Wealth of Pride: Prologue
Prologue: The Universe Collects its Due
It was never providence that I be the one to record the madness beget by the madness begot by the denizens of Earth hurling ships into the void with all the care of a drunken sailor's punch, the men and women inside the vessels packed into cold storage like slabs of meat hung on hooks in a butcher's shop—with consideration for comfort and condition coincidentally comparable.
Never was there a more desperate convulsion by the dying. No animal, trapped in the jaws of its natural antagonist, had ever thought to escape its doom with such an effusive outpouring of panic. No kingdom, sensing its end by the hordes that marched against it, had ever thought to execute a plan so mad. No politician, the harsh light shone upon their inevitably extensive failings, had ever thought to enter into a ploy so ill-advised.
Yet humanity, the infinite wisdom it had gained and painstakingly cultivated in all its years discarded with profound disdain and eager quickness, had committed to madness and blind luck nonetheless. The greatest scientists of their era had finally managed to find the proper solution for pitching vessels through space, but it was far too late to develop the precaution that typically accompanied such powerful knowledge.
All of humanity had filed aboard the hundreds of hulking vessels that rather appropriately represented the zenith of their desperation. Their spoiled planet to the rear, they had each set off to a new system, certain that they would eventually find a home beckoning effusively by the time they woke up.
Space had folded around each of them, expediting a journey eternal into one that was merely deathly tedious, but the adventures of the Peabody, the Helius, or the unlucky and unluckily-named Grand Lady of the Grand Admiralty of the British Isles are hardly tales to waste ink upon. A reader would sooner subject themselves a thick tome describing the morphing of paint from wet to dry in painstaking detail.
The appropriately-named Exodus, however, strikes the interest beyond those others. It had only taken a minuscule miscalculation as the ship recharged to nudge it just far enough off-course. The vessel missed its system, as did an unfortunate number of those other steel conveyances of humanity.
Instead, it continued to bend and warp space as per its directive, its systems dutifully stretching on for near to a century before it finally found its home in a galaxy so far as to be thought of as a desperate last-case scenario by the scientists and engineers who'd built the ships. Dissatisfied with one stroke of cosmic fortune, the Exodus stumbled into another avenue of luck when it passed near a planet locked around a blue sun.
The systems flared to life, the planet over which it hovered one of many that had been deemed appropriate for settlement. Automatic functions began to wake the crew for automated functions. The crew began the cycles to wake their passengers and deliver supplies to the surface.
Its passengers were woken abruptly. Life had been found below, small in number though it was, and they were told to be prepared for alien contact. Each fist wiping a century of sleep from an eye, the group of nearly one-hundred thousand humans had crowded around the windows, eager to see their new home.
A planet seemingly split in half, it was a strange sight, their home consisting of a narrow band dividing the world where neither the hot scorn of day nor the cold hunger of night held complete dominion. They assured themselves that there would be more planets to explore, more homes to settle, that the world below was merely a temporary haven.
That was all the quiet assurance that could be made before one of the asteroids that circled the planet took issue with the foreign invader, pitching its considerable bulk into the bridge in a brutal manner that almost seemed personal for those aboard.
Even one less clairvoyant than yours truly would observe that the universe itself seemed to have pulled away from all other vast affairs and focused its malevolent intent solely against these downtrodden travelers. With that ignorant pluck and boorish defiance that so defined humanity, however, they still found their way to the spacefaring vessels that would bear them to the surface.
Nowhere near enough ships had been provided for everyone, leaving thousands turning tail and flocking for escape pods lining the thick hull of the ship. In this instance, the engineers and planners had at least found enough mercy in their blackened hearts to build enough pods to evacuate both passengers and crew. Nobody wanted for transport to the surface, and as the initial group of vessels rocketed to the surface with passengers and material support both, they were followed shortly by a wave of small disc-shaped pods. They descended together on the world like a steel hail, the flames of entry into the atmosphere wreathing their means of conveyance in flames.
All was going as well as could be asked, considering the circumstances, but that almighty universe was hardly done toying with these poor victims that had seemed to have given it the gravest offense.
The engines on the Exodus malfunctioned, flaring to life and firing pillars of blue flame from its engines. With only conventional propulsion, now, it still pulled away from the descending survivors. Its journey would come to an end soon, and indeed, that lost vessel would eventually become the destination upon which this story relies, but for now it had earned its rest. The dutiful beast of burden lumbered away from the sight of the survivors, who hurtled toward its surface in metal shells like a spray of bullets against the planet's surface.
Some truly unfortunate pods missed their intended target, landing amongst an environment either so hot or cold as to cook or freeze the souls inside within their metal innards. Most stayed the course, determined to find their charges to safety.
In that moment of fortune and hope, there was no longer a social favor to be observed, the lives of those aboard the vessels in the hands of an uncaring and mercurial fate. The wealthy socialites that comprised the powerful Kensington family could no longer exert wealth or influence against gravity as they hurtled toward the ground. The greatest linebacker that turn of the century, a young man who took the number “54” and went by Jason, was hopeless for all his muscle and athleticism as the whim of the universe decided where' he'd turn. A singer who went by the stage name "Unlucky" yet had won enough awards to line the wall of a stadium saw her fame come to nothing as she clutched her daughter tight to her breast and hoped for survival.
Yet they all managed to find their way to the ground, a partial load of shipments landing with them. Enough to carry them, enough to build, enough to explore, and enough to give them a cruel hope. Yet as they stepped onto that band of life caught between two halves of doom, the survivors could do little but cry out in despair.
The only balm to soothe them was yet another series of arrivals, these native to the planet. Willowy and waving they stood, their slender bodies and weaponless hands making quite clear that they were no true threat. Not a one among them thought to attack these newcomers, and more often than not they found themselves quietly afraid for what these strange wailing beings would do to them.
These pitiful survivors of the Exodus—and they were a particularly wretched bunch—were only the precursors to the true heroes. For these survivors were not alone in their new galaxy, and the aliens beyond their new borders were only a small threat compared to the human avarice and shortsightedness that forced them to a hew home.
Yet all the villains in the galaxy could never outweigh the heroes that rose to meet them, and soon this new humanity would find those hallowed champions.
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