10th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Mysteries and Discoveries
Introduction: Jenna remembers what happened after Star One. Reya and Cally face the women of Chandar. The boyz prepare to help.
Author's Note: Much thanks tojaxomsride for inspirations for the last scene.
Author's Note 2: After discussions withjaxomsride there have been some major changes for the interaction with the new Kirsten character. As always, new changes marked in blue.
[This scene occurs towards the tail end of the war that beat the alien invasion fleet, shortly after Star One was destroyed. Jenna is on the planet Morphenniel, several days after Jenna and Blake left the Liberator.]
Jenna looked out the window at the darkening sky. The clouds were moving in again, as it always seemed to at this time of the afternoon on this miserable planet. Soon it would pour. Not that she cared one way or the other. She rubbed the healing cast on her left forearm. It was starting to itch.
Why, Blake? Why did you leave me on the hospital ship? I wanted to come with you. You knew that. That's why I left the Liberator with you.
Her life capsule had suffered a malfunction but she and Blake had been fortunate enough to be rescued by a hospital ship that was picking up survivors. Or so she had been told when she finally regained consciousness. When she woke, they had given a message to her from Blake. He had apologized for leaving but he needed time to think. He had asked that she not go after him. Not that she could have. Blake had left no indication of where he was going and from the message, it didn't seem like he was planning to come back.
Did she mean so little to him that he would dump her the first chance that he could get?
No matter what, she was worried about him. He was barely healed from the shot he'd received from Travis. Blake wasn't thinking clearly anymore. He hadn't in a long time. He had scared her sometimes in those long months they had searched for clues to Star One, from Albian to Del Ten to finally Goth. His refusal to give up under any condition had taken on an obsessiveness that driven them to the point of exhaustion.
He never talked about it to any of them but Jenna knew that Gan's death ate away at him. Gan had died for nothing and it had all been his fault. Blake could not live with himself for that. He had to make his death mean something no matter what it took.
It was like a fever that burned him up, making him unable to rest. The comfort she had tried to provide, he had spurned. She didn't know if he was rejecting her or if his obsessions left him nothing else to give her. But she would not give up on him.
A memory came to her. The day when they had finally found Star One and Blake, Cally and Avon were preparing to go down to end it, once and for all. She had been worried.
"Watch yourselves, Blake's rushing things. I get the feeling he's not giving himself time to think."
"Blake is an idealist, Jenna. He cannot afford to think."
Avon had surprised her during those months of searching, enough that she trusted him to watch Blake's back. He actually cared about the man, more than she had thought. Oh, she had no question that there was a great deal of hatred there too, but Avon would never let Blake die. That was something she had discovered when Blake went to rescue his uncle and cousin from Travis's trap. Jenna grimaced. She preferred not to think about that incident and Blake's interest in Inga.
Jenna still felt sick to her stomach to realize how close Blake had come to destroying all of humanity in his obsession.
What were you thinking Blake? Why did you ignore Avon's repeated warnings about the minefield and Andromeda? Why did you still insist on having the bombs planted even after you found out the alien threat was real?
So close. A few minutes more and the entire minefield would have been destroyed and all of her own efforts to contact Servalan would have amounted to nothing.
Blake. Her heart feared for him. In many ways, he was as closed as Avon was. He never shared anything that was going on inside of him. Only his obsession.
In the end, his eyes had been opened and he had done the right thing. When the fate of humanity hung on the balance, Blake had convinced Avon to attempt the impossible. Something that Avon would normally dismiss as insane; to sacrifice all of their lives in a desperate attempt to buy humanity what few hours they could before more help arrived.
She thought Blake had finally woken up to what his obsession had been doing to him. To how it had narrowed his view until he could no longer see anything around him. But then, towards the end of the alien war, he had refused to leave the ship even though the life support was about to fail. She realized then that he had only traded one obsession for another.
He had almost seemed to want to fight to his very last breath, and theirs. If it hadn't been for Avon finally standing up to Blake and refusing to follow his orders anymore, they'd all be dead.
Now he's out there somewhere. Alone. And he needs my help.
She whispered an anguished, "Blake. Where are you?"
"I'm here, Jenna." Blake's warm, soothing voice answered from behind her.
Jenna whirled around, her eyes opened wide in astonishment, scarcely able to believe that he was real. She hugged him fiercely, as if to prove to herself that he wasn't an apparition of her mind.
Blake's arms enveloped her in a warm embrace. "I'm sorry I left. You didn't deserve that."
In a voice muffled against his shoulder, Jenna replied, "It doesn't matter. You came back."
"I came back…to ask you to come with me."
Jenna lifted her head and looked at him. There was a haunted look in Blake's eyes. It had always been there, just beneath the surface, but now it was very visible. "I will always be with you. If you want me to be."
"I don't know where I'm going anymore, Jenna, but I know I want you with me. You were the one person I could always trust to watch my back. You…"
In his eyes, Jenna saw for the first time that he needed her. Not in the way he always seemed to need Avon. Or even Cally. She could provide something that the others never could. It was what she had been waiting for since that day in the computer room of the London when she had set her hopes on a man who could still dream.
Blake bent his head towards her. Jenna could hardly believe that this was happening as their lips touched and they kissed each other with the passion that Blake had always denied to himself.
Jenna started awake with the memory of Blake's lips on hers. For a moment, she was so disoriented that she almost felt for Blake's body next to her. Jenna's fingers touched her lips. The memory had been so vivid that she could almost swear that he had just been there.
She missed him. He had become her whole life after that day; a broken man who had needed her, the obsessed man who could never let go and the man who refused to surrender.
Blake. I should never have left you. I should have been there to stop Avon on Gauda Prime. Jenna's jaw tightened in anger and the guilt churned inside, giving her no peace.
I have to destroy Avon for you, Blake. And I will make your dream a reality.
The largest cargo hold of the ship was now full of women. The one hundred selected plus Reya and her team. The three groups of women were scattered amongst each other. They all stood nervously, most were uncertain of what was going to happen to them. Others were afraid. There were scattered conversations, some angry voices and the occasional sounds of crying. They all eyed Reya and Cally, who were standing on a raised podium, with nervousness. Marlena, Corinne and the female members of the Tellaran group were walking among the women, trying to calm their fears and engaging them in conversation.
Reya surveyed the gathered women with resolve and her own nervousness. In some ways, she identified with these women. Her own experiences with her father had acquainted her with the feeling of being viewed of as something less than human. As a lone female trying to survive and excel in the decidedly masculine culture of the military life she had chosen, she had some inkling of what it was like for some of these women. But she knew that it was still a far cry from the oppression that these women had faced. She hoped that she would be able to reach them. Reya relied heavily on Cally’s psi perceptions. She knew that the Auron woman had far greater sensitivity than she did to how these women must be feeling.
She turned to Cally who was beside her. "How are they?"
Cally said, "They're apprehensive. Quite a few are afraid." As she opened up her psi senses to the people in the room, Cally found she had very little in common with these women. Auron was an equitable society where women were treated equally and there were no prejudices. It was hard to have those kinds of narrow views of people, based on such inadequate things as physical attributes or accidents of genetics, when you could sense them on such a deep level and knew that you were all connected and the same. But because she could sense feelings in others, she did empathize with them and in that way, understand them. It was why she had decided to fight the Federation in the first place. The pain and oppression inflicted on others was something that touched her deeply.
Reya asked, "Nothing too extreme?"
"Can you and Marlena take those ones aside?"
"Yes. I was about to suggest that."
"Alright. It's time to calm a few nerves."
"I'll keep watch."
Reya took a step forward and held up her hands for silence. There were a few anxious whispers and then all was quiet. Reya could tell from the looks on their faces that they knew who she was. She hoped that was a good thing amongst these women.
"Greetings." The way some of them were staring at her, Reya almost felt like an alien that had come down to their planet. "My name is Reya Reeve. Some of you may know me by my title, Champion Reya Reeve."
There were whispered echoes of her name amongst the crowd.
"I am from a planet several sectors away."
Cally projected quickly, * There is a response. You had better explain that. *
"I am not an alien. I am a human female, just like you."
A dark and curly haired woman shouted, "You're not like us. You're abnormal."
There were scattered murmurs of agreement.
A slightly shorter woman beside her in a green dress said, "You're wrong. She is just like us. I used to be like her too. Well, not as good of course, and I was a free trader. I was taken three years ago when my ship crash-landed. I was caught in one of your wars and was shot down. It's been the worst three years of my life. I thank the stars that you came to rescue me."
Reya said, "What's your name?"
"Karita Dunn. I'm from the Rygel grid in Sector Six. When I saw you beating those…"
Reya nodded, "Thank you, Karita. We are glad to be of help."
"Yeah, well. Just let me know what you need from me so I can get out of here."
Reya said, "We will. We will need all of your help."
The dark, curly haired woman said, "Why should we help you?"
A soft-spoken green eyed-woman wearing a dark green dress said, “They’re trying to help us.” The woman was nervous but seemed to have decided that she needed to say something.
Reya said, “She’s right, we are only here to help you.”
Cally watched in fascination. Reya seemed to carry an air of authority that she had never noticed before. Normally this woman was a cold, competent professional; someone you did not want to cross. A person who kept in the background and made sure things went smoothly. Now she realized that Reya also possessed the natural leadership ability that Argus did, except that she kept hers veiled until she needed it. Argus exuded his authority by his very presence. Reya was consciously having that affect now.
The antagonistic woman said, “We don’t need your kind of help. We’re doing just fine. We don’t need any foreign ideas from abnormal women.”
Reya was not affected by the antagonism of the woman. She said calmly and reasonably, “I understand that not all of you want change. Change of any kind is a scary thing, but I want you to make an informed decision. I don’t want you to go back to Chandar and your old way of life because it is the only way that you know. My way may be strange to many of you, but yours seems abnormal to me. We have different backgrounds and perspectives. All of you know that there is an entire universe out there beyond Chandar. Most places are not like this. Women have much more opportunities than they have here. Would you say that the entire universe is abnormal and only on Chandar are they normal? Or is it that every culture has different customs and Chandar is just one? I know that some of you…” She inclined her head towards the soft-spoken green-eyed woman. “…do want something more and I hazard to guess, have always wished there were more.”
The soft-spoken, green-eyed woman seemed hesitant at the attention that Reya was directing towards her but Cally sensed that there was an inner strength to this woman that she tried to hide.
The woman wasn’t used to expressing these kinds of ideas to others. It made her feel vulnerable and there was fear but she said haltingly, “I…” She looked around to her fellow Chandaran women and then to Reya who stood tall and who radiated intelligence and strength. “…I have always wished that there were more for women. Seeing you…it showed me that there could be more.”
Reya said encouragingly, “There is much more.”
The dark, curly haired woman said, "You must be one of those foreigners too. Abnormal women."
The green eyed-women's eyes were calm. "No. I am one of you. I am a Chandaran woman."
Reya asked, “What is your name?”
The woman hesitated. There was tension and nervousness on her face. “I…” She looked nervously around her again. “I want to know what’s going to happen to us.”
Some of the other women voiced their concerns as well.
Reya nodded, “You’re right. You should know what’s going to happen if you decide to stay. We have prepared some materials for you to see. That way you will understand how we have gotten to this point. And then I will discuss where we go from here. Most of you seem to know that I was made a Champion of Chandar. How many of you saw the challenges?”
Only a handful of women raised their hands.
Cally projected, * That’s not surprising. The men would not have wanted them to see a woman beating a man. *
Reya asked, “How many of you are aware of what happened in the main hall when the alien plot was revealed?”
The green-eyed woman said, “I saw what happened on the vid-broadcast.” It was something that she had been thinking about a lot lately. Cally could sense apprehension and a twinge of fear in the woman. “My…father didn’t like what happened. He was mad that I saw it. I had … to promise…that I would not be like you.”
At the impressions she was getting from the woman, Cally said sharply, * He must have punished her to make sure that she would not consider it. *
That made Reya angry but she kept her composure and control. “I’m sorry…”
The woman said, “It’s alright. It’s not your fault.” She looked up at Reya. “You help people.”
Reya said warmly, “Yes, we do. That is why we’re here. We want to help you.”
“After this is all over.” The woman paused. There was a hopeful plea in her eyes. “Can you…take me away from here? I want a chance.”
Reya was taken aback by this request. None of them had considered or discussed what would happen to these women after the challenges were complete. They had only intended to help change Chandar society. But Karita, the female trader and those who were prisoners or had been kidnapped, would most likely want to leave. And women like this one, might seek sanctuary. What would they do with all these women? And how would they avoid conflict with the Chandarans? She knew that conflict would be inevitable if they did not return the women but as she looked at the sea of anxious faces, she knew she could not deny their desires for freedom.
She turned to Cally and whispered, “Can you ask Marlena if the Tellarans can do something?” Cally nodded and closed her eyes. It was not as easy trying to project to someone she was not familiar with. It took much more energy and concentration.
Reya made her decision. “We will not return you to Chandar. We will protect anyone who wishes to seek asylum and not go back to Chandar. And for those who are prisoners, you will be free to return to your own lives. We will have discussions with the Chandarans to come to an equitable arrangement. No matter what happens, I promise you that you will not be returned if you do not wish to go.”
The green-eyed woman said with cautious relief, “Thank you, Champion Reya. My…name is Kirsten Jernis.”
Reya kept the surprise from showing on her face but she put one arm behind her and made a small hand signal.
Cally projected, * Yes, Jernis. It could be a coincidence. *
Reya moved her fingers slightly.
* Yes, we need to find out if she is connected to the Senator. *
As she did this, Reya said, “You are welcome, Kirsten Jernis.”
For the next little while, Reya had arranged to show highlights of her challenges and of the events that occurred in the main Presidential hall on Chandar, the day she revealed the presence of the aliens and was nearly killed.
Just outside the closed cargo hold, as Reya tried to convince the women to help themselves, Argus, Vila and Sester were arranging trays of food and drinks on carts. Argus kept tugging at the collar of his pale blue shirt. It was closed all the way up, at everyone's insistence. For some reason, they all felt that some of his physical attributes might be distracting or intimidating to the women.
Sester eyed him and asked, "Why are you walking like that?"
Argus snarled with irritation, "Walking like what?"
Vila said, "I wasn't going to say anything but…"
Argus directed annoyed eyes at him. "But you're going to."
Vila grinned. "Well…it's hard to describe it. You look like, you're crippled."
Argus looked down at his feet. They looked strange to him. Instead of his normal military-type boots, he was wearing something Reya had described as loafers. "It's these shoes."
Sester had his ear to the door and was listening to what was going on inside. He said, "If they don't fit, there's still enough time to go change them."
Argus said with a disgruntled sigh, "It's not that. They fit. They just don't…fit me."
Sester chuckled. "Can't help you there, Jack."
"Stop calling me that!" Argus growled.
Vila's forehead was crinkled in thought. "It's not just that. You're…walking funny."
Argus asked with frustration, "What's wrong with the way I walk? I was just following Reya's instructions."
Sester's eyebrows rose in exaggeration and he asked, "She asked you to walk like a duck?"
Trying not to look as embarrassed and uncomfortable as he was feeling, Argus said angrily, "I do NOT walk like a duck."
Vila looked at the grinning Sester, "Don't mind him. You know how he is. You don't walk…" For a moment, Vila had an urge to giggle but he controlled himself. "…like a duck. But you do walk strange."
Argus looked down at his oddly adorned feet again. "Reya and Cally gave me some pointers. For the women. So I…won't intimidate…"
Sester smirked. "You mean that so you won't send them screaming in terror?"
Argus glared at him. "How would you like to be screaming in terror right now?"
Vila stepped between the two men. Part of him wondered why he was doing something this crazy. It was like putting himself in the middle of two loaded freight transports about to crash. "Argus, what did Reya and Cally suggest about how you walk?"
Argus took a deep breath and pushed down his anger and frustration. "They said…not to walk like I'm marching. And to match the way the women walk. That way, they won't be forced to keep up with me."
Vila said, "But there are no women here. Who are you trying to match?"
Argus grimaced. "I was trying to imagine."
Sester remarked helpfully. "That's never a good idea. I mean, for you."
Argus would have moved towards him angrily if Vila weren't in the way. Instead, he fixed him with another glare. Vila glared at Sester too. Sester grinned impishly at both of them.
Vila said, "Don't pay any attention to him. You had the right idea but that's an exercise that's better when there are women here."
The concerned Argus said with halting words. "I'm…just…nervous. I don't want to spoil Reya's efforts…by being me. Give me a battle any day. But…with women, I'm…at a loss. I don’t know what to do or say or anything."
"You'll do fine with these women."
Argus looked at Sester in surprise.
There was no joking manner on Sester's face. "I'm serious. Maintain that shy attitude you have and…they might even find you cute."
Argus growled, "I am not cute."
Vila smiled as he remembered Reya's reaction to the Argus figurine. The one with the see-through armour.
Argus's face was threatening to take on a shade of red. He needed to nip this idea in the bud. It was detrimental to his image as the cool, hard leader.
Sester was back to listening at the door. "We're up." The door slid open. The three men prepared to push in the carts of foods and beverages.