DISCLAIMER: None what so ever. This is an original work. So all of it is mine, mine, mine!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a Science-Fiction story, but before you assume (since I write Star Trek Voyager fiction mostly) no, this story is not Star Trek based. In fact, it's based on no movie/series or the likes. The only thing this is based on is my imagination. Did others have the same idea before me, I don't know. All I can say is that I wrote this while not even thinking of other established entities like Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Babylon 5, or name your favorite show. And last but not least: My undying gratitude goes to Jo for betaing this work of fiction. Since Word is so nice to put red lines under misspelled words, her work is made extra hard because my spelling mistakes are not literally mistakes as such, but more words used in the wrong place (saw Vs. was) and other pesky things like punctuation. So, a double dose of thanks goes to her for her very appreciated work.
SETTING: Centuries in the future. But I tried to keep sci-tech 'realistic.' Meaning, yes, they have faster than light flight, yes they have laser weapons, no they don't beam down to a planet, no they don't have holographic people running around.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for Epic Proportions 2009.
The Danmun Alliance
"No," Jane answered the question Latennador had just asked, "I'm not going to demand things from you now. I know that I'm not in any position to truly demand things from you. I know you Danfi well enough by now to know that you wouldn't give in to demands. Not even for something as important as this crystal. The fact that I can destroy this crystal was just enough to make this conversation possible. But I know that the role of this crystal is played out now. If I truly were to destroy it this would only lead to you attacking the Union with even more zeal."
Latennador looked at Jane surprised. The way Jane had played this, Latennador had been sure that Jane thought that she could do anything only because she had the crystal in her power. "So you don't want to get any gain at all out of having the crystal?"
Jane stood up from the rock bench and slowly walked to Alenador. "I'm not kidding myself, I know that there's only one reason why I'm still alive. Saving the crystal is more important than the rule that no violence may be used in this cavern."
Jane stopped in front of Alenador and took hold of her hand. She opened it and put the crystal in it.
"It was the General Supreme that decided that I should not be killed," Jane continued while looking Alenador in the eyes. "It was the General Supreme that made sure that I could sleep two nights in here without being harmed. It was the General Supreme who decided that maybe I was right and it was indeed time for a high level talk between our people. She told me about your faith. How Danfi said, 'It is better to preserve peace with power, than to fight a war powerless'. All I did was give the General Supreme the excuse to act on what she was thinking."
Alenador took a few steps back and put the crystal back on its stand. She knew that Jane now had nothing that secured her safety anymore. She also knew that Jane had done this very deliberately. She had put herself and a high enemy general at their mercy. Now it was her turn.
"How did you know that we are in a position of power right now?" Alenador asked, first wanting to know that before anything else.
Jane walked back to the rock bench and lifted up the small backpack she had taken from the sleeping soldier. Opening it she took out the body armor, the Danfi hand weapon, and finally the personal data device. "As I told you, I used the body armor to snoop around, and that this was why I knew that you had access to the Union civilian codex. This was in that bag as well."
Jane lightly threw the PDD to Alenador, "Take a look."
Alenador looked at the device and after a moment she started to read out loud for the benefit of the others, "Possible title, overzealous or overestimation. Latest thoughts, look into this. The General Supreme must have her reasons, but still. I don't know what we're waiting for. We have more Fighters now than we did in the last twenty years combined. I heard that they're now starting to build even more starbases. But why? We have enough to replace every single Union starbase and still have more than enough to spare."
Alenador stopped reading and addressed Latennador. "Seems like one of our journalists decided to take his private life with him while doing his army job. When this is over, you find him, I want to have a little chat with him."
"I can see why. I'll take care of it."
Alenador handed him the PDD and walked back closer to Jane. "Now, what is it that you want?"
"Peace," Jane said simply.
"Peace?" Repeated Alenador in disbelief. There had been so many demands that could have been spoken. Instead there was a single worded wish.
"Yes. We've been at war now for four centuries. And why? Nobody knows. Nobody knows what the conflict was that started this war. All we know is a war that has been passed on from generation to generation. And it's really only about revenge on revenge on revenge nowadays. I think it's about time we changed this. Not by conquering or surrender from either side. But by a ceasefire from both sides. If no better option could be agreed upon, it could be as it has been for the last year. Have a no-man's-land and both sides stay on their side of it. I don't know how things are here, so let me ask Namfos this question. During the time we haven't been fighting, did you hear the people on your base say that they wanted the war to start all-out again?"
"No," Namfos had to admit. "I heard them talk about not trusting the silence. I heard the pilots talk about wanting action, but they want the action of flying in their Fighters, not the action of war."
"Right," Jane agreed. "So living with a no-man's-land and no threat of an attack would be a pretty okay way of living."
"Pretty ok?" Suenador asked.
"Yeah, I personally would much rather see a cooperation."
"A cooperation?" Latennador and Namfos said at the same time before Namfos continued by herself. "After four hundred years of war you want to start cooperating with the enemy from one day to the next? How do you think we can do that?"
"Who's talking about from one day to the next?" Jane asked with a smile. "I was just talking about a cooperation. You're right, four hundred years of hate can't be brushed off in a few days. If too many things changed too fast people wouldn't have time to adapt. For instance, people who still hate the former enemy could get the chance of getting their hands on both Union and Danfi materials and than make Fighters that have Danfi shielding and Union weapons. And then start an attack, hoping to start the war again. Trying to get rid of the former enemy. This has to be prevented by all means."
Alenador sat back down on the stone bench. "You got my attention, keep going."
Jane decided that sitting down was not a bad idea at all and sat down beside Alenador. "I'm thinking of the following. First there will be a ceasefire and the no-man's-land is recognized as the official border from both sides. Right from the get-go negotiators will be exchanged and nonbinding negotiations are started. After some months, about six or so, people will start to understand that a lasting peace is indeed a possibility. At that point those people I just talked about, those that do want the war to go on, will try something to force a restart of the war. Most likely some attacks and then try to blame the attacks on both sides; make it seem as if both sides are attacking to restart the war."
"And what if this doesn't happen?" Latennador interrupted.
"It will," Jane continued. "And if it doesn't happen, we'll make it seem as if it is."
This time it was Namfos who interrupted, "Why would we do that?"
"Because the Union and the Danfi will work together in eliminating those elements, clearly showing that both sides are truly standing behind the peace effort. After that embassies will be opened on both sides. And then two things will have to happen at once. First, during the war there has only been one thing. Both sides focused everything on the army. It's impossible to turn that all back in a short time. Something has to be found to keep both armies busy. I think the further exploration of space can be that thing. If you take the Union and Danfi territory together, it's still only a small part of space. There's so much left to explore. There's no reason why this can't be done by army ships. They're already built, ready for use. Pilots are already trained. Star basses are built in such a way that they can be moved in case the front line gets too close, that means that they can also be moved further into space to serve as bases for explorations."
"And second?" Alenador asked.
"What I just said will keep most army people happy. But there will always be people that want new toys. Them we have to keep quiet by doing research into combining Union arms and Danfi shielding in a new type of Fighter."
"I thought this should be prevented at all costs?" Alenador asked. "Hypothetically speaking of course."
"Well, a little research can't harm," Jane said. "In fact, sooner or later it's needed anyway. It would be plain stupid not to combine the two if we have the technology. Just that has to take time. So much time that the real solution is only found once it's really safe to do so and there are no longer people in high places that might want the war to continue for their own ignorance and stupid reasons."
She looked at Namfos before suggesting, "Because the Danfi shielding and Union weapons are so different, a special computer system will have to be developed to make them work together. It's really too bad that this computer system will not work as it should. And as long as the system doesn't work, it will be too dangerous to incorporate the two systems."
Namfos knew only too well what Jane meant. "Yeah, really too bad. It could be decades before this problem is solved. If we're really unlucky it could even be a century."
Understanding what Namfos and Jane were getting at, Alenador's lips twitched as she suppressed a smile. "Yes, really too bad. But safety is important and we need a good and fully tested system before we can use it. Alright, that could work, considering that you were able to hide it from your people for so long that our shields affect your computer systems."
"You know about that?" Namfos asked in a shocked whisper before realizing that by asking the question she had basically confirmed the situation.
"Oh, we've known about that for a long, long, time," Alenador assured. "Basically for the same reason that we know the other things; the civilian codex. Signed confidentiality contract or not, do you really think that your scientists never used the civilian codex to tell a husband or wife that they once again had to go through the motions of pretending to create automated Fighters so that people don't find out that the Union computer systems start malfunctioning when they come too close to our shields? No, we know. In fact, we use it in our new way of attack. That's why, if things went as practiced, you weren't able to scan behind our wall of Fighters."
"Then why didn't you ever use the knowledge before?" Namfos asked.
Alenador shrugged. "Because you were lucky enough to find that out before we did. As I said, we found out from your scientists talking about it on the civilian codex. By the time we could have used the information, you had already realized that you always need backup systems that don't rely on computers. And from then on it was basically what it has been for the last couple of centuries; a numbers game. The side that happened to have the most fighters in that battle probably won that battle."
She gave Jane a wink before adding, "Unless they happen to have a pilot in their midst with a big ego, the abilities to outshine that ego, and the proverbial balls to do things that others think are impossible."
Jane gave Alenador a smile and then continued to explain her vision before they got sidetracked too much. "Right, so research is done into combining our knowledge, but it will take some time. In the meantime, say in about twenty years or so, ships will be built that can bridge greater distances at a faster speed and the focus will have shifted fully from war to exploration. The crews of those ships will be a mix of Union and Danfi crews. And once it is found out that these crews work well together that there finally is a breakthrough in uniting our technology and from then on... well, I can really say that the sky is the limit. It's more like the universe is the limit."
"That sounds slightly optimistic," Suenador couldn't help but notice.
"Oh, you're absolutely right," Jane immediately agreed. "But what I'm suggesting here doesn't 'have' to happen. It's only a line along which we can work. At what point things will stop doesn't really matter. The most important part will have happened, peace between our people."
Jane laughed. "Who knows, maybe eventually there will even emerge a new Union. But that's so far in the future that none of us will see it."
"A new Union?" Namfos asked, she was getting infatuated with Jane's ideas. "They could join our existing Union."
Jane shook her head no, "Look at them, look at them and remember that they've been fighting the Union for the last four hundred years. Do you really think that all of a sudden they would be happy with only being part of that Union?"
Namfos looked at the others while thinking about the question. A question Alenador answered for her.
"No we wouldn't be happy with that. We would rather choose for another war than ever being part of your Union."
"My thoughts exactly," Jane said to bring the focus back to her. She could see that Namfos still didn't fully understand. "Look. Earth and her colonies have always been the linchpin the Union revolves around. From the moment Earth created the Union, she never gave up her leading position. Every planet that wanted, and wants, to join the Union has to respect the laws of the universal court. Earth is, and makes, the universal court. If Earth wants a planet to be part of the Union, it will happen by all means, literally all means. Namfos, you know the history of your Homeworld only too well."
Then she explained, mostly for the others, but still talking to Namfos, "A few rebels wanted to take over the power on your world. This little group proclaimed themselves the new government and said that they wanted to join the Union, something the rightful government didn't want to do at all. The Union recognized this 'new' government of ten rebel leaders and sent in, according to the Union to help, the might of the entire Union. Your planet had no chance against such an overwhelming force and the rightful government had to surrender after heavy losses. Your Homeworld has now been a loyal member of the Union for more than five hundred years. The Union also helped your people to colonize the planets in your neighborhood and you now possess nineteen colony planets."
"Your point?" Namfos asked.
"My point is that if they needed to, the Union could always crush what ever they came across. But the Danfi don't take kindly to being crushed. I think that this is the true reason for this war. The Union saw a beautiful planet and wanted it. But the Danfi didn't want to become just another part of the Union, having to listen to laws they didn't make, having to listen to laws that were not based on Danfi's laws."
"Who's laws?" Namfos asked.
"Um, long story and it doesn't matter right now, I'll tell you later. Anyway, so my guess is that the Danfi didn't want to join and the Union attacked them to get the planet that way. But the Union didn't know that they were starting a war with another Union that was just as big as them. A four hundred year war was the result. Just like us, the Danfi should and will never forget this war. That's why they'll never agree to being just another part of the Union."
"What 'second Union' are you talking about?" Suenador asked, "We don't have a Union, you're the ones with a Union."
"Do you really not know that, or are you trying to insult my intelligence?" Jane asked slightly offended. "Do you really want me to believe that you only possess one solar system? On this planet crimes against nature are dealt with in a criminal court of war. On such a planet, there isn't going to be any mining. So that leaves seven other usable planets in this solar system. And that's never going to be enough to sustain your war effort. The Union exists out of fifteen Homeworlds in fifteen different solar systems. These fifteen planets together own almost three hundred colony planets. And besides that we also have a little more than five hundred planets that don't sustain life and are only used for one thing; gaining resources. Robots are working there around the clock to collect the resources we need. These last planets are collective Union property. Every populated planet may file for the resources they need. You know this damn well; you were the person that first quoted these numbers to me years ago. Half of all the resources are assigned for army use. All of it is needed for the war effort. So in other words, the Union needs eight hundred planets to a more or lesser degree to sustain the war effort. And you're trying to tell me that you can carry your war effort with seven planets?"
"Well," Suenador said hesitantly.
"On top of that, I looked around in the last month," Jane continued. "Do you really think I didn't see the species walking around here that I never saw before? Do you really think that I'm so stupid and not realize that if they're walking around here and are not Union species, chances are they work with the Danfi in some kind of Union? You know better than that. I have an ego, I admit it. But unlike many others, I deserve that ego because I really am 'that' good. I don't just know how to put two and two together; I also know how to divide the outcome, add it up with a second outcome, multiply, and deduct from the result what the original numbers of the second base calculation were. Want me to give you an educated guess of how many species there are in your Union?"
"Our role in our Union is pretty much the same as your role in yours," Alenador spoke up. "Only we call it an alliance. Our history is also pretty much the same, with the exception that we were a lot nicer in urging other species to join us. I assume that you're thinking of the following. Our Alliance and your Union can come together in one big... Coalition. Earth keeping their territory and their laws. And we keep our territory and our laws. Both keeping an undisputed grip on their territory. Our two planets would than rule over this... Coalition without one side having more to say than the other."
"Exactly," Jane agreed, "If our two sides work together and there's no threat of a war, I think we're capable of incredible things."
"And when would this be a fact?" Suenador asked.
Jane had been smiling because Alenador could see what she saw, but with Suenador's question, the smile disappeared. "I know it's possible, but I'm not kidding myself. I also know it will be a long, long time. I don't think your children will see the end of this road, but their children might."
"Well, that all sounds very nice and dandy," Namfos said. "But how will this ever work? Here in this cave we have easy talking. But we're talking about a tremendously big territory with a countless amount of people in it. How could we ever make sure that everyone keeps to the plan?"
"Later with trust," Jane answered thoughtfully. "I think both sides have had more than enough of this war. If both sides get a chance to see that the war doesn't have to go on, both sides will take that opportunity with both hands. But in the beginning trust won't be enough; there will be too much suspicion floating around. So in the beginning this fragile peace will be ensured with threats, threats from both sides. But we amongst us now, we have to start off with trusting right away, if this will stand even the smallest chance of succeeding. I was thinking of the following 'threats'. The Union will be in a position to destroy Danfi's crystal."
Jane indicated the crystal on the stand by nodding to it. "Because of that the Danfi will keep up their end of whatever bargains that are made. But to prevent the Danfi from having to negotiate from a disadvantaged position we'll have to find something they can use as a threat. Say... a full squadron of Union Fighters, fully armed including heavy weapons,"
"No, no, no," Namfos immediately interrupted. "They won't get any heavy weapons from us at all. That they have some of our Fighters, I assume, is bad enough. That they have your Fighter that was fully packed with heavy weapons is even worse. No way are they getting their hands on more. Can you imagine the damage they could do? Using our powerful weapons against our weak shields? One solar missile would be enough to destroy an entire starbase."
Jane shook her head no. "Namfos, calm down and let me finish. And by the way, they don't have my heavy weapons; I used them on some of their defenses to get rid of them. Now, our side will have to believe that we forced them to negotiate because we can destroy their crystal. But you just heard that this isn't true. If we were to really destroy it, we would only be attacked even worse. That crystal will never leave this cavern. The Union will never know where that crystal actually is. Every Danfi will know that us being able to destroy the crystal is a bogus reason for negotiating. But our side won't know that... yet. And that's the point. From the other side, everyone in the Union will know that them having a squadron of our Fighters will never be enough to truly force us to do anything. Everyone in the Union knows that we have means to destroy our own Fighters."
Jane smiled humorlessly for a second. "As much as we pilots ignore it, do you really think we never wonder about the small fact that there's a small area between the antimatter tank and plasma tank that's filled with a closed black box of which we're only told 'don't worry about it'. No, we know that Fighters can be blown up. So the entire Union will know that them having our Fighters is really just a bogus threat. But the Danfi will not know that... yet. Both sides will go into the negotiations thinking that they have a clear threat over the other side, thinking that they are negotiating from a secured position. But the nature of these threats is of such a kind that more and more interaction between our people will show that the threats are indeed totally bogus. And by then it'll become clear to people that both sides stuck to the effort for peace without any real threat at all. It will make it even clearer to people that the other side truly wants peace. For they'll start to realize that the other side stuck to peace when there was nothing but their free will that made them do that."
Namfos formed an 'oh' with her mouth before saying, "Ah, I see. So they won't really get any Fighters off of us at all, we just say they do. Just like their crystal will never leave this cave while we say that we have it in our power."
"Right, but... a squadron of Fighters will indeed have to disappear," Jane pointed out. "We couldn't say that they got our weapons and Fighters while nothing disappeared out of the inventory. Some people actually keep track of our inventory, you know that Namfos."
Namfos could only agree, "True, hmm. Well, a Fighter is a Fighter is a Fighter. Fighters get damaged. We could say that they're damaged beyond repair and that we've shipped them some place to get scrapped. That will raise the necessary questions."
Namfos looked at the others for a moment and gave a brief explanation for their benefit. "We normally scrap damaged beyond repair Fighters on the basses and don't bother with shipping them somewhere. Reuse most parts for other Fighters. You know, save some resources. So when the Fighters suddenly are shipped out, and the 'threat' of you having our Fighters becomes known, they'll put one and one together and end up with three. They'll think that the Fighters weren't scrapped at all, but that they were good Fighters and you have them. And as Jane just said. People will think that you'll think that having our Fighters is a threat to us, while we know it isn't... Not really that great at least, as long as we have the codes for the self-destruct. So they'll be happy because they'll think that we are only giving you a false sense of security. That will then only leave the problem of the heavy weapons that will also have to disappear out of the inventory."
"Easy enough," Jane offered. "There are more than enough mines in the no-man's-land. I think it wouldn't matter too much if a few of them were destroyed using the heavy weapons."
Namfos smiled and used the well known and very old saying, "That will be like killing a fly with a bazooka."
Jane laughed. "True, but the point is that the fly may be dead, but the bazooka is used as well."
Now it was Namfos' turn to agree with a 'true'.
"Well, that's pretty much what I was thinking about," Jane said. "What do you all think?"
For a moment nobody answered, then Jane looked directly at Namfos.
"You really want us five to decide over the fate of a countless number of people?" Namfos asked. "That we agree upon a plan that will take decades or even a century to fulfill?"
Then she gave Jane a grin, "I like it."
Jane looked at the next person and asked, "Alenador?"
"On both sides the army top will have to know the true plan from the beginning," Alenador said. "With us it's easy. I am the army top. I can decide to tell some high generals like Latennador here, or to tell nobody but my successor, that part I have to think about some more. Either way, what I say will be done. But what about the Union? Who can guarantee me that your army top will keep its word? That they'll follow the plan we agreed upon?"
Jane looked at the gold colored sand on the floor for a moment. "Nobody can guarantee that. But, we could also turn that question around. Who can guarantee our army top that you can be trusted? They haven't spoken to you, they don't know you how I think I know you. And therefore they can't trust you the way I think I can trust you. Who can guarantee them that you're to be trusted?"
Alenador was about to say something about Jane doubting her word when she understood that this was exactly what Jane meant. Jane might believe her word, but why would a total stranger? "You're right, nobody can guarantee them this."
Namfos came a step closer to the sitting pair. "But our army top will listen to me. The army top will go along with what ever I decide. Because I'm the last senior commander before the no-man's-land, they put me in a position where I can make decisions for the army top. Mind you, they'll review the decisions I make, but in the first place they'll be implemented."
When Alenador heard Namfos say this, her eyes shot to the woman. 'That's something she's normally not even allowed to tell family and friends, let alone the enemy', She thought before saying, "You're taking a very big risk by telling us this. There are ways of getting you to do things. We could make you tell them all we want you to tell them. We could make you into nothing more than a puppet."
"You could try," Namfos said self-assured. "But you wouldn't succeed. There's a reason why they put a Terelanian on that base, beside the fact that I was the best choice. Terelanians can't be broken."
"Everyone can be broken," Alenador disagreed, "And we've succeeded in braking Terelanians."
"I thought torture didn't exist here?" Jane interrupted the conversation.
Alenador kept looking at Namfos while answering the question. "You know that, I know that, but she doesn't know that. She gives us her trust. So this is what you meant with that we have to start trusting each other now."
Then she smiled and focused her talking on Namfos. "And just for the record, when I say we broke Terelanians... well, it all depends on your definition of breaking. They didn't talk. But we do have a few walking around that consider our world their home now. Alright, I agree with the plan, but I have a few conditions. First of all, we have enough Fighters and other space ships to win this war. We would give up the chance on winning this war in exchange for a ceasefire. The only reason why I'm even contemplating this is because a ceasefire will save millions of lives. I want to keep the advance we have now in case this chance for peace doesn't work out. I want to be sure that you'll not use the time to try and get even with us. And I certainly want to prevent an arms race."
"And how would you get that security?" Namfos asked, glad that her choice to trust had been the right one.
"The way we've been keeping track until now. Every time something of big military importance is about to happen from the Union side, rumors of it are always heard on the civilian codex. I insist that the civilian codex will not be changed. And even more important, that nobody will find out that we can 'listen in' on those messages. Everyone will continue to believe that the civilian codex is almost just as good as the military one."
Namfos shook her head. "That won't be possible. When your fleet turned up at our starbase and used the civilian codex, we sent a message about this to the Union in the military codex. The Union already knows."
Alenador looked at Latennador who only nodded his head. Then she looked back at Namfos. "You just gave us your trust with telling us things you shouldn't tell an enemy. Now it's my time to repay that trust. I trust that what I'm going to tell you now will never leave this cavern."
Namfos hesitated for a moment before agreeing. "Alright, I give you my word that it will not leave this cave."
Alenador was about to ask Jane to promise as well, but Jane's eyes told her that she didn't need to ask, so instead she explained, "To ensure that we can conquer as much Union territory as possible we have to make sure that we lose as few Fighters as possible. We know from experience that we lose the most Fighters when attacking your bases. To prevent that we devised a new technique. Latennador showed you part of this already; we call it 'the big shield'."
"The big shield?" Jane interrupted. "That's almost as brilliant a name as 'Impact Valley'."
"Why?" Alenador countered. "You call your Fighters shields just that; shields. You never thought that was a stupid name even though your Fighter doesn't have real shields. It's just relatively weak materials covered by an energy layer. This new system is a lot bigger than the system that covers a single Fighter. Big, so I actually find 'the big shield' quite fitting."
Jane grinned. "Ah, I see. In this case you're actually the one that came up with the name. Alright, I didn't say a word; please continue."
Alenador narrowed her eyes at Jane who merely smiled back. Seeing that she wasn't going to win this one... and that she really should have thought of a better name... she looked back at Namfos and continued. "Simulations have shown that if we had been forced to break formation and attack, we would have lost about one hundred Fighters. I think that this is an acceptable price for destroying five thousand of your Fighters, don't you think?"
Namfos could only nod, as much as she didn't like to admit it.
"But we think further than just the first fight," Alenador continued. "It's only logical that you'll try to send a warning about the attack. The result of that would be that reinforcements are sent and we would lose more Fighters. But what is even more important, the entire Union would then know how we attack, and be able to train to defend against such an attack. To prevent that from happening we devised a way of interfering with signals sent from your base. We might not be able to understand the military codex, but we are able to stop it. The messages sent will never reach further than a hundred thousand kilometers in all directions."
"Far enough for us to register that we sent a signal and think that we are covered, but on the scale that is space it's an ignorable distance," Namfos said in understanding.
"Right," Alenador agreed. "Bases undergoing this new kind of attack will just... disappear. Eventually the Union will send someone to investigate, but by then the base has been destroyed for days already. So, that message that you sent, the only thing that reached Union headquarters was static. You, Jane here, and the officers on your base are the only ones who know that we can understand the civilian codex. How you keep it that way, that's your problem. But be advised, the Danfi who listen to those conversations have been doing it for a long time; it's their day job. Some have been doing it for more than forty years. They'll discover if conversations change even in the slightest, so don't even think of trying to fool us with fake messages. You have to decide how you deal with this, so I'm telling you this right now; if the messages change, if they stop, if they're used to try and fool us... We will not ask questions, we will not give a second chance, we will believe no excuse. We will start an all out attack."
Namfos didn't need much more explanation, there really wasn't anything more to explain. She thought for a moment before suddenly saying, "Embassy."
"What?" Suenador asked.
"Yes, embassy, that's the solution. Look, I have to make sure my people keep quiet. But I can't classify this as a fleet secret because the army top will want to know what the secret is. But if at least some of the negotiations between our people are done on my base, I can put a general security order on the base and tell the army that this is done to keep the contents of the negotiations secret. But a problem of a general security order is that it has a statute of limitation. After that date, all information becomes public knowledge. So later on you'll open your first embassy on my base. And then the embassy secret will cover the general security order because we already discussed things by then. And the embassy secret doesn't have a statue of limitation. Therefore, things are covered forever. My staff would then not be allowed to talk about it, ever. And if someone still did, there would be no proof because all the information has been deleted from the computer files."
"That's not good enough," Alenador said, "Even if your army top would only hear rumors about our way of attack, it would be too much. So a single one of your staff talking would already be unacceptable."
"My crew will do what ever I tell them to do," Namfos said in a defending, almost hurt tone. "What I just said is nothing more than extras, just to help them keep quiet. Just like the fact that who ever of them talks will get a new job repairing the mining robots on the planets where no Humanoid life can be sustained without the help of protected home units and space suits. Those are the places we normally send the people who only have one choice left, go there or go to prison. Trust me, they won't talk."
Alenador had heard the defensive tone in Namfos' voice. 'She has just as much faith in her soldiers as I do in mine. And even more important, she sticks up for them. Good. She'll understand why I'm asking for these safeguards.'
"What else?" Jane asked. "You just said that this was your main demand, that means there is more."
"You're right," Alenador agreed, "I want a sign of good faith. While we were waiting for General Namfos here, you told me a lot about Earth. Enough to want to visit this, according to you, beautiful planet. The main Union headquarters is on Earth. I want to be invited within the year for negotiations there, and a tour of the planet. Because a sign of good faith has to come from both sides, some of your high ranking soldiers can accompany me on my way back to this planet where I'll return the favor."
Alenador pointed at Namfos and Jane in turn, "Further more, I want you two to be chief negotiators."
"We?" Namfos asked surprised.
"Yes you two. You, General Namfos, on your base, and Jane here on Danmun. My reason for that is that I've dealt with you both now. If Jane agrees to something, I know that she won't twist the words around when she reports on those talks to you. I also know that you take responsibility for your own actions. If the Union does something that we didn't agree to, and you tell me that you don't know anything about it, than I can believe that and respond accordingly. I find those two positions the most important ones, and I don't want them covered with people that I didn't choose."
Namfos could see what Alenador meant. "Well, I'm fine with that."
Alenador looked at Jane, raising her eyebrow a little in question.
"We do the main negotiating? We two?"
"We two," Alenador agreed.
"No word twisting bureaucrats? We talk in plain talk and make plain decisions?"
"Plain talk and plain decisions," Alenador once again agreed.
"Then I agree."
Alenador looked at Jane for a moment before saying, "Of course you'll have to stay here on Danmun, for good."
Jane understood this and nodded her head to indicate this, "I know. Some weeks ago I told Darnador that I had the feeling that I still had to play a very important role in this war. I don't think it gets any bigger than help ending it."
"True, but still, as negotiator you'll continue to be a member of the Union. Which means that we can put you on the lowest level as far as guarding is concerned, but you will be guarded."
Jane merely nodded again.
"You just said yourself that negotiations will take a long time," Alenador continued. "The embassies will only be to work out and give more detail to the agreements we have reached. We'll be doing the main negotiating, and that will take years. You'll have to stay on Danmun for all that time. Even when we become too old to do the negotiating, you'll have to stay on our planet. We can never let you go because you would know too much. You do truly understand what this means?"
"Yeah, I know. I'll never see Earth again."
"Well," Alenador said in a drawn out way, "If I go there for a visit, or later visit's, I wouldn't mind a tour guide. But besides that, yes, you'll never see Earth again."
Jane shrugged. "Then that's fine. I haven't seen Earth in twenty years now. So knowing that I'll see it again at some point is more than enough, even if just for a visit. It's just that being told that I'll never see it again for sure is... it's like... well, it's like being told that you can never go home again and only because of that you realize just how much you miss home. So only seeing it 'sometime' is fine, as long as I can look forward to that."
Then she asked, "How will I be guarded? Will there be someone pretty much standing at my side every minute of the day. Or will it be like I was guarded the last couple of weeks?"
"Less even than that actually," Alenador said shortly.
Once again Jane took a moment to think. She realized that they were no longer talking about a plan, but about the rules and restrictions of that plan. She knew that there was one thing she definitely didn't want to give up.
"I can and will take the roll of negotiator upon me. But in my heart I'll always be a pilot. Sometimes I'll get the urge to get into a Fighter and just fly, relax. Can I do that?"
"Only if it's a two person Fighter and you have one of the guards with you."
'So it's possible, but damn, that's a hefty limitation,' Jane thought. 'But then again, we are talking about the end of the war. What's my freedom compared to that?'
As she was thinking this, she once again noticed the dark blue eye color of Alenador. 'Don't kid yourself. Without her you'll never be free. Being with her will make you freer than flying in any Fighter ever could. We'll need an official reason though. She needs a reason to be seen with a Union soldier. What was it that Sue... Suenador said? She wasn't allowed to marry her husband as long as she was still considered Human? Alenador and I will need a reason for her to spend time with me while I'm still considered a Human.'
Jane suddenly thought of something and smiled. "As chief negotiator I'm a very important person. I assume I'll not be guarded by just anyone?"
Alenador had seen Jane's smile and she had a feeling that she knew what Jane was getting at. On a hunch she decided to leap and hope that she would soar instead of crash. "Of course not. You'll have two guards. The second guard is only as backup, in case the first guard has to be somewhere away from you for more than a few days. That's the trust we give you, trusting that you can be left unguarded for a day or two. Misuse our trust and there will indeed be standing a guard beside you every minute of the day."
"Don't worry, I won't misuse your trust."
Alenador had heard how Jane had put a little more emphasis on the word 'your', making it clear that she meant that she would not misuse Alenador's trust. "I'm glad to hear it. Now, Suenador as head of the DHD is very well suited for that role. But because you're so important, the General Supreme personally will take over being your first guard. Because this can be an intensive job and the General Supreme has to fulfill her other duties, the General Supreme is prepared to offer you the hospitality of her home until a suitable place is found for you to live."
"And when will such a place be found?" Jane had to ask.
"That will depend on you," Alenador said softly, for a moment forgetting everyone but the woman sitting in front of her. "When you think it's time to find another place, one will be found."
"Hmm, that could be quite a while, I can be very picky about a place to live. It could be a very, very, long time before I find a place I like. Who knows, I might never find a place I like better."
"I sure hope not," Alenador said, both of them now smiling.
It was Namfos who interrupted them, "What kind of guarding is that? Living with her? Being left unguarded for a day or two? That makes no sense at all."
Alenador and Jane both looked at her. "Namfos, don't make me come over there and hit you over the back of your head," Jane finally said.
After a moment Namfos finally understood that the guarding was nothing more than symbolism. Nothing more than an excuse to put in the archives. "Oh, duh, right. Perfect description of a guard duty if I ever heard one."
"Right," Latennador said to bring things back in focus, "So we have an agreement? Whatever we talked about in here will not be told to others with the exception of a few parts. Some parts can be told because some people will have to know to let this work. We'll see how far it goes, but peace will be the first step."
All of them nodded in agreement.
"Al right then," Jane said. "In that case let's get out of here. I think it's time for you to bring Namfos back to her base, and Alenador and I can..."
"Check out your new home?" Alenador asked helpfully.
"Yeah, that sounds good. How about we contact Namfos in a week to talk a little more about details?"
Jane looked at Namfos. "That would give you time to let the top of the army know that this is for real."
"Sounds good to me," Namfos said, and Alenador agreed with a nod.
Suenador was the first to move in the direction of the exit. "Let's get moving then."
While they were in the corridor on the way out, Namfos walked beside Jane and asked, "Do you really think this will work?"
"Why not? We have nothing to loose, but everything to gain," Jane said reasonable. "You heard them, you saw a little of their fleet. I don't think that we could stop them, at least not before they were pretty close to Earth and wiping us all out. If this works, millions of lives will be spared."
Jane looked back at Alenador, before saying, "This is the best chance we can get. Because right at this point we all want this war to end, and we're willing to trust each other. How long would it be until that will happen again? Until people of both sides, who can make decisions that is, could trust the other side enough to end the war without having to win it?"
Just when Jane started to turn back to Namfos, she saw Alenador looking at her and heard her say to Latennador, "We can't but take this chance. Think about the lives we will save. We won't be bowing to anyone and we'll keep what we already have. Sounds like good terms to end the war to me."
The others were walking a little ahead of Alenador and Jane over the path that would take them back to the landing place of the shuttle. Without either of them truly realizing it, they started to walk slower and slower, until they stopped walking all together and the others had disappeared down the path into the forest.
They looked at each other, both of them realizing that they were alone. This was different than the other times they had been alone. This time they had both chosen it. The first time of many times to come that they would be alone together. They turned to each other and finally gave in to what they wanted to do for a couple of days now, take each other in a tight embrace. They stood there for several minutes just holding each other for dear life. From the fact that the others didn't come back for them they figured that the others knew they wanted to be alone for a moment.
"I wanted to hold you like this sooo badly," Jane finally said softly. "Ever since the day that we went to visit Suenador. I love you so damn much. All I could think of was to hold you again, the way I held you on that planet. To just feel you holding my hand. To kiss you. To..."
Alenador leaned closer and treated Jane to a soft and sensual kiss. She knew what Jane was doing. Jane wasn't just telling her that she loved her; Jane was doing what the other Humans on Danmun did. At least the Humans that became Danfi, talk openly about their feelings. Jane was showing her that she was willing to stay and do what ever it took, only to be with her. She put her head on Jane's shoulder and pulled her even closer.
"Don't you ever leave me again," Alenador said softly. "You have no idea how much it hurt to see you leave that tent. To know that you had walked out of my life."
"I'm sorry I had to do that. It was the only way out I could think of, the only way that wouldn't have ended with you being a Union captive. At that point, if your people had found us first, I would have begged you to take me with you. It hurt me just as much to walk away from you. But never again. I give you my word, I will never leave you again."
Alenador loosened the embrace a little so that she could lean back and look Jane in the eyes. "You give me your word? I... Jane, from you, that's a damn big commitment."
"No it isn't," Jane disagreed. "It's actually quite simple. I would die if I couldn't be with you. Even if I had been able to leave this planet before coming into this forest, I don't think I would have used the chance. You see, as long is there was no possibility for me to leave, I entertained myself with finding ways of trying to do it nevertheless. But if it had truly come down to it... To be sitting in a Fighter, ready to leave this planet, ready to..." Jane felt her words falter, "To leave you, see, I can't even bring myself to say it while thinking of the possibility. I would never have left."
Alenador put her head back on Jane's shoulder while this time it was Jane that pulled them closer again. Alenador sighed contently. It felt so right to be held like this. It felt so right to know what love was. Knowing that the others had to be waiting by now, Alenador broke the embrace. Despite it all still, she was surprised to feel just how hard it was to let go of Jane. "Come on, we can talk some more when we're home."
"Home, I like the sound of that," Jane said, also letting go, except for one hand. Jane simply could not bring herself to fully let go. Now that she could touch Alenador, she wasn't about to give that up.
They had walked about a hundred meters down the path before Jane spoke up again, "You know that we are truly unique?"
"Well, not that unique," Alenador disagreed. "There are quite some Union people that have a p... partner from my people."
Jane laughed softly when she heard how hesitant Alenador had said the word 'partner'. It was no secret to Jane that Alenador had used the word before to indicate other people in her life, other people she had a relationship with. Jane didn't mind, it was her task to give the true meaning to the word.
"Partner, I like the way that sounds. Anyway, there are few enough compared with how many people there are in the Union and your Alliance, to still call oneself unique. But that isn't what I meant. I'm talking about us. We ended a war that's been going on for four centuries. How many people can say the same? If that isn't something to tell ones children I don't know."
"Children?" Alenador asked while almost tripping over a tree root. She sure hadn't expected this sharp turn, "As in..."
"Our, yeah," Jane said with a smile. "Oh, not right now, but it would be something to think about for, say, in a couple of years. I never gave a second thought to having children, forming a family... until I met you."
She looked Alenador in the eyes and saw the dark purple color of which Jane knew it meant excited nervousness. She was glad to see that her honesty had brought the reaction she hoped it would. "I succeeded in leaving you twice. I'll never succeed in leaving you again, I think you know that. As long as you don't send me away, you'll be stuck with me. I think you know that as well. I found a new home here on Danmun, it's a planet I like, that has on it a woman I love, a woman I want to spend every minute for the rest of my life with. While we were waiting for Namfos and the others to return, you told me that you wanted children, but never met a partner that you wanted to have those children with. I hope that I'm the partner you do want to have children with."
Jane was quiet for a moment before asking in a bare whisper, "Do you want to form a family with me?"
Alenador didn't answer, she knew her eyes would do that for her. The color of her eyes was slowly changing to white and then to snow white. Telling Jane more than Alenador ever could with words.
"I feel just as happy," Jane said to show Alenador once again that she would try to live according to Danfi's rules.
They started walking down the path once again, holding hands. When the shuttle was coming into view Alenador asked, "You do realize that we're only doing all of this for our love? We decided the fate of so many simply because we want to be together."
"Is there a better reason?" Jane answered with a smile before becoming serious again. "Yes, that might be our reason. But what about Suenador, Latennador, and Namfos? They aren't doing this to make us happy. They're doing this because of their families. They don't want to see their children die in a war of which nobody knows what's it about and who started it. And there are so many more reasons to stop this war. Everyone who will be happy with the end of it, will be happy for a different reason. We're doing the right thing, no matter what our personal reasons are, it still is the right thing to do."
"So what do you think?" Alenador asked when they sat down at the kitchen table."
"It's a great condo," Jane said while taking Alenador's hand. "Just like the mansion. And they just give these to you?"
Alenador looked at their joined hands and smiled. "Yes, being General Supreme does have its perks."
Jane moved her chair a little closer to Alenador's. "There's one thing I noticed though. It's very impersonal. I don't think I saw any personal possessions at all."
"I didn't show you my bedrooms," Alenador said with a smile, also moving her chair a little closer to Jane. "But yes, I really only lived in my bedrooms. The rest I used as if it wasn't truly mine. All the things I use here were already in the house when I got it. My only personal possessions are in closets in my bedrooms and a few personal wall images. For the rest I don't really have anything personal."
Jane moved a little closer still until they were sitting side by side on the corner of the table. "You have me," Jane said softly. "I would call that a pretty personal possession. We'll simply make those houses into homes together."
Alenador smiled. "I like the sound of that."
She leaned closer and treated Jane to a soft kiss, or that was what she planed to do. But it quickly turned into a passion filled kiss that left them both breathless.
"Wow," Jane could only say.
"You know what I'd really like to do now?" Alenador asked very seductively.
Jane gave the safe but very open answer, "Show me the rest of the condo?"
Alenador stood up, keeping hold of Jane's hand and pulling her along. "Close, I really, really want to show you my bedroom."
Jane stood up and followed very willingly, saying the words Alenador had said a moment before. "I like the sound of that."
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