"The Long Night"

By Nes Mikel

Acknowledgment;

Standard Disclaimers apply. You know what I'm talking about. Don't sue me. Please.

Prologue

That's where we came from, they all said, as they pointed out to the faint white stars that shined ever so dim in the red night sky one by one.

It always troubled Lekim when the old ones told him this. Perhaps he had heard those words millions of times in the course of his life. He shrugged them off, as always, trying to show respect for the old ones so they won't get disappointed, secretly hoping to create an excuse to leave the area. They didn't notice, and they went on to suggest that he should join them. Lekim groaned inwardly, but didn't stir. It seemed that he was due for another one of their history lessons.

Helpless, he forced himself to bend his knees and sat down besides them. Happy to have another within their company, the old ones tried to offer him some C2H5OH, but he refused. This only interested them even more. He was sixteen cycles old, they said. He should start trying some. Lekim shook his head sideways as politely as he could, and returned his gaze to the campfire that was burning brightly in the center of the caravan.

The fire, Lekim thought. What an amazing invention. It was this fire that gave birth to their civilization, shaped it, and destroyed it. Fire was the dream that had fueled their civilization, the nightmare that charred their homelands. They were all that was left now.

The old ones kept on talking. The topic of revolution came up, and since this interested Lekim slightly, he pitched in. Apparently the revolution was drawing to a close. Rumors held that the Mrrshan fleets had been utterly destroyed by the ever-legendary great fleet, and the New Orion's were advancing towards their homeworld. Krr'isha purred at this news, alarmed. She offered to leave the caravan immediately in the interests of their survival. She was a Mrrshan, and being with them meant she was endangering them all. All of they dismissed her opinion with optimism, sharing a good collective laugh.

They were all different, and nearly all of them were wanted men, women, and beings anyway. Hunted down by the transplanatary authority, by the NO's, even by their own cultures, all because they had tried to gain the basic right of every living being: freedom.

They were indeed an odd bunch. Almost half of the caravan consisted of Humans, including Lekim himself, but the other half consisted of a mixed bag of Mrrshan, Elerian, Alkari, Meklar, Sakkra, Psilon, and even a few Darlock and Evon. Perhaps they numbered two hundred, but they all knew each other well. Lekim had heard from the old ones that they all had traveled together long before he himself came into existence. After all, although mostly replaced, PX-23-DXY was close to being two thousand cycles old, a remarkable achievement. This fascinated him. A band of freedom fighters, wandering from system to system, gathering together to form their own collective freedom. And he was a part of it.

But now all hope seemed to have been lost. The revolution, the last beacon of hope they had counted on, was diminishing. The NO's were systematically seizing control over planet after planet, exterminating all who opposed them but spared the ones who dared not resisted. So some of the old ones were breaking in, discussing the disbanding of the caravan itself.

Naturally, there were those that opposed. Lekim stood up to his feet and accused the old ones for being cowardly, claiming he could take up the leadership role to lead the caravan on indefinitely. This got a laugh out of them, a reaction Lekim didn't expect. The old ones told him how he reminded of them back when they were young. But, they continued; youth didn't see the world as they did. They had gone through in reality what Lekim only could in fantasy, and they knew that the universe was a cold, harsh place. They were getting old, or if you put it in PX-23-DXY's words, even rusty. They were tired. They wanted to rest. And above all they wanted people like Lekim himself to rest too. He had a future ahead of him and the old ones only the past.

So, unexpectedly, it was Lekim that had led them to an agreement they should indeed disband. In fact, it turned out most of the arrangements had already been made for them to quietly slip back into those "zoo-worlds" the NO's had made for them. It wasn't their vision of paradise, they admitted, but it was better than the alternatives. So they dispersed into the camps, spreading the news to the rest of the caravan, leaving Lekim behind the campfire, stunned.

He sat down again, starting at the campfire once more. So, he thought, you had done it again fire. You had destroyed another thing. Tears flowed through his eyes, an ability he found to be of no use before but found himself using it very rapidly now. No, he thought; this couldn't be the end. Through the tears, he stared at the campfire, blurred with the water. You may have destroyed one thing, fire, but you will now help me. Lekim stood up, and wiped the tears away from my face.

Fire, he told the now-disappearing sparks, you would now help me. You will help me to create another caravan, a one even greater than this, a one so great so we would truly find freedom. Until that day comes…

The fire flickered out, and light disappeared into the night.