They couldn’t lounge around at lunch forever. It was to be a busy day, for both Lotor and Allura. The visit to Doctor Gorma would be only the begginning, things needing to be carefully considered and planned. Truth be known, Allura could have done without the doctor’s poking and prodding. But she knew from experience that Coran and the others would not allow her to do much of anything until she got the okay from the good doctor. Especially in light of her recent collapse.
And so Allura, along with Lotor, found themselves sitting inside one of the hospital’s empty exam rooms. Blood had been drawn from both of them, although Lotor had given up more vials than Allura. Gorma and his assistant nurse disappeared shortly after that, the doctor insisting on putting a rush on the results of Allura’s blood tests. Allura tried to make him understand there was no need for such fuss. She felt strongly that the only reason she had collapsed was due to how tired she had been. But Doctor Gorma would not be appeased by such an excuse. He was just one of many who wanted to make sure their princess was in good health.
She sighed for the umpteenth time, pacing about the exam room. Every pair of approaching footsteps was an invitation to hope, Allura wanting Gorma to come and free her from this exam. So far, save for a nurse to explain that the Doctor had gotten tied up with another patient, no one had come to see them. Frankly, it was driving Allura nuts, the girl feeling like a cage bird who badly wanted to fly free.
Lotor sat in one of the exam room’s chairs, his crutch positioned in easy reach. Despite his brief stint in the bedroom without it, his ankle still wasn’t ready for straight walking without the crutch’s assistance. Even limited by his twisted ankle, Allura sensed Lotor wasn’t anywhere as impatient as she was. But then, he had grown used to the doctor’s demands, having played lab rat for the scientists these past few days.
Allura found herself muttering things under her breath, a manifestation of her impatience. But other than that, the room was silent, Lotor going so far as to lean back in his chair and close his eyes. She didn’t try to interfere with the moments he stole for a nap. If what he said was true, he had been up for most of the night, unable to sleep for fear of the nightmares his mind would torment him with.
Allura wondered if she would have her own nightmares to endure. The wholesale destruction of another race, even one she had acknowledge as irredeemably evil, wasn’t something that sat easy with Allura. Not even when the Drule had been their most ruthless, had Allura ever thought to simplify things by exterminating their entire race. But the Keraclon were proving to be a thousand times worse than the Drules, and though she could make a case that they were sowing what they reaped, Allura still
couldn’t feel completely at peace with the thought of committing genocide.
Even worse was Lotor’s odd attempts to make her reconsider what she was about to do. He had said he wasn’t trying to advocate for the Keraclon, that he would gladly see every last one of them dead. No, what he was more worried about was the effect such an act would have on Allura. How it would change her, upset her. She got the feeling he would much rather be the one to make that decision, and let Allura play at more peaceful solutions.
In his own way he was trying to protect her. To keep her hands clean. Or cleaner than they would be if she pushed for the Keraclon’s extermination. Allura thought she knew what she had to do regarding the Keraclon. But that was before lunch with Lotor, his talk of the burden, the stain on one’s soul such an act would bring her. He thought himself stained enough, while considering her as something more pure even with all the Drules and Keraclon that had died at Allura’s hands. But she supposed she could understand the difference, those deaths she had caused had been acts of self defense, and for the preservation of her world.
Allura didn’t like that she was now full of doubts on what to do. If one had asked her just hours earlier, she would have said the course laid out before her was obvious. Now she wasn’t so sure, and that made her all the more agitated. Especially since she knew they had to make a decision before the Keraclon launched their next attack. Allura most definitely did not want them targeting Arus a second time, especially on the heels of so recent a battle!
The civilians of Arus, the ones who had evacuated, had yet to be called back. Allura wasn’t about to order them home until she knew for certain that it would be safe. She had thought safe meant destroying the Keraclon completely. She still did. Allura just didn’t think there was a way to defeat the Keraclon without killing them all off. The vaccine could only protect those injected from the Keraclon’s fear inducing telepathy. It couldn’t protect them from their ships, and their weapons, including those that were capable of leveling whole cities in a matter of seconds!
What was the galaxy’s options if they didn’t do away with the Keraclon? To constantly be on guard against their attacks? Not all the worlds had a defense force big enough to repel invaders, and some did not have the resources to constantly be at war. Even Arus, in the war with Doom, had been pushed to it’s limits. Many of Allura’s people impoverished and going without necessities.
Allura wouldn’t be surprised if worrying about this would not cause her to develop a headache. She wondered if she could take something to prevent that from happening, since it didn’t look like she would be free to not think about this matter for some time. Already a good portion of the day would have to be spent towards her preparing her arguments for the Alliance meeting. Some of that would involve reviewing what she already knew, both about the vaccine and the Keraclon’s actions.
She sighed again, her pacing bringing her closer to the exam room’s door. No matter how hard she stared, it remained shut. And Lotor stayed asleep, not roused by her movements or sighs. She didn’t begrudge him the sleep though. If he was to start meeting with the remains of the Doom Empire, he had to be well rested. Allura knew enough of the Drules to know that they would seize on any perceived weakness. That included a ruler that was visibly too tired to concentrate on what was going on!
Allura tried to turn her mind to wondering about the Doom Empire. She couldn’t begin to imagine the kind of upheaval that was occurring, Allura sure that by now they had discovered what had happened to the home world. She could only hope that Coran was able to calm some of the chaos with the announcement that the crown heir was alive and wed to the princess of Arus. But she also knew not all the Drules would take the marriage announcement without their own fears and paranoia raging out of control.
Earlier, Lotor had told her how the Drules feared what their marriage would mean for their way of life. That many believed their prince would do anything to keep Allura. To keep her, and to appease her. She hadn’t flat out asked him if anything had changed regarding that. But then Allura had been certain she already knew based on comments he made days ago. Those days seemed like a lifetime ago! But even a lifetime might not be enough to change a person, let alone Lotor’s attitude on how he would not play towards keeping Allura in her comfort zone.
In some ways a man who would cater to her every need and desire would make life simpler. But Allura wasn’t sure she wanted a yes man for a husband. Uncertain though she was, Allura would gladly welcome a few moments during this time where her life would be challenge free. But that didn’t appear to be a wish that would be granted any time soon. Certainly not while her head continued to buzz with all the decisions and plans she had to make, the things she had to consider.
She was making what seemed like her fiftieth pass by the door when it opened. Allura turned towards it, trying to keep the impatience off her face. She gratified to see
Doctor Gorma entering, a chart already in his hands.
“Well, Doctor?” Allura demanded. “Has everything checked out for the moment?”
“For the moment, yes.” Gorma agreed, once he had closed the door. The sound was enough to rouse Lotor, the prince blinking rapidly as he tried to become more alert. “There’s nothing overtly suspicious showing in your blood work.”
“That’s good!” Allura exclaimed.
“Although….” Gorma continued as though Allura had not spoken. “We would like to keep monitoring it for the next few days.”
“Is there some cause for concern?” asked Lotor.
“Well, yes and no.” Gorma answered. “The vaccine is something that’s never before been used…we don’t know how a human’s body chemistry will react to it. We don’t know what side effects, or possible dangers there exists from use of it. Short term and long term could both prove dangerous…”
This was all stuff Allura heard a dozen times before, and she fought not to make an impatient gesture. “I will be sure to alert you to any noticed oddities I may experience in these coming days…”
“I would advise you do just that.” Gorma told her. “Even if it seems insignificant, the slightest thing, even a headache or nausea might be cause for alarm.”
She frowned, but it was Lotor who spoke up. “Has anyone fallen ill since being administered the vaccine?”
“No one has collapsed yet from it.” Gorma began, but Allura was already interrupting.
“So you have ruled out my collapse as being caused by the vaccine?” At his nod, she felt oddly triumphant. She had known her body, had known the cause behind her collapse as that of an extreme need for sleep.
“The collapse may have been from overexertion, but we’ve been getting numerous complaints about other potential side effects.” Continued the Doctor. “Several people have had repeated nosebleeds, and some have been complaining about a persistent ringing in their ears. There’s even been a case of a woman who has suffered frequent nausea ever since she had been first injected.” He glanced Lotor’s way. “Have you noticed anything off about your body?”
“No.” Lotor shook his head, then gestured with his bandaged hands at his broken arm. “But as I believe I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been on so many different medications, it would be hard to tell just what was causing the side effects.”
“Hmmm.” Doctor Gorma was pensive now.
“It could also be that the Drules had perfected the vaccine…” suggested Allura. “I mean…we didn’t manage to make an exact copy. Or maybe, the vaccine reacts differently to humans and Drules…”
“Those are all factors to be considered.” agreed Doctor Gorma. “Whatever the case, my staff and I will continue to monitor the vaccine’s effect on you all.”
“That’s fine.” Allura said. She knew it was important work, the doctors’ findings might prove invaluable to the scientists’ attempt to work with the vaccines. And she didn’t want any of her people’s health endangered any further that it might already be. “Well, Doctor…if that is all, would you excuse me?”
“Oh yes, of course.” The Doctor said. “You can inform Coran that I’ve given you a clean bill of health….for now at least.”
She nodded, trying not to be uneasy with the thought of that changing anytime soon. “Thank you.” She said, already moving towards the door. Noise from behind her, alerted Allura to the fact Lotor was moving to follow her.
“If you’re through with me, doctor, I have things to do….” Lotor was saying. Doctor Gorma murmured his permission for the prince to leave. Allura held open the door for Lotor, glancing one last time at Doctor Gorma. He appeared to be studying the chart, but his expression didn’t betray his thoughts. She wondered then if that chart even had anything to do with her or Lotor.
“Well, that was a good two hours wasted.” Lotor said lightly.
She nodded in agreement. “But I bet you’re relieved to know my collapse had nothing to do with the vaccine.”
“Indeed I am.” He replied, following her as they walked the hospital’s corridors. “I didn’t like seeing you like that…” She gave him a side long glance, but said nothing in response. “When you collapsed…it…it worried me.” He admitted.
“But I told you there was nothing to worry about!” Allura exclaimed. “I was just very, very tired…”
“None of us could know that for sure…” Lotor retorted. “It was very unsettling…don’t do that again Allura. Don’t push yourself to that point.”
“I…I can’t make any promises about that.” Allura told him. That earned her a frown in reply. She hastened to explain. “We’re going to be very busy…there are things that need to be decided, plans to be made…..eventually we will have to face off against the Keraclon. If we don’t strike first, we leave ourselves open to their attacks. An attack that could come at any time. If I have to sacrifice sleep to get everything done that I want to accomplish, I will.”
“Allura…” He actually growled out her name, his eyes narrowing at her.
“You’re in no position to complain.” She retorted fiercely. “You’ve barely been sleeping since we left Doom…”
“A Drule can go much longer than a human can without rest.”
“Yes, but even a Drule must eventually give in to exhaustion.” She pointed out. “You have to try to sleep. If only to keep your enemies from taking advantage of you. I’ll be guarding your back, but I can only accomplish so much…especially in regard to the other Drules…”
His expression evened out. “I think we should take each other’s advice, and both sleep when needed.”
Allura wondered if it could be as simple as that. But she didn’t make him any promises, turning away from him. “Do you think Coran has had enough time to contact the Drule worlds?”
“Not all of them.” Lotor said. “But I’m sure as soon as he made first contact, the various spies of the court began alerting interested individuals…Although I have to warn you, not all the ones who have been alerted will be on my side…”
“No, that would make it too easy.” Allura sighed. “So what will we have to deal with once the rest of the Empire knows you are alive…?”
“Oh the usual…back stabbing, people jockeying for position.” Lotor said in an airy tone. “And of course, the assassination attempts.”
“Assassination attempts?!” She had ground to a halt so suddenly, Lotor nearly walked into her.
“It is the favored way of getting rid of the competition.” Lotor told her. “Don’t look so upset. I won’t make an easy target for them. Even injured as I am…” She wasn’t reassured and said as much. He didn’t quite smile at her concern. “I would worry more about myself first and foremost if I were you, Allura.”
“Me? Why? What do you mean?” Her brow had furrowed.
He maneuvered himself closer to the elevator, using his crutch to press the call button. “Well, as my wife, that puts you in both an enviable and coveted position.” She still didn’t understand, frowning as she gazed at him. “You now stand poised as one half the ruling figure of the Doom Empire. Many a Drule female would have killed to be my Queen…they may still attempt it. For that matter, those opposed to my marrying you for reasons that have nothing to do with them sitting on my throne, will try for
both our lives.”
Her jaw had dropped, Allura staring as he entered the newly arrived elevator. “It’s as I said over lunch…they really do fear the power you might hold over me…the changes you would try to bring to the Drule way of life.” He made an impatient gesture, waiting for her to enter the elevator. She moved, but it was like she was an automon responding to it’s masters orders.
She continued to remain in a state of shock, even after the elevator’s door had closed, and Lotor had pushed for the main floor of the castle. After everything that had happened, the ties she now shared with Lotor, it had failed to register just what it meant to be the prince of Doom’s wife. Never had Allura considered it meant she would now be one half ruler of the Doom Empire, able to affect it’s people, and bring change to them. It was as exciting as it was a daunting task, and Allura wasn’t sure she was ready to take on the burden of an entire empire. And she especially didn’t want to deal with any would be assassins, and Drules who were greedy for her crown.
For that matter, what would happen to Arus if something were to happen to Allura? When she had made the original treaty between Arus and Doom, she had been more concerned with keeping her people and planet safe from Doom’s usual tactics. She hadn’t given a thought that she was marrying the crown heir of an entire empire, and what it would mean once the current ruler passed on.
Frankly she hadn’t expected Lotor to want to share his throne with her! He had always seemed the type to want to retain all the power for himself. And yet here he was, talking as if she would be his equal in power where the Doom Empire was concerned! And even if he didn’t want or need her help in ruling, it also sounded like those threatened by Allura, would still take the measures needed to come after her. As if she needed the problem of people trying to kill her, in addition to all the other things she had to deal with!
A side glance at Lotor showed he was wearing a smile. Small but pleased, as if he knew the effect his little announcement had had on her. Allura wasn’t sure she liked the air of smugness about him, but wasn’t sure how to rid him of it.
It felt like an eternity had gone by since he had dropped that bombshell on her. But in actuality only seconds had passed, the elevator announcing their arrival with a ding. Lotor stepped out first, Allura slowly following him, still in a daze. She would continue in that manner, right up until he reminded her that she had still yet to return his sword.
“I’d like it back now Allura.” He told her. “As per your promise…”
“Right…” Allura remembered now what she had told him, promising she’d hand it over once they were back on Arus. She wondered how he could concern himself over something that seemed so inconsequential. It must have shown on her face, Lotor offering an explanation without her prodding.
“My people will wonder why I go about unarmed if I appear before them without my sword. You could say it is recognized as a part of me…Not to mention I will feel better to have it at my side.” A slow smirk then. “If any assassins dare come near you or me, I will use my sword to kill them.”
She wasn’t reassured, Allura thinking he couldn’t do much to wield a sword in his current condition. Whatever the case, she would have to inform Coran of these new developments. If only to have security in the castle tightened against intruders and would be assassins. She wondered how long it would take Lotor’s detractors to mobilize their resources in this regard, Allura wishing she had realized what marriage to Lotor meant sooner. They would have had more time to prepare, to protect both themselves and the planet from Drule threats. Following Lotor into the castle’s control room, Allura could only hope that they would have a few more days of peace before it all shattered.