I couldn’t believe it when Allura so unceremoniously walked away from me. She hadn’t gone quietly, actually mocking me with the knowledge that the wedding would happen, regardless of my wishes. I of course, had snapped out a retort, a promise to keep the wedding from happening. But it hadn’t been enough to get Allura to stay. She had all but ignored me, walking off at a hurried but regal pace. It was clear she considered the conversation over with, and yet I wasn’t finished. I actually considered chasing after her, ready to continue our heated argument. But I could recognize it would be pointless at this time and place. Talking any further with Allura while she was in this mood would only prove a lesson in further frustration.
My mood, already angry and bitter, had soured even further after my talk with Allura. I was left standing in the hall, scowling at anything and everyone. And there was plenty to look at, people hurrying past me as they carried things to decorate the ball room. They couldn’t stop from giving me curious glances, sometimes turning fearful at the venomous look I gave them in return. I could have, wanted to, hit someone and yet was conscious of the device implanted in my arm.
The moment at dinner, when my temper had exploded into violent action, was a bitter experience. I had learned first hand just how excruciating being hit with hundreds of volts of electricity could be. It was different from being shot with a stun blast from a laser gun. Those only hurt briefly, and you were unconscious almost immediately. This device let out just enough voltage to hurt me without knocking me out. It left me with no other option but to writhe in pain on the floor.
A part of me was shocked to think Alfor had really gone through with it. I had dared to hope it was all bluff on his part, the device nothing more than a tracker. But the part of me that knew King Alfor to be an honest, truthful man hadn’t wanted to risk calling his bluff. Now I had the definitive proof of just what the device was capable of, how much it hurt, and how it could stop me in my tracks.
It just left me more determined than ever to try and escape. I wanted out of the castle, and I wanted this device out of my arm! But neither option seemed available to me, the castle guards keeping a close eye on me as I traveled through the castle. I wasn’t even allowed to visit the gardens, as if they feared I would somehow climb the high stone wall and get freedom that way.
I might very well try that, if no other option presented itself to me. Even as I knew I would be hunted down like a dog if I made a break for it. So for now I was content to bide my time, all in an effort to make them think I was trying to accept what would happen in the coming days. Certainly pretending at being docile kept me out of the castle dungeons. That was one freedom I relished, being free of the cramped cell. I could do without the guards tracking my every move, but I knew I had to take what little freedoms I could get.
I had been inside the castle dungeons for roughly a week’s time. It had been two weeks since the night I had had sex with Allura. Even a week was too long to be out of the information loop where the Doom Empire was concerned. I was itching to know what was going on, and not just with the situation concerning me. I wanted to know which if any friends from the Drule Military Academy had survived the fight with Alfor’s forces. I needed to know who had died, and who had lived. It was important, and not just to appease my conscience.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to get that information. Not before the wedding. Maybe not even after. I really did not know how restricted Alfor had made me. For that matter, I didn’t even know what room was mine! I’d wander the halls for at least another twenty minutes, aimless and doing nothing more than enjoying the fact that I could. But as pleasurable as being able to move about freely was, the more pressing matter was getting information and making my escape plans.
To that end I spoke to one of the guards who dogged my every step. Unpleasant looking man, with a nasty smile. But then, weren’t they all nasty looking to some extent? Especially the ones who had beat me. I was sure word has spread about the guard I had killed. I was none of these soldiers’ favorite. They all wanted to rid the castle of my presence. And yet they couldn’t touch me, so long as I was behaving.
I gave my own nasty version of a smile, as I demanded to know where I was supposed to sleep for the night. I didn’t get a straight answer immediately, the guard insolent as he implied I should sleep in the dog kennels. I actually took a step forward, wanting to grab him by the throat. His smirk widened, and I realized almost too late that he was purposefully goading me. He wanted me to get upset, wanted to see the device in my arm trigger. It was a desire many of the guards shared, and it would make them bolder than they might otherwise be with a visiting royal.
Somehow, I finally got the vicious, disappointed guard to admit to where my room was. It was on the third floor, situated near to the guest rooms I had been given when I had first come to Arus for Allura’s birthday party. These rooms were located well on the other side of the castle from Allura’s bedroom. They clearly wanted to keep our interactions at night to a minimum, at least until after the wedding.
There were guards in the hall, even in this otherwise isolated part of the castle. They weren’t here for my protection, but to foil my escape attempts. They were both a deterrent and a mockery, not even bothering to lock me into the room. And yet I wouldn’t just sit there, instead springing into action the instant the door was closed. The locks had been fixed, so I couldn’t engage them from my side of the door. I’d have no privacy, the guards able to enter at any time. So I was forced to be quiet as I explored.
The first place I checked was the windows. Large, with thick, double pane, they lacked the bars I had expected. I was surprised, and pleased until I noted what waited for me should I try to climb out the side of the window. Smooth, sheer stone, with no handholds of any kind, this side of the building was situated so any attempts at climbing would put me over the cliff castle Arus was built upon. The cliff was insurmountable, stretching down for miles, and ending in a grassy valley that would be my grave should I slip and fall.
I actually growled under my breath, pissed beyond measure that I couldn’t go out the window. I’d have to find another way to escape from the castle, and felt time running out on me, my choices limited on what to do. I was so angry, I could have, should have trashed the room. But that would have served no purpose other than to bring the guards running in. Besides, such a tantrum might trigger the device in my arm, and I didn’t want that!
I resumed exploring the rooms given to me, but my heart wasn’t into it. Not until I found the computer in the bedroom. I tried to keep hope from sparking in my heart, positive there was no way they would allow me to have use of such a device. And still I hurried over to the computer, switching it on. A prayer was whispered under my breath, I was impatient as I waited for the machine to power on.
I ignored the start up programs, and immediately keyed in my log information for my personal mailing account. To my surprise, the computer actually established a connection, tapping into the galactic wide Internet system. I didn’t even look at my mail, immediately pulling up news headlines regarding Arus and Doom. I would read for a few minutes, my scowl returned to my face. And all because the reports talked about the fighting between Arus and Doom, the loss of lives, and the impending marriage that was to mend the rift between the two kingdoms.
I still had no idea just WHO had died during the fighting. I’d look up a list of the dead on the Drule servers in a minute, but first I would take to accessing my financial information. I wanted to make sure all was in order, and to have the proper amount of credits waiting for me here on Arus. I planned to purchase a ship, some small vessel I could use to fly away from this planet. Hell I wanted to hire some mercenaries, experts at getting in and out of places, who could rescue me from the castle.
I began shopping around for a ship adequate for my needs from the list of merchants that were located on planet Arus. I wanted the ship to be waiting at the town nearest to the castle, fueled and ready to take off in an instant. After I found the perfect ship, and filled out the proper forms, I went to pay. Or tried to. Only to get a nasty surprise, the bank account I was attempting to use being denied.
Dread formed in the pit of my stomach. as I began to type in the information for a second bank account. It too was rejected. And so was the third and the fourth. I already had suspicions as to why, but I opened a new window and headed to the first bank’s website. My worst fears where my money was concerned were confirmed. My father had suspended all activity on my account, on ALL of them. All of my assets were frozen, I had no money to my name. At least not money I could access and use.
“Damn him!” I snarled, tempted to punch my fist through the computer’s screen. I didn’t know if that would count as a violent enough reaction to trigger the device, so I settled for growling and cursing under my breath. My father had a lot to answer for, and I immediately set out to dialing up his personal number.
Zarkon did not immediately answer. I’d drum my fingertips impatiently on the computer desk, agitation mounting and not caring a bit that he might have things to do. When he appeared on the monitor, he actually dared smirk at me. Again I wanted to punch the screen, snarling at him.
“You wouldn’t be wearing that expression if we were in the same room!” I told him.
He barely blinked an eye, smirk not faltering. “Now, now, Lotor. Is that any way for a son to greet his father?”
“It is when a son’s father has sold him out!” I retort. “How could you do it? How could you give me over to them?!”
“It’s nothing personal son.” Zarkon stated calmly while I sputtered angrily.
“Nothing personal?! This is MY LIFE you’re messing with!”
“And it’s my kingdom, my very Empire you endangered with your antics!” Snapped Zarkon. “Do you know what ruin you almost brought to Doom?! DO YOU?! There would have been a lot more dead than just a bunch of new recruits, if you had had your way!”
“You don’t know that…” I began to protest.
“It is YOU who don’t know anything.” Zarkon retorted. “I have spent YEARS studying Arus. Studying it’s people, it’s military, it’s power. Looking for a way in. And do you know what I have found?” Seething, I shook my head slowly. “Arus is impregnable!”
“You exaggerate…” I said.
“You know I don’t embellish what is truth.” Zarkon told me. “I would have made my move ages ago if I thought Doom stood a chance against Arus. But we don’t. Not as it stands now.”
“I almost had them….!”
“Almost is not good enough.” Zarkon replied. “Arus is nothing more than a dream…something we can aspire to but never have. Not in my life time, and not in yours!”
“So you just what? Give up? After all that talk about your ambitions, about what you would do to Alfor if you ever got your hands on him?” I demanded. Zarkon said nothing in reply. “I don’t understand you!” I exclaimed, frustrated. “At the very least you could have made a deal that through my marriage to Allura, we could have gained control of Arus! Instead you make a prenup agreement that has me stripped of any power and rights when it comes to Arus and it’s governing! Why!”
“You act as if I had a choice!” snarled Zarkon. “Alfor had me over a barrel. That man is absolutely ruthless where his family and his planet is concerned. He would have preferred war to giving you, giving us any power on Arus!”
“What I understand is you are a coward.” I sneered then, the coldness in my eyes a direct contrast to the warming fire of my anger. “You are too quick to roll over for Alfor, without even trying. Without even attempting to see if you beat Arus in a fight, fair or otherwise!”
“Son, I pray that someday you have half the wisdom I have. Maybe then you’ll understand why it was just not worth it to risk so many lives in a fight we hadn’t a hope of winning.”
“I will NEVER understand.” I swore.
“Then you are a fool, and deserve whatever comes to you.” Zarkon snapped. “I can think of worse fates than being married to a pretty young blonde like Allura.”
“She can’t stand me!”
“And whose fault is that?” Zarkon asked with a smirk. “You are reaping what you sowed, Lotor. You’ve upset everything with your antics…and now you must pay the price. Not just for what you did to the princess, but to the danger you put the Doom Empire in.”
“I never sought to put us in danger. I merely wanted to add to our riches, to our holdings!”
“You should have consulted with me first.” Zarkon said, and seemed tired then. “You are young, but that youth can only excuse you of your foolishness for so long. You were fortunate this time Lotor. I can only hope should you ever try something like this again, it doesn’t end with your death.”
I was bristling with anger, not liking that he was calling me stupid, foolish. I thought myself wise, so smart and so smug. I still thought I had had a good plan where Allura and Arus was concerned. I thought it could have worked if Arus’ King had been anyone other than Alfor.
“Good luck to you, son.” Zarkon said when it became apparent I would speak no more. “Try not to make a total mess out of your marriage.” I scowled at the screen, but said nothing, just watching as my father ended the transmission. I was so angry, and more determined than every to get away. Near frantic, I began scanning the list of deceased Drules, mentally crossing out names as I searched for someone to call.
There was too many dead, more than I had dared believe. But there were a few notable names off the list. Nearly sagging with relief, I would begin dialing up their private numbers. The first two I contacted hung up on me at first sight, a terrified look in their eyes. I tried calling each one back, but this time there would be no one to answer the calls.
The third try was more of a success. I was tense, and the instant I saw that familiar face, I was speaking fast. The words came out almost in one breath, so determined was I to speak before the call was abruptly ended.
“Cossack, don’t hang up! I don’t know what I will do if you don’t help me!”
Cossack was one of the older recruits from the Drule Military Academy. He had been held back a year, not because he was stupid, but because he was too disobediant to his superiors. Not even frequent beatings had broken the rebellious streak in him, and I often wondered how he had survived to live long enough to graduate in the first place. But he was a good man, a good friend. And though his yellow eyes had a wary look to them, he didn’t hang up on me!
“Just…just hear me out…” I continued. He nodded slowly. “I suppose you know the situation I’m in.”
“Yeah..stuck on Arus, about to be wed, most of our friends dead…” He frowned. “It’s not good boss.”
“You don’t know how much I regret those deaths.” I muttered. “But I can’t change the past…I can only go forward. WE can only go forward.”
“We?” Cossack said, a hint of suspicion in his tone.
“You have got to get me out of here!” I exclaimed. “I can’t marry Allura! I can’t give up my life to be her husband, can’t stay on a planet where I have no power and am scorned daily! Hourly!”
“What do you expect ME to do about it?” He asked.
I began detailing a plan. “First, get a team together. Any and all who survived the battle on Arus…I’ll fund the operation for you to come and make an assault on the castle.” I was leaving off that my bank accounts had been frozen. And all because I was sure once I got back to Doom, and could talk to my father, my frozen assets would be a thing of the past.
“An assault on the castle?” Cossack was startled. And more than a little sarcastic. “Because the last attack on the planet did so well?”
“It will merely be a diversion!” I snapped. “While they’re all running around, trying to get their heads together long enough to mount a counter attack, the rest of your team will sneak into the castle to help rescue me. How they do it is up to you, but I got to tell you, security is tight now.”
“So…in other words…you want those who just barely managed to walk away with their lives to come risk their necks again in order to keep you from being married?” Cossack asked, and even to me it sounded absurd. “To mount an attack on the very planet that kicked our asses last time?” I could only shrug my shoulders, Cossack sighing. “Prince…I love you like the brother I never had…but even I am not so stupid as to risk my life a second time on Arus.”
“Ask around…see if any others would be willing…” I was desperate and it showed.
“Afraid you’re all out of options here. Those who are willing to talk to you, won’t be quick to lay down their lives. Not after the amount of people who died last time.” Cossack sighed again. “Everyone’s changed…seeing all that death and devastation…it made us realize something…”
“That no one is invincible.” Cossack answered. “Not even the Drule.” The words had a chilling effect on me. “I am sorry Prince Lotor. But there’s nothing I…or anyone else can do…We’re simply not willing to try.”
“Cossack….don’t abandon me….” I pleaded one last time. Sorrowful eyes looked at me, but Cossack was shaking his head no. I shouted his name one last time, even as the transmission ended. He had hung up on me, turning his back on me just as my father had. Once again I felt abandoned, and I was left wondering what I was going to do. How could I get out of this mess? Was the situation as hopeless as it appeared to be? Would my options be any brighter come the morning? I just didn’t know, the answers eluding me as to how I could escape. The one thing I was sure of was how time was quickly running out on me!