The sun flowed in the single window and wrapped around Shanda in a warm stream. She stretched and yawned with her eyes still closed. She opened them slowly.
Jeremiah was sitting on the edge of his bed studying a booklet. He noticed her and smiled.
“Hi, Sweetheart,” he said. “I hate to wreck your morning, but we’ll have to be getting to Orlacc’s hanger.” He noticed she didn’t object to the title he addressed her with.
“Right,” she said, leaving to go into the washroom to change.
“Great. A little flashy, though, don’t you think?” he asked. She had washed her hands and face, and had put on a pair of silver metallic pants and a pink silk shirt. Her hair was brushed and woven into a tight braid which she had wound around her head. On her wrists were silver bangles and on her ears were chunky silver earrings.
“I think it’s fine,” she said hotly.
“If you insist. But it looks like a rich snob’s outfit. That’s not the kind of image we’re trying to project here, Sweetheart. Speaking of rich... you seemed a little upset about my words of the Princess of Xailier. You friends with her or something?”
Shanda shook her head.
“Well, good thing. She doesn’t care about anything but herself,” he began to put some of his stuff into his sack.
“How dare you!” she shouted, standing up. She slapped his face hard. “You don’t even know me!”
Jeremiah had straightened up, but now he sat back down on the edge of his bed with his hand on his face. He looked stunned. Then his face lit up when he realised. Shanda turned around quickly.
“You’re her, aren’t you? You’re the princess!”
“No,” denied Shanda.
“Yes, you are! That’s why you’re going to Earth!” Jeremiah stood up and walked over to her.
Shanda backed up and turned away to pack her things. But, Shanda reluctantly admitted to herself, she felt relieved that he finally knew.
“You’re the princess,” Jeremiah mused softly, trying to make it clear to himself.
“Yes..., I’m the princess,” she said and turned around to face him. “My name is Princess Ania Destanias. In case you wondered, my middle name is Shanda.”
Jeremiah’s mouth dropped open, and then the princess realised what she had done. Jeremiah must have seen the look on her face, the split second gasp, because he put his hands on her shoulders and said softly, “Princess? Don’t worry. I’ll never tell.”
She glanced into his face. “Well...You’d better not. Look, Sir, maybe I can get that Orlacc guy to take me. Why don’t you just go home?” She turned to go.
“Hey! I’m not leaving! You finally open up to me and I’m supposed to forget it all? I lost my ship! I’m stuck here! No way, Sweetheart, I’m with you!”
The princess stopped in her tracks. He had never gotten angry. There was more to him that she hadn’t seen before.
“There’s some stuff I never told you either!” he continued. She looked surprised.
“Let me guess.... Your name isn’t Jeremiah Handell.”
“No, no, that’s my name all right, but I’m not just an innocent space pilot.”
“What?” She tried to comprehend.
“Remember when the Police shot us down?”
“How could I forget that?”
“It wasn’t to scare us.”
“What?” Her mind was racing.
“It was a shoot to kill. They know my ship. Shanda, they wanted to kill me.”
“Kill you?” the princess uttered.
“Yes, I... I was once allied with them. I--”
“No!” cried the princess. “I told you everything! Oh, what have I done? Xailier is--”
“Listen to me!” Jeremiah interrupted, grabbing onto her shoulders and shaking her. “I’m against them now! Didn’t you hear me? I was ONCE their ally. They betrayed me and while I was... occupied..., they began their climb to power.”
The princess didn’t speak for a moment. She was too stunned. “Why... why did you offer to take me to Earth?” she asked him.
“I knew that they’re evil. Someone has to guard you from them. I can only trust myself.”
“But... how can you help me if they’re after you?” the Princess asked.
“Because I owe it to the people,” Jeremiah responded.
“So do I,” she said, but she wondered at his statement. “But I don’t think you owe me anything. You must let me go alone.”
Jeremiah gripped her arm tightly. “You’re not going alone.” His face tensed and his eyes reached her, imploring. “I won’t let you.”
The princess was silent, then she grabbed her sack and her gun and parted. Jeremiah grabbed his pack as well and hurried out behind her, closing the door.
They walked down the road, not speaking to each other. People were beginning to come out, and many different sorts of species wondering about, carrying out their daily affairs, not noticing the two who walked a considerable distance from each other, the princess well ahead.
As they made it into Hangar 182 , Jeremiah caught up with the princess.
“Listen to me,” he said. “You don’t want me on your voyage, I know, but I have to come with you. I have to end my battle with them... and myself.”
She looked into his eyes. There was conflict in them, but yet, they held that look that she had noticed before. The soft look that she could trust. She smiled.
“Thank you,” he said. “Now, what should I call you? You seem to have too many names.”
“It can’t be known who I am,” she said.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”
“Yes, well don’t forget again.... Call me Shanda,” she said.
Orlacc approached them. “So you made it.” He glanced at Shanda. “Earth, huh?” he asked, shaking his head.
“It won’t be a problem for you will it?”
“You won’t find another ship that’ll get you to Earth,” replied Orlacc. “Just answer me one question.... Are you with the Police?”
“No,” said Shanda. “I’ll never be with the Police.”
“They’re evil and wicked.” Orlacc shook his head. “More villainous than even our worst outlaws. But we must follow their rules. Are you planning on changing that?”
“What makes you think that?” Shanda demanded.
“You’re not going for the company of the planet. You seem quite determined about something.”
“Well, you see, Sir, I’m just a girl who--”
“What makes you think that you can stop them by yourselves?” Orlacc cut her off.
Shanda knew that he wasn’t that stupid. In fact, he seemed to be reading her mind. This was a wise man. He wouldn’t fall for this, just as Jeremiah hadn’t. She felt resigned to answer his question. “Because I remember the old ways,” she replied. “I know how.”
“Xailier,” Orlacc mused. “You’re from Xailier.”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“It was the last planet to have been taken over by the Police. People there remember the old ways, the ways of their forefathers, things that happened. It was all recorded in the FXT’s, and now they are all destroyed, as well as those who recorded them.”
“Not all of them were destroyed,” Shanda said. “But they are soon to be extinct... as well as the Freedom Fighters.”
Orlacc turned to a powerful ship, an older model used by the Myglords, the fighters who originally stopped a young fleet of Police. The first group of wicked governments would grow to overcome the ancient ways of the Myglords, who seemingly were wiped out.
Orlacc caught Shanda’s and Jeremiah’s regarding stare at the ship.
“I was a Myglord,” he said sadly, his thoughts returning to long-lost battles and friends, and his disgust at the Police. “I fought for freedom as you do now. I am afraid it is over. They beat us before. They can surely beat us now with their vast troops of men. We’re merely a thread in time.”
Shanda looked at the ship in thought of the bravery and pride of the Myglords. “We will try,” she said softly.