Awen: Tongue of Flame

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Promised Land

The first day of the journey was the toughest. The rover rotations were causing a lot of grumbling, where some malcontents had tried to jump the queue ahead of other weary travellers. Still, the reward of being to relax for a couple of hours was ultimately enough of a reward to keep them in line.

On the second day, their progress was slowed down drastically with issues of dehydration and exhaustion. Several survivors were unable to walk any further, and as a result, would take up other people's spaces in the rover. What could they do, though? It's not like leaving the poor souls behind was an option. Not one that they were considering anyway.

The final day was filled with hope, fear and a general sluggishness all around. They had even lost one of the rovers following a tumble into a deep ravine, shattering its fragile solar panels. Now the vehicle, with its threadbare tyres, would sit idly in the crusting mud forever.

The other two remaining rovers weren't much better off, there were no spare parts, and they were still over half a day away from reaching the distant mountains. Blistering feet were dragging across the rocky ground, with bare skin poking through ragged holes in worn-out footwear. The putrid stench of stale sweat was following the group wherever they moved. There were no showers out here in the wild after all.

'Would you look at that!' Jensen announced, climbing to the top of a steep incline with his daughter fast asleep in his arms.

In the distance lay a beautiful horizon, covered with greens and blues, as wild vegetation flourished without hindrance, and a wide river seemed to follow an odd curve. Looking closer, Jensen noticed something else. The others saw it too, climbing the hill to join him.

It was a miracle that any form of life could survive what this planet had recently been through, themselves included. Up ahead the blooming foliage was enclosed within a full circle; surrounded by fields of desolate wasteland. There were three such identical refuges, and the designs were of human origin.

'This must have been what the queen was showing us.' Jason said.

Jensen sighed. 'First, we have to get through that.' he replied, pointing towards the bottom of the hill.

Standing tall at only a few metres away was the start of the rugged mountain path. They were a little too correct in their suspicions. What was remaining of the two last rovers would have to be left behind; it was quite sad to see the loyal machines discarded like this. They had no choice, though.

Captain Jason Dares was upset, and understandably so. He had already bid farewell to his beloved ship, and now, to the last remnants of their earthly technology. It was a sad day.

They were too warm and tiring quickly, and many of the eldest survivors were struggling to walk any further. The fittest were having to carry them, and the children had gone beyond mere complaints. There were many tantrums and fights, as well. Connor was perhaps the best behaved of them all, allowing Grace to lean on him for support, and Rose still clung to Jensen, fast asleep in his arms.

'We have to be close now, surely!' James said panting.

'Are we there yet?' Rose asked.

'Not yet, sweetie, we're nearly there, though.' Jensen replied.

Rounding a sharp bend, they see it. The group bear witness to the abrupt transition from the dying wilderness, to lands teeming with life.

'It looks so strange up close, doesn't it?' Jason asked.

'There must be a barrier of some kind here to provide this level of protection.' Sharpe replies, lowering her backpack and picking up a dead stick.

'Be careful!' Jason yells.

Sharpe grimaces. 'It's safer than just walking through it, Sir.'

Pressing the stick firmly into the crystal transparent barrier, she confirms its strength. Brittle bark is swiftly reduced to dust before blowing away on a windy breeze.

'Aren't you glad that I checked?' Sharpe asked, smugly.

As if sensing their presence, the barrier opens up to them. Like sliding doors, the energy field was clearing a wide path for them all. They all bolt for the entrance, and shortly after making it through, the barrier slams shut. There would be no leaving now.

'We walked into that one. Literally.' James remarks.

Shaking his head, Jason turns to face them all. 'We had nowhere else to go. We lost one home, but have gained another. We are the last of humanity on this planet, but this will not be the last word. We're safe here. We can rebuild. Let's head for that facility,'

The speech was short but powerful; precisely what they needed to hear right now.

Sharpe smiled proudly. 'Well said Captain, I couldn't…'

A faint buzzing fills the air, followed by the whirring of powered-on electronics. A giant holographic green flickers before them, and appearing on it is the alien queen. Still, the language allures them, but the body language is clear. She is waving at the surrounding farmland. Behind her appears the facility; sitting snugly inside of their dome, and the footage starts to explore the interior.

'She's giving a damned guided tour. She means for us to stay here then.' Jason mutters.

The screen blanked shortly after. The survivors would never know what else she had told them; they only knew that they were expected to live here from what they could gather.

Jensen had to squint to see the facility entrance, but in doing so, he sees four shadowy figures walking straight towards them.

'Did you miss us?' Kelly yells. She sees little Rose first, and they run to each other. Snatching her up into a bear hug, Kelly spins around laughing.

'I missed you, Kelly!' Rose screeches. She was so happy, and it was genuinely heartwarming.

Whilst holding Rose, Kelly could not help look for her mother and her brother Kyle in the approaching crowd. They weren't there.

Jensen saw her face crumble and hugged her. 'They might still be out there, Kelly.' he said.

She nodded, blinking away tears. There would be a time to look for them, but it wasn't now.

'You look familiar.' a silky voice called from right behind Jensen.

Looking up to see the face which belonged to such a gentle voice, he already knew who it was. 'I might have seen you somewhere before.' he deadpanned, before dropping the act.

'Come here you,' Jensen says, and at long last, they meet in a sweet embrace. Their lips touch in a hard and hungry kiss, and at that moment, it didn't matter where they were. They were together at last, and that was that. 'Its damn good to see you, Helena!' he adds, bursting into tears.

'Get a room you two.' Hal calls. He was further away but approaching them with Taylor and Jen at his side.

'Unbelievable! Taylor, I'm surprised they let you go after what you did.' Jensen said.

Taylor didn't bite. He didn't even look at them. Instead, Jen answered for him. 'I guess it was more practical to bring us all here.'

Jensen shrugged. 'All the same, I still can't believe it. The aliens kept their word. They had me worried for a while.' Jensen replied.

Helena grimaces. 'Jensen, you were right to worry. There's no way out of this beautiful dome of theirs.'

'Damn it; there's got to be.' Jason snarls.

'It wouldn't matter anyway, Captain. When we arrived, the queen showed us footage of the rest of the planet. It's all dead. Dozens of shielded domes are all that remain. It felt like she was trying to make us understand how futile it would be to leave.' Hal reported.

'At least we're all together now. We can figure this place out; I know we can. We have to.' Jason announces.

The future of humanity on the planet 'Awen' was now solely dependent upon the questionable hospitality of ancient alien creatures, and they would have to fight for survival every day that they spent living in this mysterious place.

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