There had been time to radio ahead to the Alliance facility, Allura letting them know the urgency of the situation as well as prepare them for just who their patient would be. By the time the Voltron Force had landed the lions outside the hospital grounds, an emergency vehicle had pulled up besides blue lion, humans scrambling out of it. They would help to ease Lotor out of the lion, the prince sluggish and barely conscious by this point. It made it much easier for them to transport him inside the hospital, the humans strapping him to a stretcher.
It wasn’t just Lotor who the humans insisted on treating, Allura finding herself ushered into an empty room. A doctor looked her over, questioning her, his nurse tending to Allura’s few scrapes and bruises. There was no doubt that the blood on her uniform was not her own, the color such a stark green. She had only minor cuts and tears, Allura not even remembering the moments when she had gotten those little injuries.
She had been impatient for them to finish checking her over, Allura eager for the bath they had promised her. She luxuriated under the spray of water, thoroughly washing herself down, ridding herself of the ashy smell that clung to her, and the sickly sweet smell of the Keraclon’s dried blood.
She had a spare uniform onboard her lion, and it was that that she slipped into, Allura vowing to burn the old one. The doctors had expressed some interest in the blood on her ruined uniform, even going so far as to scrap off some of the blood to do some sort of testing on it. Allura didn’t know what they hoped to find, but they were welcome to it.
By the time she finished showering, a hot meal was waiting for her in the facility’s commissary. Her team mates were present, each having a tray of their own as they commandeered one of the long tables in the room. The others in the commissary, the medical staff and soldiers, kept a respectful distance from the Voltron Force, letting them eat in peace.
“I bet it feels good to get that blood off you.” Hunk said warmly, as Allura sat down next to him. She nodded, picking up her fork, and using it to explore the various foods on her tray.
“Just what went on while you were on that planet?” Keith asked, and the others piped in.
“Yeah! I wanna know how you fought off the Keraclon!” Pidge said, eager and admiring in the moment. The young boy at least appreciated her abilities, not acting anywhere as shocked as Keith and Lance acted.
“Forget about the Keraclon.” dismissed Lance. “I want to know what happened between you and Lotor.” Somehow Allura managed to remain blank faced, scooping up some sort of orange mush on her fork. “You two were alone for hours!” Added Lance. “He had to have tried something!”
Allura wasn’t about to admit they had kissed, the girl calmly eating the sweet tasting mush. “There wasn’t any time for his foolishness.” She said at last, and this time she scooped up some yellow square bits that were slightly bitter to taste. “We were in a life or death situation…”
“Life or death situations make for the best times!” Lance told her. “Especially between a man and a woman. They can’t help but get close….”
“Allura would….would never lower herself to foster a friendship with Lotor!” Keith sounded angry at the very thought.
“Hey, I would have thought that too. But she did save the jerk’s life.” Lance pointed out.
“That was pure chance, I assure you.” Allura said. “I didn’t know it was Lotor who was behind that distress signal.”
“If you did, would you still have gone?” Lance wanted to know, the table growing quiet as everyone stared at her. Allura shifted, uncomfortable with both the question and the looks.
“I’d like to think I’d do the right thing…” She said at last, spearing her fork into a piece of meat. It’s juices dribbled out at the point of entry, Allura staring down at it. “That I wouldn’t let the fact that he’s my enemy stop me from coming to his rescue…”
“But you’re uncertain, aren’t you?” Hunk questioned, and she sighed.
“Yes.” She continued to stare at her tray, troubled by the memory of how she had almost left Lotor behind when she first discovered him on that planet. “I’m ashamed to admit this…but I almost left him there…” She risked a glance up, seeing sympathetic faces looking at her. “Almost left him to die or suffer worse at the Keraclon’s hands.”
“But you didn’t.” Hunk pointed out, patting her hand. “And that’s all that matters.”
“No one here would blame you if you had left Lotor there.” Added Keith, giving Allura the feeling he wouldn’t have struggled over what to do.
“It’d be one less Drule to worry about.” Added Lance, and Allura stared at him shock.
“There’s always more where he came from.” A venomous comment from Keith, the captain angry. “I swear they’re like insects. You stamp one out, and ten more rise to take their place.”
“It’s true princess…” He insisted, not apologetic at all. She frowned at him, unsure of what to say to such blatant hatred. “Zarkon always has someone waiting in the wings, ready to replace those that failed him.”
She was still frowning, when Hunk took it upon himself to try and steer the conversation to a somewhat safer topic. “So…the Keraclon. What was it like, fighting them?”
“Terrifying!” Allura exclaimed, and a nervous chuckled followed her words. “I never felt such fear in my life, it was all consuming, nearly choking me with it. In practice I knew what the Keraclon are capable of, but it’s a whole other story to experience that fear for yourself.”
“How many do you think there were on that planet?” Pidge wanted to know, and she shrugged.
“No way to know. But there had to be more than the four Lotor and I killed, to account for the amount of fear blanketing such a large area.” She sighed then. “It was so frightening, to know that at any moment you’d hear their claws, signaling their nearness.” Allura shook her head. “It was only sheer desperation, the need to survive that let me continue, let me face them. It’s something I never want to have to do again if I can avoid it!”
“Well, hopefully they’ll stay well away from Arus.” Lance said, and everyone at the table gave him a doubting look. “What?!”
“You know better Lance.” Keith tsked, his tone chiding. “The Keraclon may be taking their time, but they are moving through the galaxy, slowly but surely leaving devastation in their wake.”
“But there is no guarantee they’ll ever reach Arus!” Lance persisted, even as Allura shivered at the thought. She hated to think of the Keraclon coming to Arus, those parasites draining the world dry of it’s resources, but not before they killed off all the inhabitants first. They were worse than the Drules, the Keraclon having little use for slaves. At least the Drules kept most of a planet’s populace alive, but the Keraclon preferred to move in and lethally evict the current dwellers’ of a world.
So far, a handful of worlds had been destroyed by the Keraclon, planets that had housed once glorious civilizations. Not even their ruins remained behind, the Keraclon having decimated everything to rubble before moving in the mine the planet of it’s resources. Allura despaired to think of Arus and her people suffering a similar fate, the fertile green lands turning brown and barren, it’s oceans drying up.
“What cha got there little buddy?” Hunk’s voice drew Allura out of her thoughts, the girl glancing at the pilot of green lion. She saw that Pidge had pulled out a data pad, and was rapidly typing in numbers.
“Just trying to figure out how long it will take the Keraclon to come to Arus at their current rate of progression.” Murmured Pidge.
“It might not even be in our lifetimes.” Keith noted. “It takes time for them to completely use up a planet.”
“Just because we won’t be alive to see it happen, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned!” Allura snapped. “I do not want my children, or grand children having to live in fear of the Keraclon’s attack.”
“But what can we do?” Hunk asked. “It’s not as though anyone has found a way to stop them…Not with their fear based powers…”
Allura sighed then, thinking Hunk was right. There was no way to keep the fear from filling them, so long as the Keraclon lived and breathed. Not even being inside the relative safety of a ship, could protect one from the Keraclon’s waves of fear. Ship battles were disastrous, the people on board the vessels, panicking, suffering their own fears and doubts. They turned on each other, and some even killed themselves, all to escape the all consuming fear that the Keraclon forced on them.
There was rumors that onboard the Keraclon ships, the most talented of their telepaths gathered. It was there, inside a special chamber that they worked together, transmitting the fear to blanket the battlefield. The metal hides of the ships made no difference, the fear emitted through it. Alliance and Drule scientists alike would love to get a hold of a live Keraclon specimen, all in order to better understand the enemy they were up against.
The problem was the fear even a single Keraclon was capable of inducing. If only there was a way to neutralize it, so that the scientists could study a Keraclon’s brain. Perhaps then they’d be able to come up with a counter measure against the fear.
“Still, I think it’s amazing!” Pidge announced, still fiddling with his calculations on the data pad. “You were able to face the fear and fight!”
“If only you could have seen how frightened I was!” Allura exclaimed. “I’m sure everyone could hear the knocking of my knees from miles away!”
“It doesn’t matter how scared you were.” Lance assured her. “Just that you managed to kill what terrified you.”
“I’ll still have nightmares for weeks, if not months.” Allura murmured, remembering how the one Keraclon had looked with the hole in it’s chest. Strings of flesh had dangled over that cavernous opening, and she had been able to see bits of muscles and bone, and the frantic pumping of it’s dying heart.
“We’re not helping, are we?” Hunk asked, and she glanced at him. “Making you talk about it, making you think.”
“No…I think talking helps. Although the memories I could do without.” Allura admitted with a shudder.
“I got it!” Pidge exclaimed, staring at his data pad. “At the rate the Keraclon is going, Arus will be targeted within the next fifty years.”
“Fifty years?!” All of the Voltron Force exclaimed as one.
“That’s way too soon!” protested Lance.
“My calculations are almost never wrong.” Pidge said, a hint of pride in his voice. “And there’s a noticeable increase in how fast the Keraclon are using up planets. At this rate, it won’t be long before they are wasting away worlds within six months time. They’ll have to keep on moving, and if they’re not stopped, all of the Denubian Galaxy will be wiped out in about three hundred years time!”
Stunned silence followed his words, each member of the Voltron Force trying to process what Pidge had said. The minutes dragged on, no one seeming capable of speech, not even when a nurse approached their table. Such was the distress of the Voltron force, that not even Lance took notice of the pretty female, a stunned look in his eyes.
The nurse seemed to note the tension that surrounded Allura and her team mates, and she coughed politely to get their attention. “Forgive me for intruding.”
“Yes?” Allura said, forcing herself to focus on the nurse.
“That…man you brought with you…”
“What about Lotor?” demanded Keith, suddenly hostile.
“He’s requesting an audience with the princess.” Explained the nervous nurse.
“With Allura?” Hunk said, even as Ketih shook his head, angrily issuing a retort to the nurse.
“He can request all he wants, he’s not going to get it!”
“Keith…that should be up to ME to decide.” Allura reprimanded had him look startled, dark eyes glancing her way.
“But nothing!” interrupted Allura, and turned back to the nurse. “How is he?”
“He’s doing much better.” Said the nurse. “We were fortunate to have his blood type on tap. He’s much refreshed now that we finished the transfusions, and the wound on his stomach has been sewn up. It’ll probably leave a scar, but…at least he’ll live.”
“Not that he’s very grateful about any of this.” Muttered Keith.
“You don’t know that.” Allura said, but even she had doubts about what sort of patient Lotor was being. “Please, did he say why he wanted to see me?”
“You can’t seriously be considering meeting with him!” Keith sounded scandalized at the thought, shaking his head no.
“I might be, depending on what he wants to say to me.” Allura told him.
“He didn’t really say.” The nurse was apologetic, brow furrowed in thought. “Oh! But he did say he had something to say, something urgent about the…the Keraclon.”
“The Keraclon?” Allura frowned. “What?”
“You don’t think he’s about to spill the beans about what he did to piss those aliens off so much, do you?” wondered an excited Lance.
“I don’t care what he has to say.” Snapped Keith. “The princess shouldn’t go meet with him.”
That seemed to decide things for her, Allura rising from her seat. “I’m going.”
“What? You can’t be serious!” exclaimed Keith, staring at her like she had grown another head.
“I am serious. He deserves to be heard out.” Allura replied. “Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s just some inconsequential thing. Maybe he just wants to plead his case on why we should let him go. But I owe him that much at least.”
She was thinking of how he had so selfishly had her hide during the encounter with the first Keraclon, Lotor willing to distract it from noticing Allura. She certainly wasn’t thinking about the kiss he had forced on her, which is why Allura frowned when Lance let out a gleeful exclamation.
“Something DID happen between you two on that planet!”
“Nothing happened!” Allura insisted heatedly, and gestured for the nurse to lead her to Lotor’s room. Unsurprisingly, the Voltron Force all followed her, not content to let her face the Drule Prince alone. They weren’t quiet either, arguing amongst themselves as they walked behind her, their loud voices announcing their presence well before they could be seen.
The nurse stopped before a guarded door, gesturing for Allura to step inside. “He’s in here.” She said, and let out a warning. “Do try not to upset him too badly.”
“Upset him?” Keith tsked. “Who’s to stop him from upsetting us?!”
Allura ignored that, and opened the door, peering into the room. She spied Lotor in bed, a iv line hooked up to his uninjured arm. That arm was also handcuffed to the bed, keeping the prince firmly rooted in spot. His other arm was in a cast, a sling holding it bent against his chest. He had been given a clean night shirt, though it was ill fitting, stretching tight across his muscles.
“Ah, Allura.” Lotor smiled in her direction, seeming to ignore the boys behind her. “So good of you to come.”
“Don’t be so familiar with the princess!” Keith ordered, following Allura into the room. He was practically the princess’ shadow, Allura nearly tripping over him as she inched closer to Lotor’s bed.
“You’re looking good Allura.” Lotor seemed to purr out her name, stressing the familiarity in which he spoke it. “It’s amazing what a bath, and some hot food will do for one.”
“Quit the chit chat, and just tell us why you wanted to see her!” Keith snapped, and now Lotor reacted to the captain, annoyance marring his features.
“Does he speak for you now, Allura?”
“No, he does not.” Allura said, for all present to hear. “Tell me Lotor….tell me what you have to say about the Keraclon.”
“Maybe I don’t want an audience.” Came Lotor’s surprising response.
“Maybe what you have to say isn’t as important as you think then.” Allura countered, and he gave her a smirk.
“Oh it’s important…” He tried to gesture with his handcuffed arm for her to come closer, the manacle making a clanking sound. She didn’t budge, and Lotor sighed. “Honestly Allura. What do you think I am going to do? I am injured, incapacitated by this shackle, and you are backed by your friends! Do you really think me that dangerous?”
“Yes!” Came the resounding confirmation from her team mates, Allura almost smirking at that.
“Just tell me, or I’ll leave.” Lotor kept silent, lips a thin line of disapproval. She sighed then, and started to turn, casting one last word to him. “Fine Lotor. You had your chance.”
“Allura wait!” He called out to her. “You’ll be sorry if you don’t hear me out.”
“Is that a threat?” Keith wanted to know, and Lotor shrugged.
“Call it whatever you like.” He said. “Just know, the ultimate fate of Arus, of Doom, of the entire Denubian Galaxy will be on your shoulders if you walk away from me now.”
“What do you mean?” Allura ignored Keith’s protests to approach Lotor, watching the secretive smile play on his lips. “What could you possibly know to effect so many?”
Lotor’s gaze was steady, the prince looking deeply satisfied at the words he spoke. “It’s simple really. I know how to stop the Keraclon, permanently.”