Enemy 20

It had taken some time to maneuver past the wrecked remains of Doom’s once glorious armadas. The space had been crowded with the broken ruins of ships, making it difficult to draw near enough to the planet to begin their descent down to it’s surface. Allura wondered why they bothered. After all, it wasn’t like they could not guess at the devastation that awaited them on the planet’s surface. The Keraclon were not known for leaving survivors, turning whole civilizations out, and leaving only ruins behind.

Sometimes, not even that, Allura gazing out the view screen window as the ship passed over what Lotor had insisted had once been a city. But there were no buildings, not even the broken remains of them. The homes where the Drules had lived, the offices they had worked in, the towering sky scrapers all gone. They had been reduced to rubble, ground into a fine powder that was scorched black all over.

It was similar to other spots on the planet, the once fine cities of Doom now nothing more than blackened soot and gray powder. No one could have survived such devastation. Perhaps no one would want to. And yet Lotor insisted they keep searching, the ships from Arus traveling from one city coordinate to another. They cast searchlights on the ground beneath them, though no one hoped to find anything significant.

Lotor was barely talking during all this. He stayed rooted to the spot on the viewing deck, the wrap around windows offering him an unobstructed view of the nothingness that had once been planet Doom’s cities. His good hand held the railing that separated him from the windows, the color bleeding out of his knuckles from how tight he gripped the bar. His expression was one of tightlipped anger, his eyes dulling from their normal golden brilliance. Sometimes Allura swore he was in a state of shock. The other times she thought he was barely controlled fury, the prince angry and looking for a target.

But the Keraclon were gone from this planet. And even if they had remained, the ships from Arus would have been no match for an armada of the fearsome aliens. It left Lotor with no one to vent his rage on, and Allura could only wonder what would happen when the anger got to be too much for Lotor.

She stood to the right of him, just out of his reach. Allura gave him constant side long glances, trying to judge just where his mood was as each new landmark was proven to no longer exist. He seemed barely able to breathe, Allura likening him to a statue from how little he moved. He never once glanced at her, Lotor staring straight ahead. It was as though he had to witness for himself the end of each and every city on planet Doom.

The searchlights continued to scan over the ground, but there was nothing to be found. Everything had been turned to powder, from the people’s skeletons, to the items of their every day lives. It wasn’t just the people that were gone, or their history. Even the few carnivores that had made Doom their home, they too had vanished. Had they been vaporized by the Keraclon’s attacks? Or were they wisely hiding away far away from the cities?

Allura started, a thought coming to her. She remembered when Doom had attacked Arus over sixteen years ago. Back when her father had died. The cities had been destroyed then, many of her people enslaved. But some had managed to escape, disappearing into the caves. They had lived underground for years, never daring to come out into the light until Arus’ hope had been restored. Even then it had taken quite a bit of coaxing from Allura and the Voltron Force to give the people of Arus the encouragement and reassurance they needed to emerge above ground.

“Lotor….” She turned to him now, trying to quell the excited hope running through her. “Isn’t there somewhere your people could have gone? Some place they could have hidden? Some place where there might be survivors?”

He didn’t even look at her, just staring out the window. Allura wondered if he had even heard what she was asking, the prince seeming lost in his own private misery. She didn’t dare draw closer to him, frightened of what would happen if she should lay a hand on him when he was like this. Cold, angry, seeming unreachable.

“On Arus we have caves…whole underground tunnels. My people often hide in them whenever a threat would present itself to Arus.” Still no reaction, not even a flicker of interest from her husband. Allura felt frustrated, staring at him for one long moment before turning away.

He didn’t try to stop her from leaving. Lotor just stayed rooted to the spot, his thoughts guarded even from her. She held in her sighs, Allura casting one last glance over her shoulder at him and to the view in front of him. They were nearing what had to be the border of the city, the black and gray powder giving way to reddish brown clay that stretched on for miles. She knew it would continue like that until they reached the next city, with only a few rocks, or even a canyon to break up the evenness of the clay landscape.

She didn’t want to see another ruined city. Nor did Allura want to stand in the uncomfortable silence that Lotor insisted on maintaining. She walked away from him, navigating her way through the many twisting and turning corridors of the ship. There were people in the halls, and they were tense, and unsmiling. Doom had always been Arus’ enemy, but no one had wished an entire people to be wiped out.

Allura shivered, thinking again that the Keraclon were evil personified. They had to be, to do such a thing. And not just to Doom, but to countless other worlds. Arus would end up the same if the scientists didn’t discover how to replicate the vaccine that was in Lotor’s blood. Even now they worked tirelessly at this task, motivated by the sight of what had happened to Doom.

Allura hoped—prayed they would find the answers the galaxy so desperately needed. And find them fast. It wouldn’t take that much longer for the Keraclon to track Lotor down to Arus. They needed the vaccine, needed it replicated, and injected into every able bodied fighter. But more than that, they needed Lance to find Keith, to bring back both black lion and it’s pilot. Voltron was the main defense of planet Arus. Without it, even with the vaccine, the Arusians probably wouldn’t be able to fight off the Keraclon’s armada.

She expected the Galaxy Alliance to send back up to planet Arus. But Allura knew that back up was contingent on the vaccine being recreated. The men and women of Galaxy Garrison would need to be inoculated against the Keraclon’s fear waves before they could be of any help to Arus. Otherwise they would just be throwing their lives away if they fought the Keraclon as is.

Allura debated on visiting the scientists to find out first hand what progress they had made. But she didn’t know if her interest would give them the motivation needed to push onwards, or only hinder them further. They probably had enough pressure as it was, and didn’t need their princess breathing down their necks, demanding results. They already knew what was at stake, what depended on their actions. She need not further burden them with her presence.

The people in the ship’s corridors weren’t really talking. Pale faces would look Allura’s way, eyes haunted by what they had discovered on Doom. She had no words to reassure them, or herself. It was all she could do to meet their eyes, her own gaze clear of the inner turmoil she suffered with. She tried not to blame herself for what had happened. And in truth it wasn’t her fault, at least not entirely. Allura knew that Lotor had been adamant about not revealing the secret to the Keraclon’s defeat until he gained her hand in marriage. And yet Allura couldn’t help but wonder if Doom’s destruction could have been avoided if she had given in just days earlier.

But, and this was important. She also knew that Lotor himself had had the chance to tell her without trying to cut a deal. If he hadn’t been so insistent his demands be met, they could have been working on the vaccine days earlier. Perhaps early enough for Doom to be saved. Truly Lotor had no one to blame but himself, and yet Allura felt pity for him. He had lost his home world. He has lost friends, family. Allura wondered if Lotor even realized who was truly to blame for what had happened to Doom. How much worse would his pain become? She didn’t know, and Allura was surprised to find it worried her.

Allura didn’t think Lotor was the type of man to hurt himself. It didn’t fit the profiles she had read about him. Nor did it match up to her limited experience dealing with the prince face to face. But this was a loss unlike anything she could imagine surviving through. He would need an outlet, and if he didn’t turn on himself, he would turn on others. She was fearful of that, Allura prepared to make arrangements to somehow incapacitate Lotor until his pain had somewhat eased.

But she never got the chance to, one of the communication’s room’s crew approaching her. “Yes?” Allura asked, watching as the woman did a hasty bow to her. “What is it?”

“It’s a message from Castle Control.” The woman explained. “His lordship, Coran, wishes to speak to you.”

Allura nodded, realizing she had been neglecting her duties. She should have contacted Coran at once upon learning what had happened to Doom. But shock had taken her mind, leaving her to stand gaping besides Lotor. But that could be remedied now, Allura walking at a brisk pace to the communication’s room. She realized she still wasn’t thinking all that clearly, for she could have just as easily taken the call in her private room. But she didn’t want to delay things any further now that she was in the communication’s room.

There was only a handful of people present inside the room. Most sat behind consoles, overseeing the various calls from one section of the ship to another. One man monitored the communication between ships, and another quickly patched Coran call through to a private console. Allura took a seat behind the console, looking down at the small monitor. Coran’s expression was grave. She knew he had no good news for her even before he spoke.

“Princess Allura…I am so sorry you had to bear witness to what has happened to planet Doom.”

“It’s terrible Coran.” Allura said, her voice without inflection. She would not cry, would not allow a quiver of emotion to break her voice. “There’s nothing left of Doom…The Drule…the Drule are….”

“The Drule are not entirely wiped out.” He was quick to remind her. “There are many, numbering in the millions, that live on. They are spread out among the planets that were—are part of the Doom Empire. Lotor is not the last of his kind….”

“He will be if we cannot replicate the vaccine and soon.” Allura told him. “Our scientists have yet to make a break through…”

“I’m sure they just need some more time…”

“Time we don’t have!” Allura retorted. “The Keraclon will be coming to Arus, if they’re not already on their way.”

“The Keraclon are searching for Lotor…and anyone he has come in contact with.” She felt dread to hear that, Allura eyeing Coran nervously. His lips seemed to turn down even more, the man’s mustache rustling as he sighed. “Several Alliance worlds have been wiped out since you left for Doom.”

“What?!” Her eyes widened, her heart beat faster in dismay.

“The Keraclon followed the leads they got from the hospital on planet Zegabob. Those who had gone on off world leave were tracked down…I’m sure you can ascertain what happened next.”

Allura’s right hand formed a fist. It took all her strength not to bring it down hard on the console. She knew the crew was watching her, and she couldn’t afford to show how upset she was. “It won’t ever stop will it?” She whispered softly.

“Pardon?”

“The Keraclon will keep coming. They will kill any and everyone to keep the secret of the vaccine from getting out.” She sighed then. “We have no choice but to wipe them out…”

Coran looked at her, dark eyes serious and sad. “It’s never an easy decision to wipe out an entire race…..”

“Not for us humans.” Allura said. “The Keraclon are a different matter, easily committing genocide on every world they invade.” That fact should have made it easier what she had decided. But it didn’t. Allura loathed killing, hated the violence of it, the finality of it. She thought a part of her very soul had blackened with the decision she had made, and yet she couldn’t cry. Not when she thought of Zegabob, of Doom, of all the other worlds Coran had not given names to. The worlds the Keraclon had destroyed. The worlds that would never flourish again.

“Come back to Arus.” Coran urged. “There’s no reason to linger there on Doom…”

“We’ll return shortly.” Allura told him. “The prince is not yet done with his…he’s not done surveying the damage.”

“How is he?” Coran wanted to know.

“I couldn’t say for certain. He’s stopped speaking to me, doesn’t even acknowledge my words.” Allura unclenched her fist. “He just stands there and stares at the ruins….anger and disbelief competing for dominance.”

“Do you think he’s a danger….?”

“To himself or to another?” Allura shrugged. “All that anger, that pain….it’s going to come out. One way or another…”

“Take care Allura.” Coran advised. “Do not allow him to place you in harm’s way. Or…himself.” She was surprised at that last, wondering why Coran cared. His lips twitched beneath the mustache, but it was no smile he fought. “The Doom Empire doesn’t yet know what has happened to the home world. But they can remain oblivious for only so long. And when they do, there will be a scramble for power. Lotor will need to pull himself together, to stand strong for the remains of the Empire.”

“What are you saying?” Allura asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “You want Lotor to be in charge of the remains of the Doom Empire?”

“Better the devil we know, than one we don’t.” Answered Coran. “If a leader emerges from the Drule nobility, they might not be willing to honor the treaty you made with Lotor. We might have a new tyrant on our hands….Lotor is an infinitely better choice as ruler…”

“Why?” Allura asked, a wry twist to her lips. “Because you think I can control him through his love for me?”

“Yes.” Coran answered without hesitation. “And through that love, we might be able to usher in an age of peace for the Denubian Galaxy. The Doom Empire and the planets of the Galaxy Alliance no longer warring against each other.”

“I don’t know if I can even imagine what real peace would feel like…” She said softly. “Or if Lotor’s so called love can survive the devastation of his home world…..” Coran looked confused at that, Allura sighing. “He might blame me Coran. For what happened to Doom. Might insist that if I had given in to his demands sooner, this would have never happened….”

“You’ll just have to make him see that is not true.” Insisted Coran. She noted the advisor was careful not to lay the blame completely on Lotor either. It would take delicate handling of the prince and the situation, to keep him from exploding in anger. To keep the pain from inflicting deeper wounds within him. Allura wondered if she could manage the kind of care Lotor might need at the moment.

“I’ll try…” Allura said. But her voice held her doubts.

“It’s all anyone can ask of you.” Coran reassured her. She wished she could smile, even a weak glimmer of one. But it was too serious a mood, the devastation of Doom too real, too raw.

“Coran…” A new worry had come to her. Coran looking instantly alert. “Does the rest of the Doom Empire even know that Lotor is still alive? I mean…the whole time he was on Arus, his father assumed he had died on that outpost of Doom’s. Zarkon may not have had a chance to get the word out that his son had survived…and even if he did, with Doom destroyed….the other worlds will assume the worse…”

“I will get to work right away making an official announcement that the prince still lives.” Coran told her. “We don’t want to cause galaxy wide panic with what has happened to Doom and the other Alliance worlds, but perhaps if instead we use the announcement of your marriage to him…..”

“That would get the word out.” Allura agreed. She wasn’t even that bothered at the thought of the marriage being made public.

“Then with your permission, I shall make the ready the castle’s official statement on this matter.”

She nodded, but Allura wasn’t done with Coran just yet. “One more thing…” She was pretty sure it was useless to ask him this. His expression wouldn’t have been so grave, he would have told her immediately if there had been some news. And yet she had to hear it from him herself, Allura not wanting to linger on speculations based on how he looked and acted.

“Yes, princess?” Coran waited, ever patient for her question.

“Has there been any word from Lance?” She asked without hope. “Has he found Keith? Or the black lion?”

A pause, Coran blowing out a deep breath. “Lance has been in regular contact with the castle. But as for the matter of Ketih and black lion…there has been nothing.”

“Nothing.” She repeated dully.

“I do not know what has happen to the captain…” Coran continued. “But I do not want to think the worse.”

“Neither do I Coran.” Allura sighed. “But what other excuse can there be?”

“His lion could have been knocked offline…he could have lost power and communication capabilities.”

“Do you really believe that Coran?” She wanted and yet didn’t want to believe. Allura didn’t think she could handle it if her hopes were dashed where Keith’s survival was concerned.

“It’s better than believing in the alternative.” Coran answered tiredly. Allura wondered about that. What was better? To hang onto such hope, or to let go? Regardless, Keith’s return would be useless if the vaccine wasn’t ready by the time he got back.

“Do try to hurry back to Arus, at your earliest convenience” urged Coran.

“Of course.” Allura nodded. “I don’t think we will delay past this night on Doom….” By then Lotor should have seen all he could ever want to. “Good bye for now Coran.”

“Good bye princess…” He barely got out the words, Allura already switching off the console. But she didn’t rise up from her seat, instead sitting there staring off in the distance. Coran had given her much to think about. She wondered if she could get through to Lotor any time soon. If he would break free of whatever pain and anger that held him fast in their grips.

The fate of the Doom Empire, and possibly the galaxy’s peace might rest on Lotor’s ability to get over what had happened. As the crown prince he didn’t have the luxury to mope about for long. Allura knew only too well the burdens that came with the crown. One always had to present a mask to those who surrounded them, to appear unaffected by bad news. At least in public.

~I can try to be there for him.~ Allura decided, nodding to herself. She could try to be the shoulder he turned to for comfort in private. She might not be able to help him get over the pain, and the anger, but she could be there to listen to him.

She stood up, her determination showing on Allura’s face. The crew inside the communication’s room pretended not to have been listening to her talks with Coran, busying themselves with their own consoles. Allura didn’t care what they had heard, the princess turning to speak to the woman who had brought her to this room. “Get the command deck on screen.” Allura ordered. “Have them scan any and all surfaces for any signs of life…”

‘Yes, princess.” came the answer. Allura couldn’t smile, it wasn’t yet time for that. But maybe, if they were lucky, some people would have escaped the cities. The scans would find them if they had. It was a long shot, but Allura was willing to try it. The survivors might be enough to draw Lotor out of his shell. They might be the first step towards healing the pain he felt.


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