Contest submission

Mistaken Identity: the Good Samaritan
a short story for EV Nova, by Peter Craddock

Length (approx.): 5 pages, 14.000 characters, 2500 words.
This story has been written in the form of a mission string for EV Nova. Space battles are therefore only mentioned and secondary to the action taking place on planets and in "mission ships".


“The strongest you’ve got,” says a young woman as she sits down at the bar counter, a few stools down.
Leaving your meditation and soft drink, you glance at her. Familiar face. Perhaps known from before?
She notices the movement, and nods towards you.
“Rough day,” she says.
You nod.
“Know the feeling.”
She smiles.
“You know,” she says, “it’s these dumb officials. Never kind to you, even if you cross half the known galaxy to get a special form.”
“Easy generalisation,” says the bartender, handing over a glass of Terran palinka.
The woman nods.
“Perhaps,” she says to nobody in particular, as the bartender heads over to serve another customer.

“What form was this?”
She looks at you, seemingly surprised.
“{G “Genuinely interested” “The bloody thing”}?”
You nod, trying to show compassion through your smile.
“A pain. My kid brother has just taken ill, and apparently this is the only place where they have a doctor who knows the cure. I’d have him shot for not sharing the cure, but the local laws allow him to require a form be filled in on this planet. Basically, it enables him to check whether I work for a rival or not. Something to do with intellectual property.”
“You’re right,” you say, “he should be shot.”
She smiles.
“Miranda Ramucheq,” she says, extending her arm.
“<PN>”. You grab her wrist and give a shake.

You hear noise coming from outside, and turn to look.
Armed men rush in. They look around and advance on you.
“Miranda Ramucheq?”
The woman nods.
“What is it?”
“Classified,” says the leader, “but you have to come with us, whether willingly or not.”
“Who are you?”
“Planetary governor’s guard,” says the leader, showing a shiny insignia that makes no sense to you.
Two men grab her arms.
“I’ve done nothing wrong!”
She tries to break away and insults the men, who strengthen their grip.
Her moans of pain transform into anger. She kicks and screams.
One of the men jabs a syringe into her arm and squeezes out the content.
The leader turns to you.
“If you try anything, {G “pretty boy” “missy lady”}, you’ll both be dead before she reaches destination.”
You throw up your hands and shake your head. The leader seems to forget your existence. You look back at the woman, whose body has gone limp. She turns her head to face you, and you see in her eyes a plea for help.

As the men drag her away, you turn back to your drink. What in the universe was that? There was something weird about those men. Moreover, you’re sure that you’ve met Miranda before.
You shake your head. She seemed nice and sincere, but there is nothing you can do.
Or is there?

You take a last gulp of your glass, and pay for both your drink and hers. You run out of the bar, and see them, a hundred metres away, climb onboard a ship.
You rush to your own ship, and monitor their progress. They’re leaving the planet. Perhaps you can catch them before they leave the system.
The plan, the plan. What plan?
Disable the ship, of course. Then you can make some sense from this mystery by having a little chat with Miranda.

Accept button: Blast off.


Disable and board the <SN> (Pacenote: can’t remember whether that’s the right tag) to find out why Miranda was taken prisoner.


You set your dart-gun to stun cartridges, and open the hatch between both ships. Blaster shots come through, but you are able to take down the defenders.
You walk inside the ship, and send a few more people to the land of unconsciousness. Not professionals, you note. If they are indeed the guard of the planetary governor, he or she needs to rethink the security system.
You reach the bridge and point your gun at the leader, who seems to have had a bad fall, probably due to your firing on the ship. His left shoulder is dislocated, and, judging by the way he fumbles for his gun, he definitely looks like a left-hander.
“Where is she?”
No need to mention her name. The man gets up slowly, and you follow him, gun pointing at his heart. The few who remain conscious let you walk by, and you soon reach the room in which Miranda has been locked. A cabin, not a cell. Definitely not professionals.

After making two other guards bring Miranda into your ship, you fire an explosive dart at the other ship’s main control board. You leave them, disabled and helpless, with a smile on your face.

As you prepare to fly away, you realise you have no idea where to go, nor what might be the consequences of your actions.
“Idiot,” you mutter.
You hear a sound come from behind you. Miranda is speaking, though she doesn’t seem to have surfaced fully from whichever drug they gave her. You kneel down, so that your face is level with hers.
“What is it, Miranda?”
“Vrenna,” she says, among a bunch of gibberish.
You stand up.
“Vrenna it is.”

(Pacenote: this starts a second mission, so that there is a new QuickBrief: Travel to Vrenna, in the hope that Miranda might have fully recovered by the time you arrive.)


You look at Miranda, worried about her. Despite the days of travel, she still hasn’t properly recovered. It can’t have only been a drug. It must have been some kind of disease as well. In her semiconscious ravings, she has mentioned one name: Derteck Rodcap. A journalist, according to a quick search on the information network. Probably a relation of hers. Hopefully {G “not a partner” “handsome and single. Maybe neither”}. Silly you didn’t do an extensive search to find out.
You lay Miranda in a loaned buggy, and set out to find the man.

“Rodcap at your service, {G “Sir” “Madam”}. How- Is that Miranda?”
The forty-year-old man seems shocked to see Miranda in such a state. Definitely a relation, though certainly {G “not her partner” “not your type”}.
You help him bring her into his apartment, which seems too clean to be true. You look around.
“I don’t live here all year ‘round,” he says.
“Thought as much.”
“I have apartments in thirty different cities of twenty-three planets, and spend a month in each.”
“Must be a complicated system,” you say. Thirty cities… the man is either rich or a lucky speculator.
“Now, would you mind telling me what happened to my dear goddaughter?”

Completion button: Okay (“okay” is the only button label for completion, right?).

Brief Text of new mission, started by completion of previous one:

“Well,” says Rodcap after hearing your tale, “it seems to me that we must ask a doctor to examine Miranda, and we should also find out who these people are.”
He lowers his head for a moment before tapping his right ear twice.
“Hello,” he says, and you realise he is making a phone call. “May I speak to Doctor Robert? This is Derteck Rodcap speaking. Yes.”
He looks at you.
“A good doctor. He’ll help us out, and I trust him far more than I trust you.”
You blink. He’s right, in a way. You could have made up the story.
A few moments later, he finishes his call.
“Don’t worry, {G “dear fellow” “dear lady”}, I don’t question your whole story. As you were talking, I was able to check some of the facts on the information network. There are reports of a fight such as the one you described, but no mention of any ‘governor’s guard’ whatsoever, neither of the occupants of either craft.”
He bites his lower lip.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait for Miranda to confirm what you said.”

Twenty minutes later, the doctor leaves the apartment, having administered a dose of medication to Miranda.
You use one of Rodcap’s computer displays to search for the armed men, though facial recognition services don’t deliver any matches. As you try different means of finding the men, you notice, through unusual usability issues, that Rodcap keeps many elements of his system hidden or protected, perhaps even both. Secretive individual.
“Ben,” you hear Miranda call out.
She seems to have awoken in shock. Rodcap lays his hand on her cheek, and Miranda smiles.
“Derteck,” she says softly. She laughs, a weak laugh. “What a relief.”
“My dear, you were drugged with a strong sleeping draught. This {G “man” “woman”} brought you here,” says Rodcap, beckoning for you to approach.
“The guards… Thank you,” she says.
You nod, wondering how long it will take for her to regain her strength.
“Do you know why they were after you?”
Miranda shakes her head, saying that it doesn’t make sense.
“Did you recognise any of them?”
Again a ‘no’.
Rodcap turns to you.
“Well, it seems it’s up to us to solve the puzzle on our own.”

Rodcap stands up, telling Miranda to rest.
He looks at you, but is suddenly distracted. You see his eyes widen before narrowing. He starts moving again, though with noticeable determination.
“That was the information channel,” he says, hurriedly punching buttons on a nearby panel. “The authorities have noticed your ship and have apparently been told to detain it here. You did say that the ship was heading out in the same direction for a hyperjump, no? Well, my best guess is that, by some incredible coincidence, the other ship was coming to Vrenna in any event.”
“They were going to bring her here?”
Rodcap nods. He says a string of incomprehensible words, and the sofa behind you unfolds to reveal a cache of handguns.
“Take whatever you can. We’re going to find your ship, blast off and meet the enemy in space.”
“Why not wait here?”
“Because of ground support, of course. These people will have prepared themselves to find and catch you two on land, and won’t be expecting a space assault. We’ll leave Vrenna’s atmosphere, disable all the ships and find out the information we require before the whole planetary forces can set out in space.”
You blink.
“This is stupid,” you say. “They’ll be better prepared than last time, I’m sure.”
“But this time, you’ve got me,” he says.
Bollocks, you think. At least, the man has a plan.

(Pacenote: this starts an invisible mission, with 6 enemy ships to disable – the main mission, with the text, only has one enemy ship to be boarded, and so the player must disable all seven ships and board them all to find the right one. All seven ships are the same as the one encountered in the very first mission.)


Disable and board the ships surrounding Vrenna.


This ship is the one, you’re sure of it. The ships are all the same kind, but something feels familiar. A gut feeling.
Last time, you were foolish enough to leave without interrogating the people on board, but this time, Rodcap seems determined to get the information you forgot to obtain.

The people inside offer better resistance than previously, probably because they had prepared themselves for ground combat.
However, Rodcap proves equal to the task, swirling and lashing out. Martial arts and shooting seem innate skills of his. You wonder who this man might be: two dozen apartments, a weapons cache, fighting skills. Surely not just any journalist. You shrug the issue off while disarming a woman. You’ll probably never know who he is.

After a repetitive succession of scenes, you find yourself face to face with the leader again.
“Hello, <PN>. I guess I must surrender once more.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Secret service of the governor your friend was plotting to assassinate,” he says, matter-of-factly.
You blink. Assassination?
Rodcap appears in the room.
“What in the universe are you going on about?” he asks. He lowers his gun, and smiles.
“Mister Rodcap, nice to see you,” says the leader. You turn to Rodcap, confused.
“Mister Drak. It’s been a while. <PN>, you can lower the gun. Though they have some explaining to do, I trust these people.”
“But I don’t. What is going on? These people tried to kill your goddaughter!”
Rodcap wrenches the gun out of your hand, and three guards come running in.
“Hold your fire,” the leader shouts.
You look at this ‘Drak’, unable to make sense from the situation.
“Is the suspect really your goddaughter?” asks Drak.
“Yes, she is. Now, would you mind telling me how you missed that tidbit of information?”
“We received an immediate call from the hospital. We were on high alert because of a terrorist threat.”
“And jumped on all those who filed in a request for a rare treatment?”
“Treatment? We received a file about a request for suspect substances.”
You turn to look at Rodcap, who seems stunned.
“You fools, there must have been a mistake. Two files got mixed up at the hospital. You’ve been chasing the wrong person across the galaxy!”
All this is way above your head, you feel. There’s been a blunder, but the whole chain of events is too complex for you.
Drak swallows.
“Space debris,” he swears.
He taps his ear twice and says to whomever is listening on the other end to dispatch an emergency signal. Operation “plum pick” targeted the wrong person, and they should immediately alter the target governor’s schedule.
“I am so sorry,” says Drak.
“Yes, well, I hope it isn’t too late,” says Rodcap. “I hope no one will have died because of that.”

You shake your head in confusion and walk back to your ship.
Rodcap joins you after sorting things out with Drak.
“What a mess. Bring us back down to Vrenna, will you?”


You shake Rodcap’s wrist upon landing.
“Thank you a thousand times for saving my goddaughter from this case of mistaken identity. I shall arrange a payment of a hundred thousand credits to you for any trouble caused by this misadventure. Thank you once again, from the bottom of my heart.”
You nod.
“It was nothing,” you say. “I have a couple of questions, however.”
“Go on. Fire away.”
“Why does Miranda seem so familiar? And who are you? Not just a journalist, I’m sure.”
Rodcap chuckles.
“That, I am afraid I cannot answer. Perhaps you bumped into each other before. It’s a small galaxy after all. As for myself, I shall not reveal my identity.”
“Why not?”
“You look like a nice {G “lad” “girl”}, a good Samaritan, but you have no idea what you’re doing. You act without thinking, and it could land you in situations where you become my enemy. Giving information about myself would be damaging to me in that case.”
You sigh.
“Well, thank you for the payment then.”
“You’re welcome, <PN>. At least, know that I trust you, for what it’s worth.”
You smile, and shake his wrist again before climbing onboard the <PSN>. Time to leave this planet and turn the page on this strange adventure.