Duty 10

She gave a toss of her hair, the blonde strands seeming to catch the light and shine all the more golden. People around her seemed to stop and stare, Mara commanding a sort of awe she had never obtained with her normal appearance. As beautiful a Drule as Mara was, her looks couldn’t compare to that of the princess of Arus. There was simply something about Allura, something both men and women found pretty damn irresistible. She was a golden child, blue eyed and blonde. Allura couldn’t be further from Mara in looks if she had purposefully tried.

It wasn’t just her looks that were the appeal. Allura seemed to charm everyone around her with the very goodness of her inner being. Her very strong sense of right, combined with an innocence, a naivete that seemed otherworldly. She teetered on the verge of adulthood, holding a heavy burden on her shoulders. Her planet and the fate of the galaxy resting on many of Allura’s decisions. And yet she didn’t buckle under the strain, retained her purity, her sense of right and wrong.

Mara could never be as sweet or innocent as Allura truly was. She had spent too many long years in the employment of the Doom Empire. She had seen and done too many things, her hands dirty with blood and sweat. She had even cried on occasion, though it had been many years since Mara had last shed tears. Sometimes she thought she’d never cry again, so unmoved was she by the harsh realities life on Doom dealt her and the other Drules.

She was the direct opposite of Allura in that way. That should have made her less than ideal to take Allura’s place. But if there was one thing Mara was, it was that she was crafty, smart. She knew how to tow the line, knew just what to say and do to put on the performance of a lifetime. She had spent months leading up to this moment. Months studying every known recording of the princess of Arus. She had paid strict attention to everything known about Allura, things both public and private. Things Lotor’s spies had ferreted out about the princess.

It had been quite an education, Mara taking a crash course not only on Allura, but on Arus and the planet’s politics. On it’s people and customs. It had been a lot of information to take in over such a short period of time, but Mara was smart with an excellent memory. She had more than just the basics down, she not only could pretend to be Allura, she had become her.

It didn’t mean she liked everything that had to do with the princess’ life. The princess was a little too prim, too proper for the Drule female to tolerate. There was that obsession with the color pink, Mara dismayed to learn everything Allura had packed came in two colors. Shades of pink, and white. That white was only a small improvement over all that pink!

But Mara couldn’t go and pick out a new wardrobe. Not without drawing attention to herself. So she endured all that pink, and the prim, downright prudish outfits. She felt as though she was suffocating, clothed from the neck down to her toes in some of Allura’s clothes. The princess didn’t even own a proper miniskirt, her shortest skirt part of a business suit that went several inches past her knees.

There was another downside to being the princess of Arus. And that was the woman trailing behind Mara. That Nanny of hers, this Gertrude, was an overbearing sort. Bossy, and quick to make snap judgments about people, this Nanny seemed to be under the mistaken impression that SHE was the princess of Arus. Or at least, she gave orders like royalty, expecting everyone to obey her, even Allura. Mara chafed at obeying the woman’s every command, but knew she couldn’t rebel too openly. Not without drawing suspicion to herself.

Frankly Mara didn’t know how Allura managed to tolerate Nanny so well. Or so often! The woman stuck to Mara like a shadow, following her around the city, the hotel. Only in select parts of the Kirentya embassy did Mara manage to escape Nanny. And only because she was handed over to the watchful eye of one Captain Keith Akira. Not that she minded behind handled by Keith. Mara actually held back a smile, thinking of the black haired young man.

He was a strapping youth, perhaps not as muscled as the Drules Mara was used to. But he was pleasing to look at. Mara more than liked what she saw. To the point she was fighting temptation, knowing she might jeopardize everything if she pursued some kind of relationship with Keith. But she wanted to risk it, sometimes day dreamed about the passion she felt she could inspire in the human.

But Mara couldn’t afford any behavior that might tip off those closest to Allura. She had to play the good girl, the perfect, untouchable princess for just a little longer. It would be a lesson in restraint for Mara, this mission looking to last a couple of months. That was a long time to hold back on desire, but Mara was nothing but a consummate professional. She’d put aside her attraction to Keith, as strong as it was, and do the job she had been asked to do.

Unfortunately her job wasn’t looking to get easier any time soon. There was unexpected delays to the Voltron force’s return to Arus. It all had to do with what had happened at the embassy, with the people who had died. Many soldiers both Drule and from Kirentya had been slain in the shoot out. Tragic deaths that hadn’t kept key members of the Alliance from dying. Not as many as Doom would have liked, but enough to cause an interplanetary incident.

Even worse, as far as the rest of the galaxy was concerned, Prince Lotor himself had died during the attack on the embassy. That had been according to the prince’s own plans, Lotor wanting everyone to assume he was dead. The real trouble was with the replacement’s body. The Alliance had quickly stepped in, claiming all of the dead, including that of the Drules. They weren’t ready to release the bodies over to the Empire, might never hand over Lotor’s corpse.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if Mara and Haggar hadn’t had the fear of what would happen if the enchanted necklace was discovered and removed from the replacement’s neck. That would be pure and utter disaster! Questions would be asked, answers being needed. Zarkon would come looking for Lotor, determined to find out the real fate of his son. Haggar would be in trouble, Mara might be too. They needed to get those bodies released, get the replacement to Haggar so she could properly dispose of the remains.

Mara wanted to help. She wanted to do something to quicken the release of the Drule bodies. She had come up with a plan, a ploy to play the concerned princess of Arus. The benevolent Allura. She’d try to appeal to the Alliance and Garrison members. Try to get them to see they couldn’t, shouldn’t withhold the dead from Doom. That those Drule soldiers deserved their burial rites as much as the dead members of the Alliance deserved theirs.

Not everyone was understanding of her intentions. The woman, Nanny, strongly disapproved of Allura getting involved in a Drule matter. She didn’t care one whit for the dead prince and the fallen soldiers. Nanny actually thought the Drules had gotten what they deserved, actually happy that Prince Lotor was dead. The smug satisfaction on Nanny’s face was enough to make Mara want to slap the servant. It made her seethe that she could do nothing tangible to make the woman suffer for her prejudice pleasure.

It was annoying that Mara couldn’t be too vocal in defense of the Drules. That she couldn’t school these ignorant humans on how racist and bigoted their narrow viewpoints of Doom truly was. But that was something Princess Allura would not do, something the girl was not knowledgeable of. Nothing in Mara’s intense study of Allura had hinted that the princess of Arus knew of a different view point when it came to the Drules of the Doom Empire.

It was sad, it was frustrating. Mara could only hope Lotor and the other Drules would soon open Allura’s eyes to the truth of the Doom Empire. To how many of the Drules suffered under Zarkon’s cruel tyranny. Allura gaining that understanding might make all the difference in helping their cause. In helping their prince. They needed an advocate Lotor would not only listen to, but be moved to act because of. Allura might be the only one who held the potential to change Lotor’s mind, stay him from the course he had set out on.

It might take months for both Allura and Lotor to come around. Months where Mara would have to play at being the princess of Arus. She could do some good on her end, but not enough. Never enough, so long as her hands were tied and she couldn’t openly speak about the plight of the Drules. About how misunderstood their people were.

Mara held in her sighs, knowing the woman, Nanny, would be quick to question her for that sound. The last thing she wanted was to have to make up excuses. Not when she had enough on her mind. Mara would feel even better if she could ditch the chaperone completely, but Nanny and the others were insistent that Allura always be accompanied outside her hotel room. Especially now, given the recent attack at the embassy.

If it hadn’t been so annoying, Mara would have been amused, wondering what Nanny thought she could do to protect the princess of Arus. If another shoot out happened, Nanny would most likely die. Mara supposed she should admire the older woman’s courage, her determination and devotion to Allura. That Nanny was willing to risk her own life for her charge, that spoke of character. It didn’t stop Mara from viewing Nanny as a nuisance ninety-nine percent of the time!

The security at the Kirentya embassy had been tripled. Soldiers being brought in to not only replace the ones that had been slain, but to bolster the survivor’s numbers. The were all under going strict security checks. No one wanted to repeat the disaster that had allowed Drule soldiers to sneak into the embassy disguised. Fortunately for Mara, they had yet to find a counter to Haggar’s magic. She was safe for now, no one the wiser that a Drule walked in place of the princess.

Even disguised as she was, Mara had to endure several security checks. Wands being waved over her body to detect any hidden weapons. Nanny would endure similar, the woman huffing angrily about it being unnecessary. Like so often, Mara would tune out the sound of the woman’s complaints, looking around the embassy. They had managed to get it all clean in a short amount of time. One couldn’t even see the blood stains, though Mara could faintly smell the chemicals they had use to clean up the mess of the shoot out.

The embassy wasn’t the only place security had been amped up. The hotels and space port were also receiving extra attention. Everyone was nervous, many of the surviving representatives wanting to leave at once for their home worlds. But with a fleet of Drule ships orbiting the planet, it seemed unwise to even attempt to leave. Not until the matter of the bodies could be resolved.

“This is an insult.” Nanny was heard muttering. “She is the princess of Arus! A member of the Voltron Force! She shouldn’t have to go through these procedures.”

“It’s all right Nanny.” Mara said, voice speaking in Allura’s soft tones. “It’s not a big deal. Everyone is required to check in. It is what will keep us safe.”

“We’d be safer if went back home to Arus!” grumbled Nanny. “Princess, I don’t understand why we must remain here. Why we can’t use Voltron to force our way past the Drule ships.”

“And leave planet Kirentya to the mercy of the Drules?” Mara inquired, making her eyes widen with feigned shock. “Oh we couldn’t!”

“She’s right you know.” A new voice had joined the conversation. Mara turned, and felt a thrill of excitement go through her. And all because Captain Keith was approaching. She had a second to be alarmed with herself, trying not to frown over her reaction to Keith. She was far too interested in the human for her own good if just his drawing near could get her heart beat going faster.

“Not only is Kirentya a valued member of the Alliance, but many world leaders are currently present on the planet. It would be sheer folly, a total disaster if we were to abandon this world at this point and time.”

“But…” Nanny tried to protest. Mara did not have to fake her disapproving frown.

“But nothing Nanny! There’s too much at stake here…too many people depending on what we do here in the coming days.”

“But what of Arus? What of our home?” The older woman wanted to know.

“Arus will be fine for a few more days.” Mara tried to assure her. “Right now Zarkon is too consumed with getting his son’s body to bother with invading Arus.”

“And Arus is not completely defenseless.” Keith reminded them. “Even now Garrison ships patrol the planet and the surrounding worlds. Doom will not have an easy time of broaching their defense.”

“I don’t like it.” Grumbled Nanny. Mara had a feeling there wasn’t much Nanny actually liked. About this situation or anything else for that matter!

“It’s just for a little while longer.” Mara repeated. “You—we’ll be home before you know it.”

“It can’t come soon enough for me.” Nanny said, following Keith and Mara as they walked through the embassy’s corridors. Mara tried not to look at Keith, at least not directly. But her eyes kept drifting, doing side long glances at the handsome captain. Being this close was distracting. She should be more aware of the people around her, and of potential escape routes. She shouldn’t be focusing on his strong profile, or the way the tight spandex of his uniform clung to his body like a second skin.

“How is it inside?” Mara asked to try and focus.

Keith immediately knew what she referred to. “Still tense. Everyone is on edge. They want to leave…”

“They fear for their safety.” Mara said knowingly.

“And with good reason!” exclaimed Nanny.

“It’s not good princess.” Keith sighed. “This many world leaders gathered together….we were lucky we didn’t suffer more casualties during the shoot out. If Doom attacks again, well…” He shrugged, expression grim. “They could wipe out the leader of over a dozen worlds in one fell swoop.”

“That’s what we have Voltron for.” Mara told him. “We won’t let Doom win. Won’t let them endanger any more worlds while we are here.” It felt strange to talk about preventing a win for Doom. But it was in character for the princess of Arus.

“Voltron can only do so much.” Keith retorted. “What we need is to get past the Drule ships. Force an opening so that our ships can pass through…”

“That wouldn’t be very safe.” Mara countered. “Really, what we need is to get the Drules to go away.”

“Easier said then done!” Keith let out a humorless snort.

“Maybe if we give them something they want….” Mara began to the alarm of her companions.

“Like what?!” demanded Nanny.

“Well, their dead for one.” Mara answered. “It serves no purpose to deny them that. It only agitates them. And it makes us look as bad as Zarkon, refusing the Drules the chance to do their burial rites.” She could see neither Keith nor Nanny like the thought of being compared to Zarkon in anyway.

“It’s not up to us.” Keith said at last. They were almost to the room where the latest conference meeting would be held. Security was strong in this section of the embassy, even more soldiers than normal standing guard, or pacing the halls. “The Alliance will decide what to do with Lotor and the other’s bodies.”

“The decision may ultimately lay in the Alliance’s hands, but we can help guide them to the right one.” Mara said confidently. “I intend to make a case, to petition for the releasing of the Drules’ dead. An act of goodwill can do much too appease the Drule people.” A wry smile. “If only temporarily.”

“It might work.” Mused Keith. “We could perhaps arrange a temporary truce to hand over the bodies….buying the Alliance members time to escape the planet.”

“It still won’t solve Kirentya’s long term Drule problem.” Added Mara. “But it will be a marked improvement….it may even cause Zarkon to lose interest with this world, if he knows the other leaders have already left it’s lands.”

“I don’t care what we do, so long as we can return to Arus and soon!” announced Nanny. Mara met Keith’s eyes, the black haired youth giving an exaggerated roll of them. It made her fight back a laugh, Mara glad to see she wasn’t the only one exasperated by Nanny.

“Now comes the difficult part.” Keith stopped before the conference room’s doors. Soldiers were already moving to admit them inside, though Nanny would be forced to wait outside. “Convincing the Alliance and Garrison to give up the bodies.”

“Yeah.” Mara nodded, not trying to hide her less than unenthusiastic response. She knew it wouldn’t be an easy task to undertake, especially with one General Grants of Garrison present. Gods, but that man tried her patience. He was the worse of the bunch, a money grubbing, fight hungry human who tried to hide his lusts for war by pretending to be better than the very Drules he fought. The very Drules he hated.

It wasn’t just his prejudices and greed she had to contend with. Grants had been actively pushing for control of Voltron. He wanted Allura to give up Arus’ defender. That was something neither Allura nor Mara could allow, though for different reasons. She wasn’t about to let Garrison learn the secrets of Voltron, and replicate the robot. It would be a nightmare if Garrison had an army of Voltrons to use against the Doom Empire. Too many innocent Drules would die if that were to come to past. Better to let Arus keep the secrets of Voltron, keep sole custody of the robot.

Of course there was another reason to keep Voltron in the hands of Arus. The robot would be a useful tool in the war against Zarkon. It might mean the difference between a win or loss for Prince Lotor. The least Mara could do was make sure Voltron was available to Lotor for if–when he decided to act.

“You ready?” Keith asked when the guards had finished with their checks.

“As ready as I’ll ever be…” Mara said, plastering a bright, cheery smile on her face as they entered the room. Not everyone smiled back, too worried and tense over the current situation. There would be even less smiles once Mara pleaded a case for the Drules to get back their dead. But Mara was a practical woman, and didn’t give a damn if not everyone liked what she had to say. Just so long as they conceded her point was right!

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