The old Bedouin’s eyes flashed open to find the horizon. An eerie light flickered in that distance: the spark of laser-wire, which surrounded his people, these scraps of Earth’s history; the Last Sons of Ishmael. All 200,000 – here in this vast prison in the Arabian desert — the Last Tribe of Sem, collected, gathered, herded like frightened sheep.

He turned to the four corners of the ravaged Earth, seeing with his heart what his ancient eyes could not. To the West and South, ash-soiled desert; far to the North, the fouled Mediterranean; and to the blessed East, the Nile, a toxic trickle of sewage that dripped into the poisoned sea through what was left of Cairo.

Tomorrow he would meet with Al Khamsa, The Five, the men of the Merchant Council who would deal with his people. So few to decide the lives of so many. Rumors about the encampment told that these men bought and sold worlds, worshipping only the God of Profit. But somehow the Hand of Allah cupped his people in His mercy. Somewhere beyond the dagger-points of light which lowered over him this night, were men who sought justice. The Galactic Court read from its own Koran and willed solution.

Tomorrow, he, the beggar sheikh, guided by an ancient prophesy, would receive the Alms of Allah. The chill of the night brought his thoughts to anger at what he must do. He had longed to die in battle. But beyond the laser-wire were the energy weapons of the Merchant Council’s mercenary army, and beyond them, extinction.

He would be told of a world granted his people by the Galactic Court. He would be told of three colony ships — Agate, Emerald and Silver — that would bear his people, the willing and the unwilling, to a dun-colored orb circling a piercing, orange star.

He would not be told how their separation during the long journey would facture his people into three, warring tribes.

He would not be told how the hardships of this castoff world would warp their once-proud culture into unforeseen forms.

And he would not be told of the terrible monsters of the vast desert, the jinns, awaiting them on the planet known as SaHraa’.

–Joe Dacy II

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