Wednesday, April 3, 2013
September 25 (late)
Oh my God, what a crazy night. We’re now in lockdown. The whole Academy. But let me back up and start from the beginning.
So I got to the auditorium, meeting Nang backstage. I note where the pro vid cams are; exactly where I suggested they go. Nang assured me the men handling them practiced so they’d know how to run the things. I made myself accept that. It’s just a presentation for the Kalquorians. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Still, I found myself wishing I was in control of the whole thing. Still a producer in my head, I guess.
So everyone was settled in their seats. I swear Nang went out on stage the very second everything was supposed to begin. Talk about punctuality.
His introduction was incredibly flattering. “Kalquorians, as so many of you know, Earthers are more likely to run from us than welcome our rescue efforts. Every day, we encounter hostility from those we have so recently fought and now endeavor to rescue. We’ve had little luck in mitigating these ill feelings. Because of the problems we face, I have convinced a lovely Earther named Shalia Monroe to speak to you. This intelligent, brave woman lived under the lies of Earth. Indeed, she was forced to spread them to other Earthers because of her unequalled talents in persuasion and psychology.”
Sheesh. If I’d been that good, I could have convinced men to stop raping me and the Holy Leader to disarm the explosives. Nang was piling it on thick, but I could understand why. The more credibility I had with this audience, the more likely they were to take my message seriously. Still, this build up was going to be hard to live up to.
“Now she will share with you how to best combat the fear and anger Earthers -- women in particular -- have against our race. Some of her solutions will run counter to everything we as Kalquorian men have been taught. But you must keep an important fact in mind: she comes from a place where she knows better than we what Earther Mataras expect of us. She knows intimately what it is about us that keeps them from accepting our help. Matara Shalia, please educate us and thank you for doing us this service.”
There was no applause as I took the stage, not like we Earthers would do in such a situation. The lights were up throughout the auditorium however, and I could see the intense interest in the faces that pointed in my direction. Lots of faces. Yipes.
Nang bowed to me and left the stage. I stood up there all alone, in front of hundreds of dark faces and piercing eyes. Then I saw Dusa and Esak a few rows back, with Weln sitting between them. All three gave me encouraging smiles. Sweethearts. I took a deep breath, glanced down at the floor vid that had my talking points, and off I went.
The first thing I said was, “As Commander Nang said, my name is Shalia Monroe, and before Armageddon, my job was to make Earthers despise Kalquorians. I was very, very good at it.” After that opening, all my nervousness disappeared. I knew my material well; after all, I’d lived it. For the next hour I shared the workings of the propaganda machine, the way we women had been treated by the regime, and what the Church taught us about the evils of sex. I showed them vids I’d made, including the horrible one which followed the conviction of a rape victim, her torture, and finally, her death. My stomach churned anew at the old sights that had robbed me of sleep so many nights. The horrific sounds that haunted my nightmares when I did manage to slumber.
I could tell that was the big turning point for the Kalquorians. Imdikos cried unashamed tears. Nobeks were gripping the armrests of their seats, breaking them in some instances, and snarling as if ready to jump into the vid image and attack the torturers.
For my part, I was glad at long last that the woman’s execution and my recording of it had done some good. If nothing else drove home the terror we women lived under for so long, that vid did. Poor Brenda Horowitz could at long last be the example of all that had gone wrong with Earth instead of what was supposedly wrong with women. Her suffering condemned those who had condemned her. I prayed that wherever she was, she knew peace.
I wrapped the presentation after an hour and a half. It seemed like much less time had gone by. When I called for questions, the most pressing concern of my audience seemed to be how they could have better handled specific situations they’d encountered. They were eager to learn, to make their approaches to Earthers as non-traumatic as possible.
It went phenomenally well. And they did applaud me at the end, a standing ovation no less. It was a thrill to get the accolades, but in the end, I really hope it will help the rest of my people. Enough have died, and the more people Kalquorians and the rest of the Galactic Council of Planets can save, the better.
I walked off the stage, buoyed by the approval of the Kalquorian audience and the sight of Nang beaming at me from the wings. The moment I reached him, he wrapped me up in his arms and kissed me like he owned me.
“I knew you would be perfection out there,” he said as soon as he ended the possessive kiss.
I was a gooey mess from being enfolded and embraced. But in the wake of meeting Trenu and seeing Dusa and Esak in the audience, thinking that they might even be heading backstage to see me, I found the will to resist.
“Nang, I’m really glad to have helped you. And you know I’m attracted to you. But I am seeing Dusa and Esak. I told you I’m not comfortable being anything but monogamous.”
He shook his head at me and smiled as if I was a child. “Their clan is incomplete. They cannot court you for clanship, Shalia.”
I wasn’t thrilled with his condescension. “You can’t court me either. Your Imdiko and Nobek don’t want a Matara. Besides, I told you, I’m not looking for a clan. I’m having fun and taking advantage of the chance to explore my sexuality with those two.”
Nang shrugged. “So why can’t your explorations include me? There is nothing wrong in Kalquorian society with an unclanned person enjoying many lovers.”
I struggled to explain, because I knew full well I wasn’t making much sense. How indeed could I be testing my boundaries and also be monogamous? Still, I tried. “I know it’s absolutely crazy how I’m going about this. But I’m really reluctant to be with anyone besides Dusa and Esak. It just feels wrong to me. I’m sorry. I can’t get past it no matter how good it feels with you.”
Nang’s expression told me he was completely confused. Heck, I’m confused too. A tart with morals. Go figure.
Before we could argue the point any further, a young Kalquorian rushed up to Nang. “Commander, we’ve got an emergency. A large number of Earthers we had in custody have escaped.”
Nang gently pushed me back as he confronted his underling. “Escaped? How?”
“The two rival gangs started fighting each other when their guards took them into the common area for their late meal. Then when our men moved in to break it up, the groups turned on them. They worked together to overcome the guards. At least half have escaped. ”
Nang said something in Kalquorian, and from the look on his face I guessed it wasn’t a nice word. Then he told the young man, “Take Matara Shalia back to her quarters and return my Imdiko to mine. All Earthers and non-combat personnel are on lockdown until we get this matter taken care of.”
He took off running, shouting into his com as he went, and leaving me standing there with my mouth hanging open. His underling lost no time in hustling me back to my room. When I got there, I noted the Nobeks guarding me and Mom were gone.
Imdiko Trenu put a finger to his lips as I entered the dorm, letting me know Mom was asleep. “Everything is okay here,” he said, preparing to leave. “Matara Eve was quiet and seemed to enjoy herself tonight. We both had a lot of fun with the knitting.” He showed me the beginning of a scarf he’d done.
“Our guards are gone,” I whispered.
He nodded. “A sitewide alert has gone out, recalling everyone in the hunt for those violent Earthers. Everyone else is in lockdown, so you’ll be perfectly safe. No one is allowed to roam the grounds. How was your presentation?”
“Nang was very happy, at least until this nonsense got started.”
“I look forward to seeing the recording of it.”
He left soon afterwards. My escort became his to see him safely to his quarters. A good thing. As big as Trenu is, he seems too quiet to deliver violence. I thought three or four Earthers could easily take him down.
I hope they catch those gangs and no one gets hurt. It sounds to me like the whole fighting thing was actually a ruse to get the upper hand on their guards. So they were working together, and that’s pretty scary. Those people do not need to be roaming loose.
As crazy as everything was today, I am exhausted. Now that the stress of the presentation is over, my body is ready to collapse. Sounds like a plan to me. Nighty-night, world. Shalia Monroe is out.