Duty 23

Ryder was in a bad mood. A mood that had started at breakfast, what amusement he had had at watching his prince with the princess, destroyed in an instant. He knew whose fault it was too, at least partially. The very same princess whose embarrassment he had so enjoyed. And all because Allura continued to spew ignorant, downright hateful words.

Ryder told himself he didn’t care what Allura thought of his people, the Drules. He told himself she was just another human, neither the first nor the last in a long line of bigoted opinions. That he and the others were used to being feared and reviled, hated simply because of what race they had been born as. Her words shouldn’t, wouldn’t have any power over him. Not personally. But Ryder had seen the way they had affected Lotor, the crushing disappointment on the prince’s face. He had been hurt by Allura’s words, surely taking it as a personal rejection that the princess could think so low of his own people.

Lotor hadn’t been the only one upset by the comments Allura had made. But Lotor had probably hurt the worse. Ryder didn’t know about being in love, but he had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t a warming feeling to hear how disgusted your kind made your lover feel.

Ryder wasn’t like Lotor. He didn’t have much patience left for Allura. He was ready to write her off as a lost cause, and if he had been Lotor? He would have already dismissed Allura from his sight. Ryder would have gladly packed Allura up, and shipped her off to Arus. He’d even have slapped a bow around her neck, if it would speed her journey home. But he couldn’t do any of it. Not so long as Lotor continued to be in love with the princess of Arus.

His lower lip curled, Ryder sneering at the portable in front of him. It was a small computer, sleek, black and compact. It’s battery wasn’t much, easily drained in an instant. He had been switching the portable on and off every ten minutes. There wasn’t much life left to it’s battery, and this call would be his last attempt unless he could get Vorlac to find him another battery.

He began the messaging procedures, fingers tapping out the communication code in an impatient manner. It was fitting, for everything about this call made him frantic, Ryder impatient and angry, his bad mood growing worse. He shuddered to think what would have happened if he had stayed at the breakfast to listen to any more of Allura’s twisted view point. Ryder thought he’d probably be downright murderous if he had stayed.

“Come on, come on.” Ryder said, having hit enter on the keyboard. The signal was going out, but it would take time. It had to bounce off of several planets, each one there to add further encryption to the code, and make it harder to track where the call had originated from. By the time it would reach the ship on Kirentya, the computer was whining in protest, a red light flashing to signal how close to failing the battery was.

“Talk to me.” Haggar’s voice was a welcome relief to hear, Ryder closing his eyes for one-second. The witch hadn’t asked who it was. She knew better than to give any names over this line, secure as it was.

“Where have you been?!” Ryder demanded. “I’ve been trying for the better part of an hour to get a hold of you!”

“It’s busy times.” Was her answer. “As much as I have to do, I still have to do HIS work as well.” Ryder knew the he she referred to was Zarkon, the witch juggling the work the King ordered of her, in addition to her assigned tasks for Prince Lotor.

“We all have work to do.” Ryder pointed out.

“But some of us have more time to relax than others.” Haggar complained.

“None of us will be able to truly relax until this is all over with.” Ryder retorted. “Do you have any good news for me?” The door to his room opened, Ryder tensing for a moment. He didn’t relax when he saw it was Vorlac. The silver eyed Drule was too agitated, too angry for Ryder not to react. He gave Vorlac a questioning look, but the Drule shook his head signifying that Ryder should complete his call with Haggar.

“Almost.” Haggar was saying. “There’s been a deal arranged. Seems our agent in the field managed to convince them to do the exchange.” The agent in the field was Mara, posing as Allura. The exchange in question was the handing over of the dead Drule, including the body disguised as Lotor.

“Is there an estimate on when this exchange will take place?” Ryder asked. The signal strength was dropping drastically. The call would be over in seconds, whether he wanted it to or not.

“Tomorrow.” Haggar promised. “It happens tomorrow.”

It wasn’t just Zarkon they were worried about overhearing this communication. Garrison and the Alliance were known for tapping into any communications that came from or went to the Drules. It was why they spoke so carefully, avoiding speaking in clear terms. “I may not be able to get in touch with you until next week.” Ryder told Haggar. “But know we will be taking care of things on our end.”

“I will do the same over here.” Just like that the call was ended, neither one wishing the other luck. With all they had to do, to accomplish? They had to make their own luck, rather than rely on things just happening.

Vorlac was trying and failing not to pace by the door. Ryder switched off his portable, knowing this particular computer would not be activated again any time soon. The damaged wires on this property was both a blessing and a hindrance. It bought them time they needed to delay Lotor’s plans, but kept them from using the technologies brought with them.

Vorlac spoke, the instant Ryder snapped closed the portable. “We’ve got trouble.” Was all he said.

Ryder held in a sigh, wondering what Allura had done now. “The princess?” Vorlac nodded, none of his anger and agitation fading. “What has she done?”

“I’ll tell you on the way.” Vorlac gestured for Ryder to follow him, the agitated Drule looking too impatient. As though he couldn’t even stand still to wait for Ryder to cross over to him. Ryder knew then it had to be bad, for Vorlac’s mood seemed worse than Ryder’s own! That was almost shocking, considering Vorlac usually managed to remain calm in response to Allura’s antics.

Vorlac didn’t start talking until they were both out in the hall. Ryder’s room was on the second floor of the mansion, and Vorlac immediately headed towards the staircase at the end of the hall. “Remember that confession she wanted to have?” Ryder nodded. “It was all a set up.”

“I am not surprised.”

“Well, I am.” Vorlac said. “I really thought she meant it when Allura said she wanted confession. I just thank the Gods you had enough sense to order me to listen in on that confession of hers!”

“So what exactly was she confessing to?” Ryder asked, then said. “All about how the big bad Drules kidnapped her?”

“Something like that.” Vorlac grimaced. “She told the priestess everything! About who she is, who Lotor is. About us faking Lotor’s death, about how she has to get back home to Arus…” Ryder let out an angry curse. “It gets worse.” Vorlac said, starting down the stairs. “She asked the priestess to help her escape. To send a message to Arus.”

“Well, doesn’t this just complicate things.” Ryder grumbled. “Where’s the priestess now?”

“I locked her in a separate room on the first floor. Thought you’d want to talk to her.”

Ryder nodded in approval. “Yeah. I do. I’ve got some choice words for both this priestess and Allura.” They had left the stairs, Vorlac once again in the lead. “Does Lotor know?”

“Haven’t told him yet.” Vorlac’s shoulder sagged. “Didn’t want to upset him with the knowledge that the princess had played on his trust of her.”

“He’s going to have to be told.” Ryder told him. “But first I want to speak to this priestess. See if she can’t be reasoned with, or her silence bought.”

“Somehow I don’t think this female will be swayed by gold.” Vorlac said, as they turned a corner. “She’s a holy woman.”

“It’s been my experience that the people associated with churches and temples can be the most greedy of all.” Ryder retorted. “And if she doesn’t want the gold for herself, she can always use it for some charity.”

“Still don’t think this is going to work.” Vorlac muttered.

“Then there’s always a third option.” Ryder said, as Vorlac came to a halt before a closed door. The man pulled a set of keys out of his pocket, but turned to look at Ryder with his scaly brow raised.

“Third option?” He questioned, sounding nervous.

“We scare her into behaving.” Ryder flashed a humorless grin that was all fang. “The Drules have quite a reputation we can play on.”

“I sure hope you know what you’re doing.” Vorlac muttered, and turned back to the door. He immediately put the key in the lock, and turned it, and then was pushing open the door. Ryder saw that the room was one that had been cleaned, the furniture’s colors faded, but in otherwise good repair. The room itself looked to be an office of some kind, Ryder having the stray thought that maybe Zarkon had used this room as his own private study.

The priestess was standing by one of the windows, one of her hands curled around a bar. Her back was to them, she hadn’t even turned when the door had opened. Ryder wondered what she was looking at, and if she was consumed with fear over what would happen to her. He’d add to that fear as need dictated, the first thing Ryder doing was to slam the door shut behind him and Vorlac.

The violent sound was enough to startle the priestess. She actually seemed to jump in place, her small hand letting go of the bar. Ryder saw her incredibly long hair sway from her movements, the priestess starting to turn around. Ryder put on his most menacing expression, and opened his mouth to speak. And then her turn was complete, Ryder being hit with an emerald gaze that was more serene that it ought to be given the situation.

No words came out of his mouth, Ryder standing there slack jawed. He had looked beyond her eyes, to see the face they were set in. Cute button nose, elegant cheek bones, and sensual pouty lips. She was an attractive package, far more beautiful than he had ever expected someone associated with a church to be. His brain stopped working, Ryder just looking and looking at her.

Vorlac was shifting beside him. The silver eyed Drule didn’t know what was happening. Hell, Ryder didn’t know, thinking his heart was beating a little faster. He thought he felt aware of the blood pounding in his veins, his senses coming alive. He continued to stare, noticing more and more details about her. Such as her ears, which looked too much like a Drules’ to be mere coincidence. Somewhere in her line, someone in her family had slept with a Drule. Considering Simestia’s history with the Empire, Ryder wouldn’t be surprise if Zarkon had had his soldiers pillage and rape the humans left behind.

She wore no earrings on her ears. Indeed she had no jewelry, no rings, no choker for her neck. His eyes were drawn towards her clothing, Ryder blatant as he checked over her figure. Her waist was not thin enough for to be bony, but not big enough for her to be fat. Instead she was voluptuous, and Ryder thought he might break into a sweat as he checked out her curves. He started wondering just what kind of priestess she was, Ryder thinking how she fit the image of what some fertile Goddess would look like.

That thought promptly got him to close his mouth, Ryder frowning. Had he really just compared this woman to a Goddess?! That was almost as bad as Lotor calling Allura perfect! He didn’t like it, and the more he looked at her, the more Ryder decided he didn’t like the effect she had had on him. The instant pull of attraction he was feeling was stronger than any lust he had ever had for women in the past. It made him decide she must be a witch, or some fey being sent to tempt him so. His hands curled into fists at his side, Ryder digging his claws into his palms for the pain they would cause him.

The pain didn’t rid him of the attraction he felt, but it did allow his mind to clear enough that he could think better. Vorlac was looking back and forth, between Ryder and the priestess. His brow was furrowed, the Drule clearly suspecting something was happening. But he couldn’t quite guess what.

“You cannot continue to keep me here!” The priestess had taken it upon herself to break the silence. “It is wrong to imprison another!”

“Does that extend to those who commit crimes as well?” Ryder asked, still digging his claws into his palms. He watched her blink in response, Ryder giving her a humorless smile. “To the rapists and the murderers? To the thieves and the abusers?”

“Those who do evil will be punished. If not by society, then by the Gods’ hands!” She exclaimed.

“I don’t believe in your Gods’ punishment.” He told her. “Just as I don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong. To you, or to any other.”

“You are holding me against my will.” She pointed out.

“You’ve merely been detained for a while.” Ryder replied in a smooth manner. She gave him a doubting look.

“What about the princess of Arus?” She asked. “Have you not kidnapped her, and brought her here against her own will?”

“I can’t deny that we’ve done that.” Ryder said. “But we did it to save her, not to hurt her!”

“It is admirable if you try to save someone. But I think the princess is more the type to save others than to be saved.” He didn’t understand what she meant by that, Ryder frowning puzzled. “She has a purpose.” The priestess continued. “One that extends beyond her charitable work on Arus.”

“What are you talking about?!” Ryder demanded.

“She’s going to defeat Zarkon.” He would have laughed if not for the absolutely serious look on the priestess face. “She is going to bring peace to the galaxy. She is going to save everyone, even the Drule.”

“Uh yeah…about that…” Vorlac said, and switched to the Drule language. “I can’t say I understand the how and the whys, but the princess is suddenly on board with the idea that the Drule people are worth her time and attention.”

“And that means what exactly?” Ryder asked, also speaking in Drule. He kept his eyes on the priestess, but it wasn’t like he had a choice. He couldn’t have looked away, he felt mesmerized by her.

“She wants to free them of Zarkon’s rule. She wants to set up charities, funding for the people of Doom. Help them recover their lives, and get over how Zarkon mistreated them.” Vorlac sounded just as disbelieving as Ryder felt. “She’d even see our people become productive members of the Galaxy Alliance. People who aren’t just tolerated, but welcome by the other worlds.”

“And you believe her?!” Ryder demanded.

“Don’t know…don’t know if I can trust this sudden acceptance of us Drules.” Vorlac admitted. “It could be a trick. She might say anything to get away from us, from Lotor.”

“It is no trick.” The priestess had spoken up, and to their shock she had not only understood what they had been saying, she had replied in Drule! Both men gaped at her, more than a little astonished to hear the pretty human speak so fluently in their language. “Princess Allura is a passionate young woman. When she believes in something, she believes with all her spirit. And she believes helping the Drule is the right thing to do!”

“And…you could tell us this from meeting with her for only a few minutes?” demanded Ryder.

“I looked into her eyes, and I saw how earnest she was about this. I saw into her soul.” The priestess sounded defensive then. “I believe in her.”

“Is it that belief that made you want to help her?” Vorlac asked.

“If you truly listened to everything we said to each other, you would have heard how I believe in helping people.” The priestess retorted.

“Well, yeah. I heard that part. I also heard about her writing a note.”

“A note?” Ryder questioned.

“Yeah. Priestess Alexandria denies any existence of such a note. But I know what I heard.”

To himself, Ryder repeated the priestess name, savoring knowing this small detail about her. He then frowned, hating how he was far more interested in her name, than the fact she had hidden a note somewhere. “Give me the note.” Ryder said, then repeated it more forcefully. “Give it to me.” She actually shook her head no, emerald gaze looking defiant.

“You don’t know who you’re messing with.” Ryder said in a low growl, trying to intimidate her.

“I know what the Drule were made to do in the past to Simestia.” Alexandria told him. “Just as I know from speaking with Allura, that you are not the same as those Drules. You wouldn’t have fled Zarkon’s evil if you were capable of those things.”

“It’s a lot of faith you’re giving based on one girl’s perceptions of us.” Ryder told her. “It could get you into a lot of trouble.”

“It…it won’t.”

“What do you call this?!” Vorlac sounded amused now.

“A mere delay.” Alexandria took her eyes off Ryder to look at Vorlac. Ryder didn’t like that, didn’t want her looking at anyone but him. His own eyes narrowed, Ryder recognizing he had had a sudden irrational surge of jealousy just then. He growled in response to it, and Alexandria looked back at him. He hated how being the focus of that green gaze helped to calm some of the emotions raging out of control inside him.

That growl of his had made her nervous, but no less defiant. “I will leave here.” She said. I will use the princess’ note, and make the call she so desperately needs.”

“You can be damn sure, you’re not leaving here with that note.” Ryder snapped at her, watching her flinch at the curse word. “Now hand it over, or I will make you.”

“You cannot.”

“You challenge me?” Ryder gave her his best evil smile. Her nervous look increased, but she nodded her head, firm in her decision. “Make yourself of use, Vorlac.”

“What should I do?” The Drule asked, sounding worried.

There was two options at this point. And neither one appealed to Ryder, for Vorlac would either be holding the priestess arms, or using his hands to pat her down. Ryder knew he couldn’t handle the sight of Vorlac’s hands moving over the priestess’ curves. He chose the lesser evil, ordering Vorlac to grab and hold the priestess steady.

“What are you doing?!” She cried out in alarm, Alexandria struggling. But she couldn’t get free, a human female so weak in comparison to the raw, physical strength of a Drule. “Let me go!”

“You had your chance to do this the easy way.” Ryder couldn’t help but taunt her. “Now we’ll get the note MY way.” He couldn’t stop his voice from betraying just how much he was relishing what he was about to do. It was all because he was going to touch her. To actually experience how smooth her skin was, to feel if her body was as soft as her looks promised.

He slowly sauntered towards her, Vorlac tightening his grip on her arms to stop Alexandria’s struggles. She didn’t so much as whimper in pain, though she had to be hurting from Vorlac’s hands. Ryder stared at her, going right into her personal space so that the toes of his boots touched the tip of her sandals peeking out underneath her skirt. Her green eyes were wide with apprehension, the priestess scared and unable to hide it.

Ryder almost felt bad for her fear, but then he remembered how she had made him feel. That unnatural surge of what had to be lust. It made him angry, his eyes tightening with the emotion. If she noticed the mad way he looked at her, Alexandria did not comment.

He was close enough that if Ryder wanted to, he could have kissed her. Once he had that thought, kissing that plump, pouty mouth consumed him. Ryder would actually lick his own lips, staring at Alexandria’s mouth. He stared too long, Vorlac coughing.

“If you’re going to do it, do it now!”

Ryder didn’t dignify that with a response, but he was glad a Drule’s coloring did not allow for a blush to show. He continued to stare at Alexandra’s mouth as he put his hands on the sides of her waist. Instantly, those lips parted, a gasp escaping her. As he moved his hands to slide slowly up her waist, he raised his eyes to hers. Some of the fear had gone, Alexandria looking outraged. The anger would only spike, the green of her eyes turning into emerald flames as his hands touched her breasts.

“How dare you!” She hissed, and Ryder’s own breath caught in his throat. She was soft, her breasts pliant mounds he wanted to explore. But he tried to keep the touch professional, even as Alexandria treid to squirm free, causing her breasts to jiggle in his grip. He was pretty sure she wasn’t wearing a bra beneath that gown, and Ryder had to fight the impulse to hook his claws into the white fabric, and wrench it down to see.

“Stop!” Alexandria shouted, Ryder continuing to feel over the bodice of her gown. All too soon Ryder realized the note was wedged in between those large breasts of hers. He’d have to reach in to get it, and the thought excited him, as much as made sweat bead on his brow. Could he handle touching her bare skin directly? Did he even have a choice in the matter? Ryder swallowed, suddenly nervous as he dipped his fingers beneath her bodice. The priestess trembled, but did not lessen her glare.

It was over with too quickly, Ryder’s fingers snagging hold of the folded note. He slowly slid his hand out of the priestess’ top, and stepped back. She did not wilt in relief, body still coiled with tension. Ryder open the note, and glanced at it quickly before tearing it into pieces. “So much for that.” He smiled, Vorlac letting go of the shaking priestess.

The smile was suddenly, violently slapped off his face. Ryder stared shocked at the priestess, whose hand was still raised. Her eyes were so angry. and he realized that all this time her shaking had been born not of fear but of rage. “How dare you!” She hissed, even as Vorlac made a strangled sound. It was clear the scale covered Drule was trying not to laugh over what Alexandria had just done.

“I’ll give you ten thousand.” Ryder said flatly, choosing not to address the fact that she had slapped him. “In gold, not credits.” He clarified, rightfully assuming the Simestians would have no use of the credits predominantly used between Alliance based worlds.

“What?!” Her anger wasn’t lost, even as Alexandria was confused.

“To keep quiet about this matter.” Ryder explained. “To pretend you never spoke with the princess of Arus.”

“You think to bribe me, after you molested me!?” She exclaimed in disbelief.

“I didn’t molest you.” Ryder argued.

“Your hands were down my bodice!” She snapped, a faint blush on her cheeks. “You touched my….my…”

“Breasts.” Vorlac supplied helpfully, as though the priestess might not know the word for it in Drule. “He touched your breasts.”

“You’re not helping.” Ryder grumbled to Vorlac, who this time didn’t try to hide his laugh.

“It doesn’t change the fact that you did touch them.” Vorlac retorted.

“She gave me no choice!” Ryder snapped, and glared at Alexandria. “If you had just given me the note when I had asked….”

“You didn’t ask, you ordered!”

“Either way, you should have done it!” Ryder told her. “Now, is the ten thousand enough for you?”

“No. I will not be bribed.”

“Twenty-thousand then.” Ryder said in a reasonable tone “Think of all the good you can do with that money, all the people you can help.”

She didn’t even hesitate, Alexandria hissing. “Not even if it was fifty-thousand, would I do as you want.”

“Then we have a problem.” Ryder informed her. “Because you’re not leaving here, until I can trust you’ll be quiet.”

Alexandria didn’t try to suddenly pretend she would acquiesce. “The temple will never allow you to hold me prisoner. They will come for me!”

“They’ll never even know.” Ryder said, and turned from her. Already he missed looking at her, but Ryder forced himself not to turn back. Not even for one more look. Instead he grabbed Vorlac by the arm, propelling him out the door.

“They will notice!” Alexandria was shouting after them. “They will see I have not returned, and they will realize what has happened.”

Vorlac waited until the door was closed and locked to look at Ryder. “She’s right you know. They’re going to want answers and they’re going to want them soon.”

“I’ll think of something…”

“Well, do it fast.” Vorlac said, looking at Ryder critically. “What the hell was that in there?!”

“What was what?” Ryder pretended not to know.

“That. There was that tension between you two…It was almost like you wanted an excuse to touch her.”

“You’re imagining things.” Ryder retorted.

“I’m not imaging that tent in your pants.” Vorlac smirked. “Did her breasts really feel that good to you?!”

Ryder could have blushed, but instead growled, pretending to take a swing at Vorlac. “Go! Tell Lotor what Allura has done!” He ordered. Vorlac was still smirking as he avoided Ryder’s punch. Ryder then gave him a shove, trying to goad him into leaving. And with Vorlac went the keys, Ryder feeling it a mixed blessing. If he had had hold of the keys, he would have surely gone back into the room to stare at Alexendira like a fool.

“I have to stay away from that witch.” Ryder muttered, then looked down. The fabric of his pants was straining over his erection, making him grimace from the discomfort of the tight fit. He knew he would have to do something about his out of control cock first, before he could even concentrate to think up on how to handle the Alexandria situation. The choice of words was too much for him, Ryder moaning as he imagined handling Alexandria for a longer, more thorough touching. Not for the first time, he wondered what was wrong with him, Ryder hurrying off to the privacy of his bedroom.

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