The night was cold and the sky was clear. Doctor Felton was entering the last quadrants into the sequence when the coffee machine beeped that it was finished, he said,
Then pressed the enter key and walked over to refill his cup. As he crossed the room the huge telescope and the roof above rotated ninety degrees to lock onto the first galaxy in the sequence. After using the observatory for years, he barely noticed the tons of metal circling slowly overhead.
The coffee was just the way he liked it strong and black. He was going to need it tonight. There was a lot to cover and only until eight o’clock in the morning to finish. He took his seat at the telescope and focused the lenses to bring the first galaxy in clear. The swirling perfection of the spirals always tantalized him. The idea that this might be the one.
He had been sifting data for years and knew his calculations were right. It had to be one of these ten. Each had the right conditions out of the hundreds of thousands he had examined. The conditions for an advanced society to evolve. The hunt was always thrilling to him. He often thought of himself as an astronomical detective, using each small clue to piece together the whole picture.
After several hours of careful scrutiny, he had started on the fifth Galaxy and hadn’t been viewing the system for ten minutes when there was a blinding flash from its center. Dr. Felton turned away from the screen and shielded his eyes. After a few seconds, the light faded. He turned back to the viewing screen and expanded the view out from the system he had been examining.
The strange flash was now obvious. The sun that had been there moments ago was gone. His first thought was that it went supernova but quickly realized that was absurd. He picked up his notebook and flipped to the section on galaxy AE 4217, and just as he had thought all of its suns were younger than the Milkyway’s. It should be billions of years before there was any chance of one going nova. He stared at the screen in shock, trying to comprehend.
The polarization was just fading from the force screen as the ensign stepped out of the lift onto the bridge of the Das’Tari. Where the raging light had been a few seconds ago, now only inky black of vacuum was left. He approached the captain’s raised dais and knelt placing the three fingers of his right-hand flat across his forehead.
“Ensign Das’To, reporting plasma conversion rates, Lord-Captain.”
Das’To offered the tablet with his other hand. Head bowed and still saluting. He felt the tablet taken from his hand and heard a few sounds that seemed positive but they soon stopped as Das’to knew they would.
“Ninety-six percent.” The tone was calm, but laced with venom.”
“The First Engineer told me to assure you he will have it to one hundred by our next stop.”
“That’s what he said last time. Tell him to see me personally at shift change.”
Das’To felt sorry for First Engineer Das’Ada. As a bridge runner, he saw the look on the faces of many after they had seen the Lord-Captain “Personally”. Often they looked like they wanted to curl up and die. Lord-Captain Das’Tari’Toa was different from other captains. He never raised his voice which somehow had the effect of making his rebukes all the more cutting.
“Yes, Lord-Captain I will inform him of your command.”
“Lord-Captain, Receiving a message from Gurthen Major.”The voice came from Communications.
“Finally they see sense, hold the call.” He turned back to Das’To, whose head was still bowed
“Good to see one who understands obedience. What is your rank, ensign?”
“Rank Nine, Lord-Captain.”
The Lord-Captain nodded his head.
“There will soon be some openings in engineering. I think we will find more important work for you, Dismissed.”
“Yes, Lord-Captain and thank you.”
“Good service is the only thanks, I require.” As Das’To withdrew the Lord-Captain turned back to the Comms Officer.
She moved her hands over the holograph display and the view of space was replaced with a face, not unlike their own. Only the skin was a deep red instead of their translucent green.
“Ambassador Corega, Has your assembly changed its mind?”
“We’ll give you whatever you want, just put it back you bastard!”
The Lord-Captain smiled and said,
“Well, let me be the first to congratulate you and all lifeforms in this system on becoming citizens of the galactic domains of Emperor Tas’Antau The Fifteenth.”
“Fuck you and your emperor!”
“I will forgive that last bit of insolence. The emperor is just. Your anger is understandable. But know that any citizen who defies the emperor invites death. If you are now citizens, you will obey his laws. If not, then I shall depart.”
All the anger drained from Corega’s face.
“Yes, we are…citizens.” Each word seemed to pain him.
“A wise decision, though It may not seem so now. Good day, Ambassador I shall return your sun to you momentarily.”
Once the screen back to space view, the Lord-Captain turned to his Solar Officer.
The captain turned back to the screen as a rope of fire began to course out of the ship. The fiery trail stopped at a certain point in space and began to coalesce, swirling into a ball that gradually grew in size.
“Output steady, the structure is beginning to gain gravitational mass.”
Within a few minutes, the ball of plasma had almost reached its original size.
“What is the rate of system expansion.”
“Six percent and decreasing, sir. Gravity is reestablishing.”
“Good, alert me to any planets that need realignment. I will be in my quarters.”
The Captain’s quarters were behind a panel in the wall to the right of the bridge. His three fingers worked in concert to inscribe the complicated pattern that opened the panel. Once inside, he turned on the silence field and told the computer to call naval command. It responded and in a few seconds, the ghostly blue holographic head of Lord-Marshal Das’Tari’Toa appeared.
“Lord-Marshal, I can report another system added to the glorious empire.”
“Well done Lord-Captain, as always. The God-Emperor has taken note of your abilities. You have a new mission.”
The lord-captain stammered slightly as he said:
“F-From the God-Emperor ?”
“Yes, I had the privilege to stand in his presence and hear the command in his own voice.”
The Idea of the Lord-Marshal or anyone else standing before the throne of Tas’Antau’Nalla’Volko; God-Emperor of the Infinite Invincible, master of the Empire of Eternal Conquest. It made him almost shake with a mixture of fear and spiritual exultation.
” How may I serve the One ?”
“There is a galactic cluster not far from your position that requires repacification. I’m sending the coordinates now, onward to victory.”
“As you command Lord-Marshall, onward to victory.”
The holograph blinked off and lord captain could only stare at the empty space. The God-Emperor had noticed him. As long as his service was pleasing there was no telling how high he could rise but failing The One is death. He left his quarters and approached the helm.
“Pilot, reorientate to the following coordinates.” He moved his hand over his wrist holo and tapped a long finger in a few places.
“Coordinates received, Lord-Captain.” The stars changed as the viewer turned with the ship. “Coordinates locked.”
The Lord-Captain took his seat and said: “Engage.”
The view changed till it seemed that they were in a dark tunnel streaked with light. The ship seemed almost stationary, though it was moving at four times the speed of light.
After what seemed only minutes, the Das’Tari dropped out of hyperspace to the view of a planet swarmed by fighting ships. But The Lord-Captain was looking past the planet. The sun was one of the largest he had ever seen in the class known as Super-Giants. Its surface was an orange so deep it was almost red.
“Prepare short burst warp coordinates.”
“Yes, Lord-Captain,” the pilot said.
His fingers flew across the holo-screen making the proper calculations, but the incoming sensors were already starting to pulse. The rebellious pilots realized a Siphon class had entered the system and were now ignoring the planetary defenders and swarming on mass towards the Das’Tari. The Lord-Captain pressed the ship-wide comms button.
“This is your Lord-Captain, all hands to battle stations.”
The beeps indicating the distance of incoming became louder and faster. The laser turrets, both front, and back, opened up and spat blue-green flame at the fighters. They had a few hits but most dodged out of the line of fire.
“Coordinators locked, sir.”
The ship was their one second, a metal hive surrounded by angry bees, then faded and was gone.
Halfway across the system, Lord-Captain of the Das’Tari turned to his solar officer.
As the ship began to receive the first tendrils of flame he turned to the comms officer.
“keep all stations at high alert and send a message to the government on Na’Tahn.”
As he turned back to the screen he thought “Now I will show my true worth.”