The Dohani War
by Martin Kerharo
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 18: Understanding
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 shows how formidable the Dohani can be. In a desperate, well-planned escape she kidnaps Dexter, borrows a spaceship and heads for home. Now the end game begins: humans and Dohani have to learn just how complex and alien each race really is. Jane and Dexter have a grander role: they will have to show that Dohani and humans need each other.
Do you remember me|
Lost for so long
Will you be on the other side
Or will you forget me
— Evanescence, Tourniquet
I continued telling stories, and a few more children came to listen every day. I was certainly no gifted orator, but they must have found me fascinating and exotic. One day I was telling them a story about pirates...
“Captain Calico Jack was a ruthless pirate. His crew included Mary Reading and Anne Bonny, the two most famous women pirates. Together they terrorized the ships sailing the Caribbean.”
The children loved stories full of violence and colorful characters.
Jane interrupted. “A pirate? Like the pirates that started the war between humans and the Dohani?”
“Yes,” I answered, “but I’m talking about pirates on ships, on the ocean. At a certain time on Earth, pirates were numerous, because a lot of merchandise was being transported by sea. It was relatively easy for a pirate to get rich by attacking those ships.”
I continued. “That’s when the governor of the Bahamas decided to put an end to the pirate’s career. He sent a heavily armed vessel to pursue him.”
Jane’s eyes were wide. When I saw that, I paused in telling my story.
“The governor of the Bahamas?” she asked. “He was a political official? Is that right?”
“Yes,” I answered, “that’s exactly what he was.” I wondered why the subject interested her, but I continued. “Anyway, Calico Jack’s ship was sailing off the coast of—”
“Wait, Dexter.” Jane interrupted again. “Why did this governor want to arrest the pirate?”
I was having déjà vu. This was the driver’s license episode all over again. “Because he was a pirate,” I answered. I waited for the next question, and it was quick in coming.
“So what?” Jane asked. “Why did the governor want to arrest him? Calico Jack had the right to be a pirate, if he wanted to, didn’t he?”
She really had a talent for sowing confusion in my mind. “Yes and no. Calico Jack had decided to be a pirate, of course, but that did not mean he had the right to attack ships.”
I felt she still did not understand, and I elaborated on my explanation. “The governor’s purpose was to protect the population. The pirate was dangerous. That’s why the governor decided to send a warship to eliminate him.”
Jane stood up slowly, as though defeated. “To eliminate the pirate?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s what I said. The pirate was very bad, and he had to be eliminated. When there are criminals in a society, the police hunt them down and put them in prison. Society must be protected. That’s normal.”
I suddenly noticed that all the adult Dohanis had gathered around me and were looking at me intently. What was going on? What had I said that was out of the ordinary? I was baffled.
“The police,” Jane asked, “is a kind of army. Is that right?”
“Yes,” I answered, “you can look at it that way. They’re armed and trained to fight criminals, who are people who don’t obey the law. They’re somewhat like an army, but an army fights enemies in a war, while the police fights criminals. Don’t you have a police force?”
“No. It would be pointless. There are no criminals among the Dohani.”
“Really? Everybody follows the law?”
“There are no laws either. We function by consensus.”
I was having a hard time imagining how the Dohani were organized. Their society sounded a little too perfect and utopian. Did they have no deviants, no marginalized people to challenge their system?
The Dohanis did not speak. They let Jane talk to me, thinking it was most efficient.
“So,” said Jane, “these criminals might be pirates, for example? If a pirate spaceship attacked a human vessel, would the police pursue it?”
“Of course,” I said.
“And if a Dohani vessel were attacked by pirates?”
“Well, right now we’re at war. Humans don’t give a damn what happens to the Dohani. They can be attacked by pirates, fall into a black hole or paint their spaceships pink with green polka dots.”
“And before the war?” she asked, “if a pirate ship attacked a Dohani ship, would your police have pursued it?”
“Like the ones that attacked the Dohani stations? Yes, of course, especially because they were doing something extremely dangerous. Provoking an alien race that does not seem warlike goes beyond stupidity. And now we know why.”
Suddenly Jane smiled. “Dexter, I want to be sure I understand. If humans had seen what the pirates did to the Dohanis, would they have hunted them and put them in prison?”
“Yes, Jane, that’s exactly right. But what difference does it make?”
“It changes everything! The war is over.”
Hunh? I thought.
“The war is over because I’ve been telling the children a story about pirates?”
Maybe the Dohani were crazier than humans, after all.
“Of course it is,” Jane exclaimed, “because you eliminate the threats that you, yourselves, generate. You’re self-regulating. We didn’t know that.”
I did not understand a thing. “Jane, you’ll have to explain this to me; I don’t get it.”
“No time,” she interrupted. “We have work to do. We’ll take my slider and go talk to the Council of Sages.” She grabbed my hand and dragged me off to her slider without giving me a moment to react.
* * *
Jane flew like a bat out of hell. I tried not to look at the scenery, it made me seasick. When I asked her to slow down, she said, “We’re in a hurry, Dexter. We have a war to stop.”
After that, I kept quiet.
* * *
The Council of Sages met in under a big white dome in a city about a thousand kilometers from the one we lived in. The trip took less than two hours; Jane had pushed her slider to the limit.
Once we were inside the dome, she took me to a rotunda room, where there were a dozen Dohanis wearing white belts. There was no security: if this was the planetary government, it was unprotected; people could go and come as they wished.
Jane conversed for a moment with the Council, by means of her implant. Then they turned to me. Each Dohani had a voice synthesizer unit, to be able to talk to me.
“Human Dexter Zimski, Little White Kitten has explained to us your discussion of pirates. Can you confirm that humans would have pursued the human pirates that destroyed our bases ten years ago, if they had seen them do it?”
“Yes,” I answered, “that’s right. If you search the databases of human libraries, you’ll find many cases of piracy. Pirates are almost always caught and put in prison. On some planets, they’re executed.”
“Do you mean you go so far as to kill pirates?” the Dohani asked.
“It depends on local law. On most human worlds, pirates are condemned to life imprisonment, but a few worlds impose the death penalty. Piracy is a serious offense.”
The Dohanis conversed silently among themselves. Jane stood smiling next to me. I thought they would be at it for hours and would ask me a lot of questions, but a few minutes later they told me their decision.
“We trust you, human,” the Dohani said. “If you agree, we will send you and Little White Kitten on a ship to offer peace with humans.”
I could not believe it. “But why?”
“We thought humans were crazy,” he answered. “That is, some of them decided to commit insane acts such as attacking another intelligent race, and the other humans considered it normal.
“This is the first time we have met an intelligent race that is not organized as a hive. In a hive, the actions of the various members of the society are coordinated, including those of the queens, who cooperate with each other to ensure the future of the race.
“But each human is independent. We thought you could all do as you pleased without any reaction from the others. But that is not the case. You act as a hive to protect your race and will even eliminate elements dangerous to other races. That means you are not a danger to the galaxy.”
* * *
A shuttle took us to orbit. A spaceship would take us to the frontier, where we would be able to contact humans.
“All Dohani warships are heading for the frontier,” Jane said. “That means all human bases and planets on the border will be in a position of weakness. Our purpose is to put an end to the fighting. The humans will see they are faced with such overwhelming force that they won’t be able to defend themselves. And now that we can communicate and offer peace, they’ll have to take the time to listen to us.”
We were approaching the spaceship. It was the enormous battleship that had blocked our way when we arrived in the system. Its mission was to protect the planet, but it was going to the frontier along with all the other Dohani vessels to force humans to negotiate.
* * *