Moon Rise

P

Palonis

Guest
Billy Strychnine was not having a fantastic day. First, he'd had to listen to his boys complain all day about how hungry and thirsty they were. 'Course they were hungry and thirsty. EVERYONE was hungry and thirsty these days. 'Least they could do is shut up about it and tolerate their suffering like real men would. But no, buncha sissies had to go crying about it every single step of the way, like an audio record stuck on permanent repeat. So they're crabby, Billy's crabby, and then they finally find a town with a tavern that's still in business, and all they want to do is sit down, have a drink, and fill their bellies with something that'll last them for another day or two.

But no, the instant they got in the tavern, they had to take lip from a girl with an attitude problem, and what's worse, another lady went and pulled a gun on Jake, one of his best boys. If it wasn't one hassle, it was another. Oh well, Billy supposed that he had no choice but to get a little messy. Pulling his own piece from inside his leather jacket (a burst-action laser pistol, technically contraband in most areas), Billy crept up on the lady holding his guy at gunpoint and put his gun a short distance from her head. "You don't want to be firing that little thing in here," he said in his grittiest, most intimidating voice. "In this cramped space? Someone could get-"

Billy probably shoulda been paying attention to his peripheries. Woulda seen the local miner trying to take him from the side. Billy wasn't even able to get his suave words out of his twisted lips before a board sprang up and smacked him in the face, putting him out like a light. Surprised, and stupid as a rock even without a piece of wood in his skull, the leader of the biker gang fired off a quick burst right into the shelves above the bar on his way down, rupturing a few bottles and spraying most of the people with a mixture of different poisons.

"Hey, they got the boss!" one of the bikers shouted while clearing aged brandy from his eyes. He tried to charge Ex-Sheriff Lux from the side, only to be intercepted by a Wastelander who'd stood up from the booth. The nomad, with a surge of daring, caught the biker off at the knees, sending him to the floor in a slide right at Lux's feet.

As fighting began to break out, Jeb stepped over the bar and over to Molman, trying to wrench him out of the floor and back onto his feet. "Go get the sheriff!" he ordered his serving bot, which quickly zipped out the door. At that moment, the barkeep winced as a Wastelander went over the bar and crashed into the shelves, knocking over what was left of the drinks. If the sheriff didn't get here soon, there wouldn't be much left to save.
 

Asmodeus

Gazorpazorpdeus
Original poster
Posting Speed
Speed of Light
On the TV above the bar, a commercial was doing its best to be heard over the bar brawl. Te picture was lousy and the sound kept cutting out.



"~t Stohlf~n Beach, a~l y~~r dr~a~s will c~me ~rue. Jo~n us fo~ an ex~lu~ive two w~ek
~~uise thro~g~ th~ or~it of the Un~am~ed Pl~~~t. See ~h~ be~u~i~ul ge~cy~lic
~torms up c~ose an~ fi~d new f~iends and a~ie~ ro~ance. Wi~h ou~ g~la~~ic-size
s~im~ing poo~ an~ o~r luxu~i~us ~ipl~mat ro~ms, S~ohlf~n Be~ch is tru~y a
p~radi~e amon~st the st--"

A beer bottle crashed into the screen and demolished the TV.

Margo had no time to thank Molman for his heroics. A leather whip lashed around her neck and she was pulled back into the grip of Rocktooth Ron - the second in command to Billy's gang. Ron was a "hair-of-the-dog" kind of guy. He would shave the hair off a dog then drown it in tequila, just for shits and giggles. He didn't need a drink inside him to kill people for Billy. He was the sober variety of psycho. He wore all black and had a black handlebar moustache and a black leather coat.

His silver-plated teeth gleamed as he grinned over Margo's shoulder, watching her choke. "Wehl wehl, Margo Lux. Ah heard you robbed th' Mayor and killed 'is boy. Gorna fetch a fine bounty, yis you are!"

He got her to her knees and pulled the whip tighter and tighter.
 
L

Lady of the Dragons

Guest
Am laughed at the sight around her...well, it was more of a screech than an actual laugh. Watching the boys fight was a sure good way to spend your time. When these guys got riled up, it was like some kind of rodeo but free. Am liked free stuff. Right along with men and money.

Am was the womanly keep-your-head-in-line-or-I'll-bash-it authority woman to those she saw as her enemy. Quick to complain and hard to satisfy, her money-spending spree when she was younger sent her life in a downward spiral right into the shitter. Broke and desperate for money, she became a prostitute. To put it simply, she had ways of making a man feel...special. It was this "talent" along with her explosive fiery attitude that was able to win her a spot on Billy's crew. When the men were bored while traveling she entertained them in her own special ways.

At her side was an upgraded stun gun. Normally this would hardly be an effective weapon and could barely scare a little child. However, with some tinkering it could be turned into a scary weapon, capable of shocking a person into a deep sleep. And with the little adjustment dial on the side, it could shock a person beyond their boundaries.

Now Am was watching Ron beat the little goody Sheriff with his whip. She tapped her SSG (short for "Super Stun Gun", as she called it) along the side of her body, which was clad in a scanty dark red body-suit with holes ripped near places that they shouldn't have been near. Her heels clicked on the floor of the bar as she walked over casually to a man hiding underneath a table and shocked him. His body twitched violently with electricity before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and his body fell to the ground.

She threw her head back and emitted another shrieking giggle, her strawberry hair brushing on her shoulders. "HAH! Whack her real good for me, Ron!"
 

Ai

The Red Queen
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Prestige, Adaptable
In the shadows, Nelly hid carefully observing the activities of the Silver Comet Saloon. Her cloak shrouded over her features, hiding her face and her gun within her belt. Jeb , one of the only people vaguely aware of her quiet presence. A familiar face entered, Margo - Ex Sheriff, her previous boss. Interesting... not feeling the urge to go straight up to the woman. Instead, Nelly remained in her seat and watched intently a group of bikers entered the bar, it was always a good idea to keep a low profile. A group of nomads wandered in, three of them. They looked like your average every day nomad - without lodgings or much money. Knowing Jeb, he didn't often try to take into account where his more recent customer had been nor their deeds. But there was always a complication somewhere or another.

Watching Margo, Nelly noticed that the woman was paying attention to Jeb's line of sight, toward the probe that could be used to call the Sheriff. That's be a pain in the arse if anything, but much to everybody's relief the small party settled in nicely. It was only one who went up to the bar, casually asking for a drink but it was strange, the voice was female. This was getting more and more interesting. Nelly didn't like trouble but she had a bad feeling.

She was right. Suddenly the doors slammed open, a gust of wind entering the pub. Nelly made sure to keep her hood over her face, she sat there quietly. It was Billy's Gang - great just what they needed. 'Well I'll sit back for a minute and see what happens shall I?' As they entered, Billy as stuck up as ever approached the wastelanders expecting them to give over the table. Great, picking on people again. Way to go, Jackass. Always wanting a fight, but then what'd ya expect. If it were up to that idiot he'd have the whole moon in an uproar. Well not like it wasn't already.

Before long, as expected Margo cut in her voice and cold as ever. "Back away there, friend, peace-like." an idiot lumbered in and managed to get himself in a pickle. Great. The noticing Rocktooth interfering. He tried to get the upper hand on Margo and the crazy woman with a Stun Gun, shit.

Still cloaked, she pulled out both of her weapons, Nelly aimed toward the two figures and fired two gunshots from each gun, both gun shot precise, one toward the leg, the other toward the stoumach. shot toward both Am and Rocktooth.

"Hands off. Only I've got permission to harass Margo!" it was a joke of course. Nelly was known to harass the other girls in the group in the old days just to make things a little livelier.

That aside, Nelly hated Billy's gang with a passion, this would be fun.

Guns were Nelly's life, they were as much a part of her as her legs and arms, shooting was like walking. When using a gun, her shots were often fatal - however she rarely shot to kill unless she was given permission.


 
L

Lady of the Dragons

Guest
Taelin-Hyun's Story
Distant Wilderness

It was night.

All around in the swamps of Fahli, animals could be heard screaming, chirping, and crying. Exotic wildlife littered the planet and filled it with strange creatures. Leaves rustled in the canopy sky above while thick branches crisscrossed along with them, as if the trees were embracing in each other. The water’s surface gleamed and glinted like a liquid blade. Movements in the water made the slightest disturbance of the surface being broken, disrupting the clean mirror that reflected scenery around it. Shadows and dapples of the soft moonlight caressed the water, making delicate patterns. It was to be a peaceful night…but a silhouette of disturbance caught in the large boughs above.

Taelin-Hyun crouched on the branches, waiting.

Every nerve in her body was still and calm. It was synchronized with the nature around her and every pulsating beat her environment made, she made as well. She was a hunter and the feeling was familiar. It was a feeling of waiting for her prey. Searching for her prey. The three black eyes on her forehead blinked in union. They were searching as well, seeing the heat that the life generated. Small dots of great heat flew past while cooler ones moved slower. So much life around her but none of it was the one she was looking for. Taelin turned her head slowly, the strings of ornaments of her small frill moving quietly in tune with her.

There it was.

A large beast that waded alongside the water's edge, dipping its nose in then pulling it back out. Taelin's heat eyes blinked rapidly. Her target was not so far away but it constantly lifted its head to look around as if it sensed danger. It did, but luckily it did not know what it was. Underneath its thick hide was meat that the Hyun tribe-city needed. As a hunter, it was her job to seek it and kill it then bring it back. She would and she would not fail. The beast let out a low vibrating call. Taelin's shoulder's tensed as it did. The vibrations rang throughout her body and she could make out every single note.

Soon the hunt would begin.

Behind Taelin were other Yaprytins, also with her. The beast was huge and one could not bring it down alone. Normally she hunted alone but this time she was forced to work in a team. She secretly detested the fact but kept it well hidden. As she readied herself, she ran her fingers over her weapon, two large bracelets fitted onto her forearm. Some Yaprytins disliked how she used more modern technology to hunt. She loved it. It killed so cleanly and smoothly. Just the way she liked her kills.

Soon...


 

Childish Grumpino

"...before turning the gun on himself."
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
[size=+1]

There are two kinds of people here on Osiris.

Those who have it all, and those who have fuck all.

For the former, this place must seem like a goddamn paradise; they've got all the power, the authority and the technology. Cybernetic limbs allow you to perform actions a regular human could only dream of. You live in utter luxury in vast skyscrapers that tower above the rabble below. Medical advancements add decades onto the time you'll spend breathing.

For the latter, however, it's a very different picture.

They've got no power, no voice and only the scraps of technology the powers that be choose to share. You're stuck with old, outdated cybernetics that are just as likely to fail on you when you need them most than they are to work, and if that isn't enough you can't easily get the drugs that stops the body rejecting your new arms and causing you to die in screaming agony. You live in a poisoned Sprawl, forced to wear masks to stop the polluted atmosphere from liquefying your lungs. Rampant crime and lax law-enforcement means that your life can easily be cut short should you find yourself caught in the middle of a turf war between gangs or the victim of a mugging gone bad.

Home sweet home, and all that.

They call me Atlas. I am a thief, a hacker, a con man, a finder of things that don't want to be found, and currently I am hanging from the side of a corporate skyscraper with the intention of liberating some of their secrets at the request of an anonymous benefactor.

Not exactly the safest way to make a living, but you gotta make ends meet somehow, right?

I was hired for this particular bit of corporate espionage in the usual way; contacted through a fixer, meeting with an anonymous prick in a bland suit, agreeing on the price, exchanging details and agreeing upon a meeting place once the deed is done. I pulled together a small team of morally-ambiguous thieves and crooks to assist me on this one. I'm very good at what I do, don't get me wrong, but breaking into a corporate building is never simple; it's nice to have a bit of backup and a few extra guns if things go tits up.

I finish cutting through the window and get ready to go to work.
“Showtime, people,” I mutter, the message relayed to the rest of my team via microphone, and slip into the building.

Time to make a dishonest living.[/size]
 
P

Palonis

Guest
Taelin-Hyun's Story:

The beast was no fool. In the jungle, one does not ever assume that one is alone from predators, but in this case, it did not even need to guess. It could sense them, foul two-legged tree people that moved quickly and could sting from a distance. There was barely any meat in a single one of them, and their taste was unsavory to boot, but if they came too close, well, it would have to defend itself. They had the advantage of range, but the beast had speed and ferocity. If they dared to antagonize it, they would scarce have time to regret it.

The question was how many and where. As the beast searched the water for prey, it looked up every now and then to spy for them, but saw nothing. The creatures were green, it understood, and could blend in with the environment far too well. It had felled an unwary member of their brood just a little under a week ago and had immediately regretted it, having digestion problems for the next two days. Why were these things so disgusting? Their outer skin was leathery and hard to chew, and the inner portion was almost entirely bone. Was it a natural trait, or did they do it to themselves on purpose? Either way, the beast envied it, as it meant that these things were unlikely to be picked off by other predators when it was standing here all nice and juicy instead.

Suddenly, a creature stirred in the water, and the beast dove on it, snatching it up in its jaws and crushing the life out of it. Dropping the limp corpse on the land by the water's edge, the beast was about to take a bite out of it when it considered the creatures still lurking nearby. The instant the beast lowered its head to eat, they would leap at the chance to strike it down. With this in mind, the beast instead grabbed its food in its mouth and took off in a full sprint. It would have a meal in its lair, where it could be safe from interruption.
 

Asmodeus

Gazorpazorpdeus
Original poster
Posting Speed
Speed of Light
Venton's Story: Ghost in the Machine




It scuttled through darkness, finding its way on twelve little legs that chittered on the metal floors. It was the only noise, save the bleep of idle systems, drowsy as the building’s AI tweaked the atmosphere. Lights flickered on as it moved, their sensors picking up the motions of the creature, and with each door that opened a whirr of gyro-machinery indicated further oxygen pumping into the room. But the creature crawled on regardless, over old pipes and vent shafts, finding the shortest route through the ghost house that was waking, slowly, to its presence.

It was an hour later when it dropped from a vent and landed before a grand door overlaid with gold-etched symbols. It scuttled up to it before turning. And as the light flickered on, it caught upon the carapace of the creature's back.

It reared up and pressed its claws to the surface of the door. There followed choral hissing as the locks disengaged and as the massive doors parted the cyborg skittered through a cloud of sterilising gas. It found the foot of its master and looked up at him, clicking happily as it waited.

Venton lowered his oxygen mask and took a tentative sniff of the cathedral air. It always paid to be cautious. A technician had died last week at the nutrient factory after a Nexian processor malfunctioned. The man had assumed the factory air would be regulated in preparation for his routine check. He was right, in one respect. But oxygen and cyanide are very different gases, as the man learned when he sauntered casually through the factory doors. Since the incident all humans on Rykelian had been instructed to keep their breathing equipment close – and none more so than the peculiar breed of inter-species minglers that were the Technicians.

Venton stepped forward, swallowed by the darkness of the cathedral, and the little creature by his foot fell in line with a train of biomechanical insects that accompanied him. Venton had brought twelve entomoids along today. It was a big cathedral – he would need the help. As he moved through the airlock chamber the insects scuttled out in all directions, sniffing at the processors, tasting for rust, coating the wiring with fresh layers of durable mucus. The smaller entomoids performed routine tasks, while larger drones criss-crossed the chamber and relayed readings to Venton in a chatter of clicks and squeaks. All Technicians knew how to decipher the entomoid language and how to respond with a mutual stream of gestures and facial expressions.

A space age Doctor Doolitte.

He watched them perform their tasks with the happy, sociable enthusiasm of puppies. At least that’s how he thought of them. After humans and Nexians had agreed to live together, the entomoids had been a kind of gift – a way to bridge the gap between the industrious of the former race and the repose of the latter. The insects were more understandable than the clerics, who spent their days entombed in cathedrals like this one, listening to the flow of space and time. The insects at least seemed alive and comparatively interested in this plane of existence.

It took an hour to traverse the initial chambers, and Venton was glad for the company of his chirping entourage. His footsteps echoed in cavernous, empty cavities of exquisite architecture. The Nexians on this level were old ones, more machine than flesh, with humanoid form all but erased. At times he would note an eye following him from a pillar, or a curve in the piping more feminine than mechanical. The eye is trained to recognise human form and even construct it from a set of random lines. It was a fact of life on Rykelian that you could never tell what was there and what your mind was imagining. Some said the humans here were irretrievably insane as a result.

Having climbed the spiral staircase for another half hour, Venton emerged into the cartography chapel, where Nexians were still moderately active. The sweeping curves of the architecture assumed function, running in vertical lines like a ribcage. In the alcoves between the buttresses, like child prisoners entombed in metal, the flesh of the clerics was worked back in sensuous swathes to meet the silver walls. Circuits and arteries were one, their organs joined with crude motors and hydraulics. One Nexian’s hands were blended with the wall, the finger joints replaced with pistons that worked endlessly at some unknown purpose. Beside him was a female whose every orifice was threaded with wires carrying chemicals and data. Further on was a man with serpent tail, his upper body swallowed by a machine that seemed to feed on him. And for every quivering Nexian there was a still one in between, posing like a work of art with limbs indistinguishable from the metal struts of the hallway.


At the end of the macabre chamber, the cartographer hung. He was like a piece of electrical equipment partially fallen from the wall, his shrivelled body dangling from a buttress in a tangle of wet, black wires. His head was crowned with metal plates and his chest wore a harness where small devices churned. The cartographer had no legs and his abdomen ended in a cluster of pistons that wreathed him in mist and made dew-wet the patches of pale skin that showed between the metal.

"Dear, dear. A fine mess you've got yourself in." Venton shook his head and approached the Nexian. As he did so the entomoids climbed up his legs and onto his shoulders, before hopping across onto the cartographer. Snagging the dangling wires in their claws, they began rethreading them thought the wall orifices. And as they pulled tight Venton put his shoulder beneath the creature and with a grunt hoisted him back against the wall. With a coordinated effort they got the cartographer re-installed and Venton took a few steps back to mop his brow.

And as he did so, something twitched in the other corner of the chamber. One of the other Nexians, who for centuries had slumbered, a sleeping beauty of flesh and metal, gave a tiny convulsion. Her eyes flickered open and her breath released. "It is now."

Venton’s heart leapt and he rose too quickly, bumping his head on the harness strut. To say this was unusual was an understatement. Nexians were not the most talkative of creatures at the best of times, and the concept of one speaking to a lowly Technician on a routine service call was unheard of. Venton wasn’t an ambassador or a priest or a merchant negotiating intergalactic trade. What possible words could a cleric have for him?

"That I must speak of chokes me."

Venton straightened up, wiping grime from his brow and frowning at the creature. "I’m sorry?"

"He blocks my consciousness. Present time, fleeting. Always time but not now."

The entomoids had gathered in half circle behind the cartographer, watching curiously, apprehensively, anthers twitching. They were like a family waiting as a doctor examined a loved one. Venton glanced at them then back at the Nexian, taking a few tentative steps towards it. "Are you damaged?"

"You suffice. No time for ambassadors. Hear me." It’s third and fourth eyes opened, and Venton almost cried in terror, such was the chill that went through his body. The eyes looked directly at him, perhaps the first eye-contact between a Nexian and Human in decades. "The next one comes. Now. This moment. Untraced till now. He is here. To end all things."

Venton reached out and probed one of the wires coiling her neck. "Hmm... perhaps a glitch in the mapping uplo-WAAAAAGH!" He yelped as a bony tail whipped behind him and slammed into his back. He was pulled into the Nexian's embrace, wires and sodden flesh encasing him. The cleric's eyes fixed him with the intensity of multicosmic awareness, and her voice filled the chamber.

"ON THE ALPHA MOON THEY PRY TOO DEEP. A PART OF HIM UNVEILED, FORESHADOWING THE NEXT. SHE WILL SEE IT, THE ELDEST SISTER. JOIN HER THERE. ENTRUST TO HER YOUR..."

She slumped suddenly, the furious life departing her like a ghost. Venton fell back from the tangle of wires and boney tendrils, landing hard on the floor. With his final shout the chamber went silent again and he lay there, gasping for breath. His insect helpers were in the shadows and were watching him with a kind of nervousness. He sat up, slowly, clutching his sore limbs, and stared at the sleeping Nexian.

The cleric was still once more.

"Oh my god..." Venton whispered, as sweat trickled into his eyes.
 
L

Lady of the Dragons

Guest
Taelin-Hyun's Story
Taelin-Hyun's tail flicked ever so slightly as the beast feasted on a smaller creature. The water sloshed and waves rippled out from its activity. The plants trembled with the water's waves as if a wind was grabbing them. She watched with her three heat-sensing eyes as the prey's heat became warmer as it struggled to escape, then eventually become one with the beast. Instinctively, she ran her hands silently again over her bracelet weapons. That doomed animal may have been killed by the large beast but it was no match for her. She had agility, intelligence, and technology on her hand. The beast was dumb and slow. Thus, it would die at her hands.


One of the Yaprytins next to her shifted and Taelin almost flinched. Almost. All of these hunters were idiots compared to her. They lacked what it was to be a true hunter. Their bodies were not in tune with the nature they hunted. Their movements were not of the wind whispering past the branches. Their weapons were not one of stealth. However, the tribe-city council had demanded that she take help along, for the beast they were hunting would not be easy to kill.

Taelin quickly activated her weapon, touching the white surface of it gently. Screens of light softly lit up on it and she touched one. A small hole appeared on the front of it with the tip of a dart slightly poking out of it. On the tip was a dark purple liquid. Poison to slow down the beast's heart. Normally the beast would simply collapse for a few days in a deep sleep before waking back up. Taelin would make sure the beast would not wake up. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the beast start to run. Her pace quickened, this was when the hunt began.

Taelin began to frantically climb and run across the branches after it, aiming her arm carefully before letting the dart shoot out. She aimed straight for its side. After the dart had been shot, she quickly tapped some more screens on her bracelets. Two long blades unsheathed.

The fight had begun and she would be the winner.


Atlas's Story
Money money money.

That was the only reason Guffkin had agreed to this fucked up job. He didn't know who the hell Atlas was or any of the other jokers in this job. He didn't even know all the details of the plan. All he knew was that money was involved. Oh, Guffkin loved money. So he said yes to this job. The headset was fastened tightly to his forehead and jammed into his ear. Dammit, what happened to old-fashioned blade-in-your-neck type of jobs? His left hand rubbed his left temple. A finger had been severed from that hand on a particularly dangerous job. Had he been one of those rich people, Guffkin would've gotten a robotic replacement faster than he could say "I fucking love money." Only he wasn't.

He waited for the signal to come while examining the stub of where his ring finger used to be. A buzz sounded right into his eardrum and he heard Atlas's voice. It was the signal. Guffkin grinned, showing half-rotted teeth and gums. "Finally." He laughed. Then he entered the building swiftly.

Money money money. That was what Guffkin was getting after this.


Venton's Story
The little bug-like device chirped as it followed Venton. Whether it was happy or not was up to debate. Its sensors indicated what Venton's general direction was compared to itself. Using this, it followed the man. Its master. The only master it had ever known. It followed Venton through the hallways, sensors feeding data to it an analyzing it. The environment around it was slowly being pieced together it its little AI brain.
Soon Venton had stopped and it stopped as well, chirping quietly to itself. As its master began to work, the device stood by his feet. Chirping quietly while examining its surroundings. Suddenly his master made a sudden move and it squeaked it surprise. Something had surprised him. The device set out and let its sensors scan deeply for the source of its master's surprise. A Nexian that was talking to Venton. It chirped, almost as if it was asking if he was okay. But it really wasn't. Was it?
The talking stopped but Venton still was anxious. His internal body heat had risen, according to the device's thermal scanning. It chirped again.


 

Asmodeus

Gazorpazorpdeus
Original poster
Posting Speed
Speed of Light
"Hey Venny - anyone ever tell you you're obsessed?"

Venton looked up. The wall behind him was covered in paper - drawings, diagrams, scribbled notes and newspaper clippings - all stuck there with insulation tape and saliva. "Er... No."

The little space shuttle sputtered through the void, its antiquated thrusters pushing it towards the Unnamed Planet. The ship was as old as Rykelian itself and moved to a chorus of phantom squeaks, clicks and thunks. Venton had to wonder if the entire vessel was about to break apart. The cabin around him swirled with venting steam and loose straps that swung overhead. It was more like a malfunctioning factory tossed into space than any kind of interplanetary transport.

The pilot, Ganz, was a space-traffic controller on Rykelian, and one of the many friends that Venton kept in touch with on his networking forum. This was only the fourth time they had met in the flesh. Usually, they knew each other as respective faces in a row of web cameras. That was what passed for social interaction on Rykelian. There was nowhere for the humans to go and the planet was dangerous to walk around on without an environmental suit. So if you wanted human company, you had to sit in front of a screen.

And that is what Ganz had done for most of his life. The spaceship pilot was fat and unhealthy-looking, with greasy dark hair that reached his shoulders. He was snacking on dried protein with one hand and piloting the ship with the other. "Y'know, you're not the first one, Venny. I seen a lot'a colonists go off the deep end, thinkin' they've been given messages by the Nexians." He wiggled his fingers when he said 'messages' - demonstrating just how much of a crackpot he thought his friend was.

Venton stuck another piece of paper to the cockpit wall. He had scribbled down everything he could remember from his encounter with the oracle creature in the cathedral. Her haunted words still echoed in his mind.


That I must speak of chokes me. He blocks my consciousness. The next one comes. Untraced till now. He is here. To end all things.


"The Nexian has been time-drifting. I could tell by the dilation in her eyes," Venton muttered as he checked over his notes. His little Entomoid helpers were on the console next to him, some of them flailing underneath bits of paper while others used their saliva to stick notes to the bulkhead. "She had seen something... in the future. She was trying to warn us, but didn't have time to contact the ambassadors."

"And why haven't YOU contacted the ambassadors?" Ganz asked. A moment passed and then he looked across at Venton, the mad old engineer surrounded by bits of paper and cybernetic insects. "Oh... right... the being taken for a crazy coot thing..."

"Alpha Moon..." Venton muttered as he played the prophecy over in his head. One of his Entomoids was perched on his shoulder and holding the pen expectantly. "She said a part of him will be unveiled on the Alpha Moon." He sorted through the wall hangings and found a star chart. "Alpha 66 - the steam planet. That must be where she means..."

Ganz gave the end of his protein chew to one of the Entomoids. "Well, I'm only taking ya as far as Stolfhon Beach. Manager's gonna have my balls if he finds out 'bout my unauthorized co-pilot." He wiggled his fingers again, indicating the big fat deception he had pulled in smuggling his friend on board.

"What's all the fuss about this Stolfhon Beach, anyway?"

"People say it's the solution to the Moon Troubles. A luxury space station, where all the races can mingle.... well, the wealthy and important members of the races at least." Ganz belched as he corrected their course, pulling the shuttle into the light of the Unnamed Planet. "Of course, the official line is that Stolfhon Beach is available to everyone. That's why they is running this competition. The Stolfhon Superdraw. One set of lucky tickets mailed to a randomly determined family on each moon."

Venton leaned from his co-pilot seat and looked behind him. At the end of the cargo hold, behind the steam and rattling crates, an Asian family sat cheerfully. Father, mother and young son, all smiling. The mother took a photo of him with a big flash camera. The father clutched tightly to three golden tickets. The family was trembling with excitement as Ganz provided their 'luxury flight' to Stolfhon Beach.

"Hmm..."

Venton sat back, letting one of the Entomoids curl up in his lap. Through the viewscreen they has begun their final approach to the newly constructed space station, which hung in orbit of the Unnamed Planet. It was a breathtaking sight. This was the closest anyone could get to the murderous world, and from here it was simply beautiful.

But Venton did not have a golden ticket on this quest.... only a growing sense of foreboding.