Wed Apr 30, 2014 6:12 pm
“Mission entry, year 4310: Captain Drokgar Anock, Scorpion VI B159-A Scout ship- Libertas Insurgo Military… Two years have passed with no success. The frustration of not achieving our mission objective is beginning to affect everyone onboard. The council members of the Libertas faction, in their infinite wisdom, saw fit to commission this Human scout ship with a varied crew to search for a new home-world. My race needs a new Utmetran-rich planet that can sustain an ever-growing population. The dishonorable Bathac destroyed our once great base of operations. Too many of my brethren perished on the Terrgant home-world of Utmet VII that day. The Koly Region had never seen such a devastating conflict.”
“Since 3893 we have spent over 400 years as a space ferrying race with no planet to truly call home. The Scorpion is preparing to jump to another set of coordinates. These were provided by the Libertas astronomers that spend far too much time gazing at their star charts. There’s no better feeling of trusting your inevitable demise to a group of scientists that have nev…” Drokgar’s speech was interrupted by the billowing smoke emanating from the recording console.
He stood up amidst the increasing volume of smoke. Being on a Human scout ship provided an almost daily surprise of technological wonder. A random piece of substandard technology would never fail to break in some unimaginable fashion. Not wanting to disappoint, and with no further delay of wonderment, the console burst into flames.
Standard ship safety protocol forced the door to his Captain’s quarters open and an automated fire suppression system engaged. The efficiency of the Human,
“Lowest bidder” contracted military grade suppression system was evidenced by the partial dousing of the flames. The system terminated with the fire still raging.
Drokgar waved the thick smoke away from his face and located the intercom button. He resisted the urge to smash it with his fist. He calmly depressed the button and boomed,
“Furglehk! My quarters… Now!” His voice echoed in every area of the ship that contained a speaker. He released the button and stepped back near the inner doorframe where the smoke was less thick.
Knowing Furglehk would hurry to his quarters, he waited patiently. He heard the faint sound of small, quick footsteps clanking through the walkway. The clanking increased in volume and eventually ceased outside the now wide-open doorway to his quarters. Waiting for the prize crewmen of the ship to grace him with his presence, Drokgar gazed unenthusiastically at the once functional log recorder. The flames engulfed it like a starving animal devouring a carcass.
A small, overly round cranium slowly penetrated through the open doorway. Drokgar knew Furglehk had arrived, but a polite acknowledgement was not in order. Ignoring him, Drokgar crossed his arms and continued to gaze at the somewhat cozy fire. Unlike the carefully selected Terrgant art hanging from his walls, an orange and yellow blaze was now the focal point of his quarters.
Furglehk reluctantly entered.
Once Furglehk crossed his field of vision Drokgar yelled,
“I thought you completed the repairs on this ship?! I do not particularly desire my life, or military career, to be ended by a substandard piece of equipment engulfing me in flames. For the sake of all Dralnians, your repair ability better surpass the quality of the Human excrement excuse of technology that is burning my desk. I will not be given a proper Terrgant funeral by falling in battle to a log recorder!”
Furglehk stared straight ahead at the burning console. He did not want to infuriate the Captain further by making eye contact.
“Do the Koly Region a favor and throw yourself on the flames to put them out! While you are doing that I will start searching for a replacement Dralnian that might be worth the credits spent. Perhaps one with janitorial expertise could do a better job of preventing my ship from turning into charred remnants while not even engaged in battle!”
Furglehk did not say a word. He ran to the console, pulled a panel off, retracted his limbs and crawled inside. Although he made himself small enough to fit inside the service panel, his feet dangled just above the floor. At Drokgar’s height of nearly seven feet he glared down at the point of entry Furglehk used to begin repairs. The thick lingering smoke obscured his normally perfect vision.
Continuing to stare at the open panel area, his downward perspective produced an abhorrently twisted representation of the console actually having feet. He was entranced by the tiny labor-worn, dangling appendages of his servant-mechanic protruding from the small opening. Unbeknownst to himself, his mouth was slightly agape with a look of disgust. The sound of Furglehk’s fists striking the interior of the console brought Drokgar out of the semi-nauseating trance. He concluded the loud noises were a sign that Furglehk was fixing the problem.
This encounter with a fine display of Human technological advancement flooded his mind with doubt. Without the benefit of the jump-drive technology given to Humans during the Peace Talks of 3350, he wondered how many of their ships perished along the multi-decade journey from Sol. How did the race even make it to the Koly Region using their archaic thrust driven propulsion system?
This distraction, from the possibility of his entire room catching fire, launched his mind into a historical journey. His clan was credited with most of the Koly Region’s technological breakthroughs over the past centuries. The ancestry of the Anock clan was rich in science and development. It brought great honor to know his lineage was responsible for the current jump technology the region utilized. He was proud to bear the name, Anock.
Be that as it may, the sense of pride came with a price. In addition to the blood-traitor comments Anock’s heard routinely about the destruction of Utmet VII, other rumors spread like the flames dancing on his desk. Unwarranted accusations were whispered about the Anock who created the jump-drive. The vicious lies alleged he sold this discovery to Bathac researchers.
Never believing rumors until they had a factual basis, which this did not, Drokgar dismissed them as quickly as he heard them. Despite neglecting the proper amount of study he should have put forth during the Officer’s academy on propulsion systems, he still had a firm grasp on the break-down of jump travel. He knew the rumor had no validity on account of a Bathac jump-drive, while similar, operated in an entirely different manner.
A Libertas vessel’s jump capability, as engineered by the Anock’s, is powered by Dark Matter. This matter is found throughout the Koly Region as well as other parts of the galaxy. The Libertas ships can manipulate Dark Matter from anywhere in the Koly Region to form a gateway for instantaneous travel. The onboard jump-drive harnesses the power of a mineral that attracts Dark Matter and a reaction occurs.
Energy is produced as the reaction is stabilized by a matter chamber. Once the energy has reached its apex in the chamber, it is released into the Dark Matter near the ship. This creates a, “Worm-hole” effect that allows the ship to travel to a distant part of the Region in seconds. In order to reach a destination, coordinates must be entered in the ship’s navigation computer.
All nav-computers are equipped with a sensor made from the same mineral that attracts the Dark Matter. This sensor guides the ship to the coordinates, where it exits through Dark Matter in that sector. The accuracy is within one Astronomical Unit, AU, of the navigator’s original destination. The drives installed on every Libertas ship have the ability to perform multiple jumps, with only a two minute cool-down period between each one.
He recounted the Libertas operation to capture a Servus Bathac vessel. During The Galactic Conflict, elite Terrgant forces infiltrated a Bathac star base. Many of the Terrgant’s perished, but the few that survived came back with a prized possession. The capture of this ship allowed Terrgant researches to explore the technology their adversary coveted. After months of study, the researchers were able to dissect the alien technology.
To their surprise, the drive installed in the Bathac ship was very primitive compared to the Terrgant design. It appeared Bathac developers lacked the concept of manipulating Dark Matter. The researchers discovered a crude form of a sensor in the Bathac ship. With the poorly designed sensor, the drive only allowed the vessel to follow a Terrgant ship after it opened a gateway. Bathac ships could not create a gateway on their own.
This answered the reports of half-destroyed Bathac military vessels floating in the void of space. The gateways created by Terrgant vessels were only temporary. If the Bathac ship was travelling through the gateway while it closed, the portion inside the gateway was lost forever. Terrgant military advisors recommended using this as a tactic. Throughout The Galactic Conflict, Terrgant ships would bait Bathac armadas into following them. The Terrgant pilots, and navigators, were able to time the closing of the gateway just right. Bathac armadas suffered losses of 50% or more without engaging a single Terrgant vessel in ship to ship combat.
As the years passed, Libertas ships fell into the hands of Bathac researchers. The captured Terrgant crews, naturally immune to Bathac telepathic control, were executed in a most cruel way. After the vital systems, electronics and jump-drive were removed, the crew was placed in the stripped down ship. Bathac Commanders ordered a retrofit on the non-jump capable vessel. A single-use propulsion engine was attached to the hull exterior.
All retrofitting was performed at a major Bathac star base near the Zulund Eta star. With no jump capability, no weapons for suicide, and no rations the helpless crew was launched towards the Star. All airlocks and points of exit were sealed shut. The crew members were shackled to bulkheads, unable to move. The trip would be complete before they could die of starvation or dehydration.
The slow increase of heat generated by closing the distance to the star was unbearable. The propulsion system attached also had a single-use retro burst to stop the inertia of the ship. The timing of the burst was set for a precisely calculated distance. Instead of continuing onwards into the Star, the retro burst made the ship float motionless on the outer edge of the emanating heat and radiation.
While the interior temperature increased, the crew would feel slight symptoms of radiation sickness. Canisters placed next to each crew member, containing an unknown gas, were time-released to engage after the retro burst took place. The increase in heat caused a chemical reaction in the gas. It changed to a liquid that condensed on the crew’s skin, which was quickly absorbed.
The chemical reaction began to disfigure the bodies of the crew while they were still alive. Not lucky enough to die from side effects of radiation exposure, the liquid would boil under their epidermis. The final stage of this Bathac torture caused their bodies to swell, blister and eventually explode. Melted internal organs and bodily fluids coated the walls where the crew members were shackled.
Cameras with transmitters were installed throughout the interior of the death vessels before they were launched. The recorded footage was sent back to the star base prior to the ship incinerating. The destruction of the ship happened many hours after the crew’s ruptured remains were baked into the walls. The recorded video of these executions was then sent to Terrgant leaders. Bathac Commanders considered the executions justified for the losses incurred by the gateway tactic. The twisted Bathac Commanders had this process down to an exact science.
After an unknown amount of research was completed, Bathac vessels were able to create their own gateways. Even with the Terrgant gateway tactic now invalid, Bathac Commanders continued to execute captured Terrgant crews in this manner. Drokgar made a promise to avenge his fallen brothers and send the entire Bathac race into a star.
The scientific babble and ghastly historical memories flowing through his head was enough to momentarily take his mind off his current problem. Clearing thoughts of jump-drives and Bathacs, Drokgar returned his attention to the pending status of his quarters.
This untimely interruption of the mandatory recording of a mission entry slightly angered him. It was unfathomable that even a civilian ship would be put into service without a rigorous inspection. Terrgant regulations would never allow unreliable technology on a war-ship. The Libertas faction apparently did not have as stringent standards as the Terrgant Military did. He contemplated the embarrassment a Captain would face if it became known his ship’s end was at the hands of a faulty accessory, like a burning log recorder.
With smoke swirling around his head, Drokgar considered assisting Furglehk with repairs. This thought of helping a Dralnian passed without hesitation. Drokgar reminded himself Terrgants are bred and trained for battle. They do not perform menial tasks such as repairing malfunctioning equipment on a ship. The vision of a Terrgant carrying out laborious duties was simply degrading.
Drokgar made a mental sweep of every system contained in the Scorpion. This cerebral journey reinforced the amount of manual labor involved with keeping it operational. Without the semi-forced efforts of Dralnians, he excogitated how any race functioned efficiently prior to the inception of tiny laborers.
This brought back memories of academic studies on the history of how the Otium race reshaped labor practices in the Koly region. The Otium tried for nearly half a century to create a mechanized, subservient, and easily produced labor force. The only guarantee offered by a mechanical worker is that it would eventually break. Wanting to eliminate this major drawback of inorganic laborers, Otium researchers began experimenting with cloning technology. 20 years of genetic development resulted in the Dralnian race. The final test batch was a remarkable success.
The 70 year creation process of the genetically derived race sparked many debates. Did a Dralnian have a soul? The final argument accepted in 1683, was that no one actually cared. This was the turning point for Otium scientists when they put the theoretical debate to rest and began mass production.
The researchers selected key attributes that would make their new product irresistible to future customers. Only three feet in height, and with the ability to manipulate the length of their limbs, Dralnians are perfect cramped working conditions. Having immense stamina and strength, for such a miniature statue, they are able to work almost endlessly. They require literally no medical attention and a manufacturing defect made them immune to electrical shock. Keeping with the original idea of a slave-like work force, scientists bred all Dralnians with a subservient gene that cannot be altered.
Because of these personality traits, Dralnians are considered lowest on the social caste in the Koly Region. Humans do not even recognize a use, other than unwanted occupations, for these genetically engineered workhorses. If a Bathac or Terrgant was forced to decide between saving their most hated enemy or a Dralnian, a temporary truce would be made; leaving the Dralnian searching for another savior.
Most Dralnians are never referred to by name, only by the serial number they receive after being batched. If one shows superior abilities, some owners will name their purchase. This ceremony is akin to Humans naming an animal companion. Drokgar chuckled at the reality of animal companions having a higher social status than any Dralnian in the region. He knew of few that were given a name.
He reminisced when Furglehk was named. Furglehk was placed on the Scorpion by the Libertas council. Wanting a diversified crew they mandated the roster would include all races, even Dralnians, of the Libertas alliance. Generally displeased with having one for a head mechanic, Drokgar sent monthly replacement requests to Fleet Admiral Vulrek Anock. They detailed the replacing of the Dralnian with a Human or Terrgant mechanic. He pleaded his case by showing flexibility that if his primary choice was not available he would even accept a Human child in place of it.
The requests were never answered.
The Captain involuntarily accepted defeat. As the weeks, months and years passed he became grudgingly accustomed to the unwanted member of his crew. Not willing to blindly accept this doomed relationship, he decided to give the tiny mechanic a name. Over the span of two years, Drokgar was not happy with the quality of the Dralnian’s work. Never revealing if the distaste was because a Dralnian performed the duties, or if the work was just not to his standards, Drokgar became increasingly irritated whenever he was around. After shouting, “Furglehk” in his native tongue after each repair was completed, the name was given. Furglehk translates to English as worthless.
With an all-but barren sense of remorse for Dralnians quickly fleeting, Drokgar exited the smoky room to make his way up to the command deck. He needed to be able to review the crew manifest to complete his mission entry. The temporary loss of access to the recording log, or what was left of it, meant he still needed a private area to finish his administrative duties.
The command deck was the only other semi-private area on the ship. Traversing the small walkway, in comparison to his Terrgant physique, he stared at the floor while cursing aloud about the prevailing state of affairs. The frustration of things being out of sorts did not keep him in his usual state of situational awareness. Even with Human crew members, Drokgar kept the ship running at a near-Terrgant level of efficiency.
Turning the corner, while in deep conversation with himself, he did not notice Tom Daniels walking towards him. Just before the moment of passing, Drokgar did not shift to the side as was common in a cramped walkway. Expecting a mirror image, Tom observed the unwritten ship protocol of pivoting his torso to make room for the colossal shoulder that was rapidly advancing in his direction. In the middle of Tom displacing his center of gravity, he performed a military greeting to his superior officer.
Still engaged in his own raging conversation, Drokgar did not see the ship’s pilot saluting him. Amid Tom saying,
the impending collision cut off the last word of,
The accidental connection of Drokgar’s shoulder into his chest was incredibly blunt. Inertia from the massive Terrgant body was absorbed into the noticeably smaller Human chassis. Already slightly off-balance, the crash knocked Tom’s cranium into the bulkhead. He took it upon himself to overdramatize the event by clutching his chest while collapsing onto the floor.
Drokgar walked on, self-absorbed in his anger, oblivious to what just occurred.
Tom’s uninjured body lay in a supine position in the middle of the walkway. The Captain was nowhere in sight. In attempt to acquire sympathy Tom lifted his head, looked around furtively and began writhing in concocted agony. He screamed with gasping breaths,
“Medic! I need a medic! The pilot is down!”
Not receiving acknowledgment from this display of unbearable imagined pain he whispered,
“Cold… so cold. I had so much more to give, but this fatal wound shall not allow me to live!”
He let the back of his head hit the floor, rolled his eyes back, and opened his mouth.
He gurgled in the fashion of a real soldier dying from a sucking chest wound.
Tom stopped gurgling and, while appearing dead, waited for an audience. Several lonely minutes passed. Disappointed with giving the performance of a life-time to only the air around him, he deliberated in offering an encore act to any unknowing passerby. More time passed with no potential candidates arriving. Ruling out the possibility of a repeat exhibition, he collected himself. He sat up, scrutinized the barren walkway and sighed. Arrogantly he declared,
“Everyone’s a critic” while standing up.
Staring at the wall, Tom felt the beginning of a headache. Running his hands along his chest, back and neck he found everything to be intact. His stomach ached with self wrought sickness as he slowly moved his hand to the base of his skull.
He located the culprit. His fingers trembled when they touched a small lump. Refusing to identify the protrusion was most likely a swelling of injured tissue from his skull impacting with the bulkhead, he self-diagnosed the cranial intruder. Convincing himself this surely had to be cancer, or some other life-ending disease, he knew only minutes remained. If he could just get to the medical bay in time to receive a vaccination, he would be fine.
Thinking positively, maybe he would even receive a military service award for nearly dying on-duty. Tom knew that in order to make it in time, he would have to walk at a brisk pace to cover the agonizing 30 meter span that separated him from a cure. He took a few deep breaths, calmed his nerves to his always professional demeanor and started walking.
Stopping short of the command deck, Drokgar just now realized he was consumed with anger over a trivial issue. On the battlefield it can be a great tool, but anger had no place on a ship. A Terrgant warrior, especially a Captain, should know better. He was disappointed in himself by allowing his anger to get the best of him. Gathering his emotions by placing them deep inside, he entered the command deck.
Preferring Terrgant ship design, the layout of the Scorpion’s command deck simply eluded him. Even after two years, and multiple engagements, he did not understand how Human Captains functioned in the compact alcove. The walkway he came from entered into the navigation room that measured no bigger than 20 feet square. Why the square construction had been chosen was beyond his understanding of Human architecture.
The single-pilot cockpit was attached to the end of the navigation area. The doorway to the flight cabin consisted of a heavy security door that had to be opened by a code. Only the Officers of the ship were given it. Walking towards Link’s console, which was positioned directly outside the cockpit, Drokgar noticed Tom was not around.
Link, wearing her neural visor, was busy collecting data through the Scorpion’s sensors. He did not wish to interrupt her, but he needed to know the effectiveness of the neural-uplink on the last few jumps. This data was to be included in his unfinished mission entry. The uplink was a fairly recent addition to the Libertas fleet. Although it was in mass production, it was still considered somewhat experimental.
The introduction of the neural uplink in 4307 even caught Drokgar’s attention. He was impressed that a Human, of only 20 years in age, was capable of inventing such a device. He was also pleased to see that an aspiring member of the Human military was the person that created it. Link’s invention advanced her military career to the rank of Lieutenant Commander nearly overnight. Much like his remembrance of jump-drive technology, the new discovery was perplexing.
The visor presented the operator with a, “God-like” view of the Region they were in. In Link’s case, she was slightly more attuned to the system then most users. She described it as floating, or swimming, through an endless sea of information. The system gave a graphical, three-dimensional layout of the ship’s position in space. It enabled the ship’s navigator to plot a jump destination in milliseconds.
The visor acted as a bridge for the data to travel from the display into the mind of the person viewing it. Controlled by thought, it only took hours to train an operator on its full capabilities. A small fleet of Libertas ships were given a neural uplink for a trial period from 4307 to 4308. Thousands of jumps were completed with only a 1% failure rate. The Libertas council was so impressed by this advancement that a fleet wide refit was ordered. All Libertas ships now carry a neural-uplink.
Amazing as this was, Drokgar was not convinced of its usefulness. The ability of a navigator to connect neurologically with a ship had never previously been successful. He preferred the time honored tradition of studying dark matter gateways and having a feel for the galaxy. Letting a subconscious thought control such an involved maneuver, like a gateway jump, brought slight pain to his head. He was a, “Hands on” Captain.
Standing by her console, Drokgar watched Link input what she received from the visor. Her fingers moved with a flash while the data was fed to the touch-screen keyboard in front of her. He waited a few moments and said, “Excuse me Lieutenant Commander.”
Link finished the last string of key strokes, removed the visor from her eyes and placed it on top of her head. She stood up quickly and saluted him.
Drokgar waved off the salute and, knowing Link was always professional unlike Tom, motioned for her to resume what she was doing. He said, “I know you are extremely busy, but I need the information on the last three jumps to include in my mandatory entry. I have to review the crew roster as well, so please do not feel too rushed. I need to use a terminal here because the recording log in my quarters is experiencing issues. Furglehk is repairing it as we speak.”
Link sat down in her chair. She knew Drokgar was skeptical of the neural navigation and was hesitant to inform him of something she detected. She knew that honesty was the best policy and informed Drokgar, “Sir, I think we might have a problem with the neural-link.”
Drogkar waited silently for her to continue.
“We have never encountered any problems with our drive, not even 1% like the test runs did. The Scorpion is at 100% operational capability. I am slightly concerned about the coordinates given for our new destination. Each time I outline our trip through the gateway, some kind of… interference… is present. I think it might be a glitch, but I’m not sure” stated Link.
Drokgar did not appear concerned. He asked, “Do you think this, interference, will prevent us from searching the coordinates issued to us?
She replied, “No. No, no. It will not be of consequence. After we jump I would like some down-time to reconfigure the link. We’ve made so many jumps that it might just need to be taken off line. I highly doubt it, I invented it after all, but you know how computers are. They get kind of moody from time to time.”
“Good. If you will excuse me I must finish my roster review and mission entry” replied Drokgar. He left her console and looked around the command deck for a data terminal. Link nodded and glared at the area containing the neural-link system. She was tempted to kick it for embarrassing her in front of the Captain. She never wanted to tell Drokgar that her invention was not at 100%. Unlike Drokgar, the anger dissipated quickly when she resumed her navigational duties.
Drokgar located an open terminal that was positioned directly behind Link. He walked towards it and, as he stood next to the terminal, a chair rose up out of the floor. This was a feature that somewhat impressed him. The Human architecture was not specifically designed with Terrgant comfort in mind. Having to walk nearly hunched over, the use of filling empty space reminded him of the simplicity that made Terrgant design so efficient. The interior had plenty of room for an all Human crew however, if more than two Terrgants occupied the same area it rapidly became cramped.
He sat down and noticed Link moving her fingers rapidly over the illuminated keyboard. Her head moved around like she was tracking a small flying insect. With the visor over her eyes, she was blind to anything in the command deck. Drokgar turned to the terminal’s screen, which was embedded into the wall, and touched the screen. A menu appeared in the upper-left corner. He selected, “Crew Roster” and a new screen expanded below the menu section.
With the roster displayed before him he formed a rough outline in his mind of what the previously interrupted mission entry was missing. He moved his hand back to the upper-left corner and chose, “Mission Entry” from the menu. A dialogue box formed in the middle of the screen asking, “Continue Recording?” Amazed the previous entry was saved prior to recorder being consumed by fire he pressed, “Yes.”
He repeated his name, rank and other pertinent introductory information. He made a reference to the fire in his quarters and continued on. He talked in detail about the planets that were visited during the last few months. The majority were either uninhabitable or had potential. The potential candidates for a new home-world were suitable for population, but each one had Bathac forces in orbit or on the surface. A message flashed on the display while he spoke, showing the results of the last three jumps.
He paused the recording and saved the data to his Captain’s file. Before continuing with his report he glanced over at Link. Her fingers were still performing a navigator’s dance on the keyboard whilst her visor-garbed head darted up, down and to the side. Her work ethic was incredible.
Drokgar returned his vision to the screen and talked at length about the jump-drive information Link sent to him. In the time it took him to speak about ship efficiency, drive destinations and other boring statistics he simultaneously reviewed the crew roster. The list was broken down by Human ranks. Terrgants did not use a rank structure in their armed forces prior to the creation of the Libertas Insurgo faction.
Each mission entry required a report of each Officer’s actions and monthly activities. Passing his own name and rank he paused at the listing of second in command. This was filled by Commander Gorlan Ravek. When he was staring at Gorlan’s name, faster than he realized, he was at the end of the statistical portion of the report. Drokgar was required to give a fair evaluation of all crew members including his second in command, but it was difficult with so much history between their two clans.
Gorlan was trusted with commanding the Human infantry that comprised the reconnaissance unit aboard the ship. Under Gorlan’s lead, casualties were minimal to non-existent. This enabled the Scorpion to accommodate a maximum of 20 soldiers almost continuously. True to his Ravek heritage, Gorlan excelled at infantry operations. His natural ability to lead men of any race pushed them to turn losing engagements in their favor.
Rising through the Libertas military structure together, he remembered the first day he met Gorlan. They were assigned to the same infantry unit which displeased Gorlan. On numerous occasions Drokgar heard him vocalizing his dissatisfaction of being forced to fight with an Anock to anyone that would listen. The ramming of Gorlan’s head through many walls appeared to be the only to place his attitude in check.
Those memories invoked the recollection of always being just one rank higher than Gorlan at all times. He laughed to himself remembering how much it irritated Gorlan that an Anock was a higher rank. In noncombat times, Gorlan would not speak to him unless the chain of command required it. On the battlefield though, rank mattered little. Drokgar vividly recalled past ground battles that were fought side by side with him.
His unchecked brutality and mastery of tactics reinforced his decision to request Gorlan for second in command. Still not happy with seeing himself as an underling, Drokgar knew Gorlan will eventually became accustomed to being part of the crew. Even if it takes two more years he was confident in his choice for Commander. All things considered he could only give one rating. He gave a brief overview of Gorlan’s monthly activities and spoke clearly into the recorder, “Commander Gorlan Ravek, rating of excellent.”
Continuing down the list he came across the crew member he appreciated the most. Lieutenant Commander, Sarah “Link” Kagaki. He did not require any time to think of the rating he would record. Nicknamed after the neural-uplink technology she created, most crew members called her by the moniker.
He admired her ever vigilant display of professional appearance, demeanor and work ethic. Drokgar would instantly submit a request for the promotion of Sarah to Commander if Gorlan were ever transferred. Pleased with her overall review he said, “Lieutenant Commander Kagaki, rating of excellent.”
After completing Link’s review Drokgar hesitated at the sight of the final Officer on his list. Speaking the three words of, “Lieutenant Tom Daniels” caused a twitch in his left eye. Drokgar thought if Lieutenant Daniels was not such a gifted pilot, he would not tolerate his childish antics and have him promptly removed from the ship. He would most likely be removed through an airlock with no suit.
The cold truth of the matter was that Drokgar had never seen such natural talent. Terrgant pilots are renowned through the Koly Region for their aptitude of combat flight. Lieutenant Daniels’ innate skills were unmatched. Tom was piloting his parent’s merchant ship from a young age. Drokgar believed Daniels’ upbringing in a family of merchants contributed to his gift. The upside to Tom’s history had a dark side as well. He felt some regret for Tom losing his parents at age 17.
He felt anger building once again, but this time from the memory of how Tom’s parents were killed. On a routine trip to Hosalo, a squadron of Bathac scout vessels attacked the defenseless cargo ship. The protection detail assigned to the cargo haulers was too late. Not having enough room for themselves and their son, Tom’s parents forced him into the single escape pod. The pod broke away just before Bathac weapons cut his parent’s ship in half.
Tom wanted revenge and quickly entered the Libertas military. His abilities were noticed and put to use immediately. Drokgar was elated when he learned the gifted Lieutenant was to be his pilot. His elation slowly dissipated after knowing Tom for almost two years. Not quite fully understanding Human culture, Drokgar attributed the loss of his parents to why he acted the way he did. He feared if the family history was not the contributing factor that Tom might be what Humans classified as, retarded. Drokgar simply wished the Lieutenant of his ship would act more like the fairly high rank bestowed upon him.
Still involved with his review, little did Drokgar know he was about to be disappointed by his Lieutenant yet again.
Tom returned from the medical bay. Not above pity, he altered his appearance by wrapping gauze around his head. To add more feeling to his, “Walking wounded” character he drooled on himself and walked with a limp. He stood in the entryway to the navigation room with an ailing look about him. To his great disappointment, they did not notice his presence. He was about to give up on irritating those senior to him, but another ingenious thought entered his mind.
He threw off the gauze and ran quietly at Link. Timing his performance just right, he tucked into a poorly represented forward roll and collided with her console. He would not let the pain, or embarrassment, of a failed stealthy approach stop him from continuing. He quickly stood up, stepped back a few feet from Link and assumed a defensive stance. He contorted his face, exhaled with great effort and flexed what little muscle he had in his biceps.
Without removing her visor, Link knew the failed roll and guttural sounds emanating from the mouth near her was Tom. She asked, “Playing Ninja again?”
Tom responded with what could only be described as a war cry and struck the front of her terminal with a bladed hand. The pain received from, “Karate-chopping” the solid metal object almost surpassed his pain threshold. His hand was pounding while he proceeded to sloppily kick the imaginary targets that were surrounding him. Not even close to being done with his performance, he smiled and shrugged off the pain.
Unimpressed with Tom’s behavior, Drokgar was intrigued by Link’s question. He asked her, “Ninja?”
Reluctant to play into the void of attention that Tom required filling, she removed her visor and answered her superior Officer’s question. She replied, “Ninjas were an ancient group of elite soldiers on our ancestral planet of Earth. Much like the members of my past heritage, they inhabited the Asian continent of Japan. Unhappy with the corrupt government, Ninjas branched away from the Samurai caste in a similar way your Ancestors formed the 12 clans.”
While Link explained Ninjas in further detail, Tom continued to defeat his imaginary attackers in the background. She had to speak louder whenever Tom finished off an invisible attacker by yelling, “Hi-Ya!”
Like a child, Tom never ran out of energy when wanting attention. He continued to punch, kick and dodge the nearly infinite army of made-up assailants that continued to attack him. Link almost finished her explanation when she was cut off by Tom screaming, “Waaaaaaaaa!”
Not typically losing her composure, Link could not take it anymore. The commanding parental tone in her voice when she yelled, “Grow up!” even surprised Drokgar.
Tom was in mid-kick when he froze. He slowly lowered his foot, faced Link and bowed. Heartbroken with childish disappointment he stomped his foot on the floor and hung his head in sorrow. He turned and began slinking towards the cockpit. Every two steps he would stop, look over his shoulder and give a sad facial expression. His disenchanted journey of five feet to his pilot’s chair took nearly three minutes to traverse.
Drokgar stared at his Lieutenant. The Lieutenant he was, at one time, proud to have serving on his ship. He said, “Please stop acting like that.”
Tom stood up straight and faced Drokgar. Still exhausted from the obviously brutal hand to hand combat, Tom was curious why he was so angry in the hall. Almost out of breath he asked, “Captain… why did you… plow me over in the walkway earlier? I’m hurt you didn’t… care I… was nearly killed by the… impact. You seemed… very… angry. More angry than usual I should say.”
Drokgar turned his attention to the quasi-death machine panting ten feet in front of him. “I was displeased with the defective equipment on board my ship. The recording log in my quarters caught fire and met an untimely end. I am at this terminal recording my mandatory mission entry, and crew reviews. I happen to be working on yours as we speak.”
Wanting to assist Drokgar in the decision to give him an excellent rating, Tom gave him some words of wisdom. He asked, “Did you stop, drop and roll?
Perplexed with this Human question Drokgar inquired, “Did I what?”
“You know. Stop, drop and roll. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re on fire you just follow those three words. Stop, drop and roll. Stop whatever it is you’re doing, which probably caused the fire in the first place, and drop to the ground. After you have dropped into a flaming ball of yourself, start rolling. As you witnessed my awesome ninja rolls earlier don’t hesitate to ask me to help refine your tumbling skills, Captain.” He was about to continue his safety speech, even though Drokgar was clearly unimpressed, but was interrupted by Link.
Beyond frustration she yelled, “Are you four yet? Even though you’ve demonstrated the reduced mental capacity of a child, shouldn’t you be flying the ship?”
Tom stopped and inserted his thumb into his grinning mouth. Sucking on his thumb he replied, “I don’t think I’m four yet. I’m pretty sure I’m at least three because I can use the lavatory all by myself. My, ‘Undee-pants’ have been fecal-free for five whole months. You should be proud of me. This is a major step in my growing adolescent years. Not being fully potty-trained can lead to insecurity, uptightness and general irritability later in one’s life. It’s a good thing I don’t have to work next to anyone like that because it might slow my own development.”
Not wanting to believe a Human adult was capable of such childish behavior, Link smacked her forehead in disbelief. Pressing forward she put the visor back in front of her eyes and resumed finishing the calculation of their jump.
Drokgar was even less impressed with the bantering his two Officers engaged in. He thought of retrieving a dull instrument to locate and remove the Linguistic Auditory Translator that assisted with interspecies communication. He wished the removal of the LAT chip embedded in his auditory nerve would filter out the noise created by Tom and Kakagi. Even though the pain of digging around his auditory nerve would be preferable to the scene that just occurred, he knew the removal would not provide the solution he desired. All Terrgant Libertas Officers were instructed in the Human dialect of English and were required to pass a translation exam with 98% proficiency.
Resisting the urge of self-mutilation Drokgar noted the events that transpired before him. He finished his review of Lieutenant Daniels. Not caring if Tom heard what he said, he spoke very clearly. “Lieutenant Tom Daniels is an excellent pilot. His professionalism lacks… at times… but overall he is an asset to the ship. I believe he is not at fault in regards to some of his issues. Referenced by a recent outburst of creativity, as stated by Lieutenant Commander Kagaki, I do believe he falls under the Human definition of retarded.” Remorsefully he came to a decision about the review. He hesitantly continued, “Lieutenant Daniels, rating of excellent.” He ended the session, exited the command deck and returned to his quarters to check on Furglehk’s progress.
Elated with the conversation he just had, Tom sat down in his chair and swiveled to face the flight controls. He enjoyed tormenting Link whenever he could. He attempted tirelessly to convince her she was actually madly in love with him. This always ended with a well placed slap across his face. After many failed attempts he realized she would never admit what he knew to be her true feelings. Acting heartbroken, he settled with providing unprovoked mental angst as often as possible. As much as he loved the constant torture, there was one thing he loved even more; Piloting the ship.
His love of piloting was reinforced by the rush he felt every time his hands rested on the control stick and throttle. The natural grip they acquired allowed him to move the ship almost subconsciously. He smirked to himself amid the thoughts of his instinctive piloting ability being unrivaled by any Libertas flight crew. Still smirking he asked Link, “I assume you finally plotted a destination for us?”
Ignoring his sarcasm Link replied, “We should be good to go. I still can’t put my finger on what this interference is. We’ll have to run a diagnostic before we jump again.”
Usually filtering what came out of Link’s mouth, Tom was content with his mind only comprehending, “Good to go.” He secured himself into the pilot’s chair and reviewed the pre-jump checklist one last time. Activating the drive, he could feel the engines spooling with raw power. His chair shook with subtle vibrations from the immense energy the engines contained. He gripped the flight controls with anticipation as a blackened gateway materialized in front of the ship. Nudging the ship forward with a small input to the thrust lever, it entered the nebulous abyss.
The aft portion of the ship was inches away from being consumed by the gateway as Link continued to scan their destination. The neural uplink gave the user feedback, warning them of an impending collision. Link’s head throbbed from this neural intrusion while she continued to locate the source of interference. The last of the ship was enveloped by the gateway when she pinpointed it. Link yelled, “Wait!”
The all-stop command was too late, the Scorpion jumped.