Stellaris

The Tragedy of Ik-Drob-nal

stellaris 5 - The Tragedy of Ik-Drob-nal
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Krun gripped the small laser scrubber in one of his scaly, clawed hands. Efficiently, he removed the dried remains of the crew's lunch from plates, bowls, and various cutlery. His short, juvenile tail waved back and forth to the methodical, scraping tempo of ceramic against scales.

As the stack of clean dishes grew, Krun began to absentmindedly hum: a low, chanting vocalization that sounded out of place without other rasping Dedrun voices to harmonize. This far out in unclaimed space, he often yearned for the community and culture he'd been forced to leave behind on Collaxonar.

Suddenly, the scullery door swung violently open, banging into the wall as it made way for a second, larger Dedrun, carrying a food-laden tray.

"If the science directorate had a bit of sense, that stupid spider woulda been reassigned years ago!"

"Ow!" Krun, broken from his reverie, lightly seared his hand scales with the laser scrubber before refocusing it on the dishes. "Cap'n in a mood again?"

Plork flung the tray down next to the recycler and began dumping food off of plates, stacking each dirty ceramo-plastic dish on the sideboard by Krun with a SMACK. "Last week, he wanted a level-5 decontamination of his quarters because an ensign sneezed." SMACK "Today, he's convinced Chef is trying to poison him." SMACK "If anyone wanted him dead, it would have happened a long time ago!" SMACK

Plork turned on her heel and crossed to the massive food storage cabinets, swishing her mature, 3-foot tail in agitation. The scullery, built exclusively for Dedrun, was one of the few places on the ship where an agitated tail wouldn't send hundreds of credits' worth of valuable scientific equipment flying. Plork flung open the cabinet drawers and began digging through the bags, boxes, and bricks of food inside. "Here!" She emerged triumphantly with a plasticized foil pouch. "Let's see if he thinks the factory on Collaxonar poisoned the ship's E-rations, too!"

———

On the bridge of the SS-Curiosity, first officer Nak-halort reclined in the captain's chair. She rested most of her legs on the many armrests; with the two legs closest to her mouth, she picked her mandibles for bits of chitin, stuck from lunch. "What have you learned?" she asked the sensor technician in a series of clicking intonations. She was eager for something to break the monotony of scanning stellar bodies.

The sensor tech clicked back, "Not much, sir. I expected better scans as we came closer, but the ship's hull reflects most particles. It doesn't seem to have any large weapons. Beyond that, composition and design are still unknown."

"Keep at it. Any response to our hails?"

A technician sitting at the comms station spun around in his chair and gestured with several legs. "No, sir. We're transmitting on all frequencies and in all know languages, but there is no response."

Nak-halort pulled a particularly large piece of chitin out of her mandibles and stuffed it into the captain's chair's built-in incinerator, producing a flash of heat and a puff of acrid smoke. "Are they receiving our transmissions?"

"Impossible to say without looking at their communications array, sir." The comms tech swiveled back around to inspect his instruments.

"Very well." Nak-halort pressed one of the armrest buttons on the chair, and the speaker system projected her voice into the ship's common areas. "Attention, all hands. We have encountered an unknown vessel in orbit around this star's second planet. Investigative team Beta-5, prepare for an away mission, and report to shuttle 3. I repeat, investigative team Beta-5, please report to shuttle 3." Nak-halort terminated the announcement and pressed another button, connecting her to the captain.

Загрузка...

———

Ik-Drob-nal sat motionless in his quarters, illuminated only by the dark red heat lamp that hung above him. With his eight eyes closed and his head turned upward, he could almost remember what the home star's warm gaze felt like on his exoskeleton. For a few seconds, he even thought he could taste the sweet dust of the Collxan plains in his mouth.

The captain's legs jerked in shock, and his eyes snapped open as a voice intruded on his solitude, "Captain, this is first officer Nak-halort advising you that we have encountered an unidentified vessel and are dispatching Investigative Team Beta-5 to it to gather data." Ik-Drob-nal fumbled with the comms panel until it began transmitting back.

"Scans?" he barked.

"Our sensors are unable to penetrate the ship's hull. Physical observation is necessary."

The captain huffed to himself. "Maximum security protocols."

Came the response, "Per Directorate regulations, Team Beta-5 will wear level-2 protective equipment and follow standard bio-decontamination protocols when returning, barring an encounter with a severe biohazard."

The line went dead as Ik-Drob-nal smashed a leg down on the comms panel. "Fools!" he muttered to no one in particular, clicking angrily. "Fools, all of them!"

————————

On the desert planet of Collaxonar, inside the Administration of Exploration, a young Dedrun is serving a cool, refreshing junberry tea to director Pal-Roh-del. "Thank you, Brun" clicks the director. She sips the tea with one leg and uses several others to scroll through reports from the science fleet. One, flagged URGENT, catches her many eyes, and she sets down the tea as she opens the report and reads the full title.

URGENT—Science Ship Curiosity: Presumed Lost

Skimming along, she reads the reported location of Curiosity and its last known action, investigating an unknown derelict vessel. At the end of the report, an underling has attached the Curiosity's final transmission. She selects the audio file, and the panicked clicks of captain Ik-Drob-nal fill her office:

"Help! Send help! My crew-crew—crew is mad! Mad mad mad!! They're tearing each other apart! They're—" In the background, a bloodcurdling Dedrun roar echoes through the bulkheads, and an insistent, metallic pounding begins. "The ship—it was the ship! The investigative team—they-they. They brought it back! They should have left it alone! Alone! ALONE!! They should have known—known known known! Should have known! Should have known!!!" The screech of twisting, protesting metal drowns out the captain's ramblings for a few seconds, along with another Dedrun roar—one that sounds much closer. "They're coming through! Coming through! Coming through! Send help! Help me! Help mAAAAAUUUUGGGGHH!!!" A loud CRUNCH of breaking exoskeleton can be heard on the recording, followed by the CLANG of a body being swung against bulkheads, and then a wet THUD and softer, sustained crunching.

With a sigh, Pal-Roh-del switches off the recording and pulls a thick file marked "Résumés" from a drawer. As she searches the rest of the desk, she clicks to herself, "Appropriations…appropriations…where did I put the forms for new ship funds appropriations?"

tl;dr: One of my scientists gained the "paranoid" trait, which slows down anomaly investigation speed. I tried to keep using him, but one of the first anomalies his ship investigated ended up killing him, the whole crew, and the ship. RIP; I hope he likes my tribute story.

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