Category: Science Fiction

Daughter of Xephal by Declan Cosson

The first human child born in the Alpha Centauri, Clara Weaver, had experienced a cruel and difficult life to this point. Her parents were scientists that were part of one of the earliest adventures by humanity into the Alpha Centauri. Led by none other than her great aunt, they had arrived at the small planet of Xephal. A fringe planet in the Alpha Centauri, Xephal was nonetheless a dangerous place and her parents were killed by the native Gorgonians. However, she was taken in by the other natives of Xephal, the amber coloured Alfenfolk but she never truly fit into their society. For one day, the beautiful, pale skinned and flaxen haired girl had the bad luck of being the object of desire for both the Queen’s son and one of her greatest warriors, Kuvak. They fought over her and the prince died in the duel. Out of petty rage, the Alf Queen Sheeva banished her, blaming her for the death of her son. Cruel, harsh, but the human woman who didn’t even have wings made for an easy and obvious scapegoat to the enraged queen of the Alfenfolk.
“You belong there!!”, Clara remembered the Queen declaring as her warriors drove her away from the trees and dumped onto the forest floor. Thus, there she was, stuck on an alien planet, in a dangerous forest that looked like a brambled jungle which often lit up at night. For now, all Clara could do was huddle under the imagined safety of a tree as she heard the growling and snarling of different types of creatures. She would even hear the sound of the screams of a poor beast getting murdered by a predator. Such noises were enough to remind her that as a daughter of humanity, she may have been born on Xephal but Xephal had no time for her. Gorgonian and Alfenfolk alike hated her and thus, she craved to be among humans again. She longed to be loved again and in the security of her own kind. At this moment, she could hear bangs and rattles, followed by more bombardment.

Little did she know, but her own kind did not take kindly for the massacre of their scientists and thus, a Terran military expedition under the command of Major Jethro Hoggins had been dispatched to protect what remained of the scientific settlements. His air and space divisions were already hammering the Gorgonians. Looking up, Clara could see what looked like permanent stars but they were in fact the Terran battleships, frigates and forward assault vessels that were deploying dropships and flying fortresses to the planet. Until now, she had thought very little about the political implications of what was going on, and so she fell asleep with the simple yearning to be in the company of Earthmen once more.
***
The following morning, it was still dark with the star Centauri B beginning to rise and illuminate the forests below. Clara opened her aqua marine green eyes when she heard strange growls and snarls around her, followed by the sound of shuffling. She opened her eyes wider in panic as she saw a whole pack of hunched, goblin shaped Gorgonians coming towards her, chuckling to themselves at what must have seemed to them like easy prey. One of them even crawled up onto her, leading Clara to panic and jab the creature with a knife, killing the Gorgonian and buying herself time to escape. She initially climbed up the trees as the Gorgonians pursued her with spears and rocks, they surrounded the tree she climbed up on and howled at her. Suddenly, the glee of the Gorgonians turned to panic and it was as if they sensed something enormous was coming. The sound of a rumble in the distance was enough to cause the Gorgonians to freak out, squeal and scatter from sight as a large shape cast its shadow over the jungle. The noise got louder and louder, turning out to be a sound that Clara had never heard before, the sound of roaring jet turbines.
Curiously, Clara looked up, unable to scream as she saw the vast shape of a metallic vessel that had twelve turbine engines, six on either side of the front and stern of the craft. This craft was bristling with ordnance all over it and a control tower was positioned as extending from above the centre of the ship.
Although she sensed that the ship was probably owned by the humanity that she longed to reconnect with, Clara felt uncomfortable in its presence and so she retreated further and further into the jungle.
***
In the vessel’s control tower, the hard faced and grey-haired captain was observing the holographic map at the centre of the control room. All around him, uniformed crewmen, overseen by officers with peaked caps, were operating the controls and listening to radio calls. His vessel was on a surveillance mission that was instructed to map out Xephal, as he sipped his tea, the captain heard an officer saying. “Captain, the recon dropships have been checked and geared! They are good to go!”
“Very well! Order them to launch!”
“Yes sir!”
Launching from the flying fortress, three small dropships were deployed and darted across the jungle. One of the dropships was co-piloted by a young man with short flaxen hair and blue eyes, his body was fully suited and protected by an armoured suit and flight helmet while his gloves were wet from perspiration as he held onto the controls as firmly as possible. Beside him was the pilot, a grey haired and moustached man who asked. “So Dimitri, what really brought you into this sorry life of flying recon runs for the home guard? You should have been a Legionnaire if you wanted actual action!”
“Simple, Sergei, I couldn’t truly settle down after my experience during the machine wars as a kid. But at the same time, I didn’t have the heart to become a legionnaire.”
Sergei burst into laughter as he said, “Didn’t have a heart?? Dimitri, those boys get superhuman strength and all the glory and prestige! I mean look at the one who saved you, Zach? He’s seen as the modern King Arthur!”
“That’s true, but he couldn’t marry…and from what I saw of him last, the glories of being a Legionnaire were of little comfort to that brute fact. For that reason, I didn’t want to give up the chance of getting married.”
“Are you in love, Dimitri? Did you leave sweetheart back on Earth or on Mars?”
“No, you know that I didn’t, Sergei. I’m just keeping my options open. I’m only twenty-three!”
Suddenly, the dropship shook and the lights flashed on and off. Sergei slammed the controls and swore as he heard a computer voice announce in alarm, “Warning! Warning! Turbine malfunction!”
The control panel flashed red as the voice continued in different languages so Dimitri asked in panic. “What? What just happened? Did we get hit?”
“No, we’re having what is called “technical issues”, the engineers who checked our dropship must have been drunk because they didn’t fix one of the turbines properly so now it is malfunctioning! Come on, boy, let’s land this machine as safely as possible.”
***
The small twin turbined craft made a bumpy journey to the forest floor. In its small cargo bay, a troop of home guardsmen were thoroughly shaken around, clinging onto their firearms as they heard the intercom announce.
“Gentlemen, your attention please!! This is the pilot speaking; we apologise for the turbulence but we have a slight malfunction with one of the turbines!! Please remain calm as we find a safe place to land!”
One of the men cynically remarked,
“By Saint Olaf!! That is the last thing that we need! To be trapped on this god forsaken planet!”
“Not excited for a little adventure, Ulf? Imagine, this will be our first time on dry land since we left Mars, I wonder what the women will be like on this planet?”
“Really Felicio, is that what comes to mind?”
Silence invaded the cargo bay as the sergeant looked at the two, speaking in a firm voice lumbered by a Northumbrian accent. “Settle down, gentlemen, a bit of fresh air might do you lot some good!”
The dropship swooped down, hoping to reach a clear spot, but the tail fin got caught in a taller tree trunk and got yanked off the high speeding dropship, causing the vessel to suddenly spiral down in a violent circle. It crashed into the forest floor and then skidded sideways, smashing the foliage in its path before finally coming to a brutal stop.
***
Within the cockpit, Dimitri’s armour and helmet shielded him from any serious damage but he felt incredibly dazed as he tried to sit up. He took off his helmet as if in some sort of shock. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Sergei chuckled and said sarcastically.
“Well, Dimitri, that wasn’t too bad, was it?”
Before Dimitri could say anything, a loose piece of metal suddenly fell and jabbed through Sergei’s back. Horrified, Dimitri shouted. “What?? Sergei?? Sergei, no!!”
As he shook Sergei’s body, both Felicio, the medic and Sergeant Hawkins came into the cockpit. The sergeant asked sternly,
“Is he dead too?”
“Yes, sarge. Quite dead, just as we landed, a piece of metal stabbed him in the back!”
“Christ, that’s the last thing we need. Half our squad along with our lieutenant are dead too!”
The news of this did not comfort Dimitri at all, but sergeant Hawkins simply snapped.
“Come on, help us set up the beacon! If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to signal a dropship for rescue! Chop! Chop!”
***
Starring at the crashed dropship, Clara looked bewildered. Despite being born to humans, her rearing among the Alf made human technology look strange and alien. She observed from the foliage as she saw the surviving men get to work and set up the beacon. Though their bodies were covered by green uniforms and shielded by brown body armour, the beardless faces of the men that were currently uncovered by their helmets was enough to remind her that they were human. Not just that, but they were the first humans that she had seen since her parents had died. Of particular interest to her was the pilot, a youth that wore a dark green jumpsuit and sleek dark brown armour. He didn’t wear a helmet so she could see his short flaxen hair that matched his young beardless face. That youth, Dimitri was currently programming the beacon with the needed messages. As he set to doing this, one of the privates, Fionnbar asked. “Hey Dimitri, is it me, or are we being watched?”
“Watched? That would make sense, after all, this forest is probably full of life so who knows?”
Noticing how uncomfortable Dimitri looked, Fionnbar asked, “You alright?”
“Yeah, now that the beacon is sending messages to the nearest vessel, I need a leak.”
Fionnbar chuckled as he Dimitri stumbled off into the trees. However, in reality Dimitri was still in a state of shock after what happened. While they were setting up a meagre defensive position, Ulf asked Fionnbar. “Hey, where did Dimitri go?”
“Went into the woods. He needed a leak and unlike on the forward assault ship, there are no toilets on Xephal!”
There was a nervous chuckle among the men.

Meanwhile, Dimitri just kept walking into the jungle, going further and further away from the crash site. As he did so, he took in the sight of the beautiful yet bizarre jungle that seemed barren and yet organic at the same time. He sat down and tried to relax, worn out by the experience and so exhausted that he didn’t notice how far he was from the crash site. He closed his eyes and his mind drifted. But the distance was enough for Sergeant Hawkins to task Ulf to lead a small search party to look for Dimitri. Around this time, Clara, overwhelmed by curiosity to see another human up close, scrambled towards Dimitri, examining his uniform and even scrutinising some of his items, commodities and tools of the like which she had never seen before. This meant that as Dimitri regained his stamina and strength, he opened his eyes to see a beautiful, young and very well-built woman who had aqua marine green eyes. At first, he recoiled in shock, sitting up against the tree trunk as he took in the sight of the woman before him.
Clara was white, but she had dark tattoos decorating parts of her body which was scantily clad. She wore sandals on her feet while a long, patterned cloth was wrapped around her upper body and reached down to her knees. Her long blonde hair fell in thick curly locks down her back and covered her shoulders. Having not used English for a long time, Clara mostly communicated in sign language to try and relay information. Still in surprise of encountering her, all he could say was. “You’re human?”
“Human?”
“Yes, you and me, we’re both human!”
The woman, though she understood the concept perfectly, seemed to be bewildered as this was the first conversation with a human that she had since the loss of her parents. As if in a determination to prove his humanity to her, Dimitri stood up. He unstrapped and removed his glove, extending out his bare hand. It was as if he wanted to show how much it resembled hers. Looking at her own hand, Clara reached out to hold onto Dimitri’s and the two shared eye contact. She looked sad but she was now starting to smile, as she did so, she noticed the ID badge on his jumpsuit and asked. “Dimitri?”
“Yes, I am Dimitri.” He said this as he pointed to himself. He asked “And who are you? Do you remember your name?”
A silence developed as the young woman before him finally said,
“Clara, Clara’s my name.”, One could tell by the weight in which she said that that she was making a great effort with what little English she had.
***
Some time had passed and by the evening, Dimitri and Clara were sitting by a fire, getting to know about each other. “So, you were cut off from your parents?” Clara asked,
“During the machine wars, yes, I mean, that happened back in 2356 but the whole experience feels as real to me now as it did then. Thankfully, I was rescued but ouch, it did hurt.”
Clara, having grown up all her adolescent life among the Alf had difficulty imagining what the machine wars must have been like.
“So, how long have you been here for, Clara?”
“Here? Since I was born…I never knew what Earth or Mars looked like, my parents were killed by Gorgonians when I was young, I was raised by the Alf.”
“I can see that, you even dress as if you were one of them, but why aren’t you among them now?” As soon as he asked that question, Dimitri wished that he hadn’t because from the reaction he got, he could see that it triggered a raw nerve in Clara. But she just said,
“I don’t really know, but I guess they just didn’t want me anymore…so they threw me out!! And now I don’t have a home!”
Dimitri was afraid to ask anymore, he couldn’t imagine why anyone would just throw a beautiful young woman out into the jungle like this. At first, he stayed quiet, but then as she started to sob, he came over and wrapped his arm around her as he said, “Hey, just because you don’t have a home now doesn’t you can never have one again. Believe me…I know what that is like, I lost mine when Thorne flattened Saint Petersburg…”
“But you did find a new home, you were rescued, were you not?”
“Actually, my family found a new home in a place called Trosmo. Maybe if we stick together, we might find you a proper home, alright?”
For now, Clara seemed to nod. Exhausted, he and Clara fell asleep for the night. The night of Xephal was pitch black, save for the bugs who emerged from sacs attached to the trees. Their bulbous backs glowed in different colours. They immediately flew away as the search party continued to make their way through the jungle. While searching, Ulf asked.
“Isn’t it getting a bit late?? Who knows what sort of horrors are here on this planet?”
Only for the sergeant to snap, saying, “No disagreement with you there, private but all the more reason not to leave Dimitri out here! So come on you lot, keep up!”
***
In the early hours of the morning, Dimitri and Clara were still snoozing together when suddenly, Clara heard the sound of buzzing wings and this caused to stand up and panic. But just as she stood up, there was a sudden thump on the ground as standing before her was a towering humanoid with amber golden skin patterned by black tattoos. He had amber golden eyes and curved ears. His flowing black hair was long and it went down his back, a loincloth covered his waist and large dragonfly like wings extended from his back. His wrists were decorated with bracelets as he clasped a spear. He said sternly.
“So, there you are alien! I’ve been looking for you across the whole jungle!!”
“I thought the Queen exiled me, Kuvoc? Was it not you who challenged the prince over me? It wasn’t my fault that you killed the prince, but I was the one who was banished for it!”
“Clara, be reasonable! You won’t stand a chance out here in the jungle alone! After all, was it not us who took you in? I’m sure the Queen has forgiven you for the death of her son!”
As if insulted, Clara snapped. “Forgive? I have nothing to be sorry for…I don’t think I’ll ever forgive the Alf Queen for what you did. So let me go back to my own kind.”
Kuvoc smirked as he grabbed her by the arm, snapping,
“You would really take one of those alien parasites as your mate? One of those unclean bleached, mud or black skinned foreigners who covers himself in metal and rains fire and brimstone onto our world. I know you were born to them, but they are not worthy of you, they don’t deserve your beauty!”
“That’s not for you to decide!”
A struggle ensued between Clara and Kuvoc and it woke up a sleeping Dimitri. Dimitri’s eyes widened as he saw the fair-haired maiden that he had bonded with struggling to be free from the grasp of this golden skinned warrior. As he saw the Alf warrior grab onto Clara, Dimitri knew what he had to do. Without thinking, Dimitri sprung up, brandished his knife and lunged at Kuvoc, grappling onto him. So surprised was Kuvoc that he let go of Clara and began to wrestle Dimitri. At first, Dimitri did well, successfully wrestling him and even managing to inflict a few blows on Kuvoc with his fists. Clara looked on in panic but Dimitri turned to her saying, “Run! Run Clara, get out of here!!”
But as he said this, Kuvoc kneed him in the groin, forcing him to let go and stumble to the ground in pain. As Dimitri used to the tree to help him reposition himself, Kuvoc spat with contempt as he said.
“So, you are what Clara seems to covet? You stupid, stupid alien! You travel all this way across the stars with the intention of making yourselves sovereigns of this world, only to lose in a basic fight! Pathetic, you have no right to be her mate!”
Dimitri didn’t understand what Kuvoc just said, but he refused to back down as Kuvoc picked up his spear, readying himself to plunge it into Dimitri’s chest. Clara desperately clung onto the spear as she said. “Kuvoc, please stop!! You’ve…”
But Kuvoc simply slapped her to the ground. Dimitri was able to push the spear to the side and he even reached for the pistol in his pocket.
But just as he grasped it, the rattle of gunfire was heard across the jungle. Hearing the gunshots was enough to scare Kuvoc and he flew away in panic as Ulf emerged from the foliage, clad in full body armour and holding a smoking assault rifle. The sight of Ulf and the others was enough to give Dimitri a sense of joy as he said.
“Boys, at long last! You came in the nick of time!”
“Yes, you strayed a long way from the dropship! Why were you wrestling an Alf? That could have diplomatic consequences you know!”
“It’s complicated…”
Clara, having recovered from her wallop, suddenly felt very exposed and vulnerable again with all the troopers looking at her. She clung onto Dimitri as Felició remarked.
“Well Dimitri, I see that you won first prize?”
“It’s not that simple, the Alf you just saw wanted to have his way with her. Since she clearly didn’t want that, I had to stop it.”
“Well, that’s a good start, Dimitri. You’re going in the right direction boy!”
The troopers laughed but the laughter was cut off as sergeant Hawkins snapped.
“Lads, enough! This isn’t the time for romance, a dropship has finally arrived to give us a lift home and recover the wreckage.”
Dimitri turned to Clara and said.
“Come on, Clara, we’re going home, or at least to a safe place.”
“Home? I have no home.”
“We’ll find you a home. Wherever humanity goes, that will be your home.”
Eyes shining with relief, Clara embraced Dimitri before they all headed to the dropship.
Epilogue
Although in a better position after she was rescued, Clara’s life was not the Disneyfied happy ever after that she probably hoped. Although she was welcomed warmly by the humans, especially her great aunt, Samantha Weaver, who had often promised rewards to any human explorers who could find her missing niece, Clara was still a feral woman by nature and she had difficulty truly fitting back into human society. She visited Earth, even exploring the upper echelons of the Terran capital of London but she never truly fit in with its rigid norms. Thus, she returned to the colonies on Xephal. But Clara was not delicate, she could swim in deep water and she was better-adapted to life on this alien planet.
Clara did find love with Dimitri, and they were married on Xephal. And even though his military duties as a dropship pilot often separated them, she did not stay idle, becoming a schoolteacher for the children of the home guardsmen on Xephal and even having a child of her own. Whatever her ordeals, Clara Weaver’s position as the first human born outside the Solar System gave her a special place in human history.
Although it would be her son, Lawrence that would ultimately be the youngest of the Founding Fathers who lead the Alpha Centaurian humans to independence from Earth, it was she who was truly seen as the foremother of the Centaurians (The term for a human born in the Alpha Centauri).

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