The Nourishing Star

Summary: A starving, deprived child wishes upon a falling star.

Ern looked up to the night sky in quiet desperation. The hunger pangs still ravaged his body, though he'd snuck another ration from his allotment. Among those distant stars, he wondered if anyone looked back. A star fell from above, streaking towards Earth. He wondered if anyone cared about him.

Ern heard stories of the ancient times from his parents and teachers, before the Leader. Humans settled those distant stars, as many as they could reach. Yet they could not save their polluted home-world, and only the Leader remained of that golden era. The guards, the rationing, the conscription, and the system was necessary to preserve some semblance of human life.

Ern heard a shrieking in the air above him. Shapes like bent scimitars hurled through the night sky, dropping whistling projectiles. He instinctively screamed and ran as they struck the distant ground. He saw strange shapes, gangly-humanoid figures of bent wire. They rose like the weeds that choked the outer farms, heading towards the Leader's estate.

Ern thought he saw a symbol on the hull of a fallen capsule. It was the double-serpent symbol nearly identical to the Leader's own. He reached forward, only for his parents to pull him back. They told him to sleep, but he could not sleep until sunrise. He pretended to sleep as his parents left for the parade ground, where they'd gather for the Leader's rallies. He followed behind them.

Ern saw them staring at a lean figure very different from the Leader. The uniform he wore was drastically different, a sleek polymer suit instead of the portly Leader's elaborate military uniform. The man was speaking how the Leader was a fraud, a rogue element who'd imposed his will on the starving remnants of Earth. It had taken years to organize the Terran Expeditionary Force, but the Outer Colonies had enough resources to raise Earth to its prior glory.

Ern did not understand the politics, or the other words. He remembered that as the day he started going to bed with a full belly.