Jane was the boss. Leader of the Ourea.
It had taken her years to get to a point where she was finally comfortable with those statements.
Sure, she knew that there were those in the Ourea and in the outside world who expected men to be leaders by default and that women would naturally be less visible, valued and vocal. She’d known this from her days in the military and from the early days in the camp. Knowing something existed didn’t make it any less annoying. In the first year that she’d take charge of the Ourea, she’d been constantly aware of herself, ensuring that everyone was aware who was in charge whilst forcing herself not to look like she was trying too hard to be noticed and respected.
Eventually she’d begun caring less about maintaining that front, but there were still characters who were difficult for her to know how to deal with, how casual she could be with them. Tim was an especially difficult character.
She remembered learning in school, how there’d been a time when anything other than heterosexuality was seen as something broken, something to be fixed. Homosexuality for example, was seen as something that people ‘suffered’ from. A condition where these people would be naturally more effeminate, how at first it was easy to cast gay people all in the same light, easier to judge people as a group rather than as individuals.
The fact that Tim was gay was something that didn’t even cross Jane’s mind most of the time, it was just a facet of his character. He was an excellent soldier, brave, smart and followed orders to the letter (when he agreed with them). It was only when Jane had to give him a new set of orders that she knew he would find less than agreeable that she started the discussion in her head again of how best to manage him. At these times she found herself imagining what his life had been like before he came to the Ourea. What were his parents like? Had he been rich or poor? Did it get to him when people judged him before they knew him? Was that why he reverted to this shut-down state, with his walls up when bothered about something? Did he feel the same way she had once - that people would expect her to be weak and try to treat her as inferior?
As Jane’s mind had begun to wander, she’d missed Tim’s approach on the many cameras she had setup on the approach to her office building. She became aware of a shadowy presence on the other side of her door’s dusty frosted glass. She’d sent for him to collect some more information about the Ourea’s next target. Despite how close she had felt to him at one time, she’d found over recent months that he’d become more insular and aggressive in meetings, seeming to always vote for the course of action which kept Gorlak out of the spotlight and the media’s attention focussed on something other than their mysterious alien companion.
Their collective - the Ourea, or the Children as they were more commonly known - had been built on the notion of peace and friendship for all intelligence in the galaxy. At the time of their organisations inception Earth had only heard whispers of intelligent life in the Universe but it seemed to the Ourea that ideals - such as of peace to all sentient life - should be defined now before they had to be tested. They wanted a rulebook, a moral code, a treaty by which they could live and something that could act as a basis of a relationship with whatever was out there.
When they’d first be able to have a full conversation on the topic that was what Gorlak had shared with Jane that it was this ideology and forethought that had really appealed to Gorlak. He’d been surrounded by dominance and aggression most of his life, this choice for peace before the fight even began was what made them stand out to Gorlak during his research of Earth.
What many in the Ourea struggled with was his double-agent nature. Even whilst he had been living on the Draycore mothership, he’d been preparing to get away from them. Jane remembered him talking her through how he had worked for years to be able to go on a scout mission to a planet that the Draycore were looking to invade. The planet that they had just discovered was none other than our very own Blue Marble.
During his preparation for his scout mission Gorlak had been tasked with compiling and categorising all possible threats and issues with the planned Draycore attack. Through his months spent researching these strange people on that little rock called Earth he was about to be hurled towards, he had started to feel close to us. Jane still remember the warmth she had felt when Gorlak had shared how he’d felt like finally he could find a clan of his own. He had been looking for people of principle who cared more about friendship than ownership or power. Unfortunately, the truth was a little less shiny. Before Jane had taken the reins the Ourea had been little more than a rambling group of hippie misfits who had some wonderful sounding aims without any particular direction or plan. Many were more passionate about the weed they grew in their allotment area than the core tenets of their organisation.
They only really became the Ourea after he found them.
Their mission and focus became crystallised around Gorlak. Some of them had taken that to heart more than others. Tim always seemed to read situations only from the perspective of what harm might come to Gorlak. As Tim and Gorlak had grown closer and closer, it became more obvious how much Tim had taken it upon himself to protect Gorlak. Even more-so when Tim found out about Gorlak’s journey to find the Ourea - and the damage that his body had taken.
Jane realised that she was probably one of the only people in their base who could empathise with this protective urge. When she’d found Gorlak, in that broken state, all she’d wanted to do was keep him safe. Now Tim had seemed to take that on as his core duty. Gorlak had recently confided in her that Tim had pledged to never let any harm come to him. Gorlak had laughed it off, believing that the human was joking, but as Tim seemed to become more and more committed to the idea - the less funny the situation seemed. Jane just hoped that Tim wouldn’t end up putting himself or others in danger for the sake of Gorlak, who whilst ridiculously valuable to all of them, could take care of himself.
The door creaked as Tim leaned into the room - drawing Jane out of her daydream. “Afternoon sir!” Jane said shooting him a weary smile.
“Hi Jane.” He spoke softly, his voice completely at odds with his massive frame. “Have you got a minute to go through this mission brief?” Tim eyes betrayed his emotional state, he looked more than a little wary, this was the first time he’d been picked to lead a group on a mission like this.
“Yep, of course, come on in. You alright?” Jane sighed, rubbing her eyes and leaning back into her ancient desk chair.
“Yeah,” His eyes softened slightly. “I’m good thanks.” Jane noticed him breathe out and let his shoulders drop a little. “Mind if I sit?” He took a step towards the only other carcass of a chair in the tiny room.
“Sure.” Jane found her face trying to convey the warmth of friendship she wasn’t feeling.
Seated, hands in lap, he seemed to try and make himself smaller in the chair. “Ok. So, who we going after General?” Tim spoke with a constrained energy.
Jane gave a mini head-shake as she decided to just go with her gut and to stop trying to analyse every detail of his body language.
She quickly explained between sips of cold coffee from her favourite cracked mug, how they’d decided to focus on a politician who most of the Ourea company were aware of. Senator Tidir Akachi, representative for Nigeria on the World Council, had recently increased her output of acidic rhetoric concerning the activities and morals of the Ourea. Akachi had never agreed with the Ourea, their mission or the fact that they were protecting Gorlak from the outside world’s interesting in him. However, in recent months her attacks on the organisation had seem to ratchet up to a whole new level. She’d started attacking them, whenever and wherever she was given a platform. It was like she was becoming obsessed. She had a small and vocal following of similar fanatics who proclaimed her as a shining light in modern politics, a woman of the people. Jane thought it was strange how the old “us and them” psychology never managed to get old. It was always the movements that spoke of the differences between people that managed to engage a populace that had become bored of sedate and peaceful politics.
It was completely possible that this councillor was just bad-mouthing them for the sake of it, maybe she was being paid off, maybe she was acting on behalf of a more shady character in the background. Whatever the case they thought it was worth investigating, if only from a self-preservation standpoint. The Ourea council had suspicions that there was something else going on with this renegade politician, more than just a tirade of xenophobia without particular focus. The council had voted to investigate Akachi and if necessary, extract her to their compound. Many on the council firmly believed that this was the work of the Draycore scouts that had formed the crew on Gorlak’s trip to Earth - the ones who had turned on him when he tried to escape.
“You really think this all might be because there’s a Dray controlling this Senator? Forcing her to say whatever they want?” Jane could tell that he was referencing a subject close to both of their hearts - the difference between Gorlak and his people. They had to keep reminding themselves that just because Gorlak was kind, gentle and honest - his species were nothing like that. They forgot that at every moment, Gorlak was forcing himself into a shape that was acceptable for humans, and even then he still got it wrong. Sometimes Gorlak became too aggressive when an argument didn’t go the way he wanted, or the time he’d let himself get carried away in training practice - leaving a person in the hospital for weeks and resulting in Gorlak taking himself out of the training team, much to Jane’s disappointment. What would it be like meeting Dray who didn’t set the boundaries that Gorlak did, what damage could these beings do if they set their considerable brainpower to it.
She forced her brain back onto the subject he’d actually asked about, whether the Senator was being controlled. “I’ve no idea. Maybe. Maybe there are Draycore agents out there pulling strings as they wish, playing games with us and the media.” She sighed. “But my gut says they wouldn’t bother playing this game, that they would just get on with whatever mission they had, completely ignore the humans that got in their way. Why would they need to use the media like Akachi is doing?”
Jane rounded on the actual point of the mission. “That confusion, that lack of clarity of what she’s doing and why, is why we need more information. We need to know if Akachi is a danger to us or herself. We need to know if it might be necessary to remove her from the reach of whoever might be trying to control her.”
Tim nodded. “I get it. But what would the media say if they found out about us kidnapping Akachi? Is it worth extracting her if she’s just a bigoted nuisance?”
“No, of course not.” Jane gave herself a second to find the right words. ”She can say whatever she wants to, it’s still a free world - for the moment. Speaking for myself right now, it’s not that hate speech that I think should bother us. If she’s stoking people up and encouraging them to attack us then yeah we’d need to protect ourselves but I can’t imagine that she’d be anywhere need that sort of attack.”
Tim leaned back in the chair. “Right. Let’s say it’s all true, that the Draycore agents have got to her, that they’re controlling her through whatever method and that we decide to ‘save her’. Why would she even believe that we’re any better than them, she might have been brainwashed by them or they could have her family hostage. We know so little, all I’m saying is we need more information before we act.”
“How would you suggest we get that information?” Jane waited for a response. Tim looked searchingly around the room as if the answer was going to be scratched into the crumbling plaster.
“Look, I know this is unusual, even for us. I know your missions up to this point have not taken you far from the base, and I value how you’ve helped train up the new recruits, but we need this from you, I need this from you.” Jane found herself leaning forwards to take his hand. “We trust you. You’re a better leader than you know.”
Tim let out a breath looking up at her. “Sorry Jane. I find myself always trying to see the agendas in people’s plans, even the council. I trust you too, I want you to know that. Gorlak believes in you, that’s a pretty strong recommendation in my book. Ok I’ll do what needs to be done.”
Jane squeezed his hand then leaned back in her chair. With a soft smile she said, “Well alright then, let’s get you sorted.”