Freedom 37

The banging had been sounding for over an hour now, insistent thuds as someone worked something heavy against the steel of the room’s door. So far the metal had held, providing an effective barrier against any and all who wanted inside the room. But Allura knew it wouldn’t last. They were simply tireless as they worked, and sooner or later the door would give in under the assault.

The princess was amazed the metal had lasted as long it had, the girl glancing at the door now, seeing the tables and chairs stacked in front of it. Some of the furniture seemed to shake, trembling in time to the pounding at the door. She had a feeling if they hadn’t blocked the door with the heavy furniture, even the steel would have caved in by now.

She worried the furniture wouldn’t be enough, Allura wishing she had the strength to move the heavy couch that sat in the rear of the room. But even with her Aunt and Nanny’s assistance, they hadn’t been able to move it, forcing them to give up in defeat and move the less weighty objects in front of the door. She knew Lotor would have been able to help them, but as of the past hour, he lay stunned, a victim of laser fire that forced him into a deep sleep.

She sat with him now, body resting on the couch cushions, his head in her lap. She kept touching his face, and her fingers were almost tireless as they swept back his hair. He had lost the ribbon that tied it back, and his jacket’s shoulder held the burn marks of the laser’s strike. It burned through the material down to the shirt below it, stopping just short of searing into his skin.

To the right of her stood her Aunt, the Queen Orla leaning against the wall, a laser pistol in her hands. She kept turning it over and over in her hands, a gesture that made Allura nervous. She feared it would accidentally fire even with the safety catch on. But Orla seemed unable to just hold the gun, taking comfort from running her fingers over it’s smooth barrel.

Orla wasn’t the only one who suffered through with a nervous display of energy. Her nanny was pacing, an agitated walk that took her back and forth across the room. Her hands kept clenching into fists, the woman casting angry looks at the door. If looks alone could kill, the terrorists would die the instant the door was open. Unfortunately for them, angry stares did not a weapon make, and the room they were in had little of value in that regard. Aside from Orla’s pistol they only had Lotor’s sword, hardly the makings of a suitable resistance.

Allura sighed, and continued to pet Lotor’s hair, wishing he would wake up. She doubted he could do anything to change their current situation, but his presence alone would generate comfort to Allura. A comfort Nanny did not share, the woman pausing to stand before the couch, hands on her hips.

“I say we negotiate with them.” She said, her words drawing Orla and Allura’s glances towards her.

“Negotiate how exactly?” Allura wanted to know, her left hand gesturing around the empty room. “We have nothing to barter with.”

“That’s not true.” Nanny said, and her glance dropped down to the prince cushioned against Allura’s body. “We have him.”

“Nanny!” She couldn’t help herself, Allura gasped, her eyes widening as she realized the woman was serious.

“Think about it princess. These rebels are fighting against the Drule presence here on Arus. A presence Lotor commands. With him in their hands…”

“They’ll kill him.” Allura interjected. “You know they will.” She saw Nanny look at her, her gaze unflinching, a determined light in them. “And you don’t care, do you? You’d gladly had him over, deliver him to his death!”

“Allura…”

“No!” Allura shook her head, the motion causing strands to unravel from her bun. “My God! Do I even know you anymore? To think of handing over someone, anyone, even if they are not an innocent, is unthinkable when you know torture and death await them! This is not the Arus way, not MY way!”

“So then what?” Nanny demanded, hands on her hips. “You are content to sit here and wait for them to break down the door. And then kill us all?”

“That may not happen.” Allura said, and Nanny sighed.

“Have you forgotten they’ve declared you a traitor to the planet? To your people?” Nanny demanded. “I doubt they will show you any mercy. They don’t understand why you’ve done what you’ve done. Why you’ve tied us to the enemy. But if you’re willing to make amends by giving them Lotor perhaps then….”

“No. NO!” Allura said, her fingers fisting Lotor’s hair absentmindedly.

“Queen Orla, she’s your niece. Try and reason with her.” Nanny said, looking as though she wanted to throw her hands up in the air in exasperation.

“I’m not sure I agree with you Nanny.” Orla answered, her words making Nanny let out a scoffing sound. “Things are rarely so simple. These rebels may think to end Doom’s occupation by killing both Lotor and Allura. As a strike back against the Doom Empire, one that will plunge Arus into war. There are many Drule leaders gathered here as well, they can plunge the planet into chaos with a few easy killings.” A shrug of her shoulders, Orla sighing. “I know it’s tempting to want to make arrangements to save Allura, but what happens afterwards?”

“Afterwards?” Nanny looked confused.

“Provided they let Allura live after killing Lotor. Let us assume they allow her to keep her crown….what will King Zarkon and his empire do to us for killing his only son?”

“We can bring back Voltron.” Nanny said, aiming a frown at Orla. “Bring back Keith and the boys. If we let the rebels do the work for us….if they kill the Drule leaders…”

“Listen to yourself!” Allura snapped. “Now you not only plot Lotor’s murder, but the men outside this room as well? I know the Drules’ crimes are many, but how can you hate them this much?!”

“I’ve got good reason too.” Nanny voice was as angry as Allura’s, the woman close to shouting as her face flushed from heated emotion. “They’ve done so many things, to so many people…”

“We all know the misdeeds the Doom Empire has done to Arus. The people killed and enslaved….but…”

“But what?” Nanny interrupted Allura. “Just because he does good now for the planet, you forgive him? Forgive all of them? Even Zarkon for killing your father, may his soul rest in peace!?”

“I don’t forgive Zarkon for that…” Allura whispered, feeling the start of a tremor in her hands. It was a sign of her trying to hold in her anger, Allura staring at Nanny with a hurt look on her face. “But I can’t keep dwelling on past crimes. We will just go in an endless cycle of hate if we do. Nanny you must put aside your hatred, stop living in the past. If I can do it, when I lost my father to this war, then surely you who have lost nothing can do it too.”

She was surprised when Nanny drew back, her face redder than Allura could ever recall seeing. “Lost nothing?! How little you know! I’ve lost friends, my home, my….”

“Your what?” Allura asked, when Nanny fell silent.

“It’s nothing.” Nanny said, turning away.

“Surely it’s something.” Allura pointed out. “If it makes you hate this much.” The woman’s shoulder seemed to sag, a sigh escaping her. “Please Nanny…tell me…”

“Princess..” Allura was startled to see her Nanny’s eyes wet with tears, the woman turning back to her once more. “Now is not the time for reminiscing about the past. It won’t get us out of this mess.” She dropped to her knees, hands held out in supplication. “Please consider giving up Lotor. Not for my sake, but for your own.”

“I…”

“Please!” Nanny said, reaching to grab Allura’s hands. She squeezed them, eyes wet and earnest as she stared at Allura, almost desperate to get her to agree.

“I can’t.” Allura said, and watched as Nanny’s face hardened. “He’s my husband.” She added, Nanny dropping her hands. “That alone should assure my loyalty to him. But it’s more than that…”

“You love him.” Orla said, her voice intruding on the scene between princess and nanny. Both women turned to look at the Queen, and she nodded her head. “Don’t you, Allura?”

“I…” She lowered her eyes, looking at Lotor’s sleeping face. Her fingers caressed his cheek, and she let out a deep sigh, nodding her head hesitantly even as it made Nanny gasp and stand up. “I do…”

“Allura no!” Nanny cried. “Don’t give your heart to this monster, this fiend!”

“It’s too late.” Allura said. “I realized I’ve loved him for a few days now…I may not have gone looking for love with Lotor, but I’m better for it. Happier. He makes me happy, complete…I won’t give him up. Not for you, not for anyone! And I’ll be damned if I let those terrorists kill my husband!”

“Then we’re doomed…” Nanny said, backing away from the couch, from Allura and Lotor.

“I refuse to give up hope.” Allura said, even though she knew it was foolish. “There has to be a way out of this mess………somehow…”

“Then we better start thinking of some ideas.” Orla said, casting a look at the door. “This pistol has a near full cartridge, but I doubt we can take out all the terrorists with it, even if fortune favors every shot to land on one.”

“Why haven’t they blown down the door?” Allura wondered out loud. “Surely they have the means to do it.”

“Either they’ve run out of explosives, or they don’t want to risk hurting us in the ensuing explosion. They may want, no need you and Lotor alive.” Orla answered. “Perhaps they mean to bargain with King Zarkon himself, use his only son to get him to back off from Arus.”

“My father would never agree to that.” Lotor said with a moan, and his voice gave the three women a good fright.

“Lotor! You’re awake!” Allura exclaimed, watching as he opened his eyes, another gruff groan escaping him. Her hands were touching his shoulders, helping to ease him up into a sitting position. “Er…just how much have you heard?”

“Enough.” Lotor said, grimacing as he brought a hand to his head. “I hear we have grim odds. Well…I thrive on those!”

“You would.” Muttered Nanny, and Allura flashed her an annoyed look. Lotor didn’t rise to the bait, ignoring the woman to glance around the room.

“Where exactly are we?” He wanted to know, and now Allura turned to look at the room to, seeing it with new eyes. It was small, a cozy little den with plenty of comfortable places to sit and rest. A book case in one corner with a selection of entertaining reads, fantasies and the classical works. A few decorative statues and urns were placed around the room, complimenting it’s warm earth colors.

On a pile on the floor, near where the table had been, lay the many coats and wraps of the ball’s guests. The women had been hasty in knocking the garments to the floor, leaving them a crumpled mess as they moved furniture towards the door. Lotor stood now, Allura watching as he walked towards that pile of clothing.

“It’s just a room off to the side of the ball room.” Allura explained, Lotor kneeling down to start rustling through the corridors. “We hardly ever use it except during parties.”

“No other way in or out besides that door, right?” Lotor asked, and she nodded.

“Yes. It’s really a room that holds no importance.”

“So that leaves out a secret passage.” Lotor mumbled, turning over coats, checking their pockets.

“What are you doing?” Orla asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

“Checking to see if there any weapons we can use.” Lotor answered. “A blaster would come in handy right about now.”

“What does it matter?” demanded Nanny. “There’s so many of them and only four of us. Even with another blaster….it’s hopeless.”

“I’m a pretty good shot.” Lotor said, continuing his search. “And I know Allura is as well from all those months she spent shooting at me!” A chuckle then, Lotor glancing fondly at her. She smiled back, and moved to join him on the floor, helping him to check the coats. “How about you, your highness?” His question was directed at Orla, the Queen glancing down at the pistol in her hands. “Any good with a gun?”

“I’ve had some practice on the shooting range.” Orla admitted. “A queen must be able to defend herself.”

“I figured as much by the way you didn’t flinch to pry that gun out of that man’s hand.” Lotor smiled faintly. “The odds are looking better and better.”

“Indeed they are.” Allura said, mirroring his smile as her hands landed on something made of metal. She eased it out of the pocket, the gray surface gleaming as she held up a tiny hand pistol. She went to hand it to Lotor, but he shook his head no.

“I want you armed Allura.” Lotor told her. “I’ll feel better to know my wife has something she can use to defend herself with.”

“All right….” Allura agreed, resuming her search for another weapon. She wondered what they would do if they didn’t find another blaster, wondered how Lotor would fight limited to just a sword.

“If I can trust you not to shoot me in the back…” Lotor called out to Nanny, the woman hmphing loudly at his words. “I may have something for you as well.” Another hand pistol had been found, Lotor extending his hand towards the woman. Nanny hesitated, meeting Lotor’s eyes, then sighed.

“Fine. I won’t shoot you this time. But if anything should happen to Allura….” Her threat went unfinished, Lotor letting out an amused chuckle. “Hmph, how can you laugh at a time like this?!”

Lotor shrugged. “It’s easy so long as you keep proving so entertaining.”

“Why listen here…! You…”

“Quiet!” hissed Allura, her hand held up for silence. “Do you hear that?” They all paused, faces intent as they listened for a sound, any at all.

“I hear nothing.” Orla said, Nanny nodding her agreement.

“That’s her point exactly.” Lotor said, dropping another coat on the floor. “The banging has stopped. It’s been quiet for a while now….”

“They’re up to something….but what?” Allura looked to Lotor for answers.

“Heh….if they think we’ll be so foolish as to rush out of the room just to see if they are gone, they have another thing coming.” Lotor smirked, drawing a blaster out of the coat he held on his lap.

“They may have given up trying to force their way into the room.” Orla said. “Or they could be getting ready to blow it down.”

“No one go near the door.” Lotor ordered. “Just to be on the safe side. In fact…” He stood, his attention on the couch. “We should move that away from the wall and get behind it…It’ll protect us from some of the debris stirred up in any ensuing explosion.”

“Okay.” Agreed Allura, and they all moved over to the couch. Like she had suspected, with Lotor’s Drule strength added to the mix, the couch was lifted away from the wall. They were in the process of moving it a few feet forward when a beeping was heard. They all looked to Lotor in surprise, the couch being set down on the floor once more.

“It’s my com unit.” Lotor said, touching the lapel of his jacket.

“Answer it!” Nanny hissed, and Lotor shot her an annoyed look.

“I plan to.” He activated the com unit with a brush of his finger, static sounding in the room as a shaky connection was established. “Hello?”

“Is this Prince Lotor?” A man’s voice questioned, his words an angry hiss over the radio.

“Yes, this is he. To whom am I speaking?” Lotor demanded.

“No need for names.” Came the cool reply. “All you need know is you’re speaking to the leader of the resistance.”

“Ah…I wondered when I’d hear from you.” Lotor said, not at all surprised.

“Ask him what he wants!” Nanny said in a loud whisper, the three royals all waving at the woman to be quiet.

“You’re a hard man to get in contact with Lotor.” The leader said. “Always so safe and secure inside the castle.” A laugh then. “Well, no more. The castle is ours now, and we have….certain demands for you to follow.”

“OH?” Lotor arched an eyebrow, still sounding so amused. “And just what are those demands?”

“We want all Drule interference gone from Arus. That is not negotiable. Second, we want the keys to the lions. Also non negotiable.”

“I see.” Lotor said calmly. “I’m afraid you ask for the impossible. I never give in to the demands of others, let alone wastes of breaths such as yourself and the other terrorists.”

“I thought you’d see it that way.” Came the leader’s answer. “But the truth of the matter is this. We’re going to get into that room. We’re going to get you and that traitorous wife of yours….we won’t kill you. Not yet. But we will make you watch while we torture her.”

Allura starting to tremble, a mixture of fear and anger that made her shake fitfully. Lotor reached out with his hand, drawing her against him, his jaw setting firmly as he snarled out a retort.

“I’ll kill you before you lay so much as a finger on her! Do you hear me?!”

“Careful Lotor, you’re betraying your true feelings.” Chided the terrorist leader. “We knew that would hit a nerve. Reports all around say how much you fawn over the princess. Know that this is no idle threat. We mean to do what we say. The punishment will be less harsh if you come out and surrender, give in to our demands.”

“Never.” It was Allura who spoke, and she practically spat as she shouted. “Do you hear me, never! How can you do this? How can you act so cold and unfeeling? This is not the way my people were raised. You sully the name of Arus in your attempts to restore some twisted form of peace to the planet. It makes you no better than the Drules you so hate!”

“Better a hater, than a lover of Doom!” Came the leader’s retort. “Lotor, you’ve ten minutes to decide. And then we blow the door.” The com unit went dead, Lotor pressing it’s button, trying to juggle it back on.

“Damn, it’s no use.” He sighed. “They’ve secured the line, made sure no calls get through but their own.”

“What are we going to do?” Orla asked.

“We cannot allow them to hurt Allura!” added Nanny.

“They won’t!” promised Lotor. “They’re getting desperate. They must know my men will notice that there hasn’t been any communication from the castle. Someone will be bound to investigate the situation. And when they do…”

“They’ll bring in reinforcements.” Allura said. “But will they be in time…?”

“We’ll just have to pray we can hold them back.” Sighed Orla, tightening her grip on her pistol. “At least until help can arrive.”

“All right, let’s get into position.” Advised Lotor, allowing Allura to pull back from him. He looked at her, an inquisitive glance that she shook her head at.

“I’m fine.” Allura assured him. “Just a little shaken. But I won’t let their words get to me.”

“All right.” He said, following close behind her as they moved to duck behind the long couch. Lotor had to crouch down lower then the rest, almost laying on the floor as he bent his tall frame down. Allura sat next to him, ready to ease to the left of the couch and aim her pistol at the door. Orla took up position at the right side of the couch, and Nanny was left to guard the rear. Now all they had left to do was wait, wait and worry over what their future held.


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