Gateways: A Story By Michael Jachowicz

Transcript: This story is written by Michael Jachowicz. He has written sketches and comedy scripts for podcasts as well as some comic strips. You can hear some of his scripts with Starlight Radio Dreams, a Chicago based comedy podcast. He tells us, “I write whatever interests me. I enjoy improving a story or a character then writing it down and seeing where it takes me.” This is Michael’s submission.

General Xarzez stood as a statue looking out his window into the inky black of space. Outside of his command ship, he watched his ships fly in their tight formations, well regimented, all souls hardened by the cruel and shattering reality of war. Xarzez let out a deep sigh as he contemplated all the decisions he made to reach this point. All the impossible choices between life and death, and how easily some of those choices came, he found that it was that easiness that haunted him the most. How the business of murder and war had become almost second nature. He brought a shaking hand to his mouth to stifle a weak audible cry, the guilt becoming to much.
Steeling himself, Xarzez turned away from the window and headed to the war room.He walked into the hall to his daughter Princess Demlara and his advisor Zelknin.
“General!” Zelknin greeted. Too enthusiastically, Xarzez felt, given the dire task that lie ahead of them both. “The war council awaits you, though I feel I must again make you aware of my trepidations of our new… addition.”
“Yes, father and I are quite aware, Zelknin,” Demlora interjected. “We’ve all been hard pressed to get you to speak of anything else!”
“Well, Princess-” Zelknin spat before managing to regain his composure. “Some of us had to fight through countless battles before we were granted a seat on the War Council.”
“Yes and some of us are actually skilled warriors and not opportunistic worms.” Demlara retorted not missing a beat.
Xarzez couldn’t help but be proud of the strong woman his daughter had grown up to be. He could see bits of her mother in her. Not just in her skin’s particular shade of deep cerulean , but also in the way she held herself with such poise and playfulness.
“Enough, both of you.” Xarzez spoke with authority ringing in his deep voice. They proceeded through the long metal hallway in silence until they reached the large onyx doors of the war room. Zelknin hurried to open them for his master. Xarzez couldn’t help but be visibly sickened by his advisor’s vigor, his lust for the kind of riches and promotions that onlywar could afford him, but he managed to compose himself before Zelknin saw.
The war room was made of ebony lit by ruby flame. There was no ceiling in sight. The room seemed to expand into space itself. There were two staircases on either side of the door which led to a section of seats that overlooked the room; this was were the lower ranked members of the war council sat to have an equal view of the war table.
The table was a giant octagon that would display holograms made of hard light to simulate the topography of whatever planet was being invaded. It included the positions of ships in orbit and, if the need arose, other planets in the solar system. It was one of Xarzez’s greatest tools in his campaign against the Elguisief Confederacy; a dreadful farse of a confederacy, made of pirates and marauders who refused to join one of the three Intergalactic States.
Xarzez had finally found a way to reach one of the capitol planets and now only needed to mount an invasion to seize the means of manufacturing the E.C.’s interstellar drive engines. Without them, their forces would be unable to send support between solar systems and victory would be all but assured for Xarzez. All of this however was nothing more than a pipe dream unless Xarzez could plan a successful attack. Luckily he had employed what he believed to be the greatest mind in military tactics in any galaxy: Tyler.
Tyler was standing on the war table with some of the ship models in his hands, he was flying them around making engine noises with his mouth. Tyler was dressed in denim pants and a shit decorated with a mighty creature devouring a hot disc covered in what appeared to be blood and guts, displayed on his chest with the words “Dinosaurs and pizza are AWESOME” underneath. Truly Tyler was a being of pure awe. He was already so mighty despite being a child of his species. His skin was a shade of sand like tan, not unlike the sands of the harsh Kule Desert on Xarzez’s home planet. Tyler had strands of keratin growing from his head in black curls and his eyes were an alien shade of green and brown.
Tyler had not noticed that anyone had entered the war room and continued playing with the models as Xarzez, Zelknin and Demlara approached the war table.
“Council member Tyler.” Xarzez spoke softly, Tyler was loudly smacking the model LOF-13 Starship into a model Oberon Class Command ship.
“Council member Tyler!” Xarzez said sharper this time.
Tyler looked up from the models with a big grin on his face, “Hi!”
“Hello, Tyler,” Xarzez said his tone returning to its usual calm, but firm. “Have you come up with any strategies for our attack against the Elguisief Confederacy?”
“Oh yeah!” Tyler exclaimed excitedly. He grabbed the model of the Oberon Class Command ship and ran to the far end of the war table.
Zelknin rolled his eyes letting out an audible sigh as he tapped his foot impatiently, his arms crossed dismissively.
Tyler then threw the model across the war table before shouting
“WE’LL BLOW THEM UP REAL FAST LIKE BOOM!” He then proceeded to make explosion noises and pantomime what in fact an explosion would look like.
At this, Zelknin could hold his tongue no longer. “General Xarzez surely now you see how foolish it was to use this creature to-”
“Zelknin have you no faith in my father’s choice in expert?” Demlara spoke out, as she approached the war table. She input coordinates to the point in space that the command ship that Tyler threw passed over the E.C.’s interstellar drive base. “His plan is nothing short of genius. Our enemy has advanced sensory and anti-air defensive capabilities, however it is known to us that their ray shields can only deflect plasma based weaponry.” The image on the war table shifted and changed to highlight the places Demlara was talking about in real time all the while Tyler was rolling around with the starship models making strange sounds. “Council member Tyler, unlike some other council members,” she continued while cutting Zelknin a smug glance, “remembered that the Oberon Class of command ships are equipped with ballistic strike capabilities. A ballistic strike from orbit would slip past their ray shields completely neutralizing their anti-air defenses.”
Zelknin’s mouth hung open, dumfounded. He fumed in silence racking his brain for a strategy that could top that of Tyler’s before stammering out, “W-w-what of the sensors! Oberon Class vessels are too large to avoid detection, we’ll be blown from orbit before we can launch the orbital strike!”
“Not if we move with the predicted meteor shower that will occur directly over the enemy’s factory. The meteor’s dense iron make up and varying sizes will be perfect cover,” Demlara pointed out coyly, “which Council Member Tyler had so succinctly demonstrated by throwing the model at high speeds over the factory. Honestly Zelknin, were you even paying attention?”
Zelknin was enraged, but still trying to maintain some poise as he stomped over to the War table and smashed in the coordinates to pull up a map of the Elguiseif Confederacy’s near orbital defenses. They had set automated senterys which had rectangular propulsion systems attached to bowl shape plasma disc cannons.
“Well while hiding in a meteor shower maaaay work for dispatching of the defenses planetside we still need to contend with the defenses in space. I propose that we-”
“What if, uhm,” Tyler butted in tugging on the sleeve of Zelknin’s Advisor robes
“Not now Tyler! I propo-”
“But, uhm, do you know that uhm this-”
“Council member Tyler please-”
“But but it, did you know it looks like toilets?”
Murmurs spread like a wildfire throughout the rest of the war council. Tyler didn’t seemed phased however, instead the child burst into laughter and started repeating Zelknin’s outburst in a distinctly goofy tone. Xarzez was about to speak up to discipline his advisor, but Demlara beat him to it.
“Zelknin! You are supposed to be one of the most distinguished members of the War Council!”
“I- I apologize I don’t know what came over me-”
“You don’t know what came over you? Are you insinuating you don’t have control over your faculties? If that is the case you should be stripped of rank and title!”
“No! Princess, puh-puh-please!”
While Demlara was taking Zelknin to task in front of all of his peers, Xarzez watched as Tyler was scattering the infantry models over the table making laser gun noises. The intellect of this astounding creature was beyond Xarzez’s comprehension. Not moments after he planned the perfect opening attack he was already plotting out flawless troop movement to take the factory and avoid the mine fields that they had only just learned about that morning.
Xarzez turned to address the War Council, he held a single fist aloft. The whole of the war room fell silent except for the “pewpewpewpew-BANG BANG!” noises Tyler was making while playing with the models.
“Distinguished members of the war council, I know there have been doubts about my new addition to our esteemed ranks,” Xarzez looked to Tyler who was now putting the models in his mouth, “But I believe after the victory Tyler the Destroyer earned us on the Moons of Gedd and this unshakeable plan for taking the interstellar drive engine factory… I believe I can say with the utmost confidence that this human child is indomitable, I think we’ll keep him.”

Karolyn Blake is an actor and improviser in Chicago with a passion for dogs, laughter, and inclusive spaces. She is a founding member of the Shrews Improv and proud to be a singer in the Shanty Shipwreck Show. You can see and hear her every month in Starlight Radio Dreams, recorded live at Mrs. Murphy and Son’s Irish Bistro and available wherever fine podcasts are downloaded.

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