Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

Jaf reclined on the narrow bed, staring up at the ceiling of the cell, flexing his fingers. He cast a bored glance the three woman standing beside of him.

"You're blocking my sunlight."

"We've come to make you an offer." The first woman stated.

Jaf smirked and eyed her up and down, and then her companions. "Well, Tren Cala, I must say that the prison system has certainly added a few perks since I was in charge of this world. The best a prisoner could hope for in those days was an amorous cell-maclen. And now here I'm being offered three beaut... three women." He corrected himself. "I'm touched."

"We should leave. He's obviously not going to cooperate." The youngest woman, a stocky redheaded, commented dryly.

"You do that, Yanir." Jaf waved a hand. "And tell the warden that I'm quite displeased about not receiving my phone call. My dog must be worried sick about me." He glanced at the third woman appraisingly. "You'll find Mother's office quite comfortable. I'm sure you'll make a fine replacement Tren, Runa. And you can begin by teaching your little fledgling here some patience." He smiled indulgently at the redhead.

"And you." He glanced Tren Cala, whose black hair was just now beginning to show streaks of grey. "I hope you found my office comfortable enough. For the short time you'll be there, anyway."

"I am aware of the limits of my reign, Vire." The woman snapped. "By my count, I have another 10 years to go of it."

"Perhaps." Jaf waved his hand. "It's good to see that you've not forgotten your place."

"We could overrule your decision." The woman reminded him.

"By whose law? Even a disgraced Tren is allowed to choose his successor. Which is why it's usually passed from parent to child, yes?"

"We believed you dead."

Jaf blinked and yawned. "If you've nothing interesting to say to me, then allow me to rest."

"Tell us what you know. Tell us who these people are, and how we can protect our children."

Jaf considered. "What do you offer me?"

"A stay of execution. You will not be released from prison, but your life will be spared, allowing you to die naturally when your time arrives."

"I grow giddy with anticipation." Jaf smiled. "I will tell you this; our visiting friends will not listen to you, or even give you the time of day. They honor a pact as old as time, and will continue to honor it. They'll take what they want and leave, and you cannot do a thing to stop them."

"Then it's hopeless?"

"You cannot stop them. I may be able to, on the simple grounds that they find women holding positions of power close to blasphemy. You are chattel to them, animals. Did you speak up; Seta would pay the price for what is perceived as your insolence. Did you ever wonder why no woman was ever chosen to lead this world? Why no Tren ever picked his daughter over his son to follow him? Not for hatred of the daughter; for love of Seta."

"So you would speak to them?"

"I am no longer Tren." Jaf reminded them. "No matter what you may believe, I too love this world. Your offer is accepted, on conditions."

"What conditions?"

"You will return in one hour's time, with Jason Maxwell. You will bring him to me, WITHOUT either of his parents. You may stay while I speak to him. Only when the boy is in my presence will I help you."

"Accepted."


"Absolutely not!" Duo roared. "No way is he speaking to Jazz without us there."

Jazz turned on his father, eyes blazing. "So you would put this whole world at risk over this? What about the girls who were taken? I thought you cared about getting them back."

"I won't risk you..."

"Risk me? I'll be guarded by three of the most powerful women in the universe! What could possibly happen?"

"Duo." Cala said gently. "We can pull rank. We can take Jazz with us by force. Don't make us do that. He is willing to go; allow it. No harm will come to him, I swear."

Jazz put his hands on his father's shoulders and gazed into his eyes. "Have faith in me, Pops. I know it's a lot to ask, but I'm smarter than I look. Do you really think Vire is a match for a Maxwell?"

"Heero?" Duo asked. "What do you think?"

"I don't like this. I want to be there with him."

Jazz thought. "Here. Why don't we do this?"

He fished around on a table and pulled out a tiny silver disk, putting it in his jeans pocket. "You put on those headsets and you will hear everything that I say to Jaf and everything he says back to me. We'll compromise. Okay?"

Duo looked like he still wanted to protest, but finally nodded. "Better than nothing. You speak to him and you come straight back." He turned toward the women. "And you don't let my son out of your sight around that lunatic."

"We promise."

Jazz stepped toward the transporter. "Let's get this over with."

He reached into his pocket, and his hand wrapped around the silver disk; a Setan dollar.


Jazz sat cross-legged on the floor of the cell, flanked by the women. Jaf gave him a genuine smile.

"How is Osmar?"

"He misses you."

"I miss him as well. He's fond of harenger crusts. Will you see that he gets some?"

"Sure. No problem. But I don't think that's why you wanted to speak to me."

"No, Jason. It is not. I believe these ladies know what I want to tell you, though."

"He's too young. He's not due to learn for another three years." Cala protested.

"We live in a less-than-perfect world. Better he knows now."

"Learn what?" Jazz was confused.

"Do you wish to explain?" Jaf glanced at Cala. "You'd be so much more eloquent at it than I would."

Cala sat down next to Jazz on the floor, and the other women joined her.

"Jazz, a Setan Tren has the right to choose their successor. Most often, the leadership is passed from father to son. If the Tren is childless, a nephew or child of a friend might be chosen. But even disgraced, a Tren's Choice is law and must be followed."

"Then he Chose you." Jazz did not understand what this had to do with him.

"I was Chosen by the council as Acting Tren. I am not Tren. Only our council knows this, and now you do as well."

"I'm not following you."

"Before we believed Vire had died, he told his mother his Choice, who he wished to follow him."

"So?"

"He Chose you, Jazz."

"WHAT?" Jazz was speechless. "I was EIGHT!"

"And Setan Tren must be 25 years of age to assume the leadership. I will lead for another ten years, and then I will step aside. You will lead in my place."

Jazz stood up, his mouth open. "This is insane." He looked at Jaf. "YOU are insane. I'm not even FROM Seta. I'm a Colony brat. I don't know politics. I grow vegetables. I read stories to my baby brother. I collect new ways to give my dads grey hairs."

"You are extremely intelligent. You keep your cool in discussions; you think with both your mind and your heart. You have charisma and character." Jaf replied softly. "And you will outshine any Tren this world has ever known."

"I... decline. I cannot accept this." Jazz shook his head. "Pick someone else."

"They will not stop at Seta, you know. They will turn their eyes toward Dera and they will come for those girls as well. Your Linra escaped them once; they will take special pleasure in her capture."

"We've done as you asked. You said bring Jazz to you and you would tell us." Cala reminded him.

"So I did." Jaf stretched. "Very well." He glanced at the scar on his palm. "Sorry Father, but you weren't worth keeping a promise to anyway."

"When the Derans first said 'Oh dear, we're outgrowing our world' they turned their eyes toward another world, one that shared their own sun. They packed up their bags, and seeds, and animals, and offspring, and off they went into the depths of space to spread the joy of humanity to other parts of the galaxy.

"And they came here. Sunlight, beaches, clear blue water. Paradise. With a slight catch."

"Which was?" Cala asked.

"The world was inhabited. The Derans weren't the first to decide it would make a nice vacation spot. The Wronith had found it first. They were humanoid, but of course evolution had made them a bit different. Thicker skin, bigger eyes. Smarter, but more aggressive. And they were not about to share their colony with some ugly humans.

"The humans fought back. Some of the Wronith were killed; some were used as slave labor. With the humans came bacteria, however. Soon the Wronith were the stuff of toddler stories."

"However, their home planet was a bit miffed by this, as you can imagine. By the time they found out what was happening it was far too late to save their colonists, and they were infuriated. They considered simply destroying both Seta and Dera, but decided to employ a different means.

"Women are few on Wroni. And not held in high regard. And fewer women were being born all the time. The Wroni decided to simply help themselves to some of the women on Seta.

"The Setan Tren at the time was a crafty cuss, who used the Wronith to his own advantage. He provided them with women at no resistance, in exchange for raw materials considered junk on their own world. The Wronith, aggressive or not, decided it wasn't worth a war when they were getting what they wanted. Imagine someone selling you a house for pencil shavings. That was how they viewed it."

"The Wronith bred with they women the captured. Some were sent back home, some where killed. The race wanted to make sure, as a matter of pride, that their bloodline still ran on the planet. And because of interbreeding, they bear a remarkable resemblance to us at the moment.

"Every ten years or so, they would return to Seta for another harvest, and the Trens usually gave them female prisoners. Women that few people would miss.

"Well, everything went fine for a few hundred years or so, and then Seta was unlucky enough to get a Tren with a conscience. He told the Wronith where they could stick it.

"The Wronith retaliated with the attack on the caravan. They took the women from it. The Tren was later found dead. They believe his own son took his life. After that, trade with the Wronith continued as usual. And low and behold, it's come time for another harvest and here they are." Jaf shrugged. "Half of those girls who have been taken are already carrying Wronith young by now."

"So how do we stop them?" Jazz asked.

"Well, first of all, we agree to speak with them. And they will not agree to speak to a woman."

"Wonderful. A planet of Wufeis." The boy muttered under his breath.

"They do not consider Cala here the true leader of Seta. However, if you and I were to meet with them, the old leader and the future one, we might be able to negotiate something. No promises on that, but we have little to lose at this point except more girls."

He tilted his head. "Jason, no one can force you to lead Seta if you do not want to. But to protect it, I ask you to pretend that you have accepted my Choice. Pretend to be pleased with your appointment, give them the performance of a lifetime. I can instruct you on what to say, how to act around them."

"My parents."

"Will not allow this." Jaf agreed. "They'll have you back on Dera before sunset." He looked at Cala. "You have a way to work around this?"

"Jazz, will you agree to meet with the Wronith if we can arrange a meeting?"

"Yes. If it means protecting the girls, my world, Linra. yes, I'll meet with them."

"Then, Jason Maxwell, I place you in protective custody of the Setan government. You will be taken to a safe location until after the meeting, and then returned to your family. This way, we can guarantee that you will get to meet with the Wronith."

"I understand. My parents mean well, but."

"They are blinded by their love for you, child. It overrides their judgment." Jaf replied. "The same love that made your father rush in unarmed to rescue you from me. But to be honest with you, I've never thought that was needed. I've always believed that you would have found a way to escape on your own."

"We'd better go. Come along, Jazz." Cala took his shoulder. "This will not be for long. We'll arrange a meeting as quickly as possible."

"Until then, Jason." Jaf leaned back on the cot and watched his visitors leave, Jazz between them.


On to part fifteen. Back to part thirteen.