It was a beautiful day on Palma. The sun was shining, a few cotton-like clouds dotted the sky, and
the temperature was quite pleasant. On any other day like this, the residents of Camineet would be out
in the streets enjoying the fine weather, but today, no one dared stray from their homes.
He could hear the commotion from outside the open window. He couldn't tell exactly where in the
town the noise was coming from, but he couldn't bring himself to look.
"Dammit, Nero, what have you gotten yourself into this time?" he muttered to himself. Closing his
eyes, he leaned back in his chair and tried to ignore the sounds streaming in. His thoughts brought
him back to a day many years ago, a day as nice as this one, a day before they knew...
* * * * *
"Come on Nero, hurry up!" Nekise hopped up and down impatiently outside the door of the Landale
residence. It had been raining on Palma for nearly a week - harsh, pouring rain that drove young boys
nearly insane from being kept indoors. But the clouds had finally parted and the light of Algol gently
shone on the Camineet residential area, and everyone was happy to finally be able to venture
"I'm coming, I just need to finish packing my bag!" Nekise finally heard footsteps getting closer
and closer until the door finally opened. "Okay, I'm ready, let's go!" Nero said, grinning widely.
The two boys were almost at the end of the street when they heard more footsteps behind them.
"Neeeeero, wait for meeeee!" The voice was soft and high-pitched and Nekise knew who it was without
even turning around. He groaned inwardly and shot his friend a look of annoyance.
Nero crouched down so he was eye-to-eye with his baby sister. "Alis, you know you're not supposed
to leave the house by yourself," he reprimanded her.
The little girl stuck out her bottom lip. "I want to go with you!" she whined.
Nekise groaned again, this time a little more audibly. Once again, he was reminded of how glad he
was to be an only child.
"You can't come with us, we're going far away, you'll just get tired," Nero tried to console
"Where are you going?"
"We're walking to the woods outside Parolit, we're going to spend the day there."
She frowned again. "That's not so far! Let me go with you!"
Nero stood up. "Maybe when you're a little older. But not this time." Alis started to complain once
more, but Nero put a finger to her mouth. "If you go back to the house now, I'll promise to play with
you all day tomorrow."
Alis finally smiled. "Promise?"
"I promise. Now go."
Alis skipped off back towards the house, but not before sticking her tongue out at Nekise. He was
tempted to return the gesture, but decided he was too mature for that. "I don't know how you put up
with her every day," he said.
Nero shrugged. "I know she can be a pain at times, but she's not really all that bad."
"Yeah, I guess even Alis has to sleep sometime."
He laughed. "Yes, but not without a fight." He changed the subject. "I got two burgers for us, did
you get the colas?"
Nekise nodded. "I picked them up before I came to get you, they're in my bag. We can eat lunch when
we get to the woods."
The two boys reached the small forest near Parolit in a little under an hour. It would have been
easier to take the moving road through the spaceport into Parolit, but they decided to take advantage
of the nice weather and walk through the flat grounds of the residential area.
After eating their lunch on a large boulder, they played all sorts of games, running through the
thick grass and dodging in between the trees. Nero had been relentlessly chasing Nekise for about ten
minutes before Nekise stumbled into a small clearing and collapsed into the grass.
"Okay, you got me, I surrender!" Nekise laughed. He wiped a small trickle of sweat away from his
short blond hair. "You definitely weren't this fast the last time we came here."
Nero fell to the ground beside his friend. "Maybe you've just gotten slower!" he teased. He rolled
onto his back and stared up at the cloudless sky, slightly shielding his eyes from the bright sun.
"Hey, if I squint, I think I can see Motavia!"
Nekise rolled his eyes, even though he knew Nero wouldn't notice. "You lie, everyone knows you
can't see Motavia during the day."
"Fine, then it was Dezoris!"
Nekise had to laugh. He had always been the more serious of the two, but every now and then, Nero
could pull him into one of his silly moods. "That's just as ridiculous and you know it!"
Nero laughed, but then grew silent. "Have you ever wondered what Dezoris is like?"
"I've heard it's cold." He felt Nero's fist hit his shoulder and knew he deserved it. "My father
says that strange lizard-like people live there and they live underground!"
"Yeah, that's how they stay warm. And they have their own language and their own weapons and
everything!" The smile disappeared from Nekise's face. "My father's supposed to be going there next
Nero sat up. "You're kidding! Why does he get to go?"
"He volunteered to go with a group of other scientists and explorers to see if it's possible for
Palmans to live there."
"That's so cool!" Nero finally looked over and saw that his friend didn't share his enthusiasm.
Finally realizing, he asked, "How long is he going to be there?"
"As long as they need him, I suppose." Nekise shrugged. "He's never home when he's on this planet
anyway, it really doesn't make a difference to me."
Nero lay back in the grass. "I wish I could go to Dezoris."
"Why would you want to do a thing like that?"
"It just sounds so exciting, don't you think?"
"I have all the excitement I need here on Palma, thank you."
"You're so boring." Nero stretched and stared back up at the sky. "I wish I could do something that
exciting. I'd love to be a famous explorer, leading the way for Palmans."
"Dezoris is a big planet, I'm sure there will be plenty left for you to explore when we're
"Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be exploring. I just want to do something important,
something that makes a difference. When I get older, I want everyone in Algol to know the name of Nero
Nekise rolled his eyes once more. "Sure, Nero, whatever you say." He sat up and slowly pulled
himself to his feet. "We should probably start heading back home if we want to make it before dark.
Let's go get our stuff."
* * * * *
"I want everyone in Algol to know the name of Nero Landale!" The memory of the voice
resonated in Nekise's head. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. From what he could tell, Nero Landale would
just become another dead body, another victim of the small uprising against King Lassic. He doubted
the robotcops cared about the names of the people they slaughtered.
A shrill scream pierced the air and again, Nekise fought the urge to look out the window and see
what was going on. He was almost positive what had caused the anguished cry and he didn't want to face
it just yet.
"Oh, Nero, how could you do this to her? How could you leave her like this? Weren't you thinking of
her at all?" The questions hung unanswered in the silence of the empty room. He closed his eyes again,
and this time, his memories took him back just a year ago...
* * * * *
"I don't believe you, Nero."
"How could you not believe me? How could you not see it for yourself, are you blind?" Nero angrily
paced back and forth across the large room.
Nekise sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Even if what you say is true, do you really think
that you can make a difference, that you're strong enough to stop him?"
Nero finally sat down in a chair across from Nekise. "I'm not alone. A lot of the other guys from
the spaceport, some of the shop owners, quite a few people in the Camineet-Parolit area...we're all
working together. We can't go on like this, living under Lassic's evil rule."
"His 'evil rule'. Listen to yourself, Nero, you don't even have any proof?"
He stood up quickly, knocking over the chair. "Proof? Do you remember there being robotcops on
every street corner five, ten years ago? Do you remember people being afraid to set foot outside their
houses? Life wasn't always like this, there has to be something going on."
Nekise shook his head. "I still don't know..." He paused. "What are you planning to do?"
Nero looked straight at him. "If you're not going to help, I can't let you know. So are you
Nekise stared up at him. "I...I can't. Honestly, you haven't convinced me one hundred percent and I
can't willingly go against our king if I don't think he's done anything wrong." He paused again. "I'm
The anger in Nero's eyes had been replaced by something else, something more solemn. "I'm sorry,
too." He thought for a moment before speaking again. "You should leave Palma."
"Palma isn't safe anymore, Nekise, and I don't ever want to see you in any harm. Go join your
parents on Dezoris, most of Lassic's power doesn't even extend that far."
"You're out of your mind. I'm not leaving my home."
"I'm serious. Take Alis with you, I've been trying to find a place for her to stay on Motavia, but
if I know she's safe with you, I'll feel better."
Alis. Nekise hadn't even thought of her. "I haven't even seen or spoken to Alis in years, you know
that. What makes you so sure that she'll drop everything and come with me?"
A look of concern spread across Nero's face. "I haven't told her anything yet. But I'll convince
Nekise stood up and looked across the table into Nero's dark blue eyes. "I'm not going, Nero," he
There was a brief moment of silence. "Tell me what to say to convince you, to make you change your
"There's nothing to say. Even after all you've told me, I can't find a good reason to leave. I
don't believe I'm in any danger and I don't feel unsafe in my own home."
Nero turned away from him and gazed out the window. "So much has happened in the last few years,
probably more than I'm even aware of. I can't stand to see people living like this, or my sister
growing up in this kind of environment." He looked back at Nekise. "But the two of us, we're adults
now, I suppose we're old enough to make our own decisions." He tried to smile, but the attempt failed.
"I know I can't force you to leave Palma. But I can warn you to be careful."
Nekise wasn't quite sure how to respond. "Thank you," he finally said, after a long pause. "Though
it should really be me telling you to be careful, if you are, in fact, right about Lassic."
Nero nodded wordlessly and headed for the door. He hesitated to open it, leaning gently on the
doorknob. "At least consider my advice," he said without turning around.
"I'll consider it," Nekise told him, although he had no intentions of doing so.
Nero opened the door and looked back at his friend. "Goodnight, Nekise."
* * * * *
That had been the last real conversation the two of them had had, Nekise reflected. After that,
they had occasionally passed each other in the streets, but Nero was busy working hard at uncovering
the truth about King Lassic. The last time Nekise had seen him was approximately a month ago, when
Nero had shown up at his door in the middle of the night. Apologizing briefly for the time, he had
thrust a small pot that appeared to be made of pure Laconia into Nekise's hands and asked him to keep
it safe for him.
A single tear slid down Nekise's cheek. Had he known that that was going to be the last time he saw
Nero, he probably would have said something a bit more significant than grunting sleepily. But, as he
reassured himself, he had no way of knowing and it was all in the past by now.
Another tear joined the first, and then another, and soon Nekise was slumped over in his chair
crying over the senseless death of his childhood friend. As much as he would have liked to, he knew
that he could no longer deny what Nero had told him of the Algolian government. He no longer had faith
in his once-benevolent king, nor could he ever walk out onto the streets of Camineet without being
reminded of Nero's tragedy.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Nekise stood up,
crossed the room to the door, and tentatively opened it.
Although he hadn't seen her in quite a few years, there was no mistaking who it was. She was
taller, of course, and her reddish-blonde hair was a bit longer, but her bright blue eyes were exact
replicas of those of Nero. The strong similarity was rather unnerving and Nekise had no idea what to
She stared back at him, a look of faint recognition in those startling eyes. "Nekise?" she asked,
He nodded. "I'm Nekise," he simply said. Stepping backwards, he opened the door widely and gestured
for her to come in. After she entered the small house, he closed the door behind them and, almost
without thinking about it, locked it.
Alis was facing away from, staring out the window in the direction from which she came. Nekise
opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He leaned against the door and ran his hand through
his hair, his usual nervous habit.
After a few minutes, Alis turned around. She, too, tried to say something, but as soon as she
opened her mouth, her lips started to quiver and more tears began to flow from her red-rimmed eyes.
Before he knew it, Nekise was crying again with her, and neither one could speak. He silently crossed
the room to where she was standing and held out his arms to her.
Finally finding comfort in her brother's friend, Alis wrapped her arms around Nekise's waist and
sobbed into his shoulder. Nekise gently stroked her long hair, no longer trying to hold back his own
tears, and the two quietly mourned the death of Nero Landale.