The nurse Qualenn’s portable was a standard model, similar in design to over a hundred brands. That made it’s interface easy to navigate, even with the hurdle of the computer’s language being set to Drule. Allura wasted no time, clicking on screens, entering into the control panel of the computer. It took some random clicking, but eventually Allura got to the screen that would allow her to change the operating system’s set language. Typical of most computers, the portable had Basic as one of the recognized languages.
The computer let out a hum of sound, a timer icon appearing as the changes were brought into effect. The symbols of the Drule language changed, the writing now readable to Allura’s eyes. She couldn’t keep the smugness from filling her, though it was too soon to celebrate. Not until she was successful, Allura exiting the control panel. Her eyes briefly glanced at what was on the main screen, Allura seeing it was a medical file of some kind. Apparently Qualenn had been going over patient files, perhaps updating them even.
Allura didn’t let her eyes linger on the file. She was already scrolling open the programs’ menu, looking to establish a connection to send out a message to Arus. The program names were similar to the ones she was used to. It seemed the nurse hadn’t bothered to change the names of anything on this computer. Allura noticed there was a lot of medical programs listed there, everything from emergency surgical procedures to what kind of medicines to prescribe for various maladies. There wasn’t much else on the computer besides that, leaving Allura to realize this was a work computer for Qualenn.
She waited impatiently the few seconds it took to open up the browser that would allow her to contact another computer. She kept glancing up at the room’s closed door, fearing it would suddenly spring open, revealing someone who would be very angry to catch her on this computer. But the door remained close, the browser finally opening. Allura immediately began typing out the long string of numbers that was the Castle of Lions emergency line. Someone would be there, monitoring the air waves. The fact that Allura used this particular number, would help prove her identity, for few other people even knew about the emergency line, let alone how to establish contact on it.
She finished typing in the number, and began to key in the sequence to send out the signal. Allura had no idea how many planets stood between Simestia and Arus, the girl prepared for a potentially long wait as the call was bounced along from satellite to satellite. Her breath held, Allura clicked the final button, sending out the signal. The timer icon appeared, the computer processing the request. Lights flickered and flashed, warning that the battery wasn’t going to last for much longer. Allura could only pray it stayed powered long enough for her to speak to Coran.
She should have been praying for more than that, the computer suddenly making a loud beep of sound. It was a sound recognizable to her, the protesting noise of an error happening. Allura couldn’t believe it, feeling a slight panic build up in her. She immediately reentered the necessary information, muttering at the computer to hurry as she waited for it to decide on what it would do. And then the error noise happened again, the damn browser remaining empty. She didn’t understand what was going on, and she tried a third time to send out her call.
“Damn it!” Allura muttered viciously, slapping a hand against the side of the portable. She glared at the screen, agitated and fighting her frustration. It was hard to remain calm to think, Allura upset and not knowing why the computer was rejecting her request. The empty browser seemed to mock her, Allura lowering her face into her hands. She wanted to cry from frustration, from the agony of being so close to sending out a message only to be balked by an unknown error. She’d actually sit like that for several minutes, before Allura began rubbing her temples.
“All right…let’s not rule this out completely…” She said, taking deep, even breaths. “What was it Pidge said to do, if a computer wasn’t responding to my requests…..?” Allura tried to think back to the lessons the young pilot of green lion had given her. She hadn’t been that interested in learning how to hack a computer, or what went into repairing one. She could remember Pidge’s frustration, the boy disappointed that Allura wasn’t more of an attentive student. Allura wished she had taken a different attitude when it came to the lessons, the girl trying to remember something she could use.
“Come on Allura, THINK!” She urged herself. She’d go back to the program menu, the browser closed so that the medical files were up on the screen again. She ignored them, and began scanning the list of programs, hoping something would stand out. But nothing seemed promising, Allura abandoning this, to enter into the control panel again. She’d check out the options there, her memory being jogged as she spied an icon about connections issues.
“Of course!” Allura could have slapped herself, seeing that this computer wasn’t currently set to send or receive messages. It wasn’t on any network, didn’t even have it’s own server listed. But Allura began checking her options, finding that at one time there had been a network. It was one of the only ones listed in the drop down menu, and Allura selected it now. Immediately, information appeared, filling in the blanks of a form. She now knew the number needed to send messages to this particular computer, the portable having activated it’s ability to send and receive messages.
“Okay….let’s pray this works…” Allura said, and clicked on the icon that would allow her to send out a test signal. She wanted to cry when a new message popped up, the computer demanding she provide a password to access this feature. She had no idea what kind of password the nurse would use. Allura simply didn’t know Qualenn well enough yet to even attempt a guess.
Time was passing quickly. Allura knew that for every minute wasted, it was a minute that brought her closer to being discovered by the Drule. And yet she refused to give up on the computer, Allura exiting the control panel. Opening other files, hoping to find some kind of clue or insight that would help her guess the password. Files were opened and closed, Allura skimming over them quickly. Medical terminology filled the screen, Allura not understanding half of what she read. But she’d keep on opening things, her desperation showing.
It would be during this time, that Allura would end up accessing the personal, private medical files of the Drules that had come to Simestia. She began searching through them, hoping to find Qualenn’s, hoping there would be the clues she needed inside it. File after file was opened and closed, Allura spying name after name. Including Lotor’s, Allura’s fingers suddenly pausing on the keyboard.
She shouldn’t pry. She wouldn’t. Tough as it may be, Allura had to respect his privacy. It was only fair. Just as Lotor had things he didn’t want known, so did Allura have her own secrets. But damn if she wasn’t tempted, Allura having a near morbid curiosity to know, to understand just exactly what Lotor had been through. It was one of the hardest things she had ever done, Allura closing Lotor’s file and continuing her search. But Qualenn’s medical history told her nothing that worked as the needed password, leaving Allura to continue her near aimless searching.
And then she stumbled upon what had to be the nurse’s diary. It was yet another invasion of privacy, but Allura told herself she was doing this for the greater good of the galaxy. She NEEDED the password. Needed to send out a message for help. Only then would she be able to return to Arus, and continue the fight against Zarkon. She had to do this, and Allura would, beginning to skim through the diary.
It wasn’t an easy read. Qualenn had filled her journal with her thoughts and feelings about life as a nurse on Doom. She talked about the horrible things that had happened to the people, the different injuries Zarkon had caused in the various patients that ended up on the examiner’s table. Qualenn would write in graphic detail, Allura feeling queasy as though she herself was there. Seeing the hurt, smelling the festering infections, trying to stop the bleeding and set bones.
It was a true nightmare. And as bad as it was for those Zarkon had tortured, Allura’s heart went out to the people who were turned away from treatment. These were the Drules who were too poor to afford medical care, sick, even dying. And Qualenn and her colleagues hadn’t been allowed to do anything. Not to cure, not to make those that were dying even a slight bit more comfortable. It was as though Zarkon was punishing them for being poor, torturing them in a different way by denying them treatment.
“So cruel…” Allura whispered, reading on. She was getting distracted from her true purpose. Allura couldn’t stop reading, clicking the pages and no longer skimming over them. Qualenn seemed to work non stop, practically living in the small hospital. The few quiet moments she received, were spent sleeping, or writing in her diary. Allura began to suspect Qualenn had suffered from insomnia, too afraid of the nightmares to sleep. Expunging the horrors onto the written page in an attempt to get them out of her mind.
Allura had no idea what possible word could be Qualenn’s password. She couldn’t even figure out where to start guessing. Was there anything that stood out as more important than the rest? Something so memorable it had affected the nurse into using it as the password for her system? Allura read on, the computer beeping in protest. It’s battery life was dying. Even if she discovered the password, the portable might no longer have enough power to send out a message. But her eyes were glued to the screen, Allura suddenly reading about Qualenn attending to a patient inside Zarkon’s castle.
Allura didn’t even realize what she was reading at first. She was too focused on the descriptions of the brutality done. Of the cut open flesh, skin having split under the constant assault of a whip’s leather. Over two hundred lashings had been given out, the bleeding cuts raging in severity. They had gone untreated for days, infection having set in. Green pus had mingled with the blood, forming grotesque scabbing. The deeper cuts had been hastily sewn by an inexpert hand. They had had no choice in that, for otherwise the patient would have bled to death in the days that followed the whipping.
The patient himself was delirious, a burning fever raging threw him. He had to be tied down to the bed while they work to clean his wounds, the scabs being scrapped open so they could squeeze out the infection’s pus. The deeper wounds had already begun to heal together. They would have to use a knife to slice them open to scoop out the pus. If they didn’t, the infection might kill the patient. Regardless of what they did, those deep wounds were going to leave hideous scars on his back.
Just imagining them cutting open a sick man’s back, the pus that had to be removed, it made Allura want to throw up. She was committed to reading the rest of the account, almost hearing Qualenn’s voice as she described all they had to do to save this man. His blood had been poisoned by the infection, his feverish state making him delirious. He wasn’t even aware of why they were doing what they did, the man trying to fight them even as Qualenn and the doctor tried to help treat him. His struggles only helped the newly opened wounds bleed harder. Even the chains could not stop his movements completely.
The doctor and Qualenn would have to remain in the castle, taking turns sitting with the patient. Tending to his every need. His back was so damaged, he couldn’t lie on it without pain. Yet they feared he would let himself suffocate if they allowed him to lay down on his stomach. They could only try to make him comfortable. Could only pray for his survival.
Qualenn wrote how most of the time spent at the patient’s side had been filled with his frantic moaning. A wordless sound, the man whimpering one moment, snarling the next. She felt he was being tormented by dreams, and Qualenn speculated he was remembering the abuse done to him. It would be days later, when the worse of the fever was gone, and his blood had been cleaned of the infection’s poison, that he began to speak.
Allura pretty much leapt to her feet when she read Qualenn’s detailed account of what the patient said. And all because the patient was speaking about her, moaning out Allura’s name. Wanting to know if the princess of Arus was still safe. Allura felt tears well in her eyes, for it wasn’t until that moment that she made the connection. It was Lotor she had been reading about, Qualenn never mentioning him by name.
Her vision actually blurred, Allura openly crying. But softly, not wanting anyone to hear, not wanting anyone to come investigate the sounds. She read more of the diary, learning how Zarkon had refused to allow the patient, Lotor, any medical or magical treatment until it was nearly too late. Even then the evil King hadn’t been ready to admit he was wrong. But he had allowed Haggar to do what she felt was best, the witch summoning the doctor to the castle. There was nothing they could do about the scarring, the prince would carry those marks for the rest of his life. Which Qualenn feared would be a short one, given the severity and viciousness of Zarkon’s attack.
Hands shaking, Allura made a decision. She closed the diary, and reopened the medical files, searching out the one with Lotor’s name on it. It was a large file, filled with more information than should be possible for a healthy Drule of Lotor’s age. Crying, sick with revulsion for Zarkon’s abuse, Allura began reading the detailed documentation of Lotor’s medical history. It dated back to when he was a young boy, the child suffering beatings so severe, it was a wonder Lotor had survived. Especially the one that had left him comatose for three days, with some sort of brain injury they had had to operate on in order for the prince to recover.
There was even a mention of the incident in which Lotor’s mother had tried to kill them both. Bones had been broken, Lotor spending the summer on Simestia recuperating. The abuse changed when Lotor entered into the Drule Military Academy. He was out of his father’s reach, but the boys there were apparently attacking the young prince. At least for the first few months of his first year at the Academy. Something would eventually happen to stop the attacks, Lotor suffering only the occasional black eye after being engaged in a brawl that had involved several other students.
Even the burns from his practice with a lazon sword, could not compare to the injuries he had suffered under Zarkon’s hands. The medical file noted Lotor was thriving at the Academy in his last years there, the prince seeming happy for once. He would go on to graduate, to lead armies into wars with other worlds. He’d be successful at that until the missions to Arus began. Allura didn’t need it spelled out for her to see that Zarkon began beating Lotor for his failures to capture Arus.
The medical file wasn’t as personal an account as Qualenn’s diary. It never went into such detail, never spoke of Lotor’s concern for Allura. It barely spoke of the reason why Lotor was being punished, only mentioning that he had been tortured immediately upon return from another unsuccessful attempt at invading Arus. The last incident that involved Lotor being punished by Zarkon, dated less than a week before the members of the Galaxy Alliance were supposed to meet at planet Kirentya’s embassy. A whipping had occurred, Lotor ended up bedridden with a fever. And yet he had still insisted on going to Kirentya, even though he was still weak and recovering from both the fever and the injuries done to his back.
Allura stared at the screen, feeling as if she had no more tears to let out. She was drained, both emotionally and mentally. Allura now had the understanding she had so desperately craved. It didn’t make her feel better in the slightest. No wonder Lotor had wanted to run. No wonder Lotor thought abandoning everything was the smart option. He had been through just as much, if not worse than his people, suffering ever since he was a little boy. Something in Allura’s heart broke, the girl realizing how damaged Lotor truly was. How broken he had become because of Zarkon’s abuse.
She closed the files, and went into the control panel. Worked on erasing what she had attempted to do, Allura changing the computer’s language back to Drule. Allura knew she should still be trying to hack the computer into contacting Arus, but right now she was numb. Hurting for Lotor, and wondering how if ever she could help heal him enough for the prince to want to return to Doom. To make him fight his father. But she also wondered if Lotor was even fit to rule in Zarkon’s place. Allura didn’t think Lotor would be a cruel and abusive bastard like King Zarkon, but the fact that the prince had turned his back on so many of his people? It didn’t speak well of his character, of his decision making ability. And yet Allura could acknowledge Lotor had done what he had needed to do. Zarkon would have killed him otherwise.
It was such a sad, complicated mess. Allura sighed, the sound a half sob as she reached for the tissues. She used them to clean and dry her face, Allura trying to compose herself before leaving the infirmary. She wanted no one to question her upset, Allura not knowing how she would explain her tears right now. She couldn’t admit to the truth, that she had discovered Lotor’s awful, traumatic past during her attempt to engineer her own rescue.
The storm was still raging outside, the rain a loud background noise to Allura’s thoughts. She’d finally leave the infirmary, walking a slow pace through the mansion. She didn’t know what to do with herself, Allura’s thoughts repeating the discoveries she had made. Reliving that horror, again and again. The princess thought she might have nightmares when she finally did sleep, Allura wishing there was something, anything that could help distract her.
But she kept looking at the Drules she passed, wondering what horrible pasts they hid from her. Haunted by what she did know, Allura spying Tamestra and remembering the woman’s own sad story. She could barely manage a weak smile at the Drule female, Tamestra’s gaze a concerned one. She set down the laundry she was folding, Tamestra coming over to engage Allura in conversation.
“Princess, is everything all right?” Tamestra asked.
“Yes…” Allura lied, quickly trying to cover her upset. “Did you hear about the accident? Is there any word yet?”
“No, none.” Tamestra sighed, her own look upset. “None of us know very much of what is going on. Not with even the communicators being unable to be operated. We’ll just have to wait and pray in the meantime, for their safe return.”
“Pray…” Allura whispered, wondering how any of the Drules could still retain their faith in religion after all they had suffered through.
“Are you sure you are all right, princess?” Tamestra asked, and Allura nodded. Only to hesitate a second later.
“Tamestra…Zarkon is an evil man.” She said that with a renewed certainty, watching the unease fill Tamestra’s face. It was as though the Drule female feared Zarkon would somehow appear, or maybe the mention of his name brought up memories of the woman’s own past suffering.
“Yes. He is the worst, the most evil man to have ever existed in the history of the Drule.”
Allura could easily believe that! “I’m frightened.” She confessed, which was a half truth. “What will he do to us, if he discovers where we have gone? What will he do to Lotor when he learns that the prince is still alive?”
“He’d kill us.” Tamestra said immediately. “But before that, he’d make us suffer.”
“Even the prince?” Allura asked, though she already knew.
“Especially the prince.” The Drule female shudder, and Allura laid a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. “Zarkon has never let anything keep him from hurting another. Not even his family was safe from him.”
Allura now knew how true that was, trying to keep from shuddering as she remembered Qualenn’s detailed account of Lotor’s infection filled wounds.
“The King…he kept the prince weak.” Tamestra continued. “Lotor should have had no problem to beat him back. But Zarkon has NEVER played fair. He’s always used others to weaken the prince, to hurt him. And once Lotor was hurt, he kept on hurting him, letting his injuries be that which held Lotor back.” Her own haunted look had filled Tamestra’s eyes. “How can anyone fight, when they are held down and beaten, ribs broken, body bruised? Zarkon is a bully. A coward who wouldn’t fight fair. He only let Lotor free after the prince was too injured to hurt anyone. Princess…” Tamestra’s tone was urgent, the woman staring at Allura. “There is no doubt in my mind, that in an fair fight, Lotor would win.”
“Then we have to give him that chance.” Allura said determinedly. Tamestra’s eyes widened.
“What do you mean?”
Allura shifted, knowing this would make Tamestra uneasy. “We have to go back.” She said. “We can”t leave the galaxy. We have to stay and fight Zarkon. Liberate the people of Doom from his control.”
“It won’t be enough to just fight him.” Tamestra replied. “We have to KILL him. That’s the only way any one of us will have any peace.”
Allura was surprised. This was the first time one of these Drules had talked like this. Normally Lotor and them were so adamant about running away. That Tamestra could be brave enough to speak about the fact they needed to kill Zarkon, it sort of gave Allura hope. Maybe these Drules could have their minds changed, maybe they could be made to realize that fighting for everyone’s freedom and peace of mind was better than only saving a few people.
This time when she smiled at Tamestra, it was stronger. “We will get that peace.” She promised her. “I won’t rest until everyone is saved.”
“Everyone….including the Drule?”
“Especially the Drule!” Allura exclaimed.
“You’ll be even more of a target now than you were then.” Tamestra warned her. “Zarkon already wants you dead. And just because he blames you for what he views as a deficiency in Lotor. But if you try to go up against him, to save everyone…to free the Doom Empire from his control…” Tamestra trailed off with a shudder.
Allura didn’t ask Tamestra what the Drule thought Zarkon would do. Allura could already guess from what Tesla had told her, and the descriptions of torture she had read in Qualenn’s diary. Instead she seized upon something else, a questioning look in her eyes. “Deficiency?” Tamestra got a shifty look in her eyes, as though she didn’t want to explain. Allura took hold of the woman’s hands, tone almost begging. “Please. I want to understand. No, I need to…won’t you tell me?”
“The…The King, he never approved of Lotor’s love for you.” Tamestra was speaking, but her voice was uncertain. Hesitant, the woman stammering at times. “Never approved of the things Lotor did to keep you safe.”
“To keep me safe?” Allura asked, genuinely wondering about that.
Tamestra looked at her sadly. “Haven’t you realized it by now? Haven’t you figured out all he has done, all he has sacrificed to ensure your well being. Not just of you, but of your world too!?”
Allura remembered the talk about how Lotor had kept Arus from being invaded. She hadn’t believed him, hadn’t understood anything. She still didn’t understand, but she wanted to. “What did he do?”
“He’s purposefully blown missions.” Tamestra explained. “He’s stopped attacks that would have destroyed Voltron, would have killed you in the process. He’s put an end to the bounties on your head, making it known that anyone who so much as touched you, would pay!”
“Pay?” But Tamestra avoided clarifying just what form the punishment would take.
“Zarkon had an open bounty on your head, princess. He encouraged the soldiers to hunt you. To abuse you as they saw fit. He wanted you to suffer, and he didn’t care if you were roughed up by others before landing in his hands. Lotor had to be harder, crueler to stop such assault from happening. It’s enough to know he succeeded…”
Allura was trembling now. She remembered the soldier she had encountered, the incident that was the cause of so much of her panic. He hadn’t been the only one to make an attempt on her, but that soldier had been the only one to get as far as he did. As close as he did. Thinking back now, Allura realized that the months after Voltron’s revival, the soldiers from Doom had been half crazed. Targeting blue loon with an alarming frequency. The times the Voltron Force had fought the soldiers on foot, Allura had found herself often surrounded by many Drules. Keith and the other Voltron Force members working to keep her safe, keep her from being captured.
Things had changed once Lotor had taken over the Arus mission. Why hadn’t she realized it sooner? The attacks stopped, the assassinations and near rape attempts. They had still tried to capture her, but it was under Lotor’s orders. The prince had wanted Allura delivered to him. She now knew it was because he loved her, and had been deluded into thinking Allura would agree to become his bride.
Once Allura would have assumed Lotor just didn’t want to share. That he wouldn’t have wanted Allura if she was first abused by the soldiers, used to slake their lusts. Now she knew better, knew that Lotor simply wanted to protect her. To keep the woman he loved from suffering any kind of trauma. Tears filled her eyes, slipping down her cheeks. Tamestra made an alarmed noise, Allura letting out a strangled laugh.
“I can’t stop them.” She confessed, sniffling. How much worse she would have suffered without Lotor around to run interference between her and Zarkon! He had been saving her all this time, and Allura had never realized it. “Zarkon must have been very angry with Lotor.”
“Yes.” Tamastra solemnly agreed. “If he could have, he would have beat the love Lotor has for you, out of the prince. He tried many times, for each failure to capture Arus, Lotor was made to suffer. Princess…I know you must think him weak, a coward…but he is stronger, braver than you realize. He has to be, to go through what he did, and keep on holding on to the love of you.”
She couldn’t speak, nor did she know what to say to that. The detailed accounts of Lotor’s abuse were filling her mind, Allura cringing inwardly for she understood so much of what had happened these last two years had been because of her. Because Lotor refused to give up his love of her, the prince refusing to betray that love and hurt Allura or her people.
Wordlessly, Tamestra moved. She’d come back with a hand towel, handing it to Allura. The princess would use it to dry her face, but her tears refused to stop. She was overwhelmed in the moment, coping with these new realizations. She’d still be trying to compose herself, minutes later when shouts were heard. Both women reacted, more than a little startled by the sudden noise.
“They’re back.” The Drule female said. She must have recognized one of the voices as belonging to one of the men that had gone out riding with Lotor and Vorlac.
“They must be.” Agreed Allura, in response to the sudden commotion. People were running out of rooms, curious to see what was going on. Wondering and waiting for news on Vorlac’s condition.
“Out of the way, out of the way!” A man was shouting. Allura and Tamestra stood in a doorway, watching as several Drules rushed forward. They were carrying a stretcher, an unconscious and bloody Vorlac laid out on top of it. Qualenn followed behind them, and briefly her eyes met Allura’s. Her gaze was concerned, Qualenn nodding slightly. Allura took that nod to mean Vorlac would come through the worst of his injuries, the princess breathing a sigh of relief. Later she would have many questions, Allura wanting to know just what exactly happened. But for now it was enough to know Vorlac was okay.
Lotor was the last to come by, the prince’s own shirt splattered with blood and dirt, even stains were on his pants from when he had knelt down in the grass. She could just picture him hovering concerned over Vorlac, doing whatever he could to stop the blood and make the man comfortable.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.” Lotor had stopped before Allura and Tamestra. The others were continuing on to the infirmary, but the prince had stopped to check on Allura. To reassure her. “He’s a bleeder, but the cuts aren’t as deep.”
“What happened?” Tamestra asked.
“He was thrown and nearly trampled under his ride’s hooves.” Lotor explained. “Seems the beasts are scared of the storm. Each and every one of them freaked out at the sound of thunder. Vorlac just had the misfortune of not being able to get his mount under control…Qualenn says his leg is broken, but other than that and a few cuts and scrapes…he’ll live.”
“Why was he unconscious?” Allura asked.
“Qualenn gave him a shot for the pain. Seems he had an extreme reaction to it, it made him sleepy.”
“I’m glad that is all that was!” Allura exclaimed, then smiled at Lotor. Damn, but her eyes were getting wet again. “I’m glad he’s going to be all right. And I’m so glad no one else was hurt. That YOU weren’t hurt…”
Lotor’s arms were instantly around her, and she couldn’t stop herself from stiffening completely. But she didn’t scream, didn’t start hyperventilating. Lotor’s fingers were gentle as he touched her wet cheeks, the prince trying to brush away her tears. “Please Allura…nothing that happened today is reason for you to cry. We’re all fine…we’re all safe…”
He didn’t know what she had discovered. Nor was Allura sure she could tell him. Lotor had been so adamant, so stubbornly insistent that Allura not find out about what had been done to him. It might be an issue of pride, or maybe Lotor had wanted to spare her feelings. Either way, she was unsure of what to do, what to say in the moment. She curled her hands on the front of his dirty shirt, and let herself lean into him. Taking strength from his support in this moment of weakness for her. Feeling gratitude well up inside her, combating some of the sadness and horror she was experiencing. Tamestra was right. Lotor WAS brave. Braver than Allura had given him credit for. There was strength in bravery, and through it, perhaps Lotor could overcome his own past to stand up and face his father once more. It was a hopeful thought, and one she clung to in the moment.