The Captain and the Queen
by D. A. Madigan
|Table of Contents|
“The Captain and the Queen” began
in issue 175.
|part 3 of 4|
“Yeoman Jane Renane is quite aesthetically pleasing from a normal biological human libidinous standpoint,” the recorded Spartan stated. “She bears a passing resemblance to the actress who portrayed her in the TV program, in coloring and physical build. There is no such position as ship’s doctor.
“There are crewmen named Spartan, Oahu, and Paddy, but they bear little resemblance to the depictions given them on your television, as no distinct human ethnic culture survived the 21st century. Earth humans of the 23rd century, after extensive and drastic eugenic breeding programs enforced by the Elder Entities and their Ool servitors, have very few distinct racial features, other than the occasional genetic throwback.
‘Family names were established after the Liberation in the early 22nd century from heroic traditions and ancestral geography and even common words. Thus, there are many Hoods, many Pikes, many Kanes, many Oahus, Lenins, and Patricks, which name is often shortened to Paddy. Along with Kings, Waynes, Kents, Jordans, Caesars, etc.”
Jason pursed his lips. “Everybody on Earth’s a white guy in the 23rd century?”
Spartan replied, after a pause, “More a light tan. With, as I say, occasional atavistic throwbacks.”
Jason digested this for a moment. “Um... okay. So... what is the Venture doing here, and what do you want with me?”
“Excellent questions,” the image of Spartan replied. “To begin with...”
Spartan began a long, dry dissertation. Jason listened for several minutes, eyes gradually growing wider and wider. Finally, he couldn’t take it any more. “Wait a goddam minute!” he interrupted. “Lemme see if I’ve got all this straight so far. Um... The Alliance Senate decided to actually attempt to tamper with history, and sent the Venture, the only starship to successfully time travel and survive intact, to come back to this time period and try to prevent... what? The imminent return of some Lovecraftian horrors to Earth? And in order to do this, you have to prevent someone called the Hierophant from being sacrificed by some race of ancient serpentmen called the Ool? Which sacrifice will open the portal allowing Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth and all those other multidimensional ickies to return to Earth? Which, in your history, already actually happened?”
“That is the essence,” the simulated Spartan replied levelly. “Human records from the 21st century are fragmentary at best, but we know from the scrolls of the Ool themselves that the Hierophant is an ancient Forerunner enemy of theirs, a powerful sorcerer who first opposed them in galactic pre-history, before the protohuman Forerunner race had even attained space flight technology and left their first world.
“The Ool themselves are an artificial race, evolved through arcane means from saurian genetic stock, designed to be the actual servitors of the Elder Entities, who preferred to use humans as brute labor and foodstocks.
“Originally, the Hierophant was a willing servant of the Ool, but he turned against them when they destroyed his mate and then resurrected her in a corrupt form as an equally powerful tool called The Serpentqueen.”
Jason rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Wait. Let me guess. Let’s see... somehow, the Hierophant managed to trick the Elder Entities into withdrawing from this particular plane of reality, and then somehow he slammed shut the portal, and ever since then, throughout the galaxy, the Ool and this Serpentqueen have been struggling to reopen the way so the Elder Entities can return. Right?”
The image of Spartan blurred and stuttered once again. “Indeed,” it finally said. “How is it you know all of this?”
Jason snorted. “They use this plot like fifty times a year in Heavy Metal. And in order to open the portal, they need to sacrifice a human with like huge magical powers, and there are only two of them left in the universe because magic really has fallen into disuse in this high-tech age, and those two are the Hierophant and the Serpentqueen, and SHE isn’t volunteering. So the Ool are falling all over the place trying to find this Hierophant guy. Now you’re saying that in your history, they actually DID, and they sacrificed him, and the Elder Gods came back and... what?”
“Apparently,” Spartan’s image intoned calmly, “they immersed the planet Earth in a reign of darkness and terror for more than a century. According to our records, when ships of the Interworld Scientific Alliance, following ancient Forerunner records found in Archive Alpha, traced a Forerunner colonizing probe to Earth in the early 22nd century, they found a planet ruled by terrifying, inhuman monsters of nearly incomprehensible power. A world shrouded in impenetrable darkness, whose surface was covered with icy wastelands interrupted only by scatterings of vast, nightmarish, four-dimensional fortresses built of black Cyclopean stones towering into the endless black sky. A world where barely two million humans yet lived, and where 90% of those lived out short, miserable lives of perpetual backbreaking labor, ending in horrifying deaths as food for the Ool, incubators for their young, or, very rarely, sacrifices to the Elder Gods themselves.”
“And... you guys blew them up?” Jason said, tone incredulous.
“The Elder Gods are extradimensional entities who manifest themselves through continuously open quantum portals in the very fabric of spacetime,” Spartan explained. “Excessive amounts of electromagnetic energy of any sort can scramble the rather delicately balanced phase-polarities of these portals, which is why, upon taking over a material planet, they immediately enshroud it in thick cosmic dust clouds, so as to make it dark and cold.
“The ISA ships called for a fleet; while that fleet, composed of Voltan, Karnak, Fungalii, and Procyan ships, fired antimatter weapons into the dust cloud shrouding Earth, a heavily cloaked Gregarian vessel located the main flux-portal being used by the Elder Gods in this solar system and employed de-phased ionic particle pulses to reverse its polarity. The extradimensional materials used to transform Earth into a non-Euclidian hell were sucked back through and the portal sealed itself rather spectacularly.”
“Wait a minute,” Jason muttered. “You said crossing the streams was BAD.”
The image of Spartan raised one eyebrow. Jason waved his hand wearily. “Never mind. In-joke. So, if eventually the Good Guys won, why did you guys decide to change history...?”
“It was a difficult decision to reach,” Spartan pontificated. “Yet the industry and resourcefulness that the surviving Earth humans displayed in repairing their damaged world and rebuilding their ruined civilization was extremely impressive. When the Interworld Scientific Alliance broke apart due to political factionalism, it was Earth humans who suggested replacing it with an Alliance of Intelligence Bearing Worlds, and although the Karnak, Gregarians, Procyans, and Fungalii all retreated into distant, hostile isolationism, my people could see the logical benefits of such an alliance.
“Over the course of the 22nd century and much of the 23rd, there has been much speculation as to how much better off galactic civilization might have been had Earth continued its technological progression and met the ISA on a more equal footing.
“As Earth itself grew more influential, more and more human scholars began exploring the possibility of realigning the timestream in a more positive manner. The voice of non-interventionalism became weaker and weaker. Certainly, it is difficult to rationally argue that an entire planet full of human-gene beings should be allowed to be slaughtered by horrors from another dimension if something could be done to prevent it.”
“Okay,” Jason said. “I guess. And... so... what happened to the crew?”
Spartan said gravely, “I can only surmise. However, past experiences with time travel have shown that different methods of temporal dislocation allow for different effects. This is to say, when a deranged Engineer-Commander traveled to the early 20th century via the Warden of Infinity, he found it relatively easy to effect a huge change in known history, which the Captain and I were forced to correct.
“However, when we employed the solar slingshot method of transcending lightspeed while remaining within the physical parameters of the universe, we found it virtually impossible to alter the time stream. For this event, in which we wished to overcome the conservation effect that would normally preserve history from casual temporal distortion, Captain Kane employed equations and energy matrices developed from our Quadmitter scans of the Warden’s portal, using these to enhance the Venture’s impulse engines and defensive energy screens. The objective of this was to cause the Venture and its crew to enter the current time-space coordinates in a more fully integrated fashion, not as ‘intruders’ or ‘outsiders’ unable to change the fabric of history, but as integral parts of what would become our ‘present day’. Thus, we would not be changing ‘history’ but only effecting a non-coherent potential future.”
Jason gaped. “Um... and... this made the crew...?”
“Again, I can only surmise,” Spartan’s image declaimed, “that this caused the crew of the Venture to be integrated into the fabric of local space-time, which is to say, when they appeared in this ‘present’, they did so by becoming part of the present-day population. I believe the crew to be scattered, probably without remembering their true identities at all, throughout the population of the planet below. Probably living out normal, mundane lives.”
Jason scratched his eyebrow. “They’re probably all Spacies,” he mused, referring to the term that fanatical S:TFF fans used as a self-identifying tag.
“More likely they all deeply despise the program,” Spartan rejoined.
“Sooooooo...” Jason’s head hurt. “Um... how do I come into this again?”
Spartan’s image seemed to hesitate. “From the surviving scrolls of the Earthly Ool colony, we know that in this era, the Hierophant dwells on Earth, but in an amnesiacal state, probably inflicted on him by his Ool captors to keep him from manifesting his powerful paranormal abilities. We know that he somehow managed to escape the Ool, and that much of the past several centuries has been consumed by their attempts to recover him. And we know that eventually, they did recover and sacrifice him, opening the portal for the return of the Elder Entities to Earth.”
“And...” this was the part Jason found most difficult to believe. “And you guys set the teleporters to find me and beam me up because... I’m this Hierophant guy? Under some kind of enchantment of amnesia, or something?”
The image of Spartan froze for a second, then became animated again. “It was Captain Kane who programmed the computer to find and recover you, sir,” Spartan finally said. “I myself do not know for certain why. Your speculation, however, would seem... logical.”
“So how do I get my memory back? Can’t you reintegrate my brainwaves with the teleporter, or something?” Jason drummed his fingers on the arm of the Captain’s chair impatiently.
“It is not that simple,” the computer/Spartan admonished him. “The recovery of buried memories cannot be forced, or there is risk of great mental damage being done. If the simple knowledge that you may be the Hierophant is not enough to cause your recovery, then it would be rash in the extreme to attempt to force the issue. If your memories are to return, they must be allowed to do so gradually, at their own pace, as you are gradually brought more and more into familiar surroundings and associations.”
“I see,” Jason said pensively. “Well, then, being on the Venture isn’t gonna help ME, although I can see how it’s a good way to keep the Ool from grabbing me. Can we start scanning somehow for 23rd-century people in the population below, and beaming them up here a few at a time? If we can find Kane again, or the real Spartan, they’ve got to have a better handle on this than I do.”
“A logical plan of action,” Spartan’s voice said. “While I cannot be certain, I believe that I myself may well be the ‘real’ Spartan, which is to say, as there would be no ancestral equivalent for my person to integrate myself with on the planet below, I suspect my being was somehow integrated with that of the ship’s computer, using the orientation tape I made as a basis for my projected appearance. However, with your order, I will immediately commence scanning for humans similar to the Venture’s crew on the planet below.”
“Make it so,” Jason said absently. “Let me know if you find anything.” His fingers continued to drum on the arm of the Captain’s chair. How to get his memory back? Hypnotism? A good knock on the head? Rigelian ale?
“Still,” Jason said, musing more to himself than anyone else, “as long as I stay alive and free, the world doesn’t get conquered by Cthulhu. Cool. Okay, I guess I have an obligation to keep from being sacrificed by nasty serpentmen.”
“Sssssssss,” came a vicious hissing from behind the Captain’s chair where Jason was sitting. “Hhhhyou whill unnnnderssssstand if we feel an equal obligation to ssssssssacrificccccccce you?”
“Bang me like an old bass drum,” Jason breathed. “I knew I should have asked where they kept the laser-blasters.”
From a room that had most likely been a crew rec center, Jessica watched on a cubicle viewscreen as her team of Ool slithered out to surround Jason. They should now be able to catch him without difficulty. However, if somehow he were to escape, then her presence on the ship could be played as a trump card. In the meantime, let her Ool take the risks of initial contact. They were, after all, expendable.
Now would be a damned good time to remember some cool spells, Jason thought to himself as he backed towards the front of the bridge. The serpentmen, looking like nothing so much as giant king cobras with tentacle-like arms growing from just below their hoods, slithered forward slowly. Their nasty little claw hands, undulating at the end of their apparently boneless tentacle arms, grasped strange, egglike objects. Jason frantically searched his memory. In a comic book or a movie, this would be the moment of stress when all his buried memories burst free, giving him the ability to cast incredibly powerful sorceries like fireball, lightning bolt, iceblast, or even...
“Spartan!” Jason screamed. “Intraship beaming! Beam me to a weapons locker NOW!”
Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan