[NO MAN’S SKY] Solitude, No. 1


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I told her I’d call.

No, I know, I always tell them I’ll call. I just never do. It’s not me; it’s them. Sometimes I need other people. Mostly, I don’t. Can’t tolerate company. When I can stomach a companion, it’s always short-term. A one-night stand is usually too big a commitment.

So as I left Kika’s at daybreak after Loke Mendehlson’s second-retirement party, I gave her a kiss and said, like I always do: “I’ll call.” But this time I meant it.

She just gave me a smirk, shrugged, and replied, “What makes you think I’ll answer?”

That’s not the moment I became a deep believer in destiny and fate. Still, it’s a close second. No, that moment arrived about an hour later after I’d broken Earth orbit in my little Sol-hopper, bound for Luna to report for a month-long contract job setting up network nodes in the new Grissom colony dome.

The jumper was on autopilot as I mused about the warm smell of Kika’s skin, the bristly fuzz on the left side of her scalp where she shaved her hair for a tattoo of a black dragon, the curve of her shoulder. I listened to instant classical orchestral procgen. Pondered the intricate details of the contract text streaming through the ocular interface. The wormhole, maybe the size of a pinprick, totally escaped my attention.

That little speck on sensors opened my eyes to the truth: we all get what we want in the end, whether we know it or not. Sometimes, we even get what we deserve.

The proximity klaxon didn’t even finish its first warning whoop before the somber gray moon vanished, the HUD blurred to static, and the stars changed. Sparks exploded from the control console, scorching my fingertips and blinding me for a few moments. The little jumper spun like a bullet. As my vision cleared, I dared to nudge the yoke to bring the craft straight once more.

“Armstrong Port Authority, please respond,” I said into the transmitter. No answer. I craned my head to look through the cockpit canopy, back toward where Earth should be. No big blue marble. No Seven Seas. No Kika.

Instead, I saw a brownish-green orb of a world covered with lush jungles. Above it, beams of violet energy lanced between dueling warships of a design I didn’t recognize. They didn’t seem to be from the Stellar Consortium Vanguard or the Parallax Clawed Fist Fleet. It wouldn’t be unheard of for the Consortium and Parallax to slug it out somewhere out on the frontier, of course. Still, open hostilities ceased decades ago.

I couldn’t make sense of my coordinates on the star charts. Nothing about the local astronomy correlated with the onboard data.

No idea where I am. Stuck somewhere with warring factions. No faster-than-light drive. Enough fuel to reach a nearby planet. Basic emergency rations and water in the storage vestibule, enough to keep me alive for a couple of weeks. An exosuit to deal with hazardous conditions – at least for a little while.

I wanted solitude. Guess I got it.

It’s been a long time since I manually landed this boat. I’ll continue this journal if I make it planetside alive.

***

Landed just fine. That’s when the trouble started.

The planet, which I’m calling Requitement, is pleasant enough. Rolling hills of green, trees that seem to have autumn-hued leaves all year round, and the occasional gravity-defying, floating mineral motherlodes. No hostile fauna, but some of the plants want to poison me when I get too close.

As the first night fell over this strange alien landscape, I saw a crimson glow coming from a hillside cave. I checked it out, of course, despite the little voice inside my head screaming that it was a horrible, horrible idea. Or the whispered muttering from my mouth: “This is a horrible, horrible idea.”

I didn’t find a Hellmouth, though. Instead, I found oxide mounds and chemical pools that could prove useful. I readied the multitool from my pack, switching to the mining laser setting. Fired at one of the iron nodes.

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And that’s when the sentinel went apeshit.

I’d seen these little floating robots earlier. One had scanned me, paying no mind to social contracts or personal space. I brushed it off as an annoyance. Eventually, it whirred away. But now it was back and it really didn’t like the fact that I’d chipped off some metal from that particular boulder.

Turns out, the sentinels have guns and they’ll use them without any warning.

Also, they can call for back up.

I ran, screaming, deeper into the cave – all too aware that I wasn’t sure I’d find another way out.

[CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE] You’ve got a secret

On Aug. 8, 1989, the Space Shuttle Columbia rocketed into space for a 5-day secret mission.

Now it’s time for true confessions: your character’s got a secret. Write about it and explore why they’ve kept that secret for so long.

Send your exercise to jointhesaga@gmail.com and I’ll share it as time allows!

[KNEE DEEP] Stop the presses: Meet Dan Osborne

Dan Osborne plays Jack Bellet in Knee Deep.


Dan Osborne of Indianapolis, Ind., provides the voice of cranky newspaper reporter Jack Bellet in the swamp noir adventure Knee Deep. He shared with us some answers to questions about his career and his experiences working on the project.

Q: How’d you get started in voice acting?

A: I was in radio for over 20 years and decided to take coaching/acting lessons and expand my knowledge of the business.

Q: Favorite VO project, aside from Knee Deep?

A: Character voices of some old games like the hunter on Deer Hunter 5 and Outback Jack on Alaska Outback. Walmart grapes commercial, the voice of the 2015 Aruba tourism campaign, and Colts and Jets narration projects. I also narrated a documentary on the Whiskey Runners of Templeton, Iowa.

Q: Most important thing for an aspiring voice actor to remember?

A: Stay current, accept advice, get a coach. Leave your ego at the studio door.

Q: What made Knee Deep different?

A: It’s always tough doing characters when you are unaware of the reaction of the characters you are interacting with in the game, but that’s how a lot of games get done. You have to rely heavily on the director to understand the other parts and trust that he/she knows exactly how you want your character to respond to that particular moment.

Q: What appealed to you about Jack Bellet?

A: The acting was not a stretch. It called for a smart ass with sardonic wit and attitude – ME ME ME!

[REVIEW] The joke’s on us, America

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Look past all the gee-whiz special effects and the unnecessarily convoluted plot and Suicide Squad is a colorful political allegory in which someone rebellious, with a fondness for red (pink?), white, and blue and ambitions to help those in need, is seduced by a lunatic thug with weird hair and a lot of love for himself.

It’s a warning to us all.

Are we listening? Guess we’ll find out in November.

Meanwhile, this is a fun popcorn flick if you turn your brain off and just go along for the ride. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot are the highlights, but Jay Hernandez is also really good as Diablo. And never mess with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller: she will wreck you.

Jared Leto’s Joker was mostly forgettable, which I suppose is preferable to being memorable for all the wrong reasons. I hope they go a new direction with the character in Harley’s spinoff movie.