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MSPNPCs Atorin and Zuril, "SECURITY FOOTAGE: The Rule of Balzog/Th


Maxwell Traenor
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SECURITY FOOTAGE: The Rule of Balzog



((Ooyetirent Control Center, Asav, Five Years before the Gift of Zolrak))



:: In the center of the large operations center, Asavii Science Minister Atorin paced back and forth, waiting impatiently for the arrival of an important guest. Ooyetirent was in a remote mountaintop location, which was good for privacy and maintaining state security, but was horrible for arranging quick meetings. Still, the meeting had to occur here, where the genesis of an audacious plan had been formulated and hatched. The plan only had one chance of success however, and it hinged on the wildly exotic theories of one Professor Zuril. Science Minister Atorin had gained his position through political means rather than scientific ones, which meant that the Professor’s theoretical technology was beyond his ability to comprehend, but his advisors assured him that should the technology come to fruition, it would be the perfect tool for the radical plan. And, glancing at some of the display screens, streaming the news reports of protests and violence that were becoming more organized and numerous by the month, their plan could afford no delays. ::


:: Professor Zuril arrived at the command center with the slow steps of his old age. He was considered one of the best scientists in Asav, and had received several prizes in these last years of his career. His mind, however, was more centered on furthering his research than on any recognition, and being called away for such futile matters disturbed him. ::


Zuril: Minister. You asked for me.


Atorin: I did, Professor. Thank you for agreeing to come here today. First, allow me to show you around these fine facilities.


:: Looking around as they exchanged pleasantries, the professor realized two things. First, he was not here on some trivial matter for publicity. He was in a highly protected command center, in Ooyetirent, the center of the Asavii Space Program. The second was that the screens around them did not only show the space program. They showed the news, full of demonstrations, protests, and fanatics with signs of ‘Balzog Rules Asav’. ::


Zuril: I guess I am not here to discuss science.


Atorin: ::noticing the target of the professor’s attention:: Science, yes, but in the interests of all Asav. There is civil unrest, and it is ever more virulent. Some of it has even taken on religious overtones.


:: The Science Minister spat out these last words with a derisive sniff. Religion was a relic of the past, with no place in an enlightened, technologically expanding Asav. The fact that the old gods were being mentioned by the populace was something that the current government took great pains to try and suppress, covertly where possible, overtly where necessary.::


Zuril: So I have heard. This terrible drought has brought forth the old religions, and they say it is the wrath of Balzog, old god of the land. And I though the Asavii did not believe in the gods anymore.


Atorin: Yes, well… despite our efforts to appease the civilian agitators, they still howl indignation at the challenges we face dealing with the unexpected decline in planetary water levels.


:: That comment made the old professor a bit angry. And in was not easy to anger a man who only lives for his research, unless you mock his projects. But this had nothing to do with it. ::


Zuril: Unexpected!? Since we started using water-fueled technology a century ago we have literally destroyed half of the water in Asav. Ecologists had been protesting its use for the last seventy years. And now it comes as a surprise?


Atorin: This government’s mandate is to solve the egregious problems handed down to us all by our forebears. The water-fuel technology allowed us as a civilization to experience an industrial revolution unmatched in the history of our planet! The pros and cons were weighed by our forebears, and we are making the hard decisions necessary to ensure our planet’s continued successes going forward.


:: The professor calmed down, realizing the man was probably just representing his government’s official position. Still, he found the government was being hypocritical with this subject, and that made him irritable. ::


Zuril: What did you want?


:: The main monitor showed Asav in a planar view, with the orbits of its two natural satellites ringing it. Atorin led the aging scientist over the display, and with all the smarmy grace of a seasoned politician he started his pitch.::


Atorin: We need water. Our industry, our power grid, our very civilization is built off the need for water. Where is a readily available source of water?


:: The display was interactive, as if an animated slide show. The larger of the natural satellites, occupying a slower, wider orbit, dimmed. The smaller, quicker moon with the shallow orbit lit up blinking. ::


Atorin: Our second moon, of course!


Zuril: That’s stupid. The idea has been proposed over and over again, and the only possible conclusion is that the mission needs way more water-fuel than it can bring back. Useless.


:: Through a freak chance of cosmic fate, Asav had acquired a second moon of ice, to complement the one made of rock and metals, many many millennia ago. There were many theories about how this had happened. A massive comet captured just so by a delicate balance of planetary pull, or perhaps the gradual coalescence of a planetary ring of ice particles… conjecture and debate abounded, but however it had happened, it proved a fortuitous turn of cosmological chance for a water-starved civilization. Of course, attempts had been made using their limited rocket technology to harvest frozen water from the massive globe of ice. For over 50 years, the tantalizingly close, unlimited source of water hung in the night sky and beckoned for exploitation, but their current methods of space mining were too inefficient, with way too little return to make the effort feasible. ::


Atorin: You are right. Using existing technology, we could never garner enough ice to fuel the planet’s water-fuel needs for a day. But, the government’s defence contract with Chitern Corporation has led to a wild theory, an awesome plan that will solve our problems immediately and for all time. We will use our nuclear arsenal for good instead of ill, and carve a massive chunk of ice off of the frozen moon, to be brought to Asav!


:: As expected, the professor jumped with shock and incredulousness. The government’s scientific advisers had done just the same thing when Chitern first suggested this course of action. Allowing such a massive piece of ice to fall into Asav’s atmosphere would create a catastrophic event, possibly even an Extinction Level Event. Even just a sliver of the ice moon’s volume striking the planet’s surface would unleash enough kinetic energy to rival the entire Asavii nuclear arsenal hundreds of times over, sending blanketing dust and ash into the atmosphere and choking all life from the planet within a generation. But, if all went to plan, and if Professor Zuril was willing and able to assist, that would never happen. He cut off the scientist before Zuril could even start with his counter-arguments.::


Atorin: I know what you will say, and it’s been said many times over. As it stands now, such an action could only have catastrophic results as the shard fell into Asav’s atmosphere. But! This is why I have asked you here. Chitern knows of your developments with your, er… ::gesticulating airily:: space-time “bubble” thing, and believe that it could be used to safely transport the shard to the planet’s surface, where it will slowly melt as an almost limitless source of water-fuel! So, straight to the point. ::leaning in close, speaking tersely:: Are the rumors true that your “bubble” can accomplish just sort a thing? And, more importantly… will you contribute your technology and expertise in this pursuit of a solution to the biggest problem our species has ever faced?


:: Once the explanation was over, the professor was silent for a long time. The worst part was that the whole plan was stupidly naive and reasonably feasible in equal parts. ::


Zuril: Its name is Warp Field Generator. And, with time, I intend to create an engine that would permit Faster Than Light travel. That would allow us to colonize other planets where we could find water.


Atorin: Time, you say. That is one resource that is running out even quicker than our water. We don’t need a solution decades down the road. That is the same dismissive hubris our forebears had, that allowed us to get to the point of crisis we are in now. A drastic plan of action is essential, and we must be brave enough to grasp it. So I ask you again… can your technology do this?


Zuril: It…


:: He had to shut up. The minister had a point there, their people needed a faster solution, or they would soon face massive dehydration and the destruction of their civilization once their main energy source was turned off worldwide. ::


Zuril: I don’t like it. But it is feasible, yes.


Atorin: ::relieved, toothy smile:: Good. Good! Chitern contractors will be visiting your lab very soon then, to assist you and ramp up the completion timeframe for your technology. With their advanced research and production abilities, they should help you work out the bugs in your, er, Warp Field, was it?, technology in no time. Those people out there ::pointing to the protests on the news screens:: will be singing your praises when you save our planet, Professor!


:: The professor just stood there for a few seconds, looking grimly at the screens showing the news worldwide. ::



--------------------------------




SECURITY FOOTAGE: The Gift of Zolrak




((Ooyetirent Control Center, Asav, Year of the Gift of Zolrak))



:: Professor Zuril had been invited to the control room on the day the different unmanned ships arrived at the satellite. He was supposed to be one of the project leaders, but in reality he had not had any authority, just being consulted in regard of the Warp Field Generators. ::


Zuril: What happens if we are successful? That gives us water for maybe another century, but we cannot base our economy on chipping pieces of our own moon…


Atorin: This is meant to buy us time, as we begin to phase out the water-fuel technology. Time we wouldn’t have had anyways. But that’s a discussion we can discuss at a later date. Right now, we’re on the cusp of history!


:: The professor sighed and looked at the screens. The whole Gift of Zolrak project involved five unmanned ships. Two of them to dig under the required part of the ice satellite, and then detonate two nuclear warheads deep under the surface. That was supposed to chip a huge part of the satellite away. A hundred kilometers in diameter, about four trillion liters of water. The other three robots would generate a warp field that would separate the newly created meteor from the moon’s gravity well, and bring it towards Asav, where it would be destroyed and collected as it fell into the atmosphere. ::


Atorin: ::over the din of the operations room as the mission reached its critical phase:: Look, look! The mining ships have broken the surface!


:: Though he was ostensibly the government official in charge of the mission, in actuality Science Minister Atorin was but a figurehead. In the intervening years since the mission had first been devised, Chitern Corporation had slowly but surely taken over key elements of the planning, construction, and execution phases. The government had become basically a spectator in what was Chitern’s crowning achievement, and Atorin himself wasn’t even a prominent member of that government. The one thing he had contributed with any lasting effect to the mission was its name, “Gift of Zolrak”. In a fit of pique against a religiously-tinged opponent during a televised election debate, Atorin had invoked the name of the ancient water god as a tongue-in-cheek jab at the nouveau Balzog initiate. The name was apt enough to stick, and with his political title and as the originator of the mission name, Atorin was granted the privilege of overlooking this historic event. ::


Zuril: :: raising from his chair, speaking terribly slowly. :: No… they have not. Are you sure this will work?


Atorin: ::dismissive sniff:: No, I’m sure everything is fine. The calculations and projections have been checked, and rechecked, and double checked a dozen times over. It’s all going as to plan.


:: Atorin, not as astute as should have been for a man in his position, was blissfully oblivious to the ominous change in smell of the room from the enhanced emotions, the subtle shift in the tone and gravity of the background din. He was too busy watching the pretty graphics on the news screens, the ones that showed no true information but were created mostly for the consumption of the uninformed and ignorant masses. Had he been watching actual data feeds like Zuril was, and had any scientific experience to support the worth of his title as Science Minister, he might not have been so blissful. ::


Zuril: Is there a second detonation, maybe?


Chitern Operative: No. This is all that was planned. It SHOULD have separated the objective meteorite.


:: That ‘should’ hung in the air. It was dead clear that it didn’t. They had seen the explosion, the shockwave illuminate the dig holes, the moon’s surface rumble. But it had not broken apart. It could have been a problem with the warheads. Or a terrible miscalculation of the moon’s density or structure. Whatever their failure was, the moon was still whole. ::


Zuril: Abort mission. Disengage Warp Field Generators. We have failed.


:: The old professor had no real authority in that room. But his dark tone resonated on everyone’s moods, and no one was able to respond. Slowly, painfully, they started looking down from the main projector, towards their own workstations, to give the unmanned ships the orders to stand down and return. ::


Chitern Operative: It’s not working. They are not responding.


Zuril: What? Why?


Chitern Operative: The magnetic pulse from the nuclear blast is interfering with our comm systems.


:: That would mean the robotic ships would not be able to return, and would be stranded on the moon until their space program was advanced enough to retrieve them. It was a pity to lose three warp field generators, both for their cost and the amount of work the professor had put on them, but luckily there were no lost lives. The whole project had been a very long shot, anyway. ::


Zuril: It’s alright. Let them crash on the surface.


:: His whole career as a scientist, being a war veteran, and a prison camp survivor. None of his past experiences could have prepared him for the terror the following words awakened on him. ::


Chitern Operative: No, professor. The system is automated. Unless they receive a counter order, they will keep up with the mission.


Zuril: WHAT?


Atorin: No. No. ::wringing his hands and sniffing rapidly:: They will just terminate their mission. The mission will just abort now that something had gone wrong. Correct, Professor?


:: Before answering the minister’s question, the professor frantically checked the code of the robot’s programming. In hopes of finding something, some small line saying that they would automatically stop if something went wrong. There wasn’t anything. ::


Zuril: The Warp Field Generators can’t be turned off. They will start bringing the chipped part down towards Asav. If there is no chipped part… they will bring the whole moon.


Atorin: What do you mean, they can’t be turned off? Zuril, you designed those “bubble” generators, find a way to stop them!


Zuril: I designed the generators, but the robots were Chitern work. And apparently they didn’t count a nuclear blast next to them, which was their intended mission, would be a problem.


:: The Chitern operatives in the room looked away. They had not been involved in the design program, they were trained to control the system. But it was a terrible mistake on the part of Chitern, and they were a bit ashamed by it. ::


Atorin: ::laughing, a nervous, shaky titter:: “They will bring the whole moon”... That is funny. You couldn’t seriously expect your little bubble machines to move a whole moon?!


Zuril: Not in the same way they would have brought down the meteorite. But it will be enough to deviate the moon from its orbit. From there… anything can happen. It can crash on us in a month, a year, five years… who knows, but it will be definitely coming down.


Atorin: Come down?? ::he couldn’t even fathom such destruction on a planetary scale:: It would… will… destroy Asav and everything on it...


Zuril: Even before crashing, just orbiting close enough to us will drag our atmosphere away and destroy our ecosystems.


::In a state of shock, unbelieving yet stricken and frozen in place, Atorin didn’t know what to say or do. He was a nobody, a middling provincial politician who had gained his position in life more through luck and happenstance than through any reasonable amount of intellect or skill. Now, being the face of the mission which would ultimately end all life of Asav, Atorin never felt more small and helpless in his entire existence. As short as it would ultimately end up being.::


Atorin: We cannot allow this to happen. There has to be something we can do! We can, I dunno, blow it up or something?!


:: Now, that was the first sensible idea that had come out from the minister’s mouth that day. It was completely crazy, but they were in a dire situation. Blowing up the whole satellite would require an arsenal far more impressive than what had failed to break it. But it would avoid them the main impact and gravity effects. ::


Zuril: Let me do some calculations. :: he unceremoniously pushed an operative away from her computer. :: The moon is 750 km in radius, and that’s 1.7 times 10^9 km^3 worth of frozen water.


::Atorin had spoken out of panic and desperation, but with the professor taking the suggestion seriously, it cleared his head enough to embolden his words.::


Atorin: Yeah, I mean there will still be widespread destruction as shards of ice rain down on the planet, but there’s still a chance for life, right?


Zuril: It is better than the alternative, but the amount of water we are bringing back is enough to raise the water level by five thousand meters. It will destroy civilization as we know it.


Atorin: Darned if we do, and darned if we don’t. The “Gift of Zolrak”, we called this. ::maniacal sniff:: I wish I had never said that. This is more like the “Wrath of Zolrak”.


:: The professor just nodded. He didn’t want to be the one to actually say it, but it was their only option, and it was the minister’s place to convince the different nations of Asav to use their joint arsenal on this. The professor definitely did not envy his position. ::


Atorin: ::defeated, shoulders slumping:: Somebody get me set up on a conference call to the President and the Minister of Defence. The unthinkable must be arranged.



--------------------------------




SECURITY FOOTAGE: The Wrath of Zolrak




((Ooyetirent Control Center, Asav, Year Two after the Gift of Zolrak))



:: Former professor Zuril and former minister Atorin sat in their chairs, silent, as they had been so many times in the last months. The years of work in the failed Gift of Zolrak had made them respect each other in their own way. But the two years since then had made them friends, mostly because they didn’t have anywhere else to go. ::


Zuril: Any news?


:: The former minister had come back recently to the now abandoned and hidden facility, with a new uniform and some equipment. Going out was more and more dangerous each passing day, since the Church of Zolrak became a de facto dictatorship after the floods started. ::


Atorin: ::abusing a well-worn and macabre joke:: Yes, It’s still raining out today.


:: Zuril managed to produce a sad smile. Of course it still rained. It had been raining for the last year and a half, since the first drops from the destroyed ice moon started falling onto the atmosphere, and the storms covered the whole surface of Asav after the massive shards of ice started falling from a decaying orbit around the planet. The ocean level had already raised by two kilometers, and if his calculations had any merit, it was supposed to raise way further in the following months. ::


Zuril: And this new uniform? What’s the AFP, some new government maneuver to save their hide?


Atorin: Ha, you jest. There has been a government in name only for the last 6 months. Powerless, fragmented, hunted by the clerics of Zolrak.


:: If the drought had brought forth the faith of Balzog, god of the earth, the floods did the same for Zolrak, god of water. But, for some reason, the church of Zolrak were better prepared, and as their faithful grew in numbers, they started taking over the cities and governments, violently routing the unfaithful, more preventing their evacuation than actually dirtying their hands. Government facilities, as well as libraries and any other buildings that would be a proof Zolrak had not always ruled Asav, were left to flood and be lost under the water. The government had tried sealing some of them, in order for them to survive, but most were discovered and destroyed. Ooyetirent was yet to be found, thanks to its secluded and protected location, but it was a matter of time. Either they were found, or they drowned. ::


Zuril: And Chitern? What happened to them?


Atorin: They are bringing the first of their “biodomes” online. Apparently they will be self sufficient under the surf, each housing thousands of Asavii. ::derisive sniff:: I don’t care what they claim. These domes were under design well before the Gift of Zolrak failed. I swear they had planned for this eventuality right from the beginning.


Zuril: So they had been preparing for our failure? I’m guessing the ‘Wrath of Zolrak’, as they have nicknamed themselves, did not take that news very well.


Atorin: Apparently, Chitern is finishing the domes under threat of death from the followers of Zolrak. They will likely wrest control of them once they are finished. I wouldn’t doubt it if they cast out Chitern as soon as their usefulness is complete, much as they have already done to the unbelievers. The Wrath of Zolrak blame Chitern nearly as much as they blame you and I, my old friend.


:: Another long silence, made deeper by the offline computers and the generator at the edge of failure. All their problems were in part due to Chitern failure, but since the two of them were the visible heads of the project, they took all the blame, leaving them ostracized in the abandoned facilities, knowing the whole world would bring on them the weight of all their disgraces. So they did not feel bad at all for any terrible destiny Chitern would happen to suffer. But with them went another part of the old world, of the Asav before religious war took over. ::


Atorin: ::contemplatively:: How much longer will the heavens rain ice into our atmosphere, do you think?


Zuril: If my calculations are right, for another three years. But this will be underwater in a few weeks.


:: That train of thought brought them towards the new equipment, and they both looked at the boxes next to Atorin. It was the equipment to seal the entrance of the lab, so it would not flood and be destroyed when the water level raised over it. ::


Zuril: So you are going to do it?


Atorin: It has to be me. It was my hubris that led to the loss of all that made Asav great. If anything is to survive of the way it once was, then it falls to me to be the final steward.


:: The former minister showed the sealing instruments. Complete with a sensor that would work as a beacon for those that knew how to decrypt it, but would jam comms for anyone who didn’t. Apparently they were hoping this religious uprise would end up shortly, and when the rational and scientific society Asav had been for years raised again, they would be able to find their old computers and dig up their old knowledge, that this Wrath of Zolrak was trying to erase. Looking over the beacon activation signals, Atorin had to choke back a barking laugh::


Atorin: “All Hail Balzog”?? You have a twisted sense of humor, Zuril.


:: The professor sniffed in a mischievous and entertained way. Taking this from Zolrak was one of the last few pleasures he could afford. ::


Zuril: Can you think of a password the Wrath of Zolrak is less likely to produce?


Atorin: No, I concur. If anyone overcomes the Wrath of Zolrak, it would likely be someone who turned to Balzog out of desperation or survival. And, it is guaranteed to be something that would never be uttered by a follower of Zolrak. ::with all seriousness:: Where will you go now, Zuril?


Zuril: Me? I will probably go into hiding. I would love to see my Warp Field Generator become and actual engine that can take people away from this sinking planet-ship.


:: Sinking planet-ship. Apparently there was yet some energy left for additional humor somewhere in the old professor. ::


Zuril: But I don’t think they would appreciate it right now. Maybe I will try to find an apprentice I can teach everything I have discovered so far.


:: They didn’t know yet, but he wouldn’t. He would be found, and killed fighting for his freedom, unwilling to let himself be captured. Apparently, there was yet some energy left for fighting in the old professor, too. ::


Atorin: You could always hide out in the remnants of the old Chitern facilities near here. Did you know, the Wrath of Zolrak have christened them Skarlozent. ::sad smile:: In retrospect, it’s the perfect name. Unbeliever’s Folly… that sums up all of our actions in a nutshell, doesn’t it? Some day, everything we have touched will be called Skarlozent. ::pause:: After some thought, disregard my suggestion. You deserve better than some old Chitern factory.


Zuril: So, this is farewell, isn’t it?


Atorin: Yes it is, my old friend. It truly is the end.


:: Stepping just outside Ooyetirent, the two most hated men in Asav, and maybe the two men who had given more for their planet in an age, shook hands until they succumbed to a heartfelt embrace, sniffing in respect and affection for each other. As the old professor turned to leave the control center that had been so important in his life for these past years, he slowly came to a terrible realization. ::


Zuril: Minister… you are going to seal this place from the outside, right?


::The only response was another sad smile, as Atorin stepped back through the door and closed it between them, and the last thing Zuril ever heard from Atorin was the heavy clank of the locking latches clamping into place.::



--------------------------------



Minister Atorin

Old Asavii government Minister of Science


&


Professor Zuril

Asavii Astrophysicist



as simmed by



Lt. Maxwell Traenor

Chief Science Officer

USS Darwin-A

NCC-99312-A


&


Lt.JG John Valdivia

Science Officer

USS Darwin-A

NCC-99312-A

Edited by Maxwell Traenor
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