Many great additions have been made to HW fanfics in recent days. Various contributory stories to HW's 10th, Norsehound's "The Dreams", Yalin Hawk's prequel to "Story of the Stellar Ranger", and of course the beginning of the end for Chrome's epic "Legacies". So, while you already have so much else to read, I felt I was in a good enough position to finally start posting some of a story I've been conceptualizing for a while. This is due to the fact that I've finally finished writing all the way through Chapter 1. For those who clicked into this without looking at the thread name, this story is about my concept-race of the Galactic Council, known as the Czalkir. Please forgive any predictable qualities of my introductory sections; I can guarantee that I'll have more unique ideas in future chapters. But for now, please make your best effort to enjoy:
Homeworld: Galactic Council Chronicles
Prologue --Directly Below
Chapter 1: A Hero's Introspection --Also Directly Below
Chapter 2: Life-- and Dealing With It
Chapter 3: Inevitable Progress
The reaction of the child was not precisely as Naton had hoped. It had been the favorite pass-time of boys of Giitham's age to play 'war' since the earliest remembered days in the sands of Kharak, and conceivably long before that. Yet now as the youngster beheld his grandfather's military uniform for the first time, neatly hung within a glass shield, his contorted face betrayed a mix of confusion and disappointment.
"This is what you wore when you were a soldier, grandpa?" Giitham asked, with the exact simplicity Naton might have anticipated. For it was evident from the first moment he saw the thing that precisely this question would arise.
Nodding, Naton too looked at the uniform, seeing it from the boy's perspective for a few passing seconds. It was quite inglorious to the untrained eye-- bulky, unwieldy, sleeves and pant legs full of deep trenches where there was a great deal of excess material. The gloves were so thick one couldn't hope to pick up an object less than 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Tubes looped around the front and the back in a layout that promoted efficiency at the price of aesthetic. The material was mostly dull in hue-- a light grayish blue with white elements. Some light plasma scarring was still to be found here and there, as this had been his actual uniform, which had seen its days of trouble.
But of course, the real glory of the thing could not be hidden long under its outward appearance; not, at least, to the man who had worn it. He could not honestly remember the story of each and every tatter, which would have come as a surprise to the boy, who would nonetheless soon have his ears filled with stories, both real and 'exaggerated', concerning each blemish. Though his own service during the Homeworld War had not been particularly decorated, still it reminded him on a very surreal level of much of what made him proud to have lived his life. Not so very proud was he of what he had done himself, but in many cases of the astounding things he had seen others do. And it reminded him of why he had brought the boy with him today in the first place. This was the day he intended to pass on a legacy-- not his own, but of a dear friend he had met in those times. More than that-- he would pass on the legacy of a people. He had been charged with nothing less, years ago.
Later in the day, when twilight came down upon the plains of Hiigara-- the home he had known now for the longer part of his life-- Naton prepared himself for the age-old convention of grandfathers-- telling their grandchildren a story. Fitting that his grandson, who had been born on Hiigara and so knew no other world, would hear the part that his grandfather had played in winning back the planet he could now so easily take for granted. How quickly things of meaning were lost in the sands of time; how easily forgotten were the sacrifices made. But tonight, Naton determined, a hero would be remembered.
Chapter 1: A Hero's Introspection
Lord Habruan had a look out the window of his quarters, being confronted with some unexpected leisure. His expression may have appeared quizzical, had anyone seen his face, shrouded as it was from the outside world by walls and doors and the mask that capped his sealed suit. For today an odd nostalgia had befallen him as he peered out the viewport. He could remember a time, or fancied he could, when looking out the apertures into space was a favorite pass-time of his, in the earlier and simpler days. Peering into the maw of the most deadly and destructive of all natural wonders-- black holes-- those dark fishers in space that were shrouded in the hazy, nebulous purple light that predominated their surroundings.
That was before the insistent opinion of his father on the matter began to rub off on him. "Space is but a festering emptiness," his father had said once. "Even the largest of objects are but lone particles spread across the endless void. And matter is made to consume itself until even what little there is is no more."
With space apparently being most unsatisfactory, Habruan had begun to roam the ship more and more as age allowed him in his youth. This did not suit his father, either. "All the room in the universe waiting just beyond the walls, and in here no breathing room. But were this ship ten times larger, a confine is still a confine."
Nothing ever seemed to meet with Habruan's father's approval-- not even the air itself. "Air has no defined ratio of elements. Air has texture and scent and life. What we breathe is no more real air than that mask of yours is your real face."
It had been very mysterious to him in those early days, but now it was evident why his aged father was so malcontented. Since the day it was observed that all members of the last generation to have ever lived on Czalk had passed away, save his own father, it had been clear. It was not so much that the home they had now did not serve, but that it was, at least in the eyes of his father, a hollow imitation of terrestrial life. He talked about life on Czalk often, many times with the premise, "listen well, for what I tell you must not die with me!" He would speak of great plains floored by the earth and enclosed by the layers of atmosphere. He mentioned rough terrain on which vegetation would grow in masses so far-spread as to be beyond sight. Vast collections of water in pits that stretched literally around the earth had made a few appearances in his recounts. Water could condense in midair and was prone to falling in innumerable droplets on this world of his as well. It was not that what he said was unfeasible, so much as it was difficult to envision, and to see the relevance of. Still his father spoke of it all as if it were more important than anything. "The mind is a natural facility. Like all other parts of nature, it is meant to interact with other pieces of the whole. Here there is nothing natural; nothing to renew the peoples' minds."
Considering all of this, Habruan's nostalgia was gradually lost to wearying thoughts. It was hard to believe the words of his father, despite his great confidence in the elderly man's wisdom. It did not seem rational to believe that the developed and disciplined mind of a man or woman could truly be adversely affected simply by being confined to artificial living arrangements. But deep down, he knew he felt what his father proclaimed to some extent.
There was something to it; an aura of lack, be it ever so faint, lingered on the whole of the ship. It never seemed to fester or to escalate, but neither would it dissipate. Every last person aboard, young and old, seemed vexed by something they could not quantify, let alone acknowledge or sort out. And because he could think of no other way to explain it, lord Habruan went on secretly suspecting that his father was at least in part correct-- that they had unwittingly surrendered a great part of themselves when they turned away from their homeworld.
"Since times long forgotten by the annals of history," his father often recounted, "the Regents have been bred and raised with one solemn duty to fulfill-- to meet the needs of the people. As long as this ship remains the only home of our race, we fail in our duty!" So he said, but they both knew that their plight was beyond any immediate resolution. And they did not agree on a course of action.
His father had a brilliant scientific mind, which despite his great age he poured obsessively into finding a new hope. But he was not the kind of scientist suited to the tasks he wished to accomplish-- making the ship faster, more efficient; increasing the sensor range and sensitivity. Things that would find them another world, since nothing remained to be found of the one that once belonged to them. But his expertise had always been the body-- he was a biological scientist, regardless of what he now tried to be.
Habruan, on the other hand, did nothing to quicken the end of life aboard the ship, but rather tried to make it more sustainable. He simply wouldn't allow himself to be convinced that life would eventually turn on itself when cut off from its place of nativity. The mind may be a natural facility, he thought to himself, but it is only another part of the body, in need of discipline the same as any other part. The sentient being controls its mind; the mind does not control it. One day he hoped his father would remember this.
Time passed slowly for the lone Regent. It seemed he had little to muse about, and his mind often wandered back to the tensions, however insignificant, between him and his father. He decided to break with inactivity and make his evening meal for himself-- a duty he simply would not delegate to any of his attendants. There were greater concerns for them than feeding him, especially considering how very capable he was of doing so himself. Cooking had always interested him, and it was a skill he had developed recreationally over the course of his life. There were days when he would prepare meals for his own attendants, though today he preferred solitude.
It was always a task to remove (and later replace) the facial assembly of his pressurized suit, so he rarely did for any occasion other than to eat. From the days before the exodus began it was decided that the ship-board uniforms (particularly those of royalty) be fully pressurized to ensure maximum safety. His own uniform was uniquely crafted and covered over by a hood and cloak in regal purple that denoted his high standing. Since it was the garb of lords, he was to appear in public wearing it and thus rarely wore anything more informal, lest anything suddenly and unexpectedly come up that required his attention.
He reached over with a gloved hand to remove its counterpart's glove. Reciprocating, both hands brushed back the hood of his royal cloak and went to work unsealing the various clamps and restraints holding his mask air-tightly to the neck assembly of his suit. Underneath, his skin appeared somewhat darkened and blotchy-- a mere effect of its translucency, for woven within the inner tissue was an array of dark organic patches, the nature of which was not yet fully understood by biological scientists. It was clear from ancient artwork that this material had not always been present throughout the body of his species; evidently an adaptation, possibly from their system's gradual descent towards the neighboring black hole. His eyes were dull but thoughtful; a blue haze overlaid his iris and pupils. This was another apparent adaptation over time, believed to be for the purpose of minimizing Gamma-ray damage to the optic nerves, as it had recently been discovered that such radiation could be harmful to more delicate tissues. His face was angular and his cheek bones well-defined; he looked older than he was-- ironic considering he would surely outlive almost everyone he knew. His lips were narrow and dark; more purple than pink. He had short, dark hair, turning gray at the edges, as the vulnerable cells became more faded the longer they had been expelled from within the scalp. To the typical humanoid, he might have appeared somewhat ghastly, but all-in-all he sported a fair complexion as Czalkir go.
Standing at the window, but facing into the room, he went to take the first bite of his cagalli-rudatard stew; not a favorite of his, but a dish he saw potential in and thus had been practicing lately. He reached into the bowl of stew with his foon, a utensil unique to Czalkir that had a round scooping head with three tiny prickers at the end; a modern fusion of two types of silverware that had been widely used in the dark Imperial days. Just before he could ingest, the door to his chamber gurgled from the hydraulic action of being opened. He quickly reached up with one hand to replace his hood and turned back towards the window; traditionally his face was not to be seen by civilians.
"Lord Habruan," a familiar voice chimed. He turned back around, for it was another of royal lineage that had come to his chamber.
"Lord Miikel'au," he redressed respectfully. "What brings you?"
Miikel'au relaxed her shoulders a bit, having exchanged formalities. "A matter of importance, but not of urgency," she said. She seemed slightly absent, or at least distracted by something in the room. "At least, not so urgent that I haven't time to wonder why you've prepared cagalli-rudatard for yourself."
Habruan turned and moved toward the culinary section of his chamber. "You of course know as well as I that it is not a dish I fancy," he said as he strode.
"Yes," she agreed.
He grabbed another bowl and foon out of a cabinet. "But perhaps that is why I decided to try and craft it into something appreciable." He turned back towards her. "Would you care for some? There is enough for both of us, if your matter is not pressing."
She tilted her head in appreciation. "No thank you. I'm afraid my own aversion to cagalli-rudatard is more severe than yours."
With a twist of his head he parried her comment out of culinary self-confidence. "This is my own take on the recipe; I imagine you will find it is not so bad as the original." He finally took the first foon-full of his dish. His shallow grin of smug cuisine genius went laser-straight in a flash. Swallowing hard, he admitted "In fact, it is even worse."
She seemed then to suppress a laugh. In her own way, it was evident that she had high regard for Habruan, but she was a very formal sort; well-suited to her royal bloodline. She was always very kind and took great interest in what other people were up to, but seemed aversive to betraying much emotion. Her mind was very scientific; she was the envy and pride of Habruan's father for her technical knowledgeability and he spoke to and of her often. "Keep an eye out for Miikel'au, my son," he had said before. "She may be the one deliver the people to a rightful home one day. You would do well to make her a close associate of yours." Even Habruan's disillusioned father had the way of the aged to try to play match-maker.
She was familiar with his face, and he had seen hers as many times. It was an odd thing to look at her mask and imagine her visage, as often he had to when they spoke. Habruan often wondered why it was maintained that the Regents must not be seen by the public; it was a dated tradition that impeded their own ability to associate more informally among themselves. She had a very pleasant face; her eyes had the same cloudy appearance as his, but in a dark brown, and her hair was a faded yellow with long gray ends. Her smile had always seemed infectious. But today, as with most days, it was veiled beneath her pressurized mask.
"If you're done eating, then, perhaps we can sit and discuss what has brought me here."
"Yes, I believe I'm finished," Habruan agreed, putting the bowl aside and taking a seat in the small foyer area. Miikel'au sat across from him.
"I'm sorry I have to involve you in this," Miikel'au began. "Two civilians on the commissary level wish you to arbitrate between them. I would have done it myself, but they asked for you specifically. They have grievances against each other, over some employment issue. They would not tell me more than that."
Habruan sat back in consideration. "I fail to understand why the judgement of perfectly sound-minded Regents such as yourself is so often rejected in favor of my own humble council. If life ever does return to the way it was in the days before exodus, they will likely have you to thank; they should treat you with higher regard."
Miikel'au shook her head. "Give yourself some credit. You have a singular ability to mediate; the people recognize this. My venues of service have always been through applied sciences. I'm not the arbitrator you are, and they know it."
"I can lead the people perhaps," Habruan replied. "I can offer guidance and council. But what can I really do to improve their lives? My understanding of the sciences has never been what yours is, nor can I live up to my father's biomedic expertise."
"I've yet to invent anything that improves the peoples' lives," Miikel'au admitted. "Science can preserve life, take life, or make life more convenient, but I've yet to see a technology that can add an ounce of value to life. The people trust you, they follow your example, and as long as you lead them to the best of your ability-- setting the best possible example-- you're doing more for them than I ever could."
Habruan felt at a disadvantage. At the moment, he had no mask to conceal his grateful smile. "I appreciate the encouragement. The day's been stagnant; I've had too much time to think. I've felt better since you came by." Habruan got up to replace his mask. Miikel'au got up to assist him, and within a minute or two they had him refitted. "I suppose I'll get to the commissary deck before these disgruntled citizens start a civil war," he sarcastically remarked on his way to the door.
"Ha!" exclaimed Miikel'au in a sudden outburst, shocking both Habruan and herself. "You may have just given me the best idea I've ever had!" She met him again at the doorway.
"Well... good," Habruan said, wondering what she had in mind. They locked pinky fingers in formal fair-well. "The One That Is be with you," he said.
"And you," she reciprocated.
They went on their separate ways. And all the way to the commissary deck Habruan wondered what 'good idea' he had inspired. He hoped it wasn't civil war.