************************************** ************************** Chapter 24
The Meeting Room was almost empty. Only Perry, the oily little Terran, and Kobol, the proud Velexian scientist, were sitting at the long table of simple wood. If Dantu trusted anyone among the ruling council, it was Kobol, yet that was only because his work was closely involved with Dantu's. Kobol was one of the two heads of Research and Developement, and he had an active role in Military strategy despite the presence of Drumond, the Military strtegist who had seen the Explorien Planets through the Vorgon War. Dantu wondered idily if Rhendra had fed him false information, or if Drumond was really here. Dantu soundlessly took his seat, and watched as other members of the Council filed in.
Sarenne was the next to enter, swaying in her disgustingly seductive manner. Dantu still had to remind himself that she was one of the most successful diplomats in the known Universe, and that she had not, despite rumors, slept her way to the top. Kresov, the slight Ingori scientist who was in charge of the other half of Research and Development, which was devoted entirely to weapons- entirely! -a motion Dantu had tried to stop but had failed miserably at. Dantu did not like Kresov; he enjoyed enflicting pain on others. Dantu had no qualms about causing pain when needed, but Kresov recieved acute pleasures from the sufferings of others, which was why he was also in charge of interrogations.
Garhena was next, the Myren woman who was in charge of the Assasin's Guild, something Dantu also did not like. The assasins associated with the sho'gan vin held themselves apart, am almost independant organization. Garhena herself was a mystery to Dantu; he had only heard a little, and most of it was ominous, but the middle aged Myren seemed almost motherly to Dantu, and quite soft. Nrhaborn was next., a short little Metaijjer The last person in was Janiculien, the pale white, big eyed Lengrumi who was the formost biologist of all time, or at least she believed. It was known that, despite, the Lengrumi's vaunted emotionless state, she chaffed under the commonly held belief that the only things left to discover in the feilds of biology were small loose ends.
Apaprently these people were all that were present, for because as soon as Janiculien took her seat Kresov stood to speak. "Weapon Y, I have finished the last tests on it. It will be ready for use by the end of this week." Dantu wanted to gasp, but he had enough control over himself not to. Until Kresov had started his works, lasers had been used mainly for industry and surgery, because other weapons had been discovered that were more powerful, like ion- pulse beams. But Kresov had changed that with Weapon X, as he called it, a laser three times more powerful then the most powerful of lasers. A month ago he had reported suddenly that Weapon Y was in production, a weapon three times more powerful then Weapon X and nine times more powerful then the most powerful known lasers. "Weapon Z, it will be ready in a year, and will be three times more powerful then Weapon Y." Dantu almost gasped again; a laser twenty-seven times more powerful then the most powerful lasers known to the "Good" universe.
While Kresov basked, Dantu noticed Kobol looking at him withhis fierce green eyes that burned with an internal flame. Finally Kresov said, "I will now hand things over to Kobol." With a smile that was almost blissful.
Dantu could guess what was happening, now. Kobol had had another setback while Kresov basked in the glory of a startling advance, and he blamed it upon Dantu. "The Freedom Device, the deadline must be placed six months later then I had anticipated at the last meeting." The Freedom Device was what the sho'gan vin would use to free the Being into their realm of existence, so that he could bring about the things promised to them. Curses rang out from around the table, and Dantu wanted to join them. The Freedom Device was the key to his portfolio of work, and he needed it as soon as possible. Kobol glared around like a Len-bird, daring others to speak so he could skewer them. Kresov smiled, and Dantu wanted to grimace at him. All his smile was for was rubbing salt in wounds. Compassion had no place in na'vo, yet the good of one was the good of many.
Perry took it up, now, launching into his monthly spy report, and Dantu did not listen. Perry disgusted him with his oily deceitful ways, and his arrogance that was totally off base. Dantu suspected strongly that Perry kept most information to himself anyways, with his childlike sneakiness, and Dantu could always get better information from his own spies.
After Perry finished his scant report- the tabloid journalpads had better news! -Janiculien began to speak in her flat voice, the voice that was so chrarcteristic of her race, the Lengrumi. She spoke of her "Version 2.3" of the Chrarkae were beginning breeding, and how her efforts were proceeding in the attempts to recapture the first batch, which had escaped. Her latests creatures were a success, and she listed the numbers of Faceless Ones and FireDemons like she was reading a list of the temperature over the past day. Janiculien was not emotionless, as most of her race calimed to be, but she was always very, very close to it.
Dantu stood and gave a quick sketch of some of his recent activities, which did not ammount to much, giving that his main function was not known by anyone here except Kobol. The Metaijjer was the last one to speak, and Dantu listened almost as little as he had for Perry. Something about mind control devices- as if Janiculien had no thought of that six years ago! -and Lako Oraine. The new High Commander was not being much of a problem, and Dantu saw no reason to increase the sho'gan vin's hold on her. He left after that.
Walking back to the Saucer Ship alone, Dantu sighed at the sight of Ventelo's body, now a small snowbank where Havien and Sabrak had dragged him. He hated having to lie. It was nessecary, true, and the ends were justified the means, but Dantu wished with all of his heart that he could retain some of the na'vo he had had when he joined the sho'gan vin.
*****Chapter 25******************** ************************************* ****
Yenne shifted in her bed, murmering at the covers in a fashion most would call dissatisfied. The trip to Aravil had not gone well for her, and she could trace the line of catastrophie to disaster to catastrophie all the way back to right after the left Ingor. Trying not to wince at the memory, she recalled what had happened just twenty minutes after they had gotten underway in such a glorious manner.
Yenne looked around the Command Centre at the bustle of activity, and she thought about how nice it was to be nearly home. Suddely, the pipes directly above her head groaned ominously once, and then burst. Steaming white gas poured out of the ruined pipe; Yenne groaned and yelled "Out! Everyone, out!" She led the way, and once all seven people were outside the Command Centre she shut the door. Not the freun pipes! Anything else she would have been gladly tolerated, but not this...!
Yenne had to wince at that; and she did, right into her pillow. Freun was a chemical nessecary to enter trans-space, and was used for nothing else. It was not dangerous, but it could be harmful, but what had made Yenne so aggravted was the fact that the only way to repair the burst pipe was to lie on her back on special scaffolding in a special suit for six hours straight and manually repair them in the dense chemical fog. Her back still ached from that; five days later, and she would have knuckled it aside from the fact that her arm was asleep. Shifting slightly, Yenne continued in her miserable remembering.
Audua was a problem. Yenne was continuing in her project to see Shaylor and Audua as a couple, and she had set out to gauge Audua's mood towards her half Terran, half Krigoni friend one bright morning.
It was still very early; Yenne was sure that she and the Ingori woman were alll who were awake. It was in the metal corridor that she saw her, and Yenne was careful in her approach. She asked her question, and was shocked when Audua saw it as a challenge; of all things! She wanted to duel with Yenne! The slight Ingori woman even drew her dagger, a small, intricate blade of silver. Yenne tried frantically to explain, but was saved when Anto walked out of his room sporting the bed head of the century, and oblivious to the near disaster he had averted.
Yenne grimaced at that memory. Horrid woman! She had no idea what Shaylor saw in Audua. At least she knew now that Audua had an interest in him. Did she? Or maybe it was only an excuse to fight? Who knows what that Ingori would do?
The march of memory went on, and Yenne remembered particularly when David had approached her after the Freun incident, saying that she must not "shy away" or "shirk" from her duties as Engineer! As if one freak accident had erased all the sleepless nights she had put in repairing this bucket of bolts? Yenne could remember every horrible moment of the past five days perfectly. Why, she had even started six fights, and had had such an argument with Mirvenne that her cousin had moved into Audua's room, out of her room! Anto had not spoken to her for two days until she had made an apology that still grated, and all in all she just wanted to burrow into the pillow forever and forget everything that had happened since she had decided to repair StarRunner in an effort to get extra credit and had been sucked out into deep space with her best friend and three strangers.
Anto walked into Yenne's room, and shivered. Her personal thermostat was kept at a cold tempurature. "Yenne, wake up." he said in quite a docile manner.
Yenne was adament. "Don wanna gef up." She said to the pillow, and tried to use the telepathic powers she had wished for when she was young to get Anto to leave.
"Yenne, wake up." He repeated perfeclty, and Yenne wondered if this was a dream. People never repeated themselves perfectly, in her experience.
"Don WANNA gef up!!" She yelled into her pillow. If the bulky Velexian said it once more, she was going to punch him, and promptly fall back asleep.
"We're at Aravil." Anto annouced in the same docile, but as soon as the words registered, Yenne found the wakefulness that had eluded her.
"WHAT?! Why didn't you say it? Why?" She was in the hallway so quickly she did not know how she had gotten there. Running to Shaylor's room, she disregarded her state of dress- skimpy pajamas made for comfort and not decency -and yelled. "Shaylor! We're at Aravil!" Running to Mirvenne and Audua's room, she stuck her head in there, too. "Mirvenne! We're at Aravil!" She ignored the lump that was Audua; the woman was not visible, she was covered with so many blankets. While Yenne made due with one skimpy sheet! True, she would not have taken any more even if asked, but it was a matter of principal.
Out in the hallway, now, she linked arms with Shaylor and Mirvenne, who were both wearing pajamas also, and they marched down the metal corridor signing battle songs from Fademme. Mirvenne could not carry a tune, and Shaylor's voice was too high for the male part but too low for the female part, but the sang anyways. Bantu Basha stuck his head out of his doorway, glanced at them expressionlessly, and went back into his room, shutting the door very firmly on such a blatant display of emotion. Yenne did not care. It was worth it, it was all worth it, all the suffering she had gone through, to be home again.
The Command Centre was empty except for David, who was piloting the ship with bleary eyes and a blank expression. "David! How long until us, we reach Aravil?" Yenne exclaimed breathlessly. The Terran regarded her blankly, with his hair disheleved from his bed.
"Forty-five minutes, give or take five or so. We'll be setting down just outside your home town, Yenne, Shaylor, Mirvenne. Now be quiet and let me pilot." Aravil was a glorious grey rock, perfeclty round. Most of it was grey, but here and there bits of blue streaked out. Aravil was almost always overcast; a result and reminder of the Great Cataclysm, but it was beautiful that way.
It seemed like forever before they actually went thorugh those clouds, and Yenne hopped impatiently from foot to foot as StarRunner slowly descended towards Aravil. Still wearing her pajamas, Yenne, Mirvenne and Shaylor waited like small children for the doorways to open once they were actualy down. As soon as they were, the three were out in a bolt, playing in the grey sand.
Anto looked at them, and shook his head. When they got to Velex, their next and final stop, he was resolved not to make such a spectacle of himself as those three were doing. Suddenly shivering, he thought for a moment, and then went to his quarters. He returned wearing all the clothes he possessed, that is, a sweater, three shirst, two pants, and a warm hat. He did not wear his cadet uniform, of course, and that was all he had owned when he and his new friends were thorwn into Nu soace for reasons unknown. Audua was the source of the new clothes. She had made quite a lot of money selling her business- she would not say how much, but it was more then a million credits - and she had bought them new supplies that were unavailable on Nu, where their meager monies had gone mainly to food. Well, the Nu government had given them a gift of 150 credits, as a sign of good will, but that had gone right away into fuel and food, as well.
Everyone piled out of the ship aside from Bantu, who said coldly that it was foolish for everyone to leave the ship at once. Six young people made their way down the path towards the village, which Yenne had said was home to only one-thousand or so people, the last she checked. The place where they had landed was not a proper landing pad, and there were no facilities there. In fact, Anto only saw one building the whole time they were walking to the village; a tall building with a metal roof; the water that condensed there was collected and used, according to Yenne. Everything was used, even garbage, whiich was burnt far beneath the houses and provided heat. The house was made of the grey stone that seemed everywhere; indeed, Anto had seen very few plants since landing.
It was quite a long walk, twenty minutes at least, and Anto conversed with just about everyone. He approached Mirvenne, who would be staying behind to continue her training in the Aravillian talents, and said, "Remember, you know things that people would kill you for knowing. Be careful of what you say and who you say it to." Mirvenne gave her a flat stare; with her severe features, it looked almost like a grim scowl.
"I know how to take care of myself." Was her only comment. Anto blinked at the tone- he had thought of Mirvenne as jolly despite her look - and retreated back to talk with David. He still looked at Mirvenne sideways, though. Yenne had told him yesterday, when she was still in that mood, that Mirvenne was very talented in the Aravillian talents, espescially the Prophecy and Elemental Control. That reminded him of the vision Yenne had had on Nu; he had not thought of that for a week now!
Finally they reached the villiage. Everything was made of grey stone, and the overcast sky made things seem dismal, but the crowds were very vibrant for such a small town. People wore tradtional chapongs and chopongs, which were very decent, and showed colors that identified Clan- of which there were seven -occupation, and age. Anto noticed Yenne had somehow donned her traditional clothes, and so had Mirvenne.
The village square was a street market, but it was unlike Lecel's, on Ingor. The people here were almost all locals, and they moved slower, and no one called out the virtues of what they were selling. A small well, made of stone like everything else, was in the centre of the square. Anto eyed the wooden handle with interest; he had seen only three trees so far, and they had been severly windstunted and useless for making things.
David stood up on steps leading up to the well, and the five other people, Anto included, stood before him. "OK, we have a day to spend here, so meet back here at lunch so we can touchbase, and then again after supper, after which we'll leave." He hoped down. Anto did not mind David playing the leader; he was good at it. What worried him was that Yenne also liked to be in charge, and Bantu always thought he was in charge, and this could someday lead to infighting.
Anto approached David as soon as he hoped down to the pavment; few cars drove the streets, but cars were a Terran invention. Most people flew for long distances and walked for short distances, or took public transport. "David!" He called out, and the Terran looked at him, his black hair disheveld. "We haven't done much together since we got thrown out into space, so I thought maybe we could do some shopping or something." He smiled. David was his best friend; they had met on New Terra during vacation, and next year they had found themselves both in the same cadet classes, surrounded by strangers. They had shared a cabin aboard Space Station Gemini- all cadets did - and had been best friends for at least two and a half years. Plus the three years they had missed in that flash of light; Anto always kept forgetting that!
"Alright, I had been thinking of asking you the same. It seems you're more inclined to spend time with Yenne or Shaylor then me." That remark had sort of a bite to it, but Anto let it pass. Terrans were quicksilver, and moody, and said things they did not mean.
"Well, I'm here now, right? Let's go buy something!" Anto felt a little bit bad about spending Audua's money, but she had said it was OK, and seemed embarrassed about receiving such a high price for her landing/docking facility. David and Anto marched off to a small stand of magazine-pads, and started to browse the stands, before moving on to a clothing stand. They did not notice a greying yet muscular Velexian leaning against the very same fountain they had been next to seconds before, watching them intently.
Mirvenne of Clan Valavan felt increasingly nervous as they grew closer and closer to the Valavan main house of her home village. There was no guarantee that Chavve would be there; she had probably never left the capital. Mirvenne knew that that was stupid to think that; Chavve was one of the best Prophets in Aravil's history, as she said Mirvenne would be one day too. Chavve was... forceful was the only way to say. Mirvenne looked at her cousin, who was conversing with Shaylor unoworridly. Yenne was the focus of one of Chavve's plots, Mirvenne was sure. The summonings Mirvenne had delivered to Yenne puzzled Mirvenne greatly.
Finally they reached the house, the third biggest building in this village, which had a large presence of Valavan's. Yenne and Shaylor led the way, but Mirvenne dalyed, looking at the ornamental stone workings just outside the main doors.
"Mirvenne!" Shaylor called as Yenne banged on the heavy stone doors with the knocking stick, a large ornamental thing made of brass, with the insignia of Valavan on the handel. Yenne used the secret Valavan knock, three longs and one short, and Magge, the chief servant opened the door. She smiled warmly- servants on Aravil were treated more like friends, and often they were family members who would become servants if there was no work in their proffession.
Sighing inside, Mirvenne followed her cousin and friend up the stairs. Her reluctance was caused by the fact that now her freedom was over. She had no idea why she was chosen- her, the apprentice to the Leader of all Valavan!- to be one of the ones sent out to search for Yenne, but she was sure a Prophecy was an effect on Chavve's decision. Chavve, of course, was the Leader of Clan Valavan.
Inside, family were everywhere. At the sight of Yenne, there was a gasp, a silence for a second, then everyone erupted into conversation at once. People told her of the marriages, deaths, and other events she had missed over the past year. Her older sister, Aliesse, was cradling her one year old baby in her arms, and her mother and father wept openly. There was a round of hugs for Yenne, and some for Shaylor, who had been a common sight here,. Even an honorary member, before going off with Yenne to train, and Mirvenne, who was almost fifty days from Aravil and before that had spent most of the past four years in the city of Valavan studying with Chavve. Finally things quited down, and silently a way parted to the Chair of Respect, whose occupant made Mirvenne's heart drop. Chavve was here. All three of the space travelers walked forward as one, and knelt before Chavve. Her stern face was just touched with lines, and her copper-bronze hair was greying at the temples, but Chavve was the most forceful woman Mirvenne had ever know. She did what she did without explanation or reason, and nothing short of anything could stop her once she was set on something.
Her brown eyes regarded Yenne first. "So, you obey my summons swiftly. We will be leaving for the capial at first light tommorrow." Yenne managed to say something in her defence.
"I am the sorry one, but I must leave Aravil later today. But I promise that me, I will be the one who returns in time." Four hundred days, or rather three hundred eighty five until Yenne would have to return or she would be hunted. It was four hundred, but that count down started when Mirvenne had informed Yenne of the summons.
"Mirvenne. It is well that you return. It was a mistake to let you off on your own as I did, with you half trained and so." Mirvenne wanted to say something at the accusatory tone, but she could not. Chavve looked at Shaylor quizically, but she still sat as if the humble Chair of Respect was a throne. "I was unaware that there were Krigoni Clan Valavan." was all she said though, but Mirvenne was shocked when Shaylor practically growled.
"I am only half Krigoni, Leader. I am also half human, and I was inducted as an honarary member of Valavan six years ago, M'Val." Mirvenne had no idea where Shaylor had picked up such a temper- she remembered him as a gentle boy, but then again he was 19 now and only 13 when she had sen him last. Or was he 22? Did her friends age in that flash of teleportation she had been told about? He had better keep a lid on his temper, though. That term he had used- M'Val- was used as a term of respect for a Leader when you were angry but did not wish to offend. Of course Shaylor could speak Aravillian- he had lived here since he was four!
"Very good. You are not here alone." It was not a question she directed at Yenne, but a statement.
"No, I have four others with me, not including us three." Yenne said.
"Then I suggest that they come to dinner. Mirvenne, come with me." She clapped her hands three times- a sign that the formal greeting was over - and a rush enveloped Yenne- and Shaylor, partly,-as relatives and friends began to ask where she had been the past years, saying that they had known she was not dead, and such things. Mirvenne sighed, wishing she was there too, and followed Chavve outside.
"You have been using your talents when you were away. No matter. Clear your minds and concentrate your thoughts. I am going to attempt to teach you how to summon water, and no wonder if it takes what's left of the day to do it. Your thoughts aren't focused." She said. Mirvenne sighed. Chavve was one of the few Aravillians who possesed Telepathy, the ability to hear other's thoughts, and Mirvenne wished she would not use it so casually. It was hard to control your thoughts, and once she had spent a month- a month!- doing nothing but dirty chores because she had thought about hitting Chavve when she scolded her espescially fiercely one day.
The lesson concentrated on control of the elements, something that Mirvenne was good at and was as rare as telepathy. She had fire down very well, but when ever she tried to summon water- a bare drop to fall on some sand!- her thoughts got mixed up. Mirvenne had many talents- Element Control, Psycokenisis, Empathy, and Prophecy, and was a fast learner, but Chavve scolded her horribly. Mirvenne tried not to think of her friends and what they would face in the next months, so as Chavve would not know, so her attempts always failed. Finally Chavve threw up her hands and said. "We will continue tommorrow, child. Now I suggest we go inside and eat something." Mirvenne hoped her friends would be alright.