Pause 26

He could hear the chaotic sounds of the command ship’s bridge in action long before the elevator doors opened. The noise only increased in volume as Lotor stepped out onto the bridge, crew members rushing past him. There wasn’t even time to acknowledge him, the men and women squeezing packed into the elevator. They were off on some mysterious errand, and Lotor could only hope their assigned task would somehow make a difference in the fight that was imminent.

Garrison’s ships were on screen, the monitor split into several views. Except for the initial firing of a pulse beam, Garrison had yet to actually engage Lotor’s ship with any display of attacks. But the peace wouldn’t maintain for long, sooner or later one of the sides would give in to impatience, starting the battle in earnest. Lotor didn’t like the fear that went through him at that thought, the prince knowing he was vastly underpowered for an encounter with so many enemy ships.

Counting the command ship, there was only three ships in total against what looked to be an entire fleet of Garrison ships. That fleet stood between them and Doom, the ugly brown planet still thousands of miles away. Even if Lotor’s ships were somehow to get past the Garrison barricade, they’d still have some way to go before they could get under Doom’s protective shielding.

Once again, Lotor prayed his father had understood what was happening. If they didn’t get reinforcements from planet Doom itself, the battle was lost before it had begun. There was only so much Lotor could do, especially with only three large ships and a smattering of star cutters. Those single man piloted ships had yet to be launched, Cossack and the other generals waiting for Lotor to make a decision.

Lotor did not immediately go to Cossack’s side, listening instead as the crew members dealt with the problems the jamming frequency was causing. They were all shouting to be heard over one another, giving reports of the situations throughout the ships. Occasionally a technician would be sent to relay orders to another part of the ship, the men and women having to go on foot. Even the hand held communicators were being affected by Garrison’s jamming signal. That signal’s effects were apparent on the view screens, the images waving as the monitors flickered from color to black and white and back to color again.

Wondering if there was any breakthroughs in an attempt to stop the jamming signal, Lotor stalked forward. His footsteps didn’t even merit a glance, not when so many were running about the area. But the crew wasn’t panicking, not yet at any rate.

“Ah, you’re here.” Cossack had noticed Lotor’s approach. His yellow eyes showed his worry, lines of tension creasing his face. The generals around him moved enough to admit Lotor into the circle, the men standing around a hologram of the space around planet Doom. Their computer was throwing out scenario after scenario, trying to find some way for Lotor and his three ships to win against Garrison. Lotor barely paid a look to the stimulated battles, already knowing how slim their chances for a win was.

“It’s not looking good.” Stated the General known as Brinker. Lotor fought back a scowl, thinking Brinker stated the obvious. “Without a larger number of ships, I fear we are defeated.”

“We’ll get those number of ships.” Lotor said, and the men reacted to the confidence in his voice.

“What? How?” demanded General Saladine. “We can’t even put out a call for help with this jamming signal in place!”

“I was speaking with my father when Garrison’s pulse beam forced our exit from hyperspace.” Lotor explained. “The King knows something is wrong.”

“Ah, the King!” Brinker looked relieved. “He’ll surely send back up!”

“He surely will.” Agreed Saladine.

“How are we making out on blocking Garrison’s jamming signal?” Lotor asked. He knew it would be a lot easier to coordinate an attack if they could communicate between ships.

“So far we have been unable to make any progress towards blocking it.” Cossack sighed. “We can’t even get a message out to the levels below, never mind between ships!”

“With the strength of that signal, I dare say even Doom is feeling the results of it!” added Brinker.

“All the more reason for my father to be motivated to send a fleet to investigate.” Lotor told them. “We just have to last long enough for reinforcements to arrive…”

“Garrison has yet to make any further moves against us.”

“Yes, but that won’t last. Sooner or later someone is going to get trigger happy…” Cossack grumbled. “Even with the princess of Arus onboard our ship.”

“It’s the princess of Arus that they want.” Saladine began, a nervous look towards Prince Lotor.

“Giving Allura to them is out of the question.” Lotor interrupted Saladine, his hand immediately going to rest on the hilt of his sword. Saladine took the hint, not trying to press the issue any further.

“Besides. Allura isn’t the only one they’ll be after.” Cossack pointed out. “Prince Lotor himself would make a fine catch for Garrison.”

“The fools probably think they’d end the war if they tried to use me against my father.” Lotor let the disgust slip into his voice. “As if the King would ever bargain away his ambition for anyone or anything!” Nods of agreement from the generals and commander, the three Drules all familiar with how King Zarkon thought and acted.

“Let’s face it…” Cossack continued. “All of us here have a hefty bounty attached to our names. This would be quite a coup for Garrison if they were to take us down.”

“Would they really risk it with the princess of Arus our prisoner?” Brinker wanted to know.

“There’s more at stake than the life of one girl.” Lotor told them. “They’d be fools to sacrifice the galaxy simply to ensure Allura remains unharmed.” He sighed and shook his head no. “This is not the overly noble members of the Voltron Force we deal with, but hardened war veterans who well understand that sometimes you have to sacrifice innocents to get results.” Lotor couldn’t help but scowl at that, the prince knowing how much easier things would have been if it was the Voltron Force they had to negotiate with.

The men around him shifted, unease in their expressions. None of them like the odds they were up against, or the fact that their bargaining chip wasn’t a fail proof tool against Garrison. Not that Lotor was ready to even consider the idea of giving up Allura and his child to his enemies. It would take a lot more than a fleet of Garrison for Lotor to part with his family, the prince staring not at the holograms but at the ships that blocked them from planet Doom.

“What is our status?” Lotor demanded. “What damage if any did that pulse beam do to our ships?”

Cossack lifted a data pad that had been resting on top of a nearby computer. A few buttons pressed, and he was reading of a report. “We’ve got minimal scarring on our starboard side….nothing that can’t be fixed. However, the more pressing concern is our engines. They are in great danger of overheating….” A bleak look was given Lotor. The prince could understand why. If the engines weren’t cooled down, they would explode, triggering fires through the hull of the ship. They had emergency doors that would seal off that area of the ship, preventing the fires from going any further up level. Unfortunately the doors wouldn’t do much to stop the radiation from seeping through to the rest of the ship.

Radiation poisoning was a big concern, Lotor’s eyes narrowing in worry. “You’ve diverted men to work on cooling down the engines.” It was more a statement than inquiry, Cossack nodding a yes.

“Every last drop of water is being sent to the engines in an attempt to cool them down by force. But..” Cossack hesitated, Lotor almost glaring at him in response.

“But what Commander?!”

“I’d advise that we get ready to evacuate at the first sign of the engines giving out on us.” Cossack finished with a sigh. He glanced down at the data pad. “Our weapon and shielding is still at ninety-eight percent working order.”

“All the good that will do us if we can’t even move the ship to do maneuvers” grumbled Saladine.

“We don’t know what the status is of the two ships that make up our escort. They may be having a similar problem with the engines, they may not be. We’ve no way to know for certain, what with this damn jamming signal disrupting our communications!” Cossack all but slammed down the data pad, a disgusted look on his face. “What would you have us do, sire?”

“Get the pilots prepared to launch our star cutters.” Lotor decided. “They need to buy us time for my father’s forces to arrive.”

“Do you really think they stand any chance against a fleet of that size?” Brinker asked.

“It’s not the best of odds, but it’s far better than surrendering.” Lotor retorted. “Has Garrison even tried to get in contact with us?”

“There was a call demanding our surrender about ten minutes ago.” Cossack gave a wolfish smile. “I told their commander to shove his demands up his ass! Heh….figured you’d have similar to say to them.”

“How right you are.” Lotor agreed with a smirk of his own. “I don’t intent to give up Allura, or to end up in a Garrison jail cell. Not now, not ever.” He turned his attention to the holograms. “Has anyone asked if Haggar can cobble together a robeast at the last minute? That would give Garrison something to focus on….”

“Already anticipated.” Cossack assured him. “Haggar’s got some unwilling victim in her lab…..but she said she needs time to complete the transformation.” A sigh then.
“She also warns this won’t be one of her finer examples of a robeast…”

“It’s better than nothing.” Lotor acknowledged.

“Nothing is all we really have…” grumbled Saladine. Lotor turned a glare on him, the Drule cowering back in apology. It wouldn’t do for the crew to hear their superiors talking with such a defeatist attitude, even if that was the truth. What good could a few hundred star cutters do against a whole fleet of ships? They were about to find out. Minutes would turn into seconds, soldiers running to relay the prince’s orders. By the time a full half an hour passed, the star cutters aboard Lotor’s command ship were launched.

The other two ships would quickly follow suit, scrambling to get their pilots ready to launch within a time frame of fifteen minutes. By that time several of Garrison’s larger ships had advanced towards Lotor and his escorts, a few warning lasers firing off. The shielding around the ship flickered steadily, taking a pounding from the laser beams. They couldn’t move, little more then dead weight in space thanks to the state of their engines.

There was a large cluster of star cutters that tried to take the brunt of the attacks by remaining close to the command ship. Explosions were constant, the tiny ships blowing apart when their shielding failed. Other ships flew away, trying to lead Garrison away from Lotor. Garrison’s ships opened their hangar bay doors, their one man fighter craft spiraling out to chase after the star cutters.

The lasers lit up the darkness of space, a multitude of bright colors spearing ships. Lotor was relieved to see Garrison hadn’t resorted to anything more dangerous than lasers, for another hit from a pulse beam might have caused the command ship to crack apart. The ship still shook occasionally when an especially potent laser beam smashed into it’s shielding.

The two ships that had escorted Lotor on his trip, were moving. It appeared they had no problem with over heated engines. One was attempting to move in front of the command ship, to act as it’s shield. The other was firing ion cannons, the shots taking out whole chunks off one of the larger Garrison ships. The ion shots were such that any of the smaller ships fool enough to wander into it’s path, were disintegrated on the spot.

Cossack’s voice was a continuos sound in the background, the commander shouting out orders. The crew busied themselves with working the shielding and the weaponry, their laser artillery picking off the smaller ships that came too close. But still the shielding flickering, losing power at a rapid pace. Too fast for it to be accounted solely to Garrison’s attacks alone. Lotor held back a curse, wondering if the damaged engines weren’t drawing power on the shields.

They weren’t going to last long at this rate, and Lotor had yet to see any sign of activity from planet Doom. He didn’t think his father would leave him to fend for himself, and yet he didn’t know what else to think of the delay. The ship shook again from the force of it’s shielding giving a little more, Lotor gritting his teeth as he gripped the arm rests of his seat.

He fought back a curse, knowing the fighting would get worse before it got to be better for his side. He refused to let his hopes be dashed. refused to believe his father’s reinforcements would not come. But the Garrison ships were surrounding his, pressing in closer and closer as they tried to block any potential escape route. Not that the command ship could go anywhere, not with the engines in the pitiful state they were in.

When the first explosion rocked the ship violently from side to side, Lotor was sure the engines had blown. He lurched up right, voice snarling. “What was that? Was it the engines?!”

“Sire, no!” Came the frantic answer. “Engines are just barely stable, but that explosion came from outside the ship.”

“What was the cause?” Lotor demanded.

“They appear to be dropping missiles on us. Our shielding won’t last much longer against this kind of assault!”

“Damn it!” swore Lotor, making a fist. The ship would rock with another explosion, Lotor falling backwards into his seat. A few shouts from Cossack, and the crew would be rotating the ship’s arsenal, having them focus on the missile dropping ships. Laser beam after laser beam would fire, scoring the underside of Garrison’s ships. Their shields weakened but did not give, the missiles contnuing to fall.

“Your highness!” A frantic female cried out. “A Garrison ship is approaching on the eastern starboard at maximum speed. They appear as though they are going to ram us!”

“Ram us?!” He heard Cossack swearing up a storm, the commander ordering the crew to focus all power to the shielding on the eastern starboard. It would make no difference, the weak shield falling apart as the Garrison ship slammed into Lotor’s. The command ship quaked, rocking from side to side in such a violent way that those that were not seated immediately fell over.

Lotor gripped the sides of his seat, feeling vertigo take him from the way the ship was shaking. An alarm had gone off, loud and annoying. It would be followed by the lights dimming, emergency power kicking on to keep the ship from plunging into total darkness. “What’s our status?!” Lotor shouted, and for a second no one spoke. “Damn it, what’s happening?!”

“Answer his highness!” snarled Cossack, who had just hauled himself up off the floor.

A shaky voice would respond, the woman pulling herself over to a computer. “Our shielding is down. They’ve smashed into level 2, section 8A. The sprinkler system has been activated…” A pause, a horrified gasp issuing out of the woman. “We’re being boarded by enemy soldiers!”

“BOARDED!?” echoed Cossack, who then spat.

“Prince Lotor, this is hopeless. We must evacuate.” Cried General Saladine.

“We are not going to evacuate.” Lotor told him. “Not without Allura at least.” He made eye contact with Cossack. “Get out the word….every able fighter is to head to level 2…Kill any and all Garrison scum on sight.”

“Yes, sire!” Cossack managed somehow to grin, even as he began shouting for crew members to leave the bridge to relay the orders to the soldiers on the lower levels.

“What will you do in the meantime?” demanded Saladine. “Do you honestly believe Zarkon is sending reinforcements, even this late in the game?”

“I don’t know what my father is doing.” Admitted Lotor. “But I’m not about to just sit here and wait for Garrison to come arrest me. Cossack, you’re with me.”

“Okay sure. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.” Cossack already had his blaster drawn, and was checking his charge.

“General Brinker, you’re in charge on the bridge. Whatever happens, don’t let Saladine give the call to evacuate. We leave together, or not at all.” Lotor told them, a steely eyed look in his eyes. His gaze turned even more hostile when Saladine opened his mouth to protest. The general wisely interpreted Lotor’s angry glare, and kept silent save for a muttered sentence.

“I don’t like this…”

“None of us do General.” Lotor retorted, and drew his sword. Cossack and several other soldiers followed him towards the elevator.

“What’s the plan, Prince?” Cossack asked.

“We’ve got to get to Allura.” Lotor told him. “I’m not leaving without her.” Cossack wisely did not argue with him, not even to point out that Allura’s room was located all the way on the other side of the ship.

“We should probably pick up Haggar too while we’re at it….” Cossack suggested, and Lotor rolled his eyes. But he knew he couldn’t leave without his father’s pet witch. He’d never hear the end of it if something happened to Haggar. Not so long as Zarkon had use for the witch. It was just a twist of good luck that Haggar’s rooms were situated so that they wouldn’t have to deviate much from their path to Allura. But it still made Lotor anxious, the prince wanting no delays to keep him from Allura. When a new explosion went off, triggering the overhead sprinkler systems in the elevator, Lotor gasped out a curse. The explosion had come from above them, some kind of damage being done to the bridge.

“Damn…” Cossack swore softly. He looked as shaken as Lotor felt. In fact all the soldiers present in the elevator looked unnerved. They surely realized they had just avoided catastrophe by mere seconds. Lotor didn’t know what damage had been done to the bridge, but he had a feeling lives had been lost. And that motivated him all the more to find Allura and get her to the escape pods.

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