An unworldly being and his blood prodigy stared out through a glasslike bubble at a strange planet. The father and son had shared many moments together in the command quarters talking about the vastness of space and the possibilities of a new home. This time, the mood was grounded and dismissive. In an ungodly tongue, the two cosmic foreigners discussed their pressing familial matters.
“This ship is suffocating me. The endless halls and the oppressive chambers . . . we are caged like creatures lost. I want to see colored skies.” The young one had deserted his manners, unable to deny his deepening frustration.
The father listened, but kept his gaze upon the peculiar world visible through the ship’s viewport from the safety of their stranded star fleet. The bustling Vagantem lab technicians and engineers worked tirelessly behind them; some in large mechanized suits of metal and rubber, others in gleaming stardust coats that fluttered against their bone-stretched skin and hunched spines. They worked with great machinery of tools and wire attached to the distant ceiling of the ship; hands of the dark god, or so they were called.
“What could you possibly know about the skies of worlds? Have the sons of soldiers and pilots painted pictures in your dreams?”the patriarch chastised with subtle scorn. The Vagantem boy remained silent, though the tentacled arms of his lips twitched irritably. “Skies are nothing but blankets, meant for younglings and dreamers. The black of space is the celestial banner of truth, and you must know it deeply. You are a youngling no more, and I will not endure your whining; I do not have the patience your mother once blessed me with.”The father’s words stung like the crack of a whip.
The son turned to face him, clutching tears back before they could be discovered. “I should not have made this about me, Father. I beg your forgiveness,”he said reluctantly. The father responded with a staunch silence and the stillness of a statue, which felt almost as if it were an attempt to ignore and forget the interaction that had just occurred. His attention returned to the viewport. The father donned not a stardust coat, like his son and some of the others wore, but rather a commanding twilight robe that was one with his shadow. It was embroidered with symbols and metals, both ancient and new, and lined with a pale translucent edging.
“. . . Our people,”the boy said at last, “. . . deserve better. This is no life for the Vagantem.”As he spoke, he wore a stern mask that kept secret his weeping soul.
“This is exactly the life we deserve,”the father replied, ushering surprise and hopelessness into his son. The father could feel the bewildered black and grey eyes of the young one set upon him. Without lifting his gaze from the mostly blue rock, he continued, “Our home was not lost, but erased. We are not refugees, but self-imposed exiles. This will be our life, and the lives of future generations . . . all because we couldn’t protect it. Because we couldn’t see what was happening.”The father held his thinning shoulders proudly, but a weary sorrow crept into his tone. The son had yet to recognize this emerging new state of the strong and caring figure he once knew and loved, though he understood that the recent loss of his mother was a festering wound in his father’s heart.
“I still do not understand why we can’t make this our new home,”the son gestured with the nautilus-like tendrils of his face toward the rotating globe below them.
The father’s tendrils coiled up in disdain. “This hellscape is tainted by the blood and ambition of a broken people. A sad joke, carried out by our great and wise leader,”he winced with the iron press of contempt. “No . . . this will never be our home.”
The son looked up and felt an unfamiliar sadness. Not as painful as the death of his mother, but an itchy and seething sting that would inevitably grow numb, yet forever remain. His father had once been a bright light, joyous and proud. He was the top executive of the Observant Fleet’s Engineering Core and had inspired many minds, young and old. Over the troubled years he had devolved into a brooding and agitated shadow that gloomed over his work and numbed his days with synthetic drugs and poisoned fragrances.
“Then why are we here?”the heir asked, disregarding the formal tone he was expected to keep.
The father began to look worried and unsure, and did not reprimand his son for the discourtesy in his voice. “They have a role to play in all of this,”he replied softly.
“Like the Critori?”the youth pressed.
The father, however, did not answer, likely revisiting the horrors of his memories and talking to ghosts within his oval head. He seemed increasingly gaunt as he continued to stare at the once vibrant greens and blues of Earth, now faded and murky. Through dark clouds, a massive structure fixed on the western continent flickered with reflected beams of light dancing off the peculiar surface. Other structures, few in number and smaller in scale, were stationed throughout the limited landmasses on the planet’s surface.