Terra Incognita-5

October 23, 2020

Captain’s Log of the Koplushian Spaceship Itsen: 23rd day of the 6th month of the year 1082 of the Koplushian Era.

   We have been attacked by three alien vessels of immense power. Our weapons and defenses are ineffective. Our field generators are damaged. Lieutenant Thairk has convinced me to allow him to attempt first contact with these unknown aliens. I can only hope he is correct in his plans.

On the screen, a single spacesuited figure floated out from the Itsen. Using only the maneuvering backpack, the figure moved slowly towards the nearest Hostile ship. A square of light appeared in the ship and a long mechanical arm extended out, sporting a claw. It grabbed the spacesuited figure and pulled it in. The square of light closed.

From the Journal of Shengek Barinium, Observer for the Koplushian Council. 1082, 6, 23. 

   We’ve been alone on the planet for two days. Glorin Traid, the Med-tech is with us, but she spends most of her time with the natives, gathering data, I suppose. Lieutenant Midge was to return this morning with the lander and the ship’s been out of contact with us. I hope all is well. One of the native children has taken a liking to Commander Eloe. His name is Bagumba, I think. He follows us around as we explore the area. It could be that he’s been ‘assigned’ to help us learn to speak.

Mogbee smiled as usual as he approached Shengek. He found her sitting on a flat rock by the small stream that flowed near the village. Further down, it widened into a rocky pool where the village women washed out the rudimentary clothing they wore.

“Any word from the ship?” asked Shengek.

Mogbee shook his head. “Aglaiya,” he said, using the natives dialect.

Shengek frowned. “I hope they come soon. I hate this place. The bugs bite,” she swatted one on her arm, “it’s hot, and there’s nothing here but savages and animals.” At that a loud bird cawed overhead.

Mogbee paused, slowly taking a step back. He had just been given a ceremonial staff, but now re-thought the idea of showing it to her. “Look at the bright side,” he said, trying to cheer her. “We have air to breathe, food to eat, and… look at the scenery. Where else would you see a moon like that.” He indicated the semicircle rising behind her.

Shengek turned to look over her shoulder and suddenly shrieked and jumped towards Eloe. “Snake!” she cried, pointing. Mogbee laughed. “A snake? I’ll take care of it.” Mogbee strode over gallantly holding out his ceremonial staff. He put an end of it in a loop of the snake, and flung it a long distance away. “Your snake is dispatched, Madam.”

Just then, Bagumba, the native boy, broke through the brush gibbering quickly and pointing back the way he’d come. “What’s he saying? I don’t understand it,” said Shengek.

“I can’t tell,” said Mogbee. “I thought he said something about Traid. He’s going too fast. Let’s just follow him.”

They ran behind the boy through the village to where the trees opened up to a grassland. Bagumba stopped and pointed, several of male villagers were there, holding spears at the ready. Shengek saw a large four legged animal out in the field. She could also hear the screams of Glorin Traid. Before she could say anything, Mogbee aimed his mag-rifle. He fired and the animal howled, then fell over. The villagers rushed ahead. They dragged the animal a short distance and began gutting it.

Shengek was frozen in fear at what had happened. She saw Mogbee run up to where Glorin Traid lay and crouch down. He looked up at her, the look on his face told her everything. The shake of his head confirmed it.

Shengek fell to her knees and cried. When Mogbee walked back to her, she pushed him away, screaming, “I hate this place! Do you hear me? Call the ship and get us off this hasker planet. I hate it here!”

Mogbee kept his distance and said, “I can’t. The Itsen must be out of range or we would have been contacted.”

She screamed again, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “‘Skuit this whole world! It’s a living Hell!” Shengek began running towards the village and Mogbee followed. She ran into the hut they had been ‘given,’ throwing herself down on the mat. Mogbee stayed outside.

Bagumba appeared at his side and Mogbee strove to get across to the boy that Shengek should be watched. He then went back to where Glorin Traid lay. The village men had gathered and Mogbee managed to arrange for a pyre as was typical for Koplushian funerals.

The sun was setting when Mogbee entered the hut. Shengek had fallen asleep after her rage. He turned on the lamp from his kit and shook her gently. She stirred. “There’s no easy way to say this Shengek.” She turned over and propped herself up on one arm to look at him expectantly.

“I’ve arranged the pyre…”

“Oh,” she said quietly.”Do we have to?”

“No, you don’t have to, but I wanted to give you the chance.”

Shengek coughed and stood up. She poured some water from a gourd into her hands and washed her face. “I’m sure I look a mess.”

“That doesn’t matter here,” said Mogbee. “I mean…”

“The truth is fine for now,” she said, trying to adjust her hair without so much as a mirror. “It’s not about me.”

They left the darkness of the hut and entered the dimness of the outdoors. Shengek swatted a bug on her arm absently. “Damn bugs!”

Glorin Traid’s body had been wrapped in an animal skin and rested on a platform made of arm-thick logs over a pile of similarly sized wood. Torches on long poles stuck in the ground surrounded the pyre. The native they knew as ‘The Chief’ came over as they approached and said a few slow words. Shengek still couldn’t quite get what was said, but Mogbee answered in the affirmative. The chief handed Mogbee two torches. 

He looked over to Shengek. “I’ll do this alone if you like.”

She shook her head. “No, I need to go through with it. Glorin deserves it.”

They approached the pyre together, the other villagers stood surrounding it at a safe distance.

Mogbee said, in sing-song fashion, “Kani ronostewa kanum, Glorin Traid” Shengek, beside him, repeated the petition in Koplushian, “Zog tei liri siv, Glorin Traid.” Then they plunged their torches into the pyre together.

Terra Incognita-4

October 22, 2020

Captain’s Log of the Koplushian Spaceship Itsen: 22th day of the 6th month of the year 1082 of the Koplushian Era

   Our landing party has discovered primitive humans on the third planet and has initiated contact. They appear to be only at the level of the stone age, but have been confirmed as aboriginal humans by Med-tech Traid. The landing party believes we have found the sixth planet of humans as prophesied by Engreth Pretm.

Sensors have indicated the approach of three large unknown vessels. I have recalled Linguist Thairk and the science team back to the Itsen. Commander Eloe, Lieutenant Commander Traid, and Observer Barinium will continue with the first contact.

“Lieutenant Thairk reporting in, Captain.” The young Lieutenant stood looking expectantly at Karpla.

“Mister Thairk, there are three unknown vessels approaching us from the interior of the sector. I’ll need you at your best for first contact. We are currently broadcasting friendship images at the vessels. I don’t think I need to remind you that no spacecraft have ever returned from this sector.”

“No sir, you don’t. The same thought occurred to me. I’ll do my best. When should the Unknowns arrive?”

Karpla looked over at Lt. Leslai at the Helm. “They will be within effective weapons range tomorrow at 10:50 hours,” said Leslai.

Thairk whispered to himself, but audibly, “Surely we’re not firing on them…”

“Only in self defense, Lieutenant,” said Karpla. “We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

Sleep evaded Erui Thairk and the morning came too soon for rest. He reported for duty early and took a seat at a computer terminal. The Captain was right. Over the past score of years no fewer than five ships had entered sector 42. None were ever heard from again. The Itsen was likely the only one to actually get off a message before… whatever happened, happened.

Sector 42 was also nicknamed the ‘Unknown Sector’ because it had never been explored while adjoining areas had to some extent. Even the records of the one-time Vritian Empire were blank in this region. A map of that quadrant of the galaxy showed that the unexplored area was considerably larger than just one sector. Could the Unknowns…

“Getting an early start Lieutenant? Very commendable.” It was Captain Karpla, standing right behind him.

“Yes, Captain, I…”

“I see you’re doing research on the area. Again, very commendable.” Captain Karpla strode to his command chair and sat down. He was sipping his morning tea. “The Unknowns are just entering our weapons range, Captain. They’ve been slowing as we expected. Definitely coming to us.”

“Very good, Mister Leslai. Break orbit from the planet. We may need to maneuver.”

“Aye, Sir. Breaking orbit.”

The Itsen waited. It was well clear of the planet and its moon. On the screen the three Unknowns were becoming clearer. The design was unlike anything on record. They looked like sleek, multifaceted domes with semicircles inscribed on the upper surfaces. 

“Captain, Lieutenant Midge requests permission to launch for his return to the planet.” Said Com-tech Glin. “We’re still within landing range.”

Karpla was watching the ships approaching, but glanced over at Glin, “Permission granted. Commander Eloe would never forgive me if he were stranded for long.”

A moment later a beam leapt from one of the Unknowns. The force of the explosion rocked the Itsen. “The lander’s been destroyed!” said Leslai.

“Shields up! Battle Alert!” ordered Karpla. A klaxon wailed throughout the ship. “Mister Leslai, Target missiles on the lead ship.”

Thairk turned in his chair to face the Captain. “Sir, if we’re going to talk to them…”

Karpla spun around to him. “Don’t tell me how to run my ship! Lt.Glin, send this message to the Hostiles: Attention alien vessels, This is Captain Dagrith Karpla of the Koplushian Spaceship Itsen. We are on a mission of peaceful exploration and mean you no harm. Please respond.”

Thairk turned back to his station and continued working.

“Message coming in Captain,” said Glin.

“Put it on screen.”

Thairk finished what he was doing and turned to the main screen. On it was a huge, tripedal cephalopod with tentacles. The sound that accompanied it was best described as a slurping/sucking sound, like that of a drain emptying, punctuated by gurgles.

Karpla turned to Thairk. “What do you make of it?”

“Very interesting, Sir. I’d need to hear more to sort it out though. Thairk made some experimental slurping sounds, trying to imitate what he’d heard. “Captain I have an idea…”

There was a flash and Itsen shook. “You may not get a chance if this keeps up. Mister Leslai, fire those missiles!”

Four missiles sped towards the lead ship. A beam leapt out from it and destroyed the missiles. The beam was then turned on the Itsen. The ship rocked and a few of the control panels exploded into sparks. Leslai reported, “That one hit our number four field generator. It went right through our shields!”

“Ready the particle beam,” ordered Karpla.

Thairk stood up, “Captain, if I may…”

“Particle beam armed and ready, Captain.”

“Fire!”

The beam was aimed at the lead ship, but just short of the contact it was seemingly absorbed.

Another blast from the Hostiles. The Itsen shook more violently this time. Thairk fell towards the Captain.

“Port side field generators are gone, Sir,” said Leslai.

Thairk pulled himself up to Karpla. “Sir, if I may. I don’t see us winning this fight. None of our ships have ever returned from this sector, but I have an idea.”

Captain Karpla looked at him. “Yes, Lieutenant? What is it.”

“We need to talk to them. It’s obvious we don’t understand them, nor they us. We’ve the same situation the exodus fleet had with those Breisardees.”

“What would you suggest?”

Thairk went over to his console and pressed a button. “Let me go over there, alone. It’s the only way. One man won’t be a threat to them.”

“Are you mad?” asked Karpla. “What’s to stop them from firing on you as they have the ship?”

“I’ve just sent them pictures of what I intend. I think they’ll be curious enough. If you’ll notice, they’ve stopped firing. Once I’m over there, I’m sure I can learn to communicate with them.”

Karpla looked at the three alien ships on the viewscreen. “Very well, Lieutenant. We’ll try it your way.”

Terra Incognita-3

October 21, 2020

Captain’s Log of the Koplushian Spaceship Itsen: 20th day of the 6th month of the year 1082 of the Koplushian Era.

   We have entered orbit about the third planet of the G-class star. Our probes have confirmed the habitability of the planet and have discovered evidence of primitive sentient life on the surface. I am putting Commander Eloe in charge of a landing party to explore the area near one of the villages and, if possible, make first contact with the inhabitants.

From the Journal of Shengek Barinium, Observer for the Koplushian Council. 1082, 6, 20

   I am to accompany the landing party to the surface! Mogbee says it’s because the Captain wants an Observer there for the first contact. It will be nice to walk in fresh air on a planet. I hope that when I return to Koplushia that it will be green again.

The lander was pitching in the atmosphere and the motion threatened to make Shengek sick. She knew from the proximity of the ground in her viewer that the trip was almost over. The beige duty uniform she had been issued for this ‘outing’ was rough and chafed her armpits and neck. Shengek longed for her soft clothes. At least an Observer’s symbol had been affixed on the shirt above her left breast. She still had some dignity left. Oh no! A sudden tilt of the lander caused her to heave the contents of her stomach onto the floor. As would be typical, moments later, the ship settled down, landing vertically on the ground.

The engines died. Shengek unstrapped, and grabbed some paper towels from the overhead bin to clean up the mess, revulsion filling her as she did so. Mogbee, casually striding down the aisle with his co-pilot, Lieutenant Midge, saw her, and said, “Someone have an accident?”

“Yes. Me!” she fumed.

Mogbee motioned someone over. It was the Med-tech, Glorin Traid. “Let me help you with that,” she said. Glorin looked to be past middle age. If she had been an explorer all along, Shengek wondered how much time had passed during her career if one figured in the effects of time dilation.

The two women finished up and then joined the others outside the ship. Mogbee greeted them with an announcement. “I’d like to welcome you all to planet G-V 42.53-III. And let us hope they rename it as quickly as possible!” He smiled and light laughter from the team followed.

Shengek saw one of the specialists setting up a pole to test the air, and another was putting out small traps. A third specialist was taking samples of the plants immediately around the ship. Commander Eloe, Lt. Thairk, and Lt. Midge were standing together near the front end of the lander. Shengek and Glorin Traid walked over to them.

“If you’re ready, we’ll start off for our first objective,” said Eloe. “There’s a small village or something just the other side of those hills.”

“How long should it take to get there?” asked Thairk.

Mogbee shrugged. “Maybe an hour, if we push it.”

“We didn’t want to land too close and this meadow was perfect for set-down,” said Midge.

Mogbee hoisted his pack onto his shoulders. “If you’ve all got your gear, we’ll get going.”

The hike to the village took well over an hour. They had entered an area of trees choked with underbrush. It was hot and the flying bugs were voracious. Either the repellent they wore was ineffective or it was ineffective against these particular bugs.

Shengek wondered if Mogbee hadn’t purposely chosen this latitude because it supposedly resembled his native area of  his homeworld of Vrit so well. The meadow where they had set down was filled with waist high grass, but here they were struggling to break through thick undergrowth. Mogbee stopped ahead.

“Thairk, come here,” she heard him whisper. There was something ahead of them, something low and hairy and painted with white and red streaks. If she was seeing the skin, it was dark olive in color. As Lt. Thairk approached it, he was making sounds. Was he trying to soothe it?

Suddenly the thing stood up. Shengek let out a small gasp.

“It looks human,” said Traid.

And evidently male, thought Shengek.

As Thairk was trying to wave them to silence, Eloe muttered, “Vhaim!”

The native quickly turned and disappeared into the undergrowth. “Damn!” said Thairk. He walked back to the group.

Eloe consulted the tracker on his wrist. “We’re very close to the village. Looks like we’re dealing with humans!” 

“So, another fallen colony?” said Midge.

“Maybe, but maybe not. In either case, a primative culture can be dangerous. ” Mogbee adjusted his mag-rifle and checked it. Lt. Midge did the same. “We’ll approach the village slowly. I’ll lead. Lieutenant Thairk will be right behind me. Your friend might recognize you. Midge, you bring up the rear and watch the ladies.”

As they approached the village, the undergrowth thinned out. They began to hear sounds of children laughing, wood being scraped on wood and, off in the distance, a few stray drum cadences. Shengek made her way up to Mogbee. “What did you mean back there by, “The Sixth?”

Mogbee looked at her in surprise and smiled. “Kanum dagarmengwe pandla?”

She shook her head. “Not much. I know enough Vritian to understand that much though. What did you mean?”

Mogbee stopped for a moment. “I thought you knew I’m an Engrethist.”

She paused in though. “You did mention it, but… Oh yes, Engreth’s prophecies. Surely you don’t believe them.”

He began to walk slowly again, but turned to look at her. “Surely you cannot refuse to believe them, after what they foretold about the Koplushian Apocalypse.”

Shengek said, “I think most of them are open to interpretation.”

Mogbee smiled again. “Perhaps it depends on one’s point of view, but I can’t help but bear in mind that this might be the sixth planet of aboriginal humans. Engreth said it would be so.” 

“I never understood the importance of their being only six,” she said. “The Vritian Empire scattered humanity throughout the galaxy. What does it matter that there are six ‘seed’ planets of humans?”

Mogbee smiled and answered patiently. “If we find a seventh or eighth, it doesn’t matter at all. But if we only ever find six, six planets where humans developed from a primative state, it proves the trueness of Engreth Pretm’s other prophecies.”

“And how do we prove this?”

Mogbee gestured over his shoulder. “Med-tech Traid can tell us with a DNA sample.  It can rule out descent from any of the other five.”

Shengek turned to glance at Traid, who was speaking with Lt. Midge. “I wasn’t aware it was so simple.”

Terra Incognita-2

October 20, 2020

Shengek met Commander Eloe later in the lounge  after duty. The food on the Itsen was the usual fare, some rehydrated supplies from the beginning of their voyage, some fresh leafy greens from hydroponics and an ever increasing share of foodcubes. As she sat down at the plastic topped table, Shengek asked, “What do you think they’ll name the planet?”

Mogbee spoke between bites of his protein bar. “I have no idea, but I’m confident it will be appropriate.” He smiled wryly as he motioned over Shengek’s shoulder for someone.

She unwrapped her cutlery just as a young man came to the table. At first Shengek thought it was a steward. “I’m fine,” she said. Then seeing the uniform, “Oh, forgive me, Lieutenant.”

Mogbee, gesturing, introduced them. “Observer Shengek Barinium, I’d like to introduce Lieutenant Erui Thairk. He’s the ship’s linguist.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she said.

Mogbee motioned for Thairk to sit. He did so. “I thought it would be good for you to meet in case you end up on the landing party.”

“I’m hoping we find some sort of civilization down there,” interjected Thairk. “I want to add to my collection.”

“Oh? What is it you collect, Lieutenant?”

“Languages, of course. I already speak Breehah, Pandla, Defyanth, Dezhith…”

“Enough, Lieutenant” said Eloe, softening it with a chuckle. “You can go back to your table. Observer Barinium is trying to eat.” Thairk rose, looking flustered and returned to his table along the back wall.

“You needn’t be so brusk with him, Commander.”

Eloe shrugged. “He asked me to introduce you, so I did. The kid is a brilliant and clever linguist, but maybe a bit too eager about his profession.” 

“He seemed very nice.”

“Perhaps. He was a child prodigy in languages,” said Eloe. “That got him in the crew. But his eagerness puts me on edge, plus, he was gawking at you.”

“Was he?” Shengek checked her blouse. “Well, he’s only a few years younger…”

Eloe smiled again and leaned closer across the table. He said, chidingly, “I could call him back over, but what would your father think?”

Now Shengek smiled at Eloe. He knew of her father’s high position on the Koplushian Council and the proprietous attitude he had towards his only daughter. She smiled and said in equally low tones. “No need. I have good company here.”

“Well,” Eloe said, straightening himself, “that brings to mind another, perhaps impolite subject. During our month of travel through space, I’ve never asked, but…”

Now Shengek straightened like girl in school. “What did you want to know?”

“Why a young person like yourself is so far out in space instead of doing her duty to rebuild her home planet? I understand your population was halved from the attack.”

Shengek reddened visibly at the statement, partly from modesty and partly from anger for what Mogbee had said. “What are you trying to say, Commander?”

Mogbee bowed his head momentarily. “I apologize, Ms. Barinium. Please pardon my inquiry. I’m ashamed to have asked about something which is a private matter.”

She gave him a severe look. “My father thought it best if I got off the planet for a while and the assignment on this vessel seemed appropriate.” She lowered her voice. “We’re not so bad off back home that the women were made to be baby factories…” Besides, she thought to herself, my ova were harvested for the incubation facilities before I left.

Mogbee stopped and put his hand up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t intend it that way, but I know the Apocalypse destroyed much of Koplushia’s biosphere. That’s got to be a setback.”

“Maybe the planet isn’t exactly a garden spot right now, but it will recover. Our space settlements are helping us out until that time comes.” Her voice trailed off. Then there was silence for a minute. Mogbee put down his fork slowly.

“Again, I’m sorry. Sometimes I speak unwisely.”

 “Only sometimes?” Shengek flashed him a sardonic smile. “I know well that the Vritian people ruled all of space long before we Koplushians came along, that is before your empire fell.”

“And because of that, we somewhat tend to rule over the affairs of others,” finished Eloe.

“But you continually forget that the Great Vritian Empire fell thousands of years ago.”

Eloe said,  “Perhaps sometimes I am a bit arrogant.”

Shengek smiled perversely. “Only sometimes?”

Terra Incognita-1

October 19, 2020

Elsewhere in this blog, I posted this story in its entirety in Esperanto. However, since I’ve tinkered with this version several times, the two can no longer be considered in parity with each other. (Just FYI)

I admit that I wrote this story in the fashion of an episode of Star Trek. That said, I’m no James Blish.

Terra Incognita

By

D. Eliot Rutan

The events of this story take place nearly nine thousand years ago in the history of a human people who are not from Earth, but originated in a far away star system on a planet they called Norem. After losing The Last War, they escaped from that world and settled a planet around another star. They called the planet Kidaina, which means Sanctuary. 

But within a thousand years, over-industrialization of Kidaina forced them to abandon that planet. They migrated to another star system with a metal-poor world which they called Koplushia. They sent out exploration ships to map hyperspace and look for resources. Occasionally these ships would find something unexpected.

After making contact with the remnants of a galaxy-spanning human empire, they willingly joined with the Koplushians in their explorations, hoping to reconnect with their lost colonies. Their new allies spoke of a dangerous, yet unexplored part of the galaxy…

Captain’s Log of the Koplushian Spaceship Itsen: 18th day of the 6th month of the year 1082 of the Koplushian Era. 

     We have been penetrating Sector 42 for nearly a month and are near our mission’s hyperspace mapping destination, a G-class star. To date we have not been challenged by anything which would explain the disappearance of five exploration ships in this area, also termed the ‘Unknown Sector.’ I anticipate no problems exploring the star system ahead of us.

From the Journal of Shengek Barinium, Observer for the Koplushian Council. 1082, 6, 18

     The crew of this ship is in good spirits as we approach our destination. I’m glad to be here, away from Koplushia for a while. Although I was told this when I was assigned to this mission, it’s odd to think that during our month-long voyage, over 14 years have passed back home. Dad must be about sixty four now! I feel a little guilty at not staying to help rebuild, but I was assured that exploration was just as dangerous as living on Koplushia right now.

Shengek waited impatiently for the doors to open as the lift brought her up the few levels. She was alone in the lift, but then it was 7:01 in the morning. That meant she was already late according to the timestrip over the control panel. A quick pull brought her braided hair out of the collar of her long blazer. The voice of her father echoed in her mind. You are a Barinium, and that means dignity. She quickly stepped through the parting doors and hurried to the conference room.

As she entered she saw Captain Dagrith Karpla, his first officer Commander Mogbee Eloe, and Cherino Mai, the ship’s Astronomer. Others of the senior staff were also present. Shengek paused inside the door long enough to say, “Sorry I’m late, Captain.”

“It’s good to see you, Observer Barinium,” said the Captain. “I thought perhaps I neglected to tell you about this meeting.”

“No sir, I turned in a little late.” Shengek stepped to her place and took a seat, the whole time berating herself for spending so much time with the handsome Commander Eloe. He was forty years her senior, had close-clipped, gray hair, and told such interesting stories of his time in the Vritian Space Service. She picked up the sheaf of papers before her and pretended they were interesting.

The Captain continued. “Astronomer Cherino was just telling us about our destination. Please go on.”

“Yes Captain,” she said.. “We’ve tracked eight planets in the system. The outer four are gas giants, and the inner four are solids, with the third one out looking promising. It definitely has an atmosphere and a good amount of water, only about a quarter of the surface is land in the form of several continents.”

Here Cherino put up a holographic image of the world in question. It rotated in the air above the table before them. At the mention of land masses, the view changed to one stripped of the cloud layer, so that the continents could be seen. She stifled a yawn that threatened to force her mouth open.

Cherino continued, “The axial tilt would give this planet noticeable seasons and the rate of rotation is well within parameters for life. The revolution about its primary is just a little less than our year. It has one very large satellite.”

“Is there any evidence of civilization?” It was Mogbee who now spoke.

“We’ve detected no radio emissions, and thus far have not seen any evidence of nighttime illumination. If there’s civilization, it’s pre-industrial.”

“Thank you. We’ll be within probe launching range in a few days,” said Karpla. “We should know more by then. Commander, providing the habitability checks out, I’d like you to lead a landing party. Our science teams will want to collect samples for study.”

Mogbee nodded. “I’ll start selecting a team.”

Captain Karpla dismissed the meeting.

Broken Empire-Final

October 13, 2020

The negotiations between the Koplushians and Hodonese under the guidance of the newly arrived Vritians went on for twenty two days. Generally things went very well on all sides, but there were innumerable details to settle. Every few evenings Dorelin met General Ti’con in the familiar reception room and they played ha’eku, the game he had learned during their short ‘captivity.’ 

Now however, the talking was over. Dorelin found himself looking at the open door of the lander that had brought him as part of the ‘Lucky Six’ to the Wafopuum. There were three landers in total, a third having come over the day before with only a pilot and Captain Makamor to attend the parting reception. As he reflected on the past few weeks he heard footsteps coming near.

“Here you are, Dorelin!” boomed Ti’con. “I thought you’d be in the reception hall.”

“I was, but I needed a moment alone. I think I’ve had too many receptions.”

 Ti’con lowered his voice a notch. “Should I go?”

“No, no… Darrone,” the name said a bit softer. “Sometimes I find large groups wearisome.” He smiled.
    “Well, in a bit you’ll be back on your tidy little ship.”

“And things can return to normal here.”

Ti’con paused. “The official ambassadorial commission from Koplushia arrived today on the K.S. Alfershas. After the embassy is established on Hodon, the ship is going to Vrit through the Onum Yivra. ” 

“Yes,” said Dorelin. “The Alfershas will be mapping hyperspace to connect Vrit with Koplushia via the Jump.”

“And the crew exchanges have already begun,” said Ti’con. “Who would have guessed that so many of us still have the soul of an explorer after all these millenia.”

“About a dozen Hodonese are coming back to Koplushia with us on the Sherk’see,” said Dorelin. “I hope they won’t feel cramped.”

“Eventually,” said Ti’con, “we will build our own, more capacious exploration ships onto which your people can fit your space-folding field generators.”

“In the meantime there are planned missions to a few stars that your records say have lost Vritian colonies near them.”

Ti’con looked up wistfully, and spoke softly. “And in a thousand years, perhaps we can reconnect our broken empire.”

A line of people strode onto the hangar deck and headed towards the landers. Most were in Koplushian uniforms, but some wore the colors of the Hodonese space service. They distributed themselves among the three landers.

Radasa and Keleth came over to him. They greeted General Ti’con and then said to Dorelin. “Are you ready to go home?”

Before he could answer, Commander Batsen approached. “General, it’s been a pleasure meeting you and your people.” 

With a slight bow, Ti’con said, “The pleasure was mine, I assure you, Commander.”

She smiled in response and turned to Dorelin. “Commander Barinium, I believe there is room for you on number six.”

“Thank you sir.” He leaned down and picked up his satchel. Then he turned to Ti’con and they clasped hands. “Take care, Darrone.”

Ti’con smiled. “And you do likewise. I hope we meet again, Dorelin.” He watched as Dorelin turned smartly and walked up the ramp into the lander.  The wide ramp rose up and sealed the rear of the small ship.

General Ti’con walked to the nearest wall of the hangar deck and turned around in time to see the landers from the Koplushian ship glide through the atmospheric force-field and into space. Ti’con gave a salute and muttered to himself, “I think I’ll see where I can sign onto one of these exploration ships.”

The End

–:–

I’d like to acknowledge that some of the ideas regarding the Vritian Empire were put to me by my friend, Jim. We haven’t spoken much in several years, so I pretty much ran with what I remembered and could fit to my purposes.

Broken Empire-8

October 12, 2020

When he entered the bridge, Ti’con noted that Wanide was there, transfixed by the scene on the big view screen. Suddenly another, larger ship came through the Onum Yivra. It was distinctly different from the Koplushian ship. A second new ship and then a third came through before it deactivated.

Realizing what was happening, General Ti’con stepped back and casually pressed the security ‘call’ button.

“We’re receiving a hail from the lead ship,” announced the comm officer. 

“Put it on the big screen,” said Ti’con. He stepped to Minister Wanide just as two security personnel entered the bridge.

The face that filled the screen was of a woman, well past middle age. She wore a uniform, though in a color scheme different from those the Hodonese crew wore.

“I am General Simaza of the Vritian Space Fleet. I’d like to speak with Minister Freneswe Wanide.”

“I am Minister Wanide,” she said, taking a step forward.

General Simaza leaned forward in her chair a moment. “Minister, three days ago one of our dormant Onum Yivras activated and an alien spacecraft emerged from it.”

Wanide said quickly, “General, I can explain…”

“As fantastic as that event was,” Simaza continued, “we discovered that the ship was crewed by humans from a world unknown to us.” The General sat back in her seat. “And, if that wasn’t enough for one day, they informed us that you, Minister Freneswe Wanide attempted to take possession of their vessel.”

In the short time that the Minister stood in silence, Ti’con muttered quietly, “The gods are always watching.”

Finally, Wanide said, pleading, “General Simaza, they have technology that will…”
    “Minister!” Simaza barked. “I do not care if these people have technology that can summon back the Timizwe themselves! You know that one of our highest laws is to respect the property of others. You had no right to take anything belonging to them. Now, where is the commander of your ship?”
    “I’m right here, Sir.” He took a step forward. “I am General Darrone Ti’con.”

“General, Take the Minister into custody and prepare to receive my shuttle.”

“Yes, sir.” Ti’con turned and motioned to the guards which he had summoned, to take Minister Wanide away. After they escorted her out, he sighed and said in a whisper, “Well, that’s over.”

On the hangar deck, the six crew members from the Sherk’see stood in front of several ranks from the Wafopuum. After Ti’con was given back command of his ship, a functionary appeared in the reception hall and informed the Koplushians what had happened. 

It was fortunate that Observer Skovam was with Radasa when Dorelin delivered the news. The young lieutenant had nearly bowled him over with happiness and excitement at hearing that the Sherk’see had returned.

Shuttle number four gently set down next to shuttle six on the hangar bay deck. The rear door opened and several crew members came out, all in dress uniform. They were led by Commander Adedusa Batsen. 

Dorelin saluted as she approached. Batsen returned the salute and said, “Greetings Commander. I trust you are all well?”

Very well, sir… now,” he replied.

“My orders are to hammer out a trade treaty with the Vritians,” she said. “Both we and they have things that would be useful to the other. I want you as my translator during the negotiations.”

“Um, Thank you, sir.” Dorelin glanced down the line of his crewmates just in time to catch Radasa and Keleth embracing. He quickly turned his attention to Batsen. 

“Let me introduce you to General Ti’con.  He’s right over here.” Dorelin began walking towards the double line of Hodonese. As expected, Observer Skovam followed too.

As they parted from the embrace, Radasa whispered, “I’m so glad you’re all right. We didn’t know what happened.”

Keleth  replied. “None of us knew what would happen. I’m just glad we got back.” He quickly joined the line like the others from shuttle four were now doing.

“So, what did happen?” whispered Radasa.

Keleth glanced around to be sure there was nothing going on. “The computer reconnected the Onum Yivra here with the one near their homeworld.”

“So you just went through it? Just like that?” Her whispers were getting louder.

Keleth answered even quieter to keep attention off their exchange. “The activation was accidental! That computer can be presumptuous at times.  Anyway, Captain Makamor ordered the ship through it to avoid being taken.  We ended up in the other star system.”

She waited, then said, “And?”

“We were met by three armed ships. Not as big as this one,” he said, “but still much bigger than the Sherk’see. We opened communications with them and eventually explained what happened here.”

She discretely reached over and squeezed his hand with her thumb and forefinger. “I think you mean that you explained.”

“Well, I was on the bridge and the Captain isn’t good with their language.”

An honor guard of Hodonese began crossing in front of them, followed by General Ti’con, Commander Batsen, and Dorelin.

Radasa whispered again. “What’s going on?”

Keleth replied, barely audible. “Some Fleet General is coming on board to open trade negotiations.”

“With us?”

“Yes,” was the curt reply. “I think they might also punish that Minister that tried to take our ship. They’re big on laws here and she broke a big one.”

A distant hum grew louder until whispers could not be heard. Then a vehicle, presumably the shuttle carrying the Fleet General, appeared from behind the two landers from the Sherk’see. It was larger than the landers and had much smoother lines. The Vritian shuttle gently came to rest on the deck as the hum subsided.

A line of people came in and stood in front of the shuttle near an obvious door. Radasa recognized Dorelin standing between General Ti’con and Commander Batsen. Observer Skovam came up to the other side of Batsen. There was a blast of a trumpet fanfare. Radasa looked around to find where it was coming from, then decided it was being piped in.

“I wish I could see better!” she whispered.

“Would you rather be in Dorelin’s place?” said Keleth.

After a moment she whispered, “Yes,” but she stayed put.

The door of the shuttle slid open and two uniformed men came out to stand at either side.  A moment later, a gray-haired woman stepped down and strode to Ti’con. Her uniform was white and was covered with patterns of gold braid. She carried a long black staff with a gold knob.

Ti’con said, “General Simaza, Allow me to welcome you aboard the Hodonese ship, Wafopuum M’dumin.”

“Thank you, General. I presume this is the delegation from the alien ship?”

“Mmm, they are from an unknown planet called Koplushia,” he said. “Let me introduce Commander Adedusa Batsen, Observer Afrima Skovam, and acting as interpreter, Lieutenant Commander Dorelin Barinium.”

Simaza nodded as each name was spoken. “I look forward to our meeting.  We shall begin our business tomorrow.”
    Ti’con motioned to summon a pair from the Hodonese crew. “Sir these two will show you to your quarters on the Wafopuum.”

“Very well, General.” Simaza and the two door guards followed the crewmembers away and off the hangar deck.

Ti’con sighed with a bit of relief. “Nothing left now but talking, eh, Dorelin?”

But Commander Batsen answered him. “I’m confident that both sides will benefit from this, General.”

Ti’con bowed slightly in agreement. “For certain it will be good to be connected to a larger portion of the galaxy, Commander.”

Batsen nodded. “And it is good to find new friends, General.”

Ti’con addressed the honor guard and the assembled crewmembers, “Dismissed!” He then gestured forward and led them off the hangar deck.  

Commander Batsen paused long enough to dismiss the crewmembers from the Sherk’see, then let Ti’con lead their little group away. “We are invited to a reception tonight,” said Batsen.

Dorelin rolled his eyes, but merely said, “The food is good here, sir.”

Broken Empire-7

October 11, 2020

“Three days!” said Lieutenant Bandem. “It’s been three days with no word.” He was sitting at a table in the dining room where they had originally been hosted. With him were Dorelin and Observer Skovam. 

“At least the state rooms we were assigned are luxurious,” said Skovam, smiling.

Dorelin said to the Observer, “Where is Radasa? I haven’t seen her this morning.”

A concerned look crossed her face. “She’s in her room. Radasa is convinced that the Sherk’see is lost. Apparently she was involved with one of the crew.”

Dorelin nodded. “Not to be indiscreet, but she and Lieutenant Kofen were quite… friendly. I’m not sure how serious it was.”

“In that case, I think I’ll go keep her company for a while.” She stepped away and headed for the corridor leading to their staterooms.

Bandem was looking across the room where the Meilol sat with the rest of the Koplushians. “We’re not allowed in our shuttle, as if we had anywhere to go in it.”

Dorelin put down his cup, drained of coffee. “The General assures me that he pleads our case to Minister Wanide daily. She relieved him of command, but he says it’s an illegal act.”

“Speaking of the good General,” Bandem pointed across the room. “He just came in. Must be time to play.”

As Dorelin stood up from the table, he said, “General Ti’con is on our side.”

“That’s not a lot of help being that he’s powerless,” mocked Bandem.

“Well, at least we’re not completely ignored,” he said softly. Then he walked over to the small table where the General was setting up pieces on a game board. The first day after the Sherk’see disappeared, Ti’con had introduced Dorelin to the rules of a popular strategy board game known as ha’eku. Probably it gave him a reason to visit the Koplushian guests and gave them something to do while they talked.

“Good morning Dorelin,” said Ti’con as he filled a pair of small glasses with good Budonese wine.

“Also to you, Darrone.” He sat down and began contemplating his first move.

Later that morning, Ti’con was called to the office of Minister Wanide. She was behind her desk when he entered and continued working as he stood in the doorway. “I’ll be with you in a moment, General,” she said.

“If you’re busy, I can come back later.”

She looked up from a stack of papers which she was neatening up on the desktop. “No, that’s not necessary. I was wondering how our guests are doing. I understand you visit them every day.”

“Well, Minister,” he took a step away from the door. “Our ‘guests,’ as you put it, feel a bit claustrophobic. I don’t think it does any good to keep them confined.”

“Nor can we simply give them the run of this ship.”

“They’re not criminals. They are from another human civilization. As such they have rights under Vritian law.”

“Without their ship, they are basically indigents living at our pleasure.” 

Ti’con took a step towards the desk, “Under the law they have rights. Why haven’t you contacted Hodon and told them what has happened here?”

“I will send a report to Hodon in good time. Until then…”

An announcement came through the intercom. “Minister, we are getting odd readings from the Onum Yivra!”

She pressed a contact. “Put it through here on visual.”

Ti’con moved to see the small screen. It showed the Onum Yivra. Suddenly there was a flash of green light and the blue energy orb returned. “It’s activated again!”

“What’s going on?” she stood up. “I’m going to the bridge!” Wanide said, making her way around Ti’con. She hurried through the door.The General watched the small screen. After a few moments a small, long ship emerged, it was unmistakable.  It was either the Sherk’see or another Koplushian vessel. He hurried through the door to join the Minister.

Broken Empire-6

October 10, 2020

Keleth entered the bridge, having returned from his break.  He took his seat at his station and looked over the readouts as he replaced the headset. It was lonely in the lounge with both Dorelin and Radasa over on the Wafopuum.

“Computer, any new findings?” he said softly into the microphone.

In his earphone the computer’s programmed voice said, “Not at this time, Keleth.  We could learn more about the artifact if we could send the test signal I recommended.”

Keleth smiled to himself. Was that a note of complaint he detected? The artificial intelligence software that everyone on the ship generically referred to as ‘the computer’ kept to the standard replies when responding in text, but Keleth noticed subtle infectional changes when it responded through audio.  It was for this reason he preferred to speak to it when the Captain and First Officer were absent from the bridge.

“I will recommend the test at the next briefing,” he said. “What do you expect will happen anyway?”

“If I am correct,” the computer’s smooth voice replied, “We will learn what the function of the artifact is. Lieutenant. Glorsin believes it can function as a travel device and I concur with her hypothesis.”

“Travel to where though?”

“Perhaps to where they have been sending their messages, which I postulate may be the Hodonese home world. We only need to send my test signal to discover the artifact’s functions. It should prove interesting.”

“Keep patience, my friend. Time will answer all questions.”

Captain Makamor entered the bridge then and asked Keleth for a report.

“Captain, we’ve hit a wall. The computer wants to send a diagnostic test signal to the artifact.  It says the results of that should answer a lot of questions.”

Makamor pursed his lips momentarily. Then he glanced at the big screen which still displayed the Hodonese ship. “We’ll discuss that at today’s briefing.  I’m concerned that it will be interpreted as an intrusion on their property.”

Keleth said, “Sir, have we any word on what’s going on over there? It’s been a few hours.”

He shook his head. “I’m sure Commander Barinium has things in hand. He’s not due to check in yet. Carry on.”

The Captain went to the command chair and sat down.  A few minutes later, a steward came in. He took a cup of tea from the tray, but before his first sip, the relief communications officer interrupted.

“Captain, the Wafopuum is hailing us on radio. It’s audio-visual with a delay of about three seconds at this distance.”

“Thank you Mister Misko,” he said. “Put it here with me.”

The small screen at the command station showed a woman’s face with a determined look. She said, “Koplushian vessel. I am Minister Freneswe Wanide. As a representative of the Hodonese Dominion, we are taking possession of your ship. Stand down all systems and prepare to be boarded.”

Without showing the surprise he felt, Captain Makamor leaned back slightly in his chair and replied. “Minister, What is this all about? I do not recognize your authority to take command of our ship. I would like to speak to Commander Barinium.” He closed the channel and turned to the Comm officer.

“Mister Misko, try to contact the Commander through the lander’s systems. If you get through, brief him on the situation.”

Suddenly Lt. Glorsin announced, “There are several smaller ships heading towards us from the Wafopuum. Estimated arrival time is two hours.”

Makamor swiveled his chair to look at Keleth. “Mister Kofen, ” he said quietly, “prepare for that test you mentioned. It sounds like the time to be polite may be past us. We may as well get what information we can.” He swiveled back around. “Helm and Navigation, as a precaution, make us ready to jump away at short notice.”

Keleth said hurriedly, “Captain, we cannot jump yet. The computer hasn’t processed the data on the hyperspace terrain.”

Seskut! How long?”

“Counting down from twenty-two hours, seven minutes, Sir.”

Makamor slapped the arm of his chair. “Mister Glorsin, Your opinion. Asteroid defenses?”

“If we use the particle beam, we’ll be defenseless for several minutes while it recharges,” she said. “The missiles will work of course. We don’t know what weapons they have.  Our maneuverability may be the key.”

“And our shields are useless for anything aside from stray atoms and cosmic rays,” added Makamor. 

“Another communication, Sir. And I’m still trying the Commander.”

“Put it here,” he said. Minister Wanide’s face filled her screen again. 

“Unfortunately,” said Wanide, “Commander Barinium is unavailable. I suggest you simply submit to my authority and surrender your vessel. You have my word that no one will be harmed.” The screen went blank.

“Captain!” said Misko. “I was able to contact Commander Barinium during that last. He understands the situation.”

Makamor leaned back in his chair and swiveled to face Keleth. “Mister Kofen, run that test. Maybe we’ll find something of use.”

Lieutenant Bandem said, “So if these Timizwe left, where did they go?”

Initon said, “We don’t know. The subject has caused my philosophical discussions among us.”

Bandem blinked his eyes in an effort to clear his head. “So thousands of years after the Timizwe disappeared your technology began to break down because no one knew how it worked? Thousands of years and no one could figure it out?”

Professor Senisal sighed. “The Timizwe built the Onum Yivras for us and maintained them. It was their gift to us. We hoped they would return, but they never did.”

“And no one foresaw this as a problem?” said Meilol.

Senisal gave a little shrug. “Who could predict the fall of a galactic empire?”

Dorelin put down his empty coffee cup. “General, if the Timizwe left, where did they go?”

Ti’con slowly shook his head. “No one knows. Our history says their numbers had been dwindling for some time,” he said. “Then one day, without ceremony, the last ships went through the Onum Yivra and we realized there were only a few representative Timizwe on Vrit. They refused to increase their numbers, so when the last of them wore out and died they were gone.”

“Were there any investigations?”

“Yes,” he said, “but there was not a trace to follow. Wherever they did go, the secret went with them.”

“General…”

“Please, I feel like we know each other.  Call me Darrone.”

“Only if you call me Dorelin then.”

The General smiled and nodded. He reached for the coffee ewer.

The comm band on Dorelin’s shoulder buzzed. “Pardon me,” he said. He activated it with a tap. “Commander Barinium here.”

“Sir, Lieutenant Misko here. There are several smaller ships from the Wafopuum heading towards us. Also Captain Makamor just received a communication from a Minister Wanide demanding our surrender of the ship.”

Dorelin glanced a Ti’con and Observer Skovam, then jerked his head towards the comm-band in disbelief. He said softly, “Understood. I’ll see what I can do here. Out.”

He looked back at Ti’con.“What’s going on?”

General Ti’con looked appropriately surprised. “I know nothing about it?” he stood up so fast that his chair flew backwards. “We have to get to the bridge!” The General headed for the nearest door and pressed the control. It did not open. He pressed the control again. Nothing. “What by the gods…” By now Dorelin and Observer Skovam had caught up.

Professor Initon came walking over. “General, it’s the quarantine protocol.” 

The word ‘quarantine’ began echoing among the gathering Koplushians.

“You’re correct Professor, but how did Minister Wanide get out then?”

“Commander, and General,” said Ensign Meilol, “I’m an orderly in the infirmary, sirs. We routinely receive an anti-contagion inoculation, so there’s no need to quarantine us.  We’re no danger to your crew, and your crew is no danger to us.”

Professor Initon said, “An anti-contagion innoculation?  How very clever!”

Dorelin looked at the ensign and smiled. “Good call!” and he slapped Meilol on the shoulder.

“We still need to get to the bridge!” said Ti’con. He impatiently tried the control again.

Dorelin was looking at the ceiling. “Darrone?” he whispered conspiratorially. Pointing upwards he said, “How big are your air vents?”

Ti’con replied with a huge grin.  “I was born and raised on this ship. I used to crawl around all of its vents and access spaces.” He removed the two swords from his back, unbuttoned the heavy dress uniform jacket and unbuckled the belt that held the empty scabbard at his waist.

“I meant to ask you about that scabbard,” said Dorelin. “Why no sword?”

Ti’con held it up before himself.  “Symbolism. The two swords on my back show that I’m prepared to fight. The empty scabbard says that I’m unarmed and prepared for peace. That’s one interpretation, at least.”

Dorelin nodded and quickly removed his dress over-tunic. “Which vent goes to the bridge?”

Ti’con pointed to the ceiling vent on the other end of the room.  “That one gives us the most direct access. We need to stack the tables to get up there!”

Everyone, Hodonese and Koplushian alike joined in to move the tables into the proper configuration. Radasa found herself on the other end of a table from Observer Skovam. “This is the last thing I expected to be doing on an alien spaceship, um… sir!”

“It’s a surprise to all of us, Lieutenant,” she mumbled.

The table-pyramid complete, General Ti’con climbed up and detached the grille. It clattered to the floor, bouncing several times. He looked down, smiling. “Are you coming Dorelin?”

Skovam and Dorelin exchanged glances. She said quietly, “I trust him, but I trust you more. We should have a presence in whatever happens.”

Dorelin said, “I’ll do my best.” Then he climbed the tables and pulled himself up into the vent after Ti’con.

The air ducts weren’t particularly generous, nor were they restrictive. At one point they climbed a long ladder straight up.  Almost the entire time they were in total darkness. Ti’con must have known the ductwork very well indeed to know what route to take without error. Dorelin assumed there was no error. he had no way of knowing.

Finally, they came to a side passage with a large vertical grille. Ti’con whispered, “This is the place.” The grille fell free with one kick of the General’s boot and clattered to the deck of the bridge. Ti’con pulled himself through quickly, followed by Dorelin.

“What by the gods are you doing, Minister?!”

Wanide was already facing him and said, “General, what are you doing? And why did you bring this man out of quarantine. You’re risking our lives!”

“Nonsense!” he said. “If that were so, then you’ve broken it too. We don’t need a quarantine anyway. These people have a medical science at least equal to our own. They’re safe! Every one of them!”

“General, I am trying to help our people,” she said. “If we can learn to make our ships travel faster than light, it won’t matter if the Onum Yivras no longer work. Hodon and Budon will have the gratitude of Vrit and we can rebuild the old Empire.”

“Minister, you are trying to commit theft which goes against Vritian law. The only thing you’ll get from this is a fair trial and sentencing.”

Someone on the bridge said in a loud voice, “I’m getting a strange reading from the Onum Yivra. Very powerful!”

All eyes went immediately to the big screen. There was a bright green flash of light from the Onum Yivra and a blue globe of energy quickly grew to fill the round space in the center. The orb of energy stabilized, occasionally brightening and dimming.

Ti’con said in amazement, “It’s active, just as our history describes it!”

“Question is,” said Dorelin, “is it fully functional?  Could we pass through it?”

Ti’con grunted. “Certainly not in this hulking ship. We’re too large.”

“General!” said the Hodonese communications officer, “We’re getting a message from the Homeworld.  It’s video in real-time!”

“Take it easy there, son,” said Ti’Con.  He adjusted his uniform, as incomplete as it was, before continuing. “Can you put it on screen?”

“Yes, sir.”

The display nearest to Ti’con was instantly filled with the image of a young woman sitting at a consol.  Her first words were, “This is Galactic Communications Central. How can I help you?”

Ti’Con paused to clear his throat, obviously moved. “This is General Darrone Ti’Con of the Hodonese spaceship Wafopuum M’dumin. Let me speak to your commanding officer.”

Dorelin suddenly shouted, “What’s the Sherk’see doing?”

The big screen showed the Koplushian ship suddenly change course and head directly for the activated Onum Yivra.

“General,” said Minister Wanide, “I order you to stop that vessel!”

Ti’con said nothing, but glanced at Dorelin.

“General!” repeated Wanide. “Target that ship with grappling beams at once!”

But the Sherk’see entered the blue globe of energy and disappeared.  A moment later the globe collapsed and the Onum Yivra looked as inactive as it had always been.

“Where did it go?” Dorelin said softly.

Ti’con barked, “Are we still in live communication with Vrit?”

“No sir,” said the officer. “We lost contact when the Onum Yivra de-activated.”

General Ti’con slowly moved to block the only exit from the bridge. He reached over and pressed the security ‘call’ button. “Send homeworld the following message by the usual route…”

“Don’t bother,” said Minister Wanide. “You’re no longer in command here.”

Broken Empire-5

October 9, 2020

Across the room, Radasa Lithem was sitting at a table with Professor Dijou, one of the older Hodonese and his daughter, Seshuli. The professor finished pouring a cup of tea for Radasa as she was eating the last of her vegetable salad.

    “This is absolutely delicious, even better than what we have on the Sherk’see,” she said. “Is it grown on board?”

    Professor Dijou smiled. “The hydroponics bays of our ships have always been bountiful with a wide selection of fruits and vegetables.”

    “We grow fish and small mammals for meat,” added Seshuli.

Radasa said, “We do that too, but mostly we eat processed alge.  It’s quicker and can be formed into many consistencies.” She made a face. “Your fresh produce is very welcome.” 

Dijou raised a finger and paused. “Can you tell us where your Koplushia is located?  We haven’t had a visit from one of the other colonies in quite some time.”

Radasa took a slow sip of her tea, holding the cup in two hands. “Well, we’re not really a colony, at least not one of yours.  We came from planet Norem originally, which we thought was the only world.  I mean, our scientists said there was a fossil record dating back millions of years that showed our development from pre-human ancestors…”

Professor Dijou raised his finger again. “This Norem was the only planet?  You have no history or myths of other planets of humans?”

Radasa shook her head. “Not outside of actual fictions, no.  Although one of our more modern religious beliefs states that we will find six planets…” She trailed off as she saw some of the color drain from Professor Dijou’s face. “Are you all right?”

His daughter, Seshuli dashed to one of the other tables and returned with a glass of wine. While Dijou was downing that, she explained, “One of our oldest religious teachings says the same thing. ‘Six will be found alone’.”

“Our belief came to us over two thousand years ago,” said Radasa. “A man named Engreth Pretm recorded a revelation he experienced.”

After a small smile, Seshuli said, “Ours is from very long ago, from when we were first reaching out for other stars.”

“When was that?

She hesitated, thinking, but Professor Dijou, having recovered, placed his hand on hers and said to Radasa, “According to the old calendar, the revelation came to the Prophet Kilvrin  over fifty-four thousand years ago.

Radasa just stared at him. “That’s a long time before our earliest civilization on Norem.”

In another part of the room Lieutenant Bandem and Ensign Meilol sat at a table with the other two scholarly looking gentlemen. The meal they had been served would have rivaled any available on Koplushia during one of the periodic crew rotations. Bandem drained the remaining contents of his cup and said, “What an interesting beverage!” He dabbed the corner of his mouth with the cloth napkin. “What is it, if I may ask?”

“I do not mind telling you that it is somewhat rare,” said Professor Senisal. Like the other non-Koplushian men in the room, Senisal was clean-shaven, but he had retained bushy sideburns, rivaled only by his generous eyebrows. “In certain areas of Budon,” he continued, “they grow a bush-berry that contains a rather large seed. When the seeds are treated and ground they are used to produce a drink through percolation.”

“Budon is the inner planet to Hodon in the starsystem, isn’t it?” said Bandem. “Something like this would be good to cultivate on Hodon as well.”

The second man, Professor Initon said, “The problem is that the bush does not grow very well on Hodon.  Generations have tried and failed.  Somehow the conditions on Budon are more suitable.”

“But we have trade agreements with the growers there,” said Senisal, “So both our worlds benefit.” He refilled Bandem’s cup. “Some say it boosts one’s immunity to disease.”

Bandem took the cup and cradled it in his hand. “Before, I heard both Hodon and Budon described as colonies. Where is your home world, the Mother planet, so to speak?” He raised his cup and took a sip.

Senisal said, “Why, planet Vrit of course. All the colonies stem from Vrit.”

Ensign Meilol said quietly. “How long ago were your planets colonized?”

Profesor Senisal looked up towards the ceiling as he jogged his memory. “Well, We consider the founding date of Hodon to be… Hmm.  We’re in the third month… so, it was thirty thousand, two hundred and twelve years ago.  Budon was colonized directly by us about a century later.”

Professor Initon, said as an aside, “We didn’t need the room, it just gave us something to do.” A broad smile broke out on his face.

Zog no Zeskut,” said Bandem. “We only left Norem, um our home planet about what,  a thousand years ago!”

Senisal smiled and raised his cup. “Welcome to the galaxy!” 

Lieutenant Bandem shook his head briefly in disbelief. After emptying his cup, he said, ”So, Professor, where does the big ring out there come in? What did you call it?”

“The Onum Yivra is how we arrived in the system,” said Initon.

Bandem looked confused. “You mean it’s a ship?”

“No,” said Initon, “more of a doorway.”

Meilol said, “So you use it to travel to other star systems?”

Professor Senisal sighed. “For many generations we did, The Onum Yivras linked the empire together, but no more.  One day it failed like many others reportedly had.”

“Empire?” said Bandem.

“The Vritian Empire,” said Professor Initon. “At one time, long ago, the Great Vritian Empire stretched to the very edges of the galaxy.”

The lieutenant just sat and blinked. 

“An empire of humans?” asked Ensign Meilol.

“Well,” said Senisal, “Yes and no.”

After a moment, Professor Initon said, “There were also the Timizwe.”

On the Sherk’see, Commander Adedusa Batsen entered the bridge, paused to identify those on duty in her mind and went to the computer station.

“Anything of interest, Mister Kofen? I know you’ve been studying the artifact with the computer.”

Lieutenant Commander Keleth Kofen leaned back in his chair a bit. “Maybe, sir,” he said. “Computer, display the last test results.” Words and figures appeared on the screen at his station.”

Batsen leaned towards the display. “Does this mean that the artifact could be used as a hyper-spacial transportation device as well as for communication?”

“We think it is possible, sir. The computer is also working on how to reactivate it. It thinks that the terrain of hyperspace changed just enough over the millenia to ‘disconnect’ the object for travel, but the ability for level I hyperwave communication has remained. It would basically function as a hyperspatial communications relay.”

“Damn big relay,” said Batsen.

Science officer Glorsin, at the nearby station commented, “It’s an odd thing, that artifact. It might work on a similar principal to our space-folding generators. “

Batsen straightened up. “But they decided to create a static jump point instead of mounting the generators on their ships.”

Glorsin said, “It may be that they didn’t have miniaturization in mind like we did.” she shrugged. “That, or their power source isn’t as efficient.

“Provided there are no missteps over there,” Commander Batsen indicated the huge Hodonese ship on the screen, “We may find answers to all of our questions eventually.” She walked casually over to the command chair and sat down.

Dorelin pushed his empty plate to the side a bit and a steward took it away. “So, the Onum Yivra, which we locked onto as the source of your hyperspace signals is used to communicate with the home world, with Vrit?”

Ti’con nodded.

“But it was originally built as a way to travel between star systems?”

“Yes,” said the General. 

“That is quite an accomplishment,” said Observer Skovam.

Ti’con held up a finger. “But we did not build them.”

“Who did?  Did you just find them?” said Dorelin.

“Commander, there is quite a lot of our history that you don’t know.  We may not get through it all at once.”

Dorelin smiled. “Let me say that you’ve whetted  my curiosity then.”

Ti’con took a pair of cups from the nearby tray and filled each with a dark brown liquid. “I hope you like this.  It is rare among us.  We call it coffee.”

Dorelin took his cup and sipped it.  It was like nothing he had ever tasted. “It’s very good.”

Observer Skovam took a discrete sniff of her cup, tasted it, and nodded.

Ti’con said, “The shortest answer to your question is that the Timizwe built the Onum Yivra for us.”

Dorelin paused. “And they are… Aliens? …other humans?”

The General reflected a moment and his tone changed as if he were reciting a litany. “Long ago we created the Timizwe as our servitors. Over time they became our advisors, our teachers, and our equals. They developed into a sentient species with a will of their own and we made them equal to us under the law.”

Skovam said quietly, “You created a sentient life form?”

“Yes.” Ti’con took a sip from his cup and continued. “The only limitation we put into them was to do no harm, beyond that they had the power to choose their destiny.”

“And they chose to build the Onum Yivra?” said Dorelin.

“Yes. When the Timizwe were created, we were in our infancy of space exploration.  Our distant ancestors sent out generation ships to likely stars in the vicinity of Vrit. As our initial push outward was waning, the Timizwe developed a way to travel instantaneously through great distances via the Onum Yivra.”

“And they built one near Vrit and one here?” said Dorelin.

Ti’con laughed briefly and took a breath, leaning back in pride. “They built them across the entire galaxy.” His hand made an expansive gesture. “We had already learned to travel very near the speed of light by that time. That technology was used to put an Onum Yivra near many habitable planets to which we could then travel via our ships.”

“Hmm. In our little bit of exploration,” said Dorelin, “we’ve found at least two planets that could support human life, but they were empty of it.”

General Ti’con was fiddling with his cup, only a swallow of coffee remained in it. “We are taught that they were built throughout the galaxy, but not at every habitable planet. So while we did colonized the entire galaxy, it was in a somewhat spotty fashion.” He waggled his hand in the air.

Dorelin casually glanced around the room. “What happened to Minister Wanide? I don’t see her.”

“I don’t know,” said Ti’con. He scanned the room as had Dorelin. “She should be here.”

Observer Skovam said, matter of factly, “I saw Minister Wanide exit the room through the large door over there.” she pointed.