Jack Earlmire straps on his pressure suit, polishing off a bottle of Aishoan Ink before lighting up a cigarette and snapping on his helmet. His suit begins purring angrily as it purges out the smoke that has instantly begun to cloud his visor. You quickly lock down your own helmet, realizing Earlmire has forgotten to wait for you as he opens the ship’s airlock.
“Are you sure this is safe, Jack?” You ask, causing him to jump slightly, confirming he had forgotten that you had tagged along.
“I had forgotten that you had tagged along. If you are going to continue to have feelings of worry or doubt, I insist you keep them to yourself and not infect me with them.” Earlmire winks at you through the haze in his visor, “and I’m positively sure that I’m never sure.” He hops out into the desert.
You are now planetside on Sardotia.
You glance back to the ship you’ve left behind as you follow Earlmire through a maze of large boulders. Due to it being in the likeness of an asteroid, you almost don’t spot it. If it hadn’t been for your fading footprints branching out from where it sits in the sand, you would have lost it completely.
In the wind you hear a hum, the sound of the ships that are pursuing you breaking atmosphere, and start to worry they might spot you among the boulders. Just as you’re about to voice your concern to Earlmire, you both arrive at a large hatch protruding from the ground.
An old sentry droid sits inactive nearby, but Earlmire ignores it as he pries open the hatch. Once it’s open, you both hop down into a subterranean hallway dimly lit in red. Earlmire quickly jogs ahead, seemingly forgetting you. You follow, glancing down side passageways filled with other beings wearing varying styles of pressure suits. At the end of the hallway, you both reach an airlock boasting an array of digital flyers. You quickly locate a map displaying a city grid that responds to a typed search query.
“Here we go.” You begin to type in a query for ‘fueling station’, the whole reason you landed on Sardotia, when you notice Earlmire peeking down one of the adjacent passageways you’d passed on your path to the airlock. “Jack?” You beckon him, but he darts down the passageway.
“You are from the planet Aishoan! Do you know where a fellow can get his hands on some Aishoan Ink around here?” Earlmire’s voice echoes inside your helmet, a comlink keeping you perpetually within earshot.
You find him interrogating someone leaning against the metal wall of the passageway in a pressure-suit that has no visor but instead a detailed face painted onto the head casing. This individual doesn’t respond to Earlmire but snaps to attention when a door opens next to where this individual is leaning.
A second individual in an armoured pressure suit steps out from what appears to be a party. He has a canister strapped to his back with a hose leading up to the front of his face where, through his visor, you can see him sucking some type of liquid from it. Loud music can be heard from behind him before the door gently closes itself.
“[Back away from] *mianca*.” A speaker located at the neck of the armoured pressure suit growls deeply, projecting the man’s voice out from his sealed helmet. He refers to the first individual with the visor boasting a painted-on face as ‘mianca’. You realize your internal translator is unable to decipher this last term properly. Scanning your internal dictionary through your ‘rets-up display’, you procure the definitions:
- ‘indebted patient’,
- ‘one going through a hazing in order to gain citizenship and enlightenment’,
- ‘temporary Sardotian servant’.
“[This mianca is an Aishoanian, am I safe in assuming you are drinking Aishoan Ink from that canister?]” Earlmire addresses the armoured man in Sardotian.
The armoured man hesitates. “[I do not drink that mud.]” He then saunters deeper down the passageway in the opposite direction of the airlock. The individual with the visor depicting a painted-on face (referred to as mianca) hastily follows.
Earlmire reaches for the door which the armoured man had exited from. “Try not to let off we’re not from planetside or that we have a ship, they’re not too friendly to fliers or aliens who aren’t mianca. And if anyone mentions tithing or healing the lost, just repeat the phrase ‘thanks be to the man downstairs’, if that doesn’t work then just enjoy the last seconds of your life as you know it. Good Luck. Let’s party!”
“Mianca means slave, doesn’t it?” You say, not so much as a question (since you already know the answer) but more as an attempt to distract Earlmire from diving into the party. You both really should be focusing on the multiple ships that have hunted you here to Sardotia.
Also, you don’t speak Sardotian.
“Nah, it means something more like ‘pre-brainwashed willing Sardotian understudy stranded planetside’. Real hard to translate. It’s some religious or political thing, and between the two there isn’t really a difference here.” Earlmire swings open the door. A group of about forty-five pressure-suited beings all snap their heads toward both of you at the abrupt entrance. “Thanks be to the man downstairs!” Earlmire yelps.
“And tighten the screws of the noobs from metal birds!” The room screams back.
Earlmire turns to you and winks. “I love visiting planets when they’re in post-apocalypse phase, the parties are just way more fun.”
C: Follow the armoured man and attempt to free the mianca?
Vote in the comments below!
This is a part of the story Earlmire and You: a Study in Star Light, which is a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA). Please vote in the comment section below for what you want to happen next!