Lesdema carefully read through the information in the transmission. Eleutheria would be opening their planetary
shields in a few weeks in celebration of their Palingenesi Agon. After years of research into this mysterious
society, he now had a chance to visit the planet. Eleutheria was rumored to be a matriarchal society, but they
guarded their planetary space so well, no one had ever visited the planet—other than during the games they held
every ten years. He had only managed to track down a few people who had participated in previous competitions
and none of them had spent any time outside of the area where the games had taken place. And none would tell
him anything about the competitions.
He glanced again at the information on his computer screen. There was no list of events only a brief statement
that all competitors would compete in the first one and from there they would be selected to participate in others.
It seemed unusual, but it was also in keeping with a society that was very isolated and secretive.
The only things spelled out were the prizes: ten people would receive partial shares in various mining interests held
by Eleutheria, there was also mention of extended residences as well as citizenship on the planet. He wasn’t sure
he really wanted to relocate permanently, but a chance to visit the planet he had been researching for the last ten
plus years was something not to be missed.
He knew the transmission had been sent to all the worlds where humans had settled in the centuries since leaving
Earth. Competition to be selected would be fierce, but he was going to try.
The information directed those interested in participating to transmit the attached application and to gather at the
mining colony on Eleutheria’s sister planet, Themiscyria. From there, those selected would be transported to
Eleutheria. While it seemed harsh to make people come to the system before they knew for sure they would be
selected—he also understood this was one of the hoops potential participates were being asked to jump through in
order to qualify. They wanted to make sure all those who applied were serious. Lesdema completed the required
brief questionnaire, then began making arrangements for transportation to Themiscyria.
~ * ~
Ledesma stared at the well-muscled dark-skinned woman standing at the front of the hall where the remaining
applicants had gathered. They had been waiting for three days since the last of the applicants had arrived. He
glanced around and did a quick count of the those remaining. They were down to less than half the original
number. He wondered briefly what had eliminated them from consideration, but found his attention drawn back to
“Welcome to Themiscyria. Your applications have been reviewed and you have been accepted to participate in the
Games pending a medical scan. Because many of the events can be physically taxing, we require that all potential
participates undergo this screening,” she said, gesturing to a large archway.
He watched as the first person stepped under the archway and it lit up. Another screen displayed information
from the scan. The technician flagged several areas and the light of the arch turned red.
“I’m sorry, but you have failed the medical scan,” the technician said. “If you will take a seat in the room there,”
she motioned to a red door, “we will make arrangements to return you to your home planet.”
Ledesma watched as the man nodded and left the area. He lost track of time as he waited his turn and watched as
a large number of the men were excluded from the games.
He found himself holding his breath as he stepped into the scanner. His skin prickled, he felt an alternating cold
and warm sensation flow through his body for several minutes. Then the light surrounding him turned blue.
“Congratulations, you have been approved to compete,” the technician said.
Ledesma grinned as he stepped out of the scanner. Another step toward visiting Eleutheria was completed.
~ * ~
Another week of waiting and now, Ledesma stood with a large group of men in the center of the stadium. He
estimated there were around one thousand of them waiting for the Matriarch of Eleutheria to begin the
ceremonies. Despite being considered guests, they were restricted from visiting the capitol city. Being confined to
the dormitories near the large coliseum grated on his nerves. Although he trained and honed his body to compete
when the opportunity came, it was the unknown that drove him. Secrets were there to be found and his mind
craved to learn the ones that were hidden here.
So far, the only citizens of Eleutheria they had any contact with was the woman who had greeted them, Luella
was her name, and a few technicians and guards.
He had tried to access information on the history of the planet through the computer in his room, but had found
much of what he was looking for protected and not accessible. He had settled for reviewing his files several times
and adding a few additional notes.
He was convinced the Eleutherians did have an almost exclusive female society and based on clothing and
architecture, it was based on ancient Greek culture—most likely on legends of the Amazons.
The stadium they were in reminded him of images he had seen of the great Coliseum in Rome on Earth. The
towering stone walls and benches surrounded the sand covered arena. All of this surprised him. This was
supposed to be a very rich planet, one that not only exported scientific and medical technology, but one that also
mined several rare elements from the other planets of their system. He had expected to see a high-tech world with
towering skylines. Instead he found himself standing in a sand-covered arena. He now hoped the competitions
would not include recreations of the ancient Roman gladiatorial games. Yes, he was the one who decided to come
here, but he really didn’t want to participate in a life or death fight.
“We welcome our guests to Eleutheria,” a woman’s voice echoed in the stadium. The timbre of the voice was
powerful and at the same time delicate. A chorus of voices answered in response. “Welcome.”
He looked up to see a petite dark-haired woman standing on a floating dais. Behind her stood two women in
gleaming armor holding torches. The smaller woman raised her arms and the stadium fell silent. The two guards
lifted their torches and the flames jumped and flowed into the air and spiraled around the stadium following an
invisible path until they finally reached the center and erupted into a spectacle of light forming the image of a bird
that spread his wings over the crowd, then burst into flame as ash rained down. The stadium erupted in cheers
and applause. Ledesma held his hands out and let the ash settle there. It was still warm, but not burning
“The Phoenix,” the woman said. “A symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It is also the symbol of our
culture. Born in the ancient days of Greece and Rome, and even before. Then scattered and lost, we have been
reborn in this place. Our games honor the ancient ways. Here competitors stand as equals with only their
individual strength and skill to separate them.
“As Matriarch of Eleutheria, I declare these Games open.”
The roar of the spectators stopped suddenly as flames rose from the ground. Ledesma followed the sparks that
formed from the ash in his hands and danced front of him for a few seconds. They joined with the others to
reform as the Phoenix then glided down to hover behind the Matriarch.
“Tomorrow the first competitions will begin,” she said. The Phoenix wrapped his wings around her and they
Ledesma glanced down at the data film attached to the back of his hand. He was scheduled to participate in
something called Khione’s Missiles as his first event. There was one other, Sophrosyne’s Dance—listed as taking
place on the next to last day. There was a note more events would be added depending on how he did each day.