An original story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory as created by Melpomene.
Golden waves crashed on the ebony sands below the balcony as the second sun sunk deep into the distant horizon, following its brother in fleeing the rapidly deepening skies. With the departure of the suns, tiny flecks of silvery light filled the expanse overhead and lent what illumination they had to offer to the moonless night.
He stood at the balcony railing, absorbing every minute aspect of the dwindling day. This would be his last sunset on Tenodera, the last time he would be able to enjoy watching the ochre-colored sea as they swallowed the suns in rapid succession. Soft music flowed around him, wafting on the gentle sea breezes through the open door behind him.
A small sound redirected his gaze from the sea, refocusing it within his home. Just at the door stood a small child, her eyes gazing up at him with unabashed trust and adoration. Tiny hands clutched at the doorjamb, steadying her chubby legs as she took a step closer to him.
“Kara,” he said simply, a smile temporarily lifting his dreary reverie. “And where do you think you’re going, my little one?”
“Dada!” she exclaimed, her small arms flailing suddenly in her excitement. The impulsive movement spoiled her balance and sent the baby toppling to the floor with a dull thud and a delighted giggle.
He shook his head and grinned at his daughter, leaving the railing long enough to scoop her up into his arms. “You’re growing so big,” he complimented her as she clutched at his hair in single-minded fascination. “How am I supposed to leave you now? How can I do my duty to you, to the future of Tenodera?”
“You weren’t supposed to let yourself get so attached is how.” The soft voice warmed his ear.
“Illuriana, how could I not?”
The woman who stood behind him simply shook her head, her long hair catching on the ocean breezes and drifting lightly around her shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe this is how it always is… My mother never speaks of my father’s Sinensis and I have no memory of him.”
“I don’t remember my father either,” he admitted. He looked down at the little girl he cradled in his arms, his misery returning.
“Marak, what if you left?" Illuriana's sudden question hung heavily in the air. "If you were to flee the city tonight before the dawn maybe you could escape in time. If they can’t find you, then you can’t complete your Sinensis.” The desperation in his wife’s eyes shone clear despite the low light.
He turned again to look at the beautiful woman. “Don’t you think I’ve considered it? Every day of the past year since Kara’s birth I’ve thought of nothing else. But running away would be just as bad as the Senensis. I still wouldn’t be with you and Kara.” He hefted the baby to his shoulder and pulled his wife close to his side.
“No, Illuriana. I’ll fulfill my duty. I owe it to Kara’s future.” He buried his face in his wife's fragrant hair, stifling his own anguish. “Maybe it will be different one day. They have already begun exploration beyond our sun, who knows what they’ll be able to find. There may be other planets out there like Tenodera. Perhaps when Kara is grown there will be alternatives. But even if there aren’t, I can rest easy that women aren’t required to undergo Senensis. Kara will be safe.”
Illuriana remained silent, her body pressed hard against her husband’s in the dark shadows of the night. Marak could feel the pounding of her heart against his side, a steady companion to his own raging pulse. Content to spend his last evening with his wife and daughter, he cradled the dozing child to his chest and tightened his grip on Illuriana’s waist.
The morning dawned cold and hazy with thick fog blanketing the city. Marak stood in the doorway of the room he had shared with Illuriana for five all-too-short years. Upon the bed, Illuriana lay curled beneath a thick coverlet, her hair tumbling behind her head in a confusion of dark locks. Within the crook of her arm was the sweet face of their daughter, lax with sleep but already showing the signs of her mother’s beauty. The rest of their bodies were bare lumps beneath the coverlet that protected them from the morning chill.
He softly crept toward the bed and bent over his wife, placing one last kiss upon her cheek. “Remember that I loved you,” he whispered gently into her ear, “and don’t let Kara forget her father.” Leaning further, he caressed the baby’s downy cheek and kissed her soft brow. He turned swiftly from the scene and strode out of their domicile, knowing that to hesitate would be a dire mistake.
He rode the public transport through the outer city, watching the buildings rise out of the fog, only to disappear again as they continued past. The city center seemed unusually quiet when he disembarked at the Senensis Co-operative.
The building loomed oppressively over him, its heights hidden by the haze of the thick fog. Hesitantly he entered the double doors and followed the single hallway to an elevator. When the compartment came to a halt and the door slid aside he was faced with a solitary desk occupied by an over-eager receptionist.
“Hello there,” she called as he approached. “Let me guess, you must be…” She consulted the stack of papers in front of her. “Ah, he we are. Marak Tornarg of the house of Braenlen. It’s so nice to have Braenlen’s scheduled; you are always so punctual, never running off to try to hide from us. It certainly makes our job much easier, let me say.” She beamed up at him and gestured to a row of benches that stood against the wall. “Now don’t you worry, you won’t have to wait long.”
Marak slowly crossed to the seats she had indicated, his mind rebelling with every step. He remembered in detail all the lectures that had filled his school days, the pages of statistics. As a child he had been torn between dismay and disinterest. Perhaps he should have joined his friends who had, on their twentieth birthdays, refused to participate in the Senensis registry. The last he had heard, they had fled the city, choosing to play a game of cat and mouse with the authorities. Their lives were in constant upheaval, but they were free.
His thoughts were still on the small group of his school friends when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s your time, Marak of Braenlen.”
He looked up into the eyes of the director who stood in front of him. Her eyes were almost the same shade as Illuriana’s but she lacked the warmth of his beloved wife. He rose and followed her through a door, ignoring the smile and pleasant wave of the receptionist as he passed her desk, pausing only when they came to a distant empty room.
“If you would please enter the room.”
He stood in the middle of the floor, staring down at the large drain beneath his shoes.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” she said. He heard a distinctive click and raised his eyes to meet the director’s.
The weapon discharged with an unimpressive ping, his body crumpling to the hard floor from the shock of the procedure. He stared up at the ceiling, feeling the blood pool beneath his head and hearing it trickle into the drain but unable to move.
A sudden flash of memory assailed his thoughts. He could recall a fleeting image of a man, bereft and tormented. A man who had patted the head of the child he had been and walked out the door never to return. The man who had been his father.