He was up before Allura, Lotor shifting on the floor, careful to keep from disturbing the princess. The fact that she was currently snuggled up against his chest made it difficult, Lotor’s arms having gone around her some time during their sleep. He’d be amused at their embrace if their situation wasn’t so serious, Lotor tense and waiting for the next attempt at blackmail and torture to begin.
So far no one had come after the initial discovery of Carp’s body. Not even Merla arrived to shout and scream at him for killing one of her allies. He didn’t know what it meant that Carp’s death was going unpunished, but Lotor knew the peace they were enjoying could not last.
There was at least one good thing that happened after Carp’s body had been removed, the guards either taking pity or being ordered to feed the prisoners. Lotor hadn’t needed to take the protein bars from Carp’s body after all, a plain but filling meal being delivered to them. He had been suspicious that it might be drugged, but both he and Allura had been so hungry, they had been unable to keep from eating it.
Lotor knew it was just the hunger that made the meal taste so good, the plain broth and bread tasting like a four course meal after days of starvation. The only thing they had been given to drink was a jug of water, and a good portion of it went towards cleaning Allura up. She had protested the waste of water, but Lotor had known how upset she was at being covered in Carp’s blood.
Amidst her protests he had washed her, wetting strips of his shirt, using the damp fabric to clean her hands. The shirt had turned a reddish brown color as the dried blood dirtied the material, but at least the blood was off Allura’s hands. It was one less reminder over what had happened, although there was still a large spot on the storage room’s floor marking where the puddle of blood had been.
Allura’s dress had been badly damaged by Carp’s claws, the bodice ripped down to the waist, with large sections shredded. No one had offered to bring Allura a replacement dress, and Lotor had ended up giving her the shirt off his back, all in an effort to keep her decent. Not that her slip showed all that much, but Lotor found his fury mounting when the guards had entered the room, and leered at Allura’s disheveled state.
His shirt was almost comical on her, the hem ragged from all the strips that had been torn off it. Even with a generous portion of the hem gone, it still draped down past her hips, Allura practically swimming in the fabric. Her skirts peeked out from underneath the shirt’s hem, and they too missed a few strips, Allura having insisted on giving him new bandages for his shoulder.
Allura hadn’t cried since her first, initial shock over what she had done. At least, she hadn’t cried while awake. Lotor feared she’d dream about Carp, dream about what he had tried to do, and what she had done to stop him. She had actually whimpered a few times in her sleep, Lotor sitting up alert to her sounds, and running fingers through her hair in an attempt to calm her.
He was fortunate the touch had a soothing effect, Lotor not realizing that in Allura’s emotional state, she could have mistook his hand for Carp’s. But some part of her had recognized it was Lotor, the girl remembering how Carp had never been gentle when he touched her hair. She had snuggled up to his side, abandoning her cloak to make a pillow out of his body. He hadn’t mind, though Lotor had told himself not to get used to sleeping with Allura in his arms. And it was all because he didn’t want to get used to something he wouldn’t be able to keep, Lotor absolutely sure that Merla had ruined the Drules chances of living on Arus.
He was positive the Drules would be ordered to leave Arus, the humans no longer willing to tolerate the visitors on their world. Once Lotor might have insisted on staying, on fighting the humans, but now he wasn’t so sure. He liked the humans too much to want to be their enemy, but more than that, he felt they would never stop attacking the Drule settlements, all in an attempt to drive them off.
The Drules would be forced to fight back, they’d have no choice but to subdue the humans, and then where would they be? The humans enslaved or dead, the world possibly damaged by the weapons the Drules had access to. Lotor wasn’t the type of King to want to destroy what he couldn’t have, he’d rather leave Arus in the care of the humans, then risk damaging it in a fight.
There was another possibility to consider, one he hadn’t wanted to think about. His people would find it hard, the thought of giving up on Arus. The majority of the Drules might want to fight the humans, might even fight their own King, if he tried to make them leave. He knew no one would want to go back to living indefinitely on the ships, traveling from world to world, searching for one that was suitable to be their new home.
He grimaced and growled softly, damning Merla for all she had done. “She’s just about ruined everything!” He let out a fierce hiss, and the sound was enough to rouse Allura from her sleep, the girl shifting. He watched her eyelids flutter open, ocean blue color being revealed to him. Allura looked disorientated, but that was fading as her awareness took control.
“Morning.” He said, though he had no way of knowing what time it really was. “Did you sleep well?”
“Kind of.” She frowned, making no move to untangle herself from his hold. “I kept having dreams…” Allura shook her head, as though she didn’t want to talk about it. “Have the guards come back?”
“No. We’ve been left alone all this time.”
“What does that mean?” Allura asked, and he shrugged.
“I honestly don’t know.” He hesitated and she noticed, Allura staring up at him.
“Lotor, what is it?” She questioned, and he sighed.
“I expect Merla or one of her flunkies to have shown up by now. They surely won’t let us get away with killing Carp. He may not have been the most pleasant of fellows, but he was her ally.”
She had paled, fright filling her eyes. “Merla will be furious….” She stated it as fact, Allura shivering in his arms. “What do you think she’ll do to me for murdering that man?”
“She doesn’t need to know.” Lotor quickly said.
“But Lotor…the guards saw the blood on my hands….they’ve had to have guessed what happened.” Allura pointed out, still trembling.
“Maybe, maybe not.” He almost smiled then, seeing her brow furrow in confusion. “Everyone keeps underestimating you. Merla certainly did, and look what happened to her. She got a chunk bitten out of her hand. And Carp! He dismissed you as a threat, focusing entirely on me. It was his own fault he got killed, leaving his back unguarded when an enemy was unsecured in the room with him.”
“And this means what exactly?” Allura asked, and Lotor adjusted his grip on her so that one hand was free to tap a finger on her nose.
“It means, my little warrior princess, that they’ll keep underestimating you. They’ll keep thinking you’re harmless, leaving us openings to get the drop on them.”
“I don’t know if I have it in me to kill again…” Allura admitted, and now he went from teasing her nose to caressing her face.
“I’m not asking you to. I just want you to be my back up, to be the surprise that throws them off guard. Like you did with Merla, allowing me the chance to get my hands on her sword. You were the perfect distraction, she didn’t know what had hit her!” Lotor chuckled then, remembering the shocked look on Merla’s face, the pain in her eyes as Allura bit down on her hand.
Of course, it couldn’t compare to the look Carp had worn when he realized Allura had been the one to kill him, the Drule so amazed, his expression had frozen in that look. “I’m not asking you to do anything risky…” Lotor continued. “I don’t want you putting yourself in danger unless absolutely necessary.”
“I’d do anything if I saw them hurting you.” She quickly said. “I’d even kill again if I have too!”
“Let’s hope you won’t have to.” Lotor had turned grim then, knowing how much it had cost Allura to murder Carp. It had destroyed a piece of her soul, some small sliver of it, leaving a lasting impression of Carp in it’s place. A man as evil and foul as Carp didn’t deserve to have made an impact on Allura’s soul, and Lotor was angry and sad that she would always carry a memory of Carp with her.
Allura wiggled in his arms, signaling she was ready to sit up. He found himself reluctant to let go of her, Lotor doing one last caress of her face before he inwardly scowled at himself. He had no right to want to keep her in his embrace, even if she was all too willingly to be hugged by him.
“Are you hungry?” He asked out loud. “I still have those protein bars. I’m afraid they don’t taste very good, but at least they’ll be something to fill our stomachs.”
“I am a little hungry…” Allura admitted, shyly ducking her head. “Last night’s meal wasn’t nearly enough food.”
“That it wasn’t.” Lotor said, digging into his pant’s pocket for the protein bars. He handed one to Allura, watching as she fumbled with the foil wrapping. But she got it open on her own, and made a face at the taste, dutifully chewing off bites of the bar. He ate his quickly, trying not to linger on the foul taste of the bar. Food was food, no matter how it tasted!
“Lotor?” She was licking her lips, trying to lap off the remains of the bar’s jam. “Do you think anyone has gotten your message?”
“Oh I’m sure they got it.” Lotor said confidently, glancing in the direction of the blanket covered computer. He hadn’t had to sacrifice any functions, having found replacement wires inside the communicator he had taken off of Carp. With the wires, and the power cell, the computer had come to life, Lotor sending out an encoded message.
“How can you be sure?” Allura looked perplex when he started chuckling, Lotor thinking of what he had done.
“I program the message to be transmitted almost continuously. That way someone is bound to take notice, and come investigate” he explained.
“What if Merla intercepts it?” She was clearly worried, and he patted her hand to soothe her.
“Don’t worry. I put it in symbols, one I based off an old military code, but modified to make something new. I doubt Merla will bother to put in the effort needed to decipher it.”
“If it’s too hard, then won’t it mean no one will know what it says?” fretted Allura, and he paused.
“I’m counting on the transmission to be annoying enough that someone will want to find out what the message is saying.” He sighed then, Lotor glancing at the computer again. The power cell he had installed would not last indefinitely, eventually it would run out of energy, and the computer would shut off. If no one showed interest in deciphering the message he was sending, they would be screwed, captives of Merla forever more.
“I hope they do want to read the message.” Allura said. “And that they come soon.”
“As do I Allura.” Lotor stood up and stretched, Allura watching him. She continued to track his movements when he walked over to the jug of water, the liquid nearly gone. “Here…” He said, handing the jug to her. “Drink up.”
“But Lotor, aren’t you thirsty?” She asked, not bothering to look inside the jug.
“I’ll be fine.” He lied with a smile. “It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Because I’m human?”
“That too.” His answer made her blink, a confused look on her face.
“What else is there?”
He had known she would ask, Lotor torn between chuckling and sighing. He didn’t want to tell her his concern was born out of the feelings he was developing for her, feelings that made him sacrifice the last bit of water so that she would not go thirsty. He was neither greedy nor selfish, but once self preservation would have been enough to get him to drink the last of the water. He’d have done it, telling himself his people needed their King to survive, but now he was more concerned with Allura’s care and comfort.
“Please Allura, just drink.”
“All right.” She gave in to his urgings, taking a small sip of the water. He sat down next to her, and began poking at the stack of books she had pulled out of the crates. He noted they all had pictures inside them, though some only had one or two illustrations. But others had pictures on nearly very page, and it was these colorful photographs that had held much of Allura’s attention earlier.
She watched him as she drank, Lotor flipping through the pages. “These here are photos of my planet before we ruined it.” He explained, looking at the colorful fields of flowers and vegetables. Such a sight he had never born witness to personally on Doom, the land already ruined to the point that nothing could grow long before he had been conceived.
“It was a lovely world.” Allura replied, cocking her head to the side. “And these paintings are absolutely gorgeous. You must have very talented artisans to produce such life like drawings.”
“This wasn’t drawn by hand.” Lotor told her, and chuckled at her surprise. “Allura, we have recording devices, capable of capturing an image of how something looked. And all it takes is a push of a button.”
“Magic!” Allura exclaimed, and shook her head at his laughter. “It is! You insist you are not Gods, that you can’t do miracles, but look at all the wonderful things your people have, that you’ve made.”
“It gets better.” Lotor grinned, unable to resist boasting a little about his people’s accomplishments. “These photographs are just the beginning of what we can do with our recorders. We can actually record moving images, I could take a holo of you, and project it into the room. It would be like seeing your twin, the holograph walking and talking, saying whatever I programmed it to say.”
“Amazing!” Allura’s eyes practically shined, the girl fascinated by the idea.
“If we ever get out of here, I’d like to take a recording of you.” Lotor said, smiling at her. But there was sadness behind that desire, Lotor thinking it would be the only way he could keep a piece of her with him.
“Oh yes! You can!” Allura agreed quick enough, clapping her hands together. “I’d like that. Maybe we could show it to father…He’d be so amazed.”
“More so than he was with Doctor Reaver’s healings?” Lotor asked, knowing Alfor had kept a tight reign on his feelings about what the Drules had accomplished.
“Um…maybe not.” Allura sighed. “The healings were pretty special. And far more important to my people than pictures. But Lotor! We shouldn’t discount your recordings. Think of the memories we’d be able to save…” A wistful smile was on her face, Allura sighing. “I would have loved to have one of my mother.” A considering look now, Allura leaning forward. “I don’t suppose there’s a way to…get an image of the past?”
“Not really.” Lotor heard her sigh in disappointment. “We can only record in the here and now, and then save those recordings to look back on. Of course we’re able to do some manipulations, but we must have an existing image of someone before we can use it with another recording.” She was getting that glazed over look in her eyes, his explanation being more information than she could process.
He looked down at the book, flipping through the pages again. He saw examples of citizens from the different cities, their manner of dress and culture differing depending on what part of the planet they were from. He felt sad to think that much of that culture had been lost, the remaining cities banding together, and developing their own culture onboard the colony ships.
“I would have loved to have visited your world.” Allura suddenly said, and Lotor realized she had inched closer to him so she could stare at the pictures. “Before the wars devastated it, I mean.”
“Truth be known, I wouldn’t have wanted to be around for when Doom was still beautiful. It would have been too painful to watch it’s decay.” Abruptly he snapped the book shut, returning it to the pile. Allura didn’t seem to know what to say to that, just staring at him sadly. “I never want to see any world fall into decline….and I’ve had enough of visiting inhospitable worlds….”
“You traveled all that distance, and for so long…” Allura was speaking softly, Lotor almost straining to hear her. “And Arus was the only other world that was alive?” He nodded, and she frowned. “Did you not see any remnants of civilization on those other planets? Nothing to hint that once there might have been life…?”
“No, nothing.” Lotor told her. “Trust me when I say we searched thoroughly, trying to see if each world we came across could support us. But always the conditions were wrong, and soon we began to fear that Doom was our only chance, and we had ruined it.”
“It must have been a great relief when you found Arus.” Lotor nodded to that, Allura wearing a strange half smile. “The worlds may have been isolated from each other, but I bet our people were destined to meet.”
“Why do you think that?” A curious Lotor asked.
“Well, it would be sad otherwise to think our two worlds would have continued without knowledge of one another. And whatever happens…I am glad to have met you.” Allura said, and then a loud explosion of sound was heard outside the room. “What is that?!” gasped Allura, rising to her feet at the same instant Lotor did.
“It sounds like fighting.” Lotor frowned, turning towards the door.
“Fighting?!” exclaimed Allura with a squeak, but he was barely paying attention. He heard another explosion, and thought he heard the faint sound of shouting. He tried not to grin, but hope was flooding into him, Lotor having a good idea what was behind all that racket. “Lotor, what is it?” Allura had noticed his expression, and he took her arm, leading her farther away from the door.
“I think our rescuers have arrived.” She gasped at that, looking shocked. “I know you can’t hear everything I do, but there are men shouting. They sound angry. This is more than just something malfunctioning on the ship.”
“They’re fighting, aren’t they?!” Allura asked, and he nodded. “Oh, please let them reach us!” She clasped her hands together, and bowed her head, whispering a prayer. Lotor wasn’t a particularly religious man, but suddenly he wanted to pray to, especially if it meant the people fighting were allies of his.
The sounds of fighting grew louder, as did the screams, Lotor almost able to make out a word here and there. Minutes seemed to fly by, perhaps forty-five in all, and then the override codes to the door’s lock was entered. Lotor tensed up, putting Allura behind him just in case it was an enemy that was opening the door. However, when the metal slid open, he was rewarded with a most wondrous sight, a bloody Commander Cossack staring at him.
“Commander!” Lotor said, and wilted with relief.
“Your highness…” Cossack pressed a fist to his chest, and bowed, his dirt white hair falling forward. “Forgive me for taking so long to find you.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Lotor told him. “I’m just glad you got my message.”
“You have this young man to thank for that.” Cossack said, gesturing for another Drule to enter the room. He was almost taller than Cossack, with inky black hair that held electric blue highlights across it. His gold eyes danced with mirth, the young Drule trying to be serious but losing in the face of his excitement. “This is Ryder, a communications expert on the epiphany.”
“Ryder.” Lotor nodded to the bowing Drule. “I recognize the name.”
“It was Ryder who deciphered your message.” Added Cossack, and Lotor smiled then.
“You do good work Ryder.”
“You honor me sire.” Answered the Drule. Another explosion was heard, and Lotor realized it was a rapid fire of lasers that was responsible for that sound.
‘There’s no time to waste!” Cossack exclaimed. “This ship is compromised, almost everyone aboard it is attacking my men.”
“Is Merla out there?!” Lotor growled, and Cossack shook his head.
“I saw no sign of the Lady Merla.”
“What about Yurak or Mogor?” Again that head shake, Lotor snarling. “Damn it!”
“Sire, you can explain to me just what is going on once we get you to safety.” Cossack told him, and Lotor gave a reluctant sigh.
“All right…Come Allura, it’s time we leave this place.” He held out his hand to her, the princess not even hesitating as she grabbed hold of it. He gave her a small smile, one she returned, and then he was turning, refusing to give his prison even one last look. Allura did the same, clinging to his hand as they walked out of the room, and except for a cringe at the sound of the laser fire, she was brave, not cowering at the sight of all the fighting going on.
“Here sire…” A sword was pushed into his hand, Cossack giving up his own blade to his King. Lotor grinned, and tightened his grip on the handle, thinking some payback would be nice indeed. A squeeze of his other hand reminded him of Allura’s presence, Lotor remembering his first priority was to get her to safety. Payback would simply have to wait for a more opportune time.