While we are all awaiting the Earth shattering results of The Memo. I decided to tack up the prologue for the next book in the Dark Winter series.
I was serious when I said, Dark Winter was science fiction.
The Commander of the Host entered the Empty Room. There was no other way to describe it. The Empty Room wasn’t black, it didn’t have a lack of light. What it didn’t have were things that the Commander’s sense could perceive. It was vacuum for perception. It always unnerved him and he was certain that it was meant to do so.
Nonetheless, he removed his shoes from his feet as had his father and grandfather and their father’s before them had done. His bared feet feeling the nothing beneath. He knelt and pressed hands and forehead to the floor in a manner that he was forbidden to do before all but his God. Yet, he did so for the Masters. As had his father and grandfather and their fathers before them had done. And like them he felt the panes of humiliation both his and quite literally theirs.
He knew he was meant to feel shame even though that shame was nothing but an instrument to the Masters.
The soldiers of the Host often speculated about whether or not the Masters actually had emotions that they could comprehend as such. It was a pointless exercise but then the life of the host was mostly boredom relieved by terror and the Masters clearly didn’t mind in the least what their slaves thought of them so long as they obeyed without question.
"Why went we here, oh Masters?” The Commander repeated the centuries old question. He knew that the answer would not come in form of words but that he would instantly “remember” what the mission was to be this time as well as all relevant facts.
A meeting engagement or a raid or siege or simply threatening their opponents simply by being there. Occasionally it would be a full spectrum operational battle, those were fun but rare. Other times it was simply annihilation of the opposing force but that too was rare. And what weapons they would be allowed to use. Would it be swords and spears or firearms and artillery? Were aircraft to be permitted or would it be spacecraft again this time? The Masters used the Host to fight other Hosts of other Masters. They didn’t know if this was politics or trade or just a game The Masters liked to play amongst themselves or was it some combination thereof that they could not fathom. Whatever the reason, The Masters never explained.
The Commander was therefore shocked to the core of his being when The Masters answered his question with words in his mind.
TERMS OF ENLISTMENT FULFILLED
The Commander’s head swirled at the implication of the words. Was The Master saying it was... Over? That was the bargain their forefathers had struck with The Masters had been kept? Were they free?
“Home, shall you take us Masters?” The Commander of the Host could barely whisper.
THIS PLANET YOURS
The Commander looked up in anger although the ghosts of his ancestors shrieked, danger at such an act. But he was a free man now was he not? “This Planet not Home. Take us Home was the bargain.
HOME WAS CLASS TWO AT TIME OF BARGAIN
HOME NOW CLASS FOUR
ALL CONTACT NOW PROHIBITED FOR COVENANT
THIS PLANET YOURS
And suddenly there was snow on the Commander’s barefeet as the world turned white and he felt the sharp, slashing wind against his face. The light provided by the white drawf star had all the brightness of an arc welder and provided almost as much warmth.
The Masters had abandoned them. As quickly as they had been enslaved they had been abandoned.
The Commander of the Host struggled briefly to get his boots back on. He knew he was standing on the equator of this planet. The night would get a lot colder and the nights on the frozen rock lasted fortyone hours. It was not acceptable.
He trudged back to meet his people determination a part of each stride. The soldiers of the Host and their families were not members of the Covenant. Those laws didn’t apply to them.
And they were going Home.