In a quiet corner of the planet Alerean-6, one would find a curious little mining town known as Fuldarnus. Nothing special, or even futuristic for that matter, just an ordinary, somewhat boring place that sported a beautifully melancholic fusion of colourful but highly questionable bipeds, quadrupeds, and any-other-peds from most of the planets in this corner of the galaxy. The town had a distinctive flavour, grown from a diverse mixture of outstandingly uninteresting alien specimens all trying to get through yet another crappy day on yet another crappy planet. With a regular supply of work in the mining industry just outside of town and the nearby Alern asteroid belt, there was a living to be scraped, so here they were.
If you were to visit such a place, a few hours of general wandering may find you in one of the many large alleyways stashed between the plain square brick-and-mortar buildings making up the town, filled with a curious array of market stands. Assuming you happened to find yourself here at this very moment, standing in the evening downpour and watching the rain warp the holographic stand frontage into a mind-melting array of colours, you may be lucky enough to spot a hooded humanoid figure arguing with a less-humanoid counterpart. As you observe the rather entertaining exchange of words that are best not described here, the voice emanating from the hooded figure may suggest that this is, in fact, a young human woman. But a glint of bright colour from her eyes as she affords you a fleeting glance might make you doubt this assertion. In fact, we can see the curiosity getting the better of you. We see the suspicion that there is more to this person than meets the eye. And indeed, you can be forgiven, for this unassuming individual has an incredibly fascinating story to tell. So let us begin her journey.
The humanoid concludes her altercation with the stall owner with an obscenely animated gesture before spinning around and winding down the row of market stands and out of the alley. Entering the main stretch, the figure darts down the street before entering a busy corner café and promptly slumping onto a stool by the bar.
Next to her was a very solid human by the name of Elissa Hart, a rather large and hardened character with short, wiry grey hair, not unlike the sort you might find working in the local butchery. She sported a rough ensemble of leather pants, a loose shirt, ragged jacket, and a hat that could have once belonged to an archaeologist but now wanted nothing else but to be left alone to self-destruct in peace after years of being kept alive against its will. Elissa fancied herself a cunning trader of rare and exotic items, and just so happened to be minding her own business by the bar when she was interrupted by the newcomer.
“He says the Curivil traders won’t give it back.”
Elissa looks down at the small yellow puddle at the bottom of her glass and chuckles.
“Forget about it, Casey. You really shouldn’t have expected much out of that scum. He played you for an idiot. You should’ve seen it coming.”
“That was our best shot. What was I supposed to do?”
Elissa turns the glass in her hands.
“Risk is part of the game. But you have to judge the players more carefully. Never you mind about this one, we can always try again.”
“Damn it. Why should we keep letting them get away with it?”
“Trust me, my girl, you don’t want to risk getting entangled with the wrong people. And that little twerp is clearly classified as wrong people.”
She lays a hand on Casey’s wet shoulder.
“Good idea to use a bit more common-sense next time.”
Casey removes her hood and glares at her.
Any normal person from 21st century earth looking Casey in the face would have had a hard time comprehending what it was they were looking at. Of course, Elissa, and everyone else in the same century, for that matter, knew exactly what it was they were looking at, and it just so happened that this was pretty normal for what it was at that.
Surely by now you must have figured this story takes place in the future. It is a time when, against all logic, a seemingly vacuous bunch of Terran bipeds inhabiting some poor little blue world orbiting a G2V star somewhere had miraculously survived a carbon party so wild that it came dangerously close to sending their rock into planetary liver failure. But it was the perfection of superluminal drive technology that gave these humans the excuse they finally needed to get out and seek a better life in the greener, starry pastures of the Milky Way galaxy. Curiously enough, it turned out that this superluminal tech was a massive improvement to the other highly questionable forms of interstellar travel in use by other civilizations at the time, fast becoming the de facto form of light-year space travel for those that preferred to reach their destination before their great grandchildren did. But no sooner had humanity finally settled on their first extra-solar planet than did a bunch of passing alien pricks, lovingly known as the Traxens, consider this a prime opportunity to do some Terran bashing. Taking the tried and tested approach of the classic species smash and planet grab, this misguided view was quickly corrected when the Traxens unwittingly discovered the human’s knack for exceptional military tactic.
It was after this essential course-correction to the Traxen philosophy and settling on a nearby system that the humans met what would become their closest extra-terrestrial allies: the Fel. Humans and Fel got on like a planet on fire, since… well… they both almost set their planets on fire. The Fel were the classic humanoid: two arms, two legs, hands, feet, one head, you know the deal. They were notably more heavily built than humans, towering over the typical Terran with their muscular blue-grey skin. Their heads were noticeably flat on the top with not a single hair, but otherwise the usual one mouth, one chin, two ears sort of thing. But their eyes were where things went slightly off the rails. Although only a touch larger than one might expect, their irises were enormous and insanely colourful. And, as if their social lives weren’t interesting enough as it was, the assortment of colours in their eyes changed drastically depending on their mood, which sucked for them when humans taught them fun pastimes such as gambling and poker.
Looking back at Casey, one might not help but notice that she was your typical, garden variety 17-year-old human girl. A fairly attractive one at that, slim with short dark hair, and all the usual human accessories in the right amounts. But one might also notice the optional extra that this teenage model shipped with: the large, colourful, mood changing irises of the Fel. Not completely human then.
No one really knew how her kind came to exist, apart from the fact that about 17 or 18 years earlier several human couples mysteriously gave birth to them. While the exact reasons this happened was still very much a mystery amongst the general population, many believed that they were genetically created, since humans and Fel were not, in even the remotest of ways, sexually compatible, and every one of their parents was completely human.
The felsians, as they became known, were quite an attractive lot, a hybrid of the best human and Fel traits. Since any genetic splicing or unnatural hybridization of sentient alien species was strictly prohibited, and most just felt uneasy when they were around the place, felsians were considered outcasts and not well regarded by many humans. Felsians were always cautious in the wild and did their utmost to avoid any unnecessary attention by way of special glasses or contact lenses.
Fortunately for Casey and the other felsians living there, Fuldarnus was a town that, quite frankly, didn’t care about all this nonsense as time is better spent making a buck or two. Casey was a particularly resolute humanoid that fought her way through life like most other felsians, something that kept her going strong even after losing her parents when she could barely walk. Elissa used to do business with Casey’s father back in the day, and although she never had kids of her own, she developed a small attachment to his daughter. Elissa was a garden variety human that had about as much experience with raising a felsian child as a construction crane had with raising a giraffe. Nevertheless, she seized the challenge after the death of Casey’s parents, treating her more like a grown adult, something that should be able to deal with its own problems, with the notion that it is a hard world for a felsian and Casey needs to be hardened appropriately to deal with it.
Those big, unimpressed eyes of Casey do little to hide her annoyance. She retreats, throws back her head and stares at the ceiling.
Elissa downs the last of her drink and launches off the stool.
“Cheer up. Could be worse. They could be wearing those pretty little eyes of yours for earrings. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Casey swings off her stool and follows Elissa out of the café and into the street. The rain had subsided by now, with a few small muddy rivers in the street dealing with some unfinished business before retreating into the gutters for the night.
The morning followed like most mornings do, and in Elissa’s world, this meant another opportunity to trade some wares and sort some stores. Elissa had many storerooms scattered about in hidden places around the town with a plethora of goods that many a law enforcement official would be eternally grateful to have a closer look at. Casey’s typical daily routine involved moving items between stores or, occasionally, dealers. It was a spectacularly boring life, but then again, Fuldarnus was where spectacularly boring was invented, and it absolutely excelled in it. Everyone and everything that lived there did so to make ends meet, period. They kept their dreams safely stashed away in a small, dusty, rarely used box in the corner of the cupboard. Not having much in the way of a personal life while constantly dealing with the more nefarious types on a daily basis tended to eat away at Casey’s sociability. All her childhood friends were gone, most having moved away to other towns in search of a more fulfilling life. Casey had no one except for Elissa. But unlike most other specimens found in this universe, she was driven by purpose. It might not have always seemed it, but she always put purpose above hope, and this was something that kept her strong over the years. It’s not that she resigned herself to the less-than-exciting dead-end life of the artefact profession, but rather that she knew exactly what had to be done and did it. File Hope away in the folder labelled Nice and do what needs to be done, regardless.
Despite Casey’s impressive determination for execution, she could feel the void inside her soul, that stubborn emptiness that refused to be filled. Sometimes it would creep up and make her day miserable, plaguing her seemingly at random. Some days would be good, some better, some not so much. The result was a constant barrage of unpredictable mood swings that seemed specifically designed to make her life more interesting than it really needed to be. But the thing that would really get her grinder going were the less considerate specimens of the planet. Casey was the type that fervently disapproved of bullies of any shape and size, a typical fed up felsian response given they were not the most well treated species in this particular day and age. Seeing another at the perils of the budding wannabe tyrant would send Casey charging in with little consideration of the potential facial aftermath that inevitably ensues. Although this did little to impress Elissa, it usually resulted in a stern word of warning rather than a full-blown lecture on how disappointed she was that Casey wasn’t a good little girl. Elissa may have been tough on her, but she gave Casey more respect than most parents would.
Although most of Casey’s life was otherwise consumed by daily errands and routines, like any other intellectually evolved biped, she needed the occasional escape. She would always find some spare time to spend at one of her many special places. Her favourite was on an old, abandoned military laser comms relay tower near the end of town. It was taller than anything else in Fuldarnus, offering a spectacular view of the surrounding farms, fields, mines, and, on clear days, the distant mountain ranges. She would often climb up the old rusty access ladders to a service platform near the top to watch the sun set. With such an incredible view, her imagination would flex its wings and fly to faraway places. On some days during the autumn months, when thick banks of low-lying fog would roll in, she would feel like she was flying high above the clouds. It was something she dreamed about regularly - flying up into the air, soaring over the mountains, escaping it all. The tantalizing taste of breaking free from the system. She wondered what it might be like, but being the realist that she was, she knew full well it was something that would remain forever locked inside her imagination.
The sun, known in these parts as Alern Alpha, tries with unenthusiastic resolve to haul itself up from the horizon as yet another boring day yawns itself into existence. Casey had woken up with her mood barometer somewhere between RAIN and STORMY and was spending the morning diligently helping Elissa organise boxes of fascinatingly uninteresting bits in one of the small storerooms in the basement of their home. Elissa always endeavoured to keep such spaces within their home free of anything considered legally dubious should an officer of the law decide to pop in for a quick and friendly nosing around.
Casey stares the collection of strange items scattered around her, then reaches over and pulls a dusty cover off a large metal ornament.
“What exactly are we looking for again?”
Elissa was in the middle of a pile of open crates on the one side of the room.
“That sporgen thing I picked up some time ago. There’s a Goran trader with a piece of tech that I need for an upcoming deal, but he wants one of those in exchange.”
“What exactly is a sporgen?”
Elissa opens another crate and squints into it.
“No idea. Thought it was some kind of ceremonial thing, but it sounds like it is a piece of forgotten tech. The Goran black market is full of that sort of thing.”
Casey sighs, pulls out another dusty box from under a cabinet and yanks out an oddly shaped round object.
Elissa looks up.
“Nah, it’s like a tall cylinder with round thingies off the sides.”
“Tall cylinder with round thingies off the sides. But of course it is.”
Elissa kicks over another box, sending an army of small round objects scurrying across the floor in all directions.
“Ha! There’s the little sod!”
She lifts the object in her hands triumphantly. Casey looks at it in bewilderment.
“That’s it?! Thought it was supposed to be some fancy tech thingy.”
Elissa dusts off the artefact and heads to the staircase.
“Well, it is of no matter to me as long as I can trade it. I’m going to get this cleaned up. Pack some clothes in the meantime. We need to get to that trader before he changes his mind.”
Casey sags, rolls her eyes, and moans quietly to herself.
“What is she on now? Seriously, it’s always, ‘Drop everything and shoot off to some trader’ or something.”
She resigns herself to the reality of Elissa’s spontaneous world and skulks back up the staircase.