Authors note:  Quick note for anyone reading my other series, the Great Alliance Sagas.  This story, The Cell Block, is an offshoot/alternate timeline to that series.  It has the same characters and ideas as the Great Alliance series, but the timeline is different, so don't try and mix the two or it wont fit hehe.  Anyhoo, no I don't own Shadow Raiders or id be making season 5 by now, but I own original characters: Crystal, Shard, Ash, Tibia, Jaren, Vorellus, Marcus. Anthony, Tay'n, and a few others that will surface throughout the story.  The main characters are still the core SR cast, with my characters filling in some of the gaps that the show never went into.  Thanks for reading, and reviews are always appreciated.

The Cell Block

Chapter 1:  Changes

            It had been a year since the Beast Planet was teleported into unknown space by the sacrifice of the Prison Planet.  Now, new threats to the Alliance were starting to develop.  These threats, however, did not come from some distant and outside evil force such as the Beast Planet was, but instead they existed in a much more dangerous form.  They moved about in secrecy among the Alliance, trying to destroy it from the inside out.  As the people of the Prison Planet colony began to reintegrate into the society of the Alliance, they brought with them their own ideas on how the people should live.  They had existed with the races side by side for generations.  Children had been born and raised on the Prison colony, and they knew no other way of life.  The bigotry and split between the races that still thrived even under the Alliance Treaty drove them to seek places of refuge.  They found refuge on Epsilon, a deserted planet on the southern rim of the Alliance cluster, and on this planet they built a place for all to come who shared their view of unity.  In memory of their lost world, they named it The Cell Block.

            All were welcome in this bar, this club, this gathering place for those that shared their view.  All were welcome, as long as authority and race differences were left outside the door.  No crown, or badge, or planet of origin held any meaning in The Cell.  You simply were who you were, and you could be whomever you wanted to be.  As word of The Cell Block's existence reached the Alliance planets, many flocked to its refuge out of shared ideals or pure curiosity.  But with every new stage of cultural evolution there lies the possibility for revolt. 

            It was this possibility that began to seep its way into the Alliance as those who struggled to hold onto the ways of the past banded together.  They wished to stop or at least slow down this change in the world around them.  It angered them, it shocked them, and it frightened them.  Alliance with the other races for trade and mutual benefit was one thing, treating each other like brothers or forming relationships was simply unfathomable.  These factions, each seeking to keep his own race separate from the others, eventually stopped discussing the problem they found in those around them.  They began to take action.  If the world around them was meant to change, then it would weather or not they interfered.  If it was not meant to be, as they of these factions believed,  then they would do anything to stop it. 

Even if it meant the fall of the Alliance.

*****

            The Lady Zera sat in her bed chamber's window seat, looking out onto the morning light as it broke over the Freeznor mountains.  She sighed happily in the serenity of the sight, her daydreams carrying her far from the room she was in.  She had endured much in such a short time, but it seemed that things were beginning to look positive for a change.  The resource wars were over.  The Beast was gone, at least for now.  She had built up friendships and been to so many new worlds, something a princess in her mother's time could only have dreamed about.  She had survived her time of change, painful as it had been, and now stood tall and elegant in her graceful and strong body.  Finally looking her age of sixteen and on the verge of womanhood.  It had indeed been a long childhood, but it was fading into the distance.  The pain was gone, the fear of the Beast was gone, and she had so much to look forward to.  It was indeed a beautiful morning. 

"My Lady."  Crystal, Zera's personal attendant and trusted friend, stepped up quietly.  Her own figure was much thinner and taller, her face plain but beautiful in its own soft spoken way.  Only Zera knew the true strength and wisdom that Crystal possessed, and Cryos had done well in choosing her. 

Zera turned and smiled up at Crystal before turning her eyes back to the view from her window.

"It's a beautiful morning, is it not?"

"Indeed it is, my Lady."  Crystal smiled at looked at the sunrise.  "Your father wanted to know if you would be joining him for the Alliance meeting on the Fire Moon this afternoon." 

"Oh yes, I had forgotten about that."  Zera lied. It was all that had consumed her thoughts for the past week.  It had been three months since she had seen the Prince of Fire, Pyrus.  Try as she might, should could not stop her heart from lingering on the memories of his eyes, his smile, the possibility of his embrace.  A small flush made its way onto her frosted cheeks and she forced a laugh back down into her throat.  Zera understood that Crystal knew of her feelings for the young Prince, but still it seemed almost taboo to talk about such a thing.  She sighed.  Such a thing that could never be.

"Very well, I will inform him."  Crystal bowed and turned to leave her Lady in her own thoughts. 

"Crystal, can you set out the blue dress for me to wear?"  Zera turned to her attendant, smirking at the look Crystal gave her.  The blue dress she spoke of was her best piece of clothing, its light and clingy material perfectly tailored to show the best points of her new figure.  When Pyrus had first seen Zera in her new form, she had blushed as his eyes wandered up the length of her long legs, stopping suddenly as they reached her chest.  She had turned her face away, refusing to let him know that she had noticed the look, knowing that to embarrass him in such a manner would have only made him angry.  He had not been the only one who had taken several glances in an attempt to get used to the way her body now looked.  She was no longer the oddly proportioned and short child.  She was now a perfect reflection of what her mother had been.  If Pyrus had been shocked the first time, the way she looked in the blue dress was certain to cause him to take a second glance.  Her face reddened at the realization of how much she wanted him to look at her that way.  If it was out of pure surprise or for a more forbidden reason, she had yet to figure out. 

"As you wish."  Crystal smiled softly, knowing what direction Zera's thoughts were going by the deepening blush on her cheeks.  Such a dangerous game, but Crystal was loyal.  No matter what her personal feelings were on the matter, she would do as Zera wished and would support her through anything.  It was her duty, as both the Drach'Mar Nich and as a friend.

"Thank you."  Zera watched Crystal leave the room in her slow and floating walk before turning back around to view the last of the sunrise. 

***

            A deep sigh of exhaustion escaped Pyrus's lungs.  He hated it when it was his turn to host the Alliance meeting.  So many little details and preparations on top of the daily duties he had as regent to his people.  Sign this, budget that, order this, pardon that.  It used to be the job of Vassier to take care of such things, but now it was his.  Despite how hard he tried to keep a grip on the freedom and fun of being a teenager, his days of relaxation were slowly becoming non-existent.  Soon he would be officially crowned King.  Then relaxation would be out of the question.  Another sigh escaped him as he thought on that.  It all seemed too soon, too fast.  Despite always putting on his disguise of the kid would could be King, truthfully he missed just being able to be himself.  Surrounded by adults, he found only a few times in which he was able to fulfill that desire.  It seemed that the only time he was allowed to act his age was when he was around someone else who was willing to do the same.  Then, without meaning to, his thoughts fell to Zera.  A laugh replaced the sigh of boredom.  No matter what,  that frost queen had always managed to break his show of authority.  It was almost as if she enjoyed doing it, making him act his age. 

"Something amuses you, my Lord."  Captain Blaze stood in front of  Pyrus with a data pad in his hand.  They had been reviewing security arrangements for the meeting before Pyrus's mind had wandered. 

"Oh, no."  Pyrus cleared his throat and brought his attention back to Blaze.  "I'm sure whatever you have arranged will be fine."

"Of course, my Prince."  Blaze bowed.  "I thank you for your confidence.  I will go and oversee the matter personally." 

"Very well."  Pyrus nodded and watched Blaze leave the room.  When he was finally alone again, he let out a deep breath and shook his head.  He had to stop doing that.  Not listening to Captain Blaze repeat the same security procedure a dozen times was one thing, but letting his mind constantly wander off into to thoughts of Zera was dangerous.  It was going to get him into trouble.   He turned his eyes out to the distant horizon of the flat moon surface, longing to be looking out over the lava filled rivers that used to be outside of this window.  Tapping his fingers subconsciously in a nervous click, he found himself torn about the meeting today.  Part of him wished that Zera would stay home, and part of him missed seeing her.  It had been a while.  Too long.  By the Inferno how he missed….He blinked and slumped his shoulders.  He really had to stop doing that.  It was taboo, it was forbidden, it was impossible, and that's probably why he found his desire for it growing.  Running his hand over his face and through his flamed hair, he turned back to one of the reports on his desk.  Anything to keep his mind from wandering back to things that it shouldn't.

"Report 21B:  Supply request from planet Ice."  Pyrus rolled his eyes and tossed the report back down.  This wasn't going to be as easy as he thought. 

***

"Good morning, my Queen."  Graveheart stood in Jade's council chamber and smiled as she turned to face him.  

With a hand firmly placed on her hip, Jade strode over and gave Graveheart a kiss on his check.  She smiled dangerously at him "It could be." 

Graveheart cleared his throat and grinned sheepishly at the comment.  Then he remembered why he had come.  This time, it had been more than a personal visit. 

"There has been another attack on planet Epsilon."

"I'm getting sick of hearing that news."  Jade frowned and crossed her arms, angry at having her good morning being ruined. 

"Still not serious damage."  Graveheart continued.  "Just a few ships in their hanger bay will need to be repaired.  Who ever is doing this, still hasn't left us any clues, but they do seem to be getting braver."

"As brave as any coward who hides behind such terrorist acts can be."  Jade huffed.  "I cant say that I'm surprised, though.  The people on Epsilon must have known something like this would happen."

"Sadly, yes."  Graveheart nodded.  "But its not going to detour them.  They have just as much right to their way of life as any of us."

"I agree."  Jade sighed.  "But as their way of life begins to drift even deeper into the Alliance, I know that their troubles will only get worse.  I just don't want the trouble to spread to Rock.  The last thing I need is vigilantes bombing the marketplace."

"I know.  We'll just have to hope it doesn't come to that."

"Somehow, I don't think we can stop it."  Jade leaned on her windowsill to look at the city below her.   "I have the feeling that its already to late."

*****

            Secluded in his office in the Ice palace, Council Shard read the report of the bombing on Epsilon with deep interest.  It had only damaged a few ships, nothing more.  A dark grimace crossed his lips.  He was highly disappointed.  It seemed his funding and supplies were being wasted on petty accomplishments.  How was the faction supposed to detour the people of Epsilon by damaging a few ships?  As soon as he had the chance, he was going to have a little chat with their leader.  He hated having to talk with Vorellus.  It put him in a difficult and dangerous position.  If anyone were to see it, or hear it, he could loose everything.  And without his support and the finance and supplies he had access too by being the palace Councilor, the Ice faction would crumble.  All of there months of planning would be for nothing.  Vorellus was truly trying Shard's patience.  With another scornful glare, Shard tossed the report aside and rose from his desk.   For the moment, he had palace matters to attend to.  He would deal with Vorellus, and with the problem of Epsilon, later.

****