Chapter 1: Debacle at Darvpool
The sound that filled the forty-two million plus rooms of the Darvpool lunar prison complex was horrific. It sounded as if something very, very large had stepped on a fat and very gaseous jellyfish. Sweet Edibles and High-pitched Hum ended their conversation about preferred Snorgle clubs on Wapesis and turned to their computer screens.
High-pitched Hum speed erased the video game he had been playing for the past thirty-two griggle cycles and began to scan the alert pages looking for something. He had no idea what. Sweet Edibles may have spent more time reading the guidebooks but had no idea what to look for either. The sound was fading when Manager Intors stepped out of his office exclaiming, “What in the hell, is that?”
He actually said, “What in the station where passengers cry and moan because the vehicle to take them home wasn’t coming anymore, is that?”
Before it quite faded away, the sound started up again. “Perhaps someone should inform the Chief Warden,” said Manager Intors just as the Chief Warden stepped into the communication room where Intors, Sweet Edibles and High-pitched Hum were scrambling to find the source of the sound.
What the hell is that?” asked the Chief Warden,
He didn’t actually say hell, he said “dark place where everyone feels like bodily waste,” but in both cases, the word hell seems to work.
“I don’t know,” shouted Manager Intors, but I have Sweet Edibles and High-pitched Hum searching it this minute.”
“Sweet Edibles, High-pitched Hum,” thought the Chief Warden, “where do these interns get those stupid names?”
“Well,” he shouted, “just get them to stop that fergamilic awful noise.”
“Don’t think it’s possible, sir,” said Sweet Edibles.
“Why?” asked the Manager and the Chief Warden together.
“I don’t know,” shouted Sweet Edibles, “but it must mean something. I doubt it will stop until we find out what that something is.”
“Well, find out,” said the Chief Warden, “and get it stopped. I was just having a short lunchtime consciousness shutdown (nap) when that fergamilic awful noise flung me back to full awareness.”
In fact, this was the first time that sound had been heard in over a millennium. That was back when the complex was a containment unit. Except for the interns, the management crew and the ‘conpad’ launch crew, there was no one else in the complex. In fact, there was no one within several light years. That’s because the complex was on the tiny remote planet Darvpool that for countless millennia had been the high security prison planet for the 37 worlds of the Zigraget and their variant species.
No prisoner had been held there, not even in stasis, for thousands of earth years. Its only real use was symbolic. There was nothing a Zigraget judge loved to say more to the convicted at the end of a trial than, “I condemn you to Darvpool.”
It was also a useful place for members of the high council to provide holiday and starting out jobs for their less gifted offspring. It should have been long since scrapped, but it was a useful make work project.
That’s why Sweet Edibles and High-pitched Hum were there (by the way you might find it more comfortable to call them Candy and Buzz). That’s even why Manager Intors and the Chief Warden and the conpad launchers, too, were there.
The conpads could have been launched from any of the home worlds, but it was easier to do it from the remote and legendary prison planet, Darvpool. Darvpool was a place no one ever thought about except for the high judges and the interns, officers and launch crew who stayed for a hundred and twenty-three griggle cycles (about three years or so). At which time, if they were ready for integration into the Zigraget workforce, or to go back to school, they would return to their home world and attempt to put their stay in Darvpool out of their conscious thoughts.
Some unhireables such as Manager Intors and the Chief Warden were given full-time positions in the complex. With this came the privilege of returning to their home worlds during holidays and to attend funerals. While holidays were frequent, funerals were not. Zigraget peoples were hardy and long-lived. All but forgotten, the prison planet of Darvpool served its purpose as a site for the launching of the conpads. The Zigraget, consider themselves to be a very Zigragetarian people. Locking fellow Zigraget up in cells, even in stasis seemed too brutal. They would put the dangerous criminals into conpads programmed to fly them in stasis to the end of the universe.
Remarkable technology allowed the conpads to follow a straight line passing through any object in their way with no effect on the object, or the sleeping convicts on board. In doing this, the Zigraget could proudly say that instead of reducing that incredible lifespan, they in fact added to it. Since no one knew how far the end of the universe was, these convicts, in fact, lived much longer even than the most long-lived Zigraget back on the 37 worlds.
At the time this very Zigragetmane treatment of dangerous convicts was introduced, the Zigraget were happy to learn that technology was installed aboard every conpad that would awaken the convicts from a suspended animation condition as they neared the end of the universe. That would allow them to view and experience the end of the universe and what would happen when they passed that boundary, or whatever else might then occur. The awakening was set to take a grangriggle cycle, which was something akin to 7 earth years. That was the plan ever since the launch of the first conpads several millennia ago. Not that it mattered much because even the earliest launched conpads were eons away from the end of the universe.
Sweet Edibles, and High-pitched hum, sorry, Candy and Buzz, after many nargriggles of searching and being subjected to the horrific noise, were figuring out what that noise was all about. It was a sound not heard for at least a millennium. It turned out, the hideous sound was a prisoner escape warning.
They informed the Manager who informed the Chief Warden. “There hasn’t been a prisoner in this complex for over a millennium. The few being installed in the conpads are all in stasis. How can there be an escape?” asked the Warden.
The Manager who had no answer, called back to the Warden as he went out the door, “I’ll check with Sweet Edibles and High-pitched Hum again. Perhaps they can answer that.”
The Warden looked for something to block his ears. Since there was nothing he could fold up or stick in his ears to reduce the sound of the alarm, he took a wrench-like tool and smashed one of the consoles on his desk. He found several capacitor-like thingees he stuffed into his ears. They didn’t fully block the sound, but the Warden felt he could at least have a brief consciousness shut down while waiting for an answer to his question.
Sometime later, the Manager returned to the Chief Warden’s office where he discovered that there was something more disturbing than the escape alarm. It was the Chief Warden’s snoring. “Sir,” he shouted, “I have the answer. You might want to hear it.”
After shouting several times and shaking, he detected a growing awareness on the part of the Warden. “Huh, who, wha, where?” asked the Warden as he negotiated his way to awareness.
“It’s conpads,” shouted the Manager.
“Conpads?” Yawned the Warden.
“Apparently, back when they first developed the conpads, they embedded the escape protocol into the system.”
The Warden was interested, “And?”’
“And it seems two of our conpads have diverted from their course and the end of the universe protocol has been started.”
“What the hell (The station of lost transit riders) does that mean, Intors?”
“I don’t know.”
“So, what do we do Manager Intors?”
“Why are you asking me? You’re the Chief Warden.”
“I only accepted the job because of the nice office. I don’t know what to do.”
“Let’s ask the interns. Maybe they know.”
“Good thinking Intors, that’s why I made you manager.”
“You didn’t make me manager. I was here before you.”
“I thought I made you manager,”
“No. My uncle, Councilor Zazosofras did.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t me?”
“Well, what do you know about that, huh,” muttered the Chief Warden to himself, “Let’s go find those Interns.”
“Well,” said Sweet Edibles (Candy), “I guess we call the security chief.”
“Ok, what did you say your name was? Sweet Edibles? Get to it.”
The Warden had difficulty containing himself at the swiftness and decisiveness of his decision.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea Chief Warden, you see my work time here will be over for about seven griggle cycles by the time we get the return message. I think High Pitched Hum (Buzz) should do it. He has twenty-two more griggle cycles before he leaves.”
They sent the message to the security chief. It would take at least six griggle cycles for it to get to him. Then he would have to decide what to do, so Candy’s estimate was about right, fourteen griggle cycles before they would hear back from him.
They could have used the transvovater to the capitol. Someone could be at headquarters in the time it would take to open a portal and walk the short distance along the wormhole. However, that transvovater and the one to secondary command on Plothos were on their regular downtime for maintenance. No one would do the walk to the transvovater at the far end of the complex. It would take about the same length 0f time as the interspace communication since no one knew how to drive the transitbots. As for the portal to Bestirdud, no one would dare take that one. The air there smelled like decomposing gortriddles (vile smelling stink bugs nearly the size of a Volkswagen beetle only much, much smellier and even more so when decomposing). Even the natives walked around with their sleeves over their noses