It was to the sound of men talking in hushed voices, that Lotor arrived at the rendezvous point, which was a room off to the side of a corridor that had been emptied of everyone save for a trusted few soldiers. The Drule that guarded the archway into this patch of corridor was a large behemoth of a man, with reddish purple skin and a large war axe strapped to his back. Lotor had eyed the mercenary’s weapon, thinking it was a bit much for the upcoming encounter, but didn’t argue against the Drule bringing it with him.
Instead he nodded gruffly at the man, the Drule stepping aside to admit Lotor into the hall. Lotor immediately walked into an open doorway, pausing in the threshold to eye the half a dozen men who sat waiting inside the room. There was one woman among the male soldiers, her hair shaved bald to better expose the pierced head ridges that went down the back of her head. She was currently on a communicator, her pleasant sounding voice speaking in military code, the woman tracking the whereabouts of the king.
Lotor could hear a man talking back to her, and then another, each one giving the coded speech that let them know Zarkon was not approaching the points those two men guarded. More voices were heard over the airwaves, the people communicating on what was to be an isolated channel, tracking the whereabouts of the king. Lotor turned away from the woman, to look at the men, noting that three of them were among the guards he trusted to guard his harem. The other bunch were veritable strangers to Lotor, men brought in from the noble’s reinforcements.
But they looked tough, battle hardened, with scars on their faces and bodies that were the mark of the hired mercenaries the nobles favored to bolster their private armies. One man was sitting on a chair, straddling it from behind. A curved dagger was in his hand, being run over a whetstone as he worked it to sharpened perfection. Another man looked at Lotor, the mercenary boldly meeting the prince’s eyes. Lotor felt annoyance at the man’s blatant stare, thinking he lacked the proper awe and respect that one should have when coming face to face with a prince of his magnitude.
But before he could complain, the woman made an excited sound, everyone turning to look at her. They could hear a man on the other end of the com unit, radioing in a report that King Zarkon had just passed him by. They now had confirmation of the king’s whereabouts, Zarkon heading for the main entrance of the throne room.
“Let’s go.” Lotor said, already turning for the door. The woman gave the command to detain the king in the corridor outside the throne room’s main entrance, and then she too was following Lotor and the men out of the room. The reddish purple Drule joined them, bringing up their rear, Lotor breaking into a light jog as he headed towards a short cut to the throne room.
The rendezvous point had been chosen as close to the throne room as possible, a location that would lead them quickly to whichever entrance Zarkon had chosen to use this day. As they ran to get into place, Lotor heard the sound of their laser pistols being drawn, the click of the safety’s being shut off, as each person checked to make sure their weapon had a full laser cartridge.
Lotor himself did not bother with a laser pistol, preferring to rely on hand to hand weapons. He knew that in such close quarters, laser pistols were bound to be dangerous, holding the potential to rebound off the walls and strike friend as well as foe. And yet there was need for them, especially if Zarkon’s guard pulled their pistols first. They were liable to be caught in a shoot out, and for that Lotor had come prepared, wearing a vest underneath his clothes that was supposed to be laser proofed.
The corridor they were in split into two, Lotor veering for the rightmost path. As he moved, his hand hovered to a stop over the hilt of his sword, his fingers reaching to grasp hold of it. It was with a low humming noise that he revealed the lazon blade, the blue glow of it illuminating his features as it cast a dim light around him.
Their footsteps echoed, Lotor rushing to turn the corner that would lead into the hallway outside the throne room’s entrance way. Already he could hear shouting, Zarkon’s angry voice demanding what was going on. Lotor couldn’t help but smirk, thinking on how the end was almost near. He almost let out a laugh, feeling ecstatic and knowing he was already celebrating his victory in his mind.
He reached the corner, and came to a stop, even in his moment of triumph Lotor wasn’t foolhardy. Instead he pressed himself to the wall, giving a signal to the people who accompanied him to stop. Slowly, inching his way along the wall, he used his blade to peer around the corner, seeing the red and gold armor of the King’s guards, the soldiers surrounding the King in a protective circle.
There was others in the hall, some dressed as palace guards, and others in the garb of nobles and servants. They stood blocking the king’s path to the throne room, their weapons already out and trained on the King and his entourage.
Satisfied with this sight, Lotor nodded to his men, all but the women moving forward to appear around the corner. Lotor followed his men, a jaunty spring in his step as they cautiously approached King Zarkon. His father was already turning, spying Lotor behinds the mercenaries.
“Lotor! What is the meaning of this?!”
“What does it look like father?” A question for a question, Lotor noting Zarkon’s annoyed scowl.
“It looks to me like your being a nuisance.” Zarkon grumbled. Lotor lifted a brow at that, thinking Zarkon was vastly underestimating what the gathered men and women represented to him.
“Only a nuisance?” Lotor asked, giving a shake of his head. His braid bounced from the movement, Lotor frowning when Zarkon let out a chuckle.
“Yes. A nuisance that has grown too big for his britches.” Zarkon had completed his turn in the circle of his men, locking eyes with Lotor. “Honestly Lotor. Did you think I would let you get away with plotting behind my back?”
His frown deepened, Lotor snapped back an answer in an annoyed tone. “I always knew you were smart. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you are sharp enough to figure out what this is.” A gesture of his arm took in the whole of the corridor, the gathered men and women smiling menacingly. To his immense disappointment, Zarkon looked amused, the King snorting out a comment.
“I suppose you think you have won…”
“That I have!” Lotor interjected, rattled by Zarkon’s mocking laughter. “Stop that racket!” Lotor ordered, taking another step forward. A hand was placed on his shoulder, the behemoth sized Drule whispering a word of caution to the prince. Lotor steeled himself to calm down, though he glared hatefully at his father. “This is your swan song, your moment of choice.”
“Choice?” Zarkon sobered enough to cease his laughter, eyeing Lotor. “And just what choice would that be?”
“To surrender to me.” Lotor explained, gesturing for one of his men to approach the King and his guards. “If you give up now, I will grant you a painless death. The poison you drink will work fast to put you into your eternal slumber.”
“And if I don’t?” Zarkon demanded, and a two finger gesture from him had his guards drawing their swords.
“Then I won’t be responsible for how mangled your body becomes.” Retorted Lotor, narrowing his eyes at his father.
“How considerate of you to give me a choice.” Zarkon said, voice a soothing purr. “It’s a courtesy I won’t extend to you.” He snapped his fingers, and suddenly the soldiers that stood on guard behind Zarkon and his entourage lifted their pistols out of their holsters. The stray servants, and two nobles in the corridor lifted their disguise, also revealing deadly looking assault rifles.
Lotor’s eyes widened, the prince stifling a curse even as the behemoth grabbed him by the arm, and jerked him down the corridor. Lotor saw Zarkon give him a mocking salute, royal scepter lifted up high an instant before Zarkon gave the command to attack.
“Duck and cover!” One of Lotor’s men screamed, and they all made a break for the corner, diving to safety as a hundred bolts of laser erupted down the corridor. Lotor was just missed by a red bolt, seeing the lasers slam into the wall, ruining the marble as the bolts repeatedly pummeled it. Lotor could hear Zarkon laughing, the sounds of the throne room’s doors opening, letting out the murmur of the gathered court.
“Those were supposed to be OUR men in the corridor with him!”
“We’ve been betrayed!” One of his men exclaimed, as Lotor shook off his shock.
“But by who?!” One of the mercenary asked, and they all gave helpless shrugs.
“Never mind that for now.” Lotor hissed, fingers tightening on the hilt of his sword. “We’ve got to get to the King. You!” He pointed with his blade at the woman, her eyes widening. “Radio our men to abandon their positions and join us in this corridor.”
“Yes, Prince Lotor.” She said, and pulled out the com unit. He could hear the static of the air waves, the woman adjusting the frequency to get help. There was a brief pause, and then he could hear the sounds of fighting, voices shouting, and more laser fire being exchanged.
“What’s going on?” Lotor demanded, watching as the lasers continued a steady stream of fire, making it impossible for them to step around the corner. The woman was speaking in code, frantic voices responding over the com unit.
“They’ve been ambushed!” She exclaimed. “Each sector is engaged in a laser fight with men that apparently work for King Zarkon.”
“Damn it.” Lotor swore. “How did he know?! Who told him?” He looked at the mercenaries, each one quick to offer the name of the noble who employed them. Lotor was left with supposedly allies of the Duke of Galbroida, Lord Umata, and Duke Zybata. That still left too many potential suspects to have betrayed him to his father, Lotor stifling a growl of annoyance at the thought of someone whispering this plot in his father’s ear.
“We can only trust the men who are currently fighting your father’s people.” Suggested one of the mercenaries. “It’ll be risky to call back up.”
“Keep us abreast of the situation in the other parts of the castle.” Lotor advised the woman. She nodded, listening to the chatter over the airwaves. “A winner has to emerge from that fight, and soon!”
“Till then, what do we do?” asked one of the harem guards.
“We fight.” Lotor said, to the approval of the reddish purple Drule.
“Fight?” protested one of the harem guards. “How can we, we can’t even get in a clean shot so long as they keep up that heavy laser fire!”
“They’re bound to run out of ammo eventually….” The reddish purple Drule said, reaching under his shirt for something. “Until then, there’s these…” Round, black colored balls were in his hands, Lotor grinning to see them.
“We’ll choke them out!” The behemoth exclaimed, and was already lighting the fuse on a set of two. “Get your weapons ready.” Lotor watched as the Drule inched his way as close to the corner as he dared, winding his well muscled arm up for a throw. The smoke bombs flew from his hand, and they all listened for the clatter as the objects landed on the floor.
The laser fire came to an abrupt halt, the men in the hall panicking as they saw the small bombs. Except for a scream, the sound of explosions outdid most sounds, a thick smoke filling the hall. It billowed around the corner, reaching Lotor and his supporters, the prince hearing coughing coming out at a continuos pace. “Quickly!” Lotor hissed, an arm already over his mouth and nose. “Cover your faces!”
Everyone did as he commanded, holding their weapons in their dominant hands. They charged around the corner, listening to the coughing, and opened fire. They couldn’t see what they were doing, but they heard some screams, men being shot, some with deadly consequences. Laser fire was returned, the bolts shooting back and forth between the two sides.
Slowly, the smoke began to thin out, several minutes having gone by. The instant they could see clearly, Lotor’s supporters began picking off the firearms of the opposing side, shooting holes into their hands to force them to drop the pistols. Not all shots were successful, Lotor and his men once again being forced to duck behind the corner. The behemoth Drule made ready to throw another smoke bomb, Lotor staying his hand.
“What is it?” Demanded the Drule, and Lotor sighed.
“This is taking too long. We’re as blind as they are when the smoke blows…”
“But what can we do?” asked the woman, and Lotor paused, giving thought to the matter.
“We have to get in close to them.” He said at last. “Forget about a shootout, forget about the lasers, we need to rely on other means. When the bombs go off, we run down that corridor. That way when the smoke clears, we’re right there, and we come out swinging before they can recover.”
“It’s risky….” objected one of the Harem guards.
“But life is not without risk.” One of the mercenaries pointed out.
“Let’s do this.” Another said, amidst a grumble of protests and agreement.
“I don’t see why we can’t wait…” The harem guard who had protested, said.
“The more time passes, the more we risk Zarkon getting even more reinforcements down here. We’ll be boxed in….sitting targets to be picked off at their leisure.” Lotor told them.
“But what makes you think Zarkon is even in the throne room?” One wanted to know, and another snorted, the sound taunting.
“Are you that stupid?” The man sputtered angrily, the other continuing. “There’s only three ways in and out of the throne room, and all three are currently locked with fighting. The king won’t be able to leave, not unless one of our sides is exterminated. He’s trapped there, the perfect target if we can get to him.”
“And get to him we will.” Lotor said grimly, nodding to the Drule to release the smoke bombs. They went barreling around the corner, exploding the instant they hit the floor. Again the lasers ceased firing, the men and women coughing up a storm as Lotor and his supporters went running down the hall. They each held weapons in their hands, having temporarily abandoned their laser pistols to arm themselves with more traditional weapons.
As the smoke cleared, Lotor saw the axe wielding mercenary swing his arm, a sure stroke that had a red clad guardsmen of Zarkon being decapitated in one move. Blood shot out of the neck, coating the grinning mercenary who shoved the body to the ground. Someone screamed at the sight, Lotor lunging forward to stab his sword downwards in a move that lopped off a hand that wielded a laser pistol.
The guards of Zarkon were quick to react, dropping their pistols and rifles to draw the swords at their sides. Dueling broke out between the two factions, Lotor snarling as he fought with two of Zarkon’s personal guards. His sword swung and twirled, blocking the blades of his opponents, Lotor working to effortlessly hold them at bay. Out the corner of his eyes, he could see one of the harem guards windmilling his right arm, plunging his sword in and out of the chest of one of the men who had been disguised as a noble.
Even the woman was adept at fighting, the lady wielding twin daggers as she artfully danced among the men. She seemed to pirouette on her toes, easily ducking a swinging halberd as she plunged in her daggers, one in the side of her opponent’s neck, the other slicing open his belly.
Not all the opponents were that easily defeated, Lotor lashing out with his foot to knock one of his opponents of their feet. He quickly dropped to his knees, impaling the man through the chest with his sword, and then did an upward jerk to free his blade. A shower of blood followed his sword’s path, Lotor clashing blades with the other guardsmen.
There were losses on Lotor’s side as well, one of the harem guards, the man who had protested this plan, dying a slow death as his insides were skewered by a lazon blade. Lotor felt every loss like a slap to his face, his small band of nine growing smaller, until at last there was six men including Lotor, and one woman remaining. He shook his head, blinking at the sight of the carnage in the hall, the walls and floor splattered with blood and gore, a few stray body parts laying on the tile.
“Now what?” voiced one of the remaining Harem guards, and all turned to look at Lotor.
“Do we dare confront Zarkon with this small a party?” The woman asked. “I mean….surely if he knew enough to ambush everyone, he has agents inside the throne room. We could be walking into a trap!”
“But what else can we do?” Another wondered.
“We wait for reinforcements…” Lotor said, holding back a sigh. He wanted nothing more than to barge into the throne room and confront his father, but knew it was a risky endeavor. One he couldn’t afford to undertake just yet. “How is the fighting going on in the other parts of the castle?”
The woman looked surprised, having forgotten about her com unit. She hastily unhooked it from her belt, fingers playing with the tuners as she spoke in the military code they were using for this operation. Everyone watched her, anxious for good news. The woman did not quite smile, but she looked relieved as she made an announcement.
“The hall that overlooks the western servant’s entrance has been taken!” Lotor and his men did not erupt into cheers, though there were smiles all around.
“Tell them to maintain their positions.” Lotor ordered. “We’ll wait for the eastern entrance to be captured and then make our moves.” Lotor knew he was being optimistic about his men’s chances, but he had to hope that they would prove to be just as smart and skilled as these warriors had proven to be. The plan he was currently formulating in his mind, depended on it. “Do we have any men on the inside of the throne room?” Lotor asked, pulling out his personal com unit.
“Er yes, some of Galbrodia’s men should be disguised as nobles.”
“That is, if Zarkon hasn’t already disposed of them.” The harem guard said darkly.
“Let’s hope he hasn’t.” Lotor said, getting on the channel the harem guards used for communication. “Till then I am radioing in reinforcements from the harem to come back us up.”
“And then what will we do?” The reddish purple skinned Drule wanted to know.
“Then my friend?” Lotor grinned slowly. “Then we’ll seize the throne room from my father’s grasp.” His words were met with a myriad of reactions, people smiling or looking nervous, even determined looks from one of the remaining men. Lotor couldn’t blame them, the prince feeling his own set of nervous reactions as he waited impatiently for the time to implement his latest plan.