No Man’s Sky, the upcoming science fiction adventure from indie developers Hello Games, has inspired me to write a new one-off science fiction story. The game unashamedly borrows themes from classic SF, and will contain 18 quintillion explorable planets (!) thus creating an extraordinary setting that can (and will) be used for new SF narratives. Unlike my other SF stories, this was not written with publishers and editors in mind. I just wanted to write a magazine-length classic SF story that is staged within the NMS universe, and to share it freely with other fans, whilst they (im)patiently await the release of the game. I also tried to weave in some of the SF and indie themes that motivate the team at Hello Games, per the interviews they have given, whilst leaving the story open enough that it will not conflict with anything we experience when we eventually play NMS.
If anybody would like a sequel to this story, they should leave a comment and let me know. I enjoyed writing this so much, and am so excited about the game, that I can almost guarantee writing more.
The futureâ€™s so bright, I gotta wear shades. I woke to find myself on my back, spreadeagled and becalmed, alone in a desert expanse. That must have been some party I attended last night, not that I could remember any of it. The alcohol had drained out of my system, replaced by an epic morning-after hangover. I think it was the morning, anyway. Tilting my head to one side, I watched a blue sun climb above a lilac mountain range in the distance. As I had no recollection of which planet I lay upon, or even the name of its star system, this may have been the second or third sunrise of the day. A veil of turquoise clouds obscured most of the sky, but this was still the most vibrantly coloured planet I had ever seen, with its blood red sand and swarms of rainbow locusts overhead.
But then I realized I could not remember any of the planets I had visited before. I could not remember my home, or my name. Squinting and shaking my head like a dazed and confused old man who dramatically fell to earth, I adjusted the filter on my lifesuit visor, lowering the contrast. I was lost, suffering missing memories and a banging headache. And even worse, songs looped annoyingly around my head, and I could only recall half of their words.
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself: well, how did I get here? Some unknown training kicked in, and I ran the suitâ€™s internal diagnostic routine. Everything was functioning normally. Though only a basic model, the suit could sustain me for a lifetime. That might prove necessary, if I failed to find a way off this rock. I was sure I had never been here before. The suit warned that it had obtained no stellar fix, and hence could not report my location. That was unusual; normally it would track my movements from the last known fix. The clouds must have also blanketed the night, or else I had arrived during day. Perhaps I had travelled here via portal, though my physicist friends insisted that interplanetary corridors were impossible, due to the dimensional sheer.
It was odd that I could remember facts about physics, but not anyoneâ€™s face. I did not even know what I looked like. If I had not been wearing the lifesuit helmet, I would have run my fingers across my features. Whatever device had zapped me, whatever drugs had been slipped into my drink, some memories had been left intact, whilst others were scrambled. Somebody had wanted me gone, but not dead… not yet, anyway. Or maybe I had done this to myself. I felt a lot less anxious than I probably should. Perhaps I had a hunger for adventure. Judging from my mental soundtrack, I also had an infatuation with music.
Here we are now; entertain us. I surveyed myself. Two arms, two legs… my limbs were still connected, though stiff as concrete. Still lying on my back, I checked the lifesuitâ€™s many pockets. In them I found a pack of distress flares, a multi-tool, an I/O port for upgrades to the suitâ€™s operating system, and an energy coupling for recharging the suit or powering external devices. A pistol was holstered on my hip, but no radio transceiver was connected to the suitâ€™s comms port. Help would not come to me; I would have to go looking for it. I rolled on my side, clambered to one knee, and finally hauled myself erect. The suit helped me, but I was painfully conscious of weight. My muscles ached. Clearly I was not used to such high gravity. I adjusted the suitâ€™s exoskeleton to carry more of the load.
I gazed hard, scrutinizing the environment. It looked much the same, whichever way I turned. Rippling dunes stretched to the horizon in every direction but the South East. There the spindly mountains, as steep and sharp as stalagmites, reached high enough to puncture the underbelly of the clouds. If it rained, it would be over those peaks, and though they were too far away to be sure, I fancied they wore thin white caps of snow. The terrain would be difficult, but rain meant water and the possibility of vegetation, and hence a better chance of finding civilized beings like me. Not that I was civilized, according to my mother… whoever and wherever she was.
Step on it, electronic, the troops are on fire. As I turned about, I found the coarse sand to be treacherous underfoot. At each step, my boot sank into the crimson mire, disappearing almost to the knee. Walking upright would test both strength and balance. However, there was no need for walking; the lifesuit came fitted with a slimline jetpack. Though modestly powered, it would carry me to the mountains within a few hours. The flight would be tedious, but infinitely preferable to wading through the dunes.
With no georeference data for the autopilot, I decided to set the controls to manual. First I would climb to a safe height just above the level of the tallest dunes, then zip forward in straight and level flight. The jetpack fired. Up I went, rising comfortably. Very soon I ran into a descending legion of shiny locusts. Some of the flying critters were sucked into the jetâ€™s combustion chamber, where – sput, phut, splurt, blurt! – they proved to be unexpectedly flammable. Their carcasses were expelled as burning shards, starting a chain reaction that – BOOM! – consumed the swarm in a fireball half a mile wide. Though I was startled, my lifesuitâ€™s insulation protected me from the inferno. Less pleasingly, the explosion blew out the jetpack.
Hup, hup, heads up. Ground floor, coming up. Thankfully, I had only reached an altitude of twenty feet before my collision with the locusts; the suit absorbed most of the impact with the desert beneath. Even so, I found myself buried up to my chest. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but I was going nowhere fast. With the jetpack busted, I would have to dig myself out of this hole. I maximized the mechanical assistance provided by the suitâ€™s exoskeleton, and began scooping sand with my hands, scraping and hurling it behind me. It was slow toil, but I attacked my task, releasing some latent anger and frustration. Though the suit did most of the work, my biceps were begging for rest by the time my hips were clear. I then tried to lift myself up, but my legs remained firmly wedged. I paused for breath, and sipped from my helmetâ€™s feed tube. The recycled water was pleasantly chilled. I wished I could remove my helmet, and wash my face with it.
Something moved in my peripheral vision. I turned my head, scanning for anything out of the ordinary. There was nothing unexpected – just the usual array of humps and troughs in the sand. I felt I was imagining things, so returned to digging. Then I froze, because I saw it move again. A hump of sand had inched closer, then halted. I stared at it for a while. It did nothing, so I dug again. As I did, it sidled closer. I stopped. It stopped. Whatever alien lifeform this was, I had no desire to meet it. I unholstered the weapon strapped to my side, which was now just clear of the sand. Clasping the gun in both hands, I took careful aim… but shooting at a hillock of sand might be foolish. The sand would absorb the blast, whilst the creature below could be angered, and burrow deeper before attacking me. It was time to accelerate my self-excavation. I held the gun in my right hand, and pointed it downward, at my side, aiming as close to my body as I dared. I closed my eyes, and pulled the trigger. Several feet of sand were successfully vaporised. I switched hands, and repeated on my left side. The hump-creature, alarmed by the weapon fire, started to back away. I shot directly in front of me, and then behind my back. A combination of dragging myself forward whilst franticly wriggling my legs was sufficient to escape the loosened trap. The hump-creature, still hidden from view, circled toward my rear. I fired at the space between it and me. The creature got the message, and retreated. I decided to make good progress before its courage returned.
Walk without rhythm, and it wonâ€™t attract the worm. It is amazing what you can learn from popular music. But it is difficult to hum a song whilst trying to walk with an erratic tempo. Long stride – big leap – quick step, quick step – pause… long stride – quick step, pause. I was breaking up the pattern of my movement, hoping not to attract the attention of any more hump-creatures. Progress was slow, and I felt dispirited. The suit was expending more energy than me, but the strain on its cooling systems left me feeling hot and bothered. There was plenty of time for thinking, but no answers for my questions. However hard I concentrated, my name escaped me. Perhaps that was because the language centres of my brain were thoroughly jumbled. I considered writing the word â€˜helpâ€™ in the sand, so it might be seen by anyone flying above. However, I was unsure of the correct spelling. (It was only later that I realized I could still spell â€˜S.O.S.â€™)
Hours were spent carving my path through the desert, and the mountains seemed no closer. They may have been taller, and further away, than I first estimated. It could take weeks to reach them, but at least the suit would supply me with water and sustenance in the meantime. There was no alternative; I had to forge on. But I deviated from the straight path to scale an abnormally high dune, to see what I might see. At its peak, I regretted the wasted effort. There was nothing to see but sand and more clouds of locusts. Then, looking back and evaluating the distance I had travelled, I recognized a familiar pattern of movement coming toward me. A dozen hump-creatures were now in my wake. Their mounds of sand would squirrel forward, then freeze for a while, before another spurt of movement. Were they hunting me? Or were they benign and brainless creatures, drawn to the sound of my steps like a moth is attracted to the flame? My mind was filled with the image of a portly old man, saying: â€œthe better part of valour is discretion.â€ Was he my father? Or my boss? Whoever he was, I decided to heed his advice. My suitâ€™s exoskeleton was further cranked up, beyond its design parameters, and I abandoned my previous plan, by galloping from the hump-creatures as fast as I could.
We run for first, off the road and off the record. I felt safe now that I was racing forward in overdrive, and the pace also encouraged a quickening of my internal episode of Desert Planet Discs. More songs flashed through my memory. If I could just remember what I was doing when I listened to them, who I was with, and who they made me think of, then maybe I could recall important details from my life, like where I came from, and who were my friends and family, assuming I had some. But all that came to mind was something called â€˜joggingâ€™, which I did around something called a â€˜parkâ€™, whilst wearing something else called an â€˜iPodâ€™. Is â€˜joggingâ€™ an actual thing, or did I make it up? And the technology called â€˜iPodsâ€™ seemed comically antiquated. I mean, did anyone think that putting an â€˜iâ€™ before a name made it sound more interactive? Or intelligent? Or… whatever? There was also something called a â€˜treadmillâ€™, which on rainy days was found inside something called a â€˜gymnasiumâ€™, or â€˜gymâ€™ for short. But I was sure these must be the fruits of a dislocated imagination. I was inside a fusion-powered lifesuit that hurtled me across an alien landscape, evading subsurface creatures that I had never seen before, or yet. In a universe as extraordinary, varied and exciting as that, who would waste time doing repetitive physical exercises down a â€˜gymâ€™?
The suit periodically complained about excess strains and power drains. Confident that I had outrun my subterranean stalkers, I eased into a brisk walk, and checked over my shoulder, at the trail I had left behind me. I had to look twice, because I could barely believe what I saw first time. Though the hump-creatures were distant, it seemed that half the desert now pursued me. Wave after wave rolled in my direction, like the desert was a sea, and the tide was coming in. I felt no desire to play the part of King Canute (whoever he was). In a panic, I decided to further boost the power supplied to the exoskeleton. However, the suit decided it had done too much already, and cut output drastically. I began to run again, relying on my unaided muscles, carrying the weight of my suit, instead of it carrying me. When I looked over my shoulder again, I saw the humps were steadily closing on me. And I cursed myself for not visiting the gym more often.
Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough, and things go wrong no matter what I do. As I desperately searched the horizon for a way to save myself from the hump-creatures, I was thrilled to glimpse an outcrop of rusty brown rock. A long thin ridge arched upwards, poking through the surface of a dune. If I climbed to its pinnacle, I would be safe from the hidden hunters. From that vantage point I could shoot and destroy any creature that rose from the sand to chase me. Overjoyed, I sprinted to the base of the rock, and leapt upon its jagged crest, bounding to its summit. Ha! At the top, I danced a little jig of victory, and fired a series of warning shots. That would show the blighters that I meant business!
Three hours later, and still surrounded by hundreds of hump-creatures, I felt less enthusiastic about my refuge. Mounds of sand twitched nervously all around. Without a jetpack, I could imagine no way of escaping them all. My suit was fully recharged by the daylight, but these animals were tenacious. I reckoned the suit would be depleted long before these animals gave up the chase, ruling out the prospect of a race to the mountains. Though my memory was still obscured, aspects of my former personality returned like ghostly shadows, including an admiration of wildlife. Perhaps I was some kind of zoologist, or biologist. Perhaps I had come to this planet to study these creatures, but had suffered amnesia following an accident. Slaughtering animals held no appeal. But they were giving me little choice. I grew tired, though dared not sleep for fear of being ambushed. I raised my pistol, holding the grip with my right hand, and cupping its base with my left, as I knew I had been trained to do. I stood steady, and exhaled. And then I fired.
Well your mama kept you but your daddy left you, and I shouldâ€™ve done you just the same. My first shot was aimed just in front of the nearest living hump, which had dared to twitch right up to the base of the ridge. It backed away. I fired again, and again. Each shot was controlled, and measured. I did not want the weapon to overheat and malfunction; it was on a low setting, enough to kill an animal at short range, but not enough to disintegrate its body. I continued to fire. More hump-creatures backed away. Fire, fire, fire; over and over. Some fled. Others stood their ground. The most aggressive one, at the base, crept closer again. So I took careful aim, and fired directly at it. The sand was blown away, and I finally saw the scaly brown armoured sand demon that lay beneath. It was five feet long, with an articulated torso like a centipede, and six squat legs on either side. It slithered on its belly, trying to dive back under cover by ramming its tapered crocodile snout into the sand. Twin tails followed as it disappeared from view. Each briefly arched in a pose reminiscent of a scorpion; I hypothesised that the dagger-like blades at their end could slash, impale and poison their prey. Though it plunged from view, it was not finished with me. Angered, the beast was worming its way around the rock, toward the side where there was least gap between the sand and me. I fired again, missing the creature. The brute accelerated, then broke through and rushed up the rock face, its legs scrabbling for purchase as it darted toward me. I fired three times. The first missed, hitting rock as the creature squirmed aside. The second sliced off one of its legs, causing the beast to open its mouth and screech, revealing double rows of needle teeth. Enraged, it lunged for me. Both tails were curled forward, ready to deal me a deathly blow, but my third shot struck between the demonâ€™s eye slits, and it instantly slumped dead.
My heart pounded. I feared these were my final moments, and waited for more of my persecutors to attack. But to my delight, the hump-creatures fled en masse, rippling away in every direction. I was saved! And then I was thrown to my knees by a tremor, almost falling on the animal I had just killed. I clung to the rock as more tremors shook it. Though physically convulsed, I felt calm; the seismic activity may have caused the sand-beastsâ€™ retreat. However, I soon learned my mistake. With my pistol in one hand, and the other clutching a dent in the rock, I learned it was not made of rock at all. The creatures that had run away were merely the tadpoles of this desert. Two tails reared up in front of me, each as tall as a lamppost, and tipped with blades that could decapitate me with one swipe. I looked the other way, and a mighty reptilian head rose from the sands, with jaws that could swallow me whole, like a kraken from the sea. The creature I had killed was just a child. This was the mamma, and I stood on her back. At this moment, a message flashed across my visor screen. Apparently, I had discovered a new species. Would I like to name it? I later called it the giant desert scorpogator. However, in the present moment, I had more urgent priorities.
Though shalt not judge a book by its cover. Though shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover. I slid my thumb across my pistol, setting it to maximum. My plan was to hold on to the monsterâ€™s back for dear life, riding it like a nightmarish rodeo. If I fell into the sand, the scorpogator would surely crush me underneath. I dived flat on my front as one tail swooshed overhead, then I rolled to escape the second tail, which jabbed downward, stabbing the beast in its own back. A putrid green juice spewed from the wound, coating the scorpogatorâ€™s armour and making it slippery as ice. Meanwhile, the krakenâ€™s head reared around, almost bending its neck double to snap at me, first from one direction, then the other. The many segments of the beastâ€™s torso writhed and bucked, seeking to throw me clear. Fearing I would lose my grip, I thrust my forearm into the monsterâ€™s gushing wound, and anchored myself in place. A tail swung towards me again, and I fired at it, scoring a direct hit and severing its dagger tip. One of the scorpogatorâ€™s legs reached up, scratching towards me with a fearsome claw that would cut me in two as easily as it dug the mammothâ€™s burrow. A glancing shot scorched the claw, prompting its temporary withdrawal, but I could not take breath because down came the uninjured tail, with me turning to see it at only the last moment. The tailâ€™s spike crashed straight into my visor. That was extreme fortune for me; the diamond composition of the visor made it the toughest material in my suit. The blow snapped my head backwards against the monsterâ€™s back, knocking me dizzy and leaving me seeing stars, though my suit was not punctured, and suffered no damage beyond a diagonal scratch across the faceplate.
With one arm still deep in the scorpogatorâ€™s wound, I rammed my second arm inside too, and proceeded to fire repeatedly, bursting into the monsterâ€™s soft insides. I grabbed a handful of charred flesh and dragged myself within, just soon enough to avoid another hammer blow from the tail. The beastâ€™s own armour now protected me from its thrashing appendages, but a message flashed across my visor, warning that the lifesuit was being dissolved by the scorpogatorâ€™s corrosive innards. Inside that oozing cavern of purple muscle, I oriented myself towards the animalâ€™s head, and fired repeatedly, tunnelling through a soft grey network of tissue that I assumed was a lung. Crawling and shooting, I squirmed through the body, segment by segment, whilst the monster pounded its own back, sometimes smashing through its skin in a desperate bid to extract me. But I was too deep now, and the animal struggled in vain. Again and again I fired, disintegrating the beast from within, until I reached a narrowing which I took to be its neck. There I located a train of bones, each so tall and wide than no man could reach around them, and which ran both forward and backward along the creatureâ€™s length. This was the monsterâ€™s spine. I held my gun on continuous fire, and began to slice through the bone. After what seemed an age of red-hot burning, my pistolâ€™s beam reached the cord of nerves that I assume is common to all vertebrates. The white thread was instantly severed, and from that point backward, the scorpogator suddenly fell limp. Only its head seemed capable of continued motion.
I retraced my route back to the outside world, and found the results were as I had supposed: the scorpogator was paralysed from the neck down. Its jaws continued to snap furiously, but so long as I walked the long way around, they would never trouble me again. I had a mind to kill this magnificent and terrifying animal, to put it out of its misery. But I was also conscious of expending a lot of energy during our struggle, and could not guess what other battles awaited me. To my surprise, a small hovering robotic drone appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and killed the giant scorpogator with a steady blast between its eyes, firing at the same point that I had when killing the infant version. The drone then flew slowly toward me, giving me hope of rescue, and affording me the opportunity to study its antennae and laser aperture, from which it blasted me too.
Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984. Ow! I was having a very bad day, and was in no mood to accept a spanking from a fascist police automaton. My pistol was drawn again in less time than it took to read that last sentence, and two accurate shots soon converted the drone into scrap metal. What had prompted it to fire upon me? Was this planet a nature reserve, with robots as wardens? I could only imagine the drone shot me as punishment for hurting the scorpogator. If its purpose was to protect the wildlife from the tourists, then I wondered what, if anything, was meant to protect the tourists from the wildlife.
Unzipping a pocket, I extracted the handy multi-tool – the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, not that I could remember who the Swiss were. A few sharp twists were enough to unscrew the drone, and examine how it worked. My guess was that it was likely fitted with a radio. This proved correct, though my impetuous shots had melted the transceiver. Poking around, my attention was drawn to the droneâ€™s levitor, a field generator which counteracts gravity, causing the droid to hover. It was much smaller than I had previously thought possible, and it appeared undamaged. I snipped its wires, and ripped the levitor out. Then I unzipped the pocket that led to my suitâ€™s power coupling and I/O port. After wiring both to the levitor, the suit presented me with a warning message: FOREIGN SYSTEM ATTACHED; INTERFACE YES/NO? Hell yes – I was confident the droneâ€™s components had not been embedded with malware or anything that might subvert my suit. On the contrary, I was sure my suitâ€™s operating system would take control of the levitor. My visor readouts confirmed the levitor was powered up, so I slowly squat down, and then leapt straight into the air. Despite the planetâ€™s heavy gravity, I rose nearly as high and as rapidly as when I had fired my jetpack. Then I gently descended to ground. The levitor could not cancel out my weight completely, but the load was greatly reduced. Combined with the lifesuitâ€™s exoskeleton, I could now bound over the tallest sand dune, speeding my journey whilst consuming much less power. So with no reason to delay, I headed for the mountains again.
Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy. First the hovering warden drones came singly. Then they came in pairs, then in groups of four. Whilst their numbers kept doubling, the intervals between each attack were halved, until I was continuously fighting them off. They moved as quickly as me, and could not be reasoned with. Destroying one only provoked two more to surge over the horizon. Ignorance of the law may be no defence, but where was the trial by a jury of my peers!? On this planet, the drones appeared to be judge, jury and executioner, and I was sentenced to death. I would not last much longer, firing as fast as I could, but assailed from every direction. Desperate for some relief, I copied the tactics of the scorpogator, and lunged head first into sand, digging for all I was worth, hoping to bury myself and hence fool the machines. But they continued to shoot until the sand around me dissipated. My pistol was nearly depleted, so I ran again, firing an occasional low-energy shot to hinder their pursuit.
The drones swarmed around me, and I was prepared to say goodbye to a life I could barely remember. The polymer of my lifesuit was nearly burned through on my chest and on one leg. Darkness fell unexpectedly, but I realized it was another kind of swarm – a second squadron of locusts buzzed overhead. Ignoring the blaze of weapons, the locusts were attracted to something nearby. A drone blasted me in my back, so I turned and shot it down. Locusts instantly set upon the incapacitated robot. These critters hungered for metal! My singular insurrection had assembled a banquet for the iridescent insects. After rapidly consuming their first dish, the locusts went into a feeding frenzy, gorging on every robot within range. Luckily for me, the plastics in my lifesuit were not to the locustsâ€™ taste. In an ironic twist, the animal cavalry had come to my aid, and the wardens were now subject to the laws of nature! However, it was too early to gloat, because the pernicious and persistent drones continued to shoot at me. Though weighed down with the insect gourmands, the robots were too resilient to be quickly disabled. I pulled my trigger again… only to find my pistol had run out of juice. My rescuers had arrived too late; I could bob and weave but soon the merciless drones would finish me, whilst ignoring the locusts that devoured them. My fate would have been so different, if only I had the means to signal for help… and then I realized my mistake. With drones and locusts circling all around, I reached into a pocket, and cracked open a flaming red hand flare. It whooshed into brilliant life, and I hurled it into the melee above me. The fireball erupted a second later, flinging me from my feet, and rendering me unconscious.
One fine day in my odd past, I picked me up a transmission. I turned the fission ignition, went looking for the broadcaster. When I woke, the same blue sun was creeping over the lilac mountain range, like it had the morning before. My head was banging again, just like before. I checked myself for injuries, and found my lifesuit burned and battered, but not compromised. Then I lay back in the sand, and laughed hard. I may have lost my memory, but not my sense of humour. Headache aside, being alive felt good. What did it matter who I was? What mattered was that I lived another day. And I was enjoying the songs that revolved around my mind, even if my recollection of the lyrics was patchy. So I hummed, and set myself to work.
The desert around me was a cemetery of robotic parts, blown to pieces by the locust inferno. I picked through them. One functioning radio would be my ticket off this planet. At the edge of the debris field I found a droid that was still powered up, though damaged and resting on the ground. I carefully picked it up, holding its laser aperture away from me. That was a good decision, because the malevolent contraption continued to fire! I quickly unscrewed the case, and disconnected the droneâ€™s spherical power generator, placing it in my pocket for safekeeping. The droneâ€™s radio was working, and I soon wired it into the comms port of my suit. â€œMayday, mayday. This is…â€ but I still could not remember my name. â€œIâ€™m marooned alone on this planetâ€™s surface, specific location unknown. If anyone is receiving this, I need a pick-up. Please respond.â€ The message was repeated three times, but there was no reply. And then a new message appeared on my suitâ€™s visor.
LOCATION: ALTREIDIS 12. LONGITUDE 51.7434. LATITUDE -0.7819.
How had the suit determined this? It had not obtained a star fix overnight. Then the explanation became clear, as the readouts continued.
AUTOMATED DISTRESS BEACON DETECTED. LONGITUDE 51.8175. LATITUDE -0.8217.
The radio had captured the distress signal, and the suit had extrapolated my whereabouts from the information given by the beacon. I was in no position to help anyone else. However, somebody needed assistance, and they were only an hourâ€™s walk away, so I made haste.
As I neared the beacon, I climbed a dune to see if I could get a better view of who, or what, was responsible for it. I had suffered enough nasty surprises, and was keen to avoid another. Only a dusty grey tarpaulin was visible, covering an object the size of a hut. My radio scanned for traffic; there was none but the beacon. Nevertheless, I broadcast a message over a range of frequencies: â€œif you can hear me, Iâ€™m coming to your assistance right now.â€ Still wary, I stealthily paced toward the tarpaulin, and what lay underneath. In one hand I held my pistol, which was recharged by the generator I had cannibalised from the fallen drone. With the other hand I reached for the tarpaulin, which draped right down to the sand. I tugged sharply. The tarpaulin fell away to reveal… a boxy-looking one-man spaceship. Was this my ship? I could not remember it, but it seemed familiar. If it belonged to someone else, they would regret leaving it unlocked. Within seconds I had climbed inside the canopy, and repressurised its snug cabin.
At last I could remove my helmet, and wipe the sweat from my brow. Upon my forehead, my fingers discovered something unexpected. It felt like an I/O port, similar to that incorporated into the lifesuit. The port sat snugly below my hairline, presumably so I could comb my hair across and conceal the disfiguring cybernetic implant. Of course I had no memory of why I had been surgically altered, though maybe the port had something to do with my amnesia. However, I was tired of asking myself questions that I could not answer. I removed my hands from my face, and placed them on the shipâ€™s control panel. My fingers glided across the switches and dials. If this was not my ship, I had an uncanny instinct for piloting it. With no more ado, I was off the ground, and accelerating into space.
Show me the world, as Iâ€™d love to see it. What should I choose as my heading? I called up the warp map, and scrutinized the options. But I still did not know who I was, where I was from, or where I was going. No… that was wrong. I knew where I belonged, and where I was going. This was my ship. I was sure of it. Perhaps it had been left here for me. Perhaps I had stolen it. But it was mine now, and felt like it always had been. This was my home, in a ship, in space, traversing the endless stars. Rising above Altreidis 12, I witnessed a new dawn as I passed through the planetâ€™s shadow and back into the light of its sun. This was a new day in my life, and I was going to live it. With nothing to tie me to any place, every day would be spent in exploration, both of the universe, and myself. I had returned to a sky that belonged to me as much as anyone; no man could tell me otherwise. And so I entered a course, and my new journey began.