by Captain Wayne

From the Diaries of the Captain...

In those early times soon after I acquired our magnificent starship, the Snutch Society became so drunk with wonder and the fever of exploration that we zipped around the galaxy with no organized plan. We dashed off in this direction and another to look at the cosmic sights like so many gawking tourists in an intersteller Winnebago.

We thought we had seen stupendous sights, but that was before we drifted out into the great nebula of Orion and cut power in order to have a "campoute".

Let me explain. Letting our vessel coast along at a measely few miles per second, I instructed Melani (our ship's computer) to form an oxygen\gravity envelope on the outer hull. Then we all went outside with armloads of food, beer, and firewood from the synthesizers.

The bulge over the command bridge was the perfect site to set up our lounge chairs and build a camp fire. The Starleaper's hull is of course, impervious to the flames and would be automatically cleansed of any debris as soon as we went back inside.

No one made it farther than a few meters from the airlock before stopping in their tracks in the light of Orion's awesome beauty. Glennie was actually frightened. With a wave of vertigo he fell down and fumblingly crawled back into the airlock. His ragged breathing sounded loud and harsh in the serene stillness. The setting up of familiar objects, chairs and such, finally gave him a feeling of upsiderightness and he was able to slowly and fearfully emerge from the airlock to gradually acclimate himself to the outside.

The incredible glow of the great nebula was indescribeable. We were drenched by a million soft shades of pink, lavendar and blue. The gates of Heaven itself could not have offered more heart rending splendor. I saw Danny crouch involuntarily as he took in the scene, his chest rising and falling rapidly, his eyes moist. It was indeed an emotional sight, to pale the most lovely sunset of Earth into insignificance by comparison.

Amidst the chaotic swirls of the cosmic clouds, I could see dimly glowing points of light, marking the nurseries of newborn stars and those still forming, their light partially obscured by amniotic veils of gas and dust. Directly astern of our ship, a strobic flashing of light could be seen, marking the position of a pulsar.

"It's somethin ain't it?" Said Mike. "The colors put me in the Christmas spirit."

"Well, Christmas is tomorrow." Danny replied. The colors were definitly holiday-like. It was sort of like being a paramecium inside of a gigantic Christmas tree.

Gerald rubbed his bearded chin. "Gives me some ideas."

"I'm all ears." I replied. "Spit it out."

"Well," He said. "We are going to make a fire, but it is about 75 degrees farenheit out here, a little warm to be cozying up to a bonfire. We should have Melanie drop it to about 30 and frost the deck with some snow and ice. The fire will provide enough heat for us when we all sit by it."

"And the water vapor in our breath will gradually form the frost for us," I said. "It will slowly build up on the decks as if it were a winter night on Blue Ridge. Nifty idea Jerry."

We started our fire and got comfortable. Melanie lowered the temperature at my command. It sure enough did feel like the Christmas season.

Glennie had defeated his vertigo enough to get comfortable. The fire provided an excellent reference point for him and he was able to take a seat by it with the rest of us. By midnight, Earth time, we were all pretty much plastered on hot buttered rums, beer, and Tom & Jerrys.

"Watch this." Said Gerald with a chuckle. He tossed a clean chewed spare rib straight up. At 15 feet the bone encountered the end of our oxygen\gravity envelope and continued to sail on into eternity. I thought of the odd symbolism of the gnawed bone of a caveman drifting through the unutterable loneliness of Orion.

"You should have carved a cryptic mathematical formula onto the side of it." I said. "Would really puzzle the fuck out of some extraterrestrial who finds it a few million years from now."

"Hmm," Danny murmered. I could tell that he had something on his mind.

I instructed Melanie to play some Christmas classics as performed by a major orchestra. Along the way O Holy Night began to play in full symphonic splendor. For that brief few minutes the revelry stopped as we all stood one by one and gazed out at the unknowable, the unguessable, the unbelieveable. There were no maudlin words, only a silent fellowship in the face of creation as the song reached it's crescendo and came to an end.

After a bit Danny went inside. Three quarters slobbering drunk he emerged a while later with something that he had created in a synthesizer. It was a thin disk of solid gold that he passed around for us to look at. About the size and shape of an old fashioned record album, the disk had a facial portrait of each one of us engraved on one side. The other side was grooved exactly like a record.

"It is an audio recording of every sound that we made tonight." Danny said with a chuckle. "A commemorative record."

"E-even, G-g-Gerald p-p-puking?" Glennie asked, his flask of Cognac dangerously sloshing in his hand.

Danny nodded. "Now we all have to touch it for good luck." We all crowded about and laid hands upon the disk. When we had finished, Danny turned and gave the artifact a mighty frisbee-like fling outwards. Like Gerald's Spare Rib bone it cleared the atmospheric envelope and flew off into forever.

The next morning I woke up in my personal quarters inside the ship, unable to remember how I got there. Melanie, thoughtful computer that she is, must have sent some servos to carry me to my room and tuck me in, for I was naked and clean between my luxurious silk sheets.

"Coffee please." I said, stretching and yawning. No hangover, Melanie had seen to that as well, cleansing my blood of alcohol impurities as I slept. I reached for my hot coffee which had extruded from the wall behind me to be deposited upon my solid quartz night stand by the silver pseudopod of a servo. Next to it, a gleaming silver coffeepot.

Despite the caffeine and splendid taste, I drifted back into a comfortable sleep for another hour until a gentle but insistent buzzing indicated that someone was trying to get my attention.

"This is the captain." I mumbled. "What is it?" I insisted upon military formality on communications and on the command bridge. I knew that someday our crew would probably be much larger and discipline would be important.

Mike's voice answered from the walls of my room. "You may want to come up to the bridge sir. There is something interesting taking place.

"So, do you plan on telling me just what is going on, or will I have to actually ask you?"

"Ah... er... sorry, but I have reason to believe that we are in the process of making contact with an (ahem) alien intelligence."

Within four minutes I stepped onto the bridge, still adjusting my red Trek style Captain's breast coat. "You look like shit Mike. Melanie didn't ease your suffering?"

My exec and officer of the watch relinquished the con, standing to one side and crisply clasping his wrist behind his back. "I prefer to live with the consequences of my sins. Life should not always be blissfully perfect."

"You may live with your suffering on your own time." I said, taking the con, "Not when you are on duty. I expect you to be sharp as a tack. Now, what is going on here?"

Mike coughed nervously. "It would appear that some outside agency is riffling through our data banks. I cannot halt it because Melanie denies that anything is happening."

I checked the readouts, sure enough data was whizzing by with incredible speed. "Melanie, identify the source of the present data scan and it's purpose."

Our computer's feminine voice answered with a puzzled inflection. "There is no scan currently in progress captain." I felt my eybrows shoot upwards in alarm as I looked at Mike.

"A malfunction?"

"I do not think so." Mike said grimly. He pointed to the forward screen. Out there in the cold luminescence of Orion's clouds was a pusling multi-colored light.

"Melanie, identify the pulsating luminescent object off our starboard side."

"The only object fitting that description is the pulsar that lays two light years off of our stern captain." Melanie promptly replied.

"I already checked." Mike said. "She is unaware of the the existence of that object."

I noticed for the first time that we were alone on the bridge. "Where in the hell is everyone? Didn't you even sound a general quarters?"

"I was not... ah...sure what to do, so I notified you first." Mike answered.

"Perhaps we should wait until an enemy has actually boarded us before we sound an alert." I cried, throwing my hands up in exasperation. "Red alert! All hands to stations immediately." The bridge darkened as the lights went dim and all screens were illuminated in red battle lights. An attention klaxon sounded to wake the other crew members.

Glenn II was the first to lurch in and assume his duty station, then Gerald, who looked as if he had not slept yet, followed by Danny who jumped into the seat of his comm console.

Mike opened his mouth to give a quick briefing on the situation, but nothing came out. We were all frozen in motion instantly as what I can only describe as a..superpresence, invaded our minds and bodies. Terrified, I felt invisible fingers rapidly sorting through the file cabinets of my mind, learning everything about me at a glance. Then came the tidal wave, a flood of overwhelming emotion, good will and love pouring out of a conciousness older than the stars.

"My wonderful little children of the stars. What joyous tales you bring." Boomed a huge and jovial voice inside of our heads. Infinite wisdom, laughter and affection swept through our minds. With some surprise I found that my mouth was working.

"Who are you?"

"Designations!" Replied the Superpresence. "The youthful star spawn always require designations. Call me what you wish for I would not know what to call myself, nor would I care." (the impression of great gales of laughter).

I heard Danny's voice as if from a far distance. "A-are y-you God?"

"Poor little untutored bags of water!" The presence beamed in amusement. "Still searching for deities. No little star child. I climb the same ladder as you. Upwards, ever upwards from the primordial ooze that fathered the life of all living worlds that have ever been. The universe is the womb of all, the stars are both egg and sperm. The cosmos is without plan, it is the living who plan. Is that not how it is meant to be? For the very roots of the paradox of creation is the fact that we can never know."

I felt mobility returning to my body. I let my fingers surreptitiously glide across the touch pads of my command console, but to no avail, nothing responded. All systems were firmly under the control of our strange friend.

"The paradox of God," it continued, "Is that God is all powerful, all knowing, the creator. yet, you think and reason, therefore the creator has no exclusive monopoly upon these processes. Therefore can you not assume that your collective being is God?" (more mental laughter following this odd statement).

"Yes, star children. Who and what is God who rules over a universe of toy figures? Search on, for you are bound to learn many truths in your quest, and that can only be to your ultimate benefit. Continue upon your way and be humble in the face of eternity."

There was a final wash of good feeling that was almost orgasmic in it's intensity. The pulsing light outside vanished. many minutes later I realized that I was standing, still staring at the forward screen. An enormous emptiness filled me where that loving presence had been. It seemed as if all the cold and vast emptiness of space had rushed into me to fill the vacuum left behind.

I looked around at the others in the ruddy glow of the bridge. Mike was leaning against a console, his eyes wide and unfocused with undisguised wonder and not a little fear. Danny sat very still at his station, brows knitted in thought. Glenn had buried his face in his hands. Gerald stood looking at the screen with no expression whatsoever.

As for me, I called off the Red Alert and walked off the bridge. A moment later I stood out on top of the ship, surrounded by a fresh oxygen\gravity envelope, gazing into the awesome beauty of Orion. Yes, we undoubtably had a great deal to learn. It was Christmas morning.

We never encountered the Star Father again.