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Chapter Ten

The colonization of Motavia had proceeded at an agonizingly slow pace. Since the Palmans had developed space travel centuries ago, less than four thousand people had settled on the desert world. The harsh climate called for extreme dedication and self-sacrifice, which only a small portion of Palmans possessed. Although the freedom and excitement of living on a new world beckoned many a person, few wished to leave the relative safety and comfort of their homeworld.

Presently, the only major city on Motavia is Paseo, the capital. It lies on the spot where the first Palman exploratory vessel (robotic, of course) had landed. Growing quickly, it hosts the official inter-planetary spaceport, through which all legal trade and commerce is trafficked. The city cannot match Camineet or Parolit in terms of size or population, but it houses the brightest minds and the most provocative art in the entire system. And so it maintains its appeal on intellectual and aesthetic grounds. There are a few other small settlements across the countryside; these are made up of groups of outsiders and loners who have no real wish to be a part of "official" Motavian rule. They maintain friendly relationships with Paseo, but keep their contact with the capital to a minimum.

The Palman settlers here make their living in one of three ways. First, there are the miners. Motavia's mountains are rich in metal ore, a requisite need for both Palma and Motavia itself. Second are those who provide material and services for the miners: health care, food, housing, clothing, etc. The miner families spend nearly all their waking time harvesting the ores, and as such must rely on others for day-to-day needs. And third, there are those who thrive on inter-planetary trade; they are the bankers, the importers and the exporters. Off-world trinkets and treasures make up a huge market for those home-sick Motavian settlers. And Palmans who have never left their own planet often yearn for the status that comes from owning "extra-terrestrial" items.

Ruling over the people is the Paseo Governing Council, or PGC. It consists of seven elected officials, two of which are responsible for representing the towns outside of Paseo. In truth, though, they function in more of an obligatory capacity. The other five members represent various interests in Paseo. Presiding over the council is Governor Sirus.

Sirus has been in Paseo since the earliest days of the city's life. Once a top advisor to the king of Palma (or rather, the self-declared king of Algo,) he came to Motavia before the king's death in order manage the infant colony that was to become Paseo. Once the republic of Paseo had been firmly established, he had been elected governor unanimously, illustrating how much the people favored him. The PSG came later, when Motavian settlements became too big to be represented effectively by one man.

The governor holds the power to make decisions for all of the planet, though he can be overruled by a unanimous vote from the council. This had never happened, as Sirus is very wise and very respected by all of Motavia. He leaves the standard governmental decisions to the council, only making his presence felt in the larger planet-wide issues. He is also the head of relations with Palma, the world they depend on for much.

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The three of them drew stares as they walked up to the entrance portal of the governor's mansion: a young lady, flanked by a hulking warrior on one side and a golden cat with big ears on the other. An odder trio had not been seen in the streets of Paseo.

Ahead of them, they could see the mansion itself, although it was surrounded by an artificial lake, and hence unreachable directly. They had to travel the underground passageway that linked the mansion with the outside world. Appearing as no more than a door jutting out of the ground, the portal stood before them.

Entering, they immediately proceeded through the first underground door. The hallway was brightly lit from an unseen source. The golden walls seemed to embrace them in warmth as they walked on. Shortly, a small robot appeared from a side passage, halting them. It's mechanical voice droned out, "Do you have a gift for the governor?"

Alis nodded, and pulled a small package from her sack. "This is a fine Palman pastry. Does it suffice?" she asked. The robot extended its arm, taking the torte. It turned the gift over in its hand, and then responded.

"Yes, this is adequate. You may proceed." With that, the robot disappeared back where it had come from, leaving the three heroes alone in the hall. Odin looked at Alis, a smile on his face.

"Quite a welcoming committee they have here..."

The group moved on, eventually reaching the end of the short passage. They climbed the stairs at the far end, and reemerged into the sunlight of the bright Motavian day. They were on the other side of the lake now, and the governor's mansion towered before them. Although Alis had seen larger buildings on Palma, she had never seen one so grand, so eminently regal. The architecture used to construct the mansion was an exquisite mix of classic Palman style with the forward-thinking Motavian sensibility. The three marched on, reaching the main entrance. Two guards stood at attention, and, sensing no resistance, Alis, Odin, and Myau walked inside.

The awe Alis had felt upon viewing the mansion's exterior doubled as she gazed upon the internal furnishings. The marble walls were covered with fine draperies, the likes of which she had never seen. The polished stone floor reflected brightly. There were guards and advisors stationed at various points throughout the main hall, all of whom turned silent at the group's entrance. Directly ahead, raised upon a platform a few feet above the floor, sat the governor. He wore a fine blue and gold petticoat, and his cape draped over the side of his silver throne. He looked to be fairly young for a ruler; he was not yet in his fifties. He wore a warm smile that obviously must have helped endear him in the people's hearts.

Alis and her companions stood motionless, unsure of whether to speak, or be silent, to move forward, or to remain still. Daunted, Alis curtsied solemnly; seeing this, Odin fell to one knee and bowed his head, while Myau did likewise. Rising again, Alis saw the governor wave them forward with his hand. The hall was still silent as they approached the throne.

"I'm the governor. What brings you to speak with me this fine day?" His tone was kind and inviting. Nervously, Alis spoke.

"My name is Alis Landale." The governor winced at her words, but Alis did not notice. "These are my companions, Odin, and Myau. We are from Palma, seeking your assistance, your honor."

"My assistance? To what end? I am surprised that you would journey all the way here just to seek my aid." Gaining courage, Alis began her tale.

"Your honor, it is our wish to see Lassic, the despot who destroys his people, removed from power. His evil is affecting everyone on our planet, and we will not survive under his rule much longer. I have been told that you yourself have no stomach for the king, and that you might help us in some way." Sirus shifted in his throne, his expression more serious than before.

"Lassic and I do not get along, it is true. I have watched him slowly erode your society over many months... but as a representative of Motavia, I cannot openly oppose him; our planet must still depend on Palman resources, resources that Lassic currently controls... And do you stand before me claiming that only the three of you plan to overthrow him? Surely you must realize that you face a man who controls an entire planet."

Sensing that their best hope for assistance might be slipping away, Alis passionately tried to persuade the governor. "Please, your honor, we know of the great odds against us. That is why we have come seeking aid. But whatever the cost, Lassic must be stopped." She paused. "He must be made to pay for what he has done to our people, to my brother." Sirus' face went blank, and his next words came slowly.

"Your brother?"

"Yes. My brother Nero was a leader in the resistance movements... but he was murdered in the streets of Camineet by Lassic's robotcops."

"Murdered..." The governor sank back in his seat, his eyes drifting far away for a moment. Then his resolve returned. "Young lady, it is my desire to see you succeed in your quest. You know that I cannot help you overtly, but...I admire your courage. In the Maharu cave lives an Esper named Noah. I will give you a letter of introduction to present to him. He will aid you." Alis' face brightened at Sirus' change of heart. "I have faith that you will kill Lassic and return here eventually. But please, rest here a while, as my guests. Dew, prepare lodgings for these travelers." A young man stepped forward from behind the throne and nodded.

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That night, as Odin and Myau drifted off to sleep in the rooms that had been prepated for them, Alis lay on her bed, thinking of their future. She had faced many obstacles in the past few weeks, but each had been overcome. It was hoped that, after seeing the governor, they might finally be ready to actually confront Lassic. But now, yet another task awaited them, this man named Noah. With each new success a new challenge arose, seeming to push the inevitable confrontation with the king farther and farther away.

Even after finding this Esper, they would still have to return to Palma and find out how to engage the tyrant. Where was he? How could they reach him? How could they fight him without facing his entire army? All these questions and more plagued her every night. But she left them unanswered, hoping that the information would somehow be brought to light. The governor, their best hope, had not been as much of an assest as they had expected.

Alis fell asleep shortly, weary from the days travel. Her mind was freed of these concerns for a while, as dreams overcame her.

She was standing in an open field, green grass below, bright sun overhead. There was music playing somewhere, soothing her mind. From out in the distance, she could hear someone speaking... but she could not make out who it was or what was being said, only that it was familiar. Then there came a sudden crash, and as she looked down, she saw that the grass was quickly withering. It turned from green to tan, to dark brown to black, and it shrank out of existence. The golden light all around her began to fade, and soon she was in total darkness; she felt as if the ground beneath her feet had gone, and she was floating in the air.

A bright light right in front of her began to shine. She noticed that she held a sword, unlike any she had seen before. Indeed, it was the sword itself that was shining in the darkness, as she felt a huge power surge within.

Without warning, a mystical vision materialized before her. It was a horrible demon, its face a twisted contortion of evil and malice. It growled, and suddenly Alis noticed that her two companions were beside her, in battle-ready stances. She knew what had to be done. Lunging forward, she swung the great sword at the demon's head, but the blow merely glanced off, and Alis went flying past it into the darkness. She turned and saw Odin and Myau attacking, but they were blasted by rays of energy from the demon's eyes and disappeared in bright flashes of light. The creature turned to face her, grinning. It was upon her in a moment, as Alis instinctively held up the sword to protect herself. She felt nothing, and then she was awake, drenched in sweat. She did not sleep again that night.

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The governor had supplied them well, with food and healing potions. He had also given them a letter to give to Noah, as well as a map to find the Maharu cave. As he watched them exit the mansion, one lone thought filled his mind.

And so, Tajim, has the time finally come?

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