Prologue: Shipmaster Anroc & The Pitiful Little People - The Cost Of Forever - PT1
((Management & Oversight Center - Endless Golden Penetrator))
Lounging imperiously upon a shimmering technological throne, Shipmaster Pitorian Sal’Lat’Ut’Kel’Tras Anroc, Owner of the Endless Golden Penetrator, was in a fit of pique. It was now a foregone conclusion he was going to die. He huffed in mild annoyance at what a terribly embarrassing inconvenience this would be for him and his entire organization. Running a hand along his exquisitely crafted suit of clothes, Anroc experienced a brief sartorial joy at the feel of the luxurious silken garments, but it was fleeting. With six eyes, he took in the meticulously appointed command deck, built to his exacting specifications and ostentatious personal tastes. Priceless objet d'art and sumptuous glowmarble inlay had cost millions of credits, and the ship had cost hundreds of billions more. All for another humiliating public failure that was likely to impact their net worth substantially when the annual fiscal picture was reviewed.
The fact that eleven hundred and sixty three crewmen and women would die alongside him trapped aboard a crippled ship, stranded at the Edge with no hope of rescue, hadn’t crossed his mind. They were only ephemerals, afterall. Sooner or later, they always died. The larger nuisance would be the staffing issues following this loss of “biological capital,” but the possibility had been considered prior to their mission and the corporation would begin acting on those contingencies soon. From a meticulously handcrafted songwood side table, Anroc lifted a livecrystal goblet that hummed soothingly in response to the warmth of his strong, 3 fingered hand. Filling it with a dram of liquor that would cost the average worker their life savings to acquire, Anroc paused and then, feeling entirely sorry for himself, he poured two more drams. He was going to die today, after all. He tisked to himself as the throne continued its work. Such a nuisance.
One of the senior crew ephemerals, Nenni Nokzu, moved towards the dais of the Shipmaster with a bowed head and short, hesitant steps. When Anroc’s drink was agreeably warming his pallet a few minutes later, he turned his head ever so slightly and gave the faintest sign of contemptuous acknowledgement.
Nokzu: Shipmaster, if it pleases you...
Anroc snapped back at the woman with a combination of boredom and venom. He didn’t bother making eye contact with someone so far beneath him.
Anroc: It most certainly does not. If I must suffer this annoyance, you could at least address me using my proper title. ::Anroc was immediately disgusted, his mood souring further:: You do know my full and proper title, of course?
Nokzu kept her pale head bowed low and racked her brain. The journey had taken six years just to get where they were at now, and in that whole time serving as the first officer, she’d always stumbled over the long string of namesakes. Speaking slowly to give herself more time, Nokzu worked through it out loud.
Nokzu: Owner and Guildmaster Extraordinary, First Eternal, President for Life of the Saldanian Corporate Hegemony, Beloved & Benevolent, Everlasting…
She was pretty sure she’d missed a word in there somewhere. This man was their doom and she couldn’t even appease him at the most basic level. When he didn’t immediately chastise her however, Nokzu decided to press on.
Nokzu: … The matter displacement array is completely destroyed. Two of the crew were killed trying to effect the repairs, but it’s a lost cause.
With her head low, she winced at the thought to the pair of engineers who had been killed. The chitinous plates on her back shifted slightly like a cat twitching it’s fur. They’d been good men. Friends.
Nokkzu: The same impact that destroyed it also damaged the fuel storage. We’re losing fuel and we’ll have no way to decelerate when we reach the Edge. The mission is doomed, shipmaster.
Anroc took in this catastrophic declaration with the air of a man who had lost his third favorite hat.
Anroc: Ah, so no hope at all then? Such a waste. ::Anroc refilled his glass, this time to capacity. Gesturing towards the half empty crystal decanter, Anroc tried to speak slowly, annunciating each word so even the dimmest ephemeral could understand:: This bottle alone is worth more than a hundred of you, and I have a case in my suites - a splendid gift from my ninth mistress. What am I to tell him? That I simply abandoned his lovely token?
A sour taste filled Nokzu’s mouth. Outrage swelled in her chest. She had two children back home. After the briefest moment however, her outrage dissipated. It was a skill she’d honed over decades of serving the deathless, and one of the reasons she’d been hand selected for this mission.
Nokzu: There is a small planetoid a week away. We could land on it before the fuel runs out. From there, if we radio the homeworld for assistance, in a decade or two we might be rescu...
Anroc rose to his full three meter height in instant fury.
Anroc: A distress signal?! Do you have any idea how humiliating it would be for the corporation to have the media rebroadcasting a pathetic cry for help from what was supposed to be our shining triumph? You’ve already failed to take this ship beyond the Edge, don’t compound your mistake with another, or I’ll see to it you’ll never be employed again!
That was it. Her last hope. Even traveling at the speed of light it’d take their message nearly five years to reach home, and then six more for another ship to reach theirs. That all hinged on the Shipmaster’s willingness to send the message though. Now, that hope was gone, as was her chance of ever seeing her children again. Employment be damned, Nokzu welled up with anger again, but this time she failed to push it back down. In defiance she rose to her two and half meter height, Anroc still towering over her.
Nokzu: (Raising her slender head and locking all six eyes on Anroc) I’ll never be employed again as it is Shipmaster! This ship will be my tomb!
Anroc could see the flair of defiance behind the ephemerals eyes and moved to snuff it out instantly. This one had clearly forgotten themselves, and Anroc suspected being away from home for so long had eroded its weak, simple mind.
Anroc: Don’t use that insolent tone with me you loathsome chattel! If you’re dead, I’ll make certain no one in your family ever works, no matter what barren airless asteroid farm they run to. Your children will be eating vermin by the end of the year...if they’re fortunate!
Fire flashed in her eyes. Indignation, outrage, and fury roiled within Nokzu’s chest. For a time she maintained eye contact until she finally acknowledged the truth behind his words. Her life may be lost, but Nokzu could still help the future of her children.
Nokzu: I apologize for my… insolence Shipmaster. You know how us… ephemerals can be. What are your orders for the ship?
Shipmaster Pitorian Sal’Lat’Ut’Kel’Tras Anroc
Owner & Guildmaster Extraordinary,
President for Life of the Saldanian Corporate Hegemony,
Beloved & Benevolent,
Everlasting & Magnificent
Endless Golden Penetrator
Deputy Director of Daily Operations
Endless Golden Penetrator