All night, following Uldren’s return, Mara isolated herself from her brother. From her advisors. From even Sjur. What Uldren’s scouting mission had discovered was both inspiring and devastating, and it left Mara with a weighty decision to make. By morning, Mara had made up her mind, but now she had to tell her people. And it wasn’t going to be easy.

Mara called together the elected representatives of her people to the Sacred Fire, one of the largest ships they had salvaged from the Golden Age reef. Set up in a large room with a holo projector, Mara and her brother present what they have found. 

“We’ve found Humanity,” she tells them. “We’ve found our ancestors.”

Uldren snaps his fingers and a holographic recording from his ship lights up the room. The disorienting view plunges down through the clouds then skims the terrain until it comes across the beginnings of The City and, above it, the battered remains of the Traveler. The Awoken in the room gasp and marvel. This is something out of their fairy tale storybooks, out of their ancient history they weren’t complete sure was real. And now it is real. But, for Mara, this thrilling scene is dangerous. She knows what her people will want to do, and she knows what she will have to tell them. 

One of the Awoken in the gathered crowd, the historian Esila, voices that danger:

 “What are we waiting for?” she calls. “That’s everything we came to find! They need us, and that’s where we belong!”

With a look from his sister, Uldren continues the playback from his fighter’s cameras. From somewhere nearby, the trees rumble and a red-brown aircraft shaped like a fat, wingless, furiously angry dragonfly bursts from cover and climbs to intercept. It launches a swarm of missiles at Uldren and he has to pull a tight, high-g turn to evade. 

“Those are Fallen,” Uldren says. “They’re a species of interstellar scavengers and subsistence pirates. They’ve been here for a long time, and they’ve sacked most of the large settlements that survived the original fall of Humanity. There may be more Fallen than there are Humans left on Earth.” He lifts his chin to bare the pale scar across his throat. “I landed and went looking for prisoners. I was ready when he pulled two knives on me, but it turned out he had an extra set of arms.”

Mara steps in to further emphasize the point. Not only are there likely more Fallen in the solar system than there are Humans, they aren’t the only threat. Mara tells her people about the Cabal occupying Mars and about Mercury lost the to Vex, an enemy that Humanity had encountered back during its Golden Age. 

Elisa speaks up again: 

 “So they need our help, don’t they? We have to go to them! Our ships, our technology—we could make all the difference.”

Now comes the part Mara struggled with. The part she had been dreading the previous night. She stands there and tells Elisa and the rest of her people “no.” Mara explains to them that while it’s true they could provide some assistance, that doing so would leave them vulnerable. It would allow the Fallen to track their ships back to the Reef. It would see their expedition destroyed before they could really accomplish their goal to save Humanity. 

Elisa responds from the crowd once more: 

“Mara, with all my respect, all my genuine gratitude for bringing us here,” Esila sighs, “who died and made you Queen?”

Although she doesn’t speak it, Mara knows the answer to that question. All of them died and made her queen. But, remember last time? Mara is not trying to be a queen to her Awoken. She is treating them like equals. She and her brother right now are standing before a crowd of elected representatives. And, right now, those representatives and the public opinion they represent are all trending against Mara. 

After the conclusion of the gathering, Mara meets with her brother and Sjur in private. Sjur is busy patching up more of the wounds Uldren suffered during his scouting mission. She and Mara hold a conversation as she does so. Things are bad, Sjur confirms. Almost a full third of the Awoken have indicated they want to split off from the Reef and head to earth. And worse, among the highly influential Awoken that hail back to the 891 who were reborn remembering their past, that number rises to almost 80%. 

What this all means is that Mara has a significant political problem. Maybe her first in the thousands of years that have passed since she awoke on the Distributary. If a third of her people split away, it will leave the Reef with a shortage of technical skills and will diminish their somewhat fragile gene pool. That alone would do great harm to Mara’s mission. If, in heading to earth, her people alert the Fallen to their location, it could destroy everything. Sjur, certainly thinks that it will. 

“I know,” Sjur says, heavily. “That’s when I’m going to die.”

Mara, of course, declares that unacceptable, but Sjur figures her death is inevitable. And she predicts that it will be when the Fallen soon come for them. After all, she is the Queen’s body guard. If she is going to die at all, it will be in a moment of great heroism. Mara objects, reminding Sjur that she has not taken the position of queen. But, to Sjur, Mara denying her own position is part of what is causing her so many political problems in the first place. And Sjur says so.

We don’t get a real response from Mara on that political point, but to Sjur Mara responds: 

You won’t die. I won’t allow it.

Chapters Referenced:

Revanche II
Revanche III