It wasn’t the most pleasant of days when they arrived on Arus. The sun was hidden away by clouds, dark blobs of gray that hinted at the rain storm that was building up in the air. A chill wind seemed to blow all around them, rustling the few leaves that remained on the trees of the forest. The wind whipped her hair about, and tugged at Allura’s clothes, the girl shivering and wishing she had been given a cloak to put over her dress.
Her gown was plain, almost drab, a dull gray color that did nothing for her. It had a few darker patches on it, small samples of fabric woven into the main part of the dress, closing up holes. It was like nothing Allura had ever worn, the dress the ragged wool of the peasant class. The threadbare and thin outfit was part of her disguise, allowing all who looked at her the illusion that she was nothing.
Certainly she didn’t appear to be a princess, nor did she come off as the well cared for mistress of a King. She seemed little more than a servant, and even that lie was shattered by the manacles around her wrists. It was one more touch of realism to the lie, Allura being marched off the flag ship, surrounded by soldiers. One man kept his rifle pressed against her back, the laser weapon’s tip cold, lacking the warmth of it’s laser.
The gun had been disabled, no lasers would pierce her skin, at least not from the Drules. Allura shivered as she thought that perhaps the rebels might shoot at her, the girl still not sure Lotor was completely right in thinking they’d come to rescue her. That rescue was a point of contention between Lotor and Allura, she was angry at him for trying to use her to capture the rebels.
She knew Lotor didn’t understand her upset, couldn’t fathom why she’d feel a connection to the people of this planet. He often pointed out that she had no memories of the time she lived on Arusian soil, that she hadn’t felt a connection with them until learning of her origins. She couldn’t really explain it herself, save for the part where she felt she owed the Arusians her protection since they had lost so much because of her.
The worst thing was she felt helpless to do anything to help them, it seemed she didn’t even have the ability to move Lotor’s heart towards her people. They hadn’t discussed much beyond the rebels, Allura wondering if there was anything she could ask for the Arusians that Lotor would be willing to grant. She knew he wanted to kill the rebels, and so far nothing she could say could sway him from that decision.
Not that she had talked to him much in the past week it had taken to travel from Doom to Arus. Indeed she had spent much of the journey avoiding him, Allura sticking to her cabin so as not to run into Lotor who often prowled the flag ship in a restless manner. He spent as much time away from his cabin as she spent in it, Lotor only forcing her to join him for the occasional meal.
Those meals had been awkward at best, the conversation stilted, words ended before it began. Allura knew it was partly her fault, she couldn’t keep from being hostile around him. Lotor tried his best not to rise to her bait, but she knew she was trying his patience. Several times she had wanted to apologize, but something held her back each time.
The last time she had seen Lotor was an hour earlier, a soldier bringing her to the viewing deck of the flag ship. Lotor had wanted to see her, and she had been surprised to learn he had emptied out the viewing deck of all people. It left them alone with each other, not even servants around, giving them an intimacy that neither one could truly appreciate.
Allura had already been dressed in her peasant dress when brought before Lotor, the King’s eyes sweeping over her figure. She wondered what he thought of her, in that formless outfit of hers. She bet the last thing on his mind was sex, but to what he thought she could not guess, his expression unreadable. And that was before he turned his back to her, Lotor gesturing fro her to join him at the railing.
She had done as he bade, spying outside the glass several planets, of all shapes and sizes. Bright spots of color in an otherwise black void of space, Allura wondering at the names of the planets. When Lotor gestured at one in particular, the blue green world looming closer than all the others, she had instantly known what he was about to say.
“That planet is Arus.” Lotor had said, Allura unable to keep from leaning forward. She wanted to press right up to the glass, even as she knew that wouldn’t afford her a better look at the planet. She heard Lotor chuckle besides her, the King amused at her reaction. She couldn’t help it, Allura had fallen in love with the planet at first sight.
“It’s beautiful…” She has sighed, sure her expression was one of pure pleasure. The world with it’s blue oceans, and green land was broken up by white clouds, and it all looked like some colorful jewel to her. She had thought then that if looks alone were enough to attract a person to a world, than no wonder the Drules had wanted it.
“Yes, it is.” Lotor had agreed, earning a glance his way from her. He wasn’t looking at her in that moment, instead he had been gazing out at the planet.
“How much longer until we land?” Allura has asked, and Lotor had given her a graceful shrug.
“We’re already in Arus’ orbit.” He had explained. “It shouldn’t take more than an hour for us to complete our descent.”
“Oh.” She had been impatient then, wanting to land even though she had known what awaited her on the surface. Lotor had also thought about it, he showed it in the words he spoke to her then.
“Things are going to be very different once we land.” It was a warning he had spoken, Lotor trying to prepare her for the role he would force on her. “You’ll have to do away with the luxuries given to you onboard this ship if we want to fool the Arusians. It won’t be comfortable…” He had been apologetic as he said the last, Allura responding to the tone of his voice.
“I can deal with a little discomfort.” She remembered giving him a wry smile then. “I am not the frightened little girl whose mind easily shatters. Not anymore.”
“I know you’re not.” He had said, relaxing enough to lean against the rail. It had been more talking then they had done all week, the two managing not to exchange even one angry word. It left her hopeful for their future, Allura thinking they would get through this rough patch somehow.
But first they had to get through the tasking endeavor on Arus, Allura marching off the ramp and onto the patchy brown grass covered land. She tried to get a better look at her surroundings, but being stationed in the middle of a group of Drule soldiers made it difficult. She was so short in comparison to the tall Drule males, she could only catch glimpse through their bodies.
What she saw upset her, Allura seeing what had to be an entire town’s worth of Arusians brought out to greet the Drule. They were dressed similar to her, the humans looking angry or sad, thin of body, shoulders hunched over in defeat. They had yet to get a good look at her, Allura studying them as best she could, and noting how few children there were amidst the adults.
The children that she did see were strange, neither completely human nor completely Drule. She realized with a start they were the bastard offspring produced through rape, the children wanted by neither side. It made her heart go out to them, Allura wanting to find Lotor and urge him to do something about these halflings. But first she had to get through with her own ordeal, Allura not sure when Lotor would deign to visit with her.
There was a shift in her guards, one pausing to hurry over to whisper something in his commander’s ear. For one brief moment Allura and the people of this fallen down town had a clear view of each other, Allura staring back with a shocked look in her eyes. A snarled out word in Drule had her gasping, the soldiers moving to hide her from sight again.
Allura was disappointed, but knew it was part of the act, the Drules having to seem to want to keep her hidden from sight. They wanted any glimpses of her to appear to be accidental, her arrival on Arus was supposed to be a secret for now. She sighed and glanced upwards, noting that there was only a handful of buildings that were still intact in this village that bordered the forest.
The village itself was pretty neat, no rubble or garbage to be found. Allura wondered if this was one of the towns that had been hit by the terrorists’ bombings, wondered if the Drule had been quick to clean away any sign of their attack. She sighed when the soldier prodded her with the laser rifle, it was time to move, the soldiers walking her towards one of the buildings.
She was ushered inside, spying many more Drules lingering inside this building. They spoke a mixture of Arusian and Drule, both Allura paid them only half mind, being dragged over to a stair case that led downwards. She followed her slavers down the steps, arriving in a windowless, cement made room. Metal bars were directly across from the stairs, a dozing Drule quickly stood up to attention when one of the soldiers kicked him.
The sleepy eyed Drule looked her over curiously, the soldiers barking at him to hurry. He shrugged and took his time, opening the gate long enough for Allura to be shoved inside. The soldier had been rougher than he needed to be, Allura glaring at him and wishing her hands had been freed. A muted laugh was earned in response to her glare, and then most of the soldiers were leaving, save for two who joined the tired Drule in keeping watch over her.
Allura sighed, and walked over to the padded bench in the corner of the cell, slumping down on top of it. There seemed nothing to do but wait, and already she was bored. She didn’t know how long it would take for the rebels to do something, and she didn’t know if she wanted it to happen at all. More than anything Allura wanted to be let loose among the slaves she had seen, the girl yearning for a chance to speak with them.
Allura felt frustrated to be so close to the answers she needed, Allura gazing upwards at the water stained ceiling of her cell. She could hear the Drules stomping about upstairs, but aside from their heavy footfalls she could hear nothing else. She wondered if Lotor would soon join them, or if the King would stay aboard the ships. Strange how she could spend a week all but ignoring him, and now be yearning for his presence besides her.
Allura would feel only a little bit better to know she was in Lotor’s thoughts, the King thinking more about her than the work on his desk. He had spent most of the journey to Arus avoiding all his kingly duties, especially that of the paper work that was piling up even now. The various bureaucrats of planet Doom were faxing him in droves, petitions and demands that all claimed to be more important than all the rest.
He sighed as he began sifting through the documents, Lotor knowing he could avoid them no more. His brief holiday aboard the flag ship was over with, but more importantly he needed a distraction from his worry over Allura and the rebels. He couldn’t completely relax, knowing he had sent her out into the heart of danger, allowing whispers of rumors to drift through the kingdoms of Arus.
His men had conveniently allowed several slaves to overhear talk of the ships arriving from the Drule home world. They talked about how those ships carried reinforcements, both men and weapons. But more than that, they spoke on the special prisoner they were transporting, a certain displaced princess who was to be made an example of in coming days.
They talked about how Allura was the last remaining symbol of Arus’ royal family, of how killing her would further demoralize the people. After all, they had sacrificed so much for her continued well being. No doubt the slavers that had overheard the talk, had repeated it to others, the word spreading that the princess of Arus was alive, and returning home.
The soldiers had stressed how Allura would only live for a few days more, hoping to convey a sense of urgency to the people. If the terrorists were to act, they would have to do it soon. Lotor hoped they would not call on the Drules bluff, for he had no intention of actually killing Allura. There was a lot riding on rumors and secrecy, and Lotor prayed that this would drag out the terrorists.
If push came to shove, Lotor was thinking of doing the unthinkable, of revealing his presence here on Arus. He hadn’t shared this idea with anyone, not his Commanders, and certainly not Haggar. The witch already thought him foolish for personally coming to Arus, and Lotor couldn’t argue with her about that. He knew he should have remained on Doom, knew it was an important time to be cementing his hold on the throne.
Instead he had gone gallivanting halfway across the galaxy, going to a hot bed of terrorist activity where he could be injured or killed. They were trying to keep quiet about his absence from Doom, not just to the Arusians, but to the Drule themselves. They knew the people would only panic to think their king had abandoned the throne, temporary though it may be, with nary an heir sired to replace him should the unthinkable happen.
Lotor knew he should have appointed someone else to over see this mission. But he’d be damned if he’d let Allura go by herself! Even though he couldn’t physically be with her in the holding cell, he could be close enough that if something happened, she could be returned to his side. He prayed nothing would, Lotor wanting this whole thing over and done with. Maybe then he could relax, though Lotor felt he wouldn’t be at ease until they were on their way back to planet Doom.
Arus was so different from Doom, even in it’s downtrodden state. Lotor wished it was more peaceful, the King wanting to take the time to explore the planet with Allura by his side. It seemed very much like the kind of world the two had wanted to escape to as children, the planet beautiful even in the midst of it’s fall season. He had yet to set foot outside the flag ship, contenting himself with staring out at Arus through the viewing deck’s glass wall.
Even now in his cabin, he could still catch glimpses of the outside world, Lotor having opened a channel on his holo that let him view the ship’s surroundings. It had started to rain, thick fat drops that were pelting everywhere, many of the Drule soldiers running for cover. A few stayed behind to watch over the crowd of slaves, guiding them towards the forest and away from the crop fields for no work would get done in this wet weather.
A handful of the slaves were taken into the buildings, not to dry off, but to run errands for the soldiers. Lotor could see that even a few were brought into the detainment center, the very building where Allura was being held prisoner. He knew that to give her a chance to question the Arusians, Allura would need to get closer to the slaves. And so he had arranged to have her meals served to her by various Arusians.
He wondered if that would get her the answers she was so desperate for. Lotor also wondered if this whole endeavor wasn’t pointless, and a waste of all their time. He sighed and growled, glaring at his documents, as if the papers were the reason behind his troubles. So far being King hadn’t been easy, none of the problems presented to him easy to solve. That included his personal life with Allura!
With an angry huff, Lotor was shuffling through the pages, trying to find something that actually seemed important. He was still skimming the top pages of the documents when he heard the distant sound of what he assumed was thunder. The storm was picking up, and Lotor could only be glad that Allura was someplace that was dry.
But not warm, the girl shivering in her cell, listening to her Drule captors joke around with each other. She had laid down on the bench, feigning sleep, though in truth all she could do was think endlessly on what was to happen. How long had she been inside this cell? She did not know, but Allura feared it hadn’t been long at all. The waiting was endless, boring and mind numbing, and she knew it would only get worse before it was all over with….