Disclaimer: Not mine...hmmmm...but maybe if I change my name to Metz or Katims...
Spoilers: Through MitC
Feedback: Feedback me, Seymour, feedback me please...
The park was silent and empty as I stepped inside the walls, which made sense since it was still early morning. The park was actually closed, but I had special privileges. I was the King after all. Gravel crunched under my feet as I stepped onto the path. This was one of my favorite places, an oasis amidst the ravages of war. The park had been one of my first public works after the war had ended. We needed a place of hope and a memorial to those who had fallen on all sides of the bitter civil war which had ripped apart my homeworld.
As I looked around me, taking in the statues and the plaques and the perfectly manicured gardens, it was hard to believe the park was only six years old. The civil war had ended seven years ago, but it had taken a good year to get the plans for the park off the ground. My advisors had thought I was nuts, making a park a first priority, but my desires had won. After all, I was the King, and I believed the people needed hope. Needed a place to come together, to forget their differences, to remember their fallen. In high school I had done a research paper on the Hiroshima Peace Park. It had served as my inspiration. A memorial. And a reminder.
Seven years ago I had been regarded as insane; today I was hailed for my foresight. Every year, on the anniversary of the end of the war, celebrations are held here and people come from each of the five planets to participate.
Today the park was decorated for another celebration, an occasion other than the end of the war. Another date of significance to the people of these five planets. Ten years ago today, we, the Royal Four, came home. I had tried to stop this celebration, using all my influence as King, but my advisors had overruled me. Or, rather, they had informed me that the celebration was going to happen regardless so I might as well make it official. The people of the five worlds had commissioned a celebratory statue for the center of the park. I affixed my seal to the proclamation reluctantly; it was a day that we tried to avoid thinking about too often. Too many painful memories attached to that long-ago summer day.
I walked a few more feet to a bench erected along the path and lowered myself to it. I wasn't even thirty yet, but remembering the past made me feel each of my years.
As I sat on the bench, I could see the tarp covering the statue flap in the distance. Forcing my attention away, I let the memories of that distant day wash over me.
Things pretty much went to hell during our junior year. Nasedo was killed, leaving us alone and vulnerable. The Skins discovered our location and began their hunt. The Dupes visited us in Roswell and dragged me to some interstellar summit in New York City. And those were just the alien-related problems.
I found out Liz was sleeping with Kyle only to find out later that was a set-up to make me break up with her. Liz was really sleeping with Michael and Kyle was sleeping with Tess. I'm not really sure what Isabel was doing at the time but I wasn't sleeping with anyone. Not that I didn't want to; I was a normal teenage boy after all. Well, almost normal.
I was so young in those days. So sheltered. So righteous. So frustrated. And so mad. I was pissed at Liz and Michael. And at Kyle. Tess was my pre-destined bride after all; why was he the one sleeping with her? If I couldn't have Liz, why not have her? Maria was ticked because of Liz and Michael, although she did offer to comfort me. Man, I really should have taken her up on that. Where was I? Oh yeah, Alex was mad because he wasn't sleeping with Isabel. She was too busy mourning Grant. As you can tell, we were a really messed up group at that point. No wonder we were all almost killed.
We thought, hoped, all the Skins had been fried to a crisp by Tess's fireball. Then Nicholas showed up in NYC for the summit. It was too much to hope he had been the only one left. Thank god Liz warned me not to say anything about the Granilith. It was our only bargaining chip and we had no idea of its value.
After that summit we all realized how vulnerable we were without information. Liz, our resident science whiz, took up the task of figuring out the Granilith. Tensions were high at times, especially after everyone's sleeping arrangements came to light, but Liz persisted. She spent as much time as possible in the chamber, always accompanied by at least one of us aliens. With Tess's help, Liz translated the book Tess found in the library. With that she deciphered the symbols on the Granilith. And, one day, she unlocked the secret of using the Granilith to get us home.
We thought we were home free at that point. Little did we know. We were almost home but it sure wouldn't be free. Nicholas and a few of his supporters escaped the firebomb. They took residence in the shadows, watching, waiting, biding their time.
For the first time in a long while, we were happy; hell, we were ecstatic. And we were careless. When we planned our celebration we didn't watch what we said or where we said it. And the Skins found out. They followed us to the chamber, waited until our celebration was underway.
We were all a little drunk. OK, some of us were a little more drunk than others. Michael, Isabel, Tess and I couldn't hold our liquor. Not even a drop. But that night, we didn't care. We'd discovered the secret of the Granilith and we were finally acting like a close-knit group of friends again. And that's when the Skins attacked.
They burst into the chamber, knocking down Maria and Alex with well-placed blows. Kyle charged Nicholas and was flung aside like a rag doll. Michael and I tried to mount a defense with our powers but we were a little shaky from the alcohol and they did nothing. Tess and Isabel couldn't manage a defense either. Nicholas grabbed Liz, used her as a shield. That sobered up Michael, and me, instantly.
"You've discovered the secret of the Granilith and now you're going to show me how to get off this hell-hole of a planet or your little friend dies."
Michael started to charge Nicholas but I held him back. "That's a pretty sad threat considering she's the only one who really understands what to do."
Nicholas stared at me for along moment. I guess he read the truth in my eyes. Or, at least, most of the truth. She was the only one who understood it, but we could all activate it now. Liz had made sure of that.
Nicholas released Liz but one of his minions kept a gun trained on her. My eyes kept straying towards the gun. Nicholas must have noticed, for he smiled and said, "I love your little human toys." He nudged Liz closer to the large device which filled the chamber. "Make it work."
Liz looked at me. Even though we were no longer together, I still knew her so well. Her eyes flickered towards the Granilith. I knew what she wanted. I inched closer, bringing Michael with me. Isabel and Tess saw what we were doing and followed suit.
Liz leaned over the hidden control panel of the Granilith. I watched her key in the code that would activate the device. Anyone could activate the Granilith but you had to have powers to close the portal. I still had a grip on Michael's jacket; with my free hand I took Isabel's hand. She took Tess's. Liz entered the last symbol. The Granilith glowed with a blue light. I took a step into the light and pulled my companions with me. Nicholas realized what were doing and rushed towards the light. Liz threw herself in his path. I heard a sound that day that I had hoped to never hear again. The sound of a gun going off. Liz stopped, jerked. Michael screamed and tried to break free.
The force of the bullet spun Liz's body around. Her eyes met mine even as she fell to the floor. "Max, please, go!" My grasp tightened on Michael's jacket even as I sent the trickle of power that would deactivate the Granilith and send us home.
The purple lights pulsed and glowed around us. The next thing we all knew, we stood in another chamber. Armed guards pointed their weapons at us. They stared at us in disbelief and then dropped to their knees before us. Whispers filled the chamber. "It's them." "They've returned at last." "The Royal Four have come home."
The alcohol had burned out of our systems during the attack but we were all in a state of shock. Tears streamed down our cheeks. Liz had sacrificed herself for us. Michael collapsed to his knees. His sobs were the strongest, the hardest for me to bear. But bear them I must. I was the King, returned to my people. I had a first impression to make. I pulled Michael to his feet, pumping as much strength and comfort as I could afford into the bond between us.
Those first days are still pretty much a blur. We were taken to underground chambers, protection we were told from the battle raging above us. But even out of range of the bombs above, there were battles to be fought below ground.
After we were cleaned up and presentable again, doctors were brought in to rework our genetic maps. They wanted to remove our human genes, to make us more like our ancestors. Whatever disagreements the four of us might have had in the past, we stood firm, together, against this, the first of our battles. We refused, we argued, and, finally, I used my position for the first time. I decreed we would not be tampered with any further. Our human side made us who we were, and the people responsible for creating us in the first place would just have to deal with that.
More battles followed. I battled the precedents set King Zan, a weak and foolish ruler. Isabel battled the people's resentment of Vilandra's betrayal so many years ago. Tess battled the belief that she would just slip back into her role of my timid, quiet, useless bride. And, Michael, Michael battled everything. His grief, the people who tried to pigeonhole him as merely a loyal soldier, everything.
We won those battles and turned our attention to the civil war raging above. We made demands, concessions, whatever helped to limit the bloodshed of a too-long war. Most of the fighting had been concentrated here on Antar. Pockets of violence on the other four planets were quelled quickly. The fighting on Antar took three years to end.
Tensions remained high in the beginning. I needed something to bring the people together, make them forget their differences. And thus, the peace park, was born.
The peace park, where I now sat. The palace had been one of the first targets of the war. Now its ruins comprised one side of the park, the side where I had entered. I'd left the ruins there, a reminder of things gone wrong, a past which would not, could not be repeated.
The flapping tarp caught my eye again. Around me, the city began to awaken; I couldn't put this off much longer. I stood and willed myself to approach the center of the park.
Passing the stone and iron and bronze statuary which lined the path, I soon stood in the open plaza. The tarp covered a statue just four feet tall. I drew in a deep breath. My hand reached out for a corner of the tarp. Before I could think twice, I pulled the plastic from the statue.
My heart nearly stopped in my chest. No ordinary statue this. The sculptor had used materials native only to Antar. The metal swirled with colors giving the piece a life of its own. But that only added to the beauty of the form.
The statue was a woman. She was on her knees, arms uplifted, head bowed. Each hand held a sphere. One swirled in greens and blues; the other was muted, brown with hints of green and blue. Earth and Antar. A fall of hair covered her face, but I knew her.
Liz Parker. The woman who had sacrificed herself so we could go home. We've never been back; never known exactly what happened after we left. I liked to believe that the others got her to the hospital. That she and Maria and Alex and Kyle lived long full lives.
I started when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I knew without turning it was Michael. I knew he too wanted to believe that she had survived our leaving. Other arms snaked around my waist. Isabel and Tess pressed themselves to my sides.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stared at the statue before us. I knew the others shared my pain. The ceremony today would be a bittersweet one for us, for the Royal Four. The people of Antar and her sister planets honored the person who brought us home. We mourned the loss of a friend, a lover, a hero.
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