12 Earth years — 7.2 Ellan years before the year N
"The High Council of Ella is in session now!" Called the secretary. "The Highest Counselor, Madam E'eliana presiding."
The twelve counselors waited for the High Counselor to sit before they took their places behind a table arranged in half-a-circle. Madam E'eliana, a strikingly beautiful woman sat in the middle and the other councilors on her left and right. The council was composed of 13 women all dressed in similar dark, richly decorated robes that hided their bodies and hair leaving only their faces uncovered. The only robe with spark of bright colors belonged to council president. Behind the counselors toiled a flurry of minions, all women clad in similar but much simpler robes. In the middle of the semi-circle facing the counselors stood a tall woman flanked by two other females, all dressed in silver robes tailored like uniforms with insignias on shoulders and sleeves.
"Captain M'naui, please partake with the counselors the news from your scouting expedition."
"As you commands, High Counselor." M'naui gesticulated in the direction of one of the clerks and a spherical three dimensional projection materialized between the counselors and the uniformed women.
"Our mission, counselors is to explore the neighbor star systems on the recently developed FTL scouts."
"FTL?" mused one of the counselors.
"Sorry, Madam. This is technical lingo. It stands for "faster-than-light" and allows us to make a round trip that I am about to describe in a little under two years. Without it we would take more than two hundred years even at the limit of light speed, which is not practical within our life-spans." She drank a glass of water before proceeding. "Ten of our three-women scout ships were assigned to a small star system near the outer spiral of the Galaxy." She pointed at the projection where the Ella system was and its relative position to the targeted system.
"We were interested in this system—we call it T02—because we knew that it would harbor planets and probably life, as there was quite a lot of regular—as opposed to random—radio activity reaching Ella for quite a long time, with the source pinpointed to T02."
"Why weren't we informed?" Asked one of the counselors.
The captain shrugged. "Sorry counselor, it is outside my knowledge and responsibility."
"She is right," interjected Madam E'eliana, "I decided to inform only the counselors which are controlling or involved in scientific projects. Please continue, captain."
"Arriving at the T02 it became evident that all radio activity was originated from the third planet and possibly its single moon." The projection changed from a star model to actual pictures. The captain started to tick the points illustrated by the photographs.
"There's a large intelligent population on the third planet, counting in billions." A photo of a blue planet was followed by space-craft. "They have an extensive technical development—in some ways far superior to ours—but they don't have FTL drives. They explore their moon, an asteroid belt between their two giant gas planets and some of outer moons of the system. They have a large traffic of spacecraft propelled by some kind of engines that baffled us. It looks like they throw away a concentrated fuel at high speeds which makes the spacecraft move in the opposite direction."
She paused for a moment. "Before we arrive to the real reason for this meeting, I have to worn you, counselors that some of the images will greatly disturb you. They passed through Madam E'eliana censorship and I have her authorization to show you. As far as we can tell, after one year of continuous observation and mainly after we were able to decode their moving image transmissions, the inhabitants of this world that they call "Earth" are very close to Ella norm." A picture of a human female clad in an Arabic chador was projected. "They call themselves 'humans' and are on average a little shorter than Ellans due to their higher gravity. But, there're several very important differences." She stretched the words for larger impact. "This civilization relies for reproduction on the ancient animal form of mating two different species: women, very similar to us, and..." she paused for emphasis, a picture was projected, " ... and men." The picture, probably taken from a body-building competition showed a huge man with bulging muscles, clad only in a very tiny slip which did nothing to hide his large manly appendage.
There was a collective gasp from the counselors and two of them run to the adjoining toilet facility to retch their insides out. M'naui politely waited for the women to return and proceeded. "As you know, in ancient times, thousands of years ago we had this horrendous species on Ella, as well. But our great prophet A'anna—may she reside at the right hand of the Almighty—taught us how to get rid of those beasts and how to reproduce without their nauseating violation of our bodies."
She called for more pictures which started to change in an increasingly quicker sequence while she talked. "The woman clad in respectable clothes is an exception. We are looking at a civilization which could be ours if not for saint A'anna—may she reside at the right hand of the Almighty—women being dominated by men, violated and forced to exhibit their bodies in auctions..." A picture of a beauty pageant with a dozen women clad only in string bikinis provoked another collective gasp from the audience.
"And now look at what those beasts do to themselves and to their womenfolk." War scenes followed war scenes, one explicit bloody scene worse than another. Rapes followed kung-fu kind of fighting and culminated in a hanging scene of a naked woman. All those pictures were taken from human movies—but the retching Ellans couldn't know that it was fiction. Even if they knew it, it wouldn't make the smallest difference to their final decision—a civilization which could even dream on those images was not fit to live.
"Let's call our scouts out and forget this wretched star system!" bellowed one of the counselors. Madam E'eliana's powerful voice raised above the babble. Thank you, captain. Please wait until we vote your orders." Addressing the clerks she ordered, "all clerks, with the exception of Madam secretary, out. We will call if we need you." She waited until the counselors were alone in the big room, with the exception of the secretary and the captain—her two companions having left with the clerks—and rose.
"Simply recalling our scouts and leaving them by won't do. This is a warlike civilization and highly inventive. We have no warranty that in ten or a hundred years they will spread to Ella system bringing with them their nauseating civilization and their weapons. We have no weapons to oppose them. We don't know how to battle since we get rid of those vermin. Our whole culture is based on beauty and women love of women and organic science which powers our scouts. Those beasts developed a mechanical civilization with weapons of mass destruction and they have no moral restriction to use them on themselves—so you can imagine what they would do to us." She paused for a while. The image of the hanging naked woman with her hands tied behind her back and her tongue hanging grotesquely from between her lips lingered in front of the counselors.
"I vote to exterminate them." Madam E'eliana's voice was firm.
"How do we do it?" objected one of the lesser counselors from the left extreme of the table, another very beautiful woman clearly much younger. Differently from the regal beauty of classical features of Madam E'eliana, the counselor face was cute and tomboyish. But her steel-grey eyes left no doubt that she was a fighter.
"Our scientists calculated that if we send three of our scouts at the same time to materialize inside their sun, the resulting interference will trigger a chain reaction which will force the sun into a nova in more or less six of our years—ten of their planet years. I already decided for it and to be sure of the results, ordered four of the scouts to do it at the same time—one more than the calculation, just to be on the sure side. The remaining six scouts will return one every year to report on progress until the last one will jump at the very edge of the star turning nova."
There was a smatter of applause from most of the counselors. The same one who asked how they would do it, asked again: "What about the crew of the four scouts?"
Madam E'eliana already marked that counselor as troublemaker—she was young, on her first tenure as counselor and should be watched—raised a hand. "They are more than happy to give their lives for the safety of Ella."
"Did they volunteer?" Insisted the counselor.
E'eliana was getting annoyed, "As a matter of fact, they were chosen by lot. Madam V'vida, are you questioning my actions?"
The younger woman wasn't cowed by the council president. In their violence-free society every daily aspect of their lives was governed by strict rules and everybody abided to them, so she was perfectly within the rules to question the president. After all, the council was there exactly to supervise Ella government. It is true that during Madam E'eliana presidency the council was acting more as rubber-stamp for E'eliana decisions, but the young counselor had her own ambitions.
"Of course, Madam President, as is my duty to this Council and to Ella, I'm respectfully inquiring into actions that will result into the loss of lives of our citizens."
E'eliana gulped her rage. The young brat was competent and courageous, something rare in the sheep-like council—she definitely should be watched. "The scouts were drawn by lot, but from each crew of three, a volunteer will remain to make the jump. The remaining eight pilots will be distributed in the six scouts that will return every year. There's enough place for additional two people on board of each craft, so the eight pilots will be easily accommodated."
"So, we are scarifying four Ellans to insure that our civilization will not be threatened?"
"What about the women at that planet? Shouldn't we try to save them?"
"And how do you propose to do it? And even if we could, they are corrupted by cohabitating with the vermin to such an extension that their simple presence here would put our society in danger.
"Well, I agree with that but before I vote for the extinction of that sentient race, did we analyze all the aspects of the problem? What about the worst-worst scenario. Let's say that we are unable to destruct the system, they discover our attempt and come for revenge. Isn't this scenario extremely threatening?"
"The youngest of our counselors has been reading too many fantasy stories," dismissed the High Counselor and without bothering to answer, called for votes.
V'vida was not yet defeated. "Madam President probably is overlooking the fact that I'm the head of Science Department of this government, and as such required to present before the council all the facts before the council is required to vote."
'Oh, shit', thought the High Counselor but without missing a bat she replied, "oh, yes. I do recall swearing you in a couple of weeks ago. Do you think that you have enough knowledge already to present to this noble council?"
"As a matter of fact, yes." She turned to the captain and asked sweetly, "How courageous of you, Captain to land on that beasts' planet to bring us this nauseating record of their every-day life."
The captain was confused. "But madam counselor, I never told you those are live scenes. Those scenes are taken from their moving pictures transmissions. They are made for their entertainment." There was a smatter of whispers coming from the counselors. Sensing that she in some way hurt the High Counselor presentation, the young captain concluded lamely, "but the beast showing his body and the women auction is from real events, as some of the other scenes..."
"Thank you captain," interrupted V'vida. "Counselors, the fact that this race is able to think that those horrors are entertainment is as terrible or probably even worst than the real thing. I'm not arguing against their destruction, I'm simply asking if we can do it safely enough."
E'eliana pounced on the opportunity. "Well, you should answer it, Madam Head of the Science Department."
V'vida refused to be on the defensive. "I simply don't know. The nova calculations are correct and with safety margin. It took us more than 50 years to develop and make usable the FTL organic drive, I can't see how this race could develop it in the short time they will have between detection of the unusual solar activity and it turning nova. If they try to flee their star system on their slow mechanical engines, than it is already too late, they will be blasted by the explosion before they are out of their sun expansion limit."
She paused for a while. "But I do wish that we had more time to analyze all the aspects of it." V'vida was happy. She called attention to herself, made her point and made the old witch explain a little of her actions. She didn't really care for the women in the scouts and even less for the vermin on the doomed planet, but she did care very much on her carrier within the council. She was young but on the raise. She already had the ear of one of the younger counselors, possibly two. The voting on the council precluded surprises. Madam E'eliana voted only on two occasions. When the vote was tied, or when the vote was going against her wishes. She had three votes, so to defeat her it was necessary for 8 or more counselors to vote against. For the time being it was impossible, but V'vida would bet on the future.
E'eliana grinned. What a transparent little bitch, she thought. Ready for plucking. Let's see her reaction if I propose to be her husband for the next period. Later we could switch. "Let's vote. Anyone against the extermination of the solar system known as T02, please rise." There was no movement. E'eliana waited a decent moment and announced, "Madam secretary please note in the secret executive orders book that by unanimous vote the council ordered the destruction of the T02 solar system according to plans explained by the Council President."
She waited until the secretary was ready. "Please call in the clerks."
8.7 Earth years — 5.2 Ellan years before the year N
"The High Council of Ella is in session now!" Called the secretary. "The Highest Counselor, Madam E'eliana presiding."
E'eliana sat down looking at the tall captain in front of the council. "Can you partake the news, Captain?"
"The deed was done, High Counselor. My scout was drawn as the first one to return, as soon as the irreversible change in the star core could be confirmed. It was confirmed and we returned. The next scout should be returning as we are talking and should be reporting in one year time."
"Well done, Captain, you're commended and your four companions who sacrificed their lives for Ella, are promoted posthumously and hailed as Heroes of Ella."
The captain raised her fist and bowed to the counselors before leaving the room.
"The question is now if the people of T02 will perceive that their sun will become nova and if they will do something about it." Not only V'vida continued to be the strong voice of concern in the opposition, but she had two counselors firmly in her camp now and at least two other swaying between E'eliana and the young start-up.
"This is a question that we will have answered in a year time," dismissed E'eliana expressing her complete lack of concern about what the vermin could or not do about their demise.
7 Earth years — 4.2 Ellan years before the year N
The question if T02 inhabitants were aware on their impending doom was answered by the next scout captain.
"They discovered as soon as it happened, Madam President. They dispatched a quantity of sensors and manned spacecraft to observe the sun. There was a burst of activity in their orbital cities and they started to build immediately huge ships with the apparent intention to evacuate as many people as they would be able."
"A lot." The projection showed an enormous activity around the third planet, its moon and the smaller neighbor red planet uncanny similar to Ella. "We are not sure, but their radio and TV shows speak of evacuating half of the third planet population."
"That many?" For once E'eliana was surprised.
"Oh, they could build more ships, High Counselor. It looks like half population decided to stay for religious reasons, or because they are too old."
"Do they know that they have no chance to outrun the nova on their slow ships?"
"I beg to differ," V'vida was sitting now at E'eliana left hand side. She had six counselors voting on lesser things with her, and most importantly, she didn't accept High Counselor marriage proposal, leaving no doubt where she was heading.
"Yes, madam chief of Science Department, enlighten us."
"My team was studying their plans very carefully and they can work. As you may know their system has a giant gas planet that is roughly one tenths size of its star. They plan to flee behind the shadow of this planet, in a very complex maneuver to maintain the planet between the sun and themselves for the whole period of the first explosion of the nova. If the planet and their enhanced shields save them, they could have enough time to escape the nova activity before the next explosion. It's not certain because there're many factors involved. We don't know how the planet will support the explosion, but it is big enough to warrant their expectation. As you remember, High Counselor, I advised you to analyze all the aspects of this endeavor."
"So you did, counselor, so you did. But now we have to wait, because we have nothing better to do. Did your team come up with a probability of their escape?"
"Yes, we did. The probability to at least one of the ships escape is..." she made a show of looking in her projection book, " ... below one percent. Of more than one is one order of magnitude lower, and so forth."
"How many of them in each ship?"
"About a hundred fifty thousand."
"I can live with those percentages, counselors."
6.2 Earth years — 3.7 Ellan years before the year N
"Madam V'vida, an emergency High Council meeting" chirped her communications console. V'vida touched the acknowledgment button and rolled of the bed. Her current wife was sleeping nude, her rounded buttocks pink from the loving spanking she got before their love-making. V'vida was most definitely into the 'husband' role. She was not switchable as were most of the Ellans. She also chose her wives between those youngsters that preferred the submissive role in a temporary marriage. She sighed feeling still tired after a mere couple of hours sleep and stepped into the cleansing room. The organic fog enveloped her willowy body cleaning and injecting life-bringing fluids into her skin.
After donning her council robes and hiding her long tresses under the hair scarf she stepped outside her luxurious unit and on the flowing grass pass which would carry her to the Council Hall.
As soon as she crossed the Hall entrance, one of her assistants met her and gave her a projection book. "Please read it, Counselor. You are the second here; most of them live much further, please take your time to get familiar with the situation."
V'vida read the short memo and gasped. "A scout form T02 is back? Half a year earlier, and not the one scheduled?"
"Yes, Madam. The crew is being debriefed by their Commander. Madam E'eliana is on her way from the Presidential residency and should be here any moment now."
"Let's go into the Council room."
After only half an hour, all counselors were accounted for, Madam E'eliana opened the session and after a brief explanation of the emergency, the scout pilot was brought in. The mission Commander entered with the pilot. Their faces were somber and visible tension was in the air.
"Mission Commander, Captain," acknowledged E'eliana. "Can you explain what happened?"
"I returned as fast as I could, High Counselor. I had to abort the mission because all other scouts were captured."
There was a collective gasp from the counselors.
"Please, proceed captain."
"I don't really know what happened, Madam. I had an optical sight on the scout seven. One moment there was nothing, and suddenly there was a huge ship hovering over them. I saw the scout captain trying to engage the FTL, but it didn't work. The ship opened a large port and the scout was simply towed inside the opening. I called the others and got no answer. I assumed that all were captured in the same way, so before I could suffer the same fate, I engaged the FTL and came as fast back as I could. As there's no sign of the other scouts, we can assume that they were captured as well."
"Leave the assumptions to us, Captain," said E'eliana. "Madam Chief of Science Department, do you have a theory?"
V'vida was feeling an uneasiness in the pit of her stomach. "It's a little too sudden, but yes, High Counselor, my department was working on the worst-worst scenario and what happened fits the theory."
She paused looking at her fellow counselors. 'We run out of time', she thought. "And if our theory is sound, we are in a deep, deep trouble, probably too late to do something about. Your percentages caught with you, High Counselor."
"Could you speak clearly and not in riddles, Counselor?" E'eliana voice was shriller than usual, she hated events that were outside her control.
"The sudden appearance of their ship at the side of our scout indicates strongly that they developed FTL—in only three years after they discovered their star become unstable—and more precise than ours, as they could maneuver so near our scout. Now they have our crews and they will interrogate them. As you know they can and will use very harsh methods to extract information from them."
"But our people will resist, and we will have some time to prepare for their arrival, is that what you are saying, counselor?"
"No. I believe that we have no time at all. I expect that they followed immediately the scout that they deliberately let go. We have theorized that a FTL ship leaves a trail in its wake, not at all dissimilar of the wake that water ships leave behind them, but more permanent. If somebody follows a FTL ship with proper sensors—that we don't have—she would be at our doors a few days after the scout arrived."
The silence that followed the last words of V'vida was shattered by unusual commotion at the door, and the chief astronomer of V'vida's department run into the room—without her scarf—shocking all present women—shouting, "Counselors! Counselors! A huge alien ship materialized from nothing in Ella orbit and it started to communicate in Ellan!"
"Let's hear it." E'eliana voice was low but firm.
A radio receiver was provided. "Which frequency?"
"It doesn't matter, Madam Chief of Science. They are broadcasting on all of them." The receiver was turned on and immediately they heard a deep voice on a much lower register that the average Ellan voices. They lost the beginning, but the message was transmitted in a continuous loop so they were able to hear the first part a little later.
"People of Ella. You have a day and a night to surrender peacefully. We will land an expeditionary force 150 thousand men strong, armed with the best weapons our science can provide. We know that you have nothing that can oppose our might. After we land, we will occupy all major public facilities. You will deliver to us your authorities and principally your 13 counselors. Failure to do so will bring your civilization to complete destruction, as you decided to do with ours, with no provocation whatsoever."
While the other counselors listened in fascinated horror to the short message, V'vida left unseen the hall and moved quickly out of the building. She had less than a day to execute her contingency plan and reach temporary haven. 'I wonder how Madam E'eliana will look naked hanging by her neck, ' mused the counselor while almost running on the flowing glass in direction of her home.
Twelve hours later she was on the deck of the largest of the hundreds of amphibious ships she ordered secretly constructed with no knowledge of E'eliana and her army of spies. It was a small miracle her busy dock remained undetected for the year and a half that the building of the base in the inhabitable tropical forest-swamp on the planet's small equatorial second continent was in full swing. One of the reasons was probably the careful choosing of workers, scientists and suppliers all from the V'vida yellow ethnic group as opposed to the Madam E'eliana white group. There were three ethnic groups on Ella: white, whose members traditionally ruled Ella. Prophet A'anna—may she reside at the right hand of the Almighty—was from the white ethnicity; yellow, which traditionally occupied the scientific and creative communities and blue that were mostly the common laborers and servants. There were no rules that forced members of each group into a fixed rule in Ellan society, but it was traditional. V'vida was yellow, and she was aiming for the highest post in Ella, but there were only two yellow and one blue counselors even if white group represented only 20% of Ellan population.
V'vida looked at the green canopy of living plants that hide their escaping ship. Her white wife completely awed by the beautiful sight was standing beside her dressed in a gown richly decorated with subtle feminine motives indicating clearly her wifely role.
'How ironic', thought V'vida, 'I spent several years plotting of how to replace Madam E'eliana. Now she will step down, or probably hung up. Only I've to flee to escape the same fate.'
"Madam High Counselor," the captain called her, "we are about to partially submerge. The next part of the trip will be very rough. You and your wife are required to take seats and strap in."
"Of course, come with me, M'mimy." They took their seats in the passenger quarters among the hand-picked refugees. The ship was the largest one in the fleet had room for almost one hundred passengers and crew. Along the one and a half year the ships were operational, V'vida managed to transport more than a hundred thousand fellow conspirators to the facilities built inside and bellow the huge and seemingly inhospitable jungle-swamp. They called it Nova Ella and hoped to make it into a haven against an Earth invasion that could happen.
Now it happened.