You Walk into a Tavern, in Space



I’m going on an adventure!

Tularean could barely contain himself. Most of the people he had grown up with never left the village, but here he was, in space , ready to join the crew of a real-life spaceship . A few months ago he didn’t even know such things existed. All he and his small commune of sprites had ever known was trees, elemental spirit journeys, and more trees. Now, he stood before his noble crew, the comrades-in-arms who would bear him on the voyage of a lifetime. They were even in a tavern, except it was in space!

“…really?” said the leader, Commander Aisha Zuku, former SLCM-Space Commander, veteran of dozens of engagements, twice awarded the Order of Vashilov, and space race hopeful. “So…you have no spacer experience…like, at all?” she asked.

“Well,” explained Tularean, “I was part of a commune in the Upperlands that shunned all modern technology. We did our best to stay out of the affairs of the modern Web.”

“A wise policy,” said Commander Aisha. “So, coming here, to Contac, for this interview…this is your first time in space?”

Tularean nodded enthusiastically. “Yup! I’m so excited to be here. Really, it’s an honor!”

“So this is all…new to you?” asked Zuku.

“Yup!” said Tularean. “You’re even basically the first human that I’ve met. I mean, the one that talks to me anyway. All the other ones just ask for money.”

“Eh, that’s Tasnicans for you,” Zuku waved her hand, dismissively. She glanced around. “I’m going to need another vodka to get through this. Where the frak is the waiter? Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a spacer bar that’s been this dead.” Zuku sighed. She was beginning to regret coming to Mana. She should’ve hit up one of the old spots in the Fringe, assuming there was some pirate hidey-hole left where she wouldn’t be killed on site. But she had always wanted to see Contac, and the Void Bridge, up close. Spend all your time skulking around in shadows, and someday you will want to see the light.

But of course, Contac still all a mess from the White Cell occupation – upon their departure, they had damaged or destroyed many key systems, and the Tasnicans were still in the process of fixing everything and getting it working. This was just as well – otherwise her ship, still technically flagged as Scandian military – would never have been cleared to dock if traffic control had their shit together.

One of the other crew – a towering yeti, an apelike creature that towered over all with white, hairy fur – growled/roared. “Ruuuurgh wo rugh.”

“Yeah, Omari, I know we need another crew member,” nodded Zuku. “I was just sort-of hoping that we could find someone with, y’know, experience. Ex-military, ideally, or even someone who worked on a freighter. Or, you know, someone who had at least been on a spaceship before.”

The Yeti growled again.

This is not something Tularean understood, though of late his vocabulary of Common words had to be vastly expanded to update all his new knowledge of technology. Bizarre new phrases like mobile phone, space elevator and OmniNet had entered his argot. But clearly, Commander Zuku – daring and heroic captain – had mastered many languages.

“Sod off, you damned hairy ape,” said the Commander. “We’re competing in the race, and that’s final. We’re not just selling the ship.”

The fourth and final of their number, a squat, cylindrical robot, chirped. “You could buy another robot. Why, I’m sure the Emporium would be willing to negotiate a generous discount!”

Commander Zuku frowned. “Burned almost all my money on one droid,” she said.

Tularean tried to be helpful. “Well, surely you have some former friends and contacts from SLCM-Space?”

Aisha took a swig of her vodka. “They’re all dead.”

The fact that SLCM-Space had basically been totally wiped out in the Battle of Dragonspace had clearly evaded Tularean in his crash study of the modern Web. Aisha was perhaps the highest ranking SLCM-Space officer still alive, but she hadn’t heard a damned thing from Central Command since everything went to shit.

“Maybe the yeti has a point,” said the droid. “You ship has a number of systems that are…suboptimal for a racer.

The Commander turned and faced the droid, slowly. “Like what?”

The droid, “Fixer,” lacked the proper understanding of human communication to interpret that Aisha’s look of utter disdain meant that he was about thirty seconds from being forcibly disassembled.

“Weapons bays and minelaying equipment, to start with,” said Fixer. “And all that stealth equipment – radar absorbent paint, all those thermal baffles and heat sinks, and the hull is made of special composites. These are somewhat exotic materials here in the Mana Dimension, and a cursory ON search reveals a number of potentially interested buyers willing to pay a premium.”

The yeti growled.

“Yes,” said Fixer. “And we could use that money to buy a potentially faster ship. Have you seen the entrants we’re up against? All the AAAs are putting big money behind their teams.”

“Yeah,” agreed Tularean. “I heard Sahl Endeburg is in this race!” Even in the middle of his sprite commune, isolated from almost all the Web and modern technology, we have heard tales of this legendary hero. He’s a dragoon, you know.”

“I know, all those assholes in Sea were always on about him,” she said. “I’m not selling the ship,” said Commander Zuku. “She saved my black ass more times than I can count.”

“Then you need more crew,” said Fixer. “The ship was designed to operate with a much larger crew. Even with a state-of-the-art, highly efficient pilot droid such as myself it’s going to be difficult.”

“Pick me!” said Tularean. “I have a positive, can-do attitude, and I’m a quick learner!”

Aisha sighed. “Yeah, the ship was designed for a bigger crew. We won’t be needing to run all the weapons systems and such so that saves us some space. Another reason for the large crew was for the ship to go on long patrols, and we’re just sprinting a few heats. But even with all that, you’re right, droid: we’re running skeleton crew even if I take the sprite-child here.”

“I’m not a child!” Tularean insisted. “Despite my appearance, I am a full grown adult among my people!”

“Uh huh,” said Zuku, trying to get the attention of the waiter for another drink.

“I will have you know, Commander , that I am a Priest of Sola, wielder of the elemental power of the sun itself!”

“Wait, wait,” said Zuku. “You’re…some kinda magic user?”

“Yes,” said Tularean, proudly. “As a Sola priest, I can cast spells associated with the Sun and cosmos. This means fire, of course…but also physical forces such as sound, gravity, and light.”

“You’re a magic user that can control {i} gravity [/i]?” asked Zuku. “And you didn’t lead with this? Why wasn’t that like, the first thing out of your mouth?”

Omari roared/groaned/howled.

“Yeah, that’s just one example,” said Zuku. “Ok, it seems like you’d be all kinds of useful. You’re in, sprite-child. Try not to blow yourself out an airlock or something.”

Tularean beamed. He was going on an adventure!