Old acquaintances

"AIMEE, is SCURS back online yet?"

"Negative. The Self Contained Universal Radio System is non-functional at the moment. Repairs are under way. Replacement components may be required."

I let out a long sigh. "Let me know when it’s operational… IF it can be operational."

Sometimes I wonder if acquiring this cruiser was a blessing or a curse. On one hand, winning the Arx in a game of Brukat enabled me to get started in this Minecrafting gig. But on the other hand, I spend almost as much time repairing systems as I do using them. After all, it is an Osmillian cruiser… what do i expect? I am lucky to have it though.

As I think of that day months ago, I can't help but shake my head and laugh. I was lucky just to walk away with it…

 


 

"Cheater!" 

As that word echoed throughout the room, a huge fist came down on the table breaking it in half and spilling the Brukat cards and tiles to the floor.

"You cheated!" bellowed the large alien creature, his nostril flaring and his eyes glaring at me.

"I did not," I said defensively, standing to my feet.

"You're a liar, too!" he growled. He reached down and picked up half of the table and raised it above his head with ease.

"Gnari, I wouldn't do that if I were you," a calm voice said from the other side of the broken table.

Gnari quickly turned his head to the voice, the third player in our game. "And why not?" Gnari asked, his glare fixated on the man still sitting in his chair.

As the man smiled, the sound of three nadion blaster rifles powering up filled the silence. Gnari looked to his left, then his right, then over his shoulder behind him. He saw three robed figures standing around him, each with a rifle aimed right at him.

"That's why," said the man calmly, still sitting in his chair.

Gnari lowered the broken half-table to the ground. "I thought no weapons were allowed on board, Q!"

"My outpost, my rules." Q finally stood up.

Gnari growled deeply in frustration, a trademark of the Brukatau species. "This isn't over." He turned to walk away.

"Did you forget something?" asked Q. Gnari stopped, looked at Q, then glared at me. "Ice won that game fair and square. Hand over the key card to the ship. It belongs to him now." Q pointed at me. Gnari pulled out a key card and flicked it towards my feet then turned and stomped away. "And you owe me for the table!" shouted Q. Gnari growled again.

I reached down and picked up the key card. "If I were you," Q began, "I'd change those key codes as soon as possible. The Brukatau are not to be trusted." I agreed with him. Q gave a single nod to the three armed men; they lowered their rifles and retreated into the shadows. As Q and I walked off together, the normal activities of the gaming room resumed behind us.

"Good game by the way," Q said, breaking the silence as we walked. "I was surprised you got the big guy to wager his ship." I smiled. "I was quite impressed," he added.

"Thank you, Q." I paused a moment. "I was surprised you threw that last hand."

Q gave a sly smile. "What makes you think I threw that hand?"

"C'mon Q, we played Brukat enough times… I know when you're bluffing."

He laughed. "Well, I knew you had him beat. And I have no use for a space cruiser, especially an Osmillian space cruiser," he said mockingly. "You needed it more than I did." We stopped in front of Q's office door. "Besides, I know better than to piss off a Bruke," he added amusingly.

"Hey, I'm not the one that aimed rifles at him."

Q brushed the notion aside. "Brukes don't get angry when you point a gun at them; that doesn't phase them at all. It's when you take something of theirs, that's when you get on their bad side."

"It's not like I stole it," I said. "I won it fairly."

"You know that. And I know that. But he will never think that." I nodded in agreement. "You've only been out here a short time; you still have a lot to learn." I nodded again.

"You think he'll go somewhere else to trade?" I asked.

"Gnari?" Q said curiously. "Doubtful. He knows the Qimmel Outpost is the trading mecca in all of the Aquitaini and Agria Systems, and it would be highly unpropitious of him to take his business elsewhere." Q spread his arms wide in proud showmanship. I raised an eyebrow, questioning his choice of words. "Okay, okay… he may not think it in those exact words, but he knows I'm the best and cheapest trade on this side of the galaxy." He lowered his arms. "And you know how cheap the Brukatau are?"

(The more time I spend on this ship, the more I see it.)

"You're the one that should be concerned," he went on, "you beat a Brukatau at his own game. That's a fast way to get on his bad side." Q turned towards his office then stopped. "Oh yeah, speaking of bad side," he added, turning back to me, "I heard Merc was looking for you. And I heard he wasn't too happy."

"Captain Merconis?" I asked. Q nodded. "Doesn't that guy ever let up."

"What happened?"

"It's a complete misunderstanding."

"I don't know… I heard he understands it quite well," he said with a crooked smile.

"You hear a lot of things, don't you?"

Without missing a beat, Q said with his arms spread wide, “This is the mecca of trading posts in all of the Aquitaini and Agria Systems. I see all… I hear all… I know all…" He began to laugh haughtily.

I ignored his supercilious demonstration and asked, “Do you think he knows where I am?"

"As long as you stay in the Aquitaini System, you should be alright. The J4 Council won't let him in; that's under GAME's jurisdiction… no military space craft allowed."

"But Qimmel Outpost is in the Agria System," I offered.

"Which is why you should shorten your visit and get back home if you want to avoid Merc," Q continued. "Is there any place in the galaxy someone isn't looking for you?"

"Well, so far, right here," I said with a wide, half-hearted grin.

Q placed his hands on my shoulders, glanced behind me, then looked at me and said, “Good luck with that." He laughed, turned on his heels quickly, then disappeared into his office.

As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of a fist flying at my face. I turned my head, but the punch managed to land into the side of my jaw. I stumbled back but kept myself upright.

"Why haven't you called me?" a female voice said in a hollow tone. Then again, maybe she said it in a regular tone and it sounded hollow because my ear was ringing from the impact of her fist with my face. "I said, why… haven't… you… called… me?" This time it did not sound hollow. It was clear and quite audible. 

I looked at this vicious beast that attacked me—no, sucker punched me. She was tall and slender with a fit physique. Tribal-like tattoos covered the left side of her neck and crossed over and down the inside of her right forearm. 

“Talia…” her name escaped my lips without a thought.

“Well, I’m glad that you remembered my name.” Both her fists were balled up tightly. She was ready and waiting to swing again. 

“Of course, of course, I remember you, Talia,” I pleaded, trying to calm her down. “There’s no way I would forget you.”

“Then why haven’t you called? It’s been two months since…” her words trailed off. 

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve been busy. You know, doing this whole Minecraft gig.” I ushered her down the hallway to someplace more private. “Believe me, I was going to call.” I offered up a debonaire smile. Her demeanor began to soften.

Talia is a Tenbaurian, and Tenbaurian women are very possessive. We met a few months earlier and hit it off right away. There was definitely some chemistry there. We had one very interesting night and she has not let me go since. 

As we walked, she kept a firm grip on my arm. “You know you can’t just disappear on me like that,” she started. “Didn’t that night mean anything to you?”

“Of course it did, Talia.” I led her aside into an empty room. “It was pretty incredible. I think about it often.” I couldn’t contain the smile that was growing on my face as I remembered that night.

“You know my people… you know there are certain things that are absolutely FORBIDDEN!” Her body was tense and rigid. She lowered her voice before continuing, “There are certain acts that are… unmentionable and unthinkable to do—EVER!—with a human.” Her eyes gleamed with excitement as she said this. She was remembering that night too.

“Admit it, you know you enjoyed it.” I toyed.

“That’s not the point. If my elders ever found out, I would be… be banned from my world. Or worse… maybe even executed.”

The Tenbaurian people are very dedicated and very serious about their heritage and culture. Punishment is dealt out at the highest degree.

“I know, I know. They won’t find out. It’ll be our little secret.” She began to soften again. “But admit it,  you did enjoy it, didn’t you?” 

The huge smile that emerged on her face was confirmation enough. “Absolutely,” she said in an almost breathy whisper. “It was so… so hot…”

“…and steamy…”

“…and so, so sticky.” Her body writhed, and she giggled at her last statement.

(Okay, okay… for all you dirty-minded people out there, it’s not what you think. Just keep reading…)

“It was!” I agreed. The smile on my face was undeniable at this point. “I’m glad I was the first person you experienced that with,” I added.

“I can’t believe you talked me into it! It was so good. So very good!” She glanced around to make sure no one was in earshot. “What did you say it was called again?”

“Pizza.”

“Pizza,” repeated Talia. “Pizza is delicious.” She licked her lips very slowly.

Tenbaurian people are forbidden from consuming ANY human food whatsoever. If they happened to be stranded on Earth with no means of escape or rations of their own, they would rather die. Their culture is hardcore against human food and would be disgraced if one of their own partook of it. Perhaps their newer generations weren't as dedicated to this belief which is why Talia gave in. Regardless, it is a secret that will have to remain just between the two of us.

“Well, if you ever want to…”

“Don’t worry,” she jumped in, “I’ll let you know.” I nod. “That reminds me, Ice,” she said, her tone turning serious, “Merc is looking for you.” 

“You didn’t tell him what I’m up to, did you?” I stammered. “You didn’t tell him I was part of GAME…”

“Calm down… of course I didn’t tell him.” She paused a moment. “I guess we both have secrets we need to keep for each other.” 

“Thanks, Talia. Is he close by?”

“He’s in the next sector, but he’s heading this way. I got the lead, so I made it here first.” 

Talia would know this because she more or less is employed by Captain Merconis. This is also the reason why she can’t look me up in the Aquitaini System. The J4 Council doesn’t allow military craft in an exploration-only system, and Talia operates a military class ship. The J4 Council works closely with GAME to ensure the rules and statutes are followed to better fulfill the exploration directives set out by GAME. In other words, GAME makes the rules, J4 enforces the rules, and we follow the rules. 

“You’re not going to tell him I was here?” I asked.

“No, Ice,” Talia said with a smirk. “I’m not.”

“You’re an angel, Talia!” I raised up and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

“That’s NOT the image I want to portray,” she replied, her hands cocked on her hips.

“You know what I mean.” I started down the hallway.

“Call me!”

“I will.”

“Don’t forget about me!”

“I won’t.”

 


 

I slowly rub my chin remembering Talia’s right cross. It’s been four months since I last talked to her… damn, that next meeting is going to hurt like hell.

 

Worlds as I know them

Just as every system has a prime sector, every sector has a prime world. In my sector, this world is called Halcyon Prime. It closely resembles any other world in the sector except that it's almost 100% friendly. When I say "almost", I mean it's rare to come across any hostile beings. Because of our limited access to natural surroundings on our ships and the tedious mining and exploring we do on these worlds while sometimes facing hostile beings, GAME likes us to have a place to really call our own. A place where we can get away from everything and just relax and be at ease. A place where we can take in the natural environment without the threat of hostiles or the tediousness of work. We must still adhere to all rules and statutes concerning the PMoC Act, but it will be in a peaceful environment. I actually haven't spent much time on Halcyon Prime other than creating a central base of operations. But, at least I know it's here when I'm ready for a change of pace.

Every world that has been explored has exhibited signs of life. It's remarkable to find animals like horses, cows, pigs, and sheep. They have provided resources and sustenance in many ways. At times, I feel more like a farmer than an explorer. I suppose out here, in the deep recesses of space, they tend to go hand in hand. Many explorers call these animals and other beings "mobs", which they say is short for mobile. GAME defines a "mob" as a mercurial organism of behavioral sorts. They also separate these mobs into three categories: passive, neutral, and hostile. A passive mob is friendly all the time, such as horses, cows, sheep, etc. A neutral mob is friendly until provoked, like a wolf. A hostile mob will attack you anytime it sees you. Among these are bow-and-arrow wielding skeletons, giant spiders, and zombies. Most of the hostile mobs come out at night or in very dark places. Many times they seem to appear out of thin air, spawning in dark, unseen nooks of caves and caverns. One positive aspect of having hostile mobs is that upon their death they drop useful items which can be used to craft some much needed tools and even weapons.

Other than being primarily peaceful, Prime worlds have one more distinction, or should I say exception. GAME allows us to take a shuttlecraft down to the surface versus transporting. We can still transport if we'd like, and our operator will respawn us if in danger. But we are given the option to fly down to the surface, which doesn't seem like much but it does offer a more genial appeal to a relaxing time on a Prime world. Of course, the PMoC Act is still in full effect. GAME monitors our shuttlecraft closely to ensure no explorer attempts to smuggle anything on or off the world. 
SS Excursion (shuttlecraft)

Near my base of operations on Halcyon Prime, I have constructed a crude, but useful, landing pad. And upon that landing pad, sits my shuttlecraft, the SS Excursion.





Horse stable

Among the different peaceful activities to partake of on Halcyon Prime, one of my favorites is horseback riding. Not only is it a fast way of traveling, it is also liberating and exhilarating. 

All aboard, the Arx!

The Arx Indagatrix is my home. I can't even say that it's my home away from home because I have no other home. When I made the decision to do this Minecraft exploration, I decided to jump in with everything I've got and not look back. Besides, I knew I would be out in deep space for a considerable amount of time and to try and hold down a place back on earth would be futile. So here I am on this floating metal barge I call the Arx Indagatrix. 

When I'm not on world, I'm here. It is the hub of my existence in this sector. It gets me to and from the worlds, and it provides a safe haven when I'm not exploring. While it is a space cruiser of sorts, most of the time it orbits in one area more like a space station. Every LEIC has their own orbiting space cruiser in their sector. We may sometimes board another’s cruiser to hang out or whatever, but we will always operate from our own station when it comes to touching down on a world—whether our own or not. 

I’ve had a lot of down time lately because we’ve been upgrading the operating system on the Arx’s computers, thus keeping me up here and not down there minecrafting. Although I do love being down there, it is nice to take a break every once in a while. 

“AIMEE,” I say aloud, “copy all data files to the updated mainframe and archive them. Convert logs to the new operating system. Then, run a complete diagnostics check on the new system.”

“Copy and conversion will take approximately 6 hours to complete,” a female voice replies. “A diagnostic check will take an additional 10 hours to complete. Engine and transporter functions will be offline. Continue?”

“Yes. Thank you, AIMEE.”

“You are welcome, Iceman.”

AIMEE stands for Artificial Intelligence Minecraft Event Executor. In the most basic of descriptions, she is a computer intelligence that runs the Arx and oversees my actions when I’m on world. She’s my operator. Every LEIC in every sector on every ship has an operator. Some have a human as an operator and some have an android and some have a computer. Some people prefer the human operator for the more personal feel, especially when they don’t like the idea of being alone on the ship or they just don’t trust machines that much. And the android operator, I suppose, are for those in between. I find the computer operator to be the most reliable in all situations. Because when it comes right down to it, my life is in their hands.

The operator is responsible for transporting me down to the surface of the worlds and monitoring my status… AT ALL TIMES! Whenever I’m faced with a perilous situation, like near death, it is the operator’s job to get me out of it by transporting me to another spot on the surface, which we call respawning. Transporting from ship-to-surface or surface-to-ship takes time and can’t be performed quickly. But surface-to-surface transports (respawns) can be done quickly and are ideal for these situations. I suppose you could think we are somewhat  invincible because of the ability to respawn, but we certainly don’t think of it that way. Respawns hurt like hell and we lose ALL of our possessions. When we transport at any time, we cannot take anything with us: no tools, no loot, no maps, nothing. It sucks, especially when we acquired a lot in our inventory. That’s why we try and avoid getting ourselves in those situations and treat it as if we really could die. And if your operator dozes off or doesn’t respawn you in time, game over.

I’m not entirely sure if the rules and restrictions on transporting and respawning regarding inventory is a software issue or a GAME issue. I do know that GAME prohibits anything from being removed from the worlds, hence the PMoC Act. The short version of this basically states that no equipment from the outside (off-world) may be used on any world in order to best preserve the natural sanctity and existence of the local planetary ecosystems. The Primitive Means of Crafting Act is a high priority for GAME, and they enforce it with absolute resolution. Anyone violating this statute will be banned, fined, and possibly incarcerated. GAME takes this very seriously.

Introduction to the GAME

It's time to catch you up on the lingo and a little on how things are set up around here. I'll try not to lay too much stuff on you in one shot. And I'll try to make things as simple as I can. Where to begin...?

I am a Minecraft Explorer employed by the GAME. 
GAME stands for Galactic Alliance of Minecraft Expeditions. It oversees all--I mean, ALL--the Minecraft related expeditions that go on in the universe. They have a pretty big responsibility seeing that the universe is a pretty big place. I'm going to just concentrate on my system to make it simple. The system I operate in is called the Aquitaini System. Within each system, there are sectors. My sector is called the Vespasia Sector. Within each sector, there are many (possibly infinite) worlds in which to explore. Now, in each sector, there is one--I mean, ONE--Lead Explorer In Charge (LEIC). This LEIC is in charge of every explorable world within their sector. They have the right to name each world as they see fit. No one may "visit" a world without the LEIC being present on that world at the same time. This prevents outsiders from sabotaging or destroying any work the LEIC has already done. Mining and exploring on these worlds takes a lot of time and effort, so any kind of interference or hindrance from an outsider would be highly discouraging. 

Now, each system has a prime sector called the Alpha Sector. It's in this sector where GAME operates, or usually a representative of GAME--they can't be everywhere all the time. Their "headquarters", so to speak, is a large space cruiser called the HMS Ragnarök. This is where GAME officials oversee the expeditions that occur in the system. They seldom interfere in what we, the Minecraft explorers, do in our sectors or on our worlds. We are given a lot of liberties which makes this job so rewarding and satisfying. Every now and then, we are summoned to travel to the HMS Ragnarök, or the Rok as most of us call it, for reports or even medical evaluations. It's quite the journey and requires us to be away from our sector for several days at a time. 

Just as the Rok is the headquarters in the Alpha Sector (and more-or-less, the system), each LEIC has a space station/cruiser in their sector from which they operate from. My headquarters for the Vespasia Sector is called the Arx Indagatrix, or the Arx for short. Whenever I'm not on one of my worlds, I'm on the Arx. The Arx is pretty much my home. I like to think of it as my fortress of exploration (hence, the name). 

Hopefully this provides a little more insight and perspective as to the structure of Minecraft exploration in the Aquitaini System. Next time, I'll talk more about operations on the Arx and maybe Halcyon Prime. 

Welcome...

Adventure, exploration, and discovery... these are the driving forces that propel me to do what I do day in and day out. They have become my foundation. And for now, my life.

My name is Irwin Copernicus Etheridge—yeah, my parents were very ambitious in naming me. They believed the more distinguished-sounding the name the more important a person I would grow up to be. It's still too early to determine if that has come to pass yet. I never really liked the name Irwin, and Copernicus is no nickname, so my peers call me Ice. I like that much more than Irwin.

So, why am I writing this? About a month ago, I jumped into the vast universe that is Minecraft exploration. And I must say, I was immediately hooked! But, that wasn't my first experience with it.

About a year and a half ago, I got my first taste of Minecraft exploring when a friend of mine talked me into going out with her on one of her worlds to experience it all. I had no clue what I was doing. One of the first things I did, was dig a hole. A deep hole. Straight down. She fell in it. Then cursed me out for digging a deep hole straight down which, I know now, is a big no-no. But at the time, I had no clue nor did I have any interest. I mainly walked around confused and bored. The most fun I was able to muster up was writing profanity in the sand. Several months later on a solo expedition of her world, she stumbled across the "f-bomb" in the sand and began to wonder who wrote it. It didn’t take her long to figure out it was me. We still laugh about that to this day.

Eighteen months later and a new look on life has brought me to this point. Now I can’t get enough digging, building, exploring, and discovering. It’s what I love to do. Now, I am certainly no expert. I’m still learning each day with much more yet to discover. But I take it all in stride and enjoy each experience as I can.

So again, why am I writing this? Before I left the HMS Ragnarök to come out to the Aquitaini System, an old miner stopped me and offered five pieces of advice: never dig straight up or straight down; torches aren’t just for lighting, experiment; try to carry 2 buckets of water, you’ll never run out; learn to farm, sustainable resources are nice to have nearby; and keep a journal or a log of some type, when it’s all said and done this could be of value in the future. He went on to say the days seem to run on and on and feel like they merge together. A journal helps keep track of things and the discoveries and experiences that you have. So, here we are. Minecraft: Copernicus is my journal... my blog of sorts.

Welcome to my life... my Minecraft life.


(HMS Ragnarök, Aquitaini System... I’ll explain these next time. We have a lot of catching up to do!)