* Fifteen *
Jackson made his way quickly to the round forest river galley that set over Round River in the round forest sciences section of the Orion. Along the way he happened to notice another long lost friend.
Adrienne Barnes sat on a bench that circled one of the many beautiful trees in the forest. Flowers of all varieties lined the pathway in front of her. Jackson noticed her and he thought for a moment that she noticed him, but she paid him no attention since she was in a conversation with Penny Ridgewood, another friend from the past.
Robert Jackson continued onward until he crossed over the arch bridge and up the veranda steps to enter the double ornate oval glass doors of River Galley. He began to search out Dara Kamadees. He soon found the ambassador who favored Kirsti Alley, seated over in a dark corner of the galley, by herself, and very much, alive.
"Ambassador Kamadees, you're not on the crew roster, and as I recall, you were supposed to have been killed on Earth." the admiral said as he quickly sat down beside her.
"It would have been to our mutual benefit if I had of been," Ambassador Kamadees answered. "Your world reminds me so very much of my own home world, that it's frightening to think that your civilization will one day traverse the stars---
If it survives." she told him as a single tear rolled down her face, unnoticed for she hurriedly wiped it from her cheek.
"The Zaleens destroyed Delindria, and we earthlings can destroy ourselves without any invasion from deep space." he explained to her.
"Admiral Jackson, you must understand that I no longer have Admiral Mazanurra as my master any more, and since he is still in suspension, I am no longer his---
"Dara, you're not making much, if any, sense to me right now." Jackson interrupted, as he tried in vain to figure her out.
"Dara Kamade Tekka." she said, rattling off a name that he failed to comprehend at the moment.
"Ambassador Kamadees, I'm meeting with Valakadria Tawn shortly," he told her. "Will you please get to the point of the matter for which you have urgently requested my presence!"
"My world was not destroyed by the Zaleen's, Admiral." she replied and Jackson homed in on her statement.
"I am a Zaleen, and we are destroying ourselves, from within, as are you, and even though you seek to be an equal with all the inhabitants in this galaxy and enslave no one, we on the other hand are---
"You're … Dara ... Kamade ... Tekka?" he asked as he gazed straight into her eyes, finally comprehending at last.
"Yes, I am." she answered as another tear rolled down her cheek.
"Dara, you've summoned me here and told me that you're a Zaleen, so now that I know this, what am I to expect next?" he asked as he gently wiped a tear from her face with his hand.
"You're making it very difficult for me to continue, Robert Jackson." she said as she gently removed his hand from her face.
"Oh, I'm all ears if nothing else." he replied as he sat there with her.
"One of my own people was sent here to kill you. He almost did but you survived. I was sent to finish his work, should he have failed to succeed. He failed as well as I myself, but---
"Your heart is not as wretched and as evil as you have led yourself to believe, Dara Kamadees." Robert Jackson told her as the tears flowed freely down her face.
"We Zaleen's are an evil and a wretched civilization bent on destroying the rest of the galaxy if not stopped." she said as he handed her his handkerchief.
"Dara, dry your tears, for you and I have a meeting to attend to, together." he ordered her as he stood to take her hand in his.
"I'm an outcast without a home." she told him."Should I have accomplished what he failed to do, I would have been the next queen empress of the Zaleen Empire."
"Now, I am nothing but dust under my own people's feet, to do with as they so please." she explained as she took his extended hand.
"Dara, a family is only as strong as the weakest member of that family." Jackson said. "We may be weak, but we are a family aboard the Orion."
"As long as you are on the Orion, you can consider yourself family." Jackson told her, and she managed a small but teary eyed smile as they left the darkened corner of the galley and walked out into the light.
Robert Jackson had let the ambassador freshen up before they both entered on forward view deck A together.
"I'm only going to say this one more time and one more time only! I'm hungry, and I am tired! I have traveled millions of miles at top speed to arrive here in time to stop you from going on a mission of death!" Valakadria Tawn stormed in a rage as the admiral and ambassador stepped out of the turbo lift and into the verbal battle.
"Ok, what's going on here?" Jackson said as he looked about to find that every department head sat at or stood around the table that arose from the center of the view deck floor.
"Admiral, please talk some sense into these airheads. I didn't come hurling my ship at her fasted speed all the way across this galaxy to be drilled like a cadet! I came here to warn you, and if also possible, perhaps to save your lives. The Zaleen's are going to cross over the Uorexuan neutral zone on their continued quest to conquer all the inhabited worlds in the galaxy. If they are resisted, they will kill and destroy all the inhabitants of those worlds in their path. In the meantime they have taken up their quest to seek out and find the one person in this galaxy that will be able to stop them." Valakadria said as Keletivia stood statue like at her side.
"Just one very quick question Commodora Tawn," Admiral Jackson said as he walked over to stand by her.
"Admiral, please forgive me, but---
"I overheard you saying something about your being tired and hungry?" Admiral Jackson asked, instead of what he really wanted to ask, because he could see it in her eyes that she was not herself.
"More so tired than hungry. It's late night on my ship and I've been up for far longer than I've been down. So, if you will please excuse me, I would like to go to my quarters and rest. I really don't feel all that well at the moment." she answered him as she gazed momentarily at Dara Kamade Tekka, who, turned away in shame.
"Over here Zena my dear, it's mid morning and you'll---
"This meeting is adjourned until everyone has rested up." the admiral said to everyone on the view deck.
"Not till I say that it's adjourned, Admiral!" Davadra thundered.
"Madame President, I've not had anything to eat this morning, and I'm rather hungry myself---
"Robert Andrew Jackson, you may be the galactic admiral of the galactic fleet, but I'm the president of the consortium, and rather you happen to know it or not, countless billions of inhabitants in this galaxy are depending on what we find out during this particular meeting!" she said as she lashed out at him.
"Davadra, I'm well aware of our current situation," Jackson replied. "There's a Zaleen battle cruiser destroyer out there, en-route to the Glammadren system. And we are going to continue on our journey to rendezvous with that ship as was requested---
"What! Are you out of your mind?" David Jackson asked heatedly as others in the room spoke up in opposition to what his brother had said as well.
"If we don't go, then our hands may be dipped in the blood of a few million inhabitants on planet Glammadren! Meeting adjourned!" Admiral Jackson forcefully ordered.
"We have to go ... " Ambassador Kamadees said and paused. " ... because just as many worlds in this galaxy will be obliterated if we continue to waist precious time."
"Meeting adjourned until further notice!" Davadra growled in frustration, along with a few others until Valakadria Tawn staggered and then passed out, falling back into the arms of Keletivia Torl.
"Help, get her to med-bay, on the double!" Jackson barked, as David Jackson came from around the table and hoisted the Zaleen commander into his own arms.
"She hasn't rested, nor has she eaten in days." said Keletivia Torl as she gently released Valakadria over to David Jackson. "She has pressed herself to get here in time to---
"Keletivia, I just so happen to know about these things," Admiral Jackson said, having interrupted her.
"What about you?" he asked, as they followed his brother David over to the turbo lift elevator.
"Nor have I." she answered as David Jackson looked down into the face of Commodora Tawn then stopped short of the lift to turn and face his brother Robert.
"Look Bro, I don't actually hate her, it's just that I don't care for her like you do." he said turning back to follow Doctor Barbara Henderson and Keleketvia Torl into the lift.
"Perhaps not, Commander Jackson, but you do today." Henderson told him as the oval shaped lift doors slid shut.
"Admiral to the Bridge." Robert Jackson said over his wrist unit.
"Bridge here, Admiral." Captain Celane replied.
"Any word from the Uorexuan neutral zone?" he asked as he gazed over at Ambassador Kamedees momentarily.
"Nothing as of yet, sir." she answered.
"Have all our interceptors returned to the ship?" he asked.
"Yes, Admiral," Celane answered. "They have, sir." she added.
"Anything happening over on the Kalaketvia Tawn that we should be made aware of?" he asked, while yawning at the same time.
"Nothing that would cause us to have to go to red alert status at this time, Admiral." Celane stated.
"Very well, keep me posted, Jackson out." he said as he lowered his arm.