Note: Based on this image by WillowRaven (check her page out!):
From the desert, Dune Towers seemed almost peaceful. A reef of steel and plastic emerging from the sands, lights green, white and yellow like bio-luminescent fish. Of course, she had never seen a reef or an ocean with her own eyes. Only pictures and holos. When she was little, she used to devour them, to endlessly pester her father to buy her more. The sea seemed to her an unreal thing, impossible and fantastic. Enough water to fill a valley, a world. Fish as big as an ornithopter. To her it was fairyland, something borne out of a dream. An escape from real life.
Yes, life was hard here, in this barren rock where most fresh water had to be imported from off-world, mined and refined from the asteroid belt and dwarf, uninhabitable planets. Danakil shouldn’t be inhabited either, but its sands and rocks hoarded untold riches: gold and diamonds, uranium, boron, lead, iron, copper, semi precious stones and rock salt. Interstellar Combines set up mining colonies like Dune Towers to house workers and send minerals to the orbiting ships that would deliver them to feed the industry of who knows how many worlds.
As Amaani walked over the hot sands, the domes and spires of the mining outpost began to fill the horizon. Yes, it was beautiful, from the outside. The inside, however, was another matter altogether. A hive of scum and villainy, as someone put it once. The Combine concerned itself only with work schedules and production quotas, not with daily life, and so, most of the population was at the mercy of warlords and thugs, which monopolized the scarce supply of fresh water and the black market: prostitution, drugs, weapons and more. You could get anything in Dune Towers, yes, even holos of oceans and fish. But the price, sometimes, was too high.
As high as shattering her entire life. As high as forcing her to do anything to get some money when her father was crippled. As high as hooking her up with drugs when she could not cope any more. There were some happy children in Dune Towers, those young enough to not know what happened around them, but there were no happy adults. Amaani was flung into this world too early, too hard. Her last memory of the mining outpost was the blank face of her dead father, the heavy, sweaty paw of the crime lord that styled himself her “owner”, and the call of the desert. She, that had always loved the unseen sea and abhorred the dusty plains of death that laid beyond the walls, now was being beckoned by the singing of the dunes and the whispers of the wind. At dawn, she ran away.
Now she was returning to the town where untold lives had been crushed and ground by poverty and toil and tyranny. Where untold souls had been turned from light and hope to despair and darkness. She was very close now. The ornithopters orbited around the city, ferrying ores and personnel between Dune Towers and other outposts. One of them hovered over here, the wind of its wings pulling at her wild hair and skirt. Security. A loudspeaker shouted something, but she ignored it.
Three years in the desert. Three years among the sands and the snakes, listening to the voice of the great empty spaces, staring into the pure, unfiltered light of the sun. Three years purifying herself of sin, impurity and madness, cleansing her soul of despair. Now she was ready. Now, as the cameras and guns over the blast doors of the colony trained on her, as the shouting from the ornithopter increased, she was returning home. She was not alone. The spirit of the desert was with her, the power of the word heard in the deepest solitude.
Amaani advanced towards the gates, alone and fragile against the bulk of the enclosed city, almost naked in front of the voracious muzzles trained on her body. She smiled. I am here to save you. To cleanse you.
The doors opened with a loud rumble, letting in wind and sand. The desert. Purification.
Amaani returned to Dune Towers.