The new Golems were beamed aboard and watched closely. It was a 10-golem platoon, counting Femfaf. Their behavior was…unsettling. They never seemed to tire, they spent their free time watching the other crew members, they didn’t eat, they didn’t understand the need of a night crew, and they weren’t forthcoming on all information. Shalvey, especially, had a rough time of it. She always hated looking over her shoulder and the Golem that was watching her gave her a constant uneasy feeling. Finally, she turned on the Golem and demanded answers. Thankfully, she was at her workstation off the bridge. “Am I REALLY that interesting?!” she demanded the Golem. “You’ve been staring at me for the past hour!”
“You are part of my team,” replied the Golem. “I have never worked with you before. I must learn your behaviors, anticipate your actions.”
“There must be something you would rather do!” hissed Shalvey. “Maybe you need some sleep?”
“Is that why you have a ‘night crew’?” asked the Golem. “Golems don’t require sleep.”
“Then how about something to eat?” suggested Shalvey.
“Normal food poisons a Golems,” replied the Golem, “blocks off the veins that connect to our internal mana reserves. Besides, I have already topped off on mana before coming aboard.”
“No food, no sleep,” muttered Shalvey, “what DO you do to relax?”
“Relaxation makes us lazy and indolent,” answered the Golem.
“You guys are no fun at all,” sighed Shalvey. “I’m surprised that Golems like Femfaf would want to reproduce with you.”
“We do not procreate the way you do,” corrected the Golem.
“Then how do you guys continue the species?” asked Shalvey. “Clone yourselves?”
“We are born,” explained the Golem, “when someone introduces a Scroll of Life into a mound of clay.”
“So, let me make sure I understand you right,” muttered Shalvey, “no food, no sleep, no carnal pleasures?”
“Correct,” answered the Golem. Shalvey gave him a pitying look.
“After 50,000 years of being deprived of all that, I’d be angry forever,” she sighed.
“My breed of Golem lives longer than the previous breeds, but not that long,” corrected the Golem.
“…How old DO you guys live up to?” asked Shalvey.
“Our scrolls dictate,” replied the Golem, “that we now can live as long as 25,000. Any further than that, we are considered Exalted Elders.”
“And how old are you?” asked Shalvey.
“I am half-a-year old,” answered the Golem. Shalvey’s eyes went wide. “Surprised I can talk as you do?”
“It takes the rest of us at least two and a half years to make any coherent sentences!” remarked Shalvey.
“We are mature adults,” replied the Golem, “in five days.”
“…I still do childish things,” muttered Shalvey, “and I’m 671.” The Golem looked startled.
“You look half that age,” he remarked.
“…Thanks, I guess,” grumbled Shalvey as she went back to work.
Arsha and Femfaf met in the conference room. Femfaf noticed the studious expression on Arsha’s face and watched her sit. “Captain, I trust this isn’t a breach of our agreement?” began the first female Golem.
“That depends,” remarked Arsha. “Tell me, do Golems give off a thaumic signature similar to their creators?”
“We do,” confirmed Femfaf.
“Can you mask it to be like someone else’s?” asked Arsha.
“No,” replied Femfaf.
“So, your own thaumic signature stems from your creator with no deviations?” continued Arsha.
“No deviations,” repeated Femfaf in confirmation. “Captain, where is this going?”
“Your thaumic signature is too similar to Dr. Borg’s!” hissed Arsha.
“…You know, you just disproved a theory Tormo had,” mused Femfaf.
“And his theory was?” invited Arsha.
“That Blenders don’t have as good of abilities as their parents,” answered Femfaf. “A member of our ruling council took offense to that and Dr. Borg decided to have me run an experiment.”
“Well, with that out of the way, let me ask you the real questions,” declared Arsha as she transferred her hairpiece to her waist, “what interest does Dr. Borg have with the Kurontar deserters?!”
“Oddly enough, nothing,” answered Femfaf.
“I find that hard to believe,” growled Arsha.
“Believe what you wish,” replied Femfaf, “but Dr. Borg simply wants to know how much of a threat these deserters are.”
“Seeing if she can convince Oyed to spare them?” interrogated Arsha.
“That’s the general idea,” answered Femfaf.
“Tell her she’s being seduced by lies!” hissed Arsha. “Oyed has no intention of keeping his promises in the long run!”
“You have no proof of that, Captain,” dismissed Femfaf.
“His goals are all the proof I need!” challenged Arsha.
“What if you’re wrong?” asked Femfaf.
“…It would be unfortunate for Oyed,” answered Arsha.
“Captain, I must ask you to reconsider going to war against Oyed,” urged Femfaf. “Do we really need to begin a new era with bloodshed?”
“Oyed intends to undo what his children made,” hissed Arsha. “I will give my life to save the Realms if I must.”
“Your father would feel like he failed,” remarked Femfaf. “Good parents are always afraid of burying their children. Do you really want your father to have to face that fear?”
“…A threat?” snarled Arsha.
“I’m just giving my two-tins on a possible future,” answered Femfaf. “Your father would…” she was interrupted by the Guard Captain entering the conference room.
“Er, am I…?” he ventured.
“You’re not interrupting anything related to the search at the moment,” interrupted Arsha.
“What a Golem scout just found, and Shalvey verified,” replied the Guard Captain, “will make you think about it.”
“Meaning, Sir?” asked Femfaf.
“Your scout found a pair of files that Shalvey determined to be one audio and one visual,” explained the Guard Captain.
“That trick again?” asked Arsha. “Why use the same one when it got them caught in the first place?”
“It’s the contents of the video you need to see,” answered the Guard Captain. “I have the data crystal it’s on. I think you should see this, as well as the Caldoras.” Arsha nodded, giving him permission to play it. He inserted the data crystal into the computer and the monitor played the video. Teylan was facing the camera with a stern look on her face.
“If you’re seeing this, then I must ask you to turn away,” she demanded. “If all goes well, Mr. Iggir is in prison and won’t pollute your kingdom. Yes, I do mean YOUR kingdom. We hereby revoke our citizenship. We are no longer part of the Kurontar Sea Merfolk Kingdom. We won’t fight in the Final War, no matter what you say. Realmfleet has become too aggressive with the Realm Trinity Empire and it won’t do us any good to appease either side. Dr. Borg wants to establish a small hold in the Realms. The smart thing would have been to cut a deal, make a few arrangements, give them a little something for their trouble. But, no, Realmfleet wanted to play it tough. So now, everyone is afraid of both sides, which means fewer people wanting to defend the Realms, which means less defense for either side, which means we no longer feel safe in our own homes! Well, we’re leaving such a vulnerable area. We’ve established a home of our own and hereby declare ourselves neutral. That is the safest option. Do not pursue us.” The video ended and Arsha shut her eyes.
“…Well, that’s…disappointing,” mused Femfaf. “While not nearly enough of a threat to us, I regret not having them on my side. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. We will take our leave.”
“…Have a safe journey,” bid Arsha, even though she silently wished for all manner of accidents to plague Femfaf on her way out. Femfaf bowed as she stood up and left the conference room.
The Golems left the Endeavor and Arsha reported what happened to King Vorko from her Ready Room. He sighed when he heard the news. “Captain, I think you’d better come back and explain the whole thing,” he requested.
“Very well,” replied Arsha. The call ended and Arsha returned to the bridge. “Set course for the Kurontar Sea Kingdom,” she ordered Nazay. “We’re ending the search.” The bridge crew’s mood wasn’t happy, but they kept it to themselves.
“Course laid in,” reported Nazay.
“Nice and easy,” directed Arsha. Nazay turned the ship around and returned to the kingdom.
Aldarval made her way to the throne room of the Caldoras’ castle. She was let in as Arsha explained what happened to the Caldoras. “Ah! Arsha!” greeted Aldarval. “Splendid! Come to see how ready the Kurontar Sea is?” Arsha winced.
“Admiral, you may want to sit down,” advised Queen Jurma. Aldarval arched an eyebrow before she sat down. She heard the whole story about the deserters and was shocked.
“I don’t…” she mumbled. “I mean, this is…this is unprecedented! Kurontar is one of the most stable of all kingdoms in the Mid-realm, second only to Borompek!”
“If word gets out about this,” remarked Arsha, “who knows what other people will do?”
“Unfortunately, that’s out of our hands now,” sighed Vorko.
“What do you mean?” asked Arsha.
“The deserters made a broadcast on IntraRealm,” answered Vorko. “They’ve announced their independence from us, calling themselves the Reenshar Kingdom.”
“Naming themselves after a famous activist,” sighed Aldarval. “My lords and ladies, I must say, this won’t look well in the eyes of Realmfleet.”
“We’re aware,” assured Vorko. “We’ll do what we can to keep our kingdom unified.”
“Please do,” urged Aldarval. “You produce the best fighters and we may need them.” Aldarval left without another word.
“Captain Royana, thank you for your assistance,” bid King Jentay.
“I just wish I could have helped in a better way,” sighed Arsha.
“Never mind the woulda-coulda-shouldas,” advised Jentay. “Just focus on the dids.” Arsha chuckled a little.
“You’re right,” she mused.
“We can handle things here,” assured Jurma. “You may leave tomorrow.”
“Thank you, your Majesties,” bid Arsha. “I’m sorry for what happened to this kingdom.”
“We appreciate that,” answered Jurma.