A decade from our arrival I contacted the Royalist Council and told them of my decision to remain on our ship. I did not expect them to be happy about the decision, but nor did I expect them to react as angrily as they did. With hindsight it was something I should have predicted. I had known that for centuries they had grown their kingdom on the promise that one day I would return to claim the throne. I had felt a little uncomfortable with that, but I had accepted it. But only recently, through monitoring media broadcasts, had I discovered the true extent of the cult of reverence around me, which seemed to be centred on a huge monument in London dedicated to my arrival. It was the destination for a million or more pilgrims every year from all over the kingdom. Books akin to religious texts painted me as more of a god than a man, or a king. I would be the saviour of souls, and guarantee transit to a blissful afterlife to those who pledged their allegiance to me and the Royalist Council. It was a criminal offence, punishable by death, to reject me or speak ill of me or the council. I found it disgusting.
I discussed the situation with the other two Immortals. For months we communicated with the Royalist Council to try and persuade them to be more realistic in their expectations of me, and to be more truthful to their people. We proposed many things, including a slow dilution of their lies over a century or more to prevent civil unrest. But all our proposals were rejected.
And then we were threatened.
We were told that ships would be sent to rendezvous with us. We would then be escorted to Earth orbit where I would be transferred to the surface to fulfil my duties. We were told that resistance would be met with lethal action, and that only I would be allowed to survive that action, should it be necessary. We could not accept such a thing.
After centuries of hope and anticipation my dismay at such a turn of events was profound.
For the next few months we had little contact from Earth. I decided to start transmitting messages, both audio and video, that I hoped would be picked up by ordinary citizens. I identified myself as the King and warned them of the Royalist Council’s deception and propaganda. I hoped the messages would eventually spark a rebellion. If a rebellion happened it would be a bloody one, but such religious and political oppression was not something I could ignore. I recorded ten such messages and programmed our transmitter to send them on the hour every hour indefinitely.
As I and the other Immortals discussed our possible actions I kept my instruments focused on the Solar-System. It was just over six-months after we received the threat from the Royalists that I detected three large ships on a course that would bring them alongside us within the next two years. They Royalist Council was carrying out its threat.
We had no choice but to abort our attempt to return to Earth. Immediately we halted our deceleration. Our ship was turned and the engines restarted. We were accelerating once again. Our course was altered to avoid entering the Solar-System. Our desire was to return to Carna but that was impossible as we did not have enough anti-matter to reverse course. All we could do was aim for the system straight ahead: Alpha Centauri. It happened to be the closest system to Earth’s own, but there were no Earth-like planets orbiting any of its three stars. We informed Carna of our new course, and we informed them of the situation in the Solar-System. We warned them of the Royalists’ ship-building activities. It was possible they would attempt to reach Carna and invade: unlikely but quite possible.
For the next thirty years we accelerated. The acceleration phase was much shorter than usual, but we had to preserve enough antimatter to allow for deceleration when required. Because of this our journey to Alpha Centauri would take around three-hundred years, twice as long as at our optimum cruising speed. That would give me enough time, I hoped, to find a better destination beyond Alpha Centauri where a viable colony could be established.
It would take me a long time to get over the loss of Earth. A short message that we received from Carna at that time did lift my mood. After acknowledging our warning about the situation on Earth they ended their message with some extremely good news. Their generation ship to 74 Orionis had reached its destination. Colonists had successfully established an outpost there on an as yet unnamed planet. Humans were now present in three star systems.
As we left Earth’s system far behind and once again entered the darkness of interstellar space I found myself absorbed in my studies. More than a century had passed since the drama at the Solar-System. My dismay had faded and the whole experience now seemed like a bad dream; something to be pushed to the back of my mind and forgotten. I did continue to feel pangs of regret and failure from time to time, especially when my thoughts drifted to King William VII. For some reason memories of his funeral on Carna were quite vivid in my mind, despite that event happening over a thousand years ago. I felt that my sense of failure towards him, my cousin, would never truly disappear, which was strange as I did not really remember the times when I knew him on Earth.
I longed to be back in the 40 Eridani A system, but such a prospect was impossible.
I split my time between searching for a destination beyond Alpha Centauri and the continuation of my studies of the civilisation I had discovered in the Perseus Arm of our galaxy. There was still no detectable signal emanating from that system despite the activity I could see there. It was a perplexing issue that both I and the other remaining Immortal found impossible to explain.
I occasionally looked back at Earth, hoping to see signs of any rebellion against the Royalists, and also to see if we had been followed. There was no sign of either.