THE NEBULOUS SAGA
PART ONE: CAPTAIN OF THE NEBULA
A ten-year crusade reaches a pitched crescendo following a devastating attack on an unsuspecting civilian outpost. A sailor on the renegade starship ‘Nebula’ desperately seeks reason in the wake of the atrocities he witnesses. An old man begs for mercy…and finds none.
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NEXT WEEK: In the aftermath of the Trade Ring’s destruction, an unlikely survivor gives Dolion a second chance. The NEBULA sets course for a remote planet system, hoping to find answers in a bard’s secret…and Jesse Keiffer reveals an ability that Dolion will do anything to gain for himself!
Sound design by H.M. Radcliff.
Cover art by Kirk DouPonce.
“We all have a choice, lad. If you think you don’t,
it’s just because you don’t like the options.”
PART 1: CAPTAIN OF THE NEBULA INT - THE PIRATE SHIP NEBULA - DAY Deep space. A galaxy glows brilliantly in view. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) All pirates are dirty liars and murderers, but none worse than Captain Dolion of the Nebula. His aim is as sharp as his tongue, and his neck scarf as red as the blood of his victims. Stardust parts around the bow of the Nebula and swirls in our wake as we forge toward the trade ring with the captain’s orders still ringing within the airlock between our sails. The pirate starship NEBULA bursts into the frame. The fabric of space seems to ripple around the ship as it slides gracefully toward a massive ring-like structure easily the size of a large moon, yet clearly still far enough away to appear no larger than a small space station. The Nebula is a graceful, beautiful ship, a curious juxtaposition of an Earth seafaring ship and an interstellar spacecraft. Its lines are flowing, curving and evocative of graceful movement, like an enormous star-serpent frozen in place. To one side is an enormous SOLAR SAIL, several times larger than the ship itself, glittering in the reflected light of a nearby star. A man in captain's regalia stands on the ship's bridge, a high, semi-circular deck toward the stern, which affords a view of the entire starship. He wears a long black coat, trimmed with gold, and a scarf the color of scarlet floats around his neck in zero gravity. CAPTAIN DOLION We chart for the center, and once the cannons are in range—put an end to this alliance! PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) I grip the ship’s railing, the echo of the words like bile in my throat. The trade alliance is meeting today to sign for peace along this entire stretch of the galaxy, and after so many years of skirmishes over trade routes and merchant vessels...this agreement could be the next best thing for civilization. Until our ship blows them all to space dust in fifteen—no, ten minutes. How has it come to this? How have I come to be standing at the prow of this death-bringing pirate ship? I glance over my shoulder at the crew bustling around their stations, securing ropes here, readying on-deck harpoons there. If I let them see even a sliver of my fear, they’ll send me to the plank to meet my doom outside the airlock in the cruel silence of the void. The void that claimed my family all those years ago, thanks to this very same pirate crew. I grip the railing tighter, lest my trembling hands give me away. A thousand innocents will die, all for the captain’s vengeance, and I can’t stop it. What can one man do against such insurmountable odds? Nigh on twenty men in this crew, each as cutthroat as the captain they follow. COOKIE Pete, lad. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) The gruff voice of the ship’s cook brings me around, and I meet the weathered man’s gray gaze. The blue and purple tones of the starlight globes hanging from our lantern hooks cast shadows in the deep wrinkles of his brow. An OLDER MAN stands on the bridge behind Captain DOLION. His beard is grey and well-trimmed, and in the wrinkles of his face could be charted the farthest reaches of the constellations. A pair of half-rim glasses perch on the end of his nose, gently lighting COOKIE's eyes with the soft glow of their digital augmentation. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) (CONT'D) I acknowledge him with a curt nod. Cookie peers at me over his scratched glasses — which are long overdue for replacement, but he refuses to let me pay for them. COOKIE You sure 'bout this? PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) I lean my hip against the railing, pulling my tailcoat about me to button it. My quivering fingers betray me, and I mismatch the last few holes. Abandoning the effort, I smooth my scarf over the mistake. CAPTAIN DOLION Don't see how I have much choice. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) Cookie tucks his hands into his pockets, watching me in that steady way of his. COOKIE Ach, we all be havin' a choice. If you think you don't have one, it's just because you don't like the options. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) I fidget with the ragged ends of my scarf, looking away from the old man’s gaze as my chest knots. Sweeping into view ahead, between the glowing trails of stardust, the trade ring glitters like a star itself. The structure is large enough to encircle an average-sized planet, and specks of light twinkle all over it—specks I know are ships and citizens and oh so many innocents. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) (CONT'D) But what does Captain Dolion care for innocents? Pirates like these never concern themselves with how many ordinary people get caught between their firefights. They care only for the reward, the thrill, the fear. I glance up at the black, skull-inscribed flag flying from our top mast, and a chill grips my spine. Like a grim, glittering light show, a holographic FLAG ripples from the forward pillar anchoring the solar sail to the NEBULA. The light it casts reflects off the reflective fabric of the sail in shimmering trails, giving the entire sail the illusion of rippling in the non-existent interstellar wind. A RADIO CRACKLES on the bridge's console. CREW MEMBER 1 (SCREAMING) Target coming into the sights! PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) My stomach heaves. Below my feet, the crew will be bringing the cannons to bear. On either side of me, the harpooners prepare to meet any opposition. Cookie grips my upper arm. COOKIE (LOW, QUIETLY) Lad... PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) He doesn't have to say more, because I can see the rest of his words in his kind but sorrowful eyes. In a few minutes, we really won't have a choice. All of us on the Nebula will be hunted down by any survivors from the trade ring, even down to the last wretched cabin boy. They won't ask whether we wanted to be here or not. CAPTAIN DOLION (SHOUTING) Keep the course steady! PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) I shy away from Cookie's soul-searching gaze. He won't find much good there, I'm afraid. My eyes sting as I turn back to the bustling trade ring. We approach rapidly, the ring beginning to take shape into buildings and ports and levels upon levels of riches and life. The white skull on our flag gleams in the ethereal starlight in defiance to the safety the trade ring promises. Any moment now, our arrival will be noticed. There! Even as the thought crosses my mind, a dozen small ships leave dock, the alliance flag at their masts. My heart whispers a silent no, but the captain shouts the order to send a round through their hulls. They don’t stand a chance. From a dozen torpedo-holes across the ship, kinetic warheads are launched from RAILGUNS beneath the armor plating of the NEBULA's hull. The portholes glow red from the angry glow of the thin force-fields that separate the crew from certain death by the cold, empty vacuum of the Void. The ship GROANS from the kinetic recoil of the warheads launching. They travel so fast they are almost invisible, leaving behind a faint glow of charged ions. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) (CONT'D) The boards shudder beneath my feet as the harpooners fire. A streak of light flashes between our ship and the leading alliance vessel, and in an instant, it explodes. One moment, there’s a white-sailed ship, shedding a wake of stardust. The next moment, a ball of fire devours the craft inside its oxygen airlock, then vanishes almost as quickly as the blaze starves of air. And all that’s left is ash and burnt stardust. COOKIE We all have a choice, Peter lad. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) Cookie's gaze captures mine again as our harpooners make quick work of the rest of the oncoming vessels. CAPTAIN DOLION (HOARSE, BROKEN) Not anymore. PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) I gave up my choice years ago. CREW MEMBER 2 (SHOUTING) In range, Captain! PETER DOLION (NARRATOR) Fingers clenched in my blood-red neck scarf, I close my eyes, not willing to see the impact of our cannon fire on the hundreds—no, the thousands of innocents before us. But I still shout the command. My men merely follow my order, as they always do. Because I am Captain Peter Dolion, and this is my confession.