(Early 21st Century, Light Years Away)
The music pounded through the ship ‘Strawberry Letter 23’. If there had still been a bar in the restaurant of the ‘Renegade Class’ vessel, you would definitely have been able to hear the glasses rattle on the shelves.
O’KellyIsleyJunior sang along, particularly relishing the epic scream punctuating the thunder and majesty of the song ‘Otis’ from the antique, but still epic, hip hop album ‘Throne’ by JZ and Kanye West.
He was very keen on the more melodic type of rap, the kind that sampled old soul tunes and ‘Otis’ was one of his favourites.
The music filled the silence and emptiness of the million light years between its current location and where he imagined all the action happening, back in the Federation.
Although he was enjoying his jaunt around the outer reaches of the Galaxy, O’KellyIsleyJunior still sometimes missed the good old days when he was one of the elite, a fully commissioned AI in command of the finest spaceship in the Galactic Federation fleet.
After he’d been rescued from Earth where he’d crashed (through no fault of his programming he was always at pains to point out at every occasion where the topic came up), he’d been fully refitted from Explorer Class to Ninja Warrior Class and times had never been so good. Excitement and danger didn’t even begin to describe it!
The ship’s capabilities for mayhem and machismo suited O’KellyIsleyJunior, who had a very strong internal image of himself, his essence, the very soul of his AI. He was male, tall, black and very good looking. He also knew that, in his time, he’d have been an epic and worthy mate for any of those Kardashian girls. Voraciously binge-watching their TV series on the History channel was just another in a long list of ‘guilty pleasures’ in the long hops between planets.
The thoughts of all those gorgeous booties and the music together nearly worked to distract him from several other insistently nagging and unwelcome thoughts.
‘Why haven’t they recalled me and SL23 back to active duty?’ O’KellyIsleyJunior asked his domestic drone Hamish McTavish VIII. A rhetorical question, which Hamish tactfully ignored.
Apparently, everything was all kicking off back near Earth and he hated missing out. All right, all right, so everyone thought he had headed off to the far reaches of the Galaxy on an extended sabbatical but it didn’t hurt to check in, did it? Why did that old grump Aalok not get in touch with one of his best ships and favourite Captains?
Hamish carried on hoovering with its extended arm. He was fitted with quite the range of domestic gadgets and had a long internal list of jobs to be done. Today is the day that not one single space mite would be taking up residence on the top of the rafters in the room where O’KellyIsleyJunior spent most of his time.
O’KellyIsleyJunior didn’t bother with a physical manifestation of his body this far out in space, it would have been too wasteful on ship’s resources. He was nothing if not frugal, even if he did have esoteric taste in music (in most of the ship’s Drones’ opinions anyway). He spent plenty on indulging his passions, that was for sure.
With a virtual shrug of his shoulders, putting Aalok out of his mind, for now, he turned it up a notch.
The two drones working on routine repairs down the far end of the ship shuddered. They swiftly moved outside the airlock to escape as much of the noise and vibration as possible.
‘He’s bored, that’s his problem! He should go home instead of skulking about out here. He’s pretending to be too cool for the Federation and the endless sightseeing is just a ruse to enable him not to face that fact.’ one drone muttered to the other as they inched along the outside. ‘Oooh, I can still feel those awful vibrations even this far away!’
Back in the ship, Hamish had finished his dusting. He hovered nearby as it could tell from reading his vital signs via the ship’s life support systems that O’KellyIsleyJunior still wanted to talk.
‘Only 34 hours to Lysithia, try and keep calm, you’ll enjoy watching all those mad little Lysithian’s. Then you can enjoy yourself long-distance betting with your mate GladysMariaKnight and the ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ about how close they are to achieving Coalescence and joining the Federation!’
O’KellyIsleyJunior still smarted from the beating he’s taken at GladysMariaKnight’s hands at their last game of poker.
He’d embarrassed himself with projecting a graceful rise from the table in anticipation of winning the final hand after going all in when he saw the Ace come on the River to join the pair of Aces in his hand. He’d looked up only to find her projecting an unbearable smug grin and holding a Full House.
O’KellyIsleyJunior deluded himself about being the best Hold’em player in the AI world and of course, he really disliked being beaten by a girl!
‘Funny, I’d have thought the ship would be making ‘tidy up and strap in’ noises by now, we must be close to our approach to Lysithia.’
He activated the long-range viewer and turned the magnification up full. Sometimes you can see an approaching planet long before the machines picked up the ….. Well, whatever it was they did pick up. Background radiation or something, he guessed.
O’KellyIsleyJunior had a special gift. It enabled him to pick up the aura (for want of a better word) of an intelligent species approaching Coalescence . This is partly why he had been picked to do so many of the early ‘search and mentor’ missions for the Federation. Until the fateful crash on earth.
He stared into the screen but it took a couple of minutes for him to realise that where there should be a great, bright, ever-shifting coloured aura, nothing was showing, nothing at all.
Stunned, he had to work hard to process what that actually meant. This most logical of beings, a fully evolved ship’s AI at the top of his game (even if he did say so himself to any Drone in the vicinity) struggled to grasp the enormity of what he saw.
Or the enormity of what it was he didn’t see.
As the full horror of the situation dawned on him, he reached for the ‘Top Secret, Full Blowout Emergency, Do Not Fuck About Pressing This Unless Absolutely Serious’ Button. He needed to contact Aalock fast.
A total void where a planet should be. Lysithia had totally disappeared, along with it’s sixty four billion intelligent beings.
Beings who, until recently, were all quivering with anticipation of being invited to be the next, and most importantly, the twelfth and final member race of the Galactic Federation as it Ascended to the long awaited Duodenary state.