Shune and Dobar watched from a ledge under the chilly shade of one of the valley’s iconic monadnocks, the Five Sisters. Standing motionless in the coppery hues of early morning was an Interfederal Argema-373 passenger ship, its body retracted over its folded legs. It looked like a 3,000-ton chrome mosquito. Shune shivered with disgust and pulled her hood over her head.
“Remember this day,” her brother said. She turned to face him, but his eyes were fixed on the shuttle. His hood was down, exposing his freshly shaved head and the intricate spiraling tattoos that covered it like an external map of his brain folds. There was no illumination in the ink today; pure black, to reflect his solemn mood. Not yet through his final trials, but already Dobar looked like the other Guild Priests. It was in the way he carried himself. Shune turned back to the ship.
“I remember every day,” she said.
“Yes, but remember this one in particular. It will leave a scar upon our souls. We will recover, but the mark will stay with us.”
A great cloud of dirt blew from beneath the Argema as it came to life. It shuddered with its own barely-contained power. A thousand standard years ago—however long that was—Shune and Dobar’s ancestors were exiled here, to the planet Fespan, for crimes no longer remembered. According to the Interfederal officers who arrived six days ago, their sentence was up. Dozens of Argemas came down from the sky offering free passage to any Interfed world. Many accepted, but most—those who held faith with the Guild—refused. The ship before them now was the last. In its shining belly it held neighbors and friends. Family. People who they ‘d thought they knew and trusted, but were in fact weak of faith. Shune whispered the Prayer of Passing Souls beneath her breath. Dobar said nothing.
The ship stood up on its spindly legs and unfurled its metal wings. The day birds which had been perchered on its cool body scattered in fear. As the ship reached full power its rumble echoed off the rock faces. Shune felt her organs tremble from the acoustics and her teeth chattered against each other no matter how hard she clenched her jaws. Like a pickpocket, the insectile ship sprinted across the flat valley and took to flight, disappearing in the gray sky. And then, only silence. She couldn’t stand it.
“Well, they’re gone now,” she said. “That’s the last of them.”
Dobar’s gaze remined on the sky as if he could still see the ship beyond the clouds. “No. They will return. But do not dare forget this day.”
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Sylvain Sarrailh, used with permission.