The Air Castle glowed with supreme power over the planet Palma as its dictator Lassic sat upon the mighty throne he had made for himself in the deepest reaches of the evil palace. The air crackled with a frenzied electricity that focused around Lassic's staff as he held it at the advancing servant, his personal debt collector.
"A-and they still refuse to p-pay their taxes sir. They say they a-are t-too p-poor," the collector stuttered. "T-they said..."
Lassic's eyes glowed a demonic red beneath the golden mask that was part of the twisted armor of immortality that he wore, the gift given to him by the priests of Dark Falz, the ones who had granted him the forbidden power of destruction.
He looked at the debt collector as the meek servant trembled in his boots, and emitted a low beastly growl which might have been an incantation to the trained ear, and vast bolts of lightning shot from his rod to the wide-eyed, petrified man standing before him. Or, at least, what had been a man.
Lassic eyed the smouldering pile of clothing and flesh that lay before him and inhaled deeply. Burnt flesh, what a beautiful smell, the smell of destruction, of power, of annihilation...
"Take it away," Lassic ordered, "and send the Robotcop captain to me."
* * * * *
An idyllic peace covered the lush fields of Gothic Village as the early morning sun rose up into the Palman sky. A chirper squarked its early morning call, and farmers rose to tend to the fields that they and their fathers had tended to for generations. High technology reigned in the twin cities of Parolit and Camineet, but the farmers of backwater Gothic were lucky if they even saw a spaceship in their lifetimes. The only link to technology they had were the strange inventions that came from the house of the middle-aged scientist Dr. Luveno, but even they were slowing to a halt as he ran out of money from the burden of Lassic’s incredibly high taxes.
Tales from outsiders told tales of mighty cities falling into ruin at the hands of the tyrant-king Lassic, but in Gothic, life went on as usual. They grew, they harvested, and they ate, like they had done for hundreds of years. The only signal of the iron grip that
Lassic had upon Palma came in the form of his debt collectors, who came to the village demanding ludicrous amounts of money. Usually they could be bribed into leaving with wheat or corn, the villagers would eat less, but at least they didn't get punished.
The only tale that would scare the villagers was that of the Robotcops; the vile pawns of Lassic programmed to burn every inch of land and kill every person if they dared to cross Lassic. Parents told their children horror stories about the Robotcops to keep them from straying from the village, and away from looking for adventure in the large cities of Palma.
A young girl of about 13 rose from her bed that morning, ready for her daily work in the fields. Her mother gave her some dry bread to eat for breakfast, and she left for the farm, to tend the crops she had been watching grow for so long. Little did she look behind her to see the dark figures that were marching to her home, rigid in movement, as if they were artificial...
* * * * *
Upon the streets of Camineet, a blue haired boy raced though the street, stolen food in hand. An angry shopkeeper followed him closely, brandishing a meat cleaver in one hand and the other hand curled into a fist.
"Come back here, you thief!" he bellowed at the boy. "You won't get away with this again!"
Nero chuckled as he ran. He loved the chase the most, the thrill and intense heart-stopping action of the chase as the furious, fat, red faced grocer pursued him for stealing his apples once again. The boy deftly dived up one of the many side allies of Camineet and hid behind a stack of wooden crates being loaded into the spaceport by a mechanical loader. The shop owner ran past the alley without even giving it a second glance. The blue haired rogue grinned as he sat patiently waiting for the search to be called off, he'd return to his squat when it was all over, and repeat the same the very next day. It was his way of life.
As he sat there, he heard a cry coming from one of the crates. Seeing that it was labelled "Lassic Industries," his curiosity got the better of him. He took his short sword and carefully put the blade into the crack in the lid, making sure not to harm the animal that was inside. Probably another musk cat, he figured, bound for the cruel vivisection facility of Lassic's assistant known only by the population as "Dr. Mad" for the way he treated animals and humans in his vile experiments.
Nero leaned down on the handle of his sword and watched as the lid slowly parted ways with the airholed wooden crate. With one great push that sent him spiralling, the lid came flying off the crate. Nero got back onto his feet and peered inside the dark crate.
"Oh god..." he said, as he saw the contents of the wooden box.
"Oh my god..."
* * * * *
Working hard upon the crops, she failed to notice the smoke spiralling upwards or the cries of her family as they were slaughtered by the ruthless Robotcops. The village burned and burned and it wasn't until the smell of smoke drifted to the blonde girl's nose that she even recognised the cracking sound or the acrid smell of smoke. When she did, she looked up wearily, as if something was stabbing at the back of her mind, some hidden fear, the knowledge of what that smell meant, what that smell was...
She gasped and looked up in realisation, then seeing the pillar of flame that was her home, she dropped her tools and broke into a run, heading for her village shrouded in vile, thick, black smoke, smoke that could only mean that the dreaded Robotcops had come, that her family were...
She stopped and looked at the smoke rising upwards. They were all gone, all dead...Why was she returning? To die with them? To meet a worthless end with no one there to witness her grand finale?
Looking across at the fields that she had painstakingly tended for so many years, then back at the village as tears welled up in her eyes, she broke into a run once more, but this time heading away from the village as far and as fast as she could run, running scared for her life while she cried for the ones that were left and lost.
But for Algol, the hell, the torture and the pain were only just beginning...
* * * * *
Nero looked at the figure in the box and gasped.
"A BABY?" he yelled in surprise. Don't tell me Lassic was gonna...
The blue haired boy turned to one side as he thought of the intentions of Dr. Mad and Lassic and was sick until his stomach was empty. Lassic and Dr. Mad experimented on CHILDREN? Nero couldn't believe it. He scooped the baby girl up in his arms and headed for the squat. No way were they going to get hold of this child.
"You can be my little sister," he said, unfolding the piece of paper that had been in the box with her, hoping for a name. The paper only said "SPECIMEN: LANDALE"
Nero remembered the name of his mother, when she had been alive.
"Yes, Alis Landale," he said. "That name suits you well."
* * * * *
Lassic bellowed wicked laughter through the halls and corridors of the floating fortress which he occupied.
"Is the shipment here?" Lassic asked the guard.
The youthful guard had long, blonde, wispy hair that was swept back in a ponytail. His eyes were wide with fear at the fiend that had made him his slave. Taken from his family and made to watch as they were torn apart by Bio-monsters, he wanted Lassic dead. He knew he was too weak to ever make a stand, and bided his time, waiting, praying to any heavenly deity that one day he would find the courage to stand up for himself. He closed his mind off quickly, in case Lassic could see what he was thinking. There was no telling what this inhuman fiend could do, and he didn't want to experience it.
"Yes, the shipment is here," the guard replied, hiding that fact that one of the most important crates had been missing when they had unloaded the cargo from the space shuttle. Lassic wouldn't notice, he hoped.
"ALL of them?" Lassic asked. If the guard could have seen beneath the mask, he would have cowered in fear at the evil smile growing on Lassic's face.
"Yes," the guard responded, keeping his cool. After all, what was one crate among thousands? He'd never notice, unless it was something REALLY important.
"All right," Lassic smirked, "you may go."
The guard turned his back and relaxed, glad to be alive, at least, until Lassic found out...
"Wait," Lassic commanded, as the guard was nearing the exit of the hall.
The guard's neck muscles tightened in anxiety and fear as he turned to face Lassic once more. The mocking red eyes of Lassic's came up to meet the defiant green gaze of the guard, and Lassic merely laughed.
"I can see into your petty little human mind," he snarled, "and you will pay for your treachery by replacing the lost specimen!"
Just as he was about to open his mouth to cry out, Lassic pointed his rod at the guard. The guard's muscles began to tense painfully, and hair, no... fur, was beginning to grow all over his body. His back bent double and his armour fell loose as he shrank in size. His ponytail grew and became a real tail, his eyes stayed fixed in the same fearful wide gaze he had shown Lassic, and his ears grew long and pointed. He went to scream, but found he couldn't, that his voice box had somehow changed.
"Meow," he managed, then looked down at himself. He was a Musk Cat! Tears welled up in his eyes and he was just able to whisper the word "Help" before the guards came.
"Take it away," Lassic said mockingly, laughing as the Musk Cat looked at him with eyes full of unwavering hate.
* * * * *
Two years later...
A young warrior sat upon a rock, polishing his axe with pride. He'd wanted to kill the Gorgon Medusa for years, it was his lifelong dream and as soon as he had dealt with the wicked Dr. Mad, he was going to hunt down the lair of the Gorgon and wrestle the famous Laconian Axe from her clutches. Then bards would sing of him and he'd be important, oh mighty Odin, people would look at him as more than a worthless piece of meat. He would ignore them of course, as they had ignored him. A taste of their own medicine is what they deserved, Odin mused. He imagined the looks on their faces as he took the Gorgon's head out of the bag, just like in the legend, and watched them all turn to stone. Of course, the stone part was just a myth. No being on Algo, not even the wicked Lassic, could do that. It was just a fairy story made to scare children, he chuckled heartily.
Still he would probably have to wait a few years, he had no idea of the location of the Gorgon's lair. It would be a long search.
Odin set off for the laboratory of Dr. Mad, he had some unfinished business with that man, a monster he had bought from him as a travelling companion had seemed docile at first, and then turned upon him, nearly killing him in the fight. Now Odin was going to even the score a little.
Stupid wizards and scientists, Odin thought to himself. The power of his axe was much better than all of those, oh yes. He would show Dr. Mad that no one messes with Odin.
* * * * *
The blonde girl had run for what seemed like an eternity, stopping, eating berries and sleeping only when she could run no more. Every time she went to sleep she wondered if she would wake, and every time she got up and ran she wondered if she would be ambushed by Bio-monsters and torn to shreads. Animalistic survival instincts had come into play, keeping her going. The will to survive, even though she had nothing left to live for, was strong and goaded her onwards to safety. She WOULD survive, she was a survivor, always had been, always would be.
Running through a thick stretch of forest, her cotton dress became trapped in thick brambles. Hearing a beastly roar behind her and the fluttering wings of several Owl Bears, she tugged at the dress in the brambles, trying to tear it, to be free... The Owl Bears came closer, they were now in the clearing behind her, they had noticed her... coming closer....wings lifted to attack....
Just as she braced herself to die, she heard the crash of a heavy weapon, an animal's war cry, and the death screech of Owl Bears behind her, followed by a cry of "Yes!" and manly laughter. She turned her head to look at her saviours, and cried of pure relief when she saw a strong man and a musk cat. She was safe!
"What's it like to be out of that lab, Myau?" Odin asked the musk cat that was silently washing it's paws next to him. The girl gasped when she saw the musk cat talk back.
"I'm glad to be out of there Odin. Thank you for saving me," Myau replied.
"It talks!" The blonde girl exclaimed.
"Of course I talk!" Myau replied, smiling. Neither Odin nor the girl knew that Myau had once been human, as far as he was concerned that was another life. He was happy being a musk cat now, and realised Lassic could have dealt far worse upon him. He was lucky, he realised, and wondered if something or someone was watching over him after all.
Odin managed to untangle the girl's dress from the brambles with little effort, it had only been caught on a few large thorns. The girl's struggling had made it worse, but he did not point it out, he was sure she already knew.
"Let's go to Camineet," Odin said, "I know a spaceport worker there with a house. Maybe he can help you."
* * * * *
Nero looked down at little Alis, it had been 2 years already since he'd found her trapped in the crate at Camineet Spaceport.
Looking after Alis at first had been a nightmare, he’d had to steal twice as much and the food he was giving her was making her ill. Nero had soon realised that he would have to find a job, and quickly.
Many people took pity on the adorable little girl Nero had in his arms, and the shopkeeper who Nero had stolen so much from in the past managed to pull some strings and get Nero a job at the spaceport. It didn't pay well, but it was enough, and he had paid the shopkeeper's wife to take care of Alis while he was working. Nero managed to save enough money to buy a small house near the Camineet warehouse, not the most desirable area of the city, but certainly a lot cleaner than the squat he had been living in previously.
He took much joy in watching Alis grow and flourish, and not a day went by without Nero wondering what sort of parents would abandon a sweet little girl like her. He often wondered what he was going to tell her when she was older, when she asked about her family, but he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. Day to day living was the most important thing nowadays. He would cross the bridges when he came to them.
There were three sharp knocks on the door which made Nero jump. Robotcops? Nero's involvement with the Resistance scared him every day, but the jobs he was doing for them supplemented his earnings. It was the only way he could live, though he hated putting Alis in danger for it. He realised he would give his life to protect that little girl who depended sorely on him.
Answering the door, Nero was shocked to see a burly man carrying an exhausted young girl in his arms with a musk cat standing next to him.
"Nero Landale?" Odin asked.
Nero smiled on hearing the name he had chosen for himself. When they had asked for a surname at the spaceport and he realised he didn't have one, he used Alis's name and it had stuck. Now everyone knew him as Nero Landale.
"Yes, I am Nero," he said, "What brings you here?"
He didn't recognise the faces of either the girl or the man, and had only ever seen 2 musk cats in his life, both dead at the spaceport, they had been packed too tightly in crates for the wicked pet shop trade, Nero remembered sadly.
Inviting the strange company of friends in, he put the girl into bed to recover and talked to Odin.
"Say, is that the girl Alis I've been hearing so much about? You're quite famous for taking people in, you know," Odin said.
Nero looked surprised, "Really? I didn't know that. I took her in to save her life; what else could I do?"
"True, Nero, but look at her. She has a great future ahead of her, I can tell." Odin said.
"Who knows, who knows...?" Nero wondered.
Odin called Myau to him. "Nero, can you please take care of that girl? I'm really sorry to have bothered you, I know I don't really know you but if you ever need a strong man, just come look for Odin."
"I will take care of her. Good luck!" Nero called after them.
Wandering back over to the bed, Nero studied the girl, she was slowly regaining consciousness.
"What's your name?" Nero asked softly.
"Suelo..." the beautiful girl murmured, and drifted into sleep again.
* * * * *
The next thirteen years passed quickly, every day Alis grew stronger and stronger. Eventually, Suelo bought her own house, and Alis would stay with her while Nero was at work.
In his spare time, Nero taught Alis the skills she needed to survive out on her own; sword fighting, stamina, and even a little magic that Nero had picked up from other boys who had lived in the squat. Alis was a strong child and learned quickly, and very soon she was no longer a child but a young adult.
Nero became more and more involved with the resistance, out of personal hated for Lassic instead of monetary gain this time. He wanted to face Lassic and find out the truth behind Alis, the question that had never been answered; who was she?
Nero became careless in his quest; so many years of being safe from the Robotcops had led to him being complacent, whilst all the time they’d had their eyes on him as a possible resistance member.
The day came in the end, the day Alis had been fearing and the day Nero believed would never come: the Robotcops caught him prying into private files at the spaceport. Alis could only stand and watch as she saw her brother die, and Suelo could only cry through her window as she saw the brave, kind Nero fall to his death under the machine guns of the 'cops, watch him die in his own pool of blood, Alis by his side, crying, yet even in her grief promising to take and fulfill his mission. Suelo looked with glowing pride at the young woman and realised in that instant that where so many others had tried and failed to kill Lassic, Alis would have what it took to save Algol from evil.
As Suelo invited Alis in and took care of her, a hope swelled in her heart and she saw from the look in Alis's eyes that this was the beginning of the end of the tyrant king Lassic.
And somewhere far above them, Lassic felt this and ceased to laugh, knowing that his days were nearing their end.