neoXeno
 
Nathaniel Sebah
 
 

Born on the planet Tholmai, Nathaniel was an ordinary Apsu man, living a very ordinary life.  Orphaned by a freak accident, Nathaniel turned his love to a woman he met just before the death of his parents.  He quickly became deeply engrossed with Lysa, a nursing student who was also studying at the academy.   Fresh out of the Guild Academy, he is one of the most acclaimed students in the region, yet he finds himself mired in a thankless job where his talents are scarcely appreciated.  Always a soft spoken man, he accepts his lot with little complaint, but Lysa is not so quiet.  His vociferous fiancé is compelled to constantly remind him of his low status at work, and increasingly deflated place at home.  It is far quieter at work, more peaceful in the drudgery of simple tasks.   Until one day, he simply had enough…

            Staring at the dark night sky, vacant of stars, washed away by the city’s lights, his mind wanders in an aimless journey to nowhere.  The work on the screen behind him was boring before he began to process it, but he managed to get two-thirds done before the beckoning call of the window turned his attention to the night sky.  Here he sits, staring into the blackness, just like last night, and the night before that, and the night before that, for so many nights he can hardly recall a time when life were any different. 
            When he finished school, he left the Guild Academy as one of the most talented and creative programmers in the brief history of the Wel’oh campus.  Had he been willing to leave Tholmai he could have seen half the known galaxy by now.  But Lysa would have nothing of it; “I love it here” she would say, “what’s in the stars that you don’t have here with me?” she would ask.  She was born and raised in Wel’oh just as Nathaniel had been.  She was unwilling to leave Wel’oh, and he was unwilling to leave Lysa; hence he would not be going to the stars.  But that was eight years ago, Nathaniel’s parents had just been killed and she was the one person he had left, the last person alive that loved him; he could not fathom leaving her behind.  But tonight, tonight his thoughts would sway past such ruminations, beyond the atmosphere of his home world, and off unto the stars, where anything can happen; where the most insignificant of men could become the stuff of legend.
But alas, here he sits; correcting someone else’s code, the work of a far less competent programmer, with far more connections, or perhaps just a few more friends.  Nathaniel could easily complete his task in little to no time, but since his boss demands his presence throughout the duration of his shift, he sits, starring into a starless sky.  He could just as easily, create a more efficient, more stable package, but daring to upstage his superiors had nearly cost him his job once before; a week in the mailroom was quite sufficient to cure him of what ever ambition remained in his meek disposition.  Stagnant but stable, his life is dull, but bearable.  There were far worse things he could be doing with his life.  For one he could be spending his days tending to the Cipa’ci eggs with Lysa; she spends her days staring into sterile white containers, where pale blue eggs sit motionless beneath warming lamps.  The incubators must be monitored at all times, so say the Cipa’ci mothers who entrust their eggs to the Apsu nurses that staff the maternity ward.  It’s hard to believe she spent all those years in nursing school, all those hours of study and training; just to sit and watch inanimate eggs, in a heated exhibit case.  She doesn’t even get to see them hatch; when the time is near, the mother’s spirit the unborn chicks away to be hatched in the “comfort of home” so not to disturb them with a sudden change of scenery after birth.  Far be it for an Apsu to assist in hatching a Cipa’ci egg, or even see one hatch.  So go their lives, maliciously mundane, delightfully dull. 

The breakfast conversation was as plentiful as the paltry portions, Lysa would soon be off to work, and Nathaniel would soon be back to bed for a few more hours before beginning his work day anew.  After living together for eight years his feeling for Lysa have changed dramatically;  there was a time when he could not imagine life without her, there was talk of marriage and children, that was six years ago.  The first four years of the relationship, he did love her deeply, but slowly, a thick cloud of first confusion, then doubt, and eventually contempt, settled over their lives.  The next two years were filled with days of accepted distance, and suppressed bitterness, occasionally interrupted by random explosions of passion.  But for the last two years, Nathaniel has come to loathe the very sight of Lysa; he volunteered for the evening shift to reduce the amount of time he has to spend with her.  He has hated the woman he shares his bed with for two years, and suspected her of cheating for the last year.  But for reasons perhaps not even an empath could explain neither of them have budged.  They continue as if nothing has changed, with polite, lifeless hugs and whispered, hollow “I love you’s.” After all this time, it seems that despite his feelings, or lack there of, Nathaniel is more afraid of being alone, than he is willing to leave his loveless relationship.  Lysa is off to work, and Nathaniel is back to bed now; the mundane syndrome that has long infected his life deeply entrenched, and settled upon his soul as he drifts into REM.

Hours later, it’s on to part two of his day.  The commute is like any other, the usual traffic, noise and congestion found in any large city topped with the occasional roar of space ships coming and going from the massive new space port on the edge of the city.  The port that has brought new wealth and excitement to Tholmai, it has brought Apsu and Syk’a rii traders, it brought the Co’ir Transports that can ferry anyone willing to go, and able to pay, anywhere in the galaxy.  And it brought the Cipa’ci, in fact it was a Cipa’ci company that built the port, the entire planet has been a buzz ever since they arrived eight years ago.  But Nathaniel could hardly tell, his life has been mired in the mundane syndrome the whole time.  But today, today would be different.
Walking in to work all seemed the same, until he arrived at his beloved station next to the window; Nathaniel’s one escape from the mundane syndrome.  But as he approaches his desk, something is awry; he arrives to find his things neatly packed into a small box (he didn’t have much there,) and a strange woman sitting in his chair.  In a tone hardly more than a whisper, more akin to a whimper he asks, “Who are you,” the fear and confusion in his voice, more apparent with each word, “why are you in my seat?”  Without a look, and hardly a flinch, the stoic woman with her stiff posture, staring intently into the screen barks back, “you’ve been moved.”  He has seen this before, seemingly random relocations of one employee or another, but he had sat in the dark windowless spaces of the inner labyrinth of the office for nearly a decade, he “earned” that precious window.  But knowing the futility of arguing the change, he picks up his box and the slip directing him to his new station and departs without uttering another word to the seemingly mechanical woman who has stolen his window, who mutters to his turned back, “poltroon.”  Shrugging off her insult as he walks away, Nathaniel thinks to him self, “That ossified myrmidon will never truly appreciate the window like I do.”  The woman finally turns toward Nathaniel to watch as he disappears back into the inner labyrinth of the office.
Moments later he emerges once again from the labyrinth to discover that he has not completely lost his window, the new workspace also has a window view this one facing the space port; a deficiency he would not become fully aware of until the next launch.  Which would begin within minutes of him settling into the new chair, as suddenly a slow rumble fills the room; a co-worker stops by to explain, patiently waiting out the noise.  “They take off every hour or so; only the huge bulk cruisers make that much noise, and they only launch after normal business hours.  You can barely hear the small ships when they take off; and you won’t hear anything when they land.  It takes a while but you’ll get used to it.  I’m…” just as the man was about to introduce himself the communicator on Nathaniel’s desk screamed to life, lighting up and screeching in a vulgar display of attention demanding fury.  “Wow, you’re gonna need to adjust that,” shaking his head in disgust, “they always deliver the new coms set to maximum annoyance.”  Answering the call, and ignoring his new neighbor Nathaniel is surprised to see the name of Lysa’s hospital on the ID, the call is short, her words concise.  He drops the receiver so suddenly he nearly missed the cradle,   sensing trouble the man still hovering over his desk slinks away quietly.
It was a call he had long awaited, he had fully expected it would come one day; but still the shock was stupefying.  He hadn’t even had an opportunity to respond; she spoke her peace and hung up.  After eight years, it would be as simple as that, “Nathaniel, I’m not coming home anymore, I’m going to the stars with Dr. Cashnew… goodby.”  Just like that, eight years were over, yet, he isn’t distraught, he isn’t even upset.  Nathaniel sits there staring blankly into the screen for nearly an hour in a pensive posture that belies his total lack of productivity; his trance is only broken with the dull roar that precedes the rumble of another launching bulk cruiser.  And with that, it hits him; staring deftly at the tremendous craft slowly rising from the massive pit carved to accommodate its expansive hull, “There is nothing left for me on Tholmai… I don’t have to stay here anymore.”  A large smile spreads across his face like the morning light spreading across the countryside.  Just as the joy was swelling within him, the ice cold voice of his boss fills his ears like leaking fuel into pot hole.  In a tone of steely calm he calls, “Nathaniel, why are you standing at the window?”  His tone suddenly stern and commanding, “get to work, I need that program checked by the morning.”  In an act of total disinterest, Nathaniel responds senselessly, “have you ever been to the stars sir?”  Confused by the question and annoyed by the disregard for his order the supervisor reluctantly answers, “No, I’ve never been off world,”  as his tone stiffens once more, “and your not going anywhere either, so get back to work!”  Turning to reveal his enormous smile, “actually sir, I am, I'm going to the stars.” Confused, puzzled and taken aback, the man responds with a laugh, “You’ve told me yourself, you hate to travel, you’ve hardly been beyond the edge of the city.”  In an increasingly strengthening tone, his chest broadening, his hide held high, “true… but it’s time to go now.”  Still smiling broadly, he gathers a few belongings and walks out leaving only a polite “goodby” behind him.  Just an hour later he is in the space port, carrying only a single brief case, with enough personal effects to prove his qualifications, he doesn’t have as much as a change of clothes beyond that. 

Wandering the corridors of the massive space port Nathaniel is confronted with the amazing array of the aliens that have come to Tholmai since the beginning of work on the space port; Ravus, Cipa’ci, Syk’a rii and Apsu spacers from across the galaxy.  Among the rabble and oddities Nathaniel’s attention is suddenly focused on single form.  Through the dense forest of folks meandering about he is fixed on her like an owl in flight, focused on a rodent scurrying in the brush.  With little consideration, Nathaniel is on his way, pursuing this random woman as if she had just stolen from him.  Bumping into aliens, stepping over luggage; he is a man on a mission, but he is hardly noticed in the hustle and bustle of the crowded passages of the space station.  Everyone around him seeming to be of their own accord, some standing around conversing with others, some patiently moving through the crowd with both ease and frustration, while yet more move in a hurried pace similar to his own.  Nathaniel barely notices the amazing diversity of merchants that line either side of the walk way; selling goods from across the galaxy, foods, textiles, personal items, technical devices and accessories of all sort.  Eventually Nathaniel follows the woman out of the crowd into a private corridor just in time to see her pass through a checkpoint where a pair of Cipa’ci stand guard.  With little mind to the large feathered sentinels, he walks right up to the doorway, where he is quickly halted; “This is a crew entrance only! No passengers on this ship!”  The guard to his left squeals in a curt tone while grabbing Nathaniel’s arm.  Finally taking notice of the guards, it is a few moments later before he gathers his senses enough to respond. 
“I am a Science Guild trained programmer with eight years experience.  I want to join your crew.”   

Annoyed, the guard to his right turns to the monitor behind him, and contacts the ships first officer “We have a Apsu out here claiming to be a Guild trained programmer who wants to join the crew.  Do you want him?

The Apsu woman on the monitor responds, “Have you checked his credentials?”

Before the guard can turn to face him, Nathaniel has reached into his bag and holds out a data card for him.  “Here, my information is on this card; you will see I am quite qualified.”   He reports with great confidence.

Feeding the card into the data port the woman on the other end reads over the data.  “There is no record here of you having ever served on a ship, are you prepared for space travel?” 

Returning to his previous hyper confident tone, he answers, “It’s time for me to see the stars, ma’am.”

With a bit of a chuckle, she shakes her head and says “welcome aboard Mr. Sebah.”  Directing her attention to the guard, “send him to the quartermaster for check in, make certain he gets a proper uniform, I will have his duties ready for him by the time he reaches his bunk.”

With that, Nathaniel is sent down the hallway where a Apsu guard awaits at the gaffle, “You Sebah?”  “I am”  “This way…”  The pair boards the ship, “we don’t get many walk-ups anymore; you must really be desperate to get off world.”  Again Nathaniel responds in a dull, calm voice, looking around as he advances, “It’s just time for me to go.”  A bit puzzled by the answer, the guard continues, “Right, well I’m going to take you to the quartermaster, he’ll get you a uniform and what ever supplies you’ll need for your bunk.  Good thing your traveling light, there isn’t much personal storage space on this ship.”  As they pass through the labyrinthine passages of the ship Nathaniel examines every face every form searching intensely, internally for the woman who led him to the guards that brought him onto this ship that seems larger than the city he’s fleeing. 
After what seems like an endless assortment of turns, lifts and stairs they arrive in an alcove blocked by a desk and protected by a window.  An older Syk’a rii man with little patience takes a quick glance at Nathaniel, and turns to the guard, “is this Sebah?”  Pushing him toward the window’s opening the guard laughs, “yeah, fresh meat.”  The Syk’a rii man quickly disappears into the darkness beyond the window, his bandaged tail dragging the floor behind him.  During an awkward silence, Nathaniel begins to ponder what he has gotten himself into.  Why does it seem that everyone he passes on this ship looking upon him with sympathy when they realize he is a new crewman?  Why does everyone have a look of distance and disinterest on their faces?  He is yanked from his thoughts by the slam of a huge bundle of goods on the counter before him.  “Here, there are your beddings on the bottom, your personal products on top and your uniforms in the middle.  Don’t waste your personals; this is all you’re going to get until the next stop.  Wear each uniform until it’s stained, you can leave in on your bunk during shift to be cleaned.  But don’t expect to have a fresh one daily, the laundry here is slow, it could be a week before it comes back.”  Handing him a data card, “this will be your ID badge, look into the optic.”  A sudden flash blinds him momentarily, “Your image will appear on the card when you use it to open your bunk room.”  Returning to his seat, the Syk’a rii man gives him one last look of sympathy and mumbles, “good luck.”

            Gathering the heavy bundle from the counter, the gravity of his circumstances starts to sink in.  Coming out of his trance, no longer scanning for the woman, that woman that started all this, Nathaniel clears his throat and queries his escort, “I’m sorry what is your name again?”  
Smiling for the first time since they met, “I never told you… you never asked before.”

Sorry, things are happening so fast.  Just this evening I was sitting in my office watching the ships land and launch.  Then I just decided it was time to go, and I came here. 

The name is Lucas; you’re a bold man Sebah, a bit odd, but bold none the less.  You just walked away from a terrestrial job on a whim and volunteered at a ship you knew nothing about; impressive, very foolish, but impressive none the less.

It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance Lucas; but I must admit, it wasn’t all that bold, I had nothing to keep me here other than that job, and honestly, I never really liked it there.

Cutting him off sharply, “not to burst your bubble, but your not going to like it much here either…”
Before he can finish his statement, the halls echo with a thud as Nathaniel drops all of his supplies.  Stopping to pick them up, a lovely feminine hand reaches into his sight offering assistance.  “You should be more careful,” the woman says with a laugh.  Looking up, Nathaniel is stunned; it’s her, the woman from the space port, the reason he’s on this ship.  “Welcome aboard, we don’t get many new crew members on this ship.”  Gathering his things, and his senses; “so I’ve heard, why is that?”  Halted in her response by an approaching Cipa’ci guard, “you’ll see.”  Smiling politely at the tall blue feathered men who walk by looking at the two Apsu, annoyed at their blocking the passageway, “I’ll tell you later, by the way, I’m Sara.”  His things gathered and restacked in his arms the trio proceeds to a near by lift.  After traveling several decks below, and making a few sudden right and left turns, they arrive at a dimly lit passageway, echoing with the sounds of roaring machinery and humming engines. 

            Sara, yelling over all the background noise explains, “This is the lower crew bunk area, trust me, you will want to spend as little time down here as possible.  It doesn’t seem possible now, but you’ll learn to sleep quite easily despite the noise, but when you’re awake, you’ll want to be somewhere else.”  They arrive at a large metal door, Sara takes his card and slides it into the reader, when it comes back out, his picture is on it, and the door opens.  The other side of the entryway is bleaker than the passageway behind him.  There are two bunks on each wall, four small lockers on the back wall, two on either side of an indentation in the wall and floor; the shower.  There is a man sleeping on the top bunk to the right, “that’s Jeph, he sleeps like a dead man.  You can take either of the bunks on this side, no one is using them,” Sara explains.  Nathaniel drops his bundle on the lower bunk, takes a seat next to them and looks back up at Sara and Lucas beleaguered as if to say what’s next, without actually uttering the words.  They look at each other then Lucas quickly grabs the uniform from the bundle and drops it in his lap, “you’re gonna want to put this on now.  No one is allowed to wander the ship out of uniform, you were fine up until now, but when ever you’re onboard, you need to have one on.” 
            The uniform is a simple garment, a faded blue jumpsuit with thin red piping on the sleeves, pockets and shoulders; the cuffs are red also.  Far from attractive, it is simple and utilitarian, with pockets for all the tools needed all ready in them, nearly tripling the weight of the outfit.  The pants stop well shot of his ankles, but the brown leather boots rise to just below the knees.  There are gloves of multiple sorts, a light, hand tools of all description, cuttings devices and data pads.  All dressed up and ready to go, Nathaniel emerges from the cabin more confused than ever, “why would I need all these tools as a programmer?”  Puzzled by the question, the two stare at him blankly before asking, almost in chorus, “You’re a programmer?”  Sara takes his badge and runs it through her data pad, which quickly scrolls the answer she expects to see.  “It says here you’re a novice technician, to be apprenticed as a gaffler.”  Nathaniel puffs up with pride and announces “I’m a guild trained programmer with eight years experience…” before he can complete his explanation there is a jerk and slight shift of weight.  Grabbing the railing above his head for balance, “well my friend, you’re a gaffler now.  We just took off.  And don’t bother complaining to the Cipa’ci, they won’t care.  Hell they probably did it on purpose.”  Rubbing his back remorsefully Sara leads him back down the hall, “come on, I’ll take you to the loading docks and introduce you to the other gafflers. 

They arrive at the  entrance to the loading docks just as the alarms blare throughout the ships passageways, warning the crew the ship is about to pass through the atmosphere, “wait, we need to strap in for this part, it’s going to get a bit rough.”  Sara opens a pair of cabinets in what previously seemed to be a blank wall revealing jump seats where they strapped themselves in.  Sara calmly gyrates about in the seat; Nathaniel is not as calm, a look of panic dominates his face, just moments before he reveals his last meal for all to see.  Sara laughs until she realizes she’s going to have to be the one to clean it up.  When the rattling and gyrations cease, she un-straps herself and turns to help her sickly new crewmate who is apologetic about the mess he made, “sorry about that, is takeoff always like that?”  Helping him to his feet, “it is, but you get used to it, I was raised on a space ship but it still bothered me the first few takeoffs from an actual planet, breaking atmosphere is always rough.”  Leading Nathaniel through the large double doors into a massive cargo area filled with the large shipping containers that only a bulk cruiser like this one can carry and what seem to be thousands of smaller uniform sized containers stacked neatly, one on top of another in rows and columns extending as far as the eye can see.  Gawking about in slack jawed awe he asks Sara, “exactly how large IS this ship?”  Looking at him just as confused, “you really have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.  This is a Cipa’ci Condor class Super freighter, 80% of the ship is within this room, we can transport more goods than most settlements can produce in a year.  There are only about fifty crewmen onboard, not including the command staff and guards; most of us are set to ship maintenance the people you are about to meet, the gafflers are responsible for all this.  They have to keep track of every crate and container on board, where it is, what’s in it, each and every one.” 

After introductions and the like, Sara disappears to her duties; he will not see her again for several weeks.  It is not long before Nathaniel’s abilities are noticed and he is moved from the loading docks to a more technical maintenance position.  However, it was a lot more pleasant working with the gafflers, at least with them there was company.  Now he finds himself isolated in cramped passageways in the bowls of the ship throughout his duty periods.  He only sees Sara in fleeting moments passing one another in the hallways as they occasionally do.  He would cross the captain’s path several times, each time the captain calls him with a different name.  He will witness beatings, assaults and assorted other maltreatment of the crew at the hands of the Cipa’ci guards and command staff.  There are Apsu on the command staff, but they are of little help.  To access the narrow corridors of the inner ship, Nathaniel enters through port holes of matching dimension that appear in alternating intervals throughout the ship.  Dimly lit save for the actual access panels where he interfaces with the nodes and terminals he is set to maintain on a daily basis.  Not much more of a challenge than the programming corrections he was assigned on Tholmai; unless of course something is actually malfunctioning.  Then there is an actual challenge. Since he was never given a manual, or any in-depth training to speak of, this has from the beginning been an learning on the job situation.  But all in all, aside from a change of location his life has descended once more into the mundane syndrome.  He sleeps as much as he can in spite of the engine noise, he has his paltry meals in the mess hall and he tends to his assigned sections of the ship, each day the same save for the occasional problem to solve, which usually gives him little challenge. 
Then there are those other days, the days when he has time to visit with Sara.  Every eighth day, he is allowed a day of rest, recalling the suggestion that he spend as little time in his bunk as possible Nathaniel would spend his first few days off in the cargo deck with the gafflers.  But one day, while on duty, he emerges from a port hole to find Sara passing by, her shift was just ending.  Shirking his duties for bit, he takes the time to talk to her, and they negotiate a few moments they can spend together.  The moments would be brief, but pleasant enough to soothe the dull pain of the mundane syndrome.  Over the months Sara and Nathaniel grow increasingly closer, yet remain distant.  When you can only speak with someone every six or seven days, and even then only see them for a few scant moments, the realities of emotions are muddled in imagination and fantasy.  There are a few females, among the Apsu and Syk’a rii crew; but the Cipa’ci command are strict about how the men and women interact.  Friendship is tolerable, but any sign of intimacy is met with crashing condemnation.  After witnessing a female Syk’a rii gaffler being beaten to near death by the Cipa’ci guards after being seen wrapping her tail around the leg of a Syk’a rii male who Nathaniel would never see again;  Nathaniel is reluctant to go beyond a simple hand shake on those isolated occasions when he is able to keep company with Sara. 
After four months on board, Nathaniel is wondering why these people are willing to put up with the horrible treatment, and lousy living conditions on board.  Then the ship arrives at a space dock in orbit around the planet Bacchus.  An announcement is made commanding the crew to loading docks where they are to be ferried to the planets surface for eight days leave.  No warning, not hint that this was coming; but the best part, came on his arrival to the docks.  He was paid; since he has been aboard he hadn’t thought much of money since he had no use for it aboard ship.  But now he understood, it all made sense, why do these people suffer the misery of life on this ship, because the pay is amazing.  He received for just a few months on ship more pay then he would have earned in two years on Tholmai.  The rest of the crew was a buzz, and eager to get down to the planet.  The Syk’a rii men spoke of the Lyks’et bathers, they yearned for the ceremonial conditioning and soothing massages that accompany the full treatment of a bath.  The Apsu spoke of gambling, drinking and cavorting.  It seemed most of the women had already departed as not a one was in sight, though Nathaniel scanned the room thoroughly and repeatedly for Sara.  She was no where to be seen.  Soon his place in line was at the entrance to the small transport that was to take him to the surface. 

 

On Bacchus Nathaniel is confronted with sights he could not have imagined in his worst dreams.  In a city called Nysus, the streets are filthy and populated by a myriad of the destitute, dejected and down right disgusting.  One man stands in plain sight, completely naked, obviously inebriated to a point where he may barely be conscious save for default bodily functions; he breathes, barely, and then indiscriminately urinates on himself.  And no one as much as flinches, no one seems to even care.   There are people enthralled in their own debauchery, gambling in random games on tables and side walks scattered all about.   Women prance about offering services of all cultures and kinds.  Coming from the clean, orderly streets of Wel’oh this is all but appalling.  His first thoughts are of Sara, hoping that she isn’t witness to this chaos.  Gathering himself, Nathaniel locates an Inn where a few of his fellow crewmates are in the process of getting rooms. 
After checking in, and getting his first good sleep in months, Nathaniel is overcome with hunger.  So he strikes out find food.  Its early in the morning, when they arrived it was early evening, he must have actually had a full nights sleep, or this planet has very short days.  The streets are a lot less cluttered in the early hours of the day.  The only people about seem to be locals on their way to work, and amazingly, a few uniformed men that appear to be police, or at least military.  Who ever they are, they seem to garner some respect from the locals on the streets.  But where were they last night, when chaos was the way of the streets?  He wanders into a small diner, where the tables look clean and stench didn’t assault him when he opened the door. And then the most amazing thing that has happened since this ridiculous journey began happens.  The food is incredible, the best he has ever had in his life.  He looks around wondering how it was possible that this little oasis of culinary perfection could exist in such a horrid place.  But that was not all, he soon discovers that this is not the only such place in Nysus, every street if populated with little oasis’ of delight, flavors and spices from across the galaxy, delicacies from cultures that date back eons can be found in the most modest locations throughout the city.  On nothing more than word of mouth he ventures to and fro engorging himself in tastes he didn’t even know existed; spicy, sweet, sour and all avenues in between. 
While his ship mates blow their every penny on gambling, women and drinks, he spends his days pursuing the next great taste.  By the fifth day some of them are sleeping on the street having blown through all their pay, biding their time till the shuttles returned to ferry them back to work.  Those wise enough to pay for their rooms in advance, simply sleep away the days remaining on their leave.  The last bit of madness to confront Nathaniel on his first visit to a planet not his own, comes when he returns to his room after yet another meal expedition, where he finds a pair of children rummaging through his scant belongings.  Since his pay was credit based, and there was nothing to steal, the children were quite upset with their lack of booty.  Not frightened by his sudden arrival the children strike at him demanding money or something they can trade for food.  He gives them his leftovers with little regard and sends the boys on their way, with an invitation to meet him for breakfast in the morning.  For his remaining two days, he gladly feeds the two young fellows who tell him their stories of how they found themselves orphaned or abandoned on the streets to fend for themselves.  They resort to thievery to feed themselves and the other kids that gather in packs for security and comfort.  The local officials care little for the kids and offer nothing but incarceration for the worst offenses.  The boys who refuse to give Nathaniel their names, tell him of how some kids simply disappear, they are either arrested or taken away by spacers, for what reasons they do not know.

 

Back on the ship, Nathaniel is well fed and recharged, but the syndrome soon returns as he is back to the solitude of the narrow corridors and the maddening roar of the engines in his bunk.  The hours, days and weeks bleed together like the colors on cheep fabric under hot water; stealing the occasional moment with Sara is his only respite from the drudgery.  That and his visits with the gafflers on his days off, the boisterous energetic grunts of the ship always have the most interesting stories; about life on their home planets, other ships they have served on and the families they have scattered across the stars.  Many of the men and a few of the women are married to other spacers who work on other ships.  Since the Cipa’ci do not tolerate fraternizing among the crew, they marry and separate with a promise to reunite in a few years with stockpiled earnings they can use to settle down and start a family.  There is a lot of money to be made in the stars, far more than can be earned working on most uncivilized planets, and a few organized worlds.  But the planets where the wages are higher require their citizens to pay taxes in one form or another.  It is far easier for a spacer to save his earnings settle on a sparely populated world where he can take care of himself. 
Usually keeping quiet, Nathaniel will sit and listen to the stories for as long as he can.  The days of life on Tholmai seem like a dream now; he can hardly remember the source of his misery there, though he has no desire to return.  Despite the dull ache of solitude that occupies most of his days, he is drawn to the fleeting moments of amazement that pop up with the nonsensical randomness of unrelated events.  Though he can’t shake the feeling that all these little things, seem to be leading to something bigger that he can’t quite figure out yet. 
After yet another day off, spent listening to the gafflers spin yarns of misadventure, misfortune, and lost fortune; Nathaniel is back to work and in a particularly good mood when, not unlike many days before, he crosses Sara in the hallway.  But today is different, today he just can’t help himself; when she gets close enough, he grabs her, pulls her into near open closet, squeezes her as tight as he can for the briefest of moments and releases her to go on her way.  Sara emerges from the closet all a flutter, her caramel cheeks aglow in rose colored delight; but her joy is quickly dashed when she walks directly into the captain who is storming down the passageway in his usual thunderous manner, engulfed in a cloud of his sycophants.  Sara now smothered in this fog of cacophony as the angry yes sirs berate her for daring to disrupt the captain’s progress through the ship.  Unfortunately, Nathaniel is not able to slip out of the closet unnoticed, nor did he want to.  Charging to her defense, he tells the captain that what ever she has done wrong is his fault.  Quickly gathering that they had both just come out of the small closet, the captain demands, “What were you Apsu doing in my closet?!”  His shrill voice echoing through the corridor, he continues “why is your uniform askew?!”   Not pausing for an answer, “were you cavorting in MY closet?!” His voice growing angrier with each statement, “I will have NO fraternizing among MY crew!”  Turning to one of his sycophants, the captain commands, “take him!  Norris, you have just earned yourself twenty lashes” Norris being the name of a Apsu gaffler who no longer serves on the ship.  Every time Nathaniel has ever encountered the captain he has been called by a different name. But being called by the wrong name is the least of his worries now, he isn’t even concerned about the twenty lashes he is about to receive, Nathaniel is far more concerned with what will be done to Sara. 
The beating is painful, he howls with each snap of the whip across his back.  But the pain he feels inside is far worse; what has happened to Sara?  Are they beating her too?  “It’s all my fault.”  He mumbles to himself intermittently, as the officer winds up for another swing of the whip.  The captain gave the order but he didn’t bother to see the punishment meted out.  Nathaniel hardly noticed the extended idling between lashes, as he pummeled himself internally for endangering Sara.  And it could be months, if ever, before he sees her again and can find out what happened to her.  But then again, that could be part of his punishment, the not knowing is far worse than the beating.  The lingering agony of guilt grips his thoughts, the persistent pondering of possibilities pounding on his soul.  Nathaniel can hardly think straight after a few days.  Neglecting his duties; tossing in his bunk on his off time, wandering the hallways hoping to cross Sara; as a new notion begins to fester in his mind.  If the Captain has harmed her in any way, he must be made to suffer like Nathaniel is suffering, more than Sara suffered what ever punishment she received.  The anger in him stews over several days, yet he has seen neither the Captain nor Sara.  The ship is so large he could go another month or even six before seeing either of them again.  Though he seemed to cross the officer who gave him the beating on a near daily basis; perhaps he was being monitored, the captain kept away from him, Sara hidden from him.  The mind moves rapidly from concern to suspicion to near madness at a pace fitting a terrestrial rescue vehicle.  But nothing happens, he doesn’t see her, he hears nothing about her from the gafflers, and he is seeing that officer more and more. 

Nathaniel’s anger continues to fester, more and more because he hasn’t seen or heard from Sara in over a week.  He blames the Captain for keeping them apart; now he isn’t speaking to anyone anymore, he keeps to himself constantly surveying his surroundings for Sara.  When his next day off arrives, he hurries to the docks to ask the gafflers once again if they have seen her.  He arrives to his dismay to find the captain and his sycophants already there berating the gafflers for one thing or another.  On site of Nathaniel the Captain calls out, “Jeph what are you doing on MY dock, return to your duties!”  But then in a moment of providence, fate intervenes; Sara emerges from the darkness among the containers, she’s wearing the uniform of a gaffler.  Their eyes catch each other, a smile is shared in the moment just before the Captain yells out again, but as the first syllable fills the air, a large rumble shakes the ship, as if something had impacted the outer hull, nearly everyone in the room stumbles in the quake and before they can figure out what’s going on a hole blows open at one of the smaller gaffler ports.  Almost simultaneously in storms a team of ship security from the main corridor entrance and from the hole in the freight door a Krewe of about 30 pirates, all brandishing swords and instantly attacking the newly arrived guards. 
In a few brief moments the floor is littered with bodies, pirates and guards alike.  Nathaniel looses site of Sara in the chaos, he struggles through the fracas to find her.  But more pirates pour in as more holes are cut through the hull adding to the clutter and madness of the moment.  In no short time, the pirates have subdued the guards and the gafflers who stayed to fight; many fled to hide amongst the containers.  As the chaos dies down, a stalemate ensues as the captain holds who seems to be the leader of the pirates at gunpoint demanding they retreat to their ships.  But he grabs Sara who was laying o the floor in front of him, using her as a shield he demands to be allowed to take as much as he wants before leaving.  But the Captain will have nothing of it, and fires a shot that kills both Sara and the pirate.  Turing to Nathaniel the Captain yells, “Jeph finish the pirates!  We’ve almost defeated them!”  At which point Nathaniel flies into a rage, clutching a sword he grabbed from one of the dead pirate’s on the floor and charges the Captain, he can contain his anger no more, all that festering bitterness erupts in a frenzied moment of passion.  Nathaniel crosses the room in a flash and plunges blade into the Captains blue feathered chest in a quickness that left the captain no time to react.  Still holding firmly to the hilt of the sword, in a booming rage filled voice he yells, “My name… is Nathaniel!” 

The pirates, see the captain dead, and proceed to bar the door entering into loading dock they begin moving cargo over to their own ships.  Nathaniel turns to Sara’s body and begins to cry.  He hardly knew her, he barely had time to speak to her, he had only held her in that one fleeting moment in the hallway, but it hurts just the same.  Perhaps it’s the pent up anger of his parent’s deaths, or his fiancé’s abandonment, or the misery of being on that ship.  But he is awash in emotions, completely ignoring the pirates, who are now recruiting his crewmates to join them, many go willingly.  Others refuse and insist on going to the nearest port for check in with the company.  The gafflers tell the pirate captain that Nathaniel is a guild trained programmer that had been working as a technician; they don’t bother asking if he wants to join them.  They just take him.  Still slumped over Sara’s body, afraid to touch her, he hardly reacts when someone grabs his arm and starts to usher him away.  But before leaving his life on the {ship name} behind, he stops to pluck a feather from the head of the captain and stuffs it into his pocket; from then, he doesn’t as much as look back at the carnage he’s leaving behind.

Over the next decade the man his fellow pirates would come to know as Be’yoh Sebah’ka would dominate the galaxies trading routes and at one point nearly bring Cipa’ci mercantilism to a screeching halt.  His first year in the stars is spent developing new software that allows them to approach their prey unnoticed, improving engine efficiency and gathering the best star charts available.  Before he was a great pirate captain, he was the craftiest hacker in the galaxy.  For a time Nathaniel thought that he could one day return home and resume a normal life, until an encounter with Cipa’ci soldiers on a space station called Axum, he had rented a room, and was heading out for dinner when they arrested him, and set to execute him on the spot for the murder of Captain {name}, he is saved by his crew mates from the pirate ship.  But now he knows that he is a marked man, and can no long use his given name, or risk identifying himself genetically in a Cipa’ci controlled or even occupied place.  Not caring for the name Nathaniel, the pirates had been calling him Sebaka since he joined the crew.  No one else would call him Nathaniel for years to come.
Nathaniel has an inherent desire to do right, but constantly finds himself in situations where that isn’t a simple thing.  He doesn’t like stealing, but he wants to take care of his crew, and that’s how they survive.  He was able to ignore what the crew was doing while he was just a programmer, as Captain he takes full responsibility for what his men do.  To make up for it in his mind, he limits who they attack to Cipa’ci and criminal elements; always setting aside particular goods to be sold on uncivilized worlds where they would otherwise not be available.  This is a far less profitable way to operate, and his Krewe’s numbers begin to decline.  As a result he begins taking in teenagers, young people living on the streets of places like Nysus who would otherwise end up dead, on drugs or worse, in a Nysus prison, which is a one way ticket to some far off asteroid for mining work.  All that aside, he has a nasty temper, that has gotten worse with age, in his younger more timid days, he would keep that anger to himself, but with little reason to restrain, he is known for the occasional outburst.  Unleashing his anger in explosive moments of rage; like when he plunged that blade into the chest of (Cipa’ci captain.)  On many ships the crew will go to the captain to settle an argument, while it’s usually not a problem, if you catch Nathaniel in a bad mood he is likely to settle it in a way neither man will like.  i.e.
During a raid on a Cipa’ci storehouse Nathaniel finds one of his crewmen arguing with a local man with whom he seems to have a previous grudge.  The man asks the crewman, “Why can’t we just be friends?”  As Nathaniel walks up from behind, he looks down and sees the man has a weapon behind his back; the man doesn’t notice that Nathaniel is behind him, a grave error.  Before the crewman can respond, Nathaniel fires a single shot into the man’s back and tells the dying man “you can’t be friends with a dead man.” 

Long before he is named captain of a ship, Nathaniel is a lost, confused and frightened man, whose rash burst of anger has landed him in the midst of people he would have previously considered barbarians.  Rumors of the space pirates had wafted about on Wel’oh since the arrival of the Cipa’ci traders, and the construction of the space port.   Nothing good was ever said for the men who attacked space ships in flight and slaughtered their crews.  But having spent the last two years serving under the firm boot of a Cipa’ci crew, how bad could these pirates really be?  Not much worse than Captain (name) 

After a few weeks on the Pirate ship (name), Nathaniel is finding that life isn’t so bad with these rogues.  The atmosphere is cordial, though rowdy, the other crewman are genuine in their camaraderie.  They wrestle, yell, curse and swear are one another, but it’s always in jest, and any real dispute is quickly settled by the captain.  Captain Howell, or Howl as the crewman call him is a fair man, Apsu like Nathaniel; he shows true concern for his crew, and makes every effort to be fair and even handed with them.  When a decision is to be made he calls for a vote of his most trusted commanders, taking their counsel with great measure.  But not always adhering to the result of their vote.  Captain Howell always reserved the right to veto their collective decision and follow his own instinct. 
Making use of his new programmer, Captain Howell set him to the task of cracking the scanning programs employed by the Cipa’ci freighters that they were attacking.  But disarming the ships scanners, they could approach a target and be cutting into the hull before they were ever noticed.  This way, they would not have to face a security team as soon as they pass through the gaffler.  Nathaniel’s job on the ship was to always keep them a step ahead of the Cipa’ci; beat their software and by pass their security.  The less resistance they faced in an attack, the more booty they can collect, and the lower the risk the crew will have to put up a big fight to get that booty.  For the first time in his life, Nathaniel feels appreciated, and more than that needed!  It isn’t long before he has become an indispensable member of the crew.  Even the men on the other ships who he only sees when they dock at space stations or the rare terrestrial landings; speak of the programmer Sebaka, with respect and admiration.  They know well that he has increased their earning potential ten fold, each new advancement leading to more lucrative attacks.  Having had access to the software previously, the brilliant Nathaniel could quickly find the holes in the code and disable the various functions of a ships defenses.  And since the Cipa’ci ships all used uniform software, he only needed to make a hack once; each attack gave more access, and more control over the victim’s ships.  Captain Howell with his new advantage would grow more and more bold in his attacks.  No longer waiting for ships to reach deep space to attack, he could sack them before they leave a star system and sell the goods in a matter of days.  And the crew loved the quick cash, especially with their numbers growing with every attack.

 

In a bold move, Captain Howell who had taken Nathaniel under his wing led his Krewe on an assault on a Cipa’ci storehouse on the planet Hister.   All was going well, and the ship was nearly loaded to capacity when a battalion of Cipa’ci troops emerged from the forest and set to assault the Krewe.  Almost instantly Howell who was standing outside the ship was killed along with six others who were moving cargo into the gaffler.  On the advice of the ships second command the ship takes off.  The krewe is not amused.  Once at a safe distance, a vote is taken, and surprisingly, Nathaniel who the krewe calls Sebah’ka, is elected the new captain.  Initially surprised by this unexpected turn of events, his first order is to return to the surface and avenge the captain and fallen Krewe.  Arriving late in the night, they snuck back into the camp, and slaughtered the Cipa’ci in their sleep took 2 more ships that were docked there, and all the cargo they could carry.  Using data from the newly acquired Cipa’ci ships they raided a series of storehouses and out posts acquiring not just goods to be sold on the open market, but a rarity they were able to grab small caches of guns and ammunition; very rare in the outlying territories.  Not enough to mount a full scale war on the birds, but more than enough to arm them for the next assault.  But they quickly ran short of ammunition, and as word spread of the attacks, the Cipa’ci began to destroy what ammo they had when the pirates arrived.  For the next year and a half the Krewe under the captain they nicknamed Be’yoh an ancient Syk’a rii word that means both space and black.  Be’yoh Sebah’ka or Black Wolf as some came his call his Krewe.  They all wore black leather arm bands with a wolf’s head carved into the material, that they call their shields.  The leather conceals a high end computer, stolen from one of the Cipa’ci store houses.  Each device has data on every known planet in the galaxy, scanners that can indicate what plants are poisonous and which are not, star charts, and coded personal data storage.  The greatest hacker in the galaxy equips his men and women with the best technology they can steal. 
With a convoy of nearly 15 ships at the height of his career the name Be’yoh Sebah’ka strikes fear in the hearts of bureaucrats and merchant spacers across the galaxy.  The Apsu and Syk’a rii spacers who work on the mostly Cipa’ci ships that they raid are far less fearful than their superiors, knowing that not only are they not in danger from the pirates, it would be a step up in career opportunity if they are able to join Sebah’ka’s Krewe.  After five years and a slew of bounties on his head, Nathaniel attempts to retire from piracy and go home.  With the help of his most trusted lieutenant he slips out of site and returns home on a Co’ir freighter passing him self as a regular gaffler.  But when he arrives on his home planet, all is not right.  The Cipa’ci had taken over, under the guise of protecting the planet from invasion of pirates, namely himself.  Enraged by their audacity, he immediately gets back to his Krewe and sets to freeing his home world; sadly the Cipa’ci ruse was successful and his own people fought against him, many pirates died that day.  Again, Nathaniel set out to make misery for the Cipa’ci, with a trademark blue feather in his hat, and donning the coat of a Cipa’ci captain he attacked the birds everywhere he could find them.  While some pirates enjoyed the fight, many were leery of this change in direction and resulting lack of maintained income. 

 
   
 

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