Later on that night, Ariana was still in that same room. It was dark and quiet, just the way she liked it. It would seem that she was alone, another thing she liked. She lay on her stomach, her head facing the wall. Her mind was racing a mile per minute. She thought about Earth, and her family, even her friends.

But her mind never left the haunting face of her mother…

She missed her so much. She didn't feel the tears streaming down her face. She didn't even know she was crying until she heard a sob—a very quiet one, but a sob, nonetheless. Ariana wasn't used to this; normally, she was the one comforting the person crying, but it was her this time, so who was she to comfort herself?

She tried hard to stop, but the harder she tried, the harder she kept going. It hurt her ego more than it did her feelings, but… She couldn't control herself. She jammed her face into a pillow to try to muffle her sobs, but she cried hysterically. Ariana squeezed the pillow tighter to her face as she sobbed harder. Her shoulders heaved, her stomach clenched, and her eyes burned. She sobbed even louder, but put the pillow to her face and held back a scream. Eventually, she stopped. Slowly but surely, she stopped and sat up. She pulled her knees to her chest and moaned.

"Mom… I miss you… so… much…"

Meanwhile, Jareth was standing in the doorway, choosing to go unnoticed. (It was an odd power he had; he could either command all attention in the room, or remain completely overlooked by everyone else in the area.) He felt a pang of guilt when she sobbed to her mother, unable to hear her.

He wondered: was the pain of leaving a loved one behind even greater than when you never knew them at all? There was no way he could find out…not without telling her every painful detail. He preferred to let others believe he had, indeed, appeared out of nowhere, a distant relative to the now-deceased royal family, their blood still running in his veins… They believed he grew up on an isolated estate, in the far north. Ha. The only people who did know the truth were sworn never to tell; in fact, he and Ianus had never spoken to anyone except each other regarding the matter.

He wanted it to remain that way, for as long as possible…

"How long have you been there?"

A bit startled, Jareth was distracted from his thoughts by Ariana's voice. "You…noticed me?"

"Yes. How long?"

He hesitated. She could see me? But…how…? "…I've been here the entire time."

There was a silence. Oh, God, now he probably thinks I'm just a crybaby who can't stand being away from her mommy… Boo-frickety-hoo…

"Um… Are you…going to be okay…?"

She covered her face with her hands. I knew it… "I…I'm…sorry…"

"For what?"

"I probably woke everybody up… You know… With all that racket…"

"Oh…" There was another moment of silence. He wanted to comfort her, but he couldn't… He'd probably only make it even worse. "…Look, there are more comfortable beds on this ship…"

She sighed. "I just need some time to think…"

"…Uh… If there's anything I can do to help… Just let me know… Okay?"

Ariana paused, then walked up to Jareth and hugged him. "You're so sweet… Nobody's ever really been that nice to me… Not outside my family…"

Jareth was surprised. Earlier, he thought she would hate him for putting her through all this, and for forcing her to leave. But this…this was a lot better. He shakily wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "Uh… Thanks, I guess…"

She pulled back a little, smiling. "No… Thank you. By the way, what did you do to those reporters back there? I mean, all you did was hold up one hand and all of them just went…quiet…"

"It's a universal sign of authority. Though one may not recognize it, a being lower than the one who uses it will instinctively respond to it."

"Wait a minute… You protected me from her!"

"…And why wouldn't I?"

"What, you think I can't handle myself?" she said jokingly. "I'm a big girl now; I can tie my own shoes, and all!" If that lady had stepped into my face with that microphone, I would've just punched her… I should've…

"Well… At the time, you seemed…er…'timid'…for lack of a better word…"

"Excuses, excuses! C'mon, you were protecting me, and you know it!"

"I have to," he said pointedly. "You're my wife, and a queen, at that. Do you have just any idea how many other races are our enemies? Once they find out you're in power, they'll just be waiting to kidnap you, or even kill you. And don't give me any of that 'I can handle myself'—you're only human."

She did a double-take. "…Hold on… Did I just hear the words 'other races,' 'our enemies,' 'waiting to kidnap' and 'KILL' me?! Look, when I agreed to the terms, you didn't tell me you had OTHER ENEMIES WHO WOULD TRY TO KILL ME!"

"I assumed you would've figured that out by now. You're a bright girl, aren't you?"

"But it seemed to me you'd be powerful enough to keep out of the range of other enemies! Do you have any idea what a truce is?!"

"As a matter of fact, we've managed to instill enough fear into our enemies that they wouldn't dare attack us. However, once they find out you're just human…"

"So, let me guess: once I get there, I'm under twenty-four-hour surveillance?"

"Not if you don't want to be."

"So…how many enemies?"

"Well, we have the Barobaro and 'Zoamelgustians' as definite enemies, and the Farakh and Vanterra are sort of on our neutral side. Sort of. Oh, and the Nasveyr used to be, as well, but…they've pretty much been taken care of."

He slightly flinched at the memory; the Royal Windaffian Scientific Institution, based in the capital city, used to have one Nasveyran for the purpose of experimentation, bred in captivity, as part of a series of experiments called Project Vanterra Synthesis, or just sYn. But, somehow, it managed to escape, slaughtering the royal family. From then on, nobody knew what became of sYn #01; it was anybody's guess, really. But it had a strange similarity to an event on Farakh that occurred two years ago…

"That's it…? No one else…right…?"

"None other that we know of. And we have at least one ally, the Qidantans."

"Good. I'm feeling better already. You had me worried there. I thought you had, like, twenty enemies or something of the sort. But five? And two of them are neutral, and another…uh…taken care of, I guess. That's a lot easier than what I thought…"

"Not if you knew them. The Barobaro are fairly easy to fend off, unless they send out an entire fleet; they're a female-dominated race, so, naturally, it makes our soldiers more hesitant to attack them. The Zoamelgustians are actually just a wandering clan of Vanterrans, albeit a large one, and we really don't know much about them; they mostly try sneak attacks, but their strategies are pretty easy to figure out. Still, they attack in incredibly large numbers—incredibly large. The Farakh and Vanterrans are somewhat unsociable, so we don't know a lot about them, either. I haven't been able to find out much about the Farakh leader, Ketsaru, either… But it seems as though he'd prefer to remain on friendly terms with us. Vanterra's government is a theocracy, run by the Order of Horus, and the Book of Sin speaks against any form of unjust battle, so no worries about them."

Ariana honestly had no idea what he was just talking about, but decided to ask later. "Um… Just wondering, but… What will the people of Windaffia think of a human as their queen…?"

"…To tell you the truth, I really don't know."

"And the selection you had on Windaffia…what were they like?"

"All the same: governor's daughters, brats raised amongst luxury, expecting to have their every whim granted in less than a second. They had no idea what reality was like; they weren't suitable for the position. Besides, they were…well…"


"…I guess so…"

"Say no more, I know exactly where you're coming from. They're all over the place on Earth." She paused. "Wait…are you saying…that I'm suitable for the throne?"

"At least more suitable than they were."

"Uh…well…the only good 'leader-like' quality I have is my sense of justice…I think…"

"Well, that's good enough. We have too much of it in some places, and far too less of it in many more. Especially up north."

Ah, the northern regions… He had no fond memories of the place. He wasn't sure if anyone did, really.

"Okay," Ariana said, pulling away and sitting down on the couch, inviting him to sit with her. He sat on the couch across from her. "What would you say is my best feature?"

There was a moment's silence. "…It's hard to choose between your kindness and your personality, altogether."

"Oh—thanks, but… I meant physically." She smiled, a tinge of red flushing her cheeks. "I was going to say your eyes and smile; but, if you want to go there, I love how mysterious and smooth-talking you are."

Never heard anybody say that before… "Er… Thanks…"

"You're welcome. How much longer do we have on this ship?"

"About another two days."

"And by 'days,' I assume you mean Earth days…"

"Yeah. The general time system on Earth isn't limited to just that planet. It's pretty much universal."

"Oh…" She looked up to the gunmetal-grey ceiling. There were no windows in this particular room. "…Jareth…?"


"…What's Windaffia like?"

He had been wondering how long it would be before she asked that question. "Very similar to Earth. There are two main polar ice caps, but we've managed to control the temperature system so there's only one main climate throughout the world; you'd probably recognize it ranging from temperate to tropical. It does tend to get freezing during the night, though; that's about the only problem we have." Environmentally…

"So… No deserts or anything?"

"No. Our species has trouble adapting; because of Windaffia's current condition, we can barely stand temperatures of over eighty degrees."

"Then how come you could stand wearing all that black in that heat, back on Earth?"

"Actually, it's not as thick as it looks. It only has about two thin layers, and that's it. It still gets unbearably hot, though…" He paused, sighing. "I've noticed some of your people wearing all black when it's hotter than that out… I nearly died just thinking about it."

"Oh, you mean those Hot Topic goths?" She laughed. "I've never tried it, myself… Not making a bust, or anything, but it seems pretty silly to me."


There was another moment's silence. Ari decided to try bringing up another topic. "So, uh… Tell me more about these other…um…"


"Yeah, that's it."

He paused, wondering where he should begin. "Well… To start with, there are six major races: Earthlings, obviously, Windaffians, Barobaro, Farakh, Qidantans, and Vanterrans."

"Wait, what's the difference between Earthlings and…uh…all those others you just listed?"

"Aside from regional origins, obviously, the only common physical difference is slight alterations in the DNA of each race. It's said to trigger our 'secondary form'—which would explain the myths of ancient Qidantan natives being able to transform into dragons—but such an occurrence is unheard of today. Earthlings, however, have no such quality in their DNA that we know of."

"Uh… Okay, I got it… I think…" She paused for a moment, attempting to absorb everything he had just told her. "Oh, but what about that other one? The… Nazveer, something like that?"

"Nasveyr? Oh…" His face fell. "They're not exactly considered a major race."

"Why not?"

"Well… Y'see… Nasveyr are essentially the same as Vanterrans, except some of them have this condition, sanguis anemia—and, of course, the vast majority of Vanterrans worship Horus rather than the other main gods. It's a really long story, but, after the Mandate of Horus, the Nasveyr quickly became a minority among their own people and fled to Earth." (Ariana didn't know what the "Mandate of Horus" was, either, but, again, she didn't ask about it, although she was a bit disturbed at the "fled to Earth" part…) "…The general thought is that they're only parasites, and with good reason. So… Nobody really cares, anymore."

"Um… Th…they live on Earth…?"

"Oh… Not anymore. Long story. Anyway…uh… Well, what else do you want to know?"

Ariana thought. "Um… So, if the Nasveyr are just a bunch of parasites, then…what'd you do to piss off the Barobaro?"


"Wait, lemme rephrase that. …Why are they your enemies?"

"Oh." Jareth hesitated, trying to remember. "I'm not really sure, but… In the late eighteenth century, there was a massive conflict called the Devereaux War. On one side were the Earthling Nasveyr, and on the other were…well…just about every other major race, including the Barobaro."

"And humans, too?"

"No, not really. In fact, Earth was one of the major battlegrounds, but the war occurred around the same time as the French Revolution, and so was inadvertently erased from the planet's memory. Anyway, after the war was over, the Barobaro discovered that one of their own—a spy named Mireille Voleur—had been acting as a double agent solely for the Farakh. Although she is regarded today by all races as one of the greatest heroes of the Devereaux War, she was disowned by the Barobaro, at the time, and they also declared us, the Farakh, and the Qidantans their immortal enemies. So that's pretty much where it all started."

"Wow… What did that woman do, though? Mireille, I mean."

"Nobody's really sure exactly what she was doing for the Farakh. She was sent out by the Barobaro to spy on the Nasveyr leader, but, though she succeeded in concealing her identity from him, she failed to intercept any of their attack plans; however, it is believed she was the one who actually killed their leader, thereby forcing the Nasveyr to surrender."

"And…a woman did all that? Cool!"

"Yeah, I guess so. But nobody's even really sure how she managed to fool the leader for so long, either; in fact, the war was later named for him—René Devereaux, better known as 'Ares.' He was pretty much regarded as one of the greatest commanders in the universe, or, probably more accurate, a reincarnation of Osiris himself, one of the last 'immortal kings' of the Nasveyr. Just like Osiris, under his rule, the Nasveyr were nearly invincible, and yet…"

"Hm. I think I can figure out how she did it."


"Well, c'mon… A guy like that has got to have some weakness somewhere; namely, in his nether-regions."

Jareth sweatdropped. "…Um…y-yeah…sure…"

Barobaro second-in-command Haadu Araki was monitoring the progress of the royal battleship, Cantei. She was still bitter over the election of the new leader—who wouldn't be?—but couldn't let it distract her. The position was rightfully hers…she had been second-in-command for over five years, and here came this greenhorn with no connections to the royal family, elected because the people felt "they needed a change." Change? Ha! The political system among the Barobaro had remained the same for centuries, and nothing had needed change. It was perfect. Citizens worked in harmony; they got along fairly well with other races…

Well…the male species was, perhaps, a bit repressed…

But who cared? Even human females all knew the same thing: men were irresponsible, lazy, self-centered, and generally good only for breeding and pleasure, usually both at the same time. Even then, scientists on both Barobaro and Earth were making new breakthroughs so that both males and intercourse were totally unnecessary for the survival of a species. Stimulation could already be found elsewhere.

She supposed equality could be a nice thing, if given the chance… But she didn't want Barobaro turning into another example of Earth, where women were forced to work for respect, were forced to deal with perverted old men who would promote them to a higher level only if they could get their hands up their dresses. It was disgusting.

And now, the new leader was hoping to "change things for the better." Better? Right. She often contemplated killing her commander and invading Earth; the way so few women actually stood up for themselves greatly annoyed her. She knew it was a mere result of hundreds of years of being repressed by men, designed to be pretty little creatures for "display only." Ugh.

She heard a small beeping noise from her belt. Commander Lykaar was making a transmission. Haadu quickly clicked open the small device, similar to an Earthling cell phone. "Yes, leader?" She filled the word with such hatred and spite, it would've made any other person recoil. But not the commander. "…New coordinates? I thought the plans were to try and make an alliance with the Farakh." At least, that had been the plans of the former leader. She was a fool to think they would remain the same. "…I see… Whoa, wait a minute, Windaffia?!"

Are you insane?! she wanted to scream, but restrained herself. What kind of an idiot would want to invade Windaffia, of all places?! True, it was a planet of high value—not nearly as much of a complete paradise as Qidanta, the rumors told, but with a stable economy, a plethora of resources, and an ideal spot for a military base—but Windaffians were known over the universe for their ruthlessness, their incredible skills in battle, the sheer size of their army…one would have to be daft to even attempt to conquer it and hope to live.

But there was more, she soon discovered. "…Wait…the army isn't there? What do you mean? …A 'special mission to Earth?' What in the fifth moon are you going on about? …So, let me get this straight: the king's fleet won't return for three more days, and if we manage to intercept their ship before then, we can hold them hostage in order to conquer Windaffia. That's your master plan?" Affirmative. But…just because the royal army isn't there doesn't mean they're completely defenseless…this is just plain crazy! "Commander, I highly suggest—"

Before she could finish, something else came to her. This was the perfect opportunity for her to take her rightful place as the leader. If the invasion failed, she had the authority to order the entire fleet to retreat back to Barobaro, yet leave the leader, who would most likely die, leaving no chance of a "miraculous return." Haadu could easily come up with a plausible cover-up, explaining her leader's brave and noble death upon the claws of a secondary-form Windaffian. It was perfect.

"Yes…yes, commander, it's a wonderful plan. I'll set the coordinates to Windaffia immediately."

A few hours passed. Ariana had managed to fall asleep, but it didn't stay that way for long. She didn't really know why; it was probably either the fact you couldn't really tell the difference between night and day up here without a clock, or she still hadn't gotten used to the ship. She sat up, yawning. On the surface, it really did look and fly like any normal freakin'-huge-sized commercial jet, but then you could eventually start to feel even the slightest tremble as it glided effortlessly through space—you could hear the low, menacing growl of the engine. It was strangely soothing, and disturbing at the same time.

She couldn't help but think: This isn't right, an alien ship with technology far more advanced than ours shouldn't be making noises like this, I swear this thing's gonna fall apart any second; how fast are we going, anyway?! Probably too fast for it to handle, it's probably too old to be flying, they probably wouldn't know the difference, anyway, I HATE THIS SHIP…

She glanced over to see Jareth, asleep on the couch across from her. He didn't appear to mind the subtle clamor the ship was making; most likely, he was used to it by now. He looked rather peaceful…his hair tousled, his lips just slightly parted, his chest rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern… He was just so…so…cute. There was just no other way to put it, really. How could I have ever thought he was even remotely creepy? …Well, the weird mask was probably a factor…but…

She sighed. Am I really supposed to spend the rest of my life with this guy? It just doesn't make sense… She began to do the math: since he was a king, he was most definitely born into royalty, which would give off the general stereotype he was a bratty, uptight, little rich kid. But, still… He seemed so… Honest? Genuine? How could she describe him? He wasn't a chauvinist or a womanizer, he wasn't the typical, egocentric alpha male, he didn't appear the type to beg, borrow, or steal… What was he? She could've used the word "likable," but he was more than that…

Wherever there's light, there's shadow, she reminded herself. He was a major political figure, obviously; he couldn't just be some all-around nice guy and still remain in one piece. He must've had some type of battle-scars, whether literally or metaphorically. Or maybe the rules of politics on Windaffia were slightly different than those on Earth. Maybe you could get away with being a pushover.

She didn't really know why, or what had spurred these sudden thoughts, but Ariana hoped Windaffia would be different. At least in the slightest bit.

The ship shook suddenly, a violent reverberation that nearly threw her out of her seat. She refrained from screaming, keeping her angry yells to herself. OH DEAR GOD WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE I KNEW IT THIS SHIP WAS TOO FREAKIN' OLD TO BE GOING INTO SPACE I'M GONNA DIE—!

"Are you okay?"

The sudden "turbulence" was enough to wake Jareth up. He looked irritatingly calm about the entire situation. She shook her head rapidly.

"Oh… Don't worry 'bout it; I think we're starting to enter the atmosphere… But…"

"But what?!"

"…It seems a bit odd for us to be getting back so soon…"

"What does that mean?!"

"…I'm not sure."

She couldn't help but growl slightly. "How can you be so calm about this?!"

"I'm used to it. Is that such a problem?"

"Maybe!" She got up, an indignant look on her face. "Are you sure we didn't get hit by an asteroid, or something?!"

"Absolutely sure. If we were, we'd probably be dead by now."


"Look, if it'll make you feel better, I'll go check with the pilot, all right?" He turned to leave.

"W-wait a minute! Is that safe?! Isn't there supposed to be, like, a 'please remain seated' flashy-light-thingy somewhere?!"

"…No." Jareth sighed. "Stop being so paranoid; everything's just fine."

"Easy for you to say!" He rolled his eyes, walking out. "Hmph," she growled, sitting back down on the couch. "Fine, just ignore me… What do I know about intergalactic space travel…?"

"Hey, Ianus! You in here?"

The second-in-command looked up momentarily, recognizing his leader's voice, but didn't turn to face him. "Yes, Jareth; you don't have to shout."

"Sorry." He walked into the small room that branched off from the main bridge, taking a seat next to Ianus; he appeared to be going over some paperwork. "What's that?"

"We've intercepted a message from the Barobaro stating they're going to attack Farakh." Ianus still didn't look over at him. "I would've alerted you, but you seemed to be preoccupied with your new wife."

Jareth smirked. "Nah, she's just being paranoid…" He paused. "…You don't like her, do you?"

"What ever could've possibly given you the impression I liked Earthlings in general?"

"Ha. Funny. Seriously, though, what's your problem with Earthlings?"

Ianus hesitated, then turned to him; Jareth noted a look in his pale eyes that made him seem much older than his twenty-seven years. Even though they shared the same last name, Reiker, they weren't really related. Jareth just never had one to begin with; at least, he couldn't remember it.

"Fine. You really want to know? They're simple-minded, vulgar, egotistical, and self-centered, with little regard to their own planet and a corrupt government."

"…You know, not all Earthlings are like that."

"Maybe, but most are."

"Oh, come on! It's not that bad!" He merely glared at him. "Besides that, you act as if they're the only ones with a 'corrupt government.'"

Ianus arched an eyebrow. "How can you say that? You are the king, after all…"

"Well… the last king didn't seem to handle the sYn incident very well."


"Or the issues with colony #48."

"And you think you can do any better?"

Jareth looked down. "…No. But—"

"But what? Just because you're the leader doesn't mean you can just go around setting things right like you'll never get another chance. There are other factors you have to take into consideration. Even if we do liberate colony #48, what are you going to do with them? Send them packing back to Earth, where all the trouble started in the first place?" Then he paused. "…Actually, that doesn't sound half-bad…"


"All right, I take it back, but, still, you can't solve every problem in the world. It sounds nice, but you have to look at the political side of it, too."

"Hmph… I never did like politics."

"Neither did I. But that's the way it goes." With that, he turned back to the paperwork.

But Jareth wasn't quite finished. He sat across from Ianus, resting his head on his arms and looking at him for a few minutes. Then he sighed. "Ianus…"

"What now?"

"…What happened?"

He looked up at his leader. "What do you mean?"

"You're…different now. You weren't like this before."

Ianus leaned back, an exasperated look in his eyes. "And I suppose you would rather have things be like they were before? Before all…this happened?"

"Well…yes…in a way." He glanced away for a moment, then looked back to Ianus. "…I would rather sleep where I can feel the wind on my face than spend my waking hours surrounded by liars."

Ianus hesitated, then smiled shortly. "I see you still haven't changed… Still a dreamer, as ever."

"I know…"

Suddenly, an alarm sounded. Jareth shot up, as did Ianus. "What the hell was that?!"

"I'm not sure," said Ianus hesitantly. "But… Wait, where's that girl—Ariana?"

Jareth paled. "Oh…no…!" He ran towards the door. "Ianus, stay here—!"

"No, Jareth, you stay here and I'll go. It's too dangerous."

"But Ianus—!"


He winced at his commanding tone of voice. "…Fine… Just…be careful, all right?"

"I'll be fine." With that, he bolted out the door—

But he didn't go three steps before finding a gun barrel jammed into his ribs.

"Ow!" He hissed in pain, swaying back a bit; the figure in front of him was dressed in a combat uniform. It wasn't Windaffian. Before he knew it, the entire hall was full of them. "What the hell—?!"

"Ah… Sir Ianus. Pity; you weren't the man I'd hoped to see in this type of crisis."

"Huh?" He looked over to see that another person, a woman, had made her way to the front of the crowd of soldiers. She had short, jet-black hair, cropped in a sort of boy's cut, and dark brown eyes, and was wearing what appeared to be a khaki-colored business suit with pants instead of a skirt. In fact, if it hadn't been for her chest—and her slim waist—Ianus would've thought she was a man. The Baroan crest, however, was entirely visible on her left sleeve. "You," he snarled. "Who the hell are you?!"

"Haadu Araki, second-in-command of the Baroan nation. And you, Ianus Reiker, have become our newest hostage—along with your superior."

"What?!" He whipped around; the room was empty. He cursed under his breath. How could he be so careless?

Haadu smirked. "Soldiers: you know what to do with him. Let's get this over with."