Raza – Composition and Instrumentation, mixing, story and cover art
Fariha – Videography, story editing, production guidance
Preamble: This is the 2nd part of the concept story of the album “The Cosmic Lighthouse” (2020). Read part 1 at www.drrhk.com. Both these stories are set in the same alternate universe that “Brain in a Jar” (2019) was a part of.
"Yeah, yeah stop rushing me" Gaia spoke in between her giggles as she escaped Vesper's tickling grasp. She reached for her fitted black crew suit and started sliding her slender purple legs through the onesie. As she pulled the rest of the suit on, Vesper behind her moaned and groaned as he rubbed his eyes and gathered the mental courage required to step out of the bed for the day. He looked over to her as she struggled to get the rest of the suit on her and commented with a smirk:
"You know they should make these suits a little less tight if they want us to focus on the work"
"Yeah, well that's all they had" she replied with a smile as she turned her head towards him and her black vertical irises set in the middle of her deep red eyes, closed momentarily. "It was either this or having your privates swing through space and time" she added, smiling and going back to dressing up. "I wouldn't mind" she heard him reply as she stepped into the lavatory.
He gathered his thoughts and indulged himself in a little daydreaming before he set about his day. He recalled the day The Inertia, the spaceship he was currently on, and its crew hand came into his life and he became one of them. The Inertia, a class 3 Galleon battlecruiser, had crash landed after some mechanical issues onto the solitary Mandelbrot fractal shaped island where Vesper was imprisoned. He had been marooned there by his society as a form of punishment for his crimes against society. What was supposed to be a standard highway robbery, had turned into a roadside homicide. Vesper's bad luck was that his murdered victim was a influential political figure. And hence the consequence of his trial was for him to serve the rest of his life in absolute solitude as the lonely keeper of the lighthouse on that island, which was the guiding beacon for interdimensional voyagers.
"You remember the first thing the captain said to me when you guys crash landed on my island"? speaking to Gaia in the lavatory. "Yeaahaha" came back her response as she remembered the day. After crash landing on the island, The Inertia had dropped its gangway and Captain TriAndromeda stepped out, clumsy and unbalanced from being knocked around the crashing ship, as if she had forgotten to walk. Intemperately making her way to the bottom, she saw Vesper waiting for her there looking befuddled. "Can I help you?" he asked. "I don't know, can you?" Tri replied holding her head, barely able to stand up, putting her weight on the gangway railing. Vesper briskly glanced at the smoke and flames emanating off the side of the ship and responded "I don't think you can be helped".
Last we saw this rag tag group of aliens, they had joined forces to save the universe from an intergalactic extermination. A supermassive intersidereal storm with a centroidal black hole had started dismantling the interstellar expanses. This storm that was consuming the habituated zones of galaxies was bigger than the millions of light years of distances between the Homo relicum colonies’ galaxies. It had traversed from the epicenter of galaxies and was bolting towards the other where Vesper's solitary confinement had been.
The scientific consensus among the colonies upon evaluating the cosmic vibrations and radiation readings from the approaching storm was ignored as 'unusual but not of concern'. The crew of The Inertia, on the other hand, was a bifurcated group of antiestablishment scientists who refused to believe this narrative and were able to unite to commandeer The Inertia en masse and take it upon themselves to save the universe.
TriAndromeda led the group's collective efforts to prove and stop this galactic destruction. They were able to infiltrate the galactic navy's shipyard and smuggle out The Inertia under the guise of routine maintenance. These efforts, as herculean and acclamatory as they were, were short sighted, – for once the group had the vehicle, they were not sure of what supervened. Much of the initial valor had come from feelings of "We have to do something, I know I'm right!", which was now succumbing to an an urgency for a calculated and strategic blueprint for the expedition. Knowing that they were in a distinct position of disadvantage of not really knowing what the hell it was that was coming their way or what was inside the stellar storm, their brilliant scientific minds had decided that the best way to go about this, now that they had committed felonies, was to just fly the ship into the storm and gather more data on how to stop it.
Fast forward to where we are right now, The Inertia with its crew was flying through the ring of space detritus that comprised the body of the storm, heading towards its center, where the event horizon of the central back hole lay with its mysteries. Aboard the flight deck, anxiety levels were high and Tri's commanding voice was conducting the ship's symphony. The flight deck consisted of a central command post, surrounded by various seats for the other members from where they had their individual consoles to control the various functions of the ship.
"Mon I want those fuel readings, I don't know if this path is the most economical...Leo, get those canisters secured already....Hydra...HYDRA?!"
"Sorry cap" Hydra replied as he lifted his head from the proximity scopes. "We’re still a good way away from any big rocks". Hydra turned his head back towards the scopes as Tri let out a loud sigh and closed her eyes. "Everyone, get your shit together and buckle in because this is only going to get worse from this point on" were her next words. There was constant shaking and rumbling as the ship swerved its way through the debris and made its way towards the center.
Out of nowhere, Leo screamed "Cap I can see the event horizon! LOOK!"
The entire crew careened their necks towards the port side window and saw the distant outline of the event horizon of the central black hole. It was a black sphere with no discernable structure, surrounded by a disc of light both horizontally and vertically. The layered discs of light were bending around it on the sides, quietly stating the gravitational domination that this thing had. For the first time since this mission had started, Tri could feel a flutter of fear making her heart quiver. The view for Gaia was something that cannot even be put into words as her extended spectrum vision allowed her to see all the various radiations coming out of it as well. For Gaia, the effect was something closer to staring at a large cosmic ball of strings.
"I don't feel ...so good" came Magellan's voice weakly from behind them. Magellan, also known as the wizard, was blessed with the ability to manipulate the quantum world, one of the evolutionary traits his species Homo relicum had inherited. But the breakdown of matter into its quantum components near the singularity was starting to affect him as the crew approached closer.
"We need to get you to the infirmary" Mon said
"It's...ok... I think I'll be...fine"
"Witch please" Mon glared over his glasses
Being the medical officer on board, he advised them what to do in between pants. "You need to.... put me in the....cryo-Faraday cage" he managed. "Alright doc, let's get you up" Leo motioned towards Monoceros while looking at the wizard. They lifted the wizard up, each by one arm under the shoulder and took him to recover in the cage. The cage was a standard Faraday cage, surrounded by a layer of cryo-fluid, regulated near absolute zero-, or zero-degree Kelvin. This low temperature stabilized the uncertainties in the quantum realm, allowing the wizard's mind to recuperate as well.
Leo and Mon put the wizard in the cage to recover and came back to the window, looking out into the expanse. The view was now almost completely dominated by the shine of the light being bent around the event horizon and the absolute blackness that filled the space in between. "I don't like this" Leo grumbled in a low, menacing tone. "Is it too late to decide if this was a stupid move and go back?...I can’t believe I talked myself into this...." Leo mumbled on incoherently to himself as he stared out into the abyss as it grew before him.
Monoceros was trying his best to keep his mind calm, almost in a state that a convicted death row criminal would be in if he could see the clock ticking towards his execution. His mind had a state of hysteric repose washing over him. His body was telling him to run, to jump, to hide, while his mind was imperturbably blanked out. Tri was in her captain's chair, eyes closed, breathing heavily. Gaia and Vesper holding each other tight. Hydra the navigator, still lost in his scopes, navigating the ship towards the spherical void.
And then it happened.
Vesper's vision was blurry and he was having trouble making out the shape of the purple blob that was dominating his vision. His sense of hearing was slowly starting to come back to him, going from a constant tinnitus of high-pitched frequency to intermittently letting him hear random groans and retching sounds around him. He was having trouble breathing and felt extremely sedated. He tried speaking but his throat felt swollen and inflamed, almost as if he had just removed some breathing tubes that had been filling up his throat.
Unable to move much in his state of semi-consciousness, he put all his effort into turning his head to the other side. His slowly recovering vision allowed him a glimpse of an outline of someone lying next to him. Slowly, as the blood rushed into his head, he started making out details of the place around him. He saw his body, placed on top of a silver examination table. On either side of him, he saw Tri and the wizard, still unconscious, with ribbed tubes going deep inside them, through their mouths and into their chest, their chests lit up with this purple glow from the inside. Small, smooth, opaque tarp like sheet material was covering the naked bodies of his colleagues and himself.
He tried speaking but all he could hear was the wind inside his lungs passing through a set of sore, paralyzed vocal cords. A sudden cascade of panic engulfed him as he tried to get up only to realize his limbs had been tied down to the table. A similar looking ribbed purple tube that was inside his shipmates approached him, apparently dangling from the roof somewhere. He was able to make out the faint outlines of circuitry and chips underneath. A small nozzle poked out from the tip of the tentacle and created the hiss of an escaping gas. Vesper smelled something sweet yet pungent, and very soon lost balance and blacked out.
"Yeah, look at these sickos enjoying themselves...it’s disgusting" Mon said to Hydra
"I mean, I kind of get what they are doing, it's understandable. It's just unfortunate that it is on our behalf" came Hydra's reply
"You and your science brain man, for once, just agree with me for the sake of it" Mon said angrily
"You know, you are ALSO a scientist Mon"
"I apologize that I happen to have FEELINGS about our survival that are clouding my rational perspective" Mon almost screamed back
"I am going to beat the shit out of the both of you if you don't shut the fuck up right this instant"! Tri said with her jaws clenched.
She did not need to repeat herself.
"I think the killer is waking" Leo said as he saw Vesper toss and turn, to and away from consciousness.
"How many times have I asked you not to call him that! PLEASE! " Gaia interjected miserably
"Hmmm... sorry...I am one as well, as you know, having been through many wars with my people. I am no saint. I was just making a ..."
"Just shut up please" said Tri, making everyone shut up. "Go see to him until he is in his senses" she said pointing from Gaia towards Vesper.
Gaia held Vesper's head in her lap as he slowly opened his eyes. Her cat-like red eyes filled up with tears as Vesper focused his. "What...happ..." he croaked clumsily as he struggled to catch every breath
"We are being kept for observation and studying by these creatures... they aren't letting us go...no one even remembers how we got here after the ship went into the blackhole...I don't know what these creatures are, they're just holding us here... like display animals in a zoo...we’re in a chamber of some sorts... these vile creatures, they keep stopping by and tapping the glass of our chamber like a cruel child at a pet store...and Magellan..." Gaia managed to quickly recap in between sobs.
"The singularity happened" TriAndromeda said in a low ominous tone as she stared down one of the creatures on the other side of the glass with her thousand lightyear stare. She continued, not moving from her spot: "I don't know how well versed you are in this Ves, but these beings seem to be a combination of biological material and circuitry...which you can see going through their bodies underneath that purple skin... that is the only explanation that I can think of in my limited time being their prisoner here... The only reasonable explanation is that the technology of this civilization has advanced to the point of becoming one with the being that created it... the technology must have attained consciousness by combining with the being... possibly having taken a start as biological assisting devices and evolving, slowly, over time, into an integral component"
Vesper looked ready to pass out again.
It took the rest of the day for Vesper to fully come into his senses. They were fed through slots on the side of their holding chamber. A pair of care taking creatures would bring them food that was surprisingly similar to the Homo relicum sustenance they were used to eating. One could even pass it off as 'nice', albeit a little devoid of seasonings. It also took the rest of the day for Vesper to come into grips with the situation that they were in.
Now whether or not they were being held by a species that had reached the point of technological singularity was something that required a significant amount of research. The fact of the matter was that they were being held captive, in a dungeon that looked like a progeny of an archaic museum and a futuristic laboratory, by a novel species that mirrored an eerie artificial hybridization of biological matter and what is conventionally defined as ‘automation’.
"Come on, I have a plan to get us out of this bubble" Tri cautioned everyone as a pair of caretakers became visible approaching them with trays of food.
"What!? Where are we going to go? What is even out there? Can we breathe outside? And where is The Inertia? How will we get to her?" – the crew bombarded each other with bemused circular questioning.
She replied frustratedly with "I don't know okay... so just shut up and play along. Think of it like jazz, we’re going to improvise and blow our way out of this thing...be ready to fight these things when I tell you to."
They were in fact able to breathe outside of their captive bubble. The creatures did in fact speak in a linguistic dialect that they could understand, a bastardized version of their evolved relicum language. And by pulling on the armature like tentacles of the caretakers through the feeding holes of the bubble, the crew were actually able to take them hostage and make their way out of the dungeon like museum-laboratory. Once outside, however, they stuck out like a sore set of colorful sea creatures among a pond of blue beings.
Once outside, they were able to make the creatures comply through a generous amount of tentacle twisting to use their vehicles to transport them to their ship, which they found out was being held at a different section of the facility they were in. During this grand theft auto, the details of this teal-colored race was revealed through aggressive questioning tactics.
"Who ARE you people?" Vesper yelled at the second creature in the back seat as he poked a shard of broken glass at the creature's 'neck' (?!).
"You wouldn’t understand if you tried, you dumb little shit" came a response in a deep, muffled, bass heavy, chesty voice. Their voice apparatus was apparently a pair of taught, blue muscles located underneath the transparent blue skin of where a Homo relicum's chest would have been. The muscle vibrated as they spoke while circuits around it leading into the muscles turned on and off visibly by glowing.
This response was graced with a hard slap to the side of the creature's head by Magellan, who was starting to gain back his quantum manipulation powers. The power behind the wizard's slap induced some quantum fluctuations in the creature's internal circuitry, causing it to seize momentarily.
"Idiot" came the creature's response. "I think you know exactly what we are. We were a race once of much inferior quality. But over billions of generations, we were able to reach a point of technological singularity, where our biological bodies started merging with the machines that we were creating"
"Now how the hell does that happen" came Vesper's crudely toned question.
"Slowly...obviously" was the creature's reply. Perhaps it was the amount of attitude in the creature's tone when he emphasized on the “obviously” that made Vesper feel astronomically softheaded, but the result of this answer was Vesper grasping a handful of blue jelly like transparent skin and pinching it till it became a sickeningly green and black color. All the while, the creature was groaning in pain, all the various tangled-up circuitry inside it firing up erratically.
"Let go you fool! AHHHH '' the creature whelped in its low muffled voice as Vesper stopped twisting his love handles. "It started slowly, with prosthetics, vision aids, mechanical enhancement of soldiers, cosmetic additions and what not. These things started becoming common over time as our population grew and the number of people who needed these machines grew...gradually having all these enhancements became the norm and not having them made one an outcast…. eventually our bodies evolved to accept these machines and these circuits became our organs while our biological organs shriveled and became useless, inefficient things.... now we are part machine, part biological beings, and superior to you in every way!"
"The blue supremacy is strong with this one" Vesper remarked as he reached for the already sore love handle.
Their ship, The Inertia, as it turned out, was not being kept in a different part of the facility at all. It was made of such primitive, inefficient and outdated technology that it had been discarded in a junkyard of sorts. A massive junkyard that was like a gigantic graveyard of moribund astrionics. All the cosmo-colonies and galactic realms that this race was devouring were being used to manufacture their own devices. Anything that was useless to them, ended up in this massive graveyard of junk, aptly and affectionately called "The Ossuary".
This race, residing inside the massive singularity of the massive blackhole storm, was consuming large chunks of the universe to sustain itself. Everything was being efficiently absorbed and recycled to sustain the race and its delicate electro-anthropomorphic existence, and all the remnants were thrown into the ossuary, which lay on the outskirts of the Populus center. And currently, as they were entering the massive graveyard, they could hear a low-buzzing humming sound surround them from all sides.
"What is that?" Mon asked urgently.
"You are in deep shit now" the creature commented, "they know about our escape and are coming to get us". Magellan informed them as he sensed the police presence around them using his quantum abilities. "Where do we go, how are we going to find our ship?" Mon inquired, his voice strained.
"Just go where I tell you to" The wizard said, putting two fingers on his temple and closing his eyes, sensing his way towards The Inertia. Vesper meanwhile held tightly onto Gaia's hand, while in the other still poked the glass shard into the creature's aching side. "And you need to knock these two out" said Magellan, the wizard, "They are transmitting our locations to their buddies outside"
"On it!" said Hydra as she placed a slimy grey hand on the back of the creature's head. Using his telepathic abilities, he tried to put these two to sleep, but it didn't work. "I don't think these two have enough biological brain matter to be affected" he said exasperatedly. This was met with deep muffled snickers from the blue beings.
"Let me help" Mon interjected, placing his large stony hands on top of Hydra’s and crushing together the creature’s heads, rendering them unconscious. "There", he scoffed proudly.
As they followed the Wizard's directions through the debris and the space detritus, they were constantly surrounded by the humming and the buzzing of the blue alien police chasing them. Sometimes they would catch a glimpse of them from far away. They kept going full speed towards their destination through the junkyard. "We're almost there... it should be right up there, ahead of us" Magellan announced.
Instead, what they saw was a squadron of blues waiting for them at their ship. Weapons out, tentacles quivering, as if they had been sitting there ready for their arrival. "Give me the wheel" Leo said to Tri, who was driving "I will create a diversion for us while you lead the rest onto the ship...and take these two knuckleheads with you, I have a lot more questions to ask of them". Tri handed over the wheel to the warrior without questioning. "Get ready to jump out on my mark and bust your way onto the ship avoiding the battle" Leo announced to everyone, his eyes dead set on the force in front of them.
The crew jumped out of the running car, the blue creatures being thrown out, and rolled off to the side to hide behind sheets of metal that were once part of some spaceship. As Tri led the team around the bottleneck, Leo drove head on. He used a large sheet of metal that was near the skirmish site to launch the vehicle he was driving into the air like a stunt man, roll it on its side and get it to cut straight through one of the police vehicles while simultaneously jumping out from it mid-air.
He rolled to a spot near the now bisected police vehicle and grabbed one of their weapons. He took cover at another nearby sheet of metal and opened fire and the remaining cars. He was frequently forced to switch positions, roll, find cover again, shoot some more as the constant fire from the police would put smoldering holes in the sheet metal he was hiding under. And with limited ammunition, he wasn't able to keep this up for very long, however that minute or two was enough to give Tri and the crew time to run around the blockade from behind and board the ship while dragging the two blue dummies with them.
"Go start the engines!" she barked to Vesper as she hid behind the door of the loading dock of the ship, looking worriedly at Leo being shot at by the blue goons. " Come on come on come on" she kept muttering to herself under her breath. Suddenly she realized she had access to guns as well. She grabbed several from the walls of the loading dock and radioed Mon to get on the ship turrets. Together they rained plasma onto the police blockade, allowing Leo to run towards the ship and jump onto the loading dock platform just as the ship became airborne and more blues joined the area.
He lay panting, bleeding, aching and singed on the loading dock floor as the ship took flight. TriAndromeda next to him, disheveled and breathless. They caught each other's eye and immediately started laughing maniacally. This was joined by the relief filled laughter of the crew over the intercom to the loading dock.
"Ves, get us out of here" Tri said through much relaxed breaths. "AYE CAP'N" came the whole crew's response.
=====Nebular Hysteresis I =======
On their way out, the crew had managed to grab some artifacts from the alien world to serve as proof of what their species were up against. As it turned out, they did not need much of it: major chunks of the outer relicum colonies were already being swallowed up whole by the unsatiated appetite of the black hole storm with its alien drivers at the helm.
"Yeah, I never knew these thick-skulled politicians would actually listen to someone other than the sound of their own voice" Vesper remarked as Tri got off the communications line from her people. "I tried warning them that something is off, something doesn't feel right even though they had imprisoned me in that lighthouse at the end of the universe."
"It's ok my dear, we all know you are the real hero here...there there" Gaia half mocked, half consoled Vesper. "That's the last of these leaders'" Tri announced with a sigh as she put the receiver down. "Finally, they are listening to us... They've decided to call an emergency meeting for all the colonial leaders in Duat...let's hope they have enough water"
The crew shared an incredulous, confused look among themselves. "Why Duat?" they all asked simultaneously "It's a desert wasteland of past civilizations... it's dry and hot, and the air is so difficult to breathe inside the catacombs" Mon complained puerilely.
"Yes Mon, I realize that you have to spend majority of the time there underground in the catacomb-labyrinth complex to avoid the solar sands unless you are immune to radiation like Gaia but whining like this isn’t going to get you anywhere" Tri said through her palm holding a face filled with visceral disgust "This much sun is not good for me"
"Pussies" Leo smirked, the sun creature that he was, as he poured himself some tea. "Nobody said that we have to go..." the wizard said hopefully, letting his words trail of into the air as he naughtily looked around at the crew in the kitchen table.
"We do.... we are" Tri shut him down instantly and he resorted to meditative breathing. "Okay! off we go to talk with some elected officials in dark antechambers filled with the smell of papyrus."
As difficult as it was for Vesper to get anyone to believe him during his incarceration at the lighthouse, the proof was in front of everyone now and a galactic, colony-wide state of emergency had been declared. Every Homo relicum settlement was at risk of being obliterated by the massive storm and the entire species was at risk of apocalyptic extinction. When everyone's own life was at stake, that is when political and fiscal benefits were put aside to focus solely on pure survival. And the state of the leaders at the Emergency All Colony Meeting showed.
The catacombs ran for miles under the sandy surface of the planet. Deep dark, humid, somewhat musty smelling, they traversed the planet under the surface like giant planetary snakes crisscrossing each other, going amorphously. Some sections had been sealed off for millennia since they were first constructed by the ancient civilization that ruled this planet. Other sections were fabled to be swallowed by supernatural phenomena.
Every here and there, a tunnel would branch off into another or lead into a burial chamber. The enormous underground graveyards were a frequent rendezvous resort for the delinquents that would sneak onto this planet to create mischief. The catacomb system formed an entire sphere of scaffolding underneath the entire surface of the planet while the actual surface itself was covered in sand, constantly being irradiated by the radiation that rained down on the planet.
That is not to say that the surface was completely devoid of structures. You would see the odd collection of pyramids and sphinxes appear out of the ground like some street sign from the ancient past. The real anachronism, however, was the presence of ships and troops around one of the equatorial entrances into the labyrinth complex. No one liked being on this planet, yet this is where the summit was taking place that would decide the future of the universe.
This planet was chosen for several reasons to have this very important meeting. It was equidistant from all the colonies, more or less. It was largely uninhabited, except for the occasional joy rider that would land here, meaning securing the meeting area and security in general would be easier. It was a fairly straightforward travel to get to using the interdimensional travel system, navigating around the incarceration lighthouses. In addition, Vesper chortled in his head at the poetic irony of this meeting for survival transpiring in a place where all life forms ended up ultimately – underneath the ground, fighting to stay up, while the radiation slowly kills them.
Contrary to cinematic scenes, there wasn't much energy in the leadership meeting. There was a collection of sad, scared, somber faces around a large, round stone table. The meeting room itself was a large underground chamber that was once a huge water reservoir. Now with all the water gone, the large chamber was essentially a giant reverb hall with every step, every clearing of the throat and every sigh echoing for seconds on end along the long, dark walls of the canyon.
Vesper, Gaia and the rest were seated in a corner, some distance away from the center of the table. Every word that was being said at the table was audible in part thanks to the massive echo. But mostly in part because not much was being said. Everyone looked at each other, and then down, and then here and there, concorantly at a loss for what to say. No one really had a solution, and therefore nor a contradiction.
This bleak display of despondency went on for several hours. Everyone got a chance to say something. Every colony had some sort of input, from military actions to scientific advice and even the first-hand testimony of the crew about the creatures. And although the artifacts that the crew had brought along with them were useful in understanding the aliens, there wasn't much to be had from them in terms of stopping the black hole storm they had created that was devouring their universe.
In the end, after much deliberation over the grim hand of fate they had been dealt, it was decided that the Homo relicum species was not going down without a fight. The crew had been chosen to lead the navy in the battle. This meant war!
=====Nebular Hysteresis II =====
There was an air of dread and the atmosphere was tense on board the Inertia. Vesper, Tri and Gaia were standing on the command deck, looking out across the vastness of the distance between them and the center of the black hole storm. Filling up that distance was a massive fleet of the united space navy. Armadas from every colony, every available ship, every available person had been relieved of every duty to join the fight for survival. Anything that flew, was coming along for the fight.
A flotilla of countless ships, like a swarm of locusts, flew headlong into the storm. Much like a swarm, there was not much individual organization to groups of ships but as a whole, it moved gently and gracefully towards the eye. The trained united colonial navy was leading the head of swarm and was followed by a more spread out tail section made up of civilian battalions. And onwards they went, in quiet composedness, into the center of the black hole, taking in the trepidation of the calm before the storm.
"Everything is starting to look blurry... the edges of things, they aren't quite... clear". There were the last words heard from the wizard followed by a loud thud as he passed out onto the console. "Not again...this great magician can’t take much quantum fluctuations, can he?" Mon said as he motioned for Leo to help him carry him back towards the recovery wing. Hydra looked on the scene from his navigation chair, silent as always, a sad knowing glint in his large black fishy eyes.
A few minutes later, Leo came barging into the command deck perturbed and panicking. "He's not breathing, oh my God he's not breathing COME!". "You have the ship" Tri said to hydra as she handed him the control and rushed with the others. They ran and ran for what seemed like an eternity. The blue lit entrance into the recovery wing couldn't come fast enough. Once inside, the scene was nauseatingly shambolic.
Empty white packets, once containing medical supplies and emergency equipment, littered the floor, the fluorescent lighting flickering ever so slightly. Weird bits of medical equipment giving out a cacophony of alerts, a chaotic symphony of death. Monoceros was down on his knees, hands on top of the bed, clutched together in a tight angry grip. On top of the medical bed, the body of the great wizard, the manipulator of the quantum world, and magician of the nanoparticles, Magellan the great, lay motionless.
Screams of hysteria from the crew galvanized the room. Monoceros was pushed onto one side as the others crowded around the bed. A large bucket of immense grief had just been emptied into that tiny room and the crew were drenched in it. Gaia had started shaking from the sadness, TriAndromeda was screaming 'no' over and over again at the top of her voice, Vesper was punching into the walls as hard as he could screaming at the top of his voice, Monoceros just lay there on the floor, catatonic, unable to change positions and Leo sat in a corner of the room with his head in his hands, tears flowing down his brave face. The wizard's body, as powerful as it was, was also very old and just could not take another trip through the event horizon.
The air lock opened, the anthem played, the air hissed out and slowly outwards, flew out the coffin with Magellan's body inside, forever to become part of the space detritus. It flew past the lone solar satellite 'OSIRIS', still stuck in its blue screen of death of the simulation it was holding had broken. The coffin flew, deep towards the depths of the raging fiery red planet which the satellite was orbiting, what was once called Earth, inhabited by the ancients, the precursor species to the relicum, joining the colorful mosaic of the Kessler graveyard.
=====Nebular Hysteresis III =====
"Hold it..... hold it.... HOLD IT" Tri barked into the comm as she led the massive flotilla of ships that was facing off against the alien species. The two species were now face to face, getting ready to face off one another, the giant armadas lined across from each other with nothing but the vast vacuum between them. The giant black hole storm that the alien species had come out of now formed the background of the battle scene, like a giant grotesque wallpaper.
Tensions were high on both sides, hands itching to reach for their triggers. Tri was waiting for the majority of the ships on her side to attain some sort of a target lock on the enemy as they approached their positions. Her nerves shot, hands trembling and adrenaline coursing through her veins, she and the crew prepared for what might very well be their last few moments.
A cold calm spread over her as she heard the quiet whispers of the crew around her, questioning why they were still holding the line. ‘now or never’ she thought. ‘If I am going to go down, this is as good a cause as any, at least this way I get to go out being absolutely wild and out of control’. And with that a small, evil, delirious grin infested her face and her mind finally accepted whatever fate she and her crew were about to meet.
Her hand slammed the red comm button and she shouted as loud as she could "NOW".
Immediately, there was the sound of thrusters and drives going full force. Individual ships accelerated ahead from the flotilla and opened fire. Canons and lasers opened fire. The calm from moments ago had turned into a giant rattling battlefield, the expanse between the armies was filled with a rain of yellow and blue lasers. Canons on either side started going off with a constant nonstop boom, like an incongruous war metronome.
The initial fire wasn't very effective on either side as the ships on either side were well protected, however the situation became intense as soon as the ships approached each other. Each ship paired off with another from the opposite side in a macabre dance of death. Multiple dog fights ensued and engulfed the expansive battlefield. Nose to tail, space planes chasing after each other in a merciless waltz of tragedy, firing continuously.
Ships were seen barrel rolling dodging fire, making impossible arcs with enough gravitational churn forces to rip innards out of the dispatchers. Fire from canons went whizzing by, emitting their ghastly glow inside cockpits. The scene was one of a congested pit of depraved space gladiator ships. From a distance to a casual observer, the entire scene would appear extremely surreal. Big metallic creatures chasing around other smaller creatures that were attacking it, like tiny ants attacking giant hornets with lasers.
The command deck shook violently as Tri held onto the rails on the commander’s platform. The crew were unnerved and flabbergasted, shaking in their seats. A variety of smaller fighter ships had crashed into them, so far unsuccessful in taking them down. They were continuously taking fire and giving it back. "Keep your eyes on the target, Mon" she pointed as they chased after the leading enemy alien ship. "Hydra, level the pitch, see if you can rotate us out of the way of these crashing ships". "AYE" came his raspy response.
The enemy command ship was large and sluggish. It had massive fire power but not enough maneuverability to apply it swiftly in all directions. It was a whale, being attacked by a fast moving shark. The shark being The Inertia in this situation. They kept to the back of the whale and continuously maneuvered to stay behind them. Being smaller, they were able to maintain their advantage and position, having gained it early in the battle by flying swiftly under the whale.
The whale was flying gracefully through the cosmic ocean, scattering the little fish that were fighting around it, but not fast enough to catch the shark head on. The shark in the meantime was busy unloading every weapon in its arsenal onto the whale's behind. Having already taken out the posterior turrets, the whale's back was ripe for target practice.
Unaware of what the whale's plans were, the pair slowly led away from the main battle ground, back towards the eye of the black hole storm. The generals inside the whale were clearly retreating, or so it would seem to the crew of the Inertia. One could argue that they were being led into a trap, back into the enemy territory where they had the advantage.
"Vesper! Get the harpoon!" Tri ordered; her eyes fixed on the view in the front of the command deck. "ON IT" came Vesper's adrenaline-fueled response. He immediately unbuckled, lost his balance as the ship rocked from explosions, regained his balance, and ran out of the command deck. Running down the narrow alleys and shafts of the ship, he made his way several floors down to the torpedo canon room.
Opening the hatch at the end of the torpedo tube, he turned his attention to a miniature crane. Sitting in the middle of the lifting mechanism was a yellow rocket with some mysterious black symbology on it. He wasn't sure what most of it meant but he knew this was the game changer they needed. Within a second of opening the hatch, he started cracking the circular mechanism of the lifting device. Slowly, but surely, the big yellow space rocket was lifted to the correct height. Then another cranking mechanism made the rocket go into the hatch with a translating motion of the crane.
Detaching the crane from the rocket, Vesper closed the hatched. and ran to a comm transmitter on the wall opposite him. "READY" he shouted into it and fell down against the wall, panting and sweating. Moments later he heard a large booming, thundering sound from inside the tube. He knew the rocket had been fired. He lay against the wall still catching his breath, nursing the stitch in his side as he waited for news from the command deck.
However, instead of the comm ringing, he was instead met with an explosion originating behind the side wall of the torpedo room. Vesper was knocked hard into the opposite wall and instantly passed out.
"Update command?" came the concerned voice of a comm soldier from the communications module at the command platform. "We got struck by the debris from the alien lead ship, we've taken on critical damage, and we're going down into the storm!" Tri updated the soldier. "we're coming to get you, get your-" came the soldier's reply that was immediately cut short with Tri's " NO! stay in your positions. The next in the chain of command has assumed control, we are out! we will manage ourselves".
Whatever reply came from the soldier after that was not heard as a large dollop of The Inertia on the starboard side blew out. The ship catapulted into the eye of the blackhole storm. For the second time, the crew were about to crash into an unknown area as they had done on the cosmic lighthouse where Vesper had been imprisoned.
Vesper's eyes slowly opened, the blurriness of his vision gradually faded into a clear view of the surroundings and a strong smell of burning machine parts filled his nostrils. He saw around him, nothing but large twisted heaps of metal and a large wall of fire. He wasn't in any immediate danger it seemed as he had been in a highly protected part of the ship. Somehow, he assumed they had crash landed somewhere. His discernment about where it was that they had landed was not a good one.
"GAIA" he called out at the top of his remaining voice as he sat up. Looking around frantically and hiding his face from the heat of the flames, he saw Mon lying beneath some sheets of metal. He immediately got to his feet and went over to help him. "Come on you bastard, wake up, I can't get you out alone". A quick slap to the face seemed effective in getting Mon to come around slightly. "Did we..." he muttered groggily. "I don't know man, come on wake up we need to get you out of this mess" Came Vesper's response. "Are you holding up alright?" He asked Mon after he helped him out. "I think so… yeah." Mon replied.
Vesper then motioned to Mon and they started looking around for the rest of the crew. and it wasn't long before they found them. The hollow space of the command deck had formed a protective capsule around the crew, and most of them during the crash had been propelled inside into its protective cocoon like marbles in a jar. The Inertia was a highly armored ship and made of malleable metal. The chassis of the ship took the brunt of the impact through the blackhole storm.
"Okay I think it's safe to say that everyone is ok?" Tri looked around at her singed crew, covered in soot and bruises. Looking at Gaia and Vesper holding each other tightly, she knew that at least those two were doing alright. "Alright, so I think we have crash landed at some sort of an abandoned port facility of these aliens. I see a lot of empty Vessels around... they don't exactly look like those vicious war machines that were attacking us, but neither do they look something used for civilian transport"
"I'm just happy to see that wreck" Leo pointed and smiled at the burning heap of blue metal that was once the enemy command ship. Everyone laughed a sigh of relief. Tri closed her eyes and breathed deeply, "I hope this is the end of it" she said lightly to herself. "Let's fund us for transport and try to get out of this thing and see what we have achieved... Let's see if we can find a working alien piece of junk that can get us off this place" She said in a matter-of-fact way, assuming command of the crew once more.
A little looking around inside the vessels in the port provided them with a wonderful confirmation that the controls and indeed the layout of the cosmic sailing apparatus was very similar to the ships that were common to their species. It seemed very possible that they could fly one of these blue alien ships back to their home. Now if one of these has working comms...
"Look, for a ship that can not only get us off but also has some supplies in it...we might need some going back...I'm going to check them randomly to see what their drive situation is." Monoceros announced. "I'm feeling particularly attracted to that big old blue box there, I think I will go check that out" Leo said pointing to a large frigate ship in the distance collecting cosmic dust.
It was some time after splitting up and randomly searching a bunch of the old vessels parked here that they heard Hydra call out. "This is the one" he said mysteriously, his slimy hand on the side of the ship. The crew did a collective take on the ship that he was pointing at and then shared a quizzical look among themselves. "How do you know?" Gaia was the first to inquire. "Trust me" came his slithery, fishy reply.
They found the entrance into the ship and decided to explore it together. Very soon it became apparent why Hydra had sensed that this was the ship they needed. It possessed a working comm, a large hull with a massive storage space and 2 fighter ships inside its store already. It also had a decent supply of food that a biological being could survive on, although it was well past its expiration date. Not much choice, the crew thought. It even had a working drive and some reactor pellets left over.
The first thing Tri did upon reaching the command deck was try the comm module. As soon as she flipped the switch on it, the yellow lights behind its analog VU meters switched on and the needles jumped to life. She could hear its hum as the unit turned on and warmed up. "Here, take it and keep talking, I'm going to dial in the frequency to the navy outside" Tri said, handing the hand receiver to Leo.
"This is the crew of the inertia reaching out to the united navy...can anyone hear me" Leo started repeating on the transmitter as Tri fiddled with the knobs. Every now and then, one of the vacuum tubes on top of the comm array would glow yellow briefly before going out and spread between that were glitches of oscillating white noise and radio static that would come and go. Finally, they were able to find a position of the analog knobs where several of the vacuum tubes were glowing all at once and the comm array came to life.
A reply came to their distress call "Inertia and company, we are glad you are doing ok...We are still in the thick of things out here... we are not sure where the directions to these fliers are coming from since you took down their leading ship...we believe it is on the ground there somewhere... we are sending you the broadcast frequency now, you must try and trace it, I don't know how long we can hold on in this battle."
"Not gonna let us go home, are they?" Vesper said as he massaged his forehead in frustration. Tri tried to half-hid a look of frustration on her face and gently requested Hydra "Trace it please...if we can". Hydra turned to start working on the detail without even a single noise. "Alright! let's see what this big dusty bucket can do" Tri said in a shockingly positive and upbeat way as she pounded her fist on the command deck console.
As the ship slowly rose out of the ground, the submerged portion of the hull came out of the ground and a name, stamped in a white army stencil font became visible. It read" Dreadnaught Nautilus"
"FOUND IT" Hydra screamed maniacally as he laughed the evilest laugh, he was capable of while looking like a fish out of swamp water. This was such an unusual departure from his usually reserved and emotionless demeanor that literally everyone thought that he had been shot. "It's this relay tower located here" he said pointing to a blue projection map on one of the screens in the alien ship. His words were punctuated with a smile of vainglory. “Well?" Tri gave everyone an angry look and the entire crew ran to their positions.
"I cannot believe the entire relay station was just sitting there waiting to be taken out by the first cannon that shot at it" Leo said incredulously, his face unable to hide the sheer stroke of luck. "Yeah well, they didn't expect us to break through the battle and come back into their world and take out their relay tower" Vesper replied with a smug look. "Neither did they plan anymore contingencies that were quick enough, thinking they could squash us like bugs" Gaia added. "It's hard to believe and I still have my doubts, but that's what I saw" Mon said with a skeptic's tone.
They were all standing on the command deck of the Dreadnaught Nautilus looking at the collapsed singularity that had once been the black hole storm. As soon as the relay tower had been destroyed, the crew flew the alien ship out of hostile territory and back into the battle. As the enemy planes lost contact with command, they started retreating. Majority were taken down in retreat. The final blow came in the form of a catastrophic dimensional implosion device that was shot straight into the eye of the storm by the Navy, liquidating everything inside the blackhole, pulverizing the entire singularity into a single point of infinite density. All that would be left would be a void with a no-go zone around it. The combined navy of the relicum colonies had won the war.
===== Heroes Fanfare =====
A large aura of hot gaseous flames started to appear around the periphery of the Nautilus as the ship prepared for reentry into the atmosphere. The crew were preparing for their return to their home planets and a special post-war ceremony was waiting for them and the Navy at one of the central colonies. The colonies had been getting live updates about the war and rejoiced in triumphal relief as the threat to their existence was over. A large festival was planned and the Populus had been joyfully told to enjoy the moment fully by not taking their neo-pills for a few days as to stop dulling their emotions.
“Applying air brakes” screamed Leo as he guided the ship through the atmosphere. “Everyone strapped in?” Tri asked. “AYE” came the crew’s response in unison. “Get us home sailor” Tri said to Leo as she smiled and looked out the command deck window. The ship was rocking wildly at this point, surrounded by the reentry flames from all sides. The tip of the wings and the bottom had started to glow from the heat, the space around them slowly turning blue as the entered the sky space.
Gracefully, like a cat landing on its paws, the ship came down on a landing deck on the navy port. The rocking stopped immediately and was replaced just as quickly with the loud cheers of the crew on a safe return home. They all quickly unstrapped and ran towards the exit galley, eager for their feet to touch solid ground again. The door opened with a hiss of a vacuum seal being broken and clanged onto the ground. Instantly, their ears were filled with noise.
A massive crowd of people had made their way onto the port. Anyone that lived within travelling distance was there. The crew were received as saviors, as heroes. Rightfully so. They were instantly mobbed by the crowd and hauled up, made to crowd-surf and be treated like royalty. A collection of hands followed them as their bodies surfed the crowd, trying to touch the messiahs. A sea of heads and hands carried the heroes in waves of joyful jubilation. They couldn’t stop smiling.
In light of the extraordinary circumstances and the courage displayed in saving the race, the courts had also forgiven Vesper. He was to live as a free citizen.
A solitary ringing sound was heard among the beautiful rocky beaches on a solitary island out in the middle of the sea. The island had very few inhabitants and even fewer who possessed a comm link transceiver. The device was placed on a tiny white table next to the island’s popular hot spring pool. A purple skinned hand reached out from the water and silenced the call. “The crew is needed again” Gaia said, somewhat drunk, as she slid back into the pool and closed her eyes. Vesper was napping in the warm lazy water and did not move a muscle.