The Six-Eyed Sad One (Or, the Graveyard Guardian)
Two routes diverged in mid-space, and I? I took the one more traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
I'm alive to tell you about it and mangle that old poem. That's a big difference, I would say.
I'm a freighter captain, unlike my cousin J.T. I'm not paid to be out in space to explore it. I'm out doing business, shipping cargo in places that my cousin and his fleet open to human exploration and settlement. My whole business is being early in that process – I've built a whole business, if you will, on Kirk family insider information.
But, even if you are the Captain Kirk of the less glorified cargo business, time is still money. A shorter route is days saved and crews paid and more runs per month. The temptation to take shortcuts is always present.
Still, a shortcut is sometimes the fastest way to one's last run, and I'm not trying to go on that run just yet.
Case in point: my co-captain and business partner Rufus Dixon and I were in the process of making a route decision on one when our proximity to the shorter routes got to a certain point … and what you seen on the screen appeared.
Hard to call it an it – it had such a noble bearing of intelligence and deep sadness to go with its bejeweled beauty, because of the setting of its six eyes on its main face (Dix noticed the second one). Even though it appeared like an old video projector had gone off somewhere, and even spoke like there was a script, the sense of will and intelligence was overwhelming.
“Here lies the graveyard of the Xattoaoppm, an ancient and powerful civilization whom greed and lust destroyed in the midst of their great wealth. I alone remain as keeper and guardian of their graves, to warn all who would pass by of the consequences of how sin destroys even the greatest of peoples, and to request that the dead be left in peace.”
The message was repeated again, precisely, which suggested that it was a repeat, but …
“He sounds like what my father would if he didn't feel like I had gotten the message the first time … it's slower, deeper. If it is anything like my father, we had better show we are getting the message,” Dix said.
“All stop,” I ordered the helmsman.
We stopped, and the message stopped as well.
“I guess the recording is done,” the helmsman said.
Dix went over to the science station.
“We gotta pay somebody next time to constantly be here, Kirk,” he said. “That thing is a projection, but it is not quite a recording … it's something far more powerful than that.”
“Well, that makes our life easier,” I said. “We just take the longer course.”
“Oh, come on!” our first officer for the day crew said. “We could get to port a day sooner on the shorter route.”
The projection-that-wasn't proved itself in the next instant.
“Anyone who would transgress the graveyard of the Xattoaoppm must make his grave with them.”
My first officer jumped out his chair.
“Do you really think it can do it?” the helmsman said.
“Do you want me to risk your life finding out?” I said.
Everyone followed my orders, and we were on our way – not fast enough to miss what happened in the rear view when another ship decided not to heed the warning.
All at once, the six-eyed one began to change its aspect … the sad face receded to reveal a sleeker shape and two additional faces.
“The energy level is going off the charts,” Dix said.
The two faces revealed became enraged, and the energy field swirled and licked toward the other ship –
“Reverse course,” I said. “Dix, get me whatever tractor power we have and yank that ship back– communications officer, open up communications – this is Captain Kirk speaking – please forgive and give a second chance!”
We yanked that freighter out of there … the creature shifted back to its former appearance, standing down and allowing us to do our rescue.
“The self-sacrificing kindness of one passer-by is respected on behalf of another more foolish, in witness with the Redeemer Who gave Himself to save the man called Kirk,” the being said, proving that indeed, it was more than a recording. “Yet once, but never again. Give the warning to all men – once, but never again.”
I forwarded the entire incident to my cousin's fleet, and when they did the final star charts, they noted the graveyard of the Xattoaoppm, and the fact that the area was impassable to ship traffic owing to “violently fluctuating energy fields.” Close enough. The Xattoaoppm graveyard remains in peace.
This is two different renderings of a fractal beginning in Apophysis that gave me twenty in total, including these two that suggested this story...