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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:56 pm 
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Brother Sparks

Baldy took his time dishing out the answers. First he wanted access to my shipboard computer. Given that I probably owed my life to him, I wasn't about to start getting paranoid about his motives.

Still, I looked over his shoulder to see what he was doing anyway.

His fingers were lightning fast. Every time I tried to ask what he was doing he'd shush me and say "Not yet." He accessed my ship's registry, hacked it, and changed my ship ident completely. I wish I had a camera recording how he did that because that was the sort of thing you expected a team of pirate hackers to take a week to do off in the Anarchy systems, and he did it in half an hour.

"There. That should keep them off your trail for a while."

"Would be nice to know who 'them' are...or you for that matter."

"I suspect telling you my name is Brother Sparks might be...illuminating." He waited for a reaction that didn't come. "That's monk humour."

Though I didn't get the joke, I did see what he was getting at. "You're part of the Order?"

Sparks nodded. "Such as it is. Things have changed since your time. But then, you already know that."

"So those guys treating me like a lab rat were...?"

"Not of the Order. They work for Simguru Pranav Antal of the Utopian movement. The one running that operation was technically my superior. His capturing of you has made it clear that I've underestimated him. I just hope it wasn't fatally."

"For us, I assume?"

"And the Order. After the Old Worlds rejoined the greater galactic community, we continued our work as best we could. But the nature of galactic politics, with the Federation and Empire both vying for our knowledge, as well as other ambitious factions, we decided it was better of we disappeared. As you discovered."

"Wait, you knew I was looking for you?"

Brother Sparks nodded. "Only recently, anyone searching for our history tends to raise certain flags and activate certain alarms. I suspect it might be how the Simguru found you. But before that I was looking for you, tracking your movements, looking for a discrete opportunity for us to meet. Sadly, that did not go as planned."

"Guess not. So, look, forgive me for being blunt. I love a good revealing exposition as much as the next cinephile, but I kind of need you to get to the point."

Sparks turned in his chair. "I'm guessing I can't delay with the 'All in good time,' tactic?"

"Not unless you want a thousand variations on 'Can you tell me now?' over the next few hours."

"The short version is this--our Order, as you know, is dedicated to preserving life. We do so in a variety of ways. Genetic engineering, bionic implants, cybernetics, nanotechnology, like what was used in Project Cliche to repair and restore your friend's body."

"Project Cliche?"

"The team had originally wanted to call it Project Lazarus, but..."

"Ah. Got it."

"And in our ambitions to achieve the dreams of transhumanism, we also designed bio-organic implants such as yourself."

"Yeah, but I've got to be a hundred years obsolete in that regard."

"Far from it. Project Transporter had dozens of candidates, but only one success. You."

"Okay, so I'm unique, but why does that make the Utopians so eager to take an ice cream scoop to my brain?"

Brother Sparks snorted. "Sorry... I don't get a chance to crack many jokes where I was stationed. It's refreshing to hear sarcasm on this level. The reason they want you is the reason I don't want them to have you. Antal's Utopian vision has many merits, but he's far from saintly in the eyes of the Order. At first our focus was to help their more worthy goals, but as of late we've spent more time trying to hinder them, unseen, on their less noble pursuits."

"Well, that was a heck of a hindering you did back on the station," I said. "We might have been better off if you made that hindering a bit more permanent, though."

Sparks sighed. "We abhor violence and refuse to use it, but we recognize it is part of the natural order of things. If we didn't we certainly wouldn't spend so much time saving pilots that are hell bent on blowing each other up all the time. But we also believe that personal free will is part of the natural order of things as well. Antal, or at least many of those who champion his vision, do not."

"Still not following you."

"Project Cliche was simply advanced means to preserve and revive a pilot's body. Many of those techniques have been incorporated by the galaxy at large. Project Transporter, however, was an attempt to save a pilot's mind, for when even the body couldn't be recovered. But the means to do so is something that could be exploited in terrible ways. You've already experienced one of them."

I thought about it. "Mossfoot's dead because of me?"

Sparks shook his head. "Don't look at it that way, and don't blame yourself. Of course, Mr Mossfoot's case was an exception. Transporter was never meant to be used on a brain-functional human, but rather applied to a brain dead one. It was tested on brain-dead bodies at first, but it was hoped to be the last hurdle in making cloning a viable alternative for human life extension."

"Immortality," I said, half to myself.

"After a fashion. But it failed. Revived patients eventually degraded and went vegetative or homicidal. Project Transporter was scrapped shortly after you and Mossfoot disappeared."

"So these Utopians want to know why I work so we can all get our own personal Konami cheat code?"

"Perhaps that would be their line officially, if it ever became public. But I'm afraid far more sinister ideas are at play. Transporter didn't just allow for the transferring of memories and consciousness, it allows for their manipulation as well."

I felt a chill at the way he said that. "I think I see where this is going."

"Only in part. Yes, the technology could apply to their already effective reeducation techniques, but consider this. Imagine a population implanted with your technology, intended a backup. Personalities stored online and updated regularly so that even if the body was vaporized the last version could be uploaded to a new body, once it had grown."

"Right..."

"Now imagine that implant had a second personality attached to it. One suited to a ruling factions needs. Perhaps copies of various approved ideal subjects, perhaps something wholly artificial. And at the flip of a switch, so to speak..."

"They go all Violet."

"Precisely. The primary personality is destroyed or suppressed and the dormant personality takes over."

"Free will becomes a luxury, not a right."

"I fear it would be much worse than that. There are those within the Utopian movement who wouldn't see its use as something to only apply to dissidents, but to everyone, all at once, for the greater good. The final stage of their perfect vision, where all are one."

"Ugh. I'm getting shades of Emperor Palpatine here."

Brother Sparks frowned. "Sorry?"

"Never mind. Old Star Wars joke. Order 66 and all that. Palpatine is Antal in this case."

"Actually, whether Antal himself would approve, I have no idea. But I do know that those who are striving towards this goal would have no problem converting him as well, if it came to that."

"So, long story short, you don't want my brain falling into the wrong hands." Now there was a mental image I could have done without. Even heard a 'sploot' in my head as it slapped onto the Simguru's hands...

"Yes."

"So how do you plan to do that? A pragmatic person would just kill me, but killing isn't your thing."

"Correct."

"And believe me, I'm grateful. I'd rather avoid that option."

"As would we. You have much to teach us that would be beneficial to the preservation of life, if properly understood."

"I'm not sure you should have access to it either. Let me be clear about something right now. As much as I'd like to stick around, I overcame my fear of death a hundred and fifty years ago. As far as I'm concerned, I'm already dead. I have no qualms about setting sticking my head in the main drive and turning on the afterburners if it keeps this Pandora's box out of everyone's hands. Yours included."

Brother Sparks seemed to assess me, as if determining if I was serious or all talk. He nodded. I think he decided it was the former.

"Now, about hiding out. You can't exactly give me plastic surgery. Believe me, we tried. It goes right back to fire burn victim chic. Facial recognition is going to spot us somewhere eventually."

"I believe I have a solution to that, but first I need you to set course for Sol."

"Sol? Why?"

"Because your survival, and that of my Order, depends on certain information being deleted or otherwise corrupted. Our Order is already in the process of destroying everything we have on Polevnic and evacuating, but Antal's people aren't the only ones interested in you. Your case is being tracked by the Geneva Medical Research Laboratory on Earth. And once they learn that the Utopians have made their move, it won't be long before the Federation make theirs."

_________________
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Pilot: Mossfoot - Ship ID: Viaticus Rex (Cobra MKII)
Rank: Competent - Status: Clean

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 10, 2015 5:46 pm 
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Solward Bound

Sparks had us hang out near Hutton Orbital in Alpha Centauri, pretty much the last place anyone would be looking for a Clipper since it can't dock there, but also because a member of the Order had been stationed there. I don't know if it was punishment, or just to get away from it all monastic-style, but she was thrilled to hear from Sparks regardless.

I waited in my cabin while he took care of business. I needed some time alone anyway. It was going to take a while for everything Brother Sparks had told me to sink in.

We were going to go to Earth, heart of the Federation, break into a high security facility in order to erase any records of Project Transporter, its ties to me and this body.

Honestly I could have thought of simpler solutions. Just because they couldn't kill me didn't mean they couldn't, say, put me on ice long term. Ditch me on a distant undiscovered Earth-like world with no comms relay. Hell, maybe just take me out of Moss's skull and stick me in a jar somewhere. Maybe that would...

I should point out I was recording these ideas when Brother Sparks walked in on me and interrupted my train of thought.

"You're not still broadcasting those, are you?"

I stopped what I was doing for the time being. "Naw, that was Mossfoot's thing. Deep down for all his whining he was a bit of a glory hound. Once he knew he had an audience he couldn't stop."

"It's just that you're doing it in the same format, I thought..."

"I told you I'm not broadcasting. That's not my thing. It's not for the galaxy at large."

"Then who are you--"

I stared at him evenly.

"Oh."

"So a bit of privacy, maybe?" I hinted.

"Certainly." He stopped at the door and turned back. "You know, I found the archives of Mr. Mossfoot's early recordings, as well as the ones this year, before... I just wanted to say he sounded like a decent person."

"He was a blowhard, a coward, a drunk, and a scheming womanizer," I countered.

"And?"

"He was a friend. I just don't like it when people talk of the dead like they were angels waiting to go to heaven, is all. Makes me sick. I don't want anyone doing that for me when I'm gone."

Sparks raised an eyebrow. "When?"

"Don't go all Freud on me, monk boy. I'm not planning on it, but the fact is we all die. And when I do, the last thing I want is whatever friends I might have still around to act as if I did no wrong."

"You don't feel you've lead a worthy life?"

"Swing and a miss, strike two. I'm just saying I know who I am. Good and bad. I'm defined by everything I do, not just what people like about me."

Brother Sparks smiled. "Fascinating."

"Message, Mr. Spock?" Sparks frowned and again I had to explain myself. "Star Trek reference."

"Ah."

"That's the problem with having access to over a thousand years of popular culture, preserved for all eternity on a variety of media. Ninety five percent of people will only be interested in what happened the last fifty years, and the other five percent will be stretched so thin that you'll need an online matchmaking service just to find someone who knows what the hell you're talking about. And they're probably on an outpost three hundred light years away."

"Apologies."

"Anyway, what's so dang fascinating?"

"You are, of course. I mean, I understand you believe you're you, but from my perspective I think I've always assumed an advanced simulation--but still a simulation."

"Oh, trust me, I've had days I've wondered about that too. I call them Wednesday. And Thursday. Friday. Pretty much any day ending in Y."

"Artificial intelligence isn't my forte," Sparks admitted, "I suppose existential angst could be simulated just like anything else, but let's just say I'm convinced yours is genuine."

"Does not compute."

Brother Sparks snorted again. "And humor is incredibly difficult to simulate. That much I do know."

"Okay, I can get back to Dear Diary later. What were you here for?"

"I simply wanted to inform you that arrangements have been made. We can head to Sol whenever you're ready. Do you need more time?"

I looked back at the recorder. "Five minutes. Let's get on with it."

_________________
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 5:37 pm 
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Ah, Crap.

"This will never work."

Brother Sparks shushed me. "Of course it will, have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately? You'll be lucky they don't throw you straight into ICU when we walk in the door."

For the birthplace of humanity, Earth was all right, I guess. Somehow you expected it to feel more grand, but I'd been to a dozen Earth-like planets, some terraformed, some natural, that felt just as big and majestic. Hell, some of the tourist worlds felt more like what I imagined Earth should be like.

But it's not as if this place was trying to put on a show. Billions of people live here, some of whom have never left the cradle. Hard to imagine.

Geneva, however, did have a look of splendor to it, like it knew it was one of the big important places in the Federation (though far from the only one) and wanted to make sure anyone travelling down by shuttle knew it too.

Sparks and I were on a planetary shuttle from Galileo station near the moon, which is where we had docked the Troubadour. It seemed Sparks's Order were everywhere we needed them. A subtle nod from one of the dock rats on Galileo let us know that our arrival would not be noted on any official logs.

By this point I felt like I was part of this quasi-religious Order, because everything I did now was a leap of faith, including going down to Geneva looking exactly as I normally do, without even a hint of a disguise. The same wasn't true for Sparks, who had his face completely redone on Galileo station to resemble a well known doctor from Everate. Even after we got off the shuttle and onto a tram, I kept expecting something to scan me and call the cops.

Sparks assured me this wasn't the case. "Fortunately we've nipped this in the bud. The only complication so far has been Simmentor Doozer finding you first. And he's unlikely to advertise his failure to anyone." Sparks shook his head. "I mistook him for a fool, even enjoyed pulling the wool over his eyes. It seemed he enjoyed playing the part even more until he found something that suited his goals."

"But you said before the Feds would be looking for me soon."

"And they will, but they will find that exceedingly difficult when their facial recognition algorithms keep pointing them to the wrong people. The only true risk is encountering someone intimately familiar with your case, assuming there is anyone. It's entirely possible your case is being handled entirely by virtual assistants, pending review by a live researcher. Until Doozer found you, you were more of a hypothetical interest than an actual one, after all."

The Federation's Medical Research Laboratory was a large sprawling construct, impressive in size with a decent sculpture out front, but not exactly a work of art. The cover story provided was that I was a burn victim whose body's immune system had rejected current progenitor cell technology, which was more or less the truth, and ostensibly here to test out a new therapy. Sparks was the lead physician familiar with my case, there to assist if there were complications. Everything checked out at the front desk and we were moved on to the experimental testing wing where human trials were handled.

Believe it or not, this actually wasn't my first time in such a place. Back before I was a stuntwoman, when it was hard to make ends meet, I had volunteered for lab testing of new drugs a few times. They paid very well and I only did it because I was assured of its safety... all the weird ass mutations got sorted out in the earlier stages. This was more for monitoring minor side effects like power diarrhea or an overwhelming desire to argue on message boards--but I repeat myself.

Overall it just meant you spent a weekend wearing hospital chic, got decent food, maybe had to run to the bathroom once or twice (well one trial it was more like every hour) and then your next three months rent was taken care of. Sweet.

The wing we were taken to reminded me of those days. In fact I saw through one observation window a clinical trial going on, and the ass-revealing gowns they wore hadn't changed in a hundred and fifty years--or light years.

I'd been given a private room and for one terrifying moment, seeing the hospital bed there ready and waiting for me, I thought this had all been a trap and Sparks had just gotten me to come here without putting up a fight. I'd have given him props on a cunning and elaborate scheme if that had been the case, then broken his nose before they strapped me down.

Instead, Sparks checked out the computer terminal in the room, at first showing my fake patient records and charts. He quickly bypassed those to get to the hospital's mainframe. Something about how easily he did it made me think he wasn't hacking the system at all, but rather accessing a back door of some sort. He soon found the information he wanted, secured the room of any potential listening devices, and updated me on the plan.

"Accessing what's shared on the various distributed networks is easy enough. We already have things in place to track down your records and corrupt them beyond usefulness, but once such a process is detected, backups go into lockdown and become inaccessible. Once the threat has passed, everything damaged is going to be flagged for backup retrieval. So we need to start the attack from inside the central backup, which then directly contacts the secondary-backups wherever they are, even before the distributed network is hit."

"I'll pretend I understand how all that works and get to the 'where do I come in' question."

"Well, I had hoped your role would be limited to simply providing a cover to get us inside and assisting in our escape should we be discovered. But as it turns out I'm afraid I'll need you to make a slightly bigger sacrifice than that."

I looked at him until he dropped the dramatics.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill you. Just for a little while."

"Oh, well, if it's just for a little while..." I said with more sarcasm than a legion of fandom forum trolls.

"The only way I can access the central backup is in their crash room, because it's right above it. You'll die, they'll transfer you to the crash room, and I'll handle the rest."

"So all I need to do is let my heart stop beating. Swell."

"Well, and cease all brain function."

"Fantastic! Do I get to crap myself as well?"

"I believe that is a normal bodily function when one dies, yes."

"You do realize we have to get away from here afterwards, right? I don't want them following the brown trail all the way back to the shuttleport."

"I'll take care of it. I have a couple of options in mind. I'll see to it you're clean with proper clothes ready before we go."

I sighed. What option did I have at this point. "You better. So what do we do?"

"We'll need to go ahead with the first stage of the new progenitor treatment, at which point I'll make sure you have a severe allergic reaction and flatline. That's pretty much it on your end."

"Nice to know that my most important contribution to this mission is to drop dead."

Sparks smiled. "The technical stuff would have bored you anyway."

The door to my room opened and a doctor walked in, looking at a datapad. "So... Mr. Mendez? Ready to try and get that handsome face of yours back?"

That was my cue. "Yep."

He then looked at the Brother Sparks. "And Dr. Hallywell, a pleasure. I've read your papers regarding progenitor application in advanced telomere decay. I'm thrilled that you've taken an interest in my research."

Sparks turned out to be a consummate actor. "I'm thrilled you were able to take us on with such short notice, Dr. Nagoya. I've heard promising things about your new approach, and Tom here is an unusual case. It should provide us both with a lot of useful information."

Dr. Nagoya nodded and gestured out to the hall. "Well, if you're ready, Mr. Mendez, we'll get you to the change room and we can get started right away."

_________________
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:32 pm 
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The Mind Palace

Well, dying sucked. At least the first time it was peacefully in my ship. Never felt a thing then.

When Sparks said I'd have an allergic reaction, he did not warn me just how long that reaction would take to finish me off. First the burning all around my skin where the new progenitor cells were being tested, then my lungs were on fire, fillig with fluid, until I couldn't breathe and everything started to go black.

Aaaand, I think I actually remember crapping myself before it all went black. Lovely. The next thing I knew I was some place I hadn't been in a long time.

I was in a library. It was octagonal in shape. Six of the walls held countless books, one was a giant window providing light, and the last was the door I'd just came through.

My mind palace.

Okay, I know that term refers to something else entirely. It's a mnemonic tool allowing people to remember large amounts of information with instant recall. But, in a way that's what this was, too.

This was where I went in my down time to give Mossfoot some privacy. Given that I'm a cinephile rather a bookworm, I had at first not exactly seen this as an ideal arrangement. But storing tons of movies takes up a hell of a lot more memory than text files that can be applied to whatever I pick up off the shelf here, so that was that.

A single large padded blue chair sat in the center. Comfortable. It was exactly like the one my dad sat in when I was a kid. He'd always kick me off whenever he came into the room, so that made it even more special to sit in whenever possible.

And right now, I saw a familiar face using it. I couldn't believe it, but I'd always hoped.

"Hey there, flyboy. That's my spot."

Mossfoot didn't react. He looked like the way he used to, before the accident that made his face look like melted cheese. He was absorbed in a book, of course.

"I said, hey there, flyboy."

He still didn't react. That was odd. I tried waving my hand in front of him. Nothing. When I tried taking his book away from him my hand passed right through. He turned a page.

"Swell. Just swell." While I knew nothing about the tech that made all this possible, I could think of any number of SF shows that had similar situations and their psudo-science explanations for it. It's like I was slightly out of phase with MF's reality, in my own little pocket. I could see him, but he couldn't see me, and we couldn't interact.

But he was alive. That was the important thing. He looked content enough. But then, the man loves his books. I checked out what he was reading now. Some kind of mystery novel with two detectives back to back on the cover.

"Getting Rid of Gary?" I'd never heard of it, or the author, one Noah Chinn. But then, the library was filled with just about every book there was.

Not knowing what to do, I sat down in front of him, hoping maybe he'd see a flicker of me at some point. Maybe he couldn't hear me directly, but maybe he could subconsciously, like a coma patient.

"Hey. It's me. I, uh, just want to let your know your body is in decent shape. Well, better shape, really. You never did do enough exercise in my opinion." I sighed. "So look, now that I know you're alive I'm going to do whatever it takes to get you back, okay? I found one Brother Mathias's techno-monks. If anyone can help, it's him. Granted, he just killed me, but it was on purpose, and just for a little while. Right now he's hacking the database of one of the most secure medical testing facilities in the Federation, while I'm lying dead on a table with a full load in my pants. Er, your pants. Yeah, sorry about that. Point is, if he can do that, I figure he can detangle our wires, or will know someone who can."

I looked around, thinking about what else there was to say that was important.

But I never got a chance to say it, because the doors opened, bright light filled the room, and everything vanished into white.

_________________
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Pilot: Mossfoot - Ship ID: Viaticus Rex (Cobra MKII)
Rank: Competent - Status: Clean

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 5:59 pm 
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The Great Escape

My eyes flickered open, squinting at the bright light. But it wasn't of the "come into the light" kind where I end up reunited with my pet dog on the rainbow bridge, it was that crappy hospital light that hasn't changed in a thousand years.

I was on a stretcher, and Brother Sparks was looking down at me. "Ready to go?"

I struggled up. I hadn't been dead long, but my body was very much out of whack from everything that had happened to it--including whatever they did after my heart stopped ticking.

Looking around, I realized I wasn't standing still, but rolling down the hall. I wasn't the only one, the place was in a panic. "What's going on?"

"Bomb threat. Evacuation procedures are in place." Sparks smiled. "Wonder how that happened?"

I got it. This would make it that much easier for us to slip away in the chaos. Patients were being walked, rolled and carted out from every room we passed, until we were like a school of johnny gowned salmon swimming upstream.

"Everything work out?" I asked.

"We did our part, but the rest of the Order have to make sure there are no loose ends out there."

"And then what?"

Brother Sparks didn't answer, instead saying "Bump coming up" as he rolled the cart over a low curb in order to skirt around the mass of exodusing people. We flowed around the outer edge, but kept close to be part of the mass, and soon got near the front.

"So how do we get out?" I asked. It's gonna look suspicious if I'm running around in a hospital gown.

"Check between your legs," Sparks said.

I felt down and first off realized I was already wearing pants under the blanket. Then I felt a shirt down between my knees.

"Grab it and put it on once we're clear. Ready?"

I nodded, looking around the open lot full of people and noting several potential avenues of escape. "Piece of cake."

* * * * *

It didn't take long for us to make our way back to the shuttle station. Security was heightened because of the bomb scare, but Sparks had already accounted for that. We both had new identities again as high level off duty Federation officers, which helped wave us through the security checks. After that we were on our way to Galileo station, where the Troubadour awaited us.

I held off asking too many questions until we were safely on board the Clipper. You never knew who might be recording things. I got comfortable in my chair and put on my Elite baseball cap, ready to go when the word was given. As if sharing my sentiment that it was now okay to speak, Sparks informed me of what had happened in the hospital. How after my heart was beating again he had knocked out the crash room staff with the same sonic device he'd rescued me with. How he'd hacked the computer system in the room directly underneath via a hard line the crash room had access to, while somehow managing to clean me up and put on my pants for me, and topping it off with a warning of a bomb threat sent "directly" from the Federation's Anti-Terrorism Unit. The rest I knew.

"So, now what?" I really didn't need to elaborate, it was a rather all-encompassing question, and Sparks knew it.

"For the Order? We disappear for a time. Erase our records again. Antal's men will salvage what they can, and no doubt Simmentor Doozer has private files we won't be able to access, but all the information that matters will be lost."

"What about all the good work you were doing there?" I asked.

"Oh, anything that benefits the preservation of life will remain untouched. We're simply removing our fingerprints, so to speak. It's not as if we were ever motivated by fame or glory."

"And where will you go?"

"We have a small system on the edge of the bubble that has been prepared for such an emergency. Its government has secretly been members of the Order for three hundred years. Even I wasn't briefed on it until the evacuation order was given."

I frowned. "I guess I should say sorry for all that."

"Oh?"

"Well, I mean, I'm the reason all this happened, right? If I hadn't popped up on the scene you'd still be doing your work."

"True, but I may not have learned that Simmentor Doozer was aware of our covert activities and planning to use us for his own schemes. As a parting gift, we made sure that Paval Antel knew what he was intending to do, and why we couldn't allow it. What the Simguru does with that information will determine what future dealings we have with him further down the line."

That puzzled me. "Wait, you're bailing out of there like someone pressed the big red self destruct button, but you're willing to go back to him?"

"I didn't say that. I said dealings. Antel's Utopia has laudable goals and commendable ideals. But we in the Order have a saying: Always listen to someone who is searching for the truth--always beware of someone who claims to have found it. It's people like Doozer we fear, especially if they were to become the guiding vision behind the Utopian movement. If Antel shares that fear, then we have much in common. And that is the basis for cooperation. In time."

It felt like that was all I was going to get out of him on that front so now it was time to address the elephant in the cargo hold. "And what about me?"

Sparks shrugged. "You are free to do as you wish. I can change your identity for you easily enough. You can start again wherever you like. Or you can stay who you are. The fragments of your existence that remain scattered about won't in any way point to the secrets you hold within you. As far as the galaxy knows you are simply a man who was though dead for an extraordinarily long time, miraculously revived, a for a brief period of history was known as Ranger M." He snickered a bit at that. "I did enjoy that brief chapter of your life, I must say."

"Not my life," I said, which was as good a point as any to bring this up. "Mossfoot's not dead."

Brother Sparks cocked his head. "Pardon?"

"When you killed me, I was in the mind palace--what I call that virtual library I could stay in while leaving Mossfoot alone. He was there, reading a book."

"Are you certain?"

I nodded. "He looked the way he used to, before the accident that scarred him. But he couldn't see me, and I couldn't touch him."

"It may have been a memory of sorts," Sparks suggested, but quickly dismissed the idea. "No, I think you are right. I studied Brother Mathias's work as best I could, and that was always a likely possibility."

"So, can you get him back?" I asked.

Mathias sighed. "Honestly, it would have been better if he was dead."

That made no sense. "Why?"

"Because it puts me in an unenviable position, and possibly breaking my vows."

I had an uncomfortable feeling I knew where this was going, but I waited for him to say it.

"There is a way to bring Mossfoot back...but I'm afraid you're not going to like it."

_________________
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:03 pm 
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Final Interlude

Brother Sparks turned on the lights to his temporary quarters and stepped inside. He needed some time to himself.

It was over. God forgive him.

Now he was left wondering what came next.

The station they were on was a staging ground for the last stage of the Order’s exodus, chosen for a variety of reasons, including its extensive medical facilities, which had long been under the Order’s guidance.

He tried not to think too much about what he’d just been part of, or the moral ramifications of it all, but in the end it had been Violet’s decision. He had to believe it was what she’d wanted.

Sparks sat at the desk and logged into the computer terminal. He checked on the exodus’s progress. Eighteen hundred brothers and sisters accounted for. Six still missing. One confirmed dead, but not because of the evacuation.

Sister Matilda had been a mole in Archon Delaine’s pirate kingdom, trying to aid the plight of their growing number of slaves. Archon’s men had a nasty tendency to dispose of those they felt were no longer fit enough for service, and Matilda had done her level best to keep as many as healthy as possible while also helping run an underground railroad into Federation space.

Her name and actions would be recorded, though it seemed small compensation to Sparks. Blips of data paled to a memorial everyone could see, and for the Order there were no such memorials. He’d told Violet that they were not motivated by fame or glory, and that was true, the lives they saved were their true testament, but dammit a thank you now and then wouldn’t go amiss.

Sparks took a moment to check the last vestiges of his old life online, ensure that little if anything of his identity remained. So far it all seemed to be in order, except for one item—a mail account he had assumed was deleted was still active. Empty of all message, except one…

From Pranav Antal.

Ice shot down Sparks’s spine as he checked to ensure all security measures were in place before scanning the attachment. It was an audio file, but there was nothing hidden within the code, just a fragment of an old Earth song.

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long
They'll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day


Brother Sparks deleted the file, the account, and triple checked to ensure nothing could be traced to this region of space. He’d pass on Antal’s message to the Order, of course, but as with all their dealings with him, interpretations would vary. Some would see this as a whimsical nod or salute to them as they left, letting them know he would welcome their return.

Others would see it as a thinly veiled threat.

Sparks leaned towards the latter, but not for the reasons others might think. The message claimed to have been from Pranav Antal, but it had been sent from the Halls of Innovation on Polevnic, not Antal’s headquarters on the other side of the planet.

It was possible, he supposed, that the Simguru had visited the Halls personally when word of their actions had reached him. For all he knew, the message could have been sent from his own desk, once he’d learned nothing of use could be retrieved there.

But his gut told him otherwise. His gut told him someone else had left the message.

His gut told him Simmentor Doozer was not done with him, or the Order.

Brother Sparks sighed. He was responsible for all this. For drawing attention to Project Transporter, for not noticing Doozer’s actions sooner. It was because of him that the Order had been forced to relocate. And for that reason he had to go.

He would not be joining the Order at this time. For all he knew, he was a weak link that might somehow lead the Simmentor to them. To him there was only one option that would keep his brothers and sisters safe.

Exile.

The Order would understand. If, in time, he was certain that Doozer was no longer a threat, he would join them at their new home, while the fathers and mothers planned what the Order would do for the next hundred years. He had time. They all did. More than most suspected.

Unfortunately, Sparks was left with the problem of how he was going to leave. The Order would no doubt grant him a simple ship for his journey, but he needed something both fast and resilient, in case Doozer continued to prove a cunning adversary.

One such ship came to mind…

_________________
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 21, 2015 11:01 pm 
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About Face

The name I go by is Mossfoot, and I’m worried I might not be dead.

Actually I’m not dead. I know that. The fact I’m recording this is a bit of a giveaway, even if my old ship did blow up in a combat zone somewhere in Alliance space. I’m hazy on the details, because I wasn’t the one in charge at the time.

For a while I thought I was in the hereafter, only I quickly realized that if the hereafter consisted of a single room with unlimited books, then the Creator had a sick sense of humor.

It’s not that I don’t like to read, it’s just that an eternity in one room would be enough to drive anyone mental. The only way it could be more ironic would be if I needed glasses to read and I had accidentally stepped on my only pair.

Once I realized this had to be Violet’s private space, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Once I realized I couldn’t leave, I began to panic.

Before I go any further, let me point out that this place has no sense of night and day. It’s always a lovely spring day filtering through the window…all the goddamn time.

You ever hear about torture techniques? Keeping the light on full blast is one such tactic. Sleep deprivation. I never knew if it was night or day. It was always day. Always.

Of course, the same is kind of true in a spaceship, only it’s always night.

So, I tried everything to try and let Violet know that we’d swapped bodies and to please every so kindly give it back, but I never heard a word.

I knew this wasn’t intentional, wasn’t some grand scheme she’d cooked up to take over my body and live again, forever trapping me in some kind of digital purgatory. But as time went on I began to wonder, to doubt. I can’t help it, I’m paranoid, and with damn good reasons.

In the end, it didn’t matter. I was trapped here. I was never hungry or thirsty, and it turned out I never felt tired, either. And I had all the books I could ever want.

I decided to make the most of it.

I have no idea how much time passed. Weeks, months, more than a year? There was no way to tell. I can say I was here for four hundred and twelve books, though those varied in size from Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

Okay, fine, from The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings. I may be literate, but even I admit those other books are boring as all hell.

Then, suddenly, the doors to the room swing open, I’m covered in light like some cheesy movie, and the next thing you know I’m looking up at white hospital lights with the mother of all hangovers. And believe me, I’ve had some experience to compare against.

Two nurses were attending me, and one noticed I was awake. She smiled, pressed a button attached to some IV drip, and I was out like a light again. For the first time in God-knows how long, I was asleep.
It felt strangely unnerving.

The next time I woke up I was alone in my room. The headache had gone from a painful roar to an annoying mewl. When I had my wits about me I sat up and swung my legs over the bed.

“Violet?”

I looked around the room for her image to appear, but nothing. She was still out cold, I assumed. The pain in my skull told me that she’d found someone who could fix our little identity problem… either that or she went for the Gilligan’s Island approach and had someone drop a coconut on my head.

Getting to my feet I went to the bathroom to check myself in the mirror.

As soon as I walked in I jumped back out, thinking someone else was already in there. Stepping back inside I realized it had just been my reflection I’d seen. Except it wasn’t me at all.

“Who the hell are you?” I asked the mirror.

I was bald, though that didn’t surprise me, it’s not like I had much to work with after the scarring. But the scars were gone, all of them. I had a face again!

Only…only it wasn’t my face.

I looked this way and that, raised my chin, tilted, examining my new features. I looked…okay, I guess. I mean, it was a billion times better than the old pizza face look, but I was kinda…average now. Okay, a bit above average, but certainly not my old handsome self.

But at least I had a proper face now. That was something. Hell, it was more than something, it was fantastic!
Nobody had entered my room to check up on me, so I looked around to see if there was any food or clothes. I figured someone would come and explain things to me soon enough.

On a table was a baseball cap with the Pilot Federation’s Elite symbol on it, and a datapad with the words “Play Me” hand written on the screen.

I picked up the screen and tapped it. Violet appeared. Not me as Violet, but Violet herself. Before she died.
She smiled, but there was something off about it. “Hey there, flyboy. Don’t get excited, this is just a virtual recording I’m taking inside a VR unit. I figured it would be better if I talked to you this way instead of you looking at your old acid-wash face and seeing me work you like a puppet.

“So…if you’re watching this, and assuming you’re not drooling like a vegetable with someone holding this pad up for you, then I guess the operation was a success. Congrats. How you got here is a long story, but let’s just say I’ve taken steps to make sure you’re fully briefed. Check the journal entries, I did my best to keep track of what happened and how we got here.

“So, there’s good news and bad news to share with you. The good news is we figured out what was keeping you trapped in the library all this time.

“The bad news is, it was me. It was always me.

“I’m not the one to explain the details, but it happened when we ejected from the ship. It seemed that during RemLok, my neural net took over. Your brain was directed into my mind palace as a means to protect it, and I took over your body full time. The problem was, the effect was permanent. Incidentally, it’s also the reason reconstructive surgery never worked on you. I was interfering with the nanotech that helped keep your body alive, making it think that your deep fried raisin look was what it was supposed to ‘heal’ you back to. The worst part is, in time your brain was going to degrade in there, until you were nothing more than memories and background noise. And there was no way you were ever going to wake up with me still around, so…”

I didn’t like where this was going. I think she anticipated my reaction.

“Moss, listen. It’s okay. Nobody is making me do this. It’s my choice. I had a much longer life than I was ever supposed to have, and I’ve seen some amazing things. A universe far larger than I ever expected to see, or even knew existed. All that was all thanks to you. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t return the favor?”

Anger began to rise up inside of me. “Goddammit, you selfish little…”

Selfish? What sense did that even make? But it just came out, as if somehow the thought of her abandoning me was her easy way out. Wait, abandoning?

God I could be horrible sometimes.

Violet continued. “Before, when this all started, you were afraid to lose me because we were still on the run. You didn’t have many friends. No place to call home. No family you could count on anymore. You needed me. You were scared to death what would happen without me around.”

Of course she couldn’t hear me, I couldn’t help but say, “That’s not the only reason!”

Even to my ears the defense sounded weak.

“But that’s not where you are now. You’ve made friends out here, allies. Even if you have to start over you know you can do it again. You don’t need me anymore.”

I paused the recording and muttered, “It’s not about need.” And that much was true. Didn’t she understand? She was family. I loved her like a sister. Like a best friend. I loved her in that way that the whole damn universe seemed small and empty and pointless without someone like her to enjoy it with.

And I’d lost her. Again.

We live in an age of miracles, where having to accept things as they are is less and less acceptable. Where once we could only daydream of what we knew to be impossible, we know that if you travel far enough, are determined enough, and are crazy enough, anything might be possible.

We don’t have to take no for an answer.

Who out there wouldn’t make a deal with the devil if it would bring a loved one back? Who wouldn’t walk down into Hades and try to lure them to the living world with their music? Who wouldn’t ask a mad scientist to not just tread into God’s domain, but take an unmarked van to load up as much loot as possible in before high tailing it back to reality?

Long ago, I knew I was going to lose Violet, and did not take it well. I did what I had to in order to save her.

Today, she knew she was going to lose me, and she had done the same.

Damn you.

I pressed play. “Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks. Your new life. One of the Order can fill you in on the details, but it was my idea to give you a new face. Sorry if you feel you traded down, but I thought it was important you don’t stand out too much. There’s always the chance that footage of you from before the accident will come up, along with your real name. As for your pseudonym…well, look under the hat if you haven’t already.”

I picked up the Elite cap and underneath was an Ident card. I looked at the name.

Maurice Foot.

I snickered. One of the short forms of Maurice was Moss.

“The Order assured me that the wipe was thorough enough for the last year, along with a load of misdirection and red herrings in other ways, that only a slight alteration was required. I thought you’d appreciate the sentiment. Plus you got a backup in case you need to ditch the name for good. But I’m assured there are no less than ten thousand Maurice Foots in the bubble.”

“You’ve thought of everything,” I said.

“As usual, I’ve thought of everything,” she echoed. “So, really, all that’s left for you is to get into your ship and go. Once you’ve caught up on my journal you’ll realize just how lucky you are to have this chance. It could have turned out very differently.”

She paused a moment, looking for the right words to say. “I don’t want you to worry about me. Remember, I died a hundred and fifty years ago. The person talking to you now is just a simulation.”

“But still a person,” I corrected.

“I’m just getting switched off, that’s all. But I’ll still be around. We’ve been together too long for me to just disappear from your life. Any time you hear a bump in the ship you can’t account for, or think you saw someone leaving the room, that’s me, even if it is just an shadow.

“There’s a lot of things I’m going to miss, Moss. The thrill of a fight, the camaraderie of a packed bar, making a sweet deal or pulling a fast one on the authorities. Hell, I even developed a taste for exploration. But it would be a lie if I didn’t say I was going to miss you most.

“Goodbye, flyboy.”

_________________
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 7:49 pm 
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Forward March

So, it looks like Radio Mossfoot is off the air. After having caught up with Violet’s side of things I realized my amateur entertainer days are pretty much over, so this is just for me I guess. Maybe if things change I’ll broadcast the lot. I always found something therapeutic about journals. I think Violet must have as well.

The Order was nice enough about seeing to my recovery, which didn’t take long at all. I think they really just wanted to make sure my skull was screwed on tight and didn’t pop open like the least fun jack-in-the-box ever.

A fair bit had changed since the days of Brother Mathias. I didn’t remember women being part of the Order then, and their robes—those that wore them anyways—looked a lot lighter and less formal.

After two days I decided it was time to go. I’d watched Violet’s last message a half dozen more times, and each time it hurt a little less. But things weren’t going to get better with me sitting here waiting for my daily allotment of apple sauce or pudding cups.

I informed them I felt ready to go, and one of the brothers came to give me a final checkup and green light me. They did some scans, showed me my brain without that wet napkin neural net wrapped around it, and then how my skull was knitting in a nice neat circle.

For some reason it made me think of a crown of thorns, but that’s just me being a drama king and feeling sorry for myself.

Once I was cleared, one of their sisters was told to show me to my ship. I was eager to get the hell out of this place. Everyone looked like they were hiding something, and a surprising number didn’t make eye contact with me. I assumed that was a quasi-religious thing…until I reached the hanger.

“Your ship, sir,” the sister said.

I looked at what was on the landing pad before me. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No sir, that’s the ship we’re giving you.”

I thought I understood the mistake. “Ah, I see. No, I don’t need you to give me a ship. Very generous of you, by the way. No, I’ve got my own ship. Imperial Clipper, the Troubadour. Class six prismatic shields, dark olive paint job, fastest ship in the galaxy short of a tricked out Cobra. Worth over a hundred mill. This, madam, is a beat up Sidewinder, which you get free with every kid’s meal at any fast food franchise.”

The sister looked apologetic. “I believe Brother Sparks left an explanation inside.” And with that she made herself scarce, like I was Patient Zero and she’d forgotten her hazmat suit.

I marched into the Sidewinder, half expecting to find this Sparks guy in there waiting for me. I’d read about him in Violet’s journal, and clearly I owed him a lot, I just wasn’t sure if I owed him a goddamned souped up Clipper.

There was no Sparks to be found, but there was another datapad on the pilot’s seat. Swell. Jerkwad couldn’t even face me himself.

I played the message waiting for me. Brother Sparks appeared, sitting in my cockpit.

“Greetings, Mr. Foot. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to meet you in person, it seems my time here is limited. For the sake of the Order I have decided to send myself into exile. It seems I may be a liability, and those who went to such lengths to try and capture you, who wish to use my people’s knowledge to their own ends, will not stop looking for me. So I go, and I have decided to take with me the only other liability on the station—your ship.”

I muttered under my breath, it was too much to hope he was going to say April Fool’s, I guessed.

“I know how much the Troubadour means to you, but if you think about it rationally, it is the most likely way Simmentor Doozer’s people would find you. Since I am on the run anyway, it makes sense I take a ship that excels at it. Rest assured I am not interested in owning possessions. Should this situation be resolved, I swear I will return her to you. In the meantime, the Order have promised to loan you a ship to continue your journeys on.

“Now, before you get hostile and defensive, I need you to listen. Your friend, Violet, gave up everything for you to give you a chance to live. Don’t throw that away because your ego insists on flying your old ship just because it’s ‘cool.’”

“Yeah, but a Sidewinder?” I moaned. “Really?”

“And speaking of Violet, I have one final request from her for you. She only wanted you to hear this if everything turned out well. Since you are watching this, it’s safe to say it has. She wants you to visit her one last time, where you left her. There’s something there she wants you to have there. A memento. You’ll know it when you see it.

“Oh, and in the meantime I will be taking care of her pet cat-snake for you. It seemed unwilling to leave the ship, and Violet was unsure of if you’d approve of it. I will study up on the species to ensure I take proper care of it. Assuming I can find it.

“Again, I apologize for this, but we are both much safer this way. Farewell.”

I groaned. Typical. But far from insurmountable. When I went to la-la land, I’d had enough in the bank to buy another kitted out Clipper outright, and Violet would only have added to it given her bloodthirsty tendencies.

The ship was already registered to Maurice Foot, so I powered her up and checked my account status.

1000 credits.

My jaw froze in mid drop. This had to be a mistake. They were missing five zeroes there! I contacted the Order through the comm panel, and spoke with some lowly brother. After enough yelling, I got to speak to someone higher up, Father Marat.

He was less than sympathetic.

“Mr. Foot. You do realize we are not a charity, do you not?”

“Actually that’s pretty much exactly what you are,” I corrected. “Brother Mathias never charged me a cent.”

“That’s because the Order was subsidized by a number of governments back then. And now, until recently, by Antal’s Utopians. We no longer have such support anywhere, only that which we’ve set aside to prepare for such a possibility.

“May I remind you that it is because of you that we find ourselves in this position. Our people, scattered but with purpose, have had to flee, so that we might regroup in seclusion to plan for the future. Your friend Violet was willing to end her own life just to allow you a chance to live again. The man who allowed you to even have that chance has cast himself to the stars with no expectation of ever rejoining us. All because of you. And you have the gall to sit there and complain.

“So yes, we have confiscated your funds. We have also acquired and liquidated your other assets on Tellus, though that was as much a matter of security as anything else. We consider this a donation for services rendered, now and in the past, to help continue our work. For your part, you should see this as a lesson in humility and thankfulness. The fact you have a ship or a credit to your name at all should be seen as a blessing, an unbelievable long shot. You have once again beaten the odds, and you only do the universe an injustice by whining about it.

“If you are half the man your friend claimed you were, I’m sure you will do fine. Goodbye, Mr. Foot.”

The comm channel cut off.

Well, give the man credit, he sure knew how to lay down the guilt factor. I took a calming breath and tried not to punch the dashboard. Okay, so, no ship. No money, but I still have my reputation. A few high level missions and I’ll be back in the game.

I checked the station’s bulletin boards, and just as I’d expected there were simple trade runs with tight deadlines that paid well over a hundred thousand. A few of those could get me a Cobra, and from there… I got on the comm right away.

“What do you mean, not qualified?”

The broker groaned. “Sir, the contract clearly states that they require someone with a broker rating or higher with the Pilot’s Federation.

“Buddy, I’m not just a broker, I’m…” I checked my status on the ship’s computer. “Penniess? Aimless? HARMLESS?”

“Yes, those truly aren’t the qualities we are looking for. But I do have a message you can carry to an outpost for us about five light years away. We could see our way to paying, say, a thousand credits for it.”

I switched off the comm. So, they didn’t just change my name on my old ID. This was a blank slate in every possible way. Everything I’d ever done, everything I’d ever accomplished, gone, just like that.

I began to snicker.

Then I began to laugh.

I laughed so long I was gasping for breath and verging on blacking out. My ribs hurt. I almost fell out of my chair and my hat fell off and rolled under the dash.

When I finally got control of myself there was only one thing to say.

“Screw it.”

What was I worried about? So I was starting from scratch. So what? I’d been dead before. I’d started from scratch before. I’d seen more crap in my life than most pilots ever would, let alone survive. The universe wants to try and give me a hard time? Well then I’ve got two words for the universe:

Bring it.

As far as I was concerned, this was a minor hiccup. Give me a week and I’ll be in a Cobra. Give me a month and I’ll have my Clipper back. Give me two, and I’ll be captaining a frickin Anaconda.

Take it all, I don’t care. You think you big time, universe? You ain’t got nothin.

I started the ship’s launch sequence and bent down to pick up the Pilot Federation cap, emblazoned with their exclusive Elite symbol.

“But I’m keeping the goddamn hat.”

_________________
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:25 pm 
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<applauds loudly>

A seriously great read. Fantastic stuff! I know it's probably finished but I wish it wasn't. Well done.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:27 pm 
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Just a bit more to go ;)

And I'll be back eventually with a new story I'm sure :)

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:03 am 
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<more applause and cheering>

Agreed, a great read here.

I do hope that, given your practice of using your in-game experiences as inspiration for the story, that Mossfoot's (sorry, I mean Maurice Foot's) sudden drop in credit balance and rank was not the result of an unexpected commander reset. :o

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 3:27 pm 
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Unexpected? No. Intentional? Yes. ;)

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:28 pm 
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Epilogue

HR 1986 is an uninteresting Class G star near the constellation of Orion. Its distant companion, a red dwarf, is equally unremarkable. The primary has a single dead planet in its orbit, HR 1986 A 1, and around that orbits an ancient Cobra MKI.

The Mark I model had been out of service for fifty years, and this one had been floating around HR 1986 a century longer than that. Once a vibrant purple, its paint had long been bleached bone white and chipped with micrometeorite impacts. But on its hull the words Lady Luck were still barely visible.

A dead ship, around a dead planet, in an uninteresting star system far from civilization, chosen because of a single line from a long forgotten movie.

HR 1986 A 1 is a high metal content world, tidally locked to its star, and completing its orbit at just over two hundred Earth days. During its last orbit, the Lady Luck had had two visitors.

A streak of light, indicating a ship dropping from supercruise, announced its third.

The incoming ship was a Sidewinder, not built for exploration, but fitted with the most powerful hyperdrive its pilot had been able to save up for.

The pilot had gone by many names in his life. These days he went by Maurice, but anyone who knew him from the days before still called him Moss.

Moss pulled his Sidewinder alongside the derelict ship. He’d been here twice before, once when he’d escorted the ship to its final resting place, and again, two hundred or so days ago.

With his space suit on, Moss left his Sidewinder. The Bucket O’ Bolts wasn’t so much a name for it as a description, but at least it had gotten him this far.

Once at the Cobra’s main hatch, he let himself in, looking back at his ship as if making sure it wouldn’t waltz off without him. A glitchy maneuvering thruster made that a distinct possibility.

The first time was here, it was a last request to an old friend. His only friend, really. The only friend that mattered. The second had been in part because he’d lost his memory. Coming here had not only returned that to him, but, for a time, his friend as well.

This time it was like coming full circle. She’d asked him to visit her, what was left of her, one last time.

Inside the cockpit of the Lady Luck, Moss found her still locked into her chair. Mummified, well preserved, and facing away from the sun, the cockpit was lit only by what was reflected from the planet’s surface.

Violet Lonsdale had been many things—a stuntwoman, a thrill seeker, a cinephile who specialized in ancient entertainment, a pilot who eventually took to the stars in a ship of her own. She’d been a trader, a miner, a bounty hunter, and even an explorer.

And for a brief time she’d gotten a second chance at that life, hitching a ride inside Moss’s head. It had been an unusual arrangement, but in the end, one that couldn’t last. It had almost killed him.

Moss had been told to come here by the man who had helped save his life, and, in the process, taken hers. The secretive Order that man belonged to were scientists and doctors following a quasi-religious calling to preserve life, and to do no harm to others. Brother Sparks had told Moss that Violet wanted him to have something back on board this ship, and that he’d know it when he saw it.

Looking around the ship now, Moss didn’t have a clue what either of them meant. It was just a beat up old first generation Cobra with a dead body in it.

Before he’d lost her a second time, Violet had tried to ease the blow, reminding him that she wasn’t really Violet at all. Violet was the mummified corpse in front of him now. She was at best a simulation who had hitched a ride with him for a time.

It hadn’t made him feel any better, because he knew it wasn’t true. She wondered if Sparks had felt the same way. Where had his “do no harm” philosophy come in when it took destroying one life to save another? Was her digital life any less real than his analog one?

He sighed, and went back to searching the cabin. He’d read more philosophy than most, from ancient Greek to modern Aliothian, and none of them had any answers. And given the disastrous attempts at artificial intelligence in the past, it wasn’t a question people really wanted to ask anymore.

The light from his helmet landed on the dashboard, and a glint came from the right hand side. Looking closer, he saw a trinket there. A bobblehead in the shape of a female pilot.

Moss snorted. Maybe this was it? A simple memento to carry around with him. Something to remember her by.

But a few things didn’t add up.

The flight suit the bobblehead wore was nothing like those worn a hundred and fifty years ago. It was very much from the modern day. It had no dust on it, and in fact some dust had been cleared before it had been placed. Strangest of all was the fact that it rested on a small handwritten note.

Moss picked up the bobblehead and read the note, which was not in Violet’s handwriting, but in a far more formal hand.

It simply said: All Things Strive.

Puzzled, Moss took the trinket and returned back to the Bucket O’ Bolts.

It seemed Brother Sparks had been here first, and left this here on Violet’s behalf for him. She’d always had a certain sentimentality under her gruff exterior.

But the message Sparks had left, what did he mean? Perhaps it was a response to the question he’d just been asking himself, whether or not the Violet he’d known this past year had truly been alive.

If that was his answer, however, it did not make him feel any better.

Moss returned to his cabin, took off his helmet, put his baseball cap back on, and sat down. He looked at the bobblehead that had been left for him, at the Lady Luck looking back at him through the window and smiled. A chance to say goodbye. A chance to have something to hold on to. It would do.

He placed the bobblehead on the dash next to his radar and started up the thrusters.

The lights went off. The ship powered down. For a brief moment, Moss was running on emergency oxygen as his RemLok helmet slapped his baseball cap off to cover his face. Without gravity, the cap crumpled against the canopy and then drifted before his eyes.

“What the hell?” He checked emergency power. It seemed everything was rebooting in the ship. “Stupid piece of junk,” he muttered. It was far from the first time the Bucket O’ Bolts had earned its name.

At last power was restored and pressure returned to the cabin. Moss grabbed the cap dangling in front of him and put it back on. But his worries weren’t over yet. The console was still going haywire. The shipboard computer’s voice was a garbled mess of warnings and errors, the notification’s panel had thousands of deleted files and overwrite warnings scream by, far faster than his eyes could keep up, until at last it went dead.

It booted up again with a hum, and Moss heard a voice he never thought he’d hear again.

“Took you long enough, flyboy.”

---
End

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Pilot: Mossfoot - Ship ID: Viaticus Rex (Cobra MKII)
Rank: Competent - Status: Clean

http://www.noahchinnbooks.com/


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:54 pm 
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Location: Budapest, Hungary (Mainly Agricultural Democracy, TL10)
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 11:23 pm 
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So, now that I just finished my third Elite-based book, and I figured I'd create a page to compile them together. What started off as a series of short connected vignettes ended up being three short novels about 50,000 words a piece, which I've taken to calling the Mossfoot Muckabouts. The first one, as you know, was set in the Oolite universe, while the other two are in the Elite: Dangerous universe.

I call them Muckabouts because although there is a plot that connects things and ties things together, more often than not you're looking at a series of amusing slices of life in chronological order. But hey, it seemed to work, right? Have a look at the page I made form them on my website :)

http://www.noahchinnbooks.com/articles/fan-fiction-fun/

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Pilot: Mossfoot - Ship ID: Viaticus Rex (Cobra MKII)
Rank: Competent - Status: Clean

http://www.noahchinnbooks.com/


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