Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Warship, Part 2 "The Beginning, Finally"

Jimmy Smith grew up on Earth, thirty years following what was still called the “E.T. Calamity,” when contact with the Danab first caused humanity to finally learn that it was not alone in the universe. So much had happened since then, yet in many ways, Jimmy could still pretend, when he was a boy, that he was just a boy.

In many ways, it’s because life continued on pretty much as normal. Humans were still humans, no matter how radical life changed, just as humans had always behaved in the aftermath of a drastic change in their lives. They simply adapted to the new circumstances, and reverted to their typical, human behavior. Jimmy’s parents didn’t much care for aliens, never actively encouraged him to pursue his secret dream of traveling through the stars, a dream that had died in a previous generation of humans, when it proved too difficult to fund without a driving vision behind it. Jimmy trained whenever he could, even when he had no idea what to train for, did whatever he thought was necessary, what could possibly help.

When he graduated high school, Jimmy said goodbye to home and hitchhiked with the first transport off the planet, a Bithian freighter, as it turned out. He was terrified, and tried not to show it. He was the only human, but in many ways, that made it easier. The more he was forced to adapt, the more he would develop. There were many other species who had bothered to learn English, and who had learned many other languages besides. Jimmy felt a little guilty because he’d never tried to learn any others, and he didn’t feel that he would ever motivate himself to change that. If there were those who were willing to accommodate him, that would be a welcome change, and that would be good enough.

His first friend in this new life was Stiegel Dex, who shared with him the hidden miseries and shared entertainments Jimmy had never anticipated. Dex disappeared before long, because he didn’t share Jimmy’s vision of the future, didn’t believe it was possible for a human to join the Space Corps. Even Dex wondered aloud why Jimmy hadn’t at least joined the NER first. Jimmy never had patience to explain. He didn’t have a lot of patience at all, in fact, and so was constantly frustrated. He didn’t understand why other people didn’t share his vision. He did recognize the irony of that. He had enough patience, though, kept fighting for what he wanted, no matter how many people made it difficult for him.

He finally broke down and signed up for the NER program, far away from Earth, saw his first humans in years, how many he could no longer calculate without using his hands. His body was numb, but his dream was alive. It was his best attribute and his worst failing that Jimmy so easily stood out from his classmates, could never fit in, not because he was a brilliant student, but because he was so unorthodox. And so someone finally had the bright idea to propose Jimmy as the first human candidate for admittance in the Space Corps.

And wouldn’t you know? He got in. It was the worst break of his life, because that was the last great adventure Jimmy Smith ever undertook.

Star Trek '12: 812 AD - Klingons

His name was Kahless, but he was known as Kahless the Unforgettable even then. Those were the days when Klingon savagery was unchecked, those the days of endless bloodshed, endless civil war, endless random and meaningless existence.

Kahless was a warrior, just like every other Klingon, every one of them bred for war, for combat, for the deadly arts. If there was a culture at all, it was truly a culture of death. Klingons knew of no other beings in the universe. They had never left Qo’noS, didn’t know what starships were, never looked up at the stars, had certainly never heard of humans before.

He knew the art of war better than any other Klingon. His days were filled with endless glory, his record spotless, never having lost, actually inspiring those around him. No Klingon had ever led another before him. There were certain rules, and there were castes, and vicious injustice on every conceivable level, but there were no leaders before Kahless. That was the first mark he made among his own kind. He made it okay to acknowledge the existence of someone else. He was humble, too, rarely spoke, much less boasted of his own achievements. He didn’t have to. They spoke for themselves. He was Unforgettable because it was impossible to ignore him.

And there grew great jealousy of Kahless, and it coalesced in the form of Molor, who was called the Tyrant, since he acted with greater cruelty and greater disregard than any other Klingon, and so lorded over all creation that he did not seem to know there was anyone or anything else beyond him. Until he learned of Kahless.

And that was when the two met on the field of battle. Neither could continue to exist while the other lived.

When Kahless defeated Molor, as anyone but Molor knew was a foregone conclusion, his legacy was cemented among all Klingons. His principals, insofar as he had any at all, became the principals of all Klingons, and the way of the warrior was born, the way of honor above all else, cherished above all else, and the need to be more than what they had always been. Thus the first ships, thus the empire, thus the stubborn pride that nearly caused the Klingons to betray themselves in conflict with the humans, when they poisoned the ideals of Kahless, corrupted them…for a time. But he was called Unforgettable for a reason.

And thus did Kahless the Unforgettable undertake the reformation of an entire species, for he took a lock of his own hair and forged a blade in molten fire, just as he shaped the Klingon people, tamed the savage, gave it purpose and direction. He did not a vision. Kahless the Unforgettable was his own vision.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Star Trek '12: 712 AD - Metrons

He doesn’t have a name. His people are known as the Metrons, have been around for countless millennia, have lost the need for such things. On the day he is born, he already knows everything.

He is not omniscient, nor is he omnipresent, nor omnipotent. The course of development for his people has simply afforded them with the ability to absorb knowledge outside of experience and time, a biological awareness that has exceeded that of most other life-forms, sentient and otherwise. Like other species who have attained this level of existence, it has become difficult to identify with those who do not yet know this kind of perfection, this effortless existence.

This is why the Metrons prefer to keep boundaries around themselves, to avoid the hassles imposed by more primitive minds. Yet he already knows, on the day of his birth, that one day this standard will be broken, by the human named James Kirk, who will challenge everything he already accepts as normal.

Kirk will challenge, for instance, his notion of barbarity. Kirk will also challenge his notion of time. At a loss for the one and only time in his life, he will tell Kirk that humans can visit again in a few thousand years. He exists in terms that to outsiders can only be considered general, but this is the first and only time when he will find himself resorting to the most general of terms.

These are things he thinks about on the day he is born, the first and therefore original riddle of his existence. He cannot ask other Metrons how to handle such things. He doesn’t care about Kirk, doesn’t care about the Gorn who battles Kirk, doesn’t care that none of this has happened yet, or that long after it has it will still seem the same to him as it does now, or that “now” is an abstract concept, even though he exists in the very same time structure as those beings who will forever puzzle him.

And so long before it occurs the event is already a distraction for him, simply because that is his nature, the same one he shares with the rest of his kind, but it will cause him to stand apart from them, and they will never understand, and neither will he, and all he can do is think about it.

The task for him is to decide whether or not this will drastically affect his existence.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Star Trek '12: 612 AD - Vidiians

For three hundred years…

No, once is not enough. For three hundred years they had lived under the Phage. How was it even possible? No one lacked a victim in their family line. Before the Phage, the planet had enjoyed a great many things: art, war, hope. It’s funny what you remember fondly once it’s gone. They knew only misery now, because the Phage came, and it never went away.

It ate away at everything. There used to be records of exactly how it had developed, but even those were neglected now. And what would be the point otherwise? The fact that there were any Vidiians left at all was something of a miracle, and it’s absurd when survival is the only thing an intelligent species can celebrate. Everything was lost. For a time, there was even madness, but even that was lost in time.

Somehow they survived. For three hundred years minds that had nothing else to cling to tried to figure out how exactly that was possible. Medical science had thrown up its arms a century ago. If so many could whither and die for two hundred years, what’s another hundred years? What meaning is there to anything? If life was condemned to misery, what was the meaning of life?

Yet somehow children could still be brought into the world, and maybe that was enough. If a baby could be brought into the world and begin healthy, if some trace of beauty could be found, then even the grotesque could be endured. It would never be seen as normal, would never be considered anything but degenerative, never be considered natural, but the Phage could be survived, because it did not mean the end. It was a process. That was the key. That was the kernel of truth that still seemed to exist.

And if three hundred years could be endured, who knew what else was possible. Who knew what the future would bring? Who knew what future Vidiians might imagine? They existed in an eternal dark age, but it was no longer incomprehensible. Even though medicine had proven to be futile, there were still those who thought answers might be found, some relief, no matter the cost. They’d lost so much already. What else was there? Dignity? There was no dignity associated with the Phage. There could be no doubt.

But there could still be hope.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Julian and the Air-Hot Babloon

Julian loved his home, but he also loved his Air-Hot Babloon.

One day he decided to do some traveling in his Air-Hot Babloon, hoping to see more of the world. Although he loved his home very much, Julian had begun to feel a little crowded, and wondered if a little trip would help him see things differently.

In his Air-Hot Babloon, things were always different, and he could feel relaxed.

He soared high into the air, and felt as warm as the sun, and he climbed higher and higher, until the world below him looked like a carpet, separated into little patchwork patterns.

Julian looked down on the patchwork world and thought about all the things he could see, and pretended that all of it belonged to him.

He labeled the sky as his.

He labeled the patchwork carpet as his.

He even labeled the birds as his!

And he floated in his Air-Hot Babloon and imagined that he ruled all the world!

He imagined what his house was like without him, tried to imagine things he could not control, where the air did not flow through his hair, and the carpet actually was a carpet!

But if he closed his eyes, would there be a difference?

Slowly, very slowly, Julian's Air-Hot Babloon descended back toward the earth. He was not sure how long he'd been in the air, if it had been minutes or days or weeks. He wondered what his home was like now, now that he'd thought about it.

He decided that he wanted to find out.

And so he stepped out of his Air-Hot Babloon, once it had touched back onto the ground, and went back to his house.

Julian discovered that even the things he did not control were okay!

Roadkill Cafe, Part 2

They knew me as Comrade Alexander Gerard. Actually, they pretty much called everyone, including each other, Comrade. That was probably one of the more interesting things I learned.

Anyway, I promised to tell you how I met Foxy. Well, I met Foxy much the same way I met Ribsy: on the side of the road. Foxy was probably more tragic, though, because he was more on the ride than on the side, and he was run over repeatedly, so that he was fairly well mashed up before long. And he lingered. I always figured someone came by to clean them up after a while, but I guess that's not true.

He lingered in other ways. It wasn't hard to see how clever he was, that Foxy, and he chattered more than Ribsy did, who was more the one to look on, the way he looked on at the road as cars drove by, slowly disintegrating. Together, even though they were separated as much in death as they had been in life, Ribsy and Foxy did a good job helping me form a more mature perspective. I never saw the road the same way again.

It was Foxy, more than Ribsy, who helped with that. It was darn ironic that he died where he did, because he hadn't frequented that particular area all that much before his death. Unlike Ribsy, he used to avoid humans, approaching crossings like the road with trepidation, hoping to skirt populated areas as much as possible.

But, in death, they met the same fate, the same way, the same place, and I met them in the same condition.

What else is there to say? Oh, I guess there's a reason why I remarked that they called each other Comrade, because I heard that a lot, from a lot more animals, mostly cats and dogs. Ribsy was there to point the way, but it was Foxy who chatted excitedly to me about the others. I ended up learning a lot.

I'll try and tell you some of it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Joined the Rebellion

My name is Julian Sunsinger. I joined the Rebellion, but I started out working for the Empire.

I think you have to remember that for twenty years, the Empire was pretty much the only thing the galaxy knew, even the uncivilized places like Tatooine, where I grew up. There were certainly critics, but then, everything has critics. The Jedi had critics, and look where they are now? Okay, where they're trying to be, thanks to Luke.

I want to talk about Luke, the crazy mystic who came out of nowhere (hey Tatooine!) to save us all, but in due time.

I was one of those guys who signed up for the Imperial Academy at the earliest opportunity, not because it was the most attractive prospect for someone who grew up on a planet with a space port as the brightest spot in the whole world, but because it was the only thing that seemed like it meant anything. I wanted to be an officer. I mean, did you see the ships the Empire used to cruise around?

The Empire meant strength, unity, and security. Only the Rebellion talked about how awful it was. The rest of us didn't really care. But I don't know, once I actually entered the program, I started to hear from those who knew it best just how flawed it really was. I had never really given much thought to Emperor Palpatine, for instance, because he'd been there my whole life. Very few pictures of him circulated around, very few public addresses, and anything that leaked did not reflect what I eventually found out, that he was a creepy old man obsessed with the old religion of the Jedi.

Can we stop and talk about the Jedi for a moment? There were tales about how they used to be the guardians of peace and justice, noble knights who fought with electric blades and trained since childhood to perfect supernatural abilities and somehow mastered themselves so that they could operate in any environment with perfect ease. By the time I was born, they were all but extinct, existing only in rumors and legend. I didn't really know what a Jedi was, only that the Empire suggested it was a tradition past its time, a superstition, a lie, something only fools believed.

But when I was told that the vaunted Emperor believed in it, the most important man in the universe, I had to do some digging on my own. I found out about the Clone Wars, the tragedy that helped produced our Stormtroopers, who were descended from Jango Fett, the last of the Mandalorian warriors. I had no idea about any of that. I knew the record. I actually began to suspect that the official record had been altered, that maybe Palpatine wasn't such a good guy after all. Imagine finding out that your leader is a scumbag in addition to a psycho fanatic.

So I ditched my Star Destroyer pals and joined the Rebellion.

It was slow going at first. I found the tiny X-Wing fighters to be claustrophobic. Sure, the Imperial fleet had ships like that, but they were exceptions rather than the rule. We were constantly on the run, we lost all the time. I lost good friends, even if many of them probably never fully trusted me. Then we all found out about the Death Star, and that was the one victory everyone wanted, because it felt like the only one that mattered, the one that would either lead to our victory, or finally end it. Yeah, even we thought that, even if some of us won't admit it even now...

And you know what? It was headed toward disaster. I wasn't in the front lines, but I was there, just like everyone else, following the progress, watching our best pilots get shot down left and right. It was a disaster, just as I'd feared.

Yeah, and then the miracle happened. We all thought it was a fluke. Nobody knew who Luke Skywalker was, even after the big ceremony. He just happened to be the lucky hero that day, the one who got the job done, even after the Emperor's henchman, Darth Vader, targeted him personally.

Oh, and by the way, Darth Vader? He had been another constant for those twenty years under the Empire. But did anyone really believe he existed? Only those unlucky enough to meet him. I mean, how realistic could the guy be, encased in armor with a very obvious respirator, who caused so much terror? And somehow the Rebellion never tried to take him out. You would think that he would have been first priority. But no one believed that he was real.

Except he was. Luke Skywalker believed in him, and couldn't stop talking about him. That's how most of us learned about Luke, by following his obsession with Darth Vader, which only increased in the years following his big moment in the Battle of Yavin. Some of us grew concerned, actually. Me, I wanted to ask him what Tatooine was like the last time he saw it. Did he know any Hutts?

As it turned out, Luke was a Jedi. Yeah, never saw that coming. He never came out and said it, but a lot of us suspected that he blew up the Death Star with a big boost from the Force, the energy Jedi are supposed to draw from in order to execute their powers. (Supposedly it's everywhere.)

Then one day, and for most of us, we never even saw it coming, his interest in Vader became something else. What's worse than an obsession? Whatever Luke discovered after losing his hand, an event he never talked about. In fact, after that, virtually no one saw him again. He probably went back to Tatooine, because that's the kind of thing someone from a desert planet does when he can't think of anything else to do. Because desert planets make you crazy enough to actually miss them. I know from experience, but then, I'm not a Jedi.

Then came the second Death Star, the death of Darth Vader, and the death of the Emperor. So yeah, Death Star.

That was the end of the Empire. The Rebellion transitioned into the New Republic, a successor to what the Empire had once been, before Palpatine. I was reunited with old friends, actually. A lot of the old Imperials found their way back into the Republic, something very few people talk about today. When I talk about the Jedi now, more people know what I'm talking about, but they react the same way I did when I heard about Jedi before Luke Skywalker. It's not easy to digest, any of it, really. The Empire existed for twenty years, and everyone thought it would last forever. Now Palpatine is seen as one of the worst evils to ever exist. To live history is sometimes to be amused by the fickleness of history. Because when you live it, you don't always understand what's going on, even if you think you do. I served the Empire, and then I served the Rebellion, and now I live in the time of the Republic. In some ways, the Republic never went away, and neither did the Jedi. But it's a lot to think about.

I guess that's why I like to talk about these things.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Warship, Part 1 "The End, Eventually"

His name was Jimmy Smith. He was the first human to ever be accepted into the Space Corps, the vast fleet of the Galactic Alliance, an ancient institution whose origins were shrouded in legend before Lord Phan ever visited Earth. Jimmy didn’t get a lot of respect. In fact, you could say his credentials in the Naval and Exploratory Research program didn’t impress his captain aboard the Sequent at all.

The Sequent, by the way, was Jimmy’s name for the ship. It’s actual designation was the Seq Nod, a Welborn term meaning “fair horizons.” Jimmy just spoke to his girlfriend, Olga Gemm, for the last time, without even knowing it, after receiving word of the assignment to the Danab border. Jimmy knew all about the Danab. He wasn’t sure if Olga could appreciate his situation , because she isn’t human, couldn’t possibly feel the sting of the mere mention of the Danab in the same way he did. He didn’t want to scare her, though. He was scared enough for both of them.

The Danab border is basically the last place any human wants to be, considering the long history of war between the two races, but Jimmy must have known it was always a possibility, must have had it gnawing at the back of his brain like bad Bith’mari stew, which he learned far too much about, just serving aboard the Sequent, even though he’d long grown accustomed to discovering strange new alien sensations as he fought to be that first lucky human in the Space Corps. He had to keep reminding himself that he actually volunteered for it, that he actually wanted to be there, that he’d asked for all of it. It only worked sometimes. Most of the time, he was simply wishing it could be so much easier. Shouldn’t there at least be a little more respect for his accomplishment?

Well, there would be other humans after him. Maybe they would bask in glory. Maybe they would make the whole experience a little more recognizably human. He just shook his head whenever he even tried to think about the toilets on the ceilings of the bathrooms aboard the Sequent

He’d somehow survived as a member of the crew for several years. Actually, it had been three years. He had no idea how that’d happened. He was enough like you that when he saw that the year was 2069, he chuckled a little to himself.

A lot had happened to humanity before this point, and a lot more would happen later. For now, let’s just respect poor Jimmy Smith, because he endured martyrdom for his dream. The ship was lost, just as he’d feared. But there were times where he could believe in that dream.

Star Trek '12: 512 AD - Bajorans

His name was Rue Kens, and he had only recently been accepted into the monastery, where he hoped to devote his life to the wisdom of the Prophets, which he did not as yet pretend to understand. His family had not understood, certainly. His father had told him never to return. It was a good thing that he did not intend to, even if he would miss his little sister, whose eyes always blanketed the world with mistrust, always looking toward the stars, as if expecting some unknown calamity to descend on her. He had always tried his best to comfort her, to trust in the Prophets. In time, he hoped he knew what that was supposed to mean.

He wasn’t sure he believed the stories, about the great eye in the heavens that only occasionally opened, but when it did, there would be some new perspective on the lives of the people who inhabited Bajor, who believed in themselves, who believed in the wonders of the universe, who wondered what it was all supposed to mean.

There was talk that some explorers had entered the eye, and come back with wisdom. Well, he struggled to comprehend it, anyway.

One of the first things he was taught was that life could be seen better through the lens of art, the basic building block of culture, whether it was in stories, music, or the mandala. The mandala was the thing he concentrated on, the only thing he felt big enough to occupy in that great realm of thought. His teacher was patient, but Kens could not help but feel inadequate after each effort, always critical of his own results, never satisfied.

The mandala was described as an extension of his psyche, his connection to the metaphysical, perhaps even to the Prophets, a simple yet incredibly intricate design, a pattern to follow and for him to fill in, however he felt moved. He felt humbled enough by the Prophets, and yet to be told that he must first understand himself was a complication he had not anticipated. He had been running from himself his whole life, first because that was what his family had taught him about himself, and later because he realized that was all he knew to do. Part of him wondered if he embraced the mysterious Prophets to fill a gap in himself.

Yet he persisted in his pursuit of the mandala.

Day after day, he looked at the canvas, at the inks and the brushes, experimentally dabbled, and then threw himself wholeheartedly into the exercise. He grew less hard on himself, let himself go, started to feel comfortable with the medium, and how it reflected his innermost thoughts, his experiences, his feelings, stopped trying to force patterns that did not exist naturally for him.

His work began to be noticed. He knew the futility of others trying to get their work noticed of their own will, and welcomed the sensation that his work was doing it of its own accord. He had once, perhaps longer than he cared to admit, been of that mind. But no, now the mandala was attracting its own audience, spontaneously, naturally, organically.

He lost himself in his art. He lost himself in the Prophets. He found his peace. He found his purpose. It was exactly where he had always suspected it to be.

And he fell into the embrace of the Prophets, for whom time had no meaning.