Into the infinite black Ch.1
There had been a parade, huge fanfare, and joyous news about how war in general had been effectively put to an end; the various Human governments and Mamono kingdom finally having a declarative peace treaty. Then the demands started, and not at all who had been suspected to even do such which had caused a great deal of confusion.
Three hundred pounds of pure gold, eight canisters of liquid concentrated demon energy, and some one hundred Mamono citizens who weren’t ‘incapable’ of hard labor to immediately begin training for integration in ranks for the ship. There had been an outrage, the entirety of the capital city going into an uproar, and even some of the nobles demanding that a war of attrition be declared and that they should completely decimate all of the nearby human countries; until, that was, it was found to be a demand from the Captain of the ship that hung in the air high above the capital city.
Sleek, smooth and the color of a steel sword and the shape of a pie dish connected to a set of pylons, it hung suspended on nothing high above the city. How had peace been brokered? The Captain had done it. After some minor clarification, which was done through a crewman from the ship, that all the requested items were for the ship and expanding the crew; more demands had come.
Two hundred acres of land as close to the city as possible. Some nine hundred tons worth of various metals. Two tons of varied elemental crystals. And finally the commissioning of a massive library and a team of gremlins to create slates that could render books on them as if looking directly at the page of a book itself. Upon being told, mostly as a test, this wouldn’t be able to provide these materials the mysterious Captain had sent back a rather blunt message telling them to distribute the material needs between themselves and their newfound human allies, they had never been expected to bear the weight of this alone or hadn’t they read the fine print of the treaty? Threstis, the capital city, was to be the base of operations for the proposed fleet of these ships and every country that had signed on was expected to contribute in some manner.
“Practically as bad as your father,” Her mother had remarked with an amused look playing over her face after being briefed over breakfast of how things had turned out; Morrigan could only frown. Her father was nothing like this unseen lunatic, who did they think they were? Was the Captain some human from a Paladin order or perhaps one of the ungrateful far eastern Mamono who felt there was no need for a Maou? “What do you think, Morrigan?” Her mother had ask, pouring herself a cup of boiling hot water before setting a capsule of tea into it; all Morrigan could do was deepen her frown.
“I don’t like the ‘Captain’ at all.” She managed, biting at her lip angrily while a scowl played over her face while somehow putting jelly on some toast in a menacing way. “They’re rude, impetious, a-”
“And they know exactly what they want.” Her mother hummed as she stared down at her tea and waited for it to finish steeping.
“But the disrespect and the cost,” She had rebutted, only for her mother to snort at her as a smirk took her mouth.
“We’re spending less on this than we were on a standing army,” She said wistfully, almost as they had lost something as a people due to all the signing nations effectively turning their swords into plows. “As for the disrespect… that’s why it reminds me of your father. Headstrong, demanding, and expecting everyone involved to know what they’re doing. It really takes me back to those old adventuring days…,” She trails off, tucking some errant hair behind an ear.
“B-but you’re the Maou,” Morrigan whined, “Y-”
“I was never able to bring about world peace,” The older woman interrupted as she pulled the capsule from the steaming cup and set it aside, “If anything your father and I only made it more divided.” A spoonful of sugar was dumped into the tea and stirred slowly. “Besides, demands aren’t all bad after all. They can go both ways.”
“No. No you didn’t.” Morrigan groaned exasperatedly, dropping her toast on her plate and sprawling out in her chair dramatically.
“Don’t be dramatic, that was one time!” The older woman flapped her batlike wings, her tone immediately becoming frustrated, “Besides, I thought you liked that boy; but that’s not what I demanded.” The two of them sat in relative silence that began to stretch on, Morrigan fearing to ask and her mother simply waiting for her to do so. She routinely had done this and Morrigan had eventually realized not asking would often be better. Awkward seconds ticking by into awkward minutes and still neither dared to speak. “Well you’re no fun at all, I guess it’ll be a surprise.” she eventually spat out before taking a long draw on her tea, her daughter merely choosing to sigh in an exasperated tone and beginning to set up her own cup of tea, a rather fruity smell capsule placed into her own cup.
The rest of their tea time together was not much outside of some grumblings while sipping loudly and shooting each other adviserial looks. It wasn’t out of any ill will for her mother, just her meddlings and the sneaking suspicion that even if the outright ‘deal’ wasn’t to set her up with some random man, the intention was still somehow there. She could feel it in her horns.
The night had started off into a whirlwind of annoyance and general displeasure. It wasn’t until her attendant had appeared with dresses in tow for her that Morrigan realized her initial assumptions on her mother’s motivations might have been correct; one look at the dresses and brief explanation of why Tara had brought them confirmed as much. While her mother had apparently demanded in recompense that the vaunted and mysterious Captain come down from his ship and attend a ball, Morrigan was certain it was another plot to get her interested in some kind of suitor; likely one wearing one of those odd blue jumpsuit uniforms that newly formed ‘Star Force’ personnel wore. She could help but think they looked foolish in them.
As far as she knew there was no other subset of uniforms, no alternates whatsoever. No dress uniform, no officers uniform, nothing with armor. Instead it was a simple blue jumpsuit with a badge insignia on the shoulder that designated the work field and a nametape on the breast, just over the heart; this was rounded out by a rather atypical looking set of black boots and a black belt. What use or purpose was the belt on a jumpsuit anyways?
After a quick look over what her attendant had brought, Morrigan quickly decided on what would clash the most with the ridiculous looking jumpsuits; her mother wanted a ball, at least she could be an eyesore at it as a means of rebellion. The dress was rather flashy, cut high on the legs and low in the chest with a decent number of frills with nothing superfluous about it; it was also a rather hot orange color which oddly enough accented her shock red hair well. She knew her mother would complain about it and she’d just have to play off that she had no idea what was wrong. It’s not like she was intentionally sabotaging her mother’s attempts at getting her married off.
Things proceeded rather well. Hors d'oeuvres, tasty wines, and a small trickle of guests and more began to fill the main hall of the castle, the various servants and guards milling about and on a few occasions some of them all intermingling and exchanging pleasantries or pretending none were heard; a heavily sweating and scrawny Order scribe nervously ignoring an amorous minotaur guard being one such example. Interestingly enough, even with the various factions who had historically had extremely bad blood between each other, things were going uncomfortably smooth. The Order, the Demon’s head, the Maou’s delegation, the various royal houses, and even the few representatives of the Star Force were all, shockingly, rather sedate and agreeable; something that immediately put Morrigan on edge. This shouldn’t be possible.
“Mother,” Morrigan started as she began to set herself down in a nearby chair at the Maou’s table, a rather large place setting that could easily sit fifty on just one side, “Would it be safe to assume you had demanded the Captain’s presence?”. Her mother simply smirked at her, eye’s lighting up.
“Changed your mind about ‘hunting’?” She teased as Morrigan shifted her eyes to regard a small set of snacks at her table, one in particular allegedly being culturally significant to the Captain, or so they were told; a rather odd sandwich. A pan fried thing, with some kind of dreadful looking brown paste, chopped tropical fruit, and thick cut bacon. Just looking at it made her stomach roll.
“No, I have not.” She responded curtly, eyebrows furrowing while shooting her mother a look. Meddling old woman. “I was more concerned with the fact that the guest of honor hadn’t bothered to show.”
“Well that’s probably because of the parade,” She shot back while gently picking up a slice of one of the small sandwiches. “I’m certain they’ll be here shortly. It’s only about a mile from the gates,” a smug look played out on her mother’s face before she bit into the sandwich and stopped to regard it curiously as she chewed, only to let out a rather inappropriate moan. “Morrighhan, yoo hafff taah try disss.”
“Mother,” Morrigan spat, embarrassed by the sudden lack of manners. Her mother however, didn’t care as she grabbed up another sandwich and offered it to her while continuing to work on her own.
You were the Captain and for the last few weeks you and various other crew members had worked on training the bulk of your new mamono recruits, they weren’t quite ready but it’s not like you had a choice given your deadlines; only two months till you all shipped out. So today you were all marching through the Maou’s capital city, headed off for a snazzy ball, and going to teach one of the most important lessons you possibly could, given what you were aiming to do in regards to your greater mission.
Your security chief, Perun, was a rather severe looking woman. Dark blue skin, black sclera with yellow eyes, and gleaming horn that added to her rather imposing seven feet; Zipangu made mamono differently. You had taken the opportunity to ensure she got to wear the new mess dress; a beautifully cut uniform consisting of a form fitting blouse and pencil skirt which was decked out in officer gold accoutrements, certification ribbons, and a few medals. You had to admit the more militaristic uniform seemed to accentuate something about the Oni; part of you unhappy to admit that her new appearance seemed to awaken something in you. You were a professional damnit, you wouldn’t be overcome by a simple change of clothes. Despite her personality and usual behavior, you knew she was both embarrassed and overjoyed at the attention from leading the new recruits towards the castle. If you had to guess this moment would probably convince Perun to be a lifer.
You yourself was dressed rather smartly, though in nothing that resembled any kind of uniform. It was a simple set of clothes, nothing too uncommon for a generic human from one of the surrounding kingdoms, white linen shirt with brown pants and finished off with a rather heavy green coat and an embossed Star Force broach on your chest. While Perun looked like the very image of a high class military officer, you could probably pass as a goat farmer or perhaps a modest manservant.
Both men and mamono lined the streets, all of them from the various respective countries who had joined beneath the Star Force’s banner, cheering as the lot of you marched through the streets, the cheers were loud and almost deafening. And why wouldn’t they be? You had established peace and presented the world with a new, unified goal. A goal of stepping out into the infinite black of the celestial seas and becoming something more; something far more.
The march was slowly coming to an end as the parade came to a halt outside the castle, the recruits and current service members posting up and standing by as a loud military style bugle played; Perun regarded you just slightly, before you subtly nodded letting her know to proceed. Immediately orders were barked out by the imposing looking woman as a rather small contingent of honor guard, a good handful of the new mamono recruits, and the various key officers began to head into the castle.
Seamless and perfectly smooth black stone walls stabbed upwards into the sky, all of it accentuated with blood red tapestries, dark polished woods, and flawless tiled floors truly made the castle quite beautiful in a rather dark way. Various kikimora and guards clustered about, checking documents and taking food orders. Quickly, you subtly motioned to Perun to draw her attention which got you a curious look but she quickly snapped to attention and obediently approached you.
“Perun,” You started before she could get anything out, “Tell me what you want for dinner, I’ll get things squared for at the table so you can go ahead and show off the recruits to the Maou,” the large woman regards you for a moment, her yellow eyes staring off as she starts to think things over.
“Steak? Hmm,” She trails off, shutting her eyes as she thinks. “A red wine and whatever those small grain beads are called as a side I guess…” yellow eyes regarded you again, though this time with curiosity.
“Couscous?” You ask, remembering how she had reacted to it the first time she had eaten it, the uncharacteristic explosion of personality as adulations of praise for something seemingly inconsequential. Was she particular about texture?
“Yes, that.” She snapped quickly, a toothy fanged grin flashed at you as she nodded enthusiastically. “Is it really okay for me to lead them though?” She asked, nervously considering it.
“I won’t always be around, so don’t worry about it. Besides, I’m not exactly dressed for it am I?” You flash a reassuring grin to her which seems to put her at ease, which earns you a nod as she dutifully heads off to present the newbies before the various dignitaries along with the honor guard. Another step completed for a very important lesson, and with a smirk you approached one of the kikimora who had a fervent look and a pen and paper pad.
“How may I help you?” She asks, smiling softly and getting ready to write, eyes alight with odd passion that all of her kind carried.
“A steak meal with red wine and couscous,” You pause you feign thinking, “Oh! Would I be able to put in an order for the Captain?” You ask with a curious tone, nodding towards the uniformed personnel as they slowly made their way out of the large waiting room. “The Captain is a bit busy and usually trusts my judgement of such things,” you follow up, not necessarily lying; the Kikimora simply nods at this and patiently awaits for your command with baited breath.
As one of the honored Star Force guests, you had been ushered over to the Maou’s table along with most of the others and due to your refusal to provide any titles in regards to the Maou’s request, and your own paranoid nature that hide your position even from your own people, most at the table watched enrapt as Commander Perun flawlessly maneuvered and presented each of the various personnel likely under the assumption that she was the mysterious Captain. The honor guards were immaculate, most of which being younger squires or knights who had grown tired of the needless war-games of the nobles, their prior military expertise really shining through; the recruits however, were acceptable. Presentation of their rank and file was off due to their numerous different body sizes and shapes, being almost entirely mamono, and more than a few were not built for being in formation in any capacity; but overall you were certain they would eventually shape up into a very solid crew.
Originally you had realized you would desperately need the approval of the Maou and her citizens for pragmatic reasons as Zipangu mamono were a bit harder to recruit and other distinct reasons, though not for anything even vaguely resembling anything most would immediately assume as the reason why. After suddenly popping up in Zipangu and taking time to learn everything you could about your new home and realizing that you could finally fulfill one of your life’s most absurd childhood dreams, you knew exactly what you had to do and that mamono would have to fill half the crew; and it all came down to fertility rates. Mamono and human pairings had abysmal fertility rates, which admittedly would be rather ideal if they were sealed in a spacecraft for large periods of time as opposed to a human woman. You knew sex would be likely inevitable, even with human woman, but if you could stack the odds in your favor you’d never have to worry about any births on your ship. A three year exploratory journey versus an active couple dedicating most of their free time actively trying for a child for over four years, you liked those odds; sure, there’d likely be a lot of married crewmembers and newly pregnant crew disembarking, but no need to worry about a infant on the ship. Maybe. You hoped.
The presentation ended and there was a rather raucous applause, even the more anti-mamono human delegations begrudgingly clapped along and did their best to hide any sign of being somewhat impressed. Finishing out the routine Perun set them all to stand at parade rest as headed over to her spot near you at the table and a handful of various other officers took over and began making addressments to each of various dignitaries and reading out the mission statement for the Star Force. As Perun took her chair, you couldn’t help but smirk as sets of Kikimoras went about setting out plated food for everyone, your own order of five fingers of whiskey and a plate of bacon immediately catches your eyes as it’s set down before Perun who merely looks at it in confusion before turning to you; your plate being her order.
“Minor mix up,” You offer as you grab the plates and go to swap them only for a grey feathered wrist to suddenly appear as a hand grasps at you.
“Sir, please. That’s the Captain’s meal,” Her tone is hushed as the calm and professional kikimora looks down at you with a slight smile, though her eyes seem to convey some kind of animosity.
“Commander, can I have my meal?” You ask Perun in an equally hushed tone, who simply nods as the kikimora begins to have a disturbed look on her face; almost looking as if she could cry just over the perceived mistake moreso than who you were.
“S-sir I m-ust apol-apologi-,” The same hushed tone, somehow even more quiet as her eyes took on a glassy look.
“Don’t,” You spit out rather quickly as you and the Oni swapped plates and drinks, your security chief immediately tucking into her meal. “It’s likely my fault,” You admitted while giving her the best reassuring smile you can, “I have no doubts that everyone of you here are the very best and pinnacle of what a good maid should be.”
“That's rather gracious of you sir,” She follows on, fidgeting a touch though still able to maintain a proper air of professionalism. “I-is there anything else I could possibly help you with?” Your eyes perked at this, you had planned for the opportunity to occur at the end of the night after all the festivities so the lesson would really hit home as well as for the opportunity for everyone to embarrass Perun to no end until the end as she likely wouldn’t correct anyone on the mistake; but life was funny about opportunities.
“Actually, yes,” You snagged a piece of crisped bacon, dunking it into your whiskey a few times, “Could you inform the head of the honor guard,” You pointed slightly at a strawhaired young man standing in the back of the formations, “And let him know that once things wrap up for the addressments, to just go ahead and begin presenting of arms and call for the assuming of command.” She nods curtly and scurries off quickly, as your eyes scan you watch as she patiently waits near the young man for the addressments to end.
“That was odd, Kikimora don’t usually make mistakes like that.” Perun observes, a few stray bits of couscous stuck to her face as she swirls her wine. You could only shrug as you bit into your whiskey soaked bacon.
As the addressments wound down, the dutiful kikimora had done exactly what you had asked and informed the second lieutenant of the change of orders, to do something historic for more than one reason. Immediately the honor guard formed up, barked an order aloud, and things began. Pomp and circumstance proceeded while a gold inlaid calvary style saber was passed about and presented to this person and that, a few impressive flourishes as it was tossed through the air which had elicited loud sounds of awe, and in moments what you had done so much work to achieve unfolded in front of you.
A few years of refusing to utilize a rank system in general communication while chastising oncomers since there wasn’t a ship, which changed to because there wasn’t a Star Force, and now finally because there was no formal charter for humanity’s Star Force. Months of hiding away from the newer recruits, deferring every order to one of the primary crew members or lower, and never wearing anything that resembled a uniform had finally paid off. The historic start of your Star Force, a teaching moment, finally beginning as the ceremonial sword was hefted out and presented. Loud clapping and even cheers filled the ballroom.
All eyes fell on the sword as a heavy silence took hold, Perun practically burning a hole in the table before her, the young straw-haired second lieutenant starting to look a touch confused. A few of the various dignitaries had tapered off their clapping, now the only sounds being concerned murmurs. You couldn’t help but smirk as you fought back a laugh as you made out what you could only guess was the Maou and her red-headed younger copy looking inquisitively at the poor Oni. Reaching up, you tapped at your broach twice which chirped in acknowledgement.
“Second Lieutenant,” Every badge worn by every crew member, cadet, and even just generic work personnel’s various badges squawked momentarily with feedback before functioning as a proper intercom system. “Does Commander Perun look like a Captain?” Instantly his eyes snapped to you, parsing out the secondary source of sound as coming from from you, his face somewhat red as he began to sweat under the scrutiny of so many.
“N-no sir,” He barked out, surprisingly in a rather confident tone despite his paling appearance.
“Then hurry up and give me my sword kid,” You respond, there’s a fresh wave of murmurs at this and you can feel the eyes of what you assumed was the Maou and every other major dignitary, eyeing all of the spectacle you had worked so hard to engineer.
“The assumption of command of the fi-” He starts over, trying to salvage what he can.
“No. Stop.” You bark out over the comms, “That's enough. Set it down, all you post up now.” With barely even a hint of a shake he places the sword down in front of you on the table and all you can do is let out an exasperated sigh and slam down the rest of your whiskey, the various cadets shifting about before forming up into a standing squadron ready to be inspected. Letting out a rather unmanly reaction to the sudden influx of the burning drink, you let out a soft wheeze before croaking out, “Alright then. All of you are now washed back by two weeks, including you Lt,” A mortified look comes over the young man’s face, the other cadets and more looking worried at the prospect of having to restart their training. “Instructor McAster, report to me, now.”
Jacob McAster was a rather portly, older man, who had for a time studied as a wizard. Something about that life hadn’t appealed to him it seemed, as he was one of the earliest to really sign on with you and your foolish quest. Part you recognized it was likely part of the philosophy and hopeful doctrine which likely had snagged him, something that stood in complete contradiction to his own personal outlook and personality; as to why he seemed to be so quick to commit himself something that was so incongruous with his own ideals, you had no idea.
Quickly, the old bearded man hopped up from his table and quickly made his way over to where you were sitting. His uniform sitting on him as it always had, in a semi illfit manner, and the ogling of several mamono behind him told you that his jumpsuit uniform was again suddenly over tight on his rear. Damnit McAster, why? We’re supposed to look professional. As he neared you tapped your comm, eliciting a different chirp as it acknowledged the command to stop broadcasting. Advanced technology without the issues or limitations of a microchip was a beautiful thing.
“Sir.” He stated plainly with an overly formal tone, standing in front of your table at attention with a bit of scowl painted over his bearded face.
“No need for formalities outside of the general appearances,” You snort as you grab up your whiskey glass and hold it up, swirling it and showing that it was empty; you needed a refill and you were certain one of the kikis would be happy to help. “You covered all the general course materials right? Stressed them properly, like we had discussed?”
“Absolutely.” He states simply, his face betraying him at not knowing where you were going with this. To be fair, it was a very large amount of material with varying subsets of which were, at least at this point, theoretical. Mechanically you flinch as an unknown hand grasps yours, stealing away your empty glass as a fresh new glass of whiskey is placed before you by the grey feathered kikimora; quickly you whisper a thanks to her.
“No problem then,” You reply, hand snaking to your new drink. “Go ahead and take the night off then, tomorrow too.”
“Don’t need you for punishing them,” You eye your drink before taking a sniff, the sharp biting smell stinging at your nostrils. “They didn’t absorb the material, that’s not your fault. But it’s certainly my problem since they’ll be manning my ship.” You state, scowling at your drink as your eyes snap to his. Worse than an infant on board would be deaths of any of your crewmen, not that you were sentimental but you’d prefer not to be responsible for anything. He simply nods along to this as he begins to get your meaning. “Well, you're dismissed. Have fun.”
Immediately, without any rebuttal or protest, McAster quickly threw a sloppy salute and bounded off back for his seat and annoyingly, the eyes of several mamono staring out after him as his coveralls shamefully hugged at his rear. Goddamnit McAster. Immediately you slap at your comm badge twice and it again squacks as all the other likewise badges come back on to function as an impromptu intercom.
“Alright kiddos,” You spit out with a chuckle, “You all fucked up, so you’re all getting punished for it. Next forty-eight will be critical, because if you’ve got rank, one fuck up and I’ll rip it right off your uniform and bust you back to nothing. Now,” There are a few gasps from the various hoity-toity dignitaries at your cursing and you couldn’t be happier. Slowly you take a long draw from your whiskey, enjoying how it burns on your throat.
“Every one of you fuck ups need to listen carefully.” You start in a low, smooth and steady tone. You knew inherently that to really instill a concept of fear, that a set cadence to your speech and a calm demeanor was far more effective than screaming like a retard; already you could see the face of the various cadets and more paling out. “All of you made assumptions about tonight, which directly contradicts what we’ve been trying to teach you all; without these lessons, you are worse than useless. I need you to be more than just the best, I need you to be the impossible; to do the impossible.” You take a swig of the whiskey, sighing loudly into the comm.
“Just a year ago, all of you thought this was impossible; but I did it. I brought peace to this world, something none of you thought possible, and now I need more than this. Because soon, I’m going to go out into that black abyss, that void beyond this world, and I need every single one of you because none of us know what we’re going to find; only for what we hope. Strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations for the sake of nothing more than discovery and to become more that what we are. All of us will have to be more than what we once were right now however, or all of this is doomed from the start; so when we wasted time teaching all of you, inherently, to never make assumptions or jump to conclusions I half expected all of you to pass this little test; but unfortunately you haven’t.” You paused, swirling your drink as you eyed it; the entirety of the hall is dead silent as all eyes fall on you. “So to start with, all of you idiots will start with beating your faces. Since you couldn’t be smart, it’s time to get strong.”
There’s a murmur through the crowd, most of the various Star Force cadets and more looking at each other in complete confusion. You can already see the Maou’s younger, fire-haired copy making her way over with an imperious look painted across her face. What a stuck up idiot.
“Beat your faces, as in push-ups. Get to it, all of you losers get to stop when I’m tired.” You mumble out to the comm before tapping it to turn it off; immediately the different uniformed personnel hop into action and begin while the various prior established ranking personnel simply watch. Immediately the various cadets, honor guard, and more begin to comply which only gets you more murmurs from the various dignitaries as they watch the spectacle, the fire-headed succubus stamping towards you, clearly displeased.
You didn’t care for dealing with stuck up nobles, so as soon as she started wailing and moaning at you, your drink’s fate was sealed. Alcohol abuse was a grave sin, but to be entirely honest, she had worse coming. You barely caught any of it, something about her younger sister and her mother, how your coarse words were unacceptable; just as the shrieking became unbearable, everyone eyeing the two of you, things just took a turn, and just like that she was wearing the rest of your whiskey. The entire hall lit up the sound of laughter, booing, and gasps; your action obviously divisive, but no one would ever argue that it wasn’t effective. The red-headed copy had stopped her shrieking, having decided instead to whine to her mother before stomping off. God, you hated nobles.