Thursday, July 10, 2014

Homecoming - Chapter One

This is the first chapter to my novel, Homecoming.  I tried something completely new to me in this - I wrote it in a journal format, told from the point of view of one of the observers to the action.  I think it needs a little more work to make it truly compelling as a complete story, but I wanted to see if I could break out of the normal story format.
Journal Entry #1 – November 27, 5846 RT
            My name is Shalliko Kai, and I’m a historian.  That fact might not be of interest to a lot of people, but if you’re reading the works that come from this journal, you’ll probably want to know my credentials.
            I was born on Novam Terra on July 6, 5801 RT.  My childhood and early schooling were typical for any citizen of the Terran Confederation.  It was near the end of my third year of secondary school that I became interested in history.  The story of who we are and where we came from is something I find fascinating, for I believe understanding that journey helps point to where we’re going.  So, when I was 12, I picked up my first volume of Humanity:  A Comprehensive History, and I was hooked.
            Of course I already knew most of the basic story.  Everyone in our world knows of the flight from Earth and the founding of the Confederation, if for no other reason than the post script on our date.  Prior to our escape, history was divided into two eras – BCE, meaning Before the Common Era, and AD, standing for Anno Domini.  However, ever since the Great Fleet set out from our homeworld nearly 6,000 years ago, we’ve had to add a new post script – RT, which stands for Relicta Terra, meaning “after flight from Earth.”
            As I delved into a more total view of history, I learned a great deal about stuff which had been forgotten.  We have a rich history prior to our leaving Earth, and it should be taught in more detail.  Most of what modern historians focus on, and what most children learn in school, is from the time of the arrival of the plague that drove us from our world.
            In learning more about Earth prior to the RT era, I found myself consumed by wanting to know it all.  Therefore, I enrolled in Alexandria University, so named for the great library that once existed on Earth.  I earned my degree in Human History, with a focus on the era just prior to escaping the planet.  I then got my Master’s Degree, with a double focus on pre-escape history and the details of the Grand Escape.  A doctorate in these areas only seemed natural after all of that.
            It’s this passion that made me the leading expert in my field, and it was the main reason that the Confederation Assembly asked me to accompany our warriors on this mission, a mission that mankind has dreamed of for over 5,846 years – to reclaim our home.  If you’re reading this tome, then it means we were successful.
            We’ve all dreamed going back since we could first understand the stories of what happened with the Examen prior to the Grand Escape.  Some are drawn by the stories of the majestic peaks of Mount Everest or the raging waters at Niagra Falls.  Others are captivated by the strength we could show by going back.  However, most are focused on returning to Earth out of the emptiness we feel at being driven from the planet that birthed us.  So long as Earth remains denied to us, humanity will never be whole.
            I was commissioned to chronicle the affair by the Confederation Historical Society, and the Assembly agreed to appoint me as the Chief Historian.  I’ll have access to all the main events, and I’ll get to shadow Admiral Alberto Santos, the Fleet Commander, as we engage with the Examen.  This journal is the first draft of a book, or series of books, that will give us greater identity as a species.
            Every child has been taught to fear the Examen.  A lot of parents still scare unruly children with the scolding that “the Examen are going to rip your heart out.”  Given what we’ve been through as a species, that kind of racial memory doesn’t fade.
            As such, I thought it only appropriate that I begin my journey by visiting the Jen Morton.  It’s this ship in the center of our capital’s square that holds the most level of meaning for humanity.  As ancient man realized that we’d be unable to drive the Examen from our world, they forged a plan to escape so that our species could survive.  Fifteen ships, each carrying 10,000 people a piece, set out from Earth.  Seven and a half years and several galaxies later, only three ships and 12,189 people survived to land here.  The Jen Morton was the first to touch down.
            The story of its captain, David Morton, is legendary.  It was he who organized the initial counteroffensive against the Examen, and when that failed, it was he who organized our escape.  He led the raids that acquired SLS technology, and he named the ship for the wife he lost in the initial assault, while the capital city of Tyler is named for his lost son.  That he eventually remarried and had more children never fully washed away the pain he carried from losing them.
            The Jen Morton was not only one of the ships that survived to carry us here, it was also the instrument used to power Tyler and other parts of our world for nearly half a century after its arrival.  Although primitive by today’s standards, it was a miraculous piece of engineering by the standards of the day.  At that point, humanity hadn’t even cracked the mystery of practical fusion, not to mention Supra-Light Speed, more commonly known as SLS.  Building it during the midst of the Examen assault is something still studied by engineers, much the same way I imagine ancient engineers studied the Roman aqueduct system.
            There are pictures in the historical records of the power lines laid out from the Jen Morton to provide rudimentary electricity to those who landed in Refuge Square back when it was just an empty field.  I’ve studied them, and as I looked around the Square today, I found myself in awe of what those early pioneers had to go through.
            The other two ships – the Fons Maoirum and Cristo Nazareno – landed not far away in the cities of New Jerusalem and Sinkiang, also powering the grids that sprung up there until the foundation for power was more fully in place.  However, those vessels don’t hold the pull the Jen Morton does.
            Like I said, it’s primitive by today’s standards.  The ship is a glossy titanium alloy that has been refurbished numerous times over the years.  Its corridors are narrow, and the bevy of pipes and cable make navigating around the interior quite a challenge.  Still, there’s something quaint about it.  Getting to walk around the inside of it helps bring to the surface what it must’ve been like to be cramped in here for nearly eight years.
            On some of the monitors throughout the ship, a montage of Morton throughout the years played.  This is an edited together version of the myriad of tapes I’ve studied.  In the one running now, there’s a grainy image of Morton through the years as he kept a video diary to help future generations understand what our forefathers had to go through.
            The Morton on the screen wasn’t young – 64 years old(nearly 20 years after our arrival on Novam Terra) – but he was far more aged than others at that point in their lives, even adjusting for the 17 month yearly cycle on our new world after we arrived(he was 44 in human years upon touchdown).  The lines in his face were hard, and his blue eyes looked deeper than they had in younger pictures from before the Great Escape.  They held the sadness of loss that few of us would ever know.
            “We did what we had to in order to escape,” said this ancient visage.  “There were hard choices and, I’m sad to say, I had to be dictatorial at times.  I make no apologies for that – whatever kept the human race alive and kicking was worth it.  Yes, maybe that’s the ends justifying the means, but when those ends are either survival or extinction, you learn to do what you have to.
            “It’s my hope that our children and their children – the ones born on Novam Terra and who never know of the terror we faced from either the Examen or the uncertainty of flight into space – take this opportunity to build a new world from the ashes of our old one.  Novam Terra may not be Earth, but it’s our home now, and we have a duty to build it into a true society for ourselves and our children.”
            I’ve visited this relic a lot over the years, especially as I studied for my doctorate.  Tens of thousands come here every year to get in touch with our past.  Tour guides show people through all the time, and the site was even opened to non-human members of the Confederation about 600 years ago, although that remains a controversial decision to this day.
            The alien question is a complex one in our society, but it has gotten better over the millennia.  There was a period, early on, where we distrusted all alien races.  Our experience with them, especially the Examen, made us suspicious of those that weren’t human.  It even led to several smaller wars, but we’ve progressed past that.  Once a race is past the probationary period of acceptance, either through petition or occupation, they’re accepted as Confederation Citizens.  They don’t hold the status of Human, but they can travel to any world of the Confederation and build good lives for themselves and their people.  I’ve seen a few around the square before, and I still notice the occasional glance that some people throw at them.  However, those glances have grown less frequent, and for that, I’m grateful.  Some of my better friends are from the other races.
            I spoke to a number of tour guides this past visit.  Having come here as often as I do, a number of them know me by name.  By now, most of them also know of the next part of the historical journey I’ll be going on.  Yes, our return trip has been publicized as part of the dream of finally going home, but not every member of the mission is well known.  I’ve been known to drop a few things here and there about it, which never hurts my prospects for fawning.
            One young tour guide named Wei Lin made a point of asking me, “Aren’t you afraid?”
            I smiled at her.  I’ve always had a thing for young Asian women, and even though she’s 17 years my junior, she has a bright mind to match her shining smile and tight body.  “No.  Sure, there’s some apprehension about traveling in SLS for so long, but I’m very excited to be able to be one of the first back to Earth.  Given what I know of the Examen, as well as the capabilities we’ve both developed and demonstrated since the Grand Escape, I have no doubts about the outcome.”
            Her deep brown eyes widened, and she put her hand tentatively on my forearm.  “But what about the Traygar?”
            The Traygar.  Yes, I wondered how they’d react given our last dealings, but they were simply something we were going to have to deal with if we didn’t want to add years to our flight.  They stood in the way, but they weren’t the worry they once were.
            “We’ll be fine.  We’ve probed them undetected for years, and we know how to deal with them.  Their empire is vast, but we hold the edge in technology.  Should it come to a fight, they stand no chance.”
            She smiled at me and said, “I hope you’re right.  I’ll leave you be and wish you the best of luck.  I’d like to walk across the Giza Plateau and see the fires of Kilauea, and that dream is now up to you.”
            Her hand lingered on my arm for a moment before she walked away.  I was touched by her concern, even as I knew there was no doubt about the outcome.  I wasn’t sure whether this particular woman would ever walk on Earth – there were far too many in the Confederation to make that feasible – but knowing that many would was enough for me.
            This journal will be updated as events warrant.  It’s my hope that those who read it come away with a greater appreciation for the fullness of our history, both our time as the Terran Confederation and as a once fractured people prior to the Grand Escape.  As we set out to fill the empty place left in our souls by the loss of Earth, I pray that all can rejoice in our triumphal return.

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