Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

In a lonely corner of a spiral arm galaxy, a sad scene is taking place. A single, silver starship, sitting motionless in the blackness, opens an airlock and six bodies are jettisoned. They float away from the ship like some frozen flock of birds.

Who were they? Why are they dead? Did they have lunch? So many unanswered questions.

And what of the ship? As the bodies begin to orbit the vessel, it remains, dead as its former crew to the casual eye. If we were able to know what it was 'thinking' what would we learn.

In actuality, the thoughts of the ship were not unlike those of the schizophrenic patient you might find in any of the outstanding mental institutions found wherever intelligence gathers. "Who am I? Why am I here? Do I like the color blue?" These questions and many more flashed through its circuitry.

The explanation for this breakdown of thought can be traced back to the ship's creators. Beings of infinite wisdom and intelligence, the designers wanted to build a vessel that would be wholly unique in the universe. They wanted it to be self-sustaining, naturally, but not so aware that it could come back to them with a grievance.

It was decided after much debate that the ship could be sentient, but only if it first had a crew of sentient beings inhabiting it. This would solve the issue of self-awareness and remove the likelihood of any nasty legal actions.

And so it was built and sent out from the planet of its creation with a Holy Mission to perform. It was programmed to find an intelligent crew whenever needed and for many centuries it performed flawlessly.

Somewhere along the way, however, the details of the Holy Mission were lost as was the identity and location of the designers. This did not impede the ship in any way. It continued to gather crews of intelligent if gullible beings and traveled the stars collecting information that it neither understood, nor used.

Which brings us back to the current situation. The six frozen corpses were only the latest volunteers. They were members of the fun-loving species known as Sodoffians from, oddly enough, the planet Sodoffia (Sodoffians have often been compared to Earth dolphins by those in the know. Dolphins, of course, are universally known as the clowns of the marine world. Sodoffians, much the same, are the clowns of the xenophobe set. This is where the big difference can be seen. A dolphin will perform backflips to the enjoyment of its audience. Sodoffians, on the other hand, perform similar feats of agility but while shooting down members of the audience. A small difference to be sure, but an important one)⁠.

It is a very good thing that Sodoffians are not prone to leaving Sodoffia, which is a paradise by any standards. Food can be found in abundance, the weather is warm and inviting and the most dangerous fauna on the planet can be dealt with using a rolled up newspaper.

Most beings use the word, "Idyllic" to describe the planet and "Lucky bastards" to describe the Sodoffians. So what could the ship possibly offer to persuade six young Sodoffians to sign up as crew?

The answer to that lies in the age-old problem young sentients everywhere seem to face. Do they stay put in their home town where watching paint dry is a sport or do they strike out into the bigger world to make their fortunes?

In this case, they obviously chose to strike out on the ship in search of fun and adventure. Just as obvious is the fact that they failed to find it in a very terminal way.

This turns out to have been a very good thing in the eyes of the universe. Unchecked, who knows what kind of chaos these fun-loving, but xenophobic, crazy kids could have caused.

Their deaths did leave the ship in something of a pickle, however.

Without an intelligent crew inhabiting it, the ship quickly lost the ability to think for itself. The quirks of its failed crew's personalities ensured that it would refuse to accept any local intelligences as new crew and so it sat, its mind fading.

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