* Thirty - One *
The Orion was on its way back to the Glammadren system while Valakadria Tawn, Keletivia Torl, and Dara Tekka stood on the bridge without uttering a single word.
Due to thirteen years of updated technology, Dara's golden neck collar could not be tampered with, or in the least bit, altered. Valakadria's on the other hand was taken from the Orion's phasonic emitter and placed back around her neck as was demanded by the empress of Zaleena, Kalindra Vohaydren.
In less than an hour, the three of them and the crew of the Kalaketvia Tawn would be turned over to the new queen and nothing short of a miracle would prevent it. The question that was now floating about the ship was that when the deserters were back in Zaleen space, would the Zaleen Empire and the Consortium live in peace with one another for as long as Kalindra Vohaydren ruled. The wait was about over as the Orion put in to orbit around the planet Glammadren and the rest of the galactic fleet escorted the Kalaketvia Tawn to a place in orbit as well before surrounding the empress's flag ship.
"Admiral Jackson," the empress said as they descended the shuttles ramp on to the battle cruiser destroyers fighter deck. "It was very wise of you to follow through with my orders and bring me that which I demanded of you."
"We found that we simply didn't have any other choices allotted to us," Jackson replied as he stood in front of Valakadria, Keletivia, and Dara.
"As I knew you all would ... eventually, Admiral." the empress stated as she offered her right hand for a friendly shake but withdrew it when the admiral wouldn't offer his.
"Until later, your highness," he told her as he gazed directly into her eyes. "I may offer you my hand in greeting, or when departing, many times in the future, if, and only if, you would but grant this one thing, that I beg of you."
"And just what would that one thing be, Admiral Jackson?" she asked as she gazed deeply into his eyes.
"I only plead that you would not harm Valakadria Tawn, Keletivia Torl, Dara Tekka, nor the crew of the Kalaketvia Tawn in any way, as to deprive them of their---
"Admiral," the empress interrupted to say. "You are in no viable position to ask, beg, or plead of me for anything. All I have to do is to give the word, and you, yourself, would be joining your three female, and traitorous friends, as prisoners of the empire."
"You .. speak ... the truth, your highness." Jackson gulped.
"This is the truth of the matter, Admiral!" the empress roared like a lioness. "I'm going to deposit Tawn, Torl, and Tekka on the uninhabited planet Kylodius to live out the remainder of their lives, undisturbed by the Empire, or by the Consortium, from the day that they are exiled there, until forever. You, on the other hand, are free to leave, so that we may be as free as well, to leave consortium space, and return to our own. Then, for as long as the three of them remain on Kylodius, all will be well between the Zaleen Empire and the Consortium of Inhabited Worlds. But, if any ship in this galaxy, at any time, makes an attempt to rescue them, they shall all be utterly destroyed."
"Kylodius is dead center of the---
"That's right, Admiral," the queen empress said. "Dead center of the neutral zone. And now, to prove to all, that I mean exactly what I say."
The Kalaketvia Tawn came up on the viewer behind Kalindra Vohaydren and a few seconds later it, not the viewer, exploded into oblivion.
"Until later, Admiral." she said as she spun around on her heels and gestured for the guards to escort Valakadria Tawn, Keletivia Torl, and Dara Tekka out of Robert Jackson's life forever.
"Until later." the admiral said as he slowly turned and walked back to the Patricia Gayle.
"I pray to God, that my brother knows what he's doing on Vohaydren's ship," Robert Jackson said as his personal shuttle headed back to the Orion.
"If anyone can ... pull it off, as I've heard it said, David Jackson is apt to be able to succeed." Counselor Davrina Adriakar said as she sat next to the admiral.
"Well, he's studied the plans of the ...
"What's wrong, Admiral?" Davrina asked as Robert Jackson paused for longer than she thought that he should while he gazed over at her sister.
"I called it off, big brother," David Jackson said as he raised up in his seat and scared the life out of Robert and Davrina. "That witch holds three cards and we hold none. I couldn't risk our lives by knowing that all she has to do is send the right wrong signal to Dara Tekka's birth collar, and ... poof."
"Valakadria was right," Tori Buckingham said as the others arose up in their seats. "There's absolutely nothing that any of us can do to---
"Incoming hail from the Visalcoa Vorna," Steven Davis said from the front of the shuttle as he put the transmission on the vid-com screen, forward of the passenger compartment. For some unknown reason, audio was transmitted only.
"Admiral Jackson," said the voice of Kalindra Vohaydren. "It was very wise of you to have kept the security team, that you did not need to bring along with you, aboard your shuttle. But, since you deemed it necessary, and since the security team came here for no justifiable reason that I could fathom, I must take the appropriate action to be assured that this does not happen in the future."
A ray rifle was heard, firing over the vid-com speakers and then, dead silence followed for the space of half a minute.
"Keletivia Torl has paid the price for your mistake, Admiral Jackson." the empress informed him, as Keletivia's body was ejected from an air lock on Vohaydren's ship and was immediately caught up in a transporter beam from a nearby Consortium star ship.
"For your information, Empress, it was my idea to bring security along, just in case it was deemed necessary for us to be there," David Jackson said into the air. "The admiral was against it from the start, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Then I can be assured that the admiral will take appropriate actions to make sure that you are penalized for jeopardizing the life of one of my prisoners." the empress said before she ended the transmission.
"I'd love to get my hands around---
"David," his brother stormed as he turned around to face the chief of security. "Me first!"
"By all means, Admiral, sir." his brother replied. "As long as I can get my hands around her neck, next."
"Lieutenant Davis," the admiral yelled to the front of the shuttle. "Patch me in to the fleet."
A few minutes later, Steven Davis had the fleet captains and commanders online.
"You're patched in, Admiral, sir."
"This is Galactic Fleet Admiral Jackson, to all ship commanders in the Glammadren system, you're to escort the Visalcoa Vorna safely to the neutral zone before proceeding to your next port of call. Jackson, out." he said as he gazed over at Davadra Adriakar who had remained silent with her head bowed.
One lone Consortium star ship pulled away from the rest of the fleet and sped off to the planet Calistra as the admiral's shuttle made it's way back to the safety of the Orion.
"Captain Celane," said Lieutenant Commander, Laura Andrews from the communications station on the bridge. "Incoming hail, on a secure channel, from Captain Talcrys of the medical transport ship, Asorednop."
"Put him on Lieutenant," Celane said as the main vid-screen shimmered from a view of space to one of a bridge on another ship.
"This is Captain Suvon Talcrys of the Calistran medical transport ship, Asorednop. We have a Zaleen female aboard, in med-bay, condition critical, but stable."
"Kele ... tivia ... Torl," Celane said as she arose up and out of the command chair to stand.
"Yes, Captain Celane," Talcrys replied. "We managed to transport her as soon as she was ejected from the Visalcoa Vorna."
"Do all that you possibly can for her, Captain," Sathrana said as she made her way across the bridge to stand closer to the monitor. "And thank you for transporting her as quickly as you did."
"There's no need to worry that her people will track her. She was shot in the neck, and for the most part, her birth collar just may have saved her life. When transported aboard our ship, she wasn't wearing it," Talcrys informed the commander of the Orion. "We're en-route to Calistra, where she'll be taken good care of, Captain Suvon Elah Talcrys, out."
"I suppose that we are all going back to our boring lives on planet Earth, providing that we have them when we---
"I'm afraid not, Commander Jackson," Counselor Adriakar said as she turned in her seat to face him. "Your exodus from your home world has ... well let me just say that someone has got a lot of explaining to do."
"How do you go about explaining all those mass abductions from every continent on the face of the planet?" David Jackson said as he sat further back in his seat.
"Why not just take the Orion straight home ... and put her into earth orbit, to begin with?" asked Tori Buckingham as she sat forward in her seat.
"And let everyone on Earth know that---
"They're going to want to know where all of our shuttles came from." she said. "That would be my first best guess."
"She's right, Admiral," David Jackson said as he gazed over at Cadet Buckingham. "All of our shuttles had to come from a larger vessel. It's not as if the peoples of planet Earth haven't got a clue."
"Then we'll all be spending the rest of our lives explaining how we managed to be on the larger vessel in the first place," the admiral said as their shuttle closed in on the mother ship. "Not that some of them don't already know from our last voyage into space."
"With an extraterrestrial crew from umpteen inhabited worlds," his brother David added. "I believe that for the most part everyone back home on Earth will understand after we explain it to them ... not."
"Planet Earth, it's your wake up call." Tori Buckingham said as Steven Davis maneuvered their shuttle around for docking.
"And ours as well." Robert Jackson replied.
"I seriously doubt that we've seen or heard the last of Kalindra Vohaydren." he told them as he took one last look out the view port window before the shuttle was taken aboard the Orion.
"Unitor Zueaston Zonalua informed me that the Zaleens must all perish and that I should stay out of the ... executioners way, whenever they arrived from afar," Jackson went on to say as their shuttle was lifted upward through it's airlocks. "Counselor, who will be taking care of the Zaleen problem, and when should we be expecting them from afar?"
"This is news to me Admiral," Counselor Adriakar answered. "Other than the Consortium, the Dorkonians would be the only---
"No," Admiral Jackson quickly said. "The Zanarian Unitor also told me that after the Zaleens had been taken care of, the Dorkonians were next in line."
"The Dorkonians would be the only other force to be reckoned with Admiral," Davrina Adriakar continued to say as their shuttle sat down on the deck. "I would need to speak with Unitor Zona---
"Do it then," Robert Jackson ordered her as David Jackson popped the seals and the hatches opened.
"That's a direct order, Counselor Adriakar," the admiral said as he unbuckled his safety harness and waited on Davadra, before he followed her off of the shuttle.
"I'll see what I can do, Admiral, sir." Davrina said as she too released her safety harness before standing to exit the craft.
"That's more like it, Davrina." Jackson told her as they exited the shuttle and made their way down the ramp only to bump into Captain Sathrana Celane.
"Keletivia Torl is alive, and being transported to the planet Calistra aboard the Asorednop, Admiral." Captain Celane informed him as they stood at the end of the ramp.
"And I would assume that we too, are on our way to Calistra?" the admiral replied.
"I didn't think that---
"This is your ship, Captain." Jackson told her before she could say her piece of mind. "Her last voyage, so make it last as long as you want."
"Thank you, sir." Sathrana replied back. "I didn't think that you would mind a delayed trip back to Earth."
"No," Jackson said sighing deeply. "It'll give Davadra and I some time to figure out how we're going to let the populace back on the home world know about our past two voyages. Now if you'll all excuse us, we've got a few things to take care of before we reach Calistra."