To Allura, it felt like they had been walking for hours, the girl stumbling blindly because of the hood. Someone gripped her by the arms, guiding her in the direction the rebels were traveling, but even that didn’t keep her from tripping over roots, and stubbing her toes against rocks. Her footwear wasn’t of the best quality, the thin leather letting her feel the rocks under her feet.
She also felt low hanging tree branches brush against her sides, someone pushing down on her head to have her duck down to avoid something. She took this as a sign they were still in the woods, Allura wondering when or if they would ever emerge. She also wondered if Lotor knew she was missing yet, Allura hoping he wouldn’t do anything foolish such as rush into a rebel’s trap.
She still had no idea why the rebels had taken her, the men and women barely talking. Not that she would have been able to understand their words, not with the hood in place. It muffled sounds as well as it took away her eye sight, leaving Allura to flounder about without her senses. It was difficult to breathe under the hood, and she was starting to sweat, her skin feeling heated from the coarse fabric.
She very badly wanted a drink of water, but Allura didn’t dare speak. She was frightened of drawing any more attention to herself, at least while she didn’t know the rebel’s true intentions for her.
They continued to walk, someone jerking cruelly on her arm, making her turn to the right. Suddenly she heard a loud shout, and the answering cries to it. It appeared there was more people around them, Allura being forced to step faster. There was voices here, lots of them, people murmuring as she passed by. Allura didn’t know what this meant, the girl trying not to tremble as she was dragged amongst them.
The ground turned smoother here, becoming dirt paths that had been stamped down by the walking of many feet upon them. The person holding onto her made her stop, voices holding an exchange before something heavy was lifted. She was prodded forward again, walking a few feet forward only to be shoved to her knees. That made Allura grit her teeth in annoyance, the girl tensing up as a hand was placed on her shoulder.
The murmur of conversation was heard, Allura straining her hearing, desperate to figure out what was going on. Seconds or minutes could have passed, and then the hood was harshly jerked off her head, uncovering her face. She heard a woman’s gasp, even as Allura frantically blinked her eyes, trying to adjust from being shrouded in darkness to emerging to sudden light.
Her sight came back to her bit by bit, things blurry as she frantically looked around. She was in a tent, the canvas colored in cameo colors to better blend with the forest surroundings. A desk was in the rear, with a large map hanging behind it on the tent’s canvas. What looked like some sort of strategy game was laid out on top of the desk, with pieces shaped like buildings and soldiers scattered all over it.
She blinked again, looking to see it was the woman, Gertrude who was holding her in a kneeling position. The other rebels had lowered their hoods, and they were facing the desk. A man was leaning against it, and she studied him now, her eyesight slowly becoming adjusted. He was a tall man, even slightly hunched over, his hair was a dark gray. His blue eyes looked stern, his face bore many hard lines as though he had been through so many difficult times that he had forgotten how to smile.
She felt she should know this man, but it wasn’t until the woman stepped into her line of sight that Allura made the connection. The woman’s face wasn’t as lined as the man’s, her once golden hair was now streaked silver. Green eyes stared back at Allura, a hint of tears watering them. Allura’s own eyes fought not to cry, the girl biting back a gasp as she realized she was looking at an older version of the Diana she had seen in the picture she had found.
That meant the man had to be Alfor, aged in such a way he bore little resemblance to himself of nearly twenty years ago. She couldn’t begin to imagine the hardships they had been through, Allura wanting to sob in relief that they were alive.
The looking only took seconds to do, Diana making a move towards Allura. She was stopped by Alfor, the man shaking his head no. Diana’s face seemed to crumple, the woman clearly wanted to go to Allura.
“So….” Alfor said out loud, straightening up away from the desk. “This is her? This is Allura?”
“So they say.” Said the man who had been in charge of the rebels who had captured her. “You can see, the resemblance to Diana is uncanny.”
“It’s like looking in a mirror twenty years ago.” Diana murmured, unable to stop staring at Allura. “Oh Alfor, surely this is her. Surely this is our daughter.” Again she tried to come forward, but Alfor grabbed her wrist, holding her by his side.
“No, my love. This could be a trick. We need more proof than just her looks.”
That upset Diana, her eyes flashing. “I think I would know my own daughter!”
“Even one you haven’t seen in over a decade?” Gertrude asked. “Allura was just a child when taken from you…”
“A mother never forgets her child!” insisted Diana.
“With all due respect, your ladyship, I’d feel a might damn better to have something more concrete than a mother’s intuition!” said the man.
“And you will have it.” Alfor assured him, leaving Allura to wonder how they would prove who she really was. It wasn’t like she had any special birthmarks that could prove her identity. “Ah…there he is…” A new man had entered the tent, moving in a harried manner, and carrying a small bag. “Gorma. Is everything ready?”
“Yes…I have the necessary things set up back in my tent…” explained the man known as Gorma. He was already opening his bag, hands rustling through it’s insides. “I just need samples from all three of you, and then I should have the results back within a day or two.”
“Samples?” It was the first time Allura dared to speak, well aware the act drew the attention of the others to her. “What are you going to do?”
“It’s all right miss.” Gorma wasn’t exactly friendly, but at least he was trying to reassure her. “I’m just gonna take some blood and do a DNA swab of the inside of your mouth.”
It didn’t sound far off from some of the testing Lotor had done, though she was still surprised. “You can do that?”
“We may be…a bit backwater at the moment, but we are not without our resources.” Explained Gorma, to which Allura immediately flushed.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that!”
“It’s all right dear.” Diana quickly said, risking a smile at her. Her tone was kindly, leaving Allura slightly at ease. She wanted to smile back at the woman, but not with everyone else seeming so hostile around her.
Gorma approached Allura, the short sleeves of her dress allowing him easy access to her arm. “It’s all right. I’m a doctor.” He swabbed her skin with a cleanser, and then was pricking her arm with the needlepoint. She held still as he drew her blood, and dutifully opened her mouth for the cotton swab. Gorma performed these same steps on Diana and Alfor, before packing everything back into his bag.
“I’ll have the results as soon as I can.” He said.
“Please….” Alfor urged. “Don’t rush it. I’d rather you take your time than risk a mistake.”
“I understand.” Gorma said, and then left the tent. Several of her abductors followed him outside, leaving Allura alone with her parents, Gertrude, and one other man. Allura looked nervously at her parents, knowing she wanted to ask them so much and yet felt as though now wasn’t the time.
“AH…” A nervous clearing of her throat, Allura gaining more attention for herself. “What happens after the results come back?”
“That depends…” The unnamed man said, a threat in his voice. It made her shiver, Allura’s imagination trying to run wild.
“You won’t kill me, will you?” She squeaked out, and Diana made a horrified noise.
“No!” Alfor exclaimed, and frowned at her. “We are not savages. We are not the Drule. We don’t kill women and children.”
“But you do kill…” Allura pointed out, thinking of what Lotor had told her of the rebel’s actions.
“You can’t expect us to win back the planet in a bloodless war!” The other man exclaimed. “Especially against the Drules! Now those are the real savages!”
To that Allura couldn’t really argue against, having lived among them long enough to see the Drules at their worst and most bloodthirsty. She could only sigh in agreement, bowing her head.
“Do you really think you have a chance of freeing Arus from the Drule?” She asked, and the man sputtered, stubborn anger flashing in his eyes.
“We won’t know unless we try!”
“But do you realize you are endangering your own people?!” Allura asked. “It won’t be long before the Drule start taking their aggressions out on innocents, on killing people to set an example to the others. They won’t care if they are or aren’t part of the terrorist faction!”
“And did the Drule themselves tell you that?” he demanded, leaving her to hesitate. She wasn’t sure she should reveal how close a connection she had to the Drules, at least not right now.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see how things are going to end up as a result of your actions.” Allura said, earning a hateful glare from the men.
“I tire of her talk. Alfor, she’s surely a plant sent here to demoralize our troops. To cast doubt on our actions!”
“That may very well be.” Alfor sighed. “But there’s a chance, slim though it may be that she really is my daughter. I have to take it.”
“Even at the risk of all we fought for? All we’ve worked to build?” The man hissed out his questions.
“Some day Garret, you may get the chance to be a father. Only then will you understand the connection between a parent and a child.” Answered Diana.
“As long as Arus remains enslaved by the Drule that will never happen.” Garret seemed on the verge of spitting. “I’d never bring a child into this kind of life! The life of a slave!”
Allura knew it was a sentiment shared by many of the Arusians, the people taking care to avoid pregnancies. Most of the children that were born on Arus were Drule half breeds, abandoned by both their mothers and their fathers. Unwanted, they existed on the outskirts of Arusian society, homeless scavengers that scrounged for food and attention.
“It is your decision to do so.” Diana said. “But do not begrudge Alfor or I the desire to reunite with our daughter!”
“Hmph!” Garret’s lip curled in disgust, the man crossing his arms over his chest.
“Garret has a point though…” Gertrude spoke up. “We might be endangering everyone by bringing her here. What if she’s a spy…or an assassin?”
“We will deal with any problems as they occur.” Alfor replied.
“I still think this is a bad idea.” Garret muttering was audible, the man glaring at Allura.
The tent flap lifted, a new man entering with a load of papers in his hands. “Ah Coran.” Diana called in greeting to the mustached man. “Tell your son to stop worrying so incessantly.”
Coran did a slow blinking of his eyes, gaze falling on each person before he looked at Allura. “It’s sentiments many of us share my lady.” He said. He stepped past Allura, struggling to unload his burden of papers onto the desk. “Whatever the case, we have more important matters to go over now…”
“Ah yes…” Alfor said, and gave a gesture that had Gertrude dragging Allura to her feet. “Please show Allura to one of the other tents.”
“Make sure she is comfortable!” Added Diana, and Gertrude nodded.
“Yes, I will.” She was already dragging Allura towards the tent flap, the girl casting one last look at her parents. Diana was still watching her, a wistful smile on her face. Alfor had turned to looked at the papers Coran had brought with him. Garret was also moving, coming closer to the desk though he still sneered in Allura’s direction. The amount of hostility in his eyes frightened her, Allura shivering anew.
Another jerk of her bound arms had Allura looking forward, the girl getting her first good look at the rebel hideout. It wasn’t much to see, at least from the outside, consisting of at least fifty tents, all colored in greens and browns to better blend in with the woods. Most of the tents she passed by had their flaps down, but a few were open, allowing Allura to sneak glimpse of the people and objects inside.
In the middle of camp, there was a huge pot boiling over a fire pit. Some sort of delicious aroma wafted in the air, Allura growing hungry to smell it. It seemed to be soup, and many men and women were gathered around the woman tending to the pot. Occasionally she would fill bowls and hand out the meal to the people waiting for it.
Everywhere she stepped, Allura felt people staring at her, some obvious, some not so. She couldn’t shake the feeling that the woods had eyes, Allura wondering if there were people up in the trees watching her.
Not all the people had armor, though many were equipped with some sort of weapon. All their belongings seemed to bear the Drule insignia, Allura realizing it was stolen goods they carried. Still there wasn’t a lot of people here, certainly not enough to cause as much trouble as the Drules had had.
“Is this all of the rebels?” Allura asked out loud, feeling somewhat disappointed at the numbers.
Gertrude gave a harsh laugh, shaking her head no. “Goodness no! We have many more people then this.”
“Then where are they?” Allura wanted to know.
Gertrude hesitated, long enough Allura was sure the woman had second guesses about answering her. “Some are out on missions. Others…well…we can’t all live in this hideout.” She sighed then. “Many of us still have to work as slaves to the Drules, keep up pretenses.”
“It must be useful.” Allura said. “If you work for the Drule, you can learn things from them…”
“That’s true…though it’s difficult to understand them when they speak that horrid sounding language of theirs!” Allura kept quiet to that, the girl thinking the Drules didn’t sound so bad when speaking their language. In fact some of them, like Lotor sounded down right sexy!
“Here…” Gertrude said, jerking open a tent flap. The tent from the outside looked like all others, but inside it was bare. Only a bed roll, and a few crates were inside it. Allura stepped inside, surprised when Gertrude made a move to remove the handcuffs.
“Thank you!” Allura said gratefully, bringing her freed hands forward so she could rub her wrists.
“Hmph.” Gertrude eyed her with suspicion. “Don’t be thinking to run off now. This tent is being watched.” Indeed Allura saw men taking up positions outside the tent flap, one flashing her his blaster with a smirk. “They won’t hesitate to shoot you.” Added Gertrude.
“I…I understand. Trust me when I say I won’t be going anywhere!” A shaken Allura answered, trying not to shudder. Gertrude turned to leave, but Allura called out to her, the woman pausing at the sound of her voice. “When can I see my parents again?”
“I don’t know.” Gertrude admitted. “Maybe some time after the test results are back.”
That seemed like too long a wait for Allura, the girl sighing as Gertrude left the tent. She walked over to one of the crates, and sat down on it, hands folded on her lap. It seemed she had traded one prison for another, leaving her to wonder how much longer it would be until she could be truly free.