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Aim for the sky and try not to miss! Space Station Docking, copyright Christopher Currell, used with permission
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unforeseen_obstacles.jpg (21246 bytes) white_25x10.gif (830 bytes)       The Empire had been founded just over a thousand years ago, when hostilities throughout the galaxy had reached a pinnacle. For centuries the different Sectors throughout
the galaxy had been at war with each other, each striving to gain ultimate control over the other systems. But there was much infighting between the opposing political Factions within each system, making it utterly impossible for any one Sector to gain a significant advantage. There was but one region of the galaxy in which an extended peace could be found. And that was in the small kingdom of Endelphi which was located deep within the Galactic Borderlands, an insignificant Sector of the galaxy whose territorial borders lay at the very edge of the Outer Ring. The only distinguishing feature of this particular Sector of humans was not their extreme remoteness and isolation, but the fact that, since their removal to the Borderlands, they had shared a peaceful border with the Cortum; an alien race that, since the discovery of their existence countless centuries ago, had expressed, in no uncertain terms, their intense desire to utterly remove themselves from involvement in the ongoing process of humanity’s unfolding history. Long after this, more or less, unspoken agreement was made between the two races, the inhabitants of the Endelphian Sector had, for all intents and purposes, officially withdrawn from the supposed Galactic Alliances and struck out into the uncharted Outer Ring in an attempt to fashion their own independent governing system, which was to be based solely on the ideals of peace. For one hundred and fifty years they had been isolated from the wars that had been raging throughout the rest of the galaxy, emulating the idealistic, yet amazingly functional, governing systems and political ideologies that they had learned through their limited contact with the more sociable members of the neighboring Cortum populations.
              But during times such as those, no sector, no matter how far removed from the rest of humanity, had the power to remain forever isolated from the hatred that was steadily infecting the galaxy.
              Eventually the wars spread and the kingdom of Endelphi began to feel their effects at the edges of her borders. Battles eventually began to spill over into their territories and many innocent people were lost in the horrific battles that ensued. Having known nothing but peace for a century and a half, the Endelphians found themselves entirely unprepared to defend their borders against hostile forces. Fully equipped War Ships and Battle Cruisers began to move in, tearing through their meager defenses. Before long the kingdom of Endelphi began to crumble under the sheer brutality of the invading army. It wasn’t until the Battle of Delphi, an elaborately planned attack on the Endelphian’s capital planet, that the Cortum became involved.
     When the wars of the humans threatened to spill over into their own territories the Cortum acted quickly and without mercy. Although they too based their government on peace, they had an aged wisdom and maturity that the relatively young Endelphian kingdom could not know, and, therefore, the Cortum had always maintained a deep respect for the white_25x10.gif (830 bytes)

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necessity of having an established defense. Their greatly advanced ships decimated the war ships that had been sent to conquer the Endelphians and then continued on into the war torn galaxy, systematically bringing each system to its knees. The Cortum Invasion was less a war than a massacre, as the aliens ravaged each Sector, determined to eradicate the incessant galactic plague that humanity had become.

   It wasn’t until the Endelphian’s Ambassador of Peace and Diplomatic Relations begged the Cortum leaders to show mercy to the would-be conquerors that the aliens halted their invasion. After great deliberations the aliens eventually chose to heed the pleas of this great man and their ships began to return to their own galaxy. Before entirely abandoning the humans to inevitably fall back into a state of war, as had so often been the case throughout their history, the Cortum made only one stipulation to their continued ceasefire. They established a peaceful government, mirrored after their own, that was to rule and have absolute control over all Sectors in the galaxy. And to head this government, seeing him as one of the few respectable humans in the galaxy, they appointed the Endelphian Ambassador to be Emperor.
              And so, Ern Vestes became the first Emperor of the Royal Galactic Empire and ushered in a new era of peace throughout the galaxy. The people of the Empire took to the new form of government rather well and, with the continued help of the Cortum, the Empire began to thrive. After some years of establishing his authority Emperor Vestes was firmly in control of the majority of the galaxy and the remaining Cortum again returned to their homeland in the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, beyond the tip of the Sagittarius arm of the Milkyway. Upon being left to stand on her own, the Empire experienced several small insurrections, the most serious of which was the Sentinel Faction. This large Faction of humans struggled with Emperor Vestes for control of the Empire that had been constructed for nearly a decade before being overcome and dismantled. It was the first true victory that Emperor Vestes could claim as his own and has since been considered the point at which the Royal Galactic Empire became the unquestionable authority within the galaxy, with all systems united under her rule.
             The Endelphian kingdom had experienced significant damage due to the ravages of war and was, therefore, deemed uninhabitable. The Endelphian people were dispersed throughout the galaxy and legislation was passed forbidding any Sector or Faction from withdrawing from the Royal Galactic Empire. The territories that had belonged to Endelphi became the Borderlands of the Empire, a sort of neutral territory between the humans and the Cortum. The aliens accepted this as an added boundary between them and the Empire they had created for no other reason than to keep the human race from growing to infect their own systems. Once again the galaxy returned to a peaceful state of affairs, from which the Cortum all but excused themselves from participating in.
              After the dismantling of the Sentinel Faction and its several followers, Emperor Ern Vestes was left to rule his Empire in peace for seven more decades. On his seventy sixth year as Emperor, however, he passed on from natural causes and it was unanimously agreed that his first born son should rule after him, a tradition that the Cortum had practiced for thousands of years under the belief that nobility and honor ran in ones bloodline. And so the precedent was set for the Emperorship to remain in the Vestes’ ancestral line for all of time.

firefight.jpg (42385 bytes) white_25x10.gif (830 bytes)     And so it did for many long years, but in the seven hundred and sixtieth year of the Empire it began to become apparent that perhaps the nobility of the Vestes line was beginning to wear thin. War again began to creep into the galaxy and infighting between Sectors erupted anew. One Faction, known only as the Hobbicrons, sought to rectify the continued decline of the empirical bloodline. Since the construction of the Empire and the naming of the first Emperor Vestes, the Hobbicrons had been known as the “right hand men” of the royal house, and were therefore in a rather good position to offer suggestions. With the approval of the Emperor, they collected a group of respected scientists
from within their own Faction and began genetic experimentations on human subjects in an attempt to elongate the lifespan of a human. Once successful, this method was intended to be used on the current Emperor Vestes (the Vestes name having survived over the centuries), but the experimentation continued to fail, ending in the untimely deaths of each of their subjects. Eventually they met with limited success, however. One group of six subjects proved to be capable of accepting the genetic codes that they had been developing, but it appeared that their ability to accept the code was based on a previously existing genetic defect that neutralized the harmful components which had killed so many subjects earlier in the experimentation. After thirty years of unsuccessfully attempting to artificially reproduce this genetic defect, the entire experiment was called off and the six surviving subjects disappeared and faded into the unspeakable past.

      Just over a hundred years later, five of these subjects resurfaced, unbeknownst to the Empire, which had been in much disarray due to the continued hostilities throughout the galaxy and the anointing of the incredibly young Emperor Vestes XXIX. Having suffered from an untimely death, Emperor Vestes XXVIII had left his son to inherit the throne at the tender age of nine. Having a minor on the throne meant that an Advisory Council would have to be assigned to rule for the young Emperor until he reached adulthood. With their historically faithful dedication to the royal house, the Hobbicrons were the obvious choice for such a role. There was much disagreement concerning the appointment of the Council, but the Hobbicrons used their many connections with the royal house to sway the vote and, with a single uprising against the opposing Factions, they were able to take charge and assign their Elders to the Advisory Council for the young Emperor.
                The Hobbicrons used their position to immediately stop the infighting that had been occurring in many of the Empire’s Sectors. Basing their legislation primarily on the Concept of Conformity, a theory of organization that had been developed by the great sociological thinker, Cartwright Markson, the galaxy slowly began to regain the order and peace that it had enjoyed in the past. But the Hobbicronium desire for conformity quickly began to become extreme as legislation was continuously passed that further limited certain creative or groundbreaking endeavors. Finally, in the year and a half prior to the time in which the story of Kits’ adventure is set, the Hobbicronium endeavors had become far more extreme, as they actually made it entirely illegal, and even treasonous, for any of their subjects to aspire to be creative or show signs of creativity at all.
             Upon this final infringement upon the universal rights of the people of the galaxy, many of the Elders of the Advisory Council, most of whom were uncomfortable with the fact that Emperor Vestes XXIX (who was now one hundred and ten years old) had never truly been allowed to reclaim authority over his own Empire, withdrew from what was now deemed the Hobbicronium Industrial Empire. Setting out on their own, the Elders of the Empire expected to find themselves outcasts, aimlessly wandering the galaxy, but they instead found a man, Commodore James Kits, who had, for the past one hundred years, planned for just such an opportunity. After escaping from the clutches of the Hobbicrons, Kits had secretly planned and organized an intricate web of informants and resources from which to construct a substantial Rebellion. All he had needed was the support of a group of authority figures, such as the separatist Elders. He had even gone so far as to personally fund the construction of the twin stations and work out a diplomatic agreement between the more remote station and the Cortum who, although they were hesitant to interact with humans, would do so if the arrangement was profitable enough to their industrious enterprises.
                And so the Rebellion officially began at the exact moment that the Empire had received its most devastating losses (a convenient circumstance that Kits could not have planned on). With the dissolving of their Advisory Council, the Hobbicrons had lost the central command through which they had been able to monitor and control the rest of the galaxy, leaving the rebels to plan and organize themselves during the first year of their existence.
               Now, with the Empire again reestablishing its prior strength and organization, the Rebellion was facing a long and arduous struggle in the coming future. Commodore Kits had gotten word that the Hobbicrons had learned of the existence of both Flistation and McCarthydom and were planning a seek and destroy mission against both of the pivotal stations. The Tour de Deuce had been contacted, but, understanding the necessity of having a contingency plan, Kits had made arrangements for him and his friend Carl Tulanko to travel to Earth to meet with one of the galaxy’s most renowned informants. It is on this trip to Earth, aboard the clever cover of a Grissom luxury liner, that we now find the heroic last hope of the galaxy.

Commodore Kits had just ended a long and wearisome transmission that he had been having with the two Captains of the Tour de Deuce project, Jason Toft and Eugenio Cebollero. For the past six hours the three of them, accompanied by Dr. Tulanko’s sporadic spouting of random statistical figures that he alone found relevant, had been carrying on a heated debate concerning both the impossibility of, and the paradoxical necessity of, their succeeding in the mission they had been briefed on two weeks ago. Kits sat back in his chair ruminating over the details of the argument he had, thankfully, just ended with Toft and Cebollero. It was bewildering for the Commodore, the prime figurehead of the Rebellion, to be spoken to in the tone that those two had taken. It had been all he could do to control the frustration that continued to simmer under his cool facade as he simultaneously attempted to explain, in the calmest and most rational manner possible, the reasoning behind his decision to place such an extraordinary, nearly overwhelming, responsibility on the Tour de Deuce.
               It was not that he didn’t sympathize with the two young Captains and the predicament he had put them in. What he was asking of them was, without question, well beyond the typical call of duty that could be expected from an ordinary officer; but these two... they were two of his more accomplished Captains. They should understand the importance of accepting his orders without question; without hesitation; without that vulgar insubordination he had perceived in their voices. As the Commodore’s mind unceasingly raced over such troubling thoughts as these, which were raging through his skull, his hands had unconsciously begun to clench the arms of the chair he had been sitting in for these six long hours. His knuckles gradually began to grow white as, with an unapologetic sense of morbid satisfaction, the Commodore became acutely aware of the plush fabric of the chair giving way under his iron grip. He turned all of his attention to the force he was exerting on the chair, allowing his anger to manifest itself in his private display of physical superiority over the chair. At the same instant that the simmering emotions within him were coming to a boil and threatening to erupt from his body, he caught a slight movement to his left, just barely within his line of vision.
                Turning in a stunned silence that bordered on, but didn’t quite reflect, embarrassment, Commodore Kits found himself, once again, facing Dr. Tulanko.
                “I thought I told you to return to your quarters until receiving further orders,” the Commodore snapped in an unsuccessful attempt to divert his friend’s attention from his abnormal behavior.
                “Nooooo...” drawled out Carl, “You told me to return to my quarters until I had something more constructive to add to the conversation than ‘random statistics and useless quips.’”
                “And?” the Commodore asked with more than a little impatience at his friend’s continued mockery of his irritation.
                “Well, I just got off the Com with Flistation and they have decided that the Tour de Deuce is not capable of meeting your demands. The Council has made an official decree stating that the Tour is expected to do everything in its power to drastically increase their recruiting rates. Specifically, they are now under direct orders to concentrate their efforts on systems that are known to be heavily populated or intensely liberal in their political leanings. As we speak their Deuces are en route to a system near their coordinates that is known to have expressed sympathies for the resistance.”
                With a jarring blow, Kits slammed his fist down upon the table at which he sat. Carl couldn’t keep from instinctively starting at the sudden and uncharacteristic rage that exploded from the typically composed man. The Commodore pushed his chair back from the table with such force that he nearly toppled himself in the process. Standing to his full, impressive height, Commodore Kits glared down at Carl.
                “With all respect, Commodore, what you are asking those men to do is absolutely ludicrous.” Carl flinched at the angry flash that arose deep in the bowels of Kits’ eyes, but he went on, unwavering in his desire to make his friend realize his mistake, “You asked them to recruit at least a quarter million troops in the next three months. I mean, for God’s sake, they’ve already been at it for six months and they haven’t even come close to recruiting a tenth of what you’re asking. It’s ridiculous to assume that they would unconditionally agree to a mission that they have no hope of accomplishing. Especially when the survival of the movement would rest solely upon its outcome; because, frankly, that is what it’s come down to. In all honesty, I think that their refusal to obey your commands was rather courageous. If they accepted and failed, then the Empire would surely be victorious. At least they’re doing everything they can. And the troops they do bring in will be invaluable to us. But their refusal has done exactly what we needed it to do; they’ve forced us to reevaluate our options.”
                Kits softened his stare and noticeably relaxed before his friend’s astute observations, “Yes, I suppose you’re right. I had hoped that we could solve all of our problems in a single operation, but it appears that it will not be that easy. We have to find another way to go about manning those ships.”
                “Well, that is why we’re on our way to Earth, is it not?”
                “In a manner of speaking, yes. But I would not expect too much from my informant. He is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult men to deal with in the galaxy. I have only dealt with him once before, and never face to face, but I can assure you that he will not provide us with them men we need. He will, however, most certainly have some helpful advice as to where we could acquire such men. Regardless of all his quirks and eccentricities, he is an amazingly shrewd man and probably the single, most well informed creature in the entire known universe. He has connections and informants in every Sector, every system, and every Faction known to man, including a few that aren’t generally known. And that doesn’t even include his multiple agents in the Cortum territories. He is the ultimate mercenary of our time and it pains me deeply that we are forced to rely on him.”
                “Well,” Carl chirped in, “I can’t wait to meet the old chap. Sounds kinda fun.”
                “Indeed,” Kits couldn’t suppress a grin at his companion’s optimism.
                “What do you say to some bowling? You know, relax the nerves and what not. I know those two Captains got you a tad rattled there for a while,” Carl subtly moved the conversation to a lighter subject.
                “No, I think I’ll stick around here for a while. I need to contemplate our next move. It’s going to be difficult to get the information we need, so I’ll have to consider the best way to go about it once we reach Earth.”
                “Well, at least come and get a bite to eat with me. ‘You can’t think on an empty stomach,’ as my mother always used to say. Besides, we could discuss the Rebellion’s situation while we eat. You haven’t exactly kept me fully informed during this rather lengthy trip. We’ve been on this luxury liner for nearly a week and you haven’t even mentioned the news from Flistation, which, by the way, I know you’ve gotten. If I’m gonna accompany you on this journey I need to know what’s going on and what the stakes are.”
                “Alright, alright,” the Commodore said, finally giving in to his companion’s request. The harsh feelings he had felt towards Toft and Cebollero had passed, being only a temporary loss of control, and the Commodore was feeling quite ravenous after his six hour tug of war with the two of them.
                The two stepped out of Kits’ conference room and started down the hall, commenting on the beauty of the luxury liner they were traveling in. As a rule the Commodore, along with any other more conspicuous members of the Rebellion, traveled exclusively on Grissom class luxury liners when making any excursions into imperial space. A charter cruise to Earth was a fairly routine trip and travelers were rarely searched or questioned about their identity, so long as their port of origin was within imperial space. Commodore Kits and Carl, therefore, had only to sneak onto a registered planet and charter a flight from there. It was a guaranteed form of safe transportation. And besides that, the Grissom class of ships were the most renowned luxury liners in the galaxy. It had everything from the most exquisite cuisine to state of the art entertainment; as Carl continuously reminded the Commodore, who refused to find the time to partake in any of the luxuries of the luxury liner.
                As the men neared the dining area a loud-speaker came on overhead, reiterating the benefits of choosing the Grissom for one’s travel needs, “The USS Grissom is the pride of the United Solar Planetary Federation fleet of Luxury Liners. Intended for deep space and inter-stellar voyages, it provides accommodations for over five hundred passengers and fifty seven crew, to all parts of the explored galaxy. Recreational activities include zero-G sports such as football, soccer, and glide aerobics; Low-G sports such as swimming and bowling; not to mention fine dining, live theatre, meditation chambers and arcades!
                At this unwanted interruption of his reveries, Commodore Kits snapped a disapproving stare at the speaker in the ceiling, asking Carl, “Why do they have that announcement on in the halls all day long? I mean, we’ve already chartered the flight. We’re already on the ship for god’s sake. Why do they continuously have to hawk their wares? It goes beyond irritating!”
                Carl flashed a knowing grin at Kits, “I think it’s intended for people like you, if you don’t mind my saying. You should try one of these so called “luxuries” for a change. Loosen up a bit man. It couldn’t hurt.”
                Kits pushed the door to the dining hall open with a bang, wordlessly urging Carl to drop it. And drop it he did, as the two men were assaulted by a wave of invigorating aromas that floated through the air from the kitchen. They were quickly shown to a table and proceeded to order a wide array of appetizers and delicacies that were not to be found on the random military stations they usually frequented.
                After they had worked through a good portion of their meals they once again turned their attention to the business at hand. Kits started from the beginning, explaining everything that had been occurring in the past couple of months in relation to the Rebellion and the Empire.
                It seemed that the Empire had been tipped off as to the existence of both Flistation and McCarthydom, but it was quickly becoming obvious that they had yet to pinpoint their exact locations in the galaxy. There had been several devastating attacks on some of the rebel defensive stations, but the subsequent losses did not overtly hinder the movement. The Elders were saddened by the deaths that had occurred, but, for all intents and purposes, it seemed that both of the twin stations were safe for the time being. And that was the most important thing. As long as the Empire remained ignorant of the locations of either station, the rebels could continue producing their ships and, with any luck, find the means with which to man them before any significant threat could pose itself.
                Even though the stations were relatively safe for now, however, the Empire was showing signs of increased offensive protocol as they tightened their borders against rebel spies. There had already been a Galactic Proclamation, identifying all of the primary agents of the Rebellion along with detailed descriptions of each and a rather high reward for their capture. So, regardless of the general limitations of the Empire’s information, they continued to pose a serious threat to any of the more recognizable figures within the resistance by unofficially hiring nearly every ambitious bounty hunter in the galaxy.
                Other than those individual threats the Rebellion had remained relatively unaffected. Only three unimportant stations had been completely destroyed, with the loss of only thirty lives. Those stations had been minimally manned and served only for either scientific research projects or basic defensive information. So there was no serious loss there, but there was one station that had been damaged slightly in an attack and it was suspected that the five scientists that had been assigned to man it had been taken captive by the Imperial Enforcers. Although those scientists had only a limited understanding of the inner workings of the Rebellion, even that information, if successfully acquired, could prove a severe security risk to the stations.
                Kits assured Carl that he was fairly confident in the current safety of the Rebellion, but he was sure that they were soon to face a much more devastating threat from the Empire. Now that they knew of the existence of Flistation and McCarthydom, they would not stop until the two stations were found and destroyed. The goal of the rebels now was to ascertain where they could recruit new men and man the Flisfleet before that threat arose. Only after those ships were ready for battle could the Rebellion face the Empire’s continued persecution with any true sense of confidence.
                As the conversation wound down, the two men decided to share a couple of after dinner drinks before returning to their own private activities; Carl going off to find some new “luxury” he had yet to experience, and Kits retiring to his private quarters to contemplate the hectic schedule that he had set for himself over the next few weeks.

Two days after their dinner conversation, the Grissom docked at the transport station in orbit around Earth and the two men took a Rhino shuttle down to the planet’s surface. Upon reaching Earth, Kits found himself having to physically restrain Carl. The scientist, having never before been to the Origin Planet, was unable to control his excitement. He leapt about inside their high-speed Transport on their way to the designated rendezvous coordinates, gasping at every miniscule detail of Earth’s long gone past, most of which he had only read in history books during his schoolboy days.
               Kits took it upon himself to explain some of the more general facts about Earth’s history and current state of affairs, although he found such pointless facts excruciatingly boring.
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It was now universally accepted that the Earth was indeed the planet from which humans originated. It was uncertain as to how many millennium had passed since humanity had been confined to the surface of this planet, but most people were still coming to terms with the idea that the human race had, at one point, been scarce enough in numbers to be contained on a single planet.

               For the past twenty five hundred years Earth had been controlled explicitly by a Faction of humans, known only as the Histoligions, who dedicated their lives to reconstructing an accurate understanding of humanity’s past existence on Earth. The strange Faction was known throughout the galaxy for its simultaneous adherence to the practices of history, archeological anthropology, and a strict religious orthodoxy. Proof of this unique grouping could be seen in the fact that the planet Earth had, in a sense, been transformed into a combination of the galaxy’s largest and most widely respected museum and an equally mysterious Church, whose monk-like doctrine had been kept entirely secret from all but the sworn members of the Histoligious Faction. This unique combination of seemingly incompatible institutions had, for one reason or another, thrived for many centuries and the Histoligions had successfully worked to uncover many of the secrets of humanity’s origins that had been thought permanently locked away in Earth’s long dead surface.

                By the time that Commodore Kits and Carl Tulanko visited Earth, the Histoligious Faction had become quite influential, claming over eighty billion followers throughout the galaxy. Furthermore, their Faction was held in high esteem in the Hobbicronium Industrial Empire. Basing their research only on empirical evidence (the Histoligions were incredibly reluctant to accept any conclusion unless it was thoroughly supported by hard evidence), the Hobbicrons envied and respected the work that the Histoligions had done during their inhabitance of Earth. And for this reason Commodore Kits waited almost nervously at the rendezvous point that he had agreed upon.

                The Commodore tilted his head back, inspecting the details of the ceiling of the large domed room in which they stood. Leaning heavily against the railing of the exhibit behind him, Kits stood in that pose for some moments as Carl bounced around, hardly able to contain himself. He pointed out all of the little artifacts that lay around them in the sterilized showroom of the museum. After some time Carl come to the slow realization that the Commodore was hardly interested in the amazing sights around him, seeming quite content to examine the plain dome above. Turning to his friend and leader, Carl’s gaze focused on Kits only briefly before being drawn behind him and upwards, as he let out a slow whistle of admiration.

                Suddenly noticing Carl’s distracted appearance, Kits turned to see what had so grasped the Doctor’s attention. Behind the railing he had been leaning against, which was meant to block overly curious viewers, stood a relatively small ship that had been dated to sometime in Earth’s incredibly distant past.

                “They say that ship was built sometime in the first three hundred years that humans were able to travel in space,” came a deep voice from behind the two. Turning to find the origin of the foreign voice, they found a small, unusual man standing before them. He was short, standing just under five feet, but his muscular form was apparent from beneath his stained, sleeveless tunic and equally soiled vest. His pants were torn about the knees, revealing the rippling calve muscles of an active climber and shoes that could hardly be considered comfortable. Upon his head sat a long, narrow hat out of which stood an enormous purple feather, which neither man could place with a specific species of bird. But, other than the similarly colored patch that the man wore over his eye, the strangest aspect about his appearance was the small creature that he kept on a leash at his side. Apparently his “pet,” this creature stood obediently at his side on its hind legs, with a noticeably intelligent sparkle in its eye.

                Kits recognized the creature immediately, gasping, “My god, is that a Marcupicore? I didn’t know that their species even existed any longer. Last I heard they had all been wiped out five or six centuries ago.”

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                “They called her the Saturn 1B, or so I hear,” the stranger went on, disregarding the astounded stares of the two men before him, “Apparently we humans used her in some of our original excursions into space. And now look at us. We’ve become the incurable cancer that plagues the galaxy. You said yourself that you thought the Marcupicores had been wiped out. You know why that is?”

                Kits and Tulanko stood in silence, not sure how to handle the stranger’s sudden acknowledgement of their existence. After a slight pause to his rhetorical question, the man continued, “They were wiped out, for all intents and purposes, because of humanity’s unquenchable need to expand. Since developing the ability to travel to other systems humans have done nothing but consume. That is our nature; to consume everything that is in our path and then continue on to find something more to consume.

Think about it. Our written history alone notes at least eighteen different species that we’ve come in contact with during our travels in the chartered galaxy. And how many of them have survived humanity’s continued expansion? The Cortum are the only aliens that have retained any semblance of a society after contact with humans, and that can be credited to their wise preference to remain clear of us at all costs.”

               Commodore Kits finally gathered his wits and addressed the extravagant stranger, “Am I to take it that you’re Ganycledes?”
                “Yes, I suppose it would be acceptable for you to assume that I am Ganycledes. And I’ll assume that you’re Commodore Kits, the infamous Commander and architect of the Rebellion that has been working against the Empire. And is this giddy chap your dear friend, Doctor Carl Tulanko?”
                “Um, yeah. I mean, yes I am... and he is,” Kits stumbled over his words, not sure what to make of this man’s intimate knowledge of him and his involvements in the Rebellion.
                “As you can see, I have made myself quite well informed with the specifics surrounding your situation. I am willing to go out on a limb and guess that you have asked for this meeting in order to purchase some information from me concerning where you might acquire a rather extravagant number of good men in a relatively short amount of time. Well, I find myself wondering what the purpose of these men will be once you have recruited them to your cause. And I can’t help but come to the conclusion that you intend to use them to man the newest thorn in the Empire’s side; the Flisfleet, which I have to admit, is quite an amazing accomplishment for your friend, the Doctor, here.”
                Once again Kits was struck speechless. There was no way this man could know the things that he knew. How could he have heard about the Flisfleet? Even Toft and Cebollero were given only vague details concerning the purpose behind their mission. It was impossible.
                “Considering the overall harm that humanity has caused in the galaxy since it escaped from the clutches of this planet‘s surface, I would have to consider this Saturn 1B a curse upon the galaxy, as opposed to one of the heroic catalysts in the human saga,” Ganycledes continued, changing the subject from his recent display of unfathomable knowledge.
                “Wait a second, how do you know all those things? About the Flisfleet, I mean? There are only a handful of people in the galaxy that have had full briefings concerning the Flisfleet. Where did you learn about it? Who leaked that information to you?” Kits demanded, becoming increasingly frustrated at Ganycledes unconventional and roundabout approach to this very serious meeting.
                “Yes, the Saturn 1B is evidence of one of man’s first steps into the realm of space. But our subsequent influence in the galaxy has meant nothing but pain and suffering to those other races with whom we should instead learn from and cherish.”
                Kits looked up at the pitiful Saturn 1B. To him it was nothing more than an antiquated relic from an age long forgotten. There was nothing that could be learned from studying such nonsense. The technology that was being developed during his time didn’t even resemble the mechanically imperfect theories used to construct and fly this ship. This was Kits’ primary problem with the study of history. To his thinking it was absolutely useless. Only the future mattered, all that was in the past was in the past, so to speak.
                Almost as if he could read his thoughts, Ganycledes addressed the Commodore directly, “You don’t feel that us Histoligions are a useful part of the galaxy’s social structure. You feel that our religious scholastics provide nothing to those who choose to follow them.”
                Kits stared at the man who seemed to know everything about him, “No, I do not believe that anything useful can come from such fanciful spirituality or even from the study of things that have proven, by example of their fading into history, that they are not important to the evolution of humanity.”
                “Oh ho! My dear man, you are quite wrong in you assumptions. Everything that occurs, no matter how significant or ‘Earth rattling,’ so to speak, is destined to fade into history. The Hobbicronium Industrial Empire will eventually fade out of human remembrance. Even the Vestes name will someday be forgotten. And if, at some point, your Rebellion is successful and the Empire is thrown down and you are placed in a position in which you are able to enforce upon the galaxy those ideals that you feel are important; even then, your name and the cause for which you have fought all these long years will fade away into near nothingness. And only those dedicated to recreating the forgotten past, such as the Histoligions, will be able to wipe the dust that will have shaded your memory in humanity’s history.”
                “I do not do what I do in order to be remembered and recorded in the logs of human history,” Kits argued, attempting to cling to his own assumptions about the Histoligions’ pointless endeavor.
                “I will not argue the point with you. We simply have a difference of opinion, that’s all,” Ganycledes settled the discussion, “Besides; I am not one to defend the logistics of the Histoligious Faction. Between you and me, I’m not exactly their most popular follower; if you could even consider me a follower of their Faction to begin with. I was excommunicated many years ago for having ‘radical ideas’ concerning the practices of history and suggesting that we branch out in our quest for knowledge to include the rest of the galaxy. I feel that by limiting themselves to Earth, the Histoligions are ignoring another large gap in humanity’s forgotten history between their first steps into space and the first entries into the Historical Annals that are now diligently kept.”
                Kits collected himself from the initial shock that he had been battling with since the onset of the conversation. He looked the man up and down again, attempting to uncover some truth about his character in either his posture or his drab manner of dress. But there was nothing to learn from Ganycledes’ outward appearances. He stood, calmly admiring the Saturn 1B, which he had just moments ago condemned as one of the originating causes of the galaxy’s suffering. It seemed to the Commodore that the bizarre man had no idea that there was a profoundly awkward silence that now stood like a wall between all three of them.
                “I am not interested in your involvement with the Histoligions,” Kits said, breaking the silence that had begun to uncomfortably weigh down upon him, “I only care about acquiring the information that I seek. Which, it appears, you already have a detailed understanding of.”
                “I do. And I have the answers to all of the questions that have been bouncing around in your mind since I introduced myself. But, if you’ll follow me, I would much prefer to conduct the remainder of this conversation in a more private setting,” Ganycledes explained, quietly motioning with his hands to several dozen men who had just entered the museum. The group of men wore the thick, coarse white robes that were common with the Histoligious police force. With their heavy hoods drawn over their heads, the officials spread throughout the room quickly, purposefully searching for something or someone.
                Ganycledes quickly pulled the two men behind the Saturn 1B exhibit and through a passageway that slid open at his command. Kits found himself temporarily blinded once the door had been shut behind him, locking out all of the exterior light, but the Marcupicore, which had never left Ganycledes’ side, suddenly began to glow radiantly, providing the group with enough light to make their way down the steep stairwell that stood before them. Kits was amazed to learn that Marcupicores had such an ability, but his attention remained on the sudden appearance of the men that had just disrupted the bewildering discussion he had been having with Ganycledes.
                “Who were those people? Were they looking for us? Answer me dammit!” Kits grabbed Ganycledes’ shoulder and spun him around. But the strange, eccentric man merely held his index finger to his mouth in all seriousness and continued on his way through the dark passage.
                Finally the three of them, and the Marcupicore, found their progress down the narrow hall headed off by a large stone doorway that signaled the end of the hall they were in. Removing the purple feather from its place upon his hat, Ganycledes gently brushed it across the stone’s surface in a circular motion. After the feather had been returned to its proper place and several excruciating seconds had passed, the stone barrier suddenly crumbled and fell to the floor with a resounding crash, leaving the path clear for the unbelieving visitors to step through into a rather unremarkable and plainly decorated room. Both Kits and Tulanko entered the room with a claustrophobic sense of foreboding, as the room had no obvious exits and had only the hall from which they had come as an escape route, which would undoubtedly lead them directly into the clutches of the strangers who they had seen swarming the museum.
                Against the far wall of the room stood a large, ornate desk, behind which Ganycledes found a seat and his Marcupicore found a comfortable place to rest beside its master. The mercenary waved his arms out wide in a welcoming gesture, at which time two massive stone chairs, as if by magic, slid noisily across the floor and positioned themselves conveniently behind both Kits and Tulanko. The two men took their seats warily, unsure what to make of the tomblike atmosphere of this stone chamber, and privately, but unconvincingly, explaining away the seemingly “magical” talents of their host as nothing more than cheap parlor tricks and slight of hand.
                “Well, let’s get down to business, shall we?” Ganycledes suggested, leaving no time for his two guests to contemplate the abnormalities they had witnessed in their interactions with him up to that point.
                “I asked you who those men were up there. Are they the Histoligious police? Are we in any danger here?” Kits again demanded.
                “No, my friend. You are in no danger while upon Earth’s surface so long as I permit you to travel by my side,” Ganycledes smiled knowingly, “You see, it is I, and I alone, who is able to keep you from harms way. As for those men up there, they are far, far worse than Histoligious police. They are Archbishops of the Foundational Diocese, a vicious group of religious fanatics sent with direct orders to detain you and your friend here. The Empire has regained much of the power it once enjoyed; much more than you suspect my regrettably uninformed friend. Their influence is again strong in nearly every Sector of the galaxy and it is only a matter of time before they succeed in capturing you. But,” he continued, “A very wise man once said, in ages past, that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ if you follow my meaning. In other words, information is the bedrock from which true power is realized. And, it may please you to know that, as of now, you have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the individual who controls the single most extensive supply of noteworthy information in the galaxy. The only vice (at least as far as I define the term) that I allow myself is an unadulterated pride in my ability to know anything or, if I don’t know it right off, my ability to find it out, one way or another.”
                “I’m sorry, but you’re not making all that much sense,” Carl interrupted, finally becoming fed up with the increasing ambiguity of Ganycledes’ riddles, “Are you trying to say that your access to the limitless, and equally pointless, factoids of the galaxy makes you an imposing figure; a powerful figure? I mean, sure you can pull a few tricks out of your sleeve, perform a few stunts with magnets, but what does that knowledge accomplish? You can’t possibly expect us to believe that you and your ridiculous feather can be of any help to us in our battle against the Empire.”
                Ganycledes bent forward over his desk to stare down at Carl with an uncompromising smile, revealing a row of sparkling white teeth, each of which had been filed down to fine points. Carl shuddered at the demonic enjoyment that he took in the uneasiness that his mannerisms had inspired in the Doctor. He shrank back in his own hard chair and proceeded to fully remove himself from the remainder of the conversation. Commodore Kits, in turn, leaned forward eagerly, just beginning to grasp the meanings behind the unconventional man’s speech and the truths he had been getting at with his talk of power and information.
                “What do you want in exchange for the information that I want?” Kits finally asked, tearing the curtain of ambiguity that had shielded the conversation since this man had introduced himself.
                “I want nothing more and nothing less than to accompany you on your journey to acquire what you so desperately seek. I am, after all, a lover of knowledge and history. And I am confident that the information you will receive from me will become a deciding factor in the outcome of humanity’s history over the next several thousand years. But you will not get your information until we are all safely aboard a secure space craft and far from Earth’s untrusting orbit.”
                Both Kits and Ganycledes stood to shake hands, Kits glancing hesitantly over at the Marcupicore, unsure whether or not the creature was to accompany the party. His question was immediately answered when Ganycledes, once the deal was made official, commenced in gathering the creature in his arms and announcing that he was ready to leave that instant, as he had already made the necessary arrangements, procuring a sturdy ship for their travel and the supplies they would need to make it to McCarthydom.
                “McCarthydom?” came the simultaneous responses from both Kits and Tulanko.
                “Yes, McCarthydom. I have long wanted to see that reportedly magnificent station with my own eyes, and, besides, our business lies in that Sector of the galaxy, so the trip will not be without a more meaningful purpose,” and with that Ganycledes started off down the dark passage again, again using the Marcupicore as a makeshift lantern. As if suddenly struck with a new thought, the mercenary spun on his heel and said, “Take into account that my presence on this mission does not, in any way, denote my support of your cause. I rarely agree to burn any of my bridges by declaring definite alliances of any kind. I am here merely as an observer and recorder of the historical facts and significances that I am confident will occur. At the first hint of trouble, however, you will be given no warning that I have abandoned your company. I will simply disappear and, most likely, you will never see or hear from me again.”  

                And with that, Ganycledes again resumed his march down the hall, leaving the two companions to wonder at the unbelievable little man they were taking as a traveling companion.

Tune in next month, and the months after that, for the epic continuations of this tale of heroic strength and the fight for creative freedoms in the galaxy.

Go back to part 1: Conscience of a Commodore

Return to Preface

Image: Space Station Docking, copyright Christopher Currell.  Used with permission of the artist, all rights reserved.



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