Literary Challenge #45 : Freestyle
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Join Date: Nov 2012
06-25-2013, 07:55 PM
Faith of the Heart
USS Robert April
When I was 13 a Gorn bought my father's debts and sent him to die in what would later turn out to be one of the first border clashes between the Hegemony and the Klingon Empire. Big news in retrospect - at the time all I noticed was that I was alone for the first time. That wasn't easy. It's the motherless girls who get sold into slavery; scent glands cut, forcibly addicted to k-green and the other drugs that keep them happy and obedient. But I was lucky. My father had made sure I had enough education to go into technical training rather than being sold off as a, let's call it courtesan, and he had enough connections with other bully-boys in the Syndicate that I had no problem getting my first posting on a real starship.
I only met my mother once. Well, once after I was weaned, anyway. Yeah, she was old-fashioned that way. Most Orion women with money use artificial birthing chambers if they're going to have a kid when they're working, but my mother was something else. When I was eight, my dad was working security for this big, thick-necked Cardassian named Gulak. Gulak was an ex-glinn who had defected to the Syndicate when the Dominion had showed up; real smarmy type, you know the kind of Cardassian I mean. Paid Dad well, though, and let him have a room big enough for his daughter to grow up in. I hear Hassan the Undying personally gutted him when he took over his operation. But that's a different story.
Anyway, I was in my usual place when Dad was working - in our shared quarters in the hold of Gulak's landed ship, watching some old holo of the first Earth-Romulan War, when suddenly the curtain is pulled back and there's this lady looking at me - tall, green skin, green hair, and something familiar about her eyes. She was more dressed than most Orion women I'd seen, in this really nice red tunic covered in dust, and she offered her hand to me. "Hello, Jinni. My name is Kaldana. Will you come with me?"
I pulled my hand back and said hell no: my dad taught me better than that, especially on a planet like this one where we're way outside any borders and not even the Syndicate is that important, but a minute later Dad himself pops up. Sweating, looking nervous, but standing behind this woman like she belongs there. "It's okay, Jinni, she's just going to show you where she works." Dad was as vulnerable as any other Orion male to pheremones, but one thing he could never get swayed from was me. So I pulled my way out of my bunk and followed the two of them, heading out into what looks like this big crater.
Kaldana had a lot of questions for me as we went - what's the most efficient form of warp core? What languages do I speak? How is my education progressing? I did my best to answer, shooting a look at Dad when I thought she wasn't looking, but his eyes didn't tell me anything. I don't see Gulak; I find out later he's passed out in my mother's bedchamber, but I do start to see what's going on. The people on this planet are digging this hole! It's some kind of archeological thing, and from how people act around Kaldana she's in charge.
Eventually she leads us down into this big room, big as the engine room in Gulak's ship, a buried vault that's lined with gold and corroded copper. I was pretty sheltered back then but I knew the signs of looting when I saw it - vaults cracked open or smashed to pieces, marks on the walls where jewels were cut right out of the stone, you know the kind. It looks like it happened a long time ago. "Do you know who this is, Jinni?" She pointed and I look up and there's a statue there - a really creepy one!
It looks like an Orion woman but it's tall as a Gorn with red staring eyes and big teeth, and she's pulling a crown (you know the kind I mean, the big tall ones) out of some place that looks really damn uncomfortable to me and I hadn't even seen childbirth yet. In her other hand she's got this huge old sword, the kind I've seen in the collections of some very rich, very old Orions.
I stumbled at this point, and I saw Kaldana's eyes sharpen as she looked at me, and I fumbled through an explanation. "It's, uh, the Dark Mother-Queen?" I'd seen the pictures in some of my dad's automated school lessons - the Dark Mother-Queen, one of the ancient Orion gods. And I'm right, but it's not good enough for Kaldana. We stand there for at least an hour, my dad and I, as she lectures to us: the Dark Mother-Queen is the divine ruler and mistress of the gods, the destroyer and ruler who has the power to make life from her womb and thus must, and should, rule all. I can see her sweating as she talks, her pheremones in the air, and I can read it well enough to know how well she believes it.
And then it's done. My dad tells me to go back to the ship and that he'll see me soon, and I look back as I'm hiking up these high bronze steps just in time to see the two of them embrace. That didn't freak me out as much as it would some human kid; that's not really a _thing_ in our society. But something about Kaldana herself got me thinking, all the way back until my dad and I were in space again.
"Why don't we worship the Dark Mother-Queen anymore?" I asked him not long after we left Kaldana's planet, and he looks at me carefully before he puts down his security files.
"What do you mean, baby?"
"Well, she's pretty much the perfect Orion goddess, and she was supposed to be the creator of all our people. Why did we stop believing that?"
And then my dad sort of shrugs, and he tells me the truth. The old gods are gone because they didn't matter to us anymore. We didn't kill our gods like the Klingons or turn them into museum pieces like the humans. We didn't make our own code like the Ferengi did, either. The Orion people abandoned the old gods because believing in things was just slowing down our people's Great Game with the Ferengi, the Nausicaans, and the other hunting species of space. Belief is a cage; one that can't hold Orions down. That's why we'll do anything to survive.
That's why mothers can abandon their children. That's why we can buy and sell each other, force a whole galaxy into slavery, because having a reason not to do that would take too much time. Because we are what we are.
I never saw my mother again. I eventually found Kaldana's World on a map not long after I joined the Robert April's crew - turns out the Tholians bombed the hell out of the place not long afterwards, and nobody ever got any straight answers as to why. Mysteries and ghosts; ghosts and mysteries.
Maybe I don't have something to believe in. But I have a ship, and a crew, and friends who want to help save the galaxy and free my people from the chains we've wrapped around each other's necks in the name of protecting our own freedom.
That's enough. It will have to be.