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 8

Jane had learned from the first time she had been in Danfi territory. At that time she had simply flown in a straight line, just making the occasional change to make sure that she didn't fly against anything that would quite literally explode in her face. But they had found her almost immediately. Jane suspected that the Danfi had placed detection devices on pretty much every planet, moon and asteroid. And that was besides the clearly visible sensor stations Jane also had stayed clear of last time. So this time she was flying in a roundabout way. She knew from experience that the range of the Danfi sensors was pretty much the same as those of the Union. Keeping this in mind she chose a route where the galactic bodies were far enough apart that a Fighter could slip between the sensor ranges if coming in from the right angle.

Of course the Danfi had thought of this trick themselves. But because the unguarded corridors were so narrow, they had simply laid them full of mines, sure that nobody could get past them without either coming into the sensor range, or causing an explosion that would also be detected by the sensors. It wasn't a bad strategy but they hadn't thought of a pilot with Jane's abilities. She was flying through the minefields as if they weren't even there.

Jane already had the solar system, which Danmun was a part of, on her sensors when she finally noticed an enemy Fighter. 'They're too late,' Jane thought. 'All I have to do is evade them. That's easier than actually fighting them. I can use all my weapons on Danmun. I could even get close enough to use the treasure chest. Then their whole planet would be useless in one go.'

Jane casually evaded the enemy fighter. 'I have to do it, this is a one time opportunity. I can end the war in one single move. No more Union people dying. It will all be over in one minute. If I don't do this now there will never be a chance like this again. They'll learn from me getting here and close even the smallest hole. The only way a Union Fighter can come this close again is after we win the war. But all those innocent lives?' Jane easily evaded the shot of a second enemy Fighter and put her own Fighter in overdrive.

'Oh, god, I hope you can forgive me my choice,' Jane thought when she came within the reach of the first defensive satellite. She selected the treasure chest as weapon and kept her finger resting loosely on the firing button. When Jane flew past the satellite she activated the weapon and dropped the treasure chest. It happened so fast that even Jane could still see the change before she was fully past the satellite. She saw how the satellite changed from a wild firing beast to an unrecognizable mass.

Jane looked on her screen and shook her head. 'More than one hundred Fighters by now, and none of them can hit me seriously. Alenador, you should really let them fly more without the aid of the computer. They're trusting too much on the computer, and too little on instinct.'

She saw a second defensive satellite and headed for it.

Jane hadn't thought that the game would last as long as it did. She had already used all of her heavy weapons and destroyed more than twenty defensive satellites. She only had her laser and sonic weapons left, and that was just fine with her, she knew how to use those the best. But because Jane was only destroying defensive satellites and no Fighters, the number of enemy Fighters had steadily grown. She looked at the information screen once more and saw only a red blinking screen instead of information. It meant that there were so many enemy Fighters that it would be of no use to give information about it; it would be so much information that it wouldn't be readable.

It was the sign for Jane that the game was over. She put the Fighter in idle and waited for a certain death. But to her utmost surprise she wasn't killed. She saw how slowly a wall of Fighters built in front of her, but none of them opened fire. She saw movement on both sides as well and looking at it she saw that the wall of Fighters was not just in front of her; they were slowly forming a circle around her.

She couldn't help but look up and down. Despite the situation, she grinned. 'I see you make the same mistake as most Union pilots do. Space isn't flat guys, and you just left me two big outs.'

Then she started to wonder. 'So many Fighters and not a single one of them could do me serious damage? Either I became better than I thought I was, or these are only pilots that are still in training.' Jane looked around her once more and thought, 'If these are only the students, then where are the teachers? And why so many students? They must indeed be planning something really big.'

Jane looked ahead of her again when her attention was drawn by movement there. Out of the wall of Fighters, one slowly came forward until it was no more than fifty meters away from Jane. Jane could see how the pilot was making a waving gesture with his hand. 'He wants me to follow him? Well, this could be interesting. Let's see where they want to take me.'

Latennador stopped in front of the desk and only said 'Alenador,' just like he always did. This was enough to indicate that he was ready to receive her orders.

Alenador slowly turned away from the window and they looked at each other for a moment.

"Dearde is sitting outside," Latennador said softly after he had seen the red color of Alenador's eyes. "He arrived almost at the same time as me and... Are you sure you want to do this, I could do this as well."

"I wish you could, I really do. But he has to answer to the General Supreme; not one of her generals. But that is of lesser importance now, first that which you are responsible for. Why is she still alive? Why wasn't she blown to bits up there?"

Latennador sat down before answering. "During the battle she knew to survive thanks to evading. You know what kind of pilot she is. There were enough Fighters up there, and enough satellites, to stop a squadron of enemy Fighters. The Fighters scrambled and intercepted within the allowed time frame. But a pilot as Jane Darnell, who uses all of her abilities only to evade us... I mean, what can I say? She only has to evade us, but we on the other hand have to make sure that we don't fly into each other."

"Alright, that I can accept. But then what happened?"

"Until she finally stopped of her own accord, none of the pilots succeeded in getting a steady lock on her. And once she stopped, the pilots had already noticed that she hadn't fired on a single Fighter. They quickly discussed things and decided that they didn't want to kill her like an animal in a trap. One of the pilots decided to take the risk and flew in front of her to show her what route she should take. She followed without incident."

"Good enough," Alenador said to indicate that she accepted those actions as the right ones. "The pilot that flew in front of her fully functional Fighter, what kind of person is he? Did he take the risk only to make some extra points?"

"No, I happen to know his brother. He told me that the pilot is just a little bit too trusting. He didn't do this for himself, he did this because he didn't want such a good pilot to die, even if that good pilot is the enemy."

"I think he deserves a positive mark for his actions, but don't tell him this, just put it in his file. Furthermore, I want the scramble time cut back by one fourth."

"What? One fourth of the," Latennador started to object, but he was interrupted.

"I know it's difficult, Latennador, but I also know that it's possible. Make it part of the offensive training. By the time the offensive starts I want that time pushed back, understand?"

Latennador nodded. "Understood."

Alenador looked down at the desk and asked after a moment, "I understand that she destroyed more than twenty defensive satellites with her heavy weapons?"

"Twenty-seven, to be precise," Latennador agreed.

"And not a single Fighter?"

"Not a single one. She didn't even bother to try and target them."

"You do know what this means?" Alenador asked.

"I have a vague idea."

"Which is?"

"Calculations have shown that the combined force of those weapons was enough to put several planets in a state beyond help. If she had used all of those weapons on Danmun, we wouldn't be talking now. We would all be dead, everything would be dead, all life would have ended. I assume that she couldn't bring herself to destroy an entire planet. But she also wanted to make sure that those weapons didn't fall into our hands. So, since she actually had a choice in that this time, she used the weapons to destroy some defensive satellites."

"I think that the second part of your reasoning is correct," Alenador agreed. "While she was playing with our pilots, she used the non-rechargeable weapons so that they could no longer be used. But don't make the mistake that she couldn't bring herself to destroy a planet, she didn't 'want' to destroy our planet, there's a difference there."

"There is," Latennador agreed.

"Had she never been to our planet, had she never seen that we're also just living beings with families who can love, then we might indeed be dead now. The amount of innocent lives would then be justified to her because it would have meant winning the war in one blow. Our lives to save the Union's lives. But now we're individuals to her, and not things that need destroying. In her eyes, we don't deserve being slaughtered like that. To have peace with herself for giving away this unheard of chance for the Union, she consoles herself with the fact of knowing that if we win this war we won't fully destroy the Union. That we'll let the normal people be and live their lives, just that they'll have someone else in their government seats."

A frown formed on Latennador's face, and he asked doubtingly, "How do you know so much about her way of thinking? This can't all be from the time you were together in that cell."

Alenador smiled for a moment. "I see that Suenador doesn't tell you everything I tell her."

"No," Latennador agreed. "She feels that what you tell her in private should stay that way until you decide otherwise. Something about certain things a woman only tells another woman... once she told me that I didn't ask further."

"I see, well suffice to say, I have my reasons to know this. Anyway, here's what I want. I want her to be able to move around relatively freely. With her we don't have to worry about whether she'll try to escape, but about when. She remains a category one risk, and is not allowed in any of the buildings or places according to that category. But other than that I want her well taken care of. What ever she wants, she gets, as long as her status allows for it of course. I want her treated by everyone as if she saved their lives, for make no mistake about it; she did. Furthermore, I want her Fighter deactivated. Take out the computer unit, that's enough to make the Fighter unusable. I don't see a reason to destroy a perfectly good Fighter. We might be able to use it in an infiltration mission or something. That's pretty much it... Oh, I want her guarded by the best guards we have, make it a double guard detail at that. One detail visible, one not."

"Alright," Latennador said while he got up.

He was already at the door when he heard Alenador ask with difficulty, "Please tell Dearde to come in."

Latennador nodded his head without turning around and walked out of the office.

Dearde set down in the chair Alenador had pointed at. She looked at him for a moment before turning and walking to the window. She looked at the square far beneath her and sighed. "A few centuries ago a radical change happened in the way the army treated the civilian population. Before that time the civilians never got to hear anything about what was going on concerning military matters; only how great and wonderful everything was going."

She crossed her arms, still not turning around. "This was changed from almost one day to the next. The army started telling the people the truth, holding back nothing from the population but sensitive mission details. If a battle went wrong, the population got to know just as much as when a battle went perfect. Nobody got a privileged treatment anymore only because they had good friends in high places. Everyone had to earn the rank they had. Because of that the population knew that a person was truly worth their rank. If a soldier made a mistake, then this mistake was no longer put on someone else's shoulders, soldiers were held accountable for their mistakes just as much as for their successes."

She looked up at the sky. "All of this was done to solidify the trust between army and civilians. This worked so well that the civilians became a passive part of the army. The civilians were eager to help. Not a single employer complained about the fact that their employees had to leave the workplace several months every year. The people wanted to help, still want to help, in any way they can. Until this day the population and the army interacts like that. Until this day about one third of all the army work is done by voluntary civilians, and civilian companies. Until this day there have only been a few who would want to change this system."

Alenador finally turned away from the window and looked at Dearde. "Until this day I could never understand the people who would like to change this cooperation between army and civilians. Until this day."

Alenador walked back to her chair and sat down. "Now I can understand them. Because if the army still had secrets from the population, then I wouldn't have to make it known that a Union Fighter, fully armed, succeeded in reaching Danmun orbit. Then I could 'forget' to hold the Danfi that's responsible for this accountable. But as much as I would like it to be possible, it isn't. The trust between army and population is worth more than you, worth more than me for that matter. You and you alone are responsible for the sensor net. You have all the tools at your disposal to make it impossible for even a grain of sand to get through, yet you didn't."

"I know," Dearde said. "I got sloppy and overconfident and I'm fully aware of my mistake. I'll accept whatever punishment I receive."

"I actually wouldn't want to let it come to that," Alenador said softly. "That's why I wanted to see you right away. I wanted to give you the chance for you to hold the honor to yourself."

Dearde was quiet for a moment, wondering if she was really saying what he thought she was saying. "You don't mean...?"

"Unfortunately, that's exactly what I mean. Dearde, you don't know this yet and if this wasn't such a serious affair you would only get to hear this during your trail. That Fighter had enough weapons to fully destroy Danmun. The only charge you can expect at a trail is the charge of gross neglect of army duties."

"Gross neglect?" Dearde could only repeat in a barely heard whisper. It was the second worst charge possible; right under treason. Just hearing it being said in association with one's name was considered a great shame, let alone being convicted for it.

Alenador could only nod, it took all her effort to stay strong. As the saying went, this was hurting her more than him. Dearde had been as a father to her at the academy. "It's either the charge of gross neglect of army duties, or the honor of Dannads. Dearde, your whole life has been the army. End it with the great honor of Dannads. You don't want the shame of such a trail. You know as nobody else that there has hardly ever been a verdict with such a charge, you taught me as much at the academy. In the end most people commit suicide and leave their families behind in great shame. I now give you the opportunity to end your great life with the great honor of Dannads before we reach the point where this honorable procedure would be seen as a coward's way out. This way your family will stay behind as the family of a great soldier, and unlike with suicide, your spirit can join Danfi if you do this."

"You're right," Dearde had to agree after being quiet for a few minutes. "I don't want the shame of a 'gross neglect' charge. I don't want to do that to myself, nor my family. I'll send out the messages today, and tomorrow I will join Danfi in the traditional way. Will you be there?"

"Of course, you don't have to ask that."

"Who will represent the reason?"

"The pilot of that Fighter is still alive, her name is Jane Darnell. I would like to bring her along and have her represent the reason."

"Jane Darnell? The Jane Darnell?" He asked impressed. "It will be an honor to have her there. But... what about my family?"

Alenador looked at him surprised. "Do you, of all people, really have to ask that?"

"I know what the books say will happen. But I want to hear it from you, I want to join Danfi with rest in my heart."

"If a soldier dies, then the army takes over all the responsibilities that soldier had. Your family will be well taken care of. You don't have to worry about them. The army will take all the responsibilities and duties in its charge. And, Dearde, the General Supreme personally will take responsibility for your children."

"Alenador, I'm honored, but you can't do that. You have enough to worry about."

"True, but I'll still do this. You didn't just instruct me at the academy; you took me into your house, your family. You took care of me as the father I've never known. Your children were like brothers and sisters to that rebel girl you took into your house, and they still are. They took care of me then and I'm more than willing to pay them back. I'm more than ready to keep an eye on them and see that they don't get into trouble, and take responsibility if they do. That's the least I can do for you, and for them, for treating me as a family member 'till this day. Besides, considering the fact that they're actually slightly older than me, I don't think that it will be too much of a job."

"In that case, thank you. If you don't mind, I'll now go and start the preparations. I will see you tomorrow afternoon?"

"I'll be there."

They both stood up and Alenador walked around the desk and took him into a tight embrace. "I'm so sorry. So, so, sorry."

"Don't be. It's my own fault. I took the risk of leaving some cracks in the sensor net so that I could hide the sensors. I should have just left them in plain sight, they would have warned either by picking something up, or by the fact that they were destroyed. It was stupid and shortsighted, fueled by overconfidence and underestimation of the enemy. You be well and have a good life. It was an honor serving under you. You're the first General Supreme who openly admits that she also has a civilian side, and asks that civilian side for advice from time to time. You are the best student I ever had."

Suddenly he let go of Alenador, turned around and left, taking with him a part of her heart.

'That I have to give them, they learn quickly,' Jane thought. She had tried to escape twice already. Both times she did so because she knew it was expected of her, and she also wanted to test the abilities of the guards. But Jane understood that she was on a planet that she didn't know anything about, so she decided to do some investigating before trying to escape for real. Since she was allowed to walk around freely she decided to do her investigating in plain sight of the guards.

Jane had been walking through the city for several hours before taking a turn and suddenly finding one of her guards in front of her. She tried walking around him, but he held out his arm, giving Jane a small smile, but making it clear that he wasn't going to let her pass.

Jane got the message. She lifted a hand in greeting and walked in a different direction, seeing that the guard now went back to following her. Now she knew where she would be going next time she got away from her guards.

Jane took another corner and saw another beautiful street. She stopped walking when she recognized one of the Danfi in the street. After a moment of hesitation she walked the fifty meters or so to the bench Alenador was sitting on. She sat down beside her and took a moment to enjoy the scenery.

"I hope you like our planet," Alenador said after some time. "We're very proud of it. This planet has turned into a true paradise in the last few centuries, ever since crimes against the environment were considered as such; crimes, and dealt with in a criminal court."

"I must say that this city is truly beautiful. About the rest of the planet, I don't know, I haven't seen it yet and therefore I can't comment on it."

"Don't worry, you'll have more than enough time to see it. Because let there be no mistake about it, you'll never leave Danmun again."

"Well, I don't think that I'll be telling you any big secret when I tell you that I'll try nevertheless."

Alenador smiled and looked at the ground for a moment before looking back at Jane. "I would've been very disappointed if you'd told me otherwise."

While she was talking to Alenador, Jane noticed her dark blue eye color. 'What would that color mean?' Jane wondered. But as much as she would like to know, something inside her told Jane that she shouldn't ask Alenador what the color meant. She had a feeling that the answer would only complicate things. "Hmm, talking about escaping, how long did it take before they found you on that ice planet? And if you don't mind me asking, just why were you flying around there to begin with?"

Alenador leaned back onto the bench and crossed her feet. "Actually it was a really close call between who found us first; your side or mine. My troops found me one hour after you left. It took them a little longer than I would have liked because they first had to rescue the two pilots you took out first. As for why I was there, I told you; reality check. And besides Suenador and I also already told you,"

Jane lifted her hand to stop Alenador. "I know, I remember the whole 'important people still do the basic stuff' thing. But that's not what I mean. There's such a thing as unnecessary risks. You're an important army leader, even if you still do basic stuff, having you out there like you were is an unnecessary risk. Be one pilot in a whole squadron and then have there be the chance that you don't make it, sure, that's something I can see as 'doing the basic stuff'. But being out there with almost no escort... I don't get it."

"Ah, that's what you mean. Well, the answer really isn't that complicated, or classified. Simple truth is that normally I wouldn't have been in any risk. We knew that all we might come across would be a scout or a Fighter on patrol. Let's face it, most Union pilots would've beaten a hasty retreat when they had seen us. Run back to the base to cry for help. By the time they would've been back with backup we would've been long gone. With us not showing ourselves in the no-man's-land your army is so hesitant to do something wrong that they would never send out one of those hothead pilots for a patrol. Even if they did, we would've been more than capable of handling such a hothead."

"You just didn't count on meeting me there," Jane said in understanding.

"Right," Alenador agreed. "After all, you normally don't go out on patrol at all on that base since it's not your home base and patrols are already scheduled in to be flown by the other pilots. Even if you did fly scheduled patrols, what would the chance be of you just happening to be on duty rotation, and actually be out there, and actually be right there where we were, and just at that time as well?"

"And just how do you know,"

"Jane, please don't ask me that. Please don't start asking me questions that make me guard every damn word I say to you."

Jane had to smile. "Every damn word, huh? Alright, I'll let you off, for today; no questions purely stated to get tactical information."

"Thank you, I appreciate it." After a few moments of silence, Alenador asked, "So you said you like my city?"

"Your city?" Jane repeated surprised.

"Oh, that's true, you don't know this. I'm sorry, I forgot. It's so normal here that I didn't think about it. Let me explain. When you become General Supreme you get more than just a rank, you also get a city. It's not that you have to run an entire city; it's that the city you were born in is renamed after you. Furthermore the tie-breaker seat in the city council is reserved for you. It's only when the city council gets into an even vote deadlock that they come to you to make the choice. For the rest it's really nothing more than a little ceremonial work every now and then."

"So you really don't have anything to say in the city named after you," Jane surmised.

Alenador smiled before answering, "Well it's all in how you look at it. I am the General Supreme after all. If I were to say that I would like something to happen in my city, well, I wouldn't have to order it. One is of course more than happy to make a wish of the General Supreme happen."

"So this city is always named after the new General Supreme?"

"No," Alenador disagreed. "The city the General Supreme was born in changes its name to reflect the name of the General Supreme. They keep that name until, if ever, a new General Supreme is born in that city. It just happened to be that I was born in the same city the military command is seated, which because of that, is also the capital city of this planet."

Jane looked at Alenador with a small frown on her face. "Don't you think the deal should work both ways? I won't ask you questions to get tactical information, but you also shouldn't just hand it to me on a silver platter. Information like that is something I wouldn't forget when I escape."

"Oh, come on, don't act as if I'm telling you things you couldn't find out in five minutes at the local market. Besides, as I said before, you won't escape."

Jane laughed. "Alright, I actually already knew that there was something important in this city, I just didn't know what yet. One of the guards wouldn't let me enter a street some time ago, which means there must be something interesting there."

Alenador smirked. "Let's just say that there are some places we won't let you visit, but that's not in this city alone. But that still doesn't tell you anything about just what kind of place it is. You fall into a special category for your guard's duty, which means that you can't visit places that are forbidden because of that category. Whatever you weren't allowed to see might just as easily have been one of our religious places, since those are also off limits for your category."

"Afraid that some disgruntled Union soldier will let out his or her anger on your religious places?"

"It happened, that's why they're off limits now," Alenador pointed out reasonably.

They were quiet for a moment before Jane asked, "So, if you don't mind me asking, just what are you doing here? Somehow I don't think that it's that common for the General Supreme to welcome new... um, guests to the planet."

Alenador thought about that one for a moment before answering, "Well, since I was the one who tried to get information from you in the beginning, you could say that I'm just following up on you. But that would just be a made up reason that happens to be true. No, fact is... what I told you on that planet hasn't changed, Jane. Forget about my rank, it's simply that 'I,' Alenador, would really like to spend some time with you; show you around. As much as I know that I really shouldn't, that I should stay well away from you... yet here I am."

"I see," Jane said slowly. "Well, as much as you really shouldn't be here... I'm glad that you are. I would really like for you to show me around. I promise, today you're only showing 'me' around; not the Union."

"I'm glad to hear that. Come on, let's start with my favorite market place." They both stood up and started to stroll down the street. "Showing you around will keep us busy all morning, and this afternoon I would like it if you could accompany me somewhere."

"Sure, where?"

"To see a man that's going to die."

Jane stepped doubtfully into the house after Alenador. She didn't feel comfortable about going to look at someone committing suicide because she succeeded in reaching the planet unnoticed. But Alenador had been able to convince her that it would be a great honor for Dearde if she would be there, otherwise she wouldn't even have thought about it.

Once Jane was in the house, she started to feel a little more at ease. It was plain to see that the house was decorated by someone who desperately needed one fixed place in their life that they could call home. The homely atmosphere that was hanging all around the house was one of the few things Jane missed from Earth.

Since leaving Earth, Jane had always missed three things. The first was family and friends, but at least there was still communication through the civilian codex network. The second was the beautiful nature of Earth, but even though Earth was the most beautiful planet in the Union, it wasn't the only beautiful planet in the Union. And the third thing was the homely atmosphere she hated so much as a child. She had never come across that again since leaving Earth, until now. A starbase never felt like this. Somehow a starbase always had a temporary feeling to it. Even if the base had been in the same location for decades, the people in command tended to change after a few years; bringing their new idea of how things should work. People were reassigned to other locations. People went on a mission and didn't come back. No, no matter how long you lived on a starbase, it always felt like it was just for a moment and never long enough to become a home. But this, this was a true home.

Jane was brought back to reality by seeing a man that looked only slightly older than Alenador take Alenador into a hug and give her a kiss on the cheek. And even though Jane didn't want to admit the reason why, she didn't like that at all. Only after hearing Alenador ask the man where his father was, did Jane understand that this had to be one of Dearde's children. Alenador had told her how his children had been like brothers and sisters to her while she was at the academy, and ever since. And despite the fact that Jane still didn't want to admit to the reason why, she suddenly felt a lot better.

"He's preparing himself upstairs, is that her?" Jane heard the man say.

"Yes Alarde, this is the famous Jane Darnell."

Jane had expected that Alarde would hold her responsible for his father's upcoming death. But he reacted in a way that Jane had totally not expected. He started to smile and came a little closer. "Jane... um, I can call you Jane right? I'm never fully sure with those Human names."

"Um, yeah. Jane is fine."

"Jane, that I would actually meet you in person, I would never have thought it. I'm a pilot myself and I have to tell you, what you did up there... incredible. We never truly practiced for it because we always assumed that it simply wasn't possible. I think one could say that you very clearly showed us otherwise."

Jane looked at Alenador with disbelief clearly in her eyes, she could not believe that the threat the planet had been under hadn't been classified.

Alenador could guess what Jane was thinking and answered the unasked question, "We don't have secrets from the population. At worst we postpone telling things for a little while."

"Oh, Alenador," Alarde suddenly said, "Before father started to prepare himself, he gave me a message for you. He said that he had needed a little time to get accustomed with the idea, but now he's glad that he can go to Danfi. He can look back on a beautiful life and a good career. He thanks you for giving him the opportunity to leave the life he lived with honor, in honor."

"He deserves nothing less."

Suddenly someone else wanted to speak to Alarde and he excused himself.

"What can we expect from this ceremony?" Jane asked Alenador when Alarde was gone.

"The ceremony will be over quickly. Dearde will come in and sit there."

Jane looked at the place Alenador had pointed at. While she took in the beautiful decorated square plate that was about a meter by a meter in dimension, she kept listening to Alenador.

"Once seated, he will activate the device and his body will be painlessly broken down into its atoms. It will look like he'll have disappeared into nothing, but in reality the fine mist existing out of his atoms is pulled into the device by a vacuum where it forms a fine ash for the family to take care off. Some families keep the ashes in an urn as a reminder, other families spread out the ashes in the deceased favorite spot. There's also a new trend the last couple of decades to have the ashes sent into our sun by a small rocket."

"That sounds damn familiar," Jane pointed out.

"And that surprises you?" Alenador asked. "I would say that it was bound to happen that both the Union and we would end up using the same ways of dealing with the bodies of fallen soldiers. Cold but true, if nothing else, ashes are easier to ship to places for a last rest."

"True," Jane had to admit.

"It's a simple and fast ceremony," Alenador continued. "There won't be any speeches, and the ceremony is over as soon as Dearde is gone. With this ceremony it's more important who is there, than how good it looked. There has to be one person present who represents the birth of the person. Normally the mother or father if one of them is still alive. But if they're already dead, or can't make it in time, another family member can be the representative. There have even been some rare cases where just a convenient person was taken almost literally from the street."

"How can someone picked from the street represent the birth of someone?" Jane asked.

"Well, that was a bit of an exaggeration," Alenador admitted. "But not by much. What I meant was... well, let's put it this way. I'm born in what is now Alenador City. So someone that's also born in Alenador City can be seen as a representative of my birth because we're both born in the same city. You see, as long as there's some explanation possible, the person will do in a pinch. But it's the degree of true involvement of people there that make the ceremony into a success. You probably understand that a ceremony where there are no true representatives, just stand-ins, is not considered as much a... success... as having the true people there."

Jane nodded to indicate that she got that part.

"Alright, next there are also Danfi present that represent important stages in the Danfi's life. Let me name a couple of possible representatives. Let's say, someone that represents the family the Danfi built itself. Or if the Danfi is an active soldier, then also someone who has become a better soldier thanks to the Danfi. Someone who has to do with the Danfi's career... I represent those two reasons. And very important, someone who represents the reason why the Danfi is holding the ceremony, in this case you."

Alenador could see Jane slightly flinch at this last sentence.

"So you represent two reasons," Jane said, wanting to see if she understood Alenador correctly. "If one person can represent more than one reason, that means that theoretically one person could fill all the requirements."

"Theoretically, yes," Alenador agreed, "But if in any way possible that's something that isn't done. We show more respect to our people than just brushing them off with only one person being present. Normally there would be two separate people present for the two reasons I represent. But because I, as General Supreme, clearly had the most to do with his army side, and also clearly are the best example of someone who became a better soldier because of him, I represent the two reasons this time."

Alenador stopped talking when Alarde came back into the room and only gave a short nod to all present.

"It is time," Alenador said softly.

Jane couldn't help herself; she simply found it strange beyond belief what was happening in front of her eyes. She saw how several Danfi moved the furniture in the room to one side. Two others started to roll up the rug and put that to another side.

'If I didn't know better, I would say that they're preparing to start a party.' Jane thought. When she saw the Danfi in the room starting to sit down on the now bare floor, Jane finally understood. Jane saw that some people ware still talking softly and therefore she knew that she could still ask Alenador a question without interrupting something.

"I assume that there's no special furniture or anything like that so that this ceremony can also be done on the battle grounds?"

"Not quite," Alenador disagreed, "The ceremony has always been done like this, and we never saw a reason to change it. But yes, it does happen that this is done on the battle grounds by a soldier who has made a big mistake, or thinks he made a big mistake. He gathers some soldiers around him and quickly holds this ceremony. That this can be done so easy is one of the negative sides of this honorable ceremony. More than once it turned out that decisions that look like mistakes at first, finally turn out to be great successes. But by the time this is discovered, the Danfi is already dead."

"Then why don't you simply forbid soldiers doing this at the front lines?" Jane asked reasonably.

Alenador looked at her with clear disapproval on her face, as if the mere suggestion had been a slap in the face. "I'm not Danfi. There are some things that even the General Supreme should not touch. There's Dearde."

Alenador sat down on the floor and Jane sat down beside her. Alenador hadn't lied when she said the ceremony would be short. An older man entered the room and sat down on the decorated plate without saying a word. He pushed a button on the plate and for a moment he was engulfed in a bright green/yellowish light coming from the plate itself, and the next second the man was simply... gone.

Jane saw that the Danfi were standing up and starting to talk again. She got up at the same time as Alenador and asked her, "What's going to happen now?"

"Now the ceremony is over and we'll all leave the house to give his closest family time to mourn the death of their family member, and start processing the death of their loved one."

"Only now?" Jane asked.

"What only now? Of course only now. We..." Alenador interrupted herself and gave Jane a small smile, "Sorry, I forgot, difference in culture. Yeah, only now. We only start mourning a person when the person is dead. You Humans on the other hand often start mourning when the person is still alive."

They walked out of the house and started to stroll down the path.

"True," Jane agreed. "But it seems proper to us. If we know that someone is dying or going to die soon, say from a terminal disease, then we sure aren't going to throw a party in his presence."

"Why not?" Alenador asked and continued before Jane could reply. "With you Humans mourning is mourning. If you know someone is going to die you mourn that fact, and once the person is dead, you mourn that. We don't do that. We only start mourning a person when he is dead. Sure, we'll be sorry to know that he's going to die, but that isn't mourning. You Humans often start avoiding a person because you know he's going to die. So you basically punish the person for the fact that he's going to die, putting the person in isolation long before his death. We don't do that. We only start mourning when the person is dead. It can very well happen we take someone out to a theater a day or so before he's going to die. Or actually throw them a party so that good friends can get together and reminisce about the old times one more time while laughing so hard that we double over with our sides hurting from it."

"I don't think I could do that," Jane said thoughtfully, "Going out to have a night of fun with someone, knowing that the person could be dead the next time I see them."

"But Jane," Alenador said softly while they moved off the path to the house, and onto the street, "Everyone can die. Everyone you know, everyone you see. Whenever you see them, it might always be the last time you see that person. You can go out on an all-nighter with some pilot friends of yours, and a day later you hear that one of your friends died in an accident. People die all the time, you can't change that. The only thing you can do, is enjoy the time you have with the people you love."

Jane had listened to what Alenador had said and was impressed. At the same time she realized something, "It must kill you when you have to send someone into battle."

"Every single time," Alenador agreed, "But it's part of the job, and I love the job. Nothing is perfect. I gain comfort from telling myself that if I don't send them to their death, it would be someone else doing the sending instead of me."

"It's thinking like that which made me at ease with killing your pilots," Jane said softly, "If I don't do it, the next pilot will. If I take out one of your pilots, I'm saving at least one Union pilot."

"It's the only way to stay sane."

"Killing is always a matter of perception, isn't it?"

They reached a fork in the road and Alenador pointed to one side, indicating her suggestion for which way to follow. "What do you mean?"

Jane walked in the direction Alenador had suggested and continued to take in the good mix of houses, other buildings, and more than enough nature. There was a green area on every block, at least.

"Well, let's forget for a moment that you're also a very good Fighter pilot and let's only see you as a commander. Who of us is the true killer? Me, the person who kills your pilots and am revered for being so damn good at it? Or are you the true killer, the person who orders her own people into death in order to kill the enemy? Death on both sides, and success is measured in how few of your troops die and how many Union troops died."

"Good question. All I can really tell you is that I don't see me, or you as a killer," Alenador indicated a shop, "Want to have a look around?"

"Sure." Jane walked into the store and continued the conversation. "You know what never ceases to amaze me? If a person kills someone in a fit of rage, or what ever reason, that person goes into a jail for the rest of his life. Or gets killed if he gets a death sentence. Yet, the executioner who kills the killer is allowed to do so, simply because someone says it's alright. I kill a few pilots, and get congratulated on a job well done, only because someone said it was ok to kill the pilots. But if I were to shoot someone in a brawl then I would be punished for it because, oh no, that's wrong. Suddenly it's wrong to kill. You can give an order for a battle, thousands are killed, and yet people will congratulate you for a great job, simply because someone said we're enemies and enemies can be killed."

"Hmm," Alenador said while looking at a little trinket on one of the shelves, "You know, Jane. You truly have an ability for slipping into a very jovial mood."

Jane looked at Alenador and gave her a grin after a moment, "Well, it's what happens when I start thinking about the absurdity of some things. So..." Jane decided it was time to change the subject, "...Any other plans for today?"

"Actually, yes. We're both invited to dinner with family of mine. Suenador and Latennador invited us to be their guests for the evening. I enjoy spending time with them, and I think you might enjoy it as well."

"You're probably right. It's been a long time since Sue and I had a good conversation."

"No," Alenador said strictly, leaving the things on the shelf where they were and turning fully to face Jane. "Before we move on you have to understand something. It is Suenador, not Sue. Your sister died five years ago when Suenador was born. She has a life here, children, a husband, a job in our army, not your army, but our army, and a lot more. Suenador would give her life to defend Danmun."

Jane lowered her head and sighed, "I know. I knew this from the first moment I saw her again. But you have to look at it from my side as well. I knew my sister was dead. I've lived with that knowledge for twenty years. It's the main reason why I became a pilot to begin with, and why I became so good so fast. I wanted revenge. And then suddenly, after twenty years, I find out that she's still very much alive. I noticed on the first day that she was no longer Sue Darnell. I saw her eyes sparkle when she spoke about her children. I could hear what she felt for her husband when she spoke about him. I know all of this. But still, when I look at her I still see the sister that was taken away from me. My sister is dead, but I have to come to terms with that all over again. As long as I'm not capable of letting go, she is Sue to me."

Alenador nodded her head in understanding. "But also think about that woman who looks like your dead sister. How do you think she feels if you address her all the time with a name that's not hers?"

Jane knew what Alenador meant. "I'll try and watch how I address her, but I can't make any promises yet."

Jane could no longer resist and softly brushed away some strands of Alenador's hair. The red locks had grown back long enough by now for some unruly strands of hair to keep falling in front of Alenador's eyes every once in a while.

Alenador closed her eyes when she felt Jane's fingers brush her forehead. She enjoyed the contact immensely, but she knew that the General Supreme was not allowed to have feelings like that. She turned away from Jane and continued strolling through the shop. "I understand the reason, but I would still like to ask you to try."

Jane didn't answer, she had heard the soft tremor in Alenador's voice, and she understood that Alenador was doing nothing more than focusing her attention somewhere else.

Jane made a dead stop to prevent colliding with the kid that came shooting past her in a full run.

"Remember, ten o'clock is bed time," Jane heard Suenador shouting from somewhere inside the house. At hearing this, Jane looked at Alenador with surprise in her eyes.

"You'll notice that things are different here than on your Earth. Earth is considered the safest planet in the Union, but Danmun is much safer than Earth. On Earth you can't let a child play outside after dark without having to worry about the child. With us light or dark makes no difference; only the time a child has to be home in time for bed, or for food, or for whatever. On the entire planet only six children disappeared last year. Of those six, three were the work of criminals, and three were the consequence of the child coming across a wild animal during breeding time. While it can be argued that six children is still too much, you have to agree that on the scale of a whole planet, six is an ignorable number. But we don't actually ignore it. The cases with the animals were investigated and it turned out that the children ran after the cute little baby animals and the adult animals merely protected their young. The three criminals who were accountable for the disappearance of the other three children were also all found and taken care of."

Alenador knocked on the door to make her presence known.

"In the back," Suenador's voice could be heard again and Alenador started to walk around the house and continued to explain.

"You'll notice that we have two kinds of crime. Light and hard. In the time that the army still controlled all of society we also only had two kinds of punishment to reflect that. Light and hard. Over time a whole set of rules and different punishments have evolved for the light crimes. This punishment for this offense, that for that one. But with the hard crime that's different. That's still dealt with by the army. The army hunts down the criminal, the army judges if the criminal is guilty, and if they are guilty, the army also carries out the punishment."

They reached the back of the house and Suenador came walking out. "Hi you two, um, listen, I'm busy for a few minutes yet. Why don't you sit down for a few and I'll be out as soon as I can. Drinks?"

"That's ok, I know where to find them," Alenador said, "You go back to what ever it is you're doing, we'll talk a little here."

Suenador gave Alenador a smile, "Thanks, you're the best," And then she was gone.

After Alenador had produced two drinks from a nearby food unit, Jane and Alenador sat down on one of the benches on the big porch. Alenador gave one of the drinks to Jane. "Here, rumor has it that you really love this drink."

Jane laughed. "Rumor? You mean... what? Daily reports?"

"Hourly," Alenador corrected with a smile. "Anyway, as I was saying, for hard crimes there's only one punishment, death. So criminals prefer to stick to light crime."

"With us, the threat of a death penalty would not be enough of a threat to keep true criminals from committing serious offenses," Jane said to indicate the difference. "They always think that they're smart enough to be the ones that don't get caught."

"We had the same problem in the beginning," Alenador admitted. "But we changed that by, first the death penalty being a death nobody wants to suffer through, and second, we still have the army. It's well known that the army has said that they're more than willing to deal with all crime again if the crime rate becomes too high. Because of that a self-governing system, so to speak, has developed amongst the criminals. More often than not, a criminal is dealt with by other criminals before we can even get to him. No criminal wants the army breathing down its neck. They'd rather stay quiet."

At that moment Suenador came out and stopped a conversation that was pretty much over anyway, "I'm sorry to keep you waiting. Cooking from scratch takes time, but I love doing it nevertheless."

During her visit to Suenador and Latennador's home, Jane didn't say much. She had noticed that she was truly visiting a family. There was no General Supreme, no head DHD, no five star general. It was just a family who had invited and welcomed her as a guest they loved to see. But after some time the others were talking very jovially over things that Jane knew nothing about and she could really only sit back and listen. Thinking that this was a good time to use the bathroom, Jane asked for directions. A 'down the hall, last door on the right' later, Jane was on her way.

On her way back, Jane saw one of the doors in the hallway standing open that had been closed before. Curiosity getting the better of her and she took a peek inside, fully intending to move on right way. The room had the typical look of a teenager's room, and the teenager was sitting cross-legged on the bed reading a book. The girl looked to be about fifteen and looked up when she noticed movement at the door. She put the book down and focused on Jane.

"Sorry for interrupting," Jane said while she started to walk on.

"Wait, please, come in," The girl said while uncrossing her legs.

Jane once again was struck by the open friendliness she didn't expect from the enemy, but which she noticed by now was the Danfi nature.

"Sue didn't tell me that there was someone else at home," Jane said while she slowly moved into the room.

"Sue?" The girl repeated. "Oh, if with Sue you mean mom, she didn't tell you because she doesn't know I'm home. I heard you guys talking in the living room and didn't want to interrupt. So, I went to my room to read. You're Jane Darnell, aren't you?"

"Guilty as charged."

"Mom used to talk about you a lot."

"Used to?" Jane asked.

"Yes, before becoming a Danfi," The girl moved to the side a little and indicated the empty spot beside her on the bed.

Jane took the invitation and sat down, "And you are?"


"Darnador?" Jane asked surprised.

"Yes, when I was born mom was still a Human and she wanted me to have her last name and a first name, including my dad's name. Dad didn't agree, pointing out that, a, we don't use our names like Humans do. B, don't only use one of the two or three names Humans always have. And c, don't have shortened names. He pointed out that my name was bound to be said as one name by the other children in school and he thought my name would get too long for comfortable use; Jessicadarnellnador. So they settled on Darn as in the first part of mom's last name at that time, and Nador, like in the family name of my dad. So, it became Darnador."

"Well, Darnador, I see that you're reading a book. How did you get such an antique thing?"

"It's a present from my aunt. Because she's the General Supreme, people seem to think that they have to present her with all kind of things, showing their appreciation for the excellent job she does. This was a gift to her from the state museum. As far as we know this is one of only three books still in existence. My aunt knows that I'll take good care of it."

"I don't doubt that for a second. So tell me, what's the book about?"

"It's a book about attack techniques against Union Fighters. It's way out of date of course, but still very informative."

Alenador had noticed that Jane had been gone for some time now and she went to see if everything was alright. She knew that she didn't have to worry about Jane escaping; the guards were still on duty after all. But that didn't mean that Alenador didn't worry about Jane's welfare. She reached Darnador's room and stayed in the hallway when she heard the voices in the room.

"I want to become as good a pilot as my aunt is," Darnador said.

Jane laughed for a moment, "You don't set yourself easy tasks, do you? Your aunt is the best there is."

"If there wasn't at least one better, you wouldn't be sitting here," Darnador countered with a smile.

"No. Until now I could never say this, but there's one pilot that's just as good as me, and that's your aunt. The reason why I'm still alive is because I never stopped learning. Remember that, never stop learning. You should always keep looking for weaknesses you can use. For instance, I learned that you Danfi have great Fighters. But to have those Fighters be so good, you have to accept a small weakness. That weakness is that in the back of your Fighters the energy lines for your weapons and your engines cross each other. From our own experiments we know that if this is not done, the longer energy lines hurt the Fighter's reaction time. Now, a normal pilot could do nothing with that information. But for a pilot like me, or your aunt for that matter, it's a convenient way to disable a Fighter. I made it into my specialty to hit your Fighters in this point."

"It's a tradeoff," Darnador explained. "We had it in school. It was either that design, or one that would result in weaker shields."

Sue nodded. "That was my personal guess as well, but people still argue about the why. But the fact is that the crossing energy lines is there and is widely known amongst Union pilots. But not many pilots can do anything with that information because they can't stay directly behind one of your Fighters long enough to target this spot. They rather rely on firepower and hope that our weapons can disable your shields before your Fighters beat them to it, by destroying them. So, never let a Union pilot get behind you for longer than a few seconds. If that pilot is only half as good as me or your aunt, you won't survive."

Darnador smiled and said, "I won't forget it, thanks."

"You want another tip?" Jane asked.

"Sure, always."

Jane held out her hand and stretched her fingers. "No matter how much training they get, most pilots keep seeing space like this."

She made a cross on her hand with a finger of her other hand, "They only see width and depth. They only see left, right, front and back. True, the galaxy might look like a disk, but it's a pretty damn thick disk. You can also come at a Fighter from straight underneath it, or from above it. They hardly ever expect that."

"Thanks, I'll remember it." Then Darnador frowned. "Don't you feel bad about telling me how to fight your own pilots?"

Jane smiled and shook her head. "No. Because what I just told you are two things that'll keep you alive, but won't really make you any better at taking out Union Fighters."

Suddenly she noticed that Darnador had two different colored eyes, "How can that be?" Jane asked indicating Darnador's eyes.

Darnador knew what Jane was talking about and explained. "Because I'm half Human. Normally children from a Danfi and a Human get the normal color changing eyes the Danfi have, but not all the time. Sometimes the children get the one color of the Humans. But what I have is very rare. I have one changing eye, and one fixed color. As far as I know there are only fourteen other Danfi in this sector right now who have this."

"Don't you get a lot of reactions on it? Get singled out because of it? Don't people give you a hard time for it?"

"A hard time?" Darnador snorted. "Hardly. It's absolutely great. It seems to have some magical attraction force on boys. I'm sure that if both my eyes were normal Danfi eyes, I wouldn't hardly get kissed as much as I do now."

Darnador realized what she had just said and asked in a nervous tone, "You won't tell mom this, right? She's ever so proud that I'm the best of my class in Fighter techniques, but thinks that I'm way too young to do with boys what I want to do with them."

Jane laughed, "Before I answer, tell me this; how old are you?"


"Ah, in that case don't worry; I'll be silent as a grave. But let me give you a tip. The next time your mother harps you about what you should and shouldn't do with a boy, you ask her what birthday present she gave to the neighbor's kid when he turned fifteen and she was fourteen. I bet my life that she'll suddenly stop harping you then."

Jane could plainly see that she was truly dealing with Suenador's daughter. The same mischievous gleam that Jane knew from Suenador also entered Darnador's eyes. "Did she gave him what I think she gave him?"

"That... is something you have to ask your mother."

"And will you tell me, if I ask you?" Alenador suddenly asked from the doorway.

"I have a feeling that you know what she gave him," Jane said with a smile.

Alenador returned the smile and when she saw how Darnador was looking at them both very interested, she said, "I, um, thought that you might be getting bored or something, so I came to see if you wanted to go back to your temporary quarters."

"Well, bored I wouldn't call it outright. But I did feel myself an observer instead of a participant. However, I seem to have found an interesting person to have a little chat with here. If Darnador doesn't mind we could chat some more."

"Can we?" Darnador all but pleaded.

"Of course," Alenador looked back to Jane, "If you need me, I'll be upfront with Suenador and Latennador."

'Don't go there,' Jane thought when she heard Alenador say 'if you need me'. Not showing what she was thinking, Jane smiled, "Sure."

When Alenador was gone, Darnador said sadly, "I heard them talk yesterday. They say that you'll try to escape. Why? Don't you like it here on Danmun?"

"I do like it here, and I certainly can understand why Union soldiers would stay here if they get the chance. Depending on where they come from, it can be a lot better here than what they would go back to. But I can't just stay here. Something inside me tells me that my role in this war isn't fully played out yet. I just know that I'll influence this war in a big way. That's probably the reason why I accepted the mission to explore your territory."

"Was it also the reason why you came back?"

"No, I had a different reason for that," Jane said without telling what that reason was. "No, all I know for sure is that I couldn't live with myself if I left things as they are now."

"Will you try to get my help trying to escape?" Darnador asked straightforward.

Jane looked at her for a moment, she had definitely found a interesting talking partner in Darnador. 'She talks about things I haven't even thought of.'

Finally Jane shook her head no. "No I won't. You're the first person I've had a conversation with that isn't constantly thinking of what will happen with me now and when I'll escape,"

"Try to escape," Darnador corrected with a smile.

"Try to escape," Jane corrected dutifully. "I kinda like talking with someone who isn't weighing every word I say. So... What about those eyes? Did it get someone interested in you, who you want interested in you?"

Darnador recognized a change of subject when she heard one; she sure didn't mind, "It sure has," She said with a broad smile. "Some time ago I was sitting in the Fighter simulator doing a maneuver that just wasn't working right. So I went into overtime, using the simulator time of the next student. He had been standing by waiting patiently. But when I restarted the simulation once again while being into his time for over half an hour already, he lost his patience. He shut the simulator down and opened the cockpit door rather... forcefully. He was planning to ask me what in Danfi's name I thought I was doing. Was, but all he did after opening the door was just stand there and look at me. My goodness, how handsome he looked, standing there one hand on his hip, just looking at me with his mouth hanging open."

They both laughed at the last remark, "Anyway, I saw the color of his eyes, he saw the color of my eye... Well, neither of us used the simulator again that day."

Jane laughed again. "That's something I still have to get used to. Questions like, 'does she like me', 'should I ask her out', 'can I kiss her now'. All of them aren't necessary here."

"Well, that's not entirely true. The first question, that's a given. If you see the color of the eyes, you know, he...she... you did say does 'she' like me?" Darnador looked at Jane questionably.

"She," Jane answered the question.

"If you see the color of the eyes you'll know she likes you. And the color of the eyes will also let you know when it'll be a pretty safe bet that you can ask her out to dinner. But a first kiss that comes at the wrong time, or placing a hand at the wrong place at the wrong time, it can still end a relationship before it truly started."

"And did the first kiss come at the right time?"

"Oh, yeah," Darnador said in a drawn out way.

"And the first... intimate touch, did it come at the right time as well?" Jane asked with a grin.

Darnador didn't answer immediately but first got up and went to the door. When she was sure that nobody would hear them she came back to the bed and answered the question.

"Yes, that touch was right on time, just like the rest that followed eventually. You have to understand, I'm not the little girl my mom and my aunt think I am."

"That your mother thinks you are," Jane corrected. "Your aunt doesn't see you as a little girl."

"Are you sure?" Darnador asked doubtfully.

"Well, I happened to spend quite some time with your aunt and we also talked about her family, including you. Though as me not knowing your name shows, we never did get around to your name. Alenador first mentioned you as 'Suenador's oldest', and after that you were 'she' for as long as we talked about you. Sorry."

"For what?" Darnador asked. "It's normal to use a 'she' or 'he' once you already made a reference to who you're talking about. But, um, are you sure aunt Alenador won't start about me being too young?"

Jane shook her head. "Trust me, she knows more about you than what you think, you can talk to her."

"Maybe I will," Darnador said thoughtfully, "I think I need someone to talk to."

"It's always good to talk," Jane said thinking about her own past. "When your mom was still on Earth, she and I talked about everything. And later I had, still have, a very good friend called Namfos who was always there to listen. Even if we were stationed on other sides of the Union, we always found time to talk. Sadly, the last couple of years that watered down some, but still. I knew she was just a call away. Between you and me, I think it's what kept me sane. And about your mom, I don't know if she changed much in the twenty years that I didn't see her, and the fact that you're her daughter and not her sister might change things a little. But I think you should give your mom a little more credit. She'll want to know what's going on in your life. She might scream at you and say that you're nuts, but she'll be doing it while hugging you to death."

"You weren't there to see her blow up when I let it slip that I already knew about the birds and the bees. She didn't know how much I knew, but the suggestion itself was already enough."

"I believe you, and I can imagine her acting like that," Jane agreed. "But you don't see the difference. When she tells you what you shouldn't do, she's the mother trying to protect her little girl. But if you make it clear to her that you're going to do... stuff. She'll understand that her just saying 'no' won't stop you; it didn't stop her. Then she'll switch to giving you advice, good advice, and given as objective as a parent can be."

"After first tearing my head off," Darnador added.

"After first tearing your head off," Jane agreed with a smile. "But look at it from this side, wouldn't you rather not have secrets from you mother. And doesn't she deserve to know what's going on with her daughter? You're the oldest of her children."


"You'll be an example for your brother and sister. Do you want them to be lying to your mom all the time?"

"They wouldn't."

"Just like you wouldn't?" Jane asked, putting her arm around Darnador's shoulder to take the sting out of the words.


"Oh," Jane repeated.

"But why does she have to kill me first before giving me the hug?"

Jane laughed, "Because she's your mom. It's her duty to kill you."

Part 9

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