Letting out a deep, shaky breath, Allura reholstered her blaster, a cautious hand reaching to grip the rocky crevice’s edge. She was pulling herself up and out of her hiding spot, Allura’s eyes not for Lotor so much as it was for the twitching body of the Keraclon. Even in death, it’s body spasmed, and it nearly arched up off the ground to follow Lotor’s sword, the Drule prince giving a mighty heave to tear it free of the Keraclon’s chest.
He didn’t look towards her, Lotor staring down at the Keraclon, lips forming a disgusted sneer. His good arm was shaking his sword out, huge drops of the Keraclon’s blood flying. It wasn’t colored the typical red of both the humans and the Drules, instead being an unhealthy green. It just reminded Allura of the differences between them and the alien, the princess slowly approaching Lotor and the dead Keraclon.
It had fallen face down onto the ground, Lotor having struck it’s vitals from behind. She knew in his injured state, the prince had only been able to strike a killing blow thanks in part to her, Allura having fired off her blaster repeatedly. It had stunned the creature, enough so that it was weakened, and though they could have just left it there to wile out the hours in sleep, Allura knew the alien had had to die.
It didn’t make her stomach what they had done any easier, Allura not the type to enjoy killing. Not like Lotor probably did, Allura fighting the impulse to turn and stare at him. Instead she studied the Keraclon, noting the ragged strips of clothing the alien wore. Those tears allowed room for the spiky protrusions that grew out of the Keraclon’s skin, each tip jagged and sharp. It sorta reminded Allura of an earth creature, but no earth animal had ever had spikes as thick and long as these.
They were as thick as a human man’s arms, and the rumors had it that the Keraclon were able to eject the spikes from their bodies. Such deadly looking objects would make effective projectiles, and Allura was grateful this one hadn’t thought to do that. She didn’t know for certain if a Keraclon could really use those spikes as a weapon, so little was known about the actual species’ physiology.
The fact that one was dead at her feet afforded her a great opportunity, Allura knowing the scientists at Garrison would kill for a chance to study and dissect a Keraclon. But with Lotor injured, she had no way of bringing this Keraclon’s body to her lion, and she sighed at the opportunity lost. Still she knelt down besides it, studying it’s body, noting the feet whose toes were short claws, a dozen on each appendage.
That included it’s hands, the claws longer and sharper here, to better grasp and rend apart it’s prey. The claws from both the hands and the feet made a distinctive sound when the Keraclon moved, the clitter clatter of them a loud announcement of their arrival. Allura shivered and began to reach out to touch the Keraclon, and it was Lotor’s injuries that made him too slow to stop her.
“What are you doing?!” He demanded, as her hand touched the Keraclon’s arm. Some kind of moisture that wasn’t blood soaked into her gloves, Allura wondering at it’s purpose. “Leave it.”
“I want to see.” Allura insisted, struggling to roll the Keraclon onto it’s back. It was only through the weight training she had recently undergone, that Allura had enough muscle to move the heavy alien. She stared with sheer curiosity at it’s face, noting it’s red colored skin, and the pupil less eyes that were all black. They stared back at her, sightless, it’s mouth still open in it’s snarl of angry pain. She could see row upon row of fangs, and they weren’t the neat incisors of the Drule, but jagged points that reminded her of a shark.
It’s nose was almost nonexistent, just two holes to allow it to breathe. The true form of the Keraclon was as gruesome to behold, as it was to withstand the fear they induced, Allura thinking they needn’t cloak themselves in illusion to cause her to fear them. And with that thought came the sudden realization, Allura jerking her gaze up to the frowning Prince Lotor’s.
“The fear!” She gasped, realizing it had never left, perhaps hadn’t even lessened in intensity. The urge to flee, to leave Lotor behind was still strong in her, the Keraclon’s telephaty trying to ensure no help would come to the Drule prince. “It’s still here…”
“There’s more than one Keraclon pursuing me.” Lotor told her, and she couldn’t help the shiver that coursed through her. She shouldn’t have thought it would be over with the death of just one, the waves of fear too strong, signifying that there was more out there. But how many? It could be just a handful, or a small army. Either one could be responsible for the fear, the numbers would just affect how wide an area they could blanket with their waves of fear.
“We better go.” Allura said, pushing up off her knees.
“An excellent idea.” Lotor said, sheathing his sword. He was leaning back against the wall of rock, looking at her expectantly. Allura held back a sigh, and came over to him, offering her body as a crutch for him to use. A glimmer of a smile was on his face as he put his arm over her shoulders, Lotor once again leaning heavily into her. Their height differences made it awkward, Lotor having to crouch down, while Allura strained herself on tip toe, walking almost as funny as Lotor’s limp.
They didn’t look back at the dead Keraclon, Allura moving them determinedly forward. “Should we really just leave it there?” She asked Lotor out loud. He gave a nod, seeming uncaring about the body.
“If the Keraclon care about their own, they’ll tend to the body. Lotor shrugged then. “If not, once they leave, the scavengers will make a fine meal out of it. Either way, it’s no longer our problem.”
“Yeah.” Silence for a few seconds, and then Allura glanced at him. He was looking straight ahead, but his brow was furrowed, sweat staining the sides of his face. She realized he was concentrating on ignoring his pain, and though she felt bad for him, she kept from commenting on it. She knew there was little she could do for him at the moment, save for continuing to support him in a bid to reach her lion.
But there was still some ways to go before they could reach blue lion, and every step had to be a torment for Lotor. Truth be known, it was a small agony for Allura as well, the princess fearing they would stumble across more of the Keraclon.
“What is it?” Lotor asked, having noted she was staring at him rather than the direction they were moving in.
“It’s nothing.” Allura said, shaking her head no. “Just thinking.”
“Can’t keep your eyes off my handsome face.” She was incensed by that until she realized it was Lotor’s attempt at a joke, Allura giving a rueful smile.
“Something like that.” She muttered, noting the strain that showed around his eyes. “Maybe we should stop and let you rest a bit.”
“We can’t afford that chance!” Lotor protested, not even slowing. “Every minute we delay, is a second that brings the Keraclon closer to us.”
“True..” Allura agreed with a sigh. “I just don’t want you to collapse before we can get to my lion.”
“I won’t.” He grunted, then smiled. “Drules are made of sterner stuff than humans.”
“So I hear…” She murmured, deciding not to take insult. She doubted he had meant it in an offensive way, and it seemed petty to quibble over whether Drules had better stamina than humans.
“You’ve gotten better.” Lotor said, after another five minutes passed in silence. Again she glanced at him, a question in her eyes. “With your blaster I mean. You hit that Keraclon dead center, he would have died if you hadn’t had it on stun.”
She flushed then, angry at herself for such a mistake. “I wasn’t thinking when I opened fire.” Allura admitted. “I should have pushed past the fear to change the setting on my weapon.”
“There’s no need to feel ashamed.” Lotor reassured her. “Anyone could have made that mistake with the Keraclon’s fear pressing in on them.”
“I bet you wouldn’t have.” She said, and he smiled. “Or Keith…”
“Well, the captain and I have been at this much longer than you have.” Lotor reassured her. “And it was impressive. I remember the last time I saw you shoot…You didn’t come close to hitting me.”
Her blush bloomed crimson, Allura remembering how she had open fire on an amorous Lotor. He had cornered her near her lion, spouting such nonsense about marrying her, and uniting their two kingdoms. She had been terrified then, sure he was going to kidnap her, and take her back to Doom. It had been sheer desperation that caused her to open fire on him, and the closest she came to scoring a direct hit was to shoot up the ground before his toes.
“I’ve been practicing.” Allura informed him, and again he flashed that disarming smile.
“You know?!” She demanded with a frown. “Have you been spying on me?!”
“Doom has an extensive intelligence network when it comes to obtaining information.” Lotor retorted. “And it wasn’t as though you were trying to hide what you were doing. Though I wonder why you go to such efforts…”
“I want to be able to fight off the menace of your people!” She interrupted him. Lotor continued without so much as a blink, looking totally serious.
“Then marry me, and Arus need not have to worry about Doom.” Allura’s mouth dropped open in shock, taken aback by what he said. “Think on it Allura. Your people wouldn’t be enslaved, would no longer need to hide. We could help you, advance your cities, share technology with you, help you to recover from the war.”
“I wouldn’t do that!” Allura snapped back. “I wouldn’t save Arus at the expanse of the rest of the Galaxy. I know you, I know your father. He would use Voltron to go on a galaxy spanning conquest. Those people’s torment would be on my shoulders…”
“It’s true my father WOULD want to use Voltron to further his own ambitions.” Lotor agreed. “But you shouldn’t judge me or my people based on his actions alone.”
“I don’t.” Allura retorted coldly. “I’m well aware of the evil you have done on your own. The crimes and misdeeds your Drule do, continue to commit.”
“Allura, we are at war.” Lotor sounded exasperated then. “Of course each side will be seen to do evil to the opposition. And lest you forget, you and your people’s hands are not clean of blood. Your Voltron Force alone has killed plenty of Drules, and attacked our holdings.”
“That was in self defense!” Allura hissed, outraged and angry. “Your people started this war…keep it going day after day, year after year! We’re only protecting what is ours!”
“Oh? Is it protection when you come to attack a planet that has nothing to do with Arus? When you attempt to liberate a world from the Doom Empire?” Lotor’s tone
was mild, as though he was making polite inquiry.
Allura was at a loss for words only for a moment, and then she snapped out a retort. “It is when you would use that world’s resources to further devastate Arus!”
“Those worlds you sought to liberate from Doom, some of them were peaceful, the people settled into a good life.”
“As slaves?” She demanded caustically.
“No, as citizens of Doom! Take Tyrus for instance. The people were on equal grounds with the Drules, and they were flourishing under my father’s rule. Flourishing until your Voltron Force came along and upset everything!” Lotor retorted.
“They’re free now, and that’s all that matters.” Allura replied, and Lotor let out a bitter laugh.
“Do you really believe that? Free…” He practically spat out the word, his disgust palpable. “At what cost? They’re badly impoverished now, the people starving and out of work. Just one more planet left for the Alliance’s charity. Oh yes, so much better to be free and poor, then to be thriving, productive members of the Doom Empire!”
She was turning red again, Allura feeling the heat in her cheeks. Though not from an embarrassed blush, but from her anger at his words. “And how does the Doom Empire decide who to enslave, and who to make citizens?!”
“It’s simple.” Lotor told her. “Those who are not with us, are enemies, and should be treated as such.”
“Arus knows all too well how you treat your enemies.”
“We could be so much more Allura. Friends, allies….lovers…” Lotor smirked at the last, and she turned cold and haughty.
“That will never happen.”
“How can you be so sure?” He wanted to know, and she stared straight ahead.
“After Doom’s crimes? There can be nothing but hostility between our two worlds.” He started to make a protest, and she turned almost savage then. “If you persist in this line of talk, I will leave you here, my sympathies be damned!”
“So the conversation isn’t going the way you like, so you just abandon it?” Lotor asked, snide and displeased with her. She began to step away from him, and he tightened his arm’s hold on her to keep her near. “Fine…have it your way princess. I’ll say no more. But someday you’ll be ready to hear me out.”
“It won’t be anytime soon.” Allura retorted, and pressed her lips into a thin line, signaling the end of the conversation. Thankfully Lotor seemed to heed her threat, lapsing into silence, though he didn’t loosen his arm’s hold. If anything, he continued to lean even heavier against her, Allura struggling not to fall over as they moved. Save for their breathing, and the occasional burst of hot air that the nearby volcanoes let out, it was quiet. Perhaps too quiet, Allura shivering and finding her thoughts starting to wander.
The waves of fear the Keraclon were emitting chipped away at her mind, Allura finding she was more susceptible to them when she wasn’t filled with anger at Lotor. And yet she didn’t want to continue the upsetting attempt at a discussion about their worlds’ war, Allura staring stoically ahead.
“How much further.” Lotor asked, gruff tone interrupting the silence when nearly twenty minutes had passed them by.
“Not too much further.” Allura sighed then, feeling tired of having to hold up Lotor. But she didn’t comment a loud that he was holding back her progress, Allura shifting her hand around his waist.
“Let us pray the Keraclon haven’t come across your lion.” Lotor muttered, and she startled at that. What would they do if the lion had been discovered, if even now the Keraclon were laying in wait, intending to trap them as she walked them towards their only escape from this planet? Her new found worries must have shown on her face, Lotor suddenly nuzzling his lips against the side of her scalp. “I’m sorry.” He said, even as she bristled at the intimate touch. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“I’d be a lot less worried if you’d stop taking chances to sneak inappropriate touches!” Allura said, some of her temper flaring. He smiled though, leaving her to wonder if he had done that to purposefully distract her from her worries. Either way, she wouldn’t thank him, dragging him over to steep incline of rock and tar. She left him leaning against the wall of it, and stared up at the hill.
“Don’t tell me we have to climb this to get to your lion…” Lotor moaned, and Allura nodded.
“Afraid so.” A sigh then, from both of them. “The only other way is blocked off by a river of lava. I doubt you want to try crossing THAT.”
“I don’t.” Lotor agreed, and closed his eyes for a moment. “All right…let me just get a breath in.”
“Take your time.” Allura said, studying him in concern. “Will you be able to manage? With your foot and arm like that?”
“As long as I have you to support me, I should be fine.”
And still she worried, Allura pulling off her pack, to rifle through the contents. She found two small bottles of water, barely bigger than her hand’s grip. She uncorked them, and gave one to Lotor, encouraging him to drink it. He took it from her gratefully, gulping the water down almost faster than was healthy. Allura herself drank only a little slower, the heat of the volcanoes having made her more thirsty than she had first realized.
Lotor was prepared to throw the bottle on the ground, when Allura took it from him. She put it back in her pack, wanting no sign that they had come this way. “Smart thinking.” Lotor noted, looking rueful that he hadn’t thought to do that himself. “But then you’ve always had a sharp mind.”
She wondered what he knew of her intelligence, Allura allowing Lotor to hook an arm across her shoulders once more. They began to climb the hill, but their progress was even slower now. Occasionally Lotor stumbled, Allura nearly being taken down in the process as she tried to hold him up. It made her realize he was getting weaker, Lotor moving almost in a daze, as he struggled to remain alert and aware of their surroundings. That realization had her constantly glancing at him, worried and watching as he struggled to keep his eyes open.
“What…” Allura hesitated, Lotor glancing at her. She knew she should try to keep him talking, if only to keep him from passing out on her. “What did you see when the Keraclon was approaching you?” It was more than just a discussion topic, she was truly curious, having noted that Lotor had fought his fear, and appeared to be more angry than scared at whatever he had seen.
“It doesn’t matter…” Lotor finally said, staring forward once more. “It’s dead now, and it can’t hurt me, or you anymore.”
“There’s still more out there!” Allura reminded him. “What will you do if faced with your worse fear, and it’s reflected back to you through several Keraclon at once?!”
“What about you Allura?” Lotor turned the question in on her, a shrewd look in his eyes. “What did you see? What do you fear that badly?!”
“I saw my father’s killer.” She answered, voice plain with honesty. Understanding dawned in Lotor’s eyes, and he breathed out a name.
“Zarkon! You saw my father!”
“Yes.” A nod of her head, now it was Allura’s turn to stare straight ahead. “Is it that surprising?”
“No, I suppose it isn’t.” Lotor murmured. “He’s not only killed your father, but enslaved your people for a time, devastated your world…He’s the stuff of nightmares for many people….”
“Does it please you?” Allura asked, still refusing to look at him. “To know you and your father are so reviled, so terrifying?”
“It’s good to have a reputation that induces fear.” Lotor said after a moment’s pause. His words seemed to be slurring, Allura’s worry for his condition increasing. “It helps keep you safe…”
“Safe?” She echoed, confused. “Safe from what?”
“From the other Drule…” Came his faint answer, Lotor nearly falling to his knees. She paused then, leaning him against a boulder, then gasped to see the trail of blood that was left behind them.
“Lotor! You’re bleeding!”
“Again?” he asked, and she nodded. “Damn it…no wonder I feel so weak…”
She was already searching for the source of the blood, and sure enough that troublesome wound on his waist that was the one responsible. Somehow, the blood had soaked through the gauze and bandages without either of them noticing, and even now it continued to bleed, dripping a tell tale trail on the ground.
“Take off your uniform.” Ordered Allura, already slipping off her back pack. Lotor made a sound, and she realized it was a half chuckle, the prince finding amusement in what she had said.
“Never thought I’d have you so eager to undress me.” He murmured and she frowned.
“Lotor, now is not the time to be making funny! You could be bleeding to death!” She set aside the pack, and grasped hold of his tunic, already trying to jerk it up. He winced as she pulled on his injured arm, and Allura let out a dismayed sound. “I’ll have to cut it off…” She got out the scissors from the med kit, and began cutting down from neck collar to waist, the fabric making it difficult to slice.
The scissors would be all but ruined by the time she was done, but at least she had better access to his wound. His chest had many smaller gashes, ones that would heal on their own as long as they didn’t get infected. But the wound over his stomach was nasty, and would need stitches before it would heal. She could only try to staunch the flow, Allura getting out a third bottle of water, and trying to clean the area, before using more gauze and bandages, tying it as tight as she dared around him.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Lotor asked, having spied the way she chewed on her bottom lip. She refused to meet his eyes, frightened that he might bleed to death before she could get him to a hospital. “Allura, I can tell by the look on your face…”
“You might scar…” She said at last, refusing to tell him how bad it truly was. “You won’t be so perfect anymore…”
“You think me perfect?” He inquired, though he didn’t smile.
She grew flustered, quick to explain. “Looks wise, I can see why women might be attracted to you. But your personality leaves much to desire…”
“Princess, you don’t me well enough to know about my personality.” He pointed out, his eyes falling close.
“Oh no! No going to sleep!” She had repacked the items into her back pack, and now she was tugging on his good arm. “You’re going to walk with me to blue lion. You hear? You’re going to walk, and survive this…and maybe, just maybe I’ll give you a chance to let me get to know you better.”
“I’d like that.” Lotor admitted, and moved when she urged him too. She pressed against his side, both arms holding him up as he leaned on her, good arm over her shoulders. She tried to keep the worry of her face, Allura finding she wanted him to live long enough to give him that chance.