AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any of these characters, nor am I making any kind of profit.
NOTE: This is actually more of a prologue or an introduction to a story that doesn’t exist yet and may, in fact, never get written. But still, it stands well enough on its own I think.
The Gaian Planetary Council chamber was brightly lit and offered a magnificent view of the green forests stretching all the way to the horizon. It was quite a pleasant space for Lady Deirdre Skye to engage in the inter-faction debating and she needed to have something pleasing around her whenever she did that.
Lady Deirdre sat back in her chairs and observed the eleven holograms of the other faction leaders sitting around the table. Most of them were listening to CEO Morgan’s proposal for a relaxation of trade tariffs to promote free trade between the factions. Everybody knew that the sole reason Morgan was proposing this was because he felt free trade could really help him make more money. Everything Morgan did was because of his love for energy credits.
Deirdre smiled to herself. Everything everyone did here on Planet was because of their love for something.
Take Commissioner Lal for example. His love for the ideals of the United Nations was so fierce that he tried to persuade the others to embrace them as well.
Then there was Datajack Roze who loved freedom most of all, especially when it came to the freedom of other people’s information.
Captain Svensgaard loved the seas to such an extent that he had left the land behind.
Foreman Domai loved the common Drone so much he wanted to create a worker’s paradise just for them.
Sister Miriam’s love for her God guided everything she did.
And then there was herself of course, Lady Deirdre Skye, who loved nature so much she wanted all of humanity to live in perfect harmony with it.
But while the romantics seemed to think that love created wonderful dreams, Deirdre had to admit that love was also capable of producing the darkest nightmares.
There was Provost Zakharov, who did not let ethics get in the way of his love of science.
The child Prophet Cha Dawn who loved Planet so much he wanted to cleanse it of all traces of mankind.
Chairman Yang’s love of control and security had driven him to try and rob his people of their freedom and individuality.
Prime Function Aki Zeta-5, one of the good Provost’s former experiments, was now so logical and rational that she had become incapable of love or any other emotion.
And then there was Colonel Corazon Santiago of the Spartans. Deirdre had been avoiding looking directly at her all throughout the meeting. The Colonel loved survival by any means necessary. She even loved it more than. . .
No, now was not the time to think of that.
“Thank you, CEO Morgan,” the hologram of Commissioner Lal said politely in his function as Planetary Governor. “Your arguments were persuasive as always. The Council will now vote on the matter.”
Deirdre did not need think about her vote. The arguments may have been good and the relaxation of tariffs might have been beneficial, but since it had been Nwabudike Morgan making the proposal, Deirdre voted against it. It was a matter of principle.
“Sister Miriam abstains and there are four votes against,” Commissioner Lal counted. “So, with seven votes in favour, the measure passes. Now then, is there anything else this Council needs to discuss?” He looked hopefully at Zakharov and Miriam. The skirmishes between their two factions were beginning to escalate and Lal no doubt wanted them to talk it out before they descended into a full war.
“There is nothing left to discuss,” said Provost Zakharov calmly.
Commissioner Lal did not quite manage to hide his disappointment. “Very well. If there really is nothing else, I hereby declare this meeting of the Planetary Council over.”
The holograms in Lady Deirdre’s chamber flickered out of existence, except for one.
“Well now, that was a waste of time,” said Colonel Santiago.
“Perhaps,” Lady Deirdre agreed.
The eyes of both women briefly fell onto the chair were the Datajack had been sitting. Her hologram was gone, of course, but that didn’t necessarily mean Sinder Roze was gone as well.
“You haven’t contacted me for quite some time,” Deirdre stated.
“There was no reason to,” said Santiago.
“No reason at all, Corazon?”
Guilt flashed over the Colonel’s face. There was only one person on Planet she allowed to call her by her first name.
“I had no official business with you,” Santiago said.
Deirdre left her seat and leaned against the table near Santiago’s chair, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
“We cannot be concerned with official business all the time,” she said.
Santiago stood up as well. “There have been important developments in the Spartan Federation. I could not spare the time.”
“There have been important developments in Gaia’s Stepdaughters as well,” said Deirdre. “And yet I could spare the time. Why do you think that is, Corazon?”
Colonel Santiago stood there, stiff, rigid, the perfect soldier. But Deirdre knew that was all just an image. Santiago had grown up in areas where there had been no “real” war because there had also been no real government. No, she had grown up in the midst of the some of the most brutal gang wars the dying Earth had seen. An upbringing like that did not make for good soldiers, but it did create people willing to do anything to remain safe and survive and Santiago had brought that attitude with her to Planet.
“Perhaps you are more efficient in your use of time,” Santiago said eventually.
“Perhaps,” said Deirdre. “Or perhaps you have been avoiding me. What do you think?”
Santiago looked Deirdre straight into the eyes before looking away again, almost ashamed.
“Are you scared Corazon?” Deirdre asked gently.
“I am afraid of nothing,” said Santiago.
“That’s the Colonel speaking,” said Deirdre.
Santiago clenched her fists. “I am the Colonel, Deirdre.”
“And that defines everything you are then?”
“That’s unfair, Deirdre.”
Deirdre subsided a little. “I’m sorry. But my question still stands.”
“I have a duty to my people,” said Santiago. “I cannot afford to show weakness, even in private.”
“Fear isn’t weakness.”
“It is for the Spartans. Show fear in battle and you will succumb. We didn’t need the mindworms to teach us that lesson.”
“Oh, so this is a battle, is it?” said Deirdre.
“Everything is a battle in one form or the other.”
“Really?” said Deirdre. “And when you are all alone in your personal chambers, who do you fight then?”
“Myself,” said Santiago. “And so do you.”
“Sometimes, perhaps,” Deirdre admitted. “But most of the time I’m at peace with myself.”
Santiago was quiet for a moment. “Then you’re a luckier woman than I am.”
Deirdre reached out to touch Santiago, then realised she was still talking to a hologram. “Corazon, let me comfort you, please. I can show you. . . I want to show you there’s more to life than merely surviving.”
Santiago shook her head. “You don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like to be a Spartan.”
“Nor do I want to, in all honesty,” said Deirdre. “But even Spartans must have some enjoyment in their lives. Otherwise, what would be the point?”
Santiago looked wretched. “Deirdre, I. . .” Her head snapped up and looked at something Deirdre couldn’t see.
“The alarms are going off,” said Colonel Santiago. “There’s a mindworm boil approaching. I must go.”
And with that, Colonel Santiago’s hologram disappeared.
“A mindworm attack,” Deirdre muttered to herself. “What timing.”
Lady Deirdre headed for the doors with the strides of a determined woman. She tapped her wristcom.
“Sylvia, are you there?”
“Yes, my Lady,” came the answer.
“I need you to look something up for me.”
Lady Deirdre Skye stood roughly in the centre of Gaia’s Landing’s entrance hall with a select group of followers behind her. The balconies all around her were filled with spectators and camera crews. The doors opened and the Spartan delegation stepped inside with the Colonel herself at the front. Their red and brown uniforms were in stark contrast with the Gaian’s elegant blue robes.
Lady Deirdre curtsied. “Colonel.”
Colonel Santiago bowed stiffly. “Milady.”
Deirdre smiled briefly to herself. It was true that mankind was changing Planet, but Planet was changing mankind even more. Before accepting her position on the Unity Deirdre Skye had been just another regular human being, but here on Planet she had developed a few PSI talents. She could feel the swirling mass of emotional chaos behind the Colonel’s icily calm facade. There was anger there, and fear, determination, suspicion, pride, honour and, Deirdre was secretly pleased to note, lust and something as close to love as the Spartan was capable of.
“The Gaians welcome their Pact Sisters in their midst,” Lady Deirdre declared in front of the cameras.
“The Spartans were most honoured by your invitation,” said Colonel Santiago.
“A century ago today, the Gaians and the Spartans signed their Pact of Sisterhood and our factions have stood together ever since,” Lady Deirdre said. “And yet, this is our first face to face meeting since our time on the Unity so long ago. I hope this will be the beginning of a new understanding between our people.”
“As do I,” said Colonel Santiago.
Lady Deirdre gestured to her companions. “You must be weary. My staff will show your people to their quarters so they can rest.”
“I thank you,” Colonel Santiago said. “But there is much we need to discuss.”
“Yes. But it can wait for now,” said Deirdre.
Lady Deirdre retired to her chambers early that day. She spent some time reading up on the progress of the creation of a guild of empaths. It was a project Deirdre was eager to see finished. After she felt she was back up to speed, she walked over to the large windows and looked outside. Planet had been mostly red and brown, but now most of the Gaian territory was nothing but green. Deirdre was quite proud of her forests, where planetlife and earthlife could live together in relative harmony. Even humans could survive out there without breather masks for several days at a time. But even without those practical considerations in mind, Deirdre loved her forests for their sheer natural beauty. She often regretted living in bases constructed of glass and steel.
The door chimed.
“Come in,” said Deirdre, not turning around.
Someone quietly stepped into the room. Deirdre’s body reacted almost on its own, which told her everything she needed to know.
“Hello Corazon,” she said.
“Deirdre,” said Santiago as she went to stand next to the Gaian leader.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” said Deirdre, nodding to the green expanse outside.
“If nothing else, they certainly help to keep a lid on unwanted mindworm activity,” said Deirdre.
Santiago was quiet for a moment. Then, “There really was an attack.”
Deirdre sighed. “I have no doubt. Were there many casualties?”
“A few,” Santiago admitted.
“You have my sympathies.”
Santiago shrugged. “It’s just another one of the realities of living on this planet.”
“You have them all the same.”
“So why did you really invite me here, Deirdre? Just to celebrate our Pact?”
“In part,” said Deirdre. “It will send a hopeful message to both our people and we’re going to need hope in these times. The University and the Believers are practically at each other’s throats, Yang keeps expanding his borders, Svensgaard is forever tightening his grip on the oceans and one day Cha Dawn will stop preaching about his Jihad and actually start it.”
“And what is the other part?” Santiago asked.
Deirdre turned and smiled at her. “You know full well.”
Santiago looked away. “Now may not be the best time.”
“We are here, together and alone for the first time in a very long time. So when would be the best time?”
“When I’ve worked things out, perhaps.”
Deirdre brushed Santiago’s cheek and was pleasantly surprised when the Spartan didn’t pull away. “You’ve had decades, Corazon. If you haven’t, as you say, worked it out yet then you never will. Not without help, at least.”
“I don’t need help with anything,” said Santiago.
“But you do need me in the same way I need you,” said Deirdre. “So please, stay here with me tonight.”
“And if I won’t?” said Santiago.
“Then you can go back to your quarters and we’ll dance around each other some more,” said Deirdre. “And I’ll permanently remain at a safe distance. If that’s what you really want.”
Santiago looked at her and Deirdre didn’t need her empathic abilities to know what she felt. Her mask was slipping, her cold exterior melting. Colonel Santiago would confidently step into battle and could face down the most terrifying opponents. But the woman standing in front of Deirdre was simply Corazon, and she was terrified of her own feelings.
Deirdre gently pulled the woman into a comforting embrace. And was only slightly surprised when Santiago pulled her into a kiss first.
The moon Nessus was the only source of light in the bedroom. Deirdre calmly regarded Santiago’s slumbering form next to her.
It had been an interesting night, to say the least.
There was this that could be said for the Spartan commander; once she decided to do something, she would see it through to the end. And when the end came, Deirdre could sense no more fear, no more anger. She would like to say that there had been nothing but love, but that wasn’t entirely true. But afterwards, there had been peace.
Deirdre grinned. The right-wing gun nut finding peace in the arms of the nature loony? What would the other factions think of that?
Well, never mind what the other factions thought of that, of them. Peace would soon be a scarce commodity on Planet and Lady Deirdre intended to get a hold of it wherever she could find it.
Deirdre carefully pulled Santiago’s body against her own and planted a kiss on the woman’s right shoulder-blade.
“Hmm?” Santiago muttered.
“I’m sorry, did I wake you?” Deirdre whispered.
“Hmm,” said Santiago. “But I don’t mind.”
Deirdre smiled. “That’s good.”
Santiago turned around, but was careful not to get out of Deirdre’s embrace. Her face was calm, but not cold. It was, however, as determined as always. Wordlessly, Santiago brushed an errant lock of Deirdre’s black hair out of her face, then kissed her. Deirdre soon found herself in Santiago’s embrace as well and both women’s legs started to entwine with a definite purpose.
Tomorrow Lady Deirdre and Colonel Santiago would have to talk about matters of state and in spite of their Pact of Sisterhood would have to make decisions based on what would be best for their own faction.
But for the two women sharing a bed, tomorrow was an infinity away.