Beneath his ragged blanket, Rezaaran relished the remnants of his peaceful sleep. The wind rattled the rotting doors of the dilapidated quarters he called home. It whipped at his bare feet and pierced the many holes in his tattered clothing. Despite his shivering a distinct blue smile etched his dirty face. The rectangular electropads on the back of his hands, vestiges of his ancestors’ primitive form, steadily pulsed yellow as a wonderful memory of a time before enslavement drifted through his mind. It was a time of family; and a time of freedom.
Rezaaran’s eyes were transfixed upon the marvellous crimson skies before him. His mind was at ease, submerged in the enchanting fragrance of the forest below his home. Homework and school were far from his thoughts as he basked in the warm afternoon sun. Lazily he sipped from a silver goblet while he watched a small bird skip across the balcony. The bird hopped onto the outstretched finger of Rezaaran’s father who softly stroked its yellow head. Zaran Valhara was the leader of a research and development empire, built on the foundation of his adventures. His empire had grown Zenor into one of the galaxy’s prominent civilisations, making him one of the most powerful and respected men on Zenor. Today, he was simply a father enjoying a relaxing afternoon with his eight-year-old son. A device beeped on the table, breaking the silence and startling the small bird, which flew off towards the canopy.
“Rezaaran, would you pass me that data screen on the table?” Zaran asked the boy.
“Yes, Father,” replied his son, holding his outstretched arm towards the table on the far end of the balcony. He closed his eyes, and wrinkled his brow in concentration.
“It’s not going to come to you if you just sit there,” said Zaran with a hearty laugh; this was abruptly replaced by a gasp of astonishment as the device flew into his son’s hand. Rezaaran handed the screen to his father with a broad smile.
“Of course it will, Father,” he replied, still beaming, “I just have to think about pulling it towards me.”
“Incredible …” whispered Zaran. “Absolutely incredible! Rezaaran, my son, you are going to have a destiny worthy of legend! Telekinesis at your age! Your Grandfather would be proud!”
“Thank you, Father.”
“How long have you been able to do this?”
“I’m not sure really,” said Rezaaran, scratching his head as he thought about it. “I once tried it to get a toy that mother put on a high shelf in my room.”
“Does she know about this?”
“No,” replied Rezaaran as he stared at his feet.
Zaran chuckled at this and clapped his son affectionately on his back.
“I fear that the times ahead will be very dark; but I know you will inspire our people in their time of need, to weather the storm. You will be a great leader one day, my son.”
“Just like you?”
“Even better than me,” replied Zaran with a proud smile. “But you should know, the path of a leader is a hard road to walk.”
“What do you mean, Father?”
“It can test your faith in yourself in ways that you may not understand now. It is important to keep the hope that things will get better in time because more often than not, they do. Remember that no matter what happens, we never surrender hope. This belief …”
A sudden explosion in the forest cut Zaran’s message short. Both father and son stared out at the enormous crater surrounded by burning tree stumps. Landing in this was a fleet of hideous dropships. A battalion of soldiers spilled from each vessel as a squadron of black fighters roared overhead, after their bombing run of the city.
“Those are Kalaran battle ships!” exclaimed Zaran as a stony grimness overcame his being. He watched the invading troops blast a path of destruction. His electropads flashed red and spat sparks as fury coursed through him. He had heard whispers from the Royal Council of Novanithor that there may be an impending attack; but he had not anticipated it this soon and with such brazen force.
“Father, are we going to be safe?”
Zaran crouched to face his son and placed his hands on the child’s shoulders. He knew in that instant what destiny had in store for him, but he showed no fear as he looked into his son’s eyes, and this helped to calm the child.
“We will survive this, son. Whatever happens, we do not give up hope. Now come with me. We’ll fetch your mother and leave before they find us.”
Rezaaran was confused, his white electropads reflecting his fear.
Zaran slid back a panel on the armrest of his chair and withdrew his pistol.
The glass downstairs shattered. His wife screamed out just once in fear before she was silenced by four quick shots, and footsteps ascending the stairwell.
Zaran’s electropads turned a deeper red. His grip on his gun tightened, and rage coursed his body. A blue flash lit the keyhole and the thick door shattered, sending splinters in all directions. Zaran fired a series of shots through the smoke. Rezaaran heard many death screams, but the lethal fire did not deter the approaching troops. They stormed through the door, shattering the surrounding walls with their massive frames. Zaran steadfastly retaliated with deadly accuracy, each shot finding its mark; but he was greatly outnumbered.
The Kalaran troopers fired a series of callous stun shots.
As Zaran lay dazed and helpless, the troops advanced. Charging their guns to maximum power, they took aim.
With great difficulty, Zaran willed himself to lift his head. Blood streamed from his nose as he suppressed his anger, he needed to focus. Mustering his strength, he drew on the only natural weapon of his people, their electropads. A spark from his wrist turned into a powerful arc of electricity that surged through every soldier close to the fallen Zenorian. The shock stopped their hearts as the current flowed between Zaran and the brutes, his desperate defence draining his remaining strength. The power faltered, and Zaran lowered his gaze. He knew his end had come. He hoped that the Spirits would answer his final prayer for the safety of his son.
Without warning, the troop leader rushed forwards and seized Zaran’s jaw. The Kalaran soldier looked deeply into the Zenorian’s eyes with predatory malice. He pressed his gun to Zaran’s head and fired the killing shot. Zaran Valhara, a revered son of Kel-Ardimus, slumped to the floor.
A soldier turned his attention to the crying boy backed against the railing. He levelled his weapon at Rezaaran, ready to add one more kill to their score, but before he could pull the trigger, an enormous scaly tail knocked him to the floor. The leader removed his helmet and glared at the soldier. His pointed teeth gritted together and his green, reptilian face throbbed with rage as his fury bubbled through to replace the rush of his recent kill. He hissed a command at the trooper, reprimanding his disobedience. The disgraced soldier drew himself to his full height and insolently hissed back at the leader. The latter’s eyes became bloodshot. He let out a frenzied roar and seized the trooper’s throat in his clawed hand. His victim flailed as he gasped for air, but the leader squeezed tighter and snarled. The soldier was flung across the veranda with such force that he struck the railing, taking it with him as he plummeted to the ground. The leader roughly grabbed Rezaaran’s shirt and dragged him through the burning house. The young boy could only look on helplessly through a well of tears as the fire consumed his mother’s corpse.
The Kalaran raiders dragged Rezaaran through the newly-formed wasteland that marked the end of Zenor’s freedom. Along the way they encountered several Kalaran hunting parties mercilessly butchering any wildlife they found. Despite their ruthlessness, the hunters seemed hesitant to approach the raiders as they marched towards the crater. The troop leader threw Rezaaran at the feet of a slaver, who looked into the boy’s terrified eyes through a cloud of smoke. He withdrew his smouldering spice-stick from between his yellowed teeth and blew a fume into Rezaaran’s face.
“He’ll make a fine slave,” the slaver grunted. Before he could examine his latest acquisition, a loud alarm rang out from his ship.
Rezaaran awoke with a start and dejectedly closed his eyes again. He was still in the slave quarters where he had fallen asleep.
“Come on, Rez,” one of the other slaves chirped as he gathered his tools. “Best not be late. You don’t want the slavers coming down here to get you to work.”
The other slaves began to file out of the quarters, preparing for another day of back breaking labour in the mines and abuse from the slavers.
“I really need to get out of this hell-hole,” he thought aloud, whilst running his hands over his bearded face. The last slaves had left, allowing Rezaaran a few moments of solitude before the slavers came looking for any slackers.
He had dreams of being a great adventurer like his father. But the time spent in these mines crushed his memories of Kel-Ardimus and Zenor; he was preoccupied with survival. This had changed when he had met a strange alien named Jet Bal Sara. Rezaaran had never met a creature of this nature before: brash, reckless, indomitable, and the only person ever to break free from the colony. Jet had undertaken a daring escape as a stowaway on a freighter that brought new slaves to the outpost. Although it had been more than since they first met, he had changed Rezaaran’s life forever. Their many conversations had reignited the fire of a dream. In the years after Jet’s brazen flight, Rezaaran once again fantasised of travelling the galaxy on breathtaking adventures to discover uncharted territories. It was how he pictured Jet now. Despite this dream, Rezaaran could not find the opportunity to take the reckless plunge as Jet had done. Since the escape, security at the docks had been raised. He knew there was more for him beyond a life of slavery; but to risk escape unarmed would be suicide. His own inaction had condemned him.
He slowly drew himself upright and thought about the dream that had haunted him the last three weeks. It was strange that after ninety-two years as a slave, only now was he dreaming of his past. But he had no time to dwell on these thoughts. If he wanted to avoid another brutal beating from the slave master, he would need to get to work soon.