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Green Crescent Rising

Posted by SouthPaw, Jan 28 2010, 12:59 AM in FanFic

RO Khalid Akram bent and adjusted the placement of the final prayer mat, nudging it slightly so that it was in perfect alignment with the others.

The morning’s flight would be returning soon and he needed the temple to be ready for his flock. Since his squadron had been given Seek and Destroy orders the flights had been seeing ever more frenzied action and the pilots were being pushed hard. Past the breaking point of some.

There was no guarantee of how many of the faithful would return this morning, but just as Allah was eternally great and merciful, his servant Imam Khalid would always lay out the full compliment of prayer mats in hope. Indeed, as Religious Officer for the squadron, the provision and restoration of hope was Akram’s job. He who is without hope is lost, both to mankind and Allah.

Akram glanced at the Time/Space readout on the wall of the temple. It was fed directly from the station’s atomic clock and was accurate to less than a billionth of a second. He had only a few moments before morning prayers and sung the call to prayer softly as he prostrated himself on a prayer mat. His forebears would be pleased that even here, in places and surroundings that they could never have imagined he was continuing the long history of there being a muezzin in the Akram family.

The green arrow on the Time/Space readout pointed resolutely in the direction of Mecca, and Akram smiled to himself as he always did. Despite the obliteration of Mecca along with the rest of Earth, religion demanded a higher purpose than mere reality. Faith dictated that his prayers be issued in the direction of Mecca and the Time/Space readout calculated that in four dimensions - taking into account the orbit of distant planetary bodies, the refraction of light flowing through nebulae and even the rotation of the station’s core to simulate gravity. The read-out was testament to man’s ingenuity, his mastery of science and his need for more than science could offer.

As Akram gave thanks in prayer, he prepared himself for his sermon to come. Religious Officers were a crucial component to any combat squadron. Though since the destruction of Earth they were in such short supply that now only one officer was attributed to each formation. Drawn from any of the major human faiths, the RO was responsible for the spiritual guidance of his flock no matter what background they came from. Imam Khalid Akram’s congregation contained fellow Muslims, in addition to Hindus, Roman Catholics, New Baptists, Jews, Sikhs and several Buddhists. At least it had yesterday, he would have to wait and see who Allah had claimed this morning. Then there were those who did not declare their beliefs – if they even held any. Akram loved them all equally. In the 22nd century man could not afford the luxury of additional hatred and division he had suffered for the preceding millennia.

In his days at the RO Academy, Akram had mused in several theses about the colossal irony surrounding the position held by all of humanity’s religions regarding the progression of man toward the stars. The first men assumed that the heavens lay directly above the blue sky of Earth. When that boundary was conquered, the next men declared that Allah dwelt between the stars. When man bested space flight, and mastered interstellar travel they decided that Deus Ex Machina; our creator lay outside of the boundaries of the universe. Finally, man settled on the realisation that far from striding the stars, Allah was present in and around each of us occupying the last great unknown space - the uncertainty between atoms. Of course, the one thing that generations of holy men from all faiths had agreed on was that man was paramount. God had created us in his own image and that there therefore could not be intelligence higher, or even on a par with our own.

The irony? Well of course when that view was proven false during our early encounters with the Rixians, it was beyond ironic that the ‘aliens’ held faith so strong that they made even humanity’s most devout zealots pale into insignificance. The testing of our faith with a challenge presented by an alien race more pious than humanity proved that Allah has a sense of humour, if nothing else…

Of course, the Rixians were not the problem at the moment. No, the current enemy was a Godless one indeed. The lizard men worshiped only one thing – strength. They sought only to train, demonstrate and prove their strength above all things. This mindset drove them into seemingly endless conflict. Conflict with each other or with us, it didn’t seem to matter, so long as there was a foe against which they could flex their muscles they seemed happy.

The Dreghklar Empire - a somewhat whimsical and incorrect name for such a loose collection of warring clans, family groups and entities. The term Empire implies Emperor – a single figure holding power. Whilst this was true of the Dreg, the Emperor was in practice merely the Warlord of the most powerful clan at any one time. Such was the ferocity of the species it was expected of other Warlords to challenge the Emperor to mortal combat in order to prove the worth of themselves and the strength of their followers. Such is the life of the Emperor bloody and brief.

Akram remembered the briefing the squadron had been given before deploying into this sector. The xenobiologists believed that a minor Dreg clan had moved into adjacent space – forced out of the central Dreg systems by larger and more powerful groups within the Empire. This apparently weak and minor force was now actively seeking to prove itself by conducting raids into human space. This was the typical pattern. By engaging in conflict the clan would attract many young and disinherited Dreg warriors who were looking for a means to sate the addiction to battle than ran in their veins. If, Akram mused, the lizards even had veins...

The Dreg raids so far had seemed designed to draw out combat forces to meet them. They had not attacked civilian populations, nor economic infrastructure with any great force. More they had tended to appear, harry some outpost or trading installation waiting for the armed response to arrive. Once combat vessels were in their vicinity the Dreg transformed into fearsome opponents. They tore into the squadron’s ships with a fury that had taken aback even veteran pilots. Despite the Dreg clan being one of the smaller and weaker units within the Empire, they had proven themselves more than a match for the squadron in the skirmishes to date. Morale had dipped to something of a low, and Akram had heard whispers amongst the pilots questioning whether the Dreg could be beaten. They were just too fast, hit too hard and seemed to engage in combat with scant regard for their own losses.

Countering this sentiment with the strength and love of Allah was RO Akram’s job. But when he had seen gun camera footage of the previous day’s combat space patrol, he too had experienced doubts. Doubts about how and why Allah can have created creatures so deadly, so threatening to humanity that some even believed that they lay at the heart of the mystery surrounding the destruction of Earth.

It was, he considered, part of some great test. A test of the enduring strength of faith, and a test of mankind’s will not just to survive, but to succeed.

The chime of the Time/Space readout snapped Akram out of his philosophical wanderings and brought him back to reality in the steel-walled temple. The patrol was overdue. In Akram’s experience this was not a good sign. There was nothing that the military mind clung to with quite so much fervour as routine. The routine of the pilots in his flock was to dock, debrief then head to the temple for solace whilst their less spiritual colleagues headed to the mess bar for solace of a different kind.

Today the flight was late. That invariably meant trouble – a longer debriefing, or unexpected trouble out on patrol. In the good times the pilots would be delayed in arguments in the Ops Room over gun camera footage and claiming kills. In the bad times there would be endless hours spent recounting losses, confirmed eject pod locations and known casualties. The officers would be filing reports of condolence for the next of kin.

Recent experience told Akram that this was probably one of the bad times.

Sure enough, there was the tell-tale sound of flight boots on decking ringing outside the temple. Akram glanced at the Time/Space. Over an hour late. This was not good. The bulkhead door hissed open, and figures in flight suits entered the temple and began the process of removing their footwear.

“Welcome my children...” Akram’s greeting caught in his throat. The doorway was empty and only three pilots had entered the temple and were now tugging listlessly at their boots. His flock was regularly over ten strong. The squadron had lost pilots before, but this looked like seventy percent losses... And those were just amongst the faithful...

He didn’t have to ask. The three pilots each sank to their knees on the prayer mat they considered their own. Each one looked more haggard than the last; drenched in sweat, cut and bruised from sudden manoeuvring and abrasion from flight restraint harnesses. Akram noticed that the pilots had each placed their flight helmet in front of them, visor facing outward.

The ready position.

Pilots on standby to scramble were prohibited by regulations from being more than two metres from their helmet at any time. That couldn’t be right, this flight had just returned from operations, they would be excused scramble duty for at least 12 hours.

The eyes of the three pilots told the story. Cold and dead, their gaze was sightless. Uncomprehending. These eyes, Akram knew, were firmly fixed on the afterlife. The emptiness of the temple was emphasised by the empty prayer mats between the three pilots who had made it back. The clicking of Akram’s prayer beads echoed slightly in the silence.

Akram considered his flock. Hayden, the strong shouldered Neo Presbyterian who only a week ago bragged about being able to benchpress any other member of the flight. Pollock, Orthodox Jew, who always took such care in the cleanliness of her appearance was now smeared in grease and her flight suit torn. Dhoni, Hindu, life and soul of the party who struggled to make it through a sermon without cracking a joke and was now silent.

Akram let his prayer beads clatter to the deck in front of him and he rose from his knees. He reached into his personal locker that was recessed into the wall of the temple and withdrew his flight suit and flight helmet. It had been a long time since he had used either, but he was qualified on all small ships. Slowly and deliberately he stepped into the flight suit, tightening the compression straps and fastening the front up to the throat. When he was fully buttoned up, Akram knelt back on the mat, and carefully placed his flight helmet in front of him, the visor and thin green crescent symbol of islam that he had emblazoned on the brow facing out.

The ready position.

A flesh of recognition danced across the faces of the three pilots. Pollack even managed a shallow nod, a lank curl of her usually glistening hair falling across her face.

Akram began his sermon, all the while knowing what must happen. Sure enough, he was only part way into his second passage from the Qur’an when the station’s alarm rang. General quarters. All able bodied pilots were urgently required to scramble. The station itself would be under attack.

Akram rose in unison with his depleated flock, who were all pulling on their flight boots and tightening each other’s compression straps by simple act of muscle memory. None of them said a word, uttered any exclaim or showed the least bit of surprise.

With his prayer beads in one hand, and his flight helmet in the other, Akram led the three pilots from the temple and towards the flight deck. As they jogged, RO Khalid Akram found himself singing the muezzin’s song, the call to prayer, and he knew that sometimes souls could not be saved by words alone. Today, Allah’s will would be done through his actions.



Comments

  SouthPaw, Jan 28 2010, 03:23 PM

God t'was hard work posting this with the board dates knackered!

So good I posted it seven times...

Anyway, enjoy! There will be more to come now that I am netbook-powered.

  TangoVictor, Feb 6 2010, 04:16 PM

Wow, great job! This is extremely well written, especially towards the end.

  Mordechaj, Feb 22 2010, 12:41 PM

Can i have some more?

  RyoRichard, Oct 19 2010, 07:25 AM

Awesome.

P.S: Islam doesn't have any symbol ( at least its not the green crescent which I am sure of).

"The crescent was the symbol of the Sassanid Empire of Persia (Iran) and is prominently displayed on the crowns of its rulers. It was also a symbol of the Ottoman Empire."
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbols_of_Islam#Crescent

This post has been edited by RyoRichard: Oct 19 2010, 07:29 AM

 
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