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...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Part 17 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

Simikus looked away, found his eyes locked with Caravello's blue one. "I don't understand. You two know each other?" The man said nothing but instead nodded toward Ograd.

"I work for Master Caravello, you void. Didn't you wonder how someone who looked like your virtual twin just happened to show up at the most convenient time for your little scheme?"

"But I thought…"

 "You thought nothing. You saw what you wanted to see because it suited your greedy needs. Master Caravello's, uh, agents had been onto you for weeks. Did you really believe that only that buffoon of an overseer made use of the sneaky-eye drone? The fool was too lazy to even keep tabs on the likes of you."

"But the explosion?"

"I tossed the prod down the nearest flume; made the blast sound bigger than it actually was. As for the fire, I stayed below the sludge and swam to safety."

Simikus slumped deeper into his seat, shaking his head slowly. It was all over, probably quite literally.

"Now what?" he mumbled. From the corner of his eye, he saw Rudof gesture to Algensio. The Vamir circled around the desk and took hold of Simikus with three of his four arms, lifting him to his feet and holding him in place.

Caravello said, "I'm afraid you destroyed some of my employee's property. He wants compensation. I'm sure you won't object."

Ograd stepped closer and Simikus saw that he was holding a medical tool. It looked all too familiar.

"By the way," Ograd said, "my name really is Wilfor Kudisi. But now that my name is registered with your palm print, I'm afraid I'll need more than just a finger."

Simikus Giff stood in the waste deep sludge of Omega Station's Wayamr sector sewage treatment plant, more miserable and dejected than ever.

The crackle of the overseer's prod snapped him from his miserable trance just an instant too late. The prod jabbed into the small of his back and the electric charge dropped him to his knees, allowing the filthy mire to splash against his face.

"Pick up the pace, Neek. Half as many hands means you gotta work twice as hard to meet your quota."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Part 16 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

They stopped at the door and Rudof rubbed his chin. "Hmm. Yes, but what could anyone really hope to gain from such an act?"

Eversyn sighed. "Though a motive eludes me, my thoughts keep turning to Malik Blayne."

"Ah, Malik Blayne. Omega Station's Most Wanted. Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say that we will all rest more easily once you've caught that criminal."

"I'm doing my best," Eversyn replied as he took his leave.

Simikus's flesh sagged in relief. It was over—somehow.

Now to make the sale and get on with his life of riches. Rudof had returned to his seat and gave Simikus a pleasant look. He motioned him into the chair Eversyn had vacated.

Caravello smiled at Simikus. "I believe we were discussing ka'frindi?"

Simikus handed it to him.

"It's all there," he said. "And by the way, that was brilliant, that Wilfor Kudisi thing. How did you know Eversyn was going to want to check me out?"

Caravello opened the, case, glanced at the contents before nodding to Dyll, then handing it off to Algensio, who closed it up and resumed his station.

"Wouldn't the more appropriate question be, 'How did I know that your true identity was Simikus Giff?' After all, how could I have provided you with a foolproof fake ID without first knowing your true identity?"

Simikus blinked in wide-eyed stupefaction.

The Starview manager was absolutely right. But as far as the Human could have known, Simikus Giff was Ograd Paxa.

Caravello's smiled grew less pleasant; his chubby face tightened. "Perhaps I am not the one to clarify things for you, Simikus."

The office door opened and Simikus gasped as Ograd Paxa walked through it.

It was Paxa! Even before he looked to the missing finger; Simikus had no doubt.

"B-b-but how? You're dead! I saw the explosion. I made sure…"

"You made sure of nothing, you fool," hissed Paxa.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Part 14 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

Simikus bolted through the tables, hurrying for the nearest exit. The Connies were on to him—but how? His plan had been perfect. Who were they looking for, Simikus Giff or Ograd Paxa? He needed to know, but he had run too quickly and missed the rest of the newscast.

Should he go back? No. No, he couldn't do that; there were always Connies in the food court. He would be spotted for sure.

He clutched the case to him. "I've got to get to the Starview, to Dyll and Caravello. They'll help me. They can get me a new ID."

Yes. That was it. He giggled as he ran along the avenue. With the mega-credits he was about to be paid, he could buy more than an ID; he could be genetically resequenced. Why, he could be anybody he liked. The Connies would never catch him, not if he could get to the Starview.


Simikus ran the rest of the way, and entered the establishment huffing, puffing, and sweating. The place was much busier now, and most of the patrons barely scowled at him as he wove his way though their midst toward the back of the lounge.

As he neared the nondescript door, he noted the huge Modajai standing guard there. The sight of the scaly bouncer caused Simikus to waver involuntarily. He slowed, almost to a stop. The Modajai fixed him with an unreadable stare…before motioning Simikus toward the door.

Looking bolder than he felt, Simikus passed through the door. When the hulking sentry did not accompany him, Simikus regained a great deal of his composure. He was just a few meters from the office, just millimeters from wealth beyond his wildest dreams.

He stopped before the door and let it scan him. There was a pause, then it opened to admit him. Grinning, he stepped inside. His smile of triumph turned witless as he beheld the office's other occupants.

There sat Banastre Caravello behind his desk, flanked on his right by Algensio and on his left by Rudof Dyll.

In a hoverchair on the right side of the desk was Captain Eversyn.

Why would he still be here?

The Connie leveled an inquisitive gaze at Simikus. "Well, well, well; just the Nicovan I've been looking for, or rather one or the other of the two."

Frozen in place, Simikus sent Dyll a pleading look.

"And who might those unfortunates be?" Rudof chuckled to Eversyn.

The head of Omega Station's Consolidated Guard produced his data pad and activated it, relating to Rudof the explosion in the sewage plant and the two missing workers. He read off the names. "Ograd Paxa and Simikus Giff."

"Well," broke in Caravello with a smug grin, "this good fellow is neither one of them. He works for me. His name is Wilfor Kudisi."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Part 13 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

"You were absolutely brilliant, a true natural," Simikus commended himself as he hastened through the Wayamr commercial quarter. "And to think of the years wasted in the sewage plants." The very thought caused his cranial lobe to darken in anger. "Well, no more sludge tanks ever again."

Slipping down a narrow alley between a haberdashery and a pastry shop, Simikus opened a rusty hatchway. He passed down into the network of maintenance corridors that crisscrossed below the quarter's main floor. Listening hard, he hurried through a series of turns until he reached the floor plate covering his ka'frindi horde.

He counted the frigid vials as he placed them into the small case he had brought to transport them in. They should still be suitably cold by the time he sold them to Banastre Caravello. After that, after Simikus had his fortune in hard credits, the Human could do whatever he wanted with the pre-straz fungus.

Giddy with anticipation, Simikus started back to the Starview.

Topside again, Simikus hugged the case to him as he crossed the Wayamr food court. He ignored the looks of irritation he drew from the motley assembly of species eating at the many tables.

"So what," he hissed to himself, "who cares what they think of me now? In a few minutes they'll be kissing my feet."

Just then, one of the many vidscreens around the food court caught his attention. The nightly newscast was on. What was it saying?  

…explosion in the Robiddian sector sewage treatment facility is being investigated by the local division of Consolidated Guard. As usual, the notorious Malik Blayne is a prime…


Monday, May 12, 2014

Part 12 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

"And where might this impressive amount of straz be now?"

"I, uh, I'm afraid I can't reveal that. I'm sure you understand, honorable masters."

A slow smile snaked its way across Rudof Dyll's painted face. "Of course we do, my dear fellow. After all, how healthy would anything be on the Rock without secrets?"

Simikus nodded agreement, smiling until Caravello held out a hand and asked, "Let me see a sample."

"A sample?"

"Come now, Ograd. We're all friends, but not that friendly. Did you think I was going to pay for the product sight-unseen?"

A good point, thought Simikus. Why hadn't he thought to bring a vial? This, if nothing had so far, was going to make him appear the amateur that he was.

"I don't have a sample with me. The, uh, the Connies were everywhere so I left it behind."

If anyone in the room was surprised or disappointed by this, Simikus could not tell. "And there is one other thing."

Earrings jingled as Rudof Dyll sat straighter in his seat.

"What?" snapped Caravello, his plump hands braced on the floating desk.

"The 'stuff' isn't yet straz, it's still last stage ka'frindi. That means…"

"I think Banastre knows what that means, Ograd old chap." Dyll cast a quick glace at his Vamir bodyguard. Whatever meaning it held was beyond Simikus to read and he felt even more uneasy with his present company. Rudof Dyll only added to his anxiety by smiling sweetly at him and humming a little tune.

Then the Starview's manager said, "So you know the source of straz. Not many have ever learned that little secret. And fewer still are among the living. Isn't that what you've heard, Master Dyll?"

"Yes, indeed I have. Though, to be totally honest, honored sirs, I know very little about the matter."

I'll bet, thought Simikus. At a loss for words, he swallowed hard.

But then, Caravello seemed to shift gears. "One hundred and ninety-one grams, you say?"

"Yes, Master."

"Ograd, Ograd, there's no need to call me Master…especially when it looks as if we're going to be business partners. I think it only appropriate that you address me as Banastre."

"Yes, thank you."

"Now then, about this sample."

"I…I can go get it if you'd like."

"Forget it. Wipe it from your mind, dear fellow. Instead, I want you to bring me all one hundred and ninety grams."

"All…yes, of course." Inside, Simikus was ecstatic. He was gong to sell it all at once! That meant that he was going to get rich all at once. He could barely contain his sudden exhilaration. "When?"

Caravello glanced at the chrono set in his desktop. "We'll meet here in, say, one hour?"

He didn't ask if that would work for Simikus, but the Nicovan didn't care. He was about to become absolutely, fantastically filthy rich.

Just then a soft trilling issued from the desk. The Human pressed a button. "Yes?"

"Sir?" came a voice. "Captain Eversyn is here to see Master Dyll."

Simikus's eyes went wide with sudden infusion of fresh panic.

The head of the Connies was here?

Where they on to him already?

Where was the nearest exit?

The manager cast a questioning look at Rudof Dyll; Dyll nodded.

"Inform the Captain that Master Dyll will be there momentarily." He clicked the intercom off. "The Connies are indeed everywhere, it seems." He grinned at Simikus. "Relax, Ograd. The Captain is an…associate of ours, if you take my meaning." He flashed Simikus a sly smile.

"Ah. Oh yes," Simikus chuckled.

Then Rudof Dyll stood up and stuck out his hand. Surprised by the unexpected gesture, since no one ever showed respect to Nicovan, Simikus stared at the extended hand for a confused moment and then took and shook it.

"My, that's quite a grip for a being so small."

Simikus grinned happily. "I'll be back in an hour."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Part 11 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

"Ah, Caravello, dear fellow. Thank you so much for allowing us to usurp your office. Ograd, this is Banastre Caravello, manager of the Starview and, oh my, several other places here and there." Rudof Dyll's lean face lit up in a thin smile.

The chubby Human stood still for the space of a heartbeat, then trotted towards the desk and took a seat.

"Not at all, Master Dyll, not at all!" he boomed in a voice three sizes larger than expected. "You're always welcome. Now, what have we here, what have we here?"

Simikus knew this was his moment. If he could get this new Human to accept him as a supplier, he was as good as rich.

"Let me fill you in a bit, Banastre." The smile was still on Dyll's face, but there was quite another look in his eyes—one that had nothing to do with humor. "Master Ograd Paxa here has a little…proposition that he suspects you might have some interest in. Something to do, I believe, with that nasty drug called straz."

"Oh, does he now?" Caravello's chubby face also lit up with a grin. It did not make him look happy. "So now, Ograd—I may call you Ograd, may I not? What's the story on this straz supply?"


Caravello studied him in silence for a moment, and Simikus tried his best not to squirm under the scrutiny. The Human had looked pleasant and cheerful—at first. Now he seemed as cold as the storage space where Simikus kept his ka'frindi.

"What grade straz are we talking about? What volume? Who's your supplier? How did you come to know about it, and where is it now?"

Caravello seemed to place more emphasis on the last question, but even in his jangled state of mind, Simikus had no intention of revealing that information.

"It's top grade stuff, top grade." That sounded good, Simikus thought, but Caravello regarded him impassively. Well, if that wasn't enough to interest the Human, the quantity surely would. "I have one hundred and ninety one grams of it."

Caravello's thin brows lifted, and Simikus could feel his confidence lifting with it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Part 10 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

They were strolling the back halls of the Starview, Simikus and Rudof. Like a couple of longtime friends! He could almost believe such was the case, given Dyll's chattiness…had it not been for the Vamir shadowing their footsteps.

"I'm sorry, but I don't think I caught your name, my friend," said Rudof.

"Simi…Paxa. Ograd Paxa."

"Ograd Paxa," echoed the Human. "Hmmm. Sounds familiar, but I can't quite place it." He glanced back to the Vamir. "What about you, Algensio?"

The Vamir shrugged his top set of arms.

Rudof lead them through a door and into a palatial office suite. Simikus could not believe the size of the place.

"This is, uh, very impressive," he breathed.

"What, this? Just an office, dear chap. The office of the Starview manager; he'll be along in a moment. He's a great friend of mine, so he allows me to use it when I need a quiet place to…chat. Do you think it impressive, really? Why, I have bathrooms larger than this."

Wide-eyed, Simikus found his imagination sweeping along, down possible futures in which he himself lived so extravagantly.

"I can see you appreciate good taste," commented Rudof Dyll. "You do realize, don't you, that such a lifestyle might be yours as well?"

"Is…is it safe to talk now?"

"As safe as it gets. Have a seat. I'm sure when Master Caravello arrives, he'll be…engrossed with your news," Dyll said as they reached the long, floating band of a desk. He settled himself into a hoverchair cluttered with pillows. Algensio hung back near the door.

Simikus took another one of the hovering chairs and tried to muster his composure.


Nothing but silence.

No one said a word.

Then a door behind the desk slid open and a Human appeared, his plump form framed by the portal.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Part 9 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

Eversyn stepped from his shower, clean of the sewage plant, though not feeling so.

Two dead Neeks. He couldn't honestly say that he cared, but he couldn't get the fact that no slightest trace of either had been found. The thought nagged at him as he donned a fresh uniform. Things just weren't adding up—the freak explosion, and the missing Neek bodies.

He couldn't make sense of it, and what he couldn't make sense of, he attributed to Malik Blayne. And whereas fifty dead Neeks, much less two, matter nothing at all to him, Malik Blayne was something else entirely.

But if Blayne was responsible for the sewage plant explosion, what he was up to and why was a mystery to Eversyn.

He glanced to his clock on his wall. Oh eight thirty. Perhaps it wasn't too late to have dinner with Rudof. Yes, an excellent idea. He could eat elegant food, discuss his most recent problem…and secretly marvel at the man who was rich enough to eat bov-steak at every meal if he wished.

With a newfound smile on his face, Eversyn left his apartment, and headed for the Starview Lounge.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Part 8 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

Simikus winced at the grip on his arm, then gaped up at the huge Modajai. The bouncer was a big as a cargo-lift. Dressed in a skintight singlet, it was a wall of muscle covered by gray scaly skin. Its face was all square angles and bony ridges.

"Last chance, Neek. You got business here, or not?"

"I… I came to speak to, to Rudof Dyll."

The Modajai scowled and tightened his grip. Simikus felt a tingling numbness seeping into his fingers. "I m-m-mean, Master Dyll. I have a business offer in which he may be interested."

The Modajai glanced up toward the hovering platform. Simikus glanced too and found the conveyance parked almost on top of them. He saw the lively face of Rudof Dyll peering down at him quizzically. After a moment, Dyll nodded to the Modajai.

"This way," growled the hulking bouncer as he half yanked, half shoved Simikus toward a set of stairs near the edge of the main dance floor.

Simikus reached the upper end of the steps, and Rudof Dyll's platform drifted over to meet him. Omega Station's most powerful inhabitant dismissed the beings that had been his company, all save for an intimidating Vamir, and motioned for Simikus to join him.

 Simikus could not believe his great fortune. The Vamir aside, this was a private audience! Simikus sat a little higher in his seat.

"Welcome to the Starview Lounge, my Nicovan friend," Dyll began pleasantly.

Simikus, suddenly aware of the Vamir's skewering stare, nodded nervously at Rudof Dyll. "Um, yes, it's very, very nice. Very posh."

Rudof Dyll's bejeweled eyelashes fluttered as he passed a grin to his bodyguard. "Posh. I can't refute, can I, Algensio?"

The Vamir shook his head, without lifting his gaze from Simikus.

Dyll looked to Simikus, "Again, you're welcome here…not that I have any say in the matter, of course. After all, I'm only a customer myself."

Dyll's ornamented face turned away, and Simikus saw that others scattered throughout the lounge were watching closely.

Simikus swallowed the instant unease that turn his heart cold with fear. This was not the reception he had hoped for. He'd expected Dyll to start negotiations at once, not deny that he had any interest in business.

"Um. I, uh…I know where you can procure a large quantity of straz."

Dyll's green eyes widened and he leaned back in his seat. The Vamir had reached across the table, seized Simikus's head-lobe and pushed his face into an abandoned plate of food that one of Dyll's earlier guests had left.

As Simikus wriggled futilely beneath the Vamir's iron grip, Rudof Dyll leaned in close to his ear and whispered. "Never. Never, ever speak of such subjects around me in public. Do you hear me, Neek?"

Simikus nodded his head as best he could with his face in a pile of yeast steak. He heard Dyll snap his ringed fingers; Algensio released him.

Cautiously, Simikus sat up straight and found Dyll offering him a napkin, a wry grin on the Human's narrow face. He took it, and slowly wiped the food from his face.

What am I going to do? This is all wrong. What was I thinking? Was I thinking? I've got to get out of here, but how do I do that now?

He laid the soiled napkin on the table, and then Simikus's nerves received yet another jolt; this time a good one.

"You're stupid, but you have nerve, Neek. I like that. You intrigue me. Why don't we go somewhere private and discuss this…merchandise?"

With wary eye on the Vamir, Simikus nodded at Dyll's invitation.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Part 7 of SCUM by J. A. Johnson

The Starview Lounge was one of the places where famous and important sentients hung out. Rudof Dyll could sometimes be found there; Core, he probably owned it. No secret there, the Dylls owned half of Omega Station. They probably had stakes in the other half as well.

Simikus stepped inside.

The Starview was packed with patrons, its floors teaming with dancers moving to the undulating rhythms of the live somasar music that filled the establishment. Simikus felt instantly out of place, as all of the beings in his immediate vicinity hurled a barrage of disdainful glances his way. Nicovan were not popular with the general public. Only a few of his species had ever been accepted into the social upper crust, and those grudgingly.

Ignoring the glaring eyes, Simikus moved deeper into the restaurant. Rudof Dyll was rumored to have his own private table. Simikus hoped the rumor was true. If he could just speak to Dyll, he knew that he could convince the rich Human to do business with him.

Nobody was ever rich enough, right?

Simikus looked around; he was growing increasingly anxious. Surely the rumors of Dyll frequenting the place were true. They had to be; all of Simikus's plans hinged on Rudof Dyll. Without Dyll, who else was big enough to deal with Simikus on the level he wanted?

Malik Blayne, possibly, but that man was too enigmatic, too hard to find.

No. It had to be Rudof Dyll.

Just as he was beginning to sweat, Simikus looked up and spotted his intended business partner. Dyll's table was situated on one of the floating platforms drifting over the dance floors.

Though he had never before laid eyes on Rudof Dyll, there was no doubt in Simikus's mind as to who he was looking at. The Human was so wonderfully gaudy that Simikus could only stare. What wealth, what style! Simikus sighed in unconscious envy as he took in Dyll's loose, frilly shirt, studded with sparkling… jewels? Yes, jewels by the score. Turning a faint purple with envy, Simikus envisioned himself in such clothing.

As the platform rotated in his direction, he was enraptured by the profusion of glinting gold rings that marched up Dyll's ear lobes, wrapped around his fingers, and there was even a ringlet looped through his right nostril.

The only thing about Dyll's appearance that even Simikus's healthy imagination could not apply to himself, was the red and yellow mane of hair that the Human wore tied behind his head by a golden clasp. Nicovan had no hair. Simikus smiled—well, then, what he lacked in hair, he would simply make up for with additional jewels.

Someone seized him by the arm and spun him about.

"What do you think you're doing in here, Neek?"