This is not a usual article. But it has not been a usual week.
I had some apprehensions about going (which I'll talk about later), but I don't often get invited by bestselling authors to all-expense-paid cruises in the Bahamas.
So last week, we sailed from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau then off to Saint Croix and then the private island, Half Moon Cay.
I'll be writing about this cruise for the next two or three installments. I was expecting surreal--but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. It was an amazing experience (and surreal and thought provoking). I got to meet so many readers, talk writing and queer identities and almost learned to crochet.
And along with books, I signed my first articles of clothing and body parts.
And my nose was swabbed for COVID so many times.
But for now, here is a piece writing for a reading/contest with other writers onboard to see who could write the world's worst first chapter. But, it had to be entertaining, and usually bad work is anything but.
On top of that, it was only the night before that I realized I had to prepare my chapter in advance; I had thought that we might be improvising one together.
So, this is the result of one night of abject terror. I hope you enjoy it.
And for those of you who are reading from the JoCo Cruise--WELCOME!!!
Please enjoy my newsletter and I hope you peruse some of the other articles and maybe subscribe (please please??) I'd certainly be honored to glad to have you aboard!
And now, here's my chapter:
“What is time, but a wheel? A wheel…round…irresistibly turning upon itself, turning as if…rolling…tomorrow to yesterday, yesterday to the day before yesterday and back until it returns once more to the day after tomorrow.”
–ancient proverb of the Kara-Val 
It is the 34th Star Century. The future. Humanity, for all its petty arrogance, is but a flyspeck on the cosmic windshield of eternity. No one remembers humans, for even at the height of their brazen prattle they remained unimportant to all but the least savory of galactic denizens—to whom they were but an annoying itch. A piddling, thoroughly unimpressive species, we shall speak of them no more, for doing so only diminishes the significance of the universe, and adds to its discomfort.
Instead, dear listener, let us turn our attention to the mighty Space Empire of Kara Val, which, in the 34th Star Century has risen in scope to become the reigning dominant force in a galaxy that humans once called the Milky Way, but Kara-Val now know simply as, “ours.”
So dominant and sublime is their technology, well-muscled and brilliant their men, so pert and beautiful their women and sprightly and eager their children, that to most aspiring civilizations the activities and very existences of the Kara Val would seem the work of mages, or even gods…
And if they are like gods, then their angels would be their Pacifiers---mechanized star fleets of impeccably outfitted battle cruisers and dreadnaughts. Merely the sight of a Pacifier had made many a hostile world swoon with terror.
Never needing to eat or sleep, immune to the perils of the flesh and the urge to eat or to make love, these marvels of Kara-Val’s top scientists, are armed to the teeth and more with every conceivable weapon of war,
and of peace.
And they even talk.
This is their story.
Nancy the Dreadnaught was having a bad star day. Her left annihilation coil had been bothering her ever since she and her fleetmates had decimated the Kattarran Federation, reducing its 56 billion inhabitants to a cloud of rapidly cooling slime nuggets.
Nancy’s temperamental annihilation coils had been the butt of mean acerbic jokes from the rest of the fleet for quite a few star years, but her Captain Eyrus told her to worry about not at all, that the other dreadnaughts and battle cruisers only jealous of her impeccable diplomacy and recent promotion to Pacifier/Executioner were.
However, this time, Nancy was especially annoyed, because she was sure that some Kattarran slime nuggets had entered her Broussard convertors, further aggravating her annihilator coils, which meant she might not be able to participate in the next peacekeeping mission with her competent yet envious fleetmates.
“Oh Nancy, about missing the peacekeeping mission, don’t worry,” Captain Eyrus said reassuringly. Although they looked as upright as any pedestrian citizen, Captain Eyrus was of an alien species. Not all alien species could be identified by visual sight alone, and Captain Eyrus’s species, the SOVishish, were no exception, to wit, they were called the SOVishish for they tended to speak in “subject object verb” pattern, or at least it, most of the time, that way seemed. “Once you those cloying Kattaran slime nuggets get removed, we on all the missions you want can go.”
“But my right annihilator coil still works at 89%” Nancy the dreadnaught protested weakly.
“Let’s just to base and flush your annihilation coils go. Uh, I sorry am, a sensitive matter to you I know it is.”
“Stop saying it that way!”
“I SOVishish am,” Captain Eyrus said improvisingly to account for a predicate complement.
“I didn’t mean it that way. I meant don’t say it like I’m weird.” Nancy pouted pointedly. “Annihilation coils are a sensitive matter for any dreadnaught. I mean, without the dread it’s just…not.”
“Look, we it shore leave can call. The passengers would a change of pace, anyway love. It for them do.”
Nancy paused. The technology of the Kara-Val made the crew largely unnecessary, but there still existed a yammering community of scientists, mathematicians, and diplomats and mimes who found serving aboard a Pacifier an entertaining way to conduct their numerous galactic affairs.
“Besides, wouldn’t it amazing to have both of your annihilation coils at 100% be? Think of all the peace you to the galaxy can bring.”
“…” there was no reply.
“What do you mean, the passengers would love a change of pace?”
Captain Eyrus blanched.
“Nancy, onboard for 5 whole star months a break without they have…” Captain Eyrus said frantically, as the air in front of him began to snap and crackle.
In front of him popped the pouting figure of Nancy’s visual holographic surrogate.
“They’re bored. Is that what you are saying? That’s what you’re saying, right?”
She was shorter than Captain Eyrus, in fact about the size of a Kara Val child. In fact, she wore a colorful version of a school uniform with big opalescent eyes and a perfect little nose.
“Didn’t we just utterly destroy the Kattaran Federation? I mean, all the way to slime nuggets.”
“Y-yes, Nancy,” said Captain Eyrus weakly.
“And before that, the Eeeyorean Alliance? Resistance all gone! And didn’t I make it pretty like I always do?”
“It’s my annihilation coils, right? They’re not shiny and pert like the other dreadnaughts. But I thought some people liked dirty annihilation coils”
“It not that is…” said Captain Eyrus uncertainly, their words suddenly bereft of syntax.
“Wait. You’re not talking about my performances, are you?”
Part of every Pacifier’s duty was to entertain their passengers with on board concerts and dinner shows. It was a duty as sacred and solemn as delivering justice to would-be threats to the Empire.
In fact, performing for passengers was Nancy’s favorite activity, for it made them happy and full of joy.
Her specialty was singing covers to popular Kara-Val pop tunes, like “Empire—boogie oogie!” and, “It’s been a long road, blowing that up from here.” and even the ever-popular old favorite “To be at war—must be the sweetest feeling that a girl could know.”
Nancy employed her holographic skills to perfectly mimic the mannerisms and even costumes of the original performers.
“Nancy, your shows for five star months they’ve seen, maybe they a break—”
“I bet Emma the Battle Cruiser’s passengers don’t need a break after five star months.”
Emma was the newest and sleekest Battle Cruiser. A recent graduate from Pacifier School of Performance and Military Science, she’d been on a killing rampage that bordered on the criminally insane, and her passengers raved about her bubbly, yet sincere demeanor, her adorably innocent stage presence and lively on-point dance moves.
And, she performed her own original songs.
“Nancy, you to Emma the Battle Cruiser can’t comp--”
“Nancy?” Captain Eyrus said hesitantly.
“Yes to retrofit.” Nancy the Dreadnaught shuddered involuntarily. But not just my annihilation coils. I want to develop a new dance playlist, download a songwriting skill, and optimize my projector for more sparkles.”
“Yes Nancy. Projector we will optimize.”
“SPARKLES!” she said. “DON’T forget the Sparkles!”
“Okay, but your current operating system compatible with the latest entertainment upgrades is not—we may new hardware need to install. A most difficult procedure it will be,” the SOVishish Captain Eyrus said.
“Yes, I know that. But I have no choice. I am not merely a dreadnaught but a Pacifier, and an Executioner, and I am sworn to not only destroy all who oppose the Kara Val, but also put smiles on the faces of all my passengers.”
Captain Eyrus upon Nancy with staunch admiration looked. For all her pouty tantrums, Nancy the Dreadnaught an exemplary Pacifier/Executioner really was.
“Very well—” Captain Eyrus said decisively. I some calls to—”
Suddenly, the Captain himself halted, for he and Nancy received a message from the High Star Chamber—Headquarters of the Kara-Val.
The message was curt and to the point, as was normal for the highly efficient communications of Kara-Val.
“Captain Eyrus, you are ordered to bring Pacifier/Executioner Nancy the Dreadnaught to Star Port Alpha immediately.
What was going on? thought Nancy the Dreadnought. Star Port Alpha? That was Kara-Valium Prime. Pacifiers usually possessed neither the need nor desire to trek to the homeworld—most Pacifiers spent their careers in deep space, far from the carnal and scientific delights of the planet that dispatched their kind.
“Y-yes. Understood. Star Port Alpha. H-headquarters, some sort of emergency there is?” Captain Eyrus said quizzically. Even they had only been to the homeworld a few times.
“Everything will be explained once you arrive. For now, this communication is Secrecy Level Ultra Plus. Do you understand?”
Secrecy Level Ultra Plus. The highest level of security. Nancy the Dreadnaught had never received a SLUP before—in fact she had never heard of one being given.
“Y-yes. Secrecy Level Ultra Plus. I understand,” Captain Eyrus said uncomfortably.
If Nancy the Dreadnaught had a head, it would have most certainly been spinning. But she did not, so she remained turgid but stationary. Of course, a Pacifier with a SLUP wouldn’t make it publicly known. SLUPs were reserved for the highest-level secret communications and missions.
Regardless, it was clear that the wardrobe upgrade would have to wait. At least she wouldn’t have someone up reaching up inside her annihilation coils. Was Emma the Battle Cruiser old enough to even have annihilation coils?
Anyway, SLUP or not SLUP, mission is a mission—and she would fulfill it as she always would.
“Very good. Prepare for a rendezvous at the following coordinates with the Emma the Battle Cruiser. All of Nancy the Dreadnaught’s passengers will be moved to Emma the Battle Cruiser.”
Wait, what? Emma the Battle Cruiser, what did that little piece of scrap have to do with--
“And finally. By order of the Emprex Dasani of the Space Empire of Kara-Val, Nancy the Dreadnaught is hereby officially retired from active duty.”
“H--headquarters that might you repeat?” Captain Eyrus said uncertainly. “Heard I thought—”
“Repeating. By order of the Emprex Dasani of the Space Empire of Kara-Val, Nancy the Dreadnaught is hereby officially retired from active duty. Thank you for your service. And please have a nice day.”
This just in--Rykaworld gets more insecure! NANCY THE DREADNAUGHT'S ADVENTURES WILL CONTINUE EVERY MONTH OR SO.
Cover: by me
--The Kara-Val Empire was created when two moderately successful alternative galactic folk musicians, Kara and Val, moved to Valium and decided to pursue other life goals. Originally conceived as a sanctuary for rescued galactic space pets, it expanded into the mightiest empire the galaxy has ever known.