There was the faintest of hums as the window’s protective covering rose. Sunlight began creeping into the room, though it couldn’t brighten the well lit surroundings any farther. As the covering disappeared into the ceiling’s slot, her hair seemed to gleam it’s full brilliance. It was a direct response to the sun landing like a spot light on Allura. She didn’t seem to notice how the men nearest to the window stopped to stare at her, mouths parted just a little in awe of her beauty. Her eyes were not for them, the princess just a bit grim faced as she sought out the sight of the lions roaming this side of the castle’s courtyard.
Each of the five lions was present, though Allura’s eyes immediately sought out the one that was blue. It was padding about on shaky feet, as though it’s pilot was just getting used to it’s controls. She inwardly winced at how awkward the current pilot maneuvered blue lion about, Allura thinking it was plain to see to anyone that it was an inexperienced hand behind it’s controls.
“They are going to know.” Allura didn’t mean to voice these thoughts out loud. Perhaps it was her upset that made her talk so. Though she wondered what was the more powerful emotion, her upset, or her jealousy over someone else being inside what had once been Allura’s lion.
“I’m sure they will figure it out eventually.” Coran began, coming to stand besides her. “Of course, the deception will work all the easier if you’re not seen while blue lion is active…”
She managed not to flush in guilt, Allura turning away from the window. She knew it was imperative that Doom continue to believe that the princess of Arus was the pilot of blue lion. It gave the Voltron Force an advantage on the battle field, limited though it was. As long as Prince Lotor thought Allura was in blue lion, he held back some of his attacks. It was an advantage the new pilots surely needed.
Coran took her silence as a signal to lower the window’s covering. She kept her back to him, listening to the hum. “It won’t matter…” She decided out loud. “Soon enough they’ll know….”
“Even one more day is a boon.” Coran corrected gently.
One more day was all they really had, and then Allura would be leaving Arus. She would not be taking blue lion with her. Would not be taking any of the lions as part of her entourage. And all because she couldn’t leave her planet defenseless. Arus needed the lions, needed them more than their princess did. She worried what would happen if Doom attacked during her absence. If the attacks were such that blue lion was needed. All their careful planning and deceit would be done for, the Drules realizing there was a new pilot for blue lion.
It wasn’t just blue lion. All five lions were currently in the midst of training replacement pilots. Keith and the other members of his team, went out every day. And each day, there was someone new joining them in the lion’s cockpits. The first two days, the newcomers had simply watched as the more experienced hands piloted the lions. By the third day, that all changed, the rookie pilots getting their chance to control the lions under the watchful eyes of the original pilots.
The rookie pilots were gaining the experience needed, sometimes learning in the midst of an active battlefield. It would take time, many months before they were accomplished hands at controlling the lions. But Arus didn’t have the time to wait, and so what was a year’s worth of training was being condensed into a week’s long lesson.
Of course, they hadn’t settled on any one in particular becoming a permanent replacement pilot. They had enough volunteers to make four more teams of pilots. Soon that twenty would be whittled down to a dozen, and then from among those twelve, a team of six would be picked. Lieutenant Alfred was among the twenty who was learning how to pilot the lions. He showed a lot of promise on blue lion, and more than a few of the candidates felt he had an unfair advantage over them from his earlier experience with Voltron.
Allura felt pretty confidant Alfred would become one of the two slated for blue lion’s pilot. Allura just wished she could chase away feeling of bitterness and envy when she saw blue lion under the control of someone else. It was a week since she had been forced to give up her pilot’s status. A week and it hadn’t gotten any easier to accept that her life as a pilot was over with.
Allura felt an ache in her heart whenever the call to arms came, her former team members dropping everything to rush to their lions. Those first few days, she had had to fight not to run with them, Allura wanting desperately to feel blue lion’s power all around her. She had had to settle with watching the fight from the castle’s control room. It just wasn’t the same feeling, no high associated with watching another fight.
There was talk circulating through the castle. The people present had noticed their princess’ depression, and though they tried to keep it a secret, someone had talked. The whole castle seemed to know Allura was no longer piloting blue lion, though they had yet to discover the reason why. And she would keep that a secret for as long as she could manage, Allura glancing down at her stomach now. It was still barely noticeable, especially in the baggy clothing she wore.
Stomach still small, Allura wondered if she was eating enough for the baby growing inside her. Allura feared she was not, but outside circumstances were preventing her from over eating. Stress was a huge factor, it came from keeping the child’s existence a secret for so long. There was stress in the siege that assaulted Arus daily, the never ending war Doom waged on her planet. Perhaps the biggest stress came from her worries over Lotor finding out she was pregnant with his child. It made her fearful, Allura wanting Lotor to have no claim on her, her planet, or especially the child.
There was another reason for her lack of appetite. It was about a week since Doom’s ships had attacked a number of farms, setting them ablaze, and ruining the season’s harvest. Food was in low numbers, even with Garrison sending down care packages. Conscious that every one of her people had to limit how much they ate, Allura herself couldn’t bring herself to eat more than what she thought was a fair share of the food.
Of course, those closest to her, the ones who knew about her condition, frowned about her eating habits. She found more often than not, the Voltron Force members were trying to give her portions of their meals. Especially Hunk, who was normally notorious for his large appetites. And yet he was the most generous, heaping her plate full from his. Allura hated to turn him down, but so long as her people went hungry, she couldn’t eat. The food held no taste for her, thanks to stress and worry.
The lack of a good meal was making her feel weak, Allura more prone to dizziness these past few days. She badly wanted this nightmare over with, and yet had a feeling it would never end! Even with the sudden, and welcome news that the Alliance had come through. A judge had been found, one willing to ignore Doom’s bribes, and death threats. In fact several judges had stepped forward, suddenly overeager to precede over the Arus-Doom case.
The Alliance had carefully reviewed the different judges’ histories and courtroom tactics, intent on picking one that would be fair to both sides. Allura had nearly fainted when word came that the judge was ready, the case being rushed to court. Come tomorrow, she and her entourage would be leaving for planet Amestris. It was a neutral planet, free of both the Empire and the Alliance’s influence. Amestris was deemed the perfect site for what was looking to be the trial of the century.
Allura found her nerves were increasing as the hour of departure loomed closer than ever. It didn’t help that she was increasing the number of meetings with her lawyers, the trio all but interrogating her on everything that had happened while she was Lotor’s prisoner. Of course, the truth had come out. Allura had had to reveal that not only had she slept with Lotor, but that she was pregnant with his child. To say that complicated things was an understatement, and the news had sent her lawyers into a frenzy.
That frenzy was still there, even days after processing the news. Her lawyers had turned determined, ready to search out any loop holes that would keep Lotor and Doom’s hands off of the child Allura carried. However, with the court date looming ever closer, the current case was the more pressing manner. Her lawyers had taken an aggressive stance with Allura, downright badgering her at times.
That included this morning, her lawyers filing into the room, led by her assistant. Miranda had been let in on Allura’s condition, the woman as shocked as anyone else had been to learn she was pregnant. Miranda wondered how she hadn’t realized it sooner, having worked so closely with Allura these last few months.
Nanny had also been present for this meeting, the woman there partly as moral support. But there was another role she played, as did Coran and Miranda. Allura and her lawyers wanted to see how the princess could stand up to a strict interrogation, if being badgered by embarrassing questions in front of friends could break the princess down. As her lawyer Donovan had pointed out, Doom’s lawyers would be absolutely merciless once they had her on the witness stand.
Everyone understood how difficult this was for Allura. Even just in the privacy of this room, with only six people to hear of her shaming behavior, Allura had found it hard to talk about what had happened. Just as hard as Nanny had found it to listen to the intimate details of Allura’s encounters with Prince Lotor. The woman had gone pale, all the color fleeing her face with every incriminating word. If she hadn’t been sitting down, Nanny surely would have collapsed just listening to Allura speak.
Allura could understand Nanny’s reaction. She felt mortified, embarrassed beyond belief at talking about what had happened with Lotor. She felt shamed and humiliated, her lawyers acting cold and impersonal as they questioned her about all manners of things. It was downright brutal, Allura wondering if they would really ask for such details at court.
To her dismay, the answer was yes. Donovan had explained that the Drules would set out to discredit Allura, maybe try and embarrass her to the point she gave up fighting. Even her own lawyers had questioned her, wanting to know if she was sure she wanted to take this to court. And all because the sex, her rape, would come out. Scandal would surely follow, even before the existence of the child she carried became public knowledge.
As frightened as she was by the thought of that, Allura had forced herself to be brave. She didn’t want to lose Arus to Doom’s control, not even if it meant she’d be saved some embarrassment. What was another dose of humiliation, if her people could remain free of Doom’s tyranny?
It didn’t make what she would have to do, what would happen at court, any easier. Allura found herself praying at her father’s tomb, asking for him to lend her some of his strength. The strength to be strong, to be brave. The strength to survive what would happen at the trial. She didn’t know if anyone would answer her prayers though, Allura not feeling any braver.
Coran continued to follow her around for most of the day. A thick file of papers was in his arms, Coran going down a check list of worries with her. “The ships from Garrison are set to arrive first thing tomorrow morning….Gods willing Lotor’s fleet doesn’t prevent their landing.”
“He might try.” Warned Allura. “Doom is desperate to keep this from reaching trial.” Coran seemed to sigh, frowning down at the document he held. Allura could echo his annoyance, knowing Doom would be near unpredictable in the coming days. There was a worry that Allura wouldn’t be able to get off Arus in the first place, that Doom would be relentless at attacking Garrison’s ships.
“The lions will run interference as needed.” Coran told her. “With their help, you should be able to make it off the planet without incident.”
Should wasn’t a guarantee, she knew that. It was why they were trying to leave with so much time before the actual trial. It might take numerous attempts to get off planet before they were successful. They had to figure that in, as well as the time needed to travel to Amestris.
“I wish I could go with you.” Coran sounded frustrated then.
“I know. But you are needed here.” Allura told him. The advisor would be remaining behind to oversee the planet’s defense when Allura left for planet Amestris. He would be acting as ruler in Allura’s stead, the important decisions falling on his shoulders. “I will be fine.” Allura added, forcing a smile. “Nanny and Miranda will be with me.”
“Thank goodness for that.” Coran murmured. “I know you will rely heavily on them for emotional support during these trying times.”
“Yes.” Agreed Allura. “Has the Voltron Force decided on just who will accompany me as part of my guard?”
“Keith is adamant that he be one of the two that travel with you to Amestris.”
“Keith?” Allura frowned. “Will he be able to control himself? Especially listening to the details of my encounter with Lotor?”
“He says he will manage.” But Coran didn’t look like he believed that.
“What about when he sees Lotor?” demanded Allura. “Will he be able to keep from attacking the prince?” As shrug from Coran hinted that her guess was as good as any. Allura continued to frown. “I really think Keith should stay on Arus. Hunk would be a better choice to attend the hearing.” There was no question as to who would be the second pilot to accompany Allura. Pidge, pilot of Green Lion, was one of the requested witnesses to be subpoenaed to attend the trial. No one was better equipped to speak on what had happened, then Pidge. And all because Lotor had taken the young man hostage when he had captured Allura.
“I think we need to stress to Keith how he should remain on Arus.” Allura said. “After all, who better to watch over the trainees than the captain of the Voltron Force?”
“I think the captain won’t like whatever reason we give him.” Coran sighed. “He wants to be at this trial…to the point I fear he is plotting something stupid.”
“Stupid? Like what?”
“I can’t say for sure. It’s just a feeling I have. But his anger may lead him to jeopardize everything. You are wise not to allow him to be part of your entourage.” Coran looked approving then.
“I wish Keith could see the wisdom to it.” Allura was sad then. She knew Keith was seeing everything Lotor had done to her, as a personal insult to himself. A failure, the man still having a hard time coming to grips to what had happened to Allura. It made him angry and violative, and Allura truly feared what would happen if Lotor and Keith crossed paths any time soon.
“He needs time.” Coran said wisely.
“How much more time am I to give him?” Allura retorted, then sighed. “That’s unfair of me. I know everyone has a different way of coping, a different amount of time needed before they can accept such news. But I wish he would take into account the effect his behavior is having on me!” She shook her head, then tried to change the subject. “Has everything been prepared for my departure?”
“Nanny is working the staff over time to get everything ready.” Coran told her. “Your bags are already packed and ready to be loaded onto Garrison’s ship.”
“Good.” That much pleased Allura. They weren’t sure though, how long this trial would take. It might play out for a few months. Allura tried to imagine being away from Arus for that long. It wasn’t a good feeling that came with the imagining, the princess knowing she would grow homesick pretty quickly.
“Everything is proceeding according to plan.” Coran continued. “I suggest you call an early night, and get as much sleep as you can.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to fall asleep.” Allura admitted. “My nerves are wound up too tight!”
“Please try.” Insisted Coran. She could only nod, knowing it wasn’t as easy as the advisor made it sound. She had a lot of restless energy, in addition to being nervous. Allura knew what might have worked to calm her down, but flying blue lion was now barred to her. She inwardly groaned, not looking forward to the long night that awaited her. Or the traveling she would have to do to reach planet Amestris. But she kept on telling herself it would be worth it in the end. That the Gods willing, Arus would be a free world once more.