Diplomat 11

She concentrated on her breathing, Allura taking measures to inhale and exhale at precisely the same length of time. Those slow, steady breaths helped to calm her, to keep back the unwanted sob that had been building inside her. By the time the pirate had dressed and left the room, Allura had her emotions under control, balling them up into a knot inside her. Tucking that tangled mess of negativity and grief away for a time when she would be free to let herself give in to the tears.

She didn’t care that holding back was making her sick inside, as though the emotions stored were poisoning her. Allura told herself she had no need of tears, no time to be sad and in mourning for the things she could not change. The past was what it was, Allura knowing she had to look to the future if she was to have any real hope.

Hope was in sparse supply, Allura wondering how, or even if she would get away. It seemed practically impossible, Allura not only having to escape the pirates and their oversexed captain, but somehow get a ship and travel back to planet Arus. The fact that at the moment she had no money, no identification papers, and the fact that she couldn’t reveal who she truly was to get those things, made escape seem even more impossible. Only her determined will kept her from giving up completely, Allura refusing to end up a slave, or reveal to the pirates who exactly she really was.

A ransom wasn’t in her future. Not with these particular pirates. Thieving, low lifes that they were, the pirates were also Drule. And as Drules, they would have some fleeting loyalty to the Empire that sanctioned them, to the world they had been born and raised on. There was no way they would give Allura up to Arus, not when they could use her as the ultimate hostage for Doom to conquer the world, and claim it’s assets.

That was one thing Allura would never willingly allow. She’d rather die, or become the slave the pirates would make of her, then willingly jeopardize Arus and it’s people’s futures. She’d keep her name and royal lineage a secret, no matter what that damnable pirate captain thought he already knew.

Her hands fisted on the pillow, Allura allowing only one of her negative feelings to blossom. Anger, the feeling sharp and powerful. The one thing she could feel, the one thing that helped her to keep her wit sharp, preventing her from collapsing completely into a sobbing damsel in distress. She’d use anger and all her training as a King’s daughter, to face her present situation, and the Gods willing, overcome the obstacles set out before her.

She’d do what she had to, what she always had to, playing the woman, the princess who had been born and groomed to one day lead planet Arus’ people. There was no heroes in her story, no one to play rescuer to a distressed princess. Allura had to save herself, and the people of Arus. She’d worry later what it meant that she had had to destroy the only proof of the agreement she had struck with Jacquol’s King, that perhaps her entire mission had proven for naught. That she had endangered not only herself, but her attendants, that she had risked so much and so far had nothing to show for it. Doom and Demos still fought over Arus, it’s assets still waiting to be plundered. While far too many enemies waited out there, not just the two Empires, but any number of worlds that would love to get their hands on something or someone who could be used to secure a controlling interest of planet Arus.

It was almost headache inducing, the odds that had been against her, even before Allura had left on her mission. And though Allura sometimes wondered if she had been a fool for undertaking such a gamble, the princess also knew she had had no other choice. Arus wasn’t going to be able to get help through the normal channels, not with Doom and Demos hovering menacingly over the planet. Time had been running out, and only the fact that the two Empires refused to unite against Arus, had kept Allura’s world free for as long as it had been.

Allura wondered what was going on with Arus now, though she was sure nothing much had changed in the time since the pirates had taken her and the others prisoner. The last reports she had read before turning in for the night, had stated as much, the two powerful empires locked in a stalemate as they battled against one another to gain control of Arus.

Nor had there been any news about the state of things on the actual planet, no one caring all that much about the people, or their rulers. That played in Allura’s favor, the rest of the galaxy seemingly oblivious to the fact that the princess of Arus was in fact being played by an imposter. They had no idea of the fake, and had no reason to suspect the real princess Allura had left the planet some time ago.

It was one way travel to Jacquol had been made easier, the imposter’s presence on Arus allowing Allura more freedom than she would have otherwise had. If anyone had suspected Allura had stepped off the planet, a search would have been immediately on, bounties being issued, as everyone fought and hurried to be the first to capture the princess of Arus.

None of that had happened. None of it would, so long as the imposter continued to play her part well. So long as the imposter was in place, it bought Allura just a little more time to make her return to Arus. Regardless of what happened with planet Jacquol, Allura wanted to go home. It didn’t matter if she brought them the aide they needed, or nothing at all. She just wanted to be back among her loved ones, to see her father once more.

Allura couldn’t relax even to think of her father. Not when he had been so very ill the last time she had seen him. Her father, once the picture of perfect health, had had sallow colored skin, and bags under his clouded colored eyes. He had lost weight, his hair gray streaked and thinning. But though he had been prone to coughing fits, her father, King Alfor had still had the strength to hold court, to make decisions and rule over Arus. A beloved King, the people rallied behind him, their love and support empowering him better than the many medicines his doctor had had him try.

Weak and sickly though her father had been, Allura knew he had still been strong enough to fight the two Empires who would wrest control of the planet from the Arusians. That could change at any moment, the fear all too real that Alfor’s condition could worsen at any second. Allura was SCARED, worrying that if her father knew her exact whereabouts, that she was in the hands of pirates, and Drules ones at that, it would send him that much closer to the grave. He had already been close to collapsing just at the idea of Allura undertaking her secret mission, but King Alfor had also understood why it had been necessary for her to do that. He hadn’t liked it, would have taken her place if not for the sickness that was aging him, might even be killing him. He had had to reluctantly cede to the younger, stronger candidate, his only daughter, knowing if Allura did not do this, there was the very real chance there soon would be no kingdom left for her to inherit.

Allura could only be grateful for the fact her mission had required the utmost in secrecy. Once gone from Arus, once the mishaps had happened, her father and her people had no idea where Allura was exactly. They wouldn’t even know of the delays, the things that had messed up the estimated time table. They certainly wouldn’t know she had had to take passage on an entirely different ship, or that that ship had been waylaid by pirates. Most reassuring of all was that her father wouldn’t yet suspect she was in trouble, that she might never be coming back. She had time, little though it was. Allura could only hope she could get back to Arus before her father suffered another setback health wise, the princess fearing her father’s own concerns and worries would be the final straw that saw him bedridden or dead.

She sat up then, and clasped her hands together. Speaking a prayer for her father, for her planet, even for herself. She prayed for guidance, for wisdom, for the things needed to help her escape. For the ruthlessness she might need to exercise, in order to get away from these pirates. Because she knew of three young ladies, her attendants who had accompanied Allura on her mission.

Allura couldn’t help flinching as she thought of the three, and of the fates they had most likely endured. All three fair of face and figure, Allura was positive they would have been used to slate some pirate’s lust. Allura hadn’t recognized their voices in the screams she had heard before the cabin door locked away all outside sound, and for that she was glad for it. Bad enough to KNOW those three were being raped, let alone to hear proof of it? It made Allura shudder, her whole body reacting in distaste.

She feared for them all, but her fear might have been the highest for Jacquelyn. A fighter true and true, the flame haired girl was one to let her fists fly, and her mouth was prone to voice insults. Allura felt sick just imagining how badly Jacquelyn might have been hurt, the princess thinking Jacquelyn didn’t always do the smart thing when her anger was roused.

Patressia and Marie had much calmer personalities, Patressia downright timid and fearful. Rape wasn’t easy for any woman, but Allura feared for Patressia’s state of mind, given her shy, easily frightened nature.

She was worried sick for them all, for all the women, including the priestess she had met and bonded with. Allura wouldn’t put it past these pirates to perform unspeakable acts of terror against even holy women, and she dearly hope everyone had protected themselves by not fighting to the point the pirates would beat them, and break bones.

As sickening a thought, and as real a fear as Allura had, she also knew what she had to do. How she wouldn’t be able to take anyone with her, how if a chance to escape came about, she would have to forget everyone, not just the women, but even the surviving men that had been captured, and leave by herself. Allura knew she couldn’t waste time trying to locate and free anyone else, she logically understood it, but emotionally it made her sick to be that ruthless.

It came down to choices, to sacrificing the good of a few, for the well being of an entire world. HER world. Allura would have it be a choice she would never have to make, and yet part of her training to one day take over as Queen of Arus, had been exactly on that. On making the tough, unpopular decisions. On making the choices that would save the most amount of people, keep the most amount from suffering even at the expense of another group’s well being.

It was choices like this that made Allura wish she hadn’t been born into royalty. It would be the first real tough decision she had to make, the first time she would have to be so ruthless. She could only pray for the forgiveness of the people here, especially the forgiveness of her three attendants.

It might have been easier if she could somehow see them. To look them in the eyes, and voice the very real sorries she had, Allura regretting that they had been dragged into this mess with her. She promised herself, that if, ONCE, she got back to Arus, she would expend all effort to locate the women. To find and free them from the life of slavery the pirates were intent on forcing them into.

But though she made that promise, Allura was all too aware of the limitations of her own planet and power. With Arus under siege, poised to endure several invasions, even with planet Jacquol’s help, would Allura really have the luxury and resources to find the women? Would it come down to another ruthless decision, the women a loss Arus deemed regretful but acceptable? It was not a decision she wanted to make, not a life she wanted to live, if Allura had to sacrifice innocents.

But if she kept on thinking along those lines, Allura would allow herself to be frozen in inaction. To avoid being ruthless, to avoid sacrificing others, she’d just sit here and let things continue to happen and spiral out of her control. And that was simply unacceptable, Allura refusing to make the choice to do nothing.

She had already done that once, allowing the pirate Lotor to have his way with her. The anger tightened her gut, Allura acknowledging that in some ways Lotor’s words were true. She had submitted, had all but consented to the sex. In acting to prevent herself from being brutalized, from enduring a rape that could have turned even more violent, she had willingly let the pirate touch her. She had saved herself from the chance of being beaten, from being bloodied and bruised, but it had cost her. Allura would have felt better if she could have said no, if she could have fought, rather than just lie there and put up with it.

But did she dare fight him for real? Did she dare risk doing something that would in turn make the pirate viciously attack her? Did she dare fight him for however long it took until she could make her escape? Or did she have to once again do whatever it took, including the distasteful act of submitting, if only to keep herself healthy and fit for the time when her chance did come?

Such unappealing choices, no matter which route she took. Allura could only be glad she had some time before the pirate returned. Time before he decided he needed to bed her again. She’d use that time, to not only work out what her decision would be in regards to the sex, but to start scheming. She’d actually get up out of bed, refusing to wallow in thoughts and hurt feelings. Allura would actually set about to exploring the captain’s cabin, wondering if there was anything that could be of use to her.

Certainly the open chests of treasure caught her attention. Allura had noticed them the night before, but had been too wound up with distress and anxiety to properly think on the money’s use. If she could fashion a pouch, or get clothing with pockets, she could steal some of the coins and use them to purchase a ride home. Even if she didn’t get those things, there was jewels. On necklaces, on rings, on brooches and bracelets, even diamond studded hair barrettes. She could smuggle some of that wealth on her person, pawn those valuables for even half their estimated worth.

The pirate probably wouldn’t even noticed a few baubles missing considering the amount of wealth he had piled through out his room. Nodding to herself, Allura continued her explorations, finding the remote that would lower the view screen monitor from the cabin’s ceiling. It was unfortunate for her that to actually work the monitor, one needed the pirate’s password. But then, calling for help wasn’t really a route that would have helped Allura’s situation. She could have gotten the pirates discovered in Jacquol territory, maybe even raided, the captives freed, the pirates arrested. But what would she have done when it came time to reveal who she was to the authorities? Especially if the ones who answered her distress signal wasn’t emissaries of the King?

Putting down the remote, but hardly defeated, Allura continued searching. She even looked into Lotor’s closet, noting with distaste the female clothing inside it. All impractical, overly sexed up outfits, there was no way Allura would be able to sneak around while wearing one of those garments. She’d have more luck dressing in the pirate’s clothes, and while the shirts were easily worn, the pants would need some modification to keep from slipping off her slender frame.

Allura was still poking around, when a knock sounded on the cabin’s door. It was so unexpected it startled her, Allura hurrying out of the closet. By the time she reached the door, it had been unlocked and opened, the young Drule from the other night walking in, another meal platter in his hand.

“What’s this?” Allura asked, keeping a wary eye on the young pirate. He made sure to kick the door closed behind him, as though fearing she’d run outside the room if he didn’t.

“The captain thought you’d be hungry.” He was already uncovering the platter, Allura’s anger boiling to see another assortment of known aphrodisiacs crowded onto the plates.

“Your captain thought wrong.” Allura said, tone and manner dismissive. “Take it away, I don’t want it.”

“Can’t do that.”

“And why not?!” Allura demanded, hands on her hips.

“The captain wants to make sure his woman is well fed and rested for tonight’s pleasures.” The young Drule was hardly flustered, speaking as though what he said was perfectly normal and acceptable.

“I just be he does…” Allura’s eyes narrowed, giving the young Drule a glare almost as fierce as the ones she had given his captain. “I am NOT your captain’s woman.”

He didn’t even bat an eye. “If the captain says you are, then that’s what you are. At least until we reach the outpost.”

“The outpost?” Allura asked, trying not to seethe in response to the pirate’s other words. “Where’s that?”

“If the captain wants you to know, he’ll tell you.” He was already turning away from Allura, intent on leaving the room.

“Wait!” Allura called out. “There’s no knife, no fork…”

“Captain said to make sure you don’t have any of those.”

“At least get me a spoon! What could I possibly do with THAT?!” A shifty look from the pirate, Allura making an exasperated sound. “Your captain is needlessly paranoid.”

“He’s cautious.” Allowed the young Drule. “We can’t have the merchandise damaging themselves or others.”

“Mer…merchandise?!” Allura sputtered, then growled. “We’re people not possessions!” She didn’t know what was the bigger insult. To be thought of as mere merchandise, or to be called the captain’s woman.

“The captain would say otherwise.” The young man was hardly sympathetic.

“Your captain’s word is not law!”

“On this ship it IS.” With that very firm retort, the young Drule walked out of the room. Allura hurried after him, but the door was already locking. It didn’t matter, she hadn’t thought herself capable of running out to face the other pirates. Not with the very real threat of what they would do to her, to any woman found wandering around the ship’s corridors.

Even knowing that, it was hard to just sit there and do what the captain wanted. Allura actually banged a fist against the door, then completely ignored the meal, instead heading into the closet. The various, inadvertent insults still burned, Allura angry about so many things, and needing an outlet lest she end up screaming mad.

“Captain…” scoffed Allura, grabbing the first jacket she saw. “He thinks he’s so high and mighty, the wanna be Lord of the Universe. Playing with others’ lives, ruining them, selling them, CONTROLLING them. Well he doesn’t control ME!” It was a twisted sort of smile on her face as Allura began tearing out the buttons and lacings on the jacket. Her perfectly manicured nails began picking at the thread seams, Allura intent on destroying the jacket. It wasn’t the only thing she would go after, Allura proceeding to mess with quite a number of shirts, pants, even a pair of boots before she came to her senses. She laughed when she saw the damage she had done, part of her scared, but another part hoping the pirate would not only be bothered by the ruin of his clothes, but play into her hands and give her the things needed for one stage of the new plan already formulating in her mind.

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