She was slow to wake, making a soft protesting sound as a loud noise intruded on her sleep. The noise persisted, and she frowned, moving her head so that her cheek rubbed against soft fabric. It turned out to be Lotor’s shirt, the thin cotton faintly smelling like spice. This close she could easily smell his rich, masculine scent, and she smiled, opening her eyes.
Lotor was already awake, and he smiled back at her, Allura realizing it had been his voice responsible for the noise that had awakened her. Apparently he had been trying to rouse her for some time, and her first impulse was to snuggle back down into sleep. At her eyes drooping half shut, he said her name, and she sighed. “Do we have to get up?”
“I’m afraid so.” His voice was soft, apologetic. “It’s sometime after noon.”
“Noon?!” She exclaimed, and her shock helped make her more alert. He nodded, and she went wide eyed, amazed that so much time had gone by. What had meant to be a harmless little nap had turned into a few hours sleep, and Allura began to sit up. Her body immediately missed being pressed up against Lotor’s, and she noticed that at some point during their nap, she had shifted, making herself as comfortable as she was able to be on top of Lotor.
His shirt was rumpled, and she feared her clothing was no better, Allura easing off Lotor, and standing. She immediately set about to trying to smooth wrinkles out of her jump suit, and Lotor just lay there for a moment watching her. He hadn’t complained about her weight, but she wondered if his body was sore from being used as a bed.
“How long have you been up?” She asked, noting how alert Lotor looked.
“Just for a little while.” He answered, and smiled. “You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you.”
“You should have..” Allura gently reprimanded. “I’m sure the whole castle is looking for us by now.”
“If there was a problem, I’m sure they would have found us.” Lotor tried to reassure her. Now he sat up, and stretched out his arms, working to get the stiffness out. Allura wasn’t sure that would have been the better alternative, the girl worrying just what would have been said if they found the two of them sleeping in each other’s arms.
“Still, we better check in.” Allura said out loud, and offered her hand to Lotor. He took it, and she helped to pull him to his feet, Allura noticing he has a stray leaf in his hair. She went up on tip toe to pluck it free of his hair, and then held on to it, rubbing her thumb absentmindedly over it’s surface. “The fleet must be nearing the moons by now…”
She glanced away from him, peering up into the sky. It was empty save for the clouds, and she knew that they wouldn’t be able to see any of the fighting that would go on in Arus’ air space. “It’s so strange to think we’ll be at war soon, when the day is so peaceful…”
“With luck the fighting will never touch down on this planet’s surface.” Lotor told her, and she shook her head.
“Even if the fighting never comes to ground, it will still leave a mark. In the soldiers that sacrifice their lives in this battle.” She explained, and he nodded, understanding what she meant.
“Well, let’s hope with my help, and the help of those potential Drule allies, that losses on both sides can be cut short.” Lotor took her hand, and began leading her past the tree to one of the garden’s pathways.
“Have you heard from that General of yours since last night?” Allura asked, as they began walking the pathway that led towards the castle’s entrance.
“No, all’s been silent on the airwaves.” Lotor shrugged. “I don’t know if he’s not had the time to contact me, or simply lost interest in the plan.” He followed those words up with a sigh. “It’s a lot to risk for, giving up your home to back a disinherited prince. My supporters may be having second thoughts now that battle is imminent.”
They were almost to the door when he said with forced brightness, “At any rate, I never told them the details of what the Arusian fleet was planning. They don’t even know when the attacks are to begin. If they intend to betray me…well, they won’t have gotten any information to help them do that.”
“That’s because you’re too smart for them.” Allura praised him with a smile. He actually grinned at that, then nodded.
“The Doom forces will be taken by surprise…they’ll have to scramble to recover…” He chuckled then, a bit sheepish. “Doom is not used to being on the receiving end of a first strike. They’re used to acting, not reacting. It’ll cost them as they try to erect a defense.”
“Anything that can help Arus win the war, is sure to be a good thing.” Allura answered, and pushed opened the door. She nearly hit someone on the other side of it, Allura reacting with wide eyed surprise to see Sabbath standing so close. The Drule didn’t look happy, a sad turn to his lips, and his shoulders were slumped downwards. He seemed the picture of dejection, and Allura fought to keep from mirroring his sadness.
“She didn’t like the flowers?” Allura asked out loud, and Sabbath slowly shook his head no. Confused, she frowned. “She DID like the flowers?”
“She liked them just fine.” Sabbath said morosely. “It was the person giving them to her that she had the problem with.”
“What happened?” Allura wondered, and Sabbath shrugged.
“She said things…hurtful words…” A frown then, Sabbath pausing long enough for Lotor to mutter a comment under his breath.
“That sounds just like Romelle.”
“She wasn’t even going to take the flowers at first….but then she said something about not letting them go to waste…” continued Sabbath.
“Well…that’s good…” Allura said, trying to look on the positive side of things.
“Then she slammed the door in my face.” Finished Sabbath.
“Oh….” Allura sighed in disappointment.
“You didn’t leave it at that, did you?” Lotor wanted to know.
“Of course not!” Sabbath retorted, a spark livening up his sad features. “I tried to talk to her through the door. And then….”
“Then what?” Allura prodded, her instincts saying something terrible had happened next.
“I tried to break down the door.” Sabbath admitted sheepishly.
“Oh Sabbath!” Allura admonished, and the Drule turned defensive.
“She is my mate! She is not supposed to lock herself away from me!”
“What have I told you about being patient with her?” chided Lotor with a click of his tongue. Sabbath just looked at him, and the Drule prince sighed. “I know what you’re first instincts are. You want to take her somewhere, and keep her with you until she…submits…but trust me that is not going to work out.” A hesitation then, Allura feeling Lotor’s eyes on her. “At least…not in the way you hope.” He amended, and she frowned, wondering what that meant.
“Trust me when I say if you had insisted on keeping me prisoner, I would have never given you the chance to properly woo me.” Allura couldn’t help but be feisty as she said that, Lotor quickly nodding in agreement.
“I know, I know.” He said, but privately she wondered if she would have been able to hold out indefinitely against such a determined Drule male. Especially one that was so focused on loving her, and proclaiming his devotion to her every chance he got.
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Sabbath was asking, his upset apparent on his face. “She won’t speak to me, she won’t acknowledge me, she won’t even look at me if she can help it. If I don’t…force my presence on her, she’ll continue to dismiss me!”
“We just need time to get her to warm up to the idea of a Drule suitor.” Allura tried to reassure him. “Besides, I take it from your presence here, the door thing didn’t work.” Drules could not blush, but they could get flustered, Sabbath looking away. “What happened exactly?”
“She threatened to call the castle guard on me.” Sabbath said. “And when I said that wouldn’t keep me from her…she..she…started to cry.” He bowed his head, ashamed. “I couldn’t bear her tears so I left. Some warrior I am, done in by a woman’s crying!”
“She’s not just any woman, she’s your mate.” Lotor pointed out. “Of course her tears would affect you.”
“I shouldn’t be making her cry!” protested Sabbath. “I should bring laughter and happiness to her. And all I do is upset her!”
“It’ll get better.” Lotor sounded wise. “At first, all I could do was upset and frighten Allura. You think we got to the point we are at without hard work on both our parts?”
“But Romelle doesn’t even want to try…” Sabbath whispered.
“It’s only the second day.” Allura pointed out. “You’ll have more chances to try with her…I’m sure once she sees that not all Drule are bad, she’ll start to open up to the idea of being courted by one. Until then…just hang in there.” Sabbath said nothing, and she exchanged a look with Lotor, who shrugged. “Well…I suppose I could always talk to my cousin…try to get her to see reason.”
“You would do that for me?” Sabbath seemed amazed.
“Well, yes. I don’t see the harm in trying to get my cousin to change her prejudices.” Allura replied, and gestured for the two Drules to walk with her. “It’s not right, and if all goes well with this war, we may even be allies with the Drule. At least with those who support Lotor in a bid for Doom’s throne. As a princess of Arus, Romelle has to lead by example…the people won’t know not to fear if they see her giving in to those prejudice of hers.”
“Of course, Romelle is a special case.” Lotor added, and Allura turned to glance at him in surprise. “She’s holding a grudge. I noticed the other women who had been in the holding cell with her, while not outright forgiving, at least talk to me with respect. It’s a really a shame, nothing that bad was done to Romelle and the other girls, and yet she is so mad…”
“My cousin always did have a temper….” admitted Allura. “And if she feels an injustice has been done to her…” She trailed off, trying not to shudder at the thought of how angry a state Romelle could work herself up to.
“Still it’s no reason to blame a whole people for.” Lotor retorted firmly. Allura made an agreeing sound, turning the corridor that led to the castle control room. From this distance she could see the doors thrown wide open, several people running in and out of the room. It was a bit like controlled chaos inside, numerous technicians and communication experts standing about, working various devices.
There was men and women standing in front of computer consoles, their fingers flying fast over their keypads. Data streamed across their screens, glowing neon green and the occasional red. They moved at a blur, practically impossible for Allura to read. She didn’t know even half of what their jobs were, or what their designated tasks would accomplish.
The view screen took up the far wall, wrapping around it part way to half encircle the room. The large screen was split into smaller views, Allura spying the faces of the Voltron Force, and various commanders and admirals of the Arusian fleets. There was even a blurry picture of the moon, and Allura knew that once the Drules’ image disrupters were knocked offline, a better picture would be given them.
She could even see part of the immense fleet on one of the images, ship after ship flying through space. The kingdoms all over Arus had lent their support to stop the Drule invasion, and the number of ships was impressive. Currently they were cloaked from the Drule armada, their presence would not be detected until too late. Or at least, that is what everyone hoped.
Coran stood in the center of the floor, gripping a cane in both hands as he stared at the view screen. He didn’t turn when Allura and her companions approached him, not until she spoke.
“Coran, I see everyone is almost into position.”
“Ah, princess.” Coran turned, and gave a slight bow of his head, pausing to acknowledge Lotor and Sabbath. “Yes….We are almost ready to begin operations. I’m glad you are here, prince Lotor.”
“I’m glad to be of service.” Lotor said. “I think now is the time to begin the attack. Now while you have the element of surprise.”
“Of course.” Coran nodded. “Princess Allura, do you have any words for our men before they go out to do battle?”
She hesitated, having not thought to prepare a speech for this moment. “I could say a few words…” Coran nodded, and called out to a technician, the man doing something that would allow her image to be broadcast to all the ships in the Arusian fleet. “Brave warriors of Arus.” She began, feeling nervous and inadequate with her words. “You are about to embark on a great undertaking, one whose success is vital to the continued well being and freedom of our planet. We neither want nor welcome this fight, but by the gods, we will be the ones to finish it!”
A cheer seemed to break across the airwaves, the soldiers agreeing with their princess’ words. She raised her hand, making a fist over her heart as she cried out, “For the glory of Arus!”
“For the Glory of Arus!” Came the echoing cry, and Coran stepped forward.
“You all knows your roles in this mission. It is time to play our hand, and show them Arus will not take the threat of invasion lightly. On your commander’s will, begin the bombings immediately.”
The answer came, the ships beginning to speed up, one by one until they were all traveling as fast as they were capable of. Such speed broke the illusion of nothing, the cloaking devices shutting off and revealing the fleet to the Drule armada. The Arusian ships flew over the moon, and amidst it’s craggy caverns and pockmarked surface, they could see the Drule ships laying unsuspecting.
The Arusian ships all opened fire as one, lasers, missiles, and bombs being dropped. They pelted the Drule ships and the ground around them, explosions occurring, damaging both. The fleet circled around, and it was a constant movement overhead, dropping their weapons on the Drules. It would take time for the Drules to react, and Allura could only imagine the chaos that was going on inside their ships.
Eventually, the Drules recovered enough to turn on their shielding, the explosions going off harmlessly against the invisible shielding. It would take even more time for the Drule ships to take to the sky, and they jostled with the Arusian fleet for position. Once airborne, the Drule ships opened fire, lasers and photon beams targeting the Arusian ships.
The Drule carriers, large ships that’s sole purpose was to carry the smaller fighter craft, began opening their hanger doors. Lotor identified the ships that were released as star cutters, one man fighter jets that would do most of the close in fighting. The lions of Arus emerged from behind the fleet, their weapons already firing, attacking the star cutters. They were woefully outmatched in number, but not in power, the lions attacking viciously.
As they fought, the Arusians began unleashing their fighter craft, the streamlined jets speeding to engaged the star cutters. She heard Lotor say something, the Drule prince pointing out what strategy the Drules were using based on their ship formation. Captain Keith of the Voltron force gave a curt answer, saying he had already figured it out, that he remembered this formation from the detailed speeches Lotor had made during the war planning sessions.
The fighting was just beginning, and the Drule would often change tactics mid air. Lotor continued to give advice, and even Keith had to grudgingly admit that the Drule prince was giving valuable information. Allura glanced often at Lotor, and noticed how he transformed, eyes alight with excitement, his face stern and focused on the battles. He looked as though he wished he was actually up there, as though he wanted to be where the action was rather than standing in the safety of the castle’s command center.
Allura for her part, quickly grew bored. She wasn’t that interested in watching the fights, and she winced every time Arus took a loss, thinking of the pilots who had been killed. She felt bad to feel bored by the battles, thinking she was disrespecting those who lost their lives defending her home. But she also knew she wasn’t looking forward to the days on end of watching the war take place.
She wished she could take a break, wished she could sneak away, but knew it was her duty to watch what was happening. It was the least she could do. And still her mind wandered, Allura subtly watching the others in the room. Which is why she noticed a depressed Sabbath suddenly straighten, his whole demeanor becoming hopeful. She didn’t need to see his nostrils flare to know he had scented her cousin, and within seconds Romelle was marching into the command center.
“Romelle!” Glad for the break, Allura turned to her cousin, sending a smile her way. It died down at the vicious look Romelle gave her, Allura almost going pale in the moment. “What’s wrong?”
“Who told him what kind of flowers I like?” Romelle demanded, meeting Allura halfway across the floor. She didn’t look towards Sabbath, and Allura noticed that though the Drule had turned in their direction, he was keeping his distance.
“I did.” Admitted Allura, earning a displeased look from Romelle. “I saw no harm in it.”
“No harm?” Romelle scoffed in disbelief. “Allura, why are you encouraging him? He has enough ideas about me, he doesn’t need my cousin giving her stamp of approval on this nonexistent relationship!”
“I’m only trying to help…” Allura began, and Romelle made an angry noise. “And so is Lotor!” She stepped in close to whisper in Romelle’s idea. “If it wasn’t for Lotor and I, you’d surely be off in the woods somewhere, in the hands of a confused and lovesick Drule.”
“Is that you’re way of telling me to be grateful for the interference?” Romelle asked, looking horrified at what Allura had just said. The princess nodded, and Romelle grimaced. “He tried to break down the door! After I just got it fixed!”
“But he went away when you cried….” Allura pointed out, and Romelle shook her head.
“I shouldn’t have had to! He shouldn’t have made the attempt in the first place!”
“He’s just confused.” Allura said. “Lotor will set him right about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.”
“Oh, and your savage prince is such an expert?!” Romelle demanded. “Allura, he kidnapped you, and held you prisoner in his cabin for days! That is not proper behavior to a princess!”
“Yes, but now he knows better.” Allura explained with a smile. Romelle groaned at that, shaking her head no.
“I think they’re all barbarians. Why they’re worst then cavemen…..”
“That’s not true…” Allura began, but Romelle was interrupting.
“Just look at him.” Contempt was in her voice, Allura surprised her cousin had even noticed Sabbath was in the room. “Look at what he’s doing!”
“He’s doing nothing but standing there…”
“He’s UNDRESSING me with his EYES!!” Romelle accused, then muttered under her voice. “It makes me feel dirty. Like I am in sore need of a bath. I know what he’s thinking…I read books, you know!”
“Actually Romelle, right now I doubt very much you could even come close to what he’s really thinking.” Allura retorted, feeling near the limit of her patience. “He loves you…he just wants to please and adore you. Is that so wrong?” The look her cousin gave her said that yes it was. “Really Romelle, do try to at least be nice to him.”
“Why?” She demanded. “Why should I?”
“He’s not the same Drule that wanted to torture you. Nor is he one of the ones that captured us in the first place.” Allura said, trying to reason with her. “If he had been, I doubt very much you would have seen the inside of the cell.”
“I think the Drule are all the same…horrific monsters with perversions on the brain!” Romelle sniffed haughty. “Maybe you missed it, being in Lotor’s company, but ask Gloria and the other girls. The way the Drules talked and looked at us. It was demeaning, and I really feared for our virtue!”
“I’m sorry that happened.” Allura said. “But Lotor did his best to protect you from the others aboard the ship. And Sabbath would have protected you too!”
“I would have!” Sabbath spoke up, having inched closer to the two princesses during their conversation. Romelle stiffened, her face upset at his nearness, but Sabbath continued to speak earnestly. “I would have never allowed such filth to so much as look at you had I known you were onboard the ship. If they so much as touched your hair, I will kill them. Just tell me who they are, and I will present to you their hearts on a silver platter.”
It wasn’t exactly the right thing to say, nor was it the wrong one, Romelle blinking rapidly in shock. Allura wanted to tell Sabbath to ease down on the murderous impulses, but it was Lotor who spoke, snapping something in Drule to Sabbath.
“Why would you do that?” Romelle demanded. “They’re your own kind. Are you really that…vicious to kill your own people?”
“I would do anything for you, so yes, if you asked me, I would kill them. Just as I would spare their lives on your commands. My…princess…” He dropped down to one knee, and reached for Romelle’s hand before she could snatch it away from her. “I vow eternal devotion to you. No task too little, no endeavor too great. Just speak of it, and it shall by yours….”
Allura could see he was caressing the back of her hand with his thumb, Sabbath never taking his eyes off Romelle’s face as he bent over her hand. She was frowning at him, even as he began to brush reverent kisses across her knuckles.
“Don’t do that!” gasped Romelle, trying to jerk back her hand. Sabbath must have tightened his grip, for he easily held on, and began kissing down onto her arm. Romelle turned an interesting shade of red, and before Sabbath could get to high on her arm, she slapped him with her other hand. Even with the noise in the command center, the slap resounded loudly, people turning to stare.
Sabbath was stunned, and his fingers went limp, allowing Romelle to jerk free. “I want you to leave me alone!” She snapped. “You understand!? That is the only thing I will ever wish of you!”
“And that is the one thing I cannot grant you…” Sabbath said sorrowfully, still kneeling. The two stared at each other a moment longer, than Romelle was turning, all but running out of the room. Sabbath made a move to get up and follow her, but Allura stopped him, her hand on his arm. He looked at her, and she sighed, shaking her head no. Now was not the time to go chasing after Romelle, she could tell her cousin needed some time to think. Allura could only hope that maybe some of what she and Sabbath had said, would at least melt some of the ice around her cousin’s heart when it came to the Drule.