A kind of pandemonium seemed to break out at Lotor’s statement, the voices of the Voltron Force all talking at once. It was a kind of angry excitement that they showed, the boys as intrigued as they were shocked by Lotor’s claim. Allura herself was quiet, staring at Lotor, wondering if what he said was true. The Drule prince continued to smirk, relaxing against the many pillows on his bed. He looked deeply satisfied by the chaos he had caused, and was waiting patiently for the Voltron Force to calm down.
“Did you hear that?!” Hunk was saying, voice astonished. “He knows how to defeat the Keraclon!”
“He’s probably lying!” Keith retorted. “There is no way to defeat them, not the entire race.”
Pidge was shaking his head, green lion’s pilot stunned. “Think of what it would do for the galaxy if we could permanently rid ourselves of the threat of the Keraclon!”
“I don’t think it’s possible Pidge.” A doubting Lance said. “Everything Garrison has tried has failed, the telepathic waves of fear the Keraclon emit making our attacks useless, our people unable to function and fight…”
“But what if there really is a way?” Pidge asked, voice insistent. “What if Lotor really knows a way?”
“He’s just bluffing.” Scoffed Keith. “Even if there’s a way, what are the chances that Lotor of all people would know?!”
“Can we really afford not to believe him?” Hunk wondered out loud, and Lance sighed.
“No but…can we afford to trust him?” That question quieted her teammates, the Voltron Force pausing to look at a smug Lotor.
“I wouldn’t trust a Drule! Not even as far as I could throw one!” Keith announced, but his words didn’t take away any of Lotor’s confidence.
“How very close minded of you captain. Tell me, were you always a racist, or is this a new development?” Lotor was snide as he spoke, but still smirking as he gazed at the captain of the Voltron Force.
“Racist?!” Keith gasped, looking outraged. “I’m not a racist! I’m just…just being practical around a snake like you!”
“Call it whatever you like, I know the truth.” Lotor retorted, Keith taking a step towards the bed. It was Allura’s arm that stopped Keith from drawing any closer, the princess shaking her head no.
“Do not let him goad you, Keith.” Allura told him, and Keith nodded, expression grim. She echoed that grimness, turning to meet Lotor’s eyes. “Is what you say true? You really can defeat the Keraclon?”
“Why do you think they were after me?” Lotor asked, then gave a deep chuckle. “Certainly not for my winning personality.”
“You probably just pissed them off.” Lance muttered, snorting. “You have a natural talent for that.”
“It’s easy enough to do when dealing with dullards such as yourself.” Lotor retorted, a murmur of anger erupting from the members of the Voltron Force. “Of course, that doesn’t include you, Allura.” He purred out that after thought, smiling brightly at her.
“Lotor, you didn’t answer my question.” Allura pointed out, and Lotor cocked his head to the side.
“No, you did not.” She said firmly. “Can you really defeat them?”
“Then why didn’t you do it sooner on that planet?!” She demanded, and he didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“I didn’t have the necessary means available to me at that time. But given the proper resources, and the knowledge that I possess, I can guarantee you a way to see to the Keraclon’s destruction.”
“He’s full of it, princess!” Keith exclaimed. “He doesn’t know a thing….”
She glanced at Keith, but her expression was full of uncertainty, the princess not sure what to believe in the moment. “Why…Why didn’t you say something sooner?” She asked at last, and Lotor shrugged as best he could, given his broken arm.
“You never asked, and there never seemed to be an ideal opportunity to talk about it. Especially with you intent on arresting me.” He tsked then, tone chiding. “That was very foolish of you, Allura.”
“It was smart and brave.” Hunk insisted.
“Whatever it was, it’s fortunate for me, that I did not tell you what I know.” Another smirk, Lotor not trying to hide his glee. “A Drule is never so foolish as to throw away a potential bargaining chip.”
“And just what is it you want?” Allura demanded, and Lotor’s smirk deepened, his gaze almost lewd as he looked her over. Immediately heat flared to her cheeks, Allura shaking her head no.
“Lotor! You scum!” Keith had noticed the way the prince had looked her over, the captain making fists out of his hands.
“What?” Lotor pretended to feign confusion, making his eyes wide and innocent. “I did not say anything.”
“It’s obvious where your mind lays…” Keith retorted, gesturing wildly with his one fist. “Looking at the princess in that manner!”
“It’s not my mind that is in the gutter right now.” Lotor told him, back to smirking. Keith made a wordless sound of anger, but Lotor talked over him. “In any case, I think the first order of business is to get this handcuff off of me.”
“And why would we do a thing like that?” Pidge demanded, and Lotor rolled his eyes.
“Well, it’s obvious I can’t stay here.”
“You won’t be here for much longer.” Now Keith sounded smug, crossing his arms over his chest. “As soon as the doctor gives his okay, they’ll be moving you to a prison facility.”
“That’s not going to happen.” Lotor said confidently. “Not if you want me to tell you how to win against the Keraclon.”
“We don’t need or want your cooperation.” Keith retorted. “We’ll just torture the information out of you.”
“Keith!” Lotor’s laughter overrode Allura’s shocked gasp, the prince leveling a cold stare at the captain.
“Come now, you don’t really expect me to believe the Alliance and Garrison would be so cruel as to torture a captive? Especially one of my rank and position.” Lotor tsked. “Even if it wouldn’t be an act of aggression against the Doom Empire, the charter of the Alliance forbids any unnecessary and cruel acts against their prisoners.”
“I could make a case that’s it’s necessary.” Threatened Keith, and Lotor laughed.
“And risk ruining that squeaky clean reputation of your Garrison? I think not. No captain, torture is something that differentiates our two peoples. You humans are far too squeamish to purposefully harm a man, no matter the reason.”
“It’s not squeamishness.” Allura said quietly. “It’s a matter of right and wrong.” Lotor didn’t look as though he believed her, rattling his hand cuff once more.
“We can argue about what is right and what is wrong some other time. The Keraclon will be looking for me, leaving a swath of destruction in their wake. We’re all very fortunate that Allura and I managed to evade their grasp, but our luck can’t hold out indefinitely.”
“Just tell us what we need to know, Lotor.” Hunk was trying to sound reasonable. “We’ll do the rest, and take care of this menace for you.”
“I will.” His sudden and seemingly easy agreement stunned everyone, Pidge squeaking in high pitch surprise.
Another smirk, Lotor’s nodding. “After we get to Arus.”
“Arus?!” Allura was surprised, and trying to hush the conversation that erupted behind her. “Why do you want to go to Arus?!”
“Well, it’s certainly better than remaining here.” Lotor replied with a chuckle. “And once on Arus, we can put some things into motion.” He fixed her with an intense stare, Allura frowning at him. “I have conditions Allura. Things that must be agreed on before I will give up my secrets.”
“Why do I get the feeling nothing good can come of these conditions?!” She demanded. He just smiled at her, purposefully rattling his handcuff as a reminder to set him free. “Fine.” She hissed out, hardly pleased with the idea. “We’ll take you to Arus.”
Immediately protests erupted around her, Keith grabbing hold of her by the arm. “Princess! You can’t be serious!”
“Unhand Allura!” growled Lotor, his eyes locked onto the point of contact between the captain and princess. Keith ignored him, giving Allura a little shake, earning more of Lotor’s infuriated growls. The prince actually moved to get off the bed, iv rack falling over from his quick movement.
“Lotor, stay still! You’ll only hurt yourself!” Allura admonished, than glared at Keith. “Let go of me….”
“Not until you realize what you’re doing!” Keith snapped, and Allura drew herself up taller, regal in the moment.
“Captain I gave you an order.”
“Keith, maybe you should let her go…” Lance was wary, he and Hunk having moved to surround Lotor.
“Finally, a sensible man!” Lotor muttered, and Keith let out an angry huff of air.
“Fine! But don’t come crying to me, when he kills us all in our sleep!”
“Keith!” exclaimed Allura, the youth letting go of her arm, and stalking towards the room’s exit. The door was already opening, a nurse coming in to find out why the iv alarm was ringing. “Where are you going?!”
“To get some air!” He announced, and brushed past the startled nurse. The nurse took in the sight of Lotor, the prince out of bed, his iv having been pulled out of his arm.
“What’s going on here?!” The nurse demanded with a frown. “I told you not to upset him!” She hurried over to the bed, picking the iv rack up off the floor, and tossing away the needle. She angrily gestured at Hunk and Lance to help ease Lotor back into the bed, which they did, albeit none too gently. Lotor grumbled under his breath in Drule, the nurse opening his shirt to check on his wounds.
“You’re fortunate your stitches didn’t open up.” Admonished the nurse. “He really shouldn’t be moving around, not for a few days at least.”
“I understand.” Allura assured her.
“By the way, General Hirsthine is looking for you princess.” The nurse continued fussing over Lotor, fingers taking the time and care to brush over each stitch. Allura almost thought the woman was touching Lotor too much, but she ignored that jealous little suspicion to focus on the words spoken to her.
“Yes. He’s very much interested in your encounter with the Keraclon. He would like to ask you some questions about them, if you don’t mind.” Explained the nurse.
“That’s fine.” Allura told her, than glanced at Lotor. “It seems we won’t be able to leave for a few days yet. I trust you to concentrate on getting well enough to travel. Hunk, Lance….stay with him please.”
“Sure, you didn’t need to ask, we’d do it anyway.” Hunk said, smiling at her.
“Thanks. I better go speak with the General. And not just about the Keraclon.” She sighed. “Somehow I have to make a case for releasing Lotor into my custody…”
“I’m sure you’ll manage just fine.” Lance tried to sound reassuring.
“I hope so.” Allura said, and glanced at the nurse who had finally stopped touching Lotor. “Will you show me the way?”
“Of course.” The nurse said, and stepped towards the princess. Together they left the room, Alliance soldiers retaking position up against the sides of the door. “The prince is a very fortunate man.” The nurse confided to Allura.
“His wounds were very severe. He’s both lucky to have come away from his crash and encounter with the Keraclon, as he is that we had his blood type and plenty of it available to us.”
“Is it really that rare?” Allura asked, and the nurse nodded.
“Oh yes. The odds are something like one in every fifty-thousand is born with it.” The woman sighed then. “We used up almost all our reserves of it. I don’t know when we will be able to get more…”
“I see. I’ll be sure to have the prince extend his gratitude to you and the other staff.” They were walking through the corridors of the building, Allura taking the time to study the route they were traveling. She was confidant she’d be able to find her way back to Lotor’s room on her own.
“Oh no thanks is needed!” protested the nurse. “We were just doing our job.” She paused before a door, bowing to Allura. “Well, the General should be inside here.”
“Ah I see. Thank you.” Allura nodded at her, than turned to knock on the door. A deep, masculine voice called out to her, bidding her to enter. She pushed open the door, and saw who she assumed to be General Hristhine sitting behind a desk, a thick brown cigar in hand. There was smoke curling off the tip of it, and it filled the room with it’s bitter smell.
She tried not to cough, the cigar’s smoke making her throat tighten in protest. “You wanted to see me, General?”
“Ah, Princess Allura.” The General rose from his seat, putting his cigar to his lips as he reached out to grasp hold of her hand. She found her hand being pumped vigorously, the cigar bobbing on the general’s lips. “So good of you to come see me. Please. Sit.” He let go of her hand to gesture at one of the chairs, Allura finding herself perched on cushioned black leather.
“You wanted to ask me about my encounter with the Keraclon?”
“Ah yes. Just a minute…” He pulled out a recorder out of the top most drawer of his desk. “For someone to not only meet a Keraclon in a combat situation, but to be able to walk away, mind and body intact, is rare indeed.” He pressed a button, and a red light lit up, signaling the recording had started. General Hristhine stated their names and the date, then focused his attention on Allura.
“What can you tell me about the Keraclon?”
“I don’t think I discovered all that much.” Allura admitted, the General’s face not betraying if he was disappointed to hear that. “Most of what I encountered matches up with the rumors and reports we pieced together from other people’s run in with the Keraclon.” She raised a hand, brushing back stray hair from her eyes. “But…I can confirm one thing…it’s true about those protrusions on their body. They can and will use them as projectiles, though they didn’t seem to have much control over aiming them. Perhaps it’s a last ditch defense mechanism in case their telepathy fails…” She was guessing at the last, not really knowing why else the Keraclon would need those spikes.
“I see. Is there anything else? Anything at all?” prodded Hristhine hopefully.
“I touched one of them…although it was through my gloves. It’s skin was moist, though I couldn’t tell you why…”
“Ah yes…we did find traces of a substance on your gloves. Our scientists are hard at work trying to identify what the liquid is, and what purpose it serves.” Hristhine told her.
“I wish I could have brought back a Keraclon for you to study.” Allura let her regret fill her voice, remembering how there had been four dead ones primed and ready to be autopsied. “But I had enough difficulty getting Lotor onto blue lion.”
“It’s fine princess.” Assured the General. “It’s a long shot, but we’ve dispatched ships to the planet. If the scavengers and Keraclon haven’t done away with those bodies, we may be able to bring a corpse or two back to study.”
She nodded, and the interview continued, General Hristhine making her go over every second of her encounters with the Keraclon. He even asked her about the fear she had felt, marveling at her abilities to suffer through such a concentrated attack to help Prince Lotor. She grew flustered at his praise, and was quick to remind him that she had been more scared than brave, much of her attacks frantic acts of desperation than any true heroics of her part.
The General scoffed at her attempts to belittle her success against the Keraclon, the interview lasting for nearly forty-five minutes before the man was satisfied. The recorder was turned off, but Allura was hardly relaxed, knowing as unpleasant as it was to remember what had gone down on the planet, a more difficult task awaited her. One she couldn’t put off any longer, especially when Hristhine himself steered the conversation towards Lotor.
“I also want to thank you for bringing us such a valuable prisoner.” The General was all smiles, shaking the ash from his cigar into an ashtray. “The Alliance has been after Prince Lotor for years now…it will be so satisfying to bring him to justice for his crimes.”
“Er…about that…” Allura fidgeted in her seat. “I’m afraid…I can’t give you Lotor…”
“What!?” His voice boomed out, the General losing his friendly smile.
“Not yet at least!” Allura added hastily. “It’s just…there was an unforeseen complication.”
“Unforeseen complication?! What in the galaxy could make you even think of letting Lotor loose?!”
“He won’t be let loose, not exactly.” She hastily amended. “He’ll be taken into my personal custody, and housed on Arus.” She still fidgeted, playing her fingers on the chair’s arm rest. “You see General, Lotor claims to know how we can defeat the Keraclon. How we can defeat the entire race.”
“Is such a thing possible?” asked the shocked General, and Allura shrugged.
“Prince Lotor seems to think so. But he refuses to tell us how unless his conditions are met with.” Now she sighed. “I don’t want to cater to his whims any more than you do, but I do want the threat of the Keraclon eliminated. No matter the cost.”
“I just hope for all our sakes that cost won’t prove too high.” Hristhine grumbled. Allura nodded, a shiver going through her as she remembered the way Lotor had looked at her when she asked him what he wanted. She didn’t want to be overly suspicious of his intentions, but she had the feeling he would make them all jump through hoops before he was satisfied enough to tell them what they wanted to know.