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K, Jonathan, Joëlle and I were all seated in the cockpit when the hum of the slipspace drive dissipated and the view outside the window unstretched back into shape. Our ship had arrived at the origin point of the distress signal.

To our left was a large red nebula. It looked like a titan had poured a star-system’s worth of red ink into a glass of water, started stirring it, and then froze the ink in time and vanished.

Ahead of us we could see the tops of two ships: a Titan-class battlecruiser, drifting above a massive black shape. It was the valicorr mothership, and it was attacking the TAU ship.

We found it!” I exclaimed. And in the middle of another crisis, too...

Laser bolts and missiles flew between the two vessels. As we got closer, we could see starfighters had been deployed from each force and were dogfighting each other and attacking the larger vessels. The TAU battlecruiser didn’t seem to be doing any damage to that thing.

It’s bigger than I remembered,” said Jonathan, staring at the mothership.

Should we get in closer?” I asked.

Joëlle grabbed the controls. “Already on it. Jonathan, you keep scanning that ship, give us any useful information.”

K rubbed her hands together. “Alright. What’s the plan, are we going to fly in close? Board it? Take it out from the inside?” She paused. “We have that cloaking thing, right?”

Joëlle nodded as we sped toward the battle, swooping under the mothership. Its massive black shape blotted out the top half of our view. “If we can find a place to board it, that might be our best bet.”

My heart was beating quickly. “You know, we shouldn’t rush into this, that ship is probably crawling with valicorr.” The magnitude of the situation was beginning to settle on me as we crested the mothership and the TAU battlecruiser was revealed. Starfighters flew back and forth in a dizzying motion, like a swarm of bees. I noticed a red glow, appearing on the mothership, and a moment later red electricity blinked across to the TAU ship.

There was a flash of an explosion where the energy connected, and to my horror a massive chunk of the TAU ship detached from itself and began drifting off into space.

We were all staring at it.

Jonathan shook his head. “There’s no way we can stop this thing,” he said.

Shut up,” said Joëlle. “There has to be a way.”

I can’t see one.” said Jonathan.

Joëlle handed me the controls and leaned over to look at the scans of the mothership, trying to find a weakness. I kept us hovering under the shadow of the mothership, my heart racing.

Suddenly, the ship’s communicator started flashing. Someone was sending out a general hail. We all exchanged concerned glances, before Joëlle spoke up. “They don’t know we’re here, but we can listen in. I’ll make sure they can’t hear us.” She flicked a few switches, and then connected to the call.

Two images appeared on the communication-console’s screens. We all crowded around to look at it. The right image must have been coming from the TAU cruiser. We could see what looked like the bridge of a Titan-class ship, with emergency lights flashing and flames burning. An officer of some kind was standing in front of the camera, eyes wide with fear. There were a few other people in the background, assessing a body. I thought I could make out an admiral’s outfit on the body.

The other image was dark and unchanging. Dim purple lights filled the screen, surrounding a throne-like chair, barely illuminated in the light. A humanoid creature was sitting in the chair, casually resting its head on its hand, but it was too dim to make out any details. I couldn’t see any other creatures in the image.

The voice of the TAU officer rose, shakily, and breaking in static. “What do you want?”

I held my breath. We could hear the muffled sounds of people moaning in pain, and the fires crackling coming through the TAU communicator. A few seconds passed, and at last an alien voice emanated from the mothership, though the figure remained completely motionless, in shadow. My eyes were fixed on it.

How are you?” it said.

The TAU officer spoke. “What?!”

Silence.

What do you want?!” he said again.

How are you?” it said again, slowly. I felt a chill run down my back.

The officer was shaken. He spoke slowly. “Call off the attack, and then- Then we can talk.”

Alright.” said the creature. I glanced outside and saw the valicorr ships starting to retreat.

All starfighters, return to dock,” said the officer, over his communicator. The TAU ships returned to the cruiser.

K spoke up. “What the hell is happening?”

I don’t know,” I said.

So, how are you?” said the creature.

The officer shook his head furiously and tears welled in his eyes. “How do you think?! You’ve destroyed a quarter of the ship! You’ve killed our people! You attacked us completely unprovoked!”

So, not doing so well, I see.” The creature began to chuckle in a strange, disturbing manner. Its voice didn’t sound like a valicorr… I didn’t think it was human either. Could it have been a skyther?

Jonathan and Joëlle were quiet, watching the screen. I fixed my attention on the communicator.

The TAU officer remained silent, glaring at the camera. Two other officers approached and stood behind him, looking at the communicator.

What. Do. You. Want?” repeated the officer. I didn’t like where this was going.

Perhaps some music would ease your mind?” The creature moved one of its arms, and pressed a button. A second later, some kind of classical piano music began playing throughout the communicator, eerily calm, and definitely of human origin.

The TAU officers looked at one another. “What the hell is this… where did you- How did you get this recording?”

The music played over the ambient sounds of the burning fires. We exchanged glances once again, none of us knowing what to say, as our ship continued to hover in the shadow of the mothership. Jonathan’s expression was unreadable.

This,” began the creature, “is Bach’s prelude in C major.” It laughed again, and then sighed dramatically. “So calming, this ‘piano’ instrument.”

One of the other officers spoke up at last, taking a step forward. “What are you?! Who do you think you are?”

There was a long pause, where the creature remained motionless. The music played, and I glanced out at the ships through the window. The TAU cruiser was in bad shape, the large chunk which had discharged continued to drift away. How many countless lives were stranded, dying, on that chunk of debris? They were probably dead already, with the entire section now devoid of power, and depressurizing. I clenched my fists and trembled. What was this monster?

At last it spoke. “Who do you think I am?”

The officers glanced at each other, bewildered. “You are the captain of your vessel, are you not?”

I am. But I am much, much more than that.” There was an air of pride in its voice. “I am the leader, the Emperor, of the valicorr. I am Duhrnan. Have you heard of me?”

The Emperor of the Valicorr? I thought. Duhrnan?

N- No, we’ve never heard of you. We didn’t know the valicorr had an emperor.”

Well they do.” He laughed, and began tapping his armrest, though his body was still mostly obscured in darkness.

We have to stop this,” I said, looking to my companions. They returned my glance.

How?” asked Joëlle. Jonathan and K remained silent. I glanced at the weapon controls, but even I knew there was no way we could damage the mothership if a Titan-class cruiser was ineffective.

The creature, Duhrnan, continued. “It would be much less fun if I outright told you, so, let me ask you this, in response to your other question. What do you think I am?” At this, a large shape of something fell to the floor from the ceiling, behind Duhrnan’s throne. It started moving around, making some amount of noise. The officers looked stunned.

The officer in front gulped. “You are a valicorr.”

Slowly, the creature began to laugh. He leaned forward, towards the camera, out of his seat, and light illuminated his body.

My heart skipped a beat. He had two wide eyes on either side of his long face. He had two slits for nostrils on his pale snout, and a tall, wide row of teeth which grinned menacingly. My mandibles dropped in disbelief when I saw his extra set of arms; four in total.

Grinning up to the camera, with that chilling shape moving in the darkness behind him, he spoke at last. “Wrong!”

The mothership’s energy weapon fired again, taking out another chunk of the TAU ship in a bolt of red electricity. My heart jumped, and I stood up out of my seat. Consoles erupted in flame on the TAU bridge, and I saw the officers gripped with fear. I clenched my mandibles.

Another bolt hit the ship, and it broke again. Then another, and another. The piano music continued to play as Duhrnan grinned, and the TAU screen snapped to static. Again and again, the mothership lashed out with its energy weapon, tearing the TAU ship apart.

No…” said Joëlle as we all gazed out at the window. The mothership closed communications, and the music cut off abruptly.

He’s a sadist!” exclaimed K, standing out of her seat. “Holy shit!”

Jonathan said nothing, and stayed motionless. At last the ship stopped attacking the debris.

Joëlle, is it possible to fly close enough to the mothership to catch a ride in its slipstream?”

She nodded. “Yes, it is.”

Jonathan spoke up. “Are you crazy? We’d have to be practically touching its hull. Even if it was a friendly ship that would be dangerous, we might collide with it, but it’s not a friendly ship. If it notices us, we’ll surely be destroyed.”

Well, it’s one way to ensure it doesn’t get away from us,” said Joëlle, flashing Jonathan a sympathetic look. She tilted the Firebrand toward the mothership, and flew in closer until the hull practically engulfed the entire view.

I can’t believe we’re doing this…” said Jonathan, exasperated.

Me neither,” said K, though she sounded excited. I looked at her and she gave me a confident smirk.

Do you think they’ll hang around here long? Or are they heading somewhere?” I asked.

Joëlle was about to speak, when we noticed the space around the ship begin to distort and felt ourselves pulled jarringly forward. Normally the ship’s stabilizers and artificial gravity would compensate, but we were catching a ride on the mothership’s slipstream; the Firebrand wasn’t designed to do that.

Joëlle spoke. “I guess they’re in a hurry.”

And now, so are we,” said Jonathan, shaking his head.

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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