She was groggy and disoriented when she awoke, not used to sleeping on the cold floor. Even less familiar was the fact that she woke up to the presence of someone besides her, Allura gazing up at the sleeping God’s face. Even in sleep he had not relaxed completely, and she wondered what troubled him more, his shoulder wound or their situation.
She slowly lifted herself up to a sitting position, Allura already missing the warmth of Lotor’s body. She would have loved to linger next to him enjoying how she had snuggled up to his side during their sleep, Allura having laid a hand on Lotor’s chest, but she was concerned. She studied his tightly bandage shoulder and arm, trying to see if his wound had begun bleeding again. The strips from her dress remained undisturbed, no hints of blood on them, which left her greatly relieved.
She didn’t know what she would have done if Lotor had begun bleeding again, especially with their limited supplies, and lack of contact from the other Drules. She found it funny to be referring to them by their race’s name, Allura so used to calling them Gods. She still had difficulty believing Lotor was not a God, even after he had told her the truth about his people, and their miracles.
Science was a strange concept to Allura, as was technology, the girl barely able to grasp the fundamentals of what Lotor had told her. Try as he might to convince her otherwise, she thought it was magic the Drules had done. She felt certain her people would believe the same thing, they were already so in awe of the things the Drules had shown them.
She worried for her people now, wondering what their fate would be without Lotor to keep the other Drules in check. Merla, as vengeful as she was beautiful, had proven herself an unfeeling killer, snapping that one priest’s neck. Allura was taken aback at the ease in which Merla had killed, the woman cool and calculating, almost detached as though she had been crushing an insect.
It didn’t take any great stretch of the imagination for Allura to realize that Merla viewed the Arusians as beneath her. Even before she had killed one, her actions and mannerisms, her very words which she hid in that language of hers, had all been disdainful. She had been prepared to enjoy the Arusian’s worship, but hadn’t given a care towards them the way a true God would.
“She’s a demon whose beauty hides her true self.” Muttered Allura, face frowning. Her soft spoken words were enough to rouse Lotor, the God-Drule fluttering open his eyes. She couldn’t help it, she smiled a greeting to him, Allura’s hands reaching out to touch him as he attempted to ease up from his slouched over position. “Easy there…I do not want you to inadvertently cause your wound to bleed again.”
“I fell asleep.” Lotor sounded chagrined, meeting her eyes with a grimace.
“Yes.” Agreed Allura. “You must have been exhausted after the events of last night.”
“But I promised I’d stay up and keep watch.” He said, giving a shake of his head. Some of his hair fell forward, covering his eyes. She reached forward to brush those strands back, relishing the touch of him.
“I won’t blame you for sleeping.” Allura told him, sensing that he would fault himself more than he should. “You needed your rest. I’m sure your injury helped play a part in your tiredness.” He just frowned at her, Allura grazing her fingers across his bandaged shoulder. He didn’t so much as wince, and she took that as a promising sign. “And no one came during the night.”
“But they could have.” Lotor pointed out, then sighed. “Listen to me…acting as if I could have done anything to stop them with my hands shackled behind my back!”
She didn’t want to know what he thought would need stopping, Allura dropping her hand to her lap. “You would have found a way.” She said simply. “I believe in you.”
“That’s a trust I don’t deserve.” Lotor muttered, and she sighed.
“You have it all the same. Yes!” She quickly said when he opened his mouth to protest. “Yes, you weren’t exactly truthful when you first arrived. You Drule may not be our Gods, but I have no doubts that most of you are something wondrous to be able to do the things you do.”
“I thought I already explained that to you.” He was gruff then. “Anyone can do those things with the proper tools and knowledge. It just takes time for a civilization to advance themselves, to accumulate the facts needed to make changes to their society.” Another sigh from him, Lotor looking frustrated. “I thought my people would get the chance to helps yours, to show you things, to teach you the knowledge of how to do certain acts.”
“You’ll get that chance, I know you will!”
“We have to get out of here first.” Lotor pointed out. “And frankly, I am all out of ideas on how to pull off that kind of miracle.” He gave a jerk on his hands, his shackles making a rattling noise.
“Will not the other….” She had to pause, quickly correcting herself to use the proper term. “The other Drules come looking for you?”
“Normally yes, but Merla seems to have arranged things to keep them busy.” Sour was his tone, Lotor as angry as he was frustrated.
“She can’t keep them busy forever.” Allura pointed our reasonably. “They will eventually notice you are missing, and come find us.”
“I don’t know if the people of your kingdom can last long enough for Kratos and the others to find us.” Lotor grimaced, and her look became questioning. “You have to realize Allura…whatever Merla plots, it won’t be good for the humans.”
“You think she’ll harm them?” She was alarmed now, recalling the moment when Merla had snapped the neck of that priest.
“I don’t know what she plans to do.” Lotor admitted. “But I fear all I have tried to accomplish, all the groundwork I laid so my people could live peacefully alongside yours, is about to be ruined!”
“That cannot be allowed to happen!” Allura cried out, and Lotor let out bitter agreement.
“It can’t, but I don’t know how to stop her. Not given my current position.” He was once again jerking on his manacles, more out of need to illustrate his point than any hope he might have had at breaking free.
“You’ll find a way. We’ll find a way.” She insisted, laying a hand on his arm, hoping to soothe him. She would have been hurt if he had scoffed at what she had said, instead he just looked at her, expression weary. “You’re not alone in this.” Allura reminded him, offering a small smile. “I’m here, and once I explain things to my father, I’m sure he’ll support us too!”
“Allura…it’s nice to have hope but…” Lotor shook his head, his unruly hair settling in place across his eyes once more. “I fear the damage Merla will do. It may be irreparable, something your father might not be able to forgive…”
“He’s an understanding man!” Allura protested, tenderly brushing the hair out of his eyes. “We’ll make him understand it was Merla not you, who did these things. He won’t blame you, he can’t!”
“I fear you will just be disappointed.” She felt hurt by his words, shaking her head no. “Allura, the fact of the matter is, I lied to him as well. I created a situation for Merla to seize control, to allow her to gather allies from those that were unhappy with how I was handling things on Arus. I…I was a fool.”
“Why? Why do you say that?” Allura asked, and he appeared to be giving it some thought.
“I didn’t know how your people would react. Didn’t know if they would be accepting of all Drules. When we studied your planet, we purposefully chose to greet you with those of our race that resembled humans the most. We didn’t want to scare you with the more alien in appearance Drules.”
“They are frightening to look at.” She admitted, and Lotor sighed.
“Frightening….that’s putting it mild. I saw and heard the reactions of those in the temple…they were terrified, thought them demons….how long before that fear turned to hate, and the hatred led to fighting among our races? Allura..I didn’t want to hide one half of my people, but I saw and heard things among yours, saw how they reacted to those different from them. Even babies born with disfiguring birth defects aren’t tolerated…”
In that moment she felt ashamed of her own people, knowing the Arusians were quick to judge anomalies harshly. “I’m sorry…” She whispered, knowing that couldn’t be enough to apologize for the discriminations of a whole kingdom.
“You don’t need to apologize.” Lotor told her. “It’s just a product of your times, this type of thinking. I’m sure your people would grow out of it given enough time and understanding. But Allura! My people really don’t have the time to wait on yours. We need a home, and we need it now.”
“Because yours was destroyed…” Allura said, recalling what he had told her last night. He nodded, and a look of hurt was in his eyes, pain that seemed to come to him whenever he thought of his lost home. The pain made her heart ache, Allura wanting to wrap her arms around him, in an attempt to comfort him. “I’m sorry that happened to your world….but I believe there is good to be found no matter what the situation.”
“What good could there be in a world dying?” Lotor asked her, and she nerved herself to answer, laying a hand on his cheek.
“It brought you to Arus.” She didn’t dare smile then, too frightened of his rejection. “You’ve helped people with your miracles, your science, whatever you want to call it. You’ve healed so many, and you’ve begun to do things to try and actively better our lives. Such as those houses of yours that would triple our food production. I know our peoples can coexist…even if you’re not our Gods.”
“I hope that the rest of your people can be as understanding and forgiving as you are Allura.” Lotor’s tone was soft, voice a sad whisper.
“I’m sure they will be.” She assured him, and geared up the nerve to do more than just touch him. She let her fingers caress his cheek, stroking them back towards his hair. Allura thought she felt him shiver in response, a fine trembling that made her bolder with it’s encouragement. “So tell me, your highness…” She risked a smile then, fingers playing with his fine hair. “Just what are your people like when they are not playing Gods?”
“What they’re like?” He paused, mulling over her question. “I suspect we’re not all that different from you. We work, we live, and love, and at the end of the day we go to bed, to do it all over again the next day.”
“Hmm…” She was hardly satisfied with that answer, brimming over with curiosity about his people. “You make it sound so ordinary. But what you do is anything but!”
“Allura, to us it is ordinary. Just another part of life. Some of it good, some of it bad. We had to turn our back on some of our practices, especially if we’re going to keep past mistakes from repeating on this world.”
“Mistakes…like the wars?” He nodded to that, and she frowned. “I suppose I can understand how they devastated your planet. If you were to use that beam that was capable of rendering a tree to ash….”
“What we used was a hundred times worse than that.” Lotor’s words induced a chill in Allura, the girl dropping her hand from his hair. “We weren’t always a united people. We actually started as two different races, and the hatred was strong between us. We had centuries of animosity and hate, leading to violence and wars that seemed never ending. And during that time, we had the chance to develop new and better weapons, and you can be sure we used them!”
“It’s a small miracle we didn’t destroy ourselves with Doom…” He continued, sighing. “Between polluting our skies and our oceans, and ruining the land, the fighting became even more serious. We were squabbling over dwindling resources, each city trying to claim as much for themselves as they could. We have weapons Allura, weapons capable of wiping out the entire population of a city in a blink of the eye…..and some of us were all too quick to use them.”
“Then how?” She asked, voice soft and whispering, as if that could keep her fear from showing. “How are you still alive?”
“It might be more luck than anything else.” Lotor was rueful then. “My people realized that with the destruction of the cities, the land and resources were also lost to us. It wasn’t an instantaneous realization though…it wasn’t until we were down to perhaps a dozen cities that we realized the fighting had to stop. We had to look beyond surviving for a day, and find a solution that could carry not only us, but our future generations.”
“And so you left your world behind?”
“Eventually yes.” He agreed. “But first we had to be united. And that happened when one man emerged before all others, a man fit to be King of both people. That man was my father, and somehow, be it the desperation we felt, or the need to survive, they listened to him. His ideas seemed outrageous at the time, as bad a state as Doom was in, many did not want to leave the home world. Especially when we had no guarantees that we would find a viable world to replace ours.”
“But he convinced them otherwise, didn’t he?” Allura said knowingly.
“Yes. We spent years building ships, even with our numbers dwindled down, we still needed many to carry us through the stars. We needed room for the few animals we hadn’t hunted to extinction, needed to make space for our green houses to grow crops and medicines. You can’t imagine what it’s like, living on recycled air and water Allura. The cleanness of Arus’ air, it’s something you probably take for granted…it’s something that should be savored, relished for it’s pureness.”
“We could have lived for an indefinite amount of time inside our ships…” continued Lotor. “In fact, it was beginning to look like we might have to. We traveled through much of the galaxy, and it’s a lonely place, far lonelier than we ever realized. World after world empty, inhospitable towards supporting life of any kind. Arus is a miracle, our miracle. I wanted to do everything I could to protect it, and to force a peace between humans and Drules.”
“You’ll get your chance.” Allura insisted, and he gave her a disbelieving look. “You will!”
“It’s very sweet of you to still believe that.” He was patronizing in the moment, Allura frowning at him.
“Sweet has nothing to do with it!” She slowly stood, turning to look around the room. She hadn’t paid much attention to their surroundings, especially not last night, when she had still been so terrified. That fear had almost blinded her, and certainly left her unaware of anything but Lotor and their present situation. But now she felt calmer, and though she was certainly filled with worry over what could happen to them and her people, Allura felt able to think more clearly.
“What room is this?” Allura asked out loud, gravitating towards a blanket that was draped across some large object. Lotor shifted against the crate he was leaning against, watching her move about the room.
“It’s one of our storage rooms.” He explained with a grimace. “One of a dozen rooms, all similar to this one. Although, this low in the ship, it’s stuff that no one cares about, or has a use for anymore.” He snorted then, hoarse chuckles escaping him. “They wouldn’t have brought us here if they thought anyone would come here anytime soon.”
“Well, these things may have been abandoned, but perhaps we can find a use for them.” Allura said, jerking the coarse blanket off the object. She stopped and stared, unsure what to make of the object that was revealed. “What is this?”
“It’s a computer.” Lotor told her, and she repeated the strange word. “Call it a box that thinks.”
“What possible use could there be for a thinking box?” She wondered, expression perplexed.
“You’d be surprise.” Lotor murmured. “It helps us with day to day tasks, solves problems, and helps runs programs necessary to keep the ships going. It also helps us keep in contact with the people onboard the other ships, and we can even play games on them.”
“Why would it be left here then?”
“It’s an older, obsolete model. I wonder if it’s parts are even intact.” Lotor mused. “We usually salvage parts from older models to help make newer ones. It’s the same with any machine, really.”
She vaguely remembered him telling her a little about machines that first day at Pelphine temple when Dr. Reaver had worked miracles healing the people who came to see her and her crew. “Can it help us get out of this room?”
“I doubt it.” She deflated at Lotor’s words. “Not if it doesn’t have all it’s part, and a power source. Although….”
“Although…?” She seized on that bit of hope, turning to look at him.
“If we could get it to work, I could send a message. If it got through to the right people, then perhaps…they’d be able to find us before Merla did too much damage.”
“It’s worth a shot.” Allrua decided, then covered the strange box with the blanket. She didn’t know if anyone would come to check on them, but if this computer could be of use to them, she didn’t want Merla’s group to know they had access to one.
“See if you can’t find something to work off these manacles.” Lotor told her, and she nodded, hurrying over to one of the stacked crates. She carefully lifted open the top, and began rooting through the large, wooden box, seeing all manner of things. There was plenty of books, which held a deep fascination for her, Allura wishing to linger over them even if she hadn’t a chance of understanding the words printed on the page.
She carefully pushed those books asides, finding smaller boxes, some locked, some not. There was even toys inside, Allura smiling at the cuteness of a Drule doll. She continued to rifle through the contents, finding other oddities, things she sometimes chose to hold up for Lotor to explain to her their purpose. She was on her third such crate, holding up yet another object, when Lotor grinned.
“Bolt cutters!” He exclaimed, and she arched an eyebrow at him.
“I take it this will be of some use to us…?”
“It’ll get these shackles off at least! Come here.” He was already turning his back towards her, ready to have her use this strange object on his restraints. She hurried towards him, noting that for all their strangeness, the bolt cutters resembled a pair of scissors in function, two separate halves that would clamp down on the metal and hopefully sever it.
Lotor sighed out his relief when the bolt cutters broke open his shackles, the King bringing his arms forward, and rubbing his fingers over his wrists. Allura set the bolt cutters down on top of the crate he had leaned on, just watching him work out the kinks in his arms. “It must be a relief…” She said out loud, smiling. “To be able to move your arms again.”
“You have no idea.” Lotor told her. “And if I play things carefully, I may be able to get us free by overpowering our captors.” He frowned then. “That’s if anyone ever deigns to come visit us…”
“I’m sure they will! They wouldn’t have just left us here to forget about us!” She would have said more, but then the sound of the ship’s engines coming to life silenced her. The humming noise wasn’t as loud inside as it was when heard from the outside of the ship, and Allura realized that to the Drule, the sound was so much background noise, easily tuned out.
“Lotor…” The ship suddenly moved, and to Allura who had never before been aboard one, she stumbled, losing her footing. She somehow landed across Lotor’s lap, staring up at him in surprise. He looked just as surprised to see her there, the Drule blinking rapidly in an effort to school his expression.
“We’re moving…” He did a soft growl, looking displeased by what he said.
“Are we leaving Altea?” She asked worriedly, and he gave another shrug of his shoulders.
“I don’t know…” He seemed so frustrated then, helping her to sit up. Even seated, she felt shaky, the floor seeming far too unstable for her liking. “Damn it, what is Merla up to now?!”
She couldn’t even hazard a guess for his question, Allura leaning against the crate, watching Lotor out the corner of her eye. Except for a few growled out words, he was silent, stewing on something privately. She wished he’d share with her, but Allura didn’t press him to reveal his thoughts just then. There was enough to worry about as is, Allura wondering when and if the situation would turn in their favor.