kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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Revelation Space


R J Kalpana’s  retelling of the Ramayana

It was deathly dark inside the Hub. It was meant to be, for an order had been given to extinguish all lights. Everybody in the Hub and outside waited with hushed expectancy, eyes nervously flitting between Tosa’kanth and the door that remained firmly shut in their faces. Pip’ek was nervous too but he hid it well. He moved across the members of the Council, smiling encouragingly. He, too, awaited the opening of the door and the sound that would emit forth. He didn’t know yet if it was for the good or for the bad but until he saw for himself, he wouldn’t be able to tell. He hoped things would change now. The luck of Langka would once again shine forth. He was tired of playing hopscotch with giant stars and hiding in galaxies. The people of his Race were tired too, he could sense that. He tipped his head back and drank deeply, working his muscles strongly.

The door opened and a clamour of voices reached everybody’s ears. And the Medic finally brought out a small bundle wrapped in a Zero-Point Energy suit that the uninitiated ones are required to wear as per Space Regulations.

Proudly she placed the bundle in Tosa’kanth’s arms and said, “Here is your new-born. It’s a girl.”

Everyone crowded around Tosa’kanth, trying to get the first glimpse of the baby girl. Pip’ek waited his turn. He knew it would come, it was just a matter of time. Tosa’kanth was a proud father. He kept showing her off to anybody who would want to see. Finally the members of the Council made their way out of the Hub, satisfied that once more Starship Langka was safe and in capable hands. Tosa’kanth was an able Warrior and a leader of D’mons. He knew the capabilities of Langka like no other. They were satisfied that he was once more with them and the ordeal of birthing was over.

Tosa’kanth finally turned towards Pip’ek. “Where are you hiding, brother?” he asked jokingly. “Come, look at what Mont’o delivered finally, she gave me a girl.”

“Congratulations, brother.” said Pip’ek. “She does you proud indeed.”

“Indeed.”

“And a very pretty baby, too. She will grow to be a slayer of hearts.” said Pip’ek.

“And lives,” reminded Tosa’kanth laughing heartily. “She is a Warrior’s child Pip’ek, do not forget. She will be a Warrior.”

Pip’ek tried to smile, but he had a dreadful foreboding. Something was telling him all was not right. He would look into the Earth Crystal soon and then he would rest, satisfied.

“We will call for a celebration at the Central Pod tonight.” said Tosa’kanth. “Send word to everybody to assemble. I will show my girl to Langka.”

Pip’ek nodded. “It will be done, Tosa’kanth. Everybody will be present for the celebrations tonight. Now it is time for you to visit your wife.”

Tosa’kanth, smiling at the girl, said, “Yes. Mont’o will be worried. I will take the baby back to her.”

He made to leave the Hub when a thought struck him, and he turned to face his brother.

“Pip’ek!” he called.

“Yes?”

“Don’t forget to look into the Earth Crystal and tell me what the future holds for this pretty little thing.”

Pip’ek nodded agreement and said, “I will look into it immediately.”

“Good. I want to know before the celebration so I can proclaim your predictions to Langka. They deserve to know.”

Pip’ek nodded once again and watched Tosa’kanth leave the Hub through the door to be with his wife Mont’o.

Pip’ek watched the shut door for a moment before he too left the Hub for his cabin, where he would consult with the Earth Crystal. It was the only surviving remnant from Earth Civilization after the Great War. He didn’t have any memory of the Great War. It was before his time and his parents’ time as well. But the Earth Crystal was handed reverentially down in the family for generations, apparently because the Second Born were the only ones gifted with the Second Sight to read the Earth Crystal. It was a strange calling. But he shrugged it aside. After years of being a Warrior D’mon and being a Earth Crystal reader, he had learnt to live peacefully with either. Each had its uses, he consoled himself, as he let himself into his cabin.

He spoke to Langka Information and very soon, the computer broadcast across Starship Langka news about the celebration and the invitation from Tosa’kanth himself. As the electronic voice died away, Pip’ek walked towards the porthole of his cabin.

Outside the porthole, Pip’ek could see millions of stars as the Starship glided past. He sat back for a moment and surveyed his cabin’s interior. There were seats for guests and a lone bed against the wall beside which sat the Earth Crystal. He carried it to his study table.

“Now my uneasiness might be explained,” he thought.

He closed his eyes to relax and slowly opened them to concentrate with fiery intensity upon the Earth Crystal. Suddenly, a brilliant white shot up and sprayed the entire cabin with its light. Soon Warrior and light were engaged in a deadly duel. Pip’ek was the first to break contact. He couldn’t stand the strain anymore. He was exhausted. Sweat flowed over his face and dripped onto the table. He made to wipe it away.

He was troubled. What the Earth Crystal had revealed wasn’t good news. He didn’t know how he was going to inform his brother.

“Should I just conceal it?” The thought, though tempting and viable, wasn’t the solution. Tosa’kanth had a right to know. Not because he was the father of the child but because he was the leader of Langka and of the D’mon Race. He was the one who made the final decision. He would know what to do.

“Yes, that’s it.” thought Pip’ek. “Tosa’kanth would know what to do. I will tell him before the celebration tonight so he will have time to make a decision. I hope and pray it will be a decision we all can live with.”

Thus his decision made, and feeling slightly relieved, Pip’ek left his cabin and made his way to Tosa’kanth’s chambers. There in the privacy of the Inner Chamber, Pip’ek revealed to Tosa’kanth what he was able to divine from the Earth Crystal.

“What?” shouted Tosa’kanth. “You cannot be serious.”

“It is the truth, brother.” said Pip’ek. “I was devastated when I finally understood what the Earth Crystal was trying to impress upon me.”

“Are you saying that the little girl would destroy the D’mon Race?” asked Tosa’kanth.

“Yes.” nodded Pip’ek. “The Earth Crystal was very clear on that point.”

Tosa’kanth was troubled. He loved the child to distraction already. He knew if he approached the Council, they would demand an instant death. He couldn’t do that. He was torn.

Pip’ek watched his brother stride back and forth in the Inner Chamber with a worried frown. He didn’t know what plans Tosa’kanth was plotting but he was afraid; afraid for his people, afraid for the future.

“And Mont’o?” asked Tosa’kanth opening his arms helplessy. “What will I tell her?”

Pip’ek shook his head. His throat dry, he thirsted for a drink. He wished there was something, anything, to do but watch his brother go mad with grief.

Tosa’kanth stood silently for a while, staring out of the porthole into the dark inky blackness of Space. He couldn’t just kill the child nor could he just let the child drift in Space.

“There has to be a way,” he thought feverishly. “There has to be a way to save my daughter.”

Pip’ek watched the clock tick and knew it was time to move. He tried to tell his brother but was shrugged aside forcibly.

“I need more time.” shouted Tosa’kanth. “I have to think this through.”

“We have to inform them,” said Pip’ek.

“Inform them and sign her death warrant?” asked Tosa’kanth angrily. “Is that what you want?”

Pip’ek took a step back hurriedly as he watched the anger in his brother’s eyes grow. “You know that’s not true. But there isn’t anything else left to do.”

“There will be if I have more time to think.” said Tosa’kanth as he feverishly began to stride up and down the Inner Chamber again.

Pip’ek watched helplessly. He didn’t know what else to do. The Earth Crystal didn’t give any helpful solution.

“It never does.” Pip’ek thought bitterly.

“I got it.” shouted Tosa’kanth jubilantly as he turned and squeezed his brother in a giant hug.

“What have you decided?” asked Pip’ek anxiously.

“I will send her to Earth.” said a triumphant Tosa’kanth.

“What?” asked a shocked Pip’ek.

“There is still some sort of life on Earth. We know that. They will look after her. We need never fear her destroying the D’mon Race ever. The Earthlings are all for Peace and Love now, especially after the Great War. Besides, they don’t posses Starships that can compete with Langka. So what do we have to fear?”

Pip’ek watched helplessly as he too was sucked into the idea, seemingly marvellous at first.

“At least this way we can save the girl from certain death,” he thought morosely.

Tosa’kanth was jubilant. He called Mont’o and informed her of his plan. He convinced her of the righteousness of his idea and she too agreed it was the right thing to do.

“We are parents, aren’t we?” she asked. “We couldn’t kill our own daughter. The least we can hope is that some Earthling will look after her and keep her safe and protected.”

“Yes Mont’o.” agreed Tosa’kanth. “That’s the idea. She need never know the truth of her origin. And we need never fear that she will destroy us and our kind.”

Mont’o smiled bravely, hugging her daughter.

Tosa’kanth made elaborate plans of disposal that Pip’ek was expected to execute with alarming precision. The Escape Pod would be ready and waiting, pre-programmed to reach Earth. And as soon as the Celebration commenced, Pip’ek would leave to carry out the Pre-Initialization Check and when the time would come to show the baby to the D’mon Race, Pip’ek would open the Starship’s Hatch and let the Escape Pod lift off and drift into Space towards Earth, its pre-programmed destination.

Everything went as planned and Tosa’kanth made an elaborate speech of having removed the curse of Langka from their midst amongst much cheering. He was once more safely ensconced as the undisputed Leader of Langka.

Time is really relative in Space. Does it really matter how long it was or how short it was? One could say it was many, many light years. But with Warp Speed even that becomes relative really. So, suffice for now to say some events took place and many more would take place, but the retying of strands would once again occur and time would then seem like yesterday once more.

A Space Shuttle drifting through outer Space, latched onto the energy field of Starship Langka and slowly zoomed its way into its interiors as the Hatch opened and shut. Surp’ana jumped out of the Shuttle and strode into the Inner Chamber of her brother’s quarters. Tosa’kanth was holding a Council meeting and he was surprised to see a bleeding Surp’ana.

“What is this?” he asked her. “What has happened to you?”

“What do you think brother?” she snarled angrily pushing the Medics away.

“Obviously, you have gotten into a hand combat and come off the worse for wear.” Tosa’kanth said laughingly.

“Oh! Must you laugh?” scolded Mont’o hurrying towards Surp’ana. “Let the Medics do their job sister.”

Surp’ana stood silently, still swearing as the Medics jabbed her and took her vitals. She began to feel better already.

“Well, come on,” said an impatient Tosa’kanth. “Don’t just stand there. Tell us what happened to you.”

“I had docked into the Danda’ran Entertainment Starship and was just having fun when I saw the most handsome Warrior walk in.” Surp’ana sighed.

Tosa’kanth looked at Pip’ek and rolled his eyes heavenward. “Here we go again!” he whispered.

Mont’o hushed them with a look and smiled encouragingly at Surp’ana.

“Well, I thought he was available but it turned out that he had a wife. I didn’t mind really. But his brother wouldn’t let me come close to them and he challenged me to a hand-to-hand combat and ….” She paused.

“And you lost!” completed Tosa’kanth.

“Never!” smiled Surp’ana. “Have you known me to lose a fight, brother?”

Tosa’kanth laughed delightedly and slapped his thighs.

“I won, but by then the others had left.”

“Well, well, well!” mused Tosa’kanth. “That’s all there is to it then.”

“Bridge to Leader. Alien ship sighted,” came the electronic voice of the computer.

“All hands to stations.” shouted Tosa’kanth as he teleported to Bridge.

There on the giant screen that gave an entire view of the cosmic void, a sole Shuttle Craft came into view.

“Announce our presence,” said Tosa’kanth.

“We did sir. But they are not responding.” said Control.

“Is there a Distress Call?” inquired Tosa’kanth, standing with his legs apart, peering intently at the Shuttle as it came seemingly closer.

“None, sir.”

“Hmm. Ask them to identify themselves and keep sending the signal and see if it’s picked up or replied to. If there is any change in the Shuttle’s position, take Battle Manoeuvre Position.”

“Yes sir.”

Tosa’kanth turned to Pip’ek. “What do you make of this brother?” he asked.

Pip’ek shook his head. “Can’t tell. Somebody lost, or their Communication is down and they are unable to respond.”

“Possibly. We will wait and watch. If the Shuttle drifts any closer, stand by to board.”

“Sir, Alien Shuttle set to collision course.” Control said urgently.

“Alright!” replied Tosa’kanth. “Scan its interiors. How many Aliens?”

“One sir.”

“Definitely lost.” said Pip’ek.

“Looks like it, but I am taking no chances. Shut Warp Field and we will let the Shuttle come to us.”

“Sir, Alien has a D’mon signature.” said Control.

“What?” said a startled Tosa’kanth.

“Yes,sir. The Scan results indicate the Alien within the Shuttle is a D’mon.” confirmed Control.

“How is that possible? None of our Shuttles are missing, are they?” queried Tosa’kanth.

Pip’ek shook his head. “All Shuttles and Pods are docked and accounted for.”

“How many weapons, Control?” asked Tosa’kanth.

“Just one Sub-Taser Laser Missile sir. But uncocked and silent, sir.”

“Even then, we will play this by the book. Security shields up.” commanded Tosa’kanth.

“Shields up, sir.”

“Bridge to Security. Board shuttle.”

“Boarded and ready sir.” came the voice of Security.

“34,” said Control.

“25.”

The tension increased in the Bridge as all eyes watched the Shuttle get closer to Langka.

“15. Set to collision,” came the urgent voice of Control.

Tosa’kanth watched grim and silent.

“10.”

“Lift off to Alien Shuttle,” he barked.

The Hatch of Starship Langka opened and one solitary Shuttle took off immediately to intercept the Alien Shuttle. The members on the Bridge stood watching the Interception and encapsulating it within the Starship Langka Energy Field and towing it gently towards the Starship.

“Docked and awaiting orders sir,” came the voice from the Shuttle.

“Get the Medics there and de-sensitize the Alien.” said Tosa’kanth and bring him to the Security Council Chamber. We will interrogate him there.”

With that he strode out of the Bridge with Pip’ek trailing behind him.

“What do you make of this, Pip’ek?” Tosa’kanth asked as soon as they had reached the Security Council Chamber.

Pip’ek shrugged. “Don’t know. Can’t really tell. How someone else can have a D’mon signature is quite beyond me.”

“Exactly.” said Tosa’kanth turning to the Control Board, “Tosa’kanth to Security Council. Assemble in Chamber for Alien Interrogation.”

Tosa’kanth and Pip’ek waited and watched as the members of the Security Council made their way into the Chamber and arranged themselves, awaiting the arrival of the Alien.

Soon the doors of the Chamber slid open and the guards marched in with the Alien in tow. They stood apart and behind, permitting everyone to take a good look at the Alien.

“It’s a woman.” said a surprised Pip’ek.

“So it is.” smiled Tosa’kanth.

“What is your name?” asked Pip’ek.

“Si’da,” came the soft reply.

Everybody was surprised. They hadn’t expected the Alien to understand their language.

“So you speak our language Si’da?” asked Tosa’kanth gently.

“I am as surprised as you are that I do,”came the swift reply. “But apparently I seemed too, although I have no memory of learning it formally.”

“How very intriguing…” mused Tosa’kanth. “Come, let us not be inhospitable to our guest. Sit, sit.” He gestured towards some seats. “Make yourself comfortable and tell us your history and more to the point, what were you doing in an unmanned Craft?”

Si’da sat down slowly. She was tired and she could feel it in her bones.

These people seemed friendly, she thought, so at least they deserved some modicum of respect. Besides, hadn’t they rescued her from the Craft and possible death?

“Come out of your thoughts, Si’da.” commanded Tosa’kanth, observing her keenly. “Let us hear your tale.”

Si’da slowly recounted her history. “I am an Earthling,” she stated flatly.

This startled the Council. They turned surprised eyes towards their Leader, Tosa’kanth, who looked as surprised as them at the revelation. But he impatiently gestured to them to keep their counsel until the tale was finished.

“My father is Jon’ok. A Spiritual Leader and he named me and taught me all the skills necessary to grow up. Then into our peaceful lives came a Space Craft, one day. Ram’kien and his brother L’ak disembarked and spoke to my father. My father invited them to stay awhile. I later found out that they were Space travellers and needed a place to rest. For some reason, my father was intent on promoting marriage between me and Ram’kien. I did not protest but I wondered at the wisdom of such a step. I, after all, belonged to a different Race. I am an Earthling and Ram’kien belonged to the Ayutt’a Race. Warriors and Peace lovers do not make an ideal mix but my father insisted, and so we were married. We set off on our travels immediately.”

Si’da paused and Pip’ek hurried in with a glass of de-sensitized water. She took the glass from him gratefully and sipped it urgently.

The Council waited for the tale to commence and Tosa’kanth too sat back in his seat and waited. Tosa’kanth sat deathly still and silently observed Si’da and listened carefully to every detail she said and left out in the telling.

“Ram’kien and L’ak left to get us more supplies because we were running short and so you found me alone in the Craft.” Si’da stopped and looked expectantly at Tosa’kanth.

Tosa’kanth smiled a hidden smile. “This one is smart,” he thought. “But I can be smarter.”

“So, tell us Si’da why hasn’t your Ram’kien introduced you to the Ayutt’a Race and instead allowed you to wander aimlessly in Space?”

Si’da looked up startled. She fidgeted in her seat a little before sitting up straight and replying, “Because Ram’kien was banished from Ayutt’a for fourteen light years.”

Tosa’kanth smiled broadly at this. He nodded encouragingly to the gasping Council and asked, “Now, why do you think it was so?”

“There was a dispute as to who the next leader of the Ayutt’a Race would be.” answered Si’da softly.

The Council sat back as one, satisfied. That made sense. A fight to be a leader and the loser banished for a while to recover from his humiliation while the leader established his claim and his rule on the Race. That was the way of the Space leaders. They understood that and they accepted that. They looked at Tosa’kanth to see what he would say now.

Tosa’kanth settled his chin on the palm of his hand looked at Si’da contemplatively and asked, “When will your Ram’kien be back?”

“I don’t know,” replied a worried Si’da.

Tosa’kanth nodded and gazed into the distance. The mutterings rose as the pros and cons of this situation were discussed in great length and slowly the sound fell away and it was all quiet in the Security Council Chamber.

Tosa’kanth sighed. “Well, you can rest now in your cabin Si’da. You may stay here until your Ram’kien comes and then you can leave with him. It isn’t safe for you to drift through Space in an unmanned Craft. You will be  sitting prey for others.”

He gestured for the guards to take her away and show her to her cabin. Si’da stood up gracefully and walked away between the guards.

The Council nodded their heads and rose as they too made their way out of the Chamber.

Soon, Tosa’kanth and Pip’ek were left alone.

“What do you make of this, Pip’ek?” asked Tosa’kanth as he stood up and strode towards the porthole.

Pip’ek shrugged. “We will end up being in the midst of a Race War. Let’s hope Ram’kien comes soon and takes her away.”

Tosa’kanth shook his head impatiently. “That’s not what I meant, but I see your point. I was asking you, what do you think of Si’da?”

“Pretty enough.”

“No! I mean the story she just told us. She is an Earthling she claims, and yet leaves a D’mon signature and speaks our language. How has that come to be?”

Pip’ek suddenly stilled. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a rogue memory shifted focus and stood centre stage.

“Oh my god! It cannot be,” he thought.

Tosa’kanth peered at him and observing the sudden paleness nodded his head. “That thought too crossed my mind.”

“But – but …” stammered Pip’ek shocked to the core.

“So the Prophecy may yet come true brother.” Tosa’kanth laughed.

“Oh my god!”

“We don’t know yet. But Si’da is my daughter. There cannot be any doubt in that nor in the tale she has just told us.”

“We have to send her back.” whispered Pip’ek.

“Send her back?” questioned Tosa’kanth sharply. “Send her back where? Ram’kien is expected shortly and then what will we tell him? We sent his wife back to Earth where she ought to belong?”

“What shall we do?” asked Pip’ek. “We cannot keep her. She is the seed of our destruction.”

“A fully grown seed and a very pretty one too if I might say,” joked Tosa’kanth.

“This is not funny brother,” bristled Pip’ek.

“Oh, it is funny, definitely funny.”

“What are you going to do?” demanded Pip’ek.

“Why, keep her of course!” shot back Tosa’kanth. “I am going to enjoy the company of my daughter and Mant’o will look forward to spending time with our daughter as well. She will be overjoyed when I tell her the news and I am going to her right now.”

With that, Tosa’kanth strode out of the Security Council Chamber, leaving Pip’ek with his dread.

Time passed slowly enough, or not fast enough, but pass it did. Until one day, an Escape Pod was sighted and once more Tosa’kanth was summoned to the Bridge. This time round there were no surprises. He knew what to expect and so did his men. The invitation was duly sent out but Ram’kien refused to board Starship Langka. He accused Tosa’kanth of kidnapping Si’da and stated categorically that if Si’da wasn’t returned unharmed, there would be War.

Tosa’kanth could feel Si’da stiffen up next to him and turn huge questioning eyes towards him. He smiled and shook his head in answer to the unvoiced question.

“Send out the invitation once again.” he said. “This time, tell him we rescued Si’da from certain death which he ought to be aware of. No trained Space Warrior would leave an unmanned Craft to drift through Space and not expect death to its inhabitants.”

The invitation was turned down again.

“He is gathering an Army sir.” said Control.

“Ayutt’a?”

“No sir. Smallish Race of Sukr’eep.”

Tosa’kanth caught Pip’ek’s eye and gestured to him. Together they left the Bridge towards the Inner Chamber.

“So brother, the Prophecy might be coming true after all.” said Tosa’kanth.

“I tried looking into the Earth Crystal after Si’da joined us but it is silent now.”

“Well, that is good news. I don’t want to hear any more sickening Prophecies,” said Tosa’kanth.

“Brother!” said a deeply shocked Pip’ek.

“Oh come now, Pip’ek!” said an exasperated Tosa’kanth. “The only time the damn Earth Crystal speaks to you is when it has to predict death and destruction. So I for one am glad it stays shut now.”

“What are we going to do now?” questioned Pip’ek, bringing the conversation back to the current situation.

“That is the question, isn’t it?” queried Tosa’kanth. “What do we do now?”

“Hand her over, brother,” said Pip’ek. “Hand her over and get rid of her. She is nothing but trouble.”

“Hand over my daughter to Ram’kien?” mused Tosa’kanth. “Why, I would like nothing better than that. But if the mule-headed Ram’kien would listen that I did not kidnap his wife but brought her to Langka for her own protection, then we would have a happy reunion. She is my daughter after all; I have to offer her my protection.”

Si’da suddenly stormed into the Inner Chamber. “Daughter? What daughter?” she shouted.

Tosa’kanth and Pip’ek turned around, surprised at the sudden intrusion.

“What is this about me being your daughter?” asked Si’da.

Tosa’kanth looked at Pip’ek who shrugged resignedly.

“Nothing but trouble,” said a morose Pip’ek.

“Come Si’da,” said Tosa’kanth taking her and seating her beside him. “I will tell you a tale that happened many light years ago, so many that even we have forgotten how many. But it is true.”

Si’da looked up expectantly. Tosa’kanth took his time to marshall his thoughts and after gazing into the distance for a while, meditating, he returned with a sigh to the present and started the tale.

“You were born to me and Mant’o. Pip’ek is in possession of the Earth Crystal which is handed down to the Second Born because they are the only ones who possess the Second Sight. Soon after you were born, Pip’ek consulted the Earth Crystal as is customary amongst us and it predicted death to the D’mon Race due to you.”

Si’da gasped loudly in shock.

Tosa’kanth nodded. “We were distraught. We didn’t know what to do. To declare the Prophecy to the Council meant your death. And if we didn’t, it meant ours.”

Si’da nodded sadly.

“We debated long and hard on what to do. I couldn’t let you die. You were my first born and my daughter. I couldn’t order your killing, even though you would grow up and cause my death. So I decided to place you in an Escape Pod and send you to Earth.”

Si’da looked startled. “So…?”

“Yes, apparently Jon’ok found you and took care of you. We thought if you were on Earth and were taught the ways of the Earthlings, of Peace and Love, you wouldn’t be caught up in the Prophecy and would be far away from the D’mon Race.”

“Does my father, I mean, does Jon’ok, know who I am?” asked Si’da.

“I honestly don’t know,” replied Tosa’kanth. “We are so far removed from Earthlings and they from us. But he must know that you are different. That much he would know for sure.”

“But how could you tell I am your daughter?” questioned Si’da reluctant to let go of the idea that Jon’ok wasn’t her real father.

“You look like us, Si’da. See the physical resemblance? You speak the D’mon language. Even you were surprised. How else would you know our language, if you weren’t born with our genes?” pointed out Tosa’kanth gently.

Si’da sighed in agreement. She looked nervously at Pip’ek, “So what would you do now?”

Tosa’kanth looked away at that. “We were discussing that when you came, Si’da.”

“What are your choices?” asked Si’da.

“War. I suppose.” shrugged Tosa’kanth. “Ram’kien seemed to think that I have abducted you and no amount of explanation seemed to alter that assumption.”

“Your other choice?” asked Si’da again.

“War.” replied Pip’ek shortly.

Si’da looked at him surprised. “What?”

“If I send you back — and I will gladly — my people would think that I have turned coward. They will think that I have returned you to Ram’kien because he threatened War on me and my Race if I didn’t.”

“And you are a D’mon Warrior and a leader of your Race. You cannot have your own people turn on you and think you a coward.” stated Si’da softly.

Tosa’kanth sighed deeply. “Don’t let that worry you, daughter. You tell me what to do and it will get done.”

“You will do what I ask of you?” asked Si’da surprised.

“Yes.” replied Tosa’kanth simply.

Si’da’s eyes teared suddenly and she hugged tightly this strange man she had grown to love.

“Then I would like to be taken to the Bridge and you will tell Control to open a Channel for Communication,” she said confidently.

Pip’ek looked at her strangely and shook his head at his brother.

Tosa’kanth brushed the unsaid warning aside and extended his hand to his daughter, Si’da. She placed her own in his and together they turned to march out of the Inner Chamber and towards the Bridge. Pip’ek followed reluctantly.

“Langka to Ram’kien, Si’da calling.” said Control.

“Si’da? Is that you?” a worried Ram’kien’s voice sounded across the Bridge.

“Yes, Ram’kien. It is I, Si’da.” replied Si’da, her hand still in her father’s.

“How are you?” asked Ram’kien. “I was so worried when I returned and found you weren’t where I left you.”

“I am fine and well, Ram’kien. I will return to you if you board Starship Langka and take me from here. I give you my word you will not be ambushed or harmed in any way and I give also the word of …” she paused and looked up at her father expectantly.

Tosa’kanth nodded agreement.

“I give you the word of Tosa’kanth.” she continued.

The Bridge went suddenly silent. All Communication Channels were switched off. Si’da turned to Tosa’kanth, worried. He squeezed her hand still in his and said, “Give him time to think.”

Si’da smiled bravely and nodded. The Channel opened up then and Ram’kien’s voice once again coursed through the Bridge.

“Si’da! I don’t see why Tosa’kanth can’t send you in a Pod to me. Why do you want me to board Starship Langka?”

“I would like to talk with you Ram’kien. There is so much to say.” replied Si’da.

“True. But why can’t you tell me everything once we are together on my Craft? What reason is there for me to board Starship Langka?”

“Because I would like it so.” stated Si’da impatiently.

The silence was longer this time. But when it finally broke, it brought no relief with it.

“I will board Starship Langka to get you Si’da but before I take you away, there is this small thing you have to do.”

“What is this small thing?” asked Si’da.

“It’s a Fire Cleansing Ritual.” said Ram’kien.

“What does that mean?”

“You have to jump into a Fire and if you come out unscathed, it proves to my people that you have been untouched by any other during our period of separation. And any progeny we might have will be mine.”

Si’da gasped, shocked. She looked at Tosa’kanth who stood impassively beside her, his gaze fixed on the screen, not letting any emotion show through.

“It’s an Ancient Ayutt’a ritual Si’da.” came Ram’kien’s voice. “Millenia old. Nobody even knows where it originated and how.”

“And if I don’t agree to this?” asked Si’da.

There was a pause. “If you don’t agree, then I cannot take you with me,” came the flat reply from Ram’kien.

Si’da glanced uncertainly at her father standing beside her but she knew no help would come from that quarter. It was her decision, and her decision alone. She would be the one to make it and she would live with the consequences of this decision. She felt a slight pressure on her fingers and joy coursed through her veins. She knew that this was not abandonment, it was freedom. No matter what her decision might be, her father would support her. She hugged this thought tightly to her chest and turned to face the screen from where she could see the Shuttle.

“You took me from the Earth, Ram’kien. I was taught the ways of the Earthlings. Ways of Peace and Love. My father who raised me, Jon’ok, is a great Spiritual Leader. His ways are Gentle and Divine. I do not understand the ways of War. Nor do I understand why you require me to jump into the Fire. It is a barbaric practice and I am no magician to magically survive and I presume you want me to jump into the Fire without a Fire Resistant Suit. Has anybody in your Race done such a deed and survived?”

The silence spanned the Bridge and touched Si’da.

“You do not reply to my question. So I take your answer to be negative. You have exhumed a Ritual whose beginnings are lost to Antiquity and have thrown it in my face now. You do not expect me to survive, do you? I understand your Pride is at stake. But what price your Pride? My life? You value my life cheaply, Ram’kien of Ayutt’a Race. But I have learnt to value life, mine own and others. I have been taught to value life, like my father, Jon’ok who raised me and my father, Tosa’kanth who birthed me.”

There was a stunned silence in Starship Langka. Everybody was listening, shocked into silence.

“You knew I wasn’t an Earthling, when I entered your Craft, Ram’kien,” continued Si’da flatly. “I had seen the look of surprise in your eyes but I let it pass and so did you. Is that why you now require me to pass a test? So you would know I have not succumbed to temptation amongst my own Race and not been corrupted by one of my own?”

“When I was born to Tosa’kanth and Mant’o, the Earth Crystal predicted death of the D’mon Race through me. My father who loved me dearly, Tosa’kanth, made a momentous decision and sent me to Earth in an Escape Pod. He valued life dearly! Warrior though he was, he didn’t want to kill me even though I might someday be instrumental in his death.”

Pip’ek looked at Tosa’kanth frantically but Tosa’kanth refused to make contact and stared impassively ahead.

“If there is one thing I learnt from the Earthlings and from Jon’ok, it is to value life and respect it. I respect Tosa’kanth for the decision he so bravely and dauntlessly made that day and now I promise him and his that I will never be an instrument in the destruction of him or his Race.”

Tosa’kanth finally turned his head to look at his daughter Si’da. She smiled bravely at him and continued.

“You have lost respect in my eyes Ram’kien. You ask me to throw my life away meaninglessly. I make no pretence to understand the ways of the Ayutt’a Race and it is very clear that I do not belong to them or to you. I belong to the Earthlings and I will return there immediately.”

Si’da turned to Tosa’kanth. “If you would give me an Escape Pod and send me to Earth, I would be grateful to you.”

“Is that what you want Si’da?” questioned Tosa’kanth gently.

“It is.” confirmed Si’da.

“Then so be it.” said Tosa’kanth. “Let all hear that Si’da will depart in an Escape Pod to Earth and Starship Langka will provide escort. Let anyone dare accost her on her return journey and they will have to answer to me.”

Tosa’kanth proudly led his daughter Si’da out of the Bridge towards the Hatch.

Si’da saw Mant’o, Surp’ana, Pip’ek all assembled there to say their farewells. She wanted to weep and hug them all but she knew it wasn’t their way, so she bowed her head and smiled and got into the Escape Pod.

“Locked and ready to exit.” stated Control.

“Exit sequence begin.” ordered Tosa’kanth.

“5,4,3,2,…”

The Starship Langka opened its Hatch and the Escape Pod gracefully exited the Starship once more. Only this time, it had garnered quite a little audience to watch its departure.

Si’da sat back and watched the Starship Langka glide past her on the screen and Ram’kien’s Craft drift by her as well. She was sad and strangely at peace with herself.

“It was the right decision,” she thought to herself.

She patted her stomach and smiled secretly.

“You will grow to be an Earthling too.” she whispered softly.

****************

GLOSSARY

Names are from Thailand Ramayana.

Si’da – Sita

Ram’kien – Rama

Langka – Lanka

Tosa’kanth – Ravana

Surp’ana – Suparnaka

Mant’o – Mandodari

Pip’ek – Vibhishana

Ayutt’a – Ayodhya

Jon’ok – Janaka