Duty 02

He was not so lucky as to escape the fever. It stole into him when he was at his most vulnerable, the whip marks on his back not yet having time to scar over. For days he lay sweating in his bed. Body damp from the fever, but shivering as though he had the chills. His clothes had to be changed constantly, growing wet in an instant from the heat his body was generating.

The experience of the fever was made all the worse by the pain of his back, Lotor unable to remain still. Tossing and turning, moving to the point some of his stitches pulled loose. One wound in particular bled, Haggar fetching a doctor to stitch it close. It would demand a repeat performance, and at one point they actually considered tying the prince to the bed in order to restrict the movements that tore at his stitches.

In the end, it was Haggar who kept them from binding Lotor. She had known it would have driven him mad to find his movements restricted so. But the witch had also known that something had to be done to keep him as still as possible. And so she had cloaked herself in illusion, conjuring up a memory of the past. Her brown robes were made to look like the kind of fine gown a lady of the Drule court would wear. Her hair turned a shade of yellow that rivaled the magnificence of Allura of Arus.

Lotor had been so far gone, he hadn’t realized there was no way his mother could appear before him. He had quieted down as Haggar whispered a lullaby, one the witch had sung to the prince when he had been a young child. He held still for her hands that stroked through his hair, or used a cloth to wipe the sweat off his face. He watched her as she did this, eyes glassy and distant. The relieved smile on his face unsettled the witch, the prince far too happy with the illusion she offered him.

And yet she kept up the illusion, nursing Lotor through his fever. There was little else she could do, the King having forbidden the witch to make use of her healing magics where his son was concerned. She’d continue to place damp cloths on his brow, and feed him ice chips. Haggar would whisper to him, telling him of the plans he had made with her. How he had to survive to see them to fruition.

It was a lesson in frustration, the first two days of his fevered sickness. He barely responded to her words, Haggar fearing he was losing the fight to live. But on the third day, something changed. A determination was in his eyes. He no longer needed the illusion of his mother to calm him, and Lotor began to respond when spoken to. He was able to sit up and eat a meal, limited though the food selection was.

It was also near the end of the third day when the King finally deigned to visit his son. A grimace had been on his face as he looked Lotor over. There had been no remorse or regret for bringing his son to this state. Instead there was impatience, the King considering Lotor well enough to get out of bed. Haggar had tried to express her alarm, thinking it too soon. Both the King and the prince had dismissed her concerns, Lotor staggering to his feet. He agreed with the King that there was no time left, the plan had to be carried out.

That eagerness pleased the King, Zarkon nodding in approval. He had no idea his son was planning a betrayal, had no idea the prince was about to toss everything aside for love. For the hope of love, to give it and to receive it back.

Of course Haggar voiced concerns. She didn’t think Lotor well enough for the mission. But he refused to be talked down, not when everything had been planned so carefully. His men were ready, friends and soldiers he had personally picked out. People that he trusted implicitly. They would not fail him in what he was about to do. They might have their doubts, might even think he had gone insane, but they would not betray him. They knew what the cost would be, what Zarkon would do to Lotor if he learned about the plans. Such was the friendship they felt towards the prince, that they didn’t want to see him suffer any more pain at the King’s hands.

They weren’t the only ones to feel that way. But unlike his trusted allies, no one else was willing to do much to stop the King’s abuse. Everyone in the castle knew what Zarkon did, what he was capable of doing. The fact that his son was not spared his mistreatment surprised no one. Some might even have approved, but they were a small handful. Nobles who had grown rich off the empire’s successes, nobles who frowned upon the failures the Arus mission had caused.

If Lotor’s plans went without hitch, he’d never have to see Zarkon or those self righteous nobles again. The thought had him smiling, even though days later his back still hurt with sudden movements. Aside from his back, he still didn’t feel one hundred percent better. His head had a persistent throbbing, his body holding aches and pains that were familiar to the fever. Again Haggar tried to advise him to wait, the witch worrying the fever would return if he exerted himself too much.

But Lotor had waited too long, and been through too much to put off the plan. Or to be persuaded into letting someone else take the lead. And thus this was how he found himself inside planet Kirentya’s embassy, walking the red carpet lined halls, and trying to look busy. Perhaps it would have been easier to move with a purpose if he hadn’t felt so bone weary tired, Lotor pausing to lean against a wall every chance he got.

A chain was around his neck, the heavy jade jewel seeming to take on the heat of his skin. Lotor tried to keep from touching it out of a nervous need for reassurance. It was the same need that had him glancing in every window and mirror, looking at the changes to his appearance. His azure colored skin had been changed to a lightt caramel color, his long white hair, shorn short and colored black. His eyes had become almond shaped, a hazel brown that bore no resemblance to a feline’s.

Even knowing of the change, Lotor still felt shock every time he saw a stranger looking back at him. And yet that stranger’s face is what allowed him to walk the embassy’s halls unhindered. And it was all thanks to Haggar’s magic. That same magic that was inside the necklace’s jade jewel. That same magic had enchanted many stones, over a hundred of them given out to capable Drule soldiers. These men and women of Doom wore the necklaces, taking on appearances of the guards and household staff of the Kirentya’s embassy.

By this time, they had spread through out the building. Lotor couldn’t even be sure if each person he passed wasn’t one of his men in disguise. But he knew underneath the illusion, they were all heavily armed, even more so than was typical of the embassy’s soldiers. They were prepared to attack, to kill indiscriminately at Lotor’s orders. But until that order came, they would behave themselves.

Behind Lotor walked a woman, her appearance that of a plain faced maid. No one would suspect that it was a comely Drule female that followed him, a mercenary who had earned the prince’s trust over a year ago. She was well versed in killing, but also in pretending. And she would need every last one of her skills for the performance she was about to put on.

But first they had to get in place. Both his guard’s uniform, and the woman’s maid outfit allowed them free movement through the embassy. It was almost too easy. To the point Lotor’s lips would have curled into a sneer if not for the fact that ease would allow him to accomplish his goal. A few minutes more, and his goal was in sight, Lotor’s breath stopping short as he got his first glimpse of the princess of Arus.

She wasn’t smiling, the situation too tense and serious for that kind of expression. She had however, changed out of her pilot’s uniform, replacing it with a pink and white business suit. A sheaf full of papers were in her arms, and she glanced down constantly at them. Her brow actually furrowed with her worry, and she gave little nods to show she was listening to her companion. Lotor felt the familiar annoyance fill him at the sight of Captain Keith Akira, the man standing far too close to the princess for the prince’s liking.

The Captain was just as serious faced as the princess was, his lips moving urgently. Occasionally he would point something out on the papers the princess held, causing her to take a second look at what was written there.

The Captain and Princess of Arus weren’t the only one just outside the embassy’s board room. There were other members of the Galaxy Alliance present here, and that included Prince Bandor. His sister was present, along with that former pilot, Sven. The three were in a huddle, looking over their own set of papers. Sven and the princess seemed especially argumentative, their voices loud whispers that Prince Bandor tried to shush.

But no one looked towards the Pollux representatives. They were all busy reading over the documents, discussing the findings with each other. This summit meeting had been called to discuss the threat of Doom, the empire having turned even more aggressive in the expanding of it’s kingdom. Several worlds that were not yet a part of the Alliance were here to petition for aid, the representatives would have to decide how much and if any help they could afford to give.

His princess, Allura. was pushing to help any and all worlds that asked. Regardless of the cost. She was here to make a case that if they abandoned even one world to stand against the Empire, they were damning both the Alliance and the galaxy’s freedom in the process. Many agreed with her, but the cost to help these new worlds was what was tying their hands. It left Allura visibly frustrated, to the point she had walked out of the board room the instant a break was called for.

Her captain followed her, his expression nearly a mirror of her own frustration. “Don’t give up princess…” He was saying. “They just need time to look over the facts of your argument…”

“Some of those worlds don’t have time for them to make a decision, good or bad!” Allura exclaimed. “They need action, and they need it now…” She sighed, and turned to look at the Captain. “It all comes down to money…who has it, and who doesn’t…”

“Seems that way…” The Captain shrugged. Neither he nor the princess noticed the two disguised Drules that had slinked closer to the pair.

“It makes me think the Alliance is behaving no better than the Doom Empire.” Allura told him, not bothering to lower her voice. “Worrying more about money than doing what is right…”

“Money is a necessary evil, princess.” A new person had approached, Lotor recognizing the gray haired man as General Grants of the Galaxy Garrison. “Without it, we’d have no way to buy the weapons needed to fight this war. No way to pay the soldiers, and the relief aid workers we send to planets in need. Even food and medicine cost money, and right now we are stretched thin across the Galaxy and in finances. It’s not a matter of not wanting to help these newcomers, but that we can’t. We’re already at our limit when it comes to helping the worlds that are a member of the Alliance…”

Allura didn’t look happy to hear that. “Isn’t there something we can do? You know if Doom is allowed to increase it’s holdings, the profit it turns from these new worlds will only allow it to continue the attacks. To take new worlds, and enslave more people. By helping these new worlds, we help ourselves as well!”

“And where would the money come to fund the armies needed to patrol the planet’s perimeters?” General Grants asked her. “Who would pay for the soldiers to defend those planets….Arus?” He made a short, derisive sound. “Arus can barely afford to take care of it’s own.” His next words had Allura color in anger and embarrassment. “It’s been months since Arus has been able to pay the taxes expected of worlds that are members of the Alliance.”

“We may not be able to pay with gold…” It was Keith who answered, the princess seeming too upset to speak in the moment. “But we make up for that in terms of service. How often has the Alliance and the Garrison called upon the Voltron Force to help them out? How many worlds have we kept free of Doom’s tyranny?”

“Yes, we recognize your efforts.” Nodded the General. “But maybe Doom wouldn’t be such a problem if you allowed our scientists to study the robot. If we could find out Voltron’s secrets, and mass produce copies of it…”

“And what would happen to Arus in the meantime?” demanded Allura. “You would leave us defenseless while you studied my father’s robot!”

“If it was not for the Alliance, Voltron would never have been revived!” retorted Grants. “Don’t forget the original members of the Voltron Force were all part of an Alliance sanctioned mission….The Captain and his team all members that were Garrison trained.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to think you can claim Arus’ defender as your own!” Allura immediately snapped back. “Without Voltron, we have nothing…we don’t even have the gold needed to pay the Alliance’s membership tax.”

“If you gave us Voltron, we’d be willing to overlook the issue of money.” Grants told her. “In fact we might be willing to fund some of Arus’ development…”

Allura looked insulted at that. “No thank you. I want no part of your blackmail and bribery.”

“It’s not either one of those things!” It was the General’s turn to be insulted. “I am merely trying to get you to see the practical side of handing Voltron over to the Alliance….It’s why we have gathered here is it not?”

“Funny. I thought we were called here to discuss the new worlds, and the Empire’s plans for them.” Allura’s tone was frost laced, leaving the General to fluster in embarrassment. “This conversation is over with.” She added, and turned away.

“Princess!”

“I need to cool my head Keith.” Allura spoke without looking towards either man. “Don’t worry. I won’t be gone long.” Keith and the General were left to watch as she stalked away, the captain trying to offer up feeble apologies for the princess’ abrupt exit. Lotor and his mercenary didn’t stick around to hear what was said between the two men, instead moving to stalk slowly after the princess.

This close to the board room, there was many guards present and again Lotor wondered which ones were his men. It would be quite a feat if they managed to kill the representatives present, many of them world leaders. But Lotor wasn’t concerned with anyone but Allura, the prince following after her as she headed towards one of the side rooms.

The mercenary went in first, her voice loud and carrying out into the hall. “Greetings Princess Allura.” There was a pause, but she addressed no other. That let Lotor know Allura was alone inside the room, and he fought not to smile. He reached for the handle of the door, noting that under his gloves, his hands were slick with sweat. Was that from nerves? He wasn’t sure, but he opened the door all the same.

Allura had her back to the door, seated in one of the room’s overstuffed arm chairs. The papers she had carried were tossed carelessly on the floor, the princess using her hands to hold up her head. Her shoulders seemed to shake, and she could be heard to be breathing deeply. The female mercenary, disguised as a maid, was surreptitiously dusting the table top nearest to Allura. She glanced Lotors’ way, and nodded slowly. He nodded back, and let the door fall close with a click.

Allura lifted her head at the sound of the lock being engaged. “What’s going on?” She demanded as she turned to look at Lotor. “Has something happened?”

“Nothing…yet.” Lotor’s answer made Allura frown, she didn’t quite understand him. “Of course, that all depends on you…”

“On me? What…?” Her question went unvoiced, Allura rising from her seat. Her eyes were colored with suspicion, Allura studying Lotor. He tried to appear relaxed, but he was too tense. He was wound up with excitement and worry, knowing this was the key moment. The moment their new life together could begin. It was also the moment the plan could come unraveling apart, Lotor reaching behind his neck to unclasp the chain.

The instant the necklace hit the floor, the illusion shattered. Allura’s eyes went wide with shock, her mouth dropping open as she inhaled to scream. The mercenary female’s hand clamped tight over Allura’s mouth, the Drule female whispering to her. “Do not scream your highness. Not if you don’t want to be responsible for the deaths of every one inside the embassy.”

Allura had already been in the midst of attempting to scream. She managed to stifle it down to a frightened whimper. Lotor nodded in approval, almost frowning when he noticed how the movement made him feel dizzy. He wasn’t as recovered as he would have liked, and knew he had to hurry things along, and get himself and Allura out of here.

“Now….I’m sure you’re aware of what’s at stake here…” Lotor began, walking towards Allura. “So I’m trusting you not to scream.” A casual shrug, back protesting that movement. “If you do, I can’t be held responsible for what happens next…” His gesture had the mercenary hesitating.

“Are you sure, your highness?”

“I’m confidant Allura understands me.” Lotor told her, and the mercenary sighed. But she let go of Allura, who immediately tore away from the woman’s side. Her feet knocked over the pile of papers, they spilled every which way. Allura didn’t even glance down, backing away from Lotor and the woman disguised as a maid.

“What are you doing here? No, forget that. How are you here!? How is it possible to get past our sensors, to disguise yourself so thoroughly?”

“Magic, Allura. Pure and simple.” He saw her eyes widen in realization, the princess breathing out Haggar’s name. “Haggar has expended a great amount of energy for this plan. There is over a hundred of my soldiers in this embassy, all disguised as part of the staff. All waiting for my command to begin the attack.” Allura paled at that, and Lotor smiled. “Of course, no one need to die this day…and all you have to do is be a good girl, and do what I say…”

Allura closed her eyes briefly, shaking from in nervous fright. She nodded her head while her eyes were still closed, then looked at him. “All right, I’ll do it. I’ll do what you say…”

“Then first things first…” The mercenary reached towards her neck, pulling the chain free. “Put this on.” Lotor ordered, watching as the maid turned into a pretty black haired female, with lavender colored skin. She handed the necklace to Allura, the princess staring down at the jade jewel. Already the magic was taking hold, forcing the illusion of a plain face maid onto Allura.

“You won’t get away with this.” Allura was reluctant, fingers fumbling with the chain’s clasp. “Keith and the others will notice when I don’t come back.”

“They’ll never even know you’re gone.” Lotor told her, reaching into his pocket. Another necklace was removed, this one with an opal instead of a jade. It had been wrapped in a velvet cloth, the spell being subdued so long as it didn’t make contact with anyone’s skin. “Mara, catch!”

The Drule female caught the wrapped bundle. The instant the necklace was free, she took on the appearance of Allura. The princess gasped, staring in disbelief at her double. A double save for her clothing, which was a problem taken care of quick enough.

“Undress Allura. You’re going to change clothing with Mara.” Lotor told her. The maid’s face flushed, Allura not liking the thought of disrobing even with an illusion covering her real body. “Do hurry up, or I will do it for you.” He let his impatience show in his voice. And that was what got Allura moving. She and Mara both hurried to exchange outfits, Allura’s suit for Mara’s maid dress.

Lotor watched as they changed, trying to remain unaffected at the sight of the illusion Allura’s disrobing. “This will never work.” Allura told them. “Even if she looks like me, she won’t…I mean there are things, mannerisms that she won’t know about. Things that will be betray her as false!”

“That’s fine.” Lotor said. “She just needs to keep them believing long enough for us to get off planet.” He kept quiet that for the last three months, Mara’s sole task had been to study everything about Allura. If it was on record, than the mercenary knew about it. And with that knowledge she was prepared to act, to keep this sham going for as long as possible.

Allura turned towards her twin, Mara. “You’ll be imprisoned or worse when they discover you. This is too big a risk to take…”

“I’ll decide what is and isn’t too big a risk for my prince.” Mara answered. She touched her hair, which was done up in Allura’s prudish bun. “How do I look?” She asked Lotor.

“Beautiful.” he answered. “But then Allura always looks beautiful to me.” He fetched his jade necklace from the floor, securing it around his neck. Mara nodded her approval when the dark haired illusion covered him. He looked at Allura, whose face was a clear give away of her distress. “Remember Allura…countless lives depend on your performance….”

The reminder had her nodding, Allura stepping forward towards him. Lotor wanted to take her arm, but knew it would be suspicious if a guard was seen escorting a maid about like that. He whispered another reminder to her, ordering her to stay by his side the instant they stepped out of the room. Allura could only nod, her expression tightlipped and resigned.


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