Pride 15

It wasn’t particularly crowded in the recovery wing of the medical ship, the corridors mostly empty save for a few orderlies and nurses. They all bowed as Lotor passed, their faces struggling to remain impassive. They couldn’t quite keep out the sympathetic light in their eyes, and that only fueled Lotor’s worries for Cossack. It let him believe that the worse had surely happened, the prince trying to steel himself to put on a strong front for his friend.

He quickly came across the private room that had been assigned to the Commander. A doctor was present, as well as a handful of nurses. They surrounded Cossack’s bed, hiding the commander from sight. Lotor stood in the open doorway, just watching for a moment as he listened to the voices, and watched the flurry of activity. The nurses were checking on Cossack, one taking his vitals, another replacing his iv bag with fresh pain mediation.

The doctor held some kind of wand in his hand, a little wheel at the one end. A third nurse was pulling back the commander’s blankets, to reveal his bruised and battered looking legs. The doctor than proceeded to run the wheeled end down Cossack’s right leg, from knee to just before the toes. Lotor couldn’t see Cossack’s face, but he could hear the mounting panic in his voice.

“No.” Cossack said, then growled. “Damn you, I said no! I can’t feel it, I can’t feel anything down there!”

“What about this?” The doctor asked, pressing a claw into Cossack’s knee in an attempt to be thorough.

“You can poke and prod me all you like, and my answer will still not change!” lamented Cossack.

“The doctor is just trying to do his job.” Lotor spoke up, and the group around the bed reacted in surprise.

“Your highness.” The doctor said, offering up a bow to the prince. Lotor gave a slight nod to the doctor and nurses, several of them stepping back from the bed so he could see his friend’s face. Cossack was without his usual humor in his eyes, mouth in an uncharacteristic frown as he glared down at his legs.

“I don’t care what he’s trying to do. I already told them what they need to know. I can’t feel my legs!”

“We have to explore all avenues of possibility.” The doctor insisted. “There’s a chance, small as it may be, that you might…”

“Might what!?” interrupted Cossack with a rude noise. “Might not be an invalid for the rest of my life?!”

The doctor looked at Lotor, an almost helpless expression on his face. Drules could be notoriously difficult patients under the best of circumstances. They were a million times worse when they received news as bad as Cossack had. To a Drule mobility meant everything, and though Cossack was having no problem using his arms, he would truly feel worthless if he could never regain mobility in his lower half.

“Leave us.” Lotor ordered, and such was his authority that the doctor did not protest. A word to the nurses had them finish with the iv bag, and then the group was leaving. The door shut behind them, and Lotor inched closer to the bed.

“It’s bad prince.” Cossack said once they were alone. “I’ve no feeling in my legs from the thighs down. I can’t move them, and I certainly couldn’t feel all the touching the doctor and his nurses were doing!”

Lotor wasn’t sure what exactly to say, his mind seizing on something. “It’s just your legs?” Cossack fixed him with a bleak look, Lotor abashed. “Sorry.” He hadn’t meant to minimize the extent of Cossack’s injuries. “But…you can feel other things can’t you?”

“If you mean my prick, yes. That bitch who shot me down didn’t render me impotent.” But Cossack didn’t look happy. “I still have enough feeling down there that I don’t embarrass myself by pissing and shitting everywhere. I still have control of those functions, still can get an erection. For all the good it will do me.” Cossack pounded a fist on the mattress. “What woman will want me now?!”

“You’re a decorated general in the Doom Empire.” Lotor began, and Cossack snorted.

“It will mean nothing now. What does it get me except a few medals and a pension?! A lot of good that will do me, trying to find a wife. No Drule female will want a male that has been weakened.”

Lotor knew that was true, Drules especially the females hated weakness in their own race. They would want a man that was strong, and capable of fighting for them, not one that was bound to a wheelchair. “There’s always slaves.” Lotor tried to spin a positive out of it. They might not be as good as a wife, but they could take care of Cossack’s sexual desire.

“It’s not the same and you know it.” Cossack growled. “Sure they’re good for scratching an itch, but who makes a commitment to a slave?!” A pause then, Cossack snorting in disgust. “Only the most addle minded of Drules!”

There was on occasion when a Drule took such a strong shine to one of their slaves, that marriage was involved. Those Drules were generally looked down on for their stupidity, Lotor’s people feeling love and lust should be kept separate where slaves were concerned.

“Did the doctor not say anything to give you hope? Even just a small semblance of it?” Lotor finally asked.

Cossack quickly shook his head no. “Oh he tried. But it’s kind of hard to believe when even the doctor lacks optimism in his eyes.” A snort followed that, Cossack making a fist. “He says there’s a slim chance, maybe not even three percent, that I might regain feeling back in my legs.”

“That’s something though….”

“It’s not even ten percent!” Cossack snapped. “And he just said I’d might get feeling, like I’d be able to feel when something touches me there. He said nothing about being able to walk again!”

“Well, you’ll just have to prove him wrong.” Lotor decided. “Prove them all wrong by regaining full use of your legs!”

“Easier said then done.” Cossack muttered. A pause, and then Cossack was growling. “I hope you got the bitch that did this to me!”

“Of that you can be assured.” Lotor said. He knew what would be the right thing to do in this situation, to offer up Allura to Cossack to do as he saw fit. It was Cossack’s right to take revenge for what she had done to him, and yet Lotor couldn’t, wouldn’t hand her over. Not even to the man who was among one of his best friends.

“The former princess of Arus is currently coping as best she can with her new situation.” Added Lotor, and surprise was in Cossack’s eyes.

“That was Allura?!” Lotor nodded, and Cossack blew out a loud breath. “Damn…”

“You can say that again.”

“Hmph. I suppose I know what you’ve been doing all this time I’ve been unconscious!” Cossack exclaimed.

“Not….exactly.” hesitated Lotor. Cossack was curious, staring at him with unvoiced questions. “Haggar had one of her visions….”

“Oh man….” grumbled Cossack. “Don’t tell me you let her put you off fucking the slave!” Lotor shifted, uncomfortable, Cossack’s eyes widening. “You did, didn’t you?!”

“It’s bad…” Lotor told him. “Haggar said she saw my ruin, and possibly the ruin of the Doom Empire if I took Allura to bed. You can understand why I would be hesitant after getting news like that.”

“Yeah.” Cossack sighed. “I would have laughed at such a vision just days earlier. But that was before that brat ruined MY life.” He and Lotor both snorted at that. “Who would have thought she’d get lucky enough to land a hit on a ship, let alone hit it in such a way as to take it down?” Cossack sighed then. “The Gods must really hate me…”

“Now don’t say that.”

“But it’s true! I would have been better off dead than stuck like this!” Lotor was alarmed by Cossack’s words, letting his worry fill his eyes. “I’m not saying I’m going to do anything drastic…”

“You better not!” growled Lotor in a low threat.

“I mean, you don’t have to worry about me killing myself!” Cossack reassured him. “I’m not taking the coward’s way out of this.”

“Good. Because if there’s one thing you’re not, it’s a coward.” Lotor told him.

Cossack nodded in response. “Yeah. Though sometimes…oh I dunno…I haven’t had that much time to think. But the thought did cross my mind that if I had been a coward, I would never have been in this position to be crippled in the first place!” Lotor did not know what to say to that, echoing Cossack’s sigh.

“So tell me…” Cossack said, not content to let the conversation lapse into awkward silence. “Has Arus fallen completely?”

“A lot has been going on while you were unconscious.” Lotor told him. He tried to tease him, though he felt awkward in his attempts to what was normally such a natural act for them. “You’ve been sleeping on the job, missing out on the festivities.”

“Don’t you know I always wake up in time for the best parties?” Cossack quipped back, which put Lotor at ease.

“All pockets of resistance has been stamped out.” Lotor said. “You’ll see for yourself soon enough. The space around the planet is littered with the broken ships of the Arusian forces, it’s a carnage on a massive scale.” Lotor knew it would take decades to clean up, and that was provided the Drule gave a care to allow such a thing. Cossack seem satisfied to hear that, leaning against his pillows with a slight smile on his lips.

“We already made an official broadcast today about Arus’ defeat.” Continued Lotor. “I had just literally wrapped up my speech when word came to me that you had awakened.”

“Aw, but you didn’t have to rush off to see me!” Cossack protested.

“You are my friend.” Came Lotor’s simple answer. Cossack had to know what that meant, the value Lotor placed on him.

“I hope the speech you gave was suitably demoralizing. Not just to the Arusians, but to the rest of the galaxy.” Cossack said. A wistful look crossed his face. “I would have loved to have come along for the ride of subjecting the rest of the Denubian….”

“You may have to sit out for a few battles. but you know me. I’m still holding out hope that you will recover enough to join me for the rest of the Empire’s fight.” Lotor told him. Cossack looked away at that, but not before Lotor noticed the hopeless air about him. “We’re still searching for the remains of Voltron….” It was still to early to really expect any results on that front, though Lotor was impatient anyway. His return to Doom would be delayed so long as they didn’t have any salvageable parts to bring back with him.

“It’ll be the boring part of the invasion now, this waiting.” Lotor finished. He himself had expected to spend much of the waiting period enjoying Allura. Now he didn’t even have that to look forward to!

“Can’t Haggar use her magic to like…do a tracking spell?” Cossack asked. “What?”

“Haggar is in no shape to do any magic.” Lotor told him. “Nor is her coven. They’re all laid out in bed, comas for the lot of them save for Haggar. But the witch suffered worst of all….” He thought of Haggar’s heavily bandaged face, the puss that had leaked through the gauze and shuddered. Cossack did not miss that reaction he had had.

“That bad eh? And here I am feeling sorry for myself.” Cossack sighed. “I still can’t believe I got taken down by a human. By a mere slip of a girl. It’s embarrassing.”

“It would have been worse yet if you had let her succeed in being the death of you!” Lotor said fiercely.

“Keep that in mind for yourself as well.” Cossack advised. “I don’t know what Haggar’s vision means, but I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t.” Lotor assured him. “Now, get some rest. ”

“I think I spent enough of the last two days sleeping.” Grumbled Cossack, though he did look weary.

“I’ll see you later Cossack.” Lotor said, and moved away from the bed.

“Do me a favor prince.” Cossack called after him. “Keep the staff away from me. At least for the next few hours.”

“Will do.” Promised Lotor, and then he was exiting the room. A nurse glanced his way, and Lotor slowly shook his head no. She frowned, but seemed to accept that, moving to enter another room. Lotor echoed her frown, his thoughts still on Cossack as he began to walk back the way he had come. He was warring with a lot of emotions, relief chief among them all. But also sadness, and frustration at the situation Cossack found himself in, Lotor knowing he could do nothing. No matter how many people he threatened, killed, or bribe, it couldn’t force Cossack’s legs to move.

And with that knowledge came anger, Lotor snarling as one name came to mind. Allura. Without a doubt it was all her fault Cossack was in this mess, the girl’s hands dirty with the commander’s blood. And not just his, but the blood of countless others, Lotor remembering the friends he had lost to this war. ~None of this would have happen if she had agreed to marry me three years ago!~ A furious Lotor thought.

He still didn’t understand what he had done that was so abhorrent to her back when he was only seventeen years of age. Back then he had led a life under the radar, lazy and indulgent, his worse crime taking the form of being over affectionate to the house hold slaves. He doubted Allura had even heard of him before the proposed marriage was broached, Lotor just a faceless name tied to his father’s legacy.

His father’s activity had overshadowed anything else, the Drule building up a reputation not only for himself, but for their people and the Empire. It was glorious when the Doom Empire was succeeding, and Lotor would have thought that countless planets would have jumped at the chance to ally themselves so closely with it. Why it was practically unheard of for Doom to even consider sharing power, and yet that was what they had offered to Arus. Their two worlds would have combined, joining forces and becoming unstoppable. There would have been no downside, and many lives would have been saved, both Arusian and Drule.

And yet Allura and her father had considered none of that, so disdainful of the offer, sneering insults against the Drule. Lotor still remembered vividly the things Alfor had said during that call, how he had acted as if the Drules were pests, ones the human King would only be too glad to get rid of. Such blatant hatred towards the Drules had surprised the young prince, Lotor hadn’t been exposed to much racism against his own people back then.

He certainly hadn’t expected a King to be in so little control as to let hate interfere with business. If Alfor had been that out of control, no wonder he had poisoned his own daughter’s thoughts, making her hate just as strongly. That hate was everything, destroying the alliance before it had time to be in place, crushing any chance of peace between their worlds. The war had continued for three more years, and with each month it had seemed to grow more intense, the violence and rivalry between the two worlds igniting.

A prolonged war was expensive to maintain, but the Drules had had no choice. Arus continued to attack them, preventing their conquest of new worlds, and attempting to liberate the lands they had claimed. The worlds that were firmly entrenched as part of the Empire, had managed to remain that way, although sometimes just barely. Sometimes Alfor and his damn Galaxy Alliance cut off trade routes, preventing supplies from being brought to the home world. Often the unfortunates of Doom went hungry, food and medical supplies scarce.

The King and the nobles were often heard talking about the poverty stricken state of much of Doom. Zarkon himself never failed to miss a chance to drive home the point that this was all Arus’ fault, that none of this would be happening if they had agreed to the alliance. Lotor knew his people were starved and disease ridden, all because of Alfor and Allura’s hatred of the Drules. There was much blame to place on their shoulders, and with Alfor dead, Lotor wondered if Allura would be up to the burden.

One woman, a mere slip of a girl, couldn’t begin to atone for the hardships the Drules had suffered. The whole of Arus would be worked, the people in turn forced to toil at work that was meant to better the Drules’ situation. With Arus fallen, and Voltron destroyed, the Empire should be able to bounce back. To not just recover, but flourish, taking new worlds and people into the Empire.

It still wouldn’t change the past, Lotor knew this. No matter what he did, to Arus, and to the slaves, it wouldn’t bring back the dead. The torment of Allura and her people might be ultimately meaningless, accomplishing nothing in the long run. And yet Lotor couldn’t, wouldn’t stop. If only for some twisted personal satisfaction of gaining revenge on the girl who was responsible for so many disappointments.

Allura and her father weren’t the only ones to hate. Lotor also felt that emotion strongly. He despised the Arusians above all other races, and their princess most of all. He had held bitter disappointments for three long years, lost one too many friends to this war, but above all he had felt the pain of heart break at her refusal. Allura’s rejections had been the driving force to shape him into the man he had become, Lotor trying to model himself into the very monster she had feared. It was little surprise to anyone that he had succeeded.

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