Witch Hagger had been sleeping when the latest attack began. After years of paranoia, living among a court filled with the most vicious of back stabbing nobles, and scheming courtesans, she had honed the art of sleeping lightly to perfection. So when the ship began rocking violently from rapid gunfire, she immediately sat up, heart pounding in her ears.
But she didn’t allow fear to cloud her judgment. She quickly beat back her worries, and got dressed. That was something that never took long to accomplish. Since the accident that had scarred her whole body, Hagger never had much use for a flashy wardrobe. In fact, except for some red and black ceremonial robes, her closet was filled with over a dozen drab brown cloaks. Simplicity really was best, when you spent as much time as she did in shadows.
Although even in a rush, she always had time to slip on one small accessory. She kept it hidden away from prying eyes, underneath her clothing. It was no witches amulet, or ward against magic that she prized so. Though in a way, it was her good luck charm. A simple gold chain, where a small piece of lazon in it’s purest form, quartzite hung. Given to her by King Zarkon, back when they both had been younger, and she still beautiful. The gift had made her cry, real tears, tears of pure joy. She was convinced this was proof of Zarkon’s love.
After all, the greedy King had practically outlawed the practice of making lazon jewelry, instead ordering all that was mined be ground up and converted into energy. Naturally the merchants had complained, saying lazon quartz was one of their most productive exports. They also used the argument about how a lot of the quartz had to be mined just to produce enough energy to turn on a lamp. The mining costs alone would be the planet’s ruins. Zarkon ignored all this, seeing not devastation, but prosperity in his lazon dreams. He calmed the protesting people with promises of how a little time and effort would reward them well. They would have more than enough cheap manual labor for the mines–so many slaves, they wouldn’t know what to do with them all.
And after a time, his words proved true, as more planets fell before him, their ship’s fire power not being able to break through lazon shields, their steel being crushed by lazon swords, not to mention the speed they got from it, that regular fuel could not provide, let alone match. Lazon had indeed proven more valuable as energy than as tawdry jewelry.
What little quartz baubles were now made, fetched high prices. Only the truly rich and powerful could afford to buy a lazon token of his affection for his lady love. It never occurred to Hagger that perhaps Zarkon could afford to give such gifts to any and all women he was currently wooing. No, such a thought never occurred, then or even now. Instead, the young woman had almost never went anywhere without the necklace. The few times Hagger had, it had bought her nothing but heartbreak.
The first time had occurred after a quarrel with Zarkon. She left the necklace in her jewelry box, along with other his other gifts. Usually not wearing any of his baubles, especially the necklace, got him to apologize immediately. But no that day! Oh no, that horrible day, was the day he took into his head to marry some slave–a princess from a planet that bore no worth to even bother mentioning it’s cursed name!
Hagger did not speak to Zarkon for weeks over this insult, and it was months before she let him back into her bed. By then, the sham of a marriage was close to being dissolved, or so she thought. Zarkon had seemed dissatisfied with having to endure the Slave Queen’s pitiful cries of disgust and distress every time he mated with her. He quickly wormed his way back into Hagger’s good graces with carefully scripted words, and extravagant gifts. The necklace went back on, and everything was wonderful, more or less.
Eventually Lotor was born, and when he was about five or six years of age, Zarkon finally tired of his Slave Queen. He had begun beating her often, and in public, and when she dared tell him how to raise HIS son, he struck her…and down she tumbled…off the throne’s inordinately high dais…to end up sprawled like a broken doll before her young son’s feet…
Perhaps tiring of his son’s incessant whining for his mother, his cries over where did she go, Prince Lotor was soon shipped off to boarding school, and then military school. And he never spoke of his mother’s death–her murder. She supposed he had completely blocked it from his mind…he had been too young to withstand such trauma. Lucky for Zarkon…and Hagger? How her black heat had sung with joy to see the strumpet’s eyes glossed over with death, her neck broken. It should have meant Zarkon was all hers now…as would be the crown of Queen! At least…that was how it SHOULD have turned out…she had waited as patiently as she could for Zarkon’s proposal…but when it never came…she began dropping hints, and then outright DEMANDING he marry her. Heated words would follow, and then explosive arguments. Why would he marry a SLAVE and not HER?!
After one most brutal argument, which was now a daily occurrence between the two hot tempered Drules, it had come time for her to trick Voltron’s pilots. His words still rang in her ears, his answer to her question, most crudely phrased. She burned with anger, but also shame…she would prove to Zarkon she was the best match for him…he would beg her to marry him, and she would REFUSE. Laugh in his face over the absurdity of such a union!
In a hurry for this scenario to happen, she had rushed in her dressings, leaving the necklace behind…and she had succeeded in defeating Voltron…but at a cost…her beauty…her position in court…even her voice…It too had been made ugly, the damaged vocal cords making her every whisper the screech of a harpy. Anything Zarkon had ever claimed to feel for her, vanished, leaving only contempt in it’s wake.
It was he who first started in with the name Hagger. The name quickly caught on, and soon there was few if any who remembered what her real name had been. And she preferred it that way…better the name never be associated with the beauty she once had been.
And so, she always kept the necklace near…it may be a case of too little, too late, but she had so little now…she couldn’t afford to lose anything else. So she catered to her superstitions, and or course…her resentments.
“What’s going on?!” demanded Hagger, as she stormed out onto the Bridge. “Is it Demos again?” She caught sight of the lions on the view screen. “Are we caught in the crossfire between a battle with Arus and Demos again?!”
“Actually, my mistress most cruel…” Her simpering aide, Biran said. “We are currently battle Arus.”
“On whose orders?” She demanded.
“My dark mistress, they’ve engaged us…and Demos.” replied Biran.
“WHAT?!” screeched Hagger in disbelief. Arus never did that. They took the role of pacifists to extremes previously unheard of in the rest of the Galaxy. “What are those space rats up to now?”
The ship lurched suddenly to the right, and Hagger almost fell to the floor, if not for Biran’s arms suddenly around her. Shooting an angry glare at those around her, she shoved Biran away from her, standing on her own two feet. She was gratified to see no one laughed over her mishap. At least here, they were to scared of her magical power to do or say anything to her face.
“And here comes Demos now…” Biran said to her, as the pilots hurried to steer the ship to a better vantage point. Hagger didn’t say anything, inwardly fuming over her lot in life. Damn Zarkon for forcing her to be here! Claiming with Lotor gone, he needed someone he could TRUST keeping an eye on the Arus situation. She was a sorceress not a battle technician!
“Mistress, what are your orders?” It was merely a formality he asked her this question. Everyone knew she didn’t know what to do with war fare, unless it involved robeasts or magic spells.
“Er…” Hagger nervously wrung her hands as she stared at the viewscreen. “Release the Robeast!” When in doubt, fall on that tried and true method. Usually a good one–a damn good one! Especially when Voltron wasn’t around to do some slicing and dicing…
“Whaoh, a robeast already?” Pidge pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Either they’re getting desperate or lazy.”
“Perhaps both.” said Lance. “We’re finally wearing ’em down team!”
“Don’t celebrate just yet, you two.” cautioned Allura. “The battle’s just started.”
“Whatever you say Princess.” replied Lance. “Though that is one pitiful looking monster. I guess the creatures Hagger’s been snatching off of Arus make for substandard Robeasts.”
“Lucky for us then.” said Pidge. “This should be over in mere minutes!”
It really was a pathetic looking Robeast, maybe half the size of a normal one. And it most definitely did not make up for it’s smallness in the area of speed. It
s…l…o…w…l…y…inched toward them, looking like a greenish-brown ball of yarn, with no facial features they could see.
Patience never being his strong point, Lance slammed on the thrusters, and Red Lion rammed into the Robeast head first. Seemingly stunned, it stopped all movement, just waiting. Red Lion’s mouth dropped open, flaming up. Zooming in close, Lance activated the flame thrower, setting the Robeast ablaze.
It screeched in pain, and seemed to draw into itself…and then…tentacles shot out, some wrapping around Red Lion, as it unfurled itself, revealing a face…no…a very toothy maw, it’s large fang’s glistening with poison.
“Uh…a little help here people!” Lance yelled, trying not to sound scared as he was dragged closer and closer to the Robeast’s mouth.
“You’re doing great Lance!” Keith’s face appeared on Red Lion’s monitor. “This performance of yours will keep them from noticing anything out of the ordinary!”
“Acting? Who’s acting?!” Lance frantically punched in commands, trying to break free. “If you guys are going to do anything, do it now before I end up as this freak’s lunch!!”
“Lance, try cutting off all power to your shielding.” advised Pidge, his lion approaching the robeast at a much slower speed than Red Lion had. “Then divert it to your reverse thrusters. It SHOULD slow the monster’s pull down.”
Trusting the young pilot’s advice, Lance did just that, and for one instant all was still. Then the Robeast added more tentacles, and began pulling him in harder.
“PIDGE!!” A bit of panic appeared in Lance’s voice.
In response, the back of Green Lion opened, and twin missile launchers raised into view. The proper key sequence was coded in, and each emptied out their load–24 heat seeking missiles in all. Robeasts were cold blooded by nature, but Red Lion’s flames led them right to it. Slamming into it, each making a mini explosion on different section of the monster’s body, the tentacles slipped off Red Lion. The few that remained in place, were taken care of by Blue Lion, which had materialized a knife in it’s mouth.
Once free, Lance wasted no time flying away from the Robeast. “Now what?!” He demanded, angry at himself for getting caught so easily.
“Our back up forces arrive to assist us with the robeast.” Keith said. “Time to play tag you three.”
“Right-o Keith.” Pidge said, activating his thrusters. The other two lion pilots did the same. The next part of their plan was to be constantly on the move, here, there, and back again. Never being in one place for very long, confusing the enemy, so that after a while, they would hopefully give up trying to keep track of the lions, and not notice there was only one on the field.
The Alliance ships were now in position, only a few broke off to do drive bys on the robeast. “No No No NO!!” shouted Keith. “You’re doing it all wrong! Try weaving in and out of those tentacles!”
“Easier said than done Keith!” hissed Allura, frantically spinning out of control from a glancing blow by said tentacle.
“Pull up Princess! PULL UP!!” ordered Keith.
“I’m trying!” She retorted, knuckles white as she gripped the steering wheel. “Phew!” The scenery was no longer a blur before her.
“Sloppy Princess, sloppy!” admonished Keith.
Gritting her teeth, she bit back the angry retort that came to mind. She could curse Keith out after the battle was over. “Pidge, let’s do a pretest with only two lions out in the open.” Allura suggested. “Break off and give the signal to your team to follow.”
“Roger that Princess.” responded Pidge. The lions did several more passes, zig zagging back and forth in seemingly random patterns. On one such pass, Green Lion flew in close to the Alliance ships, and just vanished. Now ships hiding behind a mountain, activated their cloaking devices and hurried after the similarly invisible Green Lion.
“So far, so good…” murmured Allura, flipping a switch. Blue Lion shimmered for an instance, but other wise there appeared no change. “Let’s see if Pidge’s device will fool them!” She and Lance continued their erratic flight patterns, though to all watching it really did seem as though all three lions were up there. That’s because the contraption Pidge had installed in Allura’s lion, cloaked it in illusion. With one push of a button, Allura could appear to be any lion she chose to be.
“Okay, you two. Either they’ve fallen for the ruse, or they’re just pretending too.” Keith again. “Now as good a time as any to find out, so pull out Lance.”
“Already on it Captain.” Lance said. “Good luck Allura.”
“Thanks. To you as well, Lance.” Allura said, her nerves wound up unbelievably tight from tension. It was going to be tough to fool them into believing there was three when it was just her buzzing around up there. Thank Goodness she did not have to pretend to be all five lions!
“Allura…be…be careful…” Keith’s voice was low, sounding strained. He was always uncomfortable with showing any emotion. “At the first sign of trouble, I want you to come back to the castle.”
“I’ll be fine Keith.” Allura insisted, tracking Red Lion on the screen. “Showtime…” She said, as Lance disappeared from sight.
“What the Hell are they doing?” muttered Hagger. “Their movements make no sense! Just flying about the field, making half hearted attempts to shoot down my Robeast!”
She slumped down in the command chair, a place of honor, usually reserved for Prince Lotor. She was grateful to have such competent men, able to man the ships, and defend against Demos without her constantly having to bark out orders…orders she herself had no training to be even begun to comprehend what they meant, or how to properly employ them. It really was fortunate she was here with the crew Lotor had trained so well. They were able to make decisions on their own, not needing a hand holding from their superiors. But that didn’t mean she didn’t feel left out from what was going on around her. In fact…she was bored, having nothing to do while the crew was busy dealing with the running of the ship. She had nothing to do but sit and sulk about this boring job Zarkon had foisted off on her.
“I mean, are they not even going to try to kill my Robeast?” Hagger’s workmanship pride was being insulted. “I know it’s not my best work, but considering the conditions I’ve had to work under…”
“Nay Mistress! It is your best work ever!” sucked up Biran. “See how long it lasts in battle! It almost ate Red Lion. And it will get another chance…to do that and more, it will…”
“Enough you simpering toady.” Hagger waved him away from her. “Go make yourself useful down there.” With his head lowered, he left her side, and soon began annoying the navigator. Alone once again, her thoughts turned inward, damning Zarkon for the umpteenth time. She drummed her fingernails on the armrest, peeved at what this was costing her. Taking her away from her lab, her experiments, HIM. How’d she love to make him pay…preferably in a way that couldn’t be tied back to her…
“They’re awfully slow moving today.” She made a half hearted attempt to pay attention to the battle. “They started out fast, but then…could this be a new weakness to exploit…” That made her smile. “Maybe the lions only have enough power to last in a short battle?” Hagger stared at the screen. Actually the lions seemed to be fast enough, passing by her robeast. It was just taking a long time for each one to make the return trip. “Someone…adjust the range of the viewscreen! I want the picture to take in as much of the area as it can.”
Although suprised by this request, the technicians hurried to do as she asked. Hagger never took this big an interest in battles, usually preferring to watch close up shots of her robeasts.
“Hmm…interesting…” Hagger cocked her head to one side. “We have three lions and yet we don’t…” Why would they be going off to one corner, and only coming out one at a time? “Track that lion.” She ordered. “Full close up. I don’t want it off the screen for even a millisecond.”
“But…Mistress Hagger, that takes time and attention…” The viewscreen technician protested. “Not to mention man power that we need to deal with…”
“You dare question our mistresses’ orders?!” demanded Biran, just as Hagger snapped. “Do it!” Rising out of her seat, she glared at the technician. “Or else!”
Not wanting to find out what, “Or else” entailed, he hastened to put her order through. His crew frantically began training all cameras to follow what was now Blue Lion. For the next few minutes, Hagger just stood there, staring. Silent except for a few suprised grunts.
“Well, well, well…it IS one lion…” She muttered to herself, having used her magical far sight to see what happened when the lion went into the mountain’s shadows. “But which one…and how can I use it to MY advantage?”