I would get my first look at Pollux from the observation deck of the flag ship. It was there that I would also encounter Romelle, the princess having decided she had had enough of hiding from Lotor. But before she would appear, I would be alone, left to my restless thoughts. The revelations in Lotor’s cabin about King Cova’s plans for betrayal hadn’t made me feel better about what Doom was going to do to Pollux. Perhaps nothing could.
Nor I could I muster up that much surprise. Pollux did have a reputation for being evil. King Cova was merely living up to the expectations of it. But I thought it low of him to be using his own children as pawns. Especially Romelle, the girl seeming innocent of all that was going on around her. Avok, I wasn’t so sure about. It had been his idea to become a robeast, perhaps he had known enough about his father’s plans to understand he would be used for more than just Arus.
I still wondered how well thought out Cova’s plans were. Did he view Avok as expandable? He did have another son after all, Bandor could easily move into place as heir to Pollux’s throne. Maybe Avok was never meant to return to his human form. During Cova’s spied on conversation with his advisors, no one had made mention of sparing Haggar’s life. Which was stupid, considering they would need the witch to change Avok back.
But then, Haggar was too dangerous to keep alive. Especially if Cova succeeded in killing off King Zarkon. The witch may be wicked, but she was loyal to a fault where Zarkon was concerned. Her vengeance would be a terrible thing to behold, Haggar not stopping until all who had a hand in Zarkon’s murder be dealt with. Lotor himself had to be careful of her as well. Neither one of us thought Haggar would spare him, regardless of his blood ties to Zarkon. Not if Lotor ever actually killed off his father.
But the death of Zarkon was far from possible at this point and time. The King wasn’t even traveling with us, having chosen to remain behind on planet Doom. Zarkon was loathe to risk himself, content to watch the events unravel from afar. He was well out of danger, but we were not, as evidenced by Avok’s continued screams. I will admit, the sounds of that robeast, it had us all spooked. We’d not arrive on Pollux a minute too soon as far I was concerned.
We were still about an hour away from landing on the planet, when Romelle would appear. I didn’t look up at the sound of footsteps for it was a public place, open to everyone onboard the ship. It was also a popular spot, many gathering here on break, to stare out the windows into the vastness of space. Currently the view outside the thick, triple paned glass was of a planet. Pollux was a mix of greens and browns, with grayish white smears I assumed had to be clouds.
The planet was roughly the same size as Arus, but that was where the resemblance ended. Arus from space, was a planet of tranquil blues, with fertile greens, and pollution free clouds. But Pollux still looked prettier than Doom’s own mud brown and black colors, leaving me curious as to what the land would look like up close.
“It looks so pretty, doesn’t it.” I wasn’t as surprised as I should have been. I had caught the faint whiff of Romelle’s flower based perfume, which prevented her from sneaking up on me completely.
“Yes, it does.” I managed to answer, rising off the bench to greet her. A Drule soldier was with her, her escort for the day saluting me in greeting. I nodded at him, and then bowed deeply to the princess. “It’s good to see you out and about.”
“Thank you.” She turned to the soldier, and dismissed him. “You can return to your post now. Commander Sabbath will take over the tour.” The soldier looked to me for confirmation.
“Yes, that will be fine.” I told them, and the soldier bowed to the princess before leaving us to our privacy. “But wouldn’t Prince Lotor be better suited to show you around?”
Her smile dimmed at the mention of the prince’s name, Romelle giving a quick shake no of her head. “I wouldn’t want to bother him at this important time.”
“Trust me, it would not bother him.” But I was pleased she didn’t want to see him, even if that may have been selfish on my part. I knew I should have been encouraging her to spend as much time as possible with Lotor, if only to help her get over her dislike of him. If she could somehow reconcile herself to the man Lotor had revealed himself to be, things might go easier between them.
“You’re looking well.” I added, lest the silence stretch on to the point of awkwardness. “How are you feeling?”
“Better…” Romelle hesitated. “Restless….I couldn’t take being cooped up inside my cabin any longer.”
“Completely understandable.” I gestured for her to sit, and joined her on the bench. “So tell me princess…is the planet anywhere as pretty on the surface as it is when viewed from space.”
“Not particularly, no.” Romelle sighed. “It’s a very dismal, miserable place. All dark and gloomy, even on the brightest of days.” She lifted an arm, pointing at the planet. “The sun is closer to Arus than to Pollux. It has to struggle for it’s rays to reach past the clouds. Our skies always look on the verge of a rainstorm…”
“It sounds similar to Doom. Although we don’ even gain the benefits of having the sun light up our skies.” I told her.
“It’s hard to believe such worlds were meant to support life.” Romelle frowned. “My people believe that our ancestors, the ones banished to Pollux by Arus, were meant to die on this world. Certainly Arus didn’t expect them to survive, to scratch out a life for themselves…”
“But they did.” I noted. “You are proof of that. You and each person of Pollux, living to defy the odds of what might have been meant as a death sentence to your ancestors.”
Romelle nodded, but her look remained serious. “Do you believe a planet can be evil?” I wondered what kind of expression I wore at that, for she hurried to explain. “It’s just….for so many years, I’ve heard nothing but how Pollux is the evil twin of Arus. The reputation my planet has, it has affected my people’s lives. In more ways than one. People are quick to believe the worst of us. It’s left Pollux isolated, our few attempts at making alliances failing before they even had a chance to get anywhere.”
“A reputation like that is hard to get rid of.” I told her. “Doom has a similar reputation…one I can’t lie and say is not true. Our King has had us do evil things, all in the name of power, in adding to the size of our empire. Our ancestors may have started with the best intentions, but somewhere along the way, our purpose got twisted. We no longer attack other worlds as a matter of survival…it’s just greed and laziness.”
She shivered then, looking so cold I wanted to put an arm around her. I controlled that impulse though. “I don’t believe a planet can be evil. I don’t even believe an entire people can be that way. There is good in everyone, just as there is evil. It just matters which side you choose to listen to.”
“I don’t believe most of the people of Pollux are evil then.” Romelle replied with a firm nod of her head. “Our ancestors may have started out as criminals, but that was bred out of most of us. If given the chance, my people would have enjoyed making friends with other worlds….” She sighed then. “I don’t believe invading Arus will help Pollux’s reputation. Nor will allying ourselves with Doom…”
I thought of her father then, of his desire to rule not just Arus, but the entire universe. He lusted for power, as did his council of advisors. It was no surprise to me that Cova had surrounded himself with like minded men. They might not even be the majority when it came to the wishes of the people of Pollux. But Pollux was not a democracy, the people didn’t get to vote in their leaders. For better or for worse, they had to follow their king, and the choices he made. Even if it led them down the path to ruin.
“What would you do, if you were the one in charge of Pollux?” Her eyelids fluttered rapidly, not hiding her surprise. “Yes, I I know that Pollux is a society ruled by men. But just imagine if it was different, and women had the power.”
She looked away for a moment, staring down at her lap. Her hands were resting on her skirt, and then she was clenching them into fists. “If I was in a position to make changes, I would. I have heard stories of Arus, about it’s ruler, the princess Allura. She is said to be fair, to be kind. Generous even. I would try to arrange an alliance with her, to make a friendship that would be beneficial to both our worlds.”
She opened her hands then, glancing back at me. “I don’t believe it is right for us to try and enslave the people of Arus. Nor should we try to take their world by force. Yes, Arus is our place of origin….but Pollux has been our home for centuries. It may not always be the most comfortable of homes, but it’s ours.” She gave a shake of her head, blond hair rustling. “Many of my people talk about returning to Arus. We’ve believed for so long that it is our right….but how can it be right, to invade another’s home?” A sigh then, Romelle looking disgruntled. “If I was Queen, I would make Arus our friend, and through our friendship, we would gain other worlds’ support…we could improve our lives without having to fight, without bringing war to another’s doorstep.”
“It must sound silly to you.” She said after another long pause.
“Not at all.” I hastily protested. She looked surprised at that, Romelle blinking rapidly again.
“It doesn’t? But you are from a world that has only known war, an Empire that continues to invade and enslave other worlds.”
“It doesn’t mean I can’t understand and even long for a change.” I told her. “Peace is an admirable desire. One should never laugh at another’s longing for it.”
“Do you mean that?” Romelle asked, seeming relieved when I nodded a yes. Does this mean you don’t agree with your King’s decisions…?”
“Not always.” I admitted, the Pollux debacle as heavy on my mind now, as it was before she had arrived. “He’s done things, gave orders….things I wish Doom hadn’t done…but I like you, lack the power to change much.”
“You have the prince’s ear though.” Romelle pointed out. “He listens to you.”
“Only to a point.” I told her. “And once Lotor gets an idea in his head, he is hard to dissuade.” I sighed then. “As much as the prince would hate me for saying this, he and his father are very much alike. Both have the same lust for power, the same drive for war and worlds…”
“Lotor…he tries to hide his true nature, doesn’t he?” Romelle suddenly asked. I hesitated, not sure how to answer, for the truth would be a betrayal of my prince. Romelle had a haunted look in her eyes, and I didn’t have long to wonder what she was thinking about. “At least with me. But I’ve seen it, enough to know I don’t like it.
That poor slave girl…how is she by the way?”
I didn’t know, and I felt ashamed in the moment for not bothering to check in on the slave. “Can you find out for me?” Romelle implored, her hand touching mine. “Please?”
“Of course.” I couldn’t deny her, even as I knew it would earn me strange looks as I tried to track down the fate of that slave girl.
“Thank you.” She smiled at me, warmth in her eyes.
“There’s no need to thank me.” My voice was gruff then, I felt embarrassed by her gratitude. “I haven’t done anything to earn it.”
“You’ve been a friend to me. That’s more than enough.” Romelle replied, her voice firm on this. She turned back to the window, staring at her planet. Our ship was in it’s orbit, ready to begin the descent down to the surface. “It won’t be long now…” She mused.
“No, it won’t.” I agreed. “Will you be okay with what’s going to happen?”
“No, I won’t.” Romelle replied. “But I will handle it with the decorum and composure that is proper for a princess.” I had no doubt of that. She was the most regal princess I had ever had the privilege to meet, and I was full of respect and admiration for her.
“Princess, I have no doubt you will do just that.” I risked a smile at her then.
“Thank you for that confidence in me.” She squeezed my hand then, and even once she pulled away, I still felt her warmth. Romelle then rose up from the bench, and walked over to the railing that separated the deck from the windows. She stood leaning against the rail, staring out at her planet. I did not disturb her with questions, just taking the moment to drink in her beauty.
Fortunately for me, she did not turn at any point, saving us both from the embarrassment of my stare. But she did start speaking to me, Arus chief in her thoughts. “You’ve been to Arus…please….tell me your impression of it.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard it’s beautiful…and not just from me.” I said. “It’s one of the most beautiful planets I have ever had the privilege to travel to. It’s a world almost untouched by man. The Arusians seem to believe in upholding the sanctity of nature, keeping their cities and population small. That leaves a lot of fertile land, just ripe with life.”
“That will change if my father and Doom have their way.” Romelle sounded sad now.
“Yes it will…” I agreed. “Doom will do everything it can to mine the resources from the land. Arus will become one of the worlds used to feed the Drules, and not just their hungers. There’s a wealth of riches, and slaves to be had…Doom won’t leave a single stone uncovered in it’s attempt to get at all Arus has to offer.”
“But they will have to leave something.” Romelle turned then to look at me, leaning her back against the rail. “After all, Pollux will be claiming half of Arus for itself.”
I had almost forgotten the lies Doom was telling Pollux, having spoken freely about Doom’s plans for all of Arus. “Ah yes. Forgive me for that over sight. Of course, allowances will be made….Your father intends to move the people of Pollux to Arus, yes?”
“Of course. It is the point of everything, this alliance, and Avok’s transformation…”
“So it is…” I couldn’t help sighing then.
“Is everything all right Sabbath?” Romelle wanted to know. I just shrugged, knowing I had no lie I wanted to give her. Nor could I tell her what was really on my mind. “Don’t look so down….everything will be over soon….”
It was exactly what I was fearing! I wished I could stop time, freeze this moment with her here on the observation deck. Keep this moment preserved, where Romelle was still safe from Lotor’s lusts, and Pollux had yet to be betrayed.
“Yes, it will be.” I saw the look on Romelle’s face change, the color seeming to leech out of her skin. It was Lotor who had responded to her words, the prince walking towards her, to capture hold of her hand. I could see Romelle fighting not to stiffen as he raised her hand to his lips. She looked very much like she wanted to wipe her hand on her dress, so disgusted was she by Lotor’s attention.
“Prince Lotor.” I had risen from the bench so I could give a proper bow. “What brings you here?”
“I received word that the princess had left her chambers.” Lotor didn’t even bother to look at me, he was too focused on Romelle. “I take it this means your illness is at an end?”
“Er…y…yes…” She stammered uncertainly. I had a feeling she only admitted to being well because we were so close to landing. Surely Romelle assumed Lotor would not have time to bother her so close to our arrival. It was naive of her, Lotor would find a way if he was that determined. “I was just speaking to the commander about Arus…”
“If you have any questions about Arus, you should have come to me.” Chided Lotor, still holding onto her hand. “I know as much if not more than commander Sabbath.” That might even be true, Lotor having spent an insane amount of time studying the planet and all things related to it. All to better formulate plans and battle tactics to use against the people that lived on Arus.
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
“It would have been no bother.” Lotor assured her. “I am always free where you are concerned.”
“Really, you needn’t be….”
“Nonsense my dear. It is a pleasure to be in your company.” Lotor insisted. “I get so lonely when you are not around.”
“Surely that is not the case!” Romelle protested, a nervous laugh escaping her.
“Ah but it is.” He pulled on her hand, pressing it over his heart. “You’ve already charmed your way into my heart…” She didn’t look happy to hear that, nor what he said next. “I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to you…”
“To me?” Romelle was wary, and so was I, sniffing the air to see if Lotor was drunk again.
“And to us.” He continued with a smile. “I really think we have a future together.”
“Well, of course.” Romelle said, Lotor’s smile growing bigger. “Doom and Pollux are allies now. Our fates are entwined.”
“I was thinking on a more personal level.” Lotor told her with a purr. I had a bad feeling about what he was going to say next, but didn’t have the time to do more than cough as Lotor blurted out the following. “I think we should think about getting married.”
Was it possible for humans to turn as white as a sheet? Romelle certainly gave it her best shot, growing even paler at Lotor’s words. Lotor paid no mind to Romelle’s shock, almost merciless as he continued. “It’s the next logical course for our two kingdoms. It will bind us two together even more.”
I knew the only binding Lotor wanted was that of Romelle to him. He gave not a care to Pollux, nor to strengthening the alliance. He just wanted to trap the princess into marriage with him. How underhanded of him to try and gain her hand before the betrayal! My own eyes were narrowing, I was unable to hide my annoyance at this.
“My prince, the princess is just coming off being ill. Surely now is not the time to ask her to make such a big decision.”
“If not now, then when?!” Lotor growled at me, incensed that I had offered interference to his attempts at proposal.
“The commander is right.” Romelle said faintly. “I’m still recovering….” Lotor turned back to her, eyes critical as he looked Romelle over. “Besides…this is not proper. Any such marriage proposal should go through my father first…”
“I’m sure King Cova can made to see the advantages of such a union.” I added strictly for Lotor’s benefit.
“Is that how it is done on Pollux?” Lotor asked, and Romelle quickly nodded. He paused to think it over, then kissed her hand once more. “You will of course, consider the idea won’t you?” He wasn’t promising to get her father’s permission, knowing it would be a moot point once Cova was dead, and Pollux in ruins. That he was even giving Romelle the courtesy of a proposal was stunning, he normally would have just ordered her to marry him.
Once again I was struck by the thought that Lotor must have really liked princess Romelle to act this way. Odd though it was, he was trying to be considerate of her feelings. He wanted her to love him, to want him in return. He was misguided enough to assume that marriage would seal her feelings for him, trap her into having to like him, to return the affection he felt for her.
He really didn’t understand much about women or feelings in general. But that was to be expected, considering his motherless upbringing. Zarkon for a father hadn’t helped matters either, leaving Lotor knowing only how to take what he wanted, and how to force feigned emotions. That Romelle wouldn’t fall into line, no matter how much he tried to woo her, would leave Lotor enraged. When his gifts and flattery failed, that it when the true nightmare would begin.