Welcome to The New Real, a sci-fi livewriting adventure composed entirely on io9. Over the next two days, we'll bring you into the world of interplanetary narcotics control, where the bad guys are bad, the good guys are iffy, and the heroes are alcoholic and suicidal.
I am MCM, and this is "The New Real", a science fiction experiment that will produce a short novel in two days. But I can't do it on my own. I need YOU to help out. Your days of passive entertainment are over!
Here's how it works: every hour, I'll be posting a series of questions at the end of this post, and it's up to you to answer them. They're done like this:
And then your answer would be:
You'll notice the two hashtags need to appear in the response. That helps my handy-dandy answer parser know which answer goes where. At the end of the hour, my system will grab a random reply for each question and deliver it to me. I then have the next hour to craft a chapter with those elements in mind.
How do you submit answers? There are two ways: first, you can do it via Twitter. Just post a tweet with the formatting above, and I'll see it, no problem. Or, if you're a little more adventurous, you can visit my #2D1D console, enter a username, and you can answer without having to type hashtags or use Twitter at all.
But wait, there's more! You can throw your crazy ideas at me in other ways, too. Comment here on the post, or tweet with the #2D1D hashtag alone, and I'll take some of the cooler ideas and mix them into the story. Some of the best ideas come out of left field, so don't be shy. Anarchy rules.
This post will hold all the chapters for the first day of the event, so check back often. You can also follow me on Twitter or follow the #2D1D conversation as a whole, and read some behind-the-scenes at the Dispatch. Oh, and stay tuned for some twists in the process… there's a chance for you to really mess things up, but you need to be ready.
So without any further ado, let us begin with our first set of questions:
Chapter 1 Picks
Name of a cop: Rufus Palco by piratepwnsninja
Street name of drug: orange glow by Rok
Stop or go: Go (Always Go since #3D1D) by Janoda
Piece of trash: Dead Mouse by WatchingPreacher
Name of bar: The Madrasah by Eli James
Chapter 1: Accidents
The car slid to the curb, two doors down, rims scratching concrete, a jarring sound. Rufus winced, turned off the engine, and turned to Duffy, finishing his third coffee of the day.
"We're early," he said, re-checking his watch.
"Looks like it," nodded Duffy. "We should just go in, yeah?"
Rufus shrugged. He checked his badge, felt for his gun. He was ready, but he didn't look it.
"Orange Glow's the explosive one?" he asked suddenly, like waking from a dream. "I can't remember. Do we need backup?"
"Don't sweat it," said Duffy, downing the rest of the cup and throwing into the space by his feet. "We can do it either way."
"What if it's a factory?"
"It's not a factory. It's a studio apartment. Stop shaking your leg, you're makin' me nervous."
"Sorry," said Rufus, putting a hand on his knee. "So we go?"
"We'll wait for backup," said Duffy, eyeing the sweat on Rufus' brow. "You don't look too trusthworthy right now."
Rufus nodded, looked out the window. A girl on a pink bicycle was pedalling in circles on the sidewalk across the street. She seemed oblivious the the tension in the air.
"What d'you think, Darvey?" asked Duffy, cricking his neck. "Sound like a plan?"
In the back seat, Darvey lifted his head half an inch, squinting at the pale sunlight. He cleared his throat, and his voice was a quiet grumble.
"Depends," he said. "What plan are you talking about?"
"Waiting for backup," Duffy said, not looking back.
"That's a plan? Sounds like an excuse to me."
Duffy cricked his neck again.
"So what," he said, "you think the three of us can take it?"
"Three of us? Hell no, you guys are on your own. I'll watch the front door, in case you fail that badly."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," grumbled Duffy, getting out of the car.
"Don't mention it," said Darvey, still not lifting his head.
Rufus and Duffy strode down the street to the converted brownstone, let themselves in and took the stairs two at a time until they got to the third floor. The walls were a sickly kind of green, and the carpet was frayed and had brown patches on it so big, it made Rufus ill just to look at it.
They stopped outside #301, guns ready, backs against the wall, and Rufus nodded. One, two, three…
Duffy kicked in the door and Rufus charged in, gun sweeping the room for danger. The dinner table was covered with bags of orange powder, beakers, vats of liquid, and a bunsen burner still going strong. Rufus turned to Duffy, the word "clear" on his lips, but stopped when he saw the closet door swing open.
The gunshot caught Duffy in the back of the head, spraying Rufus with blood, and he shot once, twice, three times before his partner even hit the ground. The scrawny man in the closet ducked back, paused a second, and shot back. Rufus' arm exploded with pain, and he dropped onto the table, spilling Orange Glow everywhere. He'd lost his gun, and he couldn't make himself move to get it.
The scrawny man watched him with a subtle smirk.
Darvey had finished half his coffee, which meant it was time for a top-up. He pulled the flask from his jacket pocket, emptied it into the cup, and glanced at his watch. Ten thirty.
"Happy hour in Belgium," he said. "God bless time zones."
He strolled to the front door of the building, hand blocking the sun, looked around the street. The girl on the bike was still going in circles, as if there was some kind of charm to it, as if it weren't just nauseating watching it. Darvey cleared his throat again, looked up the steps inside, took another swig of his coffee.
The shots echoed so loudly he choked before he could swallow, and a second later, he heard feet racing down the staircase. He threw his drink out, ducked around the corner, and reached for his gun. Missing.
"Dammit," he spat, and looked back to the car. Too far. He looked around until he settled on a pile of trash by the building's edge. A lot of banana peels, apple cores, milk cartons…
"Come on…" he cursed, and heard the door behind him open. A scrawny man with blood all over stumbled out and started running for cover.
"Dammit dammit dammit," spat Darvey, and grabbed the first solid object he found: a dead mouse. He wound back and threw it as hard as he could. It connected with the scrawny man's head, and he turned around, eyes flaring, shocked almost, stumbling backwards into the street.
Before either of them could say a word, a car fishtailed into the scene, catching the scrawny man in the legs as it tried to stop. His head cracked against the windshield, and he fell to the ground in a heap… but not before his gun let off one more round…
The pink bicycle toppled in a pool of blood.
From what he remembered, Darvey's gun and badge sat on the Captain's desk for hours while they grilled him. From what he remembered, every single person in the precinct watched him come and go. The people on the street all knew, he knew, and they hated him. Before the girl was even brought to the morgue, he felt the weight of the whole world hating him, and he hated them back.
"You smell like booze," the Captain'd said. "Jesus, Mack. What were you thinking?"
He'd said nothing. There was nothing to say.
Duffy was dead. Rufus Palco's widow was in the hall, wailing. Her voice drowned out the Captain every chance it got. And it got a lot of chances.
IAB wanted a blood sample, but his lawyer refused on his behalf. The press was toying with headlines all day: "DRUNK COP KILLS GIRL", or "THE BOOZE FIASCO." They'd figure it out by the six o'clock news. Something catchy.
Darvey walked back to his apartment, as sober as he'd been in months, and when he got inside, sat on his bed, tie askew, and looked at the photos on the dresser. His wife, his daughter, both smiling back at him. He inhaled sharply, licked his dry lips, and clasped his hands together.
"I screwed up," he said to the photo. "God damn, I screwed up."
He got up, opened the sock drawer and reached underneath, pulling out a small revolver. Half-empty. Good enough. He slipped it into his belt, made the sign of the cross… backwards, he realized, and tried it again. He kissed his fingers, touched his wife's smile, and left home for the last time.
It was a long walk to the river, but the streets were mercifully empty. He paced along the edge, looking into the depths, hands shaking, eyes drier than they had any right to be.
He stopped by a side street that led right to the water, touched the gun again to be sure. He looked up into the sky, into the grey heavens, and opened his eyes wide for the first time in so very long.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'll make it right."
Just then, he heard the squeaking of a door, and behind him, two men stumbled out of a building across the street. The Madrasah. An out-of-place dive bar that was open "24/7." Darvey looked back to the river, and back to the Madrasah, and he knew what he had to do.
The story was on the TV inside, but they didn't show his face this time. He ordered five shots of scotch before the bartender gave him the whole bottle and a bigger glass. The parents of the girl were on TV, crying the same as at the precinct, and it was too much for him to bear. He took his bottle, his glass, and his shame, and found a table in the back where no one would see him.
An hour later, the bottle was empty and Darvey had the revolver on the coaster in front of him. He toyed with it, spinning it, staring at it and nothing else.
"What're you drinking?" asked a voice out of his view, and he declined to make the effort to see who was talking.
"What're you buying?" he said.
"Another bottle of scotch? Is that your first?"
"First and last."
"I'll get you another."
"I won't need it soon," Darvey said, and put the gun to the side of his head.
"You know that won't work," said the voice, Darvey was forced to acknowledge a man sitting across from him, black suit and crew cut, greying hair and a lined face. "Half the people that do it that way survive."
"I won't," Darvey said.
"Oh, you will. The ones like you, they always survive. If you want to kill yourself right, you need better technique."
"What are you, ‘Suicide for Dummies'?"
The man laughed, scratched his chin.
"I'm here to offer you a better technique."
Darvey lowered the gun, put it on the table, but kept his hand on it, just in case. The room was spinning, but not so much he couldn't see an intervention coming.
"Whaddya mean?" he slurred.
"I have a job I need taken care of, and I think you're a perfect fit."
"Some job," he laughed.
"It's a suicide mission," said the man. "I don't expect you'll last more than a day. But we need a representative, and you have the background and future prospects we need."
"What kind of mission?"
"Narcotics control. The details… well, it's best if I don't explain here."
"What's the pay?" he asked.
"Living expenses, and the knowledge that you're doing something good before you die."
"You haven't read my file, then."
"Oh I have. You'll be an excellent fit."
Darvey laughed loudly, shook his head.
"So if I say yes, then what? You fly me to Bogota or something? Do I ever come home?"
"No," said the man. "You'll never come home."
"Not even in a body bag?"
"Not even that," said the man.
The parents were wailing on the TV again. Darvey gripped the handle of the gun, but saw the man waiting for an answer.
"Sure," he said finally. "I never did much of anything in my life. Might as well have an interesting death."
And with that final effort, Mack Darvey passed out in the bar called Madrasah.
Chapter 2 Picks
Topic of conversation: cheese by bobbobins
Sci fi technology: jetpacks combined with lunchboxes by GremlinMike
Nickname?: Nickname? Gordito by tenaciousN
Chapter 2 (Part I): Thomas Derra
Note: I'm breaking Chapter 2 into 2 parts because it was about to get way too long.
The headache preceded consciousness by a solid minute, so when Darvey finally opened his eyes, he was already hating the day. The room was dark, and the bed was made of some kind of iron-laced fabric that chafed his skin as he sat up. The world did not sit up with him.
There were no sounds around him but a low hum, and even that was probably inaudible to the non-hung-over person. No city sounds. It felt odd, not hearing cabs in the distance. Sirens.
He got to his feet and stumbled through the door, found himself staring straight into an iron bulkhead. Pipes ran everywhere, like the guts of a submarine. Darvey made his way down to the lesser-lit side of the hall, peeked through a door into what appeared to be a cafeteria.
At one of the tables was a very large insect playing chess.
Darvey just stood and stared for a moment, then rubbed his eyes.
"Less booze before bed," he muttered to himself. "Or more."
The insect looked up, scratched the top of its head with a long, thin arm.
"Greetings, biped," it said to him with a woman's voice, but he wasn't sure how he had heard the words. "You look like shit."
He glanced around himself, just in case there was someone else in the room playing tricks on him.
"Uh, thanks," he said.
The insect cocked its head.
"That was no a compliment."
"You are very strange."
"Says the giant bug."
The bug moved a chess piece, but didn't look away from him. Her extra legs were starting to twitch. It reminded Darvey of Rufus in the car. He tried not to dwell on it.
"I am Aphid," said the bug. "You are Darvey."
"Yeah," said Darvey. "Nice to… uh… meet you."
"What is cheese like?" asked Aphid suddenly.
Darvey sat on one of the closer tables, frowning.
"I am studying bipedal cultures, and I am interested in cheese. What is its texture?"
"There are lots of different kinds, and not to be rude, but with my hangover the way it is right now, I don't want to be thinking about cheese."
"It'll make me puke."
"I would like to see that."
Darvey frowned at her.
"I don't know what to say to that."
Aphid hopped out of her seat and whisked across the room to a large thermos-looking device in the corner. She took a cup from the top and poured some thick, black liquid out, swishing it around, letting the steam rise out. Even from a distance, it smelled terminal.
"This is Titan-grown single-origin bean espresso," she said. "It will end your hangover."
"My hangover or my life?"
"I'm not sure," she said. "But I am interested to find out."
She handed him the cup and sat down next to him. He tried not to be put off by her body hair scratching him as she moved. She clicked softly to herself.
"You are odd," she said after a long pause.
"Says the giant bug," he said, and took a sip of the drink, and promptly spat it all over the room.
"Aphid!" called a voice, deep and round. "Where're y'at?"
"Tea room!" said Aphid.
A moment later, a giant figure strode into the cafeteria, skin a thick crust, overlapping in places, his face like a wide slab of rock with some features carved in.
"Oh, it woke up," said the creature.
"Kaps, this is Darvey. Darvey, this is Kaps. He breaks things."
"I can imagine," said Darvey.
"Hello, human," he said. "Your eyes are ugly."
"Thanks," said Darvey. "Your whole face is ugly."
Kaps nodded to this, went to get some sludge from the corner. Another figure slipped into the room, standing right next to Darvey without making a sound. He stared down at him with empty spaces instead of eyes.
"Greetings, Mack Darvey," it said. "I am Lucas."
"Lucas? Really? My dream state is getting lazy."
"In what sense?" Lucas asked.
"Lucas isn't an alien name. Aphid, I can accept. Kaps, sure. Lucas? No way."
"It is your translator," said Lucas, gently touching Darvey's temple, until his hand was smacked away. "It is having some difficulty, and substituting at random."
"So your name's not Lucas?"
"It is for you."
"What is it for you?"
"That sounds remarkably similar."
"It is a function of the translator," said Lucas with flawless patience.
"Sure it is," said Darvey, and turned back to Aphid, who was drinking his sludge for him.
"So what is this? An acid trip or something? I don't mean to be rude, but you guys are way to messed up to be real."
"This is the Thomas Derra," said Lucas.
"Thomas Derra. A Controlled Substances Agency vessel."
"Called ‘Thomas Derra'?"
"Yes," said Lucas.
"This dream just gets better and better."
"You are now seven hours into your tour of duty-"
"And ya slept through all seven ovvem," snapped Kaps.
"-and now would be a good time for your orientation."
Darvey nodded, looked at his surroundings, laughed a bit.
"Orient me," he said.
Lucas took a step away from the table, laced his fingers like a professor giving a lecture. His body was devoid of any real form, though he was clearly human-like. If a sketch artist had done a profile of him, there's be nothing to do. It was unnerving.
"The Controlled Substances Agency is a multi-planetary organization dedicated to the policing and enforcement of narcotics trade around the galaxy."
"Ah," said Darvey with a smile. "Makes sense."
"The Thomas Derra is an undercover vessel. We are assigned to District 27-A5, which includes your homeworld of Earth, as well as many others.
"Our primary function at this time is to infiltrate and deconstruct criminal enterprises within our district, and to prepare all perpetrators for a speed trial when at all possible."
"Trial," snickered Darvey. "In space."
"Yes. You are laughing."
"You have lawyers in space?"
"Yes," said Lucas. "You are preparing to make a joke about lawyers and airlocks."
"You read my mind," he said.
"Not at this time, no," said Lucas. "I should also mention that Agent Kz-Chen is absent at this time."
"Kz-Chen. Senior officer aboard the Thomas Derra."
"Then what are you?"
"I am your Q'gsim observer. I help maintain decorum onboard. Aphid is your science and forensics officer. Kaps is in charge of tactical and weapons issues."
"So what am I?" Darvey asked.
"Cannon fodder," snorted Kaps.
"You are the junior officer," said Lucas. "You have no speciality as of yet."
"Sure," said Darvey. "So what's what? I've got a translator. What do you guys do for guns? Laser blasters? Oh say… do you have those… you know… jet packs inside lunch boxes?"
"Pardon me?" asked Lucas.
"You know, tiny little jet packs that fit inside… lunch… boxes? Am I the only one that watches TV around here?"
"So what? No ray guns? Warp drive? Stuff like that?"
"We've got laser-based weapons," said Aphid, taking a small pistol from underneath her abdomen and holding it out. "But they're pretty pointless. A good energy field dissipates the blast, and almost everyone has a good energy field these days."
"So what? Don't tell me you use light sabers."
"We just kinetic weaponry," she said, pulling out another pistol, this one shiny and sleek. "Needle guns are most common."
"And you don't have shields for those?"
"Kinetic shields? Yes. But because of the energy redistribution effects, blocking a needle with a shield will still put a hole through your body."
"It's what killed your predecessor."
Darvey glanced between Aphid and Lucas.
"Wait, I had a predecessor?"
"Yes," said Lucas. "Gordito Kapoor. He was a very good human."
"And he's dead?"
"Yes. He is missed."
"Well shit," said Darvey. "I'd better get used to these guns. Hand it over."
Aphid put the needle gun in his hand, and with a quick motion, Darvey put it to his temple and pulled the trigger.
Chapter 2 (Part II): Gunshot Wounds
The gun made a hissing noise, but Darvey was uniquely aware that he was not dead. He stared at the weapon, turned it over in his hand.
"I'm doing it wrong," he said.
"It's empty," said Aphid. "We heard about your suicide problem, so you won't be getting any loaded weapons from us."
"Great," grumbled Darvey.
"Waitasec," said Kaps, striding over. "Suicide? He's suicidal? Nobody told me that!"
"It is in his file, Kaps," said Lucas.
"I wanna change my bet! No way he'll last a day like this!"
Darvey shook his head, looked at Lucas with a frown.
"What bet?" he asked.
"We have a wager as to the duration of your lifespan. I have solid earnings on twelve hours."
"I'm six," said Aphid.
"I'm three," said Kaps. "I'm switching to three."
"You may not change your bet midway," said Lucas.
Kaps kicked a chair across the room and stormed back to the sludge machine.
Darvey checked his watch. It was the middle of the night for him, and his eyes begging him to sleep. He got up, stretched, and headed back towards his room.
"I'm getting some shut-eye," he said. "See if I can't hang myself in my quarters. Have a good night."
"Wait!" shouted Kaps. "Can't ya hang yourself in… roughly twenty hours?"
Darvey turned, smiled at the rock-faced buffoon.
"I make no promises," he said.
Just then, the lights flashed red, and a loud alarm blared out from all sides. Aphid dashed to a screen at the side of the room, tapped it on, and recoiled at the sight of a swirly blue logo on a black background.
"Orillians," she said. "Everyone stay quiet."
She tapped it again, and a face appeared onscreen. It had blue skin, wide yellow eyes, and a mouth that was just a little too big for its face. It was the picture of serenity, but its voice was rough and jarring, like a serrated blade on a chalkboard.
"Attention vessel," said the Orillian. "You will be boarded shortly. Please prepare for our arrival."
"Understood," said Aphid, turned off the screen, and looked to Lucas urgently.
"What do we do? He's not ready!"
Lucas put a hand on Darvey's shoulder, squeezed gently.
"Mr Darvey," he said. "I must impart critical information to you now. Please listen carefully."
"Sure," said Darvey.
"You must not speak to the Orillians. You must NEVER convey that you are human. Do you understand this?"
"Do you understand it?"
"Not until you explain yourself," said Darvey. "If you don't, I'll tell ‘em I'm human the second they step through the door."
"That would be unwise."
"Then kill me to stop me."
"That would be equally unwise of me," said Lucas, then appeared to think through a great many options in a very short time. "Very well. You may not express your species because there are no humans in space outside of government agencies. Admitting to being human is tantamount to declaring we are a CSA vessel."
"And we're undercover," said Darvey, nodding.
"Yes," said Lucas.
"I gotcha. I'll keep my mouth shut then. No sense ruining your day too. So if I'm not human, what am I?"
"You are Centaurian, a race very similar to humans. Very few species will be able to see the difference."
"Since y'all look the same," said Kaps.
Darvey rolled his eyes.
"So how long does it take them to beam aboard?" he asked.
"Beaming?" asked Aphid.
"Transporting? Teleporting or whatever."
"There is no teleporting," she said. "They just need to dock and complete an airlock seal and-"
Three large Orillian guards stormed into the room, weapons ready, and performed a tidy sweep of the room. A moment later, a heavy-set Orillian in a dark coat made his way through through his guards, up to Aphid, and hit her across the face.
"Who is the commander of this ship?" barked the Orillian.
"I am," said Aphid. "Who're you?"
"I am Captain Gazoo-" Darvey tried not to snicker "- of the District Police Agency. We have reason to believe your vessel is transporting illegal merchandise through District space."
"On what grounds?" asked Aphid, her voice bigger, tougher than before.
"Confidential sources," said Gazoo.
"Well they're wrong," said Aphid, and was hit again.
"Any statements you make will be used as evidence at your trial-"
"Trial for WHAT?" asked Aphid, and took another blow.
"My men will begin searching your ship now, and you will all be processed and charged as facts emerge."
"I don't know what you're-"
Gazoo was about to hit Aphid again when his first met with Darvey's firm grip. The two of them stood there, locked in a struggle. Darvey's headache vanished in the adrenaline rush.
"Stop punching the girl," said Darvey.
Gazoo looked Darvey up and down.
"Centaurian?" he asked.
"That's right," said Darvey, hoping that was the part he was supposed to play.
"Where do you come from? Which planet?"
"None of your business," said Darvey.
Gazoo took his hand away, looked back at his guards. He motioned for one, who arrived snappily, saluting.
"Take this one into custody," he said, and Darvey was grabbed by the arms, and shoved back towards the door.
"The rest of you will get by with a warning. Do not let me see you in my district again, or you will suffer the same fate as your Centaurian friend."
"What kinda fate?" asked Darvey, over his shoulder.
"Something most severe," said Gazoo.
Darvey smiled as they pushed him out the door.
"Works for me."
Chapter 3 Answers
Street name of drug.: orangina by zmjjmz
Lawyer or no lawyer?: Lawyer! Space Lawyer! by Slatz
A very bad alibi.: alaskan crab fishing by KB
Chapter 3: Busted
The Orillian ship looked exactly like the inside of a jumbo jet as designed by Steve Jobs. It felt slippery, and far too glossy. Darvey was pushed down a long, rounded corridor, and deposited into a room with a sloping table and a few chairs. He sat in the far one, while his captors circled around.
"You are in serious trouble," said Gazoo. "What is your name?"
"Bingo," said Darvey.
"That's my name-o."
Gazoo stopped short, started at him with piercing yellow eyes.
"Are you mocking me?" he asked.
"Mocking? You? How could I?"
Gazoo slammed his hands down on the table, and leaned in close. He smelled like tuna. And not fresh tuna, either.
"I want to know about Orangina."
Darvey laughed, covered his mouth quickly.
"God I love this translator," he said. "What do you want to know about it?"
"What port do you ship from?"
"I don't ship Orangina."
"We know you do," said Gazoo. "Do not play dumb."
"I'm not playing. I'm honestly this dumb. I don't ship Orangina. Fanta, maybe. Orangina, no."
Gazoo grabbed him by the nose and pulled hard. It was unpleasant, to be sure, but not serious torture. It was hard not to laugh.
"You will tell me what I want to know!" screamed Gazoo, before his subordinate touched his shoulder, and he let go. They whispered to each other for a moment, and then Gazoo returned to the table, calm and composed once more.
"You have the right to an attorney," he said, "but it would be better if you did not ask for one."
"Well I want one. A lawyer. A SPACE lawyer."
"It will complicate things if you-"
"No dice. Space lawyer. Now."
"But it will-"
"Are you hard of hearing? I want a lawyer. A space lawyer. Right here, right now."
Gazoo leaned back, nodded to his subordinate, and looked back to Darvey.
"You will have what you want," said Gazoo.
"I've changed by mind," said Darvey, eyeing the gun at Gazoo's waist. "I don't want a space lawyer anymore."
Gazoo stared at him a moment, said nothing.
"You are playing games with me," he said.
"Yes I am," said Darvey. "I'm a bastard. Maybe you should shoot me. Put the galaxy out of its misery."
"I will not shoot you."
"Not even if I leap across this table and punch you in your pukey little face?"
"You couldn't do that if you tried," he said happily.
Darvey tried to move, but found himself fully paralyzed below the neck. When he relaxed his muscles, he was fine, but every intent to move froze him again.
"Touche," he said.
"I will be honest with you," said Gazoo. "You fit another profile we are looking for. Centaurian terrorists."
"That's just racial profiling," Darvey said. "I want to talk to your supervisor."
"Two weeks ago, Centaurian terrorists kidnapped a Governor's daughter from District 27-A2. We have reason to believe she is being moved from vessel to vessel within OUR district, in order to elude capture."
"Makes sense," said Darvey, nodding.
"What is your involvement?"
"I'm not involved. I don't do kidnappings. Not enough Orangina involved."
Gazoo shoot his head, leaned back and talked to his subordinate again. Darvey watched their weapons.
"I want to confess," he said suddenly. "I killed a kid."
Both Orillians turned to him at once.
"What did you say?" asked Gazoo.
"I killed a kid. That's gotta be worth the death penalty."
"What child did you kill? And how?"
"A girl. Some girl. She was playing in the street, and I…" Darvey looked down at the table, held his breath for a moment. The room was so silent, he could hear his heart beating. He looked up. "I shot her. That's gotta be worth something."
Gazoo blinked twice.
"You are playing games again," he said.
"No!" Darvey said. "No, listen to me! I'm telling you the-"
"Where is the Governor's daughter?" yelled Gazoo, getting to his feet again, hands curling into fists. "Tell me!"
"I don't KNOW!" snapped Darvey.
"Where were you fifteen days ago?"
Darvey opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again. Where was he? On Earth. Bad idea, going there. He winced.
"Alaskan crab fishing," he said. "On Titan."
"What is that? Alaskan what?"
"Crab fishing. Fishing for crabs."
"On Titan?" asked Gazoo, incredulous.
"Yes," said Darvey, with some semblance of confidence.
Gazoo grabbed his nose again, twisted. This time, it hurt.
"You lie badly!" snapped Gazoo. "Tell me the truth!"
"The truth?" gasped Darvey. "The truth is I killed a girl, and you idiots are too blinded to take a confession! What kind of clown ship is this? Do your damn job!"
His nose was let go, and Gazoo stormed out of the room, the door sliding shut behind him. Darvey blinked tears back, trying to see straight as his nose stopped pulsing. A moment later, Gazoo returned.
"We cannot verify your story about the murder, but we have found it warrants investigation by local authorities."
"Great. Do they execute people there, or do I have to-"
"You will be transferred to the local sheriff for processing. I wish you luck. They have shorter tempers than I."
Darvey was lifted from his seat by two guards, and they carried him towards the door. Gazoo held them up, staring straight into Darvey's eyes, and patted his cheek.
"You are the strangest creature I have ever met, Mr Bingo," he said.
"Look in a mirror sometime," said Darvey.
"I wish you luck with the Tobor."
"And I wish you luck with your new nose."
"What do you mean?"
And with that, Darvey slammed his forehead into Gazoo's face, felt a crack and a sudden burst of blood, and came back with a grin.
"Shoot me?" he asked, eagerly.
The guards knocked him unconscious instead.
Chapter 4 Answers
A happy memory for a couple.: first time on a gravitational assist ride by Rok
A luxurious offworld vacation.: hunting wild-life on Europa by Rok
A drug name.: Hash prime by Phoghat
Chapter 4: Guinea Pig
Darvey's headache again preceded his consciousness by a full minute, this time punctuated by a smell so putrid he nearly vomited the second he woke up. He tried to sit up, but found himself strapped down onto a chair, leaned back at a strange angle, his legs bent beneath him awkwardly.
To his left, a human body was being dragged away by two creatures that reminded him of hyenas walking upright. The body looked devastated: its skin was bubbled and pink, raw, like it had been burned off with acid.
There were two other people in the room with him, and they looked Chinese to him… until the woman caught his eye, and he saw her almost luminescent blue irises. They were impossibly captivating. These must be Centaurians.
Darvey noticed his arms weren't strapped down well… it would be easy to get free when the time came. The hyena creatures had such different anatomy, this type of trap would keep them, but for humans, it just didn't do the job.
The man next to him started crying, pulling against the straps, trying to get free. The woman watched him cry, her eyes twisted with fear, saying nothing.
"Ah, welcome," said one of the hyenas. "I am Rogvarro. You are aboard Tobor ship, on way to nowhere. Say hello to friends while you can. I will be back."
Rogvarro and left the room, and a large, dirty door slid shut behind him. The rest of the bay they were in was just as horrid… it looked as though it might rust through and collapse at any moment. Darvey followed it around until he noticed he was being watched by his fellow prisoners.
"I have to get out of here," cried the man. "I have to get out of here."
"Yeah," said Darvey. "I get that feeling too."
"I don't want to be here," continued the man. "I want to go home again. I want to go home and see my wife and my kids. I want to go HOME!"
"We'll get there, guy," said Darvey, looking around the room. "You hang in there."
"I remember our first time with the gravitational assist. Schwei and me, we… it was such a happy time. I got sick, and she… she…"
He started sobbing. The woman watched him, but said nothing. Darvey motioned to her with his chin.
"How bout you? How'd you get here?"
She looked away for a moment, then made fleeting eye contact.
"I was on vacation with my husband. Hunting wildlife on Europa. The ones with the antlers… what are they called…"
"Deer," said Darvey, without thinking.
"I suppose," she said. "And then one night I was kidnapped by the Tobor, brought aboard this ship. I don't know what they want, but…"
She trailed off, tears in her eyes too. The two of them sat there, whimpering together. Darvey grit his teeth and looked away.
The hyenas - Tobor, he figured - came back in. Three of them, and one with a little gun-shaped device with a long needle out the front. It was loaded with a little vial, shaken briefly.
"This is Hash Prime," said Rogvarro. "It is new drug for market. But first, we must test."
"No!" screamed the man. "No! Please no!"
The Tobor spoke quietly to each other for a moment, then nodded, talked forward, and put the needle into the man's arm. He thrashed, screamed and cried, but in the end, it made no difference. The pulled back, put their hands on their hips, and watched.
At first, it was like nothing had happened. The man kept crying, kept rolling his head from side to side… but after one pass, his sounds became almost became laughter… and then it the sorrow dissolved completely, and he was cackling madly to himself, as if none of this were happened at all, and he was somewhere else entirely.
Then the laughter took on a crazed edge, and he started gasping for breath, his eyes rolling back in his head. A moment later, hives started appearing all over his face, down his neck and arms. He shrieked, and Darvey flinched as the hives turned to pustules, bursting almost instantly, like they were being boiled through his skin, and soon there was only raw muscle and destroyed tissue around his body.
"Two minutes," said Rogvarro, checking his handheld. "It is improving."
The woman was crying as they pulled the man's body from the chair, dragging out of the room leaving a trail of blood and flesh behind.
Darvey eyed the needle by Rogvarro, the two extra vials left.
A fourth Tobor shuffled in, whispered toward Rogvarro.
"No," said Rogvarro at full volume. "Is totally unacceptable. We cannot go to market with drug like this. Not street ready."
"But sir-" said the Tobor.
"No excuse!" snapped Rogvarro. "Try formula again! Is not ready!"
"Sir, if I may try a variant on the current batch, please…"
Rogvarro glanced towards the woman and Darvey, hairy nostrils flaring.
"Do not waste Centaurians," he warned.
"No sir," said the Tobor, and started toward the woman with the needle in hand. The woman started crying, turning her head away. Darvey watched the needle, thought of the man, his skin boiling… and he let out a loud shout:
"Hey! Over here! Try me first!"
The Tobor looked towards him, squinted at him, said nothing.
"I'm ready!" Darvey called. "Looks like fun! Let's get it on, hairball! C'mon!"
The Tobor shifted its jaw, its teeth scraping loudly.
"Soon," it said to him, and turned back to the woman, putting the needle to her arm.
Chapter 5 Answers
A sexist concept. - hard men don't cry by miladysa
Talk or do?: Talk by Slatz
Sword or shield?: SWORD by janoda
Chapter 5: Life and Death
"Hey morons!" shouted Darvey, straining in his seat. "Are you deaf? I said use me!"
The Tobor looked around again, savage eyes narrowing, and growled.
"You are next, Centaurian," said Rogvarro. "You may cry like effeminate race you are."
"Excuse me?" snapped Darvey. "Effeminate? Are you kidding me? Just because you're covered with fur, doesn't mean I won't kick your ass any day of the week!"
"That is big talk for man strapped to table," smiled Rogvarro. The needle moved away from the woman's arm, and Darvey kicked it up a notch.
"Unstrap me, and we'll see who's all talk."
Rogvarro sneered at him.
"I would like very much. But we need Centaurians alive, not in pieces."
"A little too confident, aren't you?"
"I eat boys like you for breakfast."
"Is that why you stink like that?"
Rogvarro bared his teeth, leaned in close.
"I will devour your body when you die," he snarled.
"I hope you choke," Darvey snarled back. "Now come on, stick me with the needle. Then you get to see a real man die."
Rogvarro slapped Darvey across the face, held his chin and breathed foul air into his mouth. He put the needle to Darvey's nose, the cold metal pricking, but not piercing.
"I do what I like, boy."
"You're just scared," Darvey said.
The needle came away, gripped tightly at Rogvarro's side.
"We will see who is scared."
Darvey's hand came out of the straps with no trouble, and he grabbed the needle, spun it around, and stabbed into Rogvarro's chest. He made a gurgling sound, fell forward, eyes wide with shock. Darvey reached around and snatched the gun off his belt, pulled it free, and turned it around.
The recoil on the needle gun was something fierce, and Darvey felt like his arm was about to collapse on itself. He missed the first Tobor, but shot again and hit it square in the face, blowing it back against the wall in a mess of blood and brain. The second one reached for its weapon too, but too slow. It fell across the woman, and she gasped at the contact.
Darvey felt around the bottom of the chair and found something that seemed like a latch. He pulled and pushed and twisted, but nothing made it move. Rogvarro was moaning, laying across his lap, trying to get up, but in some kind of delirious state.
"Don't boil on me," Darvey warned him, and finally got the latch to move. The straps swung off as the door opened, and three more Tobor raced in, guns ready.
Darvey grabbed Rogvarro, pulled him up, and shoved him at the attackers with all his strength. One of them shot to protect himself, but the rest fell back into the wall, where they were easy targets for Darvey's blasts. He ducked around a corner, let the last Tobor return fire, and then arced around, low, and caught the enemy in the leg with a careful blast. The Tobor's ankle shattered, and it fell forward, crashing into the floor.
"Drop it," Darvey said, gun aimed at the Tobor's head.
The Tobor scraped its arm up to shoot, but only made it halfway before another shot ended its life.
"Stupid hyenas," Darvey grumbled, kicking the other corpses over, finding no survivors. "Learn to listen, and you'll have better lives."
He made his way out into the hall, gun ready for anything, and found the only other room totally deserted, but for a pile of three Centaurian bodies in a pile in the corner. The cockpit was empty, and there were no more doors to exit. He stowed the weapon and slipped back into the room with the woman.
"Sorry about that," he said, undoing her latch. "Ideally, I'd have let them kill me, but they didn't seem to be the cooperative type."
He lifted the straps off the woman, helped her to her feet. She seemed shocked by all the carnage around them, kept looking at the blood, the bodies.
"Are you okay?" he asked her, and she glanced at him. Her face changed from shock to anger, and before he could react, she decked him.
Chapter 6 Answers
Method of suicide.: Digesting a Bung nut by addisoncort
Alien name for mole: A horizon predator by fwiffo
Chapter 6: Fallout
Darvey woke up to the sight of Aphid leaning over him, her giant eyes shimmering in the dim light of the Thomas Derra's cafeteria. He blinked at her, winced, put a hand to his eye where he'd been hit.
"He's still alive," she said.
"Yes!" laughed Kaps. "That's m'boy!"
Darvey sat up slowly, looking around the room. Lucas was missing, but in his place was the woman from the Tobor ship. She was standing in the corner with a blanket around her shoulders, drinking a cup of sludge. She didn't look scared anymore. She looked angry.
"How's she doing?" Darvey asked Aphid, motioned towards the woman. "She's okay?"
"Er," said Aphid. "She's… um…"
The woman caught his stare and stormed over. He flinched back, but she caught him by the collar, shook him.
"You IDIOT!" she yelled. "Do you how long it took to set up that operation?"
"That… which?" Darvey said, uncertain.
"Darvey, this is Jyi Kz-Chen. She's in charge here."
Darvey's face dropped.
"Yes, OOPS! That was six months of work you just ruined! What kind of idiot are you?"
"The human kind," suggested Kaps.
"It's not my fault they kidnapped me!" snapped Darvey. "I was trying to protect you!"
"Next time, ask first!" Jyi snapped, and paced away to get more sludge. "It took me months to get that kind of access. We were so close to finding out where they're getting their drugs from. I just needed another few days, and you ruined the whole plan!"
"What kind of stupid-ass plan was it?"
"We're saving innocent lives!" she yelled.
"You were going to get killed!"
"We had someone on the inside!" she said, her voice getting quiet. She stared into her cup, blue eyes turning away from him. "Rogzarro was a horizon predator."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Horizon predator. He was one of us."
Darvey looked to Aphid.
"These translators suck," he said.
"They've been kidnapping Centaurians all across the galaxy, and we didn't know why. If we can find out who's in charge of this operation, we can shut them down and save so many people it's… I just can't believe it's all over…"
"But if he gave you that injection-"
"It was nothing. It was saline. We wanted them to think they'd found the right mixture, so they'd tell their bosses. All I had to do is act stoned, and we'd be where we wanted to be. Now we're nowhere. We're nowhere, and it's all your fault."
Darvey's headache was worse than ever. He rubbed his temple, got off the table and walked away from Jyi and the rest. He paused at the door, didn't turn.
"Next time you need saving, count me out. I forgot why I wanted to off myself: people are pricks. Good night."
He slipped out, back into his quarters, closed the door behind him and jumped with surprise at the sight of Lucas sitting on his bed.
"Jesus!" he gasped. "Don't do that!"
"I am sorry," said Lucas. "I have been waiting for you."
"I noticed," Darvey said. "I'm taking a nap. Make it quick."
Lucas didn't move, kept his hands folded on his lap, and tilted his head ever so slightly to the right. He looked inhuman. More inhuman than he ought to.
"I am curious about human suicide rituals," said Lucas.
"Oh great," sighed Darvey.
"In particular," said Lucas, "I would like to know if all humans engage in dangerous heroics when they are on the verge of death. I do not have enough points of reference to draw a conclusion."
"No," said Darvey. "No, that was just a moment of weakness for me. Won't happen again. Especially not with Jyi."
"Ah," said Lucas. "That seems logical."
He stood very gracefully, walked to the door without deviating from a careful pace. Darvey watched him go, a smile breaking across his bruised face.
"Are you some kind of robot?" he asked.
Lucas paused, turned halfway. He seemed to think for a moment, then turned his head to the other side.
"In a manner of speak, yes," he said. "I am an ascendant being. This body is a physical vessel used to interact with lesser species."
"Like me," Darvey said.
"Like ninety-nine percent of the known universe."
"Thank you for your time. I wish you well in your suicide rituals."
Lucas' hand was on the door when Darvey called him back.
"Hey!" he said. "What's it like out here? In space, I mean. Is it as crappy a place as it seems?"
Lucas considered the question.
"Crappy is a peculiar choice. But if I understand your meaning, then yes, space is quite crappy. There are many unhappy citizens considering suicide at this very moment. I could provide statistics if you-"
"That's all right, thanks."
"But if I may… human suicide rituals are particularly interesting to me. Kaps and Aphid both suspect Gordito committed suicide when he was shot last month, but I am unconvinced. It does not fit the profile."
"What kind of profile is that?" Darvey asked, sitting on his bed and putting his head in his hands.
"Human suicide always follows a particular pattern. For instance, in many Earth cultures, digesting a Bung nut is a popular way to end one's life."
"What cultures are those?" Darvey asked.
"Danish, British, Malaysian, Bel-"
"I think you've got your facts wrong."
Lucas' eyes grew a little bigger.
"Indeed? Could you help correct them?"
"My head's kinda hurting right now. How about in the morning. Assuming I don't off myself before then. I'll tell you everything I know about Denmark."
"Your head is in distress. Your eyes are bloodshot."
"Thanks for noticing."
"How do you exist with such ailments?" asked Lucas.
"Back home, I have medicine to take care of it. Out here? I've just gotta back on the old favourite: praying for death. And by the way, it works better alone."
Lucas nodded, stepped back to the door again.
"I understand," he said. "However, if you are interested in some medicine, I can use the onboard synthesizer to create simple chemical compounds."
"How simple?" Darvey asked, looking up.
"What would help you?"
Darvey thought back to his science class from high school, with all the chemical compounds and hydrogen and carbon and… if he got it wrong, he'd end up dead. Win/win, in the end.
"I need C2H6O, if you can," he said. "Does that make sense?"
Lucas thought again, then nodded.
"That will be dangerous for you. Shall I dilute it?"
"Go for it."
Lucas tapped some buttons on a screen by the door, and a moment later, a small slot opened just above the table, revealing a tall glass of clear liquid. Lucas handed it over, and Darvey sniffed it carefully.
"Bottoms up," he said, and gulped down half the glass at once.
He coughed after swallowing, gasped for breath, but knew he wouldn't die. It was putrid ethanol, but it did the trick. His headache vanished, and the room started swimming quite nicely.
"That's good stuff," he slurred. "Thank, robo-boy."
"You are very welcome, Mr Darvey. Good night."
Lucas let himself out of the room, and Darvey leaned back in his bunk, nursing the rest of the glass until the room blurred out of focus and he fell asleep. He dreamed of the girl on her bike, riding in circles around him, before being swept away by a flood or Orangina. he woke up with a start.
The room was dark, and he fumbled around to find the light switch. When he finally hit it, the beam blinded him, and for a second, he didn't notice his dead wife sitting at the desk, staring at him serenely.
Chapter 7 Questions
#2D1D #c7q1 A household chore.
#2D1D #c7q2 Angry or sad?
#2D1D #c7q3 A planet outside our solar system.
#2D1D #c7q4 Young adult alien female name
#2D1D #c7q5 Activity you do with a partner
Chapter 7 Answers
A household chore.: Go hunting for robotic vermin by Bismod
Angry or sad?: Sad by The_Squirrel_
A planet outside our solar system.: @1889ca A planet outside our solar system - HelenaH10 by miladysa
Young adult alien female name: Young adult alien female name by sys
Activity you do with a partner: the naughty! XD by mjgolli
Chapter 7: When You're Dead
Lisa sat there with her hands folded on her lap, serene, just like she'd always been in life. Darvey reached a hand out towards her, but stopped short, hand grasping at the air in front of her.
"Hey," he said softly. "You're… you look good."
"Thank you," she said. "You too."
"How've you been?" he asked.
"Not too bad," she said. "Being dead isn't as bad as it seems."
"That's good to know," he said. "So you're keeping busy?"
"Hunting robotic vermin," she said with a smile. "You?"
"Um… you know. Trying to get killed."
"That girl wasn't your fault," she said. "You know that, deep in your heart. You know it was an accident."
He sighed, shook his head.
"No I don't," he said. "I don't think anyone thinks that."
"I do," she said.
"Well, you're dead, so…"
She reached out, touched his hand. Her skin was warm, soft, alive. He looked into her eyes, her beautiful brown eyes, and touched her cheek.
"I miss you," he whispered.
"I'm right here," she said. "There's nothing to miss."
"You know what I mean. What happens when you go off hunting your robotic vermin?"
Her eyes shifted quickly, like the thought of robotic vermin distracted her greatly. She brought back her smile, squeezed his hand.
"I'm here for you, always," she said.
She leaned forward, and he closed his eyes to kiss her… and a moment later, the lights came on as Jyi burst through the door, face contorted with anger.
"You!" she yelled. "What in the hell are you doing?"
"I'm… I'm dreaming?"
"You were going to kiss her, weren't you?" Jyi said, shoving him back against the wall. "I could see it. Do you have any idea what kind of…"
She snarled, kicked the desk.
"How do you know what I was doing…?" he asked.
"I read the air. There was something too real about your dream state, so I figured…"
"Wait, you ‘read the air'? What does that mean? Is that like telepathy or something?"
Jyi shook her head, started for the door, but then turned back. She put a tense hand on the wall and leaned there, glowering.
"Centaurians are a lot like humans, but whereas your brains are weak and sheltered, ours broadcast within a short distance. Like unshielded radiation."
"So you'll give me cancer," Darvey said.
"No, but it means I can pick up on your more basic emotive states, like when you're having a nervous breakdown on my goddamn ship!"
"Hey, I didn't ask for it to happen! Maybe it's your brain-cooker doing it!"
"Well OF COURSE it's my amplification, you idiot!"
"So stop blaming me!"
"I'm not blaming you, I'm blaming THAT!"
She pointed at the glass on the floor by his bed. He looked down at it, then back up at her. He tried his best not to look sheepish, to give her that satisfaction.
"It's water," he lied.
"You can see that?"
"I don't need to, you're too pathetic to be good at it." She picked up the glass, dropped it in a chute in the desk, and looked back to Darvey. The sadness at losing Lisa again started to drown him, and he wished he knew how to call for another glass of ethanol.
"I'm getting another human," Jyi snapped. "This isn't going to work. It's one thing if you die quickly, but I can't risk my team over someone with an unstable psyche."
Darvey held his breath, trying to contain himself. He'd been chewed out before, but somehow this was just one insult too many in a long day of insults. He wanted to say something, but he knew none of the words he had would do. He exhaled slowly, a rattled breath making his hands tremble.
"You can go back to your life," she said. "Do whatever you want. Just get off my ship."
"No!" he gasped. "No, come on. It's not that bad, I-"
"Not that bad? Six months, down the drain. There's a drug problem out there so bad, it costs us hundreds of trillions of credits every year just to police it. We've got kidnappings, that girl Eshilia to find, and I can't take the time to find her because you're too busy getting drunk, doing the naughty with ghosts!"
Darvey fought back tears he couldn't explain, retreated further into the corner, into the darkness, as Jyi loomed over him like a mountain of fury.
"I wish they'd given you a loaded gun when you got here. Saved us all some time."
The wall buzzed, and Jyi slammed her finger down on a button.
"What?" she barked.
"Hey," said Kaps. "Just got back from Helena H10. Picked up a pusher with a history of dealing Tobor merch. Figure he could shed some light. He's in the interrogation room. You wanna join?"
Jyi narrowed her eyes, glared at Darvey. He whimpered.
"I'll be right there," she said, and headed for the hall.
The second she left, Darvey's mood shifted, and the despair and depression evaporated. He slumped back into his bed, like a crushing weight had shifted away, and stared at the ceiling for a minute.
"Holy crap," he gasped. "That's gotta be awesome in interrogations."
He raced out the door, hoping to catch some of the show.
Continued in The New Real, Day 1 (part 2)