Slave 123

 This was not the time to be panicking, Lotor knew and understood that, forcing his fear and uncertainty about Allura’s current situation to the back of his mind. He couldn’t let his emotions control him, Lotor allowing only anger to fester inside himself. Anger that intensified every time he let his gaze drop to the braided hank of hair he currently clutched in his right hand.

Never had he imagined that hair could look so threatening, the one end ragged and uneven, as though a knife had sawed it from her head. He wanted to unravel the braid, set out to meticulously counting out each individual stands of hair so that he’d know exactly how many cuts to inflict before killing the one who had done this to Allura.

~It’s just hair.~ He whispered to himself. Lotor knew she couldn’t have suffered much physical hurt from the loss of her hair, knew that there were other, more permanent ways of hurting her to get their message to Lotor. One of her delicate fingers could have been taken, or an ear, some bloodied body part to show just how serious they were. He had to keep convincing himself that the hair meant they weren’t hurting her, that hair could grow back if given enough time.

It was time he would get back for Allura, Lotor determined to save her. He already had his people working on discovering the truth behind the hair, minions scattered through out the castle, guards searching for the nanny. His aides had been dispatched to the records room, ordered to look up the woman’s background and work history. To see if they could find a connection that would tie her actions to the people who had Allura.

His orders weren’t limited to just planet Doom, Lotor having sent word to Quevra, his people stationed there not surprised at his interest. Too long had they waited for Lotor to show interest in contacting Allura, and they were now all too eager to be of service to their King.

“Contact Duke Solaran.” Lotor said, winding the braid over and around his hand. It took several turns to complete, the hair simply too long. “Someone may be watching her house, watching to see if I will act. The Duke will be discrete in his inquiries, and he visits Allura often enough that no one should be surprised to see him at the villa.”

“Yes, King Lotor.” Answered one of the technicians at Umeso’s Doom base. The people there immediately set out to contacting the Duke, ringing up his private number. Lotor all but tuned them out, speaking to his own people instead.

“Keep trying to get through to Allura’s home.” His fingers tightened just a fraction around the braid, the only sign of his distress. They had been trying for the past ten minutes to get a call through to Allura’s villa, and no one, not even a servant was answering the line. It left him with a feeling of ill boding, Lotor wondering just what had happened that even the servants were incapacitated

~They’re probably dead.~ A traitorous thought whispered in his mind. Dead because the kidnappers would not want to be identified, would not want any witnesses to their crimes.

The ringing of his personal communicator intruded on his morbid thoughts, Lotor instantly reaching for it’s place on his sword belt. “Speak.” He growled into the tiny device, hearing the answering hiss of the man on the other end.

“Your highness…We’ve located the woman.”

“Good.” Lotor hid his elation, eager and hoping the nanny would offer up some much needed answers. “Where are you? I want to personally over see her interrogation.”

“She’s barricaded herself in the servant’s quarters.” Came the guard’s answer. “We’re working on breaking into the room.”

“Keep at it. And sergeant? Be as forceful as you like, but just remember I need her alive.” He smiled then, a look of pure malice as he imagined the kinds of things his men would do to the woman while they waited for Lotor to arrive. One of the castle technicians happened to be looking at him when that expression crossed his face, the man shivering, openly showing his disturbed reaction.

“Keep me abreast of the situation on Umeso.” Lotor said, tone brisk as he clipped the communicator back onto it’s place on his belt. “Contact me on my private number the instant you hear anything.”

“Yes, your highness” promised the director of the technicians, his underlings continuing to place calls to the various numbers that were associated with Allura’s villa. Lotor knew it was pointless to keep trying the calls, it had long become apparent that no one would answer.

“Have our men in the capital be waiting.” Lotor added, already striding towards the door. “They need to be ready to move, just in case…” He didn’t know what just in case entailed, Lotor fearing at best they would be on clean up duty for the people who had been slain by Allura’s kidnappers.

For once his private guards were not waiting for him, Lotor having dispatched them all throughout the castle. There had been protests, the men not wanting to leave their King unprotected. Lotor hadn’t given a damn about that, more concerned with finding the persons responsible for leaving the hair in Adora’s crib. He still felt chills every time he thought about the moment he had seen the infant with the braid, Lotor all too conscious that it could have become wrapped around the child’s throat.

That the child, both of them, were unharmed was a small miracle in itself, Lotor trying to take it as a good sign that his tormentors did not want to hurt the two princesses. At least not yet, his enemies seeming content to taunt him with messages, warnings that they could have done more than just leave that hair behind. It left Lotor with a sense of angry paranoia, the King not trusting anyone but Haggar to over see the twin’s safety.

The witch was currently in the nursery, delegated to baby sitting duties. She hadn’t seem to mind, though she had to chafe that her usefulness had been limited to seeing to the twins. Lotor wondered if she itched to join in the hunt for their nanny, her magic returning to her bit by bit, though she still seemed to lack her clairvoyant sight.

It didn’t matter, anyone who tried for the twins now would most likely get their head blown off by a magic fire ball. Haggar made for a fierce protector of the twins, loving them as if they were her own flesh and blood.

~She’ll keep them safe.~ Lotor whispered in his head, walking faster. ~Safe in a way you can’t.~ He was surprised by that thought, Lotor realizing he felt like he had failed them. Failed them in protecting their mother, failed them in protecting them from danger. His enemies wouldn’t have been able to sneak the twins past the guards, but they could have killed them, Lotor almost screaming in protest at that very thought.

He thought now about what his father had once asked him, the former King wanting to know if Lotor would be able to keep his family safe. How easy it had seemed at the time to boast that he could, ignoring the tired look that came into Zarkon’s eyes. How quick he had been to dismiss his father’s concerns, Lotor sure nothing bad would ever happen to Allura and his children.

He was paying for that now, Lotor conscious of the braid wrapped around his hand. How much worse would things become in the following days, as Allura’s captors made themselves known? He had to find her and fast, had to save her before they decided to send another message to him.

Without even realizing it he had broke into a run, Lotor charging through the corridors with his coat billowing out behind him. He realized he was desperate to get his hands on the nanny, determined to wring out the truth from her, choke out the answers he needed. Lotor would have to be careful not to let his anger do something permanent to the woman, not until he had Allura back in his sphere of protection.

He skidded to a halt around a corner, his guards looking up to stare at him in surprise. Lotor acted nonchalant, trying to pretend he had not just run the last few corridors in a blind panic. “What’s the situation?” He demanded, striding towards the captain of his guards. The man was watching two of his men, the guards wielding blow torches as they worked to get the door open.

“We’re almost into the room.” The captain answered, arm gesturing at the men by the door. “We’ve been trying to get her to give herself up, but she’s ignored our requests.” He hesitated, uncertainty shining in his eyes. “I don’t want to alarm you but…”

“But what?” Lotor demanded, not liking the expression on the Drule’s face.

“She’s fallen silent for the last three minutes. There’s been nary a peep out of her.” The man licked his lips, obviously nervous at what he was saying. “She could just be ignoring us, but I fear she may have chosen to kill herself rather than be taken.”

“All the more reason to get into that room!” Lotor retorted, voice grim. “If she has chosen to take her life, there may be a chance to save her.” And he would save her, he’d bring her back from the edge of death again and again until she coughed up the answers he needed.

“Yes, sire.” The captain said, then shouted at his men to hurry. Lotor had to force himself to stand still, the Drule wanting to pace in agitation. It was taking too long, seconds turning into another minute, Lotor feeling anxious. The woman had to be taken alive, she had to survive to tell him who had hired her. That she had run proved her guilt, proved she was associated with the people who had taken Allura.

“She’s got a right to be scared.” Lotor said out loud, the captain looking at him in surprise. “The bitch will beg me for death before the night is through.”

“We’re in!” called out one of the guards, the door having fallen free of it’s frame. There was a flimsy barricade in place before it, chairs and tables stacked up. The guards began moving them out of the way, clearing a path inside the room. Lotor stepped forward to lead them inside, the captain letting out a protest.

“Allow me sire.” He said, hurrying in front of Lotor. “If it’s a trap, I’ll be the one to trip it.”

But he was met with nothing but silence, no laser blasts shooting at him. Lotor made an impatient noise, and shoved past the captain to go deeper into the room, his eyes scanning his surroundings. It was a simple bedroom, drab colors showing it belonged to that of a servant. There was three beds in the room, the servants being forced to bunk with others of their station.

The door to the bathroom was ajar, and Lotor could hear the sound of water splashing on the floor. “In there.” He said, already striding towards the bathroom. He could hear the captain shouting at him to wait, but Lotor didn’t care. He burst into the room, and spied the woman, the nanny down on her knees. Her head was thrust under the water, and her wrists were bleeding.

In the blink of an eye, Lotor had her on her back, the King working to pump his hands on her chest. He alternated the pumping actions with breathing into her mouth, her lips feeling far too cold for his liking. “Breathe damn you, breathe!” Lotor ordered, pushing harder on her chest. The captain was by his side, working to place hastily made bandages around her wrists in an attempt to stop their bleeding.

The strips of cloth quickly turned red, Lotor continuing his pumping actions. He all but pounded on her chest, and still she did not stir. Lotor began cursing, horrible words snarled under his breath as he worked to revive the woman. It made no difference, her head had been under water too long.

“Enough your highness…” The captain said, risking placing a hand on Lotor’s shoulder. The King growled and lashed out with his arm, knocking the captain on his back. The man recovered from his shock to sit up, all but shouting at Lotor. “She’s dead! There’s nothing you can do now!”

Lotor knew that, and his hands clenched into fists, the King bringing them down so hard he was sure he cracked the woman’s ribs. “Damn it!” He would not scream, though he struck the body a second and a third time. “She was our only lead…”

“There may still be some answers if we look at her past work history.” The captain sounded doubtful of his own suggestion, but Lotor grasped onto it with hope.

“Then we go to the castle archives.” Lotor said, and shoved away from the body. He held out a hand to the captain, a silent apology as he helped the man to stand. Together they walked out of the bathroom, past the guard who had been peering in at the scene taking place.

Once out in the hall, the captain called a few of his men over, the guards being assigned to escort them on their journey. The remaining guards were left to deal with the body, the King hardly caring what they did with it, so impatient was he to get to the archives.

He set a brisk pace, forcing the men to hurry to keep up with him. His thoughts were just as hurried, Lotor trying to recall details of the nanny’s hiring. Much of it was a blur, Lotor being too numbed by Allura’s abandonment to truly pay attention to the details. He knew the nanny had come highly recommended by a noble, and he frowned trying to remember the man’s name.

He needed a trigger, something to help him remember the Lord’s name. He could remember the man’s solicitous nature, how oozing with sympathy he had been. The Drule had been just the right amount of pushy, urging Lotor to try the woman he had used as a Nanny for his own two children, who were now grown. Was there a reason behind the advice, or had the noble truly been trying to help Lotor? He honestly couldn’t say, the memories of that time dulled by distance and anger.

He hadn’t even handled the details of the hiring, leaving his aides to study the woman’s background and work ethic. She had clearly passed whatever scrutiny the aides had offered her, being deemed the ideal candidate to place the twins in her care. How wrong they had been! Lotor seethed at that thought, nearly snapping the braided hank of hair in half.

He was left wondering who she had feared more. Lotor and his anger, or the employer her capture would betray. Either way, she had killed herself to be safe from revenge and torture. A quick, relatively painless death in comparison to what Lotor would have done to the woman. He’d have to settle on getting revenge on those who remained, Lotor promising it would be bloody, violent and swift. He’d make a lesson of those people so that no one else dare try to use his family against him in the future.

He prayed that Allura had a future, Lotor walking faster now. He couldn’t help but be reminded of the story Zarkon had told him, of how his mother had been taken by his father’s enemies. Of the brutal torture she had gone through, torture so severe it had cost Adaline her life, the woman too weakened to withstand birthing a child. Allura wasn’t pregnant, but she was in danger, the present mirroring the past in a way that was not lost on Lotor.

~It’s happening again.~ Lotor snarled in his head. ~It’s happening again and I may not be able to stop history from repeating with tragic results!~

They reached the castle archives, Lotor and his men bursting into the records room, startling his aides. The two of them, a man and a woman, held ledgers in their hands, carefully going over the nanny’s previous work history. The man took one look at Lotor, and handed him the thin ledger, Lotor looking down at the pages. The writing seemed to blur, Lotor unsure of what he was supposed to be looking at.

“It’s a list of the nobles she worked for in the past.” The aide said, and Lotor’s eyes narrowed, reading off some of the names. He spotted one that was familiar, Lotor breathing out the name.

“Lord Yetervish…” Now he could picture the Drule, a lizard like man that’s skin was constantly oiling with nervous sweat. His head ridges were black, tips sharpened to deadly looking points. The man was always finely dressed, though his clothing usually had damp spots on the material.

“Yes..” The woman spoke up. “He was highly fond of Ms. Patroocia. And it was not just him. As you can see, she came with many a glowing recommendation.” There was a lot of names on the list, Lotor wondering how she could have worked for all this people even given the woman’s older age.

“She switched jobs often?” Lotor questioned out loud. The list was impressive, he could see why his aides would have chosen Patroocia to be the twin’s nanny. With all this exposure to nobles and their children, she would have been the perfect person to guide the twins through their upbringing.

“It seems her specialty was infants.” The woman answered. “She only stayed a year or two at each job before moving on…”

“Isn’t that strange…?” Lotor asked, handing the ledger to the captain. The Drule began silently reading off the names, surely making note of each person listed.

“Not really.” The woman began, but then the captain was clearing his throat for attention.

“What is it?” Lotor asked, glancing at him.

“Pardon me for interrupting but…since when has the Duke Sindeer have need of a nanny?” Confused expressions from all around, the captain continuing. “His wife, the lady Sindeer is barren, and as far as I know they have yet to even consider adopting a child.”

“And since when is a lowly captain of the guard that familiar with a noble’s situation?” demanded the male aide, tone haughty.

“Normally we wouldn’t be.” The captain agreed, then smirked. “But my family has ties to a particular house and my wife does enjoy good gossip.”

“Surely your wife was mistaken about the Sindeer’s situation.” The female aide said, scowling in response to the captain’s smirk.

“My wife wouldn’t get the details wrong.” The captain insisted. “King Lotor, you must believe me when I say they have no children. It’s too strange to find them having claimed to make use of a nanny!”

“I want every one on that list checked out.” Lotor decided. “I want to find out if they have children, how old the kids supposedly were when nanny Patroocia worked for them. We may find a pattern emerging…”

“A pattern?” echoed the male aide, confused. “What do you hope to find?”

“The truth.” His answer was simple, Lotor turning to stride out of the room. “We may even find out that nanny Patroocia was not the woman you thought her to be. Captain, prepare the men. We may soon be paying visits to all on that list.”

“Yes, sire!” The captain said, closing the ledger with a resounding snap. He tucked it under his arm, making to follow Lotor out of the room. He could hear the aides sighing, the two not looking forward to the research they had been given. Lotor didn’t care about their discontent, the King hoping his suspicions would pan out into a viable lead.

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