There was still some time before the hour appointed for breakfast, and rather than loiter outside the dining room, or get in the servants way, Lotor chose to return to the command center. He was eager for an update on the war, wondering what if any progress had been made, and anxious to find out if General Pardust was serious about the alliance.
He would get his answers shortly after arriving, Lotor walking straight over to a tired looking Coran. The royal advisor had dark smudges under his eyes, hinting that he had had little to no sleep this past night. Lotor wondered if the man had even bothered to take a break, and thought Coran looked as though he was struggling to stay awake in his seat.
Upon noticing Lotor’s arrival, Coran struggled to his feet, gesturing tiredly for the prince to approach. As Lotor walked towards him, he allowed his eyes to sweep a glance over at the view screen, seeing the many ships that crowded the space around planet Arus and it’s two moons. The lions of Arus were currently missing in action, but Lotor wasn’t alarmed. He knew if the pilots were to be of any long term use, they would need to take breaks from the battle, to eat and get some sleep. No doubt the lions were currently docked in one of the carrier ships, the Voltron force off seeing to personal tasks.
They wouldn’t be the only ones taking breaks, both sides had at least two sets of fighter personnel, the pilots attacking in shifts. They would switch out after a few hours, the survivors returning either in triumph or defeat to the larger ships. Even the crew of the larger vessels would be taking breaks on shifts, all in order to make sure the fighting continued non stop.
The darkness of space was lit up brilliantly by the constant volley of lasers and beams, photon bursts exploding in air. It was a colorful sight, and the exploding ships
reminding Lotor of the fireworks the Drule sometimes lit in celebration of a victory.
“Coran…” Lotor nodded to the man, glancing back at the screen. He wondered how many losses each side had suffered, wondered if the Arusians had made a dent in the man power of the Drule armada. “What’s the status on the battle?”
“We’re still maintaining balance against the Drule armada.” Coran sighed. “There’s been little if any progress towards decimating their numbers. It seems for each victory we pull, they counter that with one of their own.”
Lotor wasn’t sure how to cheer Coran up, or if it was possible to, especially at this point in the war. So he said nothing, just nodding to show he was listening. Out the corner of his eyes, a particular spectacular explosion occurred, one of the larger ships on the Arusian side splitting apart. It wasn’t a carrier vessel, but one of the behemoths that were decked out in heavy artillery. Coran seemed to wince at the lost of such a valuable ship, and the smaller fighter craft were quick to fly away from the burning pieces floating about.
Lotor knew the Drule invaders would be much cheered by the victory, and would continue to press their attacks while the Arusian side was demoralized by the loss of life and ship. Lotor hoped the Arusians would push back any fear and doubts they had until after the battle was over, lest their sorrow cause them to suffer more losses.
“There’s been movement from the Drule ships.” Coran said, and was pointing his cane at the screen. The tip of it seemed to gesture towards the rear of the armada, though Lotor could not see anything out of the ordinary there. “It’s been subtle, but several ships have been falling back, and maneuvering to get behind the more active parts of the armada.”
“That’s not any known tactic of the Drule.” Lotor replied, though he had a glimmer of an idea what this sudden development could mean. “I dare say, if my contacts aboard the Drule ships is being true to me, those ships are ones who are about to join the side of Arus in this battle.”
“I will pray that you are right.” Coran was serious, and struggling not to give in to the hope Lotor’s words had given him.
Lotor wondered if he should try contacting General Pardust again, the prince curious as to what was going on aboard those retreating ships. But he ultimately decided against making the call, choosing to stand quietly next to Coran, watching the battle. Ships would continue to weave in and out among each other, the small fighter craft trying to shoot each other down, while simultaneously attempting to get close enough to the bigger ships.
A wave of fighter jets broke past the Drule star cutters, half a dozen of them buzzing around a Doom Destroyer. The Destroyer kept pumping round after round of lasers into the air, the Arusian craft spiraling into sudden turns to evade the beams. As they flew in close, they began dropping missiles, and firing lasers at the many guns mounted all over the ship’s sides.
Explosions occurred, some of the destroyer’s weapons being blown apart, before the Arusians flew back to the safety of their fleet. The star cutters gave chase, trying to shoot them down, while also attempting to fly into the heart of the fleet. When a few managed to do just that, chaos seemed to erupt, the Arusians trying to shoot them down, and taking hits from their own comrades.
Lotor fought not to make a disgusted face at that panicked display, the command center growing quiet in shock. The silence erupted into cheers when black lion suddenly
flew out of a carrier, Keith taking out the star cutters with an ease that would put his comrades to shame.
Lotor wondered if the pilot of black lion had had enough time to rest, the other lions did not join him. Not for another hour at least, and by then there was chaos happening on the side of the Drule armada. The ships that had been retreating to the rear of the armada began to open fire on their brethren, and the Drules onboard those vessels seemed not to know how to react to the mutiny occurring.
The majority of the Drule armada was caught between the Arusian fleet, and the attacking Drule ships. They were forced to defend against two enemies, and suffered for the split in their attention. Coran was amazed, openly showing his relief that the Drule loyalists had indeed been true to their word. Lotor himself felt relieved, his eyes dancing with amusement as he watched the remains of the Drule armada fighting to make a come back.
“This isn’t over yet.” Lotor warned to Coran, aware that the others in the room were listening to his words. “Those who oppose Arus, are still in the majority as far as the size of the armada is concerned. They will not give up, they will fight to their last breath if needed. And with their deaths, they will try to do as much damage as they can manage, take out as many of our allies as possible.”
“I understand.” Coran said, with a nod of his head. “I will explain to our fleet’s commander to keep his men on their toes. Arus will not make a mistake through overestimation of our victory.”
“Good.” Lotor smiled, and started to turn away. “Coran? Have you had any rest?”
“I will be fine for a few more hours yet.” Coran told him. Lotor hid a frown, studying the weary human. Coran was tightlipped under his scrutiny, trying to appear alert. Lotor realized it was a matter of pride for the advisor, the man wanting to stay up to lend his support to those fighting above planet Arus.
“All right.” Lotor said at last. “But do try to get some sleep. Allura would hate it if you worked yourself ill.”
“I will keep that in mind.” Coran answered. “Please tell the princess not to worry so about me.”
“Fine.” Lotor replied, and headed out of the command center. He could hear the excited whispers of some of the technicians, they were making bets on just when the Doom armada would fall under the combined might of Arusians and Drule. Lotor hid a smile, wondering if by this act, the Drules would gain more popularity among the Arusians.
He continued to think that as he walked to the dining room, passing by guards and servants, some of who had heard the news about the sudden support of Lotor’s allies. A few even paused to give thanks to the prince, congratulating him on securing a worthwhile alliance for Arus. The gratitude had Lotor taken aback, but the prince was glad that the people in the castle were no longer looking at him so mistrustfully.
The guards outside the dining room door even bowed their heads to him, giving him a respect that had been lacking just hours earlier. Lotor was in exceedingly good spirits as he entered the dining room, and he nearly laughed out loud when he spied Sabbath. The dark haired Drule was looking overwhelmed, and it was no wonder to Lotor. Sabbath was surrounded by females, Lotor recognizing Marie and Gloria among the girls who pressed in close to the Drule.
He could almost make out what they were saying, realizing they were fawning over Sabbath. One girl, a curly haired brunette whom Lotor did not recognize was begging sweetly for Sabbath to sign her a song. Lotor hid his smile, realizing the other girls had spread word of what a glorious singing voice Sabbath had. Sabbath for his part, looked decidedly uncomfortable with the attention, almost backed up against the wall. Lotor knew there was only one female he longed for, and Romelle wasn’t ready to ply attention on him.
Lotor glanced away from Sabbath, and spied Allura sitting a few feet away. She was smiling at him, and he immediately walked towards her. She was already rising from her seat, allowing Lotor to press a kiss into her cheek. “I’ve heard the most fantastic rumor!” She announced, and Lotor grinned.
“Is it true that some of the Drule ships are attacking their own allies?” She asked, and Lotor nodded. Allura laughed, and clapped her hands together. “That’s wonderful! So that general of yours came through after all!”
“It was about time.” Lotor said, and gestured for Allura to take her seat. “I was having doubts of his sincerity.”
“Well…it’s better late than never, this help of his.” She replied, and Lotor sat down besides her. Their seats allowed them the chance to watch those who entered and left the dining room, Lotor wondering if Romelle would put in an appearance. He rather hoped she did, thinking her reaction to Sabbath’s newfound popularity would be interesting to say the least.
“Do you think any of the fighting will touch Arus?” Allura was asking, and Lotor shrugged.
“It certainly looks like it will all take place in Arusian space, but…I’m still concerned about those ground forces. They wouldn’t have been left behind without a purpose.”
“What do you think they will do?” Allura was visibly worried, and Lotor patted her knee, trying to reassure her with his words.
“I can’t say for sure. I don’t know what’s going through Morduck’s head. If it was me though…I’d go for the castle, while the majority of it’s military is off waging war.” Lotor spoke honestly, but wondered if he should have kept that tidbit to himself, seeing how upset Allura got.
“Almost all our forces are off fighting the Drule armada! We would be practically defenseless if we got attacked now!” She exclaimed, wringing her hands together in agitation.
“Practically defenseless is not the same as completely helpless.” Lotor pointed out. “And if worse came to be, we would evacuate the castle. They may capture the building, but not win the war. Not without taking the ruler of this planet….”
“I see…” She shivered as though cold, Lotor reaching to put an arm across her shoulders. He hugged her to him, trying to lend her his body heat. “I suppose it’s good that few if any of my people came to the castle seeking shelter during this time.”
“Yes, for it means less people to worry about.” Lotor said. He knew there was still a lot of people inside the castle, even without the added numbers from the nearby villages. There was dozens each of servants, technicians, and guards, and he worried that not all would get out alive in the case of an attack.
Allura was quiet, and he began to fix himself a plate for breakfast. He was in the middle of piling fresh bacon onto his bagel, when the door to the dining room opened. Sabbath seemed to tense up, alerting Lotor to just who was entering the room before he saw her face. It was Romelle, clad in a dress colored as white as snow. The pale garment made her tan stand out in stark brilliance, though it was dulled part way by the shocked look on her face.
Because Lotor was watching her carefully, he saw Romelle do a double take at Sabbath and his adoring entourage. Something like upset flashed in her eyes, though Lotor could not tell if it had anything to do with Sabbath or the fact that some of Romelle’s friends were flirting with the Drule. Romelle’s eyes narrowed, and for a second she looked positively livid. And then her expression flowed into a mask of calm, the princess walking with her head held high.
She ended up at the table with Lotor and Allura, and the prince could hear Sabbath making frantic excuses to the women around him. They weren’t eager to give him up, almost touching his arms in an attempt to keep him with them. Somehow Sabbath pulled away in time to reach the table when Romelle did, the Drule stammering a nervous word to her.
“Romelle….I…” He was pulling out a chair for her, holding it before him like a shield. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?” She looked at him, and Lotor thought for sure she would refuse the chair. To everyone’s surprise, she sat down in it, though Romelle didn’t dignify Sabbath’s question with an answer. Sabbath didn’t seem to care, face practically shining as he eased her chair towards the table.
He lingered behind her, half bent forward, and Lotor knew Sabbath was breathing in the scent of Romelle’s hair. Romelle for her part ignored this, reaching for a plate and piling on the fruits. Sabbath hurried to take a seat, and it was a supreme act of will power that he did not choose the one right next to the princess. Instead he left an empty chair between them, the message clear that he was giving Romelle her space.
“I’m so glad you decided to join us!” Allura said warmly, her blue eyes sparkling.
“Couldn’t be helped.” Romelle demurred. “I was starving.”
“Ah…but still….you could have taken breakfast in your room.” Pointed out Allura.
“You know Nanny doesn’t like it when we do that.” Romelle answered. “She complains that the crumbs get into everything!”
Lotor saw Allura unsuccessfully hide her smile, the girl far too pleased with her cousin’s appearance at breakfast. A glance at Sabbath showed the Drule wasn’t eating, he was too busy concentrating on hiding his ogling of Romelle. He kept turning his head back and forth from Romelle to the food on the table, and it was clear what held the greater interest for Sabbath.
“The war is going well.” Announced Allura. “The Drules loyal to Lotor have finally made their move.”
“Hmmm.” That was all the comment Romelle seemed willing to make, the girl chewing on a golden pear. Allura seemed to sigh in frustration at her cousin’s lack of interest, the girl turning to Lotor.
“How long do you think it will take to wrap up the battles?”
Lotor gave his mate’s question the consideration it deserved, thinking it over. “Well…” He said at last, setting down his bagel. “It depends really on several things. The Drules aren’t known for surrendering, and cornered they will be an even more vicious lot. There’s still many ships up above the planet, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if the fighting lasted out the week.”
“The week?” Allura seemed disappointed when he nodded.
The girls who had been fawning over Sabbath, approach the table, one sliding into the seat between him and Romelle. She actually dared to touch the black haired Drule’s arm, cooing solicitously to him. “Won’t you sing just one song for me?” Lotor saw her batting her eyelashes at him, the girl blatant in her come ons. The other girls hovered behind Sabbath, lending their voices in agreement.
“Oh yes! Please do!”
Lotor swore he saw Romelle’s right eye twitch, the girl’s fingers tightening on the pear. Juices seemed to dribble down her hand as a result, but other than she was quiet.
“I’m sorry…” Sabbath rumbled in a deeply apologetic voice. “But I only sing for one woman.” He tried to peer around the flirtatious girl, but she giggled and blocked his view of Romelle.
“I’m sure you can make an exception to that rule. For me…”
“No….I can’t…” Sabbath insisted. “I will only sing to my mate…and only if she wants me to.”
Several of the girls behind him glanced at Romelle, who had affected a bored look on her face. She was wiping at the pear juice on her hand, pretending not to be aware of what was going on to the right of her.
“Princess?” The bold girl asked, turning her attention to Romelle.
“Do what you like.” Romelle answered, voice lacking emotion. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I think it does matter.” Lotor pointed out, not trying to be quiet about it. Romelle glared at him, and Lotor smirked at her. “Else you wouldn’t be trying so hard to pretend it didn’t.”
“I am not pretending!” Romelle snapped, some of the fire back in her voice.
“Oh really?” Lotor asked, eyebrow raised to mock her. The girls had grown quiet, watching the exchange with interest. “It bothers you doesn’t it?” He continued, almost merciless with his words.
“Why would it?” She asked, and Lotor grinned.
“You’re the type who, you may not want something, but you’ll be damned if you let other people have it, aren’t you?” Romelle’s jaw seemed to drop at that, and she made a wordless sound of outrage. “It’s the only explanation.” Lotor added. “Since you’ve been adamant that you don’t like him.” Romelle glared all the more angrily at Lotor, and Allura placed a hand on Lotor’s arm, surely trying to get him to stop.
But he didn’t, Lotor taking a kind of pleasure out of taunting Romelle. “Or is it a case of the lady dost protest too much?” Lotor wondered out loud. “Could it be your not impartial to Sabbath’s charm after all?”
“Hardly.” Romelle scoffed, and Lotor looked her over, noting the angry red of her face.
“Have you had any dreams lately?” He grinned when she turned an interesting color, the sight of which surely said yes she had.
“It’s none of your business you fiend!” Romelle snapped, leaping to her feet so fast, her chair toppled over. Sabbath stood when she did, his face full of concern.
“Your highness, that’s enough!”
“I don’t need your help dealing with this…this savage!” Romelle hissed at Sabbath.
“I am not going to let him upset you!” retorted Sabbath, and Romelle practically growled.
“I am not upset!”
She looked on the verge of a tantrum, Lotor smirking all the while. “Is that shade of red natural for you then?” He asked out loud. She sputtered angrily, seeming unable to form coherent words. It was Sabbath’s turn to growl, the Drule looking angrily at his prince.
As this was going on, a guard entered the dining room, and let out a shout of recognition! “Your highnesses!” He hurried over to the table, and Romelle was muttering something under her breath. Sabbath had inched closer to her, looking very much like he wanted to pull her into a protective embrace.
“What is it, Andstorm?” Allura asked, finally taking her eyes away from the drama at the breakfast table.
“It’s terrible!” The guard said, dropping to one knee besides Allura. “It’s the Drule ground forces!”
“What about the Drule ground forces?!” Lotor demanded, rising from his seat.
“They’re on the move, and headed for the castle!” Andstorm’s exclamation had all the women gasping, the girls erupting into frightened chatter as they speculated out loud what this would mean for Arus. Allura seemed to shudder, and Lotor was touching her shoulders, lending her physical comfort. He nodded to Andstorm, thanking him for alerting them to this new development.
“It’s okay Allura. They’ll need time to get here. We’ll be able to mount a proper defense.” Lotor told her, voice loud enough to be heard over the girls’ conversation. Allura just bowed her head, Lotor unable to tell if she believed him or not. A glance towards Sabbath and Romelle, showed the princess equally upset. The time to tease Romelle was over with, they now had more pressing concerns.