Pause 07

For the first time in months, Lotor smiled. It was a self satisfied smirk, the pleasure reaching his eyes. It seemed to magnify with every explosion, the prince staring enrapt at the bridge’s view screen. It was a beautiful sight revealed to him, ships from both sides of the siege battling it out over the burning remains of what had once been rich, fertile farmland.

The blaze had eaten away at the crops in a manner of seconds, the wind stirring up the embers and carrying them far. Months of hard work and waiting ruined, destroyed before Garrison’s ships had even suspected what Doom’s true intent had been. Lotor thought them all fools, both Arus and Garrison. And all because they had allowed some of Doom’s ships to break away from the main fleet. Lotor knew if he had been in charge on Garrison’s side, he would have concentrated on blowing those ships out of the sky. Shot them down long before they could get near one kernel of corn.

He felt smug, thinking the Drules were superior to these slowwitted humans. Garrison tried to make up for it’s earlier inaction, firing repeatedly on the Drule ships. Shields were flickering on both sides, ships doing wild maneuvers to avoid the laser fire. But some blows were inevitable, lasers scoring on metal hides, causing smoke trails to blossom.

It wasn’t just one farm that had been ruined. Dozens upon dozens had been destroyed, and more would follow. The bridge’s view screen was split into several views, each segment showing a different battle or farm. It was glorious, the carnage he saw. Stretching out as far as the eye could see. Whole fields of orange and red, burning without hope of stopping any time soon.

The one farm in this sector that had yet to be set on fire, was in danger. Even with Garrison trying to protect it. The ships flew so low over the fields, that whole stalks of wheat bent and swayed in the winds their passage stirred. All it would take was a stray laser, and the crops would catch on fire. All of Garrison’s efforts in vain, the humans helpless to do anything but watch as their precious food sources burned.

He hoped Allura felt that same helplessness. Hope she felt it and despaired. Maybe then she would reconsider the pointlessness of fighting him, fighting the pull between them. Lotor relished the thought of her surrender, the prince anticipating that one day soon Allura would be back where she belonged. In his bed, and in his embrace. How much her people suffered was all up to Allura. For every continued defiance, another attack would be lobbed upon her planet.

~You can put an end to this Allura.~ Lotor thought to himself. And all she would have to do is answer when the call to surrender came. But of course, she wasn’t that easy. Allura liked challenging him, enjoyed forcing her people into the role of martyrs. She’d drag this out for days, weeks more before her people’s breaking point came. He didn’t understand it. Was being loved by the prince of Doom really that horrible a fate?

Lotor almost scowled then, losing any pleasure he had felt as he watched the farms burn. He had been good to Allura, as kind as he could be given the circumstances of their relationship. He had been loving and affectionate in bed, had made a document that catered to much of the princess’ wishes for her people. He had even made provisions for those damnable pilots, seeing that no harm would befall them when by all rights their lives should have been forfeit. And still Allura spurned him, acting as if he was some detestable monster she could not abide.

So what if their initial coming together had been engineered by Haggar’s potion. He had done nothing to harm Allura, done nothing but love her. Lotor didn’t understand why Allura couldn’t see what a good catch he was. Why she couldn’t recognize what he felt for her was love in it’s strongest form. A love that made him go to great lengths to capture her, to strip away her defenses, and block off all routes of escape until Allura had no choice but to love him back.

Every thing he did on this battle field, every move, every maneuver, was all strategy working towards his goal of attaining Allura. The planet Arus was just a bonus, another world to add to the Empire’s vast territory. The riches and resources couldn’t compare to the treasure that was Allura. She shined brighter than all, beckoned him closer with her every resistance.

It would amuse him to break the last of that resistance of hers, Lotor smirking as he watched photon bombs burst. The explosions startled a group of cattle into a stampede, the terrified creatures unsure of where to run with the fires so close to them. They panicked even further, getting in the way of the few farmers who braved the danger to confront the fires.

It was a similar sight on each screen, people running about the blazing farms. They carried heavy, water hoses with them, dodging the laser fire from overhead in order to try and put out the fires. There was Drule ships flying about, ready to shoot them down. Garrison tried to run interference, drawing the Drule’s attention towards their ships instead. It mattered not what they did, the fires had already consumed anything of worth in the crop fields.

In the midst of this chaos, the loud roar of a lion was heard. That sound made Lotor sit up straighter in his chair, a keen look of anticipation on his face. Was it Allura’s lion he heard? It would make sense if she was among the first to arrive. After all, blue lion was water based in it’s power. Lotor had no doubt blue lion would have no difficulty in putting an end to the fires his soldiers had set.

He felt disappointment go through him when instead black lion appeared on the screen. No sign of the other lions, leaving Lotor to wonder just what the delay was. Were they still recovering from their earlier fight with the robeast? Or was black lion off on another suspicious solo mission? Earlier, the lion had behaved in a most peculiar manner, going so far as to jeopardize itself and with it, the safety of the planet.

Lotor did not know what had spurred the lion’s pilot to attempt what was in effect a suicide’s mission, but he had attempted it all the same. Black lion had launched, unexpected and uncalled for, tearing through the skies towards the Drule fleet. There had been no robeast afoot, and the Drule ships hadn’t done anything to especially warrant the attention. And yet it had gotten it all the same, black lion diving into the fleet, fighting it’s way deep inside in a near frantic manner.

At first the Drules had panicked, ships moving about, lasers firing erratically. It had been pure chaos, the black lion the heart of it. Lotor had called for calm, the Drules reacting to his orders. They then allowed black lion to move deeper into the territory they had seized, and then closed up any route for escape. By the time black lion had realized it was trapped, the other three lions had arrived.

Lotor had to admit he was curious. Especially about what had provoked black lion’s pilot to do an unprecedented attack. They had tried hacking into the communication grid the lions shared, but security was too tight on that channel. It left them all in the dark as to the motives behind black lion’s attack. But one thing was apparent by the hesitation in the other three lions. They weren’t sharing their captain’s eagerness to fly into the heart of the Drule fleet. They had even gone so far as to linger on the fringe, putting down a covering fire as black lion continued to fight it’s opponents.

Eventually black lion was too ensnared in the trap to be able to extricate itself. The other three lions had been forced to come to it’s rescue, only to find themselves caught as well. For a good portion of the hour, Lotor had believed that Doom was about to finally get it’s victory. After all, four of the five lions were trapped, and with a robeast heading towards the castle, the odds had never looked better.

Blue lion’s absence from that earlier fight had been suspicious, but not completely surprising. Lotor and the other Drules had not failed to note how Princess Allura was entering the battles less and less. They just didn’t know the reason behind her sudden reluctance to fight. It was strange, especially given the princess’ strong love of flying her lion no matter the situation. A war zone shouldn’t have made her think twice about flying, especially when it was in defense of her planet.

And now she was missing from battle yet again! Lotor leaned back in his seat, mulling over this puzzle as black lion began tearing apart one of the larger Drule ships that hovered over the burning fields. He didn’t think it’s pilot would be stupid enough to lure into a second trap, and indeed black lion was remaining on the border between Garrison and Doom’s ships. It’s shield was flickering, it really hadn’t had time to recover from the earlier fight. The fight it had exhibited earlier, the intensity was gone from the lion, the captain no longer piloting it like a man possessed. Whatever had happened between the two battles, the man had had time to calm down. Lotor would dearly love to know what had fired up captain Keith in the first place, but for now he settled on watching the fight, hoping for a weakness to capitalize on.

Another roar was heard, spy cams maneuvering to get the latest arrival on the screen. It was not blue lion, but then Lotor was hardly surprised at this point. Nor would this lion be particularly useful against the fires, it’s powers being flame based in nature. It was because of those powers, that red lion was easily dismissible, Lotor instead keeping an interested eye on black lion.

He’d still be studying the captain’s attack patterns right up until green lion and yellow lion appeared. Green lion’s wind based powers would only stir up the fires, help them spread their embers faster. But yellow lion? It carried sand to smother the fires. It would do so, green lion laying down a barrage of laser fire as it stood guard over yellow lion. The sand dumped onto the fields wasn’t as fast acting as blue lion’s water cannon would have been, but it was getting the job done. Too bad for Arus it was too late to salvage the crops.

Yet he didn’t feel victorious, more concerned over Allura’s whereabouts. What could possibly be keeping her from this fight? This was a moment of crisis for her people, they needed the lion of water to help save them. And yet she continued to be a no show. This worried him, a feeling he didn’t like experiencing, the prince sitting up with a brusque order.

“Someone find Haggar.”

“Yes, sire!” Came the answering shout. The onboard technicians immediately began the locating procedures, tapping into the security cameras that were spread through out the ship. For security reasons these cameras covered nearly every room and corridor in the ships, including the soldier barracks. They didn’t extend to Lotors’ cabin, the prince valuing his privacy as much as Haggar valued hers. So long as the witch wasn’t inside her private rooms, tinkering with one of her experiments, she would be spotted by the cameras.

Lotor drummed his fingers on the arm rest of his chair, his every move screaming impatience. People gave his seat a wide berth, trying to avoid the prince’s notice. It was busy on the bridge, the elevator constantly dinging with new arrivals. His impatience seemed to mount every time some insignificant soldier stepped off the platform. Haggar was taking her sweet time, letting a full twenty minutes go by before she deigned to present herself before him.

“Ah, Haggar. So good of you to join us.” He didn’t bother to stand up as he greeted her, but then the witch hardly seemed affected by his lack of respect. No, the annoyance in her eyes was for something else, the prince having noticed the green colored goo that lay splattered on the hem of her robe’s sleeves.

She noticed where his attention lay, but gave no explanation for her normally pristine robes messy state. Instead she turned a curious eyes towards the view screen. Was that a smile that played on her lips? “It’s about time you stepped up your game.” She at last said, Haggar’s voice rife with approval. The flames seemed to reflect in her eyes, Haggar delighting in the scene the view screen showed her.

Lotor hardly cared for her approval, inwardly seething at her next words. “I had feared your feelings for this planet’s princess was making you go soft.” Just then an explosion boomed, the sound seeming to thunder within these very walls.

Trying not to scowl, Lotor narrowed his eyes at the witch. “I am anything but soft. Especially where Allura is concerned.”

“I stand corrected then.” Haggar murmured, then let her eyes roam over Lotor’s expression. He wondered what she saw, the witch’s smile becoming more pronounced. “You seem in a better mood.” A cock of her head to the side. “Better than you were this morning at any rate.” She tsked.

He didn’t feel any remorse for the display of temper he had shown Haggar that morning. Especially not after her attempts to sick some unwanted wench into his bed. “Haggar, have you noticed?” His hand made a gesture at the view screen, the witch turning her eyes towards it once more.

“Noticed what?” Haggar smirked. “That a lion is missing from the battle?” She scoffed. “It’s a common enough sight these days. That princess of yours, hiding.”

“I find that strange, don’t you?” Lotor demanded. “Allura is not known for cowardice. She’d never simply stand by and let the others do the fighting for her. Not without a good reason.”

“And you think I would know that reason?” Haggar asked, and he nodded. “Prince Lotor, you flatter me.”

“Hardly.”

She ignored that. “But even with all my powers, I am not all seeing. Especially now when I cannot set foot on Arus, cannot get my familiar close enough to ferret out Allura’s secrets.” She sighed then. “Garrison is becoming a pain.”

Lotor could agree with that. Ever since Galaxy Garrison had arrived to safe guard the planet from Doom’s take over, the Drule ships had been unable to land on the surface. Garrison might not be able to force a retreat of the Empire’s fleet, but they were able to make sure not so much as one Drule ship landed on Arusian soil. Garrison was all too quick to blow those ships that tried to smithereens.

“There must be some other way you can use your magic to find out what I want to know!” Lotor said out loud.

“Without so much as a lock of Allura’s hair, I’m afraid it’s hopeless.” Haggar told him. He gnashed his teeth together, jaw clenching in response to that. Haggar pretended not to notice, her eyes once again viewing the fires ravaging the fields. “This will make Arus desperate. If we wipe out all the farms, Allura will have no choice but to come to you. To honor the papers she signed.”

“It would be nice if it was that easy.” Lotor grumbled. “But I don’t know if even her people’s imminent starvation is enough to make her cede defeat…”

“She would be a pretty heartless ruler if that is the case.” Chuckled Haggar.

“Heartless, or just that desperate to avoid me?” Lotor wondered. Haggar wisely did not comment on that. “The day this all ends cannot come quick enough for me.”

“Careful your highness.” Cautioned Haggar. “Do not let your haste lead us astray. It poses as a big a danger to our defeat as that desire you have for Allura.”

“I won’t let either one cost me my victory.” Lotor assured her. The look the witch gave him was disbelieving, but she held her tongue as another approached them. “Ah, Commander. What news do you bring me?”

Commander Cossack held a data pad in his hands, fingers tapping slowly on it’s keys. “I got the word out.” He said, eyes still on the data pad. “We’ve since stopped funding on all attempts at bribery.” Haggar let out a hiss of sound, her back going ram rod straight in reaction to the commander’s words. “All those judges we paid off? They are about to find their accounts emptied of a few millions of credits.”

“Excellent.” Lotor allowed a pleased smile to cross his lips, even as Haggar cried out in protest.

“What have you done?!” She demanded, glaring at Lotor. “This is the surefire quickest way to get those judges clamoring to rush Arus’ case to court! They will practically be fighting over the privilege to precede over the trial!”

“Settle down Haggar.”

“Settle down?!” Her eyes were wide with disbelief. “Have you gone completely mad?!”

“It’s all part of the prince’s plan you see…” Cossack began. “He’s going to kidnap the princess during the trial.” Haggar’s mouth fell open, but no sound came out. She was speechless, a rare moment in time for her. Cossack continued as though oblivious to the witch’s shock. “It’s perfect, don’t you see? Since we can’t get to Allura on Arus, we’ll nab her when she arrives for the court hearing.”

“Y…you…” Haggar began to sputter. “Of all the…irresponsible, stupid…”

“Mind your words witch!” Snapped Lotor.

“You are jeopardizing everything for this girl!” Haggar screeched.

“No, I am moving to end this siege before it drags on any longer.” Lotor retorted. “It is a drain on our time and resources. Arus is already ours, I have the documents to prove it.”

“There’s no guarantee those documents will hold up in court!” protested Haggar.

“Which is why I intend to take Allura before the trial can reach a conclusion.” Lotor was calm. “It won’t matter what the judge decides once I have Allura in my possession. As my bride, Arus will become Doom’s by default. And there will be nothing Garrison and the Galaxy Alliance can do to stop it!” He began to laugh, his voice holding a mocking quality to it. Cossack mimicked his laughter, but Haggar stood there scowling.

“And just what would your father think of this?!”

“I’m sure you’ll find out when you report back to him.” He smirked at the stunned look on the witch’s face. “I’m not stupid Haggar. I know you’ve been sent here partially as a spy for my father.”

“He’s only concerned for you…” She began, not denying the accusation.

“He is concerned that I will bungle this mission somehow, and cost him Arus.” Lotor corrected her. “Rest assured I won’t. Not this time.”

“It’s going to end no different from any other time. And all because you insist on chasing after that princess!” Haggar snapped. “When will you open your eyes and see, she brings you nothing but trouble and lays defeat upon defeat upon you?!” She turned imploring. “There’s still time. Return the money to those accounts, continue to pay off the courts and kill off those who won’t be bribed. It may take a few more months, but eventually, with her people suffering, Allura will have to give in.”

“You may be content to waste this next few months fighting Garrison’s ships, but I am not!” Lotor rose from his seat. “This is going to happen Haggar, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it!” He felt satisfied to watch her storm off in a huff, the witch nimble and fast as she headed for the elevator. Lotor had no doubt her next move would be to contact his father, but he would not be swayed from this course of action. The trial would happen, and within hours of it’s start, he’d have Allura right where he wanted her. Completely at his mercy.


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