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 7

Jane had just left the bridge where she had spent some time with Namfos and was walking to the hangar area to get her Fighter and fly a patrol mission along the no-man's-land. She was glad that her friendship with Namfos had not suffered from her decision to not tell what had happened during her captivity. It had been a little weird in the first few days. It was clear to see that Namfos was not pleased with Jane's decision, to put it mildly. But they both simply didn't talk about it, pretending it never happened, and it had helped to sustain their friendship.

The smile that Jane had on her lips after the hour of joking around with Namfos quickly disappeared when she entered the hangar and saw the state of her Fighter.

"What the hell is the meaning of this?" She almost shouted at the mechanic who was pulling her Fighter apart.

"What does it look like?" The mechanic asked lightly. "I would think that a pilot would have seen enough Fighters undergoing a full inspection to know what they look like during that inspection."

"Man, what are you talking about? The full inspection of my Fighter happened only ninety flight hours ago. The next full inspection is not planned until after the next four hundred hours."

"Listen you pompous star hopper," The mechanic said, not even bothering to look at Jane's rank insignias. "I know you pilots are all so proud that you can fly these things. Well, let me tell you, you know nothing about maintaining them, and I do. If my list says that today I have to service the Fighter with the serial number 867-546-fadr-11-002, then I'll do that."

For a moment Jane couldn't believe this was happening. She looked at the floor in an effort to let her anger sink back down, but not with much success. "Get over here," She said softly.

She waited while the mechanic deliberately stalled enough to annoy. When the mechanic was finally standing in front of her, Jane continued. "The fact that you're allowed to work on this base would normally mean that you know what you're doing. So I'll assume that you're new here..."

She hesitated as she looked at him a little closer. "And young. Maybe you've forgotten some of the basic information they give everyone at the academy. So let me give you a crash course. In the old days they noticed that they were going through the serial numbers at a fast pace. They also realized that the system of giving every Fighter simply the next serial number, made people realize just how many Fighters and pilots had been lost in the war. So they changed the serial number system. They started using the same serial numbers for different types of space ships. This could however be very confusing, for instance a starbase with the same serial number as a simple Fighter."

She shook her head. "Neh, that was unacceptable. Therefore they added three digits to the serial number... does this start to sound familiar already? These three digits indicate the type of space ship. I know this might get confusing with the higher numbers, but with the Fighters it's very easy. They started with 001 for the single person Fighters, 002 for the two person Fighters, and so on until the bulky but very powerful ten people 010. So, in other words, you are working on my single person Fighter, a single person Fighter can never have the serial number 867-546-fadr-11-002. Only a two person Fighter can have that number. In other words, you highly schooled plasma pusher, allow this pilot that knows nothing about maintenance, to tell you that you are working on the wrong damn Fighter!"

The last words had once more been said at a nearly shouting level and the mechanic wasn't happy to admit his mistake. So he sniffed, "Guess you just have to postpone you flight until I'm finished then. I'm sure you won't mind hanging around in the bar a little longer."

Jane's patience was tested to the limit and didn't feel like talking much longer. "Alright, you're right, I'll be more than happy to hang around some more in my favorite bar. While I go do that, are you going to tell my good friend General Namfos why I can't fulfill the mission she personally ordered me on?"

As Jane expected, the mechanic's attitude changed immediately; not many people had the privilege of being allowed to call Namfos a good friend. And even if you were looking for a fast ticket out of the Army, like the mechanic clearly was, you didn't want to mess with the general that was known for finding very interesting alternative posting locations for unwilling personnel.

"That, um, that's really not necessary, is it?" The mechanic asked hesitantly.

"I don't know, is it?" Jane asked. "I mean, I must have an explanation as to why I didn't follow her order."

"Please forgive my remarks. I, um, you know, had some personal problems lately."

"Who hasn't?" Jane replied, not giving a hair. "In case you didn't notice, we're in a war; everyone has personal problems."

"Yeah but I... my girlfriend, she... I... Look, that two person trainer Fighter over there is ready to go. Because it's a trainer it's fully functional for single pilot use. Why don't you take that one and I'll work on finishing this one as fast as possible."

"I don't know, I really like my Fighter. It has some enhancements that aren't standard with most Fighters."

Jane wanted to get off the base, she needed to get into a Fighter. It was the only reason why she had almost begged Namfos for the recon mission. But Jane wasn't above torturing the mechanic a little for his attitude.

"That's an advanced training Fighter; it has all the enhancements a Fighter could have."

"Are the weapons charged and ready for use?"

"Fully," The mechanic was quick to say. "The energy plasma is also fully charged."

"You do realize that I'm letting you off easy? My Fighter better be restored to more than perfect state, or else I'll still be having a little chat with General Namfos. You got me?"

"I got you."

Jane had reached the end of the patrol route and was slowly preparing to return to base. Despite the fact that the patrol had been quiet, almost boring, it still had been liberating for Jane. There was just something about sitting in a Fighter that truly made her feel free.

Just when she started her way back with a big one-eighty turn she saw something blink in the corner of her eye. Jane immediately stopped the Fighter and her eyes kept going back and forth between her control panel and the window.

"Did I see that right?" Jane said softly to herself. Once again she saw the weak blinking that meant so much to her. "Yep, enemy Fighters."

Jane knew that when the enemy Fighters were just in the right angle to a star the light reflection would bounce off the Fighter and give a little blink of light. It was hardly visible, and to the inexperienced eye it looked like nothing more than the twinkle of a star. But for the experienced pilots like Jane it was a way of observing at a distance that which was way outside of sensor range.

"What are they doing here?" Jane wondered. "I thought they didn't show themselves anymore in the no-man's-land. Now what? Attack? No, my mission was recon, not strike. I don't see them anymore. Come on, where are you, back to your own territory?"

Jane's musing was interrupted by the friendly female computer voice, making it clear that the enemy Fighters weren't gone. {Warning, enemy Fighters are coming within sensor range. Warning, there are now three enemy Fighters within sensor range. Advice, request assistance.}

'Gee, great idea,' Jane thought sarcastically while going over her options and deciding to play a cat and mouse game for the moment. "Record," Jane commanded. Immediately the computer started to record. "Enemy Fighters sighted in the pre-assigned sector. I've put the Fighter on idle to see if they mistake it for space debris. For now there are only three Fighters. Because they're still in the no-man's-land I won't attack. If they fly into our territory or attack me, I will retaliate. End recording."

The computer stopped the recording and a flashing light indicated that the message was ready to be sent.

In the next ten minutes Jane saw how the Fighters slowly moved past her just on the edge of the sensor range. Jane didn't trust the speed of the Fighters. They were slow, way too slow.

"Why are they so slow? The distance they covered could easily be covered in less than one minute. Why are they so slow?" She asked herself again and then asked herself, "When are we so slow? When we're measuring something down to the millionth of a centimeter. They're mapping the no-man's-land in detail. But why? They must already have those measurements. We ourselves know the no-man's-land down to the last speck of space dust. When we know it, so do they. Why do they have to measure it again?"

Jane was interrupted by the irritating male computer voice. {Warning. Enemy Fighter within weapons range.}

Jane had been so engrossed in her thinking that she hadn't seen that one of the Fighters had come closer for a second look. 'Shit,' Jane thought before saying, "Computer, send."

Jane reactivated the Fighter again and when she felt the enemy impact on her shields she knew that she had been just in time. When no computer voice made itself known, Jane knew that the Fighter was undamaged. She was just about to put the Fighter in turbo when sensors indicated that one of the enemy Fighters was coming from her left and one from her right, and both were ready to fire. Jane laughed to herself and thought, 'Now things are become interesting. Surely they must know better. Let's see.'

She put her engines on half force and the thrusters on full reverse. Because of this her Fighter shook as if she was about to go to full throttle, but in reality she wasn't moving a hair. As she hoped, the two Fighters opened fire. As soon as she saw the Fighters fire, Jane switched the thrusters off and put the Fighter into overdrive. As she knew would happen, her Fighter jumped forward and the two enemy Fighters hit each other.

Because their weapons were weaker than Union weapons the Fighters didn't damage each other, especially since their shielding was much stronger than that of Union Fighters. But Jane wasn't looking for them to destroy each other. She was looking for them to be confused, and in that she had succeeded. Before they truly knew what was going on, Jane had turned her Fighter around and opened fire. She succeeded in damaging both Fighters so much that all they could do was wait to be rescued, or captured.

Jane started looking around for the third Fighter, but the impacts on the back of her Fighter told her that the enemy had found her first. While Jane got out of the line of fire, the irritating male computer voice made itself known. {Warning, aft shields are down.}

"Oh crap, shit, and fuck." From the fact that the enemy Fighter started firing on her in rapid succession, Jane knew that the damage to her shields had not gone unnoticed. "Alright, now we'll see what true flying is."

Jane started moving the Fighter in a succession of fast and unpredictable maneuvers and knew to stay out of enemy fire.

"You're good, but not good enough. A few more turns and I'll get you."

But Jane grossly miscalculated the abilities of the enemy pilot. For ten long minutes she was doing nothing else than twisting and turning the Fighter in unpredictable patterns, all in an effort to stay alive. But finally she saw her chance and took it. She dove down and when her turn was at ninety degrees she suddenly put her engines and the thrusters in reverse.

The result was that she shot past the enemy Fighter which was still in the process of making the dive. Every less experienced pilot would have passed out from the huge amount of G forces that were trying to pull her out of her seat. But she didn't... barely. Finally she was in the position where she wanted to be and opened fire on the enemy Fighter. When the enemy pilot figured out that Jane was now behind him he put his Fighter in full throttle to try and get away. But Jane was not about to give up her position that easily.

Now that the roles were reversed, Jane could fully appreciate the piloting skills of the enemy pilot. Never before had she seen any pilot, enemy or Union, maneuver like that. More than once roles were almost reversed again. But time and again Jane managed to prevent that just in time. All the fight existed of for a long time was the two Fighters following each other. Jane couldn't even succeed in targeting the enemy Fighter; all her efforts were put into staying behind him instead of becoming a target herself once more. But as good as the enemy pilot was, Jane proved to be better eventually. Finally she succeeded in targeting the Fighter and hit it in a good place. Jane could see that the enemy Fighter was starting to lose some energy plasma. Jane didn't bother tying to hit it again. It would only be minutes until the Fighter would explode.

But apparently the enemy pilot was not planning on waiting for that. He set course to an ice planet; the only thing in the vicinity that could sustain life.

'Good landing,' Jane thought after reading the information about the planet on her screen. 'You were a good adversary, you deserve a chance. Either they'll rescue you in time, or you'll freeze to death.'

But right after making the decision to let the pilot live Jane changed her mind. 'No, I'm sorry, I can't let you live. You're too good, you're too much of a risk to other Union pilots. I can't allow that.'

Jane started to follow the Fighter again. The enemy Fighter only came within firing range once more when it was already in the atmosphere of the planet. When the enemy pilot noticed that he was being followed again he dived in a straight line for the planet surface.

'What the hell is he up to?' Jane thought. 'He'll only die faster that way.'

But when the enemy Fighter was at only a few kilometers from the planet surface, the pilot did something that even Jane hadn't thought of. First the pilot opened the emergency break-flaps and then he brought himself in safety by using his ejection-seat. Jane was so distracted by the ejection-seat that she saw too late that the Fighter in front of her was slowing down because of the emergency break-flaps. Before she could react, her Fighter was crashing into the enemy Fighter.

Jane was lucky enough that the front shields had not been damaged during her fight with the pilot. Therefore her Fighter was not destroyed by the impact and she could still make an emergency landing.

Jane needed almost half an hour to wake up after the crash landing. She took the emergency bag from under the seat and got out of the Fighter on wobbly legs. She was good, but even she wasn't immune to hitting her head on the instrument panel hard enough to be knocked unconscious.

She didn't need to check the Fighter to see if it had survived the landing; she knew that it would be totally useless. The fact that the cockpit was only barely above the snow told her that the landing gear had not survived.

Driven by the biting cold, Jane opened the emergency bag and quickly put on the thermo coverall. Only then did she check the rest of the bag. "Fuck, this is so not happening; not complete. The damn thermo tent is nowhere to be seen."

Jane threw the now emptied out bag against the Fighter in frustration. "Now I'll be frozen to death in an hour or two tops, even with the thermo coverall. Great, just great."

She punched the Fighter in frustration and offered a last 'damn' before calming down some. "Well, I sent a message, maybe a rescue team will arrive within an hour."

She started to pick the things that had been in the bag out of the snow and added, "And maybe they'll arrive in a week."

She looked around to find any options for survival and it was only then that she realized that the Fighter looked longer than normal. That made her realize something else. "Shit. I don't believe this, I forgot that I was in a damned two person Fighter. I'll kill that damn mechanic."

She climbed to the back part of the Fighter and opened the aft cockpit. Under the seat she found what she was looking for; a second emergency bag. She climbed back down and opened the bag. In it she found what she had already expected. The thermo tent, a second thermo coverall, and stuff that were of absolutely no use in the situation she was in now. Somehow she doubted that she would need the factor two-hundred sunscreen.

"Well that's of no use to me now," Jane said to herself while she dropped the thermo tent and sat down on it. She took a few minutes to think things over and finally decided to go and see if the enemy pilot was dead at least.

"Something positive should come out of this mess," She thought while starting to collect the stuff that had been in the two bags.

Slowly Jane fought herself a way through the thick snow to where she could clearly see the red/white emergency parachute of the enemy hanging from a rock formation. She took the binoculars out of the bag she had with her, stuffed with all the halfway usable things from both bags, and scanned the area. Her eyes came to rest on an object a few meters away from the parachute. Even though there was a small layer of snow covering it, Jane could still clearly see the green/brown form of a Danfi in body armor.

"Looks like he's dead, otherwise he wouldn't lie still like that in this kind of whether. But I better go check just to be sure."

Jane walked slowly to the Danfi and pushed a couple of times against its arm with her foot.

When Jane was sure the Danfi was dead she squatted down beside him and started to brush the snow off the body armor to study it a little closer. With the first brush of her hand over the Danfi's chest, Jane noticed that the best enemy she had ever had, had also been a woman. She laughed.

"Oh when I tell this to the machos at the base I won't only ruin their day, but also their year. The best pilot of the Union is a woman, and the best pilot of the Danfi was a woman to. Guess we're simply better at driving than men are."

Before Jane could brush even more snow off the body, she felt a hand of the Danfi closing around her throat. The Danfi threw Jane over its body as if Jane weighed nothing and went with the motion until it was sitting on Jane's middle.

"You should have listened better to Suenador," The Danfi said in a voice that Jane clearly recognized. "We're about twice as strong as Humans. That means that we're also about twice as resilient. I,"

Alenador stopped talking when she saw a hand laser appear in front of her head.

"I did listen to Sue," Jane said difficultly because Alenador was still partially choking her. "I just forgot for a moment. But what Sue couldn't know and therefore couldn't tell you is that my first reaction is always to reach for my gun. If you don't let go of me I'll use it too."

Alenador thought about it for a moment. 'My armor can withstand a shot or two. But... Girl you're kidding yourself. If you really wanted her dead she would've been before she ever had time to reach for that gun.' She slowly let go of Jane and moved off her until she was standing.

Jane rubbed her throat with one hand and kept her gun pointed at Alenador with the other. Then she slowly got up herself. "I'd like you to take off that armor; I would like to see the person I'm talking to."

"I'm afraid that's not possible," Alenador said.

Jane once again wondered how a voice could get through that body armor. But then she also wondered how they could see in it since it had no eye slits. While Jane was wondering about this, Alenador continued to explain.

"This armor has, amongst other things, the same function as those thermo coveralls you have. Without it I'll be dead in fifteen minutes. You might as well shoot me."

Jane looked around for her emergency bag and walked the few feet to it when she saw it.

"How long does that thing keep you alive?" She asked while opening the bag and starting to look through it.

"As I said, it has the same function as those coveralls. It'll keep me alive for about just as long as well."

Jane threw the second coverall to Alenador. "Then you can also wear this instead. Because, once again, I would like to see who I'm talking to."

Even though it was no question, the tone in Jane's voice made it clear that it was meant as such.

Alenador hesitated for a moment and finally lifted her left arm so that she could use her right hand to push on her left arm just under the wrist. Her movements were fast and unexpected, and when she saw that Jane continued to put her weapon away nevertheless, Alenador was glad to see that she made the right decision once again.

Jane saw how Alenador pushed a place on her arm and was surprised to see that the body armor suddenly started to move as if it was alive and didn't really know what to do. Then it just flowed off Alenador's body to her back and Jane was surprised once more to see what Alenador was wearing under her armor.

While Alenador removed something from her back, Jane simply asked, "Union clothing?"

Once the body armor was gone, the elements started to attack Alenador's body and therefore she answered with chattering teeth. "We started wearing this only since I became General Supreme. When the Union finds someone before we do, they're so glad that they were able to save a Human that they don't even think that we might not be Human at all. You would be surprised how many Danfi have been rescued by the Union."

By now Alenador had also removed a pressure pad from her arm, just below her wrist, and started to put on the insulation coverall.

"And when you find your people first, they're simply wearing their armor and you know they're one of you. Smart," Jane deduced before asking, "So that's your entire armor?"

Alenador looked at the box herself and laughed. "Yes, this is indeed the thing you Humans scare your children with in the horror stories about us."

Then she became serious again. "So, are you going to tell me why I'm still alive? Is it because I'm worth so much to the Union?" Alenador didn't add that she would never go with a Union rescue team.

Jane shook her head no, took hold of the emergency bag and walked the few feet back to Alenador. "As I promised you, I kept my word and didn't tell anyone about what happened on your planet. I did tell a friend of mine that I had valuable information but wasn't going to tell anyone what that was, and that it was up to others to decide if they wanted to get that information with a mind scan. It almost cost me her friendship. But the friendship survived, she prevented me from becoming a vegetable, and I kept my word."

'I don't believe it, she kept her word,' Alenador thought. 'She really kept her word. Her word truly does mean more to her than her own life does. I know what the Union would have done to her if that friend had told someone else.'

"The reason why you're still alive," Jane continued, "Is not because of your value to the Union, but because of your value to me. If you know the specs of our thermo coveralls, you'll also know how one of our thermo tents work."

"Of course. The body temperature of the occupant is enough to warm the interior of the tent to the point where the insulating material starts working properly and keeps the temperature at a constant body temperature."

"I see you did your homework," Jane said as indication that Alenador was right. "Then you'll also know that inside the thermo tent you have to get out of the thermo coverall, otherwise the tent doesn't work since you won't give off body heat while wearing the coverall."

"Yes, I know all of this, so?"

"So, as you can see from the fact that I had two coveralls, I was flying in a two person Fighter. That means that the thermo tent is also designed for two. It won't work with just one person in it. So even with my thermo tent, I'll not live longer than a few hours."

"What? Didn't they ever think that maybe one of the pilots might die while the other survives?"

"Tests have shown that this only happens once in every thousand times. Since room is of a premium in a Fighter, they decided that those odds were enough to not put a one person tent in a two person Fighter. More so because that one in thousand chance gets smaller still if you calculate the fact of whether or not a thermo tent is actually needed at the place where they crashed."

"I assure you, we would never agree to such a thing," Alenador said, hardly believing what she had heard.

"I'm more than willing to believe that, but that's beside the point now. My point is that I need you in my tent."

Alenador couldn't help but laugh. "Now, that's an original pickup line if I ever heard one."

Jane smiled before reasoning, "Listen, I know that they'll come looking for me, and I know for sure as hell that they'll be looking for you. The only question is, who'll find us first? We have a choice, either one of us will be a prisoner of the other when we get rescued, or we'll both be dead."

"I would rather be dead than be a Union POW, and you know that," Alenador said seriously.

Jane didn't want to give the real reason why she wanted Alenador to survive, so instead she said, "True, but if your troops find us first, you don't have to look for a new General Supreme. And if the Union troops get here first... Well, you only have to try and escape. I can't allow that and would be forced to kill you."

Alenador thought about that. The offensive was almost ready to go. This was not the time to install a new General Supreme. "Will you really do that?"

"Do you know the saying, 'I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy'?"

"I do."

"You might be my enemy, but I certainly don't see you as my worst enemy. I really don't wish a Union interrogation on you. I give you my word that you won't be leaving with a Union rescue team... at least not alive."

"In that case, I give you my word that we'll leave you here if my troops get here first. Maybe the extra time we will create by sharing the tent will be enough for you to survive until Union troops get here."

"Besides, you know I'm not going to give you any information anyway."

That was not the reason why Alenador wanted Jane to survive, but she was not going to tell Jane this. "Right."

Jane pointed at the parachute. "Your parachute and my Fighter are both good markers. I suggest putting the tent between the two."

"Sounds good."

A few minutes later the self-erecting tent was placed and ready to use. When they were both in the tent, Jane said, "Now we've got to get these things off. It'll be cold the first few minutes, but that will change soon."

Alenador took the coverall off and used it as pillow before poking the soft surface she was lying on with a finger. "Hmm, kinda nice surface to lie on this snow."

Both of them noticed that her voice was different. The General Supreme was not with them in the tent. "We have a box that unfolds itself for situations like this, also armored of course. It's ready to use within twenty seconds, and totally waterproof. But one drawback is that you're lying on hard plates and barely have enough space to move your arm if you want to scratch your nose."

Jane turned on her side and looked at Alenador. "I had to use a thermo tent three... no four times now. They're normally indeed quite comfy and spacey, even the one person tents. But a big drawback is that you'll always feel the surface you're lying on through the bottom of the tent. If you have to land on a planet that's not much more than rocks, you'll wish for simple hard plates to lie on. I crashed on a planet once. From the crash I walked away without a scratch. But when they found me five days later I was black and blue from having to sleep on those damn rocks."

Alenador laughed and then was quiet for a moment before saying, "Isn't it strange? Less than an hour ago we were trying to kill each other, and now we're lying here talking."

"I didn't try to kill 'you', Jane disagreed. "I was trying to kill an enemy Fighter pilot. There's something about the space ships, the Fighters, that makes it less... personal. Maybe that's why ground offensives are not really that common these days. If you have someone standing in front of you and you kill him, you know that you just killed another living being. But if you destroy a Fighter, you destroyed a machine, not a living thing. That there's a pilot inside that Fighter is easily forgotten. I mean, every pilot keeps track of how many Fighters they destroyed. You hardly ever hear someone say, 'I killed ten pilots'. No, it's 'I destroyed ten Fighters'."

"True," Alenador had to agree.

Jane snorted and shook her head a little. "I'm known as one of the best pilots the Union has, I now know that even the enemy, your people, admire me for my flying abilities. I'm admired because I destroyed four-hundred enemy Fighters. But you know what? Ever since you told me that number, I've been thinking about the fact that I killed four-hundred people. Four hundred people never came home because of me. Yet I'm a hero because I 'destroyed' four-hundred Fighters."

"Hero or killer, it's all in just how the storyteller tells the story," Alenador said to indicate that she knew only too well what Jane meant. "But you know what makes you a hero and not a killer? The fact that you really are one of the people that get into that Fighter to protect the Union. You don't do it for revenge, even though they think you do, or to prove yourself. No, you get into that Fighter because you know; if you don't stop us, it can mean the death of more Union people."

"Is that also the reason why you get into a Fighter? Forget that whole 'people with high positions still do that' crap. Why do you, Alenador, get into a Fighter?"

"Would you believe me when I tell you that I do it as a reality check? Don't get me wrong, I love to be in a Fighter, and I'm glad that I'm a good pilot and that I can serve my side well. But when I'm in a Fighter I have my own fate in hand. When I'm not good enough I'll get killed; no hiding behind my rank. In a Fighter I'm pilot Alenador; not General Supreme."

"Yeah, I actually do believe that."

Alenador didn't reply but did give Jane a ghost of a smile. It was strange, for the first time ever she felt that she was looking at someone that really did understand.

They continued to talk, both feeing more comfortable with each other than they could ever remember feeling with someone else.

It was over two hours of wonderful conversation later when Jane asked after another moment of silence, "So, you got me wondering. I know that a Danfi is about twice as strong as a Human, but still, how could you throw me over you as if I weighed nothing? I do happen to know that I weigh more than the average Human woman of my size. Muscles weigh, and I enjoy keeping in shape. So how the hell could you do that?"

Alenador laughed at the question. "I knew that question was going to come sooner or later."

Jane started to laugh as well. "Well, I'm curious, I want to know."

"It's because I'm not your average Danfi."

"Now, that's something I figured out some time ago."

Alenador didn't react to Jane's remark but continued to explain. "Since I finished my training at our academy, there hasn't been a single person who's won a fight against me."

"You must do quite some iron pushing then."

"I do indeed do some power exercises," Alenador agreed. "But that's more because I like the way I look and want to stay like that."

"You look great," Jane said before she could stop herself. Then she added somewhat lamely, "I can certainly understand why you would want to keep it like that."

Alenador turned on her side and looked at Jane through narrow eyes.

Jane was impressed by the force she saw in those brown eyes. One had to be mentally very strong to not be the first to look away; Jane was strong enough to keep returning 'the look'.

They looked at each other like that for almost two long minutes, neither wanting to be the one to give the other the satisfaction of being the one to break the eye contact. Suddenly they both looked away at the same time. Not because they both had given up at the same time, but because they both didn't want to subject the other to losing this mental game.

Jane knew she had to prevent the heavy silence that was forming from fully settling and thought that it was the perfect time to ask something she had been wondering about since she had shared a cell with Alenador.

"So anyway, now that we're chatting away like this, let me ask you a question. I know that amongst your people you're a halfway important person," Both of them smiled at the gross understatement Jane had made deliberately, "so why did you give me that opportunity to kill you in that cell? How did you know for sure that I wouldn't break you neck?"

"I didn't," Alenador simply stated before elaborating, "It might have looked like that, but I really didn't. I happen to have very good muscle control. I might have looked devastated and hopeless, but the muscles in my neck were fully prepared. You wouldn't have been able to turn my neck more than a few degrees."

"Really? So you only have that level of control over your neck muscles, or over all of them?"

"Over most. It's a hobby of mine. In the little free time that I do have, I keep up with my DanDon exercises."

"What is DanDon?" Jane asked.

"Ah well, for one it's one of the reasons why I don't lose in physical fights. DanDon is a mix between exercise and meditation that's very popular with us. The main objective is to be able to have total and individual control over every single muscle in your body. And though it's not the focus of DanDon, you can use that knowledge in fights to protect yourself, and to take out others that don't know how to flex muscles and have slower reflexes."

"And you have this control over every muscle in your body?" Jane asked.

"Not every muscle, but I'm certainly no novice. You should see the true masters of this though. They can move every single muscle in their body individually. You're looking at them and suddenly you see one small muscle move. For instance that one little muscle right at the ear, or on the top of their hand. That's a level of control I don't yet possess."

While they had been talking their eyes had found each other again, but this time not to see who would look away first, but to simply look.

'Why do their soldiers on a mission always have to take that damn stuff?' Jane thought. 'What I wouldn't give to know what she's feeling now.'

Then she realized that even if the color of Alenador's eyes could change, she still wouldn't know what most of the colors would mean. 'Guess it's time to jump in head first and see what happens.'

She took a deep breath before saying, "You know, it isn't often that I come across a woman that can pick me up as if I weighed nothing. Very interesting... did Sue tell you that I've always had this thing for strong women?"

Alenador had heard Jane, but didn't react. She was too busy thinking. 'It's clear what she's getting at, and girl, you know what you want. But it's not possible, it's wrong, so wrong. She's the enemy. You're walking on thin ice that's melting even thinner with each second. You're going to drown if you keep this up.'

Alenador let her eyes quickly drift down and then back up Jane's body until she was once more looking into those blue eyes. 'But are you really?' She than asked herself. 'You're willing to die for your people, that doesn't change, and you're also willing to kill her for your people, that doesn't change either. You only let her leave from Danmun because it would be to the advantage of your people. And you know that's true, you aren't just making that up.' She turned on her back again and looked at the top of the tent.

'Well,' Jane thought. 'You could have known that this would be her answer. She isn't just an enemy; she is their leader. Why did I even bother? But... damn, I really like her.'

After some moments of uncomfortable silence, Alenador turned on her side again and spoke with a slightly nervous tone in her voice. "I'll be honest with you. The welfare of my people is my first priority, worth more to me than my own life. When we were sitting in that cell I offered you my body at one point. I'll do anything, legal by law, to get the information I want out of a prisoner. You're not the first person I did that with."

She could see Jane flinch and continued. "Until now there were four people with who I had to go that far. With three I hoped they would say no, they never did. Despite the fact that it would always take me months afterwards before I could let anyone touch me in whatever kind of way, it had always been well worth it. The information I got like that has been of immeasurable value. They always told me everything. Because of the information of those three... people... your side lost several big battles. But with you things were different. You were the first from who I hoped the answer would be yes. When you told me no, I was disappointed, remember?"

"Yeah," Jane agreed. "I thought that that was because my denial made you feel that I didn't think you were good enough for me. But now I'm finally realizing that it was nothing more than a good acting job from you."

Alenador smiled humorlessly and disagreed. "That's the point; that was no acting job. I was truly disappointed that you said no. You were the first of who I hoped the answer would be yes. I truly wanted to have sex with you then. If you had given me information afterwards that would have been a nice bonus, but at that point it was of no importance to me. I wanted you, I wanted so badly to have sex with you."

"Why are you telling me this now?" Jane finally asked. "Why are you telling me that you had sex with people with who you didn't want to have sex?" Jane didn't add the fact that the thought of Alenador with anyone else but her made Jane's stomach turn.

"Because," Alenador said softly, leaning a little closer to Jane. "I don't want to have sex with you anymore. I want to make love to you, and I wanted you to know how far I'll go, to understand how important the term 'making love' is to me. Jane, I no longer want to have sex with you, now I want to make love to you. There's something about you, Jane Darnell, something that draws me to you."

Alenador's voice was nothing more than a whisper when she added, "Please, make love to me."

Jane closed her eyes for a moment at hearing the words. She understood only too well the difference between having sex and making love. She opened her eyes again and looked into those of Alenador. "I want to make love to you too. There's something about you as well. Something that makes my heart beat overtime simply because you look at me."

Both of them leaned closer and their lips met for a soft kiss. "You won't believe how I've been longing to kiss you," Alenador said before they kissed again. "When we were sitting at that table and you didn't even know yet who I really was, I was just thinking about how it must feel to kiss these beautiful lips."

Another kiss followed. "Feels great."

Jane laughed. "Yeah? How about you holding a laser to my head and me thinking how hot you looked in that uniform of yours? It must be the pilot in me; I simply get hot from a hot babe threatening to kill me."

Hands started to move and the kissing got a lot more passionate than it already had been. "I don't know what it is about you, Jane, but from the first moment I saw you I wanted to be close to you. Oh, Danfi only knows how I want to be close to you."

"I don't know if your Danfi knows, but if you feel only half of what I'm feeling right now, than I sure know. The only thing I want to do is hold you."

"Then hold me, touch me."

Zippers were opened and hands started to move over heated flesh. They were no longer Human and Danfi; they were no longer enemies. For them only the moment existed.

Jane had been looking at Alenador for over an hour now. Alenador had fallen into a deep and restful sleep, but Jane couldn't sleep, she had a problem.

'Damn it. Why does she have to be the enemy?' Jane thought. 'It feels so right to be with her, for the first time in my life, there's nothing missing; being with her is perfect. Even though I'm no Terelanian, I'm starting to understand Namfos a lot better now. Nothing I ever had in my life felt like this. Maybe... maybe it's because I'm in love with her. Love, yeah, I think I am. There's no more denying that, at least not to myself.'

She looked at the beautiful face that looked even younger in sleep than it normally did. She reached out, but stopped herself just before fingers touched skin. 'But no matter how much I love her, what would I give to be with her? If she was just someone from the Union, I know I could be happy with her. But she's not from the Union, she's the enemy. And not just one of them, she's the one who decides what all of their troops do, where they are going to attack. Her orders result in Union people dying. If the Union had the information she has, the war would be as good as over. If I don't hand her over to the Union, that will be forever on my conscience. The death of every Union soldier that dies from this moment on, would be on my shoulders. But just look at how she's lying there. She doesn't look like the enemy; she looks like someone with who I want to spend the rest of my life. What should I do? Damn it all to hell, what should I do?'

A soft sound far away made Jane's mind up for her. She moved away from Alenador and carefully started to get dressed.

Alenador was in a deep sleep. The best sleep she had had in years. For the first time in her life everything was right. Because of this she had made a big mistake. She had left the General Supreme outside the tent. She was only a woman. A woman lying beside a lover who would never let anything happen to her. That this lover was the enemy had even left her subconscious mind.

Jane already had her thermo coverall on and had taken possession of the little box which held Alenador's armor when the Fighter came by a second time, this time so close that the sound also woke Alenador. She smiled and slowly opened her eyes, only to see Jane pointing her weapon at her.

"Reality caught up with us," Jane said in a flat emotionless voice. Something that she only barely succeeded in doing. "That was a Union Fighter, the Union found us first."

"Which means I have to 'escape' now, and you will kill me," Alenador stated the inevitable.


"No? But you gave me your word."

"Do you have any idea what you're worth to the Union?"

"I will never,"

"Do you know?" Jane interrupted.

"Of course I know," Alenador snapped.

"Remember that." Jane showed Alenador the little box holding the body armor. "Do you know what this is worth to the Union?"

"As much as I," Alenador said in a defeated tone. She could not believe that she had been mistaken so much.

Jane put the little box on the floor beside Alenador. "I need a reason why I would do this, so let's say that I'm doing this because I still owe you. Your troops will also soon be here, I'm guessing. This tent is totally warmed up now. It will be about ten hours until the temperature goes below the freezing point. After that the thermo coverall, or your armor, will give you another few hours. That's the chance I give you, the choice I have to live with."

Without saying anything else, Jane opened the tent and closed it immediately after getting out. She had been just in time because even through the insulation material of the tent, Alenador could clearly hear the conversation on the outside.

"Am I ever glad to see you," Alenador heard Jane say.

"Captain. We saw something red over there, when we came around for a closer look we saw your tent. Do you know what the red thing is?"

"Yes, it's a red/white parachute I found in the remains of the enemy Fighter that caused me to be here. I figured it would be easier to see in this snow than my Fighter."

"You found the remains of the enemy Fighter? Maybe the pilot as well?"

"I indeed found him, ugly thing. But he was dead already. I left him where I found him, he must be over there somewhere."

"Do you want us to go look for him, Captain? As you know we never succeeded in capturing a Turtle, even a dead one could be very useful."

"Good idea, Corporal. You do have enough Fighters with you, right?"

"Captain? I'm afraid I don't know what you mean."

"Well, you know that the enemy always comes for its dead with a very big force. My question is if you've got enough Fighters to hold them off while we look for the body and try to get it home with us."

The corporal reacted quickly and as Jane had hoped. "Maybe we had better leave."

"If you think so, but two hundred Fighters should be enough to stop their first wave."

"Captain, we only have a ten Fighter escort."

"What? And you keep us talking here? Come on, let's get out of here."

The corporal ran so fast through the thick layer of snow that he was at the shuttle while Jane was only half way there.

While the shuttle was slowly lifting up, Jane was looking through the window to the thermo tent. 'We sure have some bright lights working in the army,' Jane thought. 'Six men in the shuttle, ten men in the Fighters, and none of them thinks of the idea to ask me how I could survive for more than one day in a two person tent. We're making it way too easy for the Danfi.'

Alenador listened to the shuttle move away and finally she couldn't hear it anymore. All the time she could do nothing more than look at the little box lying on the tent floor. The personal armor had never really been important to her. Just something that belonged to the uniform of every Danfi, just like the shoes of the uniform.

But now the box was so much more. For the first time in her life she looked at the box and saw its true value. Knowing its secrets, would be of immeasurable importance to the Union. Alenador knew that the body armor could also be created with Union resources. The one body armor, lying in front of her, was all that the Union needed to reverse engineer their own body armors. That one armor could turn the war around. If the Union soldiers would wear body armor, and have their powerful hand lasers they would almost be unstoppable.

Jane had asked if Alenador knew how valuable the body armor was to the Union, now Alenador knew. She had told Jane that she was just as valuable to the Union as the body armor. But that was not true. That little box lying in front of her was worth more than her.

Alenador realized that Jane hadn't just given her back the body armor; Jane had also influenced the war, knowing damn well what she was doing.

"I was right about you after all. Jane, oh Jane. I want you back."

Alenador hesitantly touched the box containing her body armor and started to cry.

Suenador was relieved when Alenador finally opened the door. Right after they had found Alenador on the ice planet she had gone home and let it be known that she was sick. When Alenador was still sick after a week, Suenador started to worry. She had tried contacting Alenador several times during the week, but it had been to no avail. Alenador had given strict orders that she was only to be disturbed for emergencies. Suenador knew that Alenador was acting as never before. Alenador had always pounded the fact that the General Supreme had to be an example for the rest. As long as it was in any way possible, she would be coming into her office. But now she didn't want to see anybody, not even her personal physician.

When Suenador walked into Alenador's home, her eyes needed a moment to get accustomed to the low light level. Alenador had set the light sensitivity of the windows to almost the lowest level and there was not a single lamp activated in the entire house. There was just enough light coming through the windows to bathe everything in the house in a dark eerie gray.

That Suenador didn't bump into something was only because she knew the house so well. Alenador didn't say anything and moved back to the couch she had been sitting on when Suenador had sounded the chime... for more than ten minutes.

Suenador sat down beside Alenador and touched the lamp that was built into the wall behind the couch. Just as it was supposed to, the lamp only started to burn a little in accordance with the light touch on the activation sensor. With the first light of the lamp, Suenador could see the light red color of Alenador's eyes.

"Don't, I prefer it dark," Alenador said softly.

Just as asked, Suenador shut the light off again. "I've seen you unhappy before," Suenador said with the concern clearly in her voice. "But I never saw that color shade before. Were the experiences on that ice planet that bad?"

Suenador put her arm around Alenador and immediately Alenador leaned her head against Suenador's shoulder, hoping that this would give her the comfort she was looking for.

"That's just it," Alenador said slightly more secure. The soft caresses on her back that Suenador was giving her did have its desired effect. "I had the best time of my life."

Suenador was about to ask what Alenador meant but then noticed that Alenador was continuing with what she was saying and therefore wisely kept silent.

"That's one of the advantages of being General Supreme, you don't have to fill out reports. And if you do fill them out, nobody will ever doubt a single word. Nobody thought to ask me how it was possible that I was still alive after more than a day on the planet. Everyone who thinks about it for a minute would realize that I couldn't have had a survivor box when I had to use my ejection seat."

Alenador could see the question forming on Suenador's lips and answered it. "I wasn't alone. I spent my time there with another woman. I realized there that I love her. So much so that I want her in my life no matter what. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be truly in love."

Suenador smiled. "Well what's the problem then? You're the General Supreme, have her transferred here."

Alenador noticed that Suenador didn't understand what she was trying to say and shook her head a little. "She certainly won't listen to my orders, and most certainly not come to Danmun voluntarily."

Alenador could see that Suenador still didn't understand. "Let me put it like this, in her thermo tent, I had more than enough room to hold her in my arms."

Suenador was clearly shocked by the words 'thermo tent'. "Someone from the Union?"

"Not just someone, you used to know her very well."

"Jane?" Suenador guessed even more shocked.

"Do you know any other Union pilot that would be able to shoot me down without it being a lucky shot?"

"You and Jane? But how... I thought that she was Union hate come to life these days?"

"How does something like that happen? It did. And I think that those hate stories are far exaggerated. She's a brilliant pilot, and Union soldiers will see her causing us casualties as her hating us even more than the rest of them do. I mean, did you see that hate while she was here? You could see dislike for the enemy, but not the hate she's rumored to have. Someone who hates us as she is supposed to, wouldn't save civilians on Sator four. She would kill them even more ruthlessly. Besides, the main reason for her hate fell away the moment she found out that you were still alive."

"You and Jane," Suenador repeated. "So that's why you're so unhappy?"

"No," Alenador said directly and clear before talking softly again, "I don't regret that for a minute. No, I can even say I'm happy I did that. The feelings she gave me, even when we were just talking, I'll cherish that for the rest of my life."

"Then why this... sadness?"

"Since I was born I knew that my calling was leadership," Alenador said. "I am General Supreme for four years now and except for a single day or two, I'm glad day after day that I'm that General Supreme. And now I have to step down. What am I going to do now with the rest of my life? Play advisor? Do work in some factory? What am I going to do with the rest of my life in Danfi's name?"

Suenador couldn't believe her ears. She took hold of Alenador with both of her hands. "What are you talking about? Step down? Why? What are you thinking of doing to your people?"

"Didn't you hear what I just said? I want her in my life, no matter what. I mean that. But she's the enemy, and the enemy can't be allowed to have so much power over the General Supreme."

Suenador took Alenador back into her embrace and thought for a moment. "Remember when you forbid Latennador to ask me to marry him as long is I was not planning on becoming a Danfi? You didn't tell him that as his younger sister, but you ordered him this as the General Supreme in training."

Alenador lifted her head from Suenador shoulder and looked at her.

"Yeah, he told me, but only after we were married." Alenador put her head back down while Suenador continued, "You couldn't approve of the fact that a five star general would marry a Human. You had nothing against me personally, I know that it was very hard for you to forbid the marriage. But if Latennador had married me when I was a Human he would have made it very clear that his love for me would set him wide open for Human views and beliefs. Unacceptable. Latennador only told me that after our marriage because he didn't want me to become a Danfi simply for the symbolism. Once I was a Danfi he told me, and I must say that I think you were right."

"Why are you telling me this?" Alenador asked, not knowing what Suenador was getting at.

"I'm telling you this because you live by the following rule; 'that I can make the laws doesn't mean that I'm above them'. It's one of the many reasons that you're so popular. The people like it that you hold yourself to the same laws that you hold them to. It went straight into the history archives when you as General Supreme opted to serve the three month sentence for incorrect use of the planetary transport system instead of pleading yourself free. It was expected that you would simply overrule the court decision; that's why they gave you that punishment to begin with. It was way too harsh, and everyone knew it. Everybody uses the transport system incorrectly at least once every month or so. The court just decided to turn it into their 'see, we even hold the General Supreme accountable for her actions' case, assuming that you would overturn it anyway. But when you spent those three months in a normal prison between real inmates your reputation was set, and you couldn't do anything wrong anymore with the population."


Suenador interrupted Alenador, knowing what she was going to say. "What I'm getting at is this. One of the rules of the General Supreme is that they always have to do what's good for the people, even if that means that it's not good for them. Why don't you turn that rule into a law for yourself? If you were ever to see Jane again, you would have to do what's good for the people, and not what you personally want."

"Suenador, listen to yourself. That's a little too easy, don't you think?"

"Sure, for pretty much everyone else it would be. For me, for Latennador, it wouldn't work," Suenador readily agreed. "But for you, dear sis, it might just be the thing you need to get through this."

Suenador sighed softly before asking straightforward, "Let's forget about the rest for a moment and answer me this; can we really afford to get a new General Supreme at this point? You know that the answer to that is no. So no matter how sorry you feel for yourself..."

"Gee, thanks, can you be any blunter?"

"You're welcome, and sure I can if I need to. So anyway, stepping down is really no option at all. That would only be an option if your heart is no longer in it. Don't you want to be General Supreme anymore?"

"Of course I do, I just told you," Alenador reminded.

"Then the only thing you can do is be at your desk tomorrow bright and early."

"I don't know about the bright part, but I will be there," Alenador relented. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, and it's my pleasure," Suenador said softly.

"But that's tomorrow," Alenador sighed. "Today I want to spend a little more time... feeling sorry for myself. Can you stay a little longer?"

Suenador patted Alenador's back softly. "Of course I can, as long as you like. But..." She added, trying to lift the mood a little. "...If I'm staying I want to hear more about what happened on that planet. Come on, girl, spill it, I want details."

Alenador smiled for the first time. "You're incorrigible. Alright, but later. First I just want to sit a little."

Suenador softly caressed Alenador's hair and a slightly motherly tone entered into her voice when she spoke again to the ten year younger woman in her arms. "Of course, you go right ahead and cry your eyes out, you're always holding in too much."

"No I don't," Alenador disagreed. "I just don't show my tears to others. I cry alone at home in the dark."

"Don't you know, sis, you don't have to be alone, I'm here for you."

When Jane entered Namfos' office, the wall screen was already activated and the general who had sent Jane on her first mission into Danfi territory was already visible and waiting.

"Captain Darnell," The general said. "I'll get right to the point. We've decided to send you once more into enemy territory to see what you can find out. Nothing really changed, you're still the best we got. We simply have accepted that even our best can fly against a mine; that's what those damn things are designed for in the first place. But general Namfos insisted that we should ask you first, and make it clear to you that it would have no further repercussions if you refused."

"Well, if I'm totally free in my choice than I would rather not try it again."

The general was quiet for a moment and looked down at his desk. A few seconds later he looked back up. "As I agreed with General Namfos, we won't order you to do this if you don't want to. But I would like to ask you to reconsider. You do have the advantage... Damn it, Jane..."

Jane was surprised to hear the sudden change in the way the general was talking.

"...Let's not beat around the bush here. You're not one of our best pilots, you are 'the' best pilot we have. Your record is the best in Union history, did you know that?"

"No I didn't," Jane had to say.

"It is. That's the one and only reason why you've gotten away with disobeying orders more than once. Others would've found themselves with a jail sentence quicker than you can say 'life long'. You're the only one who can do this and maybe come back alive."

"That's indeed not beating around the bush," Jane laughed. She suddenly liked the general a lot more. Jane thought about it for a moment. 'If I don't do it they'll send someone else. Another death that would rest on my shoulders because of the choices I made.' Sighing mentally she inclined her head a little. "I said that I'd rather not go. But if someone was to straight out ask me, I might consider doing it."

"Well, I'm asking," The general said immediately. "Not as general, but as one soldier to another, will you do it?"

"Put like that, I can't but say yes," Jane agreed.

"Great. You can leave whenever you want to."

"If they ready my Fighter tonight, I can leave tomorrow after a good night's rest."

"Consider it done," The general said with a broad smile. "And let me wish you the best of luck."

The general looked to the side to where Namfos was sitting. "General." Then back to Jane. "Captain, have a good flight." And without another word he was gone.

"Do you really want to go back there after what happened last time?" Namfos asked.

"You don't know what happened last time," Jane countered with a smile.

"Precisely my point," Namfos countered, on her turn not smiling at all. "What good will it do for you to go? You won't tell us anything anyway. I told you that I can't cover you a second time."

"Namfos, calm down. You don't have to cover me a second time. I'll nicely report whatever I come across."

"What?" Namfos asked disbelievingly. "Why would you tell us things now? You might as well not go and simply tell us now what you know."

"No I can't," Jane disagreed. "I decided that the information I have now is unreliable. This mission is a new mission for me. I'll go, gather information and when I come back I'll report whatever I found out, this time around. Keep in mind that I don't plan to make the same mistake again. This time around I'm not going to promise to not say anything. If I get information, and that's a big if, but if, then it will be very clear that I'll be telling all when I get back and that I will point out to the Union that the enemy let me go, and that this is something for the Union to keep in mind."

Namfos had a feeling that something else was going on. But she trusted Jane, and also knew that she wouldn't get a better answer. So instead of asking more she changed the subject. "Well, be that as it may, but it still isn't bedtime. Come on, let's get out of here and celebrate my birthday."

"That sure sounds good to me." Jane stood up and followed Namfos out of the office. She knew that there really was only one reason why she had accepted the mission. It was a wish she had, a wish of which she also hoped it would never come true. She didn't kid herself; she knew that if she would ever see her again, she would only see her as General Supreme.

Part 8

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