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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1296842
Escaping A Planetary Cataclysm, Survivors Aboard Immense Arks Search For A New Home

"Death is the punctuation of Life, there is no value in gain without the inevitability of loss."

---Shyj Lahn Trun, PHILOSOPHER


Endings And Beginnings...

         How long had it been?  How far had she---had her people---traveled?  Like every other member of the Crew, S'vaara knew the answer.  If she hadn't, within the immense archival database of the Ark answers to this and billions upon billions of other questions lay waiting for someone to seek them.  Again, in this instance, consultation was not required; S'vaara knew both answers because they had always been a fundamental part of her life.  Ever since she was a young child, back to her earliest memories, the trials her people had endured was pivotal in her rearing, her later training, and even her faith.

         Her people's history had evolved since the escape, since their "Great Exodus" and it was continually growing more dynamic---and more complicated---by the added details of the ongoing voyage.  Layered experiences, insights, imagery, and scientific data accumulated from each successive generation was creating a narrative journal that had an as yet unforeseeable end. 

         And the time had cost the crew.  So much time had now passed since the Brrllln had begun the search that only within the computer core's quantum matrix memory did first-hand sensory impressions of her people's home system and the planet that had spawned them still remain.

         It had been such a long, long time since the Exodus.  A long time since that great day where one hundred colossal survivor ships ferrying a select cross-section of S'vaara's people leapt from the positions in orbit where their size had demanded they be built.  Hopeful, brave, resolute they launched,  plunging forever outward into the star swept expanse of space.  It had been the culmination of an incredible undertaking, a harmonious endeavor by the Brrllln to see that something of their ancient society survived.  With the catastrophic collapse of the trinary star cluster which had supported their home system for millenia looming, they had proudly met potential chaos and fear with single-minded purpose. 

         Each of the ships had struck out on a separate course, a decision made to---they hoped---increase their chances of survival.  It was believed also that the odds of locating a new world to settle was increased positively by searching multiple courses at once.  A new world, S'vaara thought as she considered those distant stars, a safe haven to reestablish their civilization anew built upon the sacrifices of all those that had to be left behind.

         Or so the saga went, anyway.  As S'vaara walked along one of the upper tiers, passing beneath the series of large, ovoid domes that gave a clear and unrivaled view into the darkness of surrounding space, she wondered just how flowery each generation must have made the saga along with their own additions.  In her mind, there was a more simplistic, less romanticized view of their history.  Her people, faced with impending destruction, had built as many long-term vessels as they could in the time they had remaining and fled to escape the devastation. 

         The trinary stars Pavymm, Ojaan, and Sydraan, the heart of a vibrant, twenty-five planet solar system were collapsing just as they'd been born: together.  Knowing such an event spelled the end of every world in the system, the Brrllln had constructed the "arks", the sophisticated lifeboats of her people and their last possible hope for preserving some remnant of their society. 

         S'vaara had always been an enthusiastic student of history and had researched the subject at length, finding in her exploration that within the one hundred arks combined, just under a third of the total Brrllln population had managed to be spared.  The remaining two-thirds constituted tens of billions of beings, hundreds of billions if the non-Brrllln populations were included. 

         No...that couldn't be right.  Her brows drew together as her mind re-worked massive, non-linear equations that her attention to detail had just recognized as inaccurate.  Her mind was computationally fluid, attacking the numbers like a fresh hot meal.  And while she did, other parts of her mind still reflected.  While far removed from the days when such ominous decisions had to be made, it broke her heart to imagine all those that had remained behind.  What trauma, what a sacrifice...  Her teachers had never understood why she brooded over the matter; they considered such fixations in one so young and beautiful morbid, even aberrant.  But S'vaara never cared much about the attention her natural beauty attracted, and was always frustrated by the dismissive attitudes the elders held about her preoccupation with the nature of their voyage.

         She cast her gaze upward at the dome.  So many stars, so many possible worlds...  Somewhere, out between the stars in that deep vastness that was space, ninety-nine other arks soared.  Gods willing, they were---like her own ship--- bearing more of her people now than when they had launched. 

         Or were they?  S'vaara's focus sharpened, her expression demanding, as if the cosmos had a voice to answer her with.  Had any of the arks already reached a new world, had they begun establishing a new home?  Were others lost, perhaps damaged or even destroyed?  Or were they, like her homeship, all just OUT there, searching day after day, year upon year?  Out there, searching, but as yet still not finding...?

         The scope of her people's goal, of their hope, their faith, it was daunting but they did not question, did not waiver.  She had the number now, her computations eased to an end that nearly brought her to tears.  Over forty-three trillion Brrllln died when the stars that had been their source of light and life collapsed.  The only way to honor that loss was to succeed, to not only survive but to find a new home and to once again flourish.  So onward they went, onward and outward.  They might never actually find a suitable planet but they would never quit that search either.  That was the oath every one of S'vaara's people made before sleeping and renewed upon waking.  Onward and outward, never, ever be stopped.

         Throughout their voyage they had seen many things and encountered other species previously unknown to them.  Many encounters had been benign, some even fortuitous, but there had been negative contacts as well.  S'vaara could list each of them, each species that had made the mistake of viewing the huge, solitary vessel as prey.  They had all been ignorant to the fact that while the ark was indeed alone, it had been crafted with the contingencies of strategic defense taken into account. 

         Manned and designed by a race of people that had established a thriving, space-faring society that had lasted a millennium inviolate, the ark had ample weaponry and had, thus far, repelled all attacks.  Also, each new enemy became less and less of a threat because, as time passed, the ark was literally growing.  Generational vessels, every ark had been designed with one especially dynamic feature, the capacity to reconfigure and grow to accommodate the naturally increasing crew population.  The longer the arks stayed in space, the bigger they would get.  S'vaara's ship only vaguely resembled the smaller vessel it had been when launched, and with every increase in size came more defenses, more power plants, and more Brrllln.

         The complexity and sophistication of the ark's construction had always impressed S'vaara.  Even now, after so long in space, the technology of her ancestors remained a marvel.  What they had accomplished under such oppressive circumstances was almost beyond description and so, on reflection, their sacrifice didn't seem quite so dark a thing.  Her people had joined together, united in an effort to persevere and save at least a remnant of their culture in defiance of the fated cataclysm.  They had united and they had won against a situation that would have plunged lesser species into chaos.  Her survival, her every drawn breath was an affirmation of that triumph over what others may have seen as insurmountable odds.

         "Ahhh, the Thinker."

         S'vaara snapped from her reverie to see she had been joined by Elder Niise.  He stood facing her draped in his flowing purple robes, a graven medallion on his chest fastening them and denoting his senior rank among her people's clerics.  His sibilant, taunting tone bespoke of his disdain for S'vaara's well-known opinions.  "Elder," she replied, nodding with the customary show of respect.  Respect, incidentally, which she did not feel.

         "Looking again to the stars for enlightenment?  Seeking clarity as ever in the void, my child?"

         S'vaara exhaled slowly, composing a reply she hoped would, in its simplicity and neutrality, end this exchange quickly.  "The stars have no voices, Elder, nor I the sensibility to understand them if they did.  I leave all matters of clarity and enlightenment to those who guide us upon our way."

         Niise looked at S'vaara, reflecting on her answer.  Apparently it satisfied him.  "Ssso, clarity does come to you at last," he said before continuing on his way, leaving S'vaara alone once again.  In silence she fumed, stewing over his blunt insult.

         "Clerics," she muttered under her breath.  "Celestial guides...  Niise could get lost in a fully lit room."  She sighed and looked upward, her eyes once again drawn to the stars.  As she stared longingly at the changing vista, a silent prayer of well-being for the other crews of the other Arks was on her deep lavender lips...

<<<                                                            >>>


         Swiveling away from the myriad displays at his alcove, Ehjekk found himself facing Prime Elder Zhuyvas.  "Prime Elder," Ehjekk replied, rising to his feet.  "May I ...assist you?"

         Zhuyvas made his way slowly, ominously, over to Ehjekk's workstation.  "Asiiissst me?  Yesss, yesss you may asiisst me.  I have been made aware that over ssseveral daysss you have been attenuating our peripheral sssensor grids to detect---"

         "Arks.  Yes, Prime Elder, I have." 

         The cavernous command center--- one of four responsible for command and control of the Ark--- had, Ehjekk now noticed, gone deathly quiet with the arrival of the Prime Elder.  With his advanced years it was not common practice to visit many places on the great ship personally and the rest of the bridge crew understood the obvious gravity in his being here.  For his part, however, Ehjekk seemed unusually calm about the situation.

         "Riiidiculousss!" Zhuyvas hissed, punctuating his anger by stamping his polished walking staff against the deck.  "Who are you to do thiiisss, to deviate from our goal?"

         Ehjekk stared at the old cleric silently, knowing he had two choices open now: make the situation better or make it worse.  Without pause, he chose the latter.

         "Prime Elder, I am Third Captain.  While the clerics keep our path towards our celestial goal, it is MY duty to assure that we can follow that path.  The other captains and I have agreed that some ongoing attempt should be made to locate the other arks and---"


         "And," Ehjekk continued, unshaken.  "We believe that while we have prevailed in our confrontations thus far, a ship alone remains a definite target.  Who is even to say that our brethren have faired as well as we?  It is not blasphemy to look, Prime Elder, the blasphemy would be to not consider the fate of our sister arks.  And what is more, no deviation in course has been executed or even suggested, I am only utilizing a portion of our long range sensors to sift space as we pass.  Our path remains true."

         Zhuyvas was seething as he glowered at Ehjekk.  "There will be more to be sssaid about thiiisss, Captain."  Black robes billowing, he turned and left the command center, Ehjekk standing in his wake knowing he hadn't heard the last of this.  He looked around the bridge, surveying his crew. 

         He knew what was crossing their minds right now.  They were all wondering where the seeming defiance had come from, this sudden resistance to the cleric's influence.  A fusion of the theological and scientific disciplines of the Brrllln, the clerics represented what passed for political and spiritual leadership for the survivors.  The crew which helmed and maintained the ship represented the military.  Before losing their home world and its colonies, the Brrllln military were responsible for policing and protecting all Brrllln territories, not just a single vessel and so, after the Exodus, that level of responsibility and place in society translated to an equally influential part of the overall Brrllln leadership.  Ehjekk knew as long as he and the other three co-Captains remained in consensus, the power would remain balanced.  Besides it was a simple fact that the clerics could not fulfill their role without the military but the military could fulfill their role without the clerics.

         Returning to his station, Ehjekk settled into his contoured seat and swung back to face his console.  The clerics could have their temples and their mantras, his position required far less faith and hope and far more pragmatism.  As he had told Zhuyvas, a ship alone was a target; they needed to reestablish connection with the remaining ships or else break with custom and start forging alliances.  Yes, they had been successful but failure, somewhere along the way, was inevitable.  Better to have a reserve and not need it than to need one and not have it, the universe was seldom gracious to the na├»ve or unprepared.

         The glowing screens before him were currently displaying massive amounts of sensor data, both current and previously collected.  The ship's computer core was a true intelligent machine, with intuitive processors able to sort, reason, and theorize at speeds millions of times faster than a living brain.  It could also learn and rationalize, and what was more, in regards to Ehjekk's plan on seeking out the other arks, it agreed.

         Ehjekk reached for a raised panel on his crescent-shaped console.  The panel's top slid back as his fingers neared, revealing a small, polished disk.  Removing the wafer thin disk, Ehjekk placed it to his temple, holding it there momentarily as he spoke one simple command: "Interface."

         Glowing now, the disk sealed itself to the side of his head as Ehjekk took his hand away, reclining in his seat.

         "Hello, Captain.  Since I am aware you have been monitoring the processed sensor data, I know you are not here to discuss a status report.  Instead, I must venture that you have... other matters pressing you at the moment."

         Ehjekk smiled to himself as the computer's fluid voice resonated within his mind.  The privacy accorded by the cerebral interface had been an incredibly welcome addition but one afforded thus far only to Captains and Sub-Captains.  Through it, over time, the system had become one of Ehjekk's closest friends; after all, no other friend could boast of having free access to the undiluted entirety of his mind.  Well, not entirely "undiluted", Ehjekk could at anytime trigger virtual firewalls that could compartmentalize his thoughts and restrict the system's access to specific areas of his cognitive mind but thus far, he had never had cause for it.  "No," he thought back.  "You are right, this isn't about the sensors, not directly anyway."

         "I take it then that your concerns about the clerics is something you see blossoming into some manner of dissent among the crew?"

         "Yes, exactly."

         "Captain, theology and politics provide for the differing needs of the people.  Theology nourishes and satisfies their spiritual nature, the Citizen Council allow for you to avoid the pitfalls of an autocracy, while you and the rest of the military provide security and stability through your protective vigilance."

         Ehjekk found himself grinning outright as he wondered why he believed the system would have anything other than a fully fleshed out perfect answer.  The logic, as ever, was flawless.  Except---

         "Except I have not accounted for the divergent personalities involved,  specifically you and the Prime Elder, and apparently you are not of the same mind on many principle issues.  This, in addition to the fact that you do not personally like one another, creates an atmosphere of divisiveness where there should be none."

         "No secrets from you, my friend."

         "The interface creates an intimacy that leaves little room for misconceptions, Captain."

         "Yes, and you're right, I dislike the shriveled worm.  I am only trying to do what I would hope the other ark commanders have also reasoned out and that's to reunite our fleet and continue toward our goal in a more effective, concerted effort."

         "Yes, but in that you are forgetting the reason the Arks were sent upon different courses to begin with.  Imagine the utter disaster of having all the Arks together and suffering some other stellar calamity which this time you were unable to avoid.  With all the ships together, you would all suffer the same end and all this achievement, all that the Brrllln were, are, and could become would finally be lost forever.  Conversely, continuing to follow different courses, even if only a single Ark survives, your species and its legacy survives with it.  The original reasoning is still sound reasoning, Captain."

         "Yes, yes, of course you are right.  It is a wonder though how two seemingly disparate ideas can each be possessed of equal degrees of merit.  It makes me all the more thankful for our command structure and the power being split between four Captains and not simply resting on the shoulders of one.  Ours is an awesome enough responsibility as is, with no decision being a trivial one."

         "I understand, but in that--- to give your position scope--- try imagining the responsibility on the shoulders of your ancestors, the ones charged with carrying out the Exodus Program.  Deciding who would have a chance to live and who must remain behind to die.  The clarity of purpose required and the dedication to see it through is possibly the pinnacle of Brrllln development as a society."

         Ehjekk smiled again.  "Was a biased reverence for your creators hard-written into your base program or is that how you really see it?"

         "Another benefit of this interface is knowing when a question is truly a question and when it is not.  However, I will answer you if for no other purpose than clarity between us.  Yes, my stated opinion is my own and while that opinion is in part shaped by the perspective of the scientists who created me, who engineered my consciousness, it is not a matter of programming.  Your people managed a feat of such creativity and strength of will as to seemingly exceed the known realm of biologic intelligence.  Perhaps...perhaps even reaching into the miraculous."

         "The miraculous...  My friend, I think you are as proud a Brrllln as any I have ever met or served with and I cannot imagine you as anything less.  Not a tool, not a servant and certainly, not lifeless."

         "Thank you, Captain---"

         "Ehjekk.  If a man I despise can use my name as opposed to my title, you are more than worthy of doing so."

         "Indeed...  Thank you, Ehjekk."

{ To Be Continued! }

© Copyright 2007 Onyx: a PURPLE MANIAC! (onyxgemini22 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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