Mask 13

It was hardly ideal terrain, the path, if you could call it that, overgrown with weeds, strays branches strewn in messy disarray. In one spot, a tree had fallen, forcing them to waste time and effort moving it off the road. They had had no choice in the matter, there simply was no other way to reach their destination, the forgotten road squeezed in between a high iron fence, and a cave’s wall.

The cave extended for miles, circling half around Tristan’s villa. It didn’t make for an aesthetic view, but the actual villa was further on the property, just out of sight but protected by the caverns wall. They had been assured that no one attempted to breech Tristan’s home from this side, the cavern serving it’s purpose in staving off attacks from thieves and dissenters of the crown.

Once the path had been used as an escape route, Tristan’s ancestors forced to flee their home. That time was past, Tristan’s grasp on his throne secure. His confidence meant the road was neither guarded, nor maintained, requiring a vehicle that was equipped to handle the rough terrain. Lotor and his allies had just that, the mysterious Devana having used her connections to outfit them in a cruiser that’s engines were as silent as a mouse’s feet.

It was fast too, though right now it moved at a snail’s crawl, wheels flattening everything in it’s path. The ride back would be smoother, the way forged for them. He couldn’t wait, Lotor eager to test the cruiser, to see it’s touted speed for himself. He was also itching to see Devana and Drake in action, wanting proof that they weren’t all talk and boast.

Lotor refused to be impressed by a few computer tricks and smart, savvy spending of money. He wanted results, and he wanted them now. He had already grumbled quite a bit about the increase to their fee, along with the time that had been spent procuring the necessities of this mission. All in all, it had taken two days to get everything ready. Enough time for everyone, even Allura, to become antsy.

She had tried to hide it from him, but the truth came pouring out, blurted out fears. The girl worried that Tristan would get impatient and harm her Nanny, something Allura could not bear. It had been all Lotor could do to calm her down, to keep her from trying to escape the hideout in a foolish attempt to turn herself in to the pervert prince.

She nearly wilted with relief when Lotor told her that the time for them to act was now. She had looked at him with gratitude in her eyes, a feeling he hadn’t earned, not
yet at least. It was quickly replaced with annoyance when he informed her she wasn’t to accompany him to the villa. Allura had pouted, and raged, offering arguments that were half hearted.

Lotor knew what it cost her to offer to go, knew that the villa only held nightmares for her. She had acted hurt, thinking he didn’t trust her to maintain her composure during the mission. Truth be known, he didn’t trust what would happen if they encountered Tristan, Lotor thinking that if the pervert sent even one lecherous look Allura’s way, he would fall on him like a savage.

And so he had talked Allura down, his confidence and reason making her see that it was best she stay behind. She didn’t like it one bit, but she accepted his order. Of course Lotor hadn’t left her alone, the prince ordering Baron Krieg to stay and guard Allura. The Baron had seemed relieved, his connections to Alazne’s underworld being the extent of his desire to get his hands dirty.

It was just Lotor, Devana, Drake and Duke Alistair on this mission. Their cruiser was just big enough for six people, and currently the blue print of the villa was laying next to Lotor on the seat’s cushion. He kept glancing at it, trying to memorize the layout of the large building. Devana noticed, and she smiled at him, amusement in her eyes.

“You needn’t worry your highness.” Devana told him, tapping a painted claw to her temple. “Photographic memory, remember?”

“I prefer to rely on my own recalling of the layout.” Lotor told her, leaning back in his seat. His sword was out, laying across his lap, the prince taking comfort in it by stroking it’s scabbard. He was looking forward to using it, preferably on Tristan but he’d settle for some guards. After all, they had to have at least heard Allura’s distressed cries. And yet not one had come to her rescue, choosing instead to leave her to Tristan’s planned rape.

“We were lucky.” Drake called out from the front of the cruiser. “The weather’s holding up…” There had been a twenty-five percent chance of rain this night, and there were enough clouds in the sky to obscure the moon and it’s light. It gave them the cover of darkness to work with, their dealings not fit for the light of day.

‘Scared to get wet?” taunted Alistair, and Drake shook his head.

“Course not. But that’s highly fragile equipment we got with us. These babies are sensitive, they won’t take well to water.”

Among the weapons they had brought, there were other devices. A portable computer, and a small radio that transmitted on a private frequency. All four would be equipped with ear and mouth pieces attuned to that channel, allowing them to communicate where ever they might stray on the villa’s ground. There were other items,
things Lotor did not understand how to use, but Devana did, the woman assuring him they would make their entrance into the villa all the easier.

Other than the occasional comments, there was little talking going on inside the cruiser. He could read the tension, everyone wound up over this mission of theirs. There was a million ways they could fail, too many chances for mistake. But Lotor wouldn’t allow for any, determined that one way or another he’d be leaving this place with Nanny in his grasp.

The cruiser slowed to a stop, the fence here looking no different from any of the other spots they had passed. And yet Drake made an announcement, already moving to vacate the cruiser. “It’s here.”

“Here?” Lotor echoed, and the Duke made an exclamation.

“There’s nothing here!”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” The human said, and began feeling the bars of the fence. Devana moved over, gathering up a small back pack. It was packed tight with items, and colored to match the dark purple leather she wore. It made an odd but lovely contrast with her paler skin, and the Drule had tied back her hair in a braid to avoid it catching on anything.

Lotor and Alistair were dressed in form fitting black, clothes meant to help them dissolve into the darkness. They also hid their white colored hair under black caps, the two Drules stepping out of the cruiser. Alistair was carrying the computer, leaving Lotor to deal with the radio. The matching ear pieces had already been passed out, each person hooking it over their right ear. A curving line extended the mouth piece to the side of their lips, and they need only whisper for it to pick up their voices.

Drake was still shaking the bars, muttering under his breath. “Come on, come on…I know it’s here somewhere…”

“Problem?” Lotor asked, and Drake shook his head.

“No…” One of the bars came loose, Drake turning to grin, his eyes relieved. “See? Just like I told you…” More bars came loose, making a hole in the fence with wide enough space for one person at a time to crawl through. They did so in a timely manner, and began the trek towards the villa.

“Everyone got their watches synchronized?” Devana asked, and a confirming yes came from each man. “Good. Once we get inside, we’ll have a limited amount of
time to actually pull this off. We can’t afford too many delays….”

“If you stick to my plan, there won’t be.” Drake said. the human confidant in his work.

“I’m just glad this is almost over with.” Duke Alistair said.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself….we’ve hardly begun. And you still have to get off planet with the target and the princess!” pointed out Devana.

“We worry about one thing at a time.” Lotor told them, and the stray chatter faded for the moment. It took them ten minutes in all to get close enough to the villa to set up, The computer and radio being laid out in the protecting shadows of the trees.

“This is as close as we’ll go.” Drake said, kneeling down to hunch over the computer. The Duke nodded, leaning against the trunk of a tree, his hand drawing a laser rifle that was equipped with a silencer to muffle the sound of it’s blasts. He would be staying with the hacker, guarding him as Drake tended to the dozens of tasks he had appointed to himself.

Lotor and Devana would be traveling into the villa themselves, but not before Drake put into effect the first of his plans. “Okay…I’m hacking into the backdoor of the computer….” He talked as he typed, his fingers a fast blur of movement on the keyboard. “I’ll replace the security cam’s feed with the footage taken from the recordings of two nights ago.”

“I hope this works…” muttered Alistair under his breath. Lotor tapped his toe impatiently, waiting for Drake to give the okay. Another two minutes went by, and then he was nodding. “It’s up. You’re clear to move.”

“All right…good luck.” Lotor said, and took off running for the villa.

“Be careful.” Drake called out to his partner, Devana nodding as she took off after Lotor. Together they reached the villa’s wall at the same time, the two pressing against it.

“I’ll take the lead.” Devana said, and as much as Lotor was loathe to let her, he knew she had things to do, and skills he did not possess.

“Fine.” Lotor said tersely, and she slid across the wall with catlike grace, Lotor inching after her. They had so much to do, they needed to get inside the villa, and travel to the middle of it, to the very room Nanny had been given. They had to avoid detection if possible, and to avoid raising the alarms. Not to mention trek all the way back to this side and out to the road where their get away cruiser waited.

Devana continued to move, and eventually they came across a power box, the metal locked with a rusted padlock. Devana smiled at Lotor, and removed her backpack, rifling through the top most contents. She pulled out a small laser pen knife, using it to cut away the padlock. The box easily opened then, Devana studying the wires.

“Drake said this power box would feed the locking mechanisms to the doors on this side of the villa.” She said, carefully stroking her fingers along the green wires. “They’re also responsible for the lights and the alarms.”

“How can you tell which is which?” They looked all the same to Lotor, the prince watching as she began removing wires, a look of concentration on her face. No alarm sounded, so he took it to mean it was a good thing, Devana closing the box and putting her bag back on.

“Come on!” Devana began moving from shadow to shadow, darting along the wall until they came across a glass door. It was fragile looking, with intricate lattices forming a pretty pattern near the handle. Lotor held his breath as Devana reached for it, tentatively turning the handle. No rattle of a locked door, no alarms ringing, the door just opening for her. “Am I good or what?!” She asked, a gloating smile on her face.

Lotor did not respond, following her into the villa. He didn’t recognize the room, Devana walking forward, speaking out loud. “Okay we’re in.”

“The hall just outside the room you’re in is clear for the next five minutes.” Drake’s voice came over the ear piece, the man surely studying their whereabouts on his
computer. “That’s how long it’ll take for the nearest guards to reach your location. You should have enough time to make it to the stairs.”

“The stairs are to the left, right?” Lotor asked, trying to remember.

“No, to the right.” Devana said, and opened the door that led out into the hall. Just as Drake said there was no one, no guards, no servants, no Tristan outside the room. Lotor was almost disappointed, but he hurried after Devana and up the stairs.

“Hold it a sec!” Drake called out. “There’s a guard just out of sight of the top of the staircase. Tread carefully.”

Lotor and Devana inched up those final steps, and out onto the second floor’s landing. He saw the hall make a turn to the right, and knew that just around it’s bend was the guard Drake had warned them about. Lotor clutched at the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it when Devana touched his chest. He glanced at her, and she shook her head no, already holding something in her hands.

Curious, he stood down, watching as she moved nearer to the turn. She threw the item, and he saw they were tiny pebble sized metal, the kind that made quite a noise when it landed on the smooth marble floor.

“Who’s there?!” The guard shouted, and went off in the direction of where the pebbles had landed. Devana waved at Lotor to hurry, the Drule not waiting for the prince to reach her before darting down the new section of corridor. Lotor followed her, hearing the guard muttering under his breath, slow to return to his post. They made it clear to the next hall, pausing against a wall.

“So far so good.” Devana said to him.

“Yeah.” He agreed. Drake voice came over the airwaves, the human issuing out orders.

“The next stationary guard post should be changing in exactly three minutes. Hurry there, and you’ll have seconds to slip through before the replacements arrive.” Even before Drake finished his words, Devana and Lotor were moving, not quite running as they worked to reach the post at the appointed time.

“Empty…” Devana sighed in relief, hurrying through the open double doors. Lotor frowned, and she noticed, quirking an eyebrow at him. “What?”

“This just feels too easy…”

“I say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Came Drake’s response over the ear piece. “Now move!”

They hurried, and with Drake warning them whenever they approached a guard, they made it to middle of the villa, where the guest bedrooms lie. Devana began walking down the hall, counting the doors until she found the one that Drake said was Nanny’s room. The door was locked, and Devana knelt down, lock picks from her bag being used to force it to open.

He heard the subtle click of the door unlocking, Devana pushing it open. Lotor and she entered the darkened room, glancing about for some sign of the woman. Light filtered under the crack of the bathroom door, and he could hear a gurgling sound. It seemed Nanny was brushing her teeth, primping before bed. Lotor took up position by the door, blending into the shadows as best he could. Devana hid in a corner, watching and waiting.

A few seconds more, and then the bathroom door was opening, Lotor tensing up in preparation to move. Nanny came out, and her heavily accented voice rang out, troubled. “I don’t remember leaving that door open…”

Lotor had decided his best course of action was just to grab the woman, his hand muffling any potential scream. He moved and grabbed her, Nanny letting out a panicked cry, struggling. He easily held onto her, his hand over her mouth and nose, but wasn’t prepared for her slippered foot to come down on his toes. He made a sound, surprise causing him to let go of her, and Nanny fled from him.

She didn’t even look over her shoulder to see who her assailant was, already screaming for help, purple bathrobe flapping around her legs. She was headed for the open door, when Devana sprang out of her hiding spot, lunging towards Nanny. The Drule Female tackled her to the ground, just inches short of the door.

“Someone! Help me!” Nanny shrieked just before Devana stuffed a ball gag in her mouth. “MPGH!” Nanny continued to scream impotently, struggling to buck Devana off her body. But Lotor was already there, his foot still smarting, leaving him tempted to strike the woman unconscious with a slap. He dropped down to one knee, and grabbed Nanny by her curly brown hair.

“Quiet!” He hissed. “Stop fighting. We’re taking you to Allura!” Hatred and resentment showed in her eyes, but she ceased her struggles long enough for Devana to wrestle her arms behind her back. “That got you to listen, didn’t it?” Lotor said with some satisfaction as Devana secured Nanny’s hands with manacles from her bag.

“You’ve got to get moving!” Drake’s voice hissed over the airwaves. “The target’s scream has roused every guard within a twenty foot radius!”

“Come on!” Lotor helped Devana drag Nanny to her feet, the woman reluctantly moving forward. Lotor kept a tight grip on Nanny’s arm, following Devana back the way they had come. They made it to the double doors, just in time for five men dressed as villa soldiers to arrive “Take her!” hissed Lotor, already shoving Nanny at Devana. He ran forward, his sword drawn, the men taking aim at him.

The laser blasts fired, the men not caring if they hit Nanny too. The woman let out muffled screams of terror, Devana dragging her into a doorway for protection. Lotor stood in the middle of the corridor, his sword a blue blur, lazon humming as he twirled complex patterns in the air. Laser fire flew past him, and in some cases into him, the blasts rebounding off his blade.

From behind him came covering fire, Devana having withdrawn a small pistol. Nanny continued to make frightened sounds, and the guards were forced to take cover from Devana’s attack. It left Lotor with the chance to run forward once more, the prince diving through the doors, taking a wild slice at the closest guard. Blood arc into the air, the man screaming for Lotor had slashed open his back.

Another slash, and the man fell to the floor, twitching as shock went through him, blood draining out fast out of the horrific wound. The guards became panicked, realizing they were up close with an angry Drule, Lotor slashing forward with his sword, slicing off chunks of their rifles, and in one case a finger. And all the while Drake screamed in his ear.

“Hurry hurry! More are coming!”

Lotor continued to attack the guards, and though he didn’t toy with them, it still took time to defeat them. “Change of plans!” Lotor announced, and ran towards Devana and Nanny.

“What?!” shrieked Drake, hurting the Drules’ ears. “What are you doing?! That’s not the way out!”

“It is now!” Lotor retorted, running into a room, Devana and Nanny following behind him. He slammed the door shut just as a new squadron of soldiers arrived, Lotor hurrying to drag heavy furniture before it.

“Great, we’re trapped now.” Devana complained, hands on her hips. “I’d shoot you right now, but I want you to live to suffer incarceration with me!”

“Save the defeatist attitude for another time.” Lotor retorted, moving towards the window. “We’re getting out of here now.” He jerked back the curtains, staring at the ground below. It wasn’t that far a drop, and there was even bushes for them to land in. “Here…” he said, opening the window. “Here’s our escape route.”

“Nice.” Devana was sarcastic, hardly pleased with his idea.

“Come on, you can jump higher than that without taking injury.” He said. “You’re a Drule, aren’t you?”

“Oh I can do it.” She said. “I just don’t have to like it.” As they talked, the guards outside were banging on the door, yelling and screaming for their surrender, even as they tried to break into the room. “What about her?” Devana jerked a thumb at Nanny, who was shaking her head no fitfully.

“The bushes will break her fall.” Lotor said, inwardly hoping that was true. Allura would never forgive him if he returned a badly injured Nanny to her. Something slammed into the door, hard enough to rattle it. “Go now!” Lotor ordered, and Devana nodded, hurrying to the window. He didn’t watch her climb up on the sill, already moving towards Nanny who was whimpering.

“It’s just a little fall…” Lotor said, dragging her over to the now empty window. “You’ll survive…and you probably won’t even break any bones…”

“MPGH!” Nanny screamed, her eyes dilated with fear. She dragged her feet on the floor, to the point Lotor lifted her up bodily, and carried her over to the window.

“Close your eyes and it will be all over with soon enough.” Lotor advised, then tossed her out the window. She sailed towards the bushes, and even the gag couldn’t quite muffle the scream she let out. She hit the bushes with a thud, Devana hurrying over to check on her. Lotor was already climbing out the window when the female Drule gave him the thumbs up sign, signaling Nanny had survived her trip.

He jumped out the window, easily landing on his feet with just the slightest of jolts to rattle his teeth. Devana had helped a dazed Nanny to a sitting position, Lotor moving towards the pair. “No time to coddle her!” he said, and jerked Nanny roughly to her feet. Only to have her scream, the woman ready to tip over if not for his hold on her upper arm.

He tried to ignore her pained cries, Lotor dragging her forward enough to see she was limping. She favored her left foot, leaving Lotor to wonder at the extent of the damage to it. “Damn…” He looked Nanny over, estimating her weight and size. She was no petite woman, but neither was she fat, Lotor reasoning he bench pressed daily more than Nanny weighed. “I’ll have to carry her.”

“‘Better you than me.” Devana said, as Lotor sheathed his sword. He sighed in response, and without preamble picked up Nanny, heaving her over his shoulder. She didn’t scream, but the noise she made hinted how unhappy she was about her current position. She grew even more enraged when the guards on the second floor arrived at the window, opening fire on the three down below.

“Let’s move!” Lotor said, already running. Devana ran after him, pausing occasionally to return fire at the guards in the window. Alarms could be heard now, ringing loudly throughout the property.

“We’ll meet you at the cruiser!” Devana shouted, taking the lead once more. Lotor could do nothing but trust that her study of the blue prints would help her find the road that would lead to their escape. “Pack up and move!”

“Roger that!” Drake said, and then the transmission cut off. Lotor and Devana kept on running, Nanny voicing complaints all the way. From the distance they could hear dogs barking, some sort of blood hounds brought out to pick up the Drules’ scent. Lights appeared in all the rooms of the villa, flooding the property with their glow. But they were passed hiding against the walls of the building, darting into the sea of trees that surrounded the eastern side of the property. If they were lucky, it would give them all the cover they needed to make it to safety.

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