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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 21

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Meanwhile back in the Niops Asscoation[]

Office of the Brigadier
Niops Association Militia Command Complex
Feynman City, Niops VII - 3rd June, 3158

Brigadier Zeb Kindarps, commander of the Niops Association Militia leafed through the reports from the salvage and recovery teams that had been combing the radioactive debris of the destroyed intruder. Ample circumstantial evidence that the interloper had been operated by Blakists, including examples of technology that no one else had been crazy enough to try using since the Jihad. Kindarps mused on that. The destruction and chaos of the Jihad had left a lot of records incomplete or inaccurate, but there could be useful information in their own histories of the Jihad. He'd task someone to look into it.

Office of the Brigadier
Niops Association Militia Command Complex
Feynman City, Niops VII - 5th June, 3158

Lieutenant Lopez saluted. "There's some information on Blakist warships during the Jihad operating around Niops, but the records are, as you might expect, incomplete."

Kindarps nodded. He'd expected as much. "Destruction from the Jihad?"

Lopez shook her head. "Some, but a number of reports from the conflict are still sealed, sir. I don't have clearance." She paused. "You don't have clearance either."

The Brigadier gritted his teeth. As commander of the Niops Association Militia, information that he did not have clearance for was almost guaranteed to involve the loonies at the Temple of Syrinx. And if the Temple of Syrinx were involved in something from the Jihad, that could only mean one thing.


Zubok family Museum
Feynman City, Niops VII - 12th June, 3158

Brigadier Zeb Kindarps stood in the foyer with Ivan Zubok and the head of the JAG forensics team. The lab techs were dragging in the last of their equipment from the light drizzle outside. He turned to face Ivan, possibly the first time in years they weren't meeting to discuss warship business. Except, who was he kidding? He was still here because of warship business, but what good were the privileges of rank if he couldn't at least satisfy his curiosity on matters of vital national security?

Ivan Zubok fidgeted absentmindedly. "As you know, both on Niops and throughout human space, the chaos and destruction of the Jihad left behind many gaps in our knowledge of what transpired." Ivan paused. "That's not the problem we have, though. Our records seem to be accurate and largely complete. They just describe things that are impossible."

Kindarps gave a resigned sigh. It was much as he had expected. "What do you mean by impossible, Ivan?"

Ivan smiled with a helpless shrug. "Well, according to what we can piece together, my great uncle Gorky was killed in action during the Jihad. At least twice. More fragmentary but otherwise plausible testimony and evidence suggests he may have managed to get himself killed in action half a dozen times or more. The medical records of his parents from the family archive matches that of government systems. Gorky was an only child."

Seeing that the techs had finished retrieving their equipment from their vehicle, Ivan led the little entourage to a vault door. "Family mausoleum. Sometimes we need access for reference purposes." Ivan didn't elaborate on the odd statement as he fiddled with the door. "DNA biometric identification."

They waited as the door began its slow unlocking process. Ivan continued. "At least one reported death is incontrovertible. A frustrated Blakist officer ordered a ROM death squad to bring her the head of Colonel Gorky Zubok. They duly complied and the Precentor had his head preserved as a morbid souvenir of her nemesis. The head was recovered, verified, and interred after the Jihad."

The vault door glided open on gas bearings. Ivan pointed along one wall. There, indeed, stood the head of the infamous Gorky Zubok, face twisted in an eternal mocking smirk. Ivan nodded at the techs to go ahead and take their sample. Brigadier Kindarps marveled at the restraint of the Blakist Precentor to not have destroyed the damned thing as the tide had turned against the Blakists. It certainly had the aura of a cursed artifact.

Ivan waved vaguely in the direction of his relative's disembodied head. "So the problem is that this is also only the first of the reported instances of the Colonel's death."

Temple Archives
Temple of Syrinx
Feynman City, Niops VII - 15th June, 3158

The temple acolyte smiled politely. "My apologies, Brigadier Kindarps, but the service records that you've requested are still sealed."

Brigadier Zeb Kindarps frowned harder. "That can't be right. Records can only be sealed for a maximum of 50 years after the subject's death. Gorky was killed in the fighting in the Jihad, and It's been over 70 years since the war ended."

Keeping their voice neutral, the acolyte tried again. "My apologies, Brigadier, but the service records that you've requested are still sealed."

Kindarps' scowl somehow deepened; new frown lines spontaneously forming to accommodate his displeasure. He didn't like where the temple acolyte was going with this. "Are you telling me Gorky didn't die in the Jihad?!"

The acolyte thought for moment and continued carefully. "Colonel Gorky Zubok was killed in action during the Jihad. However, his service records are still sealed."

Exasperated, Kindarps threw his hands up in the air. "Fine. Fine! When will they be unsealed? You can at least tell me that much, right?"

The acolyte hesitated. "The ultimate release date for Colonel Gorky Zubok's records is still indeterminate."

All color drained from Kindarp's face. "Are you telling me he's STILL ALIVE?"

The acolyte smiled. They knew the answer to this one. "The nature of life is still a matter of unsettled philosophy. The conventional duality of life and death makes many assumptions about the nature of each state and the current consensus at the temple is that it is crudely reductionist to define either death as the absence of life or life as the absence of death.  The corollary is that there are interstitial spaces between the two where consciousness can exist in a form of spiritual liminality. You may find the implications to be quite alarming, so we encourage you to consult with the priesthood if you require spiritual guidance on the matter."

Brigadier Zeb Kindarps was feeling the onset of a raging headache, but the pain wasn't so distracting that he didn't notice the acolyte giving a surreptitious thumbs-up to someone behind him. He slowly turned around and made awkward eye contact with a Fuchikoma waxing the floor some ten meters away. The 'bot stared back for an uncomfortable moment, then waddled defiantly off to a service corridor.

That was weird..., Zeb thought.

Story Chapter by chanman

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