Attraction 77

When the transmission to Arus had flickered, Allura’s image wavering and static eating at the corners of the screen, Lotor had realized something had gone wrong. It was a realization that came too late for him to cry out a warning, the ship rocking with the force of something exploding. He let out a shocked shout, seeing the view screen go wild, completely filled with static, no trace of Allura remaining behind for him.

And still he cried out foolishly for her, stepping right up to the monitor, a hand touching the warm glass. It was almost hot enough to burn him, Lotor jerking back with an astonished cry. He quickly whirled in place, looking for where he had deposited the view screens’ remote. He found it on top of the room’s glass coffee table, Lotor fumbling with the buttons, attempting to repair the transmission.

But there was nothing he could do from his end, the transmission lost when the explosion occurred. He didn’t even know what was the reason for that explosion, and truthfully Lotor was beyond caring, incensed that he couldn’t contact Allura and reassure her that he was still all right.

“Allura…” He moaned pitifully, wondering what she was thinking in the moment. How stricken with fear she must be. He shook his head, and began punching in the radio sequence for the ships’ command deck, hoping the communications experts there would be able to reestablish a call to Arus and quickly. But nothing happened after he finished pushing the buttons, the screen remained so much static, leaving Lotor to realize it wasn’t just his call to Arus that had suffered.

His communicator beeped, Lotor nearly jumping to hear it’s noise. He dropped the remote on the floor, and fumbled for his communicator, yanking the device off his belt. “Lotor here!” He growled into the device, and before the other person could answer, he was demanding information. “What in blazes is going on?! What caused that explosion?! What’s our status!”

“This is General Pardust…” Said the voice on the communicator. “Zarkon’s forces scored a direct hit on the side of our ship. Our communications grid is completely down, we only have these hand held devices working at the moment.”

“Well, work on getting the grid fixed, pronto!” snapped Lotor, and heard Pardust sigh.

“We have bigger problems than the grid.”

“What do you mean?” Lotor demanded, beginning to pace in his room.

“That explosion we experienced? It’s damaged a sizable chunk of our ship.” Explained Pardust. “We’ve had to seal off a corridor, luckily our fail safes kicked in, before
the fires could spread to the rest of the ship. I’m afraid anyone who was in that corridor died instantly in the explosion.”

“Damn!”

“We’re still maintaining the other functions of the ship.” Continued the General. “Our shielding is down by sixty percent though. We’re currently maneuvering into position where another ship can guard our damaged side.” He grew quiet for a moment, Lotor’s pacing bringing him closer to the cabin’s door. “Your highness…I don’t believe I can stress how close a call we just had.”

“I realize that.” Lotor said, stepping out into the hall. The soldiers, a mixture of humans and Drules, were running about, excitedly relaying news to one another. He wondered if any of them would be capable of restoring the communications grid, his mind all but stuck on the thought that he had to get back in contact with Allura.

“I think you should come up to the command deck.” Pardust told him. “We need to assess the situation, and make plans…”

“We continue as we have been.” Lotor was moving through the ship, already heading towards the command deck. “Press on to Doom. I will not have this problem set us back any further.”

“But prince! We can’t even contact our own ships!” Pardust pointed out. “We should stand back from the fighting, at least until we can get our voice to be heard.”

“We’ll find a way.” Lotor was confidant now. “I won’t let this stop us from our plans…if I have to, I’ll fly out in a star cutter myself, and deliver orders personally to the other ships.”

“Sire no!” The General gasped out a protest. “It’s too dangerous for you to go out like that. You’ll surely be shot down…”

“Are you doubting my flight skill?” Lotor demanded, though his voice lacked his normal menace. Damn if he could concentrate completely on anything save the worry Allura must be experiencing.

“No sire. But you must realize the risk. The star cutters are being cut down at an astronomical rate.”

“Both sides are losing ships at a similar pace…” Lotor pointed out, almost to the doors that would lead into the command deck. “I think I have a chance, small though it is to make it to another ship intact.”

“Prince Lotor, I must insist against this.” Pardust said. “You are not thinking clearly, I know you were speaking to your mate when the hit scored on our ship.” That got Lotor to slow to a stop, the prince hesitating a foot away from the entrance doors. “I know you must be worried…”

“Yes…” Lotor was whispering now. “Yes, I am. More than I can say.”

“But don’t let that worry cloud your judgment. Don’t let that upset make you do something rash! Please sire…” pleaded Pardust. “We’ll send off several men to relay your orders to the other ships. But you must remain here, where the chances for survival are greatly increased.” Lotor said nothing to that, leaving Pardust to continue. “If you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for your mate. Think of how devastated Allura will be if you die…”

“Damn you. You have no right to play that card!” Lotor growled, knowing Pardust had won.

“You’re only angry because I speak the truth.” Pardust retorted. Lotors’ jaw clenched at that, the prince not dignifying his words with a response. Instead he pushed open the command deck doors, walking into the chaos that surrounded the general. Soldiers were everywhere, the technicians working the computers, trying to somehow get the grid back on line.

All the view screens showed static, leaving them blind to much of the goings on around them. Only the forward facing windows showed the battle occurring, and much of it was blocked by the large destroyer which was hovering protectively in front of Lotor’s flag ship.

The prince shook his head, and marched over to where Pardust sat, the Drule looking relieved to see him here, and not in the ship’s docking bay. “Get a few men suited up for flight.” Lotor growled loudly, letting his voice carry over the frantic talk inside the room. “I want the word to get out. We press on to Doom!”

The cheer that followed his words was uncertain, the people shaken by the close call they had had. Pardust began asking for volunteers to fly to the next ship, even as Lotor moodily slumped down into a spare seat. Two men and a woman decided they would be the ones to relay the orders, and the general hope was that at least one of them would survive long enough to get onboard another of Lotor’s ships.

Lotor made sure to speak with each one, stressing the importance that once aboard the other ship, they contact Arus. He wanted the first thing done to be to inform Allura that he was safe and well, to ease the burden of her mind with the knowledge that the explosion while damaging had not been a lethal attack. The three soldiers solemnly promised to do just that, then hurried off to the docking bay.

Lotor leaned back in his chair, watching the limited view of the fighting occurring around his ship. He wondered where his father was, his men being unable to ascertain for certain the King’s location. Zarkon could be onboard one of the large ships, or he could be down on Doom, watching the fight from the relatively safety of his castle. Either way he was sure to be giving orders, and such was Doom’s technology, that Lotor’s people had been unable to intercept the messages to find out what Zarkon was planning next.

Even with that uncertainty, there was repeating patterns in the tactics deployed by Zarkon’s ships. There was only so many maneuvers they could do, both sides scrambling to surprise the other with new strategies and attacks. But Drule warfare was extensive, covering many areas, leaving little room for new breakthroughs in attack patterns.

Wave after wave of star cutters flew about, Lotor’s allies having had their vessels painted new colors so as to easily differentiate them from Zarkon’s. Where the King’s were purple and gold, Lotor’s were silver and red, the colors bright against the black backdrop of space. Laser fire was constantly exchanged, not just from the battling star cutters, but from the larger vessels, the defenders, the destroyers, the carriers, and the flag ships.

Those larger, behemoth sized ships were slow in speed, but packed a heavy wallop in assault weaponry. Lasers were mounted on all sides of the ships, guns constantly pumping, firing at the star cutters that buzzed around them. Occasionally one of the larger ships would engage another of it’s size, the two getting close enough so as not to do any damage to any nearby allies.

The ship would rock when hit by photon beams, and only a sure step could keep one standing during that time. Much luck was needed when a photon beam scored a hit, people praying the shielding would hold up. The shielding wouldn’t collapse from just one hit, it would take several, each blast leaving weakening spots in their defense. It was unfortunate that Lotor’s ship’s shielding had failed enough to allow a section of corridor to be destroyed, and on some level he knew the crew was already taking measures to divert power, and rebuild the shielding’s strength.

He still sat there, drumming his fingers in an impatient tune as he stared at the forward facing windows. Lotor was finding it difficult to concentrate, even more so than usual since leaving his mate behind on Arus. He wasn’t sure how much use he was as a commander, he relied heavily on Pardust to help him maintain order. Lotor often thought he’d fall apart completely without the general’s support, and only the thought that Zarkon would move on to Arus kept Lotor from leaving the battle.

He wouldn’t retreat, couldn’t, not now. Not when they were so close to Doom, the ships practically in it’s orbit. Any closer and it’s gravital pull would force them to descend to the surface, but first they must take care of the ships working to protect Doom.

So far there was little of the war that touched down on the surface of the planet. The people were safe for the moment, left to marvel and wonder what would happen when the fighting began on the planet. Lotor hoped to avoid the cities, and make a bee line for the castle, though he felt certain Zarkon would throw barriers up at him. They’d be forced to march, and various estimations had his crew guessing that the fight would take place on the rocky plains that extended for miles between the castle and nearest city.

It would be a tough trek, fraught with hardships, the terrain unforgiving of those would misstep. Lotor wondered how close they could get to the castle, knowing they’d have to set up base, and possibly prepare for a long siege. He grimaced at that thought, not liking the thought of any more time being spent away from Allura. He knew exactly how many days it had been, eighty-five in all, since he had last held his mate.

Eighty-five long and torturous days, and another eighty-five might pass before he could return to her. Lotor wasn’t sure how much longer he could endure, he felt as though he was rapidly withering away from being deprived of his woman. Already his appetite suffered, he had lost more weight than was healthy in such a short period of time.

His sleep was also disrupted, Lotor finding it practically impossible to do anything but pace his cabin agitatedly. When he did give in to sleep, he was in an exhausted state, too tired to even dream as he passed out in bed only to wake up a scant three hours later. Even for a Drule this type of pace was unheard of, and Lotor was aware of his crew’s concern. They worried he’d work himself to a state of collapse, and more than once Pardust had suggested he go to the ship’s onboard doctor for a sleep aid.

So far he had refused, wanting neither the sleeping pills, nor a pill to boost his appetite. His energy though was boundless, Lotor often lost himself to sparring with the soldiers onboard the ship. His hand had completely healed by now, but he continued his therapy exercises, finding they helped to hone his combat skills. Some days he worked until his whole body was covered in a damp sweat, pushing himself to the point of discomfort, than trying to relax in the shower.

Allura was on his mind no matter what he did, he was never ale to relax completely, constantly yearning for her. Thoughts of her went with him to dinner, and to meetings, Lotor thinking more on what shade of blue her eyes were, than the plans being made around him. Even now he was barely functioning, offering only the slightest noise in an attempt to appear as though he was listening to what Pardust was saying.

The general frowned at his prince, leaving Lotor to wonder what he had missed. Star cutters flew past the forward facing windows, a trail of lasers firing in their wake. They were colored silver and red, showing they were on Lotor’s side. He really was slow to have failed to realize those were the ones who had volunteered to go deliver his orders to one of the command ships. And once the order was received, the commander there would relay them to the other ships, and together the armada would continue their attack, becoming absolutely ruthless in taking town the Doom ships.

“How much of their armada remained before the grid went down?” Lotor called out, and a female began typing into the computer. He couldn’t even hear the click clack of her typing fingers moving across the keyboard, the command deck was too noisy.

“Our estimates put them at near twenty percent of working ships.” She answered, and the corners of his mouth turned upwards in a smirk. With those kind of numbers, Zarkon’s armada would soon fall, and they could begin descending to Doom’s surface.

Pardust noticed the triumphant look on his face, the General tsking. “Don’t get ahead of us sire. Doom has been able to make a come back from even worse numbers than that!”

“Ah, but they’ve never fought against their own kind.” Lotor pointed out. “It’s never been a war between Drules…and we will exploit every weakness, pursue our every advantage to decimate those remaining ships.”

“Yes, we will.” Agreed Pardust, but still he did not grin. “This war is far from over….”

“I know that!” Lotor snapped peevishly. “It won’t be over until we take the castle…” And with it, his father’s head. Gruesome as that thought was, he knew Zarkon was thinking of doing the same to him, the old man surely sharpening his sword, refining the lazon to be extra deadly. Lotor wondered if there would be a duel between them, wondered if he could hold it together long enough to put his father out of the misery he caused everyone.

An explosion occurred off to the far right of the ship’s windows, Lotor realizing with a start it was one of their star cutters that had been cut down. That left only two messengers to try and make a desperate run to the next ship. One did a hard turn, almost about facing as it flew towards the ship that was providing cover to Lotor’s flag ship. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but Lotor supposed they could contact one of his commanders from that ship as well as another.

Lotor’s ship was practically a sitting target, floating like dead weight in space. They didn’t dare risk opening firing until they could get visual confirmation on their screens, the crew not wanting to chance hitting one of their allies. This left them the opportunity to devote more power to the shielding, strengthening it where the enemy would choose to focus on what they saw as a weak spot.

And still the ship occasionally was rattled, shaking violently from the force of a landed blow. Lotor could only grit his teeth, and grip the arm rests, glaring out at the window. In the distance he could see explosions, more ships on Zarkon’s side being destroyed. He wondered if the Drules that died had found their deaths worth it, if their hatred and malice overrode their fear of death.

An explosion occurred near the flag ship, and for a second there was silence in the command deck. The crew all turned to stare at the window, and than at Pardust’s questioning shout, flew into a flurry of activity. It turned out one of the largest of Lotor’s ship, a destroyer whose whole purpose was to shoot down other ships, had exploded. They couldn’t be sure of the cause, not without getting confirmation from one of the other ships, but the general theory was one too many hits to the core engine room had been received, the lazon fuel tanks catching fire then exploding, destroying the ship from within.

It was a terrible way to go, and yet such was the battle field, no time to truly mourn the lost comrades. They could only move on, and continue the battle, hoping and praying they would win.

A cheer went up from the crew, apparently one of the star cutters had safely docked. Lotor was only able to relax a smidgen, knowing now his message would reach Arus, would find it’s way to offering assurance to Allura.

“How is work progressing on the communications grid?!” Lotor demanded, and people busied themselves on their communicators.

“Still no change.” Came the answer, Lotor sighing in frustration. He was beginning to wonder if it would be repaired in time for them to land on the planet, Lotor spying another ship of Zarkon’s explode. That destruction surely brought his armada down to nineteen percent of remaining vessels. Aware of Pardust keeping a close eye on him, Lotor hid his smirk, waiting impatiently for the rest of the ships to be blown up. The sooner they were brought down, the sooner he could return to Allura!


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