Adapted from John Davison's Personal Log and Command files
Mechanical difficulties forced me down on a fringe world -
My mechanical difficulties stemmed from a couple of well-
I woke up six days later in the basement under a barn on a farmstead. A female bug was bathing my forehead with cool water. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my flight-
The next time I woke I heard voices. "He can help us Shearron," I heard a female voice say.
"He is a Starfighter, Ceelineeia. You're lucky he didn't kill you the moment he opened his eyes," a decidedly male voice replied.
"They are honorable creatures. I saved its life. He owes us a life debt. He will help us to repay our helping him."
"Ceelineeia, you do what you want -
I don't know why the bug kept me in the basement in the barn, but she took really good care of me. Maybe she feared what other bugs might think. I was getting stronger with each passing day. My head had stopped pounding and I could walk a little without passing out. I was beginning to think of myself as a prisoner being fattened for the kill by a beautiful cannibal. Then early one morning I was awakened by the sound of a young child crying.
"If you don't make your quota we’re going to have to make an example out of you," a human said. It takes a lot of practice to get the bugs' language just right. That is why I was certain the speaker was human. He butchered the language badly, but he was still understandable.
"Please, I can't. I'm here alone with my child. The auto-
I heard the sound of someone being hit. "If you weren't trying to stir up trouble with the other farmers I'd care, but as things are I don't give a shit. The boss wants everybody to make their quota. I'm going around inspiring you farmers to do just that. I don't want to hear ‘I can't.’ You either make your quota or we will burn your farm to the ground. Because you and your daughter are not bad to look at, we won't kill you like we did your husband. The boss has other businesses you two would certainly be more productive in." The human and whoever was with him thought that was very funny. "I would have thought the example we made of your husband would have been enough, but apparently not. Don't make your quota, and I'll personally guarantee, you will regret it for a long time to come."
"Why don't we have a little fun now," another unmistakable human said. The way he slurred his speech made him sound like a bit of a moron.
"Not today, we have other appointments. She can't make her quota; we'll bring all the boys back and have a party. Now let's get out of here." I heard the sound of several people leaving.
After they were gone I sat and listened to the sound of the female bug and her child sobbing on the floor above me. I could see that it was very important to the female bug that I got better quickly. I sat up and reached over to my flight suit and pulled open several pockets. I hated the idea of using the pills, but it seemed the only way to get stronger faster. I popped the tops off of several small phials, and shook one tablet out from each. I swallowed them and lay back on the bed, waiting for the pills to kick in.
The bug found me working on the auto-
"I would agree with you, but after this morning I thought you would need a little help," I replied.
"You heard that?"
"Yes, I did. When are you going to tell me what is going on around here, and why are you keeping me hidden away like you have?"
The bug wiped tears from her eyes. "They are drug smugglers -
"My husband was the first to confront him when we suspected something was wrong. The human sent other humans out to "put the fear of God into us," as you understand the saying. They dragged my husband from our home, tied him to the tree in the middle of our yard, and then beat him to death while my daughter and I watched. They then began to systematically terrorize us into doing whatever they wanted. That was three years ago."
"Where do I fit in?" I asked.
"I was just coming to that," she said. "My daughter saw you crash in the forest, and she came and told me. I went out and found you in the tangled remains of your fighter. My husband was a soldier. So I recognized what you were right away. I pulled you from the wreckage half dead and brought you back here. If it were not for me, you most certainly would be dead. I saved you."
"What did you save me for?" I already could guess why, but I was determined to make the bug say the words.
"I was hoping that having saved you, you would help us. You are a Starfighter. You value honor above all. I have saved your life so you owe me."
"What do you want me to do?" I asked.
"When those men come back I want you to kill them all," she replied.
"You want revenge, then."
"Yes, I do."
"Then I cannot help you. I will not become your hired gun to kill someone else's hired guns," I said. "That is how wars are started. I will not become a part of that."
The bug began to cry. "You have to help us. You are the only hope we have to free ourselves from the tyrant that has made slaves of us all."
Tears rolled down her cheeks. The sadness in her green eyes tore at my heart. I had heard stories about bug women. It was said that it was a strong man that, having looked one of them in the eyes, could refuse them anything. I always thought it was some kind of fairytale that other Starfighters had made up, but standing there as I was, I could see there was some truth to those stories. "I did not say that I would not help you. I simply will not become a party to your personal scheme for revenge. If you want my help, then you must do as I say."
"I will do anything you tell me to," she said drying her eyes.
"You can start by telling me your name."
"My name is Ceelineeia."
"My name is John Davison. From now on I am a drifter that you took on to help you with the farm. If anyone asks, I jumped ship at the spaceport and am working for food to keep from starving. As for your auto-
"Why?" Ceelineeia asked.
"Because it will throw them off guard," I replied. "If you want to kill a tree you have to kill the roots -
I had never worked a farm before. The work was a lot harder than I imagined. Ceelineeia's farmstead needed a lot of work, too. With the death of her husband, the farmstead had gone steadily downhill. There were repairs to the house and barn that were needed, fences that needed mending, and equipment that needed an overhaul. I wanted to see the look on the faces of the humans when they returned and saw the farmstead up and running. We would more than meet their quota, and I would ingratiate myself to them. I actually thought they would show up sooner than they did. I walked around the corner of the barn one afternoon and ran into a group of sixteen humans.
"Who are you, and where is Ceelineeia?" one of the humans demanded to know. I was guessing that he was the leader; the smallest guy in the group and the biggest bully.
"I'm the hired help, and I am not sure where the bug is," I replied. It was a good thing that Ceelineeia went out with her daughter to gather wild berries.
"What is she paying you with?"
"The bug was almost as desperate for help as I was to eat, so we came to a mutually advantageous agreement. I'm also working on the possibility of other rewards for my services…if you know what I mean." Several of the men in the group chuckled. "As for money, I figured if I got the bug to grow more stuff than the quota you had set for her, your boss might not mind sharing some of the profits from the diefphine with me."
"How did you get... never mind. What about the bug? How did you get her to go along with you? I know she hated the idea of working for us."
"You guys didn't leave her much choice. She was really desperate when I came along. She would have done anything I asked. I should have asked for more than I did, but I was starving at the time. My stomach was doing all the thinking."
"I was rather hoping for another outcome," the guy said. "But as long as she brings in her quota and doesn't cause us any more trouble, the boss will be happy."
"I doubt if she will cause you any more problems, but I can't help thinking that if you guys would stop using sticks and start using carrots you could up your production from all the bugs," I replied.
"What do you mean by that?" As I figured, despite being the leader of a bunch of thugs he was not that bright.
"I tell you what. You go back and let your boss explain it to you." That challenged his authority and I was sure he was not going to let that pass.
"You trying to get smart with me?" he asked.
"No, not at all. First, you'd have to have a brain," I replied. I was looking for a fight. "Even a moron could lead a bunch of brainless thugs against one bug and her kid."
I wanted a fight and I got one. Pulling the knives from my belt I went to work. A few minutes later three of the humans were dead and twelve of the other guys were on the ground cut up pretty bad. They had made the mistake of coming to a fight unarmed. I left their leader untouched on purpose. "I suppose I should have told you that besides being a farmer; I'm an unemployed mercenary too," I said. "Tell your boss that I am looking for work. I'll be here if he wants to stop by for a visit."
I did not have to wait long. Their boss showed up bright and early the next morning with a couple of heavily armed thugs. Ceelineeia went out to greet him, but as I expected he was not interested in her. He was a short roly-
"Good help is hard to find," I replied. "I can't exactly walk into an office and slap down a résumé that says ‘out of work mercenary needs a job,’ now can I? I thought the best way to get your attention was to show you how pathetic your current employees really are."
The boss just stared at me for a while before he broke into laughter. "You're a dangerous man, my friend. You have brains and muscle. I think I could use a man like you."
"I like to think that opportunities are made, not found," I said. "You're having trouble getting the bugs to work for you. I can fix that."
"How?" he asked. The criminal mind is so predictable.
"You dangled a carrot in front of them to get them to start working for you. When they tried to stop working for you, you beat them with a stick. Now is the time to dangle a carrot again. The cost of upgrading their lifestyle is a drop in the bucket compared to what you are making off them. It is time to reward them – let them see what growing what they are growing can get them. When they begin to see the riches that can be made they will be a little more inclined to increase their production. We are talking millions here. So what is a percentage point or two of the overall revenue if it is spent so you can improve your diefphine production?"
The fat man laughed a wicked little laugh. "I can see your point and how it might work, but what do you get out of this?" he asked.
"A percentage of the increased profits; protection money from the bugs; there are endless possibilities," I replied.
"What makes you think I won't take your advice and kill you anyway?"
"Well, because I got brains which your normal help seems to be short on. I'm not a fool and I'm not greedy, and you can always use a good extra hired gun to solve some of your more pressing delicate problems. Besides you didn't bring enough men to kill me," I said patting the gun that hung at my side.
He laughed again. "I like you. You can call me Boss. Come by my office tomorrow," he said, handing me his business card. "We'll talk some more."
My meeting with the boss man the next day was very productive. I learned a lot. He had his fingers into everything that went on in the town and in other parts of the planet. The bugs tolerated the fringe worlds because they were able to glean bits of information from the humans that visited these worlds, and the boss knew who all the bug spies in the town were. I suspect that he had dealings with the bugs from time to time. It seemed that most of the bug spies owned several of the best cafés in town. They had listening devices at all the tables. One owned a so-
I walked into the establishment and leaned against the counter. "Can I speak to the owner of this establishment?" I asked the human behind the counter.
"The owner does not normally see customers. If you tell me what the problem is maybe I can help you," the human replied politely.
I pulled my gun out and rested it on the counter. "Let me rephrase that. Where can I find the owner?" The owner was in an office in the back of the shop. He was a very surprised bug when I walked into his office.
"Can I help you?" the bug asked. I saw him slowly begin to try to reach for his gun.
"You won't need the gun. So put your hands on the desk where I can see them," I said. "I need a secure connection to Starfighter Command, and then I want to know if you can hack into the computer systems in this town."
"I take it that this is not a social call, Starfighter," the bug said. He was very quick to figure out who I was, not that it would have taken a rocket scientist.
"No, this is a social call or you'd be dead right now," I replied. "Are you aware of the situation with the colonists from your planet that got stranded here?"
"Yes, very sad, but there is nothing I can do. To interfere could jeopardize my position here on this planet. Very powerful humans control this town."
"Would you help them if you could?"
"If I could, yes, I would."
"Good, then tell me if you are tapped into all the computer systems in town," I said.
"What would you like to know?" the bug asked.
I smiled. "The human that calls himself ‘the Boss’ told me he only leased their ship out to haul freight. I want to know when it is due back; then I want a complete rundown on his operation here, and a download of all his files…." I went on adding to the list the things I wanted to know about the boss. I let the bug listen in on the call I made to Starfighter Command on his own personal communications system. I outlined the problem and the scope of the drug operation on the planet to Starfighter Command and requested they hold off sending search-
The bug made several calls of his own to his superiors, and in the end the bugs agreed to let the humans deal with the problem despite that its citizens had been enslaved by humans. Both sides agreed to keep the planet as a fringe world, and Starfighter Command dispatched a destroyer to arrest any and all parties concerned. All I had to do was sit tight and keep the peace.
When I returned to the farmstead it was dark. Ceelineeia was up waiting for me. She wanted to know how my day went. She was beginning to worry because I was gone so long. I told her everything. It was only a matter of time before the boss and all his thugs were rounded up and arrested. I watched her eyes light up when I told her that I would be able to get their ship back, too. Overwhelmed by the moment she kissed me. I was a little surprised by my response.
At first I leaned into the kiss, and then I realized I was kissing the enemy. I pushed her away gently. She just stood there looking at me with those beautiful green eyes of hers. I could lose myself in her eyes, and I did. She stepped closer and reaching up she pulled my face toward hers. Our lips met again. When we finally came up for air I scooped her up in my arms and carried her into the house. I was not going to sleep in the barn again.
I laid there on the bed watching how her long brown hair curled around her beautiful face. I wonder why she had made love to me. Did she like me, was she just lonely, or was this her way of saying thank you for my help? I forgot what the question was when she opened her eyes and her lips found mine again.
It was twenty-
Nearly a hundred people planet-
I came home late one rainy night. Rather than track mud into the house I stopped to take off my boots on the porch. While I was standing there I could hear voices. Ceelineeia was talking to one of her friends. "So, is everything I've heard about humans true?" her friend asked.
"Oh yeah, and then some," Ceelineeia replied with a little huskiness to her voice.
"What made you want to do it with him in the first place?"
"I don't know. I guess I was lonely, and he was lonely, and the way he kept looking at me was driving me crazy. I kissed him and that was it. I've died and gone to heaven a hundred times since. Don't get me wrong. I loved my husband and I still do, but John touches a part of me that has never been touched."
"So what's the problem?" her friend asked.
"We're at war, and he is the enemy," Ceelineeia replied.
"And?" There was a long silence before Ceelineeia's friend made an intuitive leap. "You're pregnant." Ceelineeia must have nodded her head. "That's not supposed to happen."
"I know it's not supposed to happen, but that doesn't change the fact that I am pregnant," Ceelineeia said. I had a wild rush of mixed feelings flow through me as I stood there listening.
"What are you going to do?" the friend asked.
"I don't know," Ceelineeia replied. "John's a Starfighter. He was born for a different kind of life among the stars."
"So you're not going to tell him."
"No, I'm not going to tell him." I had listened far longer than I should have, than was good for me. I started stomping around like I was just getting home. That of course ended the conversation.
There was a terrible sadness in the way Ceelineeia made love to me that night. It was like she felt that she was going to lose me forever, and she wanted something of me that she could hold onto forever. She was wrong about me though. I was not born for a life among the stars.
Normally, I blow these things up so I felt really weird standing on the flight deck of a bug destroyer. That had been the agreed upon place where I was to receive the metals I was being presented with. It was a full three ring circus with each side trying to outdo the other in pomp and ceremony. I never saw Ceelineeia shine as brightly as she did when I received the medals. The military bureaucrats of both sides went on and on about fighting a mutual enemy, righting wrongs, and fighting injustice. My speech was much shorter.
"I don't know if I deserve these medals for doing my job and doing the right and honorable thing," I said. "I have discovered a whole different side of those that I thought of as my enemies. I find myself torn between duty and loyalty to newfound friends. To take sides would be to deny what I have come to feel. How would I react if I met a friend on the battlefield? Can I look at the enemy as I have before? No, I don't think so, and that could endanger the lives of my comrades in arms. To be decorated by both sides places me in an awkward position. So I find myself echoing words from my home world's distant past. I will fight no more, forever. Instead, I will work to bring our two species together in peace, and put an end to a war that has separated those that should have been friends." It was a short speech -
Later as I lay in Ceelineeia's embrace I could not remember being happier. "Boy or girl?" I asked. She looked surprised that I knew.
"Too early to tell," Ceelineeia replied smiling as her lips found mine. Somehow I had managed to become a prisoner of war; a willing captive of the heart. Yet, as a Starfighter I knew the battle before me would be the hardest I had ever fought, and love was the only weapon I had to fight it with.