A letter from Arshia Kishk, leader of Al Falah

This undated message from Arshia Kishk to her daughter, Firyal, was preserved as part of a repository of pre-landing Al Falah letters. It represents one of only a handful of private communications that can be definitively traced to Kishk. Archivists date the letter to approximately 3-8 standard years prior to Al Falah’s planetfall.

Daughter, let me tell you a story that my father told me, now that you are old enough to understand both the story and its meaning.

Once, long ago, on Earth, when we walked under the stars instead of through them, there lived a princess in a hotel. Hotels were a grand habitation module, surrounded by a fabricated river called a moat, and topped by fortification from which soldiers would assail invaders with snaphaunces and carbines. This princess lacked for nothing. She owned three dresses made of firstuse nylon in scarlet, aubergine, and cyan, representing the colors of the sun, the soil, and the sky. She owned a llama, which was imprinted upon her and protected her with its acidic spit and the coiled monofilaments of its pelt. She feasted twice a day on the flesh of chickens.

One day a suitor approached her hotel, and by the forbearance of the guards and the llama was allowed to approach the princess. “Dear princess,” said the suitor, “I come from another land, where I am the third son of a king in a great hotel. Permit me to marry you, and I will protect you from the dangers of that land.” And he described a great many dangers that might assail the princess’ hotel. He described a giant death robot with one great railgun and an optical port to the fore, which was immune to the bullets of the snaphaunce. He described a phage which preyed upon llamas, and caused their wondrous monofilament pelts to molt, and their spines to bend into humps. He described the vulpix, which was a small predator whose hide was made of fire, and which hungered endlessly for chicken. The princess was greatly afraid of these threats, and agreed to marry the suitor at once.

But within a year of her marriage, the suitor’s brothers from that distant hotel sent demands that the suitor yield gifts to them. “Send us three dresses for our wives and queen mother,” they said, “or we will send the llama-phage.” The suitor sent the princesses’ dresses to them, and she made do with a worksuit made of ripstop. Then they demanded the chickens. “Send us chicken-meat,” they said, “for we in our hotel are reduced to eating algaesofts and it is unfair that you eat fresh protein twice a day.” And so the chickens were all sent there, for the princess was moved by obligation. Then they demanded the llama, saying: “The vulpix of our land have grown bold with the influx of chicken, and we fear that they will ambush us and acquire a taste for our flesh.” So the llama was sent away, singing a mournful song, as llamas did when they were sad unto death.

Then the suitor left one day, for he no longer found the princess attractive, clad as she was in a plain worksuit, and the food now simple stock, and the llama no longer there to delight the eyes as it gamboled. The princess traveled after him, and when she came to the border of her hotelhold, she saw the giant death robot approaching. It scanned her with its targeting optics, and she was alone, utterly alone, without even the llama or her carabinieri to defend her. She heard the railgun charging, and knew her failure was complete.

My daughter: Do not listen to those who will fill your ears with fear. Had the princess rejected the suitor, she would have kept the dresses, the llama, and the chicken. Had she not tried to clutch the falling knife, she would not have run across the giant death robot. Through fear she rushed headlong into an alliance which cost her all, and in the end she did not even have her dignity.

When we walk under the stars instead of through them again, there will be others who are not of our people. They will see us as means to their end. They will say: “Together we are stronger, together we can help each other.” This is false. The strong do not pool their strength, but use it to hold what they have. We are strong, we who traveled with our eyes open. See that you are not beguiled by their words. What we have we have kept. What we will take will be ours, too.