The Let's Play Archive

Phantasy Star

by Thuryl

Part 1: Nero

Chapter 1: Nero

My name is Alis Landale. I'm 15 years old, I grew up with my foster father and brother in Camineet, and if I'm lucky, one day I'll commit regicide. If I'm not, then I at least want someone to know why I tried.

This is Palma, my home planet. From a distance, it's beautiful. My earliest memory is seeing it from space as the shuttle from Motavia took me here. I remember the planet just kept getting bigger as the shuttle got closer, and I couldn't understand how anything could be so vast. I guess I still can't.

This is Camineet. It was my home once. It hasn't felt like one since Dad disappeared last year. My brother Nero told me that Dad had been asking too many questions about why the spaceport had been closed to civilians, and King Lassic's robot cops took him away in the night. I slept through the whole thing, but Nero saw it all. I started staying up late at night after that. Nero always used to scold me for that. I think he understood why I did it, though.

After all, Nero found his own ways of dealing with what happened. Two weeks after Dad disappeared, he applied for a job at the spaceport. He never told me much about his work, but sometimes when he came home I saw him take out a piece of paper or a disk that he'd been hiding under his clothing. I wish he'd trusted me and told me what kind of information he'd been collecting, but maybe I should be glad for my own sake that he didn't.

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I saw a robot cop holding Nero by the collar of his shirt in the middle of Camineet's main street. I was too far away to hear all the details, but the cop was asking him questions -- wanting to know how long he'd been stealing classified documents, how much he knew, what he planned to do with the information.

Nero wasn't answering. I think he knew that nothing he could say would bring him any leniency. Instead, he was shouting to anyone who would listen, hoping to get his message out to anyone who wasn't already too numb or too terrified to act. "Why do you think we can't use the spaceport any more? Why have the roads been closed off? Why have there been so many monsters outside of town lately? Lassic is trying to divide us! That's the only way he can keep us down! Don't let him set you against each other! If we unite, we can--"

That's when the cop pulled out a blaster and shot my brother in the chest.

When I saw the pool of blood spreading out from Nero's body, I knew that he was dying. The cop's "lesson" wasn't for Nero. It was for us.

With the last of his strength, Nero rolled onto his back and looked into my eyes. I'll never forget that look. It was as if he was taking all his hopes, all his dreams for a better future without Lassic, and putting them into me.

I held on to my brother's body for as long as I could before the cops dragged it away. If they noticed the short sword I'd taken from Nero's belt, they didn't care. Why would they? It hadn't done Nero any good.

I couldn't let him down. I couldn't cry, or despair, or ask what we had done to deserve this. Not now. There was too much work to do.

I didn't know how I could get to Lassic's castle, or how I could hope to fight him once I was there. But I had to start somewhere, and it seemed best to start at our-- at my house. Whatever information Nero had collected, he must have been keeping it there.

It was empty. Completely empty. In the half hour since I was last there, all the furniture had been removed and the floor tiles had been torn up in search of hiding places. Lassic's robot cops were nothing if not efficient.

I didn't know much about travelling; in fact, I hadn't been outside of the Camineet residential area since I first went to Palma. But I knew that if I was going on a journey, I needed supplies, and to get supplies I needed money. There was a street full of abandoned warehouses in a corner of town, victims of Lassic's punitive taxes on any business not owned by himself. Maybe someone had left something in there. It seemed like a long shot, but what else could I do?

My search paid off. A small box sat in a corner of one warehouse, the lid rusted shut with age and neglect. I pried it open with Nero's sword.

The box was filled to the brim with bank notes! My excitement turned quickly to disappointment when I saw the face of King Aures, Lassic's predecessor, printed on every one of them.

Inflation had run rampant since the roads closed and the monsters came. Whenever anyone complained about trade being cut off, Lassic printed more money and sent it to us, even though most traders were no longer willing to risk their lives travelling between towns for any price. At the time, we all assumed Lassic was incompetent; after what had happened to my family, I was sure he knew exactly what he was doing.

At any rate, money from before Lassic's time was all but worthless now. I'd be lucky if I could get 50 mesetas for all these notes. Still, it was better than nothing.

I had money now, but I still needed information. Where could I find this Odin that Nero had spoken of? With nothing left for me at home, I thought of Nero's friend Nekise. Nero often used to visit his house after work, and sometimes he'd be there for hours before coming home. I could only hope Lassic's cops hadn't gotten to Nekise too.

I was relieved to find Nekise alive and well. He'd already heard the news of Nero's death, and he seemed to understand why I wanted to finish what Nero had started. Better still, Nero had talked to him about Odin.

Nekise handed me a small metal urn with a faint greenish lustre, given to him by Nero for safe keeping. I recognised it as made of solid Laconia! How did Nero get a pot made of the strongest and most precious metal in all the Algo star system? It was amazing, and more amazing still that Nekise had managed to keep it concealed for this long. Soon after the monsters started appearing outside of town, Lassic had passed a law requiring all Laconia owned by civilians to be confiscated to build more robot cops. Nekise had taken a huge risk by keeping the pot in his house.

"Nekise... you've already done more for me than I could have hoped for. Please, take care of yourself. If I come back here alive, I want to see you still here as well. I don't want you to... I don't want what happened to Nero to happen to you."

Nekise just smiled. "Don't worry about me, Alis. You're the one who's taking all the risks here. Now promise me you'll come back alive."

I didn't want to die, but I wasn't so much of a fool that I didn't know how poor my chances were. I shook my head. "I won't make a promise I can't keep."

Nekise's smile didn't falter even for a moment. "Then at least visit me every once in a while if you do survive. Goodbye for now, Alis."

I wanted to tell him that he shouldn't expect to see me again, but couldn't bring myself to say it. In the end I just stared at him awkwardly for a few seconds, waved a halfhearted goodbye and walked out.

There was one more person I needed to say goodbye to before I left Camineet for the first and probably the last time in my life.

Suelo had been like a mother to me. After Dad disappeared, she visited every day to check on Nero and me, and once a week she'd bring a tray of freshly-baked cookies. She must have been the last person in Camineet who still actually cooked instead of buying pre-processed food.

It must have broken her heart to know that I was leaving, but she didn't let it show. We reminisced about old times for a while, but I excused myself after a few minutes; if I stayed too long, I didn't think I could ever work up the will to leave. I kissed Suelo goodbye and headed to the Camineet armory.

I was tempted to sell the pot, but there was no way I could get a fair price for it in Camineet. People here just weren't that rich. Besides, the pot and my sword were all I had left to remind me of Nero. I'd like to hold on to them for at least a little longer.

No. No, I don't. But I have to.

The only shield I could afford was an old piece of leather stretched across a wooden frame: barely adequate for defending myself against monsters, and entirely useless for defending myself against a robot cop if it came to that.

I stared at the road to the spaceport, hoping to somehow glean some vital piece of information from it or maybe just find an excuse to delay my departure, until the cops told me to move on. Off to Scion, then; if Odin was there, maybe there was something he could do to help.

Camineet's drinking water had been cut off a month ago, based on some vague fear that rebels were plotting to contaminate it. We were completely dependent on shops (owned by Lassic, of course) for food and drink. I bought a large cup of cola for an exorbitant price; Scion was a long walk away, and I needed what little sustenance I could afford.

As I walked toward the exit from town, the local church caught my eye. I'd never been a particularly religious person, but I knew that right now I was in serious need of a miracle.

"You... you can do that?"

"Well, yes, of course I'm alive. It's my brother, Nero..."

The priest shook his head sadly. "Without his body, there's nothing I can do for him. Besides, he's a convicted spy and traitor; I can't risk angering Lassic."

I was enraged. Were Nekise and Suelo the only people in Camineet willing to lift a finger to stop Lassic? I stormed out without saying another word.

Well, this was it. No more detours and no more stalling. My journey was about to begin. The robot cops standing by the exit looked down at me as I approached.

I don't hope to die, but I can't go on living like this. Fortunately, the guards made no move to stop me as I left; it seemed they were content to let me get myself killed outside.

I stepped into the transit elevator and out into the fresh air. The sunlight, unfiltered by the protective dome over Camineet, was almost blinding at first, and long grass and flowers tickled my legs. I sat down in the grass and cried, overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings and the weight of today's events. How could such a beautiful planet let itself be ruled by a monster like Lassic?

Soon the answer came to me, an answer I had known all along. He ruled us because we let him. And I wasn't going to let him rule me any more. If he wanted to kill me, he was free to try, but he'd never control me again. That was what Nero had been trying to tell us: if only we all rose up against Lassic together, no power in Algo could stop us. He couldn't kill us all or he'd have nobody left to do his bidding. Maybe one day, the people of Camineet would understand that. For now, I had to do what I could on my own.

With a renewed sense of purpose, I wiped the tears from my eyes and strode out in the direction of Scion.

For all my newfound confidence, though, being attacked by carnivorous flies the size of large dogs gave me second thoughts about my mission.