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
By H.W.


Chapter 2

As normal with long flights, the computer had the control over the twelve hour journey. It was really the only way while flying at the top speed of one light-year per hour. There wasn't a single species in the Union fast enough to make sudden corrections by hand at such speeds, since it was almost three-hundred-fifty times as fast as the maximum hand controlled speed. The maximum hand controlled speed was 'only' normal light speed, and even then it was really the computer doing the flying. The pilot merely pointed the Fighter in the direction the pilot wanted to go, and then the computer made sure that the Fighter didn't crash into something.

Jane was quite impressed with the ability of pilots to keep their place in the cockpit for over four hundred years. There had been more than one project targeted at replacing the pilots with computers. Jane herself had participated in such a project a few years before. In the beginning of the test the inventors had been excited. In the mock battle between the computer Fighters and Jane, she had been 'shot down' six times in a row.

But Jane had learned while the computers had not. Jane had seen the mistakes the computers made. They were actually too unpredictable, to the point where it made them predictable again. Every time after an unsuccessful assault, the computer Fighters always flew in a direction that normal pilots would never go. The rest of the day Jane was no longer being the one 'shot down'; she was the one doing the shooting. By the time they stopped the test, Jane had 'destroyed' four full squadrons.

The army brass had learned faster than the computers on that occasion. The order was given to have the computer Fighters be refitted again for normal use, and the inventors were sent back to their labs with the message to come back if they had a system that actually worked.

Jane used the twelve hour trip to do a lot of thinking, but not about the mission. Her thoughts were with her sister.

"I know, Jane. I certainly know. There's a big chance that the Union started this war. But you have to realize that this war has gone on for four hundred years. Do you really think that if the Union started the war they wouldn't have gotten rid of the evidence by now? Do you really think that the army top would leave the evidence lying around that would prove that they're responsible for the death of on average one million Union soldiers a year?"

Jane softly shook her head no, she knew her sister was right.

"And that's the reason why we have to do things differently. We shouldn't look at who is responsible; we should look at how we can end this."

Jane's sister lowered her voice even more and spoke in a whisper, "Promise you won't tell anyone what I'm going to tell you now."

Jane thought for a moment and agreed, that was enough of an assurance for her sister.

"I'm not about to leave on a vacation tonight. I cashed in some favors and now have the official approval to take an unarmed Fighter into Turtle territory and see if I can establish friendly contact there. Now remember, you promised not to tell anyone."

Jane smiled at her sister as answer. Her sister had returned the smile and a moment later they walked home.

Jane was glad for two things. That her last memory of her sister was of her smiling, and that they parted as not just sisters; but as friends.

Jane was brought out of her musing by the click that always preceded the cockpit opening. Suspension hanger or normal hanger, it didn't matter, the computer coordinated landing was so standard that every pilot went through the motions while not even thinking about it. Jane was starting to think about just how often she must have landed in a starbase, when a familiar face appeared on the other side of the cockpit window. Jane quickly got out of the cockpit and took the woman into a tight embrace.

"Namfos! I haven't seen you in ages. It must be what, five years since we were actually face to face? How are you doing? Are you still general, or did the Union finally come to it senses and give you the boot?"

"Give me the boot? Me? You definitely need an eye-exam. Take a look at my uniform, young lady."

They moved away from the Fighter and Jane took a moment to look at the uniform, the neck of the uniform to be precise. "Well I'll be damned, four stars. What made the Union so desperate to turn you into a four star general?"

Once they were out of the hanger area, Jane lifted her hand and softly touched Namfos' cheek. It was the custom greeting of the Terelanian people, and besides, Jane enjoyed doing it. She enjoyed feeling the perfectly smooth skin all Terelanians had. The skin of a Terelanian looked just like the skin of a Human, the only big difference was that the Terelanian skin could really only be described with one word; perfect. Though the skin looked just like a Human's, there were two facial features that clearly showed that the species wasn't related to Humans. All Terelanians had purple lips, and their eyes were black. Completely black, from corner to corner.

They didn't have pupils one could see, the pupil was inside the eye under the protective black cover. All Terelanians had the same black eyes, and while it was strange to see at first the black eyes were something people easy got accustomed to. Mainly because the eyes didn't look dead, as one might assume. Instead there was always a light shining in, and warmth radiating from, those eyes. Just that there was nothing to focus on other than the whole area between the eyelids.

There was one more thing that set Terelanians apart from Humans; their scent. Namfos was clearly a very attractive Terelanian woman. Not because of the way she looked, though she certainly looked great, but because of the way she smelled. Terelanians had a certain odor, just like Humans did. The difference was that Humans called it sweat and tried to prevent the odor from forming by all means possible. Terelanians did no such thing because the odor they produced normally smelled quite nice, and it was a part of their daily life.

If someone was to try and describe the way Namfos smelled using Earth smells, it would be a mix of vanilla sugar and freshly mown grass. A combination that both Terelanians and Humans found very pleasant.

They entered one of the many gathering places on the base. Namfos preferred this place above the others because it was close enough to the hanger to just hear the leaving and arriving Fighters. In comparison with the other gathering places it was relatively small. With one hundred people it would be pleasantly full, with more it would quickly become too crowded. A large part of the establishment was taken up by a bar that covered one entire side wall, while the rest of the room was filled with tables that could each seat four. They sat down at one of the tables and before they were fully seated, the barkeeper was already at their side. Namfos assumed that Jane's favorite drink was still the same and ordered for the both of them.

"Well?" Jane asked when the barkeeper was gone. "What the hell are you doing here? For real I mean?"

Namfos smiled. 'For real', Jane has said that so often to her once their difference in rank had reached a level where Namfos was not officially allowed to tell certain things to the blonde. "Well, officially I'm here on this apparently quiet base to recuperate from my pregnancy and birth of my son. Unofficially I'm here because they needed someone here who could make good decisions in case of an emergency."

Jane made a show of letting her jaw drop. "The birth of your son? I know that we haven't talked in over three years, but damn I must have missed a lot."

She was quiet for a moment before adding in a soft voice, "I'm sorry for not contacting you more often."

"There's nothing to be sorry about. I also know how to use the communication devices that are available to us so liberally. Things happen, life goes on."

"I guess you're right. Part of war life, I guess. Before long you just live from day to day, not thinking of things like keeping in touch. Having too many friends only means having too many people you know that can die," Jane said thoughtfully before forcing a smile and changing the subject with a shrug.

"So, the birth of your son, huh? Aren't you the one who said that she would never get pregnant because she didn't want to go through two years of pregnancy?"

Namfos laughed, she had known that Jane would say that. "Well, that was before I met this very cute and great guy."

"Right, and that was the second thing." Jane laughed before speaking the words Namfos had spoken five years before. "I'm not stupid enough to ever tie myself down to one person."

Then her tone became a little more serious, but still amused. "What happened to the woman who had a different guy each week? You're really telling me that one is enough for you?"

"What can I say, my parents were right. Just like everyone else from my species I thought that I was the exception to the rule. With my species you really notice the difference. Until we meet the right one, we go out and have fun. It seems that I was actually quite conservative with only one guy every week. But then, then I met him and everything was different... It was sooo... right. All those escapades I had before, if you put all of that together, it still doesn't compare to him just touching me on my shoulder, or my arm. I love to just sit and hold hands with him. Mmhmm, it's kinda like having sex continuously."

"And you do this in public?" Jane asked with a teasing grin.

"Ah, but that's the best thing. Unless you're a member of my species, and have a life partner at that, you simply can't understand what that feels like. To others who see us, we're just holding hands, nothing more."

"Well let me ask it just so that I've asked; are you happy?"

Namfos treated Jane to a beautiful smile. "I'm the happiest person in the universe, I can't imagine having ever lived another way."

Namfos looked thoughtfully at Jane far a moment before saying, "There's just one thing I regret though, that I never took you up on your offer to experiment. I think we could have had some fun at the academy."

"No," Jane disagreed softly. "We did have a lot of fun at the academy, just not that kind. Looking back I think it's good that I didn't succeed in getting that beautiful Terelanian into my bed. The friendship we had is the kind of thing that changes 'those years at the academy' into 'those great years at the academy'."

Namfos nodded her thanks to the barkeeper when he brought their drinks and when he was walking away again she softly said to Jane, "Damn, he has such a cute ass."

For a moment Jane didn't understand. Namfos herself had told her that the stories said that once a Terelanian had found their life partner, they would loose any interest in anybody else. And yet, here was Namfos appreciating body parts of a barkeeper. When Namfos started to smile, realization smacked Jane in the face.

"He? He's your life partner. He sure doesn't look like the kind of man you would fall for."

"What?" Namfos asked surprised, she couldn't believe that Jane, her support in earlier years, was now criticizing her choice of partners. Immediately Namfos started to name his qualities. "He's smart, has a very mild character, is always friendly, never says a wrong word, always feels what I want, and he looks damn good. So what's wrong with any of that?"

"You really want to know?"

"Come on, let's have it."

"Well, he's smart, has a mild character, is always friendly, never..." Jane was interrupted by Namfos' laughter.

"Okay, okay. Where you're right, you're right. He is indeed just a 'tiny' bit different from my earlier choices."

"Why doesn't he join us? I would love to meet him."

"I'm afraid that it has to wait. We're both on duty right now, and we keep duty and private life very separate. When we're on duty, he is barkeeper and lieutenant of the base defense forces, and I'm the four star general who runs this joint."

"I see. Barkeeper, and lieutenant?" Jane asked in a tone that asked for an explanation.

"You, having lived most of your life on starbases, should know as nobody else how boring life can be on such a base. Days, weeks, months go by with nothing happening at all. I have more than enough soldiers here that were doing nothing more than boring precise flights. But there's almost no civilian personnel who wants to work so close to the no-man's-land. To make up for this shortage, and to give the soldiers something to do, I asked the soldiers what else besides flying they can, and want to, do."

Namfos nodded her head in the direction of her husband. "He loves doing this job, being able to talk to people. So when he's on duty and would normally just be sitting in the waiting rooms, he comes to work here. A lot of soldiers have a second job like that; anything is better than waiting."

Jane took a sip from her drink, "I see. Makes sense."

Namfos would rather be talking about Jane, wanting to know how life had treated her in the last couple of years. "But enough of that. Tell me, I've followed your career a little over the years, but how are you doing personally? Still no significant other in your life?"

"Nope, no such luck I'm afraid."

Namfos smiled while she took a swallow of her drink. "But I'm sure that this hasn't stopped you from looking. So, what was your last conquest?"

Jane was about to react but Namfos interrupted her by lifting her hand. "Wait, I'm sorry. Since working on this base I've become quite accustomed to the normal pilot talk. Let me restate that question. Well, what was your last experience?"

The correction was enough for Jane and she said with a sigh, "I don't know her name, but she was a Dalenian."

"A Dalenian, color me impressed. So, tell me, are the stories true?"

"It was great, and yes the stories are true, but..." Jane didn't finish her statement.

"Just like old times, right? It was great, but there was something missing."

Jane shrugged with a smile. "I knew I told you too much. It's not a good thing if a general knows you as well as you know me."

"Don't worry. I'll make sure that we won't get into a situation where you have to follow my orders for a prolonged period of time."

"What do you mean by that?" Jane asked surprised.

"Well, since I know about your mission, I also know that they told you how quiet the no-man's-land is lately. Since the top doesn't trust this they decided weeks ago to transfer you and some other top profile pilots to my base. They thought that you would be of most use here. So I gave them a choice. Me, or you, at this base. But not both of us."

"And you can make such demands to the people that give you your orders?"

Namfos smiled. "If you're a four star general you can. There aren't that many people standing in line to take my job. Why do you think I even made it to four star general at my age to begin with? They won't make problems over me not wanting you here because they know that they can't afford to have me be in trouble."

She shook her head sadly. "Isn't that a sad reflection of the state of things? I can get away with stuff I shouldn't be able to get away with. You on turn can get away with saying 'no' to orders, and are still considered one of the Union's top pilots. And why? Because we're good. That's all that's needed as a balance. You could go on record as telling a general to fuck off, and you would only get a reprimand because heaven forbid that you would be taken out of that Fighter."

She sighed. "Anyway, I didn't want to take the risk of our friendship being hurt by you having to follow my orders for an extended period of time, so I told them no and they accepted it. Let's be honest, Jane; following orders is not your strong suit. And I don't want to be your direct superior officer long enough for you to reach a point of wanting to disobey my orders as well."

Jane was surprised by Namfos' admission. But she also knew that the Terelanian was right, so she decided to drop the matter and focus on something else. "There's something else I'm curious about. If all of you don't expect much good coming from the Turtle's ceasefire, then why is the last and most important starbase before the no-man's-land such an antiquated thing as this base? I looked around in the hangar. Things that are normally done by computers and robots, are still done by people here, by hand."

"It was the only available base," Namfos said in a simple, flat, and explaining tone. Jane knew that tone only too well from the two years they shared a room at the academy. That tone was absolutely convincing and Jane suspected that the only other person who would not be fooled by that tone was Namfos' husband.

Jane said nothing, but instead crossed her arms, leaned back, and simply kept sitting there, looking at Namfos.

Namfos started to smile. "I just wanted to see if I could fool you by now."

"Well, you can't so, what's the big deal?"

"Sorry fleet secret."

Jane knew the old game better than Namfos and knew she would get her answer. She simply continued to sit and look at Namfos with a knowing 'you are going to tell me' smile on her face.

"Aww, come on, Jane," Namfos said. She knew that Jane was more than able to outwait her. It was a part of the training Jane had received as a kid. Namfos remembered Jane telling her all about it.

The martial art that the trained patience was part of, was once widely in use on a planet that Earth took over, even before they started the Union. The Earth soldiers noticed what excellent hand to hand fighters the inhabitants of the planet were and in return for giving the planet a certain amount of self-government, the concept the Union would later be based on, the inhabitants taught their martial arts to the Earth soldiers. Making it possible for Earth to go on and conquer territory until they started the Union. From then on expansion was normally, mostly, done through political means.

But over time, weapons became more and more powerful and because of that less and less people took the time to learn this martial art. After all, why train years to learn how to fight when you still could get killed with a single laser shot? It was only by chance that Jane came across one of the few people who still knew it.

When Jane had been little more than a four year old, she had been playing in the back of her family home when she heard a soft scream coming from the woods that were just beyond the family yard. Jane, being an inquisitive little four year old child, walked into the woods to see where the shouting was coming from. Inside the woods she found an old man pinned down under a tree. Jane had run home and gotten help.

As soon as the man was freed by Jane's family, it became clear that he wanted to thank Jane for her help. Being too old to jump out of the way of the falling tree had shown the man that it was time to pass on his knowledge. Jane's family gave their permission for him to train Jane. And so ten years of training had followed. Jane had found that she liked the martial arts training and soon she was spending almost every free hour with the old man.

Even after she had moved on in life, joined the army, Jane had never neglected the martial arts she loved so much. She spent at least one hour every day training, if there was time. In fact, it had always been the perfect thing to do for her whenever she was bored and there was once again nothing else to do but wait for the next duty shift to start.

It had been this knowledge of martial arts that had given Jane her tough bitch image. Have a sixteen year old girl beat up three seven foot something muscle houses, and others stayed well away of the kid. That story was always told when her name was mentioned to someone that didn't know it yet. And that it wasn't just some wild rumor was easily proven by her going to train in the local gym for a few hours after having been relocated. If you saw a beautiful woman beat the dusty stuffing out of one of the training bots, you somehow lost the urge to ask 'what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?'

"Jane, please. You know damn well that I'm really not allowed to tell you this. It's called a fleet secret for a reason."

"Come on, Namfos," Jane urged. "The love of your life is on this base, your son is here as well?"


"So, if you're only a fraction as protective of them as you were of me at the academy, they would never be here if you didn't think they would be safe. Under normal circumstances you would never find this old base safe enough for them. There must be something else."

"Jane, try to understand, I'm not allowed to..."

Jane sighed before saying, "Namfos, I give you my word, nobody will find out from me."

Namfos put a finger to her purple lips before finally agreeing, knowing how precious her word was to Jane. Unlike others who just said that their word was important to them, for Jane her word was something to live by. Something she would try to keep a lot harder than most other people would try to keep to signed contracts.

"Alright, since you don't have any proof of this and I could just be making this up right now, and you'll never know if and how true this is. Therefore even if you did tell someone it would be nothing more than baseless rumors..."

She gestured Jane to lean closer, "It's the Turtle's shields. Their electronic field influence our computers. This base is really the best the army has to offer. It's fully renovated, but in case of emergencies everything can still be done by hand."

"What?! Are you kidding me? If this is true, why does the Union still rely on computers so much?"

"Because it's easy. The Turtles never come at places where their shields can do any real damage to our computer systems. It would be nonsense to restrict computer use in the entire Union just to be prepared. We simply always made sure that the primary star and planetary bases still have emergency systems in place. Of course this is a different story for the Fighters. Because they're sometimes so close to the Turtle Fighters, it wouldn't be too desirable if they reacted to the Turtle shielding. Which is why we still have pilots in the Fighters. As you know, the only things the computers do in a Fighter is basic support. Nothing you could even really call an advanced computer system. It's enough for a Fighter if you have a pilot in them, but a starbase could never work with such a basic system, unless you have backups, like here. "

"If this is the case, then why is the army continuing to try and fit computer systems in the Fighters that can replace the pilot?"

"They aren't. But we don't want to advertise the fact that the Turtle shielding can affect our computer systems. If there was no research to replacing the pilots some people might start to wonder why; we can't have that. The simplest way to keep up the charade is to research but somehow never have any good results. You remember that test you participated in a few years back?"


"That system was working perfectly. If it had been real you might be dead now."

When Namfos saw the way Jane was looking at her she corrected what she was saying. "Alright, you would still be alive. If you had taken the test really seriously the other Fighters wouldn't have been able to take you down. But most pilots would have died. But because one of our agents made sure that the test failed we could send the researchers back to the labs for another ten years."

Jane hummed. "Hmm, I wouldn't want to be one of the researchers in that case. That must be damn frustrating, being sent back to the labs like that when the system you invented works as it should."

"Don't worry about them, they don't become frustrated. In reality, they aren't even working on the system but on other things. The 'new' computer system they present hasn't truly changed in the last hundred years or so. All they do is incorporate new computers every once in a while and update the coding to have a present timestamp in it. Believe me, we tried, but we simply can't neutralize the problems the Turtles shielding can cause. That's something those inventors are actually still working on, but with no success as of yet."

Suddenly Namfos was contacted on her communicator. "Looks like I got some work to do. This shouldn't last longer than thirty minutes. You don't mind waiting here that long? When I come back I'll give you a personal tour of the base."

"Sure, I'll wait," Jane assured with a smile.

Namfos was barely gone more than three minutes before the change happened. The atmosphere loosened even more than it had been. Jane heard a few bits and pieces of conversations and also heard that the people were now talking about every kind of subject, including the subjects one just didn't talk about when there was a general present. Jane knew this change only too well. Her rank as captain was high enough to have lived through it.

'It's always the same,' Jane thought. 'As soon you get a higher rank the people with a lower rank start treating you differently. They start watching what they say when you're present, afraid that you might hear something you're not supposed to hear. Like suddenly we have no idea about the things that are being said, like we don't say them ourselves anymore. I lost more than one friend like that.'

Jane emptied her glass while she realized, 'I only had three friends who stayed friends through it all. Their career, and mine. Namfos was the first, and I still consider her my closest friend. Then there are Docja and Ferron. But the rest? Sure they're friends, good friends I would even say. But the question is, for how long? How long will it be until we grow apart again?'

Suddenly Jane heard some noises that were not as friendly as the rest. She looked to the side to see a few Human pilots pestering an Icoronian. Every time the Icoronian was about to sit down, the pilots sat down at the table and said that the table was already taken. Games like that were common on every starbase and the Icoronians were used to it. Jane was just about to order another drink when she saw that the pilots were starting to push the Icoronian away. Jane knew how quickly the species could get wounded and decided that it was time to enter the game. She cleared her throat and pointed to the free spot across from her. The Icoronian didn't hesitate and quickly sat down.

Three of the pilots closed in on Jane when they saw that she had put an end to their game. "You're asking for trouble..." The pilot who was talking looked at Jane's uniform to read her name. "...Darnell."

"Jane Darnell?" The second pilot asked, taking in the three facts that he was looking at a woman, that she was blonde, and that her name was Darnell. Clearly he actually was smart enough to put one and one and one together to form three.

"Captain Jane Darnell?" The third asked.

"Yep, that would be me. You got a problem with that, Private Shit For Brains?" Jane asked with a smile that didn't reach her eyes, not bothering to look at the man's real name or rank.

"No, no, of course not. I, we, um, we were just thinking of... uh... buying you a drink."

"Right!" One of the others hastily agreed.

"Well, I never turn down a drink offered by a fellow pilot. But how about my friend here?" Jane asked, nodding in the direction of the Icoronian.

"Of course." And while two of them were already beating a hastily retreat, the other signaled the barkeeper and indicated the table before also turning tail.

"Sometimes it has its advantages to have a name like you do," The barkeeper said when he brought the two of them their drinks, assuming that Jane would drink the same as she had been drinking, and that the Icoronian would not decline his species' favorite drink.

"I know; that's why I made me that name, so much easier. But why do you let them get away with treating people like that in here?"

"Because it's a tradeoff," The man sighed. "No offence to your friend here, but the Icoronians are easy prey. Bullies like those three will rough them up one way or another. If it's not in here, it's in some dark corridor where there are no witnesses. At least in here I can stop them from going too far, but is seems that this time you beat me to it."

"Why don't you sit down?" Jane asked, remembering her manners.

"No thanks. Namfos told me a lot about you, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you myself. But right now I got a job to do. I'll be right over there if you need anything else."

"There aren't many people who will help someone of my species," The Icoronian said when the barkeeper moved away. "You have my gratitude."

"Don't mention it. At the academy one of my best friends was an Icoronian, so I know how easy you can get hurt."

"There are also not many who will openly admit that they have an Icoronian friend. Most people are afraid that they will be seen as weak by having friends in such a weak species as mine."

"I don't really care what others think of me. But I do care about the fact that if he hadn't been at the academy at the same time I was there, there's no chance that I would have ended as best of my class, like I did."

Jane saw the smile of the Icoronian disappear and she could guess why. "Don't get me wrong. Ferron was my friend, still is actually. He helped me with my assignments, he explained them to me. But I made them myself."

She decided to change the subject. "But tell me, what are you doing here? Are you a tactical analyzer, or pilot?"

"Pilot. We're a special group of fifty."

"Elite team I gather?"

"Right. That's also the reason why those pilots don't particularly like us. They just can't accept that some guys that are five feet tall at the most keep winning every practice fight."

"What kind of crap is that? It's a known fact that you Icoronians can 'feel' each other. There's a reason why the saying 'faster than putting an Icoronian team together' exists."

"Truth be told, I can't really blame them," The Icoronian said thoughtfully while slowly turning his glass around and around. "You have to look at it from their side. They're sitting here for months, practicing and practicing, all in an effort to create a good functional close formation team. And then what? The army changes its mind. The pilots are ordered back to flying solo missions and normal formation work, and the close formation work? Aww, let's just ship in an Icoronian team. But the army only sees resources, not people. They don't see the friction that putting us here will cause."

"What friction?" Jane asked.

"You're a pilot, you should know."

"Humor me. I'm not one to hang around in the gathering places and listen to bullies like those guys complaining that everyone but themselves is to blame for their mediocre results."

The Icoronian grinned. "Well, as you know, we Icoronians are only part of the Union because our planet is located in such a strategic position. That we were even allowed into Fighters as pilots is only because we threatened with the fact that we could just as easily join the Turtles. So finally they let us into Fighters and it's discovered that we have a natural talent for them. You can put two Icoronians who have never met in two Fighters, and they'll perform together as if they've been training together for years. And because of our theoretical expertise we can think up traps during the flight that no pilot can escape from."

"Almost no pilot," Jane corrected with a smile.

The Icoronian decided not to react to the statement. "No, loved we certainly are not. But I have to give the pilots one thing. No matter how they act in here, out there we can rely on them blindly. As soon as we leave that hanger we change from being Icoronians and Humans and others, to being one of 'us,' and it's 'us' against the enemy. If we need their help, those pilots that were bugging us a few hours before are always right there."

At that moment Namfos walked back into the bar and looked back and forth between Jane and the Icoronian.

"I like company while I drink," Jane simply stated.

The Icoronian stood up and started to leave. "Well, no matter what you say, I still feel that I owe you for the drink. So let me give you a word of advice. Sometimes the way out of a hopeless situation is where you would least expect it. Remember my words." Without saying anything else the Icoronian left.

"What did he mean by that?" Namfos asked as she looked at the Icoronian moving away from the table.

"Beats me," Jane said with a shrug. "You remember Ferron don't you? He also says weird things sometimes. Strangely enough, some of it did come back to kick us in the ass. So I've learned to stop asking what they mean but instead try to burn it into my mind. At worst it will only be some bad quote that comes back to me years from now when thinking of other stuff. At best it will save my life. It's not the first time that a comment from an Icoronian has saved my ass."

"Oh yeah, Ferron loved to tell us 'I told you so," Namfos agreed as she took the glass that the Icoronian had played with, but not drank from, and emptied it with a few swallows.

"Mmmm. If you Humans wouldn't fall into a coma for three weeks from this, I would really suggest you give it a try. It's absolutely delicious."

"I'm sure it is, but I'm not crazy enough to try and find out if I'm one of the few who only goes into a coma for 'merely' a week instead of the more common three weeks."

Namfos laughed. "Don't remind me. Have you seen him lately?"

'Him' being a guy she and Jane had served with on the first post out of the academy. A guy that wanted to prove just how much of a man he was by drinking the stuff and only lapsing into a coma for a week. Jane had asked him why he would want to put himself into a coma at all, and his only reply was that it would prove what a man he was. The result was that he actually spent four weeks in a coma because he was one of the few in which it also triggered an allergic reaction.

"He's dead. His stupidity and misplaced illusions of grandness finally caught up with him... plastered his Fighter against the hull of Starbase Andrea six when trying to be funny and doing a landing controller bubble flyby."

"Damn. He was a good guy. Stupid, but a good guy," Namfos said with a shake of her head.

"He always said that if he would die in battle he would consider it a good death... bastard didn't even get that. All he did was end up damaging a starbase and destroying a Fighter."

"Hmm," Namfos hummed her agreement. "Well, how about we leave the pessimistic stuff for when we're getting drunk one night, and instead we start that tour I promised you?"

"Funny, I was just going to suggest the same thing."

Part 3

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