Author: Rick Tobin
The starship Seeker One’s domed Hall of Wisdom sweltered below its scintillating chandeliers. High Commander Razzra’s lavender skin glistened against his white majestic draping required for Priestess Masotulama’s Task of Finding for the Achaeans. She would be graced with honor or chastened, as required, clearing their group transgression for failure. It was her twelfth attempt at planet recognition during their endless pilgrimage to the home world Ah’Ya.
“Are you prepared, Masotulama, for tasting? Is your source pure?” To Razzra’s right shone a holograph of a twirling blue sphere representing Ah’Ya. At his left, a glowing yellow star projection surged with solar flares as foretold in origin mythos. He presented images to the High Priestess for her approval to attempt the ritual. She nodded, gathering her white robes as she bent her legs to sit before Razzra, his violet eyes and shock of orange hair lowering to follow her descent.
Masotulama’s jade-green flesh shuddered as blue plasma orbs from her pineal gland awakened, rising above her forehead, surrounded by flowing tresses of fiery red and gold. “I praise the moment, for our seeking of Founders, Commander. Let dust of life be given.” She passed the test of purity earlier while blindfolded; faultlessly identifying three fruits from the ship’s gardens using only her sense of taste, a gift only blessed ones possessed among Achaeans. Beside her rested the Holy of Holies—few remaining residues from Ah’Ya, sent with colonizers millions of years past, before the journey of returning.
Twenty of the starship’s robed tribal leaders circled her, calmly droning prayers of recognition, “Ah’Ya…Ah’Ya…Ah’Ya.”
Masotulama rocked gently in trance below the Commander as a floating sampling probe arrived fresh from the blue planet spinning below their ship’s orbit. The device halted, suspended near her head. She moved her left hand upward, summoning probe soil chambers to grind their contents, releasing shimmering brown mists to gather around her head. She opened her mouth wide, drawing deep breaths as dust surrounded her face, clouding her sparkling third eye.
She sat still as if turned to stone until snakelike undulations began emerging from her head and slowly swept down her nearly supine torso. Her arms flew upward as she coughed out the dark planet residue across the floor. She twisted right, gently reaching behind as Razzra continued lingering over her. She lifted the crystalline decanter of original precious soil from Ah’Ya close to her palm, carefully opening and tipping the vessel, catching a few grains, and then lapping the minute treasure into her face using her huge black tongue before securing the lid.
Chanting halted. Masotulama stilled, her eyes rolling back as she moaned for a few moments, and then went stiff again.
“What say you, Priestess of Taste? Is this Origin?” Razzra rested his arms as the holographs disappeared. All assembled remained in vigilant anticipation.
Masotulama sighed hard as her torso retracted inward, squeezed by agony. “No, my Commander. This world’s beings resemble Achaeans, but they are not from our Originator. This is not Ah’Ya. Forgive my failure.”
Razzra reached down with his glowing ring, searing flesh on the priestess’s exposed back as an act of tribal contrition, branding one empty square of her checkerboard service tattoo containing her ritual result history. She would integrate into breeding stock after ten more fruitless attempts, creating potential offspring with rare gifts of taste required for future planetary confirmation.
“My people,” he proclaimed, loudly, “Take what ores, food, and water we need from below. Gather new slaves as servants. We renew our sacred search for home. Let us find our beloved Ah’Ya.”
Evocatively alien – top class SF!
Such far-flung world building and imagery, but so readily accessable and relevant. Very much enjoyed, Rick.