The Apex

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"Are you busy, sir?" Jordan Rattan stood by the open door of Captain Barron's office on the Excalibur.

"Just going over some technical reports." Rolland Barron sat at his desk. "Come in." He motioned to a vacant chair.

Jordan Rattan stepped in, closing the door behind him, and sat across from Rolland.

"How can I help you?" Rolland switched off the pad in his hands and placed it on his desk.

"I came to request permission to assess the Kaax station."

"Compliance assessment?"

Jordan nodded.

"But your orders are just to assess the Catechumen?"

"Well, yes. Those are my current orders. But I have the latitude to perform assessments at my discretion."

"Hmm." Rolland gazed at the large viewscreen on his wall, which presently acted as a window. Outside the Excalibur, hanging in front of the blackness of intergalactic space, he could see the Avalon near their side, and beyond it, a cluster of several dozen alien vessels, two foreign space stations, and the Kaax gate. They had moored here only an hour prior, arriving through an intermediary wormhole after their jump from the Delta gate. "Can I ask why?"

"I thought -since we've been enqueued here anyway- I might as well make myself useful. It seems like a good opportunity."

"Have you worked much outside of Sol?" Rolland asked.

"Not really," Rattan answered. "Mostly I've done corporate enforcement."

The further they travelled from home, the fewer humans would be counted among those they meet. Here, at the Apex, they were already a minority. This was a neutral meeting ground for alien species, in an intergalactic crossroads of wormholes -entrances and exits. The Apex lies at the center of a tangled web of wormholes stretching for hundreds of thousands of lightyears.

"Alright," Rolland answered. "I don't see the harm. Just be sure to get back before they're ready for us -and don't ruffle anyone's feathers."

Jordan laughed. "Alright. Thank you, sir."

As Jordan left, Rolland turned his attention to the traffic of alien ships on the viewscreen. Every so often, a new vessel would appear in a blink of colorful light, popping in from who-knows-where. Others would disappear through the Kaax gate, or fly off towards one of the neighbouring wormholes. Some of the ships drifted slowly to dock at one of the two neighbouring stations, or to head towards the gate. The rest appeared motionless, as if stuck firmly in the blackness of space.

Rolland marvelled at the alien ships passing through. This hub of activity was one of dozens that comprised the intergalactic region known as the Apex. In this spot, watching the alien ships make their way from one foreign corner of the galaxy to another, the facade of human exceptionalism melted away. Each passing vessels was full of aliens, each with their own homeworlds, their own history, and their own purposes. The Excalibur was just another vessel among them: another ship of aliens -humans- making its way through the crossroads.

Soon, they would jump through the Kaax gate, headed for the stars of Caldwell 57. Rolland stared towards the foreign galaxy: barely a speck of light from this distance, and further from home than he had ever been.

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