I wanted to share something different with you today. It’s not Flash Fiction due to it’s length, but nor it is really a short story. It’s something in-between.
It’s a bit of future-history from The New Universe (my own little sandbox of creative endeavors – everything I write exists in this little Universe I’ve created). I hope you like it.
Tales from The New Universe: Gunny Homn
© 2009, Patrick Hester. All Rights Reserved
The Slider shook violently as it sliced through the atmosphere. The exterior glowed white hot, the heat shield pushing away the worst of it to form a long tail in its wake. Inside, she felt none of it; her body snug in the viscous gel that kept her blood oxygenated, her body safe from the G-forces the Slider was experiencing and from the heat and friction chipping away at the surface of the craft.
Just large enough for one person, the Sliders sole purpose was to deliver someone to the surface of a planet with minimal time, effort and cost.
Someone like Gunny Homn.
* * *
Homn pulled the strings of her boots tight, the worked, brown leather laces wrapping around the knee-high, tan boots four times before they were short enough to be tied. Her pants were tucked in and tied up the sides, simple cotton leggings beneath them. Her belt was braided and made of stiffer stock, carrying two pouches, a long-blade dagger and a smaller, flat blade knife used for eating. The tan shirt also had a second, cotton shirt beneath it that doubled as a lining and she wore a green, short cut vest and matching jacket over that. The long, dark, oiled cloak that would complete her outfit still rested on the back of the chair next to the desk.
A quick look in the mirror and she flashes the woman reflected there a rare grin, tugging on the thick braid of hair hanging down, hugging the left side of her face. She definitely looked the part of a heathen. Now, she just needed to convince the Vice-Captain.
* * *
“Unification is the single greatest priority for the Human Race,” said the speaker on the chat, wearing a brown L’oum-suit with gold trim and a mirror-mask reflecting the gray L’oum of the interviewer. “Between the dilution of the Blood and the Cullings, we really cannot afford to allow these lost, backward splinter worlds to continue their Unholy Evolutionary Paths unaided.”
The mirror-mask of the interviewer held a blue tint, trimmed in pale red. “But, many within the Hierarchy of the Dome, argue that these splinter worlds, because of the divergence in their Evolution, are actually throwbacks to a baser, lesser Human existence than what we know today and will only serve to further pollute our lines if Unification is allowed. How do you respond to them?”
“Don’t you see? That is precisely why we must bring them back into the fold. Because they are throwbacks, their Blood is much closer to Genetic Purity. They haven’t experienced the Degradation as so many of us have. For generations, dilution of the Blood has caused more and more genetic mutation and weakening. These splinter worlds have survived in the old ways. They have diseases, suffer from exposure to bacteria, breed through sexual reproduction – things that we have not experienced in thousands of years. Because of this, they build up tolerances we can only dream of. Bringing them back into the fold will only strengthen us over time and ensure the continued expression of The Message throughout the Universe.”
Homn nodded thoughtfully. High Command agreed with this assessment. There was a program being developed even now to try and find these splinter worlds, assess the odds of successful Unification. They were even looking for volunteers who might be willing to act as the Forerunners. Fingering the a’Ddah of her N’osh to align with the docking web, she wondered what that might entail, a sense of adventure beginning to take shape in her heart.
* * *
“These images were taken from a high orbiting o’Anah’N'ret. A splinter world. We believe there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of such worlds, scattered across the Universe. Upon the Breaking, many fled the Culling of the Ute and no record was made of their journey, nor their destinations, so that the Evil may not find them.”
Homn stared at the images flashing slowly across the scried. She was shocked to see people so naked. Not a single one wore the Sacred L’oum or made any effort to hide their Souls from the Universe. Many around her seemed just as disturbed as she, some turning away in disgust or fear. As she watched, an image of a woman stunned her; she had long hair, wrapped upon itself in an intricate pattern that seemed impossible to her eye. Never had she seen such hair, spilling from the woman’s head down one side of her naked face. Her skin was strange, darkened with hue and color, and she wore some sort of garment that covered parts of her but could not have protected her from the Universe. Also, it accentuated her shape in a scandalous fashion, taking away any semblance of Blessed Androgyny.
Equally, men were naked to the Universe, their faces visible, skin darkened, clothes seemingly made to somehow accentuate their differences rather than hide them as was proper. It was as if madness had taken them. She had heard of whole Seeqhs going mad, removing the Sacred L’oum, mixing and comingling as savages, Souls naked to the Universe. It was the kind of thing you told in hushed tones to frighten and motivate the young newly hatched.
“They are more primitive than we could have ever imagined. To contact them will require sacrifice and dedication above and beyond anything that has ever been asked before. Only the strongest of us will be able to endure such trials. No one will judge you if you choose to leave now.”
Homn stared, curiosity warring with fear in her heart. She had never before found herself wavering once a decision was made, yet she had never expected this. ‘Sacrifice and dedication’? Watching as so many begin walking away, she remembered what had brought her to this point; the Human race needed these heathens in order to survive.
Steeling herself, she stayed where she stood. When the last of the deserters, for that was how she thought of them in her mind, when the last of them left, there were only a handful still standing before the Captain.
Nodding to those remaining, the Captain continued the briefing.
* * *
Homn stared at the reflection before her. It was her, naked to the Universe. After weeks, it was still difficult to see and she found herself looking down or away lest the Ute feel her presence and swarm for the Culling.
Her head was covered in a thin layer of fuzz; hair. She’d never had hair before. It was unnerving. Her skin had taken on a slight hue under the daily imaging doses she endured at the hands of the scientists. They assured her that it was safe in low doses, but she’d seen Rotero’s naked skin blister and belch something green and red all at the same time. He’d screamed, too; a horrid sound gurgling forth from his throat. Then they took him away and she had not seen him again.
Her round mammaries looked odd to her, but they told her they were necessary and adequate for the task. Most surprising to her had been the hair growing near her sex, and the bleeding that had begun almost as soon as her Sacred L’oum had been removed. The scientists told her that it was normal and ancient, but she did not see how this was possible. She was leaking fluids from inside her skin - that could not be normal!
The thought made her stomach speak – another oddity without the Sacred L’oum, and something she had never known before. Sometimes that sound meant she had to ingest something. With her mouth. Other times, she had to expel something from… other places. It was all so base and degrading and very inhuman.
They said and spoke and assured her that this was how the splinter Human’s lived their lives every day. She couldn’t fathom any of it. It was so… brutal, savage. The stark differences between male and female offended her. Esah and she had been set the task of standing, face to face, speaking to each other directly. The task was difficult; they were required to look each other in the eye while speaking, no mirror-mask to protect them. This necessitated risking soul to soul contact without reflection. During the exercise, Esah’s sex had inexplicably engorged. They rushed both of them to separate rooms for testing and decontamination.
She could tell that the scientists had been unnerved by the entire affair.
The Rorsah came to speak with them each day after that, despite their sins and nakedness. It was the only comfort for her at this point, knowing that what they did had been approved by the Church, that their souls were protected even if their skin were not. An entire F’qua had been devoted to thirty-eight hour prayer just for their squad.
Just yesterday, they had told her she would be elevated to Gunny. She was equal parts disturbed and prideful. She knew she had to continue on.
* * *
“Kneel before your God,” said the Rorsah, and Gunny Homn fell to her knees. She pressed her face to the floor, feeling the vibration as the walls of the tank slowly receded and the room filled with light and warmth. Her skin prickled.
You have done well, Gunny Homn, said the Human God, speaking in her mind. Euphoria spread through her body. Yours shall be a shining example to all Human kind. Rise, and look upon your God so that you may take me with you in your heart and spread The Message wherever you go.
Gunny Homn rose, tears streaming down her face as the God of Humanity shone brightly before her.
* * *
“You are the only one, Homn. The only one to persevere. Yours shall be the example for those who come after. Are you prepared?”
Gunny Homn looked up at her own reflection in the Vice-Captain’s mirror-mask. She saw her own excitement there, her own pride. She would be the first, but not the last. Unification would begin here, now.
“I am,” she replied. She stood above the Slider. The Honor Guard saluted her as she was lowered inside. The seal locked her inside and the pumps began to fill it. She breathed deeply, letting the gel fill her, become part of her.
The only indication that the Slider had been ejected, was the slight thrumming in her ears.
* * *
Her senses were under assault; lungs burning, eyes flaring with pain from the colors and light, ears thrumming with the beat of her own heart, deep within her chest. She fell to her knees, palms forward, the gritty surface cutting into the exposed flesh, digging beneath her fingernails. Back arched, she expelled the last of the gel from her lungs, then shuddered with her first burning breath.
The air was warm but sweet; she gasped repeatedly, taking in great breaths, eyes watering. She threw herself away from the puddle of gel, rolling over on her back, eyes staring sightlessly up at the blur she assumed to be the sky. She clutched to the dirt now, digging her fingers deeper, afraid for the first time in her life, aware that there is no ships deck beneath her, but rather a world turning that could spin her right off.
She could feel the weight of gravity pushing her down.
Her heart pounded in her ears, her breathing started to stabilize. For the first time, she drew in a deep breath through her nose, a thousand scents assaulting her, swirling through her mind which churned trying to identify them. Eyes beginning to clear, she saw a deep blue sky above her, the color unlike anything she had ever seen before.
The breath she’d been inhaling caught in her throat.
* * *
Aboard the o’Anah’N'ret, the Rorsah stood beside the Vice-Captain, watching as the Slider’s vapor trail faded beneath them.
“What we do today will change us for all time.”
The Vice-Captain nodded, purple tinged mirror-mask reflecting the blue planet’s glow. “Perhaps she will find what we seek.”
“Perhaps,” the Rorsah agreed. “I doubt it though. Are the other Forerunners prepared?”
“Each o’Anah’N'ret reports ready.”
“She truly believed she was the only one…,” he shook his head. “Tell them to proceed.”
“If we find evidence of Homeworld on these first excursions, the Universe shall truly tremble.”
“The Universe should tremble, for we are returning and all that was lost shall be taken back.”
The Vice-Captain nodded at that as well.