Freedom 33

She walked into the control room of the castle, hand on her husband’s arm, a radiant smile on her face. Allura was sure her eyes were twinkling, a sign if her good spirits. The flight in Black Lion had been invigorating, Lotor reluctantly handing over the controls to Allura, allowing her to fly them back to the castle.

Voices greeted them as they strode forward through the room, the Drules that seemed to have taken up a semi permanent residence in Castle Control quick to bow and scrape attention towards the Royal couple. Allura’s hand tightened on Lotor’s arm, unused to such displays, nodding her head in acknowledgment to the men. Lotor himself all but ignored them, striding forward to leave the command center.

A messenger was waiting outside the hall that led to Castle Control, a human who quickly snapped to attention at the sight of the prince and Allura. She recognized the man as one of Doctor Gorma’s interns, a brown hair youth with green rimmed glasses, the panes the size of the bottom of a soda bottle. She racked her brain, a name coming to her as she inclined her head at him.

“Yes, what is it Graham?”

“Princess Allura, Prince Lotor.” Graham’s eyes were wide, a nervous look as he bowed low to the floor. He was clearly intimidated by the prince, Lotor hardly looking welcoming with that impatient glower on his face. “I…Doctor Gorma would like to see you at your earliest convenience.”

“All right Graham. We’ll be along shortly.” Allura told him, giving him a dismissive wave with her hand. His eyes looked relieved, the youth turning to hurry away from them. Lotor and Allura continued their leisurely pace, the princess glancing at her husband. “Well, Lotor? Shall we go see what he wants?”

“I don’t see why he couldn’t come to us himself.” Grumbled Lotor, but allowed Allura to lead him in the direction of the infirmary.

“Doctor Gorma takes patient confidentiality very seriously.” She explained, grateful for that. “He’s not about to broadcast what my test results are where just anyone could hear. Nor would he trust someone to deliver the….prescription to us, without speaking on his findings first.”

“I just hope he has good news for us.” Lotor said, the prince seeming not to notice the hurt look on Allura’s face.

“You don’t think a…” She lowered her voice to a whisper, waiting until nervous maids passed them by. “A baby would be good news?”

Now he paused, glancing at her, and instantly his face took on a look of understanding. “Oh Allura….no…I didn’t mean to imply that. Of course a baby would be a thing of great joy for me…as long as it was you who was bearing my heir. But…”

“I knew a but was coming.” She said, a sigh escaping her. He touched her cheek, trying to comfort her with his touch, his eyes serious as he looked at her.

“A baby should come when we are both ready for one.” Lotor said, fingers caressing her skin. The pads of his fingertips were soft against her cheek, Allura leaning into his touch. “There is no rush…I thought we both understood that.”

“I do.” Allura replied, trying to keep from sounding wistful. She could remember his earlier words, how he said he wasn’t ready to share her just yet. “I know a baby would just complicate things further…”

“Perhaps in a few months we can try.” Lotor said, a quick brush of his fingers, and then he was moving, hand holding hers once more. “Once everything has settled down, and a lasting peace has been guaranteed on Arus.”

“You worry about the resistance?” Allura asked him, staring at his back, watching his hair bounce as he moved.

“A little, yes.” Lotor admitted. “Times are certainly chaotic, and I don’t know if I could handle worrying about a child in addition to my wife’s safety.”

“My people wouldn’t hurt a child…!” Allura protested, seeing Lotor turn his head, a frown on his face. “They wouldn’t!”

“Even if that child was half Drule?” Lotor wanted to know. She hesitated, unsure, knowing the members of the resistance were proving some of her beliefs wrong, the people involved with that rebel faction doing things she had never dreamed possible of her people. “Allura, in times of strife, anyone can be targeted. No matter how innocent…Right now a child of ours could be targeted for ransom, or worse…”

“Worse…” She shuddered, feeling Lotor squeeze her hand in reassurance. “But couldn’t you and your men protect us…the child and me?”

“Of course we would do our best, but accidents can happen.” Lotor’s turn to sigh, giving a shake of his head. “Look at how the poison got through…it may have been a fluke, but it shows how lax we were when it came to safeguarding our own. Allura, do you really want to bring a child into the midst of this?”

“No.” She admitted. “I want my…our children to grow up in times of peace.”

“Then we are in agreement.” A smile at her, Lotor and Allura reaching the infirmary. Nurses and interns moved about, not having much work to do now that the castle was closed to the common man. Allura couldn’t help wondering about her people, worrying that those who needed medical supplies were being denied the access to the free health care the castle had provided them with.

“Lotor…” A tug on his arm, Allura pulling him to a stop. He turned to look at her, brow lifted in question. “Have your people seen to the medical needs of Arus? I mean….who will distribute the medicine my people need…?”

“An excellent question.” Doctor Gorma’s voice, the man stepping out of the med lab, hands in his pocket. “Right now I have more staff than patients.” Allura could see him frowning, lips pressed together tightly in disapproval. “Really, if we’re not going to make use of them, I’d suggest sending them to be placed among nearby villages for the time being. Allow them to do some good instead of lazing about in the castle!”

“All right Doctor.” Lotor nodded. “Perhaps they should be put to work. Choose how many you need to keep your operation going in case of an emergency. I’ll see about sending them to tend the villages closest to the castle.”

“Good.” Doctor Gorma nodded, though he kept himself from looking pleased. “Come…step into my office.” The man strode away from the med lab, heading down the hall towards his private office. Lotor and Allura followed him, the princess noting all the beds that lay empty in the infirmary.

“It’s such a shame…” Allura murmured, Lotor glancing at her. “To see this place so empty.” She clarified.

“Ah.” A sound of understanding from Lotor, but other than that he was silent. It made her sigh, Allura knowing he’d never be open to allowing the people of Arus back into the castle so long as there was turmoil and unrest being caused by the resistance.

One last look at the near empty infirmary, Allura stepping into Doctor Gorma’s office ahead of Lotor. He followed quick on her heels, the good doctor already seated at his desk. He shuffled through papers, Allura’s medical folder open before him.

“Well, Doctor?” prodded Lotor, breaking the quiet of the room. “What are your findings regarding Allura’s test?”

“She checks out fine.” Doctor Gorma said, eyes still on the paperwork before him. “I’m a little worried about some of your blood work, it shows you’ve been neglecting your diet, low levels of iron and potassium among other essential nutrients. Have you been feeling ill lately?”

“I just haven’t felt very hungry at times.” Allura said, glancing downwards to avoid the sight of the two men staring at her. “I only skipped a few meals here and there…”

“Try not to skip anymore.” The Doctor said, and Allura found Lotor touching her shoulder, hand warm even though the lycra of her flight suit.

“I’ll make sure she eats.” Lotor said, his tone saying he would broker no arguments from Allura.

“Good.” Gorma nodded, setting the folder down. “I see no reason why you shouldn’t begin birth control immediately.”

“I’m not pregnant?” asked Allura, unsure if she should feel disappointed or not.

“No. Your blood work checked negative for pregnancy.” Doctor Gorma said, expression unreadable. She had no way of knowing how he felt about her state, leaving Allura to wonder if he was relieved she wasn’t carrying Lotor’s child.

“I see…” Allura said, her voice soft and just a little sad.

“I’ve taken the liberty of filling out a prescription for you.” Doctor Gorma reached into his desk, pulling out an oval shaped compact. He set it down on top of the desk’s surface, pushing it closer towards the couple. Lotor reached for it, the compact looking tiny in his hand. “That’s enough for thirty days, with a refill for sixty more.”

“Is there anything she should do while taking these pills?” Lotor asked, handing the compact to Allura. She clutched it to her chest, inwardly marveling how something so tiny could hold the secret to stopping her body from producing a child.

“Just be sure to take one pill a day, preferably with breakfast.” Doctor Gorma said. “There’s also the issue of precautions the first month. The pills should take effect within seven days of starting, but I recommend for the first month you continue to use condoms.”

“Great.” Lotor sounding less than thrilled with the idea.

“It’s only a matter of being safe. Women have been known to get pregnant even while on the pill in the first month of taking birth control.” Doctor Gorma told them. “Those condoms I mentioned should be arriving soon….I trust you have enough to last until then.”

“Actually we’re running low.” Allura blushed at Lotor’s admittance, seeing the Doctor’s eyes go wide.

“I see…” A sigh from Doctor Gorma, the man rummaging through his desk. He found a spare box of condoms, pushing them towards Lotor. “Do try to make these last until those special Drule strength brand arrives.”

“We will.” Allura said before Lotor could make a comment, her cheeks burning hot with embarrassment. “If there’s nothing else, we will be going.” Allura said, placing her compact into the pocket of her flight suit’s pants.

“Just a reminder, if you do skip a pill by accident, to take one immediately when you remember.” Advised Doctor Gorma. “Try not to go more than a day without a pill so long as you want the birth control to be effective.”

“Yes, Doctor. I understand.” Allura nodded, seeing Lotor put the condoms into his jacket’s pocket. “Good day.”

“Good day Doctor.” Echoed Lotor, turning to follow Allura out of the office. She found her blush lessened once they were out in the hall, relieved to have escape Doctor Gorma’s piercing gaze. “Well…” Lotor began, Allura glancing at him. “That went reasonable well.”

“Yes, indeed.” Allura said, nodding in agreement.

“You’re not too disappointed are you? About the…” His voice lowered, a hush whispered as he glanced around to make sure they were alone. “The baby?”

“A little…” Allura sighed. “But….you promise we’ll try soon for one?”

“Yes….as soon as there is peace to be found on Arus.” Lotor told her, expression solemn. A horrible thought occurred to her, Allura grabbing him by the arm.

“Lotor. What if there never is peace here?!”

“We can always leave to raise our children elsewhere.” Lotor said. “There are many planets to choose from…”

“But what will happen to Arus if we are gone?” She wanted to know, relieved that at least he hadn’t said they’d return to Doom. “Who will take care of my people?”

“Always you think about them.” Lotor let out a heavy huff of air, shaking his head no. “Would it be so hard to not think of yourself for once?”

“I can’t.” She told him, seeing his eyes take on a frustrated light.

“I see. Well…” Lotor shurgged. “Then, I suppose I will have to work extra hard to put down this resistance.”

“For peace?” Allura asked.

“That and for us.” Lotor answered. “For us and our future family.”

“Family.” She repeated the word, smiling. “It’d be nice to have a family to call my own.”

“And I will give you that which you so desire.” Lotor told her, pulling her close to hug her. She felt his breath rustle her hair, Lotor’s arms tight but comforting around her. “We’ll be happy. That I promise you.”

“Thank you.” Allura whispered, hugging him back. She leaned into him for a moment more, and then she was pulling free of his arms. He was smiling at her, reaching to tuck her hair behind her right ear, Lotor looking happy and relaxed.

“Well…do you think you can bear to be apart from me for a few hours?” Lotor asked, letting his hands land on her shoulder. She cocked her head at him, curiosity in her eyes.

“What are you up to now?” Allura asked.

“Nothing.” Lotor laughed, surely amused by the doubting look on her face. “I just merely have some work to tend to. I find the paperwork keeps on piling up.” A weary sigh from him, Lotor looking annoyed. “It’s never ending, here even more so as we try to acclimatize Arus to Doom’s rule.”

“Let me help.” Allura all but begged, eyes pleading. “I have so little to do at the moment.” She saw him hesitating, Allura seizing the moment. “And I can at least help run some of Arus’ affairs. After all…” A smile then, Allura’s eyes twinkling. “I dealt with the planet’s paperwork on a daily basis.”

“I’ve never seen anyone look so eager to deal with official documents.” Lotor said, tone teasing. “Very well Allura, I will see about sending some extra duties your way. But for now enjoy your free time.”

“I’ve had enough of free time to last me a lifetime!” protested Allura. “Surely there is something you can give me to do this afternoon.”

“Well….you could get started on the guest list for the upcoming ball.” Lotor told her. “I’ll have a list of the Drule dignitaries sent up to you within the hour. Meanwhile you can see about which Royals of Planet Arus should be invited to attend.”

“All right.” Agreed Allura, and Lotor leaned in close to give her a quick peck against the lips. It was a sweet but chaste kiss, the sensation of his lips gone before she could properly savor their feel. His hands left her shoulders, Allura seeing Lotor smile at her before turning to walk off in the direction they had come from. She wondered if he was heading back to Castle Control, wondering if he sought to get data about the pilot’s test run with the lions.

Allura herself was looking forward to the chance to try and educate the new pilots on how to handle the lion’s controls. She moved as she thought, Allura realizing that soon her days would be busy once more. She looked forward to the challenge of it all, the balancing act paperwork and training lion pilots would provide. Not to mention having to spare plenty of time for an extra amorous husband!

She all but giggled at the thought, sure a bright smile was on her face. She was almost the end of the infirmary, the corridor turning to reveal a two ways carpeted hall that led deeper into the castle. The path she was on would guide her towards the living quarters, Allura intent on returning to the chambers she shared with Lotor. But as she moved, she heard a sound behind her, panicked voices as they ran, footsteps pounding on the carpet.

She turned, seeing humans running with a gurney, coming from the direction that led towards the palace dungeons. She couldn’t see who was laid down on the gurney, there was too many people hovering around, and Drule guards were close behind, their faces less concerned than the humans were. Frowning, Allura flattened herself against the wall, allowing the press of bodies to charge past her.

As they moved, she caught sight of the person laying on the gurney, a quick glimpse shown between the bodies holding up the gurney. It was clearly a female, dressed in a maid’s uniform. Everything seemed to slow down, Allura seeing the events in slow motion as slowly black curls were revealed, a familiar face being sighted. The woman’s skin was turning blue, mouth frozen open in an o of shock, and a hand hung limply off the gurney.

She blinked, a gasp on her lips, time resuming it’s normal pace as the people moved clear of Allura, heading into the infirmary. The Drule guards passed by, and Allura reached out to snag hold of an arm, the man turning to look at her. His eyes widened as he recognized her, the alien dropping a hasty bow that Allura paid no mind too. Instead she held onto him, lips parting to ask a question.

“Who is that?! What happened?!” The guard looked confused, alien words tumbling out of him. “In Basic, please!” She said, frustrated at her inability to communicate. He merely shook his head, offering an apologetic look to her. “You only speak Drule?!” Allura realized, letting go of him. He hesitated, still looking at her, and she gave a gesture for him to leave her.

He nodded, and turned, Allura following him, needing answers. They quickly reached the middle of the infirmary, finding one of the rooms was a flurry of activity. The Drules stood out in the hall, huddled over by the glass window, silently observing the going ons inside the room. Nurses kept running in and out of the room, and an intern was calling for Doctor Gorma.

Allura pushed her way past the nurses, none daring to stop her as she made her way to the bed. She was quiet as she looked around, seeing an intern was laboring over the woman. Allura knew her eyes were wide, staring as he worked the large scissors, trying desperately to cut the cord that was wound around the patient’s neck. But it held fast, thick and unyielding, the noose choking the life out of the woman.

“Tamara!” Allura cried out her name, just as Doctor Gorma ran into the room. He did a double take to see Allura there, and his words came out gruff, a brusque order.

“Someone get the princess out of here!”

“Tamara!” repeated Allura, even as a male nurse came to take her by the arm. She didn’t put up a struggle, allowing herself to be pulled out of the room, feeling her eyes welling up with tears. “Please, what happened to her!?”

The intern didn’t answer, running back into the room. Allura joined the guards by the window, forcing them to make room for her. She pressed her hands against the glass, watching as Doctor Gorma managed to cut through the noose around the woman’s neck with a box cutter. But the woman was unmoving, face frozen in a shocked expression, skin colored a shade unnatural to a human’s.

A nurse noticed Allura staring, and quickly hurried to draw the drapes across the window, blocking out the sights inside the room. Allura made a sound of protest, actually banging her fists against the glass. It rattled from the force of her blow, one of the Drules reaching to grab her wrists, and keep her from doing further harm to herself or the window.

“Let go of me!” Allura ordered, voice commanding as she jerked on her hands. The Drule said something, alien words holding a question to it.

“Let her go.” Said another, this one speaking in Basic. Allura immediately spun around, seizing hold of his arm.

“Please? What happened to her?” demanded Allura, and saw the man hesitating. “I must know!”

“Suicide.” The Drule said at last, expression uneasy. “The woman has tried to take her own life.”

“What? No…” breathed out Allura, reeling back as though she had been struck. She pressed against the window, staring aghast at the guard. “Why would she do such a thing?!” He had no answer for her, and the flow of people running in and out of the room had slowed to a trickle. Allura could hear voices talking, loud shouts, and then Doctor Gorma was speaking.

“I’m calling it.” Her eyes went wide, Allura feeling her knees start to shake. “Time of death…four twenty.” With a shuddery gasp, she pushed past the Drules, rushing to the door of room, just in time to see Doctor Gorma let go of Tamara’s hand. It immediately fell, dead weight causing it to dangle off the side of the bed. She was still staring as they dragged the bed sheet cover over the former harem slave’s face, hiding her body from sight.

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