Riselle woke suddenly, but was unable to open her eyes right away. Her head felt funny, almost like the inside was filled with cotton. Slowly, she realized that voices were arguing nearby.
"She shouldn't have brought her here!" A deep masculine voice growled. It sounded familiar.
"What else was she supposed to do?" This voice, a woman's, was not familiar at all. "We couldn't let her stay there!"
"You're going to ruin everything!"
"Oh, stop being so dramatic! The plans are still in motion! Nothing is going to change!"
"Except for that fact that you have the princess in your house! The key piece in the plans!"
"So the plan has shifted a little bit." The woman said scathingly. "Either way, she'll be on our side."
"And just how do you know that? Hm? We don't know her at all. One word from her, everything is ruined, and we die."
"She was just disowned from everything she ever knew and flung out here to this hellhole. She has no one else."
"And what makes you think she'll turn against her own mother and sister?"
"It's a chance we have to take."
"But we didn't have to. That's my point."
"But we have to now, Kal. Arguing isn't going to help anything." She said softly. So the man was Kal, the tall man from the cafeteria.
"It makes me feel better," He muttered.
"Oh will you two stop it!" Another familiar voice snapped, much closer to Riselle. "All you ever do is argue! Besides, I think she's awake."
Riselle opened her eyes to see Kal, a woman with dark brown hair and vibrant green eyes, and a girl with curly auburn hair.
"Fay?" She asked, her voice raw and scratchy.
The auburn haired girl from the Immigration Office smiled and nodded, while handing her a glass of water. "Here, drink this."
Riselle took a long sip and coughed on it. Choking it down, she tried to sit up, but the other woman put a hand on her shoulder.
"Don't sit up. You've really had quite the night, huh Riselle?"
"Where am I?"
"You are in my house and you are safe. Probably the safest place you could be on this planet."
"Who are you?"
The woman smiled. "My name Marin. I believe you've already met Kal and Fay earlier today."
Riselle looked around. The room she was in was made of the same stone pained bright blue and had wooden floorboards. The shades were drawn on all the windows and the only things in the room were a bed and a dresser.
"Why am I here?"
Marin sighed. "Well, Riselle, Fay here was following you after you left the shelter and saw those two boys attack you. She intervened and brought you here for healing."
"You know who I am?"
Marin bobbed her head. "I do. Former princess of Luminaria, now an outcast here on Wess and have taken the name of Riz Common. Why do you think Fay was trailing you?"
"The Queen will not pay a ransom for me." Riselle warned.
The woman chuckled and Fay smiled. Behind them, Kal was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed in annoyance.
"We aren't kidnappers," Marin explained. "We're rebels."
Kal threw his hands up in frustration. "Yeah, let's just bust that out!"
"It's the truth." Marin said firmly.
"I don't understand." Riselle said. "Rebels against what?"
"The Monarchy." The woman answered simply.
"But why? My mother is a good ruler. Isn't she?"
Marin half-smiled, her eyes filled with sympathy. "Riz, have you ever been out of the Royal City before?" She shook her head and Marin continued. "Your mother is not a good ruler. As a matter of fact, she's the worst one there's ever been. The taxes on the poor are ever increasing, and she and the rest of the City live extravagant lives because of it. People are starving and dying in droves out here, while she throws more parties and balls than ever. People that resort to stealing the food they cannot afford are sent here, like your friend Sava and her sister, or taken down into the dungeons of the Lord and tortured. Sometimes they are even put to death."
The woman sat back while Riselle digested this information. All her life, she had been told that Valya was just to the kingdom and always did what was best for it.
"How do I know you're telling the truth?" She asked suspiciously.
Marin shrugged. "Ask around at the shelter if you don't believe me. This planet used to only harbor murderers and rapists. The worst of the worst. These days you can get sent here for the slightest transgression. Things that used to only warrant a slap on the wrist or a fine. Ask what the conditions are on other planets. You don't have to just take my word for it."
Riselle thought for a moment. "Well, what do you plan on doing about it?" She asked slowly.
"Overthrow the Queen and the Royal Family."
"Are you going to kill her?"
"We aren't planning on it." Marin responded. "Right now, all we want to do is get off this planet and get beyond her reaches."
Riselle snorted. "She has all thirteen planets within her reach. There is nowhere else you can go."
Marin stared at her, astonished. She realized Kal and Fay were too. "Riz, how many habitable planets are in this galaxy?"
"Thirteen." She answered.
"Riz, there are twenty-eight planets here." Riselle stared at her in disbelief. "Your mother ruled over thirteen of them, true, but there are people and cities on all twenty-eight."
"That can't be right. My mother wouldn't lie to me."
"It's true, I swear." Marin's green eyes radiated passion. "I was born on Pantaleo, Kal was born on Ransour, and Fay is from San. All of which are Free Planets."
"No, you're lying! You just want the crown for yourself!" Riselle said fiercely, refusing to believe it..
"Your own mother sent you away penniless and didn't think twice about it." Kal interrupted, his voice cold. "She didn't even have the decency to give you a house on some nice planet, she sent you here. What do you think she does to people who aren't her own flesh and blood? We have nothing to lie about and we don't want the crown. We can go back to our own planets and live out the rest of our lives without a care in the world about your little kingdom."
"Then why don't you?" Riselle shot back.
Kal opened his mouth, but Marin spoke first. "Because the suffering of the people here has gone on for far too long. The Board cannot stand by any longer and watch as the Queen slowly kills off her subjects."
"Why are you here though? On Wess?"
Marin and Kal shared look, then she turned back to Riselle. "Riz, do you remember what happened at the end of the fight with Daral and Boyly?"
Riselle thought about it for a moment. Those memories were hazy. "They were flying." She said incredulously.
"Right. Fay made them do that."
Riselle looked at the girl sitting next to Marin. Fay smiled sweetly. "I'm telekinetic. I can make objects move with my mind."
"You're a witch, you mean!" Riselle scooted closer to the wall, trying to get away from her.
"Easy with the names, girl." Kal growled. "Everyone here in this room is a witch, as you put it."
Riselle looked to Marin in horror, who chuckled. "I'm a Berserker and Kal here is a Chionokinetic, which means he can generate and manipulate ice. And you, you are a Pyrokinetic."
"Is that the word for someone who can create fire?"
"Create and manipulate. Out of all the Talents that I've met, you're the first one. It's incredibly rare."
Riselle stared at her hands. "Is that why you're here? For me?"
"I told you, we aren't kidnappers." Marin said. "You have to make your own choice. We only ask that you don't tell anyone about this. Do you think you can do that?"
If I warn my mother, she might let me go back home! "I can do that."
Marin smiled. "Okay, then when you're feeling up to it, Kal will take you back to the shelter. You have laundry duty, or so I've been told."
A few hours later, Riselle was putting bed sheets into a machine for washing and drying. The mind-numbing work helped her digest what had happened. Marin, Kal, and Fay were planning on overthrowing her mother and sister. The more Riselle thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. Valya had thousands and thousands of men under her command. There was no way the Free Planets would be able to overcome that, even they were even real. Marin could have just as easily been lying about that, but try as she might, Riselle couldn't think of a motive for that. Why lie about more planets?
On the walk back to the shelter, Kal had made it very clear that he didn't trust her and would be keeping a close eye on her. Riselle didn't care. She would write a letter to her mother and pay for it to be sent to her on the next ship. Kal couldn't keep her from doing that. Then the rebels would be arrested and Valya would let her come back to the palace. Sure, she wouldn't be able to attend anymore parties and balls, but she wouldn't have to live in this sandy city anymore. Besides, she had always kind of hated the parties.
She put in the last load of laundry as the bell rang for lunch. Sighing with relief, she joined the hordes of people rushing to the cafeteria. She was free for the rest of the day. She ate her lunch at the same table as the previous night with Sava and Del, talking about the jobs they were going to apply for that day. She was in a good mood when she left the cafeteria to go lay down in her room for an hour. That quickly dissipated when she saw who was sitting on her bed.
"Fay! What are you doing here?"
"Marin wants you to meet the rest of us."
"There are more than just you three?" Riselle asked incredulously.
The girl smiled. Riselle thought she looked rather pretty when she smiled. "There are planets full of us. But on this planet, there are only seven of us. Eight including you."
"I'm not a rebel, Fay. I just want to be left alone."
"Just come meet the others, Riz. I promise, they aren't all bad. It could even be fun."
"I can't today. I need to find a job so I can leave the shelter."
"Oh! I almost forgot! You have a job. With me. At the immigration office. Marin is the supervisor there. You start tomorrow."
Riselle looked at her, hard. "What if I don't want that job?"
"Then you don't have to take it. But you can come with me, just for one day. Please?"
Riselle rolled her eyes. "Fine." She knew Fay wouldn't leave her alone until she went with her, but truth be told, she was curious. She wanted to know what their faces looked like in case she had to pick them out of a line up after she turned them in.
Fay smiled and hopped up from the bed. Riselle followed her outside, where the girl promptly waved down an airtaxi. Riselle slid in the seat next to her and Fay handed the driver a coin.
"23 Kings Street, please." She said.
Riselle quickly memorized the address. It would come in handy later. During the ride, Fay attempted to teach Riselle the others' names and abilities.
"First you have Ticor. He's my boyfriend." She smiled. "He's the short, skinny one and he can fly. Then there's Pelia. She's only twelve. She's a Healer and the reason you got patched up last night. Pretty nifty. Next is Jaday. He can skinmorph. It's kind of creepy, really."
"What's skinmorphing?" Riselle asked.
"He can look like anyone else. Anyone in the galaxy. But not for long periods of time. He has dark skin…most of the time. And last, but certainly not least, is Ryken. He can run really fast. Like, faster than sound, fast. He's the tall, glowering one."
"Okay, so in your group here, there's you, Marin, Kal, Ticor, Pelia, Jaday, and Ryken. Right?"
Fay nodded and smiled. "You got it."
Perfect. Riselle thought.
The building they pulled up to was just an inconspicuous as the rest of them. Riselle would never be able to remember where it was, so she had Fay mark it on her map for her. She almost felt bad for taking advantage of the sweet girl like this, but the thought of home was pounding the back of her mind. Marin was there to greet them at the door.
"Ah, so you got her to come after all." She sent a meaningful glance at Kal, who was peering over her shoulder at Fay and Riselle. "Told you she would."
Kal just rolled his eyes and stepped back as the two girls entered the building. Marin led them through a small hallway and past the door at the end into a large room. The ceiling was at least 20 feet high and it was a hundred feet across. A short boy with straw colored hair whooped from the rafters.
"Catch me!" He called…and jumped!
Riselle shouted in shock, but Fay just laughed and stretched out her arm. The boy stopped in midair, laughing as she gently set him down. Then he ran over to her and kissed her. Riselle figured that this must be Ticor.
"You know, one of these days I'm might just let you fall." She teasingly threatened him.
"On that day, I wish you would, because it would mean you didn't love me anymore and I wouldn't want to live without you." His voice was soft and melodic. Riselle rolled her eyes. She hated mushy stuff. It made her want to gag. The boy kissed Fay one more time, then turned to the former princess. "Hi, you must be Riz. I'm Ti. Short for Ticor."
"Nice to meet you, Ti." Riselle responded. She scrutinized his face, with the light brown eyes and freckle over his lip. She was fairly confident that she could pick him out of a crowd.
He pointed to a short, thin girl with long brown hair, holding a punching bag for a dark skinned boy. "That's Pelia and Jaday. They'll come say hi when their set is over. And that, in the corner over there, being a little sketchy, that's Ryken."
Riselle squinted to the far back corner. The boy named Ryken was leaning against the back wall with his arms crossed over his bare chest. His arms and chest were corded with thick, well defined muscles, but she couldn't see his face too well because of all the shadows. All of a sudden, there was a sound like a gunshot and her view was filled with ice blue eyes and black hair. The eyes burned into hers and Riselle found herself recoiling in shock. How'd he move so fast? Then Ryken took a step back.
"Where'd you find her?" He asked. His voice was deep and smooth.
"She's Valya's daughter." Marin answered.
"She's our hostage?"
"No, she's joining us, hopefully."
"You're letting the Princess join us?" He was incredulous. "She's going to go running right back to her mother!"
"Precisely what I said," Kal chimed in. "The plan was to make sure she was trustworthy before bringing her on board."
"Shut up." Marin said. "There was a slight change in plans."
Riselle was indignant. "You don't even know me. None of you know what I will or won't do and I'm sick of you talking about me like I'm not standing right here! I came along with Fay today because I was curious, but if none of you feel like I'm trustworthy, then I'll just turn around and leave! You're the ones who came to me and now you're all acting like I imposed myself on you!"
She was shocked to find out that she meant every word. She wanted them to trust her and she was curious about this group. She found that in saying these words, she hadn't made up her mind on whether or not to turn them in yet. It was a bit startling.
Ryken was not moved by her little speech, sneering in her direction, but Marin was smiling triumphantly at Kal. Pelia and Jaday had stopped what they were doing and were staring in her direction. Ticor and Fay had steadily been inching their way away from Riselle.
"Well, it wouldn't do to have her go tramping off now." Kal conceded with a wave of his hand and a roll of his eyes. "She'll have to stay."
That's when Riselle caught sight of a face in the window. It quickly ducked out of sight, but not before she saw the short dirty blonde hair and freckles. Sava.