|This story, DT 2020: Other Homeworld Theory, written by Distant Tide, was voted as the Best Short Fiction of 2020 in the Thirteenth Annual Halo Fanon Wikia Awards.|
|This article, DT 2020: Other Homeworld Theory, was written by Distant Tide. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
- "Other Homeworld Theory"
- UNSC Military Calendar: 1940 Hours, 22 April 2530
- Sampson Station
- Orbit of Hestia V, UEG Outer Colonies
It’s not something taught at the Academy but rather learned in the field. ChatterNet, the main communications network for human interstellar space, declined because Earth and the Office of Naval Intelligence needed to win a war of ideology being waged by the Insurrection.
In a post-truth world, there was too much information to process and too many parties producing it. To prevent the outgrowth of rebel sentiments, ONI had to become the producer and distributor of their own truth and to squash out dissenting voices. They replaced the old privatized communication systems with something more controllable, and the rest was history.
At least, that was the opinion of a well-read anti-Earth ideologue.
But for every well thought out articulation, there was always a crackpot theory to discredit a rather intelligent individual. Enter Other Homeworld Theory, or rather conspiracy but the true believers hate that connotation.
April twenty-second – that was the day Codename: UTOPIAN, known as “Justin,” sat with Professor H. Manchester, Doctorate in Early Interstellar Colonialism, at a bar aboard Sampson Station during a Mother Earth Day masquerade party.
Justin watched a couple of bipedal polar bears waddle in funny hats, their holographic masquerades flickering as they shuffled by. The subtle rolling noise of glass across polished wood drew him away from the festivities and back to the bar. The undercover agent caught the cold scotch as he swiveled to face Manchester and the delightful decorum of stacked glasses against the wall, sparkling with rainbow light from the nearby dance floor.
Barely audible over the boom and blast of Blam! genre music, Manchester leaned into Justin’s ear to shout, “Is this what you expected for your first O.H.C. (Other Homeworlder Convention)?”
“No! Not at all,” Justin shouted back as he slouched his beverage, raising it towards the eyeing barkeep and took a sip.
“Then what did you expect?” Manchester took a sip of his black-colored drink.
“I’m not sure! I—”
“Perhaps a quiet university hall full of Innie extremists?”
Justin couldn’t quite make out the professor’s question as a beat drop cut into the chatter. “What did you say?”
“Did you expect a university hall?”
“I mean…yes, you’re a professor! I expected something quiet!”
Manchester leaned back in his stool chuckling at the response, seemingly amused.
“Well, what do you think anyway? Is it to your liking?” Manchester called out over another beat drop. “You informed me beforehand you come from a small town in the colonial interior.”
“That’s right,” Justin responded, easily playing his role since much of it was true to his life outside Naval Intelligence. “I didn’t expect to see so many young people.”
“You would be surprised by how much the youth dominate the political arena. Activism and fighting tyranny are a young man’s game. Many of these people here are students of mine, both online and back on Meridian. ChatterNet is their arena as well, not mine. I simply show our past successes and failures so they might do better in fighting the good fight.”
“This is all…still very new to me. I’m still getting used to this penguin get-up, you said this was a penguin?”
“Yes, yes. A very fascinating group of flightless birds. Supposedly they’re from Earth but I like to think they might be from elsewhere. Maybe Alluvion, or Harvest.”
“Why is that?” Justin asked, frowning as his human-sized holographic penguin performed a similar lifelike gesture with a head tilt.
“Why do you think? Why are we even here?” The professor demanded rhetorically, gesturing to the crowd around them. The professor’s tiger-in-a-tuxedo gestured likewise, adding a little growl for dramatic effect.
Justin held up his hands, or rather, flippers in placation. “Alright, point taken. Earth is not the true homeworld. I take it you’re a true believer then?”
The professor’s tiger did a double-take. “Of course! I’m a true believer! I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. What, are you one of those inbetweeners who believes the ONI-led media that the Other Homeworld is some Insurrectionist conspiracy theory? Nonsense! It’s real and it’s out there. I don’t know why the Earth government is trying to hide the fact – I bet it's because they don’t want to reveal that the true homeworld is an Outer Colony.”
Manchester’s tiger took another long sip of his drink before gesturing with a pointed finger. “Don’t you believe?”
Justin took another sip of his scotch, slightly annoyed. “Yes, I want to believe – I know I’m not quite there, but the idea does make sense.”
“Well just consider this,” Manchester said, setting his drink back down and gesturing towards the crowd and dining tables filled with people and the dance floor beyond. “Earth has been trying to keep rebels down for centuries if Earth was the true homeworld – why would they need to keep putting down rebellions? Earth isn’t industrially developed enough to be the ancient human homeworld. And then, 2525, the Covenant show up. Earth tries to hide behind this nonsense that we’re winning the war but you and I both know as colonials that its hogwash too. If you ask for my opinion, the Covenant is the ancient enemy that forced us from our homeworld long ago. That’s why they hit the Outer Colonies first – the ancient homeworld must be in Covenant territory, and the Outer Colonies are the closest to it.”
“Holy shit,” Justin gasped, half exaggerated, half genuine.
“Now you starting to see the dots connect?”
Justin hummed in thought, considering how far to lean into playing the skeptic or to simply be polite.
"What about things like Earth's ecology or the fossil record? That stuff is infinitely copied and reproduced and distributed to museums across the colonies. It's really hard to deny dinosaurs…"
Manchester simply chuckled at the weak attempt at skepticism, shaking his head. "You're not thinking. That's all fake or misattributed. Think of every time we've had to clone animals to bring them back from extinction. I don't deny Earth's age, I'm sure it's old but all those species have been cloned and plopped elsewhere before. It's just another part of the nonsense."
“Alright, I'm seeing where you connect the dots. Honestly,” Justin exclaimed, not so honestly. “But how are you so certain, do you have some proof that the homeworld is out there?”
Manchester placed a palm to his forehead, rubbing it upon hearing the typical question. He composed himself like a man of science, even when discussing the merits of a crackpot theory. “Nothing conclusive, yet, but space is a big place. A group of professors, including myself, spread out across several colonial universities including my own U-Meridian at Port Moyne, are working on a multi-tier initiative intent on narrowing the homeworld search area. We call it the Drifter Project.”
“What does that entail?” Justin asked, leaning in to hear the professor better.
“Well, in short, we’ve been performing independent studies into Covenant invasion corridors. Where they’re coming from, which stars they’re jumping to? Those sorts of questions – we noticed patterns and we started formulating conclusions that these are optimal Slipspace routes and the most likely pathways used by diaspora-humans when previously escaping disaster. From the other end, we’ve been building a library on fauna biodiversity across human worlds and calculating the genetic drift with contemporary colonization maps so we can identify how the Earth became the center of contemporary human space, and to calculate which section of space we should be looking for an origin point.”
“It’s like a giant treasure hunt,” Justin summarized. Privately, he could respect the professor’s dedication and bravado while failing to be convinced. Manchester certainly drank his own Kool-Aid, but he was also an intelligent individual. Those independent Covenant invasion data might be useful to ONI in the war effort – Justin would make a note of it in his next report.
“To some degree, yes.”
“Are you worried that you might find the homeworld, only for it to have been glassed by the Covenant?”
The professor was silent for a while, taking a minute to seemingly ponder the question.
“I…It’s not the first time that I’ve considered the potentiality. There’s a sizable probability it was glassed. It would be a terrible loss for the historian community, and even more so for all of Mankind. But…I can’t grow pessimistic; we must find it for the sake of all people and to finally unravel this ancient conspiracy Earth has entangled us all in. Even if the world was glassed, we have the power to rebuild it again.”
“Ancient conspiracy?” Justin frowned.
“Terra Firma. This belief that the Earth is the center of all things – the Unified Earth Government has been squeezing the colonies for resources and credits for centuries. Our history, our culture, our society all belongs to them, running on Earth time. Earth money. Earth news. Earth technology. It all belongs to them. And it’s all a lie.”
Justin nodded his head in faux understanding.
“Understatement of the millennium,” Manchester grinned gingerly. “One day, my grandchildren will be able to live free from Earth’s grip.”
“We got to win the war with the Covenant first…” Justin mumbled back, looking away from the professor.
The tiger-guise just huffed in trepidation. “That’s the big question, isn’t it?”
The quiet could not stand, Justin went to change the subject, so he wasn’t stuck moping with a potential-Insurrection-type as a drinking buddy. He didn’t need to think about the absurdity of it all.
“Can you tell me why we need to dress up in masquerade? What’s the point of the holograms?”
“Hmm? Oh, these things? It’s all part of the theme. It’s Mother Earth Day, or what used to be Earth Day a few centuries back. They say Earth residents used to celebrate Earth Day as a day to protect and care for the environment and the Earth because it was the only planet Humanity supposedly had at the time. Can you even imagine that sensation, can you imagine a time where all our species was trapped on one little ball?”
“No, I can’t,” Justin responded honestly.
“Neither can I, even though I know it to be true. I just don’t believe it was Earth. But the crazy Earth-types applied Terra Firma to the holiday too; this Mother Earth Day is all about ‘remembering our heritage’ and loving the ground beneath us because we need to take care of our colonies so they look like Earth as if it’s the most beautiful world in the cosmos. What a bunch of crap.”
“Have you ever been to Earth?”
“No,” Manchester sipped his alcohol again, dropping the cup down to half where the spherical eye cube within now touched the glass bottom. “Not that I’d ever imagined I need to. Meridian is my home, and I love it for what it is. I don’t need it to look like Earth. I just need it to look like Meridian.”
Justin finished off his scotch, “Well said.”
“How about you?”
“Me? No, never. I’d be interested but jumps there aren’t cheap with the Cole Protocol and the insane fuel costs.”
“Yeah, I can understand that dilemma.”
“So. You were telling me about the theme and theatrics of the convention?” Justin asked, bringing the two bar sitters back on topic.
“Right, right. So, you were asked to speak the passphrase upon entering.”
“Yeah, I remember. Loki Unmasked?”
“That’s the one. With the holographic masquerade party and the Loki references – this is our own little way as rebellious colonials to celebrate Mother Earth Day. We refute the hegemony of Earth – they’re not special. And one day, we hope that the true homeworld is discovered and the truth will come out. So, the masquerade is like a coming-out party of sorts. But it's for the truth and our true homeworld.”
Justin simply nodded in understanding.
“Here, let me give you a demonstration,” Manchester spoke, he leaned over the counter and tapped at a menu console, ordering an item from the pastry section on his tab.
Thirty seconds passed and abruptly, a globe-shaped cake platter was sliding into place in front of Manchester and Justin. The cake was suspended above the porcelain plate with a metal stand – a single glance at the globe cake gave Justin pause, it was a blue-green icing recreation of Earth with all its oceans and continents. A zippo lighter was placed next to the dish.
“My treat,” Manchester said gesturing and grabbing the lighter. “Allow me to show you.”
The professor sparked the lighter with a flick and pressed it to the Earth icing. The blues and greens immediately set ablaze, transforming into a small inferno. Justin slid back an inch, jolted by the sudden light and heat.
“Now, give it a second. It’s all just for the spectacle, it’s completely safe. Watch as the Earth burns away to reveal…”
Justin leaned in closer as the quick-burst inferno began to subside, the Earth icing had been cooked away, dropping down as molten-black sludge at the base of the globe stand. Left in the diorama’s place was a new globe, one smaller than Earth and without distinct markings, however, it was another icing ball with a particularly beautiful shade of purple, almost like rare quartz or the color of royalty.
“The other homeworld. What it could be,” Manchester finished, smiling down at Justin’s agape penguin disguise. Burn away the Earth, and the truth will be set free. Justin let his imagination fly, just for a moment. Imagining an idyllic world that he would like to call home for all Mankind.
“What would you call this world, if you found it?” Justin found himself asking while lost in thought.
Manchester’s smile didn’t waver. “Paradiso: paradise.”