art by Ron Sanders
The Alien Tithe
by Eric Brown
On the day allotted to me, I left Starship City with my sons and daughters and trekked through the mountains to the high dome of the aliens.
On the first night we camped beneath the massed stars of the galactic core. We built a fire and ate roast vegetables grown on our own land. Nightbirds boomed from a nearby grove of luminescent trees. After the meal we lay back and took in the beauty of the view. Fifty kilometers away, spanning a pass between two towering peaks, the aliens' dome reflected the starlight like a mounted gem.
We set off at sunrise and took the path that climbed the ravine, soon leaving the forest in our wake. In three days we would arrive at the dome, and be received.
Harry: "I'm excited!"
Olivia: "Me too."
Paul: "A new life awaits us!"
Emma: "I'll miss our... our old life." Emma, the quiet, thoughtful one; Emma the compassionate.
On the third day we reached the first pass. This was where my children would look back for the last time and see the plain where they had grown up, and the Starship that had given them life.
We paused as one and stared down the mountainside. The silver length of the Starship, broken-backed, sprawled across the plain where thirty years ago it had crash-landed. Around it, radiating on roads like spokes, was the city which was my home.