DISCLAIMER: None what so ever. This is an original work. So all of it is mine, mine, mine!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a Science-Fiction story, but before you assume (since I write Star Trek Voyager fiction mostly) no, this story is not Star Trek based. In fact, it's based on no movie/series or the likes. The only thing this is based on is my imagination. Did others have the same idea before me, I don't know. All I can say is that I wrote this while not even thinking of other established entities like Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Babylon 5, or name your favorite show. And last but not least: My undying gratitude goes to Jo for betaing this work of fiction. Since Word is so nice to put red lines under misspelled words, her work is made extra hard because my spelling mistakes are not literally mistakes as such, but more words used in the wrong place (saw Vs. was) and other pesky things like punctuation. So, a double dose of thanks goes to her for her very appreciated work.
SETTING: Centuries in the future. But I tried to keep sci-tech 'realistic.' Meaning, yes, they have faster than light flight, yes they have laser weapons, no they don't beam down to a planet, no they don't have holographic people running around.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for Epic Proportions 2009.
The Danmun Alliance
Jane had been on Danmun for over a month now. During that time she had stayed relatively quiet. She had pretended to escape four times. Deliberately setting a pattern the Danfi got used to. To make them think that they knew what they could expect from Jane. Now she was trying a fifth time, but this time she was putting all her effort into it.
'I wouldn't have minded spending more time with her', Jane thought while she walked past the planetary transport stopping place instead of getting on it, like she had done the other four times. She continued up the street as if she was one of the many Danfi. Her approach was successful. Seeing some guards coming down the street, Jane calmly sat down on one of the benches. The two guards ran right by her without seeing the woman that was sitting in such plain sight that they almost tripped over her feet.
'Classic mistake. They're looking so hard for a well trained, hiding, person on the run that they don't look at the masses in general. They could trip over my legs and would probably apologize for interrupting me without even recognizing me.'
Once the guards were gone, Jane got up again and strolled down the street until she got to the street the guards never allowed her to enter.
'That trick is so old, it's modern again. No guard to be seen, probably all looking for me in other areas of the city. This is the logical place for me to go to if I stay in the city, so of course they think I would never come here. I guess that they warned the building's guards just in case, but getting past those is part of the fun.'
She saw that there were less Danfi in the street than there had been in the other street, but still enough to pretend to be one of the masses. While she strolled down the street as if she had all the time in the world, Jane's thoughts drifted back to Alenador.
'I wish I could have spent more time with her. Everything seemed fine when we visited Sue. I wonder why she suddenly stayed away after that? Maybe she thought she had better not spend time with me since it's well known that I'll try to get away. Maybe she was afraid that I would use her. Oh, Alenador, you should have known that I would never use you; I never would be able to. How I want to be with you, hear you laugh, see you smile.'
Jane noticed that there were fewer people on the street the further she walked down it. People continued to walk into the buildings to her left side.
'That isn't right,' Jane thought while she slowed down. 'Is this really just another row of buildings?' She looked up and down the street and saw that the buildings were set in a big circle. A quick look up told her that the buildings were higher at one side. She remembered this building formation well from looking out her cockpit when Alenador let her leave the first time.
'So that's why I wasn't allowed here. I knew that the main army complex was in this city, but I never would have thought that I've walked past so often already.'
Jane saw a restaurant to the right side of the street, clearly getting its business from the people who work in the buildings. There were some tables and chairs in front of the restaurant so that the people could enjoy the weather. Jane smiled when she saw her chance to continue unnoticed. She sat down next to a sleeping soldier that was sitting at one of the tables.
'Your approach to POW's is commendable,' Jane thought. 'But it's also very risky. A POW on the loose will always learn. I for instance learned that your soldiers always keep their body armor and their weapon in a small backpack if not in use. And I also learned that more than enough Danfi walk around here wearing the body armor. Enough for me not to get noticed if I wear one.'
Jane took a sip from the bitter, yet tasty, drink that had been standing in front of the soldier while looking for where the soldier had put his backpack. When Jane saw the backpack sitting on the pavement beside the soldier she carefully took possession of it and stood up.
'You're very careless with your stuff, my friend,' She thought while she started to stroll down the street again, 'But then again, who would ever expect that someone would steal something as common as a soldier's body armor? I'm willing to bet that he'll report his backpack as lost when he wakes up.'
Jane looked at the little box she had taken from the backpack. It looked exactly the same as the box that Alenador had on the ice planet.
'Looks simple enough,' She thought and put the box on her back, slightly surprised that the smooth surface actually stuck to her shirt. She stuck the pressure plate just under her wrist, the same place where Alenador had hers. Jane looked at the plate for a moment and saw that there was only one activation switch.
'Foolproof I see.'
She pushed the button and felt how the body armor started to flow over her body like water. But as soon as she was fully covered, she almost stopped feeling the armor at all. She took a step and noticed that as soon as she took her foot from the floor, the body armor also closed around her foot. She strolled a little further down the street to get acquainted with the body armor. Then she decided to walk into the next building and started to explore the hallways on good luck.
It didn't take long before she started to smell the unique smell of energy plasma.
'So, I'm getting close to some Fighters. Wonder if they kept my Fighter here again.'
Despite the fact that Jane was only wearing the body armor for a short time, she could certainly appreciate its qualities. 'Someone put a lot of thinking into this. Even over my civilian clothing it sits better than Union uniforms ever did. It keeps the same temperature whether I'm inside here, or outside in the sun. And it gives you all the moving room you need. It covers your mouth, ears, and nose, and yet you can hear, smell and see everything. Breathing too is so easy as if I'm not even wearing it.'
From the smell, Jane was sure that it could only be mere moments until she would reach the Fighter building.
'Wait a second,' she thought while stopping dead in her tracks. 'Last time they meant for me to escape; now they don't. There is no doubt that they know how to deactivate the Fighter without destroying it. That's easy enough. I'm so stupid for not thinking of that before. I can't use my Fighter to get out of here. And I also can't use one of theirs; I don't even know how to activate it. Damn, now what? If I can't get away from the planet I have to get out of here, sooner or later they'll also start looking for me here.'
Jane left the building she had been in, and entered another one through one of the connection corridors, thinking that it would be better to leave the building complex in a different place than where she had entered. Just in case the soldier she had taken the body armor of had woken up. Just because the body armors all looked the same to her, didn't mean that they all looked the same to the people that wore them daily.
After a few minutes she was in a part of the building where there were row upon row of cubical like rooms, within each one two Danfi. Jane soon noticed that they were all listening to different conversations.
'Well, well, what is this, Alenador? I thought the army didn't have secrets from the civilians, why are you monitoring their conversations then?'
Jane slowed down a little and listened to some of the conversations. Then she heard a conversation that made her stop all together.
"Icoron?" She heard someone ask, "But why are they transferring you to Icoron? You aren't an Icoronian."
"Easy love," Jane heard another voice say, "I know it's further away, but they have a better system of leave than here on the base. I'll be able to visit you and the little one more often."
"Oh, talking about leave," The first voice said, "I've taken care of everything. The next time you visit, we're allowed to go to Earth and stay for a week."
"That's great! We... um, love, I'm sorry to have to cut this short, but I have to go now, they're calling me."
"That's okay, my major. You know, I like the sound of that, major. Now I can tell the guys here, 'my wife is a major'."
"Honey, you are a Dalenian, the fact alone that you have a Human partner willing to raise our child with you is already more than enough to let 'the guys' be green with envy. I really have to go now. I can't wait to see you again. It's going to be two long days."
When Jane heard the word 'see', she took a better look and saw that the screens the Danfi were looking at were showing the images that belonged to the conversation.
'They broke our civilian coding. That's how they knew the rank of Sue. It's the first thing one does after being promoted; use the civilian coding to tell the people at home and friends far away.'
Jane tried very hard not to think of the fact that it might just be that everything she ever said while using the civilian coding had been heard by some Danfi in one of these rooms. The conversations with Namfos... Jane closed her eyes for a moment and groaned inwardly. She had several short-term relationships in her life, never lasting much longer than a few months. But each time she had 'cyber-sex' as it was still called. It was the common thing to do if one was light-years apart, 'Oh, god.'
Jane shook her head to dislodge the thought and decided it was time to move on when one of the Danfi started to turn around.
'Wait a minute,' she thought while walking down the hallway, 'If they knew Sue's rank, that means that they broke the codex at least more than twenty years ago.'
Jane stopped from time to time to listen in on different conversations, 'Only civilian conversations, so I assume they weren't able... yet... to break the military codex. But I do see that they're taking notes with every name that's mentioned. I guess that they try to keep track of people pretty much from birth. That explains also how they knew which Fighters of theirs I destroyed. All that was needed is someone saying, 'hey did you hear, Darnell killed another two Turtles today'. And it also explains why we always have to stretch our forces along the no-man's-land like that. They have a pretty good idea where every soldier is stationed. But... That's way too many soldiers for these people to keep track of. You would need a building the size of this entire city just to put them all in. So, I guess that a computer system filters out the conversations that have information in it, and these people listen to the conversations labeled 'important', or something like that. I just hope they have the computer set to filter out cyber-sex,' Jane couldn't help but think.
Jane managed to leave the building complex again and move back into the street she had walked across so often already.
'There were enough people wearing body armor in those buildings for me not to get noticed. But I better take it off now. Here there's hardly anyone wearing it.'
Jane pushed the pressure plate underneath her wrist again, and the body armor retracted off her body like water, running backwards this time. She walked down the street until she reached the stop for the planetary shuttle service.
'They're looking for me there as well. But I can't stay in this city. Only option is to use the damn thing and hope that they think that I won't be in it anymore by now.'
She put the body armor back in the backpack and took out the personal data device that also had been in the backpack. She didn't intend on reading it, but just wanted to look casual while waiting for the planetary shuttle. But soon she was glancing at the text only for a moment, and then longer when she saw that the text was actually quite interesting.
Half an hour later the transporter was already about a thousand kilometers away from the city and flying over some beautiful forests and jungles.
'You sure didn't exaggerate, Alenador,' Jane thought while looking out the window, 'You do indeed have a planet to be proud of. I just wish that you could have shown it to me. I... We're slowing down?'
Jane looked through the front window of the transporter and saw the why.
'A stop? In the middle of this wilderness?'
While the transporter was slowly coming to full stop, Jane saw a Danfi in body armor standing between the other waiting people.
'This looks like a good time to get off,' Jane thought, not wanting to take the risk that the Danfi was one of probably many that were looking for her.
'He didn't see me. I'm sure he didn't see me,' Jane was almost chanting while walking into the wilderness. Just to be sure she got behind one of the big trees and looked back to the waiting place. The transporter was just lifting off again. But Jane saw that the Danfi was still standing there, looking into the woods and using one of the communication boxes that could be found on each stop of the transporter.
'Yep, he saw me,' Jane thought while moving deeper into the woods. It wasn't long before she saw the military shuttles flying over, looking for a place to land.
Not wanting to get lost in the woods, Jane kept off the paths, but did keep them in sight. Almost an hour later she saw two Danfi in body armor standing close to a rock face. She took the gun out of the backpack and shot them both before they could see her.
'What are they doing here, and in body armor even?' Jane thought while moving towards them. She saw that they were still breathing and spoke out loud, but really still to herself.
"Good thing your weapons are not as powerful as Union weapons. I just knew that even on the highest setting they would just knock you out while you were wearing those armors."
She squatted between them and patted one of them on the armor, "I don't know what you are doing here, but I'm sure that you're only doing your job. Take a nice rest, you deserve it."
She heard a sound behind her in the woods and got up to move on. She really didn't need three guesses as to who had made the sound. They had almost found her. She had just taken the first step when she heard a sound coming from that direction as well. She knew she was surrounded.
'Great,' She thought, 'Troops on two, probably three sides. And on the fourth side a rock.'
Jane looked at the two unconscious Danfi for a moment. 'Wait a minute. I don't think that they're here just to guard a rock face.'
She moved closer to the rock face and only now she saw a narrow crevice behind some bushes. She could see that she would fit through the crack, but was not too enthusiastic about escaping into a rock. She heard a sound behind her again, and this time it couldn't be more than a hundred meters away.
'Decision made,' she thought and moved inside. The crack widened into a corridor and as she started to move down it she almost laughed as the words of the Icoronian on Namfos' base came back to her. 'Well, I most definitely didn't expect that I would be escaping into a rock anytime soon in my life. Icoronians, got to love them.'
While she was running through the corridor she could hear some mumbled voices at the entrance that sounded like someone giving orders. 'Not a second too soon.'
A moment later the corridor gave way to a big cavern that was at least twenty by twenty meters. She quickly looked around and saw a second corridor to the right. She moved in that direction but stopped when she heard the sound of running feet in the corridor.
"You gave us quite a run," A voice behind her said. A voice Jane knew only too well.
"Alenador," Jane said while turning around. "Told you that I would try."
"That you did," Alenador agreed. "But now the fun is over. We have you surrounded, and there's really no place for you to go even if we hadn't. Do you really think that you're the first that tried to escape from this planet?"
Jane shook her head. "Of course not, but does that matter? Just because nobody ever succeeded in creating the ultimate Fighter maneuver, does that mean that I should never have tried? My name is in the instruction books for a reason. Where others just do what others did before them and see the untried as borders of impossible, I don't. I tried; failure is always an option, but not trying isn't."
Alenador nodded. "You're smart enough to realize that we wouldn't leave new POWs so free if we didn't have a way of making sure that they don't leave this planet. So where others would have seen the new limitations of their new life, you merely saw an interesting challenge. The more we prevented you from going places, the more we challenged you instead of curbing you."
She snorted. "We should have just given you the damn keys to your Fighter and wished you a pleasant flight. That would've actually stopped you from going or goofing around."
Jane merely smiled.
Alenador sighed. "Jane, this war is over for you, there's nowhere for you to go. Why don't we just end this farce now and let's get out of here?"
Jane moved a little closer to Alenador until there was about five meters between them. "If there's no way for me to escape, then why follow me, why start this manhunt to get me back? Why not just let me run around until I figure out for myself that you don't want to play, I get bored and come back by myself?"
"Because history has shown that people that find out that they can't escape, try to at least do some damage. We want to prevent that. We can repair damage, of course, but it can be damn annoying."
Suddenly Alenador looked over Jane's shoulder, "Stop that, you know the law. No violence in here."
Jane turned around and saw that one of the soldiers in the other corridor had tried to sneak closer. Jane moved a little away from both of them, walking backwards so that she could look at him and Alenador, meanwhile Alenador continued to talk.
"Besides, there's no reason for violence. Either she'll come with us, or she'll starve to death in here."
When Jane had reached a distance she thought was far enough from Alenador and far enough from the soldier, she bumped into something and heard the telltale sound of something gliding off something else. Jane didn't think, the heightened reflexes that had kept her alive for years did the thinking for her. She turned around and grabbed something that had fallen off a one meter high pillar, only just before it hit the ground. Just as her hand closed around what turned out to be a crystal, she heard a scream from behind her.
Jane turned around with the crystal still in her hand and looked with suprise at Alenador. Jane realized that she hadn't just heard the shout of the General Supreme; she had heard a scream coming straight from Alenador's heart.
"Smart," Jane said when she realize what Alenador's plan had been, "Act as if nothing is really going on, and during the conversation you move closer to... this, and save it. Too bad your friend over there messed up."
Alenador had found her composure again. But when she spoke, Jane could still clearly hear the warm voice of Alenador, and not the commanding voice of the General Supreme. "My friend over there will be dealt with, I assure you. But you, please, I'm begging you. Be very, very careful with that."
At that moment Suenador and Latennador came running into the cavern and Jane could clearly see the shock on their faces when they saw what she was holding in her hand. Jane thought that this was a good time for everyone to calm down, so she looked around her; truly taking in the cavern for the first time.
It was dome shaped with a few rock formations on the floor that had clearly been used as some kind of furniture. A big boulder that was sticking out of one wall had been flattened off at the top had clearly been used as some kind of table.
She looked at the pedestal that the crystal had been placed on and noticed that it, and the light that were illuminating the cave, where the only modern things in the cave. She wondered for a moment why the Danfi had decided to put the crystal on a pedestal that could be knocked over while there was a preferably suitable flat surface to the side of the cavern. The crystal seemed to be quite important to them. Maybe they figured that it should be displayed properly in the center of the cavern instead of tucked away to one side. Whatever the reason was, it had resulted with the crystal in her hands now instead of her walking, or being walked, out of the cavern at that time.
She saw a ridge to one side that looked like a natural bench and decided to sit down for a moment. She looked at all the people in the room. Six soldiers in body armor, Alenador, Suenador, Latennador, and someone Jane had seen once before but couldn't really remember where. She frowned, wondering where she knew him from. Then she finally realized. She didn't actually know him from 'somewhere'; she knew him from 'everywhere'. He had never been more than just a face in the crowd... just that this face had been there on a surprisingly regular basis.
'One of the guards I wasn't allowed to see,' Jane thought before looking at Alenador and saying, "Well, judging from the fact that I'm left alone simply because I'm holding this thing here, I assume that it's very important to you. The question is; how much is it worth to you?"
Alenador thought for a moment and then came a step closer to Jane. "We're willing to let you go. I give you my word that you're free to leave. We will activate your Fighter, and then you are also free to return to Union space. If... you hand me that crystal first."
"Interesting," Jane said. A plan was starting to form in her head. A plan that was bound to fail. A crazy plan, so Jane went with it before she could think about it further. "But I learned to never take the first offer."
Alenador came closer again until they were once again only a few meters apart, "What do you want then?"
Jane noticed the dark blue eye color she had seen several times before and decided that this was as good a time as any to finally ask what the color meant. She looked past Alenador to Suenador and asked, "If light blue is respect, than what does dark blue mean?"
Even though Alenador was standing with her back to Suenador, she knew that Suenador was waiting for her reaction. She nodded her head, indicating that Suenador had permission to answer.
"Dark blue is the color of love."
Alenador didn't really know what reaction she was expecting, but it sure wasn't the one she got.
Jane nodded her head in understanding and said so softly that only Alenador could hear her, "Then I guess you and I have the same problem."
They looked at each other for a moment before Jane suddenly said, "I was thinking more along the lines of a conversation. But for the conversation I have in mind we need another person. On the, from here, first Union starbase you will find General Namfos. I would like for you to go there and get her so that she can be present for our little talk."
"Do you really think that we will bring even more Union soldiers to our planet just for the heck of it?" The person Jane only recognized vaguely asked. "The crystal is worth much, but not that much."
Alenador pointed at the man, but didn't say a word. She didn't need to, he knew he had just been warned and was smart enough to shut up.
"This crystal looks very fragile," Jane said to Alenador. "You just almost died when it threatened to fall on this sand covered floor. I'm willing to bet that not much of it will be left if I hit it against these rocks, or even just drop it on this rock bench. I have a few conditions regarding getting Namfos here."
As soon as Suenador and Latennador had left the cavern on their mission, Jane asked, "So, dark blue means love, huh?"
"It does," Alenador answered shortly. She was not used to not seeing whether or not feelings were retuned. She had dealt with Humans more than enough. But this was different. The Humans she had experience with had been people that meant nothing to her and that she was only playing to get information from. Or they were the kind that had become Danfi, like Suenador. With them it was normal that they always talked about their feelings openly. So much so, that with compensating for the eye colors, they could even be more obvious about feelings than a born Danfi. The color showed what you were feeling; Humans that had become Danfi often also added the why in their talk about feelings. But Jane wasn't one of those. Because of this she didn't know what to do when Jane didn't react to her short answer.
Jane had a feeling that the short answer was meant so that she on her turn could say what she was feeling, but she knew that this had to wait a little longer.
After some silence, Alenador continued, jumping in head first, "If you knew what the precise shades of my eyes meant, you would be able to see that others already know, I love you more than I've ever loved someone in my life."
"Which is a pretty darn difficult situation for the person who might have to decide my fate," Jane could only add.
"It is," Alenador agreed.
"Then why do they leave you alone with me?"
"We're not alone."
"No, that's right," Jane agreed. "There are soldiers here that are watching you more than they are watching me, afraid that they might miss a command from you. If you say they have to get out, they will. So basically we're alone. So, let me ask again, why do they leave you alone? How can the others know that this woman who loves me won't do things for me, things she would otherwise never do. We Humans have recorded histories, tons of them, about cases where people killed because the person they loved told them to do it."
"That may be, but I'm not Human. Because you Humans can't see how someone else is feeling, you learn to hide your own feelings from a very young age. People like you are very good at this," Alenador said, letting Jane very clearly know that she didn't appreciate Jane holding her feelings to herself.
After just the right pause to have her words have the right impact, she continued. "But we Danfi can't lie about our feelings. Because of that we learn from a very young age to put ourselves above our feelings if we have to. And that's something 'I'm' good at. There has only been one time in my life where I was afraid that my feelings for someone else might influence my decision making abilities. That's the reason why you didn't see me after the day we visited my family."
Jane closed her eyes for a moment. "I wish you had told me that, had told me something. I could have told you that I would never use you."
"Hindsight," Alenador said softly, "But be that as it may, let me tell you, now it isn't just about me anymore. Now it's about my people and I will do what I have to. Right now you're walking right on the edge. If you become a bigger threat than you are now, I'll kill you myself if I have to. I'll be sorry for the rest of my life, but it won't stop me."
"Well, that's a decision that can best wait until we talk to Namfos. And the same goes for what you're trying to get me to say. Let's put that on ice for now as well."
"Bad choice of words; Ice."
"Huh?" Jane asked before making the connection in her mind. 'Ice, as in ice planet, as in what happened there. Just a simple word like 'ice' triggers that memory for her; that day is as much on her mind as it is on mine.'
She nodded her head, "Point taken. So, this rock bench is big enough, why don't you sit down?"
Alenador did as Jane suggested, sitting down a body length away from Jane, "So, now what?"
"I don't know, we could talk some," Jane offered.
"Well, this crystal seems to be very important to you. I've never seen such a commotion about a piece of crystal before. What's the deal? But before you begin, you could tell me it's nothing more than a decoration, it won't stop me from doing what I promised to do."
Alenador had indeed planned to play down the importance of the crystal, but she knew that Jane meant what she said. So she told her the truth. "That is Danfi's crystal."
"You mean that this is the crystal of your people?"
"No, it's the crystal of our prophet, Danfi."
"I'm sorry, I just don't get it. You mean that your god gave this to your prophet?"
"No. Look, to understand this you have to understand our belief system."
"Well, we got time, and I'm not going anywhere."
"Alright, I'll tell you the short version," Alenador relented. "Once upon a time there was this realm of gods. In this realm there was one god who ruled all the others, the big boss so to speak. The gods didn't know war or violence... against each other that is. In this whole realm there was only one god who was concerned about the safety of the realm, concerned about the fact that there wasn't a single guardian in the entire realm. All the other gods said, 'our ruler is mighty, he will protect us'.
One day this concerned god, his name was Danfi, presented his case to the ruler of the gods. The ruler laughed and spoke as if speaking to a child, 'We are gods, nobody will dare to attack us.'
But Danfi knew that there were other mighty races, just waiting for a chance to conquer the realm. When Danfi tried to convince the ruler again, the ruler said, 'If there ever is an attack against us, we will see then how to handle it. We are gods after all. We can handle everything.'
But Danfi countered, 'It is better to preserve peace with power, than to fight a war powerless.'
The ruler had enough at that point and basically told Danfi to shut up. But Danfi's concern was too great, so instead of keeping silent, he shouted for all to hear, 'Right now our realm is so weak, I could conquer it with mere mortals.'
Now the ruler ordered Danfi to be quiet or else he would have to prove his words. But Danfi wanted to prove the weakness of the realm, so he said, 'give me a race of mortals who's loyalty I can read in their eyes and I will prove my words.'
The ruler had enough. He stripped Danfi of all his godly powers, turned him into a mortal, and ran him out of the realm. But despite his actions, the ruler had become curious, wanted to see what Danfi could do if he got his wish. So the ruler gave Danfi control over the weakest mortals the ruler could find. Danfi had made only one condition about the people he would get, he wanted to be able to see their loyalty. The ruler decided to take Danfi by his word and gave the race of mortals coloring eyes. The people could say what they wanted, but they could never again lie about their emotions.
Contrary to what the ruler thought, Danfi was very happy with the race he was given. They were weak, but eager to learn. They wanted their freedom above anything else, but were willing to die for the leader who gave them that freedom.
Because Danfi was no longer a god he was just as mortal as the people he ruled. He knew time was limited now and started to train everyone who wanted to be trained, turning them into phenomenal soldiers. The people had more than enough of always being oppressed by other species. Danfi didn't force them to train, he left the choice to them. And because of it they all chose to train. Every single one of them.
The power Danfi had over his people was of an interesting kind. To the people, Danfi was a normal mortal who left them the choice. And because of it they all chose him as their leader. They said goodbye to their old race name and started to call themselves 'the followers of Danfi'. Over the passing of time the 'the followers of' part eroded away and now we are called just as our prophet; Danfi.
Danfi formed his people into the most powerful mortal army the universe had ever seen, but once again Danfi left the choice to the people. Everyone could go back to their old way of life, they just had to choose it. Even in the middle of a fight a Danfi could just call it quits and go home. This is still partially so today, a soldier can't just walk away anymore without consequence, but they can decide to not enter the army, or get out of the army whenever they want, as long as it's not in the middle of a fight.
Then one day Danfi decided that his people were ready to attack the realm of the gods. The gods were all powerful enough that every single one of them could have stopped Danfi's army. But they simply didn't know what to do, how to react. They weren't under attack, nobody would dare to do that. That's what they thought. The Danfi soldiers had conquered the realm in the shortest time possible.
Danfi had very clearly shown the weakness of the realm, and the ruler of the realm was not above admitting that. As a reward for showing him his errors, he offered Danfi back his godhood, and he had one wish that would be granted, no matter what. Danfi told the ruler, 'I could always fully rely on my people, they were always there for me. Now I want to return the favor to them. My wish is that I can be with them for as long as this mortal body allows. I want to make sure that they can move on even if I'm no longer amongst them physically.' The ruler agreed and Danfi returned with his people back to their home.
Danfi had a lot of work to do and managed to hold on to life until he reached the incredible age of one hundred and seventy. Rumor has it that the ruler of the god realm had given him some extra time. But when Danfi finally died, he left behind a race that easily could take care of itself. A strong and self-confident people.
When his mortal body died, Danfi became a god once more and got appointed the task of guarding the godly realm."
"So he is a god after all," Jane interrupted.
"No, no god," Alenador disagreed. "According to his own wishes we make a big distinction between Danfi the prophet, and Danfi the god. Danfi the Prophet is the one who left behind the markings of his life. He made our people into what we are. Of him we know that he lived, where he lived, out of what cup he drank, everything. Danfi the god is the one who cares about our dead. He is the guardian of the godly realm. When a Danfi dies, Danfi the god comes and takes the dead Danfi's soul to protect the godly realm side by side with Danfi."
"Wait a minute," Jane interrupted once more. "He can't be a normal person, and a god on top of that. Even if he was once a normal person that is now seen as a god, he is a god and no longer a living person to believe in."
Alenador shrugged. "He is a god; he can be what he wants to be. The blessing of Danfi the god is only called upon during death rituals. For the rest, guidance, support, faith, we call upon Danfi the prophet. We all have our own idea why he prefers it that way. I personally believe that it's just his way of still guiding us today. After all, I may call upon Danfi for guidance. But even when I'm doing this I know that 'I' have to make the decision. That when it's all said and done I have only myself to blame for my failures, and only myself to congratulate for my successes."
Jane nodded in understanding. "That also explains why your military organization is so well oiled. Even in your belief system it says that you are soldiers first. But..."
"Yes?" Alenador asked when Jane stopped talking.
"Well, I was wondering, if this is so, than why do you still have democracy and not a military dictatorship, or at least a police state?"
Alenador gave Jane something that was a mixture between a smile and a grin. "Because the army allows the democracy. The army leaves the running of the civilians to the President and the high council so that the army can concentrate more on its task. So much easier for the army. The democracy is a fact with us; even we army people don't want to change that. In general, people who make a career in the army, don't want to bother with civilian things anyway. But make no mistake about it, there's only one person who truly has all the power. This person normally always chooses to follow the orders of the President, but it's written nowhere that this person 'has' to do this. And I do mean nowhere, not even in the law books or constitution."
"You?" Jane asked, remembering that Alenador had the highest military rank. "So if I understand this right, I'm not only talking to the military leader now, but also to the civilian leader as well. You can give an order to every Danfi there is, yet you choose to follow the orders of people who you allow to call themselves the leaders of the people."
"You could say that, if you want to simplify it to the extreme. There's a lot more to it than that. After all, there have to be preventions in place just in case I was to go gaga and decide that red colored flowers are truly our enemies. But yes, that's pretty much it."
Jane gave a little nod to indicate that she understood this and thought, 'That will make things a lot easier. Maybe I'm not crazy after all.'
Wanting to know something else, she asked, "Now, this I don't get though. With us, the people elect the President, and the President appoints the people who appoint the highest military ranks. But if you're higher than the President; who appointed you? Somehow I can't picture there being an election for your job."
"You're right, there isn't. Remember when Suenador and I talked to you and she told you who I was, what my rank was and such? Well, she gave you the simplified version. You see, General Supreme is not really a rank that fits into the rank system. The position of General Supreme is normally almost for life. When we get too old we appoint a person that then is trained to become the new General Supreme, or if we want to step down of course. Save for the General Supreme being killed in combat, or any other way of course, those two ways are the only way to get a new General Supreme."
"So back then you really weren't kidding. If I had been a Danfi and had managed to be noticed by the old General Supreme, I might actually have become the replacement instead of you. But doesn't that mean that a lot of talented candidates are ignored simply because they don't appear on the radar, so to speak?"
Alenador shook her head. "No. Selecting a replacement isn't a one minute task. Though granted, first impressions are often done in that time. But no. Files are kept on everyone over the time they serve in the army. People that excel get noticed by trainers, commanders, even friends that happen to have a higher rank and therefore can pass on a recommendation. There's a special program in place that keeps track of interesting people that might fit the needs for the job. And even once those people are found they aren't told that they're potential replacements. So we know who they are, just that they don't know that we're following them. Take me. I came to the attention of the General Supreme when I was still a kid. But as 'thanks' for what brought me to the attention of him I was punished, or so I thought, by being sent to the toughest army academy we have. In hindsight I was being trained, but at that time I thought I was being punished. And that I would ever be the new General Supreme was the last thing on my mind."
Jane thought for a moment about pointing out that this didn't fit the 'having no secrets for the people mentality', but she decided against that. Nothing was ever black and white. And there had to be some secrets. She was willing to bet that Alenador could defend the approach by pointing out that the system was not a secret, just that people that had been selected weren't notified.
So instead she asked, "I assume that there are already people being followed that might be your replacement one day?"
"There are," Alenador agreed. "We have almost twenty candidates at this moment." Then she basically answered the question Jane had just been thinking about. "That's also one of the reasons why we never tell people that they're candidates; we don't want them to get their hope up in vain. Or wait for the General Supreme to die for that matter. Take me once more; I'm young. I could still be General Supreme in eighty years. By that time half of the candidates probably died of old age, or in battle. Or they were dropped as candidate because they were too old by then to start the job. We don't want to hand the job to someone that will die of a heart attack of shock when being approached for the job either. Anyway, the person chosen to become the new General Supreme is normally chosen when that person is quite young, not much more than a kid. I was fourteen when I was selected. Then the person gets trained in a special and may I say, hard, training. And once that's over, the person has to rise through the ranks until the person has reached the highest rank possible in the military system. As long as that person doesn't reach that rank, that person can't be appointed the new General Supreme."
"So the person has truly already been the highest one can be within the army before being appointed?" Jane asked to clarify.
"Almost," Alenador partially agreed. "Under the position of General Supreme, general is the highest rank and that's the one they have to reach. But then we also have the stars. They don't have to be a five star general, but they do have to be a general. Then, when the old General Supreme decides it is time, the new one takes the position and the old one retires, or becomes advisor; their choice."
"But this training of a new person seems to take some time, especially if bearing in mind that this person has to be found first. What happens when the General Supreme dies before this is done, say if I had killed you in our Fighter fight. Does the highest ranking soldier then get the job?"
Alenador shook her head. "No, remember we told you that we have more high places than the Union does? That goes right to the top. So there isn't a clear single person who is the highest placed after me. No, if I were to die before I could have chosen a successor, the people with the highest rank all take over my job in a rotating fashion with someone else being the chairman each day. A council if you will. They then decide on a new candidate for General Supreme. And while that person is being trained, the others keep the chair warm, so to speak, until the time is right for the new General Supreme to take their place. Now, before you start about possible misuse, let me remind you that I'm still basically giving you a simplified version. There are safeguards in place. Like I just said for instance, I did say that there are only two ways of getting a new Admiral supreme, but I also said that there are safeguards in place just in case I go mental. There is always a but, but it would take literally hours to explain all of that as well."
"I figured as much," Jane said while remembering what she was still holding in her hand. "So, I know the main line of your belief system, now what is this?"
Alenador looked at the crystal Jane lifted slightly and was happy to see how carefully she was holding it, making sure that nothing would happen to it, "That is one of the few things that Danfi left behind. Danfi was a simple man who never wanted more than his people had. In the time Danfi lived, these rare crystals were used to generate power. Every home had just enough with one crystal. Because he was the leader of his people, he needed to do a lot of things that used power. So Danfi really needed more than one crystal, but he refused that. He said, 'As long as there are still people amongst my followers that don't have a crystal in their home, I have no right to a second one. I am no better than the rest of you, I don't deserve more than you'. That is Danfi's crystal," Alenador said once again and now Jane understood.
"You said that this is one of the few things, so there is more?" Jane asked.
"Yes, first of all there is this cavern. This is the cavern Danfi lived in during his life. As I said, he was a simple man, he didn't like cities and buildings too much. He loved nature all the more. That is why he came to live here and he lived here till his death. When centuries later this cavern was found again, the few things Danfi had possessed in his life were all still intact, but it was all extremely fragile. So much so that we're keeping them in shock and tremor free rooms in a building that was constructed purely for that purpose. They are considered so safe that they could even survive a frontal assault on the building. But we also felt that at least one thing should stay in the place Danfi spent his life in. Only that crystal was strong enough for that. Of course there are replicas of the other things and that crystal in museums all over the planet."
"But this is the real thing."
"Right," Alenador agreed. "Oh, you might find this interesting. In that same building I just talked about, we also keep the handwritten book, 'Danfi's law'."
"Danfi's law?" Jane repeated.
"Yes. We have thousands of laws, just like you do. These laws are always created when the need asserts itself. For instance, when we started to do space travel, we obviously didn't have laws to cover that. With us, if we make new rules, we look at the rules Danfi wrote down and deduce a new law from the law that covers the problem the best. To make sure that his people could move on after his death, Danfi wrote five hundred laws to which his people had to obey. Once again, Danfi leaves the choice to his people. Because the first law is about Danfi being allowed to start their own society separate from the main society if more than ten million Danfi don't want to follow Danfi's rules anymore. Until today there never has been a group of more than one hundred thousand Danfi who wanted to separate from the society."
"I'm not surprised," Jane said, "If the group is so small, of course they are going to keep quiet. They don't want to suffer the wrath of those who do want to follow the laws."
Alenador shook her head. "No, there are no further consequences if they say they don't 'want' to follow his rules. As long as they 'do' follow them until there are enough people to divide away from the majority."
Alenador hesitated and looked at Jane thoughtfully for a moment. "Don't you understand? Danfi was a very smart man. He knew his people down to the last detail. By giving us the chance to reject his rules, he made sure that we never would. If he had not given us that choice, Danfi would have been nothing more than just another name in our history. As long as we don't have a drastic mentality change, we'll always be loyal to his teachings. Simply because we don't have to if we don't want to."
"I assume you know all those laws by heart?"
"As General Supreme I have to know, and do know, thousands of laws. It wouldn't look too good if I didn't know the laws everyone has to abide to. But if your true question is how good the population knows these rules, the answer is that all of them know them. It's a punishable offense for a Danfi to not know these laws. We think that it's one of the main reasons why we hardly have crimes. If one has to know thousands of rules, it's easy to say, 'I forgot that rule'. But if one needs to know five hundred rules, it's not that easy to say 'I forgot'. And once you know the base rules, it's not easy to ignore them and say 'there's no law that covers this'. Even if there is not, there's some base law that gives you an impression and tells you that what you're doing is wrong."
"And what about POW's?" Jane asked.
"For them it's not punishable to not know the laws, but they are held responsible if they break the rules. It's up to them if they want to learn the rules to know for sure that they're not breaking them."
"I assume that a POW who wants to become a Danfi does have to learn them?"
"Of course, knowing the laws is the first requirement. It's one of the things they have to learn before becoming a Danfi."
Jane went over all that Alenador had told her, and realized that she had not told her something yet. "To come back to your belief system for a moment. Why is it that you never leave a dead soldier behind? I've seen with my own eyes how you came with more than five hundred Fighters to retrieve one dead soldier. Retrieving one dead soldier isn't worth the risk. So where in your belief system is the reason for that? Especially since you did tell me before that the Union found bodies of your soldiers. Why first rescue the body with that much show of force, only to then leave bodies where the Union can find them, assuming them to be Human bodies."
Jane stopped talking when Alenador started laughing unrestrained, "Our belief?" Alenador asked, still laughing.
Alenador's laughing was infectious and Jane started to grin, "Well?" she said while thinking, 'God, just seeing her laugh makes me want to laugh as well. How I wish I could hold her in my arms.'
"I'm sorry. I still find it very funny to hear that."
"So it has nothing to do with your beliefs?"
Alenador's laugh ebbed away to a smile. "First let me correct you. We don't attack to retrieve a dead soldier; we attack to retrieve a dead soldier before you can. The reason as to why we do this is actually very simple. If the Union didn't enjoy seeing us as ugly green/brown monsters, they could have thought of this centuries ago. It's our body armors. We want to prevent the Union from getting their hands on that. But the problem is, a dead soldier can't hide or destroy their armor. We tried finding a solution in technology, for instance explosives build into the armor that react to the stopping of the Danfi's heart beat that explodes the armor to bits when this happens. Or activating the explosives from a distance. And more like that."
Jane couldn't help but cringe.
Alenador nodded. "Yeah, there are several drawbacks to that. Someone can be brought back to life long after their heart stopped beating. But that isn't possible if the soldier has been blown to bits already. Or with the other example, soldiers don't take too enthusiastically to someone thousands of kilometers away blowing them up when some sensor says that they're dead. And also, soldiers don't like it too much if their dead comrades are blown up if they are still lying beside them. But the most simple reason is that this dead soldier might have saved your life. You don't leave him behind. You make sure that the soldier gets home so that he can get his death ceremony."
"As it should be," Jane agreed.
'As it should be?' Alenador thought. 'With them it's more than normal to leave dead or critically wounded soldiers behind.'
Suddenly Alenador thought about a study done amongst POW's and freed Humans. It had shown that on the point of leaving wounded and dead behind they could be divided into two groups. The majority of them were the 'normal' soldiers. Those were the ones that were at the front because they joined the army to get a better life and then were ordered to the front. They had honestly admitted that they would leave behind a wounded soldier if there was a chance they would fall into enemy hands. This was different with the second group. They were people that had been part of special units and commandos. With them sometimes the entire unit had been caught simply because they were trying to take too many dead and wounded with them. They never left someone behind.
'I wonder if she knows that just with that way of thinking and her abilities as a pilot she is an example for all our soldiers, even as an enemy,' Alenador thought. 'If their soldiers were all just a little bit more like her, we would have a much harder task in winning this war. Oh, Jane you would be so welcome here, on this planet, with me. Why can't you just stay? I want you to stay so badly.'
While she had been thinking this, Alenador had continued with talking. "We have learned in the beginning of the war to use a very big force to collect our fallen. As you know, we always fly in a special formation then, and don't attack unless attacked. The Union learned this pretty quickly and stay well away from us in such a situation. It's highly unusual for Union Fighters to attack us if we're flying in that formation. And they learned even faster to not use this fact to try and set traps for us. I believe that the battle of Dwangol is taught at your Academy now as the result of what happens if they try to attack us when we come for our fallen?"
Alenador stopped talking when Jane started laughing.
"You want to prevent us from getting your body armors," Jane laughed even harder. "For centuries we have a special division trying to figure out why you go to such lengths to collect your dead, and all you want to do is prevent us from using the body armors."
Alenador nodded her head yes with a seductive smile on her lips. When Jane was finally laughed out, Alenador asked, "Got any other questions?"
"More than enough," Jane said. She gave Alenador a smile and asked a question Alenador had never expected, "What's your favorite food?"
'Ten more minutes,' Namfos thought. She was in the control center of the base for a change, 'Ten more minutes and I can go back to my family. I wonder why I even do this. I don't have set times; I'm on call twenty-four/seven. That's all I have to do. Why am I so crazy that I think that I have to be in the control center for an entire shift every once in a while? I have my officers for that.'
Then Namfos answered her own question, 'Because you had a feeling that something was going to happen today, that's why.'
Namfos was hardly finished thinking that when the sensor operator grunted out a, "Oh my god."
"What kind of report is that?" Namfos asked, not at all appreciating the total lack of discipline.
"Sensor... Contact... Enemy... Masses," was all the officer could say.
Namfos had more than enough of the officer's stuttering and put his information on the main screen. When she saw what the officer had been looking at, she stood up and said shocked, "Oh my goddess."
She knew they were in big trouble. The screen was filled from corner to corner with enemy Fighters flying in perfect formation, "Put the zoom back to normal."
"It already is," The sensor officer, who had himself a little under control again, said. "Sensors indicate that there are fifty thousand Fighters out there."
"Prognosis?" Namfos asked.
The sensor officer fed some information into the computer before giving the answer, "If they attack, there will be no survivors on our side. We have five thousand Fighters in the hangars, so to begin with we are at a disadvantage of one to ten. And as close as they are, if we launch our Fighters now, they can destroy them one by one as they leave the base."
Namfos turned to her chief of security, "Advice?"
The chief of security could hardly say it, but she knew it was her job. "Send a warning to the Union, and then surrender."
Namfos narrowed her eyes at the officer and the officer only lifted her shoulders as if saying, 'I don't want to say it, but I have to.'
"Why aren't they attacking?" Namfos asked nobody in particular when the Fighters didn't start their attack.
"I don't know," The sensor officer said. "But I can tell you that we're in a strange situation right now."
Before Namfos could ask what he meant, he started to explain, "Because of the formation they're in, their shields are overlapping and basically forming one big shield that's so strong that nothing we have can get through it. I can only guess that this is also the reason why we detected them so late. Our sensors can't even detect what's behind that... wall. For all we know, there might be another fleet of fifty thousand behind that, and another one behind that. But, because of their overlapping shields, they can't use their own weapons either. They would blow themselves up if they did. They have to break formation if they want to attack us."
Suddenly they were interrupted by the communication officer. "General, there is a message coming in on the civilian channel, all eyes coding."
Namfos had other things to worry about, "Can't you see I'm kinda busy here, save it for later."
"No, you don't understand, General. The message... it's... it's coming from... them."
Namfos set back down, realizing what this meant. 'They know our codex. They know that we've been talking about for goddess knows how long.'
"They want to talk to you," The communications officer said. "And they specifically asked for General Namfos."
Namfos cleared her throat, twice. "Well, if they want to talk, let's talk. Open the channel."
Since the message was in the 'all eyes' codex, everyone in the control center could see the ugly green/brown thing filling the screen. "General Namfos, you see in front of you part of our fleet. I know that the Fighters on your base are about ready to move out now, only awaiting your word. But right now you're still weighing all your options. Eventually you'll decide on an all out attack, hoping that at least you can take some of us with you in your certain death. You will gamble on the fact that you'll have launched at least some of your fleet before we can break formation. I advise you not to do this. We demand that you deactivate all shields and weapons. If you do this, none of you will have to die today. If you attack, everyone on your base will get killed. Believe it or not, we don't want to kill you, but we will if we are forced to. You have five minutes to make your decision, starting now."
The screen changed back to showing the enemy Fighters again. Never before had Namfos seen, or even heard, of so many Fighters at one place. A full base assault was the biggest thing normally done. Five thousand Fighters, not fifty thousand.
The minutes seemed like days. Days that still seemed too short to make her decision.
"Time's up," The chief of security said.
"Is the warning sent to the Union?" Namfos asked.
"Just did it," The communication officer replied. "I used the military codex, hoping that they don't know that one."
Namfos sighed. "Turn it off." More than this simple command wasn't necessary. "And send them the message of our surrender."
Nobody on the bridge dared to say something while the communications officer sent the message. "Well I be damned. Now they're asking permission to come onboard," He almost shouted a minute later.
"On screen," Namfos said calmly, but her surprise was clear for all to hear.
Once again the green/brown figure appeared on the screen, it's tone of voice suddenly being a lot friendlier. "General Namfos, we don't want your surrender, we want to talk to you. Forgive us this show of force, but we wanted to make sure that no attack was started under the 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality. As I said, we want to talk to you, but I don't like conversations from a distance if there is another way. That is why I'm asking permission to come onto your base with four other people."
Namfos was so surprised that she didn't know what to say. 'The first contact with the enemy in four hundred years and they ask if they can come on board as if it's the most normal and every day thing.' Finally she asked doubtfully, "What happens if I say no?"
"You know, a conversation is a strange thing," The creature said almost philosophically. "A conversation that starts with, 'if you don't do this, I will do that', is then again followed with a, 'and if you do that I will do such'. Only to be followed again by a, 'yeah, well if you do that I will do this'. I don't like conversations like that. They are so hard to keep track of over time. Right now, all I'm asking is if we can come on board. It's up to you to answer that."
Not really knowing what to do, Namfos shrugged her shoulders and said, "Permission granted."
Alenador stretched, making her back pop in several places.
"You should head home for the night," Jane suggested. "You're beat. Go on." She grinned. "I even promise you that I won't try and get out of this cave in the night."
Alenador snorted. "Jane, you're good, I give you that. But even you're not good enough to get past the guards that are guarding these exits."
"That good?" Jane asked amused.
"That many," Alenador corrected. "I have one whole platoon guarding each separate exit. And just so that you know and don't try things to challenge yourself, they were told that a Union religious fanatic is in here and they have orders to shoot first and ask questions later, for everybody that doesn't provide identification that is."
Jane grinned. "Now, if this wasn't so serious I would actually consider that a challenge. So they don't even know that the famous Jane Darnell is in this cave?"
"No, only the people you have seen in here know that."
As Alenador said this, Jane looked around and realized that they were alone. Truly alone this time. It had happened so casually that she hadn't even noticed. Occasionally one of the others would walk out and come back a little later. At least she assumed that the Danfi in body armor that had come back in were the same as the ones that had gone out. But occasionally somebody would go out and not come back until Alenador and Jane were now truly the only people in the cavern.
Replying to Alenador's remark, Jane asked, "Why?"
Then she lifted her hand. "Wait, don't tell me, let me guess. You don't want my good reputation to suffer from being linked to something as heinous as threatening to destroy one of Danfi's heirlooms. Oh, it's alright for everybody to know that I almost destroyed your planet, but God forbid, well, you would say Danfi forbid, that somebody would find out that I threatened to destroy a crystal."
"It would not... enhance your reputation. So I would kinda like to avoid that," Alenador admitted. She twisted her neck and another pop sounded.
Jane patted the hard surface of the rock beside her. "Come here, sit down."
Alenador sighed and hesitated for a moment before shaking her head a little and sitting down.
"Your back to me," Jane added. She grinned. "I even promise that this time I won't try to break your neck."
Alenador groaned when skilled hands started to move over the sore muscles of her neck.
"Could you?" She asked after feeling some of the strain being rubbed out of her tired muscles. She felt the hands still for a moment before the pleasurable massage continued.
"I'd rather kill myself," Jane admitted in a soft whisper. "I do love you, Alenador, never doubt that. It's just that there's a lot more at stake here than just us. Bear with me, trust me. I'm not asking you that as the woman you love; I am asking you that as the famous Union pilot who could have destroyed your planet but didn't. And I'm also not asking that of the woman I want to call my lover; I'm asking that of the General Supreme who loves her people. Trust me, bear with me."
Jane's voice had became stronger as she was talking but now she added in the softest of whispers, "Trust me, my love."
Alenador brushed away the tears that were rolling down her face and assured with a trembling voice, "I do. I so do, or else you would not be breathing now."
They sat in silence for a few minutes while Jane continued her massage, also moving lower down the back until it too was treated to the magic of skilled fingers loosening and rubbing away knots and aches.
Finally Jane decided to break the silence. "For somebody who can control her muscles that well, yours sure are in a mess."
Alenador laughed, glad that the silence had finally been broken. "Well, controlling them consciously is one thing. But for most of the movements you still rely on the body just doing it. I get just as tired standing around as you do. Probably even more because you have a martial arts training that also focuses on ignoring pain. Remember, knowing DanDon helps me in my training, but it was never truly designed to be a martial art. It's more of a meditation."
"Then you should find yourself somebody that is skilled at giving those muscles the attention they need," Jane heard herself say. She rolled her eyes but managed not to groan at what sounded in her own ears as one of the worst pickup lines she had ever heard.
Alenador smiled. "Why Jane, are you applying for the job? If you did, I'd hire you within a heartbeat."
"I don't know, I'm very skilled. Do you think you could pay the bill?"
"Well, I am the Army leader. I'm sure that they would be more than willing to pay the bill if it would mean a more relaxed General Supreme."
"And then there's that," Jane said with a sigh. "Alright, let's move on to safer grounds for now. Your muscles, which means I guess the muscles of the Danfi body structure in general, are located exactly the same as with Humans. Suenador once said that there's a very good reason why Humans and Danfi look so much alike. So, seeing that you aren't heading home yet, how about explaining that to me?"
Alenador nodded. "Might as well. Let's start with the basics, didn't you notice that walking around here is just a little bit more difficult than it is on Earth?"
"It's over twenty years since I was on Earth," Jane reminded. "I have no idea what Earth's gravity is anymore. I've been shifted around so much from base to base that I've just learned to go with it. At some places I tire more and faster than at others, that's as far as I ever think about it."
She grinned. "And that it's better to not stand on scales at some bases. I just look at my body and decide from that if I need to gain or lose some weight."
"Ah well, the reason is that here on Danmun we have a higher gravity. That explains us being stronger. And the rest like the blood color and the higher body temperature is all explained by evolution on different planets."
"But that doesn't explain the changing eye color," Jane pointed out.
"No," Alenador agreed. "But I already explained that earlier. Danfi had only one demand; that he could see the loyalty of his people in their eyes. So the leader of the realm of gods took a weak species and gave them the traits of changing eye colors. They didn't have that before; he gave that to them."
Suddenly realization set in for Jane. "You believe that he took Humans. You believe that Danfi are actually descendents from Humans?"
"No, and yes," Alenador said hesitantly. "We don't see ourselves as descendents, more as having evolved from the same animal."
"I don't understand what you mean," Jane admitted.
Alenador thought for a moment. "Well, since you don't know that many Danmun animals, let us use some animals from Earth that I know from a saying Humans like to use. Fighting like cats and dogs. You know what a cat and a dog is?"
"Duh, of course I do," Jane said, but she smiled to take the sting out of the words.
"We see the differences between Danfi and Humans just as extreme. We don't consider them the same, and calling a Danfi a Human is considered an insult. The other way around as well by the way. Calling a Human a Danfi is also considered an insult. Anyway, cats and dogs, they are considered two totally different animals. But if you go back in time far enough you will realize that they both had the same animal as ancestor. Our theory is that our ancestors were taken from Earth right around the time that the Homo erectus was starting to evolve into the Homo sapiens, about a quarter million years ago. And that's also where some of the changes between us come from. Because this... united ancestor... was not yet fully evolved into the Homo sapiens, we evolved different here on this planet. Much along the same lines, yes, but more... tuned to Danmun, while the other Homo erectus continued to involve into the Homo sapiens on Earth."
"Damn, that's some theory. Is that just 'a' theory or 'the' theory?"
"The theory," Alenador assured. "It's supported by two major things. First of all; no fossils. Nothing. Nowhere on all of Danmun have we ever found any fossils that can be considered Danfi, or ancestors, that are older than 300,000 years. After that time we find lots of evidence. Suddenly we just... existed on this planet. And not just existed, we suddenly existed and had well-established rituals. No mucking about on what to do with a body when someone died. No, the oldest fossil we ever found of a Danfi was found in what was clearly a grave, clearly having been placed there with care and respect. And just as important, it's not that we are focusing on something and ignoring other things. We literally never found any fossils at all of any animal at all that could have evolved into Danfi. Nothing. Yes, other animals clearly lived on this planet but with them we've been able to follow their line of evolution all the way to present day. No, nothing. Danfi suddenly existed 300,000 years ago as if from one day to the other."
"That's amazing," Jane had to admit. "And what's the second major thing that supports this?"
Alenador smiled. "Do you know the stories about how on Earth it was rumored for decades, even centuries, that aliens existed?"
"Yeah," Jane agreed. "And everybody that said so was considered a nutcase. It took Humans going to a different planet and actually seeing aliens living there before we truly realize that we were not alone in the universe."
"It's the other way around with us. We always knew that we were not alone in the universe. You know why? Because we've found a spaceship that's pretty much just as old as the oldest Danfi skeleton we ever found. Oh, it's not that we could use it to speed up our technological evolution. There was nothing left of the ship other than some scrap iron, and an impression in mud that turned into rocks that showed us the general form of the thing. From how the front was crushed in we don't expect that the people that flew the thing walked away from the landing. So somebody else must have come after them and taken care of those bodies since we didn't find them."
"Or they did survive and walked away from the crash," Jane countered. "You said that gravity is higher here than it is on Earth; that means that Danmun must be bigger than Earth. That's a lot of territory where an alien crew could have gone to. Not every body turns into a convenient fossil to be found. It's more likely that they ended up croaking and being dinner for worms."
"A possibility as well," Alenador admitted. "But their bodies, or maybe them still alive, being rescued by others fits better in the overall picture. And since just what happened to them really doesn't matter, we never really looked for the exact what. Whether they lived or died, were rescued or ended up feeding the worms, the important part is that every Danfi can see the facts with their own eyes if they travel to Impact Valley."
She lifted her arms. "I know, I know. But I'm not the one that came up with that name. Point is that the rocks that have the form of the spaceship have been exposed by weather. We put a building over and around it to preserve the site, but it's open to all visitors, including POWs. You should have gone there while you were exploring in the last month. It's not that we have to use our imagination to think up some ship form. When you go there you can actually see the lines of the hull plating and even where the screws were located."
"Maybe one day I will, maybe one day you'll show me," Jane said, telling Alenador a lot of things she wanted to hear without actually saying the sentences.
"Maybe one day I will," Alenador agreed with a smile. "Now, let's just ignore what might have happened with the aliens and focus more on putting the two other facts together. A spaceship 300,000 years ago. The first Danfi appearing at the same time. And not just one, no suddenly a whole part of the planet was populated. We've found sixteen villages, if you can call them villages, from that time. And from how they were located we expect there to be more that didn't leave any traces as time removed them from existence. We guess that suddenly a group of 30,000 people was living on this planet from one day to the next. No, we know for sure that we didn't come from this planet; but we did evolve here."
"What I find kinda weird," Jane said thoughtfully, "Is that this leader of this godly realm had to use spaceships to bring your ancestors there."
Alenador smiled. "Don't Humans like to say, 'God works in mysterious ways'? Well, same here. I never said that he himself moved people around. No, the popular theory goes along this line. There's this species of aliens that we don't know, or that we know these days and don't know it was them, that goes around the universe picking up people for... slaves I guess. But they don't want to be seen as truly slavers. So they don't enslave an entire species. Instead they just... pick off a few people on planets they just happen to pass by, if you catch my drift. One of these ships passed by Earth and picked up a few people from there, let's say 30,000. So they're taking these... voluntary workers... home, but something happens. They crashed onto an uninhabited planet. The pilots are dead and the cargo, I mean voluntary workers, leave the damaged ship. Another ship comes by because it responded to a Mayday call. But they already have a full cargo of voluntary workers. So they take the killed pilots and leave. Nobody ever comes back for the... voluntary workers because they're not worth an unscheduled trip. And here we still are over a quarter of a million years later."
Jane carefully picked up the crystal that she had put down on the backpack she had with her, wanting to make sure that it wouldn't accidentally start to role.
"So you're telling me that this thing is a quarter of a million years old? No, you also said that you had the written down laws of Danfi. The Homo erectus, nor the early Homo sapiens, knew how to write. In fact, on Earth the history of writing is less than 10,000 years old, not counting cave drawings and stuff like that. Even if you had an incredibly early start here you couldn't have invented writing more than, let's say, 50,000 years ago? So how does that add up? If this God ruler took your people and brought them to this planet and gave them to Danfi, basically, how could he have gotten a society that was advanced enough to have communication that was more than just talking? You need that if nothing else to unite an entire species."
"Please put that down before you drop it accidentally and we'll really have a mess that neither of us wants to deal with," Alenador urged.
After Jane had put the crystal down again, Alenador explained, "The thing is that you're trying to connect two things that are ages apart. The first thing is how we got to be on this planet. As I said, we believe that Humans and Danfi shared the same ancestors about a quarter of a million years ago. As far as us being on this planet we also believe that the leader of this God realm is responsible for us being here. Now comes the second part. Fast-forward thousands of years until six thousand years ago. Danfi and this leader have their argument and Danfi is driven from the realm. Now, this leader wants to see what Danfi can do, if the realm is truly so vulnerable as Danfi seems to think. But which mortals to put under Danfi's command?"
Alenador snapped her fingers, pretending to think of something. "Then he remembers that weak species he once played with thousands of years ago. They turned out to be such a disappointment, so weak, so frail... perfect. And just to make sure that this species doesn't think that the mortal Danfi is just another nutcase, the leader decides to give Danfi the one thing he asked for, and gave it literally. Within the span of one day people discover that suddenly their eyes change color to reflect their emotions. They go to sleep with the eye color they have had for their entire life and wake up with eyes that change color. That too we know from recorded history that really did happen. Skeptics say that it was a disease, but even they don't argue the fact and evidence that it did happen. Within one day, or more to the point, within the span of time where people went to sleep and woke up since it happened then, the eyes changed."
Jane chuckled. "I have to tell you, in our history we had a lot of times where people claimed that something that happened was a sign of the gods, or God, or Allah, or Buddha, or whatever God they believed in until the United belief system was introduced and everybody agreed that it was God, no matter what gods name was. But we've never ever had a sign that couldn't be explained away more easily than explained to doubters as real and survive the scrutiny. But if the entire population suddenly wakes up changed, they would be more inclined to believe somebody that says, 'I was sent to lead you'."
"It was effective," Alenador agreed. "Within two years the entire world population had recognized him as their leader."
"You already had a stable united world government six thousand years ago?" Jane asked amazed. "Earth only managed to do that a hundred years before the Union was established."
"Well, we have had a world government since then, yes. But that doesn't mean that everything was smooth sailing. As you can see by the fact that back then the world government was basically one person, and now we have politicians backed up by an Army. We tried four different kinds of government in that time, including dictatorship."
Jane frowned thoughtfully. "Probably true, but still. It all helps today. Because in your history the world government once existed out of one person, people today still want to see a strong person on top but who doesn't mind letting others do their job, but that will act if those others fuck up their jobs. And because you also had a period where the Army was in control, and I assume people were relatively happy with it because you said that it was the army itself that decided that things needed to change, now people don't mind if that strong person on top happens to be somebody from the Army. And because of that you can truly speak for all Danfi. Very convenient."
"Convenient?" Alenador repeated.
Jane smiled and shook her head. "Just wait until the others are back. But for now, hmm, why don't you tell me what your favorite entertainment is? I'm talking music, theater, stuff like that."
"As far as music is concerned..."
Namfos and the rest of the high officers were standing in the main hanger looking at an enemy shuttle land. A shuttle, Namfos couldn't help but think, that hadn't been part of the wall of Fighters. So there truly were more ships out there. The chief of security looked at Namfos one more time with pleading eyes.
"No," Namfos said through her teeth. "I said no weapons and that's final." Then she said explaining, "Basically we're dead already. It's them that's keeping us alive."
The door of the shuttle opened, effectively ending the conversation. First four of those creatures came out, followed by a Human woman.
Suenador, flanked by two Danfi in body armor on both sides, stepped up to Namfos and introduced herself. "Allow me to introduce us. I'm Suenador. Before I became a Danfi I was known as Sue Darnell, Jane was my sister."
"So she is dead?" Namfos asked sadly when she heard Suenador say that Jane 'was' her sister.
Suenador shook her head no, "I'm a Danfi now... that's what we are called, not Turtles by the way. Since I'm a Danfi I can't have a Human as my sister. That's why I said Jane was my sister. Jane is actually the reason why we're here. But first this, Jane changed very much in the twenty years I didn't see her. But there's one thing that is still the same about her. If Jane gives you her word you can be sure she sticks to it. Jane gave us her word that your word is as good as hers. Because of this, I want to ask you to give us your word that you will guarantee our safety while we're on your base. Do we have your word?"
Namfos turned to her chief of security. "Can you handle that?"
"Can, yes," Was the short answer of the chief of security while she looked at the Danfi instead of Namfos.
"Then you do it." The short nod of the chief was enough for Namfos, knowing that the chief of security was a woman that she could fully trust. Namfos turned back the Suenador, "You got my word. Your safety will be secured."
Suenador turned to the others and nodded her head.
Namfos looked at her officers when some of them took a scared step back when the Danfi all lifted their arm. 'Oh, yeah. We sure got some brave ones. And these are supposed to be the examples for our soldiers.'
She looked back at the Danfi and saw how they all pushed on a place right under their wrist. Then Namfos saw something that made her want to rub her eyes. The tough looking 'shell' of the creatures started to move and flow off their body like water. The end result of this left all the officers with their mouths hanging open.
"They're Humans," One of the officers said amazed.
One of the male Danfi stepped closer to the officer, "We are Danfi, you are Humans. We don't call you Danfi, so don't call us Humans."
"You look like Humans," The officer corrected.
"Says who? Who is to say that you don't look like a Danfi? You sure look like one to me."
"Latennador," Suenador said in a tone that sounded more amused than intended.
She looked at Namfos again and continued. "May I introduce?"
Suenador was proud of the fact that Latennador was her husband, so she started with him. "This is General Latennador, my husband. This is Adjutant Daralon. This is General Eranzaf. And this is Commander Ecandin. As I said, I'm Suenador. For this opportunity I have been appointed negotiator."
"This opportunity?" Namfos asked.
"This conversation. We didn't expect this to happen, and therefore we didn't specifically train someone for it. But, um, do you have a place were we can continue this conversation? I personally don't think a hangar is the right place."
"Of course. Please follow me," Namfos said while she started to precede them to the conference room.
Once they were in the corridor the smell that Namfos produced was very clearly noticeable. Because Latennador was walking beside Namfos, Namfos could clearly see him taking a deep breath to take in the smell.
"Thanks," She said automatically.
Latennador looked back at Suenador surprised, and Suenador explained, "She is a Terelanian. If a stranger takes in their smell so openly during a first meeting, it is seen as a very big compliment."
"Ah," Latennador said. After a moment he asked Suenador, "Would it be inappropriate if I told her she smells very pleasant?"
"Misplaced," Suenador said thoughtfully, "Let's put it this way, it would be just as big a compliment as before."
"Ah, which I would be giving her this time knowing up front that it's a compliment. Which would be misplaced because she is the enemy. I see," Latennador said before adding, "Dakrie."
"You think?" Suenador asked, "I would have said Zeflaan myself."
For a moment longer they continued to try and find a scent they knew from Danmun to describe how Namfos smelled.
"Welcome back," Jane said when Alenador came back into the cavern. Since the others had left the day before, Jane had been able to spend a pretty decent night of sleep in the cavern after Alenador had assured her that they wouldn't try to get the crystal away from her during her sleep. After all, there was a very big chance that the crystal would be destroyed while doing this.
"So, how was your night?"
"Lonely," was Alenador's answer.
Alenador laughed. "When you become General Supreme, a huge mansion is build for you. I didn't ask for it, but it comes with the job. It is seen as an insult to the people if you refuse. Anyway, I have this great two story, thirty rooms, mansion. And a condo in the city close to work just to boast. And every time I walk into that great house, I think about the irony of this great house just for me. I've even taken to eating in the kitchen so that I can at least talk a little with the servants. Mostly I stay at the condo, but the mansion is closer to this cavern."
"Sounds like you should get yourself a pet, or a partner."
"If I got a pet, my servants would only end up looking after it, that's not fair to the animal. And there's a problem with the partner suggestion."
"Yeah? What's the problem?" Jane asked.
"The problem is that the partner I want, I can't have."
"You know, that problem sounds familiar to me," Jane said softly.
Alenador sat down very close to Jane, lifting a hand to caress Jane's face, "I know a way to solve both our problems."
Jane took hold of Alenador's hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles, "Don't, please. I promise you, by the time I leave this cave we will have worked out a solution, one way or another. Don't make this harder for me than it already is."
Alenador returned the gesture and placed a kiss on Jane's knuckles before putting about half a meter of space between them. When Alenador talked again her voice sounded amused and no longer as soft as it had been while they had been talking before.
"But Jane, I'm the General Supreme; it's my job to make things harder for you. Now, where did we leave off? Ah, I remember, you were telling me about your favorite stories."
"Right," Jane agreed, "Now, the 'lord of the rings' stories are kind of like the ones you told me about; Kiladions Journeys. The only thing that's really different is the creatures in them, and of course the main mission."
Alenador laughed, "Yeah, somehow I don't think you would have stories in the Union that dealt with having to deal with the powers of an evil god from the godly realm contained in an hourglass."
"Well, not that I know of," Jane agreed, "But, we do have the mythology of Earth. The Greek gods come kinda close to your godly realm. But the Greek gods didn't stay away from mortals as your gods did; they were meddling with them all the time. They also had a god for all kind of different things. Zeus was the ruler, and then there were people like his wife, Hera, his brothers Poseidon, Hades..."
"Really? Tell me more."
"Okay, let's see if I can remember this..."
Namfos sighed. They had been talking for four hours now. Talking about things that sounded important, but really weren't. Latennador, Suenador, and Namfos hadn't said anything for more than an hour now, and it was clear that they were all three thinking the same.
"Enough," Namfos finally said, slapping her hand on the table to get everyone's attention. "We've been talking here now for four hours and it's all about nothing. I don't even know why you're here for goddess' sake. I would suggest a different approach. Only the ones who really have something to add to this conversation at this point will stay, the rest, gets out. The things we're talking about now is something the bureaucrats and politicians should be talking about somewhere down the line. Let's bring this conversation back to clear talk and make it clear just what those politicians should actually be talking about."
Suenador looked at Latennador, the highest ranking Danfi. Latennador didn't say anything, but simply pointed at the other three Danfi and then at the door.
When the Danfi stood up, Namfos told her chief of security that she could stay, and that the rest had to take a walk.
A moment later they were the only four people left in the room, "Right, now, once again," Namfos said, "why didn't you attack us? Don't try to tell me that you decided from one day to another that you wanted to initiate a conversation with us. You showed us for a reason that you could understand our civilian codex."
"Captain Jane Darnell demanded that we take you to our home world for a conversation," Latennador said. "But a condition was that you accompanied us voluntarily and nobody on this base is killed by us."
Namfos couldn't believe her ears. "Jane's in a position to give demands to you?"
"So she thinks," Latennador said. "She's in a position where she can destroy something that's very valuable to our people. But the truth is that it isn't because of her, but because of our General Supreme that we haven't attacked yet."
"General Supreme?" Namfos asked.
"Our highest military rank," Suenador elaborated. "With us the high council is the highest government apparatus. Then there's also the President who has a veto right over high council decisions. That way the President has more power than the high council since he can stop their actions. But they are pretty much on the same level since the high council can nix Presidential proposals. Theoretically the General Supreme comes right underneath those two."
"The army doesn't take orders from the high council or the President. They only take orders from the General Supreme. If the high council and the President decide to do something one way, and the General Supreme decides to do it the other way, than it happens the other way."
Suenador was quiet for a moment and looked at Namfos in an all saying way. "If the high council and the President decide that the enemy should be attacked in force, and the General Supreme decides that this will not happen... yet, then it doesn't happen until the General Supreme says it's time for it to happen."
"So if I understand this right, it's because of Jane that you're about to attack us, and your General Supreme has made sure that we're talking now instead of fighting."
"No, our attack had nothing to do with Jane. We've been planning this for years. But it's true that we didn't yet start our attack because our General Supreme decided that we should wait a little longer."
Suenador looked at Namfos doubtfully for a moment, "Do you really think that we could build all those Fighters out there in just a few weeks?"
"It would be convenient for you if you could, if you want to attack the Union," The chief of security suddenly said. "Fifty thousand Fighters may be a big number in this situation, but you won't conquer a lot of territory with them. We do have a high number of Fighters ourselves, you know."
Surprisingly, Suenador stayed calm and snorted dismissively. "When you Union soldiers want to scout something out, you normally send one or two Fighters to do the job. In comparison to the entire size of our fleet, those Fighters out there are what those one or two Fighters are compared to your fleet. I just said that we have been planning this for years, and while we can't build fifty thousand Fighters in one month, we aren't that slow that we can only build that number of Fighters in a couple of years."
Suenador was filled with satisfaction when she saw how the chief of security unsuccessfully tried to swallow while she tried to estimate the size of the Danfi fleet.
"Suenador," Latennador said amused.
Namfos was not amused however. She too was trying to wrap her mind around the enormous size of the enemy force. Or what it had to be if these people were telling the truth.
"Alright. Now, we seemed to have digressed," Latennador said. "The question is actually quite simple. Will you, General Namfos, accompany us to our Homeworld?"
"And what happens if I say no?"
"Did we reach that point again?" Latennador asked. "I thought we covered this. Right now all I'm asking you is if you want to accompany us, nothing more."
Namfos realized that Latennador had to be the Danfi she talked with before. Seeing how calm he reacted to something they had indeed covered, Namfos couldn't help but wondering how far one had to go before he lost his patience.
"Despite you giving me a choice, I don't really have one. I can't but accept." Namfos hesitated for a moment, "Um, normally when I enter into a dialogue I try to screen the other party very thoroughly. With you this is not possible and I just have to accept what ever you say. You're probably wondering why I bring this up," Namfos said quickly when she was that Suenador saw about to speak, "You see, I have a problem."
The others could clearly hear Namfos' tone of voice change when she continued, "My husband and our child are also on this base. I would like to know if I should say goodbye, or if I can tell them that I'll be back soon."
Latennador looked at Suenador, both of them thinking of their own children. They knew what Namfos was worrying about.
"You gave us you word that we would not be harmed on your base," Latennador said. "Nothing has happen to us. So I give you my word that it doesn't matter how the conversation on our Homeworld ends, we'll bring you back to this base at the end of it. Alive and unharmed. What happens once you're back... now, that I can't guarantee."
Namfos knew that this was the best guarantee she could get. She nodded her head in understanding, "Then I will go with you. Now, if you don't mind, I'll go say goodbye to my family. Would you like to come along?" She added more as an afterthought.
"No, thank you," Suenador declined. "You are our enemy. It's not a good idea to know the family of the enemy."
Namfos nodded her head again to indicate that she understood what Suenador meant.
But then she was pleasantly surprised when Latennador added, "Maybe next time."
This simple statement meant more to Namfos than any guarantee could. It meant to her that Latennador was a soldier that would do what ever he was ordered to do, but he himself was not looking for a fight.
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