The Belief System
Copyright 2002 – A short story by Jonathan Hicks
4000 years before Episode IV – A New Hope
It arrived atop a tower of flame, the long cylindrical hull slowly lowering to the surface of the world. The guidance fins lowered and long landing legs extended from the still-hot hull, connecting with the luscious green ground with clouds of escaping gases. The vessel balanced delicately on the struts and soon settled, the sheer weight of the ship causing them to sink several feet into the ground.
The fire and smoke of the landing thrust started to die, the smoke dissipating, the burnt ground flaming in some areas, smouldering in others. The tall, grey cylinder sat motionless as the natural sounds of the surrounding clearing began to return to some form of normality after the violence of the touchdown.
A small vehicle appeared from the high trees at the edge of the clearing and approached the huge ship. Six huge wheels rolled and bounced over the uneven ground, the main bulk of the vehicle held steady by the powerful suspension, and moved at speed to the edge of the burnt area caused by the braking thrust. The vehicle stopped and the cockpit area swung upwards, allowing two human men dressed in green work overalls to clamber out. They stood and waited patiently.
A small square split appeared on the side of the cylinder and extended as a box, which then started to lower to the ground on thick alloy cables. It settled to the ground and the forward section of it opened outwards, two figures emerging dressed in dark blue uniforms. Each held a mask over their nose and mouth, breathing deeply from it now and then and then lowering it, as if unsure of the atmosphere. The two men from the ground vehicle smiled and approached.
“It’s okay,” one of them said. “The atmosphere is fine for humans.”
The two figures approached, a tall man with light brown hair and a woman, of similar height but with thick black hair tied up into a bun on top of her head. They both smiled at the men.
“After spending so long with recycled oxygen we didn’t want to take any risks with free air,” said the man.
“Good thinking,” came the reply. “We’re the executive officers of the survey mission. I take it you’re the settler ship.”
“That’s right,” replied the man. “I’m Captain Trefnare of the Colony Ship Horizon’s End, this is my second officer – and my wife, I might add – Commander Veshat.” He motioned to the woman who nodded to the men and handed over a small piece of metal, which was taken and checked over.
“Everything seems to be fine,” said the survey tech and he placed the metal tag into a breast pocket. He took some hefty datacards from another pocket and handed it to her. “Here’s everything from our survey. Planetary maps, including sub-surface scans and ore concentration, predators, weather patterns, time differentiations; everything. I guess you guys are ready to colonise, yes?”
“We have eight other vessels in orbit, and six others on their way,” Trefnare said.
“Excellent. Well, then I guess all that remains is for me to wish you luck.”
Veshat looked at him quizzically.
“Are you not staying?”
The man shook his head.
“Sorry, no, we’ve got to get back to Central and report in. We’re already a standard week overdue, and it’s a two week journey back anyway.”
“I understand,” she nodded and extended her hand. “Well, good luck. Thank you.”
There was a brief shake of hands and quick goodbyes, and the two men clambered back aboard the six-wheeled overlander and drove off into the forest.
Trefnare watched them go and then turned to his wife. He smiled at her and she smiled in return, the cries of the wildlife echoing in the distance, getting closer, some of the more inquisitive animals staring at the huge starship with fear and confusion, brightly plumed creatures floating gently overhead, their cries sharp and trill.
Trefnare reached into a belt pouch and pulled out a hand-sized communicator, He flipped open the lid of it and, whilst staring into his wife’s eyes and smiling, said, “Captain Trefnare to all ships. Begin your landing cycles on these co-ordinates. Welcome to your new home.”
Over the communicator’s speaker came the sound of cheering as hundreds of people heard the news.
“It’s not that we don’t want your people here ambassador,” Trefnare said with a deep sigh, “It’s just that our resources are purely for human consumption. You want to bring your own crops and sources here to proliferate, but you must understand our beliefs and doctrine…”
The P’ro ambassador folded his long dextrous fingers and shook his high head, his robes rustling as he turned to face Trefnare.
“My dear Trefnare,” the alien said with an expression that Trefnare took as consternation, “this world is large enough for both our cultures to thrive. We have worlds in our dynasty but we have a passion for expansion into other areas of space.”
“Our doctrine covers the planet, ambassador. We are not xenophobic or isolationist, but we have spent generations looking for a new home. P’ro birth rate is three times faster than human. With the continental sizes here the space will soon run out. I’m sorry.”
The ambassador looked out over the new established colony, the durable buildings stretching off into the distance to the edge of the plateau the city had been established on, the trees and growth intermingling with the constructs as if the settlement itself had grown from the planet over the five years since the first settler ships had arrived.
“I will not argue the point, Trefnare,” the P’ro said in a deep voice. He added with a laugh, “This is not an invasion. But if you wish this world to be purely human then so be it – you must understand that I must press my position. I will return to my dynasty and tell them to pass over this world. I take it my offers of trade and commerce are still viable?”
“More than adequate,” Trefnare smiled and extended his hand as a fist. “I look forward to trading with you and your colonies.”
The P’ro fisted his own hand and tapped against Trefnares, as was the custom.
“Good day, Trefnare.”
Veshat entered the room with her five-year-old son trailing her as the P’ro ambassador left, smiling and bowing as they passed and then dropping her visage as she approached her husband.
“How did it go?” she asked with concern.
Trefnare drew in a breath.
“I think he’s upset we’ve claimed the world as a human-only colony, but I think he understands. I just hope other species are as accommodating.”
The funeral party stood at the edge of the plateau and gazed out over the wonderful vista that was present before them. Rolling hills surrounded by sparkling silver water, huge towering trees that bowed under their own weight as if reaching down to touch the soft, fertile ground, new roots extending from the tops creating massive half-hoops of green in the earth.
“We’ll call the town Veshat, after my wife,” Trefnare said with glazed eyes in response to a question from one of his aides.
The son of the Captain and the Commander of the colony ship Horizon’s End looked at his father with concern and placed his hand on his shoulder. Trefnare looked at his son, Gallti, and smiled weakly.
“She would have liked that.”
“It’s the first town since the founding of Central City,” Gallti said in a whisper. “She would have been proud. She is proud.”
“It was her idea,” Trefnare said with a smile. “We’ll tell Goodman first thing in the morning.”
“You need time to yourself,” Gallti said with a shake of his head. “I’ll take care of the arrangements.”
“Father, I’m telling you to rest. I am more than capable of taking care of things here…” his voice trailed off as he looked down at his feet, then around him at the surrounding land. Others around him were doing the same, their voices concerned yet confused.
“Can you feel that?” he said.
It took the colony a full two years before they began to recover from the massive quake that had hit the continent. Old tectonic scans with old equipment had not uncovered a flaw that stretched almost the entire length of the land, splitting a whole quarter of it away from the rest, which then fell into the sea causing tidal waves that wiped out many sea-borne industrial centres.
Gallti watched the supply vessels come and go from the now sprawling docking fields. Ships of varying designs, from the thrust-based tall ships to the flatter repulsor-based vessels that were increasing in number and popularity in known space, came and went.
Trefnare sat up in his bead and smiled.
“Trade is good,” he said, his voice low and husky. Gallti turned and smiled but his face showed a little hurt around the eyes. His father was dying; he knew that was certain. His condition was treatable, but the resources required were not on their world. Other planets had what they needed – other planets they did not trade with.
“What is it, son?” Trefnare asked.
“I’m wondering, father, whether it is worth opening this world’s borders fully and take advantage of all the trade that passes through this space…”
“And allow other species to live here? To mix with our own,” Trefnare said with a smirk. “I have been wondering that also. I have wondered why we have stuck to our principles, to age-old beliefs, to the thought that being a singular world would preserve our people.” There was a moment of pain and Trefnare grimaced. He caught his breath and Gallti sat down next to his father with concern.
“Gallti,” Trefnare gasped, “I know this is difficult for our people but this area of space continues to grow – we do not want to be left behind. We do not want to be one small insignificant planet in the midst of others more powerful. Our people are a strong race. We will survive here, on our own, but that is not enough. Gallti…” Trefnare grimaced again and grabbed his son by the lapel. “My own lack of foresight has bought me to this end. I desired to see our people start afresh and yet we still cling to ideals and beliefs that do little to help our future. We must open our borders, open our trade further, but we must also allow others to live on our world. To grow, thrive, so we can learn from one another…” Another wave of pain gripped him and he pulled his son in closer. Gallti held his father’s face in his hands and tried to hold back the tears but they coursed down his face as he stared into the eyes of the man who had given him life, taught him virtue and moulded him as a human being.
“Gallti…” Trefnare had only one breath to impart his last words and he strained to get the words out. “Gallti… Name… our world… and… open… the… doors…”
And he was gone.
The starship touched down gently, the repulsors kicking up little dust on the pristine landing field.
Gallti sighed deeply and adjusted his tunic. It was early afternoon and he had already met with two off-world ambassadors to discuss trade and settlement agreements. He had three more to go this day, including the one he was about to meet.
The P’ro ambassador descended the ramp of the sleek vessel and walked over to the knot of humans waiting for him. He extended his long dextrous hands and smiled.
“Ah, Lord Gallti. I have so looked forward to this meeting. You look so like your father.”
“Ambassador,” Gallti smiled back and grasped the alien’s hand in greeting.
“Welcome to Trefnare.”
The Belief System
by Jonathan Hicks
4000 years before Episode IV – A New Hope
Histories – The foundations of the very first human settled planet in the Setnin Sector, and the naming of many of her cities and people, this Jonathan Hicks tale explains much about that world and her history. From naming the planet Trefnare, to the surnames of Galletti (Gallti) and Goodman (Tref, Goah Galletti’s late wife), this is a history lesson in the seeds of what would millennia later, be known as the Setnin Sector.
Cast of Characters
Captain Trefnare, Commander Veshat, Lord Gallti, Goodman