A people that hear without listening, that talk without speaking, too stubborn and blind to be saved from their own dying planet. The ESS Sao Paulo has been sent to rescue the inhabitants of Eulysia, but what they find when they arrive is a darkness, one that seems to swallow their warnings in pools of silence.
SOUND OF SILENCE - CHAPTER ONEVessel: ESS Sao Paulo
Records of: Leslie Vosler
Rank (if app.): CAPT
[HEAVY SIGH] I've never liked doing these recordings, if anyone's wondering. If anyone's listening. Or reading. I'm not sure how the rest of the fleet feels, but sometimes it seems like I'm speaking to no one, except maybe the darkness out my window. [PAUSE - 4.3 SECONDS] Though, I guess that's actually somewhat comforting. The darkness. It’s like an old friend. One who’s always present. Always listening. I can’t say the same for most people that I’ve known throughout my life.
Anyways, there’s not much to report today. The early hours were occupied by our attack on the Tauroq ammunition depot on Eta Saggitae 12. Dreadful little planet. I’m glad we only had to fire at it from orbit rather than worry about landing a party on the surface. Though, I’m sure the marines wouldn’t have minded stretching their legs, even in biosuits. They’ve been causing all sorts of trouble, like puppies kept in a kennel for too long.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading to the dry-docks at Cyprosia for some well-earned time off, and some much-needed repairs. Lieutenant Wu has been nagging me about stress fractures on the fusion core for months now, and I’m worried if I don’t do something about it soon, he’ll blow up before the reactor does. Plus, there’s still D deck, which of course has been in a state of decompression since the Battle of Marghoth. We’ll need to resupply and—
[VOICE OF ENSIGN KHEAILA - “CAPTAIN, THIS IS ENSIGN KHEAILA”]
[ENSIGN KHEAILA - "MA'AM, PRIORITY COMMUNICATION FROM ADMIRAL PO'TAR"]
Understood. Put her in my office.
[PAUSE - 3.9 SECONDS]
Well, I guess that's the end of this.
[END OF ENTRY]
“Admiral, what can I do for you?”
The screen is filled with nothing but swirling tentacles of steam, so I'm mostly guessing that the admiral is, in fact, on the other end of the call, and that I'm not just talking to an empty room.
The Admiral is a Po'oran. Her species actually looks remarkably similar to our own, but the continents on her home world all rest around low-latitude tropical zones, giving them an average temperature and humidity much higher than Earth's. It makes for a popular travel destination across the Alliance, but it also means that any room a Po'oran occupies off-world must be artificially heated and humidified.
"Captain," she says, her voice exotic and smooth. "We have a bit of a situation."
Normally I wouldn't be so colloquial with a superior officer, but Po'orans value direct and familiar speech as a sign of respect. To speak "formally", as humans see it, would show the listener that you are unfamiliar with them, and therefore they are undeserving of your respect.
"The Alliance Sector Five Regional Observatory just published a report about Eulysia," she says, and a small dynamic diagram of the star system appears in the corner of the screen. "I'm not very savvy on the science aspect of it all—you'll have to call them directly after talking with me—but from what it sounds like, the entire planet is on the verge of breaking up."
"Breaking up?" I say, incredulous. "Like, into pieces?"
"Like a cookie."
I stare at the glowing blue dot on the screen that's meant to represent Eulysia, trying to decide how I feel about what the Admiral has just told me. Of course, I'd never wish ill on anyone, but the Eulysians have a bit of a…reputation. Their species has never harbored any desire to join the Alliance, and we've never pushed it too hard anyways. We've tried to entice them a few times over the recent years, but it’s hard enough to get their attention, let alone convince them to agree to a political and military pact.
I've been told that talking with a Eulysian is the most boring experience you can endure. Whenever you do manage to grab their focus, it's usually split between three or four other things, so you get about one word out of them every five seconds or so. Usually, the task of negotiating trade regulations with them and other mandatory relations is relegated to new hires and individuals on probation.
Plus, they have a reputation for being fiercely xenophobic. Even if they were willing to consider joining the Alliance, it’s doubtful many Alliance member species would entertain the notion of working together with them.
“Alright then,” I say, hoping the hesitation in my voice isn’t obvious. “What can we do to help?”
I already know what she wants from us, even before she begins speaking again. It's the only reason she'd be calling the captain of a battered gunship in the middle of our night shift.
“I’ll send you the details on the way, but you need to change course as soon as possible,” she responds, and I can tell by her tone that she’s distracted by something else. Clearly, this conversation is not her primary focus. If I plan to change her mind, I'll have to do it quickly.
“Mm'kay, and what are we supposed to do?" I argue. "The Sao Paulo is a warship. We're not equipped to, what…fix a planet?”
The mist parts for a moment, and I think I see her raise an understanding hand. “We just need you to share these findings. Maybe smack some sense into them, convince them to accept a temporary alliance so that we can help evacuate them from their planet.”
My heart sinks. I had two days of leave planned for next week on Cyprosia. My XO, Commander Tao, was going to cover for me. It was supposed to be a beautiful eight days, an easy eight days. Probably the only easy days I’d have for the next year or more.
“Nah, come on, Po’tar,” I say, gagging on my own colloquiality. “We’re scheduled for dry dock tomorrow. Half the crew is planning on heading to the surface to burn some leave, and the other half is probably planning to sneak off anyways. Isn’t there a science vessel, or maybe a diplomatic one that could do a better job than us?”
“Well yeah, of course,” she laughs. “Your lot are brutish. Not my first choice. But no one is closer or faster than your ship, and time is ticking. It will take years to evacuate their world, and the planet's supposed to have no more than a decade before it's a hot mess, at best.
But thankfully, there are about a hundred planets in the Alliance that have offered sanctuary and logistical assistance, and we want to make sure that we offer our services before the Tauroqs do. This is border space, remember? Every little planet helps, no matter how painfully dull their inhabitants are.”