The streets of Umeso were full of people, the Queverans going about their daily lives with a kind of peaceful calmness that Lotor envied. He could see them walking, people pausing to talk to each other, to share laughter and happiness. Lotor wished he could echo their joy, the King tightening his fingers on the pommel of his sword. He knew they didn’t know what was going on, knew they had no idea that such a horrific crime had been committed so close to them.
There was twelve dead in Allura’s home, mostly humans, but there had been a Drule among those dead. The clean up had taken two days, the removal of the bodies being delayed for Lotor’s men to do an extensive sweep of the villa, searching in vain for clues. The mercenaries hired had been nothing short of the best, too efficient to leave so much as a finger print behind as evidence.
Ordinarily Lotor might admire such men, finding they were ruthless and effective, and allowed no mistakes to occur on their parts. Pity for them that the nobles were nowhere as good. A glimmer of a faint smirk crossed his face, Lotor thinking back to the events on Doom. The houses of the nobles had been ill prepared for the war Lotor brought to their doorsteps, the men and women who had conspired against him assuming they were safe so long as Allura was in their grasp.
They had learned how wrong they were, death and destruction forcing it’s way into their homes, people being picked off regardless of status. There had been no hesitation, not even towards the servants, Lotor knowing how devoted and privy servants could be to their employer’s secrets.
It was no exaggeration to say those houses had crumbled, Lotor’s men all but massacring the members of the families listed on the fake Patroocia’s reference. A few had been spared, brought to the castle dungeons, and held in separate cells so as to keep them from coordinating their stories. The nobles had been distraught, panicked and terrified, and unable to make the calls to place Allura in further jeopardy.
Lotor had seen to the interrogations personally, taking a twisted kind of enjoyment from the fear he inspired. The surviving family members were used as instruments in torture, Lotor finding that the Duke Sindeer who was so tightlipped during his own brutal treatment, squawked like a bird when his beautiful wife was being assaulted before him.
He had tears in his eyes as he gritted out the truth, revealing that Lord Habbanash was the ring leader that had united the nobles into a strong front. Habbanash had been a familiar name, the man one of Zarkon’s most trusted supporters. He had also not been on the list, the man careful to keep his name out of the Nanny plot. Lotor had reacted in a prompt manner, sending his men to apprehend the Habbanash family.
The tortures continued, details being revealed that the nobles were a mixture of those disgruntled with Lotor’s rule, and those holding some twisted sense of loyalty to the dead King Zarkon. They still thought of Lotor as weak, not in intent and not in his willingness to be brutal, but weak in the mind. A weakness that was revealed by Allura, her abandonment of Lotor driving him to experience some kind of mental breakdown. They could handle a vicious king, but one thing they did not want on the throne was a man whose mind was dipping steadily into insanity.
Over and over they were adamant that Lotor would bring ruination to the Doom Empire if allowed to continue in the way he had, sure that his madness would affect them all. They thought to control him at first, to use Allura as a hostage to force Lotor into being handled by those who had the clarity of mind to see the bigger picture. They were sorely disappointed that Lotor refused to be controlled, and they wondered if he was so far gone that he didn’t care what happened to Allura, considering the way he had quickly set about to attacking them.
If possible, Lotor grew more enraged by that suggestion of theirs, the King reasoning it was because of his care for Allura that he acted in so rash a manner. He just barely remembered to leave a few of the prisoners alive, Lotor hoping to learn the whereabouts of Allura and the mercenaries that had taken her prisoner. They insisted they didn’t know, claiming they had not been privy to such information. But Habbanash had, and the man’s cocky attitude proved as much.
He was all swagger and confidence, even with his hands bound before him. The Lord had looked at the dead bodies piling up in the dungeons with an eerie sort of calm, the man unaffected by the bloodshed, and the screams of those just barely still alive. Habbanash thought he held all the cards, calmly telling Lotor that he was in charge now.
Lotor had to be held back by his men, the King wanted to throttle Habbanash with his bare hands. Habbanash had barely flinched at the show, actually daring to smirk at Lotor. It was with a cool expression that he regarded Lotor, speaking on his plans, his demands. Lotor had listened to them all, rage making him shake, the King having to be constantly reminded not to kill the Lord.
It soon became clear that Habbanash wanted more than just to control the throne, the man had aspirations towards pushing his own family line into the ruling class. He spoke of a sister, a Duchess he wanted Lotor to marry. The uniting of the two families would be the first step to ending Lotor’s familles iron clad hold on the throne, Habbanash’s own descendants taking their place. Lotor would make children with the Duchess, and the twin princesses with their less than ideal parentage, that of a history of mad men and humans, would be disowned.
Stripped of their rank and their right to the throne, the girls would be sent away from Doom. It was a small mercy, Habbanash had explained, that they would not be killed. Lotor knew the real reason behind it, knew mercy had little to do with it, the twins being just another set of hostages for Lotor’s good behavior. And that would only last just so long as Lotor failed to get the Duchess pregnant, the King sure they would kill him once a new heir was successfully born.
He continued to let Habbanash gloat, the guards and the torturers in the dungeon bearing silent witness to the man’s plans. His words were a full confession, giving Lotor enough rope to hang the man with. And yet he was helpless to act until he knew where Allura was, the Lord keeping silent about her location. It seemed hopeless, especially when Habbanash informed them that he was expected to contact his minions at regular intervals. If he did not make the calls, they would know to kill Allura.
It had seemed as though Habbanash held all the cards, even as Lotor’s men turned his mansion upside down, searching for clues. His calls were tracked, his financial accounts scrutinized, his aides noting the large sums of money the other nobles had given Habbanash. Money he then channeled to a private account, the name on it meaning nothing, the bank located on a planet on the other side of the galaxy.
There was no doubt in Lotor’s mind that the bank account belonged to the mercenaries, but there was an endless chain of bank hopping going on, money being wired from account to account. They weren’t going to find an end to them, the mercenaries too paranoid to access any of the accounts Lotor’s people tracked down. And the time had been fast approaching when Habbanash would have to make the call, the man refusing to do so as long as he remained Lotor’s prisoner.
Things had truly looked bleak for Allura, Lotor fearing he would have to choose between saving her and keeping his throne and his daughter’s birth right. He couldn’t bear to lose all three of them, Lotor knowing if he gave in to Habbanash’s demands, his daughters would be sent away from Doom. He’d have to marry the Duchess, and live with the knowledge that Allura was alive, but kept prisoner somewhere. He’d have neither Allura by his side, or his daughters in his care, Lotor snarling incoherently as he realized he couldn’t lose his daughters as well.
He had seen the shock in Habbanash’s eyes when Lotor growled out his decision, the King telling him there was no deal to be made. Habbanash had truly gambled it all on Lotor being too attached to Allura to choose his daughters in her stead, and though Lotor wanted to break down in grief, he remained strong and outwardly confident in his decision. A gesture from him had the tortures descending on the panicked Habbanash, the man screaming before they even touched him.
Lotor stood watching, knowing he’d relish every minute of the man’s pain, the King instructing the dungeon master to make it last. The dungeon master had grinned, promising he’d keep Habbanash alive for at least a week, the torturer eager to show off his skills in his chosen profession. The screaming Lord’s clothes were cut away, the daggers splitting open not just fabric but his skin, each seemingly careless cut making a painful incision that bled profusely.
Soon the man was naked, and bleeding, thin cuts that stung but were not deep enough to end his misery. Steel pokers were placed in a fire, the metal being heated up as the torturers prepared to sear the wounds close with their burning tips. They lashed Habbanash to the wall, chains keeping him still so he could not thrash about, and then a red hot poker was placed to a cut on his abdomen.
The smell of burnt flesh was almost denied by the other foul smells that permeated through the dungeon, but not even Habbanash’s screams could block out the sizzle of his flesh. The man almost fainted, water being thrown on him to keep him awake. When Habbanash realized they meant to treat all his wounds in this same manner, he began screaming for mercy, Lotor allowing an evil smile to cross his face.
It amused him to see the once haughty Lord brought so low, Lotor sauntering towards him, a red hot poker in his hands. He teased Habbanash with it’s nearness, letting him feel the heat against his skin, though he kept from actually touching the steel to a wound. Habbanash grew so panicked, he became ready to do anything, including make the call to Allura’s captors.
Fortunate for them, Habbanash and the mercenaries relied on voice only communication, the Lord trying to keep the fearful waver out of his voice as he talked. Lotor stood next to him, poker in hand, ready to use it at the slightest hint of betrayal. There was none, Habbanash being assured of Allura’s safety, the man nearly sagging with relief.
The call was ended, and Habbanash was almost too eager to give out the location of the mercenaries hideout on planet Quevra. His usefulness almost at an end, Lotor had to fight not to kill him then and there. Instead he had pretended to grant the man mercy, having his wounds and burns treated, and the man ushered into a guest room. It wasn’t as fine a room as one of his status was used to, the man slow to realize he was still being kept prisoner. He was expected to keep making the calls to the mercenaries, to keep Allura alive for as long as it took Lotor to reach planet Quevera.
And it had taken days, even with their fastest ships breaking all manners of speed laws. But at last they were on the planet, Lotor currently in the back of a cruiser, surrounded by his men. There was over a dozen cruisers in all, each one carrying at least twenty soldiers, all armed to the teeth, and looking forward to the upcoming raid on the mercenaries hideout.
Lotor bristled with impatience, his sword held before him, his fingers playing on it’s hilt. The travel to the mercenaries hideout was slower than he liked, Lotor feeling he could run faster than the cruiser at times, the vehicles being delayed by the traffic on the city streets. Except for a few annoyed sounds, he kept quiet, Lotor staring broodingly out the window’s glass.
Around him, the soldiers sat, holding a hushed conversation as they went over the plans. He tuned them out, thinking on Allura, wondering what state he would find her in. Habbanash had sworn on his Gods’ names that Allura would not be harmed, that the mercenaries knew better than to lay a finger on her. But there was so many ways to do damage to one’s psyche without resorting to physical violence, Lotor knowing psychological torture could be just as effective in breaking a person down.
He mentally urged the driver to speed up, wishing they had radioed ahead to close the streets from all traffic but theirs. But Lotor had wanted to arrive in Umeso with as little fanfare as possible, the King wanting his visit to be cloaked in a veil of secrecy. The people of the city didn’t even have the slightest clue that their King was among them, though surely they had to wonder at the procession of cruisers that were so identical in looks.
Soon they were driving down a particular street, this section of city a little poorer in looks, the buildings more shabby. They were piled on top of one another, no break between homes. If a fire was to break out in one building, it would quickly spread down the block, taking house after house down with it. Lotor knew the exact address of the mercenaries hideout, a building in the middle of the street, with two empty houses on either side to afford them their privacy.
It looked like a vermin infested dump, shuttered windows and shaky support, looking as though if he sneezed hard enough the house would come crashing down on their heads. All the more reason to get Allura out of there, Lotor waiting impatiently for his men to give the signal to exit the cruiser.
His soldiers insisted on being the first to enter the building, the cruisers parked a little ways down the street. He watched as his black clad men hurried down the sidewalks, splitting up to surround the front and back of the building. A group of five inched up the rickety steps, black shadows that pressed against the sides of the building’s door. One dropped to his knees, setting in place a line of explosives.
They were a low charge, just powerful enough to blow the door off it’s frame, sending thick fogs of smoke into the building. A canister was then thrown into the building, Lotor knowing it was a form of tear gas, it would further disorient the people inside the building. His soldiers already had masks in place, the plastic designed to cover the whole of their faces.
Rifles pointed forward, the masked men entered the building, the scene playing out in a matter of seconds. Lotor was given the okay to leave the cruiser, the King breaking into a run, not wanting to miss a minute of the excitement. His men followed, trying to surround him so that he would be protected by their bodies. He was just about to bite out an angry command, when laser fire erupted in the building, stray bolts firing out of the door.
In a blink of the eye, Lotor’s men had shoved him to the sidewalk, Lotor face down on the concrete. His men crouched around him, protecting him even as they cocked their rifles, seeking out a target. He could hear shouting, orders being relayed, the men who remained outside prying open the shutters on the windows so that they could fire into the building.
They were at a disadvantage when it came to the fight, Lotor’s men unable to use lethal force so long as Allura’s exact position remained unknown. They could only stun the mercenaries, and work to incapaciptate them as best they could. But the men who had taken Allura weren’t under any such restraints, openly returning fire with deadly results.
He didn’t know how many losses were on his side, Lotor hearing screams over the near deafening sound of the laser fire. He struggled to sit up, fighting the hands that tried to keep him pressed to the ground. He just wanted to see what was happening, Lotor having no desire to rush into the building so long as the mercenaries were capable of shooting him.
The fighting continued, more of Lotor’s soldiers rushing into the building. The laser fire didn’t seem to lessen in intensity, and now several of Lotor’s soldiers rushed into the empty buildings that flanked the center one. It was several minutes later that he heard the explosions, his men blowing holes into the walls that separated the buildings from one another.
The center building seemed to shake even more, Lotor panicking that it would crumble before they rescued Allura. He shoved at the men holding him down, getting enough room to sit up. Someone was talking, shouting over the explosions and the laser fire, and Lotor could hear the sirens. Umeso’s local authorities were coming to investigate the noise, and they would want answers.
Lotor did not want to waste time on them, not when he could be inside the building, fighting to find Allura. His struggles increased, the King desperate to stand. The shouting continued, one of his men on their personal com unit, tracking the progress of the men inside the building. The sirens were growing louder, the authorities almost upon them when another explosion sounded.
“Allura!” Lotor cried out, and pushed his way to freedom.
“Sire wait!” Someone shouted after him, but Lotor did not stop. He ran the last few feet of sidewalk to the house, practically lunging up the steps and onto the house’s porch. He peered into the smokey space that was the inside of the building, almost choking on the charge infused air. He gripped his sword securely, ignoring the shouts of his men as he dashed forward into the building.