The empathic Link that had always connected him to his family had been severed when the Shelter’s Seal was closed two days ago. The Seal itself wasn’t any barrier to the Link. Nothing could affect the n’es’tahh connection which flowed between everyone on Yannoneth. Nothing, that is, except a restriction of the g’ru’tnok energy. The Council had made it clear that they would need every iota of that energy to protect the Shelter from the Bombardment. No other uses, no matter how small the drain, would be permitted until they survived the crisis. If they did. Survival was by no means certain, even buried this far below the surface; even with the energies of every Councilor and Proficient focused on reinforcing the Shelter’s structure.
Afterward, the n’es’tahh would be restored. Only… what would be the point, he wondered? When the Bombardment passed over Yannoneth there would be nothing and no one left on the surface. The very air of the planet would be stripped away. The land would be so thoroughly devastated that it would be as though his people had never inhabited it. Indeed, it would be as though no life at all had ever existed on it.
The damn Danaereans! They had lost control of the Disintegration of the ancient home world weeks ago. The orderly crumbling of the birthplace of both races had become a catastrophic rending that would launch inconceivably massive chunks of debris in every direction. It would ravage every other planet in the solar system. Including this one. Given the relative positions of each world in their orbits, especially this one.
Damn them, he thought again. Had it been deliberate? Their way of taking revenge on his people? Yannoneth had simply wanted to be free. Couldn’t the Danaereans have let go while they were on the far side of the sun instead of while the two worlds were virtually next door to each other? Why couldn’t they simply have gone into oblivion and left Yannoneth whole? What had his people done to deserve this?
He knew the answer. They all did. And he was ashamed.
Sitting on the edge of the small bunk he’d been assigned, he opened the single carry bag that he’d been allowed to bring with him. Reaching inside, he gently pulled out the one thing that he considered of value. The bottle was still slightly dusty from long years in the family cellar.
He held it close to his nose and inhaled. Not to try to detect the bouquet of the wine sealed inside, but to breathe again the air of a place that would very shortly cease to exist so utterly that it was impossible for him to conceive of it.
The dust, of course, wasn’t very representative of the Eoneth Highlands where he’d learned to make wine at his father’s knee. But his genetic memory filled in the details. The d’na’tnek, written into his very DNA, allowed him to reach back millennia through the generations of his ancestors, recalling their lives almost as if they were his own. He remembered when the soil was turned to plant the first vines; the celebration of the one thousandth harvest; the day this very bottle had been laid in the cellar. He smiled wistfully at a stray linked incident – the embarrassment of an ancient ancestor who, enjoying the fruit of the vine a little too liberally, had attempted to seduce a neighbour’s daughter. Not entirely unsuccessfully as it turned out. If the girl hadn’t eventually become his several times great grandmother, after all, the memory wouldn’t be part of him now.
He lovingly held the bottle as the tears started. He longed to walk the Highlands again. He knew that his parents were there at this moment. He might not be Linked to them, but he knew what they were doing. It had been planned from the moment they knew that the Bombardment was inevitable. His father would be opening the very finest vintages, his mother preparing the most sumptuous of meals. They had always loved to entertain. Their reputation as the most gracious of hosts was unparalleled, which was quite an accomplishment in a culture like his.
The entire community had chosen to gather there one last time.
Suddenly, the Shelter shuddered. The bottle slipped from his hands and shattered on the floor. It was one of the deep reds his parents loved so much.