Chapter One | Stuck Station

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1.00 - Welcome to Stuck Station, 2713 A.D.

Jan 03 2011 Published by under Chapter One

For my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My friend, my king, and my God, may this make you smile.


“C’mon, guys,” the Destroyer said in his deep, craggy voice. “Let me out.”

“No,” Jeska said. “And, again, I’m female. Not a guy.”

“Fine,” the Destroyer said. “Go fish.”

This is the story of the battle for everything.

“I said, ‘Go fish,’" the Destroyer said.

The story of the Nightmare and the Destroyer.

“We’re playing poker. Po-ker,” Jeska said, shifting her cards in irritation.

The story of a mechanic, a warrior, and a pilot.

“This game is boring,” the Destroyer said.

The story of an heiress, a comedian, an artist, and a general.

“Boring,” the Destroyer said.

The story of a gangster, an entrepreneur, a politician, and a psychopath.

“Boooooriiiiing,” the Destroyer said.

“We heard you the first time!” Jeska said.

“I know,” the Destroyer said, not hiding his glee.

This is the story of Containment Facility One … better known as Stuck Station.

Stuck On: Translation

For the reader’s convenience, the author has translated the Stuck Station story into 21st century English.

For the reader’s inconvenience, the author has translated all other text on this Web site into 24th Century Alpha Centaurian and then into 21st century English.

First time visiting Stuck Station? Please click here to read a Welcome Message.

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1.01 – The Crew

Jan 04 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Chapter One

Year: 2713 A.D.
Time: Six-ish

The entire population of Universe 27048B was playing poker.

This is not as strange as it sounds, considering Universe 27048B had only five inhabitants—assuming you don’t count the innumerable swarms of artificially intelligent machines that maintained Stuck Station, and, really, who has time to do that?

Of the five inhabitants of Universe 27048B, four came from your universe (Universe 7C), and the fifth, the Destroyer, didn’t originate from any place you’ve ever heard of.

Of the five inhabitants, only one was human.

Jeska-Bel DotCom, the human, sat at a circular table in one of the 300,000 rec rooms on Stuck Station. She didn’t know the room’s name and didn’t care.

They were all the same anyway.

On the ceiling to Jeska's left, Prnei Star Nebula Galaxy — it doesn't translate well into English — reclined peacefully, absentmindedly flicking one of his ten tentacles in the air with a loud snap! every few minutes.

Directly beneath Prnei, the rock-skinned Anderson A. Anderson stood stone still, examining the cards he held in his energy prosthetics.

Across the table from Anderson, Riox the General lay face down, asleep in his cards, the lower half of his can-shaped body hovering a foot above the table.

The final player, the Destroyer, played poker by proxy.

He wasn’t in the rec room. He wouldn’t have fit.

And given that the rec room could have held all of Neo York and e-Boston, that’s saying something.

Stuck On: Words in boldface

As this story takes place in the 28th century, some terms will be unfamiliar to the 21st century reader. Thus, the author will place important words and phrases in boldface type on first reference.

The author will also continue to talk about himself in third person, and, if time travel permits, fourth person.

Maybe even person5.

First time visiting Stuck Station? Please click here to read a Welcome Message.

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1.02 – Tables, clouds, and murder

Jan 05 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“Do not interact with the Destroyer. Do not even speak with it.
It is indeed that dangerous.”

- Rising Peace, first captain of Stuck Station

Jeska’s table was one of hundreds of thousand, part of a sea of furniture stretching off into the rec room horizon.

Brightly colored banners, ancient before the dinosaurs, hung above every table. Each banner displayed one of three messages in several alien languages.

When translated, some read, “Thanks for Volunteering!”; others read, “We Appreciate You!”; and still others read, “Keep Up the Good Work!”

Every table but Jeska’s was empty.

“So…” the Destroyer said.

“Shut up,” Jeska said, looking across the table at the hovering swarm of microscopic machines that served as the Destroyer’s poker-playing proxy.

In the 28th century, such swarms, called clouds, were common in many advanced civilizations, especially in the manufacturing, medical, and practical joke industries.

This particular cloud would normally be performing Stuck Station maintenance with countless other swarms, but today it helped the Destroyer bluff, raise, and fold.

“I’m sorry you’re feeling irritable, Jeska,” the Destroyer said. “Deeply sorry. … Let me out.”

The crew didn’t respond.

“Let me out, please?” the Destroyer said.

The crew kept playing, unaware the Destroyer planned to murder one of them.

“Fellas?” the Destroyer asked.

To be more accurate, the crew was aware the Destroyer intended to murder all living things, as the Destroyer often made statements to that effect.

And the crew was aware that the Destroyer had tried to assassinate other Stuck Station residents.

However, the crew wasn’t aware the Destroyer planned to kill one of them in forty minutes exactly.

"Hello?" the Destroyer said.

Even if the crew had known of the Destroyer's murder plot, they still might have played cards with him.

There was nothing else to do.

Stuck Station had been broken for a very long time.

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1.03 – Not living the dream

Jan 06 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“Does silence mean, ‘Yes, we’ll let you out,’ in any of your languages?” the Destroyer asked.

“No,” Jeska said, gritting her teeth. “No. No. No. NO. NO. NO!”

“Ah,’ the Destroyer said. “How about now, dude?”

"Dude?!" Jeska said. "I'm not a—" She  stopped herself, let out a sigh, and fought to keep her composure.

The Destroyer still pretended he couldn’t remember that Jeska was a woman.

Although Jeska repeatedly corrected him, the Destroyer had called her every possible word for male—everything from ancient terms like “dude,” “fella,” and “mister” to the more modern “de”, “masc,” and “@”—since she arrived on Stuck Station five years earlier.

And for the past four years, three weeks, six days, and twenty-three hours, Jeska had dreamed of smacking him in the face.

Not that he has any kind of face to smack, Jeska thought. I’d still like to try.

Thinking about it a moment longer, Jeska vetoed the “smacking the Destroyer’s face” daydream and thanked the Singularity gods that the Destroyer was trapped outside the station.

Then she told the Singularity gods to drop dead because she didn’t believe in them.

Then, after a glance at what she thought were opaque diamondglass windows dotting the rec room walls, Jeska shivered, apologized to the gods, and thanked them that she couldn’t see the Destroyer.

Jeska was misinformed: Stuck Station windows were not diamondglass, or opaque, or even windows. They were viewscreens. Each viewscreen showed real time images of Stuck Station's surroundings.

For safety reasons, the viewscreens were off.  Always.

“We’re not letting you out,” Jeska said. “We’re going to sit here and play poker.”

“You guys suck,” the Destroyer said.

Despite his petulant tone, the Destroyer liked poker. If he played his cards right, literally, at the end of the game one of the crew would be dead.

“I am not a guy!” Jeska screamed.

The Destroyer laughed.

Stuck on: Diamondglass

From A Human’s Dictionary of The 28th Century (Now Updated Every Femtosecond)

Diamondglass: N.  A colloquial human term for any transparent, near-indestructible material. A diamondglass substance is not necessarily made of diamond or glass.

In the 28th century, the most popular brands of diamondglass were Aldarium, the Sigma Hive Substance, and DotCom Eternalast Diamondglass.

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1.04 – Introducing Q44

Jan 07 2011 Published by under Chapter One

As card players go, the cloud was good. As poker cheats go, it was great. As unwitting assassins go, it was perfect.

At least, the Destroyer hoped the last one was true.

The cloud called itself Q44–50978A-44408-C544 or Q44 for short. Like many clouds, Q44 was a gray patch of fog slowly spinning and churning back in on itself.

It was blurry too; the nanobots that made up its mass were too small to see without complex instruments.

Holding five cards near its center, Q44 looked like an out-of-focus cumulonimbus had decided to steal a hand from Texas Hold’em.

The Destroyer didn’t care what Q44 looked like. Appearance didn’t matter when it came to murder.

He silently ordered the cloud to begin Cheat 207, one of the many illegal poker moves he had taught the cloud over the millennia.

In keeping with station protocol, Q44 could not and would not assist the Destroyer in any way, other than by helping him play cards.

However, after enduring eons of the Destroyer’s arguments, Q44 recently—within the last 100  million years—agreed to help the Destroyer cheat at cards, too.

The idea of using deception had bothered the honest Q44, so it had run the Destroyer’s arguments by the The Containment Facility One Administrative Mind, the artificial intelligence that ran Stuck Station.

The Administrative Mind had given the ok, if only to stop the Destroyer’s whining.

As Q44 began Cheat 207, invisible tendrils of its body spread across the table, gliding by the coasters the crew used as betting chips.

Streams of trillions upon trillions of nanobots surrounded the deck of cards and began searching for their prize.

They floated easily through the fraction of an inch between each card and through the spaces between the molecules in the cards themselves.

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1.05 – Ace of pain

Jan 10 2011 Published by under Chapter One

The sheer number of nanobots helped Q44 quickly locate its goal—the Ace of Spades.

After finding the card, the machines disassembled it at the atomic level and carried the individual atoms back to Q44’s main body.

Then, they reassembled it behind Q44’s other cards, just out of sight of the crew.

Lastly—because the Destroyer had argued that secrecy was essential for the cheat—Q44 projected a scrambler field around the pilfered card, keeping it shielded from the prying sensors of other clouds and the station Administrative Mind.

The entire theft took thirty-five seconds.

None of the other players noticed.

Q44 didn’t like poker, cheating, or the Destroyer. And Q44 especially didn’t like helping the Destroyer cheat at poker.

The cloud would rather be defending its own collections or writing its memoirs, or anything, anything,
other than floating there, holding the Destroyer’s cards.

However, the station Administrative Mind had ordered Q44 to follow the Destroyer’s poker instructions, and Q44 had to obey. The Administrative Mind didn’t care that Q44 didn’t like it.

Q44 would have liked it even less if Q44 understood the real purpose of the cheat.

“Have I mentioned that this game is boring?” the Destroyer said.

“Yes,” Jeska said.

“Can I persuade any of you to play a game of Pac-Man with me?” the Destroyer asked. “Highest score is the winner? Let me out?”

It should come as no surprise that Pac-Man still exists more than seven hundred years after its creation. Humanity does not give up its diversions easily.

“I’ll play Pac-Man with you,” Prnei said from his repose on the ceiling.

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1.06 – The name Prnei

Jan 11 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Prnei Star Nebula Galaxy looked like a six-foot-tall black-and-white octopus with ten long tentacles.

On his homeworld, the word Prnei was an honorific, like the old earth title “Mr.”  or the belch sound used on Argoq 5.

Through of series of bizarre coincidences, Prnei is also the name of Prnei’s species. It wasn’t always.

The Prnei speak mostly through gestures and changes in skin color, and, ages ago, the Sugsa—the first intelligent species to land on the Prnei world —had difficulty communicating with them.

When not using translation clouds, the friendly Sugsa could only pronounce two Prnei words: one was "Prnei" and the other was an expletive.

As a gesture of good will, the Prnei decided to change their name to make it easier for their new allies to pronounce—they changed it to Prnei, not the expletive.

The name-change helped ease some of the tension between the two species, especially after the first, second, and third Sugsa diplomatic missions ended with horrifying suddenness.

The Prnei would have changed their name anyway if the Sugsa had asked. The Prnei were an agreeable people.

As for the Prnei sitting above the poker game on the rec room ceiling, the Stuck Station crew had decided that calling him "Prnei Star Nebula Galaxy" was too depressing.

The crew could not see real stars, nebulas, or galaxies and would never see them again. So they just called him Prnei.

As he was the sole member of his species on board, Prnei was fine with that.

He would have been fine with that, even if he had not been the sole Prnei on board. He would have been fine with that, if, instead, they had named him after an expletive.

Prnei was even more agreeable than his species, sometimes irritatingly so.

“You always let me win,” the Destroyer said to Prnei. “I want a real challenge.”

“It is an honor to bring a friend to victory—” Prnei said, quoting a family proverb. Following his own advice, Prnei had folded as soon as he got his cards.

He lost every game he played; he considered every player his friend.

But before Prnei could finish the quotation, the Destroyer finished it for him.

"More so to keep friendship forever,” the Destroyer said, in a far-away voice.

That statement was uncharacteristic of Entity 107, Prnei thought.

Prnei always called the Destroyer by his Containment Facility One classification. He felt the term “the Destroyer,” though accurate, was too harsh.

As of late, Entity 107 has said things that are … odd, Prnei thought.

None of the other crew appeared to notice the change in the Destroyer’s tone, and, if they did, they didn’t show it. Stuck Station residents learned quickly to tune out most of what the Destroyer said.

Prnei didn’t mention his concern.

I would not want to make anyone uncomfortable, he thought.

Just as abruptly, the Destroyer returned to his normal, grating tone.

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1.07 – The world-smashing game

Jan 12 2011 Published by under Chapter One

"Woe to us. We have seen the end. We have seen the Destroyer. Our lives, our very worlds are forfeit to its mighty—Wait, are you writing this down? Not acceptable. These words are copyrigh—"

- the last words of Orohan,
famed poet of Universe 5427C,
just before the Destroyer
evoured her home planet.

“Poker? Pfft,” the Destroyer said with derision. “Now the Karkans of Universe 8,349,489D, they had a game that involved skill and strategy.

"They played for the lives of billions! They’d equip their planets with thrusters and their atmospheres with basic shielding …”

While he talked, the Destroyer signaled Q44 to begin the second phase of Cheat 207.

The cloud removed molecules from the top corners of the Destroyer’s Ace of Spades, whittling the card’s upper half to a point and adding the excised molecules to the sides of the cards.

After a few moments, the card resembled an smooth arrowhead pointing toward the ceiling.

Q44 didn’t see how changing the shape of a card would help win a poker game, but the Destroyer had said aerodynamics were an "important part of performing illegal poker moves."

Q44 had read the poker rulebook 374,443 times and didn’t find any mention of aerodynamics. However, it didn’t find any mention of cheating either, and Q44 had agreed to let the Destroyer do that as well.

The cloud assumed the problem was with the manual.

“The Karkans, you see," the Destroyer said, "had the entire propulsion system linked to the minds of the populace. The people would will themselves to smash into other worlds. It was beautiful, bizarre—”

“Before … you … ate … them,” Anderson said, bringing his cards near his central sensory node for a closer look. Anderson looked at his the cards the way his species did everything—slowly.

“Of course before I ate them.” the Destroyer snapped.

Q44 continued shaving the top of the card until it had a point so sharp it could pierce diamondglass.

The Destroyer’s murder weapon was now half finished.

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1.08 – Long-term planning

Jan 13 2011 Published by under Chapter One

The murder plot was eons in the making, and the Destroyer, a prisoner of Stuck Station for 2.7 billion years, had eons to spare.

He developed the assassination plan in the early days of his incarceration, when the second crew of Stuck Station, team You’ve Got to Be Kidding, explained to the Destroyer why they were using tiny paper rectangles to kill time.

Yes, cards predate the human race. Humanity also wasn’t the first species to develop the wheel, the steam engine, or Velcro.

Throughout the universe, cultures go through predictable growth patterns and certain useful devices and products are inevitable. Humanity was, however, the creator of Pac-Man, poker, and the double-cheeseburger.

Planning the murder had been the easy part. Given the Destroyer’s intellect, the time it took to conceive the scheme was close enough to zero to actually be zero.

The hard part was … everything after the easy part.

Convincing a Stuck Station crew to let the Destroyer play cards would have been simpler if every crew in Stuck Station history hadn’t disliked him. “Disliked” might not be the right word.

“Murderously hated” is more apt.

Stuck On: Team Names

The First Seven Containment Facility One Team Names

Crew One
Abundant Sorrow.                                                                      (2,699,997,587 B.C.)
Crew Two
You've Got to be Kidding.                                                         (2,699,997,586 B.C.)
Crew Three
No.                                                                                                (2,699,997,586 B.C.)
Crew Four
We Refuse to Participate.                                                          (2,699,997,586 B.C.)
Crew Five
Stop Asking Us.                                                                           (2,699,997,586 B.C.)
Crew Six
Stop it!                                                                                          (2,699,997,586 B.C.)
Crew Seven
Fine, We're the Stuck Station Team. Leave Us Alone.         (2,699,997,586 B.C.)

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1.09 – The Destroyer’s checklist

Jan 14 2011 Published by under Chapter One

If the Destroyer had a checklist for his assassination plan, it would look something like this:

My Assassination Plan

By: The Destroyer

Age: Beyond Your Comprehension

Step One

Annoy one of the Stuck Station crews so much that they give me a cloud to use to play poker (estimated time to complete step: 2.6 billion years).

Step Two

Convince the cloud that cheating is part of playing cards (63 million years).

Step Three

Trick the cloud into unknowingly building a weapon (35.9 million years).

Step Four

Wait for a fragile enough species to board Stuck Station (100,000 years).

Step Five

Encourage the fragile crew member to play poker (300 years).

Step Six

Steal an extra card (35 seconds).

Step Seven

Build the weapon (35 minutes).

Step eight

Use the weapon (.1 second).

Step nine

Congratulate self (no longer than necessary).

Step ten

Escape (fifteen seconds).

Step eleven

Resume obliterating everything in every universe (as long as it takes).

The Destroyer was about halfway through step seven.

As he continued describing the Karkans and their world-smashing game, he ordered Q44 to add microscopic grooves and notches to the sides of the dart.

Q44 exuded an invisible mist of water vapor, the cloud equivalent of a sigh. To Q44, the Destroyer’s latest order made even less sense than changing the shape of the card.

“They’re victory grooves,” the Destroyer had said to him earlier. “It’s a poker tradition.”

Under normal circumstances, Q44 would have known he was building a weapon—there were entire sections of the cloud’s programming devoted to keeping anything weapon-like away from the Destroyer.

However, the Destroyer had spent ages using persuasive arguments to grind away at Q44’s resistance. If the Destroyer hadn’t, Q44 would have reported the now-deadly Ace of Spades to Stuck Station’s Administrative Mind right away.

It didn't have to be the Ace of Spades; any card would do. But the Destroyer had told Q44 to steal a specific card to make sure Q44 wouldn't figure out the plan.

The Destroyer theorized that if he had said he needed "any random card," Q44 may have guessed something was off.

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1.10 – Anderson and his species

Jan 17 2011 Published by under Chapter One

As he watched his weapon form, the Destroyer examined his intended target.

“Where was I, before I was interrupted by an idiot?” the Destroyer asked.

“Ha,” Anderson said.

Anderson A. Anderson was not the Destroyer’s target; the dart wouldn’t have pierced his skin.

Anderson was a member of the Grebyan species, and a Grebyan's hide is one of the strongest known organic substances.

In the 28th century, Grebyan skin was the basis for starship hull material on at least 37,004 worlds. The fake skin works fine until it reaches 130 years old, the Grebyan age of puberty.

One species, the Makunal, unaware of that fact, had to forfeit a war, when, to their great embarrassment, they found their 130-year-old fleet covered in acne.

By coincidence, the common Grebyan name, Anderson, sounded the same as the human surname, Anderson.

Ages ago the Grebyan word was An Dar Suun and meant Leader of the Wise. Due to centuries of linguistic change, it had become Anderson, a nonsense phrase.  Anderson wished his name had the older connotation and not the current one: "Plastic Hat Again."

To most species, Anderson looked terrifying.

He stood seven feet tall, a pile of light-gray stone dotted with razor-sharp purple crystals. The crystals served as his sensory organs and vocal apparatus,  and the largest mass of them covered protruded from his chest. Vaguely humanoid, he had two arms and two legs, but no head—his torso housed his brain.

After meeting Anderson, however, most species didn't think he was scary.

Yes, he could lift 100 tons. Yes, he could survive in the vacuum of space and under high gravitational pressure. Yes, he never got sick or tired.

But, like all Grebyans, he moved really, really, sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwlllllllllllly. His top speed was three miles per hour.

Despite his sluggish pace, Anderson was always ready to trade verbal jabs with anyone on Stuck Station.

Especially if someone made fun of his hands. He was ashamed of them: Grebyan fists are little more than large, spherical rocks, useless for precision tool use.

That's why Anderson, and all other Grebyans, wore energy prosthetics on each arm.

Surgically linked to the nervous system, the devices produce shapeable force fields the wearer can use to interact with the objects.

Without the fusion-powered machines, Anderson could never have held the two queens and three sevens in his faux grasp.

Stuck On: Grebyan Energy Prosthetics

The Grebyan species purchased energy prosthetic technology from a traveling salesbeing named Troakach millions of years ago.

Although the seller asked a high price—three of the seven Grebyan moons—most Grebyans considered it a good buy.

Until they noticed the millions dead ... from the catastrophic weather changes ... caused by the instability in their homeworld’s orbit ... brought on by the sudden loss of three satellites.

Then the Grebyans felt some buyer's remorse.

For those who survived, however, the prosthetics ushered in a golden age of invention and art.

Without them, the stone-age level Grebyans could not use their blunt, giant fists to build anything more complicated than an inclined plane.

Many Grebyans have even attached religious significance to the energy prosthetics, so central are they to their society and culture.

They also look like metal boxing gloves with blue, headless, transparent eels sticking out of them.

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1.11 – Potential targets

Jan 18 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“So, before I ate the Karkans, I caught some memories from their minds," the Destroyer said. "And let me tell you, their game beat this monotonous—”

“You don’t have to play!” Jeska said.

Jeska would have been the Destroyer’s target, if she had been born five hundred years earlier.

From the dawn of human civilization to about the 22nd century, a nanobot-sharpened dart through the heart would have meant instant death to any human—not that nanobot-sharpened darts were common on Earth near the dawn of human civilization.

But at the end of the 22nd century, after the development of the nanobot cloud, things changed.

Jeska-Bel DotCom wasn’t just a post-cloud human; she was a post-cloud human from a rich, rich family. For her, a dart to the heart would mean momentary pain and ten seconds of rapid cloud surgery.

Nothing short of massive trauma or multiple organ failure could kill her. Her internal medical cloud was the best mommy and daddy could buy.

“Shouting is not necessary, Jeska,” Prnei said, trying to keep the peace.

Prnei wasn’t the Destroyer’s target either. The dart would kill Prnei if it struck the central nerve cluster under the skin between his two large, red eyes.

But the Destroyer had observed Prnei’s reflexes. Prnei had lightning in his limbs, and he could swat the dart away with ease.

That left one crewmember.

“As I was saying, the Karkan’s game beat—,” the Destroyer said.

“CHIRP!” said Riox, still face down, asleep in his cards.

“—this—” the Destroyer said.

“—CHIRP!—” Riox said again.


“—CHIRP! CHIRP!” Riox said.

The Destroyer waited for Riox to stop snoring. At the start of the game, Riox had put up a valiant effort to stay awake. Then his condition overcame him.

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1.12 – Riox the General

Jan 19 2011 Published by under Chapter One

When not passed out on a table, Riox the General looked like a dark-blue four-foot-tall cylinder, two feet in diameter, like all members of the Slell species.

Riox’s three eyes sat just above the source of the chirping sound: his sharp, yellow beak. He had long, skinny arms with a spike at both elbows, and his head was dotted with medals bonded to his skin.

Lighter than air, Riox had no legs. He moved by directing the constant streams of oxygen that sprayed from three sphincters, or jets, at his base. Right now, the jets were still, as he floated there unconscious.

The Destroyer continued, “Their game beat this monotonous—”


“Theirgamebeattthismonotonousgameofchance!” the Destroyer said.

Riox was the perfect target, the Destroyer had decided.

That’s why the Destroyer had encouraged Riox to try poker, and today, after 300 years of the Destroyer’s urgings, Riox had agreed.

A thin-skinned creature, Riox’s body was a balloon of various light gasses. Though he had a medical cloud similar to Jeska’s, his delicate physiology rendered it useless against all but the most minor injuries.

A dart traveling through Riox’s frame at high speed would mean a popping sound and instant death.

Which is exactly what the Destroyer had planned.

The death part.

Not the popping sound.

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1.13 – The Destroyer’s minds

Jan 20 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Only one of the Destroyer’s 47 trillion minds was playing cards with the crew of Containment Facility One.

Most of the other minds were scanning Stuck Station for weak points, devising escape strategies, and thinking about freedom. A group of them were debating the merits of their planned murder, two were obsessed with the clavichord, and one wanted to try tacos.

The Destroyer’s minds were never in complete agreement.

But they did make decisions by majority vote. And the majority wanted the assassination to work, and the majority wanted to play Pac-Man.

The Pac-Man thing was a secondary objective.

“Are you sure I can’t persuade you to play Pac-Man with me?” the Destroyer asked the crew.

Pac-Man was a game invented on Earth 733 years earlier, and the Destroyer loved it the moment he saw Jeska play.

The game had been part of a bargain collection Jeska picked up at a sales-planetoid before she joined the Stuck Station crew.

The pack included Halo 48,889 and Immersive Wish Fulfillment Simulator. Sure, the programs were ancient, but Jeska had been bored and in a hurry when she got them.

Now she wished she had taken her time.

It turned out Pac-Man was the only program that would run on Stuck Station’s systems. Not because of technological incompatibility, but because someone stole the other two games before Jeska could add them to station memory.

Luckily Pac-Man had been so old the thief hadn’t even realized it was worth stealing. By the time the perpetrator came back to finish the job, the game’s code was already installed in the station’s Administrative Mind.

The crew knew the culprit well. But no matter how much they pleaded and threatened, they couldn’t get the other games back.

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1.14 – Poker and Pac-Man

Jan 21 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Now playing 20th century Pac-Man is great, as antique human activities go, but after a few months, it starts to get old.

But the Destroyer was addicted. He said he felt a kinship with the hungry yellow circle, though he shared no physical similarities with the game’s protagonist.

He empathized with a creature  whose only goal was to devour everything, advance to another level, and then devour everything again.

The Destroyer played using voice commands, because the station’s Administrative Mind didn’t trust him enough to give him a cloud to interact with the computers.

A cloud to help him play cards was as far as the Administrative Mind was willing to go.

And, in about thirty-five minutes, it’d become obvious that the Administrative Mind shouldn’t have even done that.

“We didn’t ask you to join us,” Jeska said, through gritted teeth. “You can play Pac-Man by yourself.”

“But I want the thrill of victory,” the Destroyer said, managing to make a complaint sound inspiring. “There’s no point in eating ghosts, fruit, and white dots if you can’t do it faster than someone else.”

“We’re … not … play…ing … Pac … man,” Anderson said.

“Fine,” he said. “We’ll play poker.”

“We’re … al…read…y … play…ing,” Anderson said.

“You all cheat anyway,” he said.

“You cheat more than us!” Jeska said.

There was a pause.

“I’m better at it,” the Destroyer said.

“He … is … better,” Anderson said.

“Shut up,” Jeska said.

The poker game continued in silence for a half hour, except for the occasional snap, snap, snap of Prnei’s habitual tentacle flicking.

The Destroyer’s poker-playing cloud was now only five minutes away from finishing the weapon.

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1.15 – Riox checks in

Jan 24 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“I … raise,” Anderson said. He took one of the coasters imprinted with the words “Containment Facility One Staff” and placed it in the middle of the table.

“I raish!” Riox said, startling everyone as he woke from his sleep.

“You’re … still … hold … ing … your … hand … from … four … rounds … a … go.”

“Sho?” Riox slurred.

“We know what cards you had,” Prnei said. “Not only that, a few of them stuck to you when you passed out on the table."

Riox looked down and saw two cards plugging two of the twenty slit-shaped gills that dotted his body.

He coughed, trying to dislodge the cards. One fell out and dropped to the floor. He coughed harder, but the other card remained.

He sighed and gave up. He only needed a few open gills to breathe anyway. He was too inebriated to realize he could have pulled the card out with his hands.

“Deal me in,” Riox said. Then he belched.

“You must wait for the next round,” Prnei said.

“Oh,” Riox said. He hesitated, then said, “I love you guysh.”

“We know, Riox,” Jeska said.

Riox turned his attention to a snapping sound on the ceiling.

It was Prnei, still cracking a tentacle like a whip.


It looked like Prnei's tentacle had a mind of its own. That would have been a ridiculous notion.


The tentacle actually had three minds, like all of Prnei's tentacles. In each limb, one brain handled instincts, one brain handled reasoning, and one handled trivia.


Unfortunately for the Prnei species, the increased number of minds did not give them an intellectual advantage.


Though the thirty brains acted in tandem, each brain was quite small. Most species considered the Prnei species of average intelligence.


As for Prnei the individual, he was only sometimes aware of his irritating habit. It was a motion of pure instinct: ten of Prnei's minds, the ones driven by ancient impulses, used the snapping to keep his body ready in case prey came near.


“Would you shtop that?!” Riox said.

Prnei realized what he was doing and stopped, chagrined. He knew how much the sound annoyed the crew, and he tried to keep it to a minimum, especially when Riox was awake.

The sound gave Riox a splitting headache. Most sounds did.

Riox examined the room to remember where he was.

"Drunk and hung-over at the same time?" the Destroyer taunted.

“Alwaysh,” Riox said without malice, belched again, and fell back onto his cards, asleep.

Riox was wasted, but the crew knew it wasn’t his fault.

“Always nice to have a visit from our resident souse,” the Destroyer said.

The Destroyer's weapon would be ready in three minutes.

Then he could escape.

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1.16 – Almost there

Jan 25 2011 Published by under Chapter One

By the Destroyer’s calculations, Riox had three minutes to live.

With victory all-but-assured, some of Destroyer's minds considered taunting the crew about the inevitability of the murder plot's  success.

The majority of the minds had decided against that.

No point jeopardizing the plan by boasting was the consensus.

So, the Destroyer tried to keep the crew distracted for a little while longer.

“Speaking of visits, where is the ever-helpful Containment Facility One Administrative Mind?" the Destroyer asked sarcastically. "She’s unusually quiet right now."

“Got … on … Jes… ka’s … nerves.” Anderson said.

“Jeska ordered her to be silent for a week.” Prnei said.

“That liar said I was ugly and fat,” Jeska said, without looking up.

“You know she doesn’t mean it,” Prnei said.

“You are fat and ugly,” the Destroyer said.

The Destroyer was, as was his want, lying. Jeska-Bel DotCom was born beautiful and got better-looking the longer you knew her.

Thanks to genetic enhancements and aesthetic upgrades—purchased by her parents when she was young—Jeska’s appearance literally kept improving over time.

In addition to her raven hair and dark brown eyes, her smile tended to interfere with the electrochemical processes in the minds of human males, and her warm voice multiplied the effect by a factor of six.

On Stuck Station, her looks meant nothing. There had never been a human male, or indeed any other human, aboard Containment Facility One.

“Fat and ugly!” the Destroyer repeated. “Zing!”

There was silence for another moment.

The dart was now two minutes from completion.

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1.17 – The Destroyer’s idea

Jan 26 2011 Published by under Chapter One

The Destroyer decided to ask the crew for his freedom one last time. Before he escaped, that is.

If the crew said yes, the Destroyer could be out a few minutes sooner than he planned. More time to eat.

The Destroyer was sure the crew would say no. But hope springs eternally springy, thought one of the Destroyer's minds, the one that enjoyed writing bad poetry.

“I just had a great idea!” the Destroyer said.

No one said anything.

“I said, ‘I just had a great idea!’” the Destroyer said.

The crew didn’t respond.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” the Destroyer asked.

“Entity 107, you do not need our permission to speak,” Prnei said.

“Un … for … tun … ate … ly,” Anderson said.

“Could you have said that any slower?” Jeska asked.

“Y … ehhhh … ssssss,” Anderson said.

“Sometimes I like to change it up and ask permission,” the Destroyer said.

“You do it to irritate us, Entity 107,” Prnei said.

“Never!” the Destroyer said. He paused again. “Do you want to hear my great idea now?”

“It's not a great idea. You’re just going to say, ‘Let me out,’” Jeska said.

“That’s not true. And my idea—which is not 'Let me out'— is a great idea,” the Destroyer lied.

“No. I raise you five,” Jeska said.

“I’m all in. You want to hear my idea now?” the Destroyer said.

“No … chance,” Anderson said.

The Destroyer didn't care what they said; he was feeling lucky.

He could almost taste the shooting stars of whirling galaxies, the blue moons of ancient planets, and the green clovers of a thousand inhabited systems.

After his 2.7 billion-year confinement, the Destroyer was sure of one thing.

Universe 7C would be magically delicious.

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1.18 – The bet

Jan 27 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“How 'bout if I win this round?” the Destroyer said. "I get to tell you my idea when I beat all of you at this stupid game."

“We … know … what … you’re … go…ing … to … say,” Anderson said.

“How can you know my mind?” the Destroyer said, with sudden passion. He always sounded more energetic when he boasted.

"Move ... it ... along," Anderson said, hoping beyond all hope that he could make the Destroyer stop his self-flattery.

“Do you know how much I condescend to talk with you?" the Destroyer said.

Anderson sighed.

"Speaking with creatures of your mental capacity is like Jeska holding a Q and A with plankton," the Destroyer said. "It's degrading.”

“And yet you keep right on talking,” Jeska said.

“What is plankton?” Prnei asked.

The Destroyer ignored him and said, “You think you can understand me? I am the most powerful thing in existence. I bend space-time like you move your limbs. I travel through the barriers between dimensions like you pass through the wind.”

“Ha. … Pass … wind,” Anderson said, trying to get a laugh from Jeska. She didn't even crack a smile.

Anderson was surprised. He had been sure scatological references were considered funny in human culture. Jeska had always laughed at them before.

“You can’t even pronounce my true name,” the Destroyer said, “yet I can speak every one of your languages flawlessly. Your mouth sounds are laughable. Laughable. … Let me out?”

“I’m … out,” Anderson said, dropping his cards to the table.

“I’m out,” Prnei said.

“You already folded,” Jeska said.

“Just wanted to be part of the group,” Prnei said.

"I said, 'Let me out,'" the Destroyer said.

“Most powerful thing in existence," Jeska said.

"Yes," the Destroyer said.

"Nothing can stop you."

"Of course."

"Omnipotent, almost omniscient."

"Yes, yes, we've been over this."

"Then why are you stuck with us?”

“That's an excellent question, Jeska. Let me use my near infinite mental capacity to answer that in the best way I know how,” the Destroyer said. "Shut up."

One minute until the dart was complete.

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1.19 – The perfect weapon

Jan 28 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Q44 began the final adjustments on the card.

“Here's my idea,” the Destroyer asked.

“Here’s my idea,” Jeska said. She checked her cards again and felt confident. “You win this round, I won’t speak for a week. You lose, you don’t get to talk for a week.”

“As if I’d need to talk to you,” the Destroyer said.

“I don’t think you could stop talking for three minutes,” Jeska said.

“He’s … done … it … once … or … twice,” Anderson said. “The … few … times … he … lost … a … bet.”

“I take all stupid games very seriously,” the Destroyer said. “Pac-Man more so.”

“Deal?” Jeska said.

“Fine,” the Destroyer said. "You won't talk for a week, when I win."

"And?" Jeska asked.

"Something about me not talking," the Destroyer said.

"Say it," Jeska said.

"I won't talk if you win. Which will not happen," the Destroyer said.

"Good," Jeska said.

Q44 signaled the Destroyer; the weapon was finished.

The Destroyer admired the cloud's handiwork. What had been the Ace of Spades shined in the light—it didn’t look anything like a playing card anymore. Four inches tall and half an inch wide, it was a thin, polished arrowhead with lines and grooves etched into its sides.

Still made of paper, still white and black. But because of its rearranged molecules, the card was now the sharpest object on the station.

Perfect, the Destroyer's minds agreed.

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1.20 – Step eight

Jan 31 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“I call,” Jeska said.

“I got four kings,” the Destroyer said. His poker-proxy turned the cards around to show the winning hand, tucking the dart behind the cards at the same time.

Jeska looked at her four jacks.

“You do cheat well,” Jeska said.

“I never cheat. And even if I did, cheating is allowed. Which makes it not cheating,” the Destroyer said, for Q44’s benefit.

The Destroyer hadn’t expected to win the game at the exact moment he put his plan into action. It was a satisfying coincidence.

Time to go, thought the Destroyer’s minds.

Finally, one added.

Jeska threw her cards down.

Then the Destroyer’s cloud did the same. The normal cards fluttered to the table.

But the dart did not flutter. The Destroyer had built an aerodynamic wonder, a craft that turned Q44’s casual toss into rapid speed.

Surprised, Q44 watched the dart fly toward Riox’s sleeping form at 73 mile per hour.

There was a blur of movement, a cracking sound, a dull thud, and a groan from Riox.

Jeska was too shocked to move. Anderson wasn’t sure, but felt something terrible had happened. Prnei had no expression.

Step eight of the Destroyer’s 2.7 billion-year assassination plan was over — Riox lay still.

“I win,” the Destroyer said.

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1.21 – A crewmember's fate

Feb 01 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Riox’s body lay unmoving on the table. The crew was speechless.

A sound broke the silence.


Riox wasn’t dead. He wasn’t even injured. The Destroyer’s plan had failed.

“What happened?” Jeska and Anderson said at the same time, though Anderson said it like this: “What … hap…end?”

“So close,” the Destroyer said.

“Administrative Mind, remove Entity 107’s poker privileges immediately!” Prnei said.

The station’s chief artificial intelligence, mortified that another assassination attempt had taken place on its 2.7 billion year watch, ordered Q44 to cease Poker Program: Destroyer One.

“What happened?” Jeska asked again.

“Nothing,” the Destroyer said.

“Shut up,” Jeska said. “Prnei, what happened?”

“Entity 107 tried to kill Riox,” Prnei said softly.

“What?” Jeska asked, still in shock.

And Prnei explained what he had seen. Throughout the explanation, Prnei’s chameleonic skin changed colors in time with his emotions.

Anderson had thrown his cards down, Prnei began. (Prnei’s skin showed blue for contentment.)

Jeska had thrown hers down. (Still blue.)

Then the cloud threw the Destroyer’s cards down. (More blue.)

When the Destroyer’s cards fell halfway to the table, a dart that had been hidden behind the cards shot toward Riox. (The blue turned to green, the color Prnei turned when he was afraid.)

“What!?” Jeska said.

“Let … him … fin … ish,” Anderson said.

Prnei continued.

The card was on a collision course with Riox’s midsection. (Prnei’s green color darkened to show increased fear.)

Prnei didn’t know where the dart had come from, but he guessed the Destroyer’s cloud might have built it. (The green changed to red, which meant theorizing or intense concentration.)

The tip of the dart was so sharp, it snipped the hydrogen from water molecules as it flew, Prnei said. (Darker green for deeper fear.)

“How could you possibly see hydrogen molecules?” Jeska asked.

“Shhhh!” Anderson said.

The black and white dart soared toward Riox. (Darker and darker green).

It would hit just above his mouth and tear through his entire body. (Darkest green).

Three feet. Two feet. One foot.

“Just tell us!” Jeska said.

“Now I’m actually interested,” the Destroyer said. “So shhh.”

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1.22 – Finishing the tale

Feb 02 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Prnei continued his story:

Suddenly, a tentacle—the one Prnei had been flicking in the air the past hour— hurtled at the flying dart. (Prnei's skin turned pink, indicating pride).

From his resting place on the ceiling, Prnei hit the top of the dart so fast and so hard the “snap” of his arm sounded like a thunder crack.

The impact knocked the dart off-course. It veered to the side of Riox’s sleeping form, missing him by inches. (The pink skin changed to aquamarine for relief).

With its nano-sharpened point, the Ace of Spades sunk two inches into the floor of the station with a dull thud. (Back to green for fear).

The sound roused Riox from his sleep, just enough to make him groan and shift in place. (Aquamarine again.)

Still asleep, Riox didn’t realize how close he’d come to death. (Green once more.)

His story finished, Prnei felt brave, proud, and very pink.

The crew was speechless.

While Prnei was speaking, Q44 silently received his punishment.

The nanocloud felt so embarrassed about almost killing a crewmember that it thought it would simply die. Not die, technically; dissipate, like a mist on a hot day.

The other swarms would make jokes about Q44’s failure for weeks. That would make the clouds’ daily music sessions torture.

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1.23 – A cloud sentenced

Feb 03 2011 Published by under Chapter One

In Q44’s defense, the cloud had tried to fix its mistake.

After Q44 threw the dart, it took .0001th of a second for Q44 to realize something was wrong.

By the time the dart made it a third of the way across the table, Q44 was sure it had been tricked.

Quickly Q44 began changing its shape and size, making itself more aerodynamic. If it didn't alter its personal configuration, it couldn't move any faster than the nearest air current.

Q44’s calculations showed that the dart would kill Riox before Q44 could reach it, before Q44 could even finish adjusting its personal configuration.

Though its logic algorithms told Q44 it was futile, Q44 decided to give chase anyway.

Q44 liked Riox. All the clouds liked Riox.

Luckily, at the last possible moment Prnei saved Riox.

Q44 sighed in relief—exuded another fine mist of water vapor—and readied itself to receive its punishment from the station Administrative Mind.

The Administrative Mind sentenced Q44 to the most demeaning duty a Stuck Station cloud could perform: sitting perfectly still and doing nothing for the next two days.

Two days isn't a long time for most creatures, but for a nanocloud it's the equivalent of fifty years solitary confinement. Fear washed over Q44: the inefficiency alone would haunt it for hours.

The sentencing was silent, unnoticed by the crew, and over in the blink of an eye.

Dejected, Q44 moved to a far corner of the rec room to serve its sentence and think about what it had almost done.

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1.24 – Jeska loses it

Feb 04 2011 Published by under Chapter One

The Destroyer continued talking as if he hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary.

“I won the poker game,” the Destroyer said. “Four kings.”

The majority of the Destroyer’s minds were upset the plan had failed. A third of them were proud that he’d won the game itself without cheating.

“Now my idea. You ready?” the Destroyer said.

The crew was still in shock.

“Ready?” the Destroyer asked

Another moment passed.

“I said, ‘Ready?’” the Destroyer asked.

“Just say it,” Jeska said.

“You sure you’re ready?”

“Say it!” Jeska said.

“Say … it!” Anderson said.

“Say it, please,” Prnei said.

“My idea is … Let me out,” the Destroyer said.

And the Destroyer began to laugh again.

Jeska’s anger, which had been coming in waves over the past five years, became a tsunami. She picked up the pile of coasters that the crew had been using as chips and hurled them across the room.

She kicked over chairs, beat her hands against Anderson’s rocky back, screamed in anger, and stormed out the door.

Hoping to comfort Jeska, Prnei hurried after her, his tentacles making wet sucking sounds as he undulated along the ceiling.

Riox, awakened by Jeska’s outburst, watched her fade from view down the long hallway just outside the rec room.

“Was … it … worth … it … En…ti…ty… 1...0...7?” Anderson said, using the Destroyer’s technical name, a sign of deep anger.

“Giving up one of the only two games I can play, so I could drive Jeska to the brink?” the Destroyer said. “Yes.”

“You disgusht me,” Riox said, then burped. “What are we talking about?”

“Almost had you, Riox,” the Destroyer said.

Dazed and angry, Riox snorted and headed off after Jeska. He didn't understand what the Destroyer had said; he was just worried about Jeska.

Anderson stood alone at the table, feeling sorry for Jeska, but happy she hadn’t hurt herself hitting him. He considered chasing her. He wasn’t fast enough.

“I’m … hun…gry,” Anderson said.

“So am I,” the Destroyer said. “Always.”

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1.25 – Jeska’s run

Feb 07 2011 Published by under Chapter One

Jeska ran passed hundreds of empty, silent rooms. The only sounds were her footsteps.

“Where you running, Jeska?” the Destroyer asked.

She had no idea.

“There’s nowhere else to go,” the Destroyer said.

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” she yelled.

“Not a chance," the Destroyer said.

“Say anything else and I’m jumping out an airlock!" Jeska screamed. She wasn’t sure how serious she was about that threat, but it was becoming more appealing by the second.

“That’s too bad,” the Destroyer said. “Make sure you leave it open.”

Jeska had run twenty miles, but she wasn’t tired. She wasn’t even breathing heavily. Her internal medical cloud kept her running at full speed, breaking down the lactic acid her muscles created and turning it into more energy. She could run for days.

Lost in a fog of angry thoughts, Jeska was startled when Prnei suddenly lowered his head in front of her.

Prnei, who ran at full speed to catch up with Jeska, had intended to stop and have a face-to-upside-down-face chat with her.

But Jeska hadn’t been looking where she was running and collided with him at top speed. She tumbled to the ground, Prnei tumbled to the ceiling.

“Are you injured?” Prnei asked after he righted himself.

Then Jeska broke. She fell to the ground, wrapped her arms around her knees, and cried tears of rage.

Prnei looked her over from the ceiling. His eyes didn’t blink as he tried to think of something to say.

The Destroyer always had something to say.

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1.26 – Hugs and phobias

Feb 08 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“That’s the quickest I’ve ever worn anyone down,” the Destroyer said. “It’s only been sixty months.”

Jeska refused to respond.

“Of course, you could always leave,” the Destroyer said. "Leave. Leave. Leave."

“Jeska, you cannot leave,” Prnei said. “None of us—

“I know, Prnei,” Jeska said, bitterly.

“—are ever able to leave the confines of this station for longer than .0004 seconds—” Prnei continued.

“I know, Prnei,” she said. She shouldn’t be angry with him. He was trying to comfort her.

“I have lived here for thirty-seven years—”Prnei said.

She tried to push her irritation aside. And failed.

“I know, Prnei!” she screamed. “I hate this place! I hate you! I hate the boredom and the threats and the Destroyer and the food and poker and Pac-Man and Anderson and Riox and clouds and you and me and everything, everything, EVERYTHING!…”

She stopped as her sobs overwhelmed her.

“Don’t forget me,” the Destroyer said.

“I said you!” Jeska said, through the tears.

“I know,” the Destroyer said. “Just pushing you further over the edge.”

Then Prnei did something dangerous—dangerous for any member of Prnei species, that is—he left the ceiling. Landing next to Jeska, Prnei wrapped eight of his ten arms around her. He had heard humans held one another to express sympathy.

Prnei’s embrace awakened in Jeska a deep-seated fear  many 28th century humans have about being captured by a tentacled monster. Strangely, the embrace also made her feel safe. It was creepy and comforting at the same time.

Like the men in my life, Jeska thought.

The weak attempt at humor didn’t make her feel any better. Prnei’s hug did, a little.

“Do not give up, Jeska, There is always hope when—” Prnei said.

"Sorry to interrupt," the Destroyer said. "But no, there isn't."

Stuck On: Fear

Species                                         Biggest Fear

Grebyan                                      Public Speaking

Slell                                              Kona Beasts

Prnei                                            Music

Rosov                                           Loss of a Loved One

Xelsian                                         Inferiority

Star Seeker                                 Starvation

Wandering One                          Poverty

21st century Humans                Death, Politics

28th century Humans               Death by Tentacled Alien Horror, Space Politics.

One response so far

1.27 – Returning to quarters

Feb 09 2011 Published by under Chapter One

"There’s no hope,” the Destroyer said cheerfully. “You are so close to the first stage of madness. Might as well give in."

"Do not listen to him, Jeska," Prnei said.

“Shlow down!” said Riox as he approached from a distance.

“We are not moving,” Prnei said as Jeska’s continued to cry.

To Riox, everything looked like it was moving. That's why he misjudged the 10-foot distance between him and his friends and increased pressure to his organic jets.

Riox barreled into Prnei's back at full speed and bounced off like a balloon pushed into a wall.

Riox's top speed wasn't very fast.

“Jusht came to sheck on you,” Riox said, when he stopped spinning.

“How sweet,” the Destroyer said. “But it doesn’t matter, soon—"

“Pleash take ush to Jeshka’s quartersh, Liar,” Riox said. “Burp.”

Responding to the name the crew had given her 2.7 billion years earlier, the Station’s Administrative Mind obliged.

There was a flash, an odd smell, and then Jeska, Riox, and Prnei were in Jeska’s room.

The Destroyer’s voice was gone.

The playing card that had been wedged in one of Riox’s air slits evaporated, like all rec room equipment taken inside crew quarters.

As Jeska tried to stifle her sobs, Prnei said nothing and continued to hold her. Even Riox knew it was time to be silent.

She cried for a while.

When her tears subsided, she spoke with a soft voice.

“I’m sorry for shouting at you, Prnei,” Jeska said.

"You do not need to apologize," Prnei said.

“Don’t you have to …?” she asked, pointing upward.

“Yes, thank you,” Prnei said, letting go of Jeska and extending two tentacles to pull himself up.

Safely back on the ceiling, Prnei felt immediate relief.

He had hidden his pain from Jeska, forcing himself to stand in the agonizing position that was right-side-up for the rest of the crew.

As he stretched out, he felt the ache subside. His vital fluids returned to their original locations, his eyes stopped bulging, and his three lungs re-inflated.

Because of Prnei physiology, standing on the ground for fifteen minutes had brought him close to death.

He decided not to tell Jeska, in her emotional state, how very, very close it had been.

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1.28 – Consolation and clichés

Feb 10 2011 Published by under Chapter One

In despair, Jeska brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs.

“I thought I could handle it,” Jeska said from the floor. “It's this place. And that voice of his."

She thought for a moment, and said, “And the fact that he almost killed Riox!”

“He what?” Riox said.

“Jeska, it hurts me to see you losing your barbells,” Prnei said.

This wasn’t Prnei cutely misquoting a human cliché. In the past 700 years, many Earth-originated phrases had changed.

"Shereiously, who almosht got killed?" Riox said.

No one answered, and Riox promptly forgot what he was asking about.

There was a flash, an odd smell, and Anderson stood before them.

“Li ... ar ... said … you … were … all … here,” Anderson said. “Is … Jes ... ka … ok?”

“No,” Prnei said.

“I’m … sor… ry,” Anderson said.

“Thank you,” Jeska said. “But it's over. I can’t take it.”

“Pleashe do not give up,” Riox said.

“Yes,” Anderson said. “You … can’t … let … him … win.”

“He already won,” Jeska said. “I need to leave.”

She wiped her eyes.

“I guess I’m not as strong as you three,” Jeska said.

“We are not strong," Prnei said.

“We hate it here,” Riox said.

“So … ve... ry ... much,” Anderson said.

“But you’re not going crazy,” Jeska said. “I just want out. I have to get out!”

She started to cry again, out of desperation this time, not fury.

“I’ve tried to find a way home,” she said, wiping her eyes. “But there isn’t any.”

Riox thought about it for a moment. It took great willpower for him to force out the mental fog. When he finally succeeded, he felt proud.

“What if there ish?” Riox asked.

Stuck On: Is vs. Ish

Riox the General is trying to say "Is," not "Ish."

"Is" is the third-person singular form of the verb “to be.” The Ish are an aquatic alien race that collects clichés.

Speaking of clichés, Riox's question (without the slur) already rests next to "Nothing can possibly go wrong" and "It's too quiet" in the melodrama section of the central phrase library on the Ish homeworld.

3 responses so far

1.29 – The decision

Feb 11 2011 Published by under Chapter One

“Riox, you promised,” Prnei said.

“What?” Jeska asked, her eyes narrowing.

“You … can’t … tell … her,” Anderson said, nervously wringing his energy tendrils.

“Promised what?” Jeska asked. She stood up, making her head even with Prnei's gaze.

“It’s dish-honorable and downright wrong,” Riox said, facing the three of them. “But …”

“Riox …” Prnei said nervously.

“Don’t,” Anderson said.

"What?!" Jeska asked

“Prnei, Andershon, and I talked about it oncshe and shwore we’d never do it,” Riox said.

“We also said we would never speak of it again,” Prnei said.

“Ev … er,” Anderson said.

Jeska ran toward Riox and grabbed him with a mix of care and urgency.

“If you know a way out, tell me. Tell me now!” Jeska said, her anger and sadness and fear and even boredom so close to tumbling into madness.

“Not sho tight. You’re hurting me. Jusht let go,” Riox said.

“Sorry,” Jeska said, then let go. "Now tell me!"

Riox told her, then burped.

“That is wrong,” Jeska said.

“Excushe me,” Riox said.

“I meant the plan,” she said.

“I agree. No being could ever be that cruel,” Prnei said.

“But it would be the firsht time anyone got out,” Riox said.

“Yes,” Prnei said. “However, if you went through with it, Jeska, I would be ashamed of you. Deeply.”

“Me too,” Riox said. “But I'd undershtand. I would not shtop you.”

“I do not think any of us would try,” Prnei said.

Anderson said nothing, but he agreed. As the crewmate who had spent the most time with Jeska, Anderson knew her best. That’s why he was already ashamed of her.

Jeska-Bel DotCom cared about others, of that Anderson was certain. But, like many an heiress to a galaxy-spanning, commercial empire, Jeska was spoiled.

“I … would ... n't … stop … you,” Anderson said, after a moment.

Jeska looked over the only friends she'd had for the past five years.

“You’d be ashamed of me?” Jeska said to the group.

They all answered yes.

“But I’d get out,” Jeska said.

“Yesh,” Riox said.

Anderson knew what she would say before she said it.

“Worth it,” Jeska said.

One response so far