Why am I here?
He’s the one who hurt me.
Who uses people and takes advantage of innocent lives, men of justice? That’s a lie…
All of these people preach about justice and fairness to keep equality and peace within the empire, but they turn a blind eye to those below them and don’t think twice before sentencing someone to death.
They are responsible for the corruption.
So why am I taking the blame?
“Miss Alita Asmora, daughter of Lord Keith Asmora… You have been found guilty of the murder of the seventh court deity Sansora-Kel. You have also been found guilty of plotting against the good of the empire.
“Assault of any kind against a court official is reason enough for the punishment of death, though we have come to a better arrangement. Your advisor has pleaded for your banishment to the penal colony on Xanadis.
“There you will either live out the rest of your life on the hostile planet or perish in its environment. There will be no chance for you to return. Do you accept this sentence? If not, then you will be publicly executed.”
Looking up from my position in the center of the room, I could see each of the six court deities sitting before me with one empty chair between them.
The man who would replace the seventh stood in the back watching along with all of the other onlookers. My heart was starting to race, and it felt as though I might black out.
This can’t really be happening…
Looking to the side, my eyes met those of my best friend standing next to two guards fully dressed in the stark white military attire of our empire.
His green eyes held so much anger and sympathy for me, but his hands were tied. Neither of us could do anything to stop this. He only gave me a slight nod.
Exile or death…
What kind of choice is that?
Closing my eyes, I mumbled my answer as tears pricked the corners of my eyes.
This isn’t fair. I only wanted to make things better. I never killed anyone, much less plotted to go against the court, yet now here I stand before all of Krosa’s officials being called a murderer and a traitor.
“I-I accept the terms…” My voice wavered, and I couldn’t stop the stutter in my voice.
“Then by royal court order, you are hereby exiled to the planet of Xanadis for the remainder of your life cycle. Guards, take her away.”
Varin ran to my side in an instant, grabbing me by my shoulders, keeping me from falling to my knees as I stood there numbly. The two guards that had been standing by the doorway escorted us out of the room.
I was silent, not sure what to say or what to do as they walked us to my holding cell.
“Alita, everything is going to be okay.”
No matter how much I wanted to believe him, I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. Nothing about this was okay! I was being sent to a planet full of criminals, murderers and terrorists!
If that wasn’t bad enough, this place had a reputation for an extremely hostile environment. It was so deadly that the empire refused to colonize it. Instead, it was turned into a penal colony.
As we walked, we were taken back to my cell to prepare for the drop-off.
“You have ten minutes.” The guard huffed.
Varin glared at them before taking me inside. The door automatically slid closed behind us.
I hugged myself and sat down on my bed, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry to tell them they were wrong but no one would believe me…no one but Varin. His features softened as he pulled me into a hug.
“Alita, I swear to you this isn’t the end. Xanadis is just a way to buy some more time. I’ll figure out exactly what happened…I’ll prove your innocence and bring you home, I promise.” He pulled away to look at me.
“All you have to do is find somewhere safe to hide, just for a few days. I’ll figure out some way to help you out down there, but for now you need to focus and stay alive. Avoid people if you can.”
“I can’t do this. Varin, please,” I pleaded. My voice came out small and showed just how helpless I felt.
But we both knew there was nothing more that could be done. The court’s decision was the final word. I’m not a fighter not like him. I’ve always been frail and humble. It’s how I was raised.
“I’m sorry. Come on, you need to change into a bodysuit.”
He tapped the wall next to my bed, revealing a hidden drawer with fresh, clean clothes folded inside. He handed me the suit, which I took after wiping my tears with the back of my hand.
Standing up from the bed, I went to the back of the room and behind the curtain to change. Once I was done changing, I came out to see him going through the storage compartment near the mirror.
Sitting down on the bed once again, I traced my fingers across the fabric of the bodysuit. It was different from my usual attire of dresses and formal wear.
But the suit hugged my body and fit me to a tee, like it was made for me. It almost felt like I was being mocked by this simple attire.
Looking up, I noticed Varin holding a device for cutting, and I instinctively clutched my long hair.
“Alita please…your hair could get in the way…down there, anything could happen if you’re not careful. Your long hair could cause problems…”
I could feel tears pricking in my eyes again, and he sighed, setting the device aside.
“Fine…we won’t cut it, but at least let me braid it back some…”
I nodded and allowed him to sit behind me. After removing the silver circlet that had rested on my head, he carefully braided my hair, not missing a single strand.
Once he was done, I touched the braid and let it hang down over my shoulder. Something stuck out from the braid that looked like a small metal rod.
I opened my mouth to ask him, but he only shushed me. Realizing this was something I wasn’t allowed to take, I gulped. If he was caught helping me or giving me a weapon, he could be killed.
A hard bang on the door alerted us that it was time. Anxiety surged through me as I looked at Varin, panicked. He stood up and offered me his hand, and I hesitantly took it.
Leading me out of the room, Varin and the guards took me to a small ship designed for drop-offs.
It was designed for travel at high speeds between deep-space stations and the atmospheres of planets, it would only take a short amount of time before we arrived at the planet.
Once we boarded the ship, my restraints were removed. Rubbing my wrists where the cuffs once were, I glanced around at the ship.
The cockpit was closed off from the back, and on both sides of us were escape pods locked onto the ship with hatches underneath each of them.
They didn’t seriously mean that they were going to drop me onto the planet inside one of those?!
Each pod barely had enough room for a single person to fit inside. They were better used as supply pods than escape pods. Would I even survive the fall?!
I looked over to Varin, and he seemed just as concerned as I was. This wasn’t safe. The pod could crash or malfunction during the descent, and I could be injured or killed!
This couldn’t be part of the protocol they had set up! There had to be so many violations in this setup!
As the ship took off, I sat next to Varin in one of the passenger seats, hugging his arm. Neither of us said a word the entire trip. What could we say? See ya later? Have a good trip? Try not to die?
All the possibilities of what could go wrong raced through my head. What if someone finds me when I land? What if something finds me…
I squeezed his arm tighter, terrified of the off chance that something bad would happen before he got a chance to rescue me. If soldiers couldn’t survive there, how was I supposed to?
After a few minutes, one of the guards exited the cockpit, locking the door behind him. “It’s time. We are above the planet’s atmosphere.”
Varin stood up from his seat, angry. “Above?! You’re not going to fly us down or at least enter the atmosphere to drop her?!”
“No.” The guard growled, crossing his arms over his chest. His helmet hid his face from sight, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about Varin’s attitude.
Grabbing his hand, I made Varin look at me. His features softened at the sight of me, and he pulled me into a hug. I hugged him back, closing my eyes, hoping we would see each other again soon.
The guard input a code into one of the pods, and its door slid open.
“Just survive a few days, okay? Just a few days…”
Holding back tears, I hugged him tighter. Rough hands grabbed my arm, and I was suddenly pulled away.
“Hey!” Varin shouted as a second guard stood in his way, separating us. The man who had a hold on me pushed me into the open pod harshly.
“Stop! I’m not done saying goodbye!” Varin yelled while trying to force his way past the guard. Fear took over as my heart started to race and the pod door closed.
“Alita! I’ll get you out, I promise!”
Panic filled me as the pod’s hatch shut slowly, cutting off my view of the ship’s cargo bay.
The pod was pitch-black inside, and my heart started to race as I felt around the smooth interior of the pod. I was completely blind inside of it.
“Varin!” I called out helplessly, hoping that they would stop and open the door, but there was no noise from the other side.
The inside of the pod was so dark, and I’m not sure if it was good or bad that I couldn’t see much of anything. I mean, at least I won’t have to watch as I plummeted to the planet’s surface…
Wrapping my arms around myself, I closed my eyes and waited. This was it…this was really happening…
Suddenly the pod shook as it was released from the ship and plummeted to the planet below.
It was calm for a few seconds, and it almost felt as though I was floating, but it was short-lived, and soon everything began shaking violently, and I was thrown around.
I cried, fearful that it would fall apart before I ever reached the ground. I tried grabbing onto anything I could, but I couldn’t see a thing, and the shaking just got worse and worse.
Covering my head with my arms, I squeezed my eyes shut. The descent was as agonizingly terrifying as it was short.
I was thrashed around and my head hit something hard, and I blacked out as the pod crashed into the planet known as Xanadis.
The world of monsters.
Keeping my head low, I looked around at my surroundings. There was not a soul in sight…but that didn’t mean there wasn’t something lurking nearby.
Kneeling down, I inspected the tracks imprinted in the mud and growled. These were old…
Cursing to myself, I got to my feet and continued stalking through the jungle, avoiding any potential danger. I wasn’t in the mood to fight a wild animal tonight.
The sun had gone down hours ago. The jungle was more alive than ever and just as deadly as before.
A light in the sky grabbed my attention as I stopped in my tracks and looked up.
A light came down from the sky like a falling star, illuminating the forest in a blazing light before crashing into the trees a few miles away.
Once the light faded, I grinned, my fangs glinting in the moonlight.
Now the hunt is on…
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