Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

“But it’s been almost two hundred years sir! How could this be?”

“I don’t know. No one on board can explain it, but there are definitely at least a dozen human lifeforms showing on scanners down there.”

The ancient story of the plankton combine, Goler II was well known. During a routine harvesting dive an unexpected freak wave had reared up and blindsided her, disorienting stabilizers, frying computers, and eventually plunging the vessel down to the distant depths of Epsilon IV’s planetary ocean floor, taking all six of her crew with her. This had been nearly two centuries ago. Until now there had never been a viable reason to attempt any sort of salvage recovery of the big ship from such a hostile environment. But Novascomium, once the primary element used in the warp drive capacitors of many antique industrial workhorses such as Goler II, had recently become extremely rare and valuable.

“Abandon salvage mission, execute rescue and recovery protocol.”

“But sir, there must be some mistake. There’s nobody down there!”

“Ensign, did I stutter? Did I not make myself clear?”

The underling quickly did away with his visions of potential salvage percentages and snapped to attention. “Of course not sir. I will assemble a rescue party at once.”

An hour and a half later the thirteen extracted souls ranging in age from early teens to seemingly quite elderly all huddled together wide eyed and frightened in their strange filthy woven robes. Captain Walters entered the infirmary. A nurse motioned toward one of the strangers, a grey bearded man at least in his seventies. “We think he’s their leader. He seems to speak for them.”

The captain stepped forward. “Greetings friend. Please tell me, where do you hail from?”

The old man shuffled in his rags looking nervously back and forth, wringing his hands in worry. Finally he replied, “My fadder was Gauge Goler. My mudder was Console Goler.” He motioned toward the old woman at his side. “This here’s ma sister Nav. And the rest there’n, some’s my brudder’s kids, some’s ours. Over dare’s my cousin Bulkhead. His fadder was Stevens Goler da second, great great grandson to Cappy and Firmet Stevens, da founders of our beloved home.”

Stevens… Walters remembered the history of Goler II and her captain Devon Stevens. A cold dark dawning started to creep up his spine. “Tell me friend, how do you live? What is it you do to survive down there in your beloved home?”

The old man shifted from foot to foot, eyes darting back and forth. “Why, not much. Jist da normal tings. Ya know, we use da intakes to make oxgin. And we capture da plankt’n and sea’s weed for’n our grub ya know.”

Suddenly an aid entered the infirmary. “Captain I have that report you wanted.”

“I’ll be right with you.” Walters smiled at the old man. “Please excuse me sir, I shall return momentarily.”

His subordinate led him out into the hallway and handed him the soft screen. Walters scanned the document, his eyes growing wider as he read.

Goler II: Interstellar plankton combine farmer. Main design, protein extractor/freighter. Crew: Six individuals. Four android labourers and two human astronauts, Captain Devon Stevens and First Mate, Lieutenant Dawn Stevens, his twin sister.

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