Better Worse 11

Time has little meaning for me here in the bowels of the castle. We’re so far underground, it’s not possible for windows to be carved into the walls. There is no sun or moon to watch, no clocks to check. I am isolated, cut off from the rest of the world inside the castle’s dungeons. The guards tell me nothing. They barely even look at me, let alone acknowledge my existence. I am given my meals, but otherwise ignored.

I’ve given up trying to talk to them, to taunt them. I ignore them as much as they do me. But inside, I am worried. How much more can I take of this isolation? How much longer before I go mad from having no one to talk with? I crave contact of any kind, listening eagerly to the whispers of the guards. They don’t speak of anything I can use, but even without them confirming my suspicions, I know. Something has gone terribly wrong. It has to have, otherwise I would have been freed from this nightmare days ago.

I am grim. I think my fleet just may be defeated, many of my friends and allies dead. There is no one else in the dungeons. That alone bodes terrible for the odds of any Drule surviving the fighting with Arus’ military. Of course there is a chance that losses are minimal at best. Just as there is a chance that even now my private army fights to break through Arus’ defense in order to rescue me. I try to hold onto hope, but I’ve been down here so long. A small eternity must have passed, and I wonder if enough time has gone by for my father and the Doom Empire to get involved.

They keep me chained inside my cell. I think them cowards that are overly cautious. Just where would I go, with the door locked and protected by lazon bars? Other times I think them wise. I would kill them if given the chance. In fact I dream of it, my mind’s eye painted red from the slaughter I envision. I am angry, and like a trapped animal, I am ready to lash out. To maim anything within reach.

Sometimes I even regret my actions. The very actions that led me to my imprisonment. I wonder if there was anything I could have done differently, if tripling the amount of soldiers I had brought to the meeting with Allura’s parents, would have made all the difference. Damn it, Arus should have been mine! I should already be on it’s throne, actively making decisions that would affect this planet and it’s people.

My rage continues to boil. I am incensed that Alfor does not appreciate what I was trying to do. Who cared if I had ruined his daughter? At least Allura would still be alive! She would have been free to go about her life, and no one but a select few would have been wiser to the fact she was virgin no more. If my father had his way, Allura and her family would be dead. But apparently that was an infinitely better fate than to give in to my blackmail.

My chains rattle as I walk. My hands clench into fists. I seethe, and grumble under my breath. My methods may have been cruel, but ultimately it would have spared Arus a lot of grief and tragedy. Now I will not be so charitable. I will not try to reason with Alfor or my father. I will let Zarkon do as he pleases, all in the hopes Alfor realizes what a fool he had been for denying me!

As angry as I am, I don’t take pleasure in the thought of Alfor and his family suffering at Zarkon’s hands. I still do not want them to die, but I do want them to pay for my suffering this humiliation. It’s a humiliation no worse than what I did to Allura, and yet I feel as though I am suffering more than she ever has. I’m too self absorbed to think otherwise.

When the footsteps approach my cell, I don’t even turn to the door. I assume it’s time for another meal tray to be delivered. And then a realization hits me. It takes only one person to deliver my food, but this is the sound of many. I turn as the door is opened, spying nearly a dozen guards standing ready. They are armed, laser pistols drawn and primed to shoot.

“What’s this?” I ask, arching an eyebrow. I do not show any fear, but I am worried. Is this a firing squad here to see to my execution? Would Alfor really go that far? I do not get any answers. Not to my private thoughts, or the question I voiced out loud. Instead two men enter my cell, everything about them cautious. One kneels down to unlock my chain from the manacle cemented to the floor, while the other keeps his weapon trained on me.

I am not so foolish as to make a run for it, while my hands are still chained in front of me. Another chain is used to hobble me, forcing me to walk in a awkward way out of the cell. The guards push me to move faster, but other than the shoving hands on my back, they avoid getting violent with me. This is a stark contrast to my arrival in the dungeons. Then they had been violent, hitting me any chance they could take. And I had given them many.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask repeatedly. There is no answer, the group of us crowding into a large elevator. There is no where to go but up, but my spirits don’t lift with the elevator’s ride. Not even when I am out of the elevator, and seeing the sun for the first time through the ground floor windows. The sunlight floods the hall, and there are more soldiers standing at the ready.

An uneasy feeling fills me. Some of the soldiers are giving me eager looks, as though they would love a chance to fire their weapons upon me. I won’t give them that chance. At least not yet, not until I’ve assessed the situation.

A shove on my back signals my chance to linger in the hall is at an end. I let out a put upon sigh, and walk where they urge me. We travel through corridors empty of people save for the soldiers. Until we are before a room I know well. It is the King’s office, and I wonder what Alfor could possibly have to say to me. Somehow I doubt he will apologize. Just as I doubt he will have been made to see reason, and will give up the planet to me.

One of the guards that accompanies me, knocks loudly on the door several times. He then opens the door, and I am led in. I stalk forward with my head held high, my eyes defiant. And then stop short. Diana is also present, sitting besides her husband. But she is not the reason for my shock. The room’s large view screen has been turned on, and it is my father’s face I am staring at upon it.

“Father!” I instantly speak in Drule, a quick torrent of words being blurted out of me. “Have you negotiated my release? Are your ships yet on Arus?”

“Now, now son…” Zarkon is speaking in basic, the universally shared language between worlds. “There is no need to speak in Drule. We are after all among friends.”

“Friends?” I repeat in Drule with a sneer. Zarkon nods. “They are no friends of mine!”

“Be that as it may, you will speak in basic.” Zarkon snaps. “That is an order!”

A hand on my back shoves me further into the room. My chain is tethered around the leg of the room’s heavy desk. Then the guards leave the room, the door closing behind them. That surprises me. Is Alfor that big a fool to think he is safe because I am chained? But I note Alfor is wearing his sword belt, and I remember our duel. A duel I had not been able to win, though it hadn’t ended in a true loss for me either.

“What is going on?” I finally speak in a language Aflor and Diana can understand. “Why did you bring me here if not to release me?!” I rattle my chains purposefully to remind them of my bound state.

“We have things we must discuss with you.” It is Alfor who speaks. “Things that concern your–all of our futures.”

I don’t dare hope Zarkon has frightened Alfor into letting me go. I wouldn’t still be in chains if Doom was winning against Arus. “My future?” I repeat carefully. “Then I am to have one?”

My father chuckles. “Oh you have one. And all things considered, it’s not a bad way to end up.”

Alfor actually glowers at me in response to my father’s words. Something is bothering him, and I get the feeling it has more to do with than just my being in the same room with him and Diana. “It’s far better a fate than you deserve.” He says.

I ignore that, and instead ask, “And just when are you going to tell me what it is?”

“Suppose there’s no use in delaying things.” My father said. What could pass for a smirk was on his lips. “Congratulations son. You’re to be married.”

I stood there and stared at him. There was no need to ask just who I was to marry. There could be only one option. And still it was unthinkable, leaving me to sputter in protest. “You cannot possibly be serious.”

“Oh I’m serious.” Zarkon said. “I am damn serious.”

“I am not marrying Allura!”

“You don’t have a choice!” Both men snapped at me, nearly in the same breath. I tried not to scowl, fearing they were right about my lack of choice in this matter. And still I shook my head no.

“I won’t do it! You can’t make me–”

“We can and we will!” roared my father. He actually slammed his scepter against the floor. “Son, you’ve caused both our worlds a lot of trouble with your antics. With your foolish ambitions!”

“It is an ambition you share!”

He did not try to deny it, an uneasy flicker of emotion in his eyes as Zarkon glanced at Alfor. “This is the only way to maintain the peace between our two kingdoms. A peace you threatened, nearly shattered with your acts.” His eyes were back on me, gold gaze narrowing with anger. “Do you even know how many lives you’ve cost our worlds? How many bright and young people who had the capability to be so much more, died because of the fighting that broke out?”

“I didn’t exactly have access to any information while they were keeping me imprisoned in their dungeon!” I snap insolently.

“Nearly twelve thousand people have died!” Zarkon shouted. I was sure he was so upset because the losses totaled had to be more of the Drule than of the Arusians. “Twelve thousand lives wasted because you couldn’t keep it in your pants!”

“It was never about having sex with Allura!” I retort, then toss a glare at Alfor. “If you had merely given in as I suggested, then no one would have died. The fact that we
are at war, that so many died, is on your head King Alfor!”

“Don’t you dare blame this on me!” Alfor snarled, rising to his feet. His hand was already drawing his sword, and only Diana’s protests stop him from advancing on me with it. “Everything that’s happened is YOUR Fault, Lotor! From Allura’s hurt, to the deaths and devastation the fighting has caused.”

I was glaring back at him, but any retort I could have made was lost when my father said the following. “Besides, we are not at war.”

“Not at war?” I blinked in surprise.

“It was your private fleet that acted out against Arus. It was your men and women who died engaging Arus’ military.” Zarkon sighed, a tsking sound escaping him. “Such a pity. Such raw potential wasted.”

“Just my men?” I ask for confirmation. I get it, Zarkon nodding. I am stunned, then explode in anger. “Why haven’t you sent ships to back them up?! Are you that big a coward?!”

From the look he gave me, I knew Zarkon would have struck me then if he had been in the room with us. “I’m not about to enter into a war we can’t win, just to clean up your mess!”

“You don’t know for sure that we can’t win!” I argue. “If you’d stop being so cautious, so afraid…”

“I am no coward!” He roared. “But I will not waste people and resources on fighting a war with Arus.” His eyes narrowed. “Arus is too strong for us.” I thought him weak for admitting that, openly sneering. “It would be the ruin of the Doom Empire to fight them. You should have known this. Instead you were overly arrogant, thinking you could force them to give you this world. And now you must pay the price for it!”

I looked away, catching sight of Alfor’s angry eyes. It was clear the Arusian King did not think the price was steep enough. “By marrying Allura?”

“It’s a way for you to make amends for what you’ve done.” Diana spoke. “You’ve hurt my daughter deeply Lotor. You were nearly the ruin of her.”

I was unapologetic. “I was doing what was necessary.”

“None of that was necessary.” Diana pointed out, her own eyes flashing with anger. “You should have trusted your father’s judgment where Arus is concerned, and left us alone.”

“Ha! Do you honestly think my father’s hands are clean?” I ask. “Oh, he puts on a good face. But he’s been actively trying to plot Arus’ conquest for as long as I can remember. He’d be just as happy if I had succeeded, as he is mad that I have not. Never forget that Queen Diana. He wants you and your family dead.” She seemed to shiver in response.

“The boy exaggerates.” I bristled at my father’s words. “Lotor, quit trying to make more trouble between us. It won’t save you from this marriage.”

“Why would you even want me to marry your daughter?” I looked at Alfor and Diana, trying to understand. “What possible reason could you have for approving a union between us? To maintain peace between our worlds?” I scoff then. “There are other ways to do that. You don’t have to give Allura to me. You don’t have to…”

“Allura is pregnant.” Alfor said, his voice loud with anger. My breath expelled out of me with a gasp. Numb I stared at him, then at Diana, looking for confirmation to Alfor’s claims. She nodded, look so sad and weary in the moment.

“Pregnant…” I whisper, stunned.

“You were stupid Lotor.” Sneered my father. “Not even using any kind of protection. But no matter. This child is going to be what saves you, what saves us all.”

“What?” I was confused, and still trying to process the fact that I had gotten Allura with child.

“Do you honestly believed I’d allow you to have my daughter if she wasn’t already carrying your child?!” Alfor demanded. “Do you think I would let you anywhere near her, that I would allow you to touch her, to even speak with her, if there wasn’t a reason to force you two together?!” Diana laid a hand on his shoulder, but her touch didn’t seem to calm any of his anger. “You may have tried to ruin my daughter, but we won’t let this scandal go any further out of control. You will marry Allura, you give a name to your bastard. No one need ever know the child was conceived before the wedding. As far as the rest of the galaxy is concerned, it is a union meant to stop mounting aggressions between our two kingdoms from turning to full out war.”

“I…I can’t be a father…” I mutter hoarsely. It was even worse to think of being a husband, of being tied to any one woman.

“You can and you will.” Alfor insisted. “You will treat both my daughter and the child she carries with the utmost of respect. You will be faithful to her, and her alone. Or by Gods, I will cut off your balls myself!”

“You can’t be serious!” I protest, unease filling me at his promise.

“I cant force you to love her, but I can make sure you don’t cause her any further harm through scandal and abuse!” Alfor told me.

“She’ll be miserable with me!” I warn him. “She’ll never go for it. Not after what I did.”

“Allura’s already agreed.” Alfor announced to my surprise. “Her options were explained to her, and life with you seemed the lesser evil.” I couldn’t believe it, gaping at him in shock. “The marriage will be within two days.”

“The sooner the better.” Agreed Zarkon. “Congratulations Lotor….”

I gave him a bleak look, not feeling like celebrating. “I’ll find a way to get out of this!” I swore.

“And where would you go if you did escape?” Zarkon asked. “The instant you set foot on Doom territory, you would be arrested, and sent back to Arus.” I scowled at that. “No. You better learn to accept your fate Lotor. It is after all one you delivered yourself into.” He then looked at Alfor. “Your highness, if I was you, I’d be sure to implant him with a tracking device. It’ll minimize the amount of time you’ll spend trying to keep track of him!”

I glared at my father, feeling betrayed that he would even suggest such a thing. Even worse, Alfor seemed to be in total agreement with the idea! “You won’t get away with this!” I cry out.

“Who is to stop us?” Zarkon asked.

Desperate, I searched for something, anything to say. “The footage!” I exclaim. “I’ll air it to the media if you try to force me to marry Allura!”

“That despicable piece of film has already been destroyed.” Zarkon informed me. “Face it Lotor, you have no leverage against us. Anything you do from this point on will only make things worse for you…”

“What could be worse than entering into a loveless marriage?” I wondered out loud.

“You could be dead.” Alfor answers. Zarkon laughed at that, but the sound was nervous. He could tell how serious Alfor was about that possibility.

“I might as well be dead.” I muttered. It was extreme, but a life devoted to just one woman seemed a fate worse than death. Especially considering that one woman despised me for what I had done to her. I didn’t even want to think what our life together would be like, the two of us angry over the circumstances that forced us together. And to add a baby to the mix? It was sure to be nothing more than pure disaster!

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