The Fringes of the Universe Prequel Chapter Three

It took three weeks to get to the current capital of the UUAC. It was a moving capital, every twenty-five years it changed locations to another planet in the UUAC. Not just any planet, though, one of the founding planets.

Nian had been a founding planet. Maybe one day the capital would be moved to Nian.

The captain of the Athena, Captain Bracknor, was a friendly man but his orders were clear and as soon as they reached the planet and were given coordinates he ported Jutel and Mal down to the surface. They had comms, both obvious ones and more covert ones in case things didn’t go as planned, and if they needed to be picked up all they had to do was call. On the planet, though, they were alone.

“You know, I never expected this much waiting. Did you?”

“Actually, as the UUAC has grown larger their bureaucracy has grown, it’s like any other large government.”

“Nian isn’t like this.”

“Nian doesn’t even have one percent of the population that the UUAC has as a whole.”

Jutel frowned and shifted her weight. They’d been standing in line for hours and she wasn’t even sure if they’d see someone today. Did they camp out? Did they come back tomorrow? How were they ever going to get this ball rolling if they couldn’t even see someone?

“This is stupid.”

Mal made a noncommittal sound as he tabbed through a book on his tablet. Jutel didn’t have anything like that, all she had were her thoughts and they weren’t particularly comforting.

She stood for a few more minutes in quiet before she couldn’t take it any longer and asked, “What are you reading?”

Mal’s ears turned red and her interest was piqued. What could he possibly be reading to get that reaction?

“It’s nothing, just an article from Earth.”

“Really? I forgot you were part of the last volunteers that shipped there. I didn’t think you were there long, what kind of article from there would interest you?”

He cleared his throat, his eyes darting to her face before dropping back down, and then he cleared his throat again. “It’s an article about a form of entertainment on the planet that I’m interested in.”

When it looked like he wasn’t going to say anything else she prompted him.

“Er—it’s, well, it’s something called a soap opera. It’s a serialized drama that involves lots of drama and intrigue. It’s incredibly fascinating and I find it riveting. There are thousands of episodes that I was able to gain access to through an archive. I’ve got a friend on Earth that relays them to me in batches. He also sends me a magazine that goes into more detail about the actors and upcoming story lines, though most of the shows have been canceled. Well the traditional soaps, there are of course hints of the shows felt through modern Earth story telling.

“They’re really quite remarkable and I’ve found them to be incredibly captivating.”

His words had gotten progressively faster and his eyes were glowing with enthusiasm. In the months that she’d known him, she’d never seen him get this excited. When he realized that she was listening he started talking more. His words started to run together and while Jutel was interested at first it started to get complicated and boring. It was one thing to remember who was married to who in real life when it mattered it was another thing entirely to listen to Mal tell her who was married to who, who had died but not really, and who was actually someone’s long lost relative.

Her eyes glazed over as he spoke. She had no idea she could have been even more bored than she’d been before but now she was and the line was still going nowhere.