He had left the ball room shortly after the servant’s hysterical announcement, the woman’s words playing a huge part in upsetting his mate’s guests. They didn’t know what was going on, and only grew more panicked when they realized Lotor and the other Drules were just as clueless as they were. Allura had tried to alleviate their fears, but in the end she had had to bow out, hurrying after Lotor and General Pardust.
That left Romelle and her family in charge of the situation in the ball room, the royals trying their best to calm down the worried nobles. Lotor knew what they must be thinking for he feared the same thing, the prince wondering if there was a spy amongst them. A spy who had contacted Zarkon, and told him of this gathering, and how it would be plum pickings for an attack with all the important nobility of Arus gathered in one spot.
With one lucky strike, Zarkon’s attack could wipe out the entire ruling class of Arus, leaving the people to panic and be without their leaders. This couldn’t be allowed, Lotor and Pardust breaking into a run, Allura panting to keep up with the two Drule’s fast pace. She was still trailing behind even after they burst into the castle command center, the people there at their stations, monitoring the situation.
“What’s the situation?!” Lotor demanded, looking around for the human in charge. With Coran at the party, it was currently an older woman who was maintaining control inside the command center.
“Your highnesses…” Her face was grave as she gestured at the screen. He could see the large fleet of ships, nearly sixty in all. And that was before they released their fighter craft, Lotor knowing each carrier ship could hold several dozen of the smaller ships. “They just appeared over Arus. We had no advance warning of their approach. One minute there was nothing…and then there they were.”
“Cloaking devices.” Pardust grumbled. “More advanced than what we have available to us on Arus.”
“We’ll have to fix that over sight in the future…” Lotor said, and frowned when one of the technicians moaned.
“We might not even have a future!”
“Be quite Brahms!” snapped Coran’s replacement. “Talk like that is demoralizing.”
“But it’s true!” Brahms insisted. “We haven’t had enough time to prepare for another war, most of the Drule ships are still on the moon, being repaired. Our own forces were badly damaged during the war…we haven’t recovered from all the losses….”
“Either be quiet, or leave the room!” Snapped Lotor with an angry growl. He would not tolerate this human spouting off fears that would upset the rest of the people in the room. Brahms seemed suitably cowed into silence, keeping his fear stricken face turned towards his computer monitor.
“I’ve taken the liberty of mobilizing the Voltron force.” The woman was saying. “The lions are primed to encounter the Drule fleet within ten minutes time.”
“Dorina, thank you.” Allura said, nodding to the woman. “That was good thinking.”
“Have we made contact with the fleet?” Pardust was asking, and Lotor nodded.
“Yes, I want to know what they have to say for themselves.”
“We’ve been trying, but we haven’t stumbled upon their radio frequency yet.” Admitted a different technician. Lotor and Pardust exchanged looks, and then the General was stepping over to the technician’s side, rattling off numbers to try.
“What do they want Lotor?” Allura was besides him now, touching his arm. He looked at her, and saw her worried she was. “Is it your father? Is war upon us already?”
“I don’t know.” Lotor admitted, patting her hand with his bandaged one. His hand was still healing, and he was enduring several hours a day of physical therapy to ensure he retained good use of that hand. “However, if it was my father, no doubt he or his cronies would already be contacting us to gloat and shout out threats.”
“So it’s a good thing they’ve maintained radio silence….” Allura murmured, and Lotor nodded.
“It couldn’t be someone from one of the houses that we ransomed off men too…” Pardust was saying, and glanced Lotor’s way. “Could it?”
Lotor shrugged. “Who knows. I wouldn’t put it past the insulted parties to come seeking revenge, but really I’d expect them to throw their lot in with my father, rather than come here on a solo mission.”
“Yeah…” Pardust turned his attention back to the computer screen, suggesting more of the commonly used radio channels the Drule military favored. Lotor held onto Allura’s hand, but stared at the monitors, watching the blips that were the lions as they drew closer and closer to the fleet. Neither side opened fire, nor did the fleet release their star cutters, which Lotor thought as strange as it was promising.
Suddenly a voice was heard over the airwaves, speaking in Drule, General Pardust having succeeded in finding the correct contact number for the fleet. Lotor could hear other voices speaking in the background, reading off monitors or relaying orders.
“This is Prince Lotor.” He announced, switching to Drule. “Stand your ships down, and identify yourselves at once!”
There was a hesitation, and then another voice spoke, one that was overly familiar to Lotor, to the point he found himself smiling. “Can we get a visual on them?” The other voice asked, and then Dorina was calling out.
“We’re receiving a live feed transmission from one of the Drule ships!”
“Put it on the screen!” Allura ordered, and a technician hurried to do just that. Lotor didn’t need the visual confirmation, but he was glad to see the face of his friend Cossack all the same.
“Cossack!” Lotor said, knowing he was grinning like a fool. “You old devil! Giving us a scare like that!”
“Sorry prince, didn’t mean to cause you any worry.” Cossack was also grinning, almost sheepish in the moment.
“Worried, who was worried?” Lotor asked, even as Allura began tugging on his arm.
“Lotor, what’s going on?” She asked, and he switched to basic.
“Allura, beloved….this is my old friend Cossack.” He nodded at the screen. “Cossack, this is…”
“Your mate.” Cossack said, in heavily accented basic. “I’m pleased to meet the little lady that stole our prince’s heart.”
She started to blush, Allura stammering. “It was more that Lotor stole my heart than the other way around…”
“It was a mutual theft.” Lotor decided, and Cossack was laughing.
“Princess, if you knew how against love and mating Lotor was before he met you, you’d know how thoroughly you captured his heart.” That only made Allura blush harder, Cossack grinning to see it.
“What are you doing here commander?” General Pardust demanded, and Cossack sobered some.
“That’s former commander.” Cossack reminded them. “I haven’t held a military post since mating with my Milleenia.” A fond look was in his eyes, Cossack gazing off at someone past the view screen. Lotor had a sneaking suspicion Milleenia was present onboard the command deck of Cossck’s ship, something that didn’t surprise him all that much. Cossack would have insisted on traveling with his princess, if only so that mates would not go through the hardships of a long separation.
“Anyway, I–we thought we’d come for a visit.” Cossack continued. “And make sure my mother in law, Merla upheld her promise of ships and men.” His grin widened. “I hope you got room down in the castle, cause I have thirty-thousand Drules eager to disembark.”
“Thirty-thousand Drules?!” sputtered Pardust, and even Lotor was amazed. This was more than the promised number Queen Merla had agreed to give.
“Cossack, did you do some arm twisting on your mate’s mother?” Lotor asked, and Cossack just smiled.
“Voltron force within attacking range, and awaiting your orders.” Dorina reminded them.
“Tell them to stand down.” Advised Allura. “Let them know that thankfully it was a false alarm. These are friends who are arriving, not enemies.”
“Will do.” Dorina said, already relaying the order to Keith.
“I hope we didn’t cause too much trouble…” Cossack was saying, and Lotor smirked.
“You may have, just a little.” Lotor glanced at Dorina. “What’s the ETA on the fleet’s landing?”
“Less than forty-five minutes.” She answered, expression still so serious. “I don’t know where we’re going to fit all those ships….”
“We’ll manage.” Allura said, and Lotor nodded.
“That we will. And until then, we have a party to get back to.”
“Party? Am I interrupting something?” Cossack asked, and Lotor wound an arm around Allura’s waist.
“It’s my mate’s birthday today.”
“Well, happy birthday, your highness!” exclaimed Cossack, and she smiled.
“Thank you Cossack. I look forward to seeing you on the ground.”
“Same here.” He answered, and then the transmission was cut short. Lotor looked to General Pardust, who still wore a frown.
“Think you can handle things here?” He asked the General, who nodded.
“Then excuse us. We need to get back to the party, and assure the guests the planet is not about to become a war ground.” Lotor said, and led Allura out of the command center. There were guards out in the hall, some were still red faced and panting from the run over here from the ball room. They tried to look alert, but their harsh breathing ruined the effect.
“It’s all right.” Allura assured them. “We have nothing to worry about on this day.” She glanced at Lotor, and smiled. “Isn’t that right my love?”
He took a moment to revel in her calling him that in front of such a large group of humans, then nodded. “It’s the support we’ve been waiting for.” He said out loud. “Soldiers, ships, weapons….” He couldn’t resist spinning Allura around, Lotor listening to her gasp. “Money. It’s becoming a reality Allura. We’re becoming a viable contender against my father’s forces.”
“And more will come, won’t they?” Allura asked, as Lotor set her back down on the floor. “We’ll have so many soldiers, we won’t know what to do with them all!”
“Yes!” Lotor laughed. “And more importantly, my father won’t know what hits him when he sees the size of our might.” She took his arm, clinging close to him as they began to walk back to the ball room. He knew they should hurry, if only to alleviate the fears of Allura’s guests, and yet neither of them seemed to be rushing.
“So who is this former commander?” Allura asked, eyes alight with curiosity. “I take it Cossack is a friend of yours?”
“A very good friend.” Lotor assured her. “I’ve known him for years, since just before the start of my military career. We were in the same class at the Drule academy.”
“It wasn’t a school in the conventional sense. It was more about turning us into good soldiers.” Explained Lotor. “We learned discipline, and how to fight…it made us into the soldiers we are today.”
“And Cossack gave up his command post when he found his mate?” Allura asked, and Lotor nodded.
“It’s the expected course of action. Mated Drules don’t last long in the military…” Lotor sighed then, thinking of the trouble he would have being away from Allura when he had to leave to lead the attack against Doom. “It’s too much you see….the separation between mates, the fear and uncertainty they experience over the soldier’s life expectancy. And if the one should die…”
“The other would follow…” Allura whispered, her hold tightening in distress.
Lotor didn’t want her upset, the prince trying to think of how to distract her from the valid worries she had for him. “Cossack used to be like me….maybe even worse than me.” Lotor chuckled, sheepish. “He was a right terror on the battlefield, and a steady hand when it came to torture and cruelty. I dare say if he hadn’t met the Queen’s daughter, we’d be on opposing sides right about now…”
“Queen? His mate is royalty?” Allura questioned, eyes curious.
“Well, yes. Milleenia is one of the many daughters Queen Merla has given birth to. And let me just say Merla was livid to think a commoner like Cossack was the mate of one of her daughters.” He smirked then. “But there was nothing she could do to stop the union from happening, their genes called to each other….I used to think they were sickening, always with the public displays of affection, unable to keep their hands off each other. No doubt Merla felt the same way, though I wonder if she’s had time to make peace with the notion of Cossack as a son in law.”
“She didn’t try to stop the match from happening?”
“What could she have done?” Lotor scoffed. “We Drule all understand the impossible to resist pull one’s mate has on the other one.” He paused, thinking of his father then, and scowling. “Well, most Drule anyway. Merla would have made her daughter absolutely miserable if she tried to stop them from being together….and all for such a stupid reason.”
“Some of us take rank more seriously than others.” Allura was surely thinking of Romelle’s father then, her face holding a sad little smile.
“I don’t know what is it, that makes us Drule orientate on just one person. But that thing, that magic, that instinct, doesn’t care about rank, doesn’t give a damn about one’s status. It would be wrong to keep a mated pair apart simply cause one lacks the proper birthright.” Grumbled Lotor.
“Yes, I agree.” Allura said with a sigh. “I guess Drule are more accepting of the mating bond, even if they sometimes don’t like who that bond ties their children to. It sounds like this Queen could only grumble out protests, but didn’t really try to interfere….I think my uncle could learn much from her, and maybe he’d stop stressing so much about Sabbath and his lack of a title to his name.”
“Sabbath doesn’t need a title to be a person of value.” Lotor pointed out, and Allura nodded.
“I just wish the King and Avok would realize that, and quickly!” They were almost to the ball room now, and even out in the hall they could hear the murmur of the
gathered guests. No music played, the voices carrying, a consistent hum of conversation. Lotor could pick up fragment of sentences, listening to the fear the people were expressing.
“Come Allura…it’s time we tell your party guests just what we know.” Lotor said, leading her into the ball room. Immediately they were bombarded with questions, people surrounding them, eyes panicked and wild.
“Your highness! What’s our status?! Are we under attack?!”
“Will the Voltron Force and our ships be enough to stop the Drule fleet?!” Another was shouting.
“We should start evacuating the castle at once!” A woman cried out, and answering cheers were raised.
“It can’t be safe to stay here!”
“You’re highness we must leave!”
“Everyone calm down!” Lotor raised his voice, almost shouting to be heard over the people’s worries. The people didn’t quiet immediately, voices grumbling, or speaking fearfully.
“Yes, please.” Allura said, taking the time to meet each person’s gaze. “You have nothing to fear. The fleet that was spotted over Arus is not an enemy of ours.”
“If not an enemy, then why are they here?” demanded Duke Wellington, a slight drunken slur to his words.
“It’s reinforcements for our military.” Allura explained. “Those ships bring soldiers, roughly thirty-thousand of them, all eager to help Prince Lotor take the throne from his father.”
“They bring money and weapons, and technology that will be of use to Arus.” added Lotor. “This is something we should celebrate, not fear.” He said, noting the people still looked so uncertain.
“I won’t ask you to remain here if you feel uncomfortable.” Allura began. “You’re free to leave at any time. But I hope you’ll stay, and help me celebrate not only my birthday, but the fact that we are one step closer to ensuring that Arus remains free, and the galaxy becomes safe from Zarkon’s tyranny.”
Lotor was pleased to note that no one too a step towards the exit, the people nervous but choosing to remain at the party. They drifted deeper into the ball room, separating into small groups that were surely discussing the current situation and what little they knew about it. Soon the musicians began to play their instruments, and though the room filled with their lively music, no one was encouraged enough to dance.
Still Allura looked satisfied, gazing about the room at her subjects. “They were able to control their panic and fear.” She said it softly, so that only Lotor could hear her. “I’m proud of them.”
Lotor knew they were lucky to have avoided a riot, the prince coming up behind Allura to hug her. She leaned into his embrace, allowing Lotor to rest his chin on top of her head. It was in this pose that Sabbath and Romelle approached them, the princess’ family close behind the pair.
“Is it true?” The King was whispering. “It’s not just a story you made up to calm everyone down?”
“I wouldn’t lie! Not about something like that!” Allura exclaimed, insulted.
“Forgive me Allura. I meant no offense.” The King apologized.
“Am I really going to get to see a Drule army?” Bandor was asking Sabbath, who glanced at Lotor. The prince nodded, leaving Sabbath to answer.
“Yes. If your father will allow it, I will take you to watch one of their practice drills. Perhaps we could even go aboard one of the ships…”
Bandor’s eyes were like two saucer plates, so wide with excitement. “Oh please father! Please say yes!”
“I’ll think about it.” The King was gruff in response to his son’s begging.
“I’d like to go to.” Avok said, and everyone turned to him in surprise. “What?” he asked, sounding defensive. “I’m always interested in learning new fighting techniques.”
“Just so long as you don’t go needlessly challenging every Drule you meet, I don’t see why not.” Lotor told him, and Avok flushed in embarrassment.
“I wasn’t intending to do that.” He muttered under his breath.
“I’m just relieved it’s friends not enemies that arrived today.” Romelle said, then shook her head. “Still…it gives us something to think about. War can’t be that far off especially now that our numbers are increasing.”
“We’ll have to make our move soon…” Sabbath pointed out. “Especially if we are to keep the fighting from touching Arus.”
Lotor didn’t need the reminder that time was running out in regard to where the battles would take place. He knew soon he would have to leave Allura, take the military force he was building, and fly to Doom. It was something that ate at him in private moments, Lotor wondering how he would handle being separated from his mate. He could only pray that he would be up to the challenge, and that he would not botch things up too badly.