Retrograde Nova Ep01 01

 

The Babaca helmsman flicks its gooey tentacles as all five feet of its squidly body glistens in oil. The flitted spray adds to the slime trail leaking down the wall.

Early Babaca Design by Trew2art

Early Babaca Design by Trew2art

“Mira?”

Its four giant fly-like eyes circle its small head always leaving you to wonder which direction it was looking. Those shifty little bastards.

“Mira?”

Titan, called "Mira" by most of her crew, has fallen into a cheeseburger coma.

Chunks of bread, meat, and unspeakables crumble out of her hand as huge globs drop onto her shirt and splatt onto the floor.

Well, it’s not actually bread and it’s not actually meat . . . but who’s counting?

The first officer, Alanua, another squid, receives a textured water stream from the helmsman and her lightscreens flicker new images.

“Mira?”

Titan, lost in a dream. . . Doesn’t. Hear. A. Thing. She leans far back into her chair as her eyes roll to the back of her skull. She mumbles, “This. Is. Amazing,” as a chunk of food launches from her mouth.

Alanua whistles, “MIRA!!”

Titan grabs the burger with both hands and tries to shove the entire thing in her mouth. She is a tall woman slouched deep into the recesses of her chair. Her hair is wild in rebellious spirals around her face which are lit by a watery wall of lightscreens.

Another moment passes.

Titan snaps her head forward. Her confused face turns to Alanua, a muffled “what?” escapes her throat.

Alanua, casual as always, “Mira. A projectile has torn through deck 12. Another through deck 17. More projectiles are on a collision course. We will be struck again momentarily.”

Titan stands and turns to face the wall sized watery screen running through the room. The remnants of the lifeless cheeseburger now decorate the floor.

She takes three decisive steps and stops. Her eyes sharpen . . then turn dark.

 

Retrograde Nova Ep01 02
Early Design by Trew2art

Early Design by Trew2art

Titan looks into the watery screens as light reflections warble across her face from the shimmery liquid. Even without a captains uniform there is no doubt who is commanding the ship. “Can we move out of the way of the incoming projectiles?”

The dozen squidy Babaca all flick water and whistle. Their whale-like blowholes sing in harmony only on occasion. The rest of the time it’s an orchestra of dying honking balloons.

The ship shudders as large projectiles make VIOLENT contact with the hull.

Titan, frustrated at the lack of an answer, brushes the last remnants of cheeseburger from her dark blue spacesuit. The crumbs fall onto the pristine floor following her uneven path around the screens.

Alanua speaks out. Her whistling voice is followed immediately by the computer translating her speech into English. Usually, it does a pretty shit job. “Mira. We have not, negative, shoes, time to.” Weeeelll . . . I guess I’ll continue translating the translator going forward. Unless it’s way too funny to pass up, of course. Titan has grown used to the fuckups. Actually, she intentionally translates words wrong just to amuse herself. So it's her fault . . most of the time. Also, the Babaca speak out of order from the way we humans think of communication and the translator tends to miss important words. What she said was more like, "Negative, Mira. We do not have time to change course."

Titan stares at the screens, “How long?”

“Length of what?” questions Alanua.  Oh, god. That was a stupid question. How long? Compared to what? Length vs time. Oh, curse her word choice. The anal retentive Babaca are gonna argue for days about the word “long.” And we’re all gonna float here getting fuckin pummeled.

Alanua's squid arms continue working, “Can you translate?”

“When will we strike the bulk of the debris?”

“We are already being struck. Airlocks have closed and the new pressure walls have been deployed in damaged areas. The largest, slowest pieces will be here in under 30 seconds.”

“Where will they hit?”

The screens light up highlighting the estimated collision points. Alanua states, “starboard.” Her tentacles move in and out of water streams that seem to defy gravity. Well, ship gravity . . . hmm . . . we’ll get to that later. Chunks of salts and minerals cause floating water paths to separate as if they were streams parted by pebbles. The work stations are damp and glistening.

“Incoming.”

Retrograde Nova Ep01 03
Space Plate for the Retrograde Nova Webcomic

Space Plate for the Retrograde Nova Webcomic

Titan was always fascinated with Babaca tentacles and how they could control so many appendages simultaneously. She had only two arms and occasionally smacked herself in the face. When stationary they were equally graceful in the air as in the water. Walking, however, was sort of like watching a bowl of jell-o trying to stand upright. Normally it’s not something Titan would laugh at but their obsession with attempting to walk as if they were bipeds was just too much for her.

For years she didn’t know exactly what they looked like because they never took off their spacesuits in her presence. They have such extreme adoration for her. A high regard. Practically worship. Reverence, deference, elevation, admiration, veneration, idolization, deification! She was two seconds away from a god-complex. Still, even now after all these years, they try to mimic most things she does. She is the most famous being for hundreds of light years. Her word is law.

As she reaches Alanua’s chair Titan barks her orders.

“Rotate the ship. I want the projectiles hitting as far aft as possible.”

“It’s being done.”
Alanua whistles and all the squids begin manipulating water streams. The color, texture, and stream speeds all rotate in a kaleidoscope of waterfalls. The oily liquids would occasionally come to a stand still, in mid air, like the pause button getting stuck at an inconvenient time.

Alanua’s whistle cries out, “the projectiles will slow our velocity. Every strike is adding minutes to our arrival time.”

“Inform the planet. Run the new emergency protocols. Five second flashes. Projectile procedures.”                                                                                                  

The lights in the room begin to flicker.

“Do it now.”

Retrograde Nova Ep01 04
Early version of Titan by Trew2Art.

Early version of Titan by Trew2Art.

Alanua turns on the ship wide warning system and speaks. Her musical voice echoes throughout the halls of the entire ship. The low notes were sort of enjoyable but the high pitch screeches always left a ringing sound in Titan’s ears. The strangeness of the sounds is probably attributed to their language having evolved underwater.

“Ship Sky Heaven. Safety Warning. Projectiles inbound. Clear decks 12 through 15, sections 1 through 18.”

Titan had long grown used to hearing multiple voices out of the squid-like Babaca. Only a few had learned her language well enough to speak it but they speak in three separate registers and each of those has its own translation voice. In a crisis situation they all used the translators, they refused to use English. Exactitude in language was a key component to keeping them all alive and they couldn’t risk a misunderstanding. Fuck, yeah.

Titan stares at the screens. “Where are they coming from?”

“I believe they are remnants from a Ga Na Ha ship,” the helmsman says. “We were communicating with it minutes ago and can no longer get a response from it.”

“What? How? Nevermind. Can we survive the debris field?”

The smallest Babaca crew member swirls his tentacles. Alanua shouts at it as Titan watches them, waiting for one of them to speak in such a way that will translate. They whistle. And whistle. And squawk. And whistle. On and on and on. Good lord they don’t stop.

Finally the helmsman chimes in, (god, chimes would be so much more pleasant than the shrieking) “The fastest moving pieces have already torn through. I do not believe the small slow pieces can breach our hull.”

The flashing emergency lights gave Titan a strange sense of control.

A few decades of science fiction TV shows trained her that unless there were flashing lights, there wasn’t a real emergency. Ha ha. Am I right?

 

 

Retrograde Nova Ep01 05

retrograde nova erika christie patricia titan treeler science fiction transmedia space ship captain black woman blerd

Titan's favorite Helmsman wiggles her tentacles and does a weird shimmy. Apparently it's a sort of nervous tic. At least, that's what Titan thought she tried to explain a few weeks ago. 

The helmsman purrs, “the destruction of the ship must have happened within the last three minutes. There are two large pieces directly in front of us.”

Titan, “how big are they?”

The Babaca begin a strange noise competition, each speaking faster, louder, and in a higher pitch than the others. With Titan’s ears humming, then ringing, and finally bleeding, they stop.

Alanua, turns to Titan (which is SUPER FUNNY because they have giant eyes all around their heads and their bodies have no distinguishing “back” or “front.” Why would she turn her body? Sorry, got side tracked.)

Her one word answer is, “large.”

Her sister, who rarely speaks, chimes in, “Sky Heaven is at risk.”

OK. . . . I guess it's time to talk about that terrible name. Titan’s new ship, a war ship, is called "Sky Heaven". It took years for her to be able to communicate with anyone and any time she names something it sticks, immediately, and permanently. Often without her consent. Much to her displeasure. She was speaking with a group of Babaca elders on the day they were naming the brand new ship and each was trying to explain their recommendation. The concept they were going for was beyond the translators and she struggled. “What? Up. Nitrogen? Atmosphere? Clouds? Rain? Clouds? Sky? Great, first word, Sky. And . . . ? What? Uuuuuugghh. Sorry, nothing you just said translated. High. Elevation? Peace. Good place. Happy place? Creation, to make something? Heaven? Sky . . . Heaven? Oh, god, that’s terrible. That’s the worst! Titanic is a better name for a ship. Seriously, no no no no. What? You’ve already transmitted Sky Heaven to 27 billion Babaca? Great. I’ll be riding in a warship called Sky Heaven. Good God, I need a drink. Someone please invent alcohol.”

She must secretly admit, she occasionally gives things cheeky names juuuuust for fun.

Back on the bridge the smallest Babaca Crew member squeals a loud noise that, again, is not able to be translated.

Alanua, without moving, states, “Incoming debris will breach our hull.”

 

 

 

Retrograde Nova Ep01 06
Erika Christie Retorgrade Nova Babaca test image

Titan stares at the screens. Her eyes laser focused on the incoming debris. “Is there an attacking ship in the area?”

Alanua replies, “nothing on our sensors. The destroyed ship must have been moving in this direction for so much debris to be grouped together.”

A blinding flash lights up the bridge. Titan stares up at it in surprise. Damn, you’d think she’d remember what that one meant. She’s the one that insisted on all the stupid flashing lights. Helluva a time to forget your own orders.

And then, for an instant, all the glistening waterfalls ripple and pause.

 

Titan yells, “suits on!”

Alanua squeals, “retreat to protected areas!”

Alanua’s squeal pierces Titan’s concentration. She awkwardly turns to watch all the Babaca reaching in every direction at once with their wet tentacles.

The entire bridge transforms as everyone grabs for their protective gear and environmental suits. They can each survive for days in their specialized suits. Titan hopes that it doesn’t come to that. As she stares at the chaos her feet are knocked out from under her and she cracks her knees on the floor. She yells and rushes to her chair. She jumps into her suit in one fluid motion. Like a fox.

Ha, well, clumsy rhinoceros is more like it. Translucent pressure doors drop all across the bridge which separates the crew members from each other, even as many sit only feet apart. Titan snaps her helmet into place and turns to her right.

Titan eyeballs Alanua. She stares at the giant eyes on the back of squids head and knows Alanua is looking right back at her.

Her voice is piped into Alanua’s pod,

“Are you prepared to take command of the ship?”