Canto 143 – Morning Aboard the Starship Aboard the Starship
I couldn’t help but fixate on the things Admiral Tang had bragged about knowing from the future during his villain speech in a previous episode. Apparently, he had outwitted and killed a Time Knight at some point, and he had specifically told us that I was going to survive this adventure while poor Ham Aero was doomed to die in the upcoming battle for the planet Outpost.
I was sipping on my cup of designer coffee, my own special concoction called Isaac Newton’s Favorite Cup of Joe. And I was staring out of the front viewport of the Leaping Shadowcat at the guards in the cavernous docking bay of Admiral Tang’s flagship, Bregohelma. The Lupin child who served as cabin boy came out of the crews’ quarters completely naked and rubbing at his doglike eyes. Of course, the boy’s shameless nudity didn’t bother me since Lupins are covered in wolf-fur and don’t really need clothing to cover up relentlessly white, pock-marked skin and rolls of fat the way I do.
“Professor Marou, do you think the Imperials will just execute me or toss me out into space?” Sahleck asked.
“Well, if they are frugal, they will toss you out into space. It costs less.”
The destroyed look on his puppylike face reminded me that maybe a strictly logical answer to the question wasn’t the kind of answer he needed to hear.
“But don’t go planning on dying yet. Time is a relative dimension in space and, as such is totally malleable.”
He looked at me as if he wanted to ask another question, but didn’t really understand what I had just told him.
“You know that there are Time Knights constantly meddling with what they think happened in the past to correct the outcome to some sort of plan created in the distant future…”
“Oh, yes…” Sahleck stammered.
“And since Tang says he killed one of those Time Knights, we know for certain that somebody is out there working on solutions to the problems we are now facing.”
“So, maybe they won’t kill everybody but you?”
“Oh, you all are probably going to die. Tang seems to know what will happen with information gleaned from the Time Knights themselves. But nothing is ever certain. Maybe I get killed too.”
That didn’t seem to help much.
Ham Aero wandered in drinking his own morning beverage, probably potent liquor of some sort.
“Sahleck? You are out of uniform, boy. You know that the job of steward aboard a starship is critical to staying alive in space.”
“Yes, Ham. I know I am supposed to scrub floors, maintain the air quality, and do whatever the cook asks me to do, but we are almost all going to die. So, what’s the point?”
“We are not giving up, my boy. What we are blessed with is lots of time, and the freedom to plan without worrying about being overheard. Tang doesn’t know it, but this ship is shielded from telepaths. Ged had me do that back when he was first dealing with becoming a Psion. So, we don’t have to just sit back and wait for death. We can plan and carry out our own rescue and escape. And I am not ready to die myself, knowing now that I am going to be a father for the first time.”
That made Sahleck smile.
“So, you have an idea about how to do it?” I asked.
“Not yet. But we have more collective smarts than they do. How many of their crew are rot warriors? Skeletons with robotic life? Nearly mindless undead things?”
“Mechanoids and reanimated dead folks make up at least 75 percent of all Imperial Navy personnel. You know this well, Ham.”
“Sure, but my point is… We have you. You are one of the smartest living humans in the entire Orion Spur of the Milky Way.”
Now, I know, of course, when I am being flattered in order to manipulate me. But he was not wrong. Duke Ferrari was on board, and he carried considerable political significance, and potentially leadership ability. And Ham’s young Nebulon wife knew a lot of secrets only formerly enslaved aliens really knew about. Ham himself was a canny strategist and ship-board leader. He knew how to solve the problems of living mostly in space aboard a starship. And he was not wrong about me being smarter than practically everyone else in the universe. (Not bragging, just an irrefutable fact.)
“Yes, you are right, Ham. We are not helpless. We do have an intelligence advantage over our enemies. And we will think of some way out of this situation.”