Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Day Before TBE's release, and chapters from the new project!

Yes, I'm back on the grindstone writing again as I simultaneously count down the days before The Black Eye's release. I can't rest on my laurels and wouldn't enjoy doing so, so write on I shall.
The next project, tentatively Sigma Gambit, is a military sci-fi filled with all manner of stupid humor and extreme situations. We'll be following the tracks of a daring, handsome ex-federation lieutenant as he climbs his way through the command structure of an alien race seeking fame and fortune. Of course, that's what the story's about at first sight. As usual I'll be tucking a little more in each chapter as I'm able to tell more than one story, especially if part of that story has talking lobsters in it.
You can read the first two chapters of the rough draft below. 16+ age advisory for naughty words.
Please enjoy~

Chapter One: First Contact
The bar’s atmosphere is cool, relaxed, and filled to the brim with alcoholic stench and has been so since opening, until he walked in. Someone steps in through the bar’s entryway, right under the blaring neon sign reading “Rider’s Bar and Grill”.
A stalk-eyed creature at the bar-side spots the establishment’s new guest, and nudges his friend with urgency. “Hey.”
The giant friend moves a lazy eye from the lone ardian in the bar to look at his companion. “What.”
“Don’t you ‘what’ me. Did you see what just walked in?” The small, stalk-eyed space creature motions its head over, and the big, gray one looks. He jolts in shock when he sees the figure coming their direction.
“W-why didn’t you tell me.” The ten-foot Ganar asks.
The short, sharp toothed Akinlin scowls. “I did. I’d bet you anything his target’s in here so we better jet! It’s only a matter of time before-”
“A human!” Screams the bartender over every conversation happening right now. Everyone in the bar looks to the figure. Concealed by a white and blue atmosphere suit, the outline of a human is unmistakable. Yelps of terror and the sounds of shattering glass fill the small establishment as everyone, even the bartender, scrambles for escape. Rows and rows of people pass the human, who tries to speak.
“Uh, what’s-” The last alien passes him as it runs out into the gallery, “-up…”
Other than the human, only one person is left in the bar, and that person raises his carapaced hand. “Right here, Mister Outstar,” the tall insect creature, an ardian, speaks with a young, smart voice through its translator using the beating of its wings to communicate.
Ardians are just as the human expected them to look like, tall, gleaming insects, like a cross between a locust and a preying mantis, just a lot taller than humans and the sort that lay eggs in rotting flesh.
The man in the atmosphere suit hesitates a moment, nods, and then steps right up. He pulls out a chair and takes a seat opposite to the insect guy. “Do aliens always treat humans like that?”
The insect’s many eyes fluctuate a bluer color. “Aliens, Mister Outstar?”
The human clears his throat. “Excuse me. Individuals have been running from me the second I got here. Not even the security detail would search me. I read up about the Nautus System while waiting for the interview, but it doesn’t give mention of human presence anywhere.”
The insect hums. “Well, let’s just say we have just one human, and he’s not exactly the sort people mess with, but don’t worry about that — the reputation should help you.” The insect offers his hand. “I’m Opsone Eqarne from The Bar of the Lascardian Royal Space Navy, I expect you to be Lieutenant Cole Outstar?” Cole takes the hand and shakes.
He feels Eqarne flinch on contact. He’s horrified too. “That’s right,” Cole says, deciding to take his time before asking questions and looking stupid.
“So,” Eqarne continues, “you can understand that we were all… mostly thrilled to recieve a application from a human, recently separated from the… U.P.M.F., I believe…” Eqarne says as, with a slight gesture, sends an image of Cole’s dossier up to Cole’s Glass System, elevated in integrated reality and visible only to him.
“Correct,” Cole says, opening the file and seeing his sad mug taken from his discharge report.
“Wonderful.” Eqarne steeples his hardened, chitinous hands “The L.R.S.N. would expect nothing but the best from you despite your… past decisions, and would look up to you as the human leader you are, so long as you respect the command structure and do your job to the best of your ability.”
Cole smirks as he pushes aside the dossier in his glass screen. “I should have no problem with that.”
Eqarne hums again. “It appears that ‘following orders’ is precisely the reason you were discharged.”
Cole clears his throat as he scans his gaze about the dark, cozy bar through his helmet. “Uh, yeah.”
“But I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson. I found out only good things after that one caveat.”
Cole swings one leg over the other. “Did you?”
The bug nods as his eyes starts going down the list, invisible to Cole as it’s being read on Eqarne’s glass. “Best rifleman in your class, natural leading ability, eye for detail, wonderful fitness score- you definitely have the makings of a commander if I do say so myself. You’ll be starting at our lowest officer tier out of tradition and precedent, but I’m certain you won’t be there long if you’re anything like our other human.”
Cole grins sheepishly. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Absolutely, to be quite honest our interviews are usually far more in-depth, but you really already have the job,” Eqarne says with a stretch of the mandibles to poorly mimic a grin.
The human raises a brow. “That so?”
“Well, yeah. Humans are infamous around here. Lascardia’s the only one in the sector that has one, and soon we’ll have two.”
“…So, other factions in the sector haven’t hired any because they don’t know where to get us, or-”
Eqarne looks at Cole with his thousands of eyes. “Uh, I think it should be obvious, Mister Outstar.”
Cole shrugs. “Not really, sorry.”
“Well, aren’t humans feared everywhere in the universe?… with all due respect, of course.”
Cole searches the bug’s features, unsure how to take the directness. “Uh… yeah, yeah we are.”
“Ahh, just as we studied, then. Other factions don’t want to recruit humans because they’re famous for killing their own allies… is it true that you have a ravenous taste for the spirits of other creatures, and that your saliva contains digestive enzymes and can spread diseases?” Eqarne asks, leaning in slightly in fascination.
Cole looks aside as he thinks on it a moment. “Uh, don’t… don’t most individuals have that?”
“By the hive, no! Everyone on this station would be dead the second a person took their helmet off!” The slender insectoid says with a dismissive wave.
Mister Outstar was just about to explain to the ardian that germ theory, at least for humans, don’t work that way, but just as he takes a breath, the station-wide alarm sounds. The two turn to look out of the bar as a series of quakes tremor through the station.
Eqarne folds down his antennae and reaches for his helmet. “Looks like we got company,” he says, the translator picking up the movement of his wings beating against the inside of his suit.
“Wh-” Cole whips out his ywnaho M.2 from his hip and points it to the entrance. “Is this normal around here?”
Eqarne sighs as he slaps his emergency beacon. “For us ardians out in rim space, it is. Someone must’ve heard about our meeting,” he explains as shouting civilians flood to their left to escape. “But you got this handled, right?”
Cole is quiet a moment as his mind grinds through the concept. “…Eh, sure!”
Eqarne nods. “Good, cuz’ I’m unarmed.”
“Great.” Cole says, the sound of kinetic weapons discharging wildly from the establishment’s right side overpowering his words. Cole kicks over their table and Eqarne joins him in cover as the murderous laughter of a group approaches.
“This is the place!” A four armed, rock-heavy argonite says, flipping up the scanner from its featureless face. A team of four outlanders file into the room and establish security over Cole and Eqarne’s table. “Clear,” the argonite says, keeping its rifle trained on the table.
“As perceptive as always, Zirco,” a stout, many-mandibled bug alien of a different species as Eqarne says as it saunters in professionally on its ten legs. “Now then, what do we have here?”it asks.
“Pretty sure it’s an ardian and their newest little recruit, sir. Weird heat signature, pretty sure they’re both suited up,” the argonite by the name of Zirco says.
The large isopod crackles in thought. “The master will be most pleased. Alright, you two best show yourselves or I’ll have you blown to smithereens.”
Cole looks to Eqarne, and Eqarne shrugs. “You’re the human, sir!” Eqarne says over direct-link comms, audible to none but Cole.
“So you expect me to do miracles? What the hell do you want me to do?” Cole asks.
“My patience is short,” the isopod-looking one says with a yawn as it flips a pistol up and about.
“Couldn’t we just talk it out? Are they understanding?” Cole asks.
“They’d probably walk us out and sell us for parts, or me, at least. Ardian flesh is a… well, a delicacy throughout the galaxy.”
“D-” Cole sighs as he flips off his pack and starts jostling through it. “Get ready to move on my mark.”
Eqarne nods as the gang leader stretches his four sets of arms. “I’ll give you fine lads a count to 3.”
Cole moves like rapid fire as he puts aside his ywnaho and pulls out a small metal cube with a link port.
“One…” the leader says, signaling a weird scaly one to bring up a rather large rifle with a faint green glow along the exhaust ports.
“Whoa, human tech?”Eqarne says as Cole establishes a link with the device and reaches up to his helmet with his left hand. He makes a twisting motion with his hand at the base of his helmet, as if turning a switch, and flips up from his wrist a small suit-bound keyboard.
Eqarne shakes his head as if Cole’s actions had no meaning. “W-why would you-”
“Turn off your Glass,” Cole interrupts.
“Two…” The leader says amidst chuckles from the gang members.
Eqarne pauses, and makes the same switch-turning motion. “I can’t see anything,” he says, muffled under his now-dead helmet.
“Then take it off,” Cole says, now holding his finger over the enter key on his wrist-bound as he takes up what looks to be a grenade of some sort with his other hand. He pulls the pin.
“…Two and a half…” the leader says as the lizard man begins charging a shot.
Eqarne finishes working off his helmet. “Okay, now what?”
“We move, go!” Just before exiting cover, Cole hits his key and tosses the grenade over to the middle of the group. Like a flash, the bar is filled with light and the screams of the gang. Some fire in confusion as others buckle over in pain, but both bar-goers are quickly around and out of the establishment.
“Nice job!” Eqarne says as the two rush down the gallery and through the station.
“Eh, thanks, now where’s your vessel?” Cole says as he pulls out a hand-held scanner and holds it near his helmet off and on.
Eqarne coughs. “I… took public trans-”
“Shit,” Cole interrupts again as he ducks into cover in the form of a pleasant shrubbery and seating arrangement, Eqarne following closely along. Just a second later a backup squad of gang-members storms around the corner from the hanger, but the second they get within fifty meters of the two, they all start screaming as well.
Eqarne stares on in awe from the corner as Cole taps him along. “We’re moving.” The two exit their concealment again and pass across the group. Cole spots out one who isn’t totally incapacitated, and flicks up his ywnaho just as his foe reaches for his pistol. With a single shot, a bang, and a smoking blue glow, the gang-member is splattered across his trembling, screaming comrades.
“Shit! This is crazy!” Eqarne shouts in half-excitement as he aptly swoops past the group and grabs a pistol from one of them.
“It’s about to get crazier if all goes as planned,” Cole says as they escape the gallery and file into the elevator at a rushed, though quieted pace. Cole links with the elevator as the doors slowly close. “So the last visited floor was eighteen, eh?” And he taps it, sending them on their way.
“Turn off your damn Glass’!” the two hear one of the gang members shout from back down the gallery.
Chapter Two: A Shot from the Ether
Cole and Eqarne point down the opening of the elevator as cheerful pop-idol music hums over the speakers.
“Whoa, Lunar Reef!” Eqarne exclaims as he jostles his head along with the feminine voice singing the tune.
Cole’s helmet turns slightly in his companion’s direction as if to address him more personally. “Focus, dude.”
“Ah, but Mister Outstar, it’s from their new album! Been topping the charts on Arda for weeks. You can’t not find it catch-”
*ping!* goes the elevator, causing both to focus back on the doorway. Cole leads out as the two gain a sight on both sides of the hanger hall.
“Empty,” Cole says, relaxing his stance a few degrees, “let’s go before they catch up… actually.” Cole reaches into his bag once more and pulls out a small metal cap with an L.E.D..
“Wow, how much you got in there?”
Cole tosses the cap into the open elevator just as the doors start to close to travel to another floor. “A bit, just some things I got from my old command.”
Eqarne hums. “Do they usually send their discharges out with explosives and jammers?”
“Not really…”Cole says with a sheepish tone as he taps a button and detonates the charge, blowing the inner circuitry of the elevator to bits. “That’ll should buy us maybe five minutes. They’ll have to go through the access ducts to get back up here.”
Eqarne nods, his antennae bouncing with the motion. “Very smart, where next?”
Cole looks down to his scanner for only a second. “Number eleven.”
“Cool,” Eqarne says as they move through the hall with caution. “So is that where your vessel is?”
“Naw.” Cole moves to the side of the hanger #11 port, just as the two hear screams from inside. “Its where theirs is.”
Eqarne stutters in thought a second just before the doors open to reveal a duo of guards, in incapacitated on the floor. Behind them is a mid-sized squad ship, tagged up with profane graffiti from the engines to the meager weapon racks, to the cockpit. “Classy ship,” Cole says, sparing the grace to the two gang-members to charge his taser and shock them both unconscious rather than projecting them across the floor.
“Eh, we’re not killing them?” Eqarne asks? “These guys are probably dead or alive.”
Cole scoffs as they move up near the open ship, a single stairway leading out the side. “A waste of ammo if we’re going to be opening up the hatch anyway.”
Eqarne sighs. “Kind of cruel, don’t you think?”
“Give’s ‘em time to think — now get frosty,” Cole says as the two lean into the sides at the door before peeking in.
The bug nods, and the two swing in together.
The interior of the ship looks as though its been lived in for months, and though Cole’s helmet is on and Eqarne’s race has an innately terrible sense of smell, they’d be knocked off their feet. It’s filled with all sort of substances contained within a long stack of jars taking up a good third of the main cabin. Only a second’s inspection and Cole finds the word “Void Ash” on one of the bottle’s labels.
“Smugglers,” Cole says under his breath as the two quietly point their way straight up to the cockpit.
“Uh, what about the other sections of the ship?” Eqarne asks, “There could be someone in here with us.”
“Then keep watch,” Cole says as he reaches into his bag and pulls out a little shard of what looks like glass, but is actually trillions and trillions of bytes of physical storage.
Eqarne glances briefly at what Cole’s carrying. “A Glass key?”
“Yeah,” he says as he easily works into the lower console, already spilling forth with connectors and relays.
“Pretty retro, sir. Aren’t humans supposed to be the most technologically advanced race in the outer cluster?”
“Apparently, though I don’t consider myself a very ‘high tech’ dude when it comes to that,” Cole says as he clicks through the chips below his feet.
“That so? I wouldn’t thought the U.P.M.F. would outfit you with the latest.”
“B-b-b-budget cuts,” Cole says, mocking the popular Federation line among soldiers as he links his key and runs the program.
“Well you seem worth is, Mister Outstar. You definitely know how to deal with,” Eqarne pauses as he thought he saw something move in the back, “… typical assholes.”
“Sure thing,” Cole says as he ignites the engines and raises the door hatch. “Alright,” Cole turns off his little jammer box and flicks on his Glass. “Vessel eleven to Control, this is a… repurposed Lascardian trader vessel, requesting access from eleven, over.”
The other line is only static as Eqarne relaxes into his seat on the right side of the two-man cockpit and gets his helmet on.
Cole tries again as he lifts the ship in the hanger. “Vessel eleven to Control, how copy, Over.”
Still nothing.
“Looks like the gang hit them too, probably to keep a hold on the station.”
“That’s insane, they were going for the whole station?”
“Who knows, but they wanted to keep things under control until they got you, I guess,” Cole says.
The two hear muffled screaming from below. They simultaneously peek through the bottom glass to spot one of the two mercenaries guarding the bay, already back on his feet with the other one stumbling back to readiness. He points his gun and yells as loud as his little lungs will aid him, but the many-gilled mercenary is drowned out by the ship’s engines.
“They don’t want to shoot because it’d ruin their ride out of here,” Eqarne says bemusedly.
“I’ll send them on their way. Weapons online.” He places his grip upon the firing stick.
Eqarne snaps his head to Cole. “M-Mister Outstar, you don’t actually mean to suggest we’ll b-”
Skewing the ardian’s sentence, Cole fires a barrage of shots into the space door, tearing it from its hinges and opening the room to the vacuum of space. The two smugglers are the first to go, then the ship boosts out of the doors and to the black empty.
“See ya, nerds,” Cole says with a chuckle as he sees the two soar off to see many wondrous and beautiful things while they starve, freeze, and/or suffocate, depending on the quality of their atmosphere suits.
Eqarne hums. “Do humans… enjoy killing?”
Cole shakes his head as he pushes forward the thrusters to escape the station’s immediate space as soon as possible. “Well, no… I mean, some of us do, but not many.”
“You seemed to find their deaths funny, I suppose. Just seemed like what I heard about the other human. You two seem different than what I’ve studied.”
“You’ve studied humans? Then you should know we’re not that bad, like at all.”
“Yes! I love human culture! I assume the stuff is all old, but your historic texts are not only wholly educational, but quite entertaining.”
Cole leans back from his seat a bit. “…Our texts? You know humans are like… everywhere, right? You have us in like every dimension, I hear. What kind of ‘texts’ are we talking about, exactly?”
“Oh, just the standard. Called anime in your language, I believe.”
Cole pauses in disbelief, and after a few seconds comes to a nod. “Anime.”
“Yes, Mister Outstar. Fist of the North Star was an incredible resource when it came to understanding unaltered human combat abilities, and Ghost in the Shell was a riveting look into human-machine evolution.”
Cole stifles a laugh. “So… you’ve learned all you have about humans… watching anime?”
“Well, yes, sir. It’s the only texts I’ve seen of your race on the GlassLine. Everything else is too diluted and doesn’t make much sense.”
Cole leans into his hands. “And you’re an ambassador?”
Eqarne nods aptly. “That’s right, Mister Outstar, or if I may, Mister Starwind-Sama. I’m the one race ambassador for humans. The authority on your fascinating species for the whole of the ardian race!”
“Oh my fucking Goddess,” Cole says in a mix of ecstatic humor and absolute disgust.
“What’s the matter?” Eqarne asks with a tone of innocent curiosity.
“Okay,” Cole looks over to his tall companion. “There is absolutely no way in hell that-”
Both look to the control panel. “The hell?” Cole says.
“What is it?”
“There was a huge spike in volt use, but it’s back to normal.” He draws his ywnaho.
Eqarne is much slower on the draw, almost relaxed. “Maybe an air conditioner or something. M-maybe we’re live streaming!”
Cole gets up and looks down the long hall of the ship’s interior, there’s four smaller rooms in the back, probably just quarters, storage, and hopefully a sanitation bay. “Live streaming?”
“You know, the human sensation of recording them playing games!”
“No idea that was a thing,” Cole says as he downs the hall, his pistol at the ready.
“All in the ancient records. I’m surprised, Mister Outstar. It seems like there’s much you don’t know about your kind’s heritage.”
“Quiet, please,” Cole says calmly.
“O-oh! Sorry, Mister Outstar!” Eqarne steps out from his seat and takes a relaxed aim down the hall, flagging Cole. “Got your back.”
Cole continues down the corridor to the first room. With a tap it slides open: a quartet of stacked bunks, each one sporting a different, very questionable drug set up. “Looks like these guys cooked on their downtime,” Cole thinks to himself as he does a quick spotcheck for any machine that would cause the spike. On the third bunk is a running crystallizer, whirring noisily as it slowly churns out void ash from obsarnium.
He turns and goes for the second door. He flinches and raises his pistol.
“What?!” Eqarne shouts from across the ship.
Cole holds his aim through the door a second, and lowers it to his hip. “A droid.” Sure enough, sprawled lazily over a chair is an shining white android, showing no signs of life and with its head box opened up. Like all O.E.L. make androids, its tall, of a roughly human frame, androgynous and without a single facial feature or depression in sight — like a physical tabula rasa.
“Is it… on?”
“Naw,” Cole says, “Face plate is open. They were probably repairing it.”
“Ahh,” Eqarne chuckles nervously. “Good.”
Cole looks over the sight a bit more, and spots a tactical knife sheathed in the machine’s left forearm. Holding his pistol at the ready, he slowly slips the knife out and, seeing it makes no reaction, relaxes as he tosses the blade aside. “Looks like a drug runner. The kit is super light and the movement hardware is definitely military spec. This bastard probably cost them an arm and a leg. O.E.L. make, too.”
“O.E.L., the Librarium?” Eqarne asks as he lowers his firearm and leans back.
“So you do know of them?”
“That they’re sworn enemies of her fertileness and the Ardian people, yes; also that they’re thieves of technology, and backwards engineer everything they find. They’re a menace to everyone they meet and travel both realms and stars for new knowledge to copy.”
Cole clears his throat as he moves to the third door. “Right.” He taps the panel, and the door opens to reveal a sanitation bay. Dirty is an understatement. “Nice,” Cole says with no small amount of sarcasm. There’s a thin caking of body hair, oil, and soap scum all across the room, in fact the shower seems to be the cleanest part of the entire room. “Yeah, this one’s a fixer for sure. They haven’t taken very good care of the ship.”
“Well its of no worry to you once we’ve charged the B.D. and warp to Arda and get you assigned. It’s going to be so awesome, I can’t wait!”
“Eh, alright, thanks,” Cole says half heartedly as he moves to the last door. It slides open noisily to reveal a storage room, just large enough to fit about four people standing. It’s filled with garbage. “Wow. I guess this ship doesn’t have a jettison so they just let it all pile up here.”
“Well, can’t blame them for holding to the stereotype,” Eqarne says. “Most races in this sector are of the less agreeable sort, anyway.”
“ ‘Spose not,” Cole says as he returns to the very end of the hall and starts working off the floor panel to get into maintenance. “Well I doubt there’s much to worry about for the engine room, but I’ll check just to be su-”
*Click* comes a sound from the robot’s room.
Eqarne flinches. “Was that-”
“Fuck!” Cole turns and raises his ywnaho just in time to have his weapon smacked aside by the android. The robot, armed with the knife dropped aside by a careless Cole, delivers it straight into Cole’s helmet, piercing in half an inch and pressing in as the two tangle. “Aggression code eight eight five, neutral!…” Cole says, speaking a little known command. The android scoffs.
“I’m a jailbreak, motherfucker,” it says with a superior, deep, cruel voice. As the two wrestle back and forth through the cabin, the synonymous three pings of another ship entering radar distance sounds off over the ship’s speakers.
“Shit, help!” Cole shouts as he tosses on the floor with the robot, trying its very best to shove the heated knife into Cole’s skull.
Eqarne screams as he unloads his entire clip of kinetic ammunition into the machine, but the spray hits Cole once or twice, smashing and cracking his suit.
“Shoot the machine, dammit— Aim!” the now-pinned Cole screams as the knife slowly descends into his helmet and starts frying the skin of his forehead with the blade’s tip.
“I’m out of ammo!” Eqarne yells frantically.
“Then do anything! Fuck!”
As Eqarne struggles to think or find anything to fight back with, the android’s volcano-heat knife is just to the tip of Cole. Just then, Cole receives a Glass comm from an unknown sender, and Cole knows well that it’s set to private.
“I’m about to take the shot. Are your suits pressurized?” Speaks the voice, deep, calculating, refined.
Cole mutters in confusion before he realizes what’s going on. “Put on your helmet!” He shouts with all his breath.
Eqarne stumbles and slips it on, pressurizing his suit just in time as a high-cal bullet pierces the ship through the cockpit glass, skewering the android and spinning both it and Cole to the end of the corridor. Everything’s a wild blur for Cole as the entire cabin’s emptied out, including himself. His last moments of consciousness are of the cold blackness and the endless stars. Briefly the irony crosses him that this is much like how he doomed those two smugglers just minutes ago. “Damn,” is his last thought before he surrenders to the blackness.