saw little of him these days, when he wasn’t working, he was drunk, mad drunk, as if he was a beast incapable of sorrow or remorse, but he could find solace in that rot gut piss stuff they found in the lower levels.

He staggered towards me, weaving slightly, and I stood up.

Something was different, this time. It made my gut curl and twist like a snake in it’s own coils.

His right hand held a slim glass bottle of sodiate, for the burners. His left held a larger bottle, probably of alcohol.

”Ottavious.” He growled.

”Otto.” Dragon said, in the club, shaking my hand.

”Automatic.” Sorcerer came through on the comm., I had been somewhere else, gazing out upon that scarred gray carrier, and then the sleek silver forms of Pegasus Interceptors followed, in pursuit, their hulls burnished violet in the permanent twilight.


”We have traffic from the remains of the station. More craft.”

”I got my eye on it.” Inferno said.

He staggered, seeing me, saying something, I can’t remember, the words are so much smeared greasepaint on the canvas of my memory, it was a non-noise, just white sound, but he was just bellowing, his eyes bleary, his gait like a machine that needed a tune up thirty years ago.

”You think you know!? What’s it’s like!? Seeing your ridiculous faces? I have to work, and work, and then look at you, knowing that you saw-”

”Auto? Like in, the vehicle? Or are you Otto, with an o?”

”Eh, whatever. Good to see you, Dragon. Who’s the crew?”

He introduced them.

Wildfire was the first. Amiable looking, with tousled brown hair. He wore a simple flightsuit with a leather flight jacket and =Neechi= tags, platinum with gold rivets.

”Yo, everybody.” He said, half waving to us all as he sat down.

The next was Amia, she wore a military style leather jacket and tight black shorts, with a knife on the side. Probably a monoblade. High boots, Kevlar, with a simple white shirt over a nice bosom. Yummy. I mean, there ya go.

The next guy was Veliceraptor. He wore baggy slacks and striped shoes, like the kind kids wear, and a baggy red shirt with a target on it. How coquettish.

Dragon himself wore leather pants, a titanium mesh shirt and a leather jacket. It was a classic kind, they never went out of style. Some company on earth four hundred years old just cranked them out, over and over…

Dragon himself had a few days growth of facial hair and looked more like a rock star then the leader of an incredibly powerful clan. But then, he was slumming, so I guess he could look any way he wants.

”Have a seat, guys, and we can talk about what’s up. Give me all the angles and I can tell you what shape it’s like.”

Dos looked at Amia.

Amia looked at Dos.

”Hi.” Said Dos.

”Hi.” Said Amia.

The space between them seemed filled with more than the air that was in the place, more than the dark that mimicked the starry void that our business was done in. I wondered what that was like, seeing someone that saw you and…


Where am I?


Staring at my father, he’s yelling incoherently. He’s towering above me, bellowing, I am young again, fourteen again, or whatever age I was. I am holding the tape as if it was a lifeline, and he is holding in his left hand that 40 oz. bottle of gin, and he’s a mess, I feel so small, so…

”I did what I could! But everyday there was this door, far ahead, I wanted to go through it but I was always held back, I stayed, and stayed, and pissed it all away on you brats, I could have been somewhere else…!!!”

He took a draught of the gin, it’s contents cascading out on his chin, on his hand, sloshing on the ground.

He staggered, his pig eyes squinting and red.

”Joe told me, and he was right!!! You! You were always looking at me, as if I did not measure up, like I was an ox or some animal, and it made me miserable! You looked like her, that night that she had you, she looked at me, like you are now, I was scared, like you are scared, because she was so afraid, slipping away like that…”

He sobbed, taking another draught.

There I was, standing in front of him, shaking, afraid, I am there, I am always there-

No, I am in space, and the Osiris is barreling down on me.

I feel dissonant, then a voice cuts through my comm. link.



I knew Chimera from the Dead At Birth War. We’d been on the same side, then, workin’ for the Madorians.

I saw five blips come up from the shattered station. Add eight that were following Osiris and that makes thirteen.

”Jesus, where you been, Automatic?”

”You know this guy?” Sorcerer said.

”Yeah. Who ya workin’ for, Chimera?”

”Auto, you have to leave, now.”

Well, what do you know, everything is getting ugly.

”I’m workin’, Chimera.”

Long pause, farther than the space between the stars around us.

”So am I, Auto, so am I.”

Inferno’s voice, the devil in my ear.

”Punch it.”


”Punch it.”

”Chimera, we don’t gotta do this…”

”He’s charging sols, punch it.”

Chimera afterburned, and then I saw a blue electric flash…

”Automatic, are you there?”

”Naw, I feel like I am in three places at once. Tell me the story, Dragon, and then we will all get sushi and get tanked.”

”Excellent, to the point. The consummate businessman. Let me ask you, have you ever heard of the Levitcher Luddites?”

Boy, have I. Remember what I said about cry stories? Those guys are the one’s with the biggest cry story of all. I can *****, but they got the right to *****. Hell, they can *****, and you gotta buy them a drink. Jesus.

It’s like this but I am going to mess up the story anyhow, but I will tell it to ya and if I mess it up then I will just clear the details up later, when and if I feel like it.

I normally, really don’t give a damn about Luddites. Some mercenary groups, like The Devil’s Fist, won’t attack them, but who cares? They’re Luddites. They still live in the year two thousand some odd, and it’s not like they have ships that are hard to shoot down. Correction, they don’t have ships, they get carted around by freighters, paid by donations.

Who can figure Luddites?

So anyhow, the Levitcher Luddites are an Hassidic Jewish group ran by the Levitcher Rebbi. He’s a pretty big deal, wrote a lot of books, yadda yadda yadda. So they all started out on the planet Reimos, but the place got pretty much blasted during the Dead At Birth war. So the Rebbi says, ”Screw this place, time to go elsewhere, and we’ll come back after the Iconian Knights and Dead At Birth (and everyone else) stop shooting at each other.”

Well, he didn’t say THAT, but you know what I mean.

So him and his people, about a thousand, go wandering around on some sort of Jewish Star Trek until IK and DaB stop blastin’ away at each other, and when they come back to the planet another nation has already claimed it.

So, the Rebbi says, ”Hey, can we live here, again?”

Well, the nation is pretty much a Muslim government, and they say, ”No.”

So the Rebbi attempts to whip up support for his cause, but folks are tired of fighting, so no one helps.

So the Luddites go packin’, dispossessed, nowhere to go.

They wander around some more movin’ from place to place, but there’s really no place for them. Luddites take up a lot of space, they are non-industrialized, they need to farm and move chickens and cows around (these guys are really, really, Luddite, I might add. They don’t even have radios). There’s always a prejudice for these guys, ya know?

Wanna hear a joke?

How many Luddites does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Answer= Why the f*ck are those guys still usin’ lightbulbs?

Why did the Luddite cross the road?

Answer= He didn’t, the whole population died of some advanced disease because the dumb f*ckers don’t believe in utilizing smart nanotech antivirus technology.

You get the point, I’m sure.

So no planet really wants them, and there ain’t a lot of planets in this system.

Finally, they end up going from camp to camp, station to station, Capitol Ship to Capitol Ship, and at one point actually lose about three hundred when a fleet of Cruisers carrying them get’s blasted by Sol government over a horrible miscommunication. Sol thought the Cruisers were carrying biological weapons.

So here they were, Jewish Luddites, far away from their culture or any evidence of who they are, no plowshares, barns, horses or vast fields of grass, surrounded and transported by a cold, unfamiliar technology, which generations of soil and sun had left them unprepared for. Eventually, there was another diaspora, and they were separated here and there, in various pockets across the universe.

I could imagine friends and family embracing each other for the last time, in depots and stations, boarding alien ships to travel, reluctantly, light-years away from each other, for decades…

There is more, but, I can safely say, yeah, I had heard of them.

”What about ‘em?”

Dragon sat back in his booth, smiling enigmatically.

The band started, the guitars backing up whispering vocals, pulsing bass and a synth that kept the pace, weaving in and out of the beat like a cobra; hypnotic, lethal, exotic…

”Theres about fifty of them coming to this base in a cruiser from Bora space. They need protection.”


”Why? Who wants to scrag a bunch of Luddites?”

There was a pause. I could tell Dragon was holding back, keeping something concealed, but that’s what clan leaders do, you know.

I looked over at Dos, who was deep in conversation with Amia. Wow, he was really hitting it off, with her. They looked like school kids in the midst of their first crush. How the hell did Dos become a chick magnet?

I downed my Cape Cod and looked at Dragon, who was staring past me, thinking.

Dragon seemed to come to some sort of decision, so I played it cool, like I was scarcely interested. People are weird, like that. You act like what they might reveal is the biggest secret since the Rosicrucian’s inventing space travel, and they clam up. You act like you don’t care, and suddenly they reveal all, some sort of egoism, they want to hold your interest.

There was a game going on, here. Like chess. Not against me-Dragon was playin’ something against someone bigger-and now Dragon was developing his pieces.

”The Lucero Corporation.”


”No one on the planetoid, they get the place. So they want to kick the Luddites off. They can’t really move in and gun people down. But they can prevent more people from movin’ in.”


Lucero, Inc., was big, on their own respective block. But this was the Fringe, past the Fringe, and they were new in this place. They were setting up a toe hold, even though I am sure they were already around the Fesbo system, where that planetoid Joshua was.

We could guard the cruiser, once, But we couldn’t go up against a mega corp. Mega corps noticed when small time ops did that, and tended to eliminate the competition in the worst way. But a hit-and-run would reap benefits. Plus, I was still in Dragon’s pocket. I had to play the role.

”Why don’t you Neechi jump in?”

”Because we are currently working with the Sheffeld Industries Corporation on a negotiation for a deal on some starbases. Due to numerous cartels, monopolies that Sheffeld has in place, they are the only company who can build those bases where we need them. Sheffeld is owned by Lucero, and-”

”-and if Neechi causes flak, it will screw the deal.”

”We’re going to be there, Auto, but under alias. We’re also going to communicate through encrypted channels while we are out. But I got a feeling that Lucero is going to use it’s own mercs, for this, to keep their hands completely antiseptic.”

The bands tempo went up a notch, and more drinks were brought to us. The music was rising, now. A wavelength that was picking up, guitars punctuating, the rhythm and synth an electric flash that-

-I narrowly avoided, burning and latting, taking my ass out of the path of those craft-killing sols, I rotated the hammer, rockets igniting orange/blue on the edge of the Peg’s shields and the space around are ships, between the mercs, my Sixers and the Neechi became a storm of ordinance and light.

Chimera launched off to the floating ruins on magnetic grav-assisted burners, a silver streak en route to the floating ruins, as a wing of Madorian Class Darts appeared, and I gave pursuit.

”Inferno! Cover that cruiser! Hu, cover him! Sorceror?”


”Stick to the Neechi. Dos, stay wide and rail the wounded. Machine, follow me.”

”Gotcha.” She said. I could hear additional laser fire through her comm. She was already in the thick. Darts are fast, but they are porcelain. One shot and poof! But you gotta land that shot…

A Dart swung in to me, it’s chassis like an oil slick, lasers igniting my shields. I got him wit a handful of rockets, the rails cutting his cockpit in half a beat later. Missiles coming in, my klaxon screaming like a petulant child, there was the moon Vaspere, then stars streaking by, the wreckage a smear in my vision as I dropped ecms like baby suns and burned left, shakin’ them, then I dove behind some of the wreckage, searching for Chimera.

Beyond those twisted fragments, through the rumbling of my Hammer’s systems, I heard an atomic rumble of blast torps, with the answering drone-scream of Deimos. Machine, doing her part. A Dart flew past, I picked it off with twin rails, a flash of a magnetic propelled uranium slug and then the distant explosion. He probably lost his shields and backed off from the furball to recharge.

There ain’t no safe haven in a combat zone, punk. Look for an exit, and someone will open a door for you, nine outta ten, and it won’t be the door you want…

Kishii’s dance floor was a 25’ by 25’ grid of brass colored steel, burnished and glowing in the neon twilight. Small, so it easily got crowded. The band was playing a dance beat, stratocasters picking it up in places, like a dynamo spinnin’, then the vocals from a violet haired hottie in a silver mini skirt, her singing like the chant of seraphim, hypnotic, electro-voodoo, intoxicating, scintillating…not for the audience or upon the audience, but with them. I caught a flash of machine as she whipped her hair back, letting herself go to the music.

Dragon and I had our pocket comps out (his was an admantine deal with a shark skinned cover, a Fiur/Oxico no less, made mine look like a cd player…) and began to set up our strategy.

”They are going to have company.”

”Yeah, the bad guys.”

”So we have to have ships close to the gate.”

”Of course.”

”Think anyone will be waiting where we are?”

”I keep thinking there is an abandoned station nearby, we may have to split off.”


Basically, we both knew that the Sixer’s had a mixed contingent of ships (multirole bombers, heavy assault craft, interceptors…) where Neechi’s group were more of the fast variety. They would boogie around and make the most of their mobility; my Sixer’s would stick to the enemy and rock n’ roll.

But the fat truth of it all was that Dragon and I had been in the deepest f*ckfests of combat and knew that any plan was just a list of things that didn’t happen; no strategy survived contact with the enemy.

”Just protect the cruiser.” I told him.

”Cool, I am going to drink over at the bar and look for women who can keep up with my alcoholism.”

”Really?” Now THAT was a plan.

”Hey.” Inferno said, standing at our table, as if he had dropped from the sky.

His hair was dyed platinum blond and spiked. He was wearing an ice white suit, gold mirrored sunglasses, and a glowing laser blue shirt. His skin had a shiny plastic quality to it…maybe as a result of some chic designer drugs. He seemed…focused?

”Dragon.” Dragon said, introducing himself.

Inferno.” Inferno said.

”We’re working together, tomorrow.” Dragon stood up.

”Yeah, you’re a clanner.”

”Yeah, ain’t I, though?” Dragon turned to the bar and left.

I looked up at Inferno after Dragon had left.

”Easy, Inferno, we’re working together.”


”What are you on, Inferno?”

”The ride of my life.” He grinned, showing lot’s of teeth. ”Living the myth. We’re murderers, we’re rockstars, we’re fighterpilots. We’re the living embodiment of our culture. Young, wealthy, victorious, stainless steel angels, one wing dipped in blood. And if we fail, we die, and are remembered as being eternally beautiful. We’re anointed human sacrifices on an Incan alter to Quetzacoatl, ready to have our hearts ripped out. Ain’t it great?”

”Where’d you go?”

”I met a girl who drugged me up and took advantage of me.”

”My heart bleeds for your misfortune.”

”We got the job?”

”Yeah. Big money, big prizes.”

”So it’s on, tomorrow?”


”One more thing…”


”How did Dos become a stud?”

I looked over at the guy, who was beaming at Amia, they were dancing close together. I had not even had a chance to talk to her before Dos had swooped. Wow.”

”Uh…someone called a vote?”

”The world has changed. I am sober, now.”

The music accelerated, taking us all with it.

No, wait, I am in space, and Chimera is on my radar, finally. It’s all gloss vinyl colored space marked gold and silver by stars, and he is closing fast, laserbolts searing the eternal night, impacting on my shields. I am turning, rockets armed, launching, I am here, I am here, and the Soul of Osiris is on my radar, the blue dots that are our forces mixed with the red dots that are Chimera’s mercs. I can’t tell who is winning…

But then I am standing in front of my father.

He had stopped, his eyes twisted cruelly shut, quaking, sweating, pathetic, making sounds like a whining hinge. I loathed him and fear him, hate him and can’t know what to say, how can I?

He was falling apart, tears running down fat cheeks. Like a large, pathetic baby. No, he was a rabid, confused, toothless bear, he began to shudder, to seethe and quake like a pot boiling over, he put both bottled hands to the sides of his head, as if to keep it from cracking apart.

”Faddah…please…Faddah, you…you…”

But I didn’t make sense, either. Call it what you want, I was frozen scared out of my ass. I couldn’t move, only shuffle backward and cry, too. The hoary grip of fear had me by the balls, then.

The slim glass bottle of sodiate gleamed in his clenched white knuckled fist.

Chimera twisted and came in, too fast, too fast... My plasma arced past him and I latted around, avoiding a twisted spike of cerramite at the same time.

Then the blue electric of sols, sliding towards me, I am too slow, trying to move this big, big target, but they only graze my shields, I could have died, I could have died…

”I hate you.” He said, whining and grunting. Who had he been thinking about?

I had wanted anyone to come home, to break the hex and let my run. I wanted to run, past him, take my ass our of there and go down the corridor. I would have given anything, anything to have had anyone walk in…even Joe. But there wasn’t anybody.

”I hate you.”

”I hate you.”

”I hate you.”

”I hate you.”

”I hate you.”

”I hate you!”

”I hate you!!!”



His eyes opened, the squinty bloodshot beady glared rabies-shine of a maddened boar.

My shields were gone, now, his lasers a deadly rain upon me. Chimera was everywhere I couldn’t be. I couldn’t get a bead on his ship, I was the elephant, being stung to lifelessness by a gnat, another flash and sparks ignited the inside of my cockpit. I heard a Dart pilot go to his death with a curse, somewhere beyond, the sound was intense, I was firing randomly, I afterburned back-

The sodiate bottle, burning from the light above, he swung it down upon me, it was silver, it was silver-

Chimera’s silver peg flitting for an instant in front of me, his lasers-

The impact, like a steel spike driven into my face, under my left eye, it was a stunning hit, I had fallen back, almost flat, and there was my blood all over the floor, on my hands, covered in it.

Father was horrified, the broken sodiate bottle falling in slivers to the floor, covered in my blood, most of my cheek and face hanging as I held it up with my hand, I was screaming, crying, I couldn’t see clearly, just one eye as Faddah stepped backward upon the cord, the bottle of alcohol falling nerveless from his left hand, his body soaked in some of the nitrate, a spark-

The ignition of afterburners, and then Chimera was bobbing up, without gravity, on magnetic siroccos in the stardust sands of space, his lasers flashing, he was going into my rockets, I had fired them without realizing it.

The detonation, my cockpit flooded with neon yellow light, all my vision white with fire-

Faddah went up like nova, one second he was whole, and then the bottle popped, there was the scent of liquor, and dad wasn’t there anymore, just a melting, screaming, dripping, blazing wax creation, it took my eyebrows off and I staggered up, fell back, the oxygen burning from my lungs, sensors screaming with me, Faddah lurched, a burning and charred thing, as if his skin had turned to napalm, he was roasting in front of me, I couldn’t move, I was on my side and people were rushing into the room, my vision had become a single circle with Faddah’s crisping body cackling within it, my face was a numb pane of ice and then he dropped, right before the water hit him I saw his face, burned to the skull, his eyes searing from their sockets, he was crying blood, and then he plopped down onto the metal floor and they doused him with water, I remember the slick fire-proof plastic jackets of black helmeted emergency teams pulling me away, I was staring up, and the circle became a single, floating pin prick, my pain consumed-face pulling away-

Chimera was blasted to particles, I could see the night beyond, I remember the beach, I remember Tolio, waist deep in night-blue salt water, a spigot had been opened and I was drained of everything, my sweat beading on the inside of my helmet. Damn, that was fear-

I afterburned towards the cigar shaped spindle that was the Soul of Osiris, plucking off a Dart as I drew in, I saw Dos shoot another one down-

-Wildire accelerated, his lasers falling on their target, another peg, it was a sheet of metal and flame and he flew through it-

-Inferno’s rockets found another-

-Dos’s rails cut a Merc in twain, his screams cut short-

-Blast torps, probably Veliceraptor’s, tearing another pilot to so many flaming particles-

-and then it was clear, the star bright like the Vaspere, and we were alone.

Later, all were accounted for. Dos was roughed up, and my ship was pretty banged to f*ck, but all in all, we were intact. We escorted the cruiser, full of it’s human cargo, and back at the station I remember being dazed, Dragon and his crew had flew off to stay hidden, and we had waited while they docked, the hangar-bay too big around me, I suddenly felt aware of the nearness to the killing vacuum of space.

The pilot had shook my nerveless hand, I couldn’t hear him, but he was a young guy, I watched with a vague sense of shock as the Time Baby III, my ship, MY ship, came to a shuddering halt beside the Soul of Osiris’s bulk.

I was led aboard, and there they were.

Children, small ones, some two or three, some almost 12, staring at me, mouths agape, space pale beneath the fluorescents, the dermoplast a mint green, they all wore simple outfits of black, real cloth, hand sewed, the girl in dowdy cotton dresses.

A man got up from amongst them, and the crew was behind me. I remember something in Sorcerer’s eyes, a longing or a memory, making him older. Hu seemed to look at the children in equal amazement.

The scene was surreal, like something in a movie…had we saved these people?

He shook my hand. He was dressed the same way as the boys, austere black and a white cotton shirt. He smelled…natural?

”Mr. Otto, we are in your debt. I am Nyman. Please call me Nyman.”

Huh? What?

”What’s all this?”

He turned from me, and looked blankly down, as if unable to really formulate words.

”Our children, Otto. The Lucero Corp. had taken our children, for tests…but they were not tests…”

I looked at one child’s head, stubbled as if it had been shaved a month ago, with an X of a laser scalpel upon it.

What had we gotten into?

Somewhere beyond, a turbine began to roar, mournful and foreboding in the hollow of the hangar. The echoing plink of a rock, dropping into the well that was my soul.



“Tachyon: The Mineral War”
Banzai Lemming

I'm going to start up the interactive storyline. Calling it "Tachyon: The Mineral War." I want a list of squadrons and groups that would like to be involved in this story (I just included BC in this teaser story... they may or may not join). Any group, from IK to MyK Lance to ~hive~ can sign up. Groups will be given starting sectors and bases, along with money and resources. I will figure out (with the help of others, hint hint) prices for transports and capital ships, and the prices for fighters will be according to the prices in single player.

Any group can be affiliated with Galspan or Bora, but then they will be given fixed ammounts of ships and salaries, and I will give them missions to perform instead of allowing them to do everything by themselves (the missions will be vague and will allow a lot of leaway, but they will still have purpose).

The story will be located in the Tachyon Database Warstories section... just for those who want to play.

***Five years before Jake Logan was sentanced to the Fringe***

Decompression alarms were going off for the third time in five minutes.

"Engineering, seal off the reactor room NOW!"

"But sir, there's still people in there!"

"Lieutenant, seal off that room before we all lose our air!"

"Yes sir..."

This battle was not going well. Out of the nine galspan capital ships and the seventy-two fighters involved in the third invasion of Bora space, only four warships remain and a measly thirty-three fighters are capable of flying. It seems like the Bora were ready for the invasion. It was almost as though they knew precisely where and when the galspan forces were going to arrive.

Captain Forge Vox looked around the deck. His first mate was dead, and the weapons officer was seriously wounded. One of the two helmsmen was dead, as well as the communications officer. All this, from the result of four remote sappers positioned two decks above the bridge. Forge was lucky. He escaped with only a slight laceration on his right forearm and a hydrolic leak from his robotic right leg.

The Captain attempted to look at the damage report through the flashing red lights. Slowly, being given minimal lighting once every five seconds, Forge was able to determine the latest damage report. One of two propulsion powerplants was destroyed, as well as the shield generator powerplant. This was not looking good. In addition to two powerplants destroyed, there were hull breaches on thirteen of the twenty decks of the Galspan Destroyer Virpent. Hull status was estimated at eighteen percent and falling with every sapper detonation.

And now, with his ship's TCG reactor room decompressionized, there would be no way to determine the condition of the ripstar core.

A voice sounded through the alarms. "Sir, radar detects three claymores vectoring in this direction. Location is thirty degrees by ten degrees."

Forge looked through the deck, and could see the three claymores with his unaided eyes. They must only be a kilometer away, Forge thought. "Fire all fore and starboard lasers in their direction."

"Engineering, sir. We just lost our weapons powerplant!"

Forge cursed. "Evasive maneuvers! Head towards the nearest jump gate!"

"SIR! The claymores are firing plasma rockets!"


***Meanwhile, in the Twilight Region***

"Come on, Drizzt, I don't like this. You know the Twilight Region always gave me the chills."

"Suck it up, Frogman. We were given orders to patrol this sector, and that's what we're doing."

Frogman noticed something on his radar. Bringing his cutlass into a half-spin, he brought his railgun into aim of the object. "Hey, sir, I got something. Looks like a fighter drifting in space. Maybe it's a trap."

"Well, Frog, let's find out, shall we?"


“A Pirate and a Clan”

As the ten BC claymorees entered the TCG, Icefox could only think of the day before, he had to go to Alpha control, and liberty base to get the 80 helios rockets that they needed, it cost over 480,000 credits, but the job was from SOL and Star Patrol, they were paying the sqaud 1,000,000 credits and would pay for half the weapons cost.

As they emerged from the gate, they saw there target, a spanner frigate moving towards the TCG. It was unathorized to come within 30 SLU of the gate to SOL region. Icefox spoke loudly into his microphone,

"Alright, there's the frigate, break formation, go for weapons plant first, then go for engine powerplants, Icefox out."

As icefox' team prepared for the assault, a lone warhammer entered the sector.

"Warhammer, identify yourself or you will be fired upon!" Icefox said with a low and cold voice.

"HA HA HAA, you, fire on me?" the pilot replied laughing out loud, I am Blade Runner, the nutorious pirate lord. The frigate is mine! Any problem with that ?!?!?!"

Icefox had heard that name before, then he said aloud, "You are the pirate who hulled two Star Patrol cruisers!?!?!"

"You read the news 'bout me."the pirate lord replied as if he was having fun with the ten claymores."

"I bought 80 helios yesterday and im gonna use one, I'm taking the weapons powerplant, I dont care what you do to the frigate after that." he said with his same cold voice.

"You bought 80 helios? HA HA HA HA, I could destroy that overgrown slug with one of my spire rockets! But go ahead and take the generator." Blade Runner said laughing to himself.

"How do you destroy a frigate with a spire?" a pilot said more to himself then to anyone else.

"It's not a regular spire, has a special rod which allows it to pass through shields, fire it up through the engine outlets and have a barbeque!" the pirate said jokingly.


“The Lance: Bitter Betrayal”
*TL9* Kamikrazy

TL1 mossman2 brought his Warhammer up alongside the Sol transport vessel. He still wasn’t comfortable using The Lance as contract pilots, but Susan gave the orders, not him. The war with Galspan was starting to take a large financial toll on the Bora, so Susan decided to use The Lance and some of the Bora’s top pilots as a way to raise money for the cause. This mission was especially important. It paid a whopping 500,000 credits if it was completed successfully. The objective was to escort three Sol ships transporting a top-secret cargo. Redship Rory had been getting bolder and bolder in his attacks, and the Sol government feared the worst. It had contacted Susan a week ago with the request for a convoy escort, and with the kind of money that was being paid, she couldn’t pass it up.

Sol had asked for six pilots for the job, two for each ship. Mossman2 had brought along the best The Lance had to offer: TL2 Luca, piloting a Battleaxe, TL3 VG9FTW, piloting a Warhammer, TL4 The Ranger, piloting a Mace, TL6 *****SLAP, piloting a Warhammer, and TL7 Joker, piloting a Mace. Joker was a rookie, but he showed great potential judging from his score of a 100 on the Letzer Ring Course and his expertise in Combat Training. Mossman2 expected a lot out of him.

“Okay Lance, this is it. Remember that the mission objectives are to escort the transports. Joker and I will take Transport 1, VG9FTW and The Ranger will take Transport 2, and Luca and *****SLAP will take Transport 3. You all got that?”

“Yes Sir!”

Mossman2 stared out the portside of his cockpit at Transport 1’s engines. They cast an eerie green glow on his controls. His mind began to wander...

“Lance leader, this is Transport 1. The convoy is ready to jump. Is The Lance ready?” The voice snapped mossman2 out of his daydream.

“Uh, yes, Transport 1. The Lance is ready and waiting.”

“Okay then. The convoy is now entering hyperspace.”

“Roger that.”

The three ships vanished into the distance as they jumped. “Everyone through the gate now!” mossman2 commanded. Timing was critical. They had to keep up with the convoy. The squad went through the TCG, not knowing what awaited them on the other side....

Mossman2 shook his head as he appeared on the other side of the gate. He would never get used to that feeling.

“Okay Lance, pair up and meet with your transport. Let’s try and keep this clean.”

As the squad split up mossman2 scanned the sector. Scans showed a large asteroid field to the right and nothing but open space in all other directions. If someone attacked it would be from the asteroid field.

“Well Joker, are you ready for your first mission?” mossman2 asked, trying to make conversation.

“I guess so Sir. I gotta admit, I’m kinda nervous.”

“Don’t worry, that’s natural.”

Mossman2 glanced back at the nearby asteroid field. Scans showed that it was mostly lead ore, and that made further scanning difficult. If something were inside it, then The Lance wouldn’t know about it until it was too late.

“Hey boss, so far so good. Looks like this mission is pretty cut and dry,” *****SLAP said over his comm.

“Don’t make assumptions *****SLAP; this mission isn’t over yet,” mossman2 replied.

“Ahhh, what could happen now? We’re almost halfway through the sector.”

As if on cue, twelve Redship Nighthawks emerged from the asteroid field. “This is Redship Rory. Hand over the transport ships now, or you will be killed. Wait a sec, I’m gonna kill you anyway. NEVERMIND!! HAHAHA!!!”

“Lance, assume defensive positions. DO NOT leave the ship you are escorting!” mossman2 shouted. He had a feeling that this would happen.

The twelve Nighthawks advanced and split into three groups of four. Each element then launched a volley of missiles at the transports.

“Take out as many of those missiles as you can!” mossman2 yelled. No one answered; they were already busy destroying the missiles. None of the missiles hit their target.

The Nighthawks then launched an attack on the Lance fighters. Mossman2 engaged a random pirate. Laser fire burst all around him. He skimmed along the length of Transport 1 in pursuit of his prey. A few clicks away he could make out other Lance members fighting. The Ranger and VG9FTW were keeping the pirate element well away from Transport 2. *****SLAP was busy dodging missiles, and Luca was making short work of a pirate that was obviously lacking talent.

“This is Joker!! I need some help over here!! I have three fighters swarming me and I am taking heavy damage!!”

“I’ll be there as soon as I take care of this guy,” mossman2 replied. He had his own problems.

Mossman2 rounded the end of Transport 1 and fired his pulsars and couple of plasmas at the Redship pirate. The hull gave way and his ship exploded in a ball of fire. Pieces of his ship clanged off of mossman2’s hull.

“I’m on my way now Joker,” he said over his comm. Off in the distance he saw Joker futilely trying to fend off the fire from his attackers. He watched as two of them came in close. Suddenly a blast ripped out from Joker’s Mace. He had fired his Corona Device. The two ships caught in the blast radius were instantly hulled.

“Take that you bastards!” Joker was obviously pleased with himself, but in his excitement he had forgotten about the third ship.

“Joker, watch your six! Remember that the CD drains your shields!” mossman2 yelled. He watched in horror as the Nighthawk fired five swarms at close range.

“Oh God, what have I do----,’ static filled the commlink as Joker’s ship exploded. Light from the fireball reflected off the Nighthawks hull.

“You called him Joker, huh? Well he’s not laughing now. HAHAHA!!!” Redship Rory cackled over the comm. He had landed the fatal blow.

"You will pay for this Rory. Prepare to die!!” Mossman2 had never lost a member of The Lance. The thought of Joker’s death filled him with rage.

“Stand down mossman2, this is Commander Obulu of Star Patrol. Leave Rory to me.”

Suddenly the cargo bays of the three transport vessels opened to reveal a Star Patrol Enforcer sitting in each one.

“This is the precious cargo we were supposed to protect?!” said The Ranger.

“Yes,” Obulu replied. “Washington and Carver, you two help The Lance. I’ll take care of Rory.”

“Uh oh, I think this is my cue to get the @#%$ out of here. It’s been fun Lance.” Rory’s Nighthawk darted toward the TCG, but Obulu’s Enforcer beat him there. Obulu quickly disabled Rory’s ship. Within a matter of minutes the rest of the pirates had been hulled.

“Dammit Obulu, I demand an explanation as to why The Lance was lied to about the nature of our mission! We lost a man out there!” mossman2 shouted over his comm.

“Mossman2, the Sol government wished for as few people as possible to know about this mission. The more that knew, the greater the chances that Rory would find out. I am sorry for the loss of your pilot, but we did what we had to do to capture Rory. We have been trying for a while you know.”

“I’m going to talk to Susan about this Obulu. I highly doubt that the Bora will ever work for Sol again.”

“That’s okay, because I highly doubt that we will need you anymore. There are many contract pilots out there. Goodbye.” The transport vessels, one which held Rory, and the Enforcers left the sector.

“C'mon Lance, let’s go home,” mossman2 sighed. It was going to be a long trip back to base.

Mossman2 watched the news in his quarters at Freedom Base. He had talked to Susan, and she sent a message to Sol politely telling them to go to Hell. She made it clear that the Bora would not deal with them for a long time. He still had to inform Joker’s family about his death. It was not going to be easy. To make matters worse, Joker’s wife had just sent a message informing him of the birth of his son. The boy would grow up without his father...

“This just in from Tachyon News Service vessels in the Hub. Apparently the infamous pirate Redship Rory has escaped the clutches of Star Patrol yet again. His pirates freed him in a daring raid while he was being transported to Sol to stand trial for his numerous crimes. Star Patrol Commander Obulu declined to comment....”

Mossman2 shook his head. He wondered how he would tell Joker’s family that he had died in vain...


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