Here’s my hommage to 60’s pulp sci-fi. Lots of technobable, drinking and sex (well, just sorta sex). Enjoy.
The mighty Xenon spaceship Vengeance jostles violently to a fro. Captain Von tightly grabs onto the his seat to keep from being thrown to the deck. “Why haven’t we broken free of this black star?” An Ensign, sweat dripping from his forehead as he desperately fights with the flight controls of the ships astroguider, turns to the captain. “I can’t seem to engage the atomic engines sir.” Captain Von furrows his brow. Vengeance’s atomic engines where the most powerful in the empire and should have no problem pulling them free of a star. He pushes the communicator switch on his command chair. “Engineering, why haven’t we engaged the atomic engines?” A voice, barely audible over the commotion in engineering, responds, “The gravity well of that black star is too great. It’s ripping the atomic engines apart. If we don’t get free soon she’ll go belly… ZZZTT.” Captain Von slams down on the communicator switch. “Engineering! Engineering respond! Do we at least have thruster rockets!?” There is a momentary silence. “That we do have. But barely.” Captain Von turns to his navigator at the astroguider. “Navigator Pax, plot us a course around the black star using thrusters. If we can’t escape it’s gravity at least we can keep this bucket of bolts from shaking to pieces with a tight orbit.” “Yes sir.”, comes from the navigator. After a several minutes a very close and very fast orbit around the black star is plotted and executed. The ship quickly settles down and Von checks his emerald green skin. Xenon’s skin tended to turn yellow when under stress or fear and a Xenon captains couldn’t afford to show fear. Nope, nice shade of green.
“Conference.” says Von. He gets up from his command chair and heads over to the conference table at the back of the bridge. His senior officers soon follow suit. The Captain looks over to the swirling mass that dominates the screen of the ships forward infrometer screen and points to it. “Gentleman, how did we end up jumping out of X space so close to a black star?” The crew around the conference table shuffle back and forth. “Well, we don’t know. It shouldn’t be there.”, finally says the navigator. “It wasn’t on any of the charts.” Captain Von turns and grabs a rolled up star chart from behind him and smoothes it out on the table. He points to the corner of the chart. “Look at the date; 85234 Alpha. It’s 85237 Gama. Who’s in charge of keeping these charts up to date.” A timid Lieutenant holds up his hand. “I am sir.” Von slams his fist down on the table. “Why hasn’t this chart been updated?” The ensign swallows hard. “That, um, is the latest update sir. They, that is central command, haven’t been updating the charts since the war has started going, the way it’s going.” Captain Von grabs the chart and swipes if off the table. “Darn it!”
The captain takes a deep breath to regain his composure. “OK, however we got here, here is were are.”, He looks over his staff. “Now how do we not be here and escape the gravity of this black star?” A uneasy murmur encircles the table. “Sir, I…” The astroguider pilot stammers for a moment. “I believe I have a idea. It may or may not work.” He turns to the navigator. “And I’ll need the help of the navigator…” Captain Von cuts him off, “What’s your idea ensign?” “Well sir, if we accelerate toward the black star…” Von’s second in command, Commander Xex stops the ensign, “Accelerate toward the black star. Are you insane? That’ll get us killed.” Navigator Pax interjects, “No. I think I know where he is going with it. If we can accelerate fast enough toward the star then cut it we might be able to create a sling shot effect and snap us away.” The navigator scratches his chin. “It’s crazy enough that it just might work.” He turns to the captain. “But I’m going to need some time with the electronic brain in the calculating room. May take a few hours.” Captain Von makes a sho action toward the navigator. “And take the ensign with you since it was his idea.” The ensign pops a huge grin. “Thank you sir. Thank you.” The two head off the bridge.
“Anyone have anything else?” says Captain Von. Heads shakes and low voices say ‘No.” “Good. you know your jobs.” As the staff meeting breaks up Commander Xex walks up to the captain. “Captain, our mission was to destroy the Klek ship yards on the moon of Ghield.” The captain nods. “I am aware of our orders commander.” Xex continues. “Therefore it is imperative that we leave immediately. Sir, if we were to engage the atomic engines at full thrust…”, The Captain stops Xex. “Which would tear us apart so close to this black star. No commander, not an option.” Xex purses his lips. “Never the less, we need to leave as soon as possible. The safety of Xenon armada depends on it.”
Captain Von sighs then points at the dark spinning mass on the infrometer. “You know what that is Commander?” “Yes, a black star.” Xex responds curtly. The Captain points to it again. “A high gravitational black star. And you are aware of the laws concerning time dilation and gravity?” The commander nods. “Good. So I don’t have to give you a lesson on basic physics. Commander, even if we break free in the next few minutes, hours, maybe even days would have passed by outside. And it may be days before we break free, if ever at all. You can forget about our appointment on Ghield. I’m sure Central Command will find some one else when we don’t check in. Heck, we’ll be lucky if where not crushed to death when we try to escape anyway. So commander, Ghield is the lest of our worries.” Captain Von turns to Commander Xex. “Dismissed commander.” The commander grits his teeth then nods and heads for his post on the bridge.
Captain Von undoes the buttons of his coat and tosses it on a chair in his living area. It’s been a long day. He walks over to a cabinet that automatically opens at his touched. On display are various multicolored bottles with various degrees of intoxicating beverages. Von pulls out a couple of the bottles and pours a small amount into a flask, adds some ice, a tiny green and red vegetable and shakes the mixture. After a few minutes he pours half the contents into a glass and takes a seat on a couch next to a small infrometer screen in his cabin. Von takes a sip. He stares at the swirling mass, spinning incredibly close and fast, in his infrometer. He thinks about all the stories of lost ships that came in contact with black stars. How the star would grab out an pull the ship to it’s doom. He takes another sip. “Fairy stories.”
Bzzzzt! “Come in doctor.” The door to Captain Von’s cabin slides opens and an elderly gentleman, maybe twice Von’s age, steps in. “Perfect timing. Pour me a drink.” Von gets up and pours the rest of the contents of the flask into another glass. The doctor takes the glass and sits across from Von. He looks at the swirling mass on the infrometer. “Beautiful, isn’t it.” Von takes a swig from his glass then drops back on the couch. “And deadly.” The doctor empties his glass then plops it on a table next to him. “Still the best drink in galaxy. Where did you learn to mix like that?” Von finishes his and puts the glass back in the cabinet. “College. I wasn’t a rich boy like you. I actually had to work my way through at the local bars.” The doctor holds up one finger, “Another please bar keep.” Von gives the doctor a sly look then gets up and gets them both a drink.
Von hands the drink to the doctor then plops down on the couch. He goes to take a drink then sits straight up and sits his drink on a near by stand. He begins rubbing his eyes. “Problem?”, says the doctor who then points to the infrometer. “Other than the fact we could be ripped to shreds at any moment by that, beast.” Von waves it off then leans back on the couch. “Oh, that. No, Pax will figure it out, he always does. It’s just that.” He sits back up and turns to the doctor. “The war with the Klek, it’s going bad, really bad. Much worse than the emperor is willing to admit in public. Last week we lost a quarter of the third fleet in one battle. Thirty ships”, he snaps his fingers, “Gone just like that.” Von shakes his head. “Thousands died. And for what, to take a barely inhabitable moon.” The doctor leans back in his chair and finishes off his drink. “Well somebody thought it was important.” Von humphs. “You know what they say, you can’t enlarge an empire without taking more land.” Von throws his hands in the air, “Yes, yes I know. An empire needs planets to grow. And if an empire doesn’t grow it dies. I remember that from officer’s school. But we have been at war with the Klek for, what, a 100 years. And before that the Sleev, which we conquered. And before that, I don’t even remember who they said we were at war with before that. It gets tiresome.”
“Well, you are a captain of a warship. And a darn good one too I might add. And that’s what Xenon warships make war.” The doctor scratches his chin. “How does that old homely go, ‘A Xenon warrior is forged in iron as a mighty sword to conquer all’, or something like that.” Von makes a disapproving grunt. The doctor shrugs then gets up and makes himself another drink. “Anyway, I heard the R&D guys are supposed to be coming up with a new super weapon that will change the direction of this war.” “The R&D guys are always coming up with some super weapon of sorts. Probably get us all killed.”, responds Von.
“Well you’re a real ray of optimism.”, says the doc as he sits back down. Von wipes his eyes again and leans back. “Just tired I guess. Tired of the killing and being killed. Tired of always wondering if your next battle will be your last. Tired of constantly looking over my shoulder. Tired to death.” He looks back at the infrometer and flicks it off. “You know the Geeko, little green lizard people. Friendly but a stubborn streak a click long. Anyway, you know want they call us, El ta gorra. It translates, ‘The destroyers’. You remember their uprising last year don’t you. All over the nets. The Vengeance was sent there to take care of it. Not to negotiate a truce, I was ordered to bombard their cities from space till they complied. Well, it worked, they capitulated. But only after half of their land mass was irritated by our bombs.” He takes a long drink. “I doubt the Geeko will ever recover.”
The doctor leans forward toward Von. “War is a messy business Von. You should know that. People, or beings, get killed. And they did rebel.” Von nods then leans back. “Yes, but did I have to…” He stops himself. “Doc, I’ve been at the game too long and seen too much. “Maybe I just need to retire. ”
“You’re tired, like you said. The weigh of command can wear hard on anyone.” The doctor leans back in his chair and inspects the contents of one of his empty glasses. “So if you did retire, who you going to recommend as your replacement, Xex?” Von laughs, “No. No way. He’s too much of a flag waver. Get everyone killed first day. Plus I just don’t trust him” “Good. the guys an ass.”, says the doctor. “So, why did you hire him then?” “Political.”, replies Von. “Ah.”
The doctor looks at the chronograph on his wrist. “Thanks for the drink, um drinks, but I got surgery in half an hour. Private Telsa got banged up pretty bad when she fell down a shaft while you were jerking the ship around.” Von smiles and gets up with the doctor. The doctor puts his arm on Von’s shoulder. “Look, when we return home maybe you can request retirement or at least a job planet side. I’ll back you up. I think you’ve seen enough of your share of death and destruction.” Captain Vons smiles and then pats the doc on the back. “Thanks.”
Von watches as his staff filter into the conference room. Some are talking and laughing as they enter while others are deep into their notes. Xex, his second in command and head of security, is holstering his pistol and knife as he walks in. Xex. a tall thin man with a scar on his left cheek, Von had always wondered if Xex put it there to look more intimidating, sits across from Von at the table and calls order.
Von looks over his staff then takes a breath. “Well, let’s get right to it. We’re here to discuss if we can break free of this black star.” He turns to the navigator. “Lieutenant commander Pax, can we sling shot out of this orbit as you said or are we stuck here for all eternity?” Von notices that Pax and the ensign give each other a quick pained look before Pax answers. “Yes sir we can break free. We will have to pull in even closer to the black star then is safe but if we engage full thrusters at just the right point we should snap out of orbit at a good percent of the speed of light.” Captain Von makes a mental note of how Pax stressed, ’speed of light’. He turns to his Chief Engineer, “Chief To’ka, can our engines take the strain of such a maneuver?” The Engineer To’Ka pops a huge grin, “My engines can get us out of anything Mr. Pax can cook up.” Pax continues, “Chief, we are going to need full reverse thrust for quite a while. Might be a strain and consume lots of fuel.” The Chief waves it off. “No problem. All engines are fueled with Uranium and ready to go.”
“Good.” Captain Von looks over to Xex, “I want to remind everyone that being this close to high gravitational black star we are going to be subject to some time dilation. So don’t expect that when we get out only a few days would have passed. Weeks, maybe longer may have passed. We may have been even labeled KIA. Hopefully not, but it’s a possibility. I’ll allow all crew members to take some time with their families, if need be.” Von can tell Xex doesn’t like what he just heard. “If there is nothing else?” Von looks around the table. “Well, go to it gentleman. Dismissed.”
Von notices that everyone heads out to their respective departments except Pax who stays seated. “Mr. Pax, I take it you have something more to say.” Pax takes a deep breath. “Captain. We did the calculations on the time dilation effect.” “And?” says the Captain. “And it’s not going to be weeks having passed when we finally brake free.”, responds Pax. “How long then.”, replies the Captain. “At least…”, Pax swallows hard. “at least, 76 years.” Captain Von gasp. “Are you sure?” Pax nod his head yes. “We did the calculations five times. We’ve orbited just too close to the black star. And add to that the time we will be at nearly the speed of light after we snap free… it all adds up.”
Captain Von gets up and starts wandering back and forth in front of the conference table. “Oh this is…” He slams his fist down on the table. “I should have NEVER let us orbit so close to this black star. I should have known better.” The navigator shakes his head. “If you hadn’t we’d been torn to pieces. We just didn’t have the power to directly break free. It was our only option.” The captain sits back down. “Can we speed up the time table? Brake faster? Pull further out?” The navigator shakes his head no. “We’ve already cut it as close as possible. 76 years is as short as we can make it.”
The human implications suddenly hits home to the Von like a meteor hitting ground. “You have family back home, don’t you?” Pax swallows deep. “Yes sir. A wife and two kids.” Captain Von closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. “I’m, I’m sorry.” Pax nods.
Captain Von sits quietly for a few minutes not knowing what to say. He then stiffens up to his full stature in his chair and combs down his uniform straight. “Thank you Lieutenant for bringing this to me privately. I will relay the information to the crew as soon as I feel it is best. Keep it to yourself till then.” He stands up. “And please enter the necessary computations on the astroguider so that we may break free as soon as possible. Dismissed.”
The Captain and his bridge crew buckle themselves in for what will probably a very rough ride. Navigator Pax and the ships pilot go over their check list and enter in the last of the data into the ship’s astroguider. The gyro at the center of the mighty astroguider tilts to and fro as the new commands are entered. “Atomic pile?” “Check.” “Time warp intermix?” “Check.” Von can see the strain on their faces. Life and death depends on the many calculations, some still theoretical, that Pax and the young ensign have made.
Pax leans back from the astroguider and takes a deep breath. “All done.” The pilot fidgets, “You think we might outta check it just one more time. I mean…” Von smiles, “It’s OK ensign. If you screwed up I’ll be too dead to have you thrown in the brig. On the other hand, you’ll be too dead to care.” Von turns to Pax, “Engage.”
The Pilot takes a couple deep breath then press the trottle forward. The ship begins to shutter. On the infrometer the swirling mass moves closer and closer. Creaks and moans, some Von never heard before, emanate from the belly of the ship. Several alarms go off on the bridge. “Captain. The hull is starting to buckle.”, hollers a bridge crewman. Captain Von looks over to the navigator and the pilot who are intently watching a pair of dials on the astroguider. A massive shutter of the ship and one of the bridge crew’s security belt comes lose and he is thrown into a wall. Von watches but dares not endanger another crew member to check on him. The navigator hollers, “Now!” and the pilot pulls on his control stick and everyone in thrown back into their seats.
Von begins breathing hard as the G forces start to pull him back. It starts to feel like an atomic pile is sitting on his chest. He makes long deliberate breaths to keep from blacking out. One of the bridge crew passes out and falls limp. The edges of his vision starts to blacken as he watches the black star receding away on the infrometer. “Mister… Pax… are… we… clear… yet.” He strains to look over to the navigator and the pilot. Both are struggling with the heavy controls. He wonders how long till he and them pass out from the G forces. “Mister.. Pax…”
Snap! And Von is thrown forward. “Sir, we have broken free.”, says the pilot and a small cheer erupts from the crew. Captain Von takes a deep breath. “Thank you Ensign.”
Von quickly undoes his belt and goes over to the injured crewman. He checks his eyes and pulse. “Call a medic. This man needs help.” Von then motions over to two other crewmen to attend to the injured.
Von walks over to the navigator and pilot at the astroguider. He checks the ships infrometer on the way. All the stars have a defiant red shift to them. “How fast are we going?” The pilot checks one of his dials. “.986 of light speed.” The Captain can almost feel the strain on the ship. “How long till we slow enough to jump to X space?” The pilot checks another dial. “About four and a half hours.” “Hum.” Von turns to Xex, “Have all available the crew meet on the rec deck. I have an important announcement.”
Von looks over the crew now assembled on the rec deck. All good men and women. All expecting to go back home to their family and friends.
Xex calls the crew to order. Von looks down at his notes then tosses them to the side. He takes a deep breath, “Gentlemen and ladies, I first want to thank each and everyone of you for your outstanding service with the black star. We couldn’t have survived without all of your exemplary efforts.” He takes another deep breath. “Unfortunately…” Von decides to pull the bandage off quickly. “Due to the time dilation of orbiting the black star we are now 76 years into our future. It is now 85312, in, I believe, Epsilon.” Gasp pervade the ranks. “Quiet!” Xex shouts. Von gives him a sharp look. “I know how this must be impacting each and everyone of you. I wish there was something we could have done to prevent it.” He realizes he was slouching a bit and straightens up to his full length. “I will allow a couple days for each of you to prepare for the, um, future, before we jump back to Xenon prime.” He looks over the crew. Some are holding back anger, some fear and others tears. “We’re going to get through this. You are all strong and great warriors of the Empire. This is just a battle of a different kind. I don’t know what kind of empire we’ll be returning to, hopefully like the one we left, but we’ll be home, Xenon.”
Xex pulls out his knife and thrust it into the air, “Long live the Empire!” “Long live the Empire!”, is slowly returned from the crew. “Long live the Emperor!”, Xex continues. “Long live the Emperor!”, comes from the crew more enthusiastically. “And long live Xenon our home!” The crew breaks out cheering, “Long live Xenon.” and “Great is Xenon.”, is repeated. Von nods his head toward Xex. A patriotic rally hadn’t been in Von’s plans. But maybe a rally was just what was needed.
Von watches as Xex moves about the bridge preparing for the jump through X space. “Astroguider set for a 300 light year jump.”, barks Xex. “Coordinates set for just outside the Xenon prime solar system.” Von deiced he didn’t want to be shot down as an unknown ship in their own home system. “Atomic engines to maximum.” “Good Mr. Xex. Please issue the command to jump.” “Jump!”, commands Xex.
For a moment, there is void. No feeling of existence; no here, no there. Just a blank as the ship jumps through the timeless eternity of X space.
Then, “We have arrived just outside Xenon prime system.” “Well done.” Von smiles at the sight of the twin stars of Xenon prime. “Now comes the hard part.”, Von says to Xex. “Will they believe us when we say we have been caught in a black star for 76 years. Or will they think we are just some spies with a captured ship.” Xex contemplates for a moment. “Central Command would never make a mistake like that. They would know the crew of the great ship Vengeance.” “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”, responds Von.
“Captain.” The communications officer flags Von’s attention. “I’m not hearing any chatter on the quantum bands. This close to the system we should be hearing something.” Von presses the communicator switch on his chair. “Engineering, are we having trouble with communications?” A minor pause. “No sir. All systems are operational.” Von turns to the communications officer. “Have you tried all bands?” “Yes sir. And also the nav beacons and all analog bands too. Nothing.” “Odd.”, says Von. “Maybe we’re at war and the system is in black out.”, says Xex. “At least the nav beacons would be operating.”, responds Von. He turns to the navigator and pilot. “Plot us a course into the system. Be sure to pass by as many check points as possible. I don’t want to appear we are sneaking up on Prime.” “Yes sir.” responds both the navigator and pilot. He turns to the communications officer, “Let me know the moment you detect anything.” The communications officer responds with a nod.
The Vengeance moves slowly into the heart of the system. Von looks over to the communications officer. She mouths, “Nothing.” He sees a space station far to port off the ship. He points to it on the infrometer. The pilot pulls the ship along side. Half of the circular space station is missing. Shards of metal slowly radiating outward from the station. “This happened sometime ago.”, says Von then motions to move on.
As they transverse closer to Xenon prime the devastation becomes more apparent. Space stations in ruins, moon colonies wiped out of existence and miles and miles of technological flotsam aimlessly floating in the ether.
“Sir, we’re coming up on Xenon Prime.” As the infrometer focuses on the planet the bridge crew gasp. The jewel of the Xenon Empire, the home world of all Xenon people, Xenon Prime is a darkened pot marked mass. “How?”, says a bridge crewman. Someone begins weeping.
As the planet rotates beneath them Von notices what looks to be a large artificial structure. Did they go underground? Or is it just wishful thinking. “Pax, check if, if there is any life on the planet.” Navigator Pax doesn’t move. “Pax.”, Von quietly repeats. “Yes, yes sir.” Pax looks over the various dials and screens on his panel. A couple of moments of hope then he swats a line of switches off. “Dead. Not so much as a microbe.”
“The Klek. They did this.”, Screams Xex. “We must retaliate.” Captain Von says nothing. “Captain, we must attack the Klek! We must avenge the Xenon Empire! ”, Xex screams. Von holds his hand out toward the shattered remains of Xenon, “And how are we to do that, Huh commander? One ship against fire power like that?” Von turns toward the communications officer. Commander Xex grabs Captain Von’s command chair and spins him back around. “The Xenon have never been defeated. We must respond!” Von slaps Xex’s hand off his command chair. “Know your place commander! The only thing we must do now is survive.” Commander Xex pulls a knife from his belt and thrust it toward Captain Von. “Coward!” Von grabs his arm. “If you do it you better be very sure I’m dead.” He throws Xex’s arm back down. Xex grits his teeth and takes a couple steps backwards while sheathing his knife.
Captain Von sits up straight in his command chair and combs down his uniform. He looks around at the terror on the crews faces. “This has been quite the blow. ” He takes a deep breath then turns to the communications officer. “Nan, you and Pax start searching for any Xenon ships or stations left in the Empire. Maybe the fleet regrouped at one of the colony worlds. Maybe they resettled.” He turns to Xex. “Commander Xex, if you’ve calmed down enough, check that all weapons are primed and ready and the engines are optimal. There might still be some enemy craft in the area. I don’t want to be caught unprepared.” , He then turns to the pilot, “And Ensign, get us the hell out of here. I think we’ve seen enough.”
“Captain’s log Xenon imperial date… who cares, nobody’s ever going to read this anyway. How do you deal with the end of the world? My crew keeps looking to me for answers I don’t have. If there is no longer a Xenon Empire then what does that make us? Are we still the Imperial Attack Cruiser Vengeance or just a ship with a collection of lost souls? We keep holding out the hope of finding the might of the Xenon fleet amassing somewhere in deep space. But as each day passes that looks less and less likely. Where do we go then? We can’t stay in this ship forever. Eventually we’ll run out of fuel and supplies. I had even thought of surrendering to the Klek but they look to have been even more devastated than we are, were. Good to know we gave as good as we got in our pact of mutual destruction.
I’ve instructed Pax to start, quietly, looking for a planet to settle on as a last resort, That is if we can’t find the fleet. He thinks he may found a candidate. But even if we do, somehow, find the remnants of the imperial fleet, what then? We avenge ourselves on an already devastated and I might add, now nonexistent foe? We lash out at the first planets we see? And if there is no Empire than what’s the point of a fleet anyway? Maybe instead we need to just survive?”
Von puts down his pen and closes his journal. He hasn’t slept much lately, no one really has, and he needs his sleep. He claps his hands to turn off his desk lamp then heads for bed. As he slides under the sheets his young yeoman mews, then pulls up next to him. She rubs her head against his chest. Von smiles. He runs his fingers through her long purple hair and gently slides his arm under her back and pulls her closer. She mews some more and strokes his chest.
He looks down at her lovely green face and gives her a peck on the cheek. She couldn’t be much more than half his age. ‘The perks of rank’, he thinks. He remembers when she was presented to him for his exemplary service with the ‘Geeko’ issue. He suddenly finds he isn’t feeling all that amorous and pulls his arm out from under her and turns on his side. The young yeoman makes a objecting ‘umm’ and turns away.
He tries to sleep but his thoughts won’t let him. “What if we do find the fleet, then what?”, he thinks. “With the Xenon weakened every system in the galaxy will be gunning for our death.”
He flips over a couple more times. “We’ve made so many enemies. How are we going to protect ourselves?” He flips over again. “We can’t trust the fleet. I can’t trust the fleet. They’ll just want to keep the battles going till they get us all wiped out.”
He throws on his robe and heads for the living area. There he pours himself the first thing he finds in his bar and takes a good long drink. He coughs from the sting. “Strong.” He sits on his couch and turns on the infrometer. A bank of stars are on displays. he tries to think of which of these stars were once Xenon colonies or occupations.
A few minutes of mild intoxication and doubts start to form around the edges of his mind. “Maybe the end was inevitable.” He says to himself and takes another sip. The liqueur doesn’t stings as much this time down. “Maybe we got what was coming to us. Killers eventually get killed.” He takes another long drink.
The liqueur starts to relax him. He doesn’t want to be relaxed. So he starts pacing. “The Xenon got it’s cosmic justice handed to it by the universe.” He pours himself another drink. He doesn’t notice that he over fills the glass and gets some on the floor. “Destroyers. We’re just a bunch of el ga… what evers and got what we deserved.” A tiny robot comes out from a corner and cleans up the mess.
He chastises himself for his thoughts. “No! Xenon never regret. We take, we conquer, It is our destiny to rule.” He starts to laugh. “To rule a burnt out husk of a worthless planet!” He throws his glass against the wall and breaks it. Three more tiny robots clean up the mess.
He drops down on his couch. “No more. No more. We’ll go it alone. We’ll find some nice quiet uninhabited planet somewhere and start over. To blazes with the fleet.” A small robot starts to clean some liquor off his foot. He stomps it to pieces. “Damn robots.”
The Vengeance pulls up along side a ship about it’s same size. Von watches the bridge infrometer as his away team heads over to the ship in space suits. The ship is dark and has a feel of, cold. The crew cracks open a hatch and enters inside. The inside turns out to be as dark as the outside. A crew points his camera toward a plaque. “It is the Viper sir, as we thought sir.” The crewman looks over a scanner in his hand. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone aboard who is still alive. But we do detect many bodies and, ugh, partial bodies.”
Von turns to navigator Pax. “How long ago did this happen Pax?” Pax checks some of his readouts. “Roughly 10 years.” Von strokes his chin. “Latest yet.” He turns to the infrometer. “Sergeant, any idea what disabled the ship?” Von watches as the Sergeant talks to some other of his crew on the derelict. “Looks like they just ran out of fuel sir. Maybe after a battle? Not sure.” Von nods. The crewman taps a button on his space suit. “Sir, it looks like they had some Klek prisoners on board and, um, consume them as food.” “As they should.” Von hears Xex say. “And captain, It also looks as if they may have turned on each other and even resorted to, a, cannibalism.” An ensign makes a ‘urp’ sound and runs from the bridge. “Understood sergeant. Get as much data as you can then return to the Vengeance. When done I plan to destroy the Viper. A great old ship like her needs a proper burial.” “Understood.”, responds the Sergeant.
Von leans forward on his hands. “The distress beacon was operating. All the derelicts the distress was operating.” He takes a deep breath. “That means there was no fleet to come to their rescue.” Von sits up and turns to Xex. “Commander, inform the crew that we are abandoning the search for the fleet.” He sees Xex is about to respond but Von halts him. “We have done everything possible to contact the fleet in the past six months. We are going to have to admit that there is no fleet. We are on our own. Pax is searching for a suitable planet that we may colonize and might found one. That is now our priority.” Xex cuts in, “Captain. It is our duty to continue the search till…” Von stops him, “Till we end up like the Viper? No. I will not sacrifice the lives of everyone on this ship on some vague hope of a fleet that doesn’t exist.” Xex steps closer to Von. “The fleet IS out there.” “No, commander it IS not. I now what you to put together a plan to settle the first best uninhabited planet we come across. We will scuttle the Vengeance…” Xex gasp, “NO!. This is the Emperor’s ship!” Von slam his fist down on the arm of his command chair. “IF you interrupt me one more time I will have you spaced! Do I make my self clear Mr. Xex?” Xex nods. “Good. Now get to it mister. I want a report by this time beta 173.” Von notices Xex squeezing his fist so tight he wonders they aren’t bleeding. “Now!.” Xex exits the bridge. Von takes a deep breath. he wonders how many others think like Xex and if maybe he is doing the right thing or at the right time.
Xex looks at his chronograph as the tall square jawed sergeant walks up. “You’re late.” “I had to wait till the engine room was less occupied otherwise people would asking questions why a Imperial Guard was doing in engineering.” The sergeant looks up at a sign above him marked; DANGER HIGH RADIATION. LIMIT EXPOSURE. “Is it safe we’re standing hear.” “For the time being.”, says Xex unconcerned. “Little chance we will be overheard here.” The sergeant slides away from the sign.
Xex pulls out his knife and inspects the blade. “The captain is weak! He’s a traitor to everything Xenon. He no longer is willing to search for the fleet instead he wants to hide on an alien planet like some Daga Bug.” He stabs the knife into the wall. “The fleet MUST be out there. It HAS to be out there. Xenon could never be defeated totally.” Spital flies from Xex’s mouth. He smiles then wipes his mouth. “I am the stronger because I am a true Xenon. But I need other true Xenon patriots to help me take back this ship back before the captain can infect the rest of the crew with his, weak, thoughts. Can I depend on your support and the support of the imperial guard to help me take back this ship for Xenon and for the emperor?” The Sergeant grabs Xex’s arm. “You can depend the Guard. We will help you take back the ship.” Xex grabs his arm and nods. “To strength, to Xenon.”
Captain Von leans back in his chair watching as the telemetry data starts coming in from the new planet. “Looks like two, three, no four main inhabitable continent.” Says navigator Pax, “And a smaller continent to the south and a frozen continent even further south that doesn’t look to be inhabitable. Air is breathable, gravity looks about right, vegetation will have to be further researched but initial reading look good.” Pax turns to Captain Von smiles, “Thank you navigator. I think you may have found a good candidate for our new home.” Cheers and applause breaks out over the bridge. “And Captain”, Commander Xex turns to the Captain, “There seems to be sentient inhabitants on the planet. Primitives, little threat to us. Just right for a slave race.”
Captain Von is quiet. He cross his arms and takes a deep breath. “No. Too much temptation. We won’t be taking slaves. Not this time. Not this crew.” Commander Xex moves swiftly toward Von’s command chair. Von can see the burning in Xex’s eyes. “We MUST takes slaves. We are the superior race. They have been given to us to conquer.” Von closes his eyes, sighs, then opens them slowly. “Commander, we just spent a millennium in constant war; taking planet after planet and subjugating race after race. And what did it get us; a dead home world and a long list of enemies we certainly don’t want to add to. No, no more.” Xex grabs his knife then lets it go.
Von turns to Pax. “Pax, is there a continent where there are no indignant intelligent beings?” Pax checks over his instruments. “No sir, except the uninhabitable frozen continent they all seem to be occupied to some extent. Some more than others.” Von stares straight ahead at the planet on the screen of infrometer. He shakes his head. “Just too much temptation.”
Captain Von turns to the navigator, “Pax, is there anymore inhabitable planets in the area?” Pax shots the Captain a confused look then turns back to his board. “Um, not that I can see.” “Hum.” says Von. “We have years worth of fuel and stores.” He scratches the back of his head then is quiet for a few minutes.
“Well, maybe it’s best we don’t try to inhabit this planet. To much of a temptation to come in conflict with the locals. We need to find a planet without a indignant population. Pax, start a search…”
“NO!”, shouts commander Xex. Captain Von turns to Commander Xex. “Know your place commander!” Xex shouts at Von, “If a planet is conquerable it must be conquered. That is the Xenon way!” Von tries to maintain his composure. “Commander, I make the decisions on this ship.” Xex grabs Captain Von’s command chair. “You’re a coward.” Captain Von speaks very quietly and slowly to Xex. “Commander, If you don’t remove your hands from my command chair immediately I will have you shot.” Xex leans in to Von. “You wouldn’t dare.” Von leans in even closer to Xex. “Your political connections can no longer protect you. Think this over Xex. But make it quick.” Xex throws his hands off Captain Von’s chair. “Good decision LIEUTENANT Xex. Return to your duty station and we will discuss your further status as a bridge officer later.” Lieutenant Xex steps back.
Captain Von brushes down his officer tunic and then gets up from his chair. He heads over to the astroguider and Navigator Pax. “Pax, what I’m looking for…” Von feels a sharp pain in his back. He instinctively grabs for the pain. An arm grabs him about the middle and pulls him back. Von grabs at the arm, it’s Xex. “You are no longer fit to be captain.” Von feels Xex’s hot breath on his ear. Von tries to talk and pull away but can barely move. “I’ve tipped the knife with Assassin’s Blood”, says Xex. A nerve agent that temporally stuns the assailant. Xex must have been planing this for a while.
Xex turns the knife. Von tries to suppress any sounds of pain. He’s not going to give Xex the satisfaction of hearing him suffer. ” Xex turns to the crew, “THIS MAN IS A TRAITOR TO THE EMPIRE! HE WOULD MAKE US WEAK! HE IS NO LONGER FIT TO BE CAPTAIN OF ONE OF THE EMPIRE’S FLAG SHIPS. HE IS WORTHY OF DEATH!” Pax jumps up from his chair. One of the guards pulls a gun and shots Pax. Pax fall to the deck. “No, Pax.”, Von can just whisper. “As you can see my dear captain I have the support of the TRUE warriors on this ship.” Von tries to grab around at Xex. Xex pushes the knife in deeper. Von represses a flinch. “Now I will take this ship and that planet in the name of the Xenon Empire!” Von is just barely able to get out, “You fool. It, the empire, it no longer exist.” He throws Von down to the deck. “THE EMPIRE EXIST! IT WILL ALWAYS EXIST!” Von struggles to get up. He looks toward his bridge crew who all turn away in fear.
Xex walks around his command chair a couple times then sits down. he motions to one of the guards. “Get these, davets, off my bridge.” Two security guards grab and drag Pax and Von out off the bridge and out into the corridor and drop them.
Von drags himself over to Pax and puts his hand to his neck. Thank the universe, he’s still alive.” Von tries to pull himself up but slips in a pool of his own blood. he can feel his life fading away. “No!” He tries again and falls back to the floor. Von knows what Xex is about to do to the planet below. It’s what he would have done no too long ago.
Von hears a scream. It’s his yeomen. She runs and grabs him then pulls back and looks at her hands in terror. “Captain. you’re, bleeding.” Captain Von attempts a smile, “That’s what happens when you’re stabbed.” She leans down and grabs him and helps him up. “Who stabbed you? Should I call security? I need to get you to the doctor!” Von leans on her to get up. He sees her blouse is now stained with blood. “No. Take me to the auxiliary command center on deck four.” “Where? No.” The Yeoman shakes her head. “You need to be taken to the infirmary. You could…” Von stops her, “Clereen,” Von realizes that that may have been the first time he ever addressed her by name. Something he should have done long ago. “Please, this is more important. I’ll, I’ll be fine.” He knows he’s probably lying. “Take me to the lift.” Clereen nods and reluctantly helps him to the omnivator. Von grabs onto the hand hold and presses buttons that will take them to the auxiliary command center. he takes her hand and presses it to his back. “Press here, it’ll stop the bleeding.” He can feel her hand shaking. He can see tears dropping from her eyes.
The omnivator stops just outside the auxiliary command center. Clereen looks around. “I’ve never seen…” “No one has. It’s, my fallback position.” Clereen helps him into one of the chairs of the central control station. Von takes long deep breaths to keep himself lucent. He turns and puts the back of his hand on her face and moves it slowly down her cheek. “Thank you. Clereen.” Clereen takes his hand. “Captain…” “It’s OK Clereen. Now go get the doctor for Pax. Hopefully he’s still alive. Then come back here.”, says Von. Clereen smiles. “Yes sir.”
Xex closes his eyes and moves his hand up and down the length of the arm of the command chair. Command is his. He turns to a young lieutenant at the front of the bridge, he can’t remember his name, not that it matters. “Gunner, target two cities on the planet.” The lieutenant turns to Xex. “Um, which cities sir.” Xex snaps back, “I don’t care, pick two!” The lieutenant looks back at the guards flanking Xex. “Yes sir.” Xex pulls the image of the planet below up closer on the infrometer. “I want these creatures below to know the power of their new overlords. I will take this planet in the name of the emperor and the fleet. Long live Xenon!” The Lieutenant turns back around. “Two cities chosen sir.” “Good. Pull up the location so I can see the destruction. Fire.”, says Xex. Two bolts of light flash from the ship to the planet. “The cities have been destroyed sir.” Xex smiles. “Good. Now we begin the invasion.”
The lights and all the equipment on the bridge suddenly go off. A couple emergency light come on and the guards pull their guns. eerie quiet descends upon the bridge. “What just happened.” Xex jumps up and grabs one of the crew. “WHAT JUST HAPPENED? WHAT DID YOU DO?” The terrified ensign cries, “I, I didn’t do anything!”
“Xex,” Comes from the overhead intercom. “Xex, this is your captain. As you may have noticed I have taken back control of the ship. Also I have locked off all of your co-mutineers in the Imperial Guard. I figured that you couldn’t have pull this off alone. You have 15 minutes before all the air has been evacuated from the bridge so I suggest you give it up. Xex, I told you that if you ever tried to kill me you better make sure I was dead.” Xex looks around in a panic. “How?” “You don’t think I wouldn’t have a plan in case of a mutiny. How do you think I have remained alive so long. You now have 14 minutes.” Xex screams, “VON…!”
Von clicks off the speaker and collapses into his chair. He takes a couple deep breathes. “Hold it together Von. Just a few more minutes.” He begins to wobble and grabs onto the console. “Just…a…few…more…” The door flies open to the C&C and the doctor and his nurses grab Von just before he falls to the floor. “Pax, is he…” The doctor nods. “He’s on his way to intensive care. But we need to get you to the infirmary, now. Von, you’ve lost a lot of blood.” Von tries to push away, “Not yet.”
A light flickers on his panel and Von turns on the speaker. “Captain.” comes from the speaker. Von presses a button. “Yes.” “Captain, this is the Sergeant Major of the Imperial Guard. I have killed the traitor Xex. You have proved to be the stronger and I now pledge the guard’s allegiance to you.” Von motions to Clereen to push a button on his panel. “The air is returning to the bridge. But you and all your coconspirators will remain locked down until I can determine your fate.” “Understood.” responds the Sergeant.
Von turns to the doctor. “Now you might want to take me to the infirmary. I do believe I’m about to pass out.”
Captain Von punches the side of Pax’s bed in the infirmary. Pax rubs his eyes and sits up in his bed. “Hello captain.” Captain Von responds, “Hello commander. The doctor told me that you regained conciseness a few hours ago. How you feeling?” Pax stretches. “A bit of a hangover from my concussion and the doc had to knit me a couple new organs other than that, wait what did you call me?” Von grins, “Commander. You all right with that?” “Um. thank you sir. But you know I’m not of one of the great houses.”, says Pax. Von shakes his head, “Do you really think that matters anymore.” “No, I guess not.”
“The nurses updated me what happened while I was out. The guard actually sided with Xex then turned on him?”, says Pax. Von scratches the back of his head. “Yah, not the way I would have liked that to turn out but not entirely unsurprising.” Pax readjust himself in his bed. A nurse comes over and helps him with a couple of the tubes protruding from his body. “So, what are you doing to do with the guard.” Von furrows his brow, “I’d like to space the whole lot of them. But I’m afraid we might need them if we ever get to a hand to hand. They are the best fighters in the galaxy.” Pax gives an agreeing grunt. “Well commander we got a lot of things to do when you get better. Till then we’re staying in orbit.” “Yes sir.”, responds Pax.
Pax lays back down as the captain depart. “Commander huh. I wonder if it includes a pay raise?” Pax turns over and drops off back to sleep.
Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire from the heavens; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
Notes: I decided to add some notes after I post on my writing. First, I post to practice. This forces me to produce new stuff on a timely fashion and in front of the whole world.
Now on the story it’s self. I actually had a different ending to begin with. I had Von blowing up the ship. It was a dramatic ending for sure. But Von, as he grew in the story it just didn’t fit his character. After all, his motivation was to save what was left of the Xenon race by changing it. So blowing up the ship just didn’t make any sense.
The drawing, yes I know it’s meh. But I’m just getting back into drawing. I plan to add drawings to every story from now on.