What Is Omega Station?

Omega Station, aka the Rock. A barren, airless asteroid on the outermost edge of the galaxy, home of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Dotted with commercial, military and residential domes, the outer surface is the place to live for those who can afford it or are lucky enough to work there.
But the vast majority of the Rock's residents don't live in the surface domes; instead, they have tunneled downwards, moving ever further towards its fiery heart. The upper levels are safe, comfortable, secure—or as secure as anyone can be on
Omega Station. The lower levels, now; they are home to the detritus of a double dozen races and species, all living in uneasy juxtaposition, fighting, loving, eating—and being eaten.
The Rock's location in space, the last real port before exiting the galaxy, has made it a valuable commodity to many governments and private corporations, as has the addictive drug straz, which grows only in its recycling vats. Control has been taken and given in a hundred bloody battles over the years, but those who live in the lower levels—and further down, in the Depths—are often barely aware of whoever claims to be in charge.
No one, really, rules the Rock, whatever they may claim, however many weapons and warriors they throw against it.
For the Rock is eternal…and it has many secrets...and many stories...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Part 8 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

Rudof Dyll had stripped off his clothes and jewels as he walked across his bedroom, and now stood under a stinging needle-spray of hot water in a shower pod big enough for four. He squeezed a handful of scented soap from a wall-mounted dispenser and scrubbed his face with both hands, then let the water wash away all traces of makeup. He stepped away from the spray, bent over a basin set in the opposite wall, squirted out a handful of soap from a different dispenser, and began washing his hair. The coppery red color slithered off and into the basin, which caught the organic dye for future use.

Rudof stepped out of the shower pod into a small anteroom that shot out jets of warm air to dry him. Then he stalked into his bedroom.

Naked, Rudof Dyll barely resembled his public image. Tall and lanky, lean but well-muscled, he carried himself straight, head high, and strode confidently around the room—instead of the strolling, slouching, lazy figure that had just left an impromptu dinner party at the Starview Lounge.

There was a long laser burn stretching across his back, from the top of his right shoulder to his left hip, and thick white lesions encircled his wrists and ankles—manacle scars, and the kind that were not acquired in a day, but took years to develop. His hair, with the dye washed out, was a dark nondescript brown liberally streaked with white. Brown too were the clothes he selected from a concealed closet set behind a high armoire. It looked too heavy to move—and was, unless you knew the secret catch that shifted it forward. He slid into a baggy brown jumpsuit with zippered pouches, much like the ones worn by freighter crewmembers, and slid his feet into battered boots.

Pausing before a mirror, he reached up and popped out his green contacts and peeled off the jewel-tipped lashes; brown eyes stared out of a narrow face.

Rudof Dyll regarded himself in the mirror, a smile on lips no longer a garish red.

"Goodbye, Master Dyll; hello, Malik Blayne." The smile twisted into a snarl.

The former Rudof, now Malik, scrambled in the secret closet and retrieved a battered backpack. He hefted the pack as the armoire returned to its former position, then glanced around the room to make sure everything was secure.

The backpack was almost empty. He'd have to fill up on his way down.

Malik hit the palm-lock on his way out the door, strode down a hallway, took a right turn, a left, and stopped in the middle of a shorter hall. Silence permeated the dome, but Malik hadn't got to his somewhat precarious position by taking chances. He tiptoed to the end of the hall, just to make sure that no one was waiting around the corner.

Clear.

It was always clear.

But he always checked.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Part 7 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

"Oh, certainly, Honored Citizen; very pretty indeed…working in your conservatory." The slaver winked one of his three eyes knowingly and turned away, delightedly calculating his percentage of the sale price.

"Throob," Algensio said thoughtfully as they left the slaver.

"Yes, you're right, of course," Rudof replied absently. "More trouble than they're worth, probably. But what else could I do?"

"Throob," Algensio agreed with a sigh and a shake of his furry head. A wide red tongue rolled out and licked away a few remaining traces of dinner from his chin.

Cutting their way past the rest of the stalls, they reached the edge of Dome Seven and the ground shuttle airlock.

"Dyll Dome," Rudof said, waving a jeweled hand. The lockkeeper nodded eagerly and escorted them through the triple sets of heavy doors. He ushered them into the shuttle and set the coordinates for them before returning to the corridor, eyeing the huge tip in his hand with satisfaction.

A whirr, a click, and the tiny shuttle sped across its preprogrammed path towards a small pearlescent dome that glistened in the black distance.

The shuttle's path was a twisting one. The surface of Omega Station at first glance resembled nothing more than tumbled piles of boulders, some heaped far higher than the huge domes that spotted its surface. But on closer inspection, clear places were hidden amongst the rocks, of sizes varying from a few meters square to large enough for the placement of sizable domes. In the distance, but crisp and clear through the vacuum, loomed the huge structures of the official docking platforms and trading stations that were the reason for the Rock's existence.

The shuttle beeped twice, gave a last right angle turn, and slowed slightly as its onboard navicomp re-checked the position programmed by the lockkeeper. A few seconds later, it snicked home in one of the Dyll Dome's personnel airlocks.

"Home at last." Rudof Dyll sighed as he unkinked his lanky form from the uncomfortable seat and waved Algensio through the airlock ahead of him, pausing to hit the return button on the navicomp. The shuttle beeped twice politely, and as soon as the inside dome door closed, disengaged and sped back towards Dome Seven.

Algensio stretched all four arms and opened his mouth in a wide yawn.

"Yes, do hibernate a while, dear fellow," Rudof agreed. "I've got to go out again, I'm afraid."

"Throob?"

Rudof shrugged. "No, not as Rudof. Not tonight." He patted his huge companion on one arm. "Don't wait up."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Part 6 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

The captain opened his mouth, but Dyll continued, not allowing him to speak. "Three: the asteroid belt that surrounds our little home, the ice miners, the smugglers, the pirates. Four: the countless unknown entrances to the Depths, impossible to find, much less police. Can one man, however many soldiers he has at his back, make even a dent in those problems? I think not, Captain. I think not."

The captain decided to ignore that last statement. "Just because these…barriers have defeated previous controllers doesn't mean that they're unsolvable, Master Dyll."

"Throob," agreed—disagreed?—the Vamir.

"Yes, Captain, you speak the true, of course. But these latest little…incidents? That rather nasty explosion at Dock Thirteen? What was the loss there? All those other explosions? And the way those insurgents keep taking over the comsys, sending out those dreadfully unpleasant rants about your own Consolidated Guard, those vociferous complaints about Malpairiso Sector. And after all, you can't even find that pirate or whatever he calls himself, Malik Blayne, can you? Worrying, Captain, for a peaceful, quiet gentle such as myself, I must say. Very worrying indeed."

Eversyn sighed; he could see it was going to be a very long meal.

***

Rudof Dyll strolled along the wide central corridor towards the connecting airlock leading to the surface and the shuttle to his domicile, the Dyll Dome. The Vamir Algensio stalked by his side.

This was a merchant corridor, upscale, of course, as it was on the actual surface of the planetoid that was home to—that actually was, in fact—Omega Station. Clothing, jewels, rare imported food and drink, slaves, bed partners to whet the tastes of the most jaded customers, all these and more were just a few of the items for sale.

Rudof yawned at importunate purveyors who tried to capture his attention, unless the item in question caught his attention, as did a string of seven small slave boys matched in height and coloring.

"Yes, yes," he said, cutting short the slaver's description, "but they'll grow at different rates, won't they?"

"Oh, indeed no, honored Master," the slaver protested. "They've been carefully selected, and genetically indoctrinated, naturally."

"Naturally," Rudof said, eyeing the boys again. One, the one on the left, had a bruise across his bony ribs and traces of dried tears on his peaked face. "Well, clean them up and send them along. They'll be rather pretty working in my conservatory."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Part 5 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

Eversyn swallowed through a throat gone suddenly dry. He knew about ka'frindi, of course. It was the Rock's major export—the Rock's only export, officially, at least. But he certainly had no desire to put that crawling green stuff in his mouth. Then he remembered who his host was, picked up his knife and prong with a sigh, and sawed off a small bit of the bovsteak, lifted it to his mouth, and forced it inside. He chewed slowly, surprised at the rich taste but not much relishing how the fungus—Lichen? Bacteria?—felt as if it tried to escape from his grinding teeth.

"Very…good," he said at last, after he'd swallowed and sipped his wine.

"I'm so glad you like it. It's an acquired taste, I must admit, but quite popular on some worlds. The fungus grows on the lower levels here, as of course you know—here and, so I understand, nowhere else in the galaxy. I won't mention what it grows on." Dyll smirked nastily. "So, Captain, I suppose you have no intention of discussing who you were looking for just now. Secret Guard business and all that. But perhaps you can tell me this: what are the Consolidated Guards' plans for Omega Station?"

"Plans, Master—Rudof?" Eversyn coughed. "We're here to keep the peace, of course, and to make sure that the trade routes stay open."

"Of course you are. Of course. We mustn't let the trade routes close, if for no other reason than to keep my dearest papa happy—and he and the rest of my family terribly rich. But to be totally honest, Captain, those were the plans for the last, what was it, six or eight new controllers of the Rock. I had hoped yours would be different."

"Throob," commented Algensio around a mouthful of green salad. It was dripping with a red dressing that looked to Everson uncomfortably like blood.

"Yes, you're right, dear fellow," Rudof agreed. "We'd somehow expected more from the Consolidated Guard of Malpairiso Sector, hadn't we? More, at least, than we've gotten from the Red Publicans, or Inversodynamics, or…well, in short, from any of the groups who've—let's be dramatic—seized power here on the Rock in the last few cycles."

Dyll gave a theatrical shudder.

Captain Eversyn tried to slide his chair a bit further away from the Vamir, who chose that moment to grin at him, baring a double row of pointed teeth liberally coated with green and red bits.

"Yes, well, uh…I'm sorry you're disappointed, ah, Rudof. But after all, you're hardly in a position to complain, are you? In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, you and everyone else on the Rock are under my command. My command, backed up, if you don't mind my mentioning it, by my extremely well-armed soldiers."

"Yes," murmured Rudof Dyll, offering another slash of a smile. "That's too true. It's a pity, that. Complaints are useless, yes. Not to mention, you're doing such a good job at…controlling the Rock, too."

Eversyn felt his face going red. "If you mean the smuggling, that's very nearly under control. And the Depths, well, they're just a matter of time."

"The Depths, Captain?" Slash smile. "A matter of time, do you say? The Depths have beaten better men than you, for all your extremely well-armed Connies behind you. Think of it, Captain." Dyll leaned forward, holding up a bejeweled finger as he made each point. "One: an endless series of corridors, tunnels and caverns, dug from the living rock that composes our homey little planetoid. Two: groups of settlers, squatters, the lost and the discarded, tribes of children, hermits, from any species you might name and some you cannot, all thronging there in the dank dimness."

 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Part 4 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

Eversyn eyed the two-and-a-half meter tall Vamir. He—She? Eversyn didn't know much about the species, and decided to let the first gender choice stand until he had more information—he was covered in short dense fur, dark brown with pale streaks that ran up all four of his burly arms, circled his broad chest, and disappeared over his shoulders to run in streaks down his back. No clothing, but a wide belt around his thick middle, just below his second set of arms.

Eversyn wasn't sure, but he suspected that the small whitish things that hung from silver hooks on the belt might be bones…or teeth.

"Ah." He nodded at the Vamir. "Uh, thank you…both."

"Not at all, Captain, not at all. I always enjoy seeing new faces, making fresh acquaintances, and dear old Algensio here is simply a social flutterby. Not to mention the excitement your little action just created for us! A search, for a dangerous criminal I have no doubt. How positively thrilling."

Dyll raised one eyebrow and leaned forward. A waft of scent—expensive, Eversyn knew—enveloped the table and its environs. "And let us be totally honest, as among friends: our scene is just the least bit limited here on the Rock, as I'm sure has not escaped your attention."

"And you don't get off-station much, I believe?"

There, thought Eversyn; see what he makes of that little remark. Eversyn knew for a fact that Rudof hadn't left the Rock in more than ten cycles. That equated to six turnovers in control of the shipping lanes here on the very edge of the galaxy, six counting the coup that had placed the captain in charge less than four standard months earlier.

Six turnovers in government on the Rock.

But the Dylls were still the richest family in the galaxy.

"Sadly, no, Captain. I do not. I spend most of my time tending my flowers in my domicile dome. I have quite the collection in my hydroponics sphere; you must come see them. Of course, being so lonely, it makes it all the luckier for me that Omega Station has had such a wide and varied selection of…overseers in the past cycles, yes? It at least gives me the opportunity to share the occasional meal with so discerning a gentle as yourself. Here, let me help you to some of this ka'frindi. It's one of the things our little home is famous for, as I'm sure you know."

Rudof leaned over the table, picked up a spoon, scooped a greenish blue glob from a small crystal bowl, and plopped it atop the slice of bovsteak on Eversyn's plate.

Eversyn watched in ill-concealed horror as the blue-green goop began to move, spreading over the steak and sinking clearly visible feelers into it.

"You must wait until it gets settled, you know." Rudof smiled. "It releases flavor enhancers and endorphins, but of course you have to eat it before it ends its life cycle—while it's still green, in other words. If you wait until it turns brown, it could make you quite ill."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Part 3 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

And Rudof Dyll was certainly like no one he'd ever met, in any star system—or out of one, as the rock beneath their feet most certainly was.

The Starview was the most expensive restaurant and lounge on the Rock, no doubt the most expensive Eversyn had ever been in, as his humble upbringing on Garitus Minor Three had seldom provided more than access to the occasional tavern. Even after leaving GarThree as an excited recruit, and his continual rise through the Connie ranks with its concomitant visits to a multitude of planetary systems, he'd not often had the time—or the credits—to visit such places.

But his host certainly had the credits. Sometimes it seemed like half of this damned putrid Rock belonged to Rudof Dyll…or at least, to the Dyll family. And the Dylls didn't mind shelling out some of their vast amounts of credits—more than he could imagine, Eversyn suspected—to keep Rudof in luxurious, extravagant, elegant, ostentatious, sumptuous …imprisonment here on Omega Station.

Captain Eversyn straightened in his lushly cushioned chair, glad that he'd been wearing a clean uniform. He'd have felt even more wildly out of place if he'd had to attend in his usual rumpled drab grey coverup.

He was almost sure he'd lost control of the situation, and it was important that he regain it. After all, he was in charge of Omega Station, since he was the local commander of the Consolidated Guard. And this man lounging before him was completely under his command.

Then why was Eversyn so nervous?

He twisted uncomfortably in his seat. "Uh, this is certainly a very pleasant place, Master—"

"Oh, please, no ceremony. Do call me Rudof. Everyone does." Dyll smiled, his thin lips stretching but not opening. With their suspiciously sumptuous red color, the smile gave the appearance of a dagger slash across his pale, narrow face.

Rudof Dyll was dressed in tight yellow breeches tucked into soft, low boots, a frilled, full sleeved shirt of a darker yellow, almost gold, and a vest heavy with embroidery and sparkling with jewels. The yellow-gold tones set off his hair, a deep coppery red, which was scraped back from his long face and imprisoned in a gold clasp, also sprinkled with jewels. His eyes, set behind long, long lashes with tiny jewels on the tips, were a bright green. Rings on his fingers; rings in his ears; one in his right nostril. 

Eversyn, without realizing it, sniffed in disapproval. "Very well, then…Rudof. This is a pleasant place to, uh, relax. But I'm at a bit of a loss. Why did you ask me to dine with you? We Connies are seldom asked to social events—especially when we've just searched the place, looking for a known fugitive."

Rudof Dyll's companion said, "Throob," in a deep, reverberating growl that shook the glasses on the table.

"Indeed, I couldn't have put it better myself, dear old thing." Rudof nodded at the Vamir, who sat on his left side and Eversyn's right at the table for four. "In case you don't understand Vamiri, Captain, Algensio just pointed out that I asked you to dine with us for no other reason than the pleasure of your company."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Part 2 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee


"So, Captain," Rudof Dyll asked, his voice a smooth tenor, the series of silver rings that lined both his earlobes twinkling in the subdued light, "what do you think of our little lounge? Not bad? A bit gaudy, perhaps?" A lean hand, bejeweled to the first knuckle on all fingers, motioned towards the dance floor several meters below, where a number of couples—or in some cases, threesomes or foursomes—were moving in varying degrees of attention and rhythm to soft music.

Some few meters below, because Rudof Dyll's table was perched atop one of the several floating balconies that drifted in carefully coordinated patterns above the floor level of the lounge—now skimming above the dancers' heads, now approaching the transparent dome that protected them from the near total vacuum without, a vacuum that made the stars bright burning lights in the onyx sky.

Captain Eversyn was not happy. Not happy at all. Actually, if pressed, he would admit—but not to anyone else, only to himself, of course, and that in the dark and silence and loneliness of his private domicile—that he was really happy nowhere but behind a desk, bringing order to the chaos of reports and information, then storing that order all neatly away in clearly labeled and docketed files. It was his most secret, most hidden vice, and it would never do to allow anyone else to know that about him. Being the tall, massive, heavily muscled captain in the Consolidated Guard that he was, everyone took him to be ready at any time with fists or weapons to bring, if not peace, at least some sort of armed d├ętente to any difficult situation.

But Carle Eversyn preferred to deal instead…with paperwork.

It was his curse. It was also, though he'd never realized it, his blessing, the means to his constant promotion, and the real reason he'd been assigned to so many difficult and dangerous situations on so many worlds. He had teams of eager fire-eaters under his command, Baranin and others, armed and dangerous Connies who would be happy, with any weapon at hand or bare fists, to break heads—or related organs in non-Human species—whenever and wherever necessary to restore the status quo.

But how many of them could write up a concise report, evaluate details, or make deductions from the sometimes sparse information on hand?

Still, the Starview was out of his ordinary haunts.

 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Part 1 of UNDERWORLD by K.G. McAbee

"Captain, Sir! All present and accounted for, Sir!"

Captain Eversyn winced at the shout, then nodded at Baranin; the young lieutenant was so eager he seemed to be vibrating. Eversyn cast a critical eye over the squad of ten that blocked the corridor, all seasoned Connies looking calm, uninterested and assured, then nodded again. He hoped Baranin wouldn't burst in excitement, but it made Eversyn uncomfortable to see how tightly the boy's hand was wrapped around his blaster.

No one on this damned Rock was supposed to be armed, except, of course, for the Consolidated Guard, though that concept had proved more than a farce in the past.

"Good. Inside, triple time. Secure the exits, locate the quarry, surround and stand to until further orders."

"Sir!"

The squad entered the elegance that was the Starview Lounge and followed orders, as always. Eversyn watched them from a strategic position near the main entrance. Quick, smooth, efficient, just as the Guard did everything.

Even Baranin managed to contain his excitement and manage not to shoot anyone.

But it was totally useless, since it was obvious that their quarry wasn't there.

Warnings had reached the wrong ears. Not surprising. He'd expected it. It was well nigh impossible to keep anything secret on Omega Station—aka The Rock—with its endless warrens and tunnels and labyrinths curving over and under and back on each other. The high beryllion content of the planetoid itself prevented most scanners from working more than a few meters below the surface, so it had never been efficiently mapped. That's why he'd decided to take the bovine by the antlers and simply show up at the Starview Lounge with a heavily armed squad, hoping Malik Blayne would be there, as per information received.

No luck.

Still, Eversyn never expected to be invited to stay for dinner.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Useful Omega Station Glossary

Cycle: The accepted galactic year. Or possibly month. Sometimes day. It generally depends on who is using the word and in what context.

Credz or credits: The basic monetary unit.  

Void: An insult, referring to the space between a human's ears—or relative spots in other species—being empty; i.e., calling someone too stupid to live. 

Boveen: there are several boveen creatures in the galaxy, none noted for brains but all for their copious creation of feek (see below) and their massive horns or antlers. Thus, a bov-brain is less than intelligent; bov-feek and bov-shit are self-explanatory. 

Feek: Pure excrement of most species and often used on Omega Station instead of the more common terms…but not always. Slang word used as an exclamation of frustration, or as a substitutive noun in the place of the actual noun, i.e. "Look at that feek!" or the popular "I'm not taking this feek any more!"

Ka'frindi: A fungus that grows on sewage in only one place in the galaxy—in the reclamation plants on Omega Station. Valuable as an export, due to its flavor-enhancing qualities, it is also used, during its fifth cycle, in the creation of straz. Stage three is the very valuable ka'frindi, which is edible for about twenty minutes after being placed on prepared food. The fourth stage is inedible and poisonous. The fifth stage is straz, a very addictive and psychoactive drug.  

Throob: If you have to ask…you've definitely never met a Vamir.

 

Welcome to The Rock

Hope you make it out alive 

Omega Station is the worst place in the galaxy…go ahead, you can ask a few of the residents:

Rudof Dyll: scion of the richest family in the galaxy, exiled to the Rock for crimes unknown. 

Algensio: a four-armed Vamir, he communicates in perpetual Throobs.  

Malik Blayne: tortured, relentless, and determined to save his friends—if he can figure out who they are.

Simikus Giff: a Nicovan with delusions of grandeur.

Tau the Silent: a Human boy reared by aliens, now orphaned by the loss of his tribe. 

Crila Maragorn: a Human/Halsan woman with a dangerous prosthetic arm.

Captain Carle Eversyn: commander of the Consolidated Guard, who thinks he controls the Rock. 

Vurp Dingal: it never pays to go into debt with the wrong person, especially for an ice miner with loneliness issues. 

Bharstus Bhogani: a Kovindi fighter, he's eager to make a final score and get out of the game.  

Banastre Caravello: manager of the luxurious Starview Lounge, where everyone who is anyone meets, eats, drinks…and deals. 

These and many, many more are willing—and unwilling—residents of the Rock.
Are you brave enough to join them?

If you are...then these are their stories...

 

 

Excerpt from Frandomer's Guide to Galactic Travel for Pleasure, Plunder and Profit, 3893 Edition:

There is no place in the galaxy like Omega Station!

If you're planning a visit for pleasure, pleasures of all sorts and for all tastes are available. If you're looking for fine dining, remember that Omega Station is the only home of ka-frindi, the fungus which improves the flavor of every food even as it releases endorphins to intensify the experience, so the Starview Lounge will be your first stop after arrival.

If you wish to pamper yourself, consider the ultimate in luxurious hostelries, the PodRoyale in Jeylani Dome, voted for the last seventeen cyles as the finest hotel in the galaxy, where you can pamper yourself for a few standard days or weeks. If, instead, your stay needs to be extended, personal domicile domes are dotted across the surface of Omega Station, available for the discriminating traveler at slightly less than astronomical prices—or, in some cases, slightly more.

Getting to Omega Station can be tricky, however. Consider that control of the station has changed hands more than once—indeed, more than a dozen times—in the last few years. But you can still arrive by space liner from several planets, as long as your papers are in order. You must dock at the port nearest Berenji Dome, if you've arrived on the Station for business. If you're there for pleasure, you may instead decide to disembark at one of the other public domes, but be aware: the Consolidated Guard is currently in charge of the entire Station, so those travelers from Savarini Quadrant or from the Inversodynamics Hegemony may have some difficulties.

Warning: No Red Publican or affiliated dominion should attempt to travel to Omega Station for the foreseeable future!

Yes, getting onto Omega Station for legitimate reasons is seldom a problem. Getting there for less legitimate reasons can often be even easier. See Section Eighty-Nine: False Papers and Where to Find Them or Section Four-Thirty-Three: Smugglers and How to Escape with Your Life.

Enjoy your trip!