It had taken them nearly an hour to traverse the large warship, the time doubled due to the amount of soldiers that stood between them and freedom. Lotor continued to shoot the soldiers as they appeared, and this time he had assistance, from a human no less. His lips curled, Lotor trying not to sneer as he thought of Captain Darius, and the eager way the man shot down the Drule soldiers.
Allura barely had control of the human, the man having wanted to KILL any and all Drules that tried to stop their escape. Lotor could see in Darius’ eyes the thirst for revenge, the man eager to avenge his fallen comrades, and claim justice for Arus. A heated argument had ensured, Darius fighting for the right to use killing force on the Drule soldiers.
Lotor had been tempted to toss him back into a holding cell, but it was Allura who got the human under control. The control was thin, a rubber band waiting to snap from tension. Lotor wouldn’t put it past the human to try and shoot him, and he made sure to keep Darius from his back.
Allura was still carrying the hand blaster she had taken from the floor of the dungeon, though she didn’t dare use it. Lotor allowed her to keep it, just on the off chance something happened to him, and his mate would be forced to protect herself. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, Lotor remembering how wild her shot in the dungeons had been. And with it came a shudder, the prince knowing how fortunate the deadly blast has not hit him. One shot of the blaster’s charge, and he would have been dead.
Romelle and the women followed behind Allura, the females walking huddled together, clinging to each other. They didn’t move nearly as fast as Lotor would have liked, only Allura tried to keep up with the two men, the rest tripping over their feet in that awkward shuffle they were doing. At least they were nearly to one of the ship’s emergency exits, Lotor relieved to see it wasn’t any where as crowded with soldiers in this part of the ship.
No doubt most of the soldiers were over by the main exit, guarding the ramp that led on and off the ship. Allura still carried the communicator he had stolen off of a soldier, but it had gone silent, as though they had realized Lotor was monitoring the airwaves. He had no way to keep track of Morduck’s movements now, and that left him uneasy.
Two more soldiers stepped into view, Lotor quickly aiming and pulling the trigger, his blast taking out one at the same time as Darius’ took at the other. Neither chose to compliment the other, there was no time for it, nor did they admire each other’s skills with guns.
“How much farther?” Darius demanded gruffly.
“We’re just going around in circles!” complained Romelle, who refused to trust Lotor regardless of what he did. That cousin of Allura’s was as whiny as she was blood thirsty, the woman wanting to kill the Drules as much as Captain Darius had! “He’s just playing with us Allura, building up false hope only to crush it.”
“Romelle!” admonished Allura. “You know better than that. He’s risking everything to help us escape!”
“And why would he do that?” Romelle demanded. “Because he thinks he loves you?”
“I don’t think, I KNOW.” Lotor interjected himself into the conversation, though he was distracted, eyeing the ship’s wall. Romelle made a scoffing sound, but did not try to argue with him. “Keep me covered.” He ordered Darius, though he was loathe to trust his personal safety to the scowling human.
“What are you going to do?” The human asked, scanning the hall.
“The exit should be just around here…” Lotor said, inching forward until he spied the turn style handle built into the wall. He slung his laser rifle over his shoulder, needing both hands free to grip the handle. He began spinning it counter clockwise, the handle tension resisting him with every turn.
“An exit right here?” Allura sounded surprised, and he remembered she hadn’t had much experience in war ships before being taken aboard this one.
“Emergency hatch…” Lotor explained, hearing the wall start to hiss. Seams appeared in the metal, the door being revealed to them. “We’d be screwed if there was only one exit aboard a ship this large.”
“Makes sense…” Allura murmured, watching as he got the door open the rest of the way. She inched closer to him, and suddenly grabbed his arm, hissing in surprise. “That’s quite a jump we have to make!” She was staring down at the ten foot drop, and there was no ladder or ramp to help them down.
“Don’t worry. I’ll catch you.” Lotor promised, than looked at the other women. “I’ll catch you all.”
Romelle looked ready to complain, and the others began murmuring fearfully over the long drop to the ground. He ignored them, and looked at Darius, eyes holding a challenge. “Think you can get down on your own, old man?”
“Hmph.” grunted the captain. “I’ll manage.”
“Try not to break a leg in the process.” Warned Lotor, and then he was freeing himself from Allura’s grip.
“Be careful…” She whispered, staring at him.
“I always am.” Lotor said, and with the natural born grace of a cat, was leaping down from the ship. His feet hit the forest floor, Lotor’s knees going down to hover above it as he maintained his balance. Except for the jarring impact of his landing, he was fine, quickly straightening up to flash a thumbs up at Allura.
The women had joined her at the exit way, all looking frightened or uncertain at what they were about to do. He could hear the faint murmur of Allura’s voice, his mate talking reassurance to them. Even with her words, none were eager to be the first to go down, not until Romelle sighed and shoved her way to the front.
“I guess it’s up to me to lead by example.” Her words were lofty, but she was pale with fright. It didn’t stop her from shooting Lotor a nasty glare, as if daring him not to catch her. “Here I go…” Romelle had jumped before she finished that announcement, the other women screaming in alarm. Lotor winced at the sound, hoping the screams wouldn’t draw any more soldiers to them.
“Ufff!” Romelle had landed in his arms, and she didn’t even take the time to lay there stunned. “Let me go, you filthy Drule animal!” Her words left him tempted to unceremoniously drop her, but he was conscious of his mate’s eyes watching them.
“Don’t wander too far.” Lotor warned, as Romelle stepped away from him.
“I don’t take orders from a Drule!” She hissed back, and he had to smirk.
“You’ve been doing just that all this time. What’s more it’s kept you free and alive. So princess…” His snide saying of her title had her paling, Romelle realizing he knew what she was. “Shut up and stay out of trouble.”
Romelle sputtered angrily, indignant rage bubbling out of her as he caught the second woman to jump. “How dare you speak to me in that manner!”
Lotor ignored her, setting down the woman, and gesturing to Allura to send down the third. This girl seemed more frightened than the rest, she was gripping the edge of the door, shaking her head no with tears streaming down her cheeks. Allura was petting her hair, and talking soothingly to her, and the woman continue to refuse to jump. Lotor was starting to growl with impatience, tapping his foot, wondering if they would be caught because one woman’s fear of heights made her into a blubbering coward. Then Allura, of all people, PUSHED the girl. Hard enough that she fell screaming from the ship, Lotor lunging forward to catch her in his arms.
The woman continued to cry, and she wrapped her arms around Lotor, nearly cutting off his air with her hold. She babbled thank yous, too relieved that she hadn’t hit the ground, to be mad at her princess. It took Romelle talking the woman down, to get her untangled from the prince, Lotor breathing easier once the woman reluctantly let go of him.
Even once standing, she continued to tremble, trying to calm down her crying as Romelle and the other woman petted and hugged her. The fourth woman was jumping, a brave look on her face. She was determined not to make a scene, and Lotor appreciated her for her efforts. He caught her, and set her down, and then it was the brown haired Marie’s turn to jump. After her it would just be Allura and Darius, the man having remained on board the ship to guard the women while they jumped.
When it came time for Allura to jump, she looked him in the eyes, showing how much trust she put in his ability to catch her. It was more trust than she had shown him previously, Lotor smiling back at her, and gesturing for her to jump. She did so, and he lurched forward, snagging hold of her waist, and pulling her into his arms. She actually wrapped her arms around him, seeming not to care that her cousin and friends were watching.
“You did great Allura.” He whispered praise in her ear. “You never showed one ounce of fear.”
“I was frightened out of my wits.” She confided, and now he realized her body was trembling.
“I’ll never tell.” Lotor said, content to hold her until she stopped shaking. A thump was heard, Darius having landed in an awkward heap next to them. The poor human didn’t have the natural jumping ability of the Drule, nor was he used to landing from such a high jump. Lotor glanced his way, still holding onto Allura, and Darius scowled.
Lotor took it that it was a good sign the human was scowling, it meant the man hadn’t injured himself too badly from his jump. The human’s eyes narrowed, and he awkwardly stumbled to his feet, bringing his laser rifle to bear on Lotor. “Put her down Drule!” He ordered, and Allura gasped.
“Make me.” Lotor mocked, fingers tightening their hold on Allura.
“Lotor! Don’t make more trouble!” Allura begged.
“I’m not.” Lotor retorted. “This human seems to forget how much he owes me.”
“After what your comrades did, I think we’re more than even on that account.” Darius retorted. “Now put her down, and step away!”
“You’re not really going to shoot me while I am holding your princess.” Lotor said amused, gasps rising all around. “Yes, that’s right. I know who she is. And so do the rest of the Drule. Her life is in danger, and we don’t have time for you to hold silly grudges.”
“Silly grudges?!” Darius sputtered. “My men were tortured and killed, cut down in the prime of their lives!”
“They were foolish to go up against the Drule.” Lotor calmly replied. “Besides, it was not my order that killed your men. Morduck is the one who is in charge of this operation now.” The last was said bitterly, Allura shifting to touch his face.
“Darius….Lotor is right. What’s more he helped us. Aim your weapon elsewhere…” Darius hesitated, but lowered the rifle to point at the forest floor. “Thank you.” She said, not showing her relief. She wiggled in Lotor’s arms, signaling she was ready to be put down. He did so reluctantly, and she stood, moving her hands over the front of her shirt in an attempt to smooth out the wrinkles. “Now…we better get a move on. The castle is some distance away….we’ve got quite a bit of walking to do.”
She was giving orders, and he enjoyed watching her take command of the party. Everyone grumbled and sighed, but nodded, content to do as Allura said. Until Romelle noticed Lotor moving to follow Allura, and her voice barked out a protest. “He’s not coming with us!”
“Yes, he is Romelle!” Allura said. “He’s risked much for us.”
“He’s the enemy! He should go back to his ship!”
“And what will happen to him then?” Allura demanded. “After what he’s done…”
“They’ll kill him.” Darius gruffly pointed out.
“Good riddance says I!” Romelle exclaimed, and Allura frowned at her.
“Romelle! How can you be so…so cruel?! So unforgiving!?”
“How can you be so accepting of one of them after what they did?” Romelle countered.
“You women were not harmed.” Lotor interjected himself into the conversation. “I made sure of that.”
“But they WANTED too!” Romelle pointed out.
“But they didn’t.” Lotor firmly said.
“He’s coming with us!” Allura said, and took Lotor’s arm. She didn’t look back, half dragging Lotor with her towards the edge of the forest’s clearing. He didn’t know if they were going in the right direction, but at least they were heading for the coverage of the trees.
“I don’t like it any more than you.” Darius was saying to Romelle. She hmphed, and then was stalking forward, Darius and the other women hurrying after her. Allura didn’t slow down to let them catch up, clinging to Lotor’s arm as they moved deeper into the heart of the forest.
“I’m sorry for my cousin.” She whispered softly. “She’s normally a lot nicer than this.”
“I suppose I can’t blame her.” Replied Lotor. “It’s a lot to take in, an invasion and being held prisoner for days. It would leave the best of us cranky.”
“You’re being very understanding.” Allura said, and he chuckled.
“Don’t look so surprised.” She flushed at that, making him grin.
“What are you going to do?” Allura asked. “I mean….are you okay, leaving your people like this?”
Her question was met with silence, Lotor thinking long and hard on the answer. He felt leery with abandoning his people, especially to a wanna be leader like Morduck. He thought about all he had done, in order to save Allura, how he had ruthlessly shot down man and woman, fighting his way to earn her and her friends their freedom. His actions would be looked upon as treasonous, he would surely be branded a traitor.
Lotor could only hope that he’d be able to make a case that he had been acting in his mate’s best interest. That would surely garner him sympathy with the Drule people, Lotor intending to bring to light the fact that Morduck had intended to torture, possibly kill Allura. Lotor could only hope the man’s actions hadn’t been justified by his father, the prince wondering if even Zarkon would dare go against the sacredness of the mating bond in his attempt to invade Arus.
As it was, the voices on the communicator had spread rumors, saying the Drule prince had gone crazy. They didn’t give a reason for his insanity, just gave the orders to detain him, to shoot him down if need be. Morduck couldn’t outright kill him, not without facing accusations and King Zarkon, but he could imprison Lotor. The Drule Prince wouldn’t put it past the commander to lie and say he was ignorant of the bond Lotor shared with Allura, and try to claim innocence that way.
“I need to talk to my father.” Lotor said at last. “I need to find out where he stands on this, if he gave Morduck permission to harm you.”
“What will you do if he did?” Allura wondered out loud, and Lotor shrugged.
“I’m hoping Morduck acted on his own. Maybe then I can regain command of my crew.” He sighed, wondering what he would do next. Zarkon would still want to invade Arus, and Lotor would be stuck having to choose between his father’s wishes and his mate’s. “I dunno Allura…” He ran an agitated hand through his hair, almost growling in the next instant. “I honestly don’t know what to do beyond trying to reason with my father…”
“Can you not get him to consider peace?” She asked, still clinging to his arm. “Open up peace talks between Arus and Doom?”
“You don’t know my father the way I do.” Lotor said glumly. “He’d laugh at the thought of peace.”
“Oh….” A quiet sound, Allura sounding as depressed he was.
Lotor walked in silence a bit longer, then risked a glance at her. She was staring straight ahead, expression troubled. “There might be another way to peacefully resolve this….” He saw he had her interest, Allura looking at him. “If my father recognizees that we are a mated pair….by all right…Arus would become part of the Doom Empire through our union.”
She frowned at that. “You mean he would try to claim Arus that way?” Lotor nodded. “I’d never let him just take Arus! When…if I marry, it will not be a match that hands over my planet and people to someone who would do them harm!”
He couldn’t even argue that Zarkon would not harm the people of this world, Lotor holding back a sigh. “Then you’ll have to be ready to fight Doom and it’s forces.”
“Will you help us? Help me?” Allura asked, and Lotor hesitated. “I know it’s a difficult position to be placed in…perhaps I have no right to ask…”
“You are my mate…you can ask me anything.” Lotor told her.
“But you might not always grant it.” Allura replied. “I remember you telling me about the men protecting their mates, overriding their decisions if the women wanted to do something that would put them in danger.”
“And I harbor no illusions about what occurred on the ship.” Allura continued. “If Morduck hadn’t taken over, hadn’t tried to hurt me, I’d still be there, still be your prisoner.”
A flash of guilt zipped through him, Lotor knowing he would have never acted if Morduck hadn’t forced his hand. “I had to protect you.” He paused, thinking it over. “And I will continue to protect you, even if I must fight against my father and my people. But…”
“But you hope it doesn’t come to that.” Allura finished for him. He nodded, but was otherwise silent, lifting a hand to hold a heavy tree branch out of the way. They ducked under it, and the rest of their party followed, Darius and Romelle bringing up the rear.
“I don’t like it.” Lotor’s sharp hearing picked up Romelle’s heated whisper, the girl still complaining. “How can we trust a Drule? They are the enemy. HE is the enemy.”
“I’m not going so far as to put my trust in him.” Darius replied. “I’d be a fool otherwise.”
“Allura is not thinking clearly.” Continued Romelle. “We can’t bring him to the castle! He’ll find a way to betray us once there!”
“I’ll kill him if he tries anything.” Promised Darius. “You have my word, princess.”
Thank you captain. I am grateful for all you continue to do.” She said, then sighed. “Allura is under a lot of stress, no thanks to that Drule. Who knows what sort of ideas he filled her head with, when she was with him.”
Annoyed, Lotor raised his voice, startling the pair. “Quit dawdling you two. You’re falling behind!”
“Hmph!” sniffed Romelle, but she quickened her pace as Darius began walking faster. “Are we even going the right way?”
“The castle is to the east of the forest.” Allura said confidently. “So yes, we are.”
“We still have a lot of ground to cover.” Darius warned. “We won’t have time for many rests.”
“We might not rest at all.” Lotor announced to disappointed groans. “My people can go without sleep a lot longer than you humans. Which means they’ll quickly catch up if we pause. I hope you ladies are up to the task of trekking through the woods at night, because we will not be stopping until closer to dawn.” He ignored the vocal complaints, and Allura’s attempts to calm the women down.
“Inhuman freak!” Romelle muttered, just loud enough for all to hear. He twitched but did not turn to her, choosing not to satisfy her with a response. Lotor wasn’t looking forward to the journey anymore than the women were. In fact he would have preferred it if it was just Allura and him, rather than this surly group of human. He held back his sigh, knowing the journey was going to be tiring, and not just on their feet.