The Genesis Convoy, the last hope of Mankind, sped through the inky void in a mad dash to reach safety on one of the Mythran worlds. Darona. Place of legend. Also, coincidentally, a place of safety. Possibly the last place for Humans.
It was a routine, somewhat boring night. Most of the convoy was asleep. Except for those working the graveyard shifts. Those in the engine rooms, on the bridge, power supplies, networking and communications.
Communications: Here we shift our focus. Into the life of one man, and his extraordinary destiny.
Welcome to 50047.
Welcome to Genesis.
Date: 4 July, 50047. Time: 00:13 am
Location: Secondary Communications Desk
Genesis Convoy Flagship Genesis.
Marshal Zimmerman was working the graveyard shift tonight. An aged twenty-year-old with a dark, Mediterranean complexion worked at the communications chair. He worked at the head of the main craft of the Genesis Convoy. Fifty miles in diameter! And only a miniscule capsule in the center hub of the ship served as the secondary communications desk. The main communications center was only a meter bigger.
Those on the graveyard shift considered their task a thankless one. They never received any important messages from Darona, their soon-to-be new home. And when they did answer important messages, there would always be the hassle of waking the brass, then the reprimand for disturbing them, and then the apologies when they heard the communiqué. And then the message would disappear into obscurity.
Marty was not the well-rounded man his parents had raised him to be. He centered his attention on the world of sports and guns. His father considered him to be a shameful example of what a Zimmerman should be. Even Marty was disappointed with the job he had.
He would have much rather worked on the bridge, but his father had refused to pay for the university training. He wanted to be the pilot of the main ship, not an insignificant nobody burning the midnight oil in a backwater communications center.
Anyone could work at the communications desk. And that went double for the secondary bridge. All they had to do was sit there and look pretty. The main bridge would take the all messages. If, by some chance, they didn't get to it first, it was during the daylight hours when Marty would sleep.
His animosity toward his post was the culmination of five years of work in this monotonous cesspool of a station. In his heart, he wished someone would send a message from the mysterious planet, if only to relieve the boredom. It was pure fantasy, he knew, to think that anything of any importance would come his way tonight. That was why he hated the night shift.
He sighed and kicked back, resting his feet on the communications desk. His team members were already asleep, and he decided to follow suit. He told himself that nothing would happen tonight. Nothing ever happened.
4 July 50047 Time: 00:32 am
Location: Darona communications base 0235-87
Again, the routine was enough to drive the sanest of Daronites nuts. Anas was in a similar condition to Marty. Bored, tired, hopelessly stuck—that was the general idea. He, a fire dragon by birth, was not really accustomed to life as a desk jockey, and was not in the mood for joking about it. He would much rather be back at home, pursing his hobby that was slowly taking more and more of his time.
Darona was a society built on domination, muscle and a history of violence. Only three thousand years before the Genesis Convoy did they realize that there was a Supreme Being who had a purpose for them. The Creator, whom much of their culture now centered around, was solely responsible for this revolution. He had appeared, telling them His will. And they had listened.
Slowly, they had turned their culture away from violence. Of course, they kept their innate abilities, like strength and speed. But now it was all for sport. No one would be seriously injured, if injured at all, and gladiatorial combat was a favorite pastime for almost all Daronites.
Red scales usually signified a warrior family. Anas had red scales. He had surprising strength, and an extremely potent flame-thrower. And, above all, he knew how to fight. But his smallish form was not made for such combat. However, he bore his form like a badge of honor, much like the seal on his vest.
Generally, Daronites didn't wear any sort of attire, but Anas was one of the exceptions to the rule. On his vest, a simple brown piece of leather, was embroidered the Emperor's seal. He took pride in being a servant to the Emperor, even though it was a grinding, lonely, pathetic service.
Not much had happened in his lifetime, only one hundred and twenty years. This was young, in comparison to the thousand-year-old elders. He had spent his youth wandering the streets of the capital, Admarka, taking his time to view the scenery. This had spawned an interest in him, an interest that was rarely ever seen.
Most didn't recognize Anas for his talent. The fine arts were not well established on Darona, if at all, and his spare time was mostly spent defending his hobby. Painting, sculpting, drawing and a whole medley of other visual mediums had caught his attention, and he was good at it.
Anas was the only person in his family unit who didn't show proficiency as a warrior, even with the heritage, and the ability. Which was why he indulged himself in painting. He'd seen hundreds of paintings and sculptures, and had heard hundreds of works of music from the Humans. He spent most of his free time reproducing these works, and daydreamed, almost constantly, of seeing them in person.
He had spent hours looking over public records, finding instructions and techniques, scanning paintings and sculptures, and immersing himself in music. All this effort culminated one evening, after the evening meal, when Anas usually retired to rise early the next day.
Instead, he had spent the night venting the ever-mounting frustration that his job entailed. The next day, he had his own, very first, original work sitting on a workbench in front of him. Since then, he had produced dozens of statuettes and paintings of amazing detail. He put incredible amounts of effort and care into his works, which centered on an ever-growing desire to meet a Human.
It had given rise to many, many thoughts on what they were actually like. All he knew of them were the pictures they sent, designs of the convoy, and lists of professions. But to meet one in person! It was quickly becoming an obsession. So much, in fact, that he was losing his focus in his job...
He snapped out of his thoughts when his superior entered the room. He was carrying a piece of paper, and every step registered urgency and pride. The dragon looked at him with an excited, yet strangely calm look. He spoke in his native tongue. "Anas, I bring word from the Emperor himself."
To what do I owe the honor? Probably a prank. "What is the problem, sir?" Then he remembered the last time, and a smile crept across his face. They were, after all, a sentient, spiritual race with a sense of humor. "Does he wish for me to clean his stalls again?"
Last time, the message was that the Emperor wanted him to personally clean the Palace by himself. He had almost fallen for it, when the messenger cracked up with laughter and informed him that the Emperor was actually on a diplomatic mission to Incendia.
The superior grinned and shook his head. "Not this time, Anas. It's another message."
"What is the message, and who is it for?"
For an answer, the superior handed over the piece of paper. It took Anas a moment to realize that it was written in Human-Speak. That would mean it was destined for the Genesis Convoy. He mentally switched into the Human tongue, and read it. His eyes went wide. Anas looked up at his superior, a mixture of emotions playing across his face.
"You must be joking."
There was nothing in the superior's eyes that indicated a prank. "The Emperor himself wrote that—his seal is stamped at the bottom."
Anas's eyes traveled to the bottom of the page. Yes, the Emperor's seal was present, and matched the seal on his vest. He looked up again. This was new, a message to be sent to the Convoy, right through his base.
"Do you accept?" The superior asked.
Anas flashed a toothy smile, his muzzle bobbing up and down in excitement. Nothing could compare with the honor he was being given. As he thought it over, he guessed it was his interest in the Humans, and their customs.
Life was being good to him. More over, the Creator was being good to him. With his faith in mind and his ponderings moving in and out the current subject, he began his work.
"To the Genesis Convoy, Creator be with you," it started. "From the Emperor of Darona, Jamous Ackmous…"
4 July, 50047. Time: 01:48 am
Location: Secondary Communications Desk,
Genesis Convoy Flagship Genesis.
The ship, only nine months away from landing, was an hour away by radio transmissions. Such primitive, short-range technology was used, because the instant communication granted by holo-transmissions required too much power. Therefore, three people always occupied the communications room: the communications technician, the runner, and the scribe.
Marty worked two of the three jobs tonight, due to a virus that had somehow infected the normal scribe. As of now, the tank-built Marshal was getting his heart's desire, and didn't even know it. A message direct from Darona, from the Emperor himself, was coming in. As the radio transmission streamed in, a notification began scrolling up on the screen in front of Marshal.
He had dozed off; thinking nothing of any importance would enter on this shift. Marty was waked by an insistent beeping. He slammed his hand down hard on the control board, thinking it was the alarm clock. The beeping continued.
Finally, he looked up, coming out of his stupor. It took him a minute to realize what was going on. "Message received," the screen said. Marty clicked the open button.
A frozen Daronite face appeared, with a title at the bottom:
"Sent from Darona, Communications Base 0235-87. Communications Officer Anas."
A new box popped up on the screen, demanding a password. Marshal was left wondering, what prank is this? But he typed in the password he had been given. The box disappeared, and the message began playing.
"To the Genesis Convoy, Creator be with you," The Daronite on the screen said. He had an unusually soft voice for a red, fighter Daronite. "From the Emperor of Darona, Jamous Ackmous."
The Daronite paused, and Marshal grabbed a piece of paper. He started transcribing the message.
"In twelve Human hours, we will be launching spacecraft to intercept you." Marshal froze. It was common knowledge that the Daronite ships could reach them within a week. "It will be a diplomatic mission. There will be dignitaries from each of our worlds on board, and the Emperor himself will be represented in the form of his son."
Oh my... They were sending Daronites. Real, living Daronites! "Kai!" he shouted.
"Hmmm… Whhh…" The form on the sleeper couch mumbled.
Marshal quickly returned his attention to the screen. The Daronite was saying that he had attached a file; listing everything they would need to know with regards to coordinates, names, ranks...
"What?" The sleepy voice demanded. Kai sat up, rubbing his face and glaring at Marshal. Then he yawned.
"What is it, Marty?" He asked sleepily. "Lola?"
Lola, Marshal thought. The object of Kai's affection… But she was also Marshal's sister. Kai and Lola had had many long conversations during his shifts. He shook his head. "Get the Director down here. We've received a message from them."
Kai bobbed sleepily, and yawned again. "The Babylon?" He asked.
"No, Kai. NOT Lola's ship. From Darona."
Kai's eyes went wide, and he grabbed the piece of paper that Marshal was waving at him. He scanned over the message and looked at Marshal in disbelief. "This is authentic?" The communications officer nodded. His runner frowned. "Then why didn't the bridge take it?"
Marshal shrugged. "Beats me. Maybe they sent it here by accident." It wouldn't surprise me. "Maybe the guy on duty fell asleep?"
Kai shook his head, and jumped for the door. "I'll get Chandra. Start composing a reply." The runner left before the other could acknowledge.
He turned to his console with a feeling of trepidation. He was now the focal point of a communiqué that would most likely change the future of this mission. He cleared his throat, and pressed a button on the console. A red light blinked on, and he locked his eyes on the camera that was now recording his every movement and sound.
"To Darona: communication base 0235-87: Communications Officer Anas. May the God of wonders be with you. From Genesis Communications Officer Marshal Zimmerman."
He paused, and composed his next sentence. It struck him as odd that the Daronite had also paused at this exact point. How should he reply? The brass would surely want to meet them, and he certainly wanted to meet the soft-voiced warrior Daronite who had sent the message. He decided to speak informally.
"To be perfectly frank, it's about time you guys came for a visit. The Convoy has been anxious to speak to your people for quite some time. And, in the spirit of things, we welcome you gladly."
He paused again. What now? Thank the Emperor for his time, and his hospitality. Logical next step. "Director Miles and Captain Dawn Orlova thank you deeply for the honor of hosting the Emperor's son and the visit in general. They also wish to thank you for the hospitality that you've shown us, still nine months from our landing."
He paused yet again. What he wanted to say was too personal, maybe even sentimental. But he sensed something about this Daronite. Something different. And if their communications system was anything like the one onboard the Genesis, the receiving Daronite would have discretion over whether to include it or not. Two seconds after the last sentence, he spoke his next.
"I, Marshal Zimmerman, would like to thank the Emperor personally for having sent this message, at the time he did. It has been a wonderful change in the torturous routine I go through each night."
There, he had thanked them. Now what was he to do? I got it! The pause was only half a second. "In the same spirit of hospitality, I would personally like to offer my humble home for you as guests to stay in. I would consider it a great privilege."
He briefly wondered if he had gone off the deep end. He was meddling in affairs he was not entitled to. But he decided to wrap it up. Besides, it could still be edited out.
"We deeply thank you again. May the Almighty bless you. Genesis Convoy out."
He pressed another button, and the recording light winked off. He quickly rewound the video, and edited out the pause in the beginning. Then he considered the rest of the message. He was tempted to edit out the bit about him offering his home, but decided to leave it. He was talking to a living, sentient, discerning creature, and not a mindless message forwarder. He trusted the Daronite to remove anything presumptuous.
He entered a few coordinates, and sent the message. Then he instructed the computer to print out the list that the Daronite had forwarded.
He sat back as the printer chattered to life. I'm trusting someone I've never met? What a leap of faith... He sat up again, as Kai entered the room, followed by Director Chandra.
Although she preferred her shorter name, Chandra, her full name was Sarah Miles Chandrasegarampillai. Her full name contained a mind-boggling mix of cultures. But the only thing Indian about her was her name. She was WASP by birth. Sarah was a ghostly pale, tall and slender woman. With a special touch for her subordinates—unlike most other Directors. When she spoke, her soft voice contained a blend of authority, grace and meekness.
"Kai said it was important?"
Marshal nodded. "Yes, ma'am. A message from Emperor Ackmous."
He handed over the transcript, and drew the printout closer just in case she wanted to see it. She scanned the message, and looked at Marshal. "Did you respond, Mary? I hope you told them that we would be honored to have them on board."
He grinned and nodded. "Yes, Director Chandra."
She smiled. "Good. I'm relieving you of your post for the night. If there are any other messages, I would like to reply personally."
Marty stood without question. He had a lot to think about and was grateful for the extra time off. He bowed, said thank you, and left the room.
On his way home, he was nervous. He had sent an official message, and added a personal query to it. He was so lost in his thoughts that he nearly walked past the subway station.
His mind contemplated the events of the night as he sat on the subway train, speeding towards his housing unit. He was the only one aboard the train this evening, giving him ample space to chew on the subject. What if they take the offer of a place to stay? He had a wife and child. How would they react to a Daronite in their home for nine months?
Marshal Jr., his son, would probably be ecstatic. Like himself, his son was entirely enamored with the idea of Daronites. Marty J was young yet bouncy and anxious to see them. Marty had told him stories handed down for generations in his family about pilots and builders who had helped expand the Convoy. It had only contributed to his son's dislike of the ordinary. Marshal Sr. smiled when he thought about toddler. So young, and yet so like his father.
Jenn, as he called his wife, was a terrific mother, given that she had to take care of two spacers. Her bright, blue eyes were a welcome sight to come home to on late nights. She would stay and wait for him, and then they would talk until all hours of the night. On a good night, they wouldn't sleep until seven in the morning. But her ample mind and body had never been as interested in Darona as much as Marshal.
She was a homebody. Jenn would take care of Marty J and keep the home spotless. A hot meal would always be waiting for the father of the household, even if it were late. And she would always bring up the most interesting subjects.
Jenn would not be as open to the idea as her husband would. Marshal knew that for sure. But the opportunity had presented itself and he took it. That was the end of it. Of course they would discuss it and voice their opinions and debate it. But in the end, he was sure; she would see it his way.
But he was still slightly nervous. As the train pulled up to his station, a loud chime scattered his thoughts. He had sent a very personal message to a Daronite that he had never met. A horrible thought struck: The Daronite didn't know that he had left the communications desk. What if he decided to reply just as informally, and Chandra picked up on the lax?
He tried to calm himself. What was done was done. And, for the first time, he felt strangely happy about his job.
A/N: Ok, this starts out very different from the original. Anas, I think, will be the main subject of the next chapter. I'd like to chronicle his flight to the Genesis Convoy. I'll try to explain the concept of the Convoy in the next chapter, too.