An intergalactic space mission from Earth tries to create a scientifically-based cooperative. The name of the ship is the Nefertiti, after the ancient Egyptian Queen. Captain Reeftart, his first mate Jane, and their enthusiastic crew first set foot on the friendly planet Stauron. The Stauronians share the Earthlings' hope for an interplanetary federation based on science. Although the Stauronian leader Glastia is skeptical, Reeftart believes that the Dirgonians will be receptive. However, Dirgon is a xenophobic, insular, and isolationist planet who, though benevolent, do not generally support measures to collectivize resources. Reeftart's optimism is tempered by Jane's pragmatism.
Faced with the potential for failure, Reeftart conspires to trick the Dirgonians into starting their own collective; he believes that if the Dirgonians believe that they initiated the idea they would feel fully in charge. Reeftart obviously knows little about Dirgon or their core culture, for when the Nefertiti arrives on Dirgon, the host planet is remarkably friendly. The Dirgonians accept their offer to participate in a scientific federation, and Queen Elaine of Dirgon helps jump-start a new era.
'Nefertiti" is a tale of political optimism and social success. The story also clearly warns against prejudging any culture and tries to persuade listeners to respect sovereignty. The science-fiction fairy tale includes gender role equality. I hoped that the story would send an optimistic message about the potential for different cultures to get along. Although we all have ulterior motives and prejudices, it can still be possible for disparate groups of people to get along. As long as each person respects the other, and as long as goals are mutually beneficial, no one needs to lie, cheat, or steal.
The fairy tale is exactly that: in reality, human nature shows that deception is commonplace and that bickering and fighting are more common than cooperation. Also, gender equality is far from being a reality. I hoped to persuade readers to hold a more optimistic view of humanity and show that cooperation, multiculturalism, and gender equality are possible, even if it takes several thousand years to manifest.
Fairy tales can create gender roles and social norms of behavior. For example, medieval fairy tales immensely influenced the concept of romantic love. In the same way, modern fairy tales can help recreate social and political realities of the future. Fairy tales, legends, and myths impart symbols that subtly but inevitably impact the formation of cultures and societies. Change the myths and we change the people.
This story, "Nefertiti," deliberately avoids the romantic love themes of the more traditional fairy tales. We have enough romantic love in the fairy tales we grew up with, stories like Cinderella. Romance has its place but we also need tales that are not romantically-based but which are also not all about war. I think it is refreshing to have a tale that does not focus on romance or war.
"Nefertiti" is not a typical heroic tale because there really is no clear hero. In fact, everyone wins because the crew members of the Nefertiti work together with as little egotism as possible. Captain Reeftart shows a slight tendency toward abuse of power, but he is essentially good-natured and is prevented from having to lie because the perceived enemy turned out to be kind after all. Jane is not a hero either. Actually most of the characters are essentially passive; they have largely put their egos aside and live cooperative lives that are far different from our individualistic ones. Enjoy.
Once upon a future time, in a land far, far, far away, a new spaceship set forth to create a revolutionary confederation of planets.
"All officers take the bridge! Warp generator activate! All systems online?"
"Alright! The Nefertiti's maiden voyage is underway!"
Captain Reeftart could not sit in the chair bearing his name. Instead, he leaned on its headrest, far too anxious to rest. Although he had been a Space Systems flight captain for over fifteen years, Reeftart had never before undertaken, or had been offered, an expedition this huge, this ambitious. Reeftart turned his head to his Number One.
'Jane, we are about to go ... "
'I know," she winked. "Where no one ... "
"Has gone before!" The on-board computer specialist completed their quip, and all ten officers on the bridge shared a collective, contagious laughter. Not a tinge of nervousness was evident in either Reeftart or Jane's voices, but Proton, their systems operator, quickly frowned after the after-effects of the joke wore off.
'Uh, Captain," the twenty-year-old officer interjected.
"Proton, speak!" Reeftart still smiled, the lingering effects of their laughter still intoxicating the intrepid captain.
"Captain, I am not receiving any readings from the anterior chamber of the ship. It's as if ... "
"As if it's not even there, Captain."
As the Earth's surface grew farther and farther away on-screen and through the bridge cabin's windows, the crew seemed relatively nonplussed by the system operator's statement.
'Well, then, I suppose we ought to check that out!" called the Captain, who still smiled in spite of the potential systems error. "Jeanette, please head over there to see what could possibly be causing this unfortunate problem."
What would have been sarcasm in any other man's voice was simply elation in Reeftarts'. Although Reeftart had journeyed to over a dozen planets already, utilizing the state-of-the-art space-time bending mechanisms discovered five hundred years ago by Karla Tybble, the maiden voyage of the Nefertiti was different. This crew, captained by Tyrone Reeftart, would be traveling to ten different planets within the course of three earth years. The visitations would be primarily diplomatic: a mission of peace from Earthlings and an introductory mission inviting citizens of those planets to join a scientific exploration federation.
Their eyes eager, all crew members entered the bridge room fully refreshed the following day when they approached the planet Stauron. Stauron, a bright green orb when seen from space, was one of the most well-known planets by that time. By Earth year 4664, Stauron and Earth had a solid bond with one another and citizens of both planets freely traveled between them.
When the Nefertiti approached the Stauron atmosphere, nine of the ten crew members on the bridge withdrew from their stations and stood transfixed at the windows. The physical glory of Stauron seduced all the crew members of the Nefertiti, but when the ship landed the Stauronians exuded a joy that certainly outdid their planet's natural beauty. The crew members of the Nefertiti were treated to feasts and fun for several days in addition to the political conferences that the Stauronians hosted.
Over the past several hundred years, Earth had learned much from the Stauronians, who had visited Earth and helped the people of that planet solve many social, political, and economic problems. Now, Stauron and Earth citizens were gathered to discuss the future fate of the entire sector of the galaxy. The sector included many planets hostile and resistant to any attempts to convene in peace with Earth or Stauron. The most hostile and potentially dangerous planet by far was Dirgon.
'The Dirgonians have expressed a willingness to convene," said Reeftart optimistically. His hopeful expression was soon tempered by the gentle wisdom of Glastia, the leader of the Stauronian delegation.
'Dear Reeftart," Glastia began, "It is most likely a trap. The Dirgonians have never expressed a sincere interest to interact with any other planet but their own."
Reeftart replied respectfully, "Dear Glastia, can we not try one more time? If Dirgon joined our confederation we could all share access to the psychic development technologies and maximize all of our potential."
'I share your optimism," said Glastia. "But realistically, we must admit that Dirgon will never be a fully participating member of any coalition that they themselves do not form."
That was when Reeftart first got the idea to trick the Dirgonians. When the thought crossed his mind, Jane could feel it in her bones, because she knew Reeftart well enough to know when he had another one of his bright ideas.
'Captain, may I talk to you a moment?"
"Certainly," Reeftart said to his First Mate.
"I know what you are thinking," said Jane. "And I would advise strongly against it. The Dirgonians are strong, proud people. They will know if our intentions are dishonest ... "
The Captain cut her off. "Jane, you know not what I think. We need Dirgon and they need us. The Nefertiti's mission would be incomplete without some semblance of cooperation from Dirgon."
'We want their ore," began Jane. "I do not agree with weaseling our way into the affairs of a sovereign planet for self-serving interests!" When her voice became elevated, Glastia approached the quarreling pair.
"Anything I can do?"
Glastia and Reeftart had an affair two years ago and retained their affection for one another. When Glastia approached, Jane felt instantly outnumbered.
'No, there is nothing you can do." Jane walked off.
Powerless and at this point unable to influence the mind of her…