The battle extended well into the night. Both sides suffered extensive losses, and at times it appeared the fighting would never end. Allura began to think the Keraclon would continue to fight until everyone was dead on both sides. Even with the ships from the Alliance lending their aid, the battle proved difficult on the Arusians. But, and Allura was heartened to note the Keraclon never came close to landing on Arus’ surface. Nor could they get near enough to effectively used the weapons that were capable of leveling whole cities in an instant.
Of course that meant the Keraclon in a move of utter desperation, used those devastating weapons on ships instead. At one point a beam had taken in both Alliance and Keraclon ships, the aliens sacrificing their own people in order to take out three hundred of the defenders’ ships. Allura had been shocked by that move, but it had reinforced her opinion that the Keraclon was pure evil. She couldn’t have fathomed anyone turning a weapon on their own people, even if that maneuver meant they might earn a victory.
The fighting had continued, the Alliance and Arusian ships trying to keep far apart from each other so as to avoid getting caught in another one of those beams. The fighting would go on for so many hours, that Allura began to feel fatigued. She knew the other Arusians had to be feeling that same tiredness, and wondered if the Keraclon suffered similarly. But there was no one to fight back up, all their ships were on the battlefield. It was fight for as long as you could, and hope your efforts helped win Arus a permanent victory against the Keraclon.
The fighting got to the point she never saw Pidge or Hunk’s lions. She began to let the Keraclon feed into her fears, Allura frightened that one or both pilots had been killed. She tried to turn the fear into rage, to let her anger propel her forward. To seek vengeance for her fallen friends as she continued her valiant fight. Both sides continue their volley of fire, Keraclon ships exploding just as often as the Alliance’s.
It wasn’t until the Keraclon’s armada had been nearly decimated, that victory was seized. With only three large ships, and several hundred fighter jets remaining, the Keraclon fled the battlefield. They didn’t even try to call back the fighter jets, the three big ships slipping into hyperspace. One of them had been badly damaged, trailing smoke as it made a feeble attempt to get away.
The Keraclon ships that were left behind had surely been in shock. Never had the Keraclon known defeat, let alone to have their superiors flee the battlefield. It sent the fighters into a tizzy, some trying to escape by flying away from planet Arus. Lotor’s ship which had remained on the outskirts of the battle, picked off those wayward ships. Allura and her people, along with the Alliance would take down those who remained behind to fight.
When the three big ships of the Keraclon evacuated the field, the communication grid was restored. Immediately voices filled the airwaves, people talking. They were excited, some laughing. It was difficult to pick out any one voice, so many people were expressing joy and relief that the battle had been won. Allura found herself both crying and smiling, the tears dripping downwards as she continued to pilot her lion.
She was doubly relieved when a private communication was opened up on a secure channel. Hunk and Pidge’s faces appeared in corners of her view screen, and Allura let out a delighted laugh. She was so relieved they were still alive, she thought she’d be sick. But she fought against the nausea and the dizziness, making glad exclamations to them.
Even better was the fact the fear had lifted from the battlefield completely. The remaining Keraclon weren’t concentrating on their telepathy, too busy trying to keep alive. It would do them no good, the Alliance and the Arusians hunting down every last ship. The battle would not end, until the final Keraclon ship was destroyed. But it didn’t mean the war with the Keraclon was at an end. If anything it was just heating up. This was but the first battle against them, and the Keraclon that had escaped was surely returning to one of their stolen worlds to alert the rest of their race of what had happened.
They would surely be gearing up their reinforcements. Allura intended to stop the Keraclon before they tried to return to Arus. It was with that determination that she rode the transport shuttle back to the control room of the Castle of Lions. Coran was waiting for her, the man looking as though he had aged several years from the stress of the battle. But beneath his bushy mustache he was smiling, relieved to see she was well.
“Princess Allura…I want to commend you on….”
“Princess!” A heavily accented voice called out, cutting the advisor off mid sentence. It was Nanny, and her appearance shocked Allura. The princess could not help but gape as the older woman ran forward, Allura having assumed she would have been evacuated with the rest of the civilians. “Thank goodness you are safe!” Nanny was saying, throwing her arms around Allura. She nearly lifted the princess off the ground with the hug, the woman looking weepy faced with relief.
“Thank goodness, you’re safe Nanny.” Allura corrected her, and looked over her shoulder at Coran. “And you too Coran.”
“Nonsense princess, you were the one who was in the most danger.” Nanny pulled back from the hug and tsked. “Just what were you thinking, going against Coran’s advice?”
“I was thinking of protecting my planet.” Allura answered, holding back a sigh. Nanny seemed ready to go off on a rant, the woman stern with disapproval.
“It was too dangerous for you…! When I think of how close you came to dying…” She shuddered. “You should have done as Coran asked. Left the fighting to the soldiers, and gone far from here.”
“What kind of ruler would I be, if I ran and hid while others did my fighting for me?” Allura demanded.
“A safe one!” Nanny quickly retorted.
“What about you?” Allura asked. “You didn’t evacuate with the others….why didn’t you go to safety?”
“Ah…what would a woman of my age do on a new world?” Nanny asked. “Besides…my place is here with Coran. The least I could do is bear witness to what happens to the planet, especially with our princess fighting so hard to save it.”
“Seems to me you both took an awful risk.” Hunk had just arrived, apparently having heard enough of the conversation to gather what was going on. Or perhaps he was just used to Nanny’s chiding, and could guess just what she had been upset about.
“Hunk!” Allura’s face lit up with a smile, she was running to the large man. He held open his arms, and she latched onto him, delighted as she hugged him. Nanny huffed out a sound, surely thinking it was improper of Allura to be hugging the pilot. Young Pidge would get the same treatment, Allura just as excited to see him as she was Hunk.
“Man that was some fight!” Hunk was saying. “I thought it was never gonna end…”
“Well, logically it had to, sooner or later.” Pidge pointed out. Hunk fixed him with an annoyed look. “But I know what you meant. Those Keraclon were tenacious.”
“I can’t believe they just up and abandoned their own people.” Hunk said.
“I can. Filthy, immoral monsters! The whole lot of them! It’s no wonder they sacrificed so many ships to save a few…” Nanny sniffed, haughty and self righteous at the thought.
“I bet it’s the first time the Keraclon have ever even known fear.” Added Pidge with a grin. He sobered at Allura’s head shake.
“Not quite.” She said. “There’s one thing that inspired fear in them long before this battle….”
“Lotor.” Coran said knowingly. “The prince, and the vaccine he carries inside him.”
“Many people died for this knowledge.” Allura added. “And more than a handful of worlds were destroyed as the Keraclon tried to make sure the vaccine died with Lotor and the Drules…”
“I think a lot of this could have been avoided if that beast wasn’t so selfish!” Nanny announced. “Making the princess marry him before he would reveal the Drule’s secret.”
“He’s learned his lesson Nanny.” Allura told her.
“Not until after his own world paid the price.” Muttered Hunk.
“It serves Lotor and the Drule right.” Nanny seemed vicious in the moment. “If they hadn’t tried to keep it a secret, hadn’t hoped to profit off the vaccine’s use…” She never got to finish her sentence, Allura had approached her. Nanny hadn’t seem to realize the anger in the princess eyes was directed at her, not until Allura had viciously slapped Nanny across the face.
Silence followed the slap. Nanny’s cheek was already turning red, and tears were in her eyes. She turned back to face Allura, seeming speechless with shock. “What…what was that for?” Nanny demanded when she was capable of speaking.
“How dare you!” hissed Allura, her hand still raised. She honestly thought she might slap Nanny a second time. “Do you even listen to yourself? Saying it serves him, serves the Drule right. Their world was destroyed….millions of lives lost….the Keraclon spared no one, not even one person survived the decimation of planet Doom. And you think that is what? A just reward for one man’s selfish behavior?”
“Princess….I…I…” Nanny was stammering, tears rolling down her face. But Allura had a feeling Nanny did not cry for Doom.
“You may not care about the Drule that died, but there was children on that planet. And not just children, but slaves. That includes some of our own people. It wasn’t just the Drule that got killed….we all suffered losses…it’s wrong to revel in that, even for a moment no matter what you feel for the race at whole!”
Nanny looked as if it just occurred to her that there had been innocent people on planet Doom. She began to cry loudly, raising her apron up to her face. But Allura made no attempt to comfort her, too angry in the moment. She couldn’t believe Nanny could have been that prejudice, and some of the love she had for the woman had surely faded.
“I’m sure Nanny meant no offense…” Pidge offered awkwardly. “I mean…she just wasn’t thinking when she spoke.”
“Oh she meant it.” A new voice had entered the conversation. Allura turned towards the entrance to the control room, and her heart did a little leap to see Lotor standing there. He looked no worse for wear, though at the moment he was grim faced. “I suppose this is the kind of attitude I can expect from a lot of your people?”
Allura had been about to rush towards him. That urge was abruptly halted at his question. “Lotor no….No one here will celebrate the destruction of Doom. Of the loss of all those lives….”
“You can’t speak for everyone…” Lotor said, and nodded at Nanny. “The hatred runs deep between our two worlds. Maybe too deep for some to forgive.”
“They certainly won’t be forgetting what you and yours did anytime soon…” Pidge muttered under his breath. Allura chose to ignore him for now, keeping her eyes on Lotor’s.
“Yes, there will be some that will not want to forget…who will be loathe to make peace…..But I believe there are more that will be willing to give you and your Empire a chance.” Allura told him. “The people on board the ships that went to Doom…they will talk of what they have seen.”
“I told you…I don’t want pity…”
“It’s not pity!” Allura protested. “Not exactly.”
“Prince Lotor, we are deeply sorry for your loss.” Coran spoke up. “What happened to planet Doom is a horrible thing, a terrible waste of lives. Both Drule and otherwise…” Lotor at least seemed to be listening to Coran, giving a slight nod of his head in response.
“We will have to start the healing.” Allura added. “The healing of the survivors of all the worlds the Keraclon destroyed, but also healing the rift the Doom Arus war caused between the Empire and my people.”
“Can such a healing even be possible?” wondered Lotor.
“We won’t know until we try.” Hunk said. Allura was surprised but gratified when he walked over to Lotor, and extended his hand for a shake. Lotor stared at it a moment, then did an awkward adjustment so his crutch would stay upright. He then took Hunk’s hand, and the two men shook.
“Never thought I’d see the day.” Pidge said with a rueful shake of his head.
“It’ll be the first of many such sights.” Allura was hopeful. She was also tired, fighting back a yawn. Now that the adrenaline was gone, her anger over what Nanny had said lessening, she was finding it hard to stay awake. And yet she still had much to do.
“Aye, it will be.” Coran agreed. He had approached Allura, giving her another tightlipped smile. “I want to commend you on your actions today. That was very brave of you. Your father would be proud…even if he wouldn’t and I don’t agree completely with your decision against fleeing.”
“I had to do it, Coran.” Allura told him. “I couldn’t leave everyone else to an unknown fate…”
“You wouldn’t be you, if you had done anything else.” Pidge grinned in support.
“Yes, the people of Arus are lucky to have Allura as their leader.” Lotor said. He and Hunk had finished shaking hands. Nanny was still in the room, sniffling quietly as she tried to get her upset under control. But she was no longer partaking in the conversation.
Allura blushed at the words Pidge and Lotor had said. She didn’t want to linger on the compliments, trying to turn business like. “We still have much to do.” She told them all. “The Keraclon may have lost this battle, but you can bet they will be gearing up to retaliate…we cannot allow them the chance. We must strike first….and on their territory….”
“More fighting…” Pidge groaned. “That last battle was hard enough…”
“I’m afraid so Pidge….” She glanced at Coran. “We could use black lion and red lion. Any word on Keith?”
“Lance has yet to find him. Our estimations put him a hundred thousand light years away from the border of the Denubian Galaxy. If Keith is there, Lance will surely
“What if he’s not there?” Worried Pidge. “What if he got knocked into another galaxy?!”
“Then we will keep looking for him.” Allura decided firmly. “Lance may not return in time to help us with the Keraclon extermination….but when it’s all over and done with, we can join in the search for Keith…”
“Do you really think the captain is alive after hearing no word from him all this time?” Lotor asked. Everyone ignored that awful suggestion he put in their minds, Hunk seizing on something Allura said.
“Extermination? So we really gonna do it. We really gonna kill off every last one of the Keraclon?” He couldn’t hide his surprise, it was so unlike Allura to advocate killing, let alone a killing on so large a scale.
“I believe so.” She felt Lotor staring at her, the prince wanting to see if her resolve was true about this. “I intend to meet with the Galaxy Alliance, and several prominent world leaders to discuss the Keraclon threat. I will actively advocate we exterminate the Keraclon, down to every last one of them.” Coran and the others were nodding, seeming in support of this genocide. Allura locked eyes with Lotor. “Lotor…I want you to be at that meeting.”
“What?!” Everyone seemed surprised at her request.
“Lotor is not only my husband, but also the only known heir of the Doom Empire’s remains.” Allura stated. “We need to get the word out to those planets that the crown prince still lives….we need to do whatever it takes to get him situated as ruler before less legitimate parties try to take over. But more than that, I want the Doom Empire to work with us and the Alliance to help wipe out the Keraclon threat. Together, we would be able to make an army the likes of which has never been seen, even by the Keraclon.”
Lotor nodded, his lips twitching as though fighting a smile. “My people would like that. They would enjoy paying back the Keraclon for the destruction of the home world and the people that lived on Doom.”
“Then it’s agreed?” Allura asked. “You’ll stand by my side at the meeting?”
“Of course.” This time he did smile, his voice softly teasing. “I’d stand with you no matter the place…”
“Oh boy…there he goes again…” Pidge muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes. “Trying to be Mister Smooth.”
“Thank you. Coran…get on releasing the marriage announcement. Contact as many of the Drule worlds as you can….let them know you are authorized to speak to them under the prince’s orders.” She was fighting to keep her eyes open, feeling more than a little dizzy now. “See how many support Lotor. Make note of the worlds that seem ready to cause trouble….”
“What will you do if there are worlds that do not want to accept Lotors’ rule?” A curious Coran asked. Allura gave a grim flicker of a smile.
“I am sure we will find a way to persuade them towards Lotor.”
“I think if we can make it clear they will prosper under my rule as a united Empire, rather then separate into smaller kingdoms and face a future of uncertainty…” Lotor stated. “They will come around. No matter how much the greedier of nobles tries to threaten them.”
“Are the nobles that big a problem?” Coran wanted to know.
“You have no idea.” Lotor answered with a sigh. “The destruction of Doom, and the death of my father…it will be just the opportunity some of them have been waiting years for. They will not take kindly to knowing I still live.”
“Will they come after you?” Hunk asked.
“Undoubtedly so.” Lotor grimaced. “Some won’t hesitate to try and make the rumors of my death an actuality.”
“Fantastic” grumbled Hunk. “Just what we don’t need…more trouble…”
“We’ll have to worry about those power hungry nobles later.” Allura decided. “First we deal with the Keraclon and getting word out that Lotor still lives, and that he wants his crown. If those nobles are smart, they’ll wait until after the Keraclon threat is eliminated before making trouble for us.” She was starting to sway, thinking she might collapse at any moment. She began to excuse herself, and barely got the words out before she was falling.
“Princess!” Several voices shouted as one, and it was Hunk who caught Allura before she hit the floor. She saw Lotor’s face, the prince both concerned for her and chagrined. He was upset his injuries prevented him from being able to catch her, and he looked more than a little bothered that she was being held in Hunk’s arms.
“It’s all right.” Allura whispered, struggling to keep her eyes open. She didn’t even know if she was speaking to them all, or trying to just reassure Lotor. “I’m just tired….we all are…”
“I’ll take you to your room.” Hunk decided. She felt herself being lifted up into his arms, and barely heard Lotor’s response. The prince was insisting he would come along, and no one seem inclined to argue against that. Allura both wanted to stay up and over see the work Coran had to do, but also she had the desperate need to give in to her body’s urgings. But there really was no choice in the matter, and she was out like a light before Hunk and Lotor exited the control room.