Of MetaRoyal Maps and Their Implications
Cosma sat head in hand, wrought with worry, at the head of a long, Dwarven-Light-Stone table aboard her ship, 'The Starpather.' The craft was currently located somewhere mid-way between the 7th and 8th arms of Galaxia Blue. The spaceship was slowly orbiting an uncharted planetoid at low altitude. A Gnomish vessel was anchored to one of the Starpather's many docking ports at the aft of the ship.
As Cosma sat deep in thought, she detected a distant thudding – the unmistakable sound of another ship docking. She sat up in her chair, pushing her dark hair away from her vibrant green eyes, and tucked a few strands beneath her golden crown and behind her pointy ears. The door at the room's far end hissed open, revealing a stout Dwarf and a broad-shouldered Orc carrying some sort of tube-shaped container on his back. Cosma nodded in respect towards Korto and motioned for them both to take a seat. They did as Cosma suggested - at the opposite end of the table. The Orc placed the tube on the table with extreme care before taking his seat.
Introductions Sans Small Talk
"Welcome, Korto. Welcome…Ble-chentcha." Cosma struggled to pronounce Ble-chentcha's name a little as she uttered his name slower than Korto's.
Ble-chentcha was not ignorant to Cosma’s apparent difficulty. He doubted her genuineness and held back from revealing his annoyed reaction to her apparent lack of couth.
"Cosma," he retorted simply.
Korto interjected, sensing the tension, and joked, "Cosma – aren't you personally referred to as 'The Starpather'? You named your ship after yourself?"
Cosma's eyes, which had been locked on Ble-chentcha, slowly drifted towards Korto emotionlessly.
"I didn't name myself 'The Starpather', Korto."
Korto shifted in his seat and cleared his throat before grumbling, almost inaudibly, "I see there's no small talk happening here…."
Cosma placed her hand on the table in front of her, her fingers stretched far and wide. Korto and Ble-chentcha looked at her hand with curiosity. She finally spoke.
"How many people did you tell, Korto?"
“Just Ble-chentcha, I swear.”
Cosma continued to look at her hand on the table as she spoke. "And Ble-chent-cha, how many physical maps did you make based on what Korto told you?"
Ble-chentcha didn't immediately respond. Orcs and Elves were natural enemies. Even though both he and Cosma were MetaRoyals, there was small love between the two of them. If it were not for MetaRoyal Law, these two would be more inclined to try and kill one another rather than converse.
"Like I told Korto…I only made one. And I brought it with me."
Cosma quickly stood from her seat and moved towards the Dwarf and Orc's end of the table. Though she walked, her grace as an Elf could not be overlooked. She appeared to almost float as she moved, her long white and golden dress trailing behind her silently. She reached Korto and Ble-chentcha's end of the table and reached for the tube. Ble-chentcha dropped his hand on one end, prohibiting Cosma from taking it.
"What do you want me to do with this map, Cosma?" Ble-chentcha spat as he grew tired of Cosma's vague and emotionless mannerisms. Cosma looked at Korto.
"You did not tell him."
"I didn't think it was under my purview. You seemed pretty upset that I even told him about the place. Didn't want to make things worse."
Cosma blinked slowly and exhaled through her nose - clearly frustrated beyond measure with the entire situation. She looked at both of them for a long while before speaking.
A Dark Moon Espied
"A few decades ago – I was on my way to Cana by way of the outer rim on the 6th arm. I had often used this path for years beyond count. Outer arms are relatively safe lightspeed jump points. They require very few navigation-computational adjustments on account of the lack of objects between origin and destination points. However, as I neared the jump point on this particular journey, I espied a dark moon."
Ble-chentcha nodded and quickly responded, "Mhmm – but isn't that your thing, though? You find planets, stars, and other things, and others – like me – map them so they can be added to the MRGET terminals?"
“So? What's the big deal? You found a moon. You told Korto. Korto told me. I made a map of the outer 6th rim. I was planning on having it submitted to Baldron for distribution.”
"The moon wasn't there one year prior, Ble-chentcha. It just…showed up out of nowhere. And it's overwhelmingly brimming with Terranzinite, as well. Am I to believe this moon is another 'Sudden Emergence Satellite'"?
"Maybe you just… didn't see it the last time you made your way to the 6th rim?" Ble-chentcha threw his hands in the air.
"Terranzinite emits an unfathomably strong energy signature for hundreds of thousands of clicks. Are you suggesting that not only did I not see it – but my ship did not detect it or its crystal signatures?"
The room fell silent. Planets, moons – they didn't just "appear" overnight. If Cosma's claim that the moon had just suddenly appeared was true, it left only very few viable explanations as to how. Some of those explanations involved technologies that were forbidden by MetaRoyal Law. Another explanation that Cosma sarcastically hinted at was that the moon might have emerged suddenly by way of 'Galactic Will,' commonly referred to as 'The Will of the Galaxy.' The only records of such a phenomenon were housed within the oral traditions of the Fameri, the ancient Elven religion of Ethos.
The implications here were significant - regardless of the moon's origin. The Goblins of Glozark coveted Terranzinite, and they had consumed almost all of their planet's stores during The Great War – in service of the MetaRoyals. If a new source of the crystal had indeed been uncovered, the Goblins would instantly wish to claim it for their own. They wouldn't be alone in that ambition, however. This could escalate galactic-wide conflicts yet again.
Ble-Chentcha whispered, breaking the silence, "Have you notified the Chief Judiciaries of this…anomaly…" he began, but then his line of thinking changed direction abruptly, a greater realization spreading across his mind and face as he mentally worked through the problem, "You're one of those MetaRoyals that believes The Great War was started by us, aren't you? You don't trust the Chief Judiciaries."
"I do not know whether I trust the Chief Judiciaries or not," Cosma responded cautiously and flatly.
"If you're right to not trust them – and they are, in fact, part of some…conspiracy, you're afraid that they already know about this moon. And if they do…they will certainly try to silence anyone who speaks of its existence. They will seek to manipulate and control the excavation of Terranzinite from its surface.
Korto weighed in, "But Terranzinite cannot be excavated by any MetaRoyal tools we know of. Only the Goblins have mastered it."
"Not true," Cosma interjected. She motioned towards the door, which again hissed open. A small Gnome appeared in the doorway.
"Welcome, Ziepor," Cosma bowed slightly as she spoke, representing a significantly greater effort than she had displayed towards Ble-chentcha earlier. "Tell the Dwarf and the Orc what you've created."
Small, Yet Highly Effective
"Certainly!" Ziepor squeaked delightfully as he walked over to the table. He nimbly climbed up a chair twice his height and thrice his width. He stood on the chair, his head just poking above the tabletop. He reached into his pocket, revealing a small golden disc. He slid it onto the stone table. The center of the disc flickered yellow - and then projected a hologram above the table.
A machine appeared, somewhat resembling a drill but far smaller.
Ziepor spoke again, and when he did, his voice rang with the volume one would expect to come from a being many times his size.
“I call them 'Mining Rigs.' They can be used to excavate Terranzinite from this 'SES' moon. They are small, yet highly effective.”
"SES?" Korto asked.
"Sorry," Ziepor laughed nervously; I abbreviated 'Sudden Emergence Satellite' to 'SES .' I'm a Gnome. It's efficient." Ble-chentcha chuckled at the Gnome's quirkiness.
Cosma interjected, "Ble-chentcha – you must not turn over your map to Baldron. It must be destroyed."
"Can't be destroyed – not here, at least." Ble-chentcha took no pride in the statement as he made it.
"And why is that?" Cosma equally took no effort to hide her irritability.
“It's made from Svetcho threads. That's part of my trade secret. Svetcho's threads are unbreakable. The map cannot be unmade – not unless you cast it into a black hole or something….”
Cosma looked at Korto – her eyes lighting up with a fierce intensity. Korto's ears pushed back, much like a pet who knows it's done something wrong.
"I am not going into a black hole again, Cosma. You know damn well what happened the last time I did. Plus, there's no guarantee that I won't see Gearcent in there again. You don't want him finding this thing, do you?"
Cosma swiftly replied, “Gearcent's Black Hole Device is currently under lock and key as per Chief Judiciary Ghurcht's decree. Casting the map into the black hole is the safest move we have. The three of you must travel to Rofar. From there, Ziepor can fashion a rocket of some type which you may place the map within. Return to The Starpather once the map has been dispatched to the darkness.”
Ble-chentcha weighed in on Cosma's design, "Uh…why do we all have to go? I don't usually take direction from others, especially Elves."
Cosma rolled her eyes at the aggravated Orc, "And I don't typically trust the fate of galactic war to Orcs. But we all must make sacrifices. No one will suspect your mission if you are stowed away upon Ziepor's ship. Make haste."
Cosma turned her back to the unlikely trio and exited the room on the far side of the table.
Ziepor, Ble-chentcha, and Korto reluctantly rose from the table when Cosma vacated the room. Korto offered to help Ziepor down from his chair, but Ziepor waved him off and climbed down himself. The three made their way to The Starpather's aft and boarded his ship. After a briefing on the ship's capabilities (which involved plenty of instructions to not touch anything) from Ziepor, the craft detached from the dock and began heading towards the lightspeed jump point, which was only a few hours away.
Jump points were manually generated spacetime disruptions, appearing like an open window. Due to the massive disruptive nature of the spacetime continuum, jump points could only legally be generated in specific regions of space. Additionally, depending on what was on the other side of that "window," jump points could be very easy (or difficult) to spot. Most pilots left lightspeed, jumping to their computers. Ziepor often preferred to perform the feat himself, however.
Just as Ziepor's ship approached the jump point – he detected another craft approaching from the rear. Ble-chentcha leaned over the back of Ziepor's shoulder and squinted at the proximity field screen with contempt. The indicator flashed red with a yellow exclamation point – the universal signal of a warship.
Ziepor quickly scanned the technical readout screen as his Navi-computer ferociously spit out lines of code.
"It's a warship, alright…it has pulsar lasers, ionic missiles, and some other weapon energy signature I'm unfamiliar with. Its weapons are hot…."
“It’s Elven,” Ble-chentcha hissed. "Fancy weapons. Cosma tricked us."
Ziepor quickly engaged emergency thrusters – his ship lunging forward with surprising and impressive ferocity. Korto and Ble-chentcha were flung to the rear of the cockpit as Ziepor's ship leaped towards the jump point.
Ziepor's cockpit began to flash unexpectedly, signaling a malfunction in his Navi-computer and other ship systems. He yelled back to Korto and Ble-chentcha in desperation.
"Someone must have hacked my ship! They can control the jump window – there's…nothing…."
As the cockpit of Ziepor's ship crossed directly under the jump point window, the window snapped shut suddenly, smashing Ziepor's ship in two at the cockpit.
So ended the lives of Ziepor, the Gnomish Civil Engineer, Korto, the Dwarven Wanderer, and Ble-chentcha, the Orcish Map Maker. Though their lives were lost suddenly and violently, it would be some time before the rest of the MetaRoyals would come to learn of their tragedy. According to MetaRoyal Law, MetaRoyalty is a mantle - one that may be passed down in only one of two ways: resignation or death…