The Dohani War
by Martin Kerharo
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 13: Inversion
It was after nightfall, in complete darkness. She made me get out of the car, and then she picked me up and started to carry me. The rain had softened to a mist. I tried to sweet-talk her: “At least untie my legs. I promise not to run away.”
“No, Dexter, this won’t take long. Don’t worry.” She began to run.
She reached the fence and went over it with no trouble. She began to run again until we came near the embarkation area. But that was not where Jane was headed. She zigzagged between buildings and avoided a security patrol, clamping a hand over my mouth to keep me from calling for help. Finally she came to a small commercial ship.
She set me on the ground and put on sunglasses to hide her strange eyes. She took out the dart gun she had borrowed from one of the guards at the research center and picked me up again.
At the base of the spaceship a man and a woman were talking. The hull of the ship was inscribed with its registry number: YR-341.
“Don’t bother calling for help,” she warned me. “There are only two of them. If you try to intervene, I’ll have to drop you and attack them. You’ll fall to the ground and get hurt. It won’t make any difference; I’ll overcome them anyway.”
I knew she was probably right. There were only two of them, and they were civilians who would not know how to fight.
Jane approached the spaceship. “Good evening,” she said to the couple. Her voice synthesizer made her sound neutral and calm.
The man and woman stopped talking and turned toward her. “Good evening,” the woman began; but when she got a better look at Jane, she added, “young lady.” And: “You shouldn’t be here. Who are you?”
Jane came up to them and gently set me on the ground.
“Uh... is there a problem with the gentleman?” the man asked.
Jane straightened up and pointed her dart gun at them. “Please do not move. I know how to use this, and I won’t hesitate to do so.”
They froze. “But what—?” the man began to say.
“Let me explain,” Jane interrrupted. “You’ve heard the news about a manhunt? It’s for a girl of about sixteen, with red eyes.” Jane took off her sunglasses and calmly put them in her pocket.
The couple stared wide-eyed.
“I’m the one they’re looking for. They say I’m extremely dangerous. That is very much an understatement. I’ll just say I can kill you both very easily, even without a weapon.”
The couple were terrified. The neutral tone of the voice synthesizer and Jane’s polite calm made her all the more frightening. She gave the impression she knew what she was doing; she had taken on the role of a cold, pitiless criminal and, despite her appearance as a girl, she sounded credible.
“What... what do you want?” the man asked.
“I’m the one who called to reserve this spaceship. And let me thank you for waiting for me, as I asked. For obvious reasons I have to leave this planet immediately. And your YR-341, the Dragonfly 2, is a remarkable ship, very fast. Just what I need.”
The man and woman were in a state of shock. “But that’s impossible!” the woman protested. “The interceptors will catch you as soon as you take off.”
Jane smiled. The couple were not used to this little expression of Jane’s and shrank back, thinking they were dealing with a psychopath.
“The military ships will not have time to intercept us before we jump to hyperspace; your ship is too fast. They’ll need ten to twelve minutes to take off. Since it’s dinner time, I rather expect they’ll need twelve minutes.”
Jane was in complete control of the situation. She had planned for everything down to the most minute detail. I wondered how long she had been working on this escape plan.
“Okay,” she continued, “now that everything is clear, let’s get serious.” She pointed the dart gun at the man.
He raised his hands and backed away. “Please, I won’t do anything...” he began.
“Sorry, mister Franconi, I don’t need you. Don’t worry, the effects are only temporary.” Jane fired and the man fell.
Jane immediately turned the gun on the woman. Still watching her, she knelt to untie my legs. “Captain Vishvakarma, please help my friend board the ship.”
She even knew the names of the pilot and co-pilot.
The woman did as she was told, fearful of the determined-looking girl. She helped me up and steadied me while I limped up the entryway to the ship.
Inside, the air was filled with an odor of spices, which was unusual for a spaceship. It was a small vessel but well outfitted, and it looked comfortable. The walls of the corridor leading to the bridge were covered with images and photos.
The bridge had two seats, one for the pilot and one for the co-pilot, and four berths for passengers. At Jane’s order, the woman put me in a berth and strapped me in.
Jane took her place in the co-pilot’s seat and the woman, in the pilot’s chair. Jane was still pointing the dart gun at her. “Listen carefully,” she said. “I’ve already piloted spaceships, including a model like this one. You can be sure I can take the controls if I have to. But I prefer that you do the piloting, because you know your vessel. If you try to trick me, I’ll know right away. You have my assurance that once we get to where I want to go, I’ll let you leave with your ship safe and sound.”
The captain nodded.
“Please program the hyperspace computer with these coordinates,” said Jane.
Captain Vishvakarma immediately got to work with the data displayed on Jane’s portable screen. Once the coordinates were entered and confirmed, Jane asked her to take off at once, without contacting Flight Control. The woman activated various systems and the ship began to float on antigravs. She fired up the auxiliary thrusters and gained altitude.
The radio began to call: “YR-341, this is Flight Control. You are engaged in unauthorized maneuvers. Stop immediately and identify yourself.”
Jane cut off the radio. “Continue, Captain,” she ordered.
The main thrusters roared into life and the ship rocketed into the sky.
“Two minutes since departure,” said Jane.
The ship continued to climb. It was really fast. We were already above the clouds. I could hardly believe it. Jane’s plan had worked. She had left the planet’s surface, and unless the aerospace patrol managed to arrest her, our next stop would be a Dohani world. I was dismayed at the idea.
“Eight minutes,” said Jane. “Activate the radar, Captain.”
The woman pressed a button, and the ship’s radar screen appeared. We had just entered the exosphere; all around us extended the darkness of space.
Perspiration was gleaming on Vishvakarma’s forehead. She did not want to be shot down by army interceptors, and she had the thrusters on full. Minutes passed.
“Oh, there they are,” said Jane. “Fifteen minutes. They really took their time.”
Three points had appeared on the radar. They were climbing faster than our ship, but we had such a long head start that they had no chance of catching us. If I ever came back here someday I would pay a visit to the head of the Kaluna aerospace patrol and give him a piece of my mind.
The ship continued to plunge into the night.
“Are we far enough out to jump to hyperspace, Captain?” asked Jane.
“Uh... yes, miss,” the woman answered.
“Then let’s do it. Let’s not let the interceptors waste their time in a futile pursuit.”
Vishvakarma gave the commands to the jump generator. I felt my stomach quease. The stars around us disappeared and the radar screen ceased to display the points representing the interceptors. We were in hyperspace.
Jane had won. She had escaped.
* * *
Jane finally released me. “Please, Dexter, don’t try anything foolish,” she warned me. “Frankly you have no chance of thwarting my plans. Believe me, I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I’m forced to. Can you promise me that?” Her red eyes were imploring me.
I crossed my arms and looked at her sternly. “No, Jane, I can’t promise that. I’m here against my will. If I see a chance, I will escape. It’s as simple as that.”
Jane kept looking at me briefly and then looked away. I rubbed my arms and legs; I had been tied up for hours and I was numb all over.
I doubted I would have the slightest chance to escape. I saw nothing I could use as a weapon. As for Vishvakarma, she was terrified and would certainly not want to help me. Even with her help I saw no way I could neutralize Jane barehanded. Maybe by swiping the dart gun while she slept. That was the only possibility I had left.
I could not stand the idea of being kidnapped without ever having a word to say about it. Jane was indeed treating me as if I were her property.
Jane returned to the co-pilot’s chair and sat down. She began talking to the woman sitting next to her. “I am sorry I was so short with you a while ago. I’ll explain why I’m doing this.” She paused.
“I am part Dohani and part human. It is hard to believe, but my eyes must lead you to believe it’s true. I know you must have been told that we Dohani are monsters, but the Dohani think exactly the same thing about humans. As far as that goes, we’re even.”
The woman listened incredulously.
Jane continued: “Lieutenant Zimski, here, captured me six weeks ago. The human military imprisoned me in a research center, to study me. I’ve managed to escape, and now I’m going home.”
The captain turned pale. “You mean... we’re going to a Dohani planet?”
“Don’t worry. First, we’ll put you off at a human space station.”
“But... my ship?”
Jane frowned. “I need it. But I will make it up to you. I will find a way, don’t worry.”
I was astonished at Jane’s proposal. Was she a wealthy Dohani? And yet she was a soldier in their army. Maybe it was a matter of taste. Or was it her importance to the Dohani that gave her so much authority? After all, they had already sacrificed four cruisers, trying to retrieve her.
“And him?” the woman asked, pointing to me. “Is he a hostage?”
“Not at all. He’s my... boyfriend, let’s say. It was entirely out of the question for me to go home without him.”
“Your boyfriend?” asked Vishvakarma, incredulously. She slumped back in her chair, trying to find something to understand in this truly bewildering story.
Jane turned to me with her serene look. I turned away. It was out of the question for me to show reconciliation.
* * *
The ship was no cutter; it took two days to reach our destination. Jane did not close her eyes; she gave me no chance to take her dart gun. I knew she could go several days without sleep; she had probably decided to take no chances.
She remained seated in the co-pilot’s chair. From time to time she would chat with Vishvakarma, who had relaxed somewhat after hearing Jane’s story.
Two days in transit in hyperspace... We had not yet reached Dohani space, just the frontier, at most. Had she planned her escape so far in advance that she expected to meet a Dohani vessel? But how could she have contacted the Dohani since leaving Aubria-3? That did not seem to make any sense. On the other hand, she had already done the impossible several times. I would not have been surprised to see a Dohani cruiser calmly waiting for us when we came out of hyperspace.
The hyperspace generator sounded an alert. We had arrived.
“Captain,” said Jane, “you can now rejoin your own kind. Take one of the escape pods. I’ll eject you near the station. They’ll have no trouble picking you up.”
Captain Vishvakarma rose from the pilot’s seat and left the bridge, heading for one of the nacelles. The nightmare was almost over... for her.
We emerged from hyperspace. Before us was a space station I knew well. The radio began to crackle: “This is station S-804 calling vessel YR-341. You are in a military zone off limits to civilians. Cut your thrusters immediately; interceptors are on the way. If you try to run, you will only make matters worse. We are authorized to open fire.”
Jane switched the radio to transmission mode: “This is Jane Doe aboard the YR-341. I am informing you that I am about to launch an escape pod with one person aboard, the owner of this ship. I am asking you to rescue her. Can you put Doctor Doyle on the line; it’s quite urgent.”
The was an exclamation of surprise on the radio. Our ship was approaching the station very rapidly. Jane had planned to pass by and release the escape pod without stopping; that would not give the interceptors enough time to launch and catch us.
“This is Eliza. Jane, is that really you? You can talk now?”
“Yes, I’ve learned human language, and I’ve been given a device so I can speak.”
“I can hardly believe it, but I’m glad you’re well. Did you get rid of Dexter?”
Jane threw me a glance. “No, I’ve kidnapped him. I’m going home, and I’m taking him to visit my homeworld.”
Eliza hesitated for a moment before answering. “Can I talk to Dexter?”
“He’s right here. You can talk to him.”
Our ship came within optimum range of the station and Jane pressed the button to launch the escape pod. There was a noise of screeching metal.
“Dexter, can you hear me? How are you? Did she really manage to kidnap you?”
I sighed. “Hello, Eliza. Yes, she put one over on me. I’m okay, but things could be better. I hadn’t planned to visit a Dohani prison on my next shore leave.”
Jane growled. “No, no,” she said, “you won’t be in prison. You’ll be free to move around and go where you want. I’ll take you home with me. We’ll be very comfortable there, you’ll see.”
Eliza gasped and then continued: “Sorry, Lieutenant, it must not be much fun for you.”
Jane fired the thrusters and the ship once again bounded forward. “Eliza,” she interrupted, “We have to go. I have to accelerate to outrun your interceptors. Thank you for saving Dexter’s life. I’ll miss you.”
“Oh well,” said Eliza, “I’ll miss you, too, Jane. Both of you. Goodbye.”