Sci-fi Short Story 008 - Our Gang
Spool Tower open to the world, fulfilment progress, mega Sci-fi and tutorials
It has been yet another busy week here at Digital Taxidermy. We have had our noses to the grindstone now ensuring that the Kickstarter fulfilment happens smoothly and the last models are underway. We have been progressing with both the elevator and the planetary defence laser. Both are progressing well, the elevator is in the final test stages, as you can imagine it’s a complicated mechanism to create and we want to make sure it doesn’t endanger your models while in use. The laser is currently ready for a test print then we will verify the files and pack it all up and make it ready for collection. When it is ready to be collected we will let everyone know through Kickstarter, our website, facebook page and the Taxidermists Group.
Just so you can see our progress, here is a little preview of what to expect:
The Spool Tower items have now all been made live for general sale, so any of you that are not Kickstarter backers can join the revolution in 3D Printing. The spool tower packages are available as individual sets or as bundle packages, for those that are looking for a bit more then we have the Digital Taxidermy Mega Bundle which will give you all of the models from “our dystopian future” and all the models from “spool tower”, this gives you over 500 files to play with.
Digital Taxidermy has also been training up a couple of younglings to help us with processing files and making images for the website. This should hopefully allow us to up our output and is the start of a period of growth that should bring some interesting new takes on what we do. We are all excited for the future and can’t wait to see what comes out of the mill for you all.
Top tips and tutorials
This week we have a new feature for you all. We thought it would be a shame if we kept all our secrets to ourselves. So in the interests of improving the community and giving you guys a little look into our crazy world, while also showing you HOW we do what we do. We are going to start a series of video tutorials covering various aspects of modelling, rendering and production.
This week we will be starting with a little run through on how we make the sweet sweet renders that have populated our site. This tutorial is based in blender, we use other programs too and we want to cover subjects that you guys would like to hear about. So please do check out the video on our youtube channel. Then let us know what you thought, what you want to see later and maybe if you are all particularly good the tutorial may appear in the near future.
In a very cunning turn of events it also features a sneaky peak at something we have been playing with in our off time (yes we do get about 25 minutes a week to ourselves), this is something that may excite the backers of the Spool Tower Kickstarter. More details coming over the next month but click on the preview image to see what we have come up with now and how we are taking things to “the next level”.
Science Fiction Short Story
Today we have an incredibly special Sci-fi short story for you, “Our Gang” is the first outing for one of our writers. Kyle has written a monster 3500 word story for you all to devour.
The story follows two characters growing up in a city they don’t belong and their meteoric rise in the underworld. So without further ado lets get into this weeks story.
++THIS STORY CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE AND THEMES++
Rinn was an unusually clever girl. Without affluence, a crew, or firepower, you had two choices to avoid being de-cycled street chum: be extra clever or extra brutal. Brick, the only person in the city she was close with, was extra brutal.
The two of them came up in the Orphanarium together. Once you landed in the Orphanarium you couldn’t just cross your fingers and hope the fabled Big Momma would spring you. You had to make something on your own. Rinn learned to be more cunning than the next stale bread heel gnawing orphan and had gained a reputation for swiping materials and getting away with it. A commlink here, a broken blade handle there. Maybe she’d luck out and score a box of FoodChow ingots. It added up to a hoard they planned to take with them when they’d make their big escape.
And escape they did, thanks to Brick.
An Overseer Care bot mistakenly discovered their stash whilst attempting to hide it’s own collection of “Nuts and Washers”, the premium robo-porn snap drives. Brick smashed it to a million pieces before it could sound an alarm. That’s how he got his name. He used what was available to him and his brutality showed him the path for their escape from the Orphanarium for good.
Now it was just the two of them making their way through the city using the in-between spaces of the Undercity. Bottom feeders scavving off the other bottom feeders. It wasn’t a very good living. Though it sure beat getting old enough to be sold and assigned to the highest bidding gang, having their lives signed away to a Mega Corp or worse, sent for de-cycling. The very thought sent shivers down the spine of every orphan. Being deemed unworthy for anything but base materials was a trauma so ingrained in them, they would carry it to their graves.
The big plan was to get out, gather a gang. Start climbing out of the muck and filth. Survive and succeed. Together, they would make their own way. So far, Rinn’s exquisite thievery and Brick’s thoughtless brutality, it was just enough to get by in the city where they both should have, by all reckoning, been eaten alive.
Grifters generally didn’t last long in the dark, back alleys of a city. You couldn’t screw someone about and not expect to see them again. That fact alone kept most shenanigans above board in the shadowy places.
That’s why Hondo wasn’t a grifter.
He saw himself as more of a broker or middle man. And he has done very well for himself, considering the circles of gang violence and scavvie depravity that he peddled his services within.
He wasn’t beyond cheating in a deal. He’d just mastered the way to do it without being caught. His old gang patron always told him the only two rules were 1) don’t get caught, but if you do, 2) don’t bring heat back on the gang. This is what put Hondo on Rinn’s radar. She was two clicks down the line on a barter deal he was involved with and noticed the profit margins on her trade of FoodChow ingots were lighter than they should have been. Rinn was wiser and more observant than the thriving Scavvie that escaped with Brick from the Orphanarium thanks to her time in the Undercity. She was always watching now, always astute to what was happening in her world. If she’d done the math right, she’d caught Hondo skimming off of their share in the deal. She always did the math right.
Hondo made his chits by connecting disparate sources of supply and demand in unique and... in interesting ways. He wasn’t stupid. He rolled with a co-opted security bot. The mech, X-9, was a Nill Corp model. A knock-off of the C.R.D. drones that were so prevalent these days. It had been heavily modified with a flame thrower, truly medieval looking pikes, and at least three terrorgram projectors broadcasting unease into the hearts and minds of all who laid eyes on it, despite it’s cuddly exterior. It went everywhere with him. Rinn noted it’s routines. It kept no less than 2 meters away from Hondo at all times.
She caught up with Hondo near a lower quality Limbs ‘n’ Things franchise. Obviously meant for Scavvies and lower scale Fleshies of society forced between a derelict Corp tower and a repurposed manufacturing core. It now hosted living quarters for the street’s, shall we say, less fortunate.
“Evening Lady,” Hondo said with a sneer “did you have some feedback for me? You know how I love feedback.”
X-9 pushed itself between them flexing its terrorgrams widely with images of her own dismemberment.
“Good, I don’t plan on keeping you long” Rinn was nonplussed. It took more than scary holograms and a maniac with a murder mech to shake her.
“Just so we have an understanding, I’m not in the mood to clean myself or X-9 of entrails today. Why don’t you take your feedback and..”
Suddenly, the wall to the left of Hondo exploded and a barreling Brick smashed shoulder first into X-9 crushing it dome first into the other side of the alley. Sparks and flame flew as the bot shrieked. It’s power relay had been severed and it flailed helplessly as energy drained from its limbs. The terrorgams broadcasting a twisted grin mirroring the smirk on Rinn’s face. The sneer on Hondo’s faded.
“I’m all caught up on our understanding,” Rinn stepped past the inert X-9 as Brick brushed himself off. “We’ll repair your bot, we have a guy. We’re not here for a fight but it’s clear there would be no parley at the point of a pike or those pistols in your sleeves.”
Hondo nodded slowly, keeping his hands visible. Rinn unsnapped the flechette pistol on her hip, Brick held his blunderbuss slack at his side.
“We just want things to be square and fair between us. Our end of the ingot deal was awfully light and Brick and I have been working too hard only to take two steps back thanks to you.”
“No problem, there isn’t any reason for us to lose our heads. Let’s start here, may I?
Hondo motioned to his lapel, Rinn nodded. He reached in and withdrew an activation plug. The kind you used to unlock and start a boobytrapped vehicle.
“My monopod parked at the docks. You can have it, we’ll call it evens. No harm, no foul.”
Rinn was impressed, she’d never seen anyone roll over so quickly and still act like they had the upper hand, there must be a ‘but’ coming. “Ok, you make a convincing argument” she gingerly took the plug from him.
“Excellent! Now let’s..”
Boom. A flash and a thunderous crash briefly deafened her.
Hondo’s head detonated into a red cloud of viscera, the wall of the franchise receiving an impromptu decorative scheme. They were both covered, along with X-9 and the alleyway. Hondo’s body slumped to one side, an alarm sounding quietly at his belt. Rinn, still in shock, cleared gore from her face and turned to look at Brick, blunderbuss still leveled at the decapitated body of Hondo. “What in the bloody hell did you do that for?! We were striking a deal with him!”
“He blinked though.”
“That’s what humans do, we blink!”
“It coulda been a signal to someone.”
“It’s not a fucking signal, we’re in the ass end of nowhere! There’s no one to fucking signal!”
Brick looked unusually sheepish.
“His mob are probably going to follow this alert now. Didn’t think about that.”
“It’s fine,” Rinn took her jacket off “You take care of these two. I’m going to grab his monoped,” she tried to shake the gobs of Hondo off, gave up and tossed it onto the headless body. “I’ve got an idea.”
“We don’t even have a cart” Brick gestured helplessly at the wreck and carnage around them.
“Be on the lookout for any rapscallions and their secret blinks.”
Tibus fails at security
“New Super Ultra Kitty Poot! Take your kitty litter TO THE MAAAAAX!” The voiceover bellowed obnoxiously as the astonishing sickly sweet commercial jingle started to wind up again while toons of cats danced around farting and giggling. Tibus hated commercials. He hated the Super Ultra Kitty Poot one the most but he wasn’t going to walk away and miss a moment of the Pugilist Wheelchair Races. He’d been waiting on this for weeks and had chits riding on Lucious Blüt to take it all in the finals.
Of course, he could walk away if he wanted. No one would try changing the channel or take his seat. Tibus was the baddest mother of Hondo’s warehouse crew and everyone knew it. He trained constantly. The wreckage of spar bots in the alley behind the warehouse and his scarred and calloused knuckles told the story of exactly how bad ass he was. Besides, this group of screw ups and scavvies needed a leader, they certainly weren’t going to wise up and get in line themselves. It was obvious to Tibus that the fastest way to respect around here was chits and violence. They all worked for Hondo’s pay but he had violence in spades and that meant he was in charge when Hondo and his bot bodyguard weren’t around and everyone else knew it.
“ARE YOU READY TO LOSE YOUR FREAKING MIND?! GOOD! WE’RE BACK WITH ROUND TWO!” The Pugilist Wheelchair Races were back on. Tibus leaned forward in his chair, gripping the arms so tightly they caved in under his bulk and force. He loved the credits he was going to win almost as much as he loved the ridiculous violence as the pugilists beat the ever loving snot out of each other. He couldn’t wait till they got to turn four, that’s where the flamethrowers really escalated things!
A booming knock pounded on the entry way door three times.
“What the crap is that?!”
“It’s a girl.” One of the Scavvie guards returned. Tibus dug through his memory to conjure the guard’s name and came up triumphant with Maxim. He’d spent so little time talking to any of them that remembering their names was the hardest part of the day.
“Well Maxim, how in the hell did she just walk up to the front door?! What was your job today?! Guard. What are you doing watching a girl walk right up to the front door! You total back berth!” His name was actually Davey.
“She parked Hondo’s monoped right out front, I figured he sent her.” Davey replied glibly.
“You don’t figure anything! You do your job and I’ll tell you and the other twenty morons what to think!” Tibus wasn’t in a mood to deal with thinkers, especially while missing the races.
The door boomed again, three more times.
“None of you crap chuggers move a muscle! I’m going to deal with this because we all know you’ll screw it up.” Tibus stormed down the steps from the office into the main warehouse “Maxim! Get your sorry ass in here and pay attention to the races, I want a full report on anything I miss! I’m going to destroy this one myself!”
Davey shrugged and started shambling down the ladder to the gantry from his watch post. Television was way better than staring at an empty street and a parked monoped. He might just steal one of Tibus’ beers.
The booming knocks came a third time echoing through the hall. Tibus was furious. He was going to dismantle this scrub for ruining his races. Stomping across the floor to the door he rolled up his sleeves, this was going to be fun.
“FUCK YOU!!” He kicked the door open and came flying out swinging. All of the crew inside the warehouse pressed against the upper deck windows to watch. Everyone except Davey, who settled in with the races and opened Tibus’ can of Brewcaine.
“I think Markum the Marauder has a shot at taking this thing!” Davey was kicking himself for not putting credits down. He took a hefty swill of the brew.
“Hey! Wait a minute!” She back peddled away from the wild swings putting a little distance between the two of them.
“NO! FUCK YOU TWICE” Tibus charged at her again throwing more missed combos.
“Ok then..” the girl stepped aside of an almost pointless roundhouse and came back with something in, no - on her left hand. She heaved it in an overhand smash and caught Tibus square between the eyes with a hand wrapped in a ball of steel and wires. The flash from impact was so bright that everyone else saw it but Tibus, who dropped into a heap like a folding chair in front of the girl. Blood trickling between his unconscious wide open eyes. He looked surprised, in all reality he probably was.
All throughout the windows and gun slits, the top floor of Hondo’s warehouse suddenly bristled. She noted improvised projectile weapons and more than a few actually impressive firearms as the onlooking crew went from being spectators to the armed guards they were employed to be.
“Wait, wait, wait!” She held her arms out to show she wasn’t about to be stupid. The metal encasing her hand glinted in the light of the smog filtered daylight.
“Who pays you? Where do your chits come from?” She shouted up to them.
“Hondo, duh!” Came a shout back.
“Ok, do you want better pay?” She counted on Hondo being a cheap ass
“Well yeah, who doesn’t?!” She was right.
“What if you earned your fair share on everything? Every deal, every job, every scheme?” She gambled appealing to their accounts was her way in.
“I mean... “There was some muffled arguing behind the windows, a slap, and then the voice returned “..we like better pay!”, “AND better jobs!” Came another voice.
“Shut up, Tryst! I’m doing the talking!”
“We all agreed, Balford, Tibus would do the talking, he was pretty clear about that.” Tryst and Balford lost the plot as they realized they were tip top of a new hierarchy in lieu of Tibus’ unconsciousness. Neither of them were prepare for leadership, or negotiating.
“Yeah well Tibus has shit himself in the street, hasn’t he?” Balford shouted the obvious.
“That is a good point, it does look like he’s done a deuce out there. That doesn’t make you in charge, Balford.” Tryst retorted.
“Ok, who wants to deal with the X-9 when Hondo comes back?” Rinn could see twenty-some-odd heads in the window turn to Balford and fervently shake their heads in unison.
“Then it’s settled, I’m doin’ the talking!”
“Wait..” Tryst’s confusion was audible.
“Shut up, Tryst!” Another slap. It seemed the debate was over.
Balford returned to the window “Listen, all day every day guard duty is for bog floaters.” Sounds like Balford is reasonable, she thought.
“Oh you better believe I’ve got better jobs and pay for you all. What do you say? Work with me and you won’t be Scavvie guards watching an empty warehouse like gargoyles anymore.” This was going better than she imagined.
“You’re not an arsehole are you? Hondo is an arsehole! Tibus is an arsehole!” Tryst leaned out the window yelling ridiculously and was immediately slapped in the back of the head and pulled back in.
“It’s true, we do work for arseholes. We’re tired of working for arseholes.” Balford admitted.
“Tibus? Is that his name?” Grinning, Rinn gestured to the heap of arse on the ground. “He’s sleeping on the job, looks like. Hondo, now he WAS an arsehole... but he’s gotten out of the business - gave it to my friend, Brick and I.” She’d make the deal and sort the details later, these guys weren’t particularly loyal to anyone but their chit accounts. More muffled arguing upstairs, another slap for Tryst, he wasn’t the quickest of the lot.
“Alright, just like, don’t be an arsehole!” Belford called out.
“Yeah!” Tryst chimed in.
“Don’t be an arsehole, got it. Sounds like we got a deal! Can I come in?” Rinn looked up and down the empty street.
“No!” another slap, “well, ok then.”
Several hours later, Brick pulled up and started helping the newly repaired and reassigned X-9 unlock from the lifter Finley had loaned them. He turned around to head to the door and noticed Hondo’s warehouse had multiple weapons pointed at him and there was some shouting and slaps from inside. Slowly, he lifted his hands. The door swung open wide revealing Rinn framed in the doorway.
“That’s Brick, guys. He’s fine, he’s with us.” The rifle muzzles, several notched arrows and at least one pointy rock withdrew.
“Nice welcoming committee” Brick hefted a warbag over his shoulder and motioned for X-9 to follow him in. The place was huge, with lifts, loading bays, a mechanic bay and even lofts and an office upstairs. A tough guy sat dazed in the corner nursing two black eyes and one hell of a goose egg between them.
“Not bad, Rinn.” Brick snorted and dropped his gear on the deck, “this is some idea you had.”
“Right? Welcome to our new BaseOp!” Rinn swung her hand in a wide welcoming gesture, “Guys, this is Brick! No one do any stupid blinking around him, Ok?” Brick recoiled at the chastening. Rinn winked at him.
“Now help me get this clamp off. Hondo’s monoped wasn’t as keen to be stolen as I was to steal it.” Things were going to be different, they had just climbed the status ladder of the Undercity one click.. That meant more opportunities, more violence, and more targets on them. Now they had a gang, the possibilities were endless.
Just then, Davey staggered out of the office loudly proclaiming “The Marauder won! Spear through Lucious’ gearbox! HA!” threw up and fell over the railing.
Epilogue - New wheels, new Davey
Davey woke up in a factory, some kind of fab place. Lots of gear. Probably expensive, Davey noted this for potential thievery later.
“Take it easy there, Chief. You’ve got a bunch of fresh stitches we don’t want to pull” a face swam into view. With so many lenses, wire leads, and tubes it looked more bot than human.
“Oi Davey, how you feeling?” That girl who kicked Tibus’ ass stepped from behind the mech head. “This is Finley, he’s a friend of ours. Top lad, does excellent work.”
Work? Why did he need work? Davey tried to look around and soon realized he was strapped, sitting up, into something.
“Wha? What’s going on?” Davey was pretty sure he was still drunk.
“You took a pretty bad fall at the warehouse,” the big guy who came into the warehouse with Hondo’s X-9 spoke up “we brought you to Finley for a repair job.”
“..after a pit stop at a Cash 4 Organs! That’s how you paid for your new ride.” Chuckled the mech man.
Realization hit Davey like the biggest baddest bat from the bat factory. With his head strapped upright to a chair, he peered down to see that he was locked into the familiar bucket seat of a Wheelchair Racer chassis.
“...fffffffffffuuuuuuck..” Rinn, the big guy and the mech head all exchanged a nervous glance. “...YESSSSS!!” Davey shouted deliriously.
“You in shock, Davey?” Rinn put her hand on his shoulder.
“It’s not just Davey. It’s Davey the Maxim! And I’m going to tear up Lucious Blüt and The Marauder and everyone else in the circuit!”
Twelve hours ago, Davey was a nobody Scavvie on guard duty. Until all the excitement happened, the highlight of his day was watching a Strep Lizard pee on a weed growing from the cracked foundation in the warehouse across the street. Now, he was Davey the Maxim and he was gonna kick some ass!
By Kyle Hand
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So what did you think? Please do let us know in the comments or jump over to the Digital Taxidermists to chat with us and our interesting band about what possibilities you see ahead.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
(C) 2020 Kyle Hand, Digital Taxidermy – Storytime Collective
All rights reserved.
This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
That’s it for another week so its back to the last Kickstarter models and we will see you again soon for some more great content and updates.