Author's note: I've tried to make this work within the lore as much as I possibly could, but there's still so much that we don't know that I know that I have taken a fair amount of liberties with the subject matter. Anything that seems off, please let me know... I'm open to amending/changing/cutting what doesn't make sense! Beyond that, I'd love to hear what you thought about it... both what you liked and what you think I need to spend some more time on. It was a lot of fun writing this and I hope you enjoy! My name is Zeke I. Maalon. Don’t really know what this is yet — might just be a kind of confession. Really though, I wanted to just get some of this stuff on paper. Before my time here on Gambler’s Ruin, I was a blue-collared wrench jockey with a heart of gold and a tongue of silver. Now I’m a drunk blue-collared wrench jockey who’s heart has varnished and a tongue that slurred long ago. I work on the piglets and the freighters and the fighters and whatever else has a joystick on one side and thrusters on the other, trying to keep these glorified cans running another day, or month, or year. They got me on twelve hour shifts, six days a week just to repair leaky hoses and gaskets that, according to our specification manuals, should have been replaced a decade ago. Coincidentally, we’re now using pages of those manuals as drip cloths. All I know about our location is that we’re somewhere out in the fringe. Outside of this little porthole next to me, I can see a whole bunch of nothing except some nondescript nebulae burning a sort of sickly puce. We’re floating through space, burning fuel towards nowhere in particular and the only thing I can think about is how my life would have been different if Jonny had dished out the cards correctly six years ago back on Cassus. There are two kinds of people that joined Brightland: those noble few bleeding hearts who actually believed in the guy, and those of us who needed a… uh… new start. I am from that latter variety. I’m an exile because I have a bad tendency of betting money that I don’t have... or more pointedly betting other people’s money that they don’t know I’m spending. I’m the first one to admit I have a problem, but now it seems sort of poetic that I’m going to breathe my last breaths aboard a ship named Gambler’s Ruin… at least I’ll go out poignantly, I suppose. You could say I was late to the party. Back on Cassus I fell in with a bad group of gamblers and thugs. Things were good for a long time. I was — nah, screw that — I am a card shark. A veritable wizard of card trickery and counting. I know whats in your hand before you do and I don’t even cheat… well… usually I don’t cheat. When someone throws out hands that come equipped with a pair of commas, it’s usually prudent to have some idea of what’s coming next and that’s what I did. Problem was that <REDACTED> Jonny got crazy and dealt sloppy. He’s a good kid — he didn’t know what he was doing — but when he reshuffled, he did it wrong. He’d done it a thousand times before when we practiced and the one time when it was the most important that he didn’t screw it up, it all went to hell, resulting in me losing an all-in that I choose not to disclose even here… be content with the knowledge that there were two commas involved in the amount. Now, this is enough to piss anyone off, but it was all exacerbated by the fact that my own money only made up a single comma of the overall bet. You could say that my creditors weren’t pleased. They expressed their displeasure by killing Jonny and putting out a bounty on my head… and when The Clan puts out a price on a head, that’s all they want. They don’t want the body, they don’t want the mess, they don’t want the screams… they just want the head — preferably still dripping. The price they put on my head also had two commas. The hot bet wasn’t if I’d be caught, but only when. I read the writing on the wall, and knew I had to amscray. I knew a guy who knew a guy who had a way off world — all I had to do was cough up the funds and keep my identity under wraps. I appealed to powers that be, used that golden tongue greased enough palms to get me onto a cargo ship that was set to be boarded and seized by Exiles. Mechari think they got all the Exile eyes and ears out of Cassus, but those giant toasters don’t know diddly. The trip wasn’t a particularly comfortable one. We were holed up in the cargo bay in stifling darkness, surrounded by all manner of freeze-dried ice cream, carbonated drinks, and cartons of 100% Cassian cigars which I have come to know intimately on the ship (the whole place stinks of ‘em… the Granok aren’t known for their adherence to “smoking sections”). We spent two weeks in that bay with very basic bathroom provisions, which wasn’t necessarily the best since we also had access to all the food we could eat. On board were six of us — four were “true believers” and another one like me who was trying to put as many light years as they could between Cassus and themselves. The bleeding hearts were a little weird, telling each other these stories about Serrick Brightland as if he was an Eldan himself. Mother of Matrias, they’re fine people but I had to tell them to shut up a few times when they started singing about the rebellion. As far as I can tell, the boarding happened without incident. There was a bit of yelling and the occasional shot fired, but all in all, it was a pretty peaceful take over… well, until we started to hear this weird hissing sound. Turns out the airlocks decided that they didn’t really feel like working anymore and started leaking while we were still down there, waiting to be rescued. When the red lights came on and the sirens started screaming, we started pounding on the bulkhead doors harder. I can’t be sure if it was because we were almost out of oxygen or if it was that we had just been screaming for so long, but when the doors finally opened and we fell forward, out of breath and shaking like no one’s business. There to greet us was none other than Dorian Walker himself. Completely ignoring (or just missing it… hard to tell sometimes) the fact that we were all right on the precipice of death, Dorian just smiles at us and says “welcome to the crew, chaps!” He patted me on the shoulder with this ridiculously strong force, sending me staggering forward. By the time I regained my composure, he had already marched off with his bionic leg making loud ka-chunks with each step down the blaster-scorched hallway. The phrase “out of the frying pan and onto the fire” seemed entirely apropos at that point. Soon thereafter, I was processed and shown to my bunk. They told me I was to report to the flight deck at oh-three hundred and learn the ropes Since then, I’ve been working. That was three years ago and not a day goes by that I wonder whether or not I made the right move. I’ve forgotten what real gravity feels like, only that I remember that it is different than this fake stuff we’re relying on now which is both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because when heavy stuff falls on your feet it doesn’t hurt quite as much… but also not so great since nothing really beats the real stuff caused by huge chunks of rock spinning at ludicrous speeds around a giant ball of nuclear explosions. Hm… doesn’t sound so great when I say it like that. Anyway, when I’m not working, I spend the majority of my time where I am now — at this dirty little cantina called Rita’s. It ain’t bad… food’s not fresh and the beer tastes a little bit too much like bathtub, but at least the cigar smoke is so heavy that you can’t taste anything anyway. Rita’s is always packed these days with humans and granok moping around, trying to keep their minds off that looming sense of whats coming next. This guy named Alonso just left Rita’s all bloody after he caught one ‘I-mean-business’ punch in the face from some craggy Granok <REDACTED> named Kraddark. Swear we’re going to end up killing each other before the Dominion can find us with all the fights breaking out here day after day… and maybe that’s not the worst thing. At least that’d be on our own terms. Every day this feels more and more like a suicide mission. But Dorian is at least helping. He’s always busy with something. The captain swears that we’re right on the verge of figuring out where this planet called Nexus is and Dorian is, as always, running around the ship like a madman. I sure am glad that he’s here because without him, we wouldn’t have a damn shot. Word is he’s always running around with all these old parchments and texts and whatever else he can get his hands on — always triangulating. A week ago, we were hammering the dents out of his piglet when I heard the familiar ka-chunk of his roboleg gaining ground on me. At the time, I was underneath the ship on a dolly, repairing busted actuator when he pulled me out and said “ship ready, sport?” only it was barely a question… more of a command with the trappings of a question. I told him that it would still be another day before Lady Luck would be at a hundred percent, but he just shook his head. “Won’t do,” he said and left. He was back five minutes later with a duffel of his stuff and some of those parchments rolled up under his arm. Without breaking his stride, he told us all to clear the deck and took off without even a look back. That was a week ago. He’s never been gone this long before and he only had enough fuel for five days of full-tilt travel… At this point, he’s either floating stranded in space, got caught by the dominion, or found Nexus. Chances are good that it’s not the third. That’s pretty much it for now. The entire fleet is quiet. Even the arkship’s thrusters’ usual drone seems to be muted in a sort of vigil. Will report back if there is anything new to report. If not, then hey, it was a good run… we just ran out of luck. I'm almost out of room now and I think I finally know what all this writing is. It's for posterity. If Dorian fails and the Dominion finally catch up with us and put the final hull-cracking nuke into our side, maybe this will be the one thing floating out there in space. Maybe they’ll find this one day and put it in a history museum under an exhibit called “Brightland’s Rebellion” and people will read this behind a fat sheet of Plexiglas. In case that does happen: Hey, mom. I always told you I’d be in a museum one day.