Oblivion: The Day Everything Dies
Copyright 2011^©^, 2016^©^ by Vincent Pet.
All rights reserved.
The characters in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Chapter I: Usana
Chapter II: Yorsabrim
A few words
A few years ago, readers asked me (you can reach me through Goodreads) if I could expand the stories of this book. I mentioned that I was considering writing the next “chapters”. Some time has passed and although these chapters are, more or less, as last published on Amazon, my intention to write new material still remains.
Some would like me to continue the story of Adam & Evelyn. One reader told me that she wanted to read more about the Fion’s world. Another reader wanted the story of Brummer to be told in full. I won’t promise, but I might just publish a few added chapters in 2017.
In the meantime, this story will be published in three books and it reads very much like a puzzle where it all comes together in the end. The first part of the story is a vision of the future which, as the book evolves, slowly becomes a mystery and ends up being an adventure. I wanted this story to be like a “reverse” big bang and I do ask the reader to keep an open mind. Perhaps, you will guess the story’s “punchline”, or perhaps I will surprise you.
Well, on to the story & hope you enjoy.
Much Health & Wisdom,
PS… for those wondering why this version of Oblivion has a subtitle, the answer is simple. When I first published on Amazon, it was the only digital book on Amazon called Oblivion. Then, after the movie came out with the identical title as my ebook, Oblivion became a very popular word and quite a few books were published with this title. Of course, readers thought I was capitalizing on the movie. What can I say? I just hope they don’t make a sequel and decide to call it, Oblivion: The Day Everything Dies!
Part I: Usana
Usana, the President of the United Planets, sat rigidly at the head of the massive, polygonal table while the governors of the colonized worlds bickered among themselves. It was a rare spectacle to find them united under one roof – almost unheard of in recent history even if there should have been many more. Over five hundred invitations had been sent, but nearly half of the governors were absent and feared dead.
The grumbling around the table quickly sputtered out as a rather pointy and contemptuous voice resonated above the others. “Ms. President! We are wasting our valuable time pondering suppositions without foundations!”
Most of the governors shifted their attention to the Governor of Zaron. He had spent most of his time – and theirs – emphasizing the pointlessness of their reunion. His latest outburst continued to fuel the agonistic attitude that he’d been displaying throughout the intense meetings as he stubbornly carried forward his own personal agenda.
Usana knew that his opinion was shared by the majority, but she refused to abdicate to his pessimistic appraisal of their predicament, no matter how distressing the situation appeared. To think otherwise would be to embrace death.
“The aliens refuse contact and continue to mock us,” he blared out in a hard, driving sharp tone of voice. “We’re not even able to detect their presence! We don’t know what they look like, where they come from, or how they manage to elude discovery – and most importantly – why we’re being ruthlessly pursued and slaughtered! I don’t see what can possibly be concluded at this table if we don’t know a single thing about our aggressors!”
Usana was well aware that the governor had ambitions of becoming the next President and that he was undoubtedly using the occasion to gather consensus against her. Nevertheless, she tried to comprehend the folly of his motivation. Did he realize that soon there might be no one left alive to govern, even if, his words seemed to imply that he was well aware of the fact?
The governor knew that he had everyone’s undivided attention and made sure that his message was well delivered as he further raised the pitch of his voice by one notch.
“A month ago we were living under the assumption that we were the only life form in this vast universe. Suddenly, out of nowhere, something appeared and started exterminating our worlds, annihilating us one planet at a time. What we know is that we don’t know where the enemy comes from, that every habitable world that the enemy has attacked has been stripped bare of life, and that none of our probes or ships have been able to gather visual information about this enemy. They’ve destroyed our fleet, they’ve destroyed our worlds, they’ve killed over half of humanity, and we haven’t even seen one alien ship! So please, Ms. President, please tell me how can I possibly be optimistic at a moment like this? We are being murdered and we don’t even know why this is happening!”
There was a long, silent pause as the governors glanced nervously at each other. Powerless frustration was clearly etched across their faces. Usana kept her composure as she assessed the unsympathetic eyes that peered back at her. She presumed that most of the council approved of the governor’s dramatic outburst.
Usana bid her time and let a few more moments of that charged silence slip by – just enough to stall the tension that had been steadily mounting. At that critical point of their meeting, she could ill afford to fuel that irrational fear that had taken possession of the council. Usana felt their helplessness too, and with it, the panic that their dire situation generated, but she needed to remain in control and assure that the assembly did not degenerate into a futile, bickering exercise.
When she finally spoke, her strong and firm voice echoed through the large featureless room, refocusing their attention back to the aim of that exceptional gathering that she’d summoned for.
“Gentle governors, let us recall the purpose of this assembly. We have not gathered here to speculate on what we don’t know, but to elaborate on what is known. It is essential that we establish a strategy based on the facts that are at our disposal. We must do this now, before we leave this hall today. For those that have no more to add to this conversation, I suggest that you return back to your home worlds and wait for the end. At the very least, you’ll be helping the rest of us – who still hope – to continue with this meeting.”
Her bold face inched abruptly forward. She had anticipated that there would be fear among the governors, but she had also expected them to be resolved. To her dismay, she came to realize that there were too many shocked, blank faces around her with little ideas to offer in what was undoubtedly humanity’s greatest challenge. She knew that this was going to be a decisive meeting, but she came to realize at that very instant that the moment was critical and that there would probably never again be an opportunity to preside over another Council assembly.
Usana detected the expression of defeat deep in their eyes as she challenged them and did not like it. She needed every single one of them to bring their knowledge and experience to the table in order to forge a cohesive plan of action.
“Governors, remember that we are supposed to be among humanity’s brightest minds. We need ideas to fight this menace and show our people that they can depend on us to lead them out of this terrifying moment in history. We must slow down, defeat, or sign a truce with this enemy to gain time even if it means surrendering. For have no doubt that this is not a war like our ancestors experienced. This is not a battle where survivors can flee and regroup for a better tomorrow. If we lose, there will be no one left to see that better day come. It will be the end of humanity, the end of who we are – of what we mean as a race. It will be as if we never existed.”
She paused for a few seconds, letting her words sink in. In a society where people spent ninety percent of their time in cyberspace, living and dying multiple times in endless adventures and fantasy worlds, Usana had little idea if they all understood the full scope of what she was telling them.
“Our history, our cultures, our sciences, and our arts will be obliterated. Everything will be wiped from this universe. I called each of you to this hall – in flesh – to emphasize how real this threat is. This is not a game. This is not a virtual state. We need this reality to exist. Everything we created is governed by the physical laws of this universe because our bodies reside in this universe. In the end we must keep coming back to this reality because this is the only existence that matters. The reality is that over sixty billion people have died and only about the same remain. There is no computer program to hide inside, no safe place to connect to and no restart button to press once it ends. I need ideas that will give us hope. Otherwise, we will die and the human race will become… extinct.”
She glared at them as she emphasized her last word. Some raised their heads to meet her gaze. Some still did not fully comprehend what was at stake. Usana wasn’t even sure if she had their full attention or if parts of their minds were simultaneously playing the usual three or four fantasy universes while they listened to her.
Most, though, acknowledged what they dreaded to utter aloud. They knew deep inside their conscious that a new fear had just been born. It was a fear so deep that everything else became inconsequential for no thought could camouflage its bluntness. That fear was extinction and each had an almost impossible, indescribable sensation of it. No one knew exactly what it was, but it implied a state of nothingness – a blank screen that would last forever.
Yes, extinction was something other than death. Of this, they were certain. They knew how to deal with death. The fact that their worlds would still be spinning with all that they left behind after their demise was somehow reassuring. That they might be remembered even in a footnote, a memory, a thought, was gratifying and proof that their living days had a sense. The fact that they could seek comfort in having contributed to the continuing flow of humanity made life noble and gave their struggles a valiant purpose.
Extinction, though, was unfathomable. When had humanity ever been threatened by extinction? Perhaps, in the early days of mankind, before the secret of fire? When man first started playing with the atom? Perhaps, the long forgotten Zika virus, when assisted by global warming and man-made pollution mutated and became air born, causing a fertility crisis and leaving only a couple of billion people alive on Earth?
When had man ever thought of extinction? Not when they were wiping out thousands of species on Earth while building cities, civilizations and empires – not even then. Man had reached out and colonized a third of the galaxy and now that they were at the start of a new wondrous age, at the doorstep of seeding humanity throughout the universe, they were faced with a fate abandoned by the human consciousness a long time ago. How could man become extinct? It was not possible – not now. The President refused to believe that man had dared descend from the trees to boldly walk across the Earth, leap to the stars, only to be squashed like an ignorant brute from existence.
An unexpected harsh, rising laugh from the far end of the table suddenly grabbed their attention. The President became rigid, slightly bothered that someone would react so lightly and spontaneously after a speech which should have made them reflect and gather resolve.
Brummer was the governor of Dragolia, one of the least populated planets in the galaxy. The fact that he was a governor was questionable. Many doubted that his planet should even hold a seat on the planetary council. Usana hadn’t seen him in the preliminary briefing that morning and didn’t expect him to arrive at all. Dragolians were notorious for never leaving their home planet.
She snapped at him, visibly upset, as she stood up to confront him.
“The moment is grave, Governor Brummer. What do you have to laugh about?”
His laugh subsided, but his quirky smile didn’t, as he rose from his chair. In an age where humanity had genetically engineered itself to, at first, reflect the cosmetic fashions of the centuries that valued beauty over pragmatism and then in favor of practicality where functionality was valued over esthetics, Brummer was unique. His planet was known as a haven for those that refused to embrace technology. Like most Dragolians, Brummer was very similar to the original template of a human being and opposed to implementing advanced genes within the population.
Whereas, most humans had infrared, telescopic, and fractional vision that permitted them to observe and scrutinize four or five different objects at once with various degrees of depths, Dragolians did not. While most humans could survive with their hidden gills under the oceans or with their skin secreting sealant in the vacuum of space and hostilities of planet atmospheres, Dragolians couldn’t. They lacked double genitals, temperature control genes, and other basic comforts that were standards on any normal individual.
Dragolians even possessed the original brain schematic – refusing to compartmentalize areas to specific functions with enhanced nerve terminals, therefore limiting their intelligence. It had been proven long ago that a triple brain split into small sectors connected with each other was the most functional intellectual state. One part was used for the conscious state, one for the virtual state, and the other as the control center of the body’s physiology while also doubling as the backup copy of the essential traits of the other two parts.
The third region of the brain also served as the input/output terminal that interacted between the two other minds and the cyber world. Even so, this was all likely to change in a few years’ time as research was on the verge of eliminating the need for intestines, making room in the abdominal cavity for a smaller second brain. It was thought that with the addition of a new brain mankind would evolve to a new dimensional state that would make it physically possible to explore such enigmas as black holes and possibly even manipulate time. More than a few even went as far as suggesting that humanity would finally find alien life living in these other dimensions.
What was most unsettling about the Dragolians, however, was that they had maintained the early skin pigmentation of their ancestors. Instead of having the uniform light blue color of humanity, they had kept the original hues of white, black, yellow, and so forth. Too many wars had been fought over prejudices and too many people had suffered through racism – which was exactly the reason humanity, outside of a few racist rebels, had once opted for a uniform color. Was it any wonder that few people liked to interact with the Dragolians unless absolutely obliged?
As Brummer rose to meet Usana, a certain discomfort stirred inside her at the sight of his dark, black skin and his imposing, definitely male body. Again, she thought, there’s another difference. While the majority of humans, including her, turned their hormones off and on depending on what sex they wished to be at any particular period of life, Dragolians had no choice. They remained the sex they were born with.
Brummer’s eyes swept the rather large, impersonal room. Even if he was a governor, he didn’t travel much to other worlds and some of the things that he observed unsettled him. It was difficult to believe that he was sitting among his human peers. In some cases, the differences were so extreme that one would be hard pressed to find a unifying definition of mankind. He turned his attention back to the President and tried gazing directly at her, but he had no idea into which pair of eyes to stare into as she towered a good three feet over his six foot three inches frame.
“Ms. President,” he began. He was about to reveal something she had not told any of them. He might as well be blunt and direct. “Why are you being so hypocritical by asking us to consider surrendering when you’ve already done so?”
There was an instantaneous eruption in the room as each governor turned abruptly towards her and demanded an explanation. The President sat back in her chair and lifted her hand as she implored them to quiet down.
As the commotion subsided, Usana collected her thoughts. How Brummer had discovered such sensitive information, she did not know, but this was not the place or time to deny the truth. They didn’t need another internal strife when there was such a powerful enemy to fight.
“Yes, it’s true.”
Her firm and brazen voice carried throughout the room as the murmurs quieted down.
“I surrendered when our fleet was completely obliterated. I sent an encrypted message targeting random areas of space without asking for council approval. The enemy’s movements seemed to suggest that they knew much about us and I was confident that they would understand the contents of the message. The decision was mine to take. I felt that given the unusual circumstances we were facing, we needed to stop this slaughter to save our civilization and come to know the face of our enemy – even if under a losing condition. It was clear from the start that we were no military match for them.”
She turned squarely towards Brummer.
“I’m surprised that Dragolia was able to capture and decode the signal, Governor Brummer. Dragolian space was one of the targeted areas, but I was assured by my staff that Dragolia did not possess the capability to intercept and decode the contents.”
Before Brummer could reply, a tremendous howl ripped across the assembly, startling many of them.
“I can’t believe that you committed a unilateral action as reckless and senseless…”
The governor of Sabrim was not only known for his aggressive nature, as were all his people, but also for his inability to fluidly express himself when infuriated – which made him even more intimidating to deal with. The first Sabrims were conceived long ago by the ancient governments of Earth for war purposes, and in short, wherever aggressive traits were required to ensure survival. Their human genes had been altered to reflect and intensify the forceful nature of humanity.
Even to this day, Sabrims made up about ninety percent of all military personnel. In fact, in the absence of threats, it was doubtful that humanity would still possess an army if it wasn’t for the Sabrims’ insistence of maintaining one. The President expected some sort of outburst from the Sabrim governor during those meetings, but was nevertheless surprised that it took him this long to show his presence. Sabrims were not patient by nature.
“Ms. President, you condemned us all by surrendering! In the act of conceding to the enemy, you blatantly revealed that we were incapable of offering resistance! We lost the war when it hadn’t even started! They knew from the moment that you surrendered that they could easily defeat us. How can you expect to negotiate from a position of weakness? How can you expect to negotiate if your enemies know that you do not represent a threat? How? Answer me!”
By the time he finished rambling, the governor was standing on the conference table, absolutely livid, twitching his body as if he were in immense pain. Which, thought Brummer, was impossible since Sabrims didn’t have any sensory nerve endings for pain under their skin.
Although, what they did have were retractable cat like claws in place of fingernails, and as Brummer watched, the Sabrim clenched his fists in rage and drove his three inch claws into his palms and out the other side of his hand. The whole council stared, half amazed and half revolted at the scene. Brummer had never been in direct contact with a Sabrim, and as the governor withdrew his own nails from his skin, Brummer noted that the wound was clean. There was no blood.
Brummer had heard many times that the Sabrim’s anatomy was the pinnacle of early genetic engineering. Sabrims were oblivious to nearly all pain. Their tissues regenerated almost instantaneously and they had fast pumping valves throughout the body instead of a heart – which not only made it more practical to send nutrients quicker to muscles and organs when the body needed energy the most, but also made them harder to kill in combat. Since they had no heart, they didn’t need lungs to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. All the oxygen the organism needed was pumped in by nanoreceptors embedded under the skin pores that actively captured oxygen molecules and transported them to the body’s cells.
With an even, measured voice, Usana responded to the Sabrim’s governor sudden outburst.
“First of all, there was no war to be lost since we never were at war. We are victims of a brutal aggression. Let that be clear. Second, we had sixty-eight battle units, eleven military ports, four military outposts, and fourteen deep space battle cruisers. Every single one of these targets was attacked on the same day and eliminated. It took less than four hours to reduce our total military force to zero. Need I remind you that there was not one survivor to be found… and no debris at all?”
She took a deep breath before continuing. She knew that with a Sabrim the best defense was a direct attack. She knew that she would be losing precious time by doing so, but she couldn’t let the Sabrim take control of the conference.
“Our enemy, therefore, knew exactly where all our military assets were positioned on that day. This implies two things. Either we recognize their vast superiority over us, which is exactly what I did by surrendering, or that we have spies among us who sent these aliens the information required to destroy our entire military fleet on that particular day. I, for one, refuse to believe that there is one human being alive willing to exterminate his own race.”
The governor of Sabrim leaped back into his seat, still visibly irritated. A smirk crossed his livid face, revealing his sharp teeth as he repeatedly pounded his fist on the conference table in front of him as he spoke. Brummer was mesmerized as he stared at the Sabrim’s smashing fist while his ears thumped with each heavy blow. Brummer couldn’t help but reason that his own hand would be reduced to a pulp if he were ever to strike an object with such vehement force, which thankfully, he was incapable of.
“Spies? Nonsense! You don’t need spies when you don’t have secrets! Everyone and anyone can get their hands on all our military movements at any time! That’s the fault of this council and this President who have continuously refused to classify military operations. Why? On the basis that we didn’t need to protect ourselves? Simply because we’ve never encountered an alien race in the galaxy? Well, what can I say now? Congratulations, Ms. President! Your shortsightedness has rendered us impotent!”
“He’s right!” yelled the Governor of Zaron, not losing the occasion to attack the President. He stood up and ranted once again as he tried to gather consensus. The Governor of Sabrim, on the other hand, wasn’t listening. Overcame by an uncontrollable rage, he had started to bang his head on the table.
It would have been comical, thought Brummer, if it weren’t for the predicament they were facing. He shifted his gaze back to the President and noted her calm temperament. Whatever differences he had had with her through the years, he could not but admire her poise as well as her tenacious struggle as she wearily battled not only the governor of Sabrim, but the majority of the council as well.
Yet, even if the council was mostly a symbolic representation of humanity that had grown too diverse to unite under one cause, it still surprised Brummer that in this acute moment of crisis they were squabbling and unable to come together as one.
The President’s hard tone momentarily silenced the hall. She completely ignored the Governor of Zaron and kept her eyes levelled on the Sabrim’s representative.
“If what you say is the truth, if you feel that everyone knows everything, then someone must have supplied this critical information to the aliens. Am I right, Governor?”
The governor of Sabrim abruptly stopped his tirade, acting as if nothing had transpired, and fixed Usana. He straightened his posture on his seat, coming to quick attention, and nodded cautiously, suddenly wary of where the President was leading him.
Usana didn’t actually believe that anyone would reveal such sensitive information, especially to an alien life form. It was absurd even to ponder such a hypothesis, but she had to pursue the line of reasoning to quiet the Sabrim’s governor and move on to more urgent matters. She pressed on.
“Where would aliens receive such information? Logic dictates that it would be a territory simultaneously being explored by the two species – a place of contact. The deep space exploration teams, the cruisers, therefore, would be the first to come in contact with an alien society.”
Her voice turned rigid as the governor of Sabrim crumpled slightly in his chair.
“Are we to assume then, since the crews of the exploration teams are mostly Sabrim, that your people betrayed the human race? Are we to assume that your people formed an alliance with the aliens? Are the Sabrims traitors?”
“That’s preposterous!” the governor replied in a raunchy but doubtful, sharp tone as he slapped his arm on the table in front of him.
“And why’s that? Your planet hasn’t been attacked!” retorted Usana, driving the final nail in her argument.
The Sabrim became very small in his seat as the President leaned forward and took control of the situation once again. She felt a strange silence overwhelm the room. She had to bring their attention back to the discussion. At that moment, she felt as if everything was starting to slip away from her grasp.
Her cloudy gaze floated towards Brummer. Yes, she thought, quickly clearing her mind. He had started this argument. Brummer knew things that she thought no one in that room knew. She barked at him in a commanding tone that demanded immediate attention.
“Governor of Dragolia. Is there anything else you wish to share with this council? Is there any other sensitive information that you came across and that can be of use to us?”
Brummer carefully chose his next words before uttering them.
“Yes, there is. That’s why I came. It’s not true that we don’t know anything about our enemy. Dragolia received an SOS dispatch from the star cruiser, Pontiac. It contained an image of the aggressor.”
Part II: Yorsabrim
With a commanding step, Yorsabrim strode down the corridor towards the clinical center of the star cruiser, the Pontiac. They were a few hours away from jumping to the next space coordinates and the corridors of the ship were empty. The non-essential personnel were already in their quarters, while the rest, the Sabrims, were busy at their virtual stations planning the jump. They had been chosen to test a variant of the space jump propulsion system and Yorsabrim, nearly two years into the mission, still wasn’t convinced that he had done well to accept command. He wasn’t used to dealing with so many non-Sabrims among his crew.
Then he told himself once again that he had little choice in the matter. One of the long standing criticisms against the Sabrims was that they were extremely resistant to change, which in itself was positive, since they had been genetically engineered with one dominant characteristic in mind: to fight.
It was believed, however, that this in turn prevented the Sabrims from occupying key positions where mental flexibility was essential and physical constraint mandatory. Yorsabrim was hand-picked to command the important mission to show the Council how unfounded this accusation was. He was to demonstrate that Sabrims could be entrusted to lead scientific missions with a mixed crew and captain missions of this importance.
Basically, the jump system created holes in the universe by using the light between the point the ship was located and the point to where the ship was going. A ship would attach itself to a beam of light coming from the destination point and then accelerate away from its intended target. Once it neared the speed of light it would instantaneously brake, at which point, it would bend the space around the destination point for an infinitesimal second. As the space recoiled to its normal state, the light ray snapped backwards like an elastic band at a speed much greater than that of light, carrying the ship forward with it.
The acceleration at a speed greater than light punched a hole in normal space bringing the ship to a place scientists referred to as ether space. Once the light ray lost velocity and matched the speed of light, the ship would slip out of ether space and back into normal space along the trajectory of the destination point and much closer to its objective. The whole process would then repeat itself until the ship arrived at destination.
It was not a very complicated maneuver, but it had cost many lives through its early development. The potential benefits, though, were incalculable, which is why they continued to develop the jump drive despite its peril. Once perfected, it offered man the potential of travelling between galaxies.
The major problem, however, which was still not resolved, was the dispersion of the light beam through ether space. Light was not made to accelerate tens of time its speed to escape the universe only to return back to its normal state. Sometimes, luckily very rarely, the light beam would break up and scatter during the transition in ether space and along with it, the ship it was carrying.
These ships were never found and Yorsabrim dreaded to ponder their fate. The variant of the propulsion system his ship was testing contained a better unit that minimized the dispersion. It was hoped that not only would the jumps become flawless, but that longer jumps could be attempted because of this added stability.
As Yorsabrim neared the clinic, the force field opened revealing Dr. Bina. She flashed him a big smile. Dr. Bina was from Trentl, where most of the advanced genetic research was performed. He felt proud to have such an experienced medical officer working on his ship. There was no mistaking that Bina was a doctor as she approached Yorsabrim. Her three long tentacles were neatly wrapped around her waist, each protrusion ending in two modified slim hands with various sized digits that could hold and operate a whole array of instruments at once.
“So, let’s take a look at that the stomach of yours, shall we?”
She leaned closer.
“OK, open your mouth. This won’t hurt.”
Yorsabrim stretched his mouth wide. The doctor inched forward, and as she did, her eye slid from her socket and slipped down Yorsabrim’s throat. A minute later, her eye reappeared and she excused herself as she cleansed her eye’s orb with the appropriate solutions. When she returned, her eye was back in its socket.
“Everything looks fine to me, Captain. It’s just a plain heartburn. Happens.”
“Good,” Yorsabrim grunted, not losing any more time on the subject as he quickly shifted his attention to more pressing matters.
“Personnel status, doctor.”
He made it sound more like an order than a query.
Bina grimaced, knowing that he was not going to like her assessment at all.
“We still have eighteen recovered subjects. None are essential operating personnel. Most are scientists. They have the usual jump symptoms: hallucinations, balance disorders, disorientation, memory loss and so forth. I fear that none are expected to recover during this mission. There could be a surprise or two, but not more than that.”
“And in the long run?”
“They should all recover within three to five years.”
“What about the rest of the crew?”
She sighed as she turned her shoulders squarely towards him.
“We already had this talk, Captain, and you already know my opinion. It hasn’t changed. There continues to be a high level of stress present among the crew. Sabrims are not used to sharing their space with so many non-Sabrims for such a long period of time. Tempers are flaring up more often than they were a year ago.”
Yorsabrim straightened himself up. Obviously his pride had been touched.
“The Sabrim have been on missions much longer than this, doctor. I know I can count on them to behave themselves because they are well aware of the importance of this mission for our people. Perhaps, if you permit me to correct you, it is the non-Sabrim personnel who are getting weary of spending their time working with us. They are obviously not able to meet our vigorous standards and frustration is setting in. Have you ever considered it from this point of view?”
Bina rolled out a warmhearted laugh. Yorsabrim looked at her with perplexity.
“Captain Yorsabrim, I like you. I hadn’t considered that point of view. Maybe, you are on to something.”
Her tone suddenly turned professional and serious.
“Nevertheless, this crew has, in my opinion, reached its limit. I strongly recommend ending the mission immediately. I will note my recommendation in my personnel log. You’ve accomplished what you set out to do. The drive is an improvement to the existing version and your mission can be considered a great success.”
Yorsabrim glanced away from the doctor. His eyes fell on the cubicles placed vertically side by side against the far wall. Over half of them were occupied. None were Sabrims. He wasn’t surprised. Only a Sabrim with serious health issues could be affected by the jump sickness.
As his eyes scanned the faces, he wondered, once again, what had driven these people to leave everything behind and embark on such severe journeys for years at a time. Most of them would be unable to travel on deep space missions ever again. The Sabrims enjoyed the loneliness of space, the long stretches of silence, and the harshness of exploration. The Sabrims were born and bred to live in space.
These non-Sabrims? Other than that romantic ingenuity of discovering the unknown, which he did not fully comprehend since there was nothing romantic about space, he could find no tangible reason why anyone would risk their health when personally there was very little to gain. It was also, from a command point of view, irritating. Not only did it mean, even if they were civilians and scientists, that he could not rely on his full crew, but that their added presence was a nuisance to the mission since they were a negative factor in the decisional process.
Yorsabrim’s gaze returned to the doctor.
“Tell me, have you prepared the patients for the jump?”
“Not yet. I won’t give them the usual drug dose if we are returning home. I’ll administer a combo of milder drugs to prevent further potential memory loss and place them in light hibernation.”
Yorsabrim’s gruff voice toughened as he dictated his orders.
“I recommend the usual drug and dose, doctor. We are not turning back, but going forward. Prepare your patients as ordered.”
He turned his back on her before he could see her reaction. His decisive steps rebounded down the corridor as he marched sternly to his quarters. As far as he was concerned, the non-Sabrims knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed up for the mission. Once again, he questioned the added value of non-Sabrims in deep space operations.
He simply didn’t understand it.
The jump is a rather unique experience. Only the Sabrim could manage the jump without any assistant drugs. Other people, depending on their genetic traits, were more or less susceptible to the influences of the jump. Some had to be sedated until the ship entered ether space while a few had to be put into a deep sleep for a while.
Most, simply took a tranquilizer and stayed confined to their quarters until ether space was reached. It was in ether space, however, where the non-Sabrims suffered a space sickness that still baffled the scientific community. Rarely life threatening, it could reveal itself under various forms – from a mild dizziness to an Alzheimer like condition which could take years to cure. What complicated matters even further was that travel through ether space could take hours or days, and the longer one remained in ether space, the more prone the non-Sabrims were to develop the debilitating disease.
One of the first things man discovered about travelling in ether space was that for roughly twenty percent of the jumps, the distance traveled was not at all proportional to the time it took to travel that distance. The reason why this happened was not yet understood and once the dispersion problem was resolved, the scientific community’s next major step would be to concentrate on this issue. For now, they could travel great distances in a few hours or take a full week to reach the star next door.
Complicating matters even further was that not until ether space was reached could one calculate the length of the trip between any two points. Fortunately, one could send pulse signals, much like a rudimentary Morse code, along the flight corridor to punch information back through normal space.
The Pontiac, being a deep space exploration ship, had no arrival times to communicate since it was jumping into new territory, simultaneously exploring space while testing the jump drive. The satellites it left behind with each jump, though, would one day serve other ships following the same route. For now each jump they made was virtually blind and the information they gathered was being relayed back to Dragolia, the nearest habitable outpost, about fifteen thousand light years away.
Yorsabrim’s quarters, like those of the rest of the crew, was limited to the essential. There was a vertical cubicle on one side of the wall which served for sleep. On the opposite side was the captain’s interface that brought him to the virtual ship.
The Pontiac was relatively small, about one hundred and thirty people and the physical ship mainly served to sustain their bodies through their journey across space. Its rudimentary bridge and stripped down facilities only contained the primary controls and became operational in case of emergencies. The real engine of the ship was its powerful supercomputer which created the virtual ship and the environment they worked in. Once connected to the supercomputer, they had access to every resource the mission required.
Yorsabrim, like most Sabrims, had a hate love relationship with virtual space, more so with the special virtual environment that had been created for this particular mission. One would be hard pressed in normal times to find a Sabrim utilizing the basic virtual rest and relaxation facilities created for their deep space missions, but because of the heavy presence of non-Sabrims on this mission, an R&R world just as imposing as the workspace environment had been created for socializing while off-duty.
The first few months of the mission had been challenging for Yorsabrim. He had to deal with the discontent from his Sabrim crew members who thought that the non-Sabrims were passing too much leisure time in the twenty or so virtual universes that had been created for such purpose.
He nearly turned his ship back, and he would have, if it wasn’t for Dr. Bina’s constant mediations. She made him realize that this aspect too, was part of the learning process of commanding non-Sabrim personnel. Non-Sabrims, she told him, enjoyed spending time on these activities. You not only have to accept this, but you have to learn how to deal with it too, she advised him.
Still, it did not prevent him from thinking that the virtual worlds and the people that participated in them were a tremendous waste of resources. The hours spent in fantasy, as it was called, could never be regained and he found it a shame that a scientific oriented ship was not exploring to its full potential. Furthermore, why did Sabrims always have to understand non-Sabrims? Why couldn’t non-Sabrims try to understand Sabrims for once?
Yorsabrim had barely begun his exercise regime when he was interrupted. It was Sek. He was an experienced Sabrim who had been on many deep space missions with him. His task, this time, was rather monotonous. He had been assigned to assist the geology department which consisted of two non-Sabrim scientists.
When the Sabrims communicated among themselves, they proceeded straight to the point. They did not waste time. All those formalities like hello, how are you that non-Sabrims used were truthfully annoying and pointless. Yorsabrim suspected that the strain of having to respond to these trivial words were another factor contributing to his ill mood.
“Analysis of a compact gaseous space cloud passing through the rings of planet 3G-Y421 reveal an extremely high concentration of the compound thought to be Meldium. I have kept the information to myself.”
For a moment Yorsabrim remained immobile. His eyes remained riveted on Sek. Unsure if he had misjudged Yorsabrim, Sek began to fidget nervously. Yorsabrim understood the risk Sek took in confiding to him that he had kept this information secret. Meldium was a substance rumored to alter the brain chemistry of the mind. Apparently it allowed one to acquire paranormal powers, such as reading minds, moving objects and making people disappear in thin air. Peculiar unknown conditions were needed to form the complex and it had been discovered just once in the history of humanity. It was so rare that most even doubted its existence. More than a few had attempted, without success, to recreate the elusive drug in vitro using details revealed in an obscure article whose authenticity was questioned.
It had been a Sabrim crew that was rumored to have discovered the drug. On their return from a deep space mission, many of the members of that crew went on to become the most powerful and influential people of their times, which was unheard of for a Sabrim let alone an entire crew. They had become so dominant in their era that many conspiracy theories were born at the time – the most popular being that the original crew had come in contact with aliens who had replaced them and were assessing humanity’s strengths and weaknesses for an eventual invasion.
The word Meldium was first uttered after the last living member of that legendary crew left a short, undetailed note hastily written just minutes before he died. He attributed their success to this mysterious powder they found while on an explorative mission. He then rapidly drew a chemical structure which was fundamentally impossible. Nearly everyone took his last message as a great hoax, as that of someone pulling humanity’s leg on his dying bed, as the last act of someone wanting to tease the intellectual and scientific community that had spurned and resented him.
Not the Sabrims, however. They went looking for Meldium, retracing the path of that legendary crew and even if nothing was found, the note only added to the legend. So much so, that every Sabrim who respected himself had memorized the precious note, dreaming of one day finding the fabled substance and becoming famous and powerful.
“Return to your post, Sek. Keep the secret to yourself,” Yorsabrim finally hissed in a low growl through clenched teeth.
“I hope,” replied Sek before stepping out of Yorsabrim’s quarters, “that you will remember the face of the person who told you this.”
“I will,” snapped back Yorsabrim in a barely audible voice.
Yorsabrim’s mind quickly went to work. There wasn’t much time left before the jump. Could it be true? Even if it was, what could he do? His ship was composed of many non-Sabrims. Surely he didn’t want to share such power with them! Yorsabrim was very ambitious. He didn’t want to share anything that might disadvantage him with anyone. Yet, there was at least one person he would have to trust for the rest of his days, and that person was Sek. Could he manage living with that risk?
Sek, though, had already taken the chance to come see him knowing full well that with one word his captain could have him arrested. Keeping to oneself scientific information on a deep space exploration mission was a major crime, punishable with extreme measures. These included drugs inducing personality changes, or worse yet, genetic modification which inhibited or produced certain natural proteins designed to instigate pain for sets period of time. For a Sabrim, experiencing pain, any type of pain, was a terrifying experience since they were naturally oblivious to most pain – which was, thought Yorsabrim, exactly what would happen to him should he take the risk and fail.
In the end, despite the grave possible consequences, it didn’t take Yorsabrim long to decide. He had meticulously gone over the scans that Sek had given him. The chemical structure of the compound was frighteningly similar to the original first drawn thousands of years back. He remembered the legends, remembered how in awe, he devoured the tales his elders used to tell him. He craved for that same unparalleled respect reserved only for those few great achievers of life. He didn’t consider himself any less a Sabrim than his ancestors, and in his mind he knew that if the secret had been kept quiet among so many before, it could be kept quiet among the few. It was up to him to figure out the details.
Barely half an hour had gone by when the two men he had summoned to his quarters arrived. He had reached the conclusion that he couldn’t do it alone and thought of the minimum collaborators that he would need to ensure the success of his plan. These were not the two men he trusted the most on his ship, but they were the two men he would need the most if his plan was to succeed. Even if Sek had no major role to play, Yorsabrim kept his promise and invited Sek to join them. When Sek arrived at the captain’s quarters, the others were already waiting.
Yorsabrim revealed Sek’s discovery. Not one word was pronounced among the four. Then one of them, Kurtis, spoke. He did not want to participate. He was one of the few, skeptical Sabrims who did not believe and he was not about to put his young, promising career in jeopardy chasing a half truth.
Yorsabrim was furious but had no choice but to accept his fellow Sabrim’s decision. In return, though, the Sabrim had to agree to have his short term memories wiped. It was imperative that it was done before his next sleep period or permanent traces of these moments could remain locked as memories into his subconscious and easily retrievable by any good doctor.
Ten minutes passed before they found someone else to take Kurtis’s place. Within a few minutes an agreement was reached. After that, each detail was meticulously reviewed. One would erase all the electronic records of the shuttle flight while the other would tamper with the ships sensors while the shuttle was in flight. Sek had no role but reap the benefits of his discovery. As for the shuttle, Yorsabrim would be the one commanding it. He trusted no one else to complete the mission. Meldium meant so much to him that he was about to abandon his ship for half an hour.
The doctor needed more time, but Yorsabrim thought too much time had passed by and impatiently snapped at her. She didn’t fault him for she was effectively dragging her feet. She couldn’t help but wonder why Yorsabrim had instructed her to wipe out Kurtis’s memories of the day.
When Kurtis had previously come by himself, complaining of violent daydreams and of memory flashes that he didn’t remember having, Dr. Bina thought it was a classic case of dream-wake cross memories. Due to their aggressive nature, the Sabrims were known to have violent dreams during their sleep cycle.
At times, and thankfully infrequently, some of these nightmares backfired during the day and installed themselves into their conscious state as if they were real memories. It was a very confusing experience, and if left untreated, led to atrocious migraines. The most effective cure was the removal of those newly created synapses within the brain as swiftly as possible before the patient’s next sleep cycle. The major inconvenience to the procedure was that medicine was not sophisticated enough to discern, isolate and target merely the undesired memories. In order to destroy the fake memories, unfortunately all the real memories of that day were destroyed as well. Given that Kurtis’s next sleep cycle was in six hours, well past the jump, she sent him away. She was somewhat surprised when Kurtis returned soon afterwards with Yorsabrim at his side.
Bina calmly, even if with some perplexity, explained the situation to Yorsabrim. She had much more pressing issues at that moment. When Yorsabrim still insisted, she retorted back that she didn’t have the time to do the preliminary assessments on the patient to confirm the diagnosis and that she would only deal with Kurtis’s case after the jump was made.
“Preliminary assessments? Why? If a Sabrim is experiencing symptoms such as these there can be no other diagnosis!” fired back the irritated Captain.
Yorsabrim’s reaction only increased Bina’s resolve. That Yorsabrim was so adamant on performing a brain wipe on a crewman that she considered not essential to the jump made her suspicious of his motives.
“I will not! Not at this time!”
She said this, knowing well that it was one of the few areas where a captain could overturn a doctor’s decision. Any commander could order a brain wipe of a Sabrim if he deemed the Sabrim’s state was a menace to the ship’s function, but seldom did a commander use his authoritative right to overturn a doctor’s decision.
“I order you to perform the brain wipe, Doctor. Now!”
Not only was Bina astonished that Yorsabrim intervened, considering that he had never interfered so bluntly in her work, but she was shocked and equally offended by the tone he addressed her with.
Dr. Bina clenched her jaw.
“Very well, Captain Yorsabrim. Then it is my right as a doctor to do a preliminary assessment.”
“What do you mean?” he shot back with a suddenly defensive voice. “We don’t have time for this. We are about to jump.”
Dr. Bina’s tone was cold and edgy. “The decision to delay or not the jump is yours. I have my orders to perform this operation and I therefore have every right to make a preliminary assessment.”
She arched her eyebrow as Yorsabrim twitched nervously. “Unless you wish to reconsider your order, Captain.”
Yorsabrim glared at her, yet behind his burning gaze, Bina could tell that his mind was working very hard trying to decide what would be best.
“Well?” Bina asked. “What is it? The jump or the brain wipe?”
Yorsabrim nearly growled at her. “If you stop talking and are as good as I am led to believe, you will accomplish the preliminary assessment and the brain wipe well in time for the jump. Proceed!”
“Very well, Captain,” Bina replied, using a strong ironic tone. “I will try not to disappoint your expectations.”
Yorsabrim did not retort even if he felt the sting of her insult. Anyway, he had already gained his way and did not want to escalate the argument.
The preliminary scan confirmed her doubts. She expected signs of disorientation or confusion, but the symptoms were not present. She turned to Yorsabrim who had waited patiently by her side through those twenty minutes. She had felt his eyes piercing her, as if he was controlling her every movement even if he had no idea of what she was doing.
Bina found his behavior bizarre and unlike him. Captain Yorsabrim was not one to dissect details to understand how things worked. He just expected things to work when he needed them to work. In a nutshell, that was his philosophy and that he paid so much attention to what she was doing was unnerving and suspicious.
“Captain, the symptoms are not detectable. The chances that Kurtis is experiencing dream-wake cross memories is merely five percent and it does not merit an intervention which is so intrusive. I suggest you reconsider your order until I make a more informed assessment of his situation. I will put him under observation if that is correct with you.”
Yorsabrim’s expression as she talked already informed her that he wouldn’t even bother considering her request.
“Doctor, must I give the order twice?”
She nodded tersely and proceeded to set up the required apparatus while poor Kurtis, caught in the middle, remained meekly silent. As she did, she caught a gleam in Yorsabrim’s eyes which sent a cold shiver down her back.
She didn’t recognize the man she considered a very close friend.
A synapse is a junction between neurons, which is another term for brain cells. The human brain is composed of 12 billion or more of these cells. The more synapses are formed between the brain cells, the more the cells communicate with each other, the more information one stores, and the more memories one has. As Dr. Bina carefully destroyed Kurtis’s newly formed synapses, she couldn’t help but wonder what was hiding underneath. She was certain that under the apparent calm there was great turmoil.
“Doctor, are you almost done?”
Again, she noted that almost impatient anger Yorsabrim had been exhibiting. She stopped and turned to him.
“Captain, as you are well aware this procedure takes time. I understand that we have a jump in a few hours, but what I don’t understand, since you are in such a rush, is why you insist on being here while I perform this surgery. I am not impeding you from completing your duties while I can’t say the same about you. Perhaps, now that I think about it, I should note this strange behavior in an official memo and question your ability to make sound decisions under accumulated stress. Perhaps, you have reached a breaking point? I will most certainly schedule a thorough medical exam after the jump, Captain, and if there is any doubt in my mind about your decision making process, I will order you to turn this ship around and head back home. I hope that this is clear.”
She knew that Yorsabrim could not afford a major inquiry that might tarnish not only him, but all Sabrims as well. The council would scrutinize every complaint against the Sabrim captain on their return. She knew there were still quite a few in the council who opposed a Sabrim commander on scientific missions and would use whatever supporting information to prove their point.
Her last words caused the effect she desired as Yorsabrim glumly retreated, almost crouching on himself as he briskly turned away. She heard him muttering something about his inspection tour as he made for the door. Just before departing he snarled back at her to hurry up or else he would report his dissatisfaction with her work to the medical board.
Bina smiled. Her huge grin spread around three quarters of her face, revealing the suction cups and disinfecting glands on the inside bottom of her lips that she used to treat minor scrapes and cuts with. She knew his was an idle threat. It was an acknowledged opinion among her peers that she was one of the best deep space doctors in the fleet. Backed by the board, she knew that her word with the council would weigh much more than Yorsabrim’s assessment of a situation.
Still, she did not want her relationship with Yorsabrim to degenerate further. She had grown to know Yorsabrim well during the last two years and she thought him an able commander. She knew that he was under tremendous pressure from his superiors back home to perform well and she didn’t want to see him fail. She had a part to play in his development and his failure would also mean that she hadn’t been able to make a positive difference on the mission. The board had specifically chosen her to be the ship’s doctor because of her vast experience with Sabrims. She had lived on their world for years and was one of the few that had adapted quite well to their society.
Also, Bina reminded herself, the council had insisted that someone strong and decisive be part of the mission in order to contrast him if the need arose. She momentarily stopped what she was doing and lingered on her last thought. She felt a touch uneasy as she suddenly questioned herself. Was she being too tolerant with Yorsabrim? Was she underestimating the situation, and while doing so, ignoring her responsibilities towards the council? She hoped not, but her intuition was beginning to tell her that Yorsabrim was taking advantage of their friendship.
Bina paused again, not liking her last thought. At times, when personal feelings are involved, it becomes easier to turn the other cheek and misjudge reality. Perhaps, she was doing exactly that. Her responsibilities were very clear while on duty and especially on that ship, which in many ways was historic. A Sabrim Captain was being evaluated under special circumstances and her decision, or lack of, would influence the council’s opinion on future missions which could be far more critical than the one she was on. Yes, she had an obligation no matter where she was in the galaxy or with whom. She had never let emotions interfere with her work before and nor should she start now, she thought, as she mentally scolded herself.
Bina took a deep breath and stopped the brain wipe. She couldn’t pursue it further. She needed to discover what was happening, for she had a strong suspicion that Yorsabrim was holding back information from her. She took a hesitant step back and then with determination came forward over the sedated Kurtis and pushed away the apparatus she had been operating with.
As she activated the image scanner, she prayed that there were still enough memories left to give her an idea of what happened that day. What she was doing was on the edge of legality, but she had enough to defend herself in a tribunal should Kurtis lay charges.
Bina knew that she was about to tarnish her medical career, at least ethically, but her sixth sense told her that she could not ignore that situation and make-believe that she was performing a routine operation. Yorsabrim’s attitude had made it anything but. The council had warned her that Yorsabrim would be under extreme stress with the addition of so many non-Sabrim personnel on board and had instructed her to be very vigilant, almost to the point of justifying extreme measures if she considered him buckling under the added responsibilities. In other words, it was implied that they would be lenient and not condemn her actions if a particular situation arose.
She considered that such a moment had arrived. Yorsabrim’s decision to pull rank on her was irrational considering that they were only a few hours away from the jump and patients needed to be prepared. Yorsabrim was hiding something and the only opportunity she had to find out the truth was to discover the information stored inside Kurtis’s mind that Yorsabrim was so adamant of removing. Otherwise, she would have to live with the doubt that she had lost an opportunity to uncover something relevant that could turn out to be detrimental to the safety of the entire crew. By then, it could very well be too late to do anything about it.
Bina deftly went to work, taking a quick peek at the door before returning her gaze back on her patient. The image scanner was a brain sensor that locked on the general area of the synapses that one wished to decipher. All the chemical interactions between the neurons were recorded and translated into electronic form, eventually providing a digital image of the information contained in the neurons. Although not fully perfected, in the end the scanner revealed a series of clips the subject had lived through and thought about during a few days’ time, but in complete random fashion. Once these memories were recorded, the operator could key in a particular search parameter through the scanner’s terminal and then gather and edit in sequence all the images containing that requested key word.
Bina keyed in Yorsabrim and all the images regarding Yorsabrim that Kurtis had seen through his eyes were reproduced. It didn’t take long for Bina to sort out Kurtis’s memories of Yorsabrim. Even if the scanner recorded equally well reality as it did any fantasy, thought, or opinion the subject had about a key word, a Sabrim’s mind was rather linear to interpret. It was relatively easy for Bina to differentiate between what was real and what was not. To Bina’s relief, enough memories remained to piece together what had transpired. She keyed in an audible image-word recognition pairing so that she could listen to what Kurtis’s mind had heard. A few seconds later, she was listening in to a conversation between Kurtis and Yorsabrim. It was almost as if she were standing in Yorsabrim’s quarters.
Yorsabrim angrily stormed his way towards his quarters in quick, long strides. He knew that he had made Bina very suspicious and for a moment wondered if it was not best to completely cancel his plans. He had erred in trusting her. He thought that she would have been reserved out of the mutual respect and friendship that they had developed for one another. He thought that she wouldn’t question his motive. He had been wrong. He had even thought that there was a growing sentiment between them that boded well for the future. Fool!
At that moment, he didn’t understand if he was upset because Bina had questioned his motive for having Kurtis’s brain wiped clean or because Bina had indirectly revealed that there was little more than a professional relationship between them. Nevertheless, he thought, he had succeeded in having the brain wipe and that had been his goal all along. He couldn’t trust Kurtis to keep the secret until his next sleep cycle. He had seen the way Kurtis had stared at him, the way he had judged him when he had revealed what he intended to do. Once he was off ship, nothing would prevent Kurtis from revealing the truth should his conscience prevail. It had been imperative that the brain wipe was performed before he left the ship in search of Meldium.
Yorsabrim quickly put his plan in action. He made his way to the docking port and boarded the shuttle that one of the collaborators prepared for him. The corridors were mostly empty as he moved with haste. He was fortunate that they were less than a few hours away from the jump and that the crew was either working in virtual status or sedated in the quarters. Fate was certainly smiling on him, he thought, feeling lucky, as he powered up the shuttle and left the main ship without a hitch. The darkness outside completely engulfed him as the shuttle picked up speed.
Within ten minutes Yorsabrim reached the dense gaseous cloud. He acted swiftly and proceeded to extract the gaseous sample. He isolated the gas into twelve hand sized cylinders and without further ado, turned his shuttle around to head back to the mother ship. Without losing a fraction of a second, he filtered out the particles and within minutes was left with about thirty grams of substance.
He cursed. The amount was really insignificant. He had expected much more and felt foolish that the greatest risk of his life turned out to be practically worthless. For a moment, he thought about turning back to refill his content, but the words of the legend popped into his mind. Not more than 10mg per year. Yes, that was it. He did the math and relaxed as a big grin spread over his face. He had enough for three thousand years, and since Sabrims lived to about two hundred years, he had enough for about fifteen individuals. More than sufficient, he reasoned.
Still, he couldn’t wait to get back home. He knew he should have been fearful, he knew he should have been cautious, but sooner or later he knew that he would have to try it out on himself first. He couldn’t trust anyone else to be the first, for if it was true what they said and that it could make men disappear, he couldn’t risk having someone else try it before him. It would leave him helpless to defend against. However, sooner or later, he would have to deal with the problem of sharing the power. Certainly, once back on the ship, the other three would demand their due and if he refused to give it to them at that instant, they would surely try to turn against him – maybe even blackmail him.
Then, he suddenly stopped dead in his thought. The solution was evident, no? It would be so much easier not to have to trust anyone for the remainder of his life than to live in perpetual doubt. He could make the others disappear! And Sek, the one who had trusted him? Yorsabrim clenched his jaw. He could not make an exception. There were some things in the universe that were worth much more than anyone’s life. Meldium was one of them.
Yorsabrim sighed with restless nervousness. He knew he was minutes away from the Pontiac. He didn’t have much time left to decide. Once on board, the others would be on him instantly. They were probably already waiting at the docking port. He might as well gather his courage and try a dose now. Waiting would serve no purpose. If it was Meldium, in a matter of seconds he would become the most powerful man in the universe. If it was not, then they would find him lifeless, floating in space in an inglorious end. Anyway, what would it matter? He would be dead and would never know the shame of his actions.
Yorsabrim carefully weighed 10mg and inhaled deeply. He frowned. Ten seconds went by, then thirty and then a full minute. Was this it? It couldn’t be, he thought with some desperation and mounting anger. Nothing was happening!
The flashing instrumentation board instantly drew Yorsabrim’s attention back to his surroundings. There was something wrong and it didn’t take him much time to realize that the Pontiac had gone to alert status. He frowned and banged his fist heavily on the console in front of him, luckily avoiding the controls. Somehow, he had been discovered. Someone had betrayed him. There could be no other explanation, even if he fervently hoped there was one.
Bina knew Yorsabrim had already left the ship. She could not remember the last time a commander had abandoned ship – certainly, not in her lifetime. Two security guards flanked her sides as she bolted head first towards the docking port. She was torn inside. Her pain and suffering was mistaken for anger as she brushed past the guards and visually confirmed that a shuttle was missing. It was now her duty to relieve Captain Yorsabrim and give command to his subordinate. Everything was done in under a minute. She felt the genuine disappointment and incredulity among the crew as the situation was exposed. The Sabrims were shocked. There was going to be lots of turmoil in the coming weeks, if not months.
What aggravated the situation was that the ship was over a year away from returning to civilization. She honestly didn’t know how they would manage to hold the crew together during that time. There would be a lot of finger pointing between the Sabrims and non-Sabrims. Yorsabrim’s selfish act had turned what should have been the pinnacle voyage of modern times into a shameful nightmare. The Pontiac’s name would be forever linked to a captain’s folly instead of the wonderful discoveries and accomplishments of the mixed crew. More importantly, Yorsabrim had tarnished the Sabrim’s growing, positive reputation and had easily set them back at least a generation if not longer. Who in their right mind would ever want another Sabrim commander to lead such a delicate operation again?
Bina was already in her quarters when the ship went on alert status. She knew that they would be sweeping the area with their sensors. Even if the shuttle was cloaked on an alternate frequency, it would only take a matter of seconds before Yorsabrim’s shuttle was located. She did not think that she would be able to face him any time soon. Bina was surprised at the intensity of her sentiments, not fully understanding why she felt so bitter at Yorsabrim and so lonely for herself.
Perhaps, she was growing to love him and it was this realization that made her so bitter.
It just happened.
Had already an hour gone by, or two? Yorsabrim wasn’t sure. Maybe a day, or more. He had been squashed by it, he had felt it trying to annihilate him, but somehow his mind had reached out from pure fear and stopped it from crushing him into oblivion. He had sensed (or maybe heard?) the great surprise in the creature’s mind as it withdrew and disappeared from where it came. There had been nothing on his shuttle’s sensors to announce its presence. He had not even seen it with his eyes! It had been his mind which had seen it materialize from nothing and which had instantly engaged it to fight it off. He felt as if he had been locked, struggling with the creature for days, but that simply wasn’t possible. His ship’s sensors would have recorded its presence. The only conclusion he could fathom was that the seemingly long and exhausting struggle had only lasted nanoseconds. Yes, nanoseconds, not more, maybe less.
Yorsabrim shocked, incoherent mind replayed the scene over and over again. He recalled looking at the Pontiac, and then unexpectedly, starboard where he saw it. It was as if he had been looking at an imprint inside himself, a glimpse of a ghost, an impression left burnt in his mind which flashed bright and instantly blinked away. Whatever it was, it seemed like a ship, even if it didn’t have the appearance of one. It was huge, bigger than most planets in the universe and marvelous, consisting of layers upon layers of fluorescent skin. It had unwrapped its front end, a series of veils, almost wing like, spreading out, dancing beautifully around the Pontiac in an array of colors that had filled his mind with humbling awe.
For a split second, Yorsabrim felt the pure elation of a child in the face of a wondrous, unrepeatable experience. It was the most delightful moment of his life, as if the paradise that he had always dreamt about was suddenly thrust upon him and unexpectedly beautiful beyond anything that his imagination was capable of conceptualizing.
Then, incredulously, his ship ruptured and disintegrated into atoms. He had no time to experience that horrific moment as that thing lashed out at him intending to make him suffer the same fate. It had been so alien. Alien. Or was it alien? In fact, he really couldn’t tell. In his mind, it had felt very human.
Yorsabrim didn’t know how much more time passed as he stared emptily into space. Meldium was real. It had saved him. It had permitted him to somehow glance in another dimension. Maybe. He didn’t know. He only knew that he suddenly felt vacant inside. It was more than just the death of his crew that had chilled his bones and crumpled his heart. He felt as if the whole emptiness of space had seeped through his skin and settled into his soul. The universe needed so much to be loved, but the universe was much too big for humanity to console, let alone for one man.
Yorsabrim felt the tears stream down his stunned eyes. His shuttle had lost all inertia and was drifting pointlessly through space. His thoughts were murky as he pondered questions that he had long abandoned. They were questions about existence, about extraterrestrials, and about his own brief life. He wondered about his new found powers, and even in that dire moment, he knew he had to share his find with someone. He could not die in vain with the information he possessed. Mankind had finally come in contact with an alien life form and he had to let people know that there was something horribly beautiful lurking in the galaxy. They had to get ready. They had to get prepared to meet and defeat it, if necessary. Man was not alone. And yet. That DNA structure. What did it mean?
Yorsabrim placed his hand on the ship’s virtual port and with his new found Meldium mind reached far out and transmitted his thoughts across the galaxy, sending what he had just witnessed back to the nearest planet, Dragolia. By the time the encoded message reached Dragolia, the slaughter of humanity had commenced. Brummer half grudgingly knew he had to abandon the preparation of his planet’s defenses to personally attend Usana’s desperate last minute conference. He felt he had little choice in the matter. The salvation of humanity, albeit in all its genetically induced variances, was more important than the protection of any one planet, even if Dragolia contained the last true descendants of Earth.
End of Book 1
A radically diverse and engineered humanity is about to embark on the conquest of the galaxy. Despite populating the stars, humankind has never encountered life, but In the span of a few weeks, man is about to die like a clueless beast through the hands of a faceless enemy. From the far past to the far future, this is the story about the evolution of the species. Chapter One: Usana, the President of the United Planets, has convened the surviving governors to find a plan of action against a ruthless enemy determined to wipe humanity from existence. What she finds among her peers, however, leads her to reflect that many are not even aware of their own reality. Centuries of genetic modifications and creation of alternative realities have dulled humanity's senses. Chapter Two: Yorsabrim is the Captain of the Pontiac, a deep space exploration vessel that is testing a new propulsion system that will one day bring humanity to the edges of the galaxy. Not everyone on the Council is convinced that he should command such an important mission. His people, the Sabrims, are not known for their patience and were bred and genetically engineered by the old Earth countries to fight wars.