"We're approaching the planet, sir." The alien sitting at the console announced to the room. A round speck had been growing in the viewport for the last hour and I suspected that this was where we were heading. Zathor towered beside me, dressed in a black military uniform. I was dressed in white linen pants and a white linen shirt with soft white shoes, the typical dress of a servant. It was plain and ugly and I hated it. Plus it made me look fat.
"Good." Zathor said in his deep, gravelly voice. "Alert me when the Ivosians make contact." He stepped away from the bridge and strode past a set of metal doors that opened automatically when he neared them. I struggled to keep up on my much shorter legs. He reached a lift in the gigantic ship, which brought us up to the top level where his offices were. We passed right by those and headed for the atrium, where he sat on a large bench among the plants and watched the planet approach through the rather huge viewport in front.
"I always liked to sit here and watch as we neared the planets." He said unexpectedly. His English accent was undoubtedly British. I wondered how he learned my language. "My father always liked to stay on the bridge, but to me this seems more tranquil. More peaceful. Do you agree?"
"Sure." I said.
"For a human, you aren't very talkative." He remarked. He turned his great head and studied me.
Maybe because you destroyed my planet, is what I wanted to say. Instead I said nothing.
"So this will be your first time stepping foot on another planet. I am curious, what do you think of it?"
I glanced at it through the viewport. "I think it looks like a turd, sir."
His mouth quirked at the corners but I was not making a joke. The planet was the exact color of the poop that came out of my dog, Munson. And now he was dead. That thought did not fill me with mirth.
"Ivosia is a desert planet, filled with nomadic tribes." He said, turning his attention back to the planet. "There is only one major city, aptly named Ivosia City. It is there we are headed."
"Why?" I asked. I couldn't help myself, I wanted to know.
"I was betrothed to the King's daughter when my father was alive. Now that he is dead, I wish to break off the betrothal."
Oh boy, I thought to myself. "Will that start another war?"
Now he did smile, his teeth were white and straight and seemed the same as human teeth. "No, human, it will not."
I thought about this for a moment. "So your people have the same customs as mine did." I said.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, in older times, arranged marriages were normal and were used mainly to garner political power." History was my favorite subject in school. "But they did away with those a long time ago. Some cultures still used them, but it was mostly considered archaic."
Zathor looked at me thoughtfully. "But what did your people marry for then, if not for power?"
"Love." I answered. "In some cases lust, but theoretically it was for love."
"Love," He snorted. "As if humans are capable of love."
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. "You judge all of my species by the actions of a few."
Zathor rose, scowling at me. "Your people killed my father out of fear. They were not willing to give him a chance."
"Those people were not my people," I snarled. "They were idiots who hated anything that was different. They killed humans in that attack too, in case you've forgotten!"
His head cocked at my cuss, but he steamed ahead. "It does not matter, all of you are the same! You fight, you kill, and you show no remorse!"
"Well you aren't that much different now, are you Zathor?" I said through gritted teeth. "You killed my people out of fear too and are now standing here defending that choice. That makes you the same."
"I am NOT the same as you barbarians!" He thundered, seeming more alien than ever. "My choice was in retaliation to my father's death!"
"You didn't give us a chance either!" I roared back. I didn't care if I lost my head for this. Truth be told, I didn't care about my life at all anymore. "You declared war over one incident!"
He lifted his chin. "I did give you a chance, human. I saved your life."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night," I said, spewing venom in every word.
"You personally killed dozens of my people, if not hundreds. That does not make you any better." He said after a moment's pause.
"I was under orders," I retorted. "I had no choice."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night," He said smugly.
The intercom in the atrium kicked on right as I was about to reach for his throat to strangle him to death. "Sir, the Athosians have made contact."
He straightened, becoming the military commander once more. "Patch them through."
A weird roaring sound came through the intercom and I cocked my head. It sounded like a lion. But now all the lions were dead. Each time these thoughts entered my mind I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
Zathor obviously understood, because he responded. "This is Prince Zathor of the Atelina, requesting landing permission." I hadn't realized that he was a prince. That made Balthazar…holy crap. No wonder a war was started over his death. Those stupid people hadn't even known who they were killing. Not that it would have made much of a difference. In fact, they probably would have enjoyed it even more. More roaring came from the intercom and then it switched off. He had no doubt gotten his landing permission.
He looked down at me after as though measuring me up. "I regret ever speaking to you."
"So don't anymore."
"Believe me, I will not be making that mistake again."
* * *
I watched Ivosia City grow larger in the viewport on the bridge with curiosity. As much as I was devastated over the loss of my friends and family, I couldn't help it. I was about to be the first human to step foot on another planet. The city was different, much different than any Earthen cities I had ever seen. The buildings seemed to be made of crystalized sand that had been molded instead of built, like a something a child would build at the beaches, but incredibly intricate. It was honestly amazing. I noticed Zathor watching my reaction with amusement, but I didn't care. We maneuvered towards the outskirts of the city and finally docked at a large oblong building. The view over the city was beautiful even though it was all brown.
Zathor leaned down and whispered, "Does it look like a turd now?"
"I thought you weren't going to talk to me anymore." I whispered back, never taking my eyes from the view. It was breathtaking. Suddenly I felt a little happiness at the fact that I wasn't dead and was able to see this. The emotion felt odd.
"The escort has arrived, sir." The alien at the console said. "They are waiting for you."
"Excellent. Come, human."
I followed the large alien back to the lift, almost running to keep up. Excitement battled with anger to be my most prevalent emotion and after a week of being angry, it felt almost freeing to have another emotion take over. The anger was still there, but for the moment it had taken a back seat.
"Will I be able to breathe?" I asked, the thought popping into my head.
"Yes. Any air that I can breathe, you can too."
Well alrighty then. I hoped he was right. I didn't want to die today. Tomorrow maybe. But not today, not before I got to experience this city.
"Now," Zathor said. "You stay close to me in the city. You do not speak. You do not do anything without my say so. Understand?"
The doors opened into the hangar bay of the ship. Many fighter ships were docked on either side, but Zathor made his way towards the last bay on the right. Three other aliens followed him, two male and one female. One of the males and the female was clearly a soldier, while the other male was draped in soft clothing. They all looked at me with disdain. That was alright though, I didn't like them either.
In the last hangar was a different kind of ship and honestly, it looked like a giant, futuristic bus from the outside. We boarded through a set of doors in the center and the two soldiers took their spots at the console while Zathor sat in a large seat. That was another thing about the aliens and their ships that I despised. All the furniture was designed for someone eight feet tall. It was huge! The advisor sat across from him and steepled his fingers together. I stood behind Zathor as I was supposed to, with a hand on the shoulder of the chair to keep from falling as the ship fired up and began to move out of the hangar. It's some sort of land speeder or something, I realized.
"I would advise you against this, my prince." The advisor said, his voice soft and slippery as a snake.
"I know you would, Serber, but this betrothal was never something that I wanted." Zathor answered in his deep voice. "There are other matches that can be made that would better benefit our people."
"Your father made many offers. King Grawrarrawr was the best acceptance we received." I couldn't understand the name, but that was what it sounded like.
"Once I am King, I will right the wrongs of the past and return our kingdom to its previous esteem in the eyes of the Council."
"It is a good thought, your Highness, but in practice will be much harder to achieve. Please, I beg of you."
"Do not grovel Serber, it disgusts me." Zathor growled. "I am breaking off this engagement and that is final."
"Some people are beginning to wonder about you," Serber said hesitantly. "First you save the humans from total extinction and now you are breaking off the betrothal. You are behaving irrationally."
"An iron fist is what broke my father's rule, Serber, you know that." The prince responded, rather sharply. "Who can judge whether the human species deserves oblivion? The choice is not mine to make."
"But you did make it, sir." Serber said.
"I saved enough of them that they can rebuild their race if they so choose. Hopefully this time they'll learn some manners."
"Ah yes, very wise sir, very wise. But ah, the betrothal?"
"Do not question me about that again."
"Yes, sir." Serber ducked his head in a nod. "Of course, sir."
When his head rose, his eyes met mine and my soldier training kicked in. His eyes were colder than the depths of space. I need to watch out for that one, I thought to myself. They both said no more and I watched as we descended from the hangar ramp and raced across the sand towards the towering city wall.
Two large doors, a darker brown than the surrounding wall, began to open as we approached and soon we passed through. Once inside the city, the speed of the craft dropped considerably and I had to mentally restrain myself from becoming glued to the window. The city was even more incredibly up close, with intricate swirls and patterns on the buildings that we passed. Amazing ripple patterns went up one side of a building and down another. It was hands down the most amazing sight I had ever seen.
"The human is practically drooling," Serber mocked. I shot him a scowl.
"Leave the human alone. This is the first time she's ever been on another planet." Zathor said absently.
"My name is Grace, not human." I said, turning away from the window. Serber narrowed his eyes at me while Zathor just looked bored.
"I don't recall asking for your name," Serber hissed.
"Leave her alone," Zathor repeated more forcefully. "And human, be silent."
I did as I was told, though I was silently fuming at Serber's remark. I declined looking out any more windows as we passed through the city, instead focusing my gaze on the speeder's wall.
I was so completely out of my element, it was ridiculous. Here I was, one of only twenty humans left in the entire universe, on a completely different planet, with four aliens. It was almost too much for me to wrap my head around.
The speeder slowed and entered a tunnel, shrouding everything in black. I took the moment to close my eyes and mentally gird my loins, and when we passed back out into the light I wasn't feeling as fractured as I was a moment before. The speeder eventually came to a stop beside the castle and the aliens all stood. The two soldiers descended first, followed by Serber, then Zathor. I was the last one off the speeder and whatever I had been expecting; it was not what I met on the ground. Another human.