Holding in a sigh, Allura resumed her unsteady walk across the room. Her fingers continued to fumble with the buttons of her nightgown, Allura finally giving up to forcefully rip the garment open. The other women paid her little mind, too busy going through their belongings, seeking out the papers that identified them as citizens of planet Arus. Allura had yet to secure her own, but she knew without thinking where those papers were. In the closet, inside the brown bag that lay on the shelf atop the clothes rack.
She knew without having to look, just where the bag was, and which pocket held all her important documents. That included the official papers that spoke of her mission’s success, an agreement with the planet , or at least the beginnings of an agreement. Further details of such an agreement were meant to be ironed out at a later time, the papers Allura carried a promise for Arus to receive the help it needed, in return for planet Jacquol to get what it so desired.
Now it all stood in jeopardy, Allura grabbing both the documents and clothes from the closet. She’d pull on the shirt as she walked, though she’d have to wait until she was inside the bathroom to properly put on the pants. She did so as though it didn’t matter, her thoughts on the papers, and on what was happening all around them. The repeated sound of laser fire being issued, and the sound of such beams slamming into the ship’s adamantanium hide, made it almost impossible to think of much of anything else. Her fingers clenched on the papers, crinkling the edges as she stared down as the official seal of the King of planet Jacquol. Next to that large, almost obtrusive seal, was a much smaller, but no less extravagant seal that committed Arus to the deal brokered between the two worlds. And in another few seconds, it and the paper they were stamped on, would be burnt to ash, nothing remaining of the agreement.
“Are you sure about this, your highness?” Came the voice of her personal maid, Marie. Allura didn’t even look towards the brown haired young woman, her fist crumpling the papers completely.
“We’ve no other choice.” Allura said, her voice lacking the emotions that stirred turmoil inside her. Wordlessly, Marie would light the match, holding it up so that Allura could set one end of the documents on fire. The flames took to the paper immediately, Allura dropping the burning documents into the sink’s basin.
Watching the flames eat away at the agreement, Allura took a moment to think how unfair this all was. How it was never supposed to have turned this complicated. Her mission to planet Jacquol while of the utmost importance, had also been shrouded in secrecy. Allura had been expected to be in and out of the sector in a matter of days, the entire journey plus negotiating the promise estimated to be completed in less than a week of universal standard time.
But from the beginning, trouble had arose. From Nanny falling too ill to accompany and play chaperone to Allura and the small group of females who had traveled with the princess to planet Jacquol. To the negotiation of the promise taking a whole two days longer than originally estimated, to the fact that the private ship they had been traveling on had ended up permanently docked when it’s engine had exploded. That setback with the ship, had left Allura and her attendants scrambling, the group finally booking passage on a cheap pleasure yacht that was set to visit Arus in two weeks time.
Neither Allura nor her attendants had liked the thought of being gone from Arus for nearly three weeks time. But they had had little choice when it came to their options. Because of the secret nature of their mission, they couldn’t openly travel on an Arusian vessel. Nor could they board any ships that were from worlds that engage in open hostilities with Doom, a world Arus had a most troublesome relationship with.
It was because of that relationship, and the tentative peace that existed between Arus and Doom, that had led Allura to leave her planet and sneak away to Jacquol. Doom had not yet begun to invade in earnest, though Arus’ spies said they were gearing up to try for something major. As worrisome as that was, it was even more troubling to know Arus could only withstand an earnest attack for a couple of months’ time given their present circumstances.
Needing a protector, and knowing that Doom would act at the first sign of Arus negotiating for such a thing, it had left Allura’s ailing father, King Alfor, to send his only child to planet Jacquol in the hopes they would be amiable to what they offered in return for assistance. It had been a risky move, not just because of the trouble they invited should Doom figure it out before Jacquol promised and positioned aide, but also because any number of worlds would have loved to have taken Allura prisoner. As princess of Arus, King Alfor’s only child, and the next in line for the throne, she would make a fine political hostage.
Arus, while seemingly nothing more than a fertile world known for it’s farming opportunities, had one sought after asset. The rare mineral known as triklelite which had only been discovered to exist in such a rich abundance on Arus in recent years. It was a plum resource, a substance far more powerful than lazon, whose effects when converted into fuel and energy lasted twice as long as the galaxy’s leading power source.
It should have made Arus rich beyond the people’s dreams. Instead it was bringing the farming world nothing but unasked for troubles. Doom wasn’t the only ones interested to invade Arus, but the Drules had managed to scare off many of the others who might dare attempt such a thing. At the present, only planet Demos which existed far off on the borders between this galaxy and the next, could afford the man power needed to fight it out with the Drules long term.
Neither Doom or Demos had yet to actually try to invade, too busy fighting each other, rather than present a unified front against Arus’ own meager military. Even planet Jacquol’s military wasn’t strong or big enough to last indefinitely against those two powers, but if united with Arus and a few other planets? They might just stand a chance. Of course and the other planets would demand the mineral as their compensation, but many of the people of Arus, Allura included, would be glad to give it up if it meant peace would return to their world.
That peace seemed an impossible dream now, Allura staring stone eyed at the burning embers in the sink. Marie would pile more papers into the sink, another fire flaring to life, as each woman brought their identification into the small bathroom. Even Allura would burn the papers that proved who she was, holding out hope that she would not be recognized on looks alone.
Though beautiful, her form and face more than fair, Allura was basing all her hopes on the fact that Arus hadn’t been considered important until recently. Certainly the fertile farming planet hadn’t been part of the collective awareness of the rest of the Denubian Galaxy, existing in relative isolation save for their thriving food exports. Certainly no one of any real power or importance had paid any mind to a such a world, content to leave Arus and it’s people alone. And just as certain was the fact that few if any had bothered to learn the names, let alone the looks of planet Arus’ royal family.
All that was changing now, the movers and shakers of the Denubian Galaxy trying to learn everything they could about Arus and the power behind the planet. Spy drones while not common, had been uncovered, and Allura knew that while she kept out of the tabloids and news holos, her face surely had to have been seen by more than a few of those who held such greedy ambition for Arus and the mineral trikelite .
Allura didn’t know WHO was attacking the pleasure yacht, but she held out hope that it wasn’t someone who had had the time to familiarize themselves with what the royal family of Arus looked liked. Certainly she hoped that the attackers would be low enough in the command chain as to have been given little to no real information about Arus’ crown princess. She hoped, and she even prayed that the Gods might allow her to be so fortunate as to fool the ship’s attackers into believing she was no one of any real importance, just another beautiful blond servant out on a pleasure cruise.
It was the reason why she was dressed in less than fashionable clothing, instead wearing the white and sky blue uniforms Marie and the other attendants wore. Her waist length blonde hair was done up in a large bun, and not even the maid cap could contain it all.
Allura wasn’t sure the outfit would be enough to fool anyone, which is why they had all destroyed their papers. It would be disaster enough for anyone to discover there were Arusians amongst the passengers aboard the yacht, let alone for them to realize the princess of Arus walked amongst them.
And if for some reason they suspected the truth, well there was two other blue eyed blondes among Allura’s entourage. While not identical in looks, Allura hoped that it would be enough to fool any who might suspect who she really was.
She didn’t think in terms of what if where the ship was concerned. She knew the pleasure yacht would fall under the onslaught of it’s attackers. It was only a matter of when. Pleasure yachts weren’t equipped to defend against an attack of such a magnitude, eventually it’s shields would fail, and the ship would be boarded. Heaven help everyone then!
Allura could never admit to her attendants that she was afraid. That fear was something she had to keep privately, Allura maintaining a steel hold on her emotions. Allura knew she had to be strong, had to be brave, had to be the support the other women needed. She couldn’t so much as shake, instead holding her head high while she gave commands. The other women seemed grateful for the orders, needing something to occupy their minds.
They scurried about, putting right the mess they had made when searching for their individual papers. They would leave no evidence behind of their frantic scurrying, leaving the room only slightly disheveled to show how quickly they had gotten dressed when the laser attacks had jolted them all awake.
Even Allura helped clean, noting with some relief that none of the clothing was rich enough for a princess to have worn, nor was any of it in the style and make of popular Arusian fashion. Even the maid uniforms could have come from anywhere, the women intent on maintaining their anonymity.
There were pockets in her uniform, but Allura didn’t bother to stuff them with what few valuables she had brought. She was sure whoever was attacking, would not allow her to keep anything but the clothes on her body, and even that might be in doubt depending on just who was behind these attacks. She had her suspicions, several unappealing choices that ranged from pirates, to someone discovering the princess of Allura traveled on this ship, to even the thought that planet Jacquol had changed it’s mind and was intent on backstabbing the Arusians.
What was the best she could hope for? The betrayal, or to be taken prisoner by someone hoping to use Allura against her own people? Or the pirates that would loot them of all their valuables, then leave them and the ship stranded for an indefinite amount of time? And that was only if the pirates weren’t also slave traders, intent on turning a profit off the people aboard the yacht.
Disturbed by those thoughts, Allura fought a frown. “I’m going out.” That immediately got gasps from the others, several voicing protests at such an idea.
“Don’t call me that!” Allura snapped. “I am not your princess….not so long as we are in danger. As far as anyone is concerned, I am just another woman…a servant whose misplaced her mistress.”
“Forgive me.” Said the girl who had mispoke, shamefaced and bowing her head.
“It’s all right.” Allura forced a kind smile. “Now….” She made to move for the door, but Marie stopped her.
“What purpose will going out there serve?”
“I ask the same about remaining here.” Allura replied. “No…I won’t just sit here waiting in the dark. I mean to find out just exactly what is going on, and if there is anything we can do….”
“I don’t think there is anything we can do….” fretted Patresia. She played with the ends of recently dyed blonde hair, her eyes looking every where due to nervous excitement. “It’s not as if we can fight….”
“I’ll fight if I have to.” said a determined flame haired woman named Jacquelyn. “I’ll use anything within reach, my fists if I have too!”
“Won’t do you much good against those lasers!” pointed out Patresia.
“Jacquelyn it’s admirable of you, but please…no unnecessary heroics. They might simply be here for our valuables….”
“But what if they’re not?” demanded Jacquelyn, interrupting Allura. “What if their pirates or worse?!”
“What would pirates be doing in this sector?” asked Marie. It was a sensible question. Everyone knew planet Jacquol did heavy patrol of the space around it and it’s neighbor worlds. Piracy of such a violent nature was practical unheard of in this sector, and yet the alternatives were just as bad to think of.
“I can put at least one fear to rest by going out.” Allura’s tone was firm, the woman already opening the cabin door. “I intend to speak with the captain of the ship. Find out just who we are dealing with.”
She didn’t know what she would do once she had that knowledge though, Allura ignoring the protesting cries to step out into chaos. There were dozens of people out in the hall, scurrying about from room to room, or rushing to the escape pods with as much of their valuables as they could carry. One man nearly knocked Allura over, the princess stepping back just in time. He didn’t even stop to apologize of complain, what looked like pearls falling from the heavy bundle wrapped in his arms.
Stepping over the many pearls scattered on the floor, Allura began making her determined way forward. No one else cared about the pearls, to busy with their own fears and problems, to pay much attention to anyone else. There was even an older married couple, the woman arguing loudly with husband about a chest as long as she was tall. The man was refusing to carry it any further, and the woman was refusing to leave without it.
Red faced and screaming, Allura noted both the man and woman had their pockets full of jewels. And yet the woman wasn’t content to leave without more of her wealth. It made Allura tsk inwardly, thinking about how some people’s greed knew no bounds. But the couple’s argument wasn’t the only thing she overhead. Allura caught excited snippets from people who ran by, the people wondering just who was behind the attack. One word got her to stop in complete shock, Allura grabbed at the arm of a beautiful, raven haired woman whose ears were slightly pointed like that of an elf or a Drule’s.
“What did you say?!” Allura demanded, her tone harsh. The companion of the dark haired woman took one look at Allura’s face, and backed off, murmuring something in a language Allura did not understand.
The raven haired woman, whose eyes were green looked into Allura’s face, and spoke with a steady tone that didn’t betray any panic she might be feeling. “We’re under attack by DRULE pirates.” She let out a pained sound, Allura having inadvertently squeezed down on the woman’s arm.
“Drule pirates?!” Allura demanded, relaxing her grip. “Are you sure?!”
“Word came down from the captain himself.” The woman explained. “He was having a late meal with my superior when the attacks began.”
Allura looked more closely at the woman, recognizing her flowing white gown as the garments worn by the small group of priestesses traveling aboard this ship. She could even remember speaking once with the mentioned superior, learning the priestesses were on a mission of their own, to do the Gods’ holy work in far off sector. They hadn’t been able to afford a private ship of their own, having to book the cheapest rooms on this pleasure yacht. Now their work might never be done, the priestesses in as much danger as any other person aboard this ship. Especially if they were all as attractive looking as this raven haired woman was.
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” asked the priestess. “Why Drule pirates would choose to be in a sector patrolled by planet Jacquol’s military…”
Her stomach clenching in upset, Allura let go of the priestess’ arm. “Strange indeed.” She agreed out loud, though inwardly she was cursing. Someone had to have figured out just who was on the ship. It was the only explanation she could think of as to why the Drule were in this sector, and attacking this particular ship. It made her feel horrible, Allura knowing she had endangered everyone aboard this ship. The people would be killed or worse, and it would be all her fault. In trying to save her planet, she had damned it and a ship full of innocents.
“Are you all right?” asked the priestess, whose jade colored eyes seemed to miss nothing of Allura’s private distress. Allura wonder how badly her expression was betraying her, or if she had gone pale with horror at the magnitude of what was happening.
“I…I’m fine…” Allura said weakly, just as the lurching of the ship sent her careening into the priestess’ front. The two women fell against a wall, the priestess now putting a hand on Allura’s arm to help her stay upright.
“I think you need to sit down.” The priestess said. “Perhaps have a drink….”
“I’ll be fine…I just need….”
“Yes?” The priestess was attentive. Allura mentally slapped herself, urging herself to pull together. The ship lurched again, and a third time, the rocking motion so violent she knew the ship was turning over to it’s side.
“It won’t be long now.” The priestess murmured. The arguing couple’s chest slid by, seemingly abandoned by the man and his wife. “They’ll be boarding us soon.”
“Then there’s nothing we can do…” Allura muttered.
“We can pray.” suggested the priestess. Allura didn’t want to insult her, but she didn’t know what good praying would do in this kind of situation. “Perhaps they’ll just take what they need and leave us be…”
“Have you ever known a Drule pirate raid to leave anything or anyone behind?” Allura demanded harshly. The priestess seemed to flinch then, whispering sadly.
The look on the priestess face showed she was smart enough to know what would happen. Those the Drules couldn’t make slaves of, they would kill. Drule pirates never left behind anything of value, or any witnesses to their foul deeds. For some of the people on board this ship, the second the attacks begun, their death warrants had been signed.
“It won’t do any good to try and escape.” Allura said out loud. Her voice sounded odd to her, despairing but resigned. “They’ll shoot down any escape pods jettisoned….no one is safe…” She didn’t resist as the priestess led her down the corridor, the woman finding a cushioned bench for them both to sit on.
“You’re so pale.” The priestess commented. “And I think you might be going into shock…” Allura said nothing to that, the priestess frowning. “Look, I’m Alexandria. Why don’t I try to find someone you’re with….” Her eyes glanced at the uniform Allura wore, the princess recalling how none of the passengers aboard the ship had recognized her as the princess of Arus. Or at least, it had seemed that way. Now she wondered, had someone realized her true identity? Had that person contacted Doom, and betrayed Allura and everyone onboard the ship to the Drule? She just didn’t know, there was too many on board the ship, too many potential chances for someone to have recognized Allura.
“This can’t be happening.” Allura moaned, truly feeling helpless in the moment. The priestess, ever concerned, could only shrug in acknowledgement. Vaguely Allura noted the ship had stopped all it’s rocking, and even the sound of laser fire had quieted down. No doubt the Drules were bringing out the heavy duty blow torches to force an opening into the ship. It would take time, as would the fighting between the pirates and the yacht’s crew. Allura didn’t dare hope the yacht’s crew could defeat the Drule. At best they could only buy them a few more hours of freedom.
Not knowing what to do, and refusing to crumple in defeat, Allura just sat there numb. The priestess, Alexandria sat down beside her, but Allura couldn’t allow herself to be drawn into any further conversation. She could think of nothing but Arus, and the fact that she might never see it, or her ailing father again.