Still working guys, but things have been bad. I’ve had worse / more frequent migraines than usual lately and my wife has been recovering from sinus surgery and is just getting back to work. I’ll get you a real update on my progress later this week.
Can be found here. 1503 words, so on target pretty much.
(I appreciate the font size is maybe not the best for reading a large block of text, I’ll put in a theme for those pages to display larger text [sometime this weekend hopefully.] Longer term I will probably need to do some wordpress-mining to find a better layout for text updates.)
If you remember, we’ve so far started and ended each chapter with the character-of-focus telling the story to someone else, so the italicized bits in the text substitute for our boxed narration in the comic. Hopefully that didn’t throw anyone.
I hope you enjoy it, Please let me know what you think.
Chapter 3 – After Action
Look, this is all digitally time stamped, right, so there’s no real reason to read out the date and time like that, unless you’re trying to play into people’s expectations, like a police procedural. It intimidates them. I wrote a paper on it if you want to know more.
Draxis is one of the many hub-systems to the Great Races of the Galaxy. Its many bright and glittering orbitals teem with industry, commerce, and culture. On the galactic scale, it is not far from all that commotion we just left, although I would not want to walk it.
Near Draxis c is an orbital which, within its false but cheerful blue-sky dome, houses a rather drab, featureless gray obelisk amid the generally more bright and creative structures. It does nothing to call attention to itself apart from simply being so dull by comparison, but any inquiry quickly reveals why: this is the District 37 headquarters of Interstellar Trade and Transit. One can understand, perhaps, it is necessary to have a bureaucracy police the spaceways of a galactic culture, but are they so boring that they can’t stand a little artificial natural light? No! From the inside, the outer walls appear completely transparent, as are the walls and cubicles within, making the offices bright and roomy despite still being administrative hives. In one such office sat two humans, a woman with tan skin and hair the color of ancient living Earth coral, and a pale blond man with anxious posture.
So, how are we going to do this?
“Mmh?” The redhead had been staring out past the walls to the brightly lit outdoors and thinking of a time when she was much younger, like her counterpart was now. “Sorry Bruce, what?”
“Did we get ballistics back from the concourse yet?” Fun fact: ballistic weapons were pretty rare these days, but it was still called that. Tradition. The same tradition that dictated that someone got chopped when a fuckup this big happened. It was most likely going to be the two of them, but Bruce was desperately trying to find something in the piles of supporting files and evidence and reports that now cluttered the surface of and space above the table between them.
When you’re interrogating me– fine, interviewing. When I’m stuck here and forced to answer your questions. Is it just my responses abstracted from context and edited to–
“Sorry. No, the yokels are dragging their heels.” She leaned back and stared out the window again. “Specifics about their weapons might have helped us identify out smugglers now that we don’t have any recordings, and we can’t bolo a Coba, a mentat, and a shell.”
Not to be deterred, Bruce began reshuffling the projected displays and physical files, which were sticky with condensation from his glass of iced tea. They were little more than handholds for clusters of digital files in the local network, though– empty plastic sheaths destined for recycling when they wore out. “It has to be here, though.” He took a sip of tea. “There’s so much that doesn’t add up to anything. Let’s start from the beginning…”
“Oh God, for the twentieth time, Bruce? This meeting is in less than 2 ksec!” She cut through the air and pointed at the door, and the motion caused a few diagrams to momentarily fuzz.
Cynical? Please, at my age it’s called a positive outlook.
“Well, after that meeting you can retire to your comfy estate and live on royalty checks, while I’ll be hotbunking and wearing paper gowns in the common dorms. So I’m sorry if I’m fighting for my life here.” It came out clipped and quiet. Bruce was usually very reserved around her, so this passed for furious. She realized they were both angry at this idiotic situation. She let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d held.
“I’m sorry Bruce. Okay, let’s review our presentation.”
Okay, my involvement in this whole thing started with a sting that went horribly wrong.
Bruce grinned, cleared the space in front of them with a few swipes, and, twirling his finger at his palm a few times, opened the annotated schematic of the station. Robin straightened in her chair and sipped a bulb of water.
“As you may know, synthetic dairy-starch, or ‘puffs’ on the street, are traditionally enjoyed by many species as a tasty snack, but are prohibited in some territories, including significant portions of this district, due to euphoric and addictive qualities.” As she began to speak, the presentation automatically took cues from her voice and advanced the animation to display evidence-room images of a cheese-puff from various angles, followed by morgue-images of a Drayduk’s jellyfish corpse hanging limply from a scaffold, deflated and colorless but for sickly emerald streaks.
“We’ve known for some time that the Positron Fist outfit has been moving synthetic dairy-starch out of the Corixon Six orbitals, and we recently acquired a CI with the connections to arrange a sting. We learned from this informant, Aloysius Zhnoz, that Positron Fist preferred to trade drugs for off-the-books fuel bricks, so we acquired an abnormally large brick to use as bait. For us, this was a two-for-one. Narcotics and illegal fuel sale.” The images advanced to display a map of Positron Fist’s likely territory in the orbital, a scan of the ill-fated brick, and an image of the informant, a Bradian with the typical ear-tufts and long snout.
It was Bruce’s turn. “The setup was simple. Zhnoz arranged for a transaction with his contact in the market level. We could wait for the transaction, grab the soldier, and use him to expose the rest of the network. If there were any witnesses, we could sequester them, and we were filtering comms on the deck.” A wireframe of the orbital zoomed and rotated until it displayed the market level. Zhnoz’s stall was set up away from the walkway, assets were scattered to surround the likely target.
“Unfortunately, there were several assumptions that undermined and ultimately doomed the entire operation. First: we assumed our confidential informant wasn’t a complete fucking idiot.”
The schematic of the market grayed and fuzzed somewhat as a list with one item popped up in front of it:
1) CI was a complete fucking idiot
Bruce continued. “He had neither established nor adhered to a strict protocol for the exchange with his contact, allowing what we are now assuming to be a trio of bystanders to blunder into the entire thing.” Incredulous, Bruce raised his voice as he emphasized each word. “Moreover, he did not know what his contact would look like or whether they would be accompanied.” After a slight sigh, he continued. “This may speak to some amount of secrecy on the part of the Positron Fist’s soldiers but we are skeptical.”
“Second,” Robin said, “we severely underestimated the capabilities of the group that would become the perpetrators.”
1) CI was a complete fucking idiot
2) We fucked up
“Their assets included a Coba Warrior of undetermined skill but at least 5th tier, who immediately began to neutralize assets in the market and appeared to be a capable sled-driver. Second was a shell of undetermined class or origin that was at all times heavily armed. If the occupant was not always skilled with their weapons they made up for it with sheer power. Third was a mentat about which nothing else is known, except we might safely assume that they are responsible for the data wipe that removed all trace of the party and their ship from every system on the orbital.”
The list shrunk somewhat to to allow the wireframe to slide out. It now showed the approximate path used to escape the market, as well as the telemetry for ITT and station security in their attempts to intercept.
“These three were able to hold off our assets in the market long enough to break security into maintenance access where they stole a gravsled . Here, in the cargo sorting area, a pursuing team was thrown from their sled by what they guessed was a high-powered temporary force shield deployed from the shell. They continued to the docks and managed to evade and finally lose security.”
“Third,” Bruce concluded, “their ship appeared to be camouflaged as a poorly-maintained freighter. As our interceptors were closing in, they shed the disguise to reveal a profile more consistent with a high-powered luxury vessel, and promptly ate the minimum distance to jump. We couldn’t keep up with them.”
1) CI was a complete fucking idiot
2) We fucked up
3) They had a magic ship
After delivering their presentation, the two of them looked out at the seated bureaucrats before them in the conference room that really felt more like a meeting hall. “A full report with all details is available to you now. Let us conclude by adding that while the identities and affiliations of the trio of perpetrators are unknown, it is unlikely that they are Positron Fist, meaning that the primary goal of this operation was a complete failure.”
I’m actually seriously working on a draft of Chapter 3, Scene 1. Assuming you haven’t written us off entirely (again, can’t blame you and thanks for reading) and you still want to read this, in what sized chunks do you want to receive it? A scene should be at least a thousand words (possibly much more, depending.) And that’s something of an artifact of the existing outline– as I go on it won’t really apply anymore but I’ll still limit things to the similarly-sized chunks.
Also a few people mentioned financially supporting this endeavor and I could definitely start up a Patreon for that purpose, but I want to put out the first “block” of text to make sure it’s worthy of your support. So are you in? I would like to try to get this scene done in the next four weeks, but you’ll have it when I think it’s done, that is, possibly much sooner.
See you soon.
I was holding out hope that I could convert the script into a novel, and while I came to the decision awhile ago that it would probably never happen I’ve been putting off finalizing it by saying anything about it. Too much of our story was inherently visual, whether it was Riess’s amazing designs or the sight gags. In fairness, part of me suspects I’m just too afraid to attempt the nuts-and-bolts of a narrative with these characters by myself, worried I’ll screw it up, but were I to try to write these scenes I’d be visualizing them as a comic first and then attempting to describe the comic. I can’t help but think it would be a colossal waste of time and destined to fail.
Maybe there are some other stories in this world I can find to tell, if I can also make myself find the time to write them.
In the meantime, imagine Tokkee amazed and enthralled to find an amazing amount of power at his disposal, left with the impression now that Eloree is something closer to a high priestess on board. They execute the jump as the Red-haired senior officer stares dispassionately through triangular windows and pointedly does not force-choke a nearby subordinate, instead turning and walking away. Already several jumps away with a cold trail behind them, Our Intrepid Crew celebrates in the common room, while the camera drifts down the hall and into one of the ship’s many maintenance conduits, which after many turns reveals, resting patiently in a shadow, the helmeted and superfluously behatted space ninja, who spied them on the grav sled and boarded the ship during their exit from the harbor (accounting for Tok’s collision alert.)
WHO IS THIS SPACE NINJA? Find out.. I mean never I guess. Okay I mean I’m not going to type out the entire next eight chapters in summary form here in part because I don’t have script that goes that far anyway, but maybe if there’s interest I can novelize the next chapter at the very least. If ten people would enjoy reading that I’ll give it a try.
If that doesn’t interest you, that’s fine. Thanks for reading as far as you did. We had fun making it.
This has always been about Riess’s beautiful artwork for me, but if you are interested in seeing the story resolved, stay tuned, I am looking into doing that. I don’t want to elaborate without a commitment, so I’m not going to come back to you without something in hand, probably not for awhile, so just stay subscribed, or barring that set a reminder to check back here in six months, I should at least have news by then. (Yikes that is a run on sentence.)
For my own part, I really loved what we were doing and working with Riess was a dream, but that’s in part because it was very very easy. I just put a bunch of junk on paper, edited it a lot, and then leaned on Riess until he spit out beautiful pages. I was doing 10% of the work and half of that was cheerleading. Honestly I wish we were keeping it up but I am not in a position to complain at all.
Thanks for sticking with us, see you in the future maybe.
What is the GROTG?
The Great Races of the Galaxy is just shorthand for “The Supreme Interstellar Senate of the Great Races of the Galaxy.” It’s sort of like the United Nations of pre-hyperspace Earth, but as orders of magnitude increase for scope, so do those for bureaucratic inefficiency and political infighting. Still, the institution manages to keep conflicts from escalating to full alliance-activation by keeping problems in as wide a public forum as possible. This is fortunate because MAD is orders of magnitude greater as well. While conventional wars (as between APA and the Silicon Lords) are fought for prestige and minor territorial rights between well-shielded ships fielding relatively weak weapons, the strategic weapons in reserve are “the good toys.” These include your Stellar Imploders, your Atmospheric Deprivation Weapons, and your Ultracavitating Chronosphere Drivers.
Another similarity to the UN of pre-hyperdrive Earth is the distribution of wealth, power, and influence into a handful of superpowers and their economic allies. There are many relatively dominant empires and federations which either started early or made a big impact as fierce competitors when they got the hyperdrive. There are also innumerable “developing” races which have reserved / allotted fallow territory near their homeworld.
I’ve been sick and overworked as I move through finals week. I am still going to try to get some words up tonight, but they may be late.