The young Kil’ra Morale Officer looked at his new uniform with pride. He’d finished his apprenticeship in half the normal time, and been decorated with the Gold Honor Badge for achieving top scores in all disciplines. It was neatly pinned upon the breast of his beautiful dark grey uniform, worn by all Terran officers of the Corps, outshining the epaulets embossed with silver filigree and the platinum-covered buttons. But even those bright features stood out the least. His furry, tiger-like face stood at least three heads above the crowd of humans visiting the graduation ceremony, and Dozan eagerly took a minute to straighten his ornate cap. In the middle of the cap, right above the forehead, was affixed the double-headed Imperial Eagle, holding in its claws a crossed rifle and sword, as per official standard. He had forged the whole miniature by hand from megasteel, as a final test of his mastery in uniform-crafting. The short cape he’d also made, the accessory to his parade uniform, was dark blue, with the Alliance symbol sewn in its center. It was masterfully made, with all spiral arms of the Galaxy glistening, three-dimensional seams reflecting the evening sunlight. It created the illusion of certain stars glowing, and he’d made sure the Shield Held By Many Hands in the background was as solid and accurate as possible. The whole ensemble really looked quite splendid. Dozan exhaled and smiled, revealing a mouth full of white, razor sharp teeth, and his old master nodded at him, the signal to move forward and accept his graduation gift. The hard years of training and tests were behind him now; his newfound life purpose as a Kil’ra was to inspire and lead others by example, serving as a Morale Officer for the Terran Empire. But having been inspired by human bravery and refusal to back down even in the darkest of hours, Dozan knew that the real challenge was still ahead. He bowed slightly before accepting the weapon customarily gifted to a Terran officer of the Morale Corps. A very old human woman was holding his new vibro sword, and he bowed again when his hand grasped the sword’s handle. Dozan raised the blade high, and began reciting his official vow as the rest of the apprentices chanted his name: “By my Blood, I swear to Bravely protect all citizens of the Empire and the Alliance! By my Honor, I vow to Sacrifice if need be to ensure the survival of our culture! By my Example I pledge to lead by Virtue those who stand before Evil, and form a living wall securing our freedoms – Now, Forever, and Until my Last Breath!” The crowd erupted into cheers as he lowered his sword, beaming with joy. As it was traditional for Kil’ra younglings who had fulfilled their Es’lav, Dozan had now earned the right to use his full name. As the young morale officer sheathed his sword, he loudly proclaimed: “Bear witness, all of you who are present here, as my name is now Dozan’Re, The One Who Leads!” He quickly stepped off the platform and walked away, checking his few belongings as the crowd cheered him out of the building. He then stepped into the waiting taxi that would bring him to his first official assignment. While the grav-taxi drove towards the nearest starport, he collected himself, and with fondness, recalled the events that had led him to this moment. Kil’ra youth spent the first 40 years of their lives finding purpose and honing new skills, a period of time traditionally known as an “Es’lav”. Many wandered their ancient Star Empire’s territories, but more and more of them now chose to explore allied space. The Terran Empire and its culture of self-reflection, honor, and sacrifice for others were especially appealing to the Kil’ra. During his Es’lav, Dozan had spent six whole years on Mars colony. One of the first outposts of humanity and their client races, its capital city of Cydonia and the famous ancient Precursor ruins next to it were the reasons he’d traveled there. The people he befriended and the Terran culture were the reasons he’d stayed. Fascinated by the short and mostly sad history of the fledgling space-faring civilization, he’d spent many months immersing himself thoroughly in all of its beauty and history. One could say that he, as with most young aliens who came in contact with Earth and humanity, had quickly fallen in love with them and their desperate struggle for survival. After a few months of working odd jobs on Mars and its orbital satellites, Dozan had won a free tour of Earth’s historical monuments. He had traveled there on a rented shuttle, visiting the ancient places first. The Giza plateau had enthralled him, and he’d explored every pyramid and restored tombs that were available to the tourists. One week wasn’t enough to travel through the entire length of the lush Sahara forests. Once a desert, a terraforming project had started during the late 60’s and been completed only in twelve years. The Glaciers of Colorado, which Dozan had explored next, had also been restored immediately after the Sahara. Who knew the planet could have undergone such a transformation before the onset of the 21st century on Earth’s calendars? Having had enough money to pay for the extra fuel, he’d flown around with the shuttle, visiting many more places and countries than just the ones specified in the brochure. He’d been grateful that he’d decided to go off the beaten path, as each twist and turn revealed new and ever lovelier surprises that only drew him in the more. Earth had many nation-states who had united to form the Imperial Minarchy government. Within the Empire, the nation-states still existed, preserving their beautiful identities and unique cultures. Dozan had not seen anything like it anywhere within the territories of his own race’s empire. Sure, there were many Kil’ra colonies, each with their own quirky cultural differences, but nothing like this. The last site he’d visited before the end of the tour was a testament to this unity – the Tri-Ship Monument, a large debris field consisting of three wrecked Terran spaceships of an early design, known as the “Akira”, the “Lincoln”, and the “Rome”. First in their class, they were cruiser-size ships with rotating sections and limited speed. Nevertheless, the Terrans had fought valiantly against insurmountable odds. It was around the time when humans first traveled between the stars and joined the community of starfaring races that a great Pirate Lord named Mahimm unified many clans and led his armada into the Sol system. Arrogant and foolish, Lord Mahimm decided to invade and enslave all of humanity, even though he knew the humans had signed the pre-alliance agreement with the Kil’ra Empire. He hadn’t anticipated the Kil’ra to send their ships, nor had he anticipated the stiff resistance from the “primitive” locals. As expected, the humans had been physically weak; their fleet had only small escort ships, starfighters, and but three capital-size ships that were just fresh off the assembly line. Crews were trained to perfection but had little to no real combat experience, and the sly pirate lord predicted an easy fight. That proved not to be the case. Ultimate victory eluded him, and as he suffered unimaginable losses both in spaceships and ground forces, Mahimm went into a fit of rage on the bridge of his command cruiser, the Romaaruk. He commanded ten of the best destroyer captains in his armada to surround the lone Terran cruisers and take them. Somehow the humans resisted, and he lost all of his ships that were battling them. For thirty-nine full hours, they fought defiantly, dying from exhaustion and wounds, but never leaving their posts. Fulfilling their eternal duty to humanity, the cruiser’s whole crews died to the last man and woman. And as the hulls of their ships were being melted beyond repair, they themselves cooking alive inside their suits, the crew still managed to return fire. The pirates sent boarding parties who were to secure the wrecked ships, but wave after wave, they all vanished within the ravaged hulls. The Terrans shot at them with everything they had, but the power packs were all spent eventually. Then they fought them in melee. Jagged and broken weapons, severed limbs, and even pieces from the hulls of their own ships were used as weapons. Finally, the wounded Terrans, their suits damaged and suffering from decompression, used their failing bodies to finish the job. After their twentieth attempt, the pirates stopped sending marines. The space around those three Terran ships became a graveyard for them, a terrible monument to their Great Lord’s folly But even with such a heroic resistance, the humans were losing badly. Dozan’Re remembered a short holo clip that had been on display at the monument, taken from one of the reinforcing Kil’ra Star Navy ships who had managed to break through the pirates’ lines and reach the site. A single dead Terran crewwoman floating in space had been found, limbs entangled with those of an enemy marine. Evidently, she’d broken the faceplate of that pirate marine with her own, killing herself and the enemy in the process. Dozan had wondered why she hadn’t used her arms, but on closer inspection, the young Kil’ra had noticed that they had been blown away. Her suit had been self-sealed by its anti-decompression-grade vacfoam, yet she was obviously going to die from the wounds even before taking the decision to sacrifice herself. When he’d magnified the image, on her frozen face, one could see her defiant smile. While Dozan had been floating in his suit, overwhelmed by emotion from the holo clip he’d just seen, he’d noticed a lone, elderly human man. Wearing an antiquated space suit, the white-haired senior citizen had been touching the hull of the Lincoln at seemingly random places. Every time he stopped, there’d been a short burst of comms from him, sent on an open link in the local I-net. Dozan had been intrigued, and he’d decided to listen to what the old man was saying. The man had been whispering on the open frequency, and obviously was a gifted orator: “You, who suffered and died for others to live in safety – Glory! Remembered will you be as long as our race’s memory stands pure. Heroes standing in the enemy’s way, too tired to move and who yet died fighting – Vengeance! Sacrificing the vile monsters who took you away from your families, before it was your time. Our drive to fulfill the promise is eternal, for as long as our race’s strength holds true.” As Dozan listened in awe, the man had gone on: “Victims, those who were kidnapped and sold as pieces of flesh – Justice! There will be a reckoning for the crimes of your captors and their abettors yet. Doom will be upon them, swift Terror grasping their hearts and minds. Ever knowing their violent Death follows steps, shadows, and space....” Dozan had been suddenly taken with vivid emotions, and he’d soon found his helmet full of tears floating in the zero-G. The faceplate of his suit had quickly cleaned the droplets out – and he only then saw that the old Terran had lost control of his own suit. The man had suddenly grasped his chest and started floating away deep in the debris field. Concerned, the young Kil’ra had leaped away from the tourist railing, detaching his grappling cable and activating the small engines on his suit. With grace and precision, Dozan had reached the man, grabbed him, and turned away, navigating towards the nearest med station. Amazingly, those tiny spacesuit engines had had enough fuel for him to get there quickly. As he’d correctly assumed, the old man was having a heart attack, and would’ve died, had he not intervened in a most timely manner. However, after a quick surgery inside the medical shuttle, the old man had awoken angry. “Why have you stopped me from attending to my duties!?” he’d screamed at the stunned medic, who tried desperately to calm the man down. Dozan had now noticed his unshaven face, the pale, almost deathly-looking skin, and the swollen, tired eyes. The unkempt beard and dirty hair were in wild contrast with the brilliant language he had heard earlier. The man’s voice had suddenly begun to haltingly fail, showing deep pain instead of angered strength. The man needed help.As the medic attended to him, Dozan had slowly moved over and faced the old man: “Calm yourself, Sir, you have suffered a heart attack and you should listen to the doctor here.” Dozan had used his best diplomatic tone and smiled charmingly as he continued, “We would be truly sad to lose one such as you, gifted Speaker and honored Elder, to a simple heart failure.” The man was suddenly speechless, his eyes filled with tears, and he mumbled “Your Highness” before falling unconscious.The doctor had sat beside the old man and began crying too. It had been very disturbing for the Kil’ra to see a grown adult weeping, and he had asked, “Please, you told me he was going to be fine, Doctor. I don’t understand, why are you crying?” The doctor then turned away, and with great sadness in his voice, he had answered Dozan: “This is the great Morale Officer, Ulfric Wagner! He was the sole survivor from the Lincoln. Many of us fear he’s lost his mind since the only thing he does these days is to spend all his waking time reciting the names of the dead and honoring them with speeches. He is far too old to be doing that – floating in outer space, I mean! There is so much that he could learn the next generation. Alas, we haven’t been able to persuade him to retire from his self-imposed solitude.” The doctor had then left Dozan sitting near the medibed, puzzled. Dozan had then begun to search the G-net with his PDA. It had taken old Ulfric six hours to wake up, six hours that Dozan spent reading and soaking up everything that he could find about the old morale officer like a sponge. The more he had read, the more he’d been overwhelmed by the idea and purpose of the Morale Corps. And at the very moment, Ulfric awoke, there at his side had been one very eager young Kil’ra, practically begging him to take him as an apprentice. At first, the grizzled old man had been defiant, but after following him for a month, every single day, and reciting the exact words of his famous speeches, Ulfric had finally capitulated. Perhaps for the first time in his long life, the old morale officer had seen that there was more to him than spending endless hours in mourning. The Galaxy belonged to the youth. What better duty was there than to prepare them to face its horrors with equal duty and pride? And there was Dozan, one of these youth, only too willing to learn.
If you enjoyed reading the promo, please check out my book on Amazon: