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Cdr Alces

Naming the Lobsters

Zar Alces should have been in his element. He was the eye in the center of a scientific hurricane. The Cloud of Pacifica lay before him, an uncharted wonder of the known galaxy. You had to traverse the cloud in unique and complicated solar sailing vessels. And the space serpents were fascinating specimens, hiding ... lurking in the cloud waiting for him to uncover their secrets. There was no time to plan this expedition thoroughly. Time was short. You had to just throw yourself into it and punt as the challenges came your way. This was what he was good at. In fact, few beings in the universe were as suited to situations like this as he. Yet it brought him little joy.


Alces was anxious for the other teams. He was concerned for Jordan. Would she be able to complete her mission? The dilithium she was searching for was their emergency exit strategy. What would happen to the crew if she couldn't find any? What direction could he steer her in that would ensure her success? And he was worried about Riley. The man had a price on his head in New Atlantis. Riley felt that would be an asset to him, but honestly, that would be true only if the price were low. And everywhere he turned, Alces found himself face to face with Samantha Kent. Her stiff upper lip and cheery disposition was not convincing enough to hide her concern over Riley. She was so smitten with him, and Alces was sure she would rather be facing danger by his side. But Alces couldn't allow it. Their relationship was still in that early adoration phase, where everything still revolved around the other. Riley would be likely to sacrifice himself, and possibly the entire team, to prevent her from breaking a nail. So instead, Alces made her come with him into the cloud, and opened himself to the possibility of having to tell Samantha that he'd sent her lover to his death.


This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He sighed deeply. Yes ... it was. He was the first officer. This is exactly how it's supposed to be. It's just not what he wanted. And he had naively convinced himself that it wouldn't happen.


He had taken the job to protect himself, not to send these children to their deaths. He was aware of the irony. Some of these people were older than his biological body, but he still thought of them all as children. Even Arphazad, who held a good three hundred years over the rest of them, seemed young to Alces. But it was easy Alces to forget that the ship's Captain was joined. He seemed to move through this life as if it were his first. Was that normal for a host / symbiont relationship? Was Alces really overwhelming his hosts, as the Symbiosis Commission had accused him of?


When he had been first deposited back on the Arcadia, staying aboard wasn't even an option. It was too dangerous. The ship was being run by young people, full of zest and enthusiasm, and very little street smarts. All Alces needed to do was stay alive until Virax returned. Then the two of them could poof out again to parts unknown. But as time went on, Alces had realized that survival was not going to be easy. The doctors and scientists didn't know how to defend themselves, the security team was all muscle and no guile. They were falling victim to alien manipulation and exploding androids and all sorts of physical anomalies that threw them backward and forward and backwards in time again. Hayden disappeared, leaving them in a void. And Alces realized that he would not survive in this democracy. Although he had never been a fan of fascism, if the ship was going to stay in one piece until Virax's return, then Alces needed to step up and control as much as he could.


So why was he now standing here, more worried about their welfare than his own? When did the good of the many start to outweigh the good of the one? This mob of children had evolved into a group of individuals, each with their own hopes and fears and desires and lessons to learn. Each of them deserved that chance to grow, to thrive, and reach their potential. And instead of being their organizer, keeping them in neat, efficient patterns to ensure their peak operation, Alces had turned into their Sheppard. He now felt responsible for each and every one of them. In his lifetime, he had lost generations of friends and loved ones. He had begun to see every life as transient, except for his own. Now, he had carelessly allowed himself to get attached to another group of short-lifers. If he were lucky, he would outlive everyone on this ship ... if you call that luck.


Children in seafood restaurants are discouraged from seeing the creatures in the tanks. They tend to personify them by giving them names and talking to them, playing with them, until dinner arrives on the table and they see their new best friend on a plate.


I never should have learned their names, he thought. He knew better. He tried to go back to work, pushing the other missions out of his head and concentrating on the one he was leading.


Cdr Alces

USS Arcadia, NCC-1742-E

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