Friday, October 17, 2014

Sometimes a Story Just Has to Get Out of You

I'm quite fond of the game FTL (note the hours played). I frequent the game's subreddit and participate there a fair bit with funny screenshots and comments. A few months ago, I posted another screenshot that had made me chuckle:

A commenter, unaware of what he was about to unleash, commented "Some backstory perhaps?" When I read that comment, a story suddenly and involuntarily flew into my head. I had to get the story out of my head and onto (digital) paper. (I guess this is what artists feel, that they "do art" because they can't not do it.)

The resulting comment was gilded, best-of'd, and upvoted to be one of my most upvoted comments. I figured I'd replicate it here.

It had been a long journey for the crew of the Kestrel, Captain Ariel thought to herself. I never would have thought it would have been this bad when I signed up. She and her crew had gladly accepted the assignment of couriering some data to the Federation Base. Lieutenant Mills, or "Bomfy", as he liked to be called, even pushed Ariel to volunteer the Kestrel. "She can take anything the Rebels can throw at her," the engineer boasted. The two old friends, along with tactical officer Lieutenant Mikhail Chernyshev, accepted the small data drive and the mission it entailed.

They knew they'd have to travel through at least eight sectors to get to the Federation Base, many of them hostile. But Ariel wasn't worried; they'd snuck through tighter nets before. The memory of the Elnubian Run made her chuckle. Mikhail was even more blunt: "Why don't we leave the weapons here, eh? We won't need them on this cruise." In the end, they only took a single burst laser and a few missiles.

"Subject goal: long, long journey. Subject vessel: unviable for journey. Assistance offered." The cold words of Maxwell, the Engi crew member first to join the Kestrel's crew, rung through Ariel's mind. Unviable for journey my ass! she thought, though that didn't stop her from accepting Maxwell's help.

They should have listened to Maxwell more in those early days of the journey, especially when they came upon that asteroid mining colony. Bomfy wanted to blow them out of the sky. "Let's shove a missile up their asses and see what happens when you work with the Rebels."

"Assumption: Incorrect. Colony: formerly Federation. Threats: unnecessary. Mission: continues," Maxwell chirped.

"Now hold on a minute there," Mikhail interjected. "The Federation is founded on helping everyone who is a part of it. This colony is in Federation space, even if the Rebels have claimed it. It's our duty to help them!"

"Duty: deliver data to Federation Base. Priority: highest."

"I've had just about enough out of you, tin can," Bomby growled.

"Everyone, calm down!" Ariel had shouted. "We do have a duty to the mission. But our mission is in service of the Federation, and we can't just abandon our ideals for a mission." She turned to Mikhail. "Load the shuttle with 15 missiles and send it down."

The whole crew, even the normally stoic Engi, had been surprised and outraged.

Bomfy: "Are you out of your goddamned mind, captain?!"

Mikhail: "We only have 15 missiles, sir!"

Maxwell: "Duty to mission incompatible with goods transfer. Probably of mission success: low. Recommend revise decision."

"I know you all probably think I'm nuts, but these colonists need to survive out here. With the rebel blockade, not only can they not get the explosives they need for their mining, but they won't have anything to trade with the Rebels. They'll die out here, or worse: enslaved by the Rebels." Ariel looked out the viewport at the colony. "No, we must honor our duty to the Federation. Mikhail, send the shuttle down immediately."

To their credit, the crew had accepted her orders with salutes and swift obedience. The colony wanted to reciprocate, but all they had to offer was a batch of navigational buoys. It had been Bomfy who thought up a novel use for them: "We could reprogram them to match our jump signature. They won't fool the rebels for long, and we can't overuse them lest the Rebels catch on to us. But they might buy us some time."

"I'd trade all of those damned buoys for a single missile," Mikhail later shouted to Charlie, both of them hunched behind consoles and spent missile tubes, trading blaster shots with pirate intruders.

"Their shields are down," Ariel's voice popped on the comm. "Open fire!"

"I'll cover you!" Charlie shouted to Mikhail as he stood up from cover and unleashed a barrage of blasts. Mikhail knew he had only moments before Charlie's blaster overheated, so he bolted from cover to trigger the weapons to fire.

"Firing!" he shouted as he rolled back to cover. The Kestrel shuddered as several laser and ion blasts shot out from the bow, arced across space, and silently impacted the pirate scout. The pirates, shocked by the destruction of their ship detailed on the displays, left themselves open to attack. Mikhail quicked blasted one, while Charlie knocked the other to the ground with his overheated blaster.

"Phew!" Charlie had said. "If I knew you guys were getting into tussles like these, I would have stayed on that moon!"

The FTL drive disengaged, and the Federation base came into communication range. "Open a channel to Admiral Tully immediately!" Ariel ordered Maxim, the recently recruited Rockman.

"Opening a channel," Maxim rumbled.

Ariel gave one last thought to the journey behind them. After the Lanius attack had partially damaged the data drive that was their mission, Bomfy and Maxwell managed to repair it. However, in doing so, they had unwittingly disabled the encryption on the device, which immediately displayed a hologram showing a massive Rebel Flagship with only a few weak points. She had a feeling that the Kestrel, banged up but also upgraded with new systems and weapons, would be tasked to engage the Flagship. Certainly the other fighters wouldn't be able to take it on, and the cruisers would be too busy engaging the much larger Rebel fleet.

She glanced at the ship's manifest: chain laser, charge ion, burst laser, drone parts, repurposed navigational buoys... She chuckled at the buoys, remembering how long ago it seemed they encountered the mining colony. Then a sudden thought came to her unbidden; she felt compelled to act on it.

"Mikhail," she said through the comm, "deploy the remaining navigational buoys."

All she heard was laughter over the comm and the thud of the cargo bay doors opening.

By the way, in case you're curious, I did end up winning that round.
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