The Captain's Skull
rating: +9+x

"Borther, do you know where magic comes from?"

"Of course, Captain." Borther said, pressing a crooked, feather-ended twig against his temple. The technician, Borther was an old, bald man who had only really lived for twenty-three years. He cracked his neck, still jaunty from his awakening.

"Well, Borther, if you knew that, we'd have the engines up and running by now, and you'd be serving me martinis on X-8."

Borther caught his reflection in the window behind the Captain. His conditioning had prevented him from recoiling at the sight, and the empty space outside did some help in distracting him.

"Where are the stars, Captain?"

The Captain shrugged. "Dust clouds? It's not like we've reached the edge of the universe in 23 years, especially running on aether."

The Captain shook his head and went back to his chair in the small vessel. Borther looked on through the window for a few moments before turning back to the access hatch on the floor.

Borther worked for hours, saving his worst suspicions for last. The engines were fine. The reactor was fine, the capacitors were fine, and the aether to nuclear converter was… fine. Even the pseudoscientific groundings connected to the receiver were working properly.

It seemed the only device in the entire space ship that wasn't working, and the only device of its nature, was magical.

"Solar sails. We should have used solar sails. I should have expected this. Now I'm gonna be trapped in space with the bastard son of Aleister Crowley until I die of old age."

Borther shook his head and pushed himself through the door. Gliding through the kitchen, the engine room, and finally into the ritual chamber. Borther pulled himself up close to the pedestal and placed his wand over a smiling crystalline skull.

He couldn't feel the pulse of aether through his wand. The groundings, a five pointed star of zircon crystals, didn't even have a hint of residue on them.

"Captain!" Borther yelled, and waited for the disappointed man to come gliding through the door.

"What is it?"

"Have we ever strayed from our course, stopped? Have we continued with the original force of our initial launch?"

"Yes," he began, looking to the ceiling. "Quite miraculous really."

Borther turned to the skull and took it in his hands.

"And life support?"

"Mundane," the Captain said quietly. "Separate. Those systems are much cheaper than solar sails would have been. If I could afford solar sails I wouldn't be using homeopathy to cross the galaxy."

Borther turned the skull around in his hands to find the rune placed beneath it. He felt the inscription and began manipulating the edges of the onyx plate with his finger. The one thing the school of magic had perfected in its infancy was the attraction of aether, and this was the very picture of what he had studied in the grimoire.

"It is possible that the rune wasn't fixed correctly, or the wrong conductive adhesive was used." Said Borther calmly as he pryed the rune from the bottom of the skull, and upturned the base toward the light.

Borther's heart sunk as he read the small, embossed words.

"You fool."

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