Rish turned a hard gaze on Jay as the young lad posed these questions, though only a second passed before his expression softened. It didn't seem like anyone from the group had truly recognized him, so he'd spent all this time on the ride out here on guard for no reason. Besides, Jay probably didn't mean anything by asking. Something about those naturally curious types. Rish resumed walking, falling into step with him.
"Well, if you must know. My city - my people - were facing a grave threat, one that would have perhaps been the death of us all. I had t- er, I was given a critical task in the city's defense. I succeeded. Though... in order to do so, I did some things I am not proud of." The elf looked down at his hands for a long moment as he walked. Would she have hated him? Spat on him, cursed him for it all, if she had lived? A question that circled his mind often, but one he dreaded the answer to. "That's the short of it, I suppose. As for their intentions, bringing me all the way out here: I doubt they care what I do, so long as I stay far away. They were pleased enough with their newfound safety, but having me around as a reminder of what happened would have been... unsavory." He gave a short, dry laugh, having had his fill of this particular subject. Secrets did no one any good, but these things weighed on him too heavily to be shared so freely. Instead, he turned an eye back to his companion.
"And how about you, lad? You don't strike me as much of a frontiersman. What are you hoping to find out here?"
Looks like there's quite a large cast here already, so I'm not sure if I want to join up or not. Regardless, I think it looks like a lot of fun and there are definitely a few characters in my head that would be a good fit on the caravan. I'll keep thinking about it and just watch for now.
As the other members of the nascent crew were going about their morning routines, Wex was still tucked securely into his bunk, snoring in a manner that sounded not unlike a bucket of raw fish being suddenly and violently upended onto ferrocement. The little pilot did not believe in alarm clocks, having always been a light sleeper and confident in his ability to wake up when he needed to. At the moment on the captain's cameras, however, he looked a bit closer to death than consciousness.
In his dreams, he was running. Whether away from or toward something wasn't clear, but he was intimately aware that it was dark, darker than the deepest parts of the oceans of Hane Jhal where neither suns nor aurorae could reach, and that something was watching him.
He wanted to run, to take off at blinding speed like he knew he could, but the air - water? - was thick and he could hardly move. He felt himself slowly surrendering to that merciless gaze...
He turned, abruptly, and saw all the stars in the Galaxy spread out before him.
The crackle of the intercom coming to life woke him just in time to hear Captain's message.
"Rise and shine, crew. Get your asses to the Mission Deck in ten, gotta brief everyone before we touch down."
With a long, low groan, Wex unzipped the thermal wrap covering his body and slid down to the floor. The comparatively chilly air of the ship cut into his flesh like a knife. Quickly, he zipped up his dirty pilot's coveralls, buckled on his gunbelt and then wrapped himself in a long coat lined with synthetic animal fur. From under his bunk he procured a massive thermos, pouring something steaming hot into a beaten metal travel flask. Somewhere along the spacelanes, in some grubby diner module attached to a backwater refueling station, he had tasted the human drink called coffee, and now found himself hopelessly dependent on it for the immensely satisfying feeling that the heat and acidic bitterness brought him. The reported energy boost seemed to not have any effect on him, though. He kicked around next to the thermos until locating a pair of soft, flexible boots that may or may not have originally belonged to him. Lastly, just before stepping into the corridor, he touched the neural band clamped onto the back of his head just to make sure everything was still in place. Satisfied, he put on his trademark wide-brimmed hat, obscuring the band, and hurried towards the bridge.
"Coming, coming," he muttered, ostensibly to some imaginary version of the captain floating in front of him in the empty corridor. He didn't see much point in timeliness. "Not like there's a clock to punch or anything, is there, boss? Sure, sure, I don't trust the autopilot either. No style, no fresh thoughts, and, get this, the shittiest sense of humor in the Galaxy."
As he slid through the door onto Mission Deck, he noticed the majority of the crew already standing there, the air heavy with expectation. Wex elected to ignore this. The engineer was standing close to the entryway, apparently having run all the way here. The pilot scooted carefully under his outstretched arm.
"Fucksake, save some atmosphere for the rest of us, man."
With that, he made his way quickly across the deck (keeping everyone within sight as much as possible) before reaching his chair and leaning against the back, eyes on the captain.
Rish gratefully reached out to accept the cloth bundle, smoothly unrolling and shaking out the wrapping to reveal a simple but well cared-for wooden cudgel and an equally plain single-edged knife, both of which he tucked carefully into his crude rope belt. The cloth from the bundle he folded and stuffed into his pack. With a final nod of thanks to the departing coachman, the elf finally turned to acknowledge the rest of the group, catching a scrap of conversation from the young redheaded lad about investigating the settlement below. He looked hard at the smoke rising from the middle of the place, wondering if it could be the source of the uneasy feeling still laying cold in the pit of his stomach.
Daydreaming about where to set up camp on those cliffs was all well and good, but if something was wrong down there, ignoring it meant asking for trouble - or death. And if that hypothetical something wrong also happened to have friends, Rish knew all too well he couldn't deal with it by himself. He didn't plan on cozying up with this bunch, but for the time being, he needed allies.
"The young fellow speaks sense. I'm going to go see if I can find a decent vantage point and get a closer look at that place, maybe see where the smoke's coming from." Rish walked past the group and towards the settlement with an unhurried pace.
"You can call me Rish, by the way." He said over his shoulder.
As he clambered off the back of the cart, Rish stretched out his aching joints. Even after spending the entire lengthy cart ride without them on, the elf still felt strange without the weight of the heavy iron shackles on his wrists. The Moonwardens had taken those, when they went. There was no need for such things out here. There were no prisons to hold him, in this place where he would live out the rest of his wretched existence. He gazed up towards the rugged splendor of the cliffs. Not a bad place for a holdfast, perhaps, but something had had him feeling slightly uneasy since they arrived nevertheless.
He took a moment to surveil his traveling companions, wondering how they felt about sharing the road with a murderer. The poor devil driving the carriage had probably spent the whole time looking over his shoulder, wondering if Rish would try to kill them all one by one and steal the reins.
Himself? Rish had no more appetite for violence. That young man's fire had burned itself out of him some time ago, now. Be that as it may, he had no intention of simply allowing violence to happen to him, should it come to that. He stretched out both hands towards the coachman, gnarled and frightened old thing that he was.
"My things, if you'd be so kind." His voice sounded strange to him these days, still refined and carefully controlled while his inner thoughts sounded so old and worn, just like the outside of him. "I do not much like the idea of you leaving here with them still under your seat."
Some of the others were actually introducing themselves, standing in a loose group and looking around at each other earnestly. Rish gave a dry chuckle, thinking back on how quiet the long stretches of their journey out here had been.
"Whoa, whoa! Watch the controls!! You almost sent the ship into 12 g turn. Only I'm allowed to do that."
Name: Wekan-Jha Harek
Nicknames/Titles: Wex, Sparky, Slippery Little Shit
Age: 43, roughly 25 years old in human terms
Ship Role: Helmsman
4328 VB Vesper-C is a name (or rather, a designation) that holds no meaning to your average, working class, clock-punching spacer fresh out of the Belts. Not only because of its location - far out on the edge of charted space - but also for the large, helpful, bright-red 'HAZARDOUS' marking appended to it on the aforementioned space charts, which has the magical affect of causing most bridge navigation officers to avoid the system entirely, and then promptly forget about it thirty seconds after the fact.
Indeed, Vesper-C doesn't even mean anything to the native inhabitants of the planet, who instead refer to it by the same name that they have for thousands of years: Hane Jhal. Home Sea.
Only dedicated academics and explorers thus refer to the planet this as Vesper-C. Not because of a contempt for the clearly sapient, civilized inhabitants of the planet, but because the planet itself repels almost every attempt to explore and categorize it, preventing the proper name for it and its inhabitants to become widespread. Even though "Vesperians" have started to become more common sights in spaceports, battlefields and (unfortunately) slave pens the Galaxy over, their origins are still poorly understood.
Hane Jhal is a rocky, terrestrial world that is notably larger than average, and with an entirely different core composition than worlds such as Earth. As a result, its magnetic field is absurdly strong. Metals such as iron are impossible to use in any practical sense while on the surface, as they will inevitably end up flying away (usually ripping through something important on the way) in the direction of the poles. This, as you can imagine, has especially unfortunate implications when it comes to the arrival of the largely metallic landing craft of visitors. Everything carries an unseen electrical charge - even, and especially, the native lifeforms. Thunderstorms are especially powerful, flashy, and devastating. Most forms of short-range communication are completely useless, as well as unheard of by the Elkhane. And, while cosmic radiation has almost no effect on the majority of the planet, there are hidden bands of extremely concentrated radiation near the most extreme points of the poles and the equator that only the Elkhane know the exact location of. To top it all off, every night almost the entire planetary sky is covered in intense aurorae, almost entirely obscuring the night sky.
Knowing all of this, it's a wonder that the Elkhane ever made it to the greater Galactic stage at all.
Out of such a hostile environment came a resilient, yet isolationist dominant species.
The Elkhane evolved from a species of serpent-like creatures dwelling in the shallow waters of the world's oceans, not unlike the electric eels of Earth. Like almost all other creatures on the planet, they evolved a complex navigational system that allowed them to pinpoint their location on the planet using both the electrical currents in their immediate environment and the magnetic energy across the globe. It is very, very difficult for an Elkhani to get lost on their own turf. However, take one to space for the first time, and the sudden loss of these extra senses is enough to render them completely catatonic for hours, if not days.
Elkhane are bipedal and roughly human-shaped, though that is where the similarities end. They have tough, rubbery blue or green skin and a head that is craggy and eel-like with a strong jaw full of pointed teeth. Their eyes are solid yellow or green, and each one has a pattern on their skin that glows faintly in the dark with mesmerizing bioluminescent patterns. Because of this, stealth is not the ideal role for an Elkhani. In fact, those that find themselves in need of some discretion tend to wear full-body concealing suits out in public, in order to hide their glow.
Elkhane are particularly receptive to the electric current in their surroundings, having evolved with several special organs that allow manipulation of these currents in coordination with their nervous system. Almost every Elkhani has the ability to pull in a small amount of the electricity in their immediate surroundings in order to increase the speed that their brains process and react to information, leading to inhumanly quick reaction times and incredibly well-adjusted snap decisions. If they experience highly stressful or traumatic situations on the regular, some even have the ability to do the reverse, using their own bodies to provide extra power to nearby electronics. There are even mythical accounts of highly skilled individuals harnessing electricity directly to kill or incapacitate their enemies, though this is generally believed to be made up by storytellers for dramatic effect.
Because of the hostile conditions of their planet and the particular path their technological development took, Elkhane society is extremely isolationist, clan-based and static. They live in massive, heavily fortified cities in order to protect themselves from extreme weather phenomena and the rare enemy invasion, and prefer not to explore or wander outside of their own territories. Many Elkhani never actually end up interacting with others from a different state, being incredibly sensitive to differences in dialect, dress, customs and norms.
Again because of planetary conditions and because of this deeply-ingrained stagnancy, the Elkhane never attempted to leave their own planet. They became aware of life outside of their own world when the first abortive attempts at exploration occurred, with debris from rapidly dismantled starships raining down amongst their cities and oceans. When the first successful contact finally occurred, with certain species landing in entirely non-magnetic spacecraft to facilitate diplomacy, celebration occurred on both sides of the interaction. As things go, however, the peaceful delegation was soon followed by one with much less benevolent intentions.
A few years after these first few peaceful interactions, slavers and raiders using ships of a similar design ruthlessly attacked Hane Jhal, abducting massive groups of Elkhani to be sold as servants, highly-trained guards, or pit fighters, among other things. They set up permanent bases in conquered cities on the planet, beginning a long and bitter border war with the surviving and much better defended Elkhani states. This conflict still rages on, with intervention unlikely as the planet goes largely unnoticed by the higher powers meant to uphold justice among the factions of the Galaxy.
Personality: The little pilot has a notable reputation as being a bit dodgy, not really worthy of your trust or reliance. For the most part, this is true, as Wex is a criminal with little in the way of moral hangups when it comes to self preservation. If it comes down to it, he'll steal the boots off your feet and leave you stranded. However, he is also a consummate professional when it comes to his trade, and if his job is to pilot a crew to safely, he takes it very seriously as long as he is able. As well, despite his bad character, he does occasionally have soft spots for certain people, and he does not murder or maim in cold blood.
He covers his calculating true self with a talkative, joking and sarcastic persona, much to the annoyance of everyone within earshot of him at any given time. This, too, has a purpose: it allows him to identify those most likely to space him in any group of people so that he can better keep an eye on them.
Biography: Wex was only a child when he, along with most of those in his community, were taken off-world by slavers. Though only just poised to enter adolescence, the young Elkhani had already gained a certain reputation amongst those in his city. Unlike most of the Elkhane, Wex was something of a free spirit, resenting the unchanging conditions of his people's society and longing for freedom and adventure. His wish had been granted, in some strange and twisted sense. He was separated from his family and roughly introduced to Galactic society as he was forced to begin the life of a slave.
Somehow, though, the young man's spirit was not broken by such an awful experience. No stranger to stealing the land and watercraft of his own people before being taken, he had developed a natural affinity for learning to pilot almost anything. After spending some time familiarizing himself as much as he could with the new technology of his captors, he launched an escape attempt, piloting an unattended spacecraft away from the station he had been held on. However, he only made it so far, having no comprehension of things such as faster-than-light travel, before he was easily recaptured.
The punishment for escape was brutal. Wex spent time both in torture chambers and in the most brutal, backbreaking working conditions on the station. He also never saw any of his species again. However, after a year he managed to devise a second escape attempt, which this time managed to succeed. However, his time as a slave had changed him. Though still using his carefree and jovial nature as a shield, Wex was now someone permanently in "survival mode," ready to do anything, or abandon anyone, in order to continue his existence. Having nothing to his name when he reached his first free spaceport, he managed to sign on as a pilot for a freighter. Though his piloting skills were noted to be exceptional, his reputation as a liar, a thief and a cheat ensured he did not last long. As the years went by, Wex continued to drift from bad crews, to worse crews, embedding himself deeper into the unsavory underbelly of the Galaxy whilst never staying in the same place for very long lest someone recognize his face as a fugitive slave with an outstanding bounty.
Though he never managed to stay in a crew's good graces for long, Wex survived on account of his distrustful nature and his reputation as a fantastic pilot, making him an invaluable asset. After a particularly close call on a botched job, Wex again found himself unemployed when he was contacted by Captain Kura. With precious little in the way of other options and the constant pressure on his back to keep from staying in the same place for too long, Wex immediately signed on as pilot of the Galatea, and helmsman for this strange new crew.
Electrical Manipulation: Like the rest of his species, Wex has the ability to manipulate electric currents in his vicinity. For him, this usually is used to assist in his piloting, though it can have some detrimental effects. Bridge crews have often complained that, during particularly intense situations requiring complex flight maneuvers, their bridge consoles mysteriously short out. The lighting in the bridge has also been known to flicker and dim, and the electronics suddenly make strange noises at odd times when Wex is sitting in the pilot's chair. Wex has developed a particular skill at flying craft even without the use of some critical subsystems because of this. Because of his treatment as a slave, Wex is one of the few that can also occasionally cause the reverse effect. He likes to boast that he can make the engines on a small craft "go to 11."
Raw Piloting Ability: Even among a species noted for their capability as pilots, Wex is among the best, having been behind the controls of some craft or another since he was a child.
Shooting: What he lacks in physical strength, Wex makes up for in his ability to outdraw most opponents, firing off deadly and accurate shots with his sidearm before they can react.
Loudmouth: On account of never receiving a formal education, Wex has an extremely basic vocabulary. On the other hand, though, he has picked up an encyclopedic knowledge of various curses, rude phrases, and obscene gestures in the common languages as well as the obscure, and is able to string them together with devastating effect. His inability to ever shut up pairs rather well with this particular talent.
Prototype Plasma Magnum: This experimental sidearm was one of the things that Wex swiped during his second escape attempt from the slavers that ripped him from his homeworld (who had themselves previously swiped it from a military convoy), and it has been at his side ever since. Eight shots per cylinder, with a hair-trigger - this baby can punch a hole through the thickest of alien noggins, provided they're uncovered. The barrel is as big around as his hand, so it cannot be concealed, but oftentimes this works in his favor as its presence on his hip keeps the dumber brutes on any given crew from trying to take Wex out of the picture for whatever reason.
Magnetic Neural Compensator: Fits around the back of Wex's head, and is usually concealed under a wide-brimmed hat. This device is essential to allowing the Elkhani to function normally, as it prevents the usually disorienting side effects of being deprived of the strong magnetic field of his native environment. Without it, he will be subject to extreme confusion, lack of coordination, and severe headaches, to name a few.
Flash Grenades: Think fast! *BANG*
These aren't particularly useful for many situations, but one or two of them are easy enough to conceal and invaluable for allowing a certain criminal to get out of a tough spot.
Wex is only partially literate in anything other than his native language. Who has time to read, anyway?
While the average height for males of his species is only around 5'5", he's a particularly small and scrawny specimen at around 5'2".
There's a slave brand on the small of his back which is typically concealed by heavy clothing. I mean, is it cold on this ship, or what? Brr.