The ever persistent noise, that of the rebel’s hushed conversation, and tortured moans, had died down to silence when the transport’s engines had switched off. Allura almost missed the sound of the engine’s hum, the girl trying not to tremble as she realized they had reached the Drule’s destination. She had no idea what was in store for them, or even where they could have been taken to.
“What happens next…” A woman’s tearful voice whispered in the dark, ushering in a wave of new conversation.
“They’ll kill us for sure!” A voice, sounding very much like a boy who hadn’t had time to mature into a man, cried out.
“I’d rather die than live under the heel of the Drule for any longer!” Allura was almost positive that was Garret who had spoken, but the darkness inside the transport made it difficult to know for sure.
“Don’t talk like that!” Another voice snapped. “To die is to leave all of Arus in their hands!”
“It’s better than giving up.” A woman pointed out. “Or living as their slaves.”
“Alfor, what are we going to do?” Someone asked.
“All our hopes and dreams are on the verge of being crushed!” Came another exclamation. “What can we do?”
“As long as there’s a chance, slim though it may be, of some of our allies remaining free…” Alfor began…
“They’ll what? Save us?” Someone scoffed at that. “It’s hopeless.”
“Hopeless!” sighed a woman. “Things have never looked as bleak as they do now…”
There was more said, but Allura was tuning them out, listening to the sounds coming outside their transport. She could hear muffled shouts, the Drules yelling things to one another. Bangs were heard, rapping on metallic surfaces, and soon the sounds were coming right on the doors of the vehicle she was in. That caused the frantic conversation to die down again, everyone waiting expectantly.
The doors were pulled open, fast and sudden, flooding the inside of the transport with light. It was too bright after all that darkness, Allura squinting her eyes closed. She could just make out the figure of Drule soldiers, the men and women armed and gesturing with their blaster rifles.
“Get out.” One said in broken Arusian, the captured rebels hesitating at the command. It seemed to agitate the Drule who had spoken, the man climbing into the transport. “Out! NOW!” He reached out, and hauled a human boy up by his shirt, jerking the gangly teen around before dropping him off the edge of the transport.
“AH!” The boy cried out, landing on his knees. The Drules snickered at that, watching as the boy struggled up to a standing position.
“Move now!” The Drule inside the transport said, and slowly the Arusians began to move. Two by two, squeezing past the Drule solider, they jumped down from the transport’s edge, most landing on their feet without incident. Some of the older ones struggled with getting out of the vehicle, but no aid was lent to them, the human’s hands tied behind their backs, and the Drules not caring.
Allura was somewhere in the middle of the group, her eyes slowly adjusting to the light, leaving her to blink rapidly as she gazed about the town they had been brought to. Their transport wasn’t the only vehicle in the town, there was others, including the flag ship of the Drule fleet. But more than that, was the fact that there were other transports that were currently being emptied out of captured rebels.
All in all, it was three vehicles worth of Arusians, more than half of the rebels. Allura had been told there were rebels that were currently out on missions, but even with those free she couldn’t imagine how the rebellion would survive such a lost of man power.
The captured rebels were being ushered forward, to merge with the other groups. Diana had inched her way closer to Allura, the woman wanting to be near her daughter. Allura wished her hands were free so she could touch her mother in reassurance.
“Where are we?” Allura whispered to Diana, having noted the large amount of Drules present in this town. It seemed almost more than was enough to handle the captured rebels, many of the soldiers standing around, eying the group, or hurrying off to do mysterious errands. There was even a steady stream of Drules coming and going from inside the flag ship, and there was a small gathering of Drules by one of the buildings.
“Rugasta.” Came Diana’s answer, Allura whipping her head around in shock. This was the very town Lotor was rumored to be in! She kept her excitement from showing, letting it bloom as shock in her eyes.
“It seems your king wants a public spectacle.” Garret hissed, interjecting himself into the conversation. “No doubt he’ll want to witness our execution personally.”
“We don’t know that!” Allura protested.
“You’re either blind or stupid if you believe we will earn anything but death for daring to rebel against the Drule.” Garret retorted.
“No…” Allura shook her head. “There has to be a way to…to still save everyone. And not just the rebels, but all the slaves on Arus!” Garret didn’t even dignify that with a response, just staring at her as though she was being needlessly naive.
She turned away from him, unable to bear the look in his eyes. But the sights were no better no matter where she faced, people looking dejected and defeated. It was more than just the rebels that projected such a pitiful state, it was the human slaves that were beginning to appear, mingling with the Drule soldiers. It was beginning to look as though there was as many humans as there was Drules, but Allura didn’t dare hope there would be an uprising. Not when the humans were so ill equipped to fight off the Drules and their weapons.
The group of captured rebels were forced to walk past the slaves, those humans watching silently, betraying no emotions towards what was going on. A stark opposite of the Drule, the men and women smirking, voices mocking, taunting and insulting the rebels that were paraded past them. Not all of what they said was in Arusian, but the ugly tone of their voice was enough to convey their malicious enjoyment at the predicament the rebels found themselves in.
Rugasta was a large town, with many buildings still intact in comparison to the first town Allura had set foot in. They were led past many of them, until at last they came to what had to be the town square. It was emptied out of it’s shop stalls, a few laying there as though abandoned briefly. But the thick coat of dust on them said otherwise, their shelves empty of their wares.
In the very center of the town square was a raised platform, some kind of podium placed near the front’s edge. Several feet behind the podium was metal stocks, empty for the moment, it’s surface stained with dirt.
The rebels were guided to the platform, stopping just before it’s stage. Between them and the platform was a line of Drule soldiers, they’re weapons aimed at the crowd of rebels. A few soldiers were standing on the platform, stances relaxed, though their hands were occupied with their blasters. Behind the rebels came another cluster of Drules, the soldiers escorting the slaves into the town square.
These men and women spread throughout town, watching silently, waiting for something. For what she did not know, Allura hoping Garret was wrong about his public execution theory. She wasn’t the only one wondering what was going to happen, the rebels speaking in hushed voices.
They weren’t quiet enough for the Drule, a soldier coming forward, shouting for silence. The rebels ignored him, their voices growing louder, serving to agitate the soldier. It was one last act of rebellion, and one they would pay for, the soldier growing angrier.
“I said silence!” He growled, and fired off a shot into the crowd. Screams erupted at that, someone toppling over to the ground. A sobbing woman dropped to her knees, trying to nudge her companion’s body into awakening.
Allura was taken aback by the cruelty exhibited, but not entirely stunned. She well remembered the entertainments of Zarkon’s court, and knew that shooting into a crowd of unarmed prisoners was one of the milder things that could have been done.
Still she felt bad for the crying woman, the woman’s sobs the only sound left voiced in the group. “Quiet!” snarled a Drule, and this time he slammed his rifle blaster into her face. The woman fell back with a cry of pain, Allura wincing at that. Angry murmurs began, but just as suddenly as they started they stopped, for several Drules were taking aim at the crowd in warning.
The Drule soldiers almost seemed disappointed at the way the crowd stopped resisting them, frowns and sneers on their faces. Soon there wasn’t time to study the soldiers, a trumpet playing out an introductory note.
An older Drule male stepped towards the podium, his broad chest decorated in medals. He was dressed in the uniform of a general, and his unsmiling face gazed out into the crowd. He actually tapped on the podium’s surface, causing the microphone to screech back a loud annoyance of feedback. Hardly flustered by the noise, the
Drule began to speak, gaze stern as he looked out into the crowd.
“Greetings people of Arus!” His pronunciations weren’t the best, but he was understandable to the humans. “It is a good day for us, both for you, and for the Drule!” The faintest of smiles flickered across his face, the man smirking maliciously. “It is the day when we finally put an end to that which has been terrorizing this planet.”
“The only one who has been terrorizing Arus is you!” Someone dared to shout, but the voice was lost in the sea of people, the Drule unable to identify him.
The one speaking cleared his throat, the sound amplified by the microphone. “That is all a matter of opinion. You…rebels have done your fair share of damage. Bombings, killings, collapsing mines, destroying crops. It has been a trying time for both our people….but no more. Peace is about to be restored to this land.”
Allura couldn’t fight the shiver that went through her at those words, nor did she feel at ease at the smile on this Drule’s face.
“There’s many things we could do to you…many fitting punishments….” The Drule said, his pause allowing cries to fill the silence.
“We’ve suffered enough!” A man cried out.
“Nothing you do can be worse than having lost our world, our freedom!” shouted a woman’s voice.
“Oh believe me, we Drule are very inventive. We can make you suffer far worse than the indignities you’ve gone through. However…” Another pause, the Drule letting the weight of his words sink in. “I will give you a chance to redeem yourselves.”
“Redemption? What was this? Allura wasn’t sure, nor did she like the grins on the gathered soldiers faces.
“Give me your leaders.” Spoke the General. A loud volume of chatter erupted at his words, the rebels speaking both to each other, and to the Drule, confused but defiant.
“Never!” Came a voice in the crowd, the other picking up the chant.
“Do not be so hasty.” The Drule General said. “There are benefits to handing over your leaders, the instigators of this rebellion.” When that did not get the desired response, he leaned forward, claws gripping the podium’s sides. “You’ll all be put to death if you do not tell us what we want to know! Do not sacrifice your lives for a handful of people…”
Hesitation from the crowd, Allura unable to read which way they would go. The General applied the pressure on them, voice almost seductive as he made his offer. “To the first one to give up your leaders…I offer freedom and untold riches for you and your family…”
It was a tempting offer, Allura fearing they would take him up on it. The crowd continued to mutter, hurried conversations being held, Allura straining to understand all that was being said. The Drules allowed this, waiting, confidant someone would cave in, if not to keep their life, then for greed’s sake.
“What do we do?” whispered some.
“What can we do?” Answered others.
“We’ll all be killed if we don’t speak up!” A man said.
“It’ll make us no better than the Drule if we give up our leaders!” Garret insisted.
The voices continued, getting louder with agitation, the people avoiding looking at one another as they debated on their course of action. And then, over the loud hum of voices came a new one, a man shouting to be heard.
This time she gasped, recognizing the voice. She whirled around towards the direction it had originated, and saw Lotor shoving his way through the crowd of rebels. A cluster of bedraggled soldiers followed in tight knit formation behind him, keeping the rebels at bay.
She was aware of her mother speaking, but was unable to register the meaning of her words, Allura staring at Lotor. His expression was that of relief and joy, even as annoyance flickered in his eyes at how many people separated her from him. She couldn’t help wincing at how violently he pushed at the rebels, knocking them aside, and even a few off their feet in his quest to reach her.
“Lotor…” Allura said softly, and the next thing she knew, he had his arms around her, hugging her tight against him. She couldn’t return the hug, not with her arms bound behind her back. All she could do was be held, the girl practically suffocating in his embrace.
For one, all too brief moment he said nothing, Lotor closing his eyes, and inhaling deeply. She realized he was breathing in the scent of her, his body losing some of tension’s stiffness by holding her like this. She wanted to lose herself in the moment, but Allura was too conscious of everyone around them, the Drules and Arusians staring.
Not all the looks were pleasant, the Drules keeping their expressions blank, not betraying what they thought of their king’s spectacle. As for the rebels, they were beginning to grumble, discontent, looking almost betrayed. Allura caught sight of those disapproving looks when she tried to pull back from Lotor’s embrace, the King not understanding and tightening his arms around her tighter.
“I feared the worse…” He whispered softly, so soft only she could hear. “With you gone, taken, and those guards slain…” With a click he had her wrist restraints off, the metal cuffs falling to the ground at her feet.
“They didn’t hurt me.” She quickly assured him, knowing she had much to tell him. She didn’t know where to begin, not with everyone staring at them, and Lotor clinging to her as though she was his very lifeline. “I was never in danger…”
“The hell you weren’t!” He whispered fiercly, and she raised her head to catch sight of his flashing eyes. But he wasn’t looking at her with that expression, glaring instead past his soldiers, to the crowd of rebels they held back. Most were just standing there, but a few were trying to worm closer, struggling against the soldier’s hold on
them. What they expected to do, she did not know, not when they all had their hands cuffed behind their backs.
Her parents were among those who fought, and Garret as well. The young man’s face was twisted with hate and anger, making his features ugly, rage magnified a thousand times over in his eyes. He locked a challenging gaze with Lotor, both seeming to snarl at the same time.
“You will pay!” Garret issued out the threat, Lotor’s response dry and sardonic.
“Funny. I thought that my line.”
His fluent use of Arusian seemed to startle Garret, but the man recovered quick enough. “Coward!”
Lotor’s brows drew together, lending him a puzzled look. “Coward? Me?”
“Yes! Hiding behind your men! Do you fear us so much that you leave us chained?!”
A soldier made a move to back hand the impudent rebel, but Lotor held up a hand. “Leave him.” A feral smile lit his expression, Lotor looking hardened in the moment. “Better yet, bring him here….”
“Lotor…” Allura whispered, worried. He was already pushing her aside, positioning her behind him. She could hear the rebels whispering, angry grumbles that speculated wildly on just what the Drule King intended to do. But more than that, she heard her mother, Diana trying to get her attention. Allura was scared to look at her, not wanting to see what sort of expression she wore after witnessing her daughter embraced by a Drule.
Garret wasn’t fighting them now, walking with his head held high, eyes a stark challenge. The soldiers shoved him to his knees before their King, and in one fluid motion, Lotor had drawn his sword. For one-second Garret’s face betrayed his fear, skin seeming to pale. But then he jerked his head in a nod, chin jutting out proudly. “Do it. Prove what a monster you are.”
Lotor made a tsking sound. “I am no monster.” But his sword was moving, Allura screaming, horrified yet unable to turn away. She was glad she did not, the lazon blade slicing through Garret’s chains.
Everyone around them appeared stunned, the rebels voices dying on a gasp. Garret blinked, the chains falling free of his arms, seeming just as shocked as everyone else was. It lasted only an instant, and then he was lunging upright, leaping onto Lotor, hands going for his throat.
Allura didn’t even get to cry out a warning, everything happening so fast. Lotor threw Garret down onto the ground, his sword thrusting forward. The tip ended up between Garret’s eyes, the rebel glaring hatefully at Lotor.
“You’re more foolish than you are brave.” Lotor commented. “I doubt a mouthy one such as you can keep your emotions in check to lead. So tell me, just who are the ring leaders of this pathetic attempt at rebellion?”
Garret glared, pressing his lips together in a thin line, his answer apparent. He wasn’t going to talk.
“Lotor…” Allura was tugging on the back of his shirt, trying to get his attention. He didn’t turn to her, but appeared to be listening. “I need to talk to you.”
“Not now Allura.”
“Yes, now.” She insisted. “It’s important.”
Lotor seemed to sigh, appearing put out by her request. Garret’s lip curled, sneering at them both. “And just what do you possibly have to say?!” He said, his voice raising louder and louder in volume. “You intend to betray us, don’t you?!”
“Do not speak to her. Not in that tone, not ever!” growled Lotor, but Garret ignored him.
“I knew you were trouble from the first moment I laid eyes on you! We’ve had nothing but misfortune since your arrival…..no….even from before that.” He looked ready to spit, so mad was Garret. “It’s her fault the planet was enslaved…..that we’ve suffered all these years!”
Only Allura’s hand on Lotor’s arm stopped him from thrusting his sword into Garret, Lotor growling back at him. “Do not blame Allura for the actions of her parents!”
Allura couldn’t stop herself from glancing out into the crowd, meeting the eyes of her parents. Diana looked very upset, pale faced and teary eyed. Alfor, ever hard to read, stared back at her, then dropped his gaze to her hand on Lotor’s arm. She instantly flinched, feeling guilty for that touch, and pulled back her hand.
“Lotor…don’t argue with him.” Her tone was pleading, Allura focusing so she only saw Lotor and no one else. “Please. A moment of your time. Alone.”
“Very well.” He growled out his agreement, soldiers coming forward to secure a hold on Garret. Lotor sheathed his sword, and then with great insult, turned his back on the rebel. She saw the King’s face, tight with tension, displeasure in his eyes. She knew then and there it would not be easy to get him to even consider what she wanted, not with him so riled up by Garret’s words and actions.
“A moment!” Allura called out, when Lotor attempted to step past her. He glanced at her, impatience in his gaze. “I ask of you a favor…” It would be the first of many, and she could only pray Lotor would be in the mood to grant it.
“A favor? What is it Allura?”
She braced herself for his reaction, trying not to flinch. “The rebels…promise me your men will take no further action against them.” Isntantly, he was ready to protest, Allura hurrying to talk over him. “Please….at least not until you hear what I have to say!”
A searching look was given to her, Lotor trying to understand. “Allura, why? Why would you care about these trouble makers?” Lotor demanded with a frown.
“Lots of reasons!” She was evasive, but wanting his promise. “Please….promise me…”
“Fine.” Lotor said at last, then raised his voice to be carried out into the crowd. “You have all won a stay of execution for now. Do take this time to reflect on your actions…” The soldiers began to grumble, not liking the order given to them by their king. It left her to wonder if they would obey it, Allura shuddering in fear. She cast a frantic look back into the crowd, spying her parent’s and what she perceived to be a betrayed look in their eyes. She could only mouth her sorry to them, practically stumbling as Lotor led her away.