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[2005: NOV-DEC] Regression


Idril Mar
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((In Orbit))

"The course is laid in and locked. In fifteen minutes, the ship will fire its engines, shutting them off ten minutes later, then..."

The lieutenant at the helm trailed off, swiveling in her chair to look back at her commanding officer, Admiral Keratch, the only other person on the bridge. The older man nodded, understanding the emotion rippling through the woman's voice, catching in her throat. This was a short-sighted decision, one that the whole world would likely regret sooner than later, but orders were orders. He stood up, running a loving hand along the manala-wood armrest of the Captain's chair.

"Well, Lieutenant, say goodbye to her then... we'll not see her like again for a long time."

“Probably not in our lifetimes, sir, no… and that’s what worries me. This isn’t a good decision. We shouldn’t…”

The old man cut her off.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, Ms Nom.” He continued, understanding her position and let the harsh edge drain out of his voice. “We have our orders… let’s get down to the shuttle-bay and go home.”

The two walked back to the elevator and the Admiral, taking a last look at the ship that had been his command for the last fifteen years, issued his last order aboard his bridge.

“Main Shuttlebay.”

-----

((Trill Senate Chambers))

The mood in the chambers was tense; there had been high emotions, with accusations and yelling flying about in both directions. The murders.... no, the genocide that had occurred on Kurl was necessary, yes. The parasites, called such because no one could bring themselves to say out loud that those destructive insane creatures had once been Joined Trill and symbionts, needed to be destroyed; that everyone agreed on. There was no way that they could be allowed to move out into the galaxy with the hatred that they harbored for the Trill. The arguments were over what should be done now... the current debate was over appropriations for the deep-space navy, the very instrument that had deployed the firebombs and the biogenic weapons on Kurl.

"We should not be in space! It risks the purity of our race and the safety of the symbionts... the legacy of our people! What would we do if something like were to happen again?"

"It won't so long as we remember and learn from this mistake. We cannot retreat from this exploration... to do so is to dishonor the memories of those that died on Kurl in so much pain!"

-----

The doors slid shut on the two Trill officers and the lift started moving down through the bowels of the ship towards the large hanger-deck where only one shuttle remained -- their own.

"Permission to speak freely, sir?"

The admiral looked at the young woman. He knew exactly what she was going to say. He even agreed with it. However, there was nothing either of them could do. With a deep sigh, he nodded.

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Think of all the things we'll be giving up when this ship goes into the sun. Interstellar travel is not the only thing we'll lose... contact with other cultures, scientific exchanges..."

"Not to mention other things like defense from hostile races and early warning of impending threats from asteroids and the like... I know, maybe better than you, all that we are giving up, Lieutenant. Trust me, I do. Unfortunately, I can't fund the fleet out of my pocket and, with the politicians and their minds made up, no matter how short-sighted they are being, we can only follow orders."

They stepped out into the cavernous hanger deck of the ship. This had been a heavy carrier, the flagship of the fleet, with four full wings of shuttles and attack craft that flew from its decks. No more... all those vehicles had either been scuttled or converted for strictly atmospheric use. There would be no reprieve here. Their shuttle, the only one, sat like a large frog, waiting to run them back to the ground and the rest of their lives'. Nothing more passed between them except the quiet echoing of their footsteps.

-----

"Since the body has decided that there will be no appropriation to the maintenance or the staffing of the interstellar fleet, the chair will entertain suggestions as to the fleet's fate."

-----

The admiral looked up from the console to the looming ship in the shuttle’s side window. Nom could not face the thought of losing her place in space. She had chosen to stay behind, to commit suicide by staying aboard a doomed ship rather than lose that place. He respected her, and after locking the ship’s course with his own command codes, had given her permission to stay. Squinting as the ship’s sublight engines flashed into life for the last time, he watched as the giant slid slowly into the blackness of space, headed towards its rendezvous with the sun. With a deep sigh, he turned back to the console and the blue-green marble below that was his home.

-----

The fire burned long into the dark night and the morning brought no relief to the suffering. Such was the fall of civilization... such was the price of forgetting. The cities, nearly all of them, were burning. The few remaining would soon, too, be caught up in the conflagration. This destruction, much like that which rained down on Kurl, came from the sky, but this struck an unsuspecting and unprepared planet.

The small comet had been investigated after it had stuck a remote region of the southern continent, flattening a forest with its impact. The destruction not withstanding, one person had been killed, mercifully, by the actual strike, nothing like the possible destruction that could've happened had a planet-killing asteroid hit rather than the dirty snowball. That snowball, however, carried with it something far more insidious than the asteroid’s overt power.

The first to die were the investigators, the scientists who had shared samples of the material across the planet with the first week or so. They began falling, dropping suddenly like puppets whose strings had been cut. The virus, at least they assumed it was a virus, spread across the planet like wildfire, killing and destroying, with the survivors causing more panic and more destruction in their manic desire to survive. Civilization came to an end... and as the years stretched into centuries, the centuries into eons, even the symbionts began to forget. The ones who remembered grew beyond Joining, retreated into the caves of Mak'relle Dur, the semi-mythical afterlife where the Oldest symbionts, the Annuated, nearly immortal as they were, collected the memories of the world. New symbionts were born, Joined, and remembered new things as civilizations rose and fell on the surface. Though the old ones remembered, lost from the surface world was the time of Trill's first warp ventures.

-----

The small boarding party had slipped into the huge derelict by way of what seemed to be a hanger-deck. Scans of the scarred and pock-marked hull told them that this ship was over five millennia old, stretching further back than any current records on Trill, at least the public ones anyway. They made their way to the bridge, trying to find some trace of the origins of this ship, found orbiting Trill’s sun on the far side from Trill itself, hidden for the eons by the star’s body itself from the planet’s view. When they got there, a grisly sight met them: a skeleton, seated at what appeared to be the helm, with another smaller, non-humanoid skeleton nestled in its pelvis.

“Oh gods… I think this is a Trill.”

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