Ethics of Betrayal
They lie snuggling in cold, dewy grass. The Omory tenderly watches the girl, whose head rests on his shoulder. He cautiously moves his fingers from down upwards her backbone fillet, tickles her neck, fondles her strong breasts, feeling her racing heartbeat.
"Stop," playfully whispers to him Ivly. "It tickles!"
His hand answers, sliding to her hip, pulling her closer, and then everything happens once more.
"You know, I always dreamed of someone like you... from beyond the sky... My tribe left Mother - Earth's womb and someday there will return, but I am a daughter of the shaman and woman of foreign people. The Earth won't accept me. Therefore I wanted someone like you... Who will come for my sake and take me away."
"Will you fly off with me? I love you. When we fix the shuttle, we will return to my homeland. There are great cities, where it's always bright out. Although you can't just walk down the street - so much traffic... The food prepared in some places is very tasty. You will like it there."
"I am afraid. You nearly got destroyed when you arrived."
"But you will depart with me? We will fix the Shuttle."
"It's cold," she says suddenly, getting up and searching for her clothes. Her young body moves with the grace of a cat. Admiring her for a fleeting moment, Darras follows her example.
"So do you agree?" he asks persistently, when they are both fully dressed.
"Won't you forget about me, when you return home?" craftily asks Ivly.
"No, I love you," answers the Junior Pilot.
"I will fly off, so long as you are with me," replies the girl.
"Omory, we, The People, will not tolerate you lot on our land any longer. It is profitable to trade with you and we didn't banish you at once. But you are killers, and must go back beyond the sky to your own civilization. Until you leave, we will exterminate you; you will never know if your death is behind the nearest bush," threateningly finishes the Chieftain, a handsome man of thirty with a narrow scar through the left cheek, dressed in leather trousers and a blue cotton shirt exchanged from Omory.
Junior pilot Darras clenches his fists in rage. Tall, green-eyed, with shortly cut black hair - like all Omory, he outwardly appears like a human.
"Gladly, you dirty savage! We cannot depart!" he nearly screams, but holds back under a warning gaze of Capitain Koalr.
Likely about a dozen savages lie hidden in the woods, behind the border of overgrown, as -- high -- as -- a -- man -- is -- tall grass, only waiting for an occasion to loose bowstrings on which poisoned arrows are set.
From the primitive poisons of the savages even the modern magic of Omori cannot defend adequately - the unlucky ones die in convulsions within several hours.
None of this would have happened if the Gates led to asteroid -- fair as it was supposed to, but because of some miscalculation the portal led to the upper atmosphere of the anonymous barbarous planet... More precisely as it has become clear when they have learned language of natives by means of magic, those called their planet "Earth"; however most known races did that. Darras remembered in vivid detail misunderstanding and disappointment when on measuring instruments complete nonsense appears. Fruitless searches for malfunctions - only then it had become clear that what's faulty was the Gate-Cutter itself.
The panic captures the crew when it becomes clear that measuring instruments don't lie and emergency landing on an un-civilized planet is necessary. Such a rare, un-common maneuver.
Then on cheekbones of the captain Koalr tumors came. On his orders senior pilot Nevior was brought into the cabin from the isolator. Nevior demanded his bottle, "a magic potion", as he "doesn't want to die sober in the company of sober idiots", then told the power department not to economize top-quality manna for power and ordered Darras to get the hell up from his chair.
Even an ace, such as Nevior, won't put the shuttle without landing strip and dispatchers, Darras thought, getting up. If it is a known planet, then the rescuers will find traces of the crash in several years. If it's not, then time will reduce their remnants to dust, and their Shuttle will be added to the list of hundreds of other missing Shuttles.
A crewmate with a doomed voice moans that he has three children left behind at home. He begins to call their names, remembering their pranks and the present he gave them last Christmas and how happy they all were... Captain bellows at him, but he won't be quiet... Magic mirrors of the cabin show their slowly approaching grave - a pattern from the dirty-brown spots flowing in saturated-green which were cut by the bent dark blue strips. The junior pilot distinguished the mighty mountains, the dense woods and the rivers bearing nearly transparent waters as well as saltwater seas.
Why should his body forever remain at the crash site of the shuttle?! He didn't have time to do anything in life. Yes, he earned the title of Junior Pilot on the Shuttle and had seen half-a-dozen worlds, but...He was tired of long trips, after which no one waited for him. Tired of depositing every month nearly the entire monthly paycheck under condescending-sympathizing glances of Company's female clerks. Maybe he should abandon this stupid profession and go find a girl, cheerful as a child and beautiful as morning dawn?
That's it, if I live that's what I will do. I can't go on living like this.
And then when the shuttle had softly landed on the soil which had sunk under its weight, Darras had thought that he won't break the word.
"...Give us time to fix the shuttle," says the captain. Omory tried not to think that the Gate-Cutter might be beyond repair. "We are traders, not soldiers, we don't want war. But we have powerful weapons."
"You are right, you are poor warriors. Leave," says the Chief, turning his back to them.
"We are returning to the Shuttle," irritably says the Captain.
Darras tears through a dense bush, thinking that convincing the captain under different pretexts to release him on similar excursions became harder and harder. Branches sharply whip him on the face, push back, creating before him an elastic wall, but he persistently moves forward, constantly looking back - are the enemies hiding nearby? That's how The People defeated Omori - with poisoned arrows from ambushes, pathetic cowards. Just in case, he wears a pipe-shooter on a belt. The spell imposed on an artifact will spit out from a barrel a small piece of metal at a huge speed, as soon as he pulls the trigger. It is much better than a bow.
At last he arrives on the agreed place at the hanging rock ledge. Ivli already waits for him there, fingering a lock of hair - fair, unlike dark hair of her fellow tribeswomen.
"They haven't concluded a truce," - she says, at once understanding his facial expression. "Why do your people refuse to surrender the murderer?"
"Some want to surrender him, but the captain won't allow it," Darras reluctantly answers. "Nevior landed the shuttle flawlessly. The Captain can't give him to savages. "
"Is it only savages who can demand justice on a murderer?" innocently asks Ivly.
"Sorry, I'm not..." begins Darras
"When you fell out of the sky, I have read your thoughts and have decided to save you. I have asked Earth to satisfy the only request of the half-breed -- to softly accept your shuttle. Tell it to the Omory, and let them will hand over this... Nevior," says Ivli.
"They won't believe it," replies Darras.
"And do you trust me?" asks Ivli.
"Ivli..." says Darras.
"I only want for us to be together!" says Ivli.
"Ivli, don't cry... I also want the same thing," says Darras hugging her shoulders. "You'll see, I will show you huge cities in which it is so lonely without you."
It takes a while to get back to the shuttle because he goes the long way, not wishing to be scratched by bushes again. He even gets lost, but then finds his way again.
At an entry-lock he meets two Omori from power-sector on guard duty, in the usual brown overalls.
"It has been ordered soon as you return, to come to the captain, into compartment A4G," the taller one says. Darras nods, foreseeing trouble.
The expected reprimand, however, doesn't occur. In A4G the Captain Koalr, Doctor Gionz and a Supercargo Sonlaym while away the time over a game of cards.
"I want to congratulate you on a rank of the senior pilot. Nevior has committed suicide, having expiated the drunk tricks," the Captain says when Darras enters.
"Your turn to make a move, Captain," Supercargo Sonlaym says.
"The bastard was afraid that we would give him to savages. Good riddance," says Darras.
"Perhaps, it is worth stopping a game. Since the senior pilot Darras is already here, we can begin a meeting," Gionz has notices. "Let's start."
"Don't speak badly of dead men, Darras," says the Captain.
"You are right, Captain. I even regret now a little that he has died - I won't be able to tell him anymore what I think of him. Or what I thought, to be more precise."
"Stop acting up, Junior Pilot! Yes, Doctor, we will begin. Sonlaym, this time you should refuse an idea to exempt me from the most part of my money."
"Captain, but to interrupt a game..." says Supercargo Sonlaym.
"It is necessary as I am not going to be rooted to the ground and wait until you finish. I was called here for some reason? Or deal for four players," - Darras cheerfully offers. He dislikes the Supercargo for some reason.
"Junior pilot, be silent when your superior officer is speaking!" snaps the Captain. "Let's begin. I will describe the situation. To fix the Portal-Cutter we need time that we don't have. Provisions and fresh water are in short supply, and barbarians won't let us re-supply. They refused to settle the conflict peacefully and continue to attack our teams that we send out. That's why I turned to Dr. Gionz. Dr. Gionz?"
"Yes, allow me to explain. On Captain Koalr's request I synthesized a certain elixir. If it is injected into living flesh, it gradually spreads, killing the living cells. The miasma from the elixir is contagious and will kill every exemplar of the species until there are none left. That's the theory and I want to confirm it with practice -- it can be a great theme for my dissertation. The Captain plan is effective like everything genius. We inject one of the barbarians with the elixir, after that we release him, guaranteeing that his tribesman will forget all about waging war. Well what do you think SuperCargo Sonlaym? What about you, senior pilot Darras?"
"It's not a bad idea," shrugs the SuperCargo Sonlaym. "If the others are for it, then I am not against it. However, it won't reflect on the value of our cargo -- it already fell by about forty percent."
Ivli. Very well, this is war. I will warn Ivli to convince her to stay away from her tribe. But when we finally fix the Portal-Cutter, I will take her with me to my home. "Captain, it's better to try to reason with the People again. Give them Nevior's body."
"They wanted Nevior alive for torture. There is no guarantee it will work, but the provisions are at an end," objects doctor Gionz. "Even if we try the elixir first, we are not losing anything, correct? If it doesn't work, we will come back to your proposal."
"So the vote results in three "for" and one "against". Doctor, is everything ready?" inquires the Captain.
"Certainly, Captain," Gionz produces a sealed bottle from unbreakable glass out of his pocket.
"Where are we going?" asks Darras, following the Captain out of the compartment.
"While you were on reconnaissance, we caught one of the savages near the ship. More precisely, a girl. Now she is in the isolator ward where Nevior was," the captain says, lifting the lever to open a door.
One second that it took for the door of the isolator ward to slide aside seems to Darras like an eternity. It is impossible. She couldn't be near the shuttle. It's not she. They met, and then she had gone back to a settlement ... In his breast the stuffy lump of fear grows. And he is not especially surprised seeing Ivli shrinking in a corner.
How? It is a nightmare...
"My Captain, she is a woman," he says.
The frightened, none-comprehending eyes of Ivli drown Darras in a sea of guilt like a kettlebell the size of a massive asteroid.
"Let me through, please," says Doctor Gionz as SuperCargo Sonlaym and Captain Koalr follow him. Pulling out something that looked like a knife with a needle instead of a blade, Gionz opens the bottle. "Don't worry, gentlemen, there is no threat. What's dangerous is miasma of elixir coming from a living organism, and only a day after the contamination. In pure form they are harmless. Now I will inject her with thiiiiisss liquid," he says, as liquid dripps from the needle.
"It's too bad, such a beauty... Dr. Gionz, do you need help? I will gladly hold her down, control her..." says SuperCargo Sonlaym.
"That's not necessary, I will manage on my own." Says Gionz.
"But I will still help you," lustily sneers Sonlaym, taking a step forward.
That forces Darrras into action. During fights, movement becomes quicker, reaction speed improves. Now Darras moves faster than ever before in his life.
Before anyone realizes what's going on, he trips Sonlaym and pushes him into the wall. Then, before even the loud impact of Sonlaym's head into the wall, he grabs Ivli, desperately resisting (why? he wonders), by the waist and darts outside, jerking the lever with all the force he was could master.
Uncomprehending Gionz still holds the bottle and the strange needle-like knife. Koalr runs to the door, but it closes in front of his nose.
Ivli and Darras are alone in the corridor and stare at each other, despite the banging on the door.
"I wanted to convince them to hand over the killer," Ivli says before Darras can ask. She is still frightened.
"Ivli, you need to get off the ship," says Darras.
There is nowhere to backaway. He understands what he must do and how. Leading her by the arm he heads to the airlock.
"Ivli, the distances between different worlds are enormous," he hurriedly says, as he walks. "Remember I said we were lucky that the Portal opened here? We should have come out of the gate in complete emptiness, away from... everything. Like a desert. And die there. I will open the gates, after all it's easier for Gate-Cutter to open a Portal at the site of previously opened Portal, rather than at a random spot..."
"Beloved, don't fly off! Let's run away together from this war!" cries Ivli.
"No. We'll be killed by your tribesmen or Gionz's elixir, while this way you'll live," says Darras.
At the airlock two power department's personnel while away the time.
"Where are you taking her, Darras?" asks the tall one.
"Captain's orders," with all the carelessness he can master says Senior Pilot.
"Why didn't the Captain let us know?" inquires the other.
"I'll ask him now," says the tall one. He reaches for the intercom, but before he can do that, Darras yanks his pipe-shooter from his belt which he took with him for "reconnaisance" and pulls the trigger three times. Ivli looks at the two fallen bodies in horror.
"Go. As I die, I will think about you," says Senior Pilot. He will never get the chance to really live.
They kiss over the bodies of the power department personnel, and tears flow down their cheeks.
Five minutes later Darras already sits in the pilot seat. His, Senior Pilot Darras's at the age of twenty two.
What if... But what differnce does it make now... Although there was a chance, that....
He turns on the the Portal-Cutter, and smoothly, like at an exam, cuts out the Gate.
From a distance Ivli watches the shuttle get enveloped in a violet glow and vanish, leaving a maelstorm behind.
Suddenly she understands what she must do. Picking up a rock, she hits her own hand with it. And once more, and once more, impatiently, almost feverishly, until blood begins to flow freely.
Dipping her finger into her own blood, she kneels and begins, with jerky motions, draw strange signs on the ground. Great Mother is enormous, she is more powerful than the People or Omory. What is the distance between stars to her? Let her ask her sister-planet, the one from which her beloved came from, to pull in close to her breast the stray shuttle. What would it cost her? Even if she, Ivli, will never meet another one and will spend her whole life alone, because there can't be another. So long only as Darras will live. So long as the Great-Mother will answer the prayer of the half-blood Ivli...