Mergos belched quietly to himself, not wanting to alert others. He softly put down his wine glass on the table behind him. He was met by a squishy sensation. The officer turned around slightly to notice that he'd placed his glass in the small bowl of guacamole. He let go of the glass ever so slightly. Convinced that it wouldn't fall over in the green, yet surprisingly zesty muck, he let go of the glass all the way and continued to look forwards.

The sound of the string quartet playing a waltz lightly danced over the couple of dozen dancers. Mergos suppressed a slight grin as he watched the people frantically attempt to keep up with the rushed tempo of the instrumentalists. Long, elegant skirts whirled in a frenzy around equally long, elegant women as they counted the steps in their impossibly high heels

"Emperor, what a kick," Mergos thought to himself as he looked up at the chandelier. Either the light reflecting off of the bright ceiling ornaments was creating the illusion of movement, or the honor for the effect fell on the wine. He had ordered that it be mixed 5:1 with amasec. When you've got cheap wine, sometimes a little hard liquor is all you can do to at least make a drink effectice.

Mergos burped again. This time, the rumble in his throat was accompanied by an uncomfortable sprits of acid. The officer looked over towards the long table in the opposite direction of his wine glass. The table was covered with hors d'oeuvres. Immediately to his right, sat a half eaten tray of some sort of mustard clam things. Had he really eaten that much shellfish?

As the dancers finally stopped spinning, the world continued. Mergos' head started to ache. Maybe it was time to head on in. The officer started to walk towards one of the large doors across the marble tile of the room. As he left, he approached a thicket of men in ornate jackets. Half of them had more medals than an emergency gold scrapping drive, and the other had at least one sash apiece.

"Fleet Marshall Mergos!"

Mergos sloshed his head over towards a fat man adorned with both sash and medals.

"Yes?" replied the officer, "Oh! Excuse me! Governor Koza! It is indeed my honor to have you... honor me... with your presence here tonight, your honor."

The governor smiled and nodded.

Mergos smiled back. "Oh, emperor, this is awkward," He thought to himself.

A thick silence crushed down on the group of men, by now all smiling and nodding at Mergos. Why wouldn't the quartet start playing or something? Anything to end this awkward scene.

"So," began Mergos, finally, "I assume that all of you men have enjoyed your time aboard my ship?"

"Oh, yes, indeed," the governor responded, "but of course, I would only expect such a party with such quality caviar on a ship like this."

The governor began to chuckle. Immediately, the rest of the men followed suit. Their jackets and sashes began to glitter. Mergos suddenly thought of chandeliers.

"Wait, what was so funny?" Mergos thought to himself, attempting to get a chuckle in before it was too late. "Oh, right, ship, caviar."

That couldn't be it.

"Wait, that couldn't be it. Oh, right, the ship's name is the Raivas. It's a palindrome."

No, "raivac" is the palindrome of "caviar"


Mergos broke from his reverie to notice that everyone had stopped chuckling, but that he was still going.

"Ah, yes," the officer started, "Well, I hope you have enjoyed your stay here."

"Yes," replied the governor, "We're looking forward to making planet fall tomorrow."


Mergos smiled.

The men smiled.

"Well," began Mergos, "I have to attend to my duties. Have an excellent evening, gentlemen. I hope tomorrow finds you well."

Mergos smiled one last time, and bowed slightly. He whirled around and strode with long paces towards the door.

The quartet finally started their next number.

Another waltz. This time, even faster.

Mergos refrained from stopping and watching the spectacle. He burped on spiked wine and semi-cooked oysters again as he left the room.

The officer staggered down a long, somewhat lit corridor. His polished boots plod heavily on the metal grating below him. He came to an intersection in the hallway and followed the red line on the wall. Praise the emperor for whoever put navigational paint in this vessel.

After a short time more, he came to a large metal door labeled "Bridge" with another note in small, stenciled text underneath "Warning: As this room, and it's crew is completely necessary for the safety and navigation of this ship, please to not bring any weapons or explosives, or use violence in any way while in the perimeter."

The officer idly watched the text on the door for a moment before remembering to pull out his keycard. After a couple of attempts, he finally managed to wedge the card into the slot.

A little red light appeared on the keycard machine.

"Damn it."

Mergos withdrew the card and flipped it over, before flipping it back and rotating it a half turn.

He put the card in again. This time, a small green light started blinking.

"Better. Take that."

Mergos opened the door and stumbled onto the bridge. The door quietly fell shut behind him. The officer stumbled through the dark of the bridge, eventually finding his seat. He rolled his fingers on the desktop panel in front of him, causing the screen to begin to light up.

The officer looked up.

The massive bay window opened up in front of him, showing off a million stars. Covering most of them up was the giant view of the planet below, bathed in light. The size and beauty was stunning. The officer craned his neck up to take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the heavens before him.

He almost threw up onto his control panel.

"Ugh," Mergos thought to himself, focusing on forcing back his stomach.

"Ugh," he repeated out loud.

His eyes finally came into focus on his display. The automated log blinked slightly. The officer poked it with his index finger.

1:00 - ship time: Shuttle #12 launched from bay 2.

"What?" the officer said to himself.

What time was it?

Mergos looked down at his watch. It was blinking 24:00.

"Oh, dammit!"

The officer's head snapped back up. Out the window, he could clearly see a shuttle far off in the distance making for the planet.

"What?" he repeated. No one was there to here him.

Suddenly, a tiny light lit up on his console, indicating that somewhere there was a dire emergency, but not quite dire enough to warrant the klaxons in the ship going off.

Mergos poked the button to see what was the matter.