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
Jane had enjoyed the bath, despite the situation. She was sure that it must have been the herbs the Turtles had put in the water. But no matter how much she had enjoyed the bath, eventually it had ended and reality had come crashing back down. They had given her a new Union uniform and she was brought to the room she had been sitting in for the last half hour or so. Her only company being a silent Turtle guard sitting at the end of the table.
Finally the door opened and Sue and Allen walked into the room. They sat down across from her at the table. Allen made a small hand gesture and the guard stood up and moved to a far corner of the room where he was out of Jane's field of vision.
Sue looked to her side to Allen. "What can I tell her?"
"I'll tell you when you have to keep something quiet."
Sue nodded, looked back at Jane and started to explain. "As you can see, I'm not dead."
"No, really?" Jane said irritated. "But what I'd like to know is how come you're still alive, and how come you can walk around here freely. They found the remains of your Fighter, and your body."
"A body," Sue corrected. "I was heading for this planet when I flew against a mine in the no-man's-land. It was a miracle that I survived that, but my Fighter was pretty much gone. The only thing I could do was make an emergency landing on one of the moons in the no-man's-land. During the landing the landing gears broke off and penetrated the cockpit, also tearing open the plasma tank in the process; exposing me to the deadly plasma rays. The Fighter was so deformed that I couldn't open the cockpit. I was trapped and about to die a relatively painless plasma radiation death."
Sue shook her head a little. "But fate decided that this would be too easy and things got worse. The energy plasma slowly started to drip out of the torn tank. It came into contact with other things and ignited, the high heat of a small plasma fire was the result. It would have been little more than five or ten minutes before the fire would build to the point where I would burn to death. But suddenly everything seemed to explode around me. Shots were being fired at my Fighter. With no shielding the cockpit was gone in seconds. From the impact I could clearly hear that this was enemy fire; it sounded nothing like Union weapons. I couldn't help but laugh at the irony. There I was, minutes from certain death, and I was being rescued... by the enemy. Two brown/green figures appeared at the edge of the ruined cockpit and one of them lifted me out of the Fighter as if I weighed nothing. I saw that the other put something else in the Fighter, and then everything went dark. Later they told me that they put the body of one of our fallen soldiers in the Fighter, before leaving the Fighter and the body to the intense heat of the fire that was rapidly building with the new supply of air it had gotten with the cockpit being destroyed."
'Our?' Jane thought. 'How could they have a body of a Union soldier just when they needed it?'
Then Jane understood. 'She means one of them. She's one of them now.' That conclusion sure didn't put Jane in a happy mood. But Jane didn't show any of what she was thinking and Sue kept explaining.
"I woke up in some kind of prison. I say some kind of prison because it wasn't what you would call a prison. It was more like a room in a holiday resort. Nothing at all like what you've spent the last week in. The reason for that was because they knew my rank and that it was way too low. They knew that I would have no information that would be of interest to them. There was no need to try and get information."
"How did they know that?" Jane asked casually. So casually that Sue didn't see the importance of the question she was about to answer.
Sue was interrupted by Allen clearing her throat.
Sue looked at Allen and then realized what question she had almost answered. She looked back at Jane and smiled.
"Nice try. They knew," Sue said, leaving it at that and continuing her explanation. "After a few days a Human came to see me. I couldn't believe it. A Human! He told me that I could get a limited freedom if I agreed to follow some rules."
Sue looked at Allen and Allen answered the unasked question with a nod of her head.
"I had to agree to the following rules if I wanted to get out of my cell. I was not allowed to try and leave the planet in any way possible. I was not allowed to do anything that could be seen as sabotage. And I had to respect the authority of our government."
'Our government,' Jane repeated in her mind.
"Of course I agreed. Everything was better than sitting in a prison cell. And if I was free to walk around I would have a chance to cause some damage."
"But why?" Jane asked confused. "The whole reason you came here was to talk to them, so why cause damage?"
"Good question," Sue agreed, "and truth be known, I don't have a good answer for you. The only thing I can tell you is that I was young. You know, I had never seen a day at the frontline, just the practice flights of the academy. I was stupid and idealistic. But when I was trapped in my crashed Fighter, I started blaming everyone but me for it. And then some Turtles started shooting at me! Suddenly I saw that the Union was right; they were my enemies. Back then, with that mindset, I didn't realize that they had to shoot the cockpit open in order to save me. All I knew was that I had an enemy and it was all their fault."
"I assume that changed again, judging from you sitting here," Jane couldn't help but say.
"Right," Sue agreed. "As I was saying, I agreed to those rules. After I agreed the man turned to the two guards, one of which hadn't left for more than an hour since I woke up, and he told the guards they could take me with them."
"How would you know the guard never left for more then an hour? They all look the same," Jane said.
Since the comment sounded reasonable, since that's what Sue thought as well in the beginning, she answered. "Jane, you have to look further than just outlines and color. Height is different, shoulder width is different, the walk is different. You don't need to see a face to recognize them. Anyway, by that time I had gotten used to the way they looked, but it was at that point that I got the explanation as to why I thought they all looked alike."
Suddenly Allen leaned closer to Sue and whispered something in her ear.
Sue nodded and continued explaining while she kept looking at Allen from the corner of her eye. "I'm not at liberty to say what happened exactly, but I can tell you that they removed their armor, and underneath it they looked just like Humans."
"What?" Jane said in disbelief as she sat up straighter. "I mean, I always assumed, I guessed, but..." She pointed at the guard. "Are you telling me that that thing there is just an armor that can be taken off just as easy as I can take off my uniform?"
"A lot faster than you can take off your uniform," Sue assured. "The two guards, who hadn't spoken a word yet, turned out to be my personal guards and had the order to follow me for a period of time to ensure I didn't break the rules I just agreed to. They followed me everywhere, never talking to me, always leaving me alone, but always nearby. They were just like shadows; depending on how I stood I would see them. They were good. I tried several times to lose them but I just couldn't do it. After some time I gave up and started to explore the planet. To my surprise nobody acted strangely if they found out I was a Human. I could get whatever I wanted in the stores, and the storekeepers simply handed the bill to my guards as if it was the most normal thing. One day I saw the reason why they acted as if this was normal. The reason was that it was, indeed, normal. Because we look so much like Humans..."
'We,' Jane thought.
"...I always assumed that the man who had visited me in the prison was a Danfi as well. That's what we're called by the way, Danfi. Just like you are a Human, we are Danfi. But anyway, it turned out that a small part of the population of this planet exists out of freed prisoners of war. Some time later, I found out that a bigger, but still relatively small part of the population, are a mix between Humans and Danfi. Children of our two races."
Sue made a back and forth gesture with her hand between Sue and Jane, showing Jane without realizing it that she meant Jane and Sue's races.
'Our two races,' Jane thought again, accepting the fact that Sue saw herself as one of them now.
"By now I knew that Humans, and other Union races by the way, are almost just as free on this planet as we Danfi are. There are just a few restrictions for them."
Sue looked as Allen again and noticed that she didn't react, so Sue continued. "Humans are only allowed to leave the planet if they have the permission of the President or the high council. The highest political position they can have is that of local counsel member. They're not allowed to vote, not even for themselves if they are a counsel member or running for that job. They're allowed to stand up for their rights, but may never demand them. Also they're not allowed to have more rights than us. But, there's one thing that is especially for other races. They can gain the right to call themselves Danfi."
Sue was quiet for a second before saying, "As I have done. It's a pretty resolute step that we appreciate very much. We don't hold it against Humans if they don't do it, but appreciate it when they do. It basically comes down to swearing off being Human. The physical differences are not changed because it's too dangerous. But it's expected that one changes ones way of thinking. You're not to think as a Human, but as a Danfi. You'll probably have noticed the difference by now."
"If they don't hold it against you that you're a Human,"
Jane sighed and corrected herself. "If they don't hold it against someone if that person is Human, than why would that Human start calling itself a Danfi?"
"There are several reasons. Because they feel more at home here for instance. Remember, in the Union only the home planets are safe. That's not always so with the colonies they rule over. Prisoners of war from such colonies often find a life here they had only dreamed of before. Others do it because they want a higher political position. After all, if you're a Danfi, you're not a Human and therefore Human restrictions don't apply for you. Or they do it for the reason I did it. I've only been a Danfi for five years now."
"Five years?" Jane asked. "But you've been here for twenty years."
"I'll get to that in a moment, let me continue my explanation; it also explains this. As I said, I was allowed to walk around freely, but I was under constant supervision. But I noticed that the other Humans I saw weren't being followed. By asking some roundabout questions left and right I figured out that a Human is only followed for as long as they're considered a security risk. If the Human behaves properly, the guards suddenly... disappear, after some time. To get rid of my guards I decided to stick to the rules. I didn't even use the planetary transportation system wrongly. And it worked, one day my guard were suddenly gone. I lay low for several weeks longer to be sure I truly wasn't followed anymore and than one night I tried to,"
Once again Allen cleared her throat and Sue immediately corrected what she had been about to say.
"One night I tried to destroy something that would cause a lot of problems. I had made all the preparations necessary and only had to do one more thing, when suddenly there they were standing right in front of me; my guards. You can imagine that I was in deep shit at that point."
Sue laughed for a moment. "At that point I was longing to be back again sharing a cockpit with a plasma fire, I can tell you that. There was a military trial and I was sentenced to life in a military prison."
Sue looked quickly at Allen but got no reaction. Sue once again took that as her permission to continue, "Military prisons are comparable to the Union's maximum security prison. But right after the sentence was passed the guard who never left my side in the beginning addressed the court and asked if he could have me."
Sue could see Jane's eyes narrowing and she once again gave a short explanation. "If a sentence is read, people can ask if they can 'have you'. If this is accepted then you become that person's property for the duration of your sentence. This is done for two reasons, first to give sentences an element of the unknown. It gives people an extra incentive to not commit a crime and be sentenced. After all, they might be willing to take the risk of having to do time, but are they willing to take the risk of having to do that time as property? It works very well in keeping crime low. The second reason is that a prisoner in a cell is a drain on resources. They have to be guarded, fed, and so on. But if they belong to someone they still contribute to society. Anyway, it was accepted and I'm now his property till my death."
"Are?" Jane asked surprised.
"Yes. We don't do giving time off for good behavior. What you were sentenced to, you get. So a life sentence is truly for life. They made it clear to me that I was truly his possession from that moment onward. He could do whatever he wanted with me. He could set me free, and when I built a life, made a family, if he was to come back after several years I had to go with him. He even has the right to kill me in the middle of the street and nobody can do something about it, other than charge him with secondary things. Like making a mess in the middle of the street, or unnecessarily cruel behavior to an animal."
"Animal?" Jane repeated in disbelief.
Sue smiled. "Well, he does own me. But don't worry; only he's allowed to do that. For others I'm still a fully sentient Danfi and killing me would be murder."
"He 'does' own you?" Jane asked, wondering why Jane was talking in present tense.
"I'm getting there," Sue said. "He took me to his home and I had to work as some kind of servant. You know, make sure that all the appliances in the house worked, get him things he was looking for, that kind of thing. Because he likes good food I had to make sure that the food machines were working correctly. And he insisted that I cooked twice a month, I mean the old fashioned kind of cooking."
Sue shrugged her shoulders. "What can I say; as far as food is concerned he's really old-fashioned. I assumed that I also had to share his bed with him. Since I was considered property, he had the right to do that whether I wanted to or not."
She saw those blue eyes narrow again and explained. "Remember, the whole point of becoming someone's property isn't really about what happens to you; it's to prevent others from thinking crime is fun. And just between you and me, they don't just give you to anyone that asks; they only give you to people that are willing to also take care of you. So it's not likely that an owner will rape you on your first night... or ever actually. But they do have the right to demand that you share the bed, and to punish you if you don't. Deterrence, that's what it all comes down to. But he never touched me like that, and never indicated that he expected anything of that kind from me. By then my, 'they are the enemy and have to be hurt' mentality had pretty much disappeared again. It's interesting how your opinion changes if you can walk around a city and see how people are living, see them as people instead of enemies."
"And yet you just tried to do, something, that they didn't like," Jane reminded.
Sue shrugged. "Yeah, I know. But that was more along the lines of having a plan, and seeing it through because you have a plan, and not because you still feel that it's the absolute right thing to do. But after my sentence that was gone. I tried, and now there I was. On a planet whose people I didn't hate, no new plan to carry out... now what? I certainly wasn't a hero in that time, and I certainly wasn't intending to get into even more problems. I had a pretty good life and really had nothing to complain about. So I decided to keep it like that. He always acted decently. He even allowed me to argue with him."
She smiled and answered a question that Jane hadn't asked. "What did we argue about? Well, he had his Danfi view of things and I had my Union view; there was much to argue about. So we did a lot of that. More, he accepted it if I shouted during a fight. Believe me, that's not something you can normally do if you're someone's property."
Sue shook her finger several times to give her next words more meaning. Jane still knew that little character trait from the past. "And, what was very important for me, he gave me trust. I could leave the house when I wanted and when I came back he never asked where I had been. That's pretty much unheard of for someone in my position."
"Probably had you monitored in some other way," Jane said.
Sue nodded slowly. "Could be; I never asked, and never will. Then one day it happened. I woke up beside him after the best night I could remember. A night I spent with him because I wanted it, and I started it. I realized that I had given up a little part of my resistance that night, and I realized that I could live with that. We lived together for several years before our first child was born."
A proud twinkle shone in Sue's eyes. "I'm the lucky mother of two daughters and one son. By the time I gave birth to my third child I had given up all resistance. I had given up all hope of ever leaving this planet. I had a man I loved, three children. I could never leave them, and I couldn't ask them to leave their life here. But despite that I still kept seeing myself as Human until an event five years ago convinced me otherwise."
"What? Another Human pissed you off and you decided that the Danfi were better?"
"No, nothing like that... though a Human was involved. Latennador, my boyfriend... despite the fact that we already had three children together we were still not married. Anyway, Latennador, my boyfriend, our children, and I were having one of the picnics we enjoy so much. We were in a park and not far away from us there was a couple who started to argue. We could clearly hear what they were talking about. It seemed that the woman had lied about her emotions and feelings for the man. From my children the oldest understood the most that I was Human and she asked me why the woman had lied about her emotions, saying 'one doesn't lie about emotions'. I didn't feel like explaining it all, so I gave one of those answers that usually stops children from asking more. You know, the 'because I say so' kind of answer. I told my daughter, 'oh, honey, she's a Human'."
Jane lifted an eyebrow and Sue smirked. "Yeah, hello world. Latennador and my daughter looked at me in disbelief and I realized what I had just said. At the moment I had said that I was standing, and I actually fell down simply because my knees buckled. 'She's a Human.' I repeated to myself. I needed support and I found it in the strong arms of Latennador. My daughter could only guess what was going on with me, but Latennador knew. 'She's a Human'. I repeated again and again. Finally I calmed down some and it was then that I heard my youngest child asking scared if her mommy was alright. Latennador asked me if I wanted to go back home and I hesitated. I looked at the faces of my children and Latennador; my family. And I suddenly felt better. 'No,' I told him, 'I'm here to have a picnic with my family'. I laughed when I added, 'I have nothing against Humans'."
"The next step in getting on with life," Jane said slowly.
"You could call it that," Sue agreed. "A few weeks later the high counsel officially recognized me as a Danfi. The President had heard that Latennador and I were to be married the next day and he asked if he could perform the ceremony. It's only a few times each year that the President marries a couple so we felt honored by his request. We agreed and our friends still sometimes talk about the unforgettable wedding day and my name change ceremony."
"Name change ceremony?" Jane asked.
"Yes. My name is now Suenador. With us, the last name is part of the name. My husband is called Latennador and my name is Suenador. And no, women don't take the name of the husband. We have a different name system than what you're used to. A person keeps their own names and children get the names of the parents. Boys are named after the men and girls are named after the women. In a same sex marriage the first child gets the name of the oldest partner, and the second child gets the name of the youngest partner, the third child once again gets the name of the oldest partner, and so on. But because I didn't have a Danfi name I took the one of my husband. That's also the reason why my daughters as well as my son are called Nador."
"So much for keeping a proud family name like Darnell alive for centuries," Sue couldn't help but notice. "Only have boys and your name is dead. Well, you decided to kill yours, but that's beside the point."
Suenador decided to ignore the stab at the fact that she had dropped her family name and continued. "The President even wanted to look into making it possible for me to no longer be Latennador's property. But that wasn't necessary for me. I love Latennador, he owns me these days because I want to be his. Even if I wasn't considered his property I would still say that he owns me, since he owns my soul and the body comes with that deal. I don't want to be anywhere else but at his side. I made a friend of the President by saying to him, 'Our laws work well. I don't think they should be changed'."
"But you just said that it's not uncommon for a Human and a Danfi to get married, then why did the President offer to marry you?" Jane asked.
Suenador didn't answer but leaned closer to Allen, whispering.
"You can tell her that," Allen said loud enough that even Jane could hear it.
"All of it?" Suenador asked, the disbelief clearly in her voice.
"Just no clear numbers."
Suenador shrugged her shoulders and figured that Allen knew what she was doing. "The President wanted to marry us because it's not that common for a reserve five star general to marry a new Danfi."
"What's a reserve five star general?" Jane asked before adding, "I thought you married a guard."
Suenador smiled and shook her head slightly no. "You assume that our armies are made up in the same way. But they're not, not quite. With you a sergeant is a sergeant, and a general is a general. A general will never do the work of a sergeant, he'll say that he didn't become a general to be doing that kind of work. With you a colonel will always have to wait until a spot frees up and he can become a general. We on the other hand have a military rank and also an occupation. The two things don't have to be connected. The rank is purely an indication of up to what level you may command if you're in the army, and the occupation is what you do in your daily life."
She frowned for a moment. "Come to think of it, the regular military ranks are actually quite rare with us. We have a core army structure with people that also have an army rank as a profession so that the key chain of command stays in place while the rest changes. I guess you could say that the trunk and branches of the tree stay on and have the army as their permanent job, while the leaves only attach themselves to the tree when they're needed. For the rest they just float around and do other things. Not a realistic example, but I think you get the point."
Jane nodded and Sue continued. "Good. To make the difference clear between the two kinds of army people, we talk about practicing if we talk about their ranks. Practicing general, or practicing captain. The rest of the army consists out of reserve ranks. Because of that it's possible that a practicing sergeant is also a reserve captain, since there are more jobs available as sergeant than captain. Or that mechanic that always quickly fixes those little things on your Fighter could very well be a reserve general. The main advantage of that is that nobody has to wait until a rank becomes available, at least not with the reserve ranks. We can make someone a reserve captain when that person deserves that rank, and not just when there's room for another captain."
"Be that as it may," Jane interrupted. "But I still can't see the use of those reserve ranks."
"There are several advantages. First of all we have a bigger pool to draw from. With the Union, most people join, serve the five years of the contract, and then they're gone again. A continuous loop of training people from scratch and by the time they're finally good soldiers... the five years of contract are over and all that training leaves the army again. If that new soldier didn't get themselves killed before then of course. It's only a smaller core of people that truly make the army their life, like you. With us we keep serving in the army. Each year we serve in the army for a certain amount of time before going back to our daily job. That keeps the training up-to-date, and the army ranks full with experienced people. Second, we have a lot more higher ranking officers than the Union does, all of who know how to do their job properly."
Suenador could see that Jane still didn't quite see the advantage. "Alright, let me explain with an example, but first you've got to understand that people only get a reserve rank if they truly deserved it."
Jane nodded her head to indicate that she understood.
"Right, imagine this, you're on a starbase that's armed to the teeth, but that is expecting no attack. Suddenly the base is attacked and with one of the first shots the command center is totally destroyed. Someone is smart enough to put the shields up and you have five minutes to start your counterattack. But it's found out that everyone in the command center is dead. The highest rank in the, for the rest totally functional starbase, is the rank of sergeant. Tell me, what do you think? Are those five minutes enough for the sergeant to find out he's actually in charge of the entire starbase? More importantly, are those five minutes enough to start that counterattack? There are enough Fighters on the base to defeat the enemy if they can get started. What do you think, are those five minutes enough?"
Jane knew that this was impossible and she shook her head no.
"Now," Suenador continued. "Put those reserve ranks in the equation. Now we have the same attack. The command center is gone, but then the following happens. That mechanic I was talking about tries to contact the command center but gets no response. Immediately he takes the command as the general he is. Other important ranks are all taken up by other reserve ranks spread throughout the starbase. Now I ask you again, are those five minutes enough to launch a counterattack?"
Jane knew that the five minutes would certainly be enough and nodded her head in understanding. She was impressed by the logic of the system. Of course, there was the risk of people on different parts of the base actually counteracting each other's orders, but Jane was sure that this was not news to them and that it was a problem that had been taken care of when putting the system in place.
"But I was talking about the high amount of high ranks," Suenador continued. "There are, let's say, two different generals of the base, seventeen captains, and more than two hundred sergeants. Every shot of the base will be well coordinated with the Fighters outside of it. A base like that is far stronger than a similar base under Union command system. The Union often stops when the base is badly damaged and communication breaks down. But we'll continue as long as there's one Fighter in space, as long as a single board canon can be fired."
Jane didn't like agreeing with the enemy, but they were telling her things and Jane wanted them to keep doing that. "I must say that I can see the logic of it. It's kinda like a hydra. Cut of the head, and you got two heads taking its place. But there's one thing that keeps bothering me. If the remains in your Fighter were of a dead Tur... Danfi soldier, then why didn't the investigations show this? Alright, there was only ash left, but the standard investigation showed that the ash was of a Human body."
Suenador once again looked at Allen and once again she got a little nod as answer.
"That's because our people are exactly the same when we're dead. It's only when we're alive that there are clear differences."
"And those are?" Jane asked casually. But the question was clear and expected. Suenador had seen it coming and had already gotten permission to tell Jane this when Allen nodded her head a moment before.
"For starters, a Danfi is on average twice as strong as a Human."
Jane noticed that Suenador was suddenly talking about Humans and Danfi. She couldn't call herself a Danfi on the things she was going to explain, but she couldn't call herself Human either because she had chosen to no longer be a Human. By using the species names Suenador tackled that problem very well. Jane assumed that it was not the first time Suenador had had such a conversation.
"On average?" Jane asked.
"Yes, some Danfi like physical exercise just like some Humans do. My husband loves to do this for instance. He can easily lift one hundred kilos with one hand. He's handsomely muscled, but luckily isn't just one big mass of muscles."
Suenador smiled and softly added, "I like it when my man looks like a man and not like a balloon. And he knows it, he looks just right."
Her smile disappeared when she saw that both Jane and Allen were looking at her with raised eyebrows. She cleared her throat and continued. "Anyway. The blood of a Danfi is red like that of a Human, but it's much darker. If you're not standing in direct and bright light, it actually looks black. But that's only as long as the heart is pumping. Once the heart stops the blood becomes lighter in color until it looks the same as Human blood."
"Yeah, looks are one thing," Jane interrupted. "But what about scans? You can't tell me that the DNA is exactly the same as well."
"It's not," Suenador agreed. "But it's alike enough. In the Union there has been a lot of mixing. Other species always look exotic simply because they don't look Human. A lot of Humans decided that they liked this or that alien a lot more than a Human and they formed a mixed couple. So much mixing has happened over the centuries that finding a Human that's a pure blood, so to speak, is extremely rare. Even your own great grand father was a Terelanian; something you can be very grateful for. The mix of Human blue eyed blonde with an almost flawless skin, and on top of that a body odor that still smells surprisingly pleasant, even if it's extremely weak compared to true Terelanian."
She smirked. "I'm willing to bet that you never found it that hard to talk women into bed, if they were at least a little inclined in that direction."
"You benefited from that heritage as well," Jane reminded as she looked at the brunette that had the same eye color as Jane herself.
Suenador opened her mouth, but Jane stopped her by lifting her hand. "Eh, no. You may have sworn off being a Human, but you were born as one and benefited from the same DNA heritage as I did. Maybe your husband asked if he could have you for that very same reason; you made him hot."
Suenador blushed and decided that the wisest answer was not to answer but continue with the explanation. "Be that as it may, the point is that you also don't have pure Human blood anymore. Danfi DNA is close enough to Human DNA that it can pass as a Human's who probably had a member of a different Union species in the family tree at some point."
"Amazing," Jane said sincere.
Suenador nodded her agreement. "It is. We have a theory for how that can be possible, but to explain it I would have to explain a lot of other things as well, so let's just skip that for now. Let's see, the body temperature of a Danfi is two degrees lower than that of a Human. But because a dead body cools down anyway, that's not noticed. And unlike with Humans, with the Danfi the iris of the eye can change color."
"Excuse me?" Jane asked surprised, sitting up straight so fast that she almost left the chair. That was something she never heard about before. "They can change their eye color?"
"No, the color of their eyes can change; they have no conscious control over it. The color of the eyes reflect their emotional state. Pitch black for extreme sadness or mourning, which is normally the same anyway. Snow white for immensely happy. But the colors don't follow themselves like that. For instance, light yellow stands for angry, yellow stands for furious, but dark yellow stands for being very relaxed."
"I don't think I could get used to that," Jane said, finding the conversation very educational. "If I have a girlfriend I would want to look her in the eyes and see 'her' eye color, not some color everyone would see in that situation."
Suenador shook her head no. "There are only fifteen main colors that stand for a single clear emotion and which every Danfi has. But there can be millions, billions, of different shades of colors. Just like you would first have to 'learn' the eyes of that girlfriend, you learn to read the eyes of a Danfi. The shades of color differ for every Danfi. As I said, there are only fifteen colors that are exactly the same for all Danfi. But you could have two Danfi feeling precisely the same, and the color of their eyes could still be slightly different from each other. That's the thing about Danfi eyes. If you get a partner, you'll learn the subtle shades of your partner's eyes that make her so different from the rest. Danfi eyes are much more unique than those of any Union member can ever be. The precise shades are as unique to a Danfi as its DNA is. Think about it, how many eye colors are there for Humans? No matter what color your girlfriend's eyes are, you can be absolutely sure that millions of others will also have that color. So actually, the eyes of a Danfi are millions of times more unique than that of a Human."
"Alright, I can accept that," Jane agreed. "But that means that you can always see how someone is feeling about you. I can imagine that this can be very awkward. I mean imagine, you're visiting a friend and her girlfriend is there as well. How is your friend supposed to feel when she sees that you like her girlfriend and that the girlfriend likes you as well?"
"You're right, situations like that can, and do happen," Suenador agreed. "We've learned to live with that. But we see it different than you do. We see it as a blessing, not as a curse. With Humans two things can happen. Either you and the girlfriend start having an affair behind the friend's back, or she stays loyal to your friend and you value the friendship of your friend enough to only start a platonic relationship with her girlfriend. With us the same two things can happen, only that the friend sees right away if you're having an affair. She'll never have to ask if the girlfriend is cheating on her. That's a thing that doesn't exist with us. Cheating is simply not possible. Well, that's not entirely true. You can cheat, since the eyes don't say that you just slept with someone else. And as long as you still love your partner the eyes will show love. But what I mean is that eventually it shows. Having secrets makes you worry, makes your eyes get different shades than normal. And if it was more than just an... accident... then your eyes will show not long after or even immediately that your love for the partner is lessening."
"But what about a person like you, who isn't born a Danfi?" Jane asked, she had noticed that Suenador had gone back to saying 'us' instead of 'Danfi'.
"Quite simply actually. We always answer honestly when someone asks us how we're doing. And when we meet someone we never met before, we tell them what we feel about them in the beginning of the conversation. Which, I have to admit, is something that needs getting used to."
Jane snorted. "I bet, it must be really tempting to lie."
"No, not really. If you've done it several times it becomes a lot easier. Of course, that it's normal here helps."
Suenador laughed for a moment. "I remember in the beginning. I still lied sometimes because I didn't want to come over too blunt. Then Latennador, who wasn't even my boyfriend at that point, forbid me to ever lie about my feelings again. Needless to say, I was pissed at him for doing that. Later that day someone of the Home Safety Department came by for the annual safety inspection and I decided to be difficult to spite Latennador. I was sure that if I insulted the inspector he would certainly find some faults to fine Latennador for."
She paused for a moment, remembering the scene. "When I opened the door the inspector greeted me politely and told me why he was there. The man made an unsympathetic impression on me and I told him as much. Actually I told him that I couldn't stand him. To my utmost surprise he stayed calm and said, 'I heard it before, I seem to have a face Humans don't like.' Back then I didn't fully know what the colors of Danfi eyes stood for, but I did know that green didn't stand for insulted. I couldn't believe that he wasn't insulted by what I had said to him. He stayed polite and offered to have another inspector come by. Needless to say, I didn't take him up on that offer and invited him in. Thanking him for teaching me something."
"And what about you?" Jane suddenly asked while looking at Allen. "Your eye color doesn't change, but somehow I don't think that you're a Human."
Allen didn't answer but looked at Suenador, who answered the question for her. "Because she had to deceive you she had the status of soldier in special service. Changing the physical differences between a Human and Danfi is very dangerous for a Human trying to change into a Danfi. But this is not so the other way around. Changing the physical characteristics from Danfi to Human is actually quite easy. There's a certain substance that's made from plants, just like centuries ago. It's actually a light poison that makes the Danfi slightly sick."
"You can change appearance just by taking some stuff?" Jane asked, only to correct herself. "No, it's not the appearance that's the problem; it's the symptoms."
"You could call it that," Suenador agreed. "It's basically being sick, which makes a Danfi seem like a Human. After taking the substance, the blood becomes the same color red like that of a Human. The Danfi becomes weaker by the poison, only about as strong as a Human. The Danfi gets a slight fever, raising the body temperature by two degrees. The color of the eyes get 'stuck' on a color in the Human eye color spectrum. I know, I know. If you listen to it being explained like this, it sounds like the substance was exactly engineered. But it really is just luck, or divine forces helping us out. The substance was actually discovered when someone tried to make a new tea from a plant they had discovered at that point. That it's not perfect is proven by the fact that since the Danfi is slightly sick he doesn't feel really well. But that's something easily disguised. This substance works so well that even the best Union tests can't distinguish between a Human and a Danfi using the substance."
"And all your soldiers use this stuff?" Jane asked, hoping that the question would be answered. The information was of immense value to the Union.
"As I said, a soldier must have the status of special service before he or she is allowed to use the substance. Soldiers in normal service are required to take a lighter version of the substance. This will only prevent their eye color from changing until the antidote is taken. And before you ask, no, beside soldiers on duty or in special service, nobody is allowed to take this substance, not even the politicians."
Jane couldn't help but laugh. "Finally a way to see if a politician is lying."
"No, not quite," Suenador disagreed. "We can still lie, and we do. But we can't lie about things having to do with our emotions. A Danfi can still say that yesterday we had a double solar eclipse. Everyone will know that this is a lie, but that has nothing to do with emotions. That Danfi could say that he has been to your Earth and nobody will know if he is lying about that. But if for instance Latennador would say that he hates me, everyone would know that this is a lie and there's no way that he would be able to make someone believe that."
"And why would normal soldiers need that stuff?" Jane asked. "It's not as if they have to hide what they are for Union members, we never succeeded in obtaining a Danfi body."
"That's what you think," Suenador said with a smile. "After all, it was a Danfi that was found in my Fighter, the Union just didn't know it. If the Union finds a body that looks like a Human it has to be a Human, it can't possibly be from those ugly and hideous looking Turtles."
Jane nodded thoughtfully as she wondered just how many of the Danfi had been given a Union funeral ceremony over the years, simply because they were found and looked like Humans.
"Another reason why the soldiers have to take the substance is very basic; it wouldn't do to have the population see the emotions of the soldiers standing in front of them."
Suenador could see Jane's eyes had narrowed, and she knew why. Suenador still remembered that stare from twenty years ago. Jane absolutely loathed it if soldiers were turned loose on their own people.
"Oh, come on. The Union uses soldiers to get rid of extremists, certainly we're allowed to do the same?"
The stare in Jane's eyes softened some again. She had misunderstood. She herself favored using the army to get rid of extremists before they could do any damage. If the extremists wanted to change things, they should use the political way. The Union had made laws allowing for that in the twenty-second century. And except for some nutcases, all extreme groups did use the political way, which did indeed work.
"How long does that stuff work?" Jane asked.
"As I said, it's a kind of poison. And therefore it works until the antidote is taken. Once the antidote is taken the substance disappears out of the body within thirty seconds, down to the smallest microscopic part. This substance can be used once to stay like a Human for the rest of the Danfi's life, or the Danfi can use the substance hundreds of times in succession. It doesn't matter one way or the other."
"I would love to see that," Jane said. Knowing that every detail she could get her hands on was important.
As Jane hoped, Suenador asked Allen if Jane could see a Danfi that wasn't under the influence of the substance. But to Jane's surprise, Allen answered the relatively innocent question with a 'no,' only to add, "That won't be necessary. My mission is over. I have to take the antidote anyway. I can do that here just as well."
Allen spoke to the guard that was still in the room, "Get us some drinks, and bring me a dose of the antidote."
The guard nodded and left and Suenador and Allen stuck their heads together and whispered softly until the guard came back. The guard put a drink in front of the three of them and also put a small bottle in front of Allen.
Suenador took a sip from her drink. "You should try this. It's the most favored drink here, with all species. It's a juice made strangely enough from one of the most common weeds. The plant is a pest, but the juice is a true delicacy."
Jane took a sip and found that she had to agree, the drink was delicious.
Meanwhile Allen was putting a white powder from the little bottle into her drink. "Those tough as nails soldiers like to use the old-fashioned needle injectors for this. I don't. I don't think I have to prove how tough a soldier I am by causing myself unnecessary pain. I'm more than happy to oblige everyone wanting to find out just how tough I can be."
Suenador knew how well aware Allen was of the fact that she had never lost a mock or real fight since finishing her training. The kind of remark Allen had just made was normally enough to deter people of even starting a fight with her. 'Just like Jane,' Suenador thought, having kept track of her sister during the last twenty years. And just like Jane that attitude was in stark contrast with the true person.
If Allen wasn't on active duty, she was the kind of Danfi with who it was impossible to get into a physical fight. Then she was the kind of Danfi who one liked to call a friend. Suenador was always amused to hear the kind of remarks Allen could sometimes make, especially because they were so affective. A small smile appeared on Suenador's lips. But knowing that this was a serious situation she quickly wiped the smile off her face. So quickly that Allen hadn't even seen the smile.
Jane could have seen the smile though, if her mind hadn't been somewhere else. 'Tough as nails?' Jane thought. 'That's a centuries old Human saying, and she used it as if it's just as common here as it is with us. How did that happen? Because of traitors like... Sue? People who told them all about us, down to the expressions we use? But then how did they know Sue's rank? She was hardly in the army, so her rank was indeed way too low to know anything. It was so low that traitors couldn't possible know anything about her. How did they know?'
Suddenly a question popped into Jane's mind that made her almost visibly jump. 'What word usually accompanies traitors? Spies! Of course, they can go through life looking like a Human. They don't need Humans that work for them, they don't need traitors to tell them all. They can infiltrate any place in the Union pretending to be a Human. They've probably been living amongst us for years. Who knows, maybe the military failures of our past are actually successes from their spies.'
Suddenly Jane's attention was drawn to Allen. The color of her eyes was slowly changing from brown to blue. Despite what Suenador had said, Jane could clearly see a difference in Allen's behavior. As if the redhead was feeling better than a mere minute before.
"Impressive," Was all that Jane could say. She found it fascinating to see the eye color slowly change. Now Jane understood what Suenador had meant with the color shades. As slowly as the color was changing it would be impossible for them to change color in a few seconds. If a Danfi was in a conversation with two people, one they liked and one they disliked, the eyes were bound to get a color that lay between the two.
"And what does..." Jane looked a little closer to be sure. "...Blue mean?"
Suenador looked at Allen's eyes and corrected, "That's light blue and means respect."
"Respect?" Jane repeated surprised.
"Yes," Suenador said with a smile. "You have no way of knowing this, but you're a great legend here. There are children here that say 'I want to be like Jane Darnell when I grow up'."
"What?!" Jane asked even more surprised.
"You heard me. A great legend. You've killed more than four hundred of our pilots in battle, and wounded many more than that. But you yourself? Shot down a few times, but never hurt seriously. A few light wounds and that's it. Phenomenal, simply phenomenal."
Jane didn't reply but her expression said more than enough.
"Look," Suenador explained. "If one of our pilots is very good and destroys several of your Fighters than you see this pilot as an even bigger monster than the rest of us. But we see things differently. You could visit the families of those pilots and all of them will welcome you with open arms. We understand that you're an enemy pilot, serving your side extraordinary well. It's your duty to fight us. With us the family of those pilots will say, 'Our child, brother, sister, died in a battle with the enemy'. And if that enemy is well known, like you are, the family will say, 'Our child, brother, sister, has been killed in a fight with Jane Darnell'. That the pilot died in a fight with you means that the pilot was killed by a hero of the enemy, and thereby the pilot becomes a hero themselves. After the first ten pilots killed you made a name for yourself. A name that only got bigger with time. You personally turned more than four hundred of our pilots into heroes. As you know, during a war one can't have enough heroes; alive or not."
"I'm a hero because I kill your pilots?" Jane could not believe her ears.
"No, if one of our pilots gets killed by you that pilot becomes a hero. You're a hero in our eyes because of what happened on Sator Four."
"Sator Four?" Jane repeated. "Doesn't ring a bell."
"Remember the time you had to appear in front of a court-martial because you refused to attack an enemy base?"
'It's unbelievable what they know about us,' Jane thought. 'That's classified as fleet secret and yet they know.'
Not knowing what Jane was thinking, Suenador continued with her explanation. "The planet the base was on is called Sator Four by us."
"So you see me as a hero because I didn't attack your base," Jane surmised, but she was wrong again.
"No, if you hadn't attacked one of our basses if the chance asserted itself it would only have damaged your name. No, you're a hero because there was no base on Sator Four. In that time your Union had started an offensive strike against a planet which had a colony of us on it. The people had been able to flee just before Union Fighters appeared in the neighborhood of the planet. They had gone to Sator Four to wait there for our evacuation ships. The tents that those refugees were living in were classified as an enemy base by your army top. You and a squadron of other pilots were sent to the 'base' to destroy it. You found it strange that you were not attacked by the defenses of this 'base' and aborted the attack. Because you had the highest rank the other pilots couldn't do anything else but follow your command to return to base."
"I was there, I think I know this," Jane said irritated at the fact that Suenador was explaining things to Jane that were Jane's own creation.
"But what you don't know is that because of your aborted attack we were warned that the Union knew where our refugees were. We didn't wait for the bulky evacuation ships but took them out with freighters under Fighter coverage. When the Union Fighters came back the following day without you, the only thing they destroyed were empty tents. Your actions saved one million civilians that day. We see you as a soldier, not a killer. You fight for your cause, but you don't kill for joy. To us, Jane, you are a hero."
Suddenly Allen spoke up, "You're still a captain, but with us, if it was possible, you would have been competing for my job by now."
"And just who the hell are you anyway?" Jane asked, realizing that she didn't even know Allen's real name.
"I'm General Supreme Alenador."
"What is a General Supreme? We don't have a 'supreme' anywhere in our ranks, as I'm sure you know."
"You could also call me general of the generals, I outrank even the position the Union has called 'General of the Army.' As the 'Supreme' indicates, I'm the supreme military commander. Above me there's only the high counsel and the President."
"Then I sincerely doubt that I'd really be competing for your job here. If you really were that stupid to appoint someone general because she's a good pilot, then we would have won the war centuries ago."
"True, I was stretching the facts a little to make my point," Alenador agreed with a nod. "I was merely... emphasizing a point."
"Hey wait a minute," Jane suddenly said. "Your name is Alenador?" Jane looked at Suenador for a moment and than back at Alenador. "Family of Latennador and Suenador by any chance?"
"My brother and sister-in-law."
"Purely coincidental," Suenador added.
"But Sue just said that the son is named after the father and the daughter is named after the mother. How come that brother and sister have the same last name of 'Nador'?"
"Nador is a very common name with us," Suenador explained. "A name that's as common with us as... Smith or Lee is with Humans."
"The names of our father and mother just happened to be the same," Alenador added.
Jane wanted more information, but while she was looking at Alenador something totally different than what she had wanted to ask came out of her mouth. "How does a young girl like you get a position as General Supreme?"
It was Suenador who answered. "With us it's not the age or time that matters. If you're good at your job, you can be promoted several times each year. But if you stink at your job, you can be nothing more than a private for the rest of your life. As Alenador's presence here and in your cell proves, with us a high function person doesn't just sit behind a desk. It can very well be that an adjutant or even general leads the forces into battle by sitting in the Fighter flying at the tip of the formation."
"I figured as much," Jane said. "I know that you think that I have some information that might be of interest to you, but I also know that I'm just a captain. I don't rate a top level investigation by the top of the top. With us, I would be surprised to see more than a colonel at my questioning, but why,"
"And I'm not that young," Alenador suddenly interrupted. "You're not even five years older than me."
Alenador had more than enough of the remarks about her youthful looks. Everyone had the highest respect for her and her abilities to lead them. And nobody but Latennador and Suenador dare to say it to her face, but Alenador knew that behind her back others called her the sandpit general.
Jane didn't really know how to react to Alenador's outburst so she turned to Suenador instead. "And what's your function?"
Suenador was also surprised by Alenador's outburst and took a few seconds to react. "As you know, I'm only a Danfi for the last five years and therefore only in the army for those five years. Because I was a Human before, I was appointed to the Danfi/Human relations Department, DHD for short. As is normal with us, I got no special treatment despite the high ranks in my family; I had to start at the bottom of the stairs. It seemed that I was good at my job and I worked my way up and right now I'm head of the DHD."
"In five years? Talk about rising through the ranks."
Suenador shook her head a little. "Not really, you see..."
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