|Before he poisoned his father's wine, Rian Kaladorn worked diligently to charm the panties off of Aaliyah, the stunningly beautiful daughter of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They spent the cocktail reception on the open-air verandah of her father's mansion discussing literature, art, and philosophy. Rian had the best education money could buy, and had travelled to the far corners of the galaxy along the way. It was rare to find a woman intelligent, or worldly enough, to hold his attention for long. The longer they talked, the more captivated he became. It motivated him that much more to add her to his list of conquests.
Rian and his father, Damron, had been invited to this lavish dinner by the president in an attempt at negotiation. Rian's father, being the ruling leader of the New Earth settlement on Mars, was frequently the guest of honor at dinners such as these. He often took his only son with him to prepare him for the day that he would assume the title. Rian was bred to rule, and groomed to carry the demeanor of royalty. Now, at nineteen, he was both ready and willing to steal his father's job.
Damron was a billionaire as well as a tech savant. As history would later report, he was also a sociopathic tyrant. When it became clear that humans had at most fifty years in which to survive on the planet they had for so long treated as a garbage bin, Damron heroically came to the rescue and developed the technology which would make it possible for the species to relocate. He made his way to inter-planetary politics under the premise of a desire to serve. The despicable truth was he wanted complete control over who got a ticket to Mars, and who didn't.
As of that evening, the majority of the people of Congo were restricted from leaving the planet on the grounds that they had "insufficient social resources" to contribute to the settlement. The physical and political climate had grown more unstable and violent in Congo, and the president was attempting to gain passage off world for as many innocent people as possible. He would soon find his efforts to be in vain, after his father's death, Rian wasn't planning on giving passage to any more Congolese when he assumed power.
Rian leaned, arm draped casually on the ledge of the verandah. Aaliyah was tiny compared to his athletic 6’4’’ frame. When she tilted her chin to meet his gaze, he knew she was his. His hazel eyes twinkled as if he was overjoyed just to be with her. They were the eyes of someone in love. The truth was; behind that twinkle, Rian wasn’t capable of emotions like love.
"Your dress is amazing, my dear..." he whispered in Aaliyah's lovely, bejeweled ear. "I would respectfully offer my opinion, however, that your naked body would put the beauty of that dress to shame."
Her laugh harmonized with the tinkling of the crystal champagne glasses inside. She tossed her long, midnight hair over her shoulder, revealing delicate mocha collarbones. Rian chuckled quietly then pulled in a frustrated breath through his perfect teeth. The action made a hissing sound. "You really should stop flirting with me, you're far too delicious to resist for much longer." Her heavily lashed, deep black eyes met his. "Well maybe we will need to excuse ourselves from dinner a little early tonight." She said as she made her way to the dining hall, with a seductive smile over her shoulder.
Rian sat next to his father at the table, discussing business with the Congolese president and his advisors. In the midst of the third course, Pater Damron Kaladorn excused himself from the dinner table. "Apologies, Mr. President. I'm not feeling well." He said as he rose from the table. Rian feigned concern, "I do hope you feel better quickly, father."
While his father died violently and painfully in his suite that evening, foaming at the mouth and losing control of his bodily functions, Rian luxuriated in the princess's overstuffed feather bed.
"Why don't you come with me to the colonies for a while?" He said, stroking Aaliyah's silky leg draped across his abdomen. "I'll take you to that exhibit I told you about, I'll make sure the artist is there so you can meet her. You'll love her." Rian knew it would be a while before he could make good on this offer, if ever. He would have his hands full inheriting his father’s position. Still, it sounded good.
She propped herself onto her elbow and searched his eyes. "Surely you know part of the reason I brought you here was to speak to you about the emigration status of my people," She said. "You can't really believe that I have no concern for their future nor any compassion for their present suffering."
Rian was amused upon realizing it was he who'd been charmed out of his panties. "You know you can't save them all, darling." He replied lazily, absently stroking his tanned, muscular belly. "The people of your country who can contribute to the new colonies will be given passage just like everyone else on this planet."
Her eyes flashed with anger. The sudden rush of emotion aroused him. "It is not for you or I or anyone else on this failing rock to decide who "can contribute" and who cannot. Take care, you are not free from judgement either." She sat up on the side of the bed and slid a cream colored silk robe hanging on the bedpost across her shoulders. She tied the sash and stood, arms crossed, gazing out of her open window.
"I'm curious..." She said, turning to face him. "How is it that you can afford to be so flippant?" She leaned against the windowsill. "You will be in a position someday to make life and death decisions for millions of people. They'll be counting on you to be fair and compassionate, do you think you're able to hold a title such as that?"
"I've seen a lot of the galaxy." Rian sighed, sitting up in the bed. "I'm not flippant, I'm realistic. I know how civilizations rise and fall. I know how populations eventually eat themselves out of a home. I know how to balance those best and worst qualities and make them work in harmony for the greater good." He smiled a winning smile and patted the space next to him on the bed.
"Now why don't you come back to bed and let me worry about how to govern. It's getting cold in here without you."
"I'm sure it is." She said with a smirk, crossing the room toward him. "You seem to know a lot about everything, I'm sure you know how to show yourself out of my room."
Rian rolled his eyes and gathered his things. "You'll change your mind in the morning." He said as he dressed. She followed him to the door. "You know you can't resist me." He laughed and took her hands in his. She laughed with him as she pushed him playfully out the door and watched him saunter down the hall to his rooms.
"Rian..." She called after him, and he turned, waiting expectantly for her to invite him back. "I hope you have someone in your life who cares enough for you to teach you compassion."
Rian lay in his bed awake for the rest of the night, Aaliyah's words echoing in his mind. The one person in his life who fit that description was long since dead.
As a boy, Rian watched the unfolding of his father's work, unaware of the social ramifications it had upon the populous. He was sheltered and naive to the ways of man's darker impulses to obtain power and money. He assumed everyone had everything they wanted, as he did.
He didn't notice when groups of people were covertly classified as either "remnants" or "travelers". With the help of his backers, his father had devised a system to establish "social credit" with the purpose of determining who was worthy of relocation, and who would have to stay behind as Earth slowly crumbled into an uninhabitable wasteland.
By the time his father was regularly rounding up dissidents and having them exterminated for speaking out against the Kaladorn regime, Rian was old enough to understand the legacy he would inherit. It would take another decade until the realization that he had also inherited a deep-seated and profound chronic depression from his father.
If his father was the darkness, his mother, was the light in his young life. Rian's memories of his childhood with his mother were filled with laughter and warmth. He remembered when she read to him every night, kissing his forehead tenderly as she tucked him in. She taught him how to paint, as art was deliberately left out of Rian's scholastic curriculum. She cultivated within him an appreciation of nature, and love for the living things dependent upon it.
She died in a car accident when Rian was ten years old, an event from which he would never fully recover. When he attempted suicide for the third time at twelve years old, he was sent away to be "healed". His father wanted nothing to do with a mentally ill child, and Rian's fragile mental state had become somewhat of a dirty family secret.
Later, as an adult, Rian learned from his father's confidantes (in a strategic effort to plant the seeds of disloyalty) that her death was suspected to be planned. "We can't prove your father's involvement directly," They would council him. "But your mother was the first person to challenge his method of governance."
The morning after Rian's tryst with the lovely first daughter, his father’s lifeless body was discovered in the gold-plated bathroom adjacent to his quarters. Rian rehearsed his speech of mourning. He had already crafted his official statement condemning the Republic of Congo's President for the murder of his father and his thanks to the global tribunal for the president's swift execution.
Framing Congo's president for the assassination of his father would not only put Rian Kaladorn in power but would eliminate the escalating conflict between the governments. Once the president was dead, the regime poised to assume power was loyal to the Kaladorns, largely because they had bankrolled the regime's uprising. The hardest part of the whole ordeal would be pretending to be an adoring son grieving the death of his beloved father.
In the weeks following his transition to ruler of the New Earth settlements, Rian followed the political climate in Congo closely. It wasn't until he saw Aaliyah on the news, handcuffed and battered as she was stuffed into a military vehicle, that the levity of his actions hit home. He spent the following days watching obsessively, waiting for any more news on her fate, but no more was broadcast. He was too cowardly to use his contacts to attempt her rescue. He knew that any sign of weakness would provide his enemies with a veritable invitation to overthrow him, and would most certainly mean her death, if she hadn't been already executed.