LOG 4101.16.14

// LOG 4101.16.14
// USER: -Exobiologist Ve’ran Gazzwelle-
// WARNING: LOG CONTAINS CORRUPTED SECTORS; DATA LOSS: 41%
// LOG BEGINS

// [ExoBio Ve’ran Gazzwelle] <The moss we’ve seen here is not native to this region, and it doesn’t have a clear reproductive process. Normally, we could grow it in the lab from a spore or even a small fragment->

// [Unknown] <indistinct chatter>

// [V.G.] <-then get the electrospectrometer in it! We need as much data as possible. As I was saying, the moss doesn’t reproduce in any way we’re familiar with; we’ve had stationary cameras here for months, but the moss doesn’t seem to spread whatsoever, even in abundant light and temperate conditions. Which, might I add, are almost year round on this bizarre rock.>

// [Unknown] <indistinct shouting, electrical interference>

// [V.G.] <Or’ran! What’s going on over there?>

// [Exobiologist Or’ran D’orzzin] <Ve, we’ve got some kind of…transmission coming from this thing. And judging by the waveforms, it’s almost like a stream of energized particles.>

// [V.G.] <Is it dangerous? Moons, we’ve been down here a week and we saw nothing on the detectors. We should evac and decon right now->

// [O.D.] <If it were going to kill us, we’d be well dead by now. Look at this, though: it’s transmitting right through the air. Like it’s sending out a wireless signal, but instead of data, it’s energy…?>

// [V.G.] <Where is it sending it? Is it a direct line?>

// [O.D.] <No, it’s…hang on, something is->

// <unknown interference; log corrupted>

// [V.G.] <-there! There’s something coming towar->

// <indistinct>

// [O.D.] <Ve, come o——————–we need to evacuate No->

// [V.G.] <Wait, it’s absorbing the——-nal from the———–there’s no way->

// <indistinct; possible aggressive noises, unknown source>

// [O.D.] <I don’t care how it’s feeding, we have to lea->

// <indistinct shouting; glass shatter; footsteps running away>

// <animal grunting; glass crunching; electronic interference>

// END LOG
// NO FURTHER SIGN OF CREW
// RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE SEARCH AND RESCUE

The Swirling Dark – a Void Cavalcade story

This story takes place in my scifi setting for the game “The Void Cavalcade” that I GM. The party has just pulled off a heist to kidnap a local crime magnate, an alien named Rekkis. This tells what happened to them after the party turned them in…

~~~

“The scene here on Tartalus is one of shock and awe. The starport behind me was assaulted by a group of mercenaries rumored to be part of the P.A.D. around midday yesterday.”

The screen shifted from the reporter’s visage in front of the starport to a series of montages.

“The group had apparently been settled in for nearly a week before the strike, and they had acquired uniforms and passes to blend in during their investigations. Several sources say that the group hijacked a ship from the hangar after a general evacuation was sounded; external camera footage confirms they flew to the roof, then kidnapped a local person of interest: one Rekkis Yuilt, a Hox who apparently went rogue after their Inundation. Local business owners and citizens claim Rekkis was skimming profits from nearly all sales of a locally-made ceramic and halting all trade off-world of the material.”

A close-up diagram of the material came in from the corner, showing an exploded view of the inner layers.

“Terraforming procedures on the planet apparently provided a perfect substrate for making a ceramic with the tensile strength of low-temperature plasteel, while introducing a conductive through-line. It’s a secret among locals how this process works, but with Rekkis out of the way, the product seems to finally be on its way to the galactic market.”

The view snapped back to the reporter – a Jin-Tai, whose long, widely-angular head was supposedly like an amphibious predator’s of the old Human homeworld – as they stood calmly on a local rooftop. Smoke columns whispered thinly upwards in the distance, and traffic around the starport was substantial.

“This is Whystrr Dullen, Holdfast News.”

The screen went to some other story; Rekkis didn’t much care to watch it. They slumped back in their cell, a too-white room of hard linen floor and crystallized plastic walls. Their body still felt awkward, uncomfortably numb; a side-effect of the tranquilizers and the slightly-off atmosphere inside the cage.

A Hox body was long and smooth, reminiscent of some aquatic ancestor from their home planet, with a variety of spiny tendrils along their back and heavy fluorescent colouring. Most Hox had a gelatinous mucus covering on most of their body that kept them fairly regulated against temperature, changes in air and light, and other airborne issues. Rekkis had come out of their Inundation without that layer, and it left them quite susceptible to the slightest irregularities.

The door buzzed loudly, and they whipped their body around, listing to one side as they struggled to move their body properly. Nobody had been to see them since their capture three days ago. Even the guards were automated drones.

When the door did finally open, the sight was both joyous and sorrowful: two of their fellow Hox, as well as an Arcadian, Trivvian & Human, entered. All wore fairly standard clothing, save for one innocuous accessory: a patch denoting a thin blue nebula. Rekkis knew it, and their mind felt like sludge; now was the time, the hour.

“Rekkis.” One of their Hox kin spoke, voice full with praise and respect. Rekkis idly noted the cameras shifting position, heard the subtle whirring of a jammed door lock. “You performed a service that will be honoured for generations to come.”

“And in return, a gorgeous jail cell and a thank-you party.” Rekkis sneered, their mouthless-face curling in on itself. “Elder, I did as you asked, and I know my fate. Just tell me,” they whispered, pressing close against the plastic divider, deep black eyes gazing intently at the assembled group. “did it work?”

“Indeed.” Intoned the Arcadian, their gaseous body contained within a pressure suit; inside, a thin, deep purple form rotated ponderously. “Our contact is in a position of power, and the goods will be available soon in many ports of call. You did well.”

Rekkis exhaled softly, their rows of nub-like feet letting them settle to the floor of their cell. It was soon to be over, then. They had done their part.

“All turns to naught in the dark.” Spoke the Trivvian quietly, shifting on her six feet in subtle rhythm.

“And that without light is lost.” Continued the human, making a gesture Rekkis knew well.

“A pair in the dust, alone they must part.” The chorus of chanting was low but intense, and Rekkis’ body quaked with the mixed feelings of a funeral and a miracle.

“Deep within nothing, they will find the Heart.” The chant hung in the air, pregnant with purpose.

“They will find the Heart.” Rekkis repeated, to no one but the hard white linen below.

—–

They recognized the faces in the crowd as if from a dream; some other life, possibly many other lives. A crowd of fond strangers greeted them as Rekkis was escorted down the aisle towards a raised dais. Atop it sat a large tub, carved ornately with scripture and imagery from their homeworld, and something deep inside Rekkis knew these shapes and words. They spoke of immortality from death, and the endless ocean within all Hox.

Rekkis barely paid the ceremony any mind – their thoughts were as insects in a stiff wind, barely able to gain purchase. Once, they might have wept, or cried in outrage, but the teachings of That Whose Will Is Creation had helped them find a strange kind of peace. They had done their part – the ceramics were now a prized commodity, and easily available. All was to plan. And now they had to finish their duty to the Veiled Host.

They were raised, then lowered into the tub, allowed to settle and say their last words, but Rekkis had none. Even when the fine salt began to pour over their skin, coating them in exquisite agony, they uttered nothing. Consciousness began to slip, the dark corners of space crowding out their thoughts until all was empty, howling void.

And then blessed silence.

—–

After five days, the body was rehydrated – the final ritual of the Inundation – and a new Hox, of different colour, stature and mind, stepped gingerly from the tub.

Rekkis was no more. Their body was for another, their mind reassembled into a new person.

Their deeds were forgiven, and their past left there. And the new body left, unaware of the flame its old owner had set under the universe.

Quick update!

Hello! It’s been some months of inactivity here, but I am planning to start posting again soon. No doubt we’re all in strange circumstances, but things are finally settling into some kind of routine.

I’m currently running one tabletop game and playing in two others that are streamed weekly (links and times at the bottom), and streaming otherwise, so my time and energy for writing has been minimal, but I have multiple stories waiting for polish so expect something in the next few weeks!

I hope you’re all doing well and that you’ve found some semblance of stability.

(If streams aren’t your thing, no worries!)

[Streaming schedule]

Tabletop RPGs, Tuesday – Water (a Subnautica-themed survival game. Player; 7 PM MST, 9 PM EST); Saturday – The Void Cavalcade (a Stars Without Number game set in an era of exploration, aliens and strange happenings, with me as GM; 1 PM MST, 3 PM EST); Animus Absentis (a Dark Matter-inspired scifi campaign. Player; 7 PM MST, 9 PM EST). All of these shows are produced and hosted on the Blackfeather Guild’s channel.

Other Streaming: Wednesday & Thursday, ~10-4; Videogames and Worldbuilding. Both are on my Twitch channel.

The Void Cavalcade

Earth isn’t gone. But sometimes, we wish it was.

When all this started, we’d just achieved long-range spaceflight with the Cleave drives – my great-grandparents were on one of the first cruisers out to the Alpha Centauri system. Kind of a big deal, getting to escape the solar system like that. We’d managed to colonize a few worlds in our backyard, but ideal they weren’t; if we could get our ships to cut through interstellar space the way they did in our neighbourhood, we might have a better chance at finding a liveable world.

Terraforming? That’s a fool’s errand. Best you can hope for is to change a series of icy moons into windy dustballs that snow like the devil’s dandruff, or make a bunch of dry rocks into slightly moist ones. ‘Course, other folks in the galaxy might have other notions, but they weren’t around then; it was just humans trying to find a new home in the badlands.

Then the Collapse happened. More literal than I think most folks understand. See, some people didn’t think the Cleave drives were all that great outside our solar system – hell, some didn’t like them beyond ferrying to the moon and back! So they started working on wormholes and faster-than-light drives, still science fiction in an age where we’d grown trees on Mars. And, as tends to happen, somebody slipped up.

Whole chunk of old Earth got swallowed up in a subspace wormhole, sent to who-knows-where, and sent the old girl a’spinnin’ in her orbit. Moon base got peppered like a shotgun – not much left of that. Think some of it even got to Venus. So when people say “Earth’s gone”, they’re usually just trying to forget about it. It’s like a burned-down home; better to leave it in the past, they think. But if we don’t remember Why it happened, well. Might just be someone slips up down the line and makes another Briggand’s Fault.

There’s a stretch – here, let me pull up the map – a big stretch of space that’s all kinds of unruly. Briggand’s Fault, the Briar Patch, the Void Trench; thing’s got as many names as there are species out there. And it’s nearly four thousand lightyears long. Nobody quite knew where it had come from, and with the loss of Earth and the state of flux it put the rest of our home system in, nobody was too keen to spend resources to find out. But over time, after the other races started coming up on our radars, after the Caravans became not only viable but essential, folk started poking around.

Turns out, that’s where that chunk of Earth got to. Somehow, the wormhole opened up way across space, but it cut a path like a jagged knife, and now it’s a pain to try and get around. Most Caravans just skirt it – Cleave drives are sturdy nowadays, but there’s no telling what the Fault will do to them. Or you.

Now, I know there’s plenty of info on us on the Lace, plus every other type of folk out there, but there’s one thing most humans hold true: a real FTL drive is proper science fiction. Can’t happen. But every now and then you’ll hear rumours, hearsay about a new device that can hop over the galaxy like an interstellar rabbit.

Eh? Oh, it’s a – look, it’s just a metaphor. Haven’t had rabbits around for a century or more.

All i’m saying is, if we want to keep exploring, and getting further out, we’re gonna need something faster than Cleaving. ‘Cause even with a Caravan as big as this, it’s still gonna take us the better part of a month to get out to your folks. Yeah, I know it’s only ninety-odd lightyears out, but that’s the limit. We go any faster, we’re liable to make a big line of trash and flash-frozen corpses for the next Caravan to run into. Just sit tight.

Safer here than on your own, at least.

Earth is a broken relic of a time before the Caravans; back then, massive cities were the norm, with small towns and villages surrounding them. It’s been almost two centuries now since the Collapse, and it’s difficult to find a world that will support that kind of growth, let alone enough material and time to build it. Even with the new technologies brought in by the other races, there are no more than a few dozen sheltered cities scattered among the stars, with numerous colonies and asteroid bases between.

Supporting (and in some cases replacing) these are the Caravans – large co-ops of ships, lashing their Cleave drives together to allow speedy travel between the stars. They run on various routes, acting as a home for merchants, passengers, explorers and smugglers alike. Small ferry craft buzz between larger ships like bees, and the greatest Caravans have more population than some planetbound cities do, and just as much economy.

Unlike a city of old, however, they are self-governed; no one group or power holds sway over all Caravans (Though there’s plenty of rumours of a shadow government). Anyone could start their own if they wished (and had enough ships to make it viable), but most simply buy into existing fleets, adding their skills and ship(s) to a growing population. The more ships, the less fuel it costs to fly. This is the beauty of the Cleave drive: much like geese flying in formation, the ships reduce “drag” from spacetime itself, allowing a circumventing of physics without serious incident. The Caravans are the lifeblood of this region of the galaxy, and anyone with a dream or a scheme knows how important they can be.

There’s plenty of work for mercenaries, smugglers, engineers, explorers, to say nothing of artists and diplomats. And if you’re looking to find new horizons, there are a few Caravans that take long arcs out into unexplored space, braced for adventure and bountiful new lands. There’s an Eden out there, somewhere. And whoever finds it first might have the best chance at life on solid ground – or become a sure target for every other scavenger out there.

For the rest of us, well. There’s always signing up with the PAD.


This is the story summary i’m providing for a new tabletop game i’ll be streaming come May, using the Stars Without Number system.

It’s set in a small stretch of space where races intermingle while they learn, trade, explore and sabotage, all in the search of a new viable home. There’s plenty in here I haven’t explained, and I don’t plan to elaborate on all of it, but i’m looking forward to fleshing out certain aspects for people to read about.

It’s a trying time, and I hope you’re all safe and well, or on the way to it if you’re not. Much love and respect.

(Instru)Mental

I’ve been feeling instru
Mental
About the way I’m being held
Figurehead, like a grand tree, just
Waiting to be felled

When your time is up, timber,
The funeral march drones
Down into soil to grow the next
Regime upon your bones

You’ve got me feeling funda
Mental
With your book of holy text
Warping tales to fit around you
Like the noose around your necks

When you see the face of those outside
Your tidy little group
Do you see the people, lives and dreams,
Or only heathen soup?

Now I’m feeling senti
Mental
For the things I once held close
Shut up in some chest-of-drawers
Away from those that need them most

They tell me “give that up”;
You’re a child no more
But they hand me things no human wants
And try to sell me war

We treat them like they’re orna
Mental
Put the doll upon the dais
Worship at the feet of your idol
Before you burn and raze

If you’re planning out to conquer
All your neighbours and their fields
Reconsider who you pray to and
The power that it wields

This whole song’s experi
Mental
Digging into words and sounds
Playing up on emphasis and
Making sure the meaning pounds

Sometimes the lyrics flow like wine
But often Bacchus is a hog
And out come words that muck and mire
It’s really quite a slog


Listened to “Departure Songs” by We Lost The Sea while hashing this out. I sometimes write lyrics for songs that don’t exist yet.

Hope your Saturday is going well.

A sinking rowboat

When the ship begins to sink
And hope is tossed asea
Don’t, clinging to your anchor, think:
“Surely this will save me!”

There is an ocean’s worth of difference
In knowing your boat is sinking
And knowing how to stop it
Without even thinking

If you find yourself adrift,
No paddle to your name,
Examine why you’re left becalmed
And do not jump to blame.

If it’s your design to end up here,
Congrats, you’ve done it, led by fear;
Now you’ve an ocean to sit and dwell
On why you chose to never tell
A soul about your personal hell.

If it’s fickle mind, poor chemical synthesis,
You might find the ocean a dense abyss:
More of a mire than a wide expanse
Less of a trial and closer to dance
With a partner who gives no second chance.

“Don’t panic”, they say, all teacups and sunshine,
Medicine bags full of useless tat.
But you’ve sailed these waters line by line;
There is no one fix to solving that.

All told, it is awful, and without cure;
Though there’s nothing wrong with you
You’re not impure
Your brain’s just a mess. Diagnosis: chemical
Full to the brim with habits inimical

But I believe in you, that’s the truth.
You can win against yourself.
Just remember, you’re okay,
And leave your habits on the shelf.


Apparently the first two verses were missing, oops!

Stygian Cells

This is a story I submitted to Glitter + Ashes, “an anthology of queer joy and queer community in the face of disaster”, published by Neon Hemlock Press. It made the shortlist but not the final cut, so now I get to share it with you. I’m honoured to have made the shortlist, and if you enjoy this kind of thing (or the above description whets your appetite for less sad post-apocalyptic stories), please do check out the zine as it’s still available for pre-order! Info here, and pre-orders are here! Support small press!


 

“What do you mean, ‘your bones are no good here’?” Festree said, confused. “These are third-age roach skeletons, they’re worth at least a few old wyrds.” She picked up the bones to emphasize her point, showing their intricate branching structures. It had taken her nearly three days to prepare them, and these were the good ones; the rest had been thrown into a lackluster stew as spice. Her stomach still roiled when she thought of it.

“I’ll tell you what, little witch-” The hag hacked horribly, her misshapen, furred body wracked by the effort, “-you cure me of this wretched cough, and I’ll give you what you want.” She rubbed at her throat for effect.

Festree rolled her eyes, then scooped the bones back into a pouch. “Fine.” She drew herself level with the stooped woman’s eyes. “But if I find out these wyrds are bunk, I’ll hex you with my period cramps for three moons, you old blister.”

Carlisle wrinkled their nose, but said nothing as Festree cleared a spot on the ground.

Read more

The Orchard of my Soul

Aye, the feelings still reside
Within the battered hide of the heart
But what use are they now,
Fruitless trees kept and tended
Only for history and memory
Their branches lie fallow in warmth
And cold alike.
“Could they burst forth with life again,” some ask, hopeful;
Others ask why I keep such empty vessels at all.
In truth, I cannot feed myself on hope
Nor wither myself to dust waiting
For a harvest surely imaginary.
The things are kept as a sign of progress
Of learning from one’s past, good and bad
A reminder and a marker.
New trees may take up their role
In the orchard of my soul,
And tended there in new light
They might produce unknown delight
If only the old do not poison them.
Heavy leaves of the most barren tree
Will still choke the life from those beneath
That ask for only moments of that blazing star
That the old memory drinks deep of. Oblivious.
Its time has passed, and should it come again,
It will come in the rebirth after the blaze,
The sun made manifest in the orchard of my soul.


Growth is hard, but is best noticed when left to itself. Keep yourself well and do likewise for others in the coming years.

Art Is Valuable (but I’m broke)

I want to be the one that buys your art

So I can hear how happy it made you

How you struggled that week between jobs and chores

Or why a trauma gave you inspiration instead of just a scar

But I can’t always be that one.

Someone else will buy it instead,

and I’ll never hear that story.

And there isn’t a word I know

for that kind of happy sadness.

The Internet

When I dip my head into the pools
To see what’s growing
What’s different from their neighbours
I see a cosmos that rivals the stars
So I dive deep
And when I finally pull myself up
I realize I forgot to breathe and

I wonder where the day has gone.


Busy months. Expect more stories and poetry soon!