So here is the first go at chapter four. It's VERY rough because I'm starting to integrate the previous stuff into this chapter. I'm working towards the title - showing the diaspora of all the girls and guys to different planets, before we start chasing each other all over the solar system ;)
Chapter 04 â€“ The Past
By Aurora Eos Rose
Aeneas dug through the records room like the annoying moles that pestered Endymionâ€™s gardeners. Books, memory discs, and holographic recordings were quickly analyzed and then thrown backwards over his shoulder. They littered the floor in piles around the half-destroyed royal archives, but he paid no attention to anything but his goal. Something was tugging at his brain like a bird pecking at a worm. The answer to his question was here, the answer to all the questions had to be here. He never ignored his intuition. It was something his mother hadâ€¦ he stopped the line of thought cold. This was too important to allow his mind to dip back into the boiling, angry recesses of recent and past misdeeds. He would deal with his roaring conscience later. Now he had to find the key.
â€œWhat the hell are you doing?â€ Aeneas turned around with a motion so sharp he caught the edge of a shelf of very ancient books with his elbow and they tumbled to the ground. His own exclamation of pain and subsequent swearing was overpowered by the outraged accusations spilling from Odysseusâ€™s mouth.
â€œShut up, fucking pointy-eared bastard. I was looking for something.â€ Aeneas maneuvered a hand beneath the fallen shelf and shoved it upward against a half crumbled wall and ignored the shards of marble and plaster that rained down into the mess.
â€œLooking for something? By Demeter what can you find in thisâ€¦?â€ Words deserted Odysseus and he did nothing more than wave his hands over the mess and scowl. Aeneas returned the scowl.
â€œI donâ€™t know exactly what Iâ€™m looking for, but thereâ€™s something thatâ€™s been bothering me since we arrived. The key is in this mess, I know it. Just leave me alone. Donâ€™t you have a dinner to plan or something?â€ The derisive tone made Odysseus grit his teeth.
â€œDinner, your bed, the moon resupply, occupation, and rebuilding have all were managed hours ago, before I recaptured Endymionâ€™s murderous little sister. What have you done since you stormed from the throne room?â€ Odysseus crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. Aeneas longed to answer but held his tongue. A fight right now would accomplish nothing. Odysseus sighed and picked up a few books.
"A logical place to begin would be to find the old law, before the Silver Alliance was formed." He flipped through a stack of discs, frowning at the names scribbled on them in marker. Aeneas sighed loudly and grabbed another book. Odysseus moved to a still functioning disc player. The disc began to play quietly. His eyes darkened.
"I've found it." His voice was hard and cold. Aeneas moved over and stood behind him, viewing the offending video recording.
â€œBy the gods.â€ The two stared for several long moments, unable to tear their eyes away from the scene on the screen.
â€œWhy werenâ€™t they in the shelters or sent off planet? It will literally take us years to unearth all the hiding places on this rock." Aeneas watched as Odysseus put another disc in the player.
â€œHiding them in plan sight was a rather effective plan. We must inform Endymion at once.â€ Aeneas held up the old volume in his hand.
â€œTheyâ€™ll want to read this as well.â€ Odysseus took the book and flipped through it gently.
"The history and laws of the golden kingdom. This book predates the Silver Kingdom, the Silver Alliance, and the planetary wars, back to the time when the Sun Kingdom ruled. It also has the origins of the planetary senshi, the talismans, the laws of the individual planets, and the ceremony we performed to absorb a senshiâ€™s powers." Odysseusâ€™s voice crackled with excitement. â€œFor once youâ€™ve done something right, dick.â€ Aeneas grunted.
"Look here. Each planet has a royal family that passes down the talismans, but the senshi can be anyone. The only requirement for becoming a senshi is having latent magic ability, and having the powers granted by the previous senshi. The powers of a senshi can be stolen by a ceremony, but unless the powers are bestowed voluntarily at the moment of death, the planet will reject the new senshi, causing the person to slowly go insane." The two met eyes, a wealth of anger and hurt in both their gazes.
"Like Metallia." They returned their eyes to the book.
"For some reason, she gave me her powers, instead of letting me slowly go mad." Aeneas face twisted into a bitter smile. He moved away and leaned against the desk behind him. His eyes were troubled.
"We must inform Endymion of this at once." Aeneas nodded and glanced at the images flickering on the screen again
"So those girlsâ€¦ The short dark-haired one they call Helen, she must be of Mercury. The taller blonde has to be Venusian. Thatâ€™s twoâ€
â€œI believe her name was Ariadne. We know Penelope is Earthâ€™s princess, and the tall one, Dido, has to be from Jupiter.â€
â€œThat leaves the loud-mouth. What did they call her? Medea, Martian judging by the temper. And the other one.â€
â€œShe has to be the one Endymion is searching for, the princess.â€ Aeneas cleared his throat.
â€œCome, letâ€™s find Endymion.â€
â€œThere has not been a fire walking attempted for over two thousand years.â€ Medea gently shifted from one foot to the other. She could feel the bare soles sticking to the floor. They were bleeding, after all, how could they not be after the naked race to the temple. She would be picking stone and glass out for months. â€œAnd even then, the fire walking was unsuccessful. I donâ€™t even know if itâ€™s possible to do interplanetary travel with firewalking.â€ She kept one hand lowered, covering the juncture of her thighs and the other crossed over her chest. They hadnâ€™t offered her any clothing, or even a cloth to wash off some of the gray dust that now coated her body.
â€œShe must speak with the great fire and travel to her destiny.â€ The childâ€™s voice was quiet but commanding and Medea shivered at the tone. She had never liked oracles; they were a bit on the creepy side, old souls in childrenâ€™s bodies. This one looked too much like she had as a child, only with the sightless eyes. It was enough to make her skin crawl. She glanced at the high priestess again. The old woman had been arguing with the oracle for almost an hour now.
Helen couldn't remember much of the trip to the ship, nor the night spent gaining permission to leave the moon. She couldn't think, couldn't move. She couldn't even cry. She felt as if she were stone. A statue carved from the marble that seemed to be everywhere in the palace. The cold metal floor sucked the heat from her body, just as the day before had sucked the life from her soul. The night seemed endless.
The boy finally woke. She mentally gauged his condition and wasnâ€™t surprised to see his hand go to his head. Even she was beginning to feel the effects of the aborted healing process. She rubbed her eyes in confusion for a moment. Her mental barriers were breaking down and the memories came back fast, rushing against her fragile self-control. She felt the tears threatening, but pushed them back with a repeated litany. She would survive. The others had to be alive.
"Are you all right?" The younger boy had long ago punched in the coordinates for Mercury and he dropped a slender hand on her shoulder. Helen sighed loudly.
"So much death. We expected this, the people of the moon, we knew the end was coming. And yet seeing the destruction, seeing the Senshi killed, seeing all the needless deaths. This was the path we were destined to follow. And often the path of fate leads to death." Her voice seemed far away. She pushed a strand of loose hair behind one ear. Her eyes filled with tears and her leg was beginning to throb. â€œThereâ€™s nothing left for me. All my friends, my entire life is gone.â€ Her voice was flat, dead. She only prayed the others were safe, somehow. She prayed that the bastards who now ruled would never discover who she was, where she was headed. Sheâ€™d never give up without a fight. There had to be a way.
here Jason starts his wild goose chase
No one moved, no one blinked. Every purpose simply stared at the look of astonishment on Theseusâ€™s face. He hadnâ€™t been able to pull the sword. Endymion felt the
"I, Queen Selenity do hereby surrender all lands still held in trust by the Silver Millennium Kingdom to the prince of earth, Endymion." She raised her head. Her eyes were filled with tears. "I'm so sorry Serenity, Tranquility. I have let my own desire to change fate ruin everything." With those last words, she flung her arms around a startled Endymion, burying the sword he held in her chest. The red liquid poured from the wound, coating the sword, Endymionâ€™s chest, and fell onto the floor in a splash of color.
Sera screamed. The sound echoed from her soul to the edges of the Moon Kingdom, its anguish ripping through the hearts of anyone who heard it. Endymion simply held on to the body, his brain refusing to accept the sight before him. He had intended to drag the queen before a jury, to make her face her crimes. Now she was dead, at her own hand. Her powers had been passed to another. Endymion swore loudly and threw Selenity to the ground. Sera didn't even notice, too wrapped in her grief to function as the bloodstained man started for her and Aria.
She felt a strange power pulsating in the walls that send shivers up her spine. A voice echoed in the crystal room. â€œRun Serenity, quickly. You must escape. Get off the moon, run to the far reaches of the galaxy. The time of peace and prosperity is over now.â€ Sera felt Aria pulling at her arm and the two girls moved backwards as the door swung open. A ghostly figure appeared, the queen standing tall, tears running down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry, Serenity. I meant to give you a chance at life, and instead have destroyed even the future." Aria gave a hard yank and the two moved backwards out the door. There were dead bodies of soldiers all around. The door slid shut with a hiss and there was a loud noise from within the prayer chamber. Serenity threw herself at the crystal barrier, banging her fists in anger. Aria pulled her away.
â€œWe have to leave, Sera. Iâ€™m sorry.â€ With those words, Aria took off at a run down the hallway, yanking a sobbing Serenity behind her.
Sera could feel the crystal pulsing around her neck. It reacted to her terror, her pounding heart, her aching legs, and burning lungs. She could feel it sending warmth, comfort, strength. The power surged through her body in gentle waves. She clung to Ariaâ€™s right hand on the now healed arm, and the two ran through the passages like spooked deer. Sera welcomed the burst of energy from the strange artifact, and wondered how much she could control the crystal. She mentally lamented that Aria was looking tired. At that moment, the crystalâ€™s output increased and crossed the barrier of hands. Aria looked back at Sera with a shocked expression. Sera smiled smugly. Neither slowed nor stopped. Their feet pounded against the stone floors. It sounded like a herd of elephants to Sera, even though their soft boots muffled most of the noise.
Sound reverberated in the passages, echoing from wall to wall, disguising how close their pursers might have been. Sera could hear their voices. Muffled thumps and thuds, the commanding voice of the prince shouting to return them dead or alive. She shuddered. He was even worse than the stories sheâ€™d heard. He was the reason her mother wasâ€¦she shut off that line of reasoning instantly. Now was not the time for grieving. She squinted in the dark trying to see where they were racing. The hallways were dark and twisting under the palace, riddled with dead ends, side branches, and niches coated in dust. These had been carved into the living rock of the moon before recorded history. Sera took a deep breath.
"Where exactly are we going, Aria?" The halls were getting darker, and even with the crystal Sera was tiring. She gasped the words, desperate for some relief. Aria held the sword in her other hand out. Sera noticed it was glowing, and the light was increasing.
â€œI have no idea, Sera. Iâ€™m following this thing. Just keep up, and keep quiet. Sound echoes in these halls.â€ Sera swallowed loudly and tried to ignore the rasping that was starting to come with every breath. She glanced back and grimaced at the two sets of footprints clearly visible in the thick layer of dust. She didnâ€™t think quiet mattered one way or the other when there was an easily followed trail.
â€œWell, I hope we get there soon, or we wonâ€™t be going anywhere but our own funerals.â€ Sera muttered the words, but she could see Ariaâ€™s silent nod of agreement.
Theseus held the unfortunate soldier up against the wall by the throat. The man thrashed and clawed at the hand, and then went limp. Theseus threw him to the floor with a violent motion. He hated incompetence. This was the third set of patrols theyâ€™d found sitting on the ground drinking instead of doing their job. He snorted. He had wanted to kill the man, but even incompetent soldiers could be useful for something. Just not searching for runaway princesses and magic swords. He dusted his hands off, not quite satisfied with the idiot's punishment, but unable to do more when tracking runaways. He grunted.
"Let's get moving. They can't be too far ahead, the dust on the passageways has hardly settled from their feet." Endymion squinted, his eyes attempting to adjust to the dim hallways.
(Somewhere here in halls the girls find a broken peneleope. - needs to be written)
"Dammit, I donâ€™t know how to use this thing."
"Does it still work?" Seraâ€™s voice vibrated with worry.
"I think so; everything seems to be in good condition. What I wouldnâ€™t give to have Helen here for even a minute." There was a long moment of silence as the two girls said a silent prayer for their friendâ€™s safety. Penelope lay on the floor, her face deadly pale.
"My mother use to tell stories of how all the planets had these teleportation rooms. They were built during the Golden Kingdom to allow quick evacuation of a planet." Sera ran her fingers through her tangled hair. She was troubled at how long it had taken them to find the room, and the clear trail they had left. Something would go wrong. They had escaped far too easily for fate to let them leave without a fight.
"I didn't believe in this old technology. I always thought those stories were myths. Computers laced with magic. It makes you wonder how much of the legends are true." Aria pushed a few more buttons and frowned.
"Mother told me most legends have a grain of truth to them." Sera ran her hands over the carved walls of the room. The holy sword had led them safely to the doors of the teleportation room, and open the lock as well. The air had been stale and stiff. Aria felt her heart grow heavy. Sera seemed to be retreating into the past. Aria had lost track of the number of times Sera had said, "Mother told me," in the last ten minutes.
"The trick is separating the truth from the embellishment." Aria pushed a red button, desperate for something to happen. The room hummed and lit up.
"Did you hear that?" Sera sat up quickly, her eyes scanning the room.
"I didn't hearâ€¦Oh god, they're coming." The two stared at each other for a moment.
"Is there anyway to close those doors?"
"I don't know. They slid back into the wall. I'm not sure how to close them." Sera's words came out at a wail. Aria felt the urge to scream in frustration.
"Sera, we don't have any way to hold them off. You stand on that platform there." Aria sounded almost desperate. She dragged Penelopeâ€™s resisting body onto the other platform. They had to escape, especially Sera. She returned to the computer screen and was surprised to see instructions flashing. She swore.
"I can't get the remote system to work." She followed the instructions and punched a few more buttons. Then she closed her eyes tightly. She had known this would happen. She opened her eyes and stared at Sera.
"Iâ€™m sorry." Sera flung herself off the platform and into Aria's arms.
"I won't let you. I'll stay. They won't hurt me." Aria disengaged the smaller girl.
"You are the one we're trying to protect Sera. You need to keep that crystal safe. Some day youâ€™ll come back for me, I'm sure." She tensed up.
"They're coming." They could hear footsteps echoing from the passageway. Ariaâ€™s eyes narrowed, focusing on several containers in the corner of the room. She moved forward, grabbing a canister and started spilling the contents in front of the door. A sweep of the sword against the metal walls sent sparks onto the flammable material. The fire blazed upward, forming a four-foot wall in front of the open doorway.
"I hope that burns for a while."
Endymion could smell the fire long before he could see it. The three men were racing through the twisting corridors, following the footprints in the dust.
"What did they hope to accomplish down here?" Paris was slightly out of breath, but managed to force the words out.
"There are legends of an underground teleportation chamber, capable of sending people off planet." Endymion almost laughed at Paris 's breathing problems.
"Every legend has a kernel of truth." Paris gasped the words out. Theseus sighed.
"I think we'll be adding more running to our training." He wasn't out of breath at all. The two behind him groaned. Endymion shot a rueful glance at Theseus. The taller man simply shrugged.
The entrance to the room was huge. Endymion reached the flames and simply rolled through them. He glanced quickly around the small room. Sera and Penny were each standing on a teleport platform. Aria was standing over the console. Endymion began running for Sera.
"Not today bastard." Aria hit the switch. Sera was swallowed in a whirlwind of light. Theseus came flying into the room at that moment, heading straight for Aria. He leaped over the first row of computer consoles. Aria flicked the second switch just in time, and Penelope disappeared. Aria flipped out of the way, narrowly missing a beheading by the sword in his hands. She ducked behind a console, avoiding a similar beheading from Endymion. She could feel the anger emanating from the two. Aria resisted the urge to cry. She was in trouble.
"You little bitch." Endymion's voice roared over the fire still blazing in the door. Aria noticed the fire creeping toward the computer consoles. She forced the fear back inside. She rolled behind the last row of consoles and made her way across the room by slithering on her belly. She silently thanked whoever had designed the computers to be highly flammable.
"Well, I don't have to worry about destroying the computers." Aria kept crawling on her belly toward the door. She heard the other three enter, and Theseus seemed to have lost her in the thick smoke that was starting to clog the room.
"Dammit. We could have followed them." Paris's voice broke through the smoke and haze. The only sounds were burning computer equipment and heavy breathing. Aria slowly pulled herself up and peeked over the edge of the console. She couldn't see anything.
"It's now or never." She whispered the words and made a break for the doors. She almost reached them. She never saw the glaive knock her legs out from under her. And then all she could see was a pair of shiny black boots, inches from her nose. Aria resisted the urge to cry. She knew the door was just a foot or two behind the white haired giant. She had been so close. A hand reached down and yanked her to her feet by her long blond braid.
Theseus dropped the silky braid and pinned the girl's arms behind her back. He pushed her forward towards the place where Endymion and the others were standing. He forced her towards the ground. Aria dropped to her knees. Her eyes were stinging from the acrid smoke. She tried to fight against the hold on her arms, but Theseus was incredibly strong.
"I see not all the rats escaped." A second pair of black boots filled her vision. She looked up into the very angry eyes of Endymion. Aria spat on his boots. The grip on her arms tightened, and they twisted up higher. She took a deep breath.
"I would give my life to keep my friends out of your grasp." Endymion smiled. Then he drew back the defiled boot, and buried it in Aria's gut with a single swift kick. She shut her eyes tightly against the pain, but she didn't drop her chin.
"I don't think you understand your situation, little girl." Endymion bent down so he was at her level. He grabbed hold of her long braid and jerked her head backwards. "You now belong to me. I claim you under the rules of the Golden Kingdom. You have no where to run." Aria's eyes narrowed.
"What are you talking about?" Endymion stood up slowly, his smile growing.
"You, Princess of Venus, are trespassing in my territory. By Selenityâ€™s own hand, the Silver Kingdom is no more. She has given me this palace by her own words, and has sent us back to the law of the Golden Kingdom. Any female who enters my property without permission or escort belongs to me." Endymion's mouth caressed the words as if they were candy. Aria's eyes grew wide. She had thought they would simply torture and kill her. This was unexpected. Endymion smiled.
"I'll never belong to you, bastard." Endymion slapped her across the face. Aria's head jerked to the side.
"I won't be so stingy as to keep you for myself however. I wasn't the one who caught you. I shall gift you to my first in command. I know he can handle you. I rather think he wants to handle you." The other men laughed at the innuendo beneath the words. Aria just stared for a long moment, her mind unable to comprehend what Endymion had just said. Theseus let go of her arms and yanked her to her feet by her hair again. Aria stumbled. Theseus wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her close.
"He likes pretty things you know. Male, female, doesn't matter, as long as they're blonde and gorgeous." Endymion brushed a hand over Aria's hair, ignoring the way she flinched at his touch. "I think you'll do, with a bit of grooming." Endymion laughed nastily and headed out the door.
"No rash comment, little princess?" Theseus whispered the words harshly in Aria's ear. She tried to jerk away from him, but his hold didn't falter. "I wouldn't do that, Angel."
"Don't call me that." Aria spat the words. "Only my mother ever called me that." Her eyes filled with tears. She was tired, sore, and her brain refused to function anymore. Theseus spun her around, picking her up by her arms until she was eye level with him.
"Then what shall I call you?" His voice held a healthy dose of sarcasm. "Would bitch do?" Aria felt anger rush over her face in a red flush.
"My name is Ariadne. But you can call me Princess or your majesty, peasant." Aria kicked out with her legs, but Theseus merely held her farther away. His eyes darkened a bit.
"Don't make me angry. You won't like the consequences." His voice was calm, matter of fact, and cold.
"My friends will come back for me. And then I'll slide a sword in your gut and laugh while you bleed to death." Aria's eyes spit fire. Theseus yanked her tight against him. The two were nose to nose.
"I certainly hope your friends return. And when they do, we'll be waiting. But until then, you are mine." His eyes swirled black and violet. His quiet voice and the arrogance in his tone made Aria's heart sink. He lowered his mouth against hers in a brutal kiss. Aria felt his teeth sink into her lower lip and opened her mouth to protest. His tongue swept inside. She bit down hard and managed to bury her knee in Theseusâ€™s gut. A pair of hands wrapped themselves around her throat. Then there was darkness.
Medea looked around the dusty red field where she'd landed. The red sky, the dry ground, thin air, the cold. She was on mars. She stood slowly, her legs still shaking. Her entire body still felt like it was on fire. She was naked and the night was coming fast. She swore. Fire-walking might allow one to travel anywhere quickly, but she felt like she had left a few body parts back on the moon.
"You have really rotten aim." Her voice echoed over the flat plain in anger. She silently looked around. Nothing but red sand as far as the eye could see, broken by an occasional cactus. "I haven't been here since I was little girl." She felt memories flooding back. She had loved life on her home planet. It was strange to be back after so long. "I was seven when the planets reconciled and mother returned to the moon. I'd almost forgotten how beautiful it is here." Medea glanced at the barren landscape again. The red sand was beautiful, in an eerie, haunting way. Her stomach rumbled. She glared at the offending organ.
"You will just have to wait. The nights get very cold here. I need to find shelter before that happens. Otherwise Iâ€™m going to be in trouble." A plume of smoke rose in the east and Medea let out a silent prayer of thanks. The eternal flame of Hestia only burned in the capital city. She took off at a run. Now if she could just make it by nightfall.
Helen looked at the circle of guards surrounding her and the two boys. They were all dark-haired, all short, male, and the energy weapons they held didnâ€™t look very friendly.
"Helen? Was this supposed to be an escape?" The older boyâ€™s voice floated over the silent hangar. Helen and the younger boy stood back to back in the center of the group.
"I think they just donâ€™t know who I am. This is the standard reception for strangers on Mercury. They let us land, didnâ€™t they?" Helenâ€™s voice was matter of fact, and calm, but her knees were shaking.
"Well what do we do now?" The words dripped with frustration. Helen shrugged her shoulders. The two young men snorted.
"You're a lot of help." The older boy stepped towards one of the guards. "We come in peace." The guards' faces remained impassive. He threw his arms up in exasperation. "Don't just stand there, talk to me." Helen turned to stare at the faces, hoping for a spark of recognition. Sheâ€™d been gone from home for too long. She yanked a signet ring from its hiding spot under her belt and took two steps forward.
"I am the Princess Helen of Mercury. Iâ€™ve escaped from the annihilation of Luna. I seek assistance for myself and my Terran companions." Her back was straight, her tone regal and kind at the same time. The men stared at the ring for several long moments. One of the guards turned and whispered something to his companion. The second guard quietly left the room. Helen simply folded her hands and waited.
"Youâ€™re a princess?" The younger boy hissed the words, his eyes bright.
"Yes I am. Iâ€™m sorry I didnâ€™t tell you but it was important that I remained incognito.â€ The boy shrugged.
"Fine. But I'm not bowing or anything." Helen laughed softly.
A tall, thin young man in a multihued blue uniform and cape entered the room. The guards parted slowly. Helen sized up the young man. His hair and eyes were an odd shade of brown, but he was smiling kindly.
"Welcome to Merucry, Princess Helen. It is so good for you to return to your people. As of this moment, I am the closest thing Mercury has to a ruler." The young man took Helenâ€™s hand and kissed it gently. His eyes grew sad.
"It is good to be home." She was surprised at how much she had missed the place of her birth. The man bowed low.
"I, Gregory, Captain of the guard, am at your service princess." Helen resisted the urge to giggle at the young man's gallant manners.
"Thank you, Captain Gregory." The man offered his arm.
"Please, call me Greg." Helen blushed and took the man's arm.
"What about us?" The man turned and frowned at the two boys.
"You should learn some manners, boy. You two can take your meal in the hall; ask one of the guards for directions." Greg turned and swept a blushing Helen from the room.
Theseus looked at the city of Elysian from the porthole of his window. Under a radiation dome to protect it from the sun's blistering energy, Elysian had once been the most beautiful and powerful city in the solar system, and in the galaxy. Now it was almost abandoned, the only people still present where the keepers of the shrine which lay in the center of the city. He felt a shiver of remembrance. He had spent the first ten years of his life here, in what remained of the once shining city. He turned away quickly.
Andrew sat beside him, also gazing at the floating city. Elysian was a wonder of technology and magic. It rested just outside the corona of the sun. No one understood how the amazing dome worked, blocking most of the radiation, heat, and light, and transferring it to machines that kept the city from being sucked into the sun's incredible gravity. The design of the city was different from that of the magnificent, modern outer planets. Instead Elysian consisted of broad fields broken by stately chateaus. Only the rich could ever afford to live in Elysian. The poor who set foot on the city were either slaves or servants.
Andrew closed his eyes for a moment. Theseus wondered how the other man would be able to stand this trip to Elysian, where the sun always shone. Andrew always preferred the dark cold of Pluto and the other outer planets. Elysian was so bright, the light too strong. The ship shuddered a bit as it moved through the entry of the dome and slowly set down at the ancient spaceport. Theseus shook Andrewâ€™s shoulder and waited for the blonde haired man to wake up.
There was no one to meet them at the spaceport. Of course, Theseus doubted the tiny shrine could have sent anyone. In fact, he doubted that the priests and priestesses of the shrine even knew of Endymion's triumph. The sun had not needed to be conquered. Why send an army for one city with less than fifty inhabitants? Andrew was shouting instructions to the small group of soldiers they had brought. Theseus glanced out over the brilliant green fields. Elysian was beautiful, just as he remembered, but he felt a strange foreboding. Something about this place reeked of blood and death.
The trip to the shrine had to be made on foot. Whatever methods had been used for travel on Elysian had been long forgotten in the mists of time. Heâ€™d walked this route many times as a child. He glanced around at the quiet city. Elysian had been emptied centuries ago, when the great wars between the planets had begun. The entire galaxy had fought against one another, biting and clawing for more power, more space. The only ones who had stayed were the few devoted followers of Apollo and the great Oracle. Elysian had been forgotten by the rest of the Solar System, merely an old fairy tale. Then Selenity had appeared, a child of Elysian and a stray Lunarian. She had been drawn back to the moon by duty, and had made the dead rock a place of life. Under her guidance the Silver Millennium had brought peace and order. He pushed thoughts of his mother from his head. She didnâ€™t even deserve his pity.
The streets were paved in a golden substance, and the buildings gleamed even in their dilapidated condition. Theseus pulled himself slowly from his musings. He glanced over at Aeneas. The man's brown eyes were hazy, as though he was locked in some sort of dream or vision. But he was prone to psychic episodes and babblings about fate and destiny. Theseus snorted under his breath. He didnâ€™t believe in fate. Andrew was in the lead, heading towards the main temple. Theseus followed a few paces behind, and then the group of soldiers marched in double lines. He frowned down at cracks and holes in the streets. The city was slowly falling apart. And there still wasnâ€™t a single sign of life.
Theseus moved forward, something in his heart guiding him towards the shrine. This was the place his father was born, the place where his mother was conceived. Theseus shook his head. Thoughts of the woman who had created and discarded him made the thin hold on his temper unravel. Therefore, he pushed the thoughts from his mind violently. The shrine rose into view, a majestic palace out of the green fields. His eyes caressed the structure. Golden metal, reaching up to the sky in a giant tower, much like the vaunted prayer spire on the moon. The sun's structure was much larger, however. Theseus allowed a smile to spread across his face. The moon's prayer spire was merely a smaller copy of the sun's. He moved up the steps slowly. It felt like a dream, something he remembered from long ago. His father had never allowed him to set foot in the temple. He turned to face the city. A memory rose in the back of his mind, breaking free from its bonds.
He stood on these steps, looking out over the empty city. A voice, deep and warm, echoed from behind him.
"Someday, my son, this city will be yours. And I'm sure that Elysian will rise again and shine its light across the galaxy. But remember that power and prestige always has a price." The vivid picture faded slowly from his mind, but Theseus could still feel his father's hand resting on his shoulder. He turned to face the doors to the shrine. He was Theseus, son of King Helios and Queen Selenity, heir to the powers of the Sun. He should have been heir to the moon as well but the girl child had been gifted with his birthright. The words danced in his mind, swirling under the light of reality. He was also Theseus, right hand of the Prince of Darkness, ward of Metallia, scourge of the galaxy.
He laid his hand gently on the huge stone doors. He knew, somehow, that no mortal hand could open these doors. He closed his eyes for a long moment, feeling the power of the sun sweep through him. The doors swung open quietly, as though bowing to their master.
The shrine was deserted, dark, and quiet as a tomb. The air was still and hot. He moved forward slowly. The doors shut behind him quickly, cutting him off from Andrew and the others outside.
Dido hugged her knees to her chest. There was little room in the storage space of the shuttle. The small contraption shuddered violently and lifted off. Dido felt the tears spilling down her face. She'd cried when leaving the palace, managing to dodge the guards. She'd cried during her headlong flight into the bowels of Miranda. She'd cried when sneaking into the small mining shuttle. Dido wiped away some of the tears, uncertain if they were for her or for Helen, or for the Silver Millennium. Sheâ€™d tried so hard this time, just as she had with Penny on the moon. Now sheâ€™d managed to get two friends captured by the same bastard. Sheâ€™d failed again. The ship moved in a rocking motion, and Dido was lulled into a gentle sleep.
The landing woke her up. Mining shuttle pilots weren't known for their flying talents. She cringed, feeling the jolt through her entire body. There was noise, and plenty of movement. And then the storage doors opened.
The shuttle was late again. Rita mentally shrugged. There was nothing new in the life of a mining colony manager. The shuttles never arrived on time, and half of the time things were broken or just plain missing. The floating mining colonies of the gas planets might have provided valuable resources, but miners were treated like shit. There were hundreds of colonies on Uranus, all stripping elements and gases from the thick atmosphere. The view was almost pretty, from the top of the tiny dome protecting the living quarters and landing area.
Rita groaned a bit. This shuttle wasn't even the right shuttle. At least the pilot was an idiot who wouldn't notice what was really going on. Project Freedom would be safe for a while longer. The shuttle would keep them. Rita moved past the ranks of mechanics and grunts. She threw the doors open, expecting to see more mangled boxes because of the nasty landing. If half the contents survived, they'd manage.
The light flooded the area. Dido had the urge to creep into a corner, but she stopped moving, stopped breathing, when her eyes locked with the woman standing outside the doors.
"Rita?" Two sets of eyes met, and both filled with tears.
"By the gods. Dido? Is that you?"
Dido reached for the woman's offered hand. Rita pulled the taller girl to her feet.
"I haven't seen you in forever, Rita." Dido collapsed against the older woman and wrapped her in a tight hug. They held each other for a long moment, the tears spilling. Then Rita moved back a bit, wiping the tears away.
"The last time I saw you Dido, you were seven years old getting on a ship that would take you to the moon. You were so excited, your eyes were glowing, and you refused to wear a dress. Your mother was so angry. My goddess, you've grown up well." Rita took a long look up and down Didoâ€™s slender form. "You look just like your mother." Dido swallowed back the sob lodged in her throat. She examined Rita for a long moment.
"You look different than I remember. Your hair is shorter, not as red." Rita smiled sadly.
"In these times, anyone connected to the royal families in any way has to hide. I changed my looks a bit, so I'm simply another woman from Jupiter." Dido glanced around the small landing area. The people around them had ignored the tender greeting, and were hauling supplies out of the shuttle. She could see the tunnel leading from the landing area to the central structure. Outside there were numerous small figures in environmental suits working. Sheâ€™d never seen the mining operations that were prevalent on the gas giants.
"Nice place you have here, Rita." Dido smiled brightly. Rita turned around and yelled at two workers who had almost dropped a box, and then returned her attention to Dido.
"It's not as cushy a job as Captain of the Royal Guard of Jupiter, but it works. Less stress, more boneheads and paperwork. I have enough people who bow and stoop and follow my every order." Rita smacked a passing boy over the head. "I saw that, keep your hands out of the supplies." Dido suppressed a smile. She glanced around the loading area again. Most of the workers were young. The war had decimated almost an entire generation. She felt curiosity rising inside. The colony was quite large. Dido noticed a few children peeping down at the landing area. Her eyes narrowed a bit. Children on a mining colony? She took a second look at the structure. The outgoing barge area was empty. Even she knew most mining colonies had dozens of barges constantly shipping mined goods to the surface.
"So you run a mining colony now? You have some awfully young workers." Dido's eyes narrowed for a moment. Then she smiled.
"You always were a quick one. Come with me, I have something I want to show you."
Rita headed for the exit, Dido close behind.
Andrew pounded loudly on the doors. Theseus was inside there, alone. Endymion would have his head. Andrew's hands were sore and several knuckles were bleeding. He stopped and slumped against the wood. His eyes were sore. Elysian was simply too bright. Light flooded everything, unlike the cold, dark places heâ€™d called home for many years. He lifted his face upward. He couldn't even see the stars. He was cut off with a squadron of bored soldiers, and Theseus was alone and unprotected.
"No harm shall come to the master of Elysian." The voice was soft, delicate, and decidedly feminine. Andrew stood quickly, searching for the speaker. He held his sword tightly, knuckles turning white.
"Who's there? Show yourself." A gentle laugh rippled through the air. A woman appeared directly in front of Andrew. He took a hurried step back, mouth hanging wide open. The woman was tall and slender, dressed in a simple white gown. Her hair and eyes were white as well, and she glowed with a gentle light. And Andrew could see right through her.
"Always demanding, Lord Andrew. Prince Tranquility must face this challenge alone. No harm will come to him." The woman smiled gently. Andrew took a step forward.
"Who are you, and where is Theseus." The woman sighed.
"I am a shrine maiden. You may call me Thalia. My sisters and I have tended this shrine since the beginning of time. You need not fear us. The prince will return when he has accomplished what he came to find." The woman flickered and disappeared. Andrew felt like screaming. Instead he ordered the shaken soldiers to set up camp and maintained a vigil just beyond the great doors.
Neptune was a mass of swirling green and blue. The colors clashed against each other, hypnotic and mesmerizing. Jason leaned back in his leather chair, oblivious to the small mechanical sounds filling the cabin. He was finally returning. The ship plunged into the thick atmosphere, churning like a porpoise through the icy clouds of methane and other gases. Jason felt a surge of excitement. He hadn't set foot on Neptune in years. Michiru had been on Uranus when the initial solar system attack had been initiated, so there had been no need for a stop at the outermost planet. Pluto was now just inside Neptune's orbit, the former's erratic plane leaving Neptune on the edge of the system, a blue-green jewel among the twinkling lights of the galaxy.
The vessel sliced through the atmosphere, pushing towards the drifting sphere that was Triton. The floating globe came into view, its watery covering swirling and blending with the clouds surrounding it. Jason closed his eyes, reaching for the strange sensation that seemed to hover in the back of his mind. She was there, a flame flickering in the dark, much smaller now than she had been on Mars, or Uranus. But she hadn't left. He could still feel her filling that once empty corner. The ship began to slow rapidly. Jason's eyes opened quickly, anxious to see what war had done to his capital.