A/N: This was written for April’s Monthly Challenge for Innocence at the Ad Astra fanfction archive site. Herein lies the beginning of a new story, one for which I would like opinions, if anyone cares to share them. It has some elements of fantasy, but was mostly written as science fiction. Comments welcome!

 The green blue world shimmers beneath me, nothing disturbing its tranquility. Innocence. That is the word that pops into my mind as I stand, high up on the invisible glass precipice, looking down at a world with no knowledge of the existence of me, of my kind. A world of fire and ice. Viewed from inside a giant glass bubble that no one else will ever see. I hear my father’s voice inside my head, “They are innocents, Daughter, and you should always protect the innocents.” Though that is not what brought me here, it is what compels me to stay.  A society, not exactly primitive, but not yet ready for the infinite vastness of space and the unknowns it contains. Innocence. I have given that word a great deal of thought since they dropped me here.  I am Aife, protector of worlds.

The lives on the planet below me are my responsibility, and that means not showing them what lies beyond the stars they look at every evening before they go to bed. I sometimes wonder if any of them ever suspect that those stars might be a clever disguise, left as a gift from an unknown race, and meant to protect them from seeing what lies beyond until they are ready to do so.  After all, the field of stars the others have provided is almost perfect. The planets are well done, too, for those who desire a further glimpse. A glimpse is all that is permitted. If the star field fails, there is, of course, a backup plan in place. Cloud-maker satellites have been installed in the near atmosphere of the planet, and they will automatically kick in and the clouds will pile in thick and heavy, sometimes bringing rain, and sometimes not, and conceal the field until it can be repaired. It never really fails, though, so the cloud-maker satellites will, on occasion, come on as part of a self diagnostic, and cover the planet in clouds anyway. It adds to the illusion, and so, no move will be made to change it.

I have never thought about it, before now, but I wonder if by dropping me here, the others haven’t violated their supreme law, a law they call the Prime Directive. After all, isn’t this also interference, of a sort, in the natural development of the planet? What is it that makes men strive? Makes them try to reach beyond what is familiar and comfortable to what is new and dangerous and exciting?  What makes one culture strike out, while another retreats within?

The more I think about it, the more I don’t want to think about it, because when I do, the darker questions always creep in.  I am Sorcha, wielder of the flaming sword. If the others are hiding all of the wonders of their world from the planet below, what are they hiding from me? And why? What is their goal? World Domination or something more innocent? Innocence. There’s  that word again. They assure me I am not a prisoner, and yet they wish me not to leave this place. Perhaps they sense that I could be a danger to them.

A white hot anger stabs me, and suddenly, I understand. I am angry because the people below weren’t given the right to choose to stay innocent, or to walk out of Eden and into something else. And a cage is still a cage, theirs (or mine). No matter that the bars (or walls and floors) are invisible.  This time, they caged knowledge and freedom and the right to choose, and in doing so, they tried to cage me, but my essence cannot be contained so easily. In time, they will learn. What will they cage next, in the name of protecting the innocent? Are they really protecting the innocent, or trying to keep them blind to something? Can a people be caged, if they don’t know the cage exists?

The others would tell me I am thinking too much, and that may be, but I wonder what would happen if I open up the door, and set us both free. I am Sorcha. I am Aife. I am the wielder of the flaming sword. I am the protector of worlds. Aife. Sorcha. Sorcha. Aife. Protector of worlds. Wielder of the flaming sword. The sword screeches from the scabbard. I start to spin, and my sword whirls around my head, trailing little tendrils of fire behind it, slashing through the air. Invisible glass shatters, raining fragments all around. I slash again, and fire destroys the panel that controls that which brings the clouds.  It is the end of innocence, and in a way a death. But it is also life. I am Sorcha, wielder of the flaming sword, killer of innocence. I am Aife, protector of worlds, bringer of life.