Duty 06

There was no time for staring, no time for anything but reaction. Allura continued to shove at Prince Lotor’s body, wanting him off her and feeling sick. It was a sickness born of the situation, of her disappointment that the man who had burst into the room was not Keith. He wasn’t even human, his gold eyes seeming to narrow as he looked at the bed. Allura could only imagine what he was thinking, and she quickly blurted out a protest.

“I didn’t do it!”

Ryder didn’t ask her what she had meant by that, his hands reaching towards his belt. She thought he meant to draw his pistol on her, Allura fearing he vastly misunderstood the situation. “This isn’t my fault!”

But it was not his weapon he reached for, Ryder drawing out a communicator from a side pouch. He stared at her as his thumb flicked a button, the brief hiss of sudden static loud. He didn’t wait for acknowledgment, speaking a torrent of words in Drule. The response was immediate, several voices sounding urgent. Ryder would say something short and dismissive, and then set aside the communicator.

But he wasn’t idle, the Drule with the blue streaked hair stalking towards the bed. But he didn’t appear angry, just worried. Allura watched his approach, and turned imploring. “Please…get him off me.” She begged. She pushed feebly at Lotor’s shoulders, showing how impossible she found it to move him.

Ryder didn’t ask her what had happened, simply nodding as he gripped Lotor by the arms. She envied the ease in which he moved the prince, Allura quickly scooting out and off the bed. Ryder was turning Lotor onto his back, easing him down against the pillows. The Drule frowned as he looked at the prince, Ryder picking up his wrist, and testing the pulse there in.

She read the concern on his face. It compelled her to ask, Allura bringing her hands together to fidget with her fingers. “What’s happening? What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s had a relapse.” Ryder answered, and now he laid a hand on Lotor’s forehead. His frown deepened, the man letting out a curse word in Drule.

“A relapse?” asked Allura. “He was sick?” Ryder slowly nodded, but didn’t go into details. “What was he sick from?”

He couldn’t smile at the princess question, but he did tease her. “The prince will be pleased by your concern.” He watched as Allura turned red, the girl shaking her head no.

“It’s not concern!” She protested. “Not for him…never for him.”

There was many things Ryder could have said in response. Including pointing out how dangerous a situation she could find herself in if Lotor did indeed die. It was surely a thought she had also considered. But what Allura didn’t know, was Lotor had made everyone onboard the ship promise not to hurt her should something happen to him. It was a promise Ryder didn’t care to illuminate her on.

Nor did he have much time to waste on banter, Ryder having noticed how weak and thready Lotor’s pulse was. And that his skin was burning up, feeling far too hot for comfort. “I want you to go to the bathroom, and dampen a cloth.” He ordered Allura. When she hesitated, he growled at her. “Do it!” The growl was what got her to move, Allura all but running into the bathroom.

Ryder did not track her movements. Even if she wanted to harm him, he had personally seen to the room’s preparations. And thus knew there was nothing she could find to use as a weapon.

He kept his focus on Lotor, wondering how much longer until the doctor arrived. He touched Lotor’s face, actually slapping him at one point in an attempt to rouse him. But Lotor didn’t so much as moan. That worried him further, and Ryder found himself muttering about how he wasn”t as a medic.

“Here…” Allura whispered, holding out to him the soaking wet hand cloth. He snatched it from her, pressing it over the prince’s forehead. Not even a sigh in response, Lotor just laying there. “Will he die?”

“Maybe.” Ryder admitted. “It’s too soon…”

“Too soon?”

“He hadn’t fully recovered from his previous bout with the fever. His body isn’t at full strength.” Ryder glanced at her, letting the princess see how worried he was. “He should have never pushed himself….” But Ryder knew that Lotor had waited too long for this day. Too long had he spent scheming, planning out everything down to the last detail. He wouldn’t have wanted to abandon the plan. Not when there was a chance that such an opportunity might never again present itself.

Ryder understood that, and still couldn’t stop himself from thinking Lotor a fool. What was the point in bringing Allura here, if Lotor couldn’t live to enjoy a life with her? He should have waited. Or even better, given up on the girl who had caused him so much grief. Ryder knew what Zarkon had been doing to Lotor. Everyone onboard the ship knew. The King had made no attempts to hide the abuse, at least not from anyone inside the castle. To the rest of Doom, as well as the Galaxy, the truth was hidden. It would have weakened their Empire, would have solidified the Drule citizens opinion that Zarkon was no longer fit to rule.

His lips curled into a sneer, Ryder thinking Zarkon had never been fit for the throne. He was a bully of the worst kind. The kind that targeted his own family. If he could be that vicious to his own flesh and blood, was it any surprise some of the nasty things Zarkon did to those he named enemy? It was no wonder Lotor wanted to escape. Ryder just hoped the escape didn’t lie in the embrace of death.

The outer room’s door burst open, several people rushing into the cabin. He could hear them talking as they moved, one voice in particular shouting. “Stop it, Tesla. Stop badgering the doctor before he has even had a chance to see to his highness.”

Ryder didn’t know what kind of face she made in response to his orders. But at least she quieted her shouts, leading the doctor into the bedroom. The Doctor, a Drule who was bald headed from hair loss took one look at the prince in the bed, and began making shooing motions with his hands. “Clear out of the way.” He said. “Give me and my assistant room to work.”

Allura had fled to the far side of the room after handing over the towel. Ryder reluctantly moved from Lotor’s side, watching as the Doctor and his nurse, a pretty Drule female with hair colored a graying white, approached the side of the bed. The nurse carried the doctor’s bag which was already open. The doctor bent over Lotor, stethoscope in place to listen to his heart. His face didn’t betray what he thought of it’s beat, the doctor holding out his hand. The nurse placed a thermometer into his waiting palm, the doctor intent on getting a full read out on the prince’s temperature.

When the thermometer beeped, the doctor actually frowned at the numbers. “What is it?” Tesla and Ryder asked in one voice.

“It’s worse than I expected….we’ll have to keep him cool.”

“Cool, right.” Ryder agreed. “What else can we do?”

“Not much.” The doctor admitted with a sigh. “I, of course, will prepare an injection that may help him combat the fever. But at this point, it’s just a waiting game…” And that waiting would show whether Lotor lived or died.

“Damn it!” Ryder cursed. He wanted to punch a wall, feeling helpless in the moment.

“Tantrums won’t help the prince.” The doctor retorted.

“But from what you’re saying, not much will.” Tesla pointed out. The doctor didn’t bother to respond, instead having the nurse ready the injection. All eyes seemed to be on the prince, Allura feeling unwatched and unnoticed. She began creeping towards the door, having noted no locking mechanism had been engaged. She wasn’t quite sure what she would do once she was out of the room, but Allura knew she had to try to escape.

Maybe she’d be able to evade the Drules onboard the ship long enough to find a computer. She’d then be able to send out a distress signal to Arus, alert Coran both to her situation and the situation at the embassy. Allura wondered if her message would come soon enough, if anyone would still be alive to receive it. That was a depressing thought, Allura tip toeing faster towards the door. The Drules continued to fuss and worry over their prince, and Allura felt a thrill go through her. She was going to make it, she was going to get away.

“And where do you think you’re going?!” Hands grabbed her, Allura stifling her scream. She had almost been to the door, never realizing another Drule was lurking in the shadows of the outer chamber. She saw his face when he spun her around. It was the Drule that had driven the cruiser, the one whose name she still did not know. Silver eyes stared at her, he looked a little more amused than anything else.

“Not going to answer me?” He asked, then tsked. “Naughty princess, trying to take advantage of the situation to get away.”

“I would be a fool not to!” She quickly retorted. “Let me go!” Allura added, but he merely pulled her deeper into the room. From the bedroom she could hear the voices of the other Drules, but they weren’t concerned with her.

“Seems like with Lotor out of commission, the task of baby-sitter falls on me…” The gray skinned Drule muttered. He didn’t look entirely thrilled with the idea. Neither was Allura for that matter.

“I don’t need a baby-sitter!”

“I think you do. Who knows what kind of trouble you’d get into on your own.” He sighed then grumbled. “And we can’t exactly expect you to stay put like a good girl, can we?”

“I won’t just roll over and play obedient for you, Drule! This is a crime! You kidnapped me!”

“It’s only a crime if you get caught.” He retorted. She glared at him with all her might. “Heh…you can spew venom and glare at me all you like, it ain’t gonna hurt MY feelings.” She tried to twist free of his grip, but the Drule merely tightened his hold on her arms.

“I hate you!” Allura spat out, her voice getting louder.

“Hate me?” He widened his eyes in surprise, than said in a drawl. “Sweetheart, you don’t know me well enough to feel anything for me.”

“You’re helping him to kidnap me! Keeping me away from my friends and family, preventing me from protecting my world. Your actions have placed the Alliance in jeopardy…if anyone dies at that meeting, it will be the fault of all you Drules!”

“How will it be our fault? None of us here will have lifted a hand against those at the embassy.”

“Don’t waist your time Vorlac.” Ryder’s tired voice, the Drule walking out of the bedroom. “I doubt you’ll be able to make the princess understand our point of view.”

The gray skinned Drule, Vorlac, frowned. But he didn’t press the issue, looking instead at Ryder. “How is he?”

“As best as we can expect, all things considering.”

“That bad, huh…” Vorlac sighed. Ryder could only nod. “What do we do with her?” He gave Allura a little shake, the princess squeaking in protest. Ryder had a couple of ideas, one of them involving throwing Allura into the ship’s holding cells. But he knew if Lotor recovered, he would be furious to discover such treatment had been given to his precious princess.

However, Ryder didn’t yet trust Allura to be alone with an ailing Lotor. He was all too aware of how easy it would be for her to smother the prince with a pillow. The princess’ murderous intentions aside, Lotor had regained consciousness briefly with the use of smelling salts. He had been upset to discover the nurse attempting to remove his shirt, the prince trying to shove her away from him. The doctor and Ryder had hurried to the bed, ready to calm him.

“Don’t!” Lotor had actually latched onto Ryder’s arms, his fingers seeming to burn the skin of the communication’s expert. “Don’t let her see….” He was all but begging, his fever ridden gaze unfocused as he stared at Ryder. The Drules had instantly known just what Lotor referred to. The scars on his back. He didn’t want Allura to see them, and was near frantic to get their promise to hide them from her.

This bothered Tesla, the woman thinking Allura should know about the scars. Know about the pain and suffering Lotor had endured at his father’s hands. It was no stretch of the imagination to think Tesla blamed Allura for the abuse inflicted on Lotor. After all, Zarkon had made countless remarks about how the love Lotor had for Allura weakened him. How the love needed to be destroyed, to be driven out of the prince by any means.

Ryder wondered if it would make any difference in Allura’s opinion of the prince to know about the whippings. But he also knew it wasn’t his place to betray the prince’s secrets. So he had nodded, a tightlipped smile on his face that seemed to reassure Lotor. The prince had sagged back against the pillows, relaxing to the point he slipped back into unconsciousness.

This however left the problem of what to do with Allura. Lotor would need to be constantly wiped down with cold cloths, his body exposed. As such, the princess couldn’t remain where she could see this. During the day it wasn’t that big a problem to shuffle her around the ship, but where would she sleep at night? Rooms were limited onboard the ship, and she certainly couldn’t stay in the crew’s barracks.

Ryder did not want to give up his room. But he had a feeling he would have to. Even if Tesla could be persuaded to share her room with Allura, he didn’t trust her. She might give in to the temptation to fill Allura in on the torments of Prince Lotor. All in some twisted attempt for Allura to recognize Lotor’s pain, and acknowledged the blame for it that Tesla felt was the princess’.

“Ryder?” Vorlac prodded at his silence.

“Take her to the commissary for now.” Ryder decided. “We don’t need her underfoot while tending to the prince.”

“If you just let me go.” Allura began. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about me getting in the way!”

“Sorry princess, it ain’t happening.” Vorlac snapped. “For good or for bad, you’re stuck with us.” He adjusted his grip so that he held only one of her arms, and then Vorlac began dragging a protesting Allura out of the cabin. Ryder followed them to the door, trying to hide his unhappy smile. Things were taking a turn for the worse with the prince’s collapse. A damn right shame after how smoothly the operation went on planet Kirentya.

“What else can go wrong?” He wondered out loud. He didn’t expect an answer though, the Drule closing the door. He wondered why their luck couldn’t have lasted longer. They had escaped from Kirentya without anyone suspecting anything amiss. More importantly, they had evaded the Drule fleet which wouldn’t have hesitated to open fire on an Alliance based ship. Everything had been falling into place, right up until he had heard Allura’s scream. That scream was what had brought him running, Ryder bursting into the cabin.

He hoped Lotor would recover from this latest bout with the fever. He might even pray even though he wasn’t a particularly religious Drule. And all because he was that loyal a friend to Prince Lotor. Ryder wanted him to succeed, wanted to live to have the life he had always dreamed of. Lotor deserved a chance at happiness, and though he might not agree entirely with how he was going about things, Ryder would do his damnedest to get Lotor what he wanted. Even if that included giving up his room to a princess who wouldn’t appreciate the gesture.

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