In the Midst of the Stars

Chapter 1

"C'mon Luke, let's blow this thing and go home," Han's voice echoed in his ear. The sides of the trench flew past in in a gray blur. Relaxing his body, closing his eyes, opening his mind, he let old Ben's gentle words flow through him. At a cramped maintenance station deep within the Death Star, an engineer's eyes widened. Tarkin smirked, victory was before him.

At the fiery core of the station, a greater fire was ignited. With a tremulous groan from its rigid framework, the station detonated outward. A flight of snubfighters and a battered freighter rode the edge of the shockwave to safety.


"It is well-known in the learned world, that any sudden release of energy sufficiently large enough will inevitably involve the creation of a number of scientific anomalies. The best understood of these is an interdimensional wormhole.

"EDIT: This is the least understood. The most understood has been long ago termed by businessmen "entertainment." These businessmen now reside on various private resort systems scattered throughout the galaxy in adequate luxury compared to the rest of civilization. As for the former, excessive study, involving large quantities of government funds and little or no benefit to anyone, has been made into the field."

"And?"

Arthur Dent looked up. "And it ends."

A pair of glowing eyes looked up from across the room, stared at each of them in turn, and looked down again. "It all ends up the same," the eyes muttered. "I had nothing to do with it." No one paid any attention.

"That's it?" A hand made a swipe for the Guide, missed, and ended up knocking it to the floor. Its screen went dark.

"Damnit," said a voice.

"Goddamnit," said another.

"⠓⠑⠇⠇⠕⠐" said the ship's computer Eddie. The lights came back on. All three humanoids blinked. A row of lion statues stared back, unblinking. Rosemary bushes formed a pleasing moulding to the circumference of the room. Cobblestones lined the deck, a small storm front passed overhead. Twisted, burning metal spars tumbled by beyond the dome of the sky. A few stray drops of rain sprinkled down.

The humans looked around. Marvin stared at a cobblestone.

"Well, it's pretty," Trillian finally managed to comment. She was talking about the room.

"It is, isn't it," said Marvin mournfully as he looked up at the sea of wreckage floating past them. He wasn't talking about the room.

"Brilliant." Zaphod Beeblebrox did a quick survey. "How do we make it stop?"

"⠙⠁⠍⠝⠑⠙⠀⠊⠋⠀⠊⠀⠅⠝⠕⠺⠲"

Arthur happened to look down. "I think you're standing on the controls."

"⠥⠝⠅⠝⠕⠺⠝⠀⠎⠓⠊⠏⠀⠁⠏⠏⠗⠕⠁⠉⠓⠊⠝⠛⠐" exclaimed Eddie.

Their hands swept over the intricate cobblestone patterns. "Ah," Zaphod said. "There."

The Heart of Gold shivered with hyperspace distortions, momentarily transformed into a shoe, then vanished.


It was night aboard the Protoss scout ship Taroril. At the ship's core, a lone figure sat deep within the darkness. The barest sliver of azure light crept out of its lidded eyes, casting a pair of faint crescent moons onto the central control crystal. The mind inside was blank, devoid of thought or emotion, and were it not for the slight gleam of the eyes, an outside observer would imagine that the creature was dead.

Hyperspace distortion.

Danger.

The figure's eyes snapped awake together with the sudden glaring of the interior lights. The ship instantly hummed with a surge of power and the control crystal pulsed with blue energy.

Shields up.

Cloak active.

Drive primed.

Scan the area.

The agile mind melded with the ship's sensors, casting about at the source of the energy that flooded every wavelength.

Located. Warp drive engage. 3..2..1. The ship disappeared in a shimmer of light.


A hundred light-years away, another flash of blue marked for a second the entrance of the scout ship before the veil of the cloak shrouded it. From within the bubble of invisibility, its pilot could observe the scene before him with ease.

By all the gods...

A fiery spectacle of destruction was laid out before him in a brilliant, expanding ball a thousand kilometers across. Burning gases swirled around a wreckage of twisted metal beams and warped plates. Dotted amongst the heave and wrack were the charred remains of frozen corpses.

What hell has happened here. This is no Terran ship. The pilot's eyes narrowed. In the back of his mind, he was already reaching out, using his own senses to search the area. At last he shook his head. No, no signs of life still fighting for survival out in the sea of metal. He closed his eyes, letting the imagined screams flood out of his mind, preparing himself for the necessary long-distance telepathic contact.

His mind had just begun to stretch across the light-years to Shakuras when a scream from the ship's sensors tore his attention away to the starscape outside. His blue eyes opened to fist-size circles as one particular reading shot up the scale. Outside, the wreckage paused in its outward journey, as if frozen in time. He moved to activate the warp controls, but even as he reached out the journey seemed to lengthen into the unfathomable distance. The interior of the ship glimmered and warped as it tried to enter warp space. He could feel his mind slowing down, neurons firing more and more slowly, almost to a standstill...

Like a rubber band released the ship shot forward to safety. His towering frame sagged in its cross-legged pose, exhausted.

The ship screamed to a halt. His tired body flew across the control room and slammed into the opposite wall. The soft blue interior lights dulled to a dark amber.

Warning. Gravitational interference. Main systems compromised. Lurching back to the central crystal, he placed his hands on it and was met with a searing shock. The interior lights shut off entirely, and somewhere within the ship the soft rush of air wound down. He lurched to one of the viewports and looked out. The hard points of stars stared back at him. He turned his head, searching for what had ripped him from the comfort of warpspace, when he saw the soft arc of light spreading out below him. A verdant planet hung gently just under the bow, innocent in its sudden blockade of his escape. Beyond it, the yellow-brown bulk of a gas giant. He stared, silent.

This was impossible. There had been no planets nearby - not for a hundred light-years in any direction should there anything but interstellar dust. Except...he peered around the viewport again. Yes, there in the corner was still the incandescent ball of fire that marked his anomaly. Barely a coin now, that meant he was hardly five hundred thousand kilometers from his previous position. He turned from the view. A time spent in warp of what had felt to be half a second confirmed the distance he now found himself, yet, as he looked down again at the peaceful planet below him, it seemed to laugh at his bewilderment, satisfied in its role as enigma and foil to his efforts.

He lowered his shoulders in defeat. He would not try to understand this mystery, but accept it. It would go to others to sort out the madness of this place. Devoid of his ship's systems, he could still reach out and make contact with his superiors, though the connection would be faint and the effort taxing. He need only to relax and stretch out with his senses. He let the tension drain from his body, cleared his mind, prepared to embrace the Khala...

It was as if a hurricane slammed into his mind. He staggered back in pain. Words flickered through and past his head. Incoming. Got to- where is that? Scum. You wouldn't dare. Commander Rerstock rep- Oh my. Yessir. Emotions ripped into his skull: anger, hate, desire, pain, lust, stress, confusion. He felt the cool touch of wind on his skin, the muggy dampness of close, dense vegetation, smelled acrid fuel and at the same time the nuttiness of human food. Faces flashed past, strange, alien faces, familiar faces. He was both in the eye of the storm and part of the storm itself. The winds swirled around him, faster and faster, tugging and spinning him around. In a minute he would be completely caught up in the whirl, he would be carried out of himself and lost in the tumult. It was only with great effort that slow step by careful step he dragged himself back to the ship, shutting down his mind, pulling his senses inside himself. He was calm, he was strong, he was at peace. The tangle of thoughts and emotions began to fade. He was sitting against the wall of the scout, skin chilled, the gentle amber pulse of the central crystal giving a dull illumination to the room. He placed his hand against the floor, ensuring himself that this was indeed real.

May Adun protect me...


AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Will update irregulary. I plan for this to be a long story, and am still working out the overrarching plot.