[40 tally marks]
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Up 'til now, I'd only been keeping track of the days, but now I actually fear for my life. The ship is racing through space, even as I write this down. Ugh, I might get sick writing this. How did I even get into this mess? I'll tell you how! Sheer bad luck!
But I have to write on the off chance this little journal survives me. Oh God, I would rather survive the journal!
I don't even know how I ended up here. In this part of space, I mean. I know how I got on this ship, the Starblazer - these pirates raided the ship that found me first. But how I got to where I was found, I can only guess. I was following the trail my mom left me in a set of letters my dad gave me a few months ago… relatively speaking.
Let me set this straight, my name is Jonah Tinoco Pantoja and I'm from Earth. More importantly, I'm from the year 2020 A.D. or C.E. or whatever they're going with these days. From what I can gather, I might be in the Andromeda galaxy, although they call it something else here. As for the year relative to when I came from, I still haven't quite put that together, but I think I'm some time in the future… like a very long, long time in the future.
The trail I followed led me to the North Pole. I didn't really know what I was looking for, but when I got there, I got separated from the expedition when a rogue polar bear spooked the dog sled teams. I found myself running aimlessly away from the bear until I fell into what looked like a very high-tech submarine. After touching some things (in retrospect I should not have touched) I found myself washed in colorful light as thousands of brightly glowing orbs rained down on me from the ceiling. Before I knew it, I found myself waking up in the middle of some grassy field unknown to me.
Shortly after that, "The Order" found me. I didn't know what to do, but I didn't think running was a good idea. These guys were dressed in goofy-looking armor, like something out of Star Wars, and they each had some kind of weapon that looked more sinister than a hunter's rifle. I surrendered to them and they immediately took me up to their ship in orbit… straight into the brig. They put some kind of translator device in my ears and planned to interrogate me, but before I knew it, the ship fell under attack!
It was a pirate ship called the Starblazer. I could do nothing but wait out the battle. When the pirates finally found me, they released me, but then forced me aboard their ship. To my surprise, they did not imprison me. Instead, they put me to work. I found myself repairing the network connections throughout the ship. Despite its vastly advanced technology, this ship still looks so beat-up and antiquated that I feel like I'm aboard an authentic, rickety, old, wooden pirate ship - in space!
Oh, man! The ship just took another nose dive. Looking at the holoscreen on my console, I see the ship whirling uncontrollably across the expanse of the black nebula like a toy submarine tossed around under the waves of the sea. Behind it, five of the pursuing Order ships remain, struggling to keep up. One of the original seven was destroyed as soon as we jumped into black curtains of the Hand of Death Nebula. I'm not sure what happened to the second.
We didn't have a choice; we were studying the Hand of Death when the Order's fleet showed up. The nebula was as notorious as the Bermuda Triangle in this galaxy. We'd discovered that the black gas of the cloud caused regular armor and energy shields to react explosively. What's worse, light doesn't reflect off the volatile dust, and most of the ship's scanners can't register the material, making it extremely difficult to navigate.
But I came up with a possible solution. The ship would launch beams of dust particles like headlights ahead of itself. Luckily, the method seems to be working. On the holoscreen, I see the fiery walls that form ahead of the Starblazer like the scribbles etched into the air by the glowing embers of sparklers on the 4th of July.
Ooo! And another ship bites the dust. I only hope we don't find ourselves in that same boat sometime soon. Why am I here?
I tried to go back home, you know. I tried to tell the guards aboard the Order ship that I just wanted to go back and figure out where I came from. Once aboard the Starblazer, it took me a week to finally muster up the courage to speak with the captain! One, I was afraid of upsetting the pirates, in general - but I soon learned they were mostly good-natured and not really apt to kill anyone for just any reason. Two, the captain's demeanor and rare appearances made him very intimidating.
However, for some reason, the first officer took a special interest in me, against all my strongest wishes, and I was eventually able to convince him to let me speak with the captain. I was surprised to find out she was actually a woman. I guess I assumed she was a guy since she was always dressed in that full-body armor. Most of these pirates were. But she carried herself with such dignity that demanded the utmost of respect.
Anyway, Captain Bahia listened to my plea to go back, but she ultimately refused. She was absolutely bent on finding this "Lost Treasure of the Ralwors." I couldn't understand it. From what I could gather, the Lost Treasure was a fairy tale in Andromeda, one that most of its people knew. Then, after a few days, the first officer finally told me that the treasure was likely not real. What the captain was actually looking for was refuge away from the Order - a place the Order could neither find nor get to - a place called Paradisium. It, too, was shrouded in legend, but shortly before they found me, the pirates of the Starblazer found evidence that the place actually could exist; and with it they found a map. The raid on the Order ship on which I was held was part of the effort to gather top-secret cartography which they were then able to use to chart the course.
They realized it long before we arrived, but they wanted to see it for themselves anyway, that the location they were led to was the infamous Hand of Death Nebula. When we arrived, we began investigating a way into the veil. After I gave them my solution, they spent three more days testing if it was the best option. We even travelled to a nearby desert planet to gather up dust for the endeavor. But before we were ready to go boldly into the black web, the first ship of the Order appeared from behind the nearby planet.
It was absurd, really. We were in space, for crying out loud. Yet there it was, a small "sun," tugged by an entire legion of golden mechanical "horses" yoked to the front of a giant, golden ship. The "horses" were stacked above and below each other and in long columns and wide rows. Like the reindeer who tugged at Santa's sleigh, the "horses" seemed to pull their burden with effortless ease, and yet quite unlike those happy beasts, they portrayed a sense of dismal servitude.
Of course I knew those "horses" were just elaborate pumps built to convey the majesty and authority of the Order. Their functional purpose was to capture drifting Dark Matter which was then processed within the ship to provide interstellar propulsion. The process was beyond me, but it was designed to be just as intricate as the exhaust feature - that micro-sun that trailed behind, dripping away from the planet and casting its light across the expanse. Like I once was, that "sun" was a prisoner of the ship, pinched between two finger-like tails, unwilling to let it go. I couldn't help but feel the Order was after me, unwilling to let me go.
It didn't take long for the other six Sun-Chariots to appear. They raced toward us at sub-light speed, poised to massacre the Starblazer and its crew. Captain Bahia wasted no time and ordered the pilot to drive the ship into the Black Hand. And that's how we got to this point.
Wait. What was that? Something just made a very loud noise - an impossible noise, a noise in... space? Oh God, what can make a noise in space like that?!
I lived. I don't know how, but I did. Most of us did, maybe all of us.
To recap, that noise turned out to be what the pirates are calling the "Red Whale," although it didn't look much like a whale to me. It looked more like a skinny seal with long arms and several longer tentacles. It's color was red, though; at least that much was consistent. And it was enormous. To put it in perspective, the Midway carrier sitting in San Diego is something like a fifth of a mile long; the Starblazer was roughly half a mile long; the Red Whale was at least ten Starblazers long. And that was just the length!
The behemoth came out of nowhere and chomped down two of the Order ships before we even knew it was out there. That left just us and two remaining enemy ships. The pilot urged the captain to let us turn back, but the captain wouldn't hear of it. She ordered him to keep on the path. We had risked too much and were so close to the treasure that she couldn't allow us to turn around. We pressed on, even as we became the only prey left for the Red Whale to pursue.
Just as the last two Order ships were crushed by the jaws of the great leviathan, we saw it. It was a blue planet in the distance, marked by the long-range scanners of the Starblazer and lit by a nearby yellow star. But the Red Whale wasn't going to let us near the new world. It, for all intents and purposes, swam circles around us and rushed in at us the way a shark attacks its prey. Our amazing pilot, and whatever plot-armor we were wearing out on our hull, managed to dip and dive at precisely the right moments to evade the deadly maw of the beast, but we knew it couldn't last forever.
Finally, Captain Bahia gave her last order to the crew of the Starblazer. She commanded us all to the lifeboats. Then, she marched to the pilot and took control of the ship. The pilot had said the ship still had a few surprises left in her, and then left for a boat. Everyone obeyed her without question and we launched from the ship as soon as she gave the all-clear.
It was a daunting trip - the whole time I felt like the Red Whale was right behind us, ready to feed on us like some tiny snack. The planet hurtled at us like a giant balloon that blew up right before my eyes, faster than was comfortable, and then we hit the atmosphere with a slam and a bright flash.
I woke up in the lifeboat sometime after we had skittered across the surface of the new world. It was dusk, the firmament a deep red-orange. I looked up at the sky and saw a beautiful meteor shower unlike anything I had ever seen before. The rocks must have each been the size of a car, but they all burned up before they hit the ground.
But as we started accounting for everybody, we all realized that Captain Bahia was still missing. We were able to find a recording of the sensors and watched as the captain launched the Starblazer straight into the belly of the beast. There was a bright flash - that's probably what I had seen when we hit the atmosphere - and then the recording ended. The ship was no more, and neither was the whale.
So, here we are. On Paradisium. We found it. We found the treasure that Captain Bahia sought. Maybe it can keep us hidden and safe from the Order.
Still, I can't help but feel stranded. I am far from home, both in space and in time. We have no ship, no way back to civilization. There's enough of us here to build up a society, but it just doesn't feel the same.
Now I'm looking up at the few visible stars, all alien to me. The smoke from the ceremonial pyre drifts upward, burning away our past, lighting the way for the future. I'm writing this to whomever may find it, hoping that it evades the clutches of the evil eye of the Order. I'm launching it back into space on a small, but intelligent rocket. If I'm lucky, this message will find somebody. If I'm extremely, super, miraculously lucky, you will be someone who understands what I am talking about and can help me. I may be in paradise, but I want to go home.