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Thread: Elite Dangerous Writing Contest - November 2017

  1. #166
    So seeing as people are posting their stories here I think that I will do the same. This was handed in a while back and is exactly 2000 words.

    A little bit of an origin story this about Father Cool and his dark past. Not too much revealed in 2000 words but I might do more now I've started.

    Anyway, here it is.

    The Rebel Without
    Sunrise over Massey’s World, the dark, once sparsely pinprick speckled sphere of a once colonised world gave birth to a blinding nova of light as Quator, the systems main star peeked over the horizon. The cascade of photons sprinting across the vacuum of space might have given you the impression of daybreak, this was an illusion. Instead of a world where sunrises signalled happy awakenings, the sight of a star revealing itself to a lone pilot was all too common a sight in these times of galactic independence. Mankind had spread like a disease across the cosmos and with each passing day, month and year the infection had spread. The mankind given over to peace and enlightenment that many had once foreseen never happened, instead the one that had thrived over the millennia through greed, self preservation and survival of the fittest was king.
    Looking down through the side window of ‘Hornet’, his Diamondback Explorer, the lone pilot tried to eyeball the old city he had once called home. It was no longer there, but his fondness for the peace that it had given him all those years ago still warmed his heart in the cold void that he had now adopted instead. There is an overwhelming comfort, a blanket of protection that encircles you when you are planetside, even if the atmosphere was generated in domes and structures. To look out of a window and see ground beneath your feet was sometimes enough. It’s soothing and relentless and a teddy bear hugging contrast to the stark vast emptiness of the environment that deep space presents to you each and every day. Out there you are sat in the cockpit, looking out on the star studded blackness, as soulless as the corporate empires and business minded power men of the galaxies major factions. The bubble had become the cauldron in which all but the most influential would burn. Some analogously and some literally, but in the end we all end up the same, disassociated dust blowing about amongst the stars.
    As the ‘Hornet’ began to make one more orbital pass a signal started to flicker into view on the scanner ahead. The lone commander looked up to be greeted by a loud crack and a streak of white light that slammed to a halt one hundred meters from his canopy. It was a Corvette class, the ‘Sovereign Light’. A quick look over to the targeting panel on his left revealed formidable weaponry, but none deployed. He waited, looking over the hull, but kept on course for the dead city below, now half an orbit around the horizon. The Corvette formed up above him and matched his course and speed. Through the engine hum the com channel crackled to life.
    “Lakon-Foxtrot-Alpha-Tango-Zero –Six, this is the Federal Covette ‘Sovereign Light’, please cut your engines and prepare to receive mooring umbilical’s.” The voice was female, no doubt trying to illicit a feeling of pacifism.
    “I think that you’re maybe a little way out of your jurisdiction in Alliance space lady, don’t you?” He replied keeping the throttle tame at 50%.
    “This is not an arrest, we just want to ask you a few questions that’s all.”
    The Commander smirked and pushed the throttle up to 60%, enough to draw ahead but not enough to look like running. “I’m all ears, fire away.”
    What happened next was a little too literal for his liking. The Corvette deployed it’s hardpoints and opened a hole in his shields with a volley of plasma cannon which took out his Frame Shift Drive and thrusters with a barrage of multi-cannon shells.
    ‘She’s the friendly sort’ he thought, ‘Reminds me of my ex-wife!’
    He climbed from his seat as the ship began to drift off centre and move into an orbital slide. There was nothing that he could do. The powerplant was fine and he’d got the essentials but he was floating around in a coffin if he didn’t comply with the Fed’s request. The bright light of Quator streaming into the cockpit painted the scene with an orange glow which felt almost warming, a feeling that dissolved away quickly as the Corvette moved effortlessly between him and the star. Instead of the peace that he had felt not ten minutes ago, he was now anxious and facing the underbelly of the federal beast. He heard a loud clunk followed by a fizz and a pop, they were cutting their way in. Out in the black, danger lurks everywhere but hand weapons are rarely used outside of stations and off world. He’d got a peacekeeper of course, but that was in his bunk right down the back, no time to get there. The ships bridge was strewn with lockers and cabinets and all manners of hidie holes but he was generally safe out here since his association with the Rats a couple of years earlier and had begun to avoid stashing secret weapons to hand and indulging in shady business. He pulled himself over to the door, zero g is no real fun when under stress and what could be more stressful than getting boarded with nothing but a leaky pen as a makeshift stiletto? He took a breath and hoped that when he opened the door that he wouldn’t be the slow middle aged man that that he had become, but instead, fast enough to propel himself to the first person aboard and take them as a hostage...with a pen. The greenish grey of the Diamondbacks’ bridge door looked tattered, he hadn’t noticed recently. It’s funny how the view outside the window had so often taken precedence. The fizzing had stopped but the banging had continued on. He would wait for the banging to stop and then quickly lunge in and grab the intruder by surprise. The silence came. He counted to five allowing the boarders to get inside. The smooth button of the door control felt a little spongy, like an old lift call. It wasn’t the tactile click that it used to have. The light-years had built up on the old girl and the old man too if truth be known. The contacts in the switch met and quickly the door slid back with a rumble and a hiss. There was darkness beyond, an eeriness that wasn’t usual on board. For what seemed like an eternity, but in reality just mere seconds, he moved through the opening. The darkness enveloped his face and before his eyes could focus on what dim illumination there was inside he instead felt the cold stinging fizz of a rifle butt to the nose.

    It smelled of blood. Tasted like it too but it was the cold hard metal on his back that woke up his senses. There was a strain on his armpits and it wasn’t long before he realised that his hands had been shackled above his head. His feet were just resting on a shelf below him and his whole body was inclined at about 60 degrees, it felt more to him though, as if he was laying fully back with the blood in his nasal passages trying to drown him. He coughed and spat out the coppery tasting liquid. Through the blood he could smell something else, was it horror or fear? Who knows but it was reminiscent of something long in his past, something he never wanted to, or thought that he would ever smell again, the bitter odour of manipulation. His eyes started to open. The blurred light poured in through teary openings like water rushing to leave when the plug’s taken from the bath, an almost event horizon-esque gravity well sucking in the light photons as they streamed towards his eyes. It was difficult to see. His liquid coated eyeballs didn’t have the power to focus through such distortion and it was several blinks before he could make out his surroundings.
    ‘Great.’ He thought. ‘I never thought that this would be me’.
    “Hey!” he shouted hoping to attract the attention of a guard, or someone. “I think you’ve got the wrong guy.” He continued, adding a little sarcasm to his voice. The room was sparse, it was meant to be. He’d known people who had been here, in this situation, but long ago in a life he’d left behind. The room was dimly lit but for heat lamps directly ahead. The walls were inexplicably dirty as though intentionally made so to illicit a feeling of despair and squalor. The smell of fear around him turned out to be that of excrement spread around the walls, no doubt to make him feel worthless like excreted waste.
    “Can I have a lawyer?” he shouted, knowing that such a request was futile but hoped that it would at least attract some kind of interaction. The low thrum of the engines echoing in the background was suddenly overturned by the grating slide of the steel door across from him as it moved back to reveal a slim whisp of a man.
    “Ah, you are awake.” He said moving into the room and letting the door close behind him. “I hear that you are on a vacation to the motherland.” He continued, pacing across the room and staring at the far wall. He pressed a button and a small blast shield slid down revealing a window filled with an overview of the now dead planet below.
    The lone commander took a breath and left his eyes fixed firmly on the heat lamp. “What is this?” he said glancing over to the window as he did.
    “It’s you.” The answer came back. “The last of your kind, Commander Kuel.” His eyes remained steadfast, gazing over the planet below.
    “I don’t recognise that name.” The stench was bad but the memories that the name had stirred were worse. The interrogator turned.
    “Oh I think you do, in fact, I think that it still holds sway in certain circles, sway that is dangerous for the Federation. A sway that if it isn’t stamped out now may lead to another....incident like the one ten years ago, before you settled here in the Quator system.” He moved closer and stared up at the Commander. “You understand that we can’t let that happen. Not again. The destruction of the Davies Earth settlement here seven years ago was...a necessary precaution to end the rot. One that we do not wish to have to repeat.”
    “I am not Commander Kuel.”
    “But you are. Commander Father Cool it may be now but Johan Kuel it was back then before you ran.” The interrogator walked to the corner where a bucket sat, blended perfectly with the wall decor.
    “I ran nowhere. I don’t know who the hell you think I am but I didn’t do any of the stuff you think I did.” He turned his eyes away from the bucket and moved his gaze to the window and planet outside. The interrogator picked up the bucket and moved over to the commander.
    “You see this bucket? it represents all that is to be had in the galaxy. It’s contained, controlled. The bucket is strong and watertight and it holds together the contents and stops it from escaping and dispersing to be lost forever as it evaporates into the cosmos. It is the governments like the Federation, and the Empire, even the Alliance. It’s our society and it controls everything so that we can all have something. Now you and your kind are the hole, beyond our rim, our weakness, the breach that allows everything to be lost.” The interrogator threw the contents into the commander’s face, it was liquid excrement, and it stunk. The commander tasted the bitter sting in his mouth, spat it out and then opened his eyes.
    “All that tells me is that the governments are full of it.....and are prepared to throw it right at the little guy to prove a point. Now how do I check out of this dump?”

  2. #167
    Sadly dont think my entry made it through the internet last month, as I've just realised I never had confirmation from Dale

    Anyhoo's here's what my entry would have been

    My First Ship - 1768 words.

    My first ship? Like so many of us out there, it was only a sidewinder, but it seemed so important back then, it could have been some hulking battleship. Strange, isn’t it, how time seems to diminish things like beginnings to near insignificance, but I’ll gladly share my beginning with you, before you head out to find your own.

    It was a long time ago now, but I still remember it clearly enough.

    I was with my family, and we were out travelling the spaces between the stars, moving between the warm light and cool dark, no direction in mind, only giving heed to the desire to explore and experience the galaxy, like countless others before us.

    In one system with three suns’, we surfed the solar wind, skillfully diving down into the corona beneath the arches of solar prominences, before leaping back up, into the clear space beyond, like salmon heading up stream.

    In another we convalesced in the perpetual dusk cast by a vast, red super giant. The warm, comfortable half-light fooling us into forgetting how it masked the fury of an ancient leviathan body that had already expanded to consume its children, and still hungered for more.

    We flew, like children, through the heart of a stellar nursery so small it didn’t have a name, and we marveled that where the swirling gas grew dense and warm, one day there might be life, toiling under a fresh new star, each made from the body of a dead star that had long since preceded them both.

    Another time, our hearts beat hard and fast as we listened, rapt with the spectacle as a yellow star sang in harmony with the ringed giant that it held closely in its thrall. As the pair spiraled in close and closer together, the interaction of their magnetospheres created a chorus of radio emissions that danced and spun its way across the spectrum in a complicated, galactic symphony.

    Every system, every experience, moments in time, never to be repeated except in memories deceptive lens. We soaked it up, like children in a giants’ playground, where everything was wonderous and special and innocent, and we felt blessed to be here, at this time, together, to experience it together as a family.

    And then, as must always happen, the innocence was gone.

    In the burning heat of a blue sun we found it, a terrible thing, such loss. A vast vessel of imperial design, sun scorched and scarred, hanging in the air, venting toxic poison from the myriad spaces that had been torn out of her hull. Exquisite, harrowing, dead.

    Scattered around her like feathers from a dying bird were hull plates, cargo and the twisted remains of dozens of dead support vessels, and in between them, wisp like, the flickering beacons of escape pods.

    Out there in the dark, against all the odds, some life remained, entombed in metal, glass and ice, utterly defenceless, waiting in the hope of rescue for a chance to live.

    We approached the capital ship slowly, broadcasting our approach loudly so as not to cause further alarm, but if we were heard no signal was made to acknowledge us, no action taken to let us know to come closer, or stay away.

    We knew immediately the danger that the escape pods were in. Many of the pods had already taken damage from debris and many of the occupants already appeared to have passed on. Where they had passed through the clouds of toxic gas they appeared to be degrading rapidly, as if they were being corroded or eaten away, and as the clouds grew bigger more and more lives were at risk.

    Beyond those immediate dangers, there was the issue of the capital ships power plants and drive cores to consider. If the corrosion that we could see on the debris and pods outside were occurring inside that vessel, it could only be a matter of time before a critical system failed and caused a catastrophic explosion.

    We didn’t have time to consider the risks or argue the implications and ramifications. As a family we understood natures’ most fundamental drive, survival, and we took action.

    My brothers and I undertook different tasks as they presented themselves. Some collected together the pods that were at most immediate risk, whilst others worked to collect and secure debris and cargo. Where cargo had been secured, potentially dangerous cargo was moved away, to minimise the effect it might have if some accident caused it to become a threat.

    Once the immediate situation was stabilised, and what risks there were mitigated to the best of our ability, we began to try and locate and scan the remaining pods. We’d cheer every time we found a pod intact, its contents safe, and bring it aboard, and we’d lament the loss every time we scanned a damaged or failed pod and knew another life had been lost to the void.

    We had made our way through around half of the pods we had detected when it happened. A massive surge in the black, a ripple that spread out across the space around us and suddenly they were there, so many of them, a swarming fleet of bright lights and a cacophony of roaring engines.

    They must have believed we were responsible for the destruction of the capital ship around which we flew and before we had time to register what was happening they unleashed the full might of their fleet against us. I remember the burning pain as the missiles hit. I remember the never-ending roar of fire and the scream of metal on metal. A brilliant scarlet lance of light filled my eyes, blinding me, and then all was black as the pain overtook my senses and I felt myself swallowed by unconsciousness.

    In to the deep place in my mind where I had retreated, the world began to seep back in. I remember searing pain across my body where it had been burned, I felt intense pain where impacts had reduced my bones to powder, and the sharp, moist sting where their weapons had torn me asunder. It was too much, more pain than any creature ever deserved to bear, and it threatened to overwhelm me again and again, rocking me in waves as I slowly made my way back to awareness and consciousness.

    Torn and burned and half blind I rallied myself and reached out desperately to find my brothers. Nothing there, at first, and then a faint touch, right at the edge of reach. I strained to grab hold and pull him towards me, and then by the weight of him I knew, dead. I turned to regard him though the haze, and could see the grisly mess they had left of him, half gone, as if vaporised, the rest collapsing and oozing away.

    The sudden sensation of loss was more sharp and painful than any of the injuries I carried at that point. It was so powerful it blasted away the fog that the pain had cast around my senses and I was able to take in the situation around me.

    My entire family was gone. Torn to pieces, burned, twisted and crushed. With each body I found, the feeling of loss I held in my chest grew stronger, like a leaden weight that grew more and more massive with each find. Such a great weight in so small a space, it felt like it could collapse in on itself and draw me in with it, a singularity forged from pain and loss, surrounded by an accretion disk of sorrow and tears.

    An energy surge drew me out of my reverie, and I realised that I was not alone. A single vessel at the edge of range, attempting to recover something in the dark. As I focused in on it, I saw it there emblazoned on the hull, the symbol of those that had attacked us. Believing my family destroyed, it must have remained behind to pick the corpses and loot the bodies of the dead.

    The sensation of loss was gone then, transformed in an instant into blinding hatred and I surged towards it. At first it didn’t notice me, probably too focused on the job of filling its hold with the spoils of war.

    I however was entirely focused upon it, and as I closed the distance it seemed to swell up before me and fill my universe, becoming all there was and all that must be destroyed for the sake of my family.

    When it finally saw me, I had nearly closed half the space between us, and was picking up speed. It almost appeared to flinch like an animal before turning about its axis to face me down and readying its weapons to fire.

    With the damage I’d sustained, the small vessel was posed a significant risk, but as anyone will tell you, sometimes its force of will, not arms, that would turn a battle, and at that moment, all my will was focused on the task of annihilating that crude, ill fashioned box of metal and glass.

    I breathed in and remembered the calm we had felt in the bloody glow of an engorged star, and I felt its true nature, a hunger for death, fill my senses.

    I remembered the singing star and its companion, and I opened my mouth wide to scream my bloodlust and hate at the vessel before me.

    As its weapons opened fire and arced across the vacuum towards me, I danced again, as I had between the flares of three suns’, avoiding those shots I could, ignoring those that found their mark.

    So many experiences I’d never have with my family now, the senselessness of it drove me.

    I took the sense of mass that had lain in my chest only moments before, my singularity of sorrow, and I turned it out then, expanding out through me and around me, a singularity no more but instead a burning bright supernova, and with the sensation I unleashed my full complement of Thargons on the little wedge-shaped ship and watched as it withered beneath my full onslaught borne forward with the heat and fury of a dying sun, boiling away into gas in the space around us, cleansed and renewed, and ready to one day add to the life of a new star.

    Like so many of us, my first ship was a sidewinder, but since then I’ve destroyed many more. That’s the story of my beginning, and now it’s time for you to head out and blaze your own.

  3. #168
    Well, good luck everyone.

  4. #169
    Good luck, everyone. Here's my entry for the ED writing competition.

    "Crime & Punishment"

    “This system offers a range of services. Check your info link at the
    docking, for more details”

    The voice boomed over the tannoy system at Lave Station as Inspector
    Jihad Marco disembarked from the sleek Saud Kruger Orca. An enormous Beluga
    passenger ship lumbered above him, its thrusters shifting it into position
    like an enormous fly on a ceiling. He felt grateful for the station’s
    artificial gravity after the zero-g trip from the Shinrarta Dehzra system.
    He checked the time, they were ahead of schedule.

    Harried station attendants gestured frantically for him to board the
    parked yellow bus nearby. The rest of the passengers would disembark below,
    in the landing bay’s hangar, and the ship’s commander had been anxious to
    get going.

    As the yellow bus made its way along the circular ring road that
    circumnavigated the cavernous cylindrical docking area of the Coriolis-type
    space station, Inspector Marco ran through the details of his case. Any
    other insurance claim could have been handled remotely. Galactic
    communications were near instantaneous these days. But this was a special
    case. Three days ago a Lakon Keelback - ID BBG006 - had run into trouble
    whilst docking. It had been piloted by an experienced commander, Iago
    Janssen. Officially the ship had been carrying biowaste when it clipped the
    side of a departing Sidewinder, destroying the smaller ship instantly.
    There were rumours that the cargo had been replacement parts for the Gibson
    Reactor project, but the Pilot’s Federation doesn’t care about cargo, that
    is someone else’s problem. Nor did they officially care about the insurance
    costs for the Type-6, but Marco’s supervisor was Commander Janssen’s
    costs for the Type-6, but Marco’s supervisor was Commander Janssen’s
    nephew, and he wanted to know how an experienced commander with over
    fifteen thousand hours of flight experience could come to this end.
    Killing another commander, even whilst flying under the speed limit, was
    a capital offence in Lave, and the station’s automated defences would have
    marked the Keelback as “Wanted” instantly. Commander Janssen’s record was
    impeccable. Then again, everybody made mistakes, he thought, and the Black
    was a treacherous mistress.

    He arrived at Starcomm Ops to find a giant of a man waiting to greet him.
    His sleeves were rolled up in a business-like manner and he puffed
    impatiently at a giant cigar.

    “Inspector Marco? Welcome to Lave. I’m Orwell Levi. Station Chief”
    He pumped Marco’s arm vigorously as they shook hands. He wore a crewcut,
    and had a short, clipped moustache. Orwell Levi had the kind of voice that
    you knew could yell very loudly if he wanted it for that.

    “Mr Levi, thank you for-”

    “Follow me” interrupted Levi as they walked through the busy ops-centre.
    Banks of headset-wearing operators stared intently at their individual
    terminals, trying to stay calm as they directed traffic in and out of the

    “Follow the Greens on your way in, Commander” said a frustrated looking
    Starcomm operator. He stubbed his old cigarette into an overflown ashtray
    before lighting a second one.

    “No! No! The Greens. Green. As in the colour!” he yelled over his
    microphone. He muted the headset and took a drag, “By the beard of Zeus,
    how the hell do these people get their Pilot’s License!”

    He unmuted the headseat, “Yeah, well done. You’re looking good,
    Commander. Please deploy landing gear. No! I said landing gear!”

    Marco and Levi entered a small office to find a woman sitting there,
    sipping a cup of coffee.
    “Inspector Marco, meet Felicity Sanchez, she was the Starcomm operator at
    the time of the incident. Have a seat” said Levi as he gestured to a chair.
    He closed the door and drew the blinds on the large window looking out at
    the ops-centre. The room was sparsely furnished, with only a desk, three
    terminals, and a virtual reality headset connector cable. There was a
    single black framed portrait of an old man on the wall. The plaque beneath
    it read, “Desmond Ling - Station Supervisor 3280 - 3297”. Marco imagined
    the man sitting where Levi was now, barking his orders.
    “We’re busy people, Inspector, so let’s cut to the chase. How can we help
    you” asked Levi.

    “Can you start by telling me what happened the day of the incident” said
    Marco, turning to Felicity. Her red hair was tied back in a ponytail and
    she was staring at him intently.

    “Not much to say, really. We picked up Lakon Bravo Bravo Golf - ship ID
    BBG007 - at around thirteen hundred hours. Docking request was sent through
    ship’s contact panel. Assigned it landing bay twenty three. Approach vector
    was good at eighty-six, well below the speed limit. Then he clipped a
    Sidewinder that was leaving the station. Instant destruction. I couldn’t do
    anything at that point, station defences marked the Lakon as “Wanted” and
    locked on. It was over in seconds”
    “Anything on the Sidewinder’s commander?” he asked.
    She fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat, looking to Levi.
    “Negative. We were unable to retrieve the body” she said finally.
    “Is something wrong, Miss Sanchez?” asked Marco.
    “Not at all. It’s just, I hate losing a ship, Commander”
    “We’re professionals here, Inspector” interrupted Levi, “We take every
    ship loss very seriously”
    “I’m sorry” replied Marco.
    “Will there be anything else?” Felicity asked.
    “Thanks, Sanchez. Go take a five minute break before you start your
    shift” said Levi in an attempt at a soft voice.
    “Well, that’s all there is to it,” he said to Marco as Felicity got up to
    leave, “I’m sorry you had to drag your all the way out here to hear
    this. We can get you on the next flight back to Shin Dez now”
    “I’m afraid I can’t do that”
    “Oh?” said Levi, “What are we missing here?”
    “I’ve been sent with specific instructions. I’m afraid I’ll need to
    examine all the data, including recordings, of the incident, before I
    leave. I may have more questions too” said Marco as he stood up to leave.
    “Are you saying Starcomm screwed this up?” Levi said as he got up slowly.
    His face grew red
    “Not at all, sir. I’m saying that this might not be a simple case of a
    docking infraction”
    “Then what, Inspector?”
    “With the current political situation in this system - what with the
    Heirs of Lave and all that - all options are open, even murder”
    “Murder? You’ve lost your mind!” shouted Levi. Felicity froze.
    “Station protocol was followed down to the letter, Inspector. There was
    no murder. I’ve reviewed the file myself and the termination procedure was
    correctly implemented” he said, icily.
    “Of course it was. But I have a job to do, and I expect Starcomm to
    assist me in my investigation” replied Marco.
    “Ok. I see how this works. We’ll play it your way. But if you come
    anywhere near me or my operators, I’ll have your reassigned to Colonia.
    You got that?”
    “We’re clear. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to examine the Sidewinder’s
    wreckage” replied Marco. He was trying not to make the situation worse.
    “Knock yourself out. It’s in Hangar 2-C”
    Marco thanked him and walked back out into the main office. He let out a
    sigh of relief.

    “Detective?” called a voice as he made his way to the service elevator.
    Felicity Sanchez ran up to him.
    “I’m sorry, that Sidewinder wreckage you wanted. It’s been shipped out
    already to Castellan Station” she said, “You’ll have to book passage there
    with a domestic shuttle service”
    “Great,” he mumbled, “Just great…”

    At the passenger lounge the travel agent stared indifferently at Jihad
    Marco as he explained his situation for the third time. His Pilot’s
    Federation Credit hadn’t synced yet with Lave station finance, leaving him
    with exactly the five hundred credits he’d had cached before his trip.
    “I’m sorry, sir. But the minimum price for passage to Castellan Station
    is four thousand credits” she said, “now if you don’t mind, I have other
    customers to attend to. Come back and see me in twenty four hours, when the
    funds clear”

    “Sure, no problem. Thanks for nothing” he said sarcastically. He wandered
    about the lounge, trying to figure out what to do. Then sat down and leafed
    through an out-of-date print of the Lave Herald.

    “Hey, buddy” someone said.

    He looked up to find an old man with a beer belly. He wore a tattered
    jacket and an ancient Remlock suit that was so tight you could tell what
    the old man’s religion was.

    “Can I help you?” he asked.

    “Couldn’t help overhear what you said there. See, I can take you to
    Castellan if ye want. Five hundred credits return trip. How’s that?”

    “Umm, yeah. Sure. Let’s go” replied Marco, blinking with disbelief.
    “Glad to hear it! The name’s Rickey Finch. Butterface to my friends” he
    said as they shook hands.
    “Jihad Marco, Inspector”
    They walked off to the hangar bay where Finch was parked and Marco’s jaw
    “Are you sure that thing can get us there?” he said.

    The hauler before them looked like it had been cobbled out of spare
    parts. The cargo door was broken open, and in any other time Marco would
    have reported the ship as unfit to fly and added a fine to Finch’s license.
    “The HaHa Hortensia ain’t much to look at, but she’s a sturdy lass” said
    Finch lovingly, “You’re not backing out now, are you?”
    “No, not at all. Look, Mr Finch”
    “Sorry, Commander Finch”
    “Commander Butterface, let’s not stand on ceremony here”
    “Of course. Look, I don’t mind, as long as you get me there. I’m sorry if
    I appeared rude”
    Butterface let out a loud laugh and slapped his considerable belly. Marco
    wondered how much his ancient Remlock suit could take.
    “All aboard, Inspector Jihad Marco. We’re going to Castellan Station!”
    Marco sat in the two seater passenger module and strapped himself in.
    Once they left the station they’d be in zero-gravity again and he didn’t
    want to float around. He noticed that rolling around the floor were several
    bottles of Lavian brandy. They were empty. He prayed silently that they
    belonged to a previous passenger and not his pilot.
    Commander Butterface’s voice crackled through the internal ship
    “Buckle up! Castellan is three thousand light seconds away so make
    yourself comfortable. We’re about to depart”
    The hauler lurched as the landing pad began exit procedures for the ship.
    There was a jolt and the Hauler floated upwards. Marco felt the steady
    acceleration as the ship followed the greens out of the station’s mail
    slot, and then, nothing. The drop in gravity was nearly instantaneous. As
    the ship escaped mass-lock and its frame shift drive charged, neither he
    nor Butterface would have known about the silent running black Cobra MKIII
    that followed close behind. It ejected its heatsink just as both ships
    jumped into super cruise.

  5. #170
    Originally Posted by DrNoesis View Post (Source)
    Sadly dont think my entry made it through the internet last month, as I've just realised I never had confirmation from Dale

    Anyhoo's here's what my entry would have been

    My First Ship - 1768 words.
    Well that was just fantastic. Really brilliant. I had to re-read the last two paragraphs in shock.

    @Dale don't let this entry be lost.

  6. #171
    Originally Posted by Evoflash View Post (Source)
    Well that was just fantastic. Really brilliant. I had to re-read the last two paragraphs in shock.

    @Dale don't let this entry be lost.
    Thanks for your support

    More importantly, I'm glad you enjoyed! Sounds like the story had the kind of effect I was going for

    I've pm'ed Dale in the hopes that my entry was just missed, or I missed the conf email or something, but either way it was just fun to take part and share a story with you guys

  7. #172
    Originally Posted by DrNoesis View Post (Source)
    I've pm'ed Dale in the hopes that my entry was just missed, or I missed the conf email or something, but either way it was just fun to take part and share a story with you guys
    Fingers crossed for you!

    Here's my entry, I wasn't going to post it but on reflection I'd like to join the thread!

    I was a little boy when I asked my father “What are those dots in the sky?”

    He never took his eyes off the campfire. Instead he rubbed his scarred cheek, “They’re other suns, with other worlds. Yellow skies, rivers of lead. A lot of scary places. A lot of amazing places too. Imagine three suns in the sky, or imagine another planet like Lave in our sky that was so close you could see their lights at night, maybe their campfires too.”

    “I wanna go see it Dad. I could do it couldn’t I! I could fly there and we could go together! What ship would we get Dad? I think a Python would be big enough!”

    “It’s too dangerous for me my boy, and for you too! You probably don’t want to get mixed up in it all, there’s a lot bad people out there. Don’t you think you’d be much better staying here and running the farm? Just think of all the holovids you could buy when you’re grown up! There’s so much you can do here without needing to go out in space.”

    He reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me across to him. His hug was warm and comforting, the big knit jumper scratchy on my nose but cosy on my cheek. He was probably right. Suddenly and overwhelmingly I missed my mother right then and felt like sobbing. She was wild at heart, and would have told me to fly to the ends of the galaxy. It was the very deepest pain to know that she was gone and I’d never again get to hear her telling me to chase my dreams.

    That was maybe thirty years ago. Earth years, the oldest currency of time. I’ve been to Earth, it was fine but nothing compared to the beauty of the MeeMoo Valleys of Lave. The Earth people were decadent, and seemed not to care for their planet. At least on Lave we learned harsh lessons about protecting our planet’s environment. Nowadays it’s a paradise. I go back when I can, but once I’d sold the farm there was nothing and nobody to keep me there. It would have broken my Father’s heart to see me sell, but he would’ve had to concede that I’ve got my Mother’s wanderlust. I bought an old Cobra with the funds from the farm. Although technically, I’d paid for part of a Cobra and used a loan for the rest. The loan from Timmerman’s Goods hung on a promise to deliver some hush-hush cargo to Shifnalport in Diso, no questions, no scans, no problem. To this day I don’t know what was in those crates. I smiled and ran silent, got paid and quietly cashed what was left after paying Timmerman’s off. That was just the start.

    With the vigour of youth and the ache of an empty wallet I set off for more. More of everything. I filled up the cargo hold in the Cobra with Grain and Vegetables – nice and cheap – and headed out to make a killing. Some months later I wound up in Atagat trading with Erne back and forward. It was good, easy living and I hit no trouble with pirates. I mothballed the Cobra and bought that Python I’d dreamed of all those years ago, bigger cargo hold, lots of hardpoints – this was a grown-up’s ship with grown-up’s bills.

    Yet, I was restless. I had travelled around the human bubble and seen the sights and yet, I couldn’t ever seem to feel what I had expected I would feel – happiness. Sometimes late at night when trying to sleep, or maybe while waiting for landing clearance at Glashow City I’d feel an emptiness. A simple question would condense in my heart.

    “Is this it?”

    Late one night in Rapa Bao – I had been buying Snake Skins and was waiting for a fresh load to arrive – I’d been trying and failing to sleep, troubled by my old companion – emptiness. I got up, made some coffee and looked out in to the black of space and pictured my father. He grew old so quickly when the weakness had set in. I thought of how he played safe yet had a darker past I didn’t know about, how his flame had slowly flickered and then just went out. I thought of my mother, her flowing dark hair, endless smile and that mischievous glint in her eye that my Father most likely fell head-over-heels in love with. I thought of yellow skies, and molten-lead rivers, of tearing, high mountains and silent worlds of ice and rings. I gazed at the Milky Way, and at all of that life happening while here I was worrying about my credit balance.

    These visions slowly coalesced in to one ever-stronger, pulsing thought:

    This life isn’t my dream.

    I sighed, finished my coffee and fell in to a heavy, dreamless sleep. Next morning I got up, grabbed the last of the Snake Skins, and headed straight for Alioth. I was an ally of the Friends there and they owed me a favour so I took them up on a cheap Asp X. Selling the skins and Python left me with a very healthy balance, which I took to Diaguandri where they have those huge shipyards, so big that you end up having to use Interplanetary Shuttles just to go from aisle to aisle. I kitted out the Asp with one thing in mind – exploration. The best scanners, most efficient powerplant, a mining laser (nobody forgets the Macedonica Principle). A couple of SRV’s fitted nicely, sadly though I had no cargo space.

    I had a great ship at hand, but I’d met a guy in a bar in Kuwemaki who told me about a couple of people he’d met who tamper with modules and make them mostly better. They're fascinating people. Remote types living on some barren hunk of rock, working away on the next big thing – be it some long range Beam laser or like Felicity Farseer and her magical overcharged FSD’s. By meeting with them, and plying them with gifts this guy had managed to get some really great upgrades going on his modules. Over the course of the next three months I made a lot of friends who gradually lightened my ship, they increased the scanner ranges, made my FSD capable of much, much bigger jumps and gave me such an efficient power that I could scoop with my 6A on an O-Class at max rate without overheating. Mind blowing and intriguing. They kept trying to sell me weapons but I’m not of that kind. The unknown was pulling me. I wanted to get away from the beaten path.

    I headed to Lave and spent an evening visiting my Mother and Father’s graves. I poured a little Brandy on the ground by them both. As I stood back I began to cry. I had no other family to tell, nobody to share this with. I sat down, crossed my legs and let the tears flow. Eventually they slowed, and I stood up.

    “Thanks Dad, thanks for the stability. I don’t know what you did before the farm and I sure as hell can’t guess where that scar came from, but you did right by me. Especially after Mother was gone.”

    “And thanks Mother, you gave me love and you gave me Wanderlust. I don’t know when I’ll be back but finally I can relax, so thank you.”

    I headed back to my ship, kitted up and opened the GalMap system. I pointed to a random system in a cluster called Eord Flyue, just the 18,000LY away, and hit “Plot Route”. After a minute the route was programmed and I was set. I opened up mic comms,

    “Tower requesting launch permission”

    “This is tower, please confirm ship callsign”

    “My apologies tower, this is the Wanderlust, repeat this the Wanderlust”

    “Wanderlust you are clear and good to go, safe journey and God speed.”

  8. #173


    Now that the deadline's gone, I'll share my submission too.


    "Commander Ig"


    Through the spider’s web filigree adorning his cockpit canopy, Arnold strained to see the pair of glowing jewels above the horizon.

    Fifty light-seconds.

    Small turquoise numbers, the colour of the sort of sea this desolate rock had never seen, ticked smaller in the corner of his helmet display, metering out his air. He stretched his hand out, his muscles protesting, and flicked the cover off the power-reboot, pumped the lever itself. The empty clicks as the contacts closed and opened rippled through his suit and skin, but all else was silence. No sounds of escaping air from his suit, and no sounds beyond that at all. To his side, through her battered faceplate, Lucy derided him.

    He dared to breathe.

    A pair of miss-matched suns bathed Summer’s cockpit in tattered clashing shadows. The crash had left the Cobra facing a distant pinnacle, a ramp to salvation for a fast enough rocket sled. But Summer was going nowhere. She had fallen short of the jewels above the horizon, that pristine ocean world, the nearer orbital platform. In the black airless sky they looked almost the same.

    He reached out to hold them in his hand but met the cracking canopy. If he moved his head, the lights danced, split, multiplied. He punched, frustration filling him. He breathed in rage and screamed it out, hitting and hitting and getting only pain in return. The canopy held fast against his railing and he slumped, panting and cradling his fist.

    Lucy was looking at him. Her bright blue eyes in the eerie light were full of disdain and accusation, and more than a little mirth. Her lips moved, condensation crossed her faceplate, and something like a mumble of a voice conducted distantly through ship and dust and chair.

    Arnold released his harness, and then pulled himself free of a seat that would not move itself to help. He groaned as the world relentlessly tried to pull his head and limbs somewhere to its middle. With some fight, he opened the cockpit door, and stepped through into the main hull. The empty shelves of the cargo racks confronted him with accusations about space better used and field maintenance units. They spoke with something of Lucy’s voice, but he had ignored that voice before. Passed the racks, into the vehicle bay, he came to the curled up sleeping form of Six. The spindle legged dust brown SRV sat firm atop its hatch, which sat sealed against the moon beneath.

    As he approached, his feet stumbled over a smashed case of Pearl Whisky, the liberated liquid draining to a puddle, and then trickling towards the rear. He followed it stern-wards, finding a vista of stars seen through smoke and settling dust. There should have been bulkheads and engines.

    “Well that explains the power-reboot,” said Lucy.

    Arnold looked briefly over his shoulder, then tested the hatch on Six. It had life. It had some life. The door resisted but obeyed. What precious air Six had held escaped to flick up dust and dissipate, replaced in mass if not in volume by Arnold’s space wasted skeleton, his suit, and the jelly of blood and muscle in between.

    The seat was recently familiar. Six’s instruments and consoles sparked to bright life, then dimmed for their surroundings. He only called the SRV Six because in Lucy’s vowel shifting accent the word sounded like sex. He wasn’t counting replacements, he wasn’t counting its weird wheeled legs. The number wasn’t special. He just liked when Lucy said she was bringing Six back into Summer.

    He cycled the displays, looking for the fuel readout - nine kilometers. Give or take. Lucy’s voice thrummed through his head again, something about contingency plans.

    With a little bit of mental arithmetic, he estimated that nine kilometres was probably less than fifty light-seconds. He shrugged, then powered up the lights to clear the cockpit and the cabin of ghosts.

    Curled up, Six was neat and tidy and fit the insides of Summer’s vehicle bay. It was unlikely that it would fit so neatly with its six legs extended and ready to drive. His suited fingers drummed the dash as his eyes scanned the empty racks on either side. At least the death of Summer would have killed the magnetic hold-fasts.

    He gambled on the space, on the clearance at the cannon blasted tail, and deployed the wheels. Six responded, shaking, moaning, lurching. The wheels bashed the sides of the bay, but the body lifted from the floor. Inch by protesting inch, Six scraped backwards, gouging wounds in the carcass of Summer’s womb until the wheels met regolith and rolled free.

    Arnold drove to a halt fifty metres from the hulks of his ship, then stepped out to walk once around Six, checking for new damage. There was plenty of old, too much to really tell the difference. The metal of the hull was practically a bruise, burnt from laser fire, dented from rocks and hard landings, caked in dust. The legs were strong and straight and true. The wheels were round, the tyres treaded and intact.

    He looked back at the detritus of Summer, the much abused and engineered Cobra, her rear blown open and to pieces by a parade of cannon shells.

    “We had some times,” he said. As his eyes saw the hull, he pictured a shiny casket being lowered into earth.

    He shook his head to force that away, turned back to Six and climbed inside.

    “Going back is capture,” said Lucy.

    He looked towards the horizon, towards the star-like planet, the orbital. Then he looked back along the crash path of Summer, and then at the power-down switch, his own two feet, the timer in his eyes counting his breath.

    Lucy had been a dancer in Azeban City, and not the clean kind. She drank him under the table and took his credits in a dextrous move she and her troupe pulled night on night on night, colouring the carpets with Eranin’s finest distillate. Summer had fewer dents and burns back then, and Arnold was just her pilot, running the rares on someone else’s money and fuel. That someone else, she had guns and influence and cared, not so much for Arnold, but for respect of her self declared status. Three pimps and two dancers died recovering credits and honour, and the nature of the people he flew for became less fiction and more fact.

    By chance it was Arnold who came upon Lucy, cowering in the corner of a dressing room and half-way between costumes. He reached out his hand to her, spoke some words from a film:

    “Die free or live a slave.”

    They hid, they ran, they sneaked their way to Summer. As the ship lifted them free of the city, Lucy parroted those words.

    Someone else’s ship, someone else’s cargo, someone else’s phrase. Summer carried them into the black.

    Nine kilometers, then fifty light-seconds. Or exactly a lifetime’s worth of air, a free death in the empty. A death he chose. A death poetic, a life complete, a runner free. Standing atop a mountain on an airless moon, bathed in the light of a miss-matched double sun. Alone.


    He turned Six away from the mountain. Lucy scowled, sulked. But the black was calling.

    Six rolled smoothly through the moon’s thick dust, even as it sapped the lingering power. Summer was receding, and as he crested a rise, the base he had just robbed, leaving its skimmers smoking holes in the ground, was growing closer. He couldn’t even remember which local faction and which galactic power they represented, nor the exact relationship they had with the suited men that had promised to pay him. He had them off, and now they were the only air in range. A call for rescue, which Six could easily make, could only go through them. Whether local or in orbit, they were the only faction around.

    As he drew closer, the base gathered form. At first just a collection of lights, and later the dull form of a building, a spread of transport containers and communication towers. And the Viper. The gleaming chromium Viper.

    “A bit, ostentatious,” Lucy said.

    But fast. Fast enough to catch Summer, to blow her out of the airless sky.

    “It didn’t go home,” he said.

    “Probably compelled to secure the base.”

    “But it didn’t go home.”

    Arnold could feel Lucy’s eyes calculating, considering, condemning.

    “It will be secured.”

    “It wouldn’t be the first ship I’ve stolen.”

    “You had permission to fly Summer.”

    “She wasn’t my first either.”

    “Die free! While you can still choose.”

    Arnold looked at Lucy, her blonde hair matted, blood on her perfect chest.

    “We know what you chose.”

    She was silent.

    The warning light on the range display seemed brighter. Arnold started powering things down that he didn’t need, knowing it would make little difference. Six rumbled on, rocking on exposed rocks and hidden mounds, carving parallel trails that would exist in undisturbed eternity.

    The range display passed over to zero, Six rolled between wrecked skimmers, storage containers, and unconstructed pre-fabs. Arnold, squeezing the last out of the cells, lined the SRV up with the primary building, a squat two-floored windowless monolith with a single air-locked garage.

    He raised the turret, took aim, and discharged the weapon capacitor. Beneath the hail of high-energy particles, the outer airlock door melted away. Six steadfastly refused to divert power for any more.

    Arnold dialled in a broad transmission band.

    “Give me the Viper, and I wont melt the inner door.”

    There was a long pause filled with occasional static.

    “They can just suit up and wait for back up,” Lucy said. “You have no cards.”

    Arnold pointed to the airlock - a vehicle bay, with suit storage. Suits on the wrong side of the internal door.

    “They can still wait you out,” she said. “They can have another shiny Viper here in minutes. You’re just as dead as me Arnold, on your terms, or you’re snared and owned.”

    He looked around the base. A base exciting enough to pay him handsomely to raid, to have Vipers on hand to defend, to have a full complement of skimmers.

    “Come and join me Arnold.”

    Lucy was standing outside in a blood-stained white dress, the hem billowing in a non-existent wind, holding out her hand.

    Arnold depressed the radio transmit.

    “There’s enough left in this SRV to blow your whole base off the face of this dead rock. Give me the Viper, I’ll let your keep this little enterprise, and I’ll even throw in this SRV, with its data-banks full of your data. You hear that? Keep your secrets, your base, your lives. What’s the Viper to you against that?”

    The memory of Lucy looked to the stars, looked him in the eye. “Don’t you want to be with me?”

    The SRV display relayed a short incoming data message. Access keys. He uploaded them to his suit, dismounted Six. He left heavy footprints in the dust where Lucy’s naked feet left none. She skipped towards the shiny hulled combat Viper, reaching it on a bound. Her hand stroked across it, her costume now the same metalled silver as her dance troupe. The same outfit she was wearing when first she boarded Summer.

    The Viper’s access responded to Arnold’s suit. The consoles responded to his wants. Moments later, the engines hummed.

    Only enough fuel for local flight. No scoops. Hallmarks of a faction that held no trust for its own pilots.

    A paranoid faction indeed.

    “I’m always with you Lucy.”

    Jets fired, the Viper lifted, angled upwards as he caressed the controls. It wasn’t Summer, it didn’t feel familiar. But the view was old as time.

    He maxed out the thrust, the Viper smashed him in the back. No wonder it caught up. It really wasn’t Summer.

    “I could like this,” Lucy said.

    “You like anything fast and shiny.”

    She smiled.

    The Viper surged into the black.

  9. #174
    Thank you to everyone that submitted. I've got just over 120 entries to go through but we'll have all of them organised and ready to announce on the 24hr livestream next week!

    I did not realise that there were so many budding authors among you, but I'm glad that there is. Many have been read already, but over the weekend we had a large surge of last-minute entries that'll keep me busy for the rest of today!

  10. #175
    Winners are posted (with their stories) here:

    I will be adding all of the entries to this thread (as and when I have time over the Christmas period) to turn this into a megathread. I will be expanding the prize pool for some honourable mentions that we (the team judging the entries) thought deserved a shoutout. These people will be added to the thread next, and then the rest will follow when I have the time to format each story!

    Thanks everyone that took part


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