Author : Rick Tobin

“Everyone remembers their first time—the feel, shudder, anticipation, sweat and wonder if you would die in the middle of penetration.” Emanuel Mumford stared into Stacy Croft’s face, watching for twitches or blush.

“What was yours, Captain?” She moved closer, ensuring live audiences would miss nothing.

“It was a blue giant we can’t see from Earth. That’s not important, but watching fusion balls freeze in globular time warps, like blue goldfish suspended in a bowl…exhilarating.” Mumford held his hands out in a circle for emphasis.

“And core entry? The danger is always there, so you’ve told us. Didn’t we lose a ship ten years ago?” Emanuel’s neck reddened. His face paled.

“I’d just transferred from Atlantis. She was my first assignment. We didn’t have the experience then to detect nova predecessors. There were no Q-wave monitors. Three hundred brave men, women and children lost.” He paused and then turned hard into the camera. “But I’m here to tell you all tonight, all of you on Earth…we, the Collectors, love our system, our planets, and our home world. We worship our Sol. It is our God of nourishment and survival. Returning live plasma to Her center through interspatial transfer elevators has kept Her alive for millions of years, long after the rogue dwarf star threatened to rip Sol apart in the First Empire.”

“Glory be to the First Empire,” Stacy urged, looking back to the audience.

“Glory be,” Emanuel repeated.

“And the plasma tube you showed us yesterday…it’s so much like a snake or some giant parasite reaching into the heart of a star. Do you imagine the star feels pain?”

“Hardly,” Emanuel replied, smiling. “It has no more feeling than your camera or a piece of space junk. Our own Sol is not conscious, but that we make it so in our love for its light and power. No, I sense no remorse when the plasma vacuum begins transporting the raw materials back home.”

“There must be some star systems that are advanced enough to resist. Can you discuss that?”

The Captain paused, considering his oath regarding classified information. He had been briefed. “Yes, there have been some cases of resistance. When the residents finally realize we are not destroying their source, but rather just taking a small part, they usually accept and leave us alone. After all, we learned about this technology from those who first came to Sol, before the rogue dwarf arrived. They gave us this ability in exchange for our Sol’s offering, in case we would ever need to restore our beloved.”

She pressed, “But haven’t there been encounters that were violent?”

“Stacy, I’ve come here tonight to explain that we are seeking new crews and new defense force volunteers to join our space families. That means risking much for our home system, but it is our highest calling. That may mean defending our ships and our purpose. We will always seek the peaceful path, but we will not have our path broken.”

“Captain, one of our viewers has asked me to have the name of your ship explained. Can you help?”

“Yes. Once a Captain has served five years, he or she can rename their vessel. I chose Nosferatu because I love the ancient myth of the vampire; however, in our case, we do not harm the one from whom we feed. We bring life to the one we love. Blessed be our Sol.”

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