A ship sets sail, heading for the Alatheia Nebula, to discover what lies beyond.
Our story begins on Volantis, a small planet which boasts the largest space port in the Caeruleus system. It is from this planet that most trade ships restock, before heading out to the other planets, and sometimes even other systems. It was also the home of the famous explorer, Nathaniel Elin.
Twenty-one years previously, Nathaniel Elin returned home from his most successful expedition to date. He had gone further than any other, and discovered a new Nebula. But what waited at home was far more important to him. A baby girl, newly born, named Alatheia. He immediately wrote to the Astronomers and Explorers Council, to name the new Nebula after his daughter. Not long after this, his wife died. Thea grew up in the care of her grandmother, while her father travelled, but he always returned to gift his little girl with something he had discovered while he was away. Thea grew to a strong headed, independent young woman, free to do as she wished. She constantly studied the maps of the Uranoscopus galaxy, plotting where her father would be and where he would be headed. She hoped that one day she would be allowed to join him on board his ship.
One day, her father returned, not with a gift, but a new wife. Clarissa Montreal, and her daughter Marguerite, were wealthy and happy to be tied to the most famous explorer of the time. But it changed things for Thea. She loved her new step-sister, despite their differences, but her step mother was indignant that anyone associated with her could be so untrained. Especially that a young woman with good fortune should be allowed to go out in trousers! And so Thea began to learn the ‘delights’ of dresses, in corsets synched so she could barely breathe. She had to learn how to speak to men; how to be polite, and how to wear her hair up in tight braids and buns because no man wants a woman whose hair is that big. She hated every moment.
When Thea turned nineteen, her father set off on a new expedition; to discover what lay beyond the Alatheia Nebula. He hoped to find an entire new galaxy, but no one had gotten to the edge of the cloud before. He was expected to be gone for a year, and Thea dreaded the time alone with her step-mother, who had already been suggesting marriage. Her father, had said that she was free to marry whomever she wished, but Thea felt the daggers that Clarissa shot at her when it was announced. At least she wouldn’t dare marry Thea off, because her father would be furious on his return.
Only this time, he didn’t return. Thea had carefully mapped out his journey, allowing for any malfunctions, or stops for supplies, but when he still hadn’t returned a week after he was supposed to, she began to worry. Her step-mother’s behaviour towards her began to change, slowly, after two weeks. After a month, she was no longer hiding the fact that there were now two men visiting per meal, instead of Marguerite’s usual one.
She made her escape three weeks later, stealing away in the early hours of the evening, dressed in her old clothes that she had managed to hide from Clarissa, and heading to the docks. She would find a ship, bound to explore past the Nebula, and find out what had happened to her father. Failing that, at least she would finish what he began, and finally see the cloud he named after her on the way.
This was how she found herself signing up to work as a navigator, under the alias Thea Penna, on the Noctis Accipiter, due to sail at dawn the next day. Captained by Amalia Vega, an ex-Navy woman with an excellent reputation, the ship was one of the largest currently docked on the port. Thea, and all the other new recruits that she had yet to talk to, were standing on deck as the light started to fade. The first mate, a huge man with dark skin and darker eyes named Clement Ursa, was issuing orders.
“You each have ten crates to load,” he explained in his gruff, gravelly voice. “When you are finished, you may join us at The Last Comet, for a round of drinks. You are expected to be on board an hour before we set sail. You will meet the Captain in the morning. Get to work!”
Thea eyed the crates with trepidation. She knew her way around a map, and she was fast and agile, but she had never been strong. Sighing, she got to work, determined not to fail at the first hurdle. The sooner she was gone, the better.