Next morning Najé met with the other ten Delegates inside the Council Meeting Hall. Starting with Najé, they all referred to the Official Secretaries the person designated to take the Presidential Chair in case of accident, or departure. When they were finished, Najé announced he was going to be in Gorkun City for the next two equ. days, therefore Jeolan Nendem remained to act as President Delegate in his absence.
     He told Raika to prepare for a two equ. days work trip. She asked for thirty equ. minutes to pack a few things. Najé smiled when he saw her coming fifty-three equ. minutes later, nervous of being late and accompanied by a voluminous travel container. They went to his private spaceship which was already landed inside the interior Council Building Plaza.

     Raika entered the little round spaceship, and she was amazed with what she saw. Everything was built out of some nicely polished metals, though it looked so strange to her as if it were an alien ship!
     She remarked, “You have a very nice spaceship, Najé.”
     “I am glad you like it, Raika,” replied Najé visibly satisfied.
     “How long is the trip going to last?”
     “Oh, no more than fifteen equ. minutes.”
     She wondered with disappointment, “That fast?”
     Najé explained, “This little ship is unique in our cluster of Stars, Raika. There is none to match it, and I shall use it to meet with the Hurran Arch-Commissioner.”
     He invited her to tour the ship. They started with the Navigation Control at the superior level: it was a round compartment with a transparent dome. There were four comfortable seats inside, surrounded by command consoles looking just like a plain polished metal surface. At a simple touch the consoles went on displaying brightly colored complex 3D controls which could be modified and adjusted; then, after another touch, the controls changed into another configuration, then another one, and so on. Each console could be set to whatever was required: manual navigation, communications, engine controls, and many others which Raika did not understand. The transparent dome itself could be made metallic opaque or perfectly transparent, or anything in between.
     In the middle section of the ship there were four small cabins arranged in a ring distribution, each equipped with everything a person needed. The central area was designed for meetings and socializing, and it was populated by four comfortable seats. The lower level, the largest one, was dedicated entirely to the engines, though everything was way too complex and completely strange looking to Raika. She understood that little spaceship was a true wonder, because it had “a power generation train” about one thousand times more powerful than a FW-Docking Ship!
     Najé added proudly that, if the Hurran Arch-Commissioner had found out about that “little baby”, he would have traded his Home Planet, Togris, to have it!

     By the time they finished the tour, they were parked high up, in a small hangar built inside a tall building in Gorkun City. Raika was both surprised and disappointed because she didn’t experience any flying sensation, she heard no sound, and she didn’t see anything of the landscape. Najé promised to her that she was going to travel a lot with that ship.
     They took an elevator down, and they stopped at the fifty three level. Najé presented Raika her suite, and said that his was just across. Her suite had only three rooms, all incredibly spacious and with many amazing technological features. The furniture was simple, comfortable, in a cubist style, without decorations. Everything was straight lines and flat surfaces in shades of white or light-gray, purposely designed to suggest simplicity, comfort, protection, and a total relaxation.
     Najé told her to prepare for a quick trip in a warm climate. Raika was surprised, because at that time of the yearly cycle it was very cold, windy, and rather rainy on the Bant Island. He came back to her twenty-five equ. minutes later, though he had to wait in front of her gate for fifteen more, until she allowed the gate to open.
     Raika was dressed for warm climate in a one-piece blue garment made of a thin and soft, pale-blue fabric, and she had a cute, white hat in her hands. She asked him if she needed the hat, and Najé smiled and said, “No”. He was wearing a beige, comfortable, summer suit. Raika kept on asking about the place they were going to, but Najé shook his head, he smiled, and he didn’t say a word!
     They took an elevator down—and seemed it would never stop—then they got out inside a large corridor, somewhere underground, which very well lit and it had a whitish metal covering on the walls. Amazingly, there were no image reflections on the walls! A row of eight transport modules for two persons was parked nearby, and they climbed into one of them. Najé punched a code. The module lifted from the ground, then it began accelerating abruptly, towards a very high speed. Raika screamed terrified, then she grabbed on Najé’s arm.
     She recovered quickly, then she went on reproaching him, “You could have warned me, Najé Xallas! That was not nice!”
     He smiled at her, then said, “I am sorry, Raika, but you should expect to discover many unusual things around here. Now, you are warned.”
     “What kind of unusual things? Why are you so cryptic?” asked Raika annoyed.
     He explained, “Everything is meant to be a surprise for you, My Dear. Please understand that I cannot tell you anything more.”

     The module slowed down in front of a large gate. As everywhere, the walls were covered in white metal, and the place was very well lit from unknown sources. Raika noticed that, and she asked Najé about the source of the light.
He explained, “It is built into the metallic coating of the walls,” then he advised her, “Ask me about anything that appears strange to you.”
     They entered a spacious semicircular hall which was just a small sector of a gigantic ring. Scattered throughout that place there were all sort of strange installations, and small isles of machineries surrounded by consoles like the ones Raika had seen inside the little spaceship. People dressed in white coveralls were busy around, and she noticed, from place to place, airtight enclosures having transparent walls where other people were working on very complex installations.

     Raika felt scared she could get lost in there; therefore, she came close to Najé, then she grabbed firmly on his right upper arm. A Gentleman dressed in funny colored clothes came to meet them, and Najé presented him as Dr. Gebd Noraieb.
     “How is everything going, Gebd?” asked Najé.
     Gebd replied, “Couldn’t be better. We are almost ready to start the tests this afternoon.”
     Najé inquired, “Whom do we have there?”
     “It’s Linges, Jekka, and a few of the young technicians,” replied Gebd.
     “Good. Aah, look Gebd: I want to take Miss Madjen to Udora-Seven. Are the pits free?”
     “Yes. I will send someone to help you around.”
     Gebd called a technician: he was a young tall and thin Gentleman who appeared to be well familiar to Najé. They shook hands, then the technician went on explaining to Najé an idea he had about an experiment, in words way too unfamiliar to Raika. They talked and walked for a while, then Raika noticed four large, transparent cylinders.
     Najé asked her to step into one cylinder, but she was too scared and she refused to let go of her grip on his arm. They entered the cylinder together, then the technician made a gesture, and then everything turned into a thick greenish fog. It lasted for only a moment, and Raika felt itching throughout her body.
     The light came back again, only everything was different around . . . and the illumination had shades of orange! Even the air was different! They walked out the cylinder into a small, rectangular room with a few consoles around, then Najé walked to a gate, and it opened . . .
     The next thing that happened to Raika was, she cried with surprise: she was watching the mountain landscape of a World unlike anything she had had ever seen before! There was a very big orange Star in the sky, and there was a faint golden-orange haze into the air . . . and a persistent smell of . . . unknown flowers and of . . . something else . . . Even the vegetation was different!
     Greatly surprised she asked, “Najé, where are we?”
     He smiled kindly at her, then explained, “This, My Dear, is Udora-Seven, a Planet in the Rodha Constellation, about ten thousand equ. light-years away from Norghe System.”
     The landscape was breathtaking. She saw a very large valley going far down in a gentle slope, with a small creek in the middle and tall mountain walls on sides. It appeared to be morning, and there were strange trees around having flowers—or fruits!—and strange colorful birds in the sky looking more like enormous butterflies . . .
     Najé warned her, “We cannot stay here for too long, Raika.”
     She replied enthusiastically, “Why not? It is wonderful here! I have the feeling that I am just ready to start flying!”
     He explained, “Ha, ha! It is the air, My Dear: it gives you an euphoric sensation. You need a few equ. weeks to accommodate properly to this environment.”
     She said pleadingly, “Najé, please, I want to have a flower from this wonderful place,” then she asked timidly, “Do you think I should have one?”
     “Of course, My Dear. How rude of me not to think of it—please excuse me, Raika. I would like to offer you an extraordinary little flower which I am certain it is going to bring you many wonderful memories in the years to come.”
They walked downhill for a while, until Najé saw the flower he wanted. It was very small, with a golden-metallic stem and golden-orange leaves, and with an iridescent blue flower, in the shape of an elongated bulb, surrounded by a few silvery filaments ended in tiny red pearls appearing to be aflame. Najé nipped it off gently, and Raika felt a lot of shame she had asked for it: it seemed to her a horribly violent act to end the life of such a wonderful creation of nature. The entire environment around appeared to be incredibly pure, serene, and so innocent!
     Najé was holding the flower away from him, and from her, while they returned to the rectangular building. By then, the sun was more yellowish in color and everything appeared to be bathed in gold, due to the faint haze. There were many strange though greatly pleasing harmonic noises in the air . . . and all around them . . .
     Raika looked at him with a lot of gratitude in her eyes, and she said softly, “Oh, this place is a dream, Najé! I do not know how to thank you for bringing me here.”
     He smiled happily and replied, “I am very glad you like it, Raika. We shall come back here whenever you want, but now we have to go back. If we stay any longer, we need a longer period to adapt, back on Cotta.”
     They entered the building. Najé went to a console and dialed something, then he took Raika’s hand and they stepped into the transparent cylinder. After a short while, the greenish fog came and went away. They were back inside the huge hall.
     Raika had troubles breathing. The air was like acid for her lungs, and it had a strong odor of synthetic substances. Najé helped her to a row of comfortable seats, to relax and recover.
     “Is . . . is it dangerous?” asked Raika between gasps.
     “What?” asked Najé.
     She replied, “The . . . other air.”
     Najé explained, “No . . . it is just different . . . You need to adapt . . . that is all. No effects.”
     She said, “Let me see . . . the flower.”
     “Not now . . . You need to recover. Just relax for a few equ. minutes.”
     “How many places . . . you have . . . like the one we have been on?” inquired Raika.
     He said, “Eleven new Planets, each in its own System . . . Only the first five have colonists on them.”
     “Colonists!” wondered Raika surprised.
     Najé smiled at her, then said, “Yes, Raika. You are going to see them all, and then you should select one for yourself.”
     “Why? You want to abandon me there?” asked Raika suddenly alert.
     He replied amused, “Ha, ha! Oh no, My Dear. I intend to start with you a new life from the very beginning, like real men and real women do. We shall work the land, and we are going to build everything with our own hands. It is going to be very nice—you will see.”
     “Najé . . .” started Raika hesitantly.
     He asked, “What?”
     “I do not think I am ready,” confessed Raika timidly.
     He encouraged her, “Ah, do not worry, My Dear. We have noticed that, when they need something—for example, when they need to eat—people are always able to manage it . . . somehow.”
     “What do they eat?” asked Raika suspiciously.
     “They kill an animal and eat it,” replied Najé casually.
     “Najé Xallas, I cannot do that!” protested Raika alarmed.
     “What? You cannot do what?” asked Najé surprised.
     “Killing animals and eating them!” explained Raika in a shocked attitude.
     “But you eat them each day, My Dear,” tried Najé to reason with her.
     She motivated, “I know, but I cannot kill them.”
     “Aah, you will get used to it,” confided Najé with abandonment.
     “No! I am serious! I know I cannot do it, and I do not want to do it, Najé Xallas!” replied Raika, and she appeared to be frightened, even shocked by the suggested perspective.
     “How about the ‘real man’ and the ‘real woman’ things?” inquired Najé smiling amused.
     She said nervously, “I do not know; we need to find something else! Give me that flower, please!”
     Najé was holding the flower well away from him, and from her. He said, “Not now, it is too early. It has such a strong perfume you could become intoxicated, or you could even lose your conscience.”
     “Oh! It is that dangerous?” asked Raika perplexed.
     He replied, “Yeah. There are very many beautiful things out there, Raika, but there are also very many hidden dangers. That is the reason we explore them one at a time, and fairly slow. Can you walk, or shall I call a transport module?”
     She tried to stand, but her legs were still soft. Najé produced a small device from his pocket, then he entered a code.
     The module stopped in their front. Najé helped her in with uncertain movements himself. She let her beautiful head to rest on his shoulder, as the module went on gently, on the way back. They reached the elevators from where they started their incredibly short journey to another Planet—ten thousand equ. light-years away!—and they accessed one of them.
     Moments later, Raika stared having bursts of an uncontrollable laughter. She had no idea why, and that seemed to be even funnier. She asked, “Ha, ha! Why? Ha, ha, ha!”
     Najé was making hard though unsuccessful efforts to refrain from laughing. He explained, “It is . . . ha, ha . . . the flower! Ha, ha! It is a closed . . . ha, ha, space, ha, ha!”
     “Ha, ha, ha! The, ha, ha, flower? Aah, ha, ha, ha!” wondered Raika between violent laughing sessions.
     Najé abandoned his attempts to refrain from laughing—more likely he wasn’t capable of any—and he replied laughing vigorously, “Ha, ha! Yes! Aah, ha, ha!”

     They stepped out of the elevator, each in an agonizing laughing crisis and holding onto each other. Raika fell slowly down to the floor, then she crept to a wall to find a solid support for her weak body. Najé crawled through shaking laughing spasms and took the flower away, inside his suite. He returned to Raika who was trying hard to refrain from laughing: she was breathing hard, between bursts of laughter.
     She said, “It could have—ha, ha!—killed us—ha, ha, ha!—laughing! Ha, ha!”
     He replied, “Ha, ha! No joke! Ha, ha!”
     Raika confessed, “I never laughed—ha, ha!—in my—ha, ha!—entire life so much! Ha, ha, ha! What did you—ha, ha!—do with it? Ha, ha!”
     “I put it in a, ha, ha, glass container. After a few days, ha, ha, it will be over, ha, ha, and I shall give it to you. Ha, ha!” explained Najé, still laughing heartily.
     Raika wondered, “A few days! Aaah, ha, ha, ha!” then both of them started a new, long, generous laughing session.
     When he recovered, a little, Najé said, “I know. It is . . . ha, ha . . . very strong.”

     Slowly though surely they began to recover, both of them with very tired bodies, though with excellent dispositions.
     “That little monster almost killed me laughing,” confessed Raika smiling very pleased.
     Najé explained, “It is exceptionally beautiful, Raika—you will see—only it is indeed dangerous. Nobody died, until now, but if you smell it fresh you may lose your conscience and, after you recover, you behave like intoxicated for at least two equ. days.”
     She wondered amused, “Ha, ha! Two days of intoxication from a single sniff?”
     “Yeah, there are many things out there incredibly strange.”
     “It must be very exciting exploring them,” commented Raika cautiously.
     “It is, and you will experience it too,” promised Najé.
     He advised her to rest for a few equ. hours. When she was going to wake up, she should take the elevator up to floor sixty-eight where the cafeteria was, and he promised he would meet her there. Najé gave her a small wristlet device, and he showed her how to contact him in case she was going to get lost. After that, he left her.
     Raika felt very tired. She simply dropped down on a sofa, and immediately fell asleep. The sofa extended by itself gently into a comfortable large bed.
     She woke up in the evening feeling very hungry, because she had nothing for lunch except for the incredible laughing session. Raika felt ready to start laughing again, thinking of the nasty little flower, only she felt much pain inside her body when she tried. She managed to take a refreshing shower, then to dress in a nice, dark-green evening dress. After some fruitless efforts of trying to remember the number of the floor where the cafeteria was, she activated the wristlet device. She was relieved to see Najé’s face popping up on the tiny metal strip.
     “Hello, Raika. Are you all right?” asked Najé looking concerned.
     She replied, “Yes, I am fine, thank you, Najé. Could you please tell me again the number of the floor where the cafeteria is?”
     He smiled kindly at her then said, “It is sixty-eight, Dear. I shall be waiting for you.”
     “Thank you, Najé.”

     The cafeteria was a large ring encircling the entire level, having transparent walls towards the outside and facing, in part, the Storms Sea. It was early evening, and the orange rays of the Norghe Star were penetrating through the dark, stormy clouds. A few people kept busy at small tables having minuscule, discrete lights pointed to the table area. In one side there were a few large screens displaying strange images: it appeared that a group of people in the room were talking to the people on the screens.
     Raika stopped disoriented because she didn’t know where to go, then someone from the group in front of the screens came to meet her: it was Najé.

     He said with admiration, “Well, Miss Madjen, you look particularly ravishing tonight! It must be the laughing episode had some miraculous effects for you!”
     She replied nervously, “Oh, Najé, stop reminding me of that horrible thing!” then she motivated, “I may start laughing again, and it hurts!”
     “Of course, My Dear. Let me help you around,” offered Najé.

     They walked to a dispenser bar, then he made the surface to come alive: there were many names and 3D pictures of strange dishes and drinks. Najé advised her on an easy menu, then he showed her how to select and to send the order. He explained that there was only one big kitchen on the island. All orders were processed individually, packed, and then shipped via vacuum tubes to the right address. Raika asked about the dishes he had ordered, and he replied that he had chosen for her a delicious fish from one of the newly discovered Worlds.
     “Are you trying to kill me?” asked Raika jokingly, though a bit suspicious.
     “Ha, ha! Oh no, My Dear. This fish is indeed very good. Not all things are as strange as that little . . . Well.”

     While talking, her order arrived. Najé helped her to take it to a table from where he could see the screens, and she could admire the unique moments of the nightfall over the Storms Sea. He showed her how to unpack the food, then he let her eat at her own leisure, while he was watching the screens.
     Raika started with a small pack containing steamed vegetables, bits of smoked meats, various slices of cheese, and three versions of differently flavored sour-sweet dressings which were meant to increase her appetite. She had never tasted anything better in her entire life, and she was grateful to Najé for that delicious selection.
     When she finished the dish Raika felt disappointed. She was thinking of getting another one, because she remembered well the name, “Auta Ansuté”. Najé advised someone to increase the power by five percent, and Raika decided that she must be very careful with that exquisite food, if she wanted to preserve her optimal shape.
     She opened the second pack and discovered cubes of a grilled white meat having an appetizing smell of fish, then two sauces and a mixture of boiled grains and vegetables. Najé told someone to try again with fewer distribution points, and Raika tasted the fish. If the first dish had been delicious, compared to the fish one it was almost a bad joke! She went on eating methodically, slowly, and she finished everything.
     At that time Raika was very scared: with that kind of food she was going to become a plump Lady, and that was going to be very soon! There was no way to refuse or to abstain from eating those exceptional dishes. She didn’t dare to open the last pack; she was thinking to leave it unopened. The problem was, she didn’t know if it was proper to refuse those wonders . . . and who could tell what incredible things were in the last one? Raika thought that she had to get some knowledge; therefore, she could just taste a little bit . . .
     She opened the last pack and discovered a cup with an yellowish cream, and a small cake. Najé advised someone to wait, and to check the polarization geometry again. She tasted the cake first, then she realized that it was too late . . .
     When she finished everything, Raika remained motionless for a long while. When she recovered, she said in an alarmed voice, “Najé, I have to leave!”
     “Is anything wrong, Raika?” asked Najé concerned.
     “I have to leave,” repeated Raika, only that time her voice sounded pleadingly.
     Najé said, “As you wish, My Dear. I will see you in the morning.”
     Raika explained troubled, “No, Najé! I want to leave this place: this City of yours!”
     He asked alarmed, with great concern, “Raika, what is wrong?”
     She confessed, “It is . . . too much.”
     He asked in a gentle voice, still very concerned, “What do you mean, Dear?”
     “I do not know. I feel . . . bad,” replied Raika hesitantly.
     He rushed, “We have the best doctors—”
     She interrupted him, “No, I do not need any doctor. I feel bad psychically.”
     “Why?” asked Najé perplexed.
     She explained, “Everything is so strange, so different, and so . . . attractive. It is as if you are tempting me with pleasures beyond belief.”
     Still concerned, Najé asked, “Was there anything you disliked, Raika?”
     She replied with slight exasperation, “No! This is the problem: I like everything too much!”
     Najé watched her for a few moments, appearing to be puzzled, then he said in a reproachful tone, “You scared me a lot, Raika!”
     She pleaded, “Please, Najé, I am scared! I like everything too much, and I have been here for only one day. Who knows what other wonders you are going to show to me—I do not want to lose the control over myself.”
     He tried to calm her in a gentle voice, “I understand, My Dear. Please, trust me. I shall be more careful with you, and I promise to tell you about everything in advance. You shouldn’t be frightened, Raika, because this is life—real life, as you always wanted it. It is just a little more wonderful than you thought it could be, but you have to face it bravely, both the good and bad parts. Do not be afraid to experience the unknown, My Dear, because that is the beginning of knowledge. Besides, I need you, Raika, and remember that we are still at War.”
     Raika felt a lot of shame for her attitude, though her fears were still present inside her. She asked shyly, “Are you going to help me, Najé?”
     He promised, “Of course I will, My Dear. Now, try to relax a little, and I shall bring you something very good to drink—”
     “NO! Do not bring anything else, Najé!” said Raika in a firm voice, and very much alarmed.
     He watched her perplexed for a few moments, then said, “I think you had too many exciting experiences for one day, Raika. Let me accompany you to your suite, and I will show you how to select a nice book to read. I am certain it will help you a lot to spend little time alone. Then, you need to sleep, and tomorrow you are going to discover that things are not above your power to handle them.”
     “Thank you, Najé. I think you are right: I do need little time of myself,” replied Raika shyly.
     They went to her apartment, then Najé explained how to select books, and other types of media. He intended to leave when Raika asked, “Are you busy, Najé?”
     He replied, “I am never busy when you need me, My Dear.”
     She let her looks down and said, “I want to confess something to you.”
     He took a seat opposite hers, then went on watching her attentively.
     She said timidly, “The thing that attracted me . . . to you . . . was your voice . . . at first. It was so relaxing, and it inspired me with courage . . . I needed it very much because I was very, very scared, Najé. Then, you started talking to me, and I enjoyed everything you said . . . a lot. Your words made me forget about my fears . . .”
     “Yes . . .” said Najé, trying to encourage her to continue.
     “This is all,” replied Raika, still very shy.
     “That is all?” asked Najé perplexed.
     “Yes,” replied Raika slightly uncertain of his reaction.
     He watched her with a perplexed facial mimic, then said, “I think you are still scared because of this insane War, Raika. What I can tell you is, it will pass, My Dear. In thirty equ. days from now it is going to be just a bad memory, and you will be able to go on with your normal life.
     Think, Raika, that you are very fortunate to have me near you, to take care and to help you relax, but there could be millions of unfortunate Ladies in the Allied Worlds who have nobody near them for comfort. Think of them, Raika, and you will rediscover your courage and the power to fight.”
     She watched him attentively for some time, then she said in a firm voice, “Thank you, Najé. You said the right words I needed to wake me up. Yes, I must fight with you against the Hurran threat. I think I should better prepare myself psychically for the upcoming meeting.”
     “Please, do not start that again, Raika. I never said that I am going to take you with me—” said Najé defensively.
     She interrupted him firmly, “But I must go with you!”
     “Please, Raika, be sensible! I cannot stand the idea that you could get hurt, My Dear,” pleaded Najé.
     Raika watched him suspiciously for a few moments, then she said in a softer voice, “We shall discuss about it tomorrow, Najé. Now I need to rest.”
     “Oh! Good night, Raika.”
     “Thank you for all, Najé.”



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