Altered: An Adhara Space Station Story Part 2

in fiction •  2 years ago 

continued from here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@elfleda/altered-an-adhara-space-station-story

Part Two

Prince strode into the room his narrow shoulders thrown back, a haughty look on his grey face as he glanced around at the four women who were waiting for him in silence. The Gondorian showed no particular regard for any of them but no sooner had his eyes focused on Admiral Hag then his face soured and he set his hands akimbo marching up to her angrily. “What is the meaning of this Admiral? I was in my studio creating the most magnificent clothing collection the Alliance will ever see, when this person…” he said flaring his nostrils as he gestured vaguely in the direction of his cousin Zircon “...interrupted my genius and DEMANDED that I accompany him here at once.”

Prince Portrait-005.jpg

Admiral Hag stood up from the plush sofa upon which she had seated herself, “We have asked you here because this individual refused to co-operate until we did so.” She explained indicating Adhela who was still standing near the window where she had been when Zircon left the room.

Prince turned to look at Adhela as if noticing her for the first time. “Who is she?” he asked furrowing his brow as he peered at the unrecognisable young woman Adhela had become. “Is she one of Meowdard’s models? She’s certainly ugly enough to be one.” Prince smiled slyly to himself. He hated Antonio Meowdard, a fellow designer and his worse enemy.

Commander Zircon groaned inwardly. So many things were going so wrong so fast. He could see that both the Captain and the Admiral were barely managing to hide their amusement whilst Computant merely looked bemused and Adhela was clearly mortified by the insult.

“Are you sure that you don’t recognise her?” Roxy asked, managing at last to pull herself together. “This criminal claims that you are the cause for her crime.”
Prince’s eyes flared open in shock and he subconsciously took a step back. “Me?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, you.” Roxy said nonchalantly. “Are you familiar with the Princess Adhela of Hapi?”
Prince nodded his head quickly, “Of course, Adhela is my best patron. She is a woman of style and fashion with impeccable taste.”

“And are you involved in a romantic relationship with the Princess?” Roxy asked, a malicious look flicking across her face.

“Yes he is!” Adhela cut in before Prince had a chance to speak. “He is in love with the princess and she with him.”

All eyes focused on Prince watching him closely for a reaction. He obliged immediately with anger. “Just who is this woman?” he demanded, glaring at Adhela. “How dare you make false accusations against me? I have never been in love with Princess Adhela. I admire her as a patron and friend. For I-Am sake I’m….”

“Liar!” Adhela screeched flinging herself at Prince and clamping her hands around his neck “You do love me! You do!”

“Love you?” Prince gasped as his attackers grip tightened around his slender neck. “How can I... love you? I don’t... know you.”

Computant moved towards the struggling pair in the middle of the room. Prince was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to extricate himself from his attackers vice like grasp, whilst Adhela’s attack was becoming increasingly frenzied as her eyes rolled back in her head. “Captain we should put a stop to this.” Computant warned. “We must separate them before Prince is seriously injured.”

Roxy stopped her with a shake of her head. “No Computant, let them be. We might learn something valuable.” Computant cast a worried glance at Roxy but stepped backwards. If Prince was seriously injured or worse it would be on the Captain’s head not hers.

“Admit that you love me.” Adhela screamed, “I changed myself for you. Don’t you recognise me? It’s me, your Adhela. I’ve reversed my age so that at last we can be together.”

With a strength that belied his slender frame, Prince unclamped Adhela’s hands from around his neck and jumped several feet away from her all in what seemed to be the same movement. He scrutinised her appearance with obvious disbelief and compared it to the portrait that had somehow been slid into his hands by his cousin Zircon. “Admiral Hag, Captain Thanyu, you must believe me. I had nothing to do with this crime.” he pleaded, with a look that was wholly unfamiliar on Prince’s usually arrogant face. He knew the seriousness of breaking the law of changes and he wasn’t going to die or have his name and career ruined by anyone.

“Liar!” Adhela screeched rushing towards Prince again for a second assault. This time she was stopped in her tracks by Roxy who blocked her path with barely subdued ferocity. She was exhausted and this fiasco was irritating her more than she cared to admit. “Stop this vulgar behaviour at once.” Roxy commanded.

Adhela backed away, edging closer to the window. She looked hopelessly around the room before her eyes settled at last on Prince who was staring at her in terror. Her mouth opened and closed as if she wanted to say something but the words would not come. Prince spoke before Adhela could compose herself. “I admit that I thought of you fondly. You were one of the first well respected people to acknowledge my overwhelming talent and I was grateful for that but I never loved you in the way you’ve implied and I certainly never asked you to alter yourself for me.” Prince said slowly. “If it had been possible for me to love you, I would have loved you the way you were but the truth is I’m already married.”

“WHAT!” the listeners exclaimed in unison. Admiral Hag, Computant, Zircon and Adhela all turning to look at Roxy as if being head of security she should have known of this development. Roxy meanwhile was staring at Prince, momentarily shaken out of her tiredness by the surprise revelation.

Prince smiled to himself. His marriage, which had taken place on another space station away from the prying eyes of his family, friends and followers had been a closely guarded secret but now it would be the means by which he saved his life. People would always try to drag him down but he would rise above it all because he was so wonderfully perfect. “I see that you are surprised.” he said smugly. “Good. That is as it should be. I have married the only person who is worthy of my love. I have married Me.”

“I don’t believe you.” Adhela insisted, shaking her head in disbelief. “You’re lying because you’re afraid to be punished. You don’t need to worry. My brother won’t allow anything to happen to me and besides it’s time for this stupid, outdated law to be abolished. We can be together.”

Prince left out a long slow sigh as he walked towards Adhela, clicking his Com-D until he found what he had been looking for he handed the device to her. “Do you believe me now?” he asked as he smiled maliciously into her distraught face.

Adhela peered at the device for a moment. A fat tear rolling down her purple cheeks before a darkness spread over her face and she flung the Com-D to the floor. “Fine.” she said through gritted teeth. “If I can’t have you, no one will.” and with that she lunged forward, grabbed Prince and flung herself backwards through the open window.
Roxy was behind them in a flash, jumping from the window ledge and spreading her usually invisible black wings to their full magnificent width as she dove. Adhela and Prince were falling fast, plunging into the gardens that surrounded the main tower, they were almost half way down when she caught hold of Princes’ leg so suddenly that she accidentally wrenched him from Adhela’s grasp. There was nothing she could do but watch as Adhela hit the ground.

*

“I’m too old for this.” Admiral Hag said as she looked at puddle that was the former Princess Adhela. The amount of paperwork, diplomatic pressure and Alliance scrutiny that was about to unfold was just too much. “I’ve enjoyed my time as the commander of this facility but there’s something new and strange going on and I’ve no interest in finding out what that is.” she continued as she walked over to Roxy. “I didn’t mention this earlier but I put in my retirement papers some time ago. I got confirmation just before I came here that my request has been approved.”

Roxy nodded, she had been aware that Admiral Hag wanted to retire. She had been saying for months now that she wanted to return to her homeworld and help her daughters to raise her numerous grandchildren. “I suppose you’ll be leaving after this investigation is complete.” Roxy replied hopefully.

Admiral Hag’s face took on a peculiar look and she turned away from Roxy so as not to meet the other woman’s eyes, “No, I’m leaving in an hour.”

“But what about the investigation? You can’t leave it all up to the Captain.” Commander Zircon insisted glaring up at the Admiral. “The Hippo King will demand an explanation of his sister’s death. You were her friend, don’t you want to know what happened and how she was able to alter herself?”

“Commander Zircon, my decision is made and it is final.” Admiral Hag snapped, turning on the Gondorian. “I expected more of you than this.”

“But this is wrong.” Zircon insisted, looking at Computant for support. The android officer shrugged her shoulders. It was obvious that the Admiral was determined to get out of the situation as soon as possible and Computant for one didn’t see the point of arguing with her. “Why did you even bother to come to The Tower, if you knew you were leaving?” Zircon demanded, seeing that he would have to speak up for Captain Thanyu on his own.

Admiral Hag took a deep breath, drawing back her shoulders and pushing out her ample chest. “Commander Zircon your attitude is exactly why I want out of the service. When I was young insubordination like this would never have been tolerated. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone least of all you.”

The admiral walked over to Roxy and placed a hand softly on her shoulder. “I’m sorry to leave this all to you Roxy.” she said looking down at the Adhela puddle. “You’ll be in command of Adhara until my replacement arrives or Captain Ulf returns to duty, whichever happens first.” Before Roxy, Zircon or by some rare chance Computant could protest Admiral Hag took her leave and walked away.

Roxy looked down at the remains of Princess Adhela. Not only would she have to conduct an investigation into how the princess had been able to alter herself, an investigation that had become infinitely harder because with the death of the princess their best source of information on how she had altered herself was now gone but she would also have to undertake the enormous task of keeping the Princess’ crime and her subsequent demise from the public. On top of all of this Roxy now had to run the entire planet sized space station until whenever the Admiral’s replacement turned up or the ever elusive Captain Ulf came back from his seemingly everlasting leave.

Roxy was just pondering her bad luck when Admiral Hag stopped in her tracks and turned back towards them, “Something terrible is coming Roxy, I can feel it.” The older woman insisted seriously. She smiled at Roxy one last time and said “Be careful.” then she turned on her heels and left.

Roxy sighed, there was very little chance of her getting any sleep for the foreseeable future.

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This is a really neat story. And good on you for breaking it into separate posts for length. We Steemians have a finite ability to focus, so breaking the story into chapters really helps.

Do be careful of how much you put out in rapid succession, as there is some current discussion about "serialized fiction" being bad for the reward pool. But as long as you are posting original content that hasn't been published elsewhere (and from my brief search this hasn't) you should be okay. :-)

Thoroughly enjoyed reading! I look forward to seeing more of your work.

Thanks for the feedback and advice. As you said I broke this story up into two post due to the length of it and because my pictures (simple portraits of the characters) weren't particularly interesting or illustrative of what was happening in the story. At nearly 5000 words it just seemed too long for one post and I don't really know how people feel about reading "long" chunks of text without illustrations.

I don't intend to post any serialised fiction to Steemit. I intend to write many short stories (3000 ish words or so) all set in the same universe. They're obviously interconnected and I hope that if I get some readers who like my work they'll be able to get a feel the recurring characters but that's about as deep as I intend the serialisation to go. I do hope that this won't be problematic, my main goal for Steemit is to write fiction that people enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.

You should be more than fine. But for reference, take a look at some of the posts about the place in Steem for Fiction that have been done over the past 5-6 days. I think the dust has settled on that debate, but it is good reading for reference anyway.

Enjoy! Keep writing!

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