Oriel’s date with Dread

An encounter with ISS Auerbach.

1. Normally a navigator of your skill would not be assigned to this sort of ship. Why are you here?
Not many people have been to Aleph-Seven. I got to know the sector well back when I served in the Navy—they were running lots of supplies to clandestine bases out here at the time. Since then, no one’s really bothered with the sector—the markets aren’t ripe here. I don’t know why our company is suddenly interested, but my familiarity with the sector was important enough for them to ask me about it when I interviewed.

2. Where did you get that scar?
When I was twelve, my family and I were riding horses in the outback. My horse shied when it saw a snake and tossed me from my saddle. I fell on a sharp rock and gashed my leg to the bone. I was panicked, but my parents didn’t call a medivac. They tore an old shirt into strips and wrapped it tightly, had me smoke some herb that numbed the pain a bit, and we continued with our vacation. I was miserable for the rest of the trip, but my parents wouldn’t bend. One more thing to set me apart, I guess.

3. Why don’t you like being the age you are?
I’m out of step with my peers, whose youth-boost has them looking twenty five well into their fifties. I look old, much older than my peers; it makes socialization hard. I worry that I’m being picked up because I’m a freak, because they’re cruising for an exotic.

4. You are normally very close to your family, but recently have fallen out of touch. Why?
Mom… I love her dearly, but she’s cutting herself off from the universe. She kept the faith, stayed orthodox and skeptical of the modern corrupting world. Recently she’s been sick and needs treatments that her faith doesn’t allow; she’s tired of fighting me over it, but I can’t just let her die for no good reason.
Dad hears me, but says he has to support her one-hundred percent. My sisters Becky, Marie, and Kesha have all turned inward, to their children and families. I love being an uncle, but space is large… it’s hard to keep up when I’m absent for such long stretches.

5. What piece of contraband have you smuggled aboard? Who else knows about it?

I have the embargoed communications of Tau Ceti Prime hidden on a memory crystal. It’s a six month log of the world’s communications—so many people so desperate to get their message out. I couldn’t resist the humanitarian cry, despite the black mark of the Junta in charge.

6. When do you feel most alone?
At 5:45 am, after my alarm has gone off and I need to rise for morning readings… but the chill of the corridor and the unpleasant sonics of the shower encourage me to huddle warm a few minutes longer.

7. Which member of the crew don’t you trust (i.e. the captain, the medic, the technician)? Why?

I don’t trust the doctor; it’s a hangover from my anti-medicine upbringing. I know that I’m a freak, thanks to my parent’s choices—who would voluntarily set their children up for the indignities of age when they are so easily prevented? But I’m old enough, and the treatment is so prevalent, that everyone—even the doctor—treats me like it was my choice.

8. Why are you also in charge of the inventory?

The navigator is a ship’s officer, but works in small groups or alone most of the time. They’re important, but no one wants to pay for the 90% of the trip when they’re not doing much, so they get assigned additional roles. Because they’re not leaders of men, they typically get assigned tracking and spreadsheet tasks and a crew that runs the day to day with little interference. Thus, I’m also the inventory control officer. I’m just happy they also didn’t also make me the trade accountant!

9. What hobby do you have that occasionally comes in handy?
I’m a rock climber and wilderness enthusiast. Most people look at my gray hair and wonder, but I really do enjoy getting back to nature and breathing non-canned air. You’d be amazed at how many navigators are the same way—people think we’re all about ship life, because that’s how they see us professionally, but given a chance, we get together and whitewater raft or hike alien worlds.

10. What disease do you fear most and why?
Alzheimer’s; so much of what I do is tied to remembering places and their connections. I don’t know if I’d still be me if I was unable to do my job, or remember all the fine details that make life, life.

11. What did you do during your last shore leave?
Sherri and I took in the cliffs of Manichego and hiked the eastern rim. The 0.85g made the exercise feel easy, and the atmosphere made the sunsets vibrant. The warm green sunsets were unreal—you couldn’t tell where the local grass analog stopped and the sky began.

12. What is your name?

I’m Deputy Commander Oriel, at your service.

Dog Eat Dog

It’s such a good game. I’m still thinking about and being unsettled by it a week later.

In fact, I’d say it’s probably the best game I never want to play again.

That’s the close to a great review from Shut Up & Sit Down.

It sounds like one to pick up and try with the Indie RPG group, after we’re well gelled and comfortable. Dog Eat Dog.

Ammonite and Lock In

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith. I liked this book; it felt very LeGuin, in that our heroine is an anthropologist. Interestingly, she dives into the local culture, which happens to destabilize the overall situation (inadvertently). It’s a richly realized world, filled with interesting cultures.

Lock In by John Scalzi. It’s a good book; a thriller with a strong corruption/ politics/ wealth angle that feels very like today–or even more like a future today imagined by Piketty. At times it feels very like an extrapolation of today, and when it deviates (as it does dramatically with regards to remote operation) it’s a big deal. It was enjoyable, though I wanted a chance to get a little deeper with the characters. Chris has a lot of nuance by the end (as does his father, surprisingly), and Vann has some explanation, but most of the other characters aren’t on screen enough to reveal lots of depth.

It’s a good police procedural, made better with threeps and sci-fi generally.

My Life with Master: A town of fear and slaughter

Last night Patrick, Tracy, Josh, and I played a “quick” game of My Life with Master. (Unfortunately, Jeff’s schedule and Josh’s prevented us from saving Lady Blackbird once again. We’ll save her one day soon.)

A villainous, nameless Master haunted a dark woods in lower Moldovia; often coalescing into the form of billowing mist or a dark cloaked figure with tendrils of fog snaking.

He was loyally served by Killian, who could seep through walls when not observed. Unfortunately, Killian was crippled by a fear of the illness in buildings and refused to breathe while inside one.

Darva maintained a house and baked cookies like a normal resident of the benighted town… but her words were incomprehensible to those grounded by work. She was supernaturally persuasive to children and the elderly… she racked up quite a body count in her service.

Alexi was traumatized by the death of his religious parents; he giggled whenever he read christian texts. He had the power to read anything, though… and he stuttered uncontrollably unless he was reading.

Let’s just say that they were horrible, horrible people.

Alexi attempted to corrupt Father Plankovich with a dark grimoire, and brought a dear librarian, Tilly, with him to the Vicscount’s home, where he punched the butler and dashed up the stairs, stole a book, and crashed through the windows to the unforgiving ground below. When he returned to the Master, he read out bloody and complicated rituals that set all of the minions on grisly tasks.

Killian began by terrorizing the men in a local fort, setting the barracks of fire with guardsmen inside, and throwing a guard walking the wall through the burning roof. Later he led a group of town elders to lurk behind trees and fire on a patrol of soldiers as they crossed the bridge into the woods; cloaking the soldiers in dank fog as he rushed forward and plunged his hatchet into their skulls.

Darva began by convincing her “sister”, Agnes, to wait until her parents were asleep, then take her clothes down to the living room and throw hot coals on the drapes, furniture, and her own heaped clothes. Later she had the children in the town’s orphanage join her at the side of the river; the largest bashed in a child’s head, then ran to attack approaching adults while she snapped the necks of the remaining younglings. The evening ended with her trying to acquire a platter of fear; two dozen prisoners for their waithlike master and his brethren to devour deep in the woods.

In the end, Alexi’s love for Tilly led him to resist a final fiendish command by the master, and brought peace to the land. Alexi and Darva integrated into the town. Killian “died” during an exorcism in the church, but a cloud of dank mist fled from his lungs out the windows… a new master in the making.