Enemy 21

There was no survivors that their scans could find. If any Drule still lived on Doom, they had gone to ground, hidden well beyond the capabilities of the ships scanners. The technology of the Arusian ships were never as advanced as that of the Drules, or even that of the Alliance. But Allura didn’t think that the outcome would have been different even if they had had the newest of equipment on board the ships. It was just fact, depressing though it was, that every last man, woman, child and slave had died on planet Doom.

It was horrific, and needless. Just one more example of the evil that seemed to be inherent in the Keraclon race. They had no mercy. Allura wondered if they were even capable of feeling anything but malice. This went beyond simply cruelty. The Keraclon were a murderous race, parasites that leeched away all good from every world they visited. A part of her knew the Keraclon were struggling to survive the only way they knew how, but the rest of her didn’t care. Not when they did such heartless acts.

Allura didn’t often like to think of the Keraclon. No one really did. But now she wondered why they couldn’t have found a better way for themselves. A way that didn’t involve using up a planet, and killing off the people who had spent a millennia living on it’s surface. She wanted to know why the Keraclon hadn’t bothered to reach out for help from their neighbors, why they had insisted on invasion and genocide instead.

Allura was sure the Galaxy Alliance would have helped the Keraclon when they first appeared in the Denubian Galaxy. If and only if the Keraclon had reached out for help, rather than going about their destructive, murderous ways. Now there would be no attempts to reach out to them, no more reasoning and trying to find a way for them all to get along. The Keraclon would be wiped out, God willing, and the galaxy would settle back into a semblance of peace.

It was truly a survival matter. The Denubian’s survival against the Keraclon’s. Allura could even understand why the Keraclon were so desperate to find Lotor. They had to know that each day Lotor was allowed to live, was one day that brought the Keraclon closer to their own demise. But it didn’t excuse anything the Keraclon did, the loss of whole planets full of people a crime too great to be forgiven.

There was a saying on Earth. Allura often heard Keith and the other members of the Voltron Force speak of it. That only the strong survived in a survival of the fittest. Allura was determined to prove to the Keraclon that the people of the Denubian Galaxy would be stronger than any threat of theirs. Stronger as they joined forces together to not only beat back the Keraclon, but to exterminate every last one of them.

It would be the first time Allura would actively advocate the idea of committing genocide on an entire race of beings. She didn’t feel good about this decision of hers, but she knew it was necessary if the innocents of the Denubian Galaxy were to continue living. She’d worry about the cost to her soul later, when the danger wasn’t so imminent.

She wondered where the Keraclon were now. What world they had targeted next. They had been tracking Lotor, but when their lead died on planet Zegabob, they had traveled to the next obvious place the prince might have gone to. Planet Doom. Did they even know Lotor had not been there? Or did they think they had killed the prince when they destroyed the planet? If they didn’t, the Keraclon would be scrambling to locate him. Where would they go next? To one of the many holdings of the Doom Empire? Or would they continue to attack Alliance worlds?

They didn’t seem to know Lotor and the Voltron Force had met up. But it was only a matter of time before the Keraclon made the connection. Arus would be endangered, might even now be the next destination of the Keraclon. It was with this worry that Allura had her ships leave planet Doom, well before night had fallen. She wanted nothing to delay their return to Arus, and Allura had the scientists onboard working overtime to decipher the mysteries of the vaccine in Lotor’s blood.

They were all desperate to find the key, to have the vaccine prepared. Two days wasn’t a lot of time, but they all felt frustrated at the lack of progress the scientists had made so far. It would take another two days, even traveling at top speed in hyperspace, for the ships to return to Arus. Allura wondered if by some miracle the scientists would find the break through needed.

There were other things to consider, and they might almost be as pressing as the situation with the Keraclon. The remains of the Doom Empire did not yet know what had happened to the home world. But they had to suspect something was amiss, the communication grids down. It wouldn’t be long before ships were sent to the planet to inquire what was happening. And then the truth would be out, Doom’s devastation known throughout the Empire.

Lotor would need to pull himself together, all in order to keep the Empire from splitting into several factions that warred against each other. Without a capable leader, certain nobles would turned greedier, grasping for power. And right now a Drule power play was the last thing the Denubian Galaxy needed!

Coran would see to getting out the word that Lotor still lived, although he hadn’t yet put the marriage announcement through official channels. They hadn’t wanted to
draw the Keraclon’s attention to Arus, especially this fast. If the Keraclon didn’t know where Lotor was, they would once the marriage announcement flooded the airwaves. And yet they couldn’t keep the Doom Empire in the dark indefinitely about their crown prince’s status.

It was a tricky line to walk, and whatever path they chose, there would be consequences. It was Allura’s hope they could keep the Empire from discovering what had happened to Doom long enough for the vaccine to be successfully recreated. Then it wouldn’t matter if the Keraclon knew about Lotor. Arus and the Alliance would be ready and able to fight back the threat.

Of course, Allura also hoped that Lotor would recover from his pain and shock by then. If he couldn’t get over his grief, she feared he would be useless at uniting the remains of the Empire. The Drules would need Lotor to be strong, to be there for them. He couldn’t stay withdrawn forever. And it was with that thought that Allura approached the bedroom that had been given to the prince. She was nervous and unsure, a fluttery feeling of butterflies in her stomach. But Allura was determined to try and reach through to him, to get him past enough of the pain so that he could function.

She carried a covered tray with her, a simple meal she had brought up from the ship’s commissary. Allura had learned Lotor hadn’t eaten since early this morning, the shock of his home world’s destruction stealing his appetite. She didn’t think he would be in the mood for more than a few bites, but knew he couldn’t allow himself to weaken by starving himself.

Allura didn’t know if it was good or bad that Lotor had retired to his bedroom. She hoped the change of scenery would somehow improve his outlook. He had spent far too many hours on the viewing deck, glued to the railing that separated him from the windows. The few times she had checked in on him, Lotor hadn’t moved. Always he just stood there, a grim faced statue that stared at the desolate remains of his world.

She couldn’t begin to imagine what went through his mind as he stood there. The situation was alien to her, Allura knowing if the roles had been reversed she would have never held back the information she had known, no matter what. There simply would have been nothing she could want more than to ensure the safety of her people and her home world. She just wasn’t that kind of selfish person. The kind of selfish Lotor had demonstrated time and time again since his rescue that first time from the Keraclon.

Holding back a sigh, she shifted the tray to a one handed grip. Her right hand free, she overrode the locking mechanism’s code. The door slid open with a hiss, darkness looming before her. Allura stared uncertainly into the room, unable to see anything beyond the entrance where the hall’s light spilled inside. Had Lotor left his room in the time it took her to fetch a meal for him?

“Lotor?” She called out softly, a quiver to her voice. No actual response, but she thought she heard the faintest sound of breath being exhaled. Squaring her shoulders, Allura stepped inside the room and only after she had hit the light switch did she allow the door to slide shut.

She blinked at the sudden change of light, the room flooded with it’s bright yellow glow. And over in the corner, seated before a round table was the prince. He was blinking too, but other than that he had no reaction to her arrival. Allura hid a frown, noticing a half filled glass of some bronze colored liquid standing by his hand.

“Have you been drinking?” She asked out loud, her displeasure apparent. He hadn’t had anything to eat all day! Drinking on an empty stomach was the fastest way to get smashed, even for a Drule.

He didn’t look at her, didn’t respond to the upset in her voice. He just stared at the wall, seeing something she couldn’t. This time Allura did sigh, inching closer to his table. “I brought you something to eat….” She held up the tray as proof of this but his eyes did not even flicker towards her. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want, so I brought you a little of everything….”

Reaching the table, she set the tray down but made no move to uncover it. She was too busy studying Lotor, looking for signs that he had understood what she had said. His eyes held a kind of glassy sheen to them, but that could be attributed to the drinks. Allura was relieved to see they weren’t vacant, that he hadn’t turned inwards in some bid to escape his pain.

“Have you…rested any at all?” She asked. Lotor’s silence unsettled her, leaving Allura scrambling for things to say. She wasn’t used to not getting a response from him, Lotor always quick with comments. “That’s not a good idea.” Allura added when he used his good hand to lift up the glass. She made no attempt to hide her frown as he began to drink from the glass, the liquid disappearing at an astonishing rate. “How many have you already had?” She demanded, not really expecting an answer. She got one all the same, Lotor’s voice hoarse and unhappy.

“Not enough.”

She blinked quickly, but had a retort ready for him. “You know no matter how much you drink….it’s not going to make this any better.” As if in direct challenge to her words, he finished off the drink. “You can drink all the alcohol on board this ship, and it won’t change what has happened. It won’t make the pain any less…”

“Will it make me forget?” He wanted to know. “Even for a little while….?”

“I don’t think what happened to Doom is something anyone can forget that easily. No matter what we try to do, no matter how many brain cells we kill off with this poison.” Allura answered. His expression remained the same, Lotor stone face and guarded. “Nor should we try to forget…” His eyebrows lifted, the only hint of his surprise. “It would be an insult to Doom, to the people of the planet to forget what’s happened to them.”

“An insult….” Lotor repeated.

“We must never forget…only then can we…” Lotor suddenly slammed his good hand on the table, the action startling Allura into momentary silence. She gaped at him as he growled, his eyes narrowed at he looked at her.

“I don’t want to remember! I don’t want to think on what happened, to have these feelings!”

“What feelings?” She prodded with a whisper. He scared her with his anger, but Allura thought it was better than him just sitting there saying and doing nothing. “Lotor, the pain might never stop if you don’t talk about it…”

“Talk?” His lips curled back, Lotor sneering then. “What good is talking? It won’t change what has happened! Won’t turn back time and keep Doom from being destroyed!”

“It’s true we can’t change what has happened, but…and this is important. We can keep you from destroying YOURSELF!” Allura pointed out. “The pain, the feelings will only tear you up inside….it’s not healthy to keep such things locked away…”

“Why are you here?” Lotor asked instead. She blinked, surprised. “Why do you even care?” Her mouth opened and closed, Allura unsure what if anything she could say.

“I…”

“You?” He openly mocked when she was unable to continue. And yet Allura didn’t look away, keeping her gaze concerned and intent on him.

“Your people need you.” She finally said, and he seemed to twitch with anger.

“My people are…”

“Spread out among the many worlds in the Doom Empire. They will be frightened when they learn what has happened to your home world.” Allura pointed out. “They will need your guidance, need to see that their leader is strong and capable.”

“But I’m not…” He whispered.

“You’ve suffered a major blow….but you are not dead. And if you don’t allow your feelings, your grief to incapacitate you…then you can still lead. Still be the strong figure the Empire needs to survive such a loss.” He just stared at her, and she allowed the slightest hint of smile to tease her lips. “Who else is going to be able to do what is needed? Who else but you?”

Lotor leaned back in his seat but Allura couldn’t tell if he was thinking over what she had asked. She didn’t want to press him, but he had to be made aware of the danger the Empire face if the nobles should break out into fighting over the remains.

“Doom may be gone.” Allura added. “But the Empire is still out there. Don’t let it fade away with the home world…don’t let it be torn apart by those who would try to seize power for their own desires.”

She wasn’t above playing to his own greed, that inherent possessiveness that all Drules seemed to have. Allura hoped to see that possessiveness flare to life in Lotor’s eyes, for the prince to announce no one would steal his kingdom from him. She actually yearned to see the fire burn in him, righteous indignation at the thought of someone taking what had been meant to be his. It would be infinitely better than this suffocating wave of depression he had about him.

Allura thought she saw a glimmer in Lotor’s eyes. Was he rising to the challenge the nobles would present him? She didn’t know, and kept pushing, hoping to spur him on further. “The Drules may be spread out across the Denubian Galaxy but…the spirit of the people will live on. In you, in each other. They’ll keep their beliefs, theirs customs, their goals…..even their history. Doom and it’s people may be gone, but they need never be forgotten….”

Just as sudden as it had come, the glimmer faded, Lotor sagging in his seat. Allura wasn’t quite sure what she had said to extinguish it, though she tried to keep from frowning. To that end she uncovered the tray, hoping the sight and smell of the meal she had brought would somehow entice the prince into eating.

“You really should eat something.” Allura told him, spearing a piece of roasted beef with a fork. “You’ll feel better once you do….” As though he was a child, she brought the fork to his lips, ready to coax him into taking a bite of the beef on it’s tines.

He growled at her, good arm lashing out to knock away the fork and her arm. She gasped and gaped at him, Lotor’s anger almost frightening. Even more so when he grabbed the tray, food and all and flung it violently across the room. The food smeared down the wall, and the tray clattered to the floor. Allura’s own chair hit the floor, the princess having scrambled to her feet at the exact instant Lotor stood.

She was frightened of what he would do, remembering her earlier concerns that his bottled up emotions might eventual lead to a violent outburst. Was this the explosion of anger she had been fearing? “Lotor…”

When he stepped towards her, Allura backed up. Her heart hammered in her chest, Allura fearing what he would do. She could smell the brandy on his breath, could see the play of volatile emotions on his face. He was struggling with so many emotions, none of them positive. He was unpredictable and dangerous, a man on edge. A man who felt he had lost one thing too many. She didn’t understand him, he was too alien to her. Allura had often tried to help the people of her planet cope with their losses, sometimes with success. But they had always had that human understanding. She had no reassurance with Lotor, knowing he had proven so often how different, how foreign his thinking was in comparison to hers.

Had it been wrong of her to try and help him deal with the pain of his loss? She didn’t know. Would it have been better to bring a Drule here, one equipped to deal with the prince’s anger? One who would be able to relate to Lotor’s nature? Again she could not say. There had been no one available to them, no other candidate but Allura that could have had any modicum of success in reaching the prince.

She continued to back up, watching as the prince stalked her every move. Even if he struck out now, hurting her in an attempt to share whatever pain he was experiencing, Allura couldn’t regret reaching out to someone in need. It was simply her nature to try and help, even if the person who needed help was her enemy. Allura couldn’t let Lotor go on suffering if there was anything she could do to lessen the pain. It was with that knowledge that she ceased her attempts to back away from him. But she didn’t freeze in place, eyes wide as she stared into his face. Searching for something she could reach, something past his current rage. Something that could temper his anger, and soothe his pain.

She fought not to bite down on her bottom lip, gearing up her nerves. He was like a savage beast that needed taming in this moment. Allura might not have what was needed to calm him. But Allura was also aware she was the only one onboard this ship that might stand a chance against him. Never taking her eyes off him, she bravely stepped forward her hand reaching out to him.

Lotor actually flinched when her hand did the briefest of touches on his cheek. But he didn’t strike her, didn’t try to dodge her touch, or push her away. That knowledge emboldened Allura, the princess planting her hand more firmly on his cheek. He stared at her, and then his eyes were closing, a held breath escaping between them. She stood before him, fingers caressing his cupped cheek. She didn’t say a word, just tried to calm him with her touch. It would be meaningless to say everything was going to be okay. Not this early, and not with everything so unsure. Doom might not be the last planet to suffer destruction at the Keraclon’s hands, the vaccine might never be replicated in time to do them or Arus any good.

Allura couldn’t think about that then. It would show on her face, her upset triggering a reaction in Lotor. Now was not the time to focus on anything but sending calming thoughts to him. To let a calmness she didn’t truly feel wash over them both. She didn’t focus on anything but the fact that Lotor was hurting. Didn’t try to wonder if he blamed her as much as he probably blamed himself for Doom’s destruction. There was only this moment, no one saying anything, no one hurling accusations, or laying blame.

She continued to gently stroke his cheek, watching as his eyes fluttered open. But slowly, as though he was reluctant to see who was standing before him. His good hand came up, Lotor covering her hand with his own. Holding it there, his heat melding with the heat of her hand. The crutch he had been so dependent on fell to the floor, forgotten for the moment.

Lotor’s lips parted, he looked like he so desperately wanted to say something. But then they closed, not even a sound escaping him. But he didn’t let go of her hand, trailing his fingers downwards to grasp hold of her wrist. Allura thought the worse had passed, and thus was caught off guard when his fingers locked like a vise around her wrist. Pulling her off balance, she crashed into him, Allura putting out her other hand against his chest. They still fell, tumbling down to the floor. She winced, sure such jostling couldn’t be good for Lotor’s injured arm. But he didn’t make a sound of complaint, instead maneuvering things so that not only was she crushed against him, but she ended up pinned beneath him.

He no longer needed to hold her hand, Lotor’s weight easily keeping her trapped. That hand of his went to her hair, fisting whole segments of it as he eased her head back. He stared down at her, and Allura found she couldn’t be completely afraid. Not with that raw look of pain in his eyes. He looked almost blind with it, so open and honest was the pain.

Allura found herself licking dry lips, her heart beat increasing it’s tempo once more. She was aware something had changed, he was no longer angry though she knew the anger could come back at any time. It would be boiling just under the surface, his moods changing, ricocheting from one extreme to another. She hadn’t tamed the beast, she had just diverted it’s emotions down another path. But where that path would ultimately lead she wasn’t entirely sure. Especially with Lotor just staring at her, eyes never blinking.

She didn’t dare speak, not sure what would happen if voices were brought into this. Lotor continued to hold onto her hair, but even if the pressure of his grip hadn’t been there, Allura wouldn’t have looked away. His pain deserved to be acknowledged. If only by her.

He continued to stare, and some part of Allura realized he was searching her face. But for what she did not know. If she had, Allura would have shown it to him. If only to reassure Lotor that he needn’t go through this loss alone.

Just as suddenly as he had brought them down to the floor, Lotor pressed his lips to her throat. She had to fight to keep her brow from furrowing. The grip on her hair pulled more insistent, commanding her to offer up her throat to Lotor’s lips. She gave in, more bewildered than grudging and heard Lotor moan. The sound was all things and not, sexual, hurting, even anger. His fangs grazed over her skin, and Lotor pressed his weight more firmly on her. Allura wasn’t sure what was going on, where this as going, what Lotor really wanted to do.

When her hands raised to touch him, he growled. The sound was feral, a warning. She heeded it, dropping her hands to lay flat on the floor. His face ended up in the crook of her shoulder, Lotor breathing in deeply of her. He muttered something then, but it was too muffled, too low voiced to properly make out. He continued to smell her, to the point she nearly relaxed.

But then Lotor was shifting on top of her, his good hand reaching down between their bodies. Allura stiffened when she heard the zipper being eased down, Lotor continuing to mutter unintelligible things as he worked to free himself of his pants. A growl escaped him when she began to move her hands, but this time she ignored the fright it stirred in her.

Instead Allura reached up to wrap her arms around Lotor, pulling him down against her. His hand stilled, his eyes seemed to focus, seeing her without the pain. Allura couldn’t quite smile at him. “Is this what you need Lotor?” She asked softly. “Is this what you really need to feel better?” Allura wasn’t exactly offering herself to him. She wasn’t prepared to be the vessel in which he buried all his pain and anger into. But she was curious. The Drules were so different from the humans, with their own laws and beliefs, and ways of coping. Maybe sex was just one of those ways, or maybe it was just the only way Lotor knew how to relate to the slightest bit of sympathy.

Whatever the case, she waited for his answer, never breaking the hug. He stared down at her, and then his eyes lowered, Lotor collapsing on top of her. He didn’t start to cry, but she felt the tremors shake him. His emotions, his pain still had him in their grip, leaving him trembling uncontrollably. She kept right on hugging him, and all the while she wondered if she was doing any good as far as Lotor was concerned.


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