Sow whatever you shall reap. Reap whatever you hath sown—Ancient Earth saying
The earth was soft and warm, the smell of life rose from the ground of leaves and fallen twigs. The scent of the area was so foreign to Geovanni, and yet so familiar. He bent down and took one of the twigs in his hand, breaking it between his fingers, feeling its cool, moist texture against his skin. This was home; this was earth.
His captor was still inside the ship, she was running a check over the systems before they disembarked through the wilderness. She had left him alone, apparently unconcerned whether or not he tried to run. Of course she would be unconcerned, she could track him.
"Beautiful isn't it?" She said, exiting the craft, effortlessly throwing him a pack. "I don't know what it is about this place, but I have always been able to find peace here."
Geovanni looked straight into her eyes, his face stern. He didn't say a word.
She paused, as if waiting for him to speak. "You wish to be silent? Very well, I will not force you. But you had better keep up."
With that she left the side of the ship, its door automatically closing behind her, the sound echoing into the woods. She began down the path.
"And why would I follow you?" he yelled to her.
She turned around. "Because you are free." Geovanni looked at her, a grunt of laughter coming from his throat. She ignored it, "I have decided that you are free to go. You can walk away from me right now if you would like to, and I would not care. But if you did, then where would you go? You have a satellite tracking you right now," she pointed upwards, into the sky, "If you asked for help, from anyone, the Ragrier would know. Anybody you contact is in danger of being prosecuted for treason."
Geovanni showed no emotion, "And what would I get for following you?"
"I am walking to a ship which I hid long ago. The government does not know about it. It can get you off this planet, to anywhere you would like to go. It will allow you to escape their grasp. You have two choices, either follow me and escape them, or run away and try to do such a thing on your own. I leave that choice to you."
Geovanni looked at Dianna without speaking, not saying a word.
And then he laughed. His lung and rib had been healed by highly advanced medical technology of the Ragrier, and they now moved in joyful unison to unleash the sound of his humor. She couldn't be serious, she actually expected him to follow her. Had she gone completely insane?
Then, abruptly, his laughter stopped. "You have to be kidding."
"That is your decision to make." With that, she turned around and started walking up the mountain. Geovanni stood stone still beneath her, unable to believe anything she said. Was she really letting him go, or was this some kind of trick? It seemed all too obvious that it was a trick, she was trying to deceive him somehow. And yet... what she said about the satellite made sense; if he tried to run they would be able to follow him, he would never be able to get off the earth without revealing the location of at least one rebel.
His brain fired through all the options, none of it made any sense. She, who had nearly killed him with her torture, was now asking him to go on a hike with her, by his choice. This was insane!
"Wait," he said as he went up the hill, catching up with her, "I'll come with you. Just don't touch me."
Dianna smiled as she kept walking. "I have no intent on touching you again Director."
This is insane. But Geovanni knew that he had to keep his options open, he couldn't afford to make a bad choice. If he lost her in these mountains, he would never be able to catch up with her. That option would forever be closed to him. Besides, maybe he could somehow manage to kill her, although that seemed rather unlikely as well.
"How far away is the ship?"
"It is about a five day journey at my pace, but I doubt you can keep up with me. Therefore it will probably take at least ten days."
"Ten days! Why on earth didn't you land closer?"
"Because I didn't want the Ragrier to know where the ship is located."
Geovanni nodded. The path was steep, and the air was thin. Within the first twenty steps, he realized that he was out of shape. Being locked in a space station probably hadn't helped, but his new lung was also refusing to cooperate. After the first thirty minutes, he was having coughing spasms so often that he was having trouble even breathing. In addition to all this, she moved as if she were a machine, not a breath going through her lips as she ascended the mountainside.
"Humans are such weak and pointless beings," she said, as if reading his mind, "I always find it humorous how much difficulty they have in traversing their own home planet. You, for instance, already appear tired from only traveling a few miles, while I have not even breathed yet. How do you even survive if you are so weak?"
Geovanni stopped to catch his breath, "But were you yourself not once human? Are you so strong and quick that you believe yourself to be above us? We may be weak and fragile commander, but don't forget that it was the weak and fragile which gave you strength. Never forget that your strength comes from those who you call weak. It turns out that strength of muscle is not what is important—it is strength of the mind which truly turns the table. You, in all your power, appear to have forgotten a prime history lesson. That men are not unique in their muscles. They are unique in their minds."
Dianna nodded as she waited for Geovanni to catch up. When he had reached her she spoke, "Give me your hand."
He turned to her, catching his breath. "What?"
"If you wish to be like me, give me your hand."
"I have no desire to be like you, Commander."
"Oh just cut the romantic bullshit Director and just give me your goddamn hand!"
Geovanni paused, thinking. He extended his hand out. Faster than he could see, she caught his wrist in her left hand, grabbed her knife in her right hand, and sliced a large sized gash along his lower arm.
"What are you doing!?" He looked down at his now bleeding arm, the nanofiber blade had cut the nerve cleanly. There had been no pain
"I am giving you my strength." Dianna released his arm and quickly grasped the knife blade in her left hand, pulling it down. A small trickle of blood came out of her own palm, which she soaked in the blade and inserted into Geovanni's open arm. Geovanni recoiled, disgusted with the idea of her blood in his arm.
"What did you just do?" Geovanni didn't know whether to be angry, or afraid… he didn't know what to feel.
Dianna sighed, "My blood is composed of nanites, as opposed to the normal red and white blood cells provided to you by evolution. They allow me to survive a great while without breathing or absorbing any oxygen, they heal my organs if they are damaged, and they can keep my brain alive even if someone tears out my heart. These nanobots kill anything that is foreign to them or your body, and they take over the blood stream. Right now, they are multiplying within your body, taking it over entirely. Within an hour, you will find that you basically no longer need to breathe, all the oxygen necessary to your organs and brain will come to you through your skin. Within two hours, you will be stronger, and your mind will be more clear. Within six hours, you liver, kidney and a majority of your unnecessary fat muscles will have been removed, saving weight. Enhanced muscles will grow overnight. When all this is completed, you will not get tired when you run, you will even be able to sprint long distances without breathing. Your skin will be capable of absorbing oxygen, even underwater. You will be immune to poisons, diseases, or any form of known nano attack. Your skin will become harder and your blood pressure will significantly drop, allowing you to survive in the vacuum of space for several hours. You will be able to take significant damage to any area of your body, even your heart, and still have a high chance of survival. Your only significant weakness will be your brain, although it to will be reinforced with stronger connecting pathways and blood walls, preventing your veins from rupturing. Your life expectancy, also, has now increased nearly seventy years, and the chance of genetic disorders developing has been significantly reduced."
Dianna stopped, she had been listing it from memory, as if reading it from a textbook. Geovanni found a rock and sat down, covering his bleeding arm. The gash was already gone, the wound had already healed. All that was left was dried blood, soon to be the last remnant of its biological heritage. "Why have you done this for me? For what reason would you give me something this powerful?"
Dianna smiled, "I told you Director. I am setting you free." With that she turned around and began walking up the mountainside. Geovanni followed her, still wondering why he did. Her footsteps seemed to call him, and in some strange corner of his mind, he wanted them to.
Geovanni ran. He sprinted up the side of the mountain, dashing into the heavens at a breathless pace. Dianna calmly kept up behind him. No strain in her pace. Geovanni didn't care, she could follow all she liked. He dashed through the thin air like he was a child again, barely a breath escaping his lips. It was like being free, in a meer thirteen hours his body had transformed into a new creation. He felt unleashed, no longer constrained by reality.
Geovanni reached the top of the mountain, holding his arms high in exhilaration, screaming into the empty air around him. The landscape fell about him, new energy coursed through his veins, his muscles felt strong and unyielding. His mind felt faster, as if it had only ever been given a taste of the oxygen it required. Geovanni's arms were spread over the earth, as if he stood a conqueror over his dominion. As if no constraint of the reality could hold him back any longer. He felt strong, he felt unstoppable. He felt reborn.
Geovanni took in a deep breath into his lungs, feeling his new cells quickly absorb the oxygen. It felt so clean, so good. There was nothing like it, the pure rush the oxygen gave him.
"Have you ever been in the mountains?" Dianna had gotten stranger and stranger as they had walked. She was asking him odd questions, questions about his past. Questions about his interests. Questions about those he had known through out his life. He didn't feel offended by them, he just wondered why she was so interested in his history.
"Yes, I have been in the mountains. I grew up in Colorado, in what used to be the United States. When I was a teenager, I would hike them often."
"Did you go with anybody."
"Why… no. I liked to be alone. Why do you ask?"
"No reason, I was just wondering." Her eyes turned away as she continued walking.
She is acting very oddly. Just three days ago she nearly tortured me to death, and now she is afraid to ask me whether or not I have hiked before. Is it guilt that I am sensing in her questions?
Geovanni shook the thought away. It couldn't be guilt, not from her. And yet—there was some distinct difference in her, as if something had changed. She had been next to anger when she had put her blood into his, and now it was almost as if she were incredibly shy. It didn't make sense.
"Why did you do that for me?" Gano had started after her down the mountainside, sprinting to catch up with her jogging form. She kept going as if she had not heard him.
"Why did you do that for me? Why did you give me your blood?"
She turned to him, "I think a more relevant question for you would be why did I save you in the first place."
Geovanni thought a moment before responding. "Alright, why did you save me?"
Dianna did not respond. She turned and continued down the hill at a breakneck pace, not a breath escaping her lips. Geovanni coolly followed, suddenly realizing that he was no longer afraid of her. He stopped, why would that be? Why did he no longer fear the one who had tortured him to near death?
Dianna stopped, recognizing that Geovanni was no longer following her. The winds of the mountains flowing through her golden hair. Geovanni raised his head suddenly realizing that her outline was beautiful against the backdrop of the forests below.
She turned to him, a tear forming in her intensely radiant eyes.
It was such an odd sight, a tear in those eyes. Its crystal light flowed down her cheek, reflecting off her nose. She stood stone still; her hair the only thing moving; cascading with the wind in the freezing altitude of the mountain. Geovanni stood equally still, holding his breath. Waiting for an answer.
But she did not speak. They stood like that for seconds, for minutes, for an hour. Time seemed to pass around them, but not affect them. They both seemed impervious to the cold wind. She stood starring at him, unmoving, unchanging. No other tear flowed down her check, but she still seemed somehow sad, somehow mournful.
And then it clicked. The hate, the pain, the revenge. All of them collapsed in that area that Geovanni had thought was his soul, all of them were dispersed outside of his body. They were replaced with something warm, something unknown to him—foreign and inviting to his weary emotions. A tear came to his eye as he began to move forward, all the anguish he had felt evacuated his system, all his hate left him in that one tear. He felt reborn.
Geovanni ran to her, like he had never ran to anybody else. He ran with all the strength she had given him. She was in his arms in seconds, her body held tightly against his; that connection which was now so strong firing across their grasp. She bent back, arching in the grip of his embrace.
She looked in his eyes, apologies forming on their surface. She opened her mouth to speak—but he let no words escape. His lips covered her open mouth; gently kissing her as he lowered her to the rock below. He held her tightly in his arms. She went against his muscular body, crying into his shoulder. Tears rolled down her cheeks to be soaked up by his clothing. Her entire body took in the process of mourning, moving in rhythm to her sobs. He held her against his chest, a tear escaping his own eye.
Eventually, Dianna stopped her crying. She looked up into Geovanni's eyes, her face red and her eyes swollen. "I'm so sorry" she whispered. He put his index finger on her lips, silencing her against any further words. His arms again encircled her, bringing her closer to him.
I must be insane, he thought to himself. But even as he thought it, his arms held her tighter, unable to let her go. He would never be able let her go.
Her skin was so warm, so smooth, so beautiful. Geovanni stoked Dianna's naked arm as she lay cuddled next to him in the sleeping bag. She stirred slightly, letting out a soft hum at being awoken. She turned, lazily opening her eyes.
She could still not believe what she was doing, none of anything over the past four days made any sense. It had been like a dream, away from any reality she had ever remembered. She could not make sense of any of it, yet neither could she deny the feelings which were overpowering every piece of her soul. She softly kissed Geovanni on the lips.
No matter her infatuation, she was having an intense fear of the possibilities it entailed. If she went with him, she would be hunted as a rebel, her life would be in danger. That thought scared her; for her entire life she had witnessed the power of the Ragrier, of their millions of troops, of the thousands of elite troops. Their battle cruisers could tear through a rebel station with almost no resistance. Many things in the Ragrier had degraded over the last four hundred years of its existence. But one thing hadn't. Its military might.
"What's wrong?" His voice snapped her out of her thoughts.
"Nothing. Nothing is wrong, I was just thinking."
He looked at her for a second, considering. Leaving it be, he got out of the bed, putting on some clothes. "We have to leave immediately. I must get back to my friends—Gano especially will have been very worried about me, and will be happy to see me." He paused, thinking. "You must come with me."
"Me?" She had been wanting desperately for him to say those words, words of trust.
"You can not go back to the Ragrier, it is too dangerous now. That is, if you are telling the truth about this vessel being able to get me away, if this whole thing is not just some clever ploy,"
Dianna opened her mouth to object but Geovanni silenced her. His facial expression changed as a thought crossed his mind.
"You know, now that I think about it, how am I sure that you are not deceiving me? You could be a very good actor, you could have led me into this. There is no guarantee that you do not just want to lead me into a trap, to reveal the location of one of our outpost. If you are indeed being truthful about helping me, there is no way you could go back; they would kill you! If you are not being truthful, then you would not want to come with me!"
She was confused, he had changed so suddenly. "No!" she objected, "There is another reason I would not want to go with you, and that is because I do not wish to die in your sight! When your friend sees me, he will kill me. He will kill me for what I did," she caught herself, the thought fully crossing her mind, "for what I did… oh God, what did I do! To you, to him. I killed them all, I killed those like you! I tortured you! I tortured you! How could I do such a thing? How could I?" She was now in a rage, screaming in her torment. His accusations triggering something within her conscious.
"Your friend deserves to kill me, my God, you should kill me now for what I have done! What did I do? What have I done?" Dianna was looking around, as if frantically searching. Her conscious had snapped. Her past had finally caught her.
"Dianna, Dianna! Stop, stop! Your going to hurt yourself!" Geovanni went over to her, trying to take her in his arms. He had not intended this. She pushed him away, shoving her hand into his face.
"No, stay away from me! I have no right to touch you, how could you touch me? I killed all your friends, I killed all those who you loved! Why would you touch someone like me? Why?" Dianna turned and fell on her knees, she was unable to breath. It seemed not to matter that her blood cells should keep her sustained without oxygen, she seemed unable to get enough breath. She tried to , but couldn't. They were shallow, dispersed with tears.
Geovanni stood, straight and taught, backing away from the crying woman at his feet. She was right, wasn't she? Hadn't it been her that had killed all his friends, hadn't it been her fault that they were all dead?
He knelt next to her, "Dianna. Dianna." She wasn't paying attention. "Dianna! Listen to me!" He took her face in his hands, forcing her to look up at him. She was strong beneath him, but she was unable to use her full force. She was too overwhelmed in grief. "Dianna, listen to me. You can either die here, die believing your death serves some purpose of justice, or you can try and remedy the sins of your past. Don't you understand? What good can your death do next to the option of helping those you once harmed? What good can it do Dianna?"
She still squirmed beneath his grip, trying to get away, tears now rolling down her cheeks. "Dianna, stop. Get a hold of yourself. You need to get a grip Dianna. Now listen to me; you can help remedy the past. You may never be able to give back everything you took, you may never forgive yourself, but you can try. That is all you can do, you can try to help." He was now crying as well, his voice coming out in little more than a whisper. "Dianna, you may never be able to forgive yourself, you may never be able to let go of your grief and guilt. Dianna, listen to me! Listen to me!" He waited for her to stop sobbing. She looked up, her eyes watery, not able to hold back her emotion. Geovanni looked into those eyes, the person responsible for the death of those he had loved. The death of his friends. "I forgive you." His voice was clear, there was no uncertainty in it. Then, tears flowed from his own eyes as the thoughts of all the men and women under his command flowed through his consciousness.
"I forgive you," he whispered.
She trembled in his arms, her sobs becoming more and more silent as she continued crying. She laid, there, unable to move. It was as if every emotion she should have felt from all her crimes had hit her at once, she felt enraptured in the pain of grief. Flashes of the men she had killed went through her memory. That fire, that fire which existed in their eyes being extinguished by her hand. Their life leaving their bodies… it was her fault.
But something nagged at the back of her mind, something that she felt like she should remember. Suddenly it hit her, "We must leave immediately," she said, urgency in her voice. "The craft I was leading you to is rigged with a homing beacon," Geovanni's face was shocked. Her demeanor had changed so suddenly, and now she was admitting to his fear. "You have to believe me, I was going to tell you that when we got there. When we leave the atmosphere, it is imperative that we get a different ship as quickly as possible. I will let you choose it to remove the possibility of me betraying you."
She had become completely logical, taking up her training as a soldier, all emotion removed from her being. "But it is imperative that we obtain a ship as quickly as possible, and deceive the Ragrier into believing that we are going somewhere with it. Although how we will do that, I do not know."
"Why, what is wrong?" Geovanni was close to panicking.
"I have no time to explain, we must leave immediately, and we must run."
He followed her, she was running faster than any human should be able to. He followed as best he could, but after more than two hours of sprinting along a mountainside, even his enhanced legs began to feel weary. But he couldn't stop, he had to keep going.
Then, just ahead, Dianna stopped. She stood before a ship, cleverly hidden under trees and cloaked by the shade.
It was a large, curved craft. Its black outer hull strangely reflected the light of the sun, setting an eerie feel to the craft. Geovanni had seen such a color before, it was almost exactly the same as Brian's stealth ship.
Dianna walked to the side of the vessel and activated a panel with her palm, directly accessing the onboard computer. The engines immediately started cycling up, and the side-door opened. Geovanni quickly walked in after Dianna.
He put himself in one of the seats at the helm. "Do you know how to pilot this?"
Dianna almost smiled, but then recovered her emotion with the necessity of action. If she revealed any emotion, she would begin revealing all emotion. And they didn't have time for that.
She took the controls at the helm of the ship, fusing her consciousness with the onboard computer, activating the powerful engines and lifting the craft off the ground. The loud hum echoed through the ship, shaking as gravity tried to keep it closer to the earth. She pushed the engines to full thrust, accelerating the ship forward. The powerful magnetic pulse engines roared, their echo flowing through the canyon of the mountain. The ship took off in a blast of noise, the nuclear generator working on overdrive to pump out the necessary energy for escape velocity. Flames formed around the ship as they entered the stratosphere.
And then the ship broke the earth's orbit, becoming free from the grip of gravity. Dianna set a course for the local shipyard.
"We must find a ship quickly and get it into the loading bay," she said.
Geovanni looked out the window, analyzing the different ships they could choose. "There, that one," he said, pointing out the window.
Dianna looked out the window in the direction of his finger, seeing a small troop transport carrier. "Yes, that is small enough. I will bring it in. Hold on, this may take some maneuvering."
Dianna closed her eyes as she pressed her hand more tightly to the controls of the ship, using the onboard sensors to guide her. She opened the loading bay and activated the reverse thrusters, directing the ship slowly over the smaller vessel. When she had it, she quickly closed the doors and increased the thrust to maximum, throwing them both against their seats. The ship accelerated rapidly, obtaining a speeds twenty times faster than sound within minutes. When they were fast enough, Dianna slowed the acceleration so they could walk. She activated the ship's autopilot.
"Wait," Geovanni said, "I would like to activate the autopilot."
Dianna shrugged and got out of her seat. Geovanni sat down, placing his hand on the consol. He accessed the map, looking over the Ragrier primary control facilities and selected his location.
"What did you do?" she asked
"I instructed the ship to ram into Ragrier base 37 at full speed."
"But that… that is the central Ragrier command post. There will be hundreds of protecting vessels."
"I know, and this is a stealth vessel. If you remove the homing beacon, with any luck, they will never see what hit them. This ship is capable of speeds of over a hundred and fifty times the speed of sound, if it hits their fusion plant, with its mass, it will tear through anything. Even cabrin."
Dianna smiled. Geovanni was no soldier, but he knew how to use his mind. It seemed a common trait among the rebels to be able to convert nearly anything into a weapon.
"Let's go," Geovanni said, "I am sure that you are eager to begin destroying your past."
"What do you mean?"
"It is time we abolished the Ragrier once and for all."