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In memory of Flyin' Black Jackson
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343269 No. 343269 ID: ce5017

No. 343270 ID: ce5017

It was while I was walking down the same black featureless corridor of the same goddamn ship in the same goddamn system that I thought it was about time for a change. Been a long time since anything interesting happened around here. And it turns out that the universe has a funny way of answering your wishes for change. Enough to turn a man religious, almost.

Speaking of, that's kind of what the change was. Some areeni cult. I don't know. Creepy fuckers. But they paid a tenth of their fee in advance, and it is a nice little chunk of credits. Easily enough to live on for a few years.

Oh. Right. You might want to know who this jerk talking is. Call me Deck. Short for Decker. Pretty decent hacker, not one of the best, an okay marksman, and absolutely one of the best at not getting shot to bits and left to bleed out. I'm a freelancer. The skill or service I offer tends to change, and is rarely legal. Right now, the job is information gathering. I have to get some information and take it to some creepy alien fuckers. That might just be my ticket to an early retirement.

Most people like me retire riddled with bullets and missing 80% of their original parts. I just have an artificial left arm. You wouldn't even tell until I snapped it off at starport security. It has a few changes to it. I'm not one of those psycho cyborgs who can't stop fiddling and shoving new gadgets up their exhausts, but hey, if life gives you lemons, you put a concealed gun compartment in those lemons and bide your fucking time.

Oh, right. Slight problem. I'm an independent sorta guy. Except at this point it is literally just me. I prefer doing it this way, but, well. I can tell this is a pretty riskier job than my standard fare. Probably going to lose another arm or maybe a leg this time. I'm going to need extra staff on a temporary basis. And they have to be good. Yes, if they get killed in action, I don't have to pay them, but that's not how I do things here. Someone signs up with me, their life is in my hands until the job's done. I already know the place. Wayfarer's Salvation. A station, of sorts. It accumulated spaceships that never left, and now it's some massive thing drifting in the Enforcers' blind spot.

Only one thing left to ask before I head there, though.

Who the fuck are you? Symptoms of some kind of mental disorder? Some sort of AI? Spies setting me up for a fall? I mean, fuck, I can't do anything about you, but you're obviously there, so I'd appreciate some goddamn introductions here.
No. 343272 ID: ec0bf5

Oh, hi! We're your arm!
No. 343273 ID: 1854db

Call us Leftie.
No. 343274 ID: 708111

Yeah, sorry, it looks like the control AI in your cabernet ARM just gained spontaneous sentence. It happens. Don't worry, we have your best interests in mind, because we're stuck with you.
No. 343275 ID: 708111

Cybernetic arm, that is. We're not made for word processing...
No. 343277 ID: b6edd6

Wait, how did you tell we were here before we actually said anything?

You could always test whether we are your arm by leaving your arm in a shielded box and seeing if you can still hear us.
No. 343282 ID: 252e1b


We're in the socket-joint on his torso though.
No. 343284 ID: 46c430

Not a damn clue. Pleasure to meet ya.
No. 343285 ID: c7b6c2

I like being an arm! Grabbing things is SO COOL.
No. 343289 ID: c891d3

No clue! Some vague suspicion that we're related to your replaced arm, but that's just conjecture.
No. 343305 ID: 00451b

We are the random people who just so happen to be hanging around the non-existant location known as /quest/ at the moment. Generally the way this works is the person finds some "magic trinket" or some-such thing like that, allowing us to talk to them and then we help them out with whatever they need by giving advice, all for our own amusement.

That, "for our own amusement" part is kinda important, most people around here try to help because they want to, but others will just tell you to do various insane or silly things because they think it would be funny. Like pretending to be your arm.

Actually, considering we come about helping people like this in a bunch of different ways it is entirely possible that this time we actually ARE an AI implanted in your arm. Or at least pretending to be one, whatever.

No. 343307 ID: 6e44d2

Who we are doesn't matter. What matters is that we're a largely sharp-minded collective with your best interests at heart. We'll do right by you.

Anyway, how's the selection at Wayfarer's Salvation?
No. 343346 ID: ce5017

Well. Can't say I'm surprised by this. Black market neural interface controller. If it comes down to it, well, I lost my arm before. I can do it again. But I won't be able to get replacements for a while, so I guess we're stuck with each other.

Welcome aboard.

And here we are. The ship's not so great, hasn't even had an FTL drive for a while, but it gets to places without exploding most of the time. Wayfarer's Salvation. The same tangled hive of spacecraft wedged together, tubes carrying goods and people through them like the circulatory system it resembles. I've heard some people say that if you look at it just right, the station looks almost like a heart. Then again, I've heard it looks like a rock, a snake, a cloud and once someone crashed into it because they thought it was an asteroid. How the fuck they thought they could pull off landing on a regular asteroid by flying directly at it I have no idea, but that was their excuse.

Let me be frank here. My name's still Deck, though. I am not a pilot. I can make the ship point a direction and go in it, but other than that I have no fucking clue how to pull off twists and turns and the like. But Wayfarer's Salvation is different. It's a mess. A total mess. There are maybe two or three people around it at a time who'd be able to dock manually by finding a good sized hole in the structure and slotting themselves in like a puzzle piece. So no-one docks manually here. Only the insanely talented and the insanely, well, insane.

I hear the confirming beeps of the ship's barely-functional autopilot system. It just got fed its directions from the station. I watch as the ship slowly steers its way through a maze of ships and ship debris, all lovingly crammed and wired together. Every time I come here I wonder if the ship I'm on is ever leaving this place. This time around, I think the ship is here to stay. I can afford a better one. Just have to find a seller.

The locks click into place, and I hear the hiss of atmospheric pressure equalising. I make sure I look halfway presentable. No obvious stains on anything, so I'm good to go. Don't particularly care about much else.

I march through the station, blending in with all the other misfits and rejects from the greater galactic society who give as many fucks about me as I do them. That's life on Wayfarer's. Everyone does their damn best to ignore each other, but when shit hits the fan, no-one likes an asshole.

Navigating through the station is a hassle. You never have any idea where you are, and even with most people kindly leaving well alone you still get a few sizing you up as a target for whatever they want from you. Speaking of, enesi. Ugly leech fuckers. Red eyes, more teeth than the other Alliance species combined, four or five times the size of your average human, and aquatic. So it's not hard to hear one following me. You'd have to be deaf to not hear a clunky mechsuit stumbling towards you.

Except whoever's mechsuit it is has longer legs and more legs than I do. Can't think the guy has any pleasant intentions, and I can't outrun the guy. All around's the hustle and bustle of trading and drinking and sharing stories before shipping back out to wherever. Hey. There's a thought. Let's see you make yourself useful. How am I shaking this guy off me? Did you notice anything I didn't?
No. 343348 ID: 063c28

Dude, we don't exactly have optics. Is he likely to feel safe jumping you in the open like this, though? Y'could just find a nice public place to sit down and entertain yourself with portable electronics for a few hours until he gets bored and wanders off.
No. 343363 ID: ec0bf5

My first thought is to check if there are any external hoses for the water systems in the suit. Shooting those would force him to stop and get help. If he has spidery legs as opposed to big bulky ones you could take those out too.
No. 343365 ID: c891d3

Is there somewhere you could duck into?
No. 343366 ID: d9d28d

... Do we have WiFi? could we hack into his suit and make him break dance?
No. 343373 ID: b6edd6

I think the public place plan sounds good, assuming people around here are not fine with gunfights breaking out around them.
No. 345257 ID: c43589

Fucker's persistent. Ducking into spaces only makes him wait. Moving back into the corridor, and he follows just walking. Maybe it doesn't know I know it's following me. Maybe it's trying to quietly chase me down. In a mechsuit. That clanks with each step. With hissing hydraulics. Fuck, even its shadow reaches past mine.

"Hey! Hey, sir!"

I wheel around and am met with a smartly-dressed saa-kru, striped suit somehow conforming to that weird L-shaped body they have. Of course I forgot that there is no such thing as "the" public place, and I've just walked into a hub on one of the ships. Busy. The saa-kru adjusts his hat and flicks his antennae around through the holes in it. He waves something black and cuboid at my face.

"They say the worst thing in the universe is a story never told," he cheerfully babbles at me, eyes coloured a faked green of general hollow pleasantries.
"I dunno," I mutter to him. "Being set on fire's pretty terrible."
"But, you see, good sir, that being set on fire is simply another event in the story of your life, and perhaps the melancholic yet impassioned end to the story! And with the new KerenzeTec BlackBox, your life's history will be recorded from the earliest moment you can't even remember to the very end of your life!"

I really have no interest in buying whatever this guy is trying to sell me. I'm on Wayfarer's, not at a trade show. There is absolutely no fucking way whatever he's selling is coming without some horrific unimaginable cost. Probably experimental tech. Probably defective goods. I don't know. Don't want to find out.

"That's nice," I tell him, looking over the crowd for my bulky pursuer. Nope. He's gone. Good fucking riddance. I see an improvised bar to the side and make my way there. Bars are always good places to find people for a new team.

Oh. Oh shit. I recognise that areeni. Red, wing remnants, one eye red and one eye yellow like some accident in an optics factory. Sleek, lithe, and probably lethal to turn my back on.

Fuck. I think she saw me. Yes, she did see me. She's looking directly at me. Shit.


Well. Any bright ideas on what to do now?
No. 345259 ID: 221021

They're not somebody who hates you and will want to kill you on sight, right? Wave and say hi.
No. 345260 ID: d8880b

... Give us more backstory so we know why the areeni seeing you is bad?
No. 345270 ID: eba49f

Well, she didn't shoot on sight, so it can't be all [i]that[/o] bad.
No. 345273 ID: 1854db

You could tell the Saa-kru was faking the green? Dealt with a lot of them, have you?

Any chance we could hire this Areeni for the mission?
No. 345403 ID: c43589

I tend to pick up on fake smiles and eye colours and raised ears and whatnot after being accosted by more salesaliens I care to count.

I have no idea if she wants to kill me or not, and I don't really intend to stick around and find out. Except the enesi guy is blocking my quickest exit out of this situation-

"Deck! Get back here!"

She runs at me. Fast. Faster than before. Either she's thrown herself into some new training regimen or she's had her reflexes and muscles toned up. I rummage in one of my coat's pockets nonchalantly, pretending not to see her, and grab my very best friend I keep for special occasions like this. Compact, multi-payload projectile weapon. No official name. Doesn't officially exist. Best non-monetary payment for a job well done I've ever received. I like to call it my final answer.

Six metres away. There's enough electronics jammed in my skull to keep me moving with a bullet in my brain. Targeting systems click into life, and my hand flies outward, half-guided, half-voluntarily. She sees my final answer, hanging in the air, and stops immediately. "Put that away," she hisses, tensing, arms raised as if they'd somehow protect her.

"I added a new payload to this thing," I mention, smiling like a creepy motherfucker. Always does wonders to make aliens back down, I've found. Aliens really don't like crazy humans. Weird, that.

"I don't want to find out, Deck," she snarls, taking a few steps back. "You won't fire that thing at me anyway."

I take a few steps closer to her. This solution is not for the current problem, so I return it to the safety I took it from. I whisper to her as she stands, flinching. "Anti-alter nano-agent solution variant 17, in fact."

She stares at me. I recognise the expression. I've seen her scared before. She's not doing a good job of hiding it. "What the fuck are you doing with Anathema?! Who sold you that?"

"Oh, it was part of the supplies given to me by my new employer. It's not really that sort of Anathema. Just enough to take out a few spacers if I need to, really." Okay, small lie. Enough to take out a few ships worth of areeni spacers, given as they'll probably be the biggest thorns in my side on this mission. What with occupying the space I need to get directly through.

She clasps a hand to her head. "Do we really need to go through the whole pointing deadly weapons thing every Kre-damned time, Deck? There's only one reason you ever show up here, and that's for assembling a new team. What's the mission?"
"To collect and deliver some well-guarded information to some very high paying clients."
"Urrgh. Ret and Isi, Deck. You're going to start a war someday. You didn't answer my first question, either."
"Hey. Keeps you on your toes or whatever those things at the end of your feet are. And wear some fucking clothes, you look like a spacer."
"I am wearing clothes!"
"Then wear some that aren't the same dried blood red as your freaky alien skin. Fuck, it's not hard."
"What, and go around in blacks and grays in the mistaken belief it somehow makes me look more menacing and threatening than I actually am? Is that why you always go with the threats every time we cross paths? To look more intimidating than you know you actually are?"

It's about this time I realise we've been marching along at a fast pace side by side bitching at each other. Oh, right. I didn't even say her name yet, did I. It's Zeiuri, and I think at this point she's first on the team. I'm well aware of her capabilities and she's one of the few things in the known galaxy crazy enough to work with me more than once. "So, you're in?" I ask her, just to clear up any uncertainties.

"You turn up with illegal and rare weapons and mention high paying clients. There is every chance if I say yes I will die a death as horrific as the ones during the Collapse during the course of this mission. However, I don't have a way out of this junkheap and I have no money, so, well, a job's a job."
"Clever girl."
"You patronising shit. If I wasn't a nicer areeni I'd have to slap that hunk of metal you call a face."
"Starting to feel like old times already."

The problem is we're both wildcards. We can do whatever we need. I need specialists. Specialists of what, though. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into here, to be honest. I've never been in the region of space I need to go and I need to find and somehow acquire a better ship. Any recommendations?
No. 345406 ID: d8880b

Grope her with us!
No. 345407 ID: 221021

>Clever girl.
Interesting reference. That movie must be quite old by now.

You're probably going to need somebody who's big and strong and armored, and can take a lot of shots without flinching. Somebody good with explosives might be nice. In addition to finding somebody with a good main ship, you might also want to get a support fighter and pilot.
No. 345423 ID: eba49f

It depends on what kind of information gathering you are planning on doing. Easiest would be gathering from people who have computers connected to an external network, where hardest would be where you have to actually sneak people onto their ship.

So if this Anathema is a nano-agent that effects a wide area, do you pre-program it specifically not to attack you, or is it a strictly long range weapon?
No. 345446 ID: 44766a

You know I wonder if we have any control over the arm.
[Wave at Zeiuri]
Anyway, as to crew members, definitely need an engineer and a pilot. What are to chances of being able to salvage stuff from the abandoned ships and would it be worth it?
No. 345486 ID: 72f92c

Hmmm. [Grope her inappropriately] If she yells at you say your arm's malfunctioning, because it technically is.
No. 345509 ID: 1854db


[oh jeez stop those arm movements before they get us stabbed]
No. 345579 ID: 44766a

How would waving get us stabbed? I agree with you on the whole groping thing.

[Stop all groping attempts.]
No. 345580 ID: 35e1a0

no groping.
No. 345601 ID: d8880b

Aww, I wanted to see if we're contagious...
No. 345617 ID: 44766a

How in the hell would we be contagious? We are an AI in a cybernetic arm. Unless she has cybernetics we wouldn't be able to spread, if we can at all.
No. 345618 ID: d8880b

We've been contagious before with no adequate explanation, how are we to know if that's the case here without random gropings?
No. 345684 ID: 180ec2

Let's compromise on this. Deck, seriously consider groping her, and if you feel like it's worth it then do it, but we won't take over your free will for your arm and make you do something that you don't want to do. Just note that she IS right there showing herself off with those tight skin-colored clothes and her sexy wing parts, and she probably isn't going to dare attack you if you do it because you just demonstrated that you were armed with deadly nanomachines. However it will almost certainly embarrass her, but whether that's really a bad thing or not you need to decide. But as a compromise we'll leave it up to you and not assume direct control. Aren't we nice?
No. 345718 ID: c891d3

My first thought would be to find some kinda freelance pilot who knows the area of space you're in. Preferably the kind who runs illegal shit all the time anyway.
No. 345992 ID: bff45a

Grope her? What the fuck? Why would I do that? She's not even my type. Freaky alien, I mean, come on. I know some people like that (bunch of weirdoes) but I don't, so.

I settle for yanking at her tail. She yelps. "What the fuck is wrong with you?!"
"A lot, but mostly not having a team for the job right now."
"Ret and Isi..."
"You and your adorable stupid alien religions warm the cockles of my cold augmented heart, Zei."

Okay. Pilot. "Hey. Zei. Know any pilots?"
"If I did I wouldn't be here talking to you, now, would I?"

Okay. While she's following me around like a puppy that's been kicked a few times yet still acts loyal for whatever unfathomable reasons, I do notice that I appear to have lost my pursuer-

"Human Deck!"

Or he can be right in front of me. That works too.

"I hear you need a pilot?" he asks, voice like the cheapest autotranslator he could find. Harsh and grating like someone talking on a dying comm link. "I noticed you didn't dock your ship correctly. It drifted back into the void shortly after you boarded."

Ah. Knew I forgot something. I thought I'd just left the lights on or something. Like I said, I'm not a great pilot. "Looking for a job, huh?" I ask casually, fiddling with the panels on my arm.

"Looking to be part of Deck's team. I've heard the stories! I want to be a part of them! They've spread far and wide-"
"You know most of them aren't true, right?" I interrupt him and glare at Zei. She smiles. She knows I like to keep a low profile.

"Stories get you places here," she mentions, the smug alien fucker. The canned eel looks back at me. I have no idea if it's trying to look endearing or threatening.

"I am a skilled pilot with a ship! Can I join you?"

If I said yes to everyone the chances I get someone who's only there to set me up or backstab me are pretty high. Let's give the guy a good old fashioned interview. Got any useful questions?
No. 345993 ID: ec0bf5

Ask what kind of ship he has, and what kind of work he's done in the past.
No. 345994 ID: 063c28

Since we're not skilled pilots ourselves, we can't jump right into the tricky questions, but this might be a good approach:

First, ask him what makes him better than every other pilot, what makes him think he's appropriate for the team and the job, and what evidence he has that he speaks truly of his experience/abilities. Get references to known-impartial third parties if you can and check up on them; if he can't come up with any, be extra-suspicious. Ask him to elaborate on anything that seems less than satisfactory or suspicious, and consider how much trouble you'll have finding/affording a better pilot.
No. 346004 ID: b6edd6

For starters, ask how he knew which ship was yours.
No. 346041 ID: 3bd8ec

Okay, I'm willing to give some credit to anyone who can sneak up on you despite being 1) significantly bigger than you and 2) wearing a giant metal suit.

That doesn't speak to piloting abilities, of course...
No. 347953 ID: d4ffb6

"So, what kind of ship do you have?" I ask all casually, like the smooth son of a bitch I am. Zei rolls her eyes. Yeah, she's jealous she doesn't have half the natural charisma I do. Even with half a trashcan bolted to my face. I think that adds to the charm, really.

Well, okay, it's just the metal eye. Pretty useful. I usually keep the augmented reality stuff off, though. Too distracting.

"I am currently lacking a ship! Wait. No. I mean! I am lacking a ship but I know where to get one? I am-" The fish thing rambles on until it looks past me, turns and starts running. I figure it's a good idea to see what-

Behind me, or, well, in front of me now, stands a seven foot tall monster of a machine. Sleeker than the leech's bulky suit, it's humanoid, tall, powerful, white with reams and reams of red light strips dancing over it like some primal symbol or external circulatory system. Powered armour, with a distinctly avian helmet.

"If you are looking for a pilot, human, you would do better than to associate with the likes of whom you were just speaking with," it speaks, in a modulated voice kind of like talking into an active fan. "I am Seret, Flock Fireblood. I have flown across the surfaces of stars. I have seen the Screamers as they preyed on the unwary. I have torn apart the hivers from the outer reaches. I will soon be departing this station in my ship, the Corvian Rise, for whatever destination I see fit."

"That's all very nice, birdy, but how do I know you didn't just chase off the competition?" I can't believe I'm such a valuable client. Oh. No, I can believe that fine. Fucking hell, Zei.

Zei smiles and reaches out a hand. "Seret! Hi there, you fascist xenophobic vermin!" Seret (or its suit) makes a weird noise like some kind of terran bird, reaches out and grabs Zei's hand. "Zeiuri! I had hoped you had died, but it seems unfortunately that is not the case!"

Zei stops shaking its hand. "No, no, Seret, that's... you need to work on that. Like, call me some sort of alien-fucking psychopath or something. That's how it works. Do you want to look like a Novaflight?"

Seret folds his or her arms- is that a cluck? No I'm pretty sure that was a cluck. "Fireblood is not Royal Nine, areeni. Tolerance is not an alien concept to us," it mutters. "I fail to understand also why appearing tolerant in Wayfarer's Salvation is to be avoided."

"Well," mentions Zei, fiddling with her stupid long ears, "it tends to get taken advantage of-"

"Will you two save the banter for another time?" I ask in an entirely reasonable and ever so slightly irritated manner. "Sert or Serat or whatever your name is, you're the new pilot. Let's go find us an engineer, someone big and tough and able to take a few hits, and maybe someone good with explosives or something."

Well, this place is too big. I mean, some clarification on the job. I'm breaking into a place that holds the information. It's not kept wired for a damn good reason. I have a hunch I know what it is, but I'm not telling anyone. Not even you, weird figment of my imagination and/or arm AI gone wrong. It'd explain the price, too.

So I need to break into a place that's going to likely be protected or at least have a high concentration of areeni around it, and it's in space, so that means areeni spacers.

Then I need to take that information to a rendezvous point on the edge of Alliance space. With that all in mind, any ideas for adjustment to the crew I'm looking for here? Anything I should be taking into account in particular?
No. 348177 ID: 6e44d2

You need saboteurs and hackers, plus some quiet, fast muscle. Crack into the facility, nab the data without letting anyone else know and quietly killing anyone who does find out, and slip back out before anyone even knows you were there. That's the way to do it.
No. 348385 ID: 1854db

Since all we really know about the mission is that we're going to be flying a ship somewhere and stealing some information, it's hard to tell what you need besides a pilot. Are we going to be infiltrating something or taking it by force or what? Or is it as simple as flying there and shoving a beam of haxurass at the information? If this is going to be a combat mission we could use a dedicated bruiser. I think those types are usually a bit untrustworthy though. If this is going to involve stealth or trickery we could use a hacker or infiltration specialist.
No. 348414 ID: b6edd6

Well he already said the data is secure enough not to be networked.

What is the viability of using remote drones for infiltration rather than sending (much bulkier) people?
No. 348500 ID: ec0bf5

Definitely bring somebody with knowledge of engineering, perhaps a saboteur. Maybe also somebody good with explosives? I don't know, I feel like that might help somehow. Perhaps a field medic, too, I've heard of areeni spacers having some really nasty abilities, like shooting acid.

Also, you definitely don't seem like some regular mercenary guy. I mean, you're just bragging to this lady that you've got some anathema on you. As I understand it, just possessing that stuff is grounds for "shoot on sight" and is considered an atrocity. How DID you get a hold of that?
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