Children of Kadesh
Based on the Homeworld universe by Relic Entertainment
Written by Michael Ptak (Norsehound@comcast.net)
It was to be the greatest achievement of all time. In the history of the Kharakian people, no single project, endeavor, or effort had ever been conceived on a similar scope. To their ancient forefathers, such an enterprise would have been equal to moving the heavens themselves. This was the magnitude of what was demanded on the Kharakian civilization.
As monumental as it was, the need was very simple: They must leave. Kharak was a dying planet that could barely sustain the population as it was. Arable land was receding, and there was no other solution possible that allowed the civilization to survive.
The wreckage at the city of Khar-Toba had given them both their answer and their destiny. They were not native here. The illusions of being a godforsaken people were truly swept away in this new renaissance of reason and ideas. If gods did not cast them down from the heavens, then how did their metal spaceship come to be here?
The answers could not be found on Kharak. They were in the core, where the guidestone pointed to their origins. This was the only way to find the answer to the question all Kharakains now asked themselves: “Who are we?”
It was a dramatic step however. Not all wanted to go. Some, clinging to their faith, believed that the great darkness that cast them from heaven still remained. The effort into space, they proclaimed, was futile. Venturing towards those distant point of lights would only bring doom and damnation to the Kharakian people. This folly would spell the end of their race, and to this end many either worked to sabotage the great project, or remained behind.
Many more wanted to leave. Kharak was already a known quantity, and her sister moons and planets offered little adventure in the face of this new challenge. The mothership, powered by the massive artifact found in the buried ark, was going further than any Kharkaian native had in recorded history. It was a challenge everyone wanted to undertake… but few could participate in.
Necessity, ultimately, was the deciding factor. Armed with their knowledge of genetics the Kushan people screened their population to find whom among them was best for the journey. They would not take the old, and with some exceptions, the young could not go either. The colonists for the core-ward journey had to be fit and fruitful. There was to be no sickness among them, no disease, no deformities. While some human rights groups protested the draconian nature of this policy, the Kushan people had no choice. This was, perhaps, their only shot at the survival of the Kushan people. Brutal as it was, there was no allowance for everyone to go.
Tuur of Manaan had been one of the chosen for the Gold List.
He was an agricultural engineer, being the son of a noteworthy wind-trap construction overseer. Tuur had continued the practice after the death of his father, and was known as one of the more skilled of the wind-trap makers in the harbor of Bactra. He had even known his name to be carried as far north as Tiir, where once he was asked to travel to the city of Baali to construct wind traps there. Tuur was not a special man outside of this, just an ordinary colonist.
He had applied to the Gold List because he wanted to be more than what he was. The chance for a greater opportunity was before him, and his father felt that Tuur should go. The family line should continue on the New World.
Of course that was before his death. With Tuur leaving there would be no males of the family left. The line would die here on Kharak or vanish in marriage to another house.
He was not the only Manaani, but he was the last male of the Manaani descendants of Mahaiid Manaan, one of the great sand pirates during the aeon of strife. Tuur wasn’t sure if he was proud to carry this legacy or not, but his father had taken a deep pride in it.
But closer to him than the importance of his herriatage was the importance of his family. Today, he would be saying goodbye for the last time.
His possessions were already packed. He was only allowed to carry with him items that fit into a space no bigger than a shoebox. He had whittled everything down to only the most essential and personal of things. When they had been packed, all that remained for Tuur was to report to the cryo-fields to the north. He would have to go to the meeting station in town before proceeding there.
His mother did not say much. She had already cried late into the night about seeing her only son off to an unknown future. She was out of tears, and out of emotion. Tuur could not think of anything to say to her, his path was already set. There was no going back.
But there was Aii. The young girl was eight years old and barely capable of understanding the mission that her brother was about to take. She was a cute child, blossoming with life and promise. When she was born Tuur’s father had prophesied that Aii would be the ‘flower of the town’, and chased after by all the men.
Tuur wondered now what men would be left to chase Aii.
She was too young to accompany the sleepers- tests with children her age and younger did not end well. She would have to remain behind and take care of the reed of their mother. Tuur did not have words for this.
“Take your sister for a walk.” Was all his mother said to him that morning. So Tuur and Aii left to walk the coastline.
It was not a cliff over water, but over sand. Looking out across the cove Tuur surveyed the vast canvas-stretches of the wind traps. These wind traps did many things- from harvesting the moisture in the air to harnessing the wind for energy demands. It was a great thing, harnessing nature. The progressives of Kharakian society prided themselves on how easily they dominated it.
Aii bounced along ahead of him, smiling as she tracked a sand-lizard. This was her hobby, terrorizing small lizards who were helpless against the face of Kushan kind. Tuur wondered if the great ancestors of these creatures could have ever foreseen the arrival of the exiles.
Tuur heard the roar of an aircraft overhead, and looked up to see the huge air transport moaning across the sky. He shielded his face, watching the silhouette of the delta-shaped craft fly over in a cloudless sky.
A gust of wind kicked up, blowing the sand around them.
you’re going away, aren’t you?
Tuur looked down at Aii. She had her hands cupped, and in between her fingers the lizard peeked out at the world.
Tuur approached his sister and knelt down before her, unsmiling. “Yes Mi’ye, I’m going away.”
will you ever be coming back?
“I don’t know.”
Tuur did not know if the colonists would be returning here. It had been hoped by some that an emigration of the rest of Kharak’s population would be possible… once the planet had been cultivated and prepared. Even then, though, he had a feeling decades would pass before return would be considered.
The brochures conveniently ignored this question.
Aii looked down at the lizard in her hands. It peeked out of Aii’s fingers up at Tuur, and then again at the world. It’s little fingers grasped Aii’s own… Tuur never understood why the lizards had never attacked Aii whenever she picked them up. It had been her gift.
She smiled and bent down, releasing the little lizard. It scurried off across the hardsand, paused for a moment, then vanished in the brush.
Tuur had watched it go and before he knew it, his sister jumped on him in an embrace. She was crying.
Tuur couldn’t help but start crying too. Doubtless, he knew, this same scene was happening across the face of Kharak. No family had been untouched by the Gold list decision, either for loosing a member to it or having nobody go at all.
Tuur thought the latter group may have been luckier.
They sat together in that silence, just crying for a long moment. The air transport was already long gone.
It was time to go.
He had to part from his sister, eyes wet. He didn’t bother to clear them.
She wiped hers though, then took another look at him before she looked down and unclasped the locket around her neck.
“Mi’ye-“ Tuur started in protest.
I want you to have it .
She held it out for Tuur.
Tuur hesitated, but took the little locket and opened it for himself to see.
Tuur’s family had two years as a complete unit. In that time, they had taken photographs only rarely. The image in the locket was one such instance. He was dressed in white at the time, that shirt having been lost some years ago on a trip into the desert. Everything had been so distant then… that day especially.
He closed the locket, and couldn’t take it anymore. He hugged his sister again, regretting in that moment of all moments that he had to leave her in this world.
Promise me you’ll come back! She demanded, Promise!
“I promise, mi’ye”… was all Tuur could say. Somehow, someway, he would come back for them.
”There’s nothing left. Everything’s gone….Kharak….is burning….”
Soundtrack: The Mission (From the Sum of All Fears soundtrack)