A Lady Official approached him, then said in a whispered voice to follow her. They entered an adjacent enclosure having a one-way transparent wall, where they could hear and see everything that was presented to the Council without interfering.
     “Mr. Xallas, my name is Raika Madjen. I have been assigned to you as your Official Secretary, therefore I shall take care of all your inquiries to the Council—and of any other collateral related problems you may have. Please be aware, Sir, that I have three equ. years of work experience within the Council, and I am well familiar with most rules and regulations. However, if you want, you can ask at any time for another Official Secretary to be assigned to you.”

     Najé took a good look at his Official Secretary because they, together, had a very difficult fight ahead which had to be won no matter what. Miss Madjen was about thirty-five equ. years old, medium in height, slim built, with a stunning, superbly proportioned body. She had brown and white hair colors, and incredibly beautiful emerald-green eyes, with attentive looks on a serious face. It was obvious that Miss Madjen had a strong personality, an exceptional education, and she was very honest.
     He felt an unexplained sorrow, because her face and her body had the perfect, natural, innocent beauty of a wild animal permanently alert, living on the brink between life and death. She was from the Ancen System, therefore her skin was light-brown in color, with superb, natural red lips. He couldn’t help noticing she was not married, since she wore the white stone purity ring on her little finger, as was the custom in a few cultures on Ancen.
     Overall, Miss Madjen was exceptionally beautiful, and she was also watching and analyzing him, in her turn, with suspicious, severe looks. It was obvious she didn’t like him too much due, probably, to what she knew about him and to her high moral principles.
     Najé felt somewhat disappointed, because he had hoped for a tough, insensible fighter. However, he had made it a major principle, long before, to accept whatever odds the Destiny had to offer, and to never look for better.
     He replied, “Thank you very much, Miss Madjen. I guess we are a team now. To start, I would like to invite you to join me for lunch.”
     She replied perplexed, “Mr. Xallas, you have just arrived here; you will lose all discussions within the Council!”
     Najé smiled gently at her, then explained, “The most important discussion in this building is the one we two are going to have, Miss Madjen. I want to know you, and I need you to know me, because we are going to fight the Council together. We shall defeat the Council first, then we shall have to fight the Hurran enemy, and we must win again.”
    Her looks became suddenly a lot more alert. She watched him for a few moments, then she inquired appearing to be concerned, “Mr. Xallas, are you feeling well?”
     His smile turned broader; he remarked, “You see, Miss Madjen, you do not trust me.”
     She pointed towards a gate, then she replied while watching him suspiciously, “Let’s exit this way, if you please, so that we do not disturb the Council.”
     “After you, Miss Madjen.”

     Najé realized perplexed that he was already defeated, romantically. The more he watched Miss Madjen, the more enchanted he was! She was the true live personification of the ideal Lady he had been dreaming about his entire life. The way she talked, walked, and moved her body came only to accentuate his feelings for her. She was simply . . . fascinating! It was a very bad time to fall in love, but he couldn’t help it. He kept on wondering, “How is it possible this extraordinary beauty is not married yet? Such a pearl of a Lady!
     Whenever she was watching him, Najé had to make hard efforts to keep his looks away from her, though he scrutinized her meticulously each time she walked ahead of him. Her amble was perfect: elegant and natural, still girlish, everything young Ladies dreamed to achieve, although only a few did.
     Najé was not a young bachelor anymore, and he was looking to marry a nice Lady for quite some time. The problem was, he was very difficult to please: he wanted someone of exception, someone to impress him much. He wished that his future Lady would have an incorruptible character, a strong personality, and to be a true representative of the opposite gender. For many years he had tried to discover his dream-Lady which was supposed to appreciate him for what he was—just a good man—not for his position, wealth, or power.
     They entered the Officials Cafeteria on floor twenty-eight, and they stopped at a table having an excellent view over the immense interior Council Plaza. Miss Madjen said she had lunch already, therefore she ordered only a cake and a refreshing drink to keep him company. Najé started with a green salad, then he had Budves stake in Gossel sauce. He ate fast, thinking of the existing situation—and very much of Miss Madjen—then he also ordered a cake and a fruit juice for dessert.

     He asked, “Miss Madjen, may I ask you for a favor?”
     Her looks turned instantly suspicious and alert. She replied in a cold polite manner, “Please do, Mr. Xallas.”
     “I would like you to call me Najé, Miss Madjen, because all the people I know call me this way. Could you, please, do the same for me?”

     Raika Madjen watched him carefully. Najé Xallas was a typical representative of the Norghe System. He appeared to be suspiciously young, of about thirty, although she knew perfectly well that he was forty-five. Mr. Xallas was tall, athletic built, with blond hair, tanned skin and dark-blue eyes, and his face was . . . well, handsome. However, what was really attractive at Mr. Xallas was his voice: it was of a medium to low timber, very calm, and it was so . . . convincing, even when he was telling the most absurd things!
     Raika thought that there was something hypnotic in his voice . . . and in his eyes, something that induced a lot of relaxation, as if nothing anymore mattered in the entire Universe, except for the immediate space surrounding him. She thought she needed to fight very hard not to fall under his spell; therefore, she focused her attention on discovering the tricks, the lies, and the unreal in his person, and in his words.

     She replied in a dry voice, “I do not believe I could do that, Mr. Xallas, because I have to follow a strict protocol as your Official Secretary to the Council. Besides, I have to admit that I am not quite confident if I should better call you, Dr. Xallas—”
     He interrupted her, “No, Miss Madjen, that is not going to work. Look, we are now, by sheer chance, a team working towards the interests of the Free Democratic Republic Xallas. Now, it is to the best interest of the Republic I represent that we become friends. Please, do not misunderstand this, Miss Madjen: I told you that we are going to win the War against the Hurrans, and I am not insane.
     I am certain you are aware, Miss Madjen, that defeating the Hurrans is not an easy task—this is why I need more than just your help. I want you to trust and work with me as good friends do. I shall not succeed in any fights against the Council, Miss Madjen, without your active, personal involvement. Please, just try to imagine that it is possible, somehow, that we could win this War against the Hurran Invader together.”
     She replied with doubt in her voice, while avoiding his eye contact, “Mr. Xallas, I shall help you with everything I can but . . . please excuse me; I do not believe you when you say that we, together, shall defeat the enemy.”
     Najé smiled at her, then said, “I cannot blame you for that, Miss Madjen, because I do realize it sounds impossible. Just try to forget what you know about reality, and trust in my words for a few days.”
     She replied cautiously, “Maybe . . . if you explain to me what you intend to achieve—”
     He interrupted her with enthusiasm, “Yes, that is a very good starting point! I shall start by summarizing the existing situation. As things are now, Miss Madjen, the Allied Worlds Confederation has already lost the War, regardless of what they do from now on. The War was lost in the moment the Hurran Fleet managed to approach the Kugh System without being detected. As you are probably aware, the Hurrans are using a Trans-States Drive transport technology which was, incidentally, discovered by me. Because of that, I feel I am directly responsible for this Invasion.
     Now, after three days of fights, the Hurrans have at their disposition the entire resources of the Kugh System. In about fifteen equ. days, I suspect they will attack the Ancen System with a Fleet stronger than the one they started with, and they will win again. There is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent that defeat now—” Najé stopped his words because Miss Madjen was watching him with very scared eyes. He asked with concern, “Are you all right, Miss Madjen?”
     She explained, “I am sorry, Mr. Xallas. My family is in the Ancen System, and I am terribly worried for them. I asked them to come here, but they refused . . .”
     He tried to encourage her, “Miss Madjen, you have to be brave.”
     “I know, Mr. Xallas. Please, excuse me for this.”
     “Look, Miss Madjen, the only person in the Allied Worlds capable of defeating the Hurran Invaders is me.”
     “How?” asked Miss Madjen slightly annoyed.
     He explained, “I have a good strategy, and I have some powerful technologies nobody else has, or knows about.”
     She asked perplexed, “Then, why don’t you use them now, to win the War?”
     Najé replied, “Because my plan and those technologies I mentioned are far from being sufficient, Miss Madjen. I need the cooperation of the Council, except they will not listen, willingly, to me. Actually, you have witnessed to the way they welcomed me: I am an intruder among them.”
     “You want to get the Commandment of the Operations—” started Raika to inquire.
     He interrupted her, “More than that, Miss Madjen. I need the Council itself to do as I tell them to do.”
     “They will never do that, Mr. Xallas,” tried Raika to reason with him.
     He replied, “I know, and this is our job, Miss Madjen. It is difficult, but not impossible. Think that it is lot easier to coerce the Council, than to defeat the enemy.”
     “Well, if you put it that way . . .” said Raika hesitantly.
     He continued, “This is the reason I ask for your friendship, Miss Madjen: we have to fight hard, on multiple fronts, and if we do not trust each other, as real friends do, we could make mistakes. Think of your family, Miss Madjen: what you are going to do here, with me, is the only way you can save them.”
     The idea that her work with Najé Xallas could help her family, and millions other families, swept away Raika’s doubts. She said in a firm voice, “All right, Mr. Xa—Najé, you have convinced me. Just tell me what I have to do.”
     “Excellent! This is a very good step ahead. May I call you, Raika?”
     “I need you to do something for me, Raika.”
     He explained, “There are rules and regulations of addressing the Council which you know and I don’t. Therefore, I want you to take control of our actions without waiting for instructions from me. Can you do this?”
     She replied hesitantly, “Yes . . . if I know in advance what you want to achieve.”
     “Excellent, Raika; please believe me, we are making a very good progress. Together, and with a little help from a few good friends of mine, we are going to win the War against this terrible Hurran Invader. Isn’t this wonderful?”
     Najé appeared to be very pleased, and Raika watched him suspiciously. Soon, she discovered the source of her lack of trust: Najé Xallas was too young! He talked and behaved like a very young happy bachelor, but what was the most perplexing was the fact that he actually looked very young physically!

     She replied, “I really wish it very much that everything you say shall come true, Najé, but—”
     He interrupted her smiling a bit ironically, “One day, Raika, you will know that I tell you the truth now, and I hope you are going to trust me more—”
     She interrupted him in her turn, “Honestly, Najé, I wish it with all my heart that you are right, but think of—”
     He interrupted her again, “Listen to this, Raika. How many powerful Delegates from that Council have the courage to say, now, that they can win the War against the Hurrans alone?”
     “You see?”
     “All right, I shall trust you, Najé Xallas. What is our plan?”
     “Yes, we are engaged now in an active combat, Raika, therefore we need to plan ahead each move we make. First, I need a suite in this building—can you manage this?”
     “It is very difficult, Najé, but I shall do it,” promised Raika.
     “Next, I want a summary of today’s discussions in the Council. You will have to get the report, study it, and then come to me and we shall discuss our strategy for tomorrow.”
     She warned him, “I shall finish studying the report probably very late, Najé.”
     “I know, Raika; I never said that things are going to be easy. Besides, never forget that we are already involved in a tough, decisive, active combat.”
     Raika felt his words like a tonic. She replied, “Right! Anything else?”
     “This is sufficient, Raika. Each day from now on needs be a small step ahead, up to the critical moment.”

     They parted. Najé went to the Library, to study some records about Hurran Civilization, and Raika went to make arrangements for his suite. She returned to him two equ. hours later, and said she had found a tiny second-secretary suite in the Officials’ Sector.
     Raika added with an ironic smile, “I know you are rich enough to build many buildings like this one, Najé, though for the time being you will have to live like the rest of us. The good part is, your suite is very close to mine.”
     Najé confessed, “I like it very much when you are so open and honest with me, Raika. After the War, I intend to invite you to assist me in giving money to the charities. As for the suite, please believe me: you couldn’t have found anything better. We shall have a late dinner together, after you study the report.”
     The suite was indeed small, though it was clean and sufficiently comfortable. Najé managed a couple of hours of napping fully dressed on a lounge. Raika came late, and she appeared to be tired. They had a simple dinner in silence, then they went to the Study Room carrying glasses of a sweet fruit liquor. Najé made the windows transparent, then he dimmed the lights so that they had a good sight over Sooholl City.
     He asked, “What was the general topic of today’s discussions in the Council, Raika?”
     She replied, “It has been a presentation of the Hurran fighting strategies used during the Invasion, and a report about the remaining active Defense Forces.”
     “What is the situation of our Forces compared to what has been lost?” inquired Najé with vague interest.
     “They are about fifty to fifty-five percent less—” started Raika.
     Najé interrupted her thoughtfully, “Good . . .”
     Raika replied revolted, “Good! How can you say that is good, Najé Xallas? I certainly do not like the way you express yourself sometimes.”
     He tried to calm her in a defensive attitude, “Please, allow me to explain, Raika. In order to work, my plan needs a few events to happen: one is that the Allied Worlds Defense Forces shall be destroyed in the battle for the Ancen System.”
     She replied with irritation, “That is so cynical, Najé Xallas!”
     He smiled gently at her, then said, “No, Raika, it only SOUNDS cynical, because we use words to express our thoughts. However, many times simple words are not sufficient to express complex meanings, feelings, or theories, therefore we use examples, comparisons, metaphors, or detailed descriptions in order to communicate perfect, complete messages.
     I do realize that my words sound cynical, but there is nothing I can do to save the Allied Worlds now. However, I CAN save the Allied Worlds, ONLY IF our Defense is totally destroyed. Do you understand this?” In order to stress the importance of a few particular words, Najé had pronounced them with a bit more accent.
     She watched him attentively for a while, appearing to be in doubt, then said, “I see . . . You are actually waiting patiently, like a spider, for the fly to contact the net.”
     He smiled at her, then replied, “Thank you, Raika. Your spider comparison doesn’t quite fill my life with a lot of happiness, but important is that you do understand the logic of what we need to do.”
     “It is your logic that is contemptuous,” complained Raika, still not much pleased.
     “I know. Please believe me; a good logic is always going to be a little bit difficult to swallow. Now, you need to understand what we want to achieve in the Council, before physical action should start.
     The first and the most important thing is, the Hurrans shall defeat all Allied Worlds forces at Ancen, so that they should come to Norghe System totally confident that there are no more serious fights ahead for them. Secondly, the Allied Worlds Council has to lose all hopes of winning the War, and that should give me the possibility to command them. Somehow, I must win their trust, and I do not know how to do that, Raika. On the other hand, it may be possible we could implement our plans without their help . . . Well, we need time to discover the best option available.
     These two conditions should lead to a unique, geometrical arrangement of the Hurran Fleet, which would allow us to act properly. We need to bring the Hurran Fleet in some sort of a close formation, confident in total victory, because we have only one blow to make things work. That blow must take out of the equation the entire Hurran higher echelon, and most of their Fleet. I hope my logic is clearer to you now.”
     “Yes, it makes some sense, but you are expecting far too much, and you have too many difficult circumstances to overcome.”
     “I am well aware of those adverse conditions, Raika, but I am, more or less, just a particular person and my means are fairly limited. I cannot do better than that. We need to guide the Allied Worlds Council towards a deadlock, and then to lure the Hurran leaders into the net—”
     She interrupted him with concern, “What if we fail, Najé?”
     He replied ironically, “If we fail, Raika, try to picture a life of slavery for you, and for your children.”
     Her face colors paled a little, then she asked with a beginning of irritation, “We do not have much choice, do we?”
     He replied in a kind tone of voice, “There are always alternatives, Raika. The truth is, I haven’t been totally honest with you, because I do have additional means to deal with such dangerous situations. However, this Hurran problem is particularly difficult because it came without warning, and with such a force . . . Besides, it doesn’t make sense, because the Allied Worlds are a lot stronger technologically, than the Hurrans . . . unless . . .”
     They watched in silence the nightlife of the City for a while. Raika wondered, how could everything look that peaceful and ordinary when the terrible enemy was coming closer with each passing day?
     Najé said, “I believe there is a problem in the Council, Raika. Do you think that any Delegate could be in cooperation with the enemy?”
     “What!” asked Raika surprised. She watched him for a few moments with frightened eyes, then she said hesitantly, “I do not know, Najé. I . . . I never thought about that.”
     “Try to analyze their behavior, Raika, and see if we can gain any Delegate to our side.”
     She inquired, “What are our actions for tomorrow?”
     He replied, “I want to contact the Cawa Federation Delegate. Please arrange for a lunch invitation. Secondly, we need to make sure that our voice is heard inside the Council. What do you say about a formal protest to whatever plans the Allied Worlds shall decide for the Ancen System battle?”
     Raika explained a bit caustically, “Because I know, now, that the battle for the Ancen System needs to be lost catastrophically, I say our protest should better be rather vague and fairly shy.”
     “Yes, Raika, that is excellent thinking. Tomorrow, I want you to study the day’s discussions and then meet with me again, as we did today. Is this convenient for you?”
     She replied hesitantly, “Yes. I hope, Najé, that you know what you are doing . . . It makes some sense to me, but there are so many variables that could go wrong . . .”
     He explained smiling a bit amused, “Actually, Raika, you have touched, indirectly, a particularly interesting philosophical topic: the notion of ‘chance’. Truth is, chance is an important factor for individuals, for Civilizations, and even for the entire Universe.
     At a first glance, we could be tempted to say that chance is such a random event, that it is totally unpredictable and out of control. I studied the mathematical expressions of chance all my life, and I reached the conclusion I need the next part of my life in order to get as many evidences as I can. Anyway, the point to note is, at this moment I consider that chance is not quite totally random . . .
     Oh, I am sorry. This is philosophy, Raika, and I think we should leave it for better days.”

     They parted, then Najé went on analyzing the most important events of the day. Later in the night he went to bed wondering, how was it possible that Miss Raika Madjen was not married yet?



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