Hiigara was beautiful and vibrant through the window; a colourful mass of greens, blues and browns, peppered in white clouds. Even the approaching night side was pretty – a veritable swarm of golden-white lights in complex patterns, weaving their way across the planet, denoting cities and landmarks.
Karan S'jet loved the view of the planet, and always had, ever since she had first lay eyes upon it, when she had groggily returned to consciousness after the Emperor's attack on her mind.
However, currently her thoughts were elsewhere, having more to do with the ship around her than the planet below her. She shifted her weight slightly, the robe she was wearing shuffling around her thin frame.
How long had it been since she had last been here? Fifteen years? Twenty years? She shook her head. She couldn't remember. Perhaps it had even been as far back as when Somtaaw had commissioned a third Explorer to add to their fleet; something they no longer needed to do, having found a planet of their own and built facilities for which to build for themselves. No longer were they dependent upon Hiigara.
Perhaps it had been when the last veteran of the Homeworld War had died – What had been his name? Kiir? No, that was the one before. Ifrit. Ifrit Nabaal. That was the one. He'd finally gone to The Great Maker after a long and reportedly happy life, leaving behind a gaggle of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Now the only person who remembered those frantic six months from personal memory stood on the Mothership's empty Bridge and contemplated her long life and the planet below her. What it had cost, what it had gained.
And finally whether it had been worth it.
Karan shook her head again and tugged at the robe covering her bare scalp. She hadn't grown her hair back, and likely never would. She caught her faint reflection in the window and frowned slightly.
By rights she should be an old and decrepit woman of one hundred and three, her beauty faded, her mind withering, her youth gone.
She hadn't aged a day since she had been plugged into that tank. Still young, still sharp of mind and body. Still beautiful. Whatever radiation she had been exposed to by the core (and she was fairly certain that that was the thing responsible) had left her permanently a young woman.
She turned about and looked around the room.
It looked wrong to her. She was standing on the wrong side of the huge, now-empty tank. Wires trailed down from the ceiling: unused for almost eighty years now. The room was empty, silent, desolate. Dust covered the consoles that remained – many others had been taken for their parts.
Unbidden, her mind conjured up the names of the bridge crew that had worked here. Chiisur 'Atma' Paktu, Admiral and the voice of Fleet Intelligence. Over there had been his chair on the bridge; positioned both close to her tank, and also strategically placed so her could see most of the bridge and holopit. He'd rarely had the chance to sit in it, Karan remembered. He was either pacing around the holopit or working with other bridge crew on problems that arose.
The console over there had been Nerina Soban's, one of the coordinators for frigate-class ships. She had been one to tell jokes and rarely be serious, at least before the War. Afterwards she had never been the same – a broken and bitter shell of herself, and had ultimately committed suicide, her family gone and her friends long dead. Karan had wept when she had heard the news, so short a time after landfall.
She walked over to one workstation in particular and patted it fondly. Maia Somtaaw. More commonly refered to as simply 'Mai'. One of the few from that Kiith in active duty aboard the Mothership. Bubbly and cheerful, even at the worst times in the War, she'd been one of the most junior members of the upper echelons of the command crew by the end of the war and had gone on for at least seven years as a successful Fleet Intel officer. After that… well, she had done well for herself, no doubt about that. Even during the Beast debacle.
Karan sighed and tapped the console again. There was a dull thud, as if something had fallen from underneath it, and she peered under the console to find a small ornament, one of a few that Mai had been (grudgingly) allowed to place on her console. It was a small metal Angel Moon logo – with a Somtaaw symbol on the front of the planet between the wings.
Standing up, Karan dusted her robes off and peered at the ornament. This had always been one of Mai's favourites. Why she had left it was a mystery, but Karan smiled as she pocketed it. Mai had always managed to cheer Karan up while she had been on the bridge. Maybe it was because of her being an older sister to so many younger siblings.
Karan moved about the room some more, until finally she came back to the window, looking out of it thoughtfully and again contemplating the planet below her.
Somewhere down on that blue and green planet was her house. Sparsely furnished apart from bookshelves and her laboratory, which were both crammed full. She rarely had visitors, preferring to work quietly on her own. The house was as much a prison as it was a house despite the comforts.
At first she had been beset with requests to attend this event, or come to this gathering, or this meeting. She'd had to deal with the New Diamid, as the Sa of Sas.
That was at least thirty years ago. Now she was only rarely invited to functions, and even more rarely attended them. She still communicated with her people, and still spoke to some. Sometimes she wrote books, often under pseudonyms. But the Hiigarans revered her, and left her alone to live her life in peace.
She smiled as she thought of books. One she had enjoyed recently had been entitled 'The Last Kushan' and had summed up exactly what she felt. Mostly because she had been the one to write it. And she was. She didn't feel Hiigaran the same way the newer generations did. She felt Kushan, and always would be the last of those. She hadn't grown up on a green and blue world, where water was plentiful and life was rich. Her home had been a barren sand-strewn rock named Kharak.
And it had burned. The memory was still fresh, still tender. A badly scarred wound. No one of the newer generations knew what it had been like to return home and see it burning; your people dead and your ship under fire from enemies that gave few reasons and less quarter.
She sighed and wiped at her eyes. Even now it hurt. All the things that had been lost; the families, the Kiiths, the people.
Her father, who she had never reconciled with after her integration into the Mothership.
Her mother who had tried desperately to convince them both to talk again.
She put a hand on the transparisteel in front of her and bowed her head.
Her house was serene, calm and perfect. Sparse and tasteful, with books and a laboratory.
But it wasn't home.
She had had two homes. One had long since burned to ash and dust and smoking ruin.
The other was here. This bridge, this ship. The Mothership. She had never felt as purposeful since. She always felt listless and useless, a pretty thing that the Diamid trotted out to impress everyone. Something to be used for parades and then forgotten. This had been her home, her body. Her self. Then she had been ripped from it. It was like amputation.
This was her home, and had been for so many years, even in her absence.
She'd thought it would stay up here for as long as she lived, perhaps longer.
But no. She looked out, away from the planet, to the small fleet of ships gathered there. Somtaaw's two Explorers – Faal-Corum and Kuun-Lan, returning to their birthplace for its final moments. A few aging Imperator class carriers, come home, including the first one constructed, pulled out of mothballs to be at its mother's deathbed. The Imperator itself would follow suit soon enough.
There were even a few of the new Battlecruisers and Carriers here, and finally one of the new class of mobile Shipyards.
They were the reason that the Mothership was due for decommission. She was simply too old. Obsolete. She hadn't produced a ship since the second of the new shipyards had entered service. Her systems were too old and her Foundry too simplistic.
She simply wasn't needed any longer.
Karan hard argued for the need for the Mothership to stay in orbit above Hiigara, as testament to the Exodus, and she had won several times.
This time, however, the collective of people there had shaken their head. The orbit of the Mothership had been declining, becoming progressively worse, and rather than go to the expense of either fixing up the old engines (which had not been operational since Landfall) or building a ship with enough power to move the humongous vessel. Since they could not risk the chance of such a massive thing smashing into the planet, destruction was the only thing left to do. The parts would then be used for other vessels.
At least they were giving the Mothership a sendoff as opposed to simply deconstructing her.
The door to the Bridge opened, and a nervous cough drew her attention. Karan pulled her stray thoughts about her. "Yes, Laera?" She asked calmly. That was another thing. Ever since her time as Fleet Command, she'd been able to conjure up calm serenity from nowhere, only rarely becoming rattled. A by-product of having been a living computer, however temporary it had been, she reasoned.
Laera S'jet looked nervously at Karan. "Ah... It's almost time, Lady S'jet-sa." She said, shuffling her feet. The S'jet-sa made her nervous, even if all she did was stand there and look serene. She went over her last words and mentally sighed. She's not the sa of the kiith anymore, Laera, you idiot!
Karan said nothing for a few moments, enough time for Laera to come up with all sorts of horrible consequences in her head, before turning to the nervous girl and smiling.
"Thank you, Laera, I was quite caught up in my own thoughts." Laera nodded, nervously opening and closing her infojournal as she regarded Karan.
The girl had been assigned to her as an assistant on her request, being excellent at administrative and clerical duties, and despite her youth and nervous disposition, was one of the higher-ups in Karan's Neuronics Institute.
Laera walked out of the doors, and Karan followed suit, gripping the ornament in her pocket.
At the door, she stopped, turned around and looked over the Bridge one last time. For a microsecond, she could see and hear the now dead crew sitting at their stations, as they had during the war. Over there Chiisur Paktu was arguing with a younger crewmember over a datapad, Mai Somtaaw was sitting at her console staring intently at datafeeds and strike-craft squadron setups, a mug of Pazaar coffee on her hand as she scrolled through line after line of information.
Reena Sorel was sat there, idly chatting to her neighbour, Rae Soban, a Destroyer Captain who was over on the Mothership with important business.
In the Holopit, Jerel LiirHra would be arguing with Nessene Manaan over the composition of a guard force for resourcers. Post-Landfall they would, unsurprisingly to the rest of the bridge crew, get married and raise a family. One celebration among many funerals.
Anna Somtaaw was standing in front of Elsiea Paktu, shaking her head as she went over a datapad that showed her Blade squadron's refitting.
More names rose, unbidden, to her mind as she looked over the memory of the full bridge and the positivity it exuded.
The illusion lasted only a moment before it faded and she once again regarded the cold, abandoned and desolate Bridge of a ship that hadn't seen proper use for eighty years and never would again.
Karan made a fist and placed it over her heart. Tears rolled down her face as she tried to imprint the room to memory.
"Sajuuk watch you all."
She finished the old Kharakian salute by beating her fist against her chest twice, before turning to find Laera staring at her with thinly disguised concern and sympathy. Karan wiped the tears from her eyes.
"Ah… M'lady?" Laera said quietly. Karan paused and laid a hand on the wall, the metal cool under her touch.
"I apologise, Laera. I needed to say goodbye."
"I understand." Laera said, though she remained just as confused. Karan chuckled weakly.
"No, you don't. And you shouldn't have to." She said slowly. Laera gulped and was about to apologise profusely, when Karan held up a hand. "Don't apologise. Please. Just…" She sniffed. "Give me a moment to collect myself and say my final goodbyes."
Within a few moments Karan had returned to her serenity, and Laera followed after her.
Waiting for them in the Hangar bay, next to a modern style gunship, were the figures of various Kiith-sa, including the current S'jet-sa. They all saluted her with the modern Hiigaran salute, and she gave them a clipped curtsey.
"Lady S'jet, are you finished?" One of them said, and Karan nodded absently, whilst looking over the massive internal space. She sighed softly, and returned her attention to the man.
"…Our gunship is the last to leave. Lady S'jet, I believe it is only appropriate you have the honour of shutting her down."
Karan started as the man held out a small device to her – a remote transmitter. She smiled sadly and nodded, taking the device and holding it thoughtfully in her hand.
"Well then, we're already off schedule, so I'll have the pilot prep us for launch. Join us when you're ready, M'lady." The tall Soban-sa gave a short bow and walked up the ramp, the rest of the kith-sa following him, each saluting the huge vessel personally before they entered their ship.
Laera made to walk up the ramp, but Karan's voice stopped her. "Laera, please, wait with me a moment."
Laera walked back to her side.
"One last look around before…" She sniffed. "My home, Laera. It's my home. And they're going to destroy it."
Laera wasn't sure what to do. Karan S'jet was weeping openly over something Laera felt she couldn't begin to understand. "M'lady?"
"I'm sorry. I just… It's hard. This was my home. More; it was my body." She shivered, though it wasn't from cold. "It's hard to let go. Because I'm the last one." She let out a wracking sob. Laera stared wildly into the gunship, wondering if she should get some help, but Karan simply took in a deep breath, clearly trying to calm herself.
Laera reached out a hand timidly and brushed Karan's arm. She moved forwards and wrapped her arms about the woman, wondering whether she had gone mad. Karan shook as Laera embraced her and let the tears flow. Laera didn't know what she could do to help besides holding the revered woman while she wept like a heartbroken child.
A minute or two later found Karan mostly composed, though looking no less heartbroken. She broke the embrace and smiled at Laera. "Thank you."
"I-it's okay, M'lady. You, um, needed it."
"I did." Karan said. She motioned at the gunship. "Let's go."
Laera walked up the ramp and into the gunship, and then Karan followed her, pausing at the threshold and turning around to see the hangar one last time.
"Goodbye." She whispered, and pressed the button on the transmitter before rolling up the ramp and sealing the gunship. She watched through the porthole even as the ship took off and started flying out of the hangar.
Inside the Mothership, the lights began to shut off one by one as the skeleton of systems still active started shutting down.
The lights on the bridge section dimmed and finally died. The engineering section's lights dimmed and silence filled the gaps where before there had been the faint hum of the power distribution system.
The gunship flew out of the massive doors and towards the Imperator.
The few hours to the next important moment felt like a blur to Laera and Karan alike. Karan didn't remember half of the speech she had given from memory about the Mothership and its importance. What she did remember was that it was almost a plea not to do what was about to be done.
Now they both watched, Karan feeling helpless and lost, as the final part of the sendoff began.
"Reactors reaching critical. Check… She's going up!"
The entirety of the Hiigaran navy that could be spared were saluting the once valiant ship as the massive fusion reactors inside of her began to explode. Karan watched with a maddening calmness, though unshed tears glistened in the corners of her eyes. Her closed fist was over her heart as she watched the Mothership die.
First the back of the engines blew out in a dazzling array of sparks as the reactor's fusion process went out of control. With no cooling systems, the fire inside proved too great.
The superstructure began to buckle as secondary explosions rippled across the plasma conduit's locations, white-hot shards of metal flying out in monitored trajectories. The bottom segment of the ship snapped clean off with an explosion and then detonated itself.
The secondary explosions flowed up the side of the ship, consuming the Bridge area like tendrils of burning ivy. They continued up to the top of the Mothership, the sensor arrays on the front blasting off with force
"Critical mass." One observer ship noted as the fusion plants finally reached the point of detonation
The entire Mothership seemed to give a great shudder, the hull rippling and buckling, before ripping outwards and spilling golden fire out into space.
The explosion that followed dwarfed anything else the Hiigarans had ever seen before, almost blinding in its brilliance. Karan watched it all, the only sign of discomfort a slight squinting of her eyes, letting the tears fall across her face.
The glow faded, leaving behind shattered debris and not a lot of it. Karan was silent a moment, before simply walking out of the Bridge of the Imperator, unnoticed, to find somewhere to be alone.
A/N This was posted on Relicnews as well, which is my primary place for Homeworld fanfiction. It's also on my dA account. I just wanted to share it here as well!
Hope you enjoyed!