The immense, vaguely-defined form of the Anonymous slowly orbited Sol VI, a network of communications satellites ensuring that its inhabitants had uninterrupted access to terrestrial television transmissions. These signals were pretty much the last link between the crew and passengers of the Anonymous and their home, called Earth, Terra, or Sol III, depending on whom you ask. Captain Sandra Harrison, commander of this alien vessel, had been against staying around Saturn at first, but eventually was convinced that they were unlikely to run into anyone this far from any civilization.

Saturn’s distinguishing characteristic is its ring system, the largest among Sol’s four gas giants. These rings vary in color, forming concentric circles around the planet. Viewed from above the poles, these rings resemble a giant target. This is why the Captain Mselt of the Zakav Eighth Fleet chose Saturn for his staging area before scouting out potential enemies in the solar system.

It’s a safe bet that the Zakavian forces, their stated long-term goals being conquest and expansion, might come into conflict with the crew of the Anonymous.

On the other hand, Saturn’s a big place. It’s possible the two groups won’t even meet.

Starcruiser Anonymous

(A Tale of Sfstory)

Episode 1
Wherein Revolution is Discussed
Weapons are Tested

Dave Menendez

The monarchy of Arorua was never exceedingly powerful; most power rested in the hands of the Chancellor. As a result, the Aroruan kings that cared enough to actually govern made sure the Chancellor was rather weak-willed. King Gisp was an exceptionally powerful ruler, and he chose his Chancellor well. However, Desir Elahte was no idiot, and, seeing which way the wind was blowing, he was among the first to leap to the Zakavian side. As a result, he now handled most of the day-to-day affairs for Arorua’s new ruler Governor Malta Jjana.

Currently, the two, along with Captain-General Tvanir, leader of the Aroruan Occupation Legion, were preparing to receive the latest orders from Planet Gloom over the encrypted command channels.

Not surprisingly, the first message was for Tvanir from Central Command. Elahte wordlessly handed her the printout without looking at it. She grabbed it and looked at it. Like most members of the Zakavian Imperial Military Aggregate, she disliked the messages from Central Command, mostly because they were sent in all caps, which made it seem like they were constantly shouting. One enterprising commander had assigned a computer technician to write a short program to properly capitalize the orders, although he had died soon after when the program mistook an acronym for a regular word and he moved too close to an enemy ship.

She read it again, just to make sure they hadn’t accidentally sent an old message. The dates checked out. She swore.

“What’s wrong?” asked Jjana, the amused look in his eyes saying he already knew.

“They’re reducing the Legion. Again. For some reason, they think I have more soldiers than are needed to control the planet,” she replied.

“I assure you, Captain-General,” Elahte began, “the chances of my people revolting are—”

“‘Virtually nil’,” Tvanir finished. She’d heard that speech before. In fact, she was getting rather tired of it. “Well, I certainly hope so. If something does come up, neither of you will be losing your jobs.” She turned to Jjana. “Anything else for me?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“Fine, I’ve got things to do,” she said. As she left the room, she was already plotting.

To say Princess Elim of the House Ri’Tala, daughter of the late, lamented King Gisp, was displeased with her sudden drop from “heir apparent” to “lady we let live in the castle because she’s harmless” would be something of an understatement. However, she knew that open rebellion against the Zakavians was probably the fastest way to reduce her status even further, so she tended to fume in private.

In contrast, her brother, Prince Boltar, had received the news with a bland indifference. The way he saw it, time spent worrying over such things as a loss of status was time that could be spent looking for fun things to do. Looking for fun things to do was a popular activity among the Aroruans. Despite that, few fun things to do were ever found. The more intelligent Aroruans took that as a sign and typically went somewhere else. The rest stayed home and wasted time cooking, eating, reading, sleeping, and so forth.

Boltar had found a wooden paddle to which a small rubber ball was attached by means of an elastic cord. He had discovered that he could bounce the ball off the paddle, and was currently engaged in seeing how long he could keep it up. Eventually, he figured, he would get very good and be able to impress girls. Elim was, for the ninth time, considering telling him to go paddle somewhere else when there was a knock on the door.

This had the immediate effect of throwing off Boltar’s rhythm, which caused him no end of irritation. While he sat in his chair holding his paddle, Elim stood up and answered the door.

She was one syllable into ‘hello’ when she saw who it was and stopped in shock.

“Good evening, Your Highness,” began Tvanir, “might I speak with you a moment?”

“Um, certainly, Captain-General,” replied Elim, who was racking her mind trying to see why Tvanir would be visiting her.

Tvanir looked over at Boltar, who smiled blankly at her. “May I come in?” she asked.

Elim jumped and moved out of the way, gesturing for Tvanir to enter. “What brings you here?” she asked.

“Her feet, I assume,” Boltar replied.

The look Elim and Tvanir gave him was sufficient to send him elsewhere to practice his paddleball.

Tvanir closed the door behind her and turned to Elim, “Now then, Your Highness, I have come to talk about the rebellion.”

“Why?” asked Elim, quickly suppressing a spike of fear.

“Well, other than that first one, we haven’t had any.”

Elim waited, having gone from scared to confused rather quickly.

After a second, Tvanir continued. “I’m wondering if there’s going to be another.”

“Do you think I would know?”

“Perhaps. You have never seemed that pleased about our presence here. You may have connections in a rebellion movement. You might even have founded one.”

“Is this an accusation?”

Tvanir laughed, startling Elim. “Not at all,” she said, “I have no evidence you’re rebellious at all. I can’t even prove a rebellion exists. … That’s my problem, you see?”

“Um… no?”

“Without rebellion, I have no reason to keep so many soldiers. Without a large force to call my own, I’ll never be able to increase my status and go somewhere in my career. What I’m saying is that a little bit of rebellion would give me reason to keep what I have. Since this is good for me, I’d then be inclined to go easier on your people.”

Elim stared for half a second. “So, if the people were more rebellious they’d get better treatment?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“That’s absurd!”

Tvanir’s eyes narrowed, which failed to make her look more threatening, but rather gave the impression of someone walking into bright sunlight from a dark room. “That’s all I came to say, Your Highness,” she growled, which was more effective than the eye-narrowing.

“Good day, Captain-General,” Elim replied, opening the door and startling Boltar again.

“Aww,” he said, “I was doing pretty good, too.”

“Good day, Your Highness,” Tvanir said, making ‘Your Highness’ sound like a form of gum disease. She glanced at Boltar and then walked off.

“So what was that about?” Boltar asked Elim.

“Nothing important,” she lied. Already she was making plans. The few possible rebels she had met would certainly be swayed by this bizarre turn of events.

Tvanir walked back to her offices, showing few signs of her inner frustration. Occasionally, she was passed by one of her subordinates, who saluted. She acknowledged those that she noticed, and, despite her sour mood, didn’t kill or maim anyone, which is one of the many differences between her and, say, Admiral Morgan.

Her irritation stemmed from a number of sources, but it could all be traced back to her loss of soldiers. Since her talk with Elim seemed to have failed to produce results, she could probably discount any chances of an Aroruan rebellion. That left her with only one option, if she was desperate enough to use it.

By the time she reached her offices, she had decided she was.

The unknown race that had designed the Anonymous had also included several smaller craft, which the crew assumed were fighters since they were fast, maneuverable, and had guns. Captain Harrison had divided them into five main groups, with a few spares for security. Wishing to avoid competition between the five wings based on names, she called the five groups the Gold, Red, Black, Green, and Blue squadrons. Surprisingly, this created quite a stir among certain mystically-inclined passengers, and they went on for quite a while about the symbolism involved until they realized that no one understood, cared, or was even paying attention in the first place.

These squadrons, however, had virtually no battle experience using their craft, despite the years spent orbiting Saturn, since they hadn’t encountered anyone with whom they could engage in combat. Nonetheless, the squadrons were pretty certain they had mastered their fighters, so they had moved on to testing larger craft. The Blue Squadron was assigned the job of testing a larger craft designated an escort fighter because it was too big to be a fighter and too small to be an escort.

Their leader, Squad Commander Roger Vasta, checked his notes for the last time and prepared to commence the testing. “All right, guys,” he began, prompting Squadmember Jen Kadar to clear her throat loudly. “People,” he corrected, “our first weapons test is to fire on that meteoroid.”

“We’re shooting at a rock?” asked Squadmember Thomas Dent, “What’s the challenge in that?”

“Look, Dent, we’re not even sure what these weapons do. We want an experiment that’s unlikely to harm anyone.”

“What if there’s space-borne life living on that meteoroid?” asked Squadmember Samantha Dixon. “Wouldn’t we be hurting them?”

“I think we can take that chance,” answered Vasta, dryly.

“Should I say something now?” asked the last squad member, Alex McCurry.

“That won’t be necessary.”


“Getting back to the matter at hand,” Vasta continued, “Dent, target the meteoroid.”

“I am targeting the rock,” Dent replied. “Should I activate the QuiteLarge cannon?”


“You know,” Kadar commented absently, “someone should remind me to punch Tom for that name.”

“Why, did he come up with it?” asked Dixon.

“Probably not, but some technician did, so it’ll send a message to all the technicians.”

“Makes sense to me,” Dent commented. “Remind me never to be in a group you dislike,” Dixon replied.

“You’re in this group.”

“Ah, but if you dislike this group, you can just beat up yourself, which would send a message to everyone about how much you dislike this group.”

“Do you suppose we could fire the cannon at some point before our air runs out?” Vasta asked, annoyed.

“You haven’t told us to fire yet,” McCurry protested.

“Of course. How forgetful of me. Fire at will, Dent.”

“You got it, Boss,” Dent said, obviously enjoying himself. “Firing now.”

The QuiteLarge Cannon being tested by the Blue Squadron spat out a blinding white beam at the meteoroid, destroying it to everyone’s satisfaction except Dent’s, who was never all that pleased about how quiet space is to begin with.

However, blinding white Beams of Death are just the sort of thing an invading scout fleet would notice, and Captain Mselt’s scanning crew picked it up surprisingly quickly. It seems the two groups will meet after all.

“Captain!” the Scanning Officer yelled, “we’ve found something.”

“No need to shout,” Mselt admonished, “I’m sitting right here after all.”

“Sorry, sir. We’ve detected signs of alien presence.”

“You mean all that radio flux being put out by Sol III? The stuff that almost drowns out the system’s star? I already know about that.”

“No, sir, I mean aliens right here.”

“You mean that network of satellites that receive the transmissions from Sol III and transmit their data to that enormous starship?”

“Not that either, sir. I’m referring to aliens right here. Look, you can see ’em on the viewscreen,” he gestured at the screen, where the escort fighter was busy blowing up another meteoroid.

“Oh. Them. I suppose since they haven’t tried to contact us, they don’t know we’re here, and that ship looks too small to pose a real problem. I think we can take it and get out quickly enough so that the main ship won’t even notice what happened until we’re already gone. Weapons!”

“Yes, Captain?” the Weapons Officer asked, snapping to attention and spilling his soft drink all over the Helmsman.

“Prepare the Generic Alien Unconsciousness Ray, but first wipe up that mess before something shorts out.”

“But these panels are waterproofed.”

“Remember what happened to Rgas?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll get right on it.”

Back on their unnamed escort freighter, the Blue Squadron (who were technically not a squadron at the moment because they were all in the same ship, not that anyone really cared about this distinction) was busy destroying yet another bit of space debris. Or, to put it more accurately, Dent was busy destroying said debris. “Yeah!” he enthused, “look at that one go. Hey, Boss, what’s that missile called?”

“I forget,” Vasta replied.

“Look at the way it writhes in space, as its skin boils away. If space had an atmosphere, you could probably hear that meteoroid wailing in agony,” commented Dixon.

“You have such an interesting way of looking at the world,” McCurry said to Dixon. It was impossible to tell if he was being sarcastic.

“All right, guys—” Vasta began, cutting himself off after ‘guys’ and looking at Kadar, who had dozed off. “Um, Kadar?” he said, “You awake? Don’t bother answering if you aren’t.”

“How could she sleep at a time like this?” Dent demanded. “She’s missing all the weapons testing!”

“You see one meteor blow up, you’ve seen them all,” Kadar answered, groggily.

“Actually, a meteor is an atmospheric phenomenon,” McCurry said, “in space the rocks which cause meteors are called meteoroids.”

“Thank you, Dr. Pedant,” replied Kadar.

“You know,” Vasta cut in, “I think I might take a nap myself.”

“I know how you feel,” McCurry agreed, “I feel like an alien sleep ray test subject.”

“Funny you should mention that,” Dent said, “During McCurry’s wonderfully exciting lecture on the meteor/meteoroid distinction I decided to do a long range scan—”

“To shore up our depressingly inadequate security?” Dixon interrupted.

“Er, no. To look for more meteoroids. Anyway, I noticed some odd energy readings, which I’m positive are coming from an alien spacecraft.”

“How (yawn) can you be so sure?” asked Vasta.

“I followed the readings back to their source and…” he paused, blinking and yawned himself, “they’re coming from an alien spacecraft.”

“Oh, wonderful.”

Soon only regular breathing could be heard. The Blue Squadron, oddly enough, contained no snorers.

Just how odd is it?

Is it odder than sleeping through weapons testing?

What will happen to blue squadron?

Will Princess Elim form a revolution?

If she does, will Tvanir lose her job?

What is Tvanir desperate enough to do?

Does it involve game shows?

SFSTORY: New Lenses in About an Hour