Imago – S01E03 “Pilot Part 3” – Act III

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Imago

Prior to Saadis Vinto’s efforts to renovate the ship, the assembly room was the only room aboard that was designed with aesthetics in mind. It was also the largest open space on the ship that still had full life support function.

Saadis Vinto had taken out the tiers of hard seats and replaced them with the same type of comfortable chairs and tables found on his father’s space station, effectively transforming the place into something like a club. He left the wall and ceiling-mounted view panels that showed the surrounding space an panorama as well as the raised dais at the front of the room and the specialized airlock behind it meant for exactly the purpose it was being used for at the moment.

The burial pod containing the corpse of the Carrig, Chchakkaz sat on the dais with Ckliika standing beside it and Gable behind. Hala sat at the table arranged front and center with Rebina and two Ghevets who still insisted they were her advisers. A scattering of other refugees were also in attendance, sitting further back. For some, they were only there because the Assembly Room was assigned to them as a temporary living space.

Gable glanced at Ckliika, who nodded subtly. She was dressed in a heavy green cloak with a veil drawn over her mandibles. In Carrig funerary tradition, family could not speak for the dead out of sorrow and the veil represented that.

Placing a hand on the pod, Gable looked out at his audience. He’d presided over numerous burials in his life as a fleet commander, but never before an assembly who didn’t know the deceased or for someone dead by his own hand. Still, the words flooded back to him and it felt almost as if he was slipping into automatic.

“It is the sad duty of a captain on any ship to speak over those who pass within his sphere of responsibility. Friend, enemy, or unknown, it is ours only to give due to the dead and usher them beyond our realm.” He patted his hand atop the pod. “This is Chchakkaz, brother of Ckliika. He died in battle with this ship. I did not know him, but we are graced with the presence of his sister, who is a friend to us.”

A clicking sound came from under Ckliika’s veil that Gable couldn’t interpret.

“She wishes it be known that Chchakkaz belonged to the Void, that both of them left Carrig not from greed or wanderlust, but out of curiosity. For this, they were cast out by their people and given over to a life of roaming the galaxies. He never let his sister down, nor fled from a fight. He was a Carrig of skill and strength that should be honored by all species, now cut tragically short before his true worth could be shared.”

On cue, PHOEBE opened the interior end of the airlock behind him.

“In the tradition of all of us who have given ourselves to the Void, we now give Chchakkaz over wholly to it. This pod will convey him from this place, guided between the planets and the stars to a place outside of the known galaxies, where his body will find the peace his spirit hopefully has.”

Gable pressed lightly on the panel under his palm, connecting to the pod with his machine telepathy instead of manipulating the controls. A soft hum filled the air as the pod rose a hand’s span above the floor. Then he and Ckliika guided the pod into the airlock. Once Chchakkaz was safely inside, PHOEBE closed the airlock and pipped soft music into the room as she maneuvered the Imago into properly position to launch the pod in such a way as to avoid or slingshot past most of the system’s gravity wells.

“If there’s a specific place you want to be dropped off, I’ll be happy to take you there.” said Gable. “That, or I know a few places beyond Imperial space. I already have PHOEBE calculating for them since we need a place to settle the refugees…”

Ckliika rattled her mandibles and rounded on him, poking a thick-clawed finger into his shoulder. “It is because of him that she is wanted by Saadis Mors. And Saadis Mors has a reach beyond the Empire. She is now his responsibility: food, shelter, water.”

Taking a side step to mitigate the pressure of her finger, Gable turned to face her. “Are you sure about that? You saw what just happened: I don’t just have Mors on me anymore: I’ve made myself a target of the Ex-Laws.”

“It does not matter.” Ckliika muttered with a clicking growl. “She is as good as dead: no steady work if Mors is upset with her. So he will provide her a room and she will fly in battle with these ‘Ex-Laws’ if need be.”

“I’m personally hoping not to get into few many fights.” said Gable.

Ckliika rasped, a noise that went on a bit too long for Gable’s comfort. “Out here, that is a lost hope, Captain.” she finally said, then, with one last reverent touch of her palm to the closed airlock, she stalked off.

Watching her go, Gable blew out a breath. Even if she’d just declared him her meal ticket, he didn’t feel safe with the Carrig on board. Too many skirmishes that ended in boarding parties that tore his crewmen limb from limb. At length, he looked up, incidentally making eye contact with Hala.

His old friend knew just how he was feeling, it seemed, holding up a bottle of murky red-brown liquor. With a grateful, yet tired expression, Gable left the dais and went to the table, accepting the bottle from Hala on the way.

“Longest day I’ve had in a long time.” he said, giving a weary nod to the Ghevets.

“We would hope it isn’t over yet.” said one of the councilors, a thin, square-shouldered man of advanced years. “Part of the fleet is still back at Linka Station, and it is obvious that our people cannot live aboard this ship for long.”

Rebina shot the man a chastising look. “Councilor Oulash, you speak out of turn. The Captain was gracious to accept us aboard, especially when it meant confronting the Ex-Laws. He deserves some rest and time to process all this.”

“Thanks, Ambassador, but your man here is right: we need to do something about your people and quick.” Gable took a swig from the bottle. It didn’t burn half as much as he needed it to after the day he’d had, so he took another drink to compensate. Don’t worry though: I’ve made a few friends… outside of the neighborhood you might say. Places the Empire never got to that still support life like ours. They can absorb this many refugees.”

Pursing her lips, Rebina regarded her own glass, which was filled with water. “Wouldn’t that be bringing the Ex-Laws down on them?”

“Not if it’s made clear that what they want isn’t there.” said Gable, shaking his head. Then he looked at her seriously. “Now granted, I wanted to help these people and I’d do it again in a second. But helping them isn’t the same as helping you, Ambassador. Trenling and he Ex-Laws are driving mighty hard for this thing you have and before I take you personally a light-second farther than Linka Station, I need to know what I’m buying into.”

The female councilor, one Gable had heard in passing called Crycell, recoiled as if from something utterly loathsome. “You dare demand royal secrets? You aren’t of the Blood, or a Ghevet. You aren’t even a Fenidra!” She started to rise out of her seat, and it looked as if she was about to lunge at him when Rebina caught her sleeve and hauled her back down.

“Councilor,” She said with the seriousness of an airlock sealing, “this is neither the time nor the place for that. In case you have forgotten everything that’s happened in the last month, we’re a remnant of the Ghevet. Unless a miracle happens, I’m the last of my line, and Fenidraal is mired in a world war. The term ‘Darkest Hour’ was coined precisely for this moment. We can’t afford to alienate allies.

She looked over at Gable. “The truth is that the Ghevet royals became the Royal line because they were entrusted by the ones who seeded the galaxies with our genetics with some of their technology. It wasn’t something were were meant to use, at least that isn’t how the stories go now, so many generations removed, but as something we could use to defend our worlds from their enemies—who as far as I know never came. The Ghevet Royal secret is a set of instructions structured as a lullaby sung to all royal children from birth. For all I know, mine is the only brain in which that information survives.”

Gable took a more measured sip from his bottle, studying Rebina for a moment. Just as he expected, Hala took up the questioning in his stead given a long enough pause.

The Lopec lifted his brows. “So what you are saying is that the thing the Ex-Laws want from you is literally you. There is no key or datacard on your person to steal, but the knowledge from your head.” He snuffled, “And no doubt they have psi-agents among their number who could extract it, no matter how damaging to you that may be.”

“No doubt.” Gable said after another drink. “They’ll chase you forever for that.”

“If it comes to that, I’ll space myself first. Right out the airlock.” Rebina replied instantly.

While Councilors Crycell and Oulash balked and Hala sat back in surprise, Gable merely laughed. “You really want to be a hero to your people, don’t you, Ambassador? That’s admirable, really it is.” He took another drink, “Admirable… but stupid.”

Again, Councilor Crycell almost leapt from her seat, only this time, she was beat to it by Rebina herself, who despite not being tall in stature managed to rise and loom dangerously over Gable, her eyes like twin thunderheads. “Captain, while I am grateful, I find nothing stupid about caring for the welfare of my people. Many of my relatives—may their spirits find rest, or may they be found well and whole—didn’t take that responsibility seriously and the end result is where we are now.”

Still half-laughing, Gable held up a hand. “I didn’t call caring about your people stupid, Ambassador, only your method of doing so. Think about it: what happens if I get the Ex-Laws on the ansible and tell them you’re dead; that their reason for chasing the Ghevet refugees is gone for good. What do you supposed they’d think?”

“That you were lying, of course.” said Rebina, then she blinked. “…and then they would assume I was hiding among the refugees.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Gods of the Fenaed, they would go through them person by person.”

Gable took another swig and nodded. “I’m all in favor of doing what’s right, but when it comes to suicide plays, I prefer them to be effective. Killing yourself? Not effective. Not in this case.” He put the bottle down on the table with a heavy clank. “What we want here, I imagine, is a game of chase—lead the Ex-Laws as far from the refugees as possible: aboard a ship they’re going to be chasing anyway.”

Folding her arms, Rebina considered his words. “You make sense, Captain. But I couldn’t impose on you more than I already have. There were small craft among the fleet that weren’t cannibalized. I can take one of those.”

“I wouldn’t let you impose.” said Gable thoughtfully. “You could be part of my crew.”

Hala palmed his face as the councilors started protesting. “Gable, the woman is of royal lineage, trained in the ways of diplomacy and relations both international and intergalactic. It’s one thing to rope me into whatever it is you plan to do with the Supreme Eye, or the Imago, or whatever. It is another thing entirely to make this kind of offer of her.”

“You’re afraid she’ll be wasted?” Gable asked. “At the very least, we’re going to be heading out past the Imperial remnants to find a place for the Ghevet. A diplomat wouldn’t be out of place if we run afoul local customs we’re not familiar with. Plus, you saw her up there during the fight with Trenling: she can keep up with my twisty mind. That’s a good trait in a crew member.”

Councilor Oulash folded his arms. “There is simply no way someone of the blood will ever make themselves subordinate. Especially not to a spaceling.”

“If it meant protecting our people, I would make myself the bride of a Carrig drone, Councilor.” Rebina cut him off. “That said, what station do you have in mind, Captain?”

“Assuming we pick up a crew or hire them from the spacefarers from the refugee fleet?” Gable asked. She nodded, “Well, we have the best navigator and pilot I’ve ever seen in PHOEBE,”

“Why thank you Captain!” PHOEBE said through a nearby speaker, “I’ll do my best never to let you down.”

Gable groaned, “If an unorthodox one. Hala here is obviously chief engineer material, especially since he’s bringing some of his mechanics with him. I know it won’t match your previous stature, Ambassador, but it looks like the office of First Officer is still open.”

Now it was Rebina’s turn to chuckle as she looked around at the various panels showing the expanse of space around them. “We’re in an interesting situation, aren’t we Captain? I think you said it best when we were preparing to face the Ex-Laws: this ship is a cocoon, overseeing metamorphoses. Not only your own, it seems. A Fleet Commander of the great villains of recent history become the savior of a people who have lost their homeworld; a great and ancient people are forced to rely on kindness… and now a Royal becomes a a crew member.”

She extended her hand, much to the shock of her councilors.

“I accept your offer, Captain. For the good of the Ghevet, I will offer whatever skill I possess to the Imago until the Ex-Laws cease to be a threat.”

Gable reached up and clasped her hand in a firm handshake. “I hope neither of us will regret this, Rebina. And since our command staff now numbers four, one of whom is my best friend, please call me Gable instead of Captain. I’ve got a feeling that life aboard the Imago isn’t going to exactly be chock full of military formality.”

When the handshake broke, Rebina sat down again, ignoring her councilors trying to convince her that she was doing the wrong thing. “Very well then, Gable. Where are we headed after picking up the rest of my people at Linka Station.”

“Same place I planned on heading after refitting: a planet called Ceatus.” said Gable. “I’ve got a debt I have to pay there to the man who set me straight about the Empire and everything that’s happening in the galaxies.”

End.

Series Navigation<< Imago – S01E03 “Pilot Part 3” – Act IIImago – Season 1, Episode 4 “Bounty”, Act 1 >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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2 Comments

  1. Remarkable that Gable is fine with ditching military formality on his ship. The limited experience I have suggests that military types see their traditions as the proper way of doing things, even outside the military.

    Typos and stuff

    space an panorama as well
    maybe
    space and panorama, as well
    or maybe
    space as a panorama, as well

    into properly position to launch the pod
    into the proper position to launch the pod

    What do you supposed
    What do you suppose

    office of First Officer
    To avoid sounding like repeating yourself, I’d use ‘position of First Officer’ here

    • Keep in mind that Gable is no longer proud of his service and the trapping there of even if he has a fondness for his old crew and ship.

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