The Dohani War
by Martin Kerharo
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 13: Inversion
Some centuries in the future, humanity is locked in an interstellar war with the Dohani, a technologically advanced species of fearsome, reptilian-like appearance. The war has ground to a stalemate that cannot be resolved as long as humans and the Dohani and have no way to communicate.
Lieutenant Dexter Zimski leads a commando squad in a raid on a Dohani base and returns with a bizarre captive, one who looks for all the world like a 16-year old human girl. She is given the name “Jane.” As a prisoner of war, she and Dexter, to whom she is strangely attached, are taken to a research center, where Jane learns a human language — and much more.
Jane learns from Sun-Tzu’s Art of War what her captors forget: “Never underestimate your adversary.” Another rule knows no boundaries: It is a prisoner’s duty to try to escape if at all possible. And far from the front lines, deep in human space, security becomes complacent...
Lost hours and secrets too|
No one will find but you,
Falling is like brand-new rain,
Places I have never been,
I thought these things would come to me.
Love is another country, and I want to go,
I want to go too, I want to go with you.
— Tifft Merritt, Another Country
We were allowed to go out of the house provided Jane was handcuffed. She did not like that very much; she would have stayed indoors all the time, but I needed to see the sun. Every other day we went to the airlock and I put the handcuffs on her wrists and the shackles on her ankles. When she was finally outside, I picked her up in my arms.
It had been a month since we had arrived at the research center, and it was full summer on Aubria-3. It was still raining a lot, and the heat had become stifling. Even so, I enjoyed breathing in the air of freedom. In a way, I was a prisoner too.
That day, I had Jane sit down on a bench, and I sat beside her. She closed her eyes and let the rain trickle down her face. She snuggled up to me.
Suddenly I felt a pain. Something had stung my thigh. “Ouch!”
“What happened?” Jane asked.
“An insect, probably. But it hurts like hell.” I rubbed my leg where I had been stung and I felt my thigh grow numb. “The damn thing must have injected venom. I’d better have a doctor look at it.”
Something was wrong. I really felt bad. I felt dizzy. I tried to get up but found I could not move. Jane called the three guards who were watching us nearby.
“What’s wrong, Lieutenant?” one of them asked.
“I’m paralyzed. An insect bit me,” I said, painfully. I felt myself growing faint; I was going to pass out.
“We’ll take you indoors, Lieutenant.” Two of them put their arms under my shoulders and lifted me.
Jane immediately sprang to attack. I heard a clang and Jane’s shackles were on the ground. She had thrown them off and was looking at the guards with a wolf-like smile.
Taken by surprise, they did not react fast enough. Anyway, Jane was now free to move, and the three of them did not stand a chance. She knocked out the first guard with a single punch. She whirled and kicked in the chest the one on my right. He was thrown onto his back, two meters away. The guard on my left let me go and tried to unholster his dart gun, but Jane rushed upon him, easily snatched his weapon and shot him with a dart.
It was fascinating to watch her in action, even if I could see nothing good in the outcome. She shot more darts at each of the other two guards and then put the weapon under her belt.
I was lying on the ground, completely unable to move.
Jane came over to me. “Sorry, Dexter. I had no choice.”
I thought she was going to run away and leave me lying there, but she bent over me and began to rummage in one of my pockets. She took out a little black tube: a listening device. I had been carrying it for weeks without knowing it. She threw it far away and then picked me up effortlessly. She ran toward the fence.
She threw me over her shoulder and climbed the fence with one hand. There was barbed wire at the top, but she ignored it as if it were not even there. She went over the top and climbed down the other side. Her hand was bleeding.
She jumped to the ground, lifted me from her shoulder and began carrying me in her arms. She started running. I lost consciousness.
* * *
We were in the living room of someone’s home. I was lying on a couch. I heard Jane speaking.
“Yes, hello. Excuse my voice, it is strange. I am mute and use a voice synthesizer... No, don’t bother, thanks.”
I tried to get up and found I was bound hand and foot.
Jane was on the other side of the room, standing in front of a small table. “I want to charter the YR-341. I saw on your website that it’s very fast. We need room for two people... Yes, it is very urgent. Can you tell me if it’s possible? Yes, I’ll wait.” She was talking on the telephone. “Oh, perfect. That will do just fine. And the price?”
I was shocked to realize that Jane was buying tickets for a space flight.
“No, no problem.” A pause. “No, I don’t know exactly, but I’m ready with the financing... Yes, certainly. Here’s my credit card number.” And she dictated the number of a bank card.
Where had she learned how to do all that?
“Okay. Thank you very much. Goodbye.” She disconnected and came over to me. I noticed she had bandaged her wounded hand. “Hello, Dexter. How do you feel?”
“Not very well,” I answered. “What did you do to me?”
She took something out of her pants pocket and showed it to me. It was a dart-gun cartridge. “I stole it from Charts one day, when we were working out.” She knelt beside me.
“And the handcuffs and shackles?” I asked. “How did you get out of them?”
She shook her head. “My secret. I’ll tell you someday, but not now.”
“Can you untie me, please?”
“No, I can’t. I mustn’t take any chances.”
“But you’re a lot stronger than I am. And I can’t run away anyhow.”
She smiled wryly. “Never underestimate your opponent. Haven’t you ever read Sun-Tzu’s Art of War? A fascinating book. I found it on the Net. Humans have made the mistake of underestimating me. No way I’m going to do the same.”
Okay, she had assimilated our military literature. And a lot of other things. I realized she had been very busy this past month. While the scientists were learning about Jane, she was learning much more about humans.
“Jane, do you really hope you can escape aboard a spaceship? How are you going to get past security?”
She smiled again. “You don’t need to know that right now. Never underestimate your opponent. Remember?”
I sighed. “So I’m your enemy?”
“You’re a human above all, Dexter. It would be stupid of me to think you’d follow me of your own free will.” She was inflexible.
“In that case, leave me here. I’ll just slow you down. That’s the only way, if you want to escape.”
She hung her head. “I can’t do that either, Dexter. You belong to me. Anyway, I have to watch over you.”
I had not exactly expected that answer. “Watch over me? Even though you’re putting us both in danger?”
Jane sighed. “I can’t remain a prisoner indefinitely. That would serve no purpose. Now stop talking. I have something to do.”
She unplugged a lamp and put it on a big table in the middle of the room. She tore out the electric cable and pushed the lamp aside. She took her portable viewscreen from around her neck and took it apart, working with quick, precise movements. She connected the wire to the interior of the screen and put it back together. Fifty centimeters of wire were left hanging out.
She sat on a chair and put her head on the table, her face to one side. She moved her hair from her neck and the access panel to her implant opened. She brought the wire to her implant, concentrating, her brow furrowed. It was not easy, because she could not see what she was doing. The wires connected with a beep, and the panel closed. Jane got up and put the portable screen back at her neck.
“Can you say something, Dexter?”
“Please untie me, Jane.”
“Perfect. It’s working. I don’t need to look at the screen anymore. It’s sending information directly to my implant.”
She came and knelt beside me again. “I’m really sorry, but...” She did not finish, she just looked at me for a long moment, a glimmer of sadness in her red eyes. “We have to go,” she said.
She picked me up in her arms and took me to a garage connected to the house. In it was a vehicle, and she already had the key. She must have found it in the house. She put me in the passenger’s seat and took the wheel.
It was an all-terrain vehicle, like all others on Aubria-3. The constant rain often made the roads impassable. She started the motor and the car bounded forward. She had some trouble driving at first; the vehicle must not have been like the ones she was used to, and the design must have been very different from Dohani models. But she soon acquired the necessary reflexes.
I tried to think of ways to escape while the car moved smoothly through traffic. I did not even know what town we were in. Since I knew I was being kept in the research center, I had not learned anything about the local geography. Jane, on the contrary, seemed to be quite familiar with the topography of the region.
She drove out of town and we took a country road for a few minutes. There were a lot of forests; Aubria-3’s climate was very favorable to vegetation. Suddenly, Jane turned left down a forest road. “There was a roadblock a few hundred meters up ahead.”
Damn. She could even spot roadblocks at a distance.
The road was bad. The car got stuck almost immediately. Jane got out and pushed the car, straining against the rear bumper. We would have been stuck for good without her superhuman strength.
She got back into the car, her pants legs covered with mud. We set out again.
“Jane,” I said, “I’ll be unhappy if I’m not among humans anymore, if I’m a prisoner of the Dohani.”
She continued to look straight ahead, concentrating as she drove. “And do you think I was happy to be your prisoner? If we’re to be together, one of us has to be a prisoner. I’d rather it be you. At least the Dohani are civilized.”
“Civilized? And you’ve never tried to negotiate with us? One pirate attack and pow, it’s war. Isn’t that a bit over the top?”
Jane’s expression became cold at the mention of pirates. “Humans are crazy. It’s impossible to negotiate with you. You’re killers. You’re a danger to all intelligent species.”
I rolled my eyes upwards. “Who do you think you are? The guardians of the galaxy?”
“Of course!” Jane exclaimed and looked at me. “It’s the duty of every evolved race to make sure the galaxy is safe and fit for life. It’s up to us to halt the human peril.”
I thought about that answer. I could not escape by arguing. Nonetheless, I could hardly believe she would succeed in carrying out her plan; all the authorities on the planet must be looking for her.
The car suddenly slid to the right. Jane compensated and braked. The rear fishtailed and we stopped crosswise on the road. Jane tried to restart the car, but we were stuck again.
She got out and began pushing the car, to get it loose. When she climbed back in, she had mud all over her. She started the car again.
We finally emerged from the forest. Jane had found her way back to the main road. We drove for two hours. Then she parked the car in another forest road and went to look for something in the trunk.
“You must be hungry,” she said and offered me a sandwich. She took one for herself, too. “It’s human food.”
“But... can you choke that down now?” I asked. “I thought it was inedible for you.”
She made a look of disgust. “Almost inedible. But I’ve trained myself to eat your food. I can’t allow myself to weaken now.”
I thought if our roles were reversed, I surely could not have eaten Dohani food. Unless I were starving...
After our repast we set out again. An hour later we arrived at the spaceport.
* * *
She parked the car in a street near the runways. She took some spare clothing out of the trunk. She had even planned for that. And then she got back into the car. “We’ll wait for night,” she said.
Once again I tried to talk her into letting me go. I had no great hopes it would work, and Jane was not one to be easily persuaded.
* * *