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Before the rescue missions, before the school issues first manifested, the Arrhazon delegation bade its farewell to the crew and passengers of Equality.
Hrilleae was heading home, the lone remnant of Jahrae’s team not staying on Arrkarhara. Her husband, Jahrae’s dad, waited for Hrilleae’s return, greatly missing his wife of thirty-six years. And while Djellrin was aware, as was all of Arrhazon, of the successful rescue of llhaesa, he anxiously awaited the little details, the stories and insight of their daughters reunited, his heart now flush with joy and renewed optimism.
Sitting alone in their living room in his favourite blue overstuffed chair, Djellrin leaned back and stretched his legs out to rest his feet on the coffee table; his mind pondered all he had learned over the last year. Sipping on a tall glass of beer, the second of the night, his mood was reflective, and he let his mind drift away into the past, on into a glimpse of the future.
Djellrin had loved llhaesa from the first time he heard her music, unlike his daughter, who was smitten later, at first sight of llhaesa imagery. Never did he think his daughter and llhaesa, a budding music superstar and outspoken activist, would meet, let alone fall in love. Yet it happened, and right in their home.
In actuality, Djellrin created the framework for their partnering, or rather he and Hrilleae had done so rather fortuitously, via their activism and relentless pursuit of llhaesa, via Olterian, to perform at a fundraising event for EREGS.
Looking back nostalgically, Djell recalled the spark of interest in both Jahrae and llhaesa’s eyes almost immediately upon llhaesa entering their home. Llhaesa had no idea Djell and Hrilleae had children, but llhaesa cured her ignorance about the Khentavra family with but one look upon entering their home, and the look that radiated outward upon her discovery of Jahrae suggested an inner reaction something along the lines of “wow!”
Djell missed everyone. He missed his wife, and he missed his daughters; he had not seen llhaesa in so long, and he yearned to have her back in the family, safe. Yet it would be another eighteen months or more before all were back on Arrhazon, together.
Thinking back to the aftermath of llhaesa’s loss, Djell thought of his friend Mrevan, llhaesa’s dad, whose life succumbed to the pain of losing both of their children. Except now, llhaesa was back, had never really died, for she had been exiled, leaving she and Jahrae to suffer through their own separate hells.
Jahrae’s tenacious pursuit of the truth once a few kernels of information surfaced resulted in llhaesa’s successful rescue. He thought of Jahrae’s accomplishments, of how she had developed such keen powers of observation, deduction, and organisation.
Jahrae as a child shied away from leadership and activism; yet by age twenty-four she led a successful worldwide revolution, now at thirty-five successfully led a mission to rescue his other daughter – Jahrae’s wife llhaesa, while simultaneously holding the position of Ambassador to the Arrkarharan world. After the revolution and prior to the rescue mission, she ran the largest and most prestigious charities on the planet.
Hers was a record of achievement that had no peer in the Khentavra family or in the history of Arrhazon. In truth only llhaesa matched Jahrae in world-scale achievement, via her music and activism. What a wonderful couple they made, yet to know them one would never sense any indication of self-importance, despite their lofty success. No two leaders were ever quite as humble or less power hungry, staying true to their youthful and familial roots.
Djellrin had badly misunderstood, underestimated, and misjudged Jahrae as an adolescent. Where he thought the young Jahrae was indifferent, unwilling to engage, had little drive, and was rather lost in a own world of her own creation, her adult life proved quite different.
With Jahrae and llhaesa together again, Djell, though he would never admit he harboured such a thought, felt a voice inside hint at llhaesa and Jahrae leading their government. The voice inside suggested that with llhaesa back with Jahrae, Jahrae would find an active leadership role more palatable.
If only he could go back in time to the fifteen-year-old Jahrae, or actually to the thirty-eight year old Djellrin, he would have choice words for both, comforting and praising the former, scolding and chastising the latter. He could not have been more wrong in his view of his daughter, and he deeply regretted his error.
Mrevan would have been exuberant at the prospect of llhaesa alive and returning home, thrilled to see the leaders llhaesa and Jahrae became. Djellrin missed him and his witty humour, a sense of humour that llhaesa inherited. He was a devoted father and husband, a vociferous supporter of equal rights, and along with Saehressa, had instilled in llhaesa her strong sense of social justice, and their nurturing guidance of llhaesa helped change a world.
Unfortunately, he was gone, and so Djell tried as best he could to make up for his loss by being an engaged father to Jahrae and llhaesa. He would do the same with his grandchildren.
Equality would leave in a few short hours, ready for the fourteen-week journey back to Arrhazon, to a world that seemed just a little happier, a world where people walked with extra bounce in each step, where they saw to their tasks with new dedication, all because llhaesa ahrella t’yaeli was alive. Their dream was both restored and lived on.
The news and changes did not stop with llhaesa’s rescue; there were the two grandchildren Djell impatiently and anxiously awaited meeting, with another on the way. Llhaesa’s former wife became part of the family, forming a triad of mothers to the girls. She had stunned everyone by welcoming instantly Jahrae into her family, from the first insisting that Jahrae was an equal parent to the girls.
He had so much to look forward to over the next eighteen months!
Fifty-one light years away, Admiral I’Isahra M’lensa prepared the crew for departure, his mind still amused by and flashing back to the going away party of the night before. The ship operated automatically for the night on his orders, with the entire crew invited to join the festivities in reciprocal honour of the team staying on Arrkarhara and of his crew.
This voyage was his greatest honour in the Service, the Admiral shared with all those present at the gathering. To travel with Jahrae and her team, to see her reunite with llhaesa, and upon arrival, to have llhaesa alive and well and back with her people was a joy the likes of which surpassed any other in his life. Just meeting both would qualify as the best moment of his life, yet he had the opportunity to spend time with both, to get to know each, now to call them friends.
Llhaesa and Jahrae insisted the Admiral was welcome at their home at any time, without invitation, and both expressed how honoured they were in turn to know such a wonderful man and exemplary Service officer.
The Admiral had concluded his toast at the gathering by offering “Both of you are our inspiration, and we would travel one hundred times further, a thousand times further, to facilitate your reunion. You have served our world in ways unmatched in history – your achievements are better than you likely realise – and on behalf of the people of Arrhazon, we salute you!”
Now, the day after the gathering, the Admiral faced the reality of reclaiming command of his ship from Jahrae, knowing he would relinquish command again to her for whatever task Jahrae felt needed doing.
She was a joy to work with, a quick study, intelligent, decisive, and respectful and desirous of other opinions. The Admiral knew her ultimate station in life, her ultimate suited destination. Either in Gl’nsiel’s position as Chief of Government, or as would be his preference, in a reshaped government structure somewhat like some of the nations on Arrkarhara – with a president and a prime minister who oversaw day-to-day government activities.
The Admiral knew who should slot in that presidency as well – if anyone cared to ask him – hoping he would see the day that llhaesa and Jahrae managed the government on behalf of the Arrhazonan people.
He laughed as he recalled mentioning this to llhaesa and Jahrae; Jahrae was not at all dismissive – though she also was not encouraging of such a view, either – while llhaesa looked like a sudden wave of indigestion washed through her body.
They were the epitome of a high-powered couple, but also one of the most unpretentious couples one could ever meet.
Although llhaesa was, as always, resistant to the thought of heading the government, the Admiral would one day see his wish for dual leadership become reality, though there was a lot of life to live in the interim before that time arrived.
Also on board, Hrilleae was alone in her suite, plagued by and wrestling with second thoughts. Lying down upon her bed, she fought back tears and a wave of mild depression. She loved her newly expanded family, loved everyone in it, and loved her grandchildren. In the end though, she did not wish Djellrin to feel abandoned, and so she reluctantly stayed aboard Equality, not quite ready to face the long journey home.
To try to conquer her reluctance, Hrilleae chose to diary retrospectively, to spend significant time writing out her thoughts, experiences, and observations from beginning of journey to Arrkarhara and back to Arrhazon. In addition, she refocused her thoughts and mental energy on when her family and friends would arrive on Arrhazon eighteen months later.
When Equality pulled out of orbit, heading first to star system’s edge, and then to the invisible interstellar pathway beyond as the ship set course for Arrhazon, Propping up pillows behind her, Hrilleae watched the vivid blue and white planet recede into but a tiny speck of light. “Bye, everyone,” she softly spoke to no one but the universe, her thoughts shunted aside as the first tears erupted from her eyes. This would be a long ride home.
It was November on Arrkarhara, the beginning of the cold months in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, and the now stranded llhaesa and Jahrae wrestled with the departure of Hrilleae. “I’ve never been separated from my mum for such a time as this,” Jahrae sadly shared, although she knew this separation was not at all like that of she and llhaesa.
Llhaesa could hear, see, feel, and sense Jahrae’s morosity, and she moved to take Jahrae into her arms. “Suppose we catch a film tonight? The girls are with Ronnie, and so we are free to do as we wish.”
“Why would the presence of the girls impact our ability to watch a film?” Jahrae asked, puzzled by the comment.
“Not watch a film here, let’s go out and watch one!”
“OK, but please… not that alien invader movie, we are liable to be beaten to death if someone recognises us in the frenzy of the ending!”
“What, you have a problem with aliens devouring Arrkarharans? Sheesh, Jahrae, what is the issue?” llhaesa teased, when in fact both were pacifists – and vegetarians.
“Well, for starters, those aliens in the advertisements look human.”
“Um Jahrae… they are human.”
“Oh, and I thought it was just good acting, go figure. I just don’t wish some delusional movie goer feeling a need to exact revenge by dining on Arrhazonans.”
“Point taken. How about we see The Cairo Counterplot?”
“What is it about?”
“I have no idea. I’ve not seen it yet.”
“OK, it is a sequel to The Caen Conundrum. The protagonist is a rare books specialist that spends her spare time trying to find the truth about her past, and many people do not wish her to find the answers she seeks.
She is also almost two metres tall, blonde, beautiful, and an excellent pianist.”
“Now who does that sound like, I wonder,” Jahrae faux-mused, her hand folding into a fist but for her index finger, which came up to touch the side of her chin. “Surely there is someone I met who is almost two metres tall, blonde, beautiful, and an excellent pianist.”
“You may have at some point in your life met such a person. Too bad this protagonist is heterosexual; it takes all of the fun out of the story!”
“Were you hoping for an X rated film?”
“No, why on earth would I? I could simply film you in one of your almost nightly predatory escapades in our bed. Such an imagination you have!
“Yes, you, L’il Ms Innocent.”
“I never claimed innocence, but then again, given your current state, neither can you.”
“So are we going to this movie?”
“That’s it; change the subject when you know I have you cornered!”
“You have me cornered? For what purpose, may I ask? I might find this enjoyable.”
“Are you now offering me a choice between bed and a film?”
“No! You would rather watch a film than devote your attention to me?”
“I did not say that.”
“What did you say?”
“I said ‘no’.”
“See! You said no!”
“I said no to the offer of a choice between bed and a film.”
“You said you might find being cornered enjoyable.”
“I would, after the film.”
“And by the way, they have this great snack at their film theatres called popcorn. You will love it, especially as you dutifully feed it to me.”
“I’ll feed you all right, but likely more than you can eat in one bite.”
The banter continued for a few more minutes, until Jahrae decisively pronounced that she was ready for this theatre and popcorn experience.
Arriving at the theatre a half hour later, llhaesa purchased a big tub of popcorn, Jahrae looked on bemusedly before finally commenting, “You and all of Arrhazon could not eat all of that!
Llhaesa said nothing in response, a rarity; instead, she simply smiled in anticipation of Jahrae’s likely fate.
The film proved interesting, popcorn proved even more, with llhaesa amusedly watching Jahrae grab handful after handful, on her way to consuming two thirds of their popcorn purchase.
“Llhaesa, you should have bought a bucket of popcorn for each of us!” Jahrae teasingly admonished.
“A bucket of popcorn for each of us?” llhaesa repeated in contemplation. “When I purchased this, you told me all of Arrhazon would fail to consume it all – yet you are well on your way to reaching that goal largely by yourself! Which of us is pregnant, my love? Have you something you wish to tell me?”
Jahrae started to speak with a mouthful of popcorn, and caught herself two words in. Her hand flying up to cover her mouth, she called out a muffled ‘oops!” and calmly finished consuming the popcorn.
Unfortunately, for Jahrae, the bucket soon ran dry, cleansed of the new snack delicacy unique to this world, and so she settled back into full concentration on the movie.
Both enjoyed the movie and loved the ending, but by the time they reached their vehicle, tiredness had swept over them.
Llhaesa’s thoughts drifted on the drive home, her mind relishing how such a simple thing as popcorn was now a topic for discussion, instead of separation, loss, and removal of a government.
This blissfully mundane moment would not prove to be their rule, not with ambassadorial duties for one, and intense activism for the other. Ahead of them lay dangers and obstacles, not only to they but also to the remainder of their family, as well as their fellow Arrhazonans.
Llhaesa and Jahrae were about to make their mark on this world, and there were some on Arrkarhara – Earth – who were not at all thrilled by the prospect.
In reality, llhaesa and Jahrae might treasure the mundane in quieter moments, but the rest of the time, they would not shy from challenging a world to better.
Over the next fifteen months, they would face threats to their lives, kidnappings and threats to their family, governments that tried to shut out their message, others who would claim they were of ill intent.
There would be tense encounters in Darfur, in Iran, in Myanmar, and other places around the world.
Their children would face prejudice in schools, and protestors who called their family an abomination, all as they changed physically after genetic un-masking; there would be the addition of Ahrella T’srha to their family, and the adoption of Casey by Saehressa.
Not everything would be negative, for in time, their message would take root and grow, and the couple would find time for each other as well.
This world would change, but it would not change easily. That it would forever be altered for the better inside of fifteen months ultimately reiterated that this was a couple unique in the annals of two sister worlds, finally finding each other across fifty-one light years of separation.