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Prologue: Shipmaster Anroc & The Pitiful Little People - The Cost Of Forever


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I'm blown away by the amount of talented writers we have in this community, and I considered myself blessed that I have the opportunity to write on not one, but TWO ships where I get to read these wonderful stories by these fantastic writers.  This is the beginning of the Thor's next mission.  What a way to introduce it!

 

((Management & Oversight Center - Endless Golden Penetrator))

 

Lounging imperiously upon a shimmering technological throne, Shipmaster Pitorian Sal’Lat’Ut’Kel’Tras Anroc, Owner of the Endless Golden Penetrator, was in a fit of pique.  It was now a foregone conclusion he was going to die. He huffed in mild annoyance at what a terribly embarrassing inconvenience this would be for him and his entire organization.  Running a hand along his exquisitely crafted suit of clothes,  Anroc experienced a brief sartorial joy at the feel of the luxurious silken garments, but it was fleeting.  With six eyes, he took in the meticulously appointed command deck, built to his exacting specifications and ostentatious personal tastes.  Priceless objet d'art and sumptuous glowmarble inlay had cost millions of credits, and the ship had cost hundreds of billions more.  All for another humiliating public failure that was likely to impact their net worth substantially when the annual fiscal picture was reviewed.

 

The fact that eleven hundred and sixty three crewmen and women would die alongside him trapped aboard a crippled ship, stranded at the Edge with no hope of rescue, hadn’t crossed his mind.  They were only ephemerals, afterall.  Sooner or later, they always died.  The larger nuisance would be the staffing issues following this loss of “biological capital,” but the possibility had been considered prior to their mission and the corporation would begin acting on those contingencies soon.  From a meticulously handcrafted songwood side table, Anroc lifted a livecrystal goblet that hummed soothingly in response to the warmth of his strong, 3 fingered hand.  Filling it with a dram of liquor that would cost the average worker their life savings to acquire, Anroc paused and then, feeling entirely sorry for himself, he poured two more drams.  He was going to die today, after all.  He tisked to himself as the throne continued its work.  Such a nuisance.  

 

One of the senior crew ephemerals, Nenni Nokzu, moved towards the dais of the Shipmaster with a bowed head and short, hesitant steps.  When Anroc’s drink was agreeably warming his pallet a few minutes later, he turned his head ever so slightly and gave the faintest sign of contemptuous acknowledgement. 

 

Nokzu: Shipmaster, if it pleases you...

 

Anroc snapped back at the woman with a combination of boredom and venom.  He didn’t bother making eye contact with someone so far beneath him.    

 

Anroc:  It most certainly does not.  If I must suffer this annoyance, you could at least address me using my proper title.  ::Anroc was immediately disgusted, his mood souring further::  You do know my full and proper title, of course?  

 

Nokzu kept her pale head bowed low and racked her brain. The journey had taken six years just to get where they were at now, and in that whole time serving as the first officer, she’d always stumbled over the long string of namesakes. Speaking slowly to give herself more time, Nokzu worked through it out loud. 

 

Nokzu: Owner and Guildmaster Extraordinary, First Eternal, President for Life of the Saldanian Corporate Hegemony, Beloved & Benevolent, Everlasting… 

 

She was pretty sure she’d missed a word in there somewhere. This man was their doom and she couldn’t even appease him at the most basic level. When he didn’t immediately chastise her however, Nokzu decided to press on.

aswq

Nokzu: … The matter displacement array is completely destroyed. Two of the crew were killed trying to effect the repairs, but it’s a lost cause.

 

With her head low, she winced at the thought to the pair of engineers who had been killed. The chitinous plates on her back shifted slightly like a cat twitching it’s fur. They’d been good men. Friends.

 

Nokkzu: The same impact that destroyed it also damaged the fuel storage. We’re losing fuel and we’ll have no way to decelerate when we reach the Edge. The mission is doomed, shipmaster.

 

Anroc took in this catastrophic declaration with the air of a man who had lost his third favorite hat.  

 

Anroc:  Ah, so no hope at all then?  Such a waste.  ::Anroc refilled his glass, this time to capacity.  Gesturing towards the half empty crystal decanter, Anroc tried to speak slowly, annunciating each word so even the dimmest ephemeral could understand::  This bottle alone is worth more than a hundred of you, and I have a case in my suites - a splendid gift from my ninth mistress. What am I to tell him?  That I simply abandoned his lovely token?  

 

A sour taste filled Nokzu’s mouth. Outrage swelled in her chest. She had two children back home. After the briefest moment however, her outrage dissipated. It was a skill she’d honed over decades of serving the deathless, and one of the reasons she’d been hand selected for this mission.

 

Nokzu: There is a small planetoid a week away. We could land on it before the fuel runs out. From there, if we radio the homeworld for assistance, in a decade or two we might be rescu...

 

Anroc rose to his full three meter height in instant fury.  

 

Anroc:  A distress signal?!  Do you have any idea how humiliating it would be for the corporation to have the media rebroadcasting a pathetic cry for help from what was supposed to be our shining triumph?  You’ve already failed to take this ship beyond the Edge, don’t compound your mistake with another, or I’ll see to it you’ll never be employed again! 

 

That was it. Her last hope. Even traveling at the speed of light it’d take their message nearly five years to reach home, and then six more for another ship to reach theirs. That all hinged on the Shipmaster’s willingness to send the message though. Now, that hope was gone, as was her chance of ever seeing her children again.  Employment be damned, Nokzu welled up with anger again, but this time she failed to push it back down. In defiance she rose to her two and half meter height, Anroc still towering over her. 

 

Nokzu: (Raising her slender head and locking all six eyes on Anroc) I’ll never be employed again as it is Shipmaster! This ship will be my tomb!

 

Anroc could see the flair of defiance behind the ephemerals eyes and moved to snuff it out instantly.  This one had clearly forgotten themselves, and Anroc suspected being away from home for so long had eroded its weak, simple mind.  

 

Anroc:  Don’t use that insolent tone with me you loathsome chattel!  If you’re dead, I’ll make certain no one in your family ever works, no matter what barren airless asteroid farm they run to.  Your children will be eating vermin by the end of the year...if they’re fortunate!  

 

Fire flashed in her eyes. Indignation, outrage, and fury roiled within Nokzu’s chest. For a time she maintained eye contact until she finally acknowledged the truth behind his words. Her life may be lost, but Nokzu could still help the future of her children.

 

Nokzu: I apologize for my… insolence Shipmaster. You know how us…  ephemerals can be. What are your orders for the ship?

 

The moment passed but Anroc could still smell a grotesque, lingering musk of pheromones - not only from Nokzu, but now from some of the other ephemerals on the bridge.  The bitter scents of desperation and rage muddled up with the awful pungent aroma of insolence.  

 

Around him, the throne had begun to glow a shimmering green and a faint twinkling hum was filling the command deck.  It was nearly time.  Anroc finished the last of his drink, some small pleasure salvaged from the otherwise disappointing day.  

 

Anroc:  I don’t particularly care what you do at this point, but if you send that distress call and the corporation hears of it, I promise that death is the least terrible thing you have to worry about.  

 

With that, Shipmaster Pitorian Sal’Lat’Ut’Kel’Tras Anroc stabbed at a jewel encrusted control on the throne's arm.  The glow within the throne intensified until it was nearly blinding, then snapped out all at once.  Anroc’s body, still rigid and imperious upon the throne, was vacant and dead.  The light behind all six of his eyes had been extinguished.  His exquisite clothing and priceless jewelry were now macabre ornaments on a rapidly cooling corpse.  

 

Nokzu: (Mumbling) Good riddance you skel’echt. 

 

Nokzu shoved the body of the ageless corpse off the mantle and pushed it to the side.  She’d deal with it later. Taking a seat in the throne herself, the woman massaged the small horns on the back of her head as she contemplated what to do. The sound of a door opening made her look up as a colleague entered the command deck. The woman’s clothes were stained and had some small tears. Exhaustion could be seen on her face.

 

Saulan: The breach on deck 23 is getting worse. They are trying to reinforce it but they don't know how much it will hold.

 

Nokzu: Anroc is gone. Everything on this ship has already been written off as a loss for the corp. We’re on our own now. 

 

She leaned back in the massive and ornamented chair, the weight of her decisions now bearing down on her. Nokzu’s eyes flicked over the room as the rest of the command crew watched her. They all had families back home. She’d met many of them before they left so many years ago. Nokzu counted in her head and the numbers came easily to her as the welfare of each member of the crew was her responsibility. 897 widows, 142 orphans.  That was the fallout of this ship not returning.

 

Finally she turned back toward the engineer, a renewed strength filling her.

 

Nokzu: Helm, set a course for planetoid Sigma 438, full burn. (Turning to the other side of the room) Operations, start calculating the fuel cost for our deceleration burn and landing on that rock. I need to know that we’ve got enough to make it. 

 

Turning back to the engineer, Nokzu blinked, not wanting to say what she had to.

 

Nokzu: Saulan, if we lose too much fuel we’ll die for sure. We must seal that breach at all costs. At all costs. Do you understand? 

 

Saulan: They do their best. But I will try... to encourage them. :: His voice was tired and became more sinister at the end of the sentence. ::

 

Nokzu: One more thing, old friend. It would take years for a message to get back to the homeworld. I know you’ve been working with radios your whole life. Is there anything you can do to get that signal out faster?

 

Saulan: There is a theory, that by focusing a signal at a certain frequency in line with the Edge emissions can be accelerated. Although we do not fully understand how. The problem is that it would have to be focused on, and hopefully bounce back to the home planet.

 

Nokzu: We’ve got nothing else to lose. Try. It’s our only hope we have to see our families again. 

 

Saulan: I will configure the emitter. Give me a moment.

 

Before the disaster Saulan would be excited to try something like this. If it worked, her name could be on the patent, and she could find a comfortable position in the organization's colleges. Now it was a simple act of desperation.

 

Saulan sat at the communications console and was reconfiguring the emitter matrix to do what they wanted. He had to stop a couple of times to talk to the executive section chief of rapid maintenance, so that they could repair the breach.

 

Nokzu watched the man work for a moment before turning back toward the rest of the bridge crew. They’d heard the exchange with Anroc. They all understood the cost of calling out for help. Nokzu turned the decision over in her mind several times and for a couple of minutes they all worked in silence. A silence she finally broke.

 

Nokzu: As soon as you’re ready, Saulan, send the distress call. 

 

Saulan: Ready. Sending the signal.

 

There, trapped by the manyfold intersecting layers of nebular gasses and exotic subspace fields, The Endless Golden Penetrator shouted past the Edge of known space.  No one knew what lay beyond the Edge, and all expeditions to penetrate it over the millennia had come to the same inglorious end.  

 

As the Penetrator sent out its desperate call for an unlikely rescue, the fields of the nebula briefly attenuated and massively amplified the signal.  Distorted but intact, the message tumbled through subspace, echoing far beyond the Edge and outward, into a region of space that Federation astronomers would call ‘The Gamma Quadrant.’

 

[Fin]

 

==========================

Shipmaster Pitorian Sal’Lat’Ut’Kel’Tras Anroc

Owner & Guildmaster Extraordinary, 

First Eternal, 

President for Life of the Saldanian Corporate Hegemony, 

Beloved & Benevolent, 

Everlasting & Magnificent

V239509GT0

 

&

 

Nenni Chu’To’Lem’Ri Nokzu

Acting Shipmaster

Endless Golden Penetrator 

E239702WG0

 

&

 

Saulan Ket’han

Deputy Director of Daily Operations

Endless Golden Penetrator
E239702S10

=========================

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