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Sun of Zartha/11

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Mines of T'ano'okEdit

The valley of T'Ano'ok was a vast bluish-gray expanse of cool mist, rising from the ground below. T'Ano'ok was the primary complex of dwelling villages of the C'ola'a tribe. It was here that humanoid beings formed directly from molten rock and volcanic ash. It was here that the energy of cosmic Light manifested as rock and as crystal.

Jay and Laura's transport glided silently through the mist. Laura was flying the ship and pressed a couple of buttons in preparation for final approach and landing.

In this valley, Jay and Laura saw thousands of grayish-brown mud huts, sprawling for several miles in all directions. Small egg-shaped transports, as well as larger silvery ships which reminded Jay of old-school Airstream travel trailers, were flying low all around.

The mines were a vast network of holes leading to underground passages. They were gray with lots of smoke rising out of them.

In the distance was a massive rock outcropping. This huge mini-mountain housed the main administrative complex of the village. The chief councillor resided here, along with the chief priests and priestesses.

The silvery egg-shaped transport slowed its cruising speed as it approached the village.

"So there wasn't really any War of Zartha that lasted for 50 years - that was just some...disinformation?" Laura asked, glancing at the altimeter as she punched another couple of softly beeping buttons on the dashboard.

"Shakita said all that War of Zartha stuff was just in case people back on Earth saw that video," Jay replied. "Get this, baby: Her dad works for the production studio back at MIB headquarters that makes those tapes. I passed him in the halls at least two, three times a day for five years and he didn't say a damn thing to me about it - Zed would have fired him if he did, hell, Momma would have fired him, but that Grambling necktie he always wore should have clued me in..."

Laura nodded her head with a smile, in response. Jay sighed again. "Momma was right when she said these tribes are kind of divided. There WAS conflict on this planet, Laura, major conflict, and it's still going on. And we gotta get to the bottom of it."

"Well, hopefully we'll get some answers on this tour," Laura replied. She smiled at Jay. "Your mom has confidence in us. Everything's gonna work out, baby."

Jay just stared out the front of the window. There's so much I gotta find out, so much I need to do, so much that needs to be done...

Jay and Laura's egg circled around and landed in front of the main entrance to the rock village. The air was cool and there was a bluish-gray overcast glow in the air.

Many C'ola'a lived in dwellings carved and blasted deep within the rock. Some of these villagers, milling about, buying and selling different goods from wooden-and-straw booths, bowed slightly with embarrassed smiles as Jay and Laura came into view, and others made a strange gesture: they tapped their fists to their chests, rapidly, twice, and extended the fist slightly outward.

"That's the basic Zarthan greeting", Laura said. "Shakita taught it to me when I arrived Friday night. These people know who we are and they're showing respect."

"OK," said Jay, looking at the villagers warily as he and Laura walked through the open field, facing the huge rock outcropping.

A woman with a dark brown hooded dress walked up to meet them. She was a slim, shy woman who would pass for a sales clerk in a major department store, or a teller in a bank in New Orleans.

"Hello, my lords," the woman said to them both. "I am S'C'aana'a. I will take you to T'Ka'ar. Come."

The three proceeded to the face of the giant rock, and the hooded woman led them inside a doorway through a long, wide corridor; it was lit with the eerily familiar glow of mercury vapor streetlamps, made by the same company that sells them to cities and highway departments all over North America.

At the end of the hallway, there was a great hall which looked like old pictures of the old Penn Station. Jay and Laura were led through this hall into a large room where they sat down on a huge, musty old couch.

Then the chief councillor of the C'ola'a came out. He was a big man with coppery skin and a shaved head, about six foot six, dressed in a long black coat. This man could have easily made the starting offensive line of the Jets, or power forward for the Nets, had he moved to New York.

"Welcome to T'Ano'ok, my lords. I am T'Ka'ar, the chief councillor." He extended his hand to shake Jay's, and kissed Laura's hand. "I trust your trip was quite relaxing," T'Ka'ar said with a slight bow to Jay.

"Somewhat," replied Jay with a slight sigh, and he glanced at Laura with a weary look.

T'Ka'ar looked at the two and nodded his head. "I am aware that this is...quite the transition for you both, having lived the life of Earth beings for so long. That is why you are here. Come," and T'Ka'ar motioned Jay and Laura to follow him into his massive office.

The office was huge, and there were a couple of atten-dants. On the back wall hung several pictures and other artifacts.

“Sit down, my lords,” T’Ka’ar said. “You know, I lived on Earth for a time.”

“Oh yeah?” Jay asked. “I see your Auburn football helmet in that bookcase back there. So when did you live on Earth?”

“About 140 years ago,” replied T’Ka’ar.

Jay and Laura looked at the councillor in disbelief.

T’Ka’ar chuckled. “I thought you might regard that with a bit of amazement. We Zarthans have a LONG, long lifespan. I lived in Alabama before the Civil War.”

“You were a slave?” Laura asked.

“Yes, I most certainly was. Undercover. And I helped a lot of slaves escape and find their freedom. That was why I was sent down there.”

Jay immediately spoke up. “Alien interference in Earth affairs, that’s a violation of –“

“MIB Procedural Code 31K/111B: Extraterrestrial persons living on Earth shall not interfere with the normal political, social, religious and/or commercial activities of Earth, even if unlawful on the alien homeworld or under intergalactic law. Yes, I am aware, but this was long before MIB was formed, my lord. We had people’s lives to save, so some of us – even your ancestor Queen Alicia – went undercover as slaves, to tell the people, our brothers and sisters, that there was a different way available to them – and to implement that way.”

“How successful was the operation?” Jay asked.

“We moved a lot of folks up North,” T’Ka’ar said, “and West as well. One big component of the plan was called the “underground railroad”, which was somewhat fitting, since I worked building railroads and blasting tunnels out of the rocks all over Tennessee and Alabama. They wrote songs about me and my sledgehammer,” and T’Ka’ar pointed to a huge sledgehammer encased in a crystal case next to a file cabinet. Jay got up and looked inside.

There was an inscription on a metal plate tacked to the handle:

“This is the sledgehammer of John Henry Collins, Negro slave of William Masterson. Died Nov 7 1859 while in competition with Oliver Murphy’s steam shovel digging the Anniston railroad tunnel on the Atlanta main line…”

“Laura, come look at this, you will not believe it!” Jay said with wonder.

Laura got up and looked at the hammer.

“Are YOU the real John Henry?” Laura asked.

“One and the same, your highness.”

“So you really didn’t ‘die with a hammer in your hand”, did you?” Jay asked.

“No, that legend was made up as disinformation. There was no way the powers that be were going to let a slave get that much honor and acclaim, let alone an alien from another planet.”

“OK, so how did it really happen?”

“I actually used my Light energy to blast the rest of that bore clean through with both my fists,” and here T’Ka’ar held up his right fist and clenched it. “They were so freaked out, old man Masterson signed my freedom papers right then and there and gave me 750 acres of land. I raised three generations on that property before I came back here.”

“Do you still have family on Earth?” asked Laura.

“Yes indeed, the C’ola’a is well represented in Alabama to this day, and MIB tracks them like they do any alien on Earth. I drop in on my descendants every once in a while; a couple of the youngest boys play football for Auburn. One’s a sophomore left tackle and the other’s a tailback, he redshirted last year. They just sent me the helmet after last season.”

As the councillor was talking, his fist began to glow a dull reddish color and became reddishly luminous. Jay and Laura were aghast.

“How did you do that?” Jay asked.

“I focused my energy on my fist. That’s all you need to do. You can send blasts of powerful light through your fists, strong enough to blast holes through solid rock if you focus hard enough. Not everyone is trained to do it, but some can do it more easily than others if they’re born with the ability, which I believe the both of you are.”

“OK…well, maybe that might be a handy little skill to use in the future,” Jay said.

"So what is this place?" Laura asked, looking with wonder at the massive craggy walls of the office.

"This complex of villages is the home of our people. We are the ones who make the crystals and the precious stones needed for the rituals for all the tribes. We mine them from the rocks and we manufacture them. We've been doing this for 1,000 years. Without us, it would be hard for the other tribes to access the higher energies. It would also be hard for Zartha to maintain its status as an intergalactic superpower."

"And my mother says your tribe is treated the worst," asked Jay.

"Indeed we are, my lord. Our talents, our energies, our contributions to Zartha are not appreciated by the S'aa. The T'ola'a have fought for our rights, but there is only so much that can be done when you have the S'aa jockeying for power and trying to take over Zartha," said the councillor.

Laura said, "What's the one thing do we need to do as King and Queen to help this situation?"

"You can investigate the illegal mines in the Purple Valley."

"Illegal mines?" Laura said, puzzled.

"That's right, my lord," T'Ka'ar replied. "Some of the rebel S'aa are operating illegal mines in direct violation of the royal directives. They sell the rocks on the black market to fund their covert operations - and to enrich those among them who are the masterminds, the bosses. And C'ola'a miners are being kidnapped from some of the outlying villages and enslaved to do so."

"Enslaved?" Laura gasped. She turned to look at Jay, whose frown became a scowl.

"Yes, your Highness," T'Ka'ar replied. "We've had to go in with our security troops and rescue our people, five different times in the last 18 months, and on three of those occasions we had fire-fights, armed skirmishes with the S'aa rebels as a result."

"Well, damn, how do we get out of this one?" Laura asked, and looked at Jay with agitated concern.

"Simple. It's just a matter of rounding up the perpetrators, baby, then we put 'em on trial and lock them up," Jay said to her.

"Ah, but if only it were that simple, my lord," T'Ka'ar said.

"Oh yeah? Well why isn't it that simple?" Jay asked, frowning again slightly.

"The S'aa themselves are deeply divided as to these operations, and most of them are conducted in secret. Any retaliatory or enforcement action on the part of the royal household could trigger an internal civil war within the S'aa tribe that could result in a larger planet-wide civil war. Then the IC would have to get involved - "

"The Intergalactic Council," Laura interjected.

"Correct, my lord," T'Ka'ar replied. "That could mean troops from other planets firing upon our homes. That was a risk your mother deemed unacceptable," T'Ka'ar said, turning to Jay. "S'Vasa'an wants unity through diplomacy as much as possible and only allows use of force - especially against our own Zarthan brethren - only as a last resort."

"The more I'm learning about my mom's policies, T'Ka'ar, the less I'm agreeing with 'em," Jay said, with a slight curtness in his tone. "If your people keep getting kidnapped, and y'all have had to go on rescue missions 5 times in 18 months - it sounds like this might be an ongoing campaign, right?"

"The S'aa want to eventually capture the entire planet and enslave the C'ola'a and the W'ula'a. From there they will launch a campaign to take over the universe. Part of that plan includes the destruction of earth and the extermination of all humans," T'Ka'ar said gravely. "They are serious about this. They feel that genocide is their divine right."

"Divine right my ass," Jay shot back. "This shit ain't gonna happen on my watch."

"Our watch, baby," Laura reminded him.

"Oh, yeah, sorry, baby," and Jay held Laura's hand.

TKa'ar went on. "We have the ability to protect and to defend ourselves, but to do so would mean eliminating many of the S'aa rebels. The queen has been resistant to that."

"I say we eliminate the bastards," Jay said.

"Jay!" Laura exclaimed.

"Laura, remember my old job, baby. I ain't scared of takin' my three-barrel gun and blastin' some renegade, rebel ass. I know scum of the universe when I see it."

"You are indeed a true warrior of Earth, my lord," TKa'ar replied with a knowing smile. "And like I just said, I have some prior experience in rescuing captives. Here on Zartha, however, we do believe in giving even our sworn enemies a chance to redeem themselves."

"Just how many chances are they gonna get, T'Ka'ar?" Jay exclaimed. "Your entire tribe may end up in leg irons if somebody ain't gonna stand up to these bastards."

"The trick is, my lord, to make the rebels see the error of their ways peacefully, and defend our people at the same time. My hope is that the two of you will convince our bretheren that is is better - that it is the will of the Light - for all of us to treat each other with divine respect and love, and to appreciate the gifts that the universe has bestowed each of us with."

Jay scowled. "For a bunch of aliens, there's a hell of a lot of good old fashioned human nature on this planet. It kind of sucks."

"Greed and hunger for power know no species, my lord," T'Ka'ar replied. "That is where the two of you come in. You need to continue and expand upon the principles of your mother - the principles that made Zartha what it is today. The concept that as a planet made up entirely of beings of Light - in different variations and manifestations - we are all family and have a primary obligation to honor and respect one another."

"Well, if I have to use force to make some of the family members act like family, I will," Jay said.

"But we will try negotiation first, T'Ka'ar," Laura interjected, turning to look at Jay. "Jay, I think if we tell them how it's gonna go when we become king and queen, that might just be enough to stop their plans right there."

"Laura, I've dealt with a lot of alien criminals in the past five years," Jay replied. "Some people just don't give a shit about honor, respect, freedom, any of that, and they've just got to be blasted into submission."

"I know you will do the right thing, my lord," T'Ka'ar said to Jay, "and the wise thing. You are much like Angelique, and not just in physical appearance. Your mother is a fair woman, but rest assured she is not one to allow a challenge to go unmet, or injustice to go unpunished. That's why the two of you are on Zartha right now instead of going about your...'normal' lives back on Earth. She knew it was finally time for the both of you to assume your rightful positions of leadership on this planet."

"It may be our time, but I don't feel ready for all this. I just don't want to screw this one up," Jay said. "If this planet goes under, millions of lives are lost. And the rebels will go after Earth and everywhere else people are trying to live their lives and mind their business. I cannot let that happen."

"You underestimate yourself, my lord. You are the sun of Zartha. You are the child of a queen who almost singlehandedly kept this planet from destroying itself. By doing so she saved millions of lives - while she was in exile on Earth, I might add. The advantage I see here over that of Angelique is that both of you are here instead of on Earth in a prison cell. I believe that two heads are always better than one. And I believe that a queen is only as strong as those who are loyal to her.

"You have also distingushed yourself as one of the most recognized agents in the history of the MIB organization. Your exploits there have been common knowledge here on Zartha for the past few years, thanks to the press releases put out by your chief of staff, Princess Shakita."

"Momma made her do it," Jay said in all seriousness.

"The two of you will make excellent rulers. No question. I can tell from just talking with you these few minutes. I don't think we have anything to fear if we keep our basic principles in mind.

"And what's more," T'Ka'ar continued, "my son T'Na'al speaks very highly of you. He's my youngest, and it was always a challenge to make a warrior out of him. His mother is half W'ula'a, so he can be a little wavering in his actions. Since he's been in New York, he's much more disciplined, more focused. I want to express my gratitude for your tutelage."

Jay was a little nervous, because he knew he was excessively hard on Agent Enn and here he was face to face with his father.

"Thank you, T'Ka'ar...I expect the best out of my people. That's the Air Force officer in me."

"I would also say that's the Angie in you, my lord," T'Ka'ar added with a chuckle and a knowing nod of his head. "The Angie I knew for 50 years and served for 30."

Jay relaxed slightly. "Nathaniel has been coming along fine. I tend to be somewhat demanding, but MIB is not a place to play around. I look forward to working with him here on Zartha."

"As he looks forward to working with you. Zartha's not a place to play around in, either, my lord. We face some serious challenges. But we know how to work together to meet them." T'Ka'ar's expression remained patient, which relieved Jay.

"All we can give is our best, councillor," Jay replied.

T'Ka'ar leaned back in his massive chair. He tapped his fingers together and a knowing smile crossed his lips. He then said, "Well then...the Golden Age of this planet is most definitely at hand."

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Sun of Zartha

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