It was in the flag ship’s grand stateroom that the talks were to be held, Lotor sitting before a table that doubled as a huge board map of the surrounding landscape of Arus. Lights flashed across the board, marking key points that tallied the bombings the rebels had done to date. It was a startling large amount, Lotor staring at it with a grimace on his face.
But it wasn’t the damage done that had him making that expression, Lotor understanding that they had been in a war, and quick to act in an attempt to take back the planet. He almost admired them for their tenacity and perseverance, thinking if they were this capable of such devastation with limited tools, imagine what they could have done with full assets afforded to them.
The reason for his annoyance was the two aides to the right of him, the men hovering around him and chattering incessantly. They wore disapproving looks on their faces, and were desperately trying to get him to change his mind.
“King Lotor, this is highly irregular!” said one. Lotor knew the man had a name, though he’d be damned if he could remember it. “Meeting with these…these…interlopers!”
“Irregular but not entirely unprecedented.” Lotor pointed out, thinking of Doom’s past history with other planets and their representatives.
The aide was left blinking owlishly, shaking his head no. “Those were a special circumstance! Ones that should not be repeated.”
“Really sire….” Said the other. “You have them all in your grasp. There is no need to draw things out. Just kill them and be done with it!”
“There are still some rebels roaming free on this planet.” Lotor reminded them, earning a derisive scoff in reply.
“Is that what you’re concerned about, your highness?”
“Really now, you needn’t worry. When the lot in the town square die, the others will soon follow.”
“No one is going to die.” Lotor announced, amidst gasps and protests. “At least…” A slight smirk. “No one today.” That seemed to calm them, the aide closest to him eyeing him critically.
“Is this a form of entertainment for you, your highness? Are you merely intending to toy with them, build up their hopes, only to crush them?”
Lotor knew it would please his aides if he said yes, but the King remained silent. That earned him sighs, the two aides exchanging looks.
“What would your father think?” asked one, and Lotor fought back a growl, slamming his fist on the table top.
“My father is dead!” He reminded them. “We’re doing things my way now!”
“And just what is your way, hmmm?” The aide’s tone was downright disrespectful, Lotor shooting him a sharp eyed glare.
“I don’t intend to weaken the empire, if that is your concern.” He said. “However…there could be benefits in forging better relationships with the people of planets already in the Drule Empire.”
“And what would be the point of that?”
“For one thing, it would end these bloody attacks!” Lotor snapped in reply. “Think of the time and resources we spend, trying to maintain some semblance of peace on our planets. Resources we could use to expand the empire further.”
“You’ll weaken our empire if you try to make friends of all the planets we’ve enslaved!” protested the aide next to him.
“That remains to be seen.” Lotor said, nodding as his Generals walked into the room. They took up seats on the other side of him, curiosity in their eyes. “Gentlemen. So glad you could come.” A pause, Lotor forcing a pleasant smile on his face. “I imagine you’re wondering what’s going on.”
“I know I am!” One of the generals laughed nervously.
“King Lotor, why have you allowed the rebels to live this long?” asked the newly appointed General Morgor. “Shouldn’t they pay for their crimes?”
“Some crimes yes.” Lotor allowed. “But there is a certain quality to admire in these rebels.” The other five Drules didn’t look like they believed him, Lotor continuing. “I’m thinking it’s time to put our problems aside.”
“To give these rebels a taste of what they want.” Lotor said, earning confused looks for that statement.
“You mean to reward them for their bad behavior?” exclaimed an aide, aghast.
“I merely think it’s time to give peace a chance. It would put an end to the problems on Arus, certainly all the fighting.” Lotor answered.
“But they haven’t earned the right to be treated as citizens of the Drule Empire!” This time the oldest general was the one protesting.
“Your King decides when and if they have earned such a right.” Lotor pointed out. “And I think they may have.”
“It’s that girl…that mistress of yours, isn’t it?” demanded the aide besides him. “She poisoned your mind, weakened you towards softening to the rebels.”
He wouldn’t admit that Allura had gotten him to consider such possibilities, Lotor giving his aide a sleepy eyed look. “I have long since decided to do things different from my father. Arus is the perfect chance to attempt such a thing.”
“First Demos, now Arus…what’s next?” wondered the aide.
“It’s a large galaxy. Full of vast possibilities” answered Lotor, then noted the doors opening to the stateroom once more. “Ah…here they are.” He didn’t rise to his feet, nor did any of the gathered Drules, watching as the confused handful of rebels were ushered into the room.
There was six in all, Lotor’s gaze sliding from person to person. He saw a stout woman, with chestnut curls glaring viciously at him. Next to her stood two men, around her age, one’s mustache twitching like a nervous tic. His eyes moved onward, Lotor noting the woman who bore a striking resemblance to Allura, even with her older age. And then the man next to her, Lotor realizing what was so familiar about him. He had Allura’s eyes.
And finally he noticed the young rebel he had fought off, the man looking just as angry and hostile now as he did then. Lotor hid a displeased look, wondering why he had been invited to the proceedings.
“Welcome.” Lotor spoke out loud, spying Allura entering the room last. She looked like she wanted to smile at him, but didn’t dare so long as his aides continued to glare in open hostility at her. “Please…have a seat.”
None of the rebels made a move towards the chairs, the man with Allura’s eyes stepping forward. “Why have you brought us here?”
“To discuss things.” Lotor answered slyly.
“Things, what things?” The young rebel asked, suspiciously.
“Life, death….Arus’ future.” Lotor kept his tone mysterious, and gestured at the opposite end of the table. “Won’t you sit?”
“I’d rather stand!” said the young rebel defiantly, and Lotor smirked.
“Suit yourself.” The other rebels though moved towards the seats, sitting but with a nervous tension to their bodies. Allura remained standing, and Lotor called out to her. “Come, sit with me….”
“No.” The man with her eyes spoke. “My daughter will sit with us.”
Lotor fought to keep his eyes from narrowing, and something in his gaze must have shown, for the silver streak haired woman was speaking. “My daughter may sit wherever she chooses.” That didn’t sit too well with Allura, the girl looking back and forth between her parents and Lotor.
In the end, she ended up sitting between her parents, her face cast downwards so as to avoid meeting any one’s gaze. Lotor tried to keep from staring at her, wanting to will her to move to join him on his side of the table.
“Allura…?” She didn’t glance up at her name, Lotor sighing inwardly. “Won’t you please introduce us?”
“Ah yes…” She was fidgety, gesturing to the man on her right. “This is Alfor, my father. And this here is my mother, Diana.” Each person gave a nod of their head as she introduced them, Lotor learning the young man was named Garret, and the other woman Gertrude. The two other men were Coran and Gorma.
“Well…I wish it was the time to say it was a pleasure to meet you, but these circumstances are anything but.” Lotor said when Allura had finished.
“Indeed.” Agreed Alfor with a nod of his head.
“You’ve made a lot of trouble for my people stationed on this planet.” Lotor began, and Garret interrupted him angrily.
“Any trouble we’ve caused doesn’t compare to the pain and anguish your people have caused our people!”
“I’m sure it hasn’t.” Agreed Lotor, Garret looking startled at that. “It doesn’t change that what you did was wrong.”
“HA!” Gertrude’s heavily accented voice surprised him, Lotor turning to glance her way. The woman had placed her unchained hands on the table top, leaning forward with an angry look on her face. “A Drule thinking to lecture us on right and wrong? Don’t make me laugh!”
“You will not speak to his highness in that disrespectful tone!” snapped an aide in broken Arusian.
“I will speak however I like!” Gertrude said, and Garret nodded his agreement.
“Silence! Lest I cut your tongues out of your mouths!” threatened the aide. That seemed to cow the woman, but Garret still seemed ready to challenge them.
“We didn’t bring you here to trade insults and make threats!” Lotor said, and Garret burst into uproarious laughter.
“Then why did you bring us here?” asked Alfor, calmly ignoring the sounds Garret was making.
“I meant it when I said I wanted to speak about Arus’ future.” Answered Lotor.
“It’s future?” Diana spoke, her voice a bit huskier than Allura’s. “What does that mean?”
Lotor hesitated, knowing he was about to cause an uproar of his own. “I think it’s time for a second chance. For both our people.”
“A second chance…?” Diana murmured, exchanging a look with her husband.
“I’d never give a Drule even one chance!” spat Garret. “What makes you think I’d risk a second or a third?”
“Ha, a second chance to plunge the knife deeper in our backs!” muttered Gertrude.
“Garret, Gertrude, that is enough.” Alfor said, the woman seeming to pout angrily. “If you cannot at least try to be civil, then wait outside the room.”
“No, my duty here is to guard you.” Garret insisted.
“Then watch your tongue boy.” General Morgor warned.
“I don’t take orders from a Drule!” Garret snidely replied.
“Then consider that an order from me!” Alfor almost sounded close to growling when he said that, Garret seeming cowed to hear it. “Now…” He focused his gaze on Lotor, an inquisitive lift of his brow. “You were saying?”
Lotor wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was impressed with how Alfor had handled Garret. “I know my people have done you wrong. But that is in the past…”
“Some sins of the past can never be forgotten.” Alfor interrupted.
“Nor should they.” Agreed Lotor. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t try to right some wrongs.”
“And just what wrongs do you think you’re capable of righting?” Alfor wanted to know.
“My father’s.” Lotor answered. “It was under his regime that Arus became enslaved. It was under his command that your people continued to suffer as slaves of the Drule. I offer a chance to fix it…”
“Fix it how?”
“By freeing your people.” The chaos that followed was explosive, nearly everyone in the room erupting into chatter. Only Lotor and Allura remained silent, just listening to the shocked exclamations.
“Sire, have you gone mad?!” demanded his oldest General in Drule.
“I’ve never been more possessed of my faculties then I am now.” Lotor answered.
“It’s a Drule trick…” Garrett insisted. “It has to be!”
“Why would you do this?” Diana asked, and the room fell silent at her question. Lotor couldn’t stop himself from glancing at Allura, Diana letting out a tiny oh of exclamation. “You must care for my daughter very much.” She didn’t sound entirely happy about it.
Lotor ignored her statement, leaning forward to lock eyes with Alfor. “It wouldn’t be complete freedom from the Drules. There are conditions…ones you might not want to pay.”
“I knew it!” Gertrude muttered with a hmph.
“What do you mean when you say we wouldn’t have total freedom from your people?” Alfor wanted to know.
He leaned back in his chair, not quite smiling. “The Drule won’t completely pull out of Arus. Your planet will continue to exist as part of the Drule Empire. But you will all be freed citizens. You will be given land and your fortunes back, allowed to make something of yourselves. To be productive members of society. Of course there will be taxes, and your government will comprise of both Drule and Arusian.”
Alfor was quiet, listening to this. Garret was looking red faced, clenching his fists and gnashing his teeth together. It was as thought the young rebel was fighting with himself to remain quiet.
“The Arusians won’t be slaves anymore.” Continued Lotor. “They’ll have rights, ones the Drules will not be able to violate without it being considered a crime.”
“What do you get out of this?” Coran was the one to ask that question, Lotor glancing at the mustached man. He knew it would weaken him to say Allura’s happiness, Lotor pausing to think carefully.
“I think it’s better to have some semblance of peace, than the chaos that has plagued this planet these last few months.” Lotor answered. “Too many of my people have died during the skirmish with your rebels. Too many resources and wealth have been lost. And it’s not just my people who have suffered. You’ve destroyed crop fields, leaving an already hungry people hungrier.”
Shame seemed to cross their faces at that, the group surely realizing the truth of his words. “Aren’t you tired of fighting?” Lotor asked. “At the very least, aren’t you tired of having to kill or be killed?”
A pause filled the room, Lotor taking in the expressions of all the rebels. The woman Gertrude looked angry, and Garret still struggled with his own rage. Allura’s mother looked sad, green eyes holding much sorrow to them. The remaining men were stoic, Alfor returning Lotor’s look, before finally conceding things with a slight nod. “It’s not just the killing we are tired of. We’re tired of this abuse, the way your people have treated us. And I don’t mean just those of us who fought to rebel. There’s plenty of innocents on Arus who had nothing to do with this battle.”
Lotor hadn’t needed to read the reports to know of the kind of treatment the slaves were receiving. It was typical of the Drules to make the slaves suffer, no matter what planet they were from. They treated them worse than third class citizens, they treated them as though they were unfeeling possessions.
“Yes, I know.” Lotor said, conveniently leaving off the fact he had considered killing innocents in order to turn the populace against the rebels. In order to send a message of how the Drules would not tolerate insubordination and rebellion from the Arusians.
“Tell me your highness…” Alfor was polite, he’d give him that. “How can you stand to be a part of a race that is so needlessly cruel to others?”
Lotor did a slow blinking of his eyes, the time ticking away before answering. “It’s all I’ve ever known.” It wasn’t entirely true, his experiences with his mother and Allura being one of the few moments of kindness in his life.
“Will your people accept this….plan of yours?” Diana asked, all eyes drawing to Lotor. He could feel the weight of the Drules’ stare, eyes challenging him to change his mind, to dash the rebel’s hopes.
“I will MAKE them accept it.” Lotor told her, a faint smirk on his lips. “Besides…Arus has barely been productive these last few months…some of the more fortunate members of my kingdom have lost fortunes in investing in Arus. They will be glad for the chance to regain their investments and then some.” He leaned back in his seat, giving off the air of one totally relaxed. “A peaceful planet is a productive one.”
“It won’t be instantaneous mind you.” Coran spoke up. “There will be much needed to restore the planet and the people to their former glory.”
“I have the utmost confidence you’ll manage in record time.” Lotor almost grinned then. “Now Alfor….are you ready to make that deal with me?”
“There will be conditions from us as well.” Came Alfor’s surprising warning. “If we are to do this, then it must be a give and take relationship on both sides.”
“Sire!” hissed the aide besides him in Drule. “He goes too far. We do not give in to demands…we make them!”
“Of course.” Lotor said to Alfor, ignoring the aide. “Shall we begin hammering out some of the details? Or do you need a moment to confer amongst each other?”
“A moment if you please.” Alfor said. “Will you free those in the town square while we deliberate?”
“That would be inviting disaster!” Lotor was no fool. “We shall settle on the details of our….treaty first. And then when you break the news to your people, then the remaining rebels will go free.”
“At least set some of them free.” Alfor frowned. “Surely the older ones are no threat.”
Lotor wanted to refuse, but also realized this would be the first act of concession on his part. “All right.”
“General Morgor. I want you to oversee the releasing of the prisoners that are more advanced in age.” Lotor ordered. “Be sure to see that no harm comes to them.” A smile then, Lotor almost teasing. “Or our men.”
Morgor wasn’t pleased, but he bowed his head to Lotor. “Yes, my King…” He rose from his seat, Lotor noticing how Garret tensed up at that moment.
“Control yourself Garret.” Lotor advised. “We do not want things to take a nasty turn.”
“I will never take orders from you.” Garret hissed. Morgor for his part, sensed the man’s agitation, purposefully taking the path that would walk him pass the angry human.
“Garret…” A word of warning from Alfor, and Lotor wondered if it would be enough to keep the rebel from attacking his general.
Garret made a tsking sound, turning his back on them all. “How can you stand to make a deal with them?!”
“It’s for the good of the people of Arus…” Diana answered for her husband.
“The only good thing for Arus would be to kill all the Drule!” snapped Garret, and suddenly whirled, pointing an accusing finger at Lotor. “Or have you forgotten all that they have done?”
“Never that…” Diana whispered, but Garret seemed to ignore her.
“It goes beyond killing. They beat us, raped us, made us less than human. Turned us into property. Left us to flounder in appalling conditions, worked us tirelessly, and even when we dropped they made us get up and continue. And now because their king speaks pretty words to you, you forget our mission?!”
“We never wanted to exterminate the whole race…” Coran began, and Garret glared at his father.
“You don’t speak for all of us! There are many who wish to wipe the galaxy free of the Drule blight!” He shook his head, a near hysterical laugh escaping him. “You’re all mad if you think we can coexist with these savages!”
“We won’t know until we try…..” Alfor said.
“I don’t know how you can be so willing. They stole your daughter from you! Who knows what they did to her! She may look fine on the outside, but she could be as twisted inside as they are! And yet you’re willing to overlook that, and for what?!”
“Peace.” Came Alfor’s simple answer.
“Freedom.” Added Diana. “Garret…we can’t be like them.”
“I’ll never accept this…” Garret said. “This or them!” With that he was stalking from the room, hurrying past the startled guards on the door.
“Make sure he doesn’t conveniently get lost inside our ship.” Lotor told Morgor, who bowed, then hurried out of the room. His long, quick strides would soon have him catching up with Garret, the General ready to escort the young rebel off the ship.
The room still seemed filled with tension from Garret’s outburst and flight from the room, Allura’s mother looking worried. “My lady, you have my word he will not be harmed.” She didn’t look reassured, but nodded her head at him.
Alfor put his hand over Diana’s, surely trying to offer her the comfort of his touch. The other rebels remained silent, just warily eyeing the Drules. Lotor realized they were waiting for privacy, and held back a sigh. “Is a half n hour sufficient enough time for you to….talk?” It was hardly a generous amount of time, but Lotor was eager to hammer out the details of the new treaty sooner rather than later.
“It’s a start.” Alfor answered, even as Gertrude grumbled under her breath.
“Then I shall see you in a little while.” He moved to walk past the table, his generals and aides hurrying to follow him. He fought not to call out to Allura, Lotor realizing he was terrified she’d reject him if he asked her to leave with him. He couldn’t bear it if she did, Lotor fearing he was losing her and fast. He wondered how he could ever hope to compete with her parents, his eyes surely darkening at the thought.
He let his eyes droop half closed to hide the tortured look in them, Lotor not turning even one time to gaze back at Allura. He feared if he looked at her now, he’d do or say something extremely foolish. As it was, he was already doing things his men thought was weird. He had no doubt that once he dismissed his aides, they would begin making calls to Doom, ready to report on the activities that had occurred in the stateroom. Things might turn uglier, and Lotor hoped he was prepared to deal with the fall out of it all.