It was difficult for Allura to keep control of her excitement, the princess wanting to run the distance from Lotor’s bedroom to the scientists’ laboratory. But she was aware of how such an act would look, the reactions she would earn from those she passed by. They would make assumptions about why Allura was in such a hurry, and those assumptions would lead to speculation. Before long full out gossip would break out onboard the ship, people excited and getting their hopes up. It was something Allura could not allow, not until she received confirmation of the findings from the scientists themselves.
So she forced herself to walk at a normal pace. Kaloum the intern whose name she had at long last remembered, walked just a step ahead of her, barely composed. She could not fault him for that, not when Allura wanted to pull him aside and question him intently about everything he could know about the scientists’ breakthrough. But she also knew the best source of information would come from the scientists themselves, rather than an assistant.
But still it was difficult to hold back, to not build up her hopes and excitement. She was almost ready to start screaming when they turned the corner that led towards the scientists’ labs. The space assigned to the scientists was located near to the center of the ship, which was quite a distance from Lotor’s bedroom. It felt even longer, that final corridor that led into the space allocated as a lab. Allura felt her nerves winding tighter together, her anticipation building.
There were two guards in front of the laboratory’s doors. She felt her impatience mount, Allura giving a hurried acknowledgment of their actions. Kaloum pulled open the doors, Allura nearly barreling him over in her haste to get inside the laboratory. He did not take offense, his green eyes excited as he made sure to close the doors behind her. Someone had surely instructed the intern well, the man making sure not even the laboratory guards would overhear what was about to be revealed.
The laboratory itself consisted of three cabin sized rooms. Most of the typical furniture had been removed, no beds and what not around to take up needed space. Instead there was tables, and machines, even bookcases whose shelves were full of odds and ends. In the first room alone, Allura could see many beakers and vials of colorful potions, things bubbling in a pot. A minty smell was in the air, it overrode many of the others scents in the room.
An array of large, square like machines took up the right wall. Some were connected, but many weren’t. She saw printouts laid out on a table, and charts of both Drule and human anatomy. On one table, stacks of folders lay piled on top of one another. They were thick with paper, and she wondered if that was just some of the findings the scientists had discovered these past few days.
“Right this way.” Kaloum drew her attention, Allura following him into the next room. This room was similar to the first, although now she saw row upon row of tubing. Those tubes held the rich red liquid that might just be some of the blood they had drawn from Lotor. Another intern was standing by the tubing, a chart in hand as she monitored something about that blood. She barely looked up as Allura and Kaloum passed her by.
The third room had even more blood on display, so much Allura had a feeling it didn’t all belong to Lotor. Gathered here were the eleven scientists that had been brought onboard, many of them holding charts that they kept glancing at. Behind them, on the center wall was a large view screen. Allura could see what had to be the laboratory at the castle of Lions. There was scientists moving about in the background, no one paying much mind to the transmission that was currently running.
Curious, she did a quick look around the room. She saw the exam table where Lotor had surely laid so many times, and various implements laid out beside it. Nothing that could prick skin though, those things had been hidden away for the moment. There was a machine who was printing out some kind of readout, the lines and squiggles indecipherable to Allura.
Kaloum stood with her when Allura stopped just several feet from the door. The scientists seemed to have not noticed their arrival, talking in hushed murmurs amongst themselves. One pair in particular seemed to be arguing over something on a chart, the woman frowning and shaking her head no. The man next to her looked annoyed, pointing insistently at something on the chart.
Allura had a feeling she would have been ignored forever, if not for Kaloum forcing a polite cough. The noise seemed to draw one scientist in particular’s attention. It was
the woman known as Doctor Aubergine, a serious faced scientist whose jet black hair was pulled back in a severe bun. She didn’t waste a smile on Allura, nor did she seem particularly excited. Allura began to doubt the reason she had been called here, stepping forward to shake the offered hand.
“Princess Allura, so good of you to come.” Doctor Aubergine’s handshake was firm, pumping Allura’s hand three times before letting go.
“I understand there’s been a development…?” She hadn’t been sure how to phrase it. Kaloum had talked as though they thought they might have a way to replicate the vaccine.
The other scientists were starting to look her way, but save for quick glances, most seemed focus on the documents and charts they held. One of the scientists in the background of the view screen seemed to notice who Aubergine was talking to. He quickly ran off screen, and seconds later a different man would walk into view. He seemed much older than Doctor Aubergine, with salt and pepper colored hair, and a neatly trimmed beard.
“Why yes princess, there has been.” Aubergine gestured to the screen. “It was actually Doctor Chestarah who first stumbled upon a potential break through…”
The man, Chestarah, bowed slightly to Allura. “Yes….though it really was just chance. I noticed a certain kind of enzyme in the prince’s blood…You may or may not be aware, but in a typical human body structure, enzymes are known catalysts to roughly four thousand biochemical reactions. It is a similar number among the Drule, although there is an additional three hundred not existing in a human’s body…”
Allura tried not to let her eyes glaze over at this, knowing it would be bad if she couldn’t follow this much of the conversation. “And it’s this enzyme that made all the difference?”
“It was a start…” allowed Doctor Chestarah. “The enzyme in question is actually what we would call a mutation. Something that would not naturally exist in a Drule’s body. Or a human’s for that matter. In the midst of several thousand enzymes it was difficult to locate, but once found well…things began to line up as it were.”
“We think this mutation is a key component of the vaccine.” Doctor Aubergine spoke now. “Normally a mutation of this type might cause some type of genetic disease, but in this case….well…it appears to be part of the trigger that protects one from the Keraclon’s fear waves.”
“Appears to be?” Allura echoed sharply. “You don’t know for sure?”
“We won’t know without extensive testing….and unfortunately the only way to know for certain, is to engage a Keraclon while the vaccine is in one’s system.” Aubergine gestured for Allura to follow her over to a table. “Here…” There was three microscopes laid out, each one holding a different sample. “Take a look at this….this is the prince’s blood…”
Dutifully, Allura looked down into the microscope. She couldn’t tell what she was supposed to be looking for, and it wasn’t until after Doctor Aubergine had her look at samples of human blood that she understood. The first sample of human blood was normal, but the second sample had been injected with what the scientists hoped was a replica of the vaccine. The injected blood seemed to have more activity going on inside it, matching up to what she had first seen in Lotor’s blood.
It still left her confused though. She was no expert when it came to medical science. “Does this mean you have managed to make the Drules’ vaccine?” Allura wanted to know. The scientists all began talking louder, and Aubergine gave a tightlipped smile.
“There is some….disagreement about that.” She sighed at Allura’s questioning look. “We have managed to make A vaccine…one that closely mirrors that which has been injected inside Prince Lotor’s body. However…there is doubt on whether or not it will work, or if it will be as effective as the vaccine the Drules created.”
“If we were to have more time…” added Chestarah. “We would surely be able to replicate the vaccine the prince carries completely….”
“We might not have that time though.” Allura pointed out, trying not to let her depression show. “The Keraclon are on the move. It’s not just Arus that is in danger…”
“We realize that.” Aubergine’s tone and manner was stiff. “But we are recommending that the vaccine we currently have created be used only as a last resort. We of course, will continue to work around the clock with our partners on Arus. We won’t give up, we shall continue until we are able to make an exact copy.”
“Good.” Allura nodded. “In the mean time…start mass producing the vaccine you do have.”
“I don’t want to use an untested, potentially imperfect vaccine anymore than you do. But..if this is all we got…I want us to be prepared…if the Keraclon were to attack now, the vaccine we do have might be the only thing standing between us and total annihilation.” Allura explained. Several of the scientists were nodding in agreement. “Have you sent your findings to the Galaxy Alliance?”
“Not yet. We were waiting to discuss the matter with you.” Said Aubergine.
“Considered it discussed.” Allura replied, stepping away from the table with the microscopes. “I want no more delays….send the reports to the Alliance headquarters as soon as possible. The more heads we get working on this, perhaps the better our chances will be of replicating a perfect clone of this vaccine.”
“Yes, your highness.” Aubergine nodded her head, then gestured for Kaloum to approach her. “Prepare the data to be transmitted….”
“Yes, Doctor.” He hurried over to a computer in the corner. Allura glanced his way, watching as his fingers blurred with his movements across the keyboard.
“How much time do you estimate needed for your research?” Allura asked Aubergine.
“I can’t say for sure. It could be hours, it could be weeks….we’ve only made this much progress thanks to my colleague Chestarah’s findings.” She sighed then. “The Keraclon’s recent activity doesn’t give us much of a time table to work with.”
“Unfortunately true.” Agreed Allura. “I don’t mean to rush you, but if we can prevent another world from falling victim to the Keraclon’s attacks….”
“I understand.” Aubergine assured her. “I saw what befell Doom. That kind of tragedy must never be repeated.” Her whole body seemed to sag with her sigh. “It is a weighty burden, to have an entire galaxy dependent on our actions…” She looked Allura over, and sighed again. “But of course, you already know that burden well, do you not princess….?”
“Yes.” Allura nodded. As one of the five pilots of Voltron, the peace of the Denubian Galaxy had often fallen on Allura’s shoulders to protect. And not just as a member of the Voltron Force, the princess thinking of her forced marriage to Lotor. It was a union not based on love, but one of necessity. She had been willing to do anything to gain the secret of the Keraclon’s defeat, just as Lotor had been willing to do anything to get Allura to be his wife.
Just thinking of Lotor, and the risks he had put them all in with his selfishness made Allura frown. She couldn’t be as mad at him as she had been just hours ago, not when she had witnessed his pain. But as much as he hurt over what he had wrought with his own planet, she couldn’t completely forgive him for his behavior this past week. Her feelings were somewhere in the middle, confusing and conflicting. The coming days would show whether she would want to hug him in comfort, or wring his neck in exasperation!
“Princess? Is everything all right?” The Doctor wanted to know. Allura couldn’t quite smile, though she did manage to do away with her frown.
“I’m fine. I just have a lot to think about.” She said.
“As do we all.” Aubergine’s reply seemed to be the cue Allura needed to excuse herself. The other ten scientists barely seemed to notice, but Doctor Aubergine escorted her to the laboratory’s exit.
“Call me if you discover anything new…” Allura insisted, just before the doors opened. “No matter what…”
“Of course.” Aubergine nodded, and then the doors were closing. The two guards looked at Allura, their curiosity apparent. They didn’t know what had been discovered, but they knew enough to know something significant had to have happened. But Allura didn’t offer them any clues, just walking away deep in thought. She wondered if Coran had been alerted to the scientists findings. But it was late on Arus, too late even for the advisor to still be up. She decided she could always call him first thing in the morning, and then fill him in on what progress the scientists had made.
And it was progress, even if it wasn’t the exact vaccine. Allura was sure if the scientists were given the chance, somehow, someway they would find the key to making an exact copy. The Drules of Doom and the outpost wouldn’t have died in vain, they would have supplied the Denubian Galaxy with the salvation it needed. It was with that uplifting thought that Allura headed to her own private room. She intended to sleep, the princess having been up for more hours than she cared to count.
Of course she didn’t get that far. An alarm went off on the ship, the sound of it’s blaring making Allura panic. Were they under attack?! Her first instinct was to run to the docking bay of the ship, Allura intent on getting to her lion. Other soldiers had the same idea, men and women running, suited up and intent on getting into their fighter jets. No one had a clue as to what was going on, and a part of Allura knew she should go to the command deck and get answers. But the part that was spoiling for some action overrode her more practical side, and Allura soon arrived in the docking bay.
She saw immediately what the problem was. Prince Lotor was on top of blue lion, crouched down and ignoring the soldiers at it’s paws. They were shouting at him to come down, agitated and unsure what would happen if they were to attempt shooting him. Former enemy or not, some might even be attempted to use something more lethal than a stun blast on the prince as well.
Lotor seemed to be snarling, his good hand scrabbling at the roof hatch of her lion. She knew no amount of prying by his claws would get it open, but her shouts did not seem to reach him. Allura pushed her way to the front of the lion, several soldiers moving to make space for her.
“Your highness….he just…he just appeared…” One said in a helpless tone.
“He completely ignores us!” added another. “He’s determined to get inside blue lion. Though to do what, I don’t know….”
Allura wasn’t sure either. Did he think to take blue lion and fly off to face the Keraclon? Even with the lion’s capabilities, that would be suicide!
“Should we shoot him down?” suggested a woman, and Allura quickly spoke.
“No!” Faces turned her way, and Allura nearly flushed in embarrassment. “Let me talk to him instead….”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” A look was aimed towards the angry Lotor who didn’t even seem aware Allura had arrived. “He seems unstable…”
“I have to try.” Allura answered. “If talking doesn’t work, then we’ll try a different action…” The crowd of soldiers grumbled. They weren’t happy with letting their princess so close to a visibly angry Drule. Even if that Drule was now her husband.
Feeling their eyes on her, Allura began to climb up the side of her lion. The higher she went, the more audible was Lotor’s angry growls, and muttered words. She could almost make out what he was saying, and then she was pulling herself up onto the lion’s head.
Lotor did not even look her way, not even when Allura called out his name. The alarm continued to blare, and Allura desperately wished someone had thought to shut it off. She certainly didn’t want to spend this entire time shouting to be heard!
She inched towards Lotor, wondering if he even knew she was there. He continued to claw at the hatch with his nails, Allura noticing the blood on his fingertips and the roof of her lion. She almost frowned, not understanding what was driving him to hurt himself in this matter.
“It won’t work.” She said when she was within reach of him. “Even if you do get inside…you won’t be able to pilot blue lion without it’s key.”
“Don’t need it’s key.” Came his muttered out answer. “Just need what’s inside…”
“Inside…?” She didn’t have to feign confusion. What could be inside that had him so desperate. “Lotor? What’s inside…?”
He looked at her then, never missing a beat with his claws. His look was reproachable, as though he couldn’t believe she had forgotten. “My sword, Allura.”
“Your sword…” She repeated, and managed not to gasp. She had completely forgotten about his sword, left inside her lion for all this time. It had become inconsequential, at least to her.
“I want it back Allura…” Lotor continued, and narrowed his eyes at her head shake. “And I want it now…”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea….” She wondered if she paled at the thought of a distressed Lotor going around armed. If he had his sword, would he be more apt to kill someone when his pain and self blame got to be too much?
He snorted and turned his back to her. He wasn’t acknowledging the bleeding, nor the pain that was surely hurting his fingers. He just kept right on digging at the hatch. Allura winced for him, and kneeled down besides him. “Please….you’re hurting yourself…” She said, and reached for his wrist. He lashed out with that arm, and she nearly fell on her back as she attempted to dodge his attack.
“Leave me alone Allura…” Lotor told her. “Or get me my sword…but don’t….”
“Don’t what?” Allura asked. “Don’t interfere?” She guessed, but he didn’t respond. “How can I just sit back while you’re hurting yourself?”
“You know how to end this.” He answered tonelessly. Dig, dig went his claws, and she thought one was splintering apart. Again she winced, knowing how painful what he was doing had to be.
“Giving you your sword won’t help matters.” Allura finally said. “If anything, it’ll only make things worse.”
“Worse for who?” He wanted to know. “You….?”
“The pain won’t stop, no matter who you lash out at. No matter how many times you kill, it won’t lessen.”
I don’t want to kill anyone.” She stared disbelieving at him, and he sighed. “Fine…I want to kill the Keraclon. Every last one of those bastards. Don’t worry Allura, your people are safe from me.”
“Are they? Are they really?” Again she went for his wrist, and again he lashed out. This time she didn’t try to fall back, she stayed kneeling as she caught his arm. She tskd then as she looked down at his bleeding fingertips, her expression sad. “Look at what you’ve done to yourself…”
“It’s nothing.” He was dismissive, but he didn’t try to jerk his arm free of her hands.
“How can you say that? You ruined your nails…your bleeding for God’s sake!” Allura exclaimed.
“This pain…it doesn’t compare, it can’t compare to what I’m already feeling…”
Her face softened, eyes feeling as though they were growing wet with understanding. “Oh Lotor…”
“Allura please…my sword…” They locked eyes, Lotor not pleading nor commanding. Instead he tried to make her understand. “It’s the only thing I have left. The only thing to have survived Doom’s destruction…”
She wanted to tell him it was just a thing. Something that wouldn’t be able to take away his pain. But he hurried on, words rushing out of him in a breathless tone. “It’s all I have left…everything is gone…my family, my friends…my home…”
“It’s not all you have left…yes you lost a great many things, but you are not alone!”
“Why? Because I have you?” When she hesitated, he gave her a bitter, angry look. “I don’t even have that, do I?”
“Not exactly…” Allura hedge. “Maybe not in the way you want. But I’m here for you anyway.” He was pulling his arm away, intent on clawing at the hatch again. “And it’s not just me…you have the people of Arus…”
“The people of Arus hate me.” Lotor retorted. “I’ve given them good reason to, over the last two years…”
“Yes….but that can be forgiven…the people on this ship have been kind to you….”
“They pity me Allura. And all because they’ve seen what happened to my home world. Hell, they don’t just feel pity, they’re scared shitless that the same thing is going to happen to Arus. They know they need me, need what’s in my blood to keep them safe. So they tolerate me.” Lotor was snarling as he said that.
She didn’t know quite what to say to that. Pity and fear were things her people were most likely feeling. She sighed, and tried again. “You have the remains of the Doom Empire…”
“But for how long?” Lotor wanted to know. “How long before some greedy, grasping nobles steals it out from under me?”
“I won’t let that happen!” Allura snapped. “I will help you to hold onto your empire!”
That got him to stop his claws movements. He glanced at her, surprise in his eyes. “You would do that for me?” She nodded. “Why?” When she hesitated, he sighed. “Don’t say something like it’s because I am your husband.”
“But you are my husband…” Allura retorted. “We made vows to one another. Vows I take seriously, even if the way we got married wasn’t of my choosing. I will stand by and support you, help you through anything…”
“You just won’t love me, will you?” He asked, and now she shrugged.
“I don’t know.” She touched his shoulder. “The Lotor of a week ago, there was no way I could have loved him. But…the Lotor you might become, the man who is changed by the tragedy of Doom…maybe…maybe he I could love….”
He didn’t say anything, turning away from her. She fidgeted in place, wondering if he wanted that, or if he was offended. But she wasn’t gonna keep on wondering quietly, Allura speaking her concern out loud. “Maybe you no longer want my love…maybe you hate me…”
“Hate you?!” He turned back startled.
“You could just as easily blame me for what’s happened to Doom. If I had been quicker to marry you…maybe, just maybe what happened to Doom would have been prevented…” Allura explained.
“I don’t blame or hate you for that Allura.” Lotor told her. “I put you in an awful position. I realize that. If anyone should be blamed….it’s me…” And that realization was killing him inside.
“You can only blame yourself for so long before it gets to be too much.” Allura said. “Please try not to let it tear you up inside…”
“I don’t know if I can stop it…” Lotor admitted.
“It’s only the first day…it will get better as time passes.”
“Will it really?” he asked. And she nodded.
“It might never stop hurting completely, but it will lessen.” She reached for his hand, and this time he didn’t try to stop her. “So please….stop this. I’ll give you your sword back, but not until we get back to Arus.”
“You don’t trust me with it? No…don’t bother denying it. I can see the truth of it on your face.” He sighed. “Fine…I guess I can wait one more day….”
“Thank you.” She was relieved. “Now what say we get off my lion? I’d really like to get your fingers treated….”
He grimaced as he looked at his hand. “I really made a mess of things.” His words could apply to so many things, and Allura wisely kept quiet. Lotor didn’t need her agreeing with him about that. Though she felt hope that he could recognize the problems he had caused. Hope that he would be able to rectify some of them. She even felt better to know he wasn’t blaming what happened to Doom on her. She realized with a start, it was starting to matter what Lotor thought of her, what he felt for her. A tension that had been with her all day and night had left her with the confirmation that he didn’t hate her. For the first time since marrying Lotor, she felt a little hope for their future.