Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



November 2023


“No. No.” Rebecca shook her head. “Life cannot exist in a black hole.”

“What do you know of black holes?” Bobbi circled Rebecca.

“Why do you think I’m on this circuit? We pass twenty systems orbiting black holes. My observatory is specifically for collecting data from them.” Rebecca pointed, thought for a second, then pointed in the other direction. 

“That proves what?” Smugness again. 

“We know life cannot originate on one.” Rebecca put her hands on her hips. “It’s like life originating on a star. It’s not going to happen.”

Bobbi smiled condescendingly. “Well, what you don’t know about these stars vastly outweighs what you do know.” She glanced in the direction of the gravatar. “This one contains a gateway to home.” For a moment, Bobbi appeared crestfallen. “One we can never return to.”

“Pfft, like a wormhole? Seriously?” Rebecca hesitated, cocking her head. “Seriously?”

Bobbi grinned. “A gravatar is just a very dense star. No holes.” She leaned toward Rebecca. “And you thought you knew a thing or two about black holes?”

Rebecca scowled. Or it felt like she did. She glanced at the mirror again, remembering she had no face. “We know…” She shook her head and sighed. “We have a lot of ideas about black holes. What they’re made of. What they’re radiating. But I’m the first person to actually get close to one. To specifically study one up close. This one is my third black hole.” She waved her hand in the direction where she thought the gravatar was, glancing at So’rn. He pointed in another direction. Rebecca corrected herself. “It’s got an accretion disk which interferes with my equipment but I’m still getting a ton of data from it.”

“Quaint. But admirable.” Bobbi smiled. “Any species that seeks to understand the universe cannot be a total loss, right?”

“Um. Yeah.” Rebecca wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not. “So, tell your friends not to dump us in there, please.”

“No can do.” Bobbi waggled her finger. “This ship has to go. It’s already proven a threat to us.”

“It’s a cargo ship!” Rebecca held her hands out. 

“It means others will follow. Unless it is demonstrated that this system is incompatible to them.”

“The cargo pods are in stasis,” So’rn said quietly.

“Yeah, what he said.” Rebecca shook her head and looked at her armored wolfman. “Really? The whole pod?”

So’rn nodded. “When the accretion disk starts to tear this ship apart, they’ll be disrupted.”

“Wow. I knew they had stasis in them. But the whole pod?” She looked at Bobbi. “We don’t want to disrupt them.”

“Why?” Bobbi looked at her curiously.

“Well, um.” She glanced back at So’rn. “Why?”

“When we deactivate one, the buffers merge the past with the present carefully to prevent a temporal hammer. The amount of energy one of those would release could destroy a star system.”

Rebecca just gaped at him. She looked at Bobbi. “There are like, ninety-six of those pods.”

“Ninety-four. We dropped two off on this transit already.” 

So’rn was ripped from Rebecca’s grip and slammed into the far wall again. 

“Of for crying out loud!” Rebecca rushed to him and pulled him off the wall. He hung on her arm as if gravity had switched to the wall while she pulled him back to Bobbi. “You guys really need to ease into it.”

“We are currently in orbit beyond the accretion disk. You will disable the stasis.”

“I’m a Terran physicist working on her thesis. He’s security against one of our enemies. The recipients of the pods are the ones who deactivate them, right?” She looked at So’rn. He nodded as his feet finally settled back on the floor. “And why is he affected and not me?”

“You are not enslaved to inertia.”

“Our gravity fields should counter…”

“They are designed to counter what your engines are capable of. We have no such constraints.” Bobbi said shortly. “We will disable the pods before retiring this vessel.”

“That’s like, theft.” Rebecca walked around in a circle. “And my observatory. I got grants for that. A friend sponsored me.”

“Your personal problems are irrelevant now,” Bobbi said. “Inheriting you as my Pilot does not change our mission.”

“I didn’t ask for this!” Rebecca yelled. “You could have just let us pass through and no one would be the wiser!”

“Except more are coming.” Bobbi looked at the two of them. “You will establish colonies here mining our resources. And where you go, the Cursed One inevitably follows.”

“Intruders.” So’rn waved at something in the air. Rebecca touched him and saw a virtual layout of the ship. “They’re boarding us.”

Rebecca looked at Bobbi. “Yours?”

So’rn rushed out of the room. 

“Where is he going?” 

Rebecca looked down the hall, then up at the door label. “We’re at Medical Three, so, he must be heading back to his quarters.” She glanced at Bobbi. “Yeah.”

“I see it. He has an armory there.” Bobbi vanished and became a voice in Rebecca’s head again. “We must prevent him from deploying his weapons.”

“Are you afraid…” Rebecca started then stopped, taking a wide stance as she stared around her. So’rn’s quarters. “How did we get here?”

So’rn rushed in, then pulled up short. “Rebecca?”

“I was already here,” Bobbi said innocently. 

“I just, did we, like teleport?” Rebecca trembled as she remained in her wide stance, looking at the floor. 

“Where I am, we can go freely,” Bobbi said simply. She manifested her figure again and looked at So’rn. “You must not bring weapons to bear against us.”

So’rn snarled, crouching as if to pounce.

“Rebecca values your life. But if you bring violence to us, you will be neutralized.” Bobbi said, keeping herself between So’rn and his closet of weapons. 

“Are you afraid?” Rebecca asked again.

“He is valuable to you. Having your cooperation is optimal.” 

“So’rn, I don’t think you have anything that’ll hurt these people,” Rebecca said, shaking her head. “Please.”

A hand on his shoulder set him off like a spring. Another Pilot had entered, and in an instant found himself on the ground with a snarling So’rn on top of him ripping his head off. 

Without hesitation he tossed the head aside and attacked the next Pilot to enter, dismembering him in a single smooth motion while setting up the next target. Rebecca screamed, ducking broken Pilots until there were no more left. It happened and ended so quickly that she screamed again after the action settled.

So’rn looked menacingly at Bobbi, who just stood there with her arms crossed. Bobbi grinned. “That was educational.”

The Camdyn hesitated. He looked around, then found himself slamming into the wall, held there by unseen hands. The body parts wafted away, replaced by unharmed Pilots who stood around the wolfman as if examining a strange insect. Rebecca yelped.

“Don’t hurt him!” She squeezed through the other Pilots and stood protectively between them and So’rn. “What did you expect him to do? He’s defending the ship you’re trying to destroy!”

“We wanted to see him in action,” Bobbi said, joining the other Pilots. “He was an unknown quotient. Now we know.”

“Yeah, well,” Rebecca glanced over her shoulder at So’rn, “let him down.”

“I think we’ll keep him there until we figure a way inside his armor.” 

Rebecca found herself pushed to the side as the Pilots seemed to fade and emerge into existence between her and So’rn. She stumbled and turned to face them, livid. “He is my friend!” 

“He would have killed all of us.” Bobbi crossed her arms.

“You would have killed us.” Rebecca retorted, glaring at her Drone. 

“You will have to do better than that.”

Rebecca grabbed one of the Pilots, only to be repulsed across the room. She shook her head and stomped back towards them. “I may not be a warrior, but you are NOT going to hurt him.”

The Pilot returned his attention to So’rn’s armor, ignoring her.

Furious, Rebecca reached, then stopped. She looked at So’rn for a long moment, then lowered her arm. A black mist suddenly filled the room, then coalesced around the Pilots, restraining them and moving them away from her friend. 

Bobbi smiled, gleefully holding her hands out. “That was wonderful!” 

Rebecca looked at her Drone, confused. 

“We were sure you were incapable of being a Pilot. That the Malakim was punishing us with, well, you.”

“Come again?” Rebecca stood up straight, facing Bobbi. The black mass restraining the Pilots suddenly faded away and the Pilots surrounded her. 

“The Camdyn holds no interest for us.” Bobbi put her arms down. “After all, you are the one who associates with a god, and speaks the Holy Language.” 

“You’re in my head. What more do you want to know?”

“Pure memory is limited. There is something that cannot be read. Your will. That we must witness to comprehend.” Bobbi was suddenly millimeters away from her. “We must also discern why a god would steal a Drone, and yet leave you among us.”

“He’s just Brian.” Rebecca tried to step back, but a Pilot stood immediately behind her. “He’s my friend.”

“And yet he didn’t rescue you.” Bobbi cocked her head. “You are such a curious creature. So delicate and weak. And yet, there is something about you.”

“We must know. Why was the Drone stolen from us? Why is the Malakim interested in you? In us?” A new voice.

Rebecca looked around. The voice sounded familiar. A blackness appeared by the entrance, then wafted away, revealing the creature that Pilots were apparently modeled after. It was a biped covered in pearlescent skin rich in purple hues. Large purple eyes adorned its face. Black ridges and sharp scales ran down its body. Most remarkably, it had what appeared to be snakes for hair. Or tentacles. They seemed to have a mind of their own. Rebecca was reminded of the stories of Medusa as she gazed at the remarkable alien.

It was the voice that captured her attention most strongly, however. 


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